CineFilipino Short Films – Set A (2018)

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#CineFilipino2018 – SHORTS A

LUISA AT GUADA (Jude Matanguihan, 2018) – ★★★★★

I’m such a sucker for these old people stories. Maybe because I’m not just an old soul, I’m just really old (huh?). The sungka reference, the pop culture chismisan about Kris Aquino and James “Uy”, the usual lola shade of “Ganyan ba manamit ang matinong babae?”, and the subsequent “Santissima!”. More relate, more fun.

Sherry Lara and Peewee O’Hara were terrific as the lifetime BFFs. One could only wish for a lasting friendship like theirs.

*****

RUFYLA (Coleen Tanco, 2018) – ★★☆☆☆

I really liked the tranquil opening sequence that also served as an introduction to the majestic T’boli culture, but then it devolved into a melodramatic public service ad about exploitation of probinsyanas (and to an extent, indigenous people). Literal kung literal.

*****

BINATA NA (Dexter de Jesus, 2018) – ★★☆☆☆

Interesting choice of not showing the faces of the actors, but it wasn’t able to add much on the discussion of circumcision as a Pinoy rite of passage to manhood. Of course there had to be a shot of a banana being peeled. I would have preferred an eggplant’s tip being chopped off, though.

*****

BOYET LOVES YOU (Josel Fajardo, 2018) – ★★★★☆

An effective horror-comedy that didn’t resort to cheap scares. Terrific performances from the two girls (one of them’s viral sensation Kat Galang) who had me from the moment they discussed the urban legend of the Snake Man in Robinson’s Galleria. You would probably piss your pants from laughing and/or pure terror.

*****

TUGMA (Joshua Tayco, 2018) – ★☆☆☆☆

Clearly well-intentioned, but its inauthenticity made it unbearable to watch. What rhymes with corny? (This had a rapping kid obviously named Rap so please don’t say horny.)

*****

SI APONIBOLINAYEN AT ANG MGA BATANG LUMILIPAD (April Aspiras, 2018) – ★★☆☆☆

Another social commentary, this time about displaced Lumads set in a constantly smoky place to establish atmosphere (seriously though, bakit laging mausok?). Very much like the kids with their glider, one would hope that this would soar, but it crashed with a resounding thud. (Pa-smart lang ako. Di ko lang talaga naintindihan.)

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CineFilipino Short Films – Set B (2018)

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CINEFILIPINO 2018 – SHORTS B

.RAW (Eugine Frondoza, 2018) – ★★★☆☆

Reminded me of two things: 1) the belief that there was a certain gloom behind these perfectly-edited pre-nup videos, and 2) my undying love for Mara Lopez. I just wish it went beyond the “love the raw and unedited version of your other half” message.

*****

GABI NG KABABALAGHAN (Stephen Lopez, 2018) – ★★★★★

My easy favorite from this set. It was a well-crafted, inspired, and wicked take on Magandang Gabi Bayan’s iconic Halloween special. Those hilarious reenactments with the White Lady were just spot-on. Best end credits sequence, too. Made me excited to see what else this director had to offer.

*****

LASINGTUNADO (Miguel Fernandez, 2018) – ★☆☆☆☆

With its corny jokes and extended fight scenes, this one felt very much like an annoying, drunk next-door neighbor who went way past the allowed 10pm videoke curfew. If only it had more of that smart Bituin Escalante reference.

*****

AMUSIN PA (Raiza Masculino, 2018) – ★★☆☆☆

Spotty Southern Tagalog accents aside, this didn’t really offer anything new to the puppy love slash coming-of-age genre. At least it had the same kid in the wonderful Ang Painting ni Tatay.

*****

DUYAN NG ALON (Kaye Banaag, 2018) – ★★★★☆

I really liked this version of Cast Away imagined through the eyes of a child. It also had some really striking visuals, including a precious shadow play sequence that I could probably watch all day.

*****

ATE, KUYA, GUSTO KONG KAPE (Mark Bayani, 2018) – ★☆☆☆☆

Even an all-“star” cast that included Epy Quizon and 90’s Most Promising Actor Jao Mapa could not save this obvious headscratcher. “Sino si Ate?” Did anyone really care?

*****

SIYUDAD SA BULAWAN (Jarell Serencio, 2018) – ★★☆☆☆

There was an underlying sadness in this story of miners (and minors) working in a city of gold, but the film ended without really saying much. It looked really good, though.

