ANG PAGSANIB KAY LEAH DELA CRUZ (Katski Flores, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Ang Pagsanib Kay Leah dela Cruz:

1. Sarah Lahbati, in an effort to act like a tough and cool policewoman, decided to strip down all possible emotions from her character and spoke in a weird monotone with a slight gruff reminiscent of Sharon Cuneta’s performance as the tomboy-ish jeepney driver Jack in the 80’s cult classic Jack & Jill. She had an air of “I may look and sound like a bad-ass lesbian, but I’m still straight as an arrow deep inside.” Never forget to check the label, Mommies!

(Not like anybody would actually think that she bats for the other team since she sashays in every scene wearing her butt-hugging jeans and high-heeled boots like a smoldering beauty queen doing her farewell walk.)

2. Although the story about a satanic cult and its link to the possession of Emily Rose, er, Leah dela Cruz left much to be desired, the movie made up for it through some gorgeous visuals.

I really liked the opening scene with the abandoned road and the phantom kids running after the car and how they all tied up to that chilling image of dead children forming a circle with demonic symbols.

3. Why do a lot of Pinoy horror movies happen during Holy Week (especially Good Friday) and end up with catharsis and redemption on Easter Sunday?

Sana next time Valentine’s Day naman para maiba. Tapos walang catharsis. Scary diba?

4. When Yaya Rosario referred to Leah as “ba-it”, I was reminded of my grandmother calling the rats in our house the same way before poisoning them with cheese-crusted Dora. Apparently, being nice to rats and using pet names would prevent them from nibbling on your clothes and you could nicely drive them out like you’re the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Oh wait, didn’t that story involve a lot of missing children as well?

5. In one scene, an intubated Yaya Rosario kept talking wildly to non-lesbian policewoman about all the secrets that she knew. I think I had seen enough Grey’s Anatomy episodes to know that this wasn’t possible since that tube would actually go through her trachea (friends from the medical field, please correct me as needed).

Unless of course that was a dental suction whose main purpose was to suck the saliva of poor Yaya.

6. My favorite part was the Lights Out scene that tried to subvert the genre with the heroine fearlessly chasing after the lady ghost instead. Talk about a great diva showdown.

7. Shy Carlos as the possessed Leah surely had a lot of fun in the role. She was really good without going overboard and I probably would have been more impressed with her performance if I hadn’t seen her do the exact same thing in Lumayo Ka Nga Sa Akin. Still, she was one of the few reasons to watch this.

8. Every time Jim Paredes as a priest (!!) would mention the word demonyo, I actually expected him to go on another endless anti-Duterte tirade.

Also, that bit with Angelina Kanapi as a nun on the run sounded a bit like Sister Act, no?

9. “Ang pagtatalik ay isang uri ng pagdarasal at bata ka pa lang dapat marunong ka na magdasal.” Creepy and icky. It needed more of this and less of the horror movie clichés.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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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: ★★★★☆