Archive for review

“The Soloist” (2009)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on August 30, 2009 by kaye

the-soloist-movieToday is Saturday, August 29, 2009, and I am currently watching a film called The Soloist. It’s a film that came out late last year, I believe, and its main actors are Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx. The film is about a homeless musician named Nathaniel Avery (Foxx) and an LA Times writer named Steve Lopez (Downey) who writes about how a Julliard alum ended up on the street.

I am currently 43 minutes into the film, and Nathaniel playing the cello. I have to pause now, though, so that I can watch the film.

There is a scene in this film that I instantly felt strongly about. It was a wonderful execution of the director’s interpretative POV. In the scene I am referring to, Steve brought Nathaniel to Walt Disney hall to watch an orchestra rehearse Beethoven’s Third Symphony. As the two men sit alone in the audience, every seat covered with white linens before the actual show, we, the audience, are shown Nathaniel as he reacts to the music that is being played before him. His breathing gets heavier, his fingers softly tap to the rhythm, and then the next shot shows him, alone, surrounded by blackness; he is alone with the music. And Nathaniel closes his eyes. Then, against the black screen come different lights, colourful, flashing in and out with the music’s strong notes and crescendos and, well, I’m not very good with musical terms, but think of it as a visualization on iTunes or Windows Media Player. These flashing colours are a visual synthesia of how Nathaniel sees the music in his head, and this goes on for a while. At the end of the piece, there is blackness, and Nathaniel says, “He’s in the room”. Who is? “Beethoven.”

At some point while watching the film, I began to question its title. The Soloist. The inevitable, instant reaction to this title is that the soloist is Nathaniel Ayers, the musician, who plays Beethoven solos inside a Los Angeles tunnel. However, at some point in the film, the title begins to seem ambiguous, because it could also refer to Steve Lopez, the lonely divorcee who doesn’t want to be the only thing that Nathaniel has in the world that isn’t completely messed up. In a way I saw Steve’s character as a soloist as well, wherein “solo” doesn’t refer to the musical context of the word, but, rather, as a word that refers to being alone.

An hour and fifty minutes in, the film is over, the credits are rolling while classical music plays in the background. As I watched the film I typed notes onto two separate windows, hoping to discover what this film is truly about. My notes ranged from compassion to passion to commitment, to friendship. This film revolves around an enigmatic friendship between two highly unlikely characters. Theme ideas moved to poverty. Injustice. Fragility. The fragility of life, of relationships, friendship. Of the mind. Cause and effect, effects and their causes.

At the end of the film, however, I think that Downey, as Steve Lopez, phrased the main theme of this film perfectly, through his last voiceover narrating the contents of his L. A. Times column, “Point West”. He refers to it as, quote, “the dignity of being loyal to something you believe in”. This phrase beautifully captures the very essence of what the film has been talking about all along. I believe that The Soloist sends this message powerfully and effectively in a very emotionally engaging manner. Downey and Foxx both delivered stellar performances, playing the roles of two characters that were both so easy to empathise with. I really enjoyed their performances in this film, and, while it only increased my eternal admiration for Robert Downey Jr.’s talent, it allowed me to appreciate Jamie Foxx more as an actor, since I have barely seen any of his films and I usually see him on MTV as a singer rather than an actor. He’s a brilliant actor!

One thing that I found useful about watching The Soloist is that I just might have an idea or two for my independent study topic. I’ve been considering how different cultures respond to breaking conventional, blockbuster cinema. I’m basically referring to indie film culture and defining what an “indie film” is besides the idea of being produced by a minor or independent film company. After seeing this film, though, I’ve also started to consider talking about the depiction of poverty and the use of voiceovers, characteristics that are common in both The Soloist and Y Tu Mamá También, which are two films I’ve seen within the last 24 hours. Blindness also applies to the “poverty” concept. Anyway, we’ll see.

“Y tu mamá también” (2001)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on August 30, 2009 by kaye

y_tu_mama_tambienToday is Saturday, August 29, 2009 and last night I stayed up until 2 in the morning secretly watching Y Tu Mamá También, starring Dieego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal. I borrowed this film on from the media center in school as part of what I wanted to call a “Gael” binge, following two Sundays ago when I watched Blindness (2008). Finding the DVDs was a coincidence, though. My initial intention was actually to rent out Mike Leigh’s Naked (1993) for my Online Analysis assignment for IB Film. However, when I didn’t see it, I found instead three DVDs for Spanish-language films, all of which starred Gael Garcia Bernal: Amores Perros, Diarias de Motorcicleta and Y Tu Mamá También. I decided to borrow these three films just in case I find some sort of inspiration for my independent study.

