I must say, 2015 was the year of the Sci-Fi movies—may it be as horrible as Jupiter Ascending, Terminator Genisys, or The Fantastic Four, or as entertaining as The Avengers: Age Of Ultron or Chappie, or as monumental as the comeback of the Star Wars Saga or the end of The Hunger Games franchise—several movies of this genre reigned supreme in what may be a fantastic year in film.
What makes a beautiful animated movie unforgettable? Firstly, for me, a great animated film must cater both to the kids and as well as the adults. Secondly, the animation itself must be gorgeously crafted. And lastly, it must have a fresh and original storyline in order to be at least memorable for many years to come. If you expect that Disney’s Frozen is a movie made for children, well you are completely wrong. I think the kids will love it and I bet that you will too.
Loosely based on the 19th Century Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale “The Snow Queen,” Frozen tells the story of Elsa (magnificently voiced by Idina Menzel), a young princess who has the power to create ice and snow, but does not know how to control it and so has locked herself away from the world, including her sister with a lot of spunk, Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell).
But when their parents died, the kingdom need a new Queen and Elsa is the rightful heir. At the coronation, Elsa’s powers are finally revealed, resulting in her fleeing to the mountains, leaving a kingdom in eternal winter in the process. Anna teams up with Kristoff (voiced by Jonathan Groff) and his sidekick reindeer Sven on a journey to find Elsa in order to put an end to her icy spell.
With so many memorable characters and so many show-stopping musical numbers, this film also bursts in effervescent colors and visuals, with music that can easily strum your inner heartstrings while humming along even if you’ve heard it for the very first time. That is a mark of a Disney Magic right there. On top of that, Frozen is filled with comedy, wit, and most especially, heart, which is what Disney is known for.
Menzel , Bell, and Groff all shine in their respective roles. Adding more comic relief is my favorite character of the whole film Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad), a snowman who has a sun fetish, someone who yearns for Summer because he does not know the consequences. If you think that particular subplot twist for Olaf is funny enough, wait until you hear him sing In Summer.
An absolute delight from start to finish, Frozen is definitely a movie for all ages. With characters that are so memorable and likable to say the least, and the story that is full of heart that is at the focal point of the movie, Frozen is definitely the best one since The Lion King.
And did I say that Let It Go has been stuck in my head up until now?
4.5 out of 5 stars
When we first laid our eyes on Jasmine, she is sitting first-class inside a plane bound for San Francisco, with a drink (or two, or three) at hand, who starts unloading a narcissistic verbal suitcase of emotional baggage on how she fell for her husband, Hal, to the tune of a romantic “Blue Moon,” to what seems to be her chaperon/confidante, until later, through the terminal then into the baggage claim area we find out that Jasmine was actually talking to a relatively unknown stranger. And now, ladies and gentlemen, Cate Blanchett commands you to be engaged in her film.
Blue Jasmine is Woody Allen’s first US-set movie in decades that tackles a very realistic and timely comedy-drama, about Jasmine French, a socialite who tries to reconnect with her adopted sister, Ginger (played effectively by Sally Hawkins), because of Jasmine’s current financial status: her husband, Hal (solid performance by Alec Baldwin), has been convicted of a huge financial fraud, something that even her sister’s ex-husband got victimized. In short, despite of that luxurious flight from New York, Jasmine is now broke and alone and now she has to pick up traces of her past to move forward. The thing is, she is basically an extremely alcoholic egotist in deep denial who is like a ball of craziness with heaps of emotional breakdowns and unfortunate snaps out of reality.
Allen has efficiently captured, with the beauty of the film’s editing, the dramatic changes of Jasmine – from her privileged past life with Hal, to her struggles in facing a penniless life inside a modest house in San Francisco, to lecturing her sister on her predilection for men that are losers – the wretched thought process of Jasmine unravels in front of our eyes, giving us a taste of what happens to the functionality of someone who has lost everything, then suddenly being walloped with another.
And it comes down to Ms. Cate Blanchett’s portrayal. Blanchett’s acting prowess is in full effect, with a performance that is nothing short of marvelous. I mean, just how on earth does an actor do these kinds of character shifts and personality swings so effectively, you would think that this is a Blachett world and you were just visiting? Bring her the Oscar trophy already.
