Furious 7: Movie Review

Furious 7I wasn’t able to watch Furious 7 in its first week, when cinemas were jampacked with people itching to see the late Paul Walker’s final ride in the franchise he started with his bestie Vin Diesel. Indeed, no matter how hard core this franchise is with the cool cars and the hot girls (who are badasses in their own right), it wouldn’t have been as successful without this duo. Being a fan of the franchise, I too, wanted to give Paul a proper sendoff by watching him on the big screen, along with the rest of the fandom. Better late than never, right, and what’s important is that I actually made it. I actually made it to see Paul’s last movie. His real and fitting final ride.

After taking down Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) in London and getting amnesty for past crimes, Dom (Vin Diesel) and and his crew are finally able to return home to the US. Bryan (Paul Walker) is living peacefully with Mia (Jordana Bewster) and their son Jack while the rest of the team are chilling out in different parts of the country. But it seems the idyllic life never sits well with the team as they are haunted by the events of London, when Shaw’s big bad brother, Deckard (Jason Statham) starts to hunt them down to avenge Owen’s death. But Deckard is a shadow, a former CIA Black Ops who remains always one step ahead of them. When a CIA boss (Kurt Russel) approaches the crew to give them a mission that would help them turn the tables on their enemy, they grab the opportunity without question. The next thing they know, they are involved in the rescue of a hacker named Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) and going after a highly evolved surveillance device called the God’s Eye. When their common enemies join forces, chaos ensues in the streets of LA.

First off, let me just say that Furious 7 was not a perfect movie, nor was it the best installment in the franchise. It had a lot of inconsistencies storywise and some of the characters’ actions just did not make sense. It could have been a lot different if they were not restricted by the fact that one of its lead actors suddenly died in the middle of filming and I’m quite sure that the script underwent some major revisions along the way to accommodate the handicap but at the end of the day, Furious 7 did remain consistent with the general theme of the franchise and stayed true to delivering what the fandom was expecting from the movie. I was kind of bummed to realize though that so little was left of the original team, not until they planned their next mission and the table was so far less crowded than it was for the Rio heist.

One of the issues I had with the movie was the script. In the beginning, there was a lot of talk about family and brothers (perhaps to underscore the parallelisms between Shaw and Dom or maybe because it was a shoutout to Paul whom the crew thought of as family) but towards the middle, it became kind of tedious. True, there were superb action stunts, car chases and gunfire in between but there were really times that it felt overdramatic and depressing. The brooding, nostrils flaring showdowns between baldies The Rock vs Statham, and Statham vs Dom, while on paper, seemed like pretty kickass fight scenes (which they were, up to a certain degree), the amount of time devoted to them circling each other like sharks and posturing for battle at times seemed comical, add to the fact that despite all of the damages they sustained physically, they always survived it. I mean, come on, where’s the realism in that? Leave us not forget the semi cheesy scene with Dom and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) towards the end. (I say semi cheesy because with Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez in a scene, it could never be entirely cheesy)

Speaking of realism, the order of the day for the the final FF movie seemed to be “think of the impossible and let’s just do it.” And the stunts in this movie were definitely in that category. I’m not complaining because if audiences suspend their disbelief for one second, it will help them appreciate the scenes for their genius. It was such a rush to see all of these amazing action sequences happening simultaneously and yet, each scene is given its own spotlight without being rushed or slo mo-ed too much, unlike in other movies of the same genre. It really gives the audiences an appreciation for cinema magic. My mind was blown by the amount of creativity it took to think up of things they did in this movie. And as a viewer, I really, really loved it. I liked the lighter part of the script, mostly those delivered by Tej (Ludacris) and Roman (Tyrese Gibson) which were more in line with the general vibe of the franchise.

