Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Movie No. 32 (2013): MISTERYO SA TUWA

Misteryo Sa Tuwa (1984)
Director: Abbo Q. Dela Cruz
Cast: Tony Santos Sr., Johnny Delgado, Ronnie Lazaro, Lito Anzures, Ama Quiambao, Alicia Alonzo
In Tagalog

What if you stumble upon a large amount of money in a suitcase? This is the moral question and is the premise of the movie. In the film, a plane crashed near a remote barrio situated in the mountains of Quezon Province while the people are celebrating a post-baptismal party. The guests are stirred and, out of curiosity, scurry into the crash site. Three of them stumble upon a suitcase with a large amount of money. The search for the money begins. Schemes and alliances are formed. Greed reigns. And the morality play begins.

The movie is an indictment of human greed. It succeeds in that aspect. Had I seen it in 1984, the year it was released, I would have appreciated its cinematography. The screenplay is well-thought-of. The ensemble acting is good.

The film was one of the few films produced by Experimental Cinema of the Philippines. I will watch this film again when it gets restored.

Date seen: January 29, 2013

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Movie No. 31 (2013): SISTERS

Sisters (1973)
Director: Brian De Palma
Cast: Margot Kidder, Jennifer Salt, Charles Durning

The plot: The Siamese twin of a French-Canadian model, who's separated from her, is accused of the brutal murder of a black male in an apartment in Staten Island (New York) that is witnessed by a neighbor, who is a newspaper reporter.

The film is practically of the Hitchcockian-horror genre, and it succeeds in that aspect. There's a pivotal scene in the film that reminds me of Gabriel Garcia Marquez' short story called I Only Came To Use The Phone. I wonder if the writer had that short story used as inspiration to that scene.

I really like the film.

Date seen: January 28, 2013

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Monday, January 28, 2013

Movie No. 30 (2013): ALOIS NEBEL

Alois Nebel (2011)
Director: Tomas Lunak
In Czech, with English subtitles

The year is 1989: Vaclav Havel runs for presidency (and wins), the Berlin Wall falls. Alois Nebel, an aging train dispatcher in a Czechoslovakian town near the border, is fogged and haunted by a violent past he witnessed. He ends up in a mental asylum. There he meets a mysterious man who is mute and is suspected of being a criminal. 

This film, in rotoscope animation, is in glorious black and white, which is beautiful to watch despite the theme. It's almost dreamlike. This is not Disney, so there are no talking animals here, and no superheroes whose eyes are bigger than their hips.

Date seen: January 28, 2013

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Movie No. 29 (2013): THE RIVER

The River (1951)
Director: Jean Renoir
Cast: Patricia Walters, Nora Swinburne, Esmond Knight

In Bengal, India, three adolescent girls - two British, one British-Indian - fall for a wounded, older American soldier. The film is practically a showdown among the girls to get the attention of the American, while in the backdrop of all these pageantry, we see the mystique of India - its people, culture, and (yes) the river - and how these become integral to these adolescent girls' coming of age.

The film is simple, with no dramatic highlights that crave for attention. It's pure cinema.

Date seen: January 27, 2013

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Movie No. 28 (2013): MOONRISE KINGDOM

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Director: Wes Anderson
Cast: Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Bruce Willis

In a peaceful island-community off the coast of New England, a pair of young lovers, both 12-year old, runs away into the wilderness. A search team is formed to hunt them down. But there's a storm, expected to be nasty, that is being formed off-shore.

A Wes Anderson film is only appreciated by one who is used to his style. It's an acquired taste. Either you like it or you don't. I like this film just like I liked The Royal Tenenbaums; in both films the characters seem to be out of this world. That's what usually intrigues me and entices me to watch his film. The film may be quirky but it's without a doubt filled with humor and heart.

Date seen: January 27, 2013

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Movie No. 27 (2013): NEW YEAR'S EVE

New Year's Eve (2011)
Director: Gary Marshall
Cast: Halle Berry, Robert De Niro, Hilary Swank, Jon Bon Jovi, Katherine Heighl, Zac Efron, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michelle Pfeiffer, Abigail Breslin, Jessica Biel, Ashton Kutcher, Lea Michelle

Saw this just a while ago playing on HBO. I'm surprised I managed to finish it. I was maybe hoping for a rewarding conclusion. But...

