Da Couch Tomato

An attempt at a new layout, with horrible glitches, and very minimal knowledge of HTML.
*Random Thoughts is a new style of reviewing we're trying out, so this blog can release reviews faster. In case you don't know, reviewing films is time-consuming, and I don't get paid to do this.

Spot the hidden figure. Clue: she's not wearing white.

•I am a sucker for biopics. There's just something about stories that you know are true. Although I know filmmakers are notorious for taking creative liberties, but still, biopics are possibly the only exception to the general rule that "books are better than movies".

•The real gem here is that this story was hidden. But why did they hide it in the first place? This is truly a phenomenal story, told with the backdrop of race and gender segregation. And the best part is, there's three women being honoured here: a brilliant mathematician, an excellent engineer, and and awesome programmer.

•We seem to have forgotten about Kevin Costner. Why do I feel like it's been a long time since I saw him on the big screen? Oh, wait... he was in the Superman reboot. But this feels like the first time in a while since he really showcased his acting skills.

•Was NASA really the first to segregate restrooms? If they were, then bravo. Apparently, the only thing that can rid America of racism is the space race. Good job, Kevin Costner, for swinging that sledgehammer.

•Speaking of restrooms... that Taraji P. Henson monologue, though. The one about restrooms. That's a guaranteed Oscar clip right there.

•And speaking of great speeches, Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe)'s court speech is awesome. Yes, being first is important. Landmark cases always go down in history, as well as the landmark decisions that turn the tide.

•Nice soundtrack. Kind of sounds like Pharrell. But probably not. I think this is '60s music. It really sounds like Pharrell, though. Shouldn't they be using music from the decade? Okay, let me just wait for the end credits. Oh, it's actually Pharrell. With Hans Zimmer. Again.

•Ah, single mothers... you can't help but appreciate their strength. They can withstand a lot. How about couloured single mothers? Wait, how about... coloured single mothers in the 1960s? These women are probably the strongest human beings in the world.

•There's an awesome line from astronaut John Glenn (Glen Powell) that best sums up this entire film. "Let's get the girl to check the numbers... the smart one. And if she says they're good, I'm ready to go." He didn't say "the black one" or "the coloured one". He said "the smart one". Race has nothing to do with the numbers. But it's nice to know that a white man would not launch until a coloured woman verified the math. Sweet.

•I wonder if this will be like another Top Gun. The year that film came out, applications for the Air Force significantly increased. I wonder if Hidden Figures will also spark a sudden interest in mathematics and aeronautics in the coloured community. Or maybe in the United States in general. Is it still right to use the word "coloured" in this day and age?

•I'm happy about Jim Parsons. His lanky physique and geeky manner of speech has forever pegged him as the ultimate dork, no thanks to The Big Bang Theory. I thought he'd be forever shoehorned into roles like that. Glad this film was able to bring out the despicable side of him. He's still not super-villain material, though. Just super-douche material.

•In the past, "computer" was a title for a person. Like "accountant", or "chef". Nowadays, it seems really weird to call a person a computer, because we've reduced computer to a machine. Oh, how time flies.

"Are you a Windows or a Mac?"
"Are you Captain America?"



Hidden Figures. USA. 2016.



Original rating: 7.7/10
Octavia Spencer's bitchiness: +0.1
Downplaying Kirsten Dunst: +0.1
Soundtrack: +0.1
Final rating: 8.0/10
*Random Thoughts is a new style of reviewing we're trying out, so this blog can release reviews faster. In case you don't know, reviewing films is time-consuming, and I don't get paid to do this.

I just love the scratches on Batman's helmet.

•This is the most meta of Batman films in the canon. It's a Batman film about being Batman.

•There's a rundown of Batman villains from the comics, with the common ones such as the Joker, Bane, Harley Quinn, the Riddler (voiced by Conan O'Brien), and Two-Face (voiced by Billy Dee Williams), and Scarecrow, among others, and there's also the weird, obscure ones like Crazy Quilt, Polka Dot Man, Eraser, Condiment King, and Zebra Man, among others.

•There's a rundown of all Batman movies, from 2016, 2012, 2008, 2005, 1997, 1995, 1992, 1989, and all the way back to that weird one from 1966.

•The movie also shows a whole lot of villains from the Warner Bros. catalogue. Is it the Warner Bros. catalogue, or the Lego catalogue? Probably the latter. There's a shark that's probably from Jaws, velociraptors from Jurassic Park, agents from The Matrix, Sauron (voiced by Jemaine Clement) from Lord of the Rings, Voldemort from Harry Potter, and Daleks from Doctor Who. It's Daleks, okay, not "British robots".

