Netflix’s Sex Education Teaches A Lot About Life (And Sex)

Sex Education is a coming-of-age story that centers on Otis, an awkward teenager who becomes even more awkward because of his sex therapist mom. School outcast Maeve spots Otis’ talent at giving sex and relationship advice, and convinces him to start a sex therapy clinic with her.

In an age where movie and series titles can be confusing, Sex Ed is as straightforward as a show can be—we already have an idea of what we’re getting into when we decide to watch it. With only eight episodes, it’s definitely a strong candidate for our weekend Netflix binge.

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The Beardict: Sex Ed is able to get the realness of life. It’s not all drama and it’s not all comedy; it’s able to simulate what a normal day of a teenager is like: exciting but also full of cringe (I can’t count how many times I had to hit pause because of the embarrassment that was about to come. Haha.). Sex Ed is unapologetic, branding nothing as taboo. Nothing is weird simply because everything is.

With that said, here are the lessons we picked up while watching Sex Education:

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

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  • People are brought together by circumstance and form unlikely alliances. Arguably, the best parts of Sex Ed are when Otis, Eric, and Maeve work together to perform a task. They’re so dysfunctional that it actually works—much like Harry, Ron, and Hermione in the Harry Potter series. Come to think of it: Like Harry, Otis is brilliant but heavily awkward (the “magic” basically is in his blood), Eric has Ron’s loyal best friend mentality except he’s extra fabulous, and with her insight and quick actions, Maeve would be Hermione only if she didn’t scare people to death. If we do get a season 2, we certainly look forward to more adventures with this trio.

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  • It’s okay to think and talk about sex. This already goes without saying, right? Well, in the Philippines where everything is almost always more conservative, people find it hard to open up about sex because it might be considered too vulgar. However, Sex Ed reminds us that it’s perfectly normal to tackle sex head on. Like all things, it can be sad, it can be bad, but it can also be wonderful and mind-blowing. Furthermore, a lot of sexual problems are connected to life problems, and vice-versa. For example, in the show, Otis points out that the reason why sex between Ruthie and Tanya is never okay is because Ruthie is not emotionally connected to the experience (she likes someone else). We also see Aimee’s pushover attitude crossover to her sex life–when asked about what she wants, she doesn’t know because she’s always allowed others to tell her what she should do. When Otis fixes her sexual problem, she finally finds the courage to rebuff her social clique and declare her friendship with Maeve.

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  • “My vagina has betrayed me.” Sex Ed teaches us that we can be brutally honest because it won’t be the death of us (well at least, in most cases). Codes and mind games should take a backseat because the truth is awesome. There are two paragons of honesty in Sex Ed. First off, we have Lily (my personal favorite). She doesn’t have everything figured out, but she’s not set back by inaction, to put it lightly. For the majority of the season, she’s on a quest to have her first sexual experience. When Jean asks her what happened to Otis, without hesitation, she answers that they were trying to have sex (she says this with both Jean and Jakob in the room). Secondly, we have Ola. She flirts with Otis, tells him she likes him, and ends up getting invited to the school dance. Though at one point she gets labeled as a goat (not her fault, by the way), her journey in the show is pretty smooth sailing, and it’s because she says what’s on her mind.

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  • “You’re 16. You’re not supposed to know the answers to anything… You’re going to be just fine.” Sex Education assures us that giving ourselves time to figure out things is a decency we owe to ourselves. Sure, Jean used Otis’ young age to calm him down after he told her that he’s not normal. However, as evidenced by all the parents in the show, even adults haven’t fully understood how to live, and they still learn a lot from their kids as they watch them grow up. And on that note…

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  • If you’re going to live like this, you have to toughen up. This was what Eric’s dad told him when he went home bruised after Otis was a no-show at their supposed Hedwig and the Angry Inch meetup. Mr. Effoing doesn’t really approve of Eric’s sexuality, but he tries to be the best parent he can be. In the end, he even says “Maybe I am learning from my brave son.” All parents shown in Sex Ed try to be there for their children (yes, even Principal and Mrs. Groff), but they differ in their approaches because it’s quite difficult to do. As Jakob said to Jean when they were talking about their kids: “We can never let them know how much they make us feel lonely.”

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  • Sex Education shows that “you can’t choose who you’re attracted to. You can’t engineer a relationship.” This bathroom stall advice from Otis was specific to a sex clinic case he was working on, but you can see it throughout the eight episodes of the season. Otis is proof of this; he didn’t want to fall for Maeve (especially because he thinks he’s a kangaroo and she’s a lioness) but because of all the time they spent together doing the clinic, he did anyway… and got a massive erection when Maeve touched his eyebrow (possibly one of the funniest scenes in Sex Ed).

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  • Things can be pretty messed up, but there is already a level of acceptance even in a toxic environment such as high school, indicating times have changed. Notice how the characters didn’t have to explain how certain things were in the show? They were just accepted and treated as normal with no stigma attached. For example, raised by an interracial lesbian couple, the golden boy Jackson is black and is good at both sports and academics (he has a lot of insecurities but I believe he does not mention his race once). Anwar, whom Eric fancies and hates at the same time, is a fashionable Indian gay guy who is part of Moordale’s elite and thinks he’s better than everyone else. His friend Ruby, the self-proclaimed queen bee and Regina George of the school, is also non-white but is at the top of the food chain and preys on all the “losers” on campus. Interestingly enough, the weakest in their quartet happens to be rich white girl Aimee, who hangs around them to be cool but keeps getting bossed around on a daily basis.

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More to this point, Eric and Anwar are the only two openly gay guys shown on Moordale, and yet nobody suggests or asks why they can’t get along since they’re both gay anyway. In the same way, the show doesn’t need to explain why Ola and Jakob don’t share the same ethnicity since they have a daughter-father relationship. As best friends, Otis and Eric don’t share a “no homo” moment, and they don’t skimp on showing physical affection towards each other just because Otis is straight and Eric is gay.

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  • “You owe me a birthday.” Maeve-Otis scenes are awesome, but the highlight of the show may just be the friendship between Otis and Eric. Their rift was really uncomfortable to watch as their daily banter was the oil that kept the show engine running. However, it made their reunion sweeter, culminating in a heartwarming dance. Eric supports Otis almost without question, and Otis dresses up in drag because he knows it’s important for Eric. They are, without a doubt, #FriendshipGoals.
  • There’s some sort of sex education inception that happens. Maybe we can call it a Sex Eduception? Kidding aside, what we mean by this is that the Otis’ clients approach him for advice and they learn from his wisdom, and yet, at the same time, Otis learns from each client he talks to. Watching Otis and his sessions helps us viewers learn too. So in the end, who really is having the sex education?

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  • “What do you get someone who’s having an abortion? Sunscreen. They need it in hell.” Despite this quote from the protester outside the clinic, Sex Education does not judge at all and tells us not to dwell on decisions we’ve made in the past. In most shows, when a character undergoes something controversial such as an abortion, her entire storyline begins to revolve around it, and her decision whether to go through with it or not becomes the climax of her story. We love how Sex Education puts this arc at the start of the show and does not let the abortion define who Maeve is. Otis doesn’t mention it again, and although it may have played a part in her reluctance when it comes to Jackson, it’s not the focus of their breakup. The real culprit is Jackson overwhelms Maeve, because he’s “too much.”

