GAME NIGHT (John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Game Night:

1. One of my all-time favorite episodes of Friends was The One With the Embryos where the gang played a heated, high stakes game of (personal) Trivia. Not only did I learn a lot about each of them (Monica was nicknamed Big Fat Goalie in field hockey, Chandler was scared of Michael Flatley, Lord of the Dance, Rachel’s favorite movie was actually Weekend at Bernie’s and not Dangerous Liaisons, Joey had an imaginary childhood friend called Maurice), but it also culminated in the most hilarious moment in the show’s history that reduced me to tears every time I would watch it.

In the said scene, the girls were stumped on the question regarding Chandler’s job. In a desperate attempt for an answer, Rachel shouted, “He’s a transponster!” that prompted Monica to scream, “That’s not even a word!”. It was succeeded with a huge howl of “Noooooooooo!!” when she realized that they just lost and had to give up their gorgeous apartment. (I seriously couldn’t stop laughing while writing this at the thought of Courteney Cox’s face.)

I could easily relate to Monica because I would get really competitive during any of these team party games (Charades, Pictionary, Scrabble, Hangman, Trivial Pursuit, Pinoy Henyo, even that Dribble Dribble Dribble balloon game in a Jollibee Kiddie Party, you name it). It wasn’t even about the prize, just the pure sense of false satisfaction I’d get knowing that I was better than someone on something. (Forgive me, I had really low self-esteem and needed constant validation.)

I was actually happy with the resurgence of these niche stores that provided the option of puzzles and board games as an alternative source of entertainment on a lazy Saturday night. Now if I could just find some really good challengers out there. (Yabang haha!)

2. The opening credits of this film alone was the ultimate 90’s nerd fantasy. Tokens from different games like Monopoly and Cluedo were floating around as if part of a geek’s hazy wet dream. You could laugh all you want, but only a few would understand the incredible happiness brought about by owning several red hotels on Boardwalk and Park Place.

3. I had always imagined Rachel McAdams as the iconic (and airhead) Regina George so it felt a bit weird to see her play somebody relatively smart for a change. Simply put, she was fantastic as Annie with her best bit involving an awkward shimmy to Third Eye Blind’s Semi-Charmed Life while she dorkily waved a loaded gun in front of some real thugs (and even took a selfie with the gun’s muzzle in her mouth). The humor stemmed from her character thinking that everything was still part of a game and the more clueless she was, the funnier the situation got.

Her energy here was matched by the usually sardonic Jason Bateman as Max, whose deadpan stares could mine laughs even in petty discussions about Tostitos Scoops.

Among the competent cast though, my favorite was Jesse Plemons whose neighbor Gary looked like a creepy version of Matt Damon by way of Phillip Seymour Hoffman. I really couldn’t understand why his seemingly sympathetic character was no longer invited in these game nights until he actually drew a picture of himself crying to represent The Green Mile. No, no, no. He would definitely not be part of my team.

4. I liked the go-for-broke silliness of the film, but I wish it was able to sustain its comedic rhythm all-throughout. It just needed more genius scenes like the one where Annie tried to remove a bullet from Max’s arm and ended up tapping on his bone before she realized that there was actually an exit wound.

I also enjoyed the mockery of action films when the glass tables here never really broke regardless of the number of bodies that crashed into them. The entire one-take egg chase around the mansion looked impressive, but just didn’t have the right energy to match earlier shenanigans.

5. Fake Denzel Washington was a great payoff to a running celebrity gag, but I laughed harder when the group was able to enumerate all of the actors that played The Hulk, except for Edward Norton. You could barely remember him in this role as well, right? The Incredible Hulk was actually the second film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and was directed by Louis Leterrier. His commercial debut film? The Transporter. (Nope, still not Chandler’s job.)

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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ANG PAMBANSANG THIRD WHEEL (Ivan Andrew Payawal, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Ang Pambansang Third Wheel:

1. The Play Girls and their sultry car wash routine on Pilipinas Got Talent received a lot of flak recently because they ended up scrubbing themselves instead of the dirty vehicle. I actually had no problem with that performance. I wouldn’t let their act go through to the next round, but if they wanted to pour a pail of sudsy water on themselves while twerking their asses off, why should I complain? I was all for equal opportunity exploitation considering that I also didn’t have any issue with a topless, dripping wet Sam Milby soaping his abs instead of his car in this movie. To quote his character Neo, “May ginagawa bang masama ang abs ko sa’yo?” None at all, Sam. None at all! Please continue working that hose. Again, why should I complain?

Side note: Why did his nipples look sad, though?

2. Trina (Yassi Pressman) had the unfortunate role of being everyone’s third wheel. All of her friends were couples that were curiously named after iconic TV and movie pairings – Will & Grace, Tom & Jerry, and Ally & Noah (from The Notebook?) and she was stuck with the name Trina who never had a fictional love team (at least none that I could recall). When she fell for Neo, I expected her to change her name to Trinity so that at least they would fit in with the rest of the group.

