DIVERGENT (Neil Burger, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Divergent:

1. Although the take on factions was interesting, almost all of the elements here were seen and done in previous, more superior movies.

2. I might have missed the explanation but what were the tests for if everyone had the right to choose their faction? Where was the Sorting Hat when you needed it?

3. If the Dauntless group was the cool crowd, why weren’t the rest joining them? I know I would have even if I could barely lift my right leg. Who wouldn’t want to be popular?

4. Was I the only one bothered that brother and sister Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort will next play dying lovers in The Fault in Our Stars? Now that was one way to ruin another adaptation.

5. Tris and Four make seven. But seriously, will this make sense in the sequels? (You can PM me the details.)

6. I was happy to see Shailene flex her acting muscles here, making her character more empathetic. I still think she was robbed of an Oscar nomination for The Descendants.

7. Shailene and Theo James had really good chemistry. I wish the movie didn’t have to push for those cringe-worthy, Twilight-y lines. Oh, and Theo reminded me so much of Christopher Gorham.

8. Of course, Kate Winslet will always be the best thing in any movie (obviously a fanboy here). It must have been refreshing for her to be fully clothed all throughout the movie.

9. I really liked the songs by Ellie Goulding and Zedd, though.

10. FITZ!!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published March 24, 2014.)

LOVE YOU TO THE STARS AND BACK (Antoinette Jadaone, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Love You to the Stars and Back:

1. As a kid, I believed everything that my mother told me. I would immediately take a shower after getting drenched in the rain to avoid getting pulmonya. I would forego that extra cup of rice during dinner lest I end up dying of bangungot. I never went to bed with wet hair because I didn’t want to wake up crazy and dragged all the way to the basement of Makati Med. I was proud of my huge ears because they meant that I would live a long life. I also ate an entire roasted lizard because it was supposedly a cure for my asthma.

I wasn’t surprised at all that young Mika (Julia Barretto) swallowed up all the alien talk of her soon-to-be-departed mother (Carmina Villarroel). I mean it would be nice to believe that E.T. (yes, as in “E.T., phone home!”) would one day abduct me and bring me to the stars so I could observe EDSA traffic from above. In Mika’s own words, “Walang imposible sa mundong ito. Kelangan mo lang maniwala.”

2. So Mika decided to look for aliens in Mt. Milagros (fictional place, right?) somewhere in Batangas and the very first thing she bought as supplies were…Choco Muchos?! Please tell me this wasn’t a blatant product placement (similar to that succeeding Oppo selfie) and that she was really a junk food junkie. Also, would Sapporo now be considered the official beer of Pinoy love stories? Better luck next time Red Horse Litro.

3. Leo Martinez had always been the token Batangueño character in Pinoy cinema and his accent (read: punto) would always be played for laughs. I was happy to see a different version here represented by Caloy (Joshua Garcia, another true-blue Batangueño), but I wish he kept the accent all-throughout the film just for authenticity (sadly, the ones by the supporting cast were spotty at best).

Joshua made up for it though with such a strong performance that displayed his versatility. The John Lloyd Cruz comparisons made during Vince & Kath & James were even more obvious (and justified) here. Naiiyak ako habang pinapanood lang sya umiyak, whether he was telling the story of how his father abandoned them over a plate of tapang kalabaw, or peering through the gate while getting rejected by said dad, or calling his mom to assure her that he was okay. Nanay pa niya si Cherry Pie Picache so wag na umasang di ka maiyak.

(I think the only weakness of Joshua would be his fake laugh because, well, it felt fake. Bawi naman sa pa-karug. Har har.)

4. I loved how the characters here bonded over the grossest things, making them more human and their relationship more relatable. Their meet cute moment actually involved pooping and pissing in a talahiban (another mother’s advice: always say ‘tabi tabi po’ to prevent the wrath of a nuno) and since a significant part of the movie had them inside a car, I was happy when somebody actually farted (with a round of finger-pointing after, of course!).

5. Wait, so Caloy was sick and he decided that the best way to go from Lemery to Calaca (this would be like going from Southmall to MOA ba?) was on a bike?

6. The manong manok character was definitely me to millennials: “Ang babata n’yo pa, ang lalandi n’yo na!”

Mika was able to provide a good defense though: “Bakit kung uso na ang cellphone nung EDSA Revolution, hindi rin ba kayo mag-selfie?!” Touché!

(Another Titas of Manila moment: my brain kept screaming “Eyes on the road!” while they kept making landi in a moving vehicle. Ay josko ka!)

