THE REVENANT (Alejandro G. Iñarritu, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Revenant:

1. Let me begin by saying that I do not hate Leonardo DiCaprio. If anything, I have loved him since he died of hypothermia in my all-time favorite movie Titanic. I would be more than happy to see him finally win an Oscar especially with his level of commitment in every role. So when I say that I wasn’t completely impressed with his crawling and grunting (sorry, I meant acting) in this movie, it’s all coming from a place of love (like a father telling his son that a B+ in Art won’t cut it because he is a straight-A student).

2. Leo has done much better work in his past films (Wolf of Wall Street, Revolutionary Road, Catch Me If You Can) and although some of these roles also required a certain level of intensity, he didn’t really go overboard in any of them. All of his acting tics were in full display in this movie that it bordered on camp (I pictured Christopher de Leon in his late 90’s movies: nostrils flaring, mouth frothing, full-on kunot-noo acting). Sure, Leo was in pain all-throughout and had his throat slashed so he couldn’t do much except moan, but his performance really didn’t work for me. For the record, he even crawled much better in the Wolf scene when he was loaded with Quaaludes.

3. But enough about him, let’s discuss the movie with its beautiful flowing waters, picturesque snowcapped mountains, and perfectly lit images that I just wanted to screencap and use as my phone’s wallpaper. If anyone here is deserving of an Oscar, it would definitely be Emmanuel Lubezki (whom I loved since A Little Princess and is on track to get his third consecutive Best Cinematography Award). He could win all of the awards every year and I wouldn’t be complaining.

4. After seeing everything that happened to Leo in this movie, I have further lowered camping on my bucket list. It was a miracle that he survived all of these: mauled by a bear, fell off a cliff, drowned in rapids, cauterized his throat wound, traveled through a harsh winter landscape, fell off a higher cliff, and slept naked inside a dead horse (this didn’t even include all the shooting). His wounds also magically healed in a matter of hours and days (although there were some juju involved, including a soil spa that worked wonders on his deep lacerations) and even with a twisted ankle, he was running in full speed after a night’s rest.

I therefore conclude that Leo is Superman and I now need further proof that he really froze to death in Titanic.

5. Was it just me or was the dubbing really bad for the Indian characters? The sounds didn’t match the movements of the mouth at all.

6. Leo ate a live fish and that was fine because I love sushi, but I wondered why he ate the raw bison meat when there was a lot of fire around him. I’m just thankful that I haven’t been that hungry.

7. I pitied all the horses that were killed in this movie. Gunshots, arrows, and cliff-diving. I hope they had insurance. The horse that was also used as a transient house should have charged rent.

8. Ate Vi’s final scene in Ekstra >>> Leo’s final scene in The Revenant

Rating: ★★★☆☆

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES (Burr Steers, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Pride and Prejudice and Zombies:

1. I’ve seen several versions of Pride and Prejudice and my favorite would have to be the one directed by Joe Wright and starred the quintessential Victorian beauty Keira Knightley. It must be said though that Colin Firth in the BBC miniseries is and will always be Mr. Darcy (even my literary twin Bridget Jones agrees). Look for any of these versions and watch them instead.

2. I still haven’t recovered from the awfulness of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and this other genre mashup wasn’t any better. The zombies could have been replaced by vampires or werewolves and it wouldn’t have made any difference since the zombie plague was just a mere backdrop to the story. If anything, it actually felt like a crime to ruin the Jane Austen classic. Why not turn Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James) into a manananggal instead? That would have been more interesting. I hope they also make a Crime and Punishment and Tikbalangs or William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Undin Juliet.

3. James was really lovely so I was confused when she wasn’t deemed the prettiest one among the brood. At least in the Knightley version, Jane Bennet was played by Rosamund Pike so it was a bit more acceptable. (FYI, James must really love wearing a corset because she’s also in Downton Abbey and the lead in the current BBC miniseries War & Peace.)

4. The supposed novelty here was that the Bennet sisters were actually trained in martial arts and swordfighting so they always entered a scene in a Sucker Punch formation (slow motion, of course) ready for battle. Most of the fight scenes involved mere poking (simple tusok-tusok) and some scenes were even too dark to actually see all the action happening onscreen.

5. One of the few sources of enjoyment here was Doctor Who’s Matt Smith playing the bumbling Mr. Collins. He seemed to be aware that he was trapped in a dud so he fully embodied all the silliness required by the role.

