NEBRASKA (Alexander Payne, 2013)

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My notes on Nebraska:

1. Simple yet powerful, mundane yet life-affirming, dark yet funny, and gorgeously shot in black & white.

I really have a penchant for old people movies (see 2012’s Amour). I find the last years of someone’s life very fascinating. Does that make me weird and creepy?

2. Bruce Dern deserves an Oscar for his excellent work in this movie. Plus he’s the father of Laura Dern. Now I have lots of reasons to love him.

3. It would be hard to classify this film as an all-out comedy but I was laughing in almost every scene from start to end. Alexander Payne has mastered the art of dark humor (see also Election and About Schmidt).

4. I feel like I would get a verbal whipping if I don’t mention the wonderful work of June Squibb. She was a natural and possibly one of a few actresses who could call a dead woman a slut and still sound funny and honest.

5. Remember those misleading “You won a million pesos!” or “You won a brand new car!” complete with a key promos in those bulky Reader’s Digest envelopes? I fell for those as a kid. My mom did, too. She even subscribed for a year (of course she’ll reason out now that she wanted to read the articles). Marketing’s such a bitch.

Rating: ★★★★★

(Originally published February 25, 2014.)

WILD (Jean-Marc Vallee, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Wild:

1. The film opened with a scene involving the removal of a dead toenail. Wait, was that a transliteration or was patay na kuko really dead nail in English? Either way, I was in pain. It set the proper tone for all the physical and emotional torture that unfolded.

2. Shouting on top of a mountain is definitely cathartic. Try it.

3. One of the things I hate doing before a big vacation is packing. I don’t like getting wrinkles on clothes that I will be wearing for selfies. And I never pack light even if it’s for an overnight stay.

4. I’ve been seeing a lot of poop being shown onscreen lately. Please tell me this won’t be a trend. People are eating popcorn while watching. On second thought, it can save me the fats and calories. But still, no.

5. One scene showed how we easily judge people based on appearances. Or maybe that was just me being really judgmental.

6. Reese Witherspoon was great in the lead role and I was surprised with all the nudity in the movie. She didn’t even show a lot of skin in Cruel Intentions and that was all about sexuality.

7. This film made me realize that I will never survive camping in the middle of a desert. Or even the first five hundred meter hike. I had to use my inhaler several times while watching.

8. I loved how everything felt like a dream-like state where flashes of the past were inserted during her actual hike. I definitely appreciated this more than Jean-Marc Vallee’s previous effort, The Dallas Buyers Club.

9. How could Laura Dern be playing Reese’s mom? She only looked a few years older than her. She was really fantastic in her limited screen time, though.

10. Can someone explain the significance of the fox? Yes, I’m encouraging you to watch it so you can explain it after. Such a lovely film.

Rating: ★★★★★

(Originally published February 15, 2015.)

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI (Rian Johnson, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

Please tell me I wasn’t the only one totally shipping Kylo Ren and Rey. There was just so much sexual tension between them (good vs evil!) that their awesome lightsaber battle (set in scorching crimson red, of course!) felt very much like the kinkiest foreplay. They wouldn’t even need to bother with Skype because they could easily see and talk to each other via their minds (so Kylo just happened to be topless at one point, really?). My only concern was that even with the reveal that Rey’s parents were nobodies, they could totally switch this up a few films from now. Let’s not forget that the greatest love team in this series ended up in incest (still not as eww-worthy as parts I-III, though).

Daming ganap. Even with multiple storylines and a 2.5 hour running time, in the end nothing much really happened and they just basically rebooted the entire franchise. It reminded me of these RPG video games with several side quests that although entertaining only served as a distraction to the main story. I guess it was a bit understandable though since the main story simply revolved around a Resistance ship trying to get away from the First Order. How many ways could you make a ship running out of fuel exciting, right? On the other hand, did we really need that lengthy casino scene?

Also, why did they have to make Luke Skywalker such a bitter, grumpy old man? I could imagine the crushed hearts of fanboys that waited a long time only to see him nonchalantly toss away his lightsaber (was that meant to be funny?). In one scene, he was even supposed to kill a young boy (horrors!). Why the sudden change? Was it because he kept drinking that spoiled-looking green milk from a non-cow creature? (Sabagay, an upset stomach creates a monster out of me as well.)

