THE MEG (Jon Turteltaub, 2018)

63C26C15-F5D6-4F75-B379-EF10FACD809B

SPOILER ALERT!!

A heartbreaking tale of an endangered prehistoric fish living a peaceful existence with its aquatic neighbors in the Marianas Trench when a group of greedy, idiotic humans decided to violate its home and capture it for selfish reasons.

In one beautiful scene, a horde of swimmers in multi-colored salbabidas looked like floating Froot Loops waiting to be eaten by a very hungry shark. I was rooting for the predator, of course.

I wish the film went all out in its silliness (given the number of people that kept falling off boats) and portrayed the characters here as the cruel beings they really were instead of making them self-sacrificial heroes. It just wasn’t in their nature.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published August 19, 2018.)

Advertisements

TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE (Susan Johnson, 2018)

13CEE41F-EC02-42D2-A76D-2A56D0FB2AA2

SPOILER ALERT!!

Considering that I’m two decades beyond its target market, I probably enjoyed this cute YA fantasy way more than I should have.

Lana Condor (who resembled Charice in her Sunshine Corazon days) was terrific as Lara Jean, a realistic introverted girl who would choose to spend her Saturday nights watching reruns of Golden Girls. Who could relate?

I was very invested in the characters here (even if I felt sad that Aidan Shaw was already playing a father of three) that I actually wish they turned this into a series instead (I want to know more about those other boys!!). Now I really need to read that novel by Jenny Han.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published August 18, 2018.)

THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME (Susanna Foggel, 2018)

8060C1DF-0FC7-4B92-BCB2-C5D384E809A4

Good for a few laughs. Kate McKinnon could say or do anything and I’d be laughing my head off. Sadly, this was the kind of corny action-comedy that you’d watch on cable on a slow Sunday afternoon.

(An old man spent a good ten minutes talking on his cellphone giving directions to Cubao and I didn’t mind at all. It was that kind of movie.)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published August 5, 2018.)

PIHU (Vinod Kapri, 2018)

9C6CD07D-019C-4619-8468-0E22402540BA

Based on a true story which made it all the more disturbing.

Parents with toddlers can view this as a cautionary tale (time to start childproofing your home) or just skip it on Netflix to prevent any anxiety attack and unnecessary paranoia.

This thriller probably would have been more effective as a short film, but it still traumatized me for life.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

QUEZON’S GAME (Matthew Rosen, 2018)

7641051A-46D4-42A3-8079-12F7F07FF9C4

So I was today years old when I learned that Balintawak was renamed as Quezon City after our country’s second President. I obviously slept through my History classes, which was what I almost did while watching this oh-so-standard biopic.

This untold story of our local Schindler’s List was admirable enough, but probably would have worked better as a documentary. How many more times would historical films be set in Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar?

Susan Africa trope: a person dying of tuberculosis always owned a white handerkerchief where he/she would conveniently cough up a gallon of blood.

During the end credits, one of the Jewish survivors’ descendants spoke about Filipinos being non-racist. Uh, to Jewish people probably because they never really interacted much with them. Try the blacks, or Indians, or Chinese.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

BUMBLEBEE (Travis Knight, 2018)

89379258-4496-47ba-ab13-926c24216945

SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Bumblebee:

1. Never thought l’d see the day that I would actually like a Transformers movie from the Michael Bay Non-Biodegradable Universe. How could I not be that pessimistic when this was the most revered film series in Razzie history? Revenge of the Fallen as Worst Picture? Definitely! Bay as Worst Director for Age of Extinction? Well-deserved! I only watched most of them out of pure nostalgia (and a self-diagnosed masochism, of course!). Unsurprisingly, the best entry (so far) only needed a director not named Michael Bay.

2. Although it still contained a huge amount of robot on robot action (that reminded me so much of the 4D ride in Universal Studios Singapore), more time was spent on the blossoming friendship between Bumblebee and Charlie Watson (Academy Award nominee and certified #PinoyFried Hailee Steinfeld). Who knew that beneath all the metal exterior lay the heart of this awesome prequel? (More than meets the eye? Take that, Star Wars!!)

3. If you immediately fell in love with the terrific Steinfeld as soon as she started air drumming here (and you had only seen her in the Pitch Perfect sequels), now would be a good time to catch up on her much better films like True Grit and The Edge of Seventeen.

(And yes, I still think she would have made a better Belle in the Beauty and the Beast live-action remake.)

