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The true hero of this film. In my opinion.

The premise of Train to Busan is pretty simple and straightforward: Zombies on a train. And the final product doesn't suck like another movie with a simple and straightforward premise, Snakes on a Plane.

Now, there are no actual zombies in real life. In the movies, however, there are two types: we have the slow, lumbering ones (like in The Walking Dead), and we have the fast, athletic ones (like in 2004's Dawn of the Dead). In Train to Busan, the zombies move as quickly as Korea's bullet trains–figuratively, of course, but they are still fast as hell. Actually, they kind of embody both speed characteristics of popular zombies. When they're not chasing any uninfected humans, they just stand around loitering like homeless people waiting for free food. But once they spot a potential meal, they go berserk, and start running so fast that they could chase a regular train down if they wanted to. Oh, and also, as long as they don't see you, you don't exist to them–sort of like the Tyrannosaurus Rex in Jurassic Park, but not quite.

The good thing about this: NOT CGI.

Another notable feature of Train to Busan is its seeming lack of back story. The story focuses more on the human relationships, such as the father-daughter drama, the husband-pregnant wife drama (future dad is our favourite character), the teenage lovers tragedy, and the evil CEO (or was he a COO?) angle. We've actually resorted to creating nicknames for the characters, because calling them by their Korean names would still be confusing since we don't speak Korean (they all sound alike). We've called the dad-to-be "Baby", his wife as "Preggy Mommy", and the teenage couple "KathNiel".

Kath without the 'Niel.

The suspense and the thriller take center stage, of course, because this is a zombie flick. But saturating the film with blood and gore wouldn't help tell a good story, because it's the humans who are the stars here, not the zombies. So to create a balance, writer-director Sang-ho Yeon injected humour, and was very generous with the dramatic moments. It's the human drama, after all, that makes the deaths more painful to watch.

How or why the zombie outbreak happened is not the concern of the narrative, because in a real-life zombie pandemic, it's the living, breathing, uninfected humans we'll be concerned about. To hell with the infected. Also, if you're interested in the backstory, you can check out the animated prequel, Seoul Station, which was also written and directed by Sang-ho Yeon.

Basically, Metro Manila's rush hour train crowd.

Busanhaeng (Train to Busan). South Korea. 2016.

Original rating: 8.5/10
Use of fast zombies: +0.1
Death of "Baby": -0.1
Death of Little Girl's dad: -0.1
Final rating: 8.4/10
"What do you think, Miles? Should I aim for 'Best Actor'?"

For two guys in a buddy flick, Jonah Hill and Miles Teller exhibit great chemistry, which I assume extends offscreen.

In War Dogs, the new drama from Todd Philips brings us back to the mid-2000s, back when the war in the Middle East was on the minds of most Americans. We follow David Packouz (Teller) and Efraim Deveroli (Hill), two childhood friends from Miami, as they become professional arms dealers under Deveroli's company AEY. Take note, this is a profession very uncommon among 25-year pot smokers, but through a mixture of determination, talent, and sheer luck, they win a multi-million dollar Pentagon contract to supply arms to armed forces in Afghanistan. This isn't a shady black market deal gone wrong, but it could just as well be, because a few snitches and glitches and double-crosses later, AEY is taken down by the FBI.

Films based on a true story tend to be either serious or boring, which should not be the case, because a lot of times fact trumps fiction in terms of interesting stories. War Dogs is neither serious nor boring; in fact, it's a wild romp. The end credits of the movie says it was based on the Rolling Stone article "Arms and the Dudes", but that is apparently inaccurate. The actual Rolling Stone article is titled "The Stoner Arms Dealers: How Two American Kids Became Big-Time Weapons Traders", written by Guy Lawson back in 2011. He then turned this into a book in 2015, and its Amazon page lists it as Arms and the Dudes: How Three Stoners From Miami Beach Became the Most Unlikely Gunrunners in History. The question then is: Three? I read the Rolling Stone article, and Alex Podrizki, the third gunrunner, was only mentioned towards the end.

See? No Podrizki. Just two war dogs.

War Dogs is proof that Todd Phillips is a good director. Ordinary, mediocre directors tend to excel in a certain genre only, but shift them to another genre and they flounder. Phillips is known for his weird and offbeat comedies, most famous of which is The Hangover trilogy, yet he transitions to drama seamlessly, and hopeully we can expect more serious flicks with him at the helm. Granted, this film also has some comedic elements going for it, but that's more than welcome if only to diffuse the tension that the really serious topic of gun smuggling brings.

