Sakaling Hindi Makarating (movie review)

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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.

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Ant-Man

Ant-ManOne of my favorite movies so far this year, Ant-Man is not your typical superhero film. Just by basing on its title, one can assume this superhero movie has something to do with our small but incredibly strong insect friends: THE ANTS. Marvel creators and writers have this amazing ability to squeeze out interesting characters with solid background stories. And Ant-Man is not an exemption. Before I proceed with the short gist of the movie’s story, I should clarify that there are two Ant-Man (Ant-Men? haha) in the movie (as well as the comics world.) A hint of the original Ant-Man story is seen at the start: Dr. Hank Pym, a brilliant scientist, resigned from S.H.I.E.L.D. (the agency that vows to protect the world from evil forces) as he heard talks about replicating his invention: the Ant-Man shrinking technology. He vowed to protect it as he deemed it dangerous when taken by the wrong hands. More than a decade after, Dr. Pym’s protege is close to making up a shrinking technology of his own and he’s worried about its implications if ever perfected. Pym has no choice but to pass on the Ant-Man suit. But it won’t be easy, because the one he chose was a well-meaning thief who has just been sent out of the prison: Scott Lang. Will Lang be an effective Ant-Man? Will he be able to stop Pym’s protege and prevent the technology be taken by the enemies? That’s what you have to find out in the movie.

Paul Rudd is not someone you’d expect to be an actor who would suit up and be a superhero. But, lo and behold! Ant-Man fits him perfectly. With his strange but interesting demeanor, Rudd delivers as the fast and strong superhero named Ant-Man who can transform himself into a size of an ant at will but can still possess great strength even while being small.

If you have noticed, one of the amazing things in Marvel movies is the great chemistry of their cast. It’s great to have good actors in a production, but if they don’t quite work well together, the movie is sure to suffer. Michael Douglas commands during his scenes as Dr. Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man. He’ll make you look at him earnestly with the way he talks and acts. Other supporting actors in the film are also outstanding, from Evangeline Lilly (as the beautiful yet deadly Hope Van Dyke, Dr. Pym’s daughter) and Abby Rider Fortson (as Ant-Man’s smart and funny daughter) to Corey Stoll (as Ant-Man’s effective nemesis, Yellowjacket) and T.I. (yes, the rapper! as part of Ant-Man’s crew).

They say that superhero movies are a bit predictable. Yes, that’s true. But the real fun in watching them is in the execution of the director to pull off a great story in his or her own story-telling ability. In the case of Ant-Man, as it is not yet as popular aside from Marvel comics fans, the director’s way of introducing Ant-Man would make or break the franchise. Gladly, Peyton Reed presented Ant-Man in the best possible way: in a funny, heart-warming yet explosive kind of film!

I can’t wait for the next Ant-Man film! Will he be part of the next Avengers film? We’ll see!

Ant-Man‘s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 4.5 out of 5

Avengers: Age of Ultron (movie review)

Avengers-Age-of-Ultron-IMAX-PosterI have enjoyed the first Avengers movie better than this sequel, but one can tell that there’s a certain level of maturity that the Age of Ultron has shown. The characters were given more depth, the cast displayed a great deal of chemistry, the vsual effects are ultra-cool and the story has had a good and smooth flow. The writers were able to weave through the rich story of these Avengers and along the way; one can tell each one is going to have a thoughtful, or even good, ending.

Also, there’s still this good humor that Joss Whedon is able to instill in every part of the movie. Whether during a light moment or a heavy one, a lighthearted line or a funny gesture brings lightness to a rather heavy story.

Needless to say, the Marvel movie is every bit packed with action. Other action movies would be shy they’re called action movies because this one doesn’t stop from bringing in the goods. The action scenes are consistently thrilling! I especially love the slow-motion group battle scenes sort of montage. I can’t help but say that the movie’s the best action movie since the first Avengers! Sorry, Bryan Singer, but Joss Whedon seemed to have the real magic when it comes to bringing comic characters into real great live action films. My most favorite comics/ cartoon of all time is none other than X-Men but its movie versions don’t come really close (except to the first X-Men film) to the greatness that is The Avengers.

Let’s talk about Joss Whedon. The director and self-proclaimed comic lover has come a long way since his Buffy The Vampire Slayer days. He’s become one of the favorites in Hollywood and I think that statement in itself is an understatement. Huge projects such as The Avengers and its sequel were given to his hands and thank goodness because he’s able to execute these stories well and turn them into two of the most enjoyable comic movies ever. I love what he did with the series and I can’t seem to wait for the next installment.

Age of Ultron binds the original Avengers team to ultimately eradicate Hydra. They were successful in destroying the enemies’ base but a mysterious artifact that they have taken has unleashed Ultron, which took over  Iron Man’s computer intelligence, Jervis. Ultron acquired the skill of controlling some of Iron Man’s metallic armors, weapons and robots. Complicating matters is the presence of twin mutants, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, who hold key roles in this movie. Will the Avengers be able to stop the onslaught that Ultron is brewing to take over the world?

If you haven’t watch this movie yet, it’s not too late. The money and time you will spend watching it is worth it.

Avengers: Age of Ultron‘s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 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.

