Interstellar

Interstellar

Prepare your minds to be blown.

True to every movie he directs, Christopher Nolan made a film that is not only extraordinarily picturesque, but also striking, thrilling and mind-boggling. With Interstellar, he impressively created a futuristic world where Earth is not sustainable anymore for humans to survive for a very long time. Tackling issues that we are already facing today, the film opened the possibilities of how things would be in the future. Nolan created that world via Interstellar, and he made the audience part of that world. Relatability and relevance are two words that define the film even if it’s a futuristic one.

Fresh from winning the Oscars for Best Actor for his great performance in Dallas Buyers Club, Matthew McConaughey once again tugs the audience’s heart with his role in Interstellar. A former test pilot and engineer for NASA who became a farmer in their hometown due to the eventual deterioration and degradation of the Earth, Cooper (McConaughey) accepts the challenge to man a space ship called Endurance to confirm viability of the three potentially habitable planets that were surveyed out by a previous space mission called Lazarus Mission. Leaving behind Donald, his father-in-law, Tom, his son and Murph, his 10-year-old stubborn yet brilliant daughter, he heads on to space with the scientist daughter of a leading NASA figure Amelia (Anne Hathaway), physicist Romilly (David Gyasi), geographer Doyle (Wes Bentley) and the super robot named TARS. His team’s struggles with the unknown universe out there and his thoughts about his family back on Earth represents the brain and the heart of the film respectively. Will they ever find a potential Earth replacement for humans to live in? Will they still be able to go back to Earth and see their family once again?

The rest of the cast played great support to McConaughey and the notable ones include Mackenzie Foy, who played his teenage daughter, Jessica Chastain, who played the grown-up daughter, Ellen Burstyn, as the 100-year-old version of the daughter, and Matt Damon as Dr. Mann, one of the astronauts who ventured into space via Lazarus Mission. The willful and bright daughter of Cooper was remarkably played by Foy, Chastain and Burstyn. You could see curiosity in their eyes and the assertion of love and brilliance through their actions. Even though they were not seen together most of the time (Chastain and McConaughey actually didn’t have a scene where they were physically together), they provided much better chemistry than McConaughey’s team-up with Hathaway. Meanwhile, Damon provided such a good surprise with his small role in the film. This actor’s really impressive whatever role he’s in.

Hans Zimmer booms with his masterwork sound in the film. When his score kicks in, the suspense, the drama and the jubilation rise up to complement Nolan’s remarkable scenes that were edited by no less than Lee Smith (also the editor of Inception, The Dark Knight and X-Men: First Class).

As expected, the cinematography (Hoyte van Hoyterna) of the film is outstanding. Most of the visuals used in the film would leave you breathless. From the blight Earth up to the Icelandic scopes of one of the potential Earth replacements, the film has chosen and used such great shooting locations. While I find Gravity’s space visuals more impressive (probably because it was filmed in 3D IMAX compared to Interstellar’s combination of anamorphic 35 mm an IMAX 70 mm film photography), Interstellar’s visuals are astonishingly beautiful, too.

The movie’s going to challenge you about the Earth’s natural state right now. It lets you glimpse into a world where humankind has regressed into an agrarian society because of problems with sustainability. And this idea isn’t farfetched. With billions of people currently living on the planet and having very limited resources, adding to that the dangerous effects of global warming, Earth is into a quicksand of destruction lest humans do something about it.

Moreover, the film did not hesitate to mince highfalutin words with complex scientific concepts. Interstellar showed and dealt with worm holes and black holes and their potentials, space travel and interstellar communication, potential earths from other parts of the galaxy, and extra-dimensional presence. Even though it is a science-fiction film, it presented what seemed to be potentially accurate possibilities about all these venturing into space activities. It may have stretched out those possibilities especially with the potentials of bending time and space, but who knows if they will be a reality in the near future?

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

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12 Years A Slave

12 Years A Slave“Your story is amazing and in no good way.” –Mr. Bass to Solomon Northup

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 was 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. Having a black president in the white house would be an impossible dream to the Black Americans then. Why would they ever think of that? Many of them might be free (as in they did what they wanted to do), but more of them were kidnapped or traded off as slaves. The movie served as a reminder of how other people then were used and abused by other people, even though they knew from the heart that what they’re doing was wrong. 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.