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  • Life sucks, but not everything is bad, and there’s always hope. Not everyone had a happy season ending in Sex Ed, but Adam probably had the worst. His father issues remain unresolved and to top it off, he gets shipped off abruptly to military school against his wishes. Despite all of this, he was able to have a moment with Eric, and he found their lost dog just sitting on the grass, waiting for him. Although we saw him leaving, his story is most likely far from over. Hopefully, Principal Groff gets to show Adam his fun side, and they repair their severely damaged relationship.
  • “It’s my vagina!” This scene was pretty funny and heartwarming because everyone in the student assembly just kept on shouting “vagina” (even guys) in support of someone they didn’t even know. This reminded me of that scene in In & Out where everyone kept shouting “I’m gay!.” Sure, it’s overly cheesy, and Ruby probably didn’t deserve such a save, but Moordale High, for once, banded together and became one voice, and that’s a good thing.

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  • At the end of the day, we’re all just high schoolers who need “teachers” to believe in us. Miss Sands recognized Maeve’s excellent writing ability and encouraged her to say out loud that she’s smart. Mr. Hendricks from the brand asked Eric to join even though he’s not (yet) particularly good. All the students who came to Otis for advice – they just need someone to steer them towards the right direction. They simply need an honest conversation. Don’t we all?

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  • Sex Education actually makes the procedural drama format interesting. You know how in crime and detective shows like C.S.I., someone mysteriously dies at the start and that’s the case they take on for that episode? For almost all of Sex Ed’s episodes, they start off with side characters who experience sex and relationship mishaps, and it gives us a clue of what Otis will handle throughout the episode in terms of the sex clinic. They act as plot devices that move the show along and make us understand Otis’ method of thinking more.

Sex Education’s treatment of teenage drama is certainly fresh, and we obviously want more!

Photos courtesy of Netflix. Sex Education is now available for streaming on Netflix.

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Welcome!

Hi there!

To friends or anyone who accidentally ended up here, I welcome you to my review site called Beardict, short for Bear’s Verdict. Here, I try to review movies, TV shows, and anything about pop culture that I find interesting. Please bear with me as I get this blog up and running. Check back in for updates!

Enjoy!

Jurmane

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch: A Futile Tug of War Between Viewer and Movie

In Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, we try to help a hopeful game creator named Stefan Butler make the greatest video game imaginable for the fantasy novel called Bandersnatch. Do we actually help him, or do we lead him to his downfall?

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The Beardict: Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is not for people who want to relax. Watch this when you’re wide awake with all your brain cells intact. Allot 2-3 hours even though it says it’s just 91-minutes long. Eat and take a bathroom break before starting. Once you’re ready, immerse yourself in one of the most engaging and revolutionary films Netflix has ever produced.

If you’ve watched it already, I salute you. We can now get serious and try to make sense of Bandersnatch.

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WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

#1 Netflix calls it an “Interactive Film.” Bandersnatch’s concept makes it such a cinematic experience, but not in the traditional sense.

Bandersnatch makes the viewer choose so the movie can progress, leading to actions that dictate how the story will end. During a scene, two choices will appear, and we have to pick one before the timer runs out. The assumption of Netflix here is that we’ll watch it on our phones, tablets, or computers, making it easy to participate. Bandersnatch is kind of like a video game from Telltale, except that this is in film format.

In terms of getting the full Bandersnatch experience, because of the interactive choices involved, streaming it through Netflix seems to be the only logical choice, so this discourages people from creating copies and spreading it illegally online. You can’t even fully fast forward it because it’s interactive.

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#2 The Choices. Back when I was a kid, I used to love those Goosebumps books with the “Choose Your Own Adventure” label on them. It gave me a sense of accomplishment when I ended up choosing correctly and made me more determined to choose again if not. When it comes to video games, I prefer those with rich stories that get influenced whenever I make a decision.

During one of his therapy sessions where Dr. Haynes keeps convincing Stefan to talk about what happened to his mother, she says:

“You might learn something about yourself you don’t know.”

This line was directed towards Stefan, but it was primarily for us viewers.  By throwing choices at us at every turn, Bandersnatch wants us to look into ourselves and is interested to know more about who we are, who we’d like to be, or how much we like push things knowing they’re not real? How far along will this bad choice really get us? We’re curious to know. We then have to deal with the (unpleasant) consequences of our actions.

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#3 Re-watch Factor. I saw a Reddit thread that had a flowchart of all the possible choices you can make in Bandersnatch. It has only been one day since release and  yet there’s so much talk about this movie already. Why? Because we do our best to see all the different endings that our eyes can handle. I personally spent three hours going through all endings that I could find, going back and forth and combing through the scenarios. I would have continued watching if not for the strain I felt in my eyes. Haha.

In time, Bandersnatch may not be the most watched film in Netflix, but it could well be the most re-watched when it comes to their originals.

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#4 Theme of Getting Lost. Bandersnatch can be confusing, but who actually gets lost in going through it?

Stefan. A lot of young people complain about not being able to control themselves, but they’re thankfully not Stefan. Arguably, Stefan is the most confused teenager in the history of movies. He knows someone is making him do things, but he just can’t pinpoint who. Is it P.A.C.S.? Is it Netflix?

Actor Mike. Speaking of Netflix, if we choose to reveal to Stefan that we are, in fact, controlling his actions through the streaming app, then he ends up in Dr. Haynes’ office once again where things stop making much sense. All hell breaks loose, but if we actually make Stefan escape through the window, someone yells “CUT!,” and the camera pans out to reveal an actual Netflix set shooting Bandersnatch. Talk about breaking the fourth wall! Our Stefan turns out to be an actor named Mike, but at this point, Bandersnatch has him so confused that he really thinks he’s now Stefan. Compared to the rest of the bleak endings, this is probably one of the funniest ones.

Us. Bandersnatch stresses out viewers a lot, especially those like me who want to get to the bottom of everything. As I went through ending after ending, I reached a point where I began to question all of my efforts. Do I really understand Bandersnatch more now, or is this one of those things that the “less is more” adage is applicable to?

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#5 Puppet Master. In Choose Your Own Adventure books/video games, we effectively become the character. We don’t control the character; we become him/her. In video games like the Sims, we control the characters, and they don’t know any better. Depending on our moods, we lay out the best lives possible for them, or set them on fire or let them die of starvation when we’re pissed off. In Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, Stefan is like our Sim, except he’s aware that someone else is controlling his actions, leading to an identity crisis. Because of this…

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#6 We are the villain in Stefan’s eyes. As viewers, we do our best to “help” Stefan turn Bandersnatch into a video game. In the process,  however, we cause him intense distraction and pain, so much so that maybe we shouldn’t have bothered at all. We choose (or are compelled to choose) to be part of “Netflix” or “P.A.C.S.,” making us Stefan’s #1 enemy.

#7 Alternate realities. Bandersnatch succeeds in making things more convoluted by introducing alternate realities described by Colin. Come to think of it, are there other versions of myself typing this review, destroying my computer, or spilling tea on it? Maybe in another reality, I’m saying that the point of Bandersnatch is we have free will and we shouldn’t question that we do have it? Hmmm. Lastly, did someone click the “Write about Bandersnatch” button so I ended up doing this instead of just proceeding to watch another Netflix show? Haha.

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#8 Illusion of free will. Movies always have the protagonist and the antagonist. When we watch Bandersnatch, we might fall into the trap of thinking Stefan is the protagonist and his personal demons and mental issues are the antagonists. If we look closely, however, Stefan is just collateral damage from a tug-o-war between us and Bandersnatch.

And like in casinos where they say the house always wins, it’s the same for our case as viewers. Bandersnatch will always win over us no matter what we do.

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Bandersnatch gives us a false sense of power by seemingly allowing us to make choices for Stefan. Notice how the first two choices are very random (cereal and music). Although they don’t seem to have a direct effect on how the story ends, they make us feel in control of Stefan’s destiny.

