Friday, October 20, 2006

The Departed

By Reymundo Salao

A complex crime drama of lies, betrayal and secrets, THE DEPARTED is set in Boston where the state police force is waging a war against an organized criminal syndicate led by Frank Costello. Billy Costigan is a young undercover cop who is assigned to infiltrate the gang of Costello. On the other hand, there is Collin Sullivan who is a police officer rising to the upper ranks, but actually secretly works for the criminal Costello. Things heat up as Costello realizes that he has an infiltrator among his men and similarly, the police force is also in high tension as they realize that a mole is among their midst. Costigan and Sullivan each go through a deadly face-off of trying to survive by pointing out each other, to the death.

Despite of this movie being one of Martin Scorsese's most powerful films, THE DEPARTED is actually a remake, based upon the Hong Kong action thriller "Infernal Affairs". But Martin Scorsese is one of Hollywood's most impressive directors that are up there in Lordship when it comes to cinema. Scorsese's works have become greatly influential, especially in many of Hong-kong's gangland action films, that is why some might consider that with "The Departed" Scorsese returns the favor.

A thrilling crime & gangland suspense, Scorsese knows how to set the mood for a crime-infested world without needlessly utilizing light, color, props and other visuals. He paints the atmosphere through his actors which all give out powerful performances. The minimal use of cliché crime-atmosphere visuals present a very realistic portrayal, that in any normal society, such dark and ugly things might still exist.

The film has a feel that reminds us of how Scorsese makes his earlier films. Like that in "Taxi Driver", "GoodFellas" and "Mean Streets". "classic Scorsese", so to speak. Simple, direct to the point, no big elaborate cinematographic style, just direct to film gritty drama. Its no-nonsense pace works well, with a cold-blooded, shocking style that evokes realism. Story shifts from point A to point B without so much as bull@#it to filter the impact of the storyline.

The movie boasts a Trinity of lead performers, starting off with Jack Nicholson, whose long been away from playing villains, so much so, that when I saw the trailer for this movie, I initially thought it was going to be one of his comedies that I rarely watch. Good thing, he's back to hard-edged acting. His portrayal of a crime lord is ruthless and devilishly cool.

Usually, I hate DiCaprio. Maybe it's the whining of fangirls even at the very mention of his name, or the ultra-popularity of him and that overs-zed lovestory Titanic (one of my most hated movies). Ive always thought he was too babyfaced in many of his roles, like that in (also of) Scorsese's "Gangs of New York" But if there is one thing that makes me change my opinion about DiCaprio is that whenever he starts to act onscreen, he becomes a totally different person. He knows how to BECOME the character. Such as in the case of "The Departed" where he takes on a role that makes you forget that you are watching the (sickeningly) popular Leonardo DiCaprio. DiCaprio gets on this role with an edge, magnificently evoking the tense hardboiled police drama that it is.

Likewise, Matt Damon gets on his role masterfully as well. Ive always considered Damon to be such a cool actor, usually taking on a likable character, from his rise in "Good Will Hunting", to his action evolution in "The Bourne Identity" & "Bourne Supremacy", and even in his more comedic roles in "Stuck on You" and "Oceans 11" (& 12). It was a very contrasting, very impressive twist for Matt Damon to play a villainous character on "The Departed". His likable image takes a turn as in this movie, you would hate him totally, making him a more-than-effective villain. The starstrikes don't stop there; the cast also includes Mark Wahlberg and Martin Sheen playing major roles.

THE DEPARTED is dark, gritty, even funny at times. But at the very core of it, it’s still just a mere copycat of the original “Infernal Affairs” So sad, to think that this was supposed to be one of Scorsese’s best work, only to find that it really was just an act of lazily copying somebody else’s masterpiece.

Friday, October 13, 2006


FLYBOYS: High-Flying Action
By Reymundo Salao

In 1917, prior to the official entry into the war by the United States, the Allied powers of France, England and Italy were on the ropes against the German juggernaut. Some altruistic young Americans volunteered to fight alongside their counterparts in France. Some joined the infantry, others chose the Ambulance Corps. But 38 young men had a different idea: they decided to learn how to fly.

Their motivations for enlisting may have been different: Blaine Rawlings (James Franco) is searching for his purpose following the bank's foreclosure of his family ranch, Briggs Lowry (Tyler Labine) is shamed into joining by his disciplinarian father, while African-American expatriate boxer Eugene Skinner (Abdul Salis) vows to repay his debt to his adopted, racially-tolerant country. But under the command of French Captain Thenault (Jean Reno) and the leadership of American veteran Reed Cassidy (Martin Henderson), these young American men took to the air with honor everyday as they risked their lives, not just in facing the formidable German aggressors, but also in boarding their newly-invented, mechanically-imperfect aircraft, which were being used in combat for the first time.

