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The Spotless Mind

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

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(2/5)

LOVING IN TANDEM (Giselle Andres, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Loving in Tandem:

1. In one supposedly romantic scene, Luke (Edward Barber) described Shine (Maymay Entrata) as “not the kind of beauty that you see in movies and TV” and that “she was beautiful because she had a big heart that never stopped loving”. I really had no clue what he was talking about because I was completely enamored by Maymay’s distinctly Pinay beauty.

Given how funny and game she was in this film, she would actually be the kind of young actress that I’d root for and want to see more in future (better) Star Cinema rom-coms. One that wouldn’t use her physical appearance as a source of jokes, perhaps?

2. I had seen the entire filmography of Maricel Soriano and the plot of this movie reminded me a bit of Manchichiritchit where she also played a swindler that took advantage of (and later developed a romantic connection with) bumbling promdi Andrew E.

Similar to that one, I had a problem with the message that committing a crime was justifiable depending on necessity (in this case, Shine needed the money for her brother’s blood transfusion). One character even said, “Bakit hindi na lang siya humiram ng pera sa atin?” and the answer was, “Hiyang-hiya na raw sya sa mga utang niya.” Pero hindi siya nahiya na magnakaw sa iba? Tsk tsk.

And when she got caught red-handed by Luke, she was able to easily find several jobs to pay off the stolen amount. Why resort to snatching then? That was just a terrible meet cute setup.

3. “Mabuhay Team Embellish, at your service!” just didn’t have the same comedic impact as “Welcome to Heaven Resort, where you can rest in peace forever!”. I also couldn’t get over the scene where Shine was dusting the windows and when a customer came in, she then proceeded to shampoo the hair without even washing her hands. Eek!

4. Maymay may have been the star of this movie, but Edward was just as charming (would this signal the start of my MayWard obsession?). There were a lot of cute scenes (the blushing cheeks!) that worked mainly because of their strong chemistry.

The jeepney scene delivered the right amount of laughs and kilig, but it was the Closer You & I moment that made me squeal in my seat like a thirteen year old. I had always associated that song with the Close-Up commercial, but I just might remember it more now as the one that Shine abruptly sang (“The closer I get to touching youuuuu…”) before their naudlot kiss. Too funny!

5. “Alam mo ano problema mo? Puro pera ang nasa isip mo. Anghel nga itsura mo pero halimaw ka!” Uhm wait, didn’t you steal his money? Why play the victim card?

6. Most of the supporting cast really played it broad and loud (literally screaming their lines to elicit laughs). In one scene, Shine’s family members had to say things in chorus (“Sixty thousand pesos??”) like it would make the joke funnier (it didn’t).

There was also one gag involving a surprise birthday party for Luke where his friends covered themselves in ketchup and pretended to be victims of violence (police brutality?). It was a bit uncomfortable to watch given that its humor was very much like that viral proposal video with a fake police arrest.

The movie was trying too hard to be relevant (very much like its title) when it just didn’t need to be. The more successful jokes were just effortless, like that throwaway line by one character that mimicked everyone’s favorite Salazar sister, Bobbie (“Bakit parang kasalanan ko?”).

7. “Jowa means prisoner.” Who else could relate? (Just kidding, I don’t want to be single any time soon.)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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THE DEBUTANTES (Prime Cruz, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Debutantes:

1. I still haven’t forgotten about the clunky twist of last week’s Last Night and now we get another movie that hinged on the big reveal of an ‘imaginary’ being. Are our writers running out of original ideas to surprise the audience?

It probably would have been more acceptable if the said twist wasn’t so obvious the moment you see young Jona Soquite (or at least who I thought was her). Seriously, why would ‘siblings’ with a huge age gap have that twinning kind of severe BANGS (yes, nagsusumigaw) anyway? The only mystery left was whether she was the evil side of Carrie, er, Kate (a competent Sue Ramirez), or a completely different entity altogether (answer: sadly, the latter).

2. I had this discussion recently with a filmmaker friend on the lack of creative main titles in recent films (especially Star Cinema ones). We would usually see the same old cast names in red (or white) Times New Roman or Comic Sans fonts that clearly revealed the lack of originality or how much the final product was rushed.

