According to my record, I had written 127 movie reviews this year (down from 157 last year). Sadly, only 11 of these are Filipino films (down from 25 last year), the rest are foreign films. I will not be able to watch any Metro Manila Film Festival entries until January because of prior travel plans, so I will be releasing my list earlier than usual.
My movie reviews are still being picked up and posted on ABS-CBNNews.com. As of this writing, a total of 301 (up 121 from last year's total of 180) of my reviews have made it on the pages of the most popular news website and FB site both locally and internationally.
For this list, I had not included the 10 reviews written about films which had been released in 2014 or earlier, but I had only seen in 2014. These were mostly the Oscar-winning films released in December 2014, but only hit local theaters in 2015.
Potential Oscar-winning films of this year which will only be shown next year locally are also not included here, like "Spotlight," "Carol," The Revenant," "The Big Short," "Brooklyn", "The Hateful Eight", etc...
25 Predestination (MY REVIEW)
24 Bambanti (MY REVIEW)
23 Crimson Peak (MY REVIEW)
22 Baka Siguro Yata (MY REVIEW)
21 Avengers: Age of Ultron (MY REVIEW)
20 Everest (MY REVIEW)
19 Spy (MY REVIEW)
18 Kid Kulafu (MY REVIEW)
17 Straight Outta Compton (MY REVIEW)
16 Creed (MY REVIEW)
15 Sicario (MY REVIEW)
14 Bridge of Spies (MY REVIEW)
13 The Water Diviner (MY REVIEW)
12 Paddington (MY REVIEW)
11 Apocalypse Child (MY REVIEW)
Counting down the 10 best films I have seen this year:
10 MANANG BIRING (MY REVIEW)
Manang Biring has been diagnosed to have breast cancer, stage IV, and had been given only six months or so to live. One day, she receives a letter from her long-estranged daughter Nita stating her plan to visit her mother on Christmas Day that year. Funds drained by chemotherapy, Biring, together with her wacky friends Eva and Terrence, concoct the wildest plans to be able to prepare the best Christmas reunion party. Biring did these things even when knew she may not even live to see that day.
I really enjoyed this film from beginning to end. There was not a dull moment even if the topic should have been very depressing. Writer-director Carlo Joseph Papa has triumphed with his concept and his delivery in rotoscopic animation. That scene at the nightclub was psychedelia in monochrome, enhanced by the award-winning musical score. The ending sequence kept me at the edge of my seat, until that final scene and word made me gasp and catch my breath.
9 THE LITTLE PRINCE (MY REVIEW)
The beloved characters of de Saint-Exupery were not the main characters of this film. The central story was about a little 9-year old girl who led a regimented life set by her domineering mother. The girl got curious with the eccentric old man who lived next door who was trying to get his dilapidated old airplane to fly again. The old man told her stories about an Aviator and his friendship with Little Prince, which inspired the girl to break free from the strict schedules that controlled her life.
The fantastic artwork is its best feature of this special film. The delicate figures in the actual Little Prince vignettes are the most beautifully-crafted of all. Those little wood and paper hand-crafted figurines were so exquisitely brought to life. Even quiet scenes like the prince's scarf blowing in the wind or the little fox curled up with the prince were among the most memorably moving for me.
8 CINDERELLA (MY REVIEW)
The script written by Chris Weitz faithfully follows the well-known animated Disney version of the tale released in 1950. As directed by Kenneth Branagh, there was very minimal re-imagining done here. This film is so unabashedly targeted for the ladies and girls of the romantic type. This is a major big-production chick flick that goes all out for the all the sweet and thrilling moments it can squeeze out of the story. The charisma and chemistry of the young leads were more than sufficient to achieve this end.
The cinematography by Haris Zambarloukos is so vibrant with a bright color palette that pops out of the screen. The production design of Daniel Ferretti was so opulent and grandiose in scale. The costumes of Sandy Powell were so richly designed and meticulously detailed. The musical score by Patrick Doyle envelops the film and brings us to a fairytale time and land. The visual effects of the magical transformation of pumpkin and animals to the coach, horses and staff were delightfully done in grand fashion (with the ever-quirky Helena Bonham-Carter as Fairy Godmother)
7 ANT-MAN (MY REVIEW)
Scientist Hank Pym discovered how to reduce the distance between atoms, enabling objects to be shrunk, but suppressed it. His protege Darren Cross eventually develops his own shrinking technology but with less than noble purposes in mind. In order to prevent potential disaster, Pym decided to recruit Scott Lang, an electronics engineer turned petty burglar, to steal Cross' Yellowjacket project. To be able to achieve this mission, Pym, along with his daughter Hope van Dyne, trained Lang to become a micro-superhero who can communicate and command ants to do his bidding -- the Ant-Man.
The technical aspects of this film were top rate, particularly the amazing visual effects. I really liked the scenes of Ant-Man interacting with the different types of ants. The fight scene of Ant-Man vs. a special guest Avenger was also very well-executed. Those scenes in little Cassie's room where there was a carpeted play area with a toy Thomas train running on its tracks was way better than how it looked in the trailer. The expert film editing was seamless even as scenes (and the sizes of the characters) were shifting so quickly.
6 KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE (MY REVIEW)
When Eggsy was a toddler, his father was killed in the line of work. He was given a special medal by a well-dressed gentleman, telling him that he can call when he is in trouble. Seventeen years later, growing up in a rough London suburb, Eggsy got himself thrown in jail after engaging police in a backwards car chase. He calls the number behind the medal, and in comes the dapper Harry Hart to the rescue. Knowing Eggsy's wasted talents in gymnastics and academics, Harry brings him to try out for a vacancy in his ultra-secret spy organization, the Kingsmen.
