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The Spotless Mind

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

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(3/5)

CINEMALAYA – SHORTS A (2017)

SPOILER ALERT!!

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FATIMA MARIE TORRES AND THE INVASION OF SPACE SHUTTLE PINAS 25 (Carlo Francisco Manatad, 2017) – ★★★☆☆

Although the title was as subtle as Jason Mraz’s Waiting for My Rocket to Come, there were still a lot of funny bits here that kept me erect, er, entertained in my seat.

I was supposed to question why the old couple was watching Kris and Biiiiimb on Tonight with Boy Abunda in broad daylight, but there were far crazier things happening on their side of the world (crashing dildo, floating knife, luggage with a chastity alarm, vagina moon).

Did the license for Dayang Dayang cost the production a fortune? I wish the old lady danced what she learned from zumba during that Christmas lights scene.

Nice enough, but lacked an impressive girth.

*****

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SORRY FOR THE INCONVENIENCE (Carl Adrian Chavez, 2017) – ★★★★☆

Anong meron si Ronwaldo Martin? What makes him so watchable (enigmatic?) every single time? In this short, he barely had any lines, but the grit and emotions were definitely palpable.

A fascinating look at masculinity defined by a Pinoy patriarchal society, where the bond between a boy and his father could only be felt through a common desire/need for violence. Powerful stuff!

*****

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LOLA LOLENG (Che Tagyamon, 2017) – ★★★☆☆

Reminded me a lot of the equally affecting Manang Biring (hey, how about an animated film about other relatives?). The crude animation worked really well for the story, although the sound design felt a bit off.

Another reason to fear family reunions, but more than that, another reason to fear the emerging short-term memories of people vis a vis historical revisionisms. #NeverForget

*****

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ALIENS ATA (Glenn Barit, 2017) – ★★☆☆☆

The aerial shots felt too gimmicky and couldn’t quite justify the lack of a strong narrative. It reminded me so much of those trips to the National Museum and watching moving dioramas. Not my kind of voyeurism.

*****

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ISLABODAN (Juan Carlo Tarobal, 2017) – ★★☆☆☆

Remember the Daily Prophet in Harry Potter with all the moving pictures? This short felt exactly like that, except that it was a literal comic book film. The multiple panels with their abrupt stop-and-go motions were too distracting. It was a novel idea that just didn’t fully work onscreen.

That climactic Captain America: Civil War-like showdown between the two gangs had me in stitches for all the wrong reasons.

Also, for a comic book movie, this one included my ultimate peeve: wonky subtitles.

*****

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MANONG NG PA-ALING (E. del Mundo, 2017) – ★★☆☆☆

Had some excellent underwater photography, and not much else. I still couldn’t figure out why Manong had to remove three pieces of underwear for his shower scene while his fantasy mermaid slash dead wife wore nude-colored panties. Ehh.

CINEMALAYA – SHORTS B (2017)

SPOILER ALERT!!

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JUANA AND THE SACRED SHORES (Antonne Santiago, 2017)

Similar to Pina, this dance film was just too artsy for my basic tastes. Kwento ko na lang sa inyo mga bes.

So merong long-legged Ate Dyosa na nag-trip magsayaw sa maduming batis. Biglang dumating si Gluta Koya na may dalang santol at more join sa ballet nya. Nagpagulong-gulong sila sa putikan at nagtastas ng damit. Biglang may Grindr notif si Koya so itinigil nya ang pagkaladkad kay Ate Dyosa na naninilaw na. Paggising nya, naka-blusang itim na sya at nagpapaligo si Gluta Koya ng isang bata.

Tungkol ba ito sa colonialism? Oppression of women? Dance as art form? Ang deep, men!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

*****

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MARIA (JP Habac, 2017)

Aka the Reproductive Health Law Movie.

