Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Movies’

Cumberbatch is an androgynous supermodel in Zoolander 2

November 19, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies 1 Comment →

Spectre is an elegant, grown-up James Bond movie.

November 09, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies 5 Comments →


James Bond movies have always opened with thrilling set pieces, and that’s even before the credit sequence/music video for the theme song. When we first see Daniel Craig (who should probably enjoy doing what he is extremely good at, that has made him a global star, instead of wanting to get out of it) as 007 in Spectre, he is wearing a death’s head mask and a suit with a skeleton design. It is the Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico, and to go out without a costume is to call attention to one’s self. Even without seeing that rather ugly but scorchingly hot mug we know it is Daniel Craig because his posture radiates arrogance and mastery. And then there is the matter of the tailoring. We know that Q provides the cars and gadgetry, but is the tailoring also MI6-issue? Is there a portable 3D printer in the glove compartment that can produce a perfect suit in minutes? And how much lycra is in the trousers, given that they are almost tight but never rip despite his exertions?

Throughout the movie we found ourselves asking when he had time to pack. We do not believe that he dresses off the rack. We’ll assume that he knew he’d be in the Day of the Dead procession so he had his tailor make the costume, but what about his other outfits? Between fleeing goons led by Dave Bautista (How strange to see a movie in which the biggest guy is Filipino. But yay!) in the snows of Altausee and catching the train to Morocco, he manages to produce a dinner jacket, and his lovely charge with the Proustian name of Dr. Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux; to extend the metaphor she should be a neuroscientist specialising in memory) walks down the dining car in a fabulous gown.

But going back to the opening scene, Bond kisses a woman, ditches the costume, goes out the window, and walks along the roof carrying a large gun with a microphone. The point of the longish walk is to highlight his casual disregard for danger and show the celebrations below, and surely to advertise a series of videos called “Daniel Craig Walks Somewhere”, which we will pre-order. Then he takes down a building and has a fight in a helicopter, and we’ll shut up with the spoilers except to note that our friend finished an entire tumbler of popcorn during this thrilling sequence. Then there was the credit sequence/music video featuring the song by Sam Smith, which is less of a downer than the Adele song for Skyfall, but face it, there’s nothing like a big, brassy number by Shirley Bassey. The tentacle porn is kind of funny.

When we were a child back in the Cretaceous, our parents used to sneak us into revivals of the Sean Connery Bond flicks while disdaining the Roger Moore editions that were showing at the time. Spectre reminds us of the Connery movies, minus the fashionable lechery of the time, which is alluded to when a white cat jumps onto Craig’s knees and he says, “Pussy”. Moviegoers expecting the nonstop kinetics of the Bourne-Mission Impossible school will be disappointed—director Sam Mendes likes the movie to breathe between the action scenes, though at nearly two and a half hours that’s too much breathing time. Also, Mendes is so respectful of human life that whenever Bond kills a bad guy we’re not allowed to cheer. We’re supposed to feel guilty. Ayyy political correctness.

Written by Penny Dreadful showrunner John Logan and others, Spectre is about the impending obsolescence of the Double-00 intelligence program in favour of surveillance technology. The new head of MI6 is played by Andrew Scott a.k.a. Moriarty on BBC’s Sherlock, so the mere casting is a spoiler. Ralph Fiennes returns as M (the new Judi), Naomie Harris as Ms Moneypenny (Give her a spinoff), Ben Whishaw as Q, and Rory Kinnear (Frankenstein’s Monster in Penny Dreadful) as another guy whose name we didn’t catch. Fiennes, Whishaw and Kinnear are three of the finest Shakespearean actors of the day (See Whishaw and Kinnear in The Hollow Crown as Richard II and the future Henry IV), so maybe Daniel Craig should consider that as Bond he gets to be supported by these wonderful actors who are probably happy to have the parts. Also, what is the point of casting Monica Bellucci if she gets just five minutes of screen time? The snows of Altausee get more screen time (We’ve actually been to Altausee, obviously not skiing, en route to the picturesque town of Gmunden to see the toilet museum).

Christoph Waltz, also with a very good tailor, is the arch-villain who turns out to be another classic Bond villain. With a white cat, so you know who the arch-villain’s boss is.

Rating: Highly recommended

The Scariest Story Ever Told?

November 04, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies 3 Comments →

Illustration by Diego Patiño

Or a funny story made of the scary parts of scary movies.

The Scariest Story Ever Told
by Colin Nissan

At the end of a quiet road, behind a veil of twisted black oak trees, there was a house. A woman lived there. On bitter nights like this one, she sat by the fire and read until she grew tired enough for sleep. But on this night, as her lids grew heavy, she was startled by a sound. A sound she wasn’t accustomed to hearing these days. Who could be calling, she wondered? And this late? She rose from her chair and picked up the phone.


“I’m going to kill you,” a man with a deep voice said.

“Who is this?” she asked.

No answer.

“Who is this?” she repeated, her hand trembling.

There was a click. Silence. She quickly dialled the police and explained what had happened. The officer told her to wait while he traced the call. After a few moments he said, “The call is coming from . . . inside your house.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” she said. “How could someone be inside my house?”

“He probably broke in,” he said.

“Oh yeah, I guess that makes sense.”

“And that’s not everything,” he said. “I’m not a police officer.”

“You aren’t?”

“No, I’m the killer guy from before. I never actually hung up.”

Read it.

QCinemarathon: In Kapatiran, a sick brotherhood; in Sleepless, they’ll always have pares.