If we want what’s best for Stefan, our ultimate goals are to 1) help him finish Bandersnatch, 2) get a 5-star rating from that kid critic, and 3) keep his sanity in check and 4) keep everyone alive and their limbs intact. There’s an illusion of free will that happens here because we think we are in control of Stefan’s choices. However, as things progress, we realize that no matter what we choose, Stefan ends up getting harmed or derailed. The longer we stay immersed in Bandersnatch, the worse things get.

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It’s clear we are steered towards certain (gruesome) endings, and Bandersnatch also dictates which decision point we can revisit (go back to Point A, Point B, exit to credits, etc.). When Bandersnatch thinks we’ve had enough, there are no options given anymore, and the credits just roll.

As viewers, we can get over or “beat” Bandersnatch if we accept that we can’t control the outcome, and Netflix/Black Mirror does. We can’t get the ending we want because we can only get the ending they want. Imagine–to get the coveted 5-star game ending, it’s not enough that we make Stefan kill his dad. We also need him to chop up his dad’s body instead of burying it. At this point where we and Stefan give up and submit to the devices of Bandersnatch, the movie finally gives us a break and awards us a “successful” ending. Without a doubt, Bandersnatch prefers us making chaotic choices instead of sane ones.

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#9 Illusion of free will part 2. Bandersnatch gives us a time limit to decide on an answer. If we don’t choose, it chooses for us. Free will is just an illusion here because technically, we can choose to do nothing, and therefore, Stefan should do nothing as well, but this isn’t the case.

Additionally, we are given only 2 choices out of so many things we can actually ask  Stefan to do. For example, if we see a random slice of pizza on our kitchen table, we can decide to leave it alone/eat it/keep it in the fridge/throw it in the trashcan/do any action that does not make sense). During the 5-star game ending, Stefan admits himself that everything Bandersnatch became clear to him once he chose to make things simple and just gave his character an illusion of free will. He knows he’s the one deciding how the ending will be. As viewers, that’s actually our entire Bandersnatch experience in a nutshell, so basically, we played the game Stefan created. Mindblowing, right? If Black Mirror: Bandersnatch had 10 different choices per scenario, then the movie will become super complicated, and we may no longer be willing/able to participate.

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10) Colin Ritman is not your friend. Yes, that’s right. Colin Ritman is an agent of Bandersnatch meant to confuse us. The fact that he’s introduced as a successful video game maker and Stefan’s idol is supposed to project that he’s trustworthy, However, everything that involves him leads to disaster. Remember that the first major choice we had to make was whether to make Stefan work at Tuckersoft with a team or work alone. If we choose the team option, Colin says Stefan made the wrong choice, and it cuts to the 0 out of 5 rating. It’s probably because he sabotages Stefan’s work so we’re forced to “try again.”

After this, he messes with us by being inconsistent–at times, he seems to be aware that we’ve tried again but during some moments, he pretends to be oblivious. When we make Stefan follow Colin instead of visiting Dr. Haynes,’ he feeds Stefan that mumbo jumbo about time being a construct, Pac-Man, people watching him, alternate realities, etc.  He says this as quickly as possible so we don’t have enough time to process everything on screen, and we leave even more confused.

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When you make Stefan refuse the drugs, Colin drops it in his tea anyway, and he says “I CHOSE FOR YOU.” Colin dares Stefan to jump, and when we do decide to make Stefan jump, it ends up in Stefan’s suicide and Bandersnatch getting a very poor game rating. Because he says flashbacks are opportunities to rewrite the past, we’re given false hope that Stefan can actually save his mom from the train accident. Stefan is then shown lifeless during a session with Dr. Haynes shortly after, an ending which surely leaves the Bandersnatch game unfinished. Remember that video tape he told Stefan to watch to help him finish the game? Well, that certainly DID NOT help.

Arguably the best ending of Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is achieved by visiting Dr. Haynes instead of following Colin, sticking to the meds instead of flushing them, and getting the 2.5 stars game rating. This is definitely not the most exciting scenario, but it leaves everyone alive, breathing, and with all limbs attached. Haha.

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11) Soundtrack. There are so many visual and audio clues in Black Mirror: Bandernsatch that we need a day to discuss all of them. However, what I’d like to point out is the soundtrack. To complete the experience, they pick the perfect songs to mess with us. For example, each time Stefan wakes up from something disturbing, Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Relax plays: “Relax, don’t do it, when you wanna go do it.” When his dad tricks Stefan into visiting Dr. Haynes again, XTC’s Making Plans for Nigel was playing in the car: “We’re only making plans for Nigel, we only want what’s best for him.” We want what’s best for Stefan, but unfortunately, it’s not up to us.

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To end, we need to congratulate 1) Netflix and Black Mirror for coming up with such a mind-boggling film in Bandersnatch, and 2) ourselves, for surviving such a weird, stressful, but still entertaining experience. Let’s give ourselves a pat on the back. Whew. We’ve definitely earned it!

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is now available on Netflix.

Bird Box: A Horror Movie That Makes Us Reflect

Netflix aims to make our holidays scarier with Bird Box, the adaptation of Josh Malerman’s thriller novel of the same name. Do they succeed, or is it all hype?

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The Beardict: Bird Box is a gripping look at humanity’s struggle when the world finally ends. Although it gives some suggestions, the film does not focus on why the end is happening. Instead, it’s effective in showing how people react to it. Human beings are obsessed with solving problems. But what do you do against a threat that does not seem to have any weakness? You simply survive.

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SPOILERS AHEAD

Here are several thoughts I had after watching Bird Box:

  • If M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening (2008) and the Quiet Place (2018) had a baby, Bird Box would probably be it. This is probably the best description I can give this movie.

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  • We take the gift of sight for granted all the time. In the film, Malorie and her fellow survivors can’t use their eyes outside because they’ll become suicidal once they “see.”
  • We always think of how the world ends, but not really of what we will do once it does. Bird Box steers us to ask the right questions. Will we discover that we care less about others when push comes to shove? As Malorie said, “the end of the world makes us do things.”

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  • Is it true that love makes us “soft,” as Olympia suggests, and that the two types of people are simply “the assholes and the dead” as differentiated by Douglas.
  • If crazy people suddenly found a purpose, we would be in so much trouble. In Bird Box, all of them only had one mission, and it was to make everyone “see.”          Bird Box
  • Trust is something that you can’t give to everyone. With that said, you still need to trust. A lot of bad things happened in Bird Box because the characters tried to see the best in people and it ended in betrayal. However, Malorie and her kids would not have found much-needed sanctuary if they chose to strike out on their own.

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  • A mother’s love manifests differently. At first glance, Malorie can’t possibly win Mother of the Year award, but then we realize, somehow, she can.

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  • Birds are beautiful. Cats and dogs are usually our go-to pets, but this film reminds us that from how they look to how they chirp, birds are awesome creatures.

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Bird Box is scary not because of the end-of-the-world scenario, but because of how we all know human beings are capable of being very selfish.

How about you? What did you think of Bird Box? Do you think you’ll survive its post-apocalyptic world?

Bird Box starring Sandra Bullock is now available on Netflix.

8 Movies Aquaman Reminds Us Of

Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures

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From Suicide Squad’s (2016) wasted potential to Justice League’s (2017) lukewarm reception, there’s a certain skepticism that already comes when watching a DC film. With the exception of Wonder Woman (2017), audiences have generally become wary of anything DCEU-related. Comparisons with Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) certainly don’t help, and with Avengers: Endgame and a slew of superhero movies just around the corner, Aquaman faces no easy task and has to step up to distinguish itself from the rest of the competition.

