UNBREAKABLE (Mae Cruz-Alviar, 2019)

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Anong klaseng kabalbalan ‘to? Nyetang seahorse yan.

Justice for Bea and Angelica!!

P.S. Tawang-tawa ako na biglang namaos ang voiceover. Sinabay ba sa promotions ang dubbing a few days before the playdate?

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

24/7 IN LOVE (Mae Czarina Cruz, John-D Lazatin, Frasco Mortiz, Dado Lumibao, 2012)

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Definitely a mixed bag but the good ones greatly outweighed the stinkers. The weaker stories were saved by strong performances from Maja Salvador, Angelica Panganiban, and Kim Chiu while the interesting segments were further enhanced by the excellent turns of Bea Alonzo, Zanjoe Marudo, Xyriel Manabat, and Pokwang.

The Bea-Zanjoe segment was just so good it could have worked as an entire movie. I’d recommend this just for that wonderful bit alone.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published December 5, 2012.)

EXES BAGGAGE (Dan Villegas, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Exes Baggage:

1. In the movie As Good As It Gets, obsessive-compulsive Melvin (Jack Nicholson) professed his love to Carol (Helen Hunt) by saying one of the sweetest lines in film history, “You make me want to be a better man.” I remembered watching this in high school when my innocent heart had never experienced any real heartbreak yet. I gobbled up each word of that declaration with the belief that people would actually change themselves to win over (or win back) the person that they truly loved. I obviously didn’t know any better back then.

Through the years, I must have heard every single version of that promise. Changing for the better? Swearing to always remain faithful moving forward? Pledging undying love after endless second chances? Although there wasn’t any bitterness left for any of my exes after our failed relationships, my already jaded heart couldn’t hold still when Nix (Carlo Aquino) told his ex Pia (Angelica Panganiban), “Paulit-ulit kong isusugal ang puso ko maramdaman ko lang ulit kung anong meron tayo noon.” ULUL!! I expected her to say, “Narinig ko na yan, boy! Wag ako!!”, but this was still a Star Cinema movie after all.

2. I really liked how this was able to capture those awkward moments specific to recent exes (because after our hearts were fully healed, we would usually end up as good friends with them, right?). In one scene, Pia bumped into old married flame Migz (Joem Bascon) and I felt every uncomfortable minute of that encounter. I also used to run the other direction whenever I would see a recent ex heading my way in the mall (twice as fast if said ex was with a new jowa). I mean, what kind of small talk would we have? “Uy, ang gwapo ng ipinalit mo sa akin! Good job! High five!!”. Uhh, no thanks! Not everyone could be as strong as Angelica who even declared on national TV that she was willing to be a ninang to the baby of a recent ex. Tibay mo, gurl!

I also appreciated how it fully displayed all the insecurities that couples would feel whenever they start discussing their exes (especially when comparisons would come into play). No amount of self-confidence or belief on the strength of your relationship would go unscathed once the classic “Sinong mas minahal mo?” question comes up. Or even worse, “Nagustuhan mo lang ba ako para makalimutan sya?”.

(Side note: It was a bit understandable for Pia to feel insecure about Nix’s ex Dwein because she was played by the gorgeous and classy Coleen Garcia. Ibang level ang ganda ni Ate Gurl dito.)

3. I wish we knew more about Nix and Pia for us to fully root for their relationship. How could we say that these two people really loved each other when the only grand gesture we saw was Nix preparing her a romantic dinner? Sure, he was also a gentleman for not taking advantage of a drunk woman, but you wouldn’t go into a relationship with every decent guy you meet.

The thin plot mainly worked because of the undeniable chemistry of CarGel (that entire pretend dancing in the condo scene alone was worth the ticket price). I felt bad that Carlo got saddled with an unsympathetic, irrational (“Sana pinakilala mo ako ng maayos para di na sya nag-small talk sa’yo!”) character full of hang-ups, but he still made the most out of his role. And what was his problem with his girlfriend showing a little bit of cleavage? Insert Nadine Lustre sound bite here.

It was Angelica who really stood out though for embodying a perfectly flawed character who could be my best friend any day (even if she had the gall to ask Nix to take her home after a night of partying then drive her back to work immediately after). Her wonderful performance ranged from hilarious (“Gumising talaga ako para magising mo ako”) to heartbreaking (“Sanay naman ako. Sabihin mo lang talaga. Sanay na akong iniiwan”). I wanted to give her the tightest hug during the scene where she was packing her suitcase.

4. It was a bit funny how the Alamat ng Santol turned into the Alamat ng Werewolf in the subtitles pero naitawid naman. But I was more curious about that Alamat ng Bakla on Social Media and the belief that guys with more than fifty photos in their Facebook profile pic album were gay. But what if they only had five choice topless pa-delight and pa-abs pics? Asking for a desperate friend.

