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A Monster Calls (2016)
Can't remember the last time I cried in a movie theater, but man A Monster Calls perfectly sums up my biggest anxieties of growing up: the fear of loss, fear of change, that moment when you feel like you are never entitled to express your frustration that you become violent. The existence of this movie is more than enough for me. It's not quite subtle, though, but I didn't mind. Either way, I needed this. So it's like... Inside Out... and ParaNorman... and Bridge to Terabithia... except it's better... way better... Did I mention that it's also incredibly stunning? The acting is great: Lewis MacDougall is one of the most impressive kid actors I've seen this year, he amazingly carries this film that it would be a shame if he doesn't get nominated along with probably Felicity Jones.
Overall, it's powerful. It also gets a little too devastating. Even with all the pretty colors, it just straight-up acknowledges the pain and complexities of life and humanity. Reality stinks, but life's a journey. And dealing with it has always been a part of it.
(Saw this movie last month, but again, better late than never.)
Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)
I know this review is too late. I saw this movie back in mid-October, but better late than never.
Kubo and the Two Strings has everything I wanted for it and more. Firstly, the animation is tough to be taken for granted. It's just too beautiful. Every detail, the scale, the whimsy, it's just incredible to look at! I also like how it lingers to them, unlike most animation today that is mostly frantic. The plot itself is also pretty engaging. The quest pretty much felt like a Legend of Zelda game, with all the strategies, the monsters and even how the items are presented. But the center of it all, it's classic animation where it doesn't really care how dark it gets, it's all about telling a compelling story, even genuinely. I know it's a shame that not many are actually seeing this in theaters, but I can see this movie being remembered in the next few years, the same way how people remember Scott Pilgrim more than The Expendables. And yeah Laika, never stop making movies, please!
Well, that was a lot of fun. The Age of Shadows is a spy thriller that is basically a ticking bomb and once things go wrong, it just gets brutal and chaotic. The set up for these characters and their plot is well put together enough to be engrossing. And the set pieces are just excitingly executed. The film is unafraid of showing something terrible from their consequences. Though there is one point at the third act where I wished the film had ended. It gets to feel a little too long as it goes on, but man, the train sequence alone is one hell of an exercise for suspense. The production is also too impressive and the acting is quite engaging. Overall, it's a dark and brutal, yet quite an edge of your seat cinematic thrill ride.
The Girl with All the Gifts (2016)
The atmosphere it builds, the eeriness of the children humming from the music score, how brilliantly orchestrated that opening scene or the entire first act was, are just everything you need to get excited on how things will unfold.
When the actual plot kicks in, it somewhat follows the familiar zombie/outbreak movie tropes, with them wandering around this rubble. The second act does slow things down, since the zombie's dynamics here are pretty standard. But the subtext is what keeps it more interesting. The whole setup is basically a metaphor on how we treat the next generation: we get Gemma Arterton's character who finds hope on the young infected girl, Melanie, while everyone else fears on how she and her kind could threaten their existence. It's a complex dilemma that makes it tough to predict how everything would turn out. The greatest feat of the directions is how it keeps its scenarios quite disorienting, especially with its music score, increasing its disorientation. It's amazing.
And the movie ends with probably one of the cleverest punchlines I've seen in film. This movie is basically the I Am Legend movie done right. This movie is based on a book and contradicting to what I said, the readers claim that the ending of this movie was mishandled. I dunno in what way, but it makes me more curious about reading it. For now, I think The Girl With All the Gifts is mindblowing. If Glenn Close fighting a zombie is not enough for you to see it, I dunno what will.
Lights Out (2016)
More Fun than Scary
Lights Out is another example that horror movies today are getting effort again. Yeah, The Conjuring, The Babadook and a few indie horrors have already proved that, but Lights Out would have been just a throwaway concept. Except it fully utilizes its idea and the characters are worth rooting for and actually smart. The allegorical core feels underdeveloped in spite of spending a chunk of its plot devoted to these backstories. The villain isn't so interesting, apart from her abilities and shortcomings. But the final act is worth the payoff. Maybe not much for the ending. Overall, it's a lot of fun than it is scary. For just another trip to the cinema, that's all you need to know.
The Legend of Tarzan (2016)
The Legend of Tarzan is one of the strangest blockbusters I've seen this year. It kinda reminded me of Ridley Scott's Robin Hood where your favorite parts of the source material are replaced with political talk which is supposed to be boring, but since it's stunningly directed, it's oddly entertaining.
Except 2010's Robin Hood manages to succeed of ending up being a medieval epic. The Legend of Tarzan on the other hand... you don't exactly know where it's heading. It juggles so much themes and subplots; you can sense there is a rich lore around, but the movie doesn't exactly flourish them properly, at the very least. It's just one plot point after another.
On the technical side, again, the directing work is captivating. The action may go out of nowhere crazy, but focusing on the production and the atmosphere alone make it quite fascinating to watch.
The acting is predictable, but it's fine. Christophe Waltz plays a watchable cartoon villain, Margot Robbie does what she usually does, Alexander Skarsgard makes a convincing reserved/feral Tarzan and Samuel L. Jackson brings the energy that helps brightening things up in this rather gloomy version of the tale.
The Legend of Tarzan overall takes itself into some interesting directions, but it's also a strange mess. It can be impressive in its filmmaking and entertaining when everybody stops explaining stuff. It's a mixed bag at best. People might clamor it could have been a little more lighthearted fun as Samuel L. Jackson's character's bantering, because once you realize what kind of movie this actually is, there is no turning back.
Blinded by Nostalgia
Yay, we finally have Bebop, Rocksteddy and Krang; but... that's it! They're nothing more than fan service and pretty much if you liked these characters then there's a chance that you'll be having fun, but just like X-Men: Apocalypse, it feels pretty empty, despite of the fan service.
Some characters seem to try establishing themselves throughout the plot; we get the turtles hoping to get the acceptance and recognition they deserve from the humans, while we're introduced to Casey Jones on the rise of becoming a vigilante since he's not given enough credit, either, as a law enforcer. But the problem is how half-baked these subplots are. The movie seems to prioritize the action scenes more, while it isn't bad, it gets a little too exhausting. Especially for its two hour runtime, it doesn't help when the movie doesn't have the intent of slowing things down for a little while.