3. She worked in an ad agency that was modelled out of the Runway office of Miranda Priestly. Candy Pangilinan (usually hilarious, but strained for laughs here) played the boss from hell wearing the latest Genevieve Gozum fashion. Remember that scene in The Devil Wears Prada when Miranda arrived in the office and everyone was scrambling and fearing for their lives? It was recreated here with less comical results. People were literally in a panic with the boss inside the room that I was surprised she didn’t fire these people for incompetence… or for being majorly exag. I guess she didn’t have the capacity for that since she herself approved a pitch that felt straight out of a high school design competition (Meant 2 Be? Really??).

4. I think I wasn’t completely sold on the love story because Sam couldn’t match the charming performance of Yassi (reminiscent of her endearing work on Camp Sawi). Mas naiyak pa ako kasi hindi man lang siya makaiyak ng maayos. His character also had a huge collection of bomber jackets that would put Kamaro of Queer Eye to shame. Seriously.

Side note: Trina was also scared of blood and needles so yes, she was just more relatable.

5. The fact that Neo already had a kid brought an interesting dynamic to the third wheel story, but the movie failed to explore this further. I was happy to see though that the son (Alonzo Muhlach) wasn’t being a brat to a would-be stepmom. It would have been an easy way to generate drama and the decision to steer clear from this cliche was admirable.

6. Trina’s father (Al Tantay) bought her a plane ticket to Canada so that she could win back Neo (uhh, not with that Basha haircut dear) but when she arrived there and saw that he was already happy with his family, she decided to call her father up long distance and lash out at him, “Bakit ba pinaasa mo lang ako? Dapat hindi na natin pinaglalaban ang mga taong minahal natin!”.

Huh? Gurl, you flew all the way to Canada before you realized that? How about some gratitude for that expensive airfare? And imagine your long distance charges omg!

7. “Ang mga third wheel ay naghihintay lamang ng tamang tao para sa kanila.” Totoo ba? Tell that to my single friend slash perennial third wheel (name withheld to keep the friendship). Her lovelife (or lack thereof) gives a whole new meaning to the word ‘Awts!’.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

THE SIGNIFICANT OTHER (Joel Lamangan, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Significant Other:

1. After a round of the most laughable sex that involved scenes of sweating backs, shaking thighs, and curling feet, Nicole (Erich Gonzales) asked Edward (Tom Rodriguez) about the status of their relationship. She wanted to put a label on it since she already said “I love you” to him on their first date, plus they had been making out for the longest time already (the first being inside a car on an open field, next to a peeing kalabaw; how romantic!).

He could not give a straight answer since he was secretly married to supermodel Maxene (Lovi Poe) so with his signature constipated look, he assured her that she was his “significant other”. Not boyfriend-girlfriend, not boo, not sweetheart, not jowaers, not we’re-in-a-loving-relationship-since-we-had-sex-next-to-a-pissing-carabao, but just significant other.

Nicole, being the typical clueless kabit who had no self-respect and was devoid of any self-worth, lapped up his every word and reacted very much like the Sultan of Brunei just proposed to her. Gurl, since Edward was neither gay nor a millennial, being called a significant other was tantamount to being a kept woman. Yes, kerida, kabit, number two, mistress!! (Did I miss anything Terry?)

2. It was this kind of silliness that permeated throughout the entire movie:

• Where a candidate for a beauty pageant called Binibining Bacaycay fainted onstage and yet a talent agent was more concerned on recruiting her for a possible modelling career (shouldn’t someone be bringing her some Aceite de Manzanilla?).

• Where a high-profile dermatologist would use a flashlight for five seconds very much like a laser pointer to check a birthmark (fun fact: he called it a cafe au lait; do they also come in other fancy coffee names?) and immediately scheduled surgery to have it removed. One should also note that he was a complete pervert (he actually said the line, “Bibigyan kita ng gamot para mawala ang kati” and then promptly kissed the patient’s affected neck area after the laser treatment). Eww!!

• Where said high-profile dermatologist had an assistant nurse slash secretary whose main purpose was to sit at a desk armed with just a clipboard to welcome guests. No desktop computer, no laptop, not even a calendar or planner. Every appointment was on her magic clipboard. Where could I get one?

• Where a character said something like, “Wala nang mas gaganda pa sa bulaklak na niluto ng Diyos.” (Wait, bakit niluto ang bulaklak?)

• Where an extra delivered the line “Nicole, tinawagan ako ng nanay mo” then realized that she was a bit thirsty, asked for water while saying “Ako’y init na init na”, drank said glass of water, and without skipping a beat, repeated the exact same line “Nicole, tinawagan ako ng nanay mo”. Jusko!!

3. Speaking of lack of self-respect, there was a fashion show where Nicole and Maxene wore the latest Avel Bacudio wedding collection (sheer skirt over visible undergarments susmaryosep magagalit si Mother Butler!) and they took turns kissing Edward to stake their claim over him. It escalated into a slapping showdown and then a heated shouting match.

Nicole to Maxene: “I’m his significant other!!” (Like that actually meant shit.)

