It Follows: Movie Review

It FollowsI’ve heard good things about It Follows. This was the reason I hunted down a copy in the first place to see firsthand what the fuss was about. Unfortunately, I’m not as impressed as I would like to be with his supernatural horror movie.

Jay (Maika Monroe)  is a rather popular teen who is is seeing a a new boyfriend named Hugh. Hugh seems normal enough but at times, he acts weird like he sees people who aren’t really there. Still, it doesn’t happen too often so Jay lets it slide and lets the budding romance prosper. After they do the deed, Hugh unexpectedly hits her with chloroform and ties her down to a wheelchair, when she comes to, he starts blabbing about passing on something to her via intercourse and now she must pass it on to someone else in the same manner. Long story short, if she gets killed by “it”, her supernatural stalker immediately goes after the person who gave “it” to her and continues down the line to its origin.

The film had a nice 80s horror vibe to and it had great camera shots. I noticed that writer director David Robert Mitchell utilized a lot 360 degree panning to establish the environment. In the beginning there was a pretty groteseque death to establish the premise of the story that looked promising. Unfortunately, it was a promise that did not deliver.

My problem with It Follows was that there was really no story progression — no attempt to find out what “it” was or where it came from and why “it” always came in the form of a naked or half naked person. Was it a curse borne from sexual violence, and was it being passed on via intercourse? The film seemed to have hit a snag in the storytelling and stopped at the point where Jay the the was trying to get rid of her mysterious stalker . For half of the movie, there was cliche after cliche about teens and sex and horror movies.

I don’t know if I missed the symbolism in the movie that critics were raving about but for me, the pacing was atrocious and the ending was such a copout that it was super frustrating. The lead stars were not relateable nor charismatic. I kind of liked Jay’s sisters, but there was really nothing that compelled me to root for Jay to live – nothing at all.

All in all, I was sorely disappointed with It Follows. It just didn’t work for me, except almost put me to sleep. It succeeded in building up the suspense but failed to produce a climax or an ending worthy of a decent horror. Too bad.

Phineas and Ferb Last Day of Summer: A fitting farewell for an epic animated series

Phineas and FerbI must admit — when I first heard that the Disney Channel was pulling the plug on Phineas and Ferb after five seasons, I was truly saddened by the news. I knew the studio was batting for an animated series that would make them competitive in the boys’ market like Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon (this the move to partner with Marvel) but I believe that this was one of the Disney original series that deserved the most support from the studio because it stood for something original and reflected the values that Disney itself has worked hard to inculcate in its programming for the longest time. It encouraged creativity and adventure and taught kids that everything is possible, and that age and youth is not a hindrance to making the impossible possible.

When the channel announced the last episode of the show, aptly titled: Last Day of Summer, I was curious about how the show would approach its swan song. At the same time, a part of me didn’t want to see it because it meant goodbye. Okay, I’m a thirty something professional and I am hooked on this show. Not only do I watch it everyday. I watch it during its 6 pm and 10 pm runs. Phineas and Ferb episodes make me smile. every. single. time. I believe life is too short to begrudge ourselves small joys like this one.

Last Day of Summer involved a typical day in the Flynn-Fletcher household, but because school will start in 14 hours, Phineas and Ferb wanted to do something special — something big and awesome, even more than the usual. For Candace, the stakes are higher because its her last chance to bust her brothers before summer is over. Luckily for her, she meets Dr. Doofenschmirtz while returning Vanessa’s DVDs where she chances upon his do-over-inator, which has the ability to reset time to the day before, thereby giving her unlimited chances to bust her brothers. But eventually, the re-dos start to affect the time space continuum and time rips start absorbing random objects and people into an alternate dimension. Unfortunately for Candace, her brothers get sucked into the time rip and she must do everything to get them back and repair the fabric of time before the entire Danville ceases to exist.

