Movie Review #413: This Is The End (2013)

Low-brow comedy never felt this smart before

Okay, first off let me just announce that this film is ridiculously offensive in so many ways that I wouldn’t be one to recommend it to the purest and kindest of people. To be honest, I’m still kind of torn between liking and hating it, because sometimes it’s so stupid and sickening but other times it’s smart and hilarious. But at the end of the day, I couldn’t deny the fact that I was entertained and impressed with Seth Rogen and the gang.

The audience seemed to agree with me as well. Everyone laughed, screamed, and cringed at the same time that you’d think we were in a choir. And this began way early into the film as Rogen and Jay Baruchel opened it all up: greeting themselves using their real names at the airport (some people didn’t know the premise then). Then slowly we’re introduced to some of their celebrity friends, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Danny McBride, and the gorgeous Emma Watson, all of which are guests of James Franco who’s hosting a party. Of course, what better way to cut costs than to shoot 70% of the film in his home, right?

Emma Watson as Emma Watson. Who doesn’t want that?

Where they filmed it didn’t matter all that much though as majority of the film’s success is attributable to its story and the actors. There’s no doubt they had a ridiculously stupid plot, not to mention it was unevenly written. But it all plays out great when you have famous people playing themselves. It makes you wonder what they’d really do if it really was the end of the world. There’s not a lot to complain with the story because although the ending was inevitably predictable, the ‘how they got there’ part is what you won’t be expecting. The way they pulled it off was not only funny; it was also smart considering their low-brow intentions. Oh, and one more thing, Channing Tatum! That’s all I can say, now go check out how they humiliate themselves.

GRADE: B

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Movie Review #412: The Host (2013)

Some critics claim it’s the worst movie of 2013, and so far it is.

Bland, underdeveloped and inorganic, The Host makes Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight adaptations feel like Harry Potter. Seriously, some of the entries in the saga ended awfully badly but they aren’t as tragic as this! It all starts out fine; in fact the first 40 minutes was fairly decent. But like any other poorly finished offering, my interest waned to the point that I just wanted all the drama to end.

This always happens with Meyer’s works. She creates intriguing concepts, and I admit even Andrew Niccol’s (screenwriter, the Truman Show) approach made it look very interesting at first glance. There just isn’t anything to be excited about with the plot progression, as promising developments are abandoned one after the other and things become monotonous. The concept of Saoirse Ronan’s soul (Melanie) fighting an alien entity that took over her body gets boring as well, especially the narration. There were so many unnecessary junk taking place and they didn’t even bother hiding it. Had it not been for Ronan’s efforts I would’ve lost myself completely while watching. But as much as it’s bad, I don’t hate it because going in I didn’t expect much anyway. There are definitely others out there that are a lot worse than this. I might have even given them higher grades, but I just can’t forgive this movie for not trying harder.

GRADE: D+

This Week I Watched: Chronicle (#411)

Had some trouble finding time for movies last week, but I promise you that the next four titles mentioned in this segment are all great and worthy of re-watching. For now let me just say a few things about Chronicle (2012), a film I consider is the only film other than Cloverfield that manages to utilize its found footage gimmick creatively and artistically.

Chronicle is a blend of so many genres: sci-fi, suspense, drama, maybe even horror. You could also categorize it as a superhero flick, but not your usual kind. It overcomes the amateurish feel of found footage with brilliant directing by Josh Trank and Jay Alaimo. They put the icing on the cake by developing a solid premise and utilizing three brilliant young actors to actualize it, namely, Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell and Michael B. Jordan. Each of them delivered splendid performances, but DeHaan exhibits a level of maturity with his acting that makes him so effective in his role here as Andrew. Meanwhile Jordan, like the famous basketball legend, is so charismatic here that it makes me very curious to see how he fares in Fruitvale Station. Other than that I don’t really have much else to say about the film other than the fact it’s very entertaining and well done.

GRADE: B+

Movie Review #410: Movie 43 (2013)

5% hilarious, 95% stupid, 100% offensive

For what it’s worth, Movie 43 does deserve to be watched – to see how low even high-profile celebrities are willing to go just to make audiences laugh. It’s so bad it’s weirdly entertaining. It’s so stupid and self-aware that it’s brilliant. But hell, all this film may be is a punch to the face of Hollywood. Because my goodness, if they were serious about making a legitimate movie, they definitely failed.

If a film was directed by 13 people and written by 19, you’d think it would turn out great, right? Wrong! For starters, Movie 43 isn’t even a movie. It’s more of a collection of sketches combined to run at 90 minutes. What it is though, is star-studded. Not even The Avengers could compete against its roster of A-listers, who I’m pretty sure wouldn’t want their names associated with this project any longer. To name a few, there’s Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Kate Winslet, Terrence Howard, Elizabeth Banks, Josh Duhamel, Julianne Moore, Naomi Watts, Live Schrieber, Dennis Quaid, Jason Sudeikis, Uma Thurman, Kristen Bell, Richard Gere, Kate Bosworth, Chloe Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Sean William Scott, Johnny Knoxville, Gerard Butler, Greg Kinnear, Anna Farris, Chris Pratt, Emma Stone, Justin Long, Katrina Bowden, Common, Seth MacFarlane, and Will Sasso. And they said they made the film for $6 million. They must be crazy.

In its defense, it is quite funny at times, like when Halle Berry dips her boob in guacamole or when Hugh Jackman plays with the ‘balls’ attached to his neck. But it misses the mark most of the time that the only thing you’ll notice is its offensive tendencies and amateurish direction. I for one wasn’t offended, but overall I found it to be tasteless and poorly conceived.

