Every Day (2010)
★★ / ★★★★
Ned (Liev Schreiber) no longer found his job as a writer for a television show rewarding. His boss (Eddie Izzard) wanted creative, mostly sexually-driven, ideas from him but he couldn’t seem to deliver because his mind was, to say the last, preoccupied. His wife (Helen Hunt) who invited her short-tempered father (Brian Dennehy) to live with them became increasingly unhappy, he worried about his older son (Ezra Miller), who recently admitted that he was gay, and felt guilty for not being there for his youngest son’s (Skyler Fortgang) violin recital. A fellow script writer named Robin (Carla Gugino), mysterious and seductive, being attracted to Ned certainly didn’t help his situation. Written and directed by Richard Levine, “Every Day” had a few scenes that worked on an emotional level. However, it ultimately lacked the bravado to look deeply at the family’s growing unhappiness. Too much of its running time was dedicated on the flirtation between Ned and Robin as they supposedly worked together on a script at her fancy New York loft. I understood that Ned wanted an escape from his worries and grab the fantasy he felt like he deserved. It would have worked if the execution wasn’t so cheap where it felt like watching a bad soap opera. It was painfully obvious that Robin was the bad influence because she wore typical dark clothing and intense gazes. The way she was presented was one dimensional, insulting and uninteresting. The real drama was between Hunt and Dennehy’s characters. A daughter who didn’t feel loved by her father cared for him regardless. She felt like she owed him something but the reason, it seemed to her, failed to go deeper than the fact that they were biologically connected. When Hunt was on screen, my attention magnetized toward her because there was a sadness in her inability to define her motivations. There was complexity between the daughter and her father unlike what was between Ned and Robin. In a way, their relationship explained why she gave certain freedoms to her gay son who wanted to attend a gay prom with people much older than him. If I was a parent and my underage gay son (or daughter) wanted to go somewhere he or she could be taken advantaged of, I wouldn’t think twice about not giving him permission. But I understood why she felt the need to do it. She wanted approval from her children because she never got it from her father. Lastly, there was something curious about the younger son’s struggle to understand the idea of dying. It scared him but he tried not to let it show. Perhaps he didn’t have the words to express his fears. “Every Day” successfully established that the characters were distant from one another. Unfortunately, it lost focus and power in its saccharine attempt to bring them together.
Ninja Assassin (2009)
★ / ★★★★
I wanted to see this movie because the trailers looked so much fun. I thought it was going to be action-packed and it would be above trying to justify itself with creating ridiculous storylines. Instead, it was bogged down with melodramatic character history and I couldn’t help but question when those scenes were finally going to be over and actually feature some martial arts. Rain played an orphan who was raised to be a ninja but decided to seek revenge against his clan (led by Shô Kosugi) after they killed his close friend who also happened to belong in their group. Meanwhile, Naomie Harris, despite knowing about the lethal nature of ninjas, decided to expose the ninjas and the murders they committed. I honestly had no idea why she did it. I guess it was hard for her to decide between how valuable her life was and fame via unveiling a group of people who were experts in hiding in the shadows for centuries. Any reasonable and logical person would know that choosing the latter would be downright stupid. But I suppose the picture needed to have a reason–any reason–for her to meet a ninja who she could run around with all over Europe and get into action sequences. Speaking of action sequences, as limited as they were, I was even more disappointed with the fact that it was almost incomprehensible. I didn’t mind much the disappearing acts that the ninjas seemed to innately had but I had a big problem with the way the action sequences were shot. Although there were some interesting ones such as the battle scene inside Harris’ home involving shadows and a flashlight, the rest were either annoying because I couldn’t discern who was who or if the good guys or the bag guys were winning or the scenes had no feeling of tension at all. Of course I flinched when I saw gratuitous amount of blood–I liked the bathroom scene–but that was about it. I wasn’t actually excited that the action was happening and I wasn’t impressed with the choreography. Overall, even though I was willing to look past through the weaknesses of this film, “Ninja Assassin, directed by James McTeigue, couldn’t help but disappoint. At times I felt like I was watching a really bad music video where I had no idea what was happening or why. At least music videos, on average, only last about three to four minutes. It was a mind-numbing experience and I wished I saw something else that wouldn’t have resulted to losing my brain cells.
