Tag Archives: Movie reviews

culture by Philbert Dy

The Challenges of the War on Terror are Scaled Down in ‘The Wall’

The practical reality of soldiers fighting off unseen foes creates fairly effective drama.

NBHD movie 3 ticketsA few pithy lines of onscreen text explain the narrative context of The Wall. It is late 2007. George Bush has already declared victory in Iraq. Reconstruction has begun. Staff Sergeant Matthews (John Cena) and his spotter Sergeant Isaac (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) are scoping out a construction site that was a scene of a deadly attack. Convinced that whoever attacked is long gone, Matthews steps out of cover to get a closer look. He is then shot in the hip and taken down. Isaac goes after him, and is soon wounded as well. Isaac finds some cover behind a crumbling wall of loose stones, and with no resources whatsoever, must try to find a way to defeat an enemy that he can’t even see.Screen Shot 2017-05-25 at 1.50.59 PMThe movie is mainly made up of scenes of Isaac crawling in the dirt, pushing through the pain of his injury, helpless to really do anything else. For reasons that only become clear much later on, his invisible foe is taunting him over the radio, prodding him to have a conversation. The movie keeps the action limited and horrifically lethal. The protagonists never really seem to be more than a couple minutes away from death, their opponent too competent, their injuries too severe. And it is through this desperate situation that the film effectively scales down the ideological abstractions of the war on terror.Screen Shot 2017-05-25 at 1.51.37 PMIt doesn’t always work, though. Too much of the conversation between Isaac and the enemy sniper involves a backstory that never really becomes engaging. There isn’t a whole lot gained in exploring the psychology of the main character, his revelations ultimately less effective than the bigger metaphors at play. The film, through the basic elements of its plot, posits a greater pathology to America’s presence in the Middle East. The method and the reasoning portrayed in the picture make a fair case for the intractability of the conflict, with these men trapped in a cycle that can only lead to more death.Screen Shot 2017-05-25 at 1.52.42 PMAnd so the film thrives best when it keeps it simple. It is at its most compelling when it just lingers on the awfulness of the situation. The film makes it clear in its most lucid moments that these soldiers are competent, but out of their depth. The enemy presented here, with his seemingly preternatural abilities, might be entirely fictional, but the metaphor holds up surprisingly well as long as it stays within the confines of the practical reality being presented. When it starts to dig up the past, the enemy starts to sound like a Bond villain, and that is detrimental to the overall effect of the movie.Screen Shot 2017-05-25 at 2.12.59 PMSubdued filmmaking and sparse production design help ground things as well. The movie is able to make the wide-open spaces of the setting feel like little more than a dusty, ugly prison. The film is more or less carried on the back of Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who is pretty much the only actor on screen for most of the movie. And like the rest of the movie, he works best when he is dealing purely with the physical present. He isn’t able to do anything to make his character’s shaky backstory any better.Screen Shot 2017-05-25 at 2.13.19 PMThe Wall benefits greatly from being succinct. At just under ninety minutes, the movie manages to get out before it outstays its welcome. Having said that, it still comes perilously close to becoming tedious, with long stretches of it devoted to backstory that feels like little more than an obligation. The movie thrives when it limits itself to the psychical world: the sand, the stone, the pierced flesh and broken bones. And somewhere out there, a man pointing a gun, promising death to soldiers who don’t really know why they’re there, fighting an enemy they do not fully comprehend.

THE WALL IS NOW SHOWING IN SELECTED CINEMAS NATIONWIDE.
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Philbert Dy
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Rogue.ph. Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.
culture by Philbert Dy

‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge’ is Robbed of All Passion

Jack Sparrow’s latest outing is a mechanical beast.

