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Rio 2 (Film Review)

'Rio 2' is one of the great examples of how an animated sequel should be, which is rarely made. Retaining the vibrant look of the visuals and musical numbers, while adding effective humor and new characters in between. Okay, I was a bit skeptical of how this movie'll turn out. Sequels from animated movies these days often come pretty bad and lame, but Blue Sky Studios sure learned their lessons with their recent Ice Age movies.The film slightly got to the lame-sequel direction with its final half, but all-in: this is pack of joy and delight. Kids will definitely enjoy this, big time.

The Judge (Film Review)

'The Judge' at its heart revolves around a son fighting for his estranged father he had hatred for in years. It could make a big courthouse, family drama that has the potential in the awards season as marketed in the previews. It already has everything it needed for the great drama recipe, but however it just doesn't want to be. As the clock continues ticking in this 2 hours and 20 minutes running time, this supposedly knock-out of a film ended up punching itself even more.

Robert Downey, Jr. plays Hank Palmer, a sleazy, hot-shot lawyer that returns to his childhood hometown to visit his deceased mother. His father, Joseph Palmer (Robert Duvall), is a Judge in this neighborhood, only to be suspected of murder by the court. Now, it is up to Hank to defend him, reconnect with him that he already forgotten.
While the premise of this movie is intriguing as it is, it decided to cram in unnecessary plot points, scenes, characters, and you got the formula for a long, dragging movie. There will be instances where it tried to be funny, where it isn't needed at all. One scene where Robert Downey Jr.'s character and Vera Farmiga tried to break-in on a restaurant only to find out it is owned by Farmiga, and the scene became a big f**king joke. "Why would a lawyer, who practiced an studied the fundamentals of law, attempt to break-in a restaurant in the first place??" 

The trial sequences were done with so much care. Billy Bob Thorton plays the defendant of the crime victim, and I must say he was more impressive than I thought he would. If only the movie would include more courtroom scenes.

It could have been 30 minutes shorter than it is. And the movie is at it's most intense when things started heating up between the two leads. The best bit of the film occur during a tornado attack, where Downey and Duvall argue about their past, digging old wounds. Robert Duvall is phenomenal as ever, and Robert Downey, Jr. on his best performance in years.
It is the script that went wrong, and this thing has a good shot for the Best Picture race, but it bloated down the airways and wasted all over. 'The Judge' has it's moments here and there, but it cram itself as it can. For sure, audiences will adore this, but don't expect too much. See it for Robert Duvall and Robert Downey, Jr. at least.

The geek rates it 6/10.

'The Judge' opens this Wednesday, October 22 distributed by Warner Bros. Philippines!

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The Book Of Life (Film Review)

There are two places a person might be after death in Jorge R. Guttierez's 'The Book of Life'. The first one is called "The Land of the Remembered", where people are lively, colorful, and a pleasant fun to watch. But the other place is referred to as by "The Land of the Forgotten": forgettable, deserted and sad. These two represent what this movie actually feels like: lively and grandiose, yet forgettable. 

'The Book of Life' at first glance looked like another generic animated movie. Yes, it is, during it's first scene where we see a group of kids on a surprise museum visit only to find out they'll be spending a day ONLY to hear a story about a boy and girl. And yes, you can watch the movie without actually seeing like the first 3 minutes of it, because it is unnecessary to almost everything.
The real treat is with the story that is being read.

While the film has a semi-complicated plot, let's get to the actual point of it. Basically La Muerte and Xibalba are on a bet of who will win the heart of Maria: will it either be the singer/bullfighter Manolo or the fighter/ heartthrob Joaquin? The winner of this is set to rule "The Land of the Remembered", while who loses will take "The Land of the Forgotten".
It is not. 'The Book of Life' isn't what you thought it's gonna be. Sure, there will be cliches here and there, but there's something in it that you wanna embrace throughout. The beauty and gorgeousness of the visual effects is a feast on the eyes. The art design and the concept for the two Lands are magnificent. And it sure does look good in 3-D. 