Although Miles Teller is a good actor (remember his fatigue- and angst-ridden drummer in Whiplash?), this film belongs to Jonah Hill. If you can, even for an instant, put his annoying laugh out of your mind, and if you can get past his onscreen obesity, you'd see that Hill has come a long way since his early comedy films such as Superbad. In fact, Jonah Hill is so method in this movie that he gained an unhealthy amount of weight for this role in order to tip the scales, presumably to make his character more despicable. He is, after all, a two-time Oscar nominee.

"Seriously, bro... Am I that fat?"

War Dogs. USA. 2016.

Original rating: 7.5/10
No Ana de Armas nudity: -0.1
Bradley Cooper with facial hair: -0.1
Based on a true story: +0.1
Jonah Hill's laugh: -0.1
Drug use: +0.1
Final rating:7.4/10
Bananas in pajamas overalls.

As is the current trend with animated feature films, viewers are treated to a preceding short film, which may or may not be related to the main feature. For Illumination Entertainment, the studio behind Despicable Me, The Secret Life of Pets is its seventh full-length feature release, and its accompanying short, Mower Minions, is the studio’s first short. Oh, and it stars the studio’s poster boys, a.k.a. the Minions.

The short starts out in the Minions’ living room, where they are watching a home shopping channel selling blenders. Realising that they would need this to make banana smoothies, they break open their piggy bank to see how much funds they have. Of course they don’t have any money, so they decide to do some manual labour to earn some extra income. So they head over to Fuzzy Memories Retirement Home to do some yard work, but instead they wreak havoc. What did you expect with Minions and power tools, anyway? What they actually bring to the senior citizens isn’t cleanliness; it’s happiness. Turns out the oldies haven’t laughed hard in a long time, and so the Minions get paid for their destructive antics, which they use to purchase their blender.

Like with babies, the more time you spend with Minions, the more their speech becomes intelligible, and you find yourself recognising more and more words from their very strange and limited vocabulary. But like with true slapstick comedy, words aren’t necessary, as the hilarious actions speak volumes.

In Pixar’s case, the accompanying short films tend to serve as the training ground for directors who will eventually move on to direct their full-length movies. In Illumination’s case, it seems that the shorts serve as nothing more than extra time for the movie patrons to make it to their seats. Mower Minions is still entertaining, though, don’t get me wrong. But if you’re looking for something that could get an Oscar nomination for Best Short, you’re not going to find it here.

Unlike that leaf blower, this short won't blow you away.

This probably looked good in 3D.

Like most computer-animated films being released nowadays, The Secret Life of Pets is also released with a preceding animated short film. Unlike other computer-animated films, however, this film's short sucks. The plot is about the Minions (those cute/annoying yellow turds from Despicable Me) trying to purchase a blender, then hilarity ensues. For adults, that hilarity is ho-hum. But the kids will probably have a good laugh over it.

The premise of The Secret Life of Pets is basically like Toy Story for animals. It's pretty straightforward in the title: when the owners are away, pets have a secret life, like this classic poodle that plays death metal music while banging its head. The timeline for this movie occurs in one of those periods between the owner's departure and arrival. So that's maybe twelve hours? I wonder how long that is in dog time.

Duke is so cute. Like a walking chocolate carpet.

This film isn't bad. It's just not Pixar-level good. For adults, it doesn't have that "Aww" factor we associate with animated films that tug at the heartstrings, except maybe for those who are hardcore pet lovers. I wouldn't know, because I'm not hardcore, but there might be a pet reference or two in this film that could be considered as nuggets of wisdom. Again, I wouldn't know, as I mostly just sat back and laughed at the jokes.

Seeing that this film is mainly for children, the casting of voice actors was most likely the studio's attempt to appeal to the grown-up crowd. There's Louis C.K. as Max, Eric Stonestreet as Duke, Kevin Hart as Snowball the bunny, Albert Brooks as Tiberius, Dana Carvey as Pops, among other stars–these are just some of the biggest names in comedy right now, in case you didn't notice (except for Carvey, who was big in the '90s and is making more of a comeback here). These comics are supposed to draw the parents into sharing a two-hour family-friendly movie with their children, although the little kids couldn't really care less about who voices the characters they're seeing onscreen.

That said, The Secret Life of Pets succeeds as a traditional animated film, and I mean traditional in the "cartoons are for children" sense. Adults may not share the same sentiment, especially those who've been exposed to a lot of Pixar and Studio Ghibli.

