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The Spotless Mind

Musings of a Non-Film Reviewer. I pay, I watch, I comment.

Month

April 2016

AN ORCHESTRA IN SEARCH OF A HOME (Ida Anita del Mundo, 2016)

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My notes on An Orchestra in Search of a Home:

1. I remember watching the closing show of Repertory Philippines’ The Game’s Afoot in Greenbelt Onstage and immediately after the play, they paid a loving tribute to one of its founders, the late Ms. Zenaida Amador. Co-founder Ms. Baby Barredo reminisced on Repertory’s memories bothgood and bad, but the thing that struck me the most was when she mentioned that they rarely received any funding from the government to stage their productions. Such was (and is) the sad state of our country where the Arts rarely received the needed support (financial from local government, moral from the masses) regardless if they propagate culture or bring glory to our country. Did people even care (or remember) that Brillante Mendoza won the Best Director plum in the prestigious Cannes Film Festival? Why is Neil Ryan Sese auctioning off his shirts just to attend the premiere of his film in the said festival?

2. The Manila Symphony Orchestra celebrated its 90th anniversary this year and its history was as glorious as the music that the band played. This documentary highlighted the current problem that the group was facing: finding not just a home, but a reason to play on. It also dug deeper into the members’ thoughts and feelings and the challenges that they were facing regarding practicality (ergo money) vs. passion.

3. If I were to play in a band, I would definitely want to be part of the strings section. Nothing beats the sound of those swelling violins (played to great effect in the one of the film’s opening scenes with the sunset as a backdrop). In another scene, they were made to sound like machine guns in World War II and the result brought shivers down my spine.

Full disclosure: My fondness for this instrument really started after I watched this late 90’s film called The Red Violin. I rented it for the promised sex and nudity, but ended up loving the musical score instead (which I believe even won an Academy Award).

4. I wish the raw footage used were cleaner with fewer blurred shots and less people coughing, but I guess those were the only ones available for use.

5. I was really interested with the misunderstanding between MSO and St. Scholastica’s College, and that Sister Placid seemed to be a really fascinating character. How about a documentary that will focus solely on her?

6. Music was indeed the nourishment of the soul because even with just a few pieces played in this documentary, I stepped out of the theater floating on an imaginary cloud.

7. Dear Mr. Future President, please don’t forget the Culture and the Arts when you’re already elected into office. We have so many talented people with so little support. They need all the help that they can get. Cue the violins.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Sinag Maynila Independent Film Festival 2016 Scorecard

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Two things about Sinag Maynila 2016:

1. Although I was happy (and grateful) to see SM Cinemas supporting an indie film festival, its strict rules on movies with adult themes clearly affected this year’s batch. You could actually feel the strain in adhering to an R-13 rating and it ended up as a form of self-censorship. I understood the wholesome image that the SM Group wanted to uphold, but some films were just not meant to be family-oriented (thus the R-18 rating). How about a compromise?

2. If these films were also meant to cater to a wider audience (read: non-Pinoys), I hope the filmmakers would put enough time and effort on the subtitles. I hate to be the Grammar Nazi (especially since I’m also in need of a good proofreader), but when you get to read multiple (!!) errors on the usage of whose and who’s (or your and you’re, and were and we’re) and you see lines like “Why did I let you stole the rice?”, it just isn’t right.

Anyway, I was able to do a marathon of all five feature-length films in one day (and survived to tell the tale).

Here’s my festival scorecard:

Best Feature-Length Film:

1. MRS. – ★★★★☆

2. DYAMPER – ★★★☆☆
3. EXPRESSWAY – ★★★☆☆
4. LILA – ★★☆☆☆
5. TPO (TEMPORARY PROTECTION ORDER) – ★☆☆☆☆

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role:

1. ALJUR ABRENICA (Expressway)
2. ALCHRIS GALURA (Dyamper)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role:

1. ELIZABETH OROPESA (Mrs.)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role:

1. TIMOTHY CASTILLO (Dyamper)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role:

1. LOTLOT DE LEON (Mrs.)

Until next year!!

THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR (Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Huntsman: Winter’s War:

1. One of the best decisions made in this unnecessary prequel/sequel was the removal of Kristen Stewart, whose Snow White was already sleepwalking through the first movie even before she bit into the poisoned apple. If I were that bored, I would probably be sleeping with my married director, too.

The other good thing was bringing back the wonderful Charlize Theron, fully inhabiting the role of wicked Queen Ravenna, truly the most enchanting creature in that mythical land. I wasn’t even sure why she had to listen to her gong-like golden mirror lie that she wasn’t the fairest of them all. Seriously, in what world would she be less gorgeous than anyone (molting gold or otherwise)? Oh right, this was a fantasy.

2. Wait, what happened to the vanity story? Did Queen Ravenna have the King killed as well because he had fairer, more younger-looking skin than her? I expected her to be shallow, but I didn’t realize that she was this unexplainably treacherous.

3. It was obvious that Liam Neeson provided the voiceover here because every time I felt my eyelids drooping, I could actually hear him saying, “I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. But if you fall asleep, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you” and I would be fully awake once again.

4. With the current weather, I think Ice Queen Freya (played by Emily Blunt) would be the perfect BFF. Forget airconditioning, her touch alone would send literal shivers down your spine. Plus, wouldn’t it be fun to sing-along to Let It Go while she cast these icicles all around you? You could probably borrow her gorgeous outfits for Halloween, too. (First dibs on the one with the divine train.) And don’t get started on that polar bear fit for a grand entrance in any formal party.

5. Just so people wouldn’t forget that Chris Hemsworth was surrounded by talented actresses and was still part of the movie, he got his own topless tampisaw sa batis scene. Will those abs be front and center in Thor: Ragnarok as well? Asking for a friend.

6. Speaking of talented, I couldn’t believe that Jessica Chastain actually accepted the thankless role of female warrior Sara where she had to go full pabebe mode (refer to Anna Kendrick in Mr. Right) even if she was way too old for it. Besides, her weird accent sounded like a cross between Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn and Madonna after visiting England. Whatever happened to our Oscar dreams?

7. “Love ends in betrayal. Always.” Oh my, Sara was even more jaded than my friend Alfrenette (not her real name) and this was a girl whose heart got trampled on by the most evil queens on the planet. Sara, similar to what I always told my friend, all you really needed was some good *** (it was pie, just in case you were curious).

8. Great, we’re stuck with just two dwarves and they ended up to be Grumpy and Chubby (and their girlfriends). They were supposed to be the funny ones, but were just mildly entertaining. Wait, that makes me sound both grumpy and chubby! Argh!!

9. Similar to Mara Clara, I immediately knew that that eternity necklace would figure prominently in a key scene. (“She is not Cupid. I doubt that an arrow to the heart is an expression of her love.” Har har!) And that hanging bridge? Of course it would get cut off.

10. I hear Ravenna and I think Mulawin.

11. More questions about the movie:

* Why did they have to fight Ravenna if all they needed to do was destroy the mirror? Were they too scared to have seven years of bad luck?

* Why didn’t the Ice Queen use her freezing powers to stop the bleeding? Hadn’t she heard of a cold compress (or cryotherapy)?

* Why didn’t the frozen dwarves shatter into tiny ice pieces similar to what happened to Ice Queen’s boyfriend? (And don’t tell me it was because he fell down to the ground.)

12. Seriously, I had this really strange theory that the Ice Queen’s daughter wasn’t killed and that it was Snow White, thus her name (and Kojic soap complexion). No wonder I’m an unemployed writer.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

MR. RIGHT (Paco Cabezas, 2015)

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My notes on Mr. Right:

1. On the Anna Kendrick scale of movies, this one would be closer to Twilight than Up in the Air. In terms of her comedies, it would be on the side of Breaking Dawn, Part 1 rather than Pitch Perfect. I’m sure she has never heard the term pabebe acting (perfected by Kathryn Bernardo in She’s Dating the Gangster), but it seems to have invaded Hollywood as well through her performance as a hyperactive, kooky, childish woman who spoke ten decibels higher than the normal range.

