No Strings Attached (2011)

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Director: Ivan Reitman

Starring: Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman

Led by the all-star pairing Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman, the cast of No Strings Attached delivered an adequately funny and occasionally kilig, rom-com. Kutcher plays Adam, a hopeful writer who makes a pact with busy medical resident Emma, played by Portman. The agreement? Use each other for sex. 

The movie is a natural chick-flick: boy and girl meet, boy and girl connect in some way, boy and girl can’t or won’t clearly establish relationship, boy and girl *spoiler shocker* end up together.

It’s not exactly the most explosive premise or idea. We’ve all seen a ‘friends with benefits’ storyline at one point in our media-ridden lives. Does this subvert the fun of watching? Not entirely. That’s why we keep getting it on our screens. The sexuality aspect entertains the sexual beings (by this I mean every one of us) who get to watch them. Sexuality, of course, is a broad topic and not at all defined and confined in only doing the deed. Yes, this movie has Theology 131 (it’s often taken in junior year!) written all over it.

“We’re sex friends. Just… friends who have sex.”

“That’s not possible.” 

TH131 students would further reason out that it is also possibly destructive. Portman is known to be a picky actress, and this movie is no exception. More than a chick flick, No Strings Attached touches on sexuality and, as our TH131 professors would say, its two dimensions. But let’s leave the longer explanations to our profs, shall we?

Still, No Strings Attached is very much accessible and fun. The cast is a diverse set of characters, some of whom will get to tickle your funny bone.

Source Code (2011)

Genre: Sci-fi, Thriller

Directed by: Duncan Jones

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga

Just when I thought that movies that come with a substantial story, impeccable action and CGI affects could only be done by Christopher Nolan, there came Source Code – a sci-fi movie about a man who has to relive a certain eight-minute moment to be able to unravel a mystery.

             The problem with “popcorn” action movies these days is that they aren’t able to make a tight and interesting narrative in between the big action sequences, and indeed, Source Code proves to me that this isn’t always going to be the case. Albeit I would rather move beyond the praise for its well-directed sequences and visual effects, since it could be given to any other mediocre movie out there, and since this movie doesn’t fully thrive on that. The movie manifests incredible cinematic artistry starting from its wild concept that is built from both the science of technological development, and real human instincts. Even though one scene had to be done repeatedly, one will never feel tired of seeing it, as it brings the audience one step closer to the truth. They served as major building blocks, set to be presented in a pace that is undeniably perfect.

             And of course, this concept doesn’t get thrown in the dumpster too easily because of a very engaging story that backs it up. With this concept, the movie could’ve gotten lost so easily amidst the strange ideas that the movie presents. But in this movie, it uses the concept to its very advantage. The repeated scenes intensified the progress of emotions that was going through the narrative. Even though it can be said that the main arc of the film revolves around the mystery of who planted the bomb in the train that caused the explosion, what came with it is an interesting look at an even bigger mystery – a mystery about humanity and what it suffers from because of technological development.

             What also separates this movie from any other thrillers out there is the brilliant character development. At the very core of this enthralling concept and story is a character, played wonderfully by Jake Gyllenhaal, who after waking up inside a train, seems lost. But, what the audience eventually sees is how this character develops into someone who seems to be sure of what he’s doing in every step of the way. As he becomes sure of what he has to do to fulfil the mission and discover the truth, he also becomes more aware of his identity and true purpose in life.

             It is truly the kind of movie that shall keep you at the edge of your seat, and your mind at the edge of its literary thinking abilities. There is enough detail in this film that could get you to come to an assumption that it is not ending everything without a bang. It comes to a point where you’d think it would climax, but then it gives you even more slaps that asks you to stay awake for the even bigger bang later in the movie. You simply can’t hold your breath on one of these surprises because there are still plenty coming your way, and when that final bang hits you in the face, you’ll realize that it was a bang that you wanted and needed.

           Remember the ending of Inception? You might want to brace yourself for something like it – thought-provoking, and shall leave you staring into the screen as the credits roll.

            With a lot of elements that this movie had to balance, it manages to be truly understandable – on the surface and in depth. It may be some kind of disappointment for those who are looking for bloody, cringe-inducing action sequences, but it will be a perfect adventure for anyone who’s looking for an intellectual challenge and intense angst. Either way, you may bring with you a pack of popcorn or two, but you probably wouldn’t get to eat it anyways if you closely pay attention and realize that you have to make every second count.