5. Best moment in the film for me:

When Pia offered to prepare breakfast and coffee for Dwein but she declined (di ata sya umiinom ng Great Taste White) which prompted Pia to say, “Meron naman akong dalang bibingka.” I wasn’t sure if it was meant to be hilarious, but I really laughed my head off.

6. “Ang takot magmahal after masaktan, di nagmahal in the first place. Kaya mo dapat pagdaanan ulit lahat ng pain at sakit para maramdaman ulit ang pagmamahal. Dapat ganun ang love, it overpowers pain.” O di sige Pianalyn, ikaw na ang matatag!!

7. Lovely cinematography. Of course I wondered why Pia would read under a green lamp/light, but I wouldn’t want that to ruin the movie’s aesthetics.

Also, first time to watch panties being removed while set to an indie soundtrack. Loved most of the songs though, especially Maybe the Night.

8. I teared up a bit when Nix started talking to Pia’s car, not because it was unfortunately named Ogie, but because he was making a last habilin to a non-living object to take care of this person that he truly loved. I thought it was the perfect sad ending to a relationship that was never meant to be.

But then Pia stepped out of her car, ignored the mystery man named Anton calling her, and implied a more hopeful ending. Tanga!! (Also, poor Anton.)

Rating: ★★★☆☆

MEET ME IN ST. GALLEN (Irene Villamor, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Meet Me in St. Gallen:

1. It might be my limited knowledge of films (or my utter love for the series), but every time I’d see a romantic movie where the two leads just talk for hours, I immediately think of the classic Before Trilogy. It set such a high standard that anything else that remotely came close to its structure/style would (unfairly) end up as a mere copycat in my book.

This movie felt very much like a condensed version of the trilogy, except that the rambling discussions were less philosophical and more hugot-based (“Hindi ako painting na mailalagay mo sa pader”). Which would have been forgivable if it just wasn’t so… boring.

(Also, I thought that Raffy and Gela of Mr. and Mrs. Cruz would end up as this year’s most talkative characters, but I was obviously wrong.)

2. The meet cute was actually fine and it was interesting to watch the interactions between the spunky Celeste (Bela Padilla) and the more subdued Jesse (Carlo Aquino). Although it initially had that creepy stalker feel of Kita Kita with him bumping into her outside of a public restroom (where all great love stories start) and then began following her everywhere, she immediately confronted him (“Nagagandahan ka ba sa akin kaya mo ako sinusundan?”) and thankfully put a stop to this emerging love story trope that should never be romanticized.

I also wondered if Celeste would have entertained Jesse in the coffee shop if he looked like, say, Empoy Marquez so I felt amused when she was obviously one step ahead of the audience and said, “Kung di ka gwapo, di kita papaupuin dyan.”

(And totoo, sobrang gwapo lang ni Carlo dito that it made me forget he used to be part of the kiddie boyband JCS with John Prats and Stefano Mori. Wait, I meant sobrang galing. Galing, galing, galing!!)

3. I should actually hate Celeste because a) she spoiled the ending of Celeste and Jesse Forever, b) she had the gall to brag about her eight hundred friends on Facebook, c) she complained about being a misunderstood graphic artist yet made a basic layout that seemed to be a product of WordArt, d) one of her art works consisted of a pole with several hanging labada, and e) since she was an ahrt-ist, her dining table was decorated with scattered jigsaw puzzle pieces, but Bela’s such a good actress that I lapped up everything that she said and did.

4. I should actually hate Jesse because a) he asked if Celeste and Jesse Forever had a happy ending (and then complained about the spoiler, huh?), b) he sounded like a second-rate Abra that talked like Boy Abunda (“Kapag ako lang mag-isa, gusto kong isulat ang tungkol sa mga ibinubulong ko sa langit”), c) he broke several laws by answering his phone while drunk driving, and d) he cheated on Angelica Panganiban (well, not the real one, rather his fiancée in the picture), but Carlo’s such a good actor… wait, I already covered that.

5. Of course it wouldn’t be complete without a videoke session. Now if only I hadn’t recently heard and associated You Are My Sunshine with Annabelle: Creation…

6. I really couldn’t understand why Celeste would suddenly walk out of a romantic moment (“Sobrang perfect naman ng moment na ‘to. Wag natin sirain”) and then sleep with an obviously engaged Jesse four years later. Was it supposed to signal her transition from idealist to realist? Did absence make her heart grow fonder? What happened to emotional maturity?

(Side note: This was obviously a woman’s fantasy because the couple actually had an incredibly long talk in bed after having sex. And the next day, Celeste had an I-woke-up-like-this look with perfect eyebrows.)

7. All of those snowy Switzerland scenes looked really lovely. I wish I could say that I’d love to tick that off my bucket list, but definitely not after my nose almost fell off in Japan last month (and it wasn’t even below zero there).

