Sunday, October 8, 2017

Movie No. 72 (2017): I, DANIEL BLAKE

I, Daniel Blake (2016)
Director: Ken Loach
Cast: Dave Johns, Hayley Squires

First, the movie is angry, but humane. 

The titular character, Daniel Blake, a widower, turns to social welfare after surviving a heart attack, only to get disappointed by the red tape there. The  story of a man who fights bureaucracy, often with tragic outcomes, is not uncommon. Here, the story is told with compassion. It's universality is easily comprehensible.

The movie is well written. Dave Johns, as Daniel Blake, is outstanding.

The movie won the Palm d'Or Award in 2016 at the Festival de Cannes.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: October 8, 2017

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Movie No. 71 (2017): THE CRANES ARE FLYING

The Cranes Are Flying (1958)
Director: Mikhail Kalatozov
Cast: Tatiana Samoilova, Alexei Batalov, Vasiliy Merkurev, Alexander Shvorin
In Russian, with English subtitles

The movie is tragic and melodramatic. But, it shies away from being manipulative. Instead, it effortlessly suggests the damage war can do to relationships and life in general. There's loss. There's longing. There's betrayal. There's death. But, there's hope.

The black and white photography does wonders to the milieu and mise en scene of every frame. The lead actress delivers an outstanding performance. 

I saw it in late 1990s on VHS. This is just the second time to have seen it again. I remember to have liked it and affected by it the first time I saw it. In the second watching, I find more reasons to love it, despite it being tragic.

The movie was awarded the Palm d'Or at Festival de Cannes in 1958.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: October 7, 2017

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Movie No. 70 (2017): BABETTE'S FEAST

Babette's Feast (1987)
Director: Gabriel Axel
Cast; Stephane Audran, Bodil Kjer, Birgitte Federspiel
In Danish and French, with English subtitles

"Feast" suggests food. Yes, there's feast, and there are foods in the movie. But, the movie is not about food. Foods, in this case, are a metaphor. Foods may represent temptation or worldly aspirations, which the people of the remove island village in Denmark reject. The movie's cinematic achievement is right there in the feast, where the dinner guests are transformed into personifications of guilt, regret, and hope at different stages of the dinner. 

Babette prepared the extravagant dinner. She was introduced earlier in the movie as the stranger fleeing the French Civil War; she ended up as housemaid and cook, serving the spinster sisters whose father was a preacher who everybody in the island revered. Babette was referred to the sisters by the rejected past lover of one of the sisters.

This is my second time to see the movie in full. Just like the first time, I feel attached to some of the dialogues which I think are central to the narrative:

"Like the wedding at Canaa, the food is of no importance."

"An artist is never poor."

"Through the world sounds one long cry from the heart of the artist: Give me the chance to do my very best."

The movie is one of my favorite movies of all time. In fact, I consider it one of the greatest movies ever made.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: September 30, 2017

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Movie No. 69 (2017): TAMPOPO

Tampopo (1985)
Director: Juzo Itami
Cast: Nobuko Miyamoto, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Ken Watanabe, Koji Yakusho
In Japanese, with English subtitles

The movie consists if several vignettes, or comedy sketches, that all contribute "deliciously" to this this rare treat of a movie. The centerpiece story of course is that of Tampopo's and her "search" for a perfect noodle (ramen) and a noodle restaurant that will "steal" the customers from competing restaurants. The real treat is Tampopo and her gang of so-called "ramen ronins" spying on the secrets of the competition, which is executed in very entertaining fashion, akin to "spaghetti westerns." 

I really enjoyed the movie. Sure, it's comedy. But, just like a complete ramen dish, it has some other "ingredieents" like action, eroticism, death, and drama, that makes the movie more "delectable."

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: September 16, 2017

Movie No. 68 (2017): 11 MINUTES

11 Minutes (2015)
Director: Jerzy Skolimowski
Cast: Richard Dormer, Paulina Chapko, Wojciech Mecwaldowski
In Polish, with English subtitles

The movie weaves several stories of totally unrelated people which happen in 11 minutes. The movie's running time, however, is stretched to approximately 80 minutes. Of course, it's quite acceptable that simultaneous stories can't be fit in the same frame at the same time. It needs masterful editing. The movie does just that, resulting in a smoothly flowing narrative. 

This is a kind of movie which, in my opinion, doesn't need thorough characterization. Actually, I don;t care about the characters. I care more about the achievement of this kind of 'experimental' story-telling.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: September 16, 2017

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Movie No. 67 (2017): ARRIVAL

Arrival (2016)
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Amy Adams, Forest Whitaker, Jeremy Renner

Okay. This is science fiction. But, not the usual summer blockbuster science fiction. Its strength lies in its quirky script and narrative. Do I say cerebral? I like it when the a movies challenges or disturbs or tickles my brain cells. Amy Adams is terrific her performance is so affecting. The scenes leading to the ending are jaw dropping. Saw this a few weeks back; but, as of this writing I'm still in awe. I really like the message of the movie, or of "Abbott and Costello." And, I have to commend the technical quality - cinematography, sound, score - of the movie.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: September 3, 2017

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Movie No. 66 (2017): DIVINES

Divines (2016)
Director: Houda Benyamina
Cast: Oulaya Amamra, Deborah Lukumuena
In French, with Englisg subtitles

Two high school girls are at the center of the narrative. They both want to get out of the present predicament they're currently in. Douna, being the impatient and ballsy, is the first to walk out of school and seek the treacherous path to the so-called "freedom." Her best friend, Maimouna, joins her though tentative for a reason that's well established in her back story. We'll meet some characters that will contribute to shaping the movie's narrative, down to the bleak conclusion.

