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.)

BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE) (Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance):

1. I had always associated Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu with the intersecting stories narrative where major characters in his films had their lives connected and intertwined (FYI, I really loved Amores Perros, Babel, and 21 Grams). It was one big gimmick that worked for me. I wasn’t surprised that his newest film relied on another gimmick (“one long continuous take”) to drive the story.

2. Off the bat, people would either love this or find it completely boring. There were so many insider jokes on cinema and theater and the arts that might just go over their heads. As one character stated, “Audiences love action, not this talking philosophical bullshit.”

3. Michael Keaton looked like Robert Duvall whenever he wasn’t wearing a wig. He was excellent here by the way. The mere fact that he agreed to make fun of his current status (washed up actor who used to be Batman!) was just brave. If Al Pacino could win for all the scenery-chewing in Scent of a Woman, why couldn’t Keaton? I wouldn’t be complaining if he got that Best Actor Oscar.

4. “You confuse love for admiration.” Raise your hand if you were guilty of this.

5. Edward Norton had a lot of nudity here (or scenes that showed him in his underwear or sported a boner). For a more lengthy peek on his gift, you could watch the brilliant American History X. I loved the Norton the Method Actor playing a Norton-ish Method Actor joke.

6. I was initially bothered by the drumming soundtrack. I was expecting Miles Teller to show up practicing in one corner. And then the movie revealed an actual drummer and later on a band in Times Square. I guess the joke was on me.

7. Naomi Watts’ character had this great repartee with Andrea Riseborough’s:

“Why don’t I have any self-respect?”

“You’re an actress, honey!”

8. Speaking of Watts, she was really good in this movie. I was surprised her performance was virtually overlooked against co-star Emma Stone. Everyone knew how much I loved Stone (I even named my car after her) but she was just fine here.

9. Speaking of, there was a blatant Lancome product placement that was here either as a real product placement or as a joke on product placements in movies (or both). With this kind of dark comedy, it was just hard to tell.

10. Similar to Annie, they showed a viral video that was taken from different angles. Probably the only sloppy thing in this film.

11. Did the film miss an Oscar nomination for Best Editing since it really looked like one continuous take? Shouldn’t it have gotten one for making it look like it was one brilliant, seamless take?

12. When Keaton’s character complained about getting overshadowed by Clooney, it was just a wink on the battle of the Batmans. I’d be happy to see a fourth Batman win an Oscar tbh.

13. I hope Wenn Deramas could watch this just for that wonderful takedown on film criticism. I bet he’d have a major meltdown.

14. “A thing is a thing, not what is said of the thing.” This was a sad, sad film. Watch at your own risk.

Rating: ★★★★☆

(Originally published February 1, 2015.)

AMERICAN SNIPER (Clint Eastwood, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on American Sniper:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: ★★★★☆

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.)

BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP (Rowan Joffe, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Before I Go To Sleep:

1. The movie started with Nicole Kidman waking up naked and not knowing where she was and why she was with Colin Firth. You’d think someone regal like him would at least be polite in bed. (Both actors here were terrible, by the way.)

2. Within the first few minutes, any movie watcher would encounter a cinematic deja vu whether they were fans of Memento, 50 First Dates, or The Vow. By the end of the movie, everyone would be wishing they had short-term memory instead.

3. It was nice to see Kidman with stretch marks. Okay, so those were fake stretch marks. Fine. It’s not like those were the only things fake on her. (I kid. I actually like her. For real.)

4. The story had more holes than Swiss cheese. If I enumerate them all here, my head would just burst from severe frustration.

5. If you love movies peppered with medical terms such as confabulation and countertransference, then this one’s for you.

6. I was happy to see a Nokia 3310 still in use in this movie. So many good Snake memories.

7. Where could I buy that Panasonic Lumix camera that never needed to be charged and seemed unbreakable even if dropped a few feet in the air? Recommended for photographers everywhere.

8. Kidman’s face got slammed on a wall, punched repeatedly, and beaten more than Pacquaio’s in his last match with Marquez and she only ended up with a slight bruise on her cheek the next day. Now that’s the power of Botox. (I’m sorry. I love her. Seriously.)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published January 20, 2015.)

TAKEN 3 (Olivier Megaton, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Taken 3:

1. I think the first Taken movie was an instant favorite of daughters everywhere. I’m sure it made them feel safe knowing the extent that their fathers would do to show their love for them. Consider it an action-packed version of Father of the Bride.

2. In this third movie, Liam Neeson displayed his love for his daughter by giving her a giant panda on her birthday. Her survival was more of an after-thought and everything else was just to save his reputation.

