Mini-Review: Divergent

As with most young adult adaptations, Divergent runs through its course in a very straightforward manner. It comes off as a page-by-page presentation of Veronica Roth’s bestselling novel, highlighting major scenes with over-the-top music in an obvious attempt to convince people that those are character-building events. While I have other issues with the film (such as its lazy use of narration to set up the story at the beginning), I must admit that the whole premise is interesting. It was enough to keep me occupied for 133 minutes without much concern about how long it would last. The characters are one-note, but the two leads Shailene Woodley and Theo James give it their all. Not the best attempt to make a franchise out of a book, but certainly not the worst.



Review #476: Guardians of the Galaxy

An effortlessly funny and character-driven space adventure

James Gunn’s ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ is a solid new entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It overcomes blockbuster tropes by infusing some nerdy goofiness into the mix. And with a compelling cast and a breed of humor rarely associated with superhero films, it’s a refreshing and welcome detour from the Thor, Cap and Iron Man sequels we had to get by on our way to the next Avengers.

Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” expands the Marvel Cinematic Universe into the cosmos, where brash adventurer Peter Quill finds himself the object of an unrelenting bounty hunt after stealing a mysterious orb coveted by Ronan, a powerful villain with ambitions that threaten the entire universe. To evade the ever-persistent Ronan, Quill is forced into an uneasy truce with a quartet of disparate misfits-Rocket, a gun-toting raccoon, Groot, a tree-like humanoid, the deadly and enigmatic Gamora and the revenge-driven Drax the Destroyer. But when Quill discovers the true power of the orb and the menace it poses to the cosmos, he must do his best to rally his ragtag rivals for a last, desperate stand-with the galaxy’s fate in the balance. (C) Walt Disney

Batista was the bomb as Drax The Destroyer!

The characters are remarkably fleshed-out, each with their own charms. Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana are attractive specimens, exhibiting charisma like it was their superpower. Surprisingly, WWE superstar David Baustista (Batista) had the best comedic moments, while Groot and Rocket are likely candidates for bromance of the year. On a side note, the CGI work on those two anthropomorphic creatures is insane, and I can say the same for the overall visual effects of the film.

Tell me, how many times have you seen this scene?

On the downside, the plot is just as ridiculous as that of Thor: The Dark World, though I’d say the execution is more polished here and there are more things to adore and enjoy. However, its main weakness is that it’s kept short, probably because they want to reserve more material for the forthcoming projects. Marvel’s inability to conceal the bigger picture in any of their films leaves you craving for more yet at the same time makes you wonder if we’ll ever get a complete, standalone movie from them (to be fair, ‘Guardians’ doesn’t end with an obvious cliff-hanger, but it still gives off a vibe of a franchise starter). Most people will enjoy their assembly line of movies, but it will be an endless cycle of excitement and disappointment until something totally unexpected and amazing comes along. ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ is not quite that, but at least it adds some variety to our future.


Reviewing 2014 Films: She’s Dating The Gangster, Step Up: All In

#474: She’s Dating The Gangster

She’s Dating The Gangster is a legitimately funny and touching Filipino mainstream movie that’s more than just the cheesy teenage love story people have come to expect. My expectations were shamefully low coming in and I was prepared to have a good time regardless of its quality. But I had no idea I’d actually cry at some point! The build-up leading to that moment makes it work and there never was a dull part throughout the film.

Kathryn Bernardo is a cuter version of veteran actress Sarah Geronimo, and pretty boy Daniel Padilla knows what he’s doing. Their acting skills were okay but both have huge potential and I’m actually curious about their next project. It’s a good movie with a touching message and its problems are forgivable. What can I say… I was fooled by the marketing!


#475: Step Up: All In

This is probably my least favorite Step Up film among the three I’ve seen (The Streets, 3D, and this one). All in all it was okay – B for the Dancing, D for the Acting. There weren’t many wow moments for me but maybe it’s because they gave most of them away in the trailers so the element of surprise was gone. I also found the character motivations weak. The ending was fun though, and there were a lot of returning people from the previous films (Moose included). You might enjoy it more if you’ve seen Step Up 4: Revolution, but that’s just a guess.


