MOVIE REVIEW: JUST A STRANGER (Jason Paul Laxamana, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Just a Stranger:

1. Sobrang tagal na pala since my last confession. (Mababasa ito ng nanay ko kaya, Sorry ma, I’m not proud of it.) Feeling ko sa haba ng listahan ng kasalanan na ikukumpisal ko, baka mauna pa matapos ang Probinsyano bago ang pag-uusap namin ni Father.

Eh paano pa kung kasing-chismoso siya ng pari dun sa simbahan ni Mae (Anne Curtis) na nagpa-kuwento ng bawat detalye ng adulterous affair niya with Jekjek (Marco Gumabao)? Yung inabot sila ng halos dalawang oras kasi kelangan niya talaga malaman kung ilang beses nag-sex yung mga cheater bago maka-prescribe ng penance (one Hail Mary ba ang norm for every instance?).

Tapos kelangan may comic relief na sisilipin niya kung gaano talaga kaganda si cougar Mae na nahumaling sa kanya ang isang teenager. At para mas nakakatawa, may reaction siya na “My God! Oh shit, sorry!” na feeling ko katumbas ng isang Sorrowful Mystery. Okay ka lang ba, Father?

(Pero salamat sa refresher on the difference between mortal and venial sins, I guess.)

2. Bilang dating president ng Reyster-Ems Fans Club – Las Piñas Chapter, alam ko na ka-love team ni Anne sa T.G.I.S. si Chubi del Rosario (who was several batches lower sa akin sa Zobel) so parang ang hirap maniwala na she was playing somebody around my age. Common naman for actors to play roles na way older or younger than their actual (or screen) age pero may binabagayan din siguro.

Hindi ko talaga matanggap na 40ish na si Anne dito at doble ng edad ni Marco (na mukha namang mid-20s). Malayong-malayo sa casting ng recent May-December love affairs na kakapanood ko lang from Glorious (Angel Aquino-Tony Labrusca) to Belle Douleur (Mylene Dizon-Kit Thompson) to Malamaya (Sunshine Cruz-Enzo Pineda).

Ang off lang nung tinawag si Mae na “tita” at tinawag niya namang “totoy” si Jekjek kasi papasa pa silang halos magkaedad (does that make me “lolo” levels ganern?). Hindi ba available si Alice Dixson?

3. Maliban sa kabit factor, selling point ng pelikula ang promised steamy love scenes na hindi ko naman masyadong naramdaman. Sobrang hot nina Anne and Marco (as in yung sexual attraction sa kanila transcends any gender; their characters even shamelessly described themselves as “attractive, winnable, charismatic”) pero parang walang heat or passion kapag magkasama na sila sa kama (or their chosen place of torjakan).

Konting halik, konting himas, tapos na agad ang eksena at pawisan na sila parehong nakahiga. I didn’t expect naman na dapat super graphic, extended, or gratuitous ang sex scenes pero at the very least ramdam yung electricity between them as soon as their bodies touched, diba? Yung parang kelangan mo ng cold shower para mahimasmasan katulad nung pagkatapos ko mapanood ang Unfaithful.

Pero wala talaga eh. Baka dun pumapasok na para nga silang mag-tita. (Btw, ang weird nung “Mobile Legends” reference.)

4. Given naman na magaling umarte si Anne. Kita mo yung loneliness sa mata niya bilang trophy wife kaya nagawa niyang lokohin ang kanyang asawa (Edu Manzano). (Side note: Bakit nga ba hindi issue ang age gap sa atin kapag lalaki ang mas matanda?)

May hint of repressed naughtiness din siya kaya madalas mag-give in sa temptations. Yung restrained niya na pag-iyak sa balcony scenes were impressive. Also, parang siya lang ang kayang magdala nung glamorous alta look pa rin habang nakasakay sa sidecar with her oversized abaniko.

Alam ko they were going for realism in terms of ugly crying (as in uhog levels ni Tita Viola Davis) pero nagtawanan (at nandiri?) ang mga tao nung nag-stretch na parang cheese sa pizza ang laway niya habang umiiyak sa kitchen. Not a fan of her acting din sa eulogy dream sequence.

5. On the other hand, okay lang ang performance ni Marco. Hindi naman siya nilamon (even literally) ni Anne. Medyo malamya lang talaga ang acting niya when the role required an immature, feeling alpha-male boy. Yung kelangan ng conviction ang pag-overcompensate niya sa sarili with lines like “You guys can take turns on me, I can go all night” kahit alam mo lalabasan talaga siya after 30 seconds. At least believable siya magsuot ng brief.

(Also, I’m officially declaring 2019 as the Year of the Cinematic Pwet.)

6. Tbh medyo nagulat ako sa output ni Jason Paul Laxamana this time kasi maayos siya na writer at storyteller. Yung tipong aawayin ka niya on social media pero wala kang malait masyado sa body of work niya kasi usually nga malinis talaga ang mga gawa niya (my favorites are still Mercury is Mine and Bakwit Boys).

Dito parang ang sloppy ng screenplay pati technical aspects. May sub-plot about Mae’s fibromyalgia na walang pinatunguhan. May eksena na nagtanggal siya ng heels in full view of other guests kahit sobrang sophisticated ng character niya. Minsan hindi ko alam kung gusto nilang maging discreet or mahuli ng ibang tao (part ba ng thrill yung naglaplapan sila sa kotseng wala namang tint?). Bigla na lang hindi na issue ang age gap nung dulo.

Pero ang worst for me was the ending. Grabe lang yung cringe factor dun na may linyahang “Who are you?” tapos sumagot si Mae ng “No one…” at nakisabay ang buong sinehan sa pagsabi ng “I’m just a stranger”. Juskopong mahabagin.

