LATE NIGHT (Nisha Ganatra, 2019)

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It was like Dr. Mindy Lahiri gave up her medical career and disappointed her Asian parents by becoming a comedy writer. Without people like her though, we wouldn’t have these hilarious movies, so you do you Mindy!

It’s also funny that I’ve always associated Emma Thompson’s best work with gorgeous period/costume dramas, but she’s just great in everything she does. I mean, I still think she should have at least gotten an Oscar nomination for her brilliant work in Love Actually.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

28 WEEKS LATER (Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, 2007)

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Unpopular opinion: I really liked this fast and furious (very much like its rage-infected zombies) sequel better than Danny Boyle’s critically-adored 28 Days Later.

I was hoping for a 28 Months Later with an Asian setting, but we already got the equally-enjoyable Train to Busan.

Rating: ★★★★☆

(Originally published November 11, 2018.)

THE UNBORN (David S. Goyer, 2009)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

It stopped being scary as soon as the possessed kid muttered the classic “Jumby wants to be born now” line. It had me in stitches.

I remember how lovely Odette Yustman looked in Cloverfield. I was not surprised with the gratuitous shower and underwear scenes.

I’m so over movies with twisting body parts and dead people doing the spider walk. Everything screams Asian horror rip-off.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published September 6, 2013.)

GUNI-GUNI (Tara Illenberger, 2012)

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My biggest problem was that you could easily guess the twist within the first 10 minutes. It wasn’t even a good twist to begin with so they had to pile several sub-plots that served as red herrings.

The movie didn’t offer anything new and hewed closely to the typical Asian horror genre (I did not see the Thai film “Alone” so I wasn’t sure if they copied parts or all of that one). This was the kind of movie where a girl with long hair covering her face and wearing a white gown would suddenly drop to the floor and crawl spider-like to her victim. The only reasonable explanation was that she idolized Sadako.

Completely lame and not-at-all scary.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published September 3, 2012.)

MISS GRANNY (Hwang Dong-hyuk, 2014)

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Miss Granny nga diba? So tungkol sa lola? Na merong paboritong apo? Tapos pinanood mo pa rin Javier! Ano iyak ka? Iyak ka ngayon?

I completely get why this Korean feel-good fantasy already had multiple successful Asian reincarnations. I can already imagine how this will work in a Pinoy setting.

Now I’m even more eager to see if Bebe Idol Sarah Geronimo and Nova Villa can match (or even exceed) the wonderful performances of the two leads here. Can’t wait!!

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published August 21, 2018.)

JO KOY: COMIN’ IN HOT (Shannon Hartman, 2019) – ★★★☆☆

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Asian and Latino stereotypes and accents, more Filipino childhood stories (including a hilarious bit on munggo), and the power of small dick energy make for an enjoyable hour of racist (but funny, “Hey, it’s just a joke!”) comedy.

Nerd alert: The Philippines wasn’t colonized by Spain for over 350 years (this one was actually easy for me to remember because it was 333). Also, unlike a quinceañera, a Filipina’s debut is celebrated on her 18th birthday.

Time to work on your credit, kabayans!!

Rating: ★★★☆☆

BLACKHAT (Michael Mann, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Blackhat:

1. The movie opened with a great sequence showing information traveling from various circuits and transistors until it finally triggered an explosion in a nuclear reactor.

2. After that scene, basically nothing happened onscreen for the next thirty minutes. That was one incredibly long bathroom break. I couldn’t believe this was from the director of The Insider, Heat, and Collateral (oh, wait).

3. Do you remember those badly-dubbed Chinese movies shown every Sunday morning on Channel 9? This movie had its own version of that. Only the Chinese characters were speaking Chinese. And it was still badly-dubbed.

4. Lust, Caution would always be one of my favorite Ang Lee films. I was so happy to see Tang Wei and Wang Leehom reunite here. Watch that movie and not just for the good (wink, wink) parts, ok?

5. Poor Viola Davis had to wear a horrible wig. She’s a lovely and smart woman. Why did she allow this kind of treatment from Hollywood?

6. Speaking of hair, how did Chris Hemsworth maintain that perpetually brushed up hair? Did they have industrial hairblowers in prison?

7. I loved the Asian tour with the movie jumping from Hong Kong to Macau to Malaysia and finally to Indonesia. I’d never seen Kowloon Station ever deserted, though.

8. One crowd scene had men pointing guns at each other and people barely noticing. It needed a gunfire before the stampede started. Really?

9. So many IT jargon. My head almost exploded.

10. If you want an exciting digital age thriller, you’d be better off watching the cheesy Sandra Bullock flick The Net. I couldn’t believe it was shown twenty years ago.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published January 25, 2015.)

