ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD (Ridley Scott, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on All the Money in the World:

1. It says so much about a film when the behind the scenes controversies were a lot more compelling than the movie itself. The sudden replacement of Kevin Spacey (amid the #MeToo movement) with Christopher Plummer, the last minute expedited reshoots to make its December 2017 release date (and maintain its Oscar contender status this year), and the huge salary gap concerns between Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams were just juicier and more dramatic.

2. “To be a Getty is an extraordinary thing. I know that because my grandpa told me so.” And he wasn’t kidding. His grandfather was J. Paul Getty (Plummer), named by Fortune magazine as the richest American in the late ‘50s and said to be the richest man in the history of the world. In a Playboy interview, Getty even mentioned that “If you can count your money, then you’re not a billionaire.” I would have been incredibly jealous if only I hadn’t seen so many rich people problems here (like buying a million dollar painting that could not be displayed for public viewing).

3. One of the biggest concerns of the rich would definitely be security. I couldn’t imagine an Ayala or Gokongwei enjoying life’s simple pleasures (like say, hanging out at a local mall) without any fear that their kids might get targeted by kidnap for ransom groups. I used to fantasize that I was a scion of Henry Sy, but it further heightened my already excessive paranoia so I had to give up the dream of having my own Shoemart branch. I guess it was true that “When a man becomes wealthy, he has to deal with the problems of freedom.”

4. Plummer was remarkable in his role and made a detestable character completely human (ergo relatable). He sneered at the poor people that wrote to him asking for help (“If I respond to every person asking for money, I will also be as destitute!”), played hardball with his grandchild’s kidnappers (“I have fourteen grandchildren. If I pay the ransom, I’ll have fourteen kidnapped grandchildren”), and finally agreed to pay the ransom but only as part of his tax deduction. I slightly felt bad for him in the scene where he was playing chess with himself.

(And before I get accused of anything, Williams was also good in her role. I found it odd though that she was billed as a lead, but it felt like she had a secondary character.)

5. Those reshoots worked out pretty well. I actually thought that Getty’s character was very minor and that was why they could easily recast the role. The only weird aspect (and only if you knew about the casting replacement) was that the actor that played Getty’s son looked and sounded very much like a young Spacey.

6. That artistic shot of the newspapers flying in slow motion? I’m sorry Ridley Scott, but Respeto did it first last year. #PinoyFried

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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: ★★☆☆☆

BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (Zack Snyder, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice:

1. I entered the cinema with incredibly low expectations because of brutal reviews from critics and terrible feedback from friends that camped out to watch the very first screening. I was also never fascinated with this match-up and saw it more like Alien vs Predator, a lame cash cow that pitted two popular characters for the sake of seeing which one had the bigger balls (or mandibles). Besides, when it was a battle between good vs good (or evil vs evil), would there even be a winner? When the movie was over, all I could think of was that it wasn’t bad at all. (Even better, it was no Man of Steel.)

2. If I was clueless on the Marvel Universe, I was even more lost in this DC Universe. I would not be geeking out and pointing various differences between the comic books and the movie because I really didn’t know anything, except from what I had seen in previous Superman and Batman movies. I was even puzzled because my idea of Wonder Woman was the red, white, and blue clad Lynda Carter with her magic lasso. Seriously, how many more times would we see another version of Bruce Wayne’s parents getting killed? Remember when Deadpool mentioned that he was getting confused with the timelines of X-Men (“McAvoy or Stewart?”), I felt the exact same way as soon as the flashback started.

3. At least the promised showdown didn’t disappoint. It clearly showed a battle between god and man, one with superhero powers and a major weakness and the other a rich mortal armed with hi-tech gadgets. When they started fighting and destroying buildings, I finally understood why the people hated these two. They were just major nuisances that disturbed the peace of their city.

4. There were two scenes where characters went for a dip even with their shoes on and it really bothered me. It would only take a minute to remove them. Why subject yourselves to super kachichas?

5. A lot of people hated Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor and called him the movie’s Jar Jar Binks. I think the biggest difference was that he was really meant to be an annoying man-child (I loved the scene where he was giving a speech and completely forgot his entire point) while JJB was George Lucas’ failed attempt to create another Ewok. Eisenberg was good here and in one scene even proved that he could out-snot Viola Davis. I did not see him growing up as Kevin Spacey, though.

6. When Jeremy Irons showed up as Alfred, I actually thought that he was an old Robert Downey, Jr. I swear I thought it was an unprecedented crossover.

7. I didn’t know the rest of the characters shown for the future Justice League but I was excited to see Ezra Miller playing the Flash (although this character would always be Dawson’s father to me, you know John Wesley Shipp that was rumored to have a romantic relationship with James Van der Beek). I also recognized Silas Stone (his name was on the computer screen) as the brilliant Joe Morton. Olivia Pope should be proud.

8. Regardless of the ending, Zack Snyder obviously favored Superman more. Now I really understood those sad Ben Affleck memes and videos. His Batman was just depressed and didn’t have the necessary angst for the role (like he was still suffering from a tortured relationship with J.Lo or carrying a guilt for possibly cheating on Jennifer Garner). For a rich guy, he couldn’t even ask his butler to remove his car cover.

Henry Cavill, on the other hand, could still barely act, but was shown as the real hero even if he had enough time to bask in the glory of his billowing cape while the people on the roof were close to drowning. He even had a scene where people surrounded him and touched him like a god (although I was sure that even James Reid would be treated that way if he stood in the middle of the activity center in ATC).

9. Wonder Woman clearly knew how to accentuate her assets (considering that she was played by a previous Miss Universe candidate). All of Gal Gadot’s dresses showed her cleavage and/or back. But nothing beats the beauty of Lois Lane (Amy Adams) who always came first in terms of saving, regardless if people were dying everywhere. She took “ganda mo gurl” to a whole new level.

10. Here are some questions from a self-confessed comic book idiot:

a) How could Superman not hear that there was a bomb in the court room? He couldn’t be that distracted, right?

b) What were the flying taong insekto?

c) Was Wonder Woman a witch if she lived way back in 1918?

d) If Batman knew that Superman’s weakness was kryptonite, why couldn’t he have made a simple bracelet that he could attach to him? (I saw one used in the Supergirl TV series.)

e) Speaking of, how could even Superman fly carrying the kryptonite spear when Lois even had to throw it away because it was seeping his strength?

f) Was Superman the first person to show up in court wearing his underwear outside?

g) Did people hate the movie because “people hate what they don’t understand” or because it had a bummer of an ending (giving Star Cinema another reason to have a requisite happy ending)?

11. No mid-/post-credits sequence. Now that was even more sad than the funeral.

Rating: ★★★☆☆