Edward: “Shhhhstop! Ssshhhhtop!!”

Maxene to Nicole: “Ginamit ka lang ng asawa ko bilang parausan!!” (The subtitles actually said: “You were just used by my husband as a pass time.”)

Avel Bacudio (played by Ricci Chan, the only actor here who was intentionally funny) then came out from backstage and started screaming (subtitles: “Are you finish? I, Avel Bacudio, is the star of this show!!”) and the two women had to regain their bearings and walked on the ramp again while the crowd cheered. Santissima santa!!

4. But wait, there’s more! When Maxene discovered that her husband was cheating, her first instinct was not to confront him, but instead to look at their happy family pictures and reminisce about the good ol’ times. More flashback while the theme song played. “I recall when you said that you would never leave me…” More hikbi. Dear Malabanan Services, please help because the amount of shit here is completely overflowing!!

5. Sample words of wisdom:

• “Yang kerida salot sa lipunan yan eh. Yan ang dapat tinotokhang!!”

• “Pag malaman ko lang sino ang babaeng yun, bubudburan ko ng asin para mawala ang kati!!”

• “Ikaw ang nagtulak sa kanya. Naghanap sya ng init sa puso.”

“Kahit anong sabihin mo kabit ka lang habang buhay!”

“At least ako ang pinili. Belat!” (I just added the belat part, but it wouldn’t feel out of place, right?)

6. After all the catfights and empty one-liners, the pervert, the negligent wife, and the kabit reconciled and became friends in the end. Because nothing screamed Pinoy soap opera more than a legal wife and a mistress winding up as mag-kumare for that requisite happy ending. “I’ll just keep on dreaming till my heartaches end…”

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

LADY BIRD (Greta Gerwig, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Lady Bird:

1. Whenever my mom and I would have an argument, her go-to line of defense was “Pinapasok pa naman kita sa Catholic schools…”. Which might also be her disappointed way of saying that this early, my soul was already burning in hell. Sometimes I’d wonder what happened to me as well. Did I not learn anything from all the years of Christian Living classes from grade school to high school plus the twelve units of required Theology in college? Were these schools being oppressive in shoving religion down our young throats that some of us ended up being rebellious? Or was I just being pa-cool in thinking that these teachings were way beneath me? One thing was for sure, though. My mother would always be in Church every Sunday to pray for my burning soul.

2. I really loved the depiction of the mother-daughter relationship here. When the film opened with Christine aka “Lady Bird”(Saoirse Ronan) and her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf) bonding over an audiobook of The Grapes of Wrath inside their car, it was a picture of love and happiness. In a matter of seconds, the harmonious atmosphere turned into a passive-aggressive verbal showdown with one of them jumping out of the moving vehicle. It was hilarious, frighteningly real, and completely relatable. Seriously, how many times have we considered flinging ourselves outside of a car just to avoid the nastiest sermons from our mothers? Getting run over on a highway would probably hurt less than hearing the worst sumbat coming from them.

3. The screenplay (also by Greta Gerwig) was infused with so much wit that I was reminded of Juno (the one where Ellen Page played a heavily opinionated pregnant teen) and peak Diablo Cody. Some of my favorite lines were:

• Lady Bird speaking the truth: “The only thing exciting about 2002 is that it’s a palindrome.”

• Marion on sticking to the shopping budget: “That’s what rich people do. We’re not rich people.”

• Brother Miguel when her date arrived to pick her up for prom: “Lady Bird wants to make an entrance. She’s mad we don’t have a spiral staircase.”

• Sister Sarah during the school dance: “Six inches for the Holy Spirit!” (Thank goodness I went to a co-ed school!)

• Post-sex Lady Bird after learning that her boyfriend (Timothée Chalamet) wasn’t a virgin: “I was on top! Who the fuck is on top their first time?”

• Boyfriend’s response as consolation: “You’re going to have so much unspecial sex in your life.” (Soooo true!!)

4. Hand in my Pocket, Crash Into Me, Cry Me a River, The Crossroads. The soundtrack of my life.

5. Ronan was terrific in the lead role (acne and all). Although she had some noticeable slips with her Irish accent, she fully captured the essence of Lady Bird that I was crying along with her when she received the school letter saying that she was waitlisted.

Metcalf was the perfect foil for her, with every line and movement capturing the mother we all loved and hated. Her airport car scene alone that didn’t require any dialogue, just her face showing a range of emotions, deserved an Oscar nod. She wasn’t even in the scene with the letters and I kept thinking about her and bawled my eyes out.

And what else to say about Chalamet exuding so much charisma that I just brushed off the fact that his character climaxed after just five seconds?

6. On her eighteenth birthday, Lady Bird excitedly purchased a pack of cigarettes and a copy of Playgirl. I could easily relate because I spent my entire teenage years wishing to be eighteen so I could finally watch an R-18 film in cinemas. (Wait, did you think that I wanted my own copy of Playgirl?)

7. Essential viewing if your mom’s also your best friend. Watch it with her and share a box of Kleenex.

Rating: ★★★★★