Secrets and Lies

September 15, 2018 at 11:17 PM | Posted in Film Reviews, Movies | Leave a comment
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Spoiler Warning: This movie review of A Simple Favor contains spoilers. Read at your own risk!

A mommy vlogger with a secret. A femme fatale with a dark past. A has-been novelist without a clue.

These characters meet and collide in the dark comedy film, A Simple Favor.

The movie, which stars Blake Lively as pathological liar Emily and Anna Kendrick as the anxious and supermom Stephanie, tells the story of an unlikely friendship between two young mothers who get tangled in deceit and crime. Both Stephanie and Emily’s sons go to the same school and are actual friends.

Stephanie is a widowed mommy vlogger who meets Emily at her son’s school one day. She is the typical suburban mom who devotes her time to her son. Emily is a successful PR head of a major brand. She has a very strong personality and lives in an extravagant lifestyle. Her husband Sean, played by Henry Golding, used to be a novelist but presently works as a professor at a local college.

What would be a simple favor from Emily turns for the worst as Stephanie later finds out the truth about her friend. Apparently, Emily is not what she seems to be.

While the movie’s plot isn’t exactly fresh (we’ve seen a lot of stories in film and TV about faking people’s death for money), it still keeps you guessing who the real villain is. Who’s fooling who? Is Sean merely a victim of Emily’s twisted games or is he an accessory to a crime?

Blake Lively delivers a powerful performance in the movie as the secretive Emily while Anna Kendrick’s Stephanie is both endearing and naive. Henry Golding as Sean is sympathetic and clueless for the most part with his own shades of gray. It’s a stark contrast to his role in Crazy Rich Asians.

What is notable in A Simple Favor is the soundtrack as it features music almost entirely in French (watch the sample music from the soundtrack above) – completely befitting the film noir atmosphere of the movie. It gives me the feeling that I’m watching a French film myself.

Granted the movie’s dark tones, it still presents itself as a light, enjoyable film with occasional laughs amidst all the intrigue.

Random Thoughts on Star Wars: The Last Jedi

December 29, 2017 at 10:24 PM | Posted in Film Reviews, Movies | Leave a comment
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SPOILER WARNING: This post contains major spoilers from Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Read at your own risk!

Much has been said and done about Star Wars: The Last Jedi (a.k.a Episode VIII) in recent weeks and I for one, enjoyed the movie very much and didn’t hate it unlike some rabid fans.

In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, director Rian Johnson has reset the button and made everything new. The movie felt fresh and so… today. There were so many fan theories that came out long before The Last Jedi came out and some people were expecting them to come true. And when their theories didn’t materialize in the movie, they got disappointed and have gone crazy with those various online petitions.

I don’t read fan theories of Star Wars because I know most of them are just speculations and possibly won’t even become real. There’s a possibility that I would just set myself for a major disappointment if I invest too much on these theories and expectations. That’s why I didn’t get angry when I first watched The Last Jedi because I saw it with a fresh mind – untainted from those theories that were widespread online.

Was I disappointed that Luke Skywalker died? Or that Rey wasn’t trained enough by Luke when she was in Ahch-To? Of course I was. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying the rest of the movie. I can understand that Johnson might have deliberately went against the high expectations from fans and did something of the opposite. People expected an epic fight between a real Luke Skywalker and Kylo Ren. They expected something similar to The Empire Strikes Back where a young Luke was trained by Yoda. They expected an older Luke of the present to fight with the Resistance along with Rey, Poe Dameron and Finn.

Photo credit: inverse.com

Instead, they saw a jaded Luke Skywalker who practically became a hermit and refused to help the Resistance fight the First Order. But like what Kylo Ren said in the movie, it’s time to kill the past and start over. I think that’s what Johnson was trying to do. I think he wanted something new out of the franchise – something that would appeal to the generation of today. And yes, that would include a few jokes thrown in (because duh… Marvel movies). At least that’s what my interpretation of his intention.

One of the things I loved about the movie was General Leia’s scenes. Granted that she and the ship’s crew got blown up by the First Order, she still survived and managed to steer the remaining Resistance fighters to a safe haven. It was a delight to see Leia use the Force to propel her injured self towards the destroyed ship. That was the first time I ever saw her use the Force. In the original Star Wars films, it was always the other Jedi who use the Force.