I’m actually super glad that I refrained from reading spoilers or clicking on materials that had to do with Paul’s CGI or Paul’s tribute in Furious 7 before I saw the movie. It made me appreciate the efforts of the entire team in giving Paul the ending that he deserved. The CGI was so masterful that I didn’t know which scenes were CGI and what weren’t. I’m glad that the filmmakers brought Paul’s brothers on board for the project.

Check out how they pulled off Paul’s CGI here:

As for the tribute in the end, I loved it for its meaning. The approach was very subtle but the sincerity in the words reflected the type of relationship the FF family had developed from the beginning of the franchise. It wasn’t about creating drama. It was about sending off a person whom the franchise held dear in their hearts. And this is what made it matter.

If you want to check out the tribute, here’s the youtube version of the official music video:

And here’s Vin singing See You Again for his buddy. This may be one time you hear him break out into song aside from the Peter Panda dance.

All in all, I’m glad that this movie became Paul Walker’s swan song. It was the franchise that brought him to stardom and it was right that his final movie was made with the people he loved doing what he loved. For all its faults, Furious 7 was entertaining, and delivered on fans’ expectations. Sure, it could have been more. But it was still a good movie which accomplished what it set out to do, which was to end (?) the franchise with guns blazing.

Metallica: Through the Never Movie Review

metallicaimaxthroughthenever_638I have been itching to see this concert movie since I saw the promo several months back. Not only am I a big fan of Metallica, the rock band that shaped my rocking teenage years, but I was also psyched to see talented young actor Dane Deehan (Chronicle, A Place Beyond the Pines) star in the brilliant side story that the band cooked up to make their movie more badass.

When Metallica decided to jump on the bandwagon of filming concerts and releasing it in IMAX 3D,  there were no cutesy backastage interviews and behind the scenes footage on the road for James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammet and Robert Trujillo. Instead, they chose to go all out on their concert with kick ass special effects, stage, lighting, pyrotechnics and their signature rock music that their fans totally got into. There was not one person in the entire venue that was sitting down, a true testament to the power of Metallica’s music and the following the band managed to cultivate across the decades.

What sets this concert movie apart and made it even more cool was the fact that instead of simple interviews, the band created a brilliant side story about their roadie (Dane Deehan), who was set out on an errand during the concert only to find chaos in the streets that is strangely connected to the music being played by the band. The scenes serve as a transition from one song to the other and plays like a music video/ action movie of sorts that is part surreal and part thriller.

All I can say about this movie can be encapsulated in two words — HARD CORE. The band members may have grown older, drummer Lars UIrich may have lost his hair, but the energy and the seamlessness of the band’s performance is the same as it was 30 years ago when they first started. The intensity of their performance was not forced, and they did not need to remind their audience that they are rockers unlike some bands of today. They simply rocked, and they were unbelievably great. I for, one, could not help headbanging to their music even inside the theater, and the way the fans were rocking out to their every song and singing along each chorus — totally insane. I couldn’t sit still when they performed two of their biggest hits, Nothing Else Matters and Enter Sandman. As for Deehan, as the only recognizable actor in a sea of extras, I think this kid will go a long way in the industry because of his raw talent and ability to carry a scene even without saying a word. This kid is golden.

All in all, Metallica: Through the Never is a unique concert experience. I saw it on regular 2D but on 3D, it would have been doubly awesome. Congrats to the band, the cast and director Nimrod Antal (Predators, Vacancy) for a great job in putting this together. Best movie concert ever. Not to be missed.

Despicable Me 2: Movie Review

Despicable_Me_2_movie poster australiaFollowing the success of the first Despicable Me movie by Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment in 2010, Steve Carell returns to the big screen as the voice of Gru,  now a reformed villain and and father to three orphaned girls the eldest Margot (Miranda Cosgrove), the tomboyish Edith (Dana Gaier) and the adorable Agnes (Elsie Fisher). When Gru is called upon by the Anti Villain League to nab the villain behind the hijacking of a laboratory working on a substance with the ability to turn normal creatures into violent, irrational and indestructibe monsters, he is paired with Lucy (Kristen Wiig, who voiced the character of Mrs. Hattie in DM1), a skilled rookie agent who has a soft spot for the bald anti-hero.

