EXES BAGGAGE (Dan Villegas, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Exes Baggage:

1. In the movie As Good As It Gets, obsessive-compulsive Melvin (Jack Nicholson) professed his love to Carol (Helen Hunt) by saying one of the sweetest lines in film history, “You make me want to be a better man.” I remembered watching this in high school when my innocent heart had never experienced any real heartbreak yet. I gobbled up each word of that declaration with the belief that people would actually change themselves to win over (or win back) the person that they truly loved. I obviously didn’t know any better back then.

Through the years, I must have heard every single version of that promise. Changing for the better? Swearing to always remain faithful moving forward? Pledging undying love after endless second chances? Although there wasn’t any bitterness left for any of my exes after our failed relationships, my already jaded heart couldn’t hold still when Nix (Carlo Aquino) told his ex Pia (Angelica Panganiban), “Paulit-ulit kong isusugal ang puso ko maramdaman ko lang ulit kung anong meron tayo noon.” ULUL!! I expected her to say, “Narinig ko na yan, boy! Wag ako!!”, but this was still a Star Cinema movie after all.

2. I really liked how this was able to capture those awkward moments specific to recent exes (because after our hearts were fully healed, we would usually end up as good friends with them, right?). In one scene, Pia bumped into old married flame Migz (Joem Bascon) and I felt every uncomfortable minute of that encounter. I also used to run the other direction whenever I would see a recent ex heading my way in the mall (twice as fast if said ex was with a new jowa). I mean, what kind of small talk would we have? “Uy, ang gwapo ng ipinalit mo sa akin! Good job! High five!!”. Uhh, no thanks! Not everyone could be as strong as Angelica who even declared on national TV that she was willing to be a ninang to the baby of a recent ex. Tibay mo, gurl!

I also appreciated how it fully displayed all the insecurities that couples would feel whenever they start discussing their exes (especially when comparisons would come into play). No amount of self-confidence or belief on the strength of your relationship would go unscathed once the classic “Sinong mas minahal mo?” question comes up. Or even worse, “Nagustuhan mo lang ba ako para makalimutan sya?”.

(Side note: It was a bit understandable for Pia to feel insecure about Nix’s ex Dwein because she was played by the gorgeous and classy Coleen Garcia. Ibang level ang ganda ni Ate Gurl dito.)

3. I wish we knew more about Nix and Pia for us to fully root for their relationship. How could we say that these two people really loved each other when the only grand gesture we saw was Nix preparing her a romantic dinner? Sure, he was also a gentleman for not taking advantage of a drunk woman, but you wouldn’t go into a relationship with every decent guy you meet.

The thin plot mainly worked because of the undeniable chemistry of CarGel (that entire pretend dancing in the condo scene alone was worth the ticket price). I felt bad that Carlo got saddled with an unsympathetic, irrational (“Sana pinakilala mo ako ng maayos para di na sya nag-small talk sa’yo!”) character full of hang-ups, but he still made the most out of his role. And what was his problem with his girlfriend showing a little bit of cleavage? Insert Nadine Lustre sound bite here.

It was Angelica who really stood out though for embodying a perfectly flawed character who could be my best friend any day (even if she had the gall to ask Nix to take her home after a night of partying then drive her back to work immediately after). Her wonderful performance ranged from hilarious (“Gumising talaga ako para magising mo ako”) to heartbreaking (“Sanay naman ako. Sabihin mo lang talaga. Sanay na akong iniiwan”). I wanted to give her the tightest hug during the scene where she was packing her suitcase.

4. It was a bit funny how the Alamat ng Santol turned into the Alamat ng Werewolf in the subtitles pero naitawid naman. But I was more curious about that Alamat ng Bakla on Social Media and the belief that guys with more than fifty photos in their Facebook profile pic album were gay. But what if they only had five choice topless pa-delight and pa-abs pics? Asking for a desperate friend.

5. Best moment in the film for me:

When Pia offered to prepare breakfast and coffee for Dwein but she declined (di ata sya umiinom ng Great Taste White) which prompted Pia to say, “Meron naman akong dalang bibingka.” I wasn’t sure if it was meant to be hilarious, but I really laughed my head off.

6. “Ang takot magmahal after masaktan, di nagmahal in the first place. Kaya mo dapat pagdaanan ulit lahat ng pain at sakit para maramdaman ulit ang pagmamahal. Dapat ganun ang love, it overpowers pain.” O di sige Pianalyn, ikaw na ang matatag!!

7. Lovely cinematography. Of course I wondered why Pia would read under a green lamp/light, but I wouldn’t want that to ruin the movie’s aesthetics.

Also, first time to watch panties being removed while set to an indie soundtrack. Loved most of the songs though, especially Maybe the Night.