As Martha, she wore Ariana Grande kitty ears, took selfies of her boobs (“They look like a butt!”), dreamt of dating Lex Luthor, and rawred like a T. Rex (“I am a T. Rex! I am invincible!”). It was all too cutesy (no, pa-cute) that I half-expected her to sing the line “Ikaw nga ba ang icing sa ibabaw ng cupcake ko?”.

2. Sam Rockwell had done a lot of offbeat roles and I immediately loved his Mr. Right character as soon as he started dancing Christopher Walken-style during the opening credits. But then he showed up in the next scene with a mosaic Hawaiian shirt (that not even Mayor Atienza would be caught dead wearing) and sky blue slacks and I immediately took back my heart.

3. The scenes that made my blood curdle from the icky pabebe-ness were:

• The meet cute in 7/11 where they bumped into each other and boxes of Trojan condoms flew in the air in slow motion like doves in a John Woo movie

• When Martha and Right had their first date in the park and a sloppy hitman started shooting at them and they ended up faux dancing to avoid the bullets

• Immediately after that scene, they were in matchy-matchy Bitch 1 and Bitch 2 couple shirts (trademarked by Tina Paner and Ramon Christopher) and heart-shaped sunglasses on the way to a club

• That god-awful jumping on the bed scene that came straight out of High School Musical

• A knife-throwing foreplay session (ugh!)

4. I could never eat inside the bathroom (much less the shower) even if it were the tastiest In-N-Out burger. The thought of the toilet staring at me while I chew would be enough to start my heaving. Gross!

5. Britney’s fans would be surprised to see Anson Mount in this movie. He was completely unrecognizable with the shaggy beard. If Brit was not yet a woman in Crossroads, she would definitely be one after she hitchhikes with this new Ben.

6. If anything, the lame but goofy action scenes (and all the gratuitous violence) were a bit fun to watch. To be perfectly honest though, I was rooting for the villains to kill the pabebe couple whose most romantic line in the entire movie was “I feel like I’m in a coma with you.” Shoot, shoot, shoot!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

10 CLOVERFIELD LANE (Dan Trachtenberg, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on 10 Cloverfield Lane:

1. If it were the end of the world and I would be evacuating to the nearest shelter, one of the very first things that I would pack as well would be clean (relatively newer) underwear. I wouldn’t want strangers (and future neighbors and/or friends) judging me for having bacon undies. Speaking of, I heard that there were really bacon-scented briefs and boxers for sale in some stores. Wouldn’t this pose a problem if you were caught sniffing yourself (or worse, other people’s privates) in public? (I mean it’s bacon! Who couldn’t resist?)

2. Loved the opening credits interspersed with the car crash scene. It immediately screamed horror movie (or rather HORROR MOVIE!!). Maybe that was one of the reasons why I was a tad dissatisfied with this sequel. I was expecting a grand payoff that just didn’t happen.

3. I had flashbacks of Saw when Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, rocking a white tank top and black non-bacon panties) realized that she was chained to the wall inside a cramped space. When it was further shown that she was (deliberately?) trapped in an underground bunker, I then remembered Room and started to experience claustrophobia yet again. I would never survive living below ground and I would stay true to the phrase “six feet under”. When she had to squeeze through the tiny air ducts, I had to reach for my inhaler because my lungs just stopped functioning.

4. The first two-thirds of the movie was a great psychological thriller that played on a group’s growing paranoia. Howard (played by the excellent John Goodman) was such a shady person and acted like a psycho beneath that teddy bear figure. All of the bunker scenes were really well-staged that when one of the characters was able to escape and the movie started linking itself to the original Cloverfield, I felt cheated and wanted a refund. Such a wasted opportunity. (FYI, if you saw the trailer and one of the posters, you actually had seen the entire movie.)

5. Could anyone help identify that local commercial where they used Frankie Avalon’s Venus as the theme song? I swear it was a soap or beauty product commercial and I have lost a lot of sleep trying to think about it. Anyway, I really loved the soundtrack that included I Think We’re Alone Now and Tell Him (no, not the Barbra and Celine showdown, but Ally McBeal’s go-to song).

