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.

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SEX AND THE CITY (Michael Patrick King, 2008)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Sex and the City:

1. Unpopular opinion: I abso-fuckin’-lutely despised John James Preston aka Mr. Big (Chris Noth) and I never really pictured (fully accepted?) him as the ideal man slash husband for Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker). Except whenever I had these cyclical realizations that she was innately selfish, annoying (she wore a pearl necklace in bed!), and narcissistic so they totally deserved to end up with each other.

Nope, I definitely wasn’t a hater of the series. I had watched all six seasons so many times that I couldn’t help but wonder if I was actually a thirtysomething single New York woman in my past life.

2. It must be my inner Charlotte York (Kristin Davis) but I had always been a supporter of #TeamAidan (John Corbett) aka The One That (Luckily) Got Away. Some of my most favorite episodes involved his toxic relationship with an emotionally confused Carrie in Season 3 (All or Nothing, Running with Scissors, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell). Fans of Big would most probably come up with this argument that Aidan was a dreadfully boring choice and Carrie would just be settling with him, but the very fact that he was loyal, warm, forgiving, sincere, and understanding (plus, he obviously loved her more than she loved him) just made him the perfect boyfriend.

(Are there any fans here of Aleksandr Petrovsky? Seriously??)

3. Did we need a film version to continue the stories of our four beloved women, their beaus, and their friendly gay friends? Not really, but it was a joy to see them reunited one more time (and once more in the awful sequel). This felt like an overlong episode that basically rehashed the same old conflicts (oh, poor Carrie got her heart broken by Big yet again!), but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t cry when Charlotte screamed “No! No!” at Big after he deservedly got smashed with a wedding bouquet on the head.

4. Anybody obsessed with fashion would truly be happy with the style choices made here (even with the controversial dead bird that Carrie wore on her head for her wedding, which she winkingly mocked in a later scene). Aside from the Fashion Week sequence, there were even two (!!) montages: one with Carrie modelling fabulous wedding gowns by Vera Wang, Oscar dela Renta, and ultimately Vivienne Westwood, and another one where she was trying on her vintage clothes, including the iconic tutu that she wore in the show’s opening credits.

5. “She was a smart girl… till she fell in love.” Story of all my relationships right there.

6. Was Jennifer Hudson (as Louise) cast as an apology for the series’ apparent lack of diversity? Did the lone black woman in this version of New York really have to play Carrie’s assistant? Unfortunately her Bag, Borrow or Steal storyline had nothing going for it and she even had to deliver the most unfortunate pun (“And you gave me Louise Vuitton!”).

7. Speaking of puns, the entire Mexi-coma sequence where Carrie spent days moping in bed after a terrible breakup completely resonated with me (yes, even the one where Charlotte Poughkeepsied in her pants). The fact that her friends kept checking on her and Samantha (Kim Cattrall) even spoon-fed her some soup reminded me of how wonderful my friends were during those dark times that I was nursing a broken heart. It was fascinating to read all the dirt that these women didn’t really get along on set because they were so believable and authentic as BFFs onscreen.

(On a different note, search for the Saturday Night Live skit where Christina Aguilera had a spot-on impersonation of Samantha. Totally wicked!)

8. When Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) grabbed a witch’s mask and said that for Halloween she would just bring her suitcase and go as herself, it was something that I would totally say. Yes, if I were to take a Buzzfeed test, I would definitely be a Miranda Hobbes.

9. So Big copy/pasted some classic poems and wrote two personal lines and that was already supposed to be romantic? Please. (Laki talaga ng galit ko kay Big, no? Yes, very big. Ugh, pun!)

10. “Some love stories aren’t epic novels. Some are short stories, but that doesn’t make them any less filled with love.” Hay, completely true. At least it was comforting to know that your lovers might come and go, but your true friends would remain forever.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

READY PLAYER ONE (Steven Spielberg, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Ready Player One:

1. During the olden days, my only goal in life was to be the top scorer of our family in a game of Pac-Man. I would wake up in the middle of the night while everyone slept (especially my mom who would get really cranky with the additional electricity consumption) and silently crouch over this black plastic Atari controller for hours on end while gobbling pellets and running away from ghosts named Pinky and Blinky.

