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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Don’t Breathe (movie review)

Don't_Breathe_(2016_film)The film genre that I probably love the most is none other than suspense-thriller. The feeling of urgency and the sense of danger in these films give me a different kind of high. I feel like I become one with the characters of suspense-thriller movies. Whatever they do or whatever happens to them sort of extends to me in a way that I really get affected and this shows with how I react while watching. Never have I ever squirmed too many times in my seat, uttered too many verbalizations or covered my mouth (I actually don’t do this! Haha.) while watching a film! I did all these while watching Don’t Breathe! IT IS THAT INTENSE!

I will never be this affected if the movie only gives the thrills without having a solid backstory. Don’t Breathe offers an effectively simple yet horrifying plot: Three delinquents (Jane Levy, Dylan Minette, Daniel Zovatto) decided to break into the house of a blind army veteran (Stephen Lang) to steal money in the middle of the night. Little did they know that the old man might be blind but he isn’t a veteran for nothing. He turns to be the one hunting them inside his very own house. Thrilling, isn’t it?

I have to commend the writer-director of the Don’t Breathe, Fede Alvarez, for creating this unideal concept and successfully bringing it out alive on the big screen. I bet many people got interested with the trailer of the film but it’s really just a teaser, a teeny-weeny one, of what’s to be expected in the whole film. The actors delivered well all throughout despite the limited character development. The camera work and the editing are flawless, enabling lots of jolting scenes, which may make one shout or even scream! How about the sound and the music? Oh, they increased the dark mood brooding in the unexpansive setting of the old man’s house.

Gripping, thrilling and downright nerve-wracking, Don’t Breathe doesn’t really ask you not to breathe. It just makes you do.

Don’t Breathe’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.

Insurgent

Insurgent_posterInsurgent, the sequel to last year’s Divergent has far exceeded my expectations. As I found the first book in the Divergent series the best among the trilogy, the movie version of the second book surpasses the first movie in all aspects. It was more suspenseful, more action-filled, more faithful to the story, and more emotionally pulling. The visuals are better while the sound stands out more.

What I love about movie versions of the books that I’ve read is that the story lines that I got to read ages ago suddenly make a flashback in my mind. As great movie versions of the books that I have read unfold their scenes right before my eyes, the thoughts I had and the emotions I felt while I was reading the books where they were based come awesomely alive. This rang true with Insurgent.

The atmosphere created by a dystopian future of a city divided into different factions is still felt in this movie. Everything’s different, though, as a major shakeup is being made. Jeanine Matthews (cold-bloodedly portrayed by Kate Winslet) has succeeded to destroy the Abnegation faction and lead the Dauntless to take charge of the city. The divergent Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley), her enemy # 1, is into hiding along with her boyfriend, Four (Theo James), as they, along with their friends, successfully evaded her invasion of Abnegation. Jeanine’s goal of eradicating the divergents is close to fruition. It’s up to Tris to find a way to defeat Jeanine and seek justice for those people who have been murdered including her parents and friends.

I liked every minute of watching the film. I found the actors more comfortable with their roles and it shows with their chemistry.  Shailene Woodley was so great here I can’t wait to see her in other roles. If I’ve said that she’s no Jennifer Lawrence in my review of Divergent, I can say that she’s getting there by now. Theo James still ably gave life to Four though he’s been overshadowed by the goodness that is Miles Teller. Teller is one actor that I have been loathing to see even if I have seen him in numerous movies before. But that changed with Oscar-winning film, Whiplash, where he performed impressively along with Oscar winner J.K. Simmons. That change continues with Insurgent as he effortlessly shows his butterfly tendencies in changing loyalties with factions for his role. Not used enough (or probably not given enough spotlight) in this film are  Octavia Spencer as the hospitable leader of Amity, Naomi Watts as the surprisingly young-looking leader of the Factionless and Ray Stevenson as the still assumed leader of Abnegation. I guess they’ll be given enough meat to chew on during the next Divergent movies.

Even though there are many action scenes that are deemed to be generic, they are still awesome as they remained just true to the spirit of the book. I mean, you can’t just pull out one too many great action sequences if they’re unnecessary, right? Anyway, the visuals are also impressive but they become more impressive because of the sound editing and sound mixing done to complement the scenes. Speaking of the scenes, there is not one boring moment in each and one of them. Thanks to the caring hands of director Robert Schwentke and  editors Nancy Richardson and Stuart Levy. Even though non-readers of the book where the movie was based might not get everything that is being said or done in it, they’ll still surely appreciate what was being screened from start to finish.

Insurgent’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 4 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

The Maze Runner

The_Maze_Runner_posterI’ve been disappointed a lot of times before after watching a movie adaptation of a book that I have read. However, I’ve never been this disappointed after watching The Maze Runner. Based on the first book in the young adult post-apocalyptic trilogy of James Dashner, The Maze Runner failed to capture the energy, the confusion and the atmosphere of the book.

The movie is about Thomas, a teenage boy brought into an isolated place surrounded by gigantic, moving walls called the Glade. These moving walls make up the seemingly unsolvable maze, which is plagued by deadly mechanical creatures called Grievers. Gladers, the other teenage boys who have stayed in the Glade for a month to a few years, have been running around the maze to search for a way out. Suddenly, things started changing ever since Thomas has arrived. Does this mean he will lead the way out for the Gladers, or instead bring them doom as the people who sent them finally want results, no matter what these may be?

In the book, Thomas started out and felt as a real outcast in the Glade. The other teenage boys displayed varying attitudes towards him, and it’s only after some time that he either made strong connections that grew into real friendships or did things that truly irate some of them. I was surprised to know that these did not really come alive in the film. Thomas and the other Gladers acted a lot different. It’s good to know, though, that they still managed to bring out the terms Gladers use that are unique to their place (e.g. Greenie, shuck-face). Moreover, the magnitude that entails having these teenage boys into a place where nobody knows and having no memory whatsoever of the past as felt in the book is lost in translation in the movie. Redundant dialogues plagued what could have been simpler and more thoughtful conversations between the characters. The emotions seemed too low, even when they’re being shown to be celebrating. Honestly, none of the actors really impressed in acting out their roles. Dylan O’Brien (Teen Wolf) may have done his best to live up Thomas but he’s not really able to show it well by embodying the gravity of the worsening condition of the Glade as he was supposed to. This should partly be blamed as well to the director, Wes Ball, who may have lacked a vision of how to run mystery suspense-thrillers like this. In O’Brien’s defense, I liked how he acted out in a lot of scenes especially that one standout scene towards the end. Ki Hong Lee who portrayed Minho failed to show the smartness and confidence of his character. Aml Ameen (Alby) and Kaya Scodelario (Teresa) are both forgettable. The two who are close to portraying what they are supposed to portray are Thomas Brodie-Sangster as the friendly Newt and Will Poulter as the angst-riddled Gally.

In all fairness to the movie, it is surprisingly fast-paced and because of this, it is far from boring. Moviegoers who haven’t read the book may have liked it just as it is even though a lot of changes have been done. To me (and probably the rest of the readers of the book), though, this fast pacing doesn’t matter because of the frustration I ended up having. Moreover, because of the lacking elements of the film (that extra punch, that missing tone and spirit), it seemed like it’s not entirely sure of what it is. Well, that’s pretty much like the book wherein the author seemed to be confused as to where his story was going or leading. The direction of the story seemed clear, but the steps on going there are blurred.

I’m still reading The Scorch Trials, the second book of the trilogy, but I do hope that its movie adaptation will not just be faithful but also be a lot better than The Maze Runner. I really don’t want to get very disappointed again.

The Maze Runner’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 2.5 out of 5