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The Spotless Mind

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

Month

June 2016

ME BEFORE YOU (Thea Sharrock, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Me Before You:

1. It must have been Girls’ Night Out Tuesday here in Perth because ninety-five percent of the packed theater during the last screening were women of all ages. The remaining four percent were grumbling dates/boyfriends/husbands that were forced to see this chick flick. I think I was the one percent that actually wanted to watch this and even dragged my little sister along with me. I definitely regretted that decision. While the cinema got flooded with tears by the end of the movie, I was laughing from all of the awfulness.

2. The pre-accident Will Traynor (Sam Claflin) reminded me so much of Christian Grey: handsome, incredibly rich, bursting with abs (in high definition during that upward shower shot), but minus the kinkiness (handcuffs, I missed thee). He was the type of guy so oblivious (or was it too self-aware?) of his sexiness that he took a walk in the rain while on the phone, like he was in some kind of Calvin Klein commercial (that later turned into a Public Service Announcement on how to properly cross a street).

3. On the other hand, Louisa Clark (Emilia Clarke) was like a poor man’s Zooey Deschanel: literally poor, always on a sugar high, and dressed like Doris Bigornia with an insect fetish (or a “leprechaun drag queen”, as one character put it). When she initially appeared onscreen with her yellow-orange knee-high stockings, I actually thought she had jaundice and she and Will would really make a tragic couple.

4. Clarke’s eyebrows deserved second billing because they did all of the acting for her. I swear they were moving non-stop from start to finish and wiggled like crazy even if the scene only required her to glue pictures on an album. Shame, shame, shame Daenerys!

5. I got the Dying Young meets P.S. I Love You meets Everything About Her feel while watching this. Speaking of the latter, I was surprised this wasn’t a Star Cinema rom-com given all of the familiar elements: the manic pixie girl and the snotty guy, the meet cute (involving a torn skirt with a flat payoff), the doting family requiring financial assistance, the Dimples Romana BFF dishing words of wisdom, the token disposable boyfriend (Neville Longbottom in really tight tights, staying true to his last name), trips to exotic locales, etc. The only thing different was the sad ending, but Star Cinema did it first in Forever and a Day.

6. Neville chose a Will Ferrell movie over Pedro Almodovar’s All About My Mother. Bad guy alert! Dislike of subtitled films should be an automatic dealbreaker. (But then again Will loved Armageddon so I couldn’t trust his taste as well.)

7. Horse racing? Watching a Mozart concert? Flying to Mauritius? Why did I feel like she was able to take advantage of his wealth and used a quariplegic to fulfill her own bucket list and enjoy the luxuries of life? Pera pera na lang talaga?

8. It was hard to root for Louisa since she was annoying in the following scenes:

* When she was rude to a maitre d’ for not letting them in a high-end members only restaurant (since when was it funny to mock someone who was just doing her job?)

* When she barely elicited excitement after getting the pendant gift from her boyfriend but screamed with delight (in front of her boyfriend!!) after seeing the bumblebee stockings given by Will (how considerate of her)

9. I felt bad whenever a scene chose the basic disregard of Will’s health just to create something romantic. How could I feel kilig when Louisa sat on Will’s legs knowing how weak those were from non-use or when she removed the oxygen mask so that he could talk to her or when she agreed to leave the villa doors open during the rain after being told that he had weak lungs and just recovered from pneumonia? Also, how was he able to maintain those abs after years of non-movement? Did his therapy include crunches and Ab Roller sessions?

10. In the end, Will chose to terminate his life through assisted suicide. If a man would rather kill himself than reciprocate another person’s love, how was that even romantic? Saklap.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

THE CONJURING 2 (James Wan, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Conjuring 2:

1. My love for horror films started during the Betamax (the videotape, not the blood gelatin) days. I think that with all the years of watching scary movies, I became desensitized to all imaginable frightening or shocking scenes, any jump scares, or just about everything that could startle a normal viewer. Sometimes I even just watched them to hear people scream their lungs out.

There have been quite a few recent good ones (e.g. Insidious) that made me double check the foot of my bed before going to sleep. The rest were just fun popcorn movies best enjoyed in a packed theater. This sequel fell in the latter category.