One good thing about this movie was that it had a good opening credit sequence with blood flowing/dripping endlessly on various objects like a flower (cattleya?) or on the lips that would figure prominently later on. Reminded me so much of the Emmy-winning design for Six Feet Under.

3. Although the bullying and the public humiliation reminded me of Carrie, the similarity ended there because it was hard not to sympathize with the Mean Girls when this was obviously not an outright revenge flick. How could I cheer for the eventual deaths of young, irritating girls when Kate wasn’t the one doing the killings?

I never really rooted for a maligno, except for this one time when the Undin hid in the toilet boil and preyed on the loudmouth landlady played by Vangie Labalan.

4. Speaking of Mean Girls, I couldn’t get why Ivy Aguas wannabe Jenny (Jane de Leon) was considered the Queen Bee. She didn’t look or speak the part and Michelle Vito as Candice had more of the Regina George vibe (although the latter was also a terrible actress so maybe that was the reason?).

To be fair, the Jenny character was a hoot. I laughed out loud when she said, “Hey guys, as you all know it’s my birthday. Yeeeees! Happy birthday to meeeee!!”.

5. I also couldn’t understand how Miles Ocampo ended up with this group of bitches considering that her Lara character seemed like the typical goody two-shoes. Sure, she lived alone in a humongous house and had an annoying fringed bag that screamed social climber, but her personality just didn’t seem to fit with the group. Was it because she was too dumb to know the difference between Geometry and Calculus and the group needed a budget Karen Smith?

6. Why would Kate agree to wear a revealing halter top when she had visible scratch marks on her back? Also, why didn’t she even bother to check how loose those strings were prior to attending a party full of privileged brats?

In this day and age of social media prominence, who would still post a public status of them embarrassing other people? Have these kids already forgotten about Ate Amalayer, or the Kuya that threw a hissy fit in Alfamart and got knocked down by a loaf of Gardenia, or the Sisteret that wanted to hog all the chairs in Starbucks? A documented case of bullying sounded like an instant lawsuit to me.

7. This was a Prime Cruz movie so of course it looked good. I really loved the use of saturated colors and I hope that it wasn’t just a product of SM Cinemas’ poor projection. I kinda missed his cool soundtrack though and the songs were mostly utilized during the end credits.

8. I really don’t get how these onscreen characters would cut their own hair and they’d always end up with salon gorgeous looks after. If I were to handle my own haircut, my mother would most probably ask if I recently had ‘tipus’ (uhm, thyphoid fever).

9. Why would a traumatized Kate immediately attend the wake of one of her bullies? Was it because we needed a scare scene involving a coffin? And why was Candice wearing a stylish cover-up and pekpek shorts there? Jenny should really have risen from the dead and slapped her silly for stealing the limelight (and for lack of respect, naturally).

10. Most of the horror elements were familiar tropes (they basically replaced the hair braid coming out of Naomi Watts’ throat in The Ring with a necklace; the jump scene when somebody would open a fridge and a person would be standing behind it was used twice, the other with a locker; the setup where the ghost would pull on the blanket of a sleeping person looked straight out of The Conjuring) and even impressive scenes like when the engkanto came out of Kate’s mouth looked similar to the one in The Possession (or one of the Ouija movies). I spent most of the time chuckling at how bad the death scenes were staged.

11. That was one dirty toilet bowl. Candice, please ask your maid to check the Coke hack on Facebook pronto.

12. This was the type of horror movie where a person in a pool would see the moo moo and decide to swim to the other side instead of getting her ass out of the water and fleeing for dear life. Congratulations Shayne (Chanel Morales) for winning this month’s Darwin Award!!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

I LOVE YOU. THANK YOU. (Charliebebs Gohetia, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on I Love You. Thank You.:

1. I wasn’t exaggerating when I initially said that this movie felt as inauthentic as the overpriced Shrimp Tom Yum served in Mango Tree Bistro GB3. Although admirable for not indulging on gratuitous (and graphic) sex scenes that had become a common trait of Pinoy pink films, this one didn’t exactly feel like a gay movie.

