Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Melancholia (2011)

Immediately straight after watching the film that I waste no time to write the review that I find it deserves.

In my own very short summary of the film, it's all about an apocalyptic tale meant for the hipsters demographic. Melancholia is not the type of disaster story you'd like to think you know or expect, which is sort of disappointing for many a curious parties who are more interested in the science fiction behind it. It deals mainly with many themes regarding depression, grief and other related downers that inhibit one's mood.

The film is slow and dramatic even immediately after its opening shot, including the many images at the beginning to slowly introduce its viewers of the drama ahead, utilising in medias res, accompanied by the eerie and ubiquitous musical composition that stirs the depression in you, and surprisingly very Kubrick-esque in its approach, symbolic. It switches the conventional with pizazz, meaning instead of explaining the whole thing thoroughly it leaves one hanging into an artistic point of view, making a person question the idea of sublime surrealism that is (harshly should I put it) shoved into their throats. One begins to wonder the intention, and it works mainly to capture interest, to find out basically the answer for the questions 'Why?' or 'How?'

In my own understanding, Von Trier is known for his insufferable films that have that certain independent movie-making feel that almost always deal about the insufferability itself of humanity in general and its accompanying consequences that affects them both in a physical and spiritual light. This film of his has been marketed as an 'artistic disaster film made by the guy who directed Antichrist and Dancer in the Dark' which appealed me the most having enjoyed the former despite being difficult when I first laid eyes on it. Although I kind of feared at the beginning this whole thing has been sold to all of us under a false pretence of an explosive film a la Michael Bay or Emmerich, having already been fooled of an almost similar concept in the film Monsters, which wasn't actually a monster film by any means but a twisted romance between two characters.

The whole thing revolves around the perspectives of sisters Justine and Claire, played by Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg respectively, who has to deal with each other an idea of an already-volatile relationship and the sudden implications of a planet that is about to collide with Earth reminiscent to the giant impact hypothesis, or the Theia theory. And yes, this concept almost sounds ridiculous enough to put together. The film is separated into two halves as I mentioned. First part is labelled 'Justine', for Dunst's character, which shows the wedding night party in full bloom with the entire cast complete. This part builds up the mystery and gives many clues as to how the personalities of each characters come to the way they are. The second one is 'Claire' (awesome name) for Gainsbourg's character, Justine's sister, more concentrating on the effects of the planet's inevitable appearance and their relationships as their version of life ends, thus cementing the emotional anxiety-inducing moments to a maximum.

The camera panning is intentionally amateurish and shaky, typical of Von Trier's methods in his previous works, even sometimes unnecessarily. Not that it's a bad thing. It actually gives the audience a bit more personal touch and relation to the ambience.

The first part of the film is heavy on interactions with the many characters present in the wedding, not giving much thought to the impending doom just yet. More on character development, less depression, as hints of daunting madness creeps up slowly towards the middle, with everyone questioning Justine's indifference to them all, excluding that of her demotivated and pessimistic mother, Gaby, played by amazing actor Charlotte Rampling. She seems to be the biggest factor on why Justine is the way she is, and arguably the only denominator on why the film is filled with negativity. It is also on this part of the film that numerous subliminal messages of the inevitable are suggested and come into place; numerous references to the sky and stars are shown, birds, lantern balloons, certain glances upward, even a telescope.

Then it falls properly into order as Justine begins to show her nihilistic approach; denying his groom who is unskilled in speech-making, Michael (Alexander Skarsgård), of pleasure whilst giving it to a complete stranger, total lack of respect for his father-in-law, Jack (Stellan Skarsgård), her unwilling cooperation to his temperamental but sensible wealthy brother-in-law, John (Kiefer Sutherland), yet longing for her own father's (John Hurt) affection, whose attitude and behaviour is as polarised to her and to her mother in almost every sense. The first part then finishes off without much of a bang but with plenty of gaps to fill and then shifts the stage over to Claire.

The second part is much heavier on the themes than the previous, attacking from the point where the relationships between the sisters are strained, how it affects their alleged emotional breakdowns, and then realising that the world is about to end. The characters are subtracted, merely highlighting with Claire and John's lives as they deal with it along with their son, and soon with Justine. Answers to questions from before are quickly given light but without much explanation, it just comes and goes for no reason. The wonderful cinematography is the main star in this attraction as you begin to understand the urge for something greater than the characters' pleas. For example, in a scene where Justine is being denied by her horse, a frightful premonition, and then the night sky when Claire steps out of the house to find the moon accompanied by an eerie light-blue ball beside it. We then discover about a planet called Melancholia (hence the title), 'the planet hiding behind the sun,' about to collide with Earth during its routine orbital rotation.