November 02, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies No Comments →


Kapatiran by Pepe Diokno

We were always 30 seconds away from getting up and walking out of Kapatiran, but the seemingly random scenes of life in Metro Manila were so familiar, we stayed just in case we turned up on the screen. It’s a kind of ethnographic study with attention-deficit disorder: a week in the life of this blasted city that we bitch about but can’t seem to leave.

Sleepless Poster

Sleepless by Prime Cruz

Apart from describing the protagonist, the title is also tempting fate. Sleepless moves at such an even, placid clip that I may have nodded off for a few minutes. But that is still in keeping with the material: people deprived of sleep do blank out at odd moments.

Glaiza de Castro plays Gem, a call center agent with insomnia. The opening scenes showing Gem lying awake on her bed or staring at things in a picturesque manner suggest Lost In Translation in translation. Then Gem is assigned to help a new coworker, Barry (Dominic Roco), whom she introduces to the pleasures of sitting on the roof to stare at things in a picturesque manner.

Read our reviews at InterAksyon.

Sicario: Notes on a voyage to hell

October 31, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies No Comments →

1. Sicario is by Denis Villeneuve, whose previous movies include Prisoners and Enemy. He specializes in tension. He wants to make you jump. When you hear that bass rumble, prepare yourself.

2. Sicario, the opening titles inform us, were the zealots in Jerusalem who hunted and killed the Roman oppressors. In Mexico the word means “hitman”. Later you realize that Emily Blunt is supposed to be the star, but someone else is in the title role.

3. Roger Deakins wields the camera, and the movie looks spectacular. It’s Juarez as hell, bleached to the bone by the desert sun. Dozens of corpses with plastic bags on their heads, sealed into the wall like casks of amontillado. Edgar Allan Poe could’ve written this.

4. We love Emily Blunt, but she looks uncomfortable and overwhelmed. In her defense, she’s supposed to be uncomfortable and overwhelmed as an FBI agent who is volunteered for a narcotics task force headed by a mysterious consultant who shows up at meetings wearing flip-flops. She is kept completely in the dark. When she asks them what is going on, she is told to listen and absorb the details. We know that she’s tough, but ‘tough’ is not the same as ‘grim’. And then the screenplay by Taylor Sheridan goes out of its way to undermine her. She is reduced to saying, “I’m going to tell.” (We remembered how in Zero Dark Thirty, Maya got to tell the CIA chief, “I’m the motherfucker who found (Bin Laden’s) house.”)

5. As the aforementioned consultant in flip-flops, Josh Brolin perfects the shit-eating grin. He’s been brought in to “dramatically overreact”, and he loves the chaos. Look at him, the tunnel raid is like the Fourth of July to him.

6. Benicio Del Toro, our friend pointed out, looks like he hasn’t slept in 20 years. He’s scary when he’s neatly folding his jacket, and terrifying when he speaks softly to the Mexicans at the border. He’s so badass that Villeneuve just let him take over the third act, and Sicario splits into an altogether different movie.

7. Sicario reminds us that when you look into the abyss, the abyss looks back at you. The first part is a criticism of the drug war, and the second part embraces it.

Rating: Highly recommended.

There’s a hole in Black Mass and it’s in the shape of Goodfellas

October 28, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies 2 Comments →


Black Mass is the new film about the Boston mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger, played by Johnny Depp. Bulger, who went on the lam in 2003 and was finally arrested in 2011, consolidated his crime empire by becoming an informant for the FBI. Depp, whose recent film output consists of flops and stinkers, has declared that he doesn’t want to win an Oscar. We are pleased to inform him that there is little danger of that happening because of this movie.

It’s not that Depp isn’t a good actor. In the right project, he could blow us away. But the filmmakers have squandered their material. Whitey Bulger was the most powerful criminal in Boston while his brother the Senator (Benedict Cumberbatch) was the most powerful politician in Boston, but we don’t see much of their relationship other than their mutual devotion to their ma. Apart from looking menacing with his bald head and blackened teeth, Depp has little to do. Joel Edgerton as his childhood friend the ambitious FBI agent has more to work with. Sure, Depp’s Jimmy goes from smiling bonhomie to murderous fury in zero seconds, but after two or three instances of this, the violence becomes predictable. Director Scott Cooper is following the tracks made by better directors so obediently, Black Mass feels like homework by a diligent, not particularly adventurous student.

When making a mob movie, a director needs to repeat these words three times when he gets up and three times when he goes to bed:

I am not Martin Scorsese.
I am not Martin Scorsese.
I am not Martin Scorsese.


There’s a giant hole in the heart of Black Mass, and it’s in the shape of Goodfellas. While watching Black Mass (We don’t get the title, which makes it sound like a satanic horror movie or a cancer scare movie. This just in: a reader says Mass is probably short for Massachusetts. Oh.), we could not stop thinking of Goodfellas. This is unfair, we know. The reputation of Scorsese’s movie has only grown since it premiered 25 years ago. Every time it was on TV we found ourselves watching it again because it’s so vivid, so alive that there seemed a possibility that the story would veer off in a completely different direction (or go Purple Rose of Cairo on us).

Goodfellas is a dangerous movie, not because of the violence, but because it made us understand the lure of crime. Because it’s fun!

Maybe Johnny Depp shouldn’t work with Scorsese because he might get an Oscar, get an Oscar.

Rating: Missable. Even second-tier Scorsese (The Departed) is more compelling.

We’ll review Sicario when our synapses stop sparking from the sight of Benicio del Toro.

Tomorrow we’re doing a QCinemarathon.