Wednesday, February 29, 2012

WEEKEND Pic - March 2-4, 2012

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK:


a) THE WOMAN IN BLACK (horror thriller with Daniel Radcliffe, Ciaran Hinds, Janet McTeer, David Burke, Shaun Dooley, Alisa Khazanova, Sidney Johnston, Mary Stockley, Alexia Osborne and Aoife Doherty) Rating * * * (3 stars): Set in Victorian England, this haunted house caper reminds me of the horror movies that scared the bejezus out of me when I was a kid. It still does. There is a palpable and pervasive sense of dread and creepiness throughout the show but the more interesting aspect is Radcliffe's post-Harry Potter performance: He proves that he can meet the challenge of playing a difficult role despite his age.

b) THE DEVIL INSIDE (Horror thriller with Fernanda Andrade, Simon Quarterman, Evan Helmuth, Ionut Grama and Suzan Crowley) Rating * 1/2 (2 stars): Surprisingly, this Exorcist rehash was the top-grossing movie when it opened in America during the January 6-8 weekend, grossing US$34.5 million. The Devil Inside is another low-budget, lightweight shaky-cam effort that smacks of amateur acting, scripting and directing. The shaking images makes us want to puke.

STILL GOING STRONG:


1. THE DESCENDANTS (family drama with George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller, Nick Krause, Robert Forster, Matthew Lillard, Judy Greer, Patricia Hastie and Beau Bridges) Rated * * * 1/2 (3.5 stars): It doesn't look like this Alexander Payne effort is going to win any major Oscar but it is one of the best dramas of 2011. Augmented in no small measure by Hawaiian songs and locales, the story about how a busy lawyer (Clooney) is forced to perform his duties as father to his two girls is touching and funny. And we have excellent performances from Clooney and Woodley as his eldest daughter. (Reviewed below)

2. THIS MEANS WAR (rom-com with Tom Hardy, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Laura Vandervoort, Til Schweiger, Chelsea Handler, Angela Bassett and David Koechner) Rating: * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): With its triangle love story about two CIA agents (Pine and Hardy) fighting for the same girl (Witherspoon), the movie promises a mix of explosive mayhem, comedy and romance. However, there is precious little of these to go around and even less chemistry between the leads. Directed by McG of Charlie's Angels fame, it looks like a music video version of Mr and Mrs Smith.

3. ACT OF VALOR (military adventure with Roselyn Sanchez, Emilio Rivera, Jason Cottle, Nestor Serrano, Gonzalo Menendez, Ailsa Marshall, Alex Veadov, Drea Castro, Alexander Asefa and Sonny Sison) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): The movie follows a real US Navy Seal squad on a covert mission to rescue a kidnapped CIA agent and put down a complex web of terrorist cells. It is part fiction, part documentary but the most glaring weakness here is that the Navy Seals are soldiers and not actors. Still, Americans love them and it was the top grosser in the US last weekend. 

4. THE IRON LADY (biography with Meryl Streep, Harry Lloyd, Richard E. Grant, Jim Broadbent, Anthony Head, Olivia Colman, Roger Allam, Alexandra Roach, Julian Wadham and Nick Dunning) Rating: * * (2 stars): The one and only thing this movie has in its favour is two-time Oscar-winner Streep in the title role as Margaret Thatcher. This biopic directed by Phylida Lloyd is almost like her first feature film, Mama Mia, in terms of depth and style. Mrs Thatcher's major accomplishments and life before politics are either glossed over or left out; the men are mostly portrayed as incompetent, while Mrs T is basically depicted as feminist icon.

5. MAN ON A LEDGE (crime thriller with Sam Worthington, Jamie Bell, Elizabeth Banks, Genesis Rodriguez, Edward Burns, Ed Harris, Anthony Mackie, Kyra Sedgwick and William Sadler) Rated * * (2 stars): The build-up works fine for a crime thriller - the pace is fast and there are the requisite vertigo-inducing effects and eye candy. And then just when we are about to get to the climax, everything breaks down. Yeah, the ending is so devoid of logic that it insults our intelligence. (Reviewed below)

6. GHOST RIDER SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE (sci-fi fantasy with Nicolas Cage, Idris Elba, Ciaran Hinds, Christopher Lambert, Violante Placido, Johnny Whitworth and Fergus Riordan) Rating * 1/2 (1.5 stars): Johnny Blaze (Cage) rides again in another fiery adventure but this sequel turns out to be even worse than the first. Basically, it is a mixture of nonsensical story ideas, bad special effects and boring exposition. Vroom, vroom... splutter - and it is going to take Nic Cage further downhill in his acting career.

Monday, February 27, 2012

'The Artist' and 'Hugo' Win 5 Awards Each

 Michel Hazanavicius and his Directing Oscar for The Artist
FEB 27, 2012 - As predicted, The Artist was the big winner at the 84th Academy Awards, taking away five Oscars, including Best Picture. Michel Hazanavicius won for Directing and Jean Dujardin won the Best Actor award for the black-and-white French film. The Artist also won for Costume Design and Original Score. 

It was a big night for Meryl Streep who took her third Oscar for her portrayal of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady. This was a surprise for me as I had expected Viola Davis to win for her role in The Help. All my other predictions for the major awards came true.

Octavia Spencer won the Supporting Actress statue for her role in The Help and favourite Christopher Plummer won Supporting Actor for his part in Beginners.

