SON OF GOD (Christopher Spencer, 2014)

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I learned more about the Bible watching those Sunday cartoons Superbook and The Flying House.

Before you start stoning me to death, here are my notes on Son of God:

1. Regardless of one’s faith (or lack thereof), The Bible is such a great source of inspirational stories. You can take any section and make an interesting movie out of it. You do not cram everything in a 2.5 hour film, though. It will just be a disaster.

2. The biggest problem in this movie was Jesus and the actor (Diogo Morgado) who portrayed him. I mean why was Jesus boastful, mocking, and defiant in this version? He was like, “Look at me, I’m performing miracles!” It was nothing short of blasphemous.

3. The original source was a 10-hour miniseries from the History Channel and it was obvious. The movie was just badly-edited and jumped from one important event to another. It ended up more like “The Best of The Bible”.

4. Anybody who came from a Catholic school could easily identify the inaccuracies here. And sometimes they were just too infuriating.

5. I didn’t even know that Pontius Pilate was having an oil massage while Jesus was being crucified. And there was even an earthquake immediately after Jesus died. We must have skipped over those in our Christian Living classes.

6. When the movie introduced Barabbas, I remembered Dely Atay-Atayan from John en Marsha. I never forgot the bad guys in the Bible because of her famous “Hudas, Barabbas, Estas!” expression.

7. What spoilers?!

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published April 6, 2014.)

30 DAYS OF NIGHT (David Slade, 2007)

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You’re a certified Batang 90’s if you still remember that infamous Three Days of Darkness hoax that seemed like a clever collaborative marketing ploy for supermarkets, candlemakers, and Eveready. This was way before Google and Facebook fact-checks so if Noli de Castro reports on TV Patrol that we needed to cover up/tint our windows and never go out of our homes for the said deadly days, we had to believe and follow him, right?

After the massive panic-buying and constant praying (and the urge not to look out while Jesus supposedly walked the earth), it didn’t happen. One would think that people would be less gullible now in this information age, but not much has changed.

What did this have to do with the movie? Nothing really. It was just a more interesting story to tell.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

#Y (Gino Santos, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on #Y:

1. We do not live in a Star Cinema world where all conflicts get magically resolved for the requisite happy ending. In our reality, mental health problems exist without an absolute cure. In our reality, people think that “clinical depression with mild bipolar and schizophrenic tendencies” is just a fancy-schmancy condition conjured by quack doctors to explain the loneliness felt by millennials. In our reality, people with suicidal tendencies get crucified for being selfish and for not having Jesus in their lives.

And so I was incredibly furious upon realizing that the nihilistic version of this film (that I really liked) during its Cinemalaya run was turned into a positive, life-affirming, family-friendly fluff in its theatrical cut (that I recently rewatched on iWant). Why, Star Cinema, why??

2. The film started with Miles (Elmo Magalona and his perpetually glazed eyes) standing on a building’s rooftop and contemplating suicide. He described in detail his past encounters with death before proclaiming that life was a prison that needed an escape and then he… whipped out his phone to record his goodbye message. Kids nowadays, right?

One of the things I admired about Gino Santos’ early works (this and his breakthrough debut The Animals) was that he had a clear grasp of his subjects. He (lovingly/viciously) presented the duality of the social media generation as vapid and careless and self-absorbed (one character slashed her wrist using a cut-up Platinum credit card) while being independent and liberal and carefree. All the partying, drug use, and casual sex depicted here would definitely make the old ladies clutch on to their pearl necklaces, but hey, that was this Gen-Y’s (unapologetic) reality.

3. Whenever Miles would smile and assure his friends that he was okay even if he clearly wasn’t, I really felt that. I’ve always had moments when I also needed a stranger like Abbie (Chynna Ortaleza and her spot-on call center accent) to calm my nerves and bring me back to my senses. Somebody who didn’t know you enough to judge you or question why you still weren’t happy even if it felt like you had everything you needed in your life. The fact that it was never really explained why Miles wanted to end his life spoke so much about his debilitating condition.

I just hope Abbie didn’t reflect the current status of our local lifeline centers. It was sad and frustrating to hear her touch on spirituality and even guilt-trip her caller into backing out of suicide (“Isipin mo ang mga maiwan mo na tao, hindi nila deserve yun”). The fact that she was consoling other people while suffering from her own grief was doubly heartbreaking, though.

