Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Movie No. 200 (2013): SAVING MR. BANKS

Saving Mr. Banks (2013)
Director: John Lee Hancock
Cast: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Colin Farrell, Paul Giamatti

Mary Poppins almost didn't make it to its screen adaptation. This film tells the untold story of Walt Disney's herculean task to convince P.L. Travers, the headstrong writer who created the Mary Poppins character in her books, to sell him the rights to film Mary Poppins. 

The film is generally funny as it is sweet and delightful to watch. Emma Thompson gives an A+ performance. Tom Hanks is likable as Walt Disney. The rest of the cast also do well. 

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: December 31, 2013

Movie No. 199 (2013): A BAREFOOT DREAM

A Barefoot Dream (2010)
Director: Kim Tae-gyun
Cast: Park Hee-soon, Ko Chang-seok
In Korean, Portuguese and Japanese with English subtitles

Mr. Kim, a retired professional soccer player, ends up visiting East Timor after a series of failed business attempts. Partly, he's into hiding from his creditors in Seoul. Immediately, he senses a business opportunity after seeing local kids playing soccer barefoot on dusty and pebbly pitches. He opens a store for sports goods that locals can't afford. Then he comes up with a scheme to lure the kids into buying his cleats on a ridiculous but generous installment plan. Things don't go as planned and, before he realizes it, he's already coaching the kids, giving them hope to compete in an international meet.

Movies like this are expected to be inspiring, especially that it's based on a true story. The occasional melodramatic scenes do not dilute the film's art. What makes the film even better is the tackling of internal issues of the troubled past of the East Timor that's reflected in some important characters. 

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: December 31, 2013

Movie No. 198 (2013): FRUITVALE STATION

Fruitvale Station (2013)
Directort: Ryan Coogler
Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer

On the first day (or first hour) of 2009, a 22-year-old young African-American who lived in the Bay Area was unjustly shot while having an argument with a police officer at the Fruitvale Station. This film is the dramatization of the events leaving to that incident.

As a film based on a true story, it gives an intimate glimpse of Oscar's complex but troubled psyche as a young father. This is the most notable thing from the movie that's worth the experience of seeing it.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: December 30, 2013

Monday, December 30, 2013

Movie No. 197 (2013): GLORIA

Gloria (2013)
Director: Sebastian Lelio
Cast: Paulina Garcia, Sergio Hernandez
In Spanish, with yellow English subtitles

Sometimes love's just ain't enough. But for a couple, a woman in his mid-50's and a man some years older than her, a "new relationship" is worth giving a try. They're both divorcees with grown-up children from previous marriage. The woman is Gloria, a richly layered character that, when carefully and meticulously played, can potentially give the actress am acting award. Paulina Garcia as Gloria gets the Best Actress plum from this year's Berlin Film Festival.  

I've seen movies about old couple in love. In a lot of cases, the romance is presented as cutesy. This movie avoids that manipulation. Instead, the movie tackles some realistic constraints with realistic extrapolations of such constraints' effects on the couple's relationship. It's quite clear that the couple are the type that refuse to disappear in the picture now that they're no longer young. This given adds another dimension to the movie's milieu. I like the way the movie opens with Gloria dancing in a crowd of strangers and the it way ends showing Gloria (still) dancing in a party of friends and strangers. On the one hand, I find the movie depressing; on the other, it's liberating.

This movie is Chile's entry in the Best Foreign Language Film category of the 86th Academy Awards.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: December 30, 2013

Friday, December 27, 2013

Movie No. 196 (2013): RUSH

Rush (2013)
Director: Ron Howard
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl

I know practically nothing about Formula 1 racing. I don't find it interesting. I didn't know Rush is about the real-life rivalry of two celebrities of this sport (if you call it sport) during the 1970s. Despite these given, however, I find the Ron Howard-directed film thrilling, while avoiding triteness in the drama. The two main characters are presented as human, with all their vulnerabilities, and not as fancy heroes. In addition to superb editing, Daniel Bruhl's performance is something to take note of.

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: December 26, 2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Movie No. 195 (2013): FROZEN

Frozen (2013)
Director: Chris Buck / Jennifer Lee
Voice Cast: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel

"The Snow Queen" casts a spell trapping her entire kingdom in eternal winter. The queen's sister, Anna, believing the queen has a good heart after all, teams up with the "ice man" and a bunch of misfits (a reindeer, a talking snowman, and trolls) to find the queen and put an end to her spell. The usual thing like only true love can save the day is part of the story's formula. Of course, there's scheme of betrayal on the side. But the most interesting thing about the movie is the "true love" twist itself.

Nice movie. Entertaining. But, there's nothing so special about it. The musical numbers are so out of place. The film can be better without them. It left me cold.

Rating: 2.5/4.0

Date seen: December 24, 2013


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Movie No. 194 (2013): GRAVITY

Gravity (2013)
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Cast: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney

One thing I'm in so much agreement with the movie, especially with the character Dr. Ryan projected: When you're desperate, or can't do anything about the ugly situation you get tangled in, you just let it be, and whether your survive in one piece or get burned alive, it'll be one hell of a ride.

Trust me, the movie, which, in a way, is like a gravity appreciation visual aid in a physics class, is one hell of a story. There are only two characters: Dr. Ryan (Sandra Bullock) and Lt. Kowalski (George Clooney). This is the very first time that I really appreciate Sandra Bullock's thespian prowess in effectively acting out the mortal fear in Dr. Ryan's head as she's trying everything to survive the space mishap. George Clooney (or his character) is so endearing and admirable as an astronaut in his last space walk. The movie had taken me to the edge of my seat after the first 15 or 20 minutes of characterization phase to the last scene before the end credits. Again, it's one hell of a ride. 

Alfonso Cuaron, one of the most under appreciated directors, certainly deserves a recognition for his work here. While I consider this as his most ambitious and best film, so far, his other great films are still worth mentioning, like Y Tu Mama Tambien, A Little PrincessChildren of Men and The Prisoner of Azkaban.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: December 15, 2013