Frozen

Frozen_(2013_film)_posterFrozen is the best film Disney has produced for a long time. Using their magic formula of putting a princess as a lead character, they made a great change this time in terms of resolving the always predictable conflict. Not to spoil anything but this great change made Frozen one-of-a-kind.

As stated on its credits, the movie is loosely based on the story of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen. However, they do differ a lot. Frozen is about the two princesses of a fictional kingdom called Arendelle: Elsa and her younger sister, Anna. The two used to be very close, but because Elsa had to hide her ability of creating ice and snow at will, they grew apart. They did not see each other for years until a tragic accident concerning their parents led them to. Elsa is to be crowned the queen and so, a banquet in the castle had to be made. Anna met the prince she wanted to marry and yet Elsa was against it. They argued, which led Elsa to lose control of her powers, making everything in the kingdom covered with ice and everyone freezing with cold. She departed to the mountains where she built her ice castle. What will happen to their kingdom now that they have separated? Will the sisters find their way again to each other? That’s what you have to find out.

The movie boasts itself with great animation and good visual effects. The combination of hand-drawn pictures and computer-generated imagery (CGI) effects made a spectacular display of animated sequences. You’ll be amazed by how some things onscreen are too detailed, with the lighting and the ice crystals and the snow.

What makes Frozen even the more impressive is its music. It’s not a good animated musical film for no good reason at all, right? The songs used are written and composed by Filipino songwriter, Robert Lopez, and his wife, Kirsten Anderson-Lopez. Their songs, incorporated into Christopher Beck’s musical score, made the audience either glee or moved depending on the scene. You’ll never wonder why you’re still smiling or even humming or singing right after watching because of the wonderful music heard in the film. Thanks also in part by the great voice work of its cast (who also sang) led by Kirsten Bell and Idina Menzel.

The movie teaches a number of good messages (e.g. Never marry a man you just marry), but the best for me, though, is how it showed a true act of love. I will not spill, but the movie’s climax pointed out a very strong message to everyone, that love isn’t what people always seem to believe.

Frozen’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 4.5 out of 5

Advertisements

The Wolf of Wall Street

TWOWS posterMartin Scorcese’s latest offering, The Wolf of Wall Street, trumps many a great movie about money-making schemes. Watching it is a blast from start to finish! It’s got that great vibe of helping you understand how people in the stock market do what they do good. I kind of expected Leonardo diCaprio to be great, but I was nicely surprised to see him a lot better than what I was expecting him to be! He would surely given Chiwetel Ejiofor of the brilliant 12 Years a Slave a run for his money in the Oscar race for Best Actor. I actually thought he’s given the best performance of his life in this movie, being really the wolf in the Wall Street.

The movie seems to be an amalgam of deadly sins: greed, gluttony, power and lust. Leonardo diCaprio characterized all of these in his characterization of Jordan Belfort, the notorious stockbroker who owned Stratton Oakmont and made lots of millions swindling investors in the stock market. The way he spoke would seem to persuade even the most skeptical person to invest in his company. He didn’t really care about the investors; he cared about making loads of money. He, together with his friends and employees, drank and partied hard, took drugs as if they’re meals, fornicate anyone even those he is not fond of. He was addicted to power by not just trying to maintain being rich, but doing all he can to become richer and richer. All of these drowned him into the well of immorality, a world where everything seemed to be fun even though they’re not.

Lending Leo their good, convincing performances include the beautiful Margot Robbie as Belfort’s wife, Naomi; the funny Matthew McConaughey as Belfort’s first employer in the Wall Street; the serious Kyle Chandler as the NBI agent who indicted him; the lovely Joanna Lumley as Naomi’s aunt; among many others. Jonah Hill seemed to do just fine, though he still portrays the same old character he’s always been: the obnoxious but caring douche bag of a partner and friend. I am just glad he didn’t put diCaprio down on their scenes. (Hill’s Oscar nomination doesn’t impress me at all.)

Scorcese still has his magic. In three hours, Scorcese showed how such a character like Belfort could have done such outrageous things. It is a testament that he really excels in doing movie that shows a study of character. He effectively showed how a small-time dreamer turned into a great but wild realist in the Wall Street. Belfort had a vision of what he wanted to be, and Scorcese made that evident in his frequent collaborator, Leonardo diCaprio, who’s insanely good in this movie.