There are a lot of things I appreciate about the Last Day of Summer. While there wasn’t enough of Phineas and Ferb to keep me well and truly happy, I loved the fact the special made Candace realize the value of her relationship with her brothers and helped her appreciate them and the time they spent together. I loved that Doof finally got one over Roger, and at the end of the day, he realized he needed to work on his relationship with Vanessa more. In truth, I love the episodes that focus on their father and daughter dynamic and this was a good way to illustrate Doof’s love for his only daughter. As usual, his interactions with Perry and Norm were super funny and entertaining. I don’t know  but despite being the show’s resident villain, I have always had a soft spot for the Doc perhaps because of his truly dreary backstories.

Candace and Jeremy

PUPPY LOVE. Jeremy tries to impress Jeremy

I liked that showrunners incorporated the show’s running gags and popular one liners every chance they got but still kept it fresh so viewers don’t feel like they’re watching just a mash up of the show’s best moments. I sort of missed Jeremy and Suzy in this episode because I felt they were a big part of the show not to be part of the finale. Still, they had scenes in the flashbacks so I guess that’s enough.

I admit that watching the last episode was a bittersweet experience for me. I couldn’t help but get teary eyed when the closing song opened because it spoke volumes about what the show meant to each individual that became part of the show. I’ve been following the show enough to see how creators Dan Povenmire (who voices Dr. Doof) and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh (who voices Major Monogram) pour their creativity and personal humor into the cartoon and their energy seems infectious to each cast member and illustrator.

Dan Povenmire and Swampy Marsh

THANK YOU. Show creators Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh inject their infectious energy and own brand of humor to each episode. You deserve this full sized photo on this post. (Disney)

All in all, the finale managed to communicate the show’s appreciation for its audience and did the best it could to make the last episode as fun and awesome as each episode, given that it was only limited to 45 minutes. There were a lot of great songs and a lot of fun moments among the gang that became a fitting farewell for a show that managed to inspire kids to enjoy their own 104 days of summer vacation. Perhaps, not of the same magnitude as our favorite triangle headed boy and Ferb (my favorite character in the series, by the way), but in their own ways. Phineas and Ferb inspires kids to be kids and its a rare novelty these days when children and teens are too preoccupied with playing online games and apps in gadgets. I’m gonna miss the gang for sure.

Kingsman: The Secret Service Movie Review

Kingsman:The Secret ServiceQuite frankly, I have never heard of British spy action comic book Kingsman:The Secret Service created by Kickass writer Mark Millar before I learned that it was going to be adapted into a movie. When I saw the trailer, I was immediately intrigued by the concept of a group of well mannered (and impeccably dressed) super spies who kick ass and save the world without even breaking a sweat. Sure, James Bond has done it for years but the level of coolness under pressure these guys have is out of this world. No matter what, I was confident that it was going to be a bunch of fun.

Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is a twenty something ne’er too well still living with his mom and abusive stepdad in the poor districts of London. Despite being blessed with great intelligence and talent, he has always found himself unable to accomplish anything in life because he is held back by his love for his mother and baby sister. As a result, he hangs around with  his fellow ne’er do wells and finds himself in trouble more often than not. As he is faced by the possibility of going to jail for pulling a stunt against a gang of bullies, he calls a secret number, entrusted to him by a mysterious man (Colin Firth) when he was little. The next thing he knows, he is recruited to train for the very same secret spy organizations that his dad was part of, a group which dates back centuries whose task is to protect the world from evil megalomaniacs like billionaire Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson), and his plan to start a new world order with himself in charge.

Director Matthew Vaughn (Kick Ass, X-Men: First Class) did a great job adapting another Mark Millar creation. At the beginning, it felt a bit campy especially with all the theatrical musical scoring that marked milestones in the film. As it progressed, it got campier. It got more over the top. It got even more unbelievable. And I enjoyed every single moment of it.

What I loved about the film was the general sense of fun that it delivered. It was  British cast and it involved mainly British humor. Heck, half the time, I couldn’t even understand what was said, but the film had the ability to project a certain vibe that made everything seem cool and interesting, blending the funny and the serious and of course delivering in spades when it came to the action part. The script was good, the banter was great and it was paced to well to distribute the scenes in the two hour long movie in the best way.

