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Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Wolverine

Without a doubt, Wolverine is considered the most popular X-Man. His kick-ass and grunge attitude is a hit among teens to adults. This led to a successful Origins film centered on this confused hero which only proved how popular he is when it became a box office hit. This year, Wolverine came back unexpectedly. No hype was made for this film. The big question is how would this film be any better than the previous ones.

Picking up after the events that took place in X-Men: The Last Stand, Wolverine is left again with a broken heart and spirit, dealing with Jean Grey's death and the unknown path the X-Men will tread after the death of Professor X and the existence of the cure. Logan became a hermit, living off in caves waiting for self-absolution. Along came Yukio who invited him to come with her to Japan to repay a visit from his old friend. Logan was reunited with Shingen Yashida, a former Japanese soldier whom Logan saved during the 2nd World War. This visit changed everything when Logan was caught in a family chaos.

I was expecting this film to pick up after the events of X-Men: Origins but it was better that they made it as a middle chapter for X-Men: Days of Future Past. While Origins tried to explore how Logan became scarred, this film showed how he coped over his previous loss emotionally. The Wolverine is not only an eye candy but is an emotional journey for the famed superhero. Though it was not as deep as any Batman film, Wolverine has its moments.

These scenes may not be effective if not for Hugh Jackman's performance. Rila Fukishima who played Yukio excelled in this film. The Japanese actors did well too. It was refreshing to see Famke Janssen back as Jean Grey. Her character symbolizes Logan's emotional journey.

I was a bit disappointed with the villains particularly with the Silver Samurai. I was expecting a different presentation of his character. Viper is not even inspiring as a villain. This may be the weakest link for the film.

The Wolverine boasts of solid and breathtaking action sequences and an acceptable story line but an unnecessary addition for plot development for an X-Men movie. However, I did enjoy the film and that is what movies is all about.

GRADE: B+

P.S. DO NOT LEAVE THE THEATER AFTER THE MOVIE.

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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Lone Ranger

Who is the Lone Ranger? We might be familiar with the name but the question deals on the characters persona. Who is this superhero? What are his adventures? And why does Johnny Depp eccentric in this film? (Pretending to be surprised) As of writing time, Lone Ranger has suffered box office sales in the US and failing marks from various film critics. I then decided to bring along a friend and see for ourselves what the critics are saying, "2013's biggest bomb."

Lone Ranger is based on a radio show started in 1933 of the same name. It follows the story of John Reid and Tonto in the good old west as they avenge their loved ones from an outlaw named Cavendish. Their desire to seek revenge leads them to a greater set-up no one expected to happen. The adventure lead them to become close friends and in the end, partners.

Basically, the plot is simple. But what do we expect with a Gore Verbinski film? Just like "At World's End", the film is overblown with subplots that does not necessary contribute much to the storytelling. This style, just like in Pirates 2 and 3, made me snooze. Verbinski is so engrossed in meeting the 2 and 1/2 hours quota that somehow he missed the fun. Instead, we have the Tonto and the Lone Ranger lingering in the wild west doing nothing. Even Helena Bonham's character is not significant, though I hoped her character did. 
John: This is how bad the movie was? Tonto: Ummm, yeah
The first 2 acts of the film is a pompous bore. It was only the last act that I was able to pick up myself from being half-awake and enjoyed the movie. The Lone Ranger was also overshadowed by Tonto in the film. Although I loved Depp's character, it seemed like he still has the hangover of being Jack Sparrow. 

While The Lone Ranger was bleak, the excitement on the last act should have been present in the entire film. Besides, the film is supposed to be fun and not an overblown display of scenes that are just plainly boring.

GRADE: C-

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Tuhog

File:Tuhog 2013 film.jpgNope. This is not one of your R-18 films. And no, we are not going back to he 90's where TF (Titillating Films) are a hit. Tuhog is a film about 3 lives connected by a single life-changing event. Sounds cliched? What does Tuhog has to offer that other Star Cinema films were not able to tackle in their previous films?
Tuhog tells the story of 3 individuals who are united by a common factor: They usually ride on the same bus. But aside from this usual occurrence comes a story that made them unique.

Tonio (Leo Martinez) just retired and he is not getting the hang of it. His life is empty and seemed to be moving backwards. He seeks for legacy in his dimming life and eventually found it during a discussion with old friends with the idea of putting up a bakery. This, however, was not warmly accepted by his family members. His struggle for legacy and acceptance continued until that fateful day he boarded the bus.

