MOVIE REVIEW: DARK SKIES (Scott Stewart, 2013)

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Not as well-made as Shyamalan’s Signs but entertaining enough for a few goosebump moments.

Dark Skies had a number of chilling moments but like any horror movie it’s populated by irrational characters begging to get killed.

To be fair, I kept squirming in my seat. If only the movie lived up to its full potential, it would have been another Insidious.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published May 8, 2013.)

MOVIE REVIEW: JUPITER ASCENDING (Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Jupiter Ascending:

1. I was so happy that this movie wasn’t Eddie Redmayne’s Norbit. It was weird how much he sounded like Stephen Hawking here still with that low slow rasp. Or at least somebody who smoked five packs of cigarettes every day. You were so lucky, Eddie. Love the freckles, by the way.

2. All the aliens spoke English. At least it would be easy for us to communicate with them. Asking for directions in Jupiter would never be a problem.

3. Channing Tatum with pointy ears still looked a hundred times better than me. You know what they say about people with big ears, they also have a long… life. What were you thinking?

4. Another box office bomb from The Wachowskis. I never liked any of their movies after The Matrix (and yes, that included the lame sequels). Are they now the M. Night Shyamalan of sci-fi?

5. Sean Bean dies in almost everything that he does (Goldeneye, The Hitcher, Lord of the Rings, Equilibrium, Game of Thrones, just to name a few) so I was happy to see that his survival rate increased because of this movie.

6. I’m terrified of bees. I’ve been stung before and it has to be one of the most horrible experiences ever along with the extraction of all my wisdom teeth. The scene where Mila Kunis was swarmed with bees made the audience squeal with delight but left me gasping for air in my seat.

7. If there’s anything beautiful in this movie, that would have to be the gorgeous gowns worn by Kunis, especially the Swarovski-studded wedding dress created by Michael Cinco. Stunning, just stunning.

8. “Why do I easily fall for men that fall for me?” Raise your hand if you can relate!

9. So Tatum had his wings cut off and earned them back after a job well done? I wonder what Maleficent has to say about that.

10. You’ll have more fun riding the Rialto at Enchanted Kingdom. Not kidding.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published March 1, 2015.)

MOVIE REVIEW: THE SIXTH SENSE (M. Night Shyamalan, 1999)

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I’m never watching this in the shower again. I was too scared to even blink for a second (what if an old woman suddenly appeared in front of me?) that I ended up getting shampoo in my eyes. And then I didn’t want to open them again right away because what if an old woman was standing right in front of me huhu.

Also, justice for Haley Joel Osment and Toni Collette!! That car scene alone deserved Oscar wins.

Rating: ★★★★★

(Originally published March 3, 2019.)

MOVIE REVIEW: GLASS (M. Night Shyamalan, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Glass:

1. Unbreakable was supposedly a play on the yin and yang elements between superhero David Dunn (Bruce Willis) and villain Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson). One was just discovering his superpowers (and in turn his kryptonite: water!!), one was searching for his polar opposite slash ultimate foe (blowing up trains and buildings in the process), and both of them were trying to determine their purpose in this world. Although Elijah’s story was integral to the whole superhero lore, his evil character still played a supporting role to the real bida of the first film.

I was really excited to hear that the third installment to this Eastrail 177 Trilogy was called Glass because it should place his character front and center (considering that the movie was named after him, right?). Well, not exactly. He didn’t even show up until almost an hour into this bloated movie. If I were a secondary character in my own film, I’d probably feel the need to create a lot of chaos as well.

2. Even worse, it gathered three really interesting superhero comic book characters (that also included Kevin Wendell Crumb aka The Beast and twenty-something plus other personalities called The Horde, all played by the terrific James McAvoy) and decided to keep them locked up in a psychiatric facility for majority of the running time. They were only set free to interact with each other during the final act showdown (and yes, one of them actually explained how a showdown worked in comic books for the non-nerds) which still made little sense.