This film is a mess. Some subplots are ridiculous. The only good thing about the film is that it showcases more than a dozen name actors. Some of them are among the best actors in Hollywood but their talents have been wasted in this bad film.

Date seen: January 27, 2013

Rating: 1.0/4.0

Movie No. 26 (2013): SERENDIPITY

Serendipity (2001)
Director: Peter Chelsom
Cast: John Cusack, Kate Beckinsale

The movie is already more than a decade old. I never felt the urgency to watch it in the past despite exaggeratedly good things and ridiculous praises some of the people I know had showered it with. Not until today. 

The movie is as if it's written on a template. But that's the way it is. It's meant to entertain; a typical date movie that teenagers and hopeless romantic would fell in love with. It succeeded in that aspect. My only problem is the premise. The too much reliance on fate is absurd. What is Love In The Time of Cholera doing there? I'm sure most of those who are smitten by this film have not read the book. It appears like a desperate attempt to have the soul of the book (a great book) to have relevance to the narrative. 

But, anyway, the film is charming.

Date seen: January 26, 2013

Rating: 2.5/4.0

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Movie No. 25 (2013): LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON

Love In The Afternoon (a.k.a. Chloe In The Afternoon) (1972)
Director: Eric Rohmer
Cast: Bernard Verley, Zouzou
In French, with English subtitles

Frederic faces a moral dilemma when Chloe decides to seduce her. It all started with Chloe dropping by Frederic's office in the afternoons. Chloe was the ex-mistress of Frederic's old friend. And (now) Frederic is happily married bourgeois. The film is the last of six moral tales of Eric Rohmer.

Despite the title, the film is not a love story. In an Eric Rohmer film, one should expect the unexpected. I just did in this film, but when the film ends I still have that smirk after the jaw-drop. 

Date seen : January 25, 2013

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Movie No. 24 (2013): DECLARATION OF WAR

Declaration of War (2011)
Director: Valerie Donzelli
Cast: Valerie Donzelli, Jeremie Elkaim

They meet in a wild and noisy dance bar.
-Are you joking?
-No. Why?
-I'm Juliette.
-That means our fate is doomed.

This is the opening of the film. It's a playful but deceitful indication of what to expect of the rest of the film. The couple faces a predicament as their child is very sick. They gather their parents and friends and declare war against the illness with hope as their only warfare. The result is a film that is funny, heartbreaking,  vibrant, and charming - a rare combination.

The film was France's submission in the Best Foreign Language Film category of Academy Awards last year. It didn't make the cut. But, if it did, it certainly deserved the slot. 

Date seen: January 23, 2013

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Monday, January 21, 2013


Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Director: David O. Russell
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver

Now staying with his parents, Pat is picking up the pieces after losing his house, his wife and his teaching job, and staying in a mental  institution for eight months. In the process, he meets a mysterious girl who, like him, is also dysfunctional.

The film is written a way that is funny, but not to the the point that it ridicules situations. The best thing about the movie is the wonderful and noteworthy performances of Cooper, Lawrence, De Niro and Weaver. 

I really enjoyed this film. So, good things can really come out of a bad situation.

Date seen: January 20, 2013

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Movie No. 22 (2013): THE ONLY SON

The Only Son (1936)
Director: Yasujiro Ozu
In Japanese, with English subtitles

A widowed mother from the country sends her only son to Tokyo to study high school (then college) while taking the pains and struggles of working in a silk factory. Thirteen years later, she goes to Tokyo to visit her son only to find out that her son is a frustrated night-school teacher living in a shabby house with his wife and child. Hiding her own disappointment, she stays and lives with her sons family for a while before going back to the country.

This is the kind of film that I actually expect from Ozu. Nothing fancy. This may not be among the best films of Ozu that the world had seen, but (that time) it was already an indication of the greatness and style that Ozu would show in his film some years after.

Date seen: January 20, 2013

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Movie No. 21 (2013): THE IMPOSSIBLE

The Impossible (2013)
Director: J.A. Bayona
Cast: Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland

The Impossible, though a harrowing film, is a tale of hope and survival. The story is based on the true story of a family vacationing in Thailand during Christmas of 2004 when a tsunami struck and killed hundreds (or, was it thousands), mostly tourists.

The scene of devastation is captured so amazingly that it's really scary watching it. The aftermath is photographed so bleakly that it leaves in me a harrowing feeling. And the best part are the performances of Naomi Watts, Tom Holland and Ewan McGregor. They're simply amazing.

