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.

Money Talks

July 11, 2016 at 11:00 AM | Posted in Film Reviews, Movies | Leave a comment
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Kapit sa patalim.

This succinctly describes Rosa’s predicament in life in the indie film, Ma’ Rosa. In a world where you have to do everything to survive, there is little choice left except to take big risks regardless of whether it’s even legal or not.

Ma’ Rosa is yet another indie film by Brillante Mendoza that tackles the social ills of Philippine society, particularly poverty and corruption. It took the local cinema by storm when it won an award at the Cannes Film Festival early this year. Its lead star, Jaclyn Jose, bagged the Best Actress award at Cannes beating out veteran Hollywood actresses such as Charlize Theron, Marion Cotillard and Kristen Stewart.

Ma' Rosa movie poster

I was surprised and proud as well when Jaclyn Jose won the award. And it was thrilling to see that it was Mads Mikkelsen (a.k.a TV’s Hannibal Lecter) who announced the winner. The movie wasn’t even locally released yet at that time so the moviegoing public had no idea what it was about. Thankfully, the movie is now showing in local cinemas so I had the opportunity to check it out.

Ma’ Rosa is about a family living in a poor neighborhood somewhere in Manila. Rosa Reyes (played by Jaclyn Jose) and her husband Nestor run a small convenience store adjacent to their humble home with their four kids. However, many people in their neighborhood know that the couple is also selling drugs on the side and using their store as a front. It’s not long before their home is raided by corrupt policemen who take them to the police station. The corrupt cops then demanded a large sum of money from Rosa and her husband in exchange for their freedom. Most of the movie then tackles on how the family scramble to raise the money to pay the cops.

The tone of the entire film was bleak and dreary. There was a general feeling of jadedness among its characters, perhaps highlighting the hard life that they were into. Some camera shots were intentionally shaky. Other shots zoomed in for a closer look at scenes such as Nestor crossing out the name of one of his customers on a tattered notebook, reminding local viewers that this was not your typical mainstream Tagalog movie.

Jaclyn embodied the typical woman I see on the streets with her bare face, basic outfit and street language. Her deadpan facial expressions were refreshing to see. She barely evoked emotions. Only a couple of worrying frowns betrayed the inner turmoil she was feeling. That last scene where she finally let loose and silently cry was truly touching.

Julio Diaz, who played Nestor, looked like he was high on drugs the entire time with his slurred speech and swagger. Maria Isabel Lopez, on the other hand, only had one scene in the movie but she provided some light and amusing moments to the film with her hugot-filled one-liner, “O ayan, isaksak mo ‘yan sa bunganga ng nanay mo!

The script needed tightening, though. Some of the dialogues came out trite, thus resulting in shallow performance by the supporting characters.

Overall, the movie was okay. It was not that bad but it could have been better.

From Coming Out to Coming In

June 10, 2016 at 12:14 AM | Posted in Film Reviews, Movies | Leave a comment
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The 21st French Film Festival just started this week and there are about four films in the lineup that I really want to see. Last year I was able to watch only one French film in the festival, and that was Dans La Cour, which starred Catherine Deneuve. It was a rather depressing movie so I thought that this year, I would watch something light and funny. That’s why I picked Toute Première Fois as the first movie I’d watch.

Toute Premiere Fois

Toute Première Fois (I Kissed A Girl) is about a thirty-something man named Jérémie who finds himself in a sticky situation after waking up beside a woman he doesn’t know. Normally, this would cause no problem for a regular guy who is used to having one night stands with women – except that Jérémie is gay.

Jérémie has been living with his boyfriend Antoine for the past 10 years. They recently got engaged and are set to exchange wedding vows. But after a night of fun drinking with business clients, Jérémie is shocked to find out that he slept with a Swedish woman named Adna. Apparently, Adna doesn’t know that he is gay.

In panic, Jérémie turns to his best friend and business partner Charles for help. But Charles isn’t much of help since he decided to hire Adna despite Jérémie’s objections. Soon, Jérémie finds himself getting attracted to Adna as they spend more time together at work. Will he tell her the truth about him and his boyfriend?

Honestly while I was watching this movie, I was rooting for Jérémie to stay with Antoine. Antoine is sweet, dependable, supportive and best of all, he loves Jérémie. But then, Jérémie is discovering a new side of himself. And this movie explored that side of him – albeit in a funny, heart-tugging way.

The movie is rather predictable, though. Halfway through the movie, I knew who Jérémie was going to end up with. The usual tropes are also played out in this movie: Charles as the womanizing best friend, Adna’s background, the climax, and the surprise ending involving a gay marriage.

But Toute Première Fois is still worth to watch if you like popcorn movies and want a laugh or two.

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