LUCE (Julius Onah, 2019)

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Two brilliant black actors go head-to-head to teach everyone what it’s like to be black in America.

P.S. Kelvin Harrison, Jr. is a star.

Rating: ★★★★☆

AD ASTRA (James Gray, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

Grabe ‘teh! Good call talaga na hindi natuloy ang plan ko manuod sa IMAX with Laser ng Evia. Dun lang ako sa Dolby Atmos cinema nila pero nahilo na ako at di nakahinga sa scene na nag-freefall si perpetually sad astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) from outer space to earth.

Akala ko aantukin lang ako sa film kasi medyo traumatized pa ako sa pretentiousness (ay sorry, profundity daw) ng Interstellar at Solaris (the Soderbergh remake), but I survived naman with my major buttered popcorn and large iced tea from Taters (very Krissy lang, sana i-sponsor na nila ako). I can’t say the same for the rest of the audience. Meron mga mahimbing ang tulog habang yung isa eh walang ginawa kundi mag-check ng cellphone (pasalamat siya at five rows ahead siya sa akin kaya di ako pumatol).

I guess tama yung mga nagsabi na this might not be for everyone. Puno kasi ng introspective voiceovers about the meaning of life and relationships (“In the end, the son suffers the sins of the father”) ang pelikula kaya medyo slow ang pacing. Halos bumagsak ako nung Philo classes ko back in college kaya hirap na hirap sumabay yung utak ko dito.

Meron naman mga major ganap every so often (yung mala-Mad Max: Fury Road lunar chase scene, yung baboon na puno ng angst, etc.). Masaya din mag-isip kung ano yung mga space-related films ng cast (every time nagsasalita sa recorded video si Liv Tyler, naaalala ko ang Armageddon at kung bakit mas gusto ko ang Deep Impact).

Natawa ako dun sa space shuttle na naghatid kay Roy sa moon kasi very Cebu Pacific at lahat may bayad. Kulang na lang sumigaw yung FA ng “Snacks for sale!”. Interesting din na ang daming mahahabang hallways sa lahat ng hubs dito, including yung sa Mars. Mayaman talaga ang Amerika. Tapos yung futuristic room na may moving images reminded me of Black Mirror’s Fifteen Million Merits. Nung blooming flowers yung background, sobrang ganda at pwede na ma-post sa One Perfect Shot (o alam na, strong contender na naman si Hoyte van Hoytema for Best Cinematography sa Oscars next year).

But the best thing about this was Brad. Ang expressive ng mga mata niya lalo na sa scene na nananawagan siya sa father niya (the always masungit Tommy Lee Jones) na matagal na di nagpaparamdam. Imagine mo na lang kung gaano kahirap maghanap ng missing tatay sa bawat sulok ng mundo. Eh paano pa kung sa Neptune diba? Walang-wala lahat ng daddy issues ninyo.

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: ★★☆☆☆