Archive for the Film Reviews: Past Popcorn Category

PAST POPCORN: Abre los Ojos (Open Your Eyes) (B+)

Posted in Film Reviews: Past Popcorn on December 31, 2009 by Carlo Chong

Before the Crowe-Cruise tandem for Vanilla Sky there was Alejandro Amenabar’s 1997 cult classic Abre los Ojos (Open Your Eyes), a chilling and suspenseful study of the human psyche and the lengths to which people go to attain personal happiness. The film has gone on to be one of Spain’s most treasured cinematic gems.

The film is told in a non-linear fashion, recounting the tale of a young man named Cesar, guided by Eduardo Noriega’s (known internationally for his supporting role in Vantage Point) strong performance. He is caught in a maze of unanswered questions and a tidal wave of jealousy and deceit upon meeting Sofia, the young woman his best friend has been dating, played exquisitely by Penelope Cruz (who would go on to reprise her role in Vanilla Sky). In a freak accident Cesar’s face has become disfigured and he longs for the affection he once secretly shared with Sofia, leading to several harrowing twists and turns.

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PAST POPCORN: Match Point (A)

Posted in Film Reviews: Past Popcorn on October 6, 2009 by Carlo Chong

Match PointThe 2005 drama-suspense flick Match Point is a sharp and skillful entry into Woody Allen’s already extensive film career and shows a darker and more enigmatic side to the usually quirky film auteur. Both highly philosophical and brilliantly entertaining, the film processes it’s two and a half hour running time in electric fashion, throwing in a mix of wit, tension and all-around cinematic magnificence in this 5-set thriller.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers, mostly known for his turn as Elvis Presley in the CBS miniseries Elvis, gives a charming and charismatic performance as the sly and very deceitful tennis instructor Chris Wilton. After being embraced by the family of the very well-to-do Chloe Hewett, portrayed sweetly and innocently by the very consistent Emily Mortimer, he is thrust into a highly sexual affair with his brother-in-law’s fiancee Nola, played by Allen regular Scarlett Johannson. A game of cat and mouse and a lot of luck then erupts.

Meyers, Mortimer and Johansson are three essential parts to the pitch-perfect ensemble rounded out by Brian Cox (X-Men 2, The Bourne Trilogy) and Matthew Goode (Watchmen). Of equal impeccability is Allen’s camera work, which does miracles to breathe London to life.

Of course what stands out most is the Big Apple-bred’s construction of his sophisticated morality tale, drawing largely from social class theories and marriage politics. From his vibrant screenplay Allen plays with the themes of infidelity and greed, and in particular the concept of chance, and much like how his personal philosophies emanate in his other films, most recently in the Oscar-winning Vicky Cristina Barcelona, he constantly surprises and ultimately impresses his audience with his atypical perspectives on life.

His Oscar-nominated Match Point is only a reminder that the 73 year old director is still in his prime; it’s like an affair – it’s juicy and it’s a guilty pleasure watching all hell break loose in a relationship.

Quite the opposite in terms of content and style to another similarly tennis-themed film entitled Wimbledon, Match Point doubles the pleasure and intellect and singles out any possible melodrama, serving up a game, set and win for Woody Allen and company.

Yes, all horrible tennis puns intended.

PAST POPCORN: Run Lola Run (B)

Posted in Film Reviews: Past Popcorn on October 5, 2009 by Carlo Chong

Run Lola RunBefore Franka Potente shared the limelight with Matt Damon in the first installment of the universally acclaimed Bourne trilogy, her early career was marked by smaller independent cinema from her homeland of Germany, one of which was the Sundance Audience Award-winning 1998 film Run Lola Run (French title: Lola rennt).

Director Tom Tykwer (The International), skillfully weaves this high-concept and highly stylized thriller which tells the story of Lola (Potente), and her boyfriend Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu) who needs to retrieve 100,000 Deutsche Marks before noon.

What’s so amazing about this particular film is its blazing cinematography and relentless editing, both of which frantically gear itself to gain its audiences’ attention. We journey through the mind of Lola and ultimately find ourselves breathless at the film’s conclusion with its precise conciseness and brevity.

The technical magnificence and innovation of the film almost fully forgives its tacky script as well as its slightly disjointed direction that somewhat left me itching for a little more emotional attachment to the characters.

That being said however, Run Lola Run is nonetheless a highly entertaining and refreshing piece of work and reminds us that there is truly an entire world of cinema waiting for us outside of Hollywood.