BUMBLEBEE (Travis Knight, 2018)

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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: ★★★☆☆

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MARY POPPINS RETURNS (Rob Marshall, 2018)

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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)

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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)

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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: ★★★☆☆

THE EQUALIZER 2 (Antoine Fuqua, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Equalizer 2:

1. Back in my sophomore year of college, I would usually spend the long gaps between classes with the rest of the boys in an internet shop right across our school. We would be playing this first-person shooter game called Counter-Strike in two opposing groups (sometimes against other schools) killing terrorists and defusing bombs. People hated having me on their team because I was the noob that would shoot at anything that moved (including my teammates) and never fully grasped the concept of stealth.

In the final action sequence of this movie that closely resembled that game, the main villain (who looked a bit like Justin Trudeau) committed every amateur (read: loser) move until he finally got himself killed. Because seriously, why would you be standing on a tower, thereby exposing yourself to any opponent below you? Any long range sniper rifle could easily take you out. I was so frustrated that I had no control on this character until I realized that I was just basically the pot calling the kettle black.

2. I wasn’t fond of the Death Wish-like vigilante original so I felt surprised when Denzel Washington chose to reprise his Robert McCall character (he should have left these action sequels to Keanu Reeves or Jason Statham). Given our country’s current political setting, I also found it off-putting that he played a character that still took matters into his own hands. Sure, it felt slightly good watching him serve justice on these rapists by breaking their noses and ribcages and fingers, but there was still this nagging feeling at the back of my mind whether that was the (morally) right thing to do.

On the other hand, maybe I was just overthinking things and this violence-filled entertainment was really just an excuse to watch good ‘ol Denzel beat the crap out of people. (It still didn’t explain how he actually found the time to set up posters and other props for that final, stormy showdown, though.)

3. It was a relief to see that he actually played a Lyft driver on the side because after all of my horror stories with Grab, I would never think that any of them were modern-day superheroes. If they could easily pretend to be stuck in traffic while asking me to cancel the booking on my end, why would I even trust them to save my life? (Ang pait!)

Side note: If he was registered in the company’s system (and even ordered five star ratings), wouldn’t his enemies know how to track him down? Wasn’t that against the entire point of superheroes having secret/alter identities?

4. Nuggets of wisdom:

• “There are two kinds of pain: the pain that hurts and the pain that alters.” (This was so ripe for a Star Cinema translation!)

• “Always be nice to anybody who has access to your toothbrush.” (One of the reasons why I always tried to avoid conflict with Madam Rose, especially since I never saw her clean my bathroom with an actual toilet brush.)

My favorite line though was when a young man asked “Who the (f-word) is this (n-word)?” and Denzel replied without missing a beat, “I’m your father. Your momma just didn’t tell you.” (Insert dab pose here.)

5. Melissa Leo was horrible in this movie. Her performance reminded me of that cringey “Did I really win even if I collected almost all of the precursor awards and even paid for my own FYC ads?” act during her Oscar speech.

6. Were the Hurricane references intentional? My inner trivia geek was happy.

7. That tense phone call was taken straight out of Taken. It didn’t make the two-way mirror scene any less nail-biting, though.

8. See this would be one of the reasons why I never wanted to make a lot of enemies. The easiest and most cruel revenge would always be to get back on your loved ones. Or maybe use your toothbrush to clean the toilet.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

CRAZY RICH ASIANS (Jon M. Chu, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Crazy Rich Asians:

1. I remembered watching this episode of Bonkers Closets on Facebook that featured the humongous fingerprint-protected walk-in closet (and by walk-in, I meant way bigger than our entire house) of crazy rich Singaporean socialite Jamie Chua. It stored hundreds of her Birkins and Louboutins and every kind of sparkly Chanel dress that any woman (and gay man) could ever dream of. She even called one of her purchases, an Hermès Mini Pochette worth over $11k, completely useless because it could only fit a credit card and a piece of tissue. It was this same kind of opulence (read: ridiculously excessive levels) that I expected from this movie.

