"Dreams feel real while we're in them. It's only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange." -Inception

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

New The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 Trailer

"It's the things we love most that destroy us." Poor Katniss Everdeen! All she ever wanted to was keep her sister safe and keep Peeta alive in the Hunger Games. Instead, she's involved in an all-out war against the Capital and President Snow (Donald Sutherland).  In the newest trailer for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is the Rebels' Mockingjay as the stakes have been escalated and no one is safe this time around.  While the Rebels have Gale (Liam Hemsworth), Beetee (Jeffrey Wright) and Plutarch Heavensbee (the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman), we get a first look at President Coin (Julianne Moore) and Cressida (Natalie Dormer).  Old and familiar characters are much changed as well.  Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) looks absolutely recognizable without her customary colorful flair and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) seems quite unlike himself too.  But with the Mockingjay at the helm, we all have faith that it's all going to turn out okay.  Eventually.  With the Catching Fire director Francis Lawrence back for another installment and a screenplay by Danny Strong (Lee Daniels' The Butler) and Peter Craig, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 will release in theaters around the world on November 21, 2014.  

Friday, September 5, 2014

It's Bill Murray Day at TIFF!

Today is 'Bill Murray Day' at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). What an incredibly cool day!  His iconic movies including Ghostbusters will be screened and the premiere of his upcoming film St. Vincent will be held. The usually reticent Murray will also participate in a Q & A afterwards.  There's even a Bill Murray costume contest! This is has to be made into an annual event.  My favourite Bill Murray is, of course, Groundhog Day. What's your favorite Bill Murray film?

Friday, August 8, 2014

New Trailer: The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

The surprising sequel that most people didn't see coming, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, has a brand new trailer.  Returning director John Madden and cast Dames Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, Celia Imrie, Penelope Wilton from 2011's The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel are joined by newcomers Richard Gere, David Straithairn and Tamsin Greig.  Taking place eight months after the first film, we check in with the guests and staff of the The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and the Beautiful (great hotel name, by the way) and how they're doing.  It's seems they're all doing well now that Richard Gere has joined them. Of course, they are!  Though I had to sigh at that random shot of an elephant in the trailer.  Yes, we have elephants in India, Hollywood! Please get over it by now.  The film releases on March 6, 2015.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Movie Review: Like Father, Like Son

The above poster features the tagline 'At what point does a father truly become a father?'.  Hirokazu Kore-eda's Like Father, Like Son (Soshite chichi ni naru) explores themes of family and fatherhood in this extremely moving film that just might have you reaching for the box of the tissues and not just a tissue.  

As much as I love French comedies for their absurdities and boisterousness, I love Japanese dramas that quietly bring home the point with beautiful storytelling and emotions.  I expected no less with Kore-eda's latest.  The story deals with two vastly different families - the Nonomiyas and the Saikis - who have two young boys just about to start school.  When the Saikis discover through a blood test, that their son and their DNA doesn't match, it all leads to a possible accidental swap at the hospital the day he was born.  Suddenly, the Nonomiya's orderly world is threatened as well and their fears come true.  Their son is not their biological son.

Both families are devastated to learn this and at the first meeting negotiated by the hospital, awkwardness and anger ensues. Though not at each other but at the strange turn of circumstances.  The hospital would like them to swap children as soon as possible as the boys are still young and might not be affected much once they get older.  However, the parents are much more reluctant.  The situation is unique and the wounds are still raw.  They decide to meet frequently to get to know each other more. 

Thorough these meetings, the differences between the two families are never more evident.  The Nonomiyas are the wealthier of the two and live in a modern high-rise apartment building in the city while the Saikis live in a small cramped house two hours from the city and behind their hardware store.  The contrast between the two little boys is more so.  Keita Nonomiya is a thoughtful, quiet only child and Ryusei Saiki is the playful eldest of three. They are the reflections of two opposite styles of parenting.

