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.

 

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.

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.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (movie review)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gone Girl

Gone_Girl_PosterMind tricks. Mind games. Mysteries. This movie’s going to trap you in its maze. And this is my kind of movie.

An adaptation of the 2012 book of the same name, Gone Girl is about the disappearance of Amy Dunne (played by Rosamund Pike), a seemingly successful writer even as a child. Her husband, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck), a journalist who has lost his job, is the primary suspect after she went missing. What happened to Amy? What did Nick do? Did he kill her? These are the questions that film will make you ask during its first part. The media frenzy ensues; the police work does its dues; and the story about Nick and Amy’s convulated love, complicated relationship and difficult marriage start to unfold.

Rosamund Pike, an actress whom I have heard a lot of times before but never made a mark on me, is a big revelation here as the titular character. If she’s been constantly overlooked before, watch out for her after she gets nominated and given accolades for this film. Clearly, she’s a force to reckon with. She’s able to embody that missing girl… who’s got a lot of secrets.

Ben Affleck impresses as Nick Dunne, the husband of the missing girl. It is really a wonder why he acted differently when his character’s wife started to go missing… until you learn his character’s story and hers. You will not root for him because you will hate him. But you will try to understand where he’s coming from. And that will make you like him. And hate him again for trying to do not the good thing but the right thing in the end. And nothing seems to be more complicated than that. Nick’s interview in a local TV show highlights the best of Affleck’s abilities in the movie: he made himself admit his mistakes as bait for his missing wife. His admission exposed what his character really is but the circumstance behind the camera is telling otherwise. That ability to embody the complexity of his character is what makes Affleck so great here.

David Fincher is a master of suspense. I liked The Social Network because of the thrilling sensation behind its smartness. I liked The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo because of its breath-taking scenes and very memorable characters. But I loved Gone Girl. Just like my favorite Fincher movie, Fight Club, this movie is exhilaratingly good and fashionably intelligent. The characters are going to take you deep into their story.  Gone Girl is going to make you feel. More importantly, it is going to make you think. It is going to make you grasp for reasons why certain situations happen, how people behave and why some relationships have to end. The maze I was talking about a while ago would trap you. But it will eventually lead you the way out with satisfying answers.

The editing done in Gone Girl is slick and smooth. I love how the transpositions of the scenes are done: having Nick’s perspective of the story alternate with that of Amy’s during the first part. When everything in the story is exposed, the perspectives shifted to the reality. And the way these two stories are woven together is impressively good. Towards the last part of the movie, the suspense is kept at a level wherein you won’t be exhausted that much, just enough for you to still be exhausted on what’s about to come up next.

Perfectly casted (from the leads down to the very small supporting roles), brilliantly directed and beautifully filmed with notches of great sound and musical score, this movie deserves a perfect rating.

Gone Girl’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 5 out of 5