ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS (James Bobin, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Alice Through The Looking Glass:

1. Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland was a blatant visual feast that I found lacking in story given its fantasy-adventure format. This second one by James Bobin (who also directed the fun Muppets movies) was slightly better than the first because it focused on the interesting backstories of some major characters. Although the movie still lagged in some places, it was able to capitalize on its great cast making it a more enjoyable romp.

2. I previously lamented that Johnny Depp’s zaniness had reached its limit and he needed to go back to playing (relatively) normal characters (I blame the fourth Jack Sparrow movie), but his return to the Mad Hatter role was actually quite welcome. I just couldn’t think of any other actor who could perfectly balance the man-child lunacy of the role. When the dying Hatter with all of his colors seeped out of him was lying in bed, it was hard not to get your heart crushed.

3. I had always wondered why the Red Queen (of Hearts) had such a big head that grew even bigger when she was furious and it was explained in detail here. Habang nagagalit, lalong lumalaki (insert Beavis and Butthead laugh here).

Anyway, she was my favorite character ever since. How could you not love someone who would shake a terrarium of pet ants and scream “Earthquake!!”? Besides, Helena Bonham-Carter played the role with such delicious glee (forget Amy Adams, isn’t HBC overdue for an Oscar as well?).

4. When Sasha Baron Cohen showed up as Time who was pining for the Red Queen, all I could think of were the Thenardiers and I was hoping for a Master of the House encore.

5. I loved the gorgeous costumes by Colleen Atwood from Alice’s multi-colored Mandarin-inspired gown to the Lady Gaga-ish shoulders of Time and the luscious art direction. I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets recognized in both categories again next year.

6. Three important themes here: a) you can’t change the past, b) a previous lie will haunt you forever with great repercussions, c) a person with a wild imagination can get thrown in the loony bin. And you can add d) Kasalanan ito lahat ni Anne Hathaway.

7. This might be one of the few movies that properly addressed the space-time continuum that proved problematic in films like Looper. I really liked how the future started to rust when a character met her old self and messed up with time (or Time).

8. Pink’s girl power anthem played during the end credits was very fitting given the strong feminist character of Alice. Also, that tribute to the late Alan Rickman (who voiced the blue caterpillar Absolem) made me miss such a great actor. To paraphrase the Cheshire Cat, “Goodbye, sweet butterfly!”.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

LES MISÉRABLES (MANILA) (Laurence Connor, James Powell, 2016)

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My notes on Les Misérables (Manila):

1. Forget Tom Hooper’s movie version. His penchant for constant close-ups diminished the power and raw emotion of every scene in this great musical that really belonged onstage. This London production held at The Theater at Solaire was an aural and visual spectacle that wasn’t limited by acamera’s single perspective. It was a complete joy to watch and definitely something that I wanted to see again as soon as the show ended.

2. Simon Gleeson who played Jean Valjean hit all the right emotional notes and I was close to tears after his excellent, falsetto-filled take on Bring Him Home. You could feel the intensity of his performance with every laway that flew towards the audience. I felt blessed to have been sprayed by spittles of greatness. Weirdly enough, he looked like Russell Crowe so it felt a bit disorienting when he came out with a full beard and started singing Valjean’s lines.

3. My favorite performance though was by Earl Carpenter who played Javert. He had a commanding stance and a distinct voice that made you question if he was being too moralistic or just simply tragic. I was really curious how the production would stage his suicide scene (I really thought they would use a trapdoor) and I have to say that I was in awe and almost stood up from my seat during that scene.

4. Rachelle Ann Go was great as well and this would just be pure nitpicking but I would have wanted more power from her voice. Sure, she was dying from tuberculosis (and her dreams getting crushed), but I was really expecting an emotional wallop and that I’d be crying in a fetal position in my seat after I Dreamed a Dream. In terms of her acting though, she was just amazing.

5. The rest of the cast were fine enough (loved Little Cossette and Gavroche) although I would have wanted a stronger Marius and a better Enjolras. A lot of people cheered for the latter during the curtain call and I thought that it was more out of his good looks than his all-preen, slightly sintunado performance.

6. The moving (and sometimes spinning) set pieces were a joy to watch. The barricade was just what I expected and the explosive battle scene didnEponine’t disappoint. The use of the big screen during the sewer scene was also commendable. Sulit ang bayad sa production design pa lang.

7. Prayers for Eponine, the Patron Saint of the Friendzoned. Her love story was so tragic that she wasn’t even able to kiss her true love before she died. If you think your lovelife’s cursed, you really need to see this musical.

8. If I ever had to audition in any barangay competition, I would choose the Thenardiers’ Master of the House. It was such a delight to watch and sing along to. Plus, I loved their characters.

9. There were some minor technical issues during the show (mics not turned on, props falling), but the most obvious one was when Valjean fired a faux warning shot at Javert and there was a recoil motion of the rifle even without a sound. Valjean had to shoot another time before the popping sound happened. I wonder what their Plan C was if the sound still didn’t come out.

10. The convergence of voices in One Day More was enough to give you goosebumps for days. And that was just the last song of the first act. A truly wonderful experience!

Rating: ★★★★★