Sunday, January 30, 2011

Showdown #1: Manliest Movie Ever?

Time for the first ever Showdown!! Since this is going to be a long one, I'll keep the introduction brief. Simply put, occasionally whenever the lightbulb above my head lights up, I will pit movies, actors or even characters against another one of similar nature.

So this time around we are going to look at two of the "manliest" movies ever made, you can almost see testosterone dripping around the corners of the screen. But out of these two, which one is the manliest of them all? Let's find out!

Exactly twenty years apart, which will reign supreme?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Green Hornet [2011]

Director: Michel Gondry
Cast: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Christoph Waltz, Cameron Diaz, Tom Wilkinson
Genre: Superhero/Comedy
Rating: General
Comment: "While entertaining in many aspects, this Green Hornet is devoid of any sting whatsoever..."

Britt Reid, the hard-partying playboy son of a multimedia giant suddenly finds himself at loss upon the death of his father. However, after chance meeting with his father's multi-talented mechanic named Kato, Britt got back in touch with his long-lost childhood dream of fighting injustice. Together, the two of them embark on a quest of fighting crime in their city.

Using a sweet ride along with Kato's cool roundhouse kicks to get the job done...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Breakthrough Roles #1

Success stories are always associated with luck, but we all know it's all the hard work that increase your chances. This is especially true in the entertainment industry.

In this post, we are going to look at actors who spent years trying to live the dream and make it big in Hollywood. But sometimes it could mean playing many forgettable roles before hitting gold. The following are just three of examples of actors who has been prominently featured in movies, yet we don't seem to notice them until that one breakthrough performance.

Click on the photos if you need a closer look

Monthly Classics #1

Release Date : September 18th, 1951
Director : Elia Kazan
Starring : Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter, Karl Malden

Recently divorced Blanche DuBois moves in with her sister in New Orleans. Already a troubled soul to begin with, her reality further deteriorates due to her brother-in-law's frequent aggravations.

When I found out that I have a thing for the classic movies years ago, I credit this movie for getting the ball rolling. A common trait of movies in the 50's are the engaging dialogues, ambiguous characters and its full reliance on good actors to carry the movies; no CGI, no special effects, no nothing. While that might prove to be a turn-off for today's audience, since movie-watching habits had change since then. Therefore I would say that just like the rest, A Streetcar Named Desire might be a bit of an acquired taste.

Marlon Brando gave a very memorable performance as Stanley Kowalski, which is only one of the two main appeal of this movie. Make no mistake though, this is not really a comfortable film to watch. Stanley can be very fierce and brutish, yet there is a soft side to him, seen only in glimpses. Marlon Brando captured that persona so well that you end up not being able to decide whether to forgive him, or look away in disgust.

Regardless of what people might say, I maintain to this day that Vivien Leigh put up a stronger performance as Blanche DuBois. Strangely, she also evoked the same kind of duality that Stanley did. Despite the amiable nature of the character, her inability (or perhaps unwillingness) to embrace her reality as it is forces us to either feel sorry for her, or give up on her. Kind of like a drug-addict friend that you would like to help, yet he or she keeps on relapsing and there's only so much that you can take.

I guess what I'm trying to sell to you here is that, if you ever would like to give classic movies a chance, A Streetcar Named Desire might not be a bad place to start. If it's not to your liking, well, there are literally hundreds if not thousands of other gems in the old days that I'll be reviewing from time to time.

Stay tuned for next month's classics segment when I'll be reviewing yet another Marlon Brando movie, the infamous biker flick The Wild One [1953].

Coming Soon: The Green Hornet

I regret not covering this sooner, after I saw the trailer for the first time months ago. I remember getting excited about the movie, because I never had the chance to see the TV series starring the great Bruce Lee himself back in the late 60's. I hardly knew what was it all about, and I have a feeling that this movie will do to its franchise what the Star Trek [2009] movie did for the Star Trek franchise.

Bruce Lee, before the nunchucks...
Reasons to be Excited:
  1. Directed by Michel Gondry, known to favour practical special effects over CGI. Combine that with his flair for clever visuals, it's gotta be great.
  2. Starring some of today's most lovable actors in Hollywood; Seth Rogen, James Franco, Cameron Diaz, and not forgetting, Edward Furlong's return to the mainstream.
  3. A brand new take on The Green Hornet franchise
  4. Mythbusters did a The Green Hornet special!! w00t!
One thing though, I don't know how Jay Chou will do playing Kato. He could be good, I don't deny that. But knowing that established martial artists like Jason Scott Lee and Stephen Chow were considered prior to the casting of Jay Chou, you can't help but have doubts. Ah well, let's give the guy a chance, shall we?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Coming Soon: Insidious

I was never much of a horror movie fan, particularly because I find them to be much too predictable to be entertaining. I know, I know... Lots of movies in different other genres can be as predictable, namely romantic-comedies and maybe to a lesser extent, action movies. But horror relies fully on the ability to "shock" people, and when you can see everything coming from a mile away, maybe it's time to go back to the drawing board.