The film decides to act like a total cartoon, which is appropriate enough for this material, but what troubles here is, their banter doesn't always work. While they still have their personalities, the jokes are often unfunny. This could be redeemed if it's not thematically problematic. But instead of using that chunk of its runtime for more character development, they just prefer blowing more things up.
Overall, it's fun at few parts, but it gets tiring in the long run. Maybe for 90 minutes, it would have been a magnificent mindless time waster, but again, this is a Michael Bay produced movie. The characters aren't developed well since their issues are easily resolved without any logical effort, whatsoever, and the plot is there just to set up a ridiculous set piece after another. If you like these characters and enjoyed them in the cartoons, then I see no reason why you shouldn't enjoy this, but then it's too long to appreciate it wholly.
Well this is Awkward
As someone who only tried the game once or twice or thrice, I surprisingly enjoyed this rather clunky yet strangely enjoyable film.
It's a pretty straightforward narrative that it doesn't wastes its time introducing much of its world. You gotta accept whatever you see; whether it's warlocks or orcs or whatever, the movie just embraces its world and trusts the audience to follow through. It kind of makes sense why those who were familiar with the game appreciated this more than standard film critics, but again, I'm not a big fan of Warcraft, but I can get immediately invested to this fantasy world (and I like fantasy stuff.)
Yeah, some moments feel a little too rushed, I don't want to use the term contrived since the movie does earn some of those moments, allowing itself to establish the arcs of these characters, but it's paced a little too quick that it doesn't spend much time to breathe for a little more gravity on its story choices. This is a big story sustained in a two hour runtime, so it's a tough choice.
The aesthetics however, while often being criticized for being too video game looking (yeah, isn't it obvious?) actually looks pretty neat. At times, it looks sort of uncinematic, but the scale it provides just brings an exciting sense of adventure to it. The acting is fine, there are worse ways you can expect from a video game adaptation, but here, you can actually care for these characters.
Warcraft is flawed for sure, but to what it is, it remains to be kind of fun. I can see why many aren't impressed for this film, so far, it will perplex to those who cannot dive into this mythology and again, the storytelling feels a little too quick, but the movie is careless to be concerned to those things that it has become both a benefit and a problem for its own good. As a first part of a series (hopefully) it's actually a solid try. There are problems you just can't avoid, but there are still a lot of admirable choices to appreciate, in the end.
X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
Empty Grand Spectacle
Apocalypse is the lamest villain I've ever seen in an X-Men movie, it makes Deadpool from X-Men Origins look subtle. I believe this movie has the Dawn of Justice problem, except probably a little better. People would defend it to how close it looks from the comics, when the argument they would point out is only from the aesthetic. Example: The movie may have Psylocke's look, powers and leotard, however remains cipher that it's close to Batman v Superman's Wonder Woman. The movie throws in a ton of characters and cannot even juggle enough from them, especially when it comes to Jean Grey. She is supposed to be important to the story, but her arc is rushed and her involvement from the climax felt extremely unearned. Fans of the old movies might find the returning young characters such as Cyclops and Nightcrawler fun, but that's only for the sake of familiarity and if this is the first time you've encounter these characters, then you won't find anything remarkable from them. Good performances do help, mostly from Michael Fassbender, even when Magneto here is underwritten as ever, he manages to make a rather contrived sequence quite powerful. But even then, when he starts becoming the villain again, the bombast just compromises every talent on screen.
The movie is heavy on CG, but short on tension. All we see are spectacle, that it gets too exhausting that you're almost like watching a Roland Emmerich movie. It all looks cool, but there is nothing really exciting about it. To be fair, it's still quite watchable and fans might go crazy about its fan service like Wolverine (it's shown in the trailer,) bald Professor X and Mystique wearing her original costume. But even with these aesthetics, it's still pretty empty. These characters are too burdened from the past that it's kind of missing the point.
Oscar Isaac tries, but the role is just too silly to be taken seriously. James McAvoy does his best as Xavier. Tye Sheridan is the best cinematic Scott Summers so far, but that isn't saying much since this franchise never even cared for this character. Michael Fassbender is seriously the only one who can exceed from the film's shortcomings.
Overall, X-Men Apocalypse is pretty to look at, but the lack of enough connection with this rich amount of characters and tension towards the situation and the villain just rob all the fun. It's far from boring, at least. You can find worse ways to kill your two hours, but still, it's like the Mutant Apocalypse game; if you're looking for some action that looks like the comics, then you may have a blast, but movies aren't videogames. There has to be a story to impact the experience. And there is rarely any elements from the story here that actually flow. It's far from a blunder, but X-Men movies have become better than this. This movie is nothing more than a bucket of candies.
Having Fun with the Material
Deadpool is said to be one of the most impossible material to put up on the big screen this soon. This hero is crass, the content is more vulgar and violent that may not be marketable for the mass. But the studio is smart enough to take risks, staying faithful with its nature and let things go wild. And as it goes, it's undeniably hilarious and really crazy fun. But for its ambitions of breaking new grounds for the superhero genre, Deadpool however falls short in that case. The tropes are kind of the same, except it's more self-aware and lurid. But this doesn't negate the joy the movie still provides.
It begins with an opening credits that pretty much name calling however typically involves in major superhero films. The movie then cuts establishing what kind of a character Deadpool is; he's cold-blooded with a sense of humor. It also flashes back to his origin story and how he lost everything after the experiment that is supposed to cure his disease. The main plot is basically a simple revenge story, only filled with the otherworldly craziness and breaking the fourth wall jokes. And as the story go, it's not that fresh, but it's all about the personality of the hero must shine and it does deliver. He also keeps poking fun at the clichés of the superhero genre and the limitation in the production of the film. It's amusing all and all, and that's pretty much what we wanted to see here.
Then again, it's nothing groundbreaking, but what we wanted to see here is just Deadpool playing around. Putting aside the playful stuff, the romantic subplot is actually kind of endearing. The villain is ought to seem like a stock one, but his petty weakness is what defined him. The action is pretty fun to watch, which mostly has headshots and decapitations. The CGI isn't always that impressive, but it doesn't keep the action from being watchable, as long as the velocity and clarity are good. The acting is a delight, Ryan Reynolds seems like he's having the time of his life playing this role and that shows in every scene he is in as Deadpool.
