Tag Archives: Movie reviews

tv + film by Philbert Dy

‘Ang Pagsanib Kay Leah dela Cruz’ is Best When it Remains Mysterious

A deluge of answers leads to a rocky third act in this otherwise compelling horror film.

NBHD movie 3 ticketsAng Pagsanib kay Leah dela Cruz is about police officer Ruth (Sarah Lahbati), who has just moved to a small town from Manila following some incident that occurred in the line of duty. She’s supposed to be taking a break from police work, but she almost immediately gets caught up in the affairs of the Dela Cruz family. Teenage daughter Leah (Shy Carlos) jumped from the window of her second-story of their house following an apparent assault on her nanny. Ruth investigates at the behest of Leah’s boyfriend, and soon uncovers a dark history that may help explain Leah’s erratic behavior.Screen Shot 2017-06-28 at 5.10.17 PMAs the movie goes on, it fills in a lot of backstory for the characters. It slowly reveals, for example, the exact circumstances of the incident that caused Ruth to take a break from policework from this town. Ruth’s investigation uncovers details about the sketchy past of Leah’s yaya, which also leads to revelations about a couple of other side characters. There’s also the matter of Leah’s parents, who from pretty early on is portrayed as having some sort of unresolved tension between them. There’s a lot being said in these revelations, but it does feel like the movie is at times straining to fit these details into a cohesive, compelling form.Screen Shot 2017-06-28 at 5.09.12 PMThe movie is really good at setting up its mysteries. It sets the tone really well in its early scenes, cutting between scenes that suggest personal trauma through the deliberate application of weirdness. An odd, driving rhythm to the scenes suggest the tensions that exist within the characters. The film makes it really clear that there is just something off about these characters, some strange history that casts a shadow over all their interactions. And it gives weight to the supernatural encounters that follow. These characters aren’t simply confronted by a ghost or a demon; they are grappling with their own personal insecurities.Screen Shot 2017-06-28 at 5.12.48 PMBut the deeper the film gets into explaining the stories, the less interesting it becomes. The third act is essentially a mess of revelations set on a metaphysical plane, the ostensible danger of the situation neutered somewhat by an excessive barrage of rapid answers. In theory, this is all needed payoff to everything that the film sets up. But it feels dramatically clumsy at best, with characters suddenly put into a position where they’re explaining the subtext of their struggles while dealing with strange, violent things.Screen Shot 2017-06-28 at 5.09.32 PMThe film is much more effective when it concentrates on being creepy. The first two acts find plenty of interesting ways to keep things off-kilter. There’s an extended scene set in a library that offers the kind of chills that stay with you. In general, the movie is really good when it establishes the dimensions of a physical space, and then messes around with what’s possible within that space. Part of what makes the climax so deflating is the lack of physical boundaries, making the subsequent action feel ungrounded. The acting is fine. Sarah Lahbati plays it perhaps a little too restrained, given what the rest of the cast is doing. Shy Carlos seems to really relish taking on the evil side of her role, and she becomes one of the most memorable parts of this movie.Screen Shot 2017-06-28 at 5.13.07 PMAng Pagsanib Kay Leah dela Cruz is still pretty clever when all is said and done, even though it isn’t quite able to maintain its momentum all the way through to the end. The film just falls into the trap of trying too hard to solve its mysteries, rather than leaving enough space for the audience to just fill things in. This leads to a rocky third act that just doesn’t feel as satisfying as it really ought to be. Having said that, there are many clear merits to this story, and the spotty end doesn’t undo what has been built up.

ANG PAGSANIB KAY LEAH DELA CRUZ 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.
tv + film by Philbert Dy

The Charming ‘Everything, Everything’ Takes a Very Wrong Turn

A clunky third act gets in the way of a sweet teenage romance.

