FlixChatter Review: 99 Homes (2015)

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Right from the moment this film was announced, I was immediately hooked by the timely premise and the cast. Set in Orlando, Florida and loosely based on a real-life events, Andrew Garfield plays a twenty-something single dad Dennis Nash who’s been struggling to find decent work as a construction worker. His family gets evicted from his family home where he’s lived since he was a kid, where he lives with his young son and hairstylist mom. Right away I sympathize with Nash as he just can’t seem to catch a break no matter how hard he tries.

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On the other end of the spectrum, we’ve got a shrewd, wealthy real estate broker Rick Carver, played with steely gaze and gravitas by Michael Shannon. The actor is a towering figure already at 6’3″ but there’s something inherently ominous about him that makes him so perfect for this role. It’s easy to think of Carver as nothing but a greedy bastard who’s all about making money off of other people’s misery. I mean, when he drives around the block of certain neighborhoods in his fancy car, all he sees is what profit he could make from these homes. Yet as the film progress, we see that he’s not a one-dimensional villain and there is a reason behind his madness.

Filmmaker Ramin Bahrani tackled the subject of the housing crisis with such astute and empathetic eye. The way he filmed the eviction scene is truly heartbreaking and the actors portray the grief and outrage convincingly. I read that Bahrani apparently used some non-actors playing people being evicted from their homes, but he didn’t tell the lead actors in order to get an authentic response from those scenes.

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The film is tense and suspenseful despite not having much action going on. I felt that under a lesser director, they’d probably sensationalize this story with unnecessary shoot-outs or sex scenes to drive the point across. But thankfully Bahrani chose subtlety and infuse the film with nervous energy that keeps building until a boiling point in a riveting finale. He’s definitely a director to watch and no wonder Roger Ebert called him ‘the new great American director’ in this piece from 2009. “His films pay great attention to ordinary lives that are not so ordinary at all,” the article says, and indeed he accomplished that in 99 Homes. I think being the son of Iranian immigrants gave him a unique perspective on American culture and events that shape Americans.

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The strength of the film also lie in the two leads Shannon and Garfield. It’s interesting that both have just recently done a superhero movie(s), Man of Steel and Spider-Man, respectively. But you won’t even associate either of them with those roles, which is a testament to their fantastic performance and versatility. Garfield captured the anguish of his character perfectly, and he makes for a convincing young dad. There are some emotional scenes between him and his son (Noah Lomax, who bears a striking resemblance to Garfield), as well as his mom (the always watchable Laura Dern). He has a great rapport with Shannon and they play each other off so well. I have to mention Tim Guinee as well who has a small but memorable supporting role as a friend of Nash who’s driven to extremes by circumstances.

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This film certainly doesn’t paint the real estate system in a flattering light, but yet somehow Bahrani manage to present the story as it is. It’s not a preachy piece that push a certain agenda. It’s more about two characters from two opposite real estate spectrum, and how their lives end up affecting each other in ways they’d never imagine.

Like any formidable house, 99 Homes is built on a strong foundation of a sharp script and held up by intuitive direction and powerful performances. A timely drama that will linger long after the closing credits. I can’t recommend this one enough. I definitely look forward to more films by Ramin Bahrani and more intriguing roles for both Garfield and Shannon.

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Have you seen 99 Homes? Well, what did you think?

Thursday Movie Picks #53: Science Fiction Movies (No Space/Aliens)

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Thursday everyone! This is another entry to the weekly Thursday Movie Picks that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog. Here’s the gist:

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. This Thursday’s theme is… 

Science Fiction Movies (No Space/Aliens)

It’s interesting that the requirement for this sci-fi genre is no space/aliens as a lot of my favorites in this genre aren’t the ones with aliens in them. In fact, I love sci-fis that don’t look or feel science fiction-y, in fact, intriguing sci-fis are those with rich layers of human drama that remind us what it means to be humans.

I immediately thought of including Ex Machina here, but I decided not to include something from this year. Instead, I’m selecting three from the past few years that have a small/modest budget (under $25 mil) that have made a big impression on me:

Predestination (2014)

The life of a time-traveling Temporal Agent. On his final assignment, he must pursue the one criminal that has eluded him throughout time.

