Showing posts from December, 2010

Snapshots - #38: Only the Brave, Jane, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Only the Brave (2017), (♦♦♦♦): Based on the true story of the effort it took to get a municipal crew of firefighters from Prescott, Arizona, certified as Hotshots. After battling thousands of wildfires since their inception, the Granite Mountain Hotshots answered a call to battle the Yarnell Hill fire—about 30 miles away from Prescott—along with several other crews. How they got to that point and what happened is what this movie is about.
Only the Brave is a drama with some thriller on the side, and excellent performances to boast of. It's got a dynamic pace, engaging plot, amazing shots of wildfires, fun camaraderie, and great music to underscore the action. As an audience, we care for the journey of that crew, individually and as a group, and as heartbreaking as the closing scenes are, we stand in awe at the sacrifices that firefighters and their families make every day of their lives. Only the Brave is a darn great tribute to them, and elite firefighters such as the Granite Moun…

Black Swan (♦♦♦♦♦)

Nina (Natalie Portman), a classic ballet dancer, has been chosen as the Queen Swan, that is, to interpret both the White and Black Swans in the new production of Swan Lake. Nina is perfect in the role of the White Swan: she is fragile, shy, obsessed with getting all moves perfect, in short, a good girl…But, does she have what it takes to be a Black Swan? The interpretation of the Black Swan requires a display of raw emotions that are strange to Nina, but the rivalry with a fellow ballerina named Lilly (Mila Kunis), makes her explore the darkest recesses of her mind.

This is a WOW kind of movie. There was a strange atmosphere at the theater when this movie ended; typically the film ends and everyone runs out to the hall, but after this movie everyone stayed on their seats, not talking, just there. This movie is devastating in more ways than one; the ending is definitive, but is also the way Nina’s psyche spirals downwards. Music, pace, everything conspires in this film to play tricks …

Dances with Wolves (♦♦♦♦)

Dances with Wolves is the name given by a Sioux tribe to John Dunbar, a Civil War lieutenant who gets assigned to guard a military post in the last American frontier. In the middle of nowhere, Dunbar befriends a wolf, which he nicknames Two Socks, and later befriends the neighboring Sioux tribe, falling in love with one of their adopted daughters and marrying her.

This movie is Kevin Costner’s directorial debut, and he surely chose a grand topic for it. Filmed almost in its entirety at outside locations, it features the vast magnificence of the American West. Dunbar’s friendship with the ever watching wolf is a testament of the endurance of the human spirit under trying circumstances. The movie treats the subject of the conquest of Indian territories with intelligence and finesse. There are no apparent stereotypes in this film: the white man has superiority in numbers, but the Indians are willing to meet them halfway. Unlike most movies about Indians, they’re not depicted as uncultur…

Kolya (Kolja), Czech (♦♦♦♦)

Fifty-five year old Franta Louka plays the cello at funerals to make ends meet. A gravedigger friend tells Louka of a Russian lady who is willing to pay a large sum of money to marry off her young niece so she can obtain Czech papers. The wedding takes place, but the bride illegally migrates to West Germany without telling Louka, leaving her five year-old son behind. The child, Kolya, ends up being cared by Louka, a lifelong bachelor with no experience in how to care for a child. The story takes place against the backdrop of socialist Czechoslovakia right before the fall of communism.

This movie is not meant to be funny; the humor is very subtle but it makes you laugh out loud nonetheless. The child is so cute, and his plight so believable that it’s hard not to feel sorry for him. I found so funny that Kolya learned how to draw coffins, because that’s what he got to see all the time while Louka worked, and the child started drawing other things as soon as he was exposed to different …

Nine (♦♦♦♦)

Nine is a Broadway musical brought to the big screen by director Rob Marshall (Chicago). It is based on the life and work of Italian film director Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis), and his relationship with the women who inspired his work, among them Luisa (Marion Cotillard), his wife, Carla (Penelope Cruz), his mistress, Claudia (Nicole Kidman), his muse and leading actress in most of his films, Lilli (Judi Dench), costume designer and closest friend, his mother (Sophia Loren), Sereghina (Fergie), the woman Guido and his friends used to pay for sexual advice when growing up, and Stephanie (Kate Hudson), the editor of Vogue magazine.

