Monthly Archives: May 2009

Ip Man (2008)

My Rating >> 4/5 STARS
MovieStudio Quote >> “Ip Mun was the greatest Kung-Fu Master of all times, and this is proof!”

In this bio-pic, Ip Man, one of the earliest Wing Chun martial arts exponents credited to have propagated its popularity, gets portrayed as the best of the best in 1930s Fo Shan, China, where the bustling city has its own Martial Arts Street where countless of martial arts schools have set up shop to fuel the craze of kung fu training. With each new school, the master will pay their respects to Ip Man and to challenge him to a duel.

Ip Man

Ip Man

Ip Man, an aristocrat who spends most of his quality time developing and perfecting his brand of martial arts, will take them on behind closed doors, so as not to damage his opponents’ reputation nor embarrass them in public. His humility is his virtue, and his style is never violent or aggressive, which often gets assumed and mistaken for being effeminate, since Wing Chun after all was founded by a woman.

Ip Man

Ip Man

The bulk of the story gets set in the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese war, and it’s not all fight and no story. Witth this historical setting, at times it does seem that there is an air of familiarity with the type of stories told, with how the Japanese Imperial Army had made life really miserable for the Chinese, and how the Chinese being fragmented in spirit, fail to unite during dire straits.

Ip Man

Ip Man

More often than note, martial arts become a unifying force, and this aspect of the narrative might seem to be a walk in the usual territory.

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Notorious (2009)

My Rating : 4/5 STARS
MovieStudio Quote >> “Awesomely shot biopic – the noise, the life, and the style!”

The dramatic retelling of the life, improbable rise, and violent fall of rapper Christopher Wallace (aka the Notorious B.I.G.), NOTORIOUS plays like A STAR IS BORN set to a rattling gangsta snare. With crisp direction by George Tillman Jr., producer of the BARBERSHOP series, the film is briskly paced and strikes a worthy balance between sensationalized celebrity biopic and behind-the-scenes drama. Angela Bassett anchors the latter with a nuanced performance as Voletta, Wallace’s long-suffering single mother who attempts to shelter him from the mean streets of Bed-Stuy. With deep involvement by those who knew him best–the real Voletta Wallace and Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs (played dynamically by Derek Luke) co-produced–the film nonetheless unflinchingly portrays Biggie’s troubled history as a teenage crack dealer, his chronic infidelity and poor fathering skills, and his own role in stoking the ludicrous coastal rivalry that claimed both his and Tupac Shakur’s lives.

Notorious

Notorious

As it presents Biggie’s side of the murders in boldface, one wonders if a more independent eye would cast Shakur and his cohorts in the villain role so starkly. Documentary quibbles aside, NOTORIOUS delivers an impactful tribute to its subject’s genius–revealing to fans and neophytes alike the microphone skills, narrative chops, and fresh vision that made Wallace one of hip-hop’s greatest all-time MCs. Largely, this is due to the ace performance by Jamal Woolard, an amateur rapper who packed on 50 pounds to play the hulking gangsta, and nails his mordant charisma and conflicted inner life with a star turn every bit as on point as Jamie Foxx’s Ray Charles or Val Kilmer’s Jim Morrison.

Defiance (2008)

My Rating : 4.5/5 STARS
MovieStudio Quote >> “One of the most beautiful True Story war movie after Valkyrie! Must Watch!”

DEFIANCE is a different kind of World War II movie, one that looks at the Holocaust from a unique angle–telling the true story of a group of Jews in Eastern Europe who fought back. On the run from the Germans and the local police, the three Russian Bielski brothers–Tuvia (Daniel Craig), Zus (Liev Schreiber), and Asael (Jamie Bell)–hide out deep in the forest. Their numbers swell as more and more refugees join them, coming together to form a community while also patrolling with guns and shooting the enemy to stay alive. But Tuvia and Zus have a falling-out over what future direction to take: Tuvia thinks it best to remain in the forest despite the coming vicious winter, but Zus wants to join the Russian resistance, which is aggressively attacking the Nazis.

Defiance

Defiance

Complicating the situation are the women in their lives, known as forest wives–Lilka (Alexa Davalos) shows interest in Tuvia, Bella (Iben Hjelje) grows close to Zus, and young Chaya (Mia Wasikowska) and Asael flirt with the tingles of first love. As food grows scarce, diseases increase, and the Nazis become determined to find and kill them, the Bielski Otriad struggles to survive, battling back when necessary, including taking up arms. Directed by Edward Zwick (GLORY, BLOOD DIAMOND) and based on the nonfiction book by Dr. Nechama Tec, DEFIANCE is a powerful thriller filled with tense human emotion, a gripping story about brotherly love and the basic human instinct to survive against all odds. Craig (LAYER CAKE, CASINO ROYALE), Schreiber (EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED), and Bell (BILLY ELLIOTT) are terrific as the Bielski brothers, three very different individuals who simply refuse to just lie down and die.

