Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Movie Review - Allied


 Brad Pitt has another romantic spy film but this is a thriller instead of a comedy.  Plus it's set when Nazi's are a current threat so there's more gravity to the situation.

   Max meets Marianne in Casablanca for a mission but eventually gets too involved with his partner.  His trust is pushed to the limit when new information comes to light.

   Despite the tense situations, the film takes everything quite slowly.  There is a long build up where the pair get to know each other before the main thrust of the plot is revealed.  While setting the background is essential, this could have been trimmed a bit more.  Those who know the conflict beforehand are just chomping on the hit until that point.

   Brad Pitt seemed to be quite reserved all throughout.  His proposal is even practically devoid of emotion.  It's Marion Cotillard who gives it her all to fit into her role, both within and without.  The others don't quite stand out as much, perhaps trying not to act over Pitt's stony deliveries.  

  While not without its share of emotional moments, these patches of warmth are few and far between.  Allied isn't the steamy spy thriller it may make out itself to be, being too cool for this cold war of sorts.  It's serviceable but doesn't go beyond the call of duty.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Movie Review - Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them


  So the Harry Potter universe returns with the expansion of the minor character into a full fledged series.  Will it be able capture the magic of the original source or will the rabid classic fans be proven to be untamable? 

  Newt arrives at New York city amidst a crisis revolving around keeping the world of wizardry secret from the general populace.  He makes trouble for the local sorcerer enforcement agency but makes friends as well as he strives to keep his rogue animals in check and solve a mystery too.

   This film is considered an adult fairy tale.  The theme is decidedly mature with the fashion (Queenie, my goodness!) and the speakeasy setting (check out the singer).  The theme on discrimination and persecution might actually be good timing with the resolution of the US election, in a way.  There's murder and mayhem and even abuse of a sort that would be considered a spoiler but these topics, while could possibly be considered too much for children, are still treated with rose tinted glasses that are synonymous with the projected reality in the world of Harry Potter.  There's a heady, wonder-filled tone that pervades throughout the film that removes the grim harshness of the city. 

   This is assisted most heavily by the astounding special effects, augmented by the use of mystical props, thereby creating a fantasy scenario that is easier to swallow.  The beasts are, yes, quite fantastically brought to life to the big screen, not to mention the effects of spells being cast .  The score is also a huge asset in the proceedings and is quite evident during the drama that unfolds during the climax and denouement.  While more than a tad manipulative in swaying emotion, it is very effective at what it does. 

   Eddie Redmayne as Newt comes off as an odd, unassuming smiler and his carelessness is just a vehicle to start conflicts.  His passion is understated and he fills the blanks in his personality with mannerisms such as not looking a person in the eye and mumbling his words.  His costar Katherine Waterston is an awkward partner-in-crime and a bit cringy in her obvious desperation.  It's Dan Folger and Alison Sudol who shine as the sidekicks.  They may be stereotypes but it's their character arcs that are the most memorable in the film.  Colin Farrell does well as the main enforcer and gets creepy with his treatment of Ezra Miller's character.

   J.K. Rowling tries to get away from the childish trappings of Hogwarts by transporting the cast to America with a criminal case but the storytelling approach still turns simplistic, especially with the heavy focus on the cutesy romance.  America is a European colony and the spells are all familiar standbys from the past/future, which should please diehard fans. The Potter franchise gradually matures the students along with the plot but the players of Fantastic Beasts are adults already so their progression will be different.  As a special effects flick, the magic astounds and amazes.  It does a wonderful job at creating a mystical sub network in a completely urban setting and the foreign land will add a completely new facet to this promising franchise.


Monday, 7 November 2016

Press Release - Sinag Maynila 2017 "Sine Lokal, Pang-Internasyonal"

   It's time to prep for Sinag Maynila's Film Festival for 2017 again.  And they have an animation category!  I'm looking forward to seeing that, for sure, hehe.

  

   There more info here below and you can check the teasers they have on the categories presented.

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   Entries are now being accepted for the third season of Sinag Maynila Film Festival!

   Sinag Maynila and its featured local indie films have been gaining traction in various international film festivals — Vesoul International Asian Movies Film Festival, Busan International Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival among others. Under the supervision of Sinag Maynila CEO and Founder Wilson Tieng, and world-renowned and internationally acclaimed film director Brillante Ma Mendoza, the diverse and captivating stories of the produced films garnered attention overseas.

   With the tremendous success of the film festival’s debut in March 2015, more talented filmmakers took their chance in getting a nod to be part of the competing roster for the following season. Being selected for Sinag Maynila has been closely associated with the opportunity for international recognition, hence the new tagline “Sine Lokal, Pang-Internasyonal”.

