Inside Out (movie review)

Inside_Out_(2015_film)_posterTremendously entertaining, visually gorgeous and deeply touching, Inside Out might just be the best movie that I have watched so far this year.

Released by Disney and Pixar, Inside Out tackles the mind of an 11-year-old girl where five personified emotions (Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust) deal with her daily activities and experiences. Now, she has to deal about moving in to a new place, a new school and a new neighborhood with the help (or burden?) of these five emotions.

Kudos to the movie’s directors Pete Docter and Ronnie del Carmen for visualizing a unique story the way the moviegoers experienced it. Such a good story isn’t put to waste because of their careful directing. The voice actors are so alive in the film, especially Amy Poehler who voiced out Joy, of course. I remember her stint in Parks and Recreation wherein she played Leslie Knope, a very jovial character who’s the heart of that great comedy series. Her co-actors in the movie are also perfect for their roles: Phyllis Smith (who really looked like Sadness haha), Saturday Night Live’s Bill Hader (Fear), Lewis Black (troubling Anger) and Mindy Kaling (a shoo-in for the playfully sarcastic Disgust). The animation, the graphics and the visual effects are beyond amazing, while the musical score fills everything in that make the movie perfect.

There are three things that I have pondered in this movie.

One, you can’t just be solely happy in life. There are certain things that we can only learn from experiencing other emotions. Sadness is what we feel when we’re hurt or rejected. If you come to think about it, feeling sad is not that bad. Of course, nobody wants to be sad but there are times when inevitable things happen that makes us experience it. This feeling of being down is nasty, but we could somehow turn it into a way that can work for us. Sadness can make us realign our thoughts about things, including what made us sad in the first place. Also, it’s a way for us to know the people who really care about our feelings. It’s also a truth that sadness can force us to really move on. It’s been said for a lot of times that we should refuse anger if we can. In a way, that’s correct for we might not be thinking straight if we really are angry. But truthfully, we can use it as a gauge on what really upsets us that makes us move to change what it is. Fear is there to know our limits while disgust can be used to really know what we like and dislike.

Two, the team up of Disney and Pixar is still the best out there for animated films. They might have hit a bit of a rocky road for the past few years, but they have proven with Inside Out that they’re definitely still the best in the field. Only they can consistently show those popping visuals that carry out a very inventive story about the emotional center of the human mind that touches every heart of those who watch. While watching, I think I’ve seen (in my peripheral vision) that a daddy (who was with his wife an kid) sort of sighed and sniffled during the very emotional scenes.

Three, if the creators can find a way to make a sequel out of this movie, I’ll be more than willing to watch it in the silver screen!

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

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Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (movie review)

Mission_Impossible_Rogue_Nation_posterEvery time I hear the tune of Mission: Impossible at the start of the movie, I can’t help but feel ecstatic because I know that I’ll be having a great time watching it.

I remember the time when I watched Mission: Impossible 4 that I left out of the theater wanting for more. I was amped from the start until its middle part but the suspense kind of plateaued towards the end. But that didn’t happen here in Rogue Nation, a.k.a. Mission: Impossible 5. The craving I had before was definitely satisfied with this latest M:I movie.

It’s definitely a great time watching the stunts of Tom Cruise along with his costars. Though looking back, it seemed like it was only him and his female partner in the movie, Rebecca Ferguson, who had really carried out explosive action scenes. Simon Pegg’s comic skills were put into good use all throughout the movie but Jeremy Renner and Vhing Rames were not as they only seemed to do what any other actor could do. I’m really not complaining, though, because Tom Cruise is the star of the movie and his action scenes were still a sight to behold.

