ISA PA, WITH FEELINGS (Prime Cruz, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Isa Pa, With Feelings:

1. As a certified reality-competition junkie, one of my favorite shows is that cheesy, Eezy Dancing-like US program called Dancing with the Stars. If the title isn’t a giveaway, it’s a dance competition program where washed up film and TV stars and/or B-list celebrities from other arenas (music, sports, politics) are willing to make fools of themselves (sorry, I mean learn the art of dance and prove their worth) on national TV.

In a previous season, America’s Next Top Model hottie Nyle DiMarco defied all odds by giving stunning performances week after week before finally winning the coveted Mirror Ball trophy. Oh yeah, he’s Deaf by the way. Imagine not being able to hear the music (relying on just vibrations) and still move in perfect rhythm with his professional ballroom partner like he’s the king of the dance floor. It would be an understatement to say that I was in tears after his every number.

I had the exact same feeling of awe and (tears of) joy when Deaf Gali (Carlo Aquino) performed that lovely contemporary routine with Hearing Mara (Maine Mendoza) during this film’s climactic dance recital. Teacher Geleen Eugenio really taught them well.

2. There’s something about Maine’s smile that can light up an entire room. When Mara woke up on the day of her licensure exam and started prepping by nonchalantly dancing around in her condo, the oldie in me wanted to slap her silly for not taking things seriously (neng, make or break moment ito mag-last review ka o ayusin mo ang mga requirements na dadalhin mo hindi ito Carefree commercial juskong mahabagin), but the growing hatred simply disappeared as soon as she grinned from utter embarrassment (oops, cutie neighbor alert!). Also, (insert “super gwapo ni Carlo nakakababa ng self-esteem leche” here).

Even with a few noticeable acting tics (mostly broad reactions to look funny) carried over from her Kalyeserye days, I was happy to see that Maine was able to flex her dramatic skills here. As in magaling talaga siya that I literally said “And galing naman” in every scene where she was required to cry (after seeing that she failed the exams, during that touching moment when she hugged her mom after a heartbreak, and that entire “Gali, mahal kita eh” sequence). It was also fun to see her DubSmash skills put to good use during that hilarious “Matitikman nila ang ganti ng isang api!” reenactment.

(Of course, Carlo was amazing as well because I cried every time he cried and laughed every time he laughed and turned into a teenage girl every time he smiled. If you still need more words to describe his performance here, simply look up all the synonyms of exceptional in the dictionary.)

Side note: As a lapsed fan, kinikilig ako na 2019 is actually the year of AlDub. Ang laki ng growth nina Alden and Maine as artists in their separate projects. Sana the rest will learn from this, risk on new material, and continue to explore outside of their standard love teams.

3. One of the things that I loved about this film was all of those moments of silence, not just to let us better understand Gali’s perspective, but also because we didn’t need an intrusive musical score to make us feel things in every poignant scene. The amount of restraint here considering that this was still a commercial local rom-com was truly commendable.

4. It was nice to be reminded that we should be grateful for things that we usually just take for granted. One of my pet peeves whenever I have food delivered at home would be the constant buzzing of the doorbell (because seriously, once or twice should suffice). And yet there are people in the world like Gali who wouldn’t even know that he had a package waiting outside his room because there was just no way to properly notify him. I guess it’s true that you will always meet someone who will definitely put things in perspective.

Speaking of, that entire Christmas lights concept turned me into a weeping mess. After exposing us to simple things that end up as major challenges faced by the Deaf community (Gali’s expressions said it all during that entire package fiasco), it was a joy to see him smile (and tear up) after Mara’s plan worked. Loved the callback on that one, too. That uber romantic slash heartbreaking scene involving a famous pop song and blinking lights would probably end up as my favorite moment in Philippine Cinema 2019.

(Plus points for completely wiping out the trauma of the use of Christmas lights in Stranger Things.)

5. It was amusing to watch the audience imitate and learn some basic phrases during the couple’s Sign Language 101 sessions. I mean, isn’t it great that we would all walk out of that theater knowing another way to say “Hello”, “Thank you”, and “Sorry” with the proper expressions and emotions? Of course if I were Mara, I would have asked Gali to teach me the most important words first (curse words, naturally!) because that’s a pre-requisite in every new language.

(Another side note: In college, I had a lot of Filipino-Chinese classmates from Xavier and they told me that the most important phrases to remember were “piao si di siao siao” and “di lanciao bin”. Surely I’m all prepped for that return visit to Shanghai.)