The first movie was already very good, but I should say that the second one is even better. And the reason? Minions. And this was a brilliant move on the part of the studio and the team working on the sequel. What they did was create a whole story around the strongest characters of the original movie (sorry Gru) and create skit after skit of antics revolving around yellow overall-clad cuties. The result — hilarity and entertainment good enough for three comedy flicks combined. Even the marketing centered around the minions, properly getting the fans excited about the sequel. There was no doubt when audiences entered the cinemas that they expected a a lot of minions, and they were not disappointed.

Minions-Despicable-Me-2-Wide-HD-WallpapersDM 2 also employed an over the top approach incorporating classic cliches in the story. There was also loads of parodies scattered all over the movie (which worked out really well even for audiences without any idea about the references). It was like an extended animated version of an SNL episode, only more wholesome.

With comedy being the strong point of the movie, what I appreciated most was that the team  did not forget the core of it all, and the story still carries a strong message of love and family. Gru was absolutely great with the girls, and each scene evoked an awwww moment. It was also nice to see him awkwardly making his way through the dating scene. His scenes with the minions and Dr. Nefario (Russel Brand) were also priceless — which makes me realize just how great Steve Carell’s chemistry with his castmembers is.

All in all, , Despicable Me 2 is a movie that would have audiences grinning from the first minute until the last. It is oozing in cheesiness (and sentimentality)  but the sheer nerve of owning each over the top skit makes everything work. I can’t even remember the last time I laughed this much in a movie.

Goofing Off, Having Fun: Seriland

Last weekend, my buddy and I used the discounted tickets that I got months ago from an online shopping site and went to Seriland, located in the Manila Ocean Park building on the second floor. The park has three major features — The Trick Art Museum, the Mirror Maze and the 3D theater. The Museum is a collection of artworks that are made to seem 3 dimensional rather than flat 2D. One could take wacky pictures and copy suggested poses on the framed pictures next to the artwork. Here are some of my favorite shots of the day.

I SEE YOU(r underpants)

STUBBORN AS AN OX. Or in this case, a carabao, who stares cluelessly at you while I try to fake drag him away.

YIKES. The right angle gives an illusion that this painting (on the floor) is actually a waterfall behind the cliff I’m kneeling on.

DID I JUST FALL OFF THE WAGON?

OW! I fake get hit by a watermelon that fell off the frame.

SAY HELLO TO MY LITTLE FRIEND. Cool huh? This little dog that I’m petting is actually painted on a floor.

Moving on, here are some pictures that the ushers took of us while inside The Mirror Maze, where the real challenge is getting out amid a sea of mirrors. Believe me, I had loads of fun trying to figure out the real hallways from the fake ones. I even fell for some of them. We had to wear gloves so as not to mar the mirrors with fingerprints, and we had to walk with our hands in front of us to avoid accidents. Its been known to happen that some guests bump into mirrors if they are not careful. The attendants at the attraction are very mindful of guests’ safety. They are also accommodating of photo requests. They even volunteer to do it for you.

MULTIPLES OF ME. The adjacent mirrors help create the illusion of  multiple versions of me.

BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE. My buddy and I are strategically photographed in front of two mirrors.

MANY ME. So this is what Michael Keaton felt in the movie Multiplicity. Unfortunately, my clones can’t do any chores for me.

We also took in two 3D movies with one hour intervals. Each movie is 15-20 minutes long so kids will surely enjoy it. We caught Sonic Night of the Werewolf with a smaller group and Rilly’s Sky Adventure with a bigger one. It’s actually more fun to go with a larger group of people, especially with kids. It heightens the enjoyment more to listen to and see their reaction to the movies.

