Posts Tagged ‘Art’

LIMITLESS

2011/04/27

http://www.iamrogue.com/limitless/fullsite/

USA 2011  Directed by: Neil Burger  Written by: Leslie Dixon  Based on: The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn  Produced by: Leslie Dixon, Ryan Kavanaugh, Scott Kroopf  Cinematography by: Jo Willems  Editing by: Tracy Adams, Naomi Geraghty  Music by: Paul Leonard-Morgan  Cast: Bradley Cooper, Abbie Cornish, Robert De Niro, Anna Friel, Johnny Witworth, Robert John Burke, Tomas Arana, T.V. Carpio, Patricia Kalember, Andrew Howard

So much to do, so little time; some of us feel like this while others are just the opposite – with little purpose in life and thus feel like too much time on their hands. “Limitless” opened the window and let us peek out to the great wide open of possibilities and also see what could happen if one tries to fly too close to the sun. It’s a classic moral tale told through the lens of a very unique and innovative director, Neil Burger. Some of the imagery done here are downright trippy. But it styled the story so fittingly. After all, it is a science fiction piece about a loser writer, Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper), with a mental block that got handed a miraculous tip in the form of a little transparent pill, which can optimize a person’s brain function to 100%. But with great power comes greater threats, turbo-charging all the stakes to overload.

This film rides heavily on Bradley Cooper, his first-time lead role. As an alumnus of The Actors Studio in New York (the Mecca for actors to be), he had all the training, intensity, and charm to silence any speculations over his ability to keep the audience in the seats and his supporting actor at bay – Robert De Niro, who plays Eddie’s boss, mentor and rival, Carl Van Loon.

The pill clocks in at 30 seconds to take effect and lasts 24 hours. At which time, Eddie crawls out of his grimy world and into one that is saturated with clarity, edge, detail and speed. A drug addict with a larger-than-life dream, Cooper’s repeating transformation from the slummed-out slacker to the golden boy with the Billionaire Boys Club swagger is easily entertaining as is sympathetic. It’s this constant contrast between the light and shadows that draws you in. Along the way, other characters are seen leveraging from this pill, each giving a notable attempt at this transformation; to which, surprisingly, was Eddie’s loan shark, a Russian immigrant – played palatably satisfying, maybe even trumping Cooper, by Andrew Howard.

With a plot that keeps twisting but never sliding far from its own truth – although a couple of scenes could have propelled it to ace status – “Limitless” carries enough weight to fend off any lip-gnawing thriller and yet has the humor, light or dark, to find everyone able to enjoy it with a few snorts and slaps to the knee. At the end, it even leaves the story open for new chapters and us wanting more…as long as the writers don’t run out of their limit of magic little pills.


SUCKSEED [SUCKSEED HUAY KHAN THEP | SUCKSEED ห่วยขั้นเทพ]

2011/04/06

http://www.suckseedthemovie.com/

THAILAND 2011  Directed by: Chayanop Boonprakob Written by: Chayanob Boonprakob, Tossapol Tiptinnakorn  Produced by: Jira Maligool, Chenchonnanee Sppnthonsaratul, Suwimol Techasupinan, Wanruedee Pongsittisak  Cinematography by: Naruphol Chokkhanaphitak  Music by: Genie Records  Cast: Jirayu Laongmanee, Pachara Chirathivat, Thawat Pornrattanaprasert, Natcha Nualjam (Nattasha Morrison)

It doesn’t happen very often that a Thai comedy is more than a random potpourri of tasteless, one-hundred-year-old jokes and failed 1910’s/1920’s slapstick references, so it’s a pleasant surprise to see SUCKSEED succeed not only in the comedy department, but in many more ways.

SUCKSEED tells the story of two childhood friends from Chiang Mai, Koong and Ped, who both somehow fancy the same girl, their classmate Ern. Ern leaves for Bangkok after primary school, but a few years later their paths cross again and they accidentally reunite in high school after Ern returns to Chiang Mai in 2006.

To impress the girls (especially Ern) and to challenge his twin brother Kay, a star guitarist, Koong decides to form a band, Koong And Friends, assigning Ped to play bass and basketball player Ex as drummer. At first it all looks like just another one of Koong’s short-lived ideas, but after finding out that Ern is an ace guitarist herself and his brother is entering a nationwide music award with his band The Arena, Koong becomes dead serious about Koong And Friends.

Together they decide to enter the talent competition as well to leave their mark – this way or another. But the odds are against them and things turn for the worse when Koong’s and Ped’s battle over Ern intensifies and Ern switches sides and decides to perform with The Arena at the music awards. Friendship, love and musical success – all seems impossible the closer the competition comes.

SUCKSEED works as good as a comedy as it does as a drama, love story and film about music, thanks to a wonderful script, the perfect cast and an array of participating Thai bands and singers (thanks to Grammy’s stable of some of the best rock/pop bands in the country – a well-calculated cross-marketing measure for Grammy / GTH, but also admittedly a great benefit for the audience). So there’s something in for everyone and, amazingly, I found mostly older people watching the film in local cinemas than teenagers who supposedly are the core audience. That speaks for the quality and maturity of SUCKSEED as a film, and it also proves that it was a good idea to pull in some bands that were most popular a long while ago, like Blackhead.

