KASAL (Ruel Bayani, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Kasal:

1. According to the Urban Dictionary (one of my online sources of truth), the word “triggered” meant getting filled with hate after seeing, hearing, or experiencing something you couldn’t stand. By the end of this completely offensive movie masquerading as an LGBTQ+ advocacy film, you could definitely consider me triggeredt (with the additional t for emphasis, and also as a millennial).

I actually decided to let my emotions simmer down before writing anything but after a full 8 hours of sleep, I was still feeling the exact same thing. Who were the bright minds behind this monstrosity??!

2. Anybody who had seen the teaser/trailer would already have an inkling on the much-hyped twist here. If you guessed that Philip (Paulo Avelino) and Wado (Derek Ramsay) were previously lovers and their entire history would be the major cause of drama prior to the wedding with Lia (Bea Alonzo), then you had a much better story right there.

The only twist here wasn’t exactly a twist. Philip was just secretly gay. Yun na yun. Now that would have been fine if only the movie had the thoughtfulness to handle such a topic. Shown after the heels of the critically-adored Love, Simon, one would expect that homosexuality would no longer be used as a regressive plot device and that serious topics like coming out would be handled with the required sensitivity. But no, this was a Star Cinema movie where a gay lead character would actually identify as bisexual because heaven forbid it would end without a happy couple walking out of the church very much in love.

3. Did I mention that Wado was the straight ex of Lia and part of his plan to win her back and break up her engagement with Philip was to blackmail the latter by playing footsies with him and using a seduction video of them in the shower (complete with an ominous, slightly porn-ish musical score)? Huh?? Seryoso? Wouldn’t Lia even question why Wado was also making out with another guy? In the shower??

Even worse, the video showed Wado physically and sexually assaulting Philip! How could that possibly work in his favor? That was obviously just another stunt to get two heterosexual local actors kiss (oh, how brave!). And no, Paulo’s upper-half butt exposure was not enough to appease me.

(Side note: A couple of women next to me were loudly screaming “Yuck!” during the entire sequence. I hope that was their reaction at the apparent foolishness of the movie and not at the sight of two men kissing because, c’mon guys, it’s 2018!)

4. But wait, I hadn’t even touched on the worst scene in this awful mess. After Philip’s (who was running for mayor) secret was revealed in public, Lia confronted him and said something like “Ang tatay ko transgender. Ang fiancé ko bisexual. Konti na lang mabubuo ko na ang LGBTQ!”. Please note that Philip in this supposedly emotional scene was just outed without his consent and had a bloodied face after a scuffle with Wado and the entire cinema was howling with laughter because of that dialogue.

And then Lia backtracked by saying that she wasn’t really mad about his sexuality, but at the deception and lies that she had been experiencing all her life. I was so happy you corrected yourself and made it all about you, girl! Confetti and glitter for you!

5. Since Lia was such an endearing and selfless character, here are my words of advice for her: 1) never wear white pants when doing an ocular visit in a dusty location, 2) learn to listen every once in a while and stop these empty declarations (“Don’t you ever speak to me about pain again!”, “Sino ka para sabihin sa akin kung anong gagawin sa buhay ko?”), and 3) if your wet armpits had always been an issue in previous relationships, there are several deodorants and anti-perspirants in the market to choose from (I can attest to the miraculous powers of Arm & Hammer).

6. I was surprised this wasn’t made into a teleserye since most of the characters seemed to be plucked from local soap operas:

• Philip’s controlling mother (Cherie Gil) to blushing bride-to-be Lia: “I was supposed to let you wear my custom-made Oscar dela Renta wedding gown. Of course, I was slimmer then, baka hindi magkasya.”

• Domineering father (Christopher de Leon, with flaring nostrils as always) to his wimpy, disappointing son Philip: “If only your brother Andrew did not die in that accident!”

• Olivia Papa in her signature white blazer (Cris Villonco): “!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” (Basta laging galit at sumisigaw.)

• Lia’s realizations after getting her heart broken by a bisexual: “Now I know that marriage is not just one big event. It’s a choice that you make every single day.”

Jusko, not even Primetime Bida levels! More of Kapamilya Gold. With another Moira dela Torre theme song. Bagong-bago! Itigil ang kasal!!

