MOVIE REVIEW: THE LUCKY ONE (Scott Hicks, 2012)

48DCC0F4-D32B-42A0-97B1-91D878838A2E

A movie without any real conflict. It was about a bunch of characters complicating situations and creating their own problems. I giggled uncontrollably while Zac delivered a monologue that belonged in an overacting pantheon. I couldn’t believe this was made by the same director of Shine. Probably the worst Nicholas Sparks movie in a while.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published April 29, 2012.)

MOVIE REVIEW: SAFE HAVEN (Lasse Hallström, 2013)

4DE7C382-7456-448B-950B-2B88F2FA4CE1

SPOILER ALERT!!

It’s funny how much people love Nicholas Sparks novels and films when he’s obviously the Grim Reaper of fairy tale romances.

This one had so many twists that would put M. Night Shyamalan to shame. Pfft!

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published February 20, 2013.)

MOVIE REVIEW: NORTHERN LIGHTS: A JOURNEY TO LOVE (Dondon Santos, 2017)

IMG_2018

SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Northern Lights: A Journey to Love:

1. It must be tough to be a Piolo Pascual. When people commonly refer to you as Papa, there’s this high level of expectation (or fantasy) that you’re constantly required to fulfill (or satisfy). I’m not at all surprised that at the ripe old screen age of 40, he still plays these cutesy roles that merely require him to flash his gorgeous smile and ensure that hundreds of Soen panties (and a few Bench briefs) fall inside the cinema.

But having him deliver lines like “Are you London Bridge? Are you falling?” while making pungay eyes just doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s time to pass on that Mikimoto crown.

Speaking of, he had several topless scenes while flirting with different women (in one, he was in a sleeping bag on a snowy hill, jusko pneumonia! shrinkage!) just to remind everyone that he’s straight, Straight, STRAIGHT!! (Maybe he should rethink that man bun then.)

2. Everything here screamed generic (yes, it was the Rite-Med version of any Nicholas Sparks adaptation) and this was evident as soon as the movie started with a discussion about the Northern Lights (uhh, duh!). Apparently, the souls of the dead (including those of animals!) would win a free one-way trip to Alaska and become part of the Aurora Borealis.

When the kid (Raikko Mateo) asked his mother (Maricar Reyes), “Puwede po ba ako pumunta diyan?”, I immediately knew that one of them wouldn’t survive before the end credits.

3. This was the kind of original movie where:

• Strangers would bump into each other in an airport as part of the Meet Cute scene

• A douchebag character would continuously harass a girl, but it would be considered romantic because the said douche looked like Papa P (who sounded even douchey-er with his Diether Ocampo American accent)

• Characters would speak in unison several times because it was supposedly cute

• A romantic leading man would say “Lilingon ka rin in 3, 2, 1…” like we hadn’t seen it in previous rom-coms

• A girl would recall an experience that sounded like rape (“Nilasing niya ako at paggising ko wala na akong saplot”) and it would be played for laughs

• Somebody would give an instant lecture about the Treaty of Paris to give more perspective about their location

• Music and Lyric’s Way Back Into Love served as the closing theme

4. Yen Santos was just too bland for the role of a girl in search of her missing OFW mother (her reason: “Kahit ganito na ako katanda gusto ko pa rin tinitirintas nya ang buhok ko”). Leah Olivar would probably be laughing in her Mrs. Pizza costume right about now.

Seeing a fresh face onscreen was definitely a welcome change, but I wish she had shown a bit more personality. Her delivery sounded very malamya that I was constantly reminded of that Shield bath soap nurse and I expected her to suddenly burst into song (“Di biro maging nurse, dapat marunong sa sakit. At marunong mag-alaga, yun bang may malasakit…”).

In one scene, she was supposed to do a bad cover of Air Supply’s All Out of Love and she was just terrible in pretending to sound awful (how was that even possible?). Oh well, not everyone could be Nico Antonio.

5. Also, Yen’s character had the nerve to question Piolo’s constant state of toplessness amidst the freezing weather and yet she had a scene where she was only wearing an oversized boyfriend shirt with one side barely hanging on her shoulders and part of her back exposed like she was in an Olay commercial. Guuurrrrrl!!

6. Although Raikko had some really cute moments, the real saving grace here was Glydel Mercado in full Ate Vi in Anak mode as the mother (!!) of Yen. Her character’s motivations were not clear, but she did cry a river that was enough to remind everyone why she was a Grand Slam winner for Sidhi.

7. Why did the Northern Lights look like CGI?

8. The denouement with a dead character communicating with the living loved ones through video was directly stolen from My Life. It could have stopped there but since this was a Regal Films co-production, of course it needed a happy ending. On the beach. Hello Pico de Loro!!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

MOVIE REVIEW: HACKSAW RIDGE (Mel Gibson, 2016)

IMG_1691

SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Hacksaw Ridge:

1. I would usually go into an epileptic seizure whenever a blatantly religious film would smack me over the head with its outright themes of spirituality and salvation (refer to The Shack). Now here was the story of a soldier with such unwavering faith that he didn’t want to compromise his beliefs and principles (no to guns!) while trying to survive in Okinawa during bloody World War II. His only weapon of choice? Trust in God’s saving grace.