I loved the rapport between Taron Egerton and Colin Firth, especially because their characters were polar opposites. Same with Taron and Mark Strong, who thankfully does not portray a villain this time. I like the mentor and protege relationship between the characters. The filmmakers played their cards right by establishing early on how the death of Eggsy’s dad affected him and Henry. In a sense, it contributed to the sense of empathy that audiences could feel for him and the affinity he feels for both men, who are not exactly brimming with sharing their feelings.

The action sequences were awesome and at times, it felt like a bit like a cross between Kill Bill and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It managed to become both heart pounding and hilarious at the same time. It was golden.

All in all, my only complaint about the film is that Colin Firth would no longer be part of the planned sequel. Otherwise, it was entertaining as heck and managed to become one of the most enjoyable films I’ve seen this year.

The Rape of Winterfell: My thoughts on Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken GoT S05E06

Game of Thrones Unbowed Unbent UnbrokenI’m quite puzzled why fans of Game of Thrones are up in arms against the show for implying (because the scene was not at all graphic) the rape of Sansa Stark in the hands of Ramsay Bolton, the despicable bastard of Roose Bolton. Yes, the same Roose Bolton who betrayed the Northerners at the Red Wedding.

Actually, the approach to the scene was quite good. The team didn’t employ an in your face approach  but rather made it subtle, focusing instead on Theon’s reaction to underscore just how disturbing Ramsay’s attack against his new bride was.

Fans have used social media to sound off about their dismay  about this development. Many have even threatened to be done with the show because of what happened to “Poor Sansa.”

But on the other hand, one has got to think — why would they be shocked that Ramsay Bolton, who has never once committed one act of kindness to any single character — the same Ramsay who took great pains torturing and killing the innocents, the same Ramsay Bolton who killed off his lovers and made sports out of them for being “boring” — would commit such a sadistic act against Sansa Stark, a lady of noble lineage, that considering a different circumstance, one who is way beyond his reach?

On the one hand, I do get what the fuss is about. Rape is a sensitive subject and one that should not be taken lightly. But given the context of the show… considering the depth of the source material, I don’t think that it was shocking at all. It was bound to happen because that’s the type of books The Song of Ice and Fire Series is.

Rather than look at this as a tragedy or a setback, I actually think this is a positive step for the series. Now, Sansa will be more motivated to exact her revenge, and I can’t wait to see the Boltons suffer under her hands. One thing fans have to consider is that this is a show where women command dragons and conquer cities. This is a show where women fight just as good as the men (although the Sand Snakes kind of underwhelmed me this time). This is a show where women scheme and manipulate and become queens. This is a show where women shun everything to avenge their loved ones.

Valar Morghulis. And the Stark girls have every intention to make good on this promise. Just stick around and wait.

Para sa Hopeless Romantic: Movie Review

Para-Sa-Hopeless-Romantic-poster-released-460x280Third time’s the charmed for director Andoy Ranay’s collaboration with love team Nadine Lustre and James Reid. In yet aother wattpad inspired film, this team finally managed to find the perfect balance of romance, drama, and surrealism to end up with a movie that is relateable and realistic, thanks to author Marcelino Santos III, who penned the novel in which the movie was based. (Note: He also makes a cameo in the movie as the school paper editor)

Becca (Nadine Lustre) is an embittered college student who writes sad love stories for her university paper because she has yet to move on from her break up with her first love Nicco (James Reid) five years ago. She writes about characters like Ryan (Inigo Pascual) and Maria (Julia Barretto), whose love is doomed from the start because of her own experience with love. But as fate would have it, just as she is about to move on and take another chance with an anonymous stranger who exchanges notes with her on her school desk, her path crosses with Nicco anew and it seems Nicco is still hung up on her as well.

From the moment I heard about this movie, I was immediately psyched about it. So much so that I even read the novel to check whether or not I would be disappointed with the story. Thankfully, Santos’s novel proved to be engaging and well worth the excitement.

I must admit that I’m a big fan of the Jadine loveteam mainly because there’s great chemistry between the two. Its true that the first two movies that featured them (Diary ng Panget and Talk Back and You’re Dead) were truly cringeworthy but it wasn’t because they lacked the acting chops or that  director Andoy Ranay failed as a director. I place the blame solely on the source materials that lacked substance and were truly farfetched to begin with (even for works of fiction) and screenwriters who did nothing to address the glaring loopholes that the novels presented.