7. Goldie, their pet chicken, was left in the car while they ate lunch. Buti hindi naging Chickenjoy pagbalik nila.

8. I was never really fond of Julia because of her rumored kaartehan and perceived brattiness (I read a lot of FashionPulis, sorry!), but she definitely proved her mettle here. Not only did she look and sound very much like her Aunt Claudine, she actually acted the exact same way.

I especially liked her in that bridge scene where all of her emotions just felt raw and natural. Any lesser actress would have disappeared amidst the powerful presence of Joshua. She also had this really cute (albeit bittersweet) scene with Mika imagining that Caloy was still in the passenger seat. All it needed was her playfully saying, “Mukha kang chewing gum na masarap nguyain.”

9. Although it had elements similar to The Fault in our Stars (and even Your Name), the film overall was still distinctly Jadaone. Iba pa rin ang magic niya kapag usapang pag-ibig. She always knew the right blend of kilig and drama.

I really liked how this was able to differentiate itself from TFIOS by showing the ugly side of cancer. It would be hard to forget that heartbreaking scene with Caloy all covered in his own puke and blood, trying to pretend that nothing was wrong with him. Also, it had one of the most unromantic (pero damang-dama pa rin) declarations of love in cinema. Move over, Ansel and Shailene!

10. “Walang sigurado pero minsan kelangan mo lang maniwala.” I now believe in you, JoshLia. Elyen!!

Rating: ★★★★☆

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS (Josh Boone, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Fault in Our Stars:

1. I read the book in two days (large fonts!) and I must say that this movie was a faithful adaptation in terms of directly lifting dialogue and entire scenes from the source material (down to the pink towel that Hazel’s mom wore when she rushed to her room). It would be unfair to compare the two different visions so let me just say that when Hazel promised at the beginning that it won’t be the typical love story, only the book stayed true to that promise.

2. Yes, I cried tons while watching the movie but then I cry in almost everything. Besides, it was a story about two star-crossed kids with cancer. You know their love story was doomed from the start. Only a person with a heart of stone wouldn’t feel anything for these two.

3. The weird thing about all my crying, though, was that it happened on those particular scenes when the movie didn’t try hard to make me cry. Remember that scene when Hazel’s mom said they couldn’t afford the trip to Amsterdam? Or the one when she looked at her parents holding hands and she felt like a burden to them? Sure I bawled my eyes out during her pretend eulogy and I probably felt a punch in my solar plexus when Augustus revealed that he was sick but these were easy triggers for my tear duct buttons.

4. Which brings me to my other point, how can a movie with such a brave female character actually not have the balls to honestly depict cancer? I understand that it was primarily a love story (albeit a corny one) but during the third act when it needed to show courage, it actually chickened out and resorted to the usual emotional manipulation. Where was the scene in the book when Augustus peed himself? Sure it would have ruined every little girl’s crush on Ansel Elgort but why didn’t it show the disease as it really was?

5. Speaking of Ansel Elgort, he was really charming in this movie, no? I actually forgot that he played brother to Shailene Woodley in Divergent. Actually this movie worked entirely because of the strong performances. Shailene nailed all of her crying scenes (although I never for one second believed that she was 16). And let’s not forget the phenomenal Laura Dern who breathed such life to a typical suffering mother role.

6. The evil depiction of Peter Van Houten and his eventual change of heart looked lame onscreen and was a big departure from that in the book. And they really had to choose the guy who played Nosferatu and the Green Goblin as if the character wasn’t despicable enough. Oh, and that whole Anne Frank’s house scene (endless stairs!) didn’t do anything for me. It also probably had the most unromantic first kiss ever.

7. For those that read the book, what things did you miss in this adaptation? Mine would have to be Kaitlyn (to show that Hazel’s not really anti-social), all the V for Vendetta references (only shown as a poster in Augustus’ room), Caroline Mathers (Augustus had an ex-girlfriend!!), the alfresco Amsterdam dinner near the canal (dinner under the stars would have been more romantic), that HUMP THE CAVE WALL scene, all those Facebook references (you know the posts that people make whenever someone dies; those made the story more human and timely), and Augustus’ eulogy that was not as sentimental as the movie made it to be.

8. Wait, they did omit the only scene in the book where I cried. It was the one where Hazel attended Augustus’ wake, approached his coffin, placed her hand on his chest, and said, “I love you present tense. It’s okay, Gus. It’s okay. Do you hear me? It’s okay.” Then she kissed him on the cheek and said, “Okay? Okay.”

