Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Movie No. 106 (2014): LOCKE

Locke (2014)
Director: Steven Knight
Cast: Tom Hardy

It happens one night, on the eve of the biggest challenge of his career. On his way home, Locke receives a phone call, one that makes him decide to do a diversion, instead of going straight to home. He makes phone calls; he receives phone calls. Lots of them. We learn what is happening through these phone conversations. And all these take place in one car ride. We see only Locke; all the other characters are just voices on the telephone.

This kind of storytelling is innovative. Tom Hardy's performance is riveting. The movie is an exciting joyride.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: December 31, 2014

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Movie No. 105 (2014): THE TWO FACES OF JANUARY

The Two Faces of January (2014)
Director: Hossein Amini
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Oscar Isaac, Kirsten Dunst

The movie is adapted from a Patricia Highsmith novel. It starts with an American couple, Chester (Viggo Mortensen) and his young wife, Colette (Kisten Dunst), meeting another American, Rydal (Oscar Isaac), who works as a tour guide in the Parthenon in Greece. Rydal befriends the couple. Then an incident at the hotel where the couple stay forces the three to form alliance and puts them on the run. The bond that ties them together, however, is put to test as tension escalates, secrets get uncovered, and unexpected things happen.

The movie is presented in what's called Hitchcockian. The intrigue that sustains the suspense lies heavily on the artful conning and permanent interests of the characters. But the movie's suspense doesn't really reach a boiling point. It only continues to simmer to (almost) dryness. But, that's not entirely a bad thing. In fact, I like the movie. The performances of Viggo Mortensen and Oscar Isaac are competent.

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: December 30, 2014

Monday, December 29, 2014

Movie No. 104 (2014): STILL ALICE

Still Alice (2014)
Director: Richard Glatzer,Wash Westmoreland
Cast: Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart, Kate Boshworth

It's devastating to see an intellectual deteriorate and helplessly give in to Alzheimer's disease. What makes the movie even more painful to watch is Julianne Moore's masterful performance as the afflicted. Julianne Moore is completely lost in Alice, a renowned linguistics professor who suddenly forgets things. It seems like she completely understands the different stages of losing memories and simply gets lost in it. The movie is also an examination of the changing dynamics of relationships in a close-knit family from the onset of the disease to its advanced stage. There are no hysterics. The supporting cast, it seems, really know their respective characters and they're to make the Julianne Moore character the center piece of the movie. It may not be the best movie of the year, but Julianne Moore delivers an unforgettable performance. Kristen Stewart and Alec Baldwin, too.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: December 29, 2014

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Movie No. 103 (2014): FAIR PLAY

Fair Play (2014)
Director: Andre Sedlackova
Cast: Judit Bardos, Anna Geislerova

This movie is Czech Republic's submission to the Best Foreign Language film competition of the 87th Academy Awards. The movie is a direct commentary on the evils of totalitarian regime; it uses regime's sports training programs as vehicle. The main protagonist is Anna; she trains for the 1984 L.A. Olympics but refuses the special care being offered by the Communist Regime, which in turn uses black mail to get what they want. 

This is well-acted. Both the script and cinematography capture the bleakness of that period in Czech history regardless of whether this movie is purely fiction or based on real events.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: December 27, 2014

Movie No. 102 (2014): FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC

Flowers in the Attic (2014)
Director: Deborah Chow
Cast: Ellen Burstyn, Heather Graham, Mason Dye, Kiernan Shipka

The only good thing about the movie is Ellen Burstyn (as Olivia Foxworth) despite a few times that looks like she's overdoing it. Ellen Burstyn plays as the mother of prodigal daughter (Corrine, played by Heather Graham) who returns to their country estate in Virginia after the death of her husband. The estate's patriarch is dying so Corinne tries to win back the entitlement of the will. But, he shouldn't know she has (four) children. To buy time, and she is forced to let her children secretly live in a room that has a pathway to the attic. This of course is on the suggestion of Olivia. In that secret room, creepy things happen to children, both from the maltreatment of the Olivia and from the non-normal coming-of-age of the children in a cluttered space. 

Neither did I read the novel from which the movie was adapted not did I see the first movie adaptation in late 1980s. From this plot and premise one would expect the children to behave differently in their claustrophobic confinement. But it seems they're enjoying in most scenes. Moments that the two older children show concern and worries are presented in a way too contrived. And that ending left me cold.

Rating: 2.0/4.0

Date seen: December 27, 2014

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Movie No. 101 (2014): HONEYMOON

Honeymoon (2014)
Director: Leigh Janiak
Cast: Harry Treadaway, Rose Leslie

Newlyweds Paul and Bea travel to a distance vacation house by the lake for their honeymoon. But strange things happen shortly: the couple's unexpected encounter with Bea's childhood acquaintance, the beam of light that seems to survey the house, the dark figures in the forest at night, Bea's somnambulist trip into the woods, etc. And she's distant and acting weird, which gives rise to Paul's paranoia.

The treatment of the movie is tantamount to that of the horror genre. But this is more of the psychological type. You get scared because you don't know what is happening. And you feel creepier when you finally get the answer in the end. 

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: December 26, 2014

Friday, December 26, 2014

Movie No. 100 (2104): TANGERINES

Tangerines (a.k.a. Mandariinid) (2013)
Director: Zaza Urushadze
Cast: Lembit Ulfsak, Misha Meskhi, Giorgi Nakashidze, Elmo Nuganen
In Estonian, Georgian, Russian, and Chechen, with English subtitles

This is one of the best films I've seen this year.

The movie is a morality play between to warring soldiers from opposite sides of the infamous conflict of the early 1990s between Georgia and Chechnya, fighting over a piece of land called Abkhazia. The soldiers use words as weapons and their battle field is the house of a tangerine farmer. The two soldiers are survivors of the crossfire that occurred just in front of another farmer's house. The two farmers raise tangerines in the conflict land; they're the only ones left in Abkhazia when all the others have already left for Estonia since the start of the war. Caught in the crossfire, they buried the dead soldiers and nurse and feed the two wounded survivors. These two soldiers agree to a pact that they don't kill each other while inside the house. And this is where the movies gets interesting.

