Sunday, May 27, 2012

Cornucopia of Derivative Stories - Serial Killing, Time Travels, Safe Combinations & Sexy Moves

Okay, I admit I had several spins of the soundtrack CD before paying P300 for a 3D "experience". I reckon it would be a more pleasurable experience if I were more familiar with the music when the dancers start shaking their booty. I needed to optimize the exorbitant admission price. But listening to the collection was a mediocre experience at best. It wasn't as exhilarating as I thought it would be. Most of the new tracks sounded the same except for a few gems - Jessie J's "Domino" (had me doing a Beyonce'), Drake's ultra sexy "The Motto", Taio Cruz's "Troublemaker", Wretch32's "Unorthodox". And I have always loved the introductory beats of Incredible Bongo Band's "Apache".

Now it's imperative not to expect too much from a dance movie. After all, most of them have story telling skills that have inconveniently plateaud. You can plot the narrative progression in specific stages - with deft precision. We dislike the opprobrious predictability of the genre. But I always watch them to enjoy the unearthly choreography.

Max Giwa and Dania Pasquini's "Street Dance 2" tries a bit harder by doing a "So You Think You Can Dance" - by mixing B-Boys and Ballroom Dancers to create a terpsichorean wonder that's too hard to resist. In the movie, Ash (Falk Hentschel) and hiphop dancer Eddie (George Sampson) gather Europe's greatest "independent" street dancers to form a winning posse that shall challenge the defending champions - "The Invincibles" in a Parisian Street Dance Match. This time though, they recruit salsa dancer Eva (Sofia Boutella) to put some spice in their hiphop groove. The idea is a drastic move that would either make them winners - or get them laughed at! What's a dance crew to do?

Romantic interlude is thrown into the scenario, but it all seemed perfunctory and trite, not to mention passionless; but the rest of the dance scenes are a feast for sore eyes! And that's all that mattered! If I were to say that it was nothing but one pedestrian entertainment, I'd be lying! Was 3D technology warranted here? While I hate to admit this, the stereoscopic technology has actually imbued the scenes a sense of urgency and even of audience kinship. You experience their pillow fights, their shimmies and somersaults, and the sway of a tango backside in a more visceral milieu! When movements are made organic by way of an expensive cinematic stunt - like those of 3D glasses - then you realize why it was worth P300!

P.S. Watching Falk Hentschel dance his solitary dance, bare breasted, felt like guilty pleasure. I had to cover my eyes and peep through parted fingers! Oohlala, indeed!

Ash and Eva dance the tango!

In Boaz Yakin's "Safe", young Chinese girl (Catherine Chan) was tasked to memorize a long numerical code believed to contain the combination of a safe containing millions of dollar. This will soon have the Chinese Triad, the Russian mob and a corrupt group of NYC cops running after her... until a down-on-his-luck former cop Luke Wright (Jason Statham) makes it his mission to protect the girl!

While Statham is always a compelling watch ( who could resist his oohlala-masculine swagger and lopsided smile?) you would wonder why any dimwit would place a valuable information "inside the head" of a helpless (but exceedingly bright) Chinese girl? Wouldn't it be easier to use flash drive or a USB? A laptop computer maybe? Or even a simple hand-written note or photo copy? After all, any of the aforementioned items are way easier to carry around than a truculent child who sticks out like a sore thumb (she's very Chinese, she's a girl, she's 4 feet tall). Her presence alone is a quandary in itself.

But then we would have no story, would we? :)

Agent J (Will Smith) travels back in time to alter the past - that's 1969 - and stop an alien from killing Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones). Little did he know that the young Agent K (Josh Brolin) is an even tougher cookie to break. Moreover, he discovers more about his own past and how his partner prominently figures into his own salvation.

Colorful and snappy, the updated story in Barry Sonnenfeld's "Men in Black III" seems a bit detached from its predecessors in terms of irreverence or narrative ingenuity. It rudely interjects into the accepted tenet of time travel, i.e. that you are not allowed to alter any portion of the past because it would drastically change the future. This means, while J may opt for a status quo (by preventing the death of his partner), the result of his intercession may delete even his own presence. But then this is sci-fi comedy, thus we may dismiss that thought?

I was more than pleased to learn that Director James McTeigue's "The Raven" was finally getting its commercial exhibition. The story is a fictionalized allusion to a chapter in the life of American author Edgar Allan Poe - and if you've been reading "Blush", you should be familiar with the term "tintinnabulation" which we readily employ in several of our dissertations. This we found in Poe's "The Bells", an onomatopoeic poem that Poe wrote a few months before his death in 1849. Poe was paid a measly $9 for a work that didn't see publication until after his mysterious death.

Poe lived a hard life. His mother died right after his father abandoned them when he was still a child. The Allans took him in, but never officially adopted the young Poe. Even in college, he encountered dire financial hurdles, thus he wasn't able to finish his college degree. His work started with poetry (thus the emergence of the romantic poem "Annabel Lee" - who would have though this came from the king of the macabre, right?) then shifted to prose. From a literary critic, he turned to writing dark stories with recurring themes of death, bodily decomposition, premature burial and mourning. Even his marital life reflected this preoccupation - his wife died of tuberculosis. He turned to alcohol. Though his "The Raven" was a huge success, he never quite got the financial remuneration due its popularity.

The film itself weaves the grisly tale of a madman who kills people based on Poe's popular stories of mystery and the macabre. With the help of Detective Fields (Luke Evans), Poe (the brilliant John Cusack) had to find clues from his own body of work to halt these serial killings and, ultimately, save the life of Emily (Alice Eve), the girl who once again taught him affection after the death of his wife Virginia (Poe's cousin whom he married while she was merely 13).

Though the inherent narrative feels derivative, I find the juxtaposition of fact and the intended fiction quite impressive. Like hands in glove, indeed. In the process, it even attempts to answer questions surrounding the author's mysterious death - he was found delirious on the streets of Baltimore, whispering "Reynolds". Who is Reynolds? Or was it just "Lord, help my poor soul"?

Not to be missed!

Poe and his lady love Emily at the masquerade ball!

Edgar Allan Poe - Sad life!


Armando dela Cruz said...

Stuffed review u got here. :)

Cathy Pena said...

@ Armand:

I got bored writing in depth about one so I bunched them all in one. :)