Manila – Dubai (November 2011)
The Help (Tate Taylor, 2011) The film is fine as it is. Racism has been explored (and exploited) several times so this is not a fresh viewing experience for me. Plus it was made in the same manner that we see in most Hollywood films, very reachable mainstream audience-wise. Nevertheless, it brags of a very competent ensemble, from Viola Davis to her equally superb co-actors like Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jessica Chastain and even Sissy Spacek.
Dubai – Sao Paulo (November 2011)
Insidious (James Wan, 2010) The concept of the haunting not being inherent to the house where the main characters live is interesting enough. Some scares here and there (I am not sure if there’s a room for screaming while on board a plane). The last part isn’t as satisfying though. Very farfetched compared to its good start.
Above Us Only Sky (Jan Schomborg, 2011) This German film is a good reminder how different (and more substantial) a European film is from Hollywood in terms of storytelling. It’s a simple tale of depression, moving on and finding love after an upsetting incident. It is still eventful, at times talky, but the execution is not in a rush or too crowd pleasing. I love the last few sequences.
Cars 2 (John Lasseter and Brad Lewis, 2011) Animated features in Uruguay are always dubbed in Spanish so I make it a point to watch those that I missed. This one’s a good example. I am not a fan of the first “Cars”. For me, it’s the weakest Pixar film that I saw. I just chose this from the menu to avoid oversleeping. Same set of characters, same misfit. The add-on is the spy film concept wherein British Intelligence gets in the way. That works for me a bit. Michael Caine in the house!
Don’t Go Breaking My Heart (Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai, 2011) This rom-com hits the spot. It’s a simple love triangle story set in the corporate world. The skyscrapers in Hongkong serve as a backdrop to two lads trying to win the heart of the female protagonist. Maybe there’s an underlying commentary on the tall buildings that are seen in most of the frames. First encounter of the two characters are staged in two opposite buildings while the finale involves almost the same set of edifice, similarly elevated. A friend in Dubai once told me that those office slots in some buildings that are not lighted anymore already closed probably due to recession. It feels like the film is addressing the issue only with a lighter approach.
Sao Paulo – Dubai (November 2011)
Princess Toyotomi (Masayuki Suzuki, 2011) I was grieving when I saw this film. I wanted something light and feel-good from the list that’s why I came up with this Japanese film. It talks about roots, about the strength of a nation and being patriotic, as told through age old town secrets that are kept by the locals of a small town. At the core of these is a plot about a man who ignores his father’s last wish making him skip the tradition that he should have accomplished. I cried on this one. I didn’t expect that the initially planted perkiness will turn out to be a sentimental one.
Colombiana (Olivier Megaton, 2011) Story-wise, there’s nothing much to expect from any film tainted with Luc Besson’s name. This is one of them. It’s the usual tale of revenge peppered with slick action sequences. Zoe Saldana shines in her scenes but what got me glued to the seat is the opening sequence with the young Cataleya.
Dubai – Manila (December 2011)
The Lost Bladesman (Felix Chong and Alan Mak, 2011) Another Chinese epic story told through the heroism of a bladesman named Guan Yu (Donnie Yen). It’s action-packed and the stunts are highly engaging. I just find the running time too short to totally explore the politics that time and the major contribution of the protagonist. The ending just mentions some facts about what transpired after. If that part is also seen in the film, it would be more gratifying.
Glee: The Concert Movie (Kevin Tancharoen, 2011) Still with the feel-good film selection, I capped the trip with this ultimate escapist movie. It’s just one concert captured on film from the cast of the musical TV show with interviews from the die-hard fans in between numbers. Fascinating is this Asian boy who struts his stuff while imitating one of the characters on TV. The Britney Spears act is a guilty pleasure.