Deadpool isn't quite that revolutionary, well maybe for the confidence of major studios making more R rated superheroes like this. As the plot goes, it's all familiar. Then again, the movie is all about the personality and it works delightfully. People may just brag that this is just Kick-Ass except with higher budget and a more known property and that can be true. The movie doesn't have too much of a novelty, but as it executes your expectations, Deadpool has that passion. And that alone may satisfy comic book fans, anyway.
Handling a Tough Issue
Spotlight centers a journalism team that tries to expose a scandal over Catholic churches. It takes dilemmas to show this story to the people that could bring a serious vulnerable effect at the culture of Boston. The movie showcases how impacting the work is, that it's not easy to just release a story in public, especially as devastating as this one. We explore their practicalities and ethics at handling this case, that it took a year for them to expose. Every detail of this process is done with excellent pace, disclosing every bit of information that is hidden by vulnerable people and giving intriguing arguments on how everyone will be ready to hear this story. Spotlight is powerful by just how smart it depicts the complexity of journalism.
The movie doesn't necessarily go against the religion or anything. Their targets are nothing more than the suspects. It takes an argument that despite that the priests are supposed to be respected for their spiritual commitment, hiding the dark truth behind their crimes would be an abuse of both the law and their power in their creed. There is not a good guy or bad guy labeling between the reporters and the church, it's basically just them fighting to find the truth from people who are hiding it for the sake of protecting either one's dignity or a victim's security. But the tougher choice is deciding when do they have to publish this story, especially close to the events of 9/11, which was a huge hindrance since it's the time when people who lost hope needed comfort from their faith.
But the movie isn't always stick-in-the-mud in this subject. There's some sense of humor when it asks for it. It also allows the characters to be developed, expressing how their job has taken over their personal lives and how suing the church is a big deal to them due to how Catholicism means to their childhood or loved ones. The film just lets it all engaging than just a series of information. The direction just lets us see how their reporting work in a quite compelling way; the uneasy confessions of the victims, the revelation of the amount of suspect priests, convincing. The acting is outstanding; mostly from Mark Ruffalo to Michael Keaton, the talents just shine at every moment they're in.
Spotlight, among the nominees, is the less showy one, but it acknowledges that it's the story it's handling is what makes it powerful. It's more about the hard work journalists go through rigorously finding facts and responsibility of sharing them at the right time. And how it profoundly handles this hot-button issue also made it fascinating. Slick direction keeps things engrossing, smart writing made it engaging and an amazing cast is just entertaining. Spotlight is a magnetic insight of the busier side of journalism.
The Revenant (2015)
Surreal Cold Blood
The Revenant tells the story of Hugh Glass in his survival after being mauled by a bear and betrayed by an arrogant fellow trapper. In this version, Glass has a son killed by Fitzgerald to turn this into a gritty revenge story. And it kind of works artistically, the movie paints the mood with absolute surrealism of grief and violence. Thematically, there was potential, but in the end it kind of shoehorns what could have been a painful realization. Either way, this is one of the most terrifically crafted films you may see in a while. The effort and ambition is shown at every imagery and that alone made The Revenant a pretty fascinating experience.
The movie opens with Hugh Glass brooding over a tragedy of losing his wife, which made him protective to his son for being a reminder of her. Then it cuts to an expedition of trappers who are hunting for pelts, then attacked by a Native tribe and escaped; Glass is with his son, though having prejudice by Fitzgerald for being a half-Native. Then you get the story; I think the added elements is for the sake of giving Glass a colder motivation of hunting down the men who abandon him in his dying condition. It is also made to bring this journey a grander theme of spirituality and morality towards the force of nature, but it's kind of a stretch at times and it never becomes subtle either. What hurts more is the final part where Glass ends up verbalizing the theme of what he learned in his suffering. There should be pain on that sacrifice he had chosen, then yet he manages to witness that reward he was seeking for. The final note already feels a little unearned, but the last part just made it feel like a betrayal.
Though what's perfect in this film is the filmmaking. There has been an interesting story behind the set where director Iñárritu pushes his craft, by even using natural light, and DiCaprio experiencing the dining struggle of the character. For the direction, it looks very magnificent, every shot of this film deserves to be seen in a big screen, it's just glorious to look at. But the most impacting are the images of death. The movie just pictures the coldness of the bodies like the loss of life is a big deal even in this image of fiction. This has been one of Leonardo DiCaprio's most committed performances, he had to actually eat a raw bison, if that's actually surprising to anyone, but the commitment is admirable and makes the performance compelling even with lesser words, we can see the sorrow and struggle in his eyes. The supporting are predictable great as well, Tom Hardy makes for an entertaining arrogant antagonist.
The Revenant is all spectacle, but really priceless spectacle that you rarely see in a film this mainstream. The ambition is too enormous that it somehow drops the ball at the very end, it would have been thematically powerful if it was more subtle at that final few minutes. But it's the experience that made it brilliant. I wish it was only about Glass struggling to rise back avenging his son, the added spiritual theme just doesn't work as it wanted to be when it starts verbalizing it. Just let the action speak whatever it wanted to say, because the movie is really terrific at visual storytelling. It's just a small misstep for a movie already this grand, so The Revenant is definitely going to be the cinematic ride of your life.
13 Hours (2016)
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is based on the attack of an American diplomatic facility in 2012. Among the events and the controversy behind the attack, the movie focuses more on the military side, regarding this as a Michael Bay film. Though the basic details of what has happen were represented, the core of the film leans more on the soldiers who tried to stop this and rescue the US ambassador. As an action film, it's pretty much you'd expect from the director; nearly endless mayhem. As a drama, it chooses pretty stock choices. It's pretty much how it honors the soldiers who fought and die for their country, while that isn't a really bad theme, it's been overdone especially in Michael Bay standards. Put aside the knowledge who directed this film, it's still not a compelling or even fun clash of unending spectacle.