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As I mentioned in my review, the less you know about the plot the better the experience. Since I was just talking about directing duos, I have to mention the Spierig Brothers who also made this vampire sci-fi Daybreakers. The premise is rather bizarre and definitely not an easy one to grasp, but it’s well worth a watch. I like how the film started out with a bang but then the pace slows down considerably in the first act as we’re introduced to the characters played by Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook. The odd pacing seems deliberate and I actually think it’s pretty effective and engrossing in getting us to care about their journey. Snook is quite a revelation here and I kept hoping to see her getting prominent roles.

s I….

HER (2013)

A lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with his newly purchased operating system that’s designed to meet his every need.

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Once in a while, a film you hadn’t heard much about suddenly sneaked in and took your breath away. In 2013, that film for me was HER. That’s what I wrote in my review over a year ago, and there’s still very few films that affected me emotionally the way this one did.

There are many robot/human *love* stories that’s been done time and again but what Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) experienced with Samantha (voiced brilliantly by Scarlett Johansson) is quite unlike any other. For one, there’s no physical presence of Samantha in the film but yet her presence is felt so viscerally. I’m going to borrow my from my own review… This is the kind of thought-provoking science fiction story that I wish Hollywood would make more of. Sci-fi is not always about aliens or cool-looking futuristic equipments or cars or what have you, but a good sci-fi should actually makes us ponder about our own humanity. I realize this film isn’t for everyone as there are a few people I recommended this to that aren’t wowed by it. That said, I think you owe it to yourself to at least give this one a shot.

Never Let Me Go (2010)

A love triangle develops between three friends who came of age at a mysterious, secluded boarding school and are destined to lead brief lives.

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This is another film where the less you know about the plot the better. If you just look at still photos or even the poster (which you can see on my review post), you’d never thought this is a sci-fi. It looks more like a mystery drama, and I think that’s the vibe director Mark Romanek was going for. Working from Alex Garland’s script, who later made his directorial debut in Ex Machina, the pace is decidedly slow and graceful in the way things unfold. The romantic drama sensibilities offer a stark contrast to the cerebral sci-fi nature of the story. I really need to watch this again, but I remember being really absorbed by this film. Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield are excellent here, it’s still one of my favorite performance from both of them even after seeing more of their work. It’s also exquisitely-shot in muted hues that perfectly match the somber tone of the film.

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What do you think of my sci-fi picks this week? Have you seen any of these films?

 

Five for the Fifth: MAY 2015 Edition

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Welcome to FlixChatter’s primary blog series! As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

1. Since tonight I will be attending a Christopher Nolan‘s Conversation with Scott Foundas, chief film critic for Variety, I thought I’d dedicate my first question in Nolan’s honor.

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Nolan is actually the first filmmaker whose complete works I have seen, though not in order as I’ve just caught up with his first film The Following (1998) a few years ago. I made a birthday tribute to him in 2012 by ranking his movies. Even though I wasn’t wowed by Interstellar, a so-so Chris Nolan film is still a darn good one. Foundas posted an article on Walker Art website on Nolan, calling him A Practical Magician of Modern Movies, which I think is an apt description.

So if you can ask one question to Nolan, what would it be? 

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2. I always like to include some kind of FIRST LOOK in FFTF, and this one just arrived yesterday courtesy of EW. It’s Martin Scorsese‘s upcoming drama SILENCE starring Andrew Garfield. It also stars Liam Neeson and Adam Driver due out in 2016.

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Based on Shusako Endo’s 1966 novel, ‘Silence’ tells the story of a Portuguese Jesuit missionary who is persecuted along with other Christians in 17th-century Japan. Garfield portrays Father Rodrigues, pictured in an exclusive image with Shinya Tsukamoto, who plays a villager named Mokichi.

Per EW, Scorsese told reporters in a press conference in Taiwan that he’d been trying to find a way to adapt this novel since he first read it more than 25 years ago, and that its themes resonated with him deeply. “The subject matter presented by Shusaku Endo was in my life since I was very, very young, … I was very much involved in religion, I was raised in a strong Catholic family. … Further reflection is how [we] want to lead our life in the Christian faith … so ultimately this book drew my attention when it was given to me in 1988.”