I’ve pondered about three things after watching this movie. One, Tom Cruise at his 50 plus years of age, can still pull off awesome action that actors of his age can only dream of. I wonder until when can he do these kinds of things but until then, I’m eager to see him keep the race going even with competition from relatively younger action stars. Two, the Mission: Impossible franchise is far from over. As long as Tom Cruise is in it, millions of people including myself will be driven to watch it in the movie theaters. Three, an action movie that’s grounded with solid story-telling, moved by remarkably fast but effective pacing and highlighted by amazing death-defying scenes is a sure-fire winner. And that’s what Rogue Nation is.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 4.5 out of 5

Ant-Man

Ant-ManOne of my favorite movies so far this year, Ant-Man is not your typical superhero film. Just by basing on its title, one can assume this superhero movie has something to do with our small but incredibly strong insect friends: THE ANTS. Marvel creators and writers have this amazing ability to squeeze out interesting characters with solid background stories. And Ant-Man is not an exemption. Before I proceed with the short gist of the movie’s story, I should clarify that there are two Ant-Man (Ant-Men? haha) in the movie (as well as the comics world.) A hint of the original Ant-Man story is seen at the start: Dr. Hank Pym, a brilliant scientist, resigned from S.H.I.E.L.D. (the agency that vows to protect the world from evil forces) as he heard talks about replicating his invention: the Ant-Man shrinking technology. He vowed to protect it as he deemed it dangerous when taken by the wrong hands. More than a decade after, Dr. Pym’s protege is close to making up a shrinking technology of his own and he’s worried about its implications if ever perfected. Pym has no choice but to pass on the Ant-Man suit. But it won’t be easy, because the one he chose was a well-meaning thief who has just been sent out of the prison: Scott Lang. Will Lang be an effective Ant-Man? Will he be able to stop Pym’s protege and prevent the technology be taken by the enemies? That’s what you have to find out in the movie.

Paul Rudd is not someone you’d expect to be an actor who would suit up and be a superhero. But, lo and behold! Ant-Man fits him perfectly. With his strange but interesting demeanor, Rudd delivers as the fast and strong superhero named Ant-Man who can transform himself into a size of an ant at will but can still possess great strength even while being small.

If you have noticed, one of the amazing things in Marvel movies is the great chemistry of their cast. It’s great to have good actors in a production, but if they don’t quite work well together, the movie is sure to suffer. Michael Douglas commands during his scenes as Dr. Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man. He’ll make you look at him earnestly with the way he talks and acts. Other supporting actors in the film are also outstanding, from Evangeline Lilly (as the beautiful yet deadly Hope Van Dyke, Dr. Pym’s daughter) and Abby Rider Fortson (as Ant-Man’s smart and funny daughter) to Corey Stoll (as Ant-Man’s effective nemesis, Yellowjacket) and T.I. (yes, the rapper! as part of Ant-Man’s crew).

They say that superhero movies are a bit predictable. Yes, that’s true. But the real fun in watching them is in the execution of the director to pull off a great story in his or her own story-telling ability. In the case of Ant-Man, as it is not yet as popular aside from Marvel comics fans, the director’s way of introducing Ant-Man would make or break the franchise. Gladly, Peyton Reed presented Ant-Man in the best possible way: in a funny, heart-warming yet explosive kind of film!

I can’t wait for the next Ant-Man film! Will he be part of the next Avengers film? We’ll see!

Ant-Man‘s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 4.5 out of 5

Jurassic World

Jurassic_World_posterJurassic World was not too extravagant as what I have expected, but it was definitely very entertaining. The film is the fourth in the Jurassic Park movie series and if you’ll consider the plot line during the last parts of the movie plus the behemoth amount of money it has earned, sequels are sure to come for the years to come. I have only seen the original Jurassic Park film and I must say it’s all fine because Jurassic World could stand on its own.

I love Bryce Dallas Howard. After seeing her on the vampire series True Blood, I’ve always been looking forward to her performances. In the film, she has this charm that gets into you even though her character isn’t that much likeable at first. And the way she delivers her lines? It’s so great I won’t mind if she’s part of any ensemble of a film that I will be watching in the future. Chris Pratt, who’s fresh from a great 2014 thanks to blockbuster movies The Lego Movie and Guardians of the Galaxy, commands with his effusing charm and impossible likeability. This movie is a testament again that he can top bill a movie and people are going to watch. The supporting actors are very effective in their roles. Even though their characters have their own stories that considerably made the plot messier, they’ve had their own moments that make each one of them interesting.