The movie opens with a long exposition which is basically the most interesting bit of them all since it takes us to politically intrigue. Everything else is basically just these ex-soldiers doing what you'd normally see from a soldier in movies. And in spite that they are more of the focus, the characters are ridiculously interchangeable. They all have muscle, they all fight for their country, they all have a family back home who misses them. And there is some friendship between the two lead characters that the movie wants us to care about. While it does work at times, it's still that typical brotherhood subplot that is done with even less distinction. The movie is pretty much glorifying these soldiers too much that everyone else is being antagonized for being naive and not letting them fight for their country.
The action is impressive to look at, though coherence might be tough for most people. But if you like to see an extreme dose of explosions, shaky cam and lens flare, then you know what you'll get in a Michael Bay film, though to be fair, you can find some worthy tension in the less explosive moments. But we also get the worst of him by putting his crass humor scattered around. And yes, their enemies are faceless as ever. It's kind of strange that the movie has to end with the victims' loved ones mourning for them, while it's good that they are aware that these people have families too, the victorious tone being played in that epilogue makes it seem tasteless. But hey, if the US soldiers win in the end, then that is what it all matters for Bay.
There is so much interesting going on to this story, but 13 Hours chooses to settle with the explosions. While the explosions do look stunning, it pretty much misses the opportunity of covering the stuff that seem more important to tell. And as a Michael Bay film, the result is as predictable as it gets; glamorizing US soldiers, over-indulging spectacles, etc. And it's not shown in a newer spin, either. The patriotism is less compelling and one sided as ever, the action is loud, but if you're into that then the cool explosions may entertain you. If you are looking for a more complex or sophisticated representation here, then 13 Hours won't quite help getting you into that perspective.
The 5th Wave (2016)
Running Out of Ideas
The 5th Wave is yet another YA film and surprisingly this is a mighty checklist of everything you've already seen from this genre. But as its own thing, it manages to find its own themes. The problem is how inevitable the clichés are, how it unable to go through its own direction. It has to follow formula as less subtle as possible, which immediately makes it ridiculous and underwhelming. Though, there is still intrigue from its concept, but then again The 5th Wave lacks the novelty that YAs should offer again.
The movie begins with a... *sigh* how can I explain this? Let's just say Chloe Grace Moretz is no different from Shailene Woodley. As the waves go, these teenagers who used to live in their middle class lives are forced to put themselves into survival stakes that questions their morality and some sort. At one part of the story has Cassie Sullivan trying to find his brother after the invasion, while being hunted by these aliens called "The Others." She was wounded and left unconscious in the ground. Meanwhile, her high school crush has joined this military team of younger soldiers to fight these aliens. They battled and find conspiracies. Honestly, the Ben Parish arc is the most interesting. As said, he is this cool high school kid who is now reluctantly made to kill aliens that looked like his own kind. It can be a harsh coming-of- age story that takes one out of his comfort zone. That arc is almost similar to Cassie when she killed a human being, which she assumed one of the Others. Well, she meets a hot guy in the woods, have moments that are supposed to be romantic but their chemistry never sparked.
The science fiction elements is actually interesting at the start, we see how these stages destroy the world. But everything else is just stock alien invasion stuff; military, floating drones, etc. The movie hardly has any novelty or richness in this world. The secondary characters, while you see a lot of them with their silly nicknames, are basically just stock secondary characters. You don't know them as much as the leads do, it's just there. The action is alright, though the effects can look a little shoddy (looks those gunfire.) The acting is also alright, Chloe Grace Moretz has done way better performances than this, this is basically her If I Stay except she is given more time to pant and stuff. As the two male actors; Nick Robinson supports his character's arc quite well. The weakest is Alex Roe who is basically the typical pretty boy who sometimes doesn't feel like he belongs in their plight.
The 5th Wave is ridiculously by-the-numbers as YAs get. And yes, the movie ends with leaving so many question for the sequel (good luck with that.) It's nothing surprising or intriguing anymore, it's just one of those franchises. It would have been better if it offers something interesting beyond the formula, sure, it has some thematic potential, but the clichés get worse as it actively takes over everything. You can write a long shopping list out of what this story has borrowed from other YAs. Even some of the worst young adult films manage to bring more originality than this. It's that frustrating, thus there's nothing special about The 5th Wave. If you've seen a lot of these young adult stuff before, then you won't miss anything from here, whatsoever.
The Big Short (2015)
Enlightening the Issue
The Big Short tells the story behind the economy collapse in 2008, turning this serious financial tragedy into a rather zippy entertainment that breaks the fourth wall and explaining the audience about how the system works less boring as possible. And fortunately, it indeed works. There is a sense of profoundness in tackling this issue and the movie wholeheartedly puts those details into a fascinating piece of entertainment. Though one might point out that the movie isn't quite subtle at its hate towards the banking system, but the movie acknowledges what really went wrong and that insight is what made it undeniably engrossing.
The movie focuses on five different people; trying to prevent the predicted collapse and prove the fraudulence of the banks. The film is aware that not many are familiar with this financial environment and their jargon, and it would be complicated for them to comprehend. So the movie manages to keep putting up celebrity cameos summing up the details, out of their own metaphor. There's also breaking the fourth wall moments to take things clearer. But what the movie is trying to represent is how the banks have gone greedy and they are responsible on keeping the economy from being stable. Although this is a one sided perspective, it also acknowledges the trouble that the main characters might cause if they sue, expose and just find investors in their endeavor.
In these accounts, the movie portrays them well, especially when their prediction is finally at place. You can really feel everything has fallen apart. The direction is palpably stylish, it cuts to montages of stock photos, footage, etc. that represents what is happening, almost like The Tree of Life or Lucy or something. But you get the picture. The performances are downright entertaining, with Ryan Gosling just does his cool thing. Christian Bale gets a little strange, but he does the work right. Though it's Steve Carell who brought the more compelling arc to the picture.
The Big Short really exceeds expectations, yeah the style gets too gimmicky, but it understands its big picture and delivers it as the audience can follow through. It's something that the film wants to reach this story out on a wider audience, in spite of the overwhelmingly complex language that the market speaks. The direction manages to make it all gripping, while the acting is energetic enough to keep it compelling. The Big Short just lets it all entertaining until things really get devastating.
