SNOWPIERCER (Bong Joon-ho, 2013)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Snowpiercer:

1. I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed this film. From the dull title to the seemingly tacky poster, I thought it would be a terrible B-movie at best. It ended up as a stylish and ambitious futuristic English film from a French novel and Korean director. Mindblown.

2. I guess I just really appreciated the vision of Korean filmmakers. I started last year with Park Chan-Wook’s Stoker and loved it as well. Great minds.

3. I rarely liked action films but this one just belonged to a different genre. There were equal parts suspense, violence, and comedy.

4. In an alternate universe, Tilda Swinton would get an Oscar for this film. The “Be a shoe” speech alone was just pure brilliance.

5. I’m happy I knew little about the film. Every time an Oscar nominee or winner showed up, I squealed with delight. They were all perfect!

6. I’d shut up now before I spoil it for you guys. The less you knew, the better. (I fear that it’s an acquired taste, though.)

Rating: ★★★★★

(Originally published January 30, 2014.)

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MACBETH (Justin Kurzel, 2015)

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My notes on Macbeth:

1. The opening scene with the dead Macbaby perfectly set the somber tone of this adaptation. I could barely remember reading the source (maybe I even just read the Cliff’s Notes version) but I didn’t recall an actual baby in the play. I even thought that Lady Macbeth went mad from her frustration of not having (not loss of) a baby and all the references on sucking milk were just imaginary.

(Side note: This reminded me of a local actress who also experienced the same kind of depression and apparently took care of a doll while on the set. Sadness.)

Now that I have a lot of time to read, I really need to catch up on these classics.

2. There were only a few of us in the theater and some understandably walked out halfway through. The movie was a test of patience with its leisurely pacing, extra slow motion battle sequences, Old English dialogue, and constant monologues. But then again, anybody watching a Shakespeare adaptation should have been prepared for that. (Good news: there were English subtitles so I didn’t get an epistaxis trying to figure out what the characters were saying, e.g. “Bid me not speak, see, speak yourselves” for “Kayo na ang sumight sa bangkay”).

3. I loved the visuals in the movie, especially the final battle scene with the red and orange hues. I would have to admit that I snickered a bit though when Michael Fassbender’s eyeshadow and mascara got smudged from the constant crying (and also in the scene where Macduff called his kids “all my pretty chickens”).

4. Speaking of Fassy, he was fine as the said “Warrior King” but was still no match for Marion Cotillard’s deranged performance. As the scheming Lady Macbeth, you could actually see her devilish smile even in the dark after her husband said that he had done the murderous deed. Her delivery of the line “A little water clears us of this deed” was just chilling that when she showed human emotions during the latter part of the movie (“Out, damned spot!”), one couldn’t help but doubt if they were crocodile tears.

5. I stand by my belief that Lady Macbeth was somewhat misunderstood. Was she really innately evil or just a completely supportive wife? Did the lack of a child diminish her maternal instincts or made her more selfless and loving? Why do strong and ambitious women always end up getting a bad rap? I digress.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published January 26, 2016.)

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: ★★★☆☆

47 RONIN (Carl Rinsch, 2013)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on 47 Ronin:

1. Ohmy, they speak English in feudal Japan. I think I’ll enjoy this movie. Ugh!

2. Wait, isn’t this the sensei of Emily Thorne? Is she also one of the ronins? That would be so cool!

3. I want the Lady Gaga-inspired outfit that the old man wore when he committed seppuku. It’s perfect for the Golden Globes tomorrow.

4. I loved the part where Keanu Reeves started singing, “Langit kaaaa, lupa akoooo…”

5. One character is named Oishi. My tongue started craving for those delicious salty shrimp crackers.

6. A man gets thrown in a deep pit and one year later he still looks healthy. What multivitamins do these samurais take? I want ’em.

7. A version of the the Sanduguan using blood fingerprints to sign a contract. I wish they focused more on this band of brothers.

8. The theater actor with the funny white mask looks like Ketchup Eusebio. Watch the movie and tell me I’m wrong.

9. “I will search for you through one thousand worlds and ten thousand lifetimes until I find you.” Eek! It just gave me heartburn.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published January 13, 2014.)

YOU’RE STILL THE ONE (Chris Martinez, 2015)

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My notes on You’re Still the One:

1. The movie started with Maja Salvador and Dennis Trillo playing high school students engaged in a debate on the Y2K bug. It was in English so we all knew Maja had no chance of winning that one.

2. Dennis looked like his face was filtered twice using Camera 360. I swear it was glossier than the film.

3. Maja wore a wig presumably borrowed from Dora Go Dong Hae.

4. During a family dinner…

Son: (joking) “Bakit Ma, nagahasa ka din ba?”

This was supposed to be funny? I didn’t get it.

5. Dennis: “Sino bang nag-imbento ng kalibugan? Diba si Lord?”

All the old ladies in the cinema gasped in horror.

6. Dennis stopped his lovemaking with Ellen Adarna to place a fake mole on her batok (like Maja’s) using a pentel pen. Couldn’t he just use his imagination?

7. As a lawyer, Maja should have known better than to match an orange top with a white blazer and a purple bag. That outfit was a crime.

8. Why is it always winter in the US/Canada in these Skype calls?

9. Bakit laging pa-demure mag-kiss si Sir Chief?

10. Just in case you fell asleep, Maja recapped everything that happened in the movie during the final scene. Salamat!!

11. Nasa Baclaran ang forever. Pero wala talagang forever. #arayqbhe

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published May 28, 2015.)

SMALLER AND SMALLER CIRCLES (Raya Martin, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

One character probably summed it up best when he mentioned that the others may have seen one too many Hollywood crime films since there were no serial killers in the Philippines (hail Queen Jessica Zafra!). Although this adaptation of the Palanca-winning novel by F.H. Batacan had a distinctly Pinoy setting (what screamed poverty more than the Payatas dumpsite?), nothing else felt authentic in this slow-paced procedural slash disappointing non-thriller.

I couldn’t get past the unnatural dialogue between the two conyo Jesuit priests (Nonie Buencamino and Sid Lucero). When the latter said something like “Nobody raised a stink?”, I just wanted to make tungga a bottle of holy water. Although these served well during one Atenista joke, the English conversations just felt (what did you call it again, Holden Caulfield?), ah yes, phony. Don’t get me started on the unnecessary (oh look we’re multilingual!) French talk.

Even the themes didn’t exactly break new ground. Inefficiency of our local crime units? Politicians taking advantage of the poor? Abusive power of the Church? Pedophile priests? Where was Joel Lamangan when you needed him? Worse, the big reveal of the killer felt very anticlimactic with the introduction of a last minute character (and not in a menacing Kevin Spacey in Se7en way) whose motives and modus weren’t fully explained.

At least it had the budget for a competent all-star cast, lovely cinematography and terrific production design (that fully captured the grimy late 90s aesthetics). It also obviously wasn’t a rushed production with a pre-keto diet Mae Paner (and was that the late Joy Viado in one scene?).

I got bored during the sluggish killer confession scene so I just imagined a more interesting version of the movie in my head. I renamed Buencamino’s Father Saenz as Father Science since he was a forensics expert anyway and with all the victims’ missing hearts and genitals, he sought the help of Kim Chiu’s Mayen who already had an experience with monsters that shove organs down people’s throats. Chito Roño’s Smaller and Smaller Bagwas, anyone?

Rating: ★★☆☆☆