Weekend Viewing Roundup and PARKLAND review

Happy Monday all! Hope you had a nice weekend. I see that a lot of you saw GRAVITY, glad to see that Alfonso Cuarón’s film proves to be a critical AND box office hit with over $55 mil this weekend. If you’ve read my review, clearly that’ll be the film I’ll be rooting for come Award season!

I finally got around to seeing RUSH on Saturday night and it was aptly-titled as it’s quite an adrenaline rush! I enjoyed the rivalry between 1970s Formula One racers Niki Lauda and James Hunt, especially Daniel Brühl’s performance. Is it the best Ron Howard movie to date? I’m not sure, but surely it’d make my Top 5.

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The rest of my weekend viewings are from Netflix. I finally completed Dark Knight Returns Part II and I must say I’m really impressed by the Frank Miller’s graphic novel adaptation. Our pal Jack Deth commented on the Five for the Fifth post that it’s his most-emotionally gratifying film he saw this year, and I could see why! Check out his in-depth review.

Last night I was feeling nostalgic so I watched a couple of episodes of two of my favorite shows: FRASIER and MOONLIGHT. Before Vampire Diaries and True Blood, there’s MOONLIGHT on CBS. I actually dedicated a post for the vampire series as it’s one of my all-time TV guilty pleasures!

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Yes the writing isn’t stellar but I have a soft spot for Aussie’s Alex O’Loughlin as the sexy & romantic vampire Mick St. John, and British actress Sophia Myles as his love interest Beth. She’s clearly the best actor in the whole series, I also like her in Spooks Season 10 with Richard Armitage. Lucky gal! 😉

Now here’s my review of…

Parkland

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Parkland is a historical drama that recounts the assassination of JFK in Dallas and the four days following that devastating event. Now, there have been countless films and documentaries on that but what sets this film apart is that it gives us the perspectives from a handful of ordinary people who are suddenly thrust into the this extraordinary circumstances: the doctors and nurses at Parkland Hospital (hence the title), the Secret Service, the FBI agents, as well as those outside of the presidential circle. The two characters I’m fascinated by the most from this film are Lee Harvey Oswald’s brother Robert, and Abraham Zapruder, the man who inadvertently filmed what became the most-watched and scrutinized 8mm film. These are two ordinary people who never thought their lives would change drastically that very day.

The assassination itself wasn’t re-enacted on screen but the film actually used the footage from the Zapruder film. Most people probably have seen that very clip by now as it’s all over Youtube, a bunch of them have been edited in slo-mo so you could see every detail when the motorcade passed through Dealy Plaza. But this time, we see the reaction of the people behind the camera, especially the clearly-shaken Zapruder the second the shots hit the president. The concept of the film is intriguing and even refreshing, but I think writer/director Peter Landesman is way too ambitious with the scope of the film. There are so many parts he’d like to cover but in the end, it sort of went all over the place. The scenes at the hospital seems to go on forever, especially the part where the doctors were trying desperately to revive Mr. Kennedy. One thing that really struck me was the moment Jackie Kennedy handed a piece of her husband’s skull (or brain) to the lead nurse (Marcia Gay Harden). For some reason I just realized what it was that Jackie retrieved when she jumped on the back hood of the presidential limousine!

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The worst part of the film for me is the shaky camera movements and constant blur effects which made me VERY nauseous. It’s hard to concentrate on the film, any film, when you struggle to keep from throwing up. I also find the extreme close-ups on the characters’ faces are excessive and distracting, which is another stylistic miscalculation. But the detrimental factor of the film for me is the lack of emotional involvement with any of the character as each only have a few minutes on screen. In fact, Tom Welling who got top billing according to IMDb basically only have a cameo here as as secret service agent Roy Kellerman. He only had like three lines in the film, and so was Billy Bob Thornton as lead of Dallas secret service, Forrest Sorrels.

Zack Efron is actually pretty decent as the young resident doctor at Parkland Hospital. I haven’t seen enough of his work to say that I like him as an actor but at least he seems to give a good effort to escape his High School Musical persona. The two actors who made an impression on me were Paul Giamatti as Zapruder and James Badge Dale as Robert Oswald. Both are interesting characters in their own right, but the two actors did a compelling job portraying them. Oh and Australian double Oscar nominee Jacki Weaver is fantastic as Marguerite Oswald, she really knocked it out of the park even in her brief scenes. It makes me want to check out the Aussie drama Animal Kingdom even more.

Overall Parkland is better in concept than execution. In fact, if you’re curious about the subject matter, I’d just rent it. It’s not a terrible film but its in-cohesive narration and nauseating shaky-cam style made this quite unbearable to watch for me. Though it did make me curious enough to want to read more about the most-scrutinized event in history, the film itself is ultimately forgettable. Or worse, I’d only remember it as being the film that made me [literally] want to vomit.

