Seasons are shifting.
but my film affair is raging on with great perseverance.
Without further ado, these are my August impressions so far of the films I’ve seen the past month.
At the end of the entry I’ll sum it up by including:
Rating | Year of Release | Original Language | Director | Run time | IMDB Link
Now, conversation and exposition are two techniques that require, in my opinion, a certain kind of finesse and understanding that transcends other parts of film-making. This transcendence is what is imprinted within the soul of the “Before” trilogy; and at the forefront of its first installment, Before Sunrise. This film is a must watch for romance lovers, but beyond that, any film lover for its sheer vision. Two characters; One city: in the span of one evening shown only through the eyes and words of these two, who slowly find something magical and wonderful. It is potent. It is ethereal and it shows that so effectively. Both know that at the end of the night, ends their momentous affair, and the pressure of letting go is packaged into a gnawing intensity throughout the film. The dynamics between Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delphy) are so carefully crafted that all their conversation, debates, and digressions seem and are fascinating. This catered to my written-heart because it truly was writing at its best and didn’t seem the least bit pretentious. The film carried its dialectic depth with great subtlety and sublimity especially with progressing the characters towards their ultimate realizations; all Before Sunrise.
4.5/5 | 1995| English | Richard Linklater | 105 mins | IMDB link
I couldn’t have stopped at the first, so I continued on with the trilogy and wasn’t the least bit disappointed. This time however, the focus was shifts. Whereas with the first film, Jesse and Celine are so free and open with each other that it seems as if they are confiding in a journal. There is an unmasking process going on throughout the entire running. Yet, in Before Sunset, when the two meet “surprisingly” 10 years later, in a Parisian book store, the focus is concentrated on re-masking. At the end of the first film, the couple decided to not exchange numbers, but to meet 6 months after at the same spot. This doesn’t happen and fast-forward, they meet, and decide to catch up. It seems as if the situation resets for them as they spend the first half of the film justifying their “happiness” and how their lives have been “good”. However, with the gradual build-up, the conversations start breaking and along with them so do Jesse and Celine. Before Sunset really shows this unrealistic relationship/meeting in the most realistic manner possible, and how it can change the fatalistic undertones that continue to ride out throughout the film. I did feel that this film lacked the utter charm of the first one, but it made up for it in its portrayal of consequentiality for both characters.
Note: Still need to watch the last one!
4/5 | 2004 | English | Richard Linklater | 80 mins | IMDB link
Gattaca sits comfortably as one of best sci-fi films I’ve seen this year. Set not too far in the future, the films shows a world that is categorized by a warped form of eugenics. The population is treated according to their genetic disposition. There is no racism, at least not based on race or color. Yet, its dystopian heart is very much evident and loudly beating as the peoples’ future is defined at the time of birth. No one makes babies the normal/fun way anymore, but engineers them so that they can find themselves amongst the ruling class of genetically superior human beings. Now enter Vincent (Ethan Hawke) who was born the normal way; his parents made love in the back of the car (real classy!) causing him to be born with multiple problems. This results in him being part of the lower class of society. Even though he works extremely hard and is intelligent, it goes all in vain as he is destined to be a janitor in the society’s idiosyncratic company, Gattaca. Vincent, however wants to go to space. This sets up plenty of interesting inquiries all wrapped up in an enlightening vision depicting the human condition in a technologically dominated world where humanity isn’t really ruled by “humanity” anymore. A great example of a technological apocalypse that is subtly shadowed by wonderful performances and toned optimism that keeps the heart of real humanity beating underneath.
4/5 | 1997 | English | Alex Proyas | 106 mins | IMDB link
A young, pregnant Irish girl named Felicia (Elaine Cassidy) sets out to England to look for her lover. Having nothing but “lawn mower factory” as a clue, she wanders around the rustic British town trying to find him. Meanwhile, there is Hilditch (Bob Hoskins) who is a catering manager with an overtly gray persona. He happens to stumble upon the forlorn Felicia and offers her his helping hand. But there is something unsettling about Hilditch.
