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.)

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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.)

BORN BEAUTIFUL (Perci Intalan, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Born Beautiful:

1. Originally planned as a series on Cignal TV, this spin-off of the 2016 critical hit (and a personal fave) Die Beautiful was supposedly the first five episodes of the show turned into a full-length feature. Although the decision was understandable given the material’s commercial appeal, this also served as its main weakness. The transition from TV to film resulted into some messy storytelling (several arcs felt stretched to fill an episode), underdeveloped characters, the lack of a clear resolution (a lot of people would definitely find the ending bitin), and some surface-level views on weighty issues. Even worse, we didn’t really get to know more about everyone’s favorite BFF Barbs, except that she made funny “arf arf arf” sounds during sex.

2. I was very disappointed that Christian Bables didn’t reprise his Urian-winning role because he would always be the Barbs that we deserved. It was such an effortless and lived-in performance that was sorely missing in this movie (plus the fact that the original relied on the wonderful chemistry between him and Paolo Ballesteros’ Trisha, who sadly only showed up here for a couple of scenes including a killer Mama Mary moment).

Martin del Rosario was fine as Barbs 2.0, but under all the wigs and make-up (and occasional tucking) it still felt like a committed Martin del Rosario playing Barbs 2.0. And would it be weird to say that he was just much too beautiful for the role? If Barbs (hello Taong Lego?) looked this gorgeous, then she wouldn’t be playing second fiddle to Trisha and would actually be winning all the beaucons instead.

3. While Die Beautiful presented a clear picture of Trisha’s character with her childhood dream of becoming a beauty queen, growing up in a homophobic household, and being subjected to all forms of abuse, this sequel focused on Barbs being torn between two men (and facing possible fatherhood). Medyo mababaw lang.

I would have wanted to learn more about Barbs’ personal life, including her goals and motivations, or how she coped up with her best friend’s death, or even how she learned (or what inspired) all those make-up transformations. I guess her new and improved face only merited a love triangle plot.

4. To be fair, there were still a lot of enjoyable (read: LOL) moments here. I found it smart that they were able to connect the Jamby quip in the first with Barbs’ identity confusion problems in this one (“Mukha kang tomboy na nag-aalok ng Bear Brand!”). I cackled with glee when she mentioned that Kim Kardashian’s look cost 3.5k and the 350 version was for Kim delos Santos. And should I feel guilty that I laughed at the sight of the stroke victim’s corpse and after Barbs covered it up with a Lady Gaga circa 2009 MTV Video Music Awards kukur look (“Mukha siyang malaking regla at ikaw ang pasador”)? Or that the beki friends recommended a Rihanna transformation for their other friend that died from electrocution (“Dahil lang sunog, kelangan na negra?”) and ended up with a Sia walis-tambo look (“Sia Pusit!”)? Maybe not.

The lamest humor came from the tired beauty pageant introduction segment. Seriously, how many more times should we hear that rehashed “Seventy-eight, seventy-nine, Haiti!” joke before it gets permanently banned in Pinoy queer cinema?

5. Aside from Barbs, the Michael Angelo 2.0 character had a nose lift that resulted to a face overhaul and was now played by Artista Academy’s Akihiro Blanco. It felt odd that he was one of the men fighting over her when he was the ex of Trisha in the first film.

Wait lang Barbs, tumulong ka sugurin ang karibal ni Trisha, tinawag mo na ahas, nakipagsabunutan sa parlor, pagkatapos tinalo mo rin sa dulo ang BFF mo? Hindi talaga lahat ng ahas nasa gubat. Yung iba nagtatrabaho sa Happy Endings Funeral Homes. (Kaya ka rin siguro laging minumulto ni Trisha! Malandi, haliparot, talipandas!)

From the rest of the supporting cast, I really loved Lou Veloso back as Mama Flora (“Ang gugulo n’yo. Mag-chupaan na lang tayong lahat!”), Joey Paras as one of the Way of Light pastors, and Chai Fonacier as the baby mama Yumi. What happened to the other beki BFFs from the first film, though?

6. I really appreciated some of the witty ways the film expressed its views on current issues like the death penalty (“People can change for the better”), gender neutral bathrooms, single-blessedness (“Hindi mo naman kelangan ng partner para maging reyna”), abortion, and open relationships. That entire conversion therapy bit was also brutal (literally and figuratively) that many overzealous faithful would probably get triggeredt.

