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"Could you guys compress a little to the center? Thanks."

I know I’ve said this a lot of times already, but let me just set the record straight: I’ve never left Team Shyamalan.

I’ve always been a fan of M. Night Shyamalan. I’ve never left his side. Sure, he had misses, but he also had hits. Although The Village will still be my favourite Shyamalan flick, I’ve never fed the hate and vitriol directed at him when he came out with the live action adaptation of The Last Airbender. Yeah, it wasn’t great, but let’s face it, it wasn’t horrible either. It was just… not that good. Compared to his body of work, that is.

But wait, this isn’t an article to defend Mr. Shyamalan. This is supposed to be a review of his latest film Glass. So here are three reasons why Glass is something worth watching.

It’s the conclusion to Shyamalan’s trilogy you never knew existed.
Let’s be honest here: How many of you knew when you watched Unbreakable back in 2000 that it would have a sequel? Nobody did. And when Split hit the theaters in 2016, how many of you figured out it happens in the same universe as Unbreakable before seeing Bruce Willis show up in the end? Again, nobody did – except Shyamalan, of course. The director really intended James McAvoy’s character to appear in Unbreakable, but had to cut him out. So Split can be considered a kind of spin-off in that sense. And thank God Shyamalan decided to give us Glass. We all love superhero flicks, and anything that doesn’t resemble a Marvel or a DC flick is a welcome treat indeed.

It’s a superhero flick that doesn’t seem like a superhero flick.
Honestly, this isn’t the best example of “a superhero flick that doesn’t seem like a superhero flick” – that distinction still belongs to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. But in Nolan’s context, that means being grounded in reality, which works for the Batman universe because the characters there mostly don’t have super powers. In this universe, the characters do have superpowers: David Dunn (Bruce Willis) was unbreakable, meaning he had super strength; Elijah Price a.k.a. Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson) had supervillain intelligence; and The Beast (James McAvoy) had, well, beast-like powers (I wouldn’t consider his multiple personalities as a superpower, because that’s more of a disorder). Yet despite the superpowers present, the director still tried to present this as grounded as possible, because the entire premise of the films is that superheroes walk among us, and the comic book characters are based on real-life people.

It’s got three great actors.
Okay, Bruce Willis isn’t really a great actor. He’s good, but I wouldn’t call him great. I wouldn’t say he’s mediocre. He’s good. Let’s leave it at that. Samuel L. Jackson I would say was great. He even had those little facial twitches going on, which kind of made his condition more authentic in a way. But the show-stealer here was James McAvoy. From the weight gain and body building he went through, to the meticulous character changes that had even Samuel L. Jackson stunned, to the veins popping out his neck, McAvoy deserved an acting award nomination at least for his performance here.

So, is this the end of this superhero series? It pretty much looks like it. Is M. Night Shyamalan going to venture into long form storytelling on the streaming platform? Maybe. But one thing’s sure: I am eagerly awaiting the day his next film hits theatres. And I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.

"I'm still waiting for that Mace Windu origin story, Mr. Lucas Disney."

Glass. USA. 2019.

Original rating: 7.9/10
Sarah Paulson's annoying acting: -0.1
Using the same kid in Unbreakable: +0.1
Final rating: 7.9/10
He's like a cute metal death pet.

I am a child of the 80s. I was born in December 1979, so all my earliest memories were formed during the colourful decade of the 1980s. And like a true 80s boys, the Transformers, those robots in disguise that are more than meets the eye, hold a very special place in my heart.

When the first movie – oh, wait, the first Transformers movie was animated, and it came out in 1986. Let me rephrase that. When the first live-action movie came out in 2007, I was one of those geeky fanboys who almost wet themselves with excitement. Incidentally, the 2007 film is also the very first film reviewed in Da Couch Tomato, so, yeah. I love them Transformers.

However, not everyone found satisfaction in witnessing Michael Bay murder their childhood (an exaggeration, of course, but netizens and hyperbole are such a common pair), which is why the producers decided to give us this sequel reboot spinoff new Transformers flick. Here now are four reasons why Bumblebee is a proper throwback to the true spirit of this beloved franchise.

