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Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Normal Heart

When HBO announced that there will be no Game of Thrones for Memorial Day, I was sad to hear that news. What they offer is a made for TV movie of The Normal Heart based on the play of the same name written by Larry Kramer, who also wrote the teleplay for the adaptation.

The events take place during the disease crisis of 1981 when cases of AIDS first surfaced. The story follows the character of Ned Weeks who is a gay activist trying to get the attention of the public and the government of a looming plague that affects mostly homosexual men. The struggle does not primarily focused on their efforts to be heard but with themselves too. The discrimination towards gay men is heavily featured.

Ryan Murphy (Glee, American Horror Story) helms this film in great precision in story telling making his viewers empathized with the characters. While most of the actors that were involved in the project are gay, Mark Ruffalo rises up as Ned Weeks. He delivers his character as if we can feel his loneliness to the cause he is trying to fight for. Julia Roberts as Dr. Emma Brookner has delivered one of the most affecting monologue in the film.

This might be one of the most important film of the year that tackles social issues faced by homosexuals and those who are living with AIDS not only from the time of the disease crisis but up to the present time. While some may dismiss this film saying that it mainly targets the LGBT community, I would say that this film is meant for those who are not part of the community. The film practically shown what is in the LGBT community without hesitation.

The films succeeds in delivering the most important events that it can struct your heart through and through. While it is somewhat preachy, it does not fail to get to the point. There is a message into this film. A message that not only gay men and women should know but to all - that the disease is not the personality but the perception that goes around. That AIDS is the disease and not the people who are infected by it.


Much has changed since 1981. There were treatments for AIDS but not a cure has been discovered. Yet, the disease that the society has against the condition and the people that has them is even worse than the condition itself. The film tries to undo that notion and in my own perception it has succeeded in that aspect.

The Normal Heart is brave and bold. A must watch for everyone. A complete eye-opener that eventually leads to an open heart.

GRADE: A+

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Maleficent

Since the release of Sleeping Beauty in 1959, Maleficent has been recognized as one of the most chilling villain from a roster of Disney films.This year is Maleficent's year as Angelina Jolie tackles one of the most iconic villains of all time. 
The film is a retelling of the Grimm fairy tale Sleeping Beauty with the primary focus on the villain. The original tale did not dwell on the back story of Maleficent and how her evil came into being. With this, the crew has a wide range of stories to be weaved on the character. 

As a fairy, Maleficent is well loved by the creatures around her land which is separated from the kingdoms of men. This magical land is constantly pursued however they fail for each attempt. Everything changed when Maleficent fell in love with a human and was betrayed. All of this led to the events that occurred in Sleeping Beauty with a twist. 

The film, magical as it is, laid flat on some of the scenes particularly on its first few minutes. Director Robert Stromberg somehow was looking for his footing on those first few scenes but managed to get back on his feet when Jolie came into the screen. The Cursing Scene is a definite gem and I was really happy that they took the lines from the 1959 version. 

Oh. I just love my cheek bones.
The magic actually happened from the time that Maleficent became evil and then the events that would change on how you knew the story about Aurora and Maleficent. There were a quite a few changes in this version as compared to the 1959. The fairies Flora, Fauna and Merryweather were had their names changed to Knotgrass, Thistletwit and Flittle. Alng with their names, the fairies are quite different from their animated counterparts. Aurora's name was not changed to Briar Rose. The list goes on but it was quite justified due to its retelling.

First time director Robert Stromberg is known for his works on Alice in Wonderland, Avatar and Oz, The Great and Powerful as its Special Effects Artist and Designer. His work for Maleficent is not note-worthy if not for the exemplary performance from his cast. The designs are not impeccable compared to his previous works but it will just entail that there is still a lot of room for improvement.

Shh. I'm the executive producer.

Fans of the series, Once Upon A Time, will find the story line to be quite familiar and will not be entirely surprised with how the film has ended. 

I'm actually Dakota's sister. 
For more than 70 years, Disney has placed a standard for all young girls on their concept of true love based from a hundred years worth of literature provided by the Brothers Grimm. Somehow, for the past year, they are trying to redefine this concept following the release of Frozen. Maleficent follows that trend and somehow this is much more realistic than the fairy tales that we used to hear, read and see in movies. Maleficent is well rounded because of the cast's portrayal, but without it, it may have failed in epic proportions.

GRADE: B+

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past


After Spiderman, X-Men is just one of the movies I am totally psyched. My childhood is made up of Friday evening cartoon primarily of The X-Men. This year, Bryan Singer is back since X2 and we welcome him once again. Will this new film be a hit or a miss?

Set in the near future, the mutants and humans alike are targeted by the Sentinels. These machines are primarily designed to target the mutants only, however things changed and somehow took dominion in all life forms. The X-Men are transformed to fugitives transferring from one location to another to survive. One last hope is for Wolverine to travel back to 1973 to alter history and change its course as most of them knows.