6 BALLOONS (Marja-Lewis Ryan, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on 6 Balloons:

1. In The One with the Boobies episode of Friends, Phoebe had a date named Roger who psychoanalyzed Chandler as a person that masked his depression and sadness through constant humor and sarcasm (“I wouldn’t want to be there when the laughter stops”). Even with the prominence of the sad clown trope, I was continually surprised by comedians that would play against type and turn in credible (sometimes even incredible) dramatic performances (Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting, Mo’Nique in Precious, Bill Murray in Lost in Translation, just to name a few). Our very own Comedy King made me bawl my eyes out by bravely playing a loving gay foster parent in Ang Tatay Kong Nanay.

2. I was all the more excited when I saw this Netflix movie where Abbi Jacobson (one half of my favorite power couple in Broad City) actually tried to take on a more serious role. Even in that TV series, her Abbi Abrams was more straightfaced and rational compared to the always wild and crazy Ilana Wexler (Ilana Glazer), but that made her funnier and even more endearing.

Sadly, this wasn’t the right vehicle to draw out her more sensitive side. Whenever her character Katie delivered a line that should have been solemn or earnest, I was waiting for her to crack up and mock what she just said Abbi-style. At least her effort for reinvention was commendable.

3. One thing that I really liked in this depressing drama was Dave Franco’s authentic portrayal of a person with substance abuse issues. His Seth was torn between the need to change his lifestyle for the love of his young kid, and his apparent heroin addiction. It was disturbing (he cleaned his syringe with toilet water!!) to see him go through this entire spectrum of emotions while he brutally battled his subsequent relapse (zoned out and depressed at the start, then sweaty, shaking, and desperate for a fix in the middle, and finally high and playful after his hit towards the end).

As somebody addicted to Coke (Coca-Cola hala!) whose mouth would go dry and hands all clammy after not getting a drink of my favorite ice cold soda every six hours, I couldn’t even imagine the pain and suffering that these people would go through to overcome their drug dependency.

4. I completely understood that Katie loved her younger brother so much that she was willing to do anything to help, but I just didn’t get why she made these really foolish decisions along the way. Why would she even bring a child with her when she tried to score some drugs in what looked like the scariest part of the neighborhood? Why would she leave the poor kid alone in the vehicle with an obviously sick person? Even if her brother was physically suffering, why did she act as an enabler and even agreed to buy him needles in a pharmacy?

I might be too quick (self-righteous?) to judge and maybe the entire point of this movie was that drug addiction was really a family disease, but I ended up getting stressed and frustrated with every terrible choice that she made.

(Side note: The young girl must have been a fan of Monsters Inc. because of her strange fascination with the word “Kitty”.)

5. Jane Kaczmarek had a brief appearance here as their mother and I was reminded yet again that she was criminally robbed of an Emmy for her brilliant turn as a fierce and controlling matriarch in Malcolm in the Middle.

(Also, I found it funny that the actor who played her husband in this movie closely resembled Bryan Cranston.)

6. So Katie broke the pharmacy’s glass door with their own bathroom keys, hit some posts while driving away, and we were expected to laugh along at the apparent silliness of these events? Why??

7. Instead of paying attention to that cheesy audio book about leaking boats, she should have listened more to her talking GPS navigator (it even asked her to “turn around” when she entered that drug-infested street).

Now why couldn’t my Waze be more like that whenever I was headed to the nearest KFC?

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

THE STRANGERS (Bryan Bertino, 2008)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Strangers:

1. This might sound weird but the only time that I’d be really scared of ghosts would be 1) when somebody familiar died (also why I never looked at corpses and/or coffins), or 2) after having watched a really creepy local show/film (think Magandang Gabi Bayan’s Halloween episodes). I guess that would explain my fondness for the horror genre and my strange aversion to lights (seriously, I would rather feel my way through the darkness than flip a light switch).

It might also be a result of my mother’s constant warning of “Matakot ka sa tao, huwag sa multo”, which actually made a lot of sense especially after watching all those Carlo J. Caparas massacre movies.

2. Speaking of, my definitive home invasion film would probably be the early 90’s cult classic The Vizconde Massacre: God Help Us! that started this tasteless trend of exploiting true Pinoy crime stories as popular entertainment.

I swear I was emotionally scarred for life at the sight of Lady Lee (as the young Jenny Vizconde) getting repeatedly stabbed on the back while trying to run away from her assailant that I never forgot to check the locks of our gate every night ever since.