The spiritual element certainly piqued my interest. Sounds  like a meaty role for Garfield and I’m happy for him. I saw him in this British indie Boy A prior to his stint as Spiderman and he’s certainly a capable actor.

What’s your initial thoughts of Silence?

3. Now, since today is Cinco De Mayo, I usually highlight Mexican filmmakers and/or actors but this time around why not talk about Mexican cinema in general. I actually haven’t seen any film about the Battle of Puebla, which is what the Fifth of May commemorates. There’s one called Cinco de May: La Batalla that’s just released in 2013. This still below is from that film, has anyone seen it?

CincoDeMayoMovieLately Mexican filmmakers have dominated the award seasons, culminating with two Mexican directors and winning Best Picture Oscars back to back (Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity and Alejandro González Iñárritu for Birdman). But there are many others that have made a name in Hollywood and not just limited to directors, Emmanuel Lubezki is no doubt the hottest cinematographer working today.

So in celebration of Mexican cinema, what’s your favorite Mexican film?

4. I’ve been watching a ton of foreign films lately, thanks to MSPIFF AND my new crush Stanley Weber who’s so far have been mostly in French films (Violette, Thérèse Desqueyroux).

One of my top 3 picks from MSPIFF is definitely Girlhood (Bande de Files), a French coming-of-age drama that really spoke to me and featured one of my favorite scenes ever. I LOVE Karidja Touré‘s performance in that film, and it made me think how I wish more people would discover her. She’s still only 21 years old and based on this article, she is bilingual which helps… “Better practise my English so I can be a star in the States.” I’d love to see her get noticed the way Lupita Nyong’O practically took Hollywood by storm.

KaridjaToure_GirlhoodAs for Stanley Weber, well he’s been my obsession in the past month or so. I’m not gonna lie, of course I was initially transfixed by his ridiculous good looks. He’s like a taller, sexier, more virile version of Chris Pine, with a hint of Richard Madden. But looks alone won’t get me all worked up about. Actors I love have to have the chops AND screen presence and Stanley’s got both in spades.

Stanley putting on the charm on Audrey Tautou in Thérèse Desqueyroux
Stanley putting on the charm on Audrey Tautou in Thérèse Desqueyroux

Classically trained at Cours Florent, French National Academy of Dramatic Arts and the London counterpart LAMDA, his background is theater but he’s done quite a few TV and film works in the past decade. Even in smaller supporting roles alongside big names of French cinema, Isabelle Adjani, Emmanuelle Devos, Audrey Tautou, etc. he more than held his own. He’s only 28 but seems much older than he looks, I kind of think of him like an old soul. As with ANY successful actor, versatility is key and I’ve seen him display his comedic chops in a British rom-com (Not Another Happy Ending) as well as portray a devilishly charming psychopath (BORGIA: Faith & Fear) convincingly. So yeah, I’m dying for him to get more leading roles, and soon!!

Which foreign actor/actress you noticed lately that you wish would get their big break in Hollywood?

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5. This month’s Five for the Fifth’s guest is Tom from Digital Shortbread!

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Seeing that Avengers: Age of Ultron has just rolled on through, I thought it’d be interesting to gauge what people think of highly anticipated movie events.

Is hype generally a good thing or generally a bad thing, in your view, when it comes to movies?


Well, that’s it for the May 2015 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 😀

Casting News Roundup: Chris Pratt, Rosamund Pike, Keanu Reeves & Mel Gibson + Andrew Garfield

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Boy I’ve been meaning to do a post on casting news but for some reason just never got around to it! Well, I might make this more of a weekend bi-monthly series as there’s never a shortage of casting news 😀

Chris Pratt to star in graphic novel adaptation Cowboy Ninja Viking

Pratt_CowboyNinjaVikingLook at the smirk on this guy! When I read the description of the graphic novel created by writer A.J. Lieberman and artist Riley Rossmo, I think Chris Pratt fits the role nicely. Per Collider, The story revolves around an assassin with Multiple Personality Disorder who possess the skills of a cowboy, a ninja, and a Viking, and works for a secret government program. Pratt is to play the protagonist Duncan, and I think it’ll be fun to see him manifest into those three different personas. No director is attached yet, though some names including Marc Forster was circling the project at some point, seems that this project has been in development for some time.

