MOVIE REVIEW: DOWNSIZING (Alexander Payne, 2017)

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The central concept of shrinking people with the belief that overpopulation was mankind’s biggest long-term threat sounded like the kind of novel idea from a certified tree-hugger. Midway through, it turned into a commentary on social classes and capitalism before settling down as a saccharine “finding your purpose in life” enlightenment film.

As a certified fan of Payne’s social satires and a huge lover of cheese, I was a weeping mess by the time it ended.

Great performances from the cast, especially Hong Chau.

(Note: This is not a late April Fools’ Day joke.)

Rating: ★★★★★

(Originally published May 21, 2018.)

MOVIE REVIEW: WE BOUGHT A ZOO (Cameron Crowe, 2011)

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A sweet little movie that didn’t offer much to its audience, making it a big disappointment for Crowe fans (myself included). I expected the screenplay to be meatier and smarter and yet the title was mentioned about three times in its duration. Although based on another unbelievable true story, a lot of the emotions felt fake and corny.

Matt Damon was moving as the father in grief, Thomas Haden Church stole most of his scenes, and Elle Fanning showcased more than what’s required of her character.

Overall, it was a harmless, lightweight dramedy for all ages.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published January 19, 2012.)

MOVIE REVIEW: FORD V FERRARI (James Mangold, 2019)

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As someone who wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a carburetor and radiator (and had the best nap during The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift), I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this racing drama slash male ego-fest.

Best viewed in a theater with excellent sound system. I watched it in the ATMOS cinema of Ayala Malls Manila Bay (sponsor me please!!) and I braced for impact every single time a race car zoomed past the screen.

Terrific ensemble cast led by Matt Damon and Christian Bale (“The bloody door won’t close!!!”), with the latter probably headed for his nth Oscar nomination.

Rating: ★★★★☆

MOVIE REVIEW: THE BOURNE LEGACY (Tony Gilroy, 2012)

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It was great to see a lot of people that braved the rains and floods just to watch a jeepney on the big screen.

Unfortunately, the movie was two hours of exposition: a failed attempt to reboot a franchise. I’m sure a lot of people missed Matt Damon and the frenetic camerawork of Paul Greengrass.

Manila never looked this glossy, though, and it was a delight to see our local actors (John Arcilla, Madeleine Nicolas, Art Acuna, Lou Veloso, etc.) in a real Hollywood movie.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published August 10, 2012.)

MOVIE REVIEW: MA (Tate Taylor, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Ma:

1. In most (if not all) of her films, Octavia Spencer displayed such an amiable and trustworthy aura that one wouldn’t suspect that her character might be a few fries short of a Happy Meal (or in the case of The Help, that she was already feeding you the most delicious shit pie). I would usually have problems with films that made me sympathize with demented people (read: psychotic murderers), but it also spoke a lot about the brilliance of the actors that played them (e.g. Anthony Perkins in Psycho, Matt Damon in The Talented Mr. Ripley, Kathy Bates in Misery, to name a few).

In one scene from this ridiculously trashy yet insanely enjoyable psychological thriller, Sue Ann aka Ma (Spencer) was smiling inside her car when a bunch of kids threw beer at her window. It brought back memories of being bullied in school and feeling like a pathetic loner slash loser that she just spontaneously burst into tears. Needless to say, I cried along with her, completely forgetting that she lured underaged kids in her basement and emotionally tormented one of them with a loaded gun just a few minutes earlier. Why’d you do this to me, Ma?

2. If that wasn’t enough to make you an instant fan of Spencer, she also had this FaceTime scene where she said “Why wait for the weekend? It’s five o’clock somewhere!” then let out a deranged cackle that both creeped me out and made me laugh out loud. I hadn’t even touched on Ma’s crazy dance moves that included the Funky Town robot and some can-crushing set to Kung Fu Fighting. It was easy to understand why these kids (that weirdly resembled a grown-up version of the Stranger Things cast) would party with this stranger. I mean I could be best friends with Ma, hideous maroon beret notwithstanding.