You just gotta love the texture on that dog's nose.

The Secret Life of Pets. USA. 2016.

Original rating: 6/10
Dana Carvey: +0.1
Taylor Swift's "Welcome to New York" as the opening song: +0.1
Final rating: 6.2/10
Graffiti sa tren. New York na New York.

Noong makita niyo ang promotional materials para sa The Get Down, malamang pareho tayo ng naisip: Oh, a show about hip-hop? Malamang parang Empire lang 'to, pero set in the 70s. Well actually, medyo parang Empire siya, pero hindi rin.

Siyempre, dahil si Baz Luhrmann ang co-creator nito, alam mo na more or less kung ano ang ie-expect. Malaking production ito, tulad ng ibang Baz Luhrmann films na Romeo + Juliet at Moulin Rouge, The Great Gatsby, at Australia. Sinasabi nga na ang The Get Down ay ang most expensive show ng Netflix, at one of the most expensive shows ever produced for television. At dahil si Luhrmann din ang co-writer at director ng pilot, na-set na niya ang standard para sa buong series.

Maganda ang production design ng series, at kasama na rito siyempre ang costume designs. Straight out of the 70s, lalo na ang graffiti sa mga pader ng Bronx, ang red Puma sneakers ni Shaolin Fantastic (Shameik Moore), ang afros nina Ezekiel (Justice Smith) at Dizzee (Jaden Smith, na uncredited, surprisingly), at ang disco costume ni Cadillac (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II).

Hindi ko lang alam kung totoong footage of old school New York ang ibang eksena na ginagamit pang-intercut sa mga scenes. Pwedeng totoong footage 'yun, or pwedeng modern footage na nilagyan nalang ng film grain para magmukhang luma. Si Grandmaster Flash pala ay totoo. I mean, totoong tao siya na master ng turntables at pioneer ng hip-hop music. Sa show, siya ay pino-portray ng isang actor na si Mamoudou Athie. Pero 'yung totoong Grandmaster Flash, na obviously matanda na, ay associate producer sa show na ito.

Shaolin (kanan) at Flash (kaliwa), na medyo kamukha ni Pharrell.

Dahil ito'y tungkol sa hip-hop, hindi talaga maiiwasan ang mga comparison sa Empire, ang hip-hop show ng Fox na lumabas noong 2015. Actually, malayo ito sa Empire. Ang magkatulad lang siguro sa dalawang shows ay ang African-American, hip-hop music, at New York City. Ang Empire ay mas katulad ng Glee, kung saan may mga original songs. Sabi nga ng British rapper na si Rodney P tungkol sa The Get Down, "I was worried. I saw the trailer and I thought, 'This is gonna be like a hip-hop version of Glee." Buti nalang hindi.

Magaling din ang casting para sa show na ito. Maganda ang chemistry ng DJ na si Shaolin at ng kanyang wordsmith na si Ezekiel, a.k.a. Zeke. Ayos din ang magkakapatid na sina Dizzee, Ra-Ra (Skylan Brooks), at Boo-Boo (Tremaine Brown, Jr.), pero parang tinamad ang writers mag-isip ng pangalan nila. Sa adults naman, ang galing ng mga veterans na sina Jimmy Smits at Giancarlo Esposito bilang magkapatid na magkalayo ang hitsura at landas. Pero ang pinakabida talaga rito ay si Mylene (Herizen Guardiola). Ang galing lang ng boses. At ang ganda pa niya.

In terms of narrative pacing, maganda ang pilot dahil na-hook ako agad. Ang isang indicator kung magiging maganda ang series ay ang pilot, dahil kung hindi ka na-hook sa pilot, hindi mo pagtiyatiyagaan panoorin ang mga susunod na episode. Pero ayos ang pilot, at hindi lang dahil si Baz Luhrmann ang nag-direct. Kaso lang, natapos ang six episodes na parang isang buong season na. Mid-season break lang dapat iyon, dahil twelve episodes talaga ang Season 1. Pero buo na siya e, at malamang ang magiging feel ng next six episodes ay Season 2. Hindi lang ako sigurado, so baka may surprises pa si Luhrmann up his sleeve.

Nakaka-bother ang pekpek shorts ni Boo-Boo.

The Get Down. USA. 2016.

