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The Spotless Mind

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

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Foreign – 2017

GET OUT (Jordan Peele, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Get Out:

1. It was probably around the 40-minute mark when the mostly white houseguests were excitedly fawning over Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) that I realized this film had the exact same setup as Shake Rattle and Roll 2: Aswang. Chris was obviously Portia (Manilyn Reynes) and his white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) was Monica (Ana Roces), the bearer of the townspeople’s feast of the month. The similarity was so uncanny that when a white woman grabbed Chris’s bicep and asked if black meat really tasted better, I really thought that he would be the night’s main course (my brain was screaming: “Stay away from the banig!!”). I felt a tad disappointed that it wasn’t the silly premise that I expected, but I was still surprised with the crazy route that this film took.

2. The opening sequence alone screamed Wes Craven, with a black man getting assaulted in a dimly-lit and deserted (read: quietly creepy) street (I wouldn’t be surprised if it were named Elm). It had the same laugh and then shriek approach that the director used in the cold open of Scream 2 (remember when Omar Epps got stabbed by a dildo through a glory hole? Oh wait, that was Shawn Wayans in Scary Movie, but same diff).

3. “My father would have voted for Obama a third time” was the equivalent of “I’m not racist, I have a lot of black friends” excuse. The fact that it was repeated several times here (and even declared proudly by an older white male) clearly drove home the movie’s message. Actually, there were so many instances that showed the day-to-day realities of the black man experience (Chris’s initial reaction to meeting Rose’s parents was: “I don’t want to be chased off the lawn with a shotgun”, a white police officer asked for his ID even if he wasn’t driving) that felt terribly depressing (and scary, very much like Bradley Whitford’s corduroy pants).

4. Excellent performances all around. The Armitages (Whitford, Catherine Keener, and Williams in her very appropriate, most annoying Marnie mode) made me frightened of these seemingly perfect white suburban liberal-minded families. But even better were the performances by the black cast. Kaluuya delivered a starmaking turn, LilRel Howery had the best lines (“T, S, motherfuckin’ A!”, and reminded me so much of Atlanta’s PaperBoi), but my favorite was Betty Gabriel with her creepy Stepford Wife smile. I didn’t care so much about the Baron Geisler brother, though.

5. I was such a skeptic and would usually laugh whenever I’d hear people getting held-up through hypnosis (Budol Budol!), but the Sunken Place here really left me feeling disturbed. The sound of a spoon stirring in a teacup would never be the same again. Also, all the hypnosis scenes with the out-of-body experience and peering through distant holes made me think so much of Being John Malkovich (also with Keener!).

6. That Behold the Coagula video reminded me of The Dharma Initiative in Lost. We need to go back.

7. I wish there was a more directly racist explanation on why black people were being targeted for the experiments (when one character asked, the simple response was a bit generic that they wanted people that were physically superior). It could have been an even more effective commentary on racism in this kind of social satire.

8. Seeing Papa Armitage getting killed by the horns of the very animal that he hated was just sweet revenge. I also had this oddly satisfying feeling while Rose was getting choked (maybe it was because she annoyingly ate her colored cereal separate from her glass of milk, with a straw to boot).

9. When the police car arrived towards the end of the movie, I actually felt really bad for Chris because in my mind, a white officer would step out and shoot him right on the spot. I would like to believe that I wasn’t the only one who thought the same way. Such a sad world we’re living in, no?

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: ★★★☆☆

THE SHACK (Stuart Hazeldine, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Shack:

1. Like with most Christian films (e.g. God’s Not Dead), my entire viewing experience felt like getting continuously whacked on the head by a Bible for two hours until I eventually started speaking in tongues. My dear blessed brothers and sisters, please don’t get me wrong. I’m not averse to movies with heavy religious themes. It only becomes a problem whenever it feels like these beliefs are shoved down our throats (“It’s in the Bible so it must be true!”) and anybody with a dissenting opinion gets tagged as a sinner, an atheist, or in need of prayer and guidance.

I’m sorry, but I don’t need a sermon. I already have my mother for that.

(Speaking of, one of her biggest disappointments was that she asked me to join our local parish’s Youth for Christ group and my only takeaway from the youth camp was that tinola tasted better with sayote instead of papaya. Susmaryosep!)

2. The story here was pretty much straightforward. It was a father’s (a flat Sam Worthington) spiritual journey in search of closure for the brutal murder of his youngest daughter. His healing trail included lessons on being less judgmental, acquiring wisdom through strength of faith, and finding actual forgiveness in his heart. I actually thought it could have been told more interestingly (and at a more reasonable thirty minutes) in an episode of Flying House (less the brutal murder, of course).