Side note: When we had some American clients come over for a visit, they were creeped out when I informed them that they would be staying at The Bellevue Hotel Alabang. One of them later on explained that Bellevue’s a popular mental hospital in the U.S. At least her family and friends had a good laugh when they learned where she was checked in.

3. Sarah Paulson played a doctor straight out of her American Horror Story wheelhouse who kept trying to make the three believe that they were merely suffering from delusions of grandeur. Wait, who was she trying to convince? It couldn’t possibly be the audience that knew the truth from the first two films. Oh, it was all just a setup for the requisite twist in the end with the Clover Chips Organization.

Also, given the nature of these patients, why was security so lax in that place? If Elijah (with the most brittle bones and in a wheelchair) could easily get out of his room, shouldn’t they have more people manning the place? Oh, also part of the twist. Pfft and pfft!!

4. It was a treat to see a grown up Spencer Clark (wink, wink). I just wish his acting skills matured as well (that wide-eyed kid look could only take him so far). He did have one of the funniest lines here when he mentioned the catchphrase, “We’re gonna salt bae your ass!”. Now if only Robin Wright returned as well… (It was nice to see some of the old/unused footage from Unbreakable, too.)

5. The lines that made me cringe:

• “Only the true version of love can heal (him).” Eww! So all this time, Kevin could have been cured by true love’s kiss? What’s next, Elijah proclaiming the wonders of a happy working song?

• “You’re fighting for the broken. You found your purpose.” Not enough space for the eyeroll emojis.

• “This is not a limited edition. This was an origin story the whole time.” Keep explaining for the non-nerds at the back, Elijah!

6. The lines that made me happy:

• The cool delivery of “First name Mister. Last name Glass”.

• “Have you ever been to a comic book convention? They sell teen TV shows there!” LOL!!

7. Burning questions:

• Wait, so Elijah Price who wanted to be the best (or worst?) antagonist in the world ended up as a hero? Why??

• How deep was that puddle?

• Was I the only who thought that every single one of The Horde personalities would get a chance to have its own tearful goodbye? (That was a really long dying scene, no?)

• In that final train station scene, how did they know it was the CCTV footage that was going viral and not say, the news about Kim and Kanye’s new baby?

8. M. Night Shyamalan created his own cinematic universe so he made sure of his Stan Lee-like cameo in almost every one of his movies. Or was he trying to be Hitchcock instead? (Insert possible twist here.)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

MOVIE REVIEW: SILONG (Jeffrey Hidalgo, Roy Sevilla Ho, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Silong:

1. Do you know how those M. Night Shyamalan movies relied on a twist to make the audience think that they’re watching something clever? This one felt exactly like that. I wouldn’t be surprised if people would compare this to other similar films of late (Gone Girl, Return to Sender) or similar torture porn out of Eli Roth’s ouevre or even the camp classic Boxing Helena. Even with all the red herrings thrown in the first hour of the film, all the twists were just too obvious.

2. I’ve read somewhere about this pop culture trope called Chekhov’s Gun. Basically, if a film shows a gun in the first act, expect it to go off in the last act. In this movie, it was a locked door. If you still couldn’t smell the twist a mile away, then visit an EENT.

3. I found a lot of dialogue completely off. It might have been Rhian Ramos’ kolehiyala language but I was still surprised it wasn’t dubbed correctly. Here are some sample lines:

“Papatayin tayo ng asawa ko kung di mo ako tinulungan.”

“Yun ang nakasabi sa bote.”

Even Piolo Pascual had to comfort a crying Rhian with “Tahan na”. Seriously, does anyone still say this to someone over seven?

4. Speaking of Rhian, her acting was unbearable prior to the said twist. She sounded like someone out of an elocution contest (“Alms, alms! Spare me a piece of bread. I am a child so young, so thin…”) To be fair, she got more comfortable after she turned her psycho bitch mode on. And then she started rapping (!!) some Taylor Swift-like bitter lyrics and I almost walked out of the theater.

