Friday, March 29, 2013


Just to let you know that I'm taking some time off from the blog. (There'll still be the monthly feature on Monday though.) The main reason is because I'm doing some serious TV catch-up in regards with Doctor Who and Mad Men (and perhaps Breaking Bad). I'll probably take a week off, then I'll be back.

In the meantime, enjoy the rest of this site.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Some Came Running

1950s Americana is an image that everyone is a time of perfect morals and behavior. In reality, it was a time of paranoia and prejudice. And everyone tried to look acceptable to the outside world.

Hollywood itself was stranger to this. You think many of your favorite movie stars had perfect personal lives. That wasn't the case for a majority of them. Some were drug addicts, some were alcoholics, and some had sex lives shocking for any era. (The studios constantly had to save their stars' skins.) Yet at the same time, they were trying to push the envelope with certain material.

This could be applied to Vincente Minnelli's Some Came Running. While most films of the decade had an uplifting nature, Some Came Running made no bones about its cynical nature. (Probably because it's based on a novel by James Jones, who also wrote From Here to Eternity.)

With any film, you need the right actors and Minnelli chose them. Frank Sinatra is essentially the embodiment of cynicism whereas Shirley MacLaine is that for dopey hopefulness. Dean Martin and Arthur Kennedy make the most of their screentime. All in all, it's a well-rounded cast.

Now the film itself I had some problems with. It got melodramatic in some scenes (then again, this is a Minnelli picture) and it felt too long in others. But thanks to the character development and the acting, I'll recommend Some Came Running.

My Rating: ****1/2

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Shakespeare definitely isn't the easiest material to grasp on the first go. Sometimes it takes a while to completely get it while for some, they understand it instantly. (I envy those kind of people.) For me, I understand them better if they're acted out.

I've seen a number of Shakespeare adaptations in recent memory. The most recent one is Ralph Fiennes' Coriolanus. Now this is one of Shakespeare's lesser-known plays (and also the least performed), so I was curious to see what is was about.

Surprisingly, it wasn't far off from Shakespeare's more famous works. Like Hamlet and Richard III, a common theme throughout Coriolanus was revenge. Not just the simple kind. I mean hot-blooded seething revenge. Also like several of Shakespeare's other plays, Coriolanus can be applied to the present day (which it is here).

As with other Shakespeare adaptations, the actors are ideal. Among the names are Fiennes, Vanessa Redgrave, Brian Cox, Gerard Butler and Jessica Chastain. Fiennes gets quite intense in several scenes but man, he pales in comparison to Redgrave. (There's a reason her family is considered an acting dynasty.)

Coriolanus is certainly an ambitious project on Fiennes' part. Maybe it's because of my weak attention span, but I couldn't stay completely focused on it. That said, I do anticipate the next time Fiennes will be in the director's chair.

My Rating: ****1/2

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Little Children

As I watched Little Children, I could tell that Todd Field was interested in deconstructing the image of picture perfect suburbia. He showed that all is not well behind the white picket fences.

His follow-up film Little Children continues that theme to a more thorough level. It isn't just chronicling a couple falling apart after a tragedy as In the Bedroom did. It shows the sometimes forbidden desires people can indulge in. And believe me, it gets pretty sinful in some scenes.

How so? Sarah (Kate Winslet) and Brad (Patrick Wilson), both married to other people, are engaged in a steamy affair. (Her husband Richard (Gregg Edelman) recently got addicted to porn.) Ronnie (Jackie Earle Haley) is a recently-released sex offender trying to have a normal life but disgraced cop Larry (Noah Emmerich) won't allow it.

This I like with the Sarah and Brad story. She wants the attention her husband won't give her. He wants to feel in charge since his wife Kathy (Jennifer Connelly) basically wears the pants in the marriage. They find their needs in each other. This is the kind of love story I like.