The characters are not likable. It's easy to understand their actions, but difficult to empathize with them. Whatever they do are enough to justify the consequences of their actions that will lead to the final resolve. The lead actors are believable, particularly the one who played Douna. She's so effective you'll want to hate and hit her for being the drama queen that every one can easily despises.

Divines looks like a movie from the film movement that was French New Wave.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: September 3, 2017

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Movie No. 65 (2017): BITTER HARVEST

Bitter Harvest (2017)
Director: George Mendeluk
Cast: Max Irons, Samantha Barks, Terence Stamp, Barry Pepper

I'm not sure if the original audio track is Russian or Ukrainian. I saw the version with English audio. I would have preferred the audio track to be in the native language (Russian or Ukrainian, or dialect), with English subtitles, of course. Despite the competent cinematography, the movie is easy to dismiss as wanting.

The movie is confused. While it appears like an account of the genocide by starving the people of Ukraine, by virtue of Stalin's policy, the fate of the lovers, whose point of view the movie is told, gets in the way. That dark phase of history has just been set aside as mere backdrop, which, in my opinion, is an utter disrespect to millions who died during these dark times. And, by the way, the melodrama is just not appropriate.

Rating: 2.0/4.0

Date seen: September 3, 2017

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Movie No. 64 (2017): THE MISSION

The Mission (1986)
Director: Roland Joffe
Cast: Robert De Niro, Jeremy Irons, Liam Neeson

The movie, set in 18th century South America, is about missionaries and slave traders who compete for the trust of Native Indians living above an enormous waterfalls. The story is told in terms of letters which appear like a reportage about what happened to the mission. 

I have to admit, the movie has some lapses in the narrative. Despite this, however, the movie still manages to be something that's so beautiful to watch, even up to the heartbreaking finale. Even after seeing the movie, I tend to forget the lapses. What remains lingering in my head are the stunning photography, proficient editing, great performances of the lead actors, and the haunting musical score. Gabriel's Oboe (by Ennio Morricone) has been one of my favorite music of all time. 

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: August 30, 2017

Movie No. 63 (2017): HOWL

Howl (2015)
Director: Paul Hyett
Cast: Mark Huckerby, Nick Ostler, Amit Shah

The title suggest the movie is of the horror genre. It lives up to expectations from a horror movie. It may not be among the best horror movies ever made, or the best of the werewolf sub-genre, but Howl really gives real and decent thrill, all with near-escapes and gore. 

Howl's milieu is similar to Train To Busan's. The former has werewolves while the latter has zombies that haunt and terrorize the passengers. In both cases, there are more reasons to like than to dislike the movies. In Howl, in my opinion, it would be more thrilling had the werewolves not been shown in (many) close-ups. Their howling and shadows as they move past the bushes are more than enough for the audience to feel the terror. 

But then, I enjoyed the show.

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: August 27, 2017

Monday, August 28, 2017

Movie No. 62 (2017): GET OUT

Get Out (2017)
Director: Jordan Peele
Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Catherine Keener, Allison Williams

It's Meet The Parents and Guess Who's Coming To Dinner gone awry. And it's both fun and thrilling to watch like I don't expect it to be. It gets to the point that it becomes disturbing, which justifies its horror classification. 

This is horror with style. It discusses racism in its most horrifying way.


Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: August 26, 2017

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Movie No. 61 (2017): DEVIL'S KNOT

Devil's Knot (2014)
Director: Atom Egoyan
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Colin Firth, Dane DeHaan

Three little boys are murdered. The witch hunt for the murderers and hysteria-filled trial follow. The community is very much involved and affected by the incident and subsequent "circus." Atom Egoyan has shown in his previous films a similar cinematic treatise of collective despair. But, the problem is focus. The film tends to divert into something that, instead of providing answers, creates more questions that dilute the narrative. Despite this, however, the film is watchable and is a decent piece of entertainment.

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: August 26, 2017

Movie No. 60 (2017): MOONLIGHT

Moonlight (2016)
Director: Barry Jenkins
Cast: Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Janelle Monae, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes

The movie is a portrait of young (black) man in search of his identity. It's told in three "chapters," each of which focusing on a phase of his life - as a child, as a teenager, as an adult. Generally, the movie is good, sometimes haunting. Performances are outstanding. But, for it to be called monumental or masterpiece, in my opinion, is an exaggeration. 

In the three of four times of trying to see it during the weeks leading to Academy Awards ceremonies early this year, I would doze off within the first 10 or 20 minutes. I was indifferent despite the praises the movie received. But, yesterday I managed to finish it. I'm glad I got to see its so-called genius. 

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: August 26, 2017

Movie No. 59 (2017): HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS

Hello, My Name Is Doris (2016)
Director: Michael Showalter
Cast: Sally Field, Max Greenfield, Natasha Lyonne

Sally Field is Doris, a senior citizen who works as office staff. Her domineering mother has just died. Now, she seems helpless having lived a sheltered life in an apartment cluttered with "collections" decades gone by. Life has to go on.

On the first day of her return to the office, after the funeral, her "coming of age" begins with a smile from a man half her age in a crowded elevator. And so, the begins her new adventures and misadventures.

