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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

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI (Rian Johnson, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

Please tell me I wasn’t the only one totally shipping Kylo Ren and Rey. There was just so much sexual tension between them (good vs evil!) that their awesome lightsaber battle (set in scorching crimson red, of course!) felt very much like the kinkiest foreplay. They wouldn’t even need to bother with Skype because they could easily see and talk to each other via their minds (so Kylo just happened to be topless at one point, really?). My only concern was that even with the reveal that Rey’s parents were nobodies, they could totally switch this up a few films from now. Let’s not forget that the greatest love team in this series ended up in incest (still not as eww-worthy as parts I-III, though).

Daming ganap. Even with multiple storylines and a 2.5 hour running time, in the end nothing much really happened and they just basically rebooted the entire franchise. It reminded me of these RPG video games with several side quests that although entertaining only served as a distraction to the main story. I guess it was a bit understandable though since the main story simply revolved around a Resistance ship trying to get away from the First Order. How many ways could you make a ship running out of fuel exciting, right? On the other hand, did we really need that lengthy casino scene?

Also, why did they have to make Luke Skywalker such a bitter, grumpy old man? I could imagine the crushed hearts of fanboys that waited a long time only to see him nonchalantly toss away his lightsaber (was that meant to be funny?). In one scene, he was even supposed to kill a young boy (horrors!). Why the sudden change? Was it because he kept drinking that spoiled-looking green milk from a non-cow creature? (Sabagay, an upset stomach creates a monster out of me as well.)

So those shiny crystal animals just happened to lead the group out to safety? How convenient! And I wasn’t a fan of those critters that were obviously included for easy laughs. Besides, was there anything funnier than a seemingly dead Princess Leia suddenly regaining consciousness and flying ala Superman in outer space back to her ship?

I felt bad that Laura Dern and Benicio del Toro were underutilized in this movie to give way for the Finn and Rose love story. It was a fun and cute caper, but that kiss generated as much heat as winter in Siberia. I was also a bit distracted because Rose looked very much like Ate Kimmy Go Donghae. Every time she would abruptly show up on screen, I expected her to scream, “May sale sa Lazada!!”.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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PENGABDI SETAN (SATAN’S SLAVES) (Joko Anwar, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

After the first twenty minutes of this Indonesian horror movie, I kept fiddling with my phone to change the assigned message tone for most of my contacts. I probably wouldn’t survive a possible heart attack if I heard bell chimes coming from text messages in the middle of the night. I wasn’t even sure why I forgot to do that after watching The Autopsy of Jane Doe, but the chilling ghost face of the dying mother here was enough reason not to forget this time.

Sadly, the movie couldn’t sustain the scares and resorted to the usual horror movie tropes, ones that we’d already seen in Rosemary’s Baby, Ringu, and even Paranormal Activity 4. By the time the undead rose from their graves with cotton balls up their noses, I was chuckling loudly from my seat imagining the late Chiquito’s comedy films of my childhood.

The deaf-mute demon child was also played by the most adorable kid that it was hard not to feel sorry for him. While his family members wanted him dead, I just wanted to reach out and pinch his cute, rosy cheeks. Good production values overall, though.

One scene involving a record that when played backwards revealed ancient (read: evil) chanting reminded me so much of the time when the Eraserheads was accused of blasphemy and satanic worship by the Catholic Church. I almost broke my Cutterpillow cassette tape trying to figure out how the backmasking thing worked (since Overdrive was apparently demonic). Believing fake news out of blind faith, now that was scary.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

BATTLE OF THE SEXES (Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris, 2017)

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Tennis was one of the very few sports that I actually cared about and watched live on TV, but I hadn’t seen a complete match since the heydays of my favorite player Michael Chang. While other kids my age were enjoying the (fake) entertainment of wrestling (then WWF), I was enthralled by all the drama on the tennis courts with Andre Agassi as the villain that I loved to hate.

