THE POSSESSION (Ole Bornedal, 2012)

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Seriously, another exorcism movie with a lead character named Emily? This was a slow-moving horror flick that served as a cautionary tale on garage sales, directed by someone obsessed with rooftops. I spent most of the time fixating on the older sister who reminded me so much of a young Lindsay Lohan in The Parent Trap.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published September 9, 2012.)

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WOKE UP LIKE THIS (Joel Ferrer, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Woke Up Like This:

1. Aside from superhuman strength and the ability to time travel, one of my favorite fantasies was to swap bodies with a (popular) celebrity. I mean, who wouldn’t want to wake up looking like, say, Benjamin Alves? I’d have instant abs without having to cut down on that extra rice. Plus, I really wanted to know how it’d feel like to be ogled at while window shopping in SM Southmall.

Of course a part of that fantasy didn’t involve kissing my twin sister Julie Ann San Jose, because my life really wasn’t an episode of Game of Thrones.

2. I had seen one too many films that dealt with body swapping and this movie directly lifted scenes from most of them.

• Rob Schneider waking up in a silk lingerie and discovering in the bathroom that he lost his bigalow (and fainting afterwards)? Check.

• Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan trying to bump into each other hoping to shake up their souls enough to make them return to their original bodies? Check.

• Athlete Kevin Zegers acting really funny in a game since his body was inhabited by a girl? Check.

• Mean girl Rachel McAdams trying to stop making an expression happen? Check. (Wait, this wasn’t even a body swap movie. Oh well. They even had a scene where the villains were run over by a speeding vehicle. So not fetch.)

The blatant laziness would have been more forgivable if the copied scenes were actually funny, but they just weren’t (unless you find Vhong Navarro as Nando accidentally drinking his own urine hilarious).

3. Most of the jokes here felt really dated, like they came out of late 90’s Regal-early 00’s Star Cinema comedies. It had scenes where family members would always grab the food that Nando was supposed to eat (bakit kasi ayaw nya agad kagatin ang pandesal?), or to fool another character from receiving a kiss, he would point somewhere and say, “Uy, si John Lloyd!”, sabay takbo. And if it wasn’t obvious enough, his bff was Bayani Agbayani, doing the exact same schtick he had been doing since his Otso-Otso days when he would cry and whine like a modern day Bondying.

4. Suspension of disbelief would be a must in this type of comedy, but this one really pushed it to the limit. Family members and friends simply brushed off the apparent gender switch. Nando and Sabrina (Lovi Poe) went on with their normal lives in different bodies. And so we were treated to a makeover montage with Vhong donning different women’s clothes and having his ass crack waxed for a casting call. What?!

This type of craziness would have worked if the characterizations were at least consistent. In one scene, Lovi was taking a dump and Vhong asked, “May tubol?” (there’s absolutely no way that the posh Sabrina would say or even know something like that). In another, Vhong joined a beauty contest and couldn’t walk properly in heels (even in a man’s body, Sabrina would have rocked that runway).

If anything, at least Lovi was really game and felt more committed to her role, whether she was doing Babalu impressions or merely scratching her crotch.

5. Should I blame Serbis for the proliferation of these juvenile exploding pigsa jokes of late? Definitely swearing off anything cream-filled.

6. Too many corny extras in annoying roles. The OA yaya, the basketball commentator with his sock puppet, even the usually campy Dionne Monsanto was just trying way too hard.

7. Another mannequin challenge?! Eek!

8. To quote one of the characters: “Wag mo nga sabihin tae. Sabihin mo poo poo.” Ok, poo poo.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (Bill Condon, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Beauty and the Beast:

1. Similar to A Second Chance, this live action remake of the classic Disney movie was completely harmless and unnecessary. Lower your pitchforks (or eyebrows), please. Inasmuch as I’m sure you would want to launch into your own glorious rendition of Kill the Beast right about now, hear me out first.

The movie was satisfactory. The cast was mostly fine. The new songs were generally okay (although a tad forgettable). Bring your kids (or your inner kid at heart) and wallow in the amazing feeling of nostalgia.

Just never forget that you’re watching a film directed by the same person that most recently gave us The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Parts 1 and 2. (Fade to black.)