Felicia’s Journey is a dark, haunting thriller that is deceptive in its intentions and sublime in its execution. Actually, I’m inclined to call it an engaging drama more than a thriller. As the film progresses, the muddled nature of Hilditch is slowly uncovered: as a disturbed, unaware serial killer who is so distressed and lost in his own self and loneliness that he doesn’t realize his own crimes. Yet, I couldn’t help but find human elements in him, even though his acts were so inhumane. The film does an exceptional job detailing these two lost persons, one outwardly and one more inwardly, that their plight hits at the very core. This film is more a explorative, contemplative journey that is ventured upon by these two characters (searching for redemption if anything) than it is about the actions thereof or the disturbance of it all. A great, worthy title for those yearning to watch a film with substance, performance, and remembrance.
4/5 | 1999 | English | Atom Egoyan| 116 mins | IMDB link
Not even going to lie here, but a part of my admiration of this film is purely due to the aesthetic superiority of Dan Steven’s face and body. I was absolutely enamored with him both on a superficial *eye candy* level and also due to his astounding performance in The Guest. This is a thriller through and through that traces the arrival of a soldier, David (Dan Stevens) in a somewhat remote town. He shows up at the steps of a grieving family and claims to be a good friend of their deceased son. Weird deaths and strange occurrences start taking place post his arrival, and ensue the mystery behind David and the secrets that follow him. It’s a pretty fun watch, if anything. Granted, there isn’t much of a veil upon what’s happening nor does the film try to be extremely covert about it, but what it does is offer solid performances. Dan Stevens plays his role all-too-well as the enigmatic and charismatic David. As he smiles, one can see a thin reflection of disturbia in his eyes. As he talks, one can hear the somber indifference in his words. He shows up as perfection, we all know too well that under anything with the perfect label is a myriad of woe. This is what David is and shows. This film is worth watching just for Dan Stevens. Be prepared to be starry eyed for the duration of this film because damn, he is *yum*.
3.5/5 | 2014 | English | Adam Wingard | 100 mins | IMDB link
Starter for 10 is a lighthearted coming of age tale about Brian (just your average guy) who since childhood has been obsessed with the notion of being clever and obtaining knowledge. He enrolls in an elite British university and sets motion to his college life but not without hardship. He faces turbulences of the heart; the test of friendship; the temptation of betrayal; and so on and on. It’s a film that just clicks. The approach is earnest, the performances a step above charming, and the story simple. It resonated with me for a couple of reasons but the primary one being the struggle of being something you want v being something you are, which is a dominating theme in coming of age. Yet Starter for 10 depicts it with honesty that doesnt over-exaggerate or overwhelm the audience. The film also features a quaint little cast including Benedict Cumberbatch, who just melts into his role as an awkward, proud, loser-but-winner captain of the quiz club that Brian becomes the “star” of.
It’s a film worth watching, if only once.
3/5 | 2006 | English | Tom Vaughan | 92 mins | IMDB link
Monster films are hit or miss for me and unfortunately, most fall in the realm of the latter. But . . BUT to my surprise, this one really held on to my appreciation. The story is rather straightforward. A bunch of unaware tourists head out on a boat tour in the Australian wilderness that is inhabited by well, the wilderness. There is also a parallel legend running about big ass crocodiles or ancient beasts traversing the lands. Now, it’s no mystery where the plot is going to take us from this point onwards but that’s not the beauty of this film. What is praiseworthy, however, is the inexplicably grim and tense atmosphere that is crafted. It is extremely alienating, creepy, and momentous. The characters aren’t just bland meat sticks waiting to be devoured out of sheer stupidity. Every character is assigned a personality and that goes a long way, especially in a film where their fate is irreversibly stoned. And the crocodile – well you’ll just have to check the handsome beast out for yourself.
This is a great monster flick. It isn’t without its flaws, but it sure is fun.
3/5 | 2007 | English | Greg McLean | 99 mins | IMDB link
This romantic comedy of sorts is about a freshly divorced couple, focusing mainly on Steve Carrel who goes on this second path of manhood trying to find happiness, assisted by Ryan Gosling who is the film’s local casanova. It is a charming film to see; though a little too unrealistic and optimistic considering the subject matter and how its first presented, but still, charming. Every character is revealed with all of their flaws and it comes together quite nicely. The struggle for acceptance is a huge theme in this film and is gracefully carried out by all characters in a cohesive and empathetic manner. I really enjoyed how everything essentially came back to a full circle, but with subtle differences that really spoke out at the conclusion of the film. A great film to watch if craving a light romantic comedy with just the right amount of drama.
3/5 | 2011 | English | Glenn Ficarra & John Requa | 118 mins | IMDB link
I have a soft spot for Asian thrillers, I really do. I’m totally, indisputably biased towards them, and for good reason: They do them damn well; as well as anyone could, especially when dealing with the grotesque, disturbing, psychologically-impairing – I don’t think many do it better. But then something comes along and challenges my faith and that right there would be one of my recent watches titled Killers.
Killers has a fascinating premise, but damn does it self-destruct into oblivion. Basically, the film traces two characters in parallel: one in Japan, the other in Indonesia. The Japanese man is a well-off, well-dressed serial killer who treats murder as an aphrodisiac. He loves it. He videotapes all of his killings and uploads them for the world’s hungry eyes. The Indonesian man is shown to be a journalist-turned-vigilante who is pissed off at the corruption and decides to take it into his own hands, especially after killing someone in self-defense. Now what’s fascinating is the connection between the two and how one completely monopolizes the other in this game of psychological, killer warfare. It was really interesting to see the psyche of one and how it overlapped so closely with the other even though their fundamental core appeared to be so different. Now where this film decided gung-ho out was the total inconsistency in the narratives of the two when it came together. It turned into a total contrivance. The film could have ended at least 5 times before it actually did, and all of those endings would have been better than the actual finale. It was a sad affair honestly to something with so much potential crack miles before its own hubris. Either way, it was still an entertaining watch, but left me in a rather melancholic-struck state at how deep it fell in its own shit.
2/5 | 2014 | Japanese & Indonesian| Kimo Stamboel & Timo Tjahjanto | 137 mins | IMDB link
Title: A Millionaire’s First Love
I like South Korean romances. They tend to be quirky, well-developed, and interesting. Of course, we have the usual running themes in most of them, but they still manage to keep some inherent charm throughout it without resorting to cheap antics. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case with A Millionaire’s First Love.
Okay, I get it. Rich guys are so in. They are used, reused, and abused to infinity. But South Korean films or shows have a serious affinity for the rich, spoiled heir-brat with no sense of awareness. It’s like this archetype is packaged ready-to-go with no extra effort required. And this is where my problem begins. The film is about a *surprise* a rich heir who cannot get his inheritance unless he fulfills some obscure, totally meaningless condition, which in this case is to graduate from high school located in a town named who cares. Anyways, so he gets there and acts like an ass for about an hour. But then the unreal happens and he slowly falls in love with a resident of that town. The romance is so bare-bones and underdeveloped which is unsurprising considering the characters are so flat. The guy does a 180 (don’t ask how, because they don’t show/tell you). The girl remains the same. There’s lots of melodrama. And somehow everything comes together with the guy still being a spoiled brat but a spoiled brat who learns to love. Personally, this film watered down an already watered down trope in such a way where even enjoyment dissipiates into all hell. At least, for the first 30 or so minutes there was some comedy but that got overtaken real quickly because *insert unnecessary cheap drama to make me care*. Too bad it didn’t work.
An extra .5 star for being cute though.
2/5 | 2006 | (south) Korean | Tae-gyun Kim | 116 mins | IMDB link