Ang Kwento Nating Dalawa (movie review)

ang-kwento-nating-dalawa-2Just by its title, you’d already think that this movie is a love story. Well, it is. But the intriguing part is not that it’s a love story, but what kind of love story it is.

Ang Kwento Nating Dalawa (“The Story of Us That Never Was” when translated to English form) focuses on Sam (played by Nicco Manalo) and Isa (played by Emmanuel Vera), as they struggle to maintain their not-your-typical-kind of relationship. This atypical relationship is what holds the film together, as it will come out as a revelation; it would eventually unfold to the eyes of the audience who’ve been firmly watching from start to end. I will not go into details further so as not to spoil those who want to watch it.

I love the simplicity of the film. The rawness of emotions displayed by the actors playing as the lovers was so believable you’d think this is about them for real. The camera work done by the director, Nestor Abrogena, was so tight at times you’ll experience more of the emotions being delivered by the actors. The long shots that Mr. Abrogena employed in many of the scenes made the film experience closer to reality. Nicco Manalo, son of comedian Jose Manalo, couldn’t be more believable in his role here.  I’ve not seen an honest performance as his in this film for quite some time. Emmanuel Vera, whom I fondly remember as Sarah Geronimo’s rival in their drama show before entitled, “Idol,” has blossomed in this film. Gracious and charming, she’s able to somehow lighten up the seriousness of her character and her character’s situation in the film, hitting that perfect balance.

Did I forget to mention the songs rendered in this atypical rom-com film? Songs by Gabe Piolo (“Look Along The Way”) and Emmanuel Vera herself (“Hanggang Kailan Kita Mahihintay”) were memorable. But the real stand out was Quest’s “Hanggang Kailan,” which pierces the heart right from its very first lines: “Gulong-gulo ang puso. Saan ba ito patungo?” This might just be the perfect question to ask to the story title.

Ang Kwento Nating Dalawa’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 4.5 out of 5.

 

Don’t Breathe (movie review)

Don't_Breathe_(2016_film)The film genre that I probably love the most is none other than suspense-thriller. The feeling of urgency and the sense of danger in these films give me a different kind of high. I feel like I become one with the characters of suspense-thriller movies. Whatever they do or whatever happens to them sort of extends to me in a way that I really get affected and this shows with how I react while watching. Never have I ever squirmed too many times in my seat, uttered too many verbalizations or covered my mouth (I actually don’t do this! Haha.) while watching a film! I did all these while watching Don’t Breathe! IT IS THAT INTENSE!

I will never be this affected if the movie only gives the thrills without having a solid backstory. Don’t Breathe offers an effectively simple yet horrifying plot: Three delinquents (Jane Levy, Dylan Minette, Daniel Zovatto) decided to break into the house of a blind army veteran (Stephen Lang) to steal money in the middle of the night. Little did they know that the old man might be blind but he isn’t a veteran for nothing. He turns to be the one hunting them inside his very own house. Thrilling, isn’t it?

I have to commend the writer-director of the Don’t Breathe, Fede Alvarez, for creating this unideal concept and successfully bringing it out alive on the big screen. I bet many people got interested with the trailer of the film but it’s really just a teaser, a teeny-weeny one, of what’s to be expected in the whole film. The actors delivered well all throughout despite the limited character development. The camera work and the editing are flawless, enabling lots of jolting scenes, which may make one shout or even scream! How about the sound and the music? Oh, they increased the dark mood brooding in the unexpansive setting of the old man’s house.

Gripping, thrilling and downright nerve-wracking, Don’t Breathe doesn’t really ask you not to breathe. It just makes you do.

Don’t Breathe’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 4.5 out of 5

 

Finding Dory (movie review)

Finding_DoryI had high expectations for this film even during the first time it was announced that a sequel to Finding Nemo was on the works. Why wouldn’t I? Finding Nemo was a great animated movie that was critically adored because of its one-of-a-kind, well-written story, breathtaking visuals and brilliant voice work.

What I saw in almost 2 hours of its showing was a similar but ultimately a subpar plot derived from the first film. The regal blue tang fish named Dory, which was the supporting character during the Nemo film, took the role of the main protagonist in this movie. Her family wasn’t mentioned before mainly due to her forgetfulness: she couldn’t remember where she came from. But this time, because of a dream, she suddenly remembered things that would lead her back to her father and mother. Her journey to be reunited with her parents would separate her from her clown fish friend, Nemo, and his dad, Merlin. The latter two had to find her, hence the title. Such a tale of returning to where she came from had been shown despite the incredulity, or probably the silliness, of it all.