A hunk and two skanks... Chances of survival: 0%
Guess which of them is James Wan..
So imagine my delight when the Malaysian-born Australian director James Wan and his fellow Australian screenwriter Leigh Whannell announced that they came up with a new movie. If those two names sound familiar, that's because the duo were the ones who gave us the most original horror movie in recent times; Saw [2004], one of the very few horror movies that I truly appreciate. I wish I can say the same about its sequels, the following Saw movies are really just pathetic excuses for torture porn with none of the ingredients that made the original so compelling. I gave up after the third one. What about you?

Still Gettin' Jiggy Wit It
But enough about that and brace yourselves for Insidious, coming soon on April 1st. I seriously doubt that this is actually just an elaborate April Fool's prank.

Boo! Gotcha!! April Fool
Little is revealed about the plot, although you are welcomed to check out the teaser trailer HERE. But from what can be learned from reliable sources, it involves evil spirits and some kind of a nightmare you can't wake up from. Another reason to be excited, I guess; no torture porn this time around.

Yet another reason to be excited, this movie stars Patrick Wilson, pretty much a lesser-known actor around these parts. But he has a very enjoyable body of work, having starred and convincingly played his part in movies like Hard Candy [2005], Lakeview Terrace [2008], Watchmen [2009] and The A-Team [2010]. While I wouldn't tout this movie as potentially one of his best, I seriously doubt that I would dismiss his performance regardless.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Buried [2010]

Director: Rodrigo Cortes
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Ryan Reynolds and Ryan Reynolds
Genre: Thriller/Drama
Rating: General
Comment: "Brilliant. Just brilliant..."

Set in contemporary times against the Iraq War as the background, the story revolves around a U.S truck driver Paul Conroy, who wakes up in a coffin, buried alive in the middle of a desert. What follows are his attempts to make it out alive.

Just him, a Blackberry, a Zippo lighter and sheer wit...
What to Expect:
1. Ryan Reynolds flexing his acting muscles this time around.
2. The entire movie taking place inside the coffin.
3. Claustrophobia.

What NOT to Expect:
1. Actually seeing any supporting roles.
Upon hearing the premise of the movie, I just knew this is going to be a one-of-a-kind movie; a thriller bordering on horror because it tackles a universal fear among human beings (except maybe Spartans and the Samurai of the old days); Death.

What's worst than death? How about stuffed into a coffin, with no other view and no place to go, just counting the seconds until you die. That's pretty much what this movie is about.

Notice how I wrote "Ryan Reynolds" three times for the cast, this is no mistake. Although we hear voices of other characters via a Blackberry phone, the camera never gets away from Ryan Reynolds, effectively making him the only star of this movie.

I have to say I have a whole new respect for his acting chops. Generally perceived as a douchey romantic lead thanks to movies like Just Friends [2005] and The Proposal [2009]. To a greater extent, he garnered attention as a formidable action star courtesy of his work in Blade: Trinity [2004]. With Buried, however, he took it all to a whole new level.

You will not laugh, I guarantee it...
Again, as I did with 127 Hours [2010] one can't help but point out the lead actor's performance as he was literally the sole performer, it would be a gross injustice to take it for granted.

As for the movie itself, you'd be surprised that despite having only one character on-screen, things hardly get egocentric. The movie explores issues surrounding the Iraq War, greedy corporations, among others. Some of which may be a little too on the nose, but it hardly disrupts the experience.

I can't give the movie anything less than an A+.

127 Hours [2010]

Director: Danny Boyle
Cast: James Franco, Clemence Poesy, Amber Tamblyn, Kate Mara
Genre: Drama
Rating: General
Comment: "Just like the true story it was based on, the movie has that indomitable will to live..."

Based on the real-life incident of Aron Ralston, an avid outdoorsman who got entrapped in a canyon after a boulder crashed on his arm. The title is derived from the amount of days he spent examining his life and chronicles his fight for survival.

What to Expect:
1. Tight performance by James Franco.
2. An altogether claustrophobic feel to the movie.
3. Danny Boyle's penchant for realism.

What NOT to Expect:
1. Plenty of characters.
I purposely left out Number 4 under the "What to Expect" column (although Num. 3 is kind of a hint), because it's a bit of a spoiler. Not exactly a big secret that we should all get hush-hush about, but still it involves a pivotal point in the story, so I'd rather leave that for your own discovery.

Now, James Franco is one of the few actors with tremendous talent, yet many fail to look past his boyish, dashing good looks - no thanks to Sam Raimi's Spider-man movies. With Pineapple Express [2008], he gave us a very endearing and believable performance as a stoner, and that was for a Seth Rogen comedy movie. For a movie that is meant to motivate and elicit hope, expect nothing less than his trademark dedication to make a role as believable as it can get.

The reason why I made it a point to talk about James Franco is no doubt because this movie rests heavily upon his shoulders alone.

Aside from that, I have little to say about the movie other than it will invite you to examine your own life; and if you ever find yourself caught in the same predicament, will you ever find it in you the kind of will to survive seen only in movies? Well, this movie is pretty much a glorified documentary of the real event, so chew on that.

I give this movie an A, with its only flaw being a rather slow paced movie.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

What's New?

It's not the first of January already, but still we are in the beginning of 2011 so I guess this post isn't really out of place. Believe it or not, I haven't been saving these minor changes for the new year, I've only came up with it only minutes prior to my review of The Fighter [2010]. As always, I rarely have a plan, I simply make things up as I go along.

Now, as you probably have noticed, I've decided to give this blog a bit of a facelift. In other words, I have a new approach towards movie reviewing. It all began simply as ramblings, but it has since evolved into a more eye-catching (I hope) and comedic reviews. It was only in mid-September had I began to include relevant screenshots from the movie into my reviews, but now I believe that people don't have as much time to browse through my reviews. This is the internet, after all.

And so I have revamped the reviews to this format. What makes it different from the my previous reviews is the inclusion of the "What and what not to expect" column. Naturally when we go for movies, we're always curious as to what the movie is trying to sell to us. I've decided to tackle this issue heads-on by doing what I do best; writing honestly.

You might complain of it being a spoiler, but truth is, I just want you to get your money's worth when you go for movies. More often than not, movie posters and trailers can be very deceiving; an issue I'd like to bring forward in my next article.

But for now I just want to let you know of this new format and I hope you will have as much fun reading them as I have writing them.

Live long and prosper,
Mamü Miguel Ellezda Vies

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Fighter [2010]

Director: David O. Russell
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, Jack McGee, Mickey O'Keefe
Genre: Drama/Sports
Rating: General
Comment: "Right up there with Raging Bull [1980]..."

The story takes place in the early days of "Irish" Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) as a professional fighter. Some of his best days as a boxer comes late in his career as he spent his early years torn between pursuing his dreams and fulfilling his obligations to his family. Meanwhile his half-brother Dicky Eklund, who was a boxer himself, once shared the ring with the legendary Sugar Ray Leonard. But those days are behind him, he now trains his brother while struggling with a different opponent; cocaine.

Simply put, The Fighter tells the tale of the two brothers pursuing the ultimate goal of a boxer; winning a world title, while fighting their toughest battles outside the ring.
What to Expect:
1. Dramatic re-telling of the story of Micky Ward and his half-brother, Dicky Eklund.
2. The most realistic boxing scenes in movie history.
3. Captivating performance by Christian Bale.
4. Mark Wahlberg playing his typical tough guy character.

What NOT to Expect:
1. Cliched training montages.
2. Extended boxing scenes.
3. Micky Ward's epic fights with the late Arturo Gatti.
Before I proceed, I'd like to verify that I am indeed a big time fan of boxing. However, that doesn't mean that this review is biased in any way at all, this is indeed a great picture with more emphasis on the drama than the fights.

That's right. A boxing movie without much of fight scenes. Yeah, and there's no training montage with an adrenaline-pumping soundtrack either. I must say that the producers of the movie made this movie with the right frame of mind. The story of Micky Ward and Dicky Ecklund may not be as universally-known as Muhammad Ali or Mike Tyson, but that doesn't mean it is any less intriguing.
If a guy decides to make a living by taking a beating, you know there must be an interesting story behind it. The Fighter is no exception.

But I'm not one to focus too much on the technical aspects of a movie, and I dare say it's easy to lose focus on it on the account of Christian Bale's performance. The guy has done it again. Not only he is the envy of weight-watchers around the world, he gave yet another very memorable performance in recent movie history. as Dicky Eklund. Okay, perhaps I'm being a bit too harsh on Mark Wahlberg, he may be a plank of wood with a scowl drawn on it, but to his credit he actually showed a little bit of his sensitive side this time around.

Well, I guess if I get to act alongside Amy Adams, I'd be inclined to show my sensitive side as well. *drool*

*ahem*... Well, the point that I'd like to bring forth here is that, you can't simply dismiss The Fighter as "just a boxing movie". Of course, boxing fans will instantly love it, but I bet even non-boxing fans alike will be able to connect with the story in some way, especially in regards to its universal theme of Pursuing your dream versus Fulfilling your obligations. The good story, strong characterisations, proper pacing and the realistic fights will certainly help you get there.

Without a doubt, I give The Fighter an A+.
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