Whenever we had guests or relatives come over for lunch or dinner, I would be in front of the TV screen and showing off (a better term would be pakitang-gilas) my agility and dexterity through a video game. “Yan lang ang ginagawa niyan buong araw”, my dad would proudly say while I continued to wow the crowd with the completion of every level. Weeks later, my brother would master the newest Missile Command game and that signalled the end of my Pac-Man glory days.

2. I never really considered myself as a certified gamer even if I had played a lot of games across different platforms (from the ancient Nintendo Family Computer to the current PlayStation 4). I couldn’t even learn the basic controls in Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat and my usual battle consisted of pushing every button while hoping for a special attack. Still, my insides would tingle at the mere mention of Space Invaders, Super Mario Bros., Civilization, or Final Fantasy. It was this same geeky pride plus the astounding power of nostalgia that made me enjoy this film which seemed to coast on an abundance of pop culture references (easter eggs galore!). I loudly squealed in my seat when a chocobo appeared during the ultimate battle sequence.

3. Spielberg films had always been criticized for their overt sentimentality and it was surprisingly lacking in this one. I expected myself to turn into a puddle of emotions when Wade/Parzival (a terribly bland Tye Sheridan) unlocked the third puzzle, but it just didn’t feel completely magical (I probably cried more when Charlie discovered that he won the final Golden Ticket for the Chocolate Factory). Maybe it was because the movie was already running on for far too long or that it was trying to generate last minute faux excitement, but my brain was just screaming “Just stick that freakin’ key in that effin’ hole, dammit!”.

4. I really liked how the coolest sequence in the movie was a nod to the huge disappointment of my all-time favorite author on the adaptation of one of his finest novels. The twins, Room 237 with the naked old lady, the river of blood from the elevator, and the iconic axe hacking itself on the bathroom door, stuff of a true classic. I never fully understood Stephen King’s disdain for The Shining film considering that the thought of Danny repeatedly croaking the word “Redrum” while holding a giant knife still freaked me to this day.

5. Has anyone read the book (or is a real-life Sheldon Cooper)? Kindly enlighten me on the following burning questions:

• Who was funding The Oasis? I knew James Halliday (a great Mark Rylance) was a trillionaire, but did he really have that much money to keep a game running for more than five years after his death? I was just curious because when Parzival retrieved the first key, he won 100,000 virtual coins that he used to purchase a body suit in the real world.

• Why would such a powerful man like Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) not even bother to memorize his password? It was only B055man69 and not something tough like B0$$m4n_Ph0wz_aQuoH69. Did he have a reason for scribbling down such a confidential information on a piece of paper and keeping it on his armrest other than being a MacGuffin?

• Who was Gundam and was he really that popular? (Fanboys, please don’t kill me. I seriously had no clue.)

6. More than the shoulder pads, leotards, and heavy perms, the 80’s would best be remembered because of its glorious songs, no? Nothing would beat humming along to a good old Hall & Oates song on your best days. (I would always associate Blondie’s One Way or Another with Mean Girls, though. Yup, Trang Pak made out with Coach Carr.)

7. Wouldn’t it be fun if their online personas/avatars were completely far off from their real identities? When Aech (Lena Waithe) mentioned that the real Art3mis (Olivia Cooke) could actually be an overweight old man, I really wished this were true. Wasn’t it Wade himself who said that people stayed in The Oasis because of all the things that they could be? Why didn’t we get a lot more of these people playing out their online fantasies? It could have saved us from the icky (and forced) love story as well. That part was even more horrific than the thought of virtual reality putting an end to human connections. Besides, shouldn’t reality be real?

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Game Night:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: ★★★☆☆

SIN ISLAND (Gino Santos, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Sin Island:

1. Think of the worst adjectives that could apply in any romance-suspense-thriller and it would be the perfect description for this ridiculous, trashy (basura kung basura!), mindless, basic movie that had the technical polish of a same-day edit wedding video. I spent the entire time figuring out if the campy humor was intentional or not (if it were, I wish it went all out and crossed over to Joey Gosengfiao territory).

Where else would you hear a character say the line, “Exclusive ang kaputahan ko. I only give my puta self to the one I love”? The ending even blatantly ripped off (read: garapalan) the last few scenes of Fatal Attraction. Needless to say, I enjoyed every torturous minute of it.