3. I couldn’t understand why the characters in this movie didn’t act like any normal (read: paranoid) person and just made the dumbest horror movie decisions that were blatantly mocked in Wes Craven’s Scream series (“Never, ever, under any circumstances say ‘I’ll be right back’. Because you won’t be back.”)

Kristen (an atrocious Liv Tyler who kept cooing her lines) and James (Scott Foley) were so oblivious to the dangers around them that they readily opened the front door of their remote summer home when somebody knocked at 4 AM. And even with the presence of intruders inside, they chose to hide in a room instead of run as far away from there as possible.

In one scene, Kristen even broke a lamp (to fight a possible murderer with bubog, perhaps?) rather than do the most obvious thing to increase her chances of survival which was lock the freakin’ door. Sure, people would do the craziest stuff and stop being rational in a state of panic, but it was just too hard to sympathize with them when they were basically throwing themselves at their killers.

4. I think it was a smart choice that they never really showed the faces of the killers. This made their motives vague as well and created a more haunting atmosphere (“Why are you doing this to us?” “Because you were home.”)

5. There was one chilling scene where a masked person stood silently behind Kristen and I really thought that this would hold throughout the entire film. A horror movie that didn’t rely on banging noises and cheap jump scares would have been terrific. Unfortunately, even with a slim 90 minutes runtime, it lost steam halfway through and decided to utilize the same tropes of the genre (the entire thing even ended with a scream from a supposedly dead person, pfft!).

Also, I just realized that the chilling scene that I described earlier was the exact same one that could be seen on the poster. Now you really wouldn’t have a reason to see this anymore, no?

6. Robin Williams as an obsessed stranger slash trespasser using another family’s toilet in One Hour Photo was way more disturbing than this. Watch that one instead.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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: ★★☆☆☆

MEET ME IN ST. GALLEN (Irene Villamor, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Meet Me in St. Gallen:

1. It might be my limited knowledge of films (or my utter love for the series), but every time I’d see a romantic movie where the two leads just talk for hours, I immediately think of the classic Before Trilogy. It set such a high standard that anything else that remotely came close to its structure/style would (unfairly) end up as a mere copycat in my book.

This movie felt very much like a condensed version of the trilogy, except that the rambling discussions were less philosophical and more hugot-based (“Hindi ako painting na mailalagay mo sa pader”). Which would have been forgivable if it just wasn’t so… boring.

(Also, I thought that Raffy and Gela of Mr. and Mrs. Cruz would end up as this year’s most talkative characters, but I was obviously wrong.)

2. The meet cute was actually fine and it was interesting to watch the interactions between the spunky Celeste (Bela Padilla) and the more subdued Jesse (Carlo Aquino). Although it initially had that creepy stalker feel of Kita Kita with him bumping into her outside of a public restroom (where all great love stories start) and then began following her everywhere, she immediately confronted him (“Nagagandahan ka ba sa akin kaya mo ako sinusundan?”) and thankfully put a stop to this emerging love story trope that should never be romanticized.

I also wondered if Celeste would have entertained Jesse in the coffee shop if he looked like, say, Empoy Marquez so I felt amused when she was obviously one step ahead of the audience and said, “Kung di ka gwapo, di kita papaupuin dyan.”

(And totoo, sobrang gwapo lang ni Carlo dito that it made me forget he used to be part of the kiddie boyband JCS with John Prats and Stefano Mori. Wait, I meant sobrang galing. Galing, galing, galing!!)

3. I should actually hate Celeste because a) she spoiled the ending of Celeste and Jesse Forever, b) she had the gall to brag about her eight hundred friends on Facebook, c) she complained about being a misunderstood graphic artist yet made a basic layout that seemed to be a product of WordArt, d) one of her art works consisted of a pole with several hanging labada, and e) since she was an ahrt-ist, her dining table was decorated with scattered jigsaw puzzle pieces, but Bela’s such a good actress that I lapped up everything that she said and did.

4. I should actually hate Jesse because a) he asked if Celeste and Jesse Forever had a happy ending (and then complained about the spoiler, huh?), b) he sounded like a second-rate Abra that talked like Boy Abunda (“Kapag ako lang mag-isa, gusto kong isulat ang tungkol sa mga ibinubulong ko sa langit”), c) he broke several laws by answering his phone while drunk driving, and d) he cheated on Angelica Panganiban (well, not the real one, rather his fiancée in the picture), but Carlo’s such a good actor… wait, I already covered that.

