GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES (Isao Takahata, 1988)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Grave of the Fireflies:

1. If I remember it correctly, I discovered this emotionally devastating animated film (in my opinion, still the best one) upon the recommendation of my suking pirated DVD vendor in Makati Cinema Square (“Piracy is stealing. Stealing is against the law. Piracy is a crime.”). I was looking for a copy of the latest Hollywood flick that time when she suggested several Studio Ghibli films (Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and Kiki’s Delivery Service among them).

I initially had doubts because I had outgrown cartoons ever since Princess Sarah Crewes got reunited with her father and banished Miss Minchin to her rightful place: the chimeneya. In my mind, animated films would usually be kiddie stuff and although some were really good (especially the classic Disney films), their themes would still cater to a younger crowd. I didn’t expect that this masterpiece would be my introduction to the wonderful world of anime.

2. More than being the best animated film, I completely agree with the late Roger Ebert that this could stand as one of the finest war films as well. From its opening scene where a young boy named Seita wearing a soldier’s uniform and looking directly at the camera said the chilling line “September 21, 1945. That was the night I died”, it would just be an endless sequence of heartbreaking moments that blatantly demonstrated the destructive nature of war and its debilitating effects on people. I might not have lived through World War II but those air raid warning sounds would haunt me forever.

I also found it smart that the film started with the reveal that both Seita and younger sister Setsuko were already dead and reunited in the afterlife. Every scene that came after that with them having fun just felt incredibly bittersweet especially knowing their tragic end.

3. I really liked how Setsuko was initially oblivious to the horrors happening around her. She was contented with piggybacking on her older brother, or running around in the ricefields, or frolicking on the beach while bombs destroyed their village and killed hundreds of people, including their own mother.

My favorite scenes here involved her constant discovery of the sad realities around her. While trying to catch a crab, she chanced upon a rotting person on the beach and it was her first encounter with death. When the fireflies they caught died the next day, she dug a grave for them because it was supposedly what happened to their dead mother as well (as told to her by their maldita auntie). This particular scene crushed my heart because it was juxtaposed with the actual scene of her mother’s body being burned in a mass grave, dead bodies in a heap left without any dignity.

4. Speaking of the maldita auntie, I swear my blood curdled when she only offered sabaw to the kids while her husband and daughter got generous servings of rice and potatoes. They sold their dead mother’s precious keepsake kimonos to buy the freakin’ food, you bitch!! I wanted to thwack her so hard with that soup bowl. (And then they inserted a short scene with a mother bird feeding her baby birds in a nest huhuhu!)

5. Some people would probably find this emotionally manipulative if one would only see children subjected to endless suffering (those rashes on Setsuko’s back!), but I found it incredibly authentic. Sure, I bawled my eyes out when she sucked on the marbles and made rice balls out of soil because of lack of food, and I crawled into my usual fetal position and sobbed like a mad man at the sight of her dead body hugging her favorite doll while inside a rattan casket, but these probably happened to some people during that time (or even worse).

6. I would never look at a fruit drops tin can the same way ever again. (Side note: I use the exact same hack of filling a ketchup or shampoo bottle with water to get the remaining stuff out of it.)

7. “Why do fireflies have to die so soon?” Hay. Really powerful stuff.

Rest in peace, Sir Isao Takahata.

Rating: ★★★★★

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NEVER NOT LOVE YOU (Antoinette Jadaone, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Never Not Love You:

1. You know how in a relationship you’re willing to look beyond the faults of your partner simply because you really like/love the other person? I felt the exact same way about this gorgeously-shot, well-told long-distance relationship film that was eerily similar to Drake Doremus’ Like Crazy from its London setting down to the bittersweet montage of memories ending. It couldn’t have been all just a coincidence, right?

2. For a love team that prided itself as Team Real, it was a joy to watch Nadine Lustre (as Joanne) and James Reid (as Gio) in a mature love story that wasn’t afraid of ruffling conservative feathers (I found it funny that I was very much that old lady in the corridor during the moving in scene that lamented, “Mga kabataan talaga ngayon!”).

I also admired the gutsy decision of not upholding/protecting any wholesome movie star image by having them play characters that looked, sounded, and acted like any authentic young adult. Smoking a cigarette? Living together outside of marriage? Expletives-filled shouting matches? Post-coital bed scene? I could just imagine a horde of grandmothers shrieking “Santissima santa!” while clutching on to their plastic rosaries and JaDine’s all like “C’mon guys, it’s 2018!”.

