Inside Out (movie review)

Inside_Out_(2015_film)_posterTremendously entertaining, visually gorgeous and deeply touching, Inside Out might just be the best movie that I have watched so far this year.

Released by Disney and Pixar, Inside Out tackles the mind of an 11-year-old girl where five personified emotions (Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust) deal with her daily activities and experiences. Now, she has to deal about moving in to a new place, a new school and a new neighborhood with the help (or burden?) of these five emotions.

Kudos to the movie’s directors Pete Docter and Ronnie del Carmen for visualizing a unique story the way the moviegoers experienced it. Such a good story isn’t put to waste because of their careful directing. The voice actors are so alive in the film, especially Amy Poehler who voiced out Joy, of course. I remember her stint in Parks and Recreation wherein she played Leslie Knope, a very jovial character who’s the heart of that great comedy series. Her co-actors in the movie are also perfect for their roles: Phyllis Smith (who really looked like Sadness haha), Saturday Night Live’s Bill Hader (Fear), Lewis Black (troubling Anger) and Mindy Kaling (a shoo-in for the playfully sarcastic Disgust). The animation, the graphics and the visual effects are beyond amazing, while the musical score fills everything in that make the movie perfect.

There are three things that I have pondered in this movie.

One, you can’t just be solely happy in life. There are certain things that we can only learn from experiencing other emotions. Sadness is what we feel when we’re hurt or rejected. If you come to think about it, feeling sad is not that bad. Of course, nobody wants to be sad but there are times when inevitable things happen that makes us experience it. This feeling of being down is nasty, but we could somehow turn it into a way that can work for us. Sadness can make us realign our thoughts about things, including what made us sad in the first place. Also, it’s a way for us to know the people who really care about our feelings. It’s also a truth that sadness can force us to really move on. It’s been said for a lot of times that we should refuse anger if we can. In a way, that’s correct for we might not be thinking straight if we really are angry. But truthfully, we can use it as a gauge on what really upsets us that makes us move to change what it is. Fear is there to know our limits while disgust can be used to really know what we like and dislike.

Two, the team up of Disney and Pixar is still the best out there for animated films. They might have hit a bit of a rocky road for the past few years, but they have proven with Inside Out that they’re definitely still the best in the field. Only they can consistently show those popping visuals that carry out a very inventive story about the emotional center of the human mind that touches every heart of those who watch. While watching, I think I’ve seen (in my peripheral vision) that a daddy (who was with his wife an kid) sort of sighed and sniffled during the very emotional scenes.

Three, if the creators can find a way to make a sequel out of this movie, I’ll be more than willing to watch it in the silver screen!

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

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Cinderella (movie review)

Cinderella_2015_official_posterThis is how you make a movie version of a fairytale!

I was pleasantly surprised when I first heard that a live version of the beloved fairytale was in the works. It wasn’t a bad idea, but making Cinderella alive not with use of drawings or merely animation would be a hard thing to do if just to please any fairytale lover. But thanks to the cast and crew of this film, a great movie version of Cinderella has been brought to the silver screen.

Friends have been telling me that Cinderella is a good movie and so I have high expectations before watching it. And those expectations were definitely exceeded. What I saw was not a mere re-imagination of the beloved fairytale but a great re-telling of the classic. Needless to say, Cinderella is a must-watch especially for those who yearn that good and lovin’ feeling! Haha, just kidding. Kids and kids-at-heart will surely appreciate this movie.

All eyes were drawn to Cinderella when she entered the palace for the first time. Why wouldn’t they be? The actress who plays her role is a great beauty. In fact, the time she, the grownup Cinderella, made her appearance onscreen, you can’t help but just look at her. The person who portrays the beloved character oozes with charm and grace and that is no other than Ella James. I think I’ve seen her in a couple of episodes of Downton Abbey but she ‘s a revelation in this movie. She made me feel like there could be no one who could have portrayed Cinderella better.

