Posts Tagged ‘film review’

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I have a confession to make: I’m addicted to Korean movies. This fascination has been going on for quite some time, like 6 years haha.  I have no regret of worshiping the whole Korean film industry because they deserve the recognition and success they have. There’s a lot of good movies out there in every genre, to say the least. What really draws me to the industry is their high value for good, daring and brilliant storytelling.

The latest Korean movie I watched, ‘The Beauty Inside‘ completely blew me away. I thought I was only watching a a ‘probably-good’ flick only to find out it’s a deeply moving and thoughtful film.The Beauty Inside is sort of  remake of the 2o12 web-film from Intel about a man name Kim Woo-Jin who changes his body and appearance every single day. That’s 365 days of new faces a year of waking up either as a young man or a young woman, old people or a kid, thug looking or good-looking, and sometimes even a foreigner. It’s a difficult life for Woo-Jin who surrendered into solitary seclusion as a furniture maker;  devoid of physical relationships aside from his best friend and his mother. However everything changes when he met and fell in love with the beautiful Yi-soo (Han Hyo Joo).  Can they make it? Clue: It’s going to be one of the most unforgettable love story out there. Spare the me task of pouring in the details and watch it for yourselves hehe. This trailer will summarize its for me then!

I listed down my reactions about its story and how it connects to real life . So here’s my seven reasons why I love this film:

  1. Han Hyo Joo delivers! – With 123 different actors playing the same character  Woo-Jin, TBI is a very difficult  yet a special film to balance and one miscast of the constant female lead would sent the movie to a disaster. Thankfully the charismatic and arguably one of the most beautiful Korean actress Han Hyo Joo delivers another compelling and solid performance to lift the movie to another level. It seems like in every movie she’s in I cant help but google her once again to look for her filmography. Also checkout her other must-see works in Always, Cold Eyes and Heaven’s Postman
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  2.  A unique love story – When you put in so many actors playing the same lover boy (or girl) and all of them good for a day’s scene you know you’re in for a threat. It’s a spectacularly difficult and awkward relationship between Won-Jin and Yi-soo. But as we see them transform from random strangers to a strange couple who has to deal with so many challenges we cant help but feel in love. It’s a supernatural tale grounded to reality that felt so personal and real. It’s a minor miracle the whole story worked so damn well.
  3. The film shows a life of an artist – One of the plot elements that endeared myself to the story is that it is deeply rooted to an artist’s life. Not just a hobbyist artist, but an actual artist who makes a living out of his craft. Woo-Jin is a great furniture designer. The film does not totally show the his whole creative process from inspiration to final product but basically highlight an artist’s ambitions, occasional selfishness and preference of an isolated life. It really make sense with or without his paranormal condition.
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  4. Brand new appreciation for furnitures – in speaking of art, there’s a lot of great looking furnitures in the movie. I really love those! To be honest, I don’t really took notice the designs in chairs, tables and cabinets.  Let’s say I’m converted now thanks to this movie. And I promise I’ll look for a good chair for my studio.
  5. A metaphor for people with disabilities – Now let’s dive deep to the personal aspects that makes this movie great. If we take a closer look at the movie, one cant help that the story can be seen as a parable about people born with disabilities. Woo-jin’s condition is a supernatural curse and his struggles that goes with it completely reflect how we, people with disabilities, live our lives. One of the main theme of the story is about being ‘negatively’ different from the society. Woo-Jin is the Edward Scissorhands and  even the monstrous Beast (in Beauty and the Beast). Woo-jin’s isolated life is a direct symptom of that disability, his difficulty of having a real relationship especially a romantic one is divine pain. Yes, because of our conditions most of us have to live life with shame and insecurities. That’s a hard truth. And society’s misunderstanding, lack of compassion and even bullying isn’t helping  PWD at all.
  6. A different perspective in relationship – things would soon get ugly when you reach the third act of the movie. Just when things start to unravel the script delivers a gut punch on a loop-side relationship. We’ve seen Edward Scissorhand’s and The Beast’s struggle to fight for their love against society, but I don’t think we were given a clearer perspectives on how Kim and Belle would feel fighting for that same love. The Beauty Inside successfully shown the ‘normal’ side’s hurt and psychological descent to the point of depression. In this case,we expereince Yi-soo’s struggle to protect her love for Woo-jin at an even  greater expense. Honestly, I don’t think I looked into that perspective and  I cant help but feel sorry for every ghosts of girlfriends past.
  7. Sacrifice and Acceptance – At the end of the day, we have to make sacrifices and acceptance for Love right?  The trick is knowing and trusting how much we are willing to sacrifice for that relationship. Sometimes it is really OK to walk away and let go of the other person – because it’s the better choice (right Edward Scissorhands?). But the most important thing we could from this story is about acceptance. Beauty inside is a reminder that real beauty is inside,  people just have to learn to accept each other’s imperfection.