4.5 out of 5 stars.
Hunger Games is a worldwide best-selling Young Adult Novel made famous by Suzanne Collins that has a huge cult-following and when the movie adaptation took a huge splash on the big screen in 2012, this cult-following just got a little bigger. A year later and an Academy Award for her exceptional performance in Silver Linings Playbook, Jennifer Lawrence returns as the girl on fire Katniss Everdeen in the highly anticipated sequel for The Hunger Games—The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.
The sequel tells the story after the events of the first movie, wherein Katniss and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) tricked the game makers and were declared the very-first double Victors of Panem’s 74th Annual Hunger Games. The said trickery made a surprising uproar against the government. Now Katniss and Peeta have returned home safe, but because they have won, they must turn around and leave their families and close friends, embarking on a “Victors Tour” of the districts. While they are on tour, Katniss senses that a rebellion is brewing. Of course it’s not only her who feels the uprising, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) senses that as well, so to show that the Capitol is still very much in control, the President prepares the 75th Annual Hunger Games (also known as The Quarter Quell) with a twist that could change Panem forever — that the Tributes from each district will be chosen from the pool of all past Victors.
Movies come and go, some have original screenplays, and others are adapted from a beloved novel and in the case of The Hunger Games novels, I have read the books and loved Catching Fire, even more than the first. I am usually critical when it comes to books being overhauled into the big screen, but I still found myself getting engrossed with the whole action, drama, and the bumps and turns that the movie offered, even though I knew what was going to happen. And the cliffhanger at the end was the exact scenario with that of the book, leaving the movie fans as well as the fans of the book craving for more, that I would want to immediately queue in for the climactic, dark finale in Mockingjay, which will be divided in two parts.
Director Francis Lawrence – who replaced Gary Ross, the guy who made the first Hunger Games good but wobbly to say the least – did not waste time for any big changes from the book as he just laid everything “by-the-book.” And there’s that. This is by far one of the most closely-adapted screenplays in recent memory and I am entirely not complaining about it because I utterly enjoyed every minute of it! Lawrence slayed the action scenes with top-notched pacing and acting, while providing a more powerful, off-putting, gritty visualization – from the inferior districts cowering in poverty and trepidation, to the contrasting, tremendously over-the-top grandiosity of Panem’s business district, the Capitol. The budget was nearly twice as big as the first one, and it really showed on-screen, with nomination-worthy special effects, set designs and costumes.
And let me talk about the cast. The cast is immensely remarkable —from the usually-exceptional Lawrence, who shows the world that she can do almost every role possible by being both stubborn and vulnerable while staying meek and youthful, to her two screen partners Hutcherson (who shines with his undeniable charm) and Liam Hemsworth (who proves that he has a potential to be the future matinee action star), to the rest of the returning cast led by Woody Harrelson (who does a believable performance of drunkard Haymitch), Elizabeth Banks (who rounds up Katniss and Peeta’s team as the flamboyant Effie Trinket), Donald Sutherland (who delivers a more chilling performance of the President), Lenny Kravitz (as Katniss dependable stylist Cinna), and Stanley Tucci (who dazzles once more as the host of the Game). Plus, we get to be mesmerized by the addition of one of my favorite character actors, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, as the new game maker Plutarch Heavensbee.
Even with all the special effects and intense action, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a story of a girl who defies the odds and is being elevated, even against her will, at the vanguard of a rebellion. With a shattering success that this film is currently receiving, both at the box office and with the critics, I would say that the odds of The Hunger Games franchise being a modern-day classic are “ever in its favor.”
4.5 out of 5 stars.
And so the second phase of the Marvel universe continues with this Asgardian God and his second solo outing onscreen. Thor: The Dark World continues the adventures of Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Mighty Avenger, two years (more or less) after The Avengers saved the world. This time, he is going solo as he tries to save the Earth and all the Nine Realms from a shadowy ancient race led by a mysterious, vengeful enemy named Malekith (Christopher Eccelston), who keeps his eyes on a deadly yet powerful Aether, which unwittingly possessed by Thor’s human love interest Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). Faced with an enemy that even Odin and Asgard cannot handle, Thor must do something, embarking on his most perilous journey yet, something that eventually forces him to team up with his black-sheep of a brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in order to save the universe from the forces of evil.