This is a very entertaining, visually stimulating film. The production design, with all those gadgetry and weaponry, is very inventive and eye-catching. The musical score is pulsating and exciting. The action sequences were really relentlessly bloody, with various body parts getting impaled, sliced off or blowing up. Yet, this was all done with typically British wry humor and aristocratic class. The biggest surprise is the breakthrough star-making performance of Taron Egerton as Eggsy.
5 MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: ROGUE NATION (MY REVIEW)
Ethan Hunt and his IMF team come face to face with the Syndicate, a rogue terrorist operation led by the chillingly ruthless Solomon Lane. Equal to IMF in talent and resources, the Syndicate sends the mysterious female agent Ilsa Faust to obtain highly secure computer files from a highly secure location. The IMF team though gets caught right in the thick of this complex web that again brings them around the world from the US to Cuba, Austria, Morocco and England. Meanwhile, they also grapple with CIA head Alan Hunley who would like nothing but to see IMF dissolved.
All those complex action sequences were executed faultlessly. The brilliant cinematography, fast-paced editing and the driving musical score (which had elements of the iconic M:I theme mixed with strains from "Nessun Dorma" from Puccini's "Turandot") all contributed to the success of these scenes. Among the memorable sequences for which this film will be remembered are the opera house assassination attempt scene, the underwater data card-switching scene, the car chase scene through the narrow streets with Tom Cruise driving a 2016 BMW, and the very exciting multiple motorcycle chase scene on a zigzagging road.
4 HENERAL LUNA (MY REVIEW)
Even from his intense penetrating gaze and formidable mustache in the poster alone, you already know John Arcilla will be excellent in this film. His comic timing was impeccable. It was a most vibrant performance of a most vivid man, making him really loom larger than life. He was over-the-top in his explosiveness, just the way Tarog wanted him to be. The way he was built up, we were ready for that climactic assassination scene, however outrageous the savagery.
This film will also grab you with its gorgeous cinematography. The images on the big screen had such vivid colors and innovative camera angles. The period production design and the costume design were meticulous in detail. During a beautifully-edited flashback sequence, there was a stylized scene about Rizal's execution that was so uniquely and hauntingly rendered. There are most gruesome and graphic special effects showing the violent brutality of warfare which will shock you. That reference to the Juan Luna's painting masterpiece "Spoliarium" towards the end was both poignant and ingenious.
3 MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (MY REVIEW)
In the massive Citadel, a skull mask-wearing tyrant Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) rules, cruelly withholding precious water from his impoverished subjects. Mad Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) has been captured to become a blood donor for Nux (Nicholas Hoult), one of Joe's War Boys. Elsewhere, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), a female War-Rig driver, helps Joe's five wives escape to the fabled "Green Place" of her childhood. Nux, with Max still attached to him, joins Joe and the other War Boys to pursue Furiosa. This chase leads to a major explosive battle-royale in the desert, one that would cause an upheaval of the balance of power in the outback.
The screenplay by George Miller, Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lathouris was rich and complex, with deep emotional moments. The cinematography of John Seale, with his orange-tinged day scenes and yellowish-hued night scenes, was breathtaking to behold. The magnificent action sequences with 90% actual (not CG!) vehicular stunts with gigantic monster trucks were so perfectly planned and executed. These were edited with precision by Margaret Sixel, with awesome sound mixing to boot. I thought the eye-popping 3D effects for those exhilarating car chase scenes are very much worth the extra in ticket price.
2 STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (MY REVIEW)
Two young people from widely disparate backgrounds, Rey and Finn, serendipitously got together and embarked on a mission to bring a roly-poly BB-8 droid with vital information on the location of Luke Skywalker to the Resistance. On this fateful quest, the Millennium Falcon will fly again, long-estranged partners will reunite, another father and a son will confront each other, another Death Star will get stormed and another climactic light-saber battle will ensue between good and evil Force.
This new Star Wars installment was one exhilarating and entertaining epic. As can be anticipated, the technical aspects were absolutely astounding -- the sweeping cinematography, the fantastic visual effects, the grand musical score and the heart-pounding sound effects. All my high expectations were met. Admittedly, the plot contained several familiar elements seemingly rehashed from the previous films especially Episode 4, but it is all about innovative spins, and director J.J. Abrams is a master of spin. This Episode 7 is as much a reboot as it was a sequel, a very spectacular and jubilant one at that.
1 THE MARTIAN (MY REVIEW)
Mark Watney is an astronaut member of NASA's Ares III mission to Mars. After a freak accident in a Martian storm, Mark gets knocked out cold and was left behind as dead in the emergency evacuation of his crew off the planet. As it turned out, Mark was still alive. Left to survive on his own resourcefulness, skills and expertise in Botany, Mark had to keep himself alive while waiting for NASA back home to make contact with him and perhaps send a mission to rescue him off Mars.
The scientific principles may not be fully understandable to laymen or even be completely accurate for scientists, but they all seemed logical, and that is what's essential in good science fiction. Various jargon in rocket science and astrodynamics were used, which may literally fly above our heads, but these did not really hamper enjoyment of the film. No matter how complicated the science involved in the situations we see onscreen, writer Drew Goddard (adapting from the 2011 novel of Andrew Weir) and veteran director Ridley Scott made the proceedings very engaging and easy to follow.