Gone Girl: Movie Review

gone-girl-filmI’ve actually been holding out watching the Gone Girl movie until after I’ve finished the book but because my almost all of my friends have already seen it and I didn’t want to spoil myself from listening to their discussions, I decided to give in and watch the film on video. After seeing it, might I just say that I am wrung out like a dishrag — emotionally and intellectually drained from experiencing this film but I am completely blown away by the brilliance of the plot.

On their fifth wedding anniversary, former New York journalist and current bar owner Nick Dunn (Ben Affleck) finds his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) missing with telltale signs of intrusion in their house. He immediately calls the police to investigate the “suspicious circumstances.” Unfortunately for Nick, he becomes the prime suspect in his wife’s disappearance and his actions serve only to incriminate him further with each day that Amy is not found. With Amy’s disappearance becoming fodder for the national media, Nick finds each aspect of his life scrutinized, and his imperfect marriage placed under a microscope.

I’ve already said that this film is brilliant and I’ll say it again. It is. BRILLIANT. This movie adapted from a Gillian Flynn crime thriller was the perfect basis for a film of this magnitude. First, it unravels like layers of an onion, there’s Amy’s perspective, delivered from her journal entries. And then there’s Nick’s side, which is depicted in increments of days from when Amy started to go missing.

The best part about the approach is that the film initially charms the audience into caring for the couple, in a sense get to know them and care about them. In so doing, it manages to get audiences to worry about Amy, and about Nick as he makes one wrong move after another. Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike couldn’t have played their parts any better and they embodied their characters to a T.

Without having to give too much away, the uniqueness of this film lies in its ability to engage the audience emotionally — each scene seems to be dangling a clue right in front of the noses of the viewers which compels them to feel the frustration of the characters. The movie also engages them emotionally because the characters are so flawed and relatable that people will be compelled to root for them to get through whatever their issues are at certain points of the film. The film was intelligently written. The first half of the movie alone would have been the end of any other movie but Gone Girl went the extra mile and proceeded to shock audiences even further by the extent of what bitterness, deceit and even love can push a person to do. In a way, the film employed the same strategy as Amy in its presentation and it worked out just as well with every aspect of the execution. It just succeeds in pulling out the rug beneath the audience’s feet every single time.

All in all, director David Fincher truly did the book justice and for her part, author Gillian Flynn did even better adopting her work to a screenplay. Its an exploration of every single marriage cliche, but twisted into a dark and sinister take on control, trust and fear and what these can do to a relationship. This is a film that needs to be seen to be appreciated and it calls for a great big kudos to everyone involved. I just can’t say enough good words. I am overwhelmed.

Kingsman: The Secret Service Movie Review

Kingsman:The Secret ServiceQuite frankly, I have never heard of British spy action comic book Kingsman:The Secret Service created by Kickass writer Mark Millar before I learned that it was going to be adapted into a movie. When I saw the trailer, I was immediately intrigued by the concept of a group of well mannered (and impeccably dressed) super spies who kick ass and save the world without even breaking a sweat. Sure, James Bond has done it for years but the level of coolness under pressure these guys have is out of this world. No matter what, I was confident that it was going to be a bunch of fun.

Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is a twenty something ne’er too well still living with his mom and abusive stepdad in the poor districts of London. Despite being blessed with great intelligence and talent, he has always found himself unable to accomplish anything in life because he is held back by his love for his mother and baby sister. As a result, he hangs around with  his fellow ne’er do wells and finds himself in trouble more often than not. As he is faced by the possibility of going to jail for pulling a stunt against a gang of bullies, he calls a secret number, entrusted to him by a mysterious man (Colin Firth) when he was little. The next thing he knows, he is recruited to train for the very same secret spy organizations that his dad was part of, a group which dates back centuries whose task is to protect the world from evil megalomaniacs like billionaire Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson), and his plan to start a new world order with himself in charge.

Director Matthew Vaughn (Kick Ass, X-Men: First Class) did a great job adapting another Mark Millar creation. At the beginning, it felt a bit campy especially with all the theatrical musical scoring that marked milestones in the film. As it progressed, it got campier. It got more over the top. It got even more unbelievable. And I enjoyed every single moment of it.