5. The biggest mysteries in this movie were: a) actually how did Rhian keep that perpetually curled Vidal Sassoon hair, b) why didn’t the young Piolo have his signature mole, and c) why did the pregnant lady have a pillow on her belly?

6. I liked a lot of the shots used in this movie. It created the needed atmosphere for a pseudo-psychological thriller. At least we know what to expect from the directors given a better script.

7. I was happy to see that even dyosas have their flaws. You could clearly see the stretch marks on Piolo’s butt in that much-hyped shower scene. We live in a just and fair world.

8. Wasn’t this the same house used in the new Peque Gallaga Tiyanak movie? That fountain looked really familiar. But the fountain scene here, though. Ugh.

9. Can someone explain that weird Alamat ng Kape? It didn’t even sound like an alamat at all. Or was that the point of the story? Meh.

10. Seriously, in a huge house with dozens of rooms, would you really hide under a table when somebody shouts “Magtago ka!”? Next time, I suggest the big old vase.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published September 21, 2015.)

MOVIE REVIEW: LAST NIGHT (Joyce Bernal, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Last Night:

1. Let me begin with an erratum on a glaring boo boo that I made when I posted my notes on Love You to the Stars and Back. I incorrectly identified the character of Julia Barretto as Carmina Salvador since I actually saw Last Night’s trailer prior to that movie.

Whether it was cinema fatigue or my inner cinephile that went bonkers upon hearing that film reference (that was the same name of Dawn Zulueta’s character in Hihintayin Kita sa Langit), I would like to apologize for the confusion that it caused especially to all the JoshLia fans that lost sleep over that inaccurate trivia.

2. We first see the real Carmina Salvador (Toni Gonzaga) dangling from a billboard on the side of the Jones Bridge after a botched suicide attempt. Her cry for help was noticed by Mark Peters (Piolo Pascual), who was also on a suicide mission at the said bridge. (Side note: Is this really a popular destination for depressed people in the Binondo/Ermita area? I’m really curious to know how many suicide cases have happened here within the last decade. Google wasn’t really helpful.) Anyway, they ended up helping one another and in the process also fell madly in love with each other. The end.

Well, not really. Of course there had to be a big twist because the screenplay seemed to have been built around that gimmick. In a reveal that would make M. Night Shyamalan curl up in a fetal position, Carmina actually turned out to be a ghost (she died in 1973 during Martial Law; naks, relevant!) that only appeared before Mark. Yes, he could see dead people (well, one dead person in the beginning and a few more towards the end of the movie). Eek!

3. I really wish the movie didn’t rely too much on the (obvious) twist so that it didn’t have to spend its final 30 minutes explaining everything (in washed-out flashbacks!) and feeling smart on how much it was able to fool the audience.

Aside from The Sixth Sense, most of the scenes that had Mark interacting with Carmina reminded me a lot of the “I Love You, Moo Moo” episode of the 90’s movie Tatlong Mukha ng Pag-ibig. My favorite scene there was when Tonton Gutierrez carried the ghost of his dead wife (played by Sharon Cuneta) inside their honeymoon suite while the caretaker (Leroy Salvador) watched in horror as his crazy amo flirted with an imaginary entity. I actually wondered if that straightforward format that wasn’t reliant on a twist would have made the story here much better (and less cornier).

Also, I’d actually need help in remembering another Hollywood/foreign movie about a living human being that communicated and fell in love with the spirit of a deceased person (something like Just Like Heaven, but not really). I wouldn’t want to be up for the next few nights.

4. Thirteen Reasons Why received a lot of flak for apparently romanticizing suicide and I kinda understood that perspective when I watched Mark and Carmina play cutesy with a blow dryer while they were inside a tub. Or when they fantasized on placing an aircon and a mattress on their backs before diving in a pool. Or when Carmina suggested “maligo sa dinuguan at magpakain sa shark” (huh?).

This made the shift in tone during the latter part of the movie even more jarring when it suddenly turned pro-life and started spreading a message of optimism and hope. All that was lacking in that final bubblegum bridge sequence was a dancing unicorn.