This was probably my favorite guilty pleasure since Jaclyn Jose delivered the atrocious “Kaya kabit ang tawag sa kanila kasi daig pa nila ang epoxy kung kumabit. Kaya kerida kasi mga kiri. Kaya mistress kasi nakaka-stress!” in Nuel Naval’s A Secret Affair.

2. I still hadn’t gotten over the British Madonna accent of Xian Lim in Paddington 2 so it was only apt that this one started with an overly-modulated voiceover of his character David reminiscing the fun times he had with his wife Kanika (Coleen Garcia). The moment he said, “I can still remember the first time we met…”, I immediately brought out two valid IDs and my initial cash deposit to open my very first BDO savings account.

(Side note: During the family dinner, David’s dad said something like “We were worried about this one” referring to the fear of his son never getting married and for a second there I really thought that he was going to joke about David’s sexuality. Insert side eye emoji here.)

3. May galit ba ang Star Cinema sa flight attendants? Why were they usually portrayed as horny unprofessionals fawning over their senior hunky pilots (see also Just the 3 of Us)? I’d be really scared with all the raging hormones onboard that flight.

In one scene, Kanika gave this lame excuse for taking good care of sick DILF pilot Stephen (TJ Trinidad), “Syempre kelangan ko kayo alagaan kasi kung di kayo gumaling, sino maghahatid sa amin sa Pilipinas?” (Anak ng tokwa isa lang ata ang piloto sa airline nila!)

4. To be fair, she seemed to be aroused by everything around her. She was the type of woman that had no qualms undressing and dry humping her husband in the hallway just outside the room where his entire family was having dinner. She also had these constant bouts of wet dreams that looked straight out of a Cinemax After Dark special. I started to wonder if she actually had an allergy to any type of clothing. Kanika? More like Katika.

(Another side note: Coleen always had memorable names in these Star Cinema films. She played a horny (what else?) med rep named Arkisha in Ex with Benefits. We might need to start coming up with cool names for her next role as, say, a horny mountain climber? Suggestions please!!)

5. One dinner scene with friends was reminiscent of The Entire History of You episode in Black Mirror that I expected David’s eyes to start glazing over. Of course it was done Pinoy-style, so Stephen had to say the line, “I love cheat days. Kahit ano pwede mo kainin” before slurping on a piece of tahong. For a moment there, I thought that he would actually swallow it whole, tahong clit and all.

6. “Welcome to Sin Island! Short for Sinilaban!!” Bwahahahaha! Gusto ko rin silaban ang buong sinehan, but I was having too much fun already.

7. The best part of the movie was Nathalie Hart (formerly Princess Snell of Starstruck), who would have given Rosanna Roces a run for her ST star crown in the 90s. Her limited acting range as crazy Tasha was perfectly suited to the genre and she just delivered a playful, go-for-broke, balakayojan performance. Her first scene alone where she was doing nude yoga along the beach was a killer. David created a ruckus that disrupted her zen moment and her facial reaction was a cross between “Watdapak!” and “Shet, may kasama utot ko!”.

I knew I was watching an effective kontrabida because the Titas of Batangas behind me were audibly wishing for her demise (“Ayan na naman ang impakta! Bakit di pa yan mamatay?”). Their blood pressures definitely went through the roof when Tasha came out of David’s bathroom and wiggled her underwear in front of Kanika while saying “Sorry naglakad kasi dito ang panty ko eh”. A chorus of “Impakta talaga ‘to! Impaktaaaa!” filled the entire cinema. I wasn’t surprised that when Kanika dragged Tasha by the hair while inside a moving car, everyone in the cinema cheered to their hearts’ delight.

(Yet another side note: These Titas of Batangas spent the entire time arguing that the actress playing Tasha was Sarah Lahbati.)

8. Of course there was a legal wife-kabit confrontation, but this one involved a staredown set inside a steaming sauna (walang metaphor na di inurungan! symbolism in yo face!). If it weren’t obvious enough, another girl entered the room then jumped out screaming “Aray! Bakit sobrang init naman dito?”. Kanika and Tasha also took turns in saying “If you can’t handle the heat, then stay out of the kitchen”. Wait lang, bakit kitchen pa rin??

9. The sex scenes here were as unerotic as the ones in Fifty Shades Freed. Fogged up shower sex again? A jazzed up version of Isang Linggong Pag-ibig playing in the background? Maple syrup licked off Xian’s chest? Eww.

10. Speaking of Xian’s chest, does anyone know what cream he uses to maintain the pinkish glow of his nipples? Asking for a friend.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

BEYOND THE MARK (Mark Bautista, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

When news came out that Mark Bautista would finally address the rumours surrounding his sexuality in a juicy tell-all memoir, I had mixed feelings that included: 1) coming out is now a cash cow? (nakakahiya naman kay Matt Bomer), 2) wow, that’s really brave of him (although admittedly, he’s no longer at the peak of his career), 3) which other celebrities will he name-drop? (aside from the obvious ones, hello Fafa!), and 4) I hope it wouldn’t just be one big black book of secrets.

Fortunately, there was more to it other than the controversial chapter(s) reserved until the latter part of the book (and even more content relative to the recent crop of local celebrity bios). It was interesting to read his anecdotes about growing up as a confused kid and his struggles before becoming a successful artist (I especially liked his touching story about winning Php500 on a radio trivia contest and the instant ramen shopping spree that he and his family made with the cash prize huhu!). There was obviously more to him other than his sexuality so it was a bit jarring when it suddenly turned into a salacious confessional that wouldn’t seem out of place on the pages of Fashion Pulis.

The book felt a bit rushed (too many typos including a couple of references to “A Night for a Star”) and needed a bit more polish (after discussing his win in that contest, it jumped a full decade into his London career; plus too many mundane, rambling details like the diss on East Avenue General Hospital). The supposedly revelatory chapters didn’t really go into too much detail (except for the Friendshift one that would only come as a surprise if you never watched The Buzz). I also found it a bit odd that he had pictures of him in various states of undress between chapters even while discussing serious topics like, say, his newfound Christianity.

Overall though, it was still an honest and refreshing read about a local celebrity that just wanted to be open and free and ultimately accepted and loved unconditionally. So who’s next?

Rating: ★★★☆☆

THE GREATEST SHOWMAN (Michael Gracey, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Greatest Showman:

1. It had been over a year already and I still couldn’t forget the fabulous opening sequence of La La Land. Another Day of Sun fully encapsulated the reason why I really love musicals. I’d always imagine myself stuck along EDSA during Friday night rush hour traffic and I would get out of my car and burst into song while commuters inside cars and buses would sing a chorus and dance along with me. Why would there be any road rage when I could simply belt out my six octave range (bye Mariah!) and shimmy with the takatak boys? Our lives as a series of music videos would definitely be one sweet sweet fantasy, right?

2. As a musical, Showman was an enjoyable treat with its dazzling set pieces, spectacular choreography (that rooftop dance sequence with the dancing kumots!), and soaring sugar pop melodies. My favorite number was Rewrite the Stars with Zac Efron and Zendaya flying through the air on ropes, making it the most dangerous flirtation since I joined (and ultimately deleted) Tinder five years ago.

I also really liked the powerhouse performance of Rebecca Ferguson in Never Enough, until 1) I discovered that it really wasn’t her singing (it was actually dubbed by The Voice contestant Loren Allred), and 2) I realized immediately after that she was pining for a married man. In a culture fascinated with kabit movies where viewers enjoy seeing these women get their comeuppance, I wonder how many Pinoys actually loved this (in context) mistress song.

3. I wasn’t a huge fan of Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables (a singing Russell Crowe scarred me for life), but amidst the distractingly tight close-ups was an undeniably terrific performance by Hugh Jackman. He delivered again here as P.T. Barnum, serving as a ringleader to his troop of circus oddities and trying to stay true on the promise of being the greatest showman.

I actually liked him better in this movie because he was just more effective as a performer than a singer (check his Tony Awards hosting work on YouTube!). I also had a good laugh when the young Barnum got caught stealing a loaf of bread, the very reason why Jean Valjean turned into prisoner 24601.

4. I wish there was more of a story here to latch on to. Sure, I bawled my eyes out during the A Million Dreams song and also when the family moved into their mansion and one of the daughters received her ballet slippers, but everything else just felt very basic.

Did we really need two langit-lupa love stories when we didn’t even know much about the circus members (I couldn’t even recall any of their names!)? Even American Horror Story: Freak Show was able to bring life to its characters (sorry, but Kathy Bates would always be the Bearded Lady to me) and went beyond the “They’re humans, too!” message. When the group belted out the supposedly cathartic This Is Me song, it felt more like a production number on Glee rather than a poignant anthem about celebrating diversity.

Wait, did I just sound very much like a “theater critic who can’t find joy in a theater”?

5. I also felt a bit sad that the movie just glossed on some seemingly important topics, especially the one regarding exploitation. I wish we had more insights to this so-called celebration of humanity where people with disabilities weren’t treated any differently from animals in a zoo.

As a kid, I remembered going to a local perya and paying Php20 to watch a Lalaking Alimango (billed as a half-human, half-crab, but in reality was a man with underdeveloped arms and limbs and had pincer-like growths instead of fingers). I cried out of fear and also out of pity because they made him swim in this tub of dirty water.

I guess the idea of tackling freaks as entertainment was just too heavy for this movie that only aimed to be a feel-good one, ending with Jackman joyously riding an elephant in the city to meet his loving family. And after that, all was right with the world.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD (Ridley Scott, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on All the Money in the World:

1. It says so much about a film when the behind the scenes controversies were a lot more compelling than the movie itself. The sudden replacement of Kevin Spacey (amid the #MeToo movement) with Christopher Plummer, the last minute expedited reshoots to make its December 2017 release date (and maintain its Oscar contender status this year), and the huge salary gap concerns between Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams were just juicier and more dramatic.

2. “To be a Getty is an extraordinary thing. I know that because my grandpa told me so.” And he wasn’t kidding. His grandfather was J. Paul Getty (Plummer), named by Fortune magazine as the richest American in the late ‘50s and said to be the richest man in the history of the world. In a Playboy interview, Getty even mentioned that “If you can count your money, then you’re not a billionaire.” I would have been incredibly jealous if only I hadn’t seen so many rich people problems here (like buying a million dollar painting that could not be displayed for public viewing).

3. One of the biggest concerns of the rich would definitely be security. I couldn’t imagine an Ayala or Gokongwei enjoying life’s simple pleasures (like say, hanging out at a local mall) without any fear that their kids might get targeted by kidnap for ransom groups. I used to fantasize that I was a scion of Henry Sy, but it further heightened my already excessive paranoia so I had to give up the dream of having my own Shoemart branch. I guess it was true that “When a man becomes wealthy, he has to deal with the problems of freedom.”

4. Plummer was remarkable in his role and made a detestable character completely human (ergo relatable). He sneered at the poor people that wrote to him asking for help (“If I respond to every person asking for money, I will also be as destitute!”), played hardball with his grandchild’s kidnappers (“I have fourteen grandchildren. If I pay the ransom, I’ll have fourteen kidnapped grandchildren”), and finally agreed to pay the ransom but only as part of his tax deduction. I slightly felt bad for him in the scene where he was playing chess with himself.

(And before I get accused of anything, Williams was also good in her role. I found it odd though that she was billed as a lead, but it felt like she had a secondary character.)

5. Those reshoots worked out pretty well. I actually thought that Getty’s character was very minor and that was why they could easily recast the role. The only weird aspect (and only if you knew about the casting replacement) was that the actor that played Getty’s son looked and sounded very much like a young Spacey.

6. That artistic shot of the newspapers flying in slow motion? I’m sorry Ridley Scott, but Respeto did it first last year. #PinoyFried

Rating: ★★★☆☆

JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE (Jake Kasdan, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle:

1. If this video game version of Jumanji were real, I’d most probably end up with the Mouse Finbar (Kevin Hart) avatar since I’d usually choose the smartest (albeit the physically weakest) character. I never went for warriors or fighters in any role-playing game. I’d usually be a wizard or a mage with the highest intelligence and the strongest spells. Even in my fantasy world, I was the geek choosing brains over brawns.

(Also, cake would aptly be my weakness that would cause me to spontaneously combust.)

