Sunday, June 29, 2014

Under The Skin

Director: Jonathan Glazer
With: Scarlett Johansson

First of all, Under The Skin's movie poster is sublime that I almost didn't want to destroy it by putting Plums below it. But that's my thing, even I feel sorry for it. Second, I am amazed by Scarlett Johansson's choices in roles lately. In 2013, she had two unique characters in Her as Samantha and Don Jon as Barbara Sugarman in which she nailed both of the characters so well. At least in my book, where both characters made my Top 60 Best Characters and the latter entered my list of Top 10 Best Supporting Actress Performances. :3 

I guess it helps that she's Charlotte in my favorite film of all time. ;) Plus, she's freaking ScarJo.

In Under the Skin, she portrays yet another challenging and unique role. This time, she's an alien seductress who targets men in Scotland while being monitored by another alien who has the body of a motorcyclist. And just when I thought her amazing imitation of a New Jersey girl was sort of a fluke because she's not that known to doing those kind of acting, here she speaks with a European accent and I thought she's great.

But what's most impressive to me is Jonathan Glazer's direction. I've read so much about the techniques Glazer used in this movie prior to watching so when I finally got to see it in action and execution, it made me more dazzled. The fact that most of the characters were played by non-actors and many of the dialogues are unscripted, and they all worked so well? That's a true achievement in filmmaking because the luring of ScarJo's character actually requires some amount of flirtations. It became so much more genuine by choosing non-actors while being shot in hidden cameras and it worked quite well in this. I thought that part was genius.

I also like its gloomy cinematography and the score was hauntingly iconic, but overall it's also quite dragging because the buildup was so slow albeit necessary to the film. With a title like Under The Skin, I expected ScarJo's character to reveal her true self/color midway through the film with a climax that's super astounding. Unfortunately, the reveal was the climax itself and also the ending, so I had to wait for the whole movie to progress before seeing the scene I was looking for ever since the film began. The wait is long but I can say that it's also worth it.

It's not too shabby because the buildup may be too slow, but ScarJo's commanding presence both herself and her character engaged me to continue. Not to mention, aside from Matchpoint and Vicky Cristina Barcelona, I consider this as one of her sexiest to date. She bared a lot of skin here.

I guess it's my fault that I came into watching it with some expectations. I should just be thankful that it's not like Jennifer's Body where ScarJo morphs into an ugly monster from time to time in the film. In this film, the portrayal of the alien story was made with such delicacy and style and that's something I appreciate about it.

This is such a different and artistic take on an alien film that it reminds me of Only Lovers Left Alive to vampires. I still consider this a must-see because it's edgy, haunting, sexy and a true work of art. But if you're short in patience, then I don't know. I guess you should still see it for some ScarJo sexiness.

Saturday, June 28, 2014


Director: John Curran
With: Mia Wasikowska, Adam Driver

I keep on mentioning films here in my blog how happy and excited I am to finally watch the movies I've looked forward for months because of their awesome trailers. Tracks is no different. In fact, it's one of the few films I've seen its trailer first before reading anything about it. When I saw its trailer, I thought it's BEAUTIFUL.

I consider myself a nature lover and it's my favorite things to watch whenever I travel. So Tracks is like a movie perfect for me because it's a story, a true story by the way, of a woman named Robyn Davidson who traveled for nine months with camels across 2,700 kilometers from Australian Deserts to the Indian Ocean. Mia Wasikowska stars the film as Robyn along with Adam Driver as Rick Smolan.

This film  oozes with beauty. Numerous stunning wide establishing shots of deserts all throughout the movie. It's like something you'll see in a television appliances store because of how pleasing it looks and how friendly it is to the eyes.

Cinematographer Mandy Walker is the true hero of the film but John Curran's direction and the leads' performances are also nothing short of stupendous artistry. Add Garth Stevenson's piano score that ironically matches the aboriginal natives and culture of the Australian deserts. I never thought of the sound of the piano to fit this kind of movie but it made the movie more elegant than it already was because of the combination of the finesse accomplishment in this film.