6. Sad facts: i) There are not enough Deaf schools in our country, ii) Most parents of Deaf kids do not know how to sign, iii) There are insensitive people in the world like Vangie Labalan’s character who referred to Gali as “di mo aakalain na may diperensya”. (Tawagin ulit ang Undin, please!!)

7. Burning questions:

• Whatever happened to Mara’s dreams of becoming an architect? Will she finally prep properly and take that exam seriously? Did her father (Cris Villanueva) roll up that tarp and keep for future use?

• Why didn’t we get a payoff on those sign language sessions? Is Mara’s niece still waiting for that special surprise?

• Is “Were you worried about me?” the newest pick-up line?

• How were they able to afford those condo units? And who do I need to call to replace our doorbell with blinking Christmas lights?

• With lines like “Puro de lata ang kinakain mo, magkaka-UTI ka!!”, is Mara’s mother (Lotlot de Leon) actually related to mine?

• What was that siomai stand doing in a party, aside from serving as product placement for SIOGO? (Sio clean! Sio good!)

• Gali literally jumping to Mara’s condo was a metaphor that he was taking a leap of faith on their relationship, yes?

• Will the LTO permanently suspend Mara’s license for being so accident-prone?

• “Mahal ba talaga natin yung jowa/asawa natin ngayon kung sino at ano siya, o minahal lang natin siya dahil lagi siyang nandiyan para sa atin?” (Require your significant other to answer this in less than five sentences.)

8. Ganda ng communication gaps shown throughout their love story. The use of cellphones in lieu of spoken words and signs (ang inspired nung text messages flashed between their condos), the times they both felt OP while in two different parties (although the Deaf crowd felt more welcoming, no? Well, except for that intrimidida girl), and the acceptance of their differences plus sacrifices they were both willing to make with that touching “Then I’ll be deaf for you” line. Wala talagang hadlang kapag mga puso na ang nag-uusap. ❤️

Rating: ★★★★☆

THE HOWS OF US (Cathy Garcia-Molina, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Hows of Us:

1. If you’re an old soul (read: an oldie afraid to admit that he’s beyond his prime) like me, you probably have downloaded and played Homescapes (currently ranked #73 in the Apple App Store) where your goal was to build this dream house and decorate it with all types of furniture. The first five minutes of this movie reminded me so much of that game, with George (Kathryn Bernardo) and Primo (Daniel Padilla) providing the voiceover while they selected the perfect couch for their living room. That scene culminated in a huge shouting match that signalled the end of their relationship before transitioning to a split screen sequence that was completely lifted from Kalyeserye (I swear I could hear an instrumental version of Rey Valera’s Kahit Maputi na ang Buhok Ko in the background, a song I have associated with AlDub ever since I died of kilig from their McDonald’s commercial heydays). And then it turned into a Mannequin Challenge with the camera moving around while the pair pretended to be serious contenders in a game of stop dance. Wait, were they aiming to do a recap of pop culture references for this decade?

2. I honestly expected this to be KathNiel’s response to the critical success of JaDine’s Never Not Love You, but it simply lacked the depth and maturity (in terms of characters and story) needed to display their growth as artists (insert that meme of Tyra Banks screaming “I was rooting for you! We were all rooting for you!!”).

Hearing Kathryn utter the word “Putangina!” repeatedly just wasn’t enough, especially if you would consider a Miss Granny like Sarah Geronimo saying vulgar words like “puke” and “hindot” in her most recent film. While their screen rivals tackled weighty themes like long distance relationships and adult responsibilities, the biggest conflict in this movie was whether George should continue with her jeepney ride to take her med school exam or scream “para!” to get down and help a drunk Primo who was slumped on the road. These were supposed to be real people problems? Seryoso?

Side note: I guess it spoke a lot about the maturity of these characters that the fans still shrieked their lungs out every time the lovebirds kissed.

3. Dear Star Cinema, wasn’t it too early to start recycling elements from your recent hits? There were so many things here that reminded me so much of Starting Over Again from George’s line of “In him, I saw a good man…” to that supposedly sensual flirtation reminiscent of Toni Gonzaga’s stepladder scene down to that drunk rant of George with her gay BFF (Juan Miguel Severo) that never reached the comedic heights of Beauty Gonzalez’s “Yang hope na yan, lason yan” moment. I’m sure you have a strong pool of writers. Wala na bang bago? (As in Susan Africa played a Tita Lola role and ended up dead after a few scenes.)

4. If anything, Kathryn looked so gorgeous here (with or without her EO Optical contacts) and I’d have to commend her for making the most out of her thinly-written character. She only had one off moment when she was required to overact like crazy in that “Pagod na pagod na pagod na ako!” scene. Otherwise, she was actually good in her dramatic scenes (even if she played a selfish girlfriend required to say lines like “Wala kang pambili kahit cupcake man lang para sa akin?”) and was even better during the (abruptly) comedic second half. She seemed headed back to her glorious Magkaribal/Mara Clara days. Really happy for her!!