(Review by Paul Alcantara)             

Bridesmaids (2011)

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Director: Paul Feig

Starring: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, and Rose Byrne

 

We all loved the men of The Hangover (2009) and all of the crazy stunts they unwittingly pulled and the rich bosses they hassled. Undeniably unforgettable, it has risen to being one of the top comedies made in the past few years. Its widely claimed female counterpart, Bridesmaids, also proves a to be a hit with its concoction of funny characters, antics, and gimmicks.

 The hilarious Kristen Wiig plays the maid-of-honor and main character of the movie, Annie. Unless you watch Saturday Night Live (personally, I think she’s the funniest on the show), it’s likely that you’ve never heard of the name. That’s probably because Wiig has never really portrayed the lead character in a movie. That was, of course, until Bridesmaids, in which she carries the ball perfectly. Wiig is undoubtedly one of the funniest celebrities in Hollywood at the moment, and she proves so in this movie.

 In the movie, Annie’s best-friend-since-they-were-kids, Lillian, played by another SNL-er, Maya Rudolph, is getting married and has chosen four other bridesmaids. It’s an entourage of wacky personalities. There’s the jaded mother, Rita (Covey); the sweet and sunny, Becca (Kemper); the bawdy and headstrong, Megan (McCarthy); and last but not the least, the rich and eternally poised, Helen (Byrne). Susan also considers Lillian as her best-friend, which stirs up a crazy rivalry between her and Annie.

 As they plan and go about all of the wedding preparations and activities like dress fitting and the ever-important bachelorette party, Annie often finds herself in sticky and/or embarrassing situations. All these situatioms paved way for Wiig to exhibit her incontestable comedic prowess. From weird dance moves to Hitler impressions to wild public outbursts, Wiig never fails to garner laughs. Bridesmaids is a terrific comedy, one of the best this year. 

(Review by Jelena Fajardo) 

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2011)

Genre: Horror

Director: Troy Nixey

Starring: Guy Pearce, Katie Holmes, Bailee Madison

 

The film started out with a brutal scene. This built up the mystery as to what the supernatural creatures inhabiting the house were. As the film progressed, more spooky happenings took place, which increased the curiosity of the viewers.

However, what I think the film’s greatest flaw was the unveiling of the antagonists early on in the film. The scene where the creatures are revealed seemed very anti-climactic to me. Because of this, the viewer’s curiosity was suddenly fulfilled midway into the film and that there was nothing to look forward to anymore. The suspense was broken and it was this suspense that was carrying the attention of the audience throughout the film ever since the beginning scene. Because of this, the latter parts of the film seemed somehow comedic instead of being scary, relying more on brutality and gore to try and impress the audience. There were quite some nice scares in the movie, but ultimately, it’s not the kind of horror movie that sticks with you until you try to sleep at night. The ending seemed to be quite rushed and there were a few plot holes that were not answered but I’d recommend this film for those non-hardcore horror fans.

(Review by Jairus Guzon) 

Crazy Stupid Love (2011)

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Directors: Glenn Ficarra and John Requa

Starring: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore


 Simply Unpredictable

Crazy. Stupid. Love.

These three words when dealt individually draw a mixture of reactions from people. Put them in one sentence and you get a torpedo of emotions. Crazy Stupid Love, directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, gives audiences a new dose of emotion that would surely take you on a roller coaster ride. The movie takes you on a journey of a whirlwind of love stories. The first one is about Cal Weaver (Carell), a father who undergoes a divorce brought by his wife, Julianne Moore’s (Weaver),  infidelity. He then meets Jacob Palmer (Gosling), a womanizer, who brings back his so – called “manhood”. Cal finally gets this back and scores some girls of his own. As he enters the club and welcomes different girls in his life, his wife, on the other hand, dreads on her mistake and longs for her husband once again. When they finally see each other, Julianne finds out about the whereabouts of Cal through their son’s teacher and they eventually, lose all hope of getting back together. While Cal struggles with his marriage, Jacob Palmer (Gosling) finds himself lost in love with Hannah (Emma Stone), a woman who once refused him at his attempt to woo her. Hannah draws him away from his traditional routine of one night stands and instead leads him to finally settle down with one girl. The third story takes place with Cal’s son, Robbie, who falls in love with his babysitter, Jessica, who he treats as his soul mate. They have a four-year age gap yet Robbie won’t give up on the girl with all the cheesy texts and attempts to get her. In the end, the stories connect when Hannah is revealed to be Cal’s daughter and Jessica was really in love with Robbie’s father. The story goes beyond traditional loves stories and truly makes the audience crazy.

The movie, for me deserves 4 out of 5 stars. The actors did well in portraying their parts especially Stone, though just a supporting character, never failed to entertain the audience. Gosling wooed the ladies more than ever with his looks and his desirable body. Weaver brought the dramatic element and a little comedy to the film. The plot is very much different from any movie I’ve seen and it definitely gives a lot surprises. The events were unpredictable and the connections were unbelievably genius.