The main couple Red and Ivan (played by Prince Stefan and CJ Reyes, respectively) who were supposedly in a relationship for four years never once kissed on the lips. On their anniversary, one of them kept saying “I love you here” before kissing a specific facial part of his partner (the forehead, the nose, the left cheek, the right cheek), but not on the lips. Even in bed, the most romantic thing they did was hug each other.

Was this just a long-term bromance? Or did these (supposedly) straight good-looking actors have a clause that they couldn’t do something that might ruin their careers and stereotype them in gay roles forever (ehem Martin Escudero)? It actually would have been more forgivable if they could act, but their every dialogue felt like they had constant bouts of constipation.

2. Do they really serve a drink called Sperm in Thailand? Everyone in that place seemed to like it and kept ordering one every time there was a bar scene. I tried to Google it, but the sperm cocktail that showed up would definitely be considered #NSFW.

3. In one scene, Paul (Joross Gamboa) was on a moving train and he decided to stick his head out the window to signal that he was carefree and ready for another adventure. Although it was a meet cute moment for Tang (Ae Pattawan, a budget JM de Guzman), it still triggered my travelling anxiety of getting locked up in a foreign country brought about by repeat viewings of Brokedown Palace.

Thank goodness for Joross though, because he was the only credible actor here (Pinoy or otherwise). Every inflection, flick of the wrist, or brush of his hair could have easily fallen under the gay stereotype but they just added a bit more nuance in his performance. Now about that excessive use of BB cream…

4. The hugot lines would either make you reflect about your love story and cry all the way home or (in my case) cringe in your seat and wish that you did not develop diabetes after hearing them. Sample dialogue:

• “May dalawang klase ng tao sa mundo: ang nagmamasid at ang minamasdan; ang umaalis at ang iniiwan.” (At ako ang pangatlong taong tumatawa habang nanunuod sa nagmamasid at minamasdan.)

• “I loved you first. I loved you even before Ivan loved you. And I loved you more even after he left you.” (Anong kamartyran yan, teh?)

• “Who goes through more pain: the one who went away or the one who is left behind?” (Malamang the one who is left behind kasi iniwan sya diba kasi yung the one who went away nakahanap na ng bago kahit di nya aminin yun ang totoo.)

• “I’m willing to wait for you until you’re healed.” (Tangaaaaa!!)

5. In a job interview for a wedding company, Paul mentioned that he wasn’t really good and that his friend was only exaggerating with his recommendation, but he would still try his best. The interviewer slash owner just said, “Ok, you promise?” and hired him on the spot. Ganun ba talaga kadali maghanap ng trabaho abroad? Wait, let me update my resume.

6. Why couldn’t we have smart and drama-free gay characters in films? I couldn’t understand why there were actually two habulan scenes here that ended up like scenic tours of Thailand. The funnier one was a supposed metaphor of the love triangle involving Red, Paul, and Tang, where they ran after each other (ala My Best Friend’s Wedding) passing through houses and roads and a bridge. It was intended to be serious and dramatic, but was clumsily shot and made me cry from laughter.

Speaking of love triangle metaphors that hit you right on the head, there was an actual photograph where Paul was looking at Red who was looking at Ivan (the only person staring at the camera). Totoo? May nagpapa-picture ng ganito?

7. If there was one moment that I really liked, it would be the ferry scene (wait, MBFW reference again?) where Tang grabbed the finger of Paul and wrote the Thai words “I love you” in the air. When Paul asked what that meant, Tang just smiled and said, “It means beautiful sunset”. Awww!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

LAST NIGHT (Joyce Bernal, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Last Night:

1. Let me begin with an erratum on a glaring boo boo that I made when I posted my notes on Love You to the Stars and Back. I incorrectly identified the character of Julia Barretto as Carmina Salvador since I actually saw Last Night’s trailer prior to that movie.

Whether it was cinema fatigue or my inner cinephile that went bonkers upon hearing that film reference (that was the same name of Dawn Zulueta’s character in Hihintayin Kita sa Langit), I would like to apologize for the confusion that it caused especially to all the JoshLia fans that lost sleep over that inaccurate trivia.