3. Diana Silvers (also good in Booksmart) looked like a cross between Anne Hathaway and Gaby Hoffman, no? Ooh, time for a Now and Then rewatch.

And speaking of lookalikes, the girl that played Ashley who would always pretend to pass out in parties could pass as Marilyn Manson’s daughter (ironically enough, she played a pastor’s daughter in this movie).

4. “You can smoke until you’re twenty-five and then quit and nothing bad will happen” sounded like an advice that I’d give as a parent. Which would also explain why I probably didn’t have any kids.

5. I had never seen this many number of syringes piercing the skin since Amanda was thrown in the Needle Pit during Saw II. I was just thankful that I still had quick reflexes to shield my eyes or I probably would have passed out in my seat.

(And don’t get me started on those stitched lips.)

6. Seeing a naked Luke Evans almost getting his penis cut off reminded me so much of that schlocky local revenge film Loretta, where Ruffa Gutierrez played a version of Lorena Bobbitt. Yes, it was the “Take it! Take it!” role where her MMFF Best Actress win lasted for a good thirty minutes (RIP Viveka Babajee).

But going back to that penis, was it prosthetic? Should I assume that Evans didn’t have the guts to have his real manhood anywhere near a kitchen knife unlike the fearless Carlos Morales in Laro sa Baga?

Also, what was that canine blood transfusion for? Was it because he was being such a bitch to her in high school?

7. So Sue Ann aka Ma worked as a veterinary technician/assistant. Please tell me that wasn’t the reason why her dog only had three legs huhu. (That moment when she was holding a pair of clippers made me feel really queasy. For nothing, but still.)

8. Speaking of Kathy Bates, one scene here reminded me so much of her Annie Wilkes. It was when Sue Ann aka Ma arrived from work and noticed that her cat figurines weren’t facing in the direction that she left them. Was that kind of attention to detail and obsessiveness a sign of being a murderous psycho? I could relate because I would also turn into one whenever people messed with my stuff. You have been warned, pakialameras!!

Rating: ★★★☆☆

MOVIE REVIEW: GAME NIGHT (John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Game Night:

1. One of my all-time favorite episodes of Friends was The One With the Embryos where the gang played a heated, high stakes game of (personal) Trivia. Not only did I learn a lot about each of them (Monica was nicknamed Big Fat Goalie in field hockey, Chandler was scared of Michael Flatley, Lord of the Dance, Rachel’s favorite movie was actually Weekend at Bernie’s and not Dangerous Liaisons, Joey had an imaginary childhood friend called Maurice), but it also culminated in the most hilarious moment in the show’s history that reduced me to tears every time I would watch it.

In the said scene, the girls were stumped on the question regarding Chandler’s job. In a desperate attempt for an answer, Rachel shouted, “He’s a transponster!” that prompted Monica to scream, “That’s not even a word!”. It was succeeded with a huge howl of “Noooooooooo!!” when she realized that they just lost and had to give up their gorgeous apartment. (I seriously couldn’t stop laughing while writing this at the thought of Courteney Cox’s face.)

I could easily relate to Monica because I would get really competitive during any of these team party games (Charades, Pictionary, Scrabble, Hangman, Trivial Pursuit, Pinoy Henyo, even that Dribble Dribble Dribble balloon game in a Jollibee Kiddie Party, you name it). It wasn’t even about the prize, just the pure sense of false satisfaction I’d get knowing that I was better than someone on something. (Forgive me, I had really low self-esteem and needed constant validation.)

I was actually happy with the resurgence of these niche stores that provided the option of puzzles and board games as an alternative source of entertainment on a lazy Saturday night. Now if I could just find some really good challengers out there. (Yabang haha!)

2. The opening credits of this film alone was the ultimate 90’s nerd fantasy. Tokens from different games like Monopoly and Cluedo were floating around as if part of a geek’s hazy wet dream. You could laugh all you want, but only a few would understand the incredible happiness brought about by owning several red hotels on Boardwalk and Park Place.