2. Director James Wan actually used the exact same template for this sequel that it felt like a retread of the original: a stand-alone opening story ripe for a spin-off (Annabelle in the first, Amityville here), the (re)introduction of the Warrens, a family of young kids (mostly female) with a strong maternal figure living in a haunted house and tormented by evil spirits, strong religious overtones, a demonic possession and a final climactic exorcism. In case it wasn’t obvious enough, he also brought back a spinning music box. Oh, and he borrowed the tent in The Sixth Sense (and most of the cliches in The Exorcist).

There was nothing wrong with sticking to a formula that worked (especially since he delivered on the promised scares), but one could still wish for a talented director like him to bring out something fresh to the old and tired horror genre.

3. I really liked how the camera moved to perfectly build up tension (swooping above and below characters, inside and outside rooms, around a central character, etc.) My favorite sequence (aside from that great transition from night to a rainy day) had to be the one where Janet (the talented Madison Wolfe) locked the door using a chair and it suddenly appeared next to her bed. The succeeding fake-outs (sister telling her nothing’s wrong, mother tearing up the Ouija board) and resulting scares (shaking bed, moving drawer) elicited the needed fear. It was perfectly capped off with the hilarious scene of the entire family running to a neighbor’s house.

4. For every genuine scare though (girl speaking in a different voice, old man’s reflection on the basement water), there were those that fell completely flat (the entire dog/Crooked Man sequence, the dragging Sister Marilyn Manson painting bit) or just plain bizarre (Patrick Wilson had a good voice but what was that Can’t Help Falling in Love sing-along?, also the I Started a Joke song was really off considering the building terror). If there was one song that upped the creepy factor, it was Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (this Christmas hymn will never sound the same way again).

5. Way too long especially for a horror flick. They could have easily chucked the entire Warrens plot and it would not have made a difference, but then again they would lose the needed star power (Wilson being the Kris Aquino of Hollywood horror). Also, that faux danger scene involving Ed Warren was exciting only if you never Googled his story after the first movie (he couldn’t die because he lived until the late 2000’s).

6. The scene where Janet tied her arms on the bed brought back a sad childhood memory. As a kid, I had severe asthma-related skin allergies and I usually woke up with huge scratch marks on my legs. To prevent this from happening while I was asleep, I used a blanket to tie my wrists on the bed posts (E.L. James, we need to talk). And then I learned about Caladryl and the rest was history.

7. I completely understood the old man’s fury whenever someone touched his remote. I always turned into that old man, especially when a favorite show was about to start and I still couldn’t find it. The only difference was that he wore dentures making less successful bite marks on his victims. My chunky front teeth could easily tear another person’s arm off.

Speaking of, was this the first movie where a ghost actually had pustiso? Even the great Lilia Cuntapay only had gums to show because she knew it would be scarier. Imagine her in a nun’s habit standing in the corner of your room. Now that would make a really scary movie.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

NOW YOU SEE ME 2 (Jon Chu, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Now You See Me 2:

1. In Christopher Nolan’s vastly superior The Prestige, it was revealed that a magic trick consisted of three critical acts: The Pledge (where a magician shows you something ordinary, say an empty box), The Turn (where he creates something extraordinary out of it, like entering the box and disappearing), and The Prestige (where he ups the ante and completely stuns the audience, by suddenly appearing at the very back of the stage).

It would be very hard to successfully pull off this kind of magic now given the discerning minds that wanted to know how every trick was done and the countless Unmasking the Magician and Breaking the Magician’s Code episodes.

Some of us still wanted to be fooled, though, especially after the enjoyable first Now You See Me movie where The Four Horsemen pulled a literal million dollar stunt. Unfortunately, this sequel stopped trying after reaching The Turn.

2. Similar to watching a magic show, you know that you would have to suspend your disbelief for long stretches of time. You usually check your brain at the door and say goodbye to your Doubting Thomas self as soon as you enter the cinema. There is a limit to this, though, and that limit was completely abused here.

The worst sequence had to be the one where they kept throwing a card around while everyone around them (talk about a tight security) barely even noticed. It was elaborately designed to make the audience giddy with excitement and go “Ooooh!” at the end but that scene just flopped and I let out my trademark “Pfft!”. Mas pilit pa siya kesa sa Elmo Magalona and Janella Salvador loveteam tbh.

