Starring Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow, John C. McGinley, Kevin Spacey

Written by Andrew Kevin Walker

Directed by David Fincher

Distributed by New Line Cinema

Release Date    September 22, 1995

Running Time  127 minutes



Seven is a crime-drama-thriller movie about a young and novice detective named David Mills, who together with an old and retiring partner, William Somerset, was tasked with the uncanny job of tracking down a serial killer who uses the seven deadly sins or capital vices of mankind namely: Lust, Gluttony, 
Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy and Pride  as themes for his crimes.  It was directed by David Fincher, the same man who directed Brad Pitt in Fight Club in 1999 and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button in 2008.  

Seven was both a critical and box-office success in 1995 and went on to become the seventh-highest-grossing film in 1995, garnering a total of approximately $327 million worldwide*.  It was also nominated for Best Film Editing courtesy of Australian film editor Richard Francis-Bruce at the 68th Academy Award

The other six top grossing films of 1995 were  Die Hard with a Vengeance, Toy Story, Apollo 13, GoldenEye, Pocahontas and Batman Forever.



Statistics about the movie are from Box Office Mojo
*http://www.boxofficemojo.com/yearly/chart/?view2=worldwide&yr=1995
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Despicable Me 3 (2017)

Rated PG: For Violence and Rowdy Comedy

Running Time: 90 minutes (1 hour and 30 minutes)

Genre/s: Action, Adventure, Animation, Comedy

Released on June 14, 2017 (PH Release Date; Available For Worldwide Viewing)

Presented by Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment

Writers: Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio

Directors: Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda

Starring:
  • Steve Carell as Felonius Gru, and Dru
  • Kristen Wiig as Lucy Wilde
  • Trey Parker as Balthazar Bratt
  • Miranda Cosgrove as Margo
  • Dana Gaier as Edith
  • Nev Scharrel as Agnes

So school is back. Hooray! And the possibility of not posting in a long time again is slightly strong, but for the time being, while I am still free from the constraints of school work, I might as well spend as much of the time in reviewing all the other movies I have watched over the course of a few months. In addition, yesterday was Father's Day, and yes, I celebrated it with my family, and what better way to honor Dad's awesomeness than by reviewing a movie with a father as a main protagonist. On Saturday, we were invited to attend the advance screening of this movie at Centerstage SM Mall of Asia, alongside the other joyful kids in the event, and the film was delightfully okay, even though, like everyone else, the spin-off film Minions killed my interest in the franchise. Welcome to Dateline Movies, and this is our review of Despicable Me 3!

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What is the movie about?

Gru, played by Steve Carrell (Date Night), now a father of three youngsters, the eldest Margo, played by Cosgrove (School of Rock), the middle child Agnes, played by Gaier, and the youngest Edith, played by Scharrel, and a loving husband to his professional partner Lucy Wilde, played by Wiig (The Martian), and an agent of the peacekeeping agency known as the "Anti-Villain League", or the A.V.L. for short, thought that his life as a villain is behind him.

But when the 80s-obsessed supervillain and washed-up former child actor named Balthazar Bratt, played by Parker (South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut), humiliates Gru, he must ask the assistance of his long lost twin brother named Dru, also played by Carell, but will his chance encounter with his sibling force him to continue his family's maniacal and sinister legacy, or will he permanently embrace the life of a reformed villain?

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What we think of the movie?

We have made a major change to our movie review format! We are now ditching the "grading system" style of writing, namely because I just realized that it is no longer meeting my usual standards, and I have to face it, I am just inserting filler for the most parts. From here on out, we are now doing it in a generalized manner, similar to what we did in the previous post, although we would still keep the final evaluation labels intact, but only for movie reviews.

To be honest, I never found the Despicable Me franchise as the most memorable, nor the most entertaining, animated film series, ever. Personally, I would say that I would take the time to watch the films in the series when they are broadcast on basic cable, if ever I have nothing else to watch in an average weekend. Fun enough to watch? Yeah, and at least it is enjoyable to watch.

The acting performances for the movie are, as expected, good. Steve Carrell delivers just the right amount of energy the movie needs as both our villain-at-heart hero Gru, and his twin brother Dru. With Trey Parker's vocal addition to the film series, with Parker being notable for his controversial work on the over-the-top and adult-oriented animated series South Park, audiences are treated to a charismatic, megalomaniacal class act, even if his role is more or less just a walking cliche. Kristen Wiig is funny as Lucy Wilde, the stepmother of Gru's adoptive children, as her character struggles to understand the concept of being a true mother. Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, and Nev Scharrel are decent as Gru and Lucy's three adoptive children, and in their small misadventures, as explored through the subplots of the movie, these three deliver some of the biggest laughs.