★★★ / ★★★★
I’ve seen Pedro Almodóvar’s work from the late 1990s to the present and have been nothing but impressed so naturally I became interested in seeing his older projects.”Matador” stars Antonio Banderas as a 22-year-old aspiring matador who was working under Nacho Martinez’ wing. When Martinez’ character asked Banderas if he was a homosexual due to his lack of experience with women, Banderas tried to prove his masculinity by trying to rape his mentor’s girlfriend (Eva Cobo). Eventually ending up in jail due to some strange coincidences and choices, a femme fatale lawyer (Assumpta Serna) came running to defend Banderas’ innocence. I love Almodóvar’s films because no matter how much I try to guess what would happen in the story, I always guess incorrectly. He has such a knack for telling unconventional stories that are funny, witty, tragic and ironic often all at the same time. The way he uses color to highlight a character’s fate or what he or she might be feeling and thinking always takes me by surprise even though I’m familiar with his techniques. I also was fascinated with the way Almodóvar used his characters’ occupations as a reflection of what they were really capable of when they think nobody was watching them. Admittedly, the writing can get a bit melodramatic at times but I think that’s half the fun of Almodóvar’s movies. He’s not afraid to reference to the supernatural, such as a certain character experiencing “visions,” to possibly make sense of the natural world. It’s the twists and turns that keep us wanting to watch. Like in most of his later projects, “Matador” was very passionate (or obsessive?) about sexuality–not necessarily sex–how his actors moved and delivered certain lines. Another element that I thought was interesting was the fact that Almodóvar used sex and violence as a backdrop to explore the darker side of human nature. The characters in this film were not necessarily good; in fact, they were far from innocent. But we root for some of them because the protagonists were capable of less evil than their counterparts. I wasn’t sure at first if I was going to enjoy Almodóvar’s earlier works but after watching “Matador,” I’m more than excited to see them. I just hope that they have the same level of vivaciousness, drama and sensuality as this picture.
★★ / ★★★★
At first, I thought this film was going to be a thriller because of the scene when Keith (Jesse McCartney) told someone his real intentions for befriending one of the most well-rounded and mature girls in school named Natalie (Elisabeth Harnois). Natalie seems to have everything going for her: great grades, intellectually curious, gregarious, athletic, and on the verge of getting into an Ivy League school. But then she meets Keith: a smart guy who is a bit rough around the edges who is unlike anyone in school. He’s actually interesting because he has substance but he does not boast his intellect on everyone’s faces. Natalie does not get along with Keith in the beginning; that is, up until she starts falling for him. I liked the powerplay between the two, which pervaded half of the picture. However, somewhere during the half-way point, it started falling apart because it spent too much of its time trying to conceal Keith’s secret. The mature Natalie became an immature, emo Natalie who actively risked her life and others’ just because she felt overwhelmed by everything going on around her, such as problems with her boyfriend, declining grades, and losing a potential scholarship. Keith’s secret was strangely fascinating to me. I had several theories ranging from him being a serial killer to an early CIA agent recruit. So when I ultimately found out his secret, I could not help but feel a bit underwhelmed because of the expectations that came with my (reasonable, at least in my mind) hypotheses. The second part of the film was chaotic to say the least. For about forty-five minutes or so, I felt like I was watching a bad teenage play and everyone happens to overact to every situation. It did not feel real and I felt repulsed by what was happening on screen. And the “lesson” of the film did not work for me on any level. Basically, the film justified (or tried to justify) Natalie throwing away everything she worked so hard for. That is not a good message at all to teenagers, especially when they should be encouraged to be the best they can be. Directed by Todd Kessler, “Keith” is pretty unoriginal but Jesse McCartney fans might be happy to see him show his acting abilities.
The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros (2005)
★★ / ★★★★
This critically acclaimed Filipino film about a flamoboyant gay twelve-year-old (Nathan Lopez) who happens to develop a serious crush on a cop (J.R. Valentin) both impresses and disappoints. The conflict comes in when the cop finds out that Max’ family is involved in several crimes that range from theft to murder. I liked that this picture did not flinch when it comes to showing the poorer neighborhoods in the Philippines. While the living conditions are cramped, it still manages to show that most people are generally happy with where they are because things can get a lot worse. Having been raised in the Philippines for the first eleven years of my life, I found this film’s perspective to be accurate yet bona fide because it still manages to respect its subjects. It’s easy to look down upon a group of people if you don’t truly understand them. Another aspect I enjoyed about it was that Max being really queer was really not a big deal to most people. What I love about the Philippines and Filipinos in general is that it’s pretty easy for them to accept others who are different from the norm as long as they find a common bond. When I was growing up in the Philippines, I didn’t see a lot of LGBT celebrities on television. But nowadays, if you tune in on TFC (a cable set that people can subscribe to so they can watch Filipino programs all over the world), it’s difficult NOT to see gays and lesbians. In fact, they tend to be the most entertaining hosts on game shows or characters on soap operas. So I’m glad that this movie reflected the current realities in Filipino society. However, there were some things about the picture that disappointed me. Instead of truly exploring the non-sexual relationship between Lopez and Valentin, it delved too much into the politics of cops and criminals to the point where it took the focus away from Lopez’ interesting character. I wanted to know more about the lead character and his relationship with his accepting family (no matter how dysfunctional they may be). I also didn’t enjoy the overly melodramatic scenes. Perhaps it’s because I expected more comedy because of the trailer. Nevertheless, I’m giving this a slight recommendation because it’s strong in many aspects. It’s just that the very (but important) negatives kind of weighed down most of it.