3. As a South person that couldn’t even maintain a relationship with an ex who relocated to Quezon City, I wouldn’t be the best advocate slash strong believer of a long distance romance (mad props for people that could sustain this kind of relationship, though). The challenges were made more blatant in this movie when the only form of communication between Joanne and Gio consisted of Skype calls. They basically lived in two separate worlds where time difference was the least of their concerns. This level of commitment alone triggered a major anxiety attack on my end.

4. Sobrang ganda ng cinematography. It reminded me so much of Wong Kar-Wai’s films (I suddenly pictured a bunch of cinephiles raising their eyebrows right about now). If you hadn’t seen any of his stylish films, this could serve as your introduction (then move on to In the Mood for Love or Chungking Express).

Also, how were they able to shoot all those lovely motorcycle scenes? Ang galing!

5. I wish James could work more on his accent so that he would be able to deliver his Pinoy lines more comfortably (it would also give him a broader range of characters outside of the typical conyo or Amboy). Side note: I had a good laugh though when he said “May mustard po kayo?” at the carinderia.

I still sympathized with Gio even if his character was an unlikable immature brat (seryoso, may lalaki lang kasama si Joanne sa club maninira na agad ng gamit?). And he was probably one of the few local actors that could deliver major kiligs with a line like “Maybe I don’t want you to wear other guys’ helmets”. Hongkyut!

Anyway, his accent was the only distraction in an otherwise heartfelt performance (I’m still amazed whenever he would cry on cue, with his best scene in bed feeling an overwhelming sense of comfort and contentment that his girlfriend agreed to move with him to London. Those silent tears just spoke volumes.)

6. Speaking of tears, I think everyone would agree that this was Nadine’s best performance to date. Everything about it screamed “I’m a serious actress!” that would definitely put her in the running for next year’s awards derby. My favorite scene was when she was driving her new car with the entire family in tow and her usually disapproving father (Rez Cortez) touched her arm and her face showed a mixture of pride, relief, and happiness. For a relatively quiet and subtle moment, it just had so much impact. Damang-dama ko siya dun.

7. Of course I cried during that “Wag kang lilingon” scene. I cried even more when Joanne didn’t look back the second time around.

Also, ang sakit sobra nung linya na “You’ve become the Joanne that you’re supposed to be…. but without me.” Waaaah!

8. Some of their issues felt a bit petty, no? When Gio shouted at Joanne (“Kung gusto mong umuwi, eh di umuwi ka!”), did it really merit a slap on the face? I thought you both swore to never not love each other?

9. Now let’s discuss that polarizing ending. I know a lot of people that hated how the resolution felt rushed or that the final scene was vague, but that was the exact reason why I found it to be perfect.

My interpretation of it was that Joanne felt trapped in the relationship. Things were just not the same as they used to be. Their exchange of I love yous already lacked genuine emotion and felt very perfunctory. There was an immense sadness in her eyes when Gio said that he would be returning for good. She didn’t show much excitement during his last visit either. And the clincher, hindi sya lumingon sa second airport scene. It was sad to see a doomed relationship even before the screen faded to black.

10. As a final note, this production was notoriously plagued by so many controversies that I was surprised at how good things actually turned out. In the end, was everything worth it?

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: ★★★☆☆

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: ★★☆☆☆

THE SIGNIFICANT OTHER (Joel Lamangan, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Significant Other:

1. After a round of the most laughable sex that involved scenes of sweating backs, shaking thighs, and curling feet, Nicole (Erich Gonzales) asked Edward (Tom Rodriguez) about the status of their relationship. She wanted to put a label on it since she already said “I love you” to him on their first date, plus they had been making out for the longest time already (the first being inside a car on an open field, next to a peeing kalabaw; how romantic!).

He could not give a straight answer since he was secretly married to supermodel Maxene (Lovi Poe) so with his signature constipated look, he assured her that she was his “significant other”. Not boyfriend-girlfriend, not boo, not sweetheart, not jowaers, not we’re-in-a-loving-relationship-since-we-had-sex-next-to-a-pissing-carabao, but just significant other.