6. When they showed the pair of rotting pigs that died after getting exposed to the air outside, I had a terrible feeling that the twist might be similar to The Happening. Now that would really be horrific.

7. While watching Michelle stitch the wound on Howard’s forehead, I was reminded of our Home Economics high school teacher that would give a double and triple zero score if you couldn’t identify the difference between a running stitch and a backstitch. I still didn’t know what those extra zeroes meant to one’s grades, though.

8. Does perchloric acid work the same as hydrofluoric acid (frequently used by Walter White and Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad) in terms of body disposal? I’m asking for a friend.

9. I was so upset that Cannibal Airlines wasn’t real. It sounded like a really fun horror flick. Probably wouldn’t have been as disappointing, too.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

ELEMENTO (Mark Meily, 2016)

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My notes on Elemento:

1. As a kid, I would always heed my late grandmother’s warning and utter the words “Tabi, tabi po!” before peeing on a tree. Apparently, some dwarves or entities lived there and you would need to ask permission before showering urine on their precious homes. Even if I thought that that was a weird sign of respect, I still did it because I didn’t want my Dingdong Dantes to rot and fall off if the homeowners got mad. As an adult, I just avoided anything related to camping or hiking so there would never be a reason for me to do a number one with Mother Nature.

2. Do Pinoys really go to psychiatrists? I knew of some people that sought professional mental health, but I didn’t really know anyone with his own psychiatrist. I just couldn’t imagine us lying on a couch sharing our deepest, darkest secrets and fears to (professional) strangers like Dr. Ben Harmon of American Horror Story or Dr. Jennifer Melfi of The Sopranos. It just didn’t seem to be part of our culture where any sign of mental illness would have a relative immediately sent to the basement of Makati Medical Center (or made fun of in jokes like “Nakatira ka sa Mandaluyong? Loob o labas?”).

3. Albert Silos was the same boy in the MMFF New Wave movie Turo-Turo. He wasn’t particularly awful. He was just unfortunate enough to have already starred in two stinkers.

4. I also felt bad for Cristine Reyes who was last seen having loads of fun and giving a great comedic turn in Lumayo Ka Nga Sa Akin’s Asawa ni Marie. Here she played a negligent mother (read: she only served hotdogs and eggs every single breakfast) who had no clue that her child was already replaced by an elemento even if he displayed a complete change in behavior after a bizarre field trip. She only realized this after he responded differently to the nickname Pork Chop (and you knew it would play a very significant part in the story because it had to be repeated at least four times in prior scenes) and this happened days after he returned.

Her performance was so bad that she couldn’t even pretend to drive properly (seriously, why do local actors keep moving the steering wheel even if they’re driving a straight path?) or wake up with any emotion from a bad dream (as in tulaley level of acting).

5. Speaking of the said field trip, the kids were led by these hyperactive tour guides that probably also worked as Jollibee Kiddie Party hosts on the side (“MGA KIDS SINONG EXCITED MAKITA SI JOLLIBEEEEEE??”). One of them even gave this description of the trees around them, “These plants are mostly abundant in tropical…and non-tropical.” So basically everywhere, Ate? I would never let my child join this kind of activity (the elemento being the least of my concerns).

6. Besides, the teachers here were so incompetent. A bully boy (who wore a gold watch from his father’s Saudi collection) would shout and hit his classmates and they didn’t even bother to stop him. When the same kid was bludgeoned on the head, nobody really did anything after and Miss Teacher just kept inspecting the bloody gashes on his face. Ma’m, sa dami ng dugo baka gusto nyo siya itakbo sa ospital. Suggestion lang naman.

