Category Archives: Review Index

Like Father, Like Son (Foreign-Drama)

likefatherA demonstration of nature vs. nurture, and the inner struggles that accompany the realization of your presumed child’s unmatched heredity

Ryota Nonomiya and Midori have a sweet young boy by the name of Keita and he is about to attend his first year of private school. They are the picture perfect family, aside from Dad working a bit too hard to provide his loved ones with an exceptional lifestyle. One afternoon Midori gets a call from the hospital with a troubling discovery, Keita is not theirs as he was switched at birth. When the hospital sets up a meeting with the families that have been fostering the others true kin, they must deal with the choice of keeping the child they have cherished for years or progress their bloodline.

After building a name for himself and wanting to leave behind a legacy, Ryota has a more bullheaded approach to this situation. When circumstances of past failures of Keita are revisited he blames the genes as the obvious flaw, which inevitably only pushes him farther away from embracing Keita as his own. He also seems to cling to his fathers’ horse breeding mentality of bloodline being everything, which coldly dismisses any real feelings for the child he helped raise to the side.

With the foundation of the film built around unsettling components, the screenplay was surprisingly lighthearted as a whole, with the exception of a few heart-wrenching scenes. This was partially achieved by the innocence and playfulness conveyed through the child actors, but mainly by the supporting casts caring environment and parenting from the less privileged side of the fence. This dynamic not only highlighted the obvious social gap, but also gave the perspective of how life without tangible luxuries should still be identified as a prosperous life and merit a happy childhood. This realization being the supplement to the overall message of child rearing, and the effect it has on identity creation through alternate disciplines and family ideals.

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Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (Crime-Thriller-Action)

Dame“A crisp storyboard aesthetic with a dull and nonchalant ignoramus calling the shots”

Three separate tales all set in the same vicinity; which is that of Sin City. An urban cesspool of degenerates, crooked politicians, and those seeking justice from their those who wronged them fill up this dark place. Meet a gambler who has lady luck on his side until he gets a bit cocky and out plays the corrupt senator with the law in his pocket. Encounter a hired blackmailer and the battle against his kryptonite, which is in the form of a conniving seductress coaxing every man she meets. Last but not least a new chapter is opened in Nancy’s story, a dancer whose savior was killed and now she is seeking revenge on the most powerful man in the city.

Though on paper these stories look as absorbing as the first, this sequels fresh concept was diluted over the decade of its absence. The drawback lies mainly within the stock dialogue and overemphasized character arcs, making the whole experience seem adolescent. When a viewer is captivated with the cameos more than the featured cast, poor writing is usually to blame. This consequently disconnects the audience from the plot points altogether, but on the contrary left due attention to the visually enticing collage of violence and erotic prowess.

The graphical nature and overall ambiance of the film gave an idea where the budget dollars were spent. As anticipated for a graphic novel film, static set design along with lighting and deep contrasts fashioned a sharp pane-like exhibit which back-dropped the mood of every scene.  If the viewer is able to look past the obvious faults and be hypnotized by the plethora of artistically intoxicating effects and hidden ques, they won’t finish the film looking for a dame to kill.

Snowpiercer (Sci-Fi-Action-Thriller)

Snowpier“Social status has a predetermined position and must not be disturbed”

A gifted man by the name of Wilford built a train that travels around the world in 365 days, coincidentally completed during a time of great environmental change. Once an ice age eventually freezes the world over and everyone on the planet is destined to become popsicles, 1,000 lucky survivors were given the opportunity to become the only living civilization left on earth by boarding this locomotive. Having the train cars split into societal classes, a hard 17 years of predestined ranks in the rear brought forth a revolution to disrupt the social order.

Aside from the premise of the actual rebellion and bloodshed, there are also back-stories explained and other mysteries unraveled at every steel-encased venue.  Accompanying the development of the story with every open door, the overall tone became more vibrant and elegant entering each upgraded compartment. This framework took a very unconventional and enlightening turn when they reached the front, obscuring the lines distinguishing the rich and poor.

Taking this very centralized idea revolving around the caste system, a stage was set to proclaim that even after the gift of life a certain level of decency is merited. Over the span of human existence, uprising have taken place revolving around this same situation and many can sympathize and admire this spirited underdog story. Unfortunately, this awareness of discrimination became a bit too overindulged and preachy to the point of ignorance. The main character began to become so consumed with the hatred that good judgment, a clear vision, and common courtesy left him all together. Most audiences will begin to understand the reason the adults don’t invite the children to the grownup table, and in hindsight this revelation made a slight mockery of the entire revolts backbone.

Before Midnight (Drama-Romance)

beforemid“No matter how perfect the match, all human bonds universally endure hardships”

Jesse has spent the summer in Europe with his son from his previous marriage, along with his new companion in life Celine and their twin daughters. After dropping his son off at the airport, Jesse and his new family begin a drive to a small cottage nestled within the Greek countryside to meet up with friends. Once they arrive they engage in conversation, have dinner and drinks, and then the friends offer to watch their kids for a romantic weekend in the town nearby.   This cherished time alone is long past due and brings an initial excitement, but also hesitation with the inner burdens they are currently dealing with.

