Monday, December 29, 2014

The Skeleton Twins ~ Film Review


by: Uel Ceballos


Funny yet not without a purpose, “The Skeleton Twins” presented the typical dark dilemmas of the mid-life in a witty, surprisingly entertaining screenplay. It told the story of the twins Maggie and Milo as they both dealt with their own mess. Maggie was a married woman who incontestably loved her husband Lance but despite that fact, she still got involved into multiple illicit affairs outside her marriage. It wasn’t because Lance had shortcomings as Maggie’s husband but due to the reason that Maggie was a sick person. She was a troubled soul often haunted by her past. It was shown figuratively by constant flashbacks as she kept remembering their childhood days with their father. She and Milo were the gruesome twosome as their father used to call them. It would show the young Maggie together with the young Milo in pretty wig and girl’s dress. Maggie would always remember how their father advised them to stick and stand by each other’s side no matter what happened. However as they reached adulthood, the two would separate their lives and lived on their own for ten long straight years.

The twins reunited after Milo failed on an attempted suicide and Maggie asked him to go back with her in New York. On Milo’s part, coming back to his home town was another phase on his life as he would see again his high school English professor with whom he had an affair way back. Milo was fifteen year old then and while he saw it as a sincere romantic relationship, his twin Maggie saw it as child molestation and exposed the thing in the open. Thus, Milo would keep this renewed affair from Maggie’s knowledge.

The story went through the seemingly insoluble quandaries of the twins as they both tried protecting and helping each other in the best way they could think of. However, like in the real life, the people we loved often missed out the main point why we’d done such a thing. While our purest intention was to look after and care for them, all they thought was that we ruined everything by meddling into their personal affairs. Like any most siblings do, Maggie and Milo went through the worst fight and hurtful exchange of words that almost brought their relationship into the brink.

What made “The Skeleton Twins” remarkable was its common twist but unusual pair of characters. The dialogues were not trying-hard to appear profound or clever. It sounded free and natural without overdoing the witty and dramatic parts. Its less pretension however, caused the tendency to minimize the overall emotional impact of the movie. But it was saved by Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader’s performances that were both plausible and amazing. They made a good tandem and Bill Hader, being a straight guy, had indeed given us a knockout performance in his portrayal of the troubled gay Milo. Personally, I loved the character of Milo and Hader’s portrayal made it all the more likeable.

“The Skeleton Twins” attracted viewers with its feature of the life’s downside moments. But its strong statement of the family concept is what really made it all the more magnetic and emotion-appealing. The funny side of it is what the other see as the film’s strongest point but for me it is the relationship and struggles of the two characters that made it a good story and a must-watch film. In one way or another, this film would inspire us to deal more maturely and bravely with our own mess. Who never got fucked up at one point in their lives anyway? Everyone did. Everyone reached that low times being damaged, broken, and injured and all it took for us to recover was to know that we have our own “skeleton twin” who will stand by our side no matter what happen, through the good and bad times. And we'll manage to get by then, picking up our fallen pieces.

P.S. I enjoyed the way the writer (who is obviously a literary freak) found a way to insert in the film those things about Marley and Me, Moby Dick, and Danielle Steel. :)


2014 Top 5 Most Viewed Film Reviews in Now Brewing

Happy New Year guys! Thank you for making it a good year for Now Brewing. It's time for some throwback as we in Now Brewing looked back to the most viewed reviews written and posted here in Now Brewing. Our community is quite small but we're thankful enough that we got viewers and visitors to whom we shared our passion for films and books. 

1. Ranking first on the list is the article published by Benj Ramos about the Top 10 Best Movies that he saw from Jan-May 2014. 
2014 has been an exciting year for movies. The first quarter kicked in with some films from the Oscars (American Hustle, 12 Years A Slave, Her), book adaptations ( Snowpiercer, Divergent, Diary ng Panget, ABNKKBSNPLako, Heaven is for Real), and sequels ( Rio 2, Amazing Spider-Man 2, X-Men DOFP).

Pinoy films are also rockin' the big screen, and local indies too. In just 5 months I have seen 33 movies which is crazy and expensive. I wanna share with you my list of the best films that I have seen so far this year. Personal biases included. 
 2. Next on our ranking is the film review about Elijah Wood's Spanish thriller film, The Grand Piano Review published by Uel Ceballos. 