2. We first see the real Carmina Salvador (Toni Gonzaga) dangling from a billboard on the side of the Jones Bridge after a botched suicide attempt. Her cry for help was noticed by Mark Peters (Piolo Pascual), who was also on a suicide mission at the said bridge. (Side note: Is this really a popular destination for depressed people in the Binondo/Ermita area? I’m really curious to know how many suicide cases have happened here within the last decade. Google wasn’t really helpful.) Anyway, they ended up helping one another and in the process also fell madly in love with each other. The end.

Well, not really. Of course there had to be a big twist because the screenplay seemed to have been built around that gimmick. In a reveal that would make M. Night Shyamalan curl up in a fetal position, Carmina actually turned out to be a ghost (she died in 1973 during Martial Law; naks, relevant!) that only appeared before Mark. Yes, he could see dead people (well, one dead person in the beginning and a few more towards the end of the movie). Eek!

3. I really wish the movie didn’t rely too much on the (obvious) twist so that it didn’t have to spend its final 30 minutes explaining everything (in washed-out flashbacks!) and feeling smart on how much it was able to fool the audience.

Aside from The Sixth Sense, most of the scenes that had Mark interacting with Carmina reminded me a lot of the “I Love You, Moo Moo” episode of the 90’s movie Tatlong Mukha ng Pag-ibig. My favorite scene there was when Tonton Gutierrez carried the ghost of his dead wife (played by Sharon Cuneta) inside their honeymoon suite while the caretaker (Leroy Salvador) watched with horror as his crazy amo flirted with an imaginary entity. I actually wondered if that straightforward format that wasn’t reliant on a twist would have made the story here much better (and less cornier).

Also, I’d actually need help in remembering another Hollywood/foreign movie about a living human being that communicated and fell in love with the spirit of a deceased person (something like Just Like Heaven, but not really). I wouldn’t want to be up for the next few nights.

4. Thirteen Reasons Why received a lot flak for apparently romanticizing suicide and I kinda understood that perspective when I watched Mark and Carmina play cutesy with a blow dryer while they were inside a tub. Or when they fantasized on placing an aircon and a mattress on their backs before diving in a pool. Or when Carmina suggested “maligo sa dinuguan at magpakain sa shark” (huh?).

This made the shift in tone during the latter part of the movie even more jarring when it suddenly turned pro-life and started spreading a message of optimism and hope. All that was lacking in that final bubblegum bridge sequence was a dancing unicorn.

5. I was a huge fan of the Toni-Piolo pairing in Starting Over Again so I was a bit surprised at how much I was turned off by their performances here. Toni had her quirkiness turned up to its maximum level and she kept shouting her lines like she was still hosting Pinoy Big Brother (“Hello Philippines! Hello world!!”).

Piolo fared much better (as he was required to go topless yet again and shamelessly showed off his abs twice!), but he spent most of his scenes brooding and acting really stuck-up. Sayang, because I really missed this fun partnership.

6. At least the technical aspects were really commendable. Before Cathy Garcia-Molina, I think Joyce Bernal was the queen of rom-coms and she really tried to make the most out of the weak story here.

The movie also looked really good, very much like a glossy maindie. I also loved the song choices (except for one that sounded like it had Piolo singing).

7. I couldn’t get over the fact that Toni was the twin of Joey Marquez. And that Joey was named Ricardo Reyes. Yes, Ricky Reyes! Bwahahahaha!

Also, Carmina (whose real name’s Jennifer, btw) was actually a smart entrepreneur and influencer for bringing her new living friends to their family restaurant every single time. Shouldn’t it have been time for her to start a Twitter or Instagram account, though?

8. Burning questions:

• Why did an old soul like Carmina sound very much like a millennial? Also, why did she keep acting like she didn’t know that she was already dead? Diba audience lang naman may hindi alam?

• If she really wanted to prevent Mark from committing suicide, why did they spend most of their time trying to figure out how to die together? Did she only realize that after she fell in love with him?

• Did they play Bloody Crayons in one scene as a cross-promotion for Star Cinema movies?

• If nobody could see her, why didn’t anyone (except for the friend of dying lola) even ask who Mark was talking to? More chismis, more fun lang?

