Da Couch Tomato

An attempt at a new layout, with horrible glitches, and very minimal knowledge of HTML.

DCT Podcast Episode 12: The Irishman


Da Couch Tomato Podcast, Episode 12, discussing The Irishman, the powerhouse cast, and how long running times and de-aging might be the next trends.

Background music used is "Theme for The Irishman" from The Irishman musical score by Robbie Robertson.

Hosts: Sting Lacson and Rachel


DCT Podcast Episode 11: Ford v Ferrari

The Economic Times

Da Couch Tomato Podcast, Episode 11, discussing Ford v Ferrari, the awesome sound design, and the importance of great story.

Background music used is the Ford v Ferrari musical score by Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders.

Hosts: Sting Lacson and Rachel


DCT Podcast Episode 10: Frozen II

Walt Disney Animation Studios on YouTube

Da Couch Tomato Podcast, Episode 10, discussing Frozen II, the importance of short films, and having black people in Arendelle.

Background music used is the Frozen II musical score by Christophe Beck.

Hosts: Sting Lacson and Rachel


DCT Podcast Episode 9: Charlie's Angels (2019)


Da Couch Tomato Podcast, Episode 9, discussing Charlie's Angels (2019), Elizabeth Banks's manly directing, and the girl power movement in Hollywood.

Background music used is the Charlie's Angels musical score by Brian Tyler.

Hosts: Sting Lacson and Rachel


DCT Podcast Episode 8: Dolemite Is My Name


Da Couch Tomato Podcast, Episode 8, discussing Netflix's Dolemite Is My Name, Eddie Murphy's stellar career, and Ruth E. Carter's costume design.

Background music used is Dolemite Is My Name's musical score by Scott Bomar.

Hosts: Sting Lacson and Rachel


Review: Ad Astra IMAX, or Not As Spectacular As I Hoped It Would Be

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


DCT Podcast: Episode 7 – The King


Da Couch Tomato Podcast, 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


DCT Podcast: Episode 6 – The Laundromat


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


DCT Podcast: Episode 5 – Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral


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


Review: Weathering With You, or Animé Is so Beautiful

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


Review: Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood, or Has It Really Been Nine Films Already?

"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


Review: Hello, Love, Goodbye, or How Long Before We Get a Kathryn Bernardo Action Movie?

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


Review: Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbes and Shaw, or The Rock and Statham Are Probably the New Laurel and Hardy

"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


Review: Family History, or GMA Film's Comeback Could Have Been Better

"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


Review: Yesterday, or 4 Reasons This Is Worth Watching

"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


Random Thoughts: The Lion King, or I Wonder What David Attenborough Thought of This

"Is this John, Paul, George, or Ringo?"

Before we begin, I'd just like to say that I don't really like comparing a remake with the original version, as I'd like to judge the remake on its own merits. That said, I would like to make an exception with this film, as comparisons between the original and the remake cannot be avoided.

1. The "Circle of Life" intro was spectacular. It's an almost shot-for-shot recreation of the 1994 animated version, bringing the photorealistic animals to the forefront along with the music. The filmmakers retained the original opening chant by Lebo M, but replaced the original vocals of Carmen Twillie with Lindiwe Mkhize. And if you loved the Zulu chanting, you can thank Hans Zimmer for that. That was all his idea. (If you listen closely, you can even hear the Zulu tongue click.)

2. Speaking of Hans Zimmer, that man is a genius. His name may be very familiar to moviegoers everywhere, but what you probably didn't know is that despite his decades in the business, he only has one Academy Award, and that was in 1994 for Best Original Score for The Lion King. But does he really need another Oscar to cement his status in Hollywood? No, he doesn't. He is a wonderful musician, despite not having any formal musical training, and he will continue to be one of my all-time favourite film composers.

3. The only dynamic in this movie that truly works is the one between Timon and Pumbaa. That's because Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen recorded most, if not all, of their lines together, and their chemistry is just so natural that children watching this wouldn't doubt that a meerkat and a warthog could be friends in real life.

4. By comparison, Donald Glover was perfect as the adult Simba, while Beyoncé Knowles-Carter was perfect as the adult Nala. But that's individually. Together, there's something a bit off. Their dynamic just doesn't work well as a duo, and I'd chalk that up to faulty chemistry.