Her chemistry with Richard Madden, her Prince Charming, is undeniable. Have you seen their dance during the ball in the palace? They seem to be making love! I don’t know if it’s just me but the grace in the way they moved and the intensity of the way they looked at each other made me feel like it. Can’t help but think that it’s the way you make a romantic pairing work!

Cate Blanchett proved that there’s no role that she couldn’t portray well. As the evil stepmother, she stared with hatred at Cinderella and acted like the latter’s someone to really be hated. She succeeded in both instances.

Famed British actor and director Kenneth Branagh helmed this wonderful film. Thankfully, he did because it was really good! The visuals were impressive, the editing was impeccable and the screenplay was very faithful to the spirit of the fairytale. The inspiring story of Cinderella was put into a life full of colors with this film.

Cinderella’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 4.5 out of 5

Big Hero 6

Big_Hero_6_film_posterAs the first Disney animated feature film to feature characters from Marvel EntertainmentBig Hero 6 impresses as one of the best animated movies ever.

Hiro, a 13-year-old genius, spends his time doing fun things like participating in back alley robot fights. His older brother, Tadashi, who’s also a genius, made him realize he might just be wasting his time and his potential by introducing him to the robotics lab in the university where he is studying. Tadashi introduced him to his project, a personal health care assistant named Baymax. There he also met Tadashi’s friends GoGo Tamago, Honey Lemon, Wasabi and Fred, who are also geniuses in their own fields. An application exam in the form of a project presentation is needed for him to enter the university. While he passed it with flying colors via microbots, which are swarms of tiny robots that can link together and form into any shape imaginable, a tragedy strikes that made a great impact to Hiro’s life. This is the premise of Big Hero 6.

Such a heavy theme in an animated movie, shall we say? Yes, but all is well put to make it suitable both for kids and kids-at-heart. In fact, Big Hero 6 gets it all right: great story, appealing characters, slick direction, impressive cinematography and spectacular animation! Believe me, I was very pleased the whole time I was watching the movie! The movie had me (hehe) at San Fransokyo during its very first scene and it made me really smile until the very end!

The way the movie started brought about a feel of Real Steel but it quickly moved to show that even though it has a similar vein as that movie, this is way better. If The Big Bang Theory made smart as the new sexy, this movie justified that nerd is the new cool. Not a new idea considering the success of Iron Man and similar movies that escalate technology to a whole new level on a pedestal, but Big Hero 6 made it more relatable for kids and teenagers. It also somehow reminds adults of their purpose and relevance in life, thanks to the adult figures in the movie.

It has always been said that time flies when you’re having fun and I have always said that a good movie would let the time fly while you’re watching without you noticing. Big Hero 6 is such a perfect example of a movie wherein you won’t notice that a lengthy amount of time has passed by. And, more than the fun, watching it was such a great movie experience. Not only would it please and entertain you, it would also make you think, feel, and make you want to act in favor of what it is teaching.

The animation used in the movie is a whole level of amazing. (Have you noticed I am saying whole a lot of times in this review? Big Hero 6 makes me do so because it is a whole lot to take in! Hehe.) Its use of computer graphics made the scenes seem to be real. From topography up to robotics technology, Big Hero 6 makes topnotch animation. I am guessing that simple isn’t in the vocabulary of the movie’s animation team and their efforts surely propel the movie at the list of films with the best special effects.

Meanwhile, one of the most llikeable, lovable and cutest animated characters is born in Big Hero 6! Watch out for Baymax, which, even though a robot, captures the heart of the viewers as he signifies the heart of the movie. Creators of Big Hero 6 set him apart from the rest of robots in films as he is one-of-a-kind: powerful, caring and huggable! And not just that. As a creation of a good person in the film (Tadashi), he is programmed to serve and do good things to others and refrain from hurting them. Moreover, when Hiro loses his way, Baymax serves as a true friend who redirects him to the right path. Do you know a robot that does exactly like that?

The voice actors (led by Ryan Potter as Hiro, Scott Adsit as Baymax and Daniel Henney as Tadashi) did a good job voicing out their characters. Their timing is on point, which made the funny dialogues really funny and the smart and witty lines very understandable. Furthermore, Henry Jackman’s score in the film (and Fall Out Boy’s “Immortals” as the movie theme) makes it more appealing.

