Thursday, November 11, 2004

My current reviews

"friday night lights" stars billy bob thornton as a HS football coach for the small town of Odessa in Texas which holds the record of winning the most HS championships in the state. the movie is a chronicle of the 1988 season and follows the story of the team as they struggle to win each game amid personal hardhips and undue pressures from their proud and passionate townmates. for those looking for a football 101 lesson this is the movie. technicals aside, the personal stories of the athletes that the writers decided to focus on give the movie its weight and ultimately inspires the viewers to root for them and see them succeed.

"taxi" may have had queen latifah in one of her hilarious and funniest roles ever but the lackluster comic antics turned in by costar jimmy fallon swallowed everything up. jimmy fallon is a bumbling NYPD cop and latifah a newbie cab driver. they cross paths one day and they get involved with a gang of robbers who look like runway models. and that is as far as the story goes. bad movie.

"the grudge" is based on a japanese horror hit. it stars sarah michelle gellar who is in japan with her boyfriend who is studying for something i may have missed. anyway, gellar works as a caregiver and gets assigned one day to this one house when the regular caregiver fails to show up. when she gets there, she finds the bike of the regular caregiver parked conveniently inside the compound (oh, serious trouble),thus begins to unravel the mystery of the house. she sees a boy taped and locked inside a cabinet. sees the woman she was attending to killed by a shadow. the horror in the movie works a la the ring because the writer and director patiently tells us the story behind everything in a slow deliberate pace that heightens the viewers desire to know more but also the increasing the creeping atmosphere of fear slowly building and building and wham!...good scary stuff.

"shall we dance" is another movie based on a japanese hit about a middle-aged man who takes up dancing to break the monotony in his life and in so doing bring back not only life to himself but to all the people he inspired and touched. richard gere is effective in the lead role and the dance sequence he does with jennifer lopez is lustful without the lust. susan sarandon costars as gere's wife. good manageable movie.

"surviving christmas" will not survive till christmas. some critics are so harsh they say it wouldn't even make it to halloween. hehehe. and for all the good reasons, they are right. the movie is an exercise in mockery. it mocks the christmas tradition of family and it fails miserably. ben affleck stars as a millionaire who buys himself into a family so that he can celebrate the christmas he never had. premise maybe good but the execution was terrible. it feels like an overextended sitcom rerun that airs at 3 inthe morning. very bad!

NOW THE truly great ones.

"the motorcycle diaries" stars gael garcia bernal and rodrigo dela serna as two buddies who take on a road trip across south america to 'discover the land they only read in textbooks' but they end up learning more than they ever expected. this film is a chronicle of the charismatic south american revolutionary che guevarra's travels when he was twenty three to the outskirts of argentina, peru,chile and venezuela. on the way, he discovers the social injustices to the poor, the division of the rich and the poor, the phlight of the common man. witnessing the transformation of guevara from the exuberance of youthful mindlessness to take the cause of the small people and lead the most successful social revolution in south america is most inspiring. the film is not pro-communist but it is sympathetic to the ideals of the real communist movement. che guevarra was assassinated by the CIA when he was about 35 or so it says in the end blurb. on the performances, both the lead actors do superb turns but kudos goes to bernal who embodies the character of guevara with such charm and quiet ferociousness that the viewers may actually mistake him for the real guevara. very good film. one of the most important films i should say.

"vera drake" is a british film made by mike leigh that won the venice prize for best picture and bestactress. true enough, imelda staunton, the vera drake in the title inhabits the role with such pleasantness and heartbreaking remorse that the audience end up cheering for her eventhough she has committed a very heinous crime. vera drake is a cheerful homemaker who tends to her family with dedication and servile grace. she does home cleaning for several households and attends to her ailing mother. on the side, she also plays matchmaker to her homely daughter and a family friend. But her kindness does not end there, she also helps teenage girls who are pregnant and in distress. vera drake does abortions but she thinks she is only helping the poor young girls. she knows its wrong that's why she keeps the knowledge from her family. tragedy strike when one of the girls she assisted nearly dies and the hospital doctors who treated her brought the matter to the attention of the police. the film is not a sympathetic look at abortion. however, it does not condemn nor does it condone. the film merely shows the frailties of the poor young girls who are desperate to rid themselves of the sad predicament they are in and charitable spirit of vera drake who sees the opportunity to help and does so without asking for any favors. ms. staunton is being touted by many to win this year's oscar for best actress and seeing her on screen validates the critical acclaim.

both films should be very visible in the following months as awards season kick in and i wouldn't be surprised if both collects a few.

november 11, 2004

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