Date seen: January 20, 2013

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Movie No. 20 (2013): DJANGO UNCHAINED

Django Unchained (2012)
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson

I will make my review of the film brief, without giving synopsis: Django Unchained is a kind of movie that, watching it, you're reminded that you are actually watching a film (if you know what I mean). It's a good thing; the movie is done in the old-fashioned way and there's the Quentin Tarantino signature printed all over it.

Christoph Waltz did a great job here. But I don't understand his Best Supporting Actor win and nomination at the Golden Globes and Academy Awards, respectively. He's lead actor in this film. Actually, he and Jamie Foxx. Surprisingly, too, Leonardo DiCaprio is great in his villainous outing, which deserves praise.

By the way, Quentin Tarantino has a very minor but explosive role in the film. Nice!

Date seen: January 20, 2013

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Friday, January 18, 2013

Movie No. 19 (2013): LES MISERABLES

Les Miserables (2012)
Director: Tom Hooper
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway

I haven't read the book yet, so until now I have no idea on some details of some significant turns of events in the  world-renowned classic Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. I only have a picture of the story in my mind based on the musical and then on the Tom Hooper's film. I have to be contented based on what I know from the musical. And I'm going to review the film based on this.

Overall, the film is okay. It's almost spectacular. It starts with an impressive opening which is sustained up to some latter parts but drags in some. There's one particular scene that, for me, is unnecessary - the focusing of Fantine's face (from shoulder up) while she sings "I Dreamed A Dream." Yes, the whole song! What's the director's point here? I don't know. Did I get impatient? I wasn't sure. But, I give Anne Hathaway credit for a heartfelt outing in this scene. She did great overall.

I commend the film for its production value. Most of the actors did well. I have to give special mention to Eddie Redmayne (Marius) and Samantha Barks (Eponine). Rusell Crowe (Javert) is okay, but not great. And Hugh Jackman? They say he'll be the only actor that can beat Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln) in the Best Actor race. I don't think so. But he did great, too, but not perfectly.

Date seen: January 18, 2013

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Book No. 4 (2013): HOME

Home (a novel by Toni Morrison)

The main character in the novel is Frank. The novel depicts home as an elusive concept in Frank's mind for, all his life, he's been to anywhere but home. When he was a child, he (and his family and neighbors) was driven from their home. As a grown up, he served at the Korean war and reintegrated himself in a society which hadn't changed much. Recently, he has escaped from a mental asylum; he finds his younger sister, who's medically abused, and takes her home - to Lotus, Georgia, which, according to him is the worst place in the world.

One thing I noticed about the novel is that Morrison never mentioned the race of Frank. Is he black? I had a mental note that he's black, since practically all of the characters in Morrison's novels are black. But here, I'm not sure. But, it doesn't matter.

Date read: January 15, 2013

Rating: 4.0/5.0

Monday, January 14, 2013

Book No. 3 (2013): THE ACCIDENT

The Accident (a novel by Ismail Kadare)

It all starts with the passengers of a cab trying to kiss. Then the accident happens. The investigation that follows leads to uncovering a web of politics of deceit, terrorism, lies, and murder. The best part of the book is the accident, which is written in a precisely suspenseful narrative; it's downhill from there. The investigation part is confusing. I haven't recovered from confusion although everything makes sense in the end. 

I've read great novels by Ismail Kadare. This is not one of those.

Date read: January 12, 2013

Rating: 2.5/5

Movie No. 18 (2013): ZERO DARK THIRTY

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Cast: Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler

In seeing a film that is based on actual events, I am usually interested, not in the details, but in the way the director tells the story. The good thing about Zero Dark Thirty is that I don't know the significant details of the manhunt of Osama Bin Laden, so watching it, I learned a lot, and found the director's documentary storytelling style gripping. 

Jessica Chastain, in my opinion, deserves the Best Actress nomination that she gets from Academy Awards. She effortlessly acted out her character's iron will inside what look like a frail appearance.

Date seen: January 14, 2013

Rating: 4.0/4

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Movie No. 17 (2013): FRANKENWEENIE

Frankenweenie (2012)
Director: Tim Burton
Voice cast: Winona Ryder, Martin Short

Bleak cinematography is the trademark of Tim Burton films, be it live action or animation. And it's used used in this film very well. The story is very basic: a boy, using science, brings his dog back to life. And the consequences of such act comprise the major narrative of the film. The film is complete with the necessary ingredients of a film of this kind - supportive parents, an irritating neighbor, a mad professor, envy classmates, unlikely creatures likable or not, and the finale that always involve rescue. 