What I loved about the film was the general sense of fun that it delivered. It was  British cast and it involved mainly British humor. Heck, half the time, I couldn’t even understand what was said, but the film had the ability to project a certain vibe that made everything seem cool and interesting, blending the funny and the serious and of course delivering in spades when it came to the action part. The script was good, the banter was great and it was paced to well to distribute the scenes in the two hour long movie in the best way.

I loved the rapport between Taron Egerton and Colin Firth, especially because their characters were polar opposites. Same with Taron and Mark Strong, who thankfully does not portray a villain this time. I like the mentor and protege relationship between the characters. The filmmakers played their cards right by establishing early on how the death of Eggsy’s dad affected him and Henry. In a sense, it contributed to the sense of empathy that audiences could feel for him and the affinity he feels for both men, who are not exactly brimming with sharing their feelings.

The action sequences were awesome and at times, it felt like a bit like a cross between Kill Bill and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It managed to become both heart pounding and hilarious at the same time. It was golden.

All in all, my only complaint about the film is that Colin Firth would no longer be part of the planned sequel. Otherwise, it was entertaining as heck and managed to become one of the most enjoyable films I’ve seen this year.

The Rape of Winterfell: My thoughts on Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken GoT S05E06

Game of Thrones Unbowed Unbent UnbrokenI’m quite puzzled why fans of Game of Thrones are up in arms against the show for implying (because the scene was not at all graphic) the rape of Sansa Stark in the hands of Ramsay Bolton, the despicable bastard of Roose Bolton. Yes, the same Roose Bolton who betrayed the Northerners at the Red Wedding.

Actually, the approach to the scene was quite good. The team didn’t employ an in your face approach  but rather made it subtle, focusing instead on Theon’s reaction to underscore just how disturbing Ramsay’s attack against his new bride was.

Fans have used social media to sound off about their dismay  about this development. Many have even threatened to be done with the show because of what happened to “Poor Sansa.”

But on the other hand, one has got to think — why would they be shocked that Ramsay Bolton, who has never once committed one act of kindness to any single character — the same Ramsay who took great pains torturing and killing the innocents, the same Ramsay Bolton who killed off his lovers and made sports out of them for being “boring” — would commit such a sadistic act against Sansa Stark, a lady of noble lineage, that considering a different circumstance, one who is way beyond his reach?

On the one hand, I do get what the fuss is about. Rape is a sensitive subject and one that should not be taken lightly. But given the context of the show… considering the depth of the source material, I don’t think that it was shocking at all. It was bound to happen because that’s the type of books The Song of Ice and Fire Series is.

Rather than look at this as a tragedy or a setback, I actually think this is a positive step for the series. Now, Sansa will be more motivated to exact her revenge, and I can’t wait to see the Boltons suffer under her hands. One thing fans have to consider is that this is a show where women command dragons and conquer cities. This is a show where women fight just as good as the men (although the Sand Snakes kind of underwhelmed me this time). This is a show where women scheme and manipulate and become queens. This is a show where women shun everything to avenge their loved ones.

Valar Morghulis. And the Stark girls have every intention to make good on this promise. Just stick around and wait.

Para sa Hopeless Romantic: Movie Review

Para-Sa-Hopeless-Romantic-poster-released-460x280Third time’s the charmed for director Andoy Ranay’s collaboration with love team Nadine Lustre and James Reid. In yet aother wattpad inspired film, this team finally managed to find the perfect balance of romance, drama, and surrealism to end up with a movie that is relateable and realistic, thanks to author Marcelino Santos III, who penned the novel in which the movie was based. (Note: He also makes a cameo in the movie as the school paper editor)

Becca (Nadine Lustre) is an embittered college student who writes sad love stories for her university paper because she has yet to move on from her break up with her first love Nicco (James Reid) five years ago. She writes about characters like Ryan (Inigo Pascual) and Maria (Julia Barretto), whose love is doomed from the start because of her own experience with love. But as fate would have it, just as she is about to move on and take another chance with an anonymous stranger who exchanges notes with her on her school desk, her path crosses with Nicco anew and it seems Nicco is still hung up on her as well.

From the moment I heard about this movie, I was immediately psyched about it. So much so that I even read the novel to check whether or not I would be disappointed with the story. Thankfully, Santos’s novel proved to be engaging and well worth the excitement.