Zhuo yao ji (2015)
Monster Hunt begins telling the history of the war between mankind and monsters, when the humans won, the monsters have separated themselves from them until years later, their queen escaped while bearing a child who will become the prince and being tracked down by other monsters and a human army. The opening doesn't bring anything fresh within its backstory, the actual plot doesn't get any less original either, when we cut to a young hero who doesn't get any luck after this plot came and other colorful set of character join to his journey. Despite of these done to death tropes and premise, the movie however brought something appealing, and that's definitely how seriously weird it is. It's packed with a lot of amusingly strange ideas which becomes its own personality. It's good if it runs less than two hours. The stock plot doesn't get any better and the climax feels a little too long for its own good. But to what it is, there is something delightful to its weirdness.
So the hero lives in a small village, he lives with a relative anyone but his parents, he feels like an outcast, an underdog, etc. At this point of this film, it's just totally uninteresting witnessing the same tropes, even without trying to make its own spin out of it. And then he discovered that there is more to this world than what he has always knew. There is a girl who is stronger than him... is this even worth paraphrasing? You get the bottom line, however, the film gets better when it shifts to being downright weird. The pregnant queen can transfer her egg to another womb, which is given to the male hero. And this little antic is actually quite amusing. After the laboring, the movie continues to play off the concept as they raise this little monster. It's a delight, but it still doesn't help the plot that much.
Even before the climax comes, it's still felt uncertain where the story is going. It feels a little busy playing around to some of its side villains. Now when it comes to the actual climax, it would have gone better if it was shorter than it was. And then a twist reveals that is kind of generic. There just isn't much to it, the story between the relationship of the monsters and humans remain thin. It's the main characters and the baby prince is the only strong moments in here.
And to be fair, before the climax that eventually wears off, the pacing is kind of nice, making every moment reasonably entertaining. The action scenes are watchable. The special effects are alright, though the only likable digital creature is the prince which is admittedly adorable. The performances seem to be having fun on what they're doing, bringing energy into this film's silly nature of being a cartoon.
That's pretty much what Monster Hunt mostly feels like, a cartoon. Yeah, the tropes and plot are pretty stock, but it really gets more interesting when it's getting weirder and weirder, from a pregnant male protagonist to some dark sense of humor it keeps things entertaining. I sort of wished they establish more of this mythology and how this monster prince can change their world, but the movie doesn't have much of that opportunity. To what it is, it's fun, though I wish it was a little shorter, or spent those other minutes to develop the fantasy stuff. But the main characters eventually become charming, in spite of how faulty the plot is. Monster Hunt is entertaining for the outrageous stuff alone.
Our Brand Is Crisis (2015)
Our Brand is Crisis is a fictionalized adaptation of a documentary with the same name. It centers during a presidential election in Bolivia, an American consultant helps an unwanted President save his campaign. The film mostly treats this situation as a comedy. So their campaigning is often delivered with hi-jinks, even though it already established a serious context within the society and politics involved in this story. Although it's thoroughly entertaining, the movie disappointingly never felt rewarding. As the tone has shifted after the story gets awareness to its real conflict, the movie feels like it failed justifying what it's trying to represent for this story.
The first act is mostly establishing Jane's success in her work, despite of her behavior. Once she steps into this competition, it's basically a series of strategies that are depicted with playfulness. Maybe it's its way of saying that presidential campaigns are fun that it should be seen as a form absurdity, but there's no sense of satire in those scenes. It's just the movie willing to fool around, even for no reason sometimes. When it decides to take the issue seriously, it feels like the movie never deserves it. It's contrived for sure, but after all the shenanigans that has happen, the serious awareness from its conflict often feels out of place.
It's still quite interesting, the details around is still treated with thoughtful consideration, but it's just the attempt of humor whenever they compete against the other candidate is what robs the intrigue. The last act when they're finally learning a serious lesson didn't end up being compelling, because that doesn't seem what the movie was building up. The ambiguity didn't help either since nothing really supports the tone. Instead it's just some rushed sentimentalism that impacts so little in the end. The craft however is impressive, the whole pulpy feel and slick camera-work make it stunning to watch. The acting is definitely entertaining, with Sandra Bullock carrying the whole thing. The supporting are likable to keep things watchable.
Our Brand is Crisis gets a little intriguing and fun at the start, then it gets pretty vague by its intentions. There is little reason to get too indulgent at some absurd moments. Their politics and work could work with humor if they're just straightforward satire, but then it just settles with formula. And the ending of course is just straight up sentimentalism rather than uneasy ambiguity. The direction and production at least made it competent and again the acting is thoroughly committed which makes it kind of gripping. Then again and again, nothing rewarding this movie will bring you in the end.
Macbeth (2015) is as straightforward as a film adaptation of a Shakespeare play gets. Although the production and cinematography is undeniably rich and stunning, the real highlight is still the tragedy and language of the play. To those who are looking for a grand epic as the promotions suggested, it might disappoint them, though again it's all visually stunning, the movie doesn't let the action and warfare be just action and warfare. Just like the story, it's all about the tragedy, the cruelty and consequences. And it does them right with a perfectly bleak and grim tone, anyway. With performances that really spice up the scenery, Macbeth is an impressive piece of cinema.
The movie mainly starts with a battle, but the real focus of that bombastic start is the atmosphere driven by the violence happening, even if they eventually won the war. Then Macbeth found three witches denoting that he will be king. This leads him to ambition and this ambition turns poison until he fulfills it as a tyrant. It's basic stuff, but again, as a Shakespeare play, it's all about the language. The visuals speaks through evident bleakness, but the dialogue speaks through madness. And it's actually quite effective, compellingly shows how their world crumble and so forth.
The film allows the monologues to define these characters and the recipe for that is the leading actors. Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard seem they are born to be in this material; Fassbender brings the complexity of Macbeth while Cotillard brings the madness that she nearly steals the show. The supporting are also quite impressive filling up among the leads. The direction is downright stunning. Sure, it's basically just allowing for the language to flow, but the visuals just looks tremendous. There's a sense of grandness within this production, while the redness of the backdrops just fits on how harrowing things may get.
