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Blissful fascination
28 July 2017
As eccentric as, say, Jodorowsky's work (The Holy Mountain in particular), Czechoslovakian director Jaromil Jires interweaves a tale of religion, lust, and power using semi-surreal imagery to tell a story of a young girl growing up into adulthood.

Valerie and Her Week of Wonders is a blissfully short film (clocking in at 77 minutes in my Blu-ray edition), and it mimics the abruptness of a dream once it gets too phantasmagorical. This, in a way, plays with the viewers through deception; the, at times, hypnagogic events being a potent vision of the themes the film wants to deliver. This is an allegorical film about growing up, and it attacks the grey area between adolescence and adulthood, tackling existential questions about identity and personality. Paired with a chorus-like and orchestral soundtrack, the film goes about its motifs through dreamlike images.

This is not to say that it's bleak; in fact, in spite of the subject matter, this feels like a dark comedy at times. This is the type of film that is hard to classify just because of how unorthodox it is, but I do admire Jires's ultimate ambition for his work. The film may not be accessible to everyone, and the entertainment value a stretch too thin, but as a work of cinematic value, there is something to think about here.
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Style, style, and style.
28 July 2017
Bedazzled by an array of chatoyant gowns and prismatic production value, Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette never gets past its stylish frames. The color pink is heavily used in its luster; a traditional symbol of reign and Dunst's autonomous lust, but these kaleidoscopic images rapidly putrefy in the hands of a shoddy plot and weak characterization.

The plot is a museum of ravishing shots; the dialogue is very minimal, and the portrait of Marie Antoinette's ill fate never reaches its pinnacle as her character is nothing more than a beautiful figure in a ravishing dress. The problems she faces are more so caused by her capricious nature, and the film doesn't establish a profound statement about her mingled entanglement in life's promiscuous pleasures; thus, empathy for the character is difficult to obtain. This applies the same for the rest of the cast; the acting will do, but they never just get interesting. This may be the result of the lack of a proper screenplay, but as exquisite as the film looks, this is as bland as it gets. The last 15 minutes are handled better (as dire consequences are met), but as a whole, this biopic was quite forgettable.

A supposed narrative about the intricate chain of thoughtless decisions leading to the fall of Versailles turns into a game of frocks and garments. The cinematography and production are indeed beautiful, but as far as substance goes, this doesn't reach its maximum potential. I can see the themes of regal expectations and irresponsible teenagers not blending well, but the representation of the characters in a clunky plot make this film a snoozy and uninteresting watch.
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Passionate and expressive.
14 July 2017
Expressive eyes, tense lips, closed mouth, and the stare that just looks ahead and farther away from the desolate mundanity to settle to the glorious chants of heaven, Maria Falconetti easily and without a doubt gives one of the best performances found in the era of silent film. The Passion of Joan of Arc is one of the most influential French films of its time, and still continues to inspire today. It focuses on the last days of Joan of Arc's life, and dives right into her trial immediately after being captured and accused of being a heretic.

Being banned in multiple countries as it was controversial during their time, this film is a strong testament on how far human nature can go, how humanity can easily shift towards "sides" depending on number. Likewise, this film is a spiritual experience that explores the idea of faith, and how much sacrifice one can put in just trying to protect or restore one's beliefs. It doesn't show Joan of Arc prior to her days at the trial. It doesn't show her victories, her accomplishments, nor her success in leading the English out of France. Instead, it completely strips her to a character undergoing through a strong crisis as she goes through a questioning of fate that ultimately decides life or death.

I have seen the version with music in it (and am currently interested in viewing the completely silent one), and it is truly transcendent. Considering the fact that it was done way back in 1928 impressed me, and the metaphysical journey that this may bring to the viewer—religious or not, may take one to utmost beauty, even up to the brink of tears. Personally, the psychological power of the close-up made me sympathize much more with Joan, and the fact that Falconetti only acted once in her entire life is just stunning. Even without words, Falconetti is still able to display a performance of outright vulnerability while still being confident and at one with God.

As per usual with silent films, I still did have some problems with this, and these are more personal ones that I found affecting my entertainment value of the film. As great as this film was, I found this one to be a difficult watch not just because of it's bleak subject matter, but also because of the way it was shot. I do understand the power of the close-up and I actually praised it a while earlier, but for me, using it for most of the film's shots was a mistake. There were barely any background pans or shots to establish the character's placement, so it's quite difficult to follow the location of each, making it sometimes a burden to watch. The wooden transitions between each scene also made everything jarring and dizzying. It's easy enough to forgive the film as it was almost made a hundred years ago, but I found myself occasionally distracted enough to pause the film, which isn't a good thing.

In all, The Passion of Joan of Arc is easily commendable because of the technological advancement in film it made during that time, but the low rewatchability and abusive use of close-ups make this a difficult recommendation. Maria Falconetti's passionate performance may still make this film worthwhile, and the influence that this had on preceding films stretches out over many generations, but basing this on entertainment value, this film doesn't really hit the mark and, at times, feels outdated.
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Exotica (1994)
A gloomy ambiance of something-not-right.
13 July 2017
From the very opening shot, Exotica gives its viewers a taste of what's to come. A hypnotizing pan while Mychael Danna's "Something Hidden" plays melodiously in a somber yet jazzy tone. This atmosphere carries on as the film introduces entirely different characters going through various challenges in their life—Thomas is a man who tries to find a living by owning and handling a shop with exotic animals, and is thereafter found watching productions of Romeo and Juliet as if he's looking for someone, and Francis is a seemingly ordinary accountant who, mostly every night, visits this high-class strip club called 'Exotica' to exchange conversation with a stripper dressed like a school girl named Christina.

The film is like a tease, there are quite a lot of mysterious subplots unfolding around the characters, but it never bothers answering any of them. It is a puzzle that leaves everything up to the viewer to connect its strange pieces; people view it as a murder mystery, but I view it more as a testament to the mystery of human nature. It is very much well established from the start that these characters seem to have so few in common, but there's this potential gravity that seems to pull them together, and that is the mystery the film tries to exhibit. How the human nature is unorthodox, and how everything feels so arbitrary until the lives of two people intersect, and in this case, in a classy and jazzy Toronto strip club.

There are six main players in this story—Thomas, Francis, Christina, Eric, Zoe, and Tracey. Everyone is caught up with their own lives at the start until strange little coincidences mysteriously put each in their own respective relativity from each other. The entire film has a very eerie tone of dolefulness, as if there is something going on behind the curtain. This is emphasized by the two-way mirror, and as the film progresses, it gradually reveals characters backgrounds and histories thought to be concealed, and by the time it reaches its third act, the artfulness of its mystery hit me in a profound manner as I realized the subjective reasons on why characters did some eccentric decisions during the rising action. Again, this is all theory, as the film never fully gives any answer, but the thought is there; the idea of how a past tragedy can creep up on one like a smooth finger tracing one's spine, how the idea of sex and paid prostitution can never heal the scars of the past, and how prejudice can quickly lead to anger, and soon, murder.

