Monday, January 30, 2017

Movie No. 12 (2017): YOUR NAME

Your Name (aka Kimi No Na Wa) (2016)
Director: Makoto Shinkai
Voice cast: Ryunosuke Kamiki, Mone Kamishiraishi
In Japanese, with English subtitles

This dialogue basically summarizes the plot of this movie: "Connecting people is Musubi. So the braided cords that we make represent the flow of time itself. They converge and take shape. They twist, tangle, sometimes unravel, then connect again."

This animated film reminds me of South Korea's "Il Mare." But, it's conflict is much different from the Your Name's. The only analogy I can think of is Il Mare's use of the mail box (as the link between two characters from different times) as Your Name's use of a smart phone. 

Your Name succeeds in visual realization of the screenplay, which, by the way, may have flaws. The flaws may have been due to the complex story. But that's forgivable. The movie still manages to show the very essence of the narrative that it wants to convey. 

The final scene presages a happy ending, which suggests the realization of the what the dialogue in the first paragraph summarizes.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: January 30, 2017

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Movie No. 11 (2017): LION

Lion (2016)
Director: Garth Davis
Cast: Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara, David Wenham, Sunny Pawar
In English and Hindi, with English subtitles

Lion's treatment is really Hollywoodish. Good thing is the story really happened. This fact, in mind as I watch the movie, makes me enjoy and actually cry in some scenes. I like how the movie discusses subtly determination, identity, hope, and courage (to live despite unforgiving circumstances). The movie shows everything on the point of view of a five-year-old child, even when the child is 25 years older. 

Both Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman deliver great performances. And the musical score is something noteworthy.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: January 29, 2017

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Movie No. 10 (2017): TANNA

Tanna (2016)
Director: Bentley Dean, Martin Butler
Cast: Marie Wawa, Mungau Dain
In Yakel dialect (Vanuatu), with English subtitles

Tribes in the Yakel Village of Vanuatu have rejected influences of colonizers and Christians. Two warring tribes preserve their traditions, which includes arranged marriage. Conflict arises when the bride (Wawa) who has been promised to the son of the chief of the other tribe, as peace offering, runs away with her childhood friend from the same tribe. 

The tradition looks familiar and the conflict simple. But, the movie succeeds in weaving the complexity of the problem into the narrative. The surroundings (thick jungle, spouting volcano, and vast ocean) contribute to the uncivilized nature of the situation despite the progress that are also in the surroundings of their realm.

The actors are first-time actors and they are all real tribesmen of Yakel. But, their portrayal are so genuine. Cinematography is awesome.

The movie is nominated as Best Foreign Language Film in
the 89th Academy Awards.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: January 28, 2017

Movie No. 9 (2017): HIDDEN FIGURES

Hidden Figures (2016)
Director: Ted Melfi
Cast: Kevin Costner, Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kirsten Dunst, Mahershala Ali

The movie tells the true story of (some of) the great minds of NASA behind meticulous calculations to launch astronaut John Glenn into space orbit around the Earth. This was during the 1960s; these great minds were women, and they were black. Therefore, the movie tackles gender and race issues, which are integral part of, not only American history, but world history as well. The movie turna out to be great entertainment, the Hollywood way, in a good way. The performances of the lead and supporting actors are simply great,

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: January 28, 2017

Monday, January 23, 2017

Movie No. 8 (2017): FROM AFAR

From Afar (aka Desde Alla) (2015)
Director: Lorenzo Vigas
Cast: Alfredo Castro, Luis Silva
In Spanish, with English subtitles

This movie from Venezuela won the top award at the 72nd Venice Film Festival in 2015.

Let me describe the movie as a dark romance. Why does this remind me of Death In Venice and Our Lady of the Assassins? One thing to note about the movie is its being too visual. We see the characters actions but we can't get through their psyches. We're puzzled about their intentions. We observe a lot of long shots, which will only make sense toward the end. And these are things that make the movie interesting. The ending, though something that I don't expect, makes sense.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: January 22, 2017

Movie No. 7 (2017): THE MARTIAN

The Martian (2015)
Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Matt Damon, Jeff Daniels, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig

What it feels to have been left behind in Mars by your crew, presuming you're dead after a terrible storm, is acted out excellently by Matt Damon as Mark Watney. But, it still puzzles me why Golden Globes classified the movie as comedy last year. 