It's noted that while it is not officially stated, this part is where the Kübler-Ross model comes into play, or most commonly known as the five stages of grief, how Claire and the others cope with the acceptability of their demise. The audience comes to understand why Justine acts the way she is, not just because of her own mother's influence. It ends in a very anticlimactic fashion, but done so in a very strict artistry that you can almost forgive its overall flaws.

The most biggest gripe I have of the movie is the characters itself. These are the last persons I would like to witness in our planet's impending doom. They are uninteresting in so many sense and that the hardships they endure throughout the film are lengthened to a point that it completely snaps halfway through it. The psychology beneath it is akin to testing the elasticity of rubber, how far it takes before one could say they've had enough. It slowly drags right before it ends and a little bit longer than it should. You may want to root for the planet just to get it over with. It is wonderful if you can immerse yourself in a bittersweet state for very long, but if not then there's clearly no point to it all.

It would have been fascinating to expand on some of the more interesting characters that disappeared after the first half. Von Trier's attempt is surprisingly futile, and excessive at times, although I commend it for being watchable and my attention never strayed away beyond my shoulders. It could have been because the theme of destruction was a little out place, or perhaps it felt slightly forced, or perhaps there could have been a more conventional approach to the climax, or perhaps I am not hip deep enough to understand it all.

Like I mentioned before, this is the ultimate hipster's paradise.

Overall: 3.5/5

Monday, 19 September 2011

The Dead (2010)

It's been quite some time doing some reviews of my own, this having been my most recent one and first in a year or so, I suppose. Not quite sure where to begin to be honest, but having done small routine work in the past I felt obliged to continue something that I have already established and loved. I came upon this movie after a slight scuffle between me and my own laptop and I had to unfortunately delete half of the good stuff that was in it by accident. I had to fill it up again somehow and this is the first thing that I included as I filled it up with new content.

The things that drew me to this film myself were due to its George Romero-esque synopsis which I am a big fan of, and also partly due to my general love for the horror genre, which has disappointed me for the past ten years or so. If only I could turn back time and return to when I could be scared beyond my wits as a child whose manic and metabolic level were at an all-time high. The closest and last horror movie that I felt could relive my childhood scars still is Jacob's Ladder. But it happened when I am already at an age where my tolerance to jump scares no longer matches to that when I was, say, eight years old.

The Dead is a zombie horror film by The Ford brothers, Howard and Jonathan, and stars Rob Freeman as an unwilling silent protagonist, a flight engineer lieutenant, a sole survivor of the last evacuation flight that went awry, whose character history is quite uninteresting to say the very least, but as it goes you then wonder what it is about him that is deserving of salvation. The other star of the film is Ghanian actor Prince David Osei whose character is about a soldier who left his post in search of his family, which eventually led to the meeting of the two. It's an unusual mix of characters whose cultures are as much diverse as they are as characters. Freeman as Murphy is a do-whatever-it-takes-necessary-type of hero, while Osei as Daniel's sole purpose is to find his son after seeing his village torn to pieces by a zombie infestation the night before. Although the real star of the film is mainly its location. Shot in Burkina Faso and Ghana, it showcases the imagery of the humid nature of Africa and the notorious vastness, undoubtedly wonderful, landscapes, including the scorching desert of the Sahara. It is very reminiscent of a sandbox game by Rockstar, specifically Red Dead Redemption, and the comic series, The Walking Dead.

This is as old school zombie horror as they come. It combines everything what is loved about the genre first established by Romero. The emphasis of survival over action is very much welcome, the going back to the roots (zombies simply being zombies -- slow yet deadly at close range and in packs), and its slow, moody tension that creeps up to you in moments. The pace can be off-putting at times, though it's not farout.

The films begins in medias res and explains how the journey came about. It doesn't go further into detail about its history, although there is a very small explanation somewhere in the middle when Daniel asks about it in a village. This is mostly a journey for survival as they travel war-torn Africa rather than being traditional Manichean. It could be that its biggest fault is that takes itself too seriously at times for its own merit. The mercilessness of its themes are fitting to the overall structure, and at times even schmaltzy. It somehow also made me recall of the controversy surrounding the release of the video game Resident Evil 5 where it is also a zombie story set in Africa, being accused of racism because the main character is Caucasian and almost all, if not all, zombies are also dark-skinned.

