"Dreams feel real while we're in them. It's only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange." -Inception

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Movie Review: No

One of this year’s nominees of best foreign film from Chile at the Oscars, No is one of those based-on-real-life events that seems scripted. Except it isn’t.  This slice of history from a tumultuous period of Chilean history when the referendum to either retain or boot General Pinochet from power came down to two simple words: Yes or No. Each side is given 15 minutes of TV air time for nearly a month to present their view. A vote for yes means another 8 years of Pinochet. 

Rene Saavedra (Gael Garcia Bernal), an adman who is considered one of the best in his field, is approached by the ‘No’ campaign to helm it.  He is hesitant at first but gets pulled into the challenge when he sees what they have. The campaign is made up of real testimonies which are harsh and somber.  Saavedra’s idea is a bit different.  He wants to sell democracy as a product and not everyone is on board with it.

Filming secretly as not to reveal the identities of the ‘No’ supporters and without revealing their campaign, they come up with an ode to happiness complete with a logo featuring a rainbow behind the word no.  There’s even a catchy song which you will be humming by the end of the film.  The ‘Yes’ campaign doesn’t take this lying down and trying to create similar ads to attack them.  Renee, a single father, is threatened and worries for the safety of his activist ex-wife.  

The ‘No’ campaign slowly gains momentum as the word on the street begins to shift in their favour. In the beginning, the ‘No’ campaign just wants the world to be informed of the truth.  But as the days pass, they begin to think that they can actually win.  The film is shot on low definition 80s video so as to seamlessly blend with the actual footage of the period and it’s a decision that really sells home the idea of history coming to life.  

Like eventual Best Picture winner Argo, I’m sure No too has many embellishments and exaggerations for the sake of film but the fact of the matter remains that the ad campaign was also an important part of the movement that allowed for democratic elections.  Director Pablo Lorrain has made a wonderfully engaging  film that will make you want to check out the real story behind the big vote. Make sure you say yes to No

Directed by Pablo Lorrain; Screenplay by Pablo Lorrain; Based on the play by Antonio Skarmeta; Cinematography by Sergio Armstrong; Editing by Andrea Chignoli; Music by Carlos Cabezas.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Divergent Teaser Trailer

Wow, the Divergent trailer brought its A-game by reminding us that Kate Winslet's in it and also by showing the first look of her character Jeanine Matthews, the leader of Erudite.  The dystopian action thriller also shows us the dynamic between Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) and really emphasizes Tris' uniqueness in a world where everyone has to conform.  We've got ourselves a new franchise in hand.  Divergent, directed by Neil Burger, will hit theaters March 2014. 

Movie Review: Warm Bodies

You’ve heard of rom-coms of course, but Warm Bodies was a first for me, a zom rom-com.  Yes, even zombies can feel  remorse and fall in love. I know that now after watching this film.  It shows us the other side of the equation, a film from the zombie’s perspective.  It was about time.  This is a refreshing change from the rest of the movies in which a zombie is just part of a nameless lumbering, unthinking mass army.   

Nicholas Hoult is awkward yet adorable as the confused ‘R’, a corpse on his way to becoming a zombie.  In the film’s universe, there are three categories, humans, corpses and Bonies who are literally feral skeletons who are out for blood. R’s life in limbo is dramatically altered one day when he meets Julie (Theresa Palmer) during an encounter of humans vs. corpses.  He saves her from being eaten and brings her back to his home (an abandoned airplane) where like Wall-E, he hoards objects and knick-knacks that fascinate him.  He, of course, is slowly falling in love with her and Julie comes to discover that not all corpses have lost their humanity.

The film is a clever take on the classic tale of Shakespeare’s star-crossed romance.  It’s set in a dystopian world where the zombie epidemic has left very few human survivors and the few that are left alive are quarantined off.  Julie’s father Colonel Grigio (John Malkovich) is the paranoid and overprotective leader of the few that remain. Julie’s and R’s friends Nora (Analeigh Tipton) and M (Rob Corddry) are more than just the clich├ęd best friend even as they add to the comic relief in the film.  R’s narration of his inner thoughts is witty and ultimately touching.  The film also has a terrific soundtrack.  I really enjoyed this new take on the rom-coms. I say, bring it on! I’m looking at you now, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. 

Directed by Jonathan Levine; Screenplay by Jonathan Levine; Based on the novel by Isaac Marion; Cinematography by Javier Aguirresarobe; Editing by Nancy Richardson; Music by Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders


Monday, August 26, 2013

Movie Review: Safety Not Guaranteed

I have a strange affinity for time travel films.  It doesn't have to be overtly about them but if it's woven neatly and smartly in any story, I'm sold. Which is why it was such a pleasure to watch Safety Not Guaranteed, one of the most original and sweetest films I've seen this year.  Jeff (Jake Johnson) pitches an idea at Seattle magazine to find out the story behind an classified ad that reads: Wanted - Someone to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You'll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. I have only done this once before. Safety Not Guaranteed. I don't know about you, but I would be completely intrigued too.