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Being the third movie in the main Despicable Me film series, it would appear that the franchise has finally reached the point of lacking completely fresh ideas, as our third outing in the series is crowded with several cliches and tropes, especially since that it once again revisits the theme of "former villain being dragged back into the dark side", for the third in the row.

As we said before, Balthazar Bratt, our main antagonist, even if he does have an interesting origin story, is a trope, or better yet, a carbon copy, all on his own, as the character ends-up being an obvious rip-off of Marvel's heroic Star-Lord from the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, played by Chris Pratt (Passengers). If you do not believe me, ask Dad, because he was the one who pointed out to me the obvious pieces of evidence, including the villain's unquenchable nostalgia in all that is 80s, and of course, the dancing motif. (Ahem, "dance battle", anyone?)




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The overall story is pretty bland too, as here, we are introduced to the previously unknown, better achieving relative of protagonist, which has been done a lot of times already, but the twist here is that Dru, Gru's brother, is not as loved by their father as Gru. As expected, the two bond a little bit, slightly hinting at a possible sibling rivalry, and they get into an argument that leads to a mild falling-out over their family's villainous heritage, and they make-up later.

The Minions' little shenanigans, who are out exploring the world, in search of a new master to serve, after Gru strongly affirms that he is done pursuing the life of a supervillain, would provide some laughter in the form of the usual slapstick gags, and seemingly random gibberish lines, especially in their time in prison (it is a long story), and later, their eventual escape, as well as their musical number, during their audition in a talent competition sneakingly titled "Sing!", which is more or less, or may or may not be, a reference to the musical movie of the same name, which is also made by Illumination Entertainment. While their expected and inevitable involvement in the flick do provide some moments of sheer hilarity, much of it relies solely on their animated cuteness, and it feels recycled, and no longer fresh. Even Pharell Williams' songs, especially the ones that have been played over three movies already, is not enough to make a lasting belly laugh, but I have got to admit it, they are still really good and catchy, and it is completely worth it to listen to.


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Unquestionably, the best part about the movie, is its brightly colored and well polished animation. Not a second would go by through the movie's runtime when you would move away from the screen, namely because of how good the efforts were exerted in the overall animation.

The subplots surrounding Lucy Wilde's attempts at being a true mother figure to hers and Gru's three children, as well as Edith's search for a unicorn, despite everyone suggesting that none such exists, are heartwarming and funny. But, the movie's humor, applying mostly slapstick and visual gags in order to generate laughter from the audience, is plentifully tiring, but as simplistic as they may be, there is no doubt that you would get to chuckle, only just a little bit. I actually laughed at the scene featuring the two brothers trying to pull off a heist from Bratt, who is in possession of a powerful diamond that could power his robot's laser cannon, with Bratt's actions being the cause of Gru and Lucy being fired from their world-defending agency. Sure, it is just pretty much Dru trying, and failing, to be a good sneaky villain like Gru, but it is just funny.

And finally, the music for the movie, composed by Heitor Pereira, with original themes made by Pharell Williams, generate the highly joyous and optimistic atmosphere the movie is aiming for, even if they, as said before, cannot dismiss the fact revisits already tackled story territory.

Overall, Despicable Me 3 is pleasantly entertaining enough for audiences of all ages to enjoy, despite revisiting already explored themes and concepts, mostly due to the charismatic voice cast and its impeccable animation.

And that concludes our official movie review of Despicable Me 3. We would like to thank Stratworks Marketing Communications and Centerstage at SM Mall of Asia for accommodating the four of us to this movie screening and inviting us to the Snack Time Party event. We hope you guys catch it in theaters everywhere. While we have our criticisms, we still recommend that you guys still give this movie a look. But before you all leave, listen to Pharell William's best Despicable Me-themed composition yet, Happy! For sure, even after all these years, you are still listening to this song. Stay tuned for more Dateline Movies!

