Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo

Bonifacio-PosterHailed as the Best Picture in this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival, Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo bravely showed the world the true-to-life story of our other national hero, Andres Bonifacio. It didn’t pull the stops on anything, regardless if the reputation of other supposed heroic figures are tainted by the revelation (once again) of the seeming truth.

Kudos to Enzo Williams, the director of this epic movie. His name might be new to my ears but his work proved that he is a pro. His camerawork plays with the characters and the setting to a great effect. I am not surprised that he was credited as a supporting editor in the film because it seemed like you’d see his fingerprint with every scene. Meanwhile, the cinematography done by Carlo Mendoza was also very commendable. Scenes of major or minor importance are very pleasing to the eyes. It was that great. Moreover, it was for very good reasons that this movie raked on the MMFF awards on various sound categories (sound engineer and musical score). The score complimented every scene and enhanced the film’s heavy moments to an effect that goes straight to the audience’s heart.

It is a wonder why Robin Padilla lost to Derek Ramsay on the Best Actor category. Surprisingly, Padilla toned down his acting here to portray Bonifacio. His signature Robin Padilla voice was still there (of course), but he used this to his advantage by embodying the hero with his manly voice along with his actions. On the other hand, Vina Morales reminded everyone that aside from being a singer, she still is an actress. But she’s not just an actress here in the movie; she’s a very good one. She impressed with her consistent showing of how Gregoria de Jesus, Bonifacio’s wife, could have been like partaking in the revolution while doing her duties and roles as wife. She stands out the most during the final scenes. She definitely broke many hearts here that’s why it’s also a wonder why she didn’t win in the Best Actress category. Meanwhile, the whole supporting cast proved to be good.

Early on, the audience would feel that Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo is a heavy movie. It reminded me of Supremo, a film shown two years ago that detailed how Bonifacio founded the revolution and died in the deadly soldiers of Emilio Aguinaldo. Supremo had such a heavy atmosphere, albeit showing a bloody but patriotic mood, which the audience right then might have really felt. But don’t be fooled about Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo being not consistently heavy. Like Supremo, it is also very serious, just with touches of light moments to alleviate the heaviness. The idea of showing the present (what the students of today are asking about Bonifacio) in between scenes of the past (the Philippine Revolution more than a century ago) is great. If not properly taken care of, the switching of these scenes from past to present and vice versa might have not worked and have ultimately failed. But because it was well taken care of, the transitions were smooth and really effective.

I like how the movie ended, especially the parting words of Bonifacio to the audience: “Inalay ko ang buhay ko para sa ating kalayaan. Ikaw, anong maiibibigay mo para sa bayan?” This movie is a timely reminder to everyone to never forget our history: what we were, what came and what we became to be. Such a statement boldly challenges the audience to not just experience the freedom that we have now but continue the fight for the real freedom: freedom from injustices, freedom from greed, and freedom from corruption brought about by power. The movie passes on to the audience the fire that Bonifacio, our iconic Filipino figure, is showing and living in the film. Any Filipino who would not be affected during and after watching the film might be very biased against Bonifacio, have grown apathetic to everything or are just brewing to be a traitor of the country. Haha, just kidding. That might be an exaggeration but I just wanted to emphasize that the film mirrors the past to what’s happening right now. We might be free from the colonizers, but are we free from our own bigotry? Do we really love our country or are we just in love with the idea of loving our country? Some of us might just love ourselves more than anything, and our country might just be our least priority. Ask yourself to know the answers.

This movie derails the reputation of what was generally touted as a hero by being the so-called first president of the first republic. And this is for a good reason. If you were to study the Philippine history, Emilio Aguinaldo really is the reason why Andres Bonifacio was killed. If he were not hungry for power, Andres Bonifacio would have been alive to witness our freedom from the Spaniards. But, as they say, let bygones be bygones. We all just have to move on and… do a little bit more. We have to set the records straight about our national figures and give praise to those whose praise is due, and not just to those who are hungry for it. Do you think it’s time to set a discussion re: the movie’s claim that Andres Bonifacio is the real first president and not Aguinaldo? Maybe.

Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo‘s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 4.5 out of 5

Feng Shui 2

Feng-Shui-2-Movie-PosterIf there’s a rare opportunity that I get to spend time watching a movie with a lot of moviegoers, it is during the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF). I rarely want to watch with many, many people inside the movie theater because I don’t want distractions while watching. Much more when the people who are watching with you are really noisy and unintentionally funny. However, I actually liked it while me and my family are watching Chito S. Rono’s Feng Shui 2.

Ten years after the first Feng Shui film haunted the Philippine audience, the “promised” sequel finally  arrived this year as one of the eight film entries in MMFF 2014. Still helmed by acclaimed movie director, Chito Rono, Feng Shui 2 pitted brilliant actors Coco Martin and Cherry Pie Picache with the remaining cast of the first film Kris Aquino and Jonee Gamboa. As soon as I heard that the well-loved horror film from a decade ago would have a sequel, I immediately put it on top of my must-watch movies this time of the year. After watching some great things and not so good ones in the film, I could say that I actually enjoyed it.

