Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Movies’

The unfinished films of Stanley Kubrick

July 16, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies No Comments →

A.V. Club’s Best Films of 2014 (so far) cites Norte

July 15, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies 1 Comment →


Best no-budget aerial footage: Norte, The End Of History
Norte, The End Of History, Lav Diaz’s four-hour yarn about guilt and transcendence in the modern-day Philippines, is the director’s most accessible work to date. (Accessibility is, of course, relative, especially when it comes to filmmakers best known for making nine-hour-long movies on black-and-white consumer-grade video.) Part of that is owed to the presence of an honest-to-God director of photography, Lauro Rene Manda. Shot in 2.39 widescreen, in color, and marked by long takes and glacial camera movements, Norte is easily the most conventionally handsome thing Diaz has ever put his name on. It comes as something of a shock, then, when the movie abruptly breaks its rigorous style for a dream sequence composed of no-budget aerial shots—seemingly produced by attaching a GoPro to an RC plane—that hearken back to Diaz’s handmade roots and yet look like nothing he (or any other narrative filmmaker) has done before. Camera-carrying, gimbal-mount quadcopter drones have made inroads in TV production in the last couple of years (expect to see them showing up in movies soon), but the effect Diaz achieves is rawer, and more in keeping with the spirit of the scene. It feels like an unmoored consciousness, hurtling over the landscape.

The full list is here.

The A.V. Club review: “Contemporary festival-circuit culture fetishizes long takes, but Diaz actually earns them.” Note: Wakwak is the psycho played by Soliman Cruz. The reviewer means the convict who is periodically released to do assassinations for politicians, the one who says “Ang buhay ay sumpa.”

Norte, Hangganan Ng Kasaysayan is showing on Saturday, July 19, 630 pm at Greenbelt 3 and Trinoma and on Sunday, July 20, 3pm at Alabang Town Center and Glorietta. Tickets at

Every movie we see #69: In Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, apes are the badass new hippies

July 15, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies No Comments →


When last we saw Caesar the noble ape, he was in the redwood forest, freaking out his adoptive father James Franco by revealing that he could talk. You’ve always suspected that James Franco would cause the end of the world, and in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, he has (sort of). A deadly virus has escaped from the lab where scientists were testing drugs to cure Alzheimer’s disease, and at the end of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, it had begun to spread.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes picks up the story ten years later, with the human population dramatically reduced by the simian virus, and the ape population led by Caesar (and his lieutenants who escaped from the lab with him) leading a utopian, earth-friendly, organic-artisanal existence in the forest. They hunt other animals, but kill just enough for their needs, they teach their young to live in harmony, and their carbon footprint is zero—apes are the new hippies, only less annoying. Caesar is married with children. His right-hand ape is called Koba, and you know what happens when anyone is named after Josef Stalin.

Everything is fine until the humans arrive. They’re from the small colony of human survivors in San Francisco and they’re trying to restart the hydroelectric dam because they’re about to run out of power.

Trouble erupts, despite the best intentions of human and ape. Everyone thinks he’s doing the right thing, but fear and suspicion clouds judgement. The humans are represented by Jason Clarke (from Zero Dark 30, which is officially our favorite hunk lab because it had Jason, Edgar Ramirez, Chris Pratt, Joel Edgerton, even that banlag guy from SHIELD in Captain America: The Winter Soldier), Keri Russell and Gary Oldman, but we’re not looking at them. We’re looking at the CGI apes, who are amazing, led by Andy Serkis the emperor of motion capture, who gets first billing at last.

Caesar learns that there’s little that separates apes from man, except maybe a serious waxing. We miss the quieter moments of inter-species interaction—Caesar with his adoptive human father and grandfather John Lithgow—but the filmmakers have set out to make an action movie and they’ve done it. There’s a great bit where Koba makes monkeys out of a couple of humans by playing to their prejudices; the scene in which Clarke’s teenage son befriends an ape by reading to him from The Black Hole by Charles Burns (a graphic novel about a disease that disfigures teens, turning them into social outcasts) does not work as well.