Doris is funny, but her spur-or-the moment decisions, brought by the desire "to live" a life she missed (or didn't have) are heartbreaking. Sally Field's comedic timing is awesome. The movie is enjoyable to watch.

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: August 26, 2017

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Movie No. 58 (2017): PATAY NA SI HESUS (Jesus Is Dead)

Patay Na Si Hesus (2016)
Director: Victor Villanueva
Cast: Jaclyn Jose, Angelina Kanapi, Chai Fonacier
In Cebuano and Tagalog, with English subtitles

The premise is very simple. Jesus is dead. His ex wife and children embark in a road trip of some hundred kilometers to attend his wake. The movie is about the what happens during the trip, where we learn about each character's story.

It's entertaining, hilarious, and irreverent. It's easy to love this movie. While this may remind one of Little Miss Sunshine, this is definitely very much different. It has its own genius.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: August 21, 2017

Movie No. 57 (2017): 100 TULA PARA KAY STELLA

100 Tula Para Kay Stella (2017)
Director: Jason Paul Laxamana
Cast: JC Santos, Bela Padilla

I find the movie too long for the point it tries to convey. But, still, I enjoyed it as an escapist flick  despite its flaws. It appears to me that the Stella and Fidel characters are fish out of water. They gasp for air in a premise that may not be suited for them. All the supporting characters are dud. Despite this, however, both Bela Padilla and JC Santos do well in portraying their respective characters. Most of the so-called poems are unimpressive and contrived. 

Rating: 2.5/4.0

Date seen: August 21, 2017

Friday, August 25, 2017

Movie No. 56 (2017): A UNITED KINGDOM

A United Kingdom (2017)
Director: Amma Assante, Steven Hall
Cast: David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike

While a student in London, Seretse Khama, the future king of Botswana meets a British clerk (Ruth Williams). They fall in love and get married despite objections from both families. But that's not the major problem. The marriage stirs and challenges present political climate and the recently installed apartheid. The movie is about this hurdle.

I see the movie as something that's not much different from some blockbuster romance movies, from basic premise, to second act, to conclusion. But this one happens in a  real premise that will become an important phase in history. This, too is not unique. But the reasons the movie works are the excellent performances of the lead actors and the balanced treatment of the narrative considering that the movie discusses racial tension and other political issues.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: August 20, 2017

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Movie No. 55 (2017): IN THE HOUSE

In The House (Dans La Maison) (2013)
Director: Francois Ozon
Cast: Fabrice Luchini, Kristin Scott Thomas, Emmanuelle Segner, Denis Menochet
In French, with English subtitles

A writing exercise submitted by a high school student to his Literature teacher catches the latter's attention. It gets the interest of the teacher's wife, too. The student writes about his classmate - parents and house. But, he can only write what he sees in the house; so, he must always find his way into the house. This makes the movie a certain kind of voyeurism. The comedic and cleverly psychological approach to the narrative have certain level of novelty. Performances are competent.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: August 19, 2017

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Movie No. 54 (2017): ATTRACTION (aka Prityazhenie)

Attraction (aka Prityazhenie) (2017)
Director: Fedor Bondarchuk
Cast: Irina Starshenbaum, Alexander Petrov, Rinal Mukhametov
In Russian, with English subtitles

The premise in not novel - a flying object from another world falls into Earth, in Moscow. Naturally, we expect it will bring chaos to the local community. Chaos do happen before our eyes. But the good thing about the movie the way it injects into the narrative mankind's questioning the existence of higher beings from another planet, which is caused by this recent "attraction." Then there's unusual romance (or attraction) that brews between a human and an alien being. Interesting. All the characters are integral to the story.

Allegory or not, the movie is powerful. 

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: August 19, 2017

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Movie No. 53 (2017): TU PUG IMATUY

Tu Pug Imatuy (The Right To Kill) (2017)
Director: Arnel Barbarona
Cast: Malona Sulatan, Jong Mozon, Luis Georlin Banaag III, Jamee Rivera
In Lumad dialect, with English subtitles

Tu Pug Imatuy was this the big winner at the Sinag Maynila film festival early this year.

The movie started (almost) as a semi-documentary, which worked well for me since my knowledge about the Lumads and their culture is scant. The few scenes that suggested the simple living in isolation were enough. Then came the conflict - the militarization of their ancestral lands. On the side, there's the communist rebels. The Lumads were caught in the middle. The ugliest forms of injustice were committed against them and their basic human rights violated. 

The narrative is straightforward. Poetically composed cinematography complements the narrative. Raw, but great acting by the lead actress makes the movie unforgettable.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: August 7, 2017

Sunday, August 13, 2017


Ang Pamilyang Hindi Lumuluha (2017)
Director: Mes De Guzman
Cast: Sharon Cuneta, Nino Muhlach, Moi Bien, Kiko Matos
In Tagalog, with English subtitles

Let me just go straight to my observations.

As a comedy, the movie has unexpected charms until the last quarter, when the narrative make a sudden diversion to irritating melodrama. Sharon does well in a role that's far and different from what she used to be doing. It's so unfair to her for she really delivers despite the flaws in her character. 

Rating: 2.0/4.0

Date seen: August 11, 2017

Movie No. 51 (2017): RESPETO

Respeto (2017)
Director: Treb Monteras
Cast: Abra, Dido Dela Paz
In Tagalog, with English subtitles

Rap is a relatively new genre of music. If this is the case, the Respeto qualifies as a musical-drama. What makes the movie even more interesting is the premise: "a young wannabe rapper meets a poet of the Martial Law Era." 