NBHD movie 3 ticketsEverything, Everything is about eighteen-year-old Maddy (Amandla Stenberg), who hasn’t been outdoors since she was a few months old. She has a rare immune deficiency disorder that makes any contact with bacteria or a virus potentially fatal. So she lives in a hermetically sealed home with her mom (Anika Noni Rose), taking architecture courses online, and basically resigning herself to a life without the outside world. But then Olly (Nick Robinson) moves into the neighborhood, and the two quickly form a connection. And it just gets to the point where Maddy contemplates risking her life to spend some time with the boy she likes.Screen Shot 2017-06-22 at 1.35.24 PMFor most of its runtime, Everything, Everything is a sweet little story about young love, finding potent dramatic fuel in turning the recklessness of teenage infatuation into a genuinely life-threatening situation. For the most part, the movie is able to smartly convey those first few sparks of romance, buoyed by charming chemistry between the leads, and writing that while cutesy, still comes off as pretty smart. And once the film offers up Maddy’s first few tentative steps into a world that could potentially kill her, it does a great job of selling the thrill of all the things that most people probably take for granted.Screen Shot 2017-06-22 at 1.39.48 PMBut the movie doesn’t just stay with the romance and the challenges inherent to this unusual setup. It becomes much less about the joys of being young and reckless and willing to risk everything, less about how getting to know somebody might just change the way you see your life. It becomes about something else, and that casts a weird shadow over everything that went on before. The third act is basically built on a revelation that doesn’t do the story any good, cheapening the experiences of its characters to a degree that feels unacceptable.Screen Shot 2017-06-22 at 1.38.16 PMBut until it gets there, it’s a fun ride. The film tackles the challenge of visualizing a relationship that takes place mostly over text messages. It finds clever ways to bring the characters together, using elements of the story to turn text conversations into real conversations. It’s smartly able to convey how even these mundane exchanges become a real escape for Maddy, fueling her imagination in ways that seem to have been unavailable to her until she started considering the possibility of being in love.Screen Shot 2017-06-22 at 1.37.31 PMThe two leads are perfectly capable of what the script asks of them. Amandla Stenberg is charming on her own, and benefits from her easy chemistry with co-lead Nick Robinson. Even when just looking at each other through their windows, even when there aren’t any words of dialogue between them, both are able to really sell the attraction between the characters. Stenberg is given the meat of this movie, and she does not waste the opportunity. The joy of her character in exploring the world for the very first time is palpable, and that goes a long way in delivering the particular pleasures of this story.Screen Shot 2017-06-22 at 1.38.05 PMEverything, Everything feels deeply flawed, but one can’t quite write off the things that it does right. It is quietly refreshing, for example, that the film features an interracial pairing and doesn’t ever even need to bring it up. For as long as the film focuses on the thrills of a first love, on the understanding that any first romance is essentially a giant risk, it works rather well. The film doesn’t quite leave on the right note, but there is plenty merit in all the notes it plays along the way.

EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING 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.
tv + film by Philbert Dy

‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ is Loud, Expensive Garbage

The fifth installment of the popular franchise complicates the story and messes up the action.

