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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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.)

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.)

ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE ROAD CHIP (Walt Becker, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip:

1. As a kid, I have always loved the Chipmunks that I would try and imitate their voices by talking in front of an electric fan with the dial turned up to three. (Okay, sometimes I sang the theme song as well: “Alvin, Simon, Theodoooore!”) And no, I never had access to helium balloons. If I did, I wouldn’t have ended up with so much kabag.

2. This fourth film in the series wasn’t any better than the previous sequels, but it was just too hard to hate on these lovable, furry singing creatures. The jokes were completely juvenile so they mostly involved farting, peeing, and pooping. My favorite bit was when Alvin told Dave that they were very mature and then Theodore farted and said in his too cute voice, “Oops, pizza toots!” It might not be funny for anyone over eight, but us kids laughed our hearts out.

3. I wish there were more pop songs included here other than Uptown Funk and Geronimo. Sure, it was fun to hear Conga and Iko Iko but I missed the Chipettes singing Bad Romance and Single Ladies. Plus, the girls were sidelined in the entire movie playing judges in a blatant plug for American Idol.

4. Jennifer Coolidge showed up yet again in a ditzy role which was a variation of her Sophie Kaczinsky in 2 Broke Girls, in turn a variation of her Paulette in Legally Blonde, also a variation of her MILF role in American Pie. Has she played any other character of late?

5. Actually, a lot of good actors (mostly Emmy winners) showed up to cash in their checks. Tony Hale endured a lot of slapstick jokes from various animals that will put his encounters with VP Selina Meyer to shame. Uzo Aduba had a thankless role as a security officer that simply wanted to frisk passengers. Even John Waters showed up for a brief cameo (thankfully, no poop-eating scene).

6. I wouldn’t be spoiling anything if I say that Dave ended up adopting the Chipmunks, thereby one-upping the Brangelina clan. As one character stated, “Families come in all shapes and sizes. We don’t judge.” Aww, now wasn’t that nice?

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published January 26, 2016.)

THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY (Ben Stiller, 2013)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Secret Life of Walter Mitty:

1. It was so scary how much I could relate to this movie. It was like watching my life unfold onscreen.

2. “My life is one big daydream”. I couldn’t stop the tears. Why was I even crying?

3. And then I was laughing like a madman with that Benjamin Button bit.

4. These places looked gorgeous. I just added Greenland, Iceland, and the Himalayas on my bucket list.

5. Ben Stiller and Kristen Wiig were just too good. One could sense their characters’ sadness behind those smiles.

6. Loved, loved, loved the soundtrack!!

7. I just kept smiling through all tears.

Rating: ★★★★☆

(Originally published January 25, 2014.)

BLACKHAT (Michael Mann, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Blackhat:

1. The movie opened with a great sequence showing information traveling from various circuits and transistors until it finally triggered an explosion in a nuclear reactor.

2. After that scene, basically nothing happened onscreen for the next thirty minutes. That was one incredibly long bathroom break. I couldn’t believe this was from the director of The Insider, Heat, and Collateral (oh, wait).

3. Do you remember those badly-dubbed Chinese movies shown every Sunday morning on Channel 9? This movie had its own version of that. Only the Chinese characters were speaking Chinese. And it was still badly-dubbed.

4. Lust, Caution would always be one of my favorite Ang Lee films. I was so happy to see Tang Wei and Wang Leehom reunite here. Watch that movie and not just for the good (wink, wink) parts, ok?

5. Poor Viola Davis had to wear a horrible wig. She’s a lovely and smart woman. Why did she allow this kind of treatment from Hollywood?

6. Speaking of hair, how did Chris Hemsworth maintain that perpetually brushed up hair? Did they have industrial hairblowers in prison?

7. I loved the Asian tour with the movie jumping from Hong Kong to Macau to Malaysia and finally to Indonesia. I’d never seen Kowloon Station ever deserted, though.

8. One crowd scene had men pointing guns at each other and people barely noticing. It needed a gunfire before the stampede started. Really?

9. So many IT jargon. My head almost exploded.

10. If you want an exciting digital age thriller, you’d be better off watching the cheesy Sandra Bullock flick The Net. I couldn’t believe it was shown twenty years ago.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published January 25, 2015.)