The movie is brave to tackle a story that may be inspired by snippets of tales taken straight from the evening news at one particular phase of our country's recent history. The rapper and the poet share same interest and love for verse. I guess the rapper's love for rhyme is to escape the bleak reality - he lives with his sister whose boyfriend is a drug dealer. He occasionally works as runner for his sister's boyfriend. The threat of demolition of their shanty is part of his everyday existence. Then he commits a petty crime that leads him to meet the poet. The poet writes verse as catharsis and commentary to that bleak phase of our country's history. Both the rapper and the poet are witnesses of injustice and impunity. 

I expected for a "hopeful" resolution despite the bleakness. But it didn't happen. The cycle, instead, would go on. That final shot, though, was great. I heard sighs in the darkness of the theater. Wonderful. I didn't see the ending that I expected. But the one I saw seemed fit. Then a few pair of hands started a slow clap as the end credits rolled up. A few seconds later, the sound of applause was deafening. What a movie!

Respeto might just this year's dark horse. Abra and Dido Dela Paz are so good.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: August 9, 2017

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Movie No. 50 (2017): KIKO BOKSINGERO

Kiko Boksingero (2017)
Director: Thop Nazareno
Cast: Noel Comia Jr., Yul Servo, Yayo Aguila
In Tagalog, with English subtitles

Kiko (Noel Comia Jr.) is left under the care of his dedicated Nanny (Yayo Aguila) when her ailing mother died. In a picturesque neighborhood in Baguio City, Kiko is tied to an everyday routine, though aimless, while waiting for his relatives in US to adopt him. Then he tries to break the routine by frequenting an abandoned house with makeshift boxing implement after school, which his nanny would notice because he returns home later than usual. The empty house happens to be be his estranged father's. For an undisclosed reason, other than selling the house, George (Yul Servo), returns to Baguio. Father and son bond.

Kiko Boksingero is a charming and sensitive coming-of-age movie. It's pure cinema, without the hysterics and unnecessary melodrama and twists. In fact, it is plotless. It is told in a way plain and simple. Noel Comia Jr.'s believable and truly-affecting performance make the movie memorable. Scenes showing father and son bonding, although tentative in some instances, are unpretentious and sublime. Yul Servo and Yayo Aguila's supporting performances complements Comia's sensitive portrayal of Kiko.

In my opinion, this is the best movie in this year's batch of Cinemalaya movies in competition.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: August 9, 2017

Movie No. 49 (2017): BAGAHE

Bagahe (2017)
Director: Zig Dulay
Cast: Angeli Bayani, Arnold Reyes, Boots Anson-Roa, Bing Pimentel, Raquel Villavicencio
In Tagalog, with English subtitles

The movie almost appeared like an instructional video for medical and criminology students. While Angeli Bayani gives a terrific lead performance, her character is underwritten. The other women characters, are practically caricatures that, sometimes, look silly. 

It's painfully boring. 

Rating: 1.0/4.0

Date seen: August 5, 2017

Movie No. 48 (2017): NABUBULOK

Nabubulok (2017)
Director: Sonny Calvento
Cast: Gina Alajar, Lito Pimentel, JC Santos, Jameson Blake, Billy Ray Gallion
In Tagalog, with English subtitles

The wife of a neighbor has been missing. The American husband and his children don't seem to care, at least on the point of view of the nosy neighbors. An unbearable stench emanates from the gated abode of the American's family. The American and and his children seem to be unmindful of the smell. And so the intrigue begins.

The narrative is heavily anchored on what the nosy neighbors have to say, their theories and biases. Gina Alajar stands out as a nosy neighbor and a common citizen who's disappointed of the law enforcement authorities. Her character happens to be the cousin of the missing woman. Then comes the intervention of the authorities, which leads to more questions than answers. Then the enigmatic final scene.

The movie is escapist. It's not bad. It's not excellent either. It falters in its attempt to justify the titular suggestion. Nabubulok literally means decaying. It may be pertaining to the deterioration sense of family, or the metaphor of family house in advanced state of decay, or to the law enforcement. It could have been brilliant if the story dag deeper, instead of a cat-scratch attention paid to it.

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: August 5, 2017

Friday, August 11, 2017

Movie No. 47 (2017): BACONAUA

Baconaua (2017)
Director: Joseph Israel Laban
Cast: Elora Espano, Therese Malvar, Jess Mendoza, Erlinda Villaobos, Bembol Roco
In Tagalog, with English subtitles

Baconaua is sea sea serpent. The title brings some mysticism in a remote island where inhabitants believe that when their neighbors disappeared in the sea during a squall, the sea serpent claim might have claimed them. Focus of the story is three siblings whose father hadn't been found after the squall one fateful night. The siblings are still hopeful their father would return and that they couldn't join their neighbors in the (beautifully shot) funeral rites in the sea for their missing relatives. 

The film is bleak and everywhere seems to dark even in daylight. Cinematography is competent although the movie appears like it's more concerned to make the movie visually stunning that pay attention to the continuity and missteps in the narrative. The appearance of a thousand apples on the shore and beaches is poetic. The subplot that may or may not be a homage to Great Expectations is a welcome flash of genius. But this intrusion into the otherwise bucolic and sometimes mystical island town is somehow contrived. The national anthem played in two different languages on separate occasion is another contrivance. But despite all these complaints, some of the actors are able to give good performances.