From the opening breakfast scene with a dozen children of all ages grabbing for the remaining food on the table, to the endless petty fights between the siblings (that would put Bunak and Bilog to shame), to the mother giving birth yet again to her twenty-nth baby inside a tricycle, it was enough for me to wish for an instant vasectomy.

Strong message and good production values, but it just fell short from being a public service announcement.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

*****

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NAKAW (Arvin Belarmino, Noel Escondo, 2017)

Single take, poverty porn, murky lighting, shaky cam, gratuitous sex and violence, social relevance, Kristoffer King. This short was able to tick everything off the Brillante Mendoza-lite checklist. Didn’t really feel necessary.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

*****

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HILOM (P.R. Patindol, 2017)

There was something sweet and completely unsettling between the bond of the young twin brothers in this short. When Blue Twin developed a stronger friendship with another boy, you could actually feel the jealousy of Pink Twin. At the end of the day though (and amidst the malicious gay accusations), blood was still thicker than water.

Solid production values all-throughout. I just wish it didn’t hold back and ventured darker than expected.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

*****

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BAWOD (TM Malones, 2017)

Although I liked the initial focus on the charming relationship between the grandfather and his thirteen year old granddaughter (especially the opening sequence with their constant banter that ended up in a carabao ride), it failed to capitalize on this and instead chose to take a philosophical route (similar to that clichéd bamboo metaphor).

The ending made me scratch my dandruff-free head.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

*****

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NAKAUWI NA (Marvin Cabangunay, Jaynus Olaivar, 2017)

A well-intentioned short dealing with extrajudicial killings that was tough to watch given its crude technical aspects. It was like watching a Powerpoint presentation that would always fade to black before moving on to the next flashback scene. Most of the performances were terrible (the part where the friends delivered the bad news to the father was cringe-worthy). The blatant audio issues were also very distracting and in the only scene that was meant to be affecting, the musical score started to swell before the sappy theme song was played.

Maiiyak na sana ako sa dulo nang biglang lumabas ang multo ng napatay na anak. It was probably meant to be sentimental, but I walked out of the cinema laughing instead.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

NABUBULOK (Sonny Calvento, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Nabubulok:

1. Whatever happened to that Anti-Chismis Law? In a country powered by daily gossip (ranging from the newest kabit of your neighbor to the escapades of the resident office slut to the questionable sexual preference of a popular matinee idol), could that even be successfully implemented?

The great Jessica Zafra once said that we could never breed serial killers in our country because we’re a nation of nosy people. Secrets could never be kept for long in a community since Pinoys are naturally suspicious of the littlest odd behaviours of others.

This was the very first thing that came to mind while watching this mystery-thriller (in my mind, more of a dark comedy slash social commentary) about an American accused of killing his Pinay wife and how he was subjected to a public trial by chismis (or was it?).

2. How apt that the gossip started from local labandera Aling Ingrid (a brilliant Gina Alajar, her “Putang Ina” scene alone deserved a Balanghai), who smelled something rotten emanating from the house next door and immediately concluded that her cousin Luna (Sue Prado) was killed by foreigner husband Jason (Billy Ray Gallion).

She then had the audacity to ask her son (“Rockyyyyy!!”) to climb a tree just to check on their shady neighbor (in this scene, they were talking too loudly not to get noticed, though). When the seed of doubt was planted, it was funny and ultimately scary to see just how fast it grew and spread around the xenophobic town.

3. Definitely not happy that characters in Pinoy films named Jason always turned out to be villains and this was no exception. Fortunately, they were mostly good-looking and the one here resembled Hugh Jackman in his younger Logan days.

4. I had some problems with the bad lighting especially since most of the scenes were shot at night and I strained my eyes trying to decipher what was happening onscreen. It almost ruined that exciting trespassing sequence with Rommel (JC Santos, required to go topless in one scene).

Also, was the Harper family actually living in complete darkness? Was that why the policemen never bothered to turn on any of the lights when they searched the house?