• Why did she kill herself after just seeing blood on the side of Jones Bridge (sure, her boyfriend was supposed to be there, so she automatically assumed that the blood was his)? Why, gurl, why?

• Paano sila maghihintayan sa langit if she’s stuck in limbo?

• If Carmina killed herself during Martial Law, why was her brother played by Patrick Sugui (shouldn’t he be like 40ish) and her mother was the still youthful Marina Benipayo? Were they also ghosts? Then why couldn’t they all see each other? Or was Patrick supposed to be the young Joey Marquez? Help!!

• Bakit kapag si Piolo ang nagsasabi ng “nangulangot” parang classy and sexy pa rin? Huhuhu!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

ATOMIC BLONDE (David Leitch, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Atomic Blonde:

1. I really didn’t have plans of watching this movie in a theater since a) the local version was heavily butchered to receive a more SM Cinema-friendly rating (lesbian sex was deemed offensive?), and b) inasmuch as I adored Imperator Furiosa, seeing Charlize Theron pull off a John Wick just wasn’t my thing, but there would always be stuff we do for love.

2. I probably would have appreciated this more if it didn’t even try to be a smart thriller ala The Bourne Identity and just stayed true to being a hot mess (like basically any Guy Ritchie film). But no, we were treated to an incomprehensible plot that started with the demolition of the Berlin Wall, involved twist after twist inherent in the espionage genre, and ended with…wait, what exactly happened? Sorry, but I do not have the time to check Wikipedia.

3. With our current weather, I’d do anything to have that kind of ice bath. Are there any places that offer this type of service? Better if they also serve Stolichnaya and Jack Daniels.

By the way, when Charlize stepped out of that tub, her to die for body was shown in its full glory, but when James McAvoy got up from bed, he had to be fully wrapped with a kumot from the waist down with just a tease of his V-lines. He even mentioned, “If you see my balls, you’ll be more impressed”. Now how would we know? Why the double standard?

4. Literal killer heels. Ilabas ang lisensya! Also, as a nod to anything ’80s, I loved how that dressing up montage resembled that of Vilma Santos’ in Tagos ng Dugo.

5. Some of the fight scenes didn’t feel authentic. It was supposed to be one violent brawl after another, but the punches seemed to be pulled.

At least it had that awesome stairwell sequence (it was supposed to be one long take if it weren’t chopped up for being too violent) that made me wonder which parts were actually done by Charlize (since it involved a lot of smashing on the walls and tumbling down the steps).

6. “David Hasselhoff is in town. Berlin is really doomed.” Hahaha! Forever a Baywatch fan, though.

7. If there was something that I really liked here, it was the killer soundtrack. If I were to get hit on the head with a skateboard, I would also want it to be scored with Nena’s 99 Luftballons.

Caveat: I was obviously a disgrace to my generation because when the first few notes of Queen’s Under Pressure was played, I squealed with delight from my seat and screamed ‘Ice Ice Baby’!!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

CINEMALAYA – SHORTS A (2017)

SPOILER ALERT!!

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FATIMA MARIE TORRES AND THE INVASION OF SPACE SHUTTLE PINAS 25 (Carlo Francisco Manatad, 2017) – ★★★☆☆

Although the title was as subtle as Jason Mraz’s Waiting for My Rocket to Come, there were still a lot of funny bits here that kept me erect, er, entertained in my seat.

I was supposed to question why the old couple was watching Kris and Biiiiimb on Tonight with Boy Abunda in broad daylight, but there were far crazier things happening on their side of the world (crashing dildo, floating knife, luggage with a chastity alarm, vagina moon).

Did the license for Dayang Dayang cost the production a fortune? I wish the old lady danced what she learned from zumba during that Christmas lights scene.

Nice enough, but lacked an impressive girth.

*****

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SORRY FOR THE INCONVENIENCE (Carl Adrian Chavez, 2017) – ★★★★☆

Anong meron si Ronwaldo Martin? What makes him so watchable (enigmatic?) every single time? In this short, he barely had any lines, but the grit and emotions were definitely palpable.

A fascinating look at masculinity defined by a Pinoy patriarchal society, where the bond between a boy and his father could only be felt through a common desire/need for violence. Powerful stuff!