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And step up, it definitely did. Aquaman is able to hold its own, and is worth a watch even from  non-believers of the DC Extended Universe. Not too dark but not overly funny either, it has great pacing, well-developed characters, and exciting special effects. Director James Wan, Arthur (Jason Momoa) and Mera (Amber Heard) are table to take us on a very visual underwater journey to Atlantis. Plus, Aquaman’s mother Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) is not named Martha, so we can finally lay that Batman V. Superman joke to rest. Haha.

What I really like about Aquaman is that it successfully borrows elements from past blockbusters and combines them to form a solid film. With that said, here are the list of movies we got reminded of when we watched Aquaman:

————————————————-SPOILERS AHEAD—————————————————

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1) The Lord of the Rings. Arthur Curry’s story is similar to that of Aragorn. They’re both outsider kings but rightful rulers of their people. Initially mistrusted and set aside, they are eventually able to win everyone over through their bravery and resolve. They pass tests of worthiness and end up commanding the impossible (Aragon convinces the Army of the Dead to help in the final battle of the Return of the King, while Arthur brings the Trench Dwellers to face Ocean Master).

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2) Star Wars. It was beautiful when Mera and Arthur shared their first kiss. Time slowed down, and you can see ships and laser beams all over the ocean. At that moment, I smiled because it dawned on me that the whole thing was like one massive Star Wars brawl, except it had all sorts of water creatures instead of TIE fighters and AT-ATs.

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3) Prince of Persia. Maybe it was the sand in the Sahara desert, or all the rooftop jumping that Mera did, but the sequence felt like something you would see in a Prince of Persia movie/game. In their search of King Atlan’s trident, they encountered puzzles which they needed to solve before they could move on with their quest. Once progress has been made, hordes of enemies or boss battles would occur (Ocean Master, Black Manta, etc.)–really entertaining touches, if you ask me.

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4) Avengers: Age of Ultron. Mera has tremendous power, and we saw how she can manipulate water the way Arthur couldn’t. When Black Manta and the Atlantean commandos attacked Arthur and Mera, she found herself inside one of the wine rooms. Mera then released her fury and formed spikes to take out her enemies. During this awesome scene, she reminded us a lot of Scarlet Witch when she emerged from one of the abandoned homes in Sokovia, fully confident after Hawkeye’s pep talk.

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5) Iron Man. Black Manta is clearly presented as a villain. He mercilessly kills a submarine officer at the start of the movie just because he didn’t like his answer. However, they take the time to develop his character by highlighting 1) his closeness with his dad, 2) his frustrated efforts at besting Aquaman (he prides himself as being the best but his humanity limits him), and 3) his technical know-how. The scene where he hacks Atlantean tech and molds it to his own is very Tony Stark of the first Iron Man movie (Tony fashioned his armor out of metal scraps found inside the cave where he was held captive).

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6) Eat Pray Love. This is probably a surprise to anyone who has read this far, but yes, Eat Pray Love! Haha. I recall that Elizabeth Gilbert travels to find herself and Italy is one of her destinations. I think I got reminded of it when Mera walked around Sicily and mingled with the townsfolk, all the while being amazed and realizing that humans aren’t so bad after all. The flower-eating scene worked well because of Heard and Momoa’s chemistry, and I temporarily thought I was watching a romantic comedy.

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7) Wonder Woman. Multiple sources have reported that Aquaman is basically DC’s Black Panther, except Erik Killmonger is the good guy. They may have a point there, but what it actually reminded me of was DCEU’s own Wonder Woman. Both films have fierce women warriors present (Queen Atlanna and Mera for Aquaman, and Diana and the Amazonians for Wonder Woman). Both films feature a superhero who does not fit into the world they are thrust in–the main difference is that Diana heads out of Themyscira into the world of humans, while Arthur leaves the world of humans to fight for Atlantis.

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8) The Fast and The Furious. Before directing Aquaman, James Wan did Furious 7. I feel like this work stint influenced how each location greatly differed from one another, and how there were written labels on the screen (The Trench, Sahara Desert, Sicily, etc) each time the location changed. Oh, and that crazy jumping out of an airplane scene? That’s just something you’d expect from a Fast and Furious film.

Warner Bros. definitely hit gold with their latest offering, as Aquaman is able to restore our faith in the DC Extended Universe. Here’s to getting the same level of quality in the future!

Aquaman (Warner Bros. Pictures) is now available at cinemas near you!

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7 Life Lessons from Netflix’s To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

I haven’t read To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, but I’ve been seeing a lot of people posting about the Netflix adaptation released just this month. This got me curious.

Yesterday, a close friend and I were talking and she said: “Feel ko magugustuhan mo. Benta, you’re the only boy I can say that to! Hahaha.” Because I am a jolly bear and I watch anything I want without fear of judgment from other people, I took that as a compliment and a challenge.

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PHOTO: NETFLIX/TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE

My #Beardict on To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before: It’s simply an entertaining, feels-galore film with a lot of likable characters. I enjoyed it so much that I was compelled to end my 3-month writing hiatus. Heartwarming but not overly cheesy, it shows the adventures of growing up and finding love during a time when you haven’t figured out life yet.

Here are several life lessons we can learn from To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (SPOILERS BELOW):

There’s a Lara Jean in all of us. Okay, some of you are probably protesting right now and saying “Are you serious? But she’s annoying!” EXACTLY. Aren’t we always kind of annoyed with ourselves? Lara Jean has many flaws, but it’s exactly why she’s so relatable. Like Lara Jean, we tend to overthink, question everything we do, and pretend our way to happiness. But like her as well, we should always remember to try to be true to ourselves.

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PHOTO: NETFLIX/TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE

It’s okay to be romantic, but we also have to be realistic. While it’s true that Lara Jean’s fantasies helped her through tough times, they also harmed her when she started dating Peter. She could not admit to herself that she was happy with him because she already had unrealistic expectations of what a perfect relationship should be like.

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PHOTO: NETFLIX/TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE

Life can be sad, so don’t keep everything inside. Find good listeners. Yes, you can say that To All The Boys is a feel-good movie, but it spent a lot of time emphasizing the need to talk about things to not feel too sad. Like Lara Jean said, “it’s not whatever.” For Lara Jean, it wasn’t just the fact that she had Peter to talk to about her mom’ during their “relationship.” She wasn’t the most popular kid in school, but she had a support system in the form of her family and friends. On that note…

Surround yourselves with people who will push you to be your best self. Lara Jean did not have a happy ending because she suddenly changed her perspective in life. No, everyone around her encouraged her. Her friends Chris and Lucas convinced her to take Peter seriously. Lara Jean’s dad was as supportive as a parent could be. Her sisters were brutally honest and gave her tough love when she needed it, and even Josh chipped in to give her some much-needed direction.

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PHOTO: NETFLIX/TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE

In the age of social media, handwritten notes are more valuable than ever.  Sure, chats, mentions, and tags are nice, but they’ll never replace the feeling of receiving something more tangible. Did you see how Lara Jean lighted up when she read her collection of Peter notes? Her reaction was priceless. With that said, let’s all go and give a handwritten note to a loved one and make their day. NOW.

You never know how the smallest thing can affect somebody. Most of the movie’s plot would not have happened if not for the kiss with young Peter. During that time, for Peter, it was cool, but it was nothing special. For Lara Jean, it cemented Peter as her first crush. However, for Gen, it was the event that made Lara Jean her enemy, and Lara Jean was completely unaware of its impact the entire time. Talk about having a grudge!

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PHOTO: NETFLIX/TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE

It’s always nice to get an explanation. However, there are times that you just have to accept things and move on. We’ve all been poor Josh at one point in our lives, confused and left in the dust. First, Margot breaks up with him all of a sudden after he buys a freaking plane ticket to Scotland, then Lara Jean continually dodges him after he receives her letter. Although Lara Jean did explain why she reacted the way she did, Josh himself said that he now understood why Margot broke up with him. When we don’t get all the answers, we end up maturing a bit more.