As a third world citizen without a Jamba Juice card, but mooches off of my friend’s Netflix account, I wanted to see how these crazy rich Asians were living my fantasy life that I would have to pick my jaw off the sticky floors of the cinema after every scene of extreme extravagance. Aside from that overhead shot of the Young estate with what seemed to be a built-in lagoon, there really weren’t a lot of “Kalokang mayayaman ‘to!” moments here, though. I had more “Wow!” moments while skimming over the Yes! issue of Willie Revillame flaunting his mansion and luxury cars.

(If anything, this movie worked as a really effective tourism video for Singapore because every location just looked incredibly gorgeous.)

2. Wait, I’m not required to lower my standards naman just because Asians are finally getting represented in Hollywood, right? So I should be as brutal to this cliché-ridden rom-com the same way that I would to a Star Cinema langit-lupa love story? Because seriously, that plane scene reeked of Bea Alonzo flying to Cagayan de Oro with Dingdong Dantes running after her and then making that grand proposal while every passenger cheered even with their flight delayed. Why should this one get a free pass as an enjoyable, fluffy piece of entertainment just because it’s an “important” film?

3. The opening scene was my favorite because I weirdly enjoyed squirming in my seat while watching that really uncomfortable discrimination situation. I even remembered being in a slightly similar incident when my family had a vacation in (guess where?) Singapore back in the early 90’s. We were eating at KFC and the locals sneered at us like we were stray dogs that got lost in that establishment (of course back then I had no clue that they looked down on Pinoys as second-class citizens so I just thought they weren’t too happy with the crispy chicken they were eating).

When the legendary Michelle Yeoh served that fitting retribution to the hotel manager with such intense coldness, I came very close to standing up and cheering from my seat. I’d have preferred it though if she ended that scene with “Wala pang taong hindi rumespeto sa pangalang ELEANOR Young! At ang hindi marunong rumespeto sa AKING pangalan ay ASO lamang!!”. (If you got that reference, you have excellent taste in films.)

4. So many #PinoyFried in this movie, although none of them actually portrayed Pinoy characters (except for Astrid’s maids, of course!). Nico Santos’ fey turn as cousin Oliver was a delight, although it wasn’t surprising given his amazing turn as Mateo Fernando Aquino Liwanag in Superstore.

And speaking of Aquinos, when crazy rich Kris showed up onscreen as Princess Intan, there were some audible gasps from the audience. I guess none of them were able to watch Magic to Win 5 on the big screen. I still think it would have been the biggest casting coup if she played Imelda Marcos (the only woman that could put Jamie Chua’s shoe collection to shame).

5. I completely get the use of the very Asian mahjong game in that climactic showdown between Eleanor and Rachel (Constance Wu), although I honestly didn’t understand all of the symbolisms. The only thing I noticed was that Eleanor took the East seat which was significant in The Joy Luck Club (now there’s a brilliant Hollywood Asian film) since that was where the dealer sat and where all things began (in the novel/film, Jing Mei took that seat to replace her dead mother Suyuan who started the said group). 

Wouldn’t it have been great though if they amped up the camp factor and showed more clashes between these strong women (very much like a Pinoy cockfight)? With two brilliant actresses front and center (fyi, this should serve as your reminder to finally catch up on Fresh Off the Boat), this could have been really fun.

(Also, the Nick character was so bland that I couldn’t see why two amazing women were “fighting” over him. No amount of Henry Golding’s shirtless scenes could hide that fact.)

Side note: Given that Jon M. Chu also directed Now You See Me 2, I actually had this gnawing feeling during the mahjong scene that Rachel would perform some sort of elaborate magic trick. Like she would be able to switch her bamboo tiles without Eleanor ever noticing. Pong!!

6. I teared up a bit when I realized that the Ah Ma character was played by Lisa Lu, who was also Auntie An-Mei in Joy Luck Club (“My mother not know her worth until too late. Too late for her, but not for me.” Waaaah!).