The way this film deals with its themes of loneliness are handled maturely with elements of trying to replace that feeling with physical pleasures. Everyone might seem ordinary at the start, but once it reaches the end, it shows how everyone is scarred, how everyone has dealt with tragedy and is trying to cope with it by trying to live life's entertainment. Each of these characters has something to say, and the grayness of each just astounds me. From the seemingly young and innocent girl to the older but experienced DJ, these set of characters is a prime example of excellent characterization bounded by human nature, not human caricatures.

At what at first seems like a murder mystery-themed Showgirls turns into something deep and sincere. Exotica is certainly not what I expected it to be, but in the best way possible. It explores something hidden, a plethora of mature themes affecting a group of seemingly unrelated people while still being in that atmosphere of surreal jazziness and peculiarity as if there's something not right, as if there's something out of place. The entire film is like an artwork waiting to be interpreted; every single detail is in there but merely judging it at a first glance won't do, as single-handed prejudice leads to more bewilderment that spirals down into a rabbit hole of hypnotic dancing accompanied by Danna's smooth and unfurling tones of a gloomy and murderous ambiance of something-not-right in the air.
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Okja (2017)
Okja is a satirical take on corporate capitalism.
1 July 2017
Outright and audacious, Bong Joon-Ho's Netflix feature Okja might be one of the funniest films about animal and industry abuse that I'll ever see. Combining a proper sense of quirkiness and wit, the film's clever message resonated through me even after watching it. I wouldn't call it a piece of vegetarian propaganda, though I can see why people find it too preachy to be entertaining. For me, this film is more of a portrait of political cinema, on how the cycle of abuse works in the industry, and how the corporation has two faces: the smiling, jubilant heads they show to the public and the dirty, notorious brains they have, grabbing for money, behind the screen.

It isn't so much as an anti-meat film despite some of the plot points presented (even with an inclusion of an Animal Liberation Front group). The subject of the film is this super-pig hybrid which is supposed to serve as a revolutionary change in the meat industry. Just like the animal, this film is a cross-breed of different genres, it is a satirical movie at first, then turning into an adventure film, and, once it moves to the third act, becomes a poignant view of the relationship between a young Korean girl and her pet. This clash of genres don't always mix well, but I personally thought that the film was really effective in trying to engage its viewers into the story and into the journey of this young girl going through a personal transformation as she realizes that corporations and media aren't always as innocent as they seem. Even the design of the super-pig is superb, it feels real and tangible and it doesn't overdo the CGI, which is great.

The performances across the board are fantastic. Among those that stand out are Ahn Seo- hyun, who really is the underdog protagonist of the film, Tilda Swinton, the head of the expensive industry, and Jake Gyllenhaal, who puts sort of a quirky and charismatic magic into his character, Dr. Johnny Wilcox. The first half of the film is excellent, while the second half didn't really do a good job of tying all the subplots together, so some of the narratives really fell loose during the end. I did like what turned out of Mija and Okja, but I wanted to see some resolution for the other narratives, especially the Animal Rights group led by Paul Dano's character.

Okja is a great spectacle, combining enough weird lopsidedness to it while still feeling realistic in a dystopian, sci-fi, coming of age style. I did like how Joon-Ho tackled issues of corporate capitalism, but this film could've improved on how it transitioned between genres and on how the tiny narrative coincided together at the end. Having that said, Okja is still worth a watch; it is surprisingly funny, eye-opening, and personally one of the best Netflix has to offer currently.
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The Handmaid's Tale (2017– )
The Handmaid's Tale is compelling and terrifying at the same time.
23 June 2017
Adapted from Margaret Atwood's novel by the same name, The Handmaid's Tale is a series of speculative fiction that shows what would happen if women's rights are taken away. A religious cult seizes the US government through a fake terrorist attack and holds power. In a world where most of the women are sterile, they take the fertile ones and assign them to be "handmaids" to provide children for the upper-class, using The Old Testament as their ultimatum. These handmaids are concubines—brainwashed, tortured, and led to believe that they have no other purpose but to serve as the child's vessel for the Commanders and their wives.

First off, the storytelling is fantastic. It adapts the book very faithfully for about the first three episodes, and goes off tangent in some just to explore other character's subplots and possible narratives. The main focus of the story is the protagonist, Offred, but not only does the show give an interesting character study on the handmaid's rights and feminism, but it also exhibits the perspective of the so-called "antagonists"—the Commanders, their wives, and the other religious fanatics who shaped the world—and why they believe what they believe. The acting is undoubtedly great. Elizabeth Moss is the symbol of hope in this otherwise failing world, and she has a couple of outstanding performances in some of the episodes. Other honorable mentions are Madeline Brewer (Janine) who gives an impeccable amount of sympathy and empathy to her character, and Yvonne Strahovsky (Serena Joy) who for me is the most interesting character in the show because she's the grayest; others may see her as wholly evil but dig a little deep into her character and she turns into one of the most complex personalities I have seen in TV.

The pacing is done well for the first four to five episodes, gets a little bit rocky in the sixth to eighth ones, but brings it back up again with the final two (and in my opinion) best episodes in the show. It does get tied up in some fillers and red herrings, and I believe that that one episode where it focused on an entirely different subplot for the whole of the hour is unnecessary, but on the moments where the show shines, it shines indeed. I love how the series uses a science fiction concept (industrial pollution leading to infertility) and translates that into a message about mankind (rights and feminism). I appreciated how it didn't need to use fast-paced action and loud and expensive CGI to tell its story. It only needed a realistic concept, a decently written script, a great score, and of course, fantastic performances. Among the episodes of the first season, my personal favorites were Offred (1.1), The Bridge (1.9), and Night (1.10).

The Handmaid's Tale is brilliant. I was apprehensive at first, but the adaptation from page- to-screen is done well, adhering to the main plot with some minor changes to address some of the more ambiguous subplots in the book. The production is excellent, the muted red of the dress symbolizing the subtle but rising theme of feminism throughout the entire series. This show surpassed my expectations and the release is very timely and relevant. Entertaining and compelling, but terrifying at the same time. A dystopian future that has traces of the historical past. The Handmaid's Tale is not a show to pass on.
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Inception (2010)
A visual treat of insipid and bloated exposition that got lost in its swollen complication and hollow characterization.
28 May 2017
Overblown and vacuous, Christopher Nolan's Inception is a visual treat that could've easily been his magnum opus, but it ends up spending way too much time in its own set of rules that it becomes a slave to it. It essentially follows a thief (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), who steals corporate secrets in dream-sharing technology. Over the course of time, he finds out that he can return home to his family once he does the inverse task of planting an idea into the mind of a CEO. In this world, dreams, memories, and pseudo-science collide as an action set piece designed to impress with its visuals and complexity, but gets lost in swollen complication that the result is a bloated watch of exposition and rather forced drama.