Rosamund Pike joining Charlie Hunnam in ‘The Mountain Between Us’

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One of the year’s breakout female star probably has a slew of offers coming at her. I kinda wish she’d be cast in the lead instead of co-lead with a male actor. In any case, sounds like she’s joining Charlie Hunnam in an adaptation of Charles Martin’s book of the same name. The story revolves around two people who survive a plane crash in the mountains where they are forced to trust each other and find safety while badly injured. Rosamund Pike plays a successful writer who’s flying East to get to her much anticipated wedding, whilst Hunnam plays a surgeon on his way back East after a medical conference for a slate of surgeries he has scheduled for the following day. So based on the book description in Amazon, it’s kind of like a romantic version of Alive and perhaps The Grey, I guess I could see the casting work for the story though I’m not sure about this one until I see at least a trailer.

Keanu Reeves in Talks to Star in Tarsem Singh’s ‘The Panopticon’

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Though Keanu never really left Hollywood, seems that he’s sort of got a career resurgence following the success of John Wick. I’ve always liked the guy so more Keanu casting is awesome in my book 😉 So he’s been cast in the sci-fi thriller Replicas which sounds right up his alley: After a car accident kills his loving family, a daring neuroscientist (Reeves) will stop at nothing to bring them back, even if it means pitting himself against a government-controlled laboratory, a police task force, and the physical laws of science themselves. (per The Wrap).

Well, seems that he’s also in talks to team up with Tarsem Singh in an action thriller The Panopticon, but the premise seems wholly generic to me: “The Panopticon” follows a seemingly ordinary man who receives a mysterious package containing a pre-recorded message from himself, warning that the world is about to end and only he can save it. He must race against the clock to piece together the puzzle before time runs out for mankind. Meh, I’m kind of tired of this ‘one man left on earth to save the world’ premise. It’s so stale, derivative and hackneyed that it’s REALLY hard to actually make a good film out of it. But then again, John Wick‘s premise isn’t exactly groundbreaking either but the film still turned out fresh and fun. Judging from Tarsem’s past work though, it’d probably be more of a visual feast than an absorbing story.

Boy, Keanu is one busy dude. Per The Wrap, he’s recently wrapped Eli Roth‘s “Knock Knock” and the courtroom drama “The Whole Truth,” and he’s currently filming the indie “Daughter of God.” Oh and supposedly he’s also working on Bill & Ted‘s 2?

Mel Gibson to direct Andrew Garfield in a WWII drama?

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Now this last one is intriguing to me as Mel Gibson hasn’t directed any film since Apocalypto nearly a decade ago. Regardless of how you feel about the actor/director, I think he’s a talented filmmaker.

DesmondDoss_HacksawRidgeI’m curious about his next project which is a WWII drama based on the true story of Corporal Demond Doss, the first conscientious objector to receive the US congressional Medal of Honor by President Truman. Per Comingsoon.net, Doss was drafted into World War II at age 23. Raised a Seventh-day Adventist, he refused to kill or carry a weapon and, as such, became stationed as a medic. The center of the story is likely to focus on 1945′s three-month military assault Operation Iceburg, also known as the Battle of Okinawa. “Hacksaw Ridge” was the name given the location of a particularly brutal two-week confrontation wherein United States troops faced off against Japanese soldiers on the rocky cliffs of Okinawa.

If the deal went through, Gibson would reteam w/ Braveheart‘s screenwriter Randall Wallace who co-wrote it with Robert Schenkkan. Look-wise, Andrew Garfield seems to have the right physique and age to play the role and I think it’d be good to see him in something that’d really display his versatility as an actor.


Ok so what do you think of any of these casting news and/or the projects mentioned above?

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FlixChatter Review: The Amazing Spiderman

Is this film necessary? It’s an inescapable question that plagues this reboot from the start, as it’s only a decade ago the first Spider-man film came to the big screen. When the reboot was announced a couple of years ago, the last film of the Sam Raimi Spidey trilogy was only three years old! Yet I was immediately sold on this movie at Comic-con’s SONY panel, almost exactly a year ago today, when Andrew Garfield suddenly showed up wearing a cheap Spiderman costume, professing his love to his beloved character mere inches away from where my hubby and I were sitting [you can see me screaming behind me in some of the videos, ehm]

In any case, though the question I posted above is a valid one, I feel that once I enter the theater to see THIS particular film, I should judge it on its own merit.

