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The Spotless Mind

Musings of a Non-Film Reviewer. I pay, I watch, I comment.

CAN WE STILL BE FRIENDS? (Prime Cruz, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Can We Still Be Friends?:

1. I had an overwhelming sense of dèjá vu during the opening scene with Sam (Arci Muñoz) looking bored and restless while her long-time boyfriend Digs (Gerald Anderson) was intently watching a show on TV. When she started complaining about the fact that they never really did anything else (“chill lang nang chill”) and that she wanted to do something different, I realized that I had been in this kind of relationship. I had been faulted (and eventually dumped) for the apparent lack of excitement and opting for a quiet and relaxed (ergo monotonous?) way of spending our quality time together. In the next scene, when Sam complained that they were having problems paying their bills, my inner meanie almost exploded with the thought, “Ang lakas lakas mong mag-aya wala ka naman palang pera!”

In another scene, she asked Digs to pick her up after work and she kept bugging him to hurry up. (Nagpapasundo na lang, siya pa nagmamadali?!) But wait, there’s more! When Digz finally arrived, she actually wanted him to do a u-turn so that she wouldn’t have to cross the street. She even had the gall to call him inconsiderate when he didn’t oblige. (Tatawid ka na lang gurl anubanaman!!)

Uhh, why was I so affected when this wasn’t even about me?

2. People expecting to see #TeamLablab in another Always Be My Maybe would be hugely disappointed since this was actually closer to One More Chance (they even recycled the “Pwede ba tayo na lang ulit?” line). In lieu of kilig moments, it was stuffed with mundane scenes of a couple realizing after nine years of being together that they actually hated each other. Its depiction of the breakdown of a relationship (down to petty quarrels over empty water bottles returned in the fridge) was so realistic that I wish it stayed true to the promise of a story about exes trying to maintain a post-breakup friendship.

3. Did Arci re-dub her lines? I noticed that her delivery in the actual movie was normal compared to her pabebe voice in the trailer. It was definitely a good decision because it just made her character more grounded. She was still an effective actress here and looked really gorgeous, but I wish her lips weren’t too distracting. Weirdly enough, they reminded me so much of Vibora, the talking serpent of Valentina. Star Cinema, has that role been cast already? You could thank me later.

In the end though, this was an acting showcase for Gerald who continued to display such depth and maturity in his role. I actually shed a tear in that confrontation scene when he said, “Tama ka naman eh. Hindi ako ang taong magpapasaya sa’yo.” Dear fellow Popsters, is it time to finally forgive him? (Putting my foot down on that Budoy bit though because it was more offensive than charming.)

4. That gif-worthy Magic Mike scene ooh-la-la! It was just funny though that the production couldn’t afford Ginuwine’s Pony so they had to create a Rite-Med version of the song. Still, all that grinding had me shooketh.

5. Juan Miguel Severo is officially the ultimate success story in local cinema. In every movie, his character would always end up with the cutest onscreen boyfriends (here it was Markki Stroem). I wasn’t a big fan of his spoken word poetry in On the Wings of Love and I still didn’t like how it was utilized here as part of the wedding vows. As soon as he started reciting lines like “Pipiliin kita sa araw na hindi tayo magkasundo…” in full “Oh captain, my captain!” mode, my eyes started rolling wildly in their sockets.

6. Mannequin challenge proposal? Very 2000 and late. Besides, who would take the video that they would eventually post on social media?

7. I still could not understand the couple’s decision to co-habitate after the breakup. I couldn’t even be Facebook friends with an ex agad agad. Not surprised that it led to the requisite Star Cinema happy ending. In TimeZone. Oh, TimeZone. So many memories.

8. “Kapag kaya mong maging friends sa ex mo, either mahal mo pa talaga or di mo talaga minahal.”

Nope, definitely not true. With acceptance comes maturity. Sabi nga ng Little Mix, “Shout out to my ex…you made my heart break and that made me who I am.”