Jorge R. Gutierrez, the guy who created the kids show El Tigre (anyone knows that one?) stepped on to his first feature film, yet does he succeeded in making this movie? Visually, super yes! Other than that, sort of. This movie felt rushed with scenes stuffing in you constantly while you're still digesting the last scene. To add that, a lot of scenes became shy of being forgettable.

The music in this movie, good heavens, the moment Diego Luna started singing Radiohead's "Creep"(mexican style), you knew there will be plenty of cover songs in stored for it's viewers. Bullfighting is a key element with the story in this movie, so "Ecstasy of Gold" is expected to play in sync of these scenes because it's awesome.
The voice actors were good. Diego Luna owns every bit in his scene (he is a fine singer by the way). Same with Zoe Saldana, and Channing Tatum who obviously cannot do a Mexican accent (you can hear that in '22 Jump Street') still channels his charisma by still being a funny with a American accent in a Mexican-induced film.

'The Book of Life' is visually embracing, kids and possibly adults will adore it. Though it felt a bit rushed and forgettable, it's a pleasant surprise from Jorge R. Guttierez. More or so, a fun time at the movies!

The geek rates it 7/10!

'The Book of Life' is now showing in 3D and 2D theaters distributed by 20th Century Fox Philippines!

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'Fury' Strongly Heads To Top Spot At The Box-Office

Set to storm the box-office at #1 spot, “Fury” has generated majority of nods from various outlets forecasting that the movie is poised to lead the box-office when it opens alongside other releases (opens October 17 - U.S. / October 22 – Phils.).

Starring an ensemble cast led by Brad Pit alongside Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Pena, Jason Isaacs and Jon Bernthal,  “Fury” has opened to solid, positive reviews -  with a high 76% on Rotten Tomatoes,  with Screenrant picking “Fury” in their weekly predictions at number one and Fandango, the US’ largest online movie ticket company reports that “Fury” is leading the weekend in ticket sales, scoring 77 over 100 on the company’s movie buzz indicator.

Directed by David Ayer, known for his extreme thrilling screenplays (in the hit movies "Training Day," "The Fast and The Furious" and "S.W.A.T."), “Fury” is a visceral depiction of reality against the backdrop of World War II. “Fury” takes place in late-war Germany during April 1945.  As the Allies make their final push in the European Theatre, a battle-hardened army sergeant named Wardaddy  (Pitt) commands a Sherman tank and her five-man crew on a deadly mission behind enemy lines.  The whole movie takes place in 24 hours, from dawn one morning to dawn the next day, Outmanned and outgunned, they only won through true, raw fighting.
“The war’s almost over and this dying elephant – the Nazi empire – is on its last legs,” Ayer explains. “It’s a different world from your usual war movie, where we celebrate victorious campaigns like the invasion of the European continent, or D-Day, or the Battle of the Bulge, these famous battles that American troops have taken part in.  One of the forgotten time periods is this last gasp of the Nazi empire, with an American army that has been fighting for years and is on its last reserves of manpower.

One way that the filmmakers were able to “get it right” was to enlist the aid of a number of veterans of the 2nd Armored Division who served during World War II, , including those who could provide first-hand accounts of what it was like to operate a tank in some of the bloodiest battles of the war.  Details of the tankers’ memories come alive in Fury– for example, that every fifth bullet from the machine gun is a tracer; that there are so many tracers that the heat can melt the barrel; that the difference between outgoing and incoming artillery is the incoming’s telltale whistle; that the outgunned Sherman tanks could find ways to use their exceptional mobility against the Germans’ mighty Tiger tanks.  It’s these details that make the film feel true-to-life.
“Veteran accounts are hugely important, because they bring it to life,” says David Rae, one of the military technical advisors on the film.  “They give you the actual ground truth of how a crew fought through different theaters – through Normandy, North Africa, through the low countries, and finally to Germany, that final push.  They give you interesting stories that you can grab hold of and emotionally attach yourself to.”