Each one of the main characters, namely Guido and the women, sing at least once; Marion Cotillard’s numbers are poignant due to the fragile state of the relationship between her and her husband. However, the most attractive and spirited singing number in the whole movie is sung by Fergie with Be Italian; she truly displays her talent with this piece. Sex…

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (♦♦♦♦)

American friends Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) decide to spend a summer in Barcelona. There, they meet free spirited painter Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), who proves to be more than either one of them can handle. After a brief affair in Oviedo, Vicky, who is engaged, falls in love with Juan Antonio but ends up marrying her fiancé. Cristina, on the other hand, has a longer love relationship with Juan Antonio and they live together for a while, until Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz), Juan Antonio’s ex-wife, re-appears in his life and Cristina must come to terms with living with them both.

This movie is like a breeze, very light and free flowing. The story flows easily, at times funny, but thoughtfully nonetheless. It is not a movie to overanalyze, just to enjoy. Penelope’s performance is worth your time. She was born to interpret the role of Maria Elena; she seems at ease both in English and Spanish, and even those dialogue transitions are funny. Even Javier Bardem …

Easy A (♦♦♦♦)

Olive Penderghast is a top high school student, invisible to the opposite sex, until the rumor that she has lost her virginity to a freshman college student. What starts as a lie is then magnified by gossip until the situation spirals out of control with almost all the males taking advantage of Olive’s new found reputation in one form or another. The attention that she gets soon weighs her down for she feels trapped in a web of lies.

It’s a magnificent and refreshing performance by Emma Stone. It is easy to see how a lie or even half truths can be twisted by others without any sense of the damage they cause. This is a cautionary tale on how to deal with evil gossip and rumors, be it in high school or anywhere else.

The Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (♦♦♦♦)

Growing up, Tyton owlets Soren and Kludd used to hear their father’s stories about the Guardians and their fight against the Pure Ones and imagined themselves as great soldiers. During an unsupervised flight practice, Soren and his brother Kludd are kidnapped, together with owls from every corner of the land, by envoys of Metal Beak and Narya. When a desert owlet demands he wants to go back to his family, Soren sides with him and as punishment he gets assigned to forced labor. Kludd, on the other hand, refuses to follow Soren and he is trained as a Pure One.

With the help of a much older and discontent owl, Soren and his friend manage to escape and go in search of the Guardians, who live beyond the sea. On their way, they learn how to fly, find new friends and finally meet the Guardians, among them Lize of Kiel, the bravest one and Soren’s hero. With the help of the Guardians, the owls held in captivity by Metal Beak and Narya are freed and Soren reunites with his family.

This is a s…


Superman: The Movie, 1978 (♦♦♦)
When planet Krypton is about to explode, Jorel (Marlon Brandon) and his wife put their baby son in a star-shaped spaceship and send him away towards planet Earth. The child lands on Earth already as a toddler. A middle-aged couple adopts him, and names him Clark Kent. He grows up in Smallville, until his eighteenth birthday, when his adopted father dies of a heart attack and Clark decides to leave Smallville and his adopted mother, and head north, all the way to the North Pole. The green crystal that Jorel inserted in the space ship, which contains Clark’s family history, he throws to the wind and lands on top of an iceberg that immediately replicates into an icicle pyramid. Inside there, Jorel appears as a hologram explaining Clark his provenance.

Clark (Christopher Reeve) moves to New York City, gets a job as a journalist at the Daily Planet, falls in love with a fellow journalist named Lois Lane, who doesn’t feel attracted to clumsy Clark. Then Lois …

Inception (♦♦♦)

Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), the best dream extractor in the market, is put under test, unbeknownst to him, by Saito (Ken Watanabe), a powerful businessman, to recover secret documents that only he knows the location of. Cobb passes the test, but not on time to save himself from Cobol, a corporation that has put a price on his head. The real job for which Saito wants Cobb is to plant the idea of dissolving his company in the mind of business rival Robert Fischer Jr. Since it is easy to track the genesis of an idea, only few people have ever attempted inception, Cobb being one of them. Cobb accepts the job, with the promise that Mr. Saito is going to help him return to the U.S. from where he has been fleeing ever since Mal (Marion Cotillard), his wife, committed suicide and left a letter blaming him for it.

