Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Don't Breathe

Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette), and Money (Daniel Zovatto) are small time crooks preying on homes. Money is slow considering their level of expertise, until one day, the mark of a lifetime comes into their attention with a potential windfall of $300,000 in cash.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Max Steel

I don’t like Max McGrath or more accurately I don't like Ben Winchell. What works is the reluctant hero or the pompous one who’s been taken down a peg. To me Ben was neither. 

He looks like a jock yet the story did not have him act like a jock, so my emotions were split into uselessness. Ben just doesn’t work.

There was an overselling by the music in the opening scene going to the wrong direction. I really thought Max was a jock because of it. The camera came creeping slowly from the farthest shot to a close-up on the roof where Max was, on his sketch pad. At this time I was thinking an opening the likes of Gladiator when the story starts in the middle of a fight.

He looked really serious sketching an industrial plant which means in cinema, places a villain might be found. Music plus hero plus probable villain hideout; sure he’s a jock. Max is going into battle at the first instance.

And then…the story fragments, playing sympathy card. Instead of an attack Max is developed as the average guy who didn’t want the power. He’s really just looking for a place in this world being a child in a single parent household; father died. 

The opening scene with Max and his mom (Maria Bello), was about them setting up the house. It was the original house they lived in when Max was born in the town where his father died. Memories must be hanging in Max’s head by now. Yet what I am curious about is how can people own the original house moving 9 times? 

I am not feeling Max at all being oversold a hero by that opening music which is still playing as he walks around his old house. This is where I am suppose to empathize with him now, moving around has hardened him into a loner.

Selling Max as a loner took a nose dive at the school scene when the first student he bumps into is the beautiful Sofia Martinez (Ana Villafañe). She’s really beautiful like a young Rachel Leigh Cook. I can’t say I remember any of his classmates, anything that might say he’s an outcast looking for a place in the world. Where is the normal guy, the loner, the wimp? With a beautiful girl now in the scene he can’t be doing badly. Have you noticed Ben looks like Robert Pattinson?

Ben is absolutely getting no help from the narrative. He’s been made to carry it all but he’s not that good. I am split between jock and wimp and buying neither. After a while I begin to notice that Max has done nothing heroic. Not a jock, a wimp, and maybe not a hero too.

Turns out the actual origin of the hero in this origin story comes in the end of the movie. The filmmakers went for the more mysterious vibe. There’s nothing wrong with the villain reveal left for last because it can function as a plot twist, but knowing how the hero got his power is usually settled before half. I think it would have helped in getting the reluctance hero vibe, Max knowing his power and saying: this can’t be me, this can’t be me.

What’s the use of the mystery when he’s being trained after all by Steel (Josh Brener). Trained and not doing anything heroic. When Max knows his origin he knows the villain, so they’re both doing nothing.

A mystery makes it darker than a usual discovery of a new powered self. The fun of an origin story is the discovery of the new powered self which interferes with the hero’s regular life, yet the hero overcomes. But Max doesn’t anything going in his life or as a hero; how can anything work in this movie?

Certainly not the action. The key to both hero and villain is the ability to harness energy. Steel helps Max with this and combined makes a suit. As narrated by Steel among what’s possible among others are speed, strength, energy blast but all I remember is kickboxing strangely enough. Martial arts in an armor like suit reminds me of Power Rangers and in this post Iron Man era that is a letdown. Max Steel flew only just before the end credits, after all the fighting is done.

To conclude, I think, I was just not set up to be in the proper mood. From the casting of Ben to the false anticipation of attack because of that music, I was never into it. Max Steel was attempting to go all over the map emotionally but achieving nothing in the process.  

The loner looks like a jock, even has girl to easily going with him. The discovery of self took an air of mystery. Max Steel is emotionally dead and disjointed.

Maybe M. Night Shyamalan can give Max Steel’s director some pointers on minimalist, mysterious hero type. I’m talking about Unbreakable. But since Max Steel is adapted from a cartoon the movie should have just went all out flashy and direct to the point.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

A Sequel of a Looping Story

News came out on the first week of May 2017 that an Edge of Tomorrow sequel is very likely. Emily Blunt has promised to return, Tom Cruise is on board. Doug Liman is quoted as saying:
“We have an amazing story! It’s incredible! Way better than the first film, and I obviously loved the first film. It will be called Live Die Repeat and Repeat. Tom [Cruise] is excited about it, and Emily Blunt is excited about it. The big question is just when we’ll do it. But it’s not an if, it’s a when.”
So, what do we have? 

The Girl on the Train

It was a modest start. The girl on the train even looked bored; so bored her mind picks on the houses she sees by the tracks. But from modest beginnings The Girl on the Train ended with a bang.  It has drama and mystery; everything wrapped in a theme that challenges a woman’s validation of self. An original gem giving us a brief respite in this era of superhero movies.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Louder than Bombs

Brave; skillful with the camera; able to empathize with the locals and tell their story; Isabelle Reed (Isabelle Huppert), a famed war photographer, died in a head on collision just a mile away from her home. At first glance, it looked like her luck just ran out after all the near misses.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

UP Diliman - The Best Place to Jog in Quezon CIty

In jogging, what I love is a straight line where I would know my endurance based on how much between points A and B I am able to finish at a jogging pace. Was it 100 percent or 50 or 25 of A to B? Sure, a treadmill may have a distance reading but it doesn't beat the fact the you're actually moving.