5. Chiwetel Ejiofor, meanwhile, is brilliant as Scar. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that Chiwetel Ejiofor is this film's strongest asset. His Scar performance was subtle and nuanced enough to bring it up to the same level as Jeremy Irons's excellent performance in the animated version. The only downside, I guess, is that Ejiofor's rendition of "Be Prepared" dwelled more in spoken word territory than actual singing, but that doesn't really matter. Lions can't really sing, anyway.

Ladies and gentlemen, the real star of the show.

6. The good thing about Disney's catalogue is that it is so extensive, you can make pop culture references in any Disney film and not worry about trademark infringement. Here in this film, Pumbaa and Timon made a Beauty and the Beast reference, specifically Lumiere's intro to "Be Our Guest" in Beauty and the Beast. Of course, that's one Disney film referencing another Disney film, but think of the possibilities: A Disney film can reference something from Pixar, Marvel, or Star Wars, because these are also owned by Disney.

7. Photorealistic animals are creepy when they talk. That's of course because of the way their mouths are. I think the only animal that could pull off human speech would be the great apes, which is why Planet of the Apes works so well. That's because heir mouths are similar to humans, specifically their lips, tongue, and teeth – three elements that affect speech. Director Jon Favreau could have gone with altered photorealism instead, similar to The Jungle Book or The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, instead of going for a BBC nature documentary look.

8. One of the nice things about this remake is the updated anti-shaming lesson given by Pumbaa. In the original film, Pumbaa goes on a tirade after the hyenas call him "Mr. Pig". Here, Seth Rogen expands on his admonition by stating that what the hyenas are doing is actually considered body-shaming, and he calls them out on it. Nice move by the writers, since body-shaming has been identified as one of the biggest social problems in the Instagram age.

9. "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" is an old song, like really old. The original song was recorded in 1939, but the version most of us are familiar with, the one by The Tokens, was released in 1961. I first encountered this song watching a short-lived children's afternoon show called Going Bananas in the 80s, and I've loved the song ever since. The original 1994 animated film had Timon and Pumbaa singing a few lines, but in the 2019 version, they went all out and sang more than half of the song.

10. Rafiki is a shaman. I just realised that now, of course. When I was a kid, the only shaman I knew was a character in the animated series Bravestarr. I became interested in shamanism and sorcery in college, and by then my Lion King days were behind me. It was only after watching this 2019 remake that I realised Rafiki is in fact the most powerful animal in the Pride Lands.

11. John Oliver wasn't as good as Rowan Atkinson as the voice of the hornbill Zazu. It's kind of obvious that he was going for an Atkinson-like performance, but he came off as a sort of poor imitation. Kids who haven't seen the old version might see no problem with Oliver's performance, but the real question is this: How could those parents allow their kids to go through life without having seen the original Lion King?

This shot is so iconic that it's enough to give 90s kids goosebumps.

The Lion King. USA. 2019.

Original rating: 8.5/10
No lion sex: -0.1
Final rating: 8.4/10


Random Thoughts: Spider-Man: Far From Home, or Superheroes and Teen Romance Can Co-Exist In the Same Movie

Bromance mode: on.

1. My god, Zendaya is so beautiful. I mean, Laura Harrier was hot, but Zendaya's beauty is on a whole other level.

2. Not many superhero movies focus on love stories. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a superhero/detective movie, or to quote my review from 2014, "it's a thriller mystery that just happens to be set in the Marvel Universe". Spider-Man: Far From Home in my opinion is a great teenage love story that just happens to be set in the MCU. You know it's a great love story if it makes you feel giddy as a schoolboy again.

3. Okay, with Mysterio using state-of-the-art holograms, I guess that makes him the MCU super villain that's hardest to beat. His power is similar to the X-Men villain Mastermind, except Mysterio uses technology and not mutant powers. Since Mysterio messes up one's sense of sight and sound (his illusions are visual and auditory in nature), I guess the heroes that stand a chance of easily defeating him would be Wolverine (he can sniff him out) and Daredevil, I guess. So yay for Spidey and his Peter Tingle!