7. Here are a few things that were scarier than the actual movie:

* The awful special effects with the elementos looking like fake wooden marionettes

* The print on print on print outfits (with matching chunky costume jewelry and gold hoops) of Elizabeth Oropesa as the resident gypsy (kaya ba lagi siya naka-gypsy skirt?) who had the best line of the entire movie (“Halika ligtas ka sa bahay ko” and then moments later ended up dead in her bedroom)

* Jake Cuenca’s long disheveled hair that looked like it hadn’t been washed for days

* Characters that dumbed down its viewers by saying things that were already obvious (“Umuulan na!” as soon as it started to rain)

* The gay BFF stereotype that preyed on men in gyms, said lines like “Marami nang insektong humahada sa locker room kaya kelangan na i-fumigate ang gym”, owned a rainbow umbrella (kasi nga umuulan na!), and recited the Prayer Before Meals (“Bless us oh Lord and these Thy gifts…”) for protection before entering the forest (should we be laughing now?)

8. If your idea of a horror movie was seeing mud-covered extras with leaves glued on their denim shorts pretending to be elementos, then this one would be highly-recommended. Enjoy!!

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

KUNG FU PANDA 3 (Jennifer Yuh Nelson, Alessandro Carloni, 2016)

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My notes on Kung Fu Panda 3:

1. Do any of you still remember that scene in Maalaala Mo Kaya the Movie when Chin Chin Gutierrez came back from Japan to reclaim her son from sister Aiko Melendez, who took care of him while she fulfilled her role as the best pabayang ina? In that highly-charged confrontation, Aiko clutched at her blouse and wailed, “Iniluwal mo lang siya, Marissa! Ako ang bumuhay sa kanya!”, then cried even more when Ruffa Gutierrez stole her Manila Film Festival Best Actress Award via the Take It, Take It Scam. (Why do these Gutierrezes love taking things from her? Also, RIP Viveka Babajee.)

2. I was expecting that same level of emotions when Po’s long-lost father came back and took him away from good ‘ol Mr. Ping, so I was a bit disappointed that there was no telenovela acting involved here. I could just imagine how hard it would have been for a goose to balance his work in the noodle factory and raise a species not his own. And for the real father to just barge in their lives and take away their shared happiness, that was just unacceptable. Wait, why did I care so much? Besides, having two dads seem to be the new normal so I should stop complaining.

3. The animation was impressive to say the least. It had been one of the strongest points of this franchise (even in part 2, a movie I didn’t particularly like). The watercolor feel just went really well with the overall tone of the movie and delivered the promised cheeky fun (I was laughing as soon as I saw Po on the Dreamworks logo) and gorgeous kung fu sequences.

4. One character finally asked the question that had been bugging me after all my years of watching those Saturday afternoon Chinese movies on TV, “Do we have to strike a pose every time we land?”.

5. Dreamworks hit the jackpot with that panda village. It could be their own Minions. Seriously, they could create a spin-off for any of those distinct, lovable characters. Who wouldn’t want to see them in an adventure where they wouldn’t walk, but just roll? My favorite one would have to be that smirking panda in need of dental surgery.

6. I would always have a soft spot for characters that were fat or had asthma. When Po asked, “Do you have panda asthma, too? Does it run in the family?”, I just adored him even more.

7. Words of wisdom from Master Shifu: “If you only do what you can do, you will never be more than you are now.” Whoaaaaahh! Skidoosh!!

Rating: ★★★★☆

THE CONJURING (James Wan, 2013)

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My notes on The Conjuring:

1. I had never played Hide and Clap and I probably never would. I still wasn’t sure why a mother would allow herself (or her kids) to be blindfolded and grasp their way around the second floor given that they could fall down the stairs and break their necks (at a minimum) any time during the game, but I learned that one should never teach parents how to raise their kids. Besides, I was a klutz even in Marco Polo so a simple game like this would end up with me flailing my hands frantically for an hour and my playmates dying of boredom (or suffocation) in a cramped closet. For the record, I jumped out of my seat when Lili Taylor lit that match and the ghost hands clapped, so the end still justified the means.

2. The movie overall felt a bit disjointed with three different stories: about a haunted doll (that spawned the horrendous Annabelle spin-off), about a family (of mostly young girls, gasp!) trapped in a haunted house, and about an exorcism. Each was strong on its own, but felt like fillers combined together. It was a shame because if it focused on the haunting of the old house alone, it would have been a great little chiller.