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

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CineFilipino Short Films – Set A (2018)

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#CineFilipino2018 – SHORTS A

LUISA AT GUADA (Jude Matanguihan, 2018) – ★★★★★

I’m such a sucker for these old people stories. Maybe because I’m not just an old soul, I’m just really old (huh?). The sungka reference, the pop culture chismisan about Kris Aquino and James “Uy”, the usual lola shade of “Ganyan ba manamit ang matinong babae?”, and the subsequent “Santissima!”. More relate, more fun.

Sherry Lara and Peewee O’Hara were terrific as the lifetime BFFs. One could only wish for a lasting friendship like theirs.

*****

RUFYLA (Coleen Tanco, 2018) – ★★☆☆☆

I really liked the tranquil opening sequence that also served as an introduction to the majestic T’boli culture, but then it devolved into a melodramatic public service ad about exploitation of probinsyanas (and to an extent, indigenous people). Literal kung literal.

*****

BINATA NA (Dexter de Jesus, 2018) – ★★☆☆☆

Interesting choice of not showing the faces of the actors, but it wasn’t able to add much on the discussion of circumcision as a Pinoy rite of passage to manhood. Of course there had to be a shot of a banana being peeled. I would have preferred an eggplant’s tip being chopped off, though.

*****

BOYET LOVES YOU (Josel Fajardo, 2018) – ★★★★☆

An effective horror-comedy that didn’t resort to cheap scares. Terrific performances from the two girls (one of them’s viral sensation Kat Galang) who had me from the moment they discussed the urban legend of the Snake Man in Robinson’s Galleria. You would probably piss your pants from laughing and/or pure terror.

*****

TUGMA (Joshua Tayco, 2018) – ★☆☆☆☆

Clearly well-intentioned, but its inauthenticity made it unbearable to watch. What rhymes with corny? (This had a rapping kid obviously named Rap so please don’t say horny.)

*****

SI APONIBOLINAYEN AT ANG MGA BATANG LUMILIPAD (April Aspiras, 2018) – ★★☆☆☆

Another social commentary, this time about displaced Lumads set in a constantly smoky place to establish atmosphere (seriously though, bakit laging mausok?). Very much like the kids with their glider, one would hope that this would soar, but it crashed with a resounding thud. (Pa-smart lang ako. Di ko lang talaga naintindihan.)

CineFilipino Short Films – Set B (2018)

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CINEFILIPINO 2018 – SHORTS B

.RAW (Eugine Frondoza, 2018) – ★★★☆☆

Reminded me of two things: 1) the belief that there was a certain gloom behind these perfectly-edited pre-nup videos, and 2) my undying love for Mara Lopez. I just wish it went beyond the “love the raw and unedited version of your other half” message.

*****

GABI NG KABABALAGHAN (Stephen Lopez, 2018) – ★★★★★

My easy favorite from this set. It was a well-crafted, inspired, and wicked take on Magandang Gabi Bayan’s iconic Halloween special. Those hilarious reenactments with the White Lady were just spot-on. Best end credits sequence, too. Made me excited to see what else this director had to offer.

*****

LASINGTUNADO (Miguel Fernandez, 2018) – ★☆☆☆☆

With its corny jokes and extended fight scenes, this one felt very much like an annoying, drunk next-door neighbor who went way past the allowed 10pm videoke curfew. If only it had more of that smart Bituin Escalante reference.

*****

AMUSIN PA (Raiza Masculino, 2018) – ★★☆☆☆

Spotty Southern Tagalog accents aside, this didn’t really offer anything new to the puppy love slash coming-of-age genre. At least it had the same kid in the wonderful Ang Painting ni Tatay.

*****

DUYAN NG ALON (Kaye Banaag, 2018) – ★★★★☆

I really liked this version of Cast Away imagined through the eyes of a child. It also had some really striking visuals, including a precious shadow play sequence that I could probably watch all day.

*****

ATE, KUYA, GUSTO KONG KAPE (Mark Bayani, 2018) – ★☆☆☆☆

Even an all-“star” cast that included Epy Quizon and 90’s Most Promising Actor Jao Mapa could not save this obvious headscratcher. “Sino si Ate?” Did anyone really care?

*****

SIYUDAD SA BULAWAN (Jarell Serencio, 2018) – ★★☆☆☆

There was an underlying sadness in this story of miners (and minors) working in a city of gold, but the film ended without really saying much. It looked really good, though.