Following the events that occurred after X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men: First Class, Days of Future Past is a fast-paced time traveling bonanza that brings Bryan Singer to what he is born to do. When Singer left the franchise to direct Superman Returns, he left the fate of the beloved mutants in the hands of Brett Ratner which sadly turned it into a lackluster film which did not capture the complex nature of the characters. Watching Bryan Singer helm this superhero film can make you feel how comfortable he is with the material as well as his connection with the actors. There is never a dull moment in the film as he injects well placed humor and even a great action sequence that would be considered the best of the year so far.

Yeah! We still kick ass!!!!
The characters are well rounded and fully motivated. And while we can see how this film undo the past of the characters, one can just say to totally forget what Brett Ratner did with The Last Stand. Fans will be bumping their fist up in the air before the end credits will roll and will exclaim how great this film is.

Brilliantly crafted and acted by the leads, X-Men: DOFP boasts of solid performances. James McAvoy provides an effective Professor X and can still stand with Michael Fassenbender in terms of delivery. Jennifer Lawrence did not disappoint fans as Raven/Mystique. She owned the character. While I was looking for Rebecca Romijn for a cameo, Lawrence did all the work and finally forgotten all about her. The old cast did well in each frame they are in. Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Shawne Ashmore and Halle Berry are a sight for this new film. Peter Dinklage as Dr. Trask is a pivotal nemesis and certainly earned the part.

The complete set of characters, attempting to change Brett Ratner's... i mean the past.

No superhero movie since Batman's The Dark Knight that I was left completely satisfied. It goes with saying that the director is one of the primary movers on how the franchise would go. Nolan was born to direct Batman, Sam Raimi for Spiderman and Bryan Singer is meant to grace the silver screen with his X-Men.

X-Men: DOFP is a revival a breath of fresh air for a stretched franchise. This will not disappoint its loyal fanbase and would be screaming for more. Just stay for the end credits scene and you will have a glimpse of En Sabah Nur or better known as Apocalypse.

GRADE: A+

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Godzilla (2014)

It's been 15 years since Roland Emmerich released the first American version of the Japanese legend and that didn't go well. It was so bad the Japanese disowned that version. The atrocity of that film made us believe that the great lizard will never make it in Hollywood. Not until Warner Bros. decided to have a reboot, but will it give justice?

It all started during the nuclear tests in 1954 when a huge spike was seen as the bomb detonates. Flash forward to 1999 when a group of Japanese went to the Philippines to discover to large eggs, one of them hatched and has escaped to the sea. At that moment, tremors occurred in Japan that caused a nuclear meltdown. Years later, the trouble begins. And no, trouble is not spelled Godzilla.

Bryan Cranston plays Joe Brody. Fresh from the recent series finale of Breaking Bad, delivered his character well. Ken Watanabe and Sarah Silverman plays the scientist who discovered the existence of giant monster and Aaron Taylor-Johnson plays the main protagonist as Cranston's son who serves the military.

When Joe Brody (Cranston) was arrested in Japan, Ford (Taylor-Johnson) has to get his father out of jail, only to be tangled on a web of military secrets and something bigger.

We are actually cooking meth. Oops! Wrong show.

The film strength is its supporting characters delivered effectively by its powerful cast. While Cranston is the gem of the film, he had limited exposure but the script served him right. Ken Watanabe and Sarah Silverman are both in background but makes sure that there time is worth each frame. What is disappointing is Aaron Taylor-Johnson, better known as Kick Ass from the Kick Ass films. It seemed that he is not driven by the character that his character is laid flat.

I have this face all through out the film

But the star of the show is Godzilla and his glory is justified and revived. Godzilla is the king and this movie just prove it what he is made of. The battle scene between Godzilla and the other 2 monster is just epic in proportions. While we see less of the lizard but you will be in awe watching it move and do its magic.

Godzilla is a successful revival of the garbage that Roland Emmerich made in 1999. This will not be the last time you will see him.

GRADE: A-

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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Cinderella Sneak Peek

Disney seemed to be reviving a lot of their classics. This year, Sleeping Beauty will have its turn but it will be centered much with its antagonist Maleficent. Angelina Jolie dons the cape and the horns of the witch. While we are still waiting for the release, Disney unfolded a sneak peek of one of the most beloved in the roster of Princesses - Cinderella.




Casting has been done. Lily James (Downtown Abbey) is the titular character, while Richard Madden (Robb Stark, Game of Thrones) is the Prince. Lady Tremaine is played by Cate Blanchett and Helena Bonham Carter is the Fairy Godmother. Kenneth Branagh (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Thor) helms this remake.


What we have on the sneak is a glimpse of the shoe and nothing else. Yet, this can still pose interest for viewers. Stay tuned for more updates on this film here.



