PARASITE (Bong Joon-ho, 2019)

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Wasak na naman. 💔💔💔

Rating: ★★★★★

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THE GREAT HACK (Karim Amer, Jehane Noujaim, 2019)

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So the internet gods are listening in on my private conversations with friends? That the microphones and cameras on my laptop and smartphone are picking up details that create my data profile for social media sites to accurately predict my behaviour and interests? It wasn’t merely a coincidence that after I mentioned a planned trip to Tokyo next year, my Facebook feed immediately got bombarded by sponsored Klook ads offering discounted tour packages? Oh, please!! We all signed up for this. We can’t make our lives public on the worldwide web and then fear that strangers know way too much about us, right? It’s time to admit that we’re basically living in a supersized Black Mirror episode.

Although this documentary didn’t contain a lot of new information (especially if one had been following all the discussions related to Brexit, the Trump campaign, Cambridge Analytica, and Facebook-gate), I was still fascinated by the thought that these so-called villains preyed on the “persuadables” and successfully swayed them to their desired results. Will that stop me from taking the next “Which Sex and the City character are you” quiz? My Miranda side is screaming “DON’T!!”, but I’m sure my gullible Charlotte side wins in the end.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

MIDSOMMAR (Ari Aster, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Midsommar:

1. Let me preface this by stating that I would never recommend this film to just about anyone. My high rating wasn’t really a reflection of its overall quality. Rather, it spoke more about the perverse pleasure that I had watching old people’s faces smashed to smithereens or the silly thought that a horny teenage girl used her pubic hair trimmings as a vital ingredient to a love elixir (or better put, organic gayuma that would put all those Quiapo-made ones to shame).

Pretty sure a good number of you might find this misadvertised (?) horror movie reaaaaally slow and excruciatingly boring (even worse, lacking a decent payoff). I should know, I felt the exact same grief with Ari Aster’s feature length debut film Hereditary and its snail-paced two hours (plus knockoff Paranormal Activity 3 ending). You had been properly warned.

2. I mentioned before that Get Out gave me that creepy Shake, Rattle & Roll II: Aswang vibe where Daniel Kaluuya’s character Chris resembled the offering of the month Portia, played by local horror princess Manilyn Reynes. Well this one took it to a whole new level by increasing the number of Portias and cranking up the overall weirdness (and this coming from someone who had seen both versions of Wicker Man).

I had never been this scared of villagers wearing all-white outfits (imagine the boxes of Tide that they consumed!!) and faint, chanting sounds that would never be part of my ASMR nightly playlist. Because of this movie, Sweden definitely dropped to the bottom of my travel checklist, just a little above Slovakia (no thanks to you Hostel!!).

3. There were several moments here that required suspension of disbelief because nobody in their right minds would see a body freefall from a cliff and not run as far away as possible from that crime scene (no, not even if one would win a Pulitzer for Anthropology by writing about that cultish ritual). And who wouldn’t question the type of meat pies that were being served to them, especially one that had a golden pube? (This reminded me again of another Manilyn classic, the Zombies episode of Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang where they got served a special soup filled with hair, nails, and ultimately “MATAAAAAA!!”).

Why didn’t these people ever feel the need to… wait for it, get out?!

4. Still, the most disturbing bits for me were the ones where Dani Gurl (Florence Pugh) suffered from panic attacks caused by the trauma of her bipolar sister killing their entire family (the sight of the sister with that exhaust tube taped around her mouth was the stuff of nightmares).

One of my favorite scenes was this smooth transition of Dani exiting the living room and ending up hyperventilating in the plane’s lavatory (my other favorite was that disorienting upside down shot of the car traversing the country road, reminiscent of Martin Scorsese’s Bringing Out the Dead).

Pugh’s a terrific actress and effortlessly made me feel the pain that she was going through. Seriously, I needed some high-grade Ativan as well to calm me down after her breakdowns. 

(Although I did find it weird that Dani experienced a lot of grisly stuff yet only threw up when she witnessed her “cheating” boyfriend. Iba talaga ang effect ng pag-ibig.)

5. Happy to see The Good Place’s Chidi (William Jackson Harper) playing a variation of his geeky TV persona on the big screen. Wait, he wasn’t too smart in this one pala considering where his character (and leg) ended up.

6. When the one of the elders used the tambyolo to pick out the village’s other 90-year offering, was it a direct reference to Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery?

7. Moral of the story: Always treat your partner right or you might end up drugged inside a hollowed-out bear while burning in a cult’s yellow temple. You had been warned, Gerald Anderson.

Rating: ★★★★☆

AZIZ ANSARI: RIGHT NOW (Spike Jonze, 2019)

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“Look, we’re all shitty people, okay? And we have our blind spots. And we become aware, and we slowly get better. We’re all on a journey. And if you’re one of these people sitting there, like, ‘I’m not shitty. I’m aware of all the marginalized groups and everything’, you’re extra shitty, okay?”

As if Master of None wasn’t proof enough that Aziz Ansari’s a comedy genius. This stand-up special served as a razor-sharp commentary on our current social climate and a deeply personal look at a “reborn” comic.

Also, The Office will never be the same again.

Rating: ★★★★☆

THE LION KING (Jon Favreau, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

Some notes:

• Excellent (proper term: hyperrealistic) visual effects reminiscent of The Jungle Book. I watched this in 3D/4DX and I was always close to pissing my pants whenever there were close-ups of Scar and the hyenas. It felt like I was in a safari tour where our bus had no protective grills. Loved the wildebeests stampede, though. (Parents, you might want to reconsider bringing your really young kids.)