•Could've sworn the Joker was voiced by Mark Hamill. Turned out to be Zach Galifianakis. Well, Hamill already voiced the Joker in the animated Batman films, so having him voice the Lego version is highly unlikely, come to think of it.

•Could've sworn Voldemort was voiced by Ralph Fiennes. Turned out to be Eddie Izzard. I just thought since Fiennes is already voicing Alfred Pennyworth, then he probably threw in Voldemort's voice for free. And why is Wingardium Leviosa the only spell Voldemort knows?

•Could've sworn Robin was voiced by Jesse Eisenberg. Turned out to be Michael Cera. Oh, well. Same mold.

•You'll know this is a spinoff of The Lego Movie not just because Will Arnett still voices Batman, but because of the concept of Master Builders (not "Masturbators", you pervert). In the Lego universe, a Master Builder is someone who can mix and match Lego parts to form totally new creations, such as...

•The Scuttler. If the other Batman films had vehicles like the Tumbler and the Batpod, this film has the Scuttler. It looks like a robot or mecha version of a biological bat, which looks a bit clumsy when standing and walking like real bats do, but which can transform into a magnificent flying bat-jet.

•The sountrack is great. There are some original songs aimed at the younger kids, while there are also some old songs used. I particularly loved the use of Cutting Crew's "I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight", which plays when Bruce Wayne sets eyes on Barbara Gordon (voiced by Rosario Dawson) for the first time. Also, there's a very cheesy Lego minifig dance number at the end.

•This isn't just a comedy about children's toys. Beneath the bricks, there actually lie themes of relationships, family, and friendship, things which the Batman films and comics fail to address adequately.

•I can imagine the merchandising. I mean, the Scuttler? Shut up and take my money, Lego.

•One of the most hilarious moments in the film for me was Bruce Wayne's family portrait he has hanging on his wall. It's a selfie with his parents outside the theatre... near Crime Alley. That's right, a photo of his parents right before they died. I mean, would you do that if you were in Batman's shoes?Keep a photo of your folks right before they're murdered? Okay, it's probably just me, but I found it hilarious. Yeah, it was probably just me.

•The most laugh-out-loud joke in this film, however, is Batman's password to his computer (voiced by Siri). And that password is: Iron Man sucks.

"There will be a sequel, right?"




The Lego Batman Movie. USA. 2017.



Original rating: 8/10
Stop-motion animation style: +0.1
Homage to the '60s "Bam! Pow!" sound effects: +0.1
Jerry Maguire scenes: +0.1
Batman and Joker's almost-gay bromance: +0.1
Final rating: 8.4/10
"Wanna come with me and make tusok-tusok the fishball?"

*Ang Random Thoughts ay isang bagong style ng pag-review na aking susubukan para mabilis lumabas ang mga review ng blog na ito. Kasi masyadong time-consuming ang pagsulat ng isang proper review at hindi naman ako binabayaran para dito.

  • •Nice, may animated short film pa sa simula. Pumi-Pixar ang Metro Manila Film Festival.
  • •Ay, wait. Medyo chaka ang short film. Parang student project lang ng college student.
  • •Wow. A Filipino film na may live-action at animation. Finally.
  • •Una kong naalala na pelikulang ganito ay Mary Poppins (na ina-arkila pa namin dati sa Betamax). Tapos n'ung '80s, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Tapos n'ung '90s, Space Jam. Tapos iba pang mga Looney Tunes films. Bakit sa Pilipinas, ngayon lang?
  • •Ganda talaga ni Rhian Ramos.
  • •Medyo nakaka-off talaga 'yung Taglish (or more accurately, Ingglisero) na dialogue. Parang hindi natural. Pa-konyo masyado. Pero that's just me.
  • •Consistent naman ang munduhan ng animation.
  • •Hello, Kuya Bodjie. N'ung bata ako, ikaw ang aking idea ng pagiging isang mabait na tao. Parang tingin ko sa'yo ay hindi marunong magalit at hindi gagawa ng masama. Sana mas marami ka pang pelikula at raket para hindi ka mamroblema sa pera, kasi ambait mo.
  • •Bakit parang hindi masyado evident ang pagtanda ni Sally at ni Martin? Dapat from high school to college, 'di ba? Parang ganoon pa rin sila katanda. Humaba lang buhok n'ung guy.
  • •Ten years in the making itong pelikulang 'to? E bakit parang hindi tumanda ang mga artista? Paano 'yun, ten years ago sinimulan na nila ang animation, tapos mga a year ago lang shinoot ang live action parts?

This is how UP Diliman look like on a normal day.



Saving Sally. Philippines. 2016.


Original na rating: 6.8
Animation: +0.2
Animation style: +0.1
Pa-conyo dialogu: -0.1
Final na rating: 7.0/10
Female leads and Latino guys are fast becoming a Star Wars staple.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD (But you should've already seen this film by now)

Ahh, Rogue One. The first film in the Star Wars franchise that's not about the Skywalker family. Also described by director Gareth Edwards in The Director's Cut podcast as "the District 9 of the Star Wars universe", in terms of having a relatively low budget but delivering the most bang for the buck. And indeed, it does deliver.

But like all films with a huge fan base, there will be complaints. Some complain about the different types of stormtroopers that are never seen again after Episode IV. Some complain about the morally gray characters, like the supposedly good rebels who kill indiscriminately. All I can say is, ignore them. Well, if you're a true Star Wars fan, you'd watch this film regardless of the reviews. Just as if you're a true Star Wars fan, you would've recognised Mon Mothma from the trailer. Yes, I'm talking to you, weird guy with a Kylo Ren lightsaber in the theatre.

That said, here now are six reasons why Rogue One is possibly the best Star Wars story since, oh I don't know, The Empire Strikes Back.

K2SO
K2SO is my new favourite Star Wars droid. I can't say I had an old favourite. Maybe Chopper from Star Wars Rebels. Or BB8. But they're astromechs, incapable of human speech. And I've always found C3PO to be a bit too effeminate for my tastes. And now we have K2SO, a witty, sarcastic, funny, and badass former Imperial droid refurbished for rebellion purposes. Almost all the laugh-out-loud moments from Rogue One were uttered by K2SO. Oh, and he's voiced by Alan Tudyk, who was practically given free rein to ad lib his way throughout the entire production. And that is the reason why Alan Tudyk is one of my favourite voice actors of all time. Ever.

Disney did good after having Tudyk voice Moana's voiceless chicken.

All the Easter eggs
Like I said, this film is a fanboy's wet dream come true. You can actually play a game while watching this, something like "Spot the Easter Egg". Let me rattle off some from the top of my head. The Mon Calamari fleet admirals (not Ackbar, sadly). The blue milk. Chopper, Artoo, and Threepio's cameo. That cantina duo from Mos Eisley (the one whose arm got sliced off by Obi-Wan Kenobi). Mon Mothma. Bail Organa. General Jan Dodonna. "I have a bad feeling about this." The rebel pilots Red Leader and Gold Leader. And of course, the special cameos of...

Chopper on the far left. Mon Mothma on the far right. Nerdgasm achieved.

Grand Moff Tarkin and Princess Leia
While I consider this a real treat, the resurrection of late actor Peter Cushing has drawn flak from both fans and non-fans alike for the ethics of using a dead actor to reprise a role. But for that decision, Edwards is not solely to blame: Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) wizard John Knoll (who also wrote the story for Rogue One) can be held equally liable. The Star Wars flicks have always pushed the technological envelope, especially in terms of special effects, and the CG resurrection of deceased actors may or may not catch on, but you have to hand it to the special effects team. Well this should hardly be any surprise, seeing as John Knoll co-created Photoshop with his brother. Having Tarkin and Princess Leia in here is basically just like Photoshopping them in a motion picture.

A younger Leia browsing on her smart phone. Like young people nowadays.

The most badass Darth Vader ever
Some not-so fans would probably discredit Darth Vader's power as being not-so powerful, what with his labored breathing, limited mobility, and lumbering lightsaber swings. Some of them would even argue that Darth Maul would be the most badass Sith, and that the only thing Vader has going for him would be his use of the Force to asphyxiate his enemies. But Rogue One shows us what slow lightsaber swings can do to an entire ship of rebels. It can still make them pee their pants in fear, apparently. And the best part is it's still James Earl Jones's voice. May Darth Vader haunt the nightmares of generations more to come.

"I find your lack of fear disturbing."

It's a stand-alone film
This is possibly the best aspect of this film. Remember how greedy the Hollywood studio system has become? Bleeding franchises dry, adapting young adult novels left and right, splitting one book into two movies, that kind of thing? Well with Rogue One, Disney is seemingly reassuring us that "Look, we're not after your money. We're not going to give you three movies about one story when a single film will do." That's nice, Disney. But what they're really saying is, "Look, we bought the rights to this modern mythology that we all connect to, like the twenty-first century's Iliad, and we know you fanboys will eat up anything we release under the Star Wars banner. So this stand-alone film? This is nothing. We'll give you a hundred stand-alone films set in the Star Wars universe. And you'll all watch this like the desperate nerd losers that you are." That's pretty mean, Disney. But I have six words for you: Shut. Up. And. Take. My. Money.

Even Forest Whitaker's eyelid stands alone. Get it?