7. In one scene, Yumi was graphically describing how she ended up getting pregnant through some vulgar words and hand movements. It was meant to be hilarious (and probably one of the movie’s highlights), but ended up getting completely ruined by all the bleeping (even the subtitles were censored!). Please note that the version I watched was already rated R-18, or For Adults Only by the tasked moral guardians.

I just found it funny that one of the promotional materials for this film commended the MTRCB for being “progressive”. Totoo ba? Saang banda?

Rating: ★★★☆☆

MACBETH (Justin Kurzel, 2015)

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My notes on Macbeth:

1. The opening scene with the dead Macbaby perfectly set the somber tone of this adaptation. I could barely remember reading the source (maybe I even just read the Cliff’s Notes version) but I didn’t recall an actual baby in the play. I even thought that Lady Macbeth went mad from her frustration of not having (not loss of) a baby and all the references on sucking milk were just imaginary.

(Side note: This reminded me of a local actress who also experienced the same kind of depression and apparently took care of a doll while on the set. Sadness.)

Now that I have a lot of time to read, I really need to catch up on these classics.

2. There were only a few of us in the theater and some understandably walked out halfway through. The movie was a test of patience with its leisurely pacing, extra slow motion battle sequences, Old English dialogue, and constant monologues. But then again, anybody watching a Shakespeare adaptation should have been prepared for that. (Good news: there were English subtitles so I didn’t get an epistaxis trying to figure out what the characters were saying, e.g. “Bid me not speak, see, speak yourselves” for “Kayo na ang sumight sa bangkay”).

3. I loved the visuals in the movie, especially the final battle scene with the red and orange hues. I would have to admit that I snickered a bit though when Michael Fassbender’s eyeshadow and mascara got smudged from the constant crying (and also in the scene where Macduff called his kids “all my pretty chickens”).

4. Speaking of Fassy, he was fine as the said “Warrior King” but was still no match for Marion Cotillard’s deranged performance. As the scheming Lady Macbeth, you could actually see her devilish smile even in the dark after her husband said that he had done the murderous deed. Her delivery of the line “A little water clears us of this deed” was just chilling that when she showed human emotions during the latter part of the movie (“Out, damned spot!”), one couldn’t help but doubt if they were crocodile tears.

5. I stand by my belief that Lady Macbeth was somewhat misunderstood. Was she really innately evil or just a completely supportive wife? Did the lack of a child diminish her maternal instincts or made her more selfless and loving? Why do strong and ambitious women always end up getting a bad rap? I digress.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published January 26, 2016.)

BRIDE FOR RENT (Mae Czarina Cruz, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Bride for Rent:

1. Trying hard to act was one thing. Trying really hard to play it straight was another.

2. The lines were so corny but Kim Chiu delivered them with such gusto. I really loved her comic timing in these rom-coms.

3. Lola’s boy. Check. Spiffy wardrobe. Check. Worked in a production company. Check. Screamed like a girl. Check. No wonder he didn’t want to get married.

4. I think I just split my kidneys while laughing so hard during Kim’s shower scene. She completely owned this movie.

5. Kim and Xian looked good together so the kilig factor was high but I wished he could go toe-to-toe with her acting prowess.

6. I really liked the bit with the real-life couples. It made me want to believe in forever.

7. “If a person knows how to say sorry, then he is a step closer to becoming a better person.”

8. Oh no, I bet Chinito would be messing with my brain the entire night!

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published January 20, 2014.)

BUMBLEBEE (Travis Knight, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Bumblebee:

1. Never thought l’d see the day that I would actually like a Transformers movie from the Michael Bay Non-Biodegradable Universe. How could I not be that pessimistic when this was the most revered film series in Razzie history? Revenge of the Fallen as Worst Picture? Definitely! Bay as Worst Director for Age of Extinction? Well-deserved! I only watched most of them out of pure nostalgia (and a self-diagnosed masochism, of course!). Unsurprisingly, the best entry (so far) only needed a director not named Michael Bay.

2. Although it still contained a huge amount of robot on robot action (that reminded me so much of the 4D ride in Universal Studios Singapore), more time was spent on the blossoming friendship between Bumblebee and Charlie Watson (Academy Award nominee and certified #PinoyFried Hailee Steinfeld). Who knew that beneath all the metal exterior lay the heart of this awesome prequel? (More than meets the eye? Take that, Star Wars!!)

3. If you immediately fell in love with the terrific Steinfeld as soon as she started air drumming here (and you had only seen her in the Pitch Perfect sequels), now would be a good time to catch up on her much better films like True Grit and The Edge of Seventeen.

