Saturday, July 26, 2014

She's Dating The Gangster

Director: Cathy Garcia-Molina
With: Kathryn Bernardo, Daniel Padilla, Richard Gomez, Dawn Zulueta

7 months in 2014, I finally watched my first ever Pinoy film of the year. LOL. Some people are probably going to hate me for this fact. But I never want to be a film snob, especially films of my own country. Although it's true that I pick the films I'm going to spend money on. Who doesn't?

I pick what I think is good, what I heard or read is good, but at the end of the day, I follow my interests and preferences. She's Dating The Gangster, DEFINITELY not my cup of tea. At my age, who doesn't get irritated by extremely cheesy young love matched with noisy fans screaming their hearts out whenever a cheesy scene is on screen? Okay, it's probably okay for some, or for you, and I like to think I tolerate these people too because the hilarity trumps irritation when it happens nowadays, not only for this movie, *cough* TFIOS. But still, I think I'm too old and cranky for those stuff.

Or probably NOT. So before I get overly defensive, let me share my thoughts on She's Dating The Gangster.

So I never intended to watch this, but after a good dinner at 'Project Pie' my friends convinced me to see it with them. They treated me just so according to them I wouldn't blame them if the movie sucks balls. :3 Plus, with a couple of good words from different social media and the fact that it's directed by Cathy Garcia-Molina (One More Chance, Laida-Miggy trilogy), go treat me like a puppet on a string.

It started okay, hmm rather annoying -- heavily unsynchornized dubbing, uber-fake background sounds, product advertisements everywhere, and The Explosion of the Wig Factory. It's crazy but 15 minutes in when I found myself hooked. It's not as annoying as the first couple of minutes anymore, and since then I never looked back and ate everything up. I didn't swallow some because there are still lots of ridiculousness but it's not too shabby for me, and I even quite enjoyed them.

It just shows that Director Cathy Garcia-Molina controlled this film that I think she knows that it's going to be cheesy and that she had to fulfill Star Cinema requirements and requests, but she owned up to it and she catered what the masses want and the result was good. After all, this is a film that's made for the fans of this genre, fans of the book where the film is adapted and for the fans of 'Kathniel'.

To me, it seemed like Garcia-Molina put all the advertisements at the beginning to make room for a better adaptation of the story for the rest of the film. She's also successful in capturing a melancholic vibe that the story requires despite the hilar cheesy moments in the middle. The narrative is where the fun's at because it's not the usual linear love story.

The movie jumps in between two generations: one being the present time and the other is the early 90's which explains the weird fashion and gangsters we all saw in the movie poster and the trailer. It's fun to see the world of 90's according to Garcia-Molina that it may be too exaggerated sometimes, but I guess it's better to amplify than to play down.

'KathNiel' fans will surely like this. Heck, I'm not even a KathNiel fan but they managed to make themselves likable even for the cynics. I didn't follow their previous pairings but my friend told me that Daniel Padilla improved and not cringe-worthy anymore even though his character screams otherwise. Kathryn Bernardo on the other hand is undeniable. Portraying two different characters in one movie and was successful in making both adorable yet unique at the same time. I also like how it has a lot of cameos, from Rio Locsin, to Ian Veneracion, to the legendary Niño Muhlach. LOL what's not to love? 

It is more than a typical teeny-bopper film and more than a love story too. In the beginning, it was emphasized that "there's a greater force than love and it is time", and it was well-explained in this film. The shot of Mt. Mayon is so inspired.

There is a decent amount of things to appreciate in this film if you just ignore its technical failings. Now if you're planning to watch it, believe the hype, don't expect too much and just accept the good things it has to offer.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Grace of Monaco

Director: Olivier Dahan
With: Nicole Kidman, Tim Roth, Frank Langella

I am not that interested in stories about royalties and struggling celebrities but unlike other films with the same theme as this like The Queen or The Iron Lady, Grace of Monaco did not make me interested in it. It's so uninteresting and boring despite how pretty and pleasant it looks. The Iron Lady is not a good comparison because it also had a fair share of flaws but the dementia part at least hooked me and Monaco got nothing for its audience to hook.

