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.

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.

Avengers Age of Ultron: Movie Review

Avengers-Age-of-Ultron-PosterEver since the epic Avengers movie helmed by director Josh Whedon, which was by far, the best movie released by Marvel Studios IMHO, it comes as no surprise that fans of all ages have been waiting with bated breath for the sequel. This time around, however, instead of squaring off directly with Thanos as the Avengers aftercredit implied, the second film focused on the Ultron project, one of Tony Stark’s pet projects to beef up the Earth’s defenses against future threats.

After the Avengers successfully recovered Loki’s scepter from Hydra, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) convinces his buddy Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) to unravel its secrets in the hopes of harnessing its power for his Ultron project. Unknown to Tony, his compulsion was due to the influence of Wanda Maximoff, a woman with a unique gift for for warping reality. Wanda, along with her twin brother Pietro (who has the gift of extraordinary speed) are results of Hydra’s experiments (They joined the group because of a grudge against Tony Stark and the Avengers). Unfortunately, Stark’s good intentions backfire and Ultron literally takes a life of  his own. Now, the Avengers are left to deal with a super powerful self righteous AI set on annhilating the human race.

Avengers: Age of Ultron takes a very different approach from the first movie, despite having the same director. While the first movie was all about building rapport among a group of strong characters, the second movie seemed hell bent on destroying that rapport to build the tension for the future films. Whereas the first movie was all about comic book fun, the sequel took on a more serious route, delving into the characters’ deep seated internal issues, giving the viewers a glimpse into what makes them tick.

Its fairly difficult to balance out the star power in this movie, better yet juggle the entire thing with a very complicated plot that unfolded layer by layer. There was the part about Ultron, there was the introduction of new characters to the Avengers universe — Vision (Paul Bettany), Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). The film also had the task of setting up elements that would connect Age of Ultron to the next movies in the franchise. Scarlet Witch will appear in Captain America: Civil War. As will Tony Stark, while the Infinity Stones storyline could very well introduce a Guardians of the Galaxy crossover.

Some of the audience may get confused because the Maximoffs (Marvel fans know Pietro and Wanda as Magneto’s children) were represented not as mutants but rather as Hydra experiements nor were they referred to using their superhero names (this was due to licensing issues) but credit should be given to the casting of these new characters — I admit I had reservations about Aaron Taylor Johnson after Godzilla but he proved me wrong. The old cast also delivered on what the script called for. There was no competition for the spotlight. And that’s very cool especially this time around, Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) were given their fair share of limelight despite not having superpowers.

In terms of the story, there was a lot of drama involving the perception of what is right and doing what is right. The parallelisms between Stark and Ultron was one of the major conflicts of the film. Same thing with Thor and the Cap, which was further illustrated by Cap’s almost successful try to lift Mjolnir. In essence, it challenged audiences to look at the Avengers using a different lens — one the considers their flaws and imperfections. What’s good about the approach used by the movie was that it did not go overboard like they did with Man of Steel, so it didn’t bore the younger audiences to death.

What I’m trying to say is that filmmakers did a marvelous job of balancing out all of these considerations to make a movie that works. Its totally crazy — the amount of character build up, the set up for the Avengers expansion team, the battle scenes (my favorite was Hulk vs Iron Man), and of course, the ultimate signature scene with the Avengers theme music. Considering, the final battle scene was almost identical to the New York scene in the first movie, except instead of being swarmed by Chitauri, they were being overwhelmed by hundreds of Ultron mini mes. And yet, despite or because of the familiarity, it felt right.

My mind was totally blown by the amount of fan service this movie provided. I was feeling totally overwhelmed while watching the film, as a matter of fact, there were tons of easter eggs littered all over the movie which could keep fans busy (and happy) for days, weeks, months and maybe years ahead. And the best part about it is that all of the openings the film provided will be continued in future Marvel releases and its awesome.

All in all, the best part about Avengers: Age of Ultron was the possibilities it presented. Its biggest success was in exciting fans about what’s to come. It offered a perfect transition and tied the worlds together in a seamless fashion. Sure, it was a lot to take in, but it was cool, it was pretty wholesome save for the explosions and back to back fight scenes (loved the quip about language as a nod to younger moviegoers). True, I still liked the first one better. But the sequel was a whole different animal. It was awesome it its own right. Now, to process all the nuggets this bad boy hinted at. Oh, and by the way, don’t believe rumors that this film doesn’t have an aftercredit. It totally does. Think Infinity Gauntlet. What a perfect way to geek out.