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50 Years of Telling Stories: A Musical Gala

Play Date: Opened and Ended June 11, 2017

Genre/s: Biopic, Comedy, Drama, Musical

Presented by Repertory Philippines


Based on the true history of "Repertory Philippines"

Writer: Luna Griño-Inocian

Musical Director: Ejay Yatco

Directors (Also Starring As Themselves):
  • Bart Gungonia
  • Jaime Del Mundo
  • Miguel Faustmann
  • Audie Gemora
  • Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo
  • Raymond Lauchengco
  • Freddie Santos
  • Michael Williams

School is finally back in session here in the Philippines, and before I finally step into the world of senior high, me and my family had the chance to venture all the way to Solaire Resorts, to join Repertory Philippines' commemoration of their Fifty Years of Telling Stories, in the form of a Musical Gala. Since it is a festivity of all things fancy, there were exquisite cocktails, interesting and lengthy conversations, and of course, lots of successful people. One of those successful gentlefolk was Jaime Fabregas, a talented, veteran Filipino actor who I was able to get a chance to take a picture with. I cannot believe I got to take a picture with a famous actor! I even met one of my best friends' mother, and even my own dentist, Dr. Victor Francis "JV" Gregorio (who was once a member of Repertory Philippines during his schooling days) at the show. What a small world we live in, indeed. Okay, that is enough reminiscing for once. Welcome back to Dateline Movies, and here is our review!


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What is the play about?

For fifty years, Repertory Philippines has brought countless memorable adaptations from every corner of the world to life! For five decades, audiences young and old alike, have been inspired by the wonderful stage productions the theater group has made! Now, get ready to experience the true story, the rise, the fall, the rise again of Repertory Philippines! Get to know the most important events encountered by REP through the decades, in a way, which is arguably the absolute best way possible, that they know how, a musical!

What we think of the play?

From here on out, I would no longer use the format applied in movie reviews, just for you, the readers, and also me, for some reason, to distinguish which is which easily.

I have heard of adaptations of true stories from third-person accounts, but rarely have I watched a production that features a specific history from the people who actually experienced those events. As an anniversary play, the entire stage production reminded me of the two-hundredth episode of Saturday Night Live, in a great way, as well as the magnificent Disney animated musical classic, Fantasia, wherein the present cast of the variety show recalls the greatest moments in their broadcasting history, given that the performance also showcased the finest events in the troupe's overall career.


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Organisers for the 50th gala celebration of REP:

L-R standing: Ayam Barredo, Gidget Tolentino, Raymond Lauchengco, Jamie Wilson, Mio Infante, Bart Guingona, Miguel Faustman, Mindy Perez-Rubio, Joel Nunez, Luna Inocian
Seated: Joy Virata, Jaime Del Mundo, Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo, Michael Williams

In addition, the plot follows a straightforward "underdog story", wherein we see how a once unknown group of talented individuals came together, and eventually, reach the height of success, leaving a legacy worth remembering by the people, of all ages and genders. It is that kind of tale that you would come to expect from a "rags to riches" work, but what makes 50 Years decent is its raw honesty towards their history, similar to the best adaptations of true stories. This is so since you will really delve deep into the world of the "Repers", and the play is not shy from telling everyone about some of their past shortcomings. Some of them include their failed "Luv" play, wherein the production suffered from several technical difficulties, and their first ever play, "Miss Julie", which was only attended by seven people. Their approach of being honest to the events that shaped their present, plus with some added sense of humor to make the audience relate to their experiences,  are huge assets to the play's success. In turn, their ability to not take their story with some moments made for the laughs is interesting, and it is a nice touch to the overall story.

Have you heard of a true story adapted to the stage as a jukebox musical? Well, maybe it has been done a lot of times, but this was the first actual time which I watched one, and indeed, I was more than impressed with the overall quality of the production. It does not have that much prestigious set pieces that you normally see in other plays, and they make use of almost exclusively formal attire, with the exception of some key scenes, wherein they only use costumes that were used in previous stage plays, but the end result was extremely far from a snooze fest.


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The acting, as well as the musical numbers presented in each segment, are all on point. One of the best parts that show this claim includes the prologue number, wherein the current Rep Fiftieth Core Ensemble danced and sang to the beat of "We Tell The Story", immediately setting-up the mood of the play with fun and playful melodies.


All of the directors who joined in, especially Freddie Santos, who headlined the fourth suite "The Hands: The Unsung Heroes", wherein he talked about the trials and tribulations of their group, as well as the behind-the-scenes people who contributed to the several successful moments in Rep's resume, continue to enliven the audience with their charming storytelling. My parents especially enjoyed the part in suite number four, which is "Comedy Tonight", namely because of Mitch Valdes, who sang the previously quoted two words in different tones to hilarious effect, while being backed-up by other amazing singers Franco Laurel, Jack Salud, JM Rodriguez, and Red Nuestro.


I really do not know why, but the number "Finishing The Hat", which honored the directors who joined the group over the years, somewhat made me a little teary-eyed. It might be possibly the beautiful composition, and vocal work from Bart Guingona, accompanied by Topper Fabregas, Sheila Francisco, Pinky Amador, Caisa Borromeo, Carla Guevara-Laforteza, and Cathy Azanza-Dy, because this one was the best in the entire production.