5. Of course it wouldn’t be complete without a videoke session. Now if only I hadn’t recently heard and associated You Are My Sunshine with Annabelle: Creation…

6. I really couldn’t understand why Celeste would suddenly walk out of a romantic moment (“Sobrang perfect naman ng moment na ‘to. Wag natin sirain”) and then sleep with an obviously engaged Jesse four years later. Was it supposed to signal her transition from idealist to realist? Did absence make her heart grow fonder? What happened to emotional maturity?

(Side note: This was obviously a woman’s fantasy because the couple actually had an incredibly long talk in bed after having sex. And the next day, Celeste had an I-woke-up-like-this look with perfect eyebrows.)

7. All of those snowy Switzerland scenes looked really lovely. I wish I could say that I’d love to tick that off my bucket list, but definitely not after my nose almost fell off in Japan last month (and it wasn’t even below zero there).

8. Sobrang pahabol si Celeste. It took several minutes (and blocks) of endless walking and talking before she actually revealed that she already had a boyfriend. Ganda mo girl! Ginawan na ng tula ni Fidel, ngayon naman kanta ni Jesse pero basted pareho. I honestly couldn’t wait for the 100 Kanta ni Bela song hits.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

MR. & MRS. CRUZ (Sigrid Andrea Bernardo, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Mr. & Mrs. Cruz:

1. As a huge fan of the Before Trilogy (Sunrise, Sunset, Midnight) and even That Thing Called Tadhana, I’m not averse to talky (and sometimes cerebral) romance films where the audience basically listens in on a couple having conversations about life and love and relationships and literature and cinema and music and food and even any mundane stuff that can serve as a possible source for an emotional hugot. It takes a consistently smart screenplay and incredibly talented actors to keep people glued to the screen and not make them wish that they never get stuck on an island with these characters.

At around the first hour mark when Gela (Ryza Cenon) and Raffy (JC Santos) were having their nth Cliff’s Notes discussion of Romeo and Juliet, I was already busy checking my phone for the cheapest flights to Puerto Princesa.

2. It was tough to stay invested in their love story when the song that was played upon their meet cute was Freestyle’s Before I Let You Go (talk about a doomed relationship). No amount of convincing (their Valentine’s Day hotel room number, their matching curls and the idea that couples look alike after being together for a long time, the obvious metaphor of him saving her life after a Heimlich maneuver, and even their shared adventurousness in eating the local delicacy tamilok) could make me believe that they were destined to end up with each other. Besides, Raffy owned a pair of neon peach swimming trunks. Very, very fishy.

3. I was actually okay with everything up until the unnecessary twist (of fate) slash big reveal in the third act that just plucked us out of reality. It was disappointing to see Sigrid Bernardo, one of my fave local directors, relying on yet another gimmick to end a love story (hello Kita Kita!). At least walang nasagasaan this time, especially considering the beach setting.

4. To be fair, JC and Ryza were completely charming in their roles and when they were provided with really sharp dialogue (my favorite was that entire discussion on commitment and the formality/legality/security of marriage), they just knocked it out of the park. Both of them also made the most out of their drunk breakdown scenes (“I found Nemo, but I didn’t find myself”) which should be screened in acting workshops for Star Magic and GMA Artist Center talents.

5. I was a bit bothered that Raffy and Gela only brought one backpack each for their weekend trip. I spent three days in El Nido (looking even lovelier here btw) and brought a medium-sized luggage with half the contents of my closet. Gela’s stuff included around six classic novels (yes, one was Romeo and Juliet). When would she even find the time to read all of them considering that she booked guided tours as well?

On a different note, I really liked her insight that we should re-read our faves because they would be subject to a different interpretation given our maturity and experiences in life. Let me dig up my old issues of Liwayway.

6. It wasn’t lost on me that one of the couples in that tour resembled Ogie Alcasid and Michelle van Eimeren. Our tourism slogans of Wow Philippines and It’s More Fun in the Philippines weren’t for naught. Also, Dido dela Paz as one half of the Golden Couple continued to provide great work, coming off the heels of his critically-lauded performance in Respeto.

7. So who lost that wedding gown sa batuhan during one of the movie’s early scenes? Please tell me that was just an illusion because I could not stand littering in our tourist spots.

8. I felt bad that some of the good jokes were literally lost in translation. When Raffy tried to be funny by replying with “Minikaniko ni Monico ang makina ni Monica”, the subtitle reflected it as “pulled a MacGyver” which didn’t really make a lot of sense. But then how would one even translate that?