NBHD movie 2 ticketsPirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge (Dead Men Tell no Tales in other territories) introduces Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), son of the series’ Will Turner (Orlando Bloom). He has spent much of his life trying to find a way to free his father from the curse of the Dutchman. His only hope is a treasure known as Poseidon’s trident, which as legends have it, is impossible to find. He seeks out the services of notorious pirate Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), and gets some unexpected help from Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), a brilliant young woman with a scientific mind in search of answers regarding a father she never knew.Screen Shot 2017-05-23 at 10.41.40 PMOne should likely make mention of the villain: Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), a Spanish pirate hunter once defeated by Jack Sparrow, now the captain of an invincible ship of ghosts recently set free to sail the open seas once again. Captain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), his reign of the seas threatened by this supernatural crew, makes a deal with Salazar to help him find Sparrow and get his revenge. There are a lot of moving parts in this story, and the film barely makes an effort to make them all work together. It is just another soulless exercise in blockbuster filmmaking, the story secondary to the delivery of VFX spectacle.Screen Shot 2017-05-23 at 10.55.58 PMThe narrative can’t stand up to any scrutiny. The movie isn’t even really able to justify the involvement of Jack Sparrow in this story. If anything, the aloof, unpredictable pirate captain feels like a detriment to Henry Turner’s quest to find Poseidon’s trident. But he is there, because of course he’s there. He’s the franchise. The movie just takes his involvement for granted, and as with many of the other basic elements of the plot, it foregoes the rudiments of good storytelling in favor of narrative expedience. A character might state out loud that the only ship that can outrun Salazar is the Black Pearl. Cut to ten minutes later, and Salazar has caught up with the Black Pearl. Nothing is important. Nothing matters.Screen Shot 2017-05-23 at 10.43.04 PMIt becomes clear after a point that the film just wants to get to the big action set pieces as quickly as possible. And this would all be a little easier to swallow if those set pieces were any good. There are a handful of cool stunts, but the movie falls short of what previous installments have already done. It favors chaos over clarity, cutting wildly through scenes of frantic action that almost invariably take place under murky lighting. When you can actually see what’s going on, these sequences can be enjoyable. But that doesn’t happen often enough.Screen Shot 2017-05-23 at 10.50.35 PMNew cast members Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario have trouble making much of an impression. Not a lot of thought seems to have really put into the conception of their characters. They are both blandly heroic in the same way that their predecessors were, minus the chemistry and the necessary screen time that would give their romance any juice. Johnny Depp remains the central focus of the movie, and his shtick is really getting old. There is really much more to Jack Sparrow than a collection of affectations, and it’s clear that Depp has nothing else to offer in this role.Screen Shot 2017-05-23 at 10.54.28 PMPirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge is dreadfully passionless. For all of its romantic, pirate-y, swashbuckling aspirations, the movie feels like it was cobbled together by machines. It has no ambitions beyond extending the life of the franchise by introducing new, younger cast members, and delivering the same type of wacky action sequences that the series has been known for. There’s no trace of emotion left in any of its scenes, no sense that there is a person behind it who just really wants to tell a story.

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: SALAZAR’S REVENGE IS NOW SHOWING IN CINEMAS NATIONWIDE.
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Philbert Dy
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Rogue.ph. Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.
culture by Philbert Dy

‘Ang Araw sa Likod Mo’ Gets Tangled in the Trappings of Military Professionalism

Story and emotion give way to lingo and tactics in this advocacy film.

NBHD movie 2 ticketsAng Araw sa Likod Mo takes place in Basilan. Sgt. Benjie Calayan (Ping Medina) is leading a group of Army Rangers through the jungles, hot on the trail of a vicious terrorist. The military got a tip on the terrorist’s whereabouts from Jamil (Bong Cabrera), the nephew of the target, who just wants to get his family out of the war zone. But he soon learns that his brother Omar (Mike Liwag) has taken up with their uncle, having returned from Indonesia radicalized. Jamil ventures back into the jungle, hoping to talk his brother into leaving with him before the fighting starts up again.Screen Shot 2017-05-22 at 2.37.19 PMThe film is more or less splits itself up into two stories. Jamil very rarely interacts with the Rangers directly, splitting up the narrative into two distinct branches. Jamil’s story is the more interesting one, speaking of the kind of familial ties that can make conflict so complicated. But the film ultimately seems more interested in the actions of the Ranger team. It stays with them as they trudge through the jungle terrain, and listens in on conversations about the nature of their work, and the families that they have waiting for them back homeScreen Shot 2017-05-22 at 2.27.01 PMOne might note that there is an advocacy behind this film, and that the very point of the movie seems to be to highlight the courage and heroism of the Army Rangers. That said, the movie doesn’t really do a great job at it. It seems to get too caught up in being accurate about the way that these soldiers talk and move and carry out their operations. In all that, the movie struggles to give personality to these uniformed heroes. There is so much emphasis on them being a professional unit that it becomes difficult to engage with them as individual human characters.Screen Shot 2017-05-22 at 2.39.16 PMWhen the action starts, it’s abrupt and choppy. There is no sense of geography, with one light jungle backdrop blending in with the next, offering little context for the gunfights taking place. It is often unclear what the soldiers are shooting, or who is shooting at them. A sense of confusion can be a benefit in this kind of movie, especially when trying to portray the enemy as an amorphous foe. But this movie is ostensibly about how there are humans on both sides of this struggle, and a sense of clarity might have been better at conveying that idea.Screen Shot 2017-05-22 at 2.29.20 PMAnd in all this, the story between the brothers is lost. There are some interesting things said along the way, but the drama doesn’t really land in the way that it’s meant to. This is in spite of some decent performances from the cast. Bong Cabrera is tasked with embodying the conflict as a whole, basically playing a character who at one point or another, finds himself on all sides of the war, before finally landing on the realization that he wants nothing to do with any of it. It’s a thin line to walk, but Cabrera handles it pretty well. Ping Medina is solid as the lead Ranger, even though there isn’t a lot of personality showing through.Screen Shot 2017-05-22 at 2.36.22 PMAng Araw sa Likod Mo does have some worthy things to say. And the charity that it supports, The Hero Foundation, is a worthy cause that one might want to look into. But taken purely as a movie, it just doesn’t work. In focusing on the trappings of military professionalism, the movie doesn’t really get to the heart of its characters. And it doesn’t really display a nuanced understanding of the conflict. While there is no doubt that the movie’s heart is in the right place, it doesn’t end up being very good cinema.