Now, what everybody should understand is horror movies are tricky. The types of thrill or suspense they give the audiences are based not only on the type of horror movie they are (i.e. ghost or supernatural movie, gory movie, horror/comedy movie, war movie, etc.) but also on the assembly of the cast and crew that they have.  Feng Shui 2 is backed up by a great cast and production team (Star Cinema, no less) and one should have a feeling that after buying the movie ticket that they are in for a great ride. Did I get to have a great ride after watching the movie? In a word: yes.

Even though Kris Aquino said that this film is not a sequel to the original, Feng Shui 2 is undoubtedly a sequel (she insisted it is only a continuation of the story; hence, a sequel). Anyway, flashbacks of scenes from the original were shown at the start: Aquino as Joy losing her family and eventually destroying the bagua. A new family was then shown to fall victim to the bagua’s horrifying curse and what I got was an immediate feel of rising tension in my bloodstream, which is, of course, a good thing when you’re watching a horror movie. Most of the first half of the film is about Lester (Coco Martin), a 32-year-old hustler who lives with his mother in a dilapidated house along the river. One assignment that he had was to retrieve a bagua from a fall victim. Unbeknownst to him, looking at the mirror of the bagua belies a curse that could kill everyone who looks at it after him. To his horror, he found death around the people he knows and loves comes by one after another. One fateful day, he met Joy, now a very successful real estate agent, who realized the ghost behind the bagua was coming after her again. With the help of Lily (Cherry Pie Picache), a survivor of the bagua curse, and Hsui Liao (Jonee Gamboa), a Taoist priest, will they ever save themselves from the curse of Lotus Feet, the ghost haunting the bagua?

Early on, the signature touches that Chito Rono gives to his horror movies are evident in this film: a creepy atmosphere, a set of strongly written characters and a definitive setting. I liked how he playfully toyed with colors, set up most of the scenes and stylishly showed the contrasts of being lucky and unlucky in the film. Unsurprisingly, there were solid scream-worthy or shout-inducing scenes thanks to great editing and camerawork. Evidently rising up to his role in the film, Coco Martin is impressive as Lester (though some of his speech sounds while shouting in one scene troubled me; excuse me, that’s me as a speech pathologist speaking hehe). Leveling to Martin’s brilliance is Cherry Pie Picache who in her relatively short stint in the film made a greater impression than Aquino. But not to worry, Aquino did well in the film (and this is a relief), much like the rest of the cast that includes Carmi Martin, Rez Cortez, Beauty Gonzalez, Ian Veneracion and Ian de Leon.

However, a Filipino scary movie (heck, let’s make that a Filipino movie) without loopholes is pretty hard to come by. Feng Shui 2 is a good horror movie as it fulfills many standards being looked into a horror film, but it isn’t lacking with holes in its plot. For one, the immediacy of deaths of the characters was baffling. Moreover, the ways these characters died were somehow forced to fit in whatever Zodiac year they were born in no matter how senseless they might be. Meanwhile, the supposed fun of guessing how the characters would die was taken out here as opposed to the original. Items or objects that would link the characters to their possible way of death were either easy to guess or obviously presented. In short, it was highly predictable. Nevertheless, thanks to Rono and his editors, the movie’s consistency of good story-telling bypasses all these shortcomings.

Combine a great cast to a great director with a consistent albeit far-fetched story and what you have is still a pretty solid movie. Add to that screaming males and females, both old and young in the audience and what you have is a good movie experience.

Feng Shui 2’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 4 out of 5

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

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

Annabelle

AnnabelleAnnabelle is a spin-off of the successful The Conjuring movies. But unlike its predecessors, its frights and scares came short. To be honest, I would say nary a real scare came out of this film. Many of the supposed scary scenes were just those jolts that you feel when you are surprised.

Annabelle is about a doll that was possessed by a female member of an occult who killed herself during a home invasion. The owners of the doll, John (a resident doctor) and Mia (who has just brought a baby daughter into the world) soon experience supernatural occurrences in their home. Even when they moved to an apartment in the city, the paranormal activities continued. They soon find out what’s causing these troubles. Heeding help from anybody they think who can help, would they be able to stop Annabelle? What are they willing to give just to protect their baby daughter?

The first part of the film is actually good. The back story is well told, and the characters are adequately developed. The scary scenes on this part could shock you a bit but you’d want to expect something more. I am a fan of horror films and I’ve seen a lot. This one I did not like. After that good first part, the story moved on without upping the suspense. I liked The Conjuring and its sequel but this supposed prequel and spin-off to those two movies is a fluke. A lot of people say that they got scared of this film and I really wonder how and why. I might have enjoyed more a repeat of the horror films that I liked watching before than watching Annabelle.

I like how the lead actors did their part (especially Annabelle Wallis as Mia) in the movie. However, no matter how they performed in Annabelle, they won’t be praised as a consequence of the film’s subpar quality. Their efforts are easily overshadowed by the fact that this movie is devoid of anything new, from the story itself up to the scare department. I can’t help but think that the decision to push thru with this spin-off is just all about the money.

If you were to watch a horror movie that’s still showing out there, avoid Annabelle at all costs. Just rent a tried and tested horror classic and watch it in the comforts of your home.

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