Sunday, October 12, 2014

Weekly Round-Up (10/5/14 - 10/11/14)

Hari ng Tondo (Carlos Siguion-Reyna) **1/2 - Or in English, "King of Tondo" (though apparently the official English title is "Where I Am King"). Tondo is a place in Manila infamous for its poverty and high crime rate (a bit like our equivalent of Harlem or something). This is actually a musical-dramedy about a rich man who came from Tondo decides to move back in after much of his finances were wiped out, bringing along his two young adult grandchildren in hopes of toughening them up. The director of this film hasn't made one in a long, long while and it kind of shows. Despite the fact that it's set in modern times, a lot of it feels dated and tired since it pretty much repeats things that other filmmakers have done and in a not so interesting way. However, Robert Arevalo, the lead, gives a great performance and makes the film quite watchable.

Mon Oncle Antoine (Claude Jutra) ***1/2 - French Canadian film about a kind-hearted drunkard who owns the general store in a small mining town as well as being the town's undertaker as told from the point of view of his teenage nephew. This is a lovely little film that has genuine warmth and humor even when things become sad and tragic. It is marred slightly by a rather abrupt ending which I found kind of unsatisfactory. Though I might change my mind on that. As it is, this gets an enthusiastic recommendation on me.

Design for Living (Ernst Lubitsch) **** - This is actually one of the last of the Pre-Code films before the Hays Code crashed the party. It is a delightful (and rather racy) romantic-comedy about a woman completely torn between two men, who are artists who she helped make successful. Gary Cooper, Miriam Hopkins and Fredric March are all very much outstanding giving really great comic performances. Ben Hecht's screenplay (based on a Noel Coward play) is just brimming with crisp, sharp, witty dialogue (something I envy and aspire to). It is wonderful, just wonderful.

The Brood (David Cronenberg) ***1/2 - All I know about this film is the infamous scene where a kindergarten teacher is brutally murdered in her classroom in front of her students by the title creatures. But it's actually a lot stranger than that. A mentally unstable woman fight for the custody of her daughter with her husband while undergoing an unusual type of therapy from a radical psychiatrist. The creatures are somehow connected to her. I can definitely say that once the big pay off happens, it's going to lose some people while some people will embrace it. I embraced it. David Cronenberg created something outrageous, shocking and bizarre yet somehow still grounded and sophisticated which he will perfect in future films.

Il Sorpasso (Dino Risi) ***1/2 - A shy, timid law student is invited by a loud, domineering, hedonistic man who borrowed his phone for lunch and it turns into a two-day road trip. This is one of the earliest examples of a road comedy featuring a loud domineering character getting a shy, timid character to go out and have some fun. This is Ferris Bueller's Day Off if it was good. Though the comedy here is much less broad than the more contemporary examples of this particular sub-genre. I will say that the ending of this film will anger a lot of people. I'm fairly mixed on it myself. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing but the rest of the movie is well-worth watching.

Platinum Blonde (Frank Capra) *** - The plot is kind of blah. An ace reporter falls in love with a rich, society girl and finds the rich society life boring and stifling while the girl's family looks down on him. However, the performances by the great ensemble cast led by Robert Williams, Loretta Young and Jean Harlow as well as Frank Capra's direction makes this romantic-comedy fly. It's no Lubitsch, of course but it's still quite entertaining and often funny. Sad that Robert Williams passed away shortly after this film premiered. I would loved to have seen more from him.

Gone Girl (David Fincher) **** - This film is absolutely insane and totally fucked up and I mean that in the best possible way. I haven't read the best-selling novel it's based on and I managed to avoid most spoilers. Even though I kind of sort of guessed the second act twist, I still enjoyed myself and the film still manages to surprise me. It's pulpy trash, sure but David Fincher's filmmaking absolutely raises it up and turns it into a Hitchcockian-by-way-of-de Palma-type thriller. It also manages to be also a really solid black comedy satirizing sensationalism in the media. It's a film that is sure to inspire controversy for years to come specifically on its depiction of marriage and relationships overall. Ben Affleck was great (surely playing off his media persona as well) but Rosamund Pike was truly astounding. The hype around her performance is well-earned. I absolutely loved it. Can't wait to see it again.

American Graffiti (George Lucas) ***1/2 - This is one of those films that make me go, "Damn, why haven't I seen that one?" Okay, time to cross this film off that list. If I didn't know he made this film before the Star Wars franchise began to eat up his soul, I would be shocked at how great he was in making a really human film with excellent performances and really good dialogue. The ensemble cast filled with future stars (I often went, "Damn! They look so young!") beautifully brings to life a series of vignettes interwoven together into one big tapestry about a group of teenagers joy-riding around the night before one of them has to leave.

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