You can read Dawn of the Planet of the Apes as a parable on racism or as an unofficial spinoff from the opening episode of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Or you can watch it as a Man Vs Ape smackdown. Even if the title is a spoiler, we’re still looking forward to the third movie and wondering if Dr. Zaius will turn up in the third movie and how the apes will get to New York to upend the Statue of Liberty.

Rating: Highly Recommended.

Weekend screenings of Norte at Ayala Cinemas

July 14, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies 1 Comment →


“Its very existence is an exhilarating triumph over complacency… there is an almost inexhaustible humanism at the heart of this remarkable film.” —A.O. Scott, The New York Times

“The lights came up, I stood with tears in my eyes, and clapped as loudly as I ever have for any movie in my life.” —Wesley Morris, Grantland

“A mesmerising experience that grows deeper and broader the longer it goes on.” —Kieran Corless, Sight and Sound

“The only working filmmaker to explore such fundamental categories of the human condition as Truth, Kindness, Morality, Sin, Justice, Nation, History, and God.” —Boris Nelepo, Cinema Scope

Saturday, July 19, 630pm at Greenbelt 3 and Trinoma
Sunday, July 20, 3pm at Glorietta 4 and Alabang Town Center

Norte is in Tagalog with English subtitles.

Tickets are available at Get your tickets early, they go quickly.

To our readers in London: Norte is showing from July 18 to 27 at the Institute of Contemporary Arts.

* * * * *
How to Watch Norte

Does it have to be 4 hours, 10 minutes long? Yes. In fact, having seen it thrice, we think it should be 6 hours long. It’s Slow Cinema. The running time is essential.

If you have a short attention span and are worried that you can’t get through the screening, here are some tips you may find useful.

1. The first hour sets the pace. If you can get through the first hour, you will hardly feel the next three.

2. We recommend going out for a quick coffee every 90 minutes.

3. Bring a friend because you will need someone to discuss the movie with.

4. After seeing Norte, look up the films of Andrei Tarkovsky, Robert Bresson, Yasujiro Ozu, Bela Tarr. You are now a cinephile.

Every movie we see #68: Begin Again will comfort ears ringing from summer’s blockbusters

July 10, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies, Music No Comments →

begin again

Movie #65: Only Lovers Left Alive by Jim Jarmusch, with Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston as vampires. This will be reviewed in full.

Movie #66: Barefoot. We had no intention of watching this, but when we saw Scott Speedman we had a Felicity flashback. Of course she should follow him. Coincidentally, in Barefoot beautiful mental patient Evan Rachel Wood follows him to New Orleans.

Movie #67: Labor Day. Jason Reitman’s latest has been vilified by critics, but we suspect they didn’t get it. It was directed by the guy who made Thank You For Smoking and Young Adult after all. It has to be a trick.

Labor Day begs the question: If at the supermarket Josh Brolin politely but firmly asks you for a ride, would you not dump the groceries and the kids to do as he asks, overlooking the minor detail that he is an escaped convict? And if he does all the repairs on your house, cooks and cleans, fixes the car, bakes peach pie, and plays catch with your child and a kid with cerebral palsy, would you not keep him? Critics miss the obvious: It’s porn for disillusioned girls!

* * * * *

With Begin Again, writer-director John Carney restates the theme of his indie hit Once—the power of music to connect people—but with bigger stars. It’s a low-key, unassuming movie that may be of interest to people who have been on the margins of the music industry. Such as ourself, which is why we like it.

Mark Ruffalo plays Dan Wheeler, a dejected fallen genius producer/A&R (two letters that immediately whisk us back to the 90s, when everyone was in A&R and even the clunkiest garage band had a shot at signing with a major label) man who, on the day he gets kicked out of the independent record company he co-founded, accidentally walks into an impromptu performance by songwriter Greta. Yeah, it’s on the same day, but we’ll overlook that for Mark Ruffalo, who makes us want to adopt him.