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before is now available on Netflix.

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PHOTO: NETFLIX/TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE

Avengers: Infinity War – A Second Look

Distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

The Beardict: Avengers: Infinity War is simply the best superhero team movie since Marvel’s The Avengers (Captain America: Civil War included).

It’s not a surprise that Avengers: Infinity War is now the new box office king, with multiple records broken during its opening weekend.

A lot of people are already reviewing it as a film, so instead, let’s look at moments that deserve a second look. From fun facts to important plot devices, what could/do they really mean?

_____________WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD_____________

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1) Thanos Is The Villain We Need. There’s a running joke that Infinity War should instead be titled Thanos: The Movie since it seems he is the main character of the story, and the Avengers are just along for the ride. To be fair, it’s a good observation. I think he even had more lines than Steve Rogers. The movie took great care in explaining the motivations for his actions, and he truly believes he’s doing what is necessary for the universe to survive.  Contrary to his moniker the Mad Titan, he’s not crazy at all. Everything he does is methodical and with great purpose. This is a stark contrast to the Thanos of the comic books, where he just collected the Infinity Stones to impress Lady Death.

“Perfectly-balanced, as all things should be.” He assumes the responsibility of being the balancing force and brings it upon himself to do the things no one else will do. Thanos may seem like a heartless monster at first, but his connection to Gamora proves that he feels.  In the end, when he was chilling in the Banaue Rice Terraces, he was reflecting on his life choices; content that he succeeded in halving the lives in the universe, but sad that he had to give up “everything” in the process.

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2) Thanos (Almost) Considers Tony Stark His Equal. Obviously, Thanos thought very lowly of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. The fact that he no longer put back his battle armor after getting the Space Stone is testament to this. Indeed, he did end up clobbering every Avenger who tried to stop him, but did you notice that Iron Man was the only one Thanos called by name? He referred to Dr. Strange as wizard, Spider-Man as insect (which is actually wrong since he’s an arachnid, but let’s not get technical here haha), and Star-Lord as the boyfriend, but he actually said the name “Stark.”

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Why does Thanos even know Stark? Does he have Internet? It’s probably because he was the one who blasted his Chitauri army to hell in the first Avengers movie, almost sacrificing himself in the process. This most likely impressed Thanos, given his belief in sacrifice and all. When Iron Man asked Thanos how he knew him, he said Stark is not the only one with the curse of knowledge. Is Thanos talking about the entire Ultron fiasco, and how Stark started the whole project because he knew he needed to protect the earth no matter what, safety measures be damned? This could mean Thanos sees a bit of himself in Stark, and that’s the reason why he has his respect.

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3) The Chitauri Make An Appearance. Speaking of the Chitauri, it seems they used to be the favored army of Thanos and his Children (before they were decimated in the Battle of New York, of course). In the flashback scene with young Gamora, we see Chitauri-like soldiers dividing the crowd while Ebony Maw drones on, preaching about Thanos’ mercy. Up above, there are floating Leviathans, the beast-ship hybrids we saw in the first Avengers movie. I actually miss the Chitauri, simply because the Outriders from the Battle of Wakanda are hideous–they remind me of Lickers from the Resident Evil franchise.

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4) Hulk Realizes He’s Not The Strongest. Yes, the entire struggle between Bruce Banner and his Hulk persona was ridiculously funny, making it one of the most consistent things that made people laugh in the cinema. However, although Banner hasn’t realized it yet (he says he is going to have a talk with the Hulk–this is probably going to happen in Avengers 4), Hulk obviously does not want to come out because of crippling self-doubt. As evidenced by his arena antics in Thor: Ragnarok where he wanted to beat Thor to a bloody pulp, Hulk has always prided himself in being the strongest. The fact that Thanos made quick work of him inside the Asgardian ship was extremely damaging to his identity. If Hulk is not the strongest, then who is he, really?

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5) Scarlet Witch’s Raw Power Is Unlimited. Ever since Age of Ultron, the power of MCU Wanda has always been toned down. We’ve never witnessed her true potential (although we have noticed that she has dropped her Sokovian accent already. Haha.)  You can say that, in gamer terms, she’s a nerfed character. However, in Infinity War, we finally see glimpses of what she’s truly capable of: She held off two members of the Black Order (Children of Thanos) by herself (Vision was injured), dealt the finishing blow to Proxima, and destroyed the Mind Stone using one hand while keeping Thanos at bay using the other. That’s right, Thanos, with five Infinity Stones already in the gauntlet! After, we see Thanos brush Wanda’s hair affectionately when she was down: her resilience probably reminded him of his daughter Gamora. Although Scarlet Wtich is now gone like the other Avengers, she’ll definitely be back with a bang. Hell hath no fury than a woman who has lost her android!

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6) Dr. Strange Actually Fulfills His Promise. At first glance, it seems Strange went back on his word about prioritizing the Time Stone over Iron Man and Spider-Man’s life. The unlikely trio did quite bond on the ship, and an emotional attachment was formed. However, keep in mind that Strange saw the future and out of the 14 million plus possibilities, there was only one instance that they would win. In that future, he probably saw Thanos succeeding in annihilating half of the universe, but Tony Stark was alive in that timeline, and he eventually finds a way to reverse the effects and becomes key to their victory. In effect, by striking a deal with Thanos, Dr. Strange did prioritize saving the Earth after all.

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7) Spider-Man Is Still Just A Kid On A Field Trip. When Peter left the bus in New York, he just traded one field trip for another. There’s always a sense of adventure when it comes to kids and field trips, and that’s what he was feeling during the majority of the movie. Between the Iron Spider suit upgrade and getting “knighted” into the Avengers (and enjoying the banter with the father he never had), he didn’t realize the stakes were so high until he was about to disappear. Viewers were left emotional because Peter kept saying “I don’t wanna go,” but his last words were actually “I’m sorry.” He said sorry because Tony was right in the end; he should not have come.

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8) Nidavellir Is A Giant Game of Thrones Commercial. Giant, get it? Haha. Kidding aside, it was really great seeing Peter Dinklage play the role of Eitri the Blacksmith. If you look closely, the entire segment at Nidavellir had a lot of Game of Thrones references. First of all, even though he is massive, Eitri is a dwarf in the MCU, a term used to describe Tyrion multiple times in Game of Thrones.

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When they were firing up the forge, it looked like the opening sequence of Game of Thrones, with the engines and wheels turning. There was even a scene that looked eerily similar to the last seconds of the GoT opening which features the logo of the show. Additionally, the molten liquid that flowed through the forge looked like Blood and Fire mixed together, which is the Targaryen family motto (Tyrion is theorized to be Targaryen in the show). I know it’s a bit of a stretch, but it still remains an interesting coincidence.

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9) Groot Wields StormBreaker. Teenage Groot is pretty much useless for most of the movie, glued to his game which Rocket says will “rot his brain.” However, he finally acts when he sees Thor dying, and Eitri is in a panic to find the handle of Stormbreaker. I initially thought Groot would heal Thor, but then he cuts a piece of himself to complete the magical axe. There’s a one-second shot of Groot lifting Stormbreaker before he drops it to the ground out of exhaustion.

If teenage Groot can actually lift Stormbreaker in his developing state, then an adult Groot could possibly have the capacity/worthiness to harness the axe. This scene might also be homage to the fact that a version of Groot in the comic books was part of the Thor Corps, and there, he was able to use Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer, very effectively.