“If I can’t buy mercy from you, I beg it.” –Patsey

The story about Solomon Northup, a free man who was abducted and sold up as a slave, is superbly told in the movie. My eyes just couldn’t escape the screen while watching. The scenes were amazingly edited to the point that I didn’t anticipate the next scene much more than I want to linger on what I was seeing onscreen. Steve McQueen’s mark as a director could be seen on scenes where the camera stays for a long time on an actor, capturing his emotions and reactions to the situation he is in.

“It would be unspeakable happiness to see my wife and my family again.” – Solomon Northup

Speaking of actors, I didn’t know who the lead actor or even the supporting cast is before watching the movie. I was kind of surprised when I see familiar faces pop up on screen and that’s good, of course. The lead actor, Chiwetel Ejiofor, held his own against the great support his co-actors gave. Paul Giamatti, in his brief appearance as a slave trader, impressed on his scenes. Sarah Paulson, in spite of her small stature and having not that big of a voice, startled as the jealous wife of a slave owner. Michael Fassbender, as the slave owner husband of Paulson’s character, astounded once again with the frenetic ways of his character that he embodied effortlessly. I would give the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor to him in a heartbeat.

The cinematography of the movie was brilliant. In some scenes, the hues that were created by the sky in contrast to the silhouette the light created to trees, houses and other structures were a visual feast. Even the scenes at night or those that happen inside the houses created a beautiful play on the little amount of light present as it fell on the subject or subjects in contrast to the darkness that enveloped them.

The music created for the movie by Hans Zimmer reverberated the sad and tragic fates of many Black Americans back then. It complements the great visualization of the story.

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.

12 Years A Slave’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 5 out of 5

The Best Movies of 2012

The Academy Awards would be having its 85th year of honoring and recognizing brilliant films released in the world this weekend. And what a better topic to blog about today but the best movies of the past year. As I was not able to post yet my annual best movie list for last year, I think it is just fitting to post it now that the Oscar weekend is here. Here are my Top 20 international and local movies of 2012:

The Hunger Games poster

20- THE HUNGER GAMES

The movie version of one of the most popular books about a dystopian world was good. Most of what I remember about the story in the book came into life in the movie. Indeed, it was a faithful adaptation as it was able to successfully channel the spirit of the book. Apart from that, the movie delivered in a lot of ways: great screenplay, credible acting, good visual effects, awesome sound effects and good cinematography.

 

 

 

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The Sessions poster

19- THE SESSIONS

This film deserves to be recognized. It tackles a very controversial subject as the movie’s lead character is a controversial one. The Sessions is about Mark O’Brien, a poet and advocate for the disabled who is paralyzed from the neck down due to polio, and his quest to fulfill a basic human need: sex. Bordering on what’s right and wrong, this movie would make you think about the repercussions of incidents that are beyond our control and the consequences we’d have to face for our actions to these things. Helen Hunt deserves her Academy Award nomination for her role as the sex surrogate for O’Brien as she presented what it’s like to be vulnerable despite the nature of her work wherein she presented a great deal of professionalism. Ethan Hawke who was brilliant in his role as O’Brien was robbed for an award or even a nomination this year.

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Les Miserables official movie poster

18- LES MISERABLES

Deeply emotional but still very entertaining, Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables is able to show a great story of redemption, revolution and love. Based on the well-celebrated novel of Victor Hugo, the film is about Jean Valjean, a recently released convict who broke his parole to start a new life. Even though he succeeded in changing himself for the better by owning a factory of his own, he found it untruthful to be hiding under a different name. Honest as he was, he risked being taken into prison again while trying to fulfill a promise to one of his female workers: to look after her (illegitimate) daughter.

One of the best features of the movie is the exceptional performances of its actors. Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, among others delivered great performances. The film could also boast about its good production design. Nineteenth century France looked well and alive in the movie. The structures, the costumes and the customs of the people at that time were well-represented in the movie. Lastly, Tom Hooper was able to prove he was not a fluke when he won Best Director for The King’s Speech in 2010. The actors in the movie were well-directed. Read the rest of my review here.