Macbeth isn't the most overwhelming approach, again it's just too straightforward, but the story still is impacting enough, staying faithful on the text of Shakespeare. It embraces the mood, it focuses on the theme; if anything, the acting and the production is what makes it special, bringing grandness on the dialogue presented. To those who may be seeking for an epic, chances are there fights that is good looking, but then they aren't particularly action scenes. They're drama and really tremendously delivered drama. And that's how simple as this adaptation get.
Showcasing Formidable Performance
Legend sums up what the audience only cares about this movie: it has Tom Hardy playing two different roles. People would come here only for the sake of intrigue how this already acclaimed actor pull off more than one character and offers nothing beyond that expectation, which is a shame, because there are many interesting directions this movie could go through. Instead, we get some familiar elements from this genre, which isn't quite interesting by its approach. I feel like the filmmakers solely care about showcasing what Tom Hardy could do, but we already learned that in his past films. Legend just suffer for its lack on flourishing its own personality.
The movie follows through a totally needless voice-over narration from lead character's love interest and we explore this rather quirky world. Despite of its seemingly colorful atmosphere, the movie doesn't quite let these details shine as it keeps shifting to the next totally different subplot. We see some sort of playfulness at some of its action scenes, it mostly takes a gag out of its villains and torture scenes. As a biopic, the movie mostly treats its story with a somehow comedic flavor, right until the third act where stakes get serious. There's at least three or more conflicts for these characters to deal with. But the main problem is the lack of exact focus, the film just tries to squeeze these events into a rather incoherent plot. And of course, the voice- over narration doesn't really help anything.
If there's anything to like here then that's obviously the performance of Tom Hardy as the twins. As Reggie, he brings on the charm, while also trying to give a convincingly dark complexity behind this supposedly likable man. As Ronnie, he's delightful. Although he is mostly treated as a joke, he brings a hint of earnestness behind this mad laughing stock. There's also worthy and even comedic moments with David Thewlis. The filmmaking does bring some appealing flavor; a fancy soundtrack, some snazzy production, it all looks good and fits fabulously for its setting. Maybe not that rich in detail, but it all looks nice.
Legend doesn't quite bring much novelty as a gangster film. It's like some Guy Ritchie inspired film, minus the energy. The enthusiasm only lies within its star and while Hardy carries it magnificently, the movie just gets dragging. It tries to be quirky, but it's underdeveloped to what it's trying to be. When it tries to be dark, it's too overshadowed by quirkiness. Maybe the plot would work better if it's mostly centered on how Ronnie is in control since that's the most entertaining side of the film, while it does that, it still detours to subplots, longer and longer like it's also taking over the story. Biopics are tough, but this didn't make enough inspired ways to subdue its heavy-handedness, therefore it's nothing special, besides of Tom Hardy's talent.
The Peanuts Movie (2015)
Charming Love to the Material
Peanuts is the kind of property that today's mainstream cinema wouldn't care anymore. Especially when it comes to kids entertainment, they'll ask for larger scale, faster pace, pop culture references or any dazzling spectacle or whatever. Peanuts is a calmer material that follows the everyday life and little troubles of a young boy, Charlie Brown, which used to be a big deal to face in childhood. The Peanuts Movie thankfully sticks to that spirit, letting conflicts more grounded yet made compelling even at a smaller scale. Maybe the only thing to brag about is how it paces a little too quick, rarely letting many moments that could have given a stronger emotional impact shine. Either way, the charm and love to its material is still there and that alone made The Peanuts Movie worth seeing.
Despite of being a CG animation and a major motion picture, the movie doesn't heighten the scale of the plot and rather sticks to the anxiety and everyday moments of childhood. There is no bad guys, just a tough world for a child to face and learn, overcoming his own insecurities. It's the classic Peanuts mold, then again, with a somewhat quicker pace. Pacing isn't exactly much of an issue when it comes to animation, but here, it sometimes takes things too far, specifically towards its physical comedy. There is often slapstick after slapstick, though it is meant to present as Charlie Brown's ordeal, it just takes most of the time compared to contemplating. Then again, it never compromises the charm of the material. The characters are fun, especially of course Snoopy, while everybody else is just as playful.
The animation is wonderful. Although it's CGI, the movie never betrays its classic aesthetic, even their movements act like it's hand drawn, proving that the people behind this movie has a genuine love to Peanuts. There are scenes that goes to conventional 3D, specifically the flight sequences with Snoopy, but it's only the background that goes to different angle, while the characters themselves remained faithful with their design. Anyway. The voice acting is enjoyable, with these child voice actors really bringing these characters to life.
The Peanuts Movie feels a little too conventional in some parts, even how the film concludes feel a little too happy, but it knows its lessons and that's fine anyway. What made it wonderful is just how it recreates this world of Charles Schulz. So maybe those sort of underwhelming moments are the film's way of attracting the next generation to this material, but I kind of wish it should have also considered some bolder choices. But then, it's still fun and adorable. These character remain likable, the stories remain charming and endearing. That might be enough good reasons to revisit the Peanuts.
Honor Thy Father (2015)
Honor Thy Father is a heist film. That is all you need to know about its plot. But the movie is apparently more than just plot. It mainly explores a world of desperation, a commentary about oppression and greed, the theme of family and the reality of facing consequences. All of these are written in one very simple storyline and to be honest, it does it all perfectly and even beyond what it should be. The film takes us to this atmosphere and delivers it with a powerful effect in every moment. The filmmaking is masterful, the tension is subtle, the performances are down-to-earth tremendous; this is how you ultimately define a true great movie of the year.
The movie begins with its characters unable to escape from a serious trouble they put into themselves. We also see the ironies of this world where a person who came from a dirty past has more sense of generosity than some religious group that is supposed to be a representation of humility. But the big picture here is we live in a complex world, where you don't exactly know who is good or bad and what exactly is right or wrong. What matters is you survive. We explore these lives in total bleakness, where you felt that everything is under control by meaningless oppression, which makes you empathize these characters despite of their choices. This isn't quite a new story or lesson to tell, but its context and how the film puts these things together are what makes it brilliant. The pacing may be slower compared to director Matti's other crime thriller, OTJ, but the momentum is still felt, as the plot moves forward with a consistent slow burn.