Another weak part of the film is its ending. It's bittersweet yet unfulfilling (I would have said grim at first) and also predictable and familiar, and left a gap in plot in its wake. Although what I like best about it overall is it doesn't seem at all cheap. The makeup is very convincing, the gore especially and its realism in entirety.

It wasn't as satisfying as I hoped it would but it is the best of what it is for what it's worth. I'm happy overall, and the experience was slightly above mediocre. I didn't find the need to do something else while watching. It's hard to do that nowadays when your attention span is waning the more a person age. Sometimes I feel like a zombie myself, but looking at the world today, many people already are.

Overall: 3.5/5

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Kabuki (theatre)

Repost from 06/06/2010:

It is difficult to nitpick on something as foreign as this kabuki play I had just witnessed not long ago tonight. The mixture of refreshing cultural diversity and unorthodoxness is welcoming and, for lack of a better term, fun. I am a witness, along with my faithful companions, to the rich, wondrous history of Japanese art of dance-slash-drama, specifically coined Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura. Despite having difficulty with the distance of the stage and my blurry eyesight, as we were sitting atop near the highest in the opera house watching heads wander along and faces indistinguishable, one cannot deny the intensity of the performing prowess, unknowingly drawn to awe as the beat of the drum rumbles ever so loudly.

So as a foreigner bearing sight to the amazing spectacle to modern adaptations of cultural epic, let heroes be judged and subject to inquisition whether or not this Ebizo Ichikawa XI guy's fame was well worth the ride:


Body fluidity: I personally really liked seeing Ebizo's character, the fake Tadanobu and a kitsune, as he performs his role. He was frankly the best performer all in all, no doubt. Every time he tics and twitches, like somebody bearing Tourette's, was very fluid and you will notice the body discipline in which he stood out among the rest, showing why he truly deserves his name title. All the other characters were satisfactorily amazing in their own right, peculiarly the only male as a  female character Shizuka, General Yoshitsune's lover.

Music: The thunderous thumping and clicking of instruments were in perfect tune and perfect timing making it one of the best aspects of the play. Every melody fits categorically on that particular scenario. Not to mention the uniqueness of the rhythm is purely classic Japanese. Act two was notably the part where music is perfectly portrayed wherein the people playing the shamisen are clearly visible on stage.

Humour: There were particular funny moments wherein you, as an audience, would react by impulse because of being, probably unintentionally, menacingly cute. One cannot resist the set of actions put together to make that scene both vivid and entertaining at the same time. 

Fight scenes: Although most of it were open to artistic interpretation, it was performed admirably impressive. The dances and the choreographic body swaying of the protagonist and the supporting cast were sensible and coherent. There is a sense of similar pattern among all the whirling movements and, not saying this is necessarily a bad thing, but it was in a way characteristically uniformed.

Costumes: Retro-Japanese dresses are really nice. Lots of familiar colour to flatter the countenance of each character. Each kimono stands out and tells a different story on its own.

Props: The stage was not as huge as one would expect it to be and so the design of the set and equipments were kept as minimal as possible. Even so, the way they kept the place neat up was evidently very showy of symbols like the cherry trees, leaves, mountain pathways down to the dojo.


Pace: Being a foreigner watching and trying to decipher what it is that is going on is painfully difficult if the pace of the plot is too slow. I notice Edgard, who was sitting beside me, nodding to sleep fifteen minutes into the play. Although most people would debate it to be quintessential, I have to differ my opinion in this matter. 

Translator: The guy in the speaker was obnoxiously boring to listen to. Instead of trying to help people understand further most of what is going on around, he will basically aid you to slumber. I loathed every moment of it. There were times when I just want to cringe nonstop. My head was in a world of pain afterwards. I cannot understand much what the characters were saying but I can definitely say his interpretations were late and lacking. There were even moments where he states the obvious making the whole scene laughably anticlimactic.

Plot: I would probably get bashed for this but I really thought it needed a kind of reboot or some sort. I figured it was something that Hans Christian Andersen conjured up. Japanese cliches are, for me, pleasant but the cheesiness can be a bit stretchy, lengthy. 

Overall I really appreciated the whole play. It is something that any person should experience first-hand in their lifetime. It isn't so much as memorably overwhelming but towards the end the appreciation of the lush, cultural nonconformity is satisfying.

