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: ★★☆☆☆

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS (Josh Boone, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Fault in Our Stars:

1. I read the book in two days (large fonts!) and I must say that this movie was a faithful adaptation in terms of directly lifting dialogue and entire scenes from the source material (down to the pink towel that Hazel’s mom wore when she rushed to her room). It would be unfair to compare the two different visions so let me just say that when Hazel promised at the beginning that it won’t be the typical love story, only the book stayed true to that promise.

2. Yes, I cried tons while watching the movie but then I cry in almost everything. Besides, it was a story about two star-crossed kids with cancer. You know their love story was doomed from the start. Only a person with a heart of stone wouldn’t feel anything for these two.

3. The weird thing about all my crying, though, was that it happened on those particular scenes when the movie didn’t try hard to make me cry. Remember that scene when Hazel’s mom said they couldn’t afford the trip to Amsterdam? Or the one when she looked at her parents holding hands and she felt like a burden to them? Sure I bawled my eyes out during her pretend eulogy and I probably felt a punch in my solar plexus when Augustus revealed that he was sick but these were easy triggers for my tear duct buttons.

4. Which brings me to my other point, how can a movie with such a brave female character actually not have the balls to honestly depict cancer? I understand that it was primarily a love story (albeit a corny one) but during the third act when it needed to show courage, it actually chickened out and resorted to the usual emotional manipulation. Where was the scene in the book when Augustus peed himself? Sure it would have ruined every little girl’s crush on Ansel Elgort but why didn’t it show the disease as it really was?

5. Speaking of Ansel Elgort, he was really charming in this movie, no? I actually forgot that he played brother to Shailene Woodley in Divergent. Actually this movie worked entirely because of the strong performances. Shailene nailed all of her crying scenes (although I never for one second believed that she was 16). And let’s not forget the phenomenal Laura Dern who breathed such life to a typical suffering mother role.

6. The evil depiction of Peter Van Houten and his eventual change of heart looked lame onscreen and was a big departure from that in the book. And they really had to choose the guy who played Nosferatu and the Green Goblin as if the character wasn’t despicable enough. Oh, and that whole Anne Frank’s house scene (endless stairs!) didn’t do anything for me. It also probably had the most unromantic first kiss ever.

7. For those that read the book, what things did you miss in this adaptation? Mine would have to be Kaitlyn (to show that Hazel’s not really anti-social), all the V for Vendetta references (only shown as a poster in Augustus’ room), Caroline Mathers (Augustus had an ex-girlfriend!!), the alfresco Amsterdam dinner near the canal (dinner under the stars would have been more romantic), that HUMP THE CAVE WALL scene, all those Facebook references (you know the posts that people make whenever someone dies; those made the story more human and timely), and Augustus’ eulogy that was not as sentimental as the movie made it to be.

8. Wait, they did omit the only scene in the book where I cried. It was the one where Hazel attended Augustus’ wake, approached his coffin, placed her hand on his chest, and said, “I love you present tense. It’s okay, Gus. It’s okay. Do you hear me? It’s okay.” Then she kissed him on the cheek and said, “Okay? Okay.”

Pass me the Kleenex.

Rating: ★★★☆☆