300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE (Noam Murro, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on 300: Rise of an Empire:

1. I felt cheated that after being exposed to excessive violence the only sex scene got cut. Why bother with a R-16 rating?

2. I wonder if Alma Moreno received a cut for her copyrighted tangga.

3. Wow, those crotches (especially Xerxes’) looked like they weighed a ton. I’m surprised these Spartans could still walk.

4. Where did those abs come from? Everyone in town had them but nobody’s hitting the gym. I want what they’re eating!

5. Rodrigo Santoro had gorgeous eyes. He should be the next Cover Girl Lash Blast Mascara endorser.

6. I bet the movie’s running time would be half as short without all of those slo-mo sequences.

7. Why is there so much dirt floating onscreen?

8. Eva Green was the single best thing in this movie. I cowered in fear before her. Can we resurrect a Bond Girl please?

(Side note: Never say no to a woman or you’ll end up with blood-splattered screens or blue balls.)

9. I stopped caring after the giant arowana scene.

10. Guys, it’s payback time for being dragged by your girlfriends in Starting Over Again.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published March 10, 2014.)

MGA BILANGGONG BIRHEN (Mario O’Hara, Romy Suzara, 1977)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

70’s Pinoy class warfare. At eto yung panahon na ang halaga ng isang babae ay katumbas lamang ng dalawang kambing.

Napaka-pwetic nung train scene kung san itinutulak ng apat na nakahubad na alipin ang isang bagon habang may rape na nagaganap sa loob.

Kaso san nanggaling yung biglang Midsommar sa dulo? Bakit parang dinagdag lang para makita ang dede ni LoveliNess (na without reservation ay isa talaga sa pinakamagandang mukha in Philippine showbiz).

Sobrang galing nina Armida Siguion-Reyna at Leroy Salvador dito. Pero ang pinaka-memorable for me ay si Monang Carvajal as Doña Sagrada. Parang mas gugustuhin ko pa na sampalin ang sarili ko kesa murahin niya paulit-ulit (and in malutong na Spanish pa) huhu.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

MGA ANAK NG KAMOTE (Carlo Catu, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

The first twenty minutes that resembled a well-crafted ST mystery really made me believe that I would end up loving this film. But then it turned into a futuristic political satire where sweet potatoes were banned like marijuana and it completely lost me.

I appreciated the restrained performance of Katrina Halili here (and she looked very much a screen goddess, like a young Alma Moreno). I really wish this went all out as a Diligin Mo ng Arnibal ang Uhaw Kong Kamote.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published September 13, 2018.)

JACQUELINE COMES HOME: THE CHIONG STORY (Ysabelle Peach, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Jacqueline Comes Home: The Chiong Story:

1. Back in October of 2012, I was able to watch this little-known documentary called Give Up Tomorrow about the controversial 1997 rape and murder case of Cebu City’s Chiong Sisters. It worked very much like a true crime drama (ala Netflix’s Making a Murderer or the Serial podcast) that presented convincing arguments on the wrongful conviction of Paco Larrañaga (and the rest of the Chiong Seven) and doubled as an exposé on the filthy Philippine justice system. Only a handful of us in that theater watched as a corrupt and broken system destroyed the life of an innocent young man.

I was pleasantly surprised to see the resurgence of this film (made free) online because of the promotions for Jacqueline Comes Home (if there was one good thing that came out of this exploitative massacre movie, it was that at least it generated renewed interest on the case and started a public outcry). GUT had a clear agenda though so I had always wondered if there were facts or details omitted to establish a more foolproof argument. The Chiongs (especially Mrs. Chiong) were also portrayed in such a bad light that it was hard for the public to sympathize with them even if they were victims themselves.

JCH really piqued my interest because this was supposed to be their version of the story and I wanted to see if they had any other pasabog up their sleeves. It was their chance to come up with a reply to GUT’s incredibly well-made presentation of evidence after solid evidence. Sadly, JCH’s version (or as the disclaimer at the start of the movie would like to call it, “loosely inspired by a retelling of a tragic story”) chose to focus on ghostly apparitions and the Lord directly communicating (ala Big Brother) to Mrs. Thelma Chiong (Alma Moreno). (No, He didn’t ask if she had reservations on the RH Law.) There wouldn’t be enough facepalm emojis to describe this tragedy.

2. I hadn’t fully recovered yet from Carlo J. Caparas’ Angela Markado and yet there I was on the very first day of screening watching an exact copycat of his notorious 90’s massacre movies this time directed by his daughter Ysabelle Peach. If you had seen all of his infamous subtitled classics from Vizconde Massacre (God, Help Us!) to The Marita Gonzaga Rape Slay (In God We Trust!), this one would be incredibly familiar. It had:

• the requisite beach scene to establish a happy family whose lives would be ruined by a senseless crime

• a group of despicable villains armed with cartoonish maniacal laughs (in this version, “Sonny” was played by Ryan Eigenmann, invoking the spirit of 90’s John Regala, and he was tasked to spout words like “pendejo!” and “hijo de puta!” out of the blue just in case people forget that he was actually playing “Paco”

• a confusing interweaving timeline

• the ghosts of the victims asking for justice (in one scene, Marijoy Chiong played by Ultimate Kakaibabe Donnalyn Bartolome stood at the foot of the ravine where she was pushed to her death as a badly-bruised ghost trying to catch a bouquet of flowers thrown by her living boyfriend, eek!)