Hugo was the other big winner as it picked up awards for Cinematography, Art Direction, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing and Visual Effects.

Billy Crystal hosted the Oscar ceremony on ABC, which took place at the Hollywood And Highland Center, formerly the Kodak Theatre, in what marked his ninth stint.

Here are the winners:

Best Picture: The Artist

Actress: Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady

Actor:  Jean Dujardin in The Artist

Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer in The Help

Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer in Beginners

Directing: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist

Animated Film: Rango (Gore Verbinski)

Original Screenplay: Midnight in Paris - by Woody Allen 

Adapted Screenplay: The Descendants - by Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash

Original Song: Man or Muppet from The Muppets (Music and Lyric by Bret McKenzie) 

Original Score: The Artist - Ludovic Bource

Visual Effects: Hugo

Documentary (Feature): Undefeated

Sound Mixing: Hugo - Tom Fleischman and John Midgley

Sound Editing: Hugo - Philip Stockton and Eugene Gearty

Film Editing: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall 

Foreign Language Film: A Separation - Iran

Makeup: The Iron Lady - Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland 

Costume Design: The Artist - Mark Bridges 

Art Direction: Hugo

Cinematography: Hugo - Robert Richardson 

Short Film (Animated): The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore
Documentary (Short Subject): Saving Face

Short Film (Live Action): The Shore

'Act Of Valor' Tops US Weekend B-O

FEB 27, 2012 - Act of Valor trounced a handful of movies with major names attached over the weekend. The movie wound up in first place with US$24.7 million from 3,039 locations, which is just a little bit less than Tyler Perry's Good Deeds, Wanderlust and Gone made combined. The Top 12 earned an estimated US$115.8 million this weekend, which is up a whopping 20 percent from the same frame last year.

Safe House
fell 52 percent to an estimated $11.4 million in its third weekend. That brings its total to US$98.1 million, which trails Denzel Washington's American Gangster by just US$2.5 million. Barring some kind of weird twist, Safe House is poised to end up being Denzel's second-highest-grossing movie ever ahead of Remember the Titans $115.7 million.

This Means War fell 51 percent to an estimated US$8.1 million bringing its total to US$33.6 million. The Vow crashed 57 percent to an estimated US$10 million. That's nothing to cry about, though, since it became the first Sony/Screen Gems movie to ever pass US$100 million on Saturday. It's also the first 2012 movie to reach that mark, and through 17 days in cinemas the Channing Tatum-Rachel McAdams romance has made a massive US$103 million.

Here are the Top 5 North American B-O studio estimates for Feb 24-26, 2012 weekend, in terms of rank, (previous week ranking), Movie name (studio), Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart, courtesy of Boxofficemojo. (US$1=RM3)

1. (-) Act of Valor (Rela.) $24.7 million ($24.7 million) 1

2. (-) Tyler Perry's Good Deeds (LGF) $16.0 million ($16.0 million) 1

3. (4) Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (WB) $13.4 million ($76.7 million) 3

4. (1) Safe House (Uni.) $11.4 million ($98.1 million) 3

5. (2) The Vow (SGem) $10.0 million ($103.0 million) 3

Friday, February 24, 2012

Funny Scrat Trailer


Hey guys,

Here's a funny video titled The Scratist for Ice Age fans. 

Accompanying the Youtube video, courtesy of Fox, is a synopsis for ICE AGE 4: Continental Drift as follows:

Scrat’s nutty pursuit of the cursed acorn, which he’s been after since the dawn of time, has world-changing consequences – a continental cataclysm that triggers the greatest adventure of all for Manny, Diego and Sid.  In the wake of these upheavals, Sid reunites with his cantankerous Granny, and the herd encounters a ragtag menagerie of seafaring pirates determined to stop them from returning home.

Catch the video on the link below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WBaBrAzBhg

ICE AGE 4: Continental Drift opens July 12.

Posted from Decatur, Atlanta, Georgia USA.
 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

WEEKEND PIC - Feb 24 - 26, 2012

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK


a) THIS MEANS WAR (rom-com with Tom Hardy, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Laura Vandervoort, Til Schweiger, Chelsea Handler, Angela Bassett and David Koechner) Rating: * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): With its triangle love story about two CIA agents (Pine and Hardy) fighting for the same girl (Witherspoon), the movie promises a mix of explosive mayhem, comedy and romance. However, there is precious little of these to go around and even less chemistry between the leads. Directed by McG of Charlie's Angels fame, it looks like a music video version of Mr and Mrs Smith.

b) GHOST RIDER SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE (sci-fi fantasy with Nicolas Cage, Idris Elba, Ciaran Hinds, Christopher Lambert, Violante Placido, Johnny Whitworth and Fergus Riordan) Rating * 1/2 (1.5 stars): Johnny Blaze (Cage) rides again in another fiery adventure but this sequel turns out to be even worse than the first. Basically, it is a mixture of nonsensical story ideas, bad special effects and boring exposition. Vroom, vroom - and it is going to take Nic Cage further downhill in his acting career.