Rating: ★★★☆☆

MY BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING (P.J. Hogan, 1997)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on My Best Friend’s Wedding:

1. Has it really been twenty years already since the psychopathic Jules (Julia Roberts) tried to sabotage her best friend’s wedding because she was deluded enough (hopelessly in love? What’s the diff?) into thinking that he preferred her Jell-O to Kimmy’s (Cameron Diaz) crème brulée? The answer was a glaring yes coming from the chunky cellular phones with long antennas (resembling pang-kaskas ng yelo!) that were used in this film.

2. That joyous I Say a Little Prayer sing-along would be the scene most remembered here, but I would always be partial to the frothy, silly opening title sequence with a bride and her three chuwariwap bridesmaids singing and dancing along to Ani Di Franco’s Wishin’ and Hopin’. It was just the perfect way to set the tone for this lighthearted (and surprisingly subversive) rom-com.

Additional tidbit: I owned a cassette tape copy of the soundtrack that I listened to every single day for about two months. How could you not fall in love with Jann Arden’s You Don’t Know Me, The Exciter’s Tell Him (pre-Ally McBeal), and Tony Bennett’s The Way You Look Tonight? Perfect wedding playlist.

3. I remembered making a similar pact with a friend that when we turned 30 (or was it 35?) and we were still both single, I would either marry her or have a kid with her. I was so happy when she found herself a boyfriend because I ended up having my baby juice all to myself. Wait, that sounded really disgusting (but not as much as picturing myself in a tux and getting married).

4. To this day, I still couldn’t see why these two beautiful women were fawning over Michael (Dermot Mulroney). He was just too bland and fickle-minded and unhygienic (never forget that he sucked that ring off of Jules’ finger; nope, not romantic because my head was screaming BOOGER!!, er, GERMS!!).

Seriously, everyone was probably rooting for George (Rupert Everett, snubbed of an Oscar nom!) to end up with Jules and wishin’ and hopin’ that he were straight because he had twice as much personality and just looked so fun to be with. Plus, I could easily see myself in George because I would be that kind of friend who would say things like “Who’s chasing you? Nobody. You’re not the one.” Brutal, but honest.

5. I really liked that Julia played a villain for a change (most of her shenanigans bordered on being criminal, and she was just a vile and selfish person), but because she was Julia Roberts, it was hard to completely hate her. Those pratfalls to earn laughs were completely unnecessary, though.

My favorite scene with her would be the one where she cried while dancing with Michael on a ferry (although I did tear up a bit as well during her maid of honor toast, she actually loaned her relationship song *sob* *sob*).

6. Always and forever #TeamKimmy, even if her wedding dress was horrible, especially when compared to the gorgeous lavender dress of Jules.

7. “Choose me. Marry me. Let me make you happy.” Did this sound familiar, Meredith Grey (or Momma Shonda Rhimes)?

8. If this were a Star Cinema movie, it would have probably ended with George (played by Joross Gamboa, of course!) realizing that he was actually straight and that he really loved Jules as more than a friend after all.

Goodbye Dionne Warwick, hello Marion Aunor!

Rating: ★★★★☆

FIFTY SHADES OF GREY (Sam Taylor-Johnson, 2015)

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My notes on Fifty Shades of Grey:

1. The lights in the cinema dimmed and all of the women started screaming. I knew then that this would be a dreadful experience. If you’re a fan of the book, nothing should stop you from watching anyway.

2. Why was Christian Grey giving me this American Psycho vibe? Actually, I would have preferred it if he were more of Patrick Bateman. For all his sexual fetishes, he still looked completely bland and…normal.

3. I guess the biggest problem was casting Jamie Dornan in the lead role. The character of Grey needed someone more charismatic or appealing. Don’t get me wrong, Dornan looked good but I was expecting a stunner. Grey should be someone so magnetic that he can lead you in his playroom of whips and chains and you would be the one to offer getting tied up. And what’s with that weird European accent?

4. On the opposite end of the spectrum was Dakota Johnson. She was just so gorgeous onscreen (like Charlotte Gainsbourg’s younger sister) that I probably would have enjoyed a role reversal. I obviously haven’t read the book so here’s hoping that happened in the next two sequels. I have to say that I wasn’t a fan of her armpits, though. They looked roughly-shaven and yes, smelly. (I’m judgmental like that.)