*****

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LOLA LOLENG (Che Tagyamon, 2017) – ★★★☆☆

Reminded me a lot of the equally affecting Manang Biring (hey, how about an animated film about other relatives?). The crude animation worked really well for the story, although the sound design felt a bit off.

Another reason to fear family reunions, but more than that, another reason to fear the emerging short-term memories of people vis a vis historical revisionisms. #NeverForget

*****

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ALIENS ATA (Glenn Barit, 2017) – ★★☆☆☆

The aerial shots felt too gimmicky and couldn’t quite justify the lack of a strong narrative. It reminded me so much of those trips to the National Museum and watching moving dioramas. Not my kind of voyeurism.

*****

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ISLABODAN (Juan Carlo Tarobal, 2017) – ★★☆☆☆

Remember the Daily Prophet in Harry Potter with all the moving pictures? This short felt exactly like that, except that it was a literal comic book film. The multiple panels with their abrupt stop-and-go motions were too distracting. It was a novel idea that just didn’t fully work onscreen.

That climactic Captain America: Civil War-like showdown between the two gangs had me in stitches for all the wrong reasons.

Also, for a comic book movie, this one included my ultimate peeve: wonky subtitles.

*****

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MANONG NG PA-ALING (E. del Mundo, 2017) – ★★☆☆☆

Had some excellent underwater photography, and not much else. I still couldn’t figure out why Manong had to remove three pieces of underwear for his shower scene while his fantasy mermaid slash dead wife wore nude-colored panties. Ehh.

CINEMALAYA – SHORTS B (2017)

SPOILER ALERT!!

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JUANA AND THE SACRED SHORES (Antonne Santiago, 2017)

Similar to Pina, this dance film was just too artsy for my basic tastes. Kwento ko na lang sa inyo mga bes.

So merong long-legged Ate Dyosa na nag-trip magsayaw sa maduming batis. Biglang dumating si Gluta Koya na may dalang santol at more join sa ballet nya. Nagpagulong-gulong sila sa putikan at nagtastas ng damit. Biglang may Grindr notif si Koya so itinigil nya ang pagkaladkad kay Ate Dyosa na naninilaw na. Paggising nya, naka-blusang itim na sya at nagpapaligo si Gluta Koya ng isang bata.

Tungkol ba ito sa colonialism? Oppression of women? Dance as art form? Ang deep, men!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

*****

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MARIA (JP Habac, 2017)

Aka the Reproductive Health Law Movie.

From the opening breakfast scene with a dozen children of all ages grabbing for the remaining food on the table, to the endless petty fights between the siblings (that would put Bunak and Bilog to shame), to the mother giving birth yet again to her twenty-nth baby inside a tricycle, it was enough for me to wish for an instant vasectomy.

Strong message and good production values, but it just fell short from being a public service announcement.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

*****

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NAKAW (Arvin Belarmino, Noel Escondo, 2017)

Single take, poverty porn, murky lighting, shaky cam, gratuitous sex and violence, social relevance, Kristoffer King. This short was able to tick everything off the Brillante Mendoza-lite checklist. Didn’t really feel necessary.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

*****

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HILOM (P.R. Patindol, 2017)

There was something sweet and completely unsettling between the bond of the young twin brothers in this short. When Blue Twin developed a stronger friendship with another boy, you could actually feel the jealousy of Pink Twin. At the end of the day though (and amidst the malicious gay accusations), blood was still thicker than water.

Solid production values all-throughout. I just wish it didn’t hold back and ventured darker than expected.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

*****

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BAWOD (TM Malones, 2017)

Although I liked the initial focus on the charming relationship between the grandfather and his thirteen year old granddaughter (especially the opening sequence with their constant banter that ended up in a carabao ride), it failed to capitalize on this and instead chose to take a philosophical route (similar to that clichéd bamboo metaphor).

The ending made me scratch my dandruff-free head.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

*****

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NAKAUWI NA (Marvin Cabangunay, Jaynus Olaivar, 2017)

A well-intentioned short dealing with extrajudicial killings that was tough to watch given its crude technical aspects. It was like watching a Powerpoint presentation that would always fade to black before moving on to the next flashback scene. Most of the performances were terrible (the part where the friends delivered the bad news to the father was cringe-worthy). The blatant audio issues were also very distracting and in the only scene that was meant to be affecting, the musical score started to swell before the sappy theme song was played.

