Showing posts from February, 2011

Snapshots - #39: Coco, Pitch Perfect 3, Star Wars: Episodes VII and VIII

Coco (2017), (♦♦♦♦): Miguel, a young aspiring singer, is afraid to defy his family's forsaking of music. On the Día de los Muertos, a Mexican holiday to celebrate the dead, Miguel is, unwillingly, granted night passage to the Land of the Dead, where he meets his ancestors and gets valuable life lessons.

This Disney/Pixar production has great animation and music, is colorful, fun, has endearing characters (both living and dead). Coco also has meaningful lessons about the value of traditions, the importance of family, loyalty, and honoring one's ancestors, all in a very entertaining package. Don't let the fact that it is an animated movie deter you from enjoying this gem. Coco is a great story to ponder for kids and adults alike.

Pitch Perfect 3 (2017), (♦♦♦♦): The members of the a cappella singing sensation ‘The Bellas’ have graduated from college and are realizing that they suck big time at real life. They miss the singing, the mischief, and the camaraderie. The father of on…

Due Date, 2010 (♦♦♦♦)

Peter (Robert Downey Jr.), an architect from L.A., has a chance encounter with a stranger at Atlanta airport, and from that point on, he endures hell, for an aspiring actor named Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis) makes sure of that. They both get thrown out of a plane and land in the no-fly list. Peter then has to figure out how to get to L.A. before his pregnant wife gives birth; without his wallet, he finds himself with no credit cards, no ID and no money, so he takes Ethan’s offer to ride with him, since he is going to Hollywood to interview with an acting agent. Little did both know they were in for a one-of-a-kind adventure.

My God, I had so much fun watching this movie. Downey Jr. is hysterical, while Galifianakis is both emotional and crazy at the same time. The combination of both is an explosive cocktail of laughter! The movie’s humor is similar to The Hangover, and the film seems to be directed towards the same audience, which is guys, none of which bothered me in the leas…

The Company Men (♦♦♦♦)

Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck) thinks he got the raw end of the deal when his big company laid him off from an executive job after working there for several years. The worst was yet to come; even the best friend (Tommy Lee Jones) of the company’s president got laid off by none other than his lover (Maria Bello). At risk of losing everything he had worked for his entire working life, Bobby asked his brother-in-law (Kevin Costner) for a job as a construction worker. Chris Cooper also co-stars.

This movie is sad, brutal and realistic all at once. In spite of it, I did like it. I think it was a serious attempt to depict what millions of Americans have lived through this latest recession. It’s true that the lives of the executives may not be most representative of the challenges faced by common citizens under duress, but think about it…When you earn a big salary your debts and financial obligations are magnified because you believe you can afford it; then one day your job is taken away and yo…

Cedar Rapids (♦♦♦♦)

After the spokesman for his insurance agency commits suicide, insurance salesman Tim Lippe (Ed Helms) gets a chance to travel to an insurance convention and bring home the coveted Two Diamonds Award, which recognizes the best in the business. He befriends his two roommates John C. Reilly and Isiah Whitlock Jr.), who are not to be trusted according to his boss, has an impromptu affair with a fellow saleswoman (Anne Heche), uses recreational drugs, goes to a party and gets beaten; in summary, the works…

This movie started so-so, but once the convention started, it became hysterical. All the performances are good. I really enjoyed this film!

You Again (♦♦♦♦)

Marnie (Kristen Bell) was tortured through all her high school years by beautiful and ever popular Joanna, a.k.a. JJ (Odette Yustman). Years later, Marnie is an accomplished PR executive on a fast lane for promotion. Traveling home to New York for her big brother’s wedding, Marnie finds out that her soon-to-be sister-in-law is no other than JJ, her former arch nemesis. From then on, Marnie does everything to show her family and mainly her brother that JJ hasn’t changed a bit.

Despite the predictable situations that always come up in these types of movies, I found the acting refreshing and the situations very funny. I enjoyed this film very much. Kristen Bell, Jamie Lee Curtis, Sigourney Weaver and Betty White, shine here, surrounded by all other charming and borderline crazy characters.

Léon: The Professional (♦♦♦)

Leon (Jean Reno) is a professional hitman, who lives next door to twelve year-old Mathilda (Natalie Portman) and her dysfunctional family. When a rogue D.E.A. officer (Gary Oldman) executes Mathilda’s family over drugs, she has no one to turn to but Leon. Thus, Leon unwillingly takes care of Mathilda and trains her to become a “cleaner” as he is, for she is intent on seeking justice for her dead little brother.