4. The good-looking, real-life conyo kids that played Miles’ friends definitely fit their respective roles. My favorite was easily Coleen Garcia as the school slut (her words, not mine) Janna. That entire bit about a lover licking her ears that hadn’t been cleaned for a week made me want to puke while laughing. (Although if she really had been bedding a lot of her schoolmates, why would these guys still think that she was a virgin?). Coleen was so good here that I remembered saying that she even performed better than the Superstar that year. Who else could deliver a throwaway line like “Kinikilig ako just by looking at him” and totally bring the house down? Your move, La Aunor.

I wonder whatever happened to Sophie Albert’s career. I really thought she would make it big after winning Artista Academy. As Lia, she was the right amount of annoying and insecure (especially with her Forever 21 wardrobe). On the other hand, Kit Thompson’s Ping was extremely detestable and probably best represented the (worst?) kind of his generation. His biggest comeuppance was when Miles included him in that farewell video with the words “I’ll see you soon”. Ouch!!

Side note: Why did they have to butcher his masturbation scene? Damn you, Star Cinema!!

5. It was only apt that Miles idolized Holden Caulfield (The Catcher in the Rye, hello?) who taught me the meaning of the word “phony”. A seemingly inauthentic and shallow generation unfairly judged by society while they faced real-life problems? This story needed a tragedy, not a forced inspirational ending. Release the Cinemalaya cut!!

“Being happy and having no right to be unhappy are two completely different things.”

Rating: ★★★★☆

(Originally published August 2, 2014.)

THE SHACK (Stuart Hazeldine, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Shack:

1. Like with most Christian films (e.g. God’s Not Dead), my entire viewing experience felt like getting continuously whacked on the head by a Bible for two hours until I eventually started speaking in tongues. My dear blessed brothers and sisters, please don’t get me wrong. I’m not averse to movies with heavy religious themes. It only becomes a problem whenever it feels like these beliefs are shoved down our throats (“It’s in the Bible so it must be true!”) and anybody with a dissenting opinion gets tagged as a sinner, an atheist, or in need of prayer and guidance.

I’m sorry, but I don’t need a sermon. I already have my mother for that.

(Speaking of, one of her biggest disappointments was that she asked me to join our local parish’s Youth for Christ group and my only takeaway from the youth camp was that tinola tasted better with sayote instead of papaya. Susmaryosep!)

2. The story here was pretty much straightforward. It was a father’s (a flat Sam Worthington) spiritual journey in search of closure for the brutal murder of his youngest daughter. His healing trail included lessons on being less judgmental, acquiring wisdom through strength of faith, and finding actual forgiveness in his heart. I actually thought it could have been told more interestingly (and at a more reasonable thirty minutes) in an episode of Flying House (less the brutal murder, of course).

3. This entire Hallmark meets Lifetime movie wouldn’t have happened if he just drove properly and followed the Stop sign. In one scene, he also accidentally fell in the snow and hit his head on the pavement. Like what the late, great Inday Badiday said, “Careful, careful”.

4. I liked how the Holy Trinity was gender neutral and represented different ethnicities. God was played by Octavia Spencer (did her revised contract require a pie reference every single time?) while Jesus and the Holy Spirit (who collected tears) looked like a Middle Eastern man and an Asian lady respectively. I didn’t read the book so I wasn’t aware if they were written as such or if this was one of those progressive Hollywood castings.

5. Paradise (or was that the Garden of Eden?) lived up to its name with such a gorgeous set design that reminded me of those technicolor sceneries in What Dreams May Come.

6. I honestly felt a bit dizzy from all the spiritual life lessons that were spewed one after the other (“When all you see is your pain, you lose sight of Me”). Simple chores (hobbies?) like baking, fishing, and gardening suddenly turned into Sunday school lectures.

I didn’t break out in hives and there was no burning sensation after watching though so that was a good sign.

7. Wait, why was he even allowed in heaven if he killed his own father? Shouldn’t he have been partying with Lucy and the rest of the fallen angels instead? Cue God Must Have Spent a Little More Time On You.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