Original na rating: 7/10
Walang Herizen Guardiola nudity: -0.1
Jimmy Smits bilang Papa Fuerte: +0.1
Kevin Corrigan bilang Jackie Moreno: +0.1
Kevin Corrigan na taga-Bronx talaga: +0.1
Medyo corny na rhymes ni Nas: -0.1
NYC graffiti: +0.1
Speech ni Zeke sa Episode 6: +0.1
Grandmaster Flash: +0.1
Final na rating: 7.4/10
Podrace sa Tatooine. Joke lang.

Matagal na ang kwento ni Ben-Hur. Ang source material nito ay ang nobelang Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ ni Lew Wallace noong 1880, at mula noon ay nagkaroon ng maraming cinematic adaptation. Ang pinakasikat nito ay 'yung Ben-Hur noong 1959 starring Charlton Heston na nanalo ng Oscar para sa performance niya rito. Kaya sa mga nalilito pa rin, fictional po si Ben-Hur. Hindi po siya historical figure.

Wala namang problema ang pelikulang ito story-wise, kasi nga ito ay pang-ilang remake na ng isang sikat na nobela noong turn of the 20th century. The fact na nakailang remake na ito ay proof na maganda ang kwentong ito, so palakpakan natin si Lew Wallace. Siguro kung may isang problema sa kwento, ito ay ang kakulangan sa exposition ng sitwasyon sa Jerusalem noon. Hindi naman kasi lahat ng manonood nito ay Kristiyano, kaya mas mainam sana kung mas naipaliwanag pa nila ito. Although hindi ko pa nababasa ang libro ni Wallace, sa tingin ko mas malaki ang part ni Jesus Christ sa kwento, kaya nga "A Tale of the Christ" ang subtitle ng libro e. Siguro kung mas nadagdagan pa ang bahagi ni Rodrigo Santoro as Jesus, at kung ang Jesus scenes ay naitahi nang maayos sa main narrative, baka mas nasiyahan pa ang mga critics.

Pa-gwapuhan ang labanan ng mga Jesus Christ sa Hollywood.

Performance-wise, maayos naman ang pinakita ni Jack Huston bilang Judah Ben-Hur (literal translation: Judah, anak ni Hur). Maalala niyo siya bilang hitman na kalahati ang mukha sa TV show na Boardwalk Empire, kung saan ang acting niya ay subtle pero very effective. Dito, ayos naman ang acting niya. He doesn't shine, but he delivers. Si Toby Kebbell, on the other hand, ay magaling. Bilang adopted brother at future rival ni Judah, nakuha niya ang effective villainy, 'yung may transformation pa mula mabait hanggang masama, at kung saan ang kasamaan niya ay hindi niya sinasadya at napilit lang sa kanya.

Sa anggulong ito, medyo kamukha niya 'yung character niya sa Warcraft.

Meanwhile, si Morgan Freeman naman ay typical Morgan Freeman. Masungit pero mabait na old man ang tipong role na swak na swak sa kanya. Halatang sinulit ng producers ang talent fee niya, dahil maririnig sa simula ng pelikula ang boses niya bilang voice-over narration. Nakaka-distract lang ang close-up shots niya, dahil nakikita ko ang mga nunal niya sa mukha na parang monggo bread. Tsaka 'yung dreadlocks, diyos ko po. Parang mop. Pekeng-peke at nakaka-distract.

"Ano ba problema? Hindi ba bagay sa akin ang rasta look?"

Wala rin namang problema sa direksiyon ni Timur Bekmambetov, na kung naaalala niyo ay siya ring nag-direct ng Wanted. Si Bekmambetov ay magaling sa mga action sequence, kaya naman ang sikat na chariot race sequence sa huli ay sobrang nakakadala. Pero honestly, sayang naman ang directing prowess ni Bekmambetov kung another remake lang ang gagawin niya.

Sa palagay ko, the world doesn't need another Ben-Hur movie. Kung gusto ng Hollywood ng mas marami pang sword-and-sandal epics, marami pang magagandang kwento sa Bible na hindi pa naisasa-pelikula. Pero para sa mga kabataan ngayon, dapat niyo nga itong panoorin kung ang kilala niyo lang na Ben-Hur ay si Ben-Hur Abalos.

Hmmm... cross? Okay, gets.

Ben-Hur. USA. 2016.

Original na rating: 7/10
Walang Ayelet Zurer nudity: -0.1
Walang Nazanin Boniadi nudity: -0.1
Chariot race sequence: +0.1
Naval battle sequence: +0.1
Dreadlocks ni Morgan Freeman: -0.1
Kagwapuhan ni Rodrigo Santoro: -0.1
Final na rating: 6.8/10
"BFG, dito ba nakatira ang mga Avatar?"

