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Brief Encounter (1945)
"Whatever your dream was, it wasn't a very happy one, was it?"
On the plus side, it was beautifully filmed and Rachmaninoff's music can never be overused - I could listen to it nonstop! The film has much technical merit including insight into middle-class sensibilities and the internal struggle of an ordinary woman to fulfill her family obligations. Unfortunately I found the two main characters, Laura and Alec, overwhelmingly weak and needy! Hard to believe anybody can characterize Alec as virtuous. While he may have the veneer of a good doctor, he was your typical smooth operator, full of himself and likely a serial cheat. Sadly, the way they were more than willing to betray their families made them wholly unlikable: wishy-washy and lacking moral fibre. If anyone in the film stood out, it's the patient and kind spouse, Fred. His compassion and understanding at the very end is the most noble act in this all together tawdry affair. As depressive and dishonest as the wife is, Fred is solid and loyal - proving that he is a better and stronger man. If I was rooting for true love tested, then the ending was perfect.
Horrible Bosses 2 (2014)
Maybe third time's the charm?
Though I quite enjoyed their original outing, second time around for our woebegone heroes is a horrible dud. A better title would be "Horrible Dudes, Too", or better yet, "Horrible Tools To...". On the plus side,the camaraderie between the trio is intact; Aniston and Spacey do not disappoint in some deliciously villainous scenes; Foxx brings much needed braininess; and Pine and Waltz are both welcome additions (though the latter is criminally underutilized). Unfortunately, while there are some decent - or indecent! - gags along the way, this sequel is about as sophomoric as they come and shamefully lame given the calibre of the actors and the size of the film's budget. Beyond the clichés and weak story arc, much of the banter isn't that clever or funny. It's too bad that in their haste to strike while the market is hot, the producers and script doctors so compromised quality, settling for a connect-the-dot storyline that looks like it was developed by a bunch of fifth-graders. While good comedy can come from the most simple ideas and should be edgy, this movie frequently peddles the cheapest brand of chuckles by offensive stereotypes and degrading treatment of Latinos, Asians, and African-Americans. The gag reel at the end was the highlight of my film experience.
La délicatesse (2011)
One -of-a kind and perfect!
I generally enjoy most of the French films that I see, but given the so-so ratings, I didn't know how satisfying this experience might be. I'm thrilled to say, I thoroughly enjoyed this one from start to picture-perfect finish. Though it's a bittersweet slice of life, as the story unfolds, you begin to feel that if you stay true to your ideals and your heart, sometimes life surprises you with a bonus when you least expect it. Audrey Tautou was as captivating as ever and you can truly believe why the other characters here - both women and men- are in awe of her. But she's more than just a pretty face - she's loyal to a fault and has the smarts to appreciate the true value of someone beyond a fancy façade. Francois Damiens is a revelation. This film truly showcases his comedic flare and without trying too hard, he elevates every scene he's in. As the low-key Swedish dumpling, it doesn't take long for an audience to fall in love with Markus either. In real life, opposites attract now and again so I found it completely believable that Nathalie would be floored by his intellect, humour, humility and low-vanity ways as much as he's besotted with her. If more people took their wise approach to relationships, it'd be a much happier world. All in all, this is a brilliantly crafted film. The characterization of office folks is realistic and hilarious. The music is the perfect accompaniment: refreshing and anticipatory. This timeless tale of rediscovering happiness after great loss has so many subtly funny moments. About the title: I'm wondering whether it alludes to Markus being a special fish out of water, far away from his Swedish homeland. Or perhaps, delicacy is a reference to how in matters of the heart, we ought to take extra care with others and refrain from judging by external appearance since we all have our own quirks and had our share of heartaches that leads to a desire to self-protect and maintain a sense of balance. All I know for sure, is that this film is a rare treat, not at all your garden variety offering. It's one-of-a-kind. Hooray for the underdogs. Hooray for storytelling that doesn't sock you with gratuitous violence, nudity, or foul language just to appear edgy. This film is the magic of small moments and ordinary people that reaffirm your appreciation for both the brevity of life and seizing golden opportunities while you can- even if it bucks conventional wisdom. We all have just one life to live- so we best enjoy!
