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The Spotless Mind

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

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(2/5)

PENGABDI SETAN (SATAN’S SLAVES) (Joko Anwar, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

After the first twenty minutes of this Indonesian horror movie, I kept fiddling with my phone to change the assigned message tone for most of my contacts. I probably wouldn’t survive a possible heart attack if I heard bell chimes coming from text messages in the middle of the night. I wasn’t even sure why I forgot to do that after watching The Autopsy of Jane Doe, but the chilling ghost face of the dying mother here was enough reason not to forget this time.

Sadly, the movie couldn’t sustain the scares and resorted to the usual horror movie tropes, ones that we’d already seen in Rosemary’s Baby, Ringu, and even Paranormal Activity 4. By the time the undead rose from their graves with cotton balls up their noses, I was chuckling loudly from my seat imagining the late Chiquito’s comedy films of my childhood.

The deaf-mute demon child was also played by the most adorable kid that it was hard not to feel sorry for him. While his family members wanted him dead, I just wanted to reach out and pinch his cute, rosy cheeks. Good production values overall, though.

One scene involving a record that when played backwards revealed ancient (read: evil) chanting reminded me so much of the time when the Eraserheads was accused of blasphemy and satanic worship by the Catholic Church. I almost broke my Cutterpillow cassette tape trying to figure out how the backmasking thing worked (since Overdrive was apparently demonic). Believing fake news out of blind faith, now that was scary.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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MAID IN MANHATTAN (Wayne Wang, 2002)

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A Republican senator falling for a Latina maid would be even more of a fantasy now compared to when this fairy tale originally came out fifteen years ago. I’d be less surprised to see a movie with Jennifer Lopez as another Boy Next Door-ish cougar to Tyler Posey, who actually played her very young Bread-listening son here.

Poor Frances Conroy and the late Natasha Richardson were wasted as secondary caricatures, but even moreso the Actor Commonly Known as Voldemort. It was a bit uncomfortable to watch the dignified Ralph Fiennes trying his best Hugh Grant impression, made worse by his complete lack of chemistry with J.Lo. They obviously needed a dose of love potion from the Weasleys.

To be fair though, this movie (along with Miss Congeniality) had one of the most memorable makeover reveals in current cinema outside of the Anne Hathaway Universe (The Devil Wears Prada, The Princess Diaries, Les Miserables, err…). A radiant J.Lo in a pink strapless chiffon gown with a million dollar Harry Winston wreath necklace would be a maid’s ultimate dream. Well that and of course Gelli de Belen and her unlimited bikini collection in Ikaw Lang ang Mamahalin (Camiguin).

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

SMALLER AND SMALLER CIRCLES (Raya Martin, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

One character probably summed it up best when he mentioned that the others may have seen one too many Hollywood crime films since there were no serial killers in the Philippines (hail Queen Jessica Zafra!). Although this adaptation of the Palanca-winning novel by F.H. Batacan had a distinctly Pinoy setting (what screamed poverty more than the Payatas dumpsite?), nothing else felt authentic in this slow-paced procedural slash disappointing non-thriller.

I couldn’t get past the unnatural dialogue between the two conyo Jesuit priests (Nonie Buencamino and Sid Lucero). When the latter said something like “Nobody raised a stink?”, I just wanted to make tungga a bottle of holy water. Although these served well during one Atenista joke, the English conversations just felt (what did you call it again, Holden Caulfield?), ah yes, phony. Don’t get me started on the unnecessary (oh look we’re multilingual!) French talk.

Even the themes didn’t exactly break new ground. Inefficiency of our local crime units? Politicians taking advantage of the poor? Abusive power of the Church? Pedophile priests? Where was Joel Lamangan when you needed him? Worse, the big reveal of the killer felt very anticlimactic with the introduction of a last minute character (and not in a menacing Kevin Spacey in Se7en way) whose motives and modus weren’t fully explained.

At least it had the budget for a competent all-star cast, lovely cinematography and terrific production design (that fully captured the grimy late 90s aesthetics). It also obviously wasn’t a rushed production with a pre-keto diet Mae Paner (and was that the late Joy Viado in one scene?).

I got bored during the sluggish killer confession scene so I just imagined a more interesting version of the movie in my head. I renamed Buencamino’s Father Saenz as Father Science since he was a forensics expert anyway and with all the victims’ missing hearts and genitals, he sought the help of Kim Chiu’s Mayen who already had an experience with monsters that shove organs down people’s throats. Chito Roño’s Smaller and Smaller Bagwas, anyone?

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

LOVING VINCENT (Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman, 2017)

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I’m the type of person that would be willing to pay the hefty entrance fee of a museum just for the experience, end up staring (cluelessly) at the paintings for a few minutes, and then leave to get some frozen yogurt. No matter how lovely the art pieces were, they would receive the same level of appreciation that I had for poetry (meaning nearly nothing). Yes, the closest I’d be to being cultured was drinking a bottle of Yakult.

Watching this visually impressive movie felt very much like that visit to a museum. The hand-painted scenes (mostly recreations of Vincent Van Gogh’s own paintings) looked stunning, but the novelty wore off after a few minutes. The flimsy plot that basically enumerated a list of facts about his life (as a possible murder-mystery) made me recall my futile attempt to read an entire volume of Encyclopaedia Brittanica (I ultimately got bored and failed).

The only time I actually felt something was when a version of Don McLean’s Vincent (Starry Starry Night) played during the end credits. How could you not sing along to that melancholic song? Bring on the infinite sadness.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

BREATHE (Andy Serkis, 2017)

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In another (desperate?) bid for an Oscar nomination, Andrew Garfield has moved on from playing a real-life man of faith battling enemy soldiers without the use of a gun to a real-life faith-challenged man battling polio and its debilitating side effects with just a respirator. Unlike his performance in Hacksaw Ridge though, this one seemed to be a result of watching Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything one too many times (something I was guilty of as well).

Claire Foy (looking very much like Adele’s older sister) as his patient and devoted wife fared significantly better. She had a fantastic scene where she stormed down a hill after being accused that she saw her husband as a burden and it made me want to do a catch-up on the first season of The Crown.

Although this biopic was clearly well-intentioned and made to be inspirational, the central love story just felt very bland. The only source of tension was when a kid and his dog accidentally unplugged the breathing device and even that scene had me giggling because of the clunky way it was handled. I’m definitely going straight to hell.

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: ★★☆☆☆

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: ★★☆☆☆

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