Pass me the Kleenex.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

THE DIVERGENT SERIES: ALLEGIANT (Robert Schwentke, 2016)

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My notes on The Divergent Series: Allegiant:

1. I have no patience for any movie where lovers still have time to kiss, make-out, and whisper sweet nothings to each other all while in the face of danger. If an enemy base is under attack, everyone’s on red alert, and you are both trying to escape, there is just no time for landian. Get your asses out of there and use your Victoria Court privilege card (with complimentary chicken after the first 12 hours) as soon as you’re free. Being based on a Young Adult novel is still no excuse.

2. It’s not really a requirement to see Divergent and Insurgent before seeing this one, but it would sure help. At least you won’t be like the noisy girls in front of me that would gasp at non-revelations (when Theo James’ Four called Naomi Watts’ Evelyn “mother”) and ponder on basic plot points previously discussed (“Ano yung mga factions? Paano kung gusto niya lumipat?”). They should be thankful I was Team Amity that day and I had no patience to drag them out of the theater and conduct a Theater Etiquette lecture.

3. I still couldn’t get over the fact that Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort played siblings Tris and Caleb in this series. Whenever they stared at each other, I would always remember the scene where Hazel Grace mounted Augustus and they made PG-13 love with nose tubes and all. This movie was so bad that I would have preferred to see them instead in a lame The Fault in Our Stars sequel where their dead characters meet in heaven and read An Imperial Affliction on a park bench.

4. The wall-climbing scene reminded me so much of that tense-filled moment in Jurassic Park where Sam Neill and the two kids only had a few seconds to go over a high electric fence. Only here it wasn’t that exciting and I just said meh. And when a character was killed after, I was like meh. (Yes, this movie temporarily turned me into a goat.)

5. If Tris ever joined The Hunger Games (or if you’re a hipster, Battle Royale), she would be the first to get slaughtered. I laughed really hard whenever Shailene had to run because she looked really funny and wobbly and slow. Did she forget to take her vitamins that day?

6. I kinda liked the Mad Max-inspired bleeding rain dystopian scenes. I have always feared acid rain ever since I read about it in our first and only volume of Collier’s Encyclopedia (long story short, my mother just couldn’t say no to the nice salesman so she agreed to buy one volume because that was all she was willing to spend or maybe what she could afford that time and we ended up owning only Vol. 1 “A-B”).

7. I am tired of this double standard requirement of having women in nude shower scenes. Why couldn’t it have been Theo or Ansel (or heck, even Miles Teller’s Peter)? Right?

8. Wouldn’t it be great to have bar codes on our arms and it would serve as our personal information database instead? At least we won’t need to bring a license and passport whenever we’re asked to present two valid IDs. It would also save us the time of endlessly lining up in the SSS/NBI/GSIS/PRC offices.

9. Tris had to wear white all the time to show everyone that she was pure. Which was funny because after all of her make-out sessions, she couldn’t even wear white to her wedding.

10. For a supposedly high-tech facility run by the top tier, the Bureau had terrible security and the most inept personnel. The central elevator was compromised and yet Four was still able to reach the hundredth floor penthouse. Soldiers kept dropping like flies while none of the Divergent gang were even injured. In one scene, Jeff Daniels’ David used a simulator to harass Tris and proclaim that he had full control on all doors and room access, and yet all Tris had to do was shoot a wall to destroy the target. How lame could this movie get?

11. Could someone explain how those green protection fields worked? How could the Divergents’ bullets go through when they were the ones firing the guns and yet it shields them from gunfire of enemies? Was it a one-way shield? This had been bugging me since yesterday. Help!

12. “There can be no change without sacrifice, no peace without struggle. The world doesn’t work like that.” Tell us something we don’t know.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

 

THE DESCENDANTS (Alexander Payne, 2011)

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It was nothing more than your average Hallmark/Lifetime TV-movie. Although there was no disease-of-the-week involved, there was a mother in a coma whose secrets just might break her family apart (since this was a feel-good movie, of course we knew it’ll hold them closer together). Sometimes witty, oftentimes sluggish, this was completely underwhelming for a Payne film.

George Clooney was fine in the lead but I didn’t see it as Oscar-worthy (he was much, much better in The Ides of March). If there was a standout here, it was Shailene Woodley who reminded me of a young and spunky Natalie Portman.

Rating: ★★★☆☆