One of the remarkable things around is the tension, like you can feel that bad things are meant to happen at every turn. It also helps that the score gets louder whenever things really get too far. The camera also shoots these moment by simply establishing the whole atmosphere of a particular sequence. But then, everything about the camera-work is strikingly terrific. The exterior shots are undeniably gorgeous, while everything else is just spot-on. The acting is no different from the quality of its filmmaking. Putting John Lloyd Cruz's talent outside from his romantic film mold proves that there is truly more to this actor than what we usually see from him. He presents whatever this role is feeling even at his quietest moments and what makes it remarkable is how natural he performs. No matter what situation he is facing, it makes the characters a lot easier to get inserted into.
There should be more local films like Honor Thy Father. I mean, the experience stands quite differently, even compared to many independent local films that you may usually encounter. How the story moves forward is expertly paced, the performances are authentic, the cinematography is obviously beautiful, the suspense is unpredictable and the themes and commentary are just powerfully represented. Yeah, the story is quite simple, but again, it just takes the advantage of true cinema and beyond, resulting a breathtaking gritty drama of which could have been just another crime thriller.
It's sort of hard to figure out what exactly Nilalang is trying to be, but there is clearly an appeal around its ideas; this a horror film, except with a more lurid flavor that may come close to a Grindhouse schlock. It also showcases a few moments of fetishes to keep its personality. But either way, how the film delivers didn't work. Even with all the silliness behind the mystery and supernatural elements, the movie somehow takes itself a little too seriously to be fun. The lurid stuff are too tamed to assume it as an exploitation film. The production however looks nice, at least has something to merit around this mess, but it doesn't help enough overshadowing what's wrong with Nilalang.
Despite of having a higher production value, you can already sense from the very beginning that this movie is going to be one hell of a turkey. The acting is incredibly awkward, even in a soap operatic level. This prologue, while it does bring some strange violence, is just tough to take seriously. And this awkwardness doesn't stop when it segues to the next scenes; it's just a series of oddly put together cop movie tropes. The hero broods at the vague and ridiculous ways possible, the side characters are nothing memorable while one of them is supposed to be funny. The plot itself is basically just digging deeper with this supernatural threat, but how this villain does its work is shaky at best. There is one scene when the entity possesses an old lady, about to attack its heroes, but once she notices that they're holding a gun, she just instantly retreats like she doesn't have any particular plan to begin with. And there's more of these dumb moments that exist for the sake of bringing another set piece and nothing else.
It would have been fine if it's just a series of dumb set pieces, but the movie keeps stalling at smaller moments that doesn't quite help developing any characters or much impact to the plot. It also sometimes goes through some meaningless lingering. Like one scene when they're being served with tea, why did that scene take that long? Is it supposed to be a representation of culture or is it one of the film's showcased fetishes. Speaking of fetishes, the movie can't even let its flavor flourished enough, maybe it's just a violation of the MMFF's rules; but the movie would have given more strangeness on its sex and violence. We see a possessed police guy cutting his own tongue for no reason, why can't we have more of that? There is a scene where a naked woman dances over dead body, but the scene is too dark to see the surreal disorientation of the scene. And then we see more tamed foreplay and violent scenes with these generic looking monsters.
The movie is at least looks nice. You can really feel like it belongs to an international production. The camera-work is slick and the cinematography really captures a colder feel within these shots. The CGI is alright in this standard, though I kind of wished the monsters would look more inspired than this, but as typical local films go, this looks quite impressive enough. The acting, again, is awkward. Cesar Montano seems confused on his role, cannot decide between being over-the-top or being nonchalant. Maria Ozawa isn't given much to do here, despite of how much the promotions center her name, but her acting isn't very good, anyway. Maybe the only performance here that can be deemed as likable here is Meg Imperial, or maybe that's just me.
I wanted to like Nilalang. The production involved seems fascinating and the fact that this is a horror film coming into stranger and trashier territories might indicate that this can be fun. But it's not fun and the movie lingers to moments that doesn't provide enough gravity or sense to the story. It's just a ridiculous film that somehow refuses to embrace that nature. Yeah, we see Maria Ozawa having a duel with some kabuki warrior for some reason, but the movie remains stick-in-the-mud about everything, except for the forced comic reliefs, I guess. I might go far by calling this 2005's Alone in the Dark with better production work, except even the better visuals cannot gloss over its missteps. So yeah, it would have been easier if the movie just went full nutty, because nothing is really compelling about its drama nor scary about its horror.
The Houses October Built (2014)
Suffers From Ineptitude
The Houses October Built is another found-footage movie that's documenting a number of haunted house attractions until they visit the scariest one out there, but then realized that they're being followed by the actors of the attractions. This could be a solid concept for a fun horror schlock and to be fair the costumes of these strange people can be creepy. Even to this day, we tend to admire this practical horror, but the problem immediately lies on the technique. It never works, the camera tries its hardest to be inept, because ineptitude equals realism, apparently. But its incoherence is what makes this supposed simple horror film thoroughly unwatchable, no matter what commentary they try to put through, it still makes no sense.
The opening and some moments, probably every ten minutes or so, features a number of interviews from those who visited the attractions. Showcasing those attractions are basically like those you see on Youtube, except the camera-work is purposely trying to make us not see the exhibits as possible. But the real horror comes is when the monsters from the ride start following them. That can be creepy in some sorts, but we immediately segues to some of the most uninteresting characters that you may commonly see in this genre. I mean really, what arc and what personality will we ever identify these people? The movie enjoys spinning wheels to them and there is still nothing exciting or likable about them.
The least dragging parts are whenever they encounter their enemies, like they just appear from nowhere, but even there they get things wrong. The continuity of these scenes are vague, yeah it's found-footage, but who's shooting this? Also, why are these people so bad at shooting these things? More specifically, the ones that are supposed to be scary. Are they trying to do the Jaws approach where less is more, except they have to be annoyingly awful at shooting stuff? I'm sure they're no professional documentarians, but why? Yeah, I complain about some well- shot found-footage films, but there was a time when this genre manages to be convincing by just shaking the camera while capturing the visuals right. In fact, if these people are trying to follow this "realistically amateur" filmmaking approach, then why are their microphones sound so perfect? I can nitpick whatever I want, BUT WHY CAN'T THESE PEOPLE SHOOT ANYTHING RIGHT?!