I would like to give a shout-out to Monique Wilson, and her vocal partner, for their astounding performances prior to the finale, as they honor those who have done a lot of things for the group, and have now passed away. The two's powerful singing voices made for an emotional moment.

After the final moments, wherein all current and former members of the Rep are invited to sing along of "Epilogue", the play, overall, was a fairly decent and heartfelt outing, with only minimal flaws, such as overuse of extremely bright lighting (I am serious. The hanging multicolored lights keep hitting my eyes, which makes the play not really easy to see), and some volume inconsistencies, such as in the "Camp Rock: The Musical" segment, wherein the two main actors for that part's vocal tone change at some points. Remember that none of these flaws would detract you from a wonderful experience at theater, which a single viewing of 50 Years of Telling Stories will provide you. Besides, you might even end up like me, who is now somewhat interested to join in the world of theater productions.


And that concludes our official review of 50 Years of Story Telling: A Musical Gala. But before you guys leave, please tune in to one of the songs featured in this play, and the one that I consider the one as my most favorite, "Finishing The Hat". Stay tuned for Dateline Movies!



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The Imitation Game (2014)

Rated PG-13: For Mild Smoking and Some Sensitive Content

Running Time: 114 minutes (1 hour and 54 minutes)

Genre/s: Biopic, Drama, History

Released on November 28, 2014 (US Release Date; Available For Worldwide Viewing)

Presented by The Weinstein Company, Black Bear Pictures, and Bristol Automotive

Based on the biography "Alan Turing: The Enigma" by Andrew Hodges

Writer: Graham Moore

Director: Morten Tyldum

Starring:
  • Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing
  • Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke
  • Matthew Goode as Hugh Alexander
  • Rory Kinnear as Detective Nock
  • Charles Dance as Commander Alastair Denniston
  • Mark Strong as Major General Stewart Menzies
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The Second World War is one event in the history of the world that created a lot of emotionally powerful and awe-inspiring true-to-life tales that simply scream the label of "Oscar-worthy material". While most of those flicks placed emphasis on the brave men and women fighting behind enemy lines, very few stories of heroes and heroines battling the good battle away from the war zone, usually get attention. For this movie review, we return to the year twenty-fourteen, and we discuss one of that time's greatest movies. I remember watching this flick as part of our robotics class, and yeah, most of my classmates were fast asleep that time since it was a hectic month, and I mostly recall the times some of my seatmates inquire me on the events of the flick. During that time, I realized then on how special the film really is, to the point that we just had to include it in our "Magnificent Seven". Welcome back, my friends, to Dateline Movies, and this is The Imitation Game.

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What is the movie about?

It was the era of World War Two, and as the boldest and strongest of soldiers grow increasingly in numbers, as the tides of chaos grow further across the globe, the most malevolent enemies grow smarter, carrying out their operations from the shadows.

The Enigma Machine, a coding device used by the Nazi forces to spread their messages all across Europe, is one problem that the Allies must solve, and that is where the brilliant-minded yet socially awkward Alan Turing, played by Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange), enters the war.

Joined by colleague Hugh Alexander, played by Goode (Watchmen), and later Joan Clarke, played by Knightley (Begin Again), under the supervision of Commander Alastair Dennistion, played by Dance (Game of Thrones), and some from Agent Stewart Menzies, played by Strong (Approaching The Unknown), Turing and his brave team of cryptographers to crack Enigma and win the war for the good guys!

Meanwhile, in the then future of nineteen-fifty-one, Detective Nock, played by Kinnear (Spectre), stumbles upon an older Turing, and he tells Nock all about his untold and secretive story, but as the story continues to unfold, Alan's secret is about to be brought into the light, a secret that can effectively ruin his professional career, and Turing would have to fight the skeletons of his past, in order to face the uncertainty of the future ahead of him.

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What we think of the movie?

Acting = (5/5)

Is it me, or is Benedict Cumberbatch being typecast as an on-screen eccentric genius? Most of his starring roles, from the hit television series Sherlock, the other biopic flick The Fifth Estate, to his portrayal as the titular scientist in the television film Hawking, plus the upcoming movie titled The Current War, wherein he will be playing the role of Thomas Edison, feature this typical trope, and The Imitation Game pushes the envelope for his knack for such roles even further. Mixed with the energy of a mad scientist, but not too much that it reaches the Doctor Frankenstein level, Cumberbatch, with focus placed on more of his inner turmoils, charms the audience, and his performance perfectly portrays Alan Turing as an all-around bright mind, who may be hard to get along with, but has a big heart, nonetheless! While I did not meet Alan Turing in person, meaning that I have absolutely no idea how he was in real life, I have high hopes that he is smiling up in heaven, knowing that Cumberbatch honored him with his work here.

