RED 2 (Dean Parisot, 2013)

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More husband and wife banter than non-stop action. Nobody wields a gun sexier than Helen Mirren, though.

The game cast of Red 2 (that also included John Malkovich) just couldn’t do much out of the weak material about old people being cool.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published August 18, 2013.)

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WINCHESTER (Michael & Peter Spierig, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Winchester:

1. Popularly known as “the house that spirits built”, the Winchester mansion in California looked every bit the oddity that you would expect from its ghost architects. With seven storeys and over a hundred rooms, it was meant to both please and distract the entities haunting that place. There were secret rooms, doors that led to nowhere, early intercoms that utilized pipes, thirteen (supposedly a lucky number) items in every room, and weird staircases meant to assist the house owner Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren) who was suffering from arthritis.

It was an ongoing construction for over forty years that only ceased upon Mrs. Winchester’s death. Now open for public viewing as a popular tourist spot, I would certainly want to visit the place and squeeze my brain out wondering how much staff and how long it took to actually clean the entire house. I might even bring my own bottle of Lysol.

2. Even with such an interesting history, the movie itself failed to capture the mystery surrounding the house and its occupants. It relied on the usual scare techniques that would only work on people that had never actually seen a horror film. Reflections of ghosts in a mirror, a character looking under the bed to check creaking noises, demons that peek in keyholes and in between door spaces, tired tired tired. One character mentioned that “fear is all in the mind”, but no matter how much I opened myself up to getting scared silly, it just never worked.

3. The great Mirren was the only reason why I even bothered with this. Caligula aside, I don’t think I had ever seen her in a horror movie. The closest would have to be the execrable Teaching Mrs. Tingle, which was still surprisingly much better than this one.

I seriously wish she was paid handsomely for this project because it seemed like the budget for the script was given to her instead. At least it was fun seeing her look like she was ready for Halloween 2018 as wedding belle Ivy Aguas.

4. Every time I hear “laudanum”, it would always be in the voice of Kirsten Dunst as Claudia in Interview with the Vampire, coyly telling Lestat that it “keeps the blood warm”. Hey, now that was a great horror movie! Time to revisit.

5. Oh, this also served as a propaganda flick against gun violence. One character actually mentioned that guns were evil because they were instruments of death. I found it really odd then that the ghost (no, not Charlton Heston) sought revenge by using a rifle. In turn, he was vanquished back to the afterlife after getting shot. So anti-gun laws or what?

6. Wait, was the falling nail during the final scene audaciously even hinting at a possible sequel? Que horror!!

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

COLLATERAL BEAUTY (David Frankel, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Collateral Beauty:

1. The movie started with Will Smith (as Howard, an advertising executive) delivering a supposedly empowering and emotional speech to his team (“We all long for love, wish for more time, and fear death”), but said message closely resembled the coffee commercial asking us “Para kanino ka bumabangon?”. I actually expected him to take a sip of Nescafe after every dramatic pause. How could advertising illuminate other people’s lives if we’re dealt the same treacly platitudes?

2. Trauma caused by the death of a loved one should be a gold mine for emotional manipulation (nothing wrong with it, if executed properly). Instead, the movie decided to be a dark comedy where Howard’s co-workers slash friends hired professional actors to play abstract characters (Love, Time, and Death) that interacted with him and made him appear all sorts of crazy. Some friends, no?

3. I liked how the movie raised the discussion on bereavement hallucinations. Maybe this could help explain all the ghost stories of loved ones visiting us days after their death. Or why I would imagine a giant KFC chicken on our dining table Temptation Island-style whenever I would go on these unsuccessful New Year’s resolution diets.

4. One character mentioned that “casting is very important” and it couldn’t be more true in this one. Without Smith, Kate Winslet, Edward Norton, Keira Knightley, and Helen Mirren, among others, this probably would have been a Christmas TV movie on Lifetime.

5. Speaking of Mirren, she performed a holiday miracle here by making the most out of a thankless role (“It turns out Death was an elderly white woman.”). Her character kept complaining that she should have played all the parts and at some points, I actually wished she did.

6. As a huge Winslet fan, I had always been fascinated with her wobbly American accent and her waterloo was always the word “absurd”. I swear, check out her other films.

7. I think my eyes rolled out of their sockets in the scene where Howard described the experience of seeing his newborn daughter with “I looked at her and I realized I wasn’t feeling love, I have become love.” Another reason why I would never be a father.

8. The digital manipulation done on Howard’s breakdown videos must have cost these characters a fortune. Surely, there were better and more cost-efficient options.

9. Twist after (predictable) twist that didn’t really matter. Everything felt inauthentic down to the buckets of tears that flowed in every other scene. Boo hoo indeed.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