MOVIE REVIEW: SWAP (Remton Zuasola, 2015)

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One take, ninety minutes, one location, non-linear storytelling. Definitely impressive, but ultimately the weak narrative had to give way to technique.

I know it was supposed to be a sweet moment but I laughed really hard when the husband surprised his wife with a huge birthday ensaymada topped with a chunky candle used during brownouts.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published May 16, 2017.)

MOVIE REVIEW: OF SINNERS AND SAINTS (Ruben Maria Soriquez, 2015)

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Definitely an odd choice for Cine Lokal’s Salve Pelikula (faith-based themed) film series.

Where Father Daniel Radcliffe actually sired a child via pre-marital sex and advised battered women in his parish that (dolce) amore could save their marriages.

Oh wait, was this supposed to be penance for Holy Week?

Also, could someone explain one of the final scenes where the mother and child boarded a ferry? Was that in the Pasig River? Where were they supposed to escape? Guadalupe?

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published May 3, 2017.)

MOVIE REVIEW: SALVAGE (Sherad Anthony Sanchez, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

Although admirable for its unapologetic commitment to craziness and its interesting take on some Pinoy mythologies, the film as a whole just didn’t work for me.

Jessy Mendiola registered well onscreen, but the role needed an actress with a bit more depth (and an actual scream queen). I had more fun watching the Barbie character (now she was a real shrieker).

Also, this fell victim to the basic pitfalls of the found footage genre (characters running for their dear lives, yet continuously filming for documentation purposes). Seriously, if an aswang was running after me, posting a potential viral video would be the least of my priorities.

Pa-explain ng ending ples.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published August 19, 2017.)

MOVIE REVIEW: OLD SKOOL (Cia Hermosa-Jorge, 2015)

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My notes on Old Skool:

1. It’s hard to be tough on Old Skool, a well-intentioned movie that obviously wore its heart on its sleeve. The problem with it though was how it played its supposedly inspirational message with throwaway gags and juvenile humor.

2. Tessie Tomas is one of our finest actresses but her performance here was very inconsistent. There were times that she acted like Budoy when she was just a perfectly normal old woman that just wasn’t able to finish grade school.

3. In one scene, she wore a Trinidad and Tobago outfit for United Nations Day (?) complete with a headpiece full of dalandan and bananas and she acted all clumsy like Forrest Gump just stepped in class. (In another, she was obviously reading the lyrics of a song on the back of a classmate during the Christmas production.)

4. I was also confused when she mentioned that she was supposed to be the batch valedictorian before she stopped schooling and yet she couldn’t add basic fractions. Also, with the advanced learning system now, don’t they teach Calculus and algorithms as early as Kinder?

5. I was happy to see that artista notebooks (you know, the ones with Juday and Wowie on the cover) are still available. I wonder if they have an AlDub version.

6. Oh and that Microsoft Office Computer class! I suddenly remembered my Wordstar and Lotus days. I’ve mentioned this before but I’m still amazed that we had Typewriting classes back in grade school. Using an actual typewriter. I swear I hated the quick brown fox that jumped over the lazy dog.

7. Buboy Villar was good as the school bully. I wish there was no sudden change of heart because he was funnier when he made other kids cry. In contrast would be the shrill performance of Angel Aquino who basically hated life. She kept screaming every 15 minutes on the most petty stuff that I missed my morning alarm clock (read: my mother).

8. True story:

Me: “What’s HEKASI?”
Other: “Heograpiya, Kasaysayan, Agrikultura, Sining, at Sibika.”
Me: “Eh di dapat HEKAASISI?”

But seriously, di ko inabot ang HEKASI. I’m that old.

9. Styrofoam solar system! I had the exact same project in grade school! Memories!!

10. Teacher: “Ilagay ang kanang kamay sa puso. O tumitibok ba?”

Students: “Opo!!”

Teacher: “Mabuti! Kung hindi dadalhin kayo sa ospital.”

Me: “Sir, sure ka hindi sa morgue?”

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published November 7, 2015.)

MOVIE REVIEW: THE PRENUP (Jun Lana, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The PreNup:

1. If there was one word to describe this movie, it would have to be shrill. Most of the characters delivered their lines a pitch higher than their normal speaking voice. Even the situations felt heightened to an absurd degree that was neither funny funny nor weirdly funny. I was surprised this wasn’t directed by Wenn Deramas.

