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: ★★☆☆☆

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COLLATERAL BEAUTY (David Frankel, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Collateral Beauty:

1. The movie started with Will Smith (as Howard, an advertising executive) delivering a supposedly empowering and emotional speech to his team (“We all long for love, wish for more time, and fear death”), but said message closely resembled the coffee commercial asking us “Para kanino ka bumabangon?”. I actually expected him to take a sip of Nescafe after every dramatic pause. How could advertising illuminate other people’s lives if we’re dealt the same treacly platitudes?

2. Trauma caused by the death of a loved one should be a gold mine for emotional manipulation (nothing wrong with it, if executed properly). Instead, the movie decided to be a dark comedy where Howard’s co-workers slash friends hired professional actors to play abstract characters (Love, Time, and Death) that interacted with him and made him appear all sorts of crazy. Some friends, no?

3. I liked how the movie raised the discussion on bereavement hallucinations. Maybe this could help explain all the ghost stories of loved ones visiting us days after their death. Or why I would imagine a giant KFC chicken on our dining table Temptation Island-style whenever I would go on these unsuccessful New Year’s resolution diets.

4. One character mentioned that “casting is very important” and it couldn’t be more true in this one. Without Smith, Kate Winslet, Edward Norton, Keira Knightley, and Helen Mirren, among others, this probably would have been a Christmas TV movie on Lifetime.

5. Speaking of Mirren, she performed a holiday miracle here by making the most out of a thankless role (“It turns out Death was an elderly white woman.”). Her character kept complaining that she should have played all the parts and at some points, I actually wished she did.

6. As a huge Winslet fan, I had always been fascinated with her wobbly American accent and her waterloo was always the word “absurd”. I swear, check out her other films.

7. I think my eyes rolled out of their sockets in the scene where Howard described the experience of seeing his newborn daughter with “I looked at her and I realized I wasn’t feeling love, I have become love.” Another reason why I would never be a father.

8. The digital manipulation done on Howard’s breakdown videos must have cost these characters a fortune. Surely, there were better and more cost-efficient options.

9. Twist after (predictable) twist that didn’t really matter. Everything felt inauthentic down to the buckets of tears that flowed in every other scene. Boo hoo indeed.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