8. I teared up a bit when Nix started talking to Pia’s car, not because it was unfortunately named Ogie, but because he was making a last habilin to a non-living object to take care of this person that he truly loved. I thought it was the perfect sad ending to a relationship that was never meant to be.

But then Pia stepped out of her car, ignored the mystery man named Anton calling her, and implied a more hopeful ending. Tanga!! (Also, poor Anton.)

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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GOYO: ANG BATANG HENERAL (Jerrold Tarog, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral:

1. One of the first Tagalog poems I learned as a kid was taught to me by my grandfather (be forewarned, it wasn’t one of his shining moments) and it involved the bad boy of Philippine History (no, not Ace Vergel nor Robin Padilla). It went something like: “Andres Bonifacio, a-tapang a-tao. A-putok a-baril, hindi a-atakbo. A-putol a-utin, a-takbo a-tulin.” This humorous take on a national hero might sound disrespectful to some, but it was exactly how I felt with this ongoing Araling Panlipunan Trilogy of Jerrold Tarog that started with the puñeta-filled Heneral Luna.

Both films seemed to have been made as easily-digestible History nuggets because nobody really wanted to sit through a boring lecture. And so we got an abrasive, menacing portrayal of a general in the first film who would deliver some occasionally amusing Cesar Montano quips that the audience could laugh at while this second one had a subservient and confused young general who left a trail of broken hearts (and panties) like he was the first official fuccboi of the country.

2. I never knew that Gregorio del Pilar (Paulo Avelino, medyo malamya) was such a bland and uninteresting character whose life didn’t really merit a biopic. I’d always thought he was this glorious hero who took his last stand (and not a literal one) in the Battle of Tirad Pass. I’m sure there was more to him as the youngest general other than being a Don Juan.

Unfortunately, the fictional (right?) Joven Hernando (Arron Villaflor, who sounded like his testicles hadn’t descended yet) summed up the first hour best when he asked “Bakit puro romansa at panunuyo?”. It was obvious that Goyo (and in turn Avelino, with his gorgeous brown eyes that sparkled in the sunlight; wait, why wasn’t he moreno?) was so swoon-worthy that women would actually have a shade showdown while comparing themselves to mangoes (“Ako hinog, ikaw totoong bulok” or something equally icky to that effect). But shouldn’t there have been more to him than that?

I walked out of the theater with the takeaway that his only contribution in our rich history was a last minute realization that he had been Emilio Aguinaldo’s (Mon Confiado, great as always) lapdog. Yun na yun?

Seriously, Goyo the character couldn’t even serve as the crucial voiceover (read: voice of reason) in his own film.

3. I felt bad that the talented Carlo Aquino (who played Vicente Enriquez) couldn’t secure a lead role in this franchise (was it because he looked so cute and tiny like a keychain?). I did like the underlying homoerotic tension between him and Joven (because why else was he so protective of him?). And was I the only one that sensed this blooming “bromance” between Joven and Juan del Pilar (Carlo Cruz)? Ooh, a love triangle! (Or was that just some wishful thinking?)

Side note: That tampisaw sa batis scene. Not complaining at all.

4. I honestly couldn’t stand the acting of the kid that played Angelito so I wouldn’t even bother mentioning his name here. His lines consisted merely of cries of anguish/despair (“Kuyaaaaahhh!”, “Tamaaaah naaaahh!”) and he still couldn’t deliver them properly. Didn’t he learn anything from his Kuya Manuel Bernal (Art Acuña)? Awoooooo!!

5. Miss Granny reference: I was a bit disappointed that after all those pictures taken by the same photographer (Jojit Lorenzo) of the Forever Young Portrait Studio, Goyo didn’t turn into a Goyito (given his age though, if he turned fifty years younger, then he’d still be a sperm and this would have been a completely different kind of movie).

6. Bitterness 101 – Exhibit A:

Felicidad (Empress Schuck) to ex-jowa: “Kumusta?”

Goyo: “Mabuti! Ikaw?”

Felicidad: (deadma) (walk-out)

Move on, move on din pag may time. (Uso pa ba ‘to?)

7. Was the slang term “goyo” or “nagoyo” actually after the flirtatious general? I need the real etymology of this word please! My futile Google search led me to “weneklek” and “kukurikapu” instead.

8. Every peso of the movie’s reported Php160M budget was in full display here with its lush cinematography (that amazing shot of the troops marching on the mountainside during sunset, the magical Shape of Water-like underwater scene) and great production design.