BABY DRIVER (Edgar Wright, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Baby Driver:

1. That coffee shop scene early in the film where the barista smirked when Ansel Elgort said that his name was Baby reminded me of the time when I used to work as a manager for a customer service account in a call center. One of my basic tasks was to ensure that each associate got assigned an “appropriate”-sounding call name. The uniquely cool ones like Baby Juice or Shangri-La or Miracle Boy had to be changed into more “pleasant-sounding” generic nicknames. We also couldn’t use real names that sounded like terms of endearment such as Love, Sweetheart, Honey, and yes, just Baby (even if a quarter of our population probably used this as a name/nickname) lest callers began thinking that they actually dialled a phone sex hotline.

On a different note, I was so hooked on that B-A-B-Y song that I wanted to jump in my Subaru, put on my Wayfarer, and play that song on blast while driving around Commerce Ave. (okay, done with my social-climbing exercise for the day).

2. A lot of people would most likely look like an idiot doing that swaying dance routine with the windshield wipers, but Ansel had the right amount of charm to make it just the cutest thing ever. I could probably watch that one long continuous take of him singing and dancing during a coffee run on a loop for days. (Bonus na lang that he could also prepare a mean sandwich. Mukhang masarap sya.)

3. Aside from Monsters Inc. (“You and I are a team”), I was happy to see the references on my other faves here, like It’s Complicated, Fight Club, and The Little Rascals (although I still preferred the version of Alfalfa with his cowlick singing You Are So Beautiful to dear Darla).

4. Those impressive car stunts that could rival the ones in the Fast & Furious series! As if this movie wasn’t even cool and stylish enough already. More nganga lang ako. And that whole Tequila shoot-out. Worth the price of admission.

5. I knew that Jamie Foxx could not be trusted as soon as he showed up wearing that tacky King of Hearts sweater. I would rather trust that “puts the Asian in home invasion” guy even if he didn’t know the difference between Austin Powers’ Mike Meyers and Halloween’s Michael Meyers (or even Friday the 13th’s Jason Voorhees). Also, seeing those masks reminded me so much of the Betty Doll Bank Robbers from the underrated Sugar & Spice. Time for a rewatch.

6. Sorry Edgar Wright, but Prime Cruz beat you (twice!) on that colorful laundromat scene.

7. I had a bit of a problem with the last act when everything just went awry and people started growing a conscience. And inasmuch as I adored Debora (Lily Collins), I wasn’t completely sold on the romance and the idea that they fell in love even before their second date.

8. Baby cleverly used music to drown out the terrible memories of a traumatic event in his life. That definitely wouldn’t work with me since my playlist would mostly be weepies by Celine Dion and Sarah Geronimo huhuhu.

Rating: ★★★★☆

THE SHACK (Stuart Hazeldine, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Shack:

1. Like with most Christian films (e.g. God’s Not Dead), my entire viewing experience felt like getting continuously whacked on the head by a Bible for two hours until I eventually started speaking in tongues. My dear blessed brothers and sisters, please don’t get me wrong. I’m not averse to movies with heavy religious themes. It only becomes a problem whenever it feels like these beliefs are shoved down our throats (“It’s in the Bible so it must be true!”) and anybody with a dissenting opinion gets tagged as a sinner, an atheist, or in need of prayer and guidance.

I’m sorry, but I don’t need a sermon. I already have my mother for that.

(Speaking of, one of her biggest disappointments was that she asked me to join our local parish’s Youth for Christ group and my only takeaway from the youth camp was that tinola tasted better with sayote instead of papaya. Susmaryosep!)

2. The story here was pretty much straightforward. It was a father’s (a flat Sam Worthington) spiritual journey in search of closure for the brutal murder of his youngest daughter. His healing trail included lessons on being less judgmental, acquiring wisdom through strength of faith, and finding actual forgiveness in his heart. I actually thought it could have been told more interestingly (and at a more reasonable thirty minutes) in an episode of Flying House (less the brutal murder, of course).

3. This entire Hallmark meets Lifetime movie wouldn’t have happened if he just drove properly and followed the Stop sign. In one scene, he also accidentally fell in the snow and hit his head on the pavement. Like what the late, great Inday Badiday said, “Careful, careful”.

4. I liked how the Holy Trinity was gender neutral and represented different ethnicities. God was played by Octavia Spencer (did her revised contract require a pie reference every single time?) while Jesus and the Holy Spirit (who collected tears) looked like a Middle Eastern man and an Asian lady respectively. I didn’t read the book so I wasn’t aware if they were written as such or if this was one of those progressive Hollywood castings.

5. Paradise (or was that the Garden of Eden?) lived up to its name with such a gorgeous set design that reminded me of those technicolor sceneries in What Dreams May Come.

6. I honestly felt a bit dizzy from all the spiritual life lessons that were spewed one after the other (“When all you see is your pain, you lose sight of Me”). Simple chores (hobbies?) like baking, fishing, and gardening suddenly turned into Sunday school lectures.

I didn’t break out in hives and there was no burning sensation after watching though so that was a good sign.

7. Wait, why was he even allowed in heaven if he killed his own father? Shouldn’t he have been partying with Lucy and the rest of the fallen angels instead? Cue God Must Have Spent a Little More Time On You.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