I'll start with the good—well, maybe the only great thing about this film. The visuals are spectacular. It rightfully deserves its Oscar win for it. The film is a series of "OMG" moments that has the viewer effectively wondering how it's done with absorbing appreciation that is matched with a fantastic central score. In spite of that, this is where a personal problem emerges. I don't think Inception does a good job of representing the dream world. Yes, looking at worlds converge with one another looks cool, but it could've been more imaginative with its dreams. Dreams are a series of thoughts and visions that happen within sleep, and I thought that Inception was too literal in representing its dreams. The landscape, the tone, and the characters feel absolutely the same as with reality—the stunning and twisting visuals being the only attribute that separates it from the real world. There is no mystical manifestation of the subconscious, no difference between dream levels. Dreams can resonate in the same manner as with reality only if there is something a bit off about it. Take Lynch's films for example (like Mulholland Drive), his dreams are like reality, but there is a different tone to it. The key is off. Not everything feels right; it may either be too perfect like an euphoric fantasy or not like a sublime nightmare. Inception is not that. To add, when the film is stripped to its barest core, it is actually just a corporate espionage film masquerading as a complex facade of dream traveling.

Inception is a procedural. Nolan created a potentially intriguing world that works by its own set of rules, its own mechanics, and I admire him for that. There is a potential of exploring the ideas of dreams within dreams. It never gets past that potential, though. This film presents a world in which the characters just explain the mechanics to the viewer without doing much about its possibly interesting ideas. Once you get a really cool toy/gadget, you know one of those long manuals included in the box that you don't really read? Inception is clearly that. It could've been the awesome toy, though what we got was the manual: an overly long, two-and-a-half hour explanation on Nolan's world that never really gets anywhere. It's easy to lose interest after an hour. Nolan could've given the basics within the first 15-20 minutes and worked its way through its fascinating ideas, but the entire movie is the first 15-20 minutes. If the movie wanted to be exactly like that, then it could've been more sophisticated rather than explaining everything to the viewer with its bloated dialogue. It could've used visuals as a way of explanation—portals for changing dreams, visible contraptions for mobility, or a fantastical world where fantasy bleeds into reality, but the film's manner of "telling over showing" felt pseudo-intellectual and, after some time, uninteresting.

The film is mostly about DiCaprio's character seeking his way to go back to his family with the job of Inception—implanting ideas in other people's heads through dreaming. The thing is, every other character felt underdeveloped. They all felt like narrative tools that spew out dialogue only to put more exposition in this supposedly complex world. Joseph Gordon Levitt's character felt wasted, his deadpan personality serving as a plate to merely just explain the procedurals of deception/inception. Ellen Page could've been more interesting, but she just felt like a door that opens to DiCaprio's backstory with Cotillard's character. With a film focusing mostly on the protagonist getting on his way home, his separate narrative didn't feel all that compelling as the film is exceedingly bland. Once it gets to the action and chase scenes, I never really cared for any of it as the film didn't do a good job of characterizing its huge cast.

Inception could've been great, but it falls in love too much with its ideas and ended up spelling everything out for the viewer. Once it does that, it is actually just an action espionage thriller with very hollow characters and hours of exposition, nothing much more. It certainly gets its gimmick from the "dream within a dream" sequencing, but it honestly feels smarter than it actually is. In all, this film had a great idea but ran it over the ground. It is a heist movie that has nothing more on its mind than its rules and mechanics; it's convoluted and self-indulgent. Save for the gimmicks of technical achievement and landscapes collapsing unto itself, the film is rather insipid. I did like the ambiguity, but in the end this is just a superficial illusion of fantasy vs. reality; the rest is a visual pastiche.
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Raw (2016)
Raw is a story of humanity seen through the narrative of a cannibal.
25 May 2017
Raw concerns Justine, a 16 year old gifted teen who is ready to take on her first year in vet school, where her older sister also studies. She is a vegetarian, and has all her life been applying to her rules. Once she gets in school, hazing starts right away where she is forced to eat raw rabbit meat. After, unexpected consequences emerge as her true self begins to form.

Raw is marketed as a cannibalism horror movie, where its gimmick comes from people fainting during screenings of this at movie festivals. I can see how certain expectations can ruin this movie for someone, as this truly isn't a horror movie. It is a drama, a coming of age story about a young veterinarian student who undergoes an identity crises and a sexual awakening. It examines addiction and how an abuse of addiction can lead to a thorough change of character, enslaved by the horrors of obsession. It is also a story of two sisters and the bond they create, exhibiting personal development as they support each other through their trials throughout the film. It studies all of these complex themes, and looks at it with an additional "what if?" concept of cannibalism. It is definitely a ridiculous set-up, but it somehow works here.

It might get a little bit silly if looked at literally, but the film challenges the viewer to look at life with a unique set of lens, as some events portrayed at this film are truly outlandish. That's where it gets its appeal, for me at least, though. The story, on the surface, is seen as a woman who has a sudden craving for raw meat, but beneath that are layers and layers of labyrinthine ideas of change and, essentially, growing up. One can view the cannibalistic aspects as a huge metaphor for all its contexts, and that's also a certain way of mindset at going about the film. That's what's so great about the film; it is profound enough to provoke multiple interpretations from the viewer.

The rest of the film is stellar. The actors are fantastic. Garance Marillier as the lead does a good job of character transformation, from subtle acts to actual cannibalistic performances. Ella Rumpf as her sister may be a supporting character, but she steals all the scenes that she is in. The score used is spectacular and strangely fitting to some of the film's more brutal scenes. The narrative is fairly simple enough to follow, but what really separates this film from all other dramas is how utterly original it is in how it faces its problems and themes. That's the selling point for me.

Raw is a terrific film. It is profound, and not at all the cannibalistic horror movie the masses were expecting. Everything about it is fantastic, from the actors, to the score, to its themes, and to the character's personal transformation from start to finish. I can see how this won't be for some people, but for those who can stomach grotesque scenes, Raw is worth a look. It is a story of humanity seen through the narrative of a cannibalistic woman, and the result is multilayered and at times, metaphysical.
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Dredd (2012)
Dredd is tough and unflinching.
21 May 2017
The future America is an irradiated waste land. In this violent world, police have the authority to act as judge, jury, and executioner. Dredd, a well-known judge, teams up with a trainee to take down a gang that deals with the smuggling of narcotics, "Slo-Mo".

Dredd is best with its violence. It's brutal, unflinching, and occasionally badass. There is a lot of it, but not exceedingly gratuitous because it truly is the nature of story. The stunts are done decently as well. All of these are complimented by the performances, which in any way aren't outstanding, but enough to be extremely entertaining. Karl Urban is intimidating with a hard-assed, business commercial voice to play someone like Judge Dredd, and Olivia Thirlby has strong spirit and willpower to play Dredd's rookie, Anderson. Lena Headey, the antagonist, is very menacing and thrilling, though it would've been better to see more layers to her character than just the film exhibiting her in a tonally black format, killing people just for sport.