Yes, I can say that this film is a homage to Frankenstein. 

Memorable quote from this film: People are afraid of science, but they like want science gives.

This film is a nominee in the Best Animated Feature Film category of this year's Academy Awards for films shown in 2012.

Date seen: January 13, 2013

Rating: 3.0/4

Movie No. 16: AMOUR

Amour (2012)
Director: Michael Haneke
Cast: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva, Isabelle Huppert

Georges and Anne are in their eighties. They are cultivated, retired music teachers. Their daughter, who is also a musician, lives abroad with her family. One day, Anne has an attack. The couple's bond of love is tested. - This synopsis is directly lifted from IMDB website.

The film does capture patiently and, to some extent, passionately, the struggles - physical and emotional pain, helplessness, vulnerability, fear, facing mortality - of being old.  What adds to the film's being completely absorbing are the heartbreaking but stunning performances of the lead actors. It's mostly body language that dominated the acting showcase in this film. The script is honest and the director's treatment of the scenes is meticulous. This is definitely a great love story.

The film won Palm D'Or at Cannes Film Festival last year. In this year's Academy Awards (for films shown in 2012), Amour gets 5 nominations - Best Picture, Best Actress (Emmanuelle Riva), Best Director, Best Foreign Language Film, and Best Original Screenplay. The National Society of Film Critics also bestowed the film with three awards - Best Film, Best Director and Best Actress.

Date seen: January 13, 2013

Rating: 4.0/4

Saturday, January 12, 2013


Welcome To The Dollhouse (1995)
Director: Todd Solondz
Cast: Heather Matarazzo

In this film the lead character is an unattractive, but bright, junior high school girl. In school no one is interested in her. Or (should I say) everyone in school in only interested in picking on her. Then there's this boy, her classmate, who always threatens to rape her, which, I think, is the boy's idea of fun. Her mother's favorites are her bookish older brother and her cute little sister. The movie is about how she deals with all these.

The film is funny and, at the same time, somewhat dark, but insightful The lead character is like tortured emotionally, typical of anyone who's bullied. Sometimes you feel sorry for her. Sometimes you're indifferent. Sometime you'll even agree on the bullying.

Date seen; January 11, 2013

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Movie No. 14 (2013): LIFE OF PI

Life of Pi (2012)
Director: Ang Lee
Cast: Suraj Sharma, Irfan Khan

I have so much to say about this film. The thing is, I'm still in awe and this prevents me from writing all the good things about it. I like the film so much in the same way as I like the book (by Yann Martel). 
For me the film is about spirituality and life itself, although it's disguised as an adventure film. Pi is the lone human survivor of a shipwreck; he ends up in a lifeboat with some unlikely company - a zebra with broken leg, a hyena, an orangutan, and a Bengal tiger! There Pi will learn about life and how to deal with it in the almost surreal scenario. The bulk of the story occurs in the lifeboat. That scene when Pi looks straight into the eye of the Bengal tiger is one of the best moments on screen.

This film uses the 3D technology. Unlike in other films where this technology has been pointlessly used, in this film Ang Lee uses it effectively to enhance storytelling. The result is a breathtaking tale of survival.

This is one of the best films of the 2012 batch that I've seen, so far. And this is my first 3D viewing experience in theater.

Date seen: January 9, 2013

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Movie No. 13 (2013): LINCOLN

Lincoln (2012)
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Daniel Day Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones

There are many possible aspects of Abraham Lincoln's life as president of the United States of America that can be shown on film, but Spielberg, in this film, opts to focus on Lincoln's fight for the abolition of slavery and dealing with the carnage of the civil war. Of course, there may be some details in the film which may not be found on history books. The writers may have extensively researched for such details.

Lincoln is a well-written and, as a film, a well-directed, biopic. Daniel Day Lewis completely disappears in Lincoln, a hallmark of a great actor. And for this, a third Academy Award may already be in the bag. He previously won for My Left Foot (1989) and There Will Be Blood (2007). Other notable performances in this film are those of Sally Field's and Tommy Lee Jones'.