The day shots were just as bad since one couldn’t even see what was written on cellphone screens. I expected the washed out colors for added effect, but it shouldn’t require a visit to an opthalmologist after.

5. This movie had the balls to actually associate the Duterte administration with the current vigilante culture. The President’s face was plastered everywhere, even on a killer’s shirt. I guess that smell of decay might be coming from the current state of our society as well.

6. Some of the subtitles weren’t in sync with what the characters were saying. In one scene, the word “Motherfucker” was shown, but nobody was actually cursing. ‘Nak ng tokwa!

7. The funniest moments were just from some random lines delivered by extras:

• Horny Ate entering the internet cafe: “Kuya, one hours!”

• Single Ate on a boyfriend that she met through a miraculous santo: “Magpapa-free taste na ako sa kanya!”

• Host of a gay beauty pageant: “Thank you Anne Curtis. Next we have Champagne Morales!” (I was the only one who really laughed out loud during this part because I could still remember the Metropop rivalry between Champagne and Roxanne “Roxee B!” Barcelo, surely the Pia Wurtzbach of singing competitions.)

8. What was up with that rushed Calvento Files ending? Did we really need a title card to explain what happened to each character? Whatever happened to the “Show, Don’t Tell” rule of film?

Rating: ★★★☆☆

DUNKIRK (Christopher Nolan, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Dunkirk:

1. In one of the last few scenes of this movie, a young soldier woke up from his deep slumber, oblivious to everything that happened around him (and outside of his safety blanket slash uniform). In some absurd way, I actually envied that man because I was trying my best not to fall asleep amidst the blatant monotony that I was watching onscreen. I was also glad that Christopher Nolan finally learned how to edit his films below the two hour running mark because I felt every single minute of this one.

2. To be fair, it seemed like its main purpose was to give the audience the full war experience (but why??) and it succeeded in that aspect. I could easily picture Nolan invoking the iconic Gretchen Barretto as Victoria Valera: “You want war? I’ll give you war!!” And he did.

The excellent sound design, mostly composed of bullets whizzing from all directions and multiple random explosions, made me want to duck along with the troops. One of the sequences that I particularly liked involved some sort of ripple effect on a beach after a bombing that culminated with lots of sand flying directly to the screen. It was so realistic that I felt the need to brush off some imaginary grains that flew into my hair.

Visual and aural feast, I tell you.

3. I should have done a more thorough cleaning of my ears before leaving home because those thick accents were just too hard to understand (and this was already considering that the movie had very minimal dialogue). Subtitles please!!

4. One of my favorite films of all time had a short (yet brilliant) Dunkirk sequence as well. Go watch Atonement.

5. Inasmuch as I adored Hans Zimmer, his scoring here was just relentless. It felt like he wanted to dictate how the audience should feel in every scene, very much like canned laughs in a sitcom (“O guys, prepare na kayo kasi exciting part na ‘to ayan na ang pounding music…”).

6. I just learned that one stretcher takes the place of seven standing men on a ship. It was heartbreaking to hear a commander ask how many more of the wounded would need to be transported. If Andrew Garfield was here, this wouldn’t even be a question.

7. I guess the overall feeling of emotional detachment stemmed from the lack of back story for its characters. It was just hard to completely empathize with any single one of them because they merely served as pawns in the backdrop of a prominent war (made more evident when all the recognizable names survived). Which was good news for Harry Styles, who was probably cast as the Hollywood equivalent of Ronnie Alonte.

8. “He’s not himself. He may never be himself again.” We were all survivors when the end credits rolled.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

KITA KITA (Sigrid Andrea Bernardo, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Kita Kita:

1. Where do we draw the line between persistence and obsession? Do we consider a grand gesture like asking someone out for a coffee date via a huge billboard in Morayta sweet or repulsive? If Xian Gaza actually looked like Daniel Matsunaga, would he still be considered a creepy stalker or just a determined romantic?