The film still had some good points, though. Cute, new characters have been introduced and they gave new life to the story of fish friends Nemo and Dory. The musical score was also good and it rendered a somewhat needed refreshing sound to an almost too familiar fish story. It also had its touching moments, as well as deep one-liners and dialogues, which would certainly mark to those who are watching.

However, one can’t simply deny the fact that there is something lacking in this movie. It won’t matter if you watch it on a 2D cinema or an IMAX theater (which I did). The visuals are good, but not that oh-so-awesome. This is such a letdown because they could have mustered more beautiful scenes considering they have mainly used the ocean and a public aquarium for its setting. A number of scenes were shot beautifully, but a lot more could have been simply made more wonderful.

I just hoped that the producers, the writers and the director have stopped with Finding Nemo because that movie was a true gem. Finding Dory can pass just as an ultimately pure imitation.

Finding Dory’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 2.5 out of 5.

Sakaling Hindi Makarating (movie review)

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Loaded with gorgeous shots showcasing the beauty of the Philippines, Sakaling Hindi Makarating is an impressive Cine Filipino film that bears love at its core: losing it and finding it again, may it just be in another form.

I honestly had apprehensions before watching the movie. I worried that the movie, which is one of the featured films in this year’s Cine Filipino Film Festival would just add up to the many films I’ve watched and yet failed to post reviews about. If you have known me or have been following me since the early 2010’s (or even mid-2000s), you would know that I am very fond of movies and I tend to write what I thought of them via this movie blog (it was in multiply in the olden days, este, years ago). Anyway, I’m back after almost half a year of hiatus in movie-writing. It’s gladdening to know that some of my friends have missed my movie reviews (you know who you are, guys) and said they really do read what I write (and be swayed to watch a certain movie or not, haha)! Thank you, guys, and I hope you will continue reading now that I’m back!

Sakaling Hindi Makarating is about Cielo, a 20-something woman who has just recently broken up with her fiancé, her lover for 11 years. One day, she received a postcard containing an artwork depicting Kalanggaman Island and, at its back, a letter of love. The postcard that was addressed to her apartment was given by a certain M to her, a C. Is M her former fiancé, Mark? Or is he a new guy who’s ready to pick up the pieces of her broken heart? With the help of a new-found friend/neighbor named Paul, she embarks on a solo journey around the Philippines in search for M using the clues on the postcards she has been receiving.

Sakaling Hindi Makarating is refreshing to watch because it seemed like everything about it gives a whole different kind of a movie experience. It’s comparable to a journey that one has to go through during difficult times and then eventually finding his way out by finding himself or knowing the answers in the places he goes to and with the people he encounters along the way. The movie’s themes hit close to home as tales of love, travel and  freedom echo all throughout this one-and-a-half hour Cine Filipino movie.

I have always liked how Alessandra Rossi acted in teleseryes or movies and after all these years, she has proven that she still has it with this film. She’s a natural as Cielo; she’s able to show the mood of a woman who’s into a deep pit of melancholy while trying to leave out of it with her solo traveling adventures. Her delivery of lines is so good you’d really believe she’s Cielo and not just Alessandra acting as Cielo. Pepe Herrera, her co-star in the film as Paul, is charmingly funny his acting and his lines in the film would almost always make an impression with the audience. The small supporting cast, most of whom play the characters that Cielo met on her journey around the country, is very remarkable albeit their small roles.

I love it that the movie’s director and writer, Ice Idanan, is able to balance the seriousness of the movie’s themes,the solidity of his characters and the humor behind their dialogues. The heaviness of the drama as it unfolds at the start is eventually lightened up as the story goes by. Moreover, I never did find the movie boring. Its fast pace definitely helped. The way the story was presented was beautiful in itself, and showcasing the beauty of the Philippines along the way seemed like just a bonus.

Anyone who has loved deeply will be able to relate to this film, most especially those that have lost their love eventually. There are instances when the parting of two people isn’t mutual and the fall out seems to be harder for the one who was left behind. Memories of her lost love kept flashing back through the eyes of Cielo for most of the film, and similar scenarios must have been echoing in the hearts of those who can relate to her in the audience. The movie did not exploit this heart-breaking plot, though. The writer did give lots of ideas on mending that broken heart, from singly backpacking and journeying the Philippines to finally freeing oneself from the kind of love one does not deserve.