• gratuitous rape and violence misdirected to elicit sympathy (where one of the rapists kept screaming, “Sharing is caring!”)

• and, it wouldn’t be complete without Joel Torre (as Mr. Dionisio Chiong) overacting in the worst possible way to show immense grief at the death of a loved one (see also: Lipa Massacre, Lord Deliver Us From Evil!).

3. I was surprised that Meg Imperial played the bespectacled Jacqueline Chiong since she looked more like Marijoy (and vice-versa). The latter role also required somebody who could effectively convey fear (in this version, Sonny/Paco was a stalker) and no amount of lip-quivering and nail-biting made me think for a second that Donnalyn was genuinely threatened. She even had to verbally state multiple times that she was scared (“Nakakatakot! Iba sya tumingin Ate!”). Hala paulit-ulit?

Side note: One of the most disgusting things I read online stated something like “Why would a Spanish mestizo like Paco actually court and rape an unattractive Chiong sister when he could pay to have any beautiful woman he wanted?” Seryoso?? Rape culture and victim-blaming in 2018? Yan ang kadiri!

4. Remember that indelible scene in GUT with Mrs. Chiong laughing like a mad woman while saying that she would personally kill Paco if she ever saw him? It was such a powerful image that made it even hard to reconcile with this movie’s version of a meek and God-fearing lady who spent most of her time praying in Church.

There were moments here that could have worked in the Chiongs’ favor and probably helped depict their current grieving state to the public (scammers offering to return Jacqueline, how the rest of the family members were neglected after the tragedy, etc.) but they weren’t fully explored.

Instead it focused on blatantly revising documented facts with its portrayal of Davidson Rusia (billed as Nervous Boy) being non-complicit to the crime, the gang as serial rapists, and even the sisters getting abducted in a random waiting shed as opposed to Ayala Center Cebu. It also included a lot of irrelevant scenes where Sonny/Paco’s gang had a fight with barbecue vendors, hysterical protesters showed their support to the Chiong family, Spirit Questors communicated with the dead, and the most laughable one of all, a group of random Law students discussed the case, questioned the loopholes and assumed that some of the convicts might be innocent and then concluded by saying that we needed to trust our justice system because it would ultimately do the right thing. Talaga ba?! Guys, watch Give Up Tomorrow.

5. Feeling ko mas maayos pa yung TV movie na pinalabas during the trial. Yes, the one with Jennifer Sevilla and Niño Muhlach. I wonder if it would ever be made available online.

6. So did Jacqueline Come Home? No. Neglected youngest sister and Jacqueline-lookalike Debbie did. (Kung ano man ibig sabihin nun.)

Honestly, I was very disappointed that this movie wasn’t called Jacqueline Comes Home (Jusko Lord!).

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

THE THIRD PARTY (Jason Paul Laxamana, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Third Party:

1. In the latest teaser of Bakit Lahat ng Gwapo May Boyfriend?, the character of Anne Curtis provided a helpful checklist to determine if a guy was check na check na check. She must have missed sending this memo to the hospital where Max (Sam Milby) and Christian (Zanjoe Marudo) worked because everyone there was oblivious to the fact that these two smart, attractive (matte makeup on fleek!), clean-looking, dapper, perfectly-coiffed doctors were actually gay. I would love to be in that non-judgmental hospital where not one of the staff secretly wondered why these bachelors didn’t have wives or girlfriends and just swooned whenever the couple would rendezvous in the lobby.

I was almost certain Christian was the type that would play The Emancipation of Mimi in full blast in his office, but I guess nobody would still get a clue.

2. When the teaser for this one came out, some people quickly dismissed it as a rip-off of Pusong Mamon (that campy 90’s Joel Lamangan comedy with Lorna Tolentino, Albert Martinez, and Eric Quizon). I initially thought that it wasn’t anywhere near that flick since it didn’t even hint at a pregnant Andi (Angel Locsin).

Well, I was obviously wrong because it was indeed an updated version of that movie. Even with a few tweaks made (the biggest one being that the father of Andi’s baby was neither of the two), it was still the same surrogate mother cohabiting with the gay couple story. Weirdly enough, it focused less on the interactions between the three and more on Andi’s life story. Seriously, how many more times would we see Angel face these mother abandonment issues?

3. Didn’t we learn anything from the convoluted multi-subplots in Barcelona? Aside from Andi’s mother issues, we also had to deal with Max coming out to his homophobic father (but this being a Star Cinema movie, you already know how this would end) and perennial BFF Beauty Gonzalez prepping for her wedding. Her minor character even had a lengthy wedding scene where her vows were meant to serve as a reminder (or wake-up call?) to Andi’s character. Huh?

4. I couldn’t get over the fact that Max chose to come out to his ex-girlfriend in a noisy club. Shouldn’t this be treated as a sensitive matter that merited a heart-to-heart conversation over Starbucks frappucinos? Or at the very least McSpicy with Shake Shake fries?