9. That disgusting suka scene omg. I would probably avoid oatmeal for the next few months (who am I kidding, does my double chin even look like I eat oatmeal?). Bonus crotch shot though so…

10. I laughed really hard when Raffy mentioned that everything happens for a reason and then started telling the story of his ex who was a nurse that taught him first aid. I was reminded of my ex who was also a nurse that taught me the wonders of sushi. Both life-saving, I tell you.

11. Okay so they didn’t remember that they actually met a few years back in Palawan? Try Memo Plus Gold, kids. What was more unforgivable was that they never even bothered to re-dub the part where Ryza had a voiceover and said the word “trud-jedy”. Watch your back, Maja!!

12. Why would Raffy even know a brief hack that could turn his underwear into a bikini top? Even worse, it was a used pair of undies that he just removed on the boat (butt exposure alert!). Why does hygiene have to go out the window for a supposedly romantic gesture? Did the phrase “smell of love in the air” actually refer to the scent of bayag? Medyo eww.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY (Adam Robitel, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Insidious: The Last Key:

1. One could easily say that the return of parapsychologist Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) on yet another tired installment of this horror franchise was both a blessing and a curse.

Shaye would forever be that badly-tanned old neighbor smooching a pooch in There’s Something About Mary, but she brought a certain amount of grace and seriousness usually missing in this genre. On the other hand, she was also playing a character that was killed at the end of the very first film so there wasn’t really any sense of danger in this prequel, considering what you already knew about her fate.

2. It would have been more forgivable if this movie was at least scary, but it basically recycled most of the jump scares that were already used in the first three films (the scene where Darth Maul suddenly showed up on the shoulder of another character was used here again to lesser effect). I had more fun watching the reactions of people inside the theater, especially this group of women seated two rows in front of us. One kept loudly asking questions that made it more obvious she had her eyes covered the entire time (“Anong nangyari? Bakit sila sumigaw?”). Hala siya, sayang naman ang bayad, Ate.

3. So for an entire hour we weren’t really seeing ghosts from the Further and they were real victims abducted by these monster men? How many times did the writers watch Don’t Breathe?

4. “I don’t have memories of that place. I have scars.” Also, literal scars on her back. I wanted to hug Elise after that scene. I just couldn’t stand this type of torture for an old lady.

It reminded me of the time I cried watching Gloria Romero suffer at the hands of her undead son Gabby Concepcion in Huwag Kang Hahalik sa Diablo. Leave these old women alone!!

On a different note, why did the actor that played Elise’s younger brother Christian look so much older than her?

5. I laughed so hard when the demon literally had a key for fingers and started locking up the neck and chest of some characters. I waited for the end credits to check its name (hey, the last one was called Lipstick-Face) and surprise, surprise it was named Key Face.

6. Those bumbling sidekicks were painfully unfunny (“She’s psychic. We’re sidekicks.”). Walang dulot at all. This horror movie needed more victims and it was a shame that these two had to stay alive for continuity reasons. Their presence alone made me want to buy an emergency whistle as well.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

THE COMMUTER (Jaume Collet-Serra, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Commuter:

1. Can Hollywood please give Liam Neeson’s reel family and friends a break? Why do they always have to be the unfortunate ones to suffer? After the Taken films, Non-Stop, and now this, what other mode of transportation is left that will cause him and his ilk a lot of trouble?

See, this is the very reason why I’m not hoping for that Love Actually sequel. I don’t want to see his stepson Sam suddenly getting kidnapped aboard a ship on Christmas Day.

2. I really liked the opening montage that showed the utter tedium of any working person’s life (waking up at the exact same time every single day, doing the same mundane morning ritual, traversing the same path on a daily commute, all while the seasons changed). Unfortunately, what could have been an insightful morality tale turned into a trashy (albeit stylized) thriller. Definitely as original as Neeson making his signature threats on the phone.

3. How preposterous was that story? The villains obviously had all the resources in their hands, but they still could not pull off a simple assassination? Why would they even need him when they had the power to track his every movement on that moving train?

I hadn’t seen this much cat-and-mouse game silliness since James Marsden and Cameron Diaz agreed to push the deadly button in The Box.

4. What saved this one from being a complete trainwreck were the impressive action sequences. There was a fight scene that was shot in one long continuous take where you could feel every punch in the face (except for Neeson who was neither bloodied up nor bruised after that encounter). It also had a sequence where he was dragged under the train and had to roll away from it, narrowly missing its deadly wheels. I could swear one audience member almost fainted after that one.

5. When the survivors started placing wet newspapers to cover the windows, I was reminded of the same scene in Train to Busan and actually wished that there were zombies on that train. Liam Neeson vs the undead. Hmm, really cool concept.

6. “I’m Spartacus!”

“No, I’m Spartacus!”

“Girl, please. I’m Spartacus!”

*groan*

7. I found it really funny that after the train got derailed and he survived an army of snipers, his family arrived and consoled him like he just came home from another day at work. Come to think of it, it was indeed just another typical Liam Neeson work day.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

MAMA’S GIRL (Connie Macatuno, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Mama’s Girl:

1. I think it was Maricel Soriano in T2 who held the record for the most number of times that a Pinoy character mentioned another character’s name in the entire duration of a movie. My ears were bleeding by the nth time she screamed “Angeli!”.

I thought that I would suffer the same fate while watching this one. Every time Mina (Sylvia Sanchez, transitioning from Nay to Mama) would mention “Abbypotpot”, I would cringe and just wanted to crawl in a fetal position. It wasn’t merely annoying, the unnecessary repetition rendered the inauthenticity of this term of endearment.

2. Should I feel like a monster for not appreciating a movie that showcased the undying love of a mother? One where Mama Mina actually pulled a Bea Alonzo as The Incredible Hulk in She’s The One and singlehandedly changed a flat tire in the rain?

I’d put the blame on Abbypotpot (Sofia Andres), a character devoid of empathy because she was just so stubborn, selfish, ungrateful, and acted like the biggest privileged B (I meant brat, by the way). And that was even before her mother’s death so there was just no excuse for her terrible attitude.

3. Or maybe it was because this one completely ripped off P.S. I Love You, one of my most-watched post-breakup comfort movies. I thought of it first when she started seeing her dead mother doing normal things while dispensing life lessons, but it was made more obvious when it was revealed that said mom also left a box of five letters with carefully written instructions that she needed to follow step-by-step. Pati voiceover kuhang-kuha at kulang na lang talaga si Gerard Butler. So much for originality.

4. Part of the box’s contents was a set of index cards that had the secret recipes of Mama Mina’s successful Pasta House. I wasn’t sure why she didn’t make habilin before her death, especially if said recipes could make or break her pasta empire. Wouldn’t it have been easier to teach in person the proper way to slice tomatoes or how big each meatball should be? If she had time to write each note, surely she could have found an hour for a quick kitchen tutorial.

5. I wasn’t surprised when the restaurant business crumbled after her death. None of her staff knew that they were serving items that were considered panis (“Maasim na daw po yung lasa”). Seriously, only Mama Mina would know if something was spoiled already? Not even the chef/cook tasted the food before it went out of the kitchen? And to make matters worse, the solution they came up with to pacify these complaints was to offer a complimentary cake. Sana hindi rin panis diba?

6. I think this would be the fifth film that starred Jameson Blake that I had seen in a span of one year, but definitely no complaints here. As Zak, a supposedly famous rock star slash cheating ex-boyfriend of Abbypotpot, his scenes were usually punctuated by drum sounds for added effect (“It’s over!” Drum sounds. “Slap!” Drum sounds.)

At least he could play a rock in his next film and I would pay to watch it without any reservations.

7. For a story about motherly love, there was too much time spent on the landian between Abbypotpot and best friend Nico (Diego Loyzaga). He kept calling her Budz and I really thought it was short for Budjoy because they were basically playing the reversed roles of Ned and Budjoy in Labs Kita Okay Ka Lang?. Unfortunately, I was rooting for Zak the entire time.

8. While other mothers would ask their kids not to cry upon their death, Mama Mina’s loving advice to Abbypotpot was “Hindi pa ako patay. Tipirin mo na lang ang mga luha mo sa libing ko.” Eek!

9. Sofia’s a lovely girl, but the abundance of her pink blush here gave new meaning to pumuputok. At least she looked very much like a #VavaengMarangal.

10. Upon reading the words “Ang pagluluto ay parang pagmamahal. Kelangan bantayan at kapag hindi ka marunong pumili ng mga sangkap, lahat mababalewala”, Abbypotpot magically turned into a chef that could save their restaurant business. Nahiya bigla ang lahat ng Culinary Arts students.

Kelangan lang pala mag-practice to the tune of With a Smile. Pasok Reese Lansangan. “Lurft yer herd, bheybee durn’t buhr scurred…”

Rating: ★★☆☆☆