Big Hero 6’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 5 out of 5

Maleficent

Maleficent_posterMaleficent marks an age in Disney as they embark on making an iconic villain in their famous fairytales as a heroine. It would be probably seen as unbelievable if such a notion of making a villain somehow a protagonist in a movie-for-children many, many years before. But the powers-at-be in the gigantic mouse company might have wanted to push boundaries with this notion, and it’s a good thing to say that they have succeeded. Malefice
nt is a beautiful reimagining of the fairytale about the popular sleeping princess and the avenging fairy who cast upon her the sleeping curse.

Angelina Jolie is Maleficent, the supposedly evil fairy who cursed Aurora, a princess in a faraway kingdom, to sleep on her 16th birthday until only a true love’s kiss would wake her. Maleficent wouldn’t be as good as it is without Jolie, who’s able to embody a character that’s been embittered into deep hatred yet still yearning for redemption. The seemingly evil character’s story was told very well, making the audiences understand more her actions and her reasons for doing them.

Thankfully, the supporting cast is able to carry on and channel Jolie’s outstanding acting. Elle Fanning (Dakota Fanning’s younger sister) is good as the beautiful, graceful and curious Aurora. Sharlto Copley (better known as the protagonist in District 9) delivered well as Maleficent’s friend who turned into a power-lusting king and Aurora’s father. Sam Riley is funny and entertaning as Maleficent’s raven shapeshifter sidekick Diaval. Imelda Staunton (known as Professor Umbridge in Harry Potter is Knotgrass in this movie), Juno Temple (as Thistlewit) and Lesley Manville (a frequent collaborator of director Mike Leigh is Flittle here) are fun to watch as the three bickering fairy godmothers who are tasked to take care of Aurora until her 16th birthday.

I had reservations before watching the movie. The critics didn’t like it, some people I know did and yet still a few really did not. But after removing all doubts and just letting myself drown into the movie, I was smitten by it. I am pretty sure it’s not only me; the children in the audience were smitten as well. They liked what they saw as I even heard them shouting, jeering or laughing at some moments in the film. Maleficent has that fairytale feel that Disney movies can only give. It seemed like the time stopped and only the moving pictures in front seemed to matter. The impressive visuals and beautiful cinematography made Maleficent really enchanting and captivating. And have you listened well to the poignant musical score? It is very much effective in carrying out the mood of the scenes that the audience is sure to have ridden well along.

The slow pace at the start and the bits and pieces of sloppy writing prevented this movie from being an exceptional one. A reimagining of a classic story is such a hard task to do, and people who essentially know the story might not that be easily impressed. But still, just with Angelina’s brilliant performance and the appealing visuals, Maleficent is a good film to watch.

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

Best Movies of 2013

Let’s take a look at the best movies the year 2013 has to offer days before the most prestigious award-giving body for movies airs on the United States. These are my top choices for time-worthy and money-worthy cinema:

TOP 14- BEFORE MIDNIGHT

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I want to start this yearly countdown with the third installment of the romantic Before trilogy starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. Thanks to the good word of mouth from people who have watched this movie in theaters I got interested in watching the first two Before movies. And I was flabbergasted by how good they were. The directing was brilliant and the acting done by Hawke and Delpy never seemed be acting at all. And the writing, hmmm, the writing! It was nothing short of great! The last installment, Before Midnight, thankfully did not disappoint either. I was happy and fulfilled about how the characters came to be.

TOP 13- PRISONERS

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Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal star in the most thrilling and one of the darkest movies of the past year. The story of child abduction is never light and it wasn’t treated lightly in Prisoners. Apart from the believable acting done by the cast, this movie showed great editing, suspenseful directing and smart writing. Too bad it was one of the most underrated movies of the past year which is why only a small number of people were able to watch it.

TOP 12- FROZEN

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Frozen is the best film Disney has produced for a long time. Using their magic formula of putting a princess as a lead character, they made a great change this time in terms of resolving the always predictable conflict. Not to spoil anything but this great change made Frozen one-of-a-kind.