2. I had really low expectations going in this reboot because I wasn’t that fond of the original material so I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this fun popcorn flick. Even if it didn’t make a lot of sense (both as an adventure and video game movie), it was able to capitalize on the individual strengths of its really talented cast.

3. Jack Black was hilarious as a vain teenage girl trapped in an older obese man’s body (his wicked performance reminded me of John Lapus’ in Here Comes the Bride). From his utter disgust upon seeing his reflection, to the way he swished his arms while running away from enemies, down to his inspired quips (“I look like a living garden gnome!”), he fully embraced his character and brought back the funnyman last seen in Nacho Libre.

My favorite moment with him was when he needed to take a leak and saw male genitalia for the first time (“Martha, come look at my penis!!”). I needed a puff of my inhaler after that one.

4. Kevin Hart, with his usual high-pitched delivery, elicited laughs aimed at his character’s height and lack of speed and strength (really laughed hard when he got smacked face first onto the side of a cliff).

The Rock took advantage of his signature eyebrows and smoldering intensity, while Karen Gillan (check out her now-defunct sitcom Selfie!) made awkwardness look really hot and sexy (“Did she twist her ankle?” LOL!). The scene where the two of them had their (sloppy) first kiss was a hoot.

5. When Spencer went to the so-called freak house wearing a yellow raincoat, was that a direct reference to the It movie?

6. How did the board game magically turn into what looked like an updated Atari console? Also, wasn’t it too advanced to have four controllers slash players during the late ‘90s gaming era? If anything, I definitely geeked out at specific references such as NPC (non-player characters) and the spot-on explanation of cut scenes.

When a character gave one of her lives to another, I was even reminded of the game Contra when my brother would steal my lives because he was a weak player (peace bro!). Another sequence where they had to step only on the white bricks or had to freeze not to get killed by booby traps was reminiscent of Resident Evil. Cool gaming stuff!!

7. Speaking of references, the Alex character (Nick Jonas) reminded me yet again of my age when he mentioned Cindy Crawford and used catchphrases like ‘so fly’. But seriously, the 90s supermodels were like royalty back then, no? Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell and company were ‘the bomb’.

I even rented the VHS copy of box office flop Fair Game several times from ACA Video to pay my respect to the wonderful acting of Crawford and William Baldwin (train rides were never the same after watching that). Be kind, rewind? I sure did.

(Also, the women were obviously invested in this Jonas brother because there were audible gasps in the audience when he got bitten by a mosquito. Ok, I gasped as well. So what?)

8. Shelly Oberon (Black) screaming “Yassss kweeen!” to Ruby Roundhouse (Gillan) was the highlight of my week.

9. I wasn’t the only one that teared up a bit during that Alan Parrish scene, right? *sniff, sniff*

Rating: ★★★☆☆

ANG DALAWANG MRS. REYES (Jun Lana, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Ang Dalawang Mrs. Reyes:

1. In Netflix’s Grace and Frankie, the titular characters played by Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin were two oldish women that bonded together after the devastating discovery that their husbands were gay (and actually lovers). Although they initially wanted to break them apart, the series became less about their planned revenge and focused more on how they learned to accept the truth. It was a delightful comedy filled with interesting insights regarding the gay community and the people that surrounded them.

The same could be said about this latest offering from Star Cinema. Although it struggled a bit to find the right balance of comedy (went too broad for my taste) and drama (considering its serious themes), it was still a fun watch. By the end of the movie, I really wanted to see more of Lianne (Judy Ann Santos) and Cindy (Angelica Panganiban). Would they still fall for gay men? Would they have a deeper understanding of homosexuality? What if Lianne’s daughter Macy (Andrea Brillantes) came out as a lesbian?

Dear ABS-CBN, please give them the comedy series that they deserve.

2. Juday is Juday is Juday. Whether she was wiggling her newly-refurbished boobies or delivering a hazy rant while heavily-anesthesized, she was a complete hoot and basically nailed every scene that she was in.

In one of the best sequences, she skirted on the question if something happened between them and macho dancer with a heart of gold Steve (Nico Antonio) to which he replied, “Hindi ko po kayo pinagsamantalahan kasi parang tiyahin ko na rin po kayo”. It was already a hilarious moment made funnier when Juday simply quipped, “Gago ka pala eh sana pinagsamantalahan mo na lang kami.”