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Sinister

17- SINISTER

Sinister was one of those rare deeply frightening flicks that every horror fan should watch. Believe me; it would frighten everyone who’s watching at least once during its run. I, who has been watching horror movies for most of my life, have genuinely cringed during a few scenes in the movie. Some of the people I was with during the screening were definitely horrified by some scenes based on their squirms and wails. There was also one time when several people in the audience jumped from their seats because of a truly scary scene.

One of the best American horror movies ever, Sinister would tell you that you’ll never know what you’re getting into until the very end.

Read the rest of my review here.

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Beats-of-the-southern-wild-movie-poster

16- BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD

 Using fantasy to create a seemingly true reality is what makes this film a wonder to watch. The child protagonist (Quvenzhane Wallis) could carry the whole film by herself, but the supporting cast was just as great in presenting the creativity and imagination of the people behind the camera.

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Kon-tiki_2012_Poster

15- KON-TIKI

This movie is the real Life of Pi because what you see in the movie was based on real life events. Tik-Toki is such as big movie that you’ll have a lot to think about while watching. But unlike other big movies, this one gives you the time to think, to ponder about what it’s trying to teach. The beginning was kind of slow, but once it picked up the pace, it will reach the climax like the top of a tidal wave. Believe me, the suspense I felt here was one-of-a-kind. After watching, I knew why it has been nominated for an Oscar.

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I_Do_Bidoo_Bidoo_theatrical_poster

14- I DO BI-DOO

I Do Bidoo Bidoo, a musical romance-comedy film about the love story of a poor boy and a rich girl, was highly entertaining, engaging and heart-warming. I guess the heart of the movie was APO Hiking Society’s timeless classics, which were strewn well in the very familiar story of two young lovers from two very different families. Looking back, it was certainly one of the best Pinoy movies for 2012.

Read the rest of my review here.

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The Cabin in the Woods movie poster

13- CABIN IN THE WOODS

If you think you know what “Cabin in the Woods” is all about just by basing on its title, you’re in for a frightful surprise. This movie was one of the most original horror movies that I have ever seen. Not to worry, though, because it still has all sorts of the traditional horror elements… with a whole lot more!

The movie’s got shock, fright, gore and terror. I’d like to believe that the director (the aforementioned Goddard) was able to perfectly balance these with a little humor and fun. What movie has able to do that in a span of roughly 1 and ½ hour? Nothing comes to mind. And the suspense: it went way up high and never went down again. With all the movie’s shocks and surprises, there’d be no time and place for wasted moments.

Read the rest of my review here. 

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Wreck-It Ralph

12- WRECK-IT RALPH

I was smiling a lot while watching the latest Walt Disney Animation Studios movie called Wreck-It Ralph. The movie’s a 3D computer-animated comedy about an arcade game villain who did not want to become a bad guy anymore. His exploits to reach his goal and its effects to the entire arcade game basically made up this feel-good movie.

When I first knew that a number of famous arcade game characters would be seen on the big screen, I felt very excited. I liked the idea, but I loved how the production team behind the movie was able to do it! They’ve got great story to boot, brilliant voice cast, clever screenplay, great music and awesome visuals. But that’s not enough to show how the movie’s really good. The nostalgia it brought with every familiar arcade video game character was definitely priceless!

Read the rest of my review here.

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Silver_Linings_Playbook_Poster

11- SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

Silver Linings Playbook is such an amazing movie. It made an underrated actor recognized in a big way, paved the way for a young actress to venture into greatness in the future; and reminded everyone just how great a senior actor acts. Of course, you know who I am talking about if you have watched this film about how a man with bipolar disorder found true love amidst crazy happenings around him. The film’s director, David O. Russell (“The Fighter”), sure knows how to really tell a very compelling story. I can’t wait to watch his next film.

 

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Thy Womb movie poster

10- THY WOMB

Thy Womb boldly depicted the story of an infertile Muslim wife who selflessly finds ways to let her husband bear a child.