The sequel, Thor: The Dark World has found a new person at the helm, Alan Taylor, after previous unlikely director, Kenneth Branagh, left the production due to simple time constraints. Branagh almost made the first one a disaster, good thing Thor (the first) managed to pull it off in a grandiose spectacle. This time, Taylor (with TV directorial works that include Mad Men, Game of Thrones, and Nurse Jackie) proves to improve what has left on the first one with a more solid plot, though too generic, with several funny dialogues, leaving the audience greatly entertained.
At times, this film soars with fine work coming from the returning cast, not to mention some pretty badass action sequences to entice the viewers, but at times the movie is overly reliant on special effects that are too unimaginative, it looks like we have seen it all before.
The god-like individual who doesn’t act like one, Thor seems dense and weak against his opponents, as well as his allies. Was he supposed to be invincible? To me, Thor looked pathetic, trying to figure out where to put his hammer when he enters an apartment on Earth, or when he takes a freaking subway to his next destination. I know, I know, they’re intended for a nice touch of humor and should not be taken seriously, but I guess I was expecting Thor to be a lot tougher than that.
The saving grace of the movie was indeed Tom Hiddleston. I love his character! Mysterious and likable, Loki stood out from the rest and completely stole the whole movie that his presence made Thor look pale in comparison.
It may not be the best movie coming from the Marvel universe, Thor: The Dark World is still watchable and entertaining to say the least, with plenty of humor and heart-thumping action that fans have come to expect. And if you haven’t seen it, don’t forget to wait for the almost-staple end-credits video that features a new character that will open up a new storyline in the galaxy (See what I just did there?).
3.5 out of 5 stars.
First off, I want to say Happy Halloween everyone! And as a Halloween treat, here’s one movie to spook you out, or not?
When I saw the first Insidious, I told myself that I will never watch this movie again. But then again I love horror films so why do I have to hinder myself from watching something that I love? So I dared myself and watched it again. And again. And again. It’s fascinating to note that every time I watch this movie, it never fails to scare me!
Now here comes Insidious: Chapter 2, which picks up from the moments of the first one. And I thought, I have not yet recovered from the horror that I experienced in the first Insidious, and here comes the second chapter? I mean c’mon!
Insidious: Chapter 2 follows the lives of the haunted Lambert family as they seek to uncover the mysterious childhood secret that has left them connected to the spirit world. This terrifying sequel to the acclaimed horror film reunites director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell with the original cast, led by Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey, Lin Shaye, and Ty Simpkins, among others.
From the events of Insidious, Josh (Wilson) has just made it from the Further back to the human world, or is it really him? He is able to convince his wife Renai (Byrne) that he is not the one possessed by a demonic entity who throttled the psychic woman (Shaye) to death. As the Lambert family relocates back to Josh’s mother, Lorraine’s (Hershey) house, Renai is clouded with suspicions about his husband’s true identity as scary occurrences freak her out, raising her hair to no end—kids’ toys start to move, the piano starts playing familiar eerie tunes, baby monitor begins to create creepy voices from the other side, and terrifying apparition that knocks Renai off the floor, literally. During the course of these episodes, Josh seems to change – he is becoming more sinister looking with evil grins and glances here and there, with mysterious conversations in the bathroom, which caught Dalton’s attention—giving Renai the idea of what, or who, is the real source of the problem.
I would still say that Insidious: Chapter 2 has some exceptionally scary parts, one in particular (the bedroom with Dalton) made me jump out of my seat with sheer terror, but the tension and huge scares fell a little flat and short, making its predecessor more chilling. My biggest concern is the fact that I am not a fan of time-travelling because bending of the time, as well as the logic that goes with it are being thrown out of the window, leaving me so confused with a bucket-load of questions. In this film’s case, the time-travelling aspect is being foreshadowed by what is called as Astral travelling, but nevertheless, it still looks like time-travelling to me, with the one travelling being invisible.
