THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (Christopher Nolan, 2012)

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This movie was just like me: severely bloated. I felt every minute of that 3-hour running time (and yes, I slept through most of the second act).

Batman seemed to be suffering from PMS and Bane was such a weak and uninteresting villain. You know something was wrong when the supporting players carried the weight of the movie (I enjoyed every scene with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard, and Michael Caine).

Besides, any movie that still had time to squeeze in a kiss before the hero saved the day was a definite groaner.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published August 1, 2012.)

DUNKIRK (Christopher Nolan, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Dunkirk:

1. In one of the last few scenes of this movie, a young soldier woke up from his deep slumber, oblivious to everything that happened around him (and outside of his safety blanket slash uniform). In some absurd way, I actually envied that man because I was trying my best not to fall asleep amidst the blatant monotony that I was watching onscreen. I was also glad that Christopher Nolan finally learned how to edit his films below the two hour running mark because I felt every single minute of this one.

2. To be fair, it seemed like its main purpose was to give the audience the full war experience (but why??) and it succeeded in that aspect. I could easily picture Nolan invoking the iconic Gretchen Barretto as Victoria Valera: “You want war? I’ll give you war!!” And he did.

The excellent sound design, mostly composed of bullets whizzing from all directions and multiple random explosions, made me want to duck along with the troops. One of the sequences that I particularly liked involved some sort of ripple effect on a beach after a bombing that culminated with lots of sand flying directly to the screen. It was so realistic that I felt the need to brush off some imaginary grains that flew into my hair.

Visual and aural feast, I tell you.

3. I should have done a more thorough cleaning of my ears before leaving home because those thick accents were just too hard to understand (and this was already considering that the movie had very minimal dialogue). Subtitles please!!

4. One of my favorite films of all time had a short (yet brilliant) Dunkirk sequence as well. Go watch Atonement.

5. Inasmuch as I adored Hans Zimmer, his scoring here was just relentless. It felt like he wanted to dictate how the audience should feel in every scene, very much like canned laughs in a sitcom (“O guys, prepare na kayo kasi exciting part na ‘to ayan na ang pounding music…”).

6. I just learned that one stretcher takes the place of seven standing men on a ship. It was heartbreaking to hear a commander ask how many more of the wounded would need to be transported. If Andrew Garfield was here, this wouldn’t even be a question.

7. I guess the overall feeling of emotional detachment stemmed from the lack of back story for its characters. It was just hard to completely empathize with any single one of them because they merely served as pawns in the backdrop of a prominent war (made more evident when all the recognizable names survived). Which was good news for Harry Styles, who was probably cast as the Hollywood equivalent of Ronnie Alonte.

8. “He’s not himself. He may never be himself again.” We were all survivors when the end credits rolled.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

NOW YOU SEE ME 2 (Jon Chu, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Now You See Me 2:

1. In Christopher Nolan’s vastly superior The Prestige, it was revealed that a magic trick consisted of three critical acts: The Pledge (where a magician shows you something ordinary, say an empty box), The Turn (where he creates something extraordinary out of it, like entering the box and disappearing), and The Prestige (where he ups the ante and completely stuns the audience, by suddenly appearing at the very back of the stage).

It would be very hard to successfully pull off this kind of magic now given the discerning minds that wanted to know how every trick was done and the countless Unmasking the Magician and Breaking the Magician’s Code episodes.

Some of us still wanted to be fooled, though, especially after the enjoyable first Now You See Me movie where The Four Horsemen pulled a literal million dollar stunt. Unfortunately, this sequel stopped trying after reaching The Turn.

2. Similar to watching a magic show, you know that you would have to suspend your disbelief for long stretches of time. You usually check your brain at the door and say goodbye to your Doubting Thomas self as soon as you enter the cinema. There is a limit to this, though, and that limit was completely abused here.

The worst sequence had to be the one where they kept throwing a card around while everyone around them (talk about a tight security) barely even noticed. It was elaborately designed to make the audience giddy with excitement and go “Ooooh!” at the end but that scene just flopped and I let out my trademark “Pfft!”. Mas pilit pa siya kesa sa Elmo Magalona and Janella Salvador loveteam tbh.

3. There were still some nifty bits (I particularly liked the sushi plate that turned into an attache case), but when the movie started explaining everything that happened (how the group ended up in Macau, for example) in the middle of the movie (!!!), it was just hard not to roll my eyes.

4. Lizzy Caplan would always be Janis Ian and I wasn’t sure why she was trying to act like Max Black (the broke waitress, not the philosopher) here. Kat Dennings wasn’t available?

5. Woody Harrelson stole every scene that he was in, especially as the curly twin brother who seemed lost in a 60’s time zone. I wouldn’t have complained if the movie focused on them instead of the tragic back story of Mark Ruffalo’s father.

6. I loved the Joy Luck Club film so I was pleasantly surprised to see Auntie Lindo (the wonderful Tsai Chin) being her Auntie Lindo self here. I could actually recite her lines from that movie still complete with her Chinese accent (“See hyeahhh…”). I suddenly remembered my favorite part in the book where another Chinese mother complained to her daughter about their nasty American male neighbor (“He raise his hand like this, show me his ugly fist and call me worst Fukien landlady. I not from Fukien. Hunh! He know nothing!”). Read the book, please!

7. So there’s really a champagne that’s worth $1.2M? Wow! If I owned one, I would probably be taking the smallest sips every other day so that it would last my entire lifetime. (Who am I kidding? I would probably keep it in our cabinet of wines where my mom stored all of my dad’s liquors that were never to be touched. I could swear we still have those Chivas Regal bottles that were placed there in the 80’s.)

8. That final airplane sequence was a complete mess. It was unoriginal, too, since it was first done to Paris Hilton in an Egyptian prank show. Says a lot about the movie, huh?

9. Daniel Radcliffe was looking more and more like the father of Liza Soberano in Dolce Amore. Also, all those years of studying magic in Hogwarts and he was still left clueless in the end. Hermione would be so disappointed. Tsk tsk!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

THE PRESTIGE (Christopher Nolan, 2006)

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This movie plays very much like a magic trick with its three stages: The Pledge, The Turn, and The Prestige. The less one knows about how it works, the better the results are.

Behind this entire spectacle is Nolan, probably more known for his work on The Dark Knight and Inception. I prefer his little gems (this and Memento) since they create so much impact from such seemingly simple premises.

Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, and Michael Caine all provide amazing turns in their respective roles. Some might feel that this film is too gimmicky and a cheat, but hey, isn’t that how magic works?

Rating: 5/5