TOP 11- CAPTAIN PHILLIPS

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Paul Greengrass is a master of action. I wasn’t convinced at first that a ship and its captain that are being taken over by pirates could make such a very suspenseful narrative. But it could. In more than two hours of scenes involving the captain and his crew protecting the ship, falling for the mean pirates, negotiating with them and finally resolving the conflict, the movie depicted the most astounding hostage-taking drama film. Greengrass, along with his brilliant lead actor, Tom Hanks, presented a very interesting tale about how it is to be taken at sea.

TOP 10- BOY GOLDEN

Boy Golden

Just when I thought no good film would come out last year in the Metro Manila Film Festival come the little promoted Chito Rono film called Boy Golden. The title must have a premonitory effect as this is gold compared to the other MMFF entries.

I love how Chito Rono took care of the movie. He tied up all the scenes without lose threads. He did not allow mediocrity sip into his actors’ performances. And I just really like how he works with colors in the film’s scenes. He found beauty in each scene no matter how unlikely it was and this gave a much profound effect to what he wanted to convey about his characters or what’s happening in the story.

TOP 9- HER

Her2013Poster

Want to watch a film that will really make you think about human relationships? Watch Her, the latest film from acclaimed director, Spike Jonze, and brilliant actor, Joaquin Phoenix, as they tackle how humans express love with each other now and how it might be in the near future.

Joaquin Phoenix displays his brilliance once again as the lonesome lead character in the movie named Theodore. Every quip, every act he made seemed so natural. But he wouldn’t do it that well without Samantha, which is voiced by Scarlett Johannson. “Her” quirkiness and poignancy as the super smart computer made it believable that a human could really fall in love with a machine.

TOP 8- AMERICAN HUSTLE

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David O. Russell did it again with American Hustle. In comparison to his previous great efforts, this movie is like an organized chaos of ideas. A great chaos, that is. And much like how Russell directs his films, this one seemed blurry at first until one gets over the blurriness and seemingly understands what the whole films is all about. That’s how Russell shows his brilliance. He’ll let you in little by little until you find yourself wanting more. But his directing would be futile if not backed up by a brilliant cast led by Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. None of these actors were seen as themselves in the film. Why? They were not seen because they became their characters. And you just got to be awed by how amazing these talented individuals were when given a smart script that they could toy with. American Hustle is definitely one of the greatest movies of 2013.

TOP 7- THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

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Martin Scorcese’s latest offering, The Wolf of Wall Street, trumps many a great movie about money-making schemes. Watching it is a blast from start to finish! It’s got that great vibe of helping you understand how people in the stock market do what they do good. I kind of expected Leonardo diCaprio to be great, but I was nicely surprised to see him a lot better than what I was expecting him to be! He would surely given Chiwetel Ejiofor of the brilliant 12 Years a Slave a run for his money in the Oscar race for Best Actor. I actually thought he’s given the best performance of his life in this movie, being really the wolf in the Wall Street.

The movie seems to be an amalgam of deadly sins: greed, gluttony, power andlust. Leonardo diCaprio characterized all of these in his characterization of Jordan Belfort, the notorious stockbroker who owned Stratton Oakmont and made lots of millions swindling investors in the stock market. The way he spoke would seem to persuade even the most skeptical person to invest in his company. He didn’t really care about the investors; he cared about making loads of money. He, together with his friends and employees, drank and partied hard, took drugs as if they’re meals, fornicate anyone even those he is not fond of. He was addicted to power by not just trying to maintain being rich, but doing all he can to become richer and richer. All of these drowned him into the well of immorality, a world where everything seemed to be fun even though they’re not.

Scorcese still has his magic. In three hours, Scorcese showed how such a character like Belfort could have done such outrageous things. It is a testament that he really excels in doing movie that shows a study of character. He effectively showed how a small-time dreamer turned into a great but wild realist in the Wall Street. Belfort had a vision of what he wanted to be, and Scorcese made that evident in his frequent collaborator, Leonardo diCaprio, who’s insanely good in this movie.

