REVIEW – Gravity

Review by Vives Anunciacion
Published October 3, 2013
Inquirer Libre

Directed by Alfonso Cuarón

Once every generation, a film alters the way we experience cinema.

By that I mean there’s a new way of experiencing movies, and Gravity is the one to change that. I didn’t say, “the heavens have opened and Jesus has appeared.”

I keep using the word “experience” because that’s what Gravity is. At the end of the day, Gravity is a minimalist story of survival and determination but told with an ingenious, methodical use of the latest filmmaking techniques.

Superficially, Gravity has a thin and predictable story – Survivor ala Open Water in space.

“Huston, I have a bad feeling about this mission,” says veteran astronaut and mission leader Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney.) He says that to start a joke, because he wants his crew to feel relaxed as they work in space 600 Km above Earth repairing the Hubble telescope. The view breathtaking. Cinematography, design and effects in seamless synergy. The opening scene is the main reason I believe this should be seen in 3D.

Not long after, it’s mayday. A freak accident in space has sent thousands of satellite debris into a collision-course with the team and all hell breaks loose as the debris decimates space shuttle Explorer, the telescope and half of the team.  Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) tries everything her body and mind can do to cheat death in an environment that does not permit life.  As a thriller, Gravity is 93 minutes of non-stop-, pulse-pounding- spectacle. That last sentence alone is enough reason for you to see this film.

I can use a bunch of words too, like, “edge-of-your-seat-thriller,” “visually spellbinding,” or “emotionally satisfying.”

Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity represents a new chapter in the history of motion picture and is a testament to the power of the medium. And it must be experienced in 3D. I believe half of the experience is lost if not in 3D. Of course you can still enjoy the film as a thriller in 2D. But I believe part of the film’s conceit of immersing the audience in space are the subtle suggestions of distance and depth, making for a colder, more claustrophobic cosmos.

Then there’s Bullock’s powerful performance as a human being struggling to survive the elements. One of my favorite scenes is in the middle part, when Dr. Ryan manages to enter the Soyuz capsule – a moment of respite before Murphy’s Law strikes again. There’s a shot of her (seen in the trailer) floating in a fetal position, nestled in the womb of the Russian space station.

It’s because of that single frame of Ryan in a fetal position that we may understand what Cuarón ultimately is attempting to convey. Just as the tubes in the spacecraft resemble umbilical cords, Cuarón’s repeating motif of tethers seem to signify that we humans should never let go of this one object that connects us, binds us together even as we reach far out into the heavens – not with ropes or bridges or radio or FaceBook or smartphone apps that keep us connected with each other – but this magnificent, wonderful, fertile and rare blue planet that we all call our mother.

Gravity is a humanizing experience.

REVIEWS – Rush; Turkey Man Ay Pabo Rin; Ang Huling Chacha ni Anita

Review By Vives Anunciacion
Published September 23, 2013
Inquirer Libre

Try to catch these gems if you can. Check your newspaper or online listings for schedules.

Directed by Ron Howard

Ron Howard isn’t one of my favorite directors because he’s slightly inconsistent with the quality of his products (A Beautiful Mind, Da Vinci Code, Apollo 13) Thankfully, Rush is the director’s return to fine form.

Daniel Brühl and Chris Hemsworth play legendary 1970s Formula One racing rivals Niki Lauda and James Hunt, respectively. The film successfully balances the narrative between these two legends of the sport who are equally extremely driven but are absolute contrasts during their most thrilling race for world championship in 1976. Brühl is riveting as the obsessed and callous Lauda while Hemsworth, AKA Thor is adequate as the dashing and carefree Hunt. Rush puts you in the driver’s seat of action and drama. “May” be an Oscar contender next year.

Ang Huling Cha-cha Ni Anita
Written & Directed by Sigrid Andrea Bernado

If you loved Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros, you’ll love this heart-warming, good-vibes story of a young lady’s first love. An adult Anita recalls her rural childhood when she (young Anita played by Teri Malvar) met and fell for the enchanting Pilar (Angel Aquino.)

The film works on many levels tackling puberty, gender identity, traditionalism, empowerment of women to control their own bodies, lust, cuteness, children talking about relationship and marriage and many more in a light, sometimes hilarious narrative. All because the filmmaker is a woman who understands her womanhood and does not shy on telling her female perspective. The kids, you’ll never forget the kids.

If you’re human and you understand what happens between your legs, you will adore this film.

Ang Turkey Man Ay Pabo Din
Directed by Randolf Longjas

Like Cha-cha ni Anita, Ang Turkey Man Ay Pabo Rin is an entry in TV5’s inaugural CineFilipino Festival. First-time filmmaker Longjas has a knack for the funny in this mockumentary about wife-and-husband Filipina Cookie (Tuesday Vargas) and American Matthew (Youtube sensation Travis Kraft) who met and fell in love through a website.