Little Children is a damn good film. Winslet, Wilson and Haley give great performances as people trying to change their lives around. (On a different note, where has Connelly disappeared to?) This is a character study I can see myself watching time and time again.

My Rating: *****

Friday, March 22, 2013

For Your Consideration: Defiant Success

Anyone who's a member of the Large Association of Movie Blogs (or LAMB) knows it's LAMMY season! (It's basically our equivalent of the Oscars.) Being a member of the site, I will be campaigning for a few categories. The categories I'm vying for are:

Best Blog C'mon, who doesn't want the best blog of the past year?

Funniest Writer I'm not as funny as some of the other blogs I read, but I can try, can't I?

Best Running Feature I've been trying to have my monthly "BOOK VS. MOVIE" get some more recognition. Maybe a nod in this category will hep?

Best Classic Film Blog You're reading the words of last year's runner-up. Even though I've made a conscious effort to veer away from that association, a third nod wouldn't hurt.

Best Movie Reviewer What do you think makes up most of this blog in the first place? C'mon, some support for my work would be nice.

Anyway, if you are a member of LAMB, you can go and vote here.

(Vote for me!)

Thursday, March 21, 2013


I've never been much for politics. I won't deny that this past election wasn't of much interest to me. (I did vote however.) There's about a candidate trying to eliminate their opponents.

Alexander Payne made no bones about it with his film Election. Yeah, it's about a school election, but it still applies to an unsettling degree. (I'm just grateful such a thing never happened at my school.)

There's something amusing about Matthew Broderick's role. It's almost as if Jim McAllister is Ferris Bueller trying (unsuccessfully) to relive his glory days as an adult. And personally, it's his best role since Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Now Reese Witherspoon as Tracy Flick is actually terrifying. She's determined, yes, but she certainly isn't someone I want to cross paths with. Also, I can understand why some people thought she should have been nominated for an Oscar.

Election is a really great satire. Payne is definitely one of the better names tackling the genre. Broderick and Witherspoon are great here. It's one of the best titles of the 1990s.

My Rating: *****

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Paranoia. It is some scary shit. And to me, a nice handful of it makes for a good horror film. Not blood or guts or gore, just paranoia. (If only more directors took note of that.)

Thankfully, someone in Hollywood still knows how to scare the hell out of an audience. After all, he did direct what some call the scariest film ever made. (And his most recent film is pretty unsettling too.) I am, of course, speaking of William Friedkin.

His film Bug heaps on the paranoia and boy, does it work. Each passing moment gets more and more unsettling. (It doesn't hurt that it's written by Tracy Letts, who also wrote Killer Joe.) Hollywood, take note.

Though this is a small musing of mine as I watched it. I think Agnes (Ashley Judd) was on the verge of madness regardless if she met Peter (Michael Shannon). (She was the victim of domestic and substance abuse.) Peter was basically the break in what was left in Agnes' stability. But that's just my opinion.

Bug is really unsettling to watch. (Shannon's performance doesn't make it any easier.) Between this and Killer Joe, it's safe to say that the combination of Friedkin and Letts is a very potent one. Also, it's great to see Friedkin in his glory again. (I also won't deny that Bug scared me more than The Exorcist.)

My Rating: ****1/2

Monday, March 18, 2013

My Left Foot

There are classic actors and there are method actors. Classic actors use their own experiences to relate to the characters they play. Method actors become the people they're playing. (I admire my fair share of both classic and method actors.)

There are a number of method actors held in high regard today. Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman...these are actors that others call influences on their own craft. But the most determined (and possibly insane) method actor has to be Daniel Day-Lewis. He didn't win three Oscars just from a little bit of talent.

He won his first Oscar for his work in Jim Sheridan's My Left Foot, and it doesn't take much to see how he won. The role of Christy Brown is one that only a skilled actor can pull off without making it hokey. Of course, Day-Lewis is such an actor.