7. I wasn’t particularly fond of Awkwafina in Ocean’s 8, but she was hilarious in the Nikki Valdez role here. As Peik Lin (aka Asian Ellen), she stole every scene that she was in whether she was criticizing Rachel’s look as Sebastian of The Little Mermaid, playing around with her car window, or simply taking a selfie around the Young mansion.

My favorite (very Asian) joke though was when Wye Mun (Ken Jeong) said something like, “Red’s a lucky color if you’re an envelope”. I also liked the bite in his line that “There’s a lot of children starving in America”.

8. Supposedly affluent young women going crazy over off-the-rack items? Shouldn’t they be turning their enhanced pointed noses up on anything that wasn’t bespoke? How un-crazy rich. (And what to make of that tacky tassel necklace? Only Kat Galang could have pulled that one off.)

9. The story about Astrid’s failing marriage felt like complete filler. It was like one long setup for the sequel. (Which probably was made more obvious when Harry Shum, Jr. showed up in one scene and yet received top billing in the end credits.) Her story only served as a distraction to what could have been more screen time for Nick and Rachel or Rachel and Eleanor. Also, Gemma Chan looked very much like Nathalie Hart, no?

10. One of the highlights here was the royal wedding of Araminta (Sonoya Mizuno) where the guests held lighted butterflies (dragonflies?) as she walked down that water-filled aisle. While everyone else teared up when Kina Grannis’ Can’t Help Falling in Love played in the background, my OCD kicked in high gear imagining that lovely wedding dress turning all soggy and getting completely ruined. These crazy rich people paid $40M for that? 

Meanwhile here in the Philippines, a bride in Bulacan went viral for actually wading in murky floodwater (which she got free courtesy of the monsoon) out of necessity just to continue with her dream wedding. Now that was something that really made me cry.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

6 BALLOONS (Marja-Lewis Ryan, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on 6 Balloons:

1. In The One with the Boobies episode of Friends, Phoebe had a date named Roger who psychoanalyzed Chandler as a person that masked his depression and sadness through constant humor and sarcasm (“I wouldn’t want to be there when the laughter stops”). Even with the prominence of the sad clown trope, I was continually surprised by comedians that would play against type and turn in credible (sometimes even incredible) dramatic performances (Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting, Mo’Nique in Precious, Bill Murray in Lost in Translation, just to name a few). Our very own Comedy King made me bawl my eyes out by bravely playing a loving gay foster parent in Ang Tatay Kong Nanay.

2. I was all the more excited when I saw this Netflix movie where Abbi Jacobson (one half of my favorite power couple in Broad City) actually tried to take on a more serious role. Even in that TV series, her Abbi Abrams was more straightfaced and rational compared to the always wild and crazy Ilana Wexler (Ilana Glazer), but that made her funnier and even more endearing.

Sadly, this wasn’t the right vehicle to draw out her more sensitive side. Whenever her character Katie delivered a line that should have been solemn or earnest, I was waiting for her to crack up and mock what she just said Abbi-style. At least her effort for reinvention was commendable.

3. One thing that I really liked in this depressing drama was Dave Franco’s authentic portrayal of a person with substance abuse issues. His Seth was torn between the need to change his lifestyle for the love of his young kid, and his apparent heroin addiction. It was disturbing (he cleaned his syringe with toilet water!!) to see him go through this entire spectrum of emotions while he brutally battled his subsequent relapse (zoned out and depressed at the start, then sweaty, shaking, and desperate for a fix in the middle, and finally high and playful after his hit towards the end).

As somebody addicted to Coke (Coca-Cola hala!) whose mouth would go dry and hands all clammy after not getting a drink of my favorite ice cold soda every six hours, I couldn’t even imagine the pain and suffering that these people would go through to overcome their drug dependency.

4. I completely understood that Katie loved her younger brother so much that she was willing to do anything to help, but I just didn’t get why she made these really foolish decisions along the way. Why would she even bring a child with her when she tried to score some drugs in what looked like the scariest part of the neighborhood? Why would she leave the poor kid alone in the vehicle with an obviously sick person? Even if her brother was physically suffering, why did she act as an enabler and even agreed to buy him needles in a pharmacy?