The historic battle between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in the early 70s was way before my time and probably even before our family had an actual television. I didn’t know the result of that event and it was a testament to this film’s strengths that I almost chewed off all of my cuticles while watching them play against each other (even the old women around me were cheering loudly like we were at a Bingo Bonanza).

I felt sad at the thought that Emma Stone hit her peak during Easy A, but her performance here was definitely her best so far (yes, even better than her Oscar-winning one in La La Land). She had this one locker room scene where her character completely broke down in tears and you could actually feel the exact same weight of the world on her shoulders (the pressure of being a female tennis player demanding equal pay, the confusion on her troubled lovelife and its possible effects on her career, etc.). That red A embroidered on Olive Penderghast’s left boob definitely meant Actress.

Some people might not like this film for being a cheesy inspirational biopic (one gay character consoled a lesbian player with the thought that someday they could come out in the open and people would embrace them for what they really were) or for being terribly one-sided (male chauvinist pig vs hairy-legged feminist!), but I still enjoyed it and it brought me the exact same joy as watching Monica Seles defeat Steffi Graf in the French Open. Go underdogs!

Rating: ★★★★☆

DADDY’S HOME 2 (Sean Anders, 2017)

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Whenever the trailer for this movie was shown, the biggest laughs would come from the sight of a giddy, kid-like Will Ferrell giving his sweet old father John Lithgow a welcoming kiss on the lips at the airport. I thought that it wouldn’t be as funny anymore after seeing it one too many times, but it still had the exact same effect on me during the actual movie. With every kiss (yes, there were more!), I just laughed my guts out.

The same kind of juvenile humor was recycled all throughout (gender neutral flash cards for sex education!) and your enjoyment would probably depend on whether you had actually forgiven Mel Gibson (weirdly enough, making an a-hole character completely charming) for his antisemitic and racist rants. That or your tolerance for a sappy Christmas singalong in a theater with employees miraculously giving out free food and candies to everyone.

I really liked Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge and I was in full holiday spirit during the screening. I lapped up every corny joke and got my money’s worth. Even John Cena’s singing wasn’t that bad after all! Now if only we could see him.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

THELMA (Joachim Trier, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

When a photosensitive seizure warning was shown before this film, I felt a bit scared because our family had a history of epilepsy and I read online that this could be a latent condition triggered by intensive flashing lights. I made sure that I had my eyes closed throughout that lengthy, agonizing CT scan scene even if I didn’t usually cover my eyes while watching horror movies.

The intriguing opening sequence properly set the tone for this Norwegian version of Carrie. It involved a father, a young girl, a hunting rifle, and a deer. My heart was completely racing when the rifle was pointed instead at something that I didn’t expect. I wonder if PETA would support that decision.

I didn’t completely buy the themes of coming out slash coming-of-age vis a vis religious repression, but I really liked the stunning imagery used here (except for that clumsy Wikipedia part). The most chilling scene involved a search for a missing baby and its subsequent discovery under a frozen lake. Definitely the stuff of (parental) nightmares.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

WONDER (Stephen Chbosky, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

I would usually advise people to bring a box of tissues to an obvious tearjerker, but this time I would also suggest that you include a bottle of water. I was probably crying on every littlest thing from start to finish that I was completely dehydrated by the time the end credits rolled.

Hearing the thoughts and watching the experience of Auggie Pullman (wunderkind Jacob Tremblay from Room), a kid with major facial deformities trying his best to survive in the real world was just heartbreaking. He referred to his birth as a punchline in his parents’ lives. He walked the school halls face down to avoid the blatant stares. He was subjected to severe bullying and branded as contagious. One kid even asked if he only ate special food. Completely depressing stuff.

The magic of the film though was that even if it occasionally wallowed in emotional manipulation, it was still an uplifting and heartwarming story about love and support from family and friends and that whenever we’re given the choice between being right or being kind, we should always (always!) choose kind.

