Tag: jessica biel

Powder Blue


Powder Blue (2009)
★ / ★★★★

Written and directed by Timothy Linh Bui, “Powder Blue” tells the stories of an exotic dancer, a suicidal man, an ex-con, and a mortician and how their lives are connected to one another days before Christmas Eve. While the picture aims to communicate the sadness in the paradox of living in a hugely populated city yet no one seems to really care, most the scenes, I must admit, made me laugh when it is supposed to be very serious.

For instance, as Charlie (Forest Whitaker) lures strangers to shoot a bullet through his heart for $50,000, the execution of the character’s request lacks a proper build-up that comes across effortless and commanding genuine tension. Although Whitaker’s performance might have been convincing given a proper direction coupled with a script that offers a backbone and supporting substance, it feels very awkward here. The rare glimmers of intensity is a testament to how good Whitaker can be as a raw performer.

Another weak strand involves Jack (Ray Liotta), recently released from jail, frequenting a strip club because there is something about the sight of Johnny (Jessica Biel) that piques his curiosity. While inside the strip club, each time he is shown standing about or sitting down staring into nothing, he always looks sad. It is emotionally manipulative because not enough time is invested toward honing in on the character’s sadness and communicating it to us that does not come across preachy.

The convenient flashbacks do nothing to make us more sympathetic and sensitive to the characters’ struggles. If there is one shining moment in the film, it is found in the waitress that Charlie meets in a diner that stands in as his second home. While Sally (Lisa Kudrow) has her own share of problems and sadness, the light within her resonated with me. I enjoyed the way Kudrow allows her character to reach out and help Charlie and yet she isn’t quite sure if she is ready to take on a friend or a potential romantic interest.

Sally and Charlie share several gauche conversations but the way in which they mirror each other’s energy made me want to know more about their relationship and consider ways that could help them to move on from their current problems. What they have is about hope and it is critical to the picture because everything about it is so depressing: the cinematography, the subject matter, and the characters being convinced that there is no escaping their fates.

The storyline that shows potential but ultimately does not deliver involves Qwerty (Eddie Redmayne) and his reclusive existence. We are given information about his life like the fact that his father, also a mortician, recently passed away and that their family business is about to go under due to unpaid bills. Unfortunately, there are not enough scenes of his struggles designed to show rather than tell. What is executed nicely is his interactions with a dog he accidentally had ran over and later taken home. It shows that he is capable of giving love but recent events in his life almost prevents him from going out there in the world and living his life as a young person.

Because “Powder Blue” is so intent on showcasing the seedy environs of Los Angeles, it neglects to paint its characters as real people. It also feels overlong. The problems of the protagonists defines them and the screenplay is unwilling to explore other potentially more interesting avenues.

Total Recall


Total Recall (2012)
★ / ★★★★

A recurring dream involving being chased by the authorities alongside a woman he believes he never met has prevented Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell), a factory worker, from getting proper sleep over the past couple of weeks. Feeling depressed, he thinks that a treatment at Rekall, a company that can program memories into a person’s brain, can help him get over the nightmares if he is given an exciting or happy memory. A routine procedure prior to the treatment, however, triggers a repressed memory in unsuspecting Douglas. It turns out that he is a spy so specialized and dangerous that he is able to take down ten armed men, assigned to capture him alive, in under thirty seconds.

Inspired by Philip K. Dick’s short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale,” credit must be given to “Total Recall,” directed by Len Wiseman, for deciding not to make a carbon copy of Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 film. Instead, it opts for a more straightforward approach by focusing on delivering the action and spending less time on philosophical musings about which reality is real and which is constructed by machines. However, despite this, the film lacks drama, suspense, and memorable characters in order for the material to rise above the standard and have its own identity.

The dialogue is so flat that each time it takes a breather from the action sequences, I felt like I was watching the actors rehearsing a scene. There are moments when the performers try to compensate by overacting to little or no avail. Since there is no dimension to what they are saying, not once did I believe that there is something critical at stake. There are talks about terrorist organizations, struggle for equality, and worldwide domination–rather, what is left of it considering an international chemical warfare rendered most of the planet uninhabitable. But the screenplay by Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback fails to incorporate these struggles in a thought-provoking, insightful, or entertaining way.