3. This entire Hallmark meets Lifetime movie wouldn’t have happened if he just drove properly and followed the Stop sign. In one scene, he also accidentally fell in the snow and hit his head on the pavement. Like what the late, great Inday Badiday said, “Careful, careful”.

4. I liked how the Holy Trinity was gender neutral and represented different ethnicities. God was played by Octavia Spencer (did her revised contract require a pie reference every single time?) while Jesus and the Holy Spirit (who collected tears) looked like a Middle Eastern man and an Asian lady respectively. I didn’t read the book so I wasn’t aware if they were written as such or if this was one of those progressive Hollywood castings.

5. Paradise (or was that the Garden of Eden?) lived up to its name with such a gorgeous set design that reminded me of those technicolor sceneries in What Dreams May Come.

6. I honestly felt a bit dizzy from all the spiritual life lessons that were spewed one after the other (“When all you see is your pain, you lose sight of Me”). Simple chores (hobbies?) like baking, fishing, and gardening suddenly turned into Sunday school lectures.

I didn’t break out in hives and there was no burning sensation after watching though so that was a good sign.

7. Wait, why was he even allowed in heaven if he killed his own father? Shouldn’t he have been partying with Lucy and the rest of the fallen angels instead? Cue God Must Have Spent a Little More Time On You.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

A DOG’S PURPOSE (Lasse Hallström, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on A Dog’s Purpose:

1. I learned about death at a young age when my puppy Bubbles (breed unknown, probably an askal like most of our dogs back then) met her frozen demise outside our home. I could clearly remember stepping out of our front door that morning and seeing this furry creature lying on its back with all four legs stiffly pointed up. I didn’t scream or call my parents, but I did exactly what I learned from reading all of my fairy tale books: I forced myself to cry. I thought that if my innocent tears were to fall in those dead round eyes, my cute pet would magically come back to life.

She was buried hours later in the then vacant lot across the street. I wonder if our new neighbor ever knew that their house was actually built on top of a pet sematary.

2. I developed an allergy to fur years later (plus I had a traumatic rabid dog experience while biking in our village) so my interactions with animals grew less and less and now had been limited to watching their funny videos on Facebook.

This harmless movie provided very much the same kind of viewing experience. People audibly “Awww”-ed every time a puppy would be onscreen (especially ones that could do awesome tricks) and cried every time one of them would get sick and die. I really wished that there was more to the story though other than the basic one shown in the trailer (that already had me in tears).

3. It felt a bit weird hearing all of the dogs talk like Olaf, but Josh Gad made most of the cheesy lines bearable (and actually funny) like when Bailey Bailey Bailey Bailey first saw his new owner and declared, “I’ve decided right there and then, I’m keeping this boy”.

4. Although it didn’t answer if all dogs indeed go to heaven, it provided a twist on the concept of reincarnation. Did this mean that dogs have souls? What did that make of people that thought they were dogs in their previous lives? Could dogs also have been humans in the past? Would that explain why sometimes I feel like I’m wagging an invisible tail?

5. A lot of time was spent on the least interesting characters that included a boy, his abusive father, doormat mother, and lame love interest. Even if they were needed to tie up the ending, everything that happened to them felt weightless and disposable. Besides, KJ Apa as teenage Ethan had more chemistry with his abs than with the dog. He would better serve his purpose back in Riverdale.

Among the various stories, I felt most connected with the lonely cop. He was onscreen with the dog for a good ten minutes and I instantly understood their bond. That was the only time I actually bawled my eyes out while watching (a disappointment for a Dennis Quaid movie, considering that his previous films were infamous for making grown men turn into a puddle of tears).

6. Even if it crossed over to teleserye territory, it still wasn’t as effective as previous doggie flicks like Marley and Me or Hachiko. Also, there was a scene played for laughs where Bailey dug up a dead cat and brought it back to the kitchen. Your thoughts, cat lovers?

7. So the controversial scene that PETA made a big deal out of wasn’t true after all. I wish the same could be said about that Oro issue. “Lick the ones you love” just had an entirely different meaning. RIP Azucena.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

RINGS (F. Javier Gutierrez, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Rings:

1. Huge advancements in technology had not been kind at all to this tired, old franchise. Fifteen years ago, a long-haired girl in a white kamison crawling out of a television screen might have been considered scary. But very much like VHS tapes, this type of horror now felt very much outdated (and definitely not vintage).

Besides, in this day and age where one could update his Facebook status on a watch, who else would be using a VCR (or even had one that was still working)?