Crazy Stupid Love is definitely worth watching and I definitely recommend people to watch it.

(Review by Dyan Suaco)

 

Insidious (2011)

Genre: Horror
Director: James Wan
Starring: Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne

I have to say, I expected much more from Insidious. It starts off like any typical horror movie. Renai and Josh Lambert have just recently moved into a new house with their three children. One night, their son Dalton hears a strange noise coming from the attic. When he goes to investigate, he falls off a ladder after attempting to switch on the lights. When his parents find him, he is fine other than a hurt leg and a bruised forehead. However, when Josh tries to wake him up the next morning he is unresponsive and appears to be dead. They take him to the hospital only to be told that he is under a coma despite the lack of any sign of brain damage. The film moves to three months later where Dalton is still in a coma but he has been taken back home. Renai starts hearing strange noises and begins to see mysterious figures of demons and little children appearing in different places in the house. She gets so scared that she forces Josh to let them move out to a different house. It seems as if everything in the new house is fine until one day she starts seeing things again and this time Josh’s mother even sees the demons herself. His mother refers them to Elise, a woman gifted in the paranormal. Once Elise connects Dalton’s coma with the strange appearances, Renai and Josh are faced with the challenge of facing the demons head on in order to get their son back and to restore peace to their family.

I heard a lot of people say that this was one of the scariest movies they’ve ever seen.  Much like other reviews I’ve seen on Insidious, I’d have to say that it could have been a great movie. The only problem I have is that the second half of the film didn’t do the first half any justice. The first half was well-done. Reminiscent of the older horror movies, it was full of creaking doors and things that go bump in the night, the kind of stuff that make you anxious and on the edge of your seat waiting for the ghost to just come out of its hiding place already. It didn’t rely on cheap scares. The plethora of sounds mixed with the calmness of the visuals left you wanting more. My favourite part was the eerie moment where Renai started hearing whispers and strange noises come from the baby monitor. It really got my heart racing.

However, when they moved to the new house things sort of started going downhill from there. Four new characters were introduced, two of which seemed like they were supposed to be there for comedic relief, which I thought was unnecessary, as the first part was continuously intense and adding these two would only kill the mood. Then things started to grow more and more illogical and fantastical that it seemed like I was watching an entirely different movie. As the movie progressed, the demons and ghosts were starting to become more and more prominent and I thought that perhaps they should have kept them hidden because, well, they weren’t exactly convincing. There were parts where their appearances would shock you, but then there were parts where they would just be still, like wax figures and you would ask yourself if it was all really meant to be scary. The most annoying part for me was when Josh stepped into the Further, the dark realm where the dead go. It looked as if he was just going through a fun house or one of those amusement park horror houses. The fog on the ground, the ghosts coming out of random closets, the chains that were tied around Dalton’s legs, and the assortment of creepy little trinkets made it all look too unreal.

Despite its flaws in production design, and its feeble attempts at shocking its audience, I think it’s important to note that the ending was pretty strong. There’s a surprise twist at the end that will make you take back that sigh of relief and then never want to trust anyone again.

I guess if you’re the type of person who likes getting shocked and is very interested in dreams and alternate realms, then Insidious is for you. But if you’re looking for something that feels real and truly terrifying, then I guess it wouldn’t be on your top 10. 

(review by Chang Casal)

12 Angry Men (1957)

Genre: Legal Drama

Director: Sidney Lumet

Starring: Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb and Martin Balsam

 

12 Angry Men is a 1957 film adaptation of a play of the same name. Normally, it is a bit of a struggle for me to be able to pay close attention to a black and white film, especially since I’m a rather visual person. It is even more difficult, for anybody, to be able to pay attention to a single set for over an hour! (It is typical for adaptations from plays to have limited sets. In this case, there was only one set: the jury room.) Yet it had me at the edge of my seat the entire time.

For those who haven’t heard of the famed movie, it is centered on a jury debating on the possibility of the innocence of a young lad from the slums, who has been accused of committing murder and all the evidence is not in his favor. The jury cannot convict him of murder and send him to the chair unless they come to a unanimous decision. The premise is that it begins with a vote: everyone except one man vote guilty. The story develops from there.

All 12 actors gave powerful and convincing performances; anything less would not have done the script justice since the plot relies on their interaction. In my opinion, the mark that an actor has done his job of defining his character is in inciting strong emotion within viewers, which they certainly have accomplished. I felt myself hating and loving certain characters, empathizing and sympathizing as well. I especially love the exchanges between Juror #10, an impatient self-righteous man, and Juror #11, a respectful immigrant watchmaker. The movie circulates around themes of justice (naturally), prejudice, and the imperfection of mankind, among others. It drives one to introspect about one’s own choices and judgments, and still resounds an applicable message to our lives today, which is what makes it a classic.