With Hopeless Romantic, Jadine finally had the opportunity to work with a material that would challenge them to draw on their acting skills to depict portrayals that the audience could relate to on more than a superficial level. This time around, there was a more mature story that dealt with what real people dealt with in reality — heartbreak and how to move on from it. I’m glad to say that Jadine delivered. True, these two young stars are far from award winning level but with a bit more push and more experience, I’m sure they would further improve on their craft.

Jadine had to share the spotlight with another teen loveteam, showbiz legacies Ynigo Pascual and Julia Barretto but the film did a pretty good job in dividing the limelight between the two pairs. Inigo has improved in his acting and delivery compared to his first projects and Julia has good rapport with him. Most of the lighter moments were focused on the two and it seemed appropriate because they had a younger and more innocent vibe to them in the first place.

What I also liked about the movie was that screenwriter Mel Mendoza del Rosario slightly modified the story  to connect the stories of Nicco and Becca with that of Ryan and Maria — the notes, the eating, the seats, and the romantic montages gave the audience insight into what Becca was going through so that they don’t hate her for being bitter. In a way, it led to a greater understanding of her hurt and disillusionment, although she did tend to be overly bitter. What I liked however, was how the characters evolved as the story progressed. The Becca at the start of the movie was much different than the one at the end. Same goes for Nicco, and characters who evolve are always a good thing.

Great casting for the character of Jackie by the way, although chances are pretty slim that she will get her own spinoff movie like her literary counterpart did (Para sa Broken Hearted). Cherie Gil’s role as Miss Katigbak was short but sweet. As usual, whether light or heavy, Miss Cherie Gil always delivers on point performances that are worthy of note.

All in all, Para sa Hopeless Romantic was a pretty nice movie. It wasn’t overly deep nor overly shallow. It didn’t go overboard with the romance and gauged its actors’ ability with that of the audiences’ expectations to serve up something that is worthy to be seen on the big screen and write about. It wasn’t perfect, of course, cinematography and lighting could use some work (excessive use of close ups, but audiences seemed to like it), but in general, it was pretty solid. Its the type of movie I wouldn’t mind seeing again.

American Mary: Movie Review

american-maryI’ve been meaning to watch American Mary for a while now. It has been in my TBR pile for a couple of months but I haven’t gotten around to it except to scan a few scenes which seemed dark and twisted. It had great promise, and now that I’ve finally gotten around to catching up on my backlogs, I’m happy to report that that the promise totally paid off for this gruesome gorefest.

Mary Mason (Katharine Isabelle) is a promising medical student who is behind on her student loans and bordering on broke. To pay for her bills and continue with school, she answers a wanted ad for a stripper. During her interview, she suddenly gets roped into performing an emergency medical procedure on a bleeding criminal and this opens a window of opportunities for her surgical skills in the underground world. When she is abused by one of her mentors in med school, she exacts revenge in the most painful way possible with the help of her newfound friends.

From the first scene, American Mary gave plenty of opportunity for squeamish members of the audience to turn back. The turkey being repeatedly sliced and sutured in extreme close up was a reliable indication of what was to come for non animal members of the cast.

True enough, the film involved a lot of cutting, a lot of blood, a lot of abuse and depravity and its really not something for people with weak stomachs.

The film tackled the world of body modification in great detail. While it did not elaborate on the psychology of the people who get under the knife for uncanny procedures to change how they look, it did give the audience a different perspective on the industry without being judgmental about it. Still, it earned its fair share of squirms and cringes of discomfort from the people who watched the movie for sure.

What I appreciated about the approach of the Soska sisters, who penned and directed this movie, was their instinct in knowing just where to push and when to pull. Sure, there was a lot of gruesomeness depicted in the film but the filmmakers did not rely on the graphic too much to shock the audience. They did just enough and implied just enough to tickle the imagination of the viewers to let them fill in the blanks.

Another great thing about the film was that it used practical effects and no CGI for the horror sequences. Its a novelty nowadays to be able to do it completely old school but the film managed to pull it off successfully.