Love, that shitty, ugly, painful  thing two people go through, is what Beauty Inside is all about. It’s an absolute beauty this one!

The Beauty Inside will be shown on Philippine theaters in 2016.

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Note: All pictures in this post are taken from the internet. Credit to the owners. 

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2015 is ‘The’ year to remember for film lovers. There were just too many good and exciting films all throughout the year. Fortunately, I was able to watch a lot of them in theaters, streaming and some other means. Now its time for me to list down my top 10 films I’ve watched for this year. It was not not an easy task but the Force was with me so the result is a mixture of big budget Hollywood feature, indie films and even foreign and local films made the list. As a rule only films released in 2015 are included which are judged based on its quality, ambition, story’s strength and it’s impact to the community. So here they are:

10. The Revenant – Lets start the countdown with the Curious Case of Leonardo DiCaprio. Finally! The Revenant is probably the film that would give him his long overdue Best Actor award in Oscar. This year Leo  teamed up with last season’s Oscar-winning Birdman director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu to craft this brutal and intense tale of survival. The film is shot entirely of natural light in remote winter terrains in Canada that makes this film so damn hard to finish. It will be a great shame if Leo won’t win the Oscar next year.

image-via-20th-century-fox

image-via-20th-century-fox

9. Kingsman: The Secret Service – Name a director who has not made a bad film, I have Matthew Vaughn on top of the list. For some reasons he is not a household name but many would be recognize his works like Stardust, Kickass and X-Men First Class. With Kingsman he successfully validated he’s one of the most entertaining directors under the radar by giving us a creative, joyful and fun installment to the spy genre. Expect his signature color palette and shocking well-timed scenes of brutality (those poor heads).

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8Me and Earl and the Dying Girl – Streaking right before the awards season this independent film is charming the sh*t out of our innermost  adolescence and that need for friendship. It’s a story of two young friends whose main hobby is to make ‘absolutely  terrible short films’. Their story took a spectacular turn when the geeky and socially awkward Greg meets Rachel a girl diagnosed with cancer. It’s a thoughtful story I can personally relate about why and how far friends (er special friends) would go the distance if it means happiness for the dear patient.

image via moviebearspodcast-com

image via moviebearspodcast-com

7.  Sicario – There’s something about this film that draws me into it,  before I even saw it. Is it the poster, the cast, the director or the skin crawling story? Probably all of them. It’s a serious film about the war against the Mexican drug cartel that takes us through the eyes of an FBI agent recruited by the CIA for the operation. Filmed with drop dead gorgeous cinematography by master lensman Roger Deakins under the direction of up and coming director Denis Villeneuve. And with powerful performances from Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benecio del Toro what could go wrong?

image via monkeysfightingrobots-com

image via monkeysfightingrobots-com

6. Mad Max: Fury Road– There are film franchises that are prayed by millions to come back and there some that don’t need to be reborn, Fury Road belongs to the latter category. But just because nobody asked for another maddening ride in the post-acalyptic wasteland doesn’t mean it has no right to come back. It is simply the greatest action film ever made. This Mad Max reboot/sequel is a long chase sequence filled with bombastic stunts, adrenaline filled car chases and a surprising feministic core highlighted by Charlize Theron’s performance.