Ryota Nonomiya (Fukuyama Masaharu) is at times cold, demanding workaholic who believes that one should be independent.  Therefore little Keita learns the piano even though he's only fair at it, attends a top-end school and has impeccable manners.  Ryusei is more outgoing, chews through his straw while sipping a drink and focuses all his attention on his handheld video game.  In short, the boys have much to learn from each other.

But they never do get that much time to as their parents decide on swapping them on weekends as they ease into swapping them for good eventually.  Keita and Ryusei are bewildered at this sudden change and look upon it initially as a mini-vacation that suddenly turns into a permanent situation.  They have now to call these strangers 'father' and 'mother' and get used to a whole new way of life. 

As do their parents, having prepared for their future in one way and have to rethink how to approach their own sons.  Writer-director Kore-eda chooses to hones in on the two fathers, Yukari and especially Ryota.  Ryota is a self-made architect while Yudai (Lily Franky) is more fun-loving and has a more hands on approach to raising his three children.  He fixes toys, takes them to fly kites and is an equal hand to raising his kids with his wife Yukari (Maki Yoko).  Meanwhile, Midori Nonomiya (Ono Machiko) might as well be raising Keita alone for all the time he spends at work.

Like Father, Like Son won the Jury Prize at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.  The jury featured directors Steven Spielberg and Ang Lee, both of whom have explored the often difficult relationship between fathers and sons.  In fact, the Spielberg-owned DreamWorks has officially commissioned a Hollywood remake of the film.  But I urge you to first watch the original because I am sure that much will be lost in the cultural transfer.  

Kore-eda's editing has fewer cuts and gives the movie a slow pace that most Western audiences won't be used to.  But I enjoyed the camera lingering on its subjects and showing the action from the viewpoints of the little boys as well.  The children in this feature, especially little Keita with his expressive, emotional eyes, are big reason to tune in to this film.  Unlike Hollywood, here the dramatic outbursts are kept to a bare minimum.  It takes many things to become a father, one of which is unconditional love, as the characters find out themselves in their own sweet time.  That's a good thing, a really good thing. Like Father, Like Son joins my list of favourite Japanese films alongside Tokyo Story, Rashomon, Departures and more.  Do watch it if you can.  

Written, Edited and Directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda; Cinematography by Takimoto Mikiya; Music by Takeshi Matsubara, Junichi Matsumoto, Takashi Mori


Monday, July 7, 2014

Gone Girl: Teaser Evidence Posters

The last time I blogged (3 months ago!) it was about Gone Girl. So it's only fitting that my return post should also be about one of my most long-awaited films of the year.

The David Fincher-directed film has a clever marketing campaign. Ahead of its first trailer release, four different 'evidence' posters have been released online as teasers on popular websites for film news.  The first of which appeared on Huffington Post, the second on Awards Daily, the third on Indiewire and the final and fourth on Hitfix.  Have a look at the intriguing posters below:

Source: Awards Daily

Source: Hitfix

Source: Indiewire

If you've read the novel on which the film is based, these posters should make you very happy because this means the film is on the right track.  It has captured the right tone of the book.  It makes me very happy indeed and very much like a student who is sitting for an exam I have actually studied for.  Can't wait for the new trailer to arrive on July 7th.  

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Gone Girl Trailer: Have you seen Amy?

"I did not kill my wife. I am not a murderer." Those chilling words at the end of the first trailer released today for David Fincher's upcoming adaptation of Gillian Flynn's novel, Gone Girl sum up the feel of the movie. Starring Ben Affleck as Nick and Rosamund Pike as Amy, the trailer is set to the track of 'She' sung by Charles Aznavour underlying the major cracks in their relationship leading up to Amy's disappearance and the emergence of Nick as the likely and only suspect.  Dark, chilly with hints of the menace yet to come, this is what we expected of Fincher and this film.  Gone Girl also stars Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry and Scoot McNairy and will release in theatres on October 3, 2014.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Movie Review: Veronica Mars

“A long time ago, we used to be friends… “ Stop me if this theme song is familiar to you in any way, because a long time ago, you used to be a marshmallow.  Yes, Marshmallows, it’s our time in the spotlight as Veronica Mars, the feature film, finally landed on March 14, 2014, a year after its historic and game-changing Kickstarter campaign.  The most popular girl-detective (sorry, Nancy Drew!) is back with a new saga for the big screen that not only changes her life but has potentially life-changing decisions for several other characters in Neptune verse.