Rating: 2.0/4.0

Date seen: August 5, 2017


Sa Gabing Nanahimik Ang Mga Kuliglig (2017)
Director: Iar Lionel Arondaing
Cast: Angel Aquino, Ricky Davao, Jess Mendoza, Mercedes Cabral
In Tagalog, with English subtitles

One fateful night, as a small close-knit community do some Lent rituals, a woman confesses to the town's priest about a crime she has just committed. But, the altar boy accidentally hears the confession, too. Now, the priest and the altar boy face a dilemma. Will they protect the Seal of Confessional or follow the law? Both know the woman and the other personalities involved in the crime. Hence, the title.

I'm not going into the details of the narrative. I love a lot things about the movie. For a movie made with a tight budget for six days, Sa Gabing Nanahimik Ang Mga Kuliglig is unexpectedly good and almost perfectly polished. Using a square frame is a good decision for it gives the feel of a classic European cinema. Cinematography, particularly in night scenes, is sublime. Some shots are Tarkovskian. The ensemble acting is really praise-worthy.

This is easily one of the (few) best films of Cinemalaya 2017.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: August 5, 2017

Movie No. 45 (2017): REQUITED

Requited (2017)
Director: Nerissa Picadizo
Cast: Jake Cuenca, Anna Luna

One random day, Matt decides to bike all the way to Mt. Pinatubo. At some point along the way, Sandy shows up in full gears and joins Matt. The moment she appears and in many instances along the way, the two argue on a lot of things, some petty. From the almost incessant bickering we learn some things about the two characters. Fine. But, the build up is quite slow for a film with a relatively short running time for a feature film. Fine. Then something I totally don't expect happens. Interesting. But, it's downhill from there. Maddening. It looks like like the writer and director don't know what to do next. The ending is a mess. Some random episodes of local drama anthology on local television are much better than Requited.

Jake Cuenca as an ailing architect is believable only in scenes he's biking through some difficult trails. Partly, I'm blaming the what appears like underdeveloped character. I'm not convinced that Anna Luna is a volleyball superstar, although she's good in most dramatic scenes. The only good thing about the movie is the cinematography.

Rating: 1.0/4.0

Date seen: August 5, 2017

Movie No. 44 (2017): CAPTAIN FANTASTIC

Captain Fantastic (2016)
Director: Matt Ross
Cast: Viggo Mortensen

A family lives in isolation in their self-created "paradise" in the forests of Pacific Northwest. The father is devoted but controlling. A mother figure's absence is conspicuous. Then a news of a tragedy shakes the otherwise "ideal" family living. The father and his six children must temporarily leave the paradise and take a journey into the outside world. And so begins the character study.

Viggo Mortensen as the titular father figure has a strong presence in practically every scene he's in. That's a remarkable feat, playing as the controlling father. His strong performance is most noticeable. The movie brings to mind Peter Weir's The Mosquito Coast. While, in my opinion, Peter Weir's movie is the better movie, Captain Fantastic offers some fresh insights, particularly on challenges of parenting. Matt Ross seems to be in control except form a few but important scenes. 

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: July 29, 2017

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Movie No. 43 (2017): KITA KITA

Kita Kita (2017)
Director: Sigrid Andrea P. Bernardo
CastL Alessandra De Rossi, Empoy Marquez
In Tagalog with occasional Japanese, with English subtitles

Lea's blindness is psychologically triggered by the stress caused by her fiance's infidelity and shattered wedding plan. Living afflicted and alone in a small apartment in Sapporo, she is forced to deal with Tonyo who lives across the street. Tony appears everyday in her apartment's front garden offering Filipino foods, his friendship, and to be her eyes. I'll end it here.

The movie is far from being perfect. Original? It's not. You've seen the narrative structure before in other movies. Therefore, not much novelty.

Why do a lot of people like it?

Here's my opinion.

Lea and Tonyo are an odd couple. So are Alessandra De Rossi and Empoy Marquez. I suppose, the script came first before the actors were chosen. I don't know how they decided that Lea and Tonyo would fit Alessandra and Empoy, respectively, to a tee. That decision was perfect.

The movie is a breath of fresh air. 

It's easy to get tired of the formulaic rom-com movies that the local movie business use to lure fans of love teams who, in most cases, can't deliver decent acting. These rom-coms are usually made with the love teams in mind because they already have following. So, whatever thrash with which they are fed, they will swallow. The fans will be unison: "It's the best movie ever." That's fine. Producers don't want to lose money.

Kita Kita is different. I read somewhere that the director only wanted for her movie not to be pulled out of movie houses in the second day. Word of mouth and social media posts sent throng of curious movie goers who could be tired of formulaic, senseless, and rehashed stories. Several days later, the movie breached the 200-M mark. It was made with roughly 10-M budget. Does the movie deserve this? Of course. An astounding YES!

Do I like it? Very much. In my opinion it's not a comedy. It's a serious dramatic feature. The comedy is consequential. It discusses a lot of things. I'm not going to dwell into what others have already said and posted online - the likes of "you see things with your heart, and you'll never go wrong." Indeed, it's so ironic that Lea would "see clearly" when she had the affliction, but not when she was a tour guide have wide open eyes that could see clearly. Yes, I saw this even with the flawed script. 

It was during the affliction that we saw what's in Lea and Tony's hearts. We saw their dreams. We had a glimpse of their longing for the Philippines but simply couldn't just return home. We saw them fall in love. I can go on, but have to end here.