9. I was excited to see the Battle of Tirad Pass especially with its dramatic twist of a local Igorot betraying the Philippine troops, but it didn’t really showcase anything interesting. It was just a lengthy sequence of some Pinoy mestiso actors pretending to be a bunch of American soldiers running around until they finally annihilated the locals. It was also odd that they continued to mine humor in such a serious situation (“Nakagat lang yan ng langgam sa bayag!”, “May bangin dyan!” and then a couple of Pinoy soldiers comically fell off a cliff, “Kam! Amerikan Welkam!”).

Even del Pilar’s death felt very anticlimactic (and un-heroic). Like a Superman film where Clark Kent never really wore his red trunks and cape because he was better off as a regular person. (But we paid to watch Superman, didn’t we?)

10. Burning questions:

• How long could one survive munching on just sugar cane? (Because you know, inflation.)

• The soldier named Daclan was actually Matt Daclan, right?

• Why couldn’t Apolinario Mabini (Epy Quizon) get his own movie? Echapwera na naman?

• During the mid-credits scene with a latex-faced, older Aguinaldo (still played by Confiado), why was the older Manuel Quezon on the poster played by a latex-faced TJ Trinidad? Were they not confident enough with the acting skills of Benjamin Alves?

• Wait, was the film trying to equate Emilio Aguinaldo with our current President? So did that make Goyo a misguided, egotistical, famewhore general who loved hogging the limelight (read: mahilig magpa-pogi)? Now I get my complete lack of interest.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

THE NUN (Corin Hardy, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Nun:

1. Long before Kidzania, Sky Ranch, Enchanted Kingdom, Star City, Boom na Boom, Glico’s, Payanig sa Pasig and Big Bang sa Alabang, the certified 80’s kids had that glorious haven located in the heart of Cubao called Fiesta Carnival. It was an indoor amusement park filled with the coolest rides and the best perya games ever created.

My favorite attraction there was this dingy horror ride (the predecessor of the corny horror train) where you would sit in a tiny cart that would pass through this long, dark tunnel split into several rooms (your cart would enter them by bumping onto the sliding doors) and each room was filled with every kind of supernatural entity designed to scare the crap out of you. One area would have like a ghost suddenly flying above your head while another would have a vampire jumping out of his coffin.

It felt very much like a nightmare that wouldn’t stop until you literally puked your kiddie guts out from all the screaming. That experience would probably be the closest equivalent I could think of for this movie that was relentlessly packed with jump scares. The only difference though was that I was no longer six years old.

2. In the Conjuring Universe, this would probably fall right smack in the middle with the best being the first Conjuring film and the worst being the first Annabelle. As a huge horror fan, I’d usually hate the ones that would sacrifice a good story over some cheap scares, but this one proved to be an exception (yes, I enjoyed it more than I probably should have).

Maybe it was because it didn’t take itself seriously (it definitely failed as an origin story because it didn’t really tell much about Valak aka Sister Marilyn Manson) and just took on the full silliness of its premise by upping the scream quotient (regardless of how effective they were).

3. With all the hilarious moments here through Frenchie-Canadian (Jonas Bloquet), I wasn’t even sure if it was trying to be a parody of the past movies (or even the genre). I mean, that scene where he pulled an oversized cross from a grave and ran with it all the way to a local bar was definitely a joke (and a really funny one, too).

Plus, you could probably name every cliché in the horror rule book and it was included here (except for a cat jumping out of the shadows, unless I missed that one). When one nun fell face down on the floor, everybody knew that somebody would grab her legs and pull her away from the camera. That corpse covered with a white sheet? It would come alive screaming, of course. And the scene where a nun suddenly dropped from a tree while hanging from a noose? It was done far better by Ynez Veneracion with her crazy eyes in Chito Roño’s The Healing. But all of these generated a symphony of screams (with some people literally jumping out of their seats) in our almost sold-out screening that made me enjoy the viewing experience even more.

4. When that horse-drawn carriage suddenly pulled up outside that monastery, I half-expected Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker to come out and seduce Valak with his tasty blood. I didn’t even care much about the supposedly creepy atmosphere of the broken-down monastery and smoky graveyard, I still found olden Romania incredibly romantic. Now what does that say about me?

5. Did Father Burke (Demián Bichir) provide an answer to his question on the opposite of miracle? This had been bugging me for days and Google was no help. Also, his character didn’t really figure much in the overall story, but at least he was able to deliver lines like “There is a time for prayer and a time for action”. Ooh, very Balweg, the Rebel Priest!

6. Glad that they actually made the effort to tie this up with the earlier films, although I was a bit disappointed that Sister Irene (an effective Taissa Farmiga) did not have any relation to Lorraine Warren (my darling Vera Farmiga) even if they obviously looked exactly alike. I would just assume that she was her reincarnation, which would explain why Valak was stalking her for several decades.