Based on that qualification nothing beats, in Quezon City at least, UP Diliman as a jogging venue.

Jogging UP Diliman
UP Diliman Osmeña Ave. Sunday, around 6:30 am. It may not be obvious but
as far as the eye can see there are joggers

Friday, May 12, 2017


Nerve is a story about social media excess; how wrongly it has been used for self-actualization; for communication; and for interpersonal relationships. It could have been great had it not been distracted by what I assume are marketing priorities and gave the story’s two young lovebirds more focus than the game that brought them together: Nerve.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Ghostbusters (2016)

Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig), Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), Jillian Holtzmann (KateMcKinnon) and Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) may have not laughed their way throughout the story but it feels like they did. That’s because the 2016 Ghostbusters had the comic pacing of a sitcom or more appropriately a Saturday Night Live.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

It’s a team of a-holes now instead of the individuals in Vol. 1.

The Guardians of the Galaxy are back in another music filled adventure – that’s not a musical – to save the galaxy. Vol. 2 is more fun and surprisingly more sentimental than the first ride out. Everyone’s got personal issues. At some points I thought the sentimentally will be too much but it never did go overboard.

What saved the movie was the abundant, and now perfectly timed, points of levity. I don’t remember having burst into laughter in the last one but I did in this one, and at many different times. More important than the laughter is that I lost laser focus – but never forgot – on just how many characters have similar issues that they should just start a support group. In other words I took their issues less seriously.

We remember Vol. 1 with Star-Lord's (Chris Pratt) mommy hang-ups.  If only he knew the tree monster in that other movie then maybe he could have spoken more meaningfully before she died. His regret of not holding her hand was actually the most humanly fulfilling aspect of Vol. 1.  Besides the fact that it had helped him survived an Infinity Stone it also helped him regain what was lost: a family. It was all about the reaching.

In Vol. 2 with the set-up of surviving an Infinity Stone (because he shouldn’t be able to) and the publicized casting of Kurt Russell the story went into daddy hang-ups mode. Mommy was about unexpressed goodbyes, so Daddy naturally was about: ‘where the hell were you?’

Of course being the leader of the group I naturally thought he’d take up most of the emotional space – one team member falters the rest pick up the slack - which he did, but soon Gamora (Zoe Zaldana) and Rocket (Bradley Cooper) followed with almost similar issues. I worried about loss of focus. Everyone’s climbing on the family hang-ups bandwagon now; do I really have to watch everybody?

Thankfully the Guardians of the Galaxy is one of the better teams comic book movies today. I say this because it doesn’t feel like every character is obligated to get screen time which I always thought of the first Avengers movie. Roles are distinct; hierarchies in terms of the characters in the story are recognizable. 

Case in point Gamora’s issues didn’t hamper the story’s focus on Star-Lord’s; complimented it actually. Rocket’s was all business too until his “mask” was taken off in the end to reveal a sensitive side.

Getting my mind off of them were Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis.  They are the most fun in the movie. Drax was not that good a fit with the love-hate comedy routine the team does so much like the ‘who’s got tape’ in the trailers. He’s a better fit now with Mantis (Pom Klementieff). To use a wrestling term which Bautista is, Drax and Mantis are the perfect tag team. The two are enjoyable.

The ending I find really sweet and as good as that mix Star-Lord’s mother gave is an homage to a quote by Richard Bach: “The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other's life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof.” Ending that way felt like – ok, sentimentality is good.

What didn’t work for me is the plot. It’s not bad it’s just that I keep relating it to the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe which of course will culminate in a movie against Thanos. In that light it feels like nothing’s added. Maybe if there was and I missed it then at best there will be passing reference to it in a Netflix series or Agent’s of SHIELD.

Avengers Infinity War is slated for May of next year; Spider-man and Thor are this year; still feels like something’s missing – this is from the point of view of someone who has Infinity Gauntlet as the only comics I have left since childhood.

Marvel has made statements recently that it was their intent to lessen the overlap because the story might not call for it. 

I think for Guardians of the Galaxy the story does call for it. In fact the leader of the Infinity Gauntlet storyline in the comics has yet to be seen; he seems slated for a Guardians 3. Then again could it be a brief appearance in Infinity War? Will he or won’t he be used in Infinity War?

At present I don’t see that the Avengers MCU line-up, as is, has enough intelligence – much less brawn – on Thanos. Remember MCU cannot use Silver Surfer or Galactus. Doctor Strange is still green around the ears so how much help can he muster. He’s slated to guest in Thor so that’s worth watching. The last two movies before the War should overlap definitely because it’s a buildup. Then again it will come in 2 parts so I guess the Avengers will have their ass kicked next year.

Sorry I digress. I venturing too much outside the movie now but I can’t contain my excitement.

Back to regular programming I think James Gunn has done a terrific job for Guardians of the Galaxy. For Vol. 2 he has stayed loyal to his theme of family – in the widest sense – and spread it all around. Every character has something to add to it whether actual issues or that he was simply lonely. 

It’s what makes the characters lovable, like a family. Do I think the same way of the Avengers – honestly no.

To conclude I liked Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 for its fun – the comedy – and yes the sentimentality too.  It all works.