The Grand Piano with its empowering title, main cast and music involving plot, brings out the great level of expectation from its audience. This 2013 Spanish thriller film has captured my attention for two reasons. First, is because of Elijah Wood whom I last saw in Eternal Sunshine in the Spotless Mind. The last movie I remember where he was the main cast was LOTR and I really miss seeing him again in the centre of scenarios (haven’t checked yet his other film that followed after LOTR which mostly were in thriller genres). Second, is because the film speaks about music, particularly piano music and I’m looking forward to great exhibition of music craft here like what I witnessed from Hilary and Jackie and La Vie En Rose.
See Hitting the right key to survive ~ Grand Piano Film Review
3. Ranking third in the Now Brewing is the film review published by Love Esios about the film "Her". 
Ever imagined how the future might look like with all the technological advances designed to make our lives convenient? Everything is easily accessible, everything is functional not with a snap of your fingers, but with the sound of your voice. No need to write emails, no need to see the news, and perhaps in most instances, no need to go out and feel the weather outside. You just speak most of the time to a piece of metal but there is no real interpersonal communication because you constantly interact night and day with...say... an operating system. Uh-huh. You read that right. A relationship with an OS. Okay, let me make that clear, a romantic relationship with an OS. Insane? Well, that's what I thought while watching this film by Spike Jonze who, by the way, bagged the Oscar's Best Original Screenplay earlier this year for this film.
See ...and I love HER... (Film Review)
4. On our 4th rank is the film review written by Uel Ceballos about the local film "Starting All Over Again" . 
This movie will not bring out the hopeless romantic in you but it will change your perspective about things in life, especially in love. The kind of perspective that most of us have been experiencing but keep on denying: the perspective of reality. If you’re one of those who are still not getting over with their past ex, those who haven’t had a closure with their past relationship, those who still hope for second chance, then this movie perfectly fits for you.
See Starting Over Again ~ Review 
5. Last but not the least that makes it to the top 5 of Now Brewing's most viewed article is the film review about the best tearjerker film of the year, The Miracle in Cell No. 7. The review was written and published by Love Esios. 
Whenever I watch films, I always make sure that my mind is really set to understand and appreciate the film I am about to see. I have always tried to strike a balance between  noticing the technicalities of the film and allowing my emotions to rule all over my entirety. Watching this film has surpassed all expectations I have for a certified tearjerker. The effect it gave me was more than the sobs and continuous tears I shed not to mention the occasional remark of "Grabe!" in between the scenes.
See Miracle in Cell No. 7 ~ film review 
Congratulations to the five reviews that make it to the Top 5 list. Keep more articles coming this 2015 guys :). Happiest New Year Greeting from your Now Brewing family!!!




Saturday, December 6, 2014

A peculiar journey...Every Day (a review)

by Love Esios


Every Day's book cover grabbed from Google Images.
soul (n.)

- the spiritual part of a person that is believed to give life to the body and in many religions is believed to live forever 



If I'm going to define the word in a religious perspective, this definition given by Merriam-Webster dictionary may be the closest possible explanation I can think of when talking about souls. In the Catholic faith the soul is believed to be something that is bigger than yourself, though it is not something that is separate from yourself either. It is something that is part of you but is not entirely just you, because this is something that continues to live long after the body has already died. I haven't given much thought about souls. All I know is that the soul is a part of me, a very important aspect of my spirituality. My soul has been with me ever since I was born and it will depart from me when I die.

But what if we don't really have our own soul? What if a soul is just some kind of an invisible traveler that travels from one place to another? Well, in this book's case, the soul actually shifts from one body to another.

I can't really say my own understanding of what a soul is but it has changed after reading David Levithan's Every Day. I had a glimpse of its plot in my colleague's blog and just like how I fell in love with the other novels I have read in the past, I felt this unyielding curiosity to read it. A 16-year-old, gender-less and endlessly wandering soul (A -- yeah the name of this soul is just A) that inhabits different bodies every day of its life and eventually fell truly, madly, deeply in love with a girl (Rhiannon). Tell me, how can I resist a plot as intriguing and controversial (I think) as this? I thought the movie Her was the weirdest love story I've ever watched and heard. This book practically kicked it out and replaced it on top of my "ODD STORIES" list. I think I was particularly drawn to the soul's peculiar journey wherein he eventually finds the place where he belongs --- to the heart of the one and only girl he (or maybe it) truly loves.

How David Levithan presented the social issues in this book fascinates and at the same time intrigues me. Reading this book was like sailing in the calm seas --- very smooth and very easy. The way he explored each social issue, especially religion, depression and homosexuality, was very simple yet intense and fearless. These are the things that most teenagers are dealing nowadays. I must admit though, that some ideas were presented in a more blatant way (for me), especially the topics of religion and homosexuality.

The way he tells A and Rhiannon 's love story is so easy yet so complicated. It was compelling but at the same time disturbing. I remember this line from Ed Sheeran's song Thinking Out Loud,

"And I'm thinking 'bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways
Maybe it's all part of a plan..."

It was a strange way to fall in love. But in some ways, it also feels right. The only thing lacking about A is a physical body... but the rest -- the character, the emotions, the imperfections that make a person "human"... they're all there. It may look like a case of unconditional love at first, but when you look closely, it was unrequited love. In the book, Rhiannon would often reply A's "I love you" with another "I love you", but I didn't actually feel the words were heartfelt -- a stark contrast as to how A would normally say those words which always sincere and true. Perhaps in Rhiannon's point of view, it was a a set-up that were both difficult and hard to believe. Perhaps, she was just overwhelmed with A's engulfing love.