4. The scene with Peter Parker swinging through the streets and canals of Venice is one of the most visually spectacular scenes in the film. I guess we've gotten so used to the costumed Spider-Man doing the webslinging, so seeing a human form do those aerial acrobatics is indeed a sight to behold. Plus, it doesn't look as fake as, say, the special effects ten years ago.

5. Ah, Marisa Tomei. She remains sexy as ever. She's an Oscar winner, by the way, did you know that? Well, that's probably slipped your mind, but it doesn't matter. She isn't in this movie to flex her acting muscles, anyway.

6. Aunt May dating Happy Hogan is hilarious. Happy has always been this arrogant adult around the web-slinging teenager, although he still acts quite smug about his romantic intrusion into the Parker household. Peter Parker not whooping Happy's ass just goes to show how well May and Ben raised their nephew. I'd have given Happy a hard time if I were in Peter's place.

7. Okay, why does Peter get to call his aunt by her first name? Maybe it's an American thing, but that's kind of a no-no in Philippine culture. So what if it was his late Uncle Ben that was his biological relative? May Parker is still his aunt by marriage, and as such deserves to be called by something that connotes respect.

7. Wow. J. Jonah Jameson is still played by J.K. Simmons. In Hollywood, when one says "reboot", the entire cast and creative team is scrapped in favour of new players. Tom Holland is the third screen iteration of Spider-Man, and his version is the second reboot. J. Jonah Jameson appeared in the first iteration with Tobey Maguire, was absent in the Andrew Garfield reboot, and then reappears in this film in the end credits scene. The only reason I can think of why Marvel decided to stick with J.K. Simmons is because that man IS J. Jonah Jameson. Although I'm sure a bit of casting effort can give the audience a new J. Jonah Jameson, everybody knows J.K. Simmons was born to play the part.

8. In relation to the above, I would argue that J.K. Simmons isn't the first Marvel character to play the same role in a franchise reboot. That belongs to William Hurt, who played General Ross in the Edward Norton iteration of The Incredible Hulk, and also played the same character in Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Endgame. Except the last two weren't really Hulk movies, so yeah. It's complicated.

8. Martin Starr is an awesome. I only know him as Gilfoyle from HBO's Silicon Valley, but I can tell how good an actor he is, because his entire character is different. Gilfoyle is a lazy, arrogant Satanist with a deep voice, while as Mr. Harrington, he is a believable high school teacher managing day-to-day school stress.

9. The black and red Spidey costume is actually pretty cool. The Spidey costume I was used to was the old red and blue suit, the blue of which could range anywhere from RGB blue to dark navy blue. Seeing red and black on this iteration of Spider-Man was a welcome surprise indeed. The one in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse doesn't count, beause that one's dominantly black with red highlights.

10. What's up with Nick Fury? So was he a shape-shifting Skrull all along? How long has this been going on? Also, why the twist? I know this is the end of Marvel s Phase 3, but what does that mean for Phase 4 if Nick Fury wasn't who we thought he was all along? Ugh, so many unanswered questions.

"Slow down, I need to be nearer the camera. Because you're taller than me."

Spider-Man: Far From Home. USA. 2019.

Original rating: 8.6/10
No Zendaya nudity: -0.1
No Marisa Tomei nudity: -0.1
Jake Gyllenhaal: +0.1
Samuel L. Jackson: +0.1
Jon Watts's directing: +0.1
Final rating: 8.5/10


Random Thoughts: Rocketman, or This Is Better Than Bohemian Rhapsody

"Freddie Mercury's got nothing on me."

1. I came across Dexter Fletcher as an actor in HBO's Band of Brothers and Guy Ritchie's Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. That's why it came as a pleasant surprise that he can actually direct. I don't know why, but I have great respect for actors-turned-directors. It shows a seriousness to the craft, and a love of the art form. He actually took over the director's chair in last year's Bohemian Rhapsody after some production problems forced the studio to fire Bryan Singer, although Singer retained sole directing credit. Rocketman gives Fletcher full credit, and the director totally deserves it.

2. Taron Egerton is one underrated actor. This has already been pretty evident from 2015's Eddie the Eagle. He's not the typical Hollywood pretty boy (maybe because he's Brit), and he doesn't have the standard multi-ethnic American look (also maybe because he's Brit). It's not his looks, though, that needs to be utilised. It's his acting chops.