Alright, the few good things: the little girl is kinda legitimately creepy. The editing does get needlessly gimmicky with the camera glitches (is the girl an alien or something?), but yeah, she must stay away from me as far as possible. I couldn't tell if the acting is any good since the movie didn't give me any chance to get sucked into the writing. The costumes are effectively eerie and it's possible to get terrified by those whenever they try to attack the main characters, if only they were shot right.
The Houses October Built is your standard found-footage, and when I say standard, as in the ones that are just too lazy to make any novelty scares and it's a shame because a bunch of costumed Halloween people has potential of being at least creepy, and how they're designed is kind of promising (needs more killer giant rabbit.) But again, the plot makes no sense, the characters are dry empty and the camera-work is one of the reasons why found-footage should be a crime now. These ideas could work actually, I wouldn't mind having some guy holding a camera being chased by masked psychopaths, but again, lead it to the professionals. The Houses October Built is just a boring mess. And the title cards also countdown to the day when climax happens, which rather felt like a number of tortures you'll have to take from its ultimate ineptitude and unwatchability. And it doesn't give you any worthy payoff, either. I guess that's the real horror they're trying to offer.
Point Break (2015)
The original Point Break was mostly known for its memorable bromance between Utah and Bodhi and some of its greatest action scenes ever put to film. Either way, this remake doesn't bring enough justice to the cult classic. Its new approach, instead of a simple undercover cop thriller, is now a globe-trotting adventure featuring daredevils who are pulling off a grand stunt show. Though the stunts are impressive at times, it still pales in comparison with the original. The characters are bland, the plot makes no sense and every moment it tries to replicate with the original is just painfully forced for the sake of what they believe it's called "fan service." Therefore, there isn't much reason for Point Break (2015) to exist.
So Point Break is now about the stunts, but just like most action movies today, it also had to strip away personality. So whenever we see the cops, and even the daredevils, interact, it's just not so entertaining. One of the charms of the original, while it had some great action sequences, even the characters are interesting to watch. Even if it's trifle, it's still worth spending your time. Now, it somehow becomes uninteresting filler, especially the love interest. Remember when Utah had to lie about his backstory to earn her trust? Well, now they just easily hook up and nothing else, until some twist happens or something like that. Utah and Bodhi aren't as engaging, either. They're mostly spewing exposition, while Bodhi is basically acting like a parody of someone from a New Age religion. Their intention of becoming Robin Hoods is kind of vague as well, but I guess no one thinks it actually matters.
What's really worth groaning is when it's really trying to replicate the original; not by heart or personality, but by scene. They did the Ex- Presidents, even though one of them is wearing an Obama mask despite of taking place in 2015, but they only did it once, probably because there isn't much room for this fan service. Also the iconic scene involving Utah shooting up the air, which apparently Hot Fuzz did it better. And the epilogue is horrendously shoehorned, like it's nothing more than a tip off the hat, because... it's not Point Break without it, I guess?
However, there are some things to at least like in this film. The action is kind of stunning; the fact that they're visually more realistic to look at than most CG-fest that blockbusters tend to feed us (except for the epilogue which is too obvious.) Maybe the best among them is the rock climbing sequence where it goes from wide shots to dirty hand shots of seeing how much they'd grip. Luke Bracey isn't quite bad as an action hero, but he seriously needs a better material than this. Edgar Ramirez is probably just stuck with a blandly written Bodhi and really stays stick-in-the-mud with whatever he says about nature. Ray Winstone, though a good actor, is just not the memorably delightful Papas that Gary Busey established. And the movie wouldn't be any different if Teresa Palmer's role was written off.
And Point Break (2015) is just another needless remake. There are ideas that could have been utilized more, but it's too burdened by both action movie clichés and the fact that it is being Point Break. It's not a good undercover cop thriller, nor a good bromantic film. And you better off watching an actual stunt show, which at least doesn't make you get through to its drab expositions and the fact that it's more real and not embellished by any special effects. Then again, the effects aren't bad, but that's not the point. You may give it credit for heightening something from the original, but it doesn't do that well either. The fact how unnatural the homages are made for this remake makes it even more frustrating to watch.
Classic Underdog Returns
Creed is a Rocky sequel that now focuses on the illegitimate son of the late Apollo Creed, who is now aiming to become a boxer without bearing the reputation of being the son of Creed. And as the story goes, it actually follows the classic underdog story of the first Rocky movie. The style may be a little more bombastic in comparison, but everything else is just the simple character study of an underdog reaching into his goal, except maybe in a newer generation. There isn't much novelty to it, but it's impressively put together, resulting into a surprisingly moving picture, thus it's kind of remarkable for its own thing.
Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) leaves his pampered life with his father's widow to build this boxing career independently, by starting from the bottom and live at the same city where Rocky Balboa came from. There isn't much luck for this guy, unless he is trained by his father's old friend, Rocky, and we also get to explore their relationship and how Johnson rise the same way as Balboa did. So this might be just another underdog story, except in a different context: Adonis doesn't want to rely on his blood. He wants to establish his own self as a boxer. And while it's sort of following the same steps as the original, every moment feels genuine, like Donnie's determination, how he lives with this new lifestyle, how faces the decisions he makes. It has all the qualities it may get, but also having the consequences of acknowledging where he came from; the son of a legendary boxer.
But the more stronger moments of the film is exploring to what has happened to Rocky these years. It's just a simple heartbreaking witness about the cruelty of time; how he lost some friends, how age has taken him over. The movie really spares no risk on developing this iconic character and that's what truly makes it utterly compelling. The filmmaking is downright impressive. People have been talking about the single take boxing match scene and what they're praising for it is absolutely correct. Everything else is just stylish, slick, but never misses the heart. Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone are both terrific at keeping their roles engaging.
Creed is easily a worthy sequel. The story stays compelling, the spirit of the franchise is still felt, and whenever it tries to revisit some elements from the original, they're not made for empty fan service, but rather does a part of keeping the film downright moving. Overall, it all works and probably even better than expected. It doesn't quite top Rocky since it doesn't quite have the exact same authenticity in character, then again, Creed is more of this generation's voice. It's relatable, dramatically effective and really earns its own triumph. It may be bigger in style, but it never overlooks what made it all special to begin with.