‘Astronaut Farmer’ Movie Review

astronaut farmerIf it weren’t for the spectacularly corny musical score, Astronaut Farmer would probably be a bigger hit. Instead, everytime a dramatic sequence or something of note occurs, we are treated to the cheesiest, cliche-est, overly sentimental, Kevin Costner-ish* , background music ever.

It’s not the worst though. That award, has to go to Jerry Bruckheimer’s creations, like The Rock, Con-Air, Glory Road, and countless others. If you wanna know what I’m talking about, he’s also executive producer of the fast – paced, constant music in your ear The Amazing Race. It works for a 30 minute show, but in a movie where a story has to be told you’ll start feeling as if it’s all just hackneyed camera trickery to fill up space. And besides, after 1.5 hours of blaring music with cut scenes one after the other it becomes unbearable. I’ve become so familiar with this style I’ve correctly identified his tv shows and movies from listening to the musical arrangement of the teasers.

At any rate I hate music that tells you when to start feeling sad or elated. That sort of stuff belongs in telenovelas like when ‘sad’ music is cued when the hero is faced with bad luck. It’s as if we’re being told that, at this point, to start crying, because we’re not capable of deciding this ourselves. Astronaut Farmer has a great deal going for it, but the music telling me what to do completely ruins the moment.

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‘Once’ Movie Review

When I resolved to watch the movies determined by the Associated Press to be the best of 2007, I admit I wasn’t all too pumped to watch the one that was described as a ‘movie musical’.

And here’s where I admit that I was wrong, and my God am I completely and horribly wrong.

I won’t waste anyone’s time anymore, and just say flat out say that Once is one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen. Many times throughout I felt that Writer – Director John Carney was almost cruel in the way he plays with the viewer’s emotions, ranging from the depths of despair to the heights of elation. You forget that you are watching a performance, and you forget that the performers are ordinary, almost sad looking people. You forget everything, and are just enveloped in a wave of emotion, ensconed as you are in the world Carney et al brings you to.

The story is fairly simple, as is the plot, so much so there almost isn’t any. Irish actor Glen Hansgard plays ‘A Guy’ (the credits describe him as such) who plays guitar in the streets for what I presume to be extra cash. Markéta Irglová is ‘The Girl’ who one day strikes a conversation with him after hearing him belt out one of his own compositions.

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Lust, Caution Movie Review

From the moment that I first saw the movie’s preview I had determined that I wasn’t going to miss it, and when I finally watched it it just went ahead and exceeded all expectations. Lust, Caution (Se, Jie) is an amazing piece of story – telling – an intricate, tightly wound tale between lovers whose love has no right to exist in the turbulence and violence of the world that surrounds it, but exists just the same.

I had been thinking a great deal about this amazingly beautiful movie. Ang Lee never lets up at any time throughout, providing striking image upon image of a war torn yet still somewhat beautiful 1940s Hong Kong and Shanghai. Yet at the end of it in an almost Shakespearean process, it brings home the very simple story of a love that is not right, shouldn’t be, should never have been and yet still exists.

There is a great deal of pulling and pushing, of the story moving across time and involving characters who change and mature in the midst of a tumultuous war providing the backdrop to the conflict making their love even more implausible.

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Tropa de Elite and other planned reviews

I just watched the highly controversial Tropa de Elite, which I was desperate to see after seeing just a few seconds of a report about it from BBC news and consequently Googling it up. The movie runs a narrative using the voice of Capitao Nascimiento (played by the amazing Wagner Moura), a fictional leader of the BOPE or Special Operations Battalion, and elite corp of highly trained soldiers that, if the accounts from the movie are true, operate above the law in what it perceives as an all – out war against drug trafficking in the poor sections of Rio, Brazil.