IKAW PA LANG ANG MINAHAL (Carlos Siguion-Reyna, 1992)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Ikaw Pa Lang ang Minahal:

1. In a recent screening of the remastered and restored version of this Pinoy classic, Maricel Soriano spilled some scalding tea when she (jokingly) expressed her disappointment on not winning any major award for her performance in this film which she considered one of her favorites (she lost in the Big Four to Lorna Tolentino for Narito ang Puso Ko). She then mentioned that her loss at least inspired her to come up with much better output and more collaborations with director Carlos Siguion-Reyna. 

You could ask any Maricelian and they would definitely share the same frustration, including the fact that she had never won an Urian award. Some would probably even bring up these unfounded rumors that Lolit Solis (then manager of Lorna) used her clout and bribed the academy (Famas, FAP) and press (Star Awards) voters and that a couple of Manunuris (Urian) had a particular dislike for Maricel and blocked most of her wins.

Regardless of the eventual results, the truth remained though that her flawless turn as Adela Sevilla would be one for the books. To paraphrase her character: “Mamahalin nila ako. Mamahalin nila ako para sa inyong lahat na hindi nagmahal sa akin!”.

2. I originally saw this when it was first released back in 1992 and it felt surreal watching it again in a theater 26 years later. I didn’t even know back then that this was an adaptation of William Wyler’s 1949 film, The Heiress with Olivia de Havilland, which in turn was based on Henry James’ novel, Washington Square (did I miss the acknowledgments during the opening/closing credits or was there really no mention of this?). I was so clueless that when I saw the 1997 Washington Square film with Jennifer Jason Leigh, I wanted to personally write to Direk Carlos that somebody copied his masterpiece (thank goodness for ISP Bonanza’s slow dial-up connection!).

3. To this day, I still couldn’t get over the fact that Dr. Maximo Sevilla (a terrific Eddie Gutierrez) was a renowned doctor considering that he couldn’t even perform basic CPR. He almost crushed his dying wife’s rib cage and never resorted to mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and he even followed the same process with his dying daughter several years later (thankfully, the latter survived). At least his character made me understand the cariño brutal way that my mother used to raise all of her kids (if you’re reading this mom, I only included that to raise my word count).

Also, it was so ironic that the coldhearted Dr. Sevilla was actually right from the start in seeing through the real motives of David Javier (a wily Richard Gomez). Minsan na nga lang magka-Javier na character eh tuso pa. (Side note: Richard used to be my mom’s favorite local actor. Ipinaglihi niya ang youngest brother ko sa kanya. Ayun nakuha naman ni utol ang nunal sa right temple ni Richard hahaha!)

4. There were so many moments here that crushed my heart (Dr. Sevilla enumerating his regrets on having a pathetic daughter, Adela’s waterfall breakdown scene, the forced writing of the will, the deathbed reconciliation, etc.), but the scene that made me cry the most didn’t even have any dialogue (just some background music). It was the part where Adela was sitting inside her room, her face a mix of emotions, and then she finally smiled because she felt loved. She stood up, got a pink flower from the bouquet that David gave her, stood near the window, smelled the flower, and broke into tears. Yung feeling na “Lord thank you at nagka-jowa pa ako akala ko talaga mamamatay na akong single at walang magmamahal sa akin!”.

Seriously though, parang ako ang naka-jackpot ng jowa while watching this woman (tormented all her life by her disapproving dad even if she was a skillful manggagantsilyo) experience the gift of happiness that she deserved. (Again, Maricel didn’t win anything for this??)

5. That scene where Adela in glasses and wearing the dowdiest clothes stood next to the glamorous portrait of her mom (also named Adela btw and played by the lovely Dawn Zulueta) spoke volumes. Direk Carlos employed the same juxtaposition technique in Inagaw Mo and Lahat sa Akin to effectively differentiate social classes. Such a brilliant director (and still my favorite local one).

(Side note: Maricel in an old maid’s costume still looked gorgeous, sorry, but I was willing to suspend my disbelief.)

6. Anybody would want to have a kunsintidora aunt like Tiyang Paula. She was a welcome comic relief in this heavy drama. “Mukhang matindi ang sipon mo at kelangan mo pang lunurin sa alcohol.” Nyahahaha!

Sadly, Charito Solis was an acting legend who was gone way too soon.

7. Choice quotes for some melodramatic moments in your life…

• Kapag hindi ka boto sa straight jowa ng beki friend mo: “Hindi baleng pulubi, basta hindi ahas!”

Sagot mo sa friend mo kahit alam mo na si jowa ay pa-booking: “Hindi baleng ahas, basta mahal ko!”