I enjoyed the special and visual effects. The futuristic cities are inspired by Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” in that there is a menudo of cultures plastered on neon-colored billboards as well as ethnically diverse crowds going about their businesses. I was at awe on how select buildings can possibly stand because they seem to lack support from the ground up. The best chase scenes involve Douglas running on rooftops, through skyscrapers, and inside houses. The editing matches the character’s desperation to survive so it is exciting to watch unfold, at least initially. Eventually, the chases suffer from diminishing returns because the same formula is adopted and the results are more or less the same.

“Total Recall” feels twice as long than it actually is. Although, as a remake, it takes some liberties to detach from the expected, it seems reluctant to really experiment and go wild. I enjoyed watching Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel, as Douglas’ wife and partner in crime, respectively, for their physicality. I believed that their characters are not women to be messed with because they are capable of handling themselves. Their fight scene stands out but I wished there had been more chances for the two of them to release their anger onto one another. Such would not have boosted the film’s quality per se but it might have been more fun.

Planet 51


Planet 51 (2009)
★ / ★★★★

“Planet 51” was about an astronaut (voiced by Dwayne Johnson) who landed on a planet with green people living it what it seemed like 1950s suburbia. What was neat about it was that it captured the times because an extraterrestrial paranoia was in the air–aliens were in the movies, the comic books and daily conversations. Unfortunately, this animated film, directed by Jorge Blanco, Javier Abad and Marcos Martínez, only really had one joke and it wasn’t enough to sustain its campiness, vivaciousness and cuteness until the end. It was sad because the premise had so much potential and it had so many jokes it could have pulled from. Too bad it got stuck with the whole issue involving the astronaut needing to return to his ship with the help of green creatures named Lem (Justin Long), Neera (Jessica Biel) and Skiff (Seann William Scott). While it was colorful and there were a lot of action scenes, it lacked tension and I wasn’t convinced that children (especially those who have short attention spans) would be able sit through it. After the thirty-minute mark, I was bored and I kept wishing that the writer, Joe Stillman, would inject something new to the screen other than throwing random pop culture references such as iPods, Facebook, and the macarena. I did, however, enjoy the references to alien pictures such as “War of the Worlds,” “Aliens,” “E.T.: The Extraterrestrial” and the like. I thought those references and the small jokes that came with them worked because they had something to do with the universe where this animated movie was taking place. What “Planet 51” desperately needed was that sense of real danger during the action scenes to keep its audiences invested. Pixar movies, especially in “The Incredibles,” were good templates because although their movies are designed for children, they are not afraid to hint at the darkness and really put their characters in peril. In this movie, this feeling of everyone turning out to be safe at the end of the day was way too obvious. Sidequests such as the romance between Neera and Lem was a distracting appendage that didn’t really need to be there. Maybe younger children such as five- or six-year-olds might enjoy this flick but definitely not nine- or ten-year-olds. I was very disappointed because the trailer looked very promising.