The movie is unexpectedly full of heart and humor, and it never once loses its intensity.  The conflict it presents is resonating, something that's not easily forgotten. I think this movie will stay with me for long time. I even plan to see it in the future once in a while. This is cinema at its best.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: December 26, 2014

Movie No. 99 (2014): GONE GIRL

Gone Girl (2014)
Director: David Fincher
Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris

Nick Dunne reports to the police the disappearance of his wife on the day of their fifth wedding anniversary. The media picks it up and turns the what-should-have-been-just a police matter into a frenzy, adding pressure on the police. But Nick Dunne's behavior, which is not according to what the public expects from a man whose wife is missing, makes him the prime suspect of possibly killing his wife.

The thrill that the movie elicits is effective despite being mechanical and, at times, manipulative. This is that type of movie that will make you finish buckets of popcorn and feel bloated in the end. It's still entertaining despite the excesses and being illogical in some instances. But, Rosamund Pike delivers a performance that's unforgettable.

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: December 25, 2014

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Movie No. 98 (2014): PITCH PERFECT

Pitch Perfect (2012)
Director: Jason Moore
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Skylar Astin

The movie follows the formula of the genre. Even the characters (outcast, mean girls/guys, haughty campus figures) are those who we already saw in some similarly-themed movies. It actually feels like an episode of Glee, only with twice the running time. All these said, the movie is not bad. Actually, it's funny and entertaining despite a couple of scenes that are grossly offending. But the covers are awesome.

Rating: 2.5/4.0

Date seen: December 25, 2014

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


The Tale of Princess Kaguya (2014)
Director: Isao Takahata
An animated film, in Japanese, with English subtitles

The movie is based on a famous Japanese folktale - that of a tiny princess who was found by a bamboo cutter in a bamboo stalk. The soon-to-be princess is raised by the bamboo cutter and his wife; she grows fast and becomes a beautiful lady who enthralls everyone she encounters. They leave the mountain, have a mansion built for the princess using the treasure the cutter has also found from the bamboo stalks. But there's a reason for the princess to be sent on earth, a punishment for a crime.

The movie is like a moving water color sketches, a really moving pictures. Traditional hand-drawn animation still unexpectedly gives sophistication to overall presentation of the movie. The movie reminds me of the playfulness of My Fair Lady, the emotional connection of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, the conflict of Crime and Punishment, and the elements of fairy tales.

This is another masterpiece from Studio Ghibli.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: December 24, 2014

Movie No. 96 (2014): THE NORMAL HEART

The Normal Heart (2014)
Director: Ryan Murphy
Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Julia Roberts, Matt Bomer, Taylor Kitsch, Jim Parsons, Alfred Molina

This TV movie dramatizes gay politics during the early days of AIDS crisis in America or at that period when the so-called gay cancer hadn't had a name yet. While the movie is a work of fiction and the treatment is not without flaw, the performances of the lead and supporting cast are incendiary and the movie's overall point and effect are just as if it's the actual record of this piece of history that once shook the whole world. The movie is centered on the attempts of a gay rights activist, played effectively by Mark Ruffalo, to call the attention of the government on the still unrecognized epidemic, and efforts of the lone medical practitioner supporting the gay movement, played with conviction by Julia Roberts, to study the disease.

The movie is an adaptation of the Tony Award - winning play which has been recently revived on Broadway.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: December 24, 2014

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Movie No. 95 (2014): X-MEN DAYS OF FUTURE PAST

X-Men Days of Future Past (2014)
Director: Bryan Singer
Cast: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Halle Berry

The X-Men and their younger selves fight a battle in the two different periods to change the future of their class. Much of the movie's running time is about this war and its genesis. The result is an entertaining showcase of stunts and spectacular special effects that fortunately don't overshadow the intent or purpose of every scene. The excellent editing certainly adds to the cliffhanging effect of the final battle scenes.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: December 23, 2014


The Theory of Everything (2014)
Director: James Marsh
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, David Thewlis, Emily Watson

The movie is Jane Hawking's point of view of her and Stephen Hawking's love story from their chance meeting at Cambridge University, to their marriage, to facing hardships and fame, and to their unusual friendship after their separation.

The best thing about the movie is the well-written lead characters and the excellent interpretation of the characters by the lead actors Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones. Eddie Redmayne completely disappears in the character.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: December 23, 2014

Monday, December 22, 2014

Movie No. 93 (2014): THE BABADOOK

The Babadook (2014)
Director: Jennifer Kent
Cast: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman

This movie is of the horror genre. I didn't observe a lot of lazy scares, or I they might have just gone unnoticed because the feel of creepiness may have already engulfed me. For me, the most powerful horror movies are those whose horror lies in what is not seen. This is the first time I've seen a well-executed character study in the genre. What makes it more interesting is the idea from which the narrative has been based. The struggles and fear of parenting an impossible child who is difficult to love is the center of this horror movie. The parent is a single mother who still hasn't move on from the tragic death of her husband. Their six-year-old son has vivid imagination and sees monsters in dreams and in waking life. Soon after, the mother also feels then sees a supernatural presence in their house after a book called The Babadook appears in their house.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: December 21, 2014

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Movie No. 92 (2014): NIGHTCRAWLER

Nightcrawler (2014)
Director: Dan Gilroy
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton, Riz Ahmed

Lou Bloom is man desperate for (just) any job who sees an opportunity in scavenging scoops about crime and accidents, recording the footage he records, and selling it to a local LA television news outfit. The movie takes us to night-time LA where car accidents, petty crimes, fire accidents, and just any other kinds of incidents that people might be interested to see during morning news can happen. Lou is determined to make it big in this newly found opportunity. He takes an apprentice, allies with a news veteran, and does the unexpected and unimaginable "innovations" in his night-crawling trips.

