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

 

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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.

Heneral Luna (movie review)

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If there’s one movie out there that you should be watching, it is none other than Heneral Luna. You may not be a movie buff or a historian but being a Filipino should entail you to watch how a brave Filipino general led the whole army of soldiers against the colonizers amidst the corruptibility and apostasy of some people in the government back then.

I was surprised to find out that the movie was laden with humor though I found it necessary to somehow establish what kind of personality the famed General Antonio Luna has. The first part of the film did just that with him and every other key character in the story. The Spanish has just surrendered but has chosen to cede the Philippines to America to avoid embarrassment. The Filipinos couldn’t celebrate, of course. It was another nation that’s about to prey on us. And it was on the hands of the remaining people in the government as to what future the Filipinos would face based on the actions that they would choose to make.

The movie has good pacing. There was never a dull moment with how Antonio Luna planned and took action against the Americans and how Emilio Aguinaldo puzzlingly led and tolerated a government with treacherous members. As the movie progresses, the actors seemed to be more at ease with their roles and the story’s getting more and more interesting. This second part of the film excellently shows the general direction of where the whole action is going.

The third part of the movie was beyond exceptional. The camerawork got really amazing, the cinematography has gone topnotch and every moment in every scene got very captivating. The cards have all been shown and what’s needed to be done was for them to be laid out on the table. In other words, the characters have already shown their true colors and the audiences were all but prepared to witness (spoiler alert ahead) the events that would lead to the horrendous killing of one of the bravest Filipinos to have ever walked the earth: General Antonio Luna.

During the last minutes of the film, I couldn’t help but feel fire in me. My whole body was in heat that I haven’t felt before while watching a movie. It was like the Filipino blood in me has finally awakened. And these made me ponder on these things:

One, shame to Emilio Aguinaldo who had been a real traitor to the country’s cause for independence way back then. I’ve disliked him ever since I came to know about his actions towards the real heroes of this country and now I’m really glad that his true colors are being known by many. Recent Filipino hero films have drawn him into a light of indignity because of his traitorous ways and Heneral Luna is not an exemption. This movie has nailed him down. It’s about time that the truth about him and his family (watch out for his mother’s words by the end of the movie) be known by all Filipinos. It’s high time that we correct history and raise questions about the significance of certain Filipinos in the fight towards freedom.

Two, it’s really great that other Filipino heroes are now taking the limelight. So many films have shown the patriotism of our national hero, Jose Rizal, and we’re all grateful for that. Andres Bonifacio, our other national hero, has taken the next step with movies Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo and Supremo giving light to his heroic life and tragic death. While Rizal and Bonifacio should be at the forefront of our heroes, it’s good to know at least some more pieces of the puzzle by featuring the other heroes that bravely led us to where we are now.

Finally, it is a truth that the government of today is not as different as the first Philippine government. There have always been people who know how to change things for the better. There have also been people who make things happen. Unfortunately, there have also been those who always put themselves first before their country and countrymen and are willing to commit treason just for their own sake. And horrifyingly, a few are at the top of the ranks.

A very relevant film in the form of Heneral Luna deserves all the attention and droves of people flocking to the theaters just to watch it. Nothing beats word of mouth in promoting a film that’s why I am telling you that this movie’s worth all your time, money and energy. Kudos to the movie’s director, Jerrold Tarog, for making a brilliant epic and also to John Arcilla for embodying the titular hero that no other actor could have played better! Good job to all the cast and crew of Heneral Luna for doing this film!

Heneral Luna‘s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 5 out of 5

Best Songs of 2013

The yearly countdown of the pondering movie, TV and music fan begins. And I want to start with the best music my ears were able to listen to for the past 12 months. I may be biased towards my favorite artists, but the songs listed here are songs that I think were great lyrically and/or musically. If you agree or disagree about what I post here, please write down on the comments section. Thank you and enjoy reading!