Aside from showcasing bits of heart nuggets that have been given above, the film has presented some of the most spectacularly beautiful locations in the country: the lovely Zamboanga, the awesome Siquijor, the marvelous Marinduque, the exquisite Ilocos Norte and the beauteous Batanes. I’ve been only to one of these five places and the movie has definitely made me want to go to the other four sooner than later! Travelers and explorers alike would love Sakaling Hindi Makarating as they would be able to  feel the love and the appreciation everyone behind the fillm has put to present our country in a marvelous way.

Congratulations to the whole cast and crew for this astounding Filipino film. The pondering movie fan’s movie rating of Sakaling Hindi Makarating is 4.5 out of 5.

Heneral Luna (movie review)

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If there’s one movie out there that you should be watching, it is none other than Heneral Luna. You may not be a movie buff or a historian but being a Filipino should entail you to watch how a brave Filipino general led the whole army of soldiers against the colonizers amidst the corruptibility and apostasy of some people in the government back then.

I was surprised to find out that the movie was laden with humor though I found it necessary to somehow establish what kind of personality the famed General Antonio Luna has. The first part of the film did just that with him and every other key character in the story. The Spanish has just surrendered but has chosen to cede the Philippines to America to avoid embarrassment. The Filipinos couldn’t celebrate, of course. It was another nation that’s about to prey on us. And it was on the hands of the remaining people in the government as to what future the Filipinos would face based on the actions that they would choose to make.

The movie has good pacing. There was never a dull moment with how Antonio Luna planned and took action against the Americans and how Emilio Aguinaldo puzzlingly led and tolerated a government with treacherous members. As the movie progresses, the actors seemed to be more at ease with their roles and the story’s getting more and more interesting. This second part of the film excellently shows the general direction of where the whole action is going.

The third part of the movie was beyond exceptional. The camerawork got really amazing, the cinematography has gone topnotch and every moment in every scene got very captivating. The cards have all been shown and what’s needed to be done was for them to be laid out on the table. In other words, the characters have already shown their true colors and the audiences were all but prepared to witness (spoiler alert ahead) the events that would lead to the horrendous killing of one of the bravest Filipinos to have ever walked the earth: General Antonio Luna.

During the last minutes of the film, I couldn’t help but feel fire in me. My whole body was in heat that I haven’t felt before while watching a movie. It was like the Filipino blood in me has finally awakened. And these made me ponder on these things:

One, shame to Emilio Aguinaldo who had been a real traitor to the country’s cause for independence way back then. I’ve disliked him ever since I came to know about his actions towards the real heroes of this country and now I’m really glad that his true colors are being known by many. Recent Filipino hero films have drawn him into a light of indignity because of his traitorous ways and Heneral Luna is not an exemption. This movie has nailed him down. It’s about time that the truth about him and his family (watch out for his mother’s words by the end of the movie) be known by all Filipinos. It’s high time that we correct history and raise questions about the significance of certain Filipinos in the fight towards freedom.

Two, it’s really great that other Filipino heroes are now taking the limelight. So many films have shown the patriotism of our national hero, Jose Rizal, and we’re all grateful for that. Andres Bonifacio, our other national hero, has taken the next step with movies Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo and Supremo giving light to his heroic life and tragic death. While Rizal and Bonifacio should be at the forefront of our heroes, it’s good to know at least some more pieces of the puzzle by featuring the other heroes that bravely led us to where we are now.

Finally, it is a truth that the government of today is not as different as the first Philippine government. There have always been people who know how to change things for the better. There have also been people who make things happen. Unfortunately, there have also been those who always put themselves first before their country and countrymen and are willing to commit treason just for their own sake. And horrifyingly, a few are at the top of the ranks.

A very relevant film in the form of Heneral Luna deserves all the attention and droves of people flocking to the theaters just to watch it. Nothing beats word of mouth in promoting a film that’s why I am telling you that this movie’s worth all your time, money and energy. Kudos to the movie’s director, Jerrold Tarog, for making a brilliant epic and also to John Arcilla for embodying the titular hero that no other actor could have played better! Good job to all the cast and crew of Heneral Luna for doing this film!