Noong una kong nalaman ang pelikulang ito, at n'ung malaman kong ito'y sa direksyon ni Steven Spielberg, naisip ko na agad itong panoorin. At n'ung malaman kong based pala ito sa libro na sinulat ni Roald Dahl, sabi ko, "Fine, I'm watching this."

Ang mga pelikula ni Steven Spielberg ay hindi hit-or-miss. Wala naman siyang pangit na dinirect, sa pagkakaalam ko. Dahil ito sa cinematic language, kung saan fluent na fluent si Mr. Spielberg. Ang cinematic language ay universal–ito ang dahilan kung bakit ang foreign films ay maiintindihan mo kahit walang subtitles. Ang mga galaw ng camera, ang editing, ang pacing: lahat ito'y vocabulary ng language of cinema. Si Spielberg ay bihasa na sa language na ito. Dalawang klase lang ang pelikula niya: good, or great. Itong The BFG ay somewhere in between.

Si BFG, nanonorotot ng panaginip.

Kung nabasa niyo ang The BFG ni Roald Dahl ay mapapansin niyo na itong gawa ni Spielberg ay more or less faithful adaptation ng original source material. Tungkol ito sa unlikely na pagkakaibigan ni Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) at ng Big Fuckin' Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance), at kung paano nila kinalaban ang mga evil cannibal giants sa pamumuno ng giant na nagngangalang Fleshlumpeater (Jemaine Clement). Bale nag-tag team sina Sophie at BFG at sinumbong nila ang mga masasamang giants na ito sa Queen of England, na siya namang nagpadala ng military support para i-capture ang giants at itapon sila sa isang malayong isla.

Kung mapapansin niyo rin, medyo iba ang formula ng film na ito sa mga usual children's films o animated films ng Hollywood ngayon. Huwag kayo mag-expect ng mala-Pixar treatment, kasi ang pelikulang ito ay hindi naman written for the screen. Tulad ng binanggit ko kanina, ito nga ay faithfully adapted mula sa Roald Dahl book, at dito pa lang ay ibang-iba na ito sa usual screenplays, dahil of course: Roald Dahl. Hindi ito ang typical run-of-the-mill Hollywood screenplay, primarily dahil sa faithfulness niya sa source material.

Maganda ang overall visual design ng The BFG, at kung fan ka ng aklat ni Dahl at ng mga illustrations ni Quentin Blake, mapapansin mo na parang straight out of the book ang character design. Noong makita ko ang mukha ni BFG, naisip ko, "Teka, parang kamukha niya 'yung nasa Bridge of Spies, ah. 'Yung Oscar winner." Kaya niya kamukha iyon ay kasi si Mark Rylance talaga iyon, at napakagandang mapanood sa big screen ang facial expressions at iba pang physical movements na siyang-siya talaga.

Si BFG ay hindi pa talaga giant sa lagay na 'yan.

Itong pelikulang ito ang pangalawang venture ni Steven Spielberg sa digital filmmaking at motion-capture, at nakatutuwang isipin na para na siyang dalubhasa rito. Noong ginawa niya ang The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, iwan na iwan talaga ni Andy Serkis ang kanyang co-stars in terms of motion-capture acting. Pero dito sa pelikulang ito, ang ganda talaga panoorin ng mukha ni BFG. Dalawa lang ang naisip kong dahilan nito: 1) either ang layo na ng narating ng motion-capture technology mula 2011, or 2) napakagaling lang talagang aktor ni Mark Rylance.

Overall, hindi disappointment ang first collaboration ni Steven Spielberg at Walt Disney Pictures. Sobrang swak rin ang tambalang ito dahil medyo pambata ang tema ng pelikula, at medyo pambata rin ang forte ng Disney. Pero malamang hindi na maulit ang tambalang Spielberg-Disney, kasi mayroon namang sariling company si Spielberg (DreamWorks at Amblin). So sana sinamantala niyo na ang panonood nito sa big screen, dahil baka first and last film ni Spielberg ito under the Disney banner.

Gusto ko lang din sabihin na ang cute-cute ni Ruby Barnhill. Ang sarap lang kurutin ng pisngi niya. Super cute! Kung ako rin ang Big Friendly Giant at nakita ko siya sa orphanage, kukunin ko rin siya at hindi ko na siya ibabalik. Gagawin ko lang siyang display sa garapon. Sobrang cute kasi.

"Ang cute mo talaga! Sarap mo kagatin!"

The BFG. USA. 2016.

