Mockingjay Part 1 (Movie Review)

Mockingjay Part 1Even before watching the movie, I already had doubts that Mockingjay Part 1 would be a good one. I really have reservations about movies being divided into two parts mainly because the studios wanted to earn more money. I have read the book and I can say that the whole story can be put up into just one whole movie. It’s unfair that the quality of movies like this would suffer just because it has been cut. Now let’s see if I am right with what I am saying.

I was somehow right, but also wrong in some ways.

It’s amazing how the director, Francis Lawrence, and the screenwriters, Danny Strong and Peter Craig, were able to turn the first half of the book of Suzanne Collins into a two-hour movie. You’d sense, though, that the script was really stretched out especially at the start but when the pace of the movie was established, you’d just carry on watching. The movie had its big moments and these moments were carried out well. The excellent camerawork was really something to commend on because it turned seemingly normal scenes into something exciting and thrilling.

Jennifer Lawrence once again impresses in this penultimate installment of The Hunger Games movie series. In spite of the havoc brought about by the leaked nude pictures scandal, she maintains to be likeable. More importantly, she delivers in the film as Katniss Everdeen, the face of the rebellion of the thirteen districts against the anarchic system of the Capitol. Katniss was asked to lead the propaganda against the Capitol, and even though she hesitated at first, she eventually agreed after seeing the destruction made by President Snow (aptly played coldly by Donald Sutherland) and his government. If Jennifer Lawrence was likeable, her partner, Josh Hutcherson was not… at least in the movie as Peeta Mellark. As one of the captives in Capitol after the Quarter Quell, Peeta was being forced to feed lies to the people of the districts and counter what Katniss was telling the citizens. Even though Hutcherson had fewer scenes in this movie compared to the previous movies, he made sure that his scenes, especially the final ones, were truly remarkable. Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne, Katniss’s best friend and one of the top soldiers in District 13 was effective, though I hope he’d do better in the last film as his character plays a really big part in the Mockingjay book. The supporting cast that includes Woody Harrelson (reprising his role as Haymicht), Elizabeth Banks (as Effie Trinket) and Julianne Moore (as the rebellion forces’ leader, President Alma Coin) was a pro in their roles.

Aside from the formidable cast, the movie’s biggest draw is its smart political overtones. Panem is at war, and the movie has shown how players in the warring governments do their work of planning and strategizing to gain victory. It’s been shown how propaganda works: the smarter the propaganda is, the better it serves its function. Moreover, the movie exposes that truth about war: it sacrifices a lot of people. It is never the best option to end conflicts as many, many people will die and be killed along the way. If there came a point when declaring one is the only option left (as presented in the movie), offering oneself for the greater good is justified. You’d just hope you’re on the right side.

The movie’s good but it lacked in one department where it should have really excelled: action. As a consequence of the trimming of the story to pave way for a two-part movie, the action scenes were sorely lacking. No good action scenes could justify the shortness of the action, considering this as a war movie. Producers should really think about giving up quality over the quantity of money that they’ll be earning. Shame on them.

Mockingjay Part 1’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 3.5 out of 5

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Big Hero 6

Big_Hero_6_film_posterAs the first Disney animated feature film to feature characters from Marvel EntertainmentBig Hero 6 impresses as one of the best animated movies ever.

Hiro, a 13-year-old genius, spends his time doing fun things like participating in back alley robot fights. His older brother, Tadashi, who’s also a genius, made him realize he might just be wasting his time and his potential by introducing him to the robotics lab in the university where he is studying. Tadashi introduced him to his project, a personal health care assistant named Baymax. There he also met Tadashi’s friends GoGo Tamago, Honey Lemon, Wasabi and Fred, who are also geniuses in their own fields. An application exam in the form of a project presentation is needed for him to enter the university. While he passed it with flying colors via microbots, which are swarms of tiny robots that can link together and form into any shape imaginable, a tragedy strikes that made a great impact to Hiro’s life. This is the premise of Big Hero 6.

Such a heavy theme in an animated movie, shall we say? Yes, but all is well put to make it suitable both for kids and kids-at-heart. In fact, Big Hero 6 gets it all right: great story, appealing characters, slick direction, impressive cinematography and spectacular animation! Believe me, I was very pleased the whole time I was watching the movie! The movie had me (hehe) at San Fransokyo during its very first scene and it made me really smile until the very end!