Maiiyak na sana ako sa dulo nang biglang lumabas ang multo ng napatay na anak. It was probably meant to be sentimental, but I walked out of the cinema laughing instead.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

SA GABING NANAHIMIK ANG MGA KULIGLIG (Iar Lionel Arondaing, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Sa Gabing Nanahimik ang mga Kuliglig:

1. It was probably during the scene where Hector (Ricky Davao) was wailing over the corpse of his wife Dolores (Mercedes Cabral) that I realized I had watched something similar to this before. It looked very much like the same red herring thrown around in another murder-mystery set in a swampland.

My suspicion was further confirmed when self-confessed killer Magda (Angel Aquino) had that fantastical dream sequence where she ended up seeing a floating dead body that actually turned out to be her. Yes, I was definitely watching a version of Sam Raimi’s The Gift, except that the supernatural element was replaced by a religious theme. Nyek!

2. I shouldn’t even be complaining that the movie chose to head into that direction because I initially thought I was watching Senakulo: The Movie and it would really be Easter Sunday 2018 by the time it completed the twelve stations of the cross (thankfully, it abandoned that concept while I was close to nodding off right around the fourth station).

How could I forget these Bible stories when I would often volunteer to lead the prayer of the rosary done before and after breaks every October (rosary month!) in Zobel? My favorite part was the Sorrowful Mysteries because I got to play different characters and I always made sure that I gave each one a distinct voice. My rosary-praying career ended though when I read the line “Crucify him!” as “Cruci-fee him!” and one classmate laughed so loud and mocked me in front of the whole class that I felt very much like Mary Magdalene.

3. Those were some really odd framing choices. I wasn’t a big fan of seeing the characters occupying a quarter of the screen and talking in one corner. Nothing really wrong with that, it was just too AHRT(!!) for my basic sensibilities.

4. I really liked how this tackled the Seal of Confession and that priests were not allowed to disclose any information divulged to them vis a vis the separation of the Church and State. So basically a murderer could confess his crime to a priest and receive absolution for his sin, but the best that the priest could do was suggest that the killer turn himself over to the police. Did I understand that correctly? Why didn’t that sit well with my heart and brain?

5. How could Dolores be married to Hector for twenty years when Mercedes didn’t even look a day over thirty? Did she get pregnant at the ripe old age of ten?

6. Gorgeous (gorgeous!) cinematography. More reasons to visit Cuyo Island in Palawan.

7. I felt a bit disappointed when the focus shifted to Dolores’ son Lester (Jess Mendoza), who had to deliver cringe-worthy lines while giving the corpse of his mother a sponge bath (“Ang mukhang ito ang una kong nasilayan…”, “Ang mga brasong ito ang yumakap sa akin…”). I swore to myself that if he were to make punas every body part and deliver a Juan Miguel Severo-like poem for each, I would surely walk out (especially if he would reach the “Sa pepeng ito ako lumabas…”).

8. Sitting through this ordeal should serve as my penance for the entire year, yes?

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

FINALLY FOUND SOMEONE (Theodore Boborol, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Finally Found Someone:

1. I knew something was wrong with this production as soon as the rumor came out that Star Cinema had to scrap sixteen days’ worth of filmed scenes and basically reshoot everything. Apparently, several spoiler-ish photos leaked online and ruined the entire story, or possible twist (ooh, very Game of Thrones!). After watching the entire thing, all I could think of was, This was the improved version?!

2. As a huge fan of the Laida-Miggy trilogy, I was happy that Star chose to give the Sarah Geronimo-John Lloyd Cruz tandem a fresh and new story…until I realized that there was nothing really fresh or new in this trope-filled mess. It felt like the creative team just gave up on the project and threw in every lazy detail that they could think of to come up with a finished product.

• “Eto bagong-bago. Kelangan more kilig so may habulan at batuhan ng harina!”

• “Oh my gosh, ang ganda! Tapos since nag-bake na ng cake eh magpahiran na rin sila ng icing! Awww!”