Speaking of messy plot, the movie presents the promising story of the return of a one-of-a-kind theme park in the world: the Jurassic Park, which is now called the Jurassic World. It features various attractions that involve dinosaurs of all sorts: from the ferocious Velociraptors, the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex, the horrifying sea creature Mosasaurus and even their gentler kind such as Brontosaurus, Triceratops and a lot more. New additions are also added to the theme park: dinosaurs that have been genetically modified such as the shockingly tough Indominus Rex. Indominus Rex is a hybrid of T-Rex, Velociraptor and other dinosaurs, plus animals such as cuttlefish and tree frogs, which made it capable of various innate abilities of those animals such as thermal adaptability and camouflage. Imagine a dinosaur with these abilities and you’d never want to go near one!

Anyway, what made up for the lack of  in the story are the dazzling visuals and the non-stop action. These are the reasons watching the movie on IMAX make it worth it! I was happy the whole time I was there looking at the dinosaurs as they came alive! The terrifying ones were made so much more terrifying, the action sequences more appealing and the suspense much higher because of the 3D on the big screen!

Jurassic World is a bit predictable but this cannot deny the fact that it’s definitely awesome. Count me in to watch its sequels!

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

Fast and Furious 7

Furious_7_posterSexy ladies. Macho cars. Awesome drivers. Great action. Heartfelt story. Family and brotherhood.

I am a lover of great action movies. Put some fascinating action scenes in a movie with a solid story line and I am definitely in. Fast and Furious 7, though, is more than that. It is a fitting tribute to a good guy called Paul Walker. I am not sure if they meant to end the series this way but I think anybody who has watched can’t help but be moved about how this group of people came to bond together and create a solid relationship with each other. The chemistry they have really shows onscreen and it would be hard for die-hard fans to move on if this is going to be the last film. (Update: There are talks that they’ll be back for an 8th movie. Pfft.)

A lot of people have been emotional about this movie, especially the ending. Why won’t they if they couldn’t help but feel the love, the friendship and the brotherhood stars Vin Diesel and Paul Walker shared with each other? It was definitely devastating when Walker got killed in a car accident more than a year ago. Everyone was shocked and saddened by the terrible news. I guess these emotions were felt by the people behind the movie, and that is why they put a lot of effort in each scene. More importantly, they made it heart-tugging.

I can only imagine how those who have been faithfully watching the series since the start reacted to FF7. I’m a fan of the film even though it’s not the best of the best action movies there is. But even though I have only watched a few in the series, I can tell that this one’s got a lot more heart than the rest. It still lived up to the action expected from it, from the wild car action sequences to the impossible human stunts that they do. The story might get a little absurd but it’s all art of the fun that is known in FF films.

Fast and Furious 7‘s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 4 out of 5

Avengers: Age of Ultron (movie review)

Avengers-Age-of-Ultron-IMAX-PosterI have enjoyed the first Avengers movie better than this sequel, but one can tell that there’s a certain level of maturity that the Age of Ultron has shown. The characters were given more depth, the cast displayed a great deal of chemistry, the vsual effects are ultra-cool and the story has had a good and smooth flow. The writers were able to weave through the rich story of these Avengers and along the way; one can tell each one is going to have a thoughtful, or even good, ending.

Also, there’s still this good humor that Joss Whedon is able to instill in every part of the movie. Whether during a light moment or a heavy one, a lighthearted line or a funny gesture brings lightness to a rather heavy story.

Needless to say, the Marvel movie is every bit packed with action. Other action movies would be shy they’re called action movies because this one doesn’t stop from bringing in the goods. The action scenes are consistently thrilling! I especially love the slow-motion group battle scenes sort of montage. I can’t help but say that the movie’s the best action movie since the first Avengers! Sorry, Bryan Singer, but Joss Whedon seemed to have the real magic when it comes to bringing comic characters into real great live action films. My most favorite comics/ cartoon of all time is none other than X-Men but its movie versions don’t come really close (except to the first X-Men film) to the greatness that is The Avengers.