 

(Review by Bea Osmena)

 

Originally posted on:

http://beautifulplaceswithyou.blogspot.com/2011/09/12-angry-men.html)

The Beaver (2011)

Genre: Drama, Comedy

Director: Jodie Foster

Starring: Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster and Anton Yelchin

Mel Gibson was hardly anyone’s favorite person when The Beaver, a movie about a toy executive who uses a beaver hand puppet as an alternate personality to help himself recover from depression, was released last May 2011. It was a box-office flop, which, some say, might be because of Gibson’s recent actions that caused massive negative reaction from everyone. And of course, it is also notable that this is Mel Gibson’s first gig after the major controversy that destroyed his image. Expectations are mixed about the film - some wonder if Gibson’s previous actions could help him get into character.

  But, let’s lay off Mel Gibson for a while.

For having a script that was declared as the hottest unproduced script in 2008 for being number one in The Black List, a compilation of screenplays that are most liked by studio and production company executives that haven’t been produced, The Beaver clearly had potential. The concept itself was not really overplayed, which works to the advantage of a film that’s not heavy-handed. Based on dialogue, the script needs more wittiness for the audience to appreciate the puppet-playing more. The rather predictable lines delivered by “the beaver” seem to hide behind the pretentious British accent that Gibson uses to voice the puppet, and nothing more.

The subplot involving the son, played by Anton Yelchin, tries to take on the concept of “taking the voice of others” like some sort of puppet, by being paid to write school papers for his customers, all the while copying what they sound like on paper. The parallelism there was played a bit better than those two stories separated, although quite serves the film’s structure a disadvantage. The main plot involving Gibson’s character didn’t serve as the main arc that drives the movie itself. By the end of it, it would feel as if the story involving the son was the bigger arc. 

Foster’s approach to the film is not really at all bad, but it didn’t quite serve the movie’s script justice. Foster made sure that the puppet-playing wouldn’t get shot as every viewer might expect. Instead of showing the puppet alone in the frame during the delivery of its lines, she showed Gibson’s character on the frame delivering the beaver’s lines. She was obviously shying away from a cliché, while also showing the man’s depression through facial expressions in that one single frame. Did it really work? Not quite. It’s as if you’d wish that Foster just went the cliché route and put a spin on it. Instead, the audience got a whole 360°spin on the way it was shot. 

It also seemed as if the film itself suffers from a mental disorder that causes it to be confused and out of focus. The structure, as mentioned earlier, is torn on which story should the film take as its main driving force. The climax of Gibson’s character’s arc felt misplaced, causing it to have less impact than expected. And while the son’s arc seemed to be quite interesting at first, the level to which it was underplayed seemed to have dragged down the overall don’t-take-it-too-seriously tone of the film to a level that it was hard to take any of it seriously, given that the film didn’t give any unexpected curve balls by the end for fear of going too dark. Even though the film gives being comedic a try, if there really is a way to make depression comedic, the film failed to find that way.

On a positive note, Gibson was not the only one who gave a good performance. Foster still managed to give a beautiful performance all the while doing her work as the director of the film. Yelchin is a talented actor, and he did his best with the material given to him. Lawrence, on the other hand, after getting her first Oscar nomination for Winter’s Bone, played a character that was very different from the one that got her the nomination. Lawrence, as pretty as she can be, didn’t fully make the most out of the role and we all know that she can do better.

As much as I would love a film that could’ve potentially tugged my heartstrings, the film was not that effective in terms of the overall viewing experience. As a dramedy, it’s not that the audience was not “comfortable” with it, as Foster says is the reason why the movie was a flop; it’s the ineffective balance that people would be uncomfortable with. It’s not that people still hate Gibson; it’s Foster, whose bland approach to the concept that the audience can hardly stand. It’s not that the movie is totally bad, but if we’re on the subject of puppet-playing, it had as much impact, if not less, as your typical Sesame Street episode.

(Review by Paul Alcantara)

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Loyola Film Circle Doc&Pub 
Reel Time ‘11-‘12

The Mission (Johnnie To, Hong Kong, 1999)

edmonddantesinchiaroscuro:

The film doesn’t depend on explosions, blood and brutality but it’s one of the finest gangster movies from Hong Kong. For an action gangster flick, the slow paced gun fights and sequences give a certain sleekness and elegance to a typical mob story. 

Rating: 4/5 peanuts