The strength of the movie is in its well-written script. We get to know Lou Bloom's character early in the movie, and we know what to expect from him throughout the movie. So, we just expect the details of his dealings and see if there are surprises. The twist in the story and the movie's editing make the movie even more engaging. Jake Gyllenhaal is so good he completely disappears in Lou Bloom.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: December 9, 2014

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Movie No. 91 (2014): THE DARK VALLEY

The Dark Valley (2014)
Director: Andreas Prochaska
Cast: Sam Riley, Tobias Moretti
In German, with English subtitles

A stranger arrives and pays to stay for the whole winter in the dark valley, a remove village in the Alps. The village folks let him feel he's unwelcome. But the stranger is there for a reason. This is a story of revenge. But what makes the movie unforgettable is how it uses all the elements of great Western films, a Dickensian twist, and stunning cinematography. Revenge is best served cold; it's executed in literal and poetic sense. It all happens during the cold winter and the one hungers for it  is unflinching.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: December 7, 2014

Movie No. 90 (2014): BOYHOOD

Boyhood (2014)
Director: Richard Linklater
Cast: Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater

The movie is distinct and remarkable  because it's so far the only movie that used the same set of actors during its 12 years of shooting. The movie centers on the turbulent path of childhood or growing up and of challenges of parenting on the point of view of a child growing during the early 2000s to present. This is one movie that doesn't have climax, suspense, and intrigue, but it's main strength is on the narrative itself. And it's definitely a different but rewarding experience seeing an actor grow before our eyes right on the screen. 

Patricia Arquette is a standout.

The movie has just been selected Best Film of the Year (2014) by the New York Film Critics Circle.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: December 7, 2014

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Movie No. 89 (2014): THE VANISHING

The Vanishing (1992)
Director: George Sluizer
Cast: Kiefer Sutherland, Sandra Bullock, Jeff Bridges

When I saw this film for the first time during mid- (or late) 1990s, I knew I was watching a remake of a critically acclaimed Dutch film. That time I hadn't seen the original yet. I seemed to have liked the remake. Years later, I had the chance to see the original; I remembered preferring it to the remake. But, I still liked the remake; it was not bad. After all, the original and the remake have the same director.

Last week, I had the chance to see the remake again on My Movie Channel. It was like watching a new movie because I already forgot most of the scenes and the (minor) deviations from the original movie. Yes, it's (still) about a man who never gives up finding her abducted girlfriend. But, given the standards of a what a suspense film should be, I now find The Vanishing a so-so movie. In fact, the twist in the final scenes looks contrived and agonizing.

I guess, I will see the original movie again.

Rating: 1.5/4.0

Date seen: November 30, 2014

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Movie No. 88 (2014): MILLER'S CROSSING

Miller's Crossing (1990)
Director: Joel and Ethan Coen
Cast: Gabriel Byrne, John Turturro, Marcia Gay Harden

This gangster movie examines loyalty, blackmail, and the dynamic nature of realigning alliances (when need arises) for personal gain. The maneuverings and necessary murders are written complicatedly but almost without unnecessary excesses, which results in a movie that, at present, is already a classic. Even with scenes of violence, the movie is effectively presented in glorious (sometimes glossy) photography, which is a good thing for the movie. This is one of the masterpieces of early independent films.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: November 30, 2014

Movie No. 87 (2014): THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
Director: Anthony Minghella
Cast: Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Cate Blanchett, Philip Seymour Hoffman

This is another one of the noteworthy films that have been recently shown on My Movie Channel. This is my second time seeing it in full. The first time was more than a decade ago.

The movie is based on a Patricia Highsmith novel. Matt Damon plays Tom Ripley, a bisexual psychopath who has unbelievable talent in  assuming another person's identity. This talents brings him to mingle with a shipping tycoon who mistakes him for a Princeton student who knows his son. The tycoon's son is living a carefree life somewhere in Italy and the tycoon contracts Tom Ripley to go to Italy, find his son, and persuade him to return home, in exchange of a large sum of money. But, while in Italy, having finally met the tycoon's son, Tom Ripley becomes attracted to the tycoon's son and his affluence and carefree dispositions. Plan changes. Tom will use his talent to steal the identity of the tycoon's son. The movie details about how far Tom Ripley can go to be someone else.

Performances of ensemble cast are outstanding. It was reported that, although the movie was released commercially in 1999, it was made before Shakespeare In Love (1998), Elizabeth (1998) and Good Will Hunting (1997). Gwyneth Paltrow won an Oscar for Best Actress for Shakespaeare in Love, Cate Blanchett snatched snatched an Oscar Best Actress nomination for Elizabeth. Matt Damon starred in critically acclaimed and commercially successful Good Will Hunting; he also co-wrote the award-winning script of the movie. This movie turned all of them (including Jude Law and Philip Seymour Hoffman) into important Hollywood stars and actors.

The movie is well-polished, even in scenes that contrast glamor and violence. It is written in a way to sustain suspense; it also attempts to get into the psyche of a cold-blooded murderer. The movie is as good as the Purple Noon, the French adaptation of the novel.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: November 30, 2014

Movie No. 86 (2014): BEING JOHN MALKOVICH

Being John Malkovich (1999)
Director: Spike Jonze
Cast: John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener, John Malkovich

I saw this film last week on My Movie Channel. That's, I guess, the third time I saw it. This film, I guess, is one of those films that gets better during repeat watching, which is an indication the films is really good. In fact, it's one of the greatest films ever made, in my humble opinion.

The basic plot is simple, yet interesting and very original: A puppeteer, who ends up working as file clerk in a low-ceiling office in the 7.5th floor (yes, 7 1/2), discovers a portal that leads to the mind of actor John Malkovich. Anyone who enters that small door experiences to see the world on John Malkovich's point of view for fifteen minutes before being ejected and dropped into a ditch in New Jersey turnpike. After having experienced it, the puppeteer sees a money-making opportunity; he then lets others experience it for a fee. Different experiences make the story more interesting and the movie clever and mind-boggling. For example, the puppeteer's wife uses the portal to realize her homosexual or transgender fantasies while she's inside John Malkovich's head at the moment John Malokovich is having sex with a woman the puppeteer's wife desires. And then there's the puppeteer discovering how to stay longer in the portal and in fact makes it for months. And what if John Malkovich himself enters the portal? Brilliant!

Very original, the movie's script is almost without flaw. The direction and editing are simply awesome. The performances are competent. 

I will watch it again someday.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: November 23, 2014

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Movie No. 85 (2014): GONE BABY GONE

Gone Baby Gone (2007)
Director: Ben Affleck
Cast: Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, Amy Ryan, Amy Madigan

I saw this movie several years ago. This is the second time to see it; this time on Movie Channel. This is Ben Affleck's directorial debut. He also co-wrote the script, which was adapted from a novel by Dennis Lehane.

