The Imitation Game (movie review)

The_Imitation_Game_posterOne of the best films not just for the year 2014, The Imitation Game celebrates the distinction of being not normal. That is right -the extraordinary, the special one. From honoring the great mind of Mr. Alan Turing, the popular mathematician who broke Germany’s seemingly unbreakable code called Enigma (the movie is loosely based on the biography called Alan Turing: The Enigma, by the way), up to his love for what’s different; this movie has shown more heart, mind and soul compared to a whole other good movies that were screened last year.

“Think of it. A digital computer. Electrical brain.”

-Alan Turing

Alan Turing was a brilliant man. He also was a homosexual. The movie was quite honest with this truth right from the start with its remarkably beautiful flashbacks. These scenes showed how the math prodigy came to befriend and later on love another male student in his school. Meanwhile at the present time in the film, World War 2 was happening and the brilliant minds of Britain that included Mr. Turing were put together to solve a puzzle than no one ever thought could be solved: the Enigma code. The Germans used this code to pass on information as to what would be done to whom, where and when. It has gained victory for Germany for a while and the secret group led by Mr. Turing had to break the code for the Allies to win the war.

“Alan, I so rarely have cause to say this but you are exactly the man I always hoped you would be.” – Mark Strong

Benedict Cumberbatch takes his acting into another notch by playing the indifferent Mr. Turing. He combined the smart-ass attitude that he portrays in Sherlock with a heart of a closeted man who truly fell in love in this movie and it worked quite brilliantly. No other actor could have portrayed the enigmatic character that was Alan Turing better than him.

“They’re not going to help you if they don’t like you.” – Joan Clarke

I also love how the other actors of the film fared along Cumberbatch. Among them, I liked how Keira Knightley fit into the character of a very smart girl who was fond of Turing and whom Turing was also fond of. Their characters’ sapiosexual behaviors made for a great couple even though they won’t ever get to the romantic sides of being in a relationship. Things eventually turned out sour but in the end, their care for each other was still evident.

“I’ll work. You’ll work. And we’ll have each other’s company. We’ll have each other’s minds.That sounds like a better marriage than most. Because I care for you and you care for me. And we understand one another more than anyone else ever has.”

-Joan Clarke

The historic thriller could be passed on as a war film, and a very smart one at that. But ultimately it’s about a love story, which is said to be illegal and immoral. The movie’s making a testament that love is never bad if shared between two people, even if they’re of the same sex or gender. The oppression and discrimination that happened and continues to happen among the LGBT community were revealed here, especially towards the end. No one’s heart could be so hard that the film won’t be able to touch.

“Now, if you wish you could have been normal I can promise you I do not.”

-Joan Clarke

Congratulations should be given to Morten Tyldum for being able to bring out such a moving story with his direction. And congratulations for the movie’s writer, Graham Moore, for winning the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. The movie’s accolades (8 nominations for Oscars and a whole lot more) justify what the movie really is: a great one that is not short of being classic.

“Sometimes, it’s the very people who no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.”

– Christopher Morcom

The Imitation Game’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 5 out of 5

Best Movies of 2013

Let’s take a look at the best movies the year 2013 has to offer days before the most prestigious award-giving body for movies airs on the United States. These are my top choices for time-worthy and money-worthy cinema:

TOP 14- BEFORE MIDNIGHT

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I want to start this yearly countdown with the third installment of the romantic Before trilogy starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. Thanks to the good word of mouth from people who have watched this movie in theaters I got interested in watching the first two Before movies. And I was flabbergasted by how good they were. The directing was brilliant and the acting done by Hawke and Delpy never seemed be acting at all. And the writing, hmmm, the writing! It was nothing short of great! The last installment, Before Midnight, thankfully did not disappoint either. I was happy and fulfilled about how the characters came to be.

TOP 13- PRISONERS

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Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal star in the most thrilling and one of the darkest movies of the past year. The story of child abduction is never light and it wasn’t treated lightly in Prisoners. Apart from the believable acting done by the cast, this movie showed great editing, suspenseful directing and smart writing. Too bad it was one of the most underrated movies of the past year which is why only a small number of people were able to watch it.

TOP 12- FROZEN

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Frozen 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.