8. Sobrang pahabol si Celeste. It took several minutes (and blocks) of endless walking and talking before she actually revealed that she already had a boyfriend. Ganda mo girl! Ginawan na ng tula ni Fidel, ngayon naman kanta ni Jesse pero basted pareho. I honestly couldn’t wait for the 100 Kanta ni Bela song hits.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

ANG DALAWANG MRS. REYES (Jun Lana, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Ang Dalawang Mrs. Reyes:

1. In Netflix’s Grace and Frankie, the titular characters played by Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin were two oldish women that bonded together after the devastating discovery that their husbands were gay (and actually lovers). Although they initially wanted to break them apart, the series became less about their planned revenge and focused more on how they learned to accept the truth. It was a delightful comedy filled with interesting insights regarding the gay community and the people that surrounded them.

The same could be said about this latest offering from Star Cinema. Although it struggled a bit to find the right balance of comedy (went too broad for my taste) and drama (considering its serious themes), it was still a fun watch. By the end of the movie, I really wanted to see more of Lianne (Judy Ann Santos) and Cindy (Angelica Panganiban). Would they still fall for gay men? Would they have a deeper understanding of homosexuality? What if Lianne’s daughter Macy (Andrea Brillantes) came out as a lesbian?

Dear ABS-CBN, please give them the comedy series that they deserve.

2. Juday is Juday is Juday. Whether she was wiggling her newly-refurbished boobies or delivering a hazy rant while heavily-anesthesized, she was a complete hoot and basically nailed every scene that she was in.

In one of the best sequences, she skirted on the question if something happened between them and macho dancer with a heart of gold Steve (Nico Antonio) to which he replied, “Hindi ko po kayo pinagsamantalahan kasi parang tiyahin ko na rin po kayo”. It was already a hilarious moment made funnier when Juday simply quipped, “Gago ka pala eh sana pinagsamantalahan mo na lang kami.”

I was also happy to see that she still had an abundant supply of tears. It wasn’t hard to forgive her character’s vindictiveness since one could clearly see and feel her pain caused by her husband’s deception.

(Because of this reason, I chose to ignore the fact that a top cosmetics executive like her would serve Goldilocks pastries in a classy private event.)

3. On face value, I wouldn’t have thought that Gary (Joross Gamboa) was gay as well. Sure, he fainted upon seeing his wife floating in a pool of blood, but it could just have been hemophobia. Besides, no self-respecting gay person outside of Ru Paul’s back-up dancers would wear his blazer and khaki shorts combo for a yacht cruise.

Fresh from his Deadma Walking stint, it would be easy to assume that Joross was essentially playing the same role so it was a testament to his acting skills that he was able to differentiate Gary from John. He had a scene in Ma Mon Luk where his emotions shifted from guilt to sarcasm (“Gusto keteng sekten, gusto keteng peteyen…”) to regret to optimism in seconds and it was just a terrific performance.

(I had never been to Ma Mon Luk in Quiapo, but I would love to visit that place, if I could get a seat.)

4. For Jeannie Mai, yellow may be the color of joy and celebration, but I really think that it should be pink. I loved the abundance of that color here and every pink item (the envelope with the farewell note, the cat cage of Mimi, the highlighter used by Cindy) made my heart really happy.

5. Speaking of the farewell note, I couldn’t understand the lengthy sequence of Cindy taking an entire day to read what looked like a ten-page letter. Ganun ba sya kabagal magbasa (considering that her husband’s revelation of being gay was clearly on the first page)?

I was reminded of this other movie called Lila where Janine Gutierrez took a year to finish reading a haunted diary. Totoo ba?

6. I guess that was my other concern about this movie. Jun Lana had always been technically proficient in terms of staging his scenes. There was a natural rhythm in them and you would rarely see any abrupt transitions. This had one too many of them that would just end and shift to another unrelated sequence.

When the parents of Felix (JC de Vera) crashed his housewarming party, it ended with a friend (Kim Molina) saying that she was a babaeng bakla. The joke not only fell flat, but ended a scene that needed to be seen. Sadly, it was only mentioned in passing during the next one, the consequences and repercussions of that confrontation never fully discussed.

7. Oh, Mimi was the name of Felix’s cat. I bet all of my Sarah Geronimo autographed CDs that he also had an entire collection of Mariah Carey albums. (And sang Through the Rain in the shower, naturally.)

8. I really thought that Angelica could do this in her sleep, but she just wasn’t given enough funny material to work with. That Catwoman bit wasn’t as hilarious as Maricel Soriano’s in I Will Survive and her constant showdowns with Carmi Martin felt childish and really off-character. She even played second fiddle to Juday when she should have been very much her equal. At least she delivered in that cunnilingus scene that ended with a really silly meow.

9. JC de Vera felt lost in his role and sounded like he was in an elocution contest. Where was the sensitive actor that was so good in Best Partee Ever?