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10) Drax Looks Up To Star-Lord. It may not be that obvious now, especially with Drax developing a man crush on Thor when the Guardians rescued him, but remember that Drax was all about Peter Quill in the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1. Drax may disobey direct orders and call Star-Lord a dude, but right when he was disintegrating on Titan, the last word he uttered was “Quill,” and the look in his eyes said it all: He was expecting Star-Lord to do something and save him. Unfortunately for Drax, Star-Lord could not do anything, as he couldn’t even save himself from getting erased.

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11) Mantis Is The Most Dangerous Guardian. Star-Lord’s emotional breakdown may have been the focus when the Avengers were trying to get the gauntlet off of Thanos, but let’s stop for a moment and think: How did Mantis subdue Thanos’ mind for that long just by touching his face? The simple answer is this: Mantis is op (overpowered), and who knows what could have happened if she was able to put Thanos under for a longer period of time? Maybe the Infinity War ending would have been a lot different. Gamora might be the fiercest woman in the galaxy, but Mantis is just something else.

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12) Corvus Glaive Can Still Be Alive. Proxima Midnight, the Children’s best fighter, acted as their default leader in Infinity War. However, in the comic books, Corvus Glaive (Proxima’s husband) is the general of Thanos’ forces. Although he has superhuman abilities, what’s unique about him is he can keep on reviving himself and is essentially immortal “as long as his glaive’s blade is intact.” The Avengers gravely wounded him during the scrimmage in Scotland, and yet there he was again hunting Vision in Wakanda, restored to full health. That’s why his line to Vision “You’re dying, just like any man” is so pointed. Even though he got impaled in the end, there is a big possibility he is still alive.

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The Red Skull in Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

13) The Red Skull Is Not Dead. It was a pleasant surprise to see the Red Skull in Vormir as some sort of gatekeeper for the Soul Stone. They didn’t really explain how he got there (Is he now a spirit? Did the Tesseract/Space Stone transport him there after the events of Captain America: First Avenger?), but he informed the audience that it really was him as he said that he once held an Infinity Stone in his hand.

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Brie Larson on the set of Captain Marvel (2019)

14) Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers) Is Coming. Talk about opportune timing! In the post-credit scene, we see Maria Hill and Nick Fury suffer from the reality wipe. Thankfully, before he disappears completely, Fury is able to send a distress signal to Carol using a device that resembles a 90s beeper. This serves to connect Infinity War to the upcoming Captain Marvel film featuring Brie Larson, to be released on Mar 2019, two months before Avengers 4. One of the most powerful members and respected leaders of the Avengers, Captain Marvel will be instrumental if they hope to defeat Infinity Thanos.

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15) The Original Avengers Were The Ones Left. Social media is abuzz with this. When Thanos snapped his fingers to end half of the universe, the Avengers who remained were the OG Team. Hawkeye is probably out there somewhere. We can consider War Machine as part of the OG since he’s been around since Iron Man 2. I’m not sure why Rocket and Okoye were left, but Nebula was a logical choice since she is bound to play an important role in Avengers 4 given her involvement in the comic books.

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Coincidentally, Chris Evans and company’s contracts are up by Avengers 4. Since Captain America and Iron Man will  do whatever it takes to defeat Thanos, the current theory is that those who were left are the ones who are likely to die in the sequel. Stark might actually be the last to go, and the dream sequence he had in Age of Ultron where he saw his dead friends surrounding him can actually come true. This is quite sad, but at least…

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16) The Ones Who Disappeared Will Come Back. We’re under the assumption that there will be a lot of resurrections in Avengers 4, as the remaining Avengers will fight to reverse the effects done by the Infinity Stones. Those with planned movie sequels will surely come back – Spider-Man: Homecoming and Black Panther part twos have already been announced, as well as Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Even Gamora who was sacrificed by Thanos can possibly come back, since her death is connected to the Soul Stone. Moreover, contract-wise, most of the ones who disappeared still have a long way to go. Sebastian Stan, who plays Bucky Barnes (Winter Soldier/White Wolf), has a 9-picture deal with Marvel Studios, and he has only appeared in four so far (not counting the Black Panther cameo). So don’t worry, true believers, this is just a temporary setback (I hope.).

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Bonus Fearless Forecast: Thor Will Aim For The Head in Avengers 4. As my girlfriend pointed out, Thor will probably follow Thanos’ instructions and successfully dispatch him next time around by slicing off his head. Marvel likes doing these things (just look at how Vision stopped Corvus the same way Corvus stopped Vision at the start.)

There are still so many thing to discuss about Avengers: Infinity War:

  • Ned (Peter Parker’s best friend) had the best one-liner in the history of Hollywood extras
  • Infinity War was self-aware about how ridiculous some characters looked (Chris beards, Squidward, Grimace, etc.)
  • There were so many movie references (Aliens, Kevin Bacon, Footloose, Flash Gordon, etc.)
  • The Infinity Gauntlet flashed the stone which Thanos decided to use in a certain situation
  • Rocket asked Bucky how much for the arm

However, we have to cap this for now so I don’t spend infinite hours writing this article. Haha. How about you, guys? What else did you notice about the masterpiece that is Avengers: Infinity War? What did you love? Reach out and let’s discuss!

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Reasons Why A Quiet Place Deserves Your Time

Philippine Distributor: United International Pictures (through Paramount Pictures)

Scary movies aren’t really my thing, but for a date with Emily Blunt, I was willing to risk having sleepless nights. Haha. My #Beardict: A Quiet Place exceeds expectations with its fresh take on the horror movie genre, using silence as its main tool all throughout.

Here are the Reasons Why A Quiet Place​ Deserves Your Time:

Cinema Was Quiet. With a hashtag that says #StayQuiet and the trailer’s voice over saying “Stop talking,” I think the audience was conditioned from the start to refrain from making a sound to not disrupt the cinematic experience. We Filipinos aren’t really the most disciplined crowd when it comes to watching movies, but it was such a pleasant surprise. For my viewing of A Quiet Place, things were eerily quiet, so much so that I had to time my popcorn eating during the noisier parts of the film so I wouldn’t disturb the peace. I even heard the sound of a soda can opening many seats away from me. It was THAT quiet.

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Emily Blunt. Although I’ve become a super fan of Emily over the years (my gamer tag was once Bearishblunt—go figure!), The Devil Wears Prada​ was not the movie that started it all. I remember watching the British comedy Wild Target​ (2010), and I decided to intensely support her after that. Although I will always think of her as the Captain Marvel​ that never was, I am happy that she’s expanded her filmography to include horror, showing that she can do any role imaginable. It’s always a delight to see her on-screen. I firmly believe it’s only a matter of time before she wins an Oscar.

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John Krasinski​. Krasinski has really come out of his comedic shell. Best known for his character Jim in the US version of The Office​, he has proven that he has the acting chops for more serious roles. More importantly, he has now established himself as an up-and-coming director/scriptwriter. It’s amusing how he almost became Captain America​. Come to think of it, his look and stance in A Quiet Place actually has a similar vibe to Chris Evans​’ Nomad.

Unconventional Family Movie. One of my friends said that A Quiet Place is a family project, and indeed, it is an excellent one. Krasinski and Blunt bring their real-life chemistry as husband and wife to the screen (Guys, please, do not break up. Haha.) I can definitely see them now as older versions of Reed Richards and Sue Storm in a potential Fantastic Four​ reboot by Marvel Studios​. A Quiet Place has a post-apocalyptic setting, but it (thankfully) gives the teenage love triangle scenario a rest. Instead, the film centers on the family dynamic as the most important thing in the world, especially since every second/breath taken, danger is just lurking around the corner.