By the way, Two Less Lonely People In The World. occasionally playing on the background, complemented the overall feel of the movie.

Kita Kita is highly recommended.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: July 30, 2017

Movie No. 42 (2017): DUNKIRK

Dunkirk (2017)
Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Kenneth Brannagh, Fionn Whitehead, Harry Styles

I'm not familiar with the story the film is based from. So I'm judging Dunkirk based on the narrative and other aspects of the movie, not on its the historical accuracy.

The Allied Forces are stuck in the French City of Dunkirk. The French and UK rescue vessels race against time to evacuate the the men as the Nazi forces approach to takeover Dunkirk. The movie dramatizes the harrowing and agonizing wait. And then comes the final scene that can probably shock unprepared audience. 

There narrative is noticeably inventive. Dialogues are scant. Visual essays are enough to convey a point. The editing, while dizzying at some point, is justified if only to give the viewers the total experience of "being there." Random shots are fired from unseen enemy forces in the direction of scurrying troop - scenes that are reminiscent of Terence Malick's The Thin Red Line. 

In my opinion, Dunkirk will go down in history as one of the greatest war movies ever made, in the  same league of Saving Private Ryan.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: July 29, 2017

Movie No. 41 (2017): THE EXORCIST

The Exorcist (1973)
Director: William Friedkin
Cast: Ellen Burstyn, Max Von Sydow, Jason Miller, Linda Blair

I saw the VHS copy of the movie only in late 1990s. I saw it alone, so it really did me give real scare that would stay in my head for a few days. Or weeks. Then, between that time and last month, I got that chance to see the movie again in parts on cable TV in many instances. 

I saw The Exorcist again in full for the second time only last month. It was showing on cable TV. 

The Exorcist is one of the best examples of escapist cinema. While this is true, the movie's greatness lies in the artful execution of the narrative. It even dares to leave questions to disturb one's consciousness, whether one believes that the girl is just afflicted with a strange disease of the nervous system or that she really is possessed by the devil. The cinematography is sinister and is well-composed to suggest bleakness. And I have to specially note the superb performances of the actors who played as the exorcist, the priest (Max Von Sydow), and mother (Ellen Burstyn) of the afflicted or possessed 12-year old girl.

I still believe that The Exorcist is the scariest film of all time. It's the experience of seeing it that makes it really unforgettable.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: July 2, 2017

Movie No. 40 (2017): PETE'S DRAGON

Pete's Dragon (2016)
Director: David Lowery
Cast: Oakes Fegley, Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, Wes Bentley

Pete is an orphan. Elliott is a dragon. They friends. Their story is told the Disney way and we know what to expect.

This is kid's flick. Surprisingly, I was lured into seeing it as it was airing on TV because I remembered seeing the 1970's version of the movie. It was a long time ago and I couldn't remember what it was about. I only remembered the basic premise: orphan boy met dragon in the forest and they became friends. The rest was a blur.

This present adaptation somehow refreshed me the story of the unlikely friendship between the boy and the dragon and how they would stick together despite all odds. 

I enjoyed it.

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: July 2, 2017

Movie No. 39 (2017): THE ZOOKEEPER'S WIFE

The Zookeeper's Wife (2017)
Director: Niki Caro
Cast: Jessica Chastain, Daniel Bruhl, Johan Heldenbergh
In English and occasional German and Hebrew, with English subtitles

The movie is not perfect. But, it looked good enough on television based on the first few frames. I was lured to pay attention for a few more minutes. Before I knew it, almost a hour had passed. So I decided to finish the movie. And that was a good decision. 

I really like the film.

I saw several movies tackling the heroism of some random strangers during one of the darkest times in human civilization - the atrocities of the Nazi. Some were truly inspired like Schindler's List and In Darkness, to name a few. Based on real events, this movie effectively tells the heroic exploits of a couple by keeping several people in their family-run zoo in Poland and eventually saving some of them.

Jessica Chastain is Jessica Chastain, always dependable on practically all characters assigned to her to act out. The cinematography and costume design are effectively textured to give the feel of the time.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: June 25, 2017

Movie No. 38 (2017): EX WITH BENEFITS

Ex With Benefits (2015)
Director: Gino Santos
Cast: Derek Ramsay, Coleen Garcia, Tirso Cruz III, Carmi Martin
In Tagalog, with no English subtitles

Sunday afternoon on ABS-CBN  (Channel 2), June 18, 2017.

Ex-lovers in college, by some uninspired and cliched circumstance, meet again. The boy is now a doctor; the girl a medical representative. No, they don't become lovers again (yet), but ex with benefits, for old times sake. Interesting. The characters demand maturity. The actors simply try to look mature, but fail. The narrative of the romance demands maturity, too. I almost believed it was. But, going deeper, I found nothing except a showcase of contrivances and almost-fantasies.

Rating: 1.0/4.0

Date seen: June 18, 2017

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Movie No. 37 (2017): AND THEN THERE WERE NONE

And Then There Were None (2016)
Directors: Craig Viveiros, Basi Akpabio, Rebecca Keane
Cast: Charles Dance, Sam Neill, Miranda Richardson, Aidan Turner, Maeve Dermody, Tony Stephens

And Then There Were None is an adaptation of world-popular novel Ten Little Indians by Agatha Christie. This is not the first time the book is adapted into screen. I saw the 1945 movie adaptation made by Rene Clair. There were a couple of other adaptations. 