Inspired by the true story of the legendary Lafayette Escadrille, "Flyboys" is directed by Academy Award ®-winner Tony Bill ("The Sting") and produced by Dean Devlin ("The Patriot," "Independence Day," "Stargate") and Marc Frydman (ABC's "Commander in Chief"). James Franco ("Spiderman," "Spiderman 2") stars with Marin Henderson ("The Ring") and Jean Reno ("The Da Vinci Code").

Some critics harshly criticize this as a poorly-scripted, CGI-infested film, but in my opinion, it was quite the opposite. Not once did I raise an eyebrow detecting CGI flaws. As far as I'm concerned, the shots were convincing and even outstandingly impressive. And as for the storyline, it was quite good. Not all war movies should have a complex drama storyline. This one was done with a simple story of courage, love and honor. It doesnt have to fatten itself up with script twirls and turns. FLYBOYS is a simple World War I action flick which is not pretentious enough to treat itself as a history film, and just goes on to focus on the war and the brave fighters that risk their lives for it.

It is actually a movie worth watching because "Flyboys" is the first World War I aviation film in over 40 years. There is a classic look, a vintage-type of action that we don't see often in a war movie. WWI fighter planes are very different, in the sense that they look so fragile as if they were made out of very light materials. But likewise, they look so cool and ferocious when you see them zooming in the skies and shooting machine gun ammo at each other. The aerial battles very much reminded me of the earlier STAR WARS movies which utilize the most breathtaking aerial dogfights. Especially in the zeppelin battle scene, as shown in the poster for this film, which does blow your mind. This movie is like STAR WARS in World War I. The film does have the obligatory love story, but this love story is actually quite charming and cute, and does not hinder the main storyline in any way, nor does it stand as a mere wallflower for an action film.

James Franco's look has made him sort of the posterboy for early 20th century americana, with films like The Great Raid, he fits well as the lead of this World War I film. But he does prove to be a very powerful actor and in this film, he does not fail to be one. Jean Reno who plays Capt. Thenault, the commander of the team, does a fine job but his role here is simply just the authoritative figure in the sidelines. There is more focus on the pilot characters themselves such as Eugene Skinner, played by Abdul Salis who does a fine job playing a black boxer trying to achieve his own greatness as a fighter pilot despite the fact that his kind are treated as servants during that time. Other cast such as David Ellison, Todd Boyce, and Martin Henderson all did a fine job, together melding a tale of courage, honor, and dogfight action.

There is also a ferocious seriousness in this film because whenever the action starts, the dialogues end, and all you see is the battle. During that time, there were still no transceiver radios in fighter planes, so dialogue is quite minimal and there are frequent tight shots of the actors in varied facial acting, which, in my opinion, heightens the overall cinematic tension of the movie.

My only sole letdown for the film is that it doesn’t give enough background as to why World War I occurred. Many of us have been all too familiar of World War II, but not many of us were aware of why the First one broke out. But anyway, it gives some of the audiences the curiosity to research for themselves why it did. At least, it does not treat the audience like an ignorant pupil who has to be lectured on how WWI began. Overall, FLYBOYS is a good World War I movie filled with breathtaking aerial battles, a high flying treat you will not regret. Explosive and Spectacular, you may have never seen classic battles like this before. And may I just remind you, Aerial War films like this have GOT to be watched in the wide silver screen of the movie theater so that you can really experience the full weight of its intensity first hand.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

John Tucker Must Die
1:15 PM, 3:15, 5:15, 7:15 PM
First Day High
12:45 PM, 2:55, 5:05, 7:15 PM
Twilight Dancers
1:15 PM, 3:15, 5:15, 7:15 PM
Scoop (2006)
1:15 PM, 3:15, 5:15, 7:15 PM

Ang Pagdadalaga Ni Maximo Oliveros
11:50 AM, 1:40 PM. 3:30, 5:20, 7:10, 9 PM
John Tucker Must Die
12:15 PM, 2 PM, 3:45, 5:30, 7:15, 9 PM
First Day High
11 AM, 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 PM
The Devil Wears Prada
11 AM, 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 PM
Scoop (2006)
11:50 AM, 1:40 PM. 3:30, 5:20, 7:10, 9 PM
The Wicker Man
11:50 AM, 1:40 PM. 3:30, 5:20, 7:10, 9 PM