Equally matching Cumberbatch's towering performance is none other than Keira Knightley's portrayal of Joan Clarke. I find it weird that most people did not enjoy her performance here. I thought she was okay, and her on-screen chemistry with Cumberbatch is decent enough. While most historians, including the relatives of the real Joan Clarke, point out that she could have pulled off a better job, her efforts in painting the picture of one of the most important people in Turing's life, namely as one of the people that Turing truly cared about, are nevertheless good in my perspective. Besides, if you did not at least tear up a little bit at Turing and Clarke's reunion in the ending, you either have a heart of stone, or no heart at all. 

Also, in small roles, Matthew Goode, Charles Dance, Rory Kinnear and Mark Strong deliver fine performances as one of Turing's doubting co-workers, Turing's overbearing superior, an inspector exploring the morality of Turing's life, and a mysterious agent working in the gray area, respectively. In addition, Alex Lawther was pitch perfect as the younger version of Alan Turing.


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Direction and Quality = (5/5)

Under the helm of Morten Tyldum, who later on directed the twenty-sixteen release Passengers, a film that we claimed was a somewhat inferior outing for the director compared to this one, The Imitation Game is one of probably many historical biopic that had good cinematography, with this one done by Óscar Faura, and decent editing, here done by William Golodenberg.

While it is a war movie, only a handful of scenes actually featured fighting and explosions, and with The Imitation Game, we move away from the battlefield, and into the large server rooms and workshops of Blechley Park. Sure, it may be a war movie, but a movie of such genre does not need to contain graphic deaths or executions to make a movie completely pivotal, and the decision to instead focus on the efforts of people who did not hold a gun to contribute to the battle for freedom, is admirable and commendable.

As most people who have commented about the score said, and I am just paraphrasing from YouTube user "Marianne", there is nothing better out there to listen to, while you are computing for various problems, than this amazing score by Alexandre Desplat. Indeed, the soft, gentle, melodic beats of the striking of the piano keys does make you feel smart, a little, and the work done will just blow your mind, as the score reflects the dramatic, emotional mood the movie is going for.


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Story, Dialogue and Flow = (4/5)

For a movie that is more or less based on a true story, you would normally expect that the historical accuracy of the work is at its possible highest. That is, apparently, not the case for this flick, as apparently, as it is revealed in our handy dandy Wikipedia, there are several narrative inaccuracies. While I was not aware of the several mistakes the story contained, the movie could have tried a little bit more to stay true to the actual events, although the movie did end up still delivering a captivating portrayal of Alan Turing. One mistake include Alan Turing's actual depiction, wherein here, he is seen as possessing some certain traits that suggest that he is under the autism spectrum, whereas in real life, it has only been theorized that he might possess those traits, but he is actually sociable. Another misconception includes the very ending of the movie, wherein it is directly stated that he committed suicide, while in reality, the cause behind his actual death is still up for debate.



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Another problem with the story is that it falls into cliche territory a few times, but we will discuss those not-so serious concerns yet, and for now, let us see what makes the movie's story so profoundly brilliant, despite its shortcomings.

My most favorite part about the movie is how it handles Alan Turing's homosexuality, honestly and powerfully. While I may not be a homosexual myself, the fact that the movie managed to make its complex theme into a much more thought-provoking message that everyone can relate to, can just tug a heart string of mine or two. The flashback scenes that feature Turing in his school days, wherein he catches affections for his best friend Christopher, only to be devastated once the young Turing discovers that Christopher did not tell him that he was dying from tuberculosis, and he only found out about this when Christopher finally passes away, fleshes-out our main character. We get to see the many dimensions that reflect Turing, including his struggles to keep his true self a secret.

I personally admire the analogy that the movie made, comparing both a machine and a human being, and then poses the million dollar question, "just because it is different, does it mean that it is not thinking at all?" Okay, I might have the quotation mentioned incorrectly, but whether or not what I said is just as the one heard in the flick is not the main point, but it is whether or not does one person in real life should be discriminated, outcast, shunned, feared, or hated, simply because they do not share similar views as most of us do.

Also, one striking scene in the movie is the part wherein they finally "broke Enigma", after Turing experiences an epiphany, the team makes a difficult decision to allow innocent people to die, in order to preserve their secret, much to the dismay of one of their own, Peter Hilton, played by Matthew Beard (The Riot Club). It, like the analogy, makes viewers question the morality surrounding the situation, and the ever timely concept of "the greater good versus the lesser good."


