Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Starring: Jennifer Connely, Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Scarlett Johansson, Ginnifer Goodwin, Ben Affleck, Justin Long & Bradley Cooper
Director: Ken Kwapis

You can reasonably expect that a romantic comedy based on a self-help book, which was itself based on a single line from an episode of Sex And the City, might not have anything new to say about the battle of the sexes -- especially when the title is as sickeningly hip as He's Just Not That Into You. And while Kwapis" movie certainly comes weighed down with observations and insights recycled from thousands of other romantic comedies, he at least manages to shape them into something entertaining, if not in any way essential.

If you know you're dealing with overly familiar dialogue, then you'd better put it in the mouths of actors who, through sheer personality, can do something unique with it, and hiring Goodwin as your ingenue starts you off on the right foot. As Gigi, a naïve twentysomething single girl unable to read the signs that the men she's interested in just aren't interested in her, Goodwin exudes positivity without being cloying, and sadness without being pitiful. The scenes charting her slow courtship with emotionally detached bar manager Alex (Long) are the best in the movie because the two have genuine chemistry -- they are easily the standouts of a large cast. That's not to say that any of the other actors embarrass themselves: Affleck shows off his laid-back charm; Cooper impresses as a cheating husband who stays likable even when he knows he's screwing up; and Johansson offers up another subtle variation on the carnal goddess archetype she's already perfected.

Kwapis" skill as a television director serves him well with this material -- he knows how to keep the multiple storylines moving, without sacrificing quality screen time for any of the performers. The movie hums along like a solidly built clock, but there's just nothing surprising or new -- anybody who gets ill at the prospect of sitting through a chick flick should avoid it at all costs. That said, there is something so thoroughly adequate about the whole project, it's hard to deny that it "works." There's tons of professionalism in this movie, but it lacks passion -- they should have called it "Like, Actually." (129 mins.)

My Rating: **

AIRPORT (1970)

Starring: Burt Lancaster, Helen Hayes, Van Heflin, Dean Martin, Jacqueline Bisset, George Kennedy & Maureen Stapleton
Director: George Seaton

Airport was widely lambasted by critics for its tried-and-true technique of showcasing a raft of Grand Hotel-style big-name box-office stars in a melodramatic thriller; a critic called it "the best film of 1944." But no one could argue with its success or its influence. Director/screenwriter George Seaton displayed a masterful old hand's touch for showcasing stock characters in a soap opera format, adapting Arthur Halley's blockbuster novel with Martin as the pilot and a cast top-heavy with stars. Airport won huge audiences and six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, with veteran Hayes, one of the first Oscar winners in 1932, winning a supporting award. The crowd-pleasing behemoth spawned almost a decade's worth of big-budget disaster films, including three inferior sequels, and then another round of disaster spoofs, beginning with 1980's Airplane! (137 mins.)

My Rating: ++1/2

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Starring: Odette Yustman
Director: David S. Goyer

From the second we first see Casey Beldon (Yustman), it's obvious that something is terribly amiss. Jogging along a lonely park path, she has a bizarre encounter that chills her to the very core. Casey is being haunted by a dybbuk, a malevolent entity of Jewish folklore that has passed from this plane of existence, yet hasn't been allowed entry into the afterlife. Its sole mission is to gain reentry into our world by inhabiting human bodies. Less powerful dybbuks have the ability to possess the dead, but the stronger they become, the more likely they are to possess the living as well. When Casey's left eye starts changing color, a doctor informs her that such occurrences aren't uncommon in twins, and she begins looking into her past in an attempt to discover the truth about her origins. That investigation leads her all the way back to the mental hospital where her mother died, and into contact with a Holocaust survivor who may hold the key to unlocking the mystery that began in an operating room in Auschwitz. Enlisting the aid of the skeptical Rabbi Sendak (Gary Oldman) in order to comprehend the true powers of the dybbuk, Casey attempts to protect her friends from the murderous ghost while figuring out a way to defeat it. But the closer Casey comes to understanding the dybbuk's power, the more powerful -- and threatening -- the malevolent spirit becomes.

