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‘Ong-Bak’ Film Review: No doubles, no strings, no CGIs

This Thai action picture highlights the art of Muay Thai in this Southeast Asian country's contemporary scene. "Ong-Bak" amazes and defies the Hollywood cheats of stunt doubles, using CGI and animation, and working on strings while shooting on chroma to let the characters' actions fly and soar high. This action fare shows the real deal — what a premier martial artist can really do without resorting to any of action cinema's magic tricks. The film presents the centuries-old art of Muay Thai in a contemporary scene. It carries on the

‘The Wolverine’ Film Review: The Contemplative Adamantium

"The Wolverine" is a fairly solid standalone offering that redeems itself from the significantly weaker "X-Men" spin-off "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." Somber and restrained, this film presents a refreshing noir reboot for the franchise. Compared to other "X-Men" blockbuster movies, it utilizes a contemplative tone and a deliberately slower pace, while clearly managing to keep the momentum for another brewing sequel. Interestingly, this dark and slow-moving character study doesn't feel much like a summer superhero movie, which isn't actually a bad thing.

‘Sonata’ Film Review: Music of Love and Mortality

“Sonata” -- an entry to the Sineng Pambansa National Film Festival 2013 -- captures the poetic eloquence of life through art, solitude, and relationships. It promotes a language of understanding for people dealing with pain and loss, as well as those thriving in joy and discovery. The narrative is not without flaws, but the maturity of the filmmakers’ artistry ultimately makes sense of the story’s inexplicable music about love and mortality. This dramatic piece, crafted by the familiar powerhouse tandem of

‘Ang Nawawala’ Film Review: A Loss for Words, A Passion for Music

Ang Nawawala (What Isn't There) promotes resounding tunes about coping up with loss, falling in love, and discovering oneself. It follows the life of a young man who is still profoundly affected by a trauma from his childhood. Unable to speak after a family tragedy, this deeply troubled youth finds solace in the company of friends, and in no time, in a series of romantic encounters with a fascinating woman who shares his taste for music. However, his dark past makes

‘Sta. Niña’ Film Review: The intersection between miracle and superstition

“Sta. Niña”-- a finalist in the New Breed full-length feature category of the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival 2012 -- is a family melodrama set a decade after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo. The story revolves around the people from the lahar-covered plains of a Pampanga town as they still cope up with the desolation brought about by the calamity, as well as their more current personal, familial, and economic struggles. The film’s front story features a very straightforward narrative. It follows

‘Rio 2’ Film Review: Perfectly fine, perfectly forgettable

"Rio 2" is a delightfully bright and breezy bit of computer-generated entertainment. As an acceptable family fare, this sequel maintains that blockbuster flavor that is expected of such an animated flick. It mostly hits the sweet spot when it comes to eye-popping visuals and feisty song-and-dance sequences. However, its predictable narrative plays too safe that it simply crafts nothing more than a fine commercial blend of heart-warming and toe-tapping moments for its target demographic. For this second installment in the "Rio"

‘The Red Balloon’ Short Film Critique: Relationship and Poetry Through a Child’s Gaze

A short essay for my Film Theory and Criticism Class The 1956 French short film classic “The Red Balloon” (Le ballon rouge) features a tender drama with a fine touch of flight of fancy. Its subdued setting features a lot of grays, suggesting the depressing quality of the film’s mood and tone, which is then contrasted with the blazing red balloon in mid air.  This post-war motion-picture classic written and directed by Albert Lamorisse features a seemingly cynical world that turns magical

‘Hedgehog in the Fog’ Short Film Critique: The Phantasm of Venturing Into the Unknown

A short essay for my Film Theory and Criticism Class The 1975 short animated film “Hedgehog in the Fog” (Yozhik v tumane) by Yuri Norstein offers an amalgam of terror and pleasure using the phantasm of venturing into the unknown. This evocative work of imagination features the journey of a hedgehog one evening to see his bear cub friend. As he travels in the foggy forest, he encounters many scary things that eventually become transformative moments of wonder. This 11-minute Russian

‘Tango’ Short Film Critique: Overlapping Routines as a Collective Ritual

A short essay for my Film Theory and Criticism Class Filmmaker Zbigniew Rybczyński presents his critically acclaimed 1981 Polish short film “Tango” as a rhythmic play set in a stage that gradually progresses. It begins with a vaguely minimalist room where there are three points of entrance and exit: two doors and a window. These points become the gateways of a plethora of characters that initially starts with easily recognizable parts until each one’s repetitive acts create layer after layer of

V for Vendetta: Freedom! Forever!

The Plot of This Satirical Film Brings Itself Close to George Orwell's “1984” “V for Vendetta” is a daring and imaginative view of Britain as a fascist state in the 2020s. The character V (Hugo Weaving) is thrillingly a Batman, Joker, Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and Shakespeare rolled into one. A visually striking and compelling sci-fi concept as it is, this graphic novel adaptation breathes a different air from the most overused of Hollywood genres involving comic book superheroes. Being a thought-provoking

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