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A Trailer that Teases. I saw the trailer of A Quiet Place a couple of times before seeing it in the cinemas. I have to say that although I was pumped to see it, I didn’t really know the plot yet. Maybe it was my lack of attention, but I honestly though the film was about a newlywed couple who move in to a mysterious mute community, and things go haywire from there. Haha. The point is: trailers nowadays reveal too much of what’s in store that we basically know what’s going to happen. For A Quiet Place, it just entices us to watch.

Effective Marketing. Of course, a trailer would not be great if the whole marketing strategy wasn’t. Its production budget of 17M USD (already small relative to other Hollywood releases) was already surpassed by US box office numbers only after a few days of release. Assuming that the marketing budget is roughly the same amount, A Quiet Place is well on its way to become a very profitable film. Word of mouth and early positive reviews definitely helped the big numbers and made it viral. Fans have been rating it 11/10 (I even saw a 14/10), and celebrities have been consistently tweeting about their experience. Stephen King, one of the greatest storytellers of our time, even said:

“A QUIET PLACE is an extraordinary piece of work. Terrific acting, but the main thing is the SILENCE, and how it makes the camera’s eye open wide in a way few movies manage.”

That’s a very solid endorsement, given Stephen King is not easily impressed—he is known to even dislike many adaptations for his books.

Here in the Philippines, I didn’t see any local billboards, but before its release, I encountered short ads in Spotify​ Free (which I did not mind at all given I was so hyped for this movie. Haha). UIP Philippines​ also released a series of boosted content on Facebook and Instagram. Truly, A Quiet Place is an entertainment success that needs to be studied. The industry can learn a lot from it!

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Great Pacing. Immediately after the movie ended, the couple seated next to me talked about how A Quiet Place had great pacing. I thought about it, and they were absolutely right. At just a 1 hour and 30 min screen time, it didn’t seem too short or “bitin,” and the events were fleshed out properly, leading to a satisfying conclusion.

Developing Threat. I like how the evil they were up against was introduced little by little, and they didn’t spend a lot of time with exposition at the start. Instead, A Quiet Place chooses to go on a journey with the audience, providing clues here and there, building up to the final fight.

Audience-Friendly. Essentially, it’s a scary movie that can be watched by people who are unable to watch scary movies. Don’t get me wrong, it’s quite gripping, and there were a lot of moments that really caught me off guard (that’s putting it lightly haha), but the premise is not going to prevent you from having a good night’s sleep. I won’t say anything more to prevent spoilers, but I just wanted to put this so those who are hesitating because of the horror factor can go ahead and watch it. You definitely won’t regret it!

 

9 Magical Reasons To Watch Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them

Note: This post contains very minor spoilers. There is nothing about the major storyline, so there’s no need to threaten me with your Avada Kedavras. Hehe.

Photos courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

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Potterheads, unite! It’s time once again to relive the Harry Potter experience through Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The first movie without Daniel Radcliffe’s Harry, Fantastic Beasts focuses on Newt Scamander and his visit to America. He brings his magical creatures to New York, a city being terrorized by a mysterious force.

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Here are nine magical reasons why you should catch Fantastic Beasts:

  1. New Beginning. It’s a new beginning for the Harry Potter universe. Fantastic Beasts deals with a different time and a different place. There are different terms involved, different wizards, and of course, different threats. It’s 1926 New York, where American wizards try to fend off magical disturbances so they won’t be discovered by No-Majs (American term for Muggle). The Magical Congress of the United States of America, or MACUSA, for short (not much of a fan of the abbreviation, it sounds so much like another secret organization. Hehe.), do their best to keep things in order, while being wary of the Grindelwald threat back in Europe.jacob-kowalski
  2. No-Majs, time to shine! Non-magical folks like you and me are given the limelight for a change. The average Joe Jacob Kowalski, played by Dan Fogler, is a huge part of the film and is undeniably one of its best characters. His perspective gives us unique insight on how a Muggle or more appropriately, a No-Maj, would feel about the discovery of the magical community. In the Harry Potter movies, we just got the Dursleys most of the time, and they definitely weren’t good Muggle ambassadors.FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM
  3. Beasts galore! As expected from the title, much focus on the magical creatures are given in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I remember reading the book of the same title that J.K. Rowling wrote many years ago, which contained descriptions of beasts in the Wizarding World (and Ron’s doodles), many of which were not explored in the Harry Potter movies.FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEMIn Fantastic Beasts, we finally see Rowling’s creations on the big screen, and yes, it is definitely worth the wait. The film is perfect for someone who not only loves Harry Potter but also animals. There’s a beast that looks like a fluffy beaver-platypus hybrid and another that looks like Yoda. Some are beautiful, some are scary, and some are just plain adorable. If you’re the type who imagine your pets to have magic, your dream has now come true! I’ll stop here so you won’t be spoiled; you’ll just have to see them to be amazed yourself. fb-1200x675
  4. Familiar yet fresh. The moment the movie starts, a variation of the traditional Harry Potter theme plays, and we get eased into the experience. I literally WOW-ed while watching, awe and excitement running through my veins. However, unlike a Harry Potter movie, where more or less you know the ending already (if you’ve already read the book), the direction of the story is on the table, and it keeps you really excited for what’s going to happen next. I appreciate the fact that the trailers don’t reveal much (you won’t even know what the conflict is/who the villain is by watching it).FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEMBar a few scenes, the tone is lighter in Fantastic Beasts, and the feeling of dread is not that much compared to the last HP films. Although it is set in America, it’s not a complete change since our main protagonist, Newt Scamander, is still very British. Mr. Scamander and his friends are all adults, and yet they have this childlike vibe, giving you fond memories of Harry, Ron, and Hermione.FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM
  5. Interesting characters. The characters are the lifeblood of Fantastic Beasts. When I first encountered the name Newt Scamander as one of the authors of Harry’s textbooks, I knew he would be a peculiar guy with great understanding when it comes to beasts. Academy Award-winner Eddie Redmayne plays the part excellently. (For the Doctor Who fans here, his portrayal of Mr. Scamander actually reminds me of Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor).  636147357859890742-ap-film-review-fantastic-beasts-and-where-to-find-themHe has this awkwardness that’s a perfect complement to Katherine Waterson’s Tina Goldstein, who, based on society’s standards, isn’t too normal herself. Jacob Kowalski, an aspiring baker, makes you realize how absurd the magical community is, and reacts the way you probably would if you discovered magic was real. FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEMAlison Sudol as Queenie Goldstein is such a treat to watch.  Queenie is a lot nicer than Tina but just as brave, and much to Jacob’s delight, is curious about No-Majs like him. Her disarming (Expelliarmus-like) smile is enough to bring warmth to the entire theatre. fantastic-beasts-and-where-to-find-them-43When I watched the trailer, I wasn’t too accepting of Collin Farrell as a wizard (since I will always remember him as Bullseye haha), but his Percival Graves grew on me while I watched. I’m excited for more characters to be revealed in the next movies, and of course, old characters with young versions of themselves (more on that later).fantastic-beasts-and-where-to-find-them-26
  6. Harry Potter and the fantasy genre live on. Much like Star Wars: Episode VII, Fantastic Beasts serves as a starting point for a large number of viewers. Although Harry Potter mania did not ever die (my friend is testament to this), Fantastic Beasts provides a chance for new enthusiasts to immerse themselves in the Wizarding World. This serves as a catalyst for renewed interest in the Harry Potter franchise, and even a boon to stories about fantasy and magic in general.fantastic-beasts-and-where-to-find-them-53
  7. Stunning visual effects. It’s been 15 years since Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was released, and technology has immensely improved. For the best experience, watch it in 3D and IMAX! The fantastic beasts on the screen pop out wonderfully, and spells flash and flicker with vivid colors right before your eyes.fb_0
  8. Comments on current social landscape. At first glance, the setting of Fantastic Beasts is very different from today, given that it’s in the 1920s and there’s magic involved. However, the issues discussed there are quite relevant today. By treating Jacob Kowalski as a major character, the film makes a move towards inclusion, regardless if one has magic or not. It also speaks about discrimination by showing the reincarnation of the Salem witch hunters movement, and wizards who think lowly of No-Majs—both extreme sides of the spectrum. Cultural differences are also tackled, given English and American terms and practices differ on quite a few things.FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM
  9. Surprise twist and a taste of things to come. Most of the time, I’m able to guess movie twists halfway through, but Fantastic Beasts really surprises with its ending. It gives you a preview of what challenges our wizards will face the next time around. J.K. Rowling has confirmed that there are four Fantastic Beasts movies left. Yes, please!FTB933_FBST_DTR4 1651.tif I’m still hungry for more Fantastic Beasts, and whether or not it will still have the same central characters, people are now excited about the possible appearance of famous Hogwarts Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore. The search for the young Dumbledore is on! Moreover, Director David Yates is planning to remain at the helm, so he should be able to keep the consistency of the Wizarding World we’ve grown to love.

