Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno

Rurouni_Kenshin,_Kyoto_Inferno_film_posterRurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno is a good sequel to 2012’s Rurouni Kenshin. Having the same director and actors who reprise their roles, Kyoto Inferno still has those edgy, power-packed action scenes and the exciting plot twists that reminded me of what Samurai X (the anime the movie was based on) has been. The movie continued where the first movie left off: the peace the Japanese people were having under the Meiji government was interrupted when a great threat suddenly appeared to cause havoc in Japan. 

Oh how I missed the fancy characters that helped defined a part of my growing up years! After watching just a few scenes with the characters onscreen, I started to be hooked. Two of these characters were Kenshin Himura, the legendary assassin named Battousai who vowed never to kill again, and Makoto Shishio, the ruthless assassin who came up next after Battousai retired and who’s considered the great threat to the Meiji government. These characters were deftly acted on by Takeru Satoh (as Kenshin) and Tatsuya Fujiwara (as Shishio). I continue to like how Takeru moves like the legendary samurai and somehow, I find Tatsuya’s subdued performance in his vicious killer role something of an indicator as to how he will fare in the next Rurouni Kenshin movie. 

Ah, yes, the next movie in line is going to come out next month! And I think this is planned for a very good reason. Probably a lot of viewers of the film will find Kyoto Inferno lacking, as the storyline is cut off to pave way for the third movie. Kyoto Inferno’s got good action and all but I won’t hide my disappointment because it lacked what I was imagining it to be. No real great face-offs transpired in the movie and what the viewers were left off is foreshadow of what’s to come out next month. Besides, I found some scenes too much staged and choreographed. As a result, the acting of some supporting actors and extras hired to be on the backdrop seemed to be very unnatural. 

But, let’s not undermine the goodness we’ve seen on the film. 

Kyoto Inferno was filled with beautiful sceneries to show the viewers how beautiful Japan was during the mid-19th century, the start of the Meiji period. Rough neighborhoods, lively markets, rowdy streets and spirited dojos were just some of the settings brought out alive by the production team. The pacing of the film was just quite right as what story the movie needed to tell was for the most part, successfully told. Meanwhile, aside from Takeru and Tatsuya, Muneta Aoki, Tao Tshuchiya and Ryunosuke Kamiki played their parts, respectively, as Sagara Sanosuke, Makimachi Misao and Seta Sojiro all too well. It’s fun watching them as they’re really into their characters every time they’re seen. 

September can’t come sooner to finish the saga of the famed samurai with the X scar. We can just hope that the third movie will be the best of the three. 

Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 4 out of 5

 

 

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Guardians of the Galaxy

GOTG official posterVisually splendid, smartly written and surprisingly but satisfactorily emotional, Guardians of the Galaxy stands on its own as a great Marvel film. 

I’ve actually feared that this Marvel movie was going to flop. The story’s not that familiar to many, the trailer’s not liked by everybody and the only thing that’s attracting it is its Marvel brand. I guess I shouldn’t have feared because it has all the makings of a blockbuster flick. 

Guardians of the Galaxy (GOTG) is about a seemingly group of miscasts led by Peter Quill (or Star-Lord), a half-human, half-alien whose rogue ways made him hunted by the thieving and smuggling group that kidnapped him on Earth as a child. Upon teaming up unexpectedly with the other guardians, namely Gamora, adopted daughter of the mighty Thanos and the last of her species; Drax the Destroyer, an avenging warrior; Groot, a tree-like humanoid and Rocket, a genetically engineered raccoon who’s a master mercenary, he (along with his team) found a higher purpose, and that is, to serve and save the universe we are in from the dangers highly powerful creatures bring. 

GOTG’s got terrifically marvelous visuals. I was awed by the graphics and effects of this movie and thought the production behind it didn’t restrain its team from making it really look great. Anyone who’s got a clear, good vision will be stunned by its superb cinematography and production design. 