Side note: It felt iffy when the crowd started shipping Sister Irene and Frenchie-Canadian after that “kiss of life” scene, complete with an audible (and juvenile) “Yiheeeee!”. I felt the same way when this group of horny teens let everyone know that they were lusting over Phoebe Walker’s Sister Cecilia in Seklusyon. Forgive them Mother Butlers, for they have sinned. (Ang linis ko, thank you!)

7. I really liked that silent circle of prayer scene. Never thought I would ever get scared of a group (waddle? nyahaha!) of nuns especially after Sister Act, but this one came really close when they suddenly blew up in all directions (the Silent Hill-type scene that followed where they weren’t moving when Frenchie-Canadian entered the chamber was spooky, too). And then Sister Irene grew a burning parol on her upper back and I was laughing yet again (still not over all those Jose Mari Chan memes).

Another side note: I suddenly remembered that Netflix movie Veronica with the blind Mother Superior. Considering that I never had the traumatic experience of a nun hitting me with a ruler for wearing a skirt two inches shorter than the required length, I had always wondered why people were actually scared of them. Why would an image of a nun staring directly at you from outside your bedroom window elicit chills? And why would it be frightening if that same nun would now be standing right next to you while you were reading this? Don’t look!!

8. I usually hated watching with such a noisy crowd (seriously, everyone started screaming when the lights were turned off, even if it was just the Aquaman trailer that was played after), but hearing these straight guys pretend to be the bravest souls while clutching on to their girlfriends’ hands just doubled the entertainment factor. And yes, mas malakas pa sila tumili kesa sa mga date nila. Aliw lang.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

THE EQUALIZER 2 (Antoine Fuqua, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Equalizer 2:

1. Back in my sophomore year of college, I would usually spend the long gaps between classes with the rest of the boys in an internet shop right across our school. We would be playing this first-person shooter game called Counter-Strike in two opposing groups (sometimes against other schools) killing terrorists and defusing bombs. People hated having me on their team because I was the noob that would shoot at anything that moved (including my teammates) and never fully grasped the concept of stealth.

In the final action sequence of this movie that closely resembled that game, the main villain (who looked a bit like Justin Trudeau) committed every amateur (read: loser) move until he finally got himself killed. Because seriously, why would you be standing on a tower, thereby exposing yourself to any opponent below you? Any long range sniper rifle could easily take you out. I was so frustrated that I had no control on this character until I realized that I was just basically the pot calling the kettle black.

2. I wasn’t fond of the Death Wish-like vigilante original so I felt surprised when Denzel Washington chose to reprise his Robert McCall character (he should have left these action sequels to Keanu Reeves or Jason Statham). Given our country’s current political setting, I also found it off-putting that he played a character that still took matters into his own hands. Sure, it felt slightly good watching him serve justice on these rapists by breaking their noses and ribcages and fingers, but there was still this nagging feeling at the back of my mind whether that was the (morally) right thing to do.

On the other hand, maybe I was just overthinking things and this violence-filled entertainment was really just an excuse to watch good ‘ol Denzel beat the crap out of people. (It still didn’t explain how he actually found the time to set up posters and other props for that final, stormy showdown, though.)

3. It was a relief to see that he actually played a Lyft driver on the side because after all of my horror stories with Grab, I would never think that any of them were modern-day superheroes. If they could easily pretend to be stuck in traffic while asking me to cancel the booking on my end, why would I even trust them to save my life? (Ang pait!)

Side note: If he was registered in the company’s system (and even ordered five star ratings), wouldn’t his enemies know how to track him down? Wasn’t that against the entire point of superheroes having secret/alter identities?

4. Nuggets of wisdom:

• “There are two kinds of pain: the pain that hurts and the pain that alters.” (This was so ripe for a Star Cinema translation!)

• “Always be nice to anybody who has access to your toothbrush.” (One of the reasons why I always tried to avoid conflict with Madam Rose, especially since I never saw her clean my bathroom with an actual toilet brush.)

My favorite line though was when a young man asked “Who the (f-word) is this (n-word)?” and Denzel replied without missing a beat, “I’m your father. Your momma just didn’t tell you.” (Insert dab pose here.)

5. Melissa Leo was horrible in this movie. Her performance reminded me of that cringey “Did I really win even if I collected almost all of the precursor awards and even paid for my own FYC ads?” act during her Oscar speech.

6. Were the Hurricane references intentional? My inner trivia geek was happy.

7. That tense phone call was taken straight out of Taken. It didn’t make the two-way mirror scene any less nail-biting, though.

8. See this would be one of the reasons why I never wanted to make a lot of enemies. The easiest and most cruel revenge would always be to get back on your loved ones. Or maybe use your toothbrush to clean the toilet.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