The Imitation Game (movie review)

The_Imitation_Game_posterOne of the best films not just for the year 2014, The Imitation Game celebrates the distinction of being not normal. That is right -the extraordinary, the special one. From honoring the great mind of Mr. Alan Turing, the popular mathematician who broke Germany’s seemingly unbreakable code called Enigma (the movie is loosely based on the biography called Alan Turing: The Enigma, by the way), up to his love for what’s different; this movie has shown more heart, mind and soul compared to a whole other good movies that were screened last year.

“Think of it. A digital computer. Electrical brain.”

-Alan Turing

Alan Turing was a brilliant man. He also was a homosexual. The movie was quite honest with this truth right from the start with its remarkably beautiful flashbacks. These scenes showed how the math prodigy came to befriend and later on love another male student in his school. Meanwhile at the present time in the film, World War 2 was happening and the brilliant minds of Britain that included Mr. Turing were put together to solve a puzzle than no one ever thought could be solved: the Enigma code. The Germans used this code to pass on information as to what would be done to whom, where and when. It has gained victory for Germany for a while and the secret group led by Mr. Turing had to break the code for the Allies to win the war.

“Alan, I so rarely have cause to say this but you are exactly the man I always hoped you would be.” – Mark Strong

Benedict Cumberbatch takes his acting into another notch by playing the indifferent Mr. Turing. He combined the smart-ass attitude that he portrays in Sherlock with a heart of a closeted man who truly fell in love in this movie and it worked quite brilliantly. No other actor could have portrayed the enigmatic character that was Alan Turing better than him.

“They’re not going to help you if they don’t like you.” – Joan Clarke

I also love how the other actors of the film fared along Cumberbatch. Among them, I liked how Keira Knightley fit into the character of a very smart girl who was fond of Turing and whom Turing was also fond of. Their characters’ sapiosexual behaviors made for a great couple even though they won’t ever get to the romantic sides of being in a relationship. Things eventually turned out sour but in the end, their care for each other was still evident.

“I’ll work. You’ll work. And we’ll have each other’s company. We’ll have each other’s minds.That sounds like a better marriage than most. Because I care for you and you care for me. And we understand one another more than anyone else ever has.”

-Joan Clarke

The historic thriller could be passed on as a war film, and a very smart one at that. But ultimately it’s about a love story, which is said to be illegal and immoral. The movie’s making a testament that love is never bad if shared between two people, even if they’re of the same sex or gender. The oppression and discrimination that happened and continues to happen among the LGBT community were revealed here, especially towards the end. No one’s heart could be so hard that the film won’t be able to touch.

“Now, if you wish you could have been normal I can promise you I do not.”

-Joan Clarke

Congratulations should be given to Morten Tyldum for being able to bring out such a moving story with his direction. And congratulations for the movie’s writer, Graham Moore, for winning the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. The movie’s accolades (8 nominations for Oscars and a whole lot more) justify what the movie really is: a great one that is not short of being classic.

“Sometimes, it’s the very people who no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.”

– Christopher Morcom

The Imitation Game’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 5 out of 5

Gone Girl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

X-Men: Days of Future Past

X-Men_Days_of_Future_Past_posterX-Men: Days of Future Past is the most exciting, most compelling and most beautiful X-Men movie since the first X-Men film in 2000.

As a fan of the X-Men comics, cartoons and video games, I was in such a wild ride (again) while seeing the characters that I love battling each other and manifesting their powers on the big screen. It was sort of like a dream come true! Just imagine the euphoria I would feel if this movie was several hours long!

Moving decades forward since the conclusion of the X-Men: First Class, Days of Future Past presents the greatest threat to mutants that could wipe them all out: the sentinels. As mutants seem to die one by one because of the indomitable and powerful sentinels, Professor X and the remaining members of his team take action by doing what seemed to be impossible: sending a mutant to the past. The chosen mutant, Wolverine, would be tasked to change what has been done that has led to their current predicament. Will Wolverine be successful in changing the events that coursed through time?

Bryan Singer is a perfect fit for the X-Men movies. With his delicate and classy presentation of the characters, the engaging battle scenes, from the funny and light moments to the oh-so-awesome-how-did-they-do-that action-laden sequences, you would know he really loves and cares for the whole X-Men saga. The great camerawork and editing of the scenes paved for a very engaging film. And needless to say (but still I will say it), the visual effects used are superb. I have never been so happy while watching an X-Men movie.

Both senior and younger actors really impressed with their great portrayals all throughout the film. With the calculated and careful ways of the old Professor X and Magneto made alive by Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, firmness and persuasiveness of the young Magneto by Michael Fassbender, careless ladida of Quicksilver by Evan Peters, the fragile yet still fighting young Professor X by James McAvoy, the cool shifting aura of Mystique made possible by Jennifer Lawrence, the tough, charismatic presence of Wolverine by Hugh Jackman, the unyielding determination of Bolivar Trask by Peter Dinklage, the smart, funny and engaging characterization of Beast by Nicholas Hoult, the classy moves of Storm by Halle Berry, the delicateness of Blink (Fan Bingbing), the  perseverance of Kitty Pride (Ellen Page), the coolness of Iceman (Shawn Ashmore). The list of awesome characterization of the actors  just goes on and on.

Days of Future Past, though, is not just an entertaining film. It comes with a powerful message. In the film, mutants are feared because of their abilities and this is why they’re persecuted or even killed. In real life, people in all kinds of minority are persecuted because of the others’ fear of their potential: what they can do and how they can do it. This film does not merely suggest equality, but right treatment people deserve no matter what or who they may be.

X-Men: Days of Future Past’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 5 out of 5