The thing with this film, in spite of the well-done violence, is that it feels lazy with its world. It takes place mostly in the compound where they're trapped in, but the futuristic world they live in doesn't feel fully realized. There are explanations here and there, but there's no continuity and connection. They're all loose threads; it takes place in a futuristic America, it's post apocalyptic, it's cyberpunk, but these threads aren't really tied to one another to evoke a great sci-fi setting. The buildings do look great, accompanied by a techno soundtrack (think Refn's Drive) and gorgeous visuals, but for a film with an interesting world, it doesn't fully explore the potentials of its bleak future.

Dredd is tough, chaotic, and really brutal. The violence is handled well, the gun shooting and close combats designed and performed with expertise. The visuals are great, the city shots and "Slo-Mo" sequences gorgeously looking as well as the electronic score, but for a science fiction thriller movie, the undeveloped futuristic world was quite disappointing to see. Nevertheless, it's still worth a look in spite of the setting and the lukewarm antagonist.
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Miss Sloane (2016)
Miss Sloane is one of the best overlooked films of 2016.
16 May 2017
Miss Sloane deals with the world of politics and corruption, where stakes are high and money is more important than anything else in the world. Elizabeth Sloane, a formidable lobbyist in D.C. mainly known for her cunning work and successful track record, has been sought after for the Heaton-Harris Bill which revolves around the gun-control legislation. Once she accepts the role, she finds out that she may be against the most powerful opponent of her career, realizing that winning may not come as easy as it seems.

Everyone who talks about this film seems to focus on two highlights: the gun control legislation, and Jessica Chastain. I'll start with the latter. Chastain's performance is indeed nuclear, and sadly not addressed by the Academy for at least a nomination. She has plenty of dialogue, and she delivers it with enticing confidence that marks her as a strong female character, in spite of some of her actions throughout the film. This is strengthened by the fantastic screenplay; some of the political jargon did go over my head, but most of what I understood were written well with such snarky wittiness that it's hard not to laugh at parts. This being said, the rest of the cast wasn't bad at all. Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Alison Pill were stellar supporting characters, but I wanted to see more from the male side of the cast. This may be a feminist film, with female characters delivering some of the best sentiments, but it would've been better to get a little mix of both.

On top of the great performances, there is a worthy plot beneath. This film gives the viewers a fascinating insight into the world of politics, not only tackling the issue of guns in the US, but also with how laws are passed through in the government. This film made me more interested in lobbyists than any other film I've seen with the same role. Furthermore, I love how grey the film deals with the gun control debate. It does not treat guns as neither fully beneficial nor bad, but it looks into the topic with both sides, seeing as how politicians today mainly argue on the pro-gun side of the debate (to only usually appease their viewers to garner more votes). This is a film that mirrors modern society by its issues as well as being a great contrast strengthened by feminism, a strong heroine, and a stellar supporting cast of characters. It can also be seen as a cautionary tale of what's to come, events of the plot eerily imitating what's happening in real life, maybe only with a bit more of unexpected drama.

Miss Sloane is terribly one of the best overlooked films of 2016. Jessica Chastain as a lobbyist is electric, her performance magnetic enough to be ceaselessly entertaining, in spite of her dipping in and out of the banal reality of politics at times. It is a very relevant political thriller, and it's sad to see this under-perform at the box office because of the controversial election period this was released in and the poor marketing it has garnered throughout the US. People criticize it since it is openly against gun control, but they might not have watched it because Miss Sloane really is all about the rotten politicians running the Senate today. The gun control debate is just a subplot, the film itself tackling much needed political issues that other films are afraid to venture into. This film has guts. Jessica Chastain has guts. I highly admire them for it.
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Bliss (2017)
Bliss is a magnificent movie that will mess with your mind.
10 May 2017
Bliss is about Jane Ciego, a former child star who signed up to be a producer of a thriller movie that is intended for foreign film festivals such as the Cannes. Unfortunately, while the crew is shooting the film's climax, Ciego gets into a terrible accident, then waking up to find herself in a wheelchair, her husband tormenting her and a mysterious nurse who is not at all as she seems. As Ciego tries to solve the mystery, her vision of fantasy and reality is soon blurred, sending her into a deep predicament filled with misery and bliss.

From the opening sequence, the audience is thrust into a surrealistic and dreamlike sequence where Tarrog gives viewers glimpses of what goes on behind the curtain. Not everything is what it seems. There are switched identities. The movie lives in a veiled existence. In Bliss, there seems to be forces at work warping and influencing one's perception of time and reality. Tarrog explores the fallacies of the human memory and psyche, delivering plenty of ideas. It's like a puzzle piece waiting to be solved, though one does not know what it should look like. All the pieces are given, and it's up to the viewer to fix these pieces into a cohesive whole.

It's all hypnotic, the audience drawn along as if one thing leads to another—but nothing exactly leads anywhere. The non-linear narrative shows Tarrog's creative vision and craftsmanship both as a director and a storyteller. As identities start to switch, the characters fracture, recombining like flesh caught in a kaleidoscope. The mystery is still solved in the end, though, but it leaves the viewer with shock and awe. I won't consider it to be a plot twist, but the way everything was tied together at the end is so meticulously crafted, Tarrog combining all the mysterious glimpses into a whole that it is logical, but still fevered and nastily disturbing.

Also, for an indie film, this is cinematic perfection. It's almost impossible to deny its quality. The cinematography is wonderful, having a certain grittiness to it that one would expect from a psychological thriller such as this. The editing helps the film flow smoothly, enhancing its abstract cinematic voice and telling the viewer that nothing is at it seems, not even reality. Its commentary and the way the film wings out the horror from the mundane is exceedingly clever, bringing out the true terror in a story such as this. The film is also enhanced by the performances. Everyone is great, but I'd like to mention Adrienne Vergara, the nurse, who is a true revelation. Her acting brings out all sorts of menace, physical and sexual, and delivers it in a creepy way that has thick layers of extreme complexity.

Bliss is a magnificent movie that will mess with one's mind. It is very challenging, a mind- bending experience that works both effectively as a gripping mystery and always intrigues the viewer with its enticing story. Words, sounds, images, and performances all come together in this perfect slice of cinema. This may not be for everyone, as the core of the story is truly disturbing, and the R-18 given by the MTRCB feels justified. As a psychological thriller, this is groundbreaking, something I have never seen before in Filipino cinema. It is spectacular, and something that will stay on my mind for a long time.
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Alien: Covenant has bland characters drifting through grandiose visuals.
10 May 2017
Alien: Covenant follows colony ship Covenant which is bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy. As they arrived in the planet, they noticed a beautiful landscape. At first of what they think is an uncharted paradise, they soon discover that it is actually a dark and dangerous world, rampant with mysterious creatures and a sole inhabitant who has been hiding for years after a doomed explosion.