Fiesta (Eugene Domingo) is a proof that a name does not reflect the entire persona of an individual.She is a picture of a sad and angry woman who did not encounter love all her life. She was fierce and ruthless but a man changed everything and made a woman that should be loved and be treated as a lady. Conflicts arise and Fiesta is yet to learn life's difficult lesson in love: To understand.

Caloy (Enchong Dee) handles teenage woes of getting laid. There can be no other subtext to Caloy's plot that it can be summed up with 7 words.

What makes Tuhog special is the story that has happened before the crash. Tonio's character is very rich and accurate. Audiences with background on Normal Growth and Development will surely enjoy Tonio's story and its accurate portrayal. Eugene Domingo, on the other hand, portrayed Fiesta with passion with display of emotional fluctuations needed for her to portray a damaged woman healed by an unexpected man. While Martinez and Domingo excel in their own characters, Enchong struggled. It can also be blamed with an uninspired plot. Enchong's story arc might draw the crowd but it was Martinez's Tonio and Domingo's Fiesta contains the heart of the film.

The ending, however, left me with dissatisfaction but it was the middle of the ride that I enjoyed. Tuhog tried and somehow it succeeded but I needed more heart and an ending that needs more closure. But the most pressing concern is: Who deserves to live and to die?

GRADE: B

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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Pacific Rim

File:Pacific Rim FilmPoster.jpegIn an age where movies has been so hyped up and seemed that the limits has been reached comes another film that features robots and monsters. It has been done a lot of times, but what makes Guillermo Del Torro's Pacific Rim stand out from other films? How would it surpass Transformers: Dark of the Moon? Well, for starters, Del Torro has more passion with his craft than Michael Bay.

The film opens with a definition of what a "Kaiju" is, making us feel ready of what kind of monsters we are about to face. The film did not waste our time on how the monsters desolate some of the key cities which are located in the Pacific Ring of Fire. The involvement of Manila would somehow generate a loud buzz from the audience (yikes!) but it did not show how Manila was destroyed. Going back, we are directed to the solution of the Kaiju problem and transported us a few years forward to see how we are doomed yet again. The Jaegers are mechas controlled by two individuals who will share each others mind to make the machine work together. In this process, both individuals will share memories and work in perfect unison. What the humans do not know is that the Kaijus are not even done in exterminating us. The plot thickens.

Involved in this quest is Raleigh who was once a pilot but marred by the death of his brother and co-pilot during a mission. He was recruited back by his commanding officer, Stacker Pentecost to be part of the government initiative turned resistance army to combat the Kaijus. There he met Mako and becomes his new partner for Gypsy Danger.

Pacific Rim is Del Torro's tribute to Japanese' movie and television icons. Viewers will probably relate to the themes and Del Torro knows what he is doing. The movie justified Japan's beloved icons such as Ultraman, Godzilla and the Gundams. Aside from these themes, Del Torro injected his usual formula and one can be familiar with recurring themes seen in his previous films such as Hellboy and Pan's Labyrinth. The battle scenes are not awkward and it was not just junk clinking against each other. Watching the film on 3D enhances the experience and it was not hurtful to the eyes.

Most of the actors are not well known except for some notable ones such as Ron Perlman (Hellboy), Rinko Kikuchi (Babel), and Charlie Day (Horrible Bosses). The leads performed well despite their unknown status as actors. However, the best performance goes to Mana Ashida as the young Mako with her rich expression for a child at her age.

Pacific Rim may be an eye-candy but it was a good sort putting Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Dark of the Moon into shame. Del Torro's gothic style, modern technology and great storytelling meshed up perfectly and gives the audiences the feeling of involvement which somehow made the film effective and enjoyable.

GRADE: A-

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Despicable Me 2

File:Despicable Me 2 poster.jpgWhen Gru hit the screens 2 years ago, it was an instant hit. Considering that Despicable Me was released in the same year with Megamind (which "incidentally" has the same plot with some twists), Despicable Me has more fun and more heart. This year, Despicable Me 2 is much awaited due to its appealing teaser trailer which shows how adorable Gru's minions are.

Since Gru's victory over Vector and winning the hearts of 3 orphan girls, Gru embraced his fatherly instinct and becomes the best father he can be. This peaceful scenario was somehow disrupted when Gru's services are needed by the Anti-Villain League to thwart an evil plan by an unknown villain. Gru refused however, his insatiable thirst for adventure made him to engage in such a mission. Together with his trusted Minions and his partner, Lucy Wilde, Gru is off to an adventure he never expected to have a happy ending.