The Deep Blue Sea (2011)
Depressing to infinity
Had high hopes for a taut intelligent drama - go figure, it features two of my favorite British actors in Rachel Weisz and Tom Hiddleston. Unfortunately, the film fell far short of their talent and my attention. With the excessive and prolonged violin music at the beginning, I knew I had erred in selecting this movie during the Thanksgiving weekend. To its credit, this film did have the look and feel of the 1950's in which it was set. Apart from that, I can't offer up anything else that may have redeemed this torturous series of vignettes of an unhappy woman well-loved by her husband but languishing for a cad who is dying to escape her and all that's dreary in postwar London. Early on, you're probably not dreaming of a happy ending, you're just hoping for an ending -stat! It came alright, just 2 hours too late. Alas, the downbeat performances, self-destructive characters, and deadly slow pace had me plotting to throw this flick into the sea (or the closest puddle outside)..never to be seen again.
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Should've just tuned in to an Eagles game -
even if I'm not a football fan. This movie almost convinced me that I would've had a whole lot more fun on my couch with some stove-top popcorn watching some live action touchdowns than I had at the theatre gobsmacked by this menagerie of looney tunes fumbling towards a Hollywood happy ending at any and all cost. Try as I might, felt zero affinity for most of these characters. Though you couldn't find two better looking actors than Bradley Cooper as Pat and Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany, their characters were either too aggravatingly loud and/or lame to keep me interested or root for them. In short, I found the characterization of Pat's bipolar disorder and his family's (not to mention his analyst and the policemen's) response to be so benign and simplistic to the point of absurdity and as crafty as she is, I also couldn't bring myself to care for the underdog lovestruck (sex-starved?) Tiffany. I found her character a self-serving desperate ding-a-ling and worse, a predator in pursuit of somebody more vulnerable to fix. While I can appreciate that birds of a feather might flock together, these two do not a happy & balanced love match make, unless you have high hopes for sustainable joy between a codependent manipulator and and an emasculated romantic. Hmmm, on second thought... Anyway, such a shame the movie focused so heavily on these two sad sacks because the rest of the head cases were much more likable. Chris Tucker was a hoot and so were Pat's friends, Veronica and Ronnie. I wish, too, that I could've chuckled a little more because believe that some scenes were meant to really have us rolling in the aisles or smiling subversively... but alas, not so much. (Some of the more funny moments are featured in the trailer and even those weren't gut-busters, right?) Found myself checking my watch, time and again. (And this from someone who applauds many performances by the remarkable cast and does enjoy unconventional romcoms. I'd sooner recommend three other films which didn't garner half the hype but are far and away sharper, funnier, and more original: "Eagle vs. Shark", "Happy Accidents" and "The Science of Sleep".) Now, if this film does manage to make it to the Oscar playbook, it would be deplorable and affirmation anew that in Hollywood - as in life - all that's silver doesn't glitter.
The Da Vinci Code (2006)
a worse kept secret, no more
I must confess that I actually paid full price to see this movie upon its release early June - this pains me tremendously since in spite of my best intentions and the constant nudging of my friends to get some value on my ticket purchase, I could not stay awake. I must've fallen asleep a dozen times during the course of the film! As I can't remember the last movie I snored through, I chalked up this snooze fest to being too tired to sit through the film, lack of decent dialogue, no screen chemistry between any of the actors, preposterous plot zig zags, one too many sloppy action sequences, and zero comic relief. I appreciate absurd fantasy as much as anybody, but there wasn't anything remotely funny or intriguing that I could ream out of this dud. True, I was asleep for almost 2 hours, so could it be that this film was more than a succession of busy nothings? Well, I had my second chance to view the Code
and this time I didn't have to pay extra! It was the featured movie on my flight today and I was somewhat gladdened that I'd be able to make a final judgment on whether this film had any merit whatsoever. Good news is that I managed to stay awake this time. Could this be attributed to the fact that the ride was very bumpy and without a real meal, I was suffering the pangs of hunger? Sad to say, this overwrought tale was not the meal ticket it could have been. It certainly provided no brain nourishment at all. Upon second inspection, my initial assessment was validated. This movie is devoid of basic ingredients required of any passable movie: intelligent plot, credible characters, comedy, a slice of life
What were Hanks and Tautou - two of my favorite actors thinking when they signed up as automatons for this feeble, fetid potboiler? Truly, the best things about this film were the villains. Each of them - especially Silas and Sir Teabing was a zillion times more fascinating than either Sophie or Robert ..unless of course you have a curious empathy for one-dimensional, muppet-haired, sanctimonious numb-skulls.