Still, SUCKSEED is a genuinely charming and smart film that is much more a coming-of-age drama than just a loose collection of motifs and genre quotes: it is very convincing in various departments, yet it is also mostly original, featuring fantastic timing, pace and sense for subtleties, mastering noise and silence equally well, throwing in a lot of pretty creative ideas (like the imaginary appearance of bands whenever the characters lose themselves in the music), twists and intelligent dialogue without ever overshadowing the story or the characters.

One of the film’s biggest achievements is that it always feels natural and organic, no matter what (and no matter what flaws show here and there). I should especially mention that the direction and cinematography are unobtrusive, only taking centre stage when necessary (SUCKSEED features some hilarious and exceptionally creative sequences, first and foremost the stellar scene with Blackhead joining Ped at the market), but otherwise let the story and actors drive the film – something you don’t find too often in Thai cinema.

As for the cast I wouldn’t say that all of them are great actors (and how could they – most of them are newcomers), however, they are the ideal cast for their roles nevertheless and display great enthusiasm, talent and partly also versatility, all of which makes me look forward to their next projects. Here are some promising new actors at work that we will most probably see a lot more often in the future.

SUCKSEED, despite some of its goofy looking poster artwork, teenage ensemble and motifs that generally concern a younger audience manages to transcend its story and make it universally relevant for everybody – SUCKSEED turns out to be heartfelt, fresh and authentic, with far above-average IQ, humor and artistic craftsmanship, let alone a brilliant soundtrack that even those who are not familiar with Thai music will most certainly appreciate.

The film is as funny as it is fun to watch – maybe I am getting senile, but I consider SUCKSEED an accomplished work that I have enjoyed more than most Thai movies in recent years. SUCKSEED is the 2011 surprise hit so far – and the Thai movie to beat in the months to come.

J.

 

 

 


SUCKER PUNCH

2011/03/30

http://suckerpunchmovie.warnerbros.com/

USA 2011  Directed by: Zack Snyder  Written by: Zack Snyder, Steve Shibuya  Produced by: Deborah Snyder, Zack Snyder  Cinematography by: Larry Fong  Editing by: William Hoy  Music by: Tyler Bates, Marius De Vries  Cast: Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung, Oscar Isaac, Carla Gugino, Jon Hamm, Scott Glenn

They say if you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself. And in this day and age, with advanced technological support, it has become truer than ever. I’m sure Zack Snyder would be the first to agree, and eagerly trying to prove he can keep up with his peers such as Christopher Nolan, by making “Sucker Punch.” I personally don’t necessarily see Snyder as a filmmaker, but rather a hyper-action visual artist. His detail in composition, lighting, and movement is borderline impeccable, and usually always aims at one thing – a mind/eye devouring feast. And each of his films is a work of art.

Adding to his usual roles, Snyder directed, produced, and co-wrote “Sucker Punch.” But whereas pieces like “300” or “Watchmen” had been visually and verbally outlined, and simply needed a loyal adaptation, SP manifested from the pit of Snyder’s creative blender. And this is where it hit a speed bump.

The trouble with making ultra-stunning effects is they can easily become your crutch rather than a style. And the audience expects you to raise the bar each time, but that simply can’t persist, because all of Snyder’s bells and whistles jingled and jangled in his earlier pictures, which gave him notice in the first place.

With a blank canvas, Snyder painted a world of Baby Doll, a young woman (although she looked 14 in her Japanimation-fashioned outfit and makeup) desperately trying to survive and escape the insane asylum that she was committed in by her malicious stepfather. It seems, in this dark and dingy institution, only pretty young females are the patients. And even the head psychiatrist is a busty eastern European seductress played by the always sumptuous Carla Gugino. Through her guidance, Baby Doll finds herself able to bend the cruel reality into a spirited fantasy, fighting her way, along with her inmate patients, through Japanese feudal times and WWI Germany, and eventually to freedom. Sometimes there were dragons, other times futuristic robots. But at all times, girls were kicking bad guys’ asses, while in killer heels, dangerously short skirts and deadly décolletages. And?

The entrance to the fantasy world was always accompanied by a song played out in the room and Baby Doll’s irresistible dance that would set all the men in a trance, allowing the other girlie inmates to do their business – collecting items that would piece together the steps for all of them to escape. Till the end, we never saw what her dance actually was; it was always through the expressions of the men that we knew her moves were mesmerizing. And even though the color schemes and costumes contrasted between the two worlds, one element seemed to remain constant amongst the characters – really long eyelashes. Why?

If a film/story can be depicted by a genre of music, “Sucker Punch” would be a techno-trance maxed out on decibel levels. The action almost never seizes, and never quite allowed any downtime to peel back any layers of the characters. And yet, the actions almost always stayed at the same level, too – never really advanced the game from previous scenes. Sometimes, the fight sequences were caught too closely by the camera that was obviously placed on a lawn mower, giving way to vertigo and light reminder of last night’s dinner. This repeated several times throughout the show. What for?

In the end, through the psychiatrist’s final analysis, “Sucker Punch” concludes that the key to setting us free in this cruel world is…us. Really? Is that it? Can this be the punch-line to this episode? Did Snyder really go through all that pain to reveal a message that could be found inside a fortune cookie? I guess the audience got suckered in this one. Snyder needs to get back to what he does best: visualization – dust off his ego and hang up his writer’s hat, for awhile. And let’s hope his new installment of “Superman” will fly a bit higher, under the producing wings of his multiple-hat-wearing peer, Christopher Nolan.