Date seen: January 9, 2013

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Movie No. 12 (2013): FORBIDDEN GAMES

Forbidden Games a.k.a. Jeux Interdits (1952)
Director: Rene Clement
Cast: Brigite Fossey, Georges Poujouly
In French, with English subtitles

A young girl from Paris is orphaned when her parents and her pet dog are killed in an air raid by the Nazis. She's found wandering in the country by a young boy, the son of a poor farmer. The boy's family adopts her.

It looks like the young girl is unaffected by what has just happened to her family. But later, with the help of the boy, she secretly creates a small cemetery where they bury animals. They steal crosses from the human graveyard. In a cinematic sense, that maybe is her way of mourning.

In this film, I see one of the greatest performances of a child star. Loss of innocence and coming of age theme are superbly executed in this film, too. This is cinema at its best.

Date seen: January 8, 2013

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Book No. 2 (2013): THE GARLIC BALLADS

The Garlic Ballads (a novel by Mo Yan)

This is my first Mo Yan (2012 Nobel Prize in Literature).

The writing style and story-telling technique the author used in this book can make the reader engaged until the last page. But the story is depressing, which kept me from reading it continuously, otherwise I would be exhausted doing so. It can really captivate the reader.

The novel exposes, in a fictional form, the excesses of the Communist rule through the experiences of the garlic farmers of the fictional Paradise county. At the start of the novel, several people (mostly farmers) suspected of involvement in a riot that caused the destruction a government office are captured. While inside jail, the prisoners experience unimaginable humiliation. Most of the narrative in the novel, which jumps back and forth in time, dwell on the gruesome experiences of the prisoners under local government officials, the events leading to the prisoners' arrest, and the prisoners' everyday living as farmers.

There is a love story in the novel, however it is overshadowed by greed, violence, and other horror that are all over the pages the book.

Date read: January 6, 2013

Rating: 4.5/5

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Movie No. 11 (2013): THY WOMB

Thy Womb (2012)
Director: Brillante Mendoza
Cast. Nora Aunor, Bembol Roco, Lovi Poe
In Tagalog and Badjao dialect, with English subtitles

This film is the odd man out in the 2012 edition of Metro Manila Film Festival, which, in the recent years, had showcased blockbuster films that are trash (pardon my word). The tail-end finish of Thy Womb in the ranking (in terms of ticket sales) was expected because no ordinary MMFF patrons would want to be bothered with questions and realism that a film like Thy Womb would suggest. They just wanted to be entertained. That's fair enough. But, declaring Sisterakas to be better than Thy Womb is something only dumb-brains can make. Do they really believe that? I don't need to watch Sisterakas to say it's a worthless film. 

Much has been said about Thy Womb. And this is my take: The film is brilliant despite some flaws, although I'm not sure if the flaws that I noticed are intentional. For example: the dizzying camera work in some scenes. I was actually convincing myself it was done on purpose to make the people watching the film as if they were in the scene, and that's how their eyes would move while observing things. It it's the case, bravo!

The best thing about the film (which others found off) is how the director takes time in telling the story. Some may find it too slow, but, for me, it's a technique to put the audience there. I think this is the so-called realism.. Nora Aunor and Bembol Roco have effortlessly blended themselves among the real Badjao people. I never saw Nora Aunor in the film (nor Bembol Roco). I only saw and felt Shaleha and Bangas-an. The use and non-use of lighting, I guess, would be to emphasize or hide emotions since in almost the entirety of the film, emotions are only depicted on the characters' face (particularly Shaleha's). 

The story is very simple: a barren midwife in a Badjao village is in search of a young, fertile woman that her husband will marry because she couldn't bear a child. In the process, we see a glimpse of the lives of the Badjaos. 

And what's that ending? Whatever it is, it's heartbreaking and sad!

Date seen: January 6, 2013

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Monday, January 7, 2013

Movie No. 10 (2013): ONLY YESTERDAY

Only Yesterday (1991)
Director: Isao Takahata
Cast (voice): Miki Imai, Toshiro Yanagiba
In Japanese, with English subtitles

Taeko, a 27-year-old office worker in Tokyo, takes a break from a job that almost burns her out. She yearns for the countryside, and decides to spend some time in a farm in Yamagata Prefecture, where her sister lives. On her way to the country side, excitement about helping pick safflower from which a pigment for red lipstick is produced and her memories as a stubborn 10-year-old alternately preoccupy her.