There are great performances by Jean Reno and Nathalie Portman in her debut role, but I think the movie lacks something. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but maybe is emotions. Leon seems credible as a hitman but not as caring father.

Winter’s Bone (♦♦♦)

Seventeen year-old Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) takes care of her sick mother and younger siblings Ashley and Sonny. Jessup Dolly, Ree's father, is wanted by the police and has tied up the family house to his bond, so if he doesn’t keep his court date, they’ll lose their house. Ree promises a law enforcement officer that she will find her father and force him to go to court, that is, if she can find him.

Ree lives in a fairly small community--most of them family-- but no one is talking; though they all seem to know something about the Jessup’s whereabouts. Ree then has to rattle cages and in the process, gets herself beaten up. Her uncle Teardrop comes to her rescue, and with his help, Ree finds out that someone has killed her father for snitching. The last thing she has to do is to present proof of her father’s death to keep their property intact.

I did not like this movie one bit. I mean, the acting is good, but there are so many crooks! I never saw so many dirty faces and ugl…

The Burning Wire by Jeffery Deaver (♦♦♦)

Someone is terrorizing New York City using electricity as his weapon of choice. Panic is widespread since any electrical outlet can be the cause of death. NYPD, with the help of the FBI and other domestic agencies, identify the perpetrator early on in the investigation, yet they seem unable to stop the fatal attacks. Consultant criminologist Lincoln Rhyme is leading the forensic part of the investigation, collecting evidence—with the help of Amelia Sachs and Ron Pulaski—which doesn’t always make sense. Alongside Rhyme is following a case unfolding in Mexico involving an evasive criminal nicknamed the Watchmaker.

I spent nearly two weeks reading this book. I have read other books by Jeffery Deaver which I have liked, such as The Stone Monkey and Garden of Beasts; I also watched the movie The Bone Collector. This book was disappointing in a sense; I don’t like stories where I’m kept in the dark while the criminal seem to have the upper hand. The characters were engaging and the plot wa…

It’s Kind of a Funny Story (♦♦♦♦)

Sixteen year-old Craig is feeling depressed and overwhelmed by his daily routines and decides to seek mental health help at the nearby hospital. He argues a good case with an attending physician and gets admitted to the psych ward for a minimum of five days. However, soon after entering the ward, he realizes there are people there with more serious mental issues. In a span of four days, Craig makes friends, inspires fellow patients, creates works of art, and finally realizes that his life goals up to that point are society induced and not something he wants to do.

I didn’t know what to expect from this movie, but I laughed out loud a lot. Despite making light of mental problems, it gives the audience some perspective; sometimes we are immersed in issues that we consider are bigger than anything and are more than we can handle, yet there are people with problems that are difficult to overcome.

I enjoyed all the performances in this movie, but particularly Keir Gilchrist as Craig, Emma…

Takers (Bone Deep) (♦♦♦♦)

A crew of bank robbers executes its latest score, but the stakes rise when a former colleague of them gets out from jail, bringing with him a plan to rob an armored car carrying $20 million. The idea is to pull an “Italian Job”, but soon enough a very committed police detective complicates the plan. Russian mobsters, bad timing, bad coincidences and a constant police presence, all conspire to twist an otherwise perfect job.

Exciting yet dark movie.

True Grit, 2010 (♦♦♦♦)

When Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin) kills Mattie Ross’ (Hailee Steinfeld) father--for 2 pieces of gold and a horse—fourteen year-old Mattie vows revenge. She posts a fifty dollars reward and hires U.S. Federal Marshal “Rooster” Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to carry out the mission, except, she is coming along to ensure that her money is well spent and to see her father’s murderer dead or brought to justice. La Beef (Matt Damon), a Texas Ranger also hunting Chaney for the death of a Senator, joins the search party. Amidst disagreements and petty fights, they go on with a common goal in mind; despite the quarreling, they prevail due to Mattie’s determination to seek justice.

I had a hard time understanding most of the dialog (English is my second language in case you haven’t noticed), but from what I could discern, I realized that despite the grit, the movie was funny at times, if only briefly. The scenography was breathtaking; I particularly enjoyed the scene at night when it was snowing and Cogb…

The Fighter (♦♦♦♦)

Mickey Ward (Mark Wahlberg) is a boxer who is running out of time to make a name for himself due to his age. His mother (Melissa Leo) is his manager, and his half brother Dicky (Christian Bale) is his trainer, but Dicky is fighting a drug addiction and he is always late for engagements. When escaping from the police for fraud and for impersonating an officer, Dicky resists arrests and is sent to jail, which turns out to be Mickey’s blessing because for the first time in his boxing career he has a chance to be the fighter he wants to be, without the interference of his mother and family.