Greta, played by Keira Knightley who can put on a shapeless house dress and make it look trendy, is also dejected. She had come to the US with her musician boyfriend Dave Kohl, who predictably cheats on her on his way to stardom. Dave is played by Adam Levine, whom we almost did not recognize with his clothes on.

Dan convinces Greta to do an album, and since they don’t have a production budget they record the songs guerrilla-style in locations all over New York City. In the process Dan sorts out his relationships with his estranged music journalist ex-wife (Catherine Keener) and his teenage daughter Violet (Hailee Steinfeld, our favorite hyphenated Filipino in Hollywood, who has something other teenage actresses don’t have: she really comes across as a teenager). He also has to figure out his place in the current music industry, which bears very little resemblance to the music scene of the 90s. Dave’s new fame makes Greta think hard about what she wants as an artist. Musicians have always had to deal with the temptation to sell out, but in the 21st century the number of ways an artist can sell out has increased exponentially.

The choices that a recording artist has to make are neatly demonstrated with the evolution of a song called Lost Stars. First we hear the basic acoustic rendition by Greta (Keira can sing). Then we hear the overproduced album version by Dave, who has no problem with giving the audience what they want to hear. Then we hear Dave performing it before an audience. There are many songs in Begin Again, and it always makes us happy to hear Stevie Wonder acknowledged, but Lost Stars is the one we hear most often. It’s a pleasant tune, but like the rest of Greta’s album, fairly generic indie, often mopey, pop. In other words it’s no Falling Slowly.

Falling Slowly carried Once. Its rawness and intensity underscored the protagonist’s rage as well as his undeclared feelings for his writing partner. Lost Stars lacks emotional weight. Dave/Adam Levine will have to take his shirt off while singing it to make it memorable. Greta, who comes from the old school singer-songwriter tradition, would not like that.

In short, if you’re going to do a movie about the redemptive power of music, better make sure the music is worthy. Other than that Begin Again works, and we like how it skirts the corny fake-romantic turns that make movies of this sort so irritating.

Rating: Recommended. It’s not often we hear melodies rather than explosions at the cinema these days. And if you haven’t seen it, look up Once.

Every movie we see #63 and 64: First get shredded by The Rover, then relax with Chef.

July 03, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies 7 Comments →


The Rover, the second feature from David Michod (Animal Kingdom), is a western-style revenge thriller that asks the audience to define what a human being is. Set in a wasteland after an apocalyptic event called “The Collapse”, it stars the always-excellent Guy Pearce as a man who sets out to retrieve his car from the men who have stolen it. Robert Pattinson does good work as the carjackers’ halfwit cohort.

We wonder if The Rover has anything to do with the Harlan Ellison novella A Boy and His Dog, which is set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland and was going to be expanded into a novel called Blood’s A Rover (not related to the James Ellroy novel).

Rating: Drop everything and watch this in the cinema before it disappears.


Chef is so low-key and pleasant, it’s like having a meal with friends with the TV on, tuned to the Food Network. Why was it even filmed, except as an excuse for friends to hang out? Writer and director Jon Favreau (Iron Man) stars as a chef who does his work not for the critics but for the people. He achieves mainstream success but what he really wants is the freedom to pursue his personal projects. Now replace “chef” with “filmmaker” and you know what Chef is really about.

Favreau’s character has a meltdown following a bad review in a food blog, and after an unfortunate Twitter exchange over the article, he takes a break. The most unbelievable thing about Chef is not that women who look like Sophia Vergara and Scarlett Johansson would go for him—he is a celebrity chef after all—but that his ten-year-old son would volunteer to help him clean and refurbish a grotty food truck so they can spend time together. You may enjoy seeing Robert Downey, Jr playing a variation on Tony Stark.

Rating: Food porn. If you’re on a diet, you should probably avoid it. It gave us a hankering for Cuban food. Could someone recommend a Cuban restaurant? A place that sells Cuban sandwiches and carne asada?