It is populated by a fairly talented cast that includes the likes of Oldman, Jane Alexander, and Carla Gugino, but none of them are given much to do since the true star of the film is the special effects. The surrealistic imagery is deeply unsettling from the opening scene, and only gets more intense as the movie gains momentum. And while the film isn't graphic in traditional cinematic terms, it bombards us with a steady stream of deeply horrific images that seem to be birthed from the darkest depths of the imagination. From ghostly kids to knife-wielding youngsters, skittering creepy-crawlies, and contorted monstrosities that seem inspired by John Carpenter's The Thing, we're witness to any number of unsettling creatures and concepts over the course of the film's short running time. As a result, it never feels compromised despite its more audience-friendly rating. And what more could a horror fan ask for than a spook-fest that feels pure in its intentions while taking full advantage of every opportunity to scare us silly? (86 mins.)

My Rating: *1/2


Starring: Denzel Washington & John Travolta
Director: Tony Scott

Surprisingly, in a summer full of action-packed blockbusters, this cracking remake may be the movie to beat for sheer popcorn-chomping thrills. New York City subway system dispatcher Walter Garber (Washington), recently demoted due to charges of bribery, is observing his control screen when he notices an anomaly -- the Pelham 123 has come to a standstill between stops, and the driver is unresponsive. The train has been hijacked by a trigger-happy gang of criminals -- or is that terrorists? -- led by Ryder (Travolta), who's just as quick to crack a joke as he is to execute a hostage with a hasty bullet between the eyes. Ryder wants ten million dollars in one hour, and for every minute the city doesn't deliver, he'll kill another hostage.

The visuals here are vintage Scott, and though the hyper-stylized opening shots of a neck-tattooed Travolta and company getting into place for the big event to the tune of Jay-Z's "99 Problems" (replete with shots of Luis Guzman looking like the long-lost fourth member of Run-DMC) may lead us to suspect that Scott is bordering on self-parody, once the action gets under way about 30 seconds later, there's no mistaking that we're in the hands of a true master. But Scott and cinematographer Tobias Schliessler's deliciously garish visuals aren't the only factors that make this movie a compulsively satisfying bit of summer pulp; Brian Helgeland's screenplay is about as tight as it could get without being written in shorthand, and unexpectedly subdued performances by Washington and Travolta ensure that the not-so-subtle nuances of the characters they portray don't derail the film by shifting our focus away from the rising tensions underground. Of course, anyone who's seen Travolta chew scenery as a bad guy knows he has a penchant for going over the top and another mile up, but while he's certainly having a blast as the F-bomb-dropping, stock-ticker-obsessed Ryder, he still feels dialed back from the cartoonish criminal excess of Swordfish and Face/Off. His wild-eyed antics give the film some of its funniest, and most terrifying, moments. Likewise, Washington's restrained performance as the disgraced Garber allows us to forget we're watching an Oscar-winning Hollywood heavyweight and simply identify with the character -- a crucial factor in keeping us actively involved in the story.

From the cast to the crew, everyone involved seems to be firing on all cylinders, though it's Helgeland whose contributions make this retread an unmitigated success. Considering what New York City has been through since Godey's original novel came out in the early '70s, the central concept of the movie may be even more relevant now than it was 30 years ago. By taking some well-placed jabs at the media, and pondering the difference between terrorism and unrepentant crime-for-profit, Helgeland innovates within a familiar framework and turns it into something fresh, vital, and timely. (106 mins.)

My Rating: **1/2

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


BROCKA'S "WANTED PERFECT MOTHER" (1970)- 1 of 2 Film Clip


PX (1982)

Mahinhin Vs. Mahinhin (1981)

Pito Ang Asawa Ko (1974)

Patayin Mo Sa Sindak Si Barbara (1974)

Tanikala (1980)




Monday, August 2, 2010

NOBEL SON (2007)

Starring: Alan Rickman, Mary Steenburgen, Danny DeVito, Bill Pullman & Eliza Dushku
Director: Randall Miller

Perhaps one of the greatest things about being a movie lover is running across one of those rare, undiscovered gems -- the twisting thriller with the audacity to demand that you actually use your brain to solve the mystery, or the outrageous comedy that was just a bit ahead of its time and didn't find an audience until it was long gone from theaters. Nobel Son is none of those things.