And finally... (spoiler)

Everybody dies
Yes, so sorry to disappoint you. There will be no other Jyn Erso movie, which means no more of Felicity Jones's face on IMAX. This is, after all, based on the opening crawl of Episode IV, about how "rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire's ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR". This is the story of those rebel spies. What they did was nothing short of heroic, having turned the tide for the Battle of Yavin. But where were those spies in A New Hope? Were they honoured with medals? Nope. If anyone deserved medals, it would be Jyn Erso, et al. But since the only one who got medals in that film were a rookie farmboy-turned-pilot, a smuggler, and a Wookie, we can only assume that everyone who had a hand in stealing the Death Star plans died. And this film is our way of honouring them.

Good luck killing Riz Ahmed's career, though. This guy's everywhere.



Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. USA. 2016.



Original rating: 8.0/10
No Felicity Jones nudity: -0.1
Mads Mikkelsen: +0.1
Riz Ahmed: +0.1
Alan Tudyk's ad libs: +0.1
Diego Luna's sexy accent: +0.1
Guy Henry as Moff Tarkin: +0.1
All the Easter eggs: +0.25
Ben Mendelsohn: +0.1
No George Lucas creative involvement: -0.1
Final rating: 8.65/10
Moana dreading any sort of sex scene with Maui.

Moana is the second Disney release this year, tailing Zootopia, the studio's first animated 2016 release way back in January. They've had a good year this year with two releases, compared to Pixar's lone release Finding Dory, which as a sequel does not stand up to Moana's original screenplay. But enough comparing. Is Moana as good as we hoped it would be? Just what makes a good Disney movie?

Great story
Disney has made efforts to be inclusive of different cultures since Pocahontas and Mulan, incorporating Native American and Chinese characters and stories, respectively, into its films. However, since the start of the "CG Renaissance"–that point in time when Disney shifted its animation medium from traditional 2D to computer-generated 3D–Disney’s princess movies have reverted back to Caucasian female leads with Tangled and Frozen. With Moana, however, Disney has expanded once more to include Polynesian folklore.

Another great thing about the story is that it doesn’t attempt to force any romantic angle. Sorry, fans, but there won’t be any demigod-on-mortal romance brewing here, despite that happening a lot in Greek and Roman mythology.

Great characters
The most memorable character here, of course, would be the title character Moana (Auli’i Cravalho), Disney’s first non-Caucasian CGI princess. She has no superpowers unlike Elsa, yet she is badass nonetheless. It’s also a big step in casting, as Cravalho is a relative unknown who got the part for her singing prowess and ethnic background.

The second best character here, hands down, would be the demigod Maui, voiced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Aside from having animated tattoos and awesome shape-shifting powers, The Rock showcases his musical talents here. Who knew, right? Who actually knew that Dwayne Johnson could carry a tune? I mean, with that eyebrow-raising and all. Totally unexpected.

"What, you don't like my eyebrows?"

Among the non-human characters would have to be Tamatoa the giant crab, voiced by the funny Jemaine Clement, who is actually known for his singing abilities. But as he himself points out, his character would’ve probably been more memorable if he spoke with a Jamaican accent, a reference to another Disney crustacean who dwells under the sea.

All Disney princesses are known for their mostly non-human sidekicks, and this film is no different in that regard. The sidekick here is the stupid chicken Heihei, voiced by the great Alan Tudyk, which in my opinion is a total waste of Alan Tudyk, as Heihei only talks by squawking and clucking.

Great songs
No Disney movie is complete without the songs, and of course Moana prides itself in having the songwriting powerhouse of Opetaia Foa’i, Mark Mancina (who also composed the score), and the great Lin-Manuel Miranda. There’s the glamorous “Shiny”, sung by Jemaine Clement; the damn catchy “You’re Welcome”, The Rock’s only song which he sings with surprisingly little effort; and of course Auli’i Cravalho’s “How Far I’ll Go”, which is this movie’s “Let It Go”. Miranda’s success with Hamilton will probably ensure that he will get more screen musicals thrown his way in the near future, and I do hope Disney signs him on for another animated musical.

Tamatoa can crush Sebastian in an underwater match any day.



Moana. USA. 2016.



Original rating: 7.8/10
Maui's tattoos: +.1
The Rock's singing voice: +0.1
Jemaine Clement: +0.1
Final rating: 8.1/10
Yes, Scamander's suitcase is like the TARDIS.

Thank you, J.K. Rowling. For a lot of things.

While a part of the movie-going populace laments the lack of original screenplays in Hollywood, you have given us something new with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Well, it's not wholly original in the sense that Inception and Interstellar were original; I meant original in the sense that this wasn't adapted from any existing literary material. Technically, this movie would be classified as a spin-off, very (very) loosely based on the book of the same title released as part of Comic Relief in 2001, which was basically you bringing one of Harry Potter's fictional textbooks to life. I guess an original spin-off is way better than an adapted screenplay.

Cover of the original Comic Relief book.

Thank you for bringing magic across the pond to America. Your skill in creating a solid fictional universe is unparalleled, rivalled only by maybe George Lucas. I think Fantastic Beasts is more than just a mere spin-off. It's like a break-away religion that has taken a life of its own, and after the five movies you promised, the American wizarding world could be even bigger and more complex than the one in Britain.

"Honestly, I'm not happy that I won't be back for the sequels."

Thank you also for the great casting choices. Much like you had a hand in casting Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, I'm sure you also had the final say in the casting of Fantastic Beasts. Eddie Redmayne seems perfect as the bumbling magizoologist who's like a duck out of water, although I wonder if Matt Smith could have played the role with equal brilliance. Colin Farrell is spot-on, if only because the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them screenplay describes his character Percival Graves as "very handsome, early middle age". Alison Sudol also gave a very convincing performance as the blonde bimbo American witch Queenie Goldstein, and I'm rather interested in how her skill in Legilimency will play out throughout the franchise. Johnny Depp as Gellert Grindelwald was surprising (I had no idea coming into the cinema), and I hope his future performances as Grindelwald show no trace of Captain Jack Sparrow, a role he has a habit of falling back on. My most favourite character in this movie, however, is the Muggle No-Maj Jacob Kowalski, played by Dan Fogler, an actor I liked since Balls of Fury and Fanboys. He serves as the audience's anchor point for this franchise, someone non-magical folk can relate to, much like Harry Potter was the anchor point for the previous franchise.

I mean, come on, look at Kowalski's face. 

Thank you, Ms. Rowling, for your hyperactive imagination. These beasts you conjure from your imagination are awesome, although almost of these creatures have already made their debut in the Comic Relief book. The niffler is so adorable, although of course I wouldn't want to have a kleptomaniac for a pet. The demiguise still has the most awesome ability of them all – invisibility. The erumpent is just too big to be allowed, even in Scamander's TARDIS-like suitcase (bigger on the inside). And the thunderbird, oh what a glorious beast. Thank you also for designing the sorting test for Ilvermorny, because I took the test and got House Thunderbird.

Now isn't that a majestic creature?

And finally, thank you for ensuring that all screenplays of Newt Scamander's franchise will be penned by you. What better way to preserve the voice and feel of the original wizarding world we all grew up with. I eagerly await the second film in this series with as much anticipation as I had waiting for the Harry Potter books to come out.

"Bravo, Jo Rowling. Bravo."



Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. UK/USA. 2016.



Original rating: 8.1/10
Gemma Chan as Madam Ya Zhou: +0.1
Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski: +0.1
The niffler: +0.1
No wizard-on-no-maj sex: -0.1
Johnny Depp as Gellert Grindelwald: +0.1
Jon Voight not playing a wizard: -0.1
Ezra Miller's weirdly nice face: +0.1
Ron Perlman looking like Gnarlak: +0.1
Pacing of screenplay: -0.1
Final rating: 8.4/10
"This anti-constipation spell isn't working!"

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
(I have a strict cinematic code, in that I do not watch converted 3D and IMAX releases that were not shot in native IMAX. Doctor Strange was neither shot in IMAX nor in 3D, but I've decided to make an exception, and I think my decision was worth it.)

Marvel Studios releases its most visually stunning spectacle yet in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). And of course, I don't mean "visually stunning" like "beautifully photographed vistas and sceneries", but rather "intense psychedelic head trip sequences". Think Marvel on acid. Or wait, I got a better one: Marvel movie on magic mushrooms. Four-hit alliteration combo.

Since Marvel is introducing the character of Doctor Strange in his eventual role in the Infinity War, it only makes sense that this will be an origin story. We start with surgeon supreme Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) in his natural habitat–the hospital–where he shows off his skill with a scalpel. After an automobile accident renders his hands useless, he is forced to search for a cure to his nerve damage. Western medicine is unable to help him, but he learns of the curious case of Benjamin Bratt's character, who successfully recovered from paralysis thanks to the help of mystics from the East. He undergoes the voyage himself, ending up in the mountains of Nepal, and with the help of Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), gains access to Kamar-Taj, the mystical monastery in the mountains. Here he is trained by the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), and with the help of the librarian Wong (Benedict Wong), Doctor Strange learns the magical arts of spell casting, astral projection, inter-dimensional travel, and control of time and space, among others. Everything he learns is put to the test when he confronts the rogue mystic Kaecillius (Mads Mikkelsen), with a final epic battle in Hong Kong against the Dormammu, a powerful being from the dark dimension.

