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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Jurassic World

Jurassic_World_posterJurassic World was not too extravagant as what I have expected, but it was definitely very entertaining. The film is the fourth in the Jurassic Park movie series and if you’ll consider the plot line during the last parts of the movie plus the behemoth amount of money it has earned, sequels are sure to come for the years to come. I have only seen the original Jurassic Park film and I must say it’s all fine because Jurassic World could stand on its own.

I love Bryce Dallas Howard. After seeing her on the vampire series True Blood, I’ve always been looking forward to her performances. In the film, she has this charm that gets into you even though her character isn’t that much likeable at first. And the way she delivers her lines? It’s so great I won’t mind if she’s part of any ensemble of a film that I will be watching in the future. Chris Pratt, who’s fresh from a great 2014 thanks to blockbuster movies The Lego Movie and Guardians of the Galaxy, commands with his effusing charm and impossible likeability. This movie is a testament again that he can top bill a movie and people are going to watch. The supporting actors are very effective in their roles. Even though their characters have their own stories that considerably made the plot messier, they’ve had their own moments that make each one of them interesting.

Speaking of messy plot, the movie presents the promising story of the return of a one-of-a-kind theme park in the world: the Jurassic Park, which is now called the Jurassic World. It features various attractions that involve dinosaurs of all sorts: from the ferocious Velociraptors, the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex, the horrifying sea creature Mosasaurus and even their gentler kind such as Brontosaurus, Triceratops and a lot more. New additions are also added to the theme park: dinosaurs that have been genetically modified such as the shockingly tough Indominus Rex. Indominus Rex is a hybrid of T-Rex, Velociraptor and other dinosaurs, plus animals such as cuttlefish and tree frogs, which made it capable of various innate abilities of those animals such as thermal adaptability and camouflage. Imagine a dinosaur with these abilities and you’d never want to go near one!

Anyway, what made up for the lack of  in the story are the dazzling visuals and the non-stop action. These are the reasons watching the movie on IMAX make it worth it! I was happy the whole time I was there looking at the dinosaurs as they came alive! The terrifying ones were made so much more terrifying, the action sequences more appealing and the suspense much higher because of the 3D on the big screen!

Jurassic World is a bit predictable but this cannot deny the fact that it’s definitely awesome. Count me in to watch its sequels!

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

Gone Girl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Godzilla

Godzilla_(2014)_posterHighly intense and fast-paced, Godzilla is a great remake of the movie about the god of monsters.

I missed watching monster movies and watching Godzilla made me feel so good I could watch it again anytime soon. In comparison with another early summer flick, Godzilla was more enjoyable than Spider-Man. When suspense in this film hit really hard after some time, it just kept on growing and growing. There were moments when the suspense was too high and couldn’t have gone any higher, but thanks to the great directing by Gareth Edwards and editing by Bob Ducsay, the scenes ably shift into essential quiet moments to pacify the high tension. People would have experienced a heart attack if this wasn’t done. Haha.

The different settings the movie had shown were so intricately designed one would know they’ve been worked on meticulously. I was awed on how they were able to do the scenes, with or without the monstrous creatures, into something of a great spectacle.

The movie is filled with action scenes: monster-to-monster battles, monsters destroying cities, humans defending against the creatures, humans evacuating but are caught on the monsters’ wrath, among others, that is why action fans (like me) would find Godzilla a great movie to watch. Meanwhile, the special effects and sound departments should be proud of what they have made. The screen sizzled with awesome visuals and trembled with great sound making the movie more realistic. Scenes in the San Francisco bridge, along Nevada railroad and in San Francisco’s Chinatown were real standouts; action movie directors should have taken notes. These great directing, stunning special and sound effects plus the whole lot of non-stop action bode well for this type of flick.