• Kapag ayaw kang bilhan ng bagong iPhone X: “Bibilhin ko siya sa bawat singko na ipamamana mo sa akin! Tingnan ko lang kung di ka mangisay sa libingan mo!”

• Kapag humihingi ng tawad si bessy na nang-agaw ng pa-booking mo na jowa: “Gustuhin ko man, di ko magagawa. Sa puso nanggagaling ang pagpapatawad. Wala akong puso, nagmana ako sa’yo!”

8. Speaking of ahas, why did they always choose to have sex in the talahiban? It looked really scary. And mukhang makati.

9. Adela’s transformation from naive doormat to a feisty and heartless heredera. Wow! I wanted to stand up and cheer when she entered that church with her luscious curls wearing the bitchiest red dress with a matching belt bag. And that scene where she threw the hundred peso bills and David was temporarily stunned by all the flying cash? Iconic.

10. Was it just a coincidence that ugly Adela wore pearls while beautiful Adela wore diamonds? Shine bright like a real Diamond Star indeed.

Rating: ★★★★★

DOTGA: DA ONE THAT GHOST AWAY (Tony Reyes, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on DOTGA: Da One That Ghost Away:

1. I was surprised that Vhong Navarro wasn’t included in the cast given that he headlined the last two horror-comedy films of Star Cinema (please note that I didn’t consider the unintentionally comedic horror films of Kris Aquino, like Segunda Mano where she pissed her pants in terror for buying a secondhand Prada bag).

In terms of comparison, this one was less like Bulong (actually a guilty pleasure) and more of Da Possessed (which had the gall to make fun of Vhong’s rape case). I already expected tons of corny jokes and lame slapstick humor, but even with my IQ lowered and in full babaw mode, I could only muster one giggle in all 100 minutes (again, I only counted the intentional one because I spent the entire movie hysterically laughing at Enzo Pineda’s acting that he equated with wide eyes and flaring nostrils).

2. Carmel (Kim Chiu) and Jerald (Ryan Bang) were ghost hunters slash con artists that brought along their team dressed as horror film characters (Ghost Bride, Chucky, Tiyanak, etc.) to terrorize and pretend exorcise haunted houses. She used a magical triangle (yes, the musical instrument in the percussion family) and shouted nonsensical chants (“Mother Ignacia! Sergeant Esguerra! Papuntang Abra!”) as part of her ritual. I was surprised that there were people who actually fell for this kind of silliness (although their first victim was a Krizzy impersonator and we all knew how gullible she could get).

3. This movie was rated PG because the MTRCB thought that parents could easily explain what Carmel meant when she said “Sabi na di ako nagpi-pinger eh” after using a dating app called PinGer. Or why she kept emphasizing the name of Enzo as JACK COLmenares (just in case it still wasn’t obvious enough, his name was written exactly like that on a white board). Should we expect the Colmenares sisters to be named Jaja, Nadia, and Gina? Seriously, this type of Pinoy green humor hadn’t been funny since my high school days circa ‘90s.

4. Terrible, terrible editing. In one scene, Serrah (Maymay Entrata) was looking at her compact mirror and asking “What is that ghost I see?” and then it abruptly cut to her and Chire (Edward Barber) walking to school. What was that about?

(Also, as a huge #MayWard fan, please give them a good film that they actually deserved! Sayang talaga sila!)

5. Oh, Jerald also worked as a language teacher in a school called Fil-Eng-The-Blanks. Wala na bang ikaka-corny pa ang pelikulang ito?

6. The only funny scene that I mentioned earlier was a brief gag where Carmel hugged a sweaty Jack, then wiped the wet part of her cheek with her left hand, and smelled it like she was endorsing the newest Downy fabric conditioner. It was a testament to Kim’s charm and sharp comic timing that a throwaway moment like that would actually work.

7. If Enzo acted like his life (or career?) depended on it, on the other end of the spectrum was Ronnie Alonte who didn’t even feel the need to act at all (was it because it was just a cameo role?).

8. Tabako vs Sadako? Bearable. Valak vs Halak? Meh. Black Panty vs Black Panther? Wala na maisip??

9. I felt bad for the extras in the scene where they pretended to freeze as part of a spell (think Mannequin Challenge only without music). Carmel had this really lengthy monologue (“Oo nasaktan na ako lola. Shinota niya ang best friend mo!!”) and you could actually see some of them in the background starting to shake (as in nanginginig na sa sobrang ngalay). I could have subbed for any of them because I had always been a master Statue Dancer.