Patrick Kenzie (Affleck) and Angie Gennaro (Monaghan), partners as private detectives (and as lovers), are called to help find a missing 4-year old girl, suspected of being kidnapped by a pedophile The little girl's family think the police is not doing enough to find the girl. The police don't mind having outsiders (Patrick and Angie) also working to find the girl. But, in the process of finding the girl, Patrick and Angie will discover a web of corruption that can threaten even their relationship.

This movie is of the crime genre, but it's delivered in a way different from the conventional formula for the genre. Must be the writing and interpretation of Ben Affleck as writer and director. Even if I read the book, I still experience the suspense that has been sustained until the end. I like the way the plotting of clues is executed.

This was definitely one of the best films of 2007.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: November 23, 2014

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Movie No. 84 (2014): IDA

Ida (2014)
Director: Pawel Pawlikowski
Cast: Agata Kulesza, Agata Trzebuchowska
In Polish, with English subtitles

18 year-old Anna is a sheltered orphan who's on the verge of being a full-fledged nun. Mother Superior insists that she see her only living relative. Now face-to-face with her mother's sister, Anna will be taken to a journey to the past to discover her Jewish family's dark past during the Nazi occupation when she was Anna was still an infant named Ida.

The film, shot in black and white photography, is visually stunning. The cinematography effectively captures even the coldness and emptiness of the immediate surroundings, which can viewed as allegory to Anna's response to what she's been discovering about her family's past. Some of the shots demand to be noticed. The off-centered shots look imperfect, which make the effect perfect for the meaning they convey. The actress who portrays Anna has a face that can be compared to a blank canvass, which is perfect for the character's demands. 

A masterpiece indeed.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: November 16, 2014

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Movie No. 83 (2014): A MOST WANTED MAN

A Most Wanted Man (2014)
Director: Anton Corbijn
Cast: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Willem Defoe, Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright, Gregoriy Bobrygin

In this movie, adapted from John LeCarre's novel of the same title, Issa, a Muslim from Chechnya illegally immigrates to Hamburg, Germany from Turkey. Espionage agents from UK, US, and Germany, having learned from Russian Intelligence that Issa is an extremely dangerous person, get stirred of Issa's presence in Germany and declare him a person of interest. Soon after they'll establish link between Issa, a banker, a Muslim philantropist, and a shipping company suspected of being a front of Al Qaeda. As will be expected from espionage movies, there are conning, baits, and betrayal.

Hoffman, as expected delivers an intense performance. His characters reaction to an unexpected turn of events in the end is a real cinematic treat that can only come from an actor who really understands and easily becomes his character. Corbijn's direction is competent, one that has the capability to sustain intrigue.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: November 8, 2014

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Movie No. 82 (2014): THE FAULT IN OUR STARS

The Fault In Our Stars (2014)
Director: Josh Boone
Cast: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Willem Defoe, Laura Dern

Everyone knows that this is the movie adaptation of John Green's bestseller of the same title. So, everyone who read the book, and saw the movie afterwards, knew what to expect from the movie and expect they'd be disappointed. I'm glad I haven't read it yet. Probably I'll never read it. I've just seen the movie. I am not totally exhilarated, but I'm not disappointed.

The overall direction is decent despite that it occasionally falls victim of the snare called conventions of formulaic flimsy teen flicks. My major complaint is I can't care about the Hazel character. Is it the writing or the acting that seems shortchanged? If I read the book I could have understood well the Hazel character. But that's cheating. Not all who saw the movie read the book. The Gus character is actually more interesting. 

The movie has some share of memorable quotes or one liners, but the situation in which some of these lines are delivered looks contrived.

Rating: 2.5/4.0

Date seen: November 6, 2014

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Movie No. 81 (2014): WRINKLES

Arrugas (a.k.a., Wrinkles) (2011)
Director: Ignacio Ferrera
Animated film; in Spanish, with English subtitles

A former bank manager (Emilio) is dispatched into a nursing/retirement home for the elderly. The he meets eccentric characters who will turn his (new) world upside down. This old-school (hand-drawn) animation doesn't the sophistication of the advanced technology for the genre to convey its story effectively. This film is certainly for adults, not because it contains sexual contents or violence, but because the theme is one that may not be appreciated by young audience.

Why does this remind me of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest? One character (Miguel) in Wrinkles rebels against the management of the facilities, but subtly. Randle McMurphy in "...Cuckoo's Nest" is too loud and frank. Miguel, on the other hand, swindles small cash cheerfully from the other residents of the nursing home who are perplexed in their dementia-induced fantasies.

 I movie is funny, sometimes sad. It can even be tragic, depends on the one who sees it. I can't imagine how sadder the movie could be were it live action. Usually the animation format adds some cheerfulness despite the sad undertone suggested by some scenes.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: November 3, 2104

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Movie No. 80 (2014): TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT

Two Days, One Night (2014)
Director: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
Cast: Marion Cotillard, Fabrizio Rongione
In French, with English subtitles

Sandra had a nervous breakdown and took a leave from her job in a small solar cell factory in an industrial town in Belgium. The movie starts with her returning to her job after the leave. This is the what the movie is all about. The management of the factory realizes that her colleagues can cover the job she left while on leave and she's may no longer be needed. Adding complication is the management's decision to let her colleagues vote against her reinstatement (declaring her position redundant) in exchange of a 1000-euro bonus. Over the weekend, Sandra has two days and one night to literally beg her 16 colleagues to consider voting for her reinstatement. She visits each of her colleagues in their houses to beg. It may look pathetic, but this is actually what makes the movie so humane. This is one of the best character-study-type movies I've seen recently. The span of two days and one night puts pressure on post-depression Sandra, on her marriage and family, and on the lives of her colleagues, who are really expected to have different responses to this stimulus.

The premise unexpectedly makes the movie more suspenseful than any horror or action movies. Certainly, it kept pushing me on the edge of my seat, while trying to extrapolate for how the movie would end. And the ending didn't disappoint. In fact, it's brilliant.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: November 2, 2014

Movie No. 79 (2014): THE OMEN

The Omen (1976)
Director: Richard Donner
Cast: Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, Harvey Stephens

An American diplomat in London and his wife are unaware that their son is marked with Satan's number, infamous "666." Horror and the macabre ensue for everyone who stands in his way.