The physical demands of the role are very clear, but not many take into account the emotional demands. The fact that Christy is essentially trapped in his own body is heartbreaking on its own. The fact his own family can't understand him just makes the situation even worse. (His outburst in the restaurant is just as devastating.)

My Left Foot is an unbelievably raw film with an equally raw performance from Day-Lewis. It's really one of those performances that you can't watch and can't look away from. It's just remarkable in every sense of the word.

My Rating: *****

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Letter Never Sent

French films can be either elegant or raw. Italian films drip with class or poverty. Japanese films are brutal or sensual. These are a few musings I've made whilst watching foreign films.

It doesn't restrict to those few countries. Swedish films often go down the philosophical route. German films aren't afraid to show human nature's vicious side. And...well, those are the countries I'm most versed in.

But I did get my first taste of Russian cinema in the form of Mikhail Kaltozov's Letter Never Sent. Shot in the Siberian wilderness, the film provides a grim (and boy, do I mean grim) portrait of survival and desolation. (I've a feeling that's a common theme among Russian films.)

Thanks to the cinematography of Sergey Urusevsky, the barren locales throughout Letter Never Sent resonate on screen. The fallen forests, the murky swamps, the jagged landscapes...these are featured prominently throughout the film. And it looks beautiful.

Letter Never Sent is probably the bleakest film I've ever seen. (Then again, the title itself should have been a giveaway.) It also got me curious about Kalatozov's other films. And this may sound really odd, but this would make for an interesting double feature with The Grey.

My Rating: *****

Friday, March 15, 2013

Fallen Angels

Style and story aren't exactly two things that go hand in hand. You can have a very compelling but raw story (a la John Cassavetes) or a movie that has more glitz than Las Vegas (a la Luc Besson). It's one of the two. You can't have both.

That doesn't stop Wong Kar-Wai from doing that. And quite successfully, I might add. I think when I saw In the Mood for Love, that was when I realized that Wong was going to be a director I liked.

His film Fallen Angels was only more proof of that. Sharing several elements of his previous film Chungking Express, the film basks in the neon lights of Hong Kong.

That detail is thanks to the watchful eye of cinematographer Christopher Doyle. Granted, his *cough* recent opinions may not earn him a lot of popularity votes, but his work here certainly will. I'm surprised he hasn't been nominated yet.

Fallen Angels is actually pretty awesome. Usually style and story don't work very well for me but here it's different. I'm definitely seeing more of Wong's work if it's this tantalizing.

My Rating: *****

Thursday, March 14, 2013


Michelangelo Antonioni is an interesting director, that goes without saying. Identification of a Woman was my first glimpse into his mind, but it was Red Desert that convinced me to see more of his work.

The film that followed suit was L'eclisse, which certainly felt quite different from the other two. The reason? Well, for starters, there wasn't much of a plot. It more or less just revolved around Vittoria (Monica Vitti) and Piero (Alain Delon), two young citizens of Italy.

Vitti had very much impressed me from Red Desert, so I was curious as to what else she had done with Antonioni. Here in L'eclisse, she shows the everyday complications one usually faces. (Y'know, relationships, maintaining a stable life, things like that.) Granted, Vittoria isn't unstable like Giuliana, but she doesn't have a better grasp on reality than her.

Personally, Delon showed his best work when under the direction of Luchino Visconti (see Rocco and His Brothers and The Leopard for proof), but Antonioni got some good work out of him. Delon is essentially the pretty boy charmer here but he does get several good scenes here and there. (Though he's overshadowed by Vitti kind of easily.)

L'eclisse is quite good but I didn't love it as much as Red Desert. As stated above, Vitti and Delon are good. But apparently, this is part of a so-called trilogy with L'avventura and La notte. Maybe I should check those out too...

My Rating: ****

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Conformist

It's amusing. Of the three Bernardo Bertolucci films I've seen, two of them are more infamous for their depictions of sex (Last Tango in Paris, The Dreamers) and the third earned him a few Oscars (The Last Emperor). I had yet to see a film made in his native tongue.