Original na rating: 7/10
Mark Rylance: +0.1
Jemaine Clement: +0.1
Walang Rebecca Hall nudity: -0.1
Ututan sa Buckingham Palace: +0.1
Dream-catching sequence: +0.1
Final na rating: 7.3/10
Squad goals: Break-even sa box-office.

Si David Ayer ay hindi naman terrible director.

Si David Ayer ay isang writer-director, at ito ay isang valuable commodity sa Hollywood. Ang problema lang ay may kapit sa kanya ang studio na parang asong may kadena sa leeg.

Ang Suicide Squad ay hindi naman terrible film. Totoo, ito'y isang bagong type ng ensemble movie sa aspetong puro anti-hero ang mga bida rito. Pero pakiramdam ko ay solid ang original draft ng screenplay ni Ayer, at feeling ko rin ay maayos naman ang director's cut ng pelikulang ito. Pero siyempre, hindi na natin ito malalaman, dahil ang ni-release sa mga sinehan ay hindi na director's cut. Ang napanood nating lahat ay ang version kung saan marami nang in-alter at pinakialaman ang producers.

"Aminado naman akong mas magaling si Heath Ledger e!"

Ang isang ensemble movie ay isang genre ng pelikula kung saan maraming characters ang bumubuo ng cast, at kung saan ang bawat character rito ay isang protagonist. Ito'y bagong genre lang, at ako lang ang nagpauso ng pangalang ito; nagsimula ito siyempre sa The Avengers ni Joss Whedon noong 2012, at halos ma-perfect na ng Marvel sa Avengers: Age of Ultron noong 2015. Ang Captain America: Civil War na nilabas early this year ay may multiple characters din, pero sa aking opinyon ay hindi ito maituturing na ensemble film dahil iisa lang ang main protagonist dito, at ito'y si Captain America.

Ang sikreto ng ensemble film ay ito: dapat buo ang development ng bawat character sa ensemble. Maari itong gawin the usual way, which is onscreen character development. Pero ang technique ng Marvel ay iba: i-develop na ang mga individual characters through their own stand-alone films.

"Ganda ng shirt mo. Pero baliw ka pa rin."

Ito rin ang binalak ng DC sa pag-release nila ng Suicide Squad. Dahil hindi nila nabigyan ng sariling stand-alone films sina Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Deadshot (Will Smith), Diablo (Jay Hernandez) at Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), dinevelop nalang ang characters nila onscreen. Pero dahil dito, naubos ang oras sa character development nila habang ang ibang characters naman ay hindi na gaano na-flesh out. Sana 'yung sequence ni Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) involving 'yung dossiers n'ung mga criminals ay ni-release nalang nila online bilang promotional materials dahil nakasira ito sa flow ng kwento.

Ang character development ni Joker (Jared Leto) ay umaasa sa prior knowledge ng manonood at sa pop culture status ng character. Si Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) ay interesting character sana, pero hindi ito na-develop dahil kulang sa oras. Gayoon din si Boomerang (Jai Courtney), bagaman hindi masyadong ganoon ka-interesting ang character nito. E si Slipknot, a.k.a. "the man who can climb anything"? Patay agad. Walang kwenta. Actually, 'yung buong plot ay weak. Parang mas nangibabaw ang pagligtas nila sa love life ni Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) kaysa sa pagligtas ng mundo.

Ang tanong, maisasalba pa kaya ng DC ang Justice League na lalabas next year? Sana naman. Si Zack Snyder ang hahawak nito, sa panunulat ni Chris Terrio, na siya ring sumulat ng Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Pero actually, kahit na gaano ka-brilliant ng creative team ng isang pelikula, wala rin itong kwenta kung ang producers ay nanonood sa likod nila at nakikialam. So sana bawas-bawasan ang pakikialam at hayaang mag-flow ang creativity, kasi ito ang kinakailangan ng DC ngayon kung balak pa nila habulin ang Marvel at their own game.

Bigyan niyo na ng stand-alone film, utang na loob.

Suicide Squad. USA. 2016.

Original na rating: 6.5/10
Scary at dark na Enchantress: +0.1
Maagang pagkamatay ni Slipknot: -0.1
Manipis na characterisation ni Joker: -0.1
Back story ni Deadshot: +0.1
Back story ni Harley Quinn: +0.1
David Harbour from Stranger Things: +0.1
Final na rating: 6.7/10
So ang bida rito ay hindi si Kirk o si Spock. Hmm...