This is an animated film from the world-renowned Studio Ghibli in Japan. Isao Takahata (director of Grave of the Fireflies) and Hayao Miyazaki (as producer) made this film happen. What I like most about the film is the Bermanesque style (minus the angst) that is infused in some scenes, which actually worked to elicit the feeling of nostalgia and longing. I would say, had Bergman made an animated film with a happy ending, it could be this film. I can also sense some Ozu.

This film, by the way, just like Grave of the Fireflies, could easily be made as live action. But, in the animation format, it's just as good, in fact better, despite that it's not a fantasy film. 

I really enjoyed this film, particularly the scene shown in the still picture. And, the pineapple scene, too!

Date seen: January 5, 2013

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Book No. 1 (2013): SIN

SIN (a novel by F. Sionil Jose)

Business tycoon, Don Carlos Cobello, lying in his deathbed, paralyzed, looks back on his life - from his initiation in his father's private brothel during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines to his rise as the heir of an expansive business empire (until) during Martial Law years. 

This novel reads like a fictional indictment of the power play of the rich during those times. The author writes it simple and direct, so that the horrors of the times, the guilt of the characters, and the scandalous liaisons are easily conveyed to the reader.

This is one of those literary works written by a Filipino that really deserve to be read. 

Date read: January 6, 2013

Rating: 4.5/5.0

Movie No. 9 (2013): LA COLLECTIONNEUSE

La Collectionneuse (1967)
Director: Eric Rohmer
Cast: Patrick Bauchau, Haydee Politoff
In French, with English subtitles

The titular character in this film is Haydee, a collector of men, so to say, because she sleeps with different men each night. But the main character is an art dealer (Adrien), who resists Haydee's seduction, trying to be loyal to his English model girl, who he claims to be his true love. With the aim of doing just nothing, Adrien spends vacation in a seaside villa in the country; he shares it with his friend (Daniel, a painter) and Haydee (a girl, unknown to them at the start of the film). 

La Collectionneuse is the fourth film in Eric Rohmer's Six Moral Tales, and the second film in the collection that I've seen, so far (the first being Claire's Knee, the fifth film). It is said that the Six Moral Tales are all about fragile men and the women who tempt them with each tale's denouement being inevitable as a result of the characters' actions.

Like most of Eric Rohmer's films, La Collectionneuse is talky. The dialogues in the screenplay (which are honest but, at times, sarcastic or sly or funny or witty or derisive or insightful or ...) have always been the major strength of any of his films, in addition to the landscape at the backdrop, which itself is a character.

Date seen: January 5, 2013

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Movie No. 8 (2013): LIVE FLESH

Live Flesh a.k.a. Carne Tremula (1997)
Director: Pedro Almodovar
Cast: Javier Bardem, Liberto Rabal, Francesca Neri
In Spanish, with English subtitles

This tragicomedy from Almodovar lacks the screaming irreverence and wackiness that some of his great films are known for. However, such absence does not make Live Flesh a lesser film. Live Flesh, which has been adapted from a bestseller by Ruth Rendell, qualifies as thriller-romance kind film. And it's really entertaining.

The main character in the film is Victor, who stalks Elena after a one-night stand encounter. In the next face-to-face encounter of Victor with Elena, two police officers are called in. This four-way encounter leads to one of the police officers being (accidentally) shot causing him to be crippled forever. Victor gets jailed. And the lives of the other three others in the encounter change forever. Then a few years later, Victor is released from jail. And the drama begins. Or, should I say, continues?

Date seen: January 4, 2013

Rating: 3.0/4.0


The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012)
Director: John Madden
Cast: Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith, Dev Patel

With different reasons in tow, seven British retirees fly to India to kill time in what has been advertised as  a newly restored old hotel. It turns out that the hotel is not what they're expected it to be. Days pass, they go in their own respective businesses while in India; they do not notice that they are being changed by the experience of just being there.

The best thing about the movie is the great ensemble acting. Despite its some moments of conflicts, subtle melodrama, and necessary tragedy, the movie is really fun to watch.

"Everything will be all right in the end. If it's not all right, it's not yet the end."

