INTO THE WOODS (Rob Marshall, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Into the Woods:

1. A lot of the people in the theater complained that the characters did nothing but sing. It was a musical, for crying out loud! I heard the exact same thing about Les Miserables. No wonder 1dol flopped on local TV.

2. I had grown tired of these reimagining and modernization of classic fairy tales (Maleficent, Jack the Giant Slayer, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters; although I had to say I was excited to watch the new live-action Cinderella).

Happy to see the Babel-like take of the stories here. The movie was actually clever until it turned really serious in its final act. Why couldn’t it have ended with the requisite happily ever after?

3. I absolutely loved the prologue song but the rest were not so memorable. Sure, I enjoyed the diva showdown between the two Princes but I usually leave the theater humming a tune from the musical and it didn’t happen here.

4. Momma Meryl was fine as always but my favorites were the bratty Little Red Riding Hood and the wonderful singing of Emily Blunt. Miranda and Emily would be so proud.

5. Was I the only one bothered by the dark undertones of pedophilia whenever Little Red Riding Hood was surrounded by the grown-ups? First, she was stalked by the Big Bad Wolf, an obvious child predator, and then she was forced to remove her cape by the Baker. Was it just my perverted mind?

6. I knew that the real fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen were really dark to begin with, but I was still surprised this was rated General Patronage. Women got their toes sawed off, several characters were killed, a couple had an adulterous tryst. Uhh, why was this considered suitable for children?

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published February 4, 2015.)

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MARY POPPINS RETURNS (Rob Marshall, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Mary Poppins Returns:

1. One of the highlights of Saving Mr. Banks (a great companion piece to this film) was the scene where an uptight P.L. Travers (played by the superb Emma Thompson) unexpectedly lowered her guard and started dancing along to Let’s Go Fly a Kite. It was a touching moment especially since the author notoriously hated the Disneyfication of her novels (“Responstible is not a word!!”), particularly Mary Poppins.

I wonder how she would have felt with this one given that it lacked an LSS-worthy melody that the original had in abundance. Can You Imagine That? and Trip a Little Light Fantastic were fun and frothy, but they just weren’t as memorable as Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (an exercise in spelling and enunciation) or A Spoonful of Sugar.

For the record, my favorite tune from the 1964 classic was Oscar winner Chim Chim Cher-ee. Fun online fact: If you scratch “-2 – 2 + =“ on your pillow, it would sound very much like this song. Aren’t the interwebs wonderful?

2. Although billed as a sequel (with the Banks children all grown up), this still felt very much like a remake (seriously, why did they even bother?). If anything, I was happy that they kept the 2D animation during some of the fantasy sequences because it perfectly captured the old school magic of films.

3. I really thought it would be hard to match the wonderful performance of Julie Andrews (whose stern but loving version of the magical nanny reminded me of her stern but loving grandma slash Queen of Genovia in The Princess Diaries), but Emily Blunt completely owned the role (not a trace of imitation!) while paying homage to a well-loved Dame. At least she had a fun moment in the bathtub for a change.

4. It was sad to see Lin-Manuel Miranda sticking out like a sore thumb among the mostly English (and incredibly good) supporting cast. Although this was a musical where people actually floated while holding on to balloons, there was just something off with his over-the-top (read: theater-ready) acting.

Julie Walters was a hilarious scene-stealer as always, but I was more pleasantly surprised by Ben Whishaw. In one scene, he was clutching on to his dead wife’s pearl necklace while singing that he needed a few suggestions on how to brush their daughter’s hair and I was trying my best not to burst into tears.

As for the kids, they were fine enough, although I was wishing one of them could be like a young Freddie Highmore in Finding Neverland.

5. Been a fan of Rob Marshall’s impressive choreography since Chicago and it was in full display here. When the Banks’ house got rattled by an exploding cannon, the siblings caught the falling furniture (a few lamps, an heirloom clock) like they were in a ballet. I also liked the (intentional?) nod to Velma Kelly in the A Cover is Not a Book production.

6. I understood the decision of making this version of Mary closer to her disposition in the books, but it was also the reason why I thought that this sequel needed a bit more heart. Like I wanted to be a puddle of sobbing mess when she would leave the children in the end and it didn’t happen. I had more of an emotional attachment with Sam in Wanted: Perfect Mother.

7. Why did Mary let the poor leeries climb all the way up the clock tower when she could have done it in the first place pala? Did everything have to be a teachable moment?

8. “Cleaning is not a spectator sport” sounded like something Marie Kondo would say. Yes, this movie gave me a tiny spark of joy.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

A QUIET PLACE (John Krasinski, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on A Quiet Place:

1. In this post-apocalyptic nightmare, the basic rule of survival was clearly established from the very start: never create any loud noise or you would almost instantaneously become alien lafang. While the rest of the theater silently chewed on their cuticles and held their breath, I was having an anxiety attack in my chair just imagining that I wouldn’t last a day in their world because seriously, bawal umutot? At bawal maging clumsy at tatanga-tanga huhu! (Plus the way the creatures’ inner parts resembled a contracting vulva made me terrified of them even more).