Photo credit: digitalspy.com

Some fans are angry that Admiral Ackbar was killed off in that scene with Leia. Honestly I couldn’t care less about Ackbar. Others are mad that Luke gave up on being a Jedi. I may be disappointed that Luke became a curmudgeon but I can see that it could happen, especially after Ben Solo turned into Kylo Ren. It was too much for Luke. He became dejected. He’s a hero with a flaw.

Of course I still have questions about the movie that weren’t answered in The Last Jedi (e.g. what was the backstory of Supreme Leader Snoke? Who were really Rey’s parents? Who will train Rey now that Luke is dead?). But I can only hope that they would be answered when Episode IX rolls out in 2019.

A Stroke of Genius: ‘Loving Vincent’ Film Review

November 6, 2017 at 9:38 AM | Posted in Art, Film Reviews, Movies | Leave a comment
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To create a hand-painted, animated feature film using the style of Vincent van Gogh would seem an impossible task but Loving Vincent successfully did just that. The film Loving Vincent sets itself apart from any animated movie by being the world’s first fully painted feature film.

When I first saw the trailer of this film, I was immediately blown away. The fact that this movie is fully made from 66,960 oil paintings hand-painted by artists from across the globe is a feat in itself. While I don’t know much about Vincent van Gogh or all of his work, I’ve always loved his “Starry Night” painting. I’m also a fan of Impressionist/post-Impressionist art so this added to my curiosity of watching the film.

Loving Vincent is set a year after van Gogh’s death in 1890 and tells the story of a postman named Armand Roulin tasked to deliver a final letter from van Gogh to the painter’s brother Theo. What would be Armand’s simple journey to Auverse-sur-Oise in France ends up being a retelling of the last days of van Gogh. While in Auverse-sur-Oise, Armand gets curious and decides to investigate the death of van Gogh.

What is amazing about this film is the fact that they used some of van Gogh’s famous works as part of the story such as “The Night Café,” “Café Terrace at Night,” and of course “Starry Night.” The characters are also based from van Gogh’s paintings like the portraits of Armand and Joseph Roulin, Adeline Ravoux, Dr. Gachet, “Girl in White,” and “Marguerite Gachet at the Piano.”

Photo credit: mymodernmet.com

While the ending isn’t fulfilling and feels anti-climactic, the movie presents a somber and melancholic tone that captures the painter’s struggles with mental illness. But this also comes in contrast to the vivid colors of the paintings which the painter is known for. The flashback scenes are done in black and white sketches and in some scenes look almost like a film noir. The end credit is scored aptly with the classic Don McLean song, “Vincent.”

Loving Vincent is a visually stunning film worth watching, especially if you love art.

Wonder Woman Successfully Sets the Tone for Female Superheroes

June 5, 2017 at 9:25 AM | Posted in Film Reviews, Movies | 3 Comments
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SPOILER ALERT: This movie review contains spoilers. Read at your own risk!

After years of drought in not having any worthy female superhero in films, we are finally gifted with something that is at par with the other superhero blockbusters out there. Wonder Woman is a magnificent film that truly puts women at the center of the action.

I never read any of the Wonder Woman or Justice League comics when I was a child. And I never watched a single episode of its classic TV adaptation which starred Lynda Carter. So I’m basically a newbie in the Wonder Woman universe. And naturally I’m curious to see the movie when it was first unveiled at the San Diego Comic Con. And I got more excited when I saw the first trailer of the movie.

I first got to see Diana Prince, a.k.a Wonder Woman in the Batman v. Superman movie and I was already impressed by the character. It was a delight to see her in action fighting alongside Superman and Batman. Now I’m glad that she has her own solo movie.

Wonder Woman is an empowering film for women and young girls. In the movie, we get to see the origins of Wonder Woman herself, back when Diana is still a child and under the watchful eye of her mother, Queen Hippolyta and aunt, Antiope. We watch her grow up to become a fierce Amazon warrior just like the other Amazons living in Themyscira. We also get to see a glimpse of her in the future, where she maintains communication with Bruce Wayne – a direct reference to the scenes in Batman v. Superman.