There's nothing more fascinating to watch a simple and mysterious woman who considers herself a nomad travel by herself. Especially if it's Mia Wasikowska who's always been a mysterious actress to me. Watching her work with the camels and her black dog is truly impressive. She showed so much braveness in this film and it helps that she's perfect for the role. Her every move, the silent thoughts written on her face, her body language in a desert backdrop is like magic.

Curran accompanied the chronicles of Davidson's intimate travel with a series of beautiful nature shots back-to-back with Mia Wasikowska, who had a lot of gorgeous closeups in this film. It's the silence of the film that really made this film magical because even in its silence and limited dialogue, Curran let his viewers feel and think the same thing as his lead. It's whenever the sun-French-kissed Mia wanders alone with her camels and a dog that glues your eyes to the screen because it's so quiet, so graceful, so amazing and just like I've mentioned many times already, it's just simply beautiful.

Mia is amazing in this. She's silent and tough throughout the movie but there's one scene that broke her character and she impressed me so much. It always pays off to be reserved throughout the film and let your guard down when the right time comes. Her chemistry with Adam Driver is also there. Adam Driver proves that he's just not an emo weirdo from Girls because he can also play geeky and appealing at the same time.

But again, I'm gushing over the silence and the beauty of the film.  It's the same reason why I love Lost in Translation so much. It gives you a glimpse of a human's psyche even when there's no dialogue and the scene only relies on facial expressions. It's so much more powerful in expressing one's thoughts.

Now I can't wait for Jean-Marc Vallée's Wild. I think it's safe to assume that it will inevitably compared with Tracks.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

How To Train Your Dragon 2

Director: Dean DeBlois
With: Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller, Kristen Wiig, Djimon Hounsou, Kit Harington

How to Train Your Dragon is one of the films I deliberately skipped in 2010 and almost did not plan on watching the sequel this year. I was not a huge fan of the animated genre and did not want to spend my money for animated films in cinemas. Plus, Toy Story 3 and Tangled already filled my dose of animated films for 2010 because I was pretty sure that no one can beat that monumental Disney biggie anyway.

Not even the rave from Cannes about How To Train Your Dragon 2 made me want to check it. But upon watching X-Men: Days of Future Past in 3D just recently, I saw the trailer for it and I was smitten by how playful and colorful it looked. So a few weeks ago aside from my Studio Ghibli films movie marathon, I watched HTTYD in prep for its sequel and boom, consider me an animated film lover now and a n00b. I have a new found love for it, thanks to Hiccup, Toothless and the exciting world of Berk.

I really loved the first HTTYD. So I made sure that I'll watch its sequel in 3D. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find the perfect schedule and perfect place for it. I didn't watch it in 2D and settling for less was never a part of my options. I was scared because days have passed and I still have yet to see it. I worried that it will be removed from the cinemas because other films might take its spot especially Transformers.

Luckily, we were able to find the right schedule. Albeit not in 3D, we're able to catch an even better deal, 4DX!!! It's the right timing because I've always wanted to try it and I think an animated film like HTTYD is the best film for my first 4DX experience.

It was indeed an amazing and entertaining experience. I kept on thinking about my nephew and how he'd enjoy the experience while I was on my 4DX seat smiling half the time during the course of the movie. There are so many flying scenes so it was perfect to watch it in 4DX with the fake air, clouds and all which at first was quite distracting yet fun at the same time. Good thing is the engaging story of the film outpowered all the 4DX tricks in store throughout the movie. Perfect combination of visual imagery and 4DX gimmicks.

How To Train Your Dragon 2 is EVERYTHING. It's action packed, it's epic, it's dramatic, it's romantic, it's hilarious, it's adventurous, it's sentimental, it's a musical, it's heartwarming. It really is everything.

It's way better than most of the movies I've seen lately. The action scenes are more superb than X-Men, fantasy way more wonderful than Maleficent, it touched me more than The Fault in Our Stars, and the Alpha and the dragons provided more epic ownage than Godzilla. I know it's silly to compare this but this is absolutely way more satisfying than the mentioned films.