So those shiny crystal animals just happened to lead the group out to safety? How convenient! And I wasn’t a fan of those critters that were obviously included for easy laughs. Besides, was there anything funnier than a seemingly dead Princess Leia suddenly regaining consciousness and flying ala Superman in outer space back to her ship?

I felt bad that Laura Dern and Benicio del Toro were underutilized in this movie to give way for the Finn and Rose love story. It was a fun and cute caper, but that kiss generated as much heat as winter in Siberia. I was also a bit distracted because Rose looked very much like Ate Kimmy Go Donghae. Every time she would abruptly show up on screen, I expected her to scream, “May sale sa Lazada!!”.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS (Josh Boone, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Fault in Our Stars:

1. I read the book in two days (large fonts!) and I must say that this movie was a faithful adaptation in terms of directly lifting dialogue and entire scenes from the source material (down to the pink towel that Hazel’s mom wore when she rushed to her room). It would be unfair to compare the two different visions so let me just say that when Hazel promised at the beginning that it won’t be the typical love story, only the book stayed true to that promise.

2. Yes, I cried tons while watching the movie but then I cry in almost everything. Besides, it was a story about two star-crossed kids with cancer. You know their love story was doomed from the start. Only a person with a heart of stone wouldn’t feel anything for these two.

3. The weird thing about all my crying, though, was that it happened on those particular scenes when the movie didn’t try hard to make me cry. Remember that scene when Hazel’s mom said they couldn’t afford the trip to Amsterdam? Or the one when she looked at her parents holding hands and she felt like a burden to them? Sure I bawled my eyes out during her pretend eulogy and I probably felt a punch in my solar plexus when Augustus revealed that he was sick but these were easy triggers for my tear duct buttons.

4. Which brings me to my other point, how can a movie with such a brave female character actually not have the balls to honestly depict cancer? I understand that it was primarily a love story (albeit a corny one) but during the third act when it needed to show courage, it actually chickened out and resorted to the usual emotional manipulation. Where was the scene in the book when Augustus peed himself? Sure it would have ruined every little girl’s crush on Ansel Elgort but why didn’t it show the disease as it really was?

5. Speaking of Ansel Elgort, he was really charming in this movie, no? I actually forgot that he played brother to Shailene Woodley in Divergent. Actually this movie worked entirely because of the strong performances. Shailene nailed all of her crying scenes (although I never for one second believed that she was 16). And let’s not forget the phenomenal Laura Dern who breathed such life to a typical suffering mother role.

6. The evil depiction of Peter Van Houten and his eventual change of heart looked lame onscreen and was a big departure from that in the book. And they really had to choose the guy who played Nosferatu and the Green Goblin as if the character wasn’t despicable enough. Oh, and that whole Anne Frank’s house scene (endless stairs!) didn’t do anything for me. It also probably had the most unromantic first kiss ever.

7. For those that read the book, what things did you miss in this adaptation? Mine would have to be Kaitlyn (to show that Hazel’s not really anti-social), all the V for Vendetta references (only shown as a poster in Augustus’ room), Caroline Mathers (Augustus had an ex-girlfriend!!), the alfresco Amsterdam dinner near the canal (dinner under the stars would have been more romantic), that HUMP THE CAVE WALL scene, all those Facebook references (you know the posts that people make whenever someone dies; those made the story more human and timely), and Augustus’ eulogy that was not as sentimental as the movie made it to be.

8. Wait, they did omit the only scene in the book where I cried. It was the one where Hazel attended Augustus’ wake, approached his coffin, placed her hand on his chest, and said, “I love you present tense. It’s okay, Gus. It’s okay. Do you hear me? It’s okay.” Then she kissed him on the cheek and said, “Okay? Okay.”

Pass me the Kleenex.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

JURASSIC PARK (Steven Spielberg, 1993)

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Jurassic Park is one of my all-time favorite films. Watching it makes me feel like a kid again. I’ve visited Isla Nublar countless times before.

Watching Jurassic Park on the big screen again was the best experience I’ve had in cinemas this year. 3D conversion didn’t add much, though. If anything, 3D muted the colors and made the night scenes barely watchable. Dinosaurs will always be menacing regardless of format.

I’ve always preferred Spielberg the fun movie magician over Spielberg the serious film historian.

The 3D conversion was unnecessary but it didn’t lessen the magic of the original film.

Rating: 5/5