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Beardict: Although there are a few scenes which seem somewhat draggy (and cheesy), overall, Fantastic Beasts is a great watch. It has whet my appetite for more stuff from the Harry Potter mythos. What can I say? I’m spellbound! As long as J.K. Rowling writes and David Yates directs, we’ll be in good, capable hands. I’m confident that it can only get more magical from here.

Want to be as happy as I am in this photo? Watch Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them now!

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IMAX Midnight Screening, SM Mall of Asia

The Girl on the Train: Storytelling Galore

Photos courtesy of Dreamworks Pictures/United International Pictures Philippines

Whenever you watch movies, is there a point when you get so engrossed with what’s happening that you just want to step into the screen and help out? That’s how I was with The Girl on the Train.

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Fresh off the smash hit Train to Busan, we now get a suspense thriller called The Girl on the Train. (Seriously, what’s up with all these train movies? Hehe.) While Busan deals with a zombie outbreak that threatens to annihilate the human race, The Girl on the Train focuses on Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt), a bitter, alcoholic divorcee who fixates on a couple she gets to see whenever she rides the train (which is like, a LOT of times).

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I could tell you that my primary motivation for watching The Girl on the Train is because I read journalist Paula Hawkins’ book where it is based on. Unfortunately, I can’t. All I know is that I watched The Girl on the Train because I wolf down anything that Emily Blunt appears in. Call me a fanboy all you want, but it’s as natural to me as the sun rising in the east. However, to be fair, I think even without Emily in the cast, the premise, by itself, is already compelling. Watch the trailer, and you’ll see what I mean.

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Emily Blunt is so brilliant at being messed up in the Girl on the Train that you’d forget she ever played strong characters like Edge of Tomorrow’s Rita Vrataski before. Her projection of Rachel’s misery is masterful that you can’t help but feel sympathetic.

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Yes, Rachel is the central character, and the movie title The Girl on the Train pertains to her, but we quickly see that it focuses on two other women: Megan (Haley Bennett) and Anna (Rebecca Ferguson). All of them are very imperfect characters, which makes their stories more human, and therefore, more captivating. Feelings of jealousy, attachment, and sadness flood out and dominate the film.

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The Girl on the Train highlights the power of storytelling in shaping our lives. How we react depends on the stories we tell ourselves and the stories from the people around us. How do we distinguish from the truth and what goes on in our head? Is it one and the same?

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My friend said pacing was a bit slow. It may be so, but I think it was a needed effect for everything to sink in. There are no supernatural elements here (thank goodness, since the film is already a lot to take in) but it manages to strike fear into our hearts anyway. An engaging narrative, its purpose is to really confuse you while giving out strands of clues, given the way the angles and scenes were shot.

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Beardict: The Girl on the Train is, without a doubt, a stressful movie. This is not something you watch during the weekend to relax yourself. However, is it worth watching? Of course. If you’re the type who likes to make your heart beat faster and solve complicated mysteries, this one’s definitely for you. The film keeps you thinking and thinking like a good mental exercise.

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(For a shallower reason, you can just enjoy six beautiful people interacting with each other. I know this is the Hollywood effect, but I’m still not over the fact that all of the main characters look too ridiculously attractive to coexist in the same space. Haha.)

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Pete’s Dragon Opens Your Mind and Heart

*contains minor spoilers*

Photos courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures and Buenavista Distribution

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It is a severe understatement to say that Disney is very good when it comes to animal movies. Fresh from their success with the reimagining of The Jungle Book (which has grossed almost 1 billion dollars already, by the way), they now give us a modern take of 1977’s Pete’s Dragon.

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Pete’s Dragon (1977)

Pete’s Dragon (2016) is about a boy named Pete (Bet you didn’t see that one coming! Hehe.) and his unlikely friendship with Elliot, the fluffy green dragon. With no parents to guide him, Pete grows up in the woods with just Elliot as his companion, until loggers start cutting down trees close to their home.

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Dragons are pretty much in fashion nowadays, thanks to pop culture shows like Game of Thrones (Daenerys and her Dracarys moments) and Pokemon (Dragonite and the issue of Charizard NOT being a dragon). However, none of them are quite as cute and adorable as Elliot. Although frightening when first show onscreen, we slowly realize he is a creature full of warmth. He actually looks like a big puppy who just wants to play and snuggle. Just look at those eyes!

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Enter Pete (Oakes Fegley). Tragedy and loneliness bring people together, or in the case of Pete and Elliot, boy and dragon. Only a toddler when he meets Elliot in the forest, Pete grows up with his innocence intact. He has no human selfishness to speak of and is content of how things are. Both loyal to each other, Pete and Elliot are the perfect pair. They actually remind me of Savage Garden’s Animal Song: “Animals and children tell the truth, they never lie. Which one is more human?  There’s a thought, now you decide.”

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The adult lead in Pete’s Dragon is Grace, a kind forest ranger who gets attached to Pete when she sees him alone in the woods. Bryce Dallas Howard is just perfect for the role. She has a beautiful face and gentle voice that you can’t help but trust. No wonder Pete didn’t have a hard time getting close to Grace!

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Pete’s Dragon is very relatable and makes us think about how we are as human beings. It explores the importance of family. It tackles coping with survival, loss, and letting go of the ones we love. We are resistant to change but at the same time curious of what lies ahead. Sometimes, we tend to be materialistic, and we forget that everything is not about us.

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As adults, our usual state is disbelief until proven otherwise. When things are revealed to us, we then try to control what we don’t understand. We become used to what we know and don’t give a chance to what we DON’T know. When did we stop using our imagination? When did we stop believing in the impossible?

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One thing that Pete’s Dragon does so well is make you cry. (Yeah, I said it! I’m not taking it back. Hehe.) I lost count of how many times I shed a tear while watching this film. I can’t speak for everyone, but I felt an intense emotional connection with Elliot, so much so that the next time I see a shooting star, I will seriously wish for him to be real.

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More than just a fantasy movie, Pete’s Dragon is a story about the unbreakable bond between a boy and his furry friend. It challenges us to open our minds and hearts to things we are not aware of. You can say that in real life, no one has ever seen a dragon. Are we 100 percent sure that they don’t exist, then? How we see the world is limited, but the world itself isn’t.

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Let’s just learn to believe again and revel in the unknown. How to start? Go ahead and watch Pete’s Dragon!

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