The Japanese people have their own uncanny way of showing how much we, as foreigners, have to value the importance of something of your own. It taught me a manner of selfishness that does not necessarily hinder with my values and virtues as a rational human being. I saw artistic brilliance which I could never possess in me. That tells me something of a different matter which I could elaborate further next time. Ebizo Ichikawa XI deserves his praise as a performer, boldly showing how far originality has since long gone.

I would like to thank all the people who made this possible; Aki-sama, for opening the door of possibility to this epic marvel; Marcos-sempai, for being stubbornly himself; Asami-sama, for being so nice and accommodating, always carrying with her her nice, broken smile; and Edgard-sempai, for sitting beside me patiently, and dozing off at the most inopportune climactic part of the play.

I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell (2009)

Repost from 04/04/2010:

I liked the movie. There. I said it. I kind of like the premise. I really do not get where all the hate is coming from. Better than the last three American Pie movies, I guess.

I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell is supposed to be a comedy, well it is, but somewhere along it changes pace from fratkid comedy to brama (bro drama) all the way down towards the end. Although it reeks and suffers from  R-movie cliches and the whatnot, the ability of it to narrow everything down basically to the characters' relationships instead of going all out compromising tits as a major selling point for the whole full run.
The reason I think people would be disappointed was the lack of comedy which is basically what it is but what it is not, and when it does try to be it only leaves you hanging wet and clueless. 
I read a lot of comments comparing the movie with The Hangover which is silly because I really did not find any comparison at all, besides being R-rated and jestful and includes a bachelor's party leaving the bachelor in big trouble. Now that I think about it, Justin Bartha and Jesse Bradford remind me of each other, coincidentally having letters J and B as initials which is kind of creepy.

Marika Dominczyk is a welcome addition to the film, she entices me as the Halo-playing stripper mom. I like her. I personally think Matt Czuchry was effective as a Stifler-clone Tucker Max (never knew the original Tucker Max). Keri Lynn Pratt as Geoff Stults' wife-to-be Kristy does a nice portrayal as well, having seen here in a previous film quite long ago now in Cruel Intentions 2 (can't forget the horse scene). Geoff Stults as Dan the bachelor though was subpar and quite ineffective. He felt out of place and too mature for the role.

Overall it is a movie that good friends can appreciate. It is not very much a doper movie as the situations are not as slapstick as, well, The Hangover, but well enough that I appreciated. I am a sucker for underrated films, by the way.

Overall: 3.5/5

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The Wrestler (2008)

Repost from 02/03/09:

Nagsimula akong i-decipher ang whereabouts of The Ram's needs according to Maslow's hierarchy and I'd say he's somewhere stuck between self-transcendence and aesthetics, not that he needed one, I mean, the aesthetics, haha, maybe around esteem, yeah.

Ang tindi ng asim ng tema na inilalahad sa movie na ito which rejuvenates you after watching the entire film. It makes you think about your own self and yung emotions imposed upon. Been fan of Rourke ever since I saw Double Team, which was then overwhelmingly amazing for my father because of Rodman's involvement. He was a big fan of the Bulls during the '90s, and upon tracking down the road for a couple of years, he has established that whether he is a bummed out actor as he is allegedly portrayed by the media, one cannot distort the fact that the man had impenetrable talent, more so than anyone could ever say. Sin City, for a change, also features Rourke as Marv, who, in turn, was actually my favorite character in a trilogy of stories made to life coming from a graphic novel. Not only does he embody the human characteristic of his characters, like in this movie, The Ram, he brings with him the machismo, the alpha male characteristic which male viewers find a little more amazing and propworthy. Ang chemistry nila with his on-screen daughter played by Evan (seen her on Across The Universe and nagulat ako to know she's with Marilyn f'n Manson) is near-solid, if not, better.

I truly felt sorry for the circumstances of The Ram, and that bitter melancholic taste left is remarkably fulfilling. And not only do you empathize with one character, but you find yourself having bitterness with Marisa's stripping character as well. (Hubba.. hubba..)

I love the movie being tight of budget and all, it makes the whole experience more easier rather than being over-the-top realistic. Plus, the whole camera film capturing and following The Ram anywhere he goes na para bang they're some sort of invisible paparazzi shits trying to sulk out each and everything about the man, awesome.

It doesn't demand to be a wrestling fan in order to relate. Here, in effect, lies the failure of norms, as I, all my life, stood to testify for. Mahirap bitawan ang mga bagay na saan ka masaya kahit na alam mong ikakasira ng anumang relasyon ng mga malalapit sa inyong puso.

Cheesy fuck. What the hell am I talking about?! Hahaha!

Check out the movie. It's a slow rush, I tell you.

Overall: 5/5

Night Train (2009)

Repost from 26/01/09:

A modern adaptation of Pandora's box. A story about greed, malice and betrayal. At first glance, aakalain mong adult movie siya but as it moves along, I know for a fact kahit bubwit maiintindihan what this movie is about. It was fun seeing Danny Glover in action again as the conductor of the train. Reunion of Steve Zahn and Leelee Sobieski, first saw them together sa movie na Joy Ride, which both movies are similar in terms of the mystery factor, in a way. Great performance by Steve Zahn, nakakatuwa siya especially kung nagiging comic ang role niya. Leelee Sobieski, she's hot, pero many people deny this, and I vaguely understand why. Parang sexy siya na hindi pero doesn't mean she's not. Vague nga, as I said. I like her portrayal of a med school student-turned-psycho named Chloe, err. Si Danny Glover naman, I think something is wrong with his voice, I can't particularly entail how, though. All in all, the entertainment factor of the movie is the beginning up to the middle. From the middle point onwards, medyo dragging na especially when it nears the end. Hindi ko alam kung nagko-contribute dun ang pagkakulang sa budget pero it is fun, in some sort of way.

Overall: 4/5

Perfect Blue (1997)

Repost from 15/01/09:

Hindi ko inakala the movie would be great. For months, I have constantly declined trying to watch this because all the while inakala ko it sucks for the reason the cover sucks, that's all. I've never been much of a psychological thriller fan myself, not much of a Hitchcock fanboy. Although the director of this movie, I am well aware of, having seen his latter work Paprika, which I thought was equally artsy.

Ang movie ay tungkol sa isang J-pop idol na nag-switch ng kanyang career from being a singer to becoming an actress because sabi ng company she would be better of as one, much to the dismay of her fans, including a fugly stalking fanboy named Me-Mania. She hesitantly agreed including her manager, being singing her primary dream.

Soon, she realizes things happen one after another, having seen another her in the picture, one that claims that she is the real her and that she, the pop idol, should be the one in her place.

Yung ending medyo nagulat ako sa kahihinatnan but not as much as I expected. All in all it's a good watch. It could make your head hurt at times though, makes you think, makes you feel sympathy for the girl.

Overall: 4.5/5

Flowers of Flesh and Blood (1985)

Repost from 02/12/08:

Not for the faint of heart.. and stomach. Below the belt disgusting and putrid. Just when you thought you've seen it all, the gore, think again. Takashi Miike films would look like kindergarten joytoys when compared to this. The movie is unbearable to watch but you just cannot resist. You must have to be a little sick in the mind to fully appreciate its full content. Perhaps not little, but more. The believability effect is astounding and very plausible. Snuff films couldn't get any better than this.

Overall: 4/5

Oneechanbara (2008)

Repost from 06/11/08:

Some would totally disagree with me in giving this movie a 4 out of 5 pero I beg to differ considering this movie is about a HOT babe in a RED SKIMPY TWO-PIECE BIKINI sporting a seemingly cowboy hat slashing her way to victory against a zombie mob. San ka pa? Uber droolage! Anyway, the reason for the four is for the risk. They risked the entire sense of the movie for the fight scenes! Get it? No movie would do that!

*ehem* 300 *ehem*

Hmm, you have a point. Pero this is different. The word "plothole" itself is an understatement. Dapat ang tawag diyan is feed-the-obvious hole or whatever. The fight scenes, hmm, it's what people prefer more other than the blabber. Duh! Just watch Heroes and complain of fight scenes LOL. It's what made this movie long. The final scenes took maybe at least 15-20 minutes to finish. 'Twas like watching Freeza die in five minutes off an episode in Dragonball Z. Five f'n minutes to them was like thirty f'n episodes! Haha!

Did I mention oneechan was HOT? Nay?

Overall: 4/5

Sky High (2003)

Repost from 06/11/08:

The plot would have been great if not for the jump-and-hump-and-try-to-squish-the-whole-plot-in-a-two-hour-movie kind of dilemma. It would have been a promising action-packed movie. (I smiled when I saw that creepy-looking J-chick from Audition.. she was the first introduced guardian of the gate of rage). I had better fun watching Oneechanbara despite its more despicable storyline pero at least here they gave more emphasis on the story rather than solely revolving around the protagonist. Hanap na lang ako ng ibang movie ni creepy J-chick.

Overall: 3/5