Distributed by Pioneer Films, “Fury” storms theatres nationwide this October 22 in the Philippines.

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Crime Thriller 'The Drop' Keeps Dirty Money Moving

Money hardly ever stays in place in the much-anticipated crime thriller “The Drop” where an unusual love story is set in the midst of an organized crime’s unbreakable grip on small pubs and taverns used as money-laundering “drops.”

Director Michaël Roskam assembled an international cast for his American film debut in “The Drop,” including British actor Tom Hardy, who electrified audiences as the masked criminal mastermind Bane in “The Dark Knight Rises,” Swedish-Spanish actress Noomi Rapace, who captured international acclaim as the brilliant, damaged Lisbeth Salander in the original “The Girl with the Golden Tattoo” series; the late “The Sopranos” star and New Jersey native James Gandolfini in his last film role; as well as and Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts, who played the lead role in Roskam’s award-winning “Bullhead.”

Hardy is Bob Saginowksi in “The Drop,” a bartender at his cousin Marv’s bar where Brooklyn crime bosses use the place as a temporary bank for their ill-gotten gains.  The film opens on the day Bob re-engages with the world he’s closed himself off from. It all starts with Rocco, the puppy. “Bob made a decision ten years ago to shut himself away from humanity, from feeling,” says the movie’s screenwriter Dennis Lehane, from whose short story “Animal Rescue” the film is based upon.

“Suddenly something begins to open up in him. He meets this woman. He starts to re-join the human race. The largest dramatic question of the film is, can Bob really be rescued?”

Bob’s simple life becomes much more complicated when he discovers a battered pit bull puppy in a trash can. Turning to his neighbor Nadia (Noomi Rapace) for help, he nurses the puppy back to health, as their mutual concern for the dog sparks an unexpected attraction between them. But when Eric Deeds (Matthias Schoenaerts), the dog’s original owner and Nadia’s abusive ex-boyfriend, tries to reclaim both of them, and a robbery at the bar puts Bob in the crosshairs of the Chechen crime boss who owns it, Bob is forced to face the shocking truth about the people he thinks he knows best—including himself. 

“Like most of the people in the film, he is chasing something that’s already in the rearview mirror,” the writer continues. “They’re trying to get back to a self that doesn’t exist anymore. That idea fascinated me as I was writing the script. I think the audience will feel an emotional connection with the characters that leads them to some sort of emotional truth about their own lives, about the moments when they seem to be stuck in gear. The people who successfully navigate those waters are the ones who will ultimately reach a happy ending.”

“The Drop” will finally open in theatres on November 12 from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.

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Rosamund Pike: Fully Titular in 'Gone Girl'

Regarded as a contemporary and multifaceted actress, Rosamund Pike, who has has earned international acclaim for both her stage and film roles goes fully titular in the movie adaptation of the bestselling novel by Gillian Flynn of the same title in “Gone Girl.”

Under the direction of acclaimed filmmaker David Fincher, known for his thrilling works in “Fight Club,” “Sev7n,” “The Social Network,” “Zodiac” and “Panic Room,” Pike gives the audience an unforgettable portrayal of Amy Dunne, a woman gone missing on the morning of their fifth year wedding anniversary.  Playing opposite Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, the better half and the prime suspect of Amy’s disappearance – “Gone Girl” opens up a vault of ugly truths on a marriage gone really bad.

In “Gone Girl,” Amy Dunne is gone.  But at the same time that she disappears into thin air, she becomes an omnipresent media sensation, the paragon of all the beautiful, fragile things that are too easily lost in the world.   That is how she is now known throughout America.  Yet that is not her only identity.

