UNEXPECTEDLY YOURS (Cathy Garcia-Molina, 2017)

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I think I just had a Classic Pare Titos and Titas of Manila moment while watching this movie since I couldn’t help myself from twitterpating (kilig lang yan, inartehan ko) over such a cute couple. Nope, not talking about JoshLia (even if Joshua Garcia and Julia Barretto were also really charming here). I was of course referring to the Sharon Cuneta-Robin Padilla love team that still showcased such palpable chemistry twenty five years after Maging Sino Ka Man.

I previously mentioned that I liked this combo much better than the Sharon-Gabby and Sharon-Richard pairing because the very Pinoy langit-lupa theme (and all the conflicts that stemmed from this social class gap) always made for great dramedy. It was even put to good use here because it was an older people romance straight out of the Nancy Meyers universe.

This should have been the comeback vehicle of Ate Shawie since her performance here just felt more relaxed and natural compared to the one in Ang Pamilyang Hindi Lumuluha. She displayed great comedic timing, especially while verbally sparring with Robin (mega kilig yung sagutan nila ng “Adik!” and “Sa’yo!” waaah!). Her controlled emotions during her dramatic moments were even reminiscent of her grand slam performance in Madrasta. I really liked the scene where she was crying out of self-pity (“Matanda na ako…”) because her realizations were genuinely painful to watch.

I wish the movie focused more on their romance since the JoshLia story actually served as a distraction. It would have worked still without their love angle since the young ones were so believable as their blood relatives (Julia as Sharon’s daughter and Joshua as Robin’s nephew). Also, all the millennial discussion including a cringey FGD just felt off. It had just as much insight about this generation as any episode of Survivor: Millennials vs Gen X.

Speaking of Julia, I was really surprised at how much she had continuously improved in terms of acting (even after her good work in Love You to the Stars and Back). She had this lovely scene with Sharon where she was telling her why she didn’t want to end up just like her mother and she definitely held her own against the Megastar. The Claudine comparisons would be inevitable, but with the right projects, she should be able to step out of her aunt’s shadow soon.

In one scene, Julia was wearing a shirt that had the word “MIST” on the right shoulder and “AKES” on the left side. I thought, “Wow, cool! A gay shirt saying that she’s a mist!”. It took me a full twenty seconds to realize that it actually spelled “mistakes”. Bwiset! Chalk that up to another Titos and Titas of Manila moment.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

COCO (Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina, 2017)

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After years of hearing the words Remember Me and immediately thinking/singing “kapag nag-iisa, kapag ika’y nalulungkot, huwag kang mag-alala…”, I was so happy that it had finally been replaced by the lovely theme song of this equally lovely animated film from Disney/Pixar. No more odd memories of Renz Verano, just me sobbing uncontrollably while Miguel crooned to his great-grandmother.

Truth be told, as soon as I saw old great-grandma Coco on her wheelchair, I was already tearing up. I really thought yung bata si Coco talaga. I was not prepared for a lola story because this would always hit close to home. When she started singing along with him, I had to close my eyes or my hagulgol would have probably scared the young kids playing along the aisle.

I obviously enjoyed this heartwarming tale of a young Mexican kid that had to choose between his family and his passion for music. Very much like The Book of Life which was also set during the Day of the Dead, everything onscreen was just bright and festive and completely interesting. And those glorious songs! Note to self: memorize the lyrics of Un Poco Loco.

This was really the kind of film that you need to watch with your entire family. Just not with a baon of chorizo.

(And why was everyone hating on that long Frozen short? I actually liked it. Olaf deserved his own spin-off movie.)

Rating: ★★★★☆

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (Kenneth Branagh, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

It just wasn’t as fun as guessing if Professor Plum killed Colonel Mustard in the conservatory with a candlestick. Even with a cast of game Academy Award winners and nominees (plus some popular ingenues), this murder-mystery was a drag to watch. The clunky big reveal with the killers taking turns at stabbing the victim while dramatic music played in the background was so ridiculous that it made me laugh out loud in my seat.