And no amount of Daniel sporting a horrible mullet and looking like a deranged version of Lady Diane (“Sa-sa-Saddami ng problema natin!”) minimized the fact that this tandem could still deliver the requisite kiligs. My favorite moment had to be that cringey-sweet hugot of Primo: “Matagal na naman akong talo eh simula nung hinayaan kong mawala ka”. Awww!

(P.S. Ang galing na nila umarte pareho. Please give them the movie that they deserve!!)

5. I had seen the entire filmography of Maricel Soriano so I know that that entire splitting of the house with masking tape gag was already done with much better results in Kung Kaya Mo, Kaya Ko Rin! (and yes, it was also just copied from a much earlier film with Dolphy and Nida Blanca or some other Philippine Cinema legends that I was too lazy to Google). If I remembered it correctly, there was also a scene where Cesar Montano played his guitar and tried to win back Maricel through a harana. And when Maricel’s BFF Ruby Rodriguez decided to visit the house, she had to drag her over to her side because the rest of the space was off-limits. All of those exact same scenes were in this movie. Again, wala na bang bago?

6. In one clunky scene, George and Primo were selling their “conjugal” ancestral home to a potential buyer (Odette Khan) and after stating that it really didn’t have much value, Primo countered that it did have a lot of history and special memories, thus making it priceless. And I kept thinking, “Totoo ba? Ano naman paki ng buyer sa memories na yan?” so I was really surprised when she instead replied with “I like it! Eto na ang pera!” Huwaaaat?

7. Real jokes delivered while the lovebirds biked around Amsterdam:

• “Bakit ang daming nag-ba-bike dito?” “Eh bike-it naman hindi?”

• “Anong instrumento ang favorite sa Amsterdam?” “Eh di Amsterdrums!”

• “Ano ang favorite pet sa Amsterdam?” “Eh di Hamsterdam!”

• “Ano ang paboritong kainin sa Amsterdam?” “Eh di Hamsterdam and Cheese!”

Should I continue? AMSTERDAMMIT!!

8. “Sana samahan mo pa rin ako in finding out the answers to all the hows.” Hahahaha! Naipilit pa rin ang title.

But seriously, after My Ex and Whys and The Hows of Us, I wonder if Star Cinema still has plans of using the remaining 4W’s. Who Who Belles? What’s Upon a Time? Ready to Where? When Dramas? Oh, too punny!!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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.)

‪ENTENG KABISOTE 10 AND THE ABANGERS (Tony Reyes, Marlon Rivera, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Enteng Kabisote 10 and the Abangers:

1. I already wasted two hours of my life watching this movie and I figured that I wouldn’t want to waste more time writing down these notes, but then it would be a crime not to share my grueling experience and let other people suffer the same fate. So let me start with these brilliant lines that might convince you to rethink that planned family bonding to the cinema:

• Joey de Leon as Pandoy, Alalay ng Panday: “Pang-araw lang yun kaya Pang-Day. Ang pangalan ko kapag gabi, Pang-Gay.” And then he swished and sashayed down the corridor. Groan.

• Ken Chan and Bea Binene getting scared from an approaching villain: “May tatlong bibe akong nakita. Mataba, mapayat, mga bibe.” HUH?! Groan.

• Vic Sotto on Aiza Seguerra: “Akalain mo mahilig pala sa itlog ang batang yun.” Groan.

• An employee of Enteng Kabisote Robotics introducing the new Iron Man-like costume: “Eto ang bagong Kalba Kalba Kalba Kameleon.” Groan.

• Bossing to his four employees speaking in unison: “Nag-duet pa kayong apat ha!” HUH?! Groan.

2. As a huge fan of the Okay Ka, Fairy Ko TV series, I could only cry in my seat while seeing this tenth film installment mutate into the lamest Marvel wannabe. Ina Magenta had the right instincts about Enteng Kabisote after all. The ending even had the gall to hint at another sequel. Kapag natuloy ito, ako na mismo ang magsisimula ng Infinity War.

3. Infer, ang lakas maka-gwapo ng ash silver hair ni Bossing. I might try that shade soon.

4. Poor Epy Quizon was in full acting na acting mode even if his character didn’t really have much to do except be included in an embarrassing battle sequence ala Mortal Kombat set to the Tatlong Bibe Remix.

