Ang Kwento Nating Dalawa (movie review)

ang-kwento-nating-dalawa-2Just by its title, you’d already think that this movie is a love story. Well, it is. But the intriguing part is not that it’s a love story, but what kind of love story it is.

Ang Kwento Nating Dalawa (“The Story of Us That Never Was” when translated to English form) focuses on Sam (played by Nicco Manalo) and Isa (played by Emmanuel Vera), as they struggle to maintain their not-your-typical-kind of relationship. This atypical relationship is what holds the film together, as it will come out as a revelation; it would eventually unfold to the eyes of the audience who’ve been firmly watching from start to end. I will not go into details further so as not to spoil those who want to watch it.

I love the simplicity of the film. The rawness of emotions displayed by the actors playing as the lovers was so believable you’d think this is about them for real. The camera work done by the director, Nestor Abrogena, was so tight at times you’ll experience more of the emotions being delivered by the actors. The long shots that Mr. Abrogena employed in many of the scenes made the film experience closer to reality. Nicco Manalo, son of comedian Jose Manalo, couldn’t be more believable in his role here.  I’ve not seen an honest performance as his in this film for quite some time. Emmanuel Vera, whom I fondly remember as Sarah Geronimo’s rival in their drama show before entitled, “Idol,” has blossomed in this film. Gracious and charming, she’s able to somehow lighten up the seriousness of her character and her character’s situation in the film, hitting that perfect balance.

Did I forget to mention the songs rendered in this atypical rom-com film? Songs by Gabe Piolo (“Look Along The Way”) and Emmanuel Vera herself (“Hanggang Kailan Kita Mahihintay”) were memorable. But the real stand out was Quest’s “Hanggang Kailan,” which pierces the heart right from its very first lines: “Gulong-gulo ang puso. Saan ba ito patungo?” This might just be the perfect question to ask to the story title.

Ang Kwento Nating Dalawa’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 4.5 out of 5.

 

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Sakaling Hindi Makarating (movie review)

cinefilipino-sakaling-hindi-makarating-movie-poster

Loaded with gorgeous shots showcasing the beauty of the Philippines, Sakaling Hindi Makarating is an impressive Cine Filipino film that bears love at its core: losing it and finding it again, may it just be in another form.

I honestly had apprehensions before watching the movie. I worried that the movie, which is one of the featured films in this year’s Cine Filipino Film Festival would just add up to the many films I’ve watched and yet failed to post reviews about. If you have known me or have been following me since the early 2010’s (or even mid-2000s), you would know that I am very fond of movies and I tend to write what I thought of them via this movie blog (it was in multiply in the olden days, este, years ago). Anyway, I’m back after almost half a year of hiatus in movie-writing. It’s gladdening to know that some of my friends have missed my movie reviews (you know who you are, guys) and said they really do read what I write (and be swayed to watch a certain movie or not, haha)! Thank you, guys, and I hope you will continue reading now that I’m back!

Sakaling Hindi Makarating is about Cielo, a 20-something woman who has just recently broken up with her fiancé, her lover for 11 years. One day, she received a postcard containing an artwork depicting Kalanggaman Island and, at its back, a letter of love. The postcard that was addressed to her apartment was given by a certain M to her, a C. Is M her former fiancé, Mark? Or is he a new guy who’s ready to pick up the pieces of her broken heart? With the help of a new-found friend/neighbor named Paul, she embarks on a solo journey around the Philippines in search for M using the clues on the postcards she has been receiving.

Sakaling Hindi Makarating is refreshing to watch because it seemed like everything about it gives a whole different kind of a movie experience. It’s comparable to a journey that one has to go through during difficult times and then eventually finding his way out by finding himself or knowing the answers in the places he goes to and with the people he encounters along the way. The movie’s themes hit close to home as tales of love, travel and  freedom echo all throughout this one-and-a-half hour Cine Filipino movie.

I have always liked how Alessandra Rossi acted in teleseryes or movies and after all these years, she has proven that she still has it with this film. She’s a natural as Cielo; she’s able to show the mood of a woman who’s into a deep pit of melancholy while trying to leave out of it with her solo traveling adventures. Her delivery of lines is so good you’d really believe she’s Cielo and not just Alessandra acting as Cielo. Pepe Herrera, her co-star in the film as Paul, is charmingly funny his acting and his lines in the film would almost always make an impression with the audience. The small supporting cast, most of whom play the characters that Cielo met on her journey around the country, is very remarkable albeit their small roles.