As much as I enjoyed its trailer, I didn't expect much about it because the first one is so good I didn't know how they would surpass its greatness. As we know, sequels especially of animated films tend to go overboard  by exploring the past and origin of their prequels but this one did a neat job in incorporating its past to the present and future of the story. It's fearless like the first one and their risks often pay off which made the storyarcs even more tragic when it's tragic and victorious when it's victorious. I actually think some of its themes are very reminiscent of Avatar and even Star Wars, alol, but I guess that's just me. They closed this film with a great conclusion but widens the possibilities of awesome storylines for another sequel. I wish I read the book.

One of the things that made me fall in love about the film, aside from Hiccup and Toothless' wonderful and awe-inspiring friendship, is John Powell's MAGNIFICENT score. It truly is one of the top reasons why I love this film. Powell's score captures the epicness of the Vikings, the air of love when it's romantic and the poignancy of what used to be a forbidden friendship of the two main characters. Add to that is Roger Deakins' ever reliable photographic vision not only for live action feature films but to animated features like this and The Croods last year. These components are two of my favorite aspects of films and it's catered so well in front of me that it's literally like a breakfast in bed of amazing visuals and sounds.

I really hope this wins the Academy for Best Animated Feature film for 2014. Not only because I think it's way better than The Lego Movie, but it would make up for its understandable loss against Toy Story 3 in 2010 (which was a great year for Animated films) and Dreamworks' The Croods loss against Frozen last year. :3 I'm kinda hoping Big Hero 6 would fail. Kidding.

I can't wait for the third and I can't wait to fly again with Toothless and Hiccup.

You may also check out this review in

Sunday, June 15, 2014


Director: Darren Aronofsky
With: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Douglas Booth, Emma Watson, Anthony Hopkins, Logan Lerman

I've been waiting for months to see Noah and when I finally saw it, it didn't disappoint and actually exceeded my expectations. After all, every future Darren Aronofsky films slash projects is a must watch especially after being hooked by his past gems Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan. Aronofsky didn't disappoint here. The film caters a lot of his primitive styles and rousing techniques tackling one of the most well-known Old Testament epics. And it was good.

Well.. yeah it's not perfect, as the choice of CGI effects is a big problem for me. What could have been a believable disaster, environment and animal shots become a little crazy and funky. It's a given that the film needs a lot of visual effects to work and I don't mind that but like I mentioned, it's the poor execution of these effects that omits some of its strong points.

Thank goodness the film managed to maintain a visually stunning facade during the most of its course and it doesn't revolve around the 'flooding' and 'Noah's ark'. That's one of the things that surprised me about the film because I awaited to see the story of the building of the ark to save the massive population of 'innocent' animals from the huge flood like all Christians and Bible literate people expected to see in a film about Noah. But as much as I'd love to see that, it didn't focus in it.

Great thing is by evolving further than the dramatic biblical story, Aronofsky added layers to the story of Noah and his family and made it the focal point of the film. And that is what hooked me to it. Yes, there are still some major headscratcher about it like the Transformers-designed Optimus Prime-sounding stone watchers, but I've grown to accept these along the duration of the film because of the compelling storyarcs of each of Noah's family members.

I came into the film looking forward to the destruction of the world through the flood as the climax but it's the complexities of the family that reached this film's high. When this happened, Aronofsky unfailingly delivered once again the same emotions we've had from Black Swan and Requiem for a Dream. It's the edge-of-the-seat experience that plays with your blood pressure and emotions at the same time. It's hysterical but that's what we've always loved about his films. The hysteria is not on the same level compared to his other films though but it's good to see Aronofksy experiment his skills in a whole new and different genre.

