INTO THE WOODS (Rob Marshall, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Into the Woods:

1. A lot of the people in the theater complained that the characters did nothing but sing. It was a musical, for crying out loud! I heard the exact same thing about Les Miserables. No wonder 1dol flopped on local TV.

2. I had grown tired of these reimagining and modernization of classic fairy tales (Maleficent, Jack the Giant Slayer, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters; although I had to say I was excited to watch the new live-action Cinderella).

Happy to see the Babel-like take of the stories here. The movie was actually clever until it turned really serious in its final act. Why couldn’t it have ended with the requisite happily ever after?

3. I absolutely loved the prologue song but the rest were not so memorable. Sure, I enjoyed the diva showdown between the two Princes but I usually leave the theater humming a tune from the musical and it didn’t happen here.

4. Momma Meryl was fine as always but my favorites were the bratty Little Red Riding Hood and the wonderful singing of Emily Blunt. Miranda and Emily would be so proud.

5. Was I the only one bothered by the dark undertones of pedophilia whenever Little Red Riding Hood was surrounded by the grown-ups? First, she was stalked by the Big Bad Wolf, an obvious child predator, and then she was forced to remove her cape by the Baker. Was it just my perverted mind?

6. I knew that the real fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen were really dark to begin with, but I was still surprised this was rated General Patronage. Women got their toes sawed off, several characters were killed, a couple had an adulterous tryst. Uhh, why was this considered suitable for children?

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published February 4, 2015.)

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THE GREATEST SHOWMAN (Michael Gracey, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Greatest Showman:

1. It had been over a year already and I still couldn’t forget the fabulous opening sequence of La La Land. Another Day of Sun fully encapsulated the reason why I really love musicals. I’d always imagine myself stuck along EDSA during Friday night rush hour traffic and I would get out of my car and burst into song while commuters inside cars and buses would sing a chorus and dance along with me. Why would there be any road rage when I could simply belt out my six octave range (bye Mariah!) and shimmy with the takatak boys? Our lives as a series of music videos would definitely be one sweet sweet fantasy, right?

2. As a musical, Showman was an enjoyable treat with its dazzling set pieces, spectacular choreography (that rooftop dance sequence with the dancing kumots!), and soaring sugar pop melodies. My favorite number was Rewrite the Stars with Zac Efron and Zendaya flying through the air on ropes, making it the most dangerous flirtation since I joined (and ultimately deleted) Tinder five years ago.

I also really liked the powerhouse performance of Rebecca Ferguson in Never Enough, until 1) I discovered that it really wasn’t her singing (it was actually dubbed by The Voice contestant Loren Allred), and 2) I realized immediately after that she was pining for a married man. In a culture fascinated with kabit movies where viewers enjoy seeing these women get their comeuppance, I wonder how many Pinoys actually loved this (in context) mistress song.

3. I wasn’t a huge fan of Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables (a singing Russell Crowe scarred me for life), but amidst the distractingly tight close-ups was an undeniably terrific performance by Hugh Jackman. He delivered again here as P.T. Barnum, serving as a ringleader to his troop of circus oddities and trying to stay true on the promise of being the greatest showman.

I actually liked him better in this movie because he was just more effective as a performer than a singer (check his Tony Awards hosting work on YouTube!). I also had a good laugh when the young Barnum got caught stealing a loaf of bread, the very reason why Jean Valjean turned into prisoner 24601.

4. I wish there was more of a story here to latch on to. Sure, I bawled my eyes out during the A Million Dreams song and also when the family moved into their mansion and one of the daughters received her ballet slippers, but everything else just felt very basic.

Did we really need two langit-lupa love stories when we didn’t even know much about the circus members (I couldn’t even recall any of their names!)? Even American Horror Story: Freak Show was able to bring life to its characters (sorry, but Kathy Bates would always be the Bearded Lady to me) and went beyond the “They’re humans, too!” message. When the group belted out the supposedly cathartic This Is Me song, it felt more like a production number on Glee rather than a poignant anthem about celebrating diversity.

Wait, did I just sound very much like a “theater critic who can’t find joy in a theater”?

5. I also felt a bit sad that the movie just glossed on some seemingly important topics, especially the one regarding exploitation. I wish we had more insights to this so-called celebration of humanity where people with disabilities weren’t treated any differently from animals in a zoo.

As a kid, I remembered going to a local perya and paying Php20 to watch a Lalaking Alimango (billed as a half-human, half-crab, but in reality was a man with underdeveloped arms and limbs and had pincer-like growths instead of fingers). I cried out of fear and also out of pity because they made him swim in this tub of dirty water.

I guess the idea of tackling freaks as entertainment was just too heavy for this movie that only aimed to be a feel-good one, ending with Jackman joyously riding an elephant in the city to meet his loving family. And after that, all was right with the world.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

MAID IN MANHATTAN (Wayne Wang, 2002)

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A Republican senator falling for a Latina maid would be even more of a fantasy now compared to when this fairy tale originally came out fifteen years ago. I’d be less surprised to see a movie with Jennifer Lopez as another Boy Next Door-ish cougar to Tyler Posey, who actually played her very young Bread-listening son here.

Poor Frances Conroy and the late Natasha Richardson were wasted as secondary caricatures, but even moreso the Actor Commonly Known as Voldemort. It was a bit uncomfortable to watch the dignified Ralph Fiennes trying his best Hugh Grant impression, made worse by his complete lack of chemistry with J.Lo. They obviously needed a dose of love potion from the Weasleys.

To be fair though, this movie (along with Miss Congeniality) had one of the most memorable makeover reveals in current cinema outside of the Anne Hathaway Universe (The Devil Wears Prada, The Princess Diaries, Les Miserables, err…). A radiant J.Lo in a pink strapless chiffon gown with a million dollar Harry Winston wreath necklace would be a maid’s ultimate dream. Well that and of course Gelli de Belen and her unlimited bikini collection in Ikaw Lang ang Mamahalin (Camiguin).

Rating: ★★☆☆☆