3. Speaking of underrated actors, so is Jamie Bell. He's very low-key in almost every movie he's in, able to blend into his role, and not standing out as one of those "Hey, I know that guy, he looks familiar" kind of actors. I think both Taron and Jamie Bell are underrated because they are not boxed into specific molds. They aren't chiseled action stars, or boys-next-door, or leading man types: they're versatile. That said, Jamie Bell played Bernie Taupin marvelously because, as in real life, Taupin never upstaged Elton John, but contentedly remained behind the scenes.

4. Admittedly, I am not a huge Elton fan. I do know a lot of his songs, though, and I can sing some of them from memory. That's how popular he was. Apparently, his discography goes way deeper than the usual karaoke staples, and Rocketman introduces most viewers to a body of work any musician would aspire for. For those experiencing Elton John for the very first time, this film acts as a pretty comprehensive introduction to the man and his music.

5. Magical realism is a technique or style in fiction that "uses magical elements to make a point about reality". It is used more in literature, popularised by the literary giants of Latin America, but it is also used in cinema, although not as many films have pulled it off correctly (the ones of note are the French film Amelie from 2001 and Tim Burton's Big Fish from 2003). The correct way to utilise magical realism is by using the technique sparingly: make the established reality appear solidly real enough, with the magical elements acting merely like sprinkles on the ice cream of reality. Dexter Fletcher's decision to use magical realism to tell Elton John's life story has been one of the best decisions in the making of this film.

"Are you supposed to be a bird of paradise or something?"
"Nope. A sarimanok."

6. Hairspray is a musical. Les Misérables is a musical. Ray is a biopic. Bohemian Rhapsody – if you'll agree that it's about Freddie Mercury and not Queen – is a biopic. Rocketman, however, straddles both worlds: Rocketman is a musical biopic. A biopic is a feature film about a certain person, which makes it biographical in nature, and is usually told as straight-up storytelling. A musical, on the other hand, uses song and dance in lieu of the usual dialogue exchange (it can be for some scenes, or it can be for all scenes). Rocketman does both: it tells the story of Elton John, and it uses song and dance to tell that story. Song and dance numbers in musical biopics are not merely incidental to the story; they are an integral part of the story.

7. Richard Madden's hair is annoying. I guess I got so used to him as Robb Stark that even the sight of him without facial hair is annoying. But it's not just his facial hair (or actually the lack thereof) that bugs me. It's his sleazeball hairdo, combed to the side and long at the back, like some douchebag from Elizabethan times. It's very cringe-worthy, in my opinion. Ugh.

8. If you've known Elton John in his early days, you'd know he was a flamboyant showman, given to loud and extravagant costumes. I wouldn't say they're 100% accurate, but I'd say they're pretty close. There's even a side-by-side comparison in the end credits, showing the real photographs beside the modern recreation, and you can see there are very small, very subtle differences in the wardrobe used. It's the spirit that matters, anyway, not the one-to-one correspondence down to the last sequin. Nobody really cares about that.

9. A musical is an audio-visual experience. The songs and music, those are the audio part. The visual part would be the dance and choreography. These visual elements work very well for Rocketman because of the gorgeous camera movements and the smooth transitions. I wouldn't be surprised if they adapted this into a theatre musical for Broadway or the West End.

10. It doesn't really matter if Taron Egerton can't play piano. In case you noticed it, there are no shots showing Taron's hands actually playing the piano. He probably knows how to play a little, but not enough to fake being a virtuoso like Elton. His performance is believable enough, and his acting as sincere as it can get, that no one really cares if he's actually playing piano or not.

"Just stay in the background, Madden, your hair sucks."

Rocketman. UK/USA/Canada. 2019.

Original rating: 8.4/10
Bryce Dallas Howard: +0.1
Stephen Graham: +0.2
Final rating: 8.7/10


Review: Toy Story 4, or Ugh I Hope This Is the Last

Strangely, Duke Caboom looks a lot like Keanu Reeves.

I've said this over and over again: I am not a fan of sequels for profit's sake.

That said, Toy Story 4 should not have been made. Toy Story 3 would have been the perfect closer, as the entire Toy Story franchise would've focused on Andy and his relationship with his toys. We began with Andy as a young boy, and ended with Andy going off to college and passing on his toys to someone worthy of playing with these magical mischief-makers. Toy Story 3 was the perfect ending we all needed.