NBHD movie 0 ticketTransformers: The Last Knight is the fifth Transformers movie in ten years, and it does a lot to revise the history of the series. For starters, it opens in a pretty strange place: England in the Dark Ages, amidst a battle involving King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. This is all to establish some new lore: once upon a time, the wizard Merlin was gifted a powerful staff by the Transformers of the time. In present day, Transformers are being hunted down by the government, and Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) is protecting them. Yeager becomes a central figure in the hunt for Merlin’s staff, which will determine the final fate of Earth and all humanity.Screen Shot 2017-06-22 at 1.12.03 PMThis movie is nearly 150 minutes, and a lot of that runtime is given over to explaining this new backstory. Previous films already established that there have been Transformers on Earth for far longer than Optimus Prime and his gang. But this movie makes it out that these alien robots have actually played an integral part in human history. It’s just that, amazingly, it’s all been kept hush hush by a secret society for centuries. This doesn’t make any sense whatsoever, but that seems to matter little to the film, which knows that people are just in this for the VFX mayhem.Screen Shot 2017-06-22 at 1.08.50 PMBut then it follows that the film shouldn’t have been wasting time on all this exposition so it could just get to the said VFX mayhem much faster. What’s always been strange about these movies is that the titular Transformers are actually just side characters. The movies actually focus on human characters who are all for some reason written to be unpleasant in a misguided attempt to make the movie funny. The robots are ostensibly the main attractions, but the movie doesn’t really show them a whole lot. There’s a whole stretch in this movie where it’s just humans chasing humans, the film seemingly forgetting what the whole thing is supposed to be about.Screen Shot 2017-06-22 at 1.09.46 PMAnd when we do get to the mayhem, it just isn’t very interesting. It’s actually quite baffling just how bad things have gotten. Michael Bay seems to care less and less about the spatial logic of his scenes. The cuts just don’t make any sense. There is hardly ever a way to tell where everyone involved in a battle is. There’s little sense of where they’re supposed to be going, or what they’re supposed to be avoiding. For most of the film, actually, one might notice that in the heat of battle, there’s hardly ever a shot that contains both a human and a VFX asset. The film cuts between them in different frames, never really establishing their spatial relationship to each other.Screen Shot 2017-06-22 at 1.09.37 PMAll that’s left, then is conspicuously expensive garbage. One might note the product placement for a bunch of Chinese companies, since blockbuster filmmaking at this point seems to largely involve exploiting Chinese money. Mark Wahlberg reprises the role of Cade Yeager, which doesn’t really call for a lot from the actor. He is basically playing himself. Anthony Hopkins pops up in a really sad role that mainly has him delivering exposition. Even Hopkins’ general hamminess can’t sell the poor writing. New female cast members Laura Haddock and Isabela Moner are given traces of an arc, but ultimately aren’t given a whole lot to do.Screen Shot 2017-06-22 at 1.12.24 PMTransformers: The Last Knight, at the very end, offers a hook for even more installments of this story. It does this poorly as well, the scene giving very little reason to have confidence that the people guiding this series have any real idea where they want to go, or that the payoff will be worth it. These movies have never really been great, but as they go on, they just feel more and more passionless. The characters become more and more unpleasant. The big action scenes become more and more incoherent. It exists merely for the sake of existing, the brand carrying the day, guaranteeing a certain level of worldwide profit based on little more than passive recognition.

TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT 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.
tv + film by Philbert Dy

‘The Monster’ is a Metaphor for…Something

The writing doesn’t keep up with the ambition, but the movie as a whole is pretty intriguing.