So on that note, did Marc Webb and his team of writers delivered?

The relentless marketing promised us the *untold story* of our web slinger, so naturally it started with Peter Parker as a young boy, playing hide and seek with his scientist dad. But the mood quickly turns from playful to suspense as young Peter discovers his father’s study has been broken into. Richard Parker quickly gathers his documents and whisk his son away to Aunt May and Uncle Ben’s residence to leave him at their care.

Fast forward over a decade later, his parents have long been reported dead in a plane crash, Peter is now in high school and being a smart, geeky kid, naturally he’s an outcast whose only friend is his skateboard. The journey from regular guy to superhero treads familiar grounds. Peter discovers dad’s mysterious papers which leads him to Oscorp to find his dad’s colleague, the one-armed Dr. Curt Connors. Disguised as one of the high school interns [which happens to be where Gwen works at], he sneaks into a lab where a ‘biocable’ is constructed from genetically modified spiders. Of course one of them ends up biting him, and the rest is history. That life-changing moment inevitably brings all kinds of complications to the boy. As if maneuvering through his first romance isn’t tricky enough, an incident at school has the domino effect that cost the lives of his beloved uncle.

The GOOD

The casting of Garfield and Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy is a clear winner right from the start. Despite being about 10 years older than the character, the 28-year-old Garfield is effortlessly believable, he imbues the role with a certain teenage angst and an appropriate dose of recklessness. Unlike the previous installments where Peter was shown as being a complete loser, in this one he’s far less pitiable. In fact, when the school bully Flash was tormenting another boy, Peter actually stands up to him, which then catches the eye of the beautiful Gwen Stacy. I also like the fact that this film particularly shows him as a science genius. Akin to Tony Stark, there’s a bunch of scenes of him tinkering with his dad’s formula and crafting a mechanical web shooter instead of an organic one.

There’s quite a lot of amusing scenes as Peter’s spider-like ability manifests itself almost immediately. Garfield’s wide-eyed mannerism and comic timing is put to good use here, particularly on the subway ride home and the morning after scene where he practically destroys his bathroom in a matter of seconds! His new-found powers discombobulate as well as delight Peter, and we see a great deal of scenes of Peter gleefully testing his gravity-defying abilities before he becomes the titular hero. As Spidey, Garfield also brings more of that sarcastic playfulness that’s fun to watch.

Thanks to their palpable chemistry and Marc Webb’s gift for creating an authentic relationship drama (as he did in 500 Days of Summer), the romance between Peter and Gwen feels genuinely affecting and real, it even makes you forget for a bit that you’re watching a Summer superhero blockbuster. Emma also has this likable presence and warmth about her, plus she is no damsel in distress, so it’s nice to see far less shrieking women that’s so prevalent in Raimi’s versions.

Rhys Ifans brings a surprising credibility in the role of the villain, I’ve only seen him in comedic roles like his scene-stealing role in Notting Hill but he’s quite a versatile actor. I always like a story where the villain has a close ties with the hero, and has a personal motivation that drives him instead of just an arbitrary desire for creating chaos. Connors is more of a tragic character because he’s naturally a good guy, and his humanistic identity doesn’t become lost beneath the freaky Lizard shape once he’s transformed.

What’s nice about this movie is the compelling humanity of our superhero, it’s as much a movie about Peter Parker the human as it is about the hero in spandex. Yet it also offers the cool visuals that we’ve come to expect from a superhero movie. The technical wizardry of Spidey’s web-slinging stunts is marvelously-crafted, and there’s plenty of beautiful aerial shots of the Big Apple at night that I think makes the 3D price worthwhile. The ‘cranes’ scene packs an emotional punch in the bombastic climactic battle between Spidey and the Lizard. That sense of ‘community’ evokes memories of the awesome train scene in Spider-man 2.

The Not-So-Good

Now, what drags this movie down to me is the pacing. At 2 hours and 16 minutes, the film does feel quite tedious at times, especially in the first half as the scenes of Peter discovering what he’s capable of feels repetitive. The editing could’ve been a whole lot tighter, especially considering that supposed “untold story” of what really happened to Peter’s parents is not being explored that well. The famous line “with great powers comes great responsibility” is also missing from the film, and the writers tries to replace it with something similar but it just doesn’t have as big of an impact.

