The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
Director: Marc Webb
Writers: James Vanderbilt (screenplay), Alvin Sargent (screenplay), Steve Kloves (screenplay)
Stars: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone and Rhys Ifans
I had my first IMAX 3D experience last night when I went out to see The Amazing Spider-Man directed by Marc Webb and starred Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. With memories from Sam Raimi’s trilogy still fresh, my anticipation of the reboot was somewhat milder than other superhero blockbusters for this summer (e.g. The Avengers and Dark Knight Rises). In many ways The Amazing Spider-Man has diluted the seriousness of its predecessor and highly advanced in its theatrical technology (i.e. IMAX 3D) that presents itself as a generally enjoyable ride for the audience from all ages.
– The pair of Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) was absolutely adorable, even without the consciousness of the onscreen couple actually developed into a real one. Garfield, who played the breakthrough role in The Social Network (2010) has every charm to capture the hearts of teenagers.
– James Horner’s ethereal score that often overwhelmed the acting and directing in framing the mood of the scene. I presume the filmmakers chose him to replace Danny Elfman’s unforgettable theme in the previous trilogy, and I think it’s a smart choice.
– the script was somewhat loose (although it was collaboration of three fine screenwriters!) to tell a story that has been already told and still fresh in memory. Most of Peter’s actions appealed to the actor, instead of carefully framed by the narrative. For example, there isn’t a clear set of lines in the scenes where Peter fidgets before Gwen to ask her out and later reveals his identity. Some story pitfalls (e.g. a teen intern develops cure for the whole city) can be easily overlooked for this high-teen flick.
In addition to the short video at the credit roll, The Amazing Spider-Man has laid out so many unresolved mysteries to instill an anticipation for a sequel. Some say it regrettable that Spidey did not make the entry to the Avengers due to the copyright issues, but I think this new start in the franchise will only make moviegoers happier with a richer choice. Now The Amazing Spider-Man has two weeks to keep the top place until Dark Knight Rises, and the two major superheroes battling in the Box Office will make the most exciting July ever!
Following Pride and Prejudice (2005) and Atonement (2007), the 2012 production of Anna Karenina is a reunion of director Joe Wright and Keira Knightley. Many would think this will be a rebound for Keira whose recent filmography was a bit of disappointment… As far as I can see in this trailer, the film looks mostly about the affair and inner struggles of Anna as the foremost protagonist while the roles of Levin (the actual hero in Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina) and Vronsky seem somewhat diminished from that in the novel. Instead, Anna’s husband Karenin is played by Jude Law, as to enlarge the impact of the character as the dictator of Anna’s tragic fate (“We are brought together by the bond that can only be broken by a crime against God.”)
No matter how accurately they relived the Russian empire, I feel good about Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina for its glittering art direction and costumes, as well as the enchanting OST.
A Separation (2011)
Director: Asghar Farhadi
Writer: Asghar Farhadi
Stars: Peyman Moadi, Leila Hatami and Sareh Bayat
The Academy-Award-winning film starts with a long-take courtroom scene of a married couple, Simin and Nader, seeking for a divorce. Simin, the educated wife with a stable job as a teacher, argues for an agreement from her husband to migrate from Iran, their home country where she decides not to raise her eleven-year-old daughter, Termeh. Nader, the diligent husband working as a banker, adamantly refuses to go abroad, primarily to look after his deteriorating father with Alzheimer’s Disease. After 4 minutes of heated contention, they leave the courtroom without a resolution. Upon reaching their apartment, Simin packs up and leaves for her parents and Nader hires a housekeeper who would take care of his sickly father in his absence. For the remaining two hours we’ve got to see the series of full-blown disputes, confrontations and frustration that have led to, and resulted from, their separation.
Through the process of dealing with the conflicts with Razieh, the poor housekeeper from a struggling family, we’ve get to see a microcosm of the Iranian society where disagreement and lies are prevalent between the middle- and low-class people who merely communicate on the basis of their religious virtues. With an ensemble of extremely convincing acting and surprisingly realistic script, Asghar Farhadi presents a revealing portrayal of family breakup with a penetrating insight into the Iranian norms of family and faith that easily appeal to international viewers who have pretty much similar daily concerns of raising children, behaving morally, saving money, etc.
On the side note, I was impressed by Leila Hatami (Simin)’s stunning beauty reminded me of those of the Hollywood actresses like Nicole Kidman and Naomi Watts. I hope to see her again as a global actress amongst Penelope Cruz, Zhang Ziyi and Monica Bellucci, as long as her freedom would allow.
The Chorus (2004)
Director: Christophe Barratier
Writers: Georges Chaperot (1945 story “La Cage aux rossignols”), René Wheeler (1945 story “La Cage aux rossignols”), and 5 more
Stars: Gérard Jugnot, François Berléand and Jean-Baptiste Maunier
Since I’m very much into music and films, there is nothing more delightful than the combination of both. Also my new infatuation for foreign language films has finally led me to this film, The Chorus (Les Choristes, 2004), a French film that has been nominated as Best Foreign Language Films in the 2005 Academy Awards. In many ways, the setting and themes of The Chorus reminded me of those from Mr Holland Opus and Cider House Rules.
You’ve seen the story. A failed musician, Clément Mathieu (Gérard Jugnot) is newly appointed as a music teacher at a boarding school for difficult boys who have been harshly disciplined by the unsympathetic principal (François Berléand). Under an uncaring supervision, Mathieu decides to do what he can do for the boys: mobilize them into a choir and inspire them with music. Through the successive choral sessions from the bald and soft-minded instructor, the boys learn to give meanings to their lives. The foremost character among this incredible ensemble is Pierre Morhange, played by then 12-year-old Jean-Baptiste Maunier, a real-life chorister for St. Mark’s Choir. Anyone in the audience would be immediately captivated by his deep blue eyes as well as his angelic voice.