3. There were still some nifty bits (I particularly liked the sushi plate that turned into an attache case), but when the movie started explaining everything that happened (how the group ended up in Macau, for example) in the middle of the movie (!!!), it was just hard not to roll my eyes.

4. Lizzy Caplan would always be Janis Ian and I wasn’t sure why she was trying to act like Max Black (the broke waitress, not the philosopher) here. Kat Dennings wasn’t available?

5. Woody Harrelson stole every scene that he was in, especially as the curly twin brother who seemed lost in a 60’s time zone. I wouldn’t have complained if the movie focused on them instead of the tragic back story of Mark Ruffalo’s father.

6. I loved the Joy Luck Club film so I was pleasantly surprised to see Auntie Lindo (the wonderful Tsai Chin) being her Auntie Lindo self here. I could actually recite her lines from that movie still complete with her Chinese accent (“See hyeahhh…”). I suddenly remembered my favorite part in the book where another Chinese mother complained to her daughter about their nasty American male neighbor (“He raise his hand like this, show me his ugly fist and call me worst Fukien landlady. I not from Fukien. Hunh! He know nothing!”). Read the book, please!

7. So there’s really a champagne that’s worth $1.2M? Wow! If I owned one, I would probably be taking the smallest sips every other day so that it would last my entire lifetime. (Who am I kidding? I would probably keep it in our cabinet of wines where my mom stored all of my dad’s liquors that were never to be touched. I could swear we still have those Chivas Regal bottles that were placed there in the 80’s.)

8. That final airplane sequence was a complete mess. It was unoriginal, too, since it was first done to Paris Hilton in an Egyptian prank show. Says a lot about the movie, huh?

9. Daniel Radcliffe was looking more and more like the father of Liza Soberano in Dolce Amore. Also, all those years of studying magic in Hogwarts and he was still left clueless in the end. Hermione would be so disappointed. Tsk tsk!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS (James Bobin, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Alice Through The Looking Glass:

1. Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland was a blatant visual feast that I found lacking in story given its fantasy-adventure format. This second one by James Bobin (who also directed the fun Muppets movies) was slightly better than the first because it focused on the interesting backstories of some major characters. Although the movie still lagged in some places, it was able to capitalize on its great cast making it a more enjoyable romp.

2. I previously lamented that Johnny Depp’s zaniness had reached its limit and he needed to go back to playing (relatively) normal characters (I blame the fourth Jack Sparrow movie), but his return to the Mad Hatter role was actually quite welcome. I just couldn’t think of any other actor who could perfectly balance the man-child lunacy of the role. When the dying Hatter with all of his colors seeped out of him was lying in bed, it was hard not to get your heart crushed.

3. I had always wondered why the Red Queen (of Hearts) had such a big head that grew even bigger when she was furious and it was explained in detail here. Habang nagagalit, lalong lumalaki (insert Beavis and Butthead laugh here).

Anyway, she was my favorite character ever since. How could you not love someone who would shake a terrarium of pet ants and scream “Earthquake!!”? Besides, Helena Bonham-Carter played the role with such delicious glee (forget Amy Adams, isn’t HBC overdue for an Oscar as well?).

4. When Sasha Baron Cohen showed up as Time who was pining for the Red Queen, all I could think of were the Thenardiers and I was hoping for a Master of the House encore.

5. I loved the gorgeous costumes by Colleen Atwood from Alice’s multi-colored Mandarin-inspired gown to the Lady Gaga-ish shoulders of Time and the luscious art direction. I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets recognized in both categories again next year.

6. Three important themes here: a) you can’t change the past, b) a previous lie will haunt you forever with great repercussions, c) a person with a wild imagination can get thrown in the loony bin. And you can add d) Kasalanan ito lahat ni Anne Hathaway.

7. This might be one of the few movies that properly addressed the space-time continuum that proved problematic in films like Looper. I really liked how the future started to rust when a character met her old self and messed up with time (or Time).

8. Pink’s girl power anthem played during the end credits was very fitting given the strong feminist character of Alice. Also, that tribute to the late Alan Rickman (who voiced the blue caterpillar Absolem) made me miss such a great actor. To paraphrase the Cheshire Cat, “Goodbye, sweet butterfly!”.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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