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The Spotless Mind

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

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: ★★☆☆☆

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TRIP UBUSAN: THE LOLAS VS ZOMBIES (Mark Reyes, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

To say that this was inspired by Train to Busan would be an understatement since it directly lifted several key scenes (and characters) from that Korean sleeper hit. In this Kalyeserye version though, Lola Nidora (Wally Bayola) played the role of Gong Yoo (shoray ni lola!), also bitten by a zombie in the end before she jumped (was pushed?) off a moving speedboat. (Don’t worry, the saltwater magically cured her for the requisite happy ending.)

We rarely get local zombie movies (either we’re not technologically advanced to accidentally unleash a new virus strain or our bodies were just auto-immuned from all the pollution and dirt in our country) so I was a bit excited to watch this one. Unfortunately, it relied too much on slapstick humor that it ended up without a sense of danger or threat on any of the characters all throughout.

In one scene, the ragtag group (mostly Eat Bulaga alums) just happened to pass by a welding shop and it took a miraculous two-minute montage for them to fortify their bus. In another, the barbed wire separating the humans from the zombies was (questionably) raised so that Angelika dela Cruz could easily run to her zombie husband for a dramatic reconciliation.

Nothing here really made sense. Which would have been fine if at least the gags were funny. The three lolas pulled all the weight and the drop in energy was noticeable whenever they were offscreen. I would love to see them next in a family drama. Mukhang magaling magpaiyak ang JoWaPao. Until then, we’d have to be contented with this zombie movie where the undead extras try their best to avoid a rampaging bus.

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: ★★☆☆☆

UNEXPECTEDLY YOURS (Cathy Garcia-Molina, 2017)

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I think I just had a Classic Pare Titos and Titas of Manila moment while watching this movie since I couldn’t help myself from twitterpating (kilig lang yan, inartehan ko) over such a cute couple. Nope, not talking about JoshLia (even if Joshua Garcia and Julia Barretto were also really charming here). I was of course referring to the Sharon Cuneta-Robin Padilla love team that still showcased such palpable chemistry twenty five years after Maging Sino Ka Man.

I previously mentioned that I liked this combo much better than the Sharon-Gabby and Sharon-Richard pairing because the very Pinoy langit-lupa theme (and all the conflicts that stemmed from this social class gap) always made for great dramedy. It was even put to good use here because it was an older people romance straight out of the Nancy Meyers universe.

This should have been the comeback vehicle of Ate Shawie since her performance here just felt more relaxed and natural compared to the one in Ang Pamilyang Hindi Lumuluha. She displayed great comedic timing, especially while verbally sparring with Robin (mega kilig yung sagutan nila ng “Adik!” and “Sa’yo!” waaah!). Her controlled emotions during her dramatic moments were even reminiscent of her grand slam performance in Madrasta. I really liked the scene where she was crying out of self-pity (“Matanda na ako…”) because her realizations were genuinely painful to watch.

I wish the movie focused more on their romance since the JoshLia story actually served as a distraction. It would have worked still without their love angle since the young ones were so believable as their blood relatives (Julia as Sharon’s daughter and Joshua as Robin’s nephew). Also, all the millennial discussion including a cringey FGD just felt off. It had just as much insight about this generation as any episode of Survivor: Millennials vs Gen X.

Speaking of Julia, I was really surprised at how much she had continuously improved in terms of acting (even after her good work in Love You to the Stars and Back). She had this lovely scene with Sharon where she was telling her why she didn’t want to end up just like her mother and she definitely held her own against the Megastar. The Claudine comparisons would be inevitable, but with the right projects, she should be able to step out of her aunt’s shadow soon.

In one scene, Julia was wearing a shirt that had the word “MIST” on the right shoulder and “AKES” on the left side. I thought, “Wow, cool! A gay shirt saying that she’s a mist!”. It took me a full twenty seconds to realize that it actually spelled “mistakes”. Bwiset! Chalk that up to another Titos and Titas of Manila moment.

