Sex and the City 2 (2010)
★★★ / ★★★★
It’s been two years since the first highly successful “Sex and the City” movie and the same amount of time had passed since Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Big’s (Chris Noth) wedding. Written and directed by Michael Patrick King, the four best friends–Carrie, Samantha (Kim Cattrall), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) and Charlotte (Kristin Davis)–decided to go to Abu Dhabi for an all-expenses-paid trip because they figured they could use a break from their respective battles regarding career, marriage, having kids, and menopause in New York City. As usual, hilarity and drama ensued when the girls visited bars, talked about sex and faced their problems before heading home. Although not as glamorous as the first (though it certainly did try), I enjoyed this installment because it took us somewhere new, featured a culture other than New York City’s, and there were moments of real sensitivity such as when Miranda and Charlotte talked about their frustrations about work and raising kids. I liked that it didn’t try too hard to top the first movie except for the very cheeky, self-aware, over-the-top gay wedding (with Liza Minnelli singing and dancing to “Single Ladies”) in the first twenty minutes. However, there were some elements that I felt were unnecessary like the appearance of a former lover (John Corbett) that was solely and conveniently designed to make Carrie realize how much she really loved Big and how petty she was for worrying about becoming a “boring couple.” Most of the lessons were pretty obvious (at least to me) but the main reason why I’m a fan is because of the fashion and the glamour. I guess most people don’t realize that the whole thing is supposed to be a farce. I mean, who in their right minds would wear designer clothing in the middle of the desert? It irks me when I read reviews from both critics and audiences concerning the movie’s characters being shallow and the plot being unrealistic. But I guess the joke is on them if they come into the movie expecting the events to reflect real life. For me, “Sex and the City 2” delivered the goods because I got exactly what I signed up for: about two and a half hours to escape my problems and realize how good my life is in comparison. At first glance, these women might be bathing in jewelry, expensive clothes and ridiculously well-designed apartments but they have so much unhappiness in their lives. Sometimes, they even create their own problems in order to make their lives more interesting. As for those who claimed that the movie was politically incorrect, I say it’s nothing new. In fact, the television show flourished because it was exactly that–politically incorrect. “Sex and the City 2” is a good movie to watch with your best gal friends because it’s not just about romantic relationships but also friendship. I just wished that the guys (David Eigenberg, Evan Handler, Jason Lewis) were in it more so we could see things from men’s perspectives from time to time.
The Fifth Element (1997)
★★★ / ★★★★
I didn’t know much about this movie when I decided to watch it so my expectations were not that high. I thought it was going to be another one of those science fiction movies that deals with the apocalypse and so happens to take itself way too seriously. I couldn’t be anymore more wrong because “The Fifth Element,” written and directed by Luc Besson, was as funny and interesting as the vibrant colors that could be found in it throughout. Every 5,000 years, a strange power appears and tries to engulf life. It could be stopped by combining the powers of fire, water, wind, earth and the supposed “fifth element” for another five thousand years and the cycle continues. Bruce Willis stars as Korben Dallas, a taxi driver in futuristic New York who used to work for the military. He got sucked into the madness of intergalactic battle when Milla Jovovich–the fifth element, also known as the perfect being–literally dropped into his taxi. Their mission was to gather all the elements and save the planet from being obliterated into oblivion. Gary Oldman as the evil Zorg, Ian Holm as the priest, and Chris Tucker as the hilariously flamboyant DJ also star. I enjoyed this movie more than I expected to because its pace was quick; it didn’t dwell on the specifics on who’s who and what their intentions and motivations are. This film definitely reminded me of a hybrid between the “Star Wars” saga and the B movies of the 1950’s because it had that nice balance of imagination and humor. The only minor complaint I had was that sometimes it managed to distract itself from the story to make room for some of the more obvious funny moments. Tucker was the one who stole most of the scenes he was in because he was able to focus his manic personality into a character that had to be very enthusiastic about everything every time he was on his program. As for the visual and special effects, yes, they are sort of dated but I really didn’t care because I’m more concerned about the concept, how well a film builds on the story, and how it utilizes its characters. “The Fifth Element” is one of those movies that one can really enjoy if one doesn’t mind watching something over-the-top on a slow night.
★★ / ★★★★
I thought the best part of this critically acclaimed film was the way it set up the behind-the-cameras drama among Faye Dunaway, Peter Finch and Robert Duvall. I had major problems with this film’s pacing because once it passed the one-hour mark, each storyline began to slow the picture’s momentum. This could’ve easily been a ninety-minute feature and it would’ve been leaner and meaner. I understand that the story is supposed to be satirical. That’s why each of the main character is yelling pretty much all the time, trying to express his frustrations because his avarice is often at odds against another. But I found the scenes when particular characters would get angry to be extremely repetitive because the topic that they address are the same: the current times are bad and people must take an almost anarchist approach to solve their discontent. I think this would’ve been so much stronger if there was only one or two of those over-the-top scenes and the rest were subtle. In fact, to me, this film truly shined when a particular character would sit in a corner and think about what his or her next move should be in order to outsmart the others. Those moments are so small yet they managed to make me think more than the over-the-top scenes when a character would lecture another (and since this is a satire, those lectures are also directed toward the audiences). I get that this film was released back in 1976 and it predicted today’s trashy reality shows and “news” programs that claim to report the “facts.” But I can’t quite recommend this one because I lost my interest about half-way through. But the one to see here is Dunaway because she has the knack for being a complete monster who cannot get any lower from one minute and be almost human and relatable the next. I liked its ideas but the execution was too weak and all over the place for me.
The Transporter (2002)
★★★ / ★★★★
I have to give it to Jason Statham for always impressing me in his movies even though the movie itself is pretty average. I guess it’s because I find him so charismatic to the point where I am able to watch him in any movie and maybe even convince myself that I like it even though I really don’t. Thankfully, I don’t need any convincing here. Sure, the action is over-the-top, there isn’t much story, and somehow pretty much all characters know martial arts but I didn’t care about its flaws at the end of the day because I was really entertained (not to mention it was over in just about an hour and twenty-five minutes). Statham is all over the place (in a good way): one minute he’s being shot from under a truck, the next minute he’s diving off a plane. He is so convincing as Frank Martin, the transporter who likes to adhere to his rules of business but one day decides to break the rules because he sees something in Lai (played by Qi Shu). Statham expertly balances quiet intensity and vulnerability and that’s what separates him from other action stars. Matt Schulze (as Wall Street) and Ric Young (as Mr. Kwai) are pretty good (but average) villains because they can look mean and shoot guns. I wish the two would’ve had two separate goals, which could’ve been a better movie because that would mean that the story wouldn’t be as predictable. “The Transporter” is harmless fun with one outstanding scene (the grease fight). It’s definitely more for the boys because it’s hyperkinetic, there’s a lot of bodies getting shot and bones being broken. However, there’s also eye candy for the girls.