So I've completed my penance for falling asleep the first time and I've also reconciled myself for giving this film one star things are indeed looking up this year!
if you found a precious relic
....from your childhood, how would you feel? Happy? Sad? Nostalgic? This two hour reverie fills you with all those emotions and oh so much more! In a good mood already? Amelie's sweet mischievous ways will make you chuckle and grin even more. Feeling blue? Well, check out the gallery of oddballs and sad sacks in this movie and count your blessings. A little nostalgic? Guess you're entitled because the olden days were bliss. But there's no turning back and when you follow your heart and try to do some good in the world, nothing's quite so bad. In a flash, you multiply joy and it all comes back. With a bit of inspiration, Amelie proves that you don't have to accept the status quo. You'll be in a better place when you take charge of your life and begin creating your our own happiness. Whatever shortcomings this film may have, its charming lead characters, clever commentary, and supercool music will win you over. A fabulous destiny, indeed!
Un coeur en hiver (1992)
What's not to love?
Exquisitely beautiful film.
Performances are sublime. I'm sure I could watch a thousand films without any of them coming remotely close to the layered beauty and grace of this one. As wonderful as it is to watch the trio of Auteuil, Dussollier and Beart, you can sometimes enjoy this movie with your eyes closed. Mais pourquoi? Ravel's music is brilliant beyond words and imagery. Even if you don't care to watch the movie again, which should not be the case if you appreciate the intelligence and artistry of French cinema, check out the soundtrack. Have had my CD for more than 10 years and it's a keeper. Film scores don't get much better than this.
So much for happy endings!
But now I've said too much?
What to say? Besieged is a timeless, unabashedly romantic masterpiece. Poetic and original, this movie studies two people locked in a slow dance of seduction. Based on James Lasdun's short story, "The Siege", the film reveals that love need not not be reduced to self-satisfaction and immediate gratification or communication to trifling words. Can love transcend ostensibly insurmountable objects before the principle characters (such as the dizzying height of the spiral staircase)? Perhaps. One thing is for sure: this film will strike a resounding chord in your heart! Not only does the glorious music speak volumes of the character and background of Mr. Kinsky, a wealthy European pianist, and his live-in housekeeper, Shandurai, it also pitch-perfectly articulates feelings too buried for either to verbalize. Indeed, when used as a medium to express emotions, music is much more effective than words. In the few instances they make eye contact, words seem to be superfluous. With minimal dialogue, it's incredible how Shandurai and Kinsky find ways to communicate and impact the other's life. The collision of their two worlds is celebrated in the hauntingly beautiful piece Kinsky composes for Shandurai,"Ostinato". The sounds and the deafening silences, the sights and the suspicious disappearances are all exquisitely executed by Bertolucci. With Claire Peploe, he fashions a tale that is at once simple and profound. Bringing the story to life is a powerhouse cast. Thandie Newton as the beleaguered and reticent Shandurai is a revelation. David Thewlis as the lovelorn, crafty, idiosyncratic ideograph Kinsky is way beyond "good enough". His portrayal of a man who achieves liberation through sacrifice is captivating. Also marvellous are the performances of John C. Ojwang as the griot and Claudio Santamaria as the buddy. Unlike the majority of movies that will be released this year, this one will etch an indelible impression on your mind and spirit. But now I've said too much?