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The Spotless Mind

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

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Pinoy – 2017

SMALLER AND SMALLER CIRCLES (Raya Martin, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

One character probably summed it up best when he mentioned that the others may have seen one too many Hollywood crime films since there were no serial killers in the Philippines (hail Queen Jessica Zafra!). Although this adaptation of the Palanca-winning novel by F.H. Batacan had a distinctly Pinoy setting (what screamed poverty more than the Payatas dumpsite?), nothing else felt authentic in this slow-paced procedural slash disappointing non-thriller.

I couldn’t get past the unnatural dialogue between the two conyo Jesuit priests (Nonie Buencamino and Sid Lucero). When the latter said something like “Nobody raised a stink?”, I just wanted to make tungga a bottle of holy water. Although these served well during one Atenista joke, the English conversations just felt (what did you call it again, Holden Caulfield?), ah yes, phony. Don’t get me started on the unnecessary (oh look we’re multilingual!) French talk.

Even the themes didn’t exactly break new ground. Inefficiency of our local crime units? Politicians taking advantage of the poor? Abusive power of the Church? Pedophile priests? Where was Joel Lamangan when you needed him? Worse, the big reveal of the killer felt very anticlimactic with the introduction of a last minute character (and not in a menacing Kevin Spacey in Se7en way) whose motives and modus weren’t fully explained.

At least it had the budget for a competent all-star cast, lovely cinematography and terrific production design (that fully captured the grimy late 90s aesthetics). It also obviously wasn’t a rushed production with a pre-keto diet Mae Paner (and was that the late Joy Viado in one scene?).

I got bored during the sluggish killer confession scene so I just imagined a more interesting version of the movie in my head. I renamed Buencamino’s Father Saenz as Father Science since he was a forensics expert anyway and with all the victims’ missing hearts and genitals, he sought the help of Kim Chiu’s Mayen who already had an experience with monsters that shove organs down people’s throats. Chito Roño’s Smaller and Smaller Bagwas, anyone?

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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TRIP UBUSAN: THE LOLAS VS ZOMBIES (Mark Reyes, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

To say that this was inspired by Train to Busan would be an understatement since it directly lifted several key scenes (and characters) from that Korean sleeper hit. In this Kalyeserye version though, Lola Nidora (Wally Bayola) played the role of Gong Yoo (shoray ni lola!), also bitten by a zombie in the end before she jumped (was pushed?) off a moving speedboat. (Don’t worry, the saltwater magically cured her for the requisite happy ending.)

We rarely get local zombie movies (either we’re not technologically advanced to accidentally unleash a new virus strain or our bodies were just auto-immuned from all the pollution and dirt in our country) so I was a bit excited to watch this one. Unfortunately, it relied too much on slapstick humor that it ended up without a sense of danger or threat on any of the characters all throughout.

In one scene, the ragtag group (mostly Eat Bulaga alums) just happened to pass by a welding shop and it took a miraculous two-minute montage for them to fortify their bus. In another, the barbed wire separating the humans from the zombies was (questionably) raised so that Angelika dela Cruz could easily run to her zombie husband for a dramatic reconciliation.

Nothing here really made sense. Which would have been fine if at least the gags were funny. The three lolas pulled all the weight and the drop in energy was noticeable whenever they were offscreen. I would love to see them next in a family drama. Mukhang magaling magpaiyak ang JoWaPao. Until then, we’d have to be contented with this zombie movie where the undead extras try their best to avoid a rampaging bus.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

UNEXPECTEDLY YOURS (Cathy Garcia-Molina, 2017)

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I think I just had a Classic Pare Titos and Titas of Manila moment while watching this movie since I couldn’t help myself from twitterpating (kilig lang yan, inartehan ko) over such a cute couple. Nope, not talking about JoshLia (even if Joshua Garcia and Julia Barretto were also really charming here). I was of course referring to the Sharon Cuneta-Robin Padilla love team that still showcased such palpable chemistry twenty five years after Maging Sino Ka Man.

