Shake, Rattle and Roll 14: The Invasion

 SRR 14 movie posterShake, Rattle and Roll 14 was thoroughly enjoyable from the first episode to the last. However, unlike previous SRR movies, no episode stood out as really scary or horrifying.

Honestly, each episode could have stood on its own as a single movie. There’s a downer, though. Albeit better than many of the episodes from previous SRR installments, each one came up short. The director, Chito Rono, must have exhausted all his efforts to make each episode good. However, as each episode’s limited time did not allow for the story to develop, each lacked in character and plot development. It seemed like each episode was rushed (with the exception of the third one wherein I’d like it to finish soon enough! Haha, just kidding).

I liked how majority of the actors portrayed their roles. Almost everyone in the episode called Pamana was good, though Janice de Belen took the cake for being the best. A handful of the actors was believable in their roles in the Lost Command episode, though it was Royet Padilla who has perfectly said his lines, may they be serious or not. In Unwanted, Carlo Aquino might just have been the most credible despite his short stint in the episode.

I also liked the movie’s special effects. Even though not that consistently good, at least they were good enough to establish the eerie atmosphere that was needed in a lot of scenes.

If you have been an SRR fan ever since, you would find this movie a lot better than the previous installments. If you just want to be entertained, watch this and you won’t regret it. But if you’re looking for something to really scare you, skip this film.

SRR 14 movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 3 out of 5

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Les Misérables

Les Miserables official movie posterDeeply emotional but still very entertaining, Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables is able to show a great story of redemption, revolution and love. 

Based on the well-celebrated novel of Victor Hugo, the film was about Jean Valjean, a recently released convict who broke his parole to start a new life. Even though he succeeded in changing himself for the better by owning a factory of his own, he found it untruthful to be hiding under a different name. Honest as he was, he risked being taken into prison again while trying to fulfill a promise to one of his female workers: to look after her (illegitimate) daughter. Would he be able to fulfill his promise considering he’s being hunted by the authorities? What participation were he and his adoptive daughter going to have in the impending revolution to abolish  monarchy in France? All these questions and more would be answered by the film.

I couldn’t remember watching a movie that has almost all of the dialogues are being sang by the movie’s actors. Right from the start until the very end, this movie had actors singing tunes. Thankfully, the songs really marked the event or the emotion needed for the scene. There were only a few familiar songs, but this didn’t matter because the other songs were good to the ears. I liked the blending of the actors’ voices, and the sort-of mash-ups of some of the tunes.

The best feature of the movie was the exceptional performances of its actors. Hugh Jackman stood out as the movie’s lead character, Jean Valjean. He effortlessly acted and sang (in tune!) at the same time. Anne Hathaway, which is favored to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, transformed really well into her role as Fantine, the factory worker who turned prostitution for the sake of her daughter, Cosette. She deserves all the accolades she’s been receiving just by considering her raw performance of I Dreamed a Dream. Amanda Seyfried, as always, seemed to turn every scene where she was in bright and beautiful. She’s always a delight to the eyes, plus, she didn’t fail to live up to her role as Cosette. Russell Crowe turned out good in his performance as Javert, one of the authorities. Even though he was not able to sing really well during his song performances, he’s able to pull out the emotions needed during his scenes. Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen greatly impressed as the characters who brought lots of laughter in this heavy drama-laden movie. Others who also impressed include Eddie Redmayne (as Marius, Cosette’s lover), Samantha Barks (as Eponine, the secretly-in-love friend to Marius) and all the child actors in the movie.

The film had impressive production design. Nineteenth century France looked well and alive in the movie. The structures and the costumes of the people during those times were well-represented.

Tom Hooper proved that he was not a fluke when he won Best Director for his film, The King’s Speech, in 2010. He directed his actors well in this movie as seen by the good timing of their acting and proper reactions on their faces in each scene. Even though the war part of the movie was not that extravagant as what we see in Spielberg movies, they were enough to be considered good.

If you’re a fan of the book or the musical of the same name, watch this movie. If you want to cry, watch it. If you want to be entertained for almost 3 hours, watch it. But if you’re not a fan of seeing actors singing in movies, skip this one.

Les Miserables movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 4 out of 5

Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark ThirtyTortures, explosions, executions- you’ll see a lot of these in the latest spy-thriller film called Zero Dark Thirty. But more significantly, the movie is about a grand manhunt.

Kathryn Bigelow, Oscar Best Director for her 2009 film, Hurt Locker, captivated the audience with her latest film that chronicled America’s efforts to kill Osama Bin Laden, the perpetrator of the grim 9/11 attack on World Trade Center. It took a while before Bin Laden was taken down, but the film would make you understand how hard it was to locate a high-profile terrorist with a lot of devotees and supporters. It’d inform you that it was great surveillance, intelligence and persistence that made the hunt successful after such a seemingly long time.

