Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Great Scenes # 44: Opening Night (1977)

Directed by John Cassavetes

Opening Night is my favorite John Cassavetes film, at least among those I've seen. It's one of his numerous collaborations with his wife, actress Gena Rowlands. In this film, Rowlands plays an actress who is troubled after she witnesses the accidental death of one of her self-proclaimed biggest fan. This scene, very much standout from most of the film, is an amusing stage performance between her and Cassavetes himself. What I love about this scene is that you can definitely sense the love, respect and affection they have for one another. The entire film is brilliant though, I encourage you all to see it.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Weekly Round-Up (11/18/12 - 11/24/12)

Little Shop of Horrors (Frank Oz) ***1/2 - This was a rewatch. You know, I only found out recently that this film actually had a bleaker, wilder ending but was changed due to very bad test screenings. It was recently restored in the Blu-ray and I'm thinking of getting it. The film itself, even with the happy ending, is still pretty darn good black comedy/horror/musical featuring great early from Alan Menken and Howard Ashman who would go on to create unforgettable songs for Disney animated films.

I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (Mervyn LeRoy) ***1/2 - Paul Muni is quickly becoming one of my favorite American actors from the older, classic era. I've seen three of his films so different from one another, that I wouldn't believe that the same person has played them all (Scarface, Emile Zola and James Allen). A young man back from the war gets himself caught up in a robbery and gets sentenced to a chain gang. The film, being pre-code, is quite brutal in its depiction of hard prison labor. The injustice portrayed is enough to get anyone mad.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

"Bad Romance": The Trailer

First of all, Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers. So as a Thanksgiving treat, here's the trailer to Bad Romance, the film that I wrote. It's 5 minutes long, I know but Filipino trailers do tend to be this long:

Monday, November 19, 2012

Weekly Round-Up (11/11/12 - 11/17/12)

My cinema viewing is restricted due to the fact that Breaking Dawn Part 2 is clogging up most of the theaters.

The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke) **** - Michael Haneke is definitely one of my favorite directors currently working today. He makes films that disturb and shock you but will also stay with you for days and really make you think. This is no exception. A series of mysterious "accidents" plague a rural German village at the dawn of the 20th century pre-World War I. The film shot in stark black & white eschews sensationalism and traditional narrative for a more subtle approach which can sink into your psyche far more effectively than conventional methods. Indeed, the film may seem slow and slight but the implications of it all is disturbing and thought-provoking. It's not my favorite Haneke (Cache still holds that honor) but the film still have everything I love and admire about his filmmaking. Oh, boy. I'm gonna be thinking about this movie again for days

Monday, November 12, 2012

Weekly Round-Up (11/4/12 - 11/10/12)

Videodrome (David Cronenberg) **** - I confess. I actually didn't know much about this film's plot beforehand. All I knew was that it was David Cronenberg's horror movie/dark satire on television. So the directions the film went was highly surprising for me. James Woods plays a sleazy TV executive who runs a small-time cable network that specializes in sex and violence and stumbles upon something called Videodrome. The film features Cronenberg's signature body horror and shocking and gross effects. Despite being obviously dated, the film still manages to hold up.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Listology # 23: Top 5 Favorite Bond Films

2012 is the 50th anniversary of the James Bond franchise. To commemorate this and the of the latest Bond film Skyfall, here are my personal Top 5 favorite Bond movies based on the 14 which I've seen so far.

05. Goldeneye (1995, Martin Campbell)
This is the first James Bond movie I've seen on the big screen and is also the first outing of Pierce Brosnan in the title role. It's also the debut of Dame Judi Dench as M who gives that famous dressing down speech to Bond which reinvigorated the character for the modern era. It's best of Brosnan's four films as Bon.

04. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977, Lewis Gilbert)
I've heard lots of people say that they are not big fans of Roger Moore. I'm not sure he's that bad but even his naysayers would say that The Spy Who Loved Me is his best outing. For me, this has a lot of what I enjoy about James Bond: Great villains, beautiful women, neat gadgetry, etc. It also features my favorite Bond theme, "Nobody Does It Better".

03. From Russia with Love (1963, Terence Young)
After the first official James Bond movie Dr. No became a big hit, From Russia With Love followed. It's Sean Connery's second outing as 007 and is the probably the film that told people that this franchise is here to stay for a long, long while. It features one of my favorite Bond villains, Lotte Lenya as Rosa Klebb.

02. Skyfall (2012, Sam Mendes)
Yes, I know what you're thinking. "Already? It *just* came out!" Well, it is THAT good. Go out and see it. Now. 

01. Goldfinger (1964, Guy Hamilton)
Most critics and film buffs consider this the best James Bond of them all. And I agree with them. It has everything a James Bond movie should have: Excitement, sexuality and humor. The film is genuinely exciting, funny and outrageous (and that's a good thing). It deserves number one just for hearing Sean Connery go "Pussy" (referring to Pussy Galore). 

Runners-Up: Dr. No (The first that started the whole thing); Casino Royale (barely made the cut, it does feature my favorite Bond girl, Vesper Lynde played by Eva Green).

Monday, November 5, 2012

Weekly Round-Up (10/28/12 - 11/3/12)

Busyness, forgetfulness and general laziness prevent me from posting these on time.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Rouben Mamoulian) **** - This is my pick for my Halloween movie this year. The 1932 adaptation of the classic chiller features an Oscar-winning performance from Fredric March as the both characters. It's surprisingly racy and disturbing for its time which they got away with because it's pre-code. This was my second viewing of it and I just now noticed how inventive some of the POV camera angles were.

Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay (Antoinette Jadaone) **** - A documentary/mockumentary about Lilia Cuntapay, a character actress who has appeared in numerous Filipino films, mainly in horror movies playing creepy old women, ghosts and ghouls. This film goes into very surprising directions. It takes a little while to realize it's not really a full-on documentary. It's a weird hybrid between a career retrospective and a Christopher Guest film. Indeed, I would call this the best Christopher Guest film Christopher Guest didn't direct. It is often very funny, at times heartbreaking and even moving...sometimes all at the same time. You're guaranteed to fall in love with this scary-looking old woman. It's a real must-see. 

Wreck-It Ralph (Rich Moore) **** - This is probably the best PIXAR movie PIXAR didn't do. That's a huge compliment. Well, the plot is, well, it's basically Toy Story with video games but that's not a bad thing at all. Wreck-It Ralph is a bad guy from a video game who wants to be a hero and of course complications ensue. It results in one of the most engaging, sweet, moving gorgeously animated films of the year. I'm no gamer and I have a fairly limited knowledge of video games though I caught a few references here and there. That being said, video game buffs will find tons of enjoyment here while non-gamers will simply be swept away by the story. A fantastic score too! Man, it's a strong year for animation.

Skyfall (Sam Mendes) **** - I've heard people say this is the best Bond film since Goldfinger. They are right. It ticks off everything a Bond movie should have: Outrageous, eye-popping action scenes? Check. Sexy ladies? Check. A great villain? Check. A good dose of humor? Check. A great theme song? Check, check, check and check. Add to all those checks is a more emotional hefty, rather complicated story and all of it shot by the great Roger Deakins. Seriously, as a cinephile, some shots here are jaw-droppingly gorgeous. This is Sam Mendes' first foray into pure action popcorn and winning an Oscar for the overrated American Beauty aside, I will argue that this is probably his best film work (from at least the ones I've seen) since he just dropped the need to Oscar-bait and concentrated to make a good film. And he did. Hope he goes into this direction from now on!