Classic character design
I’m going to make this short and sweet. How do we know that the filmmakers got the classic character designs right? Because they did. They actually did. I was on the edge of my seat throughout the film’s opening minutes, set during the Battle of Cybertron, identifying the robots as they appeared onscreen and shouting their names out loud. “Soundwave! Shockwave! Arcee!”, pretty much like how I shouted out the names of the characters that made an appearance in Ready Player One.

Peter Cullen
Younger viewers may know Peter Cullen as the voice of Optimus Prime, and nothing else. With older viewers, some may know that he also voiced the lethargic donkey Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh, but almost every child who grew up with the Transformers knows that Peter Cullen isn’t just the voice of Optimus Prime – Peter Cullen IS Optimus Prime. His voice is so iconic that all live-action versions of the Transformers franchise featured Cullen as the Autobot leader. The filmmakers may have gotten away with turning Bumblebee into a Camaro, but they would never have gotten away with someone else voicing Prime. It’s Cullen or nothing.

The true test of Transformers geekery lies in the ability to answer this question from the top of your head: Name at least three (3) Triple Changers. (Easy: Astrotrain, Blitzwing, and Springer.) This film features Triple Changers, alright, but Shatter and Dropkick are not part of the 1980s Transformers line. I’m not sure why they chose to debut their Triple Changers with new characters when they could have just chosen any of the six Triple Changers from the old Transformers line. If they were going for all-out nostalgia, they shouldn’t have held back on this one. It’s fine, though. I’m not complaining. Thank you, Travis Knight!

In filmmaking, there are two ways you can set the time period. First is through production design, which takes care of the visual aspect, and this includes costume and wardrobe. Second is through the soundtrack, which takes care of the auditory aspect. Let’s have a quick rundown of a few of the artists on the soundtrack: The Smiths. Bon Jovi. A-ha. Tears for Fears. Duran Duran. I mean, come on. Nothing screams 80s more than Duran Duran. And of course, as a wink to the audience: Stan Bush’s “The Touch”, which was the theme song to the original 1986 Transformers film. See what they did there?

"Who's gonna drive me home tonight?"

Bumblebee. USA. 2018.

Original rating: 7.7/10
John Cena: +0.1
Hailee Steinfeld: +0.2
Final rating: 8.0/10
"I sense an Oscar win, guys."

Let me begin this review with my sentiments, which a lot of other people share: "This is the best animation style I have ever seen." Well, of course stop motion animation is still a glorious thing to behold, but Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse gives us a much-needed break from all the computer-generated animation flicks that are basically just Pixar clones. And Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), together with last year's T'Challa from Black Panther, gives us a much-needed break from all the Caucasian superheroes of the silver screen.

Into the Spider-Verse does beautifully what Ang Lee's Hulk tried to do back in 2003, and that is to blend the visual comic medium with the audio-visual medium of cinema (Lee received a lot of hate with Hulk, but I was one of the very few who genuinely thought it was groundbreaking). The result is a visual style that is totally new, a breath of fresh air in this age where every computer animated film looks the same. There are several nods to the source medium of print, such as using speech bubbles and sound effects text, using CMYK offsetting instead of blurs, and of course the iconic use of halftones. Nothing says print more than those halftone dots.

The plot's pacing was okay, although there were times when the almost two-hour running time felt longer than that. And the story is a good take on the alternate universe template. If this were a live-action flick, the filmmakers would probably put the same actor in different makeup and costumes to illustrate different alternate dimension versions of the character. But why should Spider-Man in another dimension always look exactly like Peter Parker (Jake Johnson)? Why can't there be a black Spider-Man, a female Spider-Man (Spider-Gwen, voiced by Hailee Steinfeld), an anime Spider-Man (Peni Parker, voiced by Kimiko Glenn), an animated pig Spider-Man (Spider-Ham, voiced by John Mulaney), or a black-and-white Spider-Man who sounds like Nicholas Cage? In the same vein, why shouldn't an alternate dimension version of me look like Brad Pitt?

Directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman could also have chosen to go the cheesy route and have Miles Morales and Gwen Stacy kiss in the end. It's a good thing they didn't, and they replaced it with Miles hugging his dad in the end instead. This film is about friendship and family, and isn't about Spider-Man's romantic love interest, because Miles Morales just hit puberty, after all.

This review comes a bit late, as the film was released in December, but it does come off a recent Golden Globe win for Best Animated Film. And that is a good sign that Into the Spider-Verse just might take home the animated film Oscar. This is important because I've met children nowadays who would ignore a beautifully animated Hayao Miyazaki flick for a crappy Paw Patrol episode simply because Miyazaki is 2D. Sad, I know, but kids need to be reintroduced to great animation that isn't overtly computer-generated. I guess we need to wean them off gradually, so maybe give them a film that's CGI, but doesn't feel totally CGI, and that pays homage to the 2D medium – and coincidentally, that's what this film is.

Honestly, I think this would still rock even as a 2D-animated film. 

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. USA. 2018.

Orinal rating: 8.0/10
Mahershala Ali looking like his character: +0.25
Brian Tyree Henry voicing Miles's dad: +0.25
Liev Schreiber's unrecognisable voice: +0.25
Stan Lee's cameo: +0.25
Final rating: 9.0/10
YouTube here and here

Da Couch Tomato Podcast, Episode 4, discussing Erik Matti's Buy Bust and Richard Somes's We Will Not Die Tonight, how the Bacolod filmmakers are pushing the envelope for action movies, and how female action heroines might be the next trend.

Hosts: Sting Lacson and Giosi Mendoza


Da Couch Tomato Podcast, Episode 3, discussing HBO's Westworld Season 2, how it is not the next Game of Thrones, and how it is the new Matrix.

Hosts: Sting Lacson and Giosi Mendoza, with guest Rachel P.


Da Couch Tomato Podcast, Episode 2, discussing Deadpool 2, a bit about how DC movies differ from Marvel, and how to approach viewing a film like Deadpool 2.

Hosts: Sting Lacson and Giosi Mendoza

What's On Netflix

This is the first DCT podcast, so bear with us. We hope to produce more, because it's really fun to make, but quite time-consuming to edit.

You know this isn't porn because he still has his shirt on.

Ah, Ready Player One. I loved the book a lot, so when I found out it was going to be a movie, I almost pissed my pants in excitement. I was even a little miffed that 2017's The Last Jedi pushed back RPO's release date to March 2018. But it doesn't matter. It's playing now in theatres, which is a good thing. And that's just one of the many good things about this film, such as...

1. It's Steven Spielberg at the helm.
I've mentioned it before. Spielberg is one of the best visual storytellers alive today. He has such a very deep understanding of cinema: from composition, to cinematography, to narrative pacing, to adaptation. He is a great director because he is effective. His camera movements are not for show; they have a purpose, which is to reveal information or to advance the story forward. He's been doing this a long time, so he's become quite good at it.

2. Ernest Cline co-wrote the screenplay.
This is one of the very few instances where an adapted screenplay is also penned by the same author of the source material. Cline's book was a perfect nerdgasm of 80s pop culture references, plus the world-building he did was so fantastic that apparently, the virtual reality (VR) company Oculus gave all its employees a copy of the Ready Player One book. However, some scenes in the book are either not cinematic enough or just downright unfilmable that another writer was needed to crack the adaptation problem. And that's where co-writer Zak Penn comes in. With Penn in the equation, the final screenplay is, well...

3. It's not like the book.
Around a quarter of the way into the film, I just gave up on any expectations that the movie would be faithful to the book. Well, the spirit and essence of the book was preserved, thanks to the close collaboration between Penn, Cline, and Spielberg. There's still the quest, the three challenges, and the David vs. Goliath theme (Parzival against the big corporation IOI). But the details have changed drastically, and the narrative took a different direction. The challenges have been altered: the first challenge, the race, was not in the book, while the second challenge was changed to The Shining instead of War Games. But it doesn't matter, actually, as this is a great story on the page and on the screen.

