Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Ocean's Twelve

The gang is back and this time around they take along the svelte Catherine Zeta-Jones for a fun ride.

Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his cohorts are mysteriously tracked down by their old nemesis Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) and they are given ten days to return the money they stole from him plus interest, and it roughly runs to $160 mil.

The team regroups and heads to Amsterdam to start raising the money. In Europe, they meet another thief who is bent on reclaiming the odious title of being the world’s greatest.

The plot is thin and the storyline looks to have been written for the sole purpose of reuniting the old gang in a sort of homage to the success they had the first time around. However, Steven Soderbergh’s brilliant filmmaking and clever editing lifts the film to a massive all-star thrilling caper. Not only is the editing good, it actually sustains the thrill of watching Hollywood's biggest stars being paraded on screen.

The movie, at first, seems lost and confused when all cards are scattered wildly across and characters go in and out of the narrative. But, in true Soderbergh fashion the cards are slowly brought together and once the loose ends are tied up, we are presented with a stunning conclusion that is so imaginative it rivals to some degree the surprise twist of the first movie.

The cast are a joy to behold. When one is such a huge fan of movies, seeing all these stars having fun together in a movie is such sheer entertainment pleasure.

The musical score that bookends the film is also creatively utilized. I think the lyrics are in English but the sound is European, French to be exact. I have heard it once and it is indeed wonderful to listen to. Just like the deceptive music, the storytelling has some deceptions in its sleeve too because it is told from the viewpoint of one person who was trying to run the story from the background, but loses still in the end.

Watch for Julia Roberts when she does a hilarious character switch near the end.

Meet the Fockers

Meet the Fockers is a swell comedy with sick and crude humor! And, appropriately enough, it works uproariously well.

This sequel to the hit Meet the Parents brings back the unfortunately named fellow Gaylord Focker (which he hides under his Greg nickname) and his miserable exploits as he tries to win the approval of his fiancĂ©e’s father, the paranoid ex-CIA Jack Byrnes.

The comedy is a study on the disparate lifestyles between Greg’s liberal and oversexed parents and the uptight and conservative Jack.

Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro) is now a doting grandpa and he travels with his entire family on his brand-new RV to sunny Florida to meet Greg’s parents purposely to discuss the matter of his daughter Pam’s (Teri Polo) marriage to Greg (Ben Stiller). But as soon as they land on Focker Isle (the family estate), they are introduced to an eccentric couple who would put to shame any man wanting to impress his in-laws.

Barbra Streisand is Rose, a liberated sex therapist for geriatrics and Dustin Hoffman is Bernie, a stay-at-home husband who loves the brazilian kung fu.

The spin on the apparent conflicting lifestyles set the stage for outrageous situations. As Greg anxiously coax his parents to mellow down their loud antics, Jack is doing his own investigations into the family and Greg’s unrevealed past.

The casting of Streisand, Hoffman and De Niro together is a huge coup. Their mere presence elevates the movie’s entertainment value to a higher level and the viewer is left full and yet feels like that cute toddler little Jack, still hungry for milk and for those fake bosoms.

Most of the old cast is back. The hysterical stewardess is back but has turned nicer. Even, Kevin, the bitter, ex-beau is back and this time he would take an important role in the movie’s biggest highlight. Watch out also for bosomy Isabel, Greg’s former nanny, who provides some of the funniest scenes in the movie.

This is a movie that doesn’t require much of the audience. It just presents itself as it is - no pretensions whatsoever. When we meet Rose Focker, we almost feel like we know her and we warm up to her immediately. That in essence is what the movie is about. We feel we see people we are familiar with, doing acts we hesitate doing personally but delight in seeing done onscreen.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events

It is indeed unfortunate to see such a promising premise completely overshadowed by special effects.

Jim Carrey fails to impress as Count Olaf, the court-designated guardian of the Baudelaire orphans; Violet, Klaus & Sunny. His multi-character role may have been a big challenge to this extremely talented comedian but the performances he registered on screen reveals otherwise.

The Baudelaire children suddenly found themselves orphaned when a strange fire gutted their house and killed both their parents. The courts then put them under the custody of their only surviving relative, the mysterious Count Olaf, who strangely enough lives just a few blocks off their old house and yet was never introduced to them.

Soon, the children discovers that Count Olaf has agendas on his mind other than caring for them. When Count Olaf fails to eliminate the orphans, the children are moved to the foster care of one of their parents' old friend. But, soon enough, a very unfortunate event would end the kind doctors life.

The children are then moved to another foster parent, this time to an eccentric old lady who fears realtors. Meryl Streep's drolling portrayal of Aunt Josephine is one of the finer elements in the movie.

This is a very dark movie with a very good plot. However, the narrative is a bit unfocused and the parts where Count Olaf was to marry young Violet was too disturbing for a children's film.

The children who portray the Baudelaire orphans are such a joy to watch, especially young sunny, who was so delightful in one particular scene with a giant snake.

Jude Law again appears in what will be his 7th (?) movie appearance this year! He plays the title character.


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