Bigelow and her team were able to provide a tense atmosphere right from the first scene wherein a captive with links to the Al-Qaeda (the terrorist group that Bin Laden led) was being tortured by the American forces in an undisclosed location. You will be shocked, surprised and probably stunned about the events that were thought and assumed to happen during the manhunt. Scene after scene, Bigelow was able to up the ante of suspense until the climax, wherein you would just feel compelled to watch every single thing that’s happening onscreen.

Jessica Chastain was brilliant as the movie’s lead character, Maya. She reminded me of the character that Claire Danes portrays in Homeland as a very smart and very persistent CIA agent. Little that people know it was the female character she was portraying that was the main reason how Bin Laden was exterminated. Chastain’s naturalness in her role complemented the strong supporting cast, which provided consistently good acting all throughout the movie.

I would love to tackle morality in the movie but I thought that it has just taken into account what merely happened, regardless if some actions were good and right or bad and wrong. Ultimately, it’s the decisions the people in power made that mattered. And that tells a lot about what leader or leaders each nation should be having.

Zero Dark Thirty movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 4.5 out of 5

Life of Pi

Life of PiMagnificently beautiful and deeply emotional, Ang Lee’s Life of Pi excellently translated a book that has been thought to be impossible to be made as a film.

With one word, my name went from an elegant French swimming pool to a stinking Indian latrine – I was pissing everywhere.

Life of Pi is about Piscine Molitor or Pi, a 16-year-old boy who survived a shipwreck and got stranded in the Pacific Ocean on a lifeboat with a Bengal Tiger named Richard Parker. The movie explores Pi’s early childhood life, his unusual religious beliefs and his incredible journey with a feral animal on seemingly endless waters.

Richard Parker, come out you have to see this! It’s beautiful!

One would surely be awed with the film’s continuous display of astounding images. I couldn’t remember a single movie that was as marvelously beautiful as this one. The grandeur of the sea and the sky, the magnificence of land and sea creatures and the spiritual journey of a human were seen and yes, felt in Life of Pi. Shades of yellow and red painted the sunny atmosphere while Pi was struggling with Richard Parker. Hues of blue, black and white shared a glimpse of the sea at night when Pi, Richard Parker and everyone else on the sea seemed calm. Botches of black and grey spelled doom from the sky, prompting Pi to save whatever he could with what’s left of his things on the boat. Hues of green, yellow and blue signified outward life on the carnivorous island. The color blue toned the seemingly endless ocean Pi was crossing for a very long time.

I never thought the movie’s going to have a strong emotional pull just like the book. I admit that I got a bit disappointed in some scenes (most especially the seemingly lacking in depth death scenes of the zebra and the orangutan in the lifeboat) as I found them short of what these events meant to to Pi. But as the movie proceeded, other major plot lines happened and they made me feel what I have felt while reading the book. Pi’s journey with a Bengal tiger along the Pacific Ocean was not just a journey of survival. It was also a journey of withstanding struggles that were more than physical, emotional and mental. It was also overcoming the doubts made by the spirit after suffering when other aspects of life inevitably wear out.

Of course, not every detail in the book could be played out in the movie. But the adapted screenplay made by David Magee did the book justice. It’s great how I saw some events in the book got to be transformed well on the silver screen. A few were even a lot better than what I have imagined. But of course, biased as I was, there were too many more details that one could only imagine in the book. Besides, there’s more humor, more drama and more spirit in the book than in the movie.

Suraj Sharma embodied the protagonist well in Life of Pi. Even though I felt he lacked conviction on his acting at some scenes (perhaps a result of him being a newbie in acting), he was able to pull his role through until the end. I’d also say the same to Irrfan Khan whose role was the adult Pi. I liked how he was re-telling his character’s unbelievable story to a book writer. The rest of the supporting cast was also good. The actors who were portraying Pi’s mother and brother were fit for their roles. I couldn’t say the same, though, to the actor who portrayed Pi’s father as he lacked the passion his character had to have.

Ang Lee surely knows how to make a great film. With Life of Pi, he has again showed the world how he can make a great story be told through the silver screen. Seriously, it seemed like he could make any situation of a scene not just really look good, but amazingly good.

 I suppose in the end, the whole of life becomes an act of letting go, but what always hurts the most is not taking a moment to say goodbye.

 

Life of Pi movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 5 out of 5

One More Try

One_More_Try_(2012)Beautifully shot and thoughtfully directed, One More Try took up a very controversial theme that was ably told with a good script, fast pace and a great cast.