The senior actors may have dominated in the movie but the younger ones held on their own. Bryan Cranston, best known as Walter White in the television series Breaking Bad, was outstanding as Joe Brody, a nuclear physicist who dedicated a big part of his life in unraveling the mystery of the disaster that brought down the nuclear power plant he’s working on  in Japan. I didn’t see Walter White but the character he’s portraying with the way he carried out his scenes. Ken Watanabe, meanwhile, looked like he’s clueless or confused most of the time, but it worked to define his character as Dr. Shiro Serizawa, a lead scientist working for Monarch, a secret organization that is tasked to keep true reasons of disasters in nuclear power plants a secret and protect the world from monsters like Godzilla. Aaron Taylor-Johnson, as the son of  Joe Brody, was successful in unraveling the mystery his father was working on. Even though he moved along with the military to fight the monsters wreaking havoc on Earth, he’s able to carry the movie on his shoulders as the key character in resolving the conflict in the movie.

A lot of things happened in the movie’s two-hour screen time and yet it seemed like it wasn’t that long. I felt great suspense  in those two hours and the quiet moments mentioned before served as much-needed breathers in this action-packed movie. Some people might find the beginning arc of the story long as Godzilla wasn’t featured until after an hour or so but I think that was needed to keep it more interesting. Moreover, other people might find the ending as an abrupt conclusion of the story but for me, it’s as good as it gets. The suspense was so high during the entire final scenes and what’s a better way to end it but to cut it short and sweet?

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

10,000 Hours

10,000 Hours movie posterI had high hopes for this film before watching it because it bested the other Metro Manila Film Festival entries in the Best Picture category and won almost all the major awards including Best Actor for Robin Padilla, Best Supporting Actor for Pen Medina and Best Director for Joyce Bernal during the MMFF Awards.

The film started out good. Robin Padilla as Senator Gabriel Alcaraz (a character that is loosely based on Sen. Panfilo Lacson) made the audience feel right away that he is showing something new in this movie. His subdued, restrained performance meant he’s really serious about his character. Moreover, the scenes during the first arc of the story (the escape of Sen. Alcaraz) are impressive. During those initial scenes, the movie’s editing kept the pace of the story good, its camerawork captured what needed to be captured and its musical score really heightened the suspense. It is a letdown then that the story became dragging in the middle part (when the story focused on the implications of Sen. Alcaraz and his whereabouts). I am not undermining the character’s experiences during this time but the once suspenseful action thriller became heavy drama in a glance. Some of the dramatic scenes are appropriate, but some are just so exhausting to watch. But what’s more exhausting is waiting for any real action during this middle part. It became really frustrating that no grand musical score or some side stories or beautiful cinematography could ever patch up for it. It made me want to call the film 100,000 Hours instead. Anyway, once the movie began its final story arc, it somehow went back to how it was in the beginning. But it couldn’t resolve the gravity of dullness it just had.

Anyway, I won’t take away too much of what the movie has brought fine. Joyce Bernal is a good director, and who would have thought she could make a good and decent suspense/action film? Meanwwhile, the movie’s cinematographer is able to capture its two settings well: the liveliness of Manila and the beauty and feel of Amsterdam, albeit limited in scope of the area. The musical score has already been mentioned but I’ll say again how great it was. Moreover, the movie’s got a good cast. Aside from Robin Padilla, veterans Pen Medina (as an old friend of Sen. Alcaraz) and Mylene Dizon (as Sen. Alcaraz’s wife) and novices Cholo Barretto (as the senator’s son) and Bela Padilla (as a newscaster) pulled off remarkable performances.

I just wished the movie is not as dragging as it is. The writing could have been improved as well. But overall, 10,000 Hours is good.

10,000 Hoursmovie rating by the pondering movie fan: 4 out of 5

Carrie

Carrie (2013) posterI had high hopes for the remake of this Stephen King story ever since it was reported to be done with Chloë Grace Moretz in the title role. She’s done a lot of great movies even at a young age and she was praised in each and one of them. It also didn’t hurt that Julianne Moore, a seasoned actress who made impressions with her previous movies Hannibal and The Hours, was cast for the role of Carrie’s mother. I have guessed that they would have a good chemistry as the problematic mother-daughter pair in this movie. And I was not wrong. Chloë Grace Moretz lived up to her famous role as Carrie White, a high school outcast who found comfort in her psychic abilities and hope in the hands of a few, good people. Her eyes made the audience feel her shyness and naivety at the start of the movie. The very same eyes made them uneasy during her vengeance to the people who wronged her towards the end. Julianne Moore held her own as the crazed ultra-religious mother of Carrie, making the audience cringe with her self-injurious behaviors and abominable hatred against her daughter.

Beside Moretz and Moore, a couple of actors in the supporting cast were good. Judy Greer displayed both toughness and softness with her role as the gym school teacher who looked after Carrie in school. Ansel Elgort, the school’s Alpha guy, was endearing as Chloe’s date in the prom night. Portia Doubleday whose wicked acts and ways made the audience hating her all throughout the screening of the movie, was very effective as the villainous classmate of Carrie.

I’ve seen the original and with today’s advanced technologies I thought many aspects of the story that require special effects could be enhanced in many ways. However, the movie has only fairly achieved in this aspect. While striking awe at times, the special effects displayed when Carrie was using her powers could have made a better mark. Kimberly Pierce, the movie’s director, could have used these visual effects to inspire awe and wonder to the audience. But she was not able to do so, thanks to uneven editing and seemingly uninspired directing.

With many American horror films banking on the obsession of today’s youth in hyper-sexuality and pop culture, the movie has teased some skin, insinuated wild intentions and mentioned a lot of pop culture references. It would be a good guess that this was one way the director wanted the movie to be relevant. She succeeded in a way, but ultimately failed. I understand that she has a lot on her shoulders doing a remake of a beloved horror classic but she was lost in trying to put her own footprint in this movie. It felt like the movie tried to be so many things all at the same time. The director may have wanted to retain the good of the original while trying to be so relevant. The result was a coercion that did not pan out smoothly. There were potentials for some scenes to achieve greatness status and yet each one was drained due to lack of amazing wow factor. I had goosebumps while watching the original but in this movie, I almost always had one but came short every single time.

Carrie’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 3 out of 5

Fast & Furious 6

Fast and Furious 6Fast & Furious 6 was such a fantastic action movie. It was not just about fast cars, great stunts, awesome action sequences, great cast, beautifully shot scenes and awesome sound mixing. The movie’s got heart, which I didn’t really expect in this kind of film.

Would you believe that Fast and Furious 6 is the first Fast and Furious film that I was able to watch whole? I am an action film fan, but because I didn’t get to watch the first one in the franchise, I did not bother watching the others. I know some bits and parts of the story line, though. But after watching FF6, I am decided to watch the other FF installments as well to know more about the characters and their stories.

Kudos to the writers of the movie. They were able to juice out an incredible story from the plot of previous FF movies. Even though I was not very familiar with the story arcs of the previous ones, I was still able to understand and catch up with the story of FF6 as the plot was presented in a way that could easily be understood even with not a follower of the movie franchise.

Props should also be given to the powerhouse cast led by Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Paul Walker and Dwayne Johnson. They showed great skills in doing their stunts and they made their characters believable. Meanwhile, the supporting cast was hilarious. The timing of their delivery of their lines, especially those that contain jokes and such, was really, really good. The great chemistry that Vin Diesel and his group possessed really showed onscreen, and it was something that really made the film very good and very fun to watch.

FF6 was one of the action films I’ve watched that I could consider as the best in adrenaline-pumping action scenes. There may be no other action film that’s like it. The good action sequences at the start were to be beaten by the next one, and the next one would be beaten by the next, next one. The climax, wherein the bar of suspense was so high the audience had to really stay glued onscreen to avoid regret, was definitely one-of-a-kind. Could you imagine stunts with very fast cars and insanely good drivers inside and right outside a moving airplane? You’ll be able to witness that and more when you watch the film. There was one loophole, though, that I saw during this time. The action scenes inside the airplane were lacking in motion considering the plane was moving either laterally or vertically. Or was it just me who noticed this? Oh well, that’s a small thing compared to the magnanimity of the whole climax sequences. Justin Lin, director of the film, was really, really good in what he’s doing. i’ll be on board when he still gets to direct the next sequel.

Fast and Furious 6 movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 4.5 out of 5.