One of the highlights of this film is Jennifer Connelly who plays the role of Noah's wife Naameh and as usual, she is brilliant and mesmerizing to watch. Russell Crowe as Noah channeled his inner Javert in here with a song number, and Maximus the Gladiator also. I wouldn't be surprised to see him in future musical films because the guy can't sing but he sure loves to do it. He's a good epic leading man, no one can deny that. Their children Shem and Ham played by Douglas Booth and Logan Lerman respectively are also on their own doing a good job with their roles. The hardest role goes to Ila portrayed by Emma Watson. Not only I think it's the hardest among the bunch, it's also the most dramatic and challenging role Emma Watson has ever depicted. And even though she doesn't nail the role, there's something about her that you just love you forget to judge her performance. For what its worth, she continues to improve.

Aronofsky's Noah may have polarized his followers and the film lovers in general but I'm on the side who appreciates the film for what it is and for its flaws. It actually made me look forward to his future projects because with Noah, he proves yet again that he's an extremely creative and imaginative artist and mostt definitely one of the best directors of our generation. I can't wait to rewatch this.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars

Director: Josh Boone
With: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, Laura Dern, Sam Trammell, Willem Dafoe

I am one of the lucky ones who didn't read the book so I was spared from the ~feelings~ the readers-turned-fans or whatever have experienced from it.

But even without reading it, it's a given that someone's going to die and it's going to be a major tearjerker so I consider myself prepared for that and I also sort of want to test myself if it's going to break me.

Well, it didn't.

But sweet mother of dramas, it's undeniably and highly emotional. It's a simple movie but it's the simplicity that got me caught up in it. Simple, intimate and poignant. The movie experience is very comparable to the same metaphor Hazel gave to herself, a grenade. That I tried my hardest to detach myself from the characters in hopes of evading the sadness I knew it would provide but it's sort of impossible because the evil duo John Green and Josh Boone ensured that it would make you vulnerable to the point where it's difficult for anyone not to detonate.

The characters Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus 'Gus' Waters are so well-written they would suck you up to feel what they feel for each other. But they're never going to work tremendously if not for Shailene Woodley's aesthetic and Ansel Elgort's (jacket) charisma whose screen presence reminds me of a young Ryan Phillippe. Their eye-to-eye contacts, exchanges of smiles, okays and okays and other sweet nothings, add up the gratifying number of awesome soundtracks, are like traps that make you invest your feelings into them gripping your hearts until they melt. And you lose yet you feel like a winner because you got the essence of their relationship and more importantly the movie. Point is, I really like the characters and how they were portrayed that I refuse to talk about the technicalities of the film thoroughly.

It's also hard not to mention the story of my audience but everyone ate it up from beginning to end. It's kind of hilarious and quite a refreshing movie experience. The squeals when the movie started were so eye roll worthy until I found myself slowly syncing with them eating every cheese and romance of the movie. Halfway through the film, things went differently when I could hear giggles turning into sniffs. I assume these are the readers who already knew what's gonna happen reliving the pages that made them love the story.

But even without those wimps :3, my friend beside me was already bawling her eyes out that it felt like she already shed all the tears my eyes could possibly shed for the film. There's no more left for me because she brought the tears into a whole different level. Poor thing because I told her to buy a pack of tissues but decided not to because she might get disappointed in case the film failed. But it didn't, so she settled for the tissue she got from T.G.I.Fridays. It's priceless and sort of ironic because this is the same person who I went with to watch The Conjuring and didn't show any ounce of fearful emotions while I was busy being scared shitless.

It's pretty obvious that this film pleased most of its fans because of the reaction it got. I must say that the nonreaders were also quite pleased because for one, it didn't reach the point of annoyingness even if the characters are teenagers and it talks about romance. I was moved even if I was quite skeptic about it.

Although it's certainly not for everyone. It's unremarkable especially if you don't open yourself with its romance and grievance. I personally like the first half than the second because it got too dark and sad and awww :(. It's  also not as unpredictable as others claim it to be. But at the end of it all, we can all agree that it's a pretty nice film reminiscent of the classic A Walk to Remember. That a few years from now, I foresee that this would be considered as one of the classic tearjerkers of this generation.