2. Jennylyn Mercado was a delight to watch in English Only, Please. She was fine here as well but there just wasn’t enough good material for her to work on. With this and the upcoming Walang Forever, I hope that she wouldn’t get typecast in the usual kooky jologs role that really puts the manic in Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Oh, I liked that her character kept talking to herself. She was like a walking Facebook status update. I could definitely relate in all that craziness.

3. Why can’t there be more diversity of gay characters in Pinoy comedies? Do we really have to see the same stereotypical shrieking gay dressed in rainbow-colored outfits? Gardo Versoza (playing one of Jennylyn’s adoptive fathers) sounded like he recently got castrated. Besides, I don’t know any self-respecting gay that would wear a multi-colored, polka-dotted dress shirt unless they have a “Multi-Colored, Polka-Dotted Dress Shirt Theme Day” in the office. In another scene, he was wearing a fitted purple shirt, leopard scarf, and puruntong shorts. Why dear, why?

4. Speaking of adoptive fathers, the other half was played by Dominic Ochoa who was probably just a decade older than Jennylyn. How was that even possible? One of the adopted sisters was played by the delightful Melai Cantiveros and she had a Bisaya accent that was never explained as well.

5. To be honest, Melai completely stole the movie with her outrageous characterization and wicked slapstick comedy. Nothing made sense but her croaking frog scene made me laugh so hard that I actually decided to raise the movie’s rating a star higher.

6. One scene (shown in the trailer) had Jennylyn and Sam Milby engaged in a loud banter that never bothered the other passengers. If I bought an expensive ticket to fly first class and I ended up behind these two loudmouths and their endless bickering, bodies would have flown out the plane.

7. Awkward closet gay joke. Really awkward.

8. Jun Lana is an incredibly talented filmmaker and he directed the beautiful film Bwakaw. I was surprised with all of the continuity errors and technical issues in this movie. In one scene, Jennylyn was writing down everything that she was hearing but the shot prior to that showed the exact same line that she would eventually hear. Was she psychic? Yet in another, she opened her bedroom door saying “Katok ka kasi ng katok” even if Sam was just calling out her name. And how in the world did she end up in a room overlooking the Fort Strip when the previous scene showed her in the MOA grounds? A psychic and a teleporter. Wow!

9. In case you’re curious, Sam did well in his topless shots.

10. The actual prenup wasn’t brought up until midway through the movie when it transformed into a langit vs. lupa clash of clans that was purely offensive and tragically unfunny. Besides, Jennylyn’s house was bigger than our entire street, how could her family even be mistaken as poor? And don’t even bother asking about the ending. Like we’d expect anything else. Yes, everyone had an instant change of heart in the end and they lived happily ever after. Confetti! Confetti! Wooooh!!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published October 15, 2015.)

MOVIE REVIEW: FELIX MANALO (Joel Lamangan, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Felix Manalo:

1. Let me start with a disclaimer. To all my INC friends, this is not an attack on your religious beliefs. All my opinions are about the movie and none on our differences of faith. Love and peace.

2. When I first saw the trailer of this film, I thought, what else was there to show? And I was right. Everything you needed to know was right there, down to all the stars and starlets that had cameo roles.

3. To be fair, there were some noteworthy things in this movie. The costumes and production design (except for the Xeroxed portraits of American Presidents) definitely showed that the movie had a huge budget and the attention to detail was commendable. Some roles (although predictable, Jaime Fabregas as a prayle? Groundbreaking!) were also well-acted.

4. I wasn’t sure why every location (down to street names) and year had to be flashed onscreen. I guess the movie wanted to clearly show the timeline (Birth to death! No wonder it was three hours long!!) of important events in Manalo’s life. But really, did we need to be reminded that they were in Paranaque when the shop clearly showed Sumbrereria de Paranaque? How about the word Maynila shown in the scene that was shot in front of the Manila City Hall?

5. For a movie with a budget though, the sound design was scratchy, the musical score was relentless, the editing was confusing (with abrupt transitions from scene to scene), and the visual effects (especially during the war scenes) were laughable. Also, in the latter part of the movie, Dennis Trillo and Bela Padilla (with perma-crimped hair) played older versions of themselves with full-on face latex but their hands didn’t even age one bit. That was a missed Vaseline endorsement right there.

