Movie Center - Montevideo Shopping, Sala 2, March 2, 8:25pm
Its material about three high school students who accidentally became superheroes is indicative of big budgeted Hollywood films. Only it is not. The texture and camerawork are experimental, giving a new length to what we all know as a popcorn film. Viewers are treated first to follow the film through the POV of one the main characters named Andrew (very young Leonoardo DiCaprio-esquely played by Dane DeHaan) as seen from a video camera. It operates that way efficiently for a time but the limitations show up on the last few sequences. Nonetheless, it’s an above average film. All the elements of a superhero film are evident and that’s good enough for me to enjoy it.
Movie Center - Montevideo Shopping, Sala 9, March 9, 10:00pm
There’s a lot to enjoy in this time travelling big budgeted film. The CGI is gorgeous and the grand action scenes, though anti-climactic, are amusing. It creates a world on its own and the effort is definitely not wasted. It’s also Star Wars all over, plus some shades of Avatar and Stargate. I am not sure if I like the investment it did with the time travelling part, maybe just to deviate from its predecessors, but it is satisfying as it is.
Friends who might appreciate it: Popcorn film fans.
THIS MEANS WAR
Movie Center - Montevideo Shopping, Sala 4, March 16, 8:10pm
Director McG (probably his most notable work is the not-so-recent “Charlie’s Angels” film adaptation) combines some action and comedy in this chick flick. Oscar winner Reese Witherspoon plays a woman who is torn between two gents both working at the US Intelligence (Tom Hardy and Chris Pine). The small amount of dark comedy is cute but the final product is very familiar. If you’ve been watching some Hollywood products of the same genre, chances are you’ve seen the antics in this film already.
Friends who might appreciate it: Star Cinema fans.
Movie Center - Montevideo Shopping, Sala 3, March 16, 10:20pm
This directorial debut from Nima Nourizadeh utilizes the same storytelling conceit recently used by the likes of Paranormal Activity, Cloverfield and Chronicle. It’s a coming of age tale told in a span of less than a day, seen through a handy video camera which was held by one of the friends of the main protagonists. I liked the idea that the “filmmaker” is always behind the scenes and doesn’t play a vital role in the picture. But there’s more to like in the film, as limitless as the “X” in its title. First, the getting laid part of the virginal Thomas (Thomas Mann) as pushed by the cocky Costa (Oliver Cooper) has the all the charms of “American Pie” but it doesn’t try to mock the experience. Secondly, the characters are well played by the ensemble (the dog included). I have to note, too, that the OST is fit to the occasion and the slow-mo parts are well executed like a music video that can stand on itself (could be a disadvantage but enjoyable nevertheless). The moment the storytelling starts to wear out, it accelerates to a grand finish complete with a compelling crowd scene and an exaggerated turn of events. I can’t say that it is an important film but I can conclude that from the bunch of tiring Hollywood films I’ve seen in 2011, this one surprises me the most.
Casablanca, Sala Humphrey Bogart, March 18, 3:25pm
This star-studded film is a dark horse from 2011. It gathers the like of Antonio Banderas, Freida Pinto, Mark Strong and Tahar Rahim who made waves as the lead actor of the French film “A Prophet” in a pop film about the conflict over oil of some Arab states during 1930’s. It may not point the finger directly but it seems like it is suggestive of how United Arab Emirates became about. Under epic action film genre, it’s one of the better ones shown of late. Director Jean-Jacques Annaud (“The Lover”, “Seven Years in Tibet”, “Enemy at the Gates”, etc.) assembles outstanding war scenes with the Arabian Desert as backdrop. It may take a while to absorb the idea that Banderas is playing an Arab, or even Mark Stong, but it’s there. The final product with a running time of 130 minutes is enjoyable enough. I just hope they made it more historically enriching so the viewers would end up both entertained and educated.
Friends who might appreciate it: Those who consider that it should have at least an entry in Metacritic.
ROMEO AND JULIET
Movie Center - Montevideo Shopping, Sala Teatro, March 22, 8:00pm
It shouldn’t be in this list but since it’s also a movie theater experience, I decided to include this. As you see, Montevideo has this series of screenings of broadcast performance of either ballet or opera. I am not sure if it is exclusive to Royal Opera House programs only but they it regularly in Sala Teatro (which also serves as a regular movie theater as “Sala 3D”). Usually the shows are held on a Thursday, right before the cinemas are packed with weekend moviegoers and are attended in majority by senior citizens. The one that I watched is a ballet by the Royal Ballet which is a resident theater group of the Royal Opera House. It is choreographed by the icon Kenneth MacMillan and it boasts of a significant balcony scene (lead parts are played by Federico Bonelli and Lauren Cuthbertson). The whole experience is similar to the live broadcast of Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall. It shows the people waiting for the curtain to rise and the standard 15-minute break. The difference perhaps is that the broadcast serves as a tribute, too, for its choreographer and the choreography itself. Past performers of the piece are interviewed in a very short documentary at the beginning and they are unanimous in saying how wonderful MacMillan was as an artist. Somebody mentions that in one particular scene, the great choreographer prefers to play by heart and not by the tempo of the music or by the number. I am not a ballet enthusiast (it still bores me) but I appreciate how Shakespeare’s text is interpreted into body movements. I personally enjoyed the close-up shots, giving an effect that you’re more than watching it being performed live onstage. It’s also a first for me to see a high end stage set for a ballet.
Friends who might appreciate it: I believe Filipinos back home deserve a similar experience even for an elite venue like the CCP.