Turkey is a hilarious collection of observations on Pinoy vs American cultural peculiarities. Mostly, they’re Matthew’s observations. Like how we automatically call a Caucasian, “Joe.” Or the 1,000 uses of the word “ano.” But it’s a gag show choppily put together as a character sketch. Very funny. But not cinematic.

REVIEWS – We’re the Millers; No One Lives; Lihis (in Filipino)

Reviews by Vives Anunciacion
Published September 16, 2013
Inquirer Libre

Patuloy ang pagbaha ng mga pelikula ngayong buwan, partikular ang mga ipalalabas ngayong Miyerkules, liban pa sa mga lumabas nitong nakaraang linggo. Tulad nung isang linggo, pili pili ng panonoorin pag may time.

We’re The Millers
Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber
(R16/ Comedy)

Nagulat ako na natawa ako dito. Inakala kong hindi ako ma-eenjoy sa kwento ng isang grupo ng mga halang ang kaluluwa na nagpanggap maging isang pamilya upang makapuslit ng droga sa US border.

Hindi kailangnan pag-isipan ng malalim ang kwento nito. Habang nagbibiyahe sina David (Jason Sudekis), Rose (Jennifer Aniston), Casey (Emma Roberts) at Kenny (Will Poulter) patungo sa Mexico, unti-unting nag-aasal na tunay na pamilya ang grupo. Happy ending, maraming cheap punchlines at nakakatawa rin ang blooper reel sa dulo.

Karamihan ng katatawanan ay mga puchline tungkol sa body parts – ganyan siyang tipo ng pelikula. Pero nakatutulong na mas nagiging kakatawa ang punchlines na ito dahil sa charming na interaction ng cast. Good casting made this movie bearable.

No One Lives
Directed by Ryuhei Kitamura
(R18/ Suspense)

Heto yung kung tawagin ay B movie – yung tipo na 2nd runner up lang lagi sa artista, sa kwento at sa production value. Yung kinakabit na pangalawang pelikula sa Double Show sa probinsya.

Tungkol ito sa pagbabaligtad ng kapalaran ng isang grupo ng mga magnanakaw at ang binihag nilang magkasintahan. Ang biktima pala ay mambibiktima. Lumalabas na isang psychopathic killer ang character ni Luke Evans, na isa-isang papatayin ang mga miyembro ng grupo.

Tampok dito ang ilang WWE-type wrestling smackdowns bilang karagdagang aksiyon sa bumabahang dugo, laman loob at putol na body parts. Para itong Friday the 13th na ang pumapatay ay si The Punisher (complete with different kinds of weapons at long jacket) na may baluktot na paniniwala sa pagpatay gaya ni Hannibal. Yun na. Wala siyang sense.

Directed by Joel Lamangan
(R18/ Drama)

Gusto yata ni direk Joel Lamangan na mabanggit ang lahat ng issue sa lipunan kaya sa unang 15 minuto ay mababanggit na lang ang kurapsyon, oil price hike, extra-judicial killings, komunismo, riding-n-tandem killers, etcetera, etcetera. Ganyan naman talaga siksik sa pagpapahalaga sa sarili ang mga Lamangan films, hindi lang dahil bahagi ito ng Sineng Pambansa: All Masters Edition.

Ang tawag ko rito ay Brokeback Mountain: NPA edition dahil kwento ito ng dalawang lalaki (Joem Bascon/Ka Felix, Jake Cuenca/Ka Jimmy) na bahagi ng armadong pakikibaka noong 1970s na nahulog ang kalooban sa isa’t isa. Nakapaloob ang kwentong ito sa kwento ni Ada (Isabelle Daza) sa panahon ni Arroyo pagkatapos ng Edsa Dos. Sina Lovie Poe at Gloria Diaz ang gumanap bilang bata at matandang Celcilia, asawa ni Ka Felix.

Kung tutuusin, ito na marahil ang isa sa pinaka-pulidong pelikula mula kay Lamangan. Pero marami akong hindi pinaniniwalaan sa paglalahad nito ng bawal na pag-ibig nina Felix at Jimmy na hindi malinaw ang malalim na pinanggagalingan (magkaiba sila ng pulitika), liban sa tawag ng laman na hindi naman itinago ng kamera ni Lamangan. Pwet kung pwet.

Sa pagkakaalam ko, alam ni Lamangan na walang Katolisismo sa Kilusan (na tinawag na Kasamahan sa pelikula,) walang binyag, walang Pasko. Ano ang nais iparating ng Lihis? Wala na hindi ko pa napanood noon.