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Why I Love: Joseph Gordon-Levitt

In Film, People, Television on July 20, 2010 at 1:31 am

‘Because he’s just so damn cute’ doesn’t quite cut it.


“I kissed her,” said Cameron, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character in the teen comedy 10 Things I Hate About You. “Where?,” quips co-star Heath Ledger as Pat Verona. With the cutest, most innocent smile, Cameron answers “In the car.”

Like that scene, Gordon-Levitt has capitalized on his boyish charm and bagged steady teeny bopper roles as a start in Hollywood, both in film (Beethoven) and television (3rd Rock From The Sun). This probably led to roles that are endearing enough even for pitiful ‘loser’ types that he is categorized in when it comes to the high school labels. In 10 Things, Heath Ledger was the main attraction, and Gordon-Levitt paled in comparison – looking physically and aesthetically lackluster.

The next film I see him in is The Lookout, this was when I acknowledged the fact that he has grown up and has detached himself of the ‘wholesomeness’ that often traps actors of his age. The acting was enough to engage me (to the entire movie) without any trouble.

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Next thing I know, he’s in Inception. Although Leonardo DiCaprio is the main attraction, and he again is the sidekick, it’s safe to say the contrast wasn’t that stark this time around. With a sharp suit and an uncanny resemblance to former co-star Heath Ledger and even Keanu Reeves for that matter, Gordon-Levitt delivers notable acting chops that make you look back at that kid Cameron in 10 Things and go “That was him?”

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So now that he got my attention, I took the time to know his earlier works, which sure enough turned out to be as impressive as his Inception stint.

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In 2004, he starred in Mysterious Skin where he played a troubled teen haunted by sexual abuse as a child. The film touched bravely on the long term effects of sexual abuse on boys, and how it breeds homosexuality – the role had Gordon-Levitt perform probably one of his most challenging and commendable roles to date. Taking a huge leap from the innocence of boyhood that he initially invested in, he succeeded where most child actors often failed.

Furthermore, 2009’s (500) Days of Summer propelled him into positive critical reception, earning his first Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor. The film opened the 2009 Sundance Festival and received a standing ovation from the audience.

The film was evident of Gordon-Levitt’s diversity as an actor – playing a man in different stages of love – happiness, confusion, anger, depression and, ultimately, acceptance. With his old boyish charm bordering on the effeminate, he pulled off a dance routine and at the same time tapping on his recently-discovered dark side to look like he was pulled straight out of the gutter when things in the story turns out to be a huge disappointment.

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In the film industry’s constant changes and fickle audience, it’s nice to know that child stars like Gordon-Levitt can go beyond that lovable high school loser and do so much more – beyond drugs and alcohol – and evolve to become (and possibly replace) his predecessors, and for once be the main attraction.

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Inception: A Dream Within A Dream

In Film on July 17, 2010 at 10:21 pm

The resilience of science fiction in film making is revealed.


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After directing The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan had an idea for another film. It wasn’t original, in fact it was – as what many have suspected – inspired by earlier films like The Matrix. The idea was “What if you can share someone’s dream – and steal ideas while you’re at it?” The premise of the film is two-fold. One, that a technology exists which allows one to share someone else’s dream; and two, that this technology is abused to steal ideas from someone through that dream.

The result is Inception, a sci-fi heist thriller that satisfies an audience visually, intellectually and emotionally. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Dom Cobb, a dream extractor who claims to protect his clients – but then steals their ideas in the process. He is presented as an outlaw haunted by an ugly past, ready to redeem himself by doing one last job. Ken Watanabe plays Saito, the businessman who offered the job in exchange for clearing Cobb all pending criminal liabilities. Saito, however, did not want Cobb to extract an idea. On the contrary, he wanted inception. To plant an idea inside a business rival’s mind by sharing his dream. Cobb then assembles his team: The Point Man (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), The Architect (Ellen Page), The Chemist (Dileep Rao) and The Forger (Tom Hardy). The heist begins and the audience might find it a challenging task of keeping up. With multiple events on layers of (un)reality, it’s hard not to get confused. This is where reactions to the film might differ. The complexity may entertain the viewer, or may simply be too much.

As fascinating the idea of being in a dream state and battling someone’s subconscious is, the film invests on basic human emotions to drive characters forward. Guilt, love, longing – all these create an unexpected level of connection to the characters that anyone could relate to. It is fascinating how the human race, with all its technological advancements, will forever be motivated by emotion. Inception is a contrast of innovation and human nature. A contradiction of technological advancement and man’s susceptible frailty towards the most resilient parasite – an idea.

rating-4_0 4 out of 5 stars

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Top 10 Underrated Movie Kisses

In Film on March 28, 2010 at 10:56 pm

From someone who finds on-screen kisses a bit overrated.


1. Good Will Hunting

Why do men always have to make the first move? Skylar (Minnie Driver) is a college student on a date with genius Will Hunting (Matt Damon) and wants to understand how he can easily  study and ‘remember’ things. Thoroughly impressed, you’ll see what happens next.

2. Reality Bites

The tension, the awkwardness, the beauty of crossing the lines between friendship and love. Troy (Ethan Hawke) gives his friend Laleina (Winona Ryder) more than comfort and confesses his love.