I had a great time checking out these three attractions. And I’m already an adult. I would surely recommend this to parents who want to do something fun and different with their kids. By the way, there’s also a play area for children in Seriland. Depending on the package, tickets may or may not cover this. Check out their facebook page for more details and current promotions. http://www.facebook.com/serifantasyworld

Tip: If you’re going on a weekend, go early as field trips tend to be scheduled on these dates. The crowds will surely cramp your style when taking a bunch of photos. Plus, the Mirror Maze can also accommodate a certain number of people at a time, so numbers are given out and called after the previous group finds their way out

Sadako 3D: A Review

To close out the saga of Sadako, the most iconic figure in Asian horror, the finale is delivered in 3D via a film directed by Tsutomu Hanabusa wherein S. goes full techie, taking over computer monitors and giant sized LCD screens to wreak havok on her victims with her long dark tresses.

Online artist Seiji Kashiwada (Yusuke Yamamodo) vows to get revenge on the peers who shunned him on the internet by trying to bring back Sadako. To do this, he uses the video of his death which he proliferates online to help the ghost find a suitable host for her resurrection. As more people who view the cursed video die, Sadako finally finds ‘the one,’ school teacher Akane Akuyawa (Satome Ishihara), whose kinetic abilities prove to be a perfect match for Sadako’s talents.

The last film in the franchise differs greatly from the previous installments mainly because Sadako’s M.O. changes drastically. Whereas before, there is sort of a lead time between watching the video before the curse finally catches up with the viewer, this time, the murders are instant and more aggressive — perhaps because the purpose is different as well. And while  Sadako used to operate alone, she now has a posse of deformed mini mes that disperse into moths once attacked. Go figure.

For a horror, this installment is not creepy at all, unlike previous Ring movies. Maybe it is because of the 3D element that filmmakers have become more conscious about pulling off the CGI rather than keeping the overall feel of the film on the dark side, which actually contributed to its success in the past. It did not help much that the pace is also dragging, with the action kicking in only towards the final minutes of the movie. There were also attempts to inject drama into the story but drama doesn’t normally fly with hard core horror franchises like the Ring. Back to the point, if only filmmakers had moved the last 20 minutes of the film sooner into the movie, it would have made for a much more thrilling conclusion to the saga.

As it stands, the horror is lukewarm at best, the story has no relationship to the franchise at all, and only served to take away part of Sadako’s awesomeness with a cheesy run off the mill sequel that does not intend to close the saga but rather churn out the possibility of another sequel to get more mileage out of the successful franchise. All in all, fairly disappointing. Still, its good enough for a couple of scares.

Final Destination 5: Horror at its Goriest

When I first found out that Hollywood was making Final Destination 5, I wasn’t very excited. I was very unimpressed with Part 4 and I felt that this was just going to be another attempt to ride the 3D bandwagon. However, after watching part 5, I did a complete 360 because I have not had this much fun from seeing horror in while. FD 5 was the bomb!

Final Destination 5 follows the same plot as the four movies before it. Instead of a ____ (fill in the blank with plane crash, road accident, roller coaster derailment, or Nascar accident), a group of eight survivors from a suspension bridge collapse now have to deal with the repercussions of their ” good luck.” Nicolas D’Agosto plays the role of Sam, a guy who works for the paper but who really wants to be a chef. He is the guy who saves his co-workers (including his girlfriend) and gets them off the bus after he has a premonition of their death similar to the earlier installments.

Filmmakers seemed to have upped their game since the lame FD4, which focused on developing the 3D and making a quick buck rather than giving audiences something. Ten minutes into FD5, audiences would feel like they have survived a marathon because of the sheer goriness and brutality of the suspension bridge scene. Never have I seen any hatchet movie or horror flick that shows the same lack of mercy and thrill value as the first 10 minutes of this film. I am not a squeamish person by nature, but I was cringing and screaming with every death scene in this movie. It was that good. It was that interesting and it was that unique. It was that fun. I know a lot of people would be skeptical and say, what haven’t we seen at this point, right? But believe me, this movie will school viewers on what still needs to be learned about the horror genre.