Fortunately, he wasn’t the most annoying character in the movie. I wasn’t sure how Quark Henares ended up with that private investigator role, but he might want to do the exact opposite of Joel Lamangan and stay behind the camera.

10. Juday referring to her boobs as Mara and Clara gave me so much life. Also, her takedown of Winnie the Pooh made me snort Pepsi out of my nostrils (“Pucha sinabi ng bear yun?”).

11. “How can I be homophobic? I have colleagues that are gay. Strong supporter ako ng LGBT community.” Definitely ripe for a teaching moment. But seriously, I wonder how women would really react if they found out that their boyfriends or husbands were gay? How would they cope with the said reality? Friends with the same experiences, time to share.

12. “Kung hindi pechay ko ang problema, anong problema natin?”

“I just don’t see myself growing old with you.”

Saklap. Hay.

13. By the way, pechay was translated as oysters in the subtitles. Was tahong too graphic for our imagination? And since we’re on the topic, after the screening, this group of women started loudly discussing what they would do if they found out that their husbands were gay. One of them said, “Ako, magpapalago ng pechay!”.

Ate, what did that even mean? Still, natakot ako ng slight at the thought of it.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

AMA, INA, ANAK (Jose Javier Reyes, 1996)

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“There are more ways of gaining fulfillment as a woman maliban sa pagiging isang mabuting ina at asawa. Eh kung yan ang gusto ng Mother Nature eh di sana anim ang dede natin sa katawan.”

I really love the wit and humor of Joey Reyes’ screenplays. His insights on gender politics in the ‘90s were just spot-on. He has also mastered the art of emotional manipulation, this time related to infertility issues and adoption (in one heartbreaking scene, the adopted kid played by Angelica Panganiban asked a pregnant Maricel Soriano if she also came from the latter’s tummy). I just wish that Edu Manzano’s character wasn’t a complete caricature that turned into a monster and then had a sudden change of heart in the end.

Also, I found it funny that eleven years later, this mother and daughter tandem would be bitter rivals fighting over Aga Muhlach in A Love Story. Parang episode lang ng Face to Face with Tiyang Amy.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

THE UNMARRIED WIFE (Maryo J. Delos Reyes, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Unmarried Wife:

1. I had an overwhelming sense of deja vu while watching this newest kabit movie from Star Cinema. Hmm, a non-linear narrative written by Vanessa Valdez and directed by Maryo J. Delos Reyes where Angelica Panganiban played a scorned wife trying to win her husband back. Oh, it was 2007’s A Love Story! Only without a plot twist to support the chosen style.

Well, that movie was a box office hit so they probably wanted to employ the same technique and replicate the same commercial success. Or maybe the non-chronological events would distract the audience from the fact that this wasn’t any different from the normal kabitserye on Primetime Bida.

2. Angelica played Anne, a group director for the feminine hygiene division in an advertising agency. Her smart pitch for a sanitary napkin involved a recollection of the best days with her father with the slogan “I’m an Always Free girl because of my dad”. I wish this were an actual commercial because it would definitely crack me up and send me good vibes every time I would see it on TV.

As with any successful career woman in the Star Cinema universe, she was instantly cursed to have a troubled family life. Being accomplished at work apparently meant that she neglected her wife and mother duties at home. The lack of kitchen counter sex was reason enough for her husband Geoff (Dingdong Dantes) to cheat on her. Obviously, Geoff wasn’t an Always Free dad.

3. In one hilariously terrible scene, Anne was caught leaving early by her boss and the exact reason she gave was, “I’m the only wife of my husband. He is not just my husband, he is my life.” Her early out was approved.

4. When Paulo Avelino showed up as the third party Bryan, he was so white that I expected him to sparkle when he took his shirt off. I bet Anne could have made a killer slogan with that one (“Fresh Funda, para sa kutis Twilight”).

5. It was really hard to take the movie seriously when it was peppered with these lines that wanted to one-up the Quiapo dialogue in No Other Woman:

• “Mabuti pa ang mga isda hindi kelangan makipagkiskisan sa mga asawa.”

• “Ang itlog kapag hindi nalilimliman ay nabubulok. Ang pechay kapag hindi nadidiligan ay nalalanta.”

• “Ano ba ang sorry sa’yo? Isang lisensya para paulit-ulit mo akong lokohin at gaguhin?”

• “Wag mo akong gawing parausan kasi mawawalan ng silbi ang kabit mo!”

6. But wait, there’s more! As expected, there was a confrontation slash showdown with an equally-bitchy mistress played by Maricar Reyes. Women, you might want to write these down for future reference:

• “Akala ko naliligaw lang ako. Bakit andito ka sa Quezon City eh mas bagay ka sa Makati?”

• “Ayoko mahawa sa kadumihