Da Couch Tomato

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Now imagine this mug on an IMAX screen. 

Although not shot in IMAX, the trailers and previews kept promising how this movie should be seen in IMAX. Which I did. It actually made a difference, sure, because space movies are always more breathtaking in the IMAX format.

Okay, before anything else, let me just say this: I don't remember the film that much, because I may have slept through some parts of it. Well, I'd say my sleep lasted maybe five seconds tops, but there was a lot of it, so add that up and you get one hazy memory. Sorry, James Gray. It's not that your film was boring. I was just tired from work, maybe? I caught the last full show that day.

Anyway, let me try and give as objective a review as I can, discounting the fact that I slept through some parts of it.

Brad Pitt was good, as always. The thing with Pitt is that he always was a great actor, notwithstanding the fact that he was a Hollywood pretty boy. Since this film plays more on drama than science fiction, Pitt has had plenty of screen time to showcase his acting chops, and he did not disappoint. I think there's a subtlety required when acting in front of an IMAX camera, because even the littlest micro expressions will register on film, and overacting will be something very evident on the big screen. Brad Pitt, however, was superb.

I can hardly remember the other cast, though. I guess that's an effect of having Brad Pitt as the lead actor; he eclipses everybody else. I know Tommy Lee Jones was his dad, and that Donald Sutherland was a colonel or something. And also Ruth Negga was an astronaut on Mars or something. I don't know. I don't really remember, because like I said, I was really sleepy. Everything was like a haze.

Now let's just go to the cinematic depiction of space. Did it succeed in giving us the "most realistic depiction of space travel that's been put in a movie"? That would be debatable. In my opinion, Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity bags that title. Even Christopher Nolan's Interstellar and Ridley Scott's The Martian were better than Ad Astra. But this film does have something going for it, which is the excellent lunar chase sequence. That's something new I haven't seen before onscreen, so good job.

Anyway, I've run out of things to say. I'm just waiting for this film's video release, so I can rewatch it again. Who knows, it might actually be better the second time around.

This looks very Lego.



Ad Astra. USA/China. 2019.



Rating: 6.5/10
Lunar chase sequence: +0.1
Final rating: 6.6/10
YouTube

Da Couch Tomato, Episode 7, discussing Netflix's The King, the importance of historical films, and how good special effects are those that go unnoticed.

Background music used is The King's musical score by Nicholas Brittel.

Hosts: Sting Lacson and Rachel

YouTube

Da Couch Tomato Podcast, Episode 6, discussing Netflix's The Laundromat, underutilising the stellar cast, and the unusual approach used by director Steven Soderbergh.

Background music used is "Rodney Yates" by David Holmes, who also composed The Laundromat's musical score.

Hosts: Sting Lacson and Rachel

YouTube

Da Couch Tomato Podcast, Episode 5, discussing Jerrold Tarog's Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral, this film's place in the trilogy, and Goyo as an old-timey fuccboi.

Hosts: Sting Lacson and Giosi Mendoza

She could've come in handy during Hagibis.

Okay, so this is the new film by Makoto Shinkai, who's apparently a big name in Japan.

I guess you could say I am a casual fan of anime. Not a die-hard fan. But I do appreciate the beauty of the art form.

Story-wise, Weathering With You is a simple romance, about Hodaka, a runaway boy who becomes an apprentice in a publishing company, and Hina, an orphan girl with the power to control the weather. The film has just the right amount of supernatural to be considered as magical realism. The famous anime filmmaker, Hayao Miyazaki, has stories that are all-out in their supernatural elements. In "Weathering With You", the supernatural is subdued and dialled down, which makes for a more relatable movie, especially for older fans.

The animation is always a glorious sight to behold. Japanese animation has reached a point now where traditional hand-drawn animation and computer-generated imagery (CGI) have formed a perfect marriage, with the two different media complementing each other beautifully instead of clashing together horribly, like in the early days of CGI.

Apart from the visuals, the soundtrack also seems to be very popular, especially with the younger kids. Not a big fan of J-Pop myself, but my teenage son is, and he can sing along to the soundtrack despite probably not knowing what the lyrics mean.

All in all, a wonderful work of art, and I am seriously very curious about Makoto Shinkai's earlier film, Your Name, which I am quite eager to watch.

"I hope no one notices me scratching my butt."



Weathering With You. Japan. 2019.



Original rating: 7.9/10
Animation: +0.1
No animated sex: -0.1
Final rating: 7.9/10
"Let's try and do that dance John Travolta did in Pulp Fiction."

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is the ninth film from director Quentin Tarantino (Kill Bill Volumes 1 and 2 count as one film). He's famously quoted as dead set on doing only ten films during his career, so I guess that leaves just one more film left before he supposedly retires.

After watching this film, I've come to a not-so-shocking discovery: Quentin Tarantino is actually not the Hollywood wunderkind a lot of people think him to be.

That wasn't some haphazardly drawn conclusion as well. Tarantino displayed some directorial lapses in this film, lapses that may be forgiven for first-time directors, but not for someone who's on his ninth film. Actually, I counted only two lapses, but that's still two more than what should be expected of him. The two lapses I'm talking about involve a mismatched cut, and a horribly composed shot. There's also a minor lapse in the very first scene, but I'll let that slide because 1) it's more of having a feeling that something's off rather than being able to pinpoint what's off exactly; and 2) I watched this to be entertained, not to nitpick.

By the way, I'm not here to bash Quentin Tarantino's work. What he has going for him, definitely, is his original storytelling. Each and every single Tarantino-directed film is an original screenplay. He's never been lured by the chance to direct a superhero flick, or a film based on a book. Tarantino's films have their own cinematic universe, and I can think of no other filmmaker right now who never took off his auteur cap in his entire career.

"I would say Chris Nolan, but he doesn't really write his own stuff."

Moving on to the actual review, I'd like to start with the acting. This film has two great actors in the lead roles, thanks to Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, who play the actor-stuntman tandem of Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth. Now the dynamics of that relationship is quite complicated: the actor of course is seen as higher than a stuntman in the Hollywood pecking order, and this is reflected in Cliff Booth's other job as Dalton's driver. I think DiCaprio and Pitt were able to pull it off, although there are instances where you see them as equals rather than the pseudo-employer-employee relationship the two of them should have. You with me so far? I told you it's quite complicated.

I have also come to realise that Tarantino's foot fetish is now officially creepy. I mean, I wouldn't mind close-ups of feet, as long as it propels the story forward. But to show feet close-ups just for the sake of showing them? No, thank you. He even gave Dakota Fanning's feet some considerable screen time, and I've also just realised that Dakota Fanning has hideous feet.

And finally, my main problem with Tarantino movies – and this is just me – is his use of alternate realities. Some people call this "revisionist fiction", but I'll just stick to calling it alternate realities. Tarantino did this before in Inglorious Basterds, where the Basterds ended up killing Adolf Hitler (which we all know didn't happen at all). In this film, the Tate murders never happened, and the Manson Family killers ended up dead at the hands of Dalton and Booth. What's my problem with alternate realities, you ask? I don't know how to properly explain it, but I am of the opinion that realities must be kept separate. Sure, there can be an infinite number of realities, each one different from the others, but they must never merge. Sure, you can travel between realities, from one reality to another, but they must never merge. Why? Because merging realities is the first step to insanity. And when one takes the first step of the journey to insanity, coherence and clarity are the first to go.

"How about an alternate reality where I do a Tony Montana as Michael Corleone?"



Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. USA/UK/China. 2019.



Original rating: 7.6/10
Al Pacino: +0.1
Brad Pitt: +0.1
Not enough Margot Robbie: -0.1
Margaret Qualley's armpit hair: -0.2
Old school Columbia Pictures logo: +0.1
Luke Perry: +0.1
Terrible Bruce Lee portrayal: -0.1
Charles Manson being played by same actor who played Manson in Netflix's Mindhunter: +0.1
Tarantino's foot fetish: -0.1
Final rating: 7.8/10
ALDEN: Damn, I think I sharted.
KATH: What the hell is that smell?

You could say I am a fan of romantic comedies, or "rom-coms" for those people too lazy to type or talk four syllables more. Rom-coms are my third favourite movie genre, after time travel and science-fiction. And biopics. Sorry, rom-coms are my fourth favourite movie genre.

Hello, Love, Goodbye (for brevity's sake, the title shall be referred to henceforth as HLG), however, is not really a comedy. There's more drama in it than comedy. So I guess this is a romantic drama. But it's not the type that would make you bawl your eyes out; there are actually still some comedic elements. So is this a what they call a dramedy? Ugh. I hate that word. So forced.

Anyway, I am a big fan of Kathryn Bernardo. I find her really pretty. She has a face you could stare at all day. Not a big fan of KathNiel, though, as I find Daniel Padilla really annoying. Just Kath.

"What, he said just you."

Also, I'm not an Alden Richards fan. Alden is okay, acting-wise. Some people may think he's a hunk, but he's not. He's just a plain old Joe, and I don't understand how he got to matinee idol-status. However, the Alden-Kath dynamic works, for some strange reason. They do have chemistry, both of them, and chemistry between two people doesn't always have to be sexual.

You know the usual movie trope where the setting plays a character? Kind of like how Fargo, North Dakota plays a character in the Coen Brothers 1996 film Fargo. I think the writers missed an opportunity here to let the setting, in this case Hong Kong, play a very strong character. Both leads play overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), and the country does play a huge part in the OFW culture.

On that note, HLG could also have been used to make a strong political statement about OFWs, the Filipino diaspora, and the separation of families. However, the filmmakers chose to stay on the safe side, which is okay, I guess. Dipping even a toe in the waters of political statements could turn the mood around for this film quicker than cops in a college frat party, which the filmmakers don't want, in any case. This is supposed to be a rom-com, after all.

All in all, a decent film from director Cathy Garcia-Molina. But I would have wanted more Kathryn Bernardo. She would probably be awesome as an action heroine. Please make it happen, Universe. Thank you.

"This drink is from that guy over there who looks like Daniel Padilla."



Hello, Love, Goodbye. Philippines. 2019.



Original rating: 7.3/10
Not enough Kathryn Bernardo: -0.1
Too much Alden Richards: -0.1
Cacai Bautista: +0.1
Thinking Lovely Abella was an actual OFW: +0.1
Final rating: 7.3/10
"This franchise has nowhere to go but up!"

Hobbes and Shaw is the first spin-off of a franchise that ran relatively long (eight movies by my count), and by the looks of it, it might continue for a few more movies. That's because the filmmakers understood one very important piece of knowledge: human beings love action, fast cars, and hot women.

I'm guessing no one saw this coming, though. Who would've thought it would be relative franchise newcomers Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham that would take the wheel of the spin-offs? Everyone was thinking it would have been Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris in the spin-offs before The Rock and Statham came along. And Gibson hasn't been secretive about is displeasure with the direction the producers were taking.

You know what I think? I think the reason the producers ditched Gibson and Ludacris for Johnson and Statham was chemistry. Sure, Gibson and Ludacris had chemistry, but it was more because they had shared status as the franchise's comic relief. But Hobbes and Shaw is a different combination altogether: they're an action duo, they can fight, and they are also a natural comic duo. That's like a three-for-the-price-of-one promo. Their rivalry is evident, but their chemistry is undeniable.

Anyway, let's go to Idris Elba. Black Superman? Of course he is. I'm just not sure why no one even claimed that title before. Maybe no one dared use it? I don't know. If anyone was going to be called Black Superman, you'd think he'd come from the world of sports, like an athlete or something. But Elba shows us his athleticism in this film, and I wouldn't be surprised if he actually did most, if not all, of his stunts for this movie.

"I still have a full head of hair, motherfuckers!"

As far as action heroines go, Vanessa Kirby is fast becoming my favourite. You wouldn't have thought that from seeing her in The Crown, but after Mission: Impossible – Fallout, I think she showed the world that she can go toe-to-toe with her male co-stars in giving a good onscreen ass-whooping.

But even without Vanessa Kirby, or even without any female lead for that matter, audiences will still flock to see this flick because of the car chase sequences. This is, after all, still part of the Fast & Furious franchise, and this film becomes nothing without the fast cars. The chase sequences will leave you on the edge of your seat with all the adrenaline, and the stunt driving is so good that there definitely has to be some CGI in there somewhere. If there isn't, God bless you, stunt drivers. The world is definitely a better place with you.

Finally, for the first time in the franchise, we get to see Samoa. Personally, I think taking the Fast & Furious franchise to off-road locations wouldn't work in the long run. Not that it's not practical, it's just that stunt driving looks absolutely breathtaking when the cars weave in and out of traffic, and you can't really do that driving in the jungle. So beautiful as it is, I hope the producers don't come back to Samoa. I mean, if they want to go back there, at least let them do shoot the chase sequences in downtown Apia. That's Samoa's capital, for those too lazy to Google.

"Is that Idris Elba getting his own spin-off?"



Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbes and Shaw. USA. 2019.



Original rating: 7.4/10
Vanessa Kirby's hotness: +0.1
Helen Mirren: +0.1
Kevin Hart: +0.1
Ryan Reynolds: 0.1
Roman Reigns: +0.05
Samoa looking like Mindanao: +0.05
Final rating: 7.9/10
"Akala ko game ka talaga magpakalbo."

All in all, a commendable effort from Michael V. That's commendable, not laudable. There's a difference.

The story of Family History is pretty solid: a married couple going through a crisis, reminiscing about the good old days. The screenplay, however, needs improvement. Yes, the story isn't the screenplay; again, there's a difference.

Early in the movie, there was a sequence which focused on Alex (Michael V), which was supposed to be the turn of events from his point of view. The next sequence was then more or less the same, with slight variations, because this time it is told from his wife May (Dawn Zulueta)'s point of view. Personally, I would not have fallen into the trap of using this technique, which was reminiscent of Groundhog Day. This technique is best used with multiple characters, and the timeline is short enough to be repeated. That said, using the technique in just a part of the movie, with just a few characters, does not work.

The acting was all right, especially Michael V's performance, which was the strongest performance in the entire film. Dawn Zulueta, sadly, delivered her lines in the sing-song manner typical of movie stars. Paolo Contis was all right, but then you realise that most of his roles are practically the same, so that's not really an achievement, while Kakai Velasquez was terrific as the film's comic relief. The best performance, in my opinion, was Nonie Buencamino, but unfortunately, his screen time was limited due to his supporting role.

The cinematography was all right, except for just one tiny mistake. In the bar scene, where Michael V, Contis, and Buencamino were discussing their problems over drinks, the overhead light was so strong that you could see it penetrating Nonie Buencamino's ears. Human ears, for those who don't know, are not opaque; they are slightly transluscent. That means if you shine a light bright enough behind someone's ears, the light will shine through. And that's what happened in this scene. The back light was so strong it turned Buencamino's ears pink. It was distracting.

Given that this is Michael V's first, I'll let some things slide. He could have added more of those animation sequences, like way more, given that Alex was an animator, after all. My main problem with his directing was that he treated the sequences like sketches from Bubble Gang. Yes, having some comedic moments can diffuse the tension in a heavy drama, but not to the point that the jokes upstage the narrative.

All in all, a commendable work, and I was entertained enough to give the director another chance with his next film.

"Ayaw mo mag-podcast nalang, Bitoy?"




Family History. Philippines. 2019.