5. I was a huge fan of the Toni-Piolo pairing in Starting Over Again so I was a bit surprised at how much I was turned off by their performances here. Toni had her quirkiness turned up to its maximum level and she kept shouting her lines like she was still hosting Pinoy Big Brother (“Hello Philippines! Hello world!!”).

Piolo fared much better (as he was required to go topless yet again and shamelessly showed off his abs twice!), but he spent most of his scenes brooding and acting really stuck-up. Sayang, because I really missed this fun partnership.

6. At least the technical aspects were really commendable. Before Cathy Garcia-Molina, I think Joyce Bernal was the queen of rom-coms and she really tried to make the most out of the weak story here.

The movie also looked really good, very much like a glossy maindie. I also loved the song choices (except for one that sounded like it had Piolo singing).

7. I couldn’t get over the fact that Toni was the twin of Joey Marquez. And that Joey was named Ricardo Reyes. Yes, Ricky Reyes! Bwahahahaha!

Also, Carmina (whose real name’s Jennifer, btw) was actually a smart entrepreneur and influencer for bringing her new living friends to their family restaurant every single time. Shouldn’t it have been time for her to start a Twitter or Instagram account, though?

8. Burning questions:

• Why did an old soul like Carmina sound very much like a millennial? Also, why did she keep acting like she didn’t know that she was already dead? Diba audience lang naman may hindi alam?

• If she really wanted to prevent Mark from committing suicide, why did they spend most of their time trying to figure out how to die together? Did she only realize that after she fell in love with him?

• Did they play Bloody Crayons in one scene as a cross-promotion for Star Cinema movies?

• If nobody could see her, why didn’t anyone (except for the friend of dying lola) even ask who Mark was talking to? More chismis, more fun lang?

• Why did she kill herself after just seeing blood on the side of Jones Bridge (sure, her boyfriend was supposed to be there, so she automatically assumed that the blood was his)? Why, gurl, why?

• Paano sila maghihintayan sa langit if she’s stuck in limbo?

• If Carmina killed herself during Martial Law, why was her brother played by Patrick Sugui (shouldn’t he be like 40ish) and her mother was the still youthful Marina Benipayo? Were they also ghosts? Then why couldn’t they all see each other? Or was Patrick supposed to be the young Joey Marquez? Help!!

• Bakit kapag si Piolo ang nagsasabi ng “nangulangot” parang classy and sexy pa rin? Huhuhu!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

MOVIE REVIEW: ANG GURO KONG ‘DI MARUNONG MAGBASA (Perry Escaño, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Ang Guro Kong ‘Di Marunong Magbasa:

1. In the film Abakada…Ina, Lorna Tolentino played an illiterate mother who had the unfortunate luck of having a nasty schoolteacher for a biyenan (played by the late great Nida Blanca). One of the movie’s highlights was their verbal showdown where Nida bluntly called her tanga, ignorante, and iliterada. The apparent shame that she felt upon hearing those words was enough to make me bawl my eyes out.

Although the issue of illiteracy would always be an important topic, some Pinoy films only used this as a default plot device to tug at heartstrings. I think the last film I watched that dealt with this as well was that MMFF New Wave film Turo Turo, where AJ Dee played a fishball vendor who went bankrupt because he didn’t know how to properly count the exact change.

2. Similar to these movies, Guro also had good intentions, but its execution was completely disastrous. It wasn’t even about the illiterate teacher played by Alfred Vargas, or a scathing look at child warriors trained for political propaganda. It was just a poor excuse to shoot an action film where the main villain was tied to a tree and shot with a grenade launcher (after a controversial spit bukkake scene as a form of torture), or for Kiko Matos playing a soldier to keep tumbling around for no apparent reason.

3. It was hard to take the movie seriously when everything about it was just awful, in particular:

• Gunshots sounded like they came from plastic toy guns.

• Characters having dinner were squeezed on one side of the table for framing reasons (kahit mag-isa lang si Alfred sa kabilang side).