Chapter 2 may not be a stand-alone movie because it’s highly unlikely that you would understand the second film if you have not seen the first one. It’s pretty interesting that Director James Wan intended to mash the first two films into an interweaving universe, the way sequels should be. That’s a pretty amazing feat from Wan, who is fast-becoming a legend in the horror genre. On the other hand, with all of these astral travelling in different time spectrums that ultimately link the two movies together, trying to explain the mystery behind a moving object from the ghost’s perspective, I really do think that too much explanation in Insidious: Chapter 2 devalues the essence and the boding evil scares of Chapter One. I know it is a crafty, clever move from Wan and Whannel, but in horror films, it is the unknown, the unfathomable that tingles the spine, and not the over-analyzed and the over-explained.
3.5 out of 5 stars
Set entirely just outside Earth, Gravity stars Academy Award© winners Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as Dr. Ryan Stone and astronaut Mike Kowalsky, on a seemingly routine spacewalk mission that turn into an adversity. There hasn’t much talk about the cast because, well, it’s just the two of them. I remember while watching this film, I even overheard at the back of our seats a group of friends that mingled about having just two actors in a movie and how it had saved money by not casting more. That was by far the most stupid thing I have ever heard! I mean, Clooney and Bullock are two of the biggest, A-list movie stars in Hollywood and to add up the impeccable, first-class visual effects, I really don’t think the production accomplished this film under a tight budget!
Anyway, Clooney’s character Mike Kowalsky is a veteran astronaut on his very last mission while Bullock’s Dr. Stone is a brilliant medical engineer who is tasked to perform certain assignments only she can do. She is considered as a space rookie yet she means business – focusing on making everything “by the book” – for this is her very first mission outer space. Kowalsky is there to reassure her that everything is under control, trying to create a calm and stress-free working environment amidst all the nothingness that is space. But then disaster strikes as debris from the neighboring space station come crashing towards them forcing them to abort the mission. They fail to make it on time and the shuttle is destroyed, and they are being plunged into the abyss, floating into darkness. With little oxygen left, they search for a way back Earth, something that may deem as a suicide mission.
Written and directed by Oscar© nominee Alfonso Cuaron (Pans Labyrinth, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), this film is a rare example of keeping up with the immense hype this movie has received before it was shown to theaters. This movie made me remember why I never dreamt of becoming an astronaut growing up. And after watching this, kids, you might want to reconsider working with NASA in the future.
Watching both George Clooney and Sandra Bullock drifting farther and farther away from Earth feels like we’re right up there with them, thanks to the fantastic, immersive visuals. Clooney does a fantastic job as the charismatic, kind-hearted other half of the spectrum, but it is the other half, Bullock, who shines in this movie. I just love her subtle, controlled acting that you would get her raw emotions just by looking at her eyes. And the way of how at times the camera transitions from a panoramic view to Bullock’s own POV is pure perfection, though I don’t like that part because it scares the hell out of me from the immersion!
Nowadays we are bombarded with films that stretch far beyond its duration—lasting more than 2 ½ hours—some even say that the longer the movie, the better. You don’t need a movie that drags its story for God knows how long, Gravity rolls for only 90 minutes but you would not feel how time flies because from start to finish, the pacing, action, as well as the story knocks you out in a compelling, engaging fashion, with a fastidious mélange of superb special effects that shift from dreamlike calm, to terrifying conflict, to an abrupt, deafening silence.
Technically, Cuaron does everything right in more ways than one. More than just CGI and 3D technology, story-wise this film is not about avoiding death, but the triumph of choosing to live. Believe in the hype; Gravity is a masterpiece, one of the best films I’ve seen so far this year.
5.0 out of 5 stars
In the year 2154, society has been divided into two classes of people: the privileged people who live in a place called Elysium –a gleaming orbiting space station, where the grass is lush green and the dwelling places extravagant, with no poverty, no war, nor sickness—while the rest of the world’s inhabitants were left on Earth in what seems to be a vast wasteland of pollution and overpopulation, run by droid policemen and callous Bureaucrats from Elysium that occasionally visits the ruined planet. The people of Earth are in desperate need of the state-of-the-art medical treatment, which is available only in Elysium, this subsequently leads to illegal, uninvited visits spearheaded by a group of Earth’s refugees. Unfortunately for these unofficial shuttles, and their dream for a better health service, they are being shot down (literally) by the station’s Homeland security led by the Secretary of Defense, and when there were any survivors, who successfully landed on Elysium, they will be documented as illegal aliens and will be subjected for deportation. The only man with the chance to bring equality to these worlds is Max (Matt Damon), an ordinary guy who, from being an ex-con, is now working in a plant that creates robots. After being exposed in a radiation so lethal that it will kill him in literally five days, Max searches for a desperate way to get to Elysium. With his life hanging in the balance, he reluctantly takes on a dangerous mission – one that pits him against Elysium’s Secretary Delacourt (played by Jodie Foster) and her hard-line forces – but if he succeeds, he could save not only his own life, but millions of people on Earth as well, one of which is the young daughter of his childhood best friend (Frey, played by Alice Braga), who has leukemia.