Ano ang pagkakaiba ng narrative feature film sa ibang form ng cinema tulad ng experimental at documentary? Ang sagot: narrative arc.

Ang narrative arc o story arc ay crucial sa isang narrative feature. Ang isang audio-visual narrative ay tinatawag na "failure" kung wala itong kwento. "Story is the master", sabi nga sa film school. Bilang filmmaker, aalisin mo ang manonood sa mundong ito at dadalin mo sila sa ibang mundo sa loob ng humigit-kumulang dalawang oras. Ang tanging pakiusap lang nila ay huwag niyo sayangin ang oras nila.

Sofia Boutella, nakaupo na parang nasasayang ang oras niya.

That said, hindi naman pangit ang kwento nitong Star Trek Beyond, at maayos naman ang direksyon ni Justin Lin. Isa siyang stand-alone film kasama na naman ang crew ng USS Enterprise na sina Captain Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), Dr. Bones McCoy (Karl Urban), Lt. Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Scotty (Simon Pegg), Sulu (John Cho), at si Chekov, played by the late Anton Yelchin in his last film.

Medyo manipis lang siguro ang film na ito dahil parang wala gaanong planet-hopping. Sa isang Star Wars film, marami-rami ang mga worlds na mabibisita mo bilang manonood. Ang Star Trek dapat ganoon din, tipong at least four different worlds sana ang napuntahan natin. Pero dito, parang kulang. 'Yung Yorktown space station, dapat hindi nga counted, kasi parang Earth din ang dating e.

Balik uli tayo sa usapin ng narrative arc. As a stand-alone film, wala naman problema ang pelikulang ito. May narrative arc naman, nasusundan naman ang kwento. Pero ang gusto ko lang sana sabihin ay ang narrative arcs ay sumusunod din sa konsepto ng "fractals" sa mathematics. Ang depinisyon ng fractal ay "a curve or geometric figure, each part of which has the same statistical character as the whole... in which similar patterns recur at progressively smaller scales". Ibig sabihin, ang isang bahagi ay kamukha ng kabuuan. Pero paano ito nagre-relate sa narrative arcs? Wait lang, hindi pa ako tapos mag-explain.

Halimbawa ng fractal.

Halimbawa, sa isang television series, sabihin na nating Game of Thrones, ang isang episode ay may sariling narrative arc. May simula, gitna, at wakas. Ngunit ang isang episode ay isang bahagi lang ng kabuuan, at itong kabuuan na ito ay ang season, na binubuo ng ten episodes. Ang isang season din ay may sariling narrative arc (tawagin nalang natin itong "season arc"). Kapag matapos na ang buong series, ang lahat ng episodes mula sa pilot hanggang sa finale ay may sarili ring narrative arc (tawagin natin itong "series arc"). Lahat ng mga arc na ito ay nage-exist simultaneously, at hindi sila in conflict with the other arcs of the overall grand narrative.

Sana touch-move nalang ang pagsira sa Enterprise, para hindi na ibalik.

Ibalik natin ang usapan sa Star Trek. Okay, so ang bawat pelikula sa bagong reboot (simula noong Star Trek ni J.J. Abrams noong 2009) ay may kanya-kanyang narrative arc bilang stand-alone films. Pero kung ia-analyse mo siya bilang isang trilogy, parang wala naman yatang trilogy arc. Hindi pa nga sigurado kung ito na ang huling film sa series na ito o kung magkakaroon pa ng Part 4. Kung mayroon mang Part 4, paano ito magta-tie up with the first three films to create a series arc na mukhang may patutunguhan?

Honestly, parang walang direksiyon ang current series ng franchise na ito. Ang dating ay para na siyang television series na puro stand-alone episodes at hindi alam kung mare-renew pa nang isa pang season. Sana lang hindi ito dahil co-writer ng screenplay si Simon Pegg. Hmmm... wait, kung iyon talaga ang balak ng producers nito, na bumalik sa essence ng original Star Trek TV show... well then, ang galing nila. Pero kung hindi naman pala, boo.

Bilang pa-konswelo, heto si Idris Elba na naka-shorts.

Star Trek Beyond. USA. 2016.

Original na rating: 7/10
Sulu is gay: +0.1
Pagbitaw ng fake accent ni Sofia Boutella: -0.1
Idris Elba: +0.1
Final na rating: 7.1/10
Actual title card. Very Stephen King-y.

Sa opening credits pa lang, medyo may idea ka na kung ano ang ie-expect mo sa bagong series na ito ng Netflix. Tingnan niyo ang font ng title. Hindi ba parang libro ni Stephen King?