TOP 6- THE WAY, WAY BACK

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Probably the most underrated movie in this list, The Way, Way Back is a coming-of-age movie that touches the heart, reels up the mind and brings out the good in every viewer’s soul. Yeah, that’s how deep the movie is even though it appears as just one of those teenage movies, which it definitely is not. It is the total opposite of the senselessly “fun” teenage movies as it deeply explores relationships of a child to his family, his friends and his crush. Putting in great performances are Lian James as Duncan, the 14-year-old central character of the film, and Sam Rockwell as Owen, the newly-found childish yet wise friend of Duncan when their family went to a beach house for a vacation. They, along with the rest of the cast, made the brilliant script come really alive. Thanks to its directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash for bringing this movie into fruition. Would you believe the movie is their directorial debut? What a great start!

TOP 5- NEBRASKA

Nebraska_Poster

“It’s a long time ago. Why are you bringing that up for?”

This movie is a funny, straight up story about a senior man and his family who went back to their roots in Nebraska. I had reservations before watching this film but after watching, I realized I should have not. I liked it actually. A lot.

I was wondering why the director chose the movie to be filmed in black and white. But while watching, I thought it must have been for a good reason. Reminiscing the old times? Looking for what’s good and what’s bad? We may never know. But what I know is that it was beautiful even only with its black and gray hues. In addition, there were a lot of shots that show a lot of very picturesque sceneries and scenic moments.

It never hurts to watch a good movie. Nebraska is one of those movies that you would really appreciate watching. You won’t only enjoy, you won’t just be entertained. You’d certainly feel good. But not just that, you’d pick up a lesson or two.

I like the movie’s quiet. I like its easygoing feel. I like its soothing music. I like the belongingness and the cheers. I like the confrontations and the bickering. I like its bright and dark contrasts. I like everything about it. In one way or another, every person is going through one of the roads any of the character is experiencing in the movie. Some will rise above the others, some will do just fine. Some will die early, others may grow old yet the may grow old in misery. It’s nice to know, though, that everything seems to be just fine. Believe in something… because it never hurts to believe.

TOP 4- CATCHING FIRE

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Catching Fire is one of those rare occurrences that a sequel of a movie is much, much better than its predecessor. Whether it’s because of the bigger budget or a better director, the movie is certain to give the moviegoer a great film experience upon watching.

I have read the book where the movie is based and I can say that this movie version is much more faithful than The Hunger Games. It’s been roughly two years since I’ve read it but after watching one scene after another, glimpses of what I have read suddenly came back.

Ten minutes into the film, I was already feeling the drama and the heaviness of its themes. Jennifer Lawrence (as Katniss) and Josh Hutcherson (as Peeta) are, without a doubt, two of the best actors in this generation. They make small scenes seem big and important with the way they act: their nuances, their delivery of lines, their movements. They made me believe once again in their characters. Meanwhile, I like the supporting cast much more in this movie than the last one.

Amazing visuals. Good musical score. Great directing. This movie seems to have it all!

TOP 3- ON THE JOB

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Top-notch directing and editing, very credible acting, excellent production design, great musical score, this movie has it all. To tell you the truth, I already had high expectations before watching because of good word-of-mouth feedback from people and raving reviews from critics. It was that high that I prepared myself to be disappointed. But, no. The movie was worth the hype. On the Job delivered greatly that acclaimed movies of many years past were not able to achieve.

TOP 2- 12 YEARS A SLAVE

12 Years A Slave

12 Years A Slave is one of the most buzzed films of 2013 and it is deserving to be so for one very good reason: it is a great movie. The way director Steve McQueen touched the topic of racism would truly affect you, inspire you (to do what’s good) and discourage you (from doing what’s bad). It didn’t come off as preachy, but it set the drama for every eye to see what was happening in America almost 200 years ago.

Come to think of it, the movie served as a reminder, too, that it’s much the same today, albeit a different kind of use and abuse are being done to other people. Despite the preaching of good people, awareness and knowledge about what’s right or wrong, some people still enslave other people in more ways than one.