I must admit that I’m a big fan of the Jadine loveteam mainly because there’s great chemistry between the two. Its true that the first two movies that featured them (Diary ng Panget and Talk Back and You’re Dead) were truly cringeworthy but it wasn’t because they lacked the acting chops or that  director Andoy Ranay failed as a director. I place the blame solely on the source materials that lacked substance and were truly farfetched to begin with (even for works of fiction) and screenwriters who did nothing to address the glaring loopholes that the novels presented.

With Hopeless Romantic, Jadine finally had the opportunity to work with a material that would challenge them to draw on their acting skills to depict portrayals that the audience could relate to on more than a superficial level. This time around, there was a more mature story that dealt with what real people dealt with in reality — heartbreak and how to move on from it. I’m glad to say that Jadine delivered. True, these two young stars are far from award winning level but with a bit more push and more experience, I’m sure they would further improve on their craft.

Jadine had to share the spotlight with another teen loveteam, showbiz legacies Ynigo Pascual and Julia Barretto but the film did a pretty good job in dividing the limelight between the two pairs. Inigo has improved in his acting and delivery compared to his first projects and Julia has good rapport with him. Most of the lighter moments were focused on the two and it seemed appropriate because they had a younger and more innocent vibe to them in the first place.

What I also liked about the movie was that screenwriter Mel Mendoza del Rosario slightly modified the story  to connect the stories of Nicco and Becca with that of Ryan and Maria — the notes, the eating, the seats, and the romantic montages gave the audience insight into what Becca was going through so that they don’t hate her for being bitter. In a way, it led to a greater understanding of her hurt and disillusionment, although she did tend to be overly bitter. What I liked however, was how the characters evolved as the story progressed. The Becca at the start of the movie was much different than the one at the end. Same goes for Nicco, and characters who evolve are always a good thing.

Great casting for the character of Jackie by the way, although chances are pretty slim that she will get her own spinoff movie like her literary counterpart did (Para sa Broken Hearted). Cherie Gil’s role as Miss Katigbak was short but sweet. As usual, whether light or heavy, Miss Cherie Gil always delivers on point performances that are worthy of note.

All in all, Para sa Hopeless Romantic was a pretty nice movie. It wasn’t overly deep nor overly shallow. It didn’t go overboard with the romance and gauged its actors’ ability with that of the audiences’ expectations to serve up something that is worthy to be seen on the big screen and write about. It wasn’t perfect, of course, cinematography and lighting could use some work (excessive use of close ups, but audiences seemed to like it), but in general, it was pretty solid. Its the type of movie I wouldn’t mind seeing again.

Avengers Age of Ultron: Movie Review

Avengers-Age-of-Ultron-PosterEver since the epic Avengers movie helmed by director Josh Whedon, which was by far, the best movie released by Marvel Studios IMHO, it comes as no surprise that fans of all ages have been waiting with bated breath for the sequel. This time around, however, instead of squaring off directly with Thanos as the Avengers aftercredit implied, the second film focused on the Ultron project, one of Tony Stark’s pet projects to beef up the Earth’s defenses against future threats.

After the Avengers successfully recovered Loki’s scepter from Hydra, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) convinces his buddy Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) to unravel its secrets in the hopes of harnessing its power for his Ultron project. Unknown to Tony, his compulsion was due to the influence of Wanda Maximoff, a woman with a unique gift for for warping reality. Wanda, along with her twin brother Pietro (who has the gift of extraordinary speed) are results of Hydra’s experiments (They joined the group because of a grudge against Tony Stark and the Avengers). Unfortunately, Stark’s good intentions backfire and Ultron literally takes a life of  his own. Now, the Avengers are left to deal with a super powerful self righteous AI set on annhilating the human race.

Avengers: Age of Ultron takes a very different approach from the first movie, despite having the same director. While the first movie was all about building rapport among a group of strong characters, the second movie seemed hell bent on destroying that rapport to build the tension for the future films. Whereas the first movie was all about comic book fun, the sequel took on a more serious route, delving into the characters’ deep seated internal issues, giving the viewers a glimpse into what makes them tick.