Heneral Luna‘s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 5 out of 5

Inside Out (movie review)

Inside_Out_(2015_film)_posterTremendously entertaining, visually gorgeous and deeply touching, Inside Out might just be the best movie that I have watched so far this year.

Released by Disney and Pixar, Inside Out tackles the mind of an 11-year-old girl where five personified emotions (Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust) deal with her daily activities and experiences. Now, she has to deal about moving in to a new place, a new school and a new neighborhood with the help (or burden?) of these five emotions.

Kudos to the movie’s directors Pete Docter and Ronnie del Carmen for visualizing a unique story the way the moviegoers experienced it. Such a good story isn’t put to waste because of their careful directing. The voice actors are so alive in the film, especially Amy Poehler who voiced out Joy, of course. I remember her stint in Parks and Recreation wherein she played Leslie Knope, a very jovial character who’s the heart of that great comedy series. Her co-actors in the movie are also perfect for their roles: Phyllis Smith (who really looked like Sadness haha), Saturday Night Live’s Bill Hader (Fear), Lewis Black (troubling Anger) and Mindy Kaling (a shoo-in for the playfully sarcastic Disgust). The animation, the graphics and the visual effects are beyond amazing, while the musical score fills everything in that make the movie perfect.

There are three things that I have pondered in this movie.

One, you can’t just be solely happy in life. There are certain things that we can only learn from experiencing other emotions. Sadness is what we feel when we’re hurt or rejected. If you come to think about it, feeling sad is not that bad. Of course, nobody wants to be sad but there are times when inevitable things happen that makes us experience it. This feeling of being down is nasty, but we could somehow turn it into a way that can work for us. Sadness can make us realign our thoughts about things, including what made us sad in the first place. Also, it’s a way for us to know the people who really care about our feelings. It’s also a truth that sadness can force us to really move on. It’s been said for a lot of times that we should refuse anger if we can. In a way, that’s correct for we might not be thinking straight if we really are angry. But truthfully, we can use it as a gauge on what really upsets us that makes us move to change what it is. Fear is there to know our limits while disgust can be used to really know what we like and dislike.

Two, the team up of Disney and Pixar is still the best out there for animated films. They might have hit a bit of a rocky road for the past few years, but they have proven with Inside Out that they’re definitely still the best in the field. Only they can consistently show those popping visuals that carry out a very inventive story about the emotional center of the human mind that touches every heart of those who watch. While watching, I think I’ve seen (in my peripheral vision) that a daddy (who was with his wife an kid) sort of sighed and sniffled during the very emotional scenes.

Three, if the creators can find a way to make a sequel out of this movie, I’ll be more than willing to watch it in the silver screen!

Inside Out’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 5 out of 5

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (movie review)

Mission_Impossible_Rogue_Nation_posterEvery time I hear the tune of Mission: Impossible at the start of the movie, I can’t help but feel ecstatic because I know that I’ll be having a great time watching it.

I remember the time when I watched Mission: Impossible 4 that I left out of the theater wanting for more. I was amped from the start until its middle part but the suspense kind of plateaued towards the end. But that didn’t happen here in Rogue Nation, a.k.a. Mission: Impossible 5. The craving I had before was definitely satisfied with this latest M:I movie.

It’s definitely a great time watching the stunts of Tom Cruise along with his costars. Though looking back, it seemed like it was only him and his female partner in the movie, Rebecca Ferguson, who had really carried out explosive action scenes. Simon Pegg’s comic skills were put into good use all throughout the movie but Jeremy Renner and Vhing Rames were not as they only seemed to do what any other actor could do. I’m really not complaining, though, because Tom Cruise is the star of the movie and his action scenes were still a sight to behold.

I’ve pondered about three things after watching this movie. One, Tom Cruise at his 50 plus years of age, can still pull off awesome action that actors of his age can only dream of. I wonder until when can he do these kinds of things but until then, I’m eager to see him keep the race going even with competition from relatively younger action stars. Two, the Mission: Impossible franchise is far from over. As long as Tom Cruise is in it, millions of people including myself will be driven to watch it in the movie theaters. Three, an action movie that’s grounded with solid story-telling, moved by remarkably fast but effective pacing and highlighted by amazing death-defying scenes is a sure-fire winner. And that’s what Rogue Nation is.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 4.5 out of 5