10. Carmel: “Ikaw pa rin ang DOTGA ko!”

Jerald: “Da One That Ghost Away?”

Carmel: “Da One That Gusto Ako Pero Baka Maging Gusto Ko Rin!!”

Huh? Isn’t that DOTGAPBMGKR?!

Kimmy, pinapainit mo ang anit sa ibabaw ng ulo ko!!

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

6 BALLOONS (Marja-Lewis Ryan, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on 6 Balloons:

1. In The One with the Boobies episode of Friends, Phoebe had a date named Roger who psychoanalyzed Chandler as a person that masked his depression and sadness through constant humor and sarcasm (“I wouldn’t want to be there when the laughter stops”). Even with the prominence of the sad clown trope, I was continually surprised by comedians that would play against type and turn in credible (sometimes even incredible) dramatic performances (Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting, Mo’Nique in Precious, Bill Murray in Lost in Translation, just to name a few). Our very own Comedy King made me bawl my eyes out by bravely playing a loving gay foster parent in Ang Tatay Kong Nanay.

2. I was all the more excited when I saw this Netflix movie where Abbi Jacobson (one half of my favorite power couple in Broad City) actually tried to take on a more serious role. Even in that TV series, her Abbi Abrams was more straightfaced and rational compared to the always wild and crazy Ilana Wexler (Ilana Glazer), but that made her funnier and even more endearing.

Sadly, this wasn’t the right vehicle to draw out her more sensitive side. Whenever her character Katie delivered a line that should have been solemn or earnest, I was waiting for her to crack up and mock what she just said Abbi-style. At least her effort for reinvention was commendable.

3. One thing that I really liked in this depressing drama was Dave Franco’s authentic portrayal of a person with substance abuse issues. His Seth was torn between the need to change his lifestyle for the love of his young kid, and his apparent heroin addiction. It was disturbing (he cleaned his syringe with toilet water!!) to see him go through this entire spectrum of emotions while he brutally battled his subsequent relapse (zoned out and depressed at the start, then sweaty, shaking, and desperate for a fix in the middle, and finally high and playful after his hit towards the end).

As somebody addicted to Coke (Coca-Cola hala!) whose mouth would go dry and hands all clammy after not getting a drink of my favorite ice cold soda every six hours, I couldn’t even imagine the pain and suffering that these people would go through to overcome their drug dependency.

4. I completely understood that Katie loved her younger brother so much that she was willing to do anything to help, but I just didn’t get why she made these really foolish decisions along the way. Why would she even bring a child with her when she tried to score some drugs in what looked like the scariest part of the neighborhood? Why would she leave the poor kid alone in the vehicle with an obviously sick person? Even if her brother was physically suffering, why did she act as an enabler and even agreed to buy him needles in a pharmacy?

I might be too quick (self-righteous?) to judge and maybe the entire point of this movie was that drug addiction was really a family disease, but I ended up getting stressed and frustrated with every terrible choice that she made.

(Side note: The young girl must have been a fan of Monsters Inc. because of her strange fascination with the word “Kitty”.)

5. Jane Kaczmarek had a brief appearance here as their mother and I was reminded yet again that she was criminally robbed of an Emmy for her brilliant turn as a fierce and controlling matriarch in Malcolm in the Middle.

(Also, I found it funny that the actor who played her husband in this movie closely resembled Bryan Cranston.)

6. So Katie broke the pharmacy’s glass door with their own bathroom keys, hit some posts while driving away, and we were expected to laugh along at the apparent silliness of these events? Why??

7. Instead of paying attention to that cheesy audio book about leaking boats, she should have listened more to her talking GPS navigator (it even asked her to “turn around” when she entered that drug-infested street).

Now why couldn’t my Waze be more like that whenever I was headed to the nearest KFC?

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

SEX AND THE CITY (Michael Patrick King, 2008)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Sex and the City:

1. Unpopular opinion: I abso-fuckin’-lutely despised John James Preston aka Mr. Big (Chris Noth) and I never really pictured (fully accepted?) him as the ideal man slash husband for Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker). Except whenever I had these cyclical realizations that she was innately selfish, annoying (she wore a pearl necklace in bed!), and narcissistic so they totally deserved to end up with each other.

Nope, I definitely wasn’t a hater of the series. I had watched all six seasons so many times that I couldn’t help but wonder if I was actually a thirtysomething single New York woman in my past life.

