THE WOMAN IN BLACK (James Watkins, 2012)

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Horror movies are my guilty pleasure and it takes a lot to scare me nowadays. This run-of-the-mill haunted house movie (chockfull of cheap scares) didn’t work for me at all.

It took forever to reveal the back story and the slow pacing further tested my patience. Creaking doors, rocking chairs, ghastly dead children, these were elements that we’ve all seen before. I was just waiting for the scene where a cat will jump out of the dark (another animal did the trick here).

Daniel Radcliffe and his wooden performance made me realize just how good the Harry Potter material was. And what was up with that woman in black? She was just being a bitch.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published February 14, 2012.)

CAN’T HELP FALLING IN LOVE (Mae Cruz-Alviar, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Can’t Help Falling in Love:

1. I think it was during the public bathroom scene where Dos (Daniel Padilla) was removing the heels of Gab (Kathryn Bernardo), which must have felt so good because she was having a wild orgasm, that I immediately knew I wouldn’t like this movie. It was clearly trying too hard to wring out laughs by placing its characters in the most absurd situations. That scene was capped off by strangers entering the room and looking disgusted even if it was completely obvious that nothing kinky was going on (hello, his head wasn’t even under her skirt!).

It was a shame really because Daniel and Kathryn were so game all throughout this movie even if the material failed to capitalize on their palpable onscreen chemistry.

2. I had been crowing about Daniel’s natural charms (reminiscent of his uncle Robin’s) in previous movies so the bigger surprise here for me was Kathryn. Not only did she look so fresh and lovely (a vision in yellow during her grand entrance! radiant in black during the wake!), but she also managed to drop most of her annoying acting tics.

Whatever decongestant she took worked because she didn’t sound as oddly nasal as before. She also managed to tone down her pabebe delivery and she was really effective in most of her dramatic scenes (my favorite was her quiet sumbat moment outside the police station; “Nagmahal ka na ba? Minahal ka na ba?”). The only thing left for her to work on would be controlling her eyes because she would resort to unintentionally widening them while speaking (nandidilat for no reason).

Anyway, I just made a mental note to buy Pond’s as soon as the stores open today.

3. As a rule, Star Cinema characters should avoid getting drunk in bars because they would always end up in sticky situations (literally and figuratively?) after. I didn’t buy the ridiculous premise of these two ending up married after a crazy night of partying (hey, this wasn’t Vegas and none of them were Britney; besides, were they carrying all the legal documents that night to get a marriage license issued on the spot?).

None of the succeeding events made a lot of sense as well. I wouldn’t recommend this movie to any of my lawyer friends because their eyes might end up rolling out of their sockets in the scenes where Gab interviewed Dos’ ex-girlfriends to prove his impotence or Gab pretended to make out with her girl friend in Sogo while Dos took pictures of them as proof of homosexuality (they ended up getting arrested after for supposedly creating a porno, wtf?!).

In one scene, Gab dressed up as a taong grasa because she was supposedly baliw sa pag-ibig and insanity was one of the major grounds for annulment. I guess they were to blame for hiring a lawyer from a firm called Hulog ng Langit. (Terrible, terrible screenplay, I tell you.)

4. Did we really need those cameos of Zanjoe Marudo, Ejay Falcon, and Piolo Pascual? Even a bald Daniel Radcliffe made a surprise appearance. Why create unnecessary distractions on an already messy story?

5. Since there was nothing original in this movie, I wasn’t surprised at all that Matteo Guidicelli played the third wheel yet again and that his character (unfortunately named Jason) was villified for being a controlling boyfriend. So basically he loved his girlfriend and supported her for six years even if she only loved him back for security and stability and yet he was the bad guy just for wanting what was best for her. Oh-kay!

Also, they called each other Bud so I guess it was meant to be a friendzone experience right from the start.

6. Of course there would be a reason to go out of town! Destination of choice? Argao, Cebu. A tour of the city’s old churches, cliff diving, coral reef diving, motorcycle rides along the cliffside roads, I was surprised they didn’t use these instead for the channel’s summer station ID.

7. I wish there were more of the small moments that genuinely made me smile (Dos offering a basahan to Gab while she was crying, or Dos distracting Gab with his love notes written on napkins). The scene where Dos was making his huling habilin to his extended family could have easily been milked for laughs and tears, but it just fell short of being great.

I have enjoyed a number of past rom-coms by Direk Mae (Bride for Rent, Everyday I Love You), but she was left with very little to work with here.

8. For every realistically heartfelt line like “Kapag natikman mo pala, nakaka-adik ang umasa”, there were even more empty platitudes like “Mas pipiliin ko ang isang bukas na nandun ka, kesa sa isang milyong bukas na wala ka.”

Ang Babae sa Septic Tank 2: #ForeverIsNotEnough should be required viewing for Star Cinema’s writing team. Seriously.

9. I think I developed an acute case of tinnitus when Gab serenaded Dos with her own version of Panalangin. And that was minutes before his critical brain surgery. Pigain nyo na lang ang apdo ko, but take that portable Magic Sing away from her!!

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: ★★☆☆☆