ONLY YOU (Norman Jewison, 1994)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Only You:

1. Everything I know about fate and destiny I learned from the great philosopher Zenaida Seva. When Faith (Marisa Tomei, doing her quirkiest impression of 90’s Meg Ryan) found out that her soulmate‘s name was Damon Bradley, she should have heeded her fortune teller’s advice that “the truth is you make your own destiny” (or better put, “Hindi hawak ng mga bituin ang ating kapalaran. Gabay lamang sila. Meron tayong free will. Gamitin natin ito”).

Seriously, what girl in her right mind would abandon her currently happy, soon-to-be-married life and fly away to a far-off place like Rome just because she needed to find her (Ouija board-) destined half?

2. Faith (who should have been named Gullible instead) obviously suffered from the 90’s Rom-Com Lead Syndrome. She was supposed to be an endearing heroine, but came off as incredibly annoying.

As a teacher, she seemed to have misunderstood Plato’s belief on destiny. I learned more from our Math instructor who discussed the importance of eating vegetables to prevent a hemorrhoidectomy.

As a future bride, she was too critical of her fiancé’s work. Did she really have to mock him as a mere foot doctor? He was named Dwayne Johnson for crying out loud. Who wouldn’t want to be Mrs. Dr. The Rock?

As a romantic looking for love, she kept rejecting the possible “The One”s for very superficial reasons (not good-looking enough, or a fan of Van Damme movies). Her sister-in-law Kate (the more likable Bonnie Hunt) described her best when she said: “I think we need professional help… like a psychiatrist.”

3. I might have liked this a couple of decades back when I still had my rose-colored, heart-shaped glasses on, but what felt cute before felt completely problematic this time around. I was very critical of Kita Kita for romanticizing the stalker concept so this one wouldn’t be getting a free pass just because the creep happened to be a young Robert Downey, Jr.

Not even his gorgeous lashes that rivaled those of the late Isabel Granada could make me change my mind. (“Kapag panget eh stalker. Kapag gwapo eh admirer.” Uh, nope.) His Peter was a vile opportunist who took advantage of another person’s kagagahan for a chance to cop a feel. 

And why would he immediately say “I’m in love with you” within minutes of meeting her? When he mentioned that Damon Bradley could end up as a “jerk and pervert whose mind is infested with dark thoughts”, he was merely describing himself.

4. “Love songs are just a cruel hoax that feed people’s fantasies.” Sounded straight out of, wait this was in the 90’s so, uhm, Donahue? (For those scratching their heads, he was the less salacious version of Jerry Springer who in turn was the less classy version of Oprah Winfrey.)

5. It might just be a cultural thing, but I knew Faith’s forthcoming wedding was doomed the moment she tried on her dress. And speaking of wedding dress, how was she able to easily pass through airport security wearing that poofy outfit?

6. Note to self: Look for a copy of Roman Holiday.

7. When Faith’s brother revealed that he tricked her into believing that Damon Bradley was her soulmate, I felt really sad that she was surrounded by the most terrible, lying, emotionally abusive men. Why was she such a sociopath magnet?

8. If you were still having doubts that Peter was a disgusting excuse of a human, never forget that he had his bare feet up on a plane seat. Ugh! The 90’s had a really weird notion of a dream guy, no?

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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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.)

SNOWPIERCER (Bong Joon-ho, 2013)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Snowpiercer:

1. I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed this film. From the dull title to the seemingly tacky poster, I thought it would be a terrible B-movie at best. It ended up as a stylish and ambitious futuristic English film from a French novel and Korean director. Mindblown.

2. I guess I just really appreciated the vision of Korean filmmakers. I started last year with Park Chan-Wook’s Stoker and loved it as well. Great minds.

3. I rarely liked action films but this one just belonged to a different genre. There were equal parts suspense, violence, and comedy.

4. In an alternate universe, Tilda Swinton would get an Oscar for this film. The “Be a shoe” speech alone was just pure brilliance.

5. I’m happy I knew little about the film. Every time an Oscar nominee or winner showed up, I squealed with delight. They were all perfect!

6. I’d shut up now before I spoil it for you guys. The less you knew, the better. (I fear that it’s an acquired taste, though.)

Rating: ★★★★★

(Originally published January 30, 2014.)

AMERICAN SNIPER (Clint Eastwood, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on American Sniper:

1. In one powerful dinner scene, Chris Kyle’s father said that there were three types of people in the world: sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. The sheep were peace-loving and usually prone to oppression; the wolves were violent, lacked empathy, and preyed on innocent beings; while the sheepdogs might show signs of violence but only to defend the weak and oppressed. So which one were you?

2. Bradley Cooper played Kyle, a real-life Navy Seal sharpshooter. He threw on several pounds for this role and looked really batak onscreen. He was good but maybe overpraised with an Oscar nomination.

3. I was reminded so much of the pre-Dota online community game, Counterstrike. I sucked at it while the rest were really skilled with their headshots. I could still remember my clammy hands on the keyboard, heart racing with excitement, while anticipating the opponents’ next moves. This movie offered the same kind of exhilaration and the same fear of pulling that trigger. Only this was real life with real people (some kids) involved.

4. I rarely cover my eyes when I watch a movie. Not even in horror movies. The only time I do it is when it involves needles, or an open heart surgery. I couldn’t remember how many times I had to look away while watching. The scenes with the mother and kid holding a grenade and the other kid holding a bazooka literally left me on the edge of my seat.

5. Although the effects of PTSD were understandable, I think it was tackled much better in Homeland (and yes, Damian Lewis actually gave a stronger, more nuanced performance).

6. That slo-mo bullet money shot. Wow.

7. The movie ended abruptly with just a few sentences filling in the blanks of his death. Even the closing scenes focused more on celebrating a hero and overreached in terms of sentimentality. And then I remembered that this was a Clint “Million Dollar Madison County Baby” Eastwood movie. All was forgiven.

Rating: ★★★★☆

POLICE STORY 2013 (Sheng Ding, 2013)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Police Story 2013:

1. Wait, I thought Jackie Chan had retired and his last movie was Chinese Zodiac? Well, I guess not.

2. You watch a Chan movie for the stunts and you never ever get disappointed. He’s in his late 50’s and he still kicks ass (literally).

3. The movie was probably meant to be seen in 3D with all the broken shards and shrapnel and wood shavings flying towards the audience.

4. Jackie Chan does drama! And he’s actually good in his crying scenes. Several girls seated next to me had to reach out for their hankies.

5. The plot was preposterous to say the least with a character going to all lengths for what turned out to be a simple misunderstanding. (Don’t worry, a plotless movie cannot be spoiled.)

6. Stay for the end credits. One scene showed Chan’s dedication to his work. I hope he never retires.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published January 28, 2014.)

ANNIE (Will Gluck, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Annie:

1. The movie opened with a typical Annie, a tiny freckle-faced Caucasian redhead, reading a report on former US Presidents. The teacher then called the real Annie, played by Quvenzhane Wallis, a smart and spunky African-American. I loved this wink, wink opening because Wallis was just too adorable in the lead role. I was also happy with the color blind casting because the role of Annie had nothing to do with her skin color anyway.

2. When I heard the teacher call Annie B., I immediately thought Annie Batungbakal and I started humming the theme song and imagined Nora doing a song and dance number (“Sa umaga, dispatsadora. Sa gabi, siya’y bonggang-bongga…”).

3. For a musical, most of the production numbers felt lacking. The only one I truly enjoyed was It’s The Hard Knock Life. Everything else felt joyless. Even the classic Tomorrow wasn’t memorable since it just had her walking the streets of Harlem. Why bother with a remake?

4. Cameron Diaz can be funny whenever she goes bat-shit crazy in her movies. Here, her campiness only served as a distraction. She was just irritating all throughout. Even her musical number was horrible. Do you still remember her singing “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” in My Best Friend’s Wedding? She sang exactly like that in the most grating voice ever. Only here it wasn’t played for laughs.

5. Blatant Purell product placement. No better than a Kris Aquino movie. (“Product placement keeps the movie business afloat!”, said one character.)

6. The viral video of Jamie Foxx saving Annie was all wrong. How could it have different takes and taken from two different angles when it was supposedly shot by an onlooker?

7. I love Rose Byrne, I really do, but she should not be allowed to sing again. Hey, why was this musical populated by terrible singers given their own musical highlights? All it needed was Russell Crowe.

8. The updated version had Annie with a Twitter account and saved by Instagram. Groan.

9. I felt bad for Sia. I actually liked “Opportunity”.

10. The final act had a last minute twist, a villain that never really got his due, a final conflict, and a quick resolution that led to a song and dance number by way of Mother Lily. Ugh.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published January 28, 2015.)

MORTDECAI (David Koepp, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Mortdecai:

1. After a string of box office flops, has Johnny Depp’s quirkiness finally overstayed its welcome? Sure, he was hilarious (and even Academy-nominated) in his famous roles as Jack Sparrow, The Mad Hatter, Willy Wonka, and Sweeney Todd. But after playing one campy role after another in recent movies (pasty-white vampire in Dark Shadows, bumbling Native American in The Lone Ranger, and virtual data dust in Transcendence), is it finally time to say enough is enough? Can we have the old, normal Depp please?

2. Mortdecai looked like a career killer (if The Tourist wasn’t bad enough) and this could be the final nail on the coffin. It was a terrible, incredibly corny, infantile, unfunny “comedy” that didn’t even come close to the comedic genius of the Austin Powers movies (yes, even the worst one in the series).

3. Unfortunately, the movie came on the heels of The Grand Budapest Hotel and Depp here was no Ralph Fiennes.

4. Why would a well-trimmed mustache trigger a gag reflex anyway? And how many times did they have to repeat that gag on the gag reflex? How many times did they have to repeat almost all the lame jokes? Did they have to repeat them over and over? Repeat pa more.

5. Aside from Depp, this movie also had Gwyneth Paltrow, Ewan McGregor, Paul Bettany, Olivia Munn, and Jeff Goldblum. Imagine that awesome pool of talents wasted in an embarrassing movie.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published January 28, 2015.)