(And yes, I still think she would have made a better Belle in the Beauty and the Beast live-action remake.)

4. One of my favorite moments was when Bumblebee first transformed in the garage. He got himself all tangled up with a kite, stumbled over, and then cowered in fear while sitting in one corner. More than just looking really cute (in an aww shucks way you would feel towards a scared child), he had never looked and felt more human.

There was also a lot of effective (intentional) humor in this movie that included him stomping on a car or doing a radical impression of Judd Nelson’s fist pump in The Breakfast Club (which was just as funny as Kimmy’s in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt). Cue the classic Don’t You Forget About Me.

And speaking of classic songs, I was happy that Bumblebee eventually learned to like The Smiths (although it was still unforgivable that he hated Kuya Dick’s Never Gonna Give You Up).

5. Happy to see Pamela Adlon on the big screen as Charlie’s mother. I wish they could find a way to incorporate this in Better Things with Sam getting her big break as a supporting actress in a huge Hollywood production.

6. Alf and Miami Vice references. A picture of then-President Ronald Reagan. Posters for The Thing and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Yet the biggest giveaway for me that this took place in the 80’s was the noisy dot matrix printer.

(Also, did they suggest that the Decepticons actually invented the internet?)

7. So Charlie started the Bird Box Challenge? (Kids, do not try this on the road unless you own Bumblebee.)

8. Ahh, so that was the Camaro explanation. Goodbye pendong peace!!

Rating: ★★★☆☆

MARY POPPINS RETURNS (Rob Marshall, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Mary Poppins Returns:

1. One of the highlights of Saving Mr. Banks (a great companion piece to this film) was the scene where an uptight P.L. Travers (played by the superb Emma Thompson) unexpectedly lowered her guard and started dancing along to Let’s Go Fly a Kite. It was a touching moment especially since the author notoriously hated the Disneyfication of her novels (“Responstible is not a word!!”), particularly Mary Poppins.

I wonder how she would have felt with this one given that it lacked an LSS-worthy melody that the original had in abundance. Can You Imagine That? and Trip a Little Light Fantastic were fun and frothy, but they just weren’t as memorable as Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (an exercise in spelling and enunciation) or A Spoonful of Sugar.

For the record, my favorite tune from the 1964 classic was Oscar winner Chim Chim Cher-ee. Fun online fact: If you scratch “-2 – 2 + =“ on your pillow, it would sound very much like this song. Aren’t the interwebs wonderful?

2. Although billed as a sequel (with the Banks children all grown up), this still felt very much like a remake (seriously, why did they even bother?). If anything, I was happy that they kept the 2D animation during some of the fantasy sequences because it perfectly captured the old school magic of films.

3. I really thought it would be hard to match the wonderful performance of Julie Andrews (whose stern but loving version of the magical nanny reminded me of her stern but loving grandma slash Queen of Genovia in The Princess Diaries), but Emily Blunt completely owned the role (not a trace of imitation!) while paying homage to a well-loved Dame. At least she had a fun moment in the bathtub for a change.

4. It was sad to see Lin-Manuel Miranda sticking out like a sore thumb among the mostly English (and incredibly good) supporting cast. Although this was a musical where people actually floated while holding on to balloons, there was just something off with his over-the-top (read: theater-ready) acting.

Julie Walters was a hilarious scene-stealer as always, but I was more pleasantly surprised by Ben Whishaw. In one scene, he was clutching on to his dead wife’s pearl necklace while singing that he needed a few suggestions on how to brush their daughter’s hair and I was trying my best not to burst into tears.

As for the kids, they were fine enough, although I was wishing one of them could be like a young Freddie Highmore in Finding Neverland.

5. Been a fan of Rob Marshall’s impressive choreography since Chicago and it was in full display here. When the Banks’ house got rattled by an exploding cannon, the siblings caught the falling furniture (a few lamps, an heirloom clock) like they were in a ballet. I also liked the (intentional?) nod to Velma Kelly in the A Cover is Not a Book production.

6. I understood the decision of making this version of Mary closer to her disposition in the books, but it was also the reason why I thought that this sequel needed a bit more heart. Like I wanted to be a puddle of sobbing mess when she would leave the children in the end and it didn’t happen. I had more of an emotional attachment with Sam in Wanted: Perfect Mother.