"What do you mean I'm under a multi-picture contract?"

Doctor Strange feels very much in sync with the rest of the films in the MCU, and it has the same feel as the first Iron Man film in tackling the origin of the hero, with Cumberbatch and Wong's onscreen chemistry playing a big part in the film's use of humour to strengthen its comic book tone. This film's strongest suit is, of course, its visual effects and its mind-blowing action sequences, thanks to the real-life technical wizards at Industrial Light and Magic. It's like they all dropped acid and decided to take the space-shifting in Inception and the fifth dimension visuals of Interstellar and pushed the envelope by making it ten times more intense.

See? Psychedelia.

Some people are complaining about the villain Kaecillius, saying his character should've been fleshed out more, and that his lack of character arc is unbefitting someone who serves as the main antagonist to the Sorcerer Supreme. On one hand, I would tend to agree, but only because I see it as a waste of Mads Mikkelsen's acting ability, which director Scott Derrickson should have highlighted onscreen extensively. On the other hand, I see no real harm done, but only because in my opinion, the filmmakers set up Mordo's character arc brilliantly, making the viewer realise in the end that Chiwetel Ejiofor was the actual villain of this story all along.

Every superhero film needs a non-superhero character. For Iron Man, it's Pepper Potts; for Thor, it's Jane Foster; for Doctor Strange, it's Dr. Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams). Their purpose, narratively speaking, is to provide the audience (who are made up of regular, non-superhero people) with someone they can relate to. Christine doesn't serve as Strange's love interest (although romantic tension and history are hinted at), and if viewers find very little with her they can relate to, it shouldn't matter. I think the character of Stephen Strange is who the viewers should be relating to, because he was just ordinary before he decided to take up the mantle of magic. Strange's journey should mirror our own, where we journey from having an inflated ego and a sense of self-importance to the realisation that we know nothing and that we are but a small speck in a vast multiverse.

"I. Want. To. Try. Peyote!"

But Doctor Strange will not go down in cinematic history as the film with the trippiest visuals ever made. I believe this film's contribution to cinema would be its use of magic, not just as a gimmick or some fictional device. The Harry Potter saga was rooted in magic, but only as an element of its fictional universe. Author J.K. Rowling didn't write it as something that she openly advocates and preaches; if anything, it was merely the backdrop of her idea for telling the story of a boy who turns out to be the chosen one. The Wachowski's The Matrix came close to introducing the concepts of high mysticism and new age spirituality to a modern audience desperately in need of a spiritual renaissance, but the problem with it was the science fiction backdrop of the story drowned out any of the messages the filmmakers wanted to send out. Enter now Doctor Strange in 2016, which is the first film I've encountered to actively preach the mystical side of science and spirituality, using actual concepts from Eastern philosophy. True, the space-shifting that's able to bend entire city blocks may be a bit too far out to be considered plausible by the average moviegoer who has never tried any psychedelic substance. But the concepts of energy, the multiverse, and the interconnectedness of all life have been known by sages and shamans for millenia, and it's only high time that Hollywood start making these ideas mainstream.

The Ancient One gives free out-of-body experiences.






Doctor Strange. USA. 2016.



Original rating: 7.9/10
Fight sequences: +0.1
No Rachel McAdams nudity: -0.1
Wong's Beyoncé addiction: +0.1
Magical hand gestures: +0.1
Final rating: 8.1/10
Twin children everywhere will probably dress up like the creepy twins this Halloween.

The title pretty much gives you the premise of the entire movie. It pretty much sounds like an institution, sort of like an orphanage, the wards of which are children with peculiarities, under the guardianship of a lady named Miss Peregrine. And although this very much sounds like the uncanny X-Men (replace "institution" with "school for the gifted", "peculiar children" with "mutants", and "Miss Peregrine" with "Professor Charles Xavier"), this is not a superhero movie.

First off, it's not based on a comic book by Marvel, but from a novel by author Ransom Riggs. Second, it's not science fiction, and neither is it fantasy, despite the fantastical elements of the story. The proper literary term for this is magical realism, a genre that Netflix has tried to force on their Pablo Escobar series Narcos.

Tim Burton is one of the few directors that can tackle magical realism quite effortlessly. It's like his default genre, the way the suspense thriller is Alfred Hitchcock's or the biopic is Ron Howard's. Visually, this film definitely has Burton's trademark look, accentuated by the excellent costume designs by his frequent collaborator Colleen Atwood. The bleak Welsh atmosphere captured perfectly by cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel, who also did Inside Llewyn Davis, a film which also utilised the bleach-bypass look, which is a technique with film negatives, though I'm not sure if Delbonnel shot on video.

Would've been nice if one of them had the power to blow endless streams of marijuana smoke.

