MOVIE REVIEW: AMERICAN HUSTLE (David O. Russell, 2013)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on American Hustle:

1. If you hate character-driven films filled with constant babbling and highstrung emotions, don’t watch American Hustle. You’ll get bored.

2. David O. Russell handled his actors really well here. They portrayed despicable beings but I wanted to hang out with them.

3. Amy Adams was the best thing in this movie. And it didn’t hurt that she looked really hot during the entire thing. Give her an Oscar please.

4. Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence & Jeremy Renner were excellent. Made me forget the awful taste of Silver Linings Playbook.

5. Amy Adams’ cleavage should be in a Best Supporting (Unsupported?) category of its own.

6. I loved the songs used in the movie. The Delilah sing-along was great but J.Law’s Live and Let Die scene alone merited another Oscar nod.

7. You have to admire Bale and his method acting. That tummy made me want to hit the gym. I wonder if he shaved his head for the comb-over.

8. I’ve never been this entertained by a Russell movie since Three Kings.

Rating: ★★★★☆

(Originally published February 7, 2014.)

MOVIE REVIEW: FAMILY HISTORY (Michael V., 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Family History:

1. In one of the funniest Bubble Gang moments to date, the brilliant Michael V. came up with a parody video of Lady Gaga’s super hit Bad Romance (called Bathroom Dance). Dressed up in a knockoff iconic white leotard, he twisted and turned around a huge bathroom set while singing (or more appropriately, moaning) about the things he ate (“Okoy, candy, ice cream, laing, siopao, beer, gravy”) that caused his diarrhea-like symptoms.

My favorite bit was when he converted the French lines in the original song to fit his condition and ended up with the hilarious “Jeux tot lang yun, pero parang hindi. Jeux tot lang ba? Ay nakakadiri!”. Genius, right?

2. I was somewhat anticipating that same brand of humor in this movie (where he performed triple duty of acting, writing and directing; move over, Bradley Cooper!!), but what I didn’t expect was for each scene to have a punchline. Seriously, why did everything need to be funny?

When the oncologist (Dingdong Dantes, credited for a cameo role naturally) was discussing the grave illness of May (Dawn Zulueta), her husband Alex (Michael V.) kept making jokes about her situation and it wasn’t even his character’s form of coping mechanism. It was just Michael V. the comedian trying to prove that he was a worthy successor to the late Dolphy. I had a tough time brushing off that queasy feeling of hearing the audience laugh when the doctor confirmed that May had a malignant tumor (read: cancer).

Sure, I was a fan of Jonathan Levine’s cancer dramedy 50/50, but that film knew how to properly balance things out in order to elicit the right emotions. It wasn’t just a series of gags that continued to mine laughs at the expense of a dying, bald woman undergoing chemotherapy.

3. It was for this same reason that I didn’t feel much during all of those dramatic highlights. One of the few scenes that I liked here involved Alex singing an original song to a bedridden May and eventually asking for her forgiveness. It was the kind of scenario that would make me weep and curl up in a fetal position, except that I felt completely detached from these characters. Or maybe because this happened towards the end and I was just expecting the requisite punchline to ruin the moment.

4. I had never seen this many “fade to black” since my college Powerpoint presentation of the “Most Beautiful People in Showbusiness”. While other filmmakers limited the use of this basic editing style to signify the end of an act (or the film itself), this one just had too much fun with it. Why? Because. (Fade to black.)

5. Since Alex’s boss (Nonie Buencamino) was a closeted homosexual, he wore a lot of baby pinks and purples. Bakit hindi na lang siya nilagyan ng rainbow tattoo sa forehead?

6. Other burning questions:

• Did we really need that same exterior shot to establish the hospital scenes? Ano ‘to, teleserye? And why were there so many static scenes? Bawal gumalaw ang camera?

• Although it was established that Alex was a 2D animator that shunned new technology, how could he not know about file formats (“HIV ata”)? Was he also too old-school to not use a television and that was why he never learned of Michael Jackson’s death?

(I appreciated the choice of having animated sequences given the nature of his work, though. Sana lang hindi ganun ka-off ang pagka-insert sa mga eksena.)

• Was Miguel Tanfelix trying to relive the 90’s boyband look with that perennial side brush?

• If Kakai Bautista’s character was such a good influence to May, why was she too eager to support her married friend’s love affair? (And was there ever a scene here where her acting wasn’t immediately set to level 999?)

• It’s 2019 and we still got a scene where Alex sexually harassed another woman and it was played for laughs? (Eww.)

• How could Alex reminisce scenes that he never really saw or experienced?

• Most importantly, who in their right mind would use the rough (green) side of a Scotch-Brite to wash glasses? Imagine those scratches! Horrors!! (Ay, commercial pala siya for Joy in the middle of the movie.)

7. Medyo cute yung juxtaposition na like father, like son in terms of quoting lyrics. At least they both had good taste for knowing the Eraserheads’ Maling Akala and Parokya ni Edgar’s Buloy.