3. For the most part, this was actually a lame-brained version of The Fugitive. There was even a tunnel scene here reminiscent of that movie (homage?). All it needed was a one-armed man.

4. Speaking of the villain, it was hard to take him seriously with that Dumb and Dumber bowl cut. In one scene, he fought in his tighty-whities and his bulge (that would put Justin Bieber’s photoshopped Calvin Klein ads to shame) just proved to be a distraction. To some women, I mean.

5. Neeson’s character was asked, “Why do you have to be so honorable?” And therein lay my biggest problem with the entire movie.

In the first two, all the violence was driven by his agenda to save his daughter and wife. Here, he resorted to all kinds of violence even involving innocent people just to prove his own innocence.

One scene showed him causing a stampede in a college (really??). Why did he have to consider himself above the law when a simple trial would have proven his innocence? I just kept thinking, “Anong ipinaglalaban mo?”

6. Olivier Megaton also directed Transporter 3. His idea of an action sequence was to show the exact same scene of a flying truck container from five different angles. This could very well have been directed by Francis Jun Posadas.

7. Why was the MTRCB so strict when it came to sexuality but very lenient with violence? This movie where people got shot by all kinds of guns in all areas of the body just merited a Parental Guidance. Seriously, a PG-rating for excessive violence? Watching this with a kid a few rows behind me actually made me feel uncomfortable.

8. Whatever happened to Dougray Scott’s career? Ever since he passed on the role of Wolverine in the first X-Men movie, he hadn’t done anything significant to launch himself as a leading man. Unless you count his role as Teri Hatcher’s boyfriend in Desperate Housewives.

9. A lot of scenes here didn’t make any sense to me. He made his (pregnant) daughter drink a potion to make her nauseous when he could have just asked her to meet in the school bathroom at a specific time. In another scene, he used a defibrillator to attack henchmen just for the cool concept of seeing someone getting attacked with a defibrillator. And where did he get that anyway? Yet in another, he rammed his vehicle on the wheels of a plane that was about to take off even if his daughter who he was trying to save in the first place was onboard. Oh, and Forrest Whitaker (in the Tommy Lee Jones role) announced in the end that he knew that Neeson was innocent from the start because of his Warm Bagel Theory. So why did they go through all that goose chase? Oh, then we wouldn’t have a movie. Don’t bother.

10. Wait, who got taken??

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published January 18, 2015.)

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.)

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB (Shawn Levy, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb:

1. Let me get this one out of the way: I watched it in a theater full of kids and they actually enjoyed it. I guess I was too old for monkey pee jokes.

2. The glorious cast included Ben Stiller, the late Robin Williams, Ben Kingsley, Owen Wilson, Rebel Wilson, Steve Coogan, and Ricky Gervais, among others and yet they didn’t bring much to the movie. Each one of them could be in a one-man comedy show and bring the house down but here as a group, they were just good for a very few chuckles.

3. The said chuckles came from a reference to a Counting Crows singer and a throwaway punchline about wax and polyurethane.

4. As I said earlier, this was a family film so if your idea of fun was a Neanderthal using a defibrillator on himself, then go ahead and enjoy.

5. Rebel Wilson was Rebel Wilson was Rebel Wilson.

6. Why were the jokes too repetitive? How many more times did they have to milk the Huge Ackman joke?

7. Robin Williams’ final scenes in the movie did make me tear up a bit. He bid farewell and asked Ben (and the audience) to smile. This would be perfect for the Oscars’ In Memoriam segment. We will miss you, Mister.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published January 13, 2015.)

THE LEGEND OF HERCULES (Renny Harlin, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Legend of Hercules:

1. The special effects were so bad that they used the same fake lion that mauled Eugene Domingo in Momzillas.

2. If Hercules is a demigod with extraordinary strength, then why can’t he kill his opponents with one blow? I know I’m overthinking. So bored.

3. Hercules wins a fight and the people start throwing confetti. That scene really made me laugh out loud.

4. Kellan Lutz has saucer-sized nipples. I remember this product I saw in Makati Cinema Square that can make one’s nipples rosy pink.

5. Lutz is a bad actor. As in Gerald Anderson level. And he loves making tampisaw in the batis. He should have Mother Lily’s magic kamison.

6. Why do people keep shouting their lines in these Greek/Roman movies? It’s like the other soldiers or townspeople are deaf. Laging galit din.

7. Stay for the end credits. I think they used live goats on the soundtrack. I have no words.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published January 11, 2014.)