- Synopsis: Maxi is expressly gay at his young age. This is not a secret from his father and two older brothers who are pushed to peddle stolen mobile phones due to poverty. It is up to Maxi to care for his family, but the small-time criminals get in hot water and start vexing Victor, the handsome young policeman Maxi is fond of. Will Maxi choose first love over family?
- Critical Consensus: Unbeknownst to the many of the movie-going public, “Ang Pagdadalaga Ni Maximo Oliveros” is one of the most critically-acclaimed Filipino movies that have broken through a great deal of fame internationally. It really has struck a cord among critics worldwide, winning TEN(10!) Awards, 5 of them Int’l. awards (3 Best Feature Film Awards off the Berlin Int’l. Film Festival, 3 Awards from Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival, Best Picture for Gawad Urian, 2 from Las Palmas Film Festival, and nominated for the Grand Jury Prize in the renowned Sundance Film Festival). The Greatness of the film is widely known that it is showered by respected reviews in (exact URL of the movie:
- Personal Take: Due to circumstances beyond my control, I wasn’t able to watch this movie the first time it was shown a couple of months ago. Well, now, I am glad that this movie has been re-mastered and re-released in our theaters, because we need Filipino movies like this to boost our morale that there is still a future for Pinoy cinema. I am so gonna watch this movie. And please, may I remind you that watching movies like this is actually supporting Philippine Cinema.

- Synopsis: Dwight is still in his prime, dancing nightly at a gay club and finding the line between romance and commerce blurred in his personal life. Alfred, his sometime lover, is well past it at twenty-eight. He finds himself slipping into bitterness, which only makes his behavior more grasping. Bert, a former dancer, now serves as chauffeur and bodyguard to Madame Loca, the happily corrupt businesswoman who professes to become aroused at the sound of a gunshot. Once she lays eyes on Dwight, she ratchets up her scheming.
- This movie has been submitted to the Toronto Film Festival, but as far as I know, there has been no word if it has received some citations. The film has only generated buzz locally so far, as it is getting attention from showbiz news that seem to only give a damn about its gay sexy scenes. Mel Chionglo has long been a Filipino Film director who has made sexy films like Xerex, Two-Timer, and Sibak, and it seems that this is just another pseudo-porn (because they don’t seem to claim it as porn) flick to add to his roster.
- Personal Take: Sure, this movie has been written by “the great” Ricky Lee, sure this movie supposedly is a social commentary… Well, that excuse has long been used. If there is one thing that I have learned from many Filipino sexy movies and its producers, is that it loves to make these erotic movies and hide under the excuse that “Oh, it’s a social commentary” or “Oh, it’s an art film” (especially gay sexy movies) Well, that just makes me yawn. Okay, I give it the benefit of the doubt, maybe it’s a good film, but no thanks, I’m not gonna watch this. I prefer my half naked dancers, females.

- Synopsis: Scoop is the new contemporary comedy from writer/director Woody Allen, and is his second consecutive film to be set and shot in London (following Match Point). Scoop stars Mr. Allen, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, and Ian McShane.
The late U.K. journalist Joe Strombel (played by Mr. McShane) is being mourned by his colleagues - even as, stuck in limbo, Joe remains committed to pursuing a hot tip on the identity of "the Tarot Card Killer" at large in London. But how can his legwork get done now? Via the very much alive Sondra Pransky (Ms. Johansson). Sondra is an American journalism student visiting friends in London. During a stage performance by another American, magician Sid Waterman (Mr. Allen), Sondra is shocked to find herself able to see and hear Joe. From beyond, he gives her the scoop of a lifetime and urges her to pursue it. Sondra immediately starts chasing the big story, enlisting the aid of a reluctant Sid (a.k.a. Splendini). That chase leads right to handsome British aristocrat Peter Lyman (Mr. Jackman). Soon, Sondra finds that the romance of her life may well be the dangerous scoop she's looking for.
- Critical Consensus: Rehashing old plot lines and characters, critics found Scoop as a tiresome dipper and another disappointing addition to Woody Allen's repertoire.
- Personal Take: Sure, I may watch this movie, especially since I haven’t had watched many of Woody Allen’s movies. And Allen is known for making dialogue-wealthy movies about relationships.

- Synopsis: When three popular girls from different cliques discover they've all been dating the school stud, they band together to seek revenge. Despite the jerk's charm and ever-growing popularity, the girls cleverly scheme with the help of the inconspicuous new girl in town, to soil his reputation and break his heart.
- Critical Consensus: Not getting good reviews worldwide, this teen flick is more of just a teen flick than, say, a comedy.
- Personal Take: No, thanks. But I guess girls would want to watch this movie.