4. One of my favorite moments was when Bumblebee first transformed in the garage. He got himself all tangled up with a kite, stumbled over, and then cowered in fear while sitting in one corner. More than just looking really cute (in an aww shucks way you would feel towards a scared child), he had never looked and felt more human.

There was also a lot of effective (intentional) humor in this movie that included him stomping on a car or doing a radical impression of Judd Nelson’s fist pump in The Breakfast Club (which was just as funny as Kimmy’s in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt). Cue the classic Don’t You Forget About Me.

And speaking of classic songs, I was happy that Bumblebee eventually learned to like The Smiths (although it was still unforgivable that he hated Kuya Dick’s Never Gonna Give You Up).

5. Happy to see Pamela Adlon on the big screen as Charlie’s mother. I wish they could find a way to incorporate this in Better Things with Sam getting her big break as a supporting actress in a huge Hollywood production.

6. Alf and Miami Vice references. A picture of then-President Ronald Reagan. Posters for The Thing and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Yet the biggest giveaway for me that this took place in the 80’s was the noisy dot matrix printer.

(Also, did they suggest that the Decepticons actually invented the internet?)

7. So Charlie started the Bird Box Challenge? (Kids, do not try this on the road unless you own Bumblebee.)

8. Ahh, so that was the Camaro explanation. Goodbye pendong peace!!

Rating: ★★★☆☆

MARY POPPINS RETURNS (Rob Marshall, 2018)

223aa7a8-67fa-4327-bb0e-178da700ee03

SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Mary Poppins Returns:

1. One of the highlights of Saving Mr. Banks (a great companion piece to this film) was the scene where an uptight P.L. Travers (played by the superb Emma Thompson) unexpectedly lowered her guard and started dancing along to Let’s Go Fly a Kite. It was a touching moment especially since the author notoriously hated the Disneyfication of her novels (“Responstible is not a word!!”), particularly Mary Poppins.

I wonder how she would have felt with this one given that it lacked an LSS-worthy melody that the original had in abundance. Can You Imagine That? and Trip a Little Light Fantastic were fun and frothy, but they just weren’t as memorable as Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (an exercise in spelling and enunciation) or A Spoonful of Sugar.

For the record, my favorite tune from the 1964 classic was Oscar winner Chim Chim Cher-ee. Fun online fact: If you scratch “-2 – 2 + =“ on your pillow, it would sound very much like this song. Aren’t the interwebs wonderful?

2. Although billed as a sequel (with the Banks children all grown up), this still felt very much like a remake (seriously, why did they even bother?). If anything, I was happy that they kept the 2D animation during some of the fantasy sequences because it perfectly captured the old school magic of films.

3. I really thought it would be hard to match the wonderful performance of Julie Andrews (whose stern but loving version of the magical nanny reminded me of her stern but loving grandma slash Queen of Genovia in The Princess Diaries), but Emily Blunt completely owned the role (not a trace of imitation!) while paying homage to a well-loved Dame. At least she had a fun moment in the bathtub for a change.

4. It was sad to see Lin-Manuel Miranda sticking out like a sore thumb among the mostly English (and incredibly good) supporting cast. Although this was a musical where people actually floated while holding on to balloons, there was just something off with his over-the-top (read: theater-ready) acting.

Julie Walters was a hilarious scene-stealer as always, but I was more pleasantly surprised by Ben Whishaw. In one scene, he was clutching on to his dead wife’s pearl necklace while singing that he needed a few suggestions on how to brush their daughter’s hair and I was trying my best not to burst into tears.

As for the kids, they were fine enough, although I was wishing one of them could be like a young Freddie Highmore in Finding Neverland.

5. Been a fan of Rob Marshall’s impressive choreography since Chicago and it was in full display here. When the Banks’ house got rattled by an exploding cannon, the siblings caught the falling furniture (a few lamps, an heirloom clock) like they were in a ballet. I also liked the (intentional?) nod to Velma Kelly in the A Cover is Not a Book production.

6. I understood the decision of making this version of Mary closer to her disposition in the books, but it was also the reason why I thought that this sequel needed a bit more heart. Like I wanted to be a puddle of sobbing mess when she would leave the children in the end and it didn’t happen. I had more of an emotional attachment with Sam in Wanted: Perfect Mother.

7. Why did Mary let the poor leeries climb all the way up the clock tower when she could have done it in the first place pala? Did everything have to be a teachable moment?