I'm not sure if the movie is scientifically accurate. It doesn't matter. The storytelling is masterful. 

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: January 22, 2017

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Movie No. 6 (2017): STAR WARS: Episode VI - THE RETURN OF THE JEDI

Star Wars: Episode VI - The Return of the Jedi (1983)
Director: George Lucas
Cast: Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill

I remember seeing all the first three installments of Star Wars some time in 1990s in a span of a week or two. I remember liking the first two more than the third, The Return of the Jedi. But, still, I considered the last installment, which was supposedly the final episode of the series, a good narrative exercise. In fact, I considered the movies as one long movie. This way, I can say, the series was a masterpiece. 

To have seen the movie on Star Movies today is only the second time to see it in full. While the excitement that I felt seeing it the first time has dwindled, I can't deny that the movie, considering all the aspects of a good movie, is a masterpiece, considering it as a par
t of the original three-part series. In fact, the so-called Episodes 1, 2, and 3 made more than 20 years later, in my opinion, were not necessary to maintain the status of the earlier episodes (the so-called Episodes 4, 5, and 6) as masterpiece.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: January 22, 2017

Monday, January 16, 2017

Movie No. 5 (2017): A MAN CALLED OVE

A Man Called Ove (2016)
Director: Hannes Holm
Cast: Rolf Lassgard
In Swedish, with English subtitles

We've read stories or seen movies about grumpy old men and their unfortunate daily interactions with their neighbors. The movie, A Man Called Ove, is no different. What makes this movie memorable is the way the movie handles misery, loss, sentimentality, and a stray cat with humor.

The movie is shortlisted for the Best Foreign Language Film category of the 89th Academy Awards.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: January 15, 2017

Monday, January 9, 2017

Movie No. 4 (2017): KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS

Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)
Director: Travis Knight
Voice cast: Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Ralph Fiennes, George Takei, Rooney Mara

A stunningly beautiful, stop-motion animation, with epic story, Kubo And The Two Strings starts slow, builds up slowly; however, when the turning point in the narrative sets in, the follow-through is like a roller-coaster ride. The twists are jaw-dropping. The characters are well-developed. 

The movie is a triumph.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: July 9, 2017

Movie No. 3 (2017): VIVA

Viva (2015)
Director: Mark O'Halloran
Cast: Hector Medina, Jorge Perugorria, Luis Alberto Garcia
In Spanish, with English subtitles

Jesus is a hairdresser who occasionally moonlights as drag performer named Viva, lip-synching operatic songs in a Havana bar, to make ends meet. In one of his performances, a member of the audience punched him. That audience turns out to be his father who he hasn't seen since he was three years old. The follow through to this jaw-dropping scene is a smooth-sailing narrative the examines the past, present, and, possibly, future of the dynamics of a son-and-father relationship. 

The movie is a subtle melodramatic, but not the type that gives the audience cue on when and what to feel about certain scenes. 

This film was shortlisted last year in the Best Foreign Language Film category of Academy Awards, representing Ireland.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: January 7, 2017

Movie No. 2 (2017): ANG BABAE SA SEPTIC TANK 2

Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank 2 (2016)
Cast: Marlon Rivera
Cast; Eugene Domingo, Kean Cipriano, Jericho Rosales, Joel Torre, Cai Cortez, Khalil Ramos
In Tagalog, with English subtitles

Relying mostly on Eugene Domingo's acting calisthenics, guided by a witty script, the movie, as expected, is wacky. Without doubt, the movie is really entertaining, despite that the other characters are practically props.

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: January 1, 2017

Movie No. 1 (2017): JULIETA

Julieta (aka Silencio) (2016)
Director: Pedro Almodovar
Cast: Emma Suarez, Adriana Ugarte
In Spanish, in English subtitles

The movie is a painful drama about the unexpected drifting away of Antia from her mother Julieta after the death of Xoan (Julieta's husband and Antia's father). The movie begins with a chance encounter between mother and daughter in Madrid. The encounter, which is unexpected after years of Antia's disappearance, is brief and casual. The rest of the movie is told in flashbacks. 

This is typically Almodovar, but without the occasional absurdities and wackiness. The movie writes pain as silent, but strong. The performances are excellent. 

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: January 1, 2017