6. I’m sure Manalo’s a very interesting person but this movie just didn’t give his life story any justice. The idea of a man constantly questioning his source of faith and transferring from one religion to another in search of the ultimate truth is a gold mine. Such a missed opportunity.

7. It was a typical Joel Lamangan (of late) movie. Some scenes were staged like a high school drama. Please bring back the director that created searing socio-political commentaries like Bulaklak ng Maynila and Ang Huling Birhen sa Lupa.

8. I really didn’t understand the whole Japanese War sequence. Was it to show that the INC were severely persecuted for staying true to their faith? The only thing I clearly understood was that we don’t have any other Japanese captain to cast in our movies except for Jacky Woo.

9. Speaking of great casting, Gabby Concepcion played the son of Dennis Trillo. I know, right?

10. One other thing that wasn’t clearly explained in the movie was the instant wealth of Manalo. The latter scenes showed him living in a mansion in Riverside, San Juan and another one showed him riding a Cadillac. Sure, it would have been a controversial topic that might spark a lot of debate but isn’t that what biopics are for?

11. If they got one thing right, it was to ask Sarah G. to sing the movie’s theme song. An additional star just for that (hey, this is my rating!).

12. The end credits listed the actors’ names in alphabetical order. By first name. I wanted to cry.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published October 19, 2015.)

MOVIE REVIEW: ETIQUETTE FOR MISTRESSES (Chito Rono, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Etiquette for Mistresses:

1. It was not the train wreck that I expected and it was all because of the skillful direction of Chito Rono and his cast of competent actresses. The movie was actually reminiscent of Rono’s own Separada with five women dealing with their own personal problems but united by a common concern (basically, men).

2. The story of the core group (that included an understated yet exemplary performance by Iza Calzado, a light and comical take by Kim Chiu, a fiery turn by Claudine Barretto in full Mela mode, a hilarious Cheena Crab, and not-so-annoying acting by Kris Aquino) didn’t break new ground but it would make one pity (not empathize with) these “holiday orphans”.

3. The mix of cameos (the stellar Pilar Pilapil, a graceful Mother Mistress Helen Gamboa), the interesting rules (“Mistresses don’t complain, that is the job of the Mrs.”, “Perish all thought that someday you’ll be number 1”, “When all else fails, leave him”), and the overall sadness of situations made it completely watchable.

4. Favorite scenes:

• Explanation of Lucky Moon

• The throwaway Timezone joke

• That confrontation scene shot in the shadows! And that slap heard around the world!! (I swear everyone in the theater gasped and feared for their own lives.)

Worst scenes:

• Cellphone breaks car window (huh?)

• Excessive focus on Kim’s character (did we need that lengthy guitar sequence?)

• The police sequence straight out of Eskapo

5. If only Star Cinema could control itself on its requisite happy ending complete with surprise leading men cameos.

Now sing with me: “And don’t tell me what to do, and don’t tell me what to say, and please when I go out with you, don’t put me on display. You don’t own meeeee…”

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published October 1, 2015.)

MOVIE REVIEW: RESUREKSYON (Alfonso Torre III, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Resureksyon:

1. The movie began with a chilling premise: that of a coffin being transported back to the country with the cause of death of the woman inside unknown and the words “BURN IMMEDIATELY” written on the boards. The story of a woman returning from the city carrying with her a mystery wasn’t a new concept (I kept thinking of Richard Somes’ Yanggaw) but it was still an interesting one.

2. Even with a strong 10-minute opening that set up everything we needed to know (flashbacks showing the reason why she left, stories showing the bond between the orphaned sisters, etc.), the remaining hour of the film was just too awful to watch. (A huge disappointment given that this was from the same director of Kabisera, one of my favorite movies of 2013).

3. The biggest problem started when the said woman (played by Isabelle Daza, the loveliest corpse since Dawn Zulueta in Patayin Sa Sindak Si Barbara) rose from the dead making all the neighbors and friends run out screaming and then…nothing. No furor about this miracle, no news crew or paparazzi hearing about this supernatural event, no YouTube videos of this modern day Lazarus, no invite to be the next Pastillas Girl of It’s Showtime, nothing. Like rising from the dead was such a common occurrence. Really? Even the family members didn’t question her on what happened as if their Ate/Nanay just woke up from a coma. Really??!