image via popoptiq-com

image via popoptiq-com

5. Inside Out – Pixar is back with what could be one of their very best, Inside Out delights the audience with a story told from the inside of our heads that is helmed by five distinct emotions: Joy, Fear, Disgust, Anger and Sadness. It’s a coming of age story of girl who moves to the not-so-fun big city of San Francisco as she struggles with adjusting in a new environment, loss and ultimately finding that inner strength inside us. As usual incredible animation and family friendly roller coaster story that we have all come to love with Pixar.

image via Forbes.com

image via Forbes.com

4. That Thing Called Tadhana – As a Filipino film lover it’s really sad to know that our local industry is on a seemingly eternal downward spiral quality-wise, and behold the Messiah has come! Tadhana is a rare gem that captured the #hugot nerves of Pinoy moviegoers without sacrificing the quality of the story. Packed with, well, hugot lines Tadhana is a drop-dead charming road film about the self-imposed road trip of a broken-hearted Mace and journeyman Anthony (played by Angelica Panganiban and JM De Guzman respectively). It’s a take of a Filipino pop culture of travelling to Sagada when broken-hearted. It’s smart, witty and something every Filipino deserves in the age of sickening commercial loveteams.

image via philstar.com

image via philstar.com

3. Twenty – from the tremendously successful Korean film industry comes this heartfelt comedy about three friends in their 20’s as they have to deal with social expectations, responsibilities and educations, all while dealing with problems with girls, beers, getting laid and the next great mischief. It’s like the original American Pie only better in all aspects. As a guy in my 20’s the issues are truly relatable and lingering, particularly the idea of chasing our dream or doing what the society expects. It’s a testament that 20’s are universal and so much fun!

image via koreaboo-com

image via koreaboo-com

2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Now this is the film franchise prayed by millions to come back and boy, Disney knocked this one out of the ball park! For sure, you’ve heard so much good thing about this movie but all I can say is it’s what every Star Wars fan wanted and deserved. It’s been forty-two years since Luke Skywalker’s story ended (I only twenty in my case.. I was seven on New Year’s even when I first saw Empire) and we really don’t have any idea how much we truly missed that galaxy. Oh I love Rey and BB-8!!!

image via collider.com

image via collider.com

1. Heneral Luna – This comes as a surprise but I’m not kidding Heneral Luna rightfully deserve this place on my list. It’s the only film that made me cry (literally) after watching it on theaters. It’s that big feeling of relief that finally there is one period film or a Filipino film we can truly be proud of. This is the sole movie that awakens so much conversation about history, patriotism and how much the history repeats itself in the modern seating.

It is the biographical account of Gen. Antonio Luna’s exploits  during the Filipino-American War. For an independent film it looks expensive because of it’s high production value. But most of all it’s uncompromising take on an imperfect war hero. In short, we need this kind of films. Mabuhay ang Pelikulang Filipino!

image via Artikulo Uno

image via Artikulo Uno

The Runners Up:
Fast and Furious 7Best of No Nation, MIssion Impossible: Rogue Nation, Kid Kulafu & The Martian

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How many times do I need to say I’m sorry guys for being from this blog? This time I really  mean it. Insert: confession coming.

September 2014. Now its been four long years since I started writing in this page. I’ve always been faithful to the blog. There were of course, a few weeks-long of  hiatus throughout  but never this serious. What is happening is, I’m now almost at the end of the rope. I seem to be losing the juice guys… the stories never stops coming but its just.. I think  whats missing is that drive, that fire to write what needs to be written to tell those stories that needs to be share. This never happened before as if either I’m a facing a monster called ‘Writers Block’ or perhaps its just the end of Lapiskamay dot WordPress dot com… I dunno let’s see. Perhaps this is still part of growing up.

But I’m not letting go without sharing something I liked recently, it’s a Taiwanese movie called “You Are The Apple of my Eye“. I’m a movie lover who searches for good stories anywhere regardless of the language and the cinema it came from. Some days I get lucky to find something. But there are days when I stumble across this priceless gem. Taiwan did it again (after Secret and Cape No. 7)!