   For Sinag Maynila Film Festival 2017, it is opening more doors for the immensely talented and artistic crowd.  Apart from the Full-Length, Short Film, and Cinefone, two new categories are now on deck—Animated Films and Documentary. To get the full mechanics, log on to http://sinagmaynila.com/2017-mechanics/. Deadline of entries for all categories is December 12, 2016.

   Do you have a compelling story to tell the world? Send it to us at Solar Entertainment Corporation, 3/F Worldwide Corporate Center, EDSA cor. Shaw Blvd., Mandaluyong City, 1552. Entries must be submitted in a long brown envelope properly labeled with the filmmaker’s name, title of film, contact details and indicating the category. Entries sent via online links will not be entertained.

   For more details and updates, visit http://sinagmaynila.com/, Facebook.com/SinagMaynila, Twitter and Instagram via @sinagmaynila, or email us at sinagmaynila@gmail.com. Subscribe also to the official Sinag Maynila Youtube Account: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmZPI6kPKUCsbim9e_qByNQ.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Movie Review - The Accountant


  What looks to be a serious action thriller puts a lot of heart into its lead, depending on how well the audience identifies with the so-called Accountant when he grew up.  The required fist fights and gunplay are broken up with intrigue and humor that keep this flick rolling.

   The Accountant finds a financial discrepancy in a company and then is targetted along with a new colleague.  Meanwhile, an agent tracks him down and delves into his past.

   The Accountant is a stab at creating another modern urban hero.  Being a ballistics expert and a combat specialist and having hi-tech backup is a given but making him into a math nerd and crippling him with social awkwardness is a twist.  It endears him to those misfits who struggle with human connection while living out the superhero fantasy of delivering righteous justice to crime lords and such.  That aspect is easy to embrace, making for a brutal but unexpectedly funny lead.  The film does take his autistic condition in two ways, as treating it in the supposed proper way would not have lead to his broken yet competent role that the torturous training molded him to be.  He hopes for the former for everyone but the latter defined him and still keeps his supposed disability with humorous bits as a reminder.  The funny situations are amusing but with medical implications behind it, perhaps it shouldn't be treated as such?  But it does make for an unexpectedly charming hero with badass skills, a strong moral code and still made human by not behaving what is perceived to be as normal.

   Ben Affleck submerges his alpha tendencies and becomes a mumbling ball of cringing quietness.  His mannerisms aren't exaggerated but are understated enough to make them stand out.  It's a rather brilliant transformation for the actor as he remains remarkable consistent with his identity.  Anna Kendrick relies on being obliviously cute and provides an impetus from the lightheartedness.  Jon Bernthal is a wildcard with a convincing tough exterior.  The tandem of Cynthia Addia-Robinson and J.K. Simmons is strong enough to carry a whole new movie spin-off.  Their dynamic is ripe with potential, if it lasts.

   The main plot is rather straight forward with the mystery presented before the bullets start flying.  A painfully awkward slight romantic angle thrown as a bone to traditionalists but is funny enough as it is.  The parallel arc with the agent playing detective added more depth into the proceedings, solidifying this film as a practical 'origin' story.  With that out of the way, the urban myth could go forward as a franchise if it wants to, provided it keeps true to the character core.  Here's hoping for more of The Accountant in the future.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Movie Review - Doctor Strange


  EXTRA SCENES!  An OMG moment during the mid credits and a dark turn for the future in the end of the credits.  Also a PSA in there somewhere.

  When I saw a 15 minute preview of Doctor Strange, I was quite wary of seeing all the special effects.  I was hoping it would capture more of a 'magical' or mysteriously 'mystical' feel but most of what I saw was CGI effects.  After seeing the movie, I was blown away but still had the same misgivings.

  Stephen Strange was a broken man after a stupid car accident that was entirely his fault.  He sought alternatives to regaining proper use of his hands but found more than he bargained for, especially when the stakes include the fate of the world.

   I was hoping Marvel would go for a different genre within their superhero universe, like a possibly cerebral or even horror oriented theme.  This could have been pulled it off but they went for a straightforward action flick.  Granted, it's an astounding, kinetic slugfest of sorts, with a lot of martial arts plus running and obstacle bending parkour that's beyond normal.  There's special weapons involved and actual hand to hand combat but the bulk of the spell casting seemed to be centered on manipulating the environment (which is mindbending CGI) or portal making.  Where's the monster summoning, the transfiguration, the mental gymnastics (astral projection doesn't count, haha), even sleight of hand or illusion?  There's one major spell used but the source is more cosmic than anything.  The showcase scenes are still sharp examples of amazing, manufactured ethereality but there is the sense of wonder and awe that is lost in translation.  Some more time with Strange casting his first spell would have helped add gravity to the circumstance.  While the process was interesting, the technicalities are fudged.