But that's that. Toy Story 4 did get made. So we're gonna have to deal with it.

The good thing about this fourth film is that it wasn't terrible. It wasn't bad at all. Well, it wasn't perfect, and neither was it great. It was just... good.

The rest of the cast, I believe, reprised their roles, led by Tom Hanks and Tim Allen as Woody and Buzz, Annie Potts as Bo Peep, Joan Cusack as Jessie, Wallace Shawn as the slightly neurotic Rex, John Ratzenberger as Hamm, and Don Rickles as Mr. Potato Head. But the best thing about this ensemble would be the new additions. Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele of Key and Peele fame play the amusement park stuffed toys Ducky and Bunny, Christina Hendricks plays the creepy doll Gabby Gabby, Tony Hale plays Forky, while the Internet's boyfriend Keanu Reeves plays Duke Caboom, the Canadian daredevil with a penchant for motorbikes. If only a ten-movie deal were in order, these new guys definitely need to be back.

The thing that ties the whole four-film series together would be Randy Newman's music, which has Toy Story written all over it. Newman's country-like drawl set to the soothing sounds of acoustic steel guitars has been the series's signature sound since Toy Story's debut in 1995, and to deviate from that now would be alienating to the fans, especially those who didn't want a fourth movie in the first place.

All in all, Toy Story 4 feels like an epilogue. But not just your usual epilogue – it feels like an epilogue that forces its nostalgia on its viewers, sort of like having a completely wrapped trilogy and then going, "Hey, wait! We still have more little anecdotes to share! Don't leave!" Honestly, though, I hope this is the end of the series. New and original films are what's missing in Hollywood right now, and it seems that even the pre-movie Pixar short film, the last great venue of original animated storytelling, was taken out of the equation. Bring it back, please.

"Nah, I don't think we're getting our own spin-off."

Toy Story 4. USA. 2019.

Original rating: 8.0/10
Rashida Jones as one of the story writers: +0.1
Badass Bo Peep: +0.1
No Pixar short: -0.3
Final rating: 7.9/10


Random Thoughts: Men In Black: International, or Let's Take This Franchise In a Whole New Direction

"If you're black and I'm white, does that make me Tommy Lee Jones?"

1. Tessa Thompson rocks. I'm not really sure if she's a lesbian in real life, but she is hot. She rocked Westworld, she rocked being an Asgardian, and she sure can hell rock a black suit as a Man Woman In Black.

2. God, I really hate Chris Hemsworth. The guy's so good-looking, he can actually pull off pink slacks. Pink! I mean, not hot pink, or the warm pink that borders on fuchsia. It's baby pink. And he can pull it off without a hitch. Don't you just hate someone like that? 

3. Although this is technically a spin-off, MIB: International manages to retain the look and feel of the original trilogy. Usually, a spin-off is granted a blank slate, which the filmmakers could have used to their advantage. This was seen in films such as The Force Awakens, which paid homage to the look and feel of the original Star Wars saga while at the same time venturing off to explore uncharted territory to expand the universe. MIB: International does just that, and shows a lot of potential in universe-expansion should it decide to continue the International spin-off as a new trilogy. 

4. The black dreadlocked twins remind me of the twins in The Matrix Reloaded. They're also both like the coolest characters in their respective movies. 

5. I love the MIB font. I forgot what the font is called, although it is mentioned at the end credits. I just forgot to take note of it. So I guess I'll have to wait for the video release to catch it again. There are a lot of imitation typefaces out there, but I want the original one.

6. Chris Hemsworth isn't carrying the whole film, which is nice. You'd think that being the one with top billing, he'd carry the whole film, and that the entire thing would collapse without him. Definitely not true. Tessa Thompson can definitely hold her own, and I wouldn't be surprised if they decide to do a sequel with just her and without Hemsworth.

7. The alien character designs for the first three films feel very unique, like they actually belong to the Men In Black cinematic universe and nowhere else. The character designs for this film, on the other hand, feel more like Star Wars, like they had J.J. Abrams's seal of approval or something. That's a good thing, don't get me wrong; I guess I just miss the uniqueness of the old aliens.