Kenneth Branagh spent too much time mugging at the camera as the famously moustached Hercule Poirot. He obviously directed himself to showcase himself in a role that was probably better suited for Johnny Depp. Speaking of, I liked how they pulled off another Scream with the biggest name (and probably most annoying one) in the cast getting killed first (and disappointingly, last).

Why did the movie waste a good fifteen minutes off the train, just to establish the investigative skills of Poirot? (For more mugging, natch.) I also couldn’t understand the choice of overhead shots with the audience looking at several characters’ puyos while they discussed a bloody murder. The twists themselves? Lame and predictable. Forget Sherlock Holmes, even Nancy Drew would have done a much better job in solving this crime.

In one scene, Poirot accidentally stepped on a pile of shit and since he wanted everything to be in order, he stepped on it again with his other foot. Perfectly summed up this entire viewing experience (besides, trainwreck was just too easy).

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

JUSTICE LEAGUE (Zack Snyder, 2017)

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Poor Amy Adams! I had not seen her this lost since Princess Giselle got magically transported to modern day New York. She was in full “gunning for a sixth Oscar nomination” mode in a DC movie that suddenly wanted to be a lighter, funnier version of its recently dreary efforts.

For the record, I was one of thirteen people that actually liked Batman v Superman AND Suicide Squad. This one just took forever for the superheroes to assemble and I felt as sad as Ben Affleck’s Batman when I couldn’t really understand all that Mother Box story (wait, didn’t we see these cubes as well in The Avengers?).

At least Ezra Miller was funny as Flash even if he had the exact same sequences that were previously done by Evan Peters as Quicksilver (and none of them even close to that awesome Time in a Bottle in Days of Future Past). I wouldn’t mind just a Flash and Wonder Woman road trip movie ala Thelma and Louise (or even Crossroads). Hopefully, without any boxes this time.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

THE SNOWMAN (Tomas Alfredson, 2017)

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With this and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, future movies by Alfredson should always come with a “May Cause Drowsiness” warning. The only thing that kept me awake was its R-16 rating’s promise of possible gratuitous nudity and sex. Unfortunately, it was for the graphic violence.

At least they made the right decision of casting Michael Fassbender as a detective named Harry Hole (bwahahaha!!) trapped in a snow-filled landscape. Everyone who had seen his previous films would know that shrinkage was the least of his problems.

I thought I was hallucinating when the spirit of Val Kilmer (remember him?) showed up onscreen. Best line in this supposed thriller: “I think it’s the falling snow that sets the killer off.” Seryoso?!

Do you wanna watch The Snowman? It doesn’t have to be The Snowman. (Ok, bye…)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

PAKI (Giancarlo Abrahan, 2017)

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Dexter Doria would always be one of my childhood nightmares. She’d usually play the maldita stepmother, aunt, or neighbor on TV who was always ready to smack the living daylights out of a poor child that would go against her will (or break her precious Divisoria china). Her mere presence made me pee in my salawal countless times.

It was refreshing to see her front and center (and playing against type) as a lonely matriarch putting up a facade to hold her dysfunctional family together. Such a subtle and controlled performance that was a far cry from her previous hysterical roles. Lovely, truly lovely.

I really enjoyed the family dynamics here and I could easily identify with most of them (even the most mundane thing like the great Shamaine Buencamino performing her beauty regimen just felt so relatable and authentic). There were moments that bordered on Pinoy soap opera, but hello, guilty pleasure!

I might be one of the very few people that wasn’t impressed with Dagitab. It was technically beautiful, but the characters felt cold and distant (like they were trapped in a European indie romance). On the other hand, this movie provided the warmth of Pinoy characters that I’d usually fall for. It made me want to hug my own family immediately after watching. Sigh.

