Category Archives: In a Nutshell

REVIEW-O-RAMA 2

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Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

Mel Gibson finally learned how to hide his bigotry and misogynistic tendencies behind a good script from the Tarantino School of How to Be a Successful Racist. That said, Hacksaw Ridge was a masterfully crafted movie with all-around good acting, great dialogues, gritty visuals, and gorgeous cinematography.

Verdict: Swearing off Tarantino-esque movies, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Andrew Garfield in a drama again.
Cringe-o-Meter: 50/50. Political correctness out the window. Good thing the superb acting makes up for the racially motivated script.

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Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds (2017)

Gyun-woo has done it again! Cha Tae-hyun has a knack for playing kind, decent everyman with strong moral values. His flawless comedic timing is balanced exquisitely with his dramatic chops. This movie is not only visually gorgeous and well-acted, the narrative is also spectacularly engaging. The aerial fights scenes alone are better than the Matrix movies. Everything in this film works: the top-notch visual effects, the wonderful script, the  balanced pacing, the exceptional acting, and much more. Prepare to cry a lot because the emotional scenes will punch you in the gut harder than a cheating ex, and you’ll be picking your jaw off the floor from the breathtaking special effects.

Verdict: South Korean cinema at its finest.
Cringe-o-Meter: Zero. Whether you are a K-Drama addict, an anime enthusiasts, hard-core fanboy/fangirl, or even your average family, you will find something to enjoy in this movie.

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Annihilation (2018)

A visually stunning but pretentious film that is obviously pandering to so-called intellectuals (film critics) and feminists. The largely female cast not only panders to the feminist movement, but also gives me Ghostbusters (2016) flashbacks. While people praise this movie for the it’s take on social commentary and the thought-provoking dialogue, the narrative is hardly original as it as takes a page from Games of Thrones by killing off  a kind, relatable character early on. It’s colorful palette and gorgeous  landscapes (those glass trees are exquisite) create a jarring contrast to the eerie tone. While I had a hard time believing Natalie Portman’s diminutive size playing a military role (she’s also a biologist), I was pleasantly surprise she that pulled it off.

However, there is one angle I analyzed to death. I’ve associated the main characters to the five stages of grief: 1) denial: Oscar Isaac’s character chose to go on a suicide mission instead of facing the situation that his wife is having an affair; 2) anger: one character suddenly becomes an angry, murdering psychopath for no apparent reason; 3) bargaining: Natalie’s character volunteers to go inside the Shimmer to find out what happened to her husband and find a cure for his illness so she can apologize to him for having an affair; 4) depression: tired of struggling with her addiction, Tessa Thompson’s character’s surrenders and becomes just another human topiary in the grassy meadow. 5) acceptance: the psychologist accepts the futility of her terminal disease and mankind’s struggles and succumbed to the “annihilation” and gets absorbed by aliens.

Verdict: Reminds me of Black Swan, and I am one of the few who didn’t like that movie.
Cringe-o-Meter: High. While it is not a bikini-clad female superhero, it still manages to shove feminism down our throats.

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Review-o-Rama

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The K2 (2016)

A young woman involved in a political scandal falls in love with her bodyguard who has a dark past.

Pros:
Cute leading man. Okay, I’ll admit this much.
Good soundtrack. A couple of songs stand out.
Kick-ass action scenes. That is, apart from the lead pausing to make sure his enemies see him before attacking.

Cons:
Damsel in distress. Ugh! I can feel the feminist flag hitting between the eyes, and I’m no feminist!
Paper-thin plot. I don’t buy the male lead’s sudden affection toward the female.
Over-the-top acting. OMG, those fake laughs!
Zero chemistry between the leads. No, I don’t care to elaborate.
Lazy editing. Are those long pauses really necessary?
Nonexistent character development. So why did the leads fall in love again?
Gratuitous slo-mo. Enough to give Michael Bay a run for his money.
Confused script. Tries hard to sell innocence and naïveté but falls flat.

Verdict: Will not be watching Healer anytime soon.
Cringe-o-Meter: High. Might not finish this drama.

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Goblin (2016)

A general from the Goryeo period is cursed with immortality as a goblin until he finds his bride who happens to be an orphaned high schooler. He ends up living in the same house with her along with a grim reaper who shares a complicated past with him.

Pros:
Amazing chemistry between the cast.
Talented actors.
Great soundtrack.
Excellent expositions in flashback sequences.
Top-notch costumes and wardrobe.
Witty dialogues.
Awesome special effects and animation.

Cons:
Age gap. Yet another young girl falling for a much older guy cliche
The emotional scenes didn’t give me enough “feels.” I’m sorry, it doesn’t.
Too much star power. Despite the ensemble feel, Gong Yoo’s “je ne sais quoi” shines through, and I’m not even a huge fan.

Verdict: On board the Gong Yoo train so soon after Train to Busan. Choo-choo!
Cringe-o-Meter: Minimal. This was a delightful fantasy-drama series.