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But I have to admit “You Are the Apple of my Eye” got some similarities with the Korean film “Architecture 101” which I absolutely loved too. Both uses flashbacks, both are Asian  romance films that are insanely nostalgic, both shared scenes on train tracks and both share the same philosophy on the way they end their stories (sorry no spoilers here). So here’s Apple’s synopsis err trailer (Update: It’s actually the movie! Go watch!):

Here’s a quick synopsisy from Asian Fixation:
“It’s the year 1996 and Ko-Teng (Ko Chen-Tung) is only 16 years old, a senior in high school. He, along with his four other friends, has a crush on the smartest student in class, Shen Chia-Yi (Michelle Chen). The five of them has different ways of pursuing her, but for Ko-Teng, competing with her and annoying her endlessly are the only things he could do. After doing something foolish in class, Ko-Teng’s punishment is to sit in front of Shen Chia-Yi so that she can scold him everytime he’s doing something inappropriate. Shen Chia-Yi challenges Ko-Teng’s intelligence that pushes him to do better in school. It’s the start of a decade of competing with each other and falling deep in like.”
Asian Fixation blog

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looks familiar? Architecture 101 has this scene too! 🙂

So what did I liked about the movie? Where do I start? haha. Ok the story is really nice perhaps too damn honest one could swear it really happened somewhere in our past. It’s the kind of movie that transport us to our high school years with all those pop cultures and feelings and crushes and stuffs. Again its an honest take on teenage love and friendship. The story captures the emotions from our souls, bakes it and serve it hot and sweet (sometimes crushingly painful).  The casts were terrific in portraying their characters specially the lead guys (especially the naked parts). I love Michelle Chen‘s charming portrayal of the nerdy girl and all-around-good-girl crush ng bayan. Apple is so sweet and  truly funny, I had a lot of LOL moments, alone. Dad thought I was weird last night.

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But the biggest sell of the movie is their philosophy on love, on losing it and life in general. It’s very rare for a romantic-comedy film to have deep grip on problems beyond romance. It asks the classic What If question by showing the lovers talking on the phone asking themselves “What if there’s a parallel universe?” Perhaps they’ll be together. Perhaps the guy decide to man up for her. And there’s a few more What Ifs  then there’s this beautiful quote:

“People always say that the most wonderful time in a relationship happens before it really happens. When the two people are together, the magic vanishes.”

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Apple is a movie that is never afraid what to show even it means showing some gross scene unacceptable by the Church (trust me this film will never reach the Philippine theater). It did not lost its identify to show this wonderful story the way it meant to be. Kudos to the film maker, the producers and sue me for writing this really bad movie review.

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By the time a boy reaches 17 he’d be out of high school and choose a path in college. That choice will define who he’ll be in the future. In my case I never had much choice, don’t even know what kind of life I’d have at the first place. Fine Arts seems nice but I wasn’t sure I was afraid because my talents was and still is limited, but to be honest it’s out of the question. My family just can’t afford it that time, my sister’s on med school in a big university and two brothers in high school. It was pure bad timing that’s all. I guess I took up Accountancy because it’s the first college course that pops up alphabetically.

What I didn’t know all these years is that there’s another one next to it: Architecture. Why didn’t I think of that?

Present time, while killing of boredom in a Board Meeting I suddenly had the craving of watching a, well sue me,  love story! Based on experience, the best love-story are found in South Korea! Somehow I found my way to a  movie with a curious title: Architecture 101. And disappoint, they did not.

movie poster from Hancinema.net

movie poster from Hancinema.net

 

Architecture 101  is a moving throwback of epic nostalgic proportions. It’s so beautiful and poignant that I can’t help to look back on some things that happened. The movie connects to me like no other had. It’s one of those movies that hits you deep and demands those emotions to be felt, like pain, like love. The story was very well written and unpretentious as the picture introduce about two middle-age people; an architect and a client who shared a common past.  Through the architect’s point of view during the present time as he builds this wonderful house for the lady client out there at  Jeju Island, the narrative is a colorfully mesh that shared past some half a lifetime ago, back in college, back in the Architectural 101 class… what happened to this two?