STILL GOING STRONG:


1. THE DESCENDANTS (family drama with George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller, Nick Krause, Robert Forster, Matthew Lillard, Judy Greer, Patricia Hastie and Beau Bridges) Rated * * * 1/2 (3.5 stars): It doesn't look like this Alexander Payne effort is going to win any major Oscar but it is one of the best dramas of 2011. Augmented in no small measure by Hawaiian songs and locales, the story about how a busy lawyer (Clooney) is forced to perform his duties as father to his two girls is touching and funny. And we have excellent performances from Clooney and Woodley as his eldest daughter. (Reviewed below)

2. THE IRON LADY (biography with Meryl Streep, Harry Lloyd, Richard E. Grant, Jim Broadbent, Anthony Head, Olivia Colman, Roger Allam, Alexandra Roach, Julian Wadham and Nick Dunning) Rating: * * (2 stars): The one and only thing this movie has in its favour is two-time Oscar-winner Streep in the title role as Margaret Thatcher. This biopic directed by Phylida Lloyd is almost like her first feature film, Mama Mia, in terms of depth and style. Thatcher's major accomplishments and life before politics are either glossed over or left out; the men are mostly portrayed as incompetent, while Mrs T is basically depicted as feminist icon.

3. MAN ON A LEDGE (crime thriller with Sam Worthington, Jamie Bell, Elizabeth Banks, Genesis Rodriguez, Edward Burns, Ed Harris, Anthony Mackie, Kyra Sedgwick and William Sadler) Rated * * (2 stars): The build-up works fine for a crime thriller - the pace is fast and there are the requisite vertigo-inducing effects and eye candy. And then just when we are about to get to the climax, everything breaks down. Yeah, the ending is so devoid of logic that it insults our intelligence. (Reviewed below)

4. SAFE HOUSE (action thriller with Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Brendan Gleeson, Vera Farmiga, Sam Shepard, Robert Patrick and Nora Arnezeder) Rating * * (2 stars): There are the usual car chases, plot twists and double crosses but at the end of the day, it is an uninspired rehash of The Bourne Identity. The lead stars, Reynolds and Washington, look tired and lacklustre while the secondary cast of  Vera Farmiga, Brendan Gleeson and Sam Shepard are wasted in dull roles.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

My Pick of the Oscar Flicks

FEB 22, 2012 – With the Oscar buzz heating up to its climax on Sunday night (Monday morning in Malaysia), I feel compelled to voice a few thoughts on who and which is likely to win. Having been in the US - Atlanta, Georgia - for the past two months and catching up on most of the Oscar-nominated films, I find myself in a better position to predict the winners.


Here's my two cents worth:

1. BEST PICTURE - My prediction: The Artist
My preference: The Artist

2. BEST ACTRESS - My Prediction: Viola Davis, The Help
My Preference: Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn

3. BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS - My Prediction: Octavia Spencer, The Help
My Preference: Octavia Spencer, The Help

4. BEST ACTOR: My prediction: Jean Dujardin, The Artist
My Preference: George Clooney, The Descendants

5. BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR - My prediction: Christopher Plummer, Beginners
My Preference: Christopher Plummer, Beginners

6. BEST DIRECTOR: My prediction: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
My Preference: Martin Scorsese, Hugo

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

'Midnight In Paris' and 'Descendants' Win WGA Awards

FEB 20, 2012 - Midnight in Paris and The Descendants won the Writers Guild of America awards on Sunday in the final Hollywood guild awards show before this Sunday's Oscars.

Writer-director Woody Allen won Best Original Screenplay for Midnight in Paris, his tale of a young writer in Paris who faces questions of love, while The Descendants, which tells of a man who brings his family together in a time of grief while his wife is hospitalized (pic), earned the WGA trophy for Best Adapted Screenplay for writers Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash.

The awards should give both movies a lift in the race for the Oscars, the world's top film honours, because many guild members also belong to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that gives out the Oscars this Sunday (Feb 26).

Monday, February 20, 2012

'Safe House' Slides To The Top

FEB 20, 2012 - After finishing in third on Friday, Safe House played well on Saturday and edged past The Vow and the disappointing Ghost Rider sequel to claim first place for the first three days of Presidents Day Weekend.

Journey 2 had a great hold in fourth, while This Means War opened decently in fifth. The Top 12 earned an estimated $144 million, which is an 11 per cent improvement from the same weekend last year.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance flamed out this weekend with a meek US$22 million start at 3,174 locations (2,352 of which showed the movie in 3D). That opening is less than half the three-day start of the original Ghost Rider on the same weekend in 2007 (US$45.4 million), which is a nearly unprecedented drop for a sequel.

Here are the Top 5 North American B-O studio estimates for Feb 10-12, 2012 weekend, in terms of rank, (previous week ranking), Movie name (studio), Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart, courtesy of Boxofficemojo. (US$1=RM3)

1. (2) Safe House (Uni.) $24.0 million ($78.3 million) 2

2. (1) The Vow (S.Gem) $23.6 million ($85.5 million) 2

3. (-) Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (Sony) $22.0 million ($22.0 million) 1

4. (3) Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (WB) $20.0 million ($53.2 million) 2

5. (-) This Means War (Fox) $17.5 million ($19.1 million) 1

Thursday, February 16, 2012

WEEKEND PIC - Feb 17-19, 2012

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK


a) THE DESCENDANTS (family drama with George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller, Nick Krause, Robert Forster, Matthew Lillard, Judy Greer, Patricia Hastie and Beau Bridges) Rated * * * 1/2 (3.5 stars): It doesn't look like this Alexander Payne effort is going to win any major Oscar but it is one of the best dramas of 2011. Augmented in no small measure by nifty Hawaiian songs and scenic locales, the story about how a busy lawyer (Clooney) is forced to perform his duties as father to his two girls, is both touching and funny. And we have excellent performances from Clooney and Woodley as his eldest daughter. (Reviewed below)

b) THE IRON LADY (biography with Meryl Streep, Harry Lloyd, Richard E. Grant, Jim Broadbent, Anthony Head, Olivia Colman, Roger Allam, Alexandra Roach, Julian Wadham and Nick Dunning) Rating: * * (2 stars): The one and only thing this movie has in its favour is two-time Oscar-winner Streep in the title role as Margaret Thatcher. This biopic directed by Phylida Lloyd is almost like her first feature film, Mama Mia, in terms of depth and style. Thatcher's major accomplishments and life before politics are either glossed over or left out; the men are mostly portrayed as incompetent, while Mrs T is generally depicted as feminist icon.

