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- BRUCE LEE
Pain & Gain (2013)
A Must-See American Tragicomedy
I just watched Pain & Gain in Seoul, Korea last night on TV and perhaps it's the distance from the U.S. that allows this brilliantly written, acted and filmed tragicomedy to underscore even more the unfortunate mindset of American get-rich-quick-at-any-cost ideology especially in light of the country's continuing economic slide and cultural decay. The characters' Waiting or Godot-type spoken narrative finds a perfect partner in the cinematography, which, unexpectedly, is the films' Narrator: the intensity of the overload of the "Miami Vice" color scheme and the odd-angle shots exposes the characters desperate urgency and underscores their unfortunate pathos. The absurdity of Daniel, Paul and Adrian's "plan" - how ironic that two of them are named after Biblical heroes - is made more so because Pain & Gain is filmed as a comedy and not a drama. The genre choice therefore allows the viewer to be pierced by the sadness of the real-life events the film is based on.
I didn't take my eyes of this the entire time I watched it, so tuned in was I in that 'Oh, no they didn't' way. All the actors both starring - Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Ed Harris and a surprise turn by Tony Shalhoub - and supporting executed themselves well. I suspect in time this Michael Bay film may become a classic exposition and commentary of the fallout of the American Dream becoming a nightmare.
rating: 9/10 stars
New Boy (2007)
Rooting for The Kids
Director Steph Green's "Newboy" is a classic new-kid-on-the-block, fish-out-of-water narrative that comes alive through Cinematographer PJ Dillon's clean camera work and scene set-ups that literally catches both the vibrant warmth of Joseph's African homeland (and yet set against a chilling coldness of another sort) and the cold, grayness of Ireland (and yet a peculiar kind of warmth and care) which underscores the metaphor of an initial cultural clash. The expressiveness and humor of the brilliant and mainly child actors is stellar and it's they who will charm you and warm your heart.
Given the timelessness of the narrative (the success of the remake of "The Karate Kid" starring Jaden Smith comes to mind) this sort of 11 min. short should be the appetizer to films at the cinema for films geared to children, adults and those on their way to adulthood. This would be especially true in North American cinemas where it's difficult for films outside of certain cities to see great little films from overseas.
Cloudy with a Chance of The Surreal
When the narrative is the screen - or smoke, be it a cloud, actual smoke or the silkscreen of the mind - through which we see "reality" that each scene is nonsensical is the point. The cinematographer Dawid Rymar makes great use of the camera to get clear shots and convey the twisted and dreamlike atmosphere of each scene without any tricks. Grzegorz Cisiecki's 7 minute short also highlights expressive actors who can't rely on words for exposition. And even the bareness of a quiet piano seems to be its' own disturbed and haunted character. Well done.
Shi mian mai fu (2004)
A pageantry of color, skill and story
There may be some unanswered questions at the end of the movie and yet I'd watch this film over and over again just to witness the use of costumes, the martial arts skill and how they blend to make a very palatable story. Those who are trashing this film do so senselessly. The films' lovebirds are throughly attractive but not at all bland and you root for them because they appear to belong together; they have a natural chemistry which can be difficult for two actors to have. As can be the case in Asian films, like the recent hit "Hero", the costumes and the use of color are important characters all by themselves. So many elements come together beautifully that what's also ironic is the that film could easily be a stage play. I enjoyed this immensely. Just awe-inspiring!