MOVIE REVIEW: AFTER EARTH (M. Night Shyamalan, 2013)

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At least it’s not The Happening.

The good news: it wasn’t as awful as I expected it to be. The bad news: It was still a bad movie that played like a lame videogame.

It was Hollywood nepotism at its worst. Jaden Smith seemed to have lost all the charms he displayed in the Karate Kid remake.

For all its worth, I was happy they downplayed that it was a Shyamalan movie because (spoiler alert!!) it had no requisite twist.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published June 9, 2013.)

MOVIE REVIEW: CONTRABAND (Baltasar Kormakur, 2012)

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This was another action thriller starring Mark Wahlberg that was so hard to distinguish from his past movie Shooter. He basically sleepwalked through the role and gave one of his laziest performances since The Happening.

I also drew the line on movies that depict gratuitous violence on women. Poor Kate Beckinsale endured a never-ending round of slaps and gut punches that didn’t really mean much, except to make her look pitiful. Talk about desperation.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published August 10, 2012.)

MOVIE REVIEW: 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE (Dan Trachtenberg, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on 10 Cloverfield Lane:

1. If it were the end of the world and I would be evacuating to the nearest shelter, one of the very first things that I would pack as well would be clean (relatively newer) underwear. I wouldn’t want strangers (and future neighbors and/or friends) judging me for having bacon undies. Speaking of, I heard that there were really bacon-scented briefs and boxers for sale in some stores. Wouldn’t this pose a problem if you were caught sniffing yourself (or worse, other people’s privates) in public? (I mean it’s bacon! Who couldn’t resist?)

2. Loved the opening credits interspersed with the car crash scene. It immediately screamed horror movie (or rather HORROR MOVIE!!). Maybe that was one of the reasons why I was a tad dissatisfied with this sequel. I was expecting a grand payoff that just didn’t happen.

3. I had flashbacks of Saw when Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, rocking a white tank top and black non-bacon panties) realized that she was chained to the wall inside a cramped space. When it was further shown that she was (deliberately?) trapped in an underground bunker, I then remembered Room and started to experience claustrophobia yet again. I would never survive living below ground or I would stay true to the phrase “six feet under”. When she had to squeeze through the tiny air ducts, I had to reach for my inhaler because my lungs just stopped functioning.

4. The first two-thirds of the movie was a great psychological thriller that played on a group’s growing paranoia. Howard (played by the excellent John Goodman) was such a shady person and acted like a psycho beneath that teddy bear figure. All of the bunker scenes were really well-staged that when one of the characters was able to escape and the movie started linking itself to the original Cloverfield, I felt cheated and wanted a refund. Such a wasted opportunity. (FYI, if you saw the trailer and one of the posters, you actually had seen the entire movie.)

5. Could anyone help identify that local commercial where they used Frankie Avalon’s Venus as the theme song? I swear it was a soap or beauty product commercial and I have lost a lot of sleep trying to think about it. Anyway, I really loved the soundtrack that included I Think We’re Alone Now and Tell Him (no, not the Barbra and Celine showdown, but Ally McBeal’s go-to song).

6. When they showed the pair of rotting pigs that died after getting exposed to the air outside, I had a terrible feeling that the twist might be similar to The Happening. Now that would really be horrific.

7. While watching Michelle stitch the wound on Howard’s forehead, I was reminded of our Home Economics high school teacher that would give a double and triple zero score if you couldn’t identify the difference between a running stitch and a backstitch. I still didn’t know what those extra zeroes meant to one’s grades, though.

8. Does perchloric acid work the same as hydrofluoric acid (frequently used by Walter White and Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad) in terms of body disposal? I’m asking for a friend.

9. I was so upset that Cannibal Airlines wasn’t real. It sounded like a really fun horror flick. Probably wouldn’t have been as disappointing, too.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

MOVIE REVIEW: THE VISIT (M. Night Shyamalan, 2015)

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My notes on The Visit:

1. I had some serious doubts about this film because of two things: a) it used the no longer novel shaky cam/found footage style that was only scary because of the migraine that it might cause, and b) it was directed by then genius filmmaker turned gimmick auteur M. Night Shyamalan.

I could still remember the sight of Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel kissing in a field of swirling pollens to save their lives from (spoiler alert!!) the deadly greenhouse effect in The Happening. Yes, it was a tree-hugging horror movie that Leonardo DiCaprio would probably be endorsing soon. I was so mad that I wanted to take revenge on nature and eat a bowl of salad after watching all that awfulness.

(And then he made the execrable The Last Airbender and I promised that I would never pay to see his movies again. I lied. I still watched After Earth. In love and in movies, I just never learned.)

2. The premise was so simple and ordinary and maybe that was what made it more scary. Two kids (Becca and Tyler) were sent to live with Nana and Pop Pop, the grandparents they had never met, for a week as part of Becca’s documentary. They followed the normal house rules (curfew at 9:30pm, never go to the basement, eat all you want, have fun and enjoy) and everything was going fine until the oldies started displaying some unusual and disturbing behavior (read: screaming nonsense, crawling around the house at night like an animal, projectile vomiting, you know, the usual stuff that grandparents do).

3. After watching countless horror movies (both good and bad), I had grown immune to the scare factor. No amount of limping ladies that never had a haircut or crying ghosts or monsters lurking under the bed could easily scare me. I was pleasantly surprised with the goosebumps moments in this one, especially since these were real people. If it happened to them, it could easily happen to us (and by us, I meant me), too. I swear after this, I would probably freak out if I see my grandmother holding a kitchen knife.

4. Even with all the lingering strangeness, there were still a lot of funny scenes because of the playfulness of the kids. I loved how Tyler (played by the amazing Ed Oxenbould) was a germaphobe, thus further lowering his survival rate, and how he would use the names of singers as curse words (Shakira! Shania Twain! Sarah MacLachlan!!). My favorite bit was when he saw Nana naked and scratching the walls and he still had time to joke (“I’m blind!!”).

5. The biggest concern with these found footage films was that the characters didn’t drop the camera even in the face of danger and this was no exception. The kids were chased everywhere and they still needed to record everything. Why?! (Oh, otherwise there wouldn’t be any movie.)

6. If you live with your grandparents or if you’re planning to visit them soon, here are some questions that might help you decide if you should watch this one:

a) Has any of them ever asked if you mind getting inside the oven to clean it?


b) Do your grandparents not use a mirror since they’re too scared of their reflection?


c) Have there been instances of them rocking in a chair while laughing hysterically?


d) Do they stand quietly outside your door at night?

Now you decide.

7. Would it be a big spoiler if I told you that since this was a Shyamalan movie, there would be a big twist at the end? Really?! How many Shyamalan movies have you seen? Anyway, this one crumbled a bit after the big reveal, but it was still worth the ride.

8. Lesson of the day: “Shit does not taste like chicken.”

Rating: ★★★★☆