8. Chris Hemsworth's comedic chops are what will probably fuel his acting career long after his good looks have faded away. We could already see glimpses of this from Thor: Ragnarok, and even his female co-stars in Ghostbusters had nothing but praise for how funny he is. I guess it's unfair to the rest of the males on this planet that Chris Hemsworth gets all the good looks and humour.

9. I miss Tony Shalhoub. His Jeebs character in the previous films was one of my favourite characters in this series, and short as it is, every second of his screen time is priceless. He could have had his own spin-off, God bless him.

10. Rebecca Ferguson was underused. Yeah, granted she had weird hair and four arms, but still. Or was that three arms? Whatever. If you have someone as beautiful as Rebecca Ferguson in your movie, you should make the most of it. I wish they'd shown more of her face, though. But I guess she chose this role for a reason, and that is to show the world that she's more than just a beautiful face. She actually can take on the weird roles, too.

"Just try not to gain weight for the sequel."

Men In Black: International. USA. 2019.

Original rating: 8.0/10
No Rebecca Ferguson nudity: -0.1
No Tessa Thompson nudity: -0.1
Emma Thompson: +0.1
Liam Neeson as the bad guy: -0.1
F. Gary Gray's direction: +0.1
Dreadlocked twins: +0.1
Kumail Nanjiani: +0.1
Final rating: 8.1/10


Review: Dark Phoenix, or Now We Can Finally Link the X-Men to the MCU

Why do most mutants have blue skin, anyway?

I am probably one of the few Marvel fans that wish the X-Men franchise would wrap up.

The franchise can be divided into two periods: the first would be the Patrick Stewart-Ian McKellen era, the second would be the James McAvoy-Michael Fassbender era. The two eras overlap slightly in 2014's X-Men: Days of Future Past, which for me is also the best film in the whole franchise.

As a kid, I was a Marvel fan, but the X-Men comics were my favourite. I owned The Dark Phoenix Saga compilation (I didn't really own it; I borrowed it from a classmate and never returned it), and I've read it several times before the pages turned brittle and gave up on me. Now that was a great read. I remember how I used to spend hours in my bedroom reading it, occasionally shifting to my drawing book, inspired to try my hand at drawing my own comics.

Okay, enough about that. This isn't a post reminiscing about my childhood.

There is a lot of focus in this film on Charles Xavier's guilt about Jean Grey's childhood. Both of Jean's parents died in a car accident, which was actually her fault. Now imagine a childhood trauma that strong, coupled with an insanely powerful mutant ability. That is a recipe for disaster right there; no wonder Jean Grey turned out as the damaged mutant she is. If this film teaches us any valuable lessons regarding mental health, it is that repressing memories is never good. But that's probably easier said than done.

Mystique's death at the hands of Jean Grey came as a blow to most viewers, but that would of course be a preferable death compared to just some lame gunshot wound to the head or falling off a cliff. Jennifer Lawrence has been the Raven most fans would remember, but only because the original Mystique practically never appeared without make-up. As this is (most probably) the last we'll see of JLaw in this franchise, it's only appropriate that she be given a proper dramatic send-off.

What would have made the Dark Phoenix saga complete was the presence of Wolverine. The unlikely pairing of Jean Grey and Logan is a favourite among comic book fans, and it was referenced in the first X-Men films with Famke Janssen and Hugh Jackman. I don't think it would've worked with Sophie Turner, though, seeing as Jackman is way older than her, and that any romantic tension between both of them would come off as pedophilia.

And finally, let's talk about Hans Zimmer's wonderful score. There's a part in the film's score where you can hear a ticking clock sound, and I thought to myself, "That sounds like Hans Zimmer's Dunkirk score." Turns out I was right. Before this film, Zimmer has only scored DC movies, making this his first foray into Marvel territory. Hopefully this won't be his last.

Too bad we won't be seeing her in the MCU.

Dark Phoenix. USA. 2019.

Original rating: 7.5/10
No Sophie Turner nudity: -0.1
No Jessica Chastain nudity: -0.1
Tye Sheridan looking like he has a VR headset: -0.1
Not enough Nightcrawler: -0.1
Not enough Peter Maximoff: -0.1
Simon Kinberg writing and directing: +0.1
Final rating: 7.1/10


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