4. The actors aren't that well-known.
Spielberg made a good call with this film's casting, opting to go for mostly newcomers. With the exception of Ben Mendelsohn, Simon Pegg, and Oscar winner and new Spielberg favourite Mark Rylance, the rest of the cast are relative unknowns. I think it's probably because the filmmakers want us to concentrate on the wonderful story, and having too many Hollywood A-listers might take the attention away from the narrative. That or the special effects took up a bulk of the budget.

5. References galore.
The book was a veritable nerdgasm of 1980s pop culture references. There's references to 1980s movies, music, and most of all, video games. In the book, though, it was explicitly stated that James Halliday was a huge fan of everything 80s, so all references came from that decade only. The movie didn't make that distinction, though, and opened up its references to other decades. There's Speed Racer from the 60s, Star Trek from the 70s, Jurassic Park's T-Rex from the 90s, Firefly's Serenity from the 00s, and Minecraft from the 10s. I guess including references from the more recent decades would please the younger fans instead of alienating them.

I've seen Jerry Seinfeld drive a DeLorean. Not that impressive.

Ready Player One. USA. 2018.

Rating: 8.7/10
Seriously, there's no need to name this "Gipsy" if it's not related to Gipsy Danger, anyway.

2013's Pacific Rim was a great movie. It was the Western visualisation of the great Eastern traditions of kaijus and mechas. It was (and still is) a great example of world-building. So you can just imagine how excited I was for its sequel Pacific Rim: Uprising, and how disappointed I was after watching. Mainly because...

1. It's not by Guillermo del Toro.
This alone should have restrained me from shelling out cash to watch it on IMAX. But I gave it the benefit of the doubt, that maybe del Toro's world-building was so solid that any sequel would be just as good. Sadly, that wasn't the case. Uprising was helmed by Steven S. DeKnight, and if he was as big a kaiju and mecha geek as del Toro, it doesn't show. With del Toro, his love of Japanese monsters and machines oozes out of him that you could almost tell he was bullied in school as a kid because he was clearly a geek.

2.  There are more jaegers, but they are less endearing.
The first film showed only four (4) jaegers in action: Cherno Alpha, Gipsy Danger, Crimson Typhoon, and Striker Eureka. Uprising has twice as many: Bracer Phoenix, Gipsy Avenger, Guardian Bravo, Saber Athena, Titan Redeemer, Obsidian Fury, November Ajax, and Valor Omega. Now let me state my qualms about the film's jaegers.

First, less is more. We grew to love the jaegers from the first film because there's only four of them, and we'd be drawn to one of them as a favourite, kind of like how we have our favourite Beatle, because they were all distinct and different from each other. Now, however, there's just too many. They all look the same. Sometimes I can't tell them apart.

Second, the jaeger names. I think the rule for naming jaegers is to have two random words, and both words must have a 99% chance of never being seen together in the vernacular. Like how likely will the word "eureka" follow the word "striker" in real life conversation? (Also, Gipsy seems to be a spelling typo, but it looks nice, so what the hell.) But in the sequel, it seems they were too lazy to name the jaegers that they just chose two words at random by flipping through a dictionary. Sometimes you get a hit, like Obsidian Fury, and sometimes you get a miss. Like November Ajax. What a lousy name.

3. John Boyega is definitely not Idris Elba
Yes, Jake Pentecost admits in the beginning of the film that it's hard to live under his father's shadow. He'll never be as badass as his father was. First, he has a lame name. "Jake". Ugh. Compare that to the awesome name "Stacker". Right? Second, he isn't as tall and heavily built, and he lacks that low, raspy voice. And third, his speech wasn't awesome enough to cancel the apocalypse. And fourth, he didn't die a martyr. I could go on, but you get the point.

4. It wasn't scored by Ramin Djawadi.
Admit it, the original Pacific Rim score by Ramin Djawadi was perfect. It was a fusion of classical and modern. It made you feel like a jaeger leaving the Shatterdome for battle. However, in this film, the score seems to have mellowed down that you'll be battling kaijus with little to no adrenaline in your blood stream. And when you hear the (reprised) Pacific Rim theme a little later in the film, you'll actually wonder where that music was all this time. I mean, I get it, first it was John Paesano composing the score, then they changed it to Lorne Balfe. Well, they could have changed the composers for all I care, but they could have at least retained the original theme. Because: Tom Morello.