I previously mentioned that I liked this combo much better than the Sharon-Gabby and Sharon-Richard pairing because the very Pinoy langit-lupa theme (and all the conflicts that stemmed from this social class gap) always made for great dramedy. It was even put to good use here because it was an older people romance straight out of the Nancy Meyers universe.

This should have been the comeback vehicle of Ate Shawie since her performance here just felt more relaxed and natural compared to the one in Ang Pamilyang Hindi Lumuluha. She displayed great comedic timing, especially while verbally sparring with Robin (mega kilig yung sagutan nila ng “Adik!” and “Sa’yo!” waaah!). Her controlled emotions during her dramatic moments were even reminiscent of her grand slam performance in Madrasta. I really liked the scene where she was crying out of self-pity (“Matanda na ako…”) because her realizations were genuinely painful to watch.

I wish the movie focused more on their romance since the JoshLia story actually served as a distraction. It would have worked still without their love angle since the young ones were so believable as their blood relatives (Julia as Sharon’s daughter and Joshua as Robin’s nephew). Also, all the millennial discussion including a cringey FGD just felt off. It had just as much insight about this generation as any episode of Survivor: Millennials vs Gen X.

Speaking of Julia, I was really surprised at how much she had continuously improved in terms of acting (even after her good work in Love You to the Stars and Back). She had this lovely scene with Sharon where she was telling her why she didn’t want to end up just like her mother and she definitely held her own against the Megastar. The Claudine comparisons would be inevitable, but with the right projects, she should be able to step out of her aunt’s shadow soon.

In one scene, Julia was wearing a shirt that had the word “MIST” on the right shoulder and “AKES” on the left side. I thought, “Wow, cool! A gay shirt saying that she’s a mist!”. It took me a full twenty seconds to realize that it actually spelled “mistakes”. Bwiset! Chalk that up to another Titos and Titas of Manila moment.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

PAKI (Giancarlo Abrahan, 2017)

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Dexter Doria would always be one of my childhood nightmares. She’d usually play the maldita stepmother, aunt, or neighbor on TV who was always ready to smack the living daylights out of a poor child that would go against her will (or break her precious Divisoria china). Her mere presence made me pee in my salawal countless times.

It was refreshing to see her front and center (and playing against type) as a lonely matriarch putting up a facade to hold her dysfunctional family together. Such a subtle and controlled performance that was a far cry from her previous hysterical roles. Lovely, truly lovely.

I really enjoyed the family dynamics here and I could easily identify with most of them (even the most mundane thing like the great Shamaine Buencamino performing her beauty regimen just felt so relatable and authentic). There were moments that bordered on Pinoy soap opera, but hello, guilty pleasure!

I might be one of the very few people that wasn’t impressed with Dagitab. It was technically beautiful, but the characters felt cold and distant (like they were trapped in a European indie romance). On the other hand, this movie provided the warmth of Pinoy characters that I’d usually fall for. It made me want to hug my own family immediately after watching. Sigh.

Rating: ★★★★☆

HAUNTED: A LAST VISIT TO THE RED HOUSE (Phyllis Grande, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

I entered the cinema expecting a fun documentary about a haunted house in Bulacan, but the horror stories that were told onscreen were more frightening than I ever imagined. Hearing the Malaya Lolas recall their tragic experiences that mostly included sexual abuse (in their pre-teens!) from Japanese soldiers during World War II was too much for my fragile heart.

One of the professors summed it up best when he said that these stories would soon be just a blip in our history and treated like urban legends. It was made more apparent by how obnoxious the crew were (intentionally?) portrayed here.

The filmmaker nonchalantly asked one lola if she was raped inside the same room with her sister (na parang nagtatanong lang kung anong ulam nila kanina). One of the crew members laughed when he presented the theory that some of the lolas probably had abortions. Made me want to strangle these insensitive millennials.

It was a very powerful juxtaposition that probably would have been more effective if they had more stories to tell. Several scenes felt like fillers and that meandering ending didn’t really attain the intended impact.

Was this documentary exploitative or essential? Couldn’t it work as both?