GLASS (M. Night Shyamalan, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Glass:

1. Unbreakable was supposedly a play on the yin and yang elements between superhero David Dunn (Bruce Willis) and villain Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson). One was just discovering his superpowers (and in turn his kryptonite: water!!), one was searching for his polar opposite slash ultimate foe (blowing up trains and buildings in the process), and both of them were trying to determine their purpose in this world. Although Elijah’s story was integral to the whole superhero lore, his evil character still played a supporting role to the real bida of the first film.

I was really excited to hear that the third installment to this Eastrail 177 Trilogy was called Glass because it should place his character front and center (considering that the movie was named after him, right?). Well, not exactly. He didn’t even show up until almost an hour into this bloated movie. If I were a secondary character in my own film, I’d probably feel the need to create a lot of chaos as well.

2. Even worse, it gathered three really interesting superhero comic book characters (that also included Kevin Wendell Crumb aka The Beast and twenty-something plus other personalities called The Horde, all played by the terrific James McAvoy) and decided to keep them locked up in a psychiatric facility for majority of the running time. They were only set free to interact with each other during the final act showdown (and yes, one of them actually explained how a showdown worked in comic books for the non-nerds) which still made little sense.

Side note: When we had some American clients come over for a visit, they were creeped out when I informed them that they would be staying at The Bellevue Hotel Alabang. One of them later on explained that Bellevue’s a popular mental hospital in the U.S. At least her family and friends had a good laugh when they learned where she was checked in.

3. Sarah Paulson played a doctor straight out of her American Horror Story wheelhouse who kept trying to make the three believe that they were merely suffering from delusions of grandeur. Wait, who was she trying to convince? It couldn’t possibly be the audience that knew the truth from the first two films. Oh, it was all just a setup for the requisite twist in the end with the Clover Chips Organization.

Also, given the nature of these patients, why was security so lax in that place? If Elijah (with the most brittle bones and in a wheelchair) could easily get out of his room, shouldn’t they have more people manning the place? Oh, also part of the twist. Pfft and pfft!!

4. It was a treat to see a grown up Spencer Clark (wink, wink). I just wish his acting skills matured as well (that wide-eyed kid look could only take him so far). He did have one of the funniest lines here when he mentioned the catchphrase, “We’re gonna salt bae your ass!”. Now if only Robin Wright returned as well… (It was nice to see some of the old/unused footage from Unbreakable, too.)

5. The lines that made me cringe:

• “Only the true version of love can heal (him).” Eww! So all this time, Kevin could have been cured by true love’s kiss? What’s next, Elijah proclaiming the wonders of a happy working song?

• “You’re fighting for the broken. You found your purpose.” Not enough space for the eyeroll emojis.

• “This is not a limited edition. This was an origin story the whole time.” Keep explaining for the non-nerds at the back, Elijah!

6. The lines that made me happy:

• The cool delivery of “First name Mister. Last name Glass”.

• “Have you ever been to a comic book convention? They sell teen TV shows there!” LOL!!

7. Burning questions:

• Wait, so Elijah Price who wanted to be the best (or worst?) antagonist in the world ended up as a hero? Why??

• How deep was that puddle?

• Was I the only who thought that every single one of The Horde personalities would get a chance to have its own tearful goodbye? (That was a really long dying scene, no?)

• In that final train station scene, how did they know it was the CCTV footage that was going viral and not say, the news about Kim and Kanye’s new baby?

8. M. Night Shyamalan created his own cinematic universe so he made sure of his Stan Lee-like cameo in almost every one of his movies. Or was he trying to be Hitchcock instead? (Insert possible twist here.)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

ALPHA: THE RIGHT TO KILL (Brillante Mendoza, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Alpha: The Right To Kill:

1. You know how sometimes we would say something that wasn’t an outright lie, but wasn’t completely honest either? How we would do this to try and avoid any possible confrontation or drama because we knew that people would get upset with the truth? Well, I think I just watched the movie equivalent of a white lie.

