BOY TOKWA: LODI NG GAPO (Tony Reyes, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Boy Tokwa: Lodi ng Gapo:

1. Anak ng tokwa! I was hoping for a palate cleanser after the mediocrity (to put it lightly) of the recently concluded Metro Manila Film Festival, but I ended up with this problematic garbage (to put it lightly) as my very first movie of 2019. Which shouldn’t be a surprise since I started 2018 with the stinker Haunted Forest and ended it with Jack Em Popoy: The Puliscredibles. Why break tradition, right?

2. The movie opened with a disclaimer that it was inspired by a true story, but any similarities to actual persons or events were purely coincidental. Was that supposed to be a joke? Like the opening scene with the announcement of the arrival of Cebu Pacific flight 5JX while a clip of (I think) a non-Cebu Pacific plane was landing at Clark International Airport?

3. The cast of young unknowns (half of which looked like they were part of the Sotto clan, since Tito Sotto was a producer) were just awful. Everyone talked like they were communicating with dogs that lived three blocks away from SM Southmall. The ones that played the local relatives had an American twang even if they were just explaining what ukay-ukay meant. One had the unfortunate task of delivering this line: “Lodi ng Gapo? Petmalu! Boom panes!”. Like, eww.

4. Jose Manalo played the titular role who was some sort of Robin Hood in 1940’s Olongapo. He would con American soldiers into buying overpriced tuko (gecko?) or used smelly panties and then donate the money to the needy. He also cheated them a lot in poker games, but was supposedly just doing a heroic deed. As one character (Joey Marquez) described him, “Hindi siya katulad ng ibang con man na walang puso. May moral standards siya at hindi tuma-target ng mga Pinoy.” Eh di wow!

(In hindsight though, anybody willing to pay 250 dollars for funky-smelling underwear probably deserved their fate.)

5. The iconic Vangie Labalan was Mommy Tokwa. Nothing follows.

6. It’s already 2019 and the sources of humor here included a stutterer (“Pina-kiki-kiki-kiki-usapan ko pa…”), a Chinese character named Tsing Tsong Atsay (Epy Quizon) who used an abacus to compute his poker winnings, and a joke about a maliit na unan (unano, of course!). Woke social media… attack!!

7. Tito Sen, what happened to the movie’s budget? Why were the same American soldier extras and pokpok chorus walking in the background in every Olongapo scene? Why was a green screen used in the Guam tourist spots montage? Why didn’t they even change the name of Kandi Towers in Pampanga when it was supposed to substitute for a hotel in Guam?

On the other hand, four different actresses played Daughter Tokwa and yet they looked nothing like each other.

8. My favorite moment in the movie was when Boy Tokwa was abandoned by his wife and he started reading her goodbye letter. The voiceover screamed, “I AM LEAVING YOU BOY! YOU ARE NEVER SEEING US AGAIN!”. I imagined that the letter was also written in all caps.

Immediately after, Boy had a walling scene while wailing, “Juskopo, anong kasalanan ko?” and then the camera focused on an altar of religious images. Buti hindi nagsalita ang mga rebulto ng, “Anak, nanloko ka kasi ng mga ‘Kano. Karma yan.”

9. Sample dialogue that made me fart in my seat:

• Boy Tokwa courting his future wife with this bagung-bagong pick-up line: “Remember M, remember E, put them together, remember ME!”

• Millennial apo after the con man story: “In this house, we stan a generous low-low!”

• One of the Sotto kids on the phone with his mom (Karel Marquez): “Sometimes I like talking to Siri more than talking to you!”

• Girlfriend to one of the Sotto kids: “The stars shine so bright, but if you take a closer look, they burn deep inside… just like you.”

Repeat after me: Anak ng tokwa!!

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

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GOYO: ANG BATANG HENERAL (Jerrold Tarog, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral:

1. One of the first Tagalog poems I learned as a kid was taught to me by my grandfather (be forewarned, it wasn’t one of his shining moments) and it involved the bad boy of Philippine History (no, not Ace Vergel nor Robin Padilla). It went something like: “Andres Bonifacio, a-tapang a-tao. A-putok a-baril, hindi a-atakbo. A-putol a-utin, a-takbo a-tulin.” This humorous take on a national hero might sound disrespectful to some, but it was exactly how I felt with this ongoing Araling Panlipunan Trilogy of Jerrold Tarog that started with the puñeta-filled Heneral Luna.