2. One of my biggest concerns with this movie was that after it made us fall in love with its unconventional lovers, it tried to sell us this disturbing (and Machiavellian?) big reveal that nothing was actually wrong with the couple’s predator-prey relationship history (I felt the exact same way when Maricel Soriano fell in love with her rapist in Dahas, but then that wasn’t even close to being a romantic-comedy). He knowingly took advantage of her disability, period.

It was truly unfortunate not only because the first two-thirds of the movie was deeply engrossing and enjoyable, but also because it didn’t really need any twist to come up with an interesting resolution.

I was more curious to know how Lea (Alessandra de Rossi) would have reacted after she regained her sight and discovered the true physical aspects of Tonyo (Empoy Marquez). In one scene, she even joked “Kung makita kita, baka pang-leading man ang mukha mo”. Wouldn’t it have been great to know her actual feelings upon seeing that he actually looked more like a stuntman?

3. Having said that, I was really impressed with the #AlEmpoy tandem because despite the odd pairing and clunky third act, they really made this love story work. Halos mamatay ako sa kilig sa unang Two Less Lonely People in the World montage. I swear I had this huge smile plastered on my face during that sequence. I even teared up a bit because I get really emotional whenever I see two people happily in love. Sobrang bagay sila.

4. Alessandra has always been consistently good in everything. Here, she was empathetic even as a cranky and bitter blind woman. When she cried while drawing on the eyes of the Daruma Doll to complete her wish, I was crying along with her.

The bigger acting surprise though was Empoy. He was just effortlessly funny whether he was applying breath freshener on his wrists, or mangling idioms (“The way to man’s heart is through large intestine”), or delivering a throwaway quip (“Kelangan mo ng asukal, ang asim kasi ng mukha mo”). There were moments when Alessandra looked like she was no longer acting while laughing at some of Empoy’s hilarious jokes (best one: “We have similar. Rities.”).

And that ramen scene, oh my heart!!

5. Pinoy Film/TV Trope: Any character crossing the street or standing near the sidewalk with vehicles zooming by has a 90% chance of getting run over. Survival rate of that unfortunate soul would be 10%. The victim in this movie did not beat any of the said odds. Enough please.

(Also, what happened to that sickness storyline of Tonyo?)

6. Some of the dialogue in the movie sounded off, like when Lea kept saying PG-rated lines (“Puputulin ko ang talong diyan sa gitna ng mga hita mo!”, “May nunal ka sa pribadong parte ng katawan mo!”) or sexist remarks (“Mas malandi ka pa sa babae!”). She also had this Isa, Dalawa, Tatlo voiceover during the confrontation scene with her cheating boyfriend that lasted forever. It was supposed to sound poetic, but fell flat.

7. Several scenes had poor lighting and instances where the camera kept tilting and shaking violently. What happened there?

At least those gorgeous shots in the Sapporo Botanical Garden (?) more than made up for them. I really need to visit Japan soon. Friends, ano na? The international setting was also really apt since this had the feel of a (Japanese? Korean? Thai?) rom-com.

8. For a blind person, Alessandra’s eyebrows were always on fleek, no?

9. Sigrid Bernardo is one of my all-time favorite local directors. If you end up really liking this one, you should also watch Ang Huling Cha-Cha ni Anita, Lorna, and her short film Ang Painting ni Tatay. I loved every single one of those (all five-star films, sadly her streak ended here).

10. So all this time I thought that “nomo” was actually gay lingo (or jeprox slang) for “inom”. I had no idea that it was an actual Japanese word that meant “let’s drink”. Nyeaaaaaaaam!!