So I opted for The Conformist, the film that put him on the map. Filled with espionage and conspiracy, the film shows how far one is willing to go to prove themselves. (This is an espionage film, after all. That's actually quite a common theme among them.)

Starring Jean-Louis Trintignant, The Conformist depicts how someone faithful to his own beliefs can be pressured into betraying them. Marcello (Trintignant) is shown to be happily married and loyal to his country of Italy. But a new assignment tempts him to become unfaithful to both his wife and country.

Amusingly, The Conformist isn't that far off from Z (which also features Trintignant). Both films chronicle how long secrets can be hidden. (For Z, it's who was behind the assassination; for The Conformist, it's Marcello's past.) Again, this is a spy film. It's practically expected.

Anyway, The Conformist is a damn good film. It's also more proof that the Italians clearly know what they're doing when it comes to films. Man, Bertolucci is fast becoming a favorite of mine.

My Rating: *****

Monday, March 11, 2013

Rust and Bone

Jacques Audiard's Rust and Bone is different from most of the other titles released last year. Many films try to follow one specific plot. Rust and Bone instead follows the lives of two people who first meet by chance.

The people in question are Alain (Matthias Schoenaerts) and Stephanie (Marion Cotillard). He is an unemployed single father trying to get at least a decent life for he and his son. She is a killer whale trainer recovering from a debilitating accident. Both have differing personalities but you know what they say about opposites attracting. (Believe me, I tried very hard to make that not sound like a bad romantic comedy set-up.)

Schoenaerts plays Alain as an unwilling brute. He tries to keep his cool but sometimes he loses it when he really doesn't want to. (This makes his occasional kick boxing fights somewhat justified.) I can't wait to see what else Schoenaerts has in store.

Cotillard in turn is straight up transfixing as Stephanie. Far from most of the roles Hollywood's been giving her following her Oscar win, she gives a very raw performance stripped of glamour. (Just pay attention to her hospital scenes.) It's agreed by a handful of people that Cotillard is one of the best actresses working today. Her work here is more proof of that.

Rust and Bone is a really great film. Free of restrictions from most films, Audiard shows the true nature of these two people. It also convinced me to seek out Audiard's earlier film A Prophet.

My Rating: *****

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


Do you ever have one of those "a-ha" experiences with a certain actor? You know, when you're watching a performance of theirs and you realized they're someone you intend to keep an eye on.

To be honest, it's happened to me a few times. A lot of these instances would involve stars of Hollywood's Golden Age, but a few from recent years have slipped in as well. One example includes when I saw From Here to Eternity, one of the first films that got more into classic Hollywood. I was familiar with most of the stars of the film, but there was one I wasn't too familiar with. Good looking, nice physique, gentle smile...he certainly looked like the standard leading man of that time.

But his acting style was different from his co-stars', which got me more intrigued in him. This was my introduction to Montgomery Clift, an actor I now rank among my personal favorites.

So what about you?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Magic Mike

This must have had a number of people going, "What?" Steven Soderbergh, the man responsible for Traffic and Sex, Lies and Videotape, would be making a film revolving, male strippers. It sounds like an extremely strange idea yet it somehow works.

With a concept like that, Magic Mike could have fallen flat on its face at any point. But I think because Soderbergh was the director, he made sure such a thing doesn't happen. (Otherwise it probably would've ended up like Showgirls or something.)

If you're wondering what I thought about the men shown, I did like what I saw. That said, I wasn't that attracted to them all. (I'll take a man in a well-tailored suit over a shirtless man with a six-pack any day.)

Before I deviate any further from this review, I should probably talk about some of the actors. (And I don't mean their bodies.) It shouldn't come as a surprise now that Matthew McConaughey is the MVP among them. (Finally! He's in a film where being constantly shirtless is relevant to the plot.)