ANG ARAW SA LIKOD MO OPENS ON MAY 24 IN SELECT CINEMAS NATIONWIDE.
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Philbert Dy
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Rogue.ph. Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.
culture by Philbert Dy

‘Dear Other Self’ Tells Two Boring Stories in One Boring Movie

Two timelines offer much ado about nothing.

NBHD movie 1-2 ticketsDear Other Self introduces Becky (Jodi Sta. Maria) as a successful travel blogger with a decent following. In her voiceover narration, she wonders out loud how she could have taken a different path. The movie goes back to a night some time ago, when some loud karaoke singing in her neighborhood kept her from completing an important presentation. The film then splits her story into two branching paths. In one, she nails the presentation and furthers her career as a creative director. In the other, she decides to resign and pursue her dream of traveling.Screen Shot 2017-05-19 at 1.27.40 PMSo, in one story she goes to Thailand and tries out being a solo traveler. While there, she meets Henry (Xian Lim), a veteran traveler who helps her become more adventurous. In the other story, she mostly ends up having to act as chauffeur for her co-worker Chris (Joseph Marco) after she accidentally crashes into his car. In either case, there isn’t a whole lot of conflict. The movie is averse to any kind of substantial drama, its main character never facing a situation that doesn’t just resolve itself automatically.Screen Shot 2017-05-19 at 1.23.12 PMThe whole thing seems to be built on the gimmick. The film is at its cleverest when it’s playing parallel scenes from both realities, with Becky a participant in one scene and merely a witness in the other. But there isn’t much more to it than that. The story may go into two different directions, but they don’t really go anywhere interesting. The film does a poor job of conveying what is being lost in either scenario, mainly because it refuses to really let things get bad for the main character.Screen Shot 2017-05-19 at 1.21.23 PMAll the challenges she runs into in this story are pretty mild. In the reality where she gets to travel, she’s supposed to struggle with the choice of leaving her family and letting go of her responsibilities. But her family does okay without her, and she doesn’t really seem to be missing anything important. In the reality where she stays, she’s supposed to have given up her dream of traveling. But in this thread, she gets to travel anyway. The whole point might be that regardless of what path we choose, things will turn out all right. That may even be true, but it doesn’t make for a very interesting story.Screen Shot 2017-05-19 at 1.11.24 PMThe film accomplishes the dubious feat of making the eminently likable Jodi Sta. Maria seem really annoying. Because of the lack of compelling conflict in her narrative, Becky comes off as melodramatic and entitled. She shares precious little chemistry with either of her leading men. Of the two, Xian Lim at least looks more comfortable taking on his role. Joseph Marco never really bridges the narrative gap between his character and being annoyed with Becky and being in love with her. It is as if the character can only feel one emotion at a time.Screen Shot 2017-05-19 at 1.24.36 PMDear Other Self tells two boring stories in one boring movie. The final circumstances of each reality presented in the movie may seem different, but they are equivalent in terms of their lack of genuine drama. Nothing is a big deal in this movie. The main character is never confronted with a problem that isn’t solved for her somehow. She is told more than once in this movie that she shouldn’t be so dramatic, because the things she’s worried about aren’t really as a big a deal as she thinks they are. And they’re correct, which is the real problem. It’s all much ado about nothing.

DEAR OTHER SELF IS NOW SHOWING IN CINEMAS NATIONWIDE.
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Philbert Dy
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Rogue.ph. Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.
culture by Philbert Dy

‘Colossal’ Brings a Human Face to High-Concept Weirdness

Self-destruction becomes actual destruction in this magical realist tale.