I think that’s my general sentiment about the supporting characters, they’re just not memorable. Aside from the two main leads, everyone else’s performances are just serviceable to me with nothing worth writing home about. For one, the relationship between Peter and his aunt/uncle (Martin Sheen and Sally Field) aren’t as touching, they’re good mind you, but I just don’t feel a real connection between them and Peter. Then there’s the stereotypical, cheesy school jock Flash, whose transformation from bully to buddy is entirely unconvincing. Even Dennis Leary as Gwen’s dad feels one-dimensional even though there are some memorable scenes between him and Peter.

Another major disappointment is the score by James Horner. I’m actually surprised he’s the composer as the music is so forgettable, it adds nothing to the experience at all.

Final Thoughts:

Overall it’s an entertaining reboot and despite it being inherently predictable, Webb manages to ingest something fresh to the table, starting with the main cast. However, the main beef I have with the movie lies in the significant gap between what’s promised n what’s being delivered. What “untold story??” The only thing that was not told in the Raimi’s versions is that bit about his father and his “decay rate algorithm” that Dr. Connors has been searching for. But apart from that, it’s the same old story just told slightly differently.

Given that there are quite a lot of missing scenes from the trailers [whatever happens to Rajit Ratha who keeps pressuring Connor to hurry up on human trials of his experiment??], perhaps it’s a last minute decision on the studio’s part to save that “untold story’ for the sequels. Fortunately for SONY, Webb has spun [pardon the pun] something that has enough going for it to make me want to stick around and find out what happens next.

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So what do you think of this movie, folks? What do you like/dislike about it?

Weekend Roundup: Never Let Me Go review

Welcome to May, everybody. For having endured a pretty cold and snowy Winter, I’m certainly glad Spring has arrived and Summer is upon us! I was fortunate enough to watch not one but two excellent sci-fi movies this weekend, a genre I like especially if it’s the thought-provoking kind. And both Never Let Me Go and Source Code (to be reviewed at a later date) definitely fit that category.

NEVER LET ME GO

I first heard about this film when I saw the absolutely gorgeous, evocative poster for it and it’s one of my top ten fave posters last year. I was so intrigued when I saw the mysterious trailer that I had to find out what the Kazuo Ishiguro‘s novel is all about. All I can tell you is that the trailer did a fantastic job in keeping the twist under wraps.

The film tells us right away in its opening text that there has been a medical breakthrough in 1952 that is key to expanding the human lifespan beyond 100 years. Carey Mulligan narrates the story with an ever soothing voice as 28-year-old Kathy H. (It’s reminiscent of Cate Blanchett’s as Galadriel in the Lord of The Rings) and the film is seen through her viewpoint. The film then goes into flashback mode into Kathy’s childhood in an idyllic English boarding school named Hailsham, where she befriended Ruth (Keira Knightley) and Tommy (Andrew Garfield).

The kids at Hailsham, live in a world and time that seems familiar to us, but yet as the scenes unfold, we have an inkling that it’s quite unlike anything we know or experience. For one, none of us have to scan our wrist going in and out a building. The headmaster tell the kids that they are ‘special’ and keeping themselves healthy is a paramount importance, which should clue you in about the very purpose of their existence. Words like ‘completion’, ‘deferral’ and ‘carer’ all have totally different meaning when used in the context of their situation. The reaction of the outside world, such as the way the delivery people look at them, also provide clues to the kind of realities Kathy, Ruth and Tommy face.

The monumental question of ‘what does it mean to be human?‘ isn’t something new, plenty of other films before it such as Blade Runner have made us ponder about the ‘who, what, where and why’ of our existence and its fleeting nature. But what’s unique about Mark Romanek‘s direction from Alex Garland’s script is that the film doesn’t feel like you are watching a sci-fi. The subtle way the haunting realities are revealed are ever so subtle, but the impact are no less pungent. Yes, the pace is decidedly s-l-o-w, but I actually appreciate its gracefulness and understated elegance. The romantic drama sensibilities offer a stark contrast to the cerebral sci-fi nature of the story.