7. Why did Mary let the poor leeries climb all the way up the clock tower when she could have done it in the first place pala? Did everything have to be a teachable moment?

8. “Cleaning is not a spectator sport” sounded like something Marie Kondo would say. Yes, this movie gave me a tiny spark of joy.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

LOVE, ROSIE (Christian Ditter, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Love, Rosie:

1. This movie was based on Where Rainbows End by Cecelia Ahern, the same author of P.S. I Love You that was also adapted into a movie starring Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler. Although completely different in treatment, they now both serve as guilty pleasures.

2. I loved the excessive use of pop songs that highlighted each turning point in the characters’ lives. Elvis Costello’s I’ll Never Fall in Love Again, Beyonce’s Crazy in Love, Elton John’s Tiny Dancer, Lily Allen’s F*ck You (Very Much), KT Tunstall’s Suddenly I See. Heck, even Asereje by Las Ketchup finally meant something. C’mon, I’m sure you still know the dance steps to this one.

3. The movie could be easily faulted as cliched and contrived and these were true to some extent. It was a gorgeously-shot Richard Curtis rom-com with the requisite (predictable) happy ending stinking a mile away.

4. Lily Collins was just too charming here. She anchored the entire film and prevented it from being completely silly even if she was required to run around handcuffed to a bedpost. Or had to spread her legs to find a missing condom.

5. I know the main cast looked really good but a decade supposedly passed and they didn’t seem to have aged a bit. Unless having thicker eyebrows actually meant you were older.

6. Why are some people so stupid to make the biggest mistake of falling in love with their best friend? Haven’t they learned anything from Budjoy?

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published January 14, 2015.)

HONEYMOON (Leigh Janiak, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Honeymoon:

1. Bear rugs look creepy. I’m freaked out whenever I see any rug that still has the head of an animal. Any movie with a scene involving a bear rug instantly gives me the chills.

2. Simply put, it was about a couple that went to a cabin in the woods for their honeymoon. Ooh, Cabin in the Woods. It’s time for a rewatch.

3. The story was very predictable down to its anticlimactic ending. From the moment they showed the happy couple on video discussing their wonderful future ahead, I already knew their relationship was doomed. This is exactly how bitter people think.

4. Leisurely-paced would be an understatement. A chunk of the movie was just exposition with minutes spent on the tour of the cabin, the couple’s activities, honeymoon discussions, and lots of pawing. I still enjoyed the ride, though.

5. The lead actress looked like a B-movie Emma Stone. Definitely not a bad thing considering that some of the popular Hollywood stars couldn’t even pass for a C-movie Emma Stone. Oh yes, I’m in love with Emma Stone.

6. Red herring, red herring, red herring. Didn’t throw me off one bit.

7. Everything was going fine until we got close to the big reveal and the husband started saying: “You have her toes. You have her knees. You taste the same. Blah blah blah. But you’re not my wife!” How stupid was this character?

8. One scene involving what looked like an umbilical cord with a wriggling scorpion’s tail being pulled out of the girl’s vajayjay was repulsive and a delight to watch. It was that kind of weird.

9. The rest of the people that watched obviously hated the movie, especially the bizarre ending. “Ano yun? Walang kwenta!” The fact that everyone wanted a refund since they barely understood the final scene made me like it even more. I demand a sequel!!

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published January 9, 2015.)

THE IMMIGRANT (James Gray, 2013)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Immigrant:

1. Marion Cotillard’s performance in La Vie en Rose is still my most favorite Oscar-winning acting piece ever. And that’s coming from the biggest Kate Winslet fan. She just makes these things look easy.

2. Cotillard elevated this run-of-the-mill melodrama with her sympathetic turn as the destitute turned prostitute Ewa Cybulski. Sometimes though, all the movie needed was a voiceover from dear Ate Charo.

3. One of my favorite scenes here was when she didn’t know how to eat a banana and just chomped on one, peel and all.

4. This was set in the early 1920’s and yet the same immigration problems still exist. I don’t think I’d ever resort to prostitution if I were denied entry in the US but the thought of not seeing Emma Stone perform in the last few shows of Cabaret might make me reconsider.

5. Here’s a tip I learned from the film: prick your finger and dab some blood on your lips, then slap your cheeks three times on each side. The finished product will either make you look like a gorgeous Oscar winner or a bloodied version of your ugly self.

6. If you were a desperate whore, would you choose your ruthless pimp or a romantic magician? They had weird love stories in the olden times.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published January 6, 2015.)