The movie revolved around Grace (Angel Locsin), a single mother who has a child named Bochok, which has a rare blood disease. She has tried all things she could to help her child except for one: reconnecting with Edward, Bochok’s father (Dingdong Dantes), for him to help in the treatment. Edward is already married to a successful career woman, Jacqueline (Angelica Panganiban), who’s still unable to give him a child. The complicated process of curing Bochok has started to ruin Grace’s relationship with her boyfriend, Tristan (Zanjoe Marudo) and Edward’s to Jacqueline. And after exhausting other options to help treat Bochok, they’re left with one: for Edward and Grace to conceive another child who would be a good donor to save him. Would everyone involved agree to this set-up?

The director, Ruel S. Bayani, was successful to capture the beauty of Baguio and other locations where scenes in the film were shot. He was able to make the beauty in the scene linger for a moment, just enough to prevent the audience from being overwhelmed or underwhelmed. Moreover, the audience could see that he’s careful in his work as the film turned out really polished from beginning to end.

There’s a reason why the movie won for Best Screenplay. The dialogues were sharp and appropriate in what the situation of the scene was calling for. Of course, there were a lot of catchy one-liners (e.g. Iba ang pumapayag sa nakikisama, iba rin ang nakikisama sa nagtitiis and Mahal kita, pero mas mahal ko ang anak ko) and the way the actors delivered them made them believable to the ears. Add to this the movie’s very good pacing, and surely, the audience won’t feel uninterested for one bit while watching.

The sacredness of sex, or the union of male and female, was the moral dilemma in the movie. Would a mother be willing to offer her body to save her son? Would a wife be willing to lend her husband to a woman whom the husband had had a son for just one night? Would a husband be willing to break the sanctity of marriage for the sake of his son? Such questions have troubled the characters in the story and most probably the audience as well. These questions would never be easy to answer, but the way the writers of the movie tried to answer them was an effort worth noticing. They aimed to serve the movie an ending that would have justified the initial motives of the characters, albeit this ending was very unlikely to happen. And this doesn’t mean the ending made the movie a good one. In fact, I consider its ending as its weakest point.

The biggest strength of the movie was its great cast. I never thought Angel Locsin could really be a big contender for a Best Actress award, but in this movie, she has proved there’s depth to her acting. Her performance here could be her best one yet. There were scenes where she really stood out (i.e. the moment Grace was begging to Jacqueline) and for those alone, she could really give the other nominees a run for their money. The question is, was her performance better than Nora Aunor’s in Thy Womb? Not really. Aunor becomes the character she is asked to play and this was very evident in Thy Womb. Locsin portrays her character the way she thinks how her character would act or feel. I could still see her as her in One More Try. Angelica Panganiban, on the other hand, was given a very difficult task of portraying Jacqueline. Others think she has the easier role, but in fact, she has not. There were times you’d think her role was more difficult because she’s torn either between being good and bad or doing what is right or wrong. As good as she was, she has ably done what her role was asking her to do. Dingdong Dantes was also good with his role as the husband, and if you’d ask me if it’s Best Actor-worthy, I’ll answer, maybe. Or maybe, there were no other good contenders that’s why he won. Additionally, Zanjoe Marudo’s effort in the movie was also a good one.

The strengths of the movie made up for its probably lack of moral awareness. However, I still couldn’t help but say that the controversial theme should have been handled with more care. Oh well, the story of the movie was complicated, as it was trying to compromise morals  of the characters for the sake of another moral issue. Seriously, moral dilemmas would make you think hard not just in movies, but more so in real life. I just hope, though, that the audience did not feel like the movie’s trying to trivialize sex, for sex is not trivial at all.

One More Try movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 4 out of 5

The Top TV Shows of 2012

It’s the 6th of January and I’m back with my Top List for 2012. This time, I’m going to write down the best television shows for me during the past year.

#10 AMERICAN IDOL

American_Idol_Title_Card

Even though this show has already reached its so-called glorious years, it remained to be a good show. The talents last year were great (including the Filipino-American-Mexican Jessica Sanchez); the judges, though not constantly good in judging, were amusing; and over-all production value was still high. This show made it to the Top List because it was still very entertaining at best.

 

#9 KRUSADA (plus a long list of documentaries from ABS-CBN, GMA, GMA NEWS TV and TV 5)

Krusada

 

This off-beat show’s just one of the many documentaries that local TV channels produce. Sometimes pleasing, sometimes shocking, documentaries like Krusada have a lot to say that people should listen more and more about.

 

#8 NASHVILLE

Nashville_logo

 

Probably the best new series that premiered during the fall TV season in the US last year, this musical-drama showcased credible story, good acting from the cast and great music, both original and covers.

 

#7 DEXTER

Dexter-Season-8

Fortunately, this bloody TV show has already dared to face the inevitable: Debra finally knowing Dexter’s true identity as a serial killer. Amidst the sort-of chaos this situation has brought the siblings, Dexter still found time to fall in love while LaGuerta’s closing in on pointing him as the real Bay Harbor Butcher.

