Sakaling Hindi Makarating (movie review)

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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.

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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

Feng Shui 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

T’yanak

T'yanakT’yanak is said to be a remake of the classic horror movie about evil babies called tiyanaks. Helmed by the directors of the original Tiyanak, Peque Gallaga and Lore Reyes, T’yanak tries to impress with a similar storyline starring one of the best actresses in the country, Judy Ann Santos. Are they successful in doing so? Let’s find out.

T’yanak started with a good mash up of scenes: a soon-to-be bride named Madie (Solenn Heussaff) was jogging in the woods, a husband (Sid Lucero) and his pregnant wife were walking in the woods after buying some goods in the market and Madie’s soon-to-be sister-in-law named Julie (Judy Ann Santos) was doing yoga at home.Things started to get unusual when suddenly Madie and the couple heard cries of a baby in the woods. Curious as to where it was coming from, the pregnant wife tried to find the baby. One thing led to another resulting to the wife being killed, the husband getting crazy, Madie finding a baby inside a nearby cave and Julie acting up as a real mother to the said baby after Madie took him home.

Great switching up of the scenes, bracing musical score and passable acting and directing provided a good introduction. Unfortunately, the scenes went downhill after that.

Inconsistencies in writing and inefficiencies in editing are apparent all throughout the film. The audience would be puzzled at times how one scene led to the other here (e.g. the couple, Madie and Mark as played by Tom Rodriguez, were seen lying on the bed sleeping; after a short while, they were seen talking to some people in a different place for the preparation of their wedding… at the same night!). There were some good dialogues, especially ones concerning how one mother is willing to sacrifice everything for her child or how the tiyanaks came to be. It’s just a wonder how these lines came from a tiring screenplay that took so much longer than the audience to realize where it was going. More so,albeit advances in technology transpired after decades since the original, it isn’t seen much in this remake. In fact, you’ll miss the tiyanak from the original one.

If there’s one thing that is undeniably good about the film, it is its lead star, Judy Ann Santos. She is excellent in her role as Julie. The movie’s few great moments are due to her exemplary performance as a wife who doesn’t want anything more than having a baby. You’d still like her despite her character’s irrational decision-making and questionable sanity. Liza Lorena (as Julie and Mark’s grandmother) and Sid Lucero (as the vengeful widower) provided good support, while Rodriguez and Heussaff could have tried much, much more to prevent themselves from being caricatures in the film.

I feel regret after watching the film. Dragging and hyped to attract audiences (it was Graded A by the Cinema Evaluation Board), T’yanak is an unremarkable remake of a successful 1980s horror movie. It relied on its actors’ performances more than anything else where it could have certainly excelled.

T’yanak‘s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 2.5 out of 5

Hustisya

Hustisya Poster (credits to its owner/s)Apathy. Hipocrisy. There are real demons in the society.

Hustisya, one of the five feature films under the Director’s Showcase of Cinemalaya this year, showcased the acting prowess of the Philippine superstar, Nora Aunor, as helmed by acclaimed director, Joel Lamangan. She stars as Biring, an efficient member in a human trafficking syndicate controlled by some powerful men in the society.

A middle-aged woman who revolves her life with her work in the syndicate, her best friend and her family, Biring is a one-of-a-kind character (thanks, in part to Ricky Lee’s great writing). Despite having a key role in their human trafficking operations, she seems to care about the people they victimize. Shown as religious and a devout Catholic, she seems apologetic about her own sins. However, in her line of work, she sees and hears no evil. Conscience visits her once in a while, but the system where she and everyone’s a part of keeps on dictating her what she has to do. In the end, what will really matter to her? Her family? Her money? The system? Or her soul?

The movie is a clear cut portrayal of the evils of Manila. While a very few lavish in its riches, a whole lot wallow in the mud. Life in the city is compared to how a frog preys on a mosquito. The former must wait patiently while deceiving the latter it is a part of the surrounding. When the right moment comes, the frog eats the mosquito. This is similar to life in the capital: be victimized or be the victimizer. Such analogy represents the kind of world many of us live in.

Joel Lamangan is able to capture Aunor at her sometimes antsy, sometimes cool and collected demeanor for her character. Biring’s hard to portray as she jumps over the thin line of what is good or bad. Lamangan makes sure Aunor’s able to show the ambiguity that she is. Moreover, I like how he stages Aunor’s character with what others call her money shots in the film. Thankfully, he does not only take good care of his lead star. Hustisya’s supporting cast is also made good, especially Rosanna Roces (whose portrayal of Biring’s best friend and one of the heads of the syndicate brought about amusement and wonder) and Rocco Nacino (who’s a revelation in the film as the soulless lawyer/member of the syndicate).

I am not a fan of some initial scenes where blurred shots of Nora and Manila are being screened. Moreover, a little more care could have been done not only in the camerawork, but some uneven lines in the screenplay. The pacing is a bit inconsistent, but the duration of the film surely made up for it.

Hustisya is one of those Filipino films that are really heavy to watch as it tackles real-life atrocities that real people do. This makes it hard for some people to even see. But I doubt it was filmed for everyone. What Hustisya and other movies of its kind need is the appropriate audience to look at what it tries to portray, listen to what it has to say and act upon what should be done.

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

 

P.S.

After watching the film, I realized that real justice cannot be served here in this world.

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.

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