3. 10 Things I Hate About You (Film)

They had to throw in some cheese while having lots of fun – and paint. Don’t you wish the first kiss was that easy to get out of the way? Escaping detention from their high school, Patrick (Heath Ledger) and Kat (Julia Stiles) goes for an afternoon of paintball and a bit of romance.

4. The Wedding Singer

A demonstration of ‘church tongue’ courtesy of the adorable Drew Barrymore and equally cute Adam Sandler. Sandler does a ‘stand-in’ for the groom while Barrymore explains what her wedding kiss should be like.

5. Cold Mountain

If your man is going to war and you haven’t even kissed him yet, the first kiss should last him until he comes home or dies trying.

6. Love Actually

A classic scene for unrequited love. Bittersweet and witty, Juliet (Keira Knightley) gets a visit from her husband’s best friend Marc (Andrew Lincoln) – confessing his love without saying a thing.

7. Wicker Park

Lisa (Diane Kruger) is finally reunited with Matthew (Josh Hartnett), who has been obsessed in trying to find her after she disappeared two years ago. It’s so cruel that the climax is also the ending.

8. Cruel Intentions

Sebastian (Ryan Philippe) falls for his ‘conquest’ Annette (Reese Witherspoon), inspiring the one-liners in this scene.

9. Made of Honor

Tom (Patrick Dempsey) kisses his best friend Hannah (Michelle Monaghan) days before she gets married. He made his point pretty clearly.

10. Serendipity

Fate is a very hard theory to prove. Until this film gave it an appealing thought. Sarah (Kate Beckinsale) and John (John Cusack) re-introduce themselves at the end of the film.

Review: The Lovely Bones

In Film on March 27, 2010 at 5:58 pm

“These were the lovely bones that had grown around my absence: the connections — sometimes tenuous, sometimes made at great cost, but often magnificent — that happened after I was gone.”

Years ago, I came across a novel written by a writer named Alice Sebold. It was her second book. I didn’t know what drew me to the book at that time, but I’m glad I was. It was the first (and only) book I read where the narrator was no longer alive, and speaking from her heaven. She was 14-year-old Susie Salmon and she was murdered by a man in her neighborhood on December 6, 1973.

Fast forward to 2009, Peter Jackson makes the film adaptation of what could only be a complete departure from his previous films, the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Although elements of fantasy still exist in The Lovely Bones, the setting is not Middle Earth and the story is as real as the actual crimes that happen today.

The Lovely Bones is a difficult film to watch, simply because the pain of losing someone and how the loss came about is central to the story, hence, it’s heavily emotional and nothing – not one moment – lets you forget it. And rightly so. Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz play the anguished parents torn apart by the loss, but later on reunited. This film showed Whalberg’s attempt on acting beyond blockbusters, and is a good start in my opinion. It was not as convincing as Susan Sarandon’s portrayal of Grandma Lyn, which gave a relief to the film’s dark tone. Most notable of all is newcomer Saoirse Ronan who played Susie Salmon. She was beautifully effortless in her portrayal of a girl full of youth and wonder and all other emotions that followed during her terrible death. Stanley Tucci is  singular in his role as the villain and he strongly proves his wide range as an actor.

The visual aspect of the film is a complete contrast to its tone. With scenic and fairy-like backdrops and landscapes that is reminiscent of What Dreams May Come, Jackson is in his element  creating what heaven must have looked like, though at times it distracted from the story-telling, most times it complements it and builds up the emotions. Some moments are so brilliant, one can’t help but wonder what it would be like to see it in 3D. Of course, that might prove a short-lived purpose that will not benefit the entire film.

The Lovely Bones in a nutshell is a story about a family coping with a loss and how it changed them, of how one life can touch another more in death than in life, of how letting go is never wrong, and never easy. Oh, and expect a few tears held in the corner of your eyes, whether you fight or not.

Review: How To Train Your Dragon (3D)

In Film on March 21, 2010 at 1:54 am

Official Movie Poster

Based loosely on a 2003 children’s book of the same name, the film delivers the visual re-telling of a fictional Viking community and their quest to slay, and later on co-exist with dragons. Hiccup, played by Jay Baruchel (Almost Famous), is not your average teen Viking inclined to a life of bravery and dragon-slaying. Initially, he planned to compensate for this lacking quality by inventing devices that could bring down a dragon for him. He does this successfully when he used a catapult and was able to capture a Night Fury, the most elusive and dangerous dragon of all. They later form an unexpected friendship that shocked the whole town, especially his father, who also happens to be the village chief (Gerard Butler).

Also featuring voices of America Ferrera (Ugly Betty) as Hiccup’s love interest Astrid, and Jonah Hill (Superbad), it’s a new way to relive a time and place so often shrouded in mystery by historical records. Of course, it may have taken more liberties in conveying what Viking culture would normally be, but that is insignificant considering this is a film made primarily for kids and not for The History Channel. More surprising is the fact that the appeal is not only for its main audience, but for adults as well. This is something you wouldn’t feel embarrassed of watching even if you’re 50 years old. The story is uncomplicated, charming and intelligently funny.

The animation is one you would expect from the Dreamworks studios, although it’s not as brilliant as Avatar or Alice in Wonderland, there are some amazing shots that hold your attention long enough. The story, however, more than makes up for the missing visual vitality. It definitely is worth watching – even in 2D.

3 out of 5 stars.