With great directing/ editing, credible acting, impressive writing and brilliant production values, this movie is a great contender for Oscar’s Best Picture. I wouldn’t be surprised if it upsets my 2013 favorite Gravity.

Read the rest of my review here.

TOP 1- GRAVITY

Gravity

A visual spectacle and an emotional masterpiece, Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity takes off as one great 3D movie a film enthusiast will definitely love.

It’s an understatement when I say that watching this movie is a great 3D experience. It’s a joy to float with the characters in space and their space shuttles and yet it’s a tragedy to tumble with them unto the unknown. You would be able to grasp that idea of emotion they must be reeling to feel while enduring the idea of being really there in the outer space. Every single move they do with their body, every single twitch of their eye, every word their mouths articulate, you will feel. All of these things are present in the film without lacking in visual aesthetics. The space setting was so real you’ll feel you’re there all those times. The space shuttles, the debris, the stars and the Earth all felt real. Add to that the sometimes subtle, sometimes roaring musical score and you’ll definitely know you’re in a great ride. Because of these and more, the film went beyond spectacular. Gravity seemed like a character study in a display of technically perfect showing. Kudos to all the visual effects people, the sound masters and the meticulously great director of the film, Alfonso Cuaron.

The story might be very simple but it’s got great lessons for everyone. We all go through changes. We all go through sorrows. We all experience alarms and unpleasant surprises. We all sometimes just want to tune out everyone and just be with ourselves and ourselves alone. In the end, you will know that you’re still there with yourself, all changes or not. In the end, you will know that you can’t forever wallow in sorrow. In the end, you will learn to survive any astonishing thing that comes your way. Because in the end, if you have the will to live, you will always make it through.

RUNNERS-UP:

DALLAS BUYERS CLUB

AUGUST OSAGE COUNTY

SAVING MR. BANKS

LE PASSE

METRO MANILA

WORLD WAR Z

IRON MAN 3

Frozen

Frozen_(2013_film)_posterFrozen is the best film Disney has produced for a long time. Using their magic formula of putting a princess as a lead character, they made a great change this time in terms of resolving the always predictable conflict. Not to spoil anything but this great change made Frozen one-of-a-kind.

As stated on its credits, the movie is loosely based on the story of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen. However, they do differ a lot. Frozen is about the two princesses of a fictional kingdom called Arendelle: Elsa and her younger sister, Anna. The two used to be very close, but because Elsa had to hide her ability of creating ice and snow at will, they grew apart. They did not see each other for years until a tragic accident concerning their parents led them to. Elsa is to be crowned the queen and so, a banquet in the castle had to be made. Anna met the prince she wanted to marry and yet Elsa was against it. They argued, which led Elsa to lose control of her powers, making everything in the kingdom covered with ice and everyone freezing with cold. She departed to the mountains where she built her ice castle. What will happen to their kingdom now that they have separated? Will the sisters find their way again to each other? That’s what you have to find out.

The movie boasts itself with great animation and good visual effects. The combination of hand-drawn pictures and computer-generated imagery (CGI) effects made a spectacular display of animated sequences. You’ll be amazed by how some things onscreen are too detailed, with the lighting and the ice crystals and the snow.

What makes Frozen even the more impressive is its music. It’s not a good animated musical film for no good reason at all, right? The songs used are written and composed by Filipino songwriter, Robert Lopez, and his wife, Kirsten Anderson-Lopez. Their songs, incorporated into Christopher Beck’s musical score, made the audience either glee or moved depending on the scene. You’ll never wonder why you’re still smiling or even humming or singing right after watching because of the wonderful music heard in the film. Thanks also in part by the great voice work of its cast (who also sang) led by Kirsten Bell and Idina Menzel.

The movie teaches a number of good messages (e.g. Never marry a man you just marry), but the best for me, though, is how it showed a true act of love. I will not spill, but the movie’s climax pointed out a very strong message to everyone, that love isn’t what people always seem to believe.

Frozen’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 4.5 out of 5