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2.5 out of 5 reels


That’s my weekend roundup folks. What did you see this weekend?

Five for the Fifth: OCTOBER 2013 Edition

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Hello folks, welcome to the 10th Five for the Fifth of the year!

As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item, observation, trailer, actor/director spotlight, 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. There are two actors I like who’s having a birthday today: Kate Winslet and Guy Pearce. I’ve dedicated a post to the luminous and massively talented miss Winslet and posted my top five favorite roles, so I’m going to focus my attention here on the Australian thespian.

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Mr. Pearce who turns 46 today, I haven’t seen enough of his work to do a top five but I absolutely love him in L.A. Confidential and Memento (in that order), and also his supporting roles in The Hurt Locker, The Count of Monte Cristo, The King’s Speech and Iron Man 3. I still want to see the Aussie drama Animal Kingdom and also Lawless, he’s so unrecognizable in the trailer!

What’s YOUR favorite Guy Pearce roles?


Timberlake_RunnerRunner2.  I just read this article on The Wrap on Justin Timberlake after I saw the trailer for Runner Runner (review coming Monday). Truth be told, I wasn’t fond of the pop star at all, nor do I find him to be remotely attractive. But I’m slowly warming up to him, though I still much prefer him in supporting parts (preferably more comedic than dramatic roles) as he’s just not leading man material to me. Case in point: In Time, which would’ve been a lot more compelling had Cillian Murphy is in the lead instead of him. Granted the Irish actor is perhaps not a ‘marquee name’ (though he SHOULD be) so he’s not as marketable, but he’s certainly a much better actor.

In any case, it’s interesting to see how many films Timberlake has done, but his most successful one is still The Social Network, which I think is still my fave film he’s been in. I guess he’s not as good an actor as he is a singer, and his star power doesn’t exactly translate at the cinematic box office.

Thoughts on Justin Timberlake? I’m also curious if there a musician-turned-actor whose work you admire.


3. Ok, this is one piece of news I find truly mind-boggling.

Earlier this Spring, the crime drama BROADCHURCH aired on ITV in Britain, and then the show was bought by BBC America and it was shown this past August. The show just concluded its first season run on BBC America last week. Former Dr. Who David Tennant and Olivia Colman star as two detectives investigating the murder of a young boy in a small coastal town, which brings a media frenzy that threatens to tear the community apart. My friend Novia (a huge fan of BBC shows) praised the show in her review, and I’ll be posting a guest post on why people should check out this series.

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Well, I just read on BBC America web site that FOX is going to remake it and though Tennant will reprise his role as the lead detective, the show will be “thoroughly Yankified,” as the article says. “The Fox redo will be set in an American small town. The network hasn’t said whether Tennant will play a Scotsman (which he is in real life) who has ended up on this side of the Atlantic or will adopt an American accent for the U.S. version of the series.”

I guess it’ll be similar to the show Elementary on CBS which capitalizes on the popularity on BBC’s Sherlock, and just as pointless. I really don’t get this types of projects but maybe there’s actually people who thinks this remake is a good idea. If so I’d like to know why. I’m also puzzled why Tennant is willing to play two separate versions of the same character [scratch head]

So perhaps one of you smart folks could enlighten me as to WHY Hollywood is doing this??


4. A couple of trailers got me super excited this week:

Before I get to it, watch Thorin er, Richard Armitage introduces the trailer [swoon] 😛

… and the trailer itself:

Totally agree with Sati that every woman who sees The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug trailer better has medics waiting for her outside!

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I LOVE that there are more scenes with Thorin this time and also Thranduil (Lee Pace), the two major eye candy by two actors who really should get more roles already. I wish those two were as busy as Benedict Cumberbatch, whose dragon voice sounds awesome. Fun to see Sherlock tormenting Watson again, ahah.

Speaking of Cumberbatch, I just rsvp-ed to see The Fifth Estate this coming Tuesday. Can’t wait to see the controversial film about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. It’s got a great cast, too, including Daniel Brühl and Dan Stevens. Check out the latest trailer:

Are you excited for either (or both) of these?


5. Now, the last topic is inspired by my recent review of GRAVITY, which still lingers with me a week and a half after I saw it. Few films have such power to really get under my skin (in a good way). In my review I mentioned about the deep emotional/spiritual aspect of the film, yet another strength of the film on top of its technical and visual spectacle.

Well, now my last question to you is: What’s the most emotionally gratifying film(s) you’ve seen this year?


That’s it for the OCTOBER 2013 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of these subjects.

FlixChatter Review: Alfonso Cuarón’s GRAVITY

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One of the power of great movies is that it gives us ‘escapism,’ a relief from whatever problems we have in our daily life for an hour or two. But a truly great film gives us something more… more to take in, to marvel at, and to reflect on. Gravity, to me, is one of those films.