On the part of the characters, I loved the character of Mary. Aside from being super gorgeous, she was tough as nails even though there seemed a point in the movie where she seemed to develop a taste for torture. I got a kick out of the giant bouncer Lance giving her a pep talk about harboring remorse about killing people.

It seems weird but I thought Billy’s (Antonio Culpo) crush on Mary was quite endearing. Cute seems like an out of place description about anything this dark but I really thought Mary and Billy would’ve made a cute couple. I couldn’t get over the fact about Mary’s jealous fit against one of Billy’s ‘girls.’

All in all, American Mary had a great story to tell. More than the gore, the film had an underlying message about feminism, body image and self confidence. While the lead character Mary went a little overboard in exercising girl power, it still said something about not becoming a victim. It was graphic, it assaulted the senses, it stirred up the audiences sensibilities by pulling old tricks from old school horror. And these are the reasons why the movie is different and cool.

Moving on from Manny’s loss

maypac

I would like to begin with a disclaimer. These are all just my thoughts post match and in no way a professional analysis.

It was the hype that ruined it all.

After the Mayweather-PacMan fight yesterday, Filipinos mourned the loss of Filipino boxing champ via unanimous decision. Of course, being the social media capital of the world (or close to it), netizens took their frustrations out in social media, poking fun at Mayweather’s game plan of dodging Manny’s punches and running around the ring to evade Manny’s attempts to corner him. Technically speaking though, clinching is legal and there’s nothing in the rule book that states that a boxer is required to stay put and slug it out with his opponent.

In short, Mayweather played it smart. He used strategy and used every advantage he had over Manny. He used his height and reach advantage to sneak in punches against the People’s champ and easily avoid his counter punches. He used the clinch to buy time and make Manny lose momentum. In Filipino, may konting gulang. But not enough to say that he didn’t win fair and square.

Floyd won the fight, fair and square. And if fans watched him in his previous matches, they would not expect any other game plan from Mayweather. He has always been very cerebral and calculating, so much so that he screens his opponents even before he agrees to a match, gauging their ability against his in order to determine whether or not they are a serious threat to his undefeated record.

The negotiations bogged down five years ago because Floyd kept dodging Manny at the peak of his career. But he kept the fans excited by building the rivalry between them through constant trash talking, social media bashing, and it worked. After Manny’s loss to Marquez, Floyd understood that Manny’s skills were not as before and that made him a viable opponent. Understand, that the Manny of 2010 was far different from the Manny of today. Let’s face it. Age has a way of catching up with even the most extraordinary of athletes and Manny is no exception.

Floyd is going through the same thing. He understands that and he has used his calculating brain to ensure that he will be able to spend his retirement in luxury. Thus, the MayPac bout.

Saying that fans were disappointed over the match would be an understatement. Manny explained that he had a nasty shoulder injury but that’s just one factor in the match.

As a fan, I knew that he was totally bummed that Floyd did not engage. He was bummed that he disappointed fans who paid big bucks to buy tickets to the Battle for Greatness, for the fans who purchased Pay per View from Showtime and HBO and countless providers all over the world. But it takes two to tango and Manny’s injury was another setback that prevented a more explosive match. A match that audiences deserved.

So, what’s the worst part of it all? Unfortunately, its not that Manny lost. There was a huge chance for that happening from the beginning. Its not that he did not try because come on, even the most cynical of sports analysts saw how he tried to go after Mayweather at every opportunity.

It was the fact that the match that was expected to revive the sport, may have been the bout that killed it. The match showed that the promoters cared more about the money than the fans and its hard to bounce back from that type of betrayal, especially after these same fans stuck to boxing loyally after its steady decline (due to MMA).

Its not Manny’s fault. Nor was it Floyd’s (because he never pretended otherwise that it was all a business to him). Its because the sport lost fighters that truly cared about the fans. And even if there still are (like Manny), their good intentions are still being overwhelmed by the business side of things where ticket sales are still the priority.

Its a sad, sad day for boxing indeed. Fans could only hope and pray for a return of the glory days with Ali, Leonard, Holyfield, Tyson, Jones and the like. One can always hope.