The movie is a stunning display of violence and real life in the drug dependent slums of Rio, where large sections called Favelas are controlled by drug lords with small armies armed to the teeth with high powered rifles they carry around with them like jewelry. The streets are dark and dirty, the poor wear tatters and live in sub human conditions, the local police are so crooked and desperately corrupt that they often end up in turf fights of their own, and the rich College kids are lazy, doped out brats whose insulated view of the world makes them just as guilty to the depravity around them. On one hand, they work in NGOs trying to help the poor and mouth slogans and sing songs against the police, but on the other they consume and even distribute drugs that helps fund the cartels. A pretty familiar world for the typical city dwelling low income Pinoy, if you ask me.

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Hairspray Movie Review

sep102007_hairspray.jpgIf there’s any type of movie I’d say that best reflects my idea of Hollywood, it’s the big grand musical. Now I’m fairly aware that saying that sounds very gay, which I’m sure makes my homophobic girlfriend cringe. But hey, I’m not gonna lie. Big grand musicals are the epitome, to me, of what a ‘spectacular performance’ is. There’s great music, terrific melodies, and basically actors interpreting what they feel through feats of song and dance. Any story of great romance, deep despair, hate, fear, or anything for that matter, is made more meaningful and dramatic via moving performances filled with music and dancing.

Thus, I still remember happily the few magical musicals I chanced upon at a young age, such as Oklahoma, South Pacific, the King and I and other Rogers and Hammerstein classics. Then there’s Oliver Twist (which had me saying ‘Please Sir, may I have some more?‘ over and over again), Annie and My Fair Lady. Until today, when I type on a keyboard to test it, I usually write ‘The Rain In Spain stays mainly in the plain‘, rather than the standard ‘The quick red fox…‘.

But (I’m almost apologetic to admit due to their near boilerplate commonness) the ones I particularly remember best are The Sound Of Music, whose 2 songs ‘I Have Confidence‘ and ‘Climb Ev’ry Mountain‘ I used to sing to myself (if I could remember the lyrics) whenever I took on a job interview; the less common Fiddler on the Roof, whom I admired for its ability to present a political view whilst providing pure musical enjoyment, and finally, Grease, for taking you to a certain place and time, in this case the late 50’s America, with its terrific songs, performances and costumes that added a hundred more colors to the standard boy meets girl.

And due to the fact it had almost the same location and time of Grease, I approached Hairspray, justifiably or not, with that as my barometer. I love Grease, I loved John Travolta’s oozing, greasy masculinity and Olivia Newton John’s openness and virginal innocence, I loved the song ‘Greased Lightnin” and hated it when they cut that song out from the TV version of the movie, and I have been waiting for a long long time to watch something of anywhere near the calibre of those three. It was therefore with great anticipation that I waited on the promises made by Hairspray.

And my conclusion?

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Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer Movie Review

jun062007_ff4_two.jpgFantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, is the kind of movie that reminds me why I’ve decided at some point, to establish standards in my choice of movies. Not that it’s earth – shattering mind you. Far from it. Rather, Fantastic Four II is the kind of movie that’ll make you answer, when someone asks if you like it, that ‘it’s ok..‘, or ‘it’s entertaining..‘, with your voice trailing off, or some response to that effect.

And since you can’t really pinpoint why you don’t like it, but find it a stretch to call it a bad movie either, you just smile, shake your head or shrug your shoulders, and forget about it. Proof of it? The day after you’ve forgotten you’ve watched it, and by next week any memory of it is completely erased altogether.

Which is, you see, the exact opposite of two of the best most entertaining movies I’ve ever watched, which happen to both be based on superheroes. And that is Superman, the first one with Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder, and Batman Returns, with Michael Keaton and Michelle Pfeiffer.

And here’s the part where you sit back for a moment, if you’ve happened to be around at the time they were released (1978 and 1992 respectively), where, you will likely nod your head in agreement, and appreciate along with me, the sheer entertainment these two provided.

And then you realize as well, how Fantastic Four II completely pales in comparison to those two. So much so, one might argue, that it shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same movie review as the other two.

And I am getting closer to the point I am trying to make.

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Spiderman III

may062006_spiderman.jpgThree words: Too many plots.