For the uninitiated, Veronica Mars was the titular lead character on a not-so-successful series of the same name on The CW.  Set in the fictional town of Neptune, California, Veronica (played by the winning Kirsten Bell) is the daughter of the disgraced sheriff Keith Mars (Enrico Conlatoni) who finds herself ostracized from her school, her community and her best friend’s family during a murder investigation of said best friend Lilly Kane (Amanda Seyfried).  Of course, this unique genre of high school noir became instantly likable with its snarky dialogue (a la Joss Whedon), great storytelling across seasons and some amazing guest stars (2 time Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain, Academy Award winner Melissa Leo and Emmy winner Aaron Paul all had small parts on the show).  The series regulars, were just as talented, as most of them have gone on to successful film and TV careers. Yet I imagine they were always associated with their parts on Veronica Mars, the TV show which was cruelly canceled due to low numbers in 2007.

But here we are seven years later, with a triumphant return on silver screen as we meet Veronica and her Scooby gang reunited in Neptune as a murder investigation and a high school reunion loom large among other unresolved issues.  To recap, Veronica has moved on since college and is about to join a prestigious law firm.  She has a supportive boyfriend Piz (Chris Lowell) who, if you can recall, she also dated in college.  But that's where the California ties end for Veronica.  No more investigations, no more stakeouts, no more dangers.  So she thinks.

Veronica gets pulled back in the game as her other ex-boyfriend, a certain Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring) is accused of murdering his musician girlfriend, Bonnie DeVille aka Carrie Bishop, a girl they both went to high school with.  Once Veronica is back in Neptune, no matter how she tries, she falls into the rhythms of the past much easier than she or anyone else expected.  There are fake identities, suspects to be interrogated and sheriffs to piss off. In short, it's the good old days.

Old friends and foes, such as Wallace (Percy Daggs III), Mac (Tina Majorino), Eli (Francis Capra) and Madison are back as are fan favourite characters, Leo D'Amato (Max Greenfield) and Vinnie Van Lowe (Ken Marino) delighting us with their brief appearances.  This is the reason why the film exists in the first place, because the fans weren't done with Veronica and her world just as yet.  So the reunions are brief as multiple plot lines are introduced, with several character's futures at stake.  The solving of the murder mystery is pure Veronica at her best, recruiting her friends and stepping up her game to find out who wants to harm Logan.

Team Logan fans will be delighted with young Echolls' maturation since college, he's now in the Navy and trying to leave his wild days behind him.  I said, trying... there is a roaring fistfight at the reunion that echoes Season 1 Logan nicely.  But I must say, I wavered briefly and over onto the Team Piz borderline for a bit. But then, all it took was a Logan smoulder by his car and I was back.  The rest of the Neptune gang has little time onscreen on a 107 minute film and the celeb cameos (including James Franco and Dax Shepard) will give you a quick chuckle, but the film ends, promisingly and tantalisingly, with the hope of future installments in Veronica-verse.

Veronica Mars is meant strictly for fans for original series who love the throwaway references and hints to the show's previous seasons but I hope it also tunes fans in to watching the series for the first time.  And I strongly hope this isn't the last we've seen of Veronica and that it doesn't take another seven years or a college reunion to see her again.

Directed by Rob Thomas; Screenplay by Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero; Cinematography by Ben Kutchins; Editing by Daniel Gabbe; Music by Josh Kramon

Additional cast: Krystan Ritter, Ryan Hansen, Gaby Hoffman, Jerry O'Connell, Martin Starr, Jamie Lee Curtis


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