Date seen: January 4, 2013

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Movie No. 6 (2013): TORN CURTAIN

Torn Curtain (1966)
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Cast: Paul Newman, Julie Andrews

Straight from an international convention in Copenhagen, held in a cruise ship (during the Cold War), American physicist Michael Armstrong flies to East Germany, where he's met by government representatives. Suspecting that Armstrong has defected to the other side, his fiancee follows him. What happens in East Germany is full of intrigue and suspense, just like in any Hitchcock movies, the director's trademark. This may not be among the great director's greatest works, but it's still worth-seeing, particularly if you're a fan of the director or of the genre.

Date seen: January 1, 2013

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Movie No. 5 (2013): CERTIFIED COPY

Certified Copy (2010)
Director: Abbas Kiarostami
Cast: Juliette Binoche
In French, Italian, and English, with English subtitles

A middle aged British writer promotes his latest non-fiction book called Certified Copy in Tuscany. There  he meets a woman who tours him in the small but 'artistic' village of Lucignano before he leaves at 9:00 pm that same day. The strength of this film is in the dialogue between the two main characters, which started as exchange of opinions about reproduction of art pieces and the ideas discussed in the book and ends in one attacking the other.

If Woody Allen had directed Before Sunrise / Before Sunset, this could be the product. And, I mean, it's a good thing.

Juliette Binoche won Best Actress at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival for her now-playful-now-touchy character in this film.

Date seen: January 1, 2013

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Movie No. 4 (2013): THE ROAD

The Road (2011)
Director: Yam Laranas
Cast: TJ Trinidad, Carmina Villarroel, Marvin Agustin, Rhian Ramos, Alden Richards
In Tagalog, with Englsih subtitles

This was the movie every GMA artists had enthusiastically promoted in 2011 due to its allegedly international appeal and artistry. True enough, it looks like one of those forgettable Hollywood scare movies. 

The movie is supposed to scare. But I find it boring. At some points when the movie should elicit scare from the audience, I was almost speechless finding reasons to be scared to no avail.

The story line is very basic, something that you may have seen in some movies you've seen in the past. However, the movie has some strong points, too. One: the cinematography is admirable for it captures the character of the the road leading to the old house where most of the actions happen. Two: the twist in the ending did (really) work. But these don't save the movie.

Date seen: January 1, 2013

Rating: 1.5/4.0

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Movie No. 3 (2013): JOURNEY TO THE SUN

Journey To The Sun (1999)
Director: Yesim Ustaoglu
Cast: Newroz Baz, Nazmi Kirik
In Kurdish and Turkish, with English subtitles

The highlight of the film is the 'journey' of Mehmet as he 'takes home' his friend Berzan from Istanbul to a remove village near the Iraqi border. But events leading to that journey make us understand what these two friends have been going through after migrating to Istanbul from different parts of Turkey. One locates leaking water pipes as a living, the other sells music cassette tapes. One is wrongfully arrested for carrying a gun, the other a member of Kurdish terrorist underground. But they find each other and become good friends.

The films is almost like a documentary on human rights, living conditions of migrant workers, and Turkish government's prosecution of Kurds. Despite others dismissing this film for its theme, I find this absorbing until the final scene, which itself is a visual poetry.

Date seen: January 1, 2013

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Movie No. 2 (2013): ARBITRAGE

Arbitrage (2012)
Director: Nicholas Jarecki
Cast: Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth

Richard Gere is Robert Miller, a successful businessman who's desperate to seal a contract to sell his trading empire before the fraud he has committed is exposed. Also, he seems to have a perfect family life despite his keeping an art dealer as mistress. But something unexpected happens, an incident  that can jeopardize his plans. He forms an unlikely alliance to cover this incident.

The film, while having been transformed into a thriller after the incident, is a powerful character study, or maybe a morality tale. Richard Gere is perfect for the role. He delivered a sustained performance that deserves praise.

Date Seen: January 1, 2013

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Movie No. 1 (2013): THE DEEP BLUE SEA

The Deep Blue Sea (2011)
Director: Terence Davies
Cast: Rachel Weisz

The film was made in 2011 but released in the US (only) in the first quarter of 2012. So, Rachel Weisz got the Best Actress from the 2012 New York Film Critics Circle Awards. It's without a doubt that Rachel Weisz performance as a judge's suicidal wife who has an extra-marital affair with a RAF pilot is really outstanding. She disappeared into her character. Another thing to note about the movie is the exquisite cinematography that captured the gloom of this love triangle set during the 1950s. 

Date seen: January 1, 2013

Rating: 3.5/4.0