I did not like the “old” feel of the movie: it is somewhat dark, almost hazy as a film ten or twenty years older. I did like that the first part of the movie focused on the family dynamics; I got to know who was who and how that person fit in the story. The second part of the movie was about the development of Mickey as a boxer, once he started winning fights until his ultimate fight where he became t…

127 Hours (♦♦♦♦)

In a story taken from the news, Aron Ralston (James Franco), a passionate mountain climber, gets his hand trapped accidentally between a loose boulder and a canyon wall, while hiking in Utah. Four days later, he is still trapped, has lost circulation of his arm, is almost losing his battle to stay alive and takes the horrific decision to cut his arm to save himself.

This is a magnificent performance by James Franco; it’s too bad that Colin Firth will beat him at the Oscars this year. The movie is fast pace, despite Franco spending almost two hours of it trapped and fighting for survival. The split in three screen helps to give different perspectives of the same situation. His memories offer variety and aid in the understanding of the psychology of Franco’s character. Despite its harrowing conclusion, the film manages to be both uplifting and inspiring. God, it takes guts to make the decisions that Ralston made under duress!

The Town (♦♦♦♦)

Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) is the mastermind of his small crew of bank and truck robbers in Boston’s neighborhood of Charlestown. During a bank holdup, Jim Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), Doug’s best friend, decides to take the bank manager as a hostage, to free her later when it appears that police are not following them. Jim takes away her driver’s license, later to discover that they live in the same neighborhood; so Jim decides to take the matter in his own hands before it becomes an issue, but Doug intervenes.

Doug approaches Claire (Rebecca Hall), the bank manager, and starts a casual friendship that eventually becomes a relationship; but when he falls in love with Claire and decides to leave the pilfering behind, Jim and a character known as “the florist” resort to coercion to make Doug change his mind.

This movie is superbly directed by Ben Affleck. He also co-wrote the script. The acting is flawless, despite having few stars in the cast. The musical score helps to enhance the drama…

Conviction (♦♦♦)

Betty Ann Waters (Hilary Swank) was a high school drop-out waitress, who got her GED and put herself through law school to represent her brother Kenneth (Sam Rockwell) in an appeal for the crime he had been wrongfully convicted of. Through 18 years, Betty Ann never stopped believing in her brother’s innocence, and she finally obtained his absolution with the aid of modern science (DNA testing).

The movie has its moments, but the acting isn’t great. Despite being based on a true story, Hollywood has explored and exploited the topic so much that there’s nothing new to say; only the characters are different.

The Social Network (♦♦♦)

Jesse Eisenberg stars as Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO, starting from his days as a Harvard student to the rise of his enterprise as a multimillion dollar business that has changed the way we communicate, for better or worse. The movie focuses on the dynamics of the founding team, namely Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), Facebook CFO, whose friendship dissolved once Facebook started getting injections of venture capital. Aside from chronicling the creation of Facebook, at the heart of this film are two of the lawsuits that Mark Zuckerberg faced in the early days.

I experienced many emotions watching this film, and none of them were good. I am going to refrain from voicing the opinion I formed about the characters. On Saturday Night Live, Mark Zuckerberg said that the movie was “interesting”. Hmmm…I wonder what he meant.

The Rembrandt Affair by Daniel Silva (♦♦♦♦)

It is summer, and Europe’s art world is on its knees as many painting masterpieces have been disappearing from European museums big and small. The latest theft involves a Rembrandt painting titled Portrait of a Young Woman, which was in the private home-studio of an art restorer named Christopher Liddell, who has been killed attempting to protect it.

Julian Isherwood, an art dealer who has given Liddell the painting for restoration, is on the brink of losing a fortune--and the business he has tried so hard to build—if the painting remains missing. So he contacts Gabriel Allon, master Israeli spy and assassin, who also happens to be a brilliant art restorer to recover the Rembrandt. Gabriel has been living with his wife Chiara in Cornwall, England, in exile since they both decided to leave “the Office”.

As Gabriel and Chiara follow the trail left behind by the painting since its origin, they come across a Holocaust survivor in London, the only surviving child of a Nazi criminal and a …