TOP 11- CAPTAIN PHILLIPS

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Paul Greengrass is a master of action. I wasn’t convinced at first that a ship and its captain that are being taken over by pirates could make such a very suspenseful narrative. But it could. In more than two hours of scenes involving the captain and his crew protecting the ship, falling for the mean pirates, negotiating with them and finally resolving the conflict, the movie depicted the most astounding hostage-taking drama film. Greengrass, along with his brilliant lead actor, Tom Hanks, presented a very interesting tale about how it is to be taken at sea.

TOP 10- BOY GOLDEN

Boy Golden

Just when I thought no good film would come out last year in the Metro Manila Film Festival come the little promoted Chito Rono film called Boy Golden. The title must have a premonitory effect as this is gold compared to the other MMFF entries.

I love how Chito Rono took care of the movie. He tied up all the scenes without lose threads. He did not allow mediocrity sip into his actors’ performances. And I just really like how he works with colors in the film’s scenes. He found beauty in each scene no matter how unlikely it was and this gave a much profound effect to what he wanted to convey about his characters or what’s happening in the story.

TOP 9- HER

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Want to watch a film that will really make you think about human relationships? Watch Her, the latest film from acclaimed director, Spike Jonze, and brilliant actor, Joaquin Phoenix, as they tackle how humans express love with each other now and how it might be in the near future.

Joaquin Phoenix displays his brilliance once again as the lonesome lead character in the movie named Theodore. Every quip, every act he made seemed so natural. But he wouldn’t do it that well without Samantha, which is voiced by Scarlett Johannson. “Her” quirkiness and poignancy as the super smart computer made it believable that a human could really fall in love with a machine.

TOP 8- AMERICAN HUSTLE

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David O. Russell did it again with American Hustle. In comparison to his previous great efforts, this movie is like an organized chaos of ideas. A great chaos, that is. And much like how Russell directs his films, this one seemed blurry at first until one gets over the blurriness and seemingly understands what the whole films is all about. That’s how Russell shows his brilliance. He’ll let you in little by little until you find yourself wanting more. But his directing would be futile if not backed up by a brilliant cast led by Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. None of these actors were seen as themselves in the film. Why? They were not seen because they became their characters. And you just got to be awed by how amazing these talented individuals were when given a smart script that they could toy with. American Hustle is definitely one of the greatest movies of 2013.

TOP 7- THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

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Martin 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 andlust. 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.

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.

TOP 6- THE WAY, WAY BACK

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Probably the most underrated movie in this list, The Way, Way Back is a coming-of-age movie that touches the heart, reels up the mind and brings out the good in every viewer’s soul. Yeah, that’s how deep the movie is even though it appears as just one of those teenage movies, which it definitely is not. It is the total opposite of the senselessly “fun” teenage movies as it deeply explores relationships of a child to his family, his friends and his crush. Putting in great performances are Lian James as Duncan, the 14-year-old central character of the film, and Sam Rockwell as Owen, the newly-found childish yet wise friend of Duncan when their family went to a beach house for a vacation. They, along with the rest of the cast, made the brilliant script come really alive. Thanks to its directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash for bringing this movie into fruition. Would you believe the movie is their directorial debut? What a great start!

TOP 5- NEBRASKA

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“It’s a long time ago. Why are you bringing that up for?”

This movie is a funny, straight up story about a senior man and his family who went back to their roots in Nebraska. I had reservations before watching this film but after watching, I realized I should have not. I liked it actually. A lot.

I was wondering why the director chose the movie to be filmed in black and white. But while watching, I thought it must have been for a good reason. Reminiscing the old times? Looking for what’s good and what’s bad? We may never know. But what I know is that it was beautiful even only with its black and gray hues. In addition, there were a lot of shots that show a lot of very picturesque sceneries and scenic moments.

It never hurts to watch a good movie. Nebraska is one of those movies that you would really appreciate watching. You won’t only enjoy, you won’t just be entertained. You’d certainly feel good. But not just that, you’d pick up a lesson or two.

I like the movie’s quiet. I like its easygoing feel. I like its soothing music. I like the belongingness and the cheers. I like the confrontations and the bickering. I like its bright and dark contrasts. I like everything about it. In one way or another, every person is going through one of the roads any of the character is experiencing in the movie. Some will rise above the others, some will do just fine. Some will die early, others may grow old yet the may grow old in misery. It’s nice to know, though, that everything seems to be just fine. Believe in something… because it never hurts to believe.