Indeed, Amy never developed a single persona.  She grew up in the long shadow of her psychologist parents’ popular children’s books about her alter-ego:  the impossibly perfect “Amazing Amy.”  Later, she morphed into the woman she believed her Nick most desired: the perfect “cool girl,” as sexed-up and playfully easy-going as she is on top of things.  Then, after moving to Nick’s recession-ravaged hometown in Missouri, leveraging her trust fund in the process, Amy took on new facets.

So just who is Amy Dunne?  That is the bottomless abyss into which actress Rosamund Pike descended.  A London native, Pike came to the fore as a Bond Girl in “Die Another Day,” and went on to roles in “Pride and Prejudice,” “An Education,” “Jack Reacher” and “World’s End.”  But Amy would take Pike into fresh challenges as a character with unending layers that peel away to leave no solid center.
Pike recalls being drawn instantly towards the book’s inky, x-ray view of the underside of marital bliss.  “I was quite intrigued by this idea of marriage as con game – the idea that we’re all selling a version of ourselves,” she muses.  “And Amy is such a remarkable creation.  It fascinated me that she is always performing, perhaps in part because it points back to the life of an actor.  The challenge of being Amy is that nothing that happens with her is quite what it seems on the surface.”

That was both the challenge and the allure.  She continues:  “In playing Amy, I get to explore so many different aspects of the feminine brain.  There are scenes where Amy is playing two different things to two different people in the same room – and the audience has to see both.”

In the beginning, Pike believes Amy hoped to construct the perfect relationship.  “Those early glory days were really fun for her,” says the actress, “but they weren’t sustainable.  “When things started to go wrong – when Nick’s mother got cancer, when Amy’s parents started having financial troubles – the marriage changed.  I think Amy felt she showed her real self and Nick didn’t like it.”

Playing Amy took Pike through physical and emotional extremes.  “The challenge was peeling back one layer after another of the onion that is this marriage,” she comments.  But she says along with the challenges came rich rewards, especially working with Fincher.  “David is so detailed in the most psychologically observant ways . . . and because he wants to explore everything, he leaves you feeling that no stone was left unturned,” she says.
Fincher has reciprocal respect for Pike.  “Amy is a very, very tricky part,” he says.  “The audience should have no idea what she’s going to do next. I’d seen Rosamund’s work and I was struck by the fact that I couldn’t get a read on her. There was something about the way she catches the light in a different way… you don’t really have a grasp of who she is. The most important aspect of Amy for me was that I needed the feeling of an only child.  I needed an orchid.  I needed a hothouse flower.  Rosamund had that thing and she’s also impeccably craft oriented, luminously beautiful and incredibly watchable.  I know there were people saying, this is a risk.  But when I sat with her I saw that this was somebody who was going to give you everything.” 

“Gone Girl” is now showing in cinemas nationwide from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.     

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Luke Evans Bites Into The Lead Role of 'Dracula Untold'

Finding an actor who could embody Dracula, a character full of complex emotions—all while overriding preconceived conceptions of a world-renowned creature—was going to be a challenge for the filmmakers of Universal Pictures' “Dracula Untold.”

He is so multilayered—as a loving father and devoted husband, ruthless warrior and learned man—yet the screenplay also combines history with fiction: the heritage of Vlad III with the folklore of a creature of many names…from Kaziglu Bey to the Dark Prince.

Producer Michael De Luca extrapolates upon the conundrum: “Casting is a tricky proposition with a character that everyone knows because we all have our preconceived version of Dracula. It’s a bit like Spider-Man, Batman or James Bond…only more so because the character’s been in popular culture for centuries.”

It was clear from the beginning that the production team needed a fresh face who could own and embody such an iconic character…someone whose star was on the rise but who did not come with a number of audience preconceptions.