Rating: ★★★☆☆

CAN WE STILL BE FRIENDS? (Prime Cruz, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Can We Still Be Friends?:

1. I had an overwhelming sense of dèjá vu during the opening scene with Sam (Arci Muñoz) looking bored and restless while her long-time boyfriend Digs (Gerald Anderson) was intently watching a show on TV. When she started complaining about the fact that they never really did anything else (“chill lang nang chill”) and that she wanted to do something different, I realized that I had been in this kind of relationship. I had been faulted (and eventually dumped) for the apparent lack of excitement and opting for a quiet and relaxed (ergo monotonous?) way of spending our quality time together. In the next scene, when Sam complained that they were having problems paying their bills, my inner meanie almost exploded with the thought, “Ang lakas lakas mong mag-aya wala ka naman palang pera!”

In another scene, she asked Digs to pick her up after work and she kept bugging him to hurry up. (Nagpapasundo na lang, siya pa nagmamadali?!) But wait, there’s more! When Digz finally arrived, she actually wanted him to do a u-turn so that she wouldn’t have to cross the street. She even had the gall to call him inconsiderate when he didn’t oblige. (Tatawid ka na lang gurl anubanaman!!)

Uhh, why was I so affected when this wasn’t even about me?

2. People expecting to see #TeamLablab in another Always Be My Maybe would be hugely disappointed since this was actually closer to One More Chance (they even recycled the “Pwede ba tayo na lang ulit?” line). In lieu of kilig moments, it was stuffed with mundane scenes of a couple realizing after nine years of being together that they actually hated each other. Its depiction of the breakdown of a relationship (down to petty quarrels over empty water bottles returned in the fridge) was so realistic that I wish it stayed true to the promise of a story about exes trying to maintain a post-breakup friendship.

3. Did Arci re-dub her lines? I noticed that her delivery in the actual movie was normal compared to her pabebe voice in the trailer. It was definitely a good decision because it just made her character more grounded. She was still an effective actress here and looked really gorgeous, but I wish her lips weren’t too distracting. Weirdly enough, they reminded me so much of Vibora, the talking serpent of Valentina. Star Cinema, has that role been cast already? You could thank me later.

In the end though, this was an acting showcase for Gerald who continued to display such depth and maturity in his role. I actually shed a tear in that confrontation scene when he said, “Tama ka naman eh. Hindi ako ang taong magpapasaya sa’yo.” Dear fellow Popsters, is it time to finally forgive him? (Putting my foot down on that Budoy bit though because it was more offensive than charming.)

4. That gif-worthy Magic Mike scene ooh-la-la! It was just funny though that the production couldn’t afford Ginuwine’s Pony so they had to create a Rite-Med version of the song. Still, all that grinding had me shooketh.

5. Juan Miguel Severo is officially the ultimate success story in local cinema. In every movie, his character would always end up with the cutest onscreen boyfriends (here it was Markki Stroem). I wasn’t a big fan of his spoken word poetry in On the Wings of Love and I still didn’t like how it was utilized here as part of the wedding vows. As soon as he started reciting lines like “Pipiliin kita sa araw na hindi tayo magkasundo…” in full “Oh captain, my captain!” mode, my eyes started rolling wildly in their sockets.

6. Mannequin challenge proposal? Very 2000 and late. Besides, who would take the video that they would eventually post on social media?

7. I still could not understand the couple’s decision to co-habitate after the breakup. I couldn’t even be Facebook friends with an ex agad agad. Not surprised that it led to the requisite Star Cinema happy ending. In TimeZone. Oh, TimeZone. So many memories.

8. “Kapag kaya mong maging friends sa ex mo, either mahal mo pa talaga or di mo talaga minahal.”

Nope, definitely not true. With acceptance comes maturity. Sabi nga ng Little Mix, “Shout out to my ex…you made my heart break and that made me who I am.”

Rating: ★★★☆☆

SANA’Y WALA NANG WAKAS (Leroy Salvador, 1986)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Sana’y Wala Nang Wakas:

1. Even before the classic Pinoy LGBTQ film Do Re Mi manifested the power of female camaraderie through musical numbers, there was this movie in the late 80’s (probably inspired by the Broadway musical Dreamgirls) that showcased the value of friendship.