6. “If they don’t eat brains, they don’t turn into full zombies.” Ahh, that explains Plants vs. Zombies.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

DIRTY GRANDPA (Dan Mazer, 2016)

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WARNING: R-18 DISCUSSION!!

My notes on Dirty Grandpa:

1. There are two cuts being shown in local cinemas (one’s R-16 and the other R-18), but I guarantee you that no amount of exposure of Zac Efron’s bubble butt will make any version less dreadful. If that’s your only reason for watching, you’re better off doing a Google search of his nude pictures (cheaper, too).

2. Why did it feel like the movie was made by a horny gay teenager? There were several close-ups of Zac’s ass, paraded onscreen for no reason. In one scene, he got drunk and was suddenly wearing a thong with a giant hornet covering his crotch (of course, the said thong was removed in a succeeding scene where he was just covering himself with his hands; the fact that he was able to cover everything would be a different discussion).

In another, he needed to change his outfit so he dropped his trousers because well, he just had to (and Robert De Niro had to make fun of his penis). Oh, and there was also that scene where he woke up in bed with an actual (prosthetic?) cock next to his face. Wait, did I actually end up convincing you to watch the movie? Argh!

3. I felt offended that the bride (played by Julianne Hough) was portrayed as a controlling bitch for simply being organized and putting special attention to her wedding details. What’s wrong if she had to select between a coral or salmon tie? Why is she shown as annoying for wanting a formal detailed announcement in the papers? Or wanting a slideshow of their best vacation pictures? Or sing a duet of Celine Dion’s Because You Loved Me during the engagement party? That is actually called love. Zac singing better than the bride (runs and all) should have been the cause of concern.

4. Sure, this was a raunchy comedy but I really pitied the actors involved in this project. The De Niro had a scene where he was masturbating to a porn video and said lines like “I wanna fuck until my dick falls off”. (Can someone check if this movie should be on the Guinness Book of Records for the most use of the word “vagina”?) Even the lovely Aubrey Plaza had to play a thirsty kitten with the hots for him while saying things like “You’re gonna tsunami on my face!”

5. One scene involved a lame pass-the-message joke that didn’t make any sense and stretched on for several minutes even without any punchline. Actually almost every scene here was like a filler to ensure a one and a half hour runtime.

6. It was odd that De Niro was mean and offensive to everyone (gays, blacks, people with disabilities) and yet he taught the rest a lesson on political correctness and respect when the same people were mocked. I guess he was the only one allowed to speak that way because he was, uhm, old?

7. The only thing I found funny was that he had Werther’s Original candies in his pockets. I love those! Yes, I’m eligible soon for Medicare. Stop laughing and show some respect to your elders.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

THE DANISH GIRL (Tom Hooper, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Danish Girl:

1. Much has been said about Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance in The Revenant but I still maintain that Eddie Redmayne was last year’s best actor. His portrayal of Einar Wegener turned Lili Elbe was nothing short of spectacular. Every blink of an eye, flick of a finger, and point of the toes revealed the longing of a woman trapped inside a man’s body desperately wanting to break free. It transcended impersonation (which he did brilliantly as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything) and became a full-fledged transformation.

You may not win the Oscar this year my dear freckle-faced Eddie, but you are getting my Gushing Fan Best Actor Award (and with the current state of our local awards, this actually is more valuable than a Star Award or Famas).

2. I was too lazy to check Google but do raw eggs really improve fertility? I couldn’t really trust this information since the film was set in the 1920s where homosexuality was still considered a perversion caused by a chemical imbalance and the prescribed “cure” was radiation therapy (“It destroys the bad and saves the good”). Oh wait, the old couple behind me agreed that it was a disease and an abnormality and I felt like I was transported back in time (but more on them later).

3. Girls, if your husbands know how to fix your lipstick, has a fascination with different textures of clothing (fur coats, silk nightgowns, nylon stockings, etc.), lifts his pinky while sipping tea or drinking champagne, and fondly tries on your outfits in front of a mirror while tucking his penis between his legs, then do the right thing and set him free. Be a supportive wife like Gerda in a world full of Aling Dionesia. (Lili even became Gerda’s muse and future moneymaker. Talk about a lucky charm.) Let your scarf fly!

(FYI, Alicia Vikander as Gerda was phenomenal as well.)

