INTO THE WOODS (Rob Marshall, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Into the Woods:

1. A lot of the people in the theater complained that the characters did nothing but sing. It was a musical, for crying out loud! I heard the exact same thing about Les Miserables. No wonder 1dol flopped on local TV.

2. I had grown tired of these reimagining and modernization of classic fairy tales (Maleficent, Jack the Giant Slayer, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters; although I had to say I was excited to watch the new live-action Cinderella).

Happy to see the Babel-like take of the stories here. The movie was actually clever until it turned really serious in its final act. Why couldn’t it have ended with the requisite happily ever after?

3. I absolutely loved the prologue song but the rest were not so memorable. Sure, I enjoyed the diva showdown between the two Princes but I usually leave the theater humming a tune from the musical and it didn’t happen here.

4. Momma Meryl was fine as always but my favorites were the bratty Little Red Riding Hood and the wonderful singing of Emily Blunt. Miranda and Emily would be so proud.

5. Was I the only one bothered by the dark undertones of pedophilia whenever Little Red Riding Hood was surrounded by the grown-ups? First, she was stalked by the Big Bad Wolf, an obvious child predator, and then she was forced to remove her cape by the Baker. Was it just my perverted mind?

6. I knew that the real fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen were really dark to begin with, but I was still surprised this was rated General Patronage. Women got their toes sawed off, several characters were killed, a couple had an adulterous tryst. Uhh, why was this considered suitable for children?

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published February 4, 2015.)

THE BOY NEXT DOOR (Rob Cohen, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Boy Next Door:

1. The first few scenes reminded me so much of Enough that this could actually have worked as a sequel to that other trashy guilty pleasure. I was surprised Ashley Judd didn’t star in this one.

2. What happened to Kristin Chenoweth? Her unforgiving haircut and old vice-principal face was so far from the cutesy characters she played in Pushing Daisies and Wicked. She had the (relatively) best lines in the movie, though.

3. In one scene, J.Lo kept peeking at the naked young boy next door. Didn’t that make her the predator? Shouldn’t this be The MILF Next Door?

4. A man went out on a date with J.Lo and he still kept glancing at other women. Seriously, was there any man (straight or otherwise) who’d still have the nerve to look elsewhere if Jenny from the Block was seated right in front of him?

5. That sex scene. Ohmy! Worth the price of admission. Sorry not sorry. (FYI, Rob Cohen also directed The Fast and the Furious.)

6. I thought that I had seen the worst when John Travolta stabbed Uma Thurman’s chest with a syringe in Pulp Fiction. And then I saw the epi pen scene in this movie. I almost fainted in my seat.

7. If anything, this movie should serve as a warning to ladies everywhere to check every nook and cranny for hidden cameras before engaging in hot, steamy sex. Unless you wanted to be the next (starlet name deleted due to cybercrime law).

8. The script was obviously written by a woman because the female teacher slept with her male student and the student was supposed to be the bad guy. In comparison, Starting Over Again was written by a woman and it was about a male teacher who slept with his female student and it was supposed to be romantic. Ladies, we need to talk.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published February 4, 2015.)

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE MARKED ONES (Christopher Landon, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones:

1. I really liked the change of setting. After four movies, it was refreshing to see cameras outside the confines of a home. Seriously, how many times could they milk the same haunted house story anyway? (Oh, there’s a Part 5.)

2. Paranormal Activity (and to a lesser degree, all of its sequels) worked because our minds created the horror. We simply kept waiting for things to go bump in the night. This movie didn’t rely on that gimmick. There was action that actually went on in this one.

3. Was it scary? Not really. I found it really entertaining, though.

4. It might have been a stretch, but I liked how they tried to tie it up with all the previous films.

5. I therefore conclude that all Paranormal Activity endings would elicit a “That was it?” reaction.

6. Didn’t guarantee a strong recommendation, but it was fine for what it was worth. Watch at your own risk.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published February 3, 2014.)

BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE) (Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance):

1. I had always associated Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu with the intersecting stories narrative where major characters in his films had their lives connected and intertwined (FYI, I really loved Amores Perros, Babel, and 21 Grams). It was one big gimmick that worked for me. I wasn’t surprised that his newest film relied on another gimmick (“one long continuous take”) to drive the story.

2. Off the bat, people would either love this or find it completely boring. There were so many insider jokes on cinema and theater and the arts that might just go over their heads. As one character stated, “Audiences love action, not this talking philosophical bullshit.”

3. Michael Keaton looked like Robert Duvall whenever he wasn’t wearing a wig. He was excellent here by the way. The mere fact that he agreed to make fun of his current status (washed up actor who used to be Batman!) was just brave. If Al Pacino could win for all the scenery-chewing in Scent of a Woman, why couldn’t Keaton? I wouldn’t be complaining if he got that Best Actor Oscar.

4. “You confuse love for admiration.” Raise your hand if you were guilty of this.

5. Edward Norton had a lot of nudity here (or scenes that showed him in his underwear or sported a boner). For a more lengthy peek on his gift, you could watch the brilliant American History X. I loved the Norton the Method Actor playing a Norton-ish Method Actor joke.

6. I was initially bothered by the drumming soundtrack. I was expecting Miles Teller to show up practicing in one corner. And then the movie revealed an actual drummer and later on a band in Times Square. I guess the joke was on me.

7. Naomi Watts’ character had this great repartee with Andrea Riseborough’s:

“Why don’t I have any self-respect?”

“You’re an actress, honey!”

8. Speaking of Watts, she was really good in this movie. I was surprised her performance was virtually overlooked against co-star Emma Stone. Everyone knew how much I loved Stone (I even named my car after her) but she was just fine here.

9. Speaking of, there was a blatant Lancome product placement that was here either as a real product placement or as a joke on product placements in movies (or both). With this kind of dark comedy, it was just hard to tell.

10. Similar to Annie, they showed a viral video that was taken from different angles. Probably the only sloppy thing in this film.

11. Did the film miss an Oscar nomination for Best Editing since it really looked like one continuous take? Shouldn’t it have gotten one for making it look like it was one brilliant, seamless take?

12. When Keaton’s character complained about getting overshadowed by Clooney, it was just a wink on the battle of the Batmans. I’d be happy to see a fourth Batman win an Oscar tbh.

13. I hope Wenn Deramas could watch this just for that wonderful takedown on film criticism. I bet he’d have a major meltdown.

14. “A thing is a thing, not what is said of the thing.” This was a sad, sad film. Watch at your own risk.

Rating: ★★★★☆

(Originally published February 1, 2015.)