Anyway, I was...amused by Magic Mike. The plot loses its way frequently but it's still an amusing watch. Not sure if Soderbergh was trying to do the film along the lines of Boogie Nights or not, but it sure felt like it. Basically, ladies (or guys), if you want some eye candy, this is the film for you.

My Rating: ****

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Why Movies?

Last night, I griped on Twitter about trying to think of a post idea for the following day. Ryan over at The Matinee send me this a few hours after that tweet:
Blog post idea: For you, why movies? Why not books, music, art? What elevates film above all else?
My response:
I think it's because movies are an easier escape from reality for me.
His response:
So next time you're looking for an idea, write about that feeling of escape.
Ryan definitely got me thinking. Why do I like movies so much? Granted, I gave my own reason, but I knew there was something else behind it all.

I thought it might have something to do with my own rather dull life. Stuck in the middle of nowhere, no job, no driver's license, no social life...I needed something to cure my boredom. Movies just seemed like the go-to answer to that problem.

But where's the escape in it all? Simple: to see the visionary minds of others. Seeing directors whose works can range from playing it safe to taking risks is something I always like. Seeing the stories they tell is a complete far cry from the monotonous life I lead.

Basically what I'm saying is if it wasn't for movies, I would feel as though my life is meaningless. I hope in several years' time, my name will be projected on the silver screen. It sounds like a cliche, I know, but I genuinely would like that to happen.

We all have stories to tell. I want to tell mine.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Boy A

It's established early on in John Crowley's Boy A that Jack Burridge (Andrew Garfield) is someone who keeps very much to himself. He doesn't really speak to anyone unless someone is talking to him. We gradually learn why he's this way.

For starters, we learn that Jack just got released from prison. Later on, we learn he killed a child when he himself was a child. It sounds wrong that he got released after a crime that vicious, but fortunately no one knows the extent of his past. It's when it finally emerges that Jack's new life starts to crumble.

But here's the thing. Jack doesn't even act like the kind of person who would do such a thing. Even in flashbacks showing Jack as a child (especially around the time of the murder), he knows what's right and wrong. (The second child involved in the murder, not as much.) It's likely he only participated in the murder to gain acceptance from his young friend, but the film doesn't specify.

And Garfield is fascinating in his role. Thanks to his gawky smile and big eyes, he makes Jack a very sympathetic person. When the going gets rough for him, you just want to tell him gently that everything will be all right. It's one of those roles that stays with you after the credits roll.

Boy A is spotty in some scenes (mostly those when Garfield's not in them), but it is quite good. There aren't that many films told from the criminal's perspective, even less that do it effectively. Boy A is one such film, and it's one that should be given a look.

My Rating: ****

Friday, March 1, 2013

BOOK VS MOVIE: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Do you remember when you started high school? That hope you had about making new friends and a new identity for yourself? Then you realize that no one is your friend, regardless of what they say. (I, um, had a bad experience in high school.)

This is something that's common fodder among young adult fiction. Experiencing love for the first time, gaining a sense of independence, imagining what your future will be like when you leave high school...those usual things. For added dramatic effect, things like teen pregnancy, drug use and suicide are thrown in.

Stephen Chbosky's novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower explores a few of those things but graciously doesn't go over the top with them. Told through the eyes of freshman Charlie, the novel depicts a world of wide-eyed idealism and not-so-ideal reality. (Ah, the teenage years. What a marvelous hell they were.)

In a decision that should be given more often by Hollywood, Chbosky directed the adaptation of his own novel. And man, did he get (almost) every detail perfectly, particularly his choice in the lead actors. Logan Lerman and Emma Watson are great in their roles, but the best work is from Erza Miller. (I just love the complete 180 he did from We Need to Talk About Kevin to this. That's range right there.)

There isn't much difference between the novel and the film since, as mentioned earlier, both are helmed by the same man. Well, the novel is a little darker but apart from that, they're relatively the same. And considering I loved both, I guess this only means one thing.

What's worth checking out?: Both.