This movie was not the usual drama that Filipino filmmakers offer. Tackling the issue of infertility/ fertility may not be new to the ears, but taking it to a higher complexity by having Muslims as characters is something new to us. Come to think of it, we don’t get to watch Filipino movies with our Muslim brethren as the protagonists. And I like how the movie’s highly-acclaimed director, Brillante Mendoza, seemed to present the delicate matter with such ease that only he can do.

I have watched many of Brillante Mendoza’s films and I must say that Thy Womb is his most picturesque film to date. The short story that was stretched into roughly 90 minutes was used by the director to present the ways of life and traditions of our Badjao brethren in Tawi-tawi. Mendoza was able to capture the simple lives of the people there in a great way. Read the rest of my review here.

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Zero Dark Thirty

9- ZERO DARK THIRTY

Tortures, explosions, executions- you’ll see a lot of these in the latest spy-thriller film called Zero Dark Thirty. But more significantly, the movie is about a grand manhunt.

Kathryn Bigelow, Oscar Best Director for her 2009 film, Hurt Locker, captivated the audience with her latest film that chronicled America’s efforts to kill Osama Bin Laden, the perpetrator of the grim 9/11 attack on World Trade Center. It took a while before Bin Laden was taken down, but the film would make you understand how hard it was to locate a high-profile terrorist with a lot of devotees and supporters. It’d inform you that it was great surveillance, intelligence and persistence that made the hunt successful after such a seemingly long time. Read the rest of my review here.

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Rurouni Kenshin movie poster

8- RUROUNI KENSHIN

Rurouni Kenshin is the most-awaited live-action movie adaptation of Nobuhiro Watsuki’s manga and anime series (locally known here as Samurai X) that thousands of Filipinos have watched during the late 1990s. It is a great film not only because it was a great adaptation (great acting, great cinematography, great production design, great editing) of what I have watched as a young teenager but because it has successfully combined the elements that make an anime series a hit: beauty, intensity and heart.

Read the rest of my review here.

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Amour-poster-french

7- AMOUR

Following the critically-acclaimed movie, The White Ribbon, with a seemingly subdued but truthfully deep and disturbing movie called Amour, Michael Haneke did it again to gain the favors of people around the world.

Amour is about an elderly couple named Anne and Georges who are retired music teachers. Complications begin to happen on their relationship when Anne suffers a stroke, which paralyzed half of her body. Their struggles and efforts to keep the love alive between the two of them were the focus of the movie.

Pulling off great performances from the actors and putting out great screenplay, editing and directing, Amour more than deserves the accolades it has been receiving for the past year. 

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The Amazing Spider-Man movie poster

6- THE SPIDER-MAN RETURNS

Watching the latest Spider-Man movie is one of the things you won’t regret doing, whether you’re a comic fan or not. Believe me when I say it’s got the complete package. It would make you laugh and smile. It would make you wonder. It would make you thrilled. It would make you feel in love. It would make you feel alive. And it would seriously make you cry. “The Amazing Spider-Man” would be able to make you do all these and more in its more than 2 hours of very amazing scenes. I couldn’t help but long for the next Spider-Man installment.

Read the rest of my review here.

 

 

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Django_Unchained_Poster

5- DJANGO UNCHAINED

Grand, brutal and absolutely amusing, this latest movie of Quentin Tarantino has that flair of his biggest and most critically acclaimed films, “Pulp Fiction” and “Inglorious Basterds.” The movie brandishes a cast of great actors who embodied their roles very well (hats off to Christoph Waltz, Leonardo diCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson and Jamie Foxx) and a script that’s so witty you’ll find yourself laughing or smiling or smirking amidst a serious storyline. Django Unchained is about a former slave named Django (Foxx) who seek to save his wife from a brutal plantation owner named Calvin J. Candie (Leonardo diCaprio) with the help of a German bounty hunter called Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). It’s definitely one of the greatest movies of 2012.

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The Dark Knight Rises movie poster

4- THE DARK KNIGHT RISES

The Dark Knight Rises surpasses the two previous Batman movies of the acclaimed director, Christopher Nolan. Even though it has the aesthetic of Batman Begins and the mood of The Dark Knight, it exceeds them both in suspense, which is a very vital part of action-fantasy films.