I wont talk much of the film’s story but trust me it’s not a sappy kilig-to-the-bones love story but rather an intimate view of the lives of these two characters. It’s a film that throws back at you massive dose of nostalgia through those beautiful 1990’s flashback. It’s a film that let’s you nosedive, should you allow it, to the past.. to that stupid first love, to that stupid first heartbreak. And why the hell did I not took Architecture?! The story does not pretend, but tells the story as it should be bounded by the moral of society and how people sometimes mess up with their decisions. Ultimately, it painfully reminds us of the things that we lost, things that we can never get back. It’s a tale of Love, Nostalia and, deal with it boy, Heartbreak.

But you know what? The movie teaches something: we can make up for lost time or start all over again. Like what Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad said recently, “Take a chance. Take a risk. Find that Passion. Rekindle it. Fall in love all over again. It’s really worth it.

It’s been quite a while since the last time I wrote a film review, been busy. I miss the unlimited adjectives doing that! But there are just some particular films that are just too good to pass without sharing them to other people. One of those films is “Whisper of the Heart”, a 1995 film from Studio Ghibli. The great Hayao Miyazaki did not direct this one but he wrote the screenplay so, yes, you can put your expectations high.  And it won’t disappoint as the guys from Ghibli especially Yoshifumi Kondō, the director, delivered the goods in an unexpected intimate and deeply personal display of storytelling.

The story is about the bookworm high school student named Shizuku who met an annoying boy who is so passionate on annoying her and making violins. Soon Shizuko finds herself in a thrill ride in discovering first love and the gem inside all of us. It is a heart-warming narrative about love, friendship, family and the soul searching power of being young and care-free.

pic from wondersinthedark.wordpress.com

The movie was made about seventeen years ago, but I’m so amazed how relevant the story even to this generation. It’s a high school love story that did hit some nerves on the ‘kilig’ department. It has some great moments that will make Mario Maurer’s Crazy Little Thing Called Love even sillier. Oh, I remembered how it actually felt to have a high school crush and the thrills that goes with it. The scenes were just spot on. I think many people can relate to the characters in the love element of the story

But the main element of the story is about finding one’s dreams and having the courage to pursue them. It’s an inspirational story for the kids to see. Personally, when I was the age of the young characters I’m pretty much clueless as to what I wanted to do with my life. Yes the talents and the potentials were there but the confidence was non-existence. I believe one of the most critical things that could happen to a teenager is finding that dream, that passion, that thing you wanted to do the rest of your life. Trust me, you don’t want to be pursue your parents other people’s dreams. Hayao Miyazaki’s fine screenplay pinpointed those with accuracy and manages to transform those ideas into a metaphor of a rock crystal; unpolished, dull and ordinary but deep inside is a precious gem just waiting to be discovered.

pix from animeprincess.kokidokom.net

The animation was simply breathtaking (didn’t I use that adjective on the Arriety review?). The story practically deviates from the Ghibli tradition of high fantasies during the 90’s but it doesn’t mean we don’t get to see the beautiful concept designs that captures the feeling of what it is to live in Tokyo during that period. If you like what you’ve seen in Arriety then you’ll surely love the presentation. It’s a feast to the eyes!

Whisper of the Heart is such an intimate story to enjoy for the young people but also for the mature ones and see how much we’ve grown in life looking back at all those precious moments in our teenage years. It defies the age bracket of audience because people no matter how old or how young can find their selves, in one way or the other, in the characters inside the story. It’s almost completely devoid of all those magical items Studio Ghibli is so known for but it sure got the DNA of a coming of age story with lots of lessons to get by. And the kilig meter ran absolutely ran high, haha, I sport a pretty big smile down to the last scene.

Finally the long wait is over as the last installment of Christopher Nolan‘s realistic and gritty take on the Batman mythology comes to a fitting end with a bang, a really loud one.