STILL GOING STRONG:


1. STAR WARS EPISODE 1 THE PHANTOM MENACE 3D (1999 sci-fi adventure re-issue with Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd and Ian McDiarmid) Rated * * * 1/2 (3.5 stars): George Lucas had delayed making this 'prequel' in the 80s because he wanted to wait for theatrical technology to catch up in the industry. When was released in 1999, it was the most awaited movie and also the most hyped. Now re-released in 3D, it should provide a nostalgia trip for Star Wars fans and enhance the excitement of the pod racing sequences.

2. CHRONICLE (sci-fi thriller with Dane DeHaan, Michael B. Jordan, Alex Russell, Michael Kelly and Ashley Hinshaw) Rated * * * (3 stars): This 'found-footage' chronicle about how three teenagers acquire telekinetic powers is like a mix of Cloverfield and TV's Heroes. It has its tongue firmly in cheek and should appeal to and delight the youngsters. What's more it does not have the old grainy, headache-inducing shaky-cam techniques of The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield. Promising effort by first-time director Josh Trank and writer Max Landis.

3. JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (fantasy adventure with Dwayne Johnson, Michael Caine, Josh Hutcherson, Vanessa Hudgens, Kristin Davis and Luis Guzman) Rating: * * (2 stars): With Hutcherson and Hudgens in the lead, this sequel to 2008's Journey To The Center of the Earth is obviously intended as a 3D-enhanced CGI feast for the kids. Adults may balk at the childish story, Dwayne Johnson's pec-popping and singing, and its vain attempts at being funny. Mainly for die-hard adventure fans and kids below 15.

4. MAN ON A LEDGE (crime thriller with Sam Worthington, Jamie Bell, Elizabeth Banks, Genesis Rodriguez, Edward Burns, Ed Harris, Anthony Mackie, Kyra Sedgwick and William Sadler) Rated * * (2 stars): The build-up works fine for a crime thriller - the pace is fast and there are the requisite vertigo-inducing effects and eye candy. And then just when we are about to get to the climax, everything breaks down. Yeah, the ending is so devoid of logic that it insults our intelligence. (Reviewed below)

5. SAFE HOUSE (action thriller with Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Brendan Gleeson, Vera Farmiga, Sam Shepard, Robert Patrick and Nora Arnezeder) Rating * * (2 stars): There are the usual car chases, plot twists and double crosses but at the end of the day, it is an uninspired rehash of The Bourne Identity caper. The lead stars, Reynolds and Washington, look tired and lacklustre while the secondary cast of  Vera Farmiga, Brendan Gleeson and Sam Shepard are wasted in dull roles.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Vow Wows US Weekend B-O

FEB 13, 2012 - With four movies opening to over US$20 million for only the second time in history, it was a very good weekend to be in the movie business.

The Vow wound up in first with an excellent estimated US$41.7 million, and Safe House wasn't far behind in second. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island also drastically outperformed expectations, and Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace 3D reaffirmed the enduring popularity of the Star Wars franchise.

Overall box office is at US$188.7 million with 43 titles reporting, which is behind Valentine's Day Weekend 2010 (US$204.7 million) and about on par with Valentine's Day 2009 (US$188.9 million).

Here are the Top 5 North American B-O studio estimates for Feb 10-12, 2012 weekend, in terms of rank, (previous week ranking), Movie name (studio), Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart, courtesy of Boxofficemojo. (US$1=RM3)

1. (-) The Vow (S Gem) $41.7 million     ($41.7 million) 1

2. (-) Safe House (Universal) $39.3 million ($39.3 million) 1

3. (-) Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (WB) $27.5 million ($27.5 million) 1

4. (-) Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace 3D (Fox) $23.0 million ($23.0 million) 1

5. (1) Chronicle (Fox) $12.3 million ($40.1 million) 2

Monday, February 13, 2012

'The Artist' Wins 7 BAFTA Awards

 

FEB 12, 2012 - Black-and-white reaps gold at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) awards on Sunday as silent movie The Artist wins seven awards including Best Film, Best Actor and Director, Best Original Screenplay, Original Music, Best Costume Design and Best Cinematography.

Meryl Streep, left, meanwhile, takes the Best Actress award for The Iron Lady while Octavia Spencer won the Best Supporting Actress award for her role as an abused maid in The Help, the film's only award of the night after five nominations.

The Artist's tally of Baftas equalled the number given to The King's Speech last year and Slumdog Millionaire in 2009. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid still holds the record with nine, followed by The Killing Fields with eight.