Nicole, being the typical clueless kabit who had no self-respect and was devoid of any self-worth, lapped up his every word and reacted very much like the Sultan of Brunei just proposed to her. Gurl, since Edward was neither gay nor a millennial, being called a significant other was tantamount to being a kept woman. Yes, kerida, kabit, number two, mistress!! (Did I miss anything Terry?)

2. It was this kind of silliness that permeated throughout the entire movie:

• Where a candidate for a beauty pageant called Binibining Bacaycay fainted onstage and yet a talent agent was more concerned on recruiting her for a possible modelling career (shouldn’t someone be bringing her some Aceite de Manzanilla?).

• Where a high-profile dermatologist would use a flashlight for five seconds very much like a laser pointer to check a birthmark (fun fact: he called it a cafe au lait; do they also come in other fancy coffee names?) and immediately scheduled surgery to have it removed. One should also note that he was a complete pervert (he actually said the line, “Bibigyan kita ng gamot para mawala ang kati” and then promptly kissed the patient’s affected neck area after the laser treatment). Eww!!

• Where said high-profile dermatologist had an assistant nurse slash secretary whose main purpose was to sit at a desk armed with just a clipboard to welcome guests. No desktop computer, no laptop, not even a calendar or planner. Every appointment was on her magic clipboard. Where could I get one?

• Where a character said something like, “Wala nang mas gaganda pa sa bulaklak na niluto ng Diyos.” (Wait, bakit niluto ang bulaklak?)

• Where an extra delivered the line “Nicole, tinawagan ako ng nanay mo” then realized that she was a bit thirsty, asked for water while saying “Ako’y init na init na”, drank said glass of water, and without skipping a beat, repeated the exact same line “Nicole, tinawagan ako ng nanay mo”. Jusko!!

3. Speaking of lack of self-respect, there was a fashion show where Nicole and Maxene wore the latest Avel Bacudio wedding collection (sheer skirt over visible undergarments susmaryosep magagalit si Mother Butler!) and they took turns kissing Edward to stake their claim over him. It escalated into a slapping showdown and then a heated shouting match.

Nicole to Maxene: “I’m his significant other!!” (Like that actually meant shit.)

Edward: “Shhhhstop! Ssshhhhtop!!”

Maxene to Nicole: “Ginamit ka lang ng asawa ko bilang parausan!!” (The subtitles actually said: “You were just used by my husband as a pass time.”)

Avel Bacudio (played by Ricci Chan, the only actor here who was intentionally funny) then came out from backstage and started screaming (subtitles: “Are you finish? I, Avel Bacudio, is the star of this show!!”) and the two women had to regain their bearings and walked on the ramp again while the crowd cheered. Santissima santa!!

4. But wait, there’s more! When Maxene discovered that her husband was cheating, her first instinct was not to confront him, but instead to look at their happy family pictures and reminisce about the good ol’ times. More flashback while the theme song played. “I recall when you said that you would never leave me…” More hikbi. Dear Malabanan Services, please help because the amount of shit here is completely overflowing!!

5. Sample words of wisdom:

• “Yang kerida salot sa lipunan yan eh. Yan ang dapat tinotokhang!!”

• “Pag malaman ko lang sino ang babaeng yun, bubudburan ko ng asin para mawala ang kati!!”

• “Ikaw ang nagtulak sa kanya. Naghanap sya ng init sa puso.”

“Kahit anong sabihin mo kabit ka lang habang buhay!”

“At least ako ang pinili. Belat!” (I just added the belat part, but it wouldn’t feel out of place, right?)

6. After all the catfights and empty one-liners, the pervert, the negligent wife, and the kabit reconciled and became friends in the end. Because nothing screamed Pinoy soap opera more than a legal wife and a mistress winding up as mag-kumare for that requisite happy ending. “I’ll just keep on dreaming till my heartaches end…”

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

LADY BIRD (Greta Gerwig, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Lady Bird:

1. Whenever my mom and I would have an argument, her go-to line of defense was “Pinapasok pa naman kita sa Catholic schools…”. Which might also be her disappointed way of saying that this early, my soul was already burning in hell. Sometimes I’d wonder what happened to me as well. Did I not learn anything from all the years of Christian Living classes from grade school to high school plus the twelve units of required Theology in college? Were these schools being oppressive in shoving religion down our young throats that some of us ended up being rebellious? Or was I just being pa-cool in thinking that these teachings were way beneath me? One thing was for sure, though. My mother would always be in Church every Sunday to pray for my burning soul.