I saw this movie before. I don't remember when. I've just seen it again (in full) on Movie Channel. For me, horror does not necessarily equate to seeing the macabre, gore, and lurking shadows, or trying to withstand eerie sound effects on screen. The thought of the Anti-Christ thing is itself enough to bring horror. The execution of the movie is faithful in the classic way of presenting horror films. It may not be the best horror movie ever made, but it surely has left a mark in the history of cinema.

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: November 1, 2014

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Movie No. 78 (2014): GOOD WILL HUNTING

Good Will Hunting (1997)
Director: Gus Van Sant
Cast: Matt Damon, Robin Williams, Minnie Driver, Stellan Skasgard, Ben Affleck

I saw this movie in 1997 in Columbus, OH during it's original theater run. This is the second time I've seen it in full. It's on the Movie Channel this time.  I remember liking it much the first time.
This time, however, I find it even more satisfying.

Matt Damon as Will Hunting, the out-of-school youth who's a mathematics genius, delivered a fine performance. This was the movie that made him a star. Robin Williams (as the psychiatrist who helps Will Hunting the Will Hunting character find direction for his life) deserved the Academy Award that he won for this performance. Minnie Driver and Stellan Skasgard were in their best forms, too. 

The drama that unfolds in the film avoids the common pitfall of being too sentimental, which could have ruined the movie. It turns out to be inspiring and heartfelt.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: November 1, 2014

Movie No. 77 (2014): THIEF

Thief (1981)
Director: Michael Mann
Cast: James Caan, Tuesday Weld, Robert Prosky

James Caan, in probably the finest performance of his career, is a jewel thief who usually goes solo. Then, in the hope of settling down with the girl he wants to marry and live a normal life, he agrees to work with an organized crime group for a final heist. But the trouble is the crime boss doesn't want him to break free.

The film, Michael Mann's debut, is cool and its execution sophisticated, reminiscent of the works of the masters of noir of 1950s and 1960s (Jean Pierre Melvillle, Jules Dassin). Some people of this generation might find this film off since there are scenes that seem like a demonstration of of exercise in Thievery 101. In my opinion, however, that the director's style. The film's treatment of the main character is focuses, which is more important than anything else. The story knows exactly where it starts and ends in a way that's so fluid.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: November 1, 2014

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Movie No. 76 (2014): TOUCH OF THE LIGHT

Touch Of The Light (2012)
Director: Jung-Chi Chang
Cast: Yu-Siang Huang, Sandrine Pinna, Lieh Lee
In Mandarin, with English subtitles

A blind piano prodigy is taken from the country to a university in Taipei. The film basically follows his adjustments in his new world as well as his mother's worries and sacrifices. So, the film is practically without plot. It's more of a character study. So, the movie's strength is in the details. It's so touching to think that the main character can't see most of the important scenes although he uses his hearing faculties to extrapolate into images things that he hears. The music that he plays are feast to the viewer's ears. 

There's another character in movie that the blind prodigy befriends: a dancer who seems to be wasting her life as the delivery girl of a drinks shop. This girl's graceful and fluid dance movements are welcome counterpoints to the prodigy's music. The scenes with the prodigy's mother  are mostly heartbreaking especially when she chooses to keep to herself to keep her son from worrying. 

The movie is generally heart-warming, well-written, and well-acted.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: October 19, 2014

Movie No. 75 (2014): MAPS TO THE STARS

Maps To The Stars (2014)
Director: David Cronenberg
Cast: Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, John Cusack, Robert Pattinson

Every character in this Hollywood satire is dysfunctional. Dr Weiss is a psychotherapist. His wife manages the acting career of their teenaged son who has a history of drug abuse. They have en estranged daughter who's just been released from a Florida sanatorium, now trying to reconnect with them (as family). Shunned by her family, the daughter seeks employment, instead, from a once-famous but now fading actress, who is Dr. Weiss's patient. The fading actress, a former child star, has her won issues with her dead mother, a famous actress of the 1960s. 

Everyone is sick. Everyone has motive. This contrasts the seemingly gleeful cinematography. Maybe this is Cronenberg's version of Hollywood. With all the characterization and conflicts shown earlier in the movie, it's not actually unexpected the movie will end in the way it does. But it still gives aftershocks.

By the way, Julianne Moore is superb.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: October 19, 2014

Movie No. 74 (2014): DEMENTIA

Dementia (2014)
Director: Perci Intalan
Cast: Nora Aunor, Bing Loyzaga, Chynna Ortaleza, Jasmine Curtis-Smith, Yul Servo, Lou Veloso, Althea Vega, Jeric Gonzales

Mara (Nora Aunor) has dementia. Mara's closest kins take her to Batanes, her hometown, hoping the decision will help her remember things. It does. However, it's the things that Mara would rather forget that comes back. This results in her and her niece experience being haunted by ghostly visitors.

The movie is not at all about dementia, with all the clinical manifestations of a dementia patient. The titular dementia is, I think, allegorical; thinking about it this way makes the movie's kind of horror work really well. 

The bleak cinematography of the vast hills and rough seas of Batanes contribute to the required feel for a horror film. But the best thing about the movie is Nora Aunor herself. She may have been assigned the most difficult roles and layered characters in local movie industry and delivered excellently in practically all instances, but she still managed to surprise everyone with the way she attacked the Mara Fabre character in Dementia. Chynna Ortaleza, Bing Loyzaga and Jasmine Curtis-Smith also did well.

The scene at the hospital is, for me, the scariest. And it's just a normal conversation. 