5. The kaiju designs are meh.
Guillermo del Toro stuck to a strict philosophy in creating the kaijus for the first film. First, they should not look like any pre-existing monster. Second, they should look as if it could just be a rubber suit with a man inside it. And with those two simple rules, the legendary Wayne Barlow went on to design the kaijus of Pacific Rim, while Uprising's kaijus were designed by Stefan Dechant and Doug Lefter, who are undeniably talented, but are also in a different league from Barlow. The kaijus in this film are ugly. Big, ugly, and dangerous. But Barlow's kaijus looked way more menacing–the stuff that nightmares are made of.

6. Bigger is always better. 
Jaeger means huge. Gigantic. Humongous. Well, literally it means "hunter", but in this context, when we say jaeger, we mean very, very big fighting robots, so big that they can dwarf a major city's central business district. Which is why I really don't like Scrapper. Okay, he can turn into a ball. That's cute. But he's small, so no. Making him instrumental in stopping the super kaiju is just a consolation prize to justify Scrapper's existence.

Also, the world of Pacific Rim isn't a post-apocalyptic world with a dwindling population. There are many, much more qualified jaeger pilots on the planet, even just in the Pacific Rim nations. So why recruit a teenage girl (Cailee Spaeny)? Just because she built a mini-jaeger? Come on.

On a scale of 1 to Idris Elba, John Boyega is a 5.
On a scale of 1 to Clint Eastwood, Scott's a 9.

Pacific Rim: Uprising. USA/China/UK. 2018.

Original rating: 7/10
Mako Mori dying: -0.5
Jaeger cadets being too young: -0.1
Final rating: 6.4/10
No room in this shot for the famous Tom Cruise sprint.

•I just loved this film's production design and cinematography. It nailed the '80s feel quite perfectly, even better than Netflix's Narcos did. Sorry, but since this is a film about the Medellin Cartel, comparisons to Narcos will crop up every now and then.

•Tom Cruise runs again. It's a relatively short distance, though. But he still runs. Got to admire this man. He will always throw in a running scene in his films.

•Doug Liman is a versatile director. He's great with action movies, sure. He's done quite a number of those already. Didn't think he could pull off a biopic. Also, this film has a Tony Scott vibe. Like music video-style, freeze frames and such.

•I definitely need a new genre to watch. Too many money laundering films for this year. I've seen Ozark and Narcos, which are both from Netflix. Then this. Now I'm curious about the process of laundering money, and just how lucrative a career it really is.

•That's Jesse Plemons as Sheriff Downing. He's the guy who played Todd in Breaking Bad. But he's grown a bit bigger here.

•That's Lola Kirke as Sheriff Downing's wife. She's the girl from Mozart in the Jungle. Wish she had more scenes.

•Caleb Landry Jones really looks like white trash, doesn't he? He's too... white. And all those freckles. Also, he's too white. I said that already. Because he is. He's like an albino.

•Domhnall Gleeson looks a bit too young to play a CIA agent, doesn't he? Well, he's younger than I am. But I like him. I'm happy for his Hollywood career.

•Sorry, Mauricio Mejia. Wagner Moura has become the standard for any Pablo Escobar performance from this point forward. Blame it all on Netflix.

•Overall, this film is quite as interesting, but is actually not as factual as I would've hoped. I love biopics, it's one of my favourite film genres. But what I love about biopics is the truthfulness of it. For me, it kind of kills the magic when you realise, "Eh, that's not how it happened."

"There's really not that many roles for gingers in Hollywood, man."

American Made. USA. 2017.

Original rating: 7.2/10
Production design: +0.1
Not enough Lola Kirke: -0.1
Caleb Landry Jones's freckles: -0.1
Factual inconsistencies: -0.1
Final rating: 7.0/10
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