This adaptation was shown on BBC in 2016 as a three-episode miniseries.

We already know what will happen. The guests, invited to a gathering in an inland mansion, who seem at first to have nothing in common, are to atone their sins and later will be murdered one by one. Despite that I already know this, I'm still awed by the excellent pacing and cinematography that contribute to the psychological thrill the movie intends to be. The decision to make it a 3-episode mini-series does the trick.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: June 17, 2017

Movie No. 36 (2017): ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE

Always Be My Maybe (2016)
Director: Dan Villegas
Cast: Gerald Anderson, Arci Munoz
In Filipino, no English subtitles

Saw this on a Sunday afternoon on TV (ABS-CBN). Definitely a decent entertainment.

It's romance-comedy, Pinoy style. Formulaic as expected. The ending, of course, is predictable. But, the movie is something that's not easy to dismiss as just one of those flicks that are made to make fans shudder in delight. The good thing about the movie or the script is that it spends time be elaborate in characterization and carefully composed scenes to justify the expected ending.

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: June 11, 2017

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Movie No. 35 (2017): THE SECOND MOTHER

The Second Mother (aka Que Horas Ela Volta?) (2016)
Director: Anna Muylaert
Cast: Camila Mardila, Regina Case, Michel Joelsas
In Portuguese, with English subtitles

Val, who has been working as nanny for an affluent family in Sao Paolo more than a dozen years, is financially stable. The family she serves treats her well. However, she has daughter that she left under the care of her relatives in northern Brazil. Now, her daughter wants to live with her in Sao Paolo as she is entering college. The conflict begins when the daughter arrives in Sao Paolo and temporarily lives with her in the house of Val's employers while awaiting for the college entrance examination. 

The movie is a simple narrative that examines the dynamics of a different kind of mother-daughter relationship and its effects on people in their immediate circle. There's also this metaphoric commentary on social classes in modern Brazil. Regina Case is outstanding as Val.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: May 14, 2017

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Movie No. 34 (2017): THE TARGET

The Target (2014)
Director: Chang
Cast: Ryu Seung-ryong, Lee Jin-wook, Jo Yeo-jeung, Yoo Jun-sang
In Korean, with English subtitles

It may take sometime to see the connection of the opening scene to what seem to be unrelated scenes in the succeeding series of events. But the tension created by such scenes is solid. When everything makes sense during the first 20 minutes the remaining scenes are just like the usual concert of rehearsed choreography of cat-and-mouse chase. I'm not suggesting the Hollywoodish formula. There's still the Korean cinema stamp, which makes the movie still interesting. The ending is predictable; but the road to that ending is pebbled with some interesting twists.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: May 7, 2017

Movie No. 33 (2017): AMERICAN CRIME (Season 2)

American Crime (Season 2) (2016)
Creator/Producer: John Ridley
Cast: Felicity Hoffman, Timothy Hutton, Regina King, Lili Taylor

Season 2 has uses practically the same main cast as Season 1, but with a completely different story and characters. This time, the crime is man-rape. What makes it controversial is it happens to a student in a private high school with good reputation. The news of the crime, allegedly committed by students of the same school, makes the internet. The school administration uses all resources to maintain the school's reputation. But, the mother of the victim brings the incident to investigation by the police. Like the in Season 1, this present Season 2 is also interested in showing how the people related to the victim and suspects are affected by the incident during the investigation. 

The series is effectively calculating in suggesting homophobia and racial tension interspersed in the narrative.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: May 1, 2017

Movie No. 32 (2017): 13 REASONS WHY

13 Reasons Why (2017)
Creator/Producer: Brian Yorkey
Director: Various (including Gregg Araki)
Cast: Dylan Minette, Katherine Langford, Brandon Flynn, Ross Butler

This is a popular TV series, a Netflix original. It's tacking of the topics of bullying, peer pressure, bullying, substance abuse, and rape among teenagers makes the show controversial, polarizing those who've seen it.

It's popularity makes me not want to write down a synopsis for the series. 

I like the series. But it's not perfect. When each episode should suggest one reason for the suicide of one major character, there are a couple reasons that, for me, are vague. Hannah baker is not a character you can sympathize with. But that's okay. It's not the reason for the story being flawed. One may feel shortchanged after patiently waiting to see what's in every tape. That is the reason? But, the overall feel is more of awe than sigh. I particularly like the episode edits and the careful selection of important scenes to apply the famed Bergmanian approach to flashback. All the actors are good.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: April 23, 2017

Movie No. 31 (2017): AMERICAN CRIME (Season 1)

American Crime (Season 1) (2015)
Creator/Producer: John Ridley
Director: Various
Cast: Timothy Hutton, Felicity Hoffman, Regina King, Lili Taylor

The story begins with Russ (Timothy Hutton) receiving bad news: his son, a war veteran, and daughter-in-law were attacked in their home, now dead. He flies to Modesto, California. There he meets his estranged wife (Felicity Hoffman). The rest of the episodes tackle how lives of those who are connected to the victims and to the suspects change during the course of the investigation and trial. Hints of racial tension make the story and characters multi-dimensional.

I particularly like the episodic editing and treatment. The characters are well written and effectively played by the actors, especially Felicity Hoffman and Regina King. All supporting characters and their corresponding scenes are really integral to the effective narrative flow.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: April 18, 2017

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Movie No. 30 (2017): TO THE FORE

To The Fore (2015)
Director: Dante Lam
Cast: Choi Si-won, Shawn Dou, Eddie Peng
In Chinese (Cantonese/Mandarin), with English subtitles

The movie is a fictional close look at the professional riders race competition. It centers on the three characters and their respective motivations. The characterization, conflicts, and resolution are formulaic. The formula is not a totally bad thing since the movie has executed them smoothly. What I admire most about the movie are the breathtaking cinematography and seamless editing during scenes involving races.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: April 17, 2017

Movie No. 29 (2017): UNDER THE SKIN

Under The Skin (2014)
Director: Jonathan Glazer
Cast: Scarlett Johansson

The movie is too abstract for me. This head-scratching movie is science fiction but for me it doesn't matter. Almost everything made sense when I had to jump back to the start of the movie a few minutes before the conclusion. Almost; not totally. But, the experience of seeing the movie is more important.

Scarlett Johansson is great.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: April 9, 2017

Movie No. 28 (2017): OUIJA, THE ORIGIN OF EVIL

Ouija: The Origin of Evil (2016)
Director: Mike Flanagan
Cast: Elizabeth Reaser, Henry Thomas, Annalise Baso

I didn't expect Ouija: The Origin of Evil to turn out to be a decent horror movie with real suspense. Both the narrative flow and characterization are engaging. There are no cheap thrills. 

Thumbs up.

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: April 8, 2017

Movie No. 27 (2017): THE RED TURTLE

The Red Turtle (a.k.a. La Tortue Rouge) (2016)
Director: Michael Dudok De Wit
Animated film

The film was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature early this year.

The movie is about a man who gets washed away in an uninhabited remote island. Every time he tries to to leave the island, his makeshift raft gets destroyed by a mysterious sea creature, a red turtle. The turtle is indeed mysterious since it will become part of his accidental exile in the island.

The movie is practically without any dialogue. But, despite the absence of dialogue, the narrative is crystal clear and it is fluid. Not a single scene is wasted. The story is classic, magical, and unforgettable.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: April 8, 2017

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Movie No. 26 (2017): UNDER THE SHADOW

Under The Shadow (2016)
Director: Babak Anvari
Cast: Narges Rashid, Bobby Naderi, Avin Manshadi
In Farsi, with English subtitles

The backdrop of the movie is the Iran-Iraq War. The protagonist Shideh is now married with a daughter. She is blacklisted from medical school for participating in protests against post-Revolution government during her days as student. Frustrated, she is left to look for her daughter in their apartment while her husband is serving as member of the medical team in the frontline. Air raids are everyday occurrence. The apartment building has shelter. But, one day, a missile hits the building. It doesn't explode. However, it brings forth strange consequences. Horror begins.

The movie is clever. The missile might be a metaphor for something sinister that Shideh must face. This is a rare movie of the genre.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: April 8, 2017

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Movie No. 25 (2017): AFTER THE STORM

After The Storm (2016)
Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Cast: Hiroshi Abe, Yoko Maki
In Japanese, with English subtitles

It has been said that the works of Hirokazu Kore-eda reflect the contemplative style and pacing of Hou Hsiao-hsien and Tsai Ming-liang. These are usually conspicuous in all the family drama the director has made. After The Storm is not an exception. By saying it, I mean that I'm completely sucked into the narrative with that calculated but rhythmic pacing. 

Hiroshi Abe makes his loser character (Ryota) very human. We feel his struggle to be part of his son's life despite the divorce the broke the family. He's living alone, as a private detective, despite a promising career as a prize-winning novelist in the past. Then one summer, an unexpected storm forces the broken family, including Ryota's mother, to bond, resulting in certain realizations that may change the way they look at their relationships in the future.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: April 8, 2017

Friday, April 7, 2017

Movie No. 24 (2017): THE BYE BYE MAN

The Bye Bye Man (2017)
Director: Stacy Title
Cast: Cressida Bonas, Lucien Laviscount, Faye Dunaway

Three college friends move into a new housing and stumble upon objects associated with the Bye Bye Man. To avoid the curse of the Bye Bye Man all they need to do is "don't think it; don't say it." For me this is ridiculous. How can you avoid thinking about it when it's in your face or lurking or stalking you? That's why the screenplay fails miserably.

This is a horror movie. I expect to be scared. But, the movie uses cliches of the genre that make me irritated instead of scared. 

Rating: 1.0/4.0

Date seen: April 7, 2017

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Movie No. 23 (2017): THE NIGHT OF

The Night Of (2016)
Director: Various directors
Cast: Riz Ahmed, John Turturro

This is a mini-series created by Richard Prince and Steve Zaillian. But, it 's still a movie, a very long one. The episodic treatment, of course, is inevitable. 

The story practically begins with the arrest of a Naz (Riz Ahmed), a student who is of Pakistani descent, suspected of the murder of the girl he had a one-night-stand stint with a few hours earlier. Then comes the eczema-riddled, opportunistic attorney (Jack Stone), who preys on small-time criminal offenders at just the right time. Stone is interested and, of course, gets involved in Naz's case.

The police procedural and the so-called due process that follows gives a glimpse of the complication in how criminal justice system works. The writing is effective in how it shows how this incident affects all the people that got entangled into it, including Naz family and friends, Stone and his colleagues and acquaintances, the dead girl's blood connection, the detective, police officers, prosecutors, etc. There is also a subtle touching on racism and hate crime. The suspense and mystery are sustained until the conclusion. The ending sends me chills just thinking about what transpired during the entire season of this series.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: April 5, 2017