Changeling (2008)

My Rating: 5/5 STARS
MovieStudio Quote >> “Story of a Mother, who searches for her lost son. Outrageous and Magnificent!”

At first, Clint Eastwood’s CHANGELING could appear to be following too closely in the footsteps of his earlier Oscar winner, MYSTIC RIVER, since both films center on a missing child. But while his… At first, Clint Eastwood’s CHANGELING could appear to be following too closely in the footsteps of his earlier Oscar winner, MYSTIC RIVER, since both films center on a missing child. But while his previous film was based on a Dennis Lehane novel, CHANGELING carries a particular weight because it is based on a true story, and one that isn’t largely known. Angelina Jolie stars as Christine Collins, a single mother working in 1928 Los Angeles when her son goes missing. A boy is returned to her months later by the police, but she is shocked and disheartened when she realizes that the boy isn’t her son. Joined by a crusading pastor (John Malkovich), Christine battles for justice against the corrupt L.A.P.D. while she continues to search for her child. Eventually her fight against the cops lands her in a mental hospital, where she is surrounded by others with a similar plight. At times, CHANGELING is incredibly difficult to watch. Jolie gives an authentic, anguished performance, and the on-screen tragedy is quite disturbing, largely because of its basis in reality.

Changeling

Changeling

But Eastwood has crafted another Oscar-worthy film that is certainly worth sitting through, even if a tissue or two is required. Screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski had been best known for his work in science fiction (BABYLON FIVE) and graphic novels, but he makes an adept transition to feature drama with this film. Its unusual focus–on the victim and her struggle for justice, rather than on the criminal and the crime–brings further depth to the film. As always, Amy Ryan (an Oscar nominee for GONE BABY GONE) perfectly morphs into her role (this time as a prostitute imprisoned in the mental hospital), and the film’s many child actors are compelling to watch.

Last Chance Harvey (2008)

My Rating: 3.5/5 STARS
MovieStudio Quote >> “The feeling is lost is just a state of mind!”

Set in London, this romantic comedy stars Dustin Hoffman as Harvey Shine, a divorced and haggard jingle-writer quickly aging out of his career and workaholic ways. With a warning from his boss (Richard Schiff) to not bother rushing back, Harvey goes to London, begrudgingly, for his daughter’s wedding, fielding that work calls the whole time he’s there. When Harvey greets his estranged daughter, Susie (Liane Balaban), it becomes clear just how far away he’s grown from his family. The film never spells out in exactly what ways Harvey was a bad father, but it is clear he missed the boat when Susie asks her stepfather (James Brolin) to give her away. As Harvey leaves his heartbreak at the ceremony for an emergency work call, he misses his flight and gets fired.

Last Chance Harvey

Last Chance Harvey

While nursing a whiskey at the airport bar, Harvey bumps into Kate (Emma Thompson), an airport employee escaping her own bad day with a glass of wine and a book. Suddenly taken by Kate’s British charm, a tipsy Harvey bombards her with tales of his trouble. This unlikely trading of sob stories leads to lunch, a walk around London, and a day of unexpected romance. Thompson is charming as Kate, a lonely middle-age woman struggling to deal with her mother’s constant prying into her life. Despite not having had the best of luck in romance, Kate is an optimist at heart, and it’s this spark for life that attracts Harvey and ultimately helps repair his image in his daughter’s eyes. Never showy or too ambitious, Joel Hopkins’s slow-paced romance twists old clichés to suit a more adult audience. While not groundbreaking in its plot, LAST CHANCE HARVEY is saved by great performances from the always-solid Hoffman and the incredibly charming Thompson, who makes an otherwise familiar story feel fresh.

Fast & Furious (2009)

My Rating : 4/5 STARS
MovieStudio Quote >> “Looks like a game, but feels like we are in it!”


This fourth entry in THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS franchise reunites the original stars: Michelle Rodriguez, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, and of course the bad dude himself, Vin Diesel. Needless to say, there’s going to be a lot of speed and demolition, especially in the fantastic opening truck hijack executed at amazing speeds by Dominic (Diesel) and his sexy partner in crime, Letty (Rodriguez).