I love it that the movie’s director and writer, Ice Idanan, is able to balance the seriousness of the movie’s themes,the solidity of his characters and the humor behind their dialogues. The heaviness of the drama as it unfolds at the start is eventually lightened up as the story goes by. Moreover, I never did find the movie boring. Its fast pace definitely helped. The way the story was presented was beautiful in itself, and showcasing the beauty of the Philippines along the way seemed like just a bonus.

Anyone who has loved deeply will be able to relate to this film, most especially those that have lost their love eventually. There are instances when the parting of two people isn’t mutual and the fall out seems to be harder for the one who was left behind. Memories of her lost love kept flashing back through the eyes of Cielo for most of the film, and similar scenarios must have been echoing in the hearts of those who can relate to her in the audience. The movie did not exploit this heart-breaking plot, though. The writer did give lots of ideas on mending that broken heart, from singly backpacking and journeying the Philippines to finally freeing oneself from the kind of love one does not deserve.

Aside from showcasing bits of heart nuggets that have been given above, the film has presented some of the most spectacularly beautiful locations in the country: the lovely Zamboanga, the awesome Siquijor, the marvelous Marinduque, the exquisite Ilocos Norte and the beauteous Batanes. I’ve been only to one of these five places and the movie has definitely made me want to go to the other four sooner than later! Travelers and explorers alike would love Sakaling Hindi Makarating as they would be able to  feel the love and the appreciation everyone behind the fillm has put to present our country in a marvelous way.

Congratulations to the whole cast and crew for this astounding Filipino film. The pondering movie fan’s movie rating of Sakaling Hindi Makarating is 4.5 out of 5.

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

That Thing Called Tadhana (movie review)

That Thing Called TadhanaOne of the most lauded in 2014’s CinemaOne Originals film festival, That Thing Called Tadhana more than lives up to the hype with the great screenplay and directing of Antoinette Jadaone and the brilliant acting of Angelica Panganiban and JM De Guzman.

This movie is such a breath of fresh air. Dealing with subjects of love lost, broken hearts and moving on were shown in realistic scenarios featuring relatable characters in the form of Mace (Angelica Panganiban) and Anthony (JM De Guzman). Meeting each other in the airport and signing in for an eventful road trip towards the north of the country might be a little too unbelievable, but trust me as these two characters deal with each other and talk about love and life that you’re in for a great ride of your life.

I really like how Antoinette Jadaone does her movies both as a director and a writer. She’s one great talent to boot that generations of today could really look up to. The audience could feel that punch of reality in her writing and smoothness in her directing and these are very evident here in Tadhana. To think about it, most scenes in the movie only have Angelica Panganiban and JM De Guzman talking. But don’t get me wrong, because of the great screenplay and the said actors’ brilliant delivery of lines, they’d bring you to what they were talking about, letting you feel what they felt and think about what they thought during those times.

I can’t wait to watch more of her movies.

Angelica Panganiban stars as Mace, a 20-something girl who just had her heart broken by her boyfriend of 8 years. As everyone who had just had a breakup, Mace was very emotional and a bit unpredictable with her decisions. Panganiban nailed her character very well. It’s about time that people be reminded that she’s a force to reckon with in the acting department. She’s natural with her lines you could really see she’s able to relate well with her character and show this through her outstanding performance. On the other hand, JM De Guzman made a great comeback in the entertainment industry with this movie. A fellow Filipino passenger of Mace in an airplane boarding to Manila who saw her struggling with her luggage (that she explained contained her life- watch the movie to know why), De Guzman was able to make believable how a stranger like Anthony could turn into a shoulder to cry on. He used his charm through his character to win the hearts of the audience and the moves he did as Anthony seemed so natural like what Angelica did. Their conversations at the start seemed awkward, and that’s what really happens when you do talk to strangers, right? But that awkwardness turned into something else as they got to know each other’s lives. As one is begging to know where a broken heart goes, the other one is saying it will eventually find its way home. Hahaha, corny. Did I mention they have great chemistry? Yes, they do have great chemistry and if ever they have a project together again in the future, count me in to watch it. I have become a fan of these two.

Meanwhile, the movie made me really want to go back to probably the most popular part of northern Philippines, which is Baguio, and experience for the first time the cultural haven where mountains are high and the sunrise is great to look at, which is Sagada. It made me want to go there as soon as I can not to do some soul-searching like what Mace wanted to do in the movie but to just really feel the excitement going there and being there. The cinematography, the visual design and the locations used in the movie captured the great beauty of Sagada and some really memorable scenes in Baguio. Anyone up for a road trip? Haha.

That Thing Called Tadhana’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 5 out of 5

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

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

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