Similar to his controversial Netflix series Amo, this newest “internationally-acclaimed” film by Brillante Mendoza couldn’t be accused of being blatant propaganda, but it wasn’t an accurate depiction of our country’s current war on drugs either. It wanted to appease both the DDS (the policemen had every right to kill these addicts!) and anti-DDS (look, corrupt cops ruining the system!) all while flashing disclaimers at the beginning and end that: a) it wanted to “present reality with no intention of maligning or besmirching the integrity of police officers”, and b) this was a “complete work of fiction and any similarities to actual people or events were purely coincidental”. It even had the audacity to state that “the task of ending corruption needed our utmost cooperation and that change should start with us”. Ermm-kay.

2. This was shot in Mendoza’s signature shaky cam style (read: gritty!) so newcomers should come armed with a dose of Bonamine taken an hour before the screening. Trust me, you would need it because several scenes involved a lot of running in eskinitas and on rooftops (like a more chaotic and migraine-inducing version of Buy Bust).

3. I saw this foreign language film several years back called Maria Full of Grace where a poor (literally and figuratively) girl named Maria (naturally!) was forced to become a drug mule. She had to swallow dozens of these drug pellets that needed to be transported from Colombia to New York and she was chosen because her pregnancy would exempt her from the x-ray inspection. Imagine carrying that much paraphernalia in your belly (along with a fetus!) with the possibility that any of them could rupture any time. Que horror!

No drug pellets were swallowed in this one, but the mules used were in the form of fruit (kawawang mangoes!), pigeons (lalong bumaba ang lipad ng kalapati!), and even baby diapers (shudder!). Yes, one drug pusher actually used his baby (unfortunately named Neknek) to deliver drugs so the movie made sure that he was severely punished for this horrific crime (kebs na daw sa human rights and due process, mamatay na lahat ng mga adik!).

4. Allen Dizon (dependable as always) was the sole corrupt cop here. Everyone else was just doing what the law required of them to do. In one scene prior to a swat operation slash drug raid, one officer said, “Gagawin natin ito para sa bayan at para sa mga susunod na henerasyon!”. I couldn’t remember exactly, but he just might have been one of the awardees of the Medalya ng Katapatan sa Paglilingkod during the closing ceremony attended by real PNP Chief Oscar Albayalde. His team deserved a commendation because they were able to properly arrange a row of dead bodies (all nanlaban).

5. The head drug lord that was protected by a community of users and pushers (“Di lang livelihood, cottage industry na ito!”) was played by Baron Geisler to further lose every ounce of sympathy from the viewers and force them to collectively moan, “Gahd, we hate drugs!”.

6. There were a few (both intentional and unintentional) comic moments here that did make me laugh. One pusher with blonde curly hair was nicknamed Santo Niño. In another scene, an officer was documenting the events that transpired earlier while banging furiously on his desktop keyboard, but the words on the monitor were not moving.

But the funniest one had to be the poem that was recited by a kid towards the end of the movie that went “Pulis ang aking tatay. Tapang na walang kapantay. Tagapaligtas ng ating bayan. Blah blah blah kaayusan ay ating makamit.” Was it called Oda sa Wala?

7. So the entire moral of the story was that as long as people didn’t do drugs, they would be fine (PNP: We gotchu fam!)? Wow, I feel extra safe living in this country already!!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

GRUDGE MATCH (Peter Segal, 2013)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Grudge Match:

1. The movie opened with a Manny Pacquiao fight. I actually thought it was a Public Service Announcement to pay taxes.

2. Oooh, so this is a comedy about two old boxers starring actors that played Rocky Balboa and Jake LaMotta. It should be fun.

3. After the success of Meet the Parents, Robert de Niro seemed to have found his niche in these corny lightweight comedies.

4. I laughed so hard during that Rocky reference with Stallone about to punch a hanging piece of meat. I guess I was the only old person here.

5. It’s Jon Bernthal Week! He was good in The Wolf of Wall Street, too.

6. Another proof of the Oscar Best Supporting Actress Curse: Kim Basinger.

7. Holyfield and Tyson in the end credits! I wonder if the movie were funnier if it starred them instead.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published January 20, 2014.)