NBHD movie 3 ticketsThe Monster follows young teen Lizzy (Ella Ballentine), who has a strained relationship with her alcoholic mother Kathy (Zoe Kazan). The movie starts with a scene of Lizzy cleaning up after her mother, and then trying to wake her up so that she can drive her to her father’s place. But Kathy doesn’t get up, and the two end up driving late into the night. While on a forest road, they crash into a wolf and their car breaks down. While waiting for help to come, they discover that there’s something in the forest much more dangerous than a wolf.Screen Shot 2017-06-16 at 3.12.41 PMThe film is playing at interesting themes, its talk of monsters early on obviously directed more at humans than at any supernatural entity. The relationship that the film establishes between Lizzy and her mother is so toxic that it seems unlikely that any shambling creature could do any more damage. Like all the best horror movies, The Monster wants to use its threat as a greater metaphor for more grounded human struggle. But by the end of the film, it isn’t quite clear what the metaphor is supposed to be. It’s an intriguing project all in all, but the writing doesn’t quite keep up with its larger ambitions.Screen Shot 2017-06-16 at 3.12.20 PMThe film does a great job building up to the inevitable reveal of the creature. The difficulties between Lizzy and Kathy provide compelling context to the external conflicts yet to come. The undeniable fact that Kathy is a bad mother serves as simple justification for some of the bad choices that she later makes. And Lizzy’s general resentment drives her to make rash decisions that will later make things a little more complicated. But the film falters once the creature actually makes it on screen. The film doesn’t really seem to know what to do after the reveal, the action slowing to a crawl as the film tries to stretch itself out to a feature length runtime.Screen Shot 2017-06-16 at 3.14.49 PMThe back half is where the film’s themes get a little murky. It doesn’t even really feel like the film knows exactly what it wants its monster to stand for. If the film had just started out as a typical creature feature, this might have been a little easier to swallow. But the film keeps moving as though there’s still some profound statement being made through the application of gore. In support of this, the film occasionally flashes back to the past, filling out the character backstory. If the metaphor were clearer, these cutaways might have added something to the movie. But with the film’s failings, they mainly end up as distractions, taking the audience away from the tension of the danger at hand.Screen Shot 2017-06-16 at 3.15.26 PMThe monster does look good, though. It’s a throwback creation that has a real physical presence. When it shows up, you do feel like something terrible is about to happen. And the film manages to build its tension within a very limited scope, practically the whole thing taking place on one stretch of road, with only the occasional burst of light illuminating the scenery. And though her character is underwritten, Zoe Kazan just throws everything she has at this role. There is a haunted quality to her performance that goes deeper than what the script lays out for her. Ella Ballentine feeds off Kazan and delivers a fairly memorable performance as well.Screen Shot 2017-06-16 at 3.15.49 PMThe Monster still ends up being a little more interesting than the typical horror movie we seem to get every week. Fans bored bythe standard rhythms of the jump scare horror film might at least enjoy the change of pace presented by this film. If it doesn’t quite achieve its grander ambitions, it could at least be said that this film had grander ambitions at all. And that’s worth something. Combined with the generally solid production values and the fine lead acting, the film feels like a positive as a whole.

THE MONSTER 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.
tv + film by Philbert Dy

‘Can We Still Be Friends’ Doesn’t Dig Deep Enough

The film is lovely on the surface, but stumbles in telling its story.

NBHD movie 2-2 ticketsCan We Still Be Friends follows couple Sam and Diego (Arci Muñoz and Gerald Anderson), who at the start of the movie seem to have fallen into a rut eight years into their relationship. Though the two seem to genuinely like each other, Sam grows frustrated with Diego’s unwillingness to grow up and change. And so, the two break up. But the two co-own the condo they’re living in. And so Diego doesn’t move out at first, the two seemingly determined to make the best out of an awkward situation. But of course, things get really complicated, and the real issues between the two emerge.Screen Shot 2017-06-16 at 11.25.09 AMThe first act of the film seems to lean hard on Diego generally being at fault in this relationship. He’s really charming, and he knows Sam well enough to get her to forgive him after he fails to do something. This makes the eventually shape of this story a little weird. Sam is by no means a perfect person as portrayed in the film, but so much of the film seems to be dedicated to her coming to realize just how wrong she was to want to break up with Diego. The film at crucial seems to lean hard on the sentiment that partners should just be able to accept each other’s faults, even when there doesn’t seem to be much effort put into fixing things that are genuinely wrong.

The film does set up a compelling situation. After eight years of being together, the two main characters can’t simply just walk away from each other. Apart from owning property together, there are clearly ties between them that can’t simply be erased. But the film doesn’t really explore the consequences of this setup to a satisfying extent. Rather than linger on the inherent awkwardness and the negotiations that have to be made, the film mainly plays it as cute. When it inevitably falls apart, it all seems to come from external factors rather than the pain that should already exist between these characters.Screen Shot 2017-06-16 at 11.26.06 AMThis all becomes even more difficult to swallow in the aimless second half. Diego’s in some sort of hazy relationship with another girl, who he doesn’t even really seem to like. We barely see how the experience has changed him, the film still largely focused on Sam’s overwhelming regret over her choices. And at all points, the film seems determined to make their eventual union the only possibility. There’s no tension in this back half, the film making the characters out to be so miserable apart that they stop feeling like complete people.