BEST SONGS OF 2013

Top 10- BRAVE by Sara Bareilles

Sara Bareilles- Brave

Rumored to be the song that both musically and lyrically inspired Katy Perry’s Roar, this single off the pop singer’s latest album, Blessed Unrest, is brimming with positivity. Brave puts off a strong message about speaking up and being honest about oneself in mainstream, pop-friendly music

You can be amazing
You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug
You can be the outcast
Or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love
Or you can start speaking up
Nothing’s gonna hurt you the way that words do
When they settle ‘neath your skin
Kept on the inside and no sunlight
Sometimes a shadow wins
But I wonder what would happen if you

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave

Top 9- MY SONGS KNOW WHAT YOU DID IN THE DARK (LIGHT ‘EM UP) by Fall Out Boy

Fall Out Boy- My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark

This single that resurrected the pop rock band’s musical career is not only pleasing to the ears, it is also deceivingly hard to sing! The song’s got a lot of aggressive attitude and over-all dark anthem vibe. Without dwelling too much to its meaning, I chose this song as one of the best this year for its eargasmic vibe especially when one is put to the test or just about to punch someone. Haha, kidding.

My songs know what you did in the dark!

So light ‘em up, up, up!

So light ‘em up, up, up!

So light ‘em up, up, up!

 I’m on fire!

Top 8- WRECKING BALL by Miley Cyrus

Miley Cyrus- Wrecking Ball

She seems like a girl who’s lost the goodness in her cause but let not that personality fool you. She still can make good music. This power ballad showcases the former teen superstar’s vocal chops in the captivating rhythm of the song.

Don’t you ever say I just walked away
I will always want you
I can’t live a lie, running for my life
I will always want you

I came in like a wrecking ball
I never hit so hard in love
All I wanted was to break your walls
All you ever did was wreck me
Yeah, you, you wreck me

Top 7- WAKE ME UP by Avicii

Wake Me Up by Avicii

The Swedish DJ who keeps on creating poppy EDM for everyone to hear succeeds with Wake Me Up, a chart-topping single that features Aloe Blacc for vocals and guitar from Incubus’ Mike Eizenger.

Wish that I could stay forever this young
Not afraid to close my eyes
Life’s a game made for everyone
And love is the prize

So wake me up when it’s all over
When I’m wiser and I’m older
All this time I was finding myself
And I didn’t know I was lost

Top 6- JUST GIVE ME A REASON by Pink feat. Nate Ruess

Pink- Just Give Me A Reason

This power ballad features two of the most distinct and beautiful voices of this generation: Pink and Nate Ruess of the band, fun. Featuring solo parts that both showcase the two singers’ excellent vocals, the song undoubtedly transcends when they sing together. Eargasm results when their voices blend. Moreover, I won’t be surprised if the song wins for Song of the Year in the Grammys. Two lovers yearning to mend their relationship is clearly felt and understood through and through when the song is being played.

Now you’ve been talking in your sleep, oh, oh
Things you never say to me, oh, oh
Tell me that you’ve had enough
Of our love, our love

Just give me a reason
Just a little bit’s enough
Just a second we’re not broken just bent
And we can learn to love again
It’s in the stars
It’s been written in the scars on our hearts
We’re not broken just bent
And we can learn to love again

Top 5- MIRRORS by Justin Timberlake

Justin Timberlake- Mirrors

Easily the best track off Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience album, this emotional ballad keeps it very interesting and pleasing to the ears with a length of 8 minutes and 5 seconds that features a grand production of instrumentation, catchy yet very meaningful lyrics and of course, the artist’s soaring vocals and pleasing falsetto.

‘Cause I don’t wanna lose you now
I’m lookin’ right at the other half of me
The vacancy that sat in my heart
Is a space that now you hold
Show me how to fight for now
And I’ll tell you, baby, it was easy
Comin’ back here to you once I figured it out
You were right here all along

It’s like you’re my mirror
My mirror staring back at me
I couldn’t get any bigger
With anyone else beside of me
And now it’s clear as this promise
That we’re making two reflections into one
‘Cause it’s like you’re my mirror
My mirror staring back at me, staring back at me

Top 4- ROAR by Katy Perry

Katy Perry- Roar

Continuing the feel-good anthem of her songs, Katy Perry does it great with Roar, her first single off her latest album, Prism. Roar soars with Perry’s strong vocals immersed in booming instrumentations of piano and drums.

