BIRDS OF PREY (AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN) (Cathy Yan, 2020)

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This is a man’s world, but it wouldn’t be nothing without a woman or a girl.

If you’re still not yet a fan of the fantabulous Margot Robbie, this will definitely convert you into one. Harley seeking revenge for the murder of her bacon and egg sandwich is my kind of life coach.

I also found it oddly funny that Cassandra Cain was played by half-Pinoy Ella Jay Basco and her character was an expert snatcher. Hahahaha! #PinoyFried indeed.

Rating: ★★★★☆

READY OR NOT (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

Minsan talaga napapaisip ako ano ginagawa ng mga alta kapag sobrang bored sila. Lalo na if they already (literally) sold their souls to the devil. At least meron na akong idea after this.

Ang seamless ng blend ng comedy and suspense dito. Yung may feeling na nanggagago pero mag-e-enjoy ka sa kababawan. Masaya sa sinehan pero bagay din siya panoorin sa Netflix on a Saturday night kasama ang family or friends (at least yung adult ones).

And this Samara Weaving girl is a star. Sana gumawa siya ng movie with Margot Robbie where they play twin assassins. Ang saya siguro nun.

Rating: ★★★★☆

I, TONYA (Craig Gillespie, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on I, Tonya:

1. Very much like Tonya Harding, I had always used my asthma as an excuse to get out of any sport requiring physical contact (or just about any sport really). Maybe that was the reason why I never had any interest in basketball or baseball or soccer, not even volleyball. Although I watched a little bit of tennis, the events that made me switch channels from HBO to ESPN involved gymnastics (more artistic than rhythmic) and figure skating (ladies’ singles mostly).

There was just a certain level of excitement while waiting for these tumbling and spinning girls to properly stick their landing. For me, these two were the only things that made the quadrennial Olympics worth watching (plus diving, but for different reasons obviously).

2. My favorite figure skater of all time would have to be Michelle Kwan since she was able to perfectly merge the technical and artistic requirements of the sport (her signature spirals were to die for!). I also loved her personality and would never forget her inspirational line when she ended up second in Nagano (“I didn’t lose the gold. I won the silver!”).

My other favorite would be Surya Bonaly, the infamous bad girl of skating who would always raise a middle finger to the judges with her illegal, signature backflip. Will & Grace actually had an episode devoted to her and it was one of the funniest in the series.

3. Which brings me to the villains of figure skating, the women that I really hated and secretly wished that they would land on their butts after their salchows and axels. One would be Tara Lipinski, who never did anything bad really except that I found her incredibly annoying. The other would be convicted felon Harding, who was definitely involved in the kneecapping of close competitor Nancy Kerrigan.

4. I still remember that incident like it was yesterday, the images of a wailing Nancy breaking my heart into pieces. So I was really surprised when that exact same scene was recreated here and my reaction was… a giggle. I knew that I was going straight to hell because of that, but it was just too hard not to let out a guilty reaction when it was played for laughs and it was detestably, weirdly funny.

Maybe that was the entire point of this “irony-free, wildly contradictory, totally true” story. It wanted to change the perception that Harding wasn’t just the spoiled diva that whined about her loose skates in Lillehammer, that she was also a victim of circumstances and had no involvement in the crime. I never believed any second of this film, but it successfully made me cry. And laugh. A lot. And full of guilt.

5. Most of its success relied on the phenomenal, career-defining performance of Margot Robbie. She looked nowhere near the real Harding (and reminded me more of Jamie Pressly), but she made the character more understandable. You could see her motives and weaknesses and how some of her faulty choices were due to an overbearing mother and a troubled marriage (that included domestic violence). It was very much like watching Black Swan on ice, except that only the star’s career died in the end.

This woman blamed everything from puberty to her faulty laces for all the disappointments in her life, and yet I still felt an ounce of sympathy for her. Again, a pure testament to Robbie’s acting. Her courtroom scene alone when she learned the verdict that she was banned from skating again was simply heartbreaking (“I’d rather do the jail time!”). Feeling bad for a criminal? A testament to the power of this film.

6. “Behind every successful woman is a pushy mother” had never been more true. As Harding’s mother, Allison Janney was vicious, despicable, and relatable to any Asian kid that had a Tiger mom. I was thankful that I didn’t have to pee in my pants because my mother didn’t allow any bathroom breaks during my karate lessons and I never had a knife thrown at me for talking back at her, but I knew exactly where LaVona Golden was coming from (her line of “Oh please! Show me a family that doesn’t have their ups and downs” after that knife scene was a killer.) She even actually complained directly at the camera (so many breaking the fourth wall moments here!) with “Well, my storyline is disappearing. What the fuck?!”. How could you completely hate her (bird on shoulder and all)?

7. Whenever Harding would compare herself to some of the most popular people (“I was the second most known person in the world next to Bill Clinton!”, “I was the Charles Barkley of figure skating!”), I was reminded of the same delusions of grandeur displayed by Nicole Kidman as Suzanne Stone in the equally wicked To Die For. (Go watch!!)

8. I really liked how this was so loving and brutal at the sport as well. One judge said something like this to Harding, “It’s never been entirely about skating. You’re not the image we want to represent” and I realized how unfair the scores could be to these athletes. Judged for your personality and not just your performance? They never had this problem in basketball.

Rating: ★★★★★

SUICIDE SQUAD (David Ayer, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Suicide Squad:

1. I honestly couldn’t care less about the whole Marvel v DC discussion (I would have to leave that up to the expert rabid fanboys) and with all the early (brutal) reviews that came out, I was prepared to see the worst film of the year (which according to the online universe as well was previously Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a movie that I actually liked). Sure, this wasn’t a breakthrough in comic book adaptations with its weak story and cheesy special effects, but at least it was a bit more fun to watch than say, the ho-hum X-Men: Apocalypse. Also, anybody who would say that this was worse than the Fant4stic Four reboot probably never watched the entirety of that snoozefest.