2. It must be my inner Charlotte York (Kristin Davis) but I had always been a supporter of #TeamAidan (John Corbett) aka The One That (Luckily) Got Away. Some of my most favorite episodes involved his toxic relationship with an emotionally confused Carrie in Season 3 (All or Nothing, Running with Scissors, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell). Fans of Big would most probably come up with this argument that Aidan was a dreadfully boring choice and Carrie would just be settling with him, but the very fact that he was loyal, warm, forgiving, sincere, and understanding (plus, he obviously loved her more than she loved him) just made him the perfect boyfriend.

(Are there any fans here of Aleksandr Petrovsky? Seriously??)

3. Did we need a film version to continue the stories of our four beloved women, their beaus, and their friendly gay friends? Not really, but it was a joy to see them reunited one more time (and once more in the awful sequel). This felt like an overlong episode that basically rehashed the same old conflicts (oh, poor Carrie got her heart broken by Big yet again!), but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t cry when Charlotte screamed “No! No!” at Big after he deservedly got smashed with a wedding bouquet on the head.

4. Anybody obsessed with fashion would truly be happy with the style choices made here (even with the controversial dead bird that Carrie wore on her head for her wedding, which she winkingly mocked in a later scene). Aside from the Fashion Week sequence, there were even two (!!) montages: one with Carrie modelling fabulous wedding gowns by Vera Wang, Oscar dela Renta, and ultimately Vivienne Westwood, and another one where she was trying on her vintage clothes, including the iconic tutu that she wore in the show’s opening credits.

5. “She was a smart girl… till she fell in love.” Story of all my relationships right there.

6. Was Jennifer Hudson (as Louise) cast as an apology for the series’ apparent lack of diversity? Did the lone black woman in this version of New York really have to play Carrie’s assistant? Unfortunately her Bag, Borrow or Steal storyline had nothing going for it and she even had to deliver the most unfortunate pun (“And you gave me Louise Vuitton!”).

7. Speaking of puns, the entire Mexi-coma sequence where Carrie spent days moping in bed after a terrible breakup completely resonated with me (yes, even the one where Charlotte Poughkeepsied in her pants). The fact that her friends kept checking on her and Samantha (Kim Cattrall) even spoon-fed her some soup reminded me of how wonderful my friends were during those dark times that I was nursing a broken heart. It was fascinating to read all the dirt that these women didn’t really get along on set because they were so believable and authentic as BFFs onscreen.

(On a different note, search for the Saturday Night Live skit where Christina Aguilera had a spot-on impersonation of Samantha. Totally wicked!)

8. When Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) grabbed a witch’s mask and said that for Halloween she would just bring her suitcase and go as herself, it was something that I would totally say. Yes, if I were to take a Buzzfeed test, I would definitely be a Miranda Hobbes.

9. So Big copy/pasted some classic poems and wrote two personal lines and that was already supposed to be romantic? Please. (Laki talaga ng galit ko kay Big, no? Yes, very big. Ugh, pun!)

10. “Some love stories aren’t epic novels. Some are short stories, but that doesn’t make them any less filled with love.” Hay, completely true. At least it was comforting to know that your lovers might come and go, but your true friends would remain forever.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

A QUIET PLACE (John Krasinski, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on A Quiet Place:

1. In this post-apocalyptic nightmare, the basic rule of survival was clearly established from the very start: never create any loud noise or you would almost instantaneously become alien lafang. While the rest of the theater silently chewed on their cuticles and held their breath, I was having an anxiety attack in my chair just imagining that I wouldn’t last a day in their world because seriously, bawal umutot? At bawal maging clumsy at tatanga-tanga huhu! (Plus the way the creatures’ inner parts resembled a contracting vulva made me terrified of them even more).

2. Starting everything on Day 89 made a lot of sense because this wasn’t really meant to be a sci-fi film that needed a back story on the aliens’ origins and a chock-full of exposition (Where did these monsters come from? Where were the other people? What happened to the rest of the world? DIDN’T MATTER!!). And so we were immediately introduced to a family that relied on sign language and facial expressions to communicate with each other. With very minimal dialogue and just a backing musical score, this actually worked like a gimmicky silent film (and also served as an effective public service announcement to always be quiet while watching movies as a form of respect).