2. Starting everything on Day 89 made a lot of sense because this wasn’t really meant to be a sci-fi film that needed a back story on the aliens’ origins and a chock-full of exposition (Where did these monsters come from? Where were the other people? What happened to the rest of the world? DIDN’T MATTER!!). And so we were immediately introduced to a family that relied on sign language and facial expressions to communicate with each other. With very minimal dialogue and just a backing musical score, this actually worked like a gimmicky silent film (and also served as an effective public service announcement to always be quiet while watching movies as a form of respect).

It was funny because I expected to scream my head off but I had to stifle all of my reactions. Even the tiniest sound would be too impolite (do not bring chips!!) that the only thing you would hear inside the cinema would be the occasional gasps. (I was happy with the crowd that I watched it with since there were no barkadas of rowdy high schoolers that would laugh and create a ruckus during a scary sequence. Same pet peeve, right?).

3. I really appreciated the relative lack of cheap scares here. Aside from a few falling raccoons, the powerful build-up of tension and suspense was well-earned that you’d probably feel incredibly stressed by the time the amazing Emily Blunt would cock her shotgun for the very last time.

Speaking of, my favorite scene here involved her pregnant character having contractions (and early labor) in a bathtub with flickering lights overhead while an alien was stalking her and getting ready to pounce. I could almost feel her pain (and the desperate need to control her screams) that I started to develop a phantom vagina with a baby trying to claw its way out of it. Sakit sa puso (and sa imaginary pepe) grabe lang. Would it be too early to campaign for an Oscar nomination?

4. Noah Jupe’s performance here reminded me so much of Joseph Mazzello’s in Jurassic Park. The look of pure terror on his young innocent face was just heartbreaking. Also, was the truck scene a nod to that Steven Spielberg classic?

5. It would be very easy to nitpick this movie considering the predictability of specific scenes and some obvious setups (the toy airplane’s batteries? Definite source of noise! The nail on the stairs? Expect someone to step on it later on!) and a few questionable choices (if the water sounds distracted the aliens, why didn’t they choose to live near the river/waterfalls? Why do they still have electricity? Why did they even want to have another baby given their current situation? Why did they allow their small children to freely roam around given the dangers around them?). But why not forget all of these and just go along for the ride?

6. I think that the last time I cried in a horror/suspense film was in The Sixth Sense when Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) tried to convince his mom (Toni Collette) that he could really see dead people by telling her the grandma story. Although a tad manipulative, when John Krasinski signed “I love you. I have always loved you” to his kids, I could hardly choke back my tears. Parents are the absolute greatest waaahh!!

Rating: ★★★★☆

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN (Tate Taylor, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Girl On The Train:

1. In the late 90’s/early 00’s, there was an onslaught of trashy suspense-thrillers (mostly based on or inspired by James Patterson novels) that were supposed to serve as female empowerment films. My favorite ones (and by favorite, I meant LOL guilty pleasure) starred Ashley Judd, the former action heroine slash patron saint of battered wives now relegated to playing Tris’ doormat mother. Her characters would always be tormented by these filthy men (the worst kind being her own husband) and she would always get her revenge through some clunky plot twist (in Double Jeopardy, she had the pleasure of killing her man because she was already falsely convicted of his murder and could not be tried for the same offense twice).

I missed that level of craziness while watching this 2016 version of rah-rah sisterhood (from the director of The Help, gasp!) that proved to be the exact opposite of the far superior Gone Girl (probably the weirdest version of a feminist film to hit the big screen). I completely lost interest in reading the novel this was based on as well.

2. Was it unfair to compare it to Gone Girl? Well, not really since everything here seemed to have been inspired by both the book and film versions. The main title’s font, the central mystery, the overlapping timelines, I could just imagine Amy Dunne throwing a mean bitch fit (with a kitchen knife, of course!).

3. Thank heavens for the excellent Emily Blunt who obviously pulled all the weight in this trainwreck. It was really scary to see a grown woman like Rachel drinking alcohol out of a thermos bottle and her finest moment happened early in the movie when she danced like a mad woman in the park to block out her sadness. I felt so bad for her character that I actually forgave her for wasting a tray of delicious-looking deviled eggs.

4. “Have you ever been on a train and started wondering about the lives of the people that live near the tracks?”

Obviously not, because I have no plans of ever riding the gnarly PNR and if I did to satisfy such morbid curiosity, I don’t think I would be able to look out the window. I’ll most probably end up wondering why the man next to me forgot to wear deodorant. Seriously though, with the speed of that train and its distance from the houses, how was Rachel even able to do all that snooping without binoculars?