Let me explain why I think that’s what did this movie in. See, movies, or all story telling for hat matter, has to have a main plot. The chief character struggling to maintain his relationship. Or having to face a formidable enemy. Or needing to keep his job and sanity together whilst hurdle on top of hurdle are forced his way.

In retrospect, that’s what Spiderman I and II were pretty good at. Classic, simple and effective story – telling. A simple, ordinary guy with not a care in the world is thrown into a situation where he needs to deal – and in the process, develop maturity and strength of character in a hurry. THAT is what the drama is about Spiderman (as opposed to out – for – revenge Batman or born – to – be – a – hero Superman). EVERYTHING ELSE, as I’ve said so many times before in other reviews, is secondary to the chief protagonist’s struggles. The subplots, the pretty girl, the effects (MOST ESPECIALLY the effects), and all others are all secondary to the main story.

But the problem is, which plot was the main one? To be honest, until now, many days after I caught the first showing not only can I not discern which is the main story, but neither can I recall the details as well, obviously because there was far too much it wants you to remember.

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Review of Wild Hogs

apr302007_wild_hogs.jpgAs far as I know, people either hate or love John Travolta. And I don’t blame them. This is the direct result of producing a classic like Staying Alive, then dropping off the planet and getting listed in the celebrity ‘whatever happened to..?‘ list for a decade or two. Then you come back with Pulp Fiction, and then produce nonsense like Swordfish or that ghastly Face Off. It’s either – or with this guy. A producer of terrific, culture shaping hits or toilet blockage material, with a deep chasm separating the two.

So when I watched Wild Hogs, and saw him looking like he’s actually having some fun, I realized I was having fun too. Not because it’s got a terrific plot or that it’s amazingly funny or that it changes the world of comedy or any of that. Rather, the movie shows a guy that I can’t figure out having fun. In the process, I am watching a movie of his where I don’t have to figure him out, so I just end up having fun. Does that make sense?

Oooh what do we have here? A hyperlink, leading to the rest of the article! Golly! Click Click Click!

Review of Pan’s Labyrinth

apr302007_pans_labyrinth.jpgWhat’s obvious to me during the watching of ‘Laberinto del fauno, El’ (Pan’s Labyrinth), is that the performance of it’s chief villain, Capitan Vidal, played magnificently by Sergi Lopez, effectively brings to life the best rendition of a movie villain I’ve ever seen.

To me, the bad guy is always the juiciest part in every film. If I were an actor wishing to prove my mettle, the surest path to this, granted I’d have the talent of course, is to avoid the hero part, which by being so automatically limits one to stereotype. Rather, one should go for the villain part, where you are allowed far more freedom and depth as you portray, explain, and define why this person has become such as he goes about his bad guy ways.

Whilst you may argue that this can be done for the hero as well, the villain, as we all know in real life villains, frequently does not come from the same cookie cutter like heroes are. There are many and varied ways to screw up a person and make him bad. All colorful, usually deeply tragic, all making excellent fodder for a qualified actor to chew on.

You know what to do!

Ms. Potter Movie Review

april122007_mspotter.jpgBeatrix Potter in this movie, is an artist and a 32 year old woman forced to bear with the whims of a social climbing mother and a society that has yet to recognize the value of women in, well, any role other than that of the traditional, which in the 1800s was fairly limited. You were expected to remain loyal to your parent’s every whim, you are not allowed to be alone with a man without an escort, higher education was optional and basically you just hung around waiting for someone suitable (in your parent’s eyes) to court you, marry him, have his children and mold your daughters to do same.

That’s pretty much it. A boring, staid and predictable life.

Which can also be said for for how this movie could have turned out. First of all all those first scenes where she starts talking to her drawings could have been interpreted as her going cuckoo. I’m not sure if the director meant that, but there it is. I thought, at the start of the movie, that we were going to deal with a woman who was slightly nuts, and I was worried I’d have to sit through an hour and a half of that.

I’m glad it didn’t.

That’s right. I reviewed Ms. Potter. Now I know most of you didn’t watch it, so read my review. Come on come on click click.