 You held me down, but I got up (HEY!)
Already brushing off the dust
You hear my voice, you hear that sound
Like thunder gonna shake the ground
You held me down, but I got up (HEY!)
Get ready ’cause I’ve had enough
I see it all, I see it now

I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire
‘Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar
Louder, louder than a lion
‘Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
You’re gonna hear me roar

Top 3- CAN’T HOLD US by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

M and RL- Can't Hold Us

If there’s one song that is the most infectious among all infectious songs this year, this is it. I’ve never liked a hip hop song as much as this before but because of the American hip-hop duo, I’m beginning to like hip hop more. This anthemic song defines the summer of the year by featuring a lashing of raps, a very catchy chorus and over-all a vibrant, upbeat and uplifting music.

Can we go back?

This is the moment

Tonight is the night

We’ll fight ‘til it’s over

So we put our hands up like the ceiling can’t hold us

Like the ceiling can’t hold us

Top 2- IKOT-IKOT by Sarah Geronimo

Sarah Geronimo- Expressions

The Philippine music for the year 2013 thrived with pop singers- old (resilient ones) and new (via reality shows), alternative rock bands and a number of indie artists. But the one who stood out the most is none other than Sarah Geronimo, claimed to be the country’s pop princess. The lead single off her latest album, Ikot-ikot represents the more mature Sarah as she croons about a tiring affair with a lover, perfected with its incredibly very catchy hook plunged in an upbeat yet dramatic music production. But, as a good friend mentioned in his blog, it is Sarah who made the song really her own. And I quote what my friend said: “Sarah Geronimo gives the lyrics a brooding, adult contemporary spin: heavy on grit and rage. [Her] delivery is all it takes to tell the story, rough and manic.”

Heto na naman tayo
Parang kelan lang ang huli
Gaano man kalayo
Tayo’y pinagtatagpong muli
Ilang ulit nagkasakitan
Ngunit paulit na gumagaling
Ilang ulit balak na iwan
Ngunit patuloy na bumabalik

Kay rami nang sakit
Na nilimot napabayaan
‘Di maiwasang isipin
Na tayo’y para bang tumatakbo

Sa walang hanggan na kalye, tumatakbo
Ang pag-ibig na tila ba ‘sang biyaheng
Ikot-ikot lang, ikot-ikot-ikot lang
Ikot-ikot lang, ikot-ikot-ikot
Ikot-ikot lang, ikot-ikot-ikot lang
Ikot-ikot lang, ikot-ikot-ikot

Top 1- COUNTING STARS by OneRepublic

One Republic- Counting Stars

The band’s latest single, Counting Stars, is also the most commercially successful off their third album, Native. Featuring poetic and reflective yet puzzling and ambiguous lyrics entrenched in pop rock with hints of indie and folk music, this song bursts with constant tempo changes, head-banging rhythms and Ryan Tedder’s excellent vocals. In the surface, the song teaches us to dream big, pray hard and do what we can to reach those stars. Deeply, though, this may mean another thing.

Lately I been, I been losing sleep
Dreaming about the things that we could be
But baby, I been, I been prayin’ hard
Said no more counting dollars
We’ll be counting stars
Yeah, we’ll be counting stars

I see this life
Like a swinging vine
Swing my heart across the line
In my face is flashing signs
Seek it out and ye shall find

Old, but I’m not that old
Young, but I’m not that bold
And I don’t think the world is sold
I’m just doing what we’re told

I feel something so right
By doing the wrong thing
And I feel something so wrong
By doing the right thing
I could lie, could lie, could lie
Everything that kills me makes me feel alive

Runners-up:

PLAY HARD by David Guetta feat. Ne-Yo & Akon

THRIFT SHOP and SAME LOVE by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

SAY SOMETHING by A Great Big World feat. Christina Aguilera

CLARITY by Zedd

AFTER ALL THIS TIME by Itchyworms

I KNEW YOU WERE TROUBLE by Taylor Swift

FEEL AGAIN and IF I LOSE MYSELF by OneRepublic

IN A WORLD LIKE THIS by Backstreet Boys

ATLAS by Coldplay

HONEYMOON AVENUE by Ariana Grande

WHEN I WAS YOUR MAN by Bruno Mars

INCREDIBLE by Celine Dion and Ne-Yo

SCARED TO DEATH by KZ Tandingan

NOT A BAD THING by Justin Timberlake

RADIOACTIVE by Imagine Dragons

THE ONLY ONE by James Blunt

LET ME GO by Avril Lavigne

SAFE AND SOUND by Capital Cities

The Conjuring

The ConjuringThe Conjuring was hyped up to be a very frightening horror picture weeks before it graced the Philippine theaters. And you know what? It was worth the hype. Filled with jolting scenes and scary antics, The Conjuring is a good horror movie that deserves to be watched on theaters.