  Humor seems to be the current in thing with superhero movies and I was afraid they might go overboard with this one but they struck a balance of sorts.  Some jokes don't hit but most do and that's fine.  Benedict Cumberbatch changed the character of Strange to make him lighter when he needs to and grave when he must.  Tilda Swinton is the exceptional one in her role as even her looks demand that she be treated differently.  Mads Mikkelsen was serviceable as the villain but had an understated, tearful breakthru performance.  Chiwetel Ejiofor was fine, if not spiritual and Benedict Wong seemed to be the only major minor background Asian.

   For comic fans, this might be the new template for the current Doctor.  The comic version was cryptic and almost all knowing so this incarnation might be too new to be trusted.  He'd have to be established a bit more, gain more experience, but thankfully he has the confidence to pull it off.  The focus on physical fights is a superhero movie mandate, I suppose but hopefully more impressive feats are to come.  But as is, this film is not exactly what the Doctor ordered but he fills the cloak quite well in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  I expect greater accomplishments in the future, even though he has done exceptionally well as it is.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Movie Review - Trolls


   I wasn't too familiar with the Trolls toy line.  I think there was a macho warrior cartoon version but I'm not certain about the cutesy (?), brushable hair dolls.  So this would be a fresh update on the toys with a new mythology.  And it works!

  The Trolls are a happy-go-lucky group of loving creatures who are being hunted for food by the larger Bergens.  When several of their friends were taken away for the Bergen King, Princess Poppy and the grim Branch must rescue them.

  Yes, there's an extra scene mid-credits.

   The Troll world is bright, colorful and cheery, at least at the beginning when they were in free lands.  The setting gets a bit more bleak in the Bergen world.  More of the imaginatively fuzzy, friendly / dangerous wilds would be great to see in an eventual sequel as the modern Bergen town is too dead and inanimate. 

  The Trolls maintain their iconic cute / ugly expression look but also received new abilities.  The weirdest would be where they shoot glitter from and the best would be the prehensile and camouflage properties of their hair.  The Bergens are depicted as grotesque with slight frightening features added in.  Character-wise, the lead Trolls are clear cut from the start.  Anna Kendrick has a strong, positive presence while Justine Timberlake surprisingly takes a different direction with his personality.  The evolution is works, if unconventional for Timberlake at first.  The main Bergens are even easier to identify.  The conniving chef is masterfully played by Christine Baranski.  The lovelorn maid is brought to bittersweet life by Zooey Deschanel.  Christopher Mintz-Plasse portrays the Bergen prince / king as a reluctant kid, quite different from his usual roles.  A slight weakness would be the Zen character Creek as his position as a love interest isn't solidified properly early on.  The side characters, done by various celebrity voices, provide extra laughs but don't pull too much attention from the main heroes.

  Described as a musical comedy, the movie is filled with song numbers.  A majority of these are classics from the 80's.  Children would not recognize these tunes except through second hand sources but older folks certainly would find them familiar, proof that the film aims to at least get adults entertained when their sons and daughters drag them to see the flick.  Do rollerskate parks even operate nowadays?

   But seeing as Trolls is a nostalgic property, having nostalgic touches and tunes mixed in with the explosion of colors and comedy really works.  Trolls is a hair-raising extravaganza that fit for all ages and good to the last bite.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Movie Review - Jack Reacher : Never Look Back

 
  One can look back upon Tom Cruise's body of action films and wonder about this low key, bare bones throwback type of thriller.  It's quite unlike his more impossibly big budget missions but it has its charms.

   Jack Reacher investigates an old friend being implicated in a cover-up and finds an unexpected legacy.

   The Reacher franchise is based on a series of books about a classic lone ranger type, an unstoppable drifter who appears where he's needed.  The film is trying to make the modern legend more relevant, with the mystique resting on Tom Cruise's shoulders.  The character has the against all odds factor and a running theme is him having a showdown with a lone antagonist of equal toughness.  It works to a point.

   This adventure contains a feminine touch; two damsels not quite in distress.  The dynamic shifts twice as one is Cobie Smulders, who tries to prove she doesn't need Reacher's help, and a surprised Danika Yarosh, a fiercely independent wannabe dependant.  The double dose of estrogen mixes up the caper and would make or break the film for some, especially the paternal angle.  It does work for some levels, seeing how the cliche is an old favorite, which is what Reacher is going for.

   Jack Reacher would be one in a dozen in the 80's or 90's but in these times, he is an anachronistic crusader.  His latest adventure is a pretty good sample of what to expect from future releases, which is a solid, dependable, if unremarkable, throwback to action films of yesteryear.