Here is a list of the winners:

FilmThe Artist

British FilmTinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Director – Michel Hazanavicius (right), The Artist

Actor – Jean Dujardin, The Artist

Actress – Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady

Supporting Actor – Christopher Plummer, Beginners

Supporting Actress – Octavia Spencer, The Help

Rising Star – Adam Deacon


British Debut – Paddy Considine and Diarmid Scrimshaw, Tyrannosaur

Original Screenplay – Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist

Adapted Screenplay – Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy


Film Not in the English LanguageThe Skin I Live In

Music Score – Ludovic Bource, The Artist

Cinematography – Guillaume Schiffman, The Artist

EditingSenna

Production DesignHugo

Costume DesignThe Artist

SoundHugo

Visual EffectsHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2

Makeup and HairThe Iron Lady


Animated FeatureRango

Short FilmPitch Black Heist

Short AnimationA Morning Stroll

Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema – John Hurt

Academy Fellowship –
Martin Scorsese

Sunday, February 12, 2012

THE DESCENDANTS - A Feel Great Film

THE DESCENDANTS (drama)
Cast: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller, Nick Krause, Robert Forster, Matthew Lillard, Judy Greer, Patricia Hastie and Beau Bridges  
Director: Alexander Payne
Screenplay: Alexander Payne and Nat Fraxon & Jim Rash, based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings
Time: 115 mins
Rating: *  *  *  1/2  (out of 4)


THE KING FAMILY: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller

PREAMBLE: This is a movie that's so full of raw emotions and great performances that it is bound to attract attention at Oscar season. My guess is that this family drama is being released in Malaysia solely because of the Oscar buzz surrounding it.

Still, for those looking for an engaging and heartwarming film, this it. Plus, it is one of the rare occasions that we see George Clooney cry!

The King family with Nick Krause (right) as Sid

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Matt King (Clooney) is a Hawaiian lawyer who's the sole trustee of a huge parcel of inherited virgin land. His numerous cousins are hoping he will sell the land to developers and make them all rich.  Matt's long work hours have meant that he has neglected his two daughters – 17-year-old Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) and 10-year-old Scottie (Amara Miller). When his wife (Patricia Hastie as Elizabeth) ends up in a coma after a boating accident, Matt is forced to come to terms with being a father despite barely knowing how to talk to his kids.

HITS & MISSES: Right from the opening sequences where Clooney's Matt separates (in a voice-over) the myth and the reality that is Hawaii, we are solidly on his side. This is especially so when we learn that his wife is warded in a coma - and he has a problem communicating with his daughters. This problem is gradually resolved, often in funny and touching ways, when Matt and the girls fly off to his ancestral island to look for someone connected with his wife's past. Given that Matt is caught between feeling angry and betrayed by Elizabeth and her friends and his need to do the right thing for his dying wife, we sympathise deeply with him.

Indeed, The Descendants is basically about doing the right thing even if it is painful. This also applies to Matt's controversial decision involving the sale of his ancestral land. Clooney puts up one of the best performances of his career - drawing us into Matt's dilemma and making us wonder what we would do if we were in his shoes.

Another notable performance comes from Woodley (the star of TV's The Secret Life of the American Teenager) giving an excellent and likable portrayal of the average American teenager forced by circumstances to grow up fast. She is undoubtedly the draw for youngsters.

We also get strong support from Robert Forster as Matt's clueless father-in-law; and from Matthew Lillard and Judy Greer as a married couple (pictured above) with a connection to Matt's wife. Beau Bridges provides a colorful turn as one of Matt's cousins.

In Sideways (2004), director Alexander Payne gave us a memorable and thought-provoking story about the wine industry of California. Here, he does the same for the debate over the culture and eco-system of one of the Hawaiian islands. Also, with the many accompanying Hawaiian songs on the soundtrack, it is easy to groove along with the plot.

THE LOWDOWN: A feel great movie for the discerning viewer. 

Thursday, February 09, 2012

WEEKEND PIC - Feb 10 - 12, 2012

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK
a)  STAR WARS EPISODE 1 THE PHANTOM MENACE 3D (1999 sci-fi adventure re-issue with Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd and Ian McDiarmid) Rated * * * 1/2 (3.5 stars): George Lucas had delayed making this 'prequel' in the 80s because he wanted to wait for theatrical technology to catch up in the industry. When was released in 1999, it was the most awaited movie and also the most hyped. Now re-released in 3D, it should provide a nostalgia trip for Star Wars fans and enhance the excitement of the pod racing sequences.



b) MAN ON A LEDGE (crime thriller with Sam Worthington, Jamie Bell, Elizabeth Banks, Genesis Rodriguez, Edward Burns, Ed Harris, Anthony Mackie, Kyra Sedgwick and William Sadler): Rated * * (2 stars): The build-up works fine for a crime thriller - the pace is fast and there are the requisite vertigo-inducing effects and eye candy. And then just when we are about to get to the climax, everything breaks down. Yeah, the ending is so devoid of logic that it insults our intelligence. (Reviewed below)
c) SAFE HOUSE (action thriller with Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Brendan Gleeson, Vera Farmiga, Sam Shepard, Robert Patrick and Nora Arnezeder) Rating * * (2 stars): There are the usual car chases, plot twists and double crosses but at the end of the day, it is an uninspired rehash of The Bourne Identity. The lead stars, Reynolds and Washington, look tired and lacklustre while the secondary cast of  Vera Farmiga, Brendan Gleeson and Sam Shepard are wasted in dull roles.