The first few sequences of Alien: Covenant are breathtaking, the movie quickly establishing an ambitious tone with elaborately conceived visuals. That's the best thing about it. The production is as great as it can get. It is a marvelously realized vision. The design of the Alien is also great, both leaving me terrified and fascinated by its beautiful design.

The rest of the movie, though, doesn't exactly follow suit. The ambition is still there, and the movie continues to delight with its sci-fi flourishes. The thing is, amidst the grandiose tone and spectacular visuals, the characters end up feeling pretty thin, cardboard cutouts doing what they have to do just for the sake of it. There is quite a huge cast here, and none of them really get any attention. They just feel like bodies waiting to be killed. In addition, some of them are actually dumb for doing what they did throughout the movie. It sometimes doesn't make sense, their actions just a device to hurl the plot forward, making it hard for me to suspend my belief. I also felt the script to be clumsy, not reaching the heights that its visuals have intended it to. The actors weren't anything special except for Fassbender, who gives David both a sinister and a sympathetic outlook.

As a sequel to Prometheus and a prequel to Alien, it did its job as it answered some of the questions I had; however, the answers are really vague. It doesn't really provide a huge revelation of what's actually going on, but one can see the connections between the three. I wouldn't call it a "direct" prequel and/or sequel, but it's all through the tiny links and loose threads in which they are interconnected.

Having said all that, Alien: Covenant is worth seeing for its scale, and for the ambition that's embedded through its spectacle. It is as good-looking as a movie could possibly be at this point, the technology all put towards bringing sci-fi concepts to life. Even the gory sequences are great; they're genuinely terrifying, the movie raising the bar up a notch. Though as stunning as the film is, it might leave audiences a little cold. There's no underdog, the characters all feel thin, and their decisions may question the viewer on why they are there on that specific mission in the first place, given their idiosyncrasy. Alien: Covenant is still worth a look, but it's not so special in its entirety.
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A beautiful portrait of tragedy and sympathy.
8 May 2017
The unsolved death of six-year-old American beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey remains the world's most sensational child murder case. Over 15 months, responses, reflections, and performances were elicited from the Ramsey's Colorado hometown community, creating a work of art from the collective memories and mythologies the crime inspired in Green's new documentary, Casting JonBenet.

Casting JonBenet does not play it in the conventional fashion. Kitty Green tackles the details of the case not like a detective crime episode, but on how the universe responds and reacts to such a horrible crime. It has an audition style, just people coming and going, auditioning for different roles to people who have been involved with the case, them reciting the lines and reacting to it. It acts like a study of how a myriad of people relate to and rationalize different aspects of tragedy based on their own personal experiences. It's not merely a small-scale story of just the death of a little girl in Colorado, it's a wide-scale phenomena; how varying forms of tragedy can affect and traumatize beings in their own distinct way. The concept on how the execution brings together different views about love, grief, sorrow, and hate perfectly blends together.

All that said and done, this documentary may feel pretty hollow at times. It sometimes feels repetitive, an experiment on actors sharing their opinions and theories of who they think murdered JonBenet. It's strange because although this is a documentary, things still felt quite open and vague. I do know that this is an unsolved case, but I think it's weird for me to research information about the case after watching a documentary about it. I do admire its originality; however, it would've been better if it included more objective facts than subjective opinions. Saying this may be ironic because it just contradicted the last paragraph on how I praised it because it doesn't try to give answers about the case, but I would like it more if it was balanced. If it perfectly crosses the line between bias and unbiased. It just didn't.

Casting JonBenet is still worth a watch despite it being dodgy at times. It is not more of a documentary but an opinion piece, examining how JonBenet's death affected the public and how the case is viewed now, just over 20 years later. It never gives any clear answer, it just leaves the viewer to come up with their own conclusion about the case. In my eyes, this is not a question as to whodunnit at all, but it is about society, and how the hometown community opens up their personal and raw feelings on the matter, tying together a beautiful portrait of tragedy and sympathy.
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Apocalypse Child is profound and momentous.
13 December 2016
Mario Cornejo's Apocalypse Child is one of the finalists of the Qcinema 2015 International Film Festival Competition. It won several awards such as the grand prize for the Best Picture and I can certainly see why. It is simply astonishing in how viciously calm it is. The film takes place on the surfing town of Baler where Ford (played by Sid Lucero) has lived all his life with the belief that he is the son of a famous Hollywood director, Francis Ford Coppola. Once Ford's childhood friend Rich (RK Bagatsing) goes back to town to take his father's place in politics, Ford starts to question his heritage, causing all sorts of personal oppression as the story goes on.

A beautiful aspect about the film is how mature it is in its approach to drama. The characters and their manner of acting are all very subtle. They give hints here and there. Apocalypse Child, exploring the complexity of difficult truths and pain, contains multitudes of emotions in such abundance. The great thing about the acting is how the characters don't break out in an Oscar pleading way every so often. There is a climax, but the film does not render its emotions meaningless through wasted tears. One misconception about drama shown in a lot of films today is how the screenwriter mistakes crying for genuine emotion. Yes, tears can be an effective tool in a storyteller's repertoire because they can heighten a moment or a certain importance in a scene, but the thing is, tears have to be earned. The characters have to build up to them. This is what Apocalypse Child does so beautifully. The movie does not show characters crying out painfully in every scene. The acting is very subdued. The performances of each character do not tell the audience how they should feel. It is up to the viewer to read between the lines so he/she can insert true emotion whenever a character is silent or whenever there is a subtle body movement, whether it be through a quick gesture or a facial expression. This is a film where the past bears the force of a tsunami, where the truth is lurking behind the most innocent of faces, threatening to destroy the personal lives of many. These characters, these surfers of Baler, are forced to surf with the waves of pain and torment. They are forced to surf in their tortured past where all the mythologies of the town have been made to cover up the truth so heartbreaking to many.

The cinematography is exquisite. Although the film had a low budget, the way the camera matches the character's actions makes us feel what they are feeling. The film also did a good job of capturing the spirit of Baler, a small town idyllic in its culture. The surfing scenes are done well, the burbling of water and the gliding of waves bringing so much essence in the pleasures of a beach-bound lifestyle. Young Again, a song written by Armi Millare for the film, perfectly depicts the pain faced by the characters who are oppressed by their personal histories and backstories. This isn't a blockbuster type of film, there is no CGI used. Apocalypse Child is deliriously stunning through its simple camera movements and its editing of story lines to tie the characters in a tightly- knit family drama.