Having said all that, the movie has some nice, isolated moments. And it all looks gorgeous as well. Tey Clamor’s crisp but moody lensing gives compelling texture to the film’s visuals. In general, scenes where the two are being goofy together are really charming. These scenes play to the strengths of the both actors, who seem to share a genuine, comfortable rhythm when they’re trying to make each other laugh. Gerald Anderson is less effective when he’s playing morose. Arci Muñoz isn’t as fun to watch when she’s playing miserableScreen Shot 2017-06-16 at 11.29.06 AMCan We Still Be Friends is a film that feels good on the surface. The visuals are stunning, there are nice, quotable lines of dialogue, and the leads share more than passable chemistry together. But it’s hard to buy into the story as a whole. When you start to dig into the narrative, it feels like the film is always focusing on the wrong thing, the scenes not directly addressing the problem that it sets up in the first act. There are complicated things to unravel in this situation, and it feels like the film goes too far in simplifying these elements, failing to do justice to what these characters are supposed to be going through.

CAN WE STILL BE FRIENDS 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.
tv + film by Philbert Dy

‘Despicable Me 3’ is Feeling Tired

The third installment of this animated franchise can only muster up more of the same.

NBHD movie 2 ticketsDespicable Me 3 begins with Gru (Steve Carell) and his wife Lucy (Kristen Wiig) foiling but failing to capture former-child-star-turned-villain Balthazar Bratt. This leads to them being fired from their jobs. While trying to figure out what he’s going to do next, Gru learns that he has a twin brother, Dru (also Carrell). It turns out that the two were separated at birth when their parents divorced, Dru having grown up with their father. Dru wants to get into villainy, following in the footsteps of their father. Gru is reluctant to get back into that life, but teams up with his brother to at least get back at Balthazar Bratt.despicable-me35When the first Despicable Me came out, it felt pretty inspired. Though the plot was de rigueur at best, it built a really interesting world around its villainous character. It went into strange details like how heists were funded and how villains would ultimately be rewarded for their efforts. Little of that inspiration has made its way into this third (or fourth, counting the spinoff Minions) film in the franchise. The movie barely strings together a narrative, and finds little of the surprising heart present at the start of this whole venture.Screen Shot 2017-06-15 at 10.35.27 AMThe thing is, it doesn’t even feel like the filmmakers are all that into making a Despicable Me movie anymore. The Minions were the breakout success of this franchise, and it kind of feels like the entire Gru plot was a secondary concern to just giving the little yellow creatures another platform. It barely sustains any narrative at all, the film adopting and then quickly dropping little plot point before they have a chance to turn into anything substantial. Meanwhile, they’ll dedicate an extended segment of the film to the Minions song number. Because that’s all that really matters in the end.Screen Shot 2017-06-15 at 10.32.57 AMThere is potential meat in the brother angle, but it isn’t explored a whole lot. There should be something to Gru learning that his mother has been lying to him his entire life, or realizing that he never really got to meet his father. But Dru is just an incompetent Gru, and there really isn’t a substantial arc between them. At this point, the film seems afraid of any kind of genuine emotion. It rushes through its character moments, afraid that any dip in comedic momentum will lose them the infantile audience drawn to the call of the little yellow monsters.Screen Shot 2017-06-15 at 10.36.53 AMThere just isn’t much of a sense that the film is trying very hard anymore. The film seems more prone to defaulting to slapstick comedy, with Gru’s cruelness manifesting more as doing actual physical harm to others. The main villain of the film has a final scheme that involves the outright destruction of a city, which feels like a real betrayal of the more lighthearted villainy of previous installments. Voice work is pretty good, with Steve Carrell managing to create two very distinct characters in Dru and Gru. And South Park’s Trey Parker does seem to be having a lot of fun voicing the film’s villain.Screen Shot 2017-06-15 at 10.36.30 AMDespicable Me 3 is one of those films that feels like it was made out of obligation, rather than any real passion to tell a story. That’s usually the case anyway with the third installment of any successful franchise, but even given that leeway, the film still feels completely tired. The creators have nothing left to say about these characters, who all have nowhere else to go. And so, in the absence of any narrative arcs worth telling, the film just kind of drifts aimlessly, with the occasional Minion segment reminding the kids why they went into the theater in the first place.