The film delivers a largely predictable story with several adorable and convincing characters. Even the mean principal turns out to be an understandable character through the series of unexpected incidents happening in the school. The most memorable boy for me was Pépinot, a war-orphan with a cute and innocent face. Most of the young boys in The Chorus present fine acting along with the full-grown experienced actors to flawlessly relive the troublesome community within the reclusive boarding school in the post-war French countryside.
Although some cynical moviegoers would shake their heads at supposedly unoriginal settings (i.e. troublesome boy turning out to be young prodigy), The Chorus is filled with heartwarming and tear-shedding scenes that are as memorable as those from the musical and educational dramas such as Dead Poet’s Society and Sister Act. I would definitely recommend it to any sentimental viewer seeking for inspiration and musicality.
The Intouchables (2011)
Director: Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano
Writers: Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano
Stars: François Cluzet, Omar Sy and Anne Le Ny
Since Le Concert (2007), I became more and more attracted to foreign language films (i.e. languages other than English or Korean) as a new unexplored world full of genius. After reading an newspaper article about The Intouchables that were immensely successful in Europe after topping the Box Office in France for ten weeks, I was excited to see another on-screen story that is boundless in its sentiments and universal in its themes.
The movie is about an extraordinary friendship between Philippe, a quadriplegic aristocrat and his caretaker Driss, a young offender living by welfare benefits. They first meet in an interview where Driss reveals his surprisingly casual and humorous character that makes Philippe smile. Without hoping for it, Driss gets hired as Philippe’s live-in carer, and an improbable understanding between the two men develops. The movie is full of extremely hilarious scenes where they amusingly respond to each other’s seemingly irreconcilable tastes: for example, when Philippe takes his free-spirited carer to his private concert and introduces a series of classical music by Vivaldi and Bach, Driss entertains his lofty employer by breaking into club dance with the beating sound of Earth, Wind & Fire. They freely exchange their contrasting views on art, music, love, and child-rearing that eventually leads to exceptional moments of joy, laughter, excitement, and delight. Philippe always keeps Driss by his side not only as a confidante but also as an outlet for his passion restrained under his immobile body and aristocratic manners. Without much time passed, they know what the other wants just by looking at each other.
Some of the audience might expect that the imperfect characters of either Driss or Philippe would change differently as a result of their relationship, but this is not what the movie is about. There is not much of a linear plotline of arising and resolving major conflicts to make the ‘drama’ of the film but only a series of memorable scenes where the two men polar opposite in physique and class naturally interact and understand each other. Based on a true story, the film shows an incredible positiveness of unlikely intimacy between wealthy and poor, high and low, black and white, healthy and disabled. The nectarous piano tunes by Ludovico Einaudi in the beginning and end of the film replace so much spoken lines to evoke a depth of emotions.
The Great Gatsby 2012 Trailer
As one of the ardent fans of F. Scott Fitzerald’s masterpiece, the official trailer only left me two reasons I won’t be dying to see this film. First of all, the glittering scenes in the beginning don’t look like 1922 at all. The setting is very thematic in the Great Gatsby but Baz Luhrmann seemed to have rendered it just as visually appealing backgrounds, just like the ways he did in Moulin Rouge!, Romeo+Juliet, and Australia. I understand that the Hollywood producers have found Gatsby’s lavish parties as their next subject for 3D theatres, but the story itself should be more about an interior exploration of emotions, rather than full-scaled cinematic adventure. I would hate to see the actors as part of the set.
Secondly, Carey Mulligan’s Daisy Buchanan seemed too frightened and passive, somewhat devoid of the maturity and vivacity of the character Mia Farrow successfully caught in the 1974 production. Does the actress have the charm that DiCaprio (i.e. Jay Gatsby in 2012) blindly pursed over the years ? (Apologies for Carey’s fans, but I haven’t seen her movies except Pride and Prejudice) I know it’s all too hasty to judge from this 3 minute clip, but it may be best for me to keep it as the original vintage.
Whether I like it or not, this movie will prove how the perception on the great novel has changed over the decades.
Avengers (May 5)
This one looks hot… it’s not even released yet but the score already runs 9 out of 10 at IMDB.com… Most of the 10,000 voters were at the screenings in US and left enthusiastic reviews that just push anyone to the theatre. Well, the filmmakers must have anticipated this because project had been elaborated a way back since almost the beginning of Marvels debut in Hollywood, as they have hinted in each of the superhero film (e.g. Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, Thor). I’m not that into the Marvels superheroes to be excited about the Avengers but I’m gonna enjoy it anyway as a nice way to spend the summer 😉
Dark Shadows (May 11)
The union of Johnny Depp and Tim Burton that almost has become a cliché. Sweeney Todd was a blow, but I doubt there’ll be same depth in Dark Shadows that looks like a nice cool breezing entertaining show. There was always some amount of ‘blackness’ in Tim Burton’s comedies that make themselves so memorable (e.g. Edward Scissorhands). I’m wondering how Dark Shadows is going to play it out… But I’ll wait to see another praise for the duo.
Dark Knight Rises (July 20)
I’m going to see it less as the much-awaited continuation of Dark Knight (2008) but more as another Christopher Nolan after Inception. Just like anybody else, I’m anticipating that Dark Knight Rises would surpass it’s prequel, just because he can. I’m dying to see Anne Hathaway in Catwoman suit!
Snow White and the Huntsman (June 1)
The label of ‘Kristen Stewart’ gives me the feeling that Snow White and the Huntsman is going to be another teenage chic movie, but I’m hoping they didn’t make another imitation of Twilight with Charlize Theron. I wish I could see it at the Humber Theatre just across the corner from my house…