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: ★★★☆☆

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LOVE, ROSIE (Christian Ditter, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Love, Rosie:

1. This movie was based on Where Rainbows End by Cecelia Ahern, the same author of P.S. I Love You that was also adapted into a movie starring Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler. Although completely different in treatment, they now both serve as guilty pleasures.

2. I loved the excessive use of pop songs that highlighted each turning point in the characters’ lives. Elvis Costello’s I’ll Never Fall in Love Again, Beyonce’s Crazy in Love, Elton John’s Tiny Dancer, Lily Allen’s F*ck You (Very Much), KT Tunstall’s Suddenly I See. Heck, even Asereje by Las Ketchup finally meant something. C’mon, I’m sure you still know the dance steps to this one.

3. The movie could be easily faulted as cliched and contrived and these were true to some extent. It was a gorgeously-shot Richard Curtis rom-com with the requisite (predictable) happy ending stinking a mile away.

4. Lily Collins was just too charming here. She anchored the entire film and prevented it from being completely silly even if she was required to run around handcuffed to a bedpost. Or had to spread her legs to find a missing condom.

5. I know the main cast looked really good but a decade supposedly passed and they didn’t seem to have aged a bit. Unless having thicker eyebrows actually meant you were older.

6. Why are some people so stupid to make the biggest mistake of falling in love with their best friend? Haven’t they learned anything from Budjoy?

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published January 14, 2015.)

I LOVE YOU, HATER (Giselle Andres, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on I Love You, Hater:

1. In the words of the great Beyoncé, “Honesty is such a lonely word. Everyone is so untrue. Honesty is hardly ever heard. And mostly what I need from you.” (I know this was a Billy Joel original, but I’m a self-proclaimed millennial.)

Joko (Joshua Garcia) lived in his own world of lies. He fabricated a story to his family about working in New York and then he pretended to be a swishy beshie so that he could apprentice (read: be the next Darla) for Digital Empress Sasha Imperial (Kris Aquino, in her most challenging role as herself).

On the other hand, Zoey (Julia Barretto) with all of her emotional baggage that stemmed from father abandonment issues was allergic to lies. Would these two morally opposite poles attract (even with a pretend gender conflict)? We wouldn’t need an alien intervention to know the answer to this one.

In the spirit of honesty and the movie’s #SaTrueLang hashtag (wait, was that redundant?), let me say that I’m no hater, but I did not love this one at all. Similar to Giselle Andres’ last directorial effort Loving in Tandem, the weak and muddled plot could not be salvaged by the enthusiastic performances of its leads.

2. This might sound like a Julia Barretto Appreciation Post because I would be raving like a lovestruck lunatic over the next few sentences so be warned.

In last year’s Love You to the Stars and Back, I hailed her performance as the second coming of Queen Claudine Barretto. With this movie, she just officially earned her right to finally step out of her aunt’s shadow (yes, this would be the last time that I would compare her to Ate Clau).

In one scene, Zoey (who looked gorgeous with her wet, slicked back hair) attended the wedding of her half-sister where her absentee father (Ricardo Cepeda) proudly bragged about his “only daughter”. It was such a sad moment and you could see the terrible pain and humiliation in Zoey’s eyes, especially when the tears started to well up while she stormed out of the event (the succeeding scene where she sobbed in her room wasn’t even needed).

When Zoey admitted her feelings for Joko and then discovered his ruse, their confrontation scene (“Di ko alam kung bakit ako nagmahal…”) was an acting highlight for Julia. What started as an iyak-tawa delivery turned into full-blown rage and a definite nganga (did this girl really do that?) moment for me. I wonder how much of the behind the scenes issues and tension contributed to that brilliant scene. Hugot kung hugot, you go girl! Also, those seemingly naughty stares while she teased Joko were just too funny. Mahusay talaga siya dito.

(Side note: Joshua could still cry on cue, but his performance here seemed to lack the usual sensitivity and depth.)

3. Kris was surprisingly tolerable here and her supporting role was obviously stretched to ensure that she would get as much screen time as JoshLia. I guess it didn’t hurt that most of her scenes involved Sasha shooting her vlogs (for National Bookstore and iFlix, no less) so it was definitely in her wheelhouse. She also had a subplot about an Alzheimer’s-stricken father (Ronaldo Valdez, wonderful as always) and was given a couple of dramatic highlights (one closely resembled the McDo Karen ad) that probably would have been more effective if she weren’t trying so damn hard to squeeze her tearducts (as in literal na more pikit para pumatak ang luha).

If anything, I really loved her joyously colorful Happy Pride outfits. I wonder how many glitter unicorns had to die just to make them.

4. Speaking of pride, I was shocked to see an unrecognizable Mark Neumann playing one half of a gay couple (the other half was Markki Stroem). He was built up as a teen idol in Artista Academy and here he looked like a lipstick lesbian who might also own a Mio.

Why wasn’t the couple even invited when Zoey and Joko went to O Bar (billed here as Rave)? You know this was a work of fiction because in that scene where a Sarah Geronimo impersonator was performing, nobody from the crowd was doing the viral Tala dance moves.