TOP 4- CATCHING FIRE

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Catching Fire is one of those rare occurrences that a sequel of a movie is much, much better than its predecessor. Whether it’s because of the bigger budget or a better director, the movie is certain to give the moviegoer a great film experience upon watching.

I have read the book where the movie is based and I can say that this movie version is much more faithful than The Hunger Games. It’s been roughly two years since I’ve read it but after watching one scene after another, glimpses of what I have read suddenly came back.

Ten minutes into the film, I was already feeling the drama and the heaviness of its themes. Jennifer Lawrence (as Katniss) and Josh Hutcherson (as Peeta) are, without a doubt, two of the best actors in this generation. They make small scenes seem big and important with the way they act: their nuances, their delivery of lines, their movements. They made me believe once again in their characters. Meanwhile, I like the supporting cast much more in this movie than the last one.

Amazing visuals. Good musical score. Great directing. This movie seems to have it all!

TOP 3- ON THE JOB

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Top-notch directing and editing, very credible acting, excellent production design, great musical score, this movie has it all. To tell you the truth, I already had high expectations before watching because of good word-of-mouth feedback from people and raving reviews from critics. It was that high that I prepared myself to be disappointed. But, no. The movie was worth the hype. On the Job delivered greatly that acclaimed movies of many years past were not able to achieve.

TOP 2- 12 YEARS A SLAVE

12 Years A Slave

12 Years A Slave is one of the most buzzed films of 2013 and it is deserving to be so for one very good reason: it is a great movie. The way director Steve McQueen touched the topic of racism would truly affect you, inspire you (to do what’s good) and discourage you (from doing what’s bad). It didn’t come off as preachy, but it set the drama for every eye to see what was happening in America almost 200 years ago.

Come to think of it, the movie served as a reminder, too, that it’s much the same today, albeit a different kind of use and abuse are being done to other people. Despite the preaching of good people, awareness and knowledge about what’s right or wrong, some people still enslave other people in more ways than one.

With great directing/ editing, credible acting, impressive writing and brilliant production values, this movie is a great contender for Oscar’s Best Picture. I wouldn’t be surprised if it upsets my 2013 favorite Gravity.

Read the rest of my review here.

TOP 1- GRAVITY

Gravity

A visual spectacle and an emotional masterpiece, Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity takes off as one great 3D movie a film enthusiast will definitely love.

It’s an understatement when I say that watching this movie is a great 3D experience. It’s a joy to float with the characters in space and their space shuttles and yet it’s a tragedy to tumble with them unto the unknown. You would be able to grasp that idea of emotion they must be reeling to feel while enduring the idea of being really there in the outer space. Every single move they do with their body, every single twitch of their eye, every word their mouths articulate, you will feel. All of these things are present in the film without lacking in visual aesthetics. The space setting was so real you’ll feel you’re there all those times. The space shuttles, the debris, the stars and the Earth all felt real. Add to that the sometimes subtle, sometimes roaring musical score and you’ll definitely know you’re in a great ride. Because of these and more, the film went beyond spectacular. Gravity seemed like a character study in a display of technically perfect showing. Kudos to all the visual effects people, the sound masters and the meticulously great director of the film, Alfonso Cuaron.

The story might be very simple but it’s got great lessons for everyone. We all go through changes. We all go through sorrows. We all experience alarms and unpleasant surprises. We all sometimes just want to tune out everyone and just be with ourselves and ourselves alone. In the end, you will know that you’re still there with yourself, all changes or not. In the end, you will know that you can’t forever wallow in sorrow. In the end, you will learn to survive any astonishing thing that comes your way. Because in the end, if you have the will to live, you will always make it through.