5. So most of the sex scenes had to be blurred or blocked because apparently we’re old enough to do it but not to actually see it. And this time, we don’t even get to blame the MTRCB because the film distributor took it upon themselves to censor the movie before submitting it for classification. We’ve seen a lot of frontal nudity and sex scenes with an R-16 rating lately (even Lust, Caution was shown in its entirety here and that was truly erotic). I really didn’t understand this move at all.

6. I mean sex was obviously the theme (and selling point) of the movie. Where else can you hear words like butt plug? Once you start blocking that out, then what would be left? The story? Who watches porn for the story?

7. Even Christian Grey thinks that Beyonce by Beyonce should have won the Grammy for Album of the Year.

8. I loved the casting of Jennifer Ehle and Marcia Gay Harden as the too young to be the couple’s mothers. If the story had more of them, I bet they would have made the movie more interesting.

9. “Laters, baby” not only made me cringe but it also elicited a lot of shrieking typical in a KathNiel movie. Calm down, ladies!

10. Grey knew how to do a mean braid. Beyonce and braiding. It must be very easy to convince him to transition to the other side.

11. Did the room really have to be so dark during the contract signing? Were they owls?

12. If you want much better movies dealing with the same themes, I suggest you watch Steven Shainberg’s Secretary (where James Spader also played a Mr. Grey) or the previously mentioned Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution. All of the things in this movie would be considered child stuff with those films.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

SANA’Y WALA NANG WAKAS (Leroy Salvador, 1986)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Sana’y Wala Nang Wakas:

1. Even before the classic Pinoy LGBTQ film Do Re Mi manifested the power of female camaraderie through musical numbers, there was this movie in the late 80’s (probably inspired by the Broadway musical Dreamgirls) that showcased the value of friendship.

If it weren’t obvious enough, the girl group composed of Bianca Eleazar (Sharon Cuneta), Monique Verzosa (Cherie Gil), and Michelle Williams, er, Camille Gonzaga (Dina Bonnevie) was actually named “Friends” and their go-to song was “That’s What Friends Are For” (sung during the opening scene while they wore shiny, silky costumes with gigantic ribbons on the chest area, probably borrowed from the Boyoyong clowns).

Also, Sharon sported a female mullet. Let that sink in.

2. There was one incredibly long montage (worth one full song, I think) where Bianca and Teddy (Tonton Gutierrez, terrible in an Aljur Abrenica way) toured Luzon and it could have been used as a tourist ad for the Philippines (Have some buko juice in Tagaytay! Jet ski in Taal Lake!).

At one point, Teddy dove head first in a shallow pond to get a lotus flower. I thought he was trying to catch a frog, but then it wouldn’t match with Bianca’s ever-changing ribbons on her ponytail.

Naudlot pa ang first kiss nila nang biglang dumating ang order nila na…Pepsi! (We would always complain about product placements in today’s films, but apparently it had been shamelessly done even before. This one also had blatant shills for Master Sardines and Silver Swan Soy Sauce.)

3. It was sad to see the late Dindo Fernando again here, especially since he was one of the finest actors in local cinema that was gone too soon. As Bianca’s father slash music composer, he brought a lot of depth in his character who was prone to making silly decisions.

Upon learning that he had terminal cancer, he did some soul-searching by walking the entire stretch of Manila Bay. He also abandoned his family because he didn’t want to be a pabigat for them, but ultimately returned home for one last deathbed duet. (By the way, this scene was so effective that I was a blubbering mess when it ended. Galing din ni Ate Shawie dito.)

4. As expected, jealousy and fame were the reasons for the group’s eventual break-up. I would have guessed that it was actually Dina’s singing voice because she just sounded awful (refer to Barbie Forteza’s viral video).

There was a scene where Camille was singing drunk and another one where she was warbling while sobbing uncontrollably and she didn’t sound any different from her supposedly better days. She more than made up for it in acting though because I really loved the scene where she started throwing beer bottles at her gay BFF Manny Castaneda.