2. I really loved the depiction of the mother-daughter relationship here. When the film opened with Christine aka “Lady Bird”(Saoirse Ronan) and her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf) bonding over an audiobook of The Grapes of Wrath inside their car, it was a picture of love and happiness. In a matter of seconds, the harmonious atmosphere turned into a passive-aggressive verbal showdown with one of them jumping out of the moving vehicle. It was hilarious, frighteningly real, and completely relatable. Seriously, how many times have we considered flinging ourselves outside of a car just to avoid the nastiest sermons from our mothers? Getting run over on a highway would probably hurt less than hearing the worst sumbat coming from them.

3. The screenplay (also by Greta Gerwig) was infused with so much wit that I was reminded of Juno (the one where Ellen Page played a heavily opinionated pregnant teen) and peak Diablo Cody. Some of my favorite lines were:

• Lady Bird speaking the truth: “The only thing exciting about 2002 is that it’s a palindrome.”

• Marion on sticking to the shopping budget: “That’s what rich people do. We’re not rich people.”

• Brother Miguel when her date arrived to pick her up for prom: “Lady Bird wants to make an entrance. She’s mad we don’t have a spiral staircase.”

• Sister Sarah during the school dance: “Six inches for the Holy Spirit!” (Thank goodness I went to a co-ed school!)

• Post-sex Lady Bird after learning that her boyfriend (Timothée Chalamet) wasn’t a virgin: “I was on top! Who the fuck is on top their first time?”

• Boyfriend’s response as consolation: “You’re going to have so much unspecial sex in your life.” (Soooo true!!)

4. Hand in my Pocket, Crash Into Me, Cry Me a River, The Crossroads. The soundtrack of my life.

5. Ronan was terrific in the lead role (acne and all). Although she had some noticeable slips with her Irish accent, she fully captured the essence of Lady Bird that I was crying along with her when she received the school letter saying that she was waitlisted.

Metcalf was the perfect foil for her, with every line and movement capturing the mother we all loved and hated. Her airport car scene alone that didn’t require any dialogue, just her face showing a range of emotions, deserved an Oscar nod. She wasn’t even in the scene with the letters and I kept thinking about her and bawled my eyes out.

And what else to say about Chalamet exuding so much charisma that I just brushed off the fact that his character climaxed after just five seconds?

6. On her eighteenth birthday, Lady Bird excitedly purchased a pack of cigarettes and a copy of Playgirl. I could easily relate because I spent my entire teenage years wishing to be eighteen so I could finally watch an R-18 film in cinemas. (Wait, did you think that I wanted my own copy of Playgirl?)

7. Essential viewing if your mom’s also your best friend. Watch it with her and share a box of Kleenex.

Rating: ★★★★★

FIFTY SHADES FREED (James Foley, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Fifty Shades Freed:

1. When Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson; were you expecting anyone else?) said something like “Look around! There’s nothing but boobs as far as the eyes can see. It’s Boobs in Boobsland!”, she could very well have been referring to her own movie. For a supposed chick flick, there was just way too many scenes of Dakota’s exposed breasts that I couldn’t help but silently scream “Utong na loob please!” or “Utong ina! Yan na naman!” every time they would make an appearance. I swear, this movie gave a whole new meaning to the word “buyangyang”. Scarred me for life, too.

2. Although this one wanted to be a sex-thriller with a subplot about a stalker (the smartest, slickest and most invincible fiction editor ever!) who was threatening their lives, I was more bothered that Anastasia was no longer using her brand new rose gold iPhone that she received as a sweet gift in the last movie. Her Macbook seemed to be missing as well. Geez, nagka-jowa lang ng mayaman nagwaldas na agad ng pera!

This was the same reason why I never really fell for her still-innocent facade here, like her faux bewilderment upon seeing the Grey private jet (“You own this?”). Oh please, drop the naive virgin act gurl! How could you still be surprised by how rich your new husband was when he basically bought your entire publishing company just because he wanted to? And let’s not forget that he crashed a personal helicopter as well in the last installment. Enough of this arte. You’re no Laida Magtalas!

3. If Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) was a billionaire, how could he not afford some decent bodyguards? The one person that he hired to protect his wife was so pathetic that basically everyone else was able to outsmart, outrun, and even outdrive him (to be fair, Anastasia could do a mean parallel park so…). Even worse, the Matt Bomer-lookalike actor that played him looked more Christian Grey than the actual Christian Grey. How sad.