The Conjuring is not that simple of a movie yet not that complicated not to understand, too. You just need to have an open mind to things you thought are not possible to happen. The movie is based on the true story of demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren as they help the Perron family overcome the haunting they are experiencing after moving into a new house. Demonologists are paranormal investigators and they help people who experience paranormal activities. The movie’s able to show what they usually do: research, investigate, gather evidences and perform procedures appropriate to the event or situation. In the case of the Perron family, what they needed is exorcism.

This horror movie joins the roster of great American horror movies in recent years: InsidiousCabin in the WoodsSinister and the first Paranormal Activity. The suspense here is undoubtedly real. Simple haunting and scary tricks make their way early in the movie, setting the pace of what is to come. You will then feel several jolts in the middle part until you feel the intensity of the terrifying climax. The Conjuring’s director, James Wan, is surely becoming an important personality in the horror genre. (FYI: he’s also the director of Insidious and Saw).

The music and sound used are very effective in setting the mood and the period of the film. They carry with them that haunting atmosphere all throughout the film while reminding the audience the story happened back in the 70’s. The visual effects are so solid you’d believe what you are seeing onscreen. The people behind these effects should also be commended because of the good dose of terrifying scenes they helped realize in the film.

Vera Farmiga is outstanding as Lorraine Warren, whose clairvoyance is believed to take emotional and spiritual toll on her. Her acting showed her character’s genuine personality: caring and empathic to people who are being disturbed by other-worldly beings. Patrick Wilson is quickly becoming a staple of horror movies as he proves once again how effective he is in this movie genre no matter what character he portrays. He is very good as Ed Warren, the other half of Lorraine. Lily Taylor is brilliant as Carolyn Perron, the person possessed in the story. Believe me, she has the nastiest and most horrifying scenes in the movie and yet she’s able to pull them all through. The rest of the cast is good, and they are able to do what they had to do to pull off what I would like to call being scary or being scared performances.

There’s news that The Conjuring is going to have a sequel. After knowing the hype was worth it for this film, I am actually excited for what’s to come next.

The Conjuring’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 4.5 out of 5.

Star Trek: Into the Darkness

ImageStar Trek: Into the Darkness is one amazing spaceship experience in the form of a film. Watching the movie in the big screen was really worth it.

However, the movie started out as bland. I didn’t get to really like the first hour of its screening. The audience has been thrown the usual blah-blahs of science fiction films. Even the plot that was presented at the start was not that compelling. But this is J.J. Abrams (Alias, Super 8) and his film that we’re talking about here. Because when the movie was about to reach the climax, there was no stopping the suspense until the end. The blandness at the start changed and turned into awesomeness instead. The suspense during the climax was so high I didn’t want it to end!

The best part of the movie was Benedict Cumberbatch. He served as the one thing that made the viewing experience far different from the first film. If the first movie was a good movie, this second one won’t be as good if not for Cumberbatch. He exuded such presence as Khan (the major villain in the movie) that would intimidate every major character in the story.

The next best thing to Cumberbatch? The bromance between Chris Pine (as Captain Kirk) and Zachary Quinto(as Commander Spock). Their great chemistry in the first film carried over to Into the Darkness, and this could be seen in every scene they were in. Great friendship between two unlikely people has always been great to watch on the big screen and the film did not fail to show it.

It’s a given that Star Trek II boasts great visuals as such aspect of the film is a must in sci-fi films. There were a few oh-so-awesome visual effects but honestly, more could have been done. Nevertheless, it was satisfying enough in generaI.

I hope if ever there would be a third Star Trek film, the would-be team behind it would think of making it something that hasn’t been seen yet on any film. I’m not a fan of the TV series but I do like its film installments. I hope they would make it stand out and not just be one of those sci-fi films.

Star Trek: Into the Darkness movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 3.5 out of 5