The way the movie started brought about a feel of Real Steel but it quickly moved to show that even though it has a similar vein as that movie, this is way better. If The Big Bang Theory made smart as the new sexy, this movie justified that nerd is the new cool. Not a new idea considering the success of Iron Man and similar movies that escalate technology to a whole new level on a pedestal, but Big Hero 6 made it more relatable for kids and teenagers. It also somehow reminds adults of their purpose and relevance in life, thanks to the adult figures in the movie.

It has always been said that time flies when you’re having fun and I have always said that a good movie would let the time fly while you’re watching without you noticing. Big Hero 6 is such a perfect example of a movie wherein you won’t notice that a lengthy amount of time has passed by. And, more than the fun, watching it was such a great movie experience. Not only would it please and entertain you, it would also make you think, feel, and make you want to act in favor of what it is teaching.

The animation used in the movie is a whole level of amazing. (Have you noticed I am saying whole a lot of times in this review? Big Hero 6 makes me do so because it is a whole lot to take in! Hehe.) Its use of computer graphics made the scenes seem to be real. From topography up to robotics technology, Big Hero 6 makes topnotch animation. I am guessing that simple isn’t in the vocabulary of the movie’s animation team and their efforts surely propel the movie at the list of films with the best special effects.

Meanwhile, one of the most llikeable, lovable and cutest animated characters is born in Big Hero 6! Watch out for Baymax, which, even though a robot, captures the heart of the viewers as he signifies the heart of the movie. Creators of Big Hero 6 set him apart from the rest of robots in films as he is one-of-a-kind: powerful, caring and huggable! And not just that. As a creation of a good person in the film (Tadashi), he is programmed to serve and do good things to others and refrain from hurting them. Moreover, when Hiro loses his way, Baymax serves as a true friend who redirects him to the right path. Do you know a robot that does exactly like that?

The voice actors (led by Ryan Potter as Hiro, Scott Adsit as Baymax and Daniel Henney as Tadashi) did a good job voicing out their characters. Their timing is on point, which made the funny dialogues really funny and the smart and witty lines very understandable. Furthermore, Henry Jackman’s score in the film (and Fall Out Boy’s “Immortals” as the movie theme) makes it more appealing.

Big Hero 6’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 5 out of 5

Interstellar

Interstellar

Prepare your minds to be blown.

True to every movie he directs, Christopher Nolan made a film that is not only extraordinarily picturesque, but also striking, thrilling and mind-boggling. With Interstellar, he impressively created a futuristic world where Earth is not sustainable anymore for humans to survive for a very long time. Tackling issues that we are already facing today, the film opened the possibilities of how things would be in the future. Nolan created that world via Interstellar, and he made the audience part of that world. Relatability and relevance are two words that define the film even if it’s a futuristic one.

Fresh from winning the Oscars for Best Actor for his great performance in Dallas Buyers Club, Matthew McConaughey once again tugs the audience’s heart with his role in Interstellar. A former test pilot and engineer for NASA who became a farmer in their hometown due to the eventual deterioration and degradation of the Earth, Cooper (McConaughey) accepts the challenge to man a space ship called Endurance to confirm viability of the three potentially habitable planets that were surveyed out by a previous space mission called Lazarus Mission. Leaving behind Donald, his father-in-law, Tom, his son and Murph, his 10-year-old stubborn yet brilliant daughter, he heads on to space with the scientist daughter of a leading NASA figure Amelia (Anne Hathaway), physicist Romilly (David Gyasi), geographer Doyle (Wes Bentley) and the super robot named TARS. His team’s struggles with the unknown universe out there and his thoughts about his family back on Earth represents the brain and the heart of the film respectively. Will they ever find a potential Earth replacement for humans to live in? Will they still be able to go back to Earth and see their family once again?

The rest of the cast played great support to McConaughey and the notable ones include Mackenzie Foy, who played his teenage daughter, Jessica Chastain, who played the grown-up daughter, Ellen Burstyn, as the 100-year-old version of the daughter, and Matt Damon as Dr. Mann, one of the astronauts who ventured into space via Lazarus Mission. The willful and bright daughter of Cooper was remarkably played by Foy, Chastain and Burstyn. You could see curiosity in their eyes and the assertion of love and brilliance through their actions. Even though they were not seen together most of the time (Chastain and McConaughey actually didn’t have a scene where they were physically together), they provided much better chemistry than McConaughey’s team-up with Hathaway. Meanwhile, Damon provided such a good surprise with his small role in the film. This actor’s really impressive whatever role he’s in.