• Although I didn’t have problems with all the talking, the lack of emotions was more evident during the singing parts. The expected magic of the musical numbers got zapped out of them due to the limitations. The “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” sequence mostly involved a lot of running. “Be Prepared” sounded like a series of chants. The only bit that worked was “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” that served as a theme during a montage and didn’t really involve much of Simba and Nala overtly singing. (Would this remake have worked better without the song numbers? Hmmm…)

• Loved Donald Glover’s voice as Simba, but I was even more impressed with Billy Eichner as Timon. I eagerly waited for “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and it didn’t disappoint. Seth Rogen was also a great choice as Pumbaa. Plus, James Earl Jones is James Earl Jones.

• A bit disappointed that Timon didn’t don a hula skirt, but they more than made up for it with that hilarious “Be Our Guest” bit and the #NoToBodyShaming scene.

• I really liked how it addressed (sometimes mocked) some of the minor misses (?) in the original: when Scar didn’t knock down Zazu when he was supposed to tell the tribe about the stampede, that Pumbaa and Timon didn’t age at all during the “Hakuna Matata” montage (where we finally heard the word farted!!), etc.

• Shenzi as the leader of the hyena pack? Nala getting more scenes proving that she’s a worthy future Queen? And that glorious showdown between them? Now that was an awesome display of girl power that didn’t even need a lame original song (yes, looking at you Jasmine 2019).

• Missed Ed. I loved Ed in the original.

• Did we really need a lot of those extended sequences? The rat that Scar was supposed to have for lunch had an incredibly long screen time. And that entire fur flying sequence (although a good display of the circle of life) felt like forever (and reminded me of Forrest Gump’s feather).

• I completely lost it when Simba and Nala’s baby was raised during the end and somebody screamed, “Blue Ivy!!”. Now that’s the power of Beyonce’s spirit.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

MA (Tate Taylor, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Ma:

1. In most (if not all) of her films, Octavia Spencer displayed such an amiable and trustworthy aura that one wouldn’t suspect that her character might be a few fries short of a Happy Meal (or in the case of The Help, that she was already feeding you the most delicious shit pie). I would usually have problems with films that made me sympathize with demented people (read: psychotic murderers), but it also spoke a lot about the brilliance of the actors that played them (e.g. Anthony Perkins in Psycho, Matt Damon in The Talented Mr. Ripley, Kathy Bates in Misery, to name a few).

In one scene from this ridiculously trashy yet insanely enjoyable psychological thriller, Sue Ann aka Ma (Spencer) was smiling inside her car when a bunch of kids threw beer at her window. It brought back memories of being bullied in school and feeling like a pathetic loner slash loser that she just spontaneously burst into tears. Needless to say, I cried along with her, completely forgetting that she lured underaged kids in her basement and emotionally tormented one of them with a loaded gun just a few minutes earlier. Why’d you do this to me, Ma?

2. If that wasn’t enough to make you an instant fan of Spencer, she also had this FaceTime scene where she said “Why wait for the weekend? It’s five o’clock somewhere!” then let out a deranged cackle that both creeped me out and made me laugh out loud. I hadn’t even touched on Ma’s crazy dance moves that included the Funky Town robot and some can-crushing set to Kung Fu Fighting. It was easy to understand why these kids (that weirdly resembled a grown-up version of the Stranger Things cast) would party with this stranger. I mean I could be best friends with Ma, hideous maroon beret notwithstanding.

3. Diana Silvers (also good in Booksmart) looked like a cross between Anne Hathaway and Gaby Hoffman, no? Ooh, time for a Now and Then rewatch.

And speaking of lookalikes, the girl that played Ashley who would always pretend to pass out in parties could pass as Marilyn Manson’s daughter (ironically enough, she played a pastor’s daughter in this movie).

4. “You can smoke until you’re twenty-five and then quit and nothing bad will happen” sounded like an advice that I’d give as a parent. Which would also explain why I probably didn’t have any kids.

5. I had never seen this many number of syringes piercing the skin since Amanda was thrown in the Needle Pit during Saw II. I was just thankful that I still had quick reflexes to shield my eyes or I probably would have passed out in my seat.

(And don’t get me started on those stitched lips.)

6. Seeing a naked Luke Evans almost getting his penis cut off reminded me so much of that schlocky local revenge film Loretta, where Ruffa Gutierrez played a version of Lorena Bobbitt. Yes, it was the “Take it! Take it!” role where her MMFF Best Actress win lasted for a good thirty minutes (RIP Viveka Babajee).

But going back to that penis, was it prosthetic? Should I assume that Evans didn’t have the guts to have his real manhood anywhere near a kitchen knife unlike the fearless Carlos Morales in Laro sa Baga?

Also, what was that canine blood transfusion for? Was it because he was being such a bitch to her in high school?

7. So Sue Ann aka Ma worked as a veterinary technician/assistant. Please tell me that wasn’t the reason why her dog only had three legs huhu. (That moment when she was holding a pair of clippers made me feel really queasy. For nothing, but still.)

8. Speaking of Kathy Bates, one scene here reminded me so much of her Annie Wilkes. It was when Sue Ann aka Ma arrived from work and noticed that her cat figurines weren’t facing in the direction that she left them. Was that kind of attention to detail and obsessiveness a sign of being a murderous psycho? I could relate because I would also turn into one whenever people messed with my stuff. You have been warned, pakialameras!!

Rating: ★★★☆☆