4. The backdrop reminded me so much of Dementia. I swear some locations looked exactly like Batanes. Such a lovely place for a horror hot spot.

5. And speaking of Dementia, this one took the easy route as well and had the typical cheap scares and loud sounds that would make your grandmother pee in her diaper. Another scene of a cat jumping out from the bushes? Groan.

6. Look, an extremely fake moon!!

7. There was a deliberately annoying Mayor’s wife and I kept wishing that she would be the first to get killed. Question: does a supposed alta really sit in the front of the car next to her driver? Anyway, my wish came true but then she returned as a vampire. Sigh.

8. Do vampires teleport? How did she get inside the locked car?

9. I pity Paulo Avelino. He was in full serious acting mode when the movie was nowhere near the level of his talent. At least he satisfied the eye candy part and made the rest of the time partly bearable.

10. In one scene, there was a white light in the corner of the living room that was turned on even if it was set during the day. Please tell me that wasn’t a technical issue.

11. The vampires in this movie had smoky eyes and smudged eyeliner. That should be an easy Halloween costume.

12. One character wanted to know how to kill an aswang so he…looked it up in Wikipedia! I’m serious.

13. Some lines didn’t even make any sense.

“San galing ang kapatid mo?”
“Nagtrabaho sya sa embahada ng Serbia.”
“Sa Central Europe, tama ba?”

Did we really need that Geography lesson? And the point was?

14. Here’s another one.

“Parating na ang mga aswang!”
“Saan?”
“Sa ospital!”

And then the next scene showed the aswangs/vampires attacking the hospital (virtually deserted except for our bidas of course). Hahaha!

15. One scene had a fake YouTube video playing with the timer on the bottom right of the screen not moving. Hay.

Never mind.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published September 26, 2015.)

MOVIE REVIEW: SILONG (Jeffrey Hidalgo, Roy Sevilla Ho, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Silong:

1. Do you know how those M. Night Shyamalan movies relied on a twist to make the audience think that they’re watching something clever? This one felt exactly like that. I wouldn’t be surprised if people would compare this to other similar films of late (Gone Girl, Return to Sender) or similar torture porn out of Eli Roth’s ouevre or even the camp classic Boxing Helena. Even with all the red herrings thrown in the first hour of the film, all the twists were just too obvious.

2. I’ve read somewhere about this pop culture trope called Chekhov’s Gun. Basically, if a film shows a gun in the first act, expect it to go off in the last act. In this movie, it was a locked door. If you still couldn’t smell the twist a mile away, then visit an EENT.

3. I found a lot of dialogue completely off. It might have been Rhian Ramos’ kolehiyala language but I was still surprised it wasn’t dubbed correctly. Here are some sample lines:

“Papatayin tayo ng asawa ko kung di mo ako tinulungan.”

“Yun ang nakasabi sa bote.”

Even Piolo Pascual had to comfort a crying Rhian with “Tahan na”. Seriously, does anyone still say this to someone over seven?

4. Speaking of Rhian, her acting was unbearable prior to the said twist. She sounded like someone out of an elocution contest (“Alms, alms! Spare me a piece of bread. I am a child so young, so thin…”) To be fair, she got more comfortable after she turned her psycho bitch mode on. And then she started rapping (!!) some Taylor Swift-like bitter lyrics and I almost walked out of the theater.

5. The biggest mysteries in this movie were: a) actually how did Rhian keep that perpetually curled Vidal Sassoon hair, b) why didn’t the young Piolo have his signature mole, and c) why did the pregnant lady have a pillow on her belly?

6. I liked a lot of the shots used in this movie. It created the needed atmosphere for a pseudo-psychological thriller. At least we know what to expect from the directors given a better script.

7. I was happy to see that even dyosas have their flaws. You could clearly see the stretch marks on Piolo’s butt in that much-hyped shower scene. We live in a just and fair world.

8. Wasn’t this the same house used in the new Peque Gallaga Tiyanak movie? That fountain looked really familiar. But the fountain scene here, though. Ugh.

9. Can someone explain that weird Alamat ng Kape? It didn’t even sound like an alamat at all. Or was that the point of the story? Meh.

10. Seriously, in a huge house with dozens of rooms, would you really hide under a table when somebody shouts “Magtago ka!”? Next time, I suggest the big old vase.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published September 21, 2015.)