3. I had always imagined Rachel McAdams as the iconic (and airhead) Regina George so it felt a bit weird to see her play somebody relatively smart for a change. Simply put, she was fantastic as Annie with her best bit involving an awkward shimmy to Third Eye Blind’s Semi-Charmed Life while she dorkily waved a loaded gun in front of some real thugs (and even took a selfie with the gun’s muzzle in her mouth). The humor stemmed from her character thinking that everything was still part of a game and the more clueless she was, the funnier the situation got.

Her energy here was matched by the usually sardonic Jason Bateman as Max, whose deadpan stares could mine laughs even in petty discussions about Tostitos Scoops.

Among the competent cast though, my favorite was Jesse Plemons whose neighbor Gary looked like a creepy version of Matt Damon by way of Phillip Seymour Hoffman. I really couldn’t understand why his seemingly sympathetic character was no longer invited in these game nights until he actually drew a picture of himself crying to represent The Green Mile. No, no, no. He would definitely not be part of my team.

4. I liked the go-for-broke silliness of the film, but I wish it was able to sustain its comedic rhythm all-throughout. It just needed more genius scenes like the one where Annie tried to remove a bullet from Max’s arm and ended up tapping on his bone before she realized that there was actually an exit wound.

I also enjoyed the mockery of action films when the glass tables here never really broke regardless of the number of bodies that crashed into them. The entire one-take egg chase around the mansion looked impressive, but just didn’t have the right energy to match earlier shenanigans.

5. Fake Denzel Washington was a great payoff to a running celebrity gag, but I laughed harder when the group was able to enumerate all of the actors that played The Hulk, except for Edward Norton. You could barely remember him in this role as well, right? The Incredible Hulk was actually the second film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and was directed by Louis Leterrier. His commercial debut film? The Transporter. (Nope, still not Chandler’s job.)

Rating: ★★★☆☆

MOVIE REVIEW: THE GREAT WALL (Zhang Yimou, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Great Wall:

1. I wish I could say that this movie proved timely given the current political climate, but putting meaning into all the spectacle would be giving it too much credit. Ooh, a great wall trying to prevent the invasion of foreigners in this post-Trump times? Wow, a white guy saving these poor Asians? There were so many possible metaphors, but all of them were drowned out by the need to create the most majestic battle sequences.

2. I actually missed the old Zhang Yimou, the gifted storyteller that effortlessly broke my heart with films like Raise the Red Lantern, Not One Less, and The Road Home. Sadly, most of his recent works (House of Flying Daggers, Curse of the Golden Flower) seemed to focus more on style instead of substance and this one was no different.

Athough one couldn’t deny his visual flair (that stained glass scene simply looked gorgeous), a lot of the action onscreen didn’t really serve much purpose except to showcase how good Yimou was in filming a shower of flaming arrows (that he already used in the far superior Hero).

3. How else to explain the scene where women wearing Beauxbatons outfits bungee jump with spears to kill a horde of monsters, bounce back up, and then plunge down again (mostly to their deaths)? Whoever thought of this stupid mode of attack (and why women?) should have been thrown first over the wall.

Sure, the camera swooping down with the female soldiers was visually arresting, but my brain wanted to explode from all the silliness (Oriental Cirque du Soleil whee!).

4. Burning questions:

• When the general died, were those the Encantadia brilyantes that he left behind?

• Why do people still light sky lanterns when they very well kill sea turtles? (Only asking for an environmentalist friend.)

• Was that Darren Espanto playing the young emperor?

• Why were the monsters (called Taotie, sounding like a delicious dim sum) scared of magnets like they were made out of credit cards? And why did they only attack every 60 years? Which monster kept a calendar to keep track of time?

5. Matt Damon looked completely lost in this movie, like he was asked to do a skit in a Chinese version of Saturday Night Live and he could barely keep a straight face while delivering lines like “We are honored to be honored”.

At one point he said, “We really do smell”. Yes Matt, this one was a real stinker.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