If it weren’t obvious enough, the girl group composed of Bianca Eleazar (Sharon Cuneta), Monique Verzosa (Cherie Gil), and Michelle Williams, er, Camille Gonzaga (Dina Bonnevie) was actually named “Friends” and their go-to song was “That’s What Friends Are For” (sung during the opening scene while they wore shiny, silky costumes with gigantic ribbons on the chest area, probably borrowed from the Boyoyong clowns).

Also, Sharon sported a female mullet. Let that sink in.

2. There was one incredibly long montage (worth one full song, I think) where Bianca and Teddy (Tonton Gutierrez, terrible in an Aljur Abrenica way) toured Luzon and it could have been used as a tourist ad for the Philippines (Have some buko juice in Tagaytay! Jet ski in Taal Lake!).

At one point, Teddy dove head first in a shallow pond to get a lotus flower. I thought he was trying to catch a frog, but then it wouldn’t match with Bianca’s ever-changing ribbons on her ponytail.

Naudlot pa ang first kiss nila nang biglang dumating ang order nila na…Pepsi! (We would always complain about product placements in today’s films, but apparently it had been shamelessly done even before. This one also had blatant shills for Master Sardines and Silver Swan Soy Sauce.)

3. It was sad to see the late Dindo Fernando again here, especially since he was one of the finest actors in local cinema that was gone too soon. As Bianca’s father slash music composer, he brought a lot of depth in his character who was prone to making silly decisions.

Upon learning that he had terminal cancer, he did some soul-searching by walking the entire stretch of Manila Bay. He also abandoned his family because he didn’t want to be a pabigat for them, but ultimately returned home for one last deathbed duet. (By the way, this scene was so effective that I was a blubbering mess when it ended. Galing din ni Ate Shawie dito.)

4. As expected, jealousy and fame were the reasons for the group’s eventual break-up. I would have guessed that it was actually Dina’s singing voice because she just sounded awful (refer to Barbie Forteza’s viral video).

There was a scene where Camille was singing drunk and another one where she was warbling while sobbing uncontrollably and she didn’t sound any different from her supposedly better days. She more than made up for it in acting though because I really loved the scene where she started throwing beer bottles at her gay BFF Manny Castaneda.

5. Sample dialogue…

• Teddy being defiant to his overbearing father: “Pigain mo man ako, di mo mapipiga ang musika sa buhay ko!” (Nux!!)

• Teddy’s matapobre father to Bianca: “Magkano ang kelangan mo para layuan ang anak ko?”

Bianca with matching flaring nostrils: “Magkano ang kaya nyong ibayad? Bilhin nyo sya ng pera nyo. Bibilhin ko sya ng pag ibig ko!” (Applause! Standing ovation!!)

6. Burning questions:

• If Bianca was so famous that she was being mobbed by fans, why did she take a cab during her walk-out scene?

• How did Bianca and Monique become huge recording stars if most of their songs were remakes? Greatest Love of All vs Through the Fire? (Sabagay, diamond artist si Nina.)

• What happened to breach of contract? How could Monique miss the farewell concert of the group and get away with it? And did Bianca really have to sing Part-Time Lover (with matching luha) after seeing Camille and Teddy kiss?

• Hindi pa ba uso ang aircon noon? Bakit ang nasa loob ng dressing room nila ay isang malaking electric fan?

7. It was so funny how all the conflicts were magically resolved during the final musical number of Bianca. In this scene, the song composed by her dearly-departed dad won the top prize in a music festival that suddenly turned into her concert, complete with surprise appearances by Monique and Camille.

Friendship was restored, a marriage proposal was done, and Manny Castaneda remained a faithful alalay.

Never, ever question the power of a Willy Cruz song.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS (Josh Boone, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Fault in Our Stars:

1. I read the book in two days (large fonts!) and I must say that this movie was a faithful adaptation in terms of directly lifting dialogue and entire scenes from the source material (down to the pink towel that Hazel’s mom wore when she rushed to her room). It would be unfair to compare the two different visions so let me just say that when Hazel promised at the beginning that it won’t be the typical love story, only the book stayed true to that promise.

2. Yes, I cried tons while watching the movie but then I cry in almost everything. Besides, it was a story about two star-crossed kids with cancer. You know their love story was doomed from the start. Only a person with a heart of stone wouldn’t feel anything for these two.

3. The weird thing about all my crying, though, was that it happened on those particular scenes when the movie didn’t try hard to make me cry. Remember that scene when Hazel’s mom said they couldn’t afford the trip to Amsterdam? Or the one when she looked at her parents holding hands and she felt like a burden to them? Sure I bawled my eyes out during her pretend eulogy and I probably felt a punch in my solar plexus when Augustus revealed that he was sick but these were easy triggers for my tear duct buttons.

4. Which brings me to my other point, how can a movie with such a brave female character actually not have the balls to honestly depict cancer? I understand that it was primarily a love story (albeit a corny one) but during the third act when it needed to show courage, it actually chickened out and resorted to the usual emotional manipulation. Where was the scene in the book when Augustus peed himself? Sure it would have ruined every little girl’s crush on Ansel Elgort but why didn’t it show the disease as it really was?

5. Speaking of Ansel Elgort, he was really charming in this movie, no? I actually forgot that he played brother to Shailene Woodley in Divergent. Actually this movie worked entirely because of the strong performances. Shailene nailed all of her crying scenes (although I never for one second believed that she was 16). And let’s not forget the phenomenal Laura Dern who breathed such life to a typical suffering mother role.

6. The evil depiction of Peter Van Houten and his eventual change of heart looked lame onscreen and was a big departure from that in the book. And they really had to choose the guy who played Nosferatu and the Green Goblin as if the character wasn’t despicable enough. Oh, and that whole Anne Frank’s house scene (endless stairs!) didn’t do anything for me. It also probably had the most unromantic first kiss ever.

7. For those that read the book, what things did you miss in this adaptation? Mine would have to be Kaitlyn (to show that Hazel’s not really anti-social), all the V for Vendetta references (only shown as a poster in Augustus’ room), Caroline Mathers (Augustus had an ex-girlfriend!!), the alfresco Amsterdam dinner near the canal (dinner under the stars would have been more romantic), that HUMP THE CAVE WALL scene, all those Facebook references (you know the posts that people make whenever someone dies; those made the story more human and timely), and Augustus’ eulogy that was not as sentimental as the movie made it to be.

8. Wait, they did omit the only scene in the book where I cried. It was the one where Hazel attended Augustus’ wake, approached his coffin, placed her hand on his chest, and said, “I love you present tense. It’s okay, Gus. It’s okay. Do you hear me? It’s okay.” Then she kissed him on the cheek and said, “Okay? Okay.”

Pass me the Kleenex.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (Bill Condon, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Beauty and the Beast:

1. Similar to A Second Chance, this live action remake of the classic Disney movie was completely harmless and unnecessary. Lower your pitchforks (or eyebrows), please. Inasmuch as I’m sure you would want to launch into your own glorious rendition of Kill the Beast right about now, hear me out first.

The movie was satisfactory. The cast was mostly fine. The new songs were generally okay (although a tad forgettable). Bring your kids (or your inner kid at heart) and wallow in the amazing feeling of nostalgia.

Just never forget that you’re watching a film directed by the same person that most recently gave us The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Parts 1 and 2. (Fade to black.)

2. I never expected a shot-by-shot remake of the cartoon, but I also didn’t see the need for forty additional minutes of filler to explain the stories behind the Prince’s bad behaviour, Belle’s dead mother, and the Enchantress’ double life in the village, among others. You could immediately feel the difference as soon as this one started with the stained glass sequence in the original losing its storybook effect by having the Prince in full Black Swan make-up partying like Lindsay Lohan on a Friday night.