The strength of this film is not in its story. Although I haven't read the source material, I think the screen adaptation hasn't fully captured what the book has to offer. It's like somehow, you can feel that there's more to this story which the two-hour running time failed to translate. That said, the screenplay isn't bad. But it isn't great either. The actual strength of this Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children lies in the performances. Of course, I'm not talking about Asa Butterfield, who's already hit the awkward stage of his adolescence. With his gangly frame and commendable American accent, he just can't outshine the adults; none of the children can, actually, even with Ella Purnell's promising talent.

Samuel L. Jackson as the Barron might seem like his standard villain performance, but the fact that he never utters any curse word or profanity is a big achievement in itself. I was always half-expecting him to say something like "motherfucker", until I remembered that this was supposed to be a young adult film adapted from a young adult novel. Chris O'Dowd is brilliant as Jake's dad, playing the comic relief with just the right subtlety, and impressing Hollywood with his near-perfect American accent. And of course, Miss Eva Green as Miss Peregrine is splendid as always, and although she plays the title role, she is not the main protagonist in this film. Despite her screen time being comparatively limited, she manages to outshine everyone else here. The only one who could've upstaged her would be Dame Judi Dench as Miss Avocet, so it's probably a good thing that Dame Judi had way less screen time, and spent a significant part of that as a bird.

"Dame Judi ain't upstaging me."



Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. USA/UK/Belgium. 2016.



Original rating: 7/10
Terence Stamp's short screen time: -0.1
Ella Purnell's pretty face: +0.1
Time travel element: +0.1
Enoch's power of necro-puppetry: +0.1
Emma's power to control air: +0.1
Jake's power to see the monsters: -0.1
Hugh's power of bees in his mouth: -0.1
Bronwyn's super strength: +0.1
Claire and the mouth behind her head: -0.1
Fiona's power to make things grow fast: +0.1
Horace's power to project his dreams from his eye: +0.1
Olive's pyrokinesis: +0.1
Millard's power of invisibility: +0.1
Twin gorgons: +0.1
Final rating: 7.6/10
Vincent D'Onofrio should count as two persons.

Before anything else, let me just say that this movie isn't an original. It's a remake. The original film of the same title was released in 1960, directed by John Sturges, and starred Hollywood powerhouse actors Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, and James Coburn, among others. But that film was also a remake (a more precise term would be a "transposition") of the great Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai. So you could say this film is a remake of a remake.

Anyway, whether or not you're iffy about remakes, or if you lament the lack of original screenplays in Hollywood, here are seven magnificent reasons to go see this film.

1. It's a Western
Yes, Westerns are a western genre (See what I did there?). Well, not just the West in general, but America in particular, because it was only their country that had the westward expansion. But apart from cowboys and Indians, Westerns embody something much more than its geographical setting. Westerns take us back to the grit of the past, when social relationships were wilder, when death was an everyday occurrence, and when the line between banditry and chivalry was blurred at best.

See? Western.

2. Peter Sarsgaard is despicable
I first saw Peter Sarsgaard in An Education alongside Carey Mulligan. He comes off as a nice guy, with a sort of Paul Rudd vibe, so seeing him in a villainous role is a huge break from character. And no, he is not related to Stellan Skarsgård.

Great goatees always indicate villains.

3. Chris Pratt is funny
Chris Pratt never really broke away from the comedic mold he was known for in Parks and Recreation. Even after shedding some weight and buffing up for his roles in Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World, his comedy chops still remained a part of his acting arsenal. In this film, he gets the funniest lines, making him the unofficial comic relief.

Chris Pratt, in his best "I'm-no-comic-relief" pose.

4. Denzel Washington is, well, Denzel
Don't get me wrong, Denzel Washington is the manliest of the Magnificent Seven. He is indeed the most alpha-male among the cast. My only problem? He's black. No, I'm not being racist. Hear me out. I just think it's not historically accurate. The movie has no date of reference, so let's peg it at sometime around the real-life Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, which was in 1881. Slavery officially ended in the United States after the Emancipation Proclamation in 22 September 1862. Chisolm, Denzel's character, wouldn't have been out of place then as a free man in the Wild West. But for him to lead five white men and a Native American? Highly unlikely. The African-American Civil Rights Movement went full swing in the 1960s, and before that, black people were segregated to the back of buses. What I'm saying is, if this film were historically accurate, Chisolm would've been lynched within the first fifteen minutes.

"I'm still pissed about his Oscar win for Training Day."

5. Antoine Fuqua is brilliant
Aside from directing both Ethan Hawke and Denzel Washington in Training Day, Antoine Fuqua also directed King Arthur, the period film which launched Clive Owen's Hollywood career. Like King Arthur, The Magnificent Seven is an ensemble film starring multiple cast members, and Fuqua seems to have action films like these covered. It's a wonder Disney hasn't asked him to direct a Marvel flick. He'd be great at it. Or maybe they already did, and he declined. Whatever.

