ANNIE (Will Gluck, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Annie:

1. The movie opened with a typical Annie, a tiny freckle-faced Caucasian redhead, reading a report on former US Presidents. The teacher then called the real Annie, played by Quvenzhane Wallis, a smart and spunky African-American. I loved this wink, wink opening because Wallis was just too adorable in the lead role. I was also happy with the color blind casting because the role of Annie had nothing to do with her skin color anyway.

2. When I heard the teacher call Annie B., I immediately thought Annie Batungbakal and I started humming the theme song and imagined Nora doing a song and dance number (“Sa umaga, dispatsadora. Sa gabi, siya’y bonggang-bongga…”).

3. For a musical, most of the production numbers felt lacking. The only one I truly enjoyed was It’s The Hard Knock Life. Everything else felt joyless. Even the classic Tomorrow wasn’t memorable since it just had her walking the streets of Harlem. Why bother with a remake?

4. Cameron Diaz can be funny whenever she goes bat-shit crazy in her movies. Here, her campiness only served as a distraction. She was just irritating all throughout. Even her musical number was horrible. Do you still remember her singing “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” in My Best Friend’s Wedding? She sang exactly like that in the most grating voice ever. Only here it wasn’t played for laughs.

5. Blatant Purell product placement. No better than a Kris Aquino movie. (“Product placement keeps the movie business afloat!”, said one character.)

6. The viral video of Jamie Foxx saving Annie was all wrong. How could it have different takes and taken from two different angles when it was supposedly shot by an onlooker?

7. I love Rose Byrne, I really do, but she should not be allowed to sing again. Hey, why was this musical populated by terrible singers given their own musical highlights? All it needed was Russell Crowe.

8. The updated version had Annie with a Twitter account and saved by Instagram. Groan.

9. I felt bad for Sia. I actually liked “Opportunity”.

10. The final act had a last minute twist, a villain that never really got his due, a final conflict, and a quick resolution that led to a song and dance number by way of Mother Lily. Ugh.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published January 28, 2015.)

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THE COMMUTER (Jaume Collet-Serra, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Commuter:

1. Can Hollywood please give Liam Neeson’s reel family and friends a break? Why do they always have to be the unfortunate ones to suffer? After the Taken films, Non-Stop, and now this, what other mode of transportation is left that will cause him and his ilk a lot of trouble?

See, this is the very reason why I’m not hoping for that Love Actually sequel. I don’t want to see his stepson Sam suddenly getting kidnapped aboard a ship on Christmas Day.

2. I really liked the opening montage that showed the utter tedium of any working person’s life (waking up at the exact same time every single day, doing the same mundane morning ritual, traversing the same path on a daily commute, all while the seasons changed). Unfortunately, what could have been an insightful morality tale turned into a trashy (albeit stylized) thriller. Definitely as original as Neeson making his signature threats on the phone.

3. How preposterous was that story? The villains obviously had all the resources in their hands, but they still could not pull off a simple assassination? Why would they even need him when they had the power to track his every movement on that moving train?

I hadn’t seen this much cat-and-mouse game silliness since James Marsden and Cameron Diaz agreed to push the deadly button in The Box.

4. What saved this one from being a complete trainwreck were the impressive action sequences. There was a fight scene that was shot in one long continuous take where you could feel every punch in the face (except for Neeson who was neither bloodied up nor bruised after that encounter). It also had a sequence where he was dragged under the train and had to roll away from it, narrowly missing its deadly wheels. I could swear one audience member almost fainted after that one.

5. When the survivors started placing wet newspapers to cover the windows, I was reminded of the same scene in Train to Busan and actually wished that there were zombies on that train. Liam Neeson vs the undead. Hmm, really cool concept.

6. “I’m Spartacus!”

“No, I’m Spartacus!”

“Girl, please. I’m Spartacus!”

*groan*

7. I found it really funny that after the train got derailed and he survived an army of snipers, his family arrived and consoled him like he just came home from another day at work. Come to think of it, it was indeed just another typical Liam Neeson work day.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

MY BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING (P.J. Hogan, 1997)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on My Best Friend’s Wedding:

1. Has it really been twenty years already since the psychopathic Jules (Julia Roberts) tried to sabotage her best friend’s wedding because she was deluded enough (hopelessly in love? What’s the diff?) into thinking that he preferred her Jell-O to Kimmy’s (Cameron Diaz) crème brulée? The answer was a glaring yes coming from the chunky cellular phones with long antennas (resembling pang-kaskas ng yelo!) that were used in this film.

2. That joyous I Say a Little Prayer sing-along would be the scene most remembered here, but I would always be partial to the frothy, silly opening title sequence with a bride and her three chuwariwap bridesmaids singing and dancing along to Ani Di Franco’s Wishin’ and Hopin’. It was just the perfect way to set the tone for this lighthearted (and surprisingly subversive) rom-com.

Additional tidbit: I owned a cassette tape copy of the soundtrack that I listened to every single day for about two months. How could you not fall in love with Jann Arden’s You Don’t Know Me, The Exciter’s Tell Him (pre-Ally McBeal), and Tony Bennett’s The Way You Look Tonight? Perfect wedding playlist.

3. I remembered making a similar pact with a friend that when we turned 30 (or was it 35?) and we were still both single, I would either marry her or have a kid with her. I was so happy when she found herself a boyfriend because I ended up having my baby juice all to myself. Wait, that sounded really disgusting (but not as much as picturing myself in a tux and getting married).

4. To this day, I still couldn’t see why these two beautiful women were fawning over Michael (Dermot Mulroney). He was just too bland and fickle-minded and unhygienic (never forget that he sucked that ring off of Jules’ finger; nope, not romantic because my head was screaming BOOGER!!, er, GERMS!!).

Seriously, everyone was probably rooting for George (Rupert Everett, snubbed of an Oscar nom!) to end up with Jules and wishin’ and hopin’ that he were straight because he had twice as much personality and just looked so fun to be with. Plus, I could easily see myself in George because I would be that kind of friend who would say things like “Who’s chasing you? Nobody. You’re not the one.” Brutal, but honest.

5. I really liked that Julia played a villain for a change (most of her shenanigans bordered on being criminal, and she was just a vile and selfish person), but because she was Julia Roberts, it was hard to completely hate her. Those pratfalls to earn laughs were completely unnecessary, though.

My favorite scene with her would be the one where she cried while dancing with Michael on a ferry (although I did tear up a bit as well during her maid of honor toast, she actually loaned her relationship song *sob* *sob*).

6. Always and forever #TeamKimmy, even if her wedding dress was horrible, especially when compared to the gorgeous lavender dress of Jules.

7. “Choose me. Marry me. Let me make you happy.” Did this sound familiar, Meredith Grey (or Momma Shonda Rhimes)?

8. If this were a Star Cinema movie, it would have probably ended with George (played by Joross Gamboa, of course!) realizing that he was actually straight and that he really loved Jules as more than a friend after all.

Goodbye Dionne Warwick, hello Marion Aunor!

Rating: ★★★★☆

THE BOX (Richard Kelly, 2009)

boxAdmittedly, I hated the movie when I first saw it in theaters a couple of years back. There was a reason why it earned an “F” in CinemaScore (a general survey of ratings from U.S. moviegoers). There was just no redeeming quality in the movie, from the perplexing premise to the sci-fi mumbo jumbo down to the downer of an ending. I put the blame on the misleading trailer, setting it up as a psychological thriller when it was so much more than that. It just seemed like the movie was meant to be seen again once the mysteries have been solved.

I still didn’t like it the second time but it was a different experience from when I first saw it. Maybe another re-watch is in order a few months from now.

Rating: 2/5