I was also happy to see that she still had an abundant supply of tears. It wasn’t hard to forgive her character’s vindictiveness since one could clearly see and feel her pain caused by her husband’s deception.

(Because of this reason, I chose to ignore the fact that a top cosmetics executive like her would serve Goldilocks pastries in a classy private event.)

3. On face value, I wouldn’t have thought that Gary (Joross Gamboa) was gay as well. Sure, he fainted upon seeing his wife floating in a pool of blood, but it could just have been hemophobia. Besides, no self-respecting gay person outside of Ru Paul’s back-up dancers would wear his blazer and khaki shorts combo for a yacht cruise.

Fresh from his Deadma Walking stint, it would be easy to assume that Joross was essentially playing the same role so it was a testament to his acting skills that he was able to differentiate Gary from John. He had a scene in Ma Mon Luk where his emotions shifted from guilt to sarcasm (“Gusto keteng sekten, gusto keteng peteyen…”) to regret to optimism in seconds and it was just a terrific performance.

(I had never been to Ma Mon Luk in Quiapo, but I would love to visit that place, if I could get a seat.)

4. For Jeannie Mai, yellow may be the color of joy and celebration, but I really think that it should be pink. I loved the abundance of that color here and every pink item (the envelope with the farewell note, the cat cage of Mimi, the highlighter used by Cindy) made my heart really happy.

5. Speaking of the farewell note, I couldn’t understand the lengthy sequence of Cindy taking an entire day to read what looked like a ten-page letter. Ganun ba sya kabagal magbasa (considering that her husband’s revelation of being gay was clearly on the first page)?

I was reminded of this other movie called Lila where Janine Gutierrez took a year to finish reading a haunted diary. Totoo ba?

6. I guess that was my other concern about this movie. Jun Lana had always been technically proficient in terms of staging his scenes. There was a natural rhythm in them and you would rarely see any abrupt transitions. This had one too many of them that would just end and shift to another unrelated sequence.

When the parents of Felix (JC de Vera) crashed his housewarming party, it ended with a friend (Kim Molina) saying that she was a babaeng bakla. The joke not only fell flat, but ended a scene that needed to be seen. Sadly, it was only mentioned in passing during the next one, the consequences and repercussions of that confrontation never fully discussed.

7. Oh, Mimi was the name of Felix’s cat. I bet all of my Sarah Geronimo autographed CDs that he also had an entire collection of Mariah Carey albums. (And sang Through the Rain in the shower, naturally.)

8. I really thought that Angelica could do this in her sleep, but she just wasn’t given enough funny material to work with. That Catwoman bit wasn’t as hilarious as Maricel Soriano’s in I Will Survive and her constant showdowns with Carmi Martin felt childish and really off-character. She even played second fiddle to Juday when she should have been very much her equal. At least she delivered in that cunnilingus scene that ended with a really silly meow.

9. JC de Vera felt lost in his role and sounded like he was in an elocution contest. Where was the sensitive actor that was so good in Best Partee Ever?

Fortunately, he wasn’t the most annoying character in the movie. I wasn’t sure how Quark Henares ended up with that private investigator role, but he might want to do the exact opposite of Joel Lamangan and stay behind the camera.

10. Juday referring to her boobs as Mara and Clara gave me so much life. Also, her takedown of Winnie the Pooh made me snort Pepsi out of my nostrils (“Pucha sinabi ng bear yun?”).

11. “How can I be homophobic? I have colleagues that are gay. Strong supporter ako ng LGBT community.” Definitely ripe for a teaching moment. But seriously, I wonder how women would really react if they found out that their boyfriends or husbands were gay? How would they cope with the said reality? Friends with the same experiences, time to share.

12. “Kung hindi pechay ko ang problema, anong problema natin?”

“I just don’t see myself growing old with you.”

Saklap. Hay.

13. By the way, pechay was translated as oysters in the subtitles. Was tahong too graphic for our imagination? And since we’re on the topic, after the screening, this group of women started loudly discussing what they would do if they found out that their husbands were gay. One of them said, “Ako, magpapalago ng pechay!”.

Ate, what did that even mean? Still, natakot ako ng slight at the thought of it.

Rating: ★★★☆☆