For the latter part of last year, I was watching a lot of movies. So I decided to come up with my own review of a few of them. Well, not really a few, I watched almost a bucketload of movies last year and am still watching some of it this year, since their releases here do not coincide with the releases in the US. So for those who aren’t big on spoilers, I think it’s time to look away.
In no particular order except alphabetical, which I felt is the better choice because there will always be those that like/dislike the movies, anyway.
Amazing Spiderman 2
The rebooted franchise continues with Andrew Garfield’s portrayal of Spidey, one of my favourite comic book character outside of the X-Men franchise. Garfield has done himself good, as a rather pitiful Peter Parker, struggling with his post-graduation life which includes being a part-time cameraman and a part-time superhero. They even have a montage of him saving people even when he’s sick. Which is what he does in the comic books besides fighting some of the other well-known nemeses.
And boy, does he have a lot of them. As seen in this movie alone, he goes head to head with The Rhino (briefly), Electro and the rebooted Green Goblin. But for those with sharp eyes, you would have spotted The Chameleon (Dr Kafka at Ravencroft), Black Cat (Felicia Hardy, Oscorp employee) and the exoskeleton with four arms (Dr Octopus) plus the metal wings (The Vulture) which were seen on display at Oscorp.
The writers even had a different backstory for what happened to Peter’s parents. Which was a significant departure from the comic books. The on-and-off relationship with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) played a part in Peter’s development, she probably saved him more than he saved her.
Nevertheless, being a blockbuster, you do get a feeling that a lot of money was thrown into the movie just to make it a little more ‘splashy’ and ‘flashy’. Especially with Electro’s electrical power. But in truth, you didn’t expect to go watch the Amazing Spiderman, only to get a 2-hour plus dialogue-filled movie, now do you? No way! We want to see explosions, we want to see Spidey swinging left, right and center.
By the way, Gwen Stacy dies in the movie, just like she did in the comic books. And as a nerd, I can even tell you that it happened at exactly 121 minutes into the movie and if you noticed the spinning hands on the clocktower, it stopped at exactly 21 minutes after one. Why is it so significant you ask? Gwen Stacy dies in The Amazing Spider-Man comic book #121.
Before I Go To Sleep
A psychological thriller starring Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth, based on a book. So unless you have read the book or in this case, read my blog, then the rabbit is out of the hat, literally. The movie starts of with Kidman’s character waking up each day with her mind completely reset. A daily mindwipe of some sort. Everything is tagged with photos and daily reminders are written on the board for her by her caretaker husband, Ben.
At the start, she was given a task by her doctor — get a journal. And she found herself a digital journal, the camera. Through that little gift of technology, she found out that everyone around her is lying, but are they protecting her or are they protecting themselves? That’s the question for the first part of the movie, as we all wanted to understand what happened to her, as much as she wants it herself.
Ben, the ever patient husband, takes time to explain everything over and over again to her. I can’t believe that he has done it for the last 14 years. Every. Day. Read that sentence again. But when he starts to explain further when Christine asks, the viewers would soon guess that something was seriously wrong with him. Why had he stayed? Why was he so patient? Why so many secrets? Why? Why?
Finally, we managed to piece together the clues at the very same time as Kidman does. And when the truth comes out: Ben is not who he is, he was once Christine’s affair which turned into a savage beating when she wanted to break up, resulting in the memory wipe. But being her one true love, he stayed behind and nursed her back to health, while her real husband divorces her. We are also left with a couple of plotholes since it doesn’t explain why he did that for ten years. Imagine waking up next to someone you know and yet having to explain to them, daily nonetheless, who you are. That’s not love. That’s weird.
Okay, I need to admit that I watched this movie because of the connection to Once (which gave us the Oscar winning song Falling Slowly, go Google it) and because of Keira Knightley. Admission over. Begin Again is a really laidback and simple story about how music connects people. If you have never connected with someone over music, I pity you. Having the same interests in music and finding someone who likes the eclectic artists that you like, will definitely change the way you look at a relationship.