Siyempre, ang feel din ng show na ito ay parang Stephen King. Meaning may something supernatural involved. 'Yung supernatural na iyon ay ang stranger things na tinutukoy sa title.

Ang Stranger Things ay may walong episode, at bawat episode ay pinangalanan bilang "chapter". At ang title ng Chapter 1? "The Vanishing of Will Byers". Alam na.

Nahiya lang siya magpakita kasi may balancer pa ang bike niya. 

Magsisimula ang series na may apat na magkakaibigang batang lalaki. Si Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) ay bigla nalang nawala pagkagaling sa isang 10-hour Dungeons & Dragons session kasama ang tatlo pa niyang kaibigan. Siyempre, nag-alala ang nanay niyang si Joyce (Winona Ryder) at ang kuya niyang si Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), at ang subsequent episodes ay tungkol sa paghahanap ng buong bayan kay Will, complete with search party and all led by Hawkins chief of police Jim Hopper (David Harbour). And of course, may sarili ring paghahanap ang "The Gang" (mga tropa ni Will), at sa kanilang paghahanap, matatagpuan nila si Eleven, ang creepy but powerful skinhead girl na maganda naman pala n'ung nagsuot ng wig. Instrumental si Eleven sa paghanap kay Will at sa pagtalo sa villain na si Dr. Brenner (Matthew Modine).

The Gang: (L-R) Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), Dustin a.k.a. Toothless (Gaten Matarazzo), Mike (Finn Wolfhard), at Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown)

Ang Stranger Things ay set in 1983, at dito pa lang ay nostalgia trip na ito. Kahit sa Pilipinas ka lumaki, nostalgic pa rin ito hindi lang dahil sa soundtrack (Toto's "Africa", come on) kundi pati na rin sa feel ng hair and wardrobe na madalas natin nakikita sa pelikula at TV noong araw. Ngunit hindi lang sa mga aspetong iyon humuhugot ng nostalgia ang series na ito. Marami rin ang 80s homages at 80s references.

Official hairstyle n'ung 80s ay bunot. 

Sa references muna: Nariyan siyempre ang Dungeons & Dragons. Para sa mga batang hindi nakakaalam, ito ang granddaddy ng lahat ng modern roleplaying games ngayon, pero nilalaro sa pamamagitan ng pen and paper at dice. Isa pang reference ay Star Wars, at ang pang-asar kay Lucas dito ay "Lando Calrissian", siguro dahil sa kulay niya. Hindi ako sure.

Sa homages naman, nariyan siyempre ang The Goonies, because, you know, children. Mayroong din E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, dahil sa BMX bikes galore. Actually, napakaraming pelikula kung saan nagbigay ng homage ang Stranger Things, at masyadong mahaba kung isulat ko pa, kaya ito nalang ang link.

"Basta hindi mamamatay character ko, ha? I have bills to pay."

Bagamat napakagaling ng performance ni Winona Ryder dito at kuhang-kuha niya ang kabaliwan ng isang nanay na nawalan ng anak, nasapawan ang acting niya ng mga bata. Ang gagaling nilang lahat, at napaka-natural at totoo ng performance nila, na tipong parang gusto ko silang puntahan at sumali sa kanilang D&D game. Parang ang sarap nilang kalaro.

Sa isang interview with the Duffer Brothers (identical twins Matt and Ross Duffer) na creators ng series at directors ng majority ng episodes, nabanggit nila ang advantage ng pag-release sa Netflix. Sa Netflix kasi, kahit divided into episodes ang isang series, sabay-sabay nila nire-release ang lahat ng episodes, hindi weekly tulad ng sa network at cable TV. Sabi nila, sa ganitong paraan daw, nagiging parang libro ang show, na pwede mo basahin from cover to cover, at kung may gusto kang balikan na chapter, pwede rin. Parang Stephen King book nga, in essence. Ngunit sa ibang tao naman, myself included, may ibang advantage ang Netflix style: binge-watching. Dahil ang modern viewer ay ayaw na ayaw mabitin.

Nakahalik pa si Mike kay Eleven. Lucky bastard.

Stranger Things. Netflix. USA. 2016.

Original rating: 8/10
Walang Natalia Dyer nudity: -0.1
Performance ni Winona: +0.1
Performance ng mga bata: +0.2
Villainy ni Matthew Modine: +0.1
80s references: +0.05
80s homages: +0.05
Binge worthiness: +0.1
Final na rating: 8.5/10
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