NBHD movie 4-2 ticketsColossal concerns Gloria (Anne Hathaway), an unemployed young woman who has just been kicked out by her boyfriend (Dan Stevens) for spending too much time drunk out on the town. Gloria returns to her hometown to stay at her family’s old, empty house. She runs into a childhood acquaintance, Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), who helps her out with some furniture and offers her a job at his bar. So far, this might sound like the setup for a romantic comedy, but the movie has other things going on. On the other side of the world, in Seoul, South Korea, a giant monster appears out of nowhere and wreaks havoc on the city. And Gloria soon discovers that she has something to do with that.Screen Shot 2017-05-17 at 10.03.33 PMThis movie is pretty sneaky. It plays all sorts of clever tricks with familiar genre elements, and ends up subverting a lot of them on the way to telling a very human story of a flawed person trying to do better. The movie takes the visual meat of the kaiju film and ties the literal destruction of a city to personal emotional chaos; its monsters standing in for the horrors of an abusive, controlling relationship, all the while exploring the way that people engage with disasters on the other side of the world.Screen Shot 2017-05-17 at 10.03.41 PMAs much as this story takes advantage of the familiar kaiju visual, it lives as much off of standard romcom beats. It casts an ominous shade on what in other movies would be treated simply as cutesy behavior. There is always just something off about the relationships in this film, the characters never as harmless as they might first seem. And as the film goes on, it reveals layers of damage and darkness that casts an even grimmer shadow on all their previous interactions. Self-destruction soon leaves a trail of actual, physical destruction in its wake, the internal turmoil of these characters creating a body count.Screen Shot 2017-05-17 at 10.04.07 PMThe film ends up playing a little fast and loose with the psychology in the end, but it still earns its moments. It’s built in such a way that it doesn’t even have to show the monsters to convey the horror of what’s being done. And it gets really clever in the details, the film able to express a greater indifference among the general population of the setting in little background bits. The film revels in the great contrast between those who are simply witnessing the disaster, and those who have an emotional stake in it.Screen Shot 2017-05-17 at 10.02.33 PMAnne Hathaway delivers a terrific performance that somewhat recalls her turn in the late Jonathan Demme’s Rachel Getting Married. She is once again a mess of a human being, and she is once again able to make it about much more than that. There doesn’t really seem to be a whole lot of background to the character in the script, but Hathaway tells those stories anyway. Equally good is Jason Sudeikis, who channels his sturdy, middle America maleness into something rather complex.Screen Shot 2017-05-17 at 10.09.58 PMColossal is pretty great, though it might not be what you expect. It isn’t really a monster movie, and it isn’t really as fun and quirky as the trailers make it out to be. It is fun and quirky, but it also gets much darker than that. In fact, the film might indulge a bit too much at points, falling in love with its own ability to delve into the darkness of its characters, spending a little too much time hitting the same grim nail on the head. But as a whole, it’s a unique, rather rousing piece of art that deserves some attention. And in a time when every big movie is really just a collection of scenes of empty, glorified destruction, Colossal emerges as a healthy antidote.

COLOSSAL IS NOW SHOWING IN CINEMAS NATIONWIDE.
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Philbert Dy
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Rogue.ph. Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.
culture by Philbert Dy

‘King Arthur: Legend of the Sword’ Doesn’t Want to be What It Is

Guy Ritchie shows little interest in telling the story of a king.

NBHD movie 2 ticketsThe prologue of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword involves King Uther Pendragon (Eric Bana) successfully fending off an attack from the wizard Mordred with the power of Excalibur. He is soon betrayed afterwards, however, by his power-hungry brother Vortigern (Jude Law). Uther manages to send his son floating downriver to Londinium, where he is picked up and raised by the city’s prostitutes. Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) grows up to be the tough leader for a gang of small time crooks, and he seems to be pretty satisfied with his lot in life. But whether he likes it or not, he has a greater destiny waiting for him; one that will force him to confront his past.Screen Shot 2017-05-16 at 12.20.33 PMThis new version of the King Arthur tale is directed by Guy Ritchie, who is still probably best known for his scrappy British gangster pictures, namely Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. That version of the director is still visible in this movie, largely in early portions that sketch out the criminal life of Arthur and his cronies. The film moves with surprising velocity through the bullet points of his upbringing, zipping through brief glimpses of a hard knock life before moving into a signature Ritchie sequence that has Arthur and his gang trying to explain an incident to a medieval version of a crooked cop character. Screen Shot 2017-05-16 at 12.21.34 PMBut then the film slows down considerably as it tries to retell the Arthur legend. The film’s main conflict lies in Arthur’s unwillingness to take up the responsibility of leading people against a clearly evil king, even when he’s already been granted the tremendous advantage of a magical sword that basically makes him invincible. The more the film becomes a fantasy adventure, the more it loses the plot. It just doesn’t seem to be all that interested in embracing the legend, the movie only really coming to life when it gets to play gangster within these medieval trappings.Screen Shot 2017-05-16 at 12.23.26 PMThe film lacks a distinct sense of grandeur for a fantasy epic. It seems determined to make everything look gray and dull, even when things are supposed to be getting all magical. There are only a couple bits of memorable design in the whole project, with the vast majority of its runtime operating with little indication of any kind of imaginative thinking. This is, perhaps, the most visually boring depictions of camelot in the history of cinema. The film is so averse to the romance of the story that it just strips all the color away.Screen Shot 2017-05-16 at 12.27.56 PMThe action is similarly dull, Ritchie showing little interest in the VFX-heavy fighting. The movie cuts too quickly between shots, never really capturing the majesty of what’s going on. This all culminates in a climactic sequence that looks dark and muddy and involves elements that pretty much come out of nowhere. There is no sense of geography or progress or even just a logical sequence of events. Stuff just happens, and one can almost feel Ritchie asleep behind the wheel. The film does not lack for solid performances, though. Charlie Hunnam and Jude Law are perfectly all right within the limts of what the writing allows them to do.Screen Shot 2017-05-16 at 12.22.53 PMKing Arthur: Legend of the Sword doesn’t want to be what it is. The movie just dies when it really gets down to telling the story of a king. It doesn’t show any particular love for the story, or even an impulse to fix the things it doesn’t like. It is a decent medieval gangster movie that has to share space with a legend that it has no intention of really bringing to life. And the result is far more tedious and forgettable than your average VFX-driven fantasy epic.

KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD IN CINEMAS NATIONWIDE ON MAY 17.
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Philbert Dy
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Rogue.ph. Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.
culture by Philbert Dy

‘Our Mighty Yaya’ Is a Poor Tribute

A worthy idea gets lost in a series of broad, vaguely comedic vignettes.

NBHD movie 1-2 ticketsOur Mighty Yaya follows the exploits of Virgie (Ai Ai de las Alas), a fifty-year-old woman from Guimaras who decides to take a job as a yaya in Manila in order to help pay off debts and send her son to college. She ends up in the house of Tonichi Sevilla (Zoren Legaspi), a rich widower who has just gotten remarried. His new wife Monique (Megan Young) is struggling to connect with his children, and this becomes a real point of tension as Virgie grows closer to her young wards. Virgie is caught in the middle when the kids defy their new mother’s rules, the yaya ultimately blamed for letting them get away with things.Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 9.26.49 AMThe movie is pretty light on plot. The movie mainly floats from one mildly comedic vignette after another, most of them involving Virgie suffering some sort of humiliation at the hands of her young wards. She might get goaded into a game of dodgeball, for example, or have to go on a bunch of scary rides with them at an amusement park. When not doing that, the film hammers home the point that Virgie is from a completely different world from her employers. She doesn’t know what cornflakes are, and is afraid to use a washing machine.Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 9.27.34 AMThe film gets so broad in its depiction of Virgie’s lack of familiarity with her surroundings that it ends up feeling patronizing. Through it all, the film does a pretty bad job of what it is that endears Virgie to the kids, outside of her willingness to put up with their bad behavior. To that end, it’s unclear why Virgie is able to put up with them when other yayas gave up. The film just doesn’t tell the story of what makes Virgie different from the other helpers that ended up quitting over the behavior of the kids. It doesn’t tell the story of how a genuine familial bond grows between her and these rich, spoiled brats.Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 9.28.17 AMWhat little plot there is mainly centers on Monique, a woman that married an older man with three kids, and doesn’t know how to be their mother. The film seems to have sympathy for her, but rarely treats her as anything other than a villain. There is real merit to the idea behind this conflict, the film handed the opportunity to study some really unique family dynamics. But the film keeps setting Monique up to be an antagonist. The few scenes that seem designed to soften the character mainly involve her spouting exposition to an extraneous best friend character, talking about the children as abstract constructs rather than real people that she has to engage with.Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 9.33.18 AMThe film just doesn’t feel like a complete vision. There is an idea for a story, but the movie keeps getting distracted. Rather than expounding on Monique’s struggles, for example, the film might go on an extended fantasy sequence that has Virgie and the kids acting out Hansel and Gretel. There is obvious skill applied in the mounting of this storybook scene, but it still ends up feeling extraneous. Ai Ai de las Alas is okay in the lead role, but she has been better. Megan Young shares some complicity in the failure of the Monique character. She doesn’t really seem altogether engaged with the story.Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 9.27.55 AMOur Mighty Yaya is ostensibly designed as a tribute, but it really doesn’t come off that way. The thing is, a lot of its scenes seem to be built around laughing at the main character as she suffers from having to tend to these children. At the very end, she isn’t even really given the agency to better her own situation. The film ends up reaching for sentiment that it doesn’t come close to earning, the character spouting vaguely heartwarming ideas without having done anything that might justify them.

OUR MIGHTY YAYA IS NOW SHOWING IN CINEMAS NATIONWIDE.
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Philbert Dy
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Rogue.ph. Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.
culture by Philbert Dy

Teenage Loneliness Takes Center Stage in ‘A Silent Voice’

This anime film offers a nuanced look at the problem of school bullying.

