Thursday, December 24, 2015

Movie No. 71 (2015): ROOM

Room (2015)
Director: Lenny Abrahamnson
Cast: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, William H. Macy, Joan Allen

Room is based on the Booker Prize - shortlisted novel of Emma Donoghue, who also writes the screenplay. The narrative is very original, which is rare for movies these days, despite the theme that it tackles - the boundless love between mother and son. Ironically, this takes place inside a confined space Jack calls room where he's been living with his mother he calls Ma since his birth five years ago. Neither Ma nor Jack has the key. A frequent visitor keeps the He has no idea of the world outside the room. He believes that the things he sees on TV (yes, they have TV in the room) are only make-believe. He's no complaints of the everyday routine as long as Ma and her undivided attention toward him are there. But, now that he's five, his mother starts to explain the reality that the're actually prisoners in that room and outside it are real people, trees, dogs, etc. Jack refuses to believe it. 

I'm not gonna go into details. But they manage to get out eventually. For both Jack and Ma, to be outside the room is another challenge to deal with.

Larson's and Tremblay's are among the most heartbreaking performances I've seen on screen. The movie succeeds in making us feel the claustrophobia in that room as a result of some people's mindless commitment of evil deeds against innocent people. This reminds me of Life Is Beautiful, where the child sees the ugly world he's in as a play ground as long as his father is with him.

Great movie!

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: December 24, 2015

Movie No. 70 (2015): EX_MACHINA

Ex_Machina (2015)
Director: Alex Garland
Cast: Oscar Isaac, Alicia, Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, Sonoya, Mizuno

Caleb, a programmer at a giant internet-search company, wins an internal competition whose prize is a week stay  in the secluded estate of the the company's reclusive CEO, Nathan Bateman. But, as soon as he arrives in the estate, Caleb learns from Nathan that he will be the human component of a Turing test on Ava (Nathan's current A.I. project); he's charged of evaluating the capabilities and consciousness of Ava through seven interactive sessions. 

This is a science fiction movie, hence, special effects are inevitable. I'm always critical of movies that are merely showcase of latest advancements and ideas in special effects, sacrificing the narrative along the way. But, Ex_Machina, in my opinion, uses special effects when and where they are needed to enhance the narrative. The movie cares about character study and examination of "humanity" or almost lack of it in the midst of a scientific and technological breakthrough. It can be cerebral, which is among the beauties of the movie. The "thriller" effect of the movie, while subtle, is enduring. On another level, it can be disturbing, but intelligent.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: December 24, 2015

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Movie No. 69 (2015): SICARIO

Sicario (2015)
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin
In English and (occasional) Spanish (with English subtitles)

An idealistic FBI agent (Emily Blunt), a government task force office (Josh Brolin), and an former prosecutor are on an operation in a lawless Mexican town where drug trafficking is rampant and bursting gun fires are everyday occurrence. 

There's a lot of good things about the movie, which saves it from being a cliche due to the fact that there were several movies in the past that also used the same platform. For one, the cinematography is stunning. That the performances are sharp is another thing. Then, the script, though gritty, is fluid, with a jaw-dropping twist, which has been translated into screen aided by competent direction. 

I can't say the movie is enjoyable because of its theme. But, it really is accomplished an accomplished movie.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: December 22, 2015

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Movie No. 68 (2015): A MOMENT TO REMEMBER

A Moment To Remember (2004)
Director: John H. Lee
Cast: Jung Woo-Sung, Sohn Ye-Jin
In Korean, with English subtitles

Sujin's lover stood her up at the train station. Next scene: she ended up in a convenience store where, due to her impending affliction she's not aware of, she met Choi in some awkward situation. At this point, it was expected that Sujin and Choi were the central characters of the movie. Otherwise, what would be that scene for?

Indeed, the movie's narrative moved forward with the two characters' relationship also moving forward. Conspicuously, Sujin's affliction also slowly advanced. A shadow of her past crept back. These developments were perfect for a melodrama. The movie almost didn't attempt at shying away from it (in most scenes). On the contrary, it fully embraced the genre. This decision was not totally a bad thing. In fact, it made the movie really involving, entertaining, and heartbreaking. 

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: November 30, 2015

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Movie No. 67 (2015): ADAM'S APPLES

Adam's Apples (2007)
Director: Anders Thomas Jensen
Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Ulrich, Nicolas Bro, Ali Kazim, Paprika Steen
In Danish, with English subtitles

A preacher (Ivan) in a remote church has a penchant for adopting criminals on parole, giving them odd jobs of their choice, on the hope that they reform. At the moment, he has two: a vindictive and trigger-happy Saudi immigrant (Khalid) and an ex-tennis pro (Gunnar), who is alcoholic. A third case arrives. He is Adam, a neo-Nazi who has connections with local gangsters. Ivan asks Adam what he wants to do; Adam replies sarcastically that he wants to bake apple cakes. Ivan approves and entrusts to Adam the apple trees that, at the moment, are riddled with unripe fruits.

But birds and worms start to devour the fruits. This event triggers different reactions from Ivan, Adam, Khalid and Gunnar, which will make us get a closer look at their characters. Ivan, being overly optimistic, dismisses it as a mere test. Adam, surprised at the Ivan's level of optimism, takes upon himself to make Ivan realize that life is not as simple as that. 

The Book of Job is an obvious reference to the 'trials' that Ivan endures. The movie is almost perfect if not for some excesses. The black comedy treatment works well for the movie. All the actors perform well. Cinematography is a demonstration of how art in science are balanced in composition of practically every important scene.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date scene: November 30, 2015