4. The best moments here were definitely the heartbreaking ones:

• When asked where Lili was coming from and Einer said “Inside me”

• After the radiation therapy and he cried, “You hurt Lili”

• And when Lili recalled a dream that she just had where she was a baby and her mom looked down at her and called her by her real name “Lili”.

5. As I mentioned earlier, I had the unfortunate luck of sitting in front of an old couple during the screening and the old man let the theater know his views on adultery, reproductive health, and homosexuality, among others. When the lights went up, he loudly said, “Kaya namamatay yang mga bakla, hindi makuntento sa binigay ng Diyos sa kanila.” So I did what was right. I simply stood up, smiled at him, and let him be because well, that would be the most Christian response, right?

Rating: ★★★★★

(Originally published February 8, 2016.)

LAKBAY2LOVE (Ellen Ongkeko-Marfil, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Lakbay2Love:

1. I didn’t have a lot of good memories with bicycles. I learned how to bike after several scrapes and bruises because I didn’t have one with training wheels and my grandfather’s idea of teaching was letting go after five steps and pushing as hard as he could to propel me forward. When I was six, I had the unfortunate luck of biking on a street with rabid dogs that tried to chomp on my then skinny legs (friends, now you know why I’m also scared of dogs). As a teen, my mountain bike got stolen even if we had high walls and it was safely parked in our dirty kitchen. On that day (and with the loss of belief in the goodness of society), I swore off biking in my life forever.

2. Solenn Heussaff played Lianne, a girl that also swore off biking after her father abandoned them for good and left her crying on the gutter under the dramatic pouring rain. She then engaged herself in the world of biking towards a journey of love and self-discovery. Lianne’s tragic life story was boring (“I’m torn between Dennis Trillo and Kit Thompson! Oh, poor me!”). On the other hand, the introduction to the world of biking was awesome. Now why didn’t they make this one a documentary instead?

3. If the Yolanda reference, climate change discussion, and scenes of deforestation weren’t obvious enough, this was an environmental advocacy movie. Lianne was completely right when she mentioned that her problems were so petty compared to the themes being presented here. I wish there were less “Ang pagbibisekleta ay parang lovemaking. Pag nagawa mo na, di mo na makakalimutan” and more of “Kapag maraming alitaptap, ibig sabihin malinis ang hangin.”

4. I really believe that Solenn is one of our underrated actresses. Her performance here was so natural that it was like watching outtakes of the entire shoot. She was just being herself and she (and her flawless armpits) looked even lovelier amidst the gorgeous sunset and luscious rainforests. Who else could deliver a line like “Ang sakit sa pechay!” and still look classy and respectable?

5. If Victor Basa and Rami Malek had a child, it would be Kit Thompson.

6. In one scene (and as if she wasn’t unreachable already), Solenn spoke in fluent French. Dennis (playing Alamat, a cyclist so passionate that he even wore t-shirts with bicycles on them) then joked “Akala ko kasi di mo lang masabi ang mamon nung bata ka pa eh.” I told you we didn’t need this love story.

7. To further drive the point, here’s another groaner delivered by Dennis:

“Relak! Baka ka mag collap. Wag ka ten.”

8. Why are feminine hygiene products so versatile? I’ve seen tampons used as nose plugs and here they used a pantyliner as first aid to a face wound. How absorbent were those things? (Obviously, very.) Talk about a happy period.

9. I loved the scene where the chismosa relatives started spilling the childhood secrets of Alamat (“Naku nung bata yan, hindi yan naliligo!”) A family reunion wouldn’t be complete without any form of embarrassment.

10. It was my first time to hear a version of the Eraserheads’ Overdrive as a biking theme. “Magba-bike ako hanggang Bicol” made me reach out for my inhaler.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

THE BOY (William Brent Bell, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Boy:

1. The great Joey Albert said it best when she sang “I remember the boy, but I don’t remember the feeling anymore.” (Obviously my sense of humor goes AWOL whenever I don’t like something.) Even with an interesting premise (old couple hires a babysitter for their “son”, a porcelain doll), this movie was almost devoid of any genuine scares. It had the audacity to have multiple dream sequences (to justify a couple of fake-out boo moments) and prevent the audience from falling asleep. In the end though, you would still leave the theater feeling empty and cheated.

2. Creepy dolls (like clowns) seem to be a staple in horror movies of late ever since Chucky spawned his own franchise. Brahms, the boy doll in this movie, would be the perfect boyfriend of Annabelle since they were both non-menacing and even oddly cute. I probably would be more scared if I saw Chaka Doll sitting on my bed and cackling hysterically while going over my wardrobe (“Tank top, sa taba mong yan??”).

3. Checklist of annoying horror movie tropes present here:

• Inspection of a grand old house that looked haunted as soon as one entered

• Requisite shower scene for our heroine

• Never turning on the lights when inspecting a weird, scary noise in another room

• Staring closely at a portrait or placing an ear near a mirror when you know that a hand will reach out from behind

• Discovery of secrets through a photographs montage

• Running up the stairs when you should be running out of the house

• Coming back for revenge even if you have already escaped

• Stale twist straight out of a bad M. Night Shyamalan movie

4. Speaking of shower scenes, could someone teach me how to keep these towels perfectly tied around the body even when the characters run or jump from an assailant? I really needed to know to prevent further trauma on Madam Rose.

5. In one scene, the said babysitter was tormented by the doll but had a change of heart after being offered a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Hunger could really drive one to madness so never ever say no to that extra cup of rice.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

BROOKLYN (John Crowley, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Brooklyn:

1. One nice character gave this friendly advice to our heroine, “Nothing fancy, you wouldn’t want to look like a tart”, and that line perfectly captured the essence of this old-fashioned and formulaic but ultimately lovely and well-told film.

2. The said character also gave a checklist of do’s and don’ts in Immigration (“Think like an American”, “Whatever you do, do not cough”) and it brought out my weird fears passing through the same lines whenever I visited another country. There would always be this voice warning me that the officer would find something anomalous in my passport or discover an error in the system and that I would immediately get sent back home. It always felt like I was entering the gates of heaven as soon as I got cleared from the Immigration counter. Best part of my trip every time.

3. I have great admiration for people that work abroad or completely migrate to another country. It takes a lot of courage not only to start a new life in a different world but also to leave the place that you call home. Just the thought of being away from my bed for a week triggers a nervous breakdown. Father Flood (Jim Broadbent) mentioned in the movie that “Homesickness is like most sicknesses. It will pass”, but that definitely wouldn’t apply to me. Living miles away from my bathroom will be the death of me. (Again, a salute to our hard-working and fearless OFWs!!)

4. I’ve never tried riding a ship to travel (the closest experiences would be the SuperCat we took from Cebu to Bohol and the TurboJet from Hong Kong to Macau) and based on these ship stories (including Titanic), it might never even happen. This film was set in the 50’s and I’m sure the conditions have changed since then but that scene where Eilis (a terrific Saoirse Ronan) took a dump in a pail because of seasickness will forever haunt my dreams.

5. Julie Walters as the snappish boardinghouse owner Mrs. Kehoe was so delightful that I was surprised she didn’t get an Oscar nomination for this role. I loved the entire conversation regarding Eilis’ greasy skin that ended with Mrs. Kehoe asking if the Bible stated what brand of soap is best to use. When she mentioned that “Giddiness is the eighth deadly sin”, I actually believed her. Her character was the direct opposite of that haughty store owner slash town gossip Miss Kelly who berated a customer for buying shoe polish on a Sunday. These old women were really something.

6. Were you also curious to know how the cashier tubes worked? I actually imagined an underground room full of goblins similar to the Gringotts in Harry Potter.

7. Eilis wore these really gorgeous ensembles (usually a dress and cardigan combo) that wouldn’t be out of place in Jessica Day’s closet. It’s time to plan a 50’s theme party.

8. I first saw Emory Cohen in Smash as the annoying mopey son of Debra Messing and I was surprised to see him bring a natural zest in the role of Italian-American lover turned husband of Eilis. I giggled a bit though in the scene where Eilis tried to rest her head on his shoulder because Saoirse with heels was about an inch or two taller than Emory. Such a cute couple (and not in a Tom Cruise-Nicole Kidman way).

9. The audience was obviously affected by Eilis’ every move. They let out a loud collective gasp in the scene where she simply hid the letters of her husband without reading them. Even I was so engrossed that my mind kept screaming “Malandi! Haliparot! Kerengkeng!” when she started to fall for another man (Domnhall Gleeson, or Dumble Gleeson if you’re Leonardo DiCaprio).

10. Was I the only one bothered that the ultimate reason for her decision was because she got caught by the town gossip? Did she really need a wake-up call to remind her of her married status? My ultra-conservative side wanted her to swim all the way back to Brooklyn as penance. Ang perfect ko kasi!!

Rating: ★★★★☆