It’s been seven years since Nolan and Co. shook things up the way superhero should be made with the psychological bare-fist thriller Batman Begins. In 2008, they took the world by storm with The Dark Knight which featured The Joker and a brilliant display of multi-layered climaxes and fantastic action sequences (not to mention an unprecedented viral campaign, Why so serious?). But the last installment almost never saw the light rise when Heath Ledger who played The Joker passed away before the film even hits the theater, leaving a legacy of menace  and taking an epic finale in a would-have-been third film to the grave. During those year I really thought there would never be a third act because The Joker’s role is very much alive with no one crazy enough to step up to that role and the filmmakers will have a very tough time cracking up a new missile launch code. But they did. The idea was: the only way you can replace The Joker who just wants to see the world burn is to put in someone crazy enough to burn the world himself. That’s the entirety of what the third act, The Dark Knight Rises, needs to deal with.

And oh my, Bane and his army answered the call and he is that guy who is a lot bigger, stronger, smarter and worst of all, a ruthless killer with an even worse sense of theatrics in spreading mayhem. Ra’s al Ghul burned the Wayne Manor, the Joker blew up a hospital, but Bane he just wants to blow the whole city  up like Hiroshima. You see this guy means business, he has plans and its all bad news for the people of Gotham. And we saw it coming when Tom Hardy, the one playing Bane, quoted in 2010 Nolan film Inception: 

By the way, I already saw the film so I want to give the readers a juicy detail (it’s not a spoiler!): Bane came from Hell. The movie literally has one and you have to see it for yourself. There was this some sort of parable or legend (like the thief in Burma) that sometimes a man has to rise up from hell to save the world, but sometimes Hell itself spat out something nasty. Batman Begins and The Dark Knight are notorious for having villains with no origins as to where they came from or how they come to be. But for a third act, Nolan paid homage to the previous Batman films giving us a close look into the origins of Bane including why he wears his mask. For a film to be great, it needs a greater villain.

I wont talk about the plot of the film because it’s just hard to describe. Let’ s just talk about the film. It is long with almost 3 hours running time and it gets complicated down the middle with lots of secrets pulled out of the closets. But it’s all worth a great set-up for an epic climax that’ll blow you away. The tone of the film is really heavy emotionally, I mean there are depressing scenes where our heroes and Gotham City  reaches their breaking points and a few other disturbing bad news. And trust me, it sure got a lot Bane’s fingerprints all over it.

The amazing ensemble of cast Nolan has assembled once again delivered to its standards. Forget about how good The Avengers make a great boyband because it won’t help you, they’re just a fluke in the greatness of the  Nolanverse Batman. When it comes to casting, the number one question in everyone’s mind is ‘Did Tom Hardy pulled off a Heath Ledger performance?” I will tell honestly it’s a No. He simply surpassed it and rewrote The Joker’s book of Spreading Mayhem 101 into How To Raise Hell in Gotham. It’s a completely different role he is portraying because Bane is not The Joker, he is completely sane with a great sense of purpose who believes the destruction of Gotham is his destiny.  Bane has no sense of morality, he kills with reckless abandon because he can and when you’re getting in his way unlike The Joker who does it for fun. And Tom Hardy can spread terror through his eyes. He has this overwhelming physical presence matched only by his characters ruthlessness.

The other new characters were great too especially the guys who came from Inception (Hardy, Cotillard, Gordon-Levitt). Anne Hathaway‘s Catwoman fitted in greatly into the Nolanverse as Gotham’s very own femme fatale anti-hero. You also have to keep an eye on Marion Cottilard‘s character because she’s no pushover, she’s there for a really f***in’ good reason. But the film’s wild card surprise comes from the performance of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake. He practically kept the characters Commissioner Gordon,  Bruce Wayne and even the entire GCPD from falling apart.

Essentially, The Dark Knight Rises is still a classic tale of Good vs Evil only this time in an unprecedented monstrous scale. The fight scenes are really awesome and plenty (yey!), with an epic climax that can rival Lord of the Ring’s in Return of the King. But the massive amount of explosions in the movie completely blow all of my expectations away. I should have aimed higher. There are new cool gadgets including ‘the Bat’ together with the old ones. The script was really grand, complicated and long so there will be a few flaws (that critics will surely exaggerate, those jerks). And Gotham City once again felt and looked different compare to the first two. I noticed that the Wayne  Enterprise HQ  have different version in each film in the trilogy. See below:

Does it come in black?

