STOKER (Park Chan-Wook, 2013)

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It’s a case of the less you know, the better the viewing experience. Enthralled for a full 90 minutes.

It’s the first great movie I’ve seen this year. Not for all tastes, though.

Rating: ★★★★★

(Originally published March 8, 2013.)

BOMBSHELL (Jay Roach, 2019)

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Really surprised that this wasn’t an Adam McKay film.

I felt bothered that the old lady seated next to me kept giggling when Roger Ailes (a terrific John Lithgow) asked ambitious associate producer Kayla (well-deserved Oscar nominee Margot Robbie) to hike her skirt up higher. A fellow woman was getting sexually harassed right before her and her initial reaction was that of amusement.

But the very fact that I let out a chuckle when Ailes verbally accosted Fox News host Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) with the line “Nobody wants to watch a middle-aged woman sweat her way through menopause” only meant that I was part of this huge problem.

We just live in a sick world and we’re oftentimes complicit to the horrors happening around us.

Rating: ★★★★☆

PADDINGTON (Paul King, 2014)

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My notes on Paddington:

1. Why do these foreign movies now start with a disclaimer from the distributor explaining why the version you’re about to watch got mutilated? It’s not like we had a choice to begin with. (Ok, illegal downloads but don’t be such a smart-ass.)

2. I still couldn’t understand why the movie filled with British characters had to be dubbed by local actor Xian Lim. It didn’t add anything to the final product. It wasn’t like Paddington had to say a few Tagalog phrases. He actually ended up sounding like a Pinoy Harry Potter with a wobbly accent. Or a distant relative who lived in London for a few months and suddenly had a bloody faux British accent.

3. The mostly English cast was superb. Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, all it needed was a few more Downton Abbey players. And then there was Nicole Kidman.

4. To be honest, I was baffled by the glowing reviews for this movie. Maybe I was just too old and cranky to watch something so juvenile. I know it was primarily aimed at kids but if your idea of humor was a bear sticking toothbrushes in his ear then licking the earwax off before a human character actually used one to brush his teeth, then you might enjoy this.

5. The trench coat on Paddington reminded me so much of streakers. He could be the nicer cousin of Ted.

6. Two scenes were straight out of the Mission: Impossible movies and I have to say Kidman did it better than Cruise.

7. I liked the bit explaining how parents suddenly become overprotective of their kids. If only the film focused more on the heart instead of the crass.

8. The movie did make me crave for marmalade. Wait, is that different from jam? Or jelly? Either way, I need a jar now.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published February 16, 2015.)

THE GOLDFINCH (John Crowley, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

Ganito din ba ka-boring ang Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that this was based on? Siguro kaya hindi rin ako makalampas sa first few chapters ng book (although mas kasalanan talaga ng short attention span ko at ng Mobile Legends). Grabe halos ma-plano ko na ang buong buhay ko habang hinihintay matapos ang movie na parang wala naman pinatunguhan.

Syempre masakit as an Ansel Elgort fan to accept na totoo pala lahat ng negative reviews nito (commercial flop din sya at mukhang hindi man lang kikita ng more than $5M sa US in its entire run). Mas may emotional connection pa ako sa IG videos ng meltdown niya while defending the film. Ganun siya kalala.

Ang only source of joy ko dito eh kapag may mga lumalabas from the cast of American Horror Story like Sarah Paulson and Denis O’Hare. Sayang nga at hindi ginamit ang Ryan Murphy Universe to cast the other roles here (Connie Britton for Nicole Kidman, Dylan McDermott for Luke Wilson, and even Evan Peters for Ansel). Ang saya siguro ng AHS: Goldfinch bilang horrific experience din naman siya.

May isang linya lang dito na tumatak sa akin. Yung sinabi ng fiancée niya na “I don’t expect you to know what it feels like to be in love with the wrong person” at ang only reason bakit siya papakasalan was “This marriage makes sense”. Hay, ang sakit. You deserve better, Ansel. You deserve much better.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP (Rowan Joffe, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Before I Go To Sleep:

1. The movie started with Nicole Kidman waking up naked and not knowing where she was and why she was with Colin Firth. You’d think someone regal like him would at least be polite in bed. (Both actors here were terrible, by the way.)

2. Within the first few minutes, any movie watcher would encounter a cinematic deja vu whether they were fans of Memento, 50 First Dates, or The Vow. By the end of the movie, everyone would be wishing they had short-term memory instead.

3. It was nice to see Kidman with stretch marks. Okay, so those were fake stretch marks. Fine. It’s not like those were the only things fake on her. (I kid. I actually like her. For real.)

4. The story had more holes than Swiss cheese. If I enumerate them all here, my head would just burst from severe frustration.

5. If you love movies peppered with medical terms such as confabulation and countertransference, then this one’s for you.

6. I was happy to see a Nokia 3310 still in use in this movie. So many good Snake memories.

7. Where could I buy that Panasonic Lumix camera that never needed to be charged and seemed unbreakable even if dropped a few feet in the air? Recommended for photographers everywhere.

8. Kidman’s face got slammed on a wall, punched repeatedly, and beaten more than Pacquaio’s in his last match with Marquez and she only ended up with a slight bruise on her cheek the next day. Now that’s the power of Botox. (I’m sorry. I love her. Seriously.)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published January 20, 2015.)

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: ★★★★★