It was funny because I expected to scream my head off but I had to stifle all of my reactions. Even the tiniest sound would be too impolite (do not bring chips!!) that the only thing you would hear inside the cinema would be the occasional gasps. (I was happy with the crowd that I watched it with since there were no barkadas of rowdy high schoolers that would laugh and create a ruckus during a scary sequence. Same pet peeve, right?).

3. I really appreciated the relative lack of cheap scares here. Aside from a few falling raccoons, the powerful build-up of tension and suspense was well-earned that you’d probably feel incredibly stressed by the time the amazing Emily Blunt would cock her shotgun for the very last time.

Speaking of, my favorite scene here involved her pregnant character having contractions (and early labor) in a bathtub with flickering lights overhead while an alien was stalking her and getting ready to pounce. I could almost feel her pain (and the desperate need to control her screams) that I started to develop a phantom vagina with a baby trying to claw its way out of it. Sakit sa puso (and sa imaginary pepe) grabe lang. Would it be too early to campaign for an Oscar nomination?

4. Noah Jupe’s performance here reminded me so much of Joseph Mazzello’s in Jurassic Park. The look of pure terror on his young innocent face was just heartbreaking. Also, was the truck scene a nod to that Steven Spielberg classic?

5. It would be very easy to nitpick this movie considering the predictability of specific scenes and some obvious setups (the toy airplane’s batteries? Definite source of noise! The nail on the stairs? Expect someone to step on it later on!) and a few questionable choices (if the water sounds distracted the aliens, why didn’t they choose to live near the river/waterfalls? Why do they still have electricity? Why did they even want to have another baby given their current situation? Why did they allow their small children to freely roam around given the dangers around them?). But why not forget all of these and just go along for the ride?

6. I think that the last time I cried in a horror/suspense film was in The Sixth Sense when Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) tried to convince his mom (Toni Collette) that he could really see dead people by telling her the grandma story. Although a tad manipulative, when John Krasinski signed “I love you. I have always loved you” to his kids, I could hardly choke back my tears. Parents are the absolute greatest waaahh!!

Rating: ★★★★☆

THE STRANGERS (Bryan Bertino, 2008)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Strangers:

1. This might sound weird but the only time that I’d be really scared of ghosts would be 1) when somebody familiar died (also why I never looked at corpses and/or coffins), or 2) after having watched a really creepy local show/film (think Magandang Gabi Bayan’s Halloween episodes). I guess that would explain my fondness for the horror genre and my strange aversion to lights (seriously, I would rather feel my way through the darkness than flip a light switch).

It might also be a result of my mother’s constant warning of “Matakot ka sa tao, huwag sa multo”, which actually made a lot of sense especially after watching all those Carlo J. Caparas massacre movies.

2. Speaking of, my definitive home invasion film would probably be the early 90’s cult classic The Vizconde Massacre: God Help Us! that started this tasteless trend of exploiting true Pinoy crime stories as popular entertainment.

I swear I was emotionally scarred for life at the sight of Lady Lee (as the young Jenny Vizconde) getting repeatedly stabbed on the back while trying to run away from her assailant that I never forgot to check the locks of our gate every night ever since.

3. I couldn’t understand why the characters in this movie didn’t act like any normal (read: paranoid) person and just made the dumbest horror movie decisions that were blatantly mocked in Wes Craven’s Scream series (“Never, ever, under any circumstances say ‘I’ll be right back’. Because you won’t be back.”)

Kristen (an atrocious Liv Tyler who kept cooing her lines) and James (Scott Foley) were so oblivious to the dangers around them that they readily opened the front door of their remote summer home when somebody knocked at 4 AM. And even with the presence of intruders inside, they chose to hide in a room instead of run as far away from there as possible.

In one scene, Kristen even broke a lamp (to fight a possible murderer with bubog, perhaps?) rather than do the most obvious thing to increase her chances of survival which was lock the freakin’ door. Sure, people would do the craziest stuff and stop being rational in a state of panic, but it was just too hard to sympathize with them when they were basically throwing themselves at their killers.

4. I think it was a smart choice that they never really showed the faces of the killers. This made their motives vague as well and created a more haunting atmosphere (“Why are you doing this to us?” “Because you were home.”)

5. There was one chilling scene where a masked person stood silently behind Kristen and I really thought that this would hold throughout the entire film. A horror movie that didn’t rely on banging noises and cheap jump scares would have been terrific. Unfortunately, even with a slim 90 minutes runtime, it lost steam halfway through and decided to utilize the same tropes of the genre (the entire thing even ended with a scream from a supposedly dead person, pfft!).