GRADE: D+

Movie Review #409: Elysium (2013)

Visually captivating yet leaves so many things unexplored

Health is wealth, but in the world of Elysium it’s wealth that determines your access to the best health care in the solar system. Not only are the poor denied access to the best services technology can offer, they are also left behind in a dying earth while the rich enjoy the luxury of living in a pristine man-made space structure from afar. It’s an incredibly cynical take on the future. And with Neill Blomkamp’s heavy-handed direction you get to witness how people would be willing to risk everything to obtain their absolute and physiological necessities. Unfortunately, with so much focus put into those topics, other intriguing areas are left unexplored, which is very disappointing.

The film gave off a vibe similar to that of District 9, though somehow there seemed to be something missing. It could be due to my indifference towards the cast aside from Matt Damon, who single-handedly carried the film’s weight up to the ending. The other characters were either unlikeable (paging Jodie Foster) or forgotten by the story altogether. Where the plot headed wasn’t all that intriguing too. Sure it strikes up a conversation because of its relevance in our world today, but it comes at the expense of entertainment. Maybe I should’ve looked at it at a different light, but my expectations were completely different from what the film actually was.

I would’ve liked it more had they been less predictable when it came to finding out where they were going next. The journey from Earth to Elysium was hardly that exciting anymore after being told about that for the nth time. I also felt claustrophobic during the final act because they were so restricted by the area they were on, which contrasts the large scope the film could’ve utilized as a sci-fi. Where it disappoints the most though is its underutilization of the genre itself, since I had the most fun while they were tinkering with their weapons and using their healing machines. I also loved the imagining of the Elysium and the visuals were astonishing despite its relative scarcity. There just seemed to be a lack of human emotion in the film that couldn’t quite hook me deeper into the story. And these minute flaws sadly piled up and dragged down an otherwise interesting movie.

GRADE: C+

This Week I Watched: The ABCs of Death (#407), A Secret Affair (#408)

T is for Toilet, one of the best looking shorts I’ve seen

This week I saw two types of films I rarely try out

So far out of five tries only I, Robot managed to get a grade higher than C+ in my ‘This Week I Watched’ entries. Sadly, with the inclusion of these two, only the denominator only rose up.

F is for Fart, a Japanese entry

For The ABC’s of death, If I’d known which letters showed promise at the start I would’ve skipped a majority of them altogether. It is a nightmare to complete and the lack of quality in most entries in the anthology is so prevalent that I found it incredibly difficult to praise some of the more noteworthy parts. Considering 26 directors had their own take of death, most of them were really obsessed with toilets and sex. And it’s only fitting that one of the best parts involve the letter T which stands for, you guessed it: Toilet. My other fave is Quack, a self-aware comedy about the directors who didn’t know what to do with the letter Q. There were also some thought-provoking entries that I had to revisit to understand its deeper meaning, but they are outweighed by the incredibly weird and stupid segments that you wouldn’t even understand even if you researched on the internet (trust me, don’t even bother). The worst ones were the two Japanese entries, along with Gravity, which was a complete waste of time. Overall, it was about 40% good and 60% horrible, which is enough to consider it a bad film on my terms.

A Secret Affair on the other hand is a steamy, sexy film starring three undeniably alluring Filipino actors, Anne Curtis, Derek Ramsay and Andi Eigenmann. Despite the body count, however, its undeveloped characters and laughable supporting cast makes up for a shallow and uncouth offering. Despite trying to convey a meaningful message by the end, it becomes too little too late to the point that it’s already rendered ineffective.

Final Grades:

The ABCs of Death: C-

A Secret Affair: C

Movie Review #406: On The Job

The best film I’ve seen in 2013 so far

Bold, ruthless, brutal, whatever you call it, Erik Matti’s crime thriller On The Job is just so remarkably well done that it’s hard to believe it’s real. The film is a stark reminder of what Filipino filmmakers can conceive with a big budget and creative control. It’s a fantastic example of art not giving in to commercialism, and as a result moviegoers become treated by a rare Pinoy actioner that will surely be looked upon as an instant classic.

From the get go, you could already sense the movie’s not your usual mainstream offering. The starting sequence that was set in a certain street in Manila made sure of that, continued by the amazing opening credits that gave me goosebumps. From there, it was just consistently gripping. There were very intense moments divided by the occasional dialogue between the main characters. But even those were captivating as you discover their backstories and motivations. Tatang in particular, is one you’ll be rooting for and Joel Torre’s masterful portrayal of an aging inmate makes you love him even more. Even the young bloods, Gerald Anderson and Piolo Pascual deliver surprisingly good performances. And while Joey Marquez’s Sgt. Acosta doesn’t necessarily make you like him at the start, by the final minutes you’d want to give him a standing ovation for what he’s done overall.

The central theme of corruption is handled with such grittiness that it’s so effective in eking out an emotional reaction from you. It’s so relevant, so realistic, and so entertaining. And bolstered by fantastic cinematography, the story is told with a visual style which complements its noir elements. It’s the most engaging Filipino film I’ve seen in my life, and that’s enough to make it my #1 film of 2013 so far. Word of mouth has been excellent and fortunately people are visiting the multiplexes. I’m telling you right now, if you’re in the Philippines and this is showing: WATCH IT ASAP! You’ll regret it if you don’t.

GRADE: A-