Apocalypse Child is easily one of the best Filipino films I have ever seen. It arrived quietly into cinemas without much fanfare. In fact, I was the only person inside the cinema when I watched it. To me, the film is truly remarkable. It is a rare motion picture that withdraws from the demands of traditional storytelling to dwell on the moods and affections of a whole town that just seems to want to gloss over all the pain that's just underneath the sun- kissed surface of their idyllic beach lives. It can be appreciated on all levels as it contains many themes that relate with love, family, and the cultural tradition of one's town. It really deserves a much larger audience that it has gotten throughout the limited screenings it had this year. Apocalypse Child is profound and momentous.
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The Joy Luck Club slowly unveils its heart.
10 October 2016
The Joy Luck Club is an accessible epic that spans through generations. The story essentially revolves around a cultural gap and a generational gap as a group of Chinese-American girls who grew up in America struggle against the wishes of their mothers (who in turn grew up in Mainland China decades ago). The mothers suffered in a time during Chinese history where slavery is a driving force between ownership, thus provoking them to have a painful life. They want their daughters to fight like a lion in order to have a less painful life but in the contextual culture of modernism, the daughters see this as a lack of care and more like a reckless lesson. As we get to unfold more of the history between the family sagas, we are able to see the scope of the generation and how one small action may affect the lives of many other characters.

As a film categorized as a "chick-flick", this shouldn't be underestimated. This deals with some painfully cultural references regarding the history of China. This film is able to wove both the present and the past properly like a prettily neat tapestry. We get to see the cultural tradition of China and the film really did its job for it to set the proper tone of the events that take place; a work of art complete with an ensemble of Chinese instruments with breathtaking shots of mountains, temples and the Chinese countryside. Even the costumes (during the past) helped color what some people may consider a somewhat bleak plot. The narration was decent enough for the viewer to comprehend the events of the story and it was quite interesting to watch how the film interconnected the Chinese and American culture during the present.

There was a strong emotional strife but was handled well enough. There seemed to be a lot of drama recurring between the families and at a certain point it felt unnecessarily sentimental and melodramatic but the filmmakers were smart enough to tone it down for it to give the audience air to breathe. It didn't get too soapy with the characters (which were mostly well acted) and everything else was realistic enough for me to buy in. There was also enough energy throughout to boost some of the longer scenes which could've been cut or edited. Sometimes it felt tiring, the plot circling around with not much development within its circumstances.

As a Mandarin student, it was definitely interesting to watch a dysfunctional family and what they need to do in order to live the way they need to live. It's also nice seeing familiar Chinese traits such as being an obedient child, respecting one's elders and honoring one's past ancestors. Although the characters faced a lot of trials and tribulations during the film, there seemed to be an underlying heart behind all of this and behind some of the more slower paced scenes. It presents a touching message on maternity and the idyllic paramount of happiness one may attain over a rectification of conflict over a familial epic. It's beautiful I'd say, beautiful.
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Ang Babaeng Humayo (The Woman who Left) is a triumph.
30 September 2016
Ang Babaeng Humayo is, without any cuts, nearly four hours long. This three hour and fifty minute black and white film is essentially a revenge tale of a woman to her former lover. But it's not a typical revenge story focused on delivering the hate towards the opposed; it's actually revenge dipped with a cascade of humanity and among other things, transcendence.

This film talks about the metaphysical being of a human, what it means and how it means to be one. Revenge in The Woman who Left doesn't present characters who have completely expressed a dark attitude filled with teeming hate. It doesn't present a condition in which characters have to be wholly good or rather ideal; this film talks about the reality of human nature and how the physical surface is merely just a dot in the scheme of life.

Being a Lav Diaz film, one would expect long cuts or scenes of characters talking or the frame just focusing on the background, and that's right. I'll admit, this film is incredibly slow. But that doesn't mean that I wasn't captivated the whole way through. That doesn't mean that I had to check my watch an irrelevant amount of times throughout the duration of the entire movie. In fact, it drew me in. The performances of Charon Santos and John Lloyd Cruz are just fantastic. Santos, who portrayed a character that dealt with thirty years of wronged imprisonment exhibited perfect elegance and a vicious rawness to her acting. Cruz, who portrayed a misunderstood transvestite, had very careful acting which came off as positively natural. Just these two on screen are enough to engross me into this world and as I have mentioned earlier, this metaphysical state. That doesn't mean to say that everyone else was mediocre. The man who sold balot had a great aura and just every other side character did their part in delivering this terrific film.

With that being said, Ang Babaeng Humayo is glorious. It feels revolutionary at just a small scale, little words and actions changing one's life. Although I didn't feel this film to be completely perfect, with a lack of plot and resolution, that barely derailed me from experiencing this momentous movie. Lav Diaz is best at delivering his art through his script, lyrical words flowing together to formulate beautiful sentence structures that means more than it may seem. This film left a message that not only touched me as a viewer, but also as a human being.
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The Mermaid (2016)
The Mermaid doesn't know what it wants to be.
21 May 2016
Warning: Spoilers
The Mermaid feels like a mix of random elements. I'll start off with the good; I did laugh at some parts. This movie is selling itself to be a Comedy through some advertisements and I believe the script handles the comedic actions well. Also the cast ensemble helped pull some of the funny aspects in the film as well. The first 2/3 of the film could be enjoyed merely as a Comedy; just something to have fun with and nothing really to over criticize or to over examine to the point of scrutiny.

The last 1/3 is where this movie messes up; I mean really messes up. From comedy this film turned towards a very dark direction; showing the effects of us humans to nature as well as environmental issues, the film is even bold enough to exhibit real life footage of animals dying and being slaughtered and destruction of sea habitat. There's a lot of violence and blood, all the comedic atmosphere present in the first 2/3 suddenly wiped off and the result becoming a serious, imminent warning.

Here's the thing; I don't mind dark elements being mixed in with humor. But the way it's done here makes us ponder what this film, in the end as an entirety, really wants to be because the way the light and dark are meshed in together here isn't done very well honestly. It felt random and the addition of the CGI (which I personally believe was poor) didn't help the serious undertone of the film trying to promote the protection of animal life and their ecosystem. Instead it made the film look goofy.

So there's a romance in this film regarding the main character and the mermaid. First, it looked completely unrealistic since the chemistry came absolutely out of nowhere with the 2 characters dating all of a sudden (plus the random marriage proposal some days after they met). And in the end, the main character decided to help "save the environmental life" by donating all of his money and from destroying it he suddenly changed character to wanting to preserve it. The reason behind this was just because of his undying love for the mermaid which is part of that environmental life; I find that preposterous. There can be a lot of other reasons this film could tell us in its message on why to stop destroying ecosystems that can sound far more convincing and realistic instead of some stupid romance that has no chemistry or any of the sort.

I'll commend this film for some of the humor it showed in the first 2/3 and how it tried to show environmental issues, but in the end, The Mermaid felt like wasted potential since the mix of the serious drama and the comedy didn't really work well. It felt unorthodox and wholly unrealistic especially when we look at how it portrayed several elements throughout.
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Locke (2013)
Locke is a minimalist and a powerful one man show.
20 May 2016
Locke has a very unique setting. For one and a half hours, the entire film will be shown in a man's car. It doesn't stray away from that which, at first I doubted since I personally got prejudiced at how I'll enjoy a whole film at a setting like this. In the end I didn't know why I doubted since this is very powerful and it greatly shows how impacting a minimalist film can be.

