Finding Dory (movie review)

Finding_DoryI had high expectations for this film even during the first time it was announced that a sequel to Finding Nemo was on the works. Why wouldn’t I? Finding Nemo was a great animated movie that was critically adored because of its one-of-a-kind, well-written story, breathtaking visuals and brilliant voice work.

What I saw in almost 2 hours of its showing was a similar but ultimately a subpar plot derived from the first film. The regal blue tang fish named Dory, which was the supporting character during the Nemo film, took the role of the main protagonist in this movie. Her family wasn’t mentioned before mainly due to her forgetfulness: she couldn’t remember where she came from. But this time, because of a dream, she suddenly remembered things that would lead her back to her father and mother. Her journey to be reunited with her parents would separate her from her clown fish friend, Nemo, and his dad, Merlin. The latter two had to find her, hence the title. Such a tale of returning to where she came from had been shown despite the incredulity, or probably the silliness, of it all.

The film still had some good points, though. Cute, new characters have been introduced and they gave new life to the story of fish friends Nemo and Dory. The musical score was also good and it rendered a somewhat needed refreshing sound to an almost too familiar fish story. It also had its touching moments, as well as deep one-liners and dialogues, which would certainly mark to those who are watching.

However, one can’t simply deny the fact that there is something lacking in this movie. It won’t matter if you watch it on a 2D cinema or an IMAX theater (which I did). The visuals are good, but not that oh-so-awesome. This is such a letdown because they could have mustered more beautiful scenes considering they have mainly used the ocean and a public aquarium for its setting. A number of scenes were shot beautifully, but a lot more could have been simply made more wonderful.

I just hoped that the producers, the writers and the director have stopped with Finding Nemo because that movie was a true gem. Finding Dory can pass just as an ultimately pure imitation.

Finding Dory’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 2.5 out of 5.

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

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

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

Cinderella (movie review)

Cinderella_2015_official_posterThis is how you make a movie version of a fairytale!

I was pleasantly surprised when I first heard that a live version of the beloved fairytale was in the works. It wasn’t a bad idea, but making Cinderella alive not with use of drawings or merely animation would be a hard thing to do if just to please any fairytale lover. But thanks to the cast and crew of this film, a great movie version of Cinderella has been brought to the silver screen.

Friends have been telling me that Cinderella is a good movie and so I have high expectations before watching it. And those expectations were definitely exceeded. What I saw was not a mere re-imagination of the beloved fairytale but a great re-telling of the classic. Needless to say, Cinderella is a must-watch especially for those who yearn that good and lovin’ feeling! Haha, just kidding. Kids and kids-at-heart will surely appreciate this movie.

All eyes were drawn to Cinderella when she entered the palace for the first time. Why wouldn’t they be? The actress who plays her role is a great beauty. In fact, the time she, the grownup Cinderella, made her appearance onscreen, you can’t help but just look at her. The person who portrays the beloved character oozes with charm and grace and that is no other than Ella James. I think I’ve seen her in a couple of episodes of Downton Abbey but she ‘s a revelation in this movie. She made me feel like there could be no one who could have portrayed Cinderella better.

Her chemistry with Richard Madden, her Prince Charming, is undeniable. Have you seen their dance during the ball in the palace? They seem to be making love! I don’t know if it’s just me but the grace in the way they moved and the intensity of the way they looked at each other made me feel like it. Can’t help but think that it’s the way you make a romantic pairing work!

Cate Blanchett proved that there’s no role that she couldn’t portray well. As the evil stepmother, she stared with hatred at Cinderella and acted like the latter’s someone to really be hated. She succeeded in both instances.

Famed British actor and director Kenneth Branagh helmed this wonderful film. Thankfully, he did because it was really good! The visuals were impressive, the editing was impeccable and the screenplay was very faithful to the spirit of the fairytale. The inspiring story of Cinderella was put into a life full of colors with this film.

Cinderella’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 4.5 out of 5

Into The Woods (movie review)

Into_The_Woods_(film)I am not really into musical films and have sort of graduated from watching adaptations of fairy tales both on TV and film (e.g. Once Upon A Time, Brothers Grimm) but I still gave Into The Woods a shot. I do not regret watching it but, of course, I got what I was expecting to get afterwards.

I have a pretty solid record in watching musical films in movie theaters after a hard day’s work: I tend to sleep if the story’s not that strong to keep me truly interested until the end. Re: Into The Woods, let’s just say that the music is okay and all but the story wasn’t that great to keep me up and invested for the long haul.

To give credit to where credit is due, the movie did succeed in the acting department. The actors who have shared their talents in the movie were all good. Led by Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep who embodied the witch that cursed her neighbor’s unborn child (the baker) because of stealing from her magical garden, the cast got not just the singing chops to sing their pieces but also such natural acting that definitely helped build up the story. Anna Kendrick, despite my doubt about her tackling the Cinderella role, proved her versatility with this movie. Emily Blunt, which doesn’t really ring a bell every time I hear her name was pleasantly great as the baker’s wife. The baker, portrayed by James Corden, was good it was like he was molded into his role. Meanwhile, Chris Pine surprised everyone not because he looked well as Prince Charming but because he could sing! I also liked how remarkable were the young actors who portrayed Jack (from Jack and the Beanstalk) and Little Red Riding Hood.

I heard people say that the movie did a lot of changes from the musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine in which it was based. They said that some songs were pulled out and some details left out. In fairness to Lapine, the movie’s writer, what’s important to me as part of the audience who’s not aware of the musical where it was based was that the story was cohesive and easy to understand. It’s amazing how the movie’s able to weave the stories of Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk and Little Red Riding Hood by using one elephant in the room among fairy tales: the woods.

However, I find the movie really just a so-so. I didn’t expect something really spectacular and that’s what I got, nothing spectacular. Unlike Streep’s first venture into musicals via Mamma Mia, this movie fell flat after striking it really well during the first half. The music also seemed repetitive after a while and the plot seemed to have lost touch after a pseudo-happy ever after ending.

If you like Streep, Kendrick or Pine singing in charming roles, go ahead and watch his film. If you happen to like musicals, then it’s a plus. Just don’t expect too much, okay?

Into The Woods’ movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 2.5 out of 5