Both films seemed to have been made as easily-digestible History nuggets because nobody really wanted to sit through a boring lecture. And so we got an abrasive, menacing portrayal of a general in the first film who would deliver some occasionally amusing Cesar Montano quips that the audience could laugh at while this second one had a subservient and confused young general who left a trail of broken hearts (and panties) like he was the first official fuccboi of the country.

2. I never knew that Gregorio del Pilar (Paulo Avelino, medyo malamya) was such a bland and uninteresting character whose life didn’t really merit a biopic. I’d always thought he was this glorious hero who took his last stand (and not a literal one) in the Battle of Tirad Pass. I’m sure there was more to him as the youngest general other than being a Don Juan.

Unfortunately, the fictional (right?) Joven Hernando (Arron Villaflor, who sounded like his testicles hadn’t descended yet) summed up the first hour best when he asked “Bakit puro romansa at panunuyo?”. It was obvious that Goyo (and in turn Avelino, with his gorgeous brown eyes that sparkled in the sunlight; wait, why wasn’t he moreno?) was so swoon-worthy that women would actually have a shade showdown while comparing themselves to mangoes (“Ako hinog, ikaw totoong bulok” or something equally icky to that effect). But shouldn’t there have been more to him than that?

I walked out of the theater with the takeaway that his only contribution in our rich history was a last minute realization that he had been Emilio Aguinaldo’s (Mon Confiado, great as always) lapdog. Yun na yun?

Seriously, Goyo the character couldn’t even serve as the crucial voiceover (read: voice of reason) in his own film.

3. I felt bad that the talented Carlo Aquino (who played Vicente Enriquez) couldn’t secure a lead role in this franchise (was it because he looked so cute and tiny like a keychain?). I did like the underlying homoerotic tension between him and Joven (because why else was he so protective of him?). And was I the only one that sensed this blooming “bromance” between Joven and Juan del Pilar (Carlo Cruz)? Ooh, a love triangle! (Or was that just some wishful thinking?)

Side note: That tampisaw sa batis scene. Not complaining at all.

4. I honestly couldn’t stand the acting of the kid that played Angelito so I wouldn’t even bother mentioning his name here. His lines consisted merely of cries of anguish/despair (“Kuyaaaaahhh!”, “Tamaaaah naaaahh!”) and he still couldn’t deliver them properly. Didn’t he learn anything from his Kuya Manuel Bernal (Art Acuña)? Awoooooo!!

5. Miss Granny reference: I was a bit disappointed that after all those pictures taken by the same photographer (Jojit Lorenzo) of the Forever Young Portrait Studio, Goyo didn’t turn into a Goyito (given his age though, if he turned fifty years younger, then he’d still be a sperm and this would have been a completely different kind of movie).

6. Bitterness 101 – Exhibit A:

Felicidad (Empress Schuck) to ex-jowa: “Kumusta?”

Goyo: “Mabuti! Ikaw?”

Felicidad: (deadma) (walk-out)

Move on, move on din pag may time. (Uso pa ba ‘to?)

7. Was the slang term “goyo” or “nagoyo” actually after the flirtatious general? I need the real etymology of this word please! My futile Google search led me to “weneklek” and “kukurikapu” instead.

8. Every peso of the movie’s reported Php160M budget was in full display here with its lush cinematography (that amazing shot of the troops marching on the mountainside during sunset, the magical Shape of Water-like underwater scene) and great production design.

9. I was excited to see the Battle of Tirad Pass especially with its dramatic twist of a local Igorot betraying the Philippine troops, but it didn’t really showcase anything interesting. It was just a lengthy sequence of some Pinoy mestiso actors pretending to be a bunch of American soldiers running around until they finally annihilated the locals. It was also odd that they continued to mine humor in such a serious situation (“Nakagat lang yan ng langgam sa bayag!”, “May bangin dyan!” and then a couple of Pinoy soldiers comically fell off a cliff, “Kam! Amerikan Welkam!”).

Even del Pilar’s death felt very anticlimactic (and un-heroic). Like a Superman film where Clark Kent never really wore his red trunks and cape because he was better off as a regular person. (But we paid to watch Superman, didn’t we?)

10. Burning questions:

• How long could one survive munching on just sugar cane? (Because you know, inflation.)

• The soldier named Daclan was actually Matt Daclan, right?

• Why couldn’t Apolinario Mabini (Epy Quizon) get his own movie? Echapwera na naman?

• During the mid-credits scene with a latex-faced, older Aguinaldo (still played by Confiado), why was the older Manuel Quezon on the poster played by a latex-faced TJ Trinidad? Were they not confident enough with the acting skills of Benjamin Alves?