STILL GOING STRONG:

1.
WAR HORSE (adventure with Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Peter Mullan, Niels Arestrup, Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irvine, Benedict Cumberbatch and Toby Kebbell) Rated * * * (3 stars): Directed by Steven Spielberg from a stage play, this war drama seen from the point of view of a horse is touching and at times heartwarming. Sure it tends to be sentimental but it is classic and epic film-making without the use of CGI. Make sure you have lots of facial tissues, though. (Reviewed below)

2.  CHRONICLE (sci-fi thriller with Dane DeHaan, Michael B. Jordan, Alex Russell, Michael Kelly and Ashley Hinshaw) Rated * * * (3 stars): This 'found-footage' chronicle about how three teenagers acquire telekinetic powers is like a mix of Cloverfield and TV's Heroes. It has its tongue firmly in cheek and should appeal to and delight the youngsters. What's more it does not have the old grainy, headache-inducing shaky-cam techniques of The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield. Promising effort by first-time director Josh Trank and writer Max Landis.

3. HAYWIRE (spy thriller with Channing Tatum, Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Michael Fassbender, Gina Carano, Antonio Banderas, Bill Paxton, Michael Angarano) Rating * * * (3 stars): In 2008, Steven Soderberg featured young porn star Sasha Grey in a movie called The Girlfriend Experience, about a high-class Manhattan callgirl. The movie was, at best, tepid. In Haywire, he features mixed martial arts (MMA) superstar Gina Carano as a Government agent gone rogue, kicking a lot of male asses. Well, this time around, he back her up with a bunch of A-list stars to prevent the project from going haywire at the box-office.

4. THE GREY (adventure thriller with Liam Neeson, Dermot Mulroney, James Badge Dale, Joe Anderson, Frank Grillo, Dallas Roberts, Nonso Anozie, Ben Bray, Larissa Stadnichuk and James Bitonti) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): With action star Neeson in the lead, many will be expecting a testosterone-filled sock-em action movie. It is not. The Grey is a rather bleak and coldly realistic film about how a bunch of air crash survivors face the elements as well as packs of killer wolves in their trek to safety. (Review pending)
5. JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (fantasy adventure with Dwayne Johnson, Michael Caine, Josh Hutcherson, Vanessa Hudgens, Kristin Davis and Luis Guzman) Rating: * * (2 stars): With Hutcherson and Hudgens in the lead, this sequel to 2008's Journey To The Center of the Earth is obviously intended as a 3D-enhanced CGI feast for the kids. Adults may balk at the childish story, Dwayne Johnson's pec-popping and singing, and its vain attempts at being funny. Mainly for die-hard adventure fans and kids below 15.

MAN ON A LEDGE - Preposterous Heist Flick

MAN ON A LEDGE (crime thriller)
Cast: Sam Worthington, Jamie Bell, Elizabeth Banks, Genesis Rodriguez, Edward Burns, Ed Harris, Anthony Mackie, Kyra Sedgwick and William Sadler 
Director: Asger Leth
Screenplay: Pablo F. Fenjves
Time: 102 mins
Rating: *  *  (out of 4)


Sam Worthington - the Man On A Ledge

PREAMBLE: Man On A Ledge reminds me of a similar silly title, Snakes On A Plane. Well, this one is not such a no-brainer as Snakes On A Plane, but it is just as badly contrived.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) checks into the Manhattan Roosevelt Hotel one morning, orders a lobster meal, and promptly fulfills the film's high-concept promise by climbing out the window. Common sense dictates that he won't jump (at least not so early in the movie), but the vertigo effect is exploited by the film-makers. As TV crews and on-lookers swarm in the streets below, the NYPD arrive and officer Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks), the professional negotiator tries to coax Nick back off the ledge.

 Elizabeth Banks and Worthington

The real deal is that Nick, an ex-cop, is creating a distraction (just like in the Die Hard films). A flashback to one month earlier shows Nick's daring escape from prison, after being convicted of stealing a huge Monarch diamond from tycoon David Englander (Ed Harris). Nick wants to clear his name, and this suicide attempt is an elaborate diversion, buying time while his brother, Joey (Jamie Bell), and Joey's girlfriend, Angie (Genesis Rodriguez), break into Englander's vault and prove the jewel never went missing in the first place.

Jamie Bell and Genesis Rodrigue
HITS & MISSES: In the first half, the movie looks great with all the fast action and glib humour we have come to expect of a well-choreographed heist movie. Notice that I said 'well-choreographed' because nowhere in the film do we get the feeling that the protagonist and his cahorts are in any real danger. While each scene helps to advance the plot, it is more to grab our attention and provide eye candy than to make sense - as in the sequences in which a scantily-clad Rodriguez slides her way down an air shaft.

The other members of the cast do what they are paid to do, including Kyra Sedgwick's feisty turn as a bitchy TV reporter. I don't mind a script that requires us to suspend disbelief in order to follow the plot, I am always game enough to overlook a few idiosyncrasies. However, the ending here is so full of crap that it insults our intelligence. I bet this is gonna haunt first-time feature film director Asger Leth in time to come.