Furious 7: Movie Review

Furious 7I wasn’t able to watch Furious 7 in its first week, when cinemas were jampacked with people itching to see the late Paul Walker’s final ride in the franchise he started with his bestie Vin Diesel. Indeed, no matter how hard core this franchise is with the cool cars and the hot girls (who are badasses in their own right), it wouldn’t have been as successful without this duo. Being a fan of the franchise, I too, wanted to give Paul a proper sendoff by watching him on the big screen, along with the rest of the fandom. Better late than never, right, and what’s important is that I actually made it. I actually made it to see Paul’s last movie. His real and fitting final ride.

After taking down Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) in London and getting amnesty for past crimes, Dom (Vin Diesel) and and his crew are finally able to return home to the US. Bryan (Paul Walker) is living peacefully with Mia (Jordana Bewster) and their son Jack while the rest of the team are chilling out in different parts of the country. But it seems the idyllic life never sits well with the team as they are haunted by the events of London, when Shaw’s big bad brother, Deckard (Jason Statham) starts to hunt them down to avenge Owen’s death. But Deckard is a shadow, a former CIA Black Ops who remains always one step ahead of them. When a CIA boss (Kurt Russel) approaches the crew to give them a mission that would help them turn the tables on their enemy, they grab the opportunity without question. The next thing they know, they are involved in the rescue of a hacker named Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) and going after a highly evolved surveillance device called the God’s Eye. When their common enemies join forces, chaos ensues in the streets of LA.

First off, let me just say that Furious 7 was not a perfect movie, nor was it the best installment in the franchise. It had a lot of inconsistencies storywise and some of the characters’ actions just did not make sense. It could have been a lot different if they were not restricted by the fact that one of its lead actors suddenly died in the middle of filming and I’m quite sure that the script underwent some major revisions along the way to accommodate the handicap but at the end of the day, Furious 7 did remain consistent with the general theme of the franchise and stayed true to delivering what the fandom was expecting from the movie. I was kind of bummed to realize though that so little was left of the original team, not until they planned their next mission and the table was so far less crowded than it was for the Rio heist.

One of the issues I had with the movie was the script. In the beginning, there was a lot of talk about family and brothers (perhaps to underscore the parallelisms between Shaw and Dom or maybe because it was a shoutout to Paul whom the crew thought of as family) but towards the middle, it became kind of tedious. True, there were superb action stunts, car chases and gunfire in between but there were really times that it felt overdramatic and depressing. The brooding, nostrils flaring showdowns between baldies The Rock vs Statham, and Statham vs Dom, while on paper, seemed like pretty kickass fight scenes (which they were, up to a certain degree), the amount of time devoted to them circling each other like sharks and posturing for battle at times seemed comical, add to the fact that despite all of the damages they sustained physically, they always survived it. I mean, come on, where’s the realism in that? Leave us not forget the semi cheesy scene with Dom and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) towards the end. (I say semi cheesy because with Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez in a scene, it could never be entirely cheesy)

Speaking of realism, the order of the day for the the final FF movie seemed to be “think of the impossible and let’s just do it.” And the stunts in this movie were definitely in that category. I’m not complaining because if audiences suspend their disbelief for one second, it will help them appreciate the scenes for their genius. It was such a rush to see all of these amazing action sequences happening simultaneously and yet, each scene is given its own spotlight without being rushed or slo mo-ed too much, unlike in other movies of the same genre. It really gives the audiences an appreciation for cinema magic. My mind was blown by the amount of creativity it took to think up of things they did in this movie. And as a viewer, I really, really loved it. I liked the lighter part of the script, mostly those delivered by Tej (Ludacris) and Roman (Tyrese Gibson) which were more in line with the general vibe of the franchise.

I’m actually super glad that I refrained from reading spoilers or clicking on materials that had to do with Paul’s CGI or Paul’s tribute in Furious 7 before I saw the movie. It made me appreciate the efforts of the entire team in giving Paul the ending that he deserved. The CGI was so masterful that I didn’t know which scenes were CGI and what weren’t. I’m glad that the filmmakers brought Paul’s brothers on board for the project.

Check out how they pulled off Paul’s CGI here:

As for the tribute in the end, I loved it for its meaning. The approach was very subtle but the sincerity in the words reflected the type of relationship the FF family had developed from the beginning of the franchise. It wasn’t about creating drama. It was about sending off a person whom the franchise held dear in their hearts. And this is what made it matter.

If you want to check out the tribute, here’s the youtube version of the official music video:

And here’s Vin singing See You Again for his buddy. This may be one time you hear him break out into song aside from the Peter Panda dance.

All in all, I’m glad that this movie became Paul Walker’s swan song. It was the franchise that brought him to stardom and it was right that his final movie was made with the people he loved doing what he loved. For all its faults, Furious 7 was entertaining, and delivered on fans’ expectations. Sure, it could have been more. But it was still a good movie which accomplished what it set out to do, which was to end (?) the franchise with guns blazing.