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Dramaworld (2016)

An American girl obsessed with Korean dramas gets sucked into her favorite series. She ends up falling for the male lead, throwing the whole Dramaworld into chaos.

Pros:
Intriguing premise.
Surprisingly witty dialogue. “Why do you tape over your car logos?” “What logo?” gets me every time.
Pokes fun of itself and at Korean drama clichés. Drunken piggyback rides, bitchy side characters, manipulative mother, etc.—it’s all there!

Cons:
Acting is cringeworthy.
Male lead is sometimes hot, sometimes not. It’s quite confusing!
Eric from Twilight. I didn’t know he speaks fluent Korean. Still, he’s from Twilight!
Predictable ending. No surprise there!

Verdict: The premise was promising but the execution was terrible.
Cringe-o-Meter: High. Twilight-level, even.

Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

Bedroom, Aug. 13, 2014

So okay, I’m a huge Marvel aficionado and I’m sure fanboys will castrate me for this but here goes.. GotG is not worth the free tickets we watched it with!

First gripe, while I honestly believe that Chris Pratt is genuinely hilarious, the number of laughs on this film is few and far in between. My one conservative chuckle was only limited to the Kevin Bacon reference.

Second, each principal character’s life story is condensed into 1 or 2 spoken sentences and inserted so incongruently with the present story arc it ultimately left any smart viewer detached instead of empathetic toward the character. Apart from Starlord’s past, no other character background was brought to the screen. My 2-cent’s worth: best stick to the classic flashback montage.

Third, CGI is top notch as per usual Marvel fanfare – although we watched it on old-school 2D only – but a little less creative with the aliens, which apparently only comes in 3 1/2 skin colors: red, blue, green & ambiguous gray?!

True. I may not have enough GotG background as a solid basis for this review but I’ve always held a higher standard for movies, especially Marvel films ever since Iron Man, which was all too lovingly re-affirmed with Avengers.

Oh, but I do think this movie has one redeeming aspect to it: the awesome 80’s soundtrack!

Now, before I get banned for life from any Comic Con appearance in the future, please project your nerd-rage to the director of this empty shell of a box-office hit. He’s got money to burn and may issue a refund. Good luck!

Selfies Vs. Self-Esteem

Macky’s bedroom, Manduae, Mar. 28, 2014

“Holy inferiority complex Batman! How low is my self esteem that I’m the sidekick in my own fantasy?” – JD, Scrubs

I never take selfies. The whole thing looks ridiculously absurd to me.

The idea of angling my face in such a way that the photo highlights which cheekbone I deemed belongs to my good side and then contorting my face into pseudo-cute poses to harvest likes and thumbs up is borderline manic, not to mention, totally narcissistic. Not that I’m judging those who do it by the minute. I know everyone is taking “selfies” lately, way before the term ever caught on–but it’s just, I never got comfortable with it.

Sometimes I envy people’s confidence and how they change their primary pic three times a day. But most of the time, I just feel sad at how social medias have warped how humans connect and present themselves to one another. Which only fuels my belief that the entire world has turned into individual self-absorbed vanity machines overnight.

Though my aversion to selfie wasn’t for the lack of trying. There were times when I tried to take a profile-worthy snapshot but I can never capture one I really liked. Either my face is too fat, my nose to mushroom-y, or my eyes too squint-y, I just end up deleting the whole thing. Which brings me to a touchy subject: I don’t know how to pose in front of a camera. Nearly 33 years old and everyday I wonder how I let myself get photographed publicly or privately at all. Which immediately leads me to another painful topic: my self-esteem issues.

While I was born not quite oozing with confidence, I know I’m not a wallflower either. I don’t fancy myself as intellectual but I do think I’m smart enough. I can blurt out random and obscure factoids I read about in a book or magazine or seen somewhere at quiz shows. And although I don’t consider myself drop-dead gorgeous or pretty, I can take pride that I’d be able to turn heads just passing by. Modesty aside, I can see myself with others without being too insecure. Even though we have all these great apps now on how to photoshop an image before it can even be posted online, I’m still wary about taking pictures of myself. Which segues to a third sensitive hung-up: my weight.

Being asthmatic and sickly for most of my life, I have always lamented at how I look like Big Ethel from Archies Comics, all skin and bones and nary a feminine curve in sight. But after my laparoscopic surgery to remove a couple of cranberry-sized gallstones in 2011, I have been gaining weight like crazy. While I’m not yet obese or overweight for my body type and age group, I have gained some 10 or so pounds since then. Which is disconcerting to me since I never had to deal with this issue before. But the fact now is, I have a hard time controlling my weight fluctuations. While I don’t want to look too skinny and emaciated like the stick insects we call our models and celebrities today, I do want to be healthy and muffin-top free.

The short-lived gym membership was a bust as I did not end up losing a single inch on my waistline. The diet pill worked like a charm but I ended up losing sleep over it and as soon as I got off them, I gained the weight back and then some. The only thing left to try is the dreaded diet plan. With so many diet fads to choose from, I hardly know which one to choose that will work for me.

