DON’T BREATHE (Fede Alvarez, 2016)

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Blinded by my morals, I found it hard to root for the thieves with sob stories. I really liked some of the really tense moments, though.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published September 9, 2016.)

THE HANDMAIDEN (Park Chan-wook, 2016)

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“When Jinlian finally took off her clothes, Ximen Qing examined her Jade Gate, discovering the Secret Well to find it hairless, white as snow, and smooth as jade. Tight as a drum, and soft as silk. Once he drew apart the curtains of flesh, a scent of well-aged wine emanated from within, and on fold upon fold of the red velvet interior, beads of dew were forming. Its centre was dark and void, yet as if it had its own life, it twitched and twitched.”

What did I just watch? 😳😳😳

(Loved it, obviously.)

Rating: ★★★★★

(Originally published September 6, 2018.)

HACKSAW RIDGE (Mel Gibson, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Hacksaw Ridge:

1. I would usually go into an epileptic seizure whenever a blatantly religious film would smack me over the head with its outright themes of spirituality and salvation (refer to The Shack). Now here was the story of a soldier with such unwavering faith that he didn’t want to compromise his beliefs and principles (no to guns!) while trying to survive in Okinawa during bloody World War II. His only weapon of choice? Trust in God’s saving grace.

All of these should have easily resulted to an emergency room visit, but it surprisingly converted me into being a believer instead. Kindness in the face of adversity? Bravery even with the lack of power? Heroism amidst all evil? My faith in humanity was restored yet again all thanks to my new pastor Mel Gibson.

2. Early in the film, we got a glimpse on the kind of person Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield, in a career-defining performance) really was. It didn’t come as a surprise when he later mentioned, “I don’t know how I’m going to live with myself if I don’t stay true to what I believe.” And he did, in the process defying his violent father, his doubting colleagues, his arrogant superiors, and very much the odds of survival in war, while ultimately saving 75 more soldiers just on the strength of his faith alone.

It would be easy to dismiss this as the Hollywood version of the real story, but the basic facts could not be contested. Hearing the real Desmond recall his grueling experiences was just too much for my jaded heart to bear. In one scene, he visited his fallen comrades’ graves after being awarded a Medal of Honor (a first for a conscientious objector) and he simply said, “The real heroes are buried here”.

I ended up flooding the entire row J of CommerceCenter Cinema 2.

3. I honestly almost gave up on this after the first twenty minutes because it was initially headed into pure melodramatic territory with the domestic abuse plot before it veered into a sappy romance complete with a cloying proposal scene. Thank heavens Desmond was immediately sent to war because I definitely did not pay for a Nicholas Sparks adaptation.

4. The combat scenes were nothing short of spectacular. It had the expected amount of gore and carnage (torn legs! rain of blood! decapitations! intestines sprawled out!) that you would feel very much transported right in the middle of battle where bodies got thrown over grenades and broken torsos were used as shields from the shower of bullets.

My biggest pet peeve in action sequences was that with all of the necessary quick movements, one could barely decipher whatever was happening onscreen. This movie did not have that problem at all because it was very much like watching controlled chaos.

Nobody would even question those Oscars for Best Editing and Best Sound Mixing. Did we expect anything less from the director that made torture porn out of a Bible story in The Passion of the Christ?

5. Vince Vaughn should not be in serious movies because the more he tried to be un-funny, the more hilarious he looked. At least he made the most out of his character, spewing the nastiest throwdowns outside of the America’s Next Top Model house. My favorite ones were:

• “How long have you been dead?”

• “I’ve seen stalks of corn with better physique.”

• “Have you ever looked into a goat’s eyes? Good, that’s unnatural.”

5. Was I the only wishing for an Esprit de Corps moment? Yes? Really? Ok.

6. Standout scenes: the one where Desmond “buried” an injured comrade to conceal him from the ruthless Japanese soldiers and one could only see his eye peeking out from the ground, and the scene towards the end where he was being lowered via a makeshift stretcher while clutching on to his cherished Bible. Really powerful stuff.

7. One Japanese soldier raised the white flag and he was still shot to death. And that my friends is the reason why I still have major trust issues.

Rating: ★★★★☆

ARRIVAL (Denis Villeneuve, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Arrival:

1. Whenever I watch these alien invasion films, I always find comfort in the fact that these creatures very rarely attacked our country. In this one, they sent twelve pods in twelve different territories and not even one bothered to settle in (or anywhere near) the Philippines.

They must have heard of the MMDA’s revised number coding scheme and decided that our nation did not have the brains to aid in world peace. Or maybe they found out about our aggressive and unforgiving war on drugs and it scared them because let’s face it, symbol-spewing squids floating in thick clouds of smoke sounded highly (stress on high) suspicious to me.

2. “If you could see your whole life from start to finish, would you change things?” Thank you for that wonderful question. I honestly had not given this much thought and if I tried to answer it now I would probably end up babbling even worse than Janina San Miguel (homaygahd!). What I really liked about it though was that it opened this discussion about free will vs destiny.

Regardless if one could turn back time or see the future, it signified that everything in our lives was a result of our choices. Nobody was predetermined to be single and lonely, it was ultimately your choice bes.

3. My brain would often short-circuit in these high-concept sci-fi movies (hello Interstellar!) so a Denis Villeneuve high-concept sci-fi movie was just overkill. I would not even pretend that I fully understood Enemy, but I really liked how it challenged every fiber of my being.

This one was a bit more accessible, with clues sprinkled very much like Easter eggs and scenes that you could easily recall and make you go “Ahhhhh” hours after watching. My favorite was the constant reference to the name Hannah (a palindrome) and how it tied up with the overall theme (and the lead character not believing in beginnings and endings).

4. Much had been said about the Oscar crime committed against Amy Adams (as cunning linguist Dr. Louise Banks), but at least she could sleep soundly at night knowing that she delivered the performance of her life. Every movement, every sigh, every tear, all played to absolute perfection.

5. Could someone explain why a caged bird was with them inside the pod? I initially thought it was used to determine if humans could breathe there, but then they never really took off their hazmat suits until Louise defied orders. Paging Sheldon Cooper!

6. Similar to the recent Miss Universe question and answer debacle, this clearly proved that proper communication and translation were critical in every situation. It could mean the difference between “offer weapon” and “use weapon”. And as one character stated, “Language would be the first weapon drawn in conflict”.

But it really wasn’t about being able to speak a particular language, but being able to influence and inspire other people. Oh, wait…homaygahd!

7. “I’ve had my head tilted up to the stars for as long as I can remember. You know what surprised me most? It wasn’t meeting them. It was meeting you.” So what would be the heptapod symbol for kilig?

Rating: ★★★★★