2. I never expected a shot-by-shot remake of the cartoon, but I also didn’t see the need for forty additional minutes of filler to explain the stories behind the Prince’s bad behaviour, Belle’s dead mother, and the Enchantress’ double life in the village, among others. You could immediately feel the difference as soon as this one started with the stained glass sequence in the original losing its storybook effect by having the Prince in full Black Swan make-up partying like Lindsay Lohan on a Friday night.

Even with all the back stories, it still wasn’t able to justify why the poor servants had to be included in the curse (and no Mrs. Potts, indirect negligence of an abused child was not reason enough for such a cruel punishment). I did like the explanation on why nobody really bothered checking on the castle post-curse and that was achieved through one line of narration.

3. If anything, this version posed even more questions:

• Given these recent historical revisionisms regarding inventors (read up on Bell vs Meucci haller!), should we assume that Belle actually created the first washing machine? Also, whatever happened to those bedsheets that she tied up for her planned escape?

• Who was that toothless piano (played by Stanley Tucci)? Was he part of the Broadway production (I swear I couldn’t remember that character in the cartoon)? Also, why wasn’t Mrs. Potts talking out of her spout? She ended up looking more inanimate here.

• If her mother really loved roses, then why was she even named Belle? Why not Rose or Rosita or Rosa? (So happy my mom was never fond of champaka.)

• Speaking of, when she brought back that rose heirloom and gave it to Maurice, wouldn’t that make him patient zero for another bubonic plague/outbreak?

4. Sorry bashers, but Emma Watson actually had a decent singing voice (regardless of Auto-Tune). My concern though was that she still acted very much like Hermione in a grand Hogwarts production of Beauty and the Beast. I even had lots of fun imitating her very British accent in provincial France (“Puh-paww!!”, “That’s ab-suhd!”).

The bigger surprise here was Luke Evans, a perfect casting choice for Gaston (no one even falls like Gaston!). I loved every moment he had with LeFou (played by Josh Gad, who should be in every Disney movie moving forward).

5. Poll question of the day: Did you like Dan Stevens as the Beast? Or more accurately, was he the Prince that you were expecting? Some people (cough, cough) wanted to kill me for laughing during the big reveal post-Beast transformation. My reaction was more of “Ehh” and I wanted it to be more of “Huwow!”. It certainly was no Devon Sawa moment in Casper.

I could understand Dan’s charms in a Benedict Cumberbatch way, but I really expected someone conventionally great-looking. Given the extensive use of motion capture in his Beast performance, he could have been replaced by Andy Serkis (yup, Gollum) and they could have gotten someone physically resembling Prince Charming.

6. When Belle ran up the hill and the camera started swirling around her, did the Sound of Music theme play in your head as well?

7. One of my favorite lines in the movie was from Plumette: “I grew three more feathers and I just plucked yesterday.” Story of my life right there.

8. Where was the openly gay character in the movie? A couple of people asked me if this was appropriate for kids, especially since the issue had been blown out of proportion. Fear not parents, there was no gay kissing or gay sex scene (this was still a Disney film after all).

Actually, there wasn’t even any mention of a character being out and proud. If anything, this should open up a whole new discussion on how Disney’s milking the gay uproar (vis a vis them proudly proclaiming the inclusion of a gay character) when there was none to begin with.

Everything pertaining to homosexuality was actually played for laughs (even that controversial blink-and-you’ll-miss-it dance). That was even more disappointing than the states and countries that banned the movie. Where was the hyped progressivism, Disney?

9. Be Our Guest was my favorite sequence in the original and it felt a bit messy here (even more distracting in 3D/4DX with the constant seat movements and excessive flashing lights). The iconic dance scene was fine (hearing the wonderful theme did give me serious goosebumps) and I kinda liked the yellow dress even if it resembled the Halloween version being sold in Toy Kingdom. But why did they have to remove the romantic dinner? I also missed the swoon-worthy scenes of her blatantly teaching him how to dance and putting her head on his hairy chest. All we got here were those excessive shots of low-hanging chandeliers. Hay.

10. This movie still begged that age-old question though: Is it superficial if a woman falls for a man with a huge, uhm, library?

Rating: ★★★☆☆