June at the Cinemas
Last month, I watched a total of 4 movies, which is a record for me. I watched 1 movie per week last month. This was me twenty years ago. I was forcible weaned from going to the cinema when I lived in Phnom Penh. Sure, I watched movies whenever I was in Saigon or Bangkok or KL but on my holidays in Manila, I’d rather spend time with my family than go to the mall to catch a movie. When I returned to Manila for good, this didn’t change. Until last month! Here’s the run down.
SAN ANDREAS – this year’s disaster movie that tried too hard but unfortunately fell through the cracks. Well, what did I expect? I only saw this movie because of The Rock, who’d rather go by Dwayne Johnson these days (but to me, he’ll always be The Rock) and I think he did the best he could in his under-written role. Come to think of it, everyone’s role seemed to be under-written. The movie didn’t even capitalize on the chemistry between The Rock and his ‘Race to Witch Mountain’ co-star Carla Gugino. There was nothing to make us root for the characters. They didn’t even bother to give Kylie Minogue a great death scene. She just dropped out of sight. It seemed that the human characters were put there to populate the disaster set-pieces (the Hoover Dam collapse, the magnitude 9 tremblor in LA, and the tsunami) instead of make it a story of how people survived these events. If I am rating, I’d give this movie 2 stars out of 5, mostly for the spectacular show of mayhem and destruction.
INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 3 – The ‘Insidious’ franchise goes back even farther from the roots of the story of Insidious. Maybe the producers just wanted a reason to bring back the wonderful Lin Shaye, who’d been killed in the end of the first movie but managed to appear in the second movie through flashbacks and alternate realities. In my opinion, she should have top-billed this movie. The first 2 films sort of turned the concept of being haunted on its head and this 3rd installment still used the same trope, so over-all the film appeared more formulaic than its predecessors. The new director still came up with pretty original scares through clever camera work, sound, and atmosphere. To be fair, the main baddie was terrifying. I’m just wondering why they didn’t pursue the storyline at the end of Insidious 2. Is there a 4th Insidious in the future? 3 out of 5 stars, largely because I enjoyed being scared out of my seat.
JURASSIC WORLD – the 4th movie in a franchise that wanted to forget the last 2 predecessors. The director (and everyone behind this movie) have been vocal in pointing out that this is a direct sequel to the 1993 Jurassic Park but if they called it an homage I would’ve have been perfectly satisfied. There were many nods to the first film, some more obvious than others. Certain shots reminded me of the first movie as well. As sequels go, yes, it certainly upped the cool and wow factors but unfortunately, it left out the heart and soul that made Jurassic Park such a compelling adventure movie in the first place. The themes of nature running amok and corporate greed have been explored more effectively in the first 2 films. One would think, that in the years that passed between the first movie and now, that there are new themes and issues to explore. 3 out of 5 stars, only because I love Chris Pratt.
POLTERGEIST – I was 9 years old when the original Poltergeist was released and I saw parts of it through a gap in my bedroom door, which faced the area where the rest of my family watched it in our new colored TV and video-playing machine called Betamax. Those glimpses were enough to scare me. After that, Poltergeist seemed to be part of our annual Halloween movie parade. So when I heard news of a Poltergeist remake, I wasn’t really excited because to me, it was already a perfect horror movie. However, I still couldn’t resist checking out this new version. The worst thing that could happen was I’d be disappointed and elated that my hypothesis (that doing a remake of Poltergeist was an unnecessary undertaking) had been proved correct. So how was it? Well, I was right. It didn’t scare me the way the original scared me. The visual effects weren’t spectacular at all. The cast performed well in spite of the thin material, most notably Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie De Witt, Kyle Catlett, and Jared Harris. As in ‘San Andreas’ there was too little character build-up to make us care for the family troubled by social and supernatural forces. While I am aware that most of the target audience of movies nowadays have very short attention spans, I still think it’s wise for a movie to build up tension first before putting up the frights. Otherwise, we’d just be left wondering what that light show was all about. 2.5 stars out of 5 because I wanted something more.
If you have seen any of these movies, do you agree with me or not?