Let’s talk about Joss Whedon. The director and self-proclaimed comic lover has come a long way since his Buffy The Vampire Slayer days. He’s become one of the favorites in Hollywood and I think that statement in itself is an understatement. Huge projects such as The Avengers and its sequel were given to his hands and thank goodness because he’s able to execute these stories well and turn them into two of the most enjoyable comic movies ever. I love what he did with the series and I can’t seem to wait for the next installment.

Age of Ultron binds the original Avengers team to ultimately eradicate Hydra. They were successful in destroying the enemies’ base but a mysterious artifact that they have taken has unleashed Ultron, which took over  Iron Man’s computer intelligence, Jervis. Ultron acquired the skill of controlling some of Iron Man’s metallic armors, weapons and robots. Complicating matters is the presence of twin mutants, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, who hold key roles in this movie. Will the Avengers be able to stop the onslaught that Ultron is brewing to take over the world?

If you haven’t watch this movie yet, it’s not too late. The money and time you will spend watching it is worth it.

Avengers: Age of Ultron‘s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 4.5 out of 5

Insurgent

Insurgent_posterInsurgent, the sequel to last year’s Divergent has far exceeded my expectations. As I found the first book in the Divergent series the best among the trilogy, the movie version of the second book surpasses the first movie in all aspects. It was more suspenseful, more action-filled, more faithful to the story, and more emotionally pulling. The visuals are better while the sound stands out more.

What I love about movie versions of the books that I’ve read is that the story lines that I got to read ages ago suddenly make a flashback in my mind. As great movie versions of the books that I have read unfold their scenes right before my eyes, the thoughts I had and the emotions I felt while I was reading the books where they were based come awesomely alive. This rang true with Insurgent.

The atmosphere created by a dystopian future of a city divided into different factions is still felt in this movie. Everything’s different, though, as a major shakeup is being made. Jeanine Matthews (cold-bloodedly portrayed by Kate Winslet) has succeeded to destroy the Abnegation faction and lead the Dauntless to take charge of the city. The divergent Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley), her enemy # 1, is into hiding along with her boyfriend, Four (Theo James), as they, along with their friends, successfully evaded her invasion of Abnegation. Jeanine’s goal of eradicating the divergents is close to fruition. It’s up to Tris to find a way to defeat Jeanine and seek justice for those people who have been murdered including her parents and friends.

I liked every minute of watching the film. I found the actors more comfortable with their roles and it shows with their chemistry.  Shailene Woodley was so great here I can’t wait to see her in other roles. If I’ve said that she’s no Jennifer Lawrence in my review of Divergent, I can say that she’s getting there by now. Theo James still ably gave life to Four though he’s been overshadowed by the goodness that is Miles Teller. Teller is one actor that I have been loathing to see even if I have seen him in numerous movies before. But that changed with Oscar-winning film, Whiplash, where he performed impressively along with Oscar winner J.K. Simmons. That change continues with Insurgent as he effortlessly shows his butterfly tendencies in changing loyalties with factions for his role. Not used enough (or probably not given enough spotlight) in this film are  Octavia Spencer as the hospitable leader of Amity, Naomi Watts as the surprisingly young-looking leader of the Factionless and Ray Stevenson as the still assumed leader of Abnegation. I guess they’ll be given enough meat to chew on during the next Divergent movies.

Even though there are many action scenes that are deemed to be generic, they are still awesome as they remained just true to the spirit of the book. I mean, you can’t just pull out one too many great action sequences if they’re unnecessary, right? Anyway, the visuals are also impressive but they become more impressive because of the sound editing and sound mixing done to complement the scenes. Speaking of the scenes, there is not one boring moment in each and one of them. Thanks to the caring hands of director Robert Schwentke and  editors Nancy Richardson and Stuart Levy. Even though non-readers of the book where the movie was based might not get everything that is being said or done in it, they’ll still surely appreciate what was being screened from start to finish.

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