Jake takes along two interns, Darius (Aubrey Plaza) and Arnau (Karan Soni) with him to track down the person who wrote the ad.  It turns out that Jake has a hidden agenda in pursuing this story, he used to summer when he was in high school in the town of Ocean View and was in love with a local girl. He now feels she was the one that got away.  Darius takes the lead on the story, initiating contact with Kenneth (Mark Duplass) who posted the ad. 

What follows next is both unexpected and charming in the twists and turns the story takes. The characters are all well-written. Jake is trying to capture his lost youth, Arnau is too busy worrying about his future to enjoy his present and Darius is getting over some painful memories of her past. Paranoid Kenneth may be the only one who is actually quite sure what his path is.  Director Colin Trevorrow and screenwriter Derek Connolly turn in sharp, funny and engaging film that I'm adding to my list of best films that I've seen this year. 

Directed by Colin Trevorrow; Written by Derek Connolly; Cinematography by Benjamin Kasulke; Editing by Joe Landauer and Franklin Peterson; Music by Ryan Miller


Movie Review: Barfi!

I missed this film when it initially released in theaters but finally watched it last month. There's no doubt that Ranbir Kapoor is one of the finest actors in India presently.  His portrayal of Barfi is incredibly sweet and selfless.  Barfi is a devil-may-care young man who lives life to the fullest in 1970s Darjeeling.  He also happens to be deaf and mute but doesn't let that get in his way.  Enter Shruti (Ileana D'Cruz), a young woman vacationing before her engagement.  Barfi and Shruti fall in love but he realizes that her family won't accept him so he gives her up.  Eventually an old childhood friend Jhilmil (Priyanka Chopra) reappears in his life and he gets involved in some hilarious and madcap schemes all the way to Calcutta.  Barfi then has to fight for reunite with the love of his life.

The film was India's submission for the foreign film category at the 2013 Oscars and while it is entertaining and endearing, at places it gets over long and confusing with multiple flashbacks.  Ranbir Kapoor is the main reason to watch the film as he will bring to mind some of the antics of silent movie comedy actors like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. Barfi! liberally 'borrows' scene inspirations from movies like The Notebook and Singin' in the Rain. If you've seen those movies, it might dampen your experience, knowing what's coming next. 

Directed by Anurag Basu; Written by Anurag Basu and Sanjeev Datta; Cinematography by S. Ravi Varman; Editing by Akiv Ali; Music by Pritam


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Ben Affleck is the new Batman!

"Ben Affleck, you've just won your second Oscar. What are you going to do now?"

"I'm Batman."

Folks, Ben Affleck is your new Batman. This is no joke.  Affleck is the new caped crusader of Gotham city for the Man of Steel sequel in which Batman faces off against Superman. Coming his huge Best Picture win with Argo this year, no one could predict that they saw this startling announcement coming. Looks like he was serious when he announced at the DGAs (when he won the night's big prize for best director) and in front of the roomful of some of the top directors that he was still available for roles.

Affleck is not forsaking his acting career for directing as yet. He still on board to direct and star (like Argo) in the film adaptation of Dennis Lehane's novel Live by Night and act in another book adaptation, Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl to be directed by David Fincher which will also release in 2015.

2015 is going to be huge year for Hollywood.  Disney alone has The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Star Wars: Episode VII, two Pixar features Inside Out and Finding Dory, the fifth Pirates of the Caribbean, Cinderella and the bonus Marvel film Ant-Man.  Whew! Meanwhile, Universal Pictures has Jurassic Park 4 and Paramount Pictures has Terminator 5.  Warner Bros. needs a lot of muscle to go up against these films and who better than the biggest superheroes in the world, Batman and Superman in the same film?  I'm guessing this will be launching pad for the long rumored Justice League franchise as well. 

I don't doubt that Affleck is bad actor.  I have held my actor stock in Affleck throughout the years from Forces of Nature to Pearl Harbor to Surviving Christmas to Hollywoodland and beyond.  Remember, he has tackled a superhero film before with Daredevil who's popularity lead to spin-off film for his wife, Jennifer Garner, who played Elektra instead.  My worry is that it's too soon to be launching and rebooting the Batman universe (and to include Superman) right after Christopher Nolan's masterful The Dark Knight trilogy.  Those films will stand the test of time. And Christian Bale's Batman lead other actors to believe that they too could merge critical success with the box-office in a superhero film.

Director Zack Snyder insists that this older and wiser Batman will bring an "interesting counter-balance" to the younger Superman.  Summer 2015 is still two years away.  We will have time to process and the scheme of the films lined up for 2015, this matchup of Batman vs. Superman won't seem as surprising as it does now.  What were your thoughts when you first heard the news?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Around the World in Posters: X-Men, Saving Mr. Banks, How To Train Your Dragon 2 and more!

 I would watch any movie of Rooney Mara's, I find her choice of movie roles fascinating. 
 Here she is in Ain't Them Bodies Saints.

How do I get myself one of those T-shirts? 
Keri Russell plays out the ultimate Jane Austen fantasy in Austenland.

 I love this busy comic poster of The To Do List.

Beautiful poster of Saving Mr. Banks with Walt Disney and P.J. Travers
alongside their creations, Mickey Mouse and Mary Poppins.

 More posters of X-Men, Don Jon, Saving Mr. Banks, Diana and more after the cut!

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