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: ★★★★☆

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (Kenneth Branagh, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

It just wasn’t as fun as guessing if Professor Plum killed Colonel Mustard in the conservatory with a candlestick. Even with a cast of game Academy Award winners and nominees (plus some popular ingenues), this murder-mystery was a drag to watch. The clunky big reveal with the killers taking turns at stabbing the victim while dramatic music played in the background was so ridiculous that it made me laugh out loud in my seat.

Kenneth Branagh spent too much time mugging at the camera as the famously moustached Hercule Poirot. He obviously directed himself to showcase himself in a role that was probably better suited for Johnny Depp. Speaking of, I liked how they pulled off another Scream with the biggest name (and probably most annoying one) in the cast getting killed first (and disappointingly, last).

Why did the movie waste a good fifteen minutes off the train, just to establish the investigative skills of Poirot? (For more mugging, natch.) I also couldn’t understand the choice of overhead shots with the audience looking at several characters’ puyos while they discussed a bloody murder. The twists themselves? Lame and predictable. Forget Sherlock Holmes, even Nancy Drew would have done a much better job in solving this crime.

In one scene, Poirot accidentally stepped on a pile of shit and since he wanted everything to be in order, he stepped on it again with his other foot. Perfectly summed up this entire viewing experience (besides, trainwreck was just too easy).

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

JUSTICE LEAGUE (Zack Snyder, 2017)

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Poor Amy Adams! I had not seen her this lost since Princess Giselle got magically transported to modern day New York. She was in full “gunning for a sixth Oscar nomination” mode in a DC movie that suddenly wanted to be a lighter, funnier version of its recently dreary efforts.

For the record, I was one of thirteen people that actually liked Batman v Superman AND Suicide Squad. This one just took forever for the superheroes to assemble and I felt as sad as Ben Affleck’s Batman when I couldn’t really understand all that Mother Box story (wait, didn’t we see these cubes as well in The Avengers?).

At least Ezra Miller was funny as Flash even if he had the exact same sequences that were previously done by Evan Peters as Quicksilver (and none of them even close to that awesome Time in a Bottle in Days of Future Past). I wouldn’t mind just a Flash and Wonder Woman road trip movie ala Thelma and Louise (or even Crossroads). Hopefully, without any boxes this time.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

THE SNOWMAN (Tomas Alfredson, 2017)

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With this and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, future movies by Alfredson should always come with a “May Cause Drowsiness” warning. The only thing that kept me awake was its R-16 rating’s promise of possible gratuitous nudity and sex. Unfortunately, it was for the graphic violence.

At least they made the right decision of casting Michael Fassbender as a detective named Harry Hole (bwahahaha!!) trapped in a snow-filled landscape. Everyone who had seen his previous films would know that shrinkage was the least of his problems.

I thought I was hallucinating when the spirit of Val Kilmer (remember him?) showed up onscreen. Best line in this supposed thriller: “I think it’s the falling snow that sets the killer off.” Seryoso?!

Do you wanna watch The Snowman? It doesn’t have to be The Snowman. (Ok, bye…)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

PAKI (Giancarlo Abrahan, 2017)

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Dexter Doria would always be one of my childhood nightmares. She’d usually play the maldita stepmother, aunt, or neighbor on TV who was always ready to smack the living daylights out of a poor child that would go against her will (or break her precious Divisoria china). Her mere presence made me pee in my salawal countless times.

It was refreshing to see her front and center (and playing against type) as a lonely matriarch putting up a facade to hold her dysfunctional family together. Such a subtle and controlled performance that was a far cry from her previous hysterical roles. Lovely, truly lovely.

I really enjoyed the family dynamics here and I could easily identify with most of them (even the most mundane thing like the great Shamaine Buencamino performing her beauty regimen just felt so relatable and authentic). There were moments that bordered on Pinoy soap opera, but hello, guilty pleasure!

I might be one of the very few people that wasn’t impressed with Dagitab. It was technically beautiful, but the characters felt cold and distant (like they were trapped in a European indie romance). On the other hand, this movie provided the warmth of Pinoy characters that I’d usually fall for. It made me want to hug my own family immediately after watching. Sigh.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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