"You know why Chisolm's black? That's right, motherfucker."

6. Haley Bennett is pretty... good
Yes, Haley Bennett is a good actress. But what I really want to say is, damn, she is really pretty. In the film, it's not that noticeable, because of the grit and grime from the dust of the wild west. But once I saw the real Haley Bennett, I was like, "Damn, what a beauty".

I mean, come on. Look at her.

7. Some characters died (Spoilers ahead)
So this is the story of seven men who risked their lives to thwart evil and save innocent lives. With such a noble premise as this, one should already expect that there will indeed be deaths, innocent or otherwise. Not all of the Magnificent Seven made it alive; that would be too implausible, too Hollywood. But not all of them died, either, which made it more realistic. Jack Horne (Vincent D'Onofrio) died like Boromir in The Fellowship of the Ring, shot with arrows. Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke) and the Chinaman Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee) died in the sniper's nest up in the church steeple. And Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt) had the most magnificent death of them all: sacrificing himself to take out the big guns with a stick of dynamite. Among the seven, the last ones standing were Chisolm the negroe (Washington), Vasquez the Mexican (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), and Red Harvest the Indian (Martin Sensmeier), which is probably a statement about how the ethnic minorities will be the last ones standing after a gunfight.

The boys doing the mandatory "Armageddon walk".



The Magnificent Seven. USA. 2016.



Original rating: 7/10
No Haley Bennett nudity: -0.1
Gunfights: +0.1
Vincent D'Onofrio's horse-bump: +0.1
Final rating: 7/10
Apple Corps via The Daily Mail
Sleepovers were probably awesome. 

Some of you may be wondering, "Do we really need a new Beatles documentary?" The answer is, well, it depends. If you're a millenial who only discovered the Beatles on Spotify, then yes, we do. If you're an old fan who was already alive when all four Beatles were, then yes, we do. Okay, so it doesn't really depend. The world does need a new Beatles documentary.

Eight Days a Week: The Touring Years is as the title suggests–a documentary about the touring years of the Beatles, from their early road struggles in Liverpool, England and Hamburg, Germany in 1960 up to their last live concert in Candlestick Park, San Francisco in 1966. As a treat, however, director Ron Howard threw in their gig at the rooftop of the Apple Corps. office in 1969 which, although not part of the touring years, was the Fab Four's final live performance.

Before they had moptops. Circa 1957.

For the new fans, they'll get to see footage of the Beatles in their prime, showing how John, Paul, George, and Ringo became the biggest band in the UK and how they seamlessly transitioned across the pond to become the biggest band in the English-speaking world. For old fans, especially the die-hard ones who've seen hours of Beatles videos before this, they'll get to see all-new never-before-seen footage of the Beatles, gathered from fans' home movies which were filmed during the actual tour dates.

The film features archive interviews from the late Messrs. Lennon and Harrison, as well as new interviews from Sir Paul McCartney (who doesn't seem to have aged well), and the great Ringo Starr (who seems to have looked cooler with age). Then there are also celebrity memoirs, recounting their fond and nostalgic memories of Beatlemania, including Elvis Costello, Eddie Izzard, Whoopi Goldberg, and Sigourney Weaver.

Back in their Cavern days.

Pretty noticeable was how cool the Beatles were. Aside from being very cheeky, especially in interviews, they seem to exude that happy-go-lucky attitude, making their performances seem like playtime, when in reality, that's one of the most gruelling tasks a human being can endure. They never do seem to take themselves seriously except when making music and writing songs. That's their craft, that's what they do best, and that's something they really take seriously.

The Beatles weren't really after the fame nor the prestige; these were just a by-product of their excellent music. Well, yes they did want to reach the "toppermost of the poppermost", but what they really wanted was to be the best in songwriting and music-making. They put premium on the music and the performances, and when all the screaming fans couldn't give them the best of what a live musical experience should be, they ditched that and concentrated on giving their best in the studio. After their retirement from live performances, the world didn't really mourn the loss of Beatles music, because their remaining years in Abbey Road gave us some of the best recorded albums in history, forever cementing their legacy in music history.

One of their last live gigs at Shea Stadium.



The Beatles: Eight Days a Week–The Touring Years. USA/UK. 2016.



Original rating: 8/10
The Cavern footage: +0.2
Not enough Cavern footage: -0.1
Not enough Hamburg footage: -0.1
Manila footage: +0.2
Not enough Manila footage: -0.1
The Beatles against segregation: +0.1
Final rating: 8.2/10
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