I really liked that the story was told from different perspectives and showed how the lives of the people around Auggie were affected as well. My favorite point of view was from his selfless sister, a teen that often felt neglected because her sibling understandably needed more attention and compassion. Why couldn’t we all be like her?

And could the Academy please give Julia Roberts a much-needed nomination for her fantastic performance as the patient and occasionally overbearing mother? The scene where she was explaining that our face was a map that showed us where we’ve been could have been incredibly cheesy, but it worked because of her innate sensitivity as an actress.

The film did need a bit more trimming especially towards the end and it would have been more realistic if it didn’t have such a clean resolution where everyone suddenly transformed into better versions of themselves.

Even Auggie will agree that at the end of the day, no matter how flawed we may be, we all deserve a standing ovation, at least once in our lives.

Rating: ★★★★☆

LOVING VINCENT (Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman, 2017)

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I’m the type of person that would be willing to pay the hefty entrance fee of a museum just for the experience, end up staring (cluelessly) at the paintings for a few minutes, and then leave to get some frozen yogurt. No matter how lovely the art pieces were, they would receive the same level of appreciation that I had for poetry (meaning nearly nothing). Yes, the closest I’d be to being cultured was drinking a bottle of Yakult.

Watching this visually impressive movie felt very much like that visit to a museum. The hand-painted scenes (mostly recreations of Vincent Van Gogh’s own paintings) looked stunning, but the novelty wore off after a few minutes. The flimsy plot that basically enumerated a list of facts about his life (as a possible murder-mystery) made me recall my futile attempt to read an entire volume of Encyclopaedia Brittanica (I ultimately got bored and failed).

The only time I actually felt something was when a version of Don McLean’s Vincent (Starry Starry Night) played during the end credits. How could you not sing along to that melancholic song? Bring on the infinite sadness.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

BREATHE (Andy Serkis, 2017)

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In another (desperate?) bid for an Oscar nomination, Andrew Garfield has moved on from playing a real-life man of faith battling enemy soldiers without the use of a gun to a real-life faith-challenged man battling polio and its debilitating side effects with just a respirator. Unlike his performance in Hacksaw Ridge though, this one seemed to be a result of watching Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything one too many times (something I was guilty of as well).

Claire Foy (looking very much like Adele’s older sister) as his patient and devoted wife fared significantly better. She had a fantastic scene where she stormed down a hill after being accused that she saw her husband as a burden and it made me want to do a catch-up on the first season of The Crown.

Although this biopic was clearly well-intentioned and made to be inspirational, the central love story just felt very bland. The only source of tension was when a kid and his dog accidentally unplugged the breathing device and even that scene had me giggling because of the clunky way it was handled. I’m definitely going straight to hell.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

COCO (Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina, 2017)

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After years of hearing the words Remember Me and immediately thinking/singing “kapag nag-iisa, kapag ika’y nalulungkot, huwag kang mag-alala…”, I was so happy that it had finally been replaced by the lovely theme song of this equally lovely animated film from Disney/Pixar. No more odd memories of Renz Verano, just me sobbing uncontrollably while Miguel crooned to his great-grandmother.

Truth be told, as soon as I saw old great-grandma Coco on her wheelchair, I was already tearing up. I really thought yung bata si Coco talaga. I was not prepared for a lola story because this would always hit close to home. When she started singing along with him, I had to close my eyes or my hagulgol would have probably scared the young kids playing along the aisle.

I obviously enjoyed this heartwarming tale of a young Mexican kid that had to choose between his family and his passion for music. Very much like The Book of Life which was also set during the Day of the Dead, everything onscreen was just bright and festive and completely interesting. And those glorious songs! Note to self: memorize the lyrics of Un Poco Loco.

This was really the kind of film that you need to watch with your entire family. Just not with a baon of chorizo.

(And why was everyone hating on that long Frozen short? I actually liked it. Olaf deserved his own spin-off movie.)

Rating: ★★★★☆

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