THE HUNGER GAMES
Movie Center - Montevideo Shopping, Sala 10, March 23, 7:00pm
After hearing what the material is all about, when it was still a paperback fad, I already knew that the comparison with the cult classic Japanese film “Battle Royale” will be unavoidable. And undeniable. Though the first hour is spent with a parody to reality TV shows (a mix of Survivor, Big Brother and partly American Idol), the very first images of the jungle fight are reminiscent of the Japanese film. You may call it guilty pleasure but I enjoyed the film as a whole. Jennifer Lawrence did a good job and so are the other actors: Josh Hutcherson (who, I believe, did very well in “Bridge to Terabithia” or even “Zathura: A Space Adventure”), Stanley Tucci and the ever reliable Woody Harrelson. I also liked the shaky camerawork especially for a material that is intended for the young adults. It seems like all the good stuff that the “Twilight” series has missed are all here.
Friends who might appreciate it: Suzanne Collins fans, nothing more.
Casablanca, Sala Marilyn Monroe, March 31, 7:10pm
This film co-produced by Australia and China, and directed by Vietnam-born Pauline Chan was part of an international film festival here in Montevideo when I caught it. There are small gems in the film, including the material itself about an orphan (Zhu Lin) in China who communicates with an Australian sponsor (Guy Pearce) in Sydney through postcards. Incidentally, the sponsor happens to be in prison and they met for the first time while the young girl was on tour for a choral performance in Australia. Even the speaking lines are serviceable enough. What I dislike a lot is the take on the subject of two souls longing for each other but trapped in their own prison. It’s an interesting plot, if not totally relevant, coated with Star Cinema all over, to a point that I can smell some Rory Quintos sensibility in there. When the young Chinese girl arrives in Sydney, she’s introduced to an Aussie named Carl (probably a popular matinee idol in Australia) and they got romantically involved in a true mainstream Pinoy film fashion. On top of that is a heightened denouement that involves a fight scene that could challenge the logistics. The saving grace is Guy Pearce. You know he’s a good actor even on his bad moments.
Friends who might appreciate it: Filipino filmmakers because they can do better for sure.
Movie Center - Montevideo Shopping, Sala 15, March 31, 10:20pm
“The Debt” is a 2010 film by John Madden (“Shakespeare in Love”, etc.) that is based from the Israeli film “Ha-Hov” shown three years before the Hollywood remake. As per synopsis in IMDB.com, they didn’t change much of its geography. This means Jessica Chastain and Sam Worthington (their modern day counterparts are Helen Mirren and Ciaran Hinds respectively) play Jewish agents who are assigned to capture a Nazi war criminal in East Berlin during the 60’s. Past the comparison to its original material, specifically regarding the plot set in Israel and Germany with actors speaking in English with a heavy accent, it’s amusing for an action-suspense film. I appreciate movies, be it popcorn film or not, that underscore historical relevance. Though the take is still very fictional, it made me believe that a similar incident really happened somewhere in the post-WWII Germany. I have to note that the ensemble did very well including Sam Worthington.
Friends who might appreciate it: Since I enjoyed it a lot, I highly recommend it to everyone.
WRATH OF THE TITANS
Movie Center - Montevideo Shopping, Sala 3D, April 12, 7:55pm
A film like this one makes me highlight Sam Worthington the more as a competent actor in “The Debt”. This is a perfect example how boring he could get as a lead character in this sequel. As for the film itself, I am not sure if it still has something to do with Greek mythology whatsoever. It’s very simplistic, targeting mostly those who adore CGI-filled movies. The visuals, for me, are uneven. For instance, the underworld looks good (especially the part where it starts to move like puzzle pieces) but the reimagining of the giants is poorly done. I had a ball watching Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes doing their antics in a formula movie. The last time I enjoyed seeing them together was in Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List”.
Friends who might appreciate it: Those who’ve seen the first.
Movie Center - Montevideo Shopping, Sala 10, April 20, 7:55pm
Channing Tatum is destined to make a good movie. Unfortunately, this is not yet the one. He is joined here by Rachel McAdams to tackle love and memory loss. Let me sidetrack a bit. I am fascinated with debates on how a heart can keep a memory over the brain, if it’s really capable of doing so in the first place. Can a heart really remember? The film tries to be scientific and at point blank, the answer seems to be a big no. I am aware that I shouldn’t take the film too seriously as it was perhaps concocted primarily for the chick populace. As it is, it may work. I don’t see any aspect worth noting (including the presence of Sam Neill and Jessica Lange) but the story which was based on real life could hook up some suckers for this kind of films.
Friends who might appreciate it: Let’s just wait for “21 Jump Street” and “Magic Mike”.
Cine Hoyts – DOT Baires Mall, Cinema 6, April 30, 1:40am
It took us a ferry ride to Buenos Aires just to catch this film on a better cinema. We were aiming for IMAX as they don’t have it here in Montevideo but to no avail. We were informed that the film is released only on digital format and being the first Latin American city to invest on IMAX, the one in Buenos Aires is still using the vintage film reel format. That’s fine. The cinema where we saw it from (take note, at 1:40am) is a really good one. As for the film, there’s nothing much to root, story-wise. I guess the back stories are already explored in the individual films and this is just treated as a finale of the small finales. Joss Whedon did a great job in mounting the action scenes. There is satisfaction the moment the team players start to realize what teamwork is all about. In between, I felt the conflict of the film seems forced: Captain America against Ironman who is against Thor. Or Hawkeye versus Black Widow versus Hulk (how he managed his anger on the latter part, no one knows). Other than that, everything is smooth and suave. I bet I would watch it again on IMAX the minute I land in Manila.
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