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Ending, Originality and Story Fulfillment = (4/5)

Like I said, the movie falls under some cliche categories, with most of them rooting from the several alterations made for the big-screen adaptation. Remember that these tropes would not entirely ruin your overall movie viewing experience. The most obvious cliche that can be found is in the form of the premise of the story, the "Chosen Few" cliche, wherein selected individuals form a resistance movement to make a top-secret project, in order to bring down a sinister empire's secret weapon from the shadows. This slightly altered, wherein instead of enacting violence against the enemies, they battle without the use of any form of physical threat, but instead makes use of intelligence, in order to combat the threat.

We also have the "league of the protagonist's own", wherein the leading gentleman of the movie, due to personal problems, is distrusted by the rest of his colleagues, which causes him to work mostly all alone, although he receives some support from his most trusted friend, with Matthew Goode's. Plus, Commander Alastair Dennistion, who was, in the real world, a strong supporter for the project, is dwindled down to the "authority foil", who is not impress at the initial lack of progress, which gives him the motivation to pull the plug on their world-saving project.


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By the time we get to the falling action of the flick, I recommend to prepare a handful of tissue papers, because seriously, you will definitely cry. I will make things brief.

With his secret discovered by John Cairncross, played by Allen Leech (The Sweeney), a Soviet agent unknowingly placed in the group by Stewart Menzies, believing that the Soviets can become potential allies, Turing proceeds to call his engagement with Clarke, revealing to her his homosexuality, and affirming that he really does care for her. After several successful operation they disband, but are to keep their efforts unknown to the public, and fast forward into the then present, Turing's real identity has been made known to the rest of the world.

Turing is then forced to experience several painful encounters, including having him undergo chemical castration, and in the closing moments of the film, we are treated to a heartwarming reunion with Turing and Clarke, and while his spirit breaks, Clarke reminds him of the astounding value of their work.

In the end, as the credits crawl, we realize that for many years, we have overlooked such a noble hero, who has done a lot of good deeds, all of which he was not given any form of recognition then, until today, but not after the world has shunned him for being different. Overall, this movie is a huge eye-opener, and it will just leave you breathless, and for sure, thanks to the film, you will always remember that being different does not mean it is bad.

Overall Evaluation = (4/5)

Many, many historical inaccuracies aside, this movie is a touching and emotional tribute to one of the Second World War's unrecognized heroes, and made more mesmerizing by the likable pairing of Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley

TOTAL = 22/25 (Awesome!)

While it acts more like a fan-fiction based on historical events, The Imitation Game succeeds as a genuinely moving biopic, fueled by emotionally resonant central performances, complete with a powerfully thought-provoking message.


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Well this movie review took way longer than expected. Wow, writer's block can be painful at times apparently. And with that comes the end of our latest movie review, and my oh my, we have not written in a long while. Hopefully I can make more while school is still starting. Also, we just learned recently the legendary Batman actor, Adam West, passed away from leukemia, and we have also heard some more bad news, including the Resorts World Manila shooting. Let us all hope for the best. Stay tuned for more Dateline Movies!
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La La Land (2016)

Rated PG-13: For Mild Language

Genre/s: Comedy, Drama, Musical, Romance

Released on December 9, 2016 (US Release Date; Available For Worldwide Viewing)

Presented by Summit Entertainment, Black Label Media, TIK Films, Impostor Pictures, Gilbert Films, and Marc Platt Productions

Writer and Director: Damien Chazelle

Starring:
  • Ryan Gosling as Sebastian Wilder
  • Emma Stone as Mia Dolan

True love? Ha, don't make me laugh. Ever since the first trailer was released, my movie-addicted side was already itching, since it was directed by the gentleman who gave us Whiplash. In addition, it is a musical, and who does not love a good musical movie? During the recent Academy Awards ceremony, after earning a huge set of major accolades from several categories (Wow, Hollywood really does love movies about Hollywood), it was this movie that was revealed to be the winner of the title of "Best Picture" for this year. And yes this movie did deserve this ... oh wait. My bad. It turns out Moonlight won. Oops. But still, this movie was still decent in its own right. Welcome to Dateline Movies, and join us as we review La La Land. Here's to the fools who dream!


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What is the movie about?

Welcome to the "City of Stars", contemporary Los Angeles, where the music is lively, and the people have ambitions in the world of performing arts. Everyone here has dreams, but sometimes, it takes a certain moment in time, or a certain someone, for us to truly realize what we really want in our lives.