 

#6 MODERN FAMILY

Modern Family

The second best comedy series during the past year was the great family-centered TV show called Modern Family. Even though the screenplay is not at par with the previous seasons, several episodes during this season were some of the show’s all-time funniest.

 

#5 THE VOICE

The Voice 2012

This reality TV competition show took the best reality TV show title from American Idol. Definitely entertaining from its Audition Rounds to Live Shows (plus the brilliant addition of Steal), The Voice didn’t suffer from its major competitor’s theme of the week format. The contestants didn’t have to sing songs that were out of their league and they’re not forced to perform songs from the ‘60s or ‘70s. The strength of the show also lied on the great chemistry of its four coaches: Adam Levine, Cee-Lo Green, Christina Aguilera and Blake Shelton.

 

#4 THE WALKING DEAD

The Walking Dead - Season 3 - Poster Art - Frank Ockenfels/AMC

 

This show is easily a shoo-in to lists like this. Major twists and turns in its story almost always happen in each new episode. You’d know its writers do not compromise when they don’t hesitate to kill major characters in the show. That’s to think that the third season isn’t over yet!

 

#3 THE BIG BANG THEORY

 Big Bang Theory

The Big Bang Theory is one of the funnies comedy shows on TV. Now on its sixth season, it still does not fail to bring lots of laugh-out loud moments with each new episode. Very smart writing plus perfect casting make this as my top comedy for 2012.

 

#2 BREAKING BAD

Breaking_Bad_S5_Poster

The first half of the last season of this show brought nothing but brilliance. The tension the series brought with each new episode was very high you’d think it won’t ever be in the same level of intensity again. But you’d think again because it definitely can. Great cast, great plot, great cinematography, great directing- this series almost has it all.

 

#1 AMERICAN HORROR STORY

American-Horror-Story-poster-Asylum

No TV show has been more compelling and exciting than American Horror Story. Returning in its second season, AHS tackled a variety of big subjects this season: mental institutions, alien abductions and even the Catholic Church. These subjects (and more) seemed incompatible but the show has certainly made it work. Great writing, brilliant editing and directing and perfect casting still make this show the best series in 2012.

El Presidente

El PresidenteWatching El Presidente was very, very painful. Rewriting history as you know it never hurt that much until you see it through the scenes of a so-called historical movie. Nobody knows for sure what were the actual things that happened, but based on what we have studied in the University of the Philippines years ago, it seemed like the movie was a hand washing of sort by none other than the protagonist in the movie, Emilio Aguinaldo, through the people behind  it. I also couldn’t help but notice that certain dialogues seem to assert something very far-fetched. Like when Aguinaldo sort of having had no choice but to permit the assassination of Bonifacio, or, when a certain Gen. Macapagal asking Bonifacio to flee upon his impending murder. Believe me, if you know our history, you’d probably end up cursing while watching those scenes in the movie.

I salute Mark Meily for being bold enough to direct and write this movie about an important person in Philippine history. I couldn’t help but wonder, though, if he had intentionally made a mockery of the film with things like putting comedians to play roles that have very serious dialogues. Honestly, it was not only me who found it funny. Some of the people who were with me while watching the movie found them funny during their scenes. Well, we had a good point as the comedians were not able to channel what they were supposed to channel in their scenes.

Jorge “E.R.” Estregan of Asiong Salonga was what I saw in most of El Presidente. He’s still as stiff as ever. Though that might have worked in his role as Asiong before, it certainly did not here. Honestly, I only found him acting what he was supposed to be acting when his character was already of old age. Nora Aunor, on the other hand, was wasted here as a talent. Her role of Aguinaldo’s second wife did not suit her. I could have only hoped she did not accept her role for the sake of the professional fee she’d be receiving after filming. Standouts in the film were Christopher de Leon as Antonio Luna and Joonee Gamboa as a Katipunero. They were not seen all throughout the film, but they surely left a big mark through the roles they were portraying. Cesar Montano was also good, though there were times when he had gone overboard as the hot-tempered Supremo of the Katipunan.

Botched storyline and lousy acting from some of the major actors seemed to describe the film in its totality. But let’s give credit to whom credit is due. Some scenes were beautifully shot by the director (Meily) and the cinematographer. You’d know that the movie’s production value was really high, and this was evident with each scene.

I knew I was right when I thought this movie’s going to be what it was supposed to be: a film that badly wanted to be epic but failed miserably. No made-up storylines could smear some of our heroes’ names. No tricks could save the faces of people who brought dishonor to our country and fellow countrymen. No beautiful imageries could clean up the image of the so called el presidente that was tarnished by what he himself had done more than a century ago.

El Presidente movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 1.5 out of 5