In this movie, Keira plays a down-and-out songwriter after being dumped by her ex-boyfriend played by Adam Levine (Maroon 5’s frontman) singing at a nightclub after being forced to. Interestingly, it started off with Keira’s downbeat song, ‘A Step You Can’t Take Back’, heard from Keira’s character, Greta’s POV. As the story unfolds, we follow Mark Ruffalo’s character Dan as he stumbles into the same nightclub. Then comes the magic of music, as seen through Dan’s eyes, and we hear a much better upbeat imaginary version of the same song. Magical, even if you have never liked music before.
Unlike the movie Once, where both of the actors were singers, in this movie, Keira is an unknown. But with Dan’s guidance, they record an album using part-time volunteers and a drummer pinched from Cee-Lo. They even found a way to incorporate the sounds of New York into the album. A makeshift studio of some sort. I particularly like the rooftop version of ‘Tell Me If You Wanna Go Home” with an electric guitar solo by another unknown, Hailee Stanfield, playing Dan’s teenage daughter.
Despite going into the movie because of a director and Keira, I left the cinema with a feel good feeling. Music can mean a lot to different people and at different times. You could even have a conversation with someone through the lyrics. A movie for the soul, definitely.
This is a story adapted from a real life person, in this case, Margaret Keane, the behind-the-scenes artist for a collection of artwork depicted with unnaturally big eyes. Hence, the name of the movie.
Margaret, played by Amy Adams, is shown to be a rather talented artist born in an era where a woman’s place was inside the home, instead of out. Being a single parent in the 60s, she found work hard to come by and being an introvert, she is reduced to selling her paintings at fairs. It was at one such fair when she met her future husband, Walter Keane (Christopher Waltz). A rather outgoing, charming real estate agent with a secret hobby, painting. When circumstances forced her to take his hand, in order to gain custody of her daughter, she is thrown into a relationship in which she became a behind-the-scene artist.
With Walter’s effusive sales pitch, her paintings started to garner fans and soon enough, with his excellent skills in promoting the artwork, the Big Eyes paintings became a sensation and started a movement, with postcards, memorabilia and cheap posters, bringing untold fame and fortune to the couple.
Unfortunately, as the charade wore on, Walter became mixed up between the lies and the truth. And as the strain of the lies entered their domestic lives, everything went haywire. Margaret took leave to the island of Hawaii and came out over national radio that she was, indeed, the real artist behind the Big Eyes movement. Walter counter-sued and in a dramatic moment in court, both of them were asked to produce a sample, and the case was settled when Margaret finished hers in 53 minutes, whereas Walter faked an injury to avoid being caught.
I have never seen a Big Eyes painting before, and Tim Burton’s movie opened my eyes (pun intended). He is, in fact, a fan of the Big Eyes paintings. All in, this is a nice movie to learn something about the art world, how critics react and how a simple swish of a brush could evoke different emotions and meaning to different people.
Book of Life
The Book of Life is a Mexican legend, of how the lives of three friends were sent to hell and back (literally) because of a bet between La Muerte and her lover, Xibalba. One thing that strikes me is that the movie involves a lot of striking colours, for a show about the dead. Even hell itself looks so colourful.
The show starts off with two boys fighting over a girl, in this case, Manolo (bullfighter), Joaquin (soldier) and their love interest, Maria (educated lady). I think they forgot to give her an occupation but then again, in those times, a woman’s place is inside and not outside the home. Sounds familiar?
Unbeknownst to them, La Muerta and Xibalba decided to have a bet as to who will win the heart of Maria. Will it be soulful Manolo who just wants to sing? Or heroic Joaquin who was secretly given a special medallion by Xibalba that protects him from death?
Tastefully mixed in between is the soundtrack, which was given a modern twist with songs like Creep by Radiohead and Just A Friend by Biz Markie, among some of them. Sorry, I just have a thing when it comes to music. And to top it off, the end credits featured a song by Us The Duo, a popular social network singing couple, famous for doing 6-second covers on Vine. Google ‘No Matter Where You Are’.
Although five minutes into the bet, you could have guessed who was the winner but the show still managed to pull you into the storyline with some unimaginable plots, such as the hero dying and being sent to hell before returning from the dead. A happy ending in the end for everyone involved.
If anything else, watch it because of the kaleidoscopic colours. It felt like I was tripping the whole time at the cinema.