Mia Dolan, played by Stone, is just your average waitress working in a major movie production studio with aspirations to become an actress, while Sebastian Wilder, played by Gosling (Both Gosling and Stone appeared in two other films before, Crazy, Stupid, Love, and Gangster Squad) is just your average jazz-obsessed musician trying to find the right type of work for him to pursue his passion.

Together, they will form a romantic relationship that will stood the test of time, but amidst the abundance of disappointments and shortcomings when it comes to passion, can their love surpass all odds? Will they love each other forever, even when the music stops playing?


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Acting = (5/5)

If you have watched all of the two movies that both Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone worked on, with all three movies coincidentally featuring them always as couples, then you know you are in for some seriously sweet, romantic moments, as well as tear-jerking moments, and these are things you get in this movie. Seriously, their chemistry is so believable, and it is flawless.

For me, both of the two leads are really just spectacular in each of their respective ways, but if I were to choose which among them did marginally, slightly better, I would have to go with Emma Stone, since her delivery as Mia Dolan is the one I find most easily relatable.

With Stone's easygoing nature, we get to see a rather depressing portrait of a lady caught under the shadow of another equally ambitious fellow, and with effortless charm, we are reminded that every failure is just a stepping stone. Her vocal work while singing, especially during the song "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)", also known as my favorite song in the entire soundtrack, is mind-blowing and beautiful.


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Of course, that is not to say that Ryan Gosling did not do a fantastic job. With his traditional deep-voiced and suave bravado, Gosling quickly embodies the soul of a man caught in the world that has long since forgotten jazz, and sets on a quest to reinvigorate interest in the classic music genre. He really knows how to charm an audience with just a simple smile and nod. I find it kind of funny that Gosling was supposed to be the Beast in the latest Beauty and the Beast remake, while Emma Watson was supposed to play Mia, but left for the aforementioned movie. Gosling might actually make a good Beast, given that he has a pretty smooth singing, slightly unsteady, but not that it matters, voice here.


Also, for a fairly short amount of screen time, John Legend, also an executive producer for the movie, is good as Keith. What a nice way to make use of that credit than make an appearance in the flick itself, am I right?

In addition, did anyone spot the J.K. Simmons (The Accountant) cameo in the movie? I guess you could say that he fired Sebastian from the club he manages, after playing different jazz melodies instead of Christmas tunes, is because it was "not his tempo", or even because he was either "rushing" or "dragging".


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Direction and Quality = (5/5)

This movie is nominated for the Best Picture category for a reason. Well, make that more than a reason. The way Chazelle, plus with the most eye-popping, non-CGI cinematography imaginable by Linus Sandgren, and editing by Tom Cross, captures each passing moment of the story in living, breathing color is just a sight to behold. I guess this movies just gives a "motion picture" a new meaning, huh? Some of my most favorite scenes, namely because of the gorgeous artistic lighting and coloring, include Sebastian and Mia's fantasy-induced trip to the Griffith Observatory, which includes a full set of stars on the background because this movie would not have had a song titled "City of Stars" without a sky full of stars, and Mia's alternate ending hallucination in the ending. These two key scenes will literally sweep you into the bittersweet world of La La Land.

And what good musical motion picture would there be without carefully timed and incredibly sharp dance sequences? This movie had some pretty darn good ones, in case I have not mentioned it yet. I believe the scene that contained the best choreography would have to be the introductory dance number, "Another Day of Sun", wherein we see random bystanders caught in your day-to-day Los Angeles traffic jam in a highway, on a warm sunny day. It immediately sets-up the bright and colorful mood the movie is aiming for. Sebastian and Mia's dance by the moonlight after their party, which showcases the song "A Lovely Night" , as well as the tap-dancing prowess of our two leads, comes close as second.


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But do you want to know what is, for me, the overall highlight of the movie? Well, if it is not obvious yet, it is the music. The catchy, upbeat, uplifting songs that not only make lip-sync out of nowhere at the mere opening beats, but also, with its astonishingly true-to-heart lyrical genius, inspire you upon closer inspection. The songs are the cherries to the metaphorical cake. Songs such as "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)", "City of Stars", and so much more will leave you breathless, and probably, like me, constantly listening to the soundtrack via your Spotify accounts.


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Story, Dialogue and Flow = (4/5)


Sigh. I sure do wish my love life could just be as splendid as that GIF shows.

Um, I mean ... Are you tired of the usual romantic flick formula? Is it too predictable for your tastes? Too much of the expected endings? Too simplistic? Too annoyed at the done-to-death "will they, won't they" tropes? Fear not, because La La Land manages to overcome at least some of the cliches, such as the "love triangle" and the "love at first sight", that you are sick of, just like me. Then again, we really cannot remove much of the elements that make up all of the other famous works of romance, because by removing those key components, then we are fast approaching a different genre.