In another scene, the gay couple decided to have a serious talk on the status of their relationship in an art gallery. Why?? So that the wall between them could serve as a metaphor for their crumbling relationship? Or so that Max could contemplate next to a wooden pregnant art piece? Insert eye roll here.

5. Zanjoe was really good here as the controlling second party. Ibang atake from his previous gay roles. His best gay performance to date though was in 24/7 In Love. Skip the other stories and watch his episode with Bea Alonzo. Completely heartbreaking.

On the other hand, Sam’s performance left a lot to be desired. I was actually happy that his character opened up this discussion on gender fluidity, but he just lacked the depth required for the role. He also still needed to work on his accent because he already had that slight twang even before his character flew to San Diego. At least his abs had a highlight of their own again. Plus, he had a scene where he gleefully ate a hotdog. Wala lang.

6. Oh, and I never believed for a second that Zanjoe and Sam were a couple. I could still feel the ilang factor and they lacked the warmth and sweetness to each other. Even the kiss simply felt mechanical. I suddenly had the urge to rewatch In My Life.

7. I laughed a little when Angel mentioned that she wanted to work in Australia. So Love Me Again (Land Down Under) didn’t give her enough nightmares? Also, another Darna reference. Will we get this in every Star Cinema movie until the 2017 film comes out?

8. Ultrasound scene. Street food chatter. Videoke scene. Same old, same old.

9. Andi to the couple: “Kung kayo ba merong double deck, saan kayo pwesto?” Sadly, that was never answered. (Or was Sam’s hotdog-eating scene the answer? Hmm.)

10. I recently mentioned the guilty pleasures of Nympha (“Ikaw lang ang lalaking kumakain ng apoy na matagal uminit!”) so I was happy to see Alma Moreno playing the aunt of Andi here. I wish she was given more to do than just make a piggy bank out of her ample cleavage, though. Not even a Loveliness-level campaign-worthy dance number? Sigh.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN (Tate Taylor, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Girl On The Train:

1. In the late 90’s/early 00’s, there was an onslaught of trashy suspense-thrillers (mostly based on or inspired by James Patterson novels) that were supposed to serve as female empowerment films. My favorite ones (and by favorite, I meant LOL guilty pleasure) starred Ashley Judd, the former action heroine slash patron saint of battered wives now relegated to playing Tris’ doormat mother. Her characters would always be tormented by these filthy men (the worst kind being her own husband) and she would always get her revenge through some clunky plot twist (in Double Jeopardy, she had the pleasure of killing her man because she was already falsely convicted of his murder and could not be tried for the same offense twice).

I missed that level of craziness while watching this 2016 version of rah-rah sisterhood (from the director of The Help, gasp!) that proved to be the exact opposite of the far superior Gone Girl (probably the weirdest version of a feminist film to hit the big screen). I completely lost interest in reading the novel this was based on as well.

2. Was it unfair to compare it to Gone Girl? Well, not really since everything here seemed to have been inspired by both the book and film versions. The main title’s font, the central mystery, the overlapping timelines, I could just imagine Amy Dunne throwing a mean bitch fit (with a kitchen knife, of course!).

3. Thank heavens for the excellent Emily Blunt who obviously pulled all the weight in this trainwreck. It was really scary to see a grown woman like Rachel drinking alcohol out of a thermos bottle and her finest moment happened early in the movie when she danced like a mad woman in the park to block out her sadness. I felt so bad for her character that I actually forgave her for wasting a tray of delicious-looking deviled eggs.

4. “Have you ever been on a train and started wondering about the lives of the people that live near the tracks?”

Obviously not, because I have no plans of ever riding the gnarly PNR and if I did to satisfy such morbid curiosity, I don’t think I would be able to look out the window. I’ll most probably end up wondering why the man next to me forgot to wear deodorant. Seriously though, with the speed of that train and its distance from the houses, how was Rachel even able to do all that snooping without binoculars?

5. Anybody who had seen What Lies Beneath would not easily fall for the blatant red herrings sprinkled all-throughout the movie. Its attempts to create a murder-mystery based on Rachel’s substance abuse problem was weak given the substantial lack of motive. If she was supposed to be too crazy in love to actually stalk her husband’s current wife on Facebook, then most of us could be charged guilty as well.

6. Haley Bennett looked like Jennifer Lawrence-lite with such a tiny waist that I wasn’t surprised that Rachel (or any woman for that matter) would want to snatch her extensions out of envy. It was also hard to empathize with her Megan character because during her Basic Instinct finger scene, she reminded me so much of Alma Moreno explaining her uncontrollable state of horniness in the Joey Gosengfiao cult classic Nympha (“Nag-iinit ang katawan ko tuwing nakakakita ako ng lalaki!!).

7. In one scene, new wife Anna was trying to figure out the password of her husband’s laptop. I wasn’t sure why she tried basic names (do people actually use just a name like Rachel as their secret password?), but I laughed really hard when she tried her own name and it was also incorrect. Masaklap ba teh? I wasn’t surprised when she rotated a corkscrew around his neck by the end of the film.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