Even with all the back stories, it still wasn’t able to justify why the poor servants had to be included in the curse (and no Mrs. Potts, indirect negligence of an abused child was not reason enough for such a cruel punishment). I did like the explanation on why nobody really bothered checking on the castle post-curse and that was achieved through one line of narration.

3. If anything, this version posed even more questions:

• Given these recent historical revisionisms regarding inventors (read up on Bell vs Meucci haller!), should we assume that Belle actually created the first washing machine? Also, whatever happened to those bedsheets that she tied up for her planned escape?

• Who was that toothless piano (played by Stanley Tucci)? Was he part of the Broadway production (I swear I couldn’t remember that character in the cartoon)? Also, why wasn’t Mrs. Potts talking out of her spout? She ended up looking more inanimate here.

• If her mother really loved roses, then why was she even named Belle? Why not Rose or Rosita or Rosa? (So happy my mom was never fond of champaka.)

• Speaking of, when she brought back that rose heirloom and gave it to Maurice, wouldn’t that make him patient zero for another bubonic plague/outbreak?

4. Sorry bashers, but Emma Watson actually had a decent singing voice (regardless of Auto-Tune). My concern though was that she still acted very much like Hermione in a grand Hogwarts production of Beauty and the Beast. I even had lots of fun imitating her very British accent in provincial France (“Puh-paww!!”, “That’s ab-suhd!”).

The bigger surprise here was Luke Evans, a perfect casting choice for Gaston (no one even falls like Gaston!). I loved every moment he had with LeFou (played by Josh Gad, who should be in every Disney movie moving forward).

5. Poll question of the day: Did you like Dan Stevens as the Beast? Or more accurately, was he the Prince that you were expecting? Some people (cough, cough) wanted to kill me for laughing during the big reveal post-Beast transformation. My reaction was more of “Ehh” and I wanted it to be more of “Huwow!”. It certainly was no Devon Sawa moment in Casper.

I could understand Dan’s charms in a Benedict Cumberbatch way, but I really expected someone conventionally great-looking. Given the extensive use of motion capture in his Beast performance, he could have been replaced by Andy Serkis (yup, Gollum) and they could have gotten someone physically resembling Prince Charming.

6. When Belle ran up the hill and the camera started swirling around her, did the Sound of Music theme play in your head as well?

7. One of my favorite lines in the movie was from Plumette: “I grew three more feathers and I just plucked yesterday.” Story of life right there.

8. Where was the openly gay character in the movie? A couple of people asked me if this was appropriate for kids, especially since the issue had been blown out of proportion. Fear not parents, there was no gay kissing or gay sex scene (this was still a Disney film after all).

Actually, there wasn’t even any mention of a character being out and proud. If anything, this should open up a whole new discussion on how Disney’s milking the gay uproar (vis a vis them proudly proclaiming the inclusion of a gay character) when there was none to begin with.

Everything pertaining to homosexuality was actually played for laughs (even that controversial blink-and-you’ll-miss-it dance). That was even more disappointing than the states and countries that banned the movie. Where was the hyped progressivism, Disney?

9. Be Our Guest was my favorite sequence in the original and it felt a bit messy here (even more distracting in 3D/4DX with the constant seat movements and excessive flashing lights). The iconic dance scene was fine (hearing the wonderful theme did give me serious goosebumps) and I kinda liked the yellow dress even if it resembled the Halloween version being sold in Toy Kingdom. But why did they have to remove the romantic dinner? I also missed the swoon-worthy scenes of her blatantly teaching him how to dance and putting her head on his hairy chest. All we got here were those excessive shots of low-hanging chandeliers. Hay.

10. This movie still begged that age-old question though: Is it superficial if a woman falls for a man with a huge, uhm, library?

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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