5. Most of the jokes were as outdated as Pandoy. The extended walling montage set to April Boy Regino’s Di Ko Kayang Tanggapin was just annoying. That Madam Oring line? Eek! And they still had a stale Pabebe Girls reference. Wala na talagang ibang maisip?

6. Why were Alden Richards and Maine Mendoza (in ugly heavy eyeliner! as a huge fan, I am incensed beyond belief) inserted in every Bohol scene even if their characters didn’t really serve any purpose? How many times did Bossing have to ask the perennial “Kayo na ba?” question before it started getting old? Were the filmmakers scared to shortchange AlDub Nation lest they get burned at the stakes set up in Kamuning?

7. If there was one good thing here, I only noticed a single product placement (for O+). Consider that one tiny step for mankind.

8. I couldn’t stop laughing at the drones that looked like they were purchased from CD-R King. Also, why did the team spend a lot of time assembling one drone when Oyo Boy Sotto’s character could magically reproduce the same thing pala?

9. During the climactic fight scene, laser beams were shooting out of Bossing’s groin while he furiously pumped his hips (or more appropriately, made kadyot motions).

Yes, this is really the kind of family movie that kids should be watching for Christmas.

‪Rating: ★☆☆☆☆‬

IMAGINE YOU & ME (Michael Tuviera, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Imagine You & Me:

1. Hi, I’m Json and I am a lapsed AlDub fan. (Hi, Json!) I joined the bandwagon right before a wall separated Alden and Yaya Dub in Kalyeserye and jumped off a little after their love team’s debut fizzled in My Bebe Love. Although I continued to receive updates from some die-hard friends, I was still pleasantly surprised to witness the newfound chemistry that they had been raving about. In this movie, AlDub had indeed moved on to being MaiChard and everything just felt right…and real.

2. Could someone explain Maine Mendoza’s appeal to the older crowd? Whenever I watched this type of rom-com, most of the shrieking would come from teenage girls (and directed at the male lead, like Daniel Padilla or James Reid), but I swear about half the people screaming and getting their fill of kilig in our screening were older women (even grandmothers!) rooting for Maine (as Gara). They could very well have been watching the newest Sampaguita or LVN picture.

3. I didn’t have high hopes when the movie started with “Sabi nila ang pag-ibig ay…” and then showed a montage of star-crossed lovers, especially since this quirky style and formula had been trademarked and more effectively used by Dan Villegas and Antoinette Jadaone, but the story progressed much better than expected (up until the dreary final moments).

The movie rested heavily on Maine’s tiny shoulders and she more than delivered, keeping the first thirty or so Alden-less minutes brisk, light, and fun to watch, whether she was getting dumped by her gay boyfriend, lamenting her supposedly cursed lovelife, or simply getting off her bike because the road was “matarik”. I probably laughed the most when she took a selfie with that pader (kasi wala naman talagang ganung pader sa Pilipinas haha!).

4. Elapsed time before the first advertisement: one minute-ish (Magnolia), probably the fastest one so far in recent memory. I wasn’t surprised to see a barrage of other products (including McDonald’s and O+) figure prominently in the story. In one scene where Alden Richards was supposedly drunk, I think there was even a hint of Bench underwear peeking under his jeans (or was I just too fixated on that area?).

5. I really liked how Alden (as Andrew) was always on the verge of tears in every scene (whenever he wasn’t being bugnutin). The movie was able to play on his strength as a dramatic actor and he could easily give John Lloyd Cruz (or even Judy Ann Santos) a run for best crier in local cinema. My favorite scene of his was the videoke session (“Wala ako sa kondisyon eh”, “Ano ‘to grand finals?”) ending with him crying over a sappy Tagalog love song. (Side note: Alden seems to be such a genuine person. I really get that strong vibe from him.)

6. “Mag-ingat ka sa mga lalaking mapuputi na ganyan. Mga pa-fall ang mga ‘yan.” – Kakai Bautista referring to…

(Yang tataaaaaaaa?)

7. There were so many gorgeous shots of Italy and I’m sure that a lot of people would start saving up just to experience grabbing the right breast of Juliet’s statue in Verona. (Hey, if I were to touch one again it might as well be for good luck.) I really liked that tracking shot that followed the pair going in and out of the adjacent rooms and veranda (overlooking a mountain view) with them barely missing each other.

8. Loved Jasmine Curtis-Smith since Transit and she was good here as the leukemia-stricken third party, but it felt like her character’s arc was unnecessary (besides, wouldn’t it have been more depressing if Gara was competing with a dead girl?). Actually, the entire dramatic third act including the last minute (out of nowhere) accident felt forced and didn’t earn the tears (similar to that rant of Gara after she was accused of stealing, “Oo mahirap lang ako…”; where did that come from, such a weird transition).