5. Sample dialogue…

• Teddy being defiant to his overbearing father: “Pigain mo man ako, di mo mapipiga ang musika sa buhay ko!” (Nux!!)

• Teddy’s matapobre father to Bianca: “Magkano ang kelangan mo para layuan ang anak ko?”

Bianca with matching flaring nostrils: “Magkano ang kaya nyong ibayad? Bilhin nyo sya ng pera nyo. Bibilhin ko sya ng pag ibig ko!” (Applause! Standing ovation!!)

6. Burning questions:

• If Bianca was so famous that she was being mobbed by fans, why did she take a cab during her walk-out scene?

• How did Bianca and Monique become huge recording stars if most of their songs were remakes? Greatest Love of All vs Through the Fire? (Sabagay, diamond artist si Nina.)

• What happened to breach of contract? How could Monique miss the farewell concert of the group and get away with it? And did Bianca really have to sing Part-Time Lover (with matching luha) after seeing Camille and Teddy kiss?

• Hindi pa ba uso ang aircon noon? Bakit ang nasa loob ng dressing room nila ay isang malaking electric fan?

7. It was so funny how all the conflicts were magically resolved during the final musical number of Bianca. In this scene, the song composed by her dearly-departed dad won the top prize in a music festival that suddenly turned into her concert, complete with surprise appearances by Monique and Camille.

Friendship was restored, a marriage proposal was done, and Manny Castaneda remained a faithful alalay.

Never, ever question the power of a Willy Cruz song.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

DEAR OTHER SELF (Veronica Velasco, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Dear Other Self:

1. As the great Basha Belinda Eugenio once said, “I want to stop wondering ‘what if’. I want to know ‘what is’.”

And so I assumed that after countless viewings of One More Chance (or probably Sliding Doors), Rebecca/Becky (Jodi Sta. Maria) imagined a world of infinite possibilities with the question, “What if hindi nangyari yung moment that changed your life? Nasaan ka na ngayon?”.

2. Would she be like Becky, a financially stable corporate slave trying to find love in the workplace? In this fantasy world, she experienced the following:

• Had a good night’s sleep because of a brownout that stopped the loud videoke session of a neighbor (this probably happened prior to global warming when people could easily sleep without an electric fan or airconditioning)

• Rode a bike to work because she would rather pay for expensive coffee than get an Uber (how she remained fresh with all the city’s smog was never explained, though)

• Presented a winning sales pitch to a client using three Powerpoint slides and was awarded a car for her great work (wait, how did she learn how to drive?)

• Developed a workplace romance with Chris, played by Joseph Marco who delivered his lines like a doctor trying to tell a patient that he had terminal cancer (to be fair, masarap sya kumain ng tortang talong).

3. Or would she be more like Rebecca, a free spirit slash pretentious travel blogger trying to find love in exotic Thailand? Now in this fantasy world, she experienced the following:

• Woke up cranky after a neighbor’s all-night videoke session (although seriously, who doesn’t wake up cranky before going to work?)

• Spilled coffee on herself and her laptop prior to a presentation, almost got run over by the client that she called “kalbo”, and delivered the craziest sales pitch that really wasn’t any better than the one given by Becky (she didn’t have a back-up file and only prepared the night before, why would I feel bad for her?).

Also, her manager asked her to speak in English and when she failed to do so, she was replaced by a colleague who delivered the pitch in…Filipino. (Huh!?)

• Chose to be a travel blogger instead (which consisted of two Twitter posts and one blog entry), flew to Thailand (I thought her family was cash-strapped?), had a pillow fight and fell in love (agad agad?) with Henry, played by Xian Lim who spoke like he wanted you to open a new BDO savings account.

4. In the end, the movie didn’t really want to choose just one fantasy world and simply summed up her experiences with the life lesson, “The best part of travelling is coming home.”

What?! This is the very reason why a lot of people really hate millennials.