Reviewing 2014 Films: Begin Again, Earth to Echo

#472: Begin Again

Begin Again is a musical drama starring Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, and Adam Levine that’s as delightful to see as it is to listen to. It’s probably my 2nd or 3rd favorite film of the year, and a perfect movie for the ‪#‎ForeverAlone. Just a simple love story really but enveloped in great music all throughout. No ridiculous romance angles or cliché storylines to be found here. The amazing sound system of the theater back at my hometown amplified my experience. So for those who missed it the first time around, I suggest you grab your headphones when you try this at home.


#473: Earth to Echo

This sci-fi adventure features kids helping a tiny alien escape from planet Earth and go back home. Yeah, kinda like E.T. but in found footage format. Not much to tell about this movie. The story is been there, done that but the visual effects temper that feeling. Your enjoyment ultimately depends on how far you’re willing to believe in their adventure, but it’s more likely to be a hit for youngsters than grown-ups. The format gives it some novelty though.


Review #471: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

A growing nation of genetically evolved apes led by Caesar is threatened by a band of human survivors of the devastating virus unleashed a decade earlier. They reach a fragile peace, but it proves short-lived, as both sides are brought to the brink of a war that will determine who will emerge as Earth’s dominant species.~20th Century Fox

Motion capture and visual effects have really come so far. One look at Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and you could see the stark difference in believability compared to the old installments. The apes seemed so real! Not the scary kind of real, but the ‘you don’t even notice it’s fake’ real. You can connect with them, empathize with them. And sometimes they feel and act more human than the humans themselves.

The things they couldn’t do before are now achievable today. This film proves that and it’s quite impressive. Even my mom, who usually falls asleep in the theater, could not take her eyes off the screen (sorry mom haha!). It’s a different kind of blockbuster. It’s complex – emotionally, visually, and narratively. It’s a bit predictable, but it tackles societal issues in a captivating manner and director Matt Reeves does a great job in pacing the film up to the end. These feats are enough to help overlook its banal tendencies. And I think everyone can agree Andy Serkis’ is one hell of a performer. He is the star of the show and he deserves more credit. Hail Caesar!


A Few Weeks Ago I Watched: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Before I checked out Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, I finally saw the film that most people would argue re-launched the franchise in a promising way, and I’d agree. The first two acts of ‘Rise’ were incredible, presenting us with a compelling storyline involving the humans and apes. There’s a little bit of social commentary in the mix as you see the best and worst qualities of our own species, and the most extreme consequence of experimentation that’s far beyond our control.

The human characters (James Franco, Frieda Pinto, and Tom Felton) didn’t have much depth in them, but it’s the complete opposite for Caesar (portrayed by Andy Serkis), whose actions were completely captivating from childhood to maturity (I was going to say adolescence, but I’m not sure). The final scenes were a bit generic though, and it lost its steam because of that. Still, for a blockbuster with just a $93M-budget, they sure did a hell of a good job with the special effects. And the finished product my friends, is entertainment.



Review #469: The Rover

A post-apocalyptic drama that prioritizes characters over setting to tell a story.

With society in decline, the rule of law has disintegrated and life is cheap. Hardened loner Eric travels the desolate towns and roads of the scorched and dangerous Australian outback. When a brutal gang of thieves steals his car and only remaining possession, they leave behind the wounded Rey in their wake. Forcing Rey to help track the gang, Eric gives chase. Determined beyond reason, unrelenting in the pursuit of his prey, Eric will go to any lengths to take back the one thing that matters to him. ~Wiki

The Rover presents the idea that not everything has to be about something. As those words are reiterated by Robert Pattinson near the ending I saw how it could be used to describe the film itself. Because most of the time, nothing is happening that requires much thought. Scenes of Guy Pearce and Pattinson talking in-between the tense moments is enough to keep you glued because you’ll want to discover more about their personalities and their motivations. The movie doesn’t give away anything about the ‘collapse’ of humanity unlike other doomsday offerings, and I’m glad it stayed that way as the focus remained on what matter the most: the people.

What began as nonsense eventually became an intriguing journey of two men seeking the same person for different reasons. It works because Pearce and Pattinson make it so believable, the latter in particular pulling off a career-building performance that will surely diminish skeptics who still think of him as Twilight’s Edward. It has solid, thrilling moments that make it a worthwhile theatrical offering and the cast alone is worth the price of admission.