• “Guys, di pwedeng pa-cute lang dapat maiyak din ang mga tao. Eto as in naisip ko lang now, dagdagan kaya natin ng may sakit na nanay?”

• “Ay, don’t forget ang mga chuwariwap friends! Very important! Check mo na rin ang schedules nina Joey Marquez at Dennis Padilla for the tatay roles.”

• “Current and relevant din dapat so kelangan involved ang social media.”

• “Wait, nagamit na natin yan sa Dear Other Self, My Ex and Whys atsaka Vince & Kath & James diba?”

• “Eh di ulitin! Pati theme song na nagamit na sa Born for You nina Coco at Angeline i-recycle na rin.”

• “Yung hugot line ha wag kalimutan. Eto naisip ko, Love needs truth to be true.”

• “Eh why not, Does love need truth to be true or does truth need love to be true?”

• “Sakit sa ulo. Tulog na tayo.”

3. Raffy Sandoval? Why not Oliver Papa?

Anywho, I was just happy that John Lloyd was here because he made everything bearable, very much like a cinematic Rumpelstiltskin turning crappy scenes into pure gold with just his radiant smile (faney alert!). I would not be doing that Lungkot Kembot bit any time soon (unlike the Rain Dance that I perform before any out-of-the-country trip), but I’d always remember how sad it made me feel when he sobbed while making kembot near the BGC fountain.

And yes, I also shed a few tears in the scene where he opened up to his sick mother, but then I would probably cry watching him cry over a paper cut.

4. Lakas ng appeal ni Sarah to the older crowd. Was it because they could see the ideal and virtuous anak/apo in her? I watched this twice on opening day and there was always that one old person that would loudly say, “Ang galing ni Sarah!” or “Ang ganda ni Sarah!” (bias aside, I think everyone would agree that she looked really, really good here).

I just wish she was given a character that didn’t need to be too quirky to be funny. The clunky opening sequence alone didn’t do her any favors because it just looked too awkward (that ladder scene should have been saved for Toni Gonzaga).

Sarah fared much better when she wasn’t forced to act funny and her natural self would come out. Ever since Filipinas, I knew that she could effectively handle a dramatic role so I really loved that confrontation scene with Aprilyn saying, “Alam mo kung bakit ka tatanda mag-isa? Kasi takot ka magsabi ng totoong nararamdaman mo. Well, ako hindi. I’ve fallen in love with you.” Ang sakit! Bravo!!

5. I could feel the tension between the two when they recently guested in Gandang Gabi Vice and it was obvious as well in that Two Truths and a Lie kitchen scene. Whatever personal issues they had actually helped make that scene authentic and honest. (Now if only it didn’t stretch on forever…)

Pero iba pa rin talaga ang kilig ng AshLloyd. My favorite moment was the restaurant scene where John Lloyd said, “Meron special diyan. Wala sa menu. Nasa harap mo.” Like Sarah, I giggled like a schoolgirl.

6. It was sad to see recent Urian winner Christian Bables sounding like BFF Barbs acting all paminta to get near Lloydie. His talent was wasted on a thankless role that probably could have been saved by (trope alert!!) Janus del Prado or Ketchup Eusebio.

Also, what was up with that checkered polo and striped cardigan combo? Trisha definitely wouldn’t have approved.

7. As expected, product placements galore. What I found amusing was that we didn’t even need to see the brand of the pill that John Lloyd was handing over to (yet another) sick relative. Everyone assumed (knew!) it was Biogesic. Now that was an effective endorser.

8. So Aprilyn’s a pre-school teacher (and probably The Voice Kids coach given the incredibly high pitch of that Hello, Hello, Hello song), an Honesty Cookies baker, and a successful Hallmark card maker, samantala ako bum sa bahay. Okay.

9. Pet peeve: continuity issues. And this one just had too many from the changing lengths of Sarah’s hair to the missing icing stain on the back of John Lloyd’s shirt. My OCD self died a little.

10. Dear Future Star Cinema Rom-Com, if ever Sarah finally agrees to do a kissing scene by the time she’s 35, can you make sure it will be with John Lloyd, please? Goodbye drone shot!!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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