Christopher Nolan, TDKR’s director, has indeed upped the level of superhero movies with his Batman films. It is not that hard for a superhero film to be loved by audiences and critics alike, but with a theme that is darker than usual, his Batman films take the cake for being the best and most liked. I am a fan of Nolan’s films, and I like how he treats his subjects and themes with proper care and direction to meet his purpose. Just to specify, let me tell you some of his movies. If you’re into a different kind of movie that will make you think all the time you’re watching it, try Memento. If you want to be thrilled with mage and realism, watch The Prestige. If you want to be soaked up in a dream inside a dream, watch Inception.

The Dark Knight Rises continues the list of superb superhero films shown this year (The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man). I am saddened that this is the last of Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, but I am also happy as the legend of the dark knight ended in a great, great way.

Read the rest of my review here.

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Argo2012Poster

3- ARGO

An edge of the seat action movie, ARGO combines drama, suspense, humor at the backdrop of a very important event concerning Iran and the United States. It’s been a really long time since I have felt so tensed while watching a climax of a movie, and just with that alone, Argo deserves all the accolades it has been receiving since late last year. Ben Affleck is a very good actor, but looking at his credits as a filmmaker, he’s proven that he’s also very effective behind the camera. He polishes his work well. He doesn’t leave loopholes in his story. Aside from that, he does not just entertain and amuse, he also implants a seed of morality in his films. Believe me, Argo would make you think and ponder about what America has been doing for a long time. It’s such a powerful country that it interferes in state affairs of other countries in the world. The heroism that has been shown in the movie refers to heroism of saving fellow Americans. But it also does expose the dangers and risks of involving oneself into another’s affairs. Argo is one of the best films of 2012.

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The Avengers movie poster

2- THE AVENGERS

The Avengers was without doubt the best Marvel movie to date! Joss Whedon, its director and writer, was a real genius! The great story of the world’s mightiest heroes was excellently presented with a smart and witty screenplay, awesome visual and aural effects, credible acting, flawless editing and brilliant directing. Watching the film from start to finish was definitely an awesome experience! If not for a very beautiful movie, this would have been my best film for 2012!

Read the rest of my review here.

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Life of Pi1- LIFE OF PI

Magnificently beautiful and deeply emotional, Ang Lee’s Life of Pi excellently translated a book that has been thought to be impossible to be made as a film. It is the most beautiful film that I’ve seen so far, and for that title alone, it is deserving to be called the best film of 2012.

With one word, my name went from an elegant French swimming pool to a stinking Indian latrine – I was pissing everywhere.

Life of Pi is about Piscine Molitor or Pi, a 16-year-old boy who survived a shipwreck and got stranded in the Pacific Ocean on a lifeboat with a Bengal Tiger named Richard Parker. The movie explores Pi’s early childhood life, his unusual religious beliefs and his incredible journey with a feral animal on seemingly endless waters.

Richard Parker, come out you have to see this! It’s beautiful!

One would surely be awed with the film’s continuous display of astounding images. I couldn’t remember a single movie that was as marvelously beautiful as this one. The grandeur of the sea and the sky, the magnificence of land and sea creatures and the spiritual journey of a human were seen and yes, felt in Life of Pi. Shades of yellow and red painted the sunny atmosphere while Pi was struggling with Richard Parker. Hues of blue, black and white shared a glimpse of the sea at night when Pi, Richard Parker and everyone else on the sea seemed calm. Botches of black and grey spelled doom from the sky, prompting Pi to save whatever he could with what’s left of his things on the boat. Hues of green, yellow and blue signified outward life on the carnivorous island. The color blue toned the seemingly endless ocean Pi was crossing for a very long time.

Ang Lee surely knows how to make a great film. With Life of Pi, he has again showed the world how he can make a great story be told through the silver screen. Seriously, it seemed like he could make any situation of a scene not just really look good, but amazingly good. Read the rest of my review here.

 I suppose in the end, the whole of life becomes an act of letting go, but what always hurts the most is not taking a moment to say goodbye.