Elysium is the sophomore offering by South African-born director Neil Blompkamp, following his 2009 breakthrough movie and modern-classic District 9, which for me, one of my favorite sci-fi movies of all time. Coming from a relatively lower budget of roughly $30 million in District 9, the budget for this film is obviously higher for Elysium is his Hollywood debut. And when an undersized project sets foot to a wider scale that is Hollywood, everything seems to explode with wondrous amounts of movie enchantments.
Matt Damon delivered such an unbelievable believability for his role as an oppressed individual, who dreams of becoming someone better, including being thrown into an exo-skeletal surgical enhancement that would make him virtually stalwart, as well as being viable to extract information into the brain of the industry captain (William Fichtner) that consists of a vital information.
With Damon’s terrific performance, one thing is clear for me though, he was slightly overshadowed by Sharlto Copley’s outrageous performance as a rogue assassin. For me, Copley is the star of the film! He was the same guy from District 9 and judging from that film and his other films like A-Team, this actor can certainly deliver the goods. On the other hand, Jodie Foster gives a commendable performance as the cunning Defense Secretary with a pretty weird accent, something that oddly comes out of her mouth that seemed like she was dubbed by a foreign actress.
And Blompkamp raises the stakes in crafting masterful artistry and utterly convincing visuals, with eye-popping, guts-splattering special-effects. The plot, however, may be a little similar to District 9, or better yet, a mirror-image, with District 9 as the superior of the two. With all things considered, Elysium is great, great, action movie that gives a satirical interpretation of the human society where the rich are very high and righteous and the poor are left at the bottom, trying to reach for higher ground, or in this movie, literally out-of-this-world, Elysium.
4.5 out of 5 stars
In 2010, Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment released this little movie called Despicable Me and this film enthralled millions of fans from all ages, from all walks of life, grossing more than $540 million in the box office and becoming the 10th-biggest motion picture in U.S. history. A success both in the box office and with the critics like this is the perfect formula for a follow-up, resulting to Despicable Me 2, three years later.
Despicable Me 2 tells the continuing story of Gru (Steve Carell) who gives up being evil to be a devoted step-dad to his orphan girls. Apart from his scheming evil-turned-charming protagonist in the first movie, which included a plan of stealing the moon, Gru is now focused on making birthday parties and recreating his lab to a rather less-evil factory of jellies and jams. Later on Gru is recruited to be a part of an Anti-Evil society to search an evil serum of some sorts. He gets to team up with Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig) and together they must track down the source and the person responsible.
This film has a target audience, obviously. I, on the other hand was lost in the middle this so-called target. The whole movie did not matter to me, as long as I can see those little rascals in the audience, enjoying every minute of it while sitting patiently, or with intermittent hopping from one point to another, with indulgent bursts of laughter whenever a dozen of silly yellow minions babble unrecognizable chants and grunts in every scene-stealing appearance.
Unfortunately, it’s all about the minions. The Minions made the main characters look pale in comparison, almost lifeless. All the wit and humor brought by Gru, Lucy and the main antagonist Eduardo (Benjamin Bratt) were ineffective, elementary, and humorless, to say the least. Except for Agnes, who never failed to light up the screen, the other remaining characters, including the other two orphan daughters were all worthless. Story wise, Despicable Me 2 is mediocre, uninspiring, forced, with nothing new to offer.
I would have appreciated the movie more had it revolved around the real stars of the show – Agnes and the Minions—Despicable Me 2 is nothing short of being, well, despicable.
2.5 out of 5 stars