UPSIDE DOWN (Juan Solanas, 2012)

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It’s a dismal movie that gives a whole new meaning to the classic “langit ka, lupa ako” love story.

It has so many things wrong that it’s hard to focus on just the love story.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published February 13, 2013.)

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: ★☆☆☆☆

HIDDEN FIGURES (Theodore Melfi, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Hidden Figures:

1. Jimmy Kimmel in the recent Oscars telecast said it best when he introduced the amazing trio of actresses in this film as Algebra’s Angels.

Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae portrayed Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson respectively, the real-life brains behind NASA’s space exploration program in the early ’60s. These women’s admirable display of courage and resiliency (and basically kicked ass!) amidst the blatant racial and gender discrimination in Virginia during that time was a story that needed to be told (“Every time we have a chance to move ahead, they move the finish line”).

As expected, I cried my heart out throughout the movie’s entirety. Surprisingly, none of it was because of the mathematical equations (elliptical vs parabolic!) written on the board.

2. Katherine was obviously a gifted child because at a young age she could identify all the various shapes (rhombus! tetrahedron!) on a window design even if I could only see pointed shapes and a swirling blob pattern. She reminded me so much of John Nash, another genius that saw symbols float from windows that led to his Nobel Prize.

As the adult Katherine, Taraji dialled her famous feisty persona several notches down and it effectively worked in her favor. Cookie Lyon would never run half a mile just to pee in a colored bathroom so it was a pleasant surprise when this plucky side showed up in that outburst scene where Katherine, fully drenched from the rain and probably 10 pounds lighter from all the running, stood up to her supervisor (Kevin Costner) who questioned her long bathroom breaks (“I have to run to Timbuktu just to relieve myself!”).

Still surprised she didn’t get an Oscar nomination for that brilliant scene which fully summarized the hurt and embarrassment caused by segregation (colored bathrooms, colored coffee pot, colored fountain, colored seats at the back of the bus, colored entrance in buildings, unbelievable!!). And yes, I cried even more when Costner took a sledgehammer and knocked down that bathroom sign (“Here at NASA, we all pee the same color”). Bring a box of tissues!

3. Given the heavy and serious themes, the movie still managed to wring out laughs from all of the tension. Most of the humor came from the scenes with Janelle (who actually channeled Cookie) and whose character Mary couldn’t care less what the others thought of her liberal ideals (“I have the right to see fine men regardless of color”).

Weirdly enough, I couldn’t hold back my tears even if some scenes were played for laughs (again, all the running done to the bathroom was just heartbreaking). This inspirational film couldn’t be accused of emotional manipulation if all of my pain was self-inflicted, right?

4. “No shoe is worth a life.” This obviously happened pre-Manolo Blahnik, Christian Louboutin and Jimmy Choo.

5. If there was one thing I wasn’t too fond of, it was the amount of time devoted to Katherine’s lovelife. I knew it was meant to humanize her considering that she was a walking computer, but we could have done without it. At 127 minutes, the movie obviously needed a bit of trimming.

6. I really loved the slice of pie reference made to Octavia. I probably held off on eating chocolate pie for a full year after seeing Minnie’s recipe on The Help.

7. Were those huge contraptions the first IBM computer models? They actually looked like the scariest dialysis machines. Kids these days are just way fortunate (read: entitled).

8. Kirsten Dunst played her bitchy supervisor role so well that I wanted to slap her Legal Wife-style when she made Dorothy look like a custodian and asked her to push those heavy files back using a steel cart. Oh, the nerdddddd!!

Speaking of, Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) naturally played the head engineer. Not surprised at all that the cast won the SAG for Best Ensemble.

9. So happy to live in a time when these women are hidden figures no more. Nothing can trump that feeling. Oh, wait…

Rating: ★★★★☆