3. The demonologist couple (played by the Kris Aquino of Hollywood horror movies Patrick Wilson and the superb Vera Farmiga) said that demonic spirits don’t possess things, but humans. So what was with their room full of supposedly possessed items (Annabelle included)?

4. When the bruises suddenly showed up on the mother’s body, I remembered my fear as a kid of getting cancer. I think I got it from watching too many Lovingly Yours, Helen episodes where the first symptom of leukemia would be these huge unexplainable bruises on your arms and legs. I would always run to my mother crying about my future demise whenever I’d see one even if was a result of me bumping my body parts on every type of furniture (refer to klutz item on #1).

5. Grammar Nazi alert: Warren’s Home vs. Warrens’ Home.

6. There were several scenes that effectively scared the crap out of me: when one of the daughters was standing on the stairs in the middle of the night (no sound effect but it was really creepy), when somebody clapped from inside the closet, and when the camera focused on Linda Blair on top of the said closet. I might have peed a little on that last one.

7. It was explained that the three stages of demonic possession were infestation, oppression, and the actual possession, but they could very well have been talking about the stages of my love life.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

EVERYDAY I LOVE YOU (Mae Cruz-Alviar, 2015)

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My notes on Everyday I Love You:

1. Let me start by saying that this movie was far from being groundbreaking. It was a simple and derivative love story that didn’t really deviate much from the Star Cinema rom-com formula. It successfully delivered on the promised kiligs, though, and I went out of the theater feeling like I was experiencing puppy love for the very first time again.

2. All the credit should go to the wonderful tandem of Liza Soberano and Enrique Gil. They saved a tired old plot straight out of While You Were Sleeping (loyalty vs love) just by continuously teasing each other and making googly eyes that made the entire theater swoon.

They were more than bagay. In my heart, they were really meant to be.

3. Dear Star Cinema, please let this be the last time that Enrique takes a video of an unsuspecting young woman. We do not support perverts (or uncouth leading men). Being rude to women is definitely not romantic.

4. I wish Bacolod would have had more exposure in the movie. Aside from the antique houses, the only other thing I learned was that they had a lot of sugar canes.

5. I also wish the transitions from scene to scene were much better. In the juxtaposition sequence of Liza crying beside a comatose Gerald Anderson and Enrique crying beside his dying father, people giggled endlessly (I’m guessing it was also because of Enrique’s atrocious haircut).

In another scene, Liza started with the line “Dun nagsimula ang kwento namin…” and as expected, the flashback scenes started. Groan.

6. Gerald was comatose for majority of the movie and he still managed to give a terrible performance. Ugh.

7. Liza was so good in that Silay Scooter Girl airport sequence. Star Cinema has found its new rom-com princess.

8. I really liked how Liza’s Tagalog twang was assumed as an Ilonggo accent. It actually worked and didn’t serve as a distraction.

9. The One More Chance references were blatant but effective still. Gerald’s character Tristan was also very controlling down to the chicken and hot sauce that Liza’s Audrey wanted to make papak.

At one point, Tristan even said, “Mas gusto ko nakapalda ka” all while wearing a tree outfit. Wake up, girl! Who would want to be tied up with this clueless control freak?

10. There was a Goldilocks mamon product placement that had to be mentioned. Too bad they already phased out McDonald’s Shake Shake fries.

11. “Mahirap kalabanin ang first love.” Do you agree?

12. I usually hate watching with noisy fantards. Except when I’m screaming along with them. Sobrang kilig ng LizQuen loveteam eh.

13. Finally, a Star Cinema movie with a title that actually made sense. When it was referenced in one scene, my heart died a little.

14. Doctor to Tristan: “It’s possible na ma-comatose ka ulit.”

Audience: “Ok lang po.”

Poor coma guy.

15. That Goodbye Silay Scooter Girl phone sequence.

Ang galing na umarte nina Liza and Enrique. Now I’m even more of a fan.

16. “Higit pa sa nagpapasaya sa’yo, piliin mo kung ano ang tama. And you can only do that if you’re honest with yourself.”

17. I repeat, “If it’s the right person, there’s no such thing as way too soon.”

18. SOBRANG GANDA NI LIZA SOBERANO!!

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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