Philandering chemistry professor and recent Nobel prize winner Eli Michaelson (Rickman) is in Stockholm to collect his award when he and his wife, Sarah (Steenburgen), receive word that their son, Barkley (Bryan Greenberg) -- a Game Boy-obsessed college student writing his Ph.D. thesis on cannibalism -- has been kidnapped. If they ever hope to see Barkley alive again, Eli and Sarah are to drop two million dollars in unmarked bills in the trunk of a display car at a local shopping mall. Later, after the drop has been made, it quickly becomes apparent that this isn't your typical kidnapping. As the mystery deepens and spacey detective Max Mariner (Pullman) struggles to pinpoint a suspect, the fact that Eli was hated by nearly everyone he ever met leads the detective to suspect everyone from the prickly professor's own son to a flaky local artist who goes by the name City Hall (Dushku).

Directed like the coked-up, sopping wet fever dream of an ADHD film student who flushed all of his Ritalin, Nobel Son is hands-down one of the most obnoxious movies in recent memory. In the opening minutes, Paul oakenfold's throbbing, energetic techno score seems like exactly the kind of movie glue that might just hold this mess together and keep it moving. Then the realization sets in that it never goes away -- even in the dialogue scenes -- at which point it becomes not just distracting, but grotesquely overbearing. As if an entire movie set to 120 bpm wasn't annoying enough (perhaps, like being handed special glasses when you purchase a ticket to a 3-D film, audiences going to see Nobel Son should be given a pacifier and a glow stick before entering the theater), the fact that a talented cast is given little to do as the camera whooshes, swooshes, and cranes around them makes the entire experience truly frustrating. Of all of these actors, Rickman is given the most to do as the cruel, pompous laureate whose "genius side of the brain is so big that it swallowed up the civilized side," and while Steenburgen and Pullman have one or two fun character beats, the rest of the cast seems to pop in for their quirky cameos before vanishing almost as quickly as they appeared.

If a thriller is going to be "clever," it pays for the filmmakers to exercise a little restraint so the audience can have some room to reflect on the story as it twists and turns to a satisfying conclusion. Nobel Son does the exact opposite, straining to force cleverness where there is none, and then attempting to dazzle by resorting to the sort of cinematic tricks that even a coked-up, hyperactive film student would recognize as cliché. (110 mins.)

My Rating: *1/2


Starring: Bing Crosby & Ingrid Bergman
director: Leo McCarey

Amiable if meandering sequel to GOING MY WAY, with Father O'Malley assigned to a run-down parish where Bergman is the Sister Superior. Bing introduces the sing "Aren't You Glad You're You?"

Also directed by Leo McCarey, this film has Bing Crosby returning as the modern-minded priest once again up against a headstrong opponent, Mother Superior (played by Bergman). while not as memorable as his encounter with hard-headed older priest Barry Fitzgerald in the first film, this relationship---and the movie as a whole---does have its viewing rewards. (126 mins.)

My Rating: ***


Starring: Cary Grant
Director: Michael Curtiz

A life of Cole Porter, told without truth or wit. there are, however, a lot of songs, including Mary Martin singing "My Heart Belongs To Daddy." Grant also sings, with considerable talent. Directed way off the beam by Michael Curtiz.

There was no way Hollywood could make an accurate biography of Cole Porter in those days---it had to play footsie with his ruthless social lionizing and sexual proclivities---but the film stands out as a remarkable document of the performers and performances available to the cameras at the time. Where else can you see Martin doing "My Heart Belongs To Daddy" and Monty Wholley declaiming "Miss Otis Regrets"?

Music only worthy aspect of this fabricated biography-drama, stiffly played by Grant, who even sings "You're The Top." (128 mins.)

My Rating: **1/2