British actor Luke Evans had recently made an impression on filmmakers with his portrayal of Bard the Bowman in “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” as well as in “Fast & Furious 6” as the film’s villain, Owen Shaw.
“We all thought Luke Evans was magnetic in `Fast & Furious 6,' and that’s what truly announced him to the studio as a star on the rise,” De Luca explains. “A fresh face was the right way to go. Luke can be Vlad for the audience without a lot of preconceived baggage from whom he’s played before.”
As the London stage-trained Evans was shooting the first chapter of “The Hobbit” series in New Zealand at the time, many of his early meetings with the filmmakers were conducted via Skype.

“Skype is an actor’s best friend,” Evans says, wryly. “If you’re traveling the world, it’s the only way you can communicate with people, and that’s how [director] Gary Shore and I first connected.

“The second I met him,” Evans continues, “I could tell that this man was a very passionate human being. He’d thought out the job, the characters, the story, the plot; he’d imagined everything. He was looking for somebody who was going to deliver what he wanted and have the same passion and same vigor for telling the story as he did.”

It was their first meeting in Los Angeles that convinced Shore to cast Evans in the film. The director shares: “As soon as I started talking to him, it felt very right, and I knew that he would be able to do the character justice. He just has this incredible face that can tell a story. I was certain from that moment there was nobody else out there with the kind of presence Luke has to be able to take on Vlad the Impaler, the warrior, and transition that into the debonair prince. Just on a physicality level, he had my attention.”

Vlad III was many things to many people: ruthless dictator, unrivaled warrior, father, husband and rumored vampire. There are not many characters in film and literary history that present such a complex set of emotions and challenging transitions as Dracula. Having the audience rooting for a character with such a dark and violent past, and whose destiny is even darker and more threatening, is a tough order.

Shore walks us through his logic: “If you look at Dracula as an archetypal character, he’s an antihero you invest in and love throughout the film, but you can see he has to make difficult decisions and he’ll end up on his own because of them. Your hero is somebody who you generally shouldn’t like for their ruthlessness and what they have to do, but you respect them. It was a difficult arc to get right, but Luke did a terrific job.”
It’s all a question of balance, Evans suggests: “As much as you know about the dark side of Vlad, we wanted the audience to see the passionate, loving, vibrant side of him.”

Opening across the Philippines on October 15, “Dracula Untold” is distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.

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Robert Downey, Jr. Defends Estranged Dad in 'The Judge'

High-priced, workaholic lawyer Hank Palmer is unquestionably the man every high-class criminal wants by his side in the courtroom. Checking his scruples at the door, he is a master manipulator of the law, and his services are available to the highest bidder; the innocent, he coolly professes, can’t afford him.

Robert Downey Jr. plays Hank Palmer in Warner Bros. Pictures' moving drama “The Judge.” Directed by David Dobkin (“Wedding Crashers”), the film revolves around a big-city lawyer who returns to his childhood home where his estranged father, the town’s judge, is suspected of murder. He sets out to discover the truth and along the way reconnects with the family he walked away from years before.

Dobkin remembers asking Downey early on, “‘Does your character know he’s in crisis, or does he just feel he’s in crisis?’ His answer was, ‘He knows it, but he doesn’t feel it.’ Hank is aware, on an intellectual level, that he’s unable to have an emotional truth. He’s stuck at a dead end in his life even though he’s at the top of what he set out to achieve.”

“Hank is comfortable where he’s comfortable: at home in Chicago with his marriage that’s falling apart and this billion-dollar case that he knows how to cheat and win,” Downey says. “All of the things that make him comfortable are the things that make most people uncomfortable.”

Hank rarely lets his guard down, carefully navigating the prickly relationships he has surrounded himself with, keeping those close to him at arm’s length and allowing in only a few—his mother and his daughter. He has created a strong protective wall around his emotional self, choosing instead to deflect even the slightest opportunity for self-reflection with sarcastic humor and intellectual superiority. Maintaining distance from the source of his earliest wounds keeps any cracks in the wall from spreading…until he is forced to go home again by the loss of his first and greatest source of comfort, his mom.
“One of the nice things about playing Hank is that I get to explore that part of me—of everybody—that just wants to jump out of their seat and run,” Downey shares. “The minute he gets back to his hometown, he’s just looking for a trapdoor to fall through and wind up anywhere else but where he is.