Rating: ★★★★☆

THROWBACK TODAY (Joseph Teoxon, 2017)

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Mababa lang talaga ang pangarap ko dati. All I really wanted was to be an official @Op in an mIRC group so that I would have the power to /kick or /ban anyone that I didn’t fancy in the chatroom. I’d always imagine all the online nerds grovelling at my feet just to get a coveted +v. Bow down before me, you fools! *insert Selina Matias laugh*

Inasmuch as I liked the idea of being able to chat with your younger self through a desktop computer, the movie failed to fully maximize such a cool concept. It struggled to build on the story and felt like a stretched out episode of The Twilight Zone.

Primo (the dependable Carlo Aquino) spent most of the time trying to save his lovelife, with his ailing father only as a secondary priority. There were hints of social relevance such as the Marawi Siege, but none of these really mattered as long as he ended up with the girl of his dreams.

Sabagay, if I were to talk to my younger self, the first thing that I would tell him would be to save his damn money instead of wasting them on ISP Bonanza. He would never be an @Op, but at least he’d look way better in his 30’s. Nux!!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Cinema One Originals 2017 Scorecard

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Best Picture

1. CHANGING PARTNERS (Dan Villegas) – ★★★★★

2. PAKI (Giancarlo Abrahan) – ★★★★☆
3. HAUNTED: A LAST VISIT TO THE RED HOUSE (Phyllis Grande) – ★★★★☆

4. SI CHEDENG AT SI APPLE (Fatrick Tabada, Rae Red) – ★★★☆☆

5. NERVOUS TRANSLATION (Shireen Seno) – ★★☆☆☆
6. THROWBACK TODAY (Joseph Teoxon) – ★★☆☆☆
7. NAY (Kip Oebanda) – ★★☆☆☆

8. HISTORIOGRAPHIKA ERRATA (Richard Somes) – ★☆☆☆☆
9. BUNDOK BANAHAW, SACRED AND PROFANE (Dempster Samarista) – ★☆☆☆☆

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

1. JOJIT LORENZO (Changing Partners)
2. CARLO AQUINO (Throwback Today)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

1. DEXTER DORIA (Paki)
2. ELIZABETH OROPESA (Si Chedeng at si Apple)
3. AGOT ISIDRO (Changing Partners)
4. GLORIA DIAZ (Si Chedeng at si Apple)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

1. NOEL TRINIDAD (Paki)
2. SANDINO MARTIN (Changing Partners)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

1. SHAMAINE BUENCAMINO (Paki)
2. ANNA LUNA (Changing Partners)
3. EULA VALDEZ (Paki)
4. SYLVIA SANCHEZ (Nay)

HISTORIOGRAPHIKA ERRATA (Richard Somes, 2017)

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Like a loud, annoying, and horny uncle in a family reunion that had one too many Red Horse beers delivered his unsolicited version of Drunk (Philippine) History. In his made-up story, Andres Bonifacio was played by Jett Pangan in a wig and baro’t saya, looking very much like John Lapus in drag and ready to battle the Moron 5.

His choice of metaphor for the rape of our country was Nathalie Hart with her permanent bee-stung lips literally getting passed around and pumped from all angles while delivering several variations of the line “Wag mong iputok sa loob!”.

Beware of this uncle. Tito Jo, wag po!!

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

CHANGING PARTNERS (Dan Villegas, 2017)

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Minahal ko ang pelikulang ito hanggang sa kinaya ng puso ko. It was a clear testament to the enormous talents on display in front of and behind the camera on just how perfectly everything worked. I didn’t see the original stage version and I am now more than curious to know how they were able to pull that one off.

It would have been so easy to get confused with the film’s multiple relationship permutations and constant character and gender switches, but the seamless transitions and excellent performances (Agot Isidro! Jojit Lorenzo!!) clearly helped a lot. Plus all that glorious singing. Totoo nga na mas dama mo kapag kinakanta ang feelings and emotions haha!

With a clear view on issues dealing with age gap differences, who wears the pants in the relationship, gut feel vs jealousy, etc., it was able to transcend the traditional hugot formula. Every sumbat that was thrown to the other partner felt raw and real and completely stung. I had been these characters and it was hard for me to hold back the tears. Never been this emotionally crushed. Never. Absolute.

Rating: ★★★★★

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