I might be too quick (self-righteous?) to judge and maybe the entire point of this movie was that drug addiction was really a family disease, but I ended up getting stressed and frustrated with every terrible choice that she made.

(Side note: The young girl must have been a fan of Monsters Inc. because of her strange fascination with the word “Kitty”.)

5. Jane Kaczmarek had a brief appearance here as their mother and I was reminded yet again that she was criminally robbed of an Emmy for her brilliant turn as a fierce and controlling matriarch in Malcolm in the Middle.

(Also, I found it funny that the actor who played her husband in this movie closely resembled Bryan Cranston.)

6. So Katie broke the pharmacy’s glass door with their own bathroom keys, hit some posts while driving away, and we were expected to laugh along at the apparent silliness of these events? Why??

7. Instead of paying attention to that cheesy audio book about leaking boats, she should have listened more to her talking GPS navigator (it even asked her to “turn around” when she entered that drug-infested street).

Now why couldn’t my Waze be more like that whenever I was headed to the nearest KFC?

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

A QUIET PLACE (John Krasinski, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on A Quiet Place:

1. In this post-apocalyptic nightmare, the basic rule of survival was clearly established from the very start: never create any loud noise or you would almost instantaneously become alien lafang. While the rest of the theater silently chewed on their cuticles and held their breath, I was having an anxiety attack in my chair just imagining that I wouldn’t last a day in their world because seriously, bawal umutot? At bawal maging clumsy at tatanga-tanga huhu! (Plus the way the creatures’ inner parts resembled a contracting vulva made me terrified of them even more).

2. Starting everything on Day 89 made a lot of sense because this wasn’t really meant to be a sci-fi film that needed a back story on the aliens’ origins and a chock-full of exposition (Where did these monsters come from? Where were the other people? What happened to the rest of the world? DIDN’T MATTER!!). And so we were immediately introduced to a family that relied on sign language and facial expressions to communicate with each other. With very minimal dialogue and just a backing musical score, this actually worked like a gimmicky silent film (and also served as an effective public service announcement to always be quiet while watching movies as a form of respect).

It was funny because I expected to scream my head off but I had to stifle all of my reactions. Even the tiniest sound would be too impolite (do not bring chips!!) that the only thing you would hear inside the cinema would be the occasional gasps. (I was happy with the crowd that I watched it with since there were no barkadas of rowdy high schoolers that would laugh and create a ruckus during a scary sequence. Same pet peeve, right?).

3. I really appreciated the relative lack of cheap scares here. Aside from a few falling raccoons, the powerful build-up of tension and suspense was well-earned that you’d probably feel incredibly stressed by the time the amazing Emily Blunt would cock her shotgun for the very last time.

Speaking of, my favorite scene here involved her pregnant character having contractions (and early labor) in a bathtub with flickering lights overhead while an alien was stalking her and getting ready to pounce. I could almost feel her pain (and the desperate need to control her screams) that I started to develop a phantom vagina with a baby trying to claw its way out of it. Sakit sa puso (and sa imaginary pepe) grabe lang. Would it be too early to campaign for an Oscar nomination?

4. Noah Jupe’s performance here reminded me so much of Joseph Mazzello’s in Jurassic Park. The look of pure terror on his young innocent face was just heartbreaking. Also, was the truck scene a nod to that Steven Spielberg classic?

5. It would be very easy to nitpick this movie considering the predictability of specific scenes and some obvious setups (the toy airplane’s batteries? Definite source of noise! The nail on the stairs? Expect someone to step on it later on!) and a few questionable choices (if the water sounds distracted the aliens, why didn’t they choose to live near the river/waterfalls? Why do they still have electricity? Why did they even want to have another baby given their current situation? Why did they allow their small children to freely roam around given the dangers around them?). But why not forget all of these and just go along for the ride?