NBHD movie 4 ticketsA Silent Voice is about Ishida Shoya (Mayu Irino), a teenager who in elementary school school bullied the hearing impaired Nishimiya Shoko (Saori Hayami) along with the rest of his class. He was later blamed for everything, and was treated as a pariah by his classmates. Now in high school, lonely and seeking some sort of redemption, Ishida attempts to befriend Nishimiya. But the wounds inflicted don’t heal so easily, especially when other people get involved. And all the while, Ishida questions his own motives, wondering if he deserves redemption at all.Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 2.15.15 PMThis film is a pretty nuanced look at the effects of bullying, and the story is anchored on the very simple truth that self-loathing comes easily. The film takes the rather bold approach of showing empathy for everyone involved, digging into the insecurity and the guilt that emerges in all of these characters as they develop a measure of emotional maturity. No one is acquitted of his or her wrongdoing, but no one is totally condemned, either. There is a radical streak of understanding that gives this story its compelling heft.Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 2.18.38 PMThe movie opens on a blitz of action that has the audience playing catch up to the main character’s emotional state. What at first seems like random scenes of him doing errands and marking dates off a calendar takes on bracing new meaning in an instant. The film offers the same economical storytelling as it takes a detour into the past, a credits sequence detailing happier times establishing what exactly was lost. Shoya was a carefree kid that everybody seemed to like, but that would soon go away as everyone gets taken out of his or her respective comfort zones.Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 2.17.51 PMThe film slows down considerably as we move back to the present and start sketching out Shoya’s path to penance. But the deliberate pace feels necessary. The movie seems to recognize just how much these characters are unable to say. All they can do is make clumsy attempts at trying to fix things, their actions never directly addressing the problems at hand. Because within these limited contexts of teenage interaction, where relationships are fuzzy and strange and new, it is difficult to just be honest. Frankness, it seems, quickly becomes harshness, and there is a fear that being forthright will only lead to more wedges being driven between people.Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 2.16.00 PMIt’s a really smart depiction of teenage politics, of the social barriers that prevent young people from confronting their problems and push them to take drastic, often tragic action. The film takes its time, and lets the quiet reality take the fore as it paints out the roiling emotions just underneath these teenage exteriors. It might have done more on the animation side to visualize those feelings. It takes a surprisingly conservative approach to the visuals. While the art is pretty, it rarely strays from literal depiction. Given the subject matter, it seems to squander the opportunity to give shape to its more abstract ideas.Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 2.17.07 PMA Silent Voice gets to some really interesting places. It’s a pretty small story when all is said and done, the whole thing occurring within the very limited context of teenagers and the way they interact with each other. But this is a film that understands how everything can be amplified at that age; how little bits of everyday unkindness might burrow in a psyche, eventually becoming a matter of life or death. The film could have taken a much more daring visual route in translating these concepts, but its narrative approach in itself feels rather bold. In its smallness, it allows its teenage characters to be more than the usual archetypes. They are living, breathing creatures with inner lives that are never adequately expressed by their words.

A SILENT VOICE IS NOW SHOWING IN SELECT CINEMAS.
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Philbert Dy
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Rogue.ph. Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.
culture by Philbert Dy

‘Bliss’ Finds More Terror as it Gets Closer to Reality

Humans are scarier than ghosts in this intricately structured story.

NBHD movie 4 ticketsBliss is about Jane Ciego (Iza Calzado), a former child star who signed up to be part of a movie intended for foreign festivals. She has an accident on set that leaves her unable to walk under her own power. She recovers in her house, with no company other than her jobless husband (TJ Trinidad) and a strangely unsympathetic nurse (Adrienne Vega). Beyond the crushing monotony of her life in the house, there is something not quite right about her situation. Reality and fiction fold into each other as Jane struggles to find a way out of her predicament.Screen Shot 2017-05-08 at 5.11.36 PMThere are two levels of horror in this movie. There is a more straightforward approach taken in the scenes of Jane in her house, where she is made to question her sanity as she encounters all manner of strangeness. And there is a second, more compelling level of terror as the film delves into the cruelty of the people that surround her; the different forms of abuse that she encounters in her relationships with the people that ostensibly care for her. While the film is reasonably effective in the former, it is much more interesting the more it focuses on the latter.Screen Shot 2017-05-08 at 5.13.21 PMThe film mainly gets its more straightforward scares from a general sense of disorientation. Jane doesn’t seem to be in control of her reality, and she is shunted from one strange scene after another. Everything she encounters is mysterious to some degree, and a lot of tension comes from Jane being unable to cope with the way her reality is changing right in front of her. And while there is some base appeal to all this, while these sequences provide many of the visceral pleasures that most associate with the genre, the film is playing at bigger games that make a lot of this feel like an extraneous obligation.Screen Shot 2017-05-08 at 5.22.46 PMThis intricately structured story really comes to life as it leaves the house and examines the violence in Jane’s life that isn’t so literal. The film exhibits real wit as it paints a picture of the larger world surrounding the actress, exploring a cast of characters that have become monstrous in the way that they deal with Jane. The film’s most effective sequences don’t really involve the supernatural, or the depiction of bloody bodily harm. The movie wrings true horror out of the callousness of people, and the way society as a whole just seems to tolerate certain kinds of abuse.Screen Shot 2017-05-08 at 5.13.11 PMThere is a studied precision to this film that can feel cold at times, but it plays up emotions at all the right points. A terrific cast helps bring warmth to the film’s polemic. Iza Calzado brings a sense of frenzy to the heroine that speaks of the character’s status in surprising and resonant ways. Adrienne Vergara is a revelation in this film, the actress bringing all manner of menace while playing at surprising complexity. Audie Gemora is fantastic as well, easily conveying the monstrous nature of his character in the most casual of lines. TJ Trinidad fully commits to the emasculation of his character, and finds sympathetic notes in noxious behavior. And Shamaine Buencamino finds just the right notes to express the caring parent within her character’s calculating exterior.Screen Shot 2017-05-08 at 5.13.44 PMThe way Bliss couches its commentary in genre trappings is exceedingly clever, but not altogether satisfying. The very nature of this story softens the blow of the traditional horror sequences, and one starts to wonder if the film could have done away with them completely. Still, one can only admire the craft on display, and the ways in which the film wrings terror out of the seemingly mundane, finding the monstrous in people in the most normal of circumstances.