2. Harley Quinn (played to playful perfection by Margot Robbie) was the most memorable (and obviously fitting) in a movie that was a whole lot of pretty and a whole lot of crazy. From the moment she appeared dangling like Maddie Ziegler (of the Sia videos) doing another performance art inside a cage (set to the tune of You Don’t Own Me, no less), she stole every scene without effort. I could see a lot of girls donning her costume in time (literally with watches on their arms) for Halloween. I seriously wish they would have really nice and plump butt cheeks as well.

3. Dear Star-Lord, check out this movie’s soundtrack for another perfect mix tape. House of the Rising Sun, I Started a Joke, Without Me, Bohemian Rhapsody…oh wait, you already had that.

4. I was thankful for the quick introduction (flashing dossiers) of characters because aside from The Joker (Jared Leto invoking Jack Nicholson), I really didn’t know any of them. Deadshot (Will Smith) reminded me of Hancock with a Terminator’s eye, Diablo (Jay Hernandez) and Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) were reminiscent of Human Torch and Thing, Boomerang (Jai Courtney) had a boomerang plus a really creepy pink unicorn fetish, and Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) looked like a starving pre-show Victoria’s Secret Angel (please tell me I wasn’t the only one laughing at her wiggling during the post-heart transplant scene).

I wasn’t surprised that Annalise Keating, er, Amanda Waller (the exquisite Viola Davis) was the one chosen to round up and torture another team of puppets. Also, one character looked very much like Frank Delfino, I swear.

5. Ooh, blink-and-you’ll-miss-em cameos from two popular DC characters! These ones I knew.

6. The huge subtitles without punctuation marks triggered my OCD. My right index finger kept tapping at an imaginary period button whenever those showed up.

7. I snickered a bit when the camera zoomed up to reveal the Instagram-ready knife and champagne flatlay of The Joker. On a related note, I really loved that shot of him and Harley in a vat of swirling blue and red paint. Ahrt!!

8. The best moments were when it was just being really silly with its villains-as-heroes theme and had intentionally funny lines like “Don’t touch me!”, “What’s that crap on your face? Does that wash off?”, and my favorite “Behold the face of God!” (close runner-up: “Why are you not dead?”).

9. The worst moments were when it decided to grow a heart amidst the messy fight sequences (reminiscent of David Ayer’s Fury and in one sequence, The Raid) complete with an obvious fake-out and a gag-inducing slo-mo that included a gun being thrown to the bida (sorry, Margot and Will but Fernando Poe, Jr. and Janice de Belen/Julie Vega did it much better in Roman Rapido).

10. The ending initially hinted at a sequel focusing on Harley and The Joker, but the mid-credits sequence showed a picture of Ezra Miller, among others. Since he played The Flash, should we expect the Justice League movie next?

Critics, start sharpening your claws!! (Wait, wrong franchise…)

Rating: ★★★☆☆

THE BIG SHORT (Adam McKay, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Big Short:

1. The words Finance, Housing Market, and Wall Street automatically send a signal to my brain to shut down and prevent any possible aneurysm. Sure, I love the smell of money, but anything numbers-related immediately puts me to sleep. The only knowledge I have about the stock market is limited to the Hollywood Stock Exchange where you get to trade virtual movie stocks based on their box office performance. So yes, I do know how to long, short, sell, and cover stocks but an online game doesn’t even come close to the real thing.

2. I loved how this movie treated its audience like newbies (or dummies) to the industry. It took its time to explain terms needed to fully understand the financial crisis and collapse of the housing market. What better way to understand subprime loans than with the help of Margot Robbie drinking champagne in a bubble bath? Or Anthony Bourdain comparing a CDO with his three day old halibut stew? And even Selena Gomez breaking down a synthetic CDO? (I still didn’t completely understand everything but I guess that only made the movie sound smarter.) Take note, this was a comedy. A very funny one.

3. As a person with self-diagnosed ADHD, I didn’t mind the stylistic editing on speed, random images, and crazy montages. Again, numbers meant boring and my short attention span could only take so much.

4. I was surprised that Christian Bale got the sole acting nomination for this film. Don’t get me wrong, he was great as the metal music-loving, glass-eyed Michael Burry, but I thought Steve Carell was so much better as the fidgety, hot-tempered loon Mark Baum. He was loud and obnoxious and yet completely relatable. (I loved how his character as a kid studied the Talmud looking for inconsistencies in the word of God.) Definitely a better performance than in Foxcatcher.

Favorite Mark Baum line:

“I hate it here. Everyone’s walking around like they’re in a fucking Enya video!”

5. When Brad Pitt showed up as the voice of reason Ben Rickert (“If they’re right, people lose homes, jobs, retirement savings, pensions. Just don’t fucking dance”), you realize that there were no heroes in this movie. You might be rooting for these losers (if they were so smart and made money out of something that everyone else didn’t believe in, were they still?), but they were making money out of people’s future miseries.

6. How could you not love a movie where the song Saigo No Iiwaki played in the Japanese restaurant scene? Or maybe you’d know its Tagalog counterpart, Ted Ito’s Ikaw Pa Rin?

All together now…”Nais ko’y makapiling kang muli. Nais ko’y mayakap kahit sa sandali. Kung pangarap ma’y tatanggapin ko. Ikaw pa rin ang iniibig ko.”

Rating: ★★★★★