Better security could have prevented the assault of Anastasia that left her in a coma (after just a mag-asawang sampal and a kick in her pregnant stomach, really??). Rita Ora should be thankful though since it gave her an additional (albeit still forgettable) scene that displayed her best acting work since last season’s America’s Next Top Model.

4. Why was he being such a big baby over her pregnancy? I could understand him disrupting a professional meeting just to complain about her not wanting to change her name on the work email, but I just didn’t get all the fuss about him being a total loon about the baby. No, let me correct that. He was jealous of the baby. His own baby. What happened to being a (kinky) Prince Charming?

5. Precision. Style. Comfort. The new Audi Quattro. And if the Fast & Furious style mini-commercials weren’t enough, they just had to include a scene where Anastasia toyed with Christian’s stick shift. At least I finally discovered his flaw when he blew his load during that car sex scene after a mere ten seconds of pumping (not gas, obviously).

6. Oh and those terrible sex scenes were a fitting end to this flaccid series! What happened to the perverse/deviant aspect? One involved a vibrator that resulted in… what’s the equivalent of blue balls? Blue clit? There was another one where he spread ice cream on her vajayjay and started to lick it off and I swear my tongue made a deep dive into my esophagus and I almost choked to death watching a silly S&M movie (how apt!).

At least this one further supported the basic fact that cheesy porn was meant to be enjoyed alone in the comfort of one’s own home where you wouldn’t hear the shocked person behind you mistaking a butt plug for a spoon (“Kutsara ba yan?). Ate, stay out of my kitchen!!

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

MY FAIRY TAIL LOVE STORY (Perci Intalan, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on My Fairy Tail Love Story:

1. Never ever commit the mistake of making an analogy between Oscar-less Amy Adams and Grammy-less Katy Perry because I would surely hunt you down. It was this undying love for Adams that made me promise to watch Enchanted at least once every year. You know, that clever retelling of a fairy tale where she played a storybook Disney princess banished by her stepmother into the real world and searched for her ever ever after.

I think this movie wanted to be very much like Enchanted (aside from the obvious The Little Mermaid), but it failed to capture the magic of that film. Its idea of romantic love was having a character deliver the line, “With or without your tail, kahit amoy palengke ka pa, bottomline is mahal na mahal kita”. I guess it was meant to be sweet, but overall this mermaid out of water story felt very (insert Ariel’s voice here) what’s that word again… bilasa.

2. I actually thought the movie never recovered from the moment Chantel (Janella Salvador) cracked a joke during her birthday party, “My late mother would be proud of me. Oh, she’s not dead! She’s just late.” Nyek! And that was only ten minutes in.

The only source of fun I had was listening to every properly enunciated word coming out of her mouth (Tita Lea Salonga would be proud). It might be intentional (I’d like to say it was more fortuitous), but Janella sounded very much like a theater actress. If Atlantis Productions would ever stage The Little Mermaid again locally, I’m sure she would be great in the lead role.

3. Wait, if Chantel was a mermaid, why didn’t she have any problems living and breathing in a water-free environment? Instead of a bathtub, she spent her days on a bed. Or even jumping (!!) around from room to room (let me see you do that, Ariel!). Seriously, if I had scaly legs, I would always make sure they were properly moisturized.

4. I couldn’t get over the fact that Chantel immediately accepted that she grew a palikpik overnight, but fainted in the bathroom at the sight of Noah’s (Elmo Magalona), uhm, baby shark?

5. To be fair, the production design and the underwater photography looked really good. One of the very few clever bits here was when Chantel surfaced on the beach with a plastic bag on her head. Environmental awareness from a fantasy film? Not bad. Liked the theme song, too.

6. Speaking of fantasy film, you know you were watching one when spoiled rich kid Chantel looked giddy and excited upon seeing the racks of wonderful clothes that were available in… Robinson’s Department Store.

7. Burning questions:

• When Chantel broke into the highest falsetto and cracked her mirror, how did Noah’s designer glasses remain intact?

• Did Chantel readily own a pair of orange seashell bikini top to match her tail? (More importantly, how much do they cost in Robinson’s Department Store?)

• When Noah mentioned that being in a wheelchair was the latest fashion craze in New York, how dumb were those kids to believe him? And how many PWDs did he actually offend?