Happy Weekend everyone!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Her

 Few films has transcended in Hollywood in terms of originality. We see a lot of sequels and remakes that it has become tiresome. If new material ever comes out, it would be based on real events and that does not even count as original. Her is a new material. Fresh. Engaging. Mind-tingling.

Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) is a professional writer. He does not write novels nor the news, rather, he writes letters for people who has no aptitude or just don't want to waste their time pouring out their feelings in a letter. Though he struggle a divorce, he was actually perfect for the job. Technology, on the other hand, is somewhat advanced. In the film's setting, voice command feature is actually working flawlessly through the help of an OS (Operating System) that works similarly to Siri. What makes this technology cool is that it can be configured according to the type of person you are. You can actually select the gender of your OS and becomes an A.I. that can actually communicate with the user or any other OS available in the system.

The OS in question is Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). Samantha and Theodore immediately clicked as a team and then the impossible happened: They fell in love with each other. What started as a simple get-to-know-so-i-can-configure-my-settings session turned out to be romantic when Theodore and Samantha engaged in a cybersex (literally!). While both of them seemed to be okay at first, relationship becomes complicated as they encounter problems that actually happens to "Normal" relationships.

"Yes honey, I am holding your hand while I check out the other girls"

The film contains a lot of really great moments. This is the movie's strength. As both characters are dig deeper, we get more curious as to where would the relationship end up. Would it be successful or end up in heartbreak? And if it does, will Samantha be more affected than Theodore? What can be the cause of a break-up? Cheating? Fall out of love? How can it be possible for an AI to feel human emotions when it is programmed to do the task and not surpasses its intended function? These questions breaks in and makes you wonder if this is ever possible.

"Open Browser incognito. Search Barely Legal"

Her is a very engaging film tackling the human psyche and its ability to transcend the norm. Powerful performances from the cast is notable in the entire film even Scarlett Johansson who is just heard all over the film but still manages to be very hot, enticing and effective throughout the entire run time. Joaquin Phoenix becomes another person as he submerge into the character. While the supporting casts do well in the film, the lead still shrines through for each frame they are in.

There is a lot of heart in this film. Very few movies can deliver the caliber that this movie was able to offer. The film is light but the message that the movie was trying to convey pushes through effortlessly. Her is definitely has the best screenplay for 2013. That Oscar win for Best Original Screenplay is underrated given that Hollywood has no original idea to offer these days.

GRADE: A+

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Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

It has been two years since the release of the Spider-Man reboot. I am ecstatic on how will Spidey spin his web on the second installment. Well, the wait is all worth it.

Picking up where we left off from the previous film, Capt. Stacy is dead and life goes on for Peter and Gwen, yet Pete is haunted by the memories of the dead police officer and his promise to be away from Gwen. Spidey encounters a new nemesis from one of his avid fan, Max (Foxx) and his old friend Harry Osbourne (Dehane). The story is primarily focused on two plots, Peter and his love affair with Gwen and the other is with Oscorp.

Harry is left with a vast estate including Oscorp when his father, Norman Osbourne, died. Oscorp is left in scandals and shambles which needs immediate attention. What comes in between is the corporate play and Harry's search for a cure to the genetic disease he is currently carrying. He needs Spidey's blood but he declined the request. Harry conspired with Electro in defeating Spidey and ultimately gain what they wanted.

Marc Webb helms the second installment and I dread that this would turn into the mess that Spiderman 3 was. With 3 villains, it is hard to have a coherent plot. With this being said, TASM2 is a mess. In comparison to Spiderman 3, this Marc Webb film is a bit better. There is the ambition to satisfy the fans, and yes, it did not fail us, but the film looses its way when it comes to coherence and strategic pacing.

TASM 2, on the other hand,  has really great action sequences particularly with those involving Spidey and Electro. The scene at NY Times Square can't be beaten and actually levels with the train scene with Doc Ock from Spiderman 2.

"There are crimes in England, right?" Is he moving out?
One of the problems of the film is redundancy particularly in some of the scenes and feels like we are still watching the first installment of the reboot. The notable absence of J.J.J. (he is just an email on the film) could be disappointing. Hoping that he will be around for the 3rd and 4th installment. Though some characters are not seen on this installment, a few familiar characters are there. Some of the characters can be only identified by the fans. My inner geek was screaming when I saw the wings of Vulture and when Harry's assistant was called Felicia (ding! ding! ding!).

Geeking out!!! We have a glimpse of Vulture (left) and Doc Ock's tentacles! Is this a set-up for a spin-off?
Spiderman movies will never be as dark as Batman and I prefer the lightness of the character. After all, that is the defense mechanism of Peter Parker when he suits up as Spiderman. The transition of a witty superhero to a problematic teen is what makes Peter an interesting character.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is good addition to the movie franchise. The film opened a lot of possibilities for the sequels. The film is just pure fun but it needs more heart.

GRADE: B+

P.S. I expected a Spiderman-related post credits scene but I am fan of X-Men, so that was ok. :D

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