I greatly enjoyed the scenes in Themyscira with its sweeping, picturesque setting. It’s refreshing to see those scenes where an island is populated by female warriors. Robin Wright is fantastic as Antiope. So is Connie Nielsen as Queen Hippolyta. They are just as fierce as Wonder Woman herself. Seeing the Amazons fight the invading Germans is a sight to behold.

However, when the film’s setting moves to London, it becomes a bit of a drag. Chris Pine as Steve Trevor is uninteresting and rather bland. The love story between him and Diana feels forced. It would have been better if the writers did not factor in a love story in the film. The movie could hold on its own without a love story.

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman is both fierce and endearing. Her character, Diana, has that naïve quality about her, especially when she first sets foot in London. She doesn’t know the ways of the modern world, especially when it comes to war. She is plucked out of her secluded, primitive world and thrown into a new world she couldn’t understand. But as she comes to know more and more of mankind and herself, we see her mature slowly and become what she is in the future. And despite the horrors of war she witnessed, she still has an earnest belief that there is goodness in every man. She is both soft and strong and very brave in facing off with the bad guys, especially Ares.

I think David Thewlis as the god of war Ares was miscast. He looks out of place in that costume. I just wish that there were more scenes in Themyscira, though. I’m interested in knowing more of Hippolyta and Antiope and their back story as Amazons. I hope the movie sequel will get to explore that.

Does Size Really Matter?

September 14, 2016 at 10:45 PM | Posted in Film Reviews, Movies | Leave a comment
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SPOILER WARNING: This movie review contains major spoilers. Read at your own risk.

In these times where body shaming on social media has become more and more prevalent, one movie attempts to address the issue and among others with wry humor.

Zoom is a Canadian indie film about three characters who find themselves in a story written by the other. It’s generally a satire movie about body objectification and the creative process involved in writing books and making films. The movie stars Gael Garcia Bernal, Alison Pill, Jason Priestly, and Mariana Ximenes.

zoom-movie-poster

It tells the story of Emma, a young comic book artist who works at a factory that makes sex dolls. She sculpts and paints sex dolls while drawing comic book characters on the side. One day her co-worker/boyfriend Bob saw one of her drawings and points out that she could never be as voluptuous and big-breasted as the female superhero in her comics. Taking offense, Emma draws a new character named Edward in her comics – a guy possessing all the qualities of her ideal man. In her comics, Edward is a famous movie director – handsome, smart, charming and popular with the ladies.

This is where Zoom starts to get interesting. In Edward’s world, he is struggling to complete a new movie against the pressure of a major film studio. The movie script is incomplete and Edward wants to make it as an art house film. The problem is, the film studio wants a typical action-packed, Hollywood-style movie with lots of explosions – something that he really wants to avoid.

Edward’s movie is about a female model named Michelle who wants to become a writer. Her boyfriend Dale is not as supportive of her plans as she expected. So she leaves their shared apartment and goes to Brazil. It’s while she’s in Brazil where she starts writing her novel.

Eventually, Edward realizes that he’s just a character in Emma’s comics, while Emma soon learns that she’s only a fictional character in the book that Michelle is writing. Michelle, on the other hand, also realizes that she’s just a part of Edward’s movie. She doesn’t even know that she’s an actress in the movie.

Zoom splits between the real world, the comic book world, and the movie world. It’s reminiscent of Stranger Than Fiction, A Scanner Darkly and Inception. It also reminds me of A-ha’s comics-inspired “Take On Me” music video back in the ’80s. It’s a shame that I don’t get to see Gael Garcia Bernal in his true form as he only appears in his comic book form in the movie.

zoom-movie-alternative-poster

Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t have enough depth and fails to explore and develop the characters. Zoom is muddled, silly, absurd and has no direction. Its attempt as an art house film is as unsuccessful as Edward’s efforts in his movie. The ending is a big question mark as the viewers are left wondering what happened to the characters.

What happens to Michelle after she wrote those words in her book? Why is Emma working in that perverted factory in the first place when she could have used her talent somewhere else? What happens to Edward and his unfinished movie? I guess we’ll never know since they are already “smeared” in the comics.

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