7. Cherie Gil was onscreen for a good five minutes and ended up as the most memorable character. Eksenadora ang tita mo talaga. Oh wait, don’t call her tita pala!

(At teka, naguluhan ako nung nilandi ni Edu si Cherie kasi apparently he was “into women (his) own age” pero si Mae ang asawa niya. Ano ba talaga ang type niya?)

8. Irita ako dun sa girlfriend na Febbie simula nung fake surprise scene niya (na ewan ko paano siya nagtago sa likod ng parents ni Jekjek) hanggang dun sa chaka niya na pag-iyak sa church. Mas bagay siguro yung girl sa role ni Diablita (the doll).

9. Ang pinaka-suspension of disbelief talaga para sa akin dito (maliban sa supposed age gap) ay yung super rich kid ni Jekjek kasi sinustentuhan siya ng tatay niya para tumira sa Tokyo, Washington, at Lisbon tapos ang suot niya lagi na undies eh Bench Body.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

MOVIE REVIEW: THE SUPER PARENTAL GUARDIANS (Joyce Bernal, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Super Parental Guardians:

1. When it was first announced that Joyce Bernal would be taking over the reins of the late Wenn Deramas in the newest Vice Ganda MMFF entry, I felt excited and hopeful that the new combo would bring something new and fresh to the Pinoy comedy genre. Sadly, this movie basically recycled every single joke and gag that worked in previous Deramas-Ganda collaborations slash blockbusters (beating a dead horse? wink, wink).

It actually felt like Vice commandeered the entire thing (he even received an “Additional Scenes and Dialogue” credit), not wanting to change anything that he perceived wasn’t broken (or in his own words, “quality”). The result was a disappointing rehash, no different from eating last night’s cold leftover pizza.

2. Sample checklist for reference:

• Outrageous outfits – In one scene, he wore a rejected ribbon dress from the Lady Gaga collection that would obviously be unwound in a succeeding scene (because seeing Vice in a black leotard was supposedly funny). Oh, and the punchline was that he was advised to dress for the occasion and the said event was a ribbon-cutting. (Wenk, wenk.)

In another, he attended a funeral wearing a costume with a matching headdress that made me want to do the Shigi Shigi dance from Shaider.

• Word(name)plays – Remember the restaurant scene in Beauty and the Bestie where they joked about looking like Bea Bunda and Liza Lorena? Here, they had a Kath Tonying Taberna, Liza de Lima, Nadine Munyoka, and Arci Taulava. How about the “Ang bata na-bonjour” joke in Praybeyt Benjamin? This time it was “Ang bata nalaglag” in a terribly unfunny “miscarriage” gag.

• Sidekick slapping and insults – Now he had Kiray to slap as well. And of course there were several pockmarked face jokes.

• Game of the year – Ooh, Vice wearing an Ash costume while collecting pokeballs from a spinning pokestop. How current! Except that Pokemon Go mania died a couple of months ago.

• Duet – The Hold On sing-off was a highlight in BatB so they obviously needed to do it again here (this time with Coco Martin singing his heart out to “Kung wala ka nang maintindihaaaaan…”, one of the possibly three times that I actually laughed throughout the entire movie).

• Pinoy films homage – This was a staple in Deramas movies because you could feel his obvious love for them. Here, they just needed to include a bit from Minsan Lang Kita Iibigin because, well, just because.

3. Why wasn’t this called Ang Probinsyano the Movie? It really wasn’t any different from the series (down to the repetitive Wag Ka Nang Umiyak gag), except that Coco looked like a deranged Harley Quinn who was late for the Valkyrie Halloween party.

Also, what were all of those mini-explosions in the slums fight sequence? If this were New Year’s Eve, the best term to describe them would be “supot”.

4. I found it really weird that a strong proponent of LGBTQ rights would subject his character to the stereotypical perception of gays to generate laughs. One with him quivering in seeing topless construction workers, or him acting like a sexual predator to a drunk straight man (sinukahan na, kinilig pa rin), or him giving all of his cash to a tormentor simply because he looked good.

In a year when other films (The Third Party, Bakit Lahat ng Gwapo May Boyfriend?, Working Beks) tried to change how gay characters were portrayed in Philippine cinema, this one seemed to be contented with them being the laughing stock of society.

5. Onyok Pineda wasn’t as funny here compared to his stint in Ang Probinsyano where his genuine reactions to a closeted friend were comedy gold. He did have one cute scene that worked (“Kuya pangkain lang po. Ganern!”), but he was clearly overshadowed by Awra Briguela.

I wish they gave Awra more to do than the endless showdowns with Vice. His funniest moments to me were when he wasn’t even trying (just him sharply enunciating “freshly picked tomatoes” had me giggling in my seat). I also couldn’t stand all the physical abuse that he received from Vice (that sabunot scene would have been funny in the ’90s before the launch of Bantay Bata).

6. As expected, there were mini-commercials for Gluta-C, King Cup sardines, and even (gasp!) Pigrolac?!

7. Matet de Leon’s character here was addicted to balut, which shouldn’t come as a surprise because her sister in real-life is Balot. (If you got that reference, then you’re way too old.)

8. Although most of the corny jokes failed (that low batt modelling sequence, the used hanky scene, the Ilonggo-maskara bit, the Train to “Boosan” gag, the Baron vs Matos fight), there was one that really made me laugh. It involved Vice getting thrown in all directions for a Family Day dance number and his resulting expressions were just too funny. We needed more of these and less of the out-of-the-blue Leila de Lima impersonations.

9. “Bakit di nila tayo isinama sa filmfest? Itong mga batang ito ata ang malas!” Nope, definitely not their fault.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