Fans of the first film would notice that this film lacks that pinch of heartwarming scenes. However, the second film makes up with the silliness and comical plot instead. The movie has its share of fun-filled moments. While Gru provides some moments, it was the Minions who really stole the whole film. It may be their cuteness, but it was the Minion's innocence that makes them so adorable. Somehow, the audiences may feel more attached with the Minions than Gru in the film. Lucy Wilde character is lovable too. Her carefree disposition seemed to be an instant hit with the viewers.

One complaint I have in mind is the film's uninspired villain. His identity is so predictable and does not need an idiot to guess who the bad guy is. Another is the villain's lack of purpose for evil and somehow his intentions is less complex than a regular TV show villain seen in Power Rangers.

Despicable Me 2 has a lot of fun, and yes the film delivers. However, I was looking for that magic that the first film was able to deliver. It is a good thing that the Minions were there to save the day too.

GRADE: B

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Top 5 Zombie Movies

With World War Z coming out in the theaters and The Walking Dead making waves on the boob tube, it is only essential that I came up with the Top 5 Zombie films ever made.

5. Land of the Dead
- George Romero is the king of Zombie movies. He returns to the big screen in 2005 to rekindle his old flame. This film is a good comeback and he introduced a more intelligent zombies. And in a world where Zombie hunting became a sport for humans, you somehow root for the zombies instead.
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4. Night of the Living Dead
- Without this film, there could never be any zombie films in the making. It is old school screams and thrill however, watching it in the 21st Century somehow hindered me to connect for the film.Night of the Living Dead is worth the watch for those who are starting to explore the zombie world.






3. Shaun of the Dead
- Most of you might wonder what the hell is this film? Well, this might be the funniest parody of any zombie film ever. And to pull this one off successfully is worth to be on the list. With Simon Pegg as the lead, it was downright hilarious.





2. 28 Days Later
- This film feels like a indie zombie movie, however, it was the psychological value which made this film a success. Following Jim's (Cillian Murphy) story after he woke up from coma and his struggle for survival not only from the zombies but from humanity as well.






1. Dawn of the Dead (Remake)
- There is nothing better than a mall with a bunch of unique characters, aggressive zombies, hot sex and an ending that can never be happier. The remake is pure fun and thrills that I still love to watch it over and over again.




World War Z

I guess the Zombies are back. Warm Bodies, The Walking Dead and now World War Z. It seems that the Zombies is killing off the Vampires for good. Even Warm Bodies is kicking Twilight's ass off. With World War Z, I hope the film would be able to live up with expectation after it was heavily publicized.

The movie started with a fast-paced storytelling jumping in just a few minutes to the main attraction. There were no conversations on the lives of the Gerry (Pitt) and his family. It seems that the writers know that we came for the zombies. The outbreak seemed to be so fast that in a matter of minutes, the whole Philadelphia is being attacked by zombies who are so aggressive you would think they are the same zombies from Dawn of the Dead and 28 Days Later.

While the whole premise is common, the characters and the situations are bits of pieces of some familiar films. In the film, Gerry has 2 kids, one of them has some kind of an Anxiety Disorder which complicates to difficulty of breathing (War of the Worlds) and the zombies are so much alike with Dawn of the Dead and 28 Days Later.

WWZ is typically a B-Rated Zombie movie that has the potential but somehow lacked leaving some viewers asking for more. One thing I noticed is that this movie did not invest on gore. There are a lot of slicing, shooting and biting but the amount of blood shown in this film cannot be compared to any zombie movie. However, it was Brad Pitt's performance that made such an impact on the film.

World War Z is a film for those who wants to take their breath away. This is how the film balanced the absence of gore. The film made it a point that we don't need gore in order for you to be out of breath and clearly they succeeded.

I recommend World War Z to those who wants to enjoy the ride however, this one would be unforgettable in the long run. Marc Forster has made a lot of good films like Finding Neverland and Quantum of Solace, World War Z is just one of those films made just for the heck of it, but nevertheless, it is worth the 2 hours, but still forgettable.

GRADE: C+

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Friday, June 21, 2013

Man of Steel

Who doesn’t know Superman? Just like any other comic book character, the man donned with the red cape and inverted-worn underwear has been the world’s favourite saviour. When Christopher Reeve flew wearing the big “S” costume, we were in great amazement which led us to love the first film. This was followed by Superman 2 which was surrounded by controversy but nonetheless a good film too. The succeeding films were no match to its predecessors that Warner Bros. eventually let Superman die a natural death. 2007 came when brave director Bryan Singer helmed a semi-reboot of the dead franchise which left us hanging with an uninspired Superman film. This year, Zack Snyder sits in to what they consider to be a “cursed” franchise and give Superman another shot.