This film is achingly painful to watch at times… and stays with me long after the credits roll. Though the author and filmmaker don’t spoon-feed their opinions on the matter, it’s arguably a cautionary tale against science in the absence of ethics, no matter how ‘noble’ the cause seems to be. I hope people who watch this realize what happens when they try to play God. The unnerving part for me is how the subjects themselves react to the fate they’re subjected to before they’re even formed, even when Tommy screams of injustice (in one of the most heart-wrenching scenes), that’s as far as it goes. The same way when Kathy experiences a personal betrayal from someone closest to her, there’s not a hint of retaliation on her part. Perhaps that’s how they’re ‘wired’… I don’t know, but it’s heartbreaking to watch.

It’s hard to say that I ‘enjoyed’ this film because of the reasons stated above, but I have to say I admire and appreciate it immensely. Beautifully-shot in muted hues that perfectly match the somber tone of the film, it also boast top notch performances. As Paolo noted in his comment on the poster post, I too am glad that Knightley plays second fiddle to Mulligan here, and not the other way around. I compared Mulligan’s voice to Blanchett’s above, and I could easily say the same thing about her nuanced acting. I’m already impressed by her performance in An Education, and she proves once again she’s one of the best young actresses working today. Garfield and Knightley are both good and affecting in their roles, and Izzy Meikle-Small is brilliant as well as the younger Kathy. But it’s Mulligan who carries this movie with her refined poise, she truly is the heart and soul of the movie. Charlotte Rampling and Sally Hawkins also turn in memorable performances as teachers of Hailsham who ultimately don’t see eye to eye about the mission of the school.

Overall, it’s a rather bleak piece but one that’s worth a watch for those on the lookout for an exquisitely-done sci-fi drama that packs an emotional wallop. This one definitely won’t be just a fleeting existence in my cinematic memory.

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Well, what did you end up seeing this weekend? Or if you’ve seen Never Let Me Go, I’d love to hear what you think.

Scene Spotlight: Spiderman’s Upside Down Kiss

Many of you on Twitter probably have seen the first official photo of Andrew Garfield as Spiderman. In fact, fanboys/girls everywhere were all bursting with geek-gasm yesterday with the release of two major superheroes in their uniform (the other one was Captain America). At first I wasn’t too enthused about the upcoming Spiderman reboot, but since Andrew Garfield’s been cast, my interest just went up tenfold! And you know what, I’m liking what I’m seeing so far. It’s dark and brooding, certainly nowhere near as blissfully cheery as the first official photo of Tobey Maguire in the web suit (you can see both images in this Cinematical article).

The hype meter will soon be off the chart for this Spidey reboot, as practically every week we’ll be hearing of some kind of ‘first look’ from the movie. I’ll try not to get too caught up in all that but today, I thought I’d highlight one of my favorite scenes from the original franchise. For me, one of the most beguiling thing about Peter Parker’s story is his humble upbringing and the fact that he’s just a regular bloke, not all beefcake heroic looking like most of his Marvel superhero. And there’s the earnest, heart-tugging love story between the geeky high-schooler and the most popular girl in school, Mary Jane. In the reboot, the love interest will be Gwen Stacey instead of MJ (and some paparazzi shots have emerged on the set of Garfield and Emma Stone).

Now, I wonder how the romance part will pan out in the new one, as I think Garfield and Stone have big shoes to fill. Maguire and Kirsten Dunst have great chemistry in the Sam Raimi flicks, especially in this unforgettable upside-down kiss in the rain after the hero saved the day. Rain always makes things extra romantic, and apparently the heat of the moment is so strong Mary Jane is not at all shivering. 😉 This scene is not only memorable, it’s a classic! [Sorry I couldn’t find a hi-res clip without the last part at the end of the movie]

Whoof! Now that’s some scorching hot kiss, don’t cha think? Though from various interviews, Maguire often said how miserable the shoot was as his sinuses kept filling up with water during the kissing scene. So the fact that it appears sexy on screen is quite a feat! I’m really curious what director Marc Webb will bring to the table. But given how delightfully quirky his first film is (500 Days of Summer), I’m certainly hopeful.

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Well folks, are you at all looking forward to this Spiderman reboot? Thoughts about Andy Garfield in the suit? Let’s hear it.