Furthermore, this movie is a testament that Scorcese doesn’t hold back in terms of production values. The atrocious, careless spending of the filthy rich stockbrokers lavished on the screen. The megalomaniac attitudes and ways of them filthy rich surely raised envy on the watching eyes of the audiences who are watching. Kudos to the whole production team behind Mr. Scorcese.

Ninety-nine percent of the time, you would only know a movie is great by watching it. However, one percent of the time tells you that if it’s a Martin Scorcese-Leonardo diCaprio movie, it would never be a waste of your precious time.

The Wolf of Wall Street’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 4.5 out of 5

Pagpag (Siyam Na Buhay)

PagpagIt’s been a long time since I last watched a good Pinoy horror film and after watching Pagpag, I guess it will still take a while before I will finally be able to watch one again.

Pagpag is a Filipino superstitious belief that means shaking off whatever or whoever went along with someone who has just visited the dead. This is done by going somewhere first before going home. The movie tried to show the implications of not following this belief, along with other unwritten rules regarding visiting the dead. Unfortunately, the topic could have been used well to make up a good story line.The movie writers seemed to have wasted it by just enumerating the superstitions and showing gruesome ways of dying for the affected characters as a consequence. Ultimately, it turned out that the deaths in the movie is not merely about not following the superstitious beliefs. It is more like making a pact with the devil to resurrect the dead. Hence, the title of the movie is a bit misleading.

Majority of the cast could have been given more push to be really in the zone of each scene. The teenage characters reflect specific stereotypes in the teenage world and this is actually good so the audience could somehow relate. It’s a plus that they are shown doing the usual activities of the youth of today  (browsing the internet, socializing via social networks, doing a selfie, etc.) because then it becomes more realistic. Sometimes, though, few of the actors might have been instructed to bank on the kilig and harutan scenes in spite of the supposed horrifying situations they are in. Are you still going to flirt in the middle of a life and death (by a ghost) situation? Definitely not. But they did here in this movie.

The movie is a horror comedy. Most of the time, it did deliver well during the funny scenes. Janus del Prado is as good as always. He is one of the only three actors who are really into their characters. The other two are Paulo Avelino and Shaina Magdayao.

I am surprised to find out that still, many people are present in the movie houses to watch the Metro Manila Film Festival movies. But what surprised me more is the presence of hardcore Kathniel fans (supporters of Kathryn Bernardo-Daniel Padilla love team). They are almost always heard shouting or jeering every time their idols are both present onscreen.

The movie did feature some shocking horror scenes. However, I have seen better ones that had a more profound effect to the audience (i,e, Feng Shui, Sukob, The Healing). The eerie atmosphere is felt, though inconsistently.

Lastly, I wish that next time, these types of story get in the hands of great writers who could come up with more exciting and more realistic story lines. Nevertheless, the movie’s able to scare (a bit) and amuse the audience all throughout.

Pagpag‘s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 2 out of 5

10,000 Hours

10,000 Hours movie posterI had high hopes for this film before watching it because it bested the other Metro Manila Film Festival entries in the Best Picture category and won almost all the major awards including Best Actor for Robin Padilla, Best Supporting Actor for Pen Medina and Best Director for Joyce Bernal during the MMFF Awards.

The film started out good. Robin Padilla as Senator Gabriel Alcaraz (a character that is loosely based on Sen. Panfilo Lacson) made the audience feel right away that he is showing something new in this movie. His subdued, restrained performance meant he’s really serious about his character. Moreover, the scenes during the first arc of the story (the escape of Sen. Alcaraz) are impressive. During those initial scenes, the movie’s editing kept the pace of the story good, its camerawork captured what needed to be captured and its musical score really heightened the suspense. It is a letdown then that the story became dragging in the middle part (when the story focused on the implications of Sen. Alcaraz and his whereabouts). I am not undermining the character’s experiences during this time but the once suspenseful action thriller became heavy drama in a glance. Some of the dramatic scenes are appropriate, but some are just so exhausting to watch. But what’s more exhausting is waiting for any real action during this middle part. It became really frustrating that no grand musical score or some side stories or beautiful cinematography could ever patch up for it. It made me want to call the film 100,000 Hours instead. Anyway, once the movie began its final story arc, it somehow went back to how it was in the beginning. But it couldn’t resolve the gravity of dullness it just had.