Man of Steel goes back to its roots as we are first transported to the events that led to the rebellion of General Zod and the ultimate demise of Planet Krypton. We see Krypton a lot longer than any previous Superman movies. And when Kal-El was transported to Earth, the rest was history. However, screenwriter Christopher Nolan has something in his sleeve that we did not see Kal-El working in the Daily Planet and have Lois Lane swooning over Superman. Instead we see a different arc in the story that makes each character even more engaging and realistic.

The strength of the movie relied mostly on the story. While we are bombarded with back stories, these are only essential for a film that is destined to be a trilogy or even more. Man of Steel provided a very good foundation for any potential sequel. While we see a lot of General Zod, Lex Luthor is completely absent from the film except for a brief frame where a Lexcorp truck was thrown against Superman. This would only mean that we get to see Luthor in a sequel and may bring more chaos than General Zod did in Man of Steel.

The characters have more depth. Due to its storytelling nature of the film, we were able to dig deeper to the personas of Jor-El, Lois Lane, the Kents and Superman himself. I would like to commend on how Lois Lane’s character was treated. While the first 5 films conveyed Lois as dumb, clueless and inconsistent, Lois in Man of Steel is independent, resourceful and intuitive. Henry Cavill as Superman is just right. He is not as overblown as Brandon Routh’s Superman. Cavill’s Superman is not perfect. Having to choose between his own race who can be revived from extinction in the expense of humans is the perfect dilemma for a scarred superhero.

Man of Steel is not the movie made for kids. Bringing your 6 year old will certainly make them restless. However, when the last half approaches, it will make The Avengers’ city brawl scene put into shame. There is a lot to look out for this reboot and it has been successful in all divisions. Thanks to Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder. The “S” insignia is indeed a sign of HOPE and Man of Steel did not only revive Hope for a struggling franchise but an assurance that we will indeed see Superman flying into the silver screen in the years to come.

GRADE: A-

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Les Miserables

I have always liked Dreamgirls since its release in 2006. Musicals has always fascinated me. Chicago, Mama Mia and Moulin Rouge are just some of the contemporary Broadway musicals which were transformed to the silver screen which I really find interesting and has withstand the test of time for me.  There are some that hits but there were a lot of misses as well like Rock of Ages and Hairspray. This year, we are in a surprise with the release of the highly acclaimed Broadway Musical Les Miserables.

Based on Victor Hugo's classic novel of the same name, Les Miserables is an adaptation of the hit Broadway Musical to the big screen. It follows the struggle of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) for redemption after he was convicted for stealing a loaf of bread. Consistently sought by Javert (Russell Crowe) after Jean suddenly disappeared, Jean became a wealthy man swearing that he will always find justice to those who are in need. However, a sudden turn of events made Jean to keep a promise to a dying woman who was a victim of circumstances, Fontine (Anne Hathaway) to have her daughter be rescued in the clutches of an inkeeper. While the French has a revolution to fight, Jean is torn between making his adopted daughter Cosette (Amanda Seyfreid) happy in the arms of the man she loves or keep on trying to protect her by escaping constantly on the clutches of Javert.
This is the beauty of transforming the great Broadway musicals into a movie feature. It allows other audiences to enjoy the material without going to New York. Les Miserables is a wonder to behold. Right from the first frame of the film, one can see and feel the grandiosity of the film. As the first lyric was uttered, one may be amazed as how it was delivered. I can see no flaw as the movie progresses and did not notice that it is running for almost three hours and to think that I am watching it at around 2am in a local cinema. As the characters are being bloomed and understood with each note they sing, I was emerged into their own emotions. One of the defining moments was Anne Hathaway's rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" where she was submerged into pure emotion coupled by sincere rendition of the song, feeling each words that were uttered like it was hers to sing in the first place. Much applaud are given to Anne that even with a small screen time, she has affected me most with such powerful performance. One could not also deny that Hugh Jackman shined brightly as the lead. Backed by his Broadway experience, Jackman is a surefire to nail Valjean's character. Samantha Bark's Eponine is also a sight to behold as she renders such depth to her wounded character. While Rusell Crowe may have struggled in some parts, he has proven that he is the actor and that he can also sing. Seyfreid and Redmayne are great as well but somehow has been overshadowed by the other leads. 