5. Anybody who had seen What Lies Beneath would not easily fall for the blatant red herrings sprinkled all-throughout the movie. Its attempts to create a murder-mystery based on Rachel’s substance abuse problem was weak given the substantial lack of motive. If she was supposed to be too crazy in love to actually stalk her husband’s current wife on Facebook, then most of us could be charged guilty as well.

6. Haley Bennett looked like Jennifer Lawrence-lite with such a tiny waist that I wasn’t surprised that Rachel (or any woman for that matter) would want to snatch her extensions out of envy. It was also hard to empathize with her Megan character because during her Basic Instinct finger scene, she reminded me so much of Alma Moreno explaining her uncontrollable state of horniness in the Joey Gosengfiao cult classic Nympha (“Nag-iinit ang katawan ko tuwing nakakakita ako ng lalaki!!).

7. In one scene, new wife Anna was trying to figure out the password of her husband’s laptop. I wasn’t sure why she tried basic names (do people actually use just a name like Rachel as their secret password?), but I laughed really hard when she tried her own name and it was also incorrect. Masaklap ba teh? I wasn’t surprised when she rotated a corkscrew around his neck by the end of the film.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR (Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Huntsman: Winter’s War:

1. One of the best decisions made in this unnecessary prequel/sequel was the removal of Kristen Stewart, whose Snow White was already sleepwalking through the first movie even before she bit into the poisoned apple. If I were that bored, I would probably be sleeping with my married director, too.

The other good thing was bringing back the wonderful Charlize Theron, fully inhabiting the role of wicked Queen Ravenna, truly the most enchanting creature in that mythical land. I wasn’t even sure why she had to listen to her gong-like golden mirror lie that she wasn’t the fairest of them all. Seriously, in what world would she be less gorgeous than anyone (molting gold or otherwise)? Oh right, this was a fantasy.

2. Wait, what happened to the vanity story? Did Queen Ravenna have the King killed as well because he had fairer, more younger-looking skin than her? I expected her to be shallow, but I didn’t realize that she was this unexplainably treacherous.

3. It was obvious that Liam Neeson provided the voiceover here because every time I felt my eyelids drooping, I could actually hear him saying, “I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. But if you fall asleep, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you” and I would be fully awake once again.

4. With the current weather, I think Ice Queen Freya (played by Emily Blunt) would be the perfect BFF. Forget airconditioning, her touch alone would send literal shivers down your spine. Plus, wouldn’t it be fun to sing-along to Let It Go while she cast these icicles all around you? You could probably borrow her gorgeous outfits for Halloween, too. (First dibs on the one with the divine train.) And don’t get started on that polar bear fit for a grand entrance in any formal party.

5. Just so people wouldn’t forget that Chris Hemsworth was surrounded by talented actresses and was still part of the movie, he got his own topless tampisaw sa batis scene. Will those abs be front and center in Thor: Ragnarok as well? Asking for a friend.

6. Speaking of talented, I couldn’t believe that Jessica Chastain actually accepted the thankless role of female warrior Sara where she had to go full pabebe mode (refer to Anna Kendrick in Mr. Right) even if she was way too old for it. Besides, her weird accent sounded like a cross between Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn and Madonna after visiting England. Whatever happened to our Oscar dreams?

7. “Love ends in betrayal. Always.” Oh my, Sara was even more jaded than my friend Alfrenette (not her real name) and this was a girl whose heart got trampled on by the most evil queens on the planet. Sara, similar to what I always told my friend, all you really needed was some good *** (it was pie, just in case you were curious).

8. Great, we’re stuck with just two dwarves and they ended up to be Grumpy and Chubby (and their girlfriends). They were supposed to be the funny ones, but were just mildly entertaining. Wait, that makes me sound both grumpy and chubby! Argh!!

9. Similar to Mara Clara, I immediately knew that that eternity necklace would figure prominently in a key scene. (“She is not Cupid. I doubt that an arrow to the heart is an expression of her love.” Har har!) And that hanging bridge? Of course it would get cut off.

10. I hear Ravenna and I think Mulawin.

11. More questions about the movie:

* Why did they have to fight Ravenna if all they needed to do was destroy the mirror? Were they too scared to have seven years of bad luck?

* Why didn’t the Ice Queen use her freezing powers to stop the bleeding? Hadn’t she heard of a cold compress (or cryotherapy)?

* Why didn’t the frozen dwarves shatter into tiny ice pieces similar to what happened to Ice Queen’s boyfriend? (And don’t tell me it was because he fell down to the ground.)

12. Seriously, I had this really strange theory that the Ice Queen’s daughter wasn’t killed and that it was Snow White, thus her name (and Kojic soap complexion). No wonder I’m an unemployed writer.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