Witty one-liners: This movie’s got a whole lot of these killer funny lines. I think I’ve laughed here more than any other film I’ve watched this year (including those old comedies I’ve watched in the comforts of our home). Plus, it’s got a real good story going on. What’s more impressive is that it’s still tied in with the story arc of the other Marvel movies that are due in the next few years. These ludicrously smart tie-ins might just be superb promotional maneuvers for the companies behind these movies, but if we get to be fully entertained by the fantasy these Marvel stories bring, who are we to complain? 

Parks and Recreation’s Chris Pratt is a revelation in the film. Who knew he could carry an enormous Marvel movie with him on the lead? Nevertheless, his funny antics and childish charm have certainly helped. Zoe Saldana showed she’s a tough lady by performing as Gamora. Meanwhile, Dave Batista (as the rough Drax), Vin Diesel (as the lovable Groot) and Chris Cooper (as the whiny Rocket) proved that there are no small roles as they perform well in their respective challenging characters. Meanwhile, I did not see any sign of Lee Pace as he shows how to be a main villain in the movie. 

I love the editing done in the film. GOTG didn’t seem very long for me considering the short attention span I am having with films lately (haha). I enjoyed its pace, which was enough to present who are these guardians of the galaxy and how are they a part of the whole Marvel universe. The director of the movie, James Gunn (Slither), seemed to love this movie so much he probably even cared about the nooks and crannies of each scene, aside from how his actors fare in front of the camera. I am hoping he will still be the director and writer of the expected sequel. 

Hmm, if those things I’ve said are still not enough for you to watch the movie, just listen to what’s more to love about this film… its great soundtrack, of course! 

Guardians of the Galaxy’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 5 out of 5

Hustisya

Hustisya Poster (credits to its owner/s)Apathy. Hipocrisy. There are real demons in the society.

Hustisya, one of the five feature films under the Director’s Showcase of Cinemalaya this year, showcased the acting prowess of the Philippine superstar, Nora Aunor, as helmed by acclaimed director, Joel Lamangan. She stars as Biring, an efficient member in a human trafficking syndicate controlled by some powerful men in the society.

A middle-aged woman who revolves her life with her work in the syndicate, her best friend and her family, Biring is a one-of-a-kind character (thanks, in part to Ricky Lee’s great writing). Despite having a key role in their human trafficking operations, she seems to care about the people they victimize. Shown as religious and a devout Catholic, she seems apologetic about her own sins. However, in her line of work, she sees and hears no evil. Conscience visits her once in a while, but the system where she and everyone’s a part of keeps on dictating her what she has to do. In the end, what will really matter to her? Her family? Her money? The system? Or her soul?

The movie is a clear cut portrayal of the evils of Manila. While a very few lavish in its riches, a whole lot wallow in the mud. Life in the city is compared to how a frog preys on a mosquito. The former must wait patiently while deceiving the latter it is a part of the surrounding. When the right moment comes, the frog eats the mosquito. This is similar to life in the capital: be victimized or be the victimizer. Such analogy represents the kind of world many of us live in.

Joel Lamangan is able to capture Aunor at her sometimes antsy, sometimes cool and collected demeanor for her character. Biring’s hard to portray as she jumps over the thin line of what is good or bad. Lamangan makes sure Aunor’s able to show the ambiguity that she is. Moreover, I like how he stages Aunor’s character with what others call her money shots in the film. Thankfully, he does not only take good care of his lead star. Hustisya’s supporting cast is also made good, especially Rosanna Roces (whose portrayal of Biring’s best friend and one of the heads of the syndicate brought about amusement and wonder) and Rocco Nacino (who’s a revelation in the film as the soulless lawyer/member of the syndicate).

I am not a fan of some initial scenes where blurred shots of Nora and Manila are being screened. Moreover, a little more care could have been done not only in the camerawork, but some uneven lines in the screenplay. The pacing is a bit inconsistent, but the duration of the film surely made up for it.

Hustisya is one of those Filipino films that are really heavy to watch as it tackles real-life atrocities that real people do. This makes it hard for some people to even see. But I doubt it was filmed for everyone. What Hustisya and other movies of its kind need is the appropriate audience to look at what it tries to portray, listen to what it has to say and act upon what should be done.

Hustisya’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 4 out of 5

 

P.S.

After watching the film, I realized that real justice cannot be served here in this world.