DESPICABLE ME 3 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.
tv + film by Philbert Dy

‘Baywatch’ Fails to Embrace the Absurdity

The film adaptation is about as memorable as the TV show, which is not a good thing.

NBHD movie 1-2 ticketsBaywatch follows Lt. Mitch Buchanan (Dwayne Johnson) and his crew of lifeguards on Emerald Bay. The film kicks off with the lifeguard being made to add disgraced Olympic swimmer Matt Brody (Zac Efron) to his team, in spite of the athlete’s severe attitude problems. Brody, on his end, is completely baffled by Buchanan’s insistence on tackling matters that really should be handled by the police. He is forced to take part in an investigation involving drugs, corrupt politicians, and an ambitious real estate magnate that intends to take over the bay.Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 5.27.49 PMNobody particularly remembers Baywatch for its storylines or its characters. When it comes up at all in the cultural conversation, it is almost exclusively for its visual signifiers: the women running in slow motion on the beach in bright red swimsuits. This film does nothing to better that reputation. Rather than take the opportunity to try and actually tell a worthy story within this heightened context, it delivers a forgettable plot that wouldn’t have felt out of place in the TV show, and then mainly adds a sprinkling of dick jokes.Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 5.33.34 PMThe film doesn’t really commit to a particular direction. It might have sincerely tried to tell a story of lifeguards who keep getting caught up in bigger things. Or it could have completely embraced the absurdity inherent to the show, spoofing its elements at every juncture. It ends up doing a little bit of both. So we are supposed to marvel at these lifeguards saving lives and solving crimes while the movie simultaneously acknowledges that it’s all stupid and none of it makes any sense. This is a film that seems to try and call out the latent sexism in the way the original show might have treated its female characters, while not really doing anything to correct it.Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 5.40.07 PMThe film ends up building itself around the tension between Buchanan and Brody, with the narrative arc largely involving Brody gaining respect for Buchanan’s unusual methods. Meanwhile, the female characters are basically decoration. They are prizes meant to be won by the film’s male characters. For all of their supposed competence, we hardly get to see these women do anything cool. Heroism is ultimately still reserved for the men. Even the one schlubby lifeguard gets to do something of more consequence than any of the female characters.Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 5.36.36 PMBuchanan and Brody don’t even make for a particularly compelling pair. Sure, Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron are very committed performers that try hard to sell every joke. But the relationship depicted on screen is so unbalanced that the typical buddy rhythms don’t really work. Brody ends up feeling like a whipping boy, never really getting any good lines in. And the film never really decides just how stupid his character is supposed to be. No one else in the cast really gets to do anything good. At some point, its use of Alexandra Daddario and Kelly Rohrbach just starts feeling exploitative.Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 5.26.31 PMBaywatch is just about as memorable as the TV show, but that isn’t really a good thing. It has better lead stars and marginally better production values, but its halfhearted commitment to satirizing the elements of its source material means that a good chunk of it is actually just the kind of thing that the TV show would have done. If anything, its criminal investigation plot is actually less zany than something that Hasselhoff might have tackled once on the show. It feels like the film is coasting on the recognition that the Baywatch name gives, having little ambition beyond delivering all those same elements, even though it recognizes just how weak all of it is.