All of these should have easily resulted to an emergency room visit, but it surprisingly converted me into being a believer instead. Kindness in the face of adversity? Bravery even with the lack of power? Heroism amidst all evil? My faith in humanity was restored yet again all thanks to my new pastor Mel Gibson.

2. Early in the film, we got a glimpse on the kind of person Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield, in a career-defining performance) really was. It didn’t come as a surprise when he later mentioned, “I don’t know how I’m going to live with myself if I don’t stay true to what I believe.” And he did, in the process defying his violent father, his doubting colleagues, his arrogant superiors, and very much the odds of survival in war, while ultimately saving 75 more soldiers just on the strength of his faith alone.

It would be easy to dismiss this as the Hollywood version of the real story, but the basic facts could not be contested. Hearing the real Desmond recall his grueling experiences was just too much for my jaded heart to bear. In one scene, he visited his fallen comrades’ graves after being awarded a Medal of Honor (a first for a conscientious objector) and he simply said, “The real heroes are buried here”.

I ended up flooding the entire row J of CommerceCenter Cinema 2.

3. I honestly almost gave up on this after the first twenty minutes because it was initially headed into pure melodramatic territory with the domestic abuse plot before it veered into a sappy romance complete with a cloying proposal scene. Thank heavens Desmond was immediately sent to war because I definitely did not pay for a Nicholas Sparks adaptation.

4. The combat scenes were nothing short of spectacular. It had the expected amount of gore and carnage (torn legs! rain of blood! decapitations! intestines sprawled out!) that you would feel very much transported right in the middle of battle where bodies got thrown over grenades and broken torsos were used as shields from the shower of bullets.

My biggest pet peeve in action sequences was that with all of the necessary quick movements, one could barely decipher whatever was happening onscreen. This movie did not have that problem at all because it was very much like watching controlled chaos.

Nobody would even question those Oscars for Best Editing and Best Sound Mixing. Did we expect anything less from the director that made torture porn out of a Bible story in The Passion of the Christ?

5. Vince Vaughn should not be in serious movies because the more he tried to be un-funny, the more hilarious he looked. At least he made the most out of his character, spewing the nastiest throwdowns outside of the America’s Next Top Model house. My favorite ones were:

• “How long have you been dead?”

• “I’ve seen stalks of corn with better physique.”

• “Have you ever looked into a goat’s eyes? Good, that’s unnatural.”

5. Was I the only one wishing for an Esprit de Corps moment? Yes? Really? Ok.

6. Standout scenes: the one where Desmond “buried” an injured comrade to conceal him from the ruthless Japanese soldiers and one could only see his eye peeking out from the ground, and the scene towards the end where he was being lowered via a makeshift stretcher while clutching on to his cherished Bible. Really powerful stuff.

7. One Japanese soldier raised the white flag and he was still shot to death. And that my friends is the reason why I still have major trust issues.

Rating: ★★★★☆

MOVIE REVIEW: THE CHOICE (Ross Katz, 2016)

12742088_10153918349773544_1728884890746889514_n
SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Choice:

1. Nicholas Sparks movies should now be classified as cinematic junk food, alongside Michael Bay blockbusters and Adam Sandler comedies. They have low nutritional brain value, usually with excessive cheese or sugar, and should never be consumed in high doses unless you want severely clogged arteries. I guess that’s also why we only get one (or max two) of them every year to enjoy. Anything more than that would be lethal.

2. This one followed the same Sparks formula from beginning to end and your enjoyment will depend on your tolerance level for cornball entertainment and three-hankie weepie conflicts. Here’s a Sparks movie checklist for reference:

• Usually set in a Southern town, preferably a coastal village (increasing the chances of a sappy boat ride scene, fyi, Ikaw with Sharon Cuneta and Ariel Rivera did it much better)

• Two young lovers that are direct opposites will still fall in love with each other and undergo self-realization and acceptance (most likely with a love triangle or square, for them to fight for their love)

• Rain, lots and lots of rain, where our lovers will run in, make tampisaw, heavily kiss or fornicate under without any fear of getting pneumonia

• Love notes and love letters will still be used in this time of iMessage and emails because they are just so romantic

• The vehicle of choice would be a pick-up truck or a motorcycle because they are darn masculine and sexy

• Possible meet-up at a town fair and may include a ferris wheel ride as needed

• Empty platitudes that the viewers can quote and tweet about after

• Lastly, any form of tragedy that will be introduced in the third act to ensure a downpour of tears (death through leukemia, cancer, Alzheimer’s, a car accident, war, state of coma)

3. It was funny seeing a religious girl (with a boyfriend) talk about her faith and then flirt with another guy who’s also in a relationship. Since the movie was asking us to root for these destined lovers, we were asked to hate on the faithful boyfriend for being busy in his work as a doctor. Are you kidding? This was just hypocrisy at its finest.

4. The best part of the movie were the really cute dogs, whether they were the basket of puppies or the fully-grown pets. One thing I learned was that you should never name the fresh litter because it would be hard to give them up for adoption. This should be good news for my future puppies especially since I usually give them generic names like Bubbles or Spot regardless of gender or actual spots on their skin.

5. I sobbed my eyes out when the line “I wish I could breathe for you” was uttered. And then the puka shell chimes signaled a change of fate and I started cheering with the rest of the audience. Pure cheese, I’m warning you.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