Overall The Dark Knight Rises is worth all the four years waiting. It’s really good to see how the previous two films connected to the third installment. It has been a great and painful journey for Bruce Wayne/Batman from an avenger to a hero, from a tortured young man to a  broken old man, and from a symbol of hope to a silent guardian. I just can’t believe Batman is over. This is really the final Batman film under the Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale tandem. But I am very grateful for sending the dark knight into a conclusive and satisfying end. Because the true test of a hero is when the fire threatens and the darkest of nightmares haunts, he must be broken so he can rise up and become the legend.

Growing up, I always believed that the best movies are the ones coming from Walt Disney (and later Pixar) with their age proof and heart warming animated features about fairy tales and great adventures that highlights the greatness of friendship and the triumph of good against evil. They have great movies for the family, that’s one of the fact that remains today. But Disney is not alone. Because somewhere in the eastern hemisphere lies a great kingdom called Studio Ghibli who have also fascinated countless young minds of the great tales of fantasies, magic, bravery and the beauty of life through coming of age stories. My only regret is I never got to know the studio and the legendary storyteller Hayao Miyazaki sooner. But their lineup of great animated films are as impressive as those of Disney’s and Pixar’s. And their latest masterpiece is the heartwarming tale of a brave little girl in ‘The Secret World of Arrietty.’

The Secret World of Arrietty was written and produced by Hayao Miyazaki, the mind who brought us Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle.  Based on Mary Norton’s 1952 novel The Borrowers, the film tells the story of a free-spirited young borrower named Arrietty who lives with her parents under the floorboards of a rural suburban house. Borrowers are tiny people who lives peacefully in people’s houses who borrows basic supplies like sugar, tissues and cookies while keeping their existence secret to humans. But when her maiden borrowing into the big world of the human’s kitchen went terribly wrong, their survival and their way of life now hangs in the balance.

But in the face of disappointment and unprecedented danger Arrietty and the boy name Shu, who jut came to the house for a vacation and rest for an upcoming heart surgery, forged a mutual respect to each other’s existence that soon blossoms into an unlikely friendship between the minute borrower and the gigantic human boy – a forbidden friendship that defy all norms that will change their lives forever.

I never really expected the movie will be great because of Miyazaki didn’t direct it, Spirited Away is still number one, a girl is the main character, the trailer was not so good and this and that, etcetera etcetera. But only a few minutes into the film I completely fell in love with it.That’s when I started to take notice of the beautiful and enchanting soundtracks early on. The music was something that is soothing and nostalgic that suddenly brings back those warm memories of summer. The notes simply hits the right spots of the soul, something truly magical. I never knew I have a weak spot for music. Here’s a soundtrack of the film, the English version of ‘Arrietty’s Song’ played by the French singer Cécile Corbel:

Studio Ghibli has always been for its visual concepts of its films but in ‘Arrietty’ they raised the bar even higher. The signature hand-drawn animation was truly stunning especially the rich colors they used promising a feast to the eyes. The concept designs of the environment is really beautiful. The character interaction is simply impeccable conveying a deep sense of reality. Although earlier works of Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli have always been visual by blowing things up out of proportions into a grand spectacle of high fantasy like Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and Ponyo By The Sea, this time however the elements of the story are practically locked into reality,well, of course except the tiny borrower family.

A family of borrowers: Homily, Pod and Arrietty.

But the story remains true to the Ghibli tradition of presenting a heart warming coming of age tale filled with mysteries and dangers in one unforgettable adventure. It is intelligently written, a bit toned down but still very captivating. This a tale of friendship as both Arrietty and Shu have to trust each other to fight for their survival. I think the existence of borrowers and their role to the human inhabitants parallels our  social issues of today where giant nations like China exerting their dominance by trying to dispute territories already marked by smaller nations. But at the end of the day it is in mutual respect for each other holds the key to a peaceful living. Even the film has a trace of environmentalism and preservation of living creatures around us.

The Secret World of Arrietty is truly a cinematic achievement that sings the human soul’s determination to survive. It’s now one of my favorite animated films of all time. Simply one of the many gifts only Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki can offer. I truly recommend this film for everyone, especially to little children, to watch with their families.