Its fairly difficult to balance out the star power in this movie, better yet juggle the entire thing with a very complicated plot that unfolded layer by layer. There was the part about Ultron, there was the introduction of new characters to the Avengers universe — Vision (Paul Bettany), Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). The film also had the task of setting up elements that would connect Age of Ultron to the next movies in the franchise. Scarlet Witch will appear in Captain America: Civil War. As will Tony Stark, while the Infinity Stones storyline could very well introduce a Guardians of the Galaxy crossover.

Some of the audience may get confused because the Maximoffs (Marvel fans know Pietro and Wanda as Magneto’s children) were represented not as mutants but rather as Hydra experiements nor were they referred to using their superhero names (this was due to licensing issues) but credit should be given to the casting of these new characters — I admit I had reservations about Aaron Taylor Johnson after Godzilla but he proved me wrong. The old cast also delivered on what the script called for. There was no competition for the spotlight. And that’s very cool especially this time around, Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) were given their fair share of limelight despite not having superpowers.

In terms of the story, there was a lot of drama involving the perception of what is right and doing what is right. The parallelisms between Stark and Ultron was one of the major conflicts of the film. Same thing with Thor and the Cap, which was further illustrated by Cap’s almost successful try to lift Mjolnir. In essence, it challenged audiences to look at the Avengers using a different lens — one the considers their flaws and imperfections. What’s good about the approach used by the movie was that it did not go overboard like they did with Man of Steel, so it didn’t bore the younger audiences to death.

What I’m trying to say is that filmmakers did a marvelous job of balancing out all of these considerations to make a movie that works. Its totally crazy — the amount of character build up, the set up for the Avengers expansion team, the battle scenes (my favorite was Hulk vs Iron Man), and of course, the ultimate signature scene with the Avengers theme music. Considering, the final battle scene was almost identical to the New York scene in the first movie, except instead of being swarmed by Chitauri, they were being overwhelmed by hundreds of Ultron mini mes. And yet, despite or because of the familiarity, it felt right.

My mind was totally blown by the amount of fan service this movie provided. I was feeling totally overwhelmed while watching the film, as a matter of fact, there were tons of easter eggs littered all over the movie which could keep fans busy (and happy) for days, weeks, months and maybe years ahead. And the best part about it is that all of the openings the film provided will be continued in future Marvel releases and its awesome.

All in all, the best part about Avengers: Age of Ultron was the possibilities it presented. Its biggest success was in exciting fans about what’s to come. It offered a perfect transition and tied the worlds together in a seamless fashion. Sure, it was a lot to take in, but it was cool, it was pretty wholesome save for the explosions and back to back fight scenes (loved the quip about language as a nod to younger moviegoers). True, I still liked the first one better. But the sequel was a whole different animal. It was awesome it its own right. Now, to process all the nuggets this bad boy hinted at. Oh, and by the way, don’t believe rumors that this film doesn’t have an aftercredit. It totally does. Think Infinity Gauntlet. What a perfect way to geek out.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day: Movie Review

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day  movie posterAlexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is a mouthful for a title. Truth is, I had to refer to IMDB a couple of times to make sure that I got the title right because it was just so long. But my only complaint about the movie ends there. I absolutely loved every minute of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day — every cheesy over the top second of it. This movie is indeed proof that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Alexander Cooper (Ed Oxenbould) is the middle child in a family of six. Things haven’t exactly been the same since since his baby brother Trevor was born. He feels different from the rest of his family, because things always work out for them — his aerospace engineer dad (Steve Carell), his powerhouse career woman mom (Jennifer Garner), his popular big brother Anthony (Dylan Minette), his actress sister Emily (Kerris Dorsey), even little Trevor (Elise and Zoey Vargas). He feels like they lead a charmed life, as opposed to his cursed one, so on his 12th birthday, he makes a secret wish that they would get to understand what a terrible, horrible, no good, very dad day (a.k.a. his everyday life) felt like and a series of unfortunate events ensue.

If there ever was a movie that would absolutely guarantee that your bad day would turn around, it would be this one. Typical of a Disney family movie, it starts out with a simple yet fantastic premise, but one with an underlying depth that connects deeply with the audience. Such is the magic of Disney and this film delivers the good vibes in spades. Screenwriter Rob Lieber did a great job in adopting the Judith Viorst children’s book to the big screen, updating the material to a suit modern audience. There was great dialogue and flow to the film as it transitions from the misfortunes of one family member to another. Credit also to director Miguel Arteta for nailing the execution.

The cast was absolute perfection. Steve Carell was funny and dorky without being too slapstick, Jen was adorable, and even the kids worked out and portrayed the reality of siblings in a typical household. The timing was spot on and the cast had great chemistry as a unit and even as standalones. What I loved about the characters, was mainly their loyalty to each other — that despite constant insults and ribbings, at the core of all things, they loved their family more than anything and when push comes to a shove, they had each other’s backs.

All in all, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day was a total exaggeration of a simple premise — a bad day, which everyone has once in a while. While the execution was outrageous (in a good way), it was totally relatable and hilarious and leaves audiences with an exhilarating feeling of embarking on a great adventure with the Coopers. Despite all of the negatives in the title, the film inspired a lot of positive feelings, and a message that despite the bad things that happen, there can always be something good to come out it. And sometimes, it takes a bad day to make us appreciate the good ones even more.

Para sa Hopeless Romantic (For the Hopeless Romantic): Book Review

When I heard that Star Cinema and Viva Films will adapt the wattpad-turned besteselling Marcello Santos III novel Para sa Hopeless Romantic starring teen stars Nadine Lustre and James Reid, along with new loveteam Julia Barreto and Iñigo Pascual, I was intrigued. True, Jadine’s first two movies Diary ng Panget and Talk Back and You’re Dead, both based on wattpad fiction did not blow me away. But I was entertained because I liked seeing these two together. This time, I wanted to make sure that there was a good story involved behind the movie so I got an hold of Santos’s novel before the movie’s release.

Para sa Hopeless Romantic is a Filipino novel that revolves around the love story of six people, all in various states of being in love. Becca, the main character, an embittered college student still trying to move on from the betrayal of her first and only love by writing short stories with tragic endings; Nikko, her ex-boyfriend who wants a second chance with her because he hasn’t really fallen out of love with her; Ryan and Maria, two characters out of Becca’s short story — friends who have romantic feelings for each other but are too afraid to act on them; Jackie, Becca’s best friend and confidante, who is pining for Matt, Becca’s boss, and Faye, Nikko’s girlfriend of three years whom he dumps because is still in love with Becca.

I can safely say that I thoroughly enjoyed Santos’s novel, so much so that I finished the book in a matter of hours (in one sitting). I liked how he established the characters, and loved that he used his old school (PUP) as a backdrop for all of their adventures. Because he knew a lot about his subjects, he was able to effectively describe the settings and moods and set the tone for the scenes in his book.

I liked that the characters had their own issues to deal with and that they weren’t exactly on the same page as the other half of their love teams straight off the bat. This makes the plot slightly more complicated while the characters seemed more human and releateable.

Marcelo understood his characters and he didn’t make them perfect. At times, Becca seemed overly dramatic but Marcelo was able to justify her actions by a substantive backstory so people won’t get too annoyed. Of the characters, Jackie reached out of the page to grab my attention. She was awesome despite being a secondary character but my favorite lines actually came from Ryan when he finally confessed his feelings for Maria through his notebook.

I liked Marcelo’s contemporary approach to writing, and his fluid storytelling style. While Ricky Lee’s Para Kay B was more serious in tone, Marcelo’s Para sa Hopeless Romantic embraced the cheesiness of falling in and out of love and all that came in between. The way the stories were interconnected makes for a sense of community among the characters and its a good thing that the readers have this one group of people to cheer for.

All in all, I think Para sa Hopeless Romantic is a good choice for a mainstream movie adaptation. Even the writing is already fit for the big screen. My favorite part of reading the book was the sense that the writer seemed to care deeply about his characters and his desire to give them their respective happily ever afters was obvious and infectious. He too, seemed to be a hopeless romantic in real life. So, was this the most original love story ever? No. But it sure as heck was entertaining and heartwarming. A great read before you go to bed or to keep you company on a long journey. Highly recommended.

Here’s the clip of the trailer if you’re interested to see what to expect on the big screen.