Anyway, I won’t take away too much of what the movie has brought fine. Joyce Bernal is a good director, and who would have thought she could make a good and decent suspense/action film? Meanwwhile, the movie’s cinematographer is able to capture its two settings well: the liveliness of Manila and the beauty and feel of Amsterdam, albeit limited in scope of the area. The musical score has already been mentioned but I’ll say again how great it was. Moreover, the movie’s got a good cast. Aside from Robin Padilla, veterans Pen Medina (as an old friend of Sen. Alcaraz) and Mylene Dizon (as Sen. Alcaraz’s wife) and novices Cholo Barretto (as the senator’s son) and Bela Padilla (as a newscaster) pulled off remarkable performances.

I just wished the movie is not as dragging as it is. The writing could have been improved as well. But overall, 10,000 Hours is good.

10,000 Hoursmovie rating by the pondering movie fan: 4 out of 5

Best TV Shows of 2013

The year 2013 brought out a lot of good TV. For sure more eyes were glued on the television to feast on shows that entertain, amuse, educate or inform. But what I am about to do now is tell you the best of the best on Philippine cable television, which regularly broadcasts American TV shows.

The year that was made me realize that we don’t need a lot of TV. I always knew that, but because I’m a hardcore TV fan, I have stacked up on shows that were deemed good. However, because I have far more important things to do (Not that I’m telling watching TV is not important. Hey, why am I writing this one right now, right?), I was only able to watch a select few in my spare time. I am narrowing down the Best of TV list into 5 (or 6 as you would know why in a while). Did your favorite make the cut?

 Best TV Shows of 2013

TOP 5- MASTERS OF SEX and GAME OF THRONES

MofS

Masters of Sex is the best new American series to debut in the fall season. In addition to very compelling performances from its lead and supporting actors, the series boasts itself with really smart writing and great production values. One might think that this show is too hot for TV just basing on the title. It really is, but the sensual scenes are done in good taste. Moreover, what the show imparts is more than the skin. It looks into the human physiology of sex, and it dwells in the thin line work and relationships and how sex could work for or against it.

Game of Thrones Season 3

Game of Thrones reached a new height this year by surprising everyone (aside from the readers of the books where the series is based) during its The Rains of Castamere episode. That episode alone should be given commendation for being a good display of directing, acting and production skills. Moreover, I think the series is getting better and better one season after another.

TOP 4- AMERICAN HORROR STORY: COVEN

AHSCovenPoster

The top TV show last year still made it to the list of the best this year. Touching the topic of witchcraft, the series remains as campy yet as delightful as ever. The current season may be predictable at times, but it seems like the show’s creators never seem to run out of ideas that would surprise the audience with shocking or jaw-dropping scenes week after week. Not convinced? Watch it.

TOP 3- HANNIBAL

Hannibal

The best new American series to debut last year is Hannibal (it debuted during the first half of the year). Creator Bryan Singer made sure this show sets itself apart from popular versions of the Hannibal Lecter story in both TV and movies. The reimagining he did with Hannibal creates a league on its own: dark, affecting and very beautiful. The powerful performances of the cast and the great directing cap the brilliant production values the series offers.

TOP 2- THE BIG BANG THEORY

The Big Bang Theory Season 7

Even on its 7th season, this comedy series never ever fails to make the audiences laugh with its witty dialogues and smart storylines (I’m looking at you, Modern Family). The characters being portrayed by both lead and supporting cast are still as entertaining as ever.

TOP 1- BREAKING BAD

Breaking Bad- The Final Season

If the year 2013 will be remembered for one television show (yes, one television show only), then it will be remembered because of Breaking Bad, the best among the best this year (or probably the best ever). Ending the series with the final eight episodes of season 5, the team behind the show made it the most suspenseful, the most compelling, the most gripping episodes for the past year. Thanks to the brilliant acting of the cast, the great directing from its roster of directors, the beautiful cinematography, the great and smart writing and good over-all production values, Breaking Bad is the best TV show of 2013.

***

P.S. Three of my favorite reality shows really did great this year. The Voice continues its dominance as the best singing show to grace the golden screen because of the still surprising and entertaining rounds (Audition Round, Battle Round, Knockout Round and Live Shows), great hosting being done by Carson Daly and of course, the great chemistry among its coaches. Survivor has never been as compelling as its last season for a very long time. All the contestants are a hit. Meanwhile, The Amazing Race has never produced a great season for a long time as well and the last season satisfied the fans’ hunger for a great reality racing with its awesome travel destinations and very entertaining contestants.