Fast & Furious

Fast & Furious

When Letty gets killed, it’s revenge time, with the path of the bad guy leading Dominic back across the border to Los Angeles (where he’s still wanted by the law) and into a high-stakes street race in which he’s teamed up with his old nemesis, undercover fed Brian O’Conner (Walker). As in the original, Brewster makes a foxy love interest for Walker (she’s Dom’s kid sister), but there’s not much time for kissing: there’s races to be won, huge accidents to cause, and shady smuggling plots to foil.

Fast & Furious

Fast & Furious

Fans of the series should be too busy digging the NO2-powered action to notice if there’s anything missing in the storyline, which caterwauls along with gleeful abandon and disregard for logic, sanity, and speed limits. Directed with a sure hand by Justin Lin (TOKYO DRIFT), FAST & FURIOUS features loads of hot babes, and Diesel is as ripped, raging, and gravel-voiced deadpan as ever.

Vanilla Sky (2001)

My Rating : 3.5/5 STARS
MovieStudio Quote >> “Tom’s yet another spectacular performance!”

Director Cameron Crowe (JERRY MAGUIRE, ALMOST FAMOUS) teams up with Tom Cruise once again in an adaptation of Alejandro Amenabar’s 1997 Spanish film OPEN YOUR EYES. Cruise plays David Aames, a playboy publisher leading a seemingly charmed life. His most recent playmate is his “friend” Julie Gianni (Cameron Diaz), who cares for David more than he realizes. When David meets the fetching Sofia Serrano (Penélope Cruz) at his birthday party, he awakens to the possibility of what true love can feel like, leaving Julie distraught. However, after an accident that changes David’s life, he is forced to rethink his choices.

Vanilla Sky

Vanilla Sky

This psychological thriller becomes roller coaster ride of flashbacks as David tries to make sense of all that has happened, relaying some surreal experiences to a psychiatrist (Kurt Russell) after being charged with murder. The film’s message may differ for each viewer, but it does make one bold point: every action has consequences. Crowe gets exceptional performances from Cruise, Cruz, and Diaz and the alluring pop soundtrack features songs from REM, Radiohead, Bob Dylan, and Peter Gabriel. Amazingly, the scene of Cruise running through a completely empty Times Square was shot on location, a major feat in and of itself.

The Notebook (2004)

My Rating : 5/5 STARS
MovieStudio Quote >> “Heart-pounding love story, ever!!!!” A young woman comes to the coastal town of Seabrook, North Carolina in the 1940’s to spend the summer with her family. Still in her teens, Allie Hamilton (Rachel McAdams) meets local boy Noah…


A young woman comes to the coastal town of Seabrook, North Carolina in the 1940’s to spend the summer with her family. Still in her teens, Allie Hamilton (Rachel McAdams) meets local boy Noah Calhoun (Ryan Gosling) at a Carnival. On the spot, Noah senses that he and Allie are meant to be together. Though she is a wealthy debutante and he a mill worker, over the course of one passionate and carefree summer in the South, the two fall deeply in love. Circumstances – and the sudden outbreak of World War II – drive them apart, but both continue to be haunted by memories of each other. When Noah returns home from the war years later, Allie is irrevocably gone from his life, but not from his heart. Though Noah doesn’t yet know it, Allie has come back to Seabrook, where they first fell in love.

The Notebook

The Notebook

But now Allie is engaged to marry Lon (James Marsden), a wealthy soldier she met while volunteering in a GI hospital. Decades later, a man (James Garner) reads from a faded notebook to a woman (Gena Rowlands) he regularly visits at her nursing home. Though her memory has faded, she becomes caught up in the fiery story of Allie and Noah – and for a few moments, she is able to relive the passionate, turbulent time when they swore they’d be together always. New Line Cinema presents The Notebook, a story of lost chances, growing up and the power of enduring love. A Gran Via Production, the film is directed by Nick Cassavetes from a screenplay by Jeremy Leven, adaptation by Jan Sardi, based on the best-selling novel by Nicholas Sparks. Academy Award winner Mark Johnson (Rain Man) and Lynn Harris are the producers. The executive producers are Toby Emmerich and Avram Butch Kaplan.

The Notebook

The Notebook

The film stars Ryan Gosling (The Believer), Rachel McAdams (Mean Girls), Academy Award nominees James Garner (Murphy’s Romance, TV’s “Eight Simple Rules”) and Gena Rowlands (Gloria, A Woman Under the Influence), James Marsden (X-Men series) and Kevin Connolly (John Q.), with Academy Award nominees Sam Shepard (The Right Stuff, Black Hawk Down) and Joan Allen (The Contender, Nixon).