9. Carpool karaoke officially became a staple in local rom-coms. Although it was fun to see Gara sing April Boy Regino’s Di Ko Kayang Tanggapin, it was still hard to believe that Andrew would have that in his playlist. As one character said, “Makikilala mo ang isang tao sa song choices niya” and I could have sworn snobby Andrew was the Ed Sheeran type.

10. “Kaya naimbento ang glue, para kahit gaano kawasak ang isang bagay, pwede pa ring mabuo.” Sigh.

11. My favorite nods to AlDub:

• Gara during the car sing-along, “Eh sa gusto kong mag Dubsmash.” (Although it wasn’t technically a Dubsmash.)

• Gara asking, “Hindi ka nagulat na NBSB ako. Sinasabi mo bang panget ako?” (Wink wink, haters.)

• That Tamang Panahon reference.

• July 16, 2016 written on the lock that they left on Juliet’s wall (Happy anniversary! For real?).

12. If you’re a big believer of fate and destiny ala Romeo and Juliet (“Ang bawat coincidence ay nakatakda na”), then you would really enjoy this movie. I had my reservations since I belong in the “I create my own destiny” team.

13. Prepare your ears for that second sweet kiss (since the first happened while one of them was in a coma). You have been warned.

Also, this may not be a Marvel movie, but stay until the very end of the closing credits. Confirmed!!

Rating: ★★★☆☆

BEAUTY AND THE BESTIE (Wenn Deramas, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Beauty and the Bestie:

1. Ever since Petrang Kabayo became a huge hit (and after close to a dozen collaborations), you already knew what to expect from a Vice Ganda-Wenn Deramas movie. It was the same old formula recycled to death (insult one-liners, Pinoy pop culture parodies, endless sight gags, lowbrow slapstick, etc.) and your enjoyment depended on how you embraced this kind of humor.

BATB was still trashy to a fault but at least it was really funny. (Deramas had been vocal about the goal of his movies and he actually succeeded on this one.)

2. That awful anti-piracy ad with Derek Ramsay was ripe for a parody and the movie really got it right (eskinita chase, Kristoffer King, tomatoes and all). Maybe we should have replaced that one with this so that everyone could have a great laugh before each screening. Runner-up for best parody: the Ate waitress Happy Birthday dance.

3. Sample brand of humor:

Vice and his stand on riding in tandem…

“Paano gaganda ang buhay mo sa pagsakay sa motorsiklo na yan? Bumbay ka ba?”

Vice on the importance of skincare…

“Bakit di yang mga pores mo ang isara mo dahil bukas na bukas?”

Coco Martin displaying his English proficiency…

“Alam mo kung bakit di kita pinapansin? Kasi di kita maintindihan Ingles ka ng Ingles.”

4. Speaking of Coco, I was happy to see that he has improved a lot as a comedian. His best moments were those where he wasn’t even trying (twerking like a hot mess, taking advantage of his lisp by saying things like Elith Thupher Thecreth Thask Force, or making a fist by instinct when Vice tried to kiss him). Maybe it was time for him to rest from all the heavy drama and explore his rom-com leading man potential instead.

5. Not all of the jokes worked but those that did were just hilarious. Inasmuch as I really enjoyed that Hold On car sequence, I probably laughed the loudest in that whole Japanese restaurant fishpond scene.

I mean seriously, what was the most embarrassing thing you had done in an upscale resto? Had you ever chewed on the compressed table napkin? Mistook the bowl of water for hand washing as soup? Spill!

6. The JaDine romance (similar to AlDub’s in My Bebe Love) was completely disposable. Although Nadine Lustre was really game, the tandem’s love story was obviously just included to pull in the teen audience (and the love team’s ginormous fan base). All was forgiven though because James Reid bared his abs.

7. Further proof that Jacky Woo was the only available actor that can play Japanese characters in local cinema.

8. If you were keeping track of Deramas’ fascination with videogames, here was a rundown:

Praybeyt Benjamin 1 – Angry Birds
Praybeyt Benjamin 2 – Plants vs. Zombies and Dota
Beauty and the Bestie – Fruit Ninja

What else did I miss?

9. I felt bad that Miss International 2013 Bea Rose Santiago had to fart during the beauty pageant. Definitely not something fit for a queen. And speaking of queens, Vice Ganda’s got legs for days, no?

10. In one scene, I watched in horror as Nadine paraded onscreen wearing a horrible off-shoulder yellow blouse and pleated grey skirt combo. In a hospital. The fact that Vice made a brutal joke about it made me love him even more. Grabe sya oh!!

Rating: ★★★☆☆