8. “Cleaning is not a spectator sport” sounded like something Marie Kondo would say. Yes, this movie gave me a tiny spark of joy.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

GHOST WIFE (Mate Yimsomboon, 2018)

0e98bafa-cddd-4c9b-b88d-d7675be4be48

SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Ghost Wife:

1. If you still hadn’t seen the film that pushed me into (temporarily) becoming a sacristan with the thought that my holiness would shield me from a demonic possession, then let this be your nth reminder to watch the Akin ang Walang Diyos episode of Lovingly Yours, Helen: The Movie. I swear I had never seen a scarier exorcism which resulted to a lot of sleepless nights (not even Linda Blair’s twisting head or the contortionist moves of Emily Rose could even come close).

This was also the infamous source of the 80’s urban legend that an evil lamang-lupa fell in love with young superstar Julie Vega while filming that led to a mysterious illness and her eventual demise.

2. I was greatly reminded of that creepy story during this movie’s opening sequence where a shaman (wearing the biggest Buddha beads so you’d know he was mystical) was seemingly whipping a possessed child (was he using a buntot pagi?). But then the girl started screaming at the camera revealing her obvious blue-grayish contact lenses and I just couldn’t stop laughing from thereon. Was it supposed to be scary? This Thai horror flick was definitely no Shutter.

3. Completely off-topic but I found it really cute that the male students still wore short shorts as part of their high school uniform. I remember wanting to wear the khaki pants back in Grade 6 (next to circumcision and hair growing in every part of your body, it was a sign that you were one of the big boys). And now I realized that shorts were just so much more comfy, especially if you were always close to peeing yourself during a Calculus exam. To paraphrase Venus Raj, “I love it because it’s so comfortable to use and it’s very, very flowy.”

4. It was fascinating to see some cultural differences right off the bat. The teens here (who looked like Thai versions of Janella Salvador and Marlo Mortel) were more open to sex. When Thai Janella’s mom learned that her young daughter got pregnant, she took her to an abortion clinic instead of forcing a shotgun on Thai Marlo’s head (“Panagutan mo ang anak kohhh!”). 

One common factor though was that the Thai neighbors also lived for the latest chismis. Nothing wrong with being well-informed.

5. The abortion scene here would put the one in Hinugot sa Langit to shame. The quack doctors looked like they were actually pulling a baby rhinoceros out of the poor girl’s vajayjay. Did it really need that much heaving, and pulling, and grunting?

6. Before the Buddha beads-wearing shaman, Thai Janella’s mom sought the help of a female exorcist who sported heavy bangs and brought a trusty sling bag (what did that contain really? White Flower and a tin can of mints?). She ended up getting attacked by a medicine cart and was never seen again.

7. Speaking of urban legends, this was supposedly a modern day retelling of Nang Nak, the story of a husband who returned to his wife and child not knowing that they had been dead for months. This version was full of the usual horror movie tropes mostly taken from The Eye (the hallway scares, the ghost in the elevator) and none of them were scary.

When the baby was finally revealed as a tiyanak, I was laughing too much in my seat while wishing that Janice de Belen actually made a cameo. Imagine that reunion. Oh my god, ang anak ni Janice!!

8. I really wasn’t sure why dead Thai Janella was mad at her neighbors, except for being chismosa. Did she want them to keep her death a secret? Or was she just as annoyed at their sheer stupidity? After fearing for their lives and believing that their tenement was haunted, they stormed into the landlady’s office and demanded that she get rid of the ghost.

Yes, gusto nilang palayasin ang multo dahil laging nanggugulo. Hey chismosas, a scary ghost would still be much better than a drunk neighbor singing Itchyworms’ Beer for the tenth time at 3 freakin’ AM.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

THE NUN (Corin Hardy, 2018)

7FE9E888-3B11-43A2-B231-07DCF25ED87D

SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Nun:

1. Long before Kidzania, Sky Ranch, Enchanted Kingdom, Star City, Boom na Boom, Glico’s, Payanig sa Pasig and Big Bang sa Alabang, the certified 80’s kids had that glorious haven located in the heart of Cubao called Fiesta Carnival. It was an indoor amusement park filled with the coolest rides and the best perya games ever created.

My favorite attraction there was this dingy horror ride (the predecessor of the corny horror train) where you would sit in a tiny cart that would pass through this long, dark tunnel split into several rooms (your cart would enter them by bumping onto the sliding doors) and each room was filled with every kind of supernatural entity designed to scare the crap out of you. One area would have like a ghost suddenly flying above your head while another would have a vampire jumping out of his coffin.