One of the wonders in this film is that all of the songs were recorded live on set with only a piano as an accompaniment and background music were just mixed in post production. This allowed a more emotional rendition of the songs than the usual pre recorded music and later lip-synched during the film production. One can feel the emotions to every lyric with this type of approach in a musical, making it feel like you are witnessing the Broadway musical itself. Director Tom Hooper was successful in capturing the essence of the film. The actors gave justice to the material. 

One could only be emotional as emotions are escalated up to the great finale making you breathless until the very last note making Les Miserables one of the best Broadway Musical adaptation of all time.

GRADE: A+ 

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Monday, January 21, 2013

Life of Pi

Ang Lee has been around for years and he has chosen his movies well. (except for The Hulk). It has been expected of him to make really good movies after his worldwide phenomenon better known as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. His latest offering is nothing short of amazing as he delivers one of the best known books that are considered to be at par with The Alchemist.

Life of Pi follows the story of Pi as he struggles his way to Canada after the shripwreck with a tiger as his companion. Plots like this are not very inviting to some moviegoers but what is special with this film is the story itself, not the superficial plot that one has to see in trailers. Life of Pi touches the most sensitive topic which is religion. Though it may not seem to be that evident at first, you will know that this would be one of the most important films of the year as it tackles a topic that is somehow considered taboo in Hollywood. 

Life of Pi may seem a bit familiar to most of the moviegoers who has seen Cast Away. While Cast Away tackles how a man could survive a tragedy, Pi's story us more personal as he struggles in faith. What is more surprising is how Lee transforms this movie into a visual journey without making the story beneath it. As Pi, struggles to his survival, we are also transported into his own spiritual journey.

Several questions were raised as the film ended. Questions like, which story would you prefer? Which is more appealing? How would we face reality? How did Pi found God in his experience? This is one strength of a film. How to make its viewers think even after the show, how each moviegoer would see the entirety of the film and sees it for the message it wants to convey rather than the display it was able to portray. 

The deep connection of characters in the film is what makes this different from all the rest. Life of PI should be seen years from now and see how it has changed the lives of those who have seen it. Though it may have imprinted a small fragment or changes in how we view life, the mere fact that it has shown us that even at the most impossible times, there is someone out there who still is present looking down, never to have left us.

GRADE: A-

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Monday, January 7, 2013

The Hobbit

It has been 11 years since Peter Jackson released The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and 9 years when the series concluded with Return of the King. It has been rumored that Jackson will proceed in directing The Hobbit following the success of the trilogy, however, he decided to direct a remake of a Hollywood classic and stalled The Hobbit for a few years. And now,it is totally here, the 1st half of the tale of Bilbo Baggins and his adventures in Middle-Earth.

The Hobbit is mainly about how Bilbo managed to acquire the One Ring from Gollum during his adventures together with the dwarves as they reclaim The Lonely Mountain from the dragon Smaug. Their journey started when Gandalf tricked Bilbo into hosting a gathering of Dwarves headed by their leader Thorin. They went to the wild encountering different creatures which eventually led them to Rivendell, the lair of the Elves. It is there that they were able to decipher the events.The group continued their journey, walking through each obstacle and knowing that Bilbo is just not a hobbit, but a Hobbit.

I am always amazed of how vast Middle Earth is.It was also refreshing to see it back in the silver screen. Going back to The Shire is like arriving back home. One of the key factors why The Hobbit works for me is that it was able to rekindle my liking to the series. To see old characters such as Gandalf (who is still Gandalf The Grey), Galadriel, Frodo and Bilbo back is such an overwhelming feeling.

Peter Jackson is still in control of Middle Earth and with this film, he was able to make a lecture out of the movie by making conversations between characters feel like they are introducing to us Middle Earth in a deeper manner. For a book that was actually short compared to the Lord of The Rings series, one might wonder why it has to be split into two. Jackson made it sure that fans will be able to totally relate with the characters and add tidbits about Middle Earth itself.

There was a great improvement in the special effects division. When we see Gollum back in 2002 we were amazed on how detailed the animation was. But when we saw The Hobbit, they pushed the technology to the limit that he seemed to be so real. Peter Jackson wants his Middle Earth to be perfect and he succeeded.

This has been a great comeback for the series. For years, Tolkien fans and Jackson fans alike will be in great happiness with the translation of the hobbit and once revisit the place that has triggered our imagination with wizards, nobility and greatness that comes from the smallest person one can imagine.

GRADE: A

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