For starters, similar to one of my other favorite movie of all time, 500 Days of Summer, which is also much more depressing than this movie, the movie injects some new bits and pieces to the formula. Some of the changes include non-physical sources of attraction for both characters, and the addition of slight social commentary with regards to the themes of "old versus new" through Sebastian's main conflict, and "dreams versus love", which is the prime concept revolving the movie. You do not need to read an entire thesis for you to explore various thought-provoking themes, and in this flick's case, it explores both topics through relatable, realistically down-to-Earth situations as presented in the story, such as Mia's attempts at getting accepted in auditions, and Sebastian's musically fueled passion.

I especially like, in a twisted sense, the argument between Sebastian and Mia later on in the movie, because while it is expected that they would fight soon, the topic of their fight is not on par with the basic causes such as "She/He loves me more than you", or "I just like you as a friend", or "You cheated on me!", but it does fall a little bit down on the second example.
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But, the only downside for the entire movie is that, by the time the romance starts to bloom, you might be bombarded with some exposition heavy lines, especially with regards to Mia's backstory and her motivations on her pursuit of an acting career. They are not that long, but for people who prefer more of the action-esque theatricality, you might need to be a bit patient.

However, despite that, as mentioned before, some of the dialogues mentioned by our two main characters can really, in a way, inspire you in your life, and in some part, think once or twice about your current relationship. This becomes much more evident during the fight that will eventually lead to the disintegration of Sebastian and Mia's relationship, wherein Mia thinks that Sebastian has sold-out his dream of opening a club, in favor of a career with his former classmate, Keith, played by John Legend (Soul Men), whereas Sebastian claims that Mia only liked him because she once had a more promising career than he did.


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Ending, Originality and Story Fulfillment = (5/5) +1

By the time the argument breaks out, and by that part, Mom was already fast asleep after finding the slower parts tiresome, which I sort-of agree on, it all seemed like it was going to be yet another happily ever after for Sebastian and Mia. Sebastian finally has a promising career with his fusion jazz band, which Mia accepts, whilst Mia is about to rise to stardom with an upcoming movie that she is going to star in, despite her one-woman play being a failure.

But all of a sudden ... boom! Fast forward five years later, Mia has a child now, and a different husband? Okay, I expected this ending because about half my friends at school already spoiled the ending to me, but still, even if I know how it ends, there is this one bit that I was not aware of that makes the ending effective and moving.

Blah, blah, blah ... another traffic jam ... blah, blah, blah ... stop-over, but where exactly? Sebastian's club, with the sign designed by Mia hanging outside, of all the places in Los Angeles. As they glance at each other for awhile, and Sebastian proceeds to perform, causing Mia to fantasize what could have been had they continued on five years from then.


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Remember when I said that Mia's alternate ending fantasy was one of my favorite scenes? Cross that, my favorite scene, to be more exact, aside from Mia's finally successful audition. This is why, and I did say that I loved the cinematography. However, what I love more about this sequence is the message that it carries, which is, in the end, reminding us that we should never overlook the things that really matter to us, and not push them all away in favor of ambitions, because the things, and especially people, that matter most to you, are the ones that make you happy.

Overall, watching this movie was a rewarding experience. Sure it is slow in some parts, given that it is a romantic movie, but like the poetic mastermind Chazelle is behind the camera, you will be spellbound by the wonderful message, aside from the awesome musical segments, that the movie is giving you, and like Whiplash, it will inspire you.

Overall Evaluation = (5/5)

With lovable chemistry and performances from both Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, as well as Damien Chazelle's, heartfelt direction and Justin Herwitz top-notch compositions, this movie is a must see!

TOTAL = 25/25 (Masterpiece)

La La land, a beautifully shot and choreographed musical with a sweet romantic atmosphere, and emotional performances, will leave you singing your heart out, and dancing like there is no tomorrow.


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They do not make movies this good that much these days, but I am not gonna lie, at first, I had some mix feelings for the movie, but after digging deeper into the movie's inner workings, and of course, thanks in part to that wonderful sequence at the end, I was left amazed. It really is such a cinematic wonder to behold. It is okay La La Land cast and crew, even though you guys did not won the Best Picture award, the movie is still great! And with that comes the curtain call of our movie review of La La Land. Before leaving, please take the time to listen to three of my handpicked favorite songs from the movie. Stay tuned for more Dateline Movies!