5. As always, Jodi was the sole reason to watch this movie. She was endearing and funny and made the most out of her cardboard-thin characters, whether she was trying her best to hold back her pee or blurting out “Sex!” when asked to choose between cheesecake or chocolates.

In a fantasy world, she would be a much bigger star with better leading men.

6. I wonder if this premise would have worked better as a teleserye. I read somewhere that the story was actually similar to a Taiwanese series called Life Plan A or B. Definitely adding that one to my queue.

7. One character kept rolling his eyes that I wondered if he should have been named Becky instead. (He’s the one with the good hair, of course!).

8. And speaking of, in one scene, the cab driver in Thailand asked Chris if he wanted a ladyboy and he felt very offended that he said, “Uupakan ko na ‘to”. When Becky asked him, “Anong ladyboy?”, he replied with a wrist flick.

Dear Chris, do you know that one of the signs of homosexuality is extreme homophobia?

Why were there so many Beckys in this movie?

9. If this movie got one thing right, it was the distinctly Pinoy feeling of being homesick. Take it from the guy who immediately missed his bed a few hours after landing in Laoag.

10. Burning questions:

• Were the extras in the airport the same ones used during the elephant bathing scene?

• If Rebecca went to Thailand as a tourist, why did it show her working there as well? (No to illegal immigration!)

• When Becky and Chris stepped out of the theater after watching a horror movie, why was the poster The Third Party?

• Bakit ang daming natatapong kape sa pelikulang ito??

11. In Jodi’s next movie, I would be more than happy if she starred with an elephant instead. It looked like they had more chemistry anyway.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS (Josh Boone, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Fault in Our Stars:

1. I read the book in two days (large fonts!) and I must say that this movie was a faithful adaptation in terms of directly lifting dialogue and entire scenes from the source material (down to the pink towel that Hazel’s mom wore when she rushed to her room). It would be unfair to compare the two different visions so let me just say that when Hazel promised at the beginning that it won’t be the typical love story, only the book stayed true to that promise.

2. Yes, I cried tons while watching the movie but then I cry in almost everything. Besides, it was a story about two star-crossed kids with cancer. You know their love story was doomed from the start. Only a person with a heart of stone wouldn’t feel anything for these two.

3. The weird thing about all my crying, though, was that it happened on those particular scenes when the movie didn’t try hard to make me cry. Remember that scene when Hazel’s mom said they couldn’t afford the trip to Amsterdam? Or the one when she looked at her parents holding hands and she felt like a burden to them? Sure I bawled my eyes out during her pretend eulogy and I probably felt a punch in my solar plexus when Augustus revealed that he was sick but these were easy triggers for my tear duct buttons.

4. Which brings me to my other point, how can a movie with such a brave female character actually not have the balls to honestly depict cancer? I understand that it was primarily a love story (albeit a corny one) but during the third act when it needed to show courage, it actually chickened out and resorted to the usual emotional manipulation. Where was the scene in the book when Augustus peed himself? Sure it would have ruined every little girl’s crush on Ansel Elgort but why didn’t it show the disease as it really was?

5. Speaking of Ansel Elgort, he was really charming in this movie, no? I actually forgot that he played brother to Shailene Woodley in Divergent. Actually this movie worked entirely because of the strong performances. Shailene nailed all of her crying scenes (although I never for one second believed that she was 16). And let’s not forget the phenomenal Laura Dern who breathed such life to a typical suffering mother role.

6. The evil depiction of Peter Van Houten and his eventual change of heart looked lame onscreen and was a big departure from that in the book. And they really had to choose the guy who played Nosferatu and the Green Goblin as if the character wasn’t despicable enough. Oh, and that whole Anne Frank’s house scene (endless stairs!) didn’t do anything for me. It also probably had the most unromantic first kiss ever.

7. For those that read the book, what things did you miss in this adaptation? Mine would have to be Kaitlyn (to show that Hazel’s not really anti-social), all the V for Vendetta references (only shown as a poster in Augustus’ room), Caroline Mathers (Augustus had an ex-girlfriend!!), the alfresco Amsterdam dinner near the canal (dinner under the stars would have been more romantic), that HUMP THE CAVE WALL scene, all those Facebook references (you know the posts that people make whenever someone dies; those made the story more human and timely), and Augustus’ eulogy that was not as sentimental as the movie made it to be.