5. Joshua must really be trying to fill the void left by John Lloyd Cruz because he had a Biogesic-like scene where he took Enervon and a few seconds later an extra was tasked to say “Ang taas ng energy mo!!”. Agad-agad??

I laughed out really loud though when promdi Joko called out the terrible food served in the wedding by saying “Hilaw nga nila sinerve yung steak eh. May dugo-dugo pa. Gross!” Nyahahaha!

6. My favorite scene was when Joko’s clan threw a surprise birthday party (complete with papier-mache lechon and cake) for Zoey. He then offered his father to dance with her and said, “Pahiram ko muna sa’yo ang tatay ko.” It was touching, heartfelt, and made me wish that Zoey had a standalone movie.

7. Burning questions:

• Why was Zoey wearing those short shorts (albeit stylish) for an important job interview?

• Would a Digital Empress really hire somebody that she met in an elevator and gave basic graphic design suggestions? More importantly, why couldn’t she afford to pay (or give a shoutout) for a decent logo design?

• Were those Instagram pictures intentionally Photoshopped to make Zoey’s father and his family look like they were levitating directly across the Leaning Tower of Pisa?

• Whenever Joko would get a hard-on, where was the actual bukol? What was he trying to cover?

• Why did Sasha give Joko some National Bookstore gift certificates and ask him to buy a new outfit? (Made out of cartolina, glitter, and glue gun?)

• When Zoey’s friend encouraged her crush on “gay” Joko by shouting “Wag matakot, maki-beki!”, was she really being a supportive friend or a staunch LGBT advocate?

• With the movie already running far too long, did we really need a recap of their sweetest moments before the climactic… hug?

8. “Kumain ka ng torta para lumaki kang borta.” And yet in my dyslexic brain it kept coming up as “Kumain ka ng borta na may malaking torta.” #SaTrueLang tayo besh.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

FIFTY SHADES OF GREY (Sam Taylor-Johnson, 2015)

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My notes on Fifty Shades of Grey:

1. The lights in the cinema dimmed and all of the women started screaming. I knew then that this would be a dreadful experience. If you’re a fan of the book, nothing should stop you from watching anyway.

2. Why was Christian Grey giving me this American Psycho vibe? Actually, I would have preferred it if he were more of Patrick Bateman. For all his sexual fetishes, he still looked completely bland and…normal.

3. I guess the biggest problem was casting Jamie Dornan in the lead role. The character of Grey needed someone more charismatic or appealing. Don’t get me wrong, Dornan looked good but I was expecting a stunner. Grey should be someone so magnetic that he can lead you in his playroom of whips and chains and you would be the one to offer getting tied up. And what’s with that weird European accent?

4. On the opposite end of the spectrum was Dakota Johnson. She was just so gorgeous onscreen (like Charlotte Gainsbourg’s younger sister) that I probably would have enjoyed a role reversal. I obviously haven’t read the book so here’s hoping that happened in the next two sequels. I have to say that I wasn’t a fan of her armpits, though. They looked roughly-shaven and yes, smelly. (I’m judgmental like that.)

5. So most of the sex scenes had to be blurred or blocked because apparently we’re old enough to do it but not to actually see it. And this time, we don’t even get to blame the MTRCB because the film distributor took it upon themselves to censor the movie before submitting it for classification. We’ve seen a lot of frontal nudity and sex scenes with an R-16 rating lately (even Lust, Caution was shown in its entirety here and that was truly erotic). I really didn’t understand this move at all.

6. I mean sex was obviously the theme (and selling point) of the movie. Where else can you hear words like butt plug? Once you start blocking that out, then what would be left? The story? Who watches porn for the story?

7. Even Christian Grey thinks that Beyonce by Beyonce should have won the Grammy for Album of the Year.

8. I loved the casting of Jennifer Ehle and Marcia Gay Harden as the too young to be the couple’s mothers. If the story had more of them, I bet they would have made the movie more interesting.

9. “Laters, baby” not only made me cringe but it also elicited a lot of shrieking typical in a KathNiel movie. Calm down, ladies!

10. Grey knew how to do a mean braid. Beyonce and braiding. It must be very easy to convince him to transition to the other side.

11. Did the room really have to be so dark during the contract signing? Were they owls?

12. If you want much better movies dealing with the same themes, I suggest you watch Steven Shainberg’s Secretary (where James Spader also played a Mr. Grey) or the previously mentioned Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution. All of the things in this movie would be considered child stuff with those films.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS (Stephen Frears, 2016)

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My notes on Florence Foster Jenkins:

1. I remember reading this incredibly malicious yet equally juicy blind item about a popular local young star who ordered that hundreds of mannequins be placed in her concert venue to mislead the general public in believing that she actually had a sold out show. It sounded incredibly silly when I first read it, but after seeing this movie, it might not have been too far-fetched.

Florence (Meryl Streep, a hoot) was a rich socialite in the ’40s who clearly thought of herself as a really talented opera singer (in reality, the New York Times dubbed her the Worst Singer in the World). Without her knowledge, her husband St. Clair (a terrific Hugh Grant) would often pay a select group of audience members to cheer and applaud during her shows (one old lady even said “I don’t hear very well, but I know Madame Florence is magical”).

It must be true that what the eyes don’t see (or the ears don’t hear?), the heart doesn’t grieve over.

2. I really liked the fact that St. Clair (I thought it was Sinclair up until the end credits rolled) was also an unsuccessful artist (he moaned over the fact that he had never played the lead in Hamlet). It was like watching two losers who were bonded by their failures find happiness in each other. His blatant love and respect for her (notwithstanding a mistress on the side) also made his being an enabler a bit more understandable.

3. With a voice that defied medical science, one could easily conclude that Florence was the Anne Curtis of her time, but the biggest difference was that Anne acknowledged the fact that she couldn’t sing that well (or to some people, at all). Florence might have shared the exact same passion but she was simply oblivious to her blatant lack of vocal skills.

Even worse, she was surrounded by greedy (practical?) people that were all in on the joke. On the flipside, would you rather be the heartless cynic willing to speak the truth and crush the dreams of a dying old lady?

4. I suddenly missed the American Idol auditions where contestants entered the room like they were the second coming of Adele or Beyoncé, but ended up instead as part of the show’s gag reel because they couldn’t hit a single note. Were their delusions of grandeur coming from vainglorious egotism or enablers from home that declared them the best singers ever?

Search for Mary Roach, James Lewis, and Isadora Furman. You can thank me later.

5. Momma Meryl obviously had a lot of fun in the role and this would probably be what the late Julia Child sounded like while singing in the shower. In one scene, she had the audacity to stop a pianist from playing because he was “raping her ears” and it was made even funnier delivered by the greatest actress of all time pretending to be the worst singer of all time. Her final aria (with the realization that people were laughing at her) really broke my heart.

With all of that said, Amy Adams was robbed of an Oscar nomination.

6. “People may say I couldn’t sing, but no one can ever say I didn’t sing.” Sounds like a good tagline for the next leg of the Annebisyosa Tour.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

FIFTY SHADES DARKER (James Foley, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on 50 Shades Darker:

1. After two films, my biggest problem with this series remained to be Jamie Dornan in the role of Christian Grey. Not even his six-pack abs (from his pommel horse workouts?) could distract me from the fact that he wasn’t the incredibly sexy and attractive billionaire lothario that was promised in this ultimate female wish fulfillment fantasy.

He just looked incredibly bored, bland (ooh, like vanilla!), and forgettable amidst all the kinky fuckery. No wonder the lady in front of me was trying to Google him way after the movie had started.

2. Did the director really know the target audience of this chick flick? Weirdly, it actually felt like he was trying to draw in the male crowd with the copious breast exposures of Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele (definitely not the nude johnson women were expecting) and endless scenes of having her panties taken off (I couldn’t understand why she wore them in the first place when she was obviously allergic to them).

Also, why did Christian keep his pants on in almost every sex scene? Asking for a friend.

3. I liked this slightly better than the first (in no shape or form a compliment) simply because it fully embraced its seemingly trashy roots. While the first one desperately wanted to be an artful BDSM movie, this one didn’t even bother trying.

Instead it gave us lots of gratuitous nudity and sex (I choked on my Zagu when she asked him to kiss her on the pepe, how romantic!, and let’s not get started on that elevator finger scene) and taught us the proper usage of vaginal beads, spreader bars, and sensual oils (although that coconut oil scene reminded me so much of Jean Garcia in Impaktita that I was grateful Anastasia’s torso didn’t break free from her waist).

4. Relieved to hear that he had moved on from his Beyonce fetish and the soundtrack now included catchy tunes from Sia, Zayn feat. Taylor Swift, and my favorite track Bom Bidi Bom by Nick Jonas feat. Nicki Minaj. Now that was a credible Xerex playlist.

5. That art exhibit by Anastasia’s creepy friend/stalker was, well, creepy. I also felt bad that Christian purchased all of the artwork but we never really saw any of them anywhere in his apartment.

6. Wait, so he wanted to have rough sex with women that reminded him so much of his abusive mother? For the love of Sigmund Freud, eek!

Was there also a psychosexual interpretation of him having the Chronicles of Riddick poster in his bedroom? Would this explain why Vin Diesel chose to sing Katy Perry’s Dark Horse in one of his vlogs?

7. Poor Kim Basinger looked like she overdosed on botox only to get the Lavinia Arguelles treatment (twice!) in one scene. Pinoy soap opera at its finest! (And please tell me that the shower sex scene was a direct nod to the erotic 9 1/2 Weeks!).

8. There was a tacked-on scene towards the end where Christian’s helicopter crashed and he was magically back onscreen after a few minutes. Huwat?! I surely hoped his bed escapades lasted longer than his disappearance.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