Original rating:
Dawn Zulueta's hotness: +0.1
Eugene Domingo: +0.1
Final rating: 6.9/10
"Mama just killed a man... Oh wait."

The entire premise of the film is pretty straightforward: What would happen if you woke up one day and found that the Beatles never existed? I'm not just talking about the Beatles as a band; I'm also talking about their entire catalogue of songs. What's a world like without Beatles songs?

Frankly, as a writer myself, I was concerned about how the filmmakers intended to sustain this premise. I was pretty sure they wouldn't take the easy way out by having Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) wake up in the end to find out it was all a dream. That's downright lazy screenwriting, and although I didn't know that much about Richard Curtis (who penned the screenplay), I knew Danny Boyle wasn't having any of that.

Anyway, since this is about the Fab Four, let's analyse this film with these four points.

1. The direction
It's Danny Boyle. That's it. Danny Boyle is one of the few directors I would watch in a heartbeat, even without knowing what the film would be about. "Oh, it's Danny Boyle? Here, take my money." Boyle is a master of editing and pacing. The montage sequences have the feel of a music video – very dynamic and fast-paced, reminiscent of the late Tony Scott, another favourite director of mine.

2. The story
You'd think the filmmakers would've focused on just the disappearance of the Beatles songs, but they didn't. To make it more realistic, other things in that universe disappeared as well: the band Oasis (plus their entire catalogue), the beverage Coca-Cola, the entire Harry Potter franchise, and cigarettes. That's because the focus of the story isn't actually the disappearance of the Beatles. It's actually the love story between Malik and his long-time manager Ellie (Lily James). So the Beatles thing was more a set-up that would've seemed like a gimmick, were it not for Curtis's screenplay.

"I dare you to do a stage dive into that sea of extras."

3. The performances
Himesh Patel is a natural, both musically and acting-wise. Also, the fact that he isn't white brings a whole new level of realism to the movie, and the fact that he isn't an onscreen pretty boy helps in emphasising his relatability to regular folk like us.

Lily James is adorable. That's all I can say. Kate McKinnon, on the other hand, was awesome. She captured the money-hungry mentality prevalent in showbusiness, with her deadpan delivery reminiscent of Saturday Night Live sketches.

The most memorable performance would have to be Ed Sheeran. He plays a douchebag version of himself, which is totally believable, though I'm not really sure if he's a douche in real life.

4. The music
The songs, of course, comprise an almost all-Beatle repertoire because, obviously, this is a film about the Beatles. Well, not really about them, but you get what I'm saying. I thought the filmmakers missed an opportunity to perform Oasis songs as well, but on the other hand, Oasis is like a Beatles spin-off anyway. Just kidding, I like Oasis. Okay, let's change that to "Beatles-inspired". Happy?

Anyway, Ed Sheeran plays a new song in the scene where he challenges Jack Malik to an on-the-spot songwriting contest. It's a wonderful song, but those who tried searching for that song might be disappointed, because as of this writing, it hasn't been released yet. I'm not sure if that particular song was the same one played in the end credits, but Richard Curtis reveals that song to be "One Life".


So how did this movie end? Was it all a dream? No, it wasn't. It really happened in the film's universe, the Beatles songs disappearing. They kept that up all the way to the end. So in a sense, this is like science fiction, as this would be an alternate timeline.

But how did this all begin, anyway? What caused this alternate timeline shift to a world without the Beatles? The answer: a glitch in the Matrix. That's all it is. So that makes this definitely science fiction. I think.

"I'm sorry, but you're not famous enough to be on my Carpool Karaoke."



Yesterday. UK/Russia/China. 2019.



Original rating: 8.1/10
Game of Thrones's Joel Fry as Rocky: +0.1
Robert Carlyle as John Lennon: +0.1
Ed Sheeran's new song: +0.1
Danny Boyle's transitions: +0.1
Richard Curtis's writing: +0.1
Final rating: 8.6/10
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