Tom Hardy is the only actor that we can see physically throughout the duration of the film and he absolutely slays his role; although he is only in a car and doesn't have an entire platform in showing off his capability in acting, he still pulls it off through his facial expressions and he really does the best that he could whilst in the car, getting really resourceful in every scene. The idea of a man making calls in his car for the whole film may sound redundant and tiring as you watch it but Hardy brings up something new in each moment with his acting which ultimately captures and captivates the viewer; this film passed by so quickly, I did not feel the time at all.

The film also does a great job in presenting the problems to Hardy's character and how he tries his best to deal each one positively. We don't get the problems all at once but gradually in each call he makes; this film doesn't speed things up and duly takes its sweet time in showing off how in a bad situation Ivan Locke (Hardy) really is. There's a bit psychological drama also going and hinted in some calls which is good and makes us know his character more. There was this small subplot revolving around Locke and his father which I wished we got to see a more of since it seemed like they had a bad relationship as father-son and it would be interesting to explore around Locke's character and his parental dynamics; that's really just something minor, nothing that affects the entire film but something I'd just like to point out.

Locke keeps things intimate and to a small scale level; it's really powerful and shows a glimmer of hope amidst the depressing reality of today's world. Hardy really brings the show and this film never got boring and dull despite the unique one place setting; the way information is presented in this film slowly is intriguing and the drama is just plain amazing. All in all just something I'd recommend everyone to see; it's better to go in blind without knowing too much so that the viewer will have a shockingly good time discovering things on his/her own.
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#Horror (2015)
#Horror is clumsy Filmmaking.
20 May 2016
#Horror is a terrible mess of a film. It tries to involve many things; bullying (cyberbullying and verbal), violence, murder, cheating, a destruction of friendship, drinking, getting drunk and so much more, all involving 12 year-old girls.

Look, I don't underestimate preteens for the extent of their maturity and what they do but the way they're represented in this film is utterly stupid and infantile. Even the adults here look immature and pretty much make the dumbest mistakes that you'd usually see in a horror film like this. This is a cast filled with delinquent juveniles who bullies each one so gratuitously without any good reason that it makes them look completely amateur. This film could've showed a good message within all the bullying but it totally got buried by the redundant insulting caused by the immaturity of all these characters. Thus, I didn't care for any of them or sympathize the least with the horrible things that were happening to them. They deserved it to the last bit.

Even the horror aspect of this film was not done very well. It was a below average slasher flick without any good scares or disturbing imagery to mentally destabilize the viewer. There was a vaguely interesting subplot involving their house being haunted by this murderer but it wasn't touched upon very much since this film was driven by the incessant verbal informalities these characters do. Again, it got buried along with the potential message about cyberbullying this film could've shown.

The plot was mainly revolved around that and the way it's handled is extremely frustrating and laughable (due to some horrible performances by these actresses which I don't really blame because the script doesn't really give them a chance to stand out and shine). Even some of the things these 12-year old girls do in the film seem to be unrealistic and totally unorthodox; perfectly using a gun (when it doesn't show that they've had training in the past) is one of them. I believe it's possible for one to use a gun as long as they've been trained and informed at any age but the restraints these preteens are in and the maladroit bullying they engage in make them look like babies and when they hold a gun they will in the end look like incompetent and unskillful tryhards who just wants to get a kick out of pleasure.

#Horror, honestly, is terrible. This is a good example of wasted potential which got swiped away by some of the worst bullying that I've watched in years. This didn't even try to be scary; well, if it did then it came off totally preposterous, making the entire film look like some ridiculous joke made by some clumsy teens for a high school project. I've watched this film on a rainy and thunderous night, hoping to find a good scare but instead it annoyed me and it made me snore.
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As the Gods Will delivers its bizarre charm.
18 May 2016
As the Gods Will is a rare and strange treat. It is, as other reviewers point out, a combination of Saw and Battle Royale with delightful humor and gore sprinkled throughout. I have to agree with that statement; this film delivers. It is weird but the type of weird that you'd recommend to other viewers who'd want to watch something totally different and refreshing than what we get in our cinemas nowadays.

It is absolutely intriguing; even from the start. It is the type of film that hooks you with its opening scene and just makes you guess all throughout the entire duration period, even up to the last minute. There are brutal games that follow one another as we watch this and the manner in which its played is truly creative and imaginative; a feast for the eyes and the senses filled with everything you'd possibly want in a Miike film.

Even the gore was done well. The slashing heads and dismembering; some done in a comedic way while others in a dramatic or suspenseful fashion. This film is the one that blends in dark humor; I'm usually very coy about that since most of the time it isn't done very well and comes off as being unrealistic. In here, I believe it's handled perfectly. The gritty gore is complemented by the humor, not a joke pulled off by a character (that will just honestly be strange considering the situation they're in) but because of the bizarre and outlandishness of it all. This film truly has charm amidst the deadly games, I'll admit that.

The only thing I'm picky about with this film is that I think they showed too much with the CGI. Personally it would've been better left off just because our minds would have a perfect imagination of some things this film tries to convey but instead it's shown and I wished they hadn't. I would've plucked some scenes out so that the viewer would be left to imagine how it'd look like for themselves.

Besides that, As the Gods Will is a delightful and a refreshing film. It certainly plays with the supernatural and has a little bit of everything sprinkled throughout. It is nihilistic in nature and chooses to stay like that for the entire film which increases its charm. It's a rare film I'll say, something that's memorable for its peculiarity. It works here entirely.
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Precious Cargo is the equivalent of your average action movie.
17 May 2016
Precious Cargo is mindless entertainment. It doesn't try to go beyond the seams in order to show extreme stunts or out-of-the-world action sequences, it just exists for the viewer to have light fun. This film shouldn't really be taken seriously I believe and it's something you could go see out with your friends on a Friday night just in order to watch and enjoy.

When you look at this film as a whole it's guilty pleasure. Something to see for your lazy afternoon movie period. It really isn't that special and that's the bad thing about it. Although I was entertained solely for what this film had to offer it will unfortunately go to my pile of "seen action movies" and it doesn't go more than that since this really wasn't memorable. You could watch this to pass the time but in the end it's not something you'd really go out and recommend to viewers.

The action was okay, the acting was okay; everything about this film was just "okay". I felt really bad since they could've used more of Bruce Willis's character to showcase some of the action scenes but the entire time he just had his legs up a hammock and was speaking through the phone. Some of the dialogue I'll admit made me cringe since it felt so unnatural and unrealistic coming out from the actor's and actresses mouths.

They tried to add in a little comedy and some romance; the romance was okay (just like the other aspects of the film) but the comedy totally failed me. Again, it felt unnatural and too try hard; like during the middle of an action sequence someone would just pop out a joke but in the end it would feel unnecessary, unrealistic and stupid since these characters I feel like are supposed to be focused on the task. There's nothing wrong with having a bit of fun here and there but the way its handled in this film just doesn't feel right thus making it ultimately silly.