Date seen: September 28, 2014

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Movie No. 73 (2014): MULA SA KUNG ANO ANG NOON

Mula Sa Kung Ano Ang Noon (From What Is Before) (2014)
Director: Lav Diaz
Cast: Perry Dizon, Hazel Orencio, Roeder Camanag, Angelina Kanapi
In Filipino, with English subtitles

In a span of two or three years before the declaration of Martial Law, the people of a remote village in the Philippines experience and witness 'unnatural circumstances' that will threaten to shake their preserved traditions and sense of community. Such events include, among others, cattle hacked to death by an unknown 'butcher', an old man found dead with a 'bite' mark on his neck, the wailing in the forest, and an intruder who sells blankets and mosquito nets. All the characters that populate the village are all so interesting that it'll be easy to care about them. Each character has a story that, when explored, is worthy of a separate and equally interesting movie. But putting them all together in this movie by way of the director's almost unique style (i.e., long takes, long shots, and immersing the viewer in every scene) is a resounding achievement. The stunningly beautiful cinematography and the non-use of musical score will keep the viewer glued to the screen, not minding the five and a half hours of the movie's running time.

I am now an official Lav Diaz fan.

I saw this movie at the full-packed Center Stage Theater, Mall of Asia on September 21, 2104.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: September 21, 2014

Monday, September 22, 2014


Norte, Hangganan Ng Kasaysayan (2013)
Director: Lav Diaz
Cast: Sid Lucero, Angeli Bayani, Archie Alemania, Hazel Orencio, Soliman Cruz
In Tagalog, with English subtitles

Thanks to suspension of classes and office work last Saturday, I finally saw the film at Glorietta 4. The film clocked 250 minutes, the longest movie I'd seen so far (that time). Gone With The Wind, which I saw on VHS almost two decades ago, clocked only 238 minutes. These movies, despite their discouraging running time, didn't disappoint. 

The movie's theme, being universal, is not original: A man commits a double murder. Another man gets the blame and is imprisoned for life. The prisoner's family suffer the ordeal. The real murderer feels guilty and pays for his crime in his own terms.But a lot of issues are discussed along the way, some subtly, some blatantly.

But, that's not a bad thing. I mean there are bunch of movies out there sharing the same theme. It's on how the story (behind that theme) is told that matters most. Lav Diaz' inventive method of story telling on screen is engaging. Every minute of the movie's long running time is integral to the movie's greatness. The long shots and long takes, the minimalist dialogues in most scenes, and the great performance of every single cast are simply stunning and breathtaking. I may be wrong, but I think the long takes are meant to acclimatize the audience to virtually place them right in the milieu. The script is written well so that it's easy to care about the characters.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: September 20, 2014

Friday, September 19, 2014

Movie No. 71 (2014): OTHELLO

The Tragedy of Othello: The Moor of Venice (1952)
Director: Orson Welles
Cast: Orson Welles

I was not familiar with this Shakespearean tragedy. The only things that I could associate with it were the characters called Desdemona, Iago, and, of course, Othello. Then I had to read write-ups about Orson Welles' movie adaptation of the play and learned about how it was made indie-style (i.e., with a tight budget). So I didn't expect much from the movie despite its director (Welles) being considered of the greatest directors of all time.

So, after seeing the movie, I could say it didn't look like an indie film. I guess its the directors mastery of the art that had made him obscure the lack of resources by using techniques that would later distinguish Welles from other directors. The black-and-white photography, emphasizing on more dark shades, could only enhance the tale's theme, which was mainly betrayal and the macabre. Welles cast himself as Othello. He did very well.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: September 19, 2014

Monday, September 15, 2014

Movie No. 70 (2014): A WORLD APART

A World Apart (1988)
Director: Chris Menges
Cast: Barbara Hershey, Jodhi May, Tim Roth, Jeroen Krabbe

Told on the point of view of a teenaged girl, this movie is about one white family's involvement in anti-Apartheid movements in 1960s South Africa. This girl's father and mother are so involved in these movements that she and her younger siblings are usually set aside. The mother gets arrested, the first white woman to be arrested for her anti-Apartheid writings. She gets arrested again just a few minutes after being freed from the first 90-day incarceration, which leads to her attempting suicide. Feeling even more sidelined, the daughter confronts her mother.

While this movie is obviously political, having the social conflicts in South Africa as the theme, this is also well about the drama in a family on the verge of disintegration. This is one movie-watching experience that you wish you'd have again in the future.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: September 15, 2014


Serafin Geronimo: Ang Kriminal Ng Baryo Concepcion (1998)
Director: Lav Diaz
Cast: Raymond Bagatsing, Angel Aquino, Tonton Gutierrez, Ana Capri, Lorli Villanueva

Loosely based on Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, this movie is about Serafin Geronimo, timid man who confesses before a female journalist about his involvement in (a still) unsolved crime that happened three years before. He just wants to tell the story to someone he trusts before turning himself to the police. The female journalist, reluctant at first, is sucked into the criminal's confession, which spans a few days. The confession becomes the basis of the movie's narrative, told in fractured flashbacks. Raymond Bagatsing (as Serafin Geronimo) earned a well-deserved Best Actor Award from Manunuri Ng Pelikulang Pilipino (URIAN). The movie, obviously done with a meager budget, does not look well-polished technically. People who have seen the director's later (lengthy) movies point out that the style he used in such movies were already evident in Serafin Geronimo. This makes me interested to watch these films that have made Lav Diaz a critical favorite in international film festivals.

Despite the gore and violence and poor technical aspects, the movie still managed to be an important film that came out of a batch  of movies made out of limited budget and for a limited time. It's  good thing that the script was good in the first place.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: September 15, 2015

Movie No. 68 (2014): BROADCAST NEWS

Broadcast News (1987)
Director: James L. Brooks
Cast: Holly Hunter, William Hurt, Albert Brooks, Joan Cusack

A news producer who cries every morning over her perceived empty life, an excellent news reporter who doesn't have charisma, and a newscaster who doesn't understand the events he's covering are the dysfunctional trio in this superbly written comedy, which is a closer look at the television news and at the lives of people involved in producing, gathering, writing, and delivering news.