Rating: ★★★★☆

HAUNTED: A LAST VISIT TO THE RED HOUSE (Phyllis Grande, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

I entered the cinema expecting a fun documentary about a haunted house in Bulacan, but the horror stories that were told onscreen were more frightening than I ever imagined. Hearing the Malaya Lolas recall their tragic experiences that mostly included sexual abuse (in their pre-teens!) from Japanese soldiers during World War II was too much for my fragile heart.

One of the professors summed it up best when he said that these stories would soon be just a blip in our history and treated like urban legends. It was made more apparent by how obnoxious the crew were (intentionally?) portrayed here.

The filmmaker nonchalantly asked one lola if she was raped inside the same room with her sister (na parang nagtatanong lang kung anong ulam nila kanina). One of the crew members laughed when he presented the theory that some of the lolas probably had abortions. Made me want to strangle these insensitive millennials.

It was a very powerful juxtaposition that probably would have been more effective if they had more stories to tell. Several scenes felt like fillers and that meandering ending didn’t really attain the intended impact.

Was this documentary exploitative or essential? Couldn’t it work as both?

Rating: ★★★★☆

THROWBACK TODAY (Joseph Teoxon, 2017)

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Mababa lang talaga ang pangarap ko dati. All I really wanted was to be an official @Op in an mIRC group so that I would have the power to /kick or /ban anyone that I didn’t fancy in the chatroom. I’d always imagine all the online nerds grovelling at my feet just to get a coveted +v. Bow down before me, you fools! *insert Selina Matias laugh*

Inasmuch as I liked the idea of being able to chat with your younger self through a desktop computer, the movie failed to fully maximize such a cool concept. It struggled to build on the story and felt like a stretched out episode of The Twilight Zone.

Primo (the dependable Carlo Aquino) spent most of the time trying to save his lovelife, with his ailing father only as a secondary priority. There were hints of social relevance such as the Marawi Siege, but none of these really mattered as long as he ended up with the girl of his dreams.

Sabagay, if I were to talk to my younger self, the first thing that I would tell him would be to save his damn money instead of wasting them on ISP Bonanza. He would never be an @Op, but at least he’d look way better in his 30’s. Nux!!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

GOOD TIME (Ben Safdie, Joshua Safdie, 2017)

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One hundred minutes of pure adrenaline rush accompanied by a pulsating soundtrack that made every scene as intense as my midnight snack runs. I literally had to keep wiping the imaginary sweat off my forehead.

The relationship of Connie (Robert Pattinson, delivering a career-defining, Oscar-worthy performance) and his brother Nick (Ben Safdie) reminded me so much of the same bond between Michael Scofield and Lincoln Burrows in Prison Break. That same immense feeling of desperation oozing off the screen was simply heartbreaking.

I also really liked the irony of the title. Nothing in this wild ride was enjoyable, but almost everything about it was definitely memorable.

Rating: ★★★★☆

L’AMANT DOUBLE (THE DOUBLE LOVER) (François Ozon, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

So I was busy munching on some Auntie Anne’s Pepperoni Pretzel Nuggets while watching this film when the screen suddenly focused on something blurred that resembled pink lips. But then the lips were vertical and I assumed it was probably an artistic shot of someone’s mouth.

The camera began to focus on the said lips and a steel object then started prodding them open revealing what looked like pink gums underneath. Was I going to see a root canal procedure today? But wait, where were the teeth? And why did she have a huge flappy mole?

And that was when I realized I was actually looking at an extreme close-up of a woman’s vagina (labia! vulva! clit! whee!). I thought I had seen the last of them since 2007, but it must be true that your past would forever haunt you.

Oh, the movie itself was an occasionally fun and crazy thriller involving twins, and mirrors, and twists, and double twists, and a baby crawling out of a pregnant tummy. It was probably something that Brian de Palma would have made if he collaborated with Elwood Perez.

Au revoir, Auntie Anne’s!! 😭

Rating: ★★★☆☆