As a whole, Precious Cargo isn't meant to be taken seriously. Watch it with your friends, watch it when you're lazy, watch it just to have something to enjoy in the meanwhile if you're bored. It's better to watch this film with an open mind rather than an analytical and critical mind since in the end, it will just fall into the stack of unmemorable films with a wasted potential of a cast.
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Zoolander 2 (2016)
Zoolander 2 didn't work for me.
15 May 2016
Zoolander 2 tried too hard to be comedic. In fact, there are a lot of cameos of famous celebrities/artists sprinkled throughout the film that tried to add humor but just ultimately failed. It is outlandish to the point that most of these characters come off as stupid and idiotically dumb.

The entire film consisted of washed out, repeated and outdated jokes that felt like this was made for TV 10 years ago. It rehashed different comedies and tried to come off as new and original with its production value and innuendos but it really didn't. It felt try hard and cringeworthy.

Because of that, the plot suffered from these miserable jokes. The comedy was the main factor for driving the plot forward. The plot wasn't even that special to begin with. The plot felt trashy, completely unrealistic and was totally predictable up until the end.

The characters for the most part were idiotic to the point where it becomes unrealistic. They seemed to degrade their IQ just to give out or yell a certain joke; that happens in a lot of satirical comedies actually and I just don't like that so I don't see how it will work for me here. I actually felt bad for some of the actors who tried too hard to make their wackiest faces only in order to make the audiences laugh. I don't know for others but for me, it wasn't funny. It wasn't funny at all and it make them look idiosyncratic in a bad way.

It's hard to sum up my feelings for a mess of a movie like Zoolander 2. Although some of the fashion and production value actually looked decent, the jokes and the comedy made this film look pitiful. It tried too hard to elicit a laugh for me and I've seen comedies that are done way better without making these characters look peculiarly unrealistic and extremely dumb.
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Enemy (2013)
Enemy lurks into the back of your mind and stays there.
15 May 2016
Enemy is a spellbinding psychological mystery. It manages to intrigue since the subject of doppelgangers is enough to spark interest into our minds. It is a surreal experience that poses many questions but never bothers to answer any of them; it makes us sit back and think.

This film is gorgeously produced; there seems to be an orange sort of hue throughout the entire duration of the film (and it manages to stay like that even in the credits) and that creates the tone and the atmosphere of the whole mystery. The soundtrack and the crescendo violin pitch forms suspense behind the beautiful cinematography and direction. A lot of the shots truly look great.

This film combines elements from Lynch's films and molds it into something new and authentic. There's that magical realism popping up a couple of times and it really makes you question that. Albeit this film is slow and not much happens within the plot, I was still captivated by this journey of finding out your exact identity. This film slowly sneaks up behind you and allures you with its beautiful shots, exceptional characters and an intriguing air of mystery; it keeps your eyes glued on the screen and it doesn't let go.

This is a quiet film with occasional outbreaks; I wouldn't call this a thriller even with some suspenseful scenes sprinkled throughout. The length of this film is blissfully short so it doesn't manage to bore the viewer; instead it really makes us think as the credits roll by. This film is not to be taken lightly and must really have deep and serious thinking in order to comprehend what's truly going on just underneath the surface.
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Blue Ruin (2013)
Blue Ruin quietens the revenge.
14 May 2016
Blue Ruin at its core is a film about revenge. Delivering that sweet, cold revenge to someone who has wronged you in the past. In fact, going into this I thought that I, the viewer, will receive the delicious feeling of giving out vengeance to that certain group of people. In the end though, that's not what I felt. This movie was totally different and I feel, in its entirety, somewhat conflicted.

The strongest point this film has is its violence. The violence and the blood are dealt with and handled extremely well. It is very realistic and you could actually feel the character's physical pain while he's enduring the wound through proper facial expressions and acting. It is also not gratuitous to the point where there are just smashing heads everywhere; the violence is very constricted and it only happens for a good reason which I found to be pretty valid.

Where this film falters is within the plot. This is a revenge tale yes but what I had a problem with were the characters, specifically with our main character, Dwight. We are not given a whole lot of backstory on why he's giving out vengeance on this troop, we just see him work in action. Although he explained why, his justification is quite simple and I'd wanted to see more complexity with his character. The way he does his revenge is done internally in which we truly see his hatred for these people basing on the actions he did but we didn't really get a good reason to why he's doing that.

In addition to that, there's not much dialogue. It's just like the violence in which things are restricted to a certain level. The absence of dialogue really makes me question the characters and what they're doing. I didn't feel for any of these characters just because of that. This is a quiet, cold-hearted revenge story with not a lot of heart for its characters.

It's hard to talk about Blue Ruin due to my conflicted emotions about it. The violence is great but on the other hand the plot didn't have a lot of complexity and the characters not a lot of heart to the point that we view them as sadistic murderers. Its all over the place, really and that's a supreme distraction to my viewing of it.
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Bite (I) (2015)
Bite is too dependent of its gooey gore.
10 May 2016
Bite doesn't have any substance to it at all. It is the type of film which advertises its over-the-top gore in order to gain cash and I'll admit, that's the one thing this movie tried to do decently. For a low budget film, there's a lot of effort placed in the FX and the horrors induced by this single infected bite. It's a bit disgusting when you first view it, but as you go on in the film, it gets overdone and repetitive. This film tried too hard to gross the viewer out by adding a lot of gooey substance, crunching insect noises and decaying corpses but the thing is, nothing is done with it in order to internalize the disturbing imagery in the viewer's mind. It just keeps on adding it, thinking that a lot of gore will gross the viewer out but it just gets rather gratuitous and mundane. But for a low budget film, I'll accept it; it did its best to go beyond any horror film in our cinemas.

Other than that, the rest of the film is a mess. The casting doesn't feel right, the actors may range from okay to bad and the script is just plain horrible. Its one of those films I believe that all the filmmakers put their effort in the blood and the gore but ignore the other aspects of the story. I didn't like any of the characters except for Kirsten and it's difficult to care for the MC because albeit she's in a horrible state she still acts grim and immoral it's hard to feel any sense of sympathy for her. The dialogue isn't done very well to the point that it actually feels comedic and makes you question if this was trying to add humor to the story.

This doesn't feel to have much of a plot, it just wanted to show the effects of having this infected bite. There are other aspects that it tried to include such as marriage issues, cheating and friendship but it all leads to the gore. In fact, it wasn't done very well in the first place and it feels hastily done and unnecessary to the film and what it wanted to show audiences which is, you got it right, the gooey gore. It relies to much on it to move the story forward when there isn't much of a story at all.

Bite feels like wasted potential. The filmmakers seemed to forget that it was a movie and not some blood fest. Every thought was placed in the gore that the acting, the plot and the dialogue were neglected, making it for a mediocre and amateurish experience in the cinema. The FX is the only thing that can be closely considered to checking this movie out.
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