6. I think that the last time I cried in a horror/suspense film was in The Sixth Sense when Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) tried to convince his mom (Toni Collette) that he could really see dead people by telling her the grandma story. Although a tad manipulative, when John Krasinski signed “I love you. I have always loved you” to his kids, I could hardly choke back my tears. Parents are the absolute greatest waaahh!!

Rating: ★★★★☆

READY PLAYER ONE (Steven Spielberg, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Ready Player One:

1. During the olden days, my only goal in life was to be the top scorer of our family in a game of Pac-Man. I would wake up in the middle of the night while everyone slept (especially my mom who would get really cranky with the additional electricity consumption) and silently crouch over this black plastic Atari controller for hours on end while gobbling pellets and running away from ghosts named Pinky and Blinky.

Whenever we had guests or relatives come over for lunch or dinner, I would be in front of the TV screen and showing off (a better term would be pakitang-gilas) my agility and dexterity through a video game. “Yan lang ang ginagawa niyan buong araw”, my dad would proudly say while I continued to wow the crowd with the completion of every level. Weeks later, my brother would master the newest Missile Command game and that signalled the end of my Pac-Man glory days.

2. I never really considered myself as a certified gamer even if I had played a lot of games across different platforms (from the ancient Nintendo Family Computer to the current PlayStation 4). I couldn’t even learn the basic controls in Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat and my usual battle consisted of pushing every button while hoping for a special attack. Still, my insides would tingle at the mere mention of Space Invaders, Super Mario Bros., Civilization, or Final Fantasy. It was this same geeky pride plus the astounding power of nostalgia that made me enjoy this film which seemed to coast on an abundance of pop culture references (easter eggs galore!). I loudly squealed in my seat when a chocobo appeared during the ultimate battle sequence.

3. Spielberg films had always been criticized for their overt sentimentality and it was surprisingly lacking in this one. I expected myself to turn into a puddle of emotions when Wade/Parzival (a terribly bland Tye Sheridan) unlocked the third puzzle, but it just didn’t feel completely magical (I probably cried more when Charlie discovered that he won the final Golden Ticket for the Chocolate Factory). Maybe it was because the movie was already running on for far too long or that it was trying to generate last minute faux excitement, but my brain was just screaming “Just stick that freakin’ key in that effin’ hole, dammit!”.

4. I really liked how the coolest sequence in the movie was a nod to the huge disappointment of my all-time favorite author on the adaptation of one of his finest novels. The twins, Room 237 with the naked old lady, the river of blood from the elevator, and the iconic axe hacking itself on the bathroom door, stuff of a true classic. I never fully understood Stephen King’s disdain for The Shining film considering that the thought of Danny repeatedly croaking the word “Redrum” while holding a giant knife still freaked me to this day.

5. Has anyone read the book (or is a real-life Sheldon Cooper)? Kindly enlighten me on the following burning questions:

• Who was funding The Oasis? I knew James Halliday (a great Mark Rylance) was a trillionaire, but did he really have that much money to keep a game running for more than five years after his death? I was just curious because when Parzival retrieved the first key, he won 100,000 virtual coins that he used to purchase a body suit in the real world.

• Why would such a powerful man like Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) not even bother to memorize his password? It was only B055man69 and not something tough like B0$$m4n_Ph0wz_aQuoH69. Did he have a reason for scribbling down such a confidential information on a piece of paper and keeping it on his armrest other than being a MacGuffin?

• Who was Gundam and was he really that popular? (Fanboys, please don’t kill me. I seriously had no clue.)

6. More than the shoulder pads, leotards, and heavy perms, the 80’s would best be remembered because of its glorious songs, no? Nothing would beat humming along to a good old Hall & Oates song on your best days. (I would always associate Blondie’s One Way or Another with Mean Girls, though. Yup, Trang Pak made out with Coach Carr.)

7. Wouldn’t it be fun if their online personas/avatars were completely far off from their real identities? When Aech (Lena Waithe) mentioned that the real Art3mis (Olivia Cooke) could actually be an overweight old man, I really wished this were true. Wasn’t it Wade himself who said that people stayed in The Oasis because of all the things that they could be? Why didn’t we get a lot more of these people playing out their online fantasies? It could have saved us from the icky (and forced) love story as well. That part was even more horrific than the thought of virtual reality putting an end to human connections. Besides, shouldn’t reality be real?

