Monday, August 18, 2014

Weekly Round-Up (8/10/14 - 8/16/14)

Animal Farm (John Halas/Joy Batchelor) **** - I was gonna read the book before watching the movie but what the hell, I'll just read the book afterwards and I might have to because I loved the movie. This animated adaptation of George Orwell's cautionary allegory on communism may feature cute animals and some of them do cute things but it doesn't shy away from the novel's darker, more grown-up themes. Bambi is nothing; This is 10x more traumatizing if you're gonna make the mistake of showing this to your little ones. It has twisted humor and has the power to make you angry. A superb piece of work.

Scanners (David Cronenberg) *** - Trust David Cronenberg to turn what I always considered to be cool super powers: telekinesis, mind control, telepathy, etc. into something frightening and grotesque. That's just what he did in this very good sci-fi horror thriller about a group of people who possess such powers and they're called Scanners. This film had a strong beginning (I for one was kind of shocked that the famous shot of the head exploding happens early in the movie) and a strong ending with the final end game finally revealed and features Cronenberg's signature body horror. The middle, for me, is kind of hit and miss. It's a very good film but definitely not my favorite Cronenberg.

Monte Carlo (Ernst Lubitsch) **** - A broke countess runs away from marrying a duke and decides to go to Monte Carlo to make her fortune by gambling and catches the eye of a count. This is one of Ernst Lubitsch early musical comedies. The musical part is just okay for me (only one or two songs are any good, really) but the comedy is great. Lots of the jokes hold up (and it's surprisingly a bit racy too!). There's a sequence where there are three men singing about seducing women over tea but they couldn't look more...umm...not straight, I guess. I laughed. I can't help but wonder if that was deliberate or not or if that was just the way it was at the time. It is also such a fun film. Jeanette MacDonald was fantastic.

What If (Michael Dowse) ** - I thought I'd try my first romantic comedy after seeing the film They Came Together. I have to say that film pretty much would ruin most romantic comedies from me from now on. This film steps on a lot of the cliches, tropes and story beats that most romantic comedies follow that that film poked fun of mercilessly. Which sort of puts a damper on my enjoyment of this flick. The film itself is not bad per se but it ain't great either. As far as rom-coms go, it's got funny stuff, there are funny lines and Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan both give perfectly good performances and have nice chemistry but it's all kind of meh. There are twee flourishes here that sort of reminds me of (500) Days of Summer which reminds me how much better that movie was.

Barber's Tales (Mga Kuwentong Barbero) (Jun Robles Lana) ***1/2 - Set in a rural province of the Philippines, during the Marcos dictatorship, this is about a widow of the small-town barber who takes over her late husband's job but soon she becomes entangled into getting involved with the resistance movement. Eugene Domingo is a well-known broad comedienne in my country. She takes the lead in a drama and runs away with it. She's supported by an excellent supporting cast especially Gladys Reyes as her perpetually pregnant neighbor. In the surface it is a film about the struggles under Marcos dictatorship but it's really more of a feminist tales of women, in the rural Philippine provinces, in the 1970's taking charge of their destiny the best way they can. Though they're wildly different, the film sort of reminds me of the TV series Mad Men in a way without much of the male storyline. The film falters in the third act but still a wonderful film.

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