• Wait, was the film trying to equate Emilio Aguinaldo with our current President? So did that make Goyo a misguided, egotistical, famewhore general who loved hogging the limelight (read: mahilig magpa-pogi)? Now I get my complete lack of interest.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

NOTTING HILL (Roger Michell, 1999)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Notting Hill:

1. No matter how many times I tried to repress the memory, I would never forget that I once played Julia Roberts as Anna Scott for a skit about absolute love (how apt!) in a college Philosophy class. Long story short, I couldn’t make the Hugh Grant character William Thacker believable since I obviously lacked his puppy eyes and boyish charm so our group leader thought of reversing the gender roles where I ended up voicing (since I apparently wasn’t too pretty to be Anna as well) the female part.

We recreated that entire iconic bookstore scene and I delivered the “I’m just a girl standing in front of a boy…” line with an awkward high pitch that sounded like Lani Mercado’s wicked witch in the Sleeping Beauty episode of Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang. Our presentation obviously bombed (all those confused looks would continue to haunt me in my dreams) and I walked out of that class feeling like Vivian in Pretty Woman getting thrown out of a posh boutique in Rodeo Drive (and since this was real life, I didn’t even get a redemption scene).

2. Julia may have won her Oscar for Erin Brockovich, but her performance here would probably be my most favorite. Sure, the woman with the (then $15M) megawatt smile was basically playing another version of her rich and famous, A-list celebrity persona, but the fact that she gamely poked fun at herself (loved it when Anna pointed at her nose and chin when asked about her cosmetic surgeries) and revealed the sadness beneath all the fame and glory was really admirable.

Her Anna character was also completely flawed (and actually bordered on being despicable with just the way he treated William) and yet I still really, really wanted to be her friend (to the point that it would also be an honor for me to have her in my loo). Her best scene was at the dinner table where everyone was trying to win that last brownie and her face displayed the longing to experience the kind of love that the mortals (er, William and his friends) had.

3. Speaking of that dinner scene, I could easily pinpoint the part where I would immediately start sobbing every single time I’d watch this film. It was when Bella (Gina McKee) explained that she deserved the last brownie for having the saddest life because she was stuck in a wheelchair and could not bear kids. This was followed by a shot of her husband Max (Tim McInnerny) silently giving her this look of genuine love. Romantic or not, we all deserved someone just like him.

(Their other scenes that made me bawl my eyes out: when he carried her upstairs for the night when William decided to sleep over at their house and when he couldn’t afford to leave her during the climactic chase scene and carried her inside the car. Hala, just thinking of these made me teary-eyed again!)

4. A lot of people would probably knock this film down for being too formulaic to a fault, but it shamelessly peddled itself as a fairy tale so I didn’t mind at all (“This is the stuff that happens in dreams, not in real life.”) A huge Hollywood star falling in love with a commoner who looked like Hugh would be the ultimate fantasy, right?

Comical meet cute, set of kooky friends (Rhys Ifans’ Spike as the standout, course), soundtrack of sappy love songs (Ronan Keating’s When You Say Nothing At All >>> Alison Krauss’ version tbh), final romantic declaration of love, all tropes utilized to maximum effect. It was surreal, but nice.

5. I had a (fortunately) short phase where I pretended to be a charming Brit ala Hugh and ended up sounding like a post-Kabbalah Madonna. I replaced my “Susmaryosep” with “Whoopsie daisy” and “Ay tae!” with “Shickity brickity”, but those didn’t stick. Foreign catchphrases and accents were never really my thing. I couldn’t even properly imitate an American accent when I worked as a call center agent that resulted to one customer referring to me as a weird Hawaiian guy.

6. Spot the cameos: Matthew Modine! Alec Baldwin! Mischa Barton! Emily Mortimer!

7. That one long take of Ain’t No Sunshine with the changing seasons was really lovely. I would one day be able to visit Portobello Road Market and that iconic blue door. Who would be willing to fund my London trip?

8. “For June who loved this garden. From Joseph who always sat beside her.”

“Some people do spend their whole lives together.” ❤️❤️❤️

9. I didn’t really need this film to make me realize that some people could influence you to do something better or be a better person even if they had hurt you, but it was nice to be reminded of this with every viewing. #whogoat

10. “The fame thing isn’t really real, you know?”

A huge star ready to give up everything for love? Your move, Bebe Idol Sarah G. Rooting for your happy fairy tale ending as well.

Rating: ★★★★★

FELIX MANALO (Joel Lamangan, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Felix Manalo:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published October 19, 2015.)