My opinion of Grace of Monaco reminds me of my opinion for My Week with Marilyn except the latter made me more engaged with the film because of Michelle Williams' portrayal of Marilyn Monroe. Not saying Nicole Kidman sucked but her character Grace Kelly didn't require a lot of commitment and changes. Thus, her acting was okay but there's nothing much to see in it. Her performance is actually the reason why I watched it. I am not disappointed but I wouldn't mind if I just skipped it. At least I learned a lot about Grace Kelly.

Between the stars Nicole Kidman, Frank Langella and Tim Roth, no one really stood out as the three were not juiced out by Olivier Dahan. To be quite frank, watching this made me understand why there are so many controversies about this film and its distributor The Weinstein Company. Without knowing what's all behind the drama, I assume Harvey wanted so many changes in the film and Dahan refused to follow him resulting to this mess. So I guess, I'm on Harvey's side in this. There's really so much to improve in this film - from the choice of shots to the bland dialogues, etc.

The movie is so blah that I guess it's just apt to leave it here like it didn't happen. After all, the elegant Nicole Kidman has a lot of films this year so let's just focus on those. Queen of the Desert ya'll!


Director: Denis Villeneuve
With: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mélanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon, Isabella Rossellini

My thoughts on doppelgangers have changed ever since I became a fan of How I Met Your Mother where it turned out to be one of the series' running joke and eventually a vital storyline. Doppelgangers, which I thought was double gangers when I first heard it lol, are actually portrayed as harbinger for bad luck. Thanks to HIMYM, its context became a little lighter but after watching Enemy, I'm afraid that it returned to its bad name.

French Canadian director Denis Villeneuve is quickly becoming a favorite. After directing two films (Incendies, Prisoners) that made him popular in my book :3 and internationally as well, here's another film that's insanely compelling, mysterious and thought provoking.

Jake Gyllenhaal stars as a university professor named Adam Bell who discovered that he has a double, thoroughly identical in physical appearance, only with a completely different life and personality - and just when you think you've figured this out by saying "Ohh it's a psychological thing, etc", I'm pretty sure that you're mistaken. Jake Gyllenhaal is excellent in the dual role, bringing each man their own distinctiveness and personality. The challenge for Gyllenhaal here is to make the viewers tell the two different men apart and he did it successfully only with his use of facial expressions and body language.

I'm having flashbacks of my writeup for Prisoners because I'm bound to use similar statements again to describe Enemy but it's just really becoming a recurring thing for Villeneuve's films, the mystery. Like what he did to Prisoners, Villeneuve is more focused on the story rather than the lesson. He sure knows how to grip his audience by providing answers but ironically, those answers also keep on providing questions. He never leaves his viewers hanging but at the same time, he prolongs the mystery by providing many angles. He sure knows how to grip, he most definitely knows how to play with the viewers' psyche as well.

In Enemy, Villeneuve is never misleading but he sufficiently piques the curiosity of the viewer to create their own hypothesis and thus, his viewers create their own misleadings. It's an enigma in a way that the clues are handed both subtly and visibly but in the end, the craziness may or may not make sense depending on one's understanding and to an extent, attentiveness. I don't want to ruin one's viewing so let's just leave it at these warnings.

There are so many things to commend about this film, Villeneuve's stylish direction of illuminating Toronto's cityscape enhanced with yellow & black colors - to make it more sickly as if the story is not sick enough. Other than that, the thing to rave about in this film is its ENDING. I literally voiced out the words "WHAT.THE.FUCK" with matching jaw drop and surprised big eyes because of it. It's reminiscent of the nightmare in David Lynch's Mulholland Drive and thinking about it, Enemy actually has a lot of similarities with Mulholland Drive except I think I've figured Enemy much easier while I'm still stuck in the conundrum of the latter.

The ending makes you want to research for answers and a second viewing might be required but it won't have the same intriguing effect of the first. Still, it might provide clearer answers if you want a closure from this film. Because that ending is truly startling that it needs some visual and mind purging.

Enemy also stars three other stunning actresses - Mélanie Laurent and Sarah Gadon as the partners of the doubles, and Isabella Rossellini as Adam's mother. They helped on emphasizing Jake Gyllenhaal's character's flaws and their actions and words are also not devoid of clues. Not to mention, they have some sexy scenes that probably made this film labeled as homoerotic.

I can't wait to discuss this film with more people. It might not be for everyone but if you're into riddles, then this is a puzzle for you and I may suggest, start with the poster. Good luck!