The great performances of these actors, and the of the support cast (special mention: Joan Cusack), ware very important components of this movie's box-office success and critical acclaim.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: September 14, 2104

Monday, September 8, 2014

Movie No. 67 (2014): THE NOTEBOOK

The Notebook (a.k.a. A Nagy Fuzet) (2013)
Director: Janos Szasz
Cast: Laszlo Gyemant, Andras Gyemant, Piroska Molnar
In Hungarian, with English Subtitles

An "important" scene from the Janos Szasz's "The Notebook"
Set during World War II, the tells the horrors of war as seen on the eyes of 13-year-old twins. Believing that twins will attract attention during war, a couple decides to dispatch their sons in a farm in the countryside, near the Hungarian border, under the care of their bitter and cruel (maternal) grandmother. The grandmother's farm is "at the edge," with no neighbors, and is a stone's throw away from a concentration camp. There, the formerly pampered twins, have to learn the realities of life during war. Witnessing a series of horrible events, the twins decide to become completely unfeeling to prepare themselves for future hardships (i.e., not to feel pain, hunger, and any form of emotion). The so-called "rites of passage" (like inflicting bodily harm on each other, burning all the memories of their mother, etc.) to desensitize their bodies and emotions are sometimes difficult to watch. All these and such nightmarish episodes the twins witness are recorded in detail in a notebook their father gave them.

The characters in the movie don't have names. The twins, in the credits, are simply referred to as "the One" and "the Other." Their grandmother, called Grandmother or "the Witch," address them as sons of bitches. Other characters are simply called Mother, Father, Harelip, Captain, Reverend, etc. This makes the watching experience feels like listening to a story narrated by someone who is remotely connected to the characters, like telling someone else's story. All scenes are beautifully photographed. The script, as interpreted on screen, seems like one that's written by the Grimm brothers. And that ending is a shocker. 

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: September 7, 2014

Sunday, August 31, 2014


Scenes From Village Life
Author: Amos Oz

Scenes From Village Life consists of eight stories which are related. I can even say such stories have common theme. Some stories even share characters. The allegories and some hints of surrealism make the stories even more mysterious and interesting. I don't seem to understand completely the actions of some characters; I can take this as something that maintains intrigue. Some stories are disturbing, but this doesn't mean they're not interesting. The precise words used by Amos Oz, in my opinion, have easily made their way to my consciousness to discern the ambivalence of some characters who seem to be still nurturing the scars of Israel's past.

Rating: 3.5/5.0

Date read: April 24, 2014

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Movie No. 66 (2014): THE FISHER KING

The Fisher King (1991)
Director: Terry Gilliam
Cast: Robin Williams, Jeff Bridges, Mercedes Ruehl

Jeff Bridges is Jack Lucas, a conceited and haughty radio DJ. One day his rudeness in dealing with a random caller results in tragic consequences, which will force him to quit radio and succumb to three years of depression. Just when he's about to take his own life, he meets, in an unusual circumstance, a homeless man, Parry (Robin Williams, who's a former university professor. Having learned about Parry's background, Jack is forced to help save Parry before saving himself. The rest of the movie is about Jack and Parry's dramatic, funny, and fantastic journey to redemption.

Terry Gilliam's surrealist's touch is quite evident. In some way, it makes the movie enchanting and enthalling. Probably it's one reason one will not notice the smooth sailing of the relatively long running time for a story like this. The use of a parallel fairy tale is well-placed in the script. The (lead) performances of Jeff Bridges and Robin Williams are unforgettable. But, it's Mercedes Ruehl's acting, as the neurotic girlfriend of Jack, that got bestowed with a well-deserved Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1991.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: August 24, 2014

Monday, August 25, 2014

Movie No. 65 (2014): MOOD INDIGO

Mood Indigo (2013)
Director: Michel Gondry
Cast: Audrey Tautou, Romain Duris, Omar Sy
In French, with English subtitles

The quirkiness one sees in the movie can be said to be typical of Michel Gondry. Here is a simply story of a wealthy bachelor (Colin) who decides to fall in love after learning that his friend and his chef have respective girlfriends. Then he meets Chloe, they fall in love, they get married. Then Chloe gets sick; apparently, there's a water lily growing in her lungs. The plant may be taken as a symbolism for cancer. Colin decides to take menial jobs to provide for Chloe's medication (i.e., to surround her with flowers to kill the plant in her lungs) as their money slowly gets exhausted. I have to stop here.

This is a simple love story. But, Gondry presents it in a way that's absurd. For example: foods that are animated; a dining table on roller blades; the plant that grows in Chloe's lungs; the house that gets smaller as Chloe's disease advances and as they become poorer; the bedroom that turns round when Duke Ellington is played; a scene on screen showing half in summer, the other in spring; the mouse; the race to the wedding; the see-through car; the chef on TV; the eel; the body parts that defy the laws of physics when dancing to Duke Ellington's music; the "walk" in the clouds; and a lot more. The overload of this art direction details sometimes get into the way of the narrative (i.e., distracting). But then, the movie is still likeable, knowing it's Gondy directing.

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: August 24, 2014

Movie No. 64 (2014): BETHLEHEM

Bethlehem (2013)
Director: Yuval Adler
Cast: Tsahi Halevi, Shadi Mar'i, Hitham Omari
In Hebrew and Arabic, with English subtitles

I don't know much about the Israel-Palestine-Hamas conflict, which is on the backdrop of the drama that unfolds in this movie. I only care about the characters involved in what can be called a spy drama with the requisite elements of a thriller. But, it really is the character study that needs attention. While some background stories are not enough to understand the actions of some characters, the movie still sustains the intrigue that it has established at the start of the film, which has kept me glued to scenes after scenes. This can be attributed to the well-written script. The cinematography is near precise. The performances of the two major cast are impeccable.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: August 21, 2014

Movie No. 63 (2014). Cinemalaya X: "MAUBAN: ANG RESIKO"

Mauban: Ang Resiko (2014)
Director: Lem Lorca
Cast: Sid Lucero, Alessndra De Rossi, Bing Pimentel, Biboy Ramirez, Menggie Cobarrubias, Jess Mendoza, Kenneth Paul Salva

Resiko is a portion of a salary that is allotted for good time. In Cagbelete Island (Mauban, Quezon), the idea of good time is drinking. This movie shows the daily lives of the people in the island. It focuses on one family: the matrirach moolights as a masseuse in a nearby beach resort; her son is preoccupied with lapu-lapu (grouper, an expensive species of fish) breeding; her daughter and son-in-law are into winemaking. There isn't much happening in the island. Resiko-funded good time is a fixture. Even some (occasional) dynamite fishing accident seems part of their existence.