THE LOWDOWN: A see-and-forget flick.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

THE ARTIST - Tribute to the Silent Era

THE ARTIST (romantic comedy)
Cast: Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, James Cromwell, Missi Pyle, John Goodman, Penelope Ann Miller, Beau Nelson, Ben Kurland, Jean Dujardin and Stuart Pankin
Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Screenplay: Michel Hazanavicius
Time: 100 mins
Rating: * * * * (out of 4)

Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo

PREAMBLE: After watching The Artist here in the US, I can only lament the fact that it is not going to be shown in Malaysia in time for the Oscar Awards. Up to now, there has been no release date for The Artist in Malaysia. That is too bad because this black-and-white 'silent' movie is the top contender for the Oscars - and watching it will give cinema-goers a proper idea of what is at stake in the Oscar race when they catch the Academy Presentation show.

However, Oscar or not, it is a landmark film for any movie fan.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Set in Hollywood of 1927, this silent film pastiche is about popular film star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) and his beloved canine sidekick Jack (played by Uggy). When George meets charming ingénue Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), he instantly falls for her and helps her get her first big break in showbiz. However, he stops short of acting on their mutual attraction because of his marriage to the whining Doris (Penelope Ann Miller, pictured right).

With the arrival of sound, George's career takes a nose-dive as he regards the talkies as a fad. After being cast out by studio boss Al Zimmer (John Goodman), George puts all his money into a jungle adventure film, only for it to flop and for George to be wiped out financially by the Wall Street Crash of 1929. Meanwhile, Peppy's career goes from strength to strength and soon she's Hollywood's top starlet.


Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo

HITS & MISSES: Shot in the classic 4:3 aspect ratio, The Artist offers a novelty factor and writer-director Michel Hazanavicius plays the nostalgia card boldly and unabashedly. The story is cliched and occasionally sappy but it is emotionally satisfying simply because it is a tongue-in-cheek homage to the silent era. George has a reason for not embracing the talkies but it is not revealed until the last 'reel'. Meanwhile, he appears to be consumed by pride when he says: "I'm the one people come to see. They never needed to hear me."

Hazanavicius derives a lot of fun playing around with his 'silent' film effects, especially in a dream sequence where George hears sound effects for the first time but still finds it impossible to speak. Later, his wife provides new meaning to the words, "We need to talk, George."

The cast look great in their 'silent' roles and French actor Dujardin is outstanding, flashing that million-dollar smile that evidently helps to win the hearts of his audience. It is no wonder that he won the Golden Globe, the Screen Actors Guild awards, plus a host of many others, for this role. Bérénice Bejo, who's also Mrs Hazanavicius, is also a winner playing the vivacious and adorable Peppy who is likely to steal our hearts away.

Of course, the one star who really steals our hearts is Uggy the dog - a natural in any silent film.

THE LOWDOWN: Get the DVD. It is a must-see.


Monday, February 06, 2012

'Chronicle' Triumphs Despite Super Bowl Weekend

FEB 6, 2012 - Even with most people distracted by the Giants or Patriots - or whatever elaborate game day dish they've been working on - this weekend still marked the first time in US history that two movies opened above US$20 million against the Super Bowl.

Based on studio estimates, Chronicle held off The Woman in Black to take the top spot this weekend, though Daniel Radcliffe's first post-Potter outing was impressive in its own right. The weekend's other opener, Big Miracle, was a tad disappointing, but it still finished in line with modest expectations. The Top 12 wound up grossing US$95.9 million, which is up a whopping 31 percent from Super Bowl 2011.

Chronicle is the latest example of the economic viability of the found footage genre—the movie nearly doubled its production budget (US$12 million) through its first three days.

Here are the Top 5 North American B-O studio estimates for Feb 3-5, 2012 weekend, in terms of rank, (previous week ranking), Movie name (studio), Weekend takings in USD, (Cumulative gross, USD) and week on chart, courtesy of Boxofficemojo. (US$1=RM3)

1. (-) Chronicle (Fox) $22.0 million ($22.0 million) 1

2. (-) The Woman in Black (CBS) $21.0 million ($21.0 million) 1

3. (1) The Grey (Open ROad Fillms) $9.5 million ($34.7 million) 2

4. (-) Big Miracle (Uni.) $8.5 million ($8.5 million) 1

5. (2) Underworld Awakening (SGem) $5.6 million ($54.3 million) 3


Saturday, February 04, 2012

THE GREY - Neeson Vs Wolves and Wilderness

THE GREY (adventure)
Cast: Liam Neeson, Dermot Mulroney, James Badge Dale, Joe Anderson, Frank Grillo, Dallas Roberts, Nonso Anozie, Ben Bray, Larissa Stadnichuk and James Bitonti
Director: Joe Carnahan
Screenplay: Joe Carnahan, based on the story "Ghost Walker" by Ian Mackenzie Jeffers
Time: 117 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

Neeson at the site of the crash

PREAMBLE: Ever since he starred in the 2008 sleeper Taken, Liam Neeson has become America's favourite action hero - the way Charles Bronson did in the 70s, and Harrison Ford did in the 80s and 90s. The tragic death of his wife, Natasha Richardson, in 2009 may have contributed some sympathy factors but since then, Neeson has been busier than ever, playing the cigar-chomping Hannibal in The A-Team, king of the gods Zeus in Clash of the Titans, and a doctor in Unknown.

This year, we will be seeing Neeson as an Admiral in Battleship, reprising his role as Zeus in Wrath of the Titans, The Dark Knight Rises and Taken 2. With its limited appeal type of subject matter, The Grey seems more like an art film, but it is given mainstream wide release because of Neeson's popularity.