“He’s a pretty shut-down guy,” the actor continues. “He is in his life mentally and physically, but not emotionally; he’s in complete flight from the ramifications of the way he’s behaved emotionally. He is also very accustomed to winning, and a lot of his identity is tied up in that, in his profession, but that doesn’t matter to anyone else. And of course the fact that his father is a judge and Hank’s a big time defense attorney says a lot about him.”

Dobkin admired Downey’s freedom in the role. “It’s a very complex tightrope to walk, to start a movie with a character as broken as Hank is, and to be honest about it,” he says. “Robert is completely unafraid of any kind of scene, or to be disliked the way Hank is early on, because he can play him with enough charm for people to stay with him, to go through the journey he’s on. He’s a beautiful meeting of both comedy and drama, and he has incredible control over the tone of his work. He showed up every day hungry and curious and wanting to make something great.”

“This was an opportunity for me to return to the classic acting of my roots, to see if I could still hit that place of deep emotional resonance like you do in the theater,” Downey says. “Hank is under tremendous pressure, and he just keeps being handed more and more weight and becomes less and less confident, which is not a place he’s used to being, not a feeling he likes at all. When he is certain he’s right, no one will listen; when he’s not so sure, everyone is looking to him for answers. Every day he has to jump through some sort of flaming hoop. I’d never really played a part that had so much to do with salvation and redemption, and that was one of the greatest challenges and joys of playing Hank.”
Opening across the Philippines on Oct. 22, 2014, “The Judge” is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.

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Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends (Film Review)

At the end of 'Kyoto Inferno', we saw a fallen Kenshin washed ashore, alone. Hopeless that he may not possibly see Miss Kaoru once again, until he is seen by Hiko Seijuro lying down. There's simply a lot to fill in with 'The Legend Ends'. There's a lot to finish through considering that it's predecessor established bigger plans for the final installment. 'Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends' is basically what 'The Dark Knight Rises' is to the 'Kenshin' -- painfully slow at start, but once it hit its spot, it will not stop. 

It is also about rising up to the challenge for the greater good. Kenshin asked Seijuro to train him the highest form of fighting of the high heavens, in so he can defeat the vicious Shishio Makoto, who has bigger chaos in stored than just destroying Tokyo.

On what it may seem like a full-on spectacle resulted in a very inconsistent finale. 'The Legend Ends' really has its moment, notably the climax, but all around through it seems disappointing. And that statement came from someone who watches all 90+ episodes of the anime just so I can be free to cheer along with the fans in the party. I expected too much for this movie, that I didn't expect to see a lot of flaw here and there.
First, the character development. I get it, this is already a pretty tight film because there's a LOT of subplots that needed to be resolved that some of the key characters, especially and notably the "Juppongatana gang members" and Kaoru. The villains are plainly just there to fight, and faded in a second. 

Miss Kaoru on the other hand, felt like being here to weep and cry even more. The love story was reduced, leaving the audience to not care at all to what she's feeling when something 'big' might happen to Kenshin and the others.

The movie is 130 minutes long, and right about 40-50 minutes of it were reserved for the bloodshed. There's some pretty BIG, and when I meant big I say f***ing crazy awesome!, swordplay throughout. This is basically the only thing that I actually enjoyed in this movie except for the terrific performance by everyone.

A lot of blood is expected for this R-13 rating, and violence is treated with good care. The final clash between good and evil on it's climax will definitely give everyone a big smile on their faces. Not only there's some great humor injected with Sanosuke's role, the choreography is astounding! And needless to say, the actors did their own stunts which is impressive.

Though I really liked 'Kyoto Inferno' more of how it felt like a more deeply engaging than this, 'Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends' still provide the right amount of punch to it's action set-pieces.

The geek rates it 6/10.
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