RUNNERS-UP:

DALLAS BUYERS CLUB

AUGUST OSAGE COUNTY

SAVING MR. BANKS

LE PASSE

METRO MANILA

WORLD WAR Z

IRON MAN 3

12 Years A Slave

12 Years A Slave“Your story is amazing and in no good way.” –Mr. Bass to Solomon Northup

12 Years A Slave is one of the most buzzed films of 2013 and it is deserving to be so for one very good reason: it was a great movie. The way director Steve McQueen touched the topic of racism would truly affect you, inspire you (to do what’s good) and discourage you (from doing what’s bad). It didn’t come off as preachy, but it set the drama for every eye to see what was happening in America almost 200 years ago. Having a black president in the white house would be an impossible dream to the Black Americans then. Why would they ever think of that? Many of them might be free (as in they did what they wanted to do), but more of them were kidnapped or traded off as slaves. The movie served as a reminder of how other people then were used and abused by other people, even though they knew from the heart that what they’re doing was wrong. Come to think of it, the movie served as a reminder, too, that it’s much the same today, albeit a different kind of use and abuse are being done to other people. Despite the preaching of good people, awareness and knowledge about what’s right or wrong, some people still enslave other people in more ways than one.

“If I can’t buy mercy from you, I beg it.” –Patsey

The story about Solomon Northup, a free man who was abducted and sold up as a slave, is superbly told in the movie. My eyes just couldn’t escape the screen while watching. The scenes were amazingly edited to the point that I didn’t anticipate the next scene much more than I want to linger on what I was seeing onscreen. Steve McQueen’s mark as a director could be seen on scenes where the camera stays for a long time on an actor, capturing his emotions and reactions to the situation he is in.

“It would be unspeakable happiness to see my wife and my family again.” – Solomon Northup

Speaking of actors, I didn’t know who the lead actor or even the supporting cast is before watching the movie. I was kind of surprised when I see familiar faces pop up on screen and that’s good, of course. The lead actor, Chiwetel Ejiofor, held his own against the great support his co-actors gave. Paul Giamatti, in his brief appearance as a slave trader, impressed on his scenes. Sarah Paulson, in spite of her small stature and having not that big of a voice, startled as the jealous wife of a slave owner. Michael Fassbender, as the slave owner husband of Paulson’s character, astounded once again with the frenetic ways of his character that he embodied effortlessly. I would give the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor to him in a heartbeat.

The cinematography of the movie was brilliant. In some scenes, the hues that were created by the sky in contrast to the silhouette the light created to trees, houses and other structures were a visual feast. Even the scenes at night or those that happen inside the houses created a beautiful play on the little amount of light present as it fell on the subject or subjects in contrast to the darkness that enveloped them.

The music created for the movie by Hans Zimmer reverberated the sad and tragic fates of many Black Americans back then. It complements the great visualization of the story.

With great directing/ editing, credible acting, impressive writing and brilliant production values, this movie is a great contender for Oscar’s Best Picture. I wouldn’t be surprised if it upsets my 2013 favorite Gravity.

12 Years A Slave’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 5 out of 5

Boy Golden

Boy GoldenJust when I thought no good film would come out this year in the Metro Manila Film Festival comes the little promoted Chito Rono film called Boy Golden. The title must have a premonitory effect as this is gold compared to the other MMFF entries.

Boy Golden (Jeorge E.R. Estregan) is based on the life of Arturo “Boy Ginto” Porcuna, a notorious gangster in Manila during the 1960s. His quest to avenge his sister who was killed because of a shootout led him to hunt down the mastermind of the killing: Razon (John Estrada), another notorious gangster. With the help of a lawyer (Eddie Garcia) and a love interest (KC Concepcion), he is set to face him and his gang members (Baron Geisler, Gloria Sevilla, Leo Martinez, Joem Bascon, among others). Will he be successful or will the police force led by a colonel (Tonton Gutierrez) bring them down?

The film started with that Western film feel to it. Right from the first scene, the angst of the antagonists, the great vibe of the setting, the power the protagonist of a Western film (usually a gunslinger or an outlaw) exudes are immediately felt. After that first sequence, the director made the audience know that they’re in for a great ride. That scene on the street when Boy Golden went out of the bar via a classic car presented a throwback in time: the 1960s. The world transformed into that decade when gangsters rule Manila, a haven for patrons of alcohol, drugs, gambling and sex. The film’s cinematographer and production designers made sure that decade is really represented not just with the houses or the establishments but also that feel of going back in time. I am sure the audience surely saw that all throughout.

Scene after scene after scene, the audience is treated with polished and interesting scenes. Some funny, a dash of drama and lots of action scenes define how fascinating this movie is. The fast pacing is just right to keep the audience entertained all throughout its 130 minutes of showing. The story is cohesive and the dialogues not too plain and simple yet not too complex for the ordinary moviegoer to understand.