When the film starts, we’re introduced to the two main characters of the film, Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), a medical engineer in her first space mission, and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney being his gregarious self), a veteran astronaut who’s much more comfortable being in space. They’re working on repairing a space shuttle and things seem to be working just fine. The mood’s playful as Kowalski’s talking to the folks down in Houston (voiced by Ed Harris) and joking around. It’s an effective exposition that help the audience get acquainted with these two characters before their real journey begin.

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Suddenly Houston warns them to abort their mission as an exploded Russian satellite comes speeding through their orbit. There’s barely any time for the crew to move to safety when flying debris rips their shuttle to shreds and Stone ends up drifting into space, spinning uncontrollably. When I first saw the trailer, I have to admit I wasn’t immediately intrigued by it. It looks like just another space thriller, I thought, but when I saw it in context, I had a totally different reaction. The suspense felt all too real that I remember feeling panic-stricken like Bullock’s character in the film as things go haywire on screen, made even more tense by the haunting score.

Gravity is one of the most immersive cinematic experience I’ve had in a long time. I feel like I was being transported to another realm as I was watching the film. There are some humorous moments to help ease tension, but the action sequences were quite relentless and kept me at the edge of my seat. In fact, there are a few genuinely terrifying scenes that made me gasp for breath a few times. Yet there is a deep spiritual quality about it in its quieter moments as we’re alone with the character. As I learn more about Dr. Stone and being with her in her desperate hour, the humanity of the story becomes even more palpable. This isn’t a film about space as it’s about people, reminding us once again what truly makes us human. The ‘detachment’ and ‘letting go’ themes are metaphors for what we too encounter in our journeys on earth. We take so much for granted the simpler things in life, but after seeing this, even just inhaling air into our lungs feels like an amazing privilege.

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Cuarón may not be the most prolific filmmakers out there, as his last feature film was Children of Men in 2006. It’s one of my favorite science fiction films and is already a sci-fi classic. You’d think would be hard to top but somehow the Mexican director managed to do just that with this one. I can’t put into words just how striking this film is, the long takes throughout the films are stupendous to behold. We might’ve seen images of earth from above from various space documentaries, but somehow cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki makes the view look even more dazzling. I can’t speak about the technical aspects of the special effects but Cuarón has a way of making us feel as if we’re actually there, in space, with the astronauts. The degree of the visual realism is so incredible that it looked as if the film were actually shot in space. It’s hard to explain but during the detachment scene, there’s a subtle technique that enables us to “sense” the surroundings from Dr. Stone’s point of view.

On top of the visual artistry, the use of sound is unlike any other. I feel like the whole theater rattles a bit as the music roars but then the silence feels just as deafening. Kudos to Steven Price for his magnificent score, as it adds so much to the film. It starts off with a clasic orchestral style but then it switches to a heart-pounding, nerve-rattling tone as the terror unfolds on screen. I don’t describe hardly any film as being hypnotic, but I think it’s an apt sentiment to use here as I was absolutely transfixed.

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Despite its striking beauty and spectacular special effects, Gravity doesn’t fall into the trap of ‘style over substance.’ In fact, it’s one of those films that give you as much food for thought as feast for the senses, allowing us to marvel at the beauty of our universe but also the power of the human spirit. As a person of faith, I really appreciate the theme of rebirth and letting go of the past that serves as our own personal ‘chain’ if you will.  There’s a message of hope that resonates deeply with me, that in my darkest hour, I’m not really alone.

Another outstanding aspect of the film is the performances. Though Clooney’s name is on the marquee too, it’s ultimately Sandra Bullock‘s film and she owns the role of the brilliant but vulnerable Dr. Stone. Apparently she’s the third choice after Angelina Jolie and Natalie Portman both passed on the film, but now I can’t picture anyone else in that role. I have always liked her as an actress and certainly has the talent and versatility to do well in both comedy and drama. Under certain guidance though, a director could take an actor’s performance to another level and that’s the case here. Suffice to say, her performance here easily surpasses everything else she’s done to date. I don’t think people would be crying foul when once again we’d see her name amongst 2014 Oscar’s Best Actress nominees.

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Speaking of Oscar, this will be the film I’d be rooting for. It’s a family project of sort as as Alfonso collaborated with his son Jonás Cuarón on the script. It’s definitely a career-best for pretty much for the Alfonso Cuarón, and this would easily be one of those films people would be studying in the future.

Final Thoughts: I’m running out of adjectives already to describe this film. One final observation – for a film set entirely in space with its harsh, dangerous environment, this is not a cold film. It’s perhaps one of the most emotionally-gratifying film I’ve seen this year, and it also boasts a finale that makes you want to get up and cheer. A triumphant film through and through. See it and experience it for yourself, on the biggest screen you can possibly find. For once I actually recommend seeing it in IMAX 3D, trust me, it’s worth it.

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5 out of 5 reels

Anybody else’s seen this yet? I’m very interested to hear what you think.