The six survivors trekking to safety

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Neeson plays John Ottway, a borderline suicidal hunter hired by an Alaskan oil drilling team to shoot the wolves that occasionally threaten their base. When a tragic plane crash leaves Ottway and six other survivors in the snowy wastelands, he is forced to use his survival skills to lead the others to safety, keeping one step ahead of a pack of ravenous grey wolves that see the humans as intruders.

HITS & MISSES: Screenwriter-director Joe Carnahan keeps our attention glued to the screen with disturbing shots of wolves, the bleak but beautiful landscape of Alaska and the rantings of some of the red-necks that make up the crew of the oil drill team. These people, including Ottway, are the dregs of society. They are ex-convicts and fugitives from the law, people we don't care about if they become crash victims or wolf fodder. When their number is cut down, however, we discover more about their character and start to root for them.

If you watch this in a cineplex with the air-con turned up, the chills and shivers will be enhanced by images of howling winds and fleeting snow. A sense of depression and desperation pervades the film as the survivors try to find a way out. This is heightened by a tensed scene involving a rope bridge crossing. However, there are constant respites from these dreariness - in flashbacks of Ottway's daydreams and recollections of his wife and childhood.

On the minus side, the scenes of the wolves and their attacks look tacky. Carnahan glosses over them - and we only see the results, leaving a lot to our imagination. Also, the ending is abrupt, and although it is realistic, it may leave many viewers disappointed.

THE LOWDOWN: Could have been a better film with a few changes.

Friday, February 03, 2012

WEEKEND PIC - Feb 3 - 5, 2012

YOUR GUIDE TO THE WEEKEND MOVIES

NEW THIS WEEK

a) WAR HORSE (adventure with Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Peter Mullan, Niels Arestrup, Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irvine, Benedict Cumberbatch and Toby Kebbell) Rated * * * (3 stars): Directed by Steven Spielberg from a stage play, this war drama seen from the point of view of a horse is touching and at times heartwarming. Sure it tends to be sentimental but it is classic and epic film-making without the use of CGI. Make sure you have lots of facial tissues, though. (Reviewed below)

b) CHRONICLE (sci-fi thriller with Dane DeHaan, Michael B. Jordan, Alex Russell, Michael Kelly and Ashley Hinshaw) Rated * * * (3 stars): This 'found-footage' chronicle about how three teenagers acquire telekinetic powers is like a mix of Cloverfield and TV's Heroes. It has its tongue firmly in cheek and should appeal to and delight the youngsters. What's more it does not have the old grainy, headache-inducing shaky-cam techniques of The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield. Promising effort by first-time director Josh Trank and writer Max Landis.

c) HAYWIRE (spy thriller with Channing Tatum, Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Michael Fassbender, Gina Carano, Antonio Banderas, Bill Paxton, Michael Angarano) Rating * * * (3 stars): In 2008, Steven Soderberg featured young porn star Sasha Grey in a movie called The Girlfriend Experience, about a high-class Manhattan callgirl. The movie was, at best, tepid. In Haywire, he features mixed martial arts (MMA) superstar Gina Carano as a Government agent gone rogue, kicking a lot of male asses. Well, this time around, he back her up with a bunch of A-list stars to prevent the project from going haywire at the box-office.

d) THE GREY (adventure thriller with Liam Neeson, Dermot Mulroney, James Badge Dale, Joe Anderson, Frank Grillo, Dallas Roberts, Nonso Anozie, Ben Bray, Larissa Stadnichuk and James Bitonti) Rated * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): With action star Neeson in the lead, many will be expecting a testosterone-filled sock-em action movie. It is not. The Grey is a rather bleak and coldly realistic film about how a bunch of air crash survivors face the elements as well as packs of killer wolves in their trek to safety. (Review pending)

STILL GOING STRONG:

1. UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING (sci-fi thriller with Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, India Eisley, Stephen Rea, Charles Dance and Michael Ealy) Rating * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): Selene (Beckinsale) awakens from a 15-year coma and finds that she has a hybrid (vampire-lycan) daughter (Eisley)! Now, she must help to stop a bio-tech company from creating an army of super-Lycans. Rendered in 3D, this one ups the ante on visuals but the narrative is pretty much the same. For fans of the series, it is another chance to see Beckinsale in kick-ass action.

2. THE VIRAL FACTOR (action thriller with Jay Chou, Nicholas Tse, Lin Peng, Andy Tien, Bai Bing, Liu Kai-chi, Carl Ng, Philip Keung, Elaine Jin and Crystal Lee) Rating * * 1/2 (2.5 stars): After a promising start, this Dante Lam actioner gets shoe-horned into the usual action-over-narration slot. Character development and plausibility takes second seat to action set pieces filmed in Jordan, Norway and Kuala Lumpur. Mayhem and destruction are the order of the day but there is little or emotional connection with the audience. Just the right popcorn treat for the Lunar New Year period, I suppose.

3. JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (fantasy adventure with Dwayne Johnson, Michael Caine, Josh Hutcherson, Vanessa Hudgens, Kristin Davis and Luis Guzman) Rating: * * (2 stars): With Hutcherson and Hudgens in the lead, this sequel to 2008's Journey To The Center of the Earth is obviously intended as a 3D-enhanced CGI feast for the kids. Adults may balk at the childish story, Dwayne Johnson's pec-popping and singing, and its vain attempts at being funny. Mainly for die-hard adventure fans and kids below 15.