I love how Chito Rono took care of the movie. He tied up all the scenes without lose threads. He did not allow mediocrity sip into his actors’ performances. And I just really like how he works with colors in the film’s scenes. He finds beauty in each scene no matter how unlikely it is and this gives a much profound effect to what he wanted to convey about his characters or what’s happening in the story.

Jeorge E.R. Estragan did better in this movie than his last two MMFF films. He is more relaxed now without being too reserved while doing his scenes. He did not appear trying too hard to please whoever is watching. And the great supporting cast may have helped him to do his job well. KC Concepcion is a revelation in the movie. She is great on her role as a dancer who turned into a life of a gangster to avenge the atrocity done to her. Meanwhile, this movie is another testament that Eddie Garcia and Baron Geisler are on a league of their own. They own every scene they are in. And when these two fine actors share the screen, so much vivacity is felt. Tonton Gutierrez and Gloria Sevilla played important roles and they played them out really, really well. John Estrada started out with weak acting, almost mumbling his lines and seeming to be intimidated by the other supporting actors. But he did fine after some time as the main villain.

It comes as a big surprise to know that this film is not included in the original lineup of the MMFF entries. If other movies did not back out, the audience might have been deprived of a good film during this season when moviegoers of all ages really rush to go into the movie theaters and watch Filipino films. If it ever happened that serious films are excluded just because of the mature content they contain, then shame to the people who are responsible for it. What they should they be looking at is the continuous outpouring of senseless entertaining movies being shown in the said film fest.

If only producers would go out of their way and find notable stories from the vast pool of talented Filipino writers while leaving behind their quest of earning too much money, then the country will be given good, good commercial movies. Thanks to Jeorge Estregan and the rest of his crew because they made this wish still possible to come true via Boy Golden.

Boy Golden‘s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 4.5 out of 5

Supremo

                Supremo movie posterSupremo is a Filipino biographical film about Andres Bonifacio, also known as our other national hero. I haven’t heard of a biopic film about him before this that’s why I did not hesitate to watch it when given the opportunity.

                The movie covered Bonifacio’s struggles to lead a rebellion against the oppressive governance of the Spaniards. It was presented here that if Jose Rizal aimed for reforms to gain independence, Bonifacio clearly wanted freedom with use of arms. The movie might not have been as seamless as GMA Film’s Jose Rizal (1998), but it did have brilliant scenes that make it worthy of praise from critics and non-critics alike.

                Alfred Vargas, who portrayed Bonifacio in Supremo, was brilliant. He portrayed his role with the kind of demeanor that’s associated with the aforementioned hero. He commanded his comrades with real authority and fought his battles with unparalleled bravery. Other actors who stood out include Nicco Manalo, who portrayed the hero known for being short and yet pragmatist Emilio Jacinto, and Nica Naval, who portrayed Bonifacio’s lover, Oriang. These actors more than cover up for the extras who fumbled during their dialogues and seemed to care only in memorizing their lines and not delivering them well.

                 The last several scenes of the movie were too heavy to bear. Of course, I already knew what would happen in the story, but watching it was a very different matter. I do admit that I did cry a little during the last scene where the supremo met his end in a very harrowing manner. So you have to prepare yourself if you still don’t know how our other national hero died once you decide to watch this film.

                 The film was visually stunning. It  had great cinematography and production design. I was surprised to find out that it was only shot for 15 days in a very limited budget as I could compare it to some great Western movies of Hollywood. I consider it as one of the most beautifully shot Filipino films that I have seen. Despite its limitations in production sets, the movie could boast that each of its scenes was a scene of beauty. The director was very good in taking shots where either subtle actions or epic scenarios happened.

                Sadly, what could have been a very great movie had been shattered by inconsistent story-telling and lack-luster performances from some of the actors. It seemed like each scene was important, but when taken together they proved to be very limiting. The flashbacks used could have helped by adding them to clarify things and not just to add historical facts. A continuous, unparalleled story-line about the protagonist’s leadership and battles could have been a better alternative.

                 Nevertheless, the movie was a good one. Watch it if you have the chance, especially if you’re planning to watch El Presidente, the upcoming biographical film about Emilio Aguinaldo. By comparing the stories presented in these two movies will we be able to know if there are lapses in presenting the truth about these two sons of Katipunan.

Supremo movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 4 out of 5