What elevates this movie above the rest is that it was not a chore to watch. It doesn’t try to live up to the hype or its predecessors. It develops its own story and proceeds the way it is supposed to. Viewers don’t need to figure out a great mystery to get their just rewards in the end. The movie follows a basic structure and goes through it in a fast paced sequence but gives the audiences a chance to rest up and absorb the brutality of one death scene before the next one follows.

What’s great about this movie is that everybody knows that the deaths are a given but the scenes will keep audiences guessing until the very end. Before I entered the cinema, I was saying that they would be hard pressed to top the scene in part 2 where the kid got flattened on the street by a glass panel after escaping a near death experience at the dentist but again, I was proven wrong. Credit to the creative team of Final Destination 5. They managed to raise the level of horror to new heights. These guys have thought of a great many ways to get rid of their characters in grisly fashion.

But no matter how I gush about the death scenes, my favorite part is still the connection of the movie to the first Final Destination film. I really didn’t figure it out until it was staring me in the face. There were clues scattered all over the movie leading to it, little ones admittedly, but they were there. I guess the film succeeded to distract me enough from thinking, making the surprise ending doubly awesome.

Final verdict. Not for the faint hearted but great for everyone else. Regardless if you watch it on 3D or 2D, its guaranteed to be awesome! It is not to be missed. This may well be the best in the franchise, and among the best in the genre that I’ve seen. Very very cool.

My first 3D experience (in 1991)

Contrary to popular opinion, even before the turn of the century, there have been movies that utilized 3D technology in cinemas. Believe it or not, there was a time when movies that featured 3D were considered a refreshing novelty and not just a bandwagon that filmmakers exploit to earn a couple of extra bucks off the moviegoers. There was a time when it was necessary to a film’s outcome.

My first 3D experience was actually in ’91, seeing  Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare. I was 11 when I first saw the movie in an old theater in Manila’s Avenida district and I was quite surprised that I remembered so much about the plot when I chanced upon the movie’s beginning on HBO last night. Seeing it on the small screen was a welcome treat that transported me back to the time I was a kid watching movies with my parents in the now demolished theaterhouses in the area.

In this sequel,  Freddy tries to find his missing daughter so he can use her to victimize more kids. See, he needs a new playground after he finishes off all of the children in the town of Springwood, his punishment on the townsfolk for taking his child away from him after he murdered his own wife.

Of course, there are many disposable characters featured in the movie and Freddy has another field day torturing them in their sleep. In this supposed finale, some insight is given into Freddy’s childhood and boyhood leading to his dysfunction and thirst for murder. I love watching Elm Street movies with Robert Englund as Freddy and curse the day they did the inferior reboot.

A scene from the movie's 3D version

Back to the topic, being 11, I was really psyched when I was handed my 3D glasses before entering the cinema. I was kind of surprised what it was for because 3D was a very foreign concept back then and the movie was not even marketed as such. The glasses were made of cardboard, and red and blue cellophane, similar to 3D glasses they include in special DVD packages nowadays, and wearing them for the first time was an experience in itself.

Now that I think about it, the use of the 3D glasses in the movie when Maggie (Freddy’s kid) entered the dream was not explained, nor was it really significant, but wearing them at the same time she put them on was so exciting, like going to another dimension or something. Unlike in some 3D movies or IMAX features, there was no blinking sign at the bottom of the screen saying wear your glasses now, but her action in itself was enough of a signal to give the cue. It was great and as a viewer, I felt as involved in the film as Maggie, the heroine.

When I watched the movie on TV again last night, I broke out my own 3D glasses from our DVD of Journey to the Center of the Earth to relive that moment and it was just as great, even though the effects were not at par with the CGI of this generation. It was classic and it was awesome if not perfect.

This was one great moment that I was glad to revisit. :-)