8. You know how Star Cinema kept  punishing its strong female leads with a philandering husband and a broken family? That being a successful, career-driven woman was a curse on one’s marriage? GMA Films had a reverse take with Alex being too busy to attend to his wife’s needs that led to her extra-marital affair with John Estrada and his enormous package (no really, it was referenced and highlighted in the movie). May even justified the act by saying that it was needed to fix her family. Huwat?? (Even weirder, it wasn’t a big deal to John and his wife. Deadma lang.)

9. “Minsan mas okay maging mabait kesa maging tama.” I wonder if Auggie Pullman was shooketh.

10. Amidst all the gags, it was fun to see Michael V. living his fantasy of being fawned over by lovely women and putting the DILF status of Ian Veneracion to shame. Jeux tot mo haha!!

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

AMERICAN SNIPER (Clint Eastwood, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on American Sniper:

1. In one powerful dinner scene, Chris Kyle’s father said that there were three types of people in the world: sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. The sheep were peace-loving and usually prone to oppression; the wolves were violent, lacked empathy, and preyed on innocent beings; while the sheepdogs might show signs of violence but only to defend the weak and oppressed. So which one were you?

2. Bradley Cooper played Kyle, a real-life Navy Seal sharpshooter. He threw on several pounds for this role and looked really batak onscreen. He was good but maybe overpraised with an Oscar nomination.

3. I was reminded so much of the pre-Dota online community game, Counterstrike. I sucked at it while the rest were really skilled with their headshots. I could still remember my clammy hands on the keyboard, heart racing with excitement, while anticipating the opponents’ next moves. This movie offered the same kind of exhilaration and the same fear of pulling that trigger. Only this was real life with real people (some kids) involved.

4. I rarely cover my eyes when I watch a movie. Not even in horror movies. The only time I do it is when it involves needles, or an open heart surgery. I couldn’t remember how many times I had to look away while watching. The scenes with the mother and kid holding a grenade and the other kid holding a bazooka literally left me on the edge of my seat.

5. Although the effects of PTSD were understandable, I think it was tackled much better in Homeland (and yes, Damian Lewis actually gave a stronger, more nuanced performance).

6. That slo-mo bullet money shot. Wow.

7. The movie ended abruptly with just a few sentences filling in the blanks of his death. Even the closing scenes focused more on celebrating a hero and overreached in terms of sentimentality. And then I remembered that this was a Clint “Million Dollar Madison County Baby” Eastwood movie. All was forgiven.

Rating: ★★★★☆

MOVIE REVIEW: JOY (David O. Russell, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Joy:

1. If David O. Russell and his repetitive cast (Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Robert De Niro) had a TV equivalent, it would definitely be Ryan Murphy and his American Horror Story crew.

Joy would be American Horror Story: Freak Show, a complete mess from such a talented group and a huge letdown from their previous effort (American Hustle = American Horror Story: Coven).

Wait, so does that make Silver Linings Playbook the American Horror Story: Asylum of the series? I guess that would explain the mind-boggling accolades (an Oscar for Lawrence over Jessica Chastain and Emmanuelle Riva? Please.) I know, I sound even more bitter than my single friends last Valentine’s Day.

(Weirdly enough, this film started with the Name Game song which was also an iconic production number in Asylum.)

2. There was always a certain level of camp in these Russell movies and when this one started with the life as a telenovela metaphor (complete with a Susan Lucci cameo), I thought it would nail its theme of female empowerment with a certain degree of winking fun. Unfortunately, it got bogged down by the too obvious inspirational message (“You’re just one kitschy invention away from becoming a success!!”) that led to a predictable and phony resolution.

3. In one scene, Lawrence (playing Curacha) divided the basement with a masking tape so that her father and ex-husband would know their sides of the room. It reminded me so much of Maricel Soriano “splitting” areas and possessions with her husband Cesar Montano in Kung Kaya Mo, Kaya Ko Rin. Maricel was so obsessed with boundaries that she even placed markers on walls, on the floor, and even inside the refrigerator (and since she bought all the grocery items, she moved them all to her side naturally). It was that kind of crazy humor sorely missing in this movie.

4. I previously mentioned my obsession with the O Shopping Channel and prior to that, the Home Shopping Network. If I actually bought everything that I wanted there (Butterfly Abs, Siluet 40, and Ab Rollers, among others), I would have been Laboracay ready as early as Christmas.

5. Seriously, how could QVC have sold that many Miracle Mops within the short timeframe given the number of customer service representatives on the phones inside the room? Did they have call centers in the Philippines that wasn’t shown? 50,000 items sold in a matter of minutes and yet some agents would complain when there were 30 calls on queue. This movie should be a requirement in Call Center Orientation.

6. Don’t you find it weird that when these characters chop off their own hair, they always end up getting a salon-ready look? I once cut my bangs and I ended up looking like I had a severe case of typhoid fever. Why don’t we have Miracle Scissors? Hey, that may be a good invention idea!!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