8. Chantel was head over heels in love with Ethan (Kiko Estrada) even if he had Keempee de Leon hair and dressed very much like a typical 50ish gay uncle who was on vacation from Saudi Arabia. Didn’t she smell anything fishy?

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

I, TONYA (Craig Gillespie, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on I, Tonya:

1. Very much like Tonya Harding, I had always used my asthma as an excuse to get out of any sport requiring physical contact (or just about any sport really). Maybe that was the reason why I never had any interest in basketball or baseball or soccer, not even volleyball. Although I watched a little bit of tennis, the events that made me switch channels from HBO to ESPN involved gymnastics (more artistic than rhythmic) and figure skating (ladies’ singles mostly).

There was just a certain level of excitement while waiting for these tumbling and spinning girls to properly stick their landing. For me, these two were the only things that made the quadrennial Olympics worth watching (plus diving, but for different reasons obviously).

2. My favorite figure skater of all time would have to be Michelle Kwan since she was able to perfectly merge the technical and artistic requirements of the sport (her signature spirals were to die for!). I also loved her personality and would never forget her inspirational line when she ended up second in Nagano (“I didn’t lose the gold. I won the silver!”).

My other favorite would be Surya Bonaly, the infamous bad girl of skating who would always raise a middle finger to the judges with her illegal, signature backflip. Will & Grace actually had an episode devoted to her and it was one of the funniest in the series.

3. Which brings me to the villains of figure skating, the women that I really hated and secretly wished that they would land on their butts after their salchows and axels. One would be Tara Lipinski, who never did anything bad really except that I found her incredibly annoying. The other would be convicted felon Harding, who was definitely involved in the kneecapping of close competitor Nancy Kerrigan.

4. I still remember that incident like it was yesterday, the images of a wailing Nancy breaking my heart into pieces. So I was really surprised when that exact same scene was recreated here and my reaction was… a giggle. I knew that I was going straight to hell because of that, but it was just too hard not to let out a guilty reaction when it was played for laughs and it was detestably, weirdly funny.

Maybe that was the entire point of this “irony-free, wildly contradictory, totally true” story. It wanted to change the perception that Harding wasn’t just the spoiled diva that whined about her loose skates in Lillehammer, that she was also a victim of circumstances and had no involvement in the crime. I never believed any second of this film, but it successfully made me cry. And laugh. A lot. And full of guilt.

5. Most of its success relied on the phenomenal, career-defining performance of Margot Robbie. She looked nowhere near the real Harding (and reminded me more of Jamie Pressly), but she made the character more understandable. You could see her motives and weaknesses and how some of her faulty choices were due to an overbearing mother and a troubled marriage (that included domestic violence). It was very much like watching Black Swan on ice, except that only the star’s career died in the end.

This woman blamed everything from puberty to her faulty laces for all the disappointments in her life, and yet I still felt an ounce of sympathy for her. Again, a pure testament to Robbie’s acting. Her courtroom scene alone when she learned the verdict that she was banned from skating again was simply heartbreaking (“I’d rather do the jail time!”). Feeling bad for a criminal? A testament to the power of this film.

6. “Behind every successful woman is a pushy mother” had never been more true. As Harding’s mother, Allison Janney was vicious, despicable, and relatable to any Asian kid that had a Tiger mom. I was thankful that I didn’t have to pee in my pants because my mother didn’t allow any bathroom breaks during my karate lessons and I never had a knife thrown at me for talking back at her, but I knew exactly where LaVona Golden was coming from (her line of “Oh please! Show me a family that doesn’t have their ups and downs” after that knife scene was a killer.) She even actually complained directly at the camera (so many breaking the fourth wall moments here!) with “Well, my storyline is disappearing. What the fuck?!”. How could you completely hate her (bird on shoulder and all)?

7. Whenever Harding would compare herself to some of the most popular people (“I was the second most known person in the world next to Bill Clinton!”, “I was the Charles Barkley of figure skating!”), I was reminded of the same delusions of grandeur displayed by Nicole Kidman as Suzanne Stone in the equally wicked To Die For. (Go watch!!)

8. I really liked how this was so loving and brutal at the sport as well. One judge said something like this to Harding, “It’s never been entirely about skating. You’re not the image we want to represent” and I realized how unfair the scores could be to these athletes. Judged for your personality and not just your performance? They never had this problem in basketball.

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: ★★★☆☆