HENERAL LUNA (Jerrold Tarog, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Heneral Luna:

1. The disclaimer at the start of the movie was scary for two reasons: a) for a biopic slash historical epic, we don’t know the extent of cinematic license used in the movie, and b) indeed, a fictionalized history (or work of fiction inspired by true events?) doesn’t take away the fact that this is still a clear representation of the truth (both past and present).

2. Jerrold Tarog has always been a competent filmmaker. He’s the kind of director that can make a Shake Rattle and Roll episode end up better than most of the full-length Pinoy movies shown that year. (Also, watch Senior Year!!)

3. I think everyone will agree that the movie had one of the best ensemble casts in any Pinoy film. I loved how the receding hairline of Epy Quizon was put to good use as Apolinario Mabini. In terms of acting, Mon Confiado (as Emilio Aguinaldo) and Nonie Buencamino (as Felipe Buencamino) were clear standouts. I hope none of them show up in Felix Manalo or I will start getting confused.

4. One of the best lines in the movie:

“Para kayong mga birhen na naniniwala sa pag-ibig ng isang puta!!”

I wonder when I can deliver this line in real life.

5. I particularly liked the Manifest Destiny scene because it stirred up emotions that shouldn’t even be there in this day and age (I so hated the American soldiers that I almost swore off eating burgers.)

6. A lot of reviews have pointed out that the film is a farce. I guess I’m being a purist then because I still want my History lessons all serious and dramatic. The rich content of Philippine History alone will never be boring. I guess I just didn’t understand all the funny quips despite the current situations (hey, it’s just war, people are just getting blown up, let’s all be like Cesar Montano and throw a witty one-liner or two!).

7. I was happy to see Antonio Luna portrayed as a deeply flawed character (never liked biopics that glorify their subject matter) but did it go too far? I could barely remember him in History class and now all I could think of was that he’s no different from Anger in Inside Out. Just about everything seemed to irk him to no end and everyone around him just looked completely dumb or incompetent. John Arcilla was fine in the lead role but I kept imagining him invoking the spirit of Captain Jack Sparrow in every scene. I hate to say it but it bordered closely on caricature.

8. Did we really need that gratuitous head shot for shock value? If they were depicting the reality of war then why was Luna shown as someone invincible? He just kept saying his lines while walking close to enemy lines without getting hit. Maybe he had an agimat that we didn’t know of? (Was it the magical coin pouch that saved his life?)

9. In one scene, Luna was trying to talk to an American soldier and ended up saying something like, “Hulihin nyo na yan. Naubusan na ko ng Ingles” all for comic relief. I was surprised he didn’t just say “Nosebleed!”. Why didn’t they really get Montano for this role?

10. I remember one of my History teachers saying that when Rizal got shot, he tried to face the firing squad as a sign of pride and dignity. Is this correct? (I’m only asking because the Rizal here just waited to be shot at the back. Wait, that didn’t sound right.)

11. In another scene, Luna was strumming his guitar and he was shown to have perfectly polished nails. With this, I will always remember that even in trying times, one should never forget to have a manicure.

12. Why is Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata the song of choice for war flashback scenes? I first heard this used in Madrasta with Sharon Cuneta’s grandfather recalling the war with Japanese soldiers. (Ooh, I need to watch that again.)

13. Old people love hitting tables for emphasis. (If you’ve done that recently…)

14. The scene that I abhorred the most would have to be the one where Luna was killed and the movie turned into a comical Carlo J. Caparas movie. Luna was betrayed and stabbed and shot several times (and had a hole carved in his right eye) by Filipino soldiers and I should have been appalled and angry by the betrayal but I was instead preventing a huge fart from trying not to laugh. Sure, History books would say that he was stabbed 30 or so times and that he continued to flinch after his death but I’m sure it didn’t say that he was Fernando Poe, Jr. (or a horror movie villain that just won’t die).

15. I remember Aguinaldo getting a bad rap for apparently ordering the assassination of Andres Bonifacio. He was portrayed the exact same way here with fingers directly pointed at him for giving the directive on the ambush of Luna. I never knew our first President was such a villain. Has anything changed since then?

16. The burning flag scene in its entirety covered everything that the movie was trying to say in two hours. Such powerful imagery.

17. There’s a mid-credits sequence!! In the same way that Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo had a Heneral Luna teaser, this one hinted at a Gregorio del Pilar spin-off (meaning more Paulo Avelino!). Move over Marvel, we have our Pinoy superheroes!

18. How many times did I mention History?

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published September 16, 2015.)