Though I would have them on loan for a whole month, I decided to watch Y Tu Mamá También on impulse. It was late at night and I was in no mood to sleep yet, so I decided to watch the movie since everyone would be asleep and therefore not be able to walk in on my dark deed. To anyone who does not know what sorts of scenes are featured in the film, there is a parental advisory guide on IMDb.

Anyway.

Y Tu Mamá También is a film about two friends, Tenoch (Luna) and Julio (Bernal) who go on a trip to the beach with an older woman named Luisa. The film covers a lot of different subjects, including friendship, love, sex and poverty, all against the backdrop of rural Mexico. I only knew about this film, really, due to its racy and nearly explicit sex scenes, as well as the fact that it starred my two favourite Mexican actors.

However, after actually seeing the film for what it was, I gained a better view of Y Tu Mamá También beyond the demi-pornographic masterpiece that I perceived it to be before actually watching it. It may not be a meticulously crafted, calculated film like the Dutch thriller The Vanishing (which we watched in Film class), but Y Tu Mamá También was a film with its own art. I could write an Extended Essay on that film, though I don’t think I will.

One thing I truly loved about Y Tu Mamá También was how it made me appreciate a colour that I usually despise: the colour yellow. The film uses yellow – though usually a very muted tint of it – in every single setting, every scene, and nearly every shot. During the scenes along the journey to the beach, which Tenoch and Julio fondly called La Boca del Cielo (“Heaven’s Mouth”), I perceived the use of the colour yellow to be a reminder of their destination due to the colour of the sand and, possibly, the sorts of memories that they were probably looking forward to.

When I think of yellow as a symbol, yellow is a colour that is usually associated with cheerful emotions such as joy or happiness. Taking this a bit further, I could assume that the pursuit– or maybe even the discovery – of true happiness might actually be one of the main themes in the film. This is what I could interpret from Tenoch and Julio’s carefree personalities, their “Charloastra” (“astral cowboy”) manifesto, and Luisa’s reluctant yet seemingly necessary separation from her husband Jano. This is a film about happiness. This is a film about joie de vivre. About discovering joie de vivre.

I also liked the use of voice-over in the film. There are several moments in Y Tu Mamá También when all sound disappears and a deep male voice talks over the image onscreen (which, on several occasions, has shown servants going about their work). The narrator speaks from a point of view that is both distant and up-close, able to speak of both Julio’s and Tenoch’s lives, secrets, thoughts and emotions, usually parallel to one another, as well as a third-person view of supposedly random events and information that add meaning and depth to setting and the passing of time.

Furthermore, I would like to state that my favourite aspect of Y Tu Mamá También as a film is its omniscience. The omniscience in cinematography and in the voice-overs contributes to my suggested theme of discovery. The cinematography in this film covers broad images such as the rural Mexican scenery as well as more intimate scenes that take place in motels and makeshift beachside bedrooms. The concept of discovery doesn’t only apply to the viewer’s comprehension of the story, but more especially to the characters’ discoveries of each other. In this film Julio and Tenoch learn valuable lessons from Luisa, while Luisa learns about brotherhood and happiness from the two teenage boys.

Eventually, though, the main lessons learned in this story are lessons about life. Life passes. Time passes. Things happen and people change. This film is realistic and that is why I enjoyed it so much. As of now, I have two more Gael films to watch and enjoy (though the visuals of Y Tu Mamá También have showed me more of Gael and Diego than I may have wanted two years ago), and I have October’s Cinemanila film festival to look forward to. Diego Luna is coming to Manila. I am so excited.

You’ll go to hell for what your dirty mind is thinking.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on May 25, 2009 by kaye

Okay. Radiohead references aside, I finally watched my first film of the month on Saturday afternoon when I saw Angels & Demons, wherein Tom Hanks reprises his role from The Da Vinci Code as Professor Robert Langdon. In this film adaptation of the Dan Brown novel of the same name, Langdon uses his symbologist expertise to help stop an alleged plot against the Vatican by a secret society. The film also stars Ewan McGregor (as the most attractive priest in the world), Stellan Skarsgård (as the head of the Swiss Guard — I love him) and a lot of European actors I’ve never heard of.

In all honesty, I absolutely loved this film. I loved how it focuses on the Vatican and, in effect, also shows several scenic locations in Rome. I loved its apocalyptic nature. It literally kept me at the edge of my seat the entire time, and it also kept me guessing. During the first half of the film it seemed easy to determine the good side from the bad. However, a twist towards the end of the film made me question otherwise. I admire how this film played with both fact and fiction, just like The Da Vinci Code did, in weaving an enigmatic and exciting plot. But what makes Angels & Demons different from its predecessor is its relevance and its more subdued aura. It is far less aggressive than The Da Vinci Code, and yet it also manages to be more entertaining.

Even though I still haven’t seen Star Trek, I’m glad that I saw this movie. In fact, I would love to watch it again, because I really found it that good. Three and a half stars.

I wish I had adamantium claws.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on May 6, 2009 by kaye

30 April 2009:

So I saw X-Men Origins: Wolverine on April 30th, which was the day it came out here in Manila. As a fan of the X-Men films, as well as Marvel films in general, it was almost mandatory for me to make sure that I saw this in the cinema. Wolverine takes us through a part of the title character’s life before the days when the X-Men films took place. We’re introduced to his relationship with his brother, Victor, who is also a mutant who is later known as Sabretooth. Consequently, there are also other mutants in Wolverine that don’t appear in the X-Men trilogy that, plot-wise, follows this Origins film, such as Gambit and Wade.

I found this film entertaining, definitely. It serves its purpose as an action film, and though it isn’t the greatest cinematic masterpiece in the world, there are parts of it that I found especially fantastic. For example, I absolutely adored the film’s opening credits, which show the brothers Logan and Victor as they live through various wars that take place during the 20th century. I admired how the editor played with time and space as well as the dimensions of the image. I also liked the transitions during a chase scene in the film where the point of view transitions from a surveillance camera to the actual film camera. It was a rather brilliantly made part of the film.

Three and a half stars for this one. Not the best Marvel Film out there, but I think that Wolverine was a great way to kick off 2009’s summer blockbuster season.

17 Again: Who says you’re only young once?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on April 20, 2009 by kaye

After watching 17 Again, my opinions on Zac Efron changed forever.

In all honesty, the story of 17 Again is nowhere near rocket science. A former high school star finds himself in his late thirties and his life is falling apart, and all he wants is a chance to relive the good old days. And so, with a little bit of magic, he does. See, it’s simple. There’s no complicated twist, no plot shockers. But, at the same time, this film was no rotten tomato.

I believe that what really “made” this film was Zac Efron’s performance. Now, his name should be no stranger to any home that has heard of High School Musical or any of its sequels. Because of HSM fame Zac is known to most as Troy Bolton, and it’s probably no coincidence that his performance in HSM greatly affected his character in 17 Again. However, because this film is not under Disney, Zac Efron is able to sex it up a bit in this film. And it works. Everything works. His performance is spot-on, and I guess that his experience with playing the school’s star basketball player helped.

More than anything, 17 Again did a great job in showcasing Zac Efron’s talent as an actor and his great potential for future projects. He isn’t just another hot Disney triple-threat, and this film shows that and more: Zac is all that.

T2: Tenement 2

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on April 20, 2009 by kaye

A film review.

On April 11th I watched the film T2, Star Cinema’s latest horror film directed by Chito S. Roño. The film revolves around a Save an Orphan volunteer who, in the process of bringing an orphan back to Manila, discovers that the orphan is being followed by Engkantos, a supernatural creature in Filipino folklore.

Compared to past Filipino films that revolve around horror and the supernatural and/or play with special effects, I think that T2 is quite an outstanding accomplishment in Philippine cinema. I’ve seen a handful of poorly made “professional” films with clumsy editing, a rough story line and less-than-mediocre “special effects”. However, this film has a smooth flowing plot and displays an evident growth in terms of visual effects. T2 was able to receive an appropriate audience response of shock and entertainment, and I enjoyed it as well.