This is pure cinema. I like the way it's presented in a way so sober that it contrasts with the ever-inebriated dispositions of the characters presented in the movie. The great performances of Sid Lucero, Alessandra De Rossi, Bing Pimentel, Menggie Cobarubbias, and Jess Mendoza help make the movie worth watching.

I saw the premiere showing of this movie on August 9, 2014 at CCP's Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: August 9, 2014

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Movie No. 62 (2014). Cinemalaya X: POSAS

Posas (Shackled) (2012)
Director: Lawrence Fajardo
Cast: Nico Antonio, Art Acuna, Bangs Garcia, John Lapus, Jake Macapagal

The movie was in competition in the Driector's Showcase of 2012 Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival. It won the grand prize that year. In this year's Cinemalaya X, posas is part of the retrospective.

Posas is a movie about corruption in the local police in the eyes of a petty thief. In one random day, a pickpocket gets caught by the police after a well-executed chase scene in the busy streets of Quiapo. The pickpocket is presented as one who is quite naive of the police procedural despite being in the "pickpocketing business" for quite sometime. This is the first time he gets caught. While being interrogated, he gets to witness the corruption taking place in the local police. In an unexpected turn of events, he gets released, but his life will be different from then on as he will be forever "tied" to the corrupt officers. Hence, the tag line: "The day they set him free was the first day of his life sentence."

The movie succeeds in its use of irony via juxtaposing certain images with scenes suggesting the opposite. There aren't much cinematic inventions utilized, but the movie is engaging from the scenes that establish the plot in he beginning until the conclusion. As for the performances, Art Acuna's take on his role as a corrupt police officer is outstanding.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: August 7, 2014

Friday, August 22, 2014

Movie No. 61 (2014). Cinemalaya X: SEPARADOS (a.k.a. s6parados)

S6parados (2014)
Director: G. B. Sampedro
Cast: Victor Neri, Ritz Azul, Ricky Davao, Jason Abalos, Alfred Vargas, Anjo Yllana, Erick Santos, Iwa Moto, Katrina Halili, Melissa Mendez, Joel Lamangan

I'd like to make it short. The movie title is contrived (s6parados? How do you read that?). The subplots of the other characters simply don't count. The episodic treatment of the narrative is also begging to be noticed. The story is simple and trite. The movie tries to achieve something with editing style it adopted.  Even the good performances of some of the cast (i.e., Victor Neri and Melissa Mendez) can't save the movie from its fast descent into oblivion.

Rating: 1.50/4.0

Date seen: August 9, 2014

Movie No. 60 (2014). Cinemalaya X: #Y

#Y (2014)
Director: Gino Santos
Cast: Elmo Magalona, Colleen Garcia, Slater Young, Kit Thompson, Chynna Ortaleza, Sophie Albert

The movie masks as a commentary to what preoccupies the time and psyche of some privileged youth today, the so-called Generation Y. The hash tag (#) in the title suggests how social media and electronic gadgets heavily affect the daily existence (not daily living) of these youth. In my humble opinion, the commentary can easily extend even to other social classes and even to youth in the western hemisphere. Prominently enmeshed into the chaos that includes social media, never-ending parties, substance abuse, casual sex, etc., is the topic of suicide and the helplessness that goes with it. Honestly, I don't understand what drives the Elmo Magalona character to commit suicide. Mental illness? He doesn't look like he has it. At least not obviously. The moment I realize his 'brother' has got something to do with it, that's enough for me. The mention of Catcher In The Rye, where the hate that consumes the protagonist has been depicted to be coming out of nowhere, is another attempt to justify the actions of the Elmo Magalona character.

The movie is not without flaw. But, it effectively captures on screen what it really wants to show, with not much sugar-coating. The Best Ensemble Acting Award that the cast received is well-deserved. 

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: August 8, 2014

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Movie No. 59 (2014). Cinemalaya X: SUNDALONG KANIN

Sundalong Kanin (2014)
Director: Janice O'Hara
Cast: Nathaniel Brit, Isaac Cain Aguirre, Akira Morishita, Elijah Canlas, Marc Abaya, Ian De Leon, Paolo O'Hara, Enzo Pineda, Via Veloso, Che Ramos

I like this movie very much because it reminds me of the 1985 movie, Stand By Me, which is one of my all-time favorite movies. Sundalong Kanin, however, is more tragic. The movie tells how, in a remote barrio, several boys coming of age become determined to take part in defending the country as soldiers. They even make crude armory that look ridiculous. Although serious in their intention, their parents and the guerrilla fighters dismiss them. But some turn of events that have already taken away peace-and-order from the barrio will rekindle the children's determination to kill the enemies. In the process, new alliances form, loyalty shifts, friendships are put to test, people scheme, people make difficult choices, people get killed, and the war makes all these things worse.

The cinematography has that requisite capability to transport the audience into the time in history that the events in the film are thought to have occurred. The narrative, while having the tendency to resort to melodrama, remain controlled and engaging. The performances of the young cast plus that of Marc Abaya's are simply great.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: August 7, 2014

Movie No. 58 (2014). Cinemalaya X: KASAL

Kasal (2014)
Director: Jose Altarejos
Cast: Arnold Reyes, Oliver Aquino, Rita Avila, Maureen Mauricio

The movie dissects same-sex relationship in the Philippine setting. Sherwin (Arnold Reyes) is a lawyer whose expertise is annulment; Paolo (Oliver Aquino) is a film director who moonlights in wedding ceremonies video coverage. They have been living together for three years. Paolo suggests to Sherwin that they get married despite absence of law allowing it. Paolo, who is practically still in the closet, rejects the suggestion, citing it will never work in the local setting. 

The movie is riddled with irony, which makes the movie an interesting piece. Even the beautiful cinematography is ironic since what we see on screen is a relationship that is on the verge of turning sour. On their way to the wedding of Sherwin's 16-year-old sister, who got impregnated by an equally young fiancee, Sherwin and Paolo occasionally get into bouts of argument, sometimes over trivial things, sometimes about one upbraiding the other on issues of infidelity, etc. The performances of the lead actors are excellent, making every scene involving them so engaging. The script can actually work even for a heterosexual relationship. 

This is one of the best films shown in this year's Cinemalaya.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: August 5, 2014