Hans Zimmer booms with his masterwork sound in the film. When his score kicks in, the suspense, the drama and the jubilation rise up to complement Nolan’s remarkable scenes that were edited by no less than Lee Smith (also the editor of Inception, The Dark Knight and X-Men: First Class).

As expected, the cinematography (Hoyte van Hoyterna) of the film is outstanding. Most of the visuals used in the film would leave you breathless. From the blight Earth up to the Icelandic scopes of one of the potential Earth replacements, the film has chosen and used such great shooting locations. While I find Gravity’s space visuals more impressive (probably because it was filmed in 3D IMAX compared to Interstellar’s combination of anamorphic 35 mm an IMAX 70 mm film photography), Interstellar’s visuals are astonishingly beautiful, too.

The movie’s going to challenge you about the Earth’s natural state right now. It lets you glimpse into a world where humankind has regressed into an agrarian society because of problems with sustainability. And this idea isn’t farfetched. With billions of people currently living on the planet and having very limited resources, adding to that the dangerous effects of global warming, Earth is into a quicksand of destruction lest humans do something about it.

Moreover, the film did not hesitate to mince highfalutin words with complex scientific concepts. Interstellar showed and dealt with worm holes and black holes and their potentials, space travel and interstellar communication, potential earths from other parts of the galaxy, and extra-dimensional presence. Even though it is a science-fiction film, it presented what seemed to be potentially accurate possibilities about all these venturing into space activities. It may have stretched out those possibilities especially with the potentials of bending time and space, but who knows if they will be a reality in the near future?

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

T’yanak

T'yanakT’yanak is said to be a remake of the classic horror movie about evil babies called tiyanaks. Helmed by the directors of the original Tiyanak, Peque Gallaga and Lore Reyes, T’yanak tries to impress with a similar storyline starring one of the best actresses in the country, Judy Ann Santos. Are they successful in doing so? Let’s find out.

T’yanak started with a good mash up of scenes: a soon-to-be bride named Madie (Solenn Heussaff) was jogging in the woods, a husband (Sid Lucero) and his pregnant wife were walking in the woods after buying some goods in the market and Madie’s soon-to-be sister-in-law named Julie (Judy Ann Santos) was doing yoga at home.Things started to get unusual when suddenly Madie and the couple heard cries of a baby in the woods. Curious as to where it was coming from, the pregnant wife tried to find the baby. One thing led to another resulting to the wife being killed, the husband getting crazy, Madie finding a baby inside a nearby cave and Julie acting up as a real mother to the said baby after Madie took him home.

Great switching up of the scenes, bracing musical score and passable acting and directing provided a good introduction. Unfortunately, the scenes went downhill after that.

Inconsistencies in writing and inefficiencies in editing are apparent all throughout the film. The audience would be puzzled at times how one scene led to the other here (e.g. the couple, Madie and Mark as played by Tom Rodriguez, were seen lying on the bed sleeping; after a short while, they were seen talking to some people in a different place for the preparation of their wedding… at the same night!). There were some good dialogues, especially ones concerning how one mother is willing to sacrifice everything for her child or how the tiyanaks came to be. It’s just a wonder how these lines came from a tiring screenplay that took so much longer than the audience to realize where it was going. More so,albeit advances in technology transpired after decades since the original, it isn’t seen much in this remake. In fact, you’ll miss the tiyanak from the original one.

If there’s one thing that is undeniably good about the film, it is its lead star, Judy Ann Santos. She is excellent in her role as Julie. The movie’s few great moments are due to her exemplary performance as a wife who doesn’t want anything more than having a baby. You’d still like her despite her character’s irrational decision-making and questionable sanity. Liza Lorena (as Julie and Mark’s grandmother) and Sid Lucero (as the vengeful widower) provided good support, while Rodriguez and Heussaff could have tried much, much more to prevent themselves from being caricatures in the film.

I feel regret after watching the film. Dragging and hyped to attract audiences (it was Graded A by the Cinema Evaluation Board), T’yanak is an unremarkable remake of a successful 1980s horror movie. It relied on its actors’ performances more than anything else where it could have certainly excelled.

T’yanak‘s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 2.5 out of 5