8. Wait, they did omit the only scene in the book where I cried. It was the one where Hazel attended Augustus’ wake, approached his coffin, placed her hand on his chest, and said, “I love you present tense. It’s okay, Gus. It’s okay. Do you hear me? It’s okay.” Then she kissed him on the cheek and said, “Okay? Okay.”

Pass me the Kleenex.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

CAN’T HELP FALLING IN LOVE (Mae Cruz-Alviar, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Can’t Help Falling in Love:

1. I think it was during the public bathroom scene where Dos (Daniel Padilla) was removing the heels of Gab (Kathryn Bernardo), which must have felt so good because she was having a wild orgasm, that I immediately knew I wouldn’t like this movie. It was clearly trying too hard to wring out laughs by placing its characters in the most absurd situations. That scene was capped off by strangers entering the room and looking disgusted even if it was completely obvious that nothing kinky was going on (hello, his head wasn’t even under her skirt!).

It was a shame really because Daniel and Kathryn were so game all throughout this movie even if the material failed to capitalize on their palpable onscreen chemistry.

2. I had been crowing about Daniel’s natural charms (reminiscent of his uncle Robin’s) in previous movies so the bigger surprise here for me was Kathryn. Not only did she look so fresh and lovely (a vision in yellow during her grand entrance! radiant in black during the wake!), but she also managed to drop most of her annoying acting tics.

Whatever decongestant she took worked because she didn’t sound as oddly nasal as before. She also managed to tone down her pabebe delivery and she was really effective in most of her dramatic scenes (my favorite was her quiet sumbat moment outside the police station; “Nagmahal ka na ba? Minahal ka na ba?”). The only thing left for her to work on would be controlling her eyes because she would resort to unintentionally widening them while speaking (nandidilat for no reason).

Anyway, I just made a mental note to buy Pond’s as soon as the stores open today.

3. As a rule, Star Cinema characters should avoid getting drunk in bars because they would always end up in sticky situations (literally and figuratively?) after. I didn’t buy the ridiculous premise of these two ending up married after a crazy night of partying (hey, this wasn’t Vegas and none of them were Britney; besides, were they carrying all the legal documents that night to get a marriage license issued on the spot?).

None of the succeeding events made a lot of sense as well. I wouldn’t recommend this movie to any of my lawyer friends because their eyes might end up rolling out of their sockets in the scenes where Gab interviewed Dos’ ex-girlfriends to prove his impotence or Gab pretended to make out with her girl friend in Sogo while Dos took pictures of them as proof of homosexuality (they ended up getting arrested after for supposedly creating a porno, wtf?!).

In one scene, Gab dressed up as a taong grasa because she was supposedly baliw sa pag-ibig and insanity was one of the major grounds for annulment. I guess they were to blame for hiring a lawyer from a firm called Hulog ng Langit. (Terrible, terrible screenplay, I tell you.)

4. Did we really need those cameos of Zanjoe Marudo, Ejay Falcon, and Piolo Pascual? Even a bald Daniel Radcliffe made a surprise appearance. Why create unnecessary distractions on an already messy story?

5. Since there was nothing original in this movie, I wasn’t surprised at all that Matteo Guidicelli played the third wheel yet again and that his character (unfortunately named Jason) was villified for being a controlling boyfriend. So basically he loved his girlfriend and supported her for six years even if she only loved him back for security and stability and yet he was the bad guy just for wanting what was best for her. Oh-kay!

Also, they called each other Bud so I guess it was meant to be a friendzone experience right from the start.

6. Of course there would be a reason to go out of town! Destination of choice? Argao, Cebu. A tour of the city’s old churches, cliff diving, coral reef diving, motorcycle rides along the cliffside roads, I was surprised they didn’t use these instead for the channel’s summer station ID.