As expected, Richard Linklater, shrouds the audience with a barrage of philosophical ideas on life, romance, and relationships using several mediums. Being the third installment of the Before Sunrise Trilogy, the film takes a more matured step in advancing the renowned love story. Not only has the honeymoon phase worn off, but also new concerns involving Jesse missing much of his sons prime years in high school. As common with many relationships, this was taken personally by Celine and a conflict develops bringing out every problem, mistake, or personality trait they dislike of each other.

The absorbing aspects of the long argument scene were not the subject matter themselves, but the delivery and methodical counter blows used to emotionally deaf ears. The intricate way of dismissing one another’s point and how the overwhelmed individuals need push the composed one over the edge of rational thinking was gripping. This honest portrayal of married couples quarrel disclosed a side to relationships that is predominantly kept behind closed doors, yet the audience is provided with a beautifully passionate expression of human nature as a fly on the wall.

Before Sunset (Drama-Romance)

beforesun“Time may pass in an instant, but a genuine emotional interest takes longer to fade away”

Jessie (Ethan Hawke) travels around Europe on a book tour to speak on behalf of his best selling “fictional”-romance novel. His last stop is France, the place were the key counterpart in his story lived.  After his completion of the conference, he sees a woman he recognized immediately waiting in the back of the bookstore; the muse from his popular book. With a few hours to kill before his flight, they walk around town to catch up on the years lost, while also eluding to the hypotheticals. A spark becomes undeniably rekindled, and they become blinded from the reality and repercussions this happenstance could cause.

A sequel to a popular film released almost a decade prior, Richard Linklater brings a continuation of a romance left on an ambiguous note. While unraveling the circumstances that kept them apart for so many years, they also begin to discover that the time has matured them and brought a series of reformed ideals. Nevertheless, they embrace the harmony their conversations carry, which have endured through the period that is now only a vague reminiscence.

This film remarkably demonstrates the impact experiences in life have in the determination and development of self.  As a follow-up to their first encounter, aside from their obvious desire for one another unaffected, the audience is able to see how specific moments have shaped their now ripened personalities and how they currently interact together. This in turn brings a consideration that if they were to have joined together years prior as planned, what would have become of the initial relationship with so much personal growth in transition. This is left with the audience to decide, as a hopeless romantic siding with the power of cosmic fate or the logical-minded favoring incalculable odds of this reuniting having perfect timing for their longevity.

Before Sunrise (Drama-Romance)

Before Sun“A chance encounter producing an impartial outlook on life and love”

A young man and woman meet on a train and begin to have a very natural conversation. When it is time to go their separate ways, they mutually decide that a connection between them is too strong and it would be foolish to not continue their engagement. Through the remainder of the day and into the night, their relationship becomes stronger as they delve deep into each other’s personal lives and philosophies.

Richard Linklater produces a convincing modern-day fairytale, which is developed solely through captivating dialogue. Aside from a few awkward moments and verbage one will inevitably indulge in when falling for someone, the predictable love story formula was left on the passenger car in act one. In place of the generic romance, is spontaneously spellbinding rhetoric tied into logical debates between two individuals who are discovering themselves through one another. Caught in an immersion of intellectual and sometimes playful conversations, a bond is persuasively formed beyond any superficial physical attraction.

With pivotal importance to the success of the overall pace and tone of the screenplay, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy enthrall the audience with a sincere chemistry. An intriguing emphasis on their personal immaturities was gradually uncovered, showing how disadvantages could disrupt the passion if their relationship was to grow into something permanent. Within these vulnerabilities a secondary nuance was introduced with their departure, bringing forth a curiosity of how their relationship would evolve if they were to be reunited in the future.

Sabotage (Crime-Drama-Action)

sab“An action film confusingly and abruptly turned crime melodrama”

The action begins with a DEA legend (Arnold Schwarzenegger) leading his team through a raid with the intentions to skim a bit off the top, hide the cash in the sewers, and burn the rest. Tragically when they go to retrieve their informal hazard pay, they notice that someone has taken it. If matters couldn’t get worse in the coming days the FBI somehow manages to count the cash that was blown to bits and notice that some of it is missing, which bring forth an investigation. After being acquitted six months later for lack of evidence, the team is brought back together. After reuniting and shaking out the cobwebs through some weapons training, the members start getting picked off one by one in the night. Could it be the angry cartels, the sour FBI, or someone with a grudge on the inside?

The pace of the film starts off with high intensity action, humorously close camaraderie, and tough bottom of the barrel special ops team. Unfortunately after the first act the action became limited and tediously overindulged layers of delinquency went full force, creating multiple subplots to the point of bewilderment. Within this genre the masses aren’t expecting a best screenplay nomination, but at minimum a plot that is competent, consistent, or at least dangerously explosive to the point of shell shock.

Audiences also aren’t lining up to see a film with a depressed Arnold Schwarzenegger mope around and attempt to flex his saggy acting muscles for a full-length film. Not to mention, the one-dimensional co-stars that made it seem as though they weren’t given a script and asked to just adlib with expletives. Take away the special operations equipment, a couple gunfights, and hard bodies and you are left with first year ROTC cadets synching on each others menstrual cycle, and no one wants to be around for that.