BLISS OPENS ON MAY 10 IN CINEMAS NATIONWIDE.
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Philbert Dy
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Rogue.ph. Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.
culture by Philbert Dy

The Future is Farfetched in ‘The Circle’

This story falls apart when it tries to imagine the world beyond now.

NBHD movie 2 ticketsThe Circle follows a young woman named Mae (Emma Watson), who has just landed a job at the Google-like company that the title is referring to. It is by all appearances a dream job: her workplace is a massive campus that offers all manner of amenities and perks, including health care for her MS-stricken father (Bill Paxton). But there does seem to be something strange going on underneath the high-tech veneer of The Circle, and Mae soon finds herself at the center of all of it as she gets more involved in the vision of the future that the company espouses.Screen Shot 2017-05-06 at 9.49.21 PMThe film is adapted from the novel of the same name by Dave Eggers. It’s a little tough to pin down the form that the movie eventually takes. It kind of feels like it’s taking on the appearance of a thriller, but the plot doesn’t really bear that out. It could play as a cautionary tale about the kind of ethical overreach that tech culture seems to naturally result in. But again, the plot seems to fall short in expressing these fairly simple ideas. The movie mainly works best as a satire of the evangelical aspects of the corporate tech sector, its scenes capturing a very specific slice of absurd reality that we face day to day. But the story gets lost when it starts to extrapolate from there.Screen Shot 2017-05-06 at 9.48.06 PMSome of the most compelling parts of the movie involve the depiction of the general culture around the fictional company. The film cuts through some of the more bizarre aspects of working in one of these massive tech firms, which seem to have weaponized fun as a way to keep employees in line. There is potent venom in scenes that uncover the aggression and coltishness that lies just beneath the seemingly utopian confines of the campus.Screen Shot 2017-05-06 at 9.46.02 PMBut as amusing as those scenes are, they aren’t what the plot is ultimately about. The film makes a turn for the sinister, except it doesn’t really do that well at all. There is a sense that something evil is going on, but even the movie itself doesn’t seem entirely convinced of that. The scenarios of abuse it comes up with are pretty underwhelming, the movie taking leave of its verisimilitude as it imagines applications of technology that don’t really make much sense. And it all just leads to an equally underwhelming resolution that doesn’t really involve any sort of tension or danger for the protagonist.Screen Shot 2017-05-06 at 9.47.44 PMWhen you get down to the details, there’s stuff to like. The movie will often display both verbal and visual wit in many of its scenes. The way it realizes Mae’s interaction with social media, for example, is quite cleverly done. But when the movie tries to convey its big ideas, it gets terribly uncreative. It becomes a bunch of scenes of people talking about farfetched hypotheticals without any sense of the greater complexities involved. The material gets really weak, and that really hobbles the actors. Emma Watson seems to struggle with who Mae is, the character so easily swayed that there doesn’t really seem to be a person there.Screen Shot 2017-05-06 at 9.47.33 PMThe Circle doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny. There are certainly things to be concerned about when we talk about the giant tech companies and their cavalier attitudes towards privacy. But the film addresses these concerns poorly, never doing adequate work in crafting a convincing scenario that would justify the narrative paranoia. It ends up relying on a clumsy dichotomy that exists in a relationship that wasn’t very fleshed out to begin with. The movie works better in scenes that imagine the present, and the absurdities that we are already all facing.

THE CIRCLE IS NOW PLAYING IN CINEMAS NATIONWIDE.
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Philbert Dy
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Rogue.ph. Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.
culture by Philbert Dy

‘Luck at First Sight’ Doesn’t Live Up to its Narrative Potential

The film’s plot has a gambling problem.