7. I wish there were more of the small moments that genuinely made me smile (Dos offering a basahan to Gab while she was crying, or Dos distracting Gab with his love notes written on napkins). The scene where Dos was making his huling habilin to his extended family could have easily been milked for laughs and tears, but it just fell short of being great.

I have enjoyed a number of past rom-coms by Direk Mae (Bride for Rent, Everyday I Love You), but she was left with very little to work with here.

8. For every realistically heartfelt line like “Kapag natikman mo pala, nakaka-adik ang umasa”, there were even more empty platitudes like “Mas pipiliin ko ang isang bukas na nandun ka, kesa sa isang milyong bukas na wala ka.”

Ang Babae sa Septic Tank 2: #ForeverIsNotEnough should be required viewing for Star Cinema’s writing team. Seriously.

9. I think I developed an acute case of tinnitus when Gab serenaded Dos with her own version of Panalangin. And that was minutes before his critical brain surgery. Pigain nyo na lang ang apdo ko, but take that portable Magic Sing away from her!!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

NORTHERN LIGHTS: A JOURNEY TO LOVE (Dondon Santos, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Northern Lights: A Journey to Love:

1. It must be tough to be a Piolo Pascual. When people commonly refer to you as Papa, there’s this high level of expectation (or fantasy) that you’re constantly required to fulfill (or satisfy). I’m not at all surprised that at the ripe old screen age of 40, he still plays these cutesy roles that merely require him to flash his gorgeous smile and ensure that hundreds of Soen panties (and a few Bench briefs) fall inside the cinema.

But having him deliver lines like “Are you London Bridge? Are you falling?” while making pungay eyes just doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s time to pass on that Mikimoto crown.

Speaking of, he had several topless scenes while flirting with different women (in one, he was in a sleeping bag on a snowy hill, jusko pneumonia! shrinkage!) just to remind everyone that he’s straight, Straight, STRAIGHT!! (Maybe he should rethink that man bun then.)

2. Everything here screamed generic (yes, it was the Rite-Med version of any Nicholas Sparks adaptation) and this was evident as soon as the movie started with a discussion about the Northern Lights (uhh, duh!). Apparently, the souls of the dead (including those of animals!) would win a free one-way trip to Alaska and become part of the Aurora Borealis.

When the kid (Raikko Mateo) asked his mother (Maricar Reyes), “Puwede po ba ako pumunta diyan?”, I immediately knew that one of them wouldn’t survive before the end credits.

3. This was the kind of original movie where:

• Strangers would bump into each other in an airport as part of the Meet Cute scene

• A douchebag character would continuously harass a girl, but it would be considered romantic because the said douche looked like Papa P (who sounded even douchey-er with his Diether Ocampo American accent)

• Characters would speak in unison several times because it was supposedly cute

• A romantic leading man would say “Lilingon ka rin in 3, 2, 1…” like we hadn’t seen it in previous rom-coms

• A girl would recall an experience that sounded like rape (“Nilasing niya ako at paggising ko wala na akong saplot”) and it would be played for laughs

• Somebody would give an instant lecture about the Treaty of Paris to give more perspective about their location

• Music and Lyric’s Way Back Into Love served as the closing theme

4. Yen Santos was just too bland for the role of a girl in search of her missing OFW mother (her reason: “Kahit ganito na ako katanda gusto ko pa rin tinitirintas nya ang buhok ko”). Leah Olivar would probably be laughing in her Mrs. Pizza costume right about now.

Seeing a fresh face onscreen was definitely a welcome change, but I wish she had shown a bit more personality. Her delivery sounded very malamya that I was constantly reminded of that Shield bath soap nurse and I expected her to suddenly burst into song (“Di biro maging nurse, dapat marunong sa sakit. At marunong mag-alaga, yun bang may malasakit…”).

In one scene, she was supposed to do a bad cover of Air Supply’s All Out of Love and she was just terrible in pretending to sound awful (how was that even possible?). Oh well, not everyone could be Nico Antonio.

5. Also, Yen’s character had the nerve to question Piolo’s constant state of toplessness amidst the freezing weather and yet she had a scene where she was only wearing an oversized boyfriend shirt with one side barely hanging on her shoulders and part of her back exposed like she was in an Olay commercial. Guuurrrrrl!!

6. Although Raikko had some really cute moments, the real saving grace here was Glydel Mercado in full Ate Vi in Anak mode as the mother (!!) of Yen. Her character’s motivations were not clear, but she did cry a river that was enough to remind everyone why she was a Grand Slam winner for Sidhi.

7. Why did the Northern Lights look like CGI?

8. The denouement with a dead character communicating with the living loved ones through video was directly stolen from My Life. It could have stopped there but since this was a Regal Films co-production, of course it needed a happy ending. On the beach. Hello Pico de Loro!!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

GET OUT (Jordan Peele, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Get Out:

1. It was probably around the 40-minute mark when the mostly white houseguests were excitedly fawning over Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) that I realized this film had the exact same setup as Shake Rattle and Roll 2: Aswang. Chris was obviously Portia (Manilyn Reynes) and his white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) was Monica (Ana Roces), the bearer of the townspeople’s feast of the month. The similarity was so uncanny that when a white woman grabbed Chris’s bicep and asked if black meat really tasted better, I really thought that he would be the night’s main course (my brain was screaming: “Stay away from the banig!!”). I felt a tad disappointed that it wasn’t the silly premise that I expected, but I was still surprised with the crazy route that this film took.

2. The opening sequence alone screamed Wes Craven, with a black man getting assaulted in a dimly-lit and deserted (read: quietly creepy) street (I wouldn’t be surprised if it were named Elm). It had the same laugh and then shriek approach that the director used in the cold open of Scream 2 (remember when Omar Epps got stabbed by a dildo through a glory hole? Oh wait, that was Shawn Wayans in Scary Movie, but same diff).

3. “My father would have voted for Obama a third time” was the equivalent of “I’m not racist, I have a lot of black friends” excuse. The fact that it was repeated several times here (and even declared proudly by an older white male) clearly drove home the movie’s message. Actually, there were so many instances that showed the day-to-day realities of the black man experience (Chris’s initial reaction to meeting Rose’s parents was: “I don’t want to be chased off the lawn with a shotgun”, a white police officer asked for his ID even if he wasn’t driving) that felt terribly depressing (and scary, very much like Bradley Whitford’s corduroy pants).

4. Excellent performances all around. The Armitages (Whitford, Catherine Keener, and Williams in her very appropriate, most annoying Marnie mode) made me frightened of these seemingly perfect white suburban liberal-minded families. But even better were the performances by the black cast. Kaluuya delivered a starmaking turn, LilRel Howery had the best lines (“T, S, motherfuckin’ A!”, and reminded me so much of Atlanta’s PaperBoi), but my favorite was Betty Gabriel with her creepy Stepford Wife smile. I didn’t care so much about the Baron Geisler brother, though.

5. I was such a skeptic and would usually laugh whenever I’d hear people getting held-up through hypnosis (Budol Budol!), but the Sunken Place here really left me feeling disturbed. The sound of a spoon stirring in a teacup would never be the same again. Also, all the hypnosis scenes with the out-of-body experience and peering through distant holes made me think so much of Being John Malkovich (also with Keener!).

6. That Behold the Coagula video reminded me of The Dharma Initiative in Lost. We need to go back.

7. I wish there was a more directly racist explanation on why black people were being targeted for the experiments (when one character asked, the simple response was a bit generic that they wanted people that were physically superior). It could have been an even more effective commentary on racism in this kind of social satire.

8. Seeing Papa Armitage getting killed by the horns of the very animal that he hated was just sweet revenge. I also had this oddly satisfying feeling while Rose was getting choked (maybe it was because she annoyingly ate her colored cereal separate from her glass of milk, with a straw to boot).

9. When the police car arrived towards the end of the movie, I actually felt really bad for Chris because in my mind, a white officer would step out and shoot him right on the spot. I would like to believe that I wasn’t the only one who thought the same way. Such a sad world we’re living in, no?

Rating: ★★★★☆

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