BAYWATCH 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.
tv + film by Philbert Dy

‘Wonder Woman’ Chooses to Inspire

Though uneven at points, the movie is a valuable addition to the superhero conversation.

NBHD movie 4-2 ticketsWonder Woman largely takes place at the tail end of World War I. It first introduces Diana (Gal Gadot) as the princess of the Amazons, a precocious young woman determined to become a warrior in spite of her mother’s wishes. When American spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crash lands just off the shore of Themyscira, Diana learns of the war raging outside, and becomes convinced that it is her responsibility to venture out into the world and end the violence. Trevor takes her to the front lines, where he hopes to stop a German plot that might extend the war. All the while, Diana thinks that she is meant to fight and defeat the god Ares, who she believes is the root cause of all the suffering.Screen Shot 2017-06-01 at 12.22.57 PMThe film actually gets off to a pretty poor start with a framing device set in the present that introduces clunky voiceover narration that will end up overexplaining things later on. And the film goes on to make several more clunky choices along the way, like the extended prologue or the decision to have the German villains speaking in accented English. But there is much more that the film gets right in the end, particularly about this character and what she represents. The story they end up telling can be pretty uneven, but it feels like something valuable has been added to the superhero blockbuster canon.Screen Shot 2017-06-01 at 12.46.28 PMThe film alternates between presenting Wonder Woman as a superpowered fish out of water in early 20th century Europe and just letting her be the inspirational figure that she is. It is an interesting contrast to the other DC films in the current cycle, where the heroes to some degree meant to be feared. But Wonder Woman is a hero first of all, having been raised on ideals that transcend the murky reality of the real world. The film then gives her an arc that lets her witness the banality of evil, testing those ideals as she comes to realize that ending war and violence is no simple task.Screen Shot 2017-06-01 at 12.24.42 PMIt’s a complex theme that the film can’t fully get a handle on in the end, but it’s there. And it finds more immediate pleasures in a simple pattern of action. Diana is constantly being told that she can’t do something, but then she goes and does it anyway. She is, for the most part, a constant symbol of courageous defiance, a figure unwilling to bend to the common wisdom that would do other people harm. So she leaves the island, she speaks harshly to men that dismiss her, and she dives headlong into a no-man’s land, because she is no man, after all. At all points, she is breaking barriers, choosing to inspire simply by refusing to comply.Screen Shot 2017-06-01 at 12.48.24 PMThe film’s action doesn’t stray too far from the aesthetics established in previous films, with a lot of it defined by the muddy color palette and the variable speeds of the footage. But there is a greater sense of raw physicality in many of these sequences. And the general absence of the male gaze makes the whole thing just look and feel different. At every turn, the film presents the character as a figure of power, its depiction of the female form never lapsing into standard luridness. And Gal Gadot is terrific as Wonder Woman. Gadot is credible both as the badass action heroine and the Amazon witnessing the world for the first time, struck by both its beauty and its cruelty. And she shares fine chemistry with Chris Pine, who is able to channel his leading man bravado in a role that has him playing second fiddle, essentially. In supporting roles, Danny Huston and David Thewlis both ham it up to pretty entertaining ends.Screen Shot 2017-06-01 at 12.51.52 PMWonder Woman is certainly a product of the same blockbuster machinery that has ruled cinemas in the last few years. Like every other superhero movie, it feels a little bloated. Its need to appeal to mass audiences at times results in weird choices. And it ties to a larger franchise at times limits what it can do. And in spite of that, the film just feels a little different. Just take note of how this film presents the female form, or how it offers up a hero who is mainly seen defending others rather than just bringing the fight to someone else. The film brings with it new perspectives on a genre that threatens to grow stale, new voices adding to a greater conversation. The film can be uneven, but on the whole, it inspires in more ways than one.

WONDER WOMAN 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.
tv + film 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.
tv + film 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.
tv + film 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.
tv + film 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.