Rating: ★★★☆☆

GAME NIGHT (John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Game Night:

1. One of my all-time favorite episodes of Friends was The One With the Embryos where the gang played a heated, high stakes game of (personal) Trivia. Not only did I learn a lot about each of them (Monica was nicknamed Big Fat Goalie in field hockey, Chandler was scared of Michael Flatley, Lord of the Dance, Rachel’s favorite movie was actually Weekend at Bernie’s and not Dangerous Liaisons, Joey had an imaginary childhood friend called Maurice), but it also culminated in the most hilarious moment in the show’s history that reduced me to tears every time I would watch it.

In the said scene, the girls were stumped on the question regarding Chandler’s job. In a desperate attempt for an answer, Rachel shouted, “He’s a transponster!” that prompted Monica to scream, “That’s not even a word!”. It was succeeded with a huge howl of “Noooooooooo!!” when she realized that they just lost and had to give up their gorgeous apartment. (I seriously couldn’t stop laughing while writing this at the thought of Courteney Cox’s face.)

I could easily relate to Monica because I would get really competitive during any of these team party games (Charades, Pictionary, Scrabble, Hangman, Trivial Pursuit, Pinoy Henyo, even that Dribble Dribble Dribble balloon game in a Jollibee Kiddie Party, you name it). It wasn’t even about the prize, just the pure sense of false satisfaction I’d get knowing that I was better than someone on something. (Forgive me, I had really low self-esteem and needed constant validation.)

I was actually happy with the resurgence of these niche stores that provided the option of puzzles and board games as an alternative source of entertainment on a lazy Saturday night. Now if I could just find some really good challengers out there. (Yabang haha!)

2. The opening credits of this film alone was the ultimate 90’s nerd fantasy. Tokens from different games like Monopoly and Cluedo were floating around as if part of a geek’s hazy wet dream. You could laugh all you want, but only a few would understand the incredible happiness brought about by owning several red hotels on Boardwalk and Park Place.

3. I had always imagined Rachel McAdams as the iconic (and airhead) Regina George so it felt a bit weird to see her play somebody relatively smart for a change. Simply put, she was fantastic as Annie with her best bit involving an awkward shimmy to Third Eye Blind’s Semi-Charmed Life while she dorkily waved a loaded gun in front of some real thugs (and even took a selfie with the gun’s muzzle in her mouth). The humor stemmed from her character thinking that everything was still part of a game and the more clueless she was, the funnier the situation got.

Her energy here was matched by the usually sardonic Jason Bateman as Max, whose deadpan stares could mine laughs even in petty discussions about Tostitos Scoops.

Among the competent cast though, my favorite was Jesse Plemons whose neighbor Gary looked like a creepy version of Matt Damon by way of Phillip Seymour Hoffman. I really couldn’t understand why his seemingly sympathetic character was no longer invited in these game nights until he actually drew a picture of himself crying to represent The Green Mile. No, no, no. He would definitely not be part of my team.

4. I liked the go-for-broke silliness of the film, but I wish it was able to sustain its comedic rhythm all-throughout. It just needed more genius scenes like the one where Annie tried to remove a bullet from Max’s arm and ended up tapping on his bone before she realized that there was actually an exit wound.

I also enjoyed the mockery of action films when the glass tables here never really broke regardless of the number of bodies that crashed into them. The entire one-take egg chase around the mansion looked impressive, but just didn’t have the right energy to match earlier shenanigans.

5. Fake Denzel Washington was a great payoff to a running celebrity gag, but I laughed harder when the group was able to enumerate all of the actors that played The Hulk, except for Edward Norton. You could barely remember him in this role as well, right? The Incredible Hulk was actually the second film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and was directed by Louis Leterrier. His commercial debut film? The Transporter. (Nope, still not Chandler’s job.)

Rating: ★★★☆☆