Since Mal has taken complete control of his dreams, Cobb, once a brilliant architect, has no choice than to recruit another architect for the mission. The help comes from Ariadne (Ell…

The Italian Job, 2003 (♦♦♦♦♦)

Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg), a mastermind plotter, and John Bridger (Donald Sutherland), a gifted safecracker, joined by four other highly skilled thieves, execute a perfect heist in the picturesque city of Venice. What can possibly go wrong? Everything! Steve (Edward Norton), one of the gang members, double crosses the rest of them, walking out with a bounty of $35 million dollars worth in gold. He kills Bridger and assumes Charlie and the others are dead too, but that’s his first mistake. One year later, Charlie meets with the other three gang members and recruits Stella, John Bridger’s daughter, also a professional safecracker, to avenge Bridger’s death and recover the bounty. Easier said than done! However, Charlie and the others, thanks to Steve’s distrust of people, manage to carry out the heist as it was done in Venice.

Mini cooper races, major traffic jams, and good acting enhance the tension in this thriller. My heart kept pounding in my chest until the end. Great movie! …

Twilight Saga: Eclipse (♦♦♦♦)

In the third installment of the series, Bella is drawn closer to Edward and his vampire family as an army of newborns is getting ready to overtake Forts, Washington. Behind this army is the ever manipulative Victoria, the redheaded vampire who lost her lover James in Edward’s hands, who was trying to save Bella in the first movie of the series. The Volturi family is not doing anything to stop the attacks and ultimately give the Cullens an ultimatum to convert Bella or else. Jacob and his werewolves friends make a truce with the Cullens to defeat, together, the army of vampires. All the while, Edward proposes marriage to Bella, while Bella realizes that she has learned to also love Jacob.

This film is darker in tone than the first two; there are battle scenes and violent confrontations, but no gore, so I guess that makes it bearable. Good movie; I enjoyed it a lot even though I’m not a teenager, but I find the story refreshing and engaging. I also liked the first two installments in t…

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (♦♦♦)

The king of Persia sees a daring and courageous young orphan in the market and decides to adopt him as his son. As a young man, Prince Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) helps his brothers to strike the holy city of Alamut in the search for treacherous invaders, but during the invasion, the beautiful princess Tamina, the guardian of the Sands of Time, tries to smuggle out a dagger that holds mysterious powers and the dagger ends out in Dastan’s possession.

When the king is poisoned with a robe that Dastan has presented as a gift, everyone assumes Dastan has committed treason so he flees to save his life. Princess Tamina joins him in his quest to clear his name and ultimately restore balance to the world through the frequent use of the magical dagger.

The story is somewhat boring, but lush scenarios and costumes, as well as good performances by Ben Kingsley and Alfred Molina make this movie worth your time.

Knight and Day (♦♦♦)

At the airport, on her way to her sister’s wedding, June (Cameron Diaz) bumps twice into a handsome stranger (Roy, Tom Cruise). What are the odds? Supposedly, she can’t use the ticket that she just bought because the flight is full; however, she manages to get on board and realizes that there are only few people traveling. She strikes a conversation with Roy, decides to make her move on him, and that’s when things start to get strange and complicated. Several dead people and a crash landing later, she wakes up in her house as if nothing had happened, but everything starts to fall apart when federal agents appear to pick her up.

I do like Tom Cruise acting. I’m probably one of the few people who say that, but with this movie I would likely ask for a refund of my time and money, if those were allowed. What can I say about this film? It is all about explosions, chases, secret agents of even more secret agencies, all in the name of a battery that is “the biggest energy source since the s…