But  since my body and I are in it for the long run, I suppose it’s best to love myself in whatever shape or form I have grown into. For years, I have planned to sign up for yoga classes. Maybe it’s time I stop planning and start doing. Maybe then I’d finally be confident enough to take selfies of myself all the live long day.

But then again.. maybe not.

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The Zen of Xango

Downtown Cebu, April 29, 2008

 

After weeks of pining and breathless anticipation, she held the tall glass bottle in her tiny hands. The Boyfriend – heretofore, referred to as the Pudgy One, Pudge Boy or simply, The One – handed to her the Xango Juice, an imported health drink of ridiculous amount made from an extract of the Mangosteen fruit (rind, chewy inside, juice and all) and a variety of othe

r fruits and herbal growths.

As Pudgy One slipped the pricey health tonic to her outstretched arms, she gingerly tipped the glass bottle and carefully removed the cap at the top with dedicated and surgical precision.  She took one delicate sip from a tiny complementary cup and a scene from the past swam through her senses..

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Mom: Come drink this healthy juice a friend of mine discovered.
Sister: Okay!

(Her sister poured herself a glassful and proceeded to drink the juice in one gulp, as the mother re-enters the room.)

Mom: Did you just drink a whole glass?
Sister: Yeah.  It is juice, right?
Mom: You do realize that juice is worth more than PHP2,000 per bottle, don’t you?
Sister: Oopps!

Needless to say, her mother was not very happy to learn that her sister just swigged about PHP300 worth of the precious health drink in one go.

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On that note, she screwed the cap back onto the very expensive Xango Juice and with a smile, stowed the bottle at the very back of the refrigerator.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Bedroom, Mandaue, Nov. 28, 2008

Not 10 minutes ago, I watched this movie and it gave me the worst hibbie-jeebies of all time…

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Set in France in the 1800s, the story revolves around an unusual boy with an even more unusual ability. Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, born on a fish market and abandoned by his mother not long after, possesses an extraordinary olfactory sense. In his quest to discover all the smells in the world, he sought the employment of a known, albeit outmoded, perfumer (Dustin Hoffman) in whose tutelage he learned the fine art of perfume-making, and then some. In Grenouille’s morbid journey to find the ultimate smell, he had murdered 13 women and stewed their “essence” into tiny glass bottles to create the ultimate “love potion”.

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What prevented me to enjoy this movie thoroughly was the presence of “nude” scenes in the film: the head-shaved women’s dead bodies and a bit of an “orgy” in the town square near the ending.

That being said, this has got the be the most disturbing, if not mildly horrifying, movie I’ve seen in a long while. Ever since the first murder took place, I have not been able to take my eyes off the monitor. And splendid acting all around, especially, Mr. Hoffman’s, British actors Alan Rickman and Ben Whishaw (Grenouille). This film is so deserving of an Oscar, at the very least.

See you at the movies!!!

Bedroom, Mandaue, July 17, 2007

The Hollywood movie making machine is in full gear as it churns up box office hit after box office hit out in the big screens this past few weeks. For 3 weeks or so, I have been fortunate enough to watch Hollywood’s finest films at the theaters, not withstanding the ridiculous prices for the movies here in Cebu these days.

Here is a list, in the order of its release dates and (ehem) my humble but rave reviews, of the movies I’ve seen so far these past 3 weeks:

Die Hard

An action packed thrill ride following the Die Hard series back in the 90s.

I must admit, though lacking in the CG (computer graphics) special effects department present in almost all of the current movies, this sequel is nonetheless brilliant and easily one of the best on-the-edge-of-my-seat kind of movies Hollywood’s ever produced.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

The fourth sequel to the Harry Potter franchise and thus far, the most disappointing.

In a matter of principle, I have stopped anticipating (read: liking) Harry Potter movies since Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Simply because I think the directors who succeeded Chris Columbus in the directorial chair didn’t have the same insight for the movie in relation to J.K. Rowling’s book. They twisted, butchered and shorten the story lines which I believed were key factors in the telling of the amazing world of Harry Potter’s. The new director, David Yates, did more damage to the book 5 than Alfonso Cuaron and Mike Newell put together. What should have been the longest movie in the series only had a runtime screening of 138 minutes in comparison to 157 minutes of the Goblet of Fire. There were less humor and more touchy-feely reflections of Harry and his past including the death of Cedric and scenes from the old movies, and it also has the weakest of all CG effects. At least in the HP4 and HP5 movies, the digital effects were enough to wow even the hardiest of HP enthusiasts. To think that David Yates is again slated to become the next HP movie director is enough to curl my innards.

Transformers

I am simply blown away by the CGI (computer graphics imagery) effects, the storyline and action scenes of this movie. From the intricate designs of the yellow Camaro (Bumblebee) and all the flashy cars to the humor thrown in strategic places in the film, I am impressed by the massive scale and of the great directorial talents of Michael Bay. Bright new talents, Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox and Josh Duhamel were excellent including a more brazen role for Amaury Nolasco, Prison Break’s Fernando Sucre. This is one heck of a must-see film!