NBHD movie 2 ticketsLuck at First Sight is about the debt-ridden Joma (Jericho Rosales). He has just lost a lot of money gambling, and now he’s looking for a lucky charm so that he can make his money back. He buys a relic that’s supposed to lead him to his life charm, and it brings him to Diane (Bela Padilla), a young woman who doesn’t believe in luck, and is struggling to keep her family’s pharmacy afloat while trying to find the money to pay for her dad’s medical expenses. In spite of her skepticism, Diane goes along with Joma to a series of gambling sprees, and weirdly enough their contact seems to bring them incredible luck.Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 12.38.37 PM Trouble starts when the two fall in love. It is established pretty early on that one of the rules of this magical universe is that you cannot fall in love with your life charm. And as the two spend more time in close proximity to each other, reaping the benefits of their shared luck, that rule becomes harder to follow. It’s a cute premise, but the movie doesn’t quite turn it into an effective romance. It ends up spending too much time on its milieu, and not enough time convincing the audience that the two main characters actually like each other.Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 12.39.13 PMThe film ends up selling the romance mainly through montages. And these montages invariably involve the joy the two experience while winning at gambling. While the film does get kind of cute in these sequences, it doesn’t do much to establish the relationship as based on anything other than their mutual success. The plot doesn’t really have them dealing with real challenges together, the two never getting a chance to show the other what he or she is really made of.Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 12.36.05 PMThematically, the film is problematic. While Joma’s arc is ostensibly built around his eventual rehabilitation from what is a clear gambling problem, the script can’t conceive of a means of resolving the overall conflict that doesn’t involve gambling. If Joma can redeem himself through gambling, if it still provides a way for him to do the right thing, then this story doesn’t really work. The film seems to make it out that you can have the right reasons for gambling, and in this universe that’s good enough. That’s hardly a sentiment worth sharing.Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 12.35.24 PMThe film does look good, however. It feels like a lot of thought into how every scene would look, the film exhibiting a greater sense of visual design than your average local romcom. Jericho Rosales is pretty effective in this role, the actor really shining when he puts on a mask of bravado covering up his character’s desperation. Bela Padilla is also quite good in this, the actress displaying a certain toughness that separates her from the typical romantic lead. Cholo Barretto and Kim Molina are fun in supporting roles, even though they aren’t given much more than typical side character exposition to deal with.Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 12.36.43 PMLuck at First Sight has plenty of narrative potential. There is plenty to be done within a premise that separates luck from love; especially in a superstitious culture that will often conflate the two. But the writing just doesn’t live up to that potential. At best, the film is at times cute and consistently well produced. But the final product feels like it could have used a little more time in the oven, its themes simply not emerging through the insistent cloud of standard romcom elements.

LUCK AT FIRST SIGHT IS NOW SHOWING IN CINEMAS NATIONWIDE.
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Philbert Dy
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Rogue.ph. Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.
culture by Philbert Dy

‘Gifted’ is Built on a False Dichotomy

Smart people make dumb choices in this movie about genius.

NBHD movie 2 ticketsGifted beings with young Mary (McKenna Grace) arguing with her uncle Frank (Chris Evans) about having to go to school. As it turns out, Mary is a child prodigy, with a particular gift for mathematics. Her mother was similarly gifted, but that gift led her down some dark paths, and Frank is determined to his niece a somewhat normal childhood. But Mary quickly proves to be too advanced for the entire school, and the principal calls in her grandmother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan). Frank and Evelyn’s strained relationship comes to fore as the two duke it out in court over custody of the young genius.Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 4.20.51 PMIn theory, the conflict of this movie lies in differing ideas regarding what’s best for Mary. The film basically presents two extremes: a life of advanced learning in prestigious institutions, and a more normal life that includes things like making friends and playing outdoors, with the caveat that Mary is going to be studying in public school. The movie never really convincingly makes this choice out to be anything more than a false dichotomy, the characters made entirely schematic in their pursuit of a better future for this one child.Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 4.21.24 PMThe film draws very little dramatic or emotional tension from the central split. The choice isn’t very difficult in the end: it’s a choice between a young girl getting to go out and play and sometimes sing with her friendly neighbor, and her being led down a path that apparently already caused incredible distress to her mother. In order to create any real conflict at all, the film plays lip service to the idea that Frank is ill-equipped to raise his niece, with him having no real regular work and no health insurance. This is in spite of the plain fact that Frank seems to have been doing all right so far, and that he could reasonably find better work and get health insurance.Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 4.29.19 PMFor a film filled with supposedly smart people, the characters seem so incapable of coming together for a reasonable resolution for this problem. A compromise that eventually emerges proves to be a pretty dumb choice for all parties involved. It’s tough to suss out what these characters were intending to happen given the situation that they eventually put together. And the resolution of it gets into even shakier territory. It feels neither logical nor emotionally true, which is a real failure given the film’s adherence to dualities.Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 4.28.47 PMMarc Webb offers little of the flash he’s shown in previous films. The direction feels safe and unimaginative, the characters bathed in sunlight in sweet moments, and shrouded in gray in tougher parts. The acting is a bright spot, though. Chris Evans and Lindsay Duncan really shine in the rare moments where their characters are given a chance to be more than symbols to two warring extremes. McKenna Grace makes the intelligence of her character seem credible. Jenny Slate isn’t given a whole lot to do, but she brightens up every scene that she’s in.Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 4.28.28 PMGifted just doesn’t seem smart enough to tell this story about supposedly smart people. Or at least, it doesn’t trust audiences to be smart enough to deal with a genuinely complex problem. It makes it all out to be black-and-white: a choice between giving Mary a real childhood or locking her away to do nothing but math problems until she snaps. And in the pursuit of those two extremes, the characters end up making all manner of illogical choices that make them out to much dumber than they really ought to be.

GIFTED IS NOW SHOWING IN CINEMAS NATIONWIDE.
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Philbert Dy
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Rogue.ph. Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.