KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE (Matthew Vaughn, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Kingsman: The Secret Service:

1. Would anyone know if the comic book series this movie was based on had anything to do with the local Kingsmen Custom Tailors that makes bespoke suits and barongs? It would just be too much of a coincidence, right?

2. The opening credits alone with the names that formed from exploding rocks was fun to watch. I knew right then that I would really like this one. Contrary to popular belief, I’m actually easy to please.

3. Matthew Vaughn directed Kick-Ass so I wasn’t at all surprised with the amount of violence here. I actually found it funny that Samuel L. Jackson’s character was scared of blood. Even with all the slicing and dicing, all of the fight scenes were virtually bloodless.

4. The constant winks at how serious the James Bond movies have become was spot-on. Sometimes we do wish for just some mindless but fun spy movie.

5. I really want to learn how to drive in reverse. That was one exciting chase scene.

6. I have to be honest. I couldn’t understand some of the dialogue with all the thick British accent. I’ll have to wait for the DVD.

7. Colin Firth with his deadly umbrella was like a lethal Mary Poppins. Imagine if the nanny used that one instead to teach the kids some life lessons. She’ll be firing at everyone butchering the atrociously catchy Chim Chim Cher-ee.

8. Why did they select Iggy Azalea as one of the celebrities that will re-populate the earth? Somebody must have enjoyed the Pu$$y video.

9. Taron Egerton looked so nimble and tiny that I wanted to pick him up and keep him in my pocket. Err…

10. Hey, I actually thought it was a bulldog, too. I really need to spend more time with animals.

11. Was I the only one who wished for bionic sword legs as awesome as Gazelle’s?

12. Talk about blatant product placements. Almost everything worn here were by Adidas. I’ve never seen this many striped jackets since Glee. Really cool stuff, though. Where can I buy them? Made me crave for a McDonald’s Happy Meal, too.

13. The funniest thing here was that even with all the graphic violence, the only scene that was too much for me to handle that I had to close my eyes was when he was asked to shoot the pup. Nooooo!!

Rating: ★★★★☆

(Originally published February 24, 2015.)

THE GREATEST SHOWMAN (Michael Gracey, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Greatest Showman:

1. It had been over a year already and I still couldn’t forget the fabulous opening sequence of La La Land. Another Day of Sun fully encapsulated the reason why I really love musicals. I’d always imagine myself stuck along EDSA during Friday night rush hour traffic and I would get out of my car and burst into song while commuters inside cars and buses would sing a chorus and dance along with me. Why would there be any road rage when I could simply belt out my six octave range (bye Mariah!) and shimmy with the takatak boys? Our lives as a series of music videos would definitely be one sweet sweet fantasy, right?

2. As a musical, Showman was an enjoyable treat with its dazzling set pieces, spectacular choreography (that rooftop dance sequence with the dancing kumots!), and soaring sugar pop melodies. My favorite number was Rewrite the Stars with Zac Efron and Zendaya flying through the air on ropes, making it the most dangerous flirtation since I joined (and ultimately deleted) Tinder five years ago.

I also really liked the powerhouse performance of Rebecca Ferguson in Never Enough, until 1) I discovered that it really wasn’t her singing (it was actually dubbed by The Voice contestant Loren Allred), and 2) I realized immediately after that she was pining for a married man. In a culture fascinated with kabit movies where viewers enjoy seeing these women get their comeuppance, I wonder how many Pinoys actually loved this (in context) mistress song.

3. I wasn’t a huge fan of Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables (a singing Russell Crowe scarred me for life), but amidst the distractingly tight close-ups was an undeniably terrific performance by Hugh Jackman. He delivered again here as P.T. Barnum, serving as a ringleader to his troop of circus oddities and trying to stay true on the promise of being the greatest showman.

I actually liked him better in this movie because he was just more effective as a performer than a singer (check his Tony Awards hosting work on YouTube!). I also had a good laugh when the young Barnum got caught stealing a loaf of bread, the very reason why Jean Valjean turned into prisoner 24601.

4. I wish there was more of a story here to latch on to. Sure, I bawled my eyes out during the A Million Dreams song and also when the family moved into their mansion and one of the daughters received her ballet slippers, but everything else just felt very basic.

Did we really need two langit-lupa love stories when we didn’t even know much about the circus members (I couldn’t even recall any of their names!)? Even American Horror Story: Freak Show was able to bring life to its characters (sorry, but Kathy Bates would always be the Bearded Lady to me) and went beyond the “They’re humans, too!” message. When the group belted out the supposedly cathartic This Is Me song, it felt more like a production number on Glee rather than a poignant anthem about celebrating diversity.

Wait, did I just sound very much like a “theater critic who can’t find joy in a theater”?

5. I also felt a bit sad that the movie just glossed on some seemingly important topics, especially the one regarding exploitation. I wish we had more insights to this so-called celebration of humanity where people with disabilities weren’t treated any differently from animals in a zoo.

As a kid, I remembered going to a local perya and paying Php20 to watch a Lalaking Alimango (billed as a half-human, half-crab, but in reality was a man with underdeveloped arms and limbs and had pincer-like growths instead of fingers). I cried out of fear and also out of pity because they made him swim in this tub of dirty water.

I guess the idea of tackling freaks as entertainment was just too heavy for this movie that only aimed to be a feel-good one, ending with Jackman joyously riding an elephant in the city to meet his loving family. And after that, all was right with the world.

Rating: ★★★☆☆