It felt very much like a nightmare that wouldn’t stop until you literally puked your kiddie guts out from all the screaming. That experience would probably be the closest equivalent I could think of for this movie that was relentlessly packed with jump scares. The only difference though was that I was no longer six years old.

2. In the Conjuring Universe, this would probably fall right smack in the middle with the best being the first Conjuring film and the worst being the first Annabelle. As a huge horror fan, I’d usually hate the ones that would sacrifice a good story over some cheap scares, but this one proved to be an exception (yes, I enjoyed it more than I probably should have).

Maybe it was because it didn’t take itself seriously (it definitely failed as an origin story because it didn’t really tell much about Valak aka Sister Marilyn Manson) and just took on the full silliness of its premise by upping the scream quotient (regardless of how effective they were).

3. With all the hilarious moments here through Frenchie-Canadian (Jonas Bloquet), I wasn’t even sure if it was trying to be a parody of the past movies (or even the genre). I mean, that scene where he pulled an oversized cross from a grave and ran with it all the way to a local bar was definitely a joke (and a really funny one, too).

Plus, you could probably name every cliché in the horror rule book and it was included here (except for a cat jumping out of the shadows, unless I missed that one). When one nun fell face down on the floor, everybody knew that somebody would grab her legs and pull her away from the camera. That corpse covered with a white sheet? It would come alive screaming, of course. And the scene where a nun suddenly dropped from a tree while hanging from a noose? It was done far better by Ynez Veneracion with her crazy eyes in Chito Roño’s The Healing. But all of these generated a symphony of screams (with some people literally jumping out of their seats) in our almost sold-out screening that made me enjoy the viewing experience even more.

4. When that horse-drawn carriage suddenly pulled up outside that monastery, I half-expected Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker to come out and seduce Valak with his tasty blood. I didn’t even care much about the supposedly creepy atmosphere of the broken-down monastery and smoky graveyard, I still found olden Romania incredibly romantic. Now what does that say about me?

5. Did Father Burke (Demián Bichir) provide an answer to his question on the opposite of miracle? This had been bugging me for days and Google was no help. Also, his character didn’t really figure much in the overall story, but at least he was able to deliver lines like “There is a time for prayer and a time for action”. Ooh, very Balweg, the Rebel Priest!

6. Glad that they actually made the effort to tie this up with the earlier films, although I was a bit disappointed that Sister Irene (an effective Taissa Farmiga) did not have any relation to Lorraine Warren (my darling Vera Farmiga) even if they obviously looked exactly alike. I would just assume that she was her reincarnation, which would explain why Valak was stalking her for several decades.

Side note: It felt iffy when the crowd started shipping Sister Irene and Frenchie-Canadian after that “kiss of life” scene, complete with an audible (and juvenile) “Yiheeeee!”. I felt the same way when this group of horny teens let everyone know that they were lusting over Phoebe Walker’s Sister Cecilia in Seklusyon. Forgive them Mother Butlers, for they have sinned. (Ang linis ko, thank you!)

7. I really liked that silent circle of prayer scene. Never thought I would ever get scared of a group (waddle? nyahaha!) of nuns especially after Sister Act, but this one came really close when they suddenly blew up in all directions (the Silent Hill-type scene that followed where they weren’t moving when Frenchie-Canadian entered the chamber was spooky, too). And then Sister Irene grew a burning parol on her upper back and I was laughing yet again (still not over all those Jose Mari Chan memes).

Another side note: I suddenly remembered that Netflix movie Veronica with the blind Mother Superior. Considering that I never had the traumatic experience of a nun hitting me with a ruler for wearing a skirt two inches shorter than the required length, I had always wondered why people were actually scared of them. Why would an image of a nun staring directly at you from outside your bedroom window elicit chills? And why would it be frightening if that same nun would now be standing right next to you while you were reading this? Don’t look!!

8. I usually hated watching with such a noisy crowd (seriously, everyone started screaming when the lights were turned off, even if it was just the Aquaman trailer that was played after), but hearing these straight guys pretend to be the bravest souls while clutching on to their girlfriends’ hands just doubled the entertainment factor. And yes, mas malakas pa sila tumili kesa sa mga date nila. Aliw lang.

Rating: ★★★☆☆