Also, I just realized that the chilling scene that I described earlier was the exact same one that could be seen on the poster. Now you really wouldn’t have a reason to see this anymore, no?

6. Robin Williams as an obsessed stranger slash trespasser using another family’s toilet in One Hour Photo was way more disturbing than this. Watch that one instead.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

READY PLAYER ONE (Steven Spielberg, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Ready Player One:

1. During the olden days, my only goal in life was to be the top scorer of our family in a game of Pac-Man. I would wake up in the middle of the night while everyone slept (especially my mom who would get really cranky with the additional electricity consumption) and silently crouch over this black plastic Atari controller for hours on end while gobbling pellets and running away from ghosts named Pinky and Blinky.

Whenever we had guests or relatives come over for lunch or dinner, I would be in front of the TV screen and showing off (a better term would be pakitang-gilas) my agility and dexterity through a video game. “Yan lang ang ginagawa niyan buong araw”, my dad would proudly say while I continued to wow the crowd with the completion of every level. Weeks later, my brother would master the newest Missile Command game and that signalled the end of my Pac-Man glory days.

2. I never really considered myself as a certified gamer even if I had played a lot of games across different platforms (from the ancient Nintendo Family Computer to the current PlayStation 4). I couldn’t even learn the basic controls in Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat and my usual battle consisted of pushing every button while hoping for a special attack. Still, my insides would tingle at the mere mention of Space Invaders, Super Mario Bros., Civilization, or Final Fantasy. It was this same geeky pride plus the astounding power of nostalgia that made me enjoy this film which seemed to coast on an abundance of pop culture references (easter eggs galore!). I loudly squealed in my seat when a chocobo appeared during the ultimate battle sequence.

3. Spielberg films had always been criticized for their overt sentimentality and it was surprisingly lacking in this one. I expected myself to turn into a puddle of emotions when Wade/Parzival (a terribly bland Tye Sheridan) unlocked the third puzzle, but it just didn’t feel completely magical (I probably cried more when Charlie discovered that he won the final Golden Ticket for the Chocolate Factory). Maybe it was because the movie was already running on for far too long or that it was trying to generate last minute faux excitement, but my brain was just screaming “Just stick that freakin’ key in that effin’ hole, dammit!”.

4. I really liked how the coolest sequence in the movie was a nod to the huge disappointment of my all-time favorite author on the adaptation of one of his finest novels. The twins, Room 237 with the naked old lady, the river of blood from the elevator, and the iconic axe hacking itself on the bathroom door, stuff of a true classic. I never fully understood Stephen King’s disdain for The Shining film considering that the thought of Danny repeatedly croaking the word “Redrum” while holding a giant knife still freaked me to this day.

5. Has anyone read the book (or is a real-life Sheldon Cooper)? Kindly enlighten me on the following burning questions:

• Who was funding The Oasis? I knew James Halliday (a great Mark Rylance) was a trillionaire, but did he really have that much money to keep a game running for more than five years after his death? I was just curious because when Parzival retrieved the first key, he won 100,000 virtual coins that he used to purchase a body suit in the real world.

• Why would such a powerful man like Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) not even bother to memorize his password? It was only B055man69 and not something tough like B0$$m4n_Ph0wz_aQuoH69. Did he have a reason for scribbling down such a confidential information on a piece of paper and keeping it on his armrest other than being a MacGuffin?

• Who was Gundam and was he really that popular? (Fanboys, please don’t kill me. I seriously had no clue.)

6. More than the shoulder pads, leotards, and heavy perms, the 80’s would best be remembered because of its glorious songs, no? Nothing would beat humming along to a good old Hall & Oates song on your best days. (I would always associate Blondie’s One Way or Another with Mean Girls, though. Yup, Trang Pak made out with Coach Carr.)

7. Wouldn’t it be fun if their online personas/avatars were completely far off from their real identities? When Aech (Lena Waithe) mentioned that the real Art3mis (Olivia Cooke) could actually be an overweight old man, I really wished this were true. Wasn’t it Wade himself who said that people stayed in The Oasis because of all the things that they could be? Why didn’t we get a lot more of these people playing out their online fantasies? It could have saved us from the icky (and forced) love story as well. That part was even more horrific than the thought of virtual reality putting an end to human connections. Besides, shouldn’t reality be real?

Rating: ★★★☆☆