• The camera moved from side-to-side behind the students and half of the screen would just be a shot of their backs (was this supposed to be a nod to early Shyamalan?).

• The sound of goats bleating was louder than the actual dialogue.

• Terrible editing that never really cared about transitions or continuity.

4. One of the scenes that garnered the biggest laughs from the audience included a cassette tape used to teach the alphabet to kids.

Sample phonics:

• A is for Animal
• B is for Beast
• C is for Ceasefire (huh?)
• D is for Dark Side (huwat?!)
• E is for Education
• F is for Freedom (nux!)

I suggest that the updated 2017 version include the following: O is for Ohmygulay, P is for Pisting yawa…

Also, this magical cassette knew exactly when to proceed to the next letter. It didn’t speak until after Alfred mimicked what it just said. Wow lang.

5. My favorite scene though included foreign delegates that volunteered to teach the young students in that far-flung barrio (they probably never heard that the place was as safe as Marawi so they travelled without any security). They were supposedly from different countries like Singapore or the US, but most of them looked like they came from Las Piñas.

I had to control a fart when one of them was asked why she decided to help and she replied with, “I would like to smell the fresh air of the forest.” Q is for Qiqil si acoe.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

MOVIE REVIEW: SPLIT (M. Night Shyamalan, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Split:

1. I wasn’t even surprised that M. Night Shyamalan (arguably the King of Twist Endings) decided to tackle dissociative identity disorder in his latest movie. Having a character with multiple personalities seemed like such a convenient way to mess with his audience’s brains. Except that the lead character Kevin Wendell Crumb’s (James McAvoy) condition was already revealed in the trailer so one was left to wonder what else he had up his sleeve.

Without completely spoiling the ending, let me just say that the reveal was nowhere close to what I expected, but it still felt like a huge letdown for such an interesting premise.

2. McAvoy looked like he was really having so much fun in the role of a man with 23 (and counting) different personalities. He was so good that he single-handedly played every character of John Cusack and company in the movie Identity.

My favorite persona was nine year old Hedwig (“Etcetera!”) that required him to do his best impression of Sean Penn in I Am Sam. A rewatch of Atonement should definitely be in order.

3. I liked that the three girl victims initially didn’t simply cower in fear and wait for a saviour (“That’s victim shit! The only chance we have is if all three of us go crazy on this guy!”).

What I didn’t like was that when they were faced with the actual threat, they still reacted like any of the dumb blondes that were viciously mocked in the Scream film series. Seriously, who would hide inside a locker to escape a predator? Or grab a walkie talkie and just stay inside the same space with the man that you’re running away from? Or helplessly cry in an isolated room and wait until the very last minute to find a way out? Anyare mga bes?

4. If it wasn’t blatant enough that the lead victim Casey (Anna Taylor-Joy of Morgan) was a survivor in life, we had to see a back story involving her tragic childhood of sexual abuse. I was surprised they didn’t purchase the rights to use Destiny’s Child’s Survivor as a theme song. Too expensive?

5. Worst cameo: Shyamalan himself as a security guard proclaiming that for Asian people, music aids digestion. I would like to suggest Yakult instead.

Best cameo: Bruce Willis as David Dunn, naturally. Unbreakable (the cracked glass on the poster should have been a giveaway!) has always been one of my favorite superhero films and although it was a stretch to link these two movies, it was still a refreshing nod to the pre-hack Shyamalan days (please note, I really liked his last film The Visit).

6. Speaking of, I was reminded of Unbreakable in the scene where Kevin placed flowers outside the subway that I secretly wished he wouldn’t turn out to be an accomplice of Samuel L. Jackson’s Elijah Price (aka Mr. Glass). At least half of it came true.

Also, was I the only one reminded of Red Dragon during The Horde’s beastly transformation? Will this be the start of a Shyamalan superhero universe ala Marvel? Can we have someone with mental health issues be the hero next time (Casey!)?

7. “The broken are the more evolved.” Wow, so there really was a silver lining in all of those failed relationships!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