Even more absurd, not a single click-hungry site (not BuzzFeed, not TMZ, not even Snopes!) picked up the urban legend of a killer video. I actually expected it to be the most viewed clip in YouTube and Samara’s/Sadako’s biggest problem would be how to properly schedule the deaths of millions of people that watched. Surely, she would rather jump back in the well out of sheer exhaustion.

2. If you hadn’t seen The Ring or Ring Two (or their far superior Japanese source Ringu), let me do a quick recap. Adopted child drowned in well for having witch powers wanted to seek revenge on mankind through a cursed video that killed its viewers after seven days and the only way to escape death was to create a copy that somebody else needed to watch.

Yup, it worked exactly like a chain letter or an ambush multi-level marketing scheme in Starbucks. Scary, huh?

3. This entire lore was completely thrown out the window when Samara basically chose whoever she wanted to kill and towards the end of the movie even turned into a virus and started sending her own video to everyone on a character’s contact list. I was guessing part of her rebirth consisted of becoming the ultimate social media famewhore. (Also, sorry bitch, but the terrible Feng Shui 2 beat you to it.)

4. I definitely missed Naomi Watts who brought a certain depth in an otherwise standard fright flick. In this one, she was replaced by some college kids that didn’t know how to act scared or even let out a proper scream. Nobody could authentically pull out an incredibly long and chokeable foreign matter out of one’s throat (you pervert!) like Naomi and she did it first and much better in The Ring.

5. In one scene, a girl entered a projector room and disturbed everyone else that was seated when she crossed their path to get to the other side. It reminded me so much of my terrible viewing experiences in Greenbelt 3 Cinemas 1 and 2 where people would treat the last row of seats as if it was an aisle for them to get to the bathroom (and of course, they would return to their seats the same way and bother you a second time around). Hmm, I should probably start listing down my cinema pet peeves.

6. Hala biglang naging Don’t Breathe! What the fork!

7. If you were the type that get easily scared by umbrellas that loudly open, you would enjoy this one. As for me, na-sad ako. (Whee! I’m so punny!)

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

FIFTY SHADES DARKER (James Foley, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on 50 Shades Darker:

1. After two films, my biggest problem with this series remained to be Jamie Dornan in the role of Christian Grey. Not even his six-pack abs (from his pommel horse workouts?) could distract me from the fact that he wasn’t the incredibly sexy and attractive billionaire lothario that was promised in this ultimate female wish fulfillment fantasy.

He just looked incredibly bored, bland (ooh, like vanilla!), and forgettable amidst all the kinky fuckery. No wonder the lady in front of me was trying to Google him way after the movie had started.

2. Did the director really know the target audience of this chick flick? Weirdly, it actually felt like he was trying to draw in the male crowd with the copious breast exposures of Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele (definitely not the nude johnson women were expecting) and endless scenes of having her panties taken off (I couldn’t understand why she wore them in the first place when she was obviously allergic to them).

Also, why did Christian keep his pants on in almost every sex scene? Asking for a friend.

3. I liked this slightly better than the first (in no shape or form a compliment) simply because it fully embraced its seemingly trashy roots. While the first one desperately wanted to be an artful BDSM movie, this one didn’t even bother trying.

Instead it gave us lots of gratuitous nudity and sex (I choked on my Zagu when she asked him to kiss her on the pepe, how romantic!, and let’s not get started on that elevator finger scene) and taught us the proper usage of vaginal beads, spreader bars, and sensual oils (although that coconut oil scene reminded me so much of Jean Garcia in Impaktita that I was grateful Anastasia’s torso didn’t break free from her waist).

4. Relieved to hear that he had moved on from his Beyonce fetish and the soundtrack now included catchy tunes from Sia, Zayn feat. Taylor Swift, and my favorite track Bom Bidi Bom by Nick Jonas feat. Nicki Minaj. Now that was a credible Xerex playlist.

5. That art exhibit by Anastasia’s creepy friend/stalker was, well, creepy. I also felt bad that Christian purchased all of the artwork but we never really saw any of them anywhere in his apartment.

6. Wait, so he wanted to have rough sex with women that reminded him so much of his abusive mother? For the love of Sigmund Freud, eek!

Was there also a psychosexual interpretation of him having the Chronicles of Riddick poster in his bedroom? Would this explain why Vin Diesel chose to sing Katy Perry’s Dark Horse in one of his vlogs?

7. Poor Kim Basinger looked like she overdosed on botox only to get the Lavinia Arguelles treatment (twice!) in one scene. Pinoy soap opera at its finest! (And please tell me that the shower sex scene was a direct nod to the erotic 9 1/2 Weeks!).

8. There was a tacked-on scene towards the end where Christian’s helicopter crashed and he was magically back onscreen after a few minutes. Huwat?! I surely hoped his bed escapades lasted longer than his disappearance.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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