Valentine’s Day


Valentine’s Day (2010)
★★★ / ★★★★

“Valentine’s Day,” written by Katherine Fugate and directed by Gary Marshall,” was an ensemble romantic comedy with many high-proile names that followed the footsteps of films like “Love Actually.” There are only three things one has to know coming into this movie: all of the characters are connected in some way, it is at times unapologetically cheesy with its typical (but funny) one-liners, and it is a good Valentine’s Day movie to watch with friends or special someone. Even before the film was released, I heard a lot of negative comments about it because people are not keen on the idea of a movie capitalizing on a holiday that “isn’t even real.” I say get over it because such moaning will not stop movie studios from releasing movies such as this; it’s a business and no matter how much you complain, money is money at the end of the day. Personally, the main reason why I wanted to see this film was because some of my favorite celebrities were in it like Jennifer Garner, Julia Roberts, Anne Hathaway, Topher Grace, Ashton Kutcher (even though I change my mind about him quite often), and Bradley Cooper. From the trailers, I knew exactly what to expect and, surprisingly, it was much better than I thought it would be. Even though only two to four characters out of the twenty-one were fully developed (Garner and Kutcher as best friends failing to see that they were meant for each other; Hathaway and Grace as one lacking awareness of the other being a phone sex operator), it was fun to watch because it had a certain self-awareness–that none of it should be taken seriously because the characters’ lives revolved around falling in love. We are smart enough to know (or at least we should be) that the movie was simply trying to provide us an escape from our busy lives, whether our lives may revolve around our studies, our jobs, and countless other circumstances. As for the negatives, I wished that the main characters were cut down to fifteen. Even though I thought the scenes with Taylor Lautner and Taylor Swift were amusing, their scenes didn’t do much when it came to the big picture other than comment on the fact that teenage love based on supercifial similarities was a good foundation for a potential heartbreak. (Well, at least that’s what I got from it.) I also wished that Jessica Biel’s scenes with her eating junk food and being neurotic were cut, while preserving her “I hate Valentine’s Day” intact and ultimately seeing Jamie Foxx as a perfect match for her. My favorite storyline has go to be the one with Cooper and Roberts meeting on a plane. I still think Roberts is one of the finest actresses because she has a perfect way of portraying sadness in her eyes. It was pretty subtle but when Cooper voiced out his assumptions that Roberts was on her way to see her special man, that specific look that Roberts gave him immediately made me realize that it wasn’t the case. “Valentine’s Day” is indeed a typical romantic comedy but if you know what to expect and you have an open mind, you will have a good chance of enjoying this flick. But if you come into the film in a bad mood or expecting the worst, prepare yourself to analyze every single flaw and not enjoy the movie. In other words, save your money or buy yourself a box of chocolates instead. Maybe that will make you happy.

Friday the 13th


Friday the 13th (2009)
★★ / ★★★★

Some said this was supposed to be a reset of the “Friday the 13th” franchise, but I think it was just a straight-up sequel. The first five minutes described what happened in the first installment and fast-forwarded to this film’s backstory about a nice guy with a conflicted past (Jared Padalecki) who was looking for his sister (Amanda Righetti). Of course, there was an obligatory first-group-of-kids-to-get-slaughtered-sequence where, if one was more than familiar with horror pictures, could instantly tell that none of them would survive or one of them would get enslaved. And yes, that’s right, this twelfth “Friday the 13th” consisted of the latter instance. I guess there would be no point in discussing how predictable this flick was. However, even I have to admit that I did enjoy certain scenes such as when Jason Voorhees started shooting arrows at people in the lake. It was so exciting because I didn’t know where he was; it was a little different because I was used to seeing him kill from a close distance. I also enjoyed rooting for the good-hearted characters played by Padalecki, Righetti and Danielle Panabaker–one of the girls from the second group of sheep to get slaughtered who had the least psychological/social problems. As for the rest of immature sex- and drugs-driven guys and girls, I really didn’t care about them. I was more interested in which interesting way they would get killed. Another thing I liked about it was that there was an underground labyrinthine lair under Camp Crystal Lake. The characters would go there and wouldn’t know where to go so I constantly wondered whether they would hit a dead end (and they did a couple of times). But after effective slasher pictures like the “Scream” series and even “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” starring Jessica Biel, this so-called sequel felt like a dud. I hated it when a character would go upstairs away from the group, knowing that a killer was out there patrolling outside the (fancy) cabin. The character then noticed an open window upstairs and the character would go further into the room. If I was in that situation, the moment I noticed that window open, I would run back downstairs so fast without even thinking about it. I sometimes wonder how the writers and directors approach the characters they’re creating. With a lot more common sense, more energy and less obvious references to films like “Halloween” (that revisiting-familiar-places-of-massacre sequence near the end was jarring), I would have liked this a lot more. But still, even I can admit that it’s probably the best “Friday the 13th” I’ve seen. (I think it’s a weak franchise overall.)