Maybe in a parallel universe, things like this happen. Maybe things like this is just normal. Things like the story of A and Rhiannon. It is an odd but beautiful masterpiece from Levithan. Something that is worth thinking about. So I guess it's just right to give it 9 cups of latte out of 10. ^^






Note:
If you wanna check out my colleague's own take on the novel, visit this site: 
Everybody's Every day 
Great blog! ^^




Thursday, October 9, 2014

Miracle in Cell No. 7 ~ film review

By Love Esios

Miracle in Cell No. 7 movie poster
(image taken from Wikipedia)
Whenever I watch films, I always make sure that my mind is really set to understand and appreciate the film I am about to see. I have always tried to strike a balance between  noticing the technicalities of the film and allowing my emotions to rule all over my entirety. Watching this film has surpassed all expectations I have for a certified tearjerker. The effect it gave me was more than the sobs and continuous tears I shed not to mention the occasional remark of "Grabe!" in between the scenes.

Most of you reading this blog might have already seen the movie, and so I will just give a very short detail of its summary. It's about a mentally challenged father who is trying to raise his six-year old daughter despite his condition. Eventually, he was wrongfully accused of a crime he didn't really commit and eventually was sentenced to death penalty. The story was quite focused on how the father coped with his life inside the cell and how the daughter, with the help of his cell mates, was able to get inside the cell. Though this movie made my eyes all swollen and puffy, I can't really give this movie two thumbs up. I'll tell you why.

Firstly, this movie resembles another American movie that truly touched my heart --- I am Sam. There's no mistaking the brilliant performances of Sean Penn and Dakota Fanning in that film, which I can't help but compare to Ryu Seung-ryong (the actor who played the mentally challenged father Lee Yong-gu) and Kal So-won (the child who played the young Ye-sung). Secondly, I felt that the story wasn't really realistic. The court drama scenes and the scene where the child was able to sneak in the cell without the authorities noticing it were quite unreal. Probably, the writer wanted to focus more on a father's love to his daughter and how everything can have meaning when there's love around us. I must say that this movie appeals more on the emotions... never-mind the technicalities of the film... still it captured the hearts of the many people who watched it.

Despite the mediocrity of the story, the cast proved to be fitting for their respective roles. I must applaud Ryu Seung-ryong and the child actress Kal So-Won for their award-winning performances. I also love the supporting cast of the film. I think it's safe to say that a movie can truly stand on its own if you have capable actors in both the major and supporting roles. I've always admired the way Koreans prepare, characterize and embody their characters. The facial expression, the body language and even the way they think... just awesome preparation! That's no easy! Lastly, I love the use of the popular cartoon series Sailor Moon as a a very significant symbolism all throughout the film. It has become a reminder of justice that was not serve the first time and justice that was difficult to get but was eventually granted the second time in the film.

Well, with no further adieu, let me give this movie 7/10 espresso shots!





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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

"Pusong Walang Pag-ibig" ~ Reaksiyon sa Nobela

ni Uel Ceballos

Taon na rin ang nakalilipas ng huli kong mabasa ang nobelang "Pusong Walang Pag-ibig" ni Roman G. Reyes. Hiniram ko lamang ang librong ito sa isang kaibigan kung kaya naman hindi ko na mabalik-balikan ulit ang istorya. Subalit naging labis ang epekto ng librong ito sa akin na naging dahilan upang lumikha ako ng liham para sa aking kaibigan kasabay ng pagsasauli ko sa kanya ng  aklat. Ang akdang ito ay isa mga babasahing nakabasag sa aking damdamin at nakapagpagising ng aking kamalayan sa mga bagay-bagay na nangyayari sa ating paligid.

Sa paghahalungkat ko ng mga lumang gamit nakita kong muli ang kopya ng liham na ibinigay ko sa aking kaibigan. Ang liham ay naglalaman ng aking kabuuang reaksiyon tungkol sa aklat, kung kaya hayaan niyong ipahatid ko ang aking review sa pamamagitan ng paglalathala dito ng aking ginawang sulat taong 2006.

Abril 11, 2006

Kaibigang Jen,

Kay bigat naman sa kalooban ng naging katapusan ng "Pusong Walang Pag-ibig" ni Roman G. Reyes. Anong tagal kong hinintay na masaksihan ang pagbabago ni Ikeng at ang tuluyang ikababago ng kanyang buhay, maanong makapamuhay muna siya ng matiwasay kasama ang kanyang asawa't anak subalit iyo'y ipinagkait sa kanya ng may-akda. Sumisikip tuloy ang aking dibdib dahil sa nobelang napagtagumpayan kong masaksihan. Hindi yata makabubuti sa aking puso ang makapagbasa ng lalong makapagyayaman ng lungkot sa naghihinagpis kong kalooban. Kagagaling ko lamang sa hospital at ang kabilin-bilinan sa aki'y humanap ako ng mga bagay na aking ikagagalak.

Ang nobelang ito'y sumasalamin sa kapanahunang hindi na arok ng ating henerasyon. Labis ang aking pagkabalintuna habang kinakaibigan ang bawat pahina ng aklat sapagkat muli kong nalakbay ang mundong pinanggalingan ng ating panahon. Sa paglalakbay ko sa akdang ito'y nanariwa sa aking isipan ang mga kulturang may kulay man din na maituturing ay bitak na lamang sa ating kasaysayan. Labis ang aking pagkaantig sa mga tauhang naging biktima ng pananamantala't kaliluhan. Naantig talaga ang aking damdamin sa sinapit ng kapalaran ng ama ni Loleng na si Matandang Tikong gayundin sa mag-asawang Mang Simon at Aling Tolang na hindi man lamang ginantihan ni Enrique ng kabutihang-loob.

Aking naramdaman kung gaanong pag-asa ang tinatanaw ng mga taga-lalawigan sa pakikipagsapalaran sa Maynila. At ang digmaan! Nagpupuyos ang damdamin kong hindi maapula ng malamig na ice tea na aking iniinom ng mga sandaling iyon sa bahagi ng paglalarawan ni Reyes sa daloy ng sigalot sa kabayanan ng "B". Anong pagdadalamhati nga naman ang iyong mararamdaman sa sukat ikapigil ng iyong hininga dahil sa pag-anib ng iyong mag-aama sa himagsikan. Ano kaya ang ating gagawin kung itinadhanang maging kaisa tayo sa mga iyon?

Jen, maraming salamat sa pagpapahiram mo ng aklat na ito. Maraming aral ka ditong mapupulot, mga liksiyon na maaring nakapamilaylay lamang sa bawat salita't pangungusap at naghihintay lamang maisapuso ng isang taimtim na pagninilay.

Jen, tayo'y mga bagong tao na bumabagtas ngayon sa pinakamatinik na landas ng ating kapanahunan. Huwag mong isawalambahala ang ganitong uri ng nobela, sapagkat mahalagang mawatas natin ang haba ng panahong nagdaan bago natin makamit ang aral ng kasaysayan...






Monday, September 29, 2014

Begin Again ~ Film Review

by: Uel Ceballos

The moment I heard Gretta (Keira Knightley) sang in the beginning of the movie, all melancholy and on the verge of her tears, I'd sensed that I would love this movie from start to finish. I wasn’t wrong. Begin Again was as positive as its title implied. What could be any better than standing up again after a fall? Picking the pieces of you and putting them together was something to inspire you from this movie.

The musicality of the film served as its main lifeblood. With the superb soundtracks and soulful voices of the casts, one could never resist the promising musical experiences that it had to offer. Not to mention the successful chemistry of the leads, Begin Again would make for everybody’s favorite musical drama.

The screenplay was fairly written with no blasting twist or heart-stopping climax, but it delivered a clear plot that was both smile-engaging and dream-inspiring. Mark Ruffalo played his role effectively as a drunkard record label executive, with his dreamy eyes always on the lookout for a potential artist. However, this was the main problem because Dan Mulligan (Ruffalo) hasn’t signed any new artists from the past seven years – and he was now sacked from the music label that he co-founded. Portraying the loser guy and the struggling drunkard, Mark Ruffalo hit it with his combo words and sluggish eyes. So wasted was his appearance that Gretta wasn’t convinced at once that this guy could make her into a star. Keira Knightley did a great job, wearing the character of simplicity as she played Dave Kohl (Adam Levine) girlfriend and songwriter. Adam on his part, I could say that he still got more than what he'd shown nonetheless his performance wasn't bad at all; his charisma was so compelling that his presence counted for those awe-inspiring moments in the film. <3

Aside from its deeply moving music, Begin Again had with it the kind of story that pulled the heartstrings of its audiences. Despite the anticipated fate of a drunkard musician (Dan) and a plain and simple songwriter (Gretta) with a celebrated singer boyfriend, the way they dealt with their mishaps made all the differences. These two lost souls crossed their path and started making a beautiful music together. One would wonder if in the midst of this music creation, a much deeper relationship has developed. Now that would be something to look into. :) 

Begin Again wasn’t just centered on the musical exhibition of its singing casts. It touched as well the theme on family and parenting, which made the film all the more successful for its romantic-comedy, musical drama approach. It wasn’t just about realizing and holding on to your dreams but it also spoke of family responsibility. This film had everything on it to line among the feel-good, soul stirring movies of the year – plus Adam Levine casting certainly added lavish charms on it!

For this film as gorgeous as its casts and soundtracks, 8 Espresso Shots!





Friday, September 26, 2014

A film that tastes so good ~ Chef (2014) Film Review

by: Uel Ceballos

It’s been a while that I didn’t come up with a good light-hearted film as Chef. For the recent weeks I’ve been suffering from heartbreaking and nervous breaking down TV series and films – and I was kind of ‘caught in the trap’ since I couldn’t stop until I finished it.

Finally, here came the Chef that knocked the tightness in me; and sent me drooling in front of the screen as I watched the delectable dishes that Chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) was doing. This movie was a potential sadistic as it got you wedged on your seat while you were dying on the scrumptious foods that you wished you could grab and eat.

Chef – a 2014 American comedy-drama film that was about a professional chef who got into an internet war with an influential food critic Ramsey Michael played by Oliver Platt. It was a simple but effective film with clear plot and effortless wits. Chef was the kind of movie wherein you wouldn’t care so much about racking your brain with confusing characters and web-tangled sequences. Rather you’d be delighted with the story of a passionate Chef who wanted to do nothing else in life but to cook; kitchen has been his true home and he wanted to share this passion with his young son who seemed to show the same interest in cooking. The cooks in the movie, the line cook Martin (John Leguizamo) with his winsome Spanish and the sous chef Tony (Bobby Cannavale) with his charming appeal, were both adorable in their chef’s suit while playing as Carl’s friends. Hard to ignore as well, were my ever favorite actor Dustin Hoffman who played here as owner of the restaurant where Carl worked, and Robert Downey Jr, whose appearance was quite quick and short but indeed a whole lot seconds of awesomeness! 

Aside from the mouth-watering food presentation, another highlight of this film was the impact of internet to someone’s career and public image. The sub-context was very timely as people nowadays got to grasp fully the power of social media and on how it could be utilized to enforce a social media war. Carl got into this internet warfare with Ramsey who’d been writing bad publicity about Carl’s food. Carl was certainly hurt by all these negative write ups that he made a verbal assault to Ramsey one night in the restaurant where Carl was working. This of course was recorded by the other customers in the restaurant; you know that initial instinct of the people when they witnessed such a scene that was worth getting into the news, suddenly they turned into a reporter who recorded everything in their phone camera. You got to see what happened to Carl after that evening. Indeed that was something to take note of and to keep in mind all the time.

The laid back soundtracks which were mixed Latin jazz and blues made the movie more appealing. This film was really for you if you’d up for some good laugh and relaxing moment. Much more if you were the foodie kind of person who’d be always curious about how the appetizing dishes were done. Just avoid watching this film with empty stomach because you’d fail to control your appetite. Oh well, you’d not pass anyway, I was full when I watched it but I ended wanting some Cuban sandwich right after J


So there, 7 Cuban Espresso shots for Chef Carl! 


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Like Father, Like Son ~ Film Review

by: Uel Ceballos

What will you do if after six years, you find out that your child has been swapped in the hospital with the other couple’s child? Would the blood matters rather than the six years that you’ve spent with the child whom all years you thought was your own?

“Like Father Like Son” is a deeply moving Japanese film that tells the stories of two different families whose lives became interconnected through a single incident that happened way back. It took them six years to find out that their sons were exchanged intentionally by an insecure nurse and now they are faced with a crucial decision which they have to make as early as possible. Upon finding this out they are threatened by the possible damages that can be incurred to the children and to them, the parents; who are now quite torn about swapping the children again or leaving everything as they are.

More than the consideration of the legal matters, the Nonomiya and Saiki families are much more concerned about the best possible decision that they could make for their children. Giving the children back to their real parents isn’t the best action to do, though it’s considered to be the first main solution. Nonomiya and Saiki are different in status and lifestyle, the first one may be greater in financial capability, but the second one is far more capable in giving time for the family. While Saiki Yudai, a storekeeper is able to give all the time in the world just to play and bond with his sons, the facts can’t be denied that he needs to strive harder to feed his big family. Nonomiya Ryota on the other hand, earns more than enough as a hard-working architect but his time is often constrained to works, leaving his wife and son often alone at their home. Ryota and Yudai are two different fathers who both love their children to bits, but have different ways of raising them. Now they are both caught into a situation that compels them to begin another new process of fatherhood to the real son that they have never been with for six long years.

Like Father Like Son is a richly emotional film that ponder about the hardest but one of the most important job in the world -- parenthood. When do you really become a parent? Is it by blood solely? Is the tie that is connecting the child to its parents mainly refers to the blood relation? And when you found out that there’s really no connection at all, would that make your parents-child relationship any less despite the years that you’ve spent together? This film explores the parents-child relationship to the extent of going beyond the blood and flesh border.

The children’s slow adaptation to their new home environment after six years of being with another family is definitely out of question. We can’t blame their innocent mind from getting confused on why they are being sent by their parents to another couple’s house – and on why they are finding it hard to grasp the idea that the parents who raised them are not their real parents at all. But despite the child’s tight grip to his old lifestyle (including the family he has grown with), he still grows more and more alike to his parents, particularly to the physical aspects. This is both apparent to the two children – Keita and Ryuusei who grow with great resemblance to their real father -- proving only that one can never deny where he has come from. However, Keita and Ryuusei have also acquired some traits from the man who has raised them, showing as well that loving the person you live with is all enough to grow more like him., maybe not in physical but in emotional and thinking aspects.

This film is undeniably beautiful with its abundant depiction of love and family’s common struggles. “Like Father Like Son” is a sweet and heart-warming expression of love that makes a relationship without blood connection at all, grow way deeper than the one that has.

9 Espresso Shots for this Palm D'Or nominated film. Salute to all the fathers out there! Cheers!


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Top 10 Best Movies That I Have Seen So Far (mid-year: Jan-May 2014)

by: Benj Ramos

2014 has been an exciting year for movies. The first quarter kicked in with some films from the Oscars (American Hustle, 12 Years A Slave, Her), book adaptations ( Snowpiercer, Divergent, Diary ng Panget, ABNKKBSNPLako, Heaven is for Real), and sequels ( Rio 2, Amazing Spider-Man 2, X-Men DOFP).

Pinoy films are also rockin' the big screen, and local indies too. In just 5 months I have seen 33 movies which is crazy and expensive. I wanna share with you my list of the best films that I have seen so far this year. Personal biases included:

10. DIARY NG PANGET - Andoy Ranay


This is the only local film that made it to my midyear list. FYI, so far this film is in the top 5 highest grossing Pinoy film of 2014 to date (Wikipedia). This wattpad story adaptation is surprisingly funny. The kilig moments are not forced even though there wasn't enough time for the characters to develop. It stays committed until book 3, which is also the Wattpad releases. And Nadine Lustre looks like Kathryn Bernardo. In the battle of cliches, DNP is way better than ABNKKBSNPLAko (2013) which is also from Viva. Pinoy book adaptation is now becoming a trend because of the positive response from the Filipino audience, hence the upcoming She's Dating A Gangster and Lumayo Ka Nga Sa Akin. 





9. GRAND PIANO - Eugenio Mira



Just like a concerto piece, this movie is a continuous rising and falling of suspense. The scenes are mostly happening in real time and it'll keep you on the edge of your seat all throughout this thrilling yet entertaining film. I love the Hitchcock-esque feel of this seemingly Phonebooth meets Speed in a concert hall film. Thanks for this movie now I can tell who is Elijah Wood and who is the Harry Potter guy. Elijah makes a good hand actor because of the choreography of his fingers dancing at the top of the piano keys. The cinematography is stylish. You wouldn't forget the ending. When I saw it, I was like, what the heck just happened??






8. DIVERGENT - Neil Burger

You just can't convert a book and compress it in a 2-hour movie, so do not expect it to be identical with the book. Just like Hunger Games, this is one of my favorite dystopian stories on screen. The world was created that is visually appealing. For non reader like me, the movie is easy to follow and well explained. From the beginning till the end I was hooked. Pacing is just fine, compelling and action packed with some intense scenes. Before Hazel Grace and Augustus became lovers in The Fault in our Stars, they were siblings in this movie. I know right? In some moments I was thinking about incest. Nonetheless Shailene Woodley (as Tris) makes a perfect feminist role model while Theo James (as Four) strains masculinity and strength. 





7. NON STOP - Jaume Collet-Sera



It's not like Taken, but it's still great. This Liam Neeson thriller will blow you away. With a great classic mystery plot, the film will keep you guessing right up to the end. It has a plot with so many twists and surprises which keeps every scene intense and interesting. I have seen so many crashing airplane movies and this one's skyrockets to one of my favorites. And yes, Lupita Nyong'o was there. I was so tired when the movie was over.











6. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 1-Marc Webb 



SPOILER ALERT. I haven't seen Sam Raimis trilogy so no bias or comparison considered when I watched Webb's. Somehow, Andrew Garfield's reboot stays committed to the comics. Villains are very good. The visual effects and the fight scenes are awesome plus the soundtrack is a killer. Very seldom we see multiple villains in a superhero film thus triple treat for Spidey fans out there. I kinda felt sympathetic to Electro though. And then, Harry reminds me of the young Leo DiCaprio. The movie's action and humor stood out. Sad ending for Emma Stone. My heart broke. 







5. SAVING MR BANKS - John Lee Hancock



Sometimes what happens behind the cam would make just as interesting as what happens in front of the cam. This Oscar snub shows the dark story behind "Mary Poppins". Truly a great funny, touching and sad movie. I'll never look at Mary Poppins the same way again. Got teary eyed watching this. Tom Hanks did a brilliant performance as Walt Disney. I also enjoyed the end credits while they played the actual audio tape recording of Ms. Traverse and Mr Disney's convo.









4. THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL - Wes Anderson



Flawless is an understatement to describe this Pink Panther-ish film. I love the style and cinematography. This multi-layered film is a mix of funny, smart, violent, exciting and ridiculous scenes. Settings are visually stunning.













3. X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST - Bryan Singer



Definitely a must watch. It's a great entertainment and was even better than expected. Great to see old and new faces come together in a movie. Magneto is such a brilliant character. That slow-mo kitchen scene with Quicksilver is my favorite. That's how you do Quicksilver right. Just an observation, if the Sentinels were created in the 70's why weren't they ever mentioned or shown in the first X-Men series?










2. THE LEGO MOVIE - Phil Lord and Christopher Miller



The animation is amazing. It is so good you can hardly tell if it's CGI or stop motion. Or could be entirely CGI but they made it look like a stop motion. I love how the special effects are made with lego fire and water. I was so pumped because everything was awesome. Thanks for this unique experience, now my childhood is haunting me.











1. SNOWPIERCER - Bong Joon-Ho



You can never go wrong with Korean film makers. Horror, suspense, drama and even comedy, they are excellent in their craft. This film is probably the most underrated movie of the year. Fantastic concept which makes it kinda weird. The subtext is superb -- politics, ego, fear, nature, entertainment, human nature, class system. Intelligent and entertaining with scenes that will make you say, "WTF is that??!". Great acting from Chris Evans. It's like Hunger Games inside a train.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Hitting the right key to survive ~ Grand Piano Film Review

by: Uel Ceballos

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/
3/38/Grand_Piano_Official_Poster.jpg
The Grand Piano with its empowering title, main cast and music involving plot, brings out the great level of expectation from its audience. This 2013 Spanish thriller film has captured my attention for two reasons. First, is because of Elijah Wood whom I last saw in Eternal Sunshine in the Spotless Mind. The last movie I remember where he was the main cast was LOTR and I really miss seeing him again in the centre of scenarios (haven’t checked yet his other film that followed after LOTR which mostly were in thriller genres). Second, is because the film speaks about music, particularly piano music and I’m looking forward to great exhibition of music craft here like what I witnessed from Hilary and Jackie and La Vie En Rose.

The film had established a good start, with the mystery gradually foreshadowing along. Characters are building up eventually along the film, with the significant details carefully left out to spice the twist on the latter part. As a coming back concert pianist who has been on the hiatus of his career for five years, Tom Selznick played by Elijah Wood represents a man who is still haunted by his tormenting past. Again, Elijah Wood’s wide eloquent eyes served him to his advantage of better portraying the required role, and this time as woeful musician Tom Selznick, who keeps denying about being haunted, but in fact sweating extremely through his tux even before he gets on the stage to hit a key. The reason
 for that emotionally-suffering behaviour exhibited by Tom is brought out in the limelight, one piece at a time through the character of Clem played by John Cussack.

The use of powerful music to backdrop a sophisticated thriller is close to a perfect suspense film execution. As Tom goes to the piano and gets ready his music sheet, there amidst the black and white notes handwritten the phrase, “play one wrong note and you die”. From there the spine tingling adventure begins as Tom performs his piece, quiet confused of what’s going on and why somebody is suddenly posing a threat against him and his wife.

Elijah Wood is undeniably a good actor, doing Tom Selznick role as if he was really born for it. He had done well to appear like he could really play the piano professionally. One of the hardest challenges for an actor is to do the role of a virtuoso and act exactly like one, the hardest pressure is laid in imitating that person as he delivers his trade, especially when that trade falls under the category of arts and performing. But Elijah had excelled himself here as the once celebrated musician who is now doing a concert comeback with the ghost of the past still clinging on his back.

However, it’s rare for a film to go without a single flaw (that’s quite normal), and this film got some palpable failings with regard to its story line which I believe is all films’ valuable backbone. Tom’s part is clear and well established, while Clem’s was not. The intention for threatening Tom Selznick’s life is vaguely established, and though John Cusack’s performance is sure-fire effective (with 90% of his character’s part on the film is presented only by his voice over), his character was weakly developed. That though Clem’s has mentioned something about his personal attachment/relations to the music, particularly to the unplayable “La Cinquette” piece which he forced Tom to play, in the end Clem appeared nothing but a psychopath music lover who trespassed a concert and mentally torture the concert artist before he finally decide to shoot him. The acts of Clem in threatening Tom while the latter is performing onstage could be more intriguing and effective if the motivation behind that is made clear and well developed. Nonetheless, the film was strangely appealing, with the grandeur music embedding the thrilling scenarios of Tom playing (instead of running) for his life. So there, for this classy kind of thriller let’s cheer on it with 7 Espresso Shots!


Saturday, April 26, 2014

...and I love HER... (Film Review)

by Love Esios

Ever imagined how the future might look like with all the technological advances designed to make our lives convenient? Everything is easily accessible, everything is functional not with a snap of your fingers, but with the sound of your voice. No need to write emails, no need to see the news, and perhaps in most instances, no need to go out and feel the weather outside. You just speak most of the time to a piece of metal but there is no real interpersonal communication because you constantly interact night and day with...say... an operating system. Uh-huh. You read that right. A relationship with an OS. Okay, let me make that clear, a romantic relationship with an OS. Insane? Well, that's what I thought while watching this film by Spike Jonze who, by the way, bagged the Oscar's Best Original Screenplay earlier this year for this film.

One thing I like about this movie is that it explores the social problems being encountered by the people in the age of modernization and technological breakthroughs while perhaps losing in touch with reality and human interaction. In the movie, we saw how a heartbroken guy basically turned to technology in the hope to save himself from his distress, which I think most of us (if not all) often do when we are down or depressed. We take all our frustrations to social media with the use of... yes... the internet! There is even a moment in the film when he excused himself from his friends just to spend time talking to his OS. Strange but with the rate things are going in the present, the scenario presented in the film might actually take place in the future!

To give you a quick overview of the film, the story revolves around the life of Theodore Twombly, a guy who works as a professional writer of letters for people who can't seem to write heartfelt letters themselves. It would be eventually shown that he's very lonely and is also dealing with a falling apart with her wife which leads to divorce. Eventually, he would discover and purchase a highly-intelligent operating system that can practically provide him with ALL of his needs.

I like how Spike Jonze gave life to his (human) characters. How they deal with the same emotional turmoil every day and how, in many ways, they turn to technology for comfort. The concept of the story is not actually new to most of us, but the way it was written and acted out in the film left me feeling amused, stricken, odd, confused and hanging all at the same time. I also like how the setting came to play in the movie. Unlike other tech/romance-based movies, the setting was not very futuristic for me but I somehow enjoy looking at the pinkish color schemes surrounded by a bland society of people who enjoy using their gadgets 24/7 than actually interacting with each other.
Theodore and Amy

I want to commend Joaquin Phoenix for masterfully portraying a grief-stricken Theodore Twombly. Amy Adams, who portrayed the character Amy (yes, the same name), also gave a strong supporting role. I actually like the fact that she didn't appear pretty and fabulous in this film (which is going to be irrelevant if so, I know). And how can I forget the voice behind the strong-willed and intelligent OS that named itself Samantha...the excellent participation of Scarlett Johansson in the film. Her voice was full of sincerity, intelligence, humor and hope that probably if the said OS actually exists, it would definitely be sold out in just a few hours. To be honest, I almost thought and actually hope that in the end, the voice would come alive and just like how fairy tales end, they would live happily ever after. But then again, happy ever after don't actually exist, do they?

I would've given it a perfect espresso shot rating if not for the vague ending of the story. But I won't discount the fact that this movie is worthy of it's nomination and recognition in the recently-concluded Oscars. 

So, an 8/10 espresso shot will do for this movie. Enjoy! ;)




Note: All photos grabbed from Google Images. All credits to the owners of the photos.





Friday, March 21, 2014

The Giver ~ Review

by: Uel Ceballos

Can you imagine a place where there’s no real pain, no hunger, no chaos, no war – yes, a place with nothing of the scariest things in human life? None of the ugliest and heartbreaking things but no colours as well, no sunshine, no emotions, and no concept of LOVE. Can you imagine a place like that? Of course not, but Lois Lowry did.

The Giver is a children’s novel written by Lois Lowry with seemingly utopia contextual at the beginning but appearing otherwise as the story proceeds.  Quite easy to comprehend with uncomplicated sequences despite the series of flashbacks in the story, The Giver is a powerful soft science fiction that challenges the reader’s imagination. The novel’s descriptiveness is sharp and crisp that you would almost see the place and the characters in your mind’s eyes in its colourless state as the writer depicts it – gloomy, pallid, but peaceful and trouble-free.

From appearing like the ideal kind of community and eventually turning to be a dystopian, Lois Lowry has commendably built the safety reassurances within the community that she has presented in the book, only to deconstruct it with the series of revelations that Jonas (the lead character) will be experiencing along his training.

In this community of Sameness, everything is in its proper order and balances in able to protect the people from its community’s terrible past. All things are controlled and well monitored but not for the sake of only few people’s but for the full benefits of all in the community. From population to education, food distribution, career, marrying, and starting a family, all are taken cared in systematic process. However, with all the orderliness and pain-free characteristics of their community, there is one person who doesn’t agree with the current system, not because he finds it not beneficial, but rather because he knows that with all these sameness or manipulated balances, it all results to the lack of other far more significant things. This person is The Receiver of Memories who knows the memories of their community decades ago, back and back and back. Now he’s going to turn over the task to Jonas, a twelve years old lad who’s starting to take on his responsibility like all the other kids of his age with their respective tasking. Some of Jonas co-twelve is being trained to be a scientist, doctor, nurse of olds, birthmother, assistance director of recreation and other else. But Jonas, he is given with the most honoured job, of which handled by the current Receiver for quite a long time now because there’s no one fitted to be trained until Jonas came.

With Jonas training comes various revelations and events, of which Jonas must handle with courage and enough strength. The Giver is delivered in such a manner that it would make you marvel on that fictional world that exists within the primary or real world. Lois Lowry is such a genius to instil on the readers the pros and cons of both the ideas of utopia and dystopia, without getting blatant and manipulative over the inculcation of the both concepts.

However, not as conspicuous as it may be but the book is still eloquent enough for readers to grasp the idea that the novel is trying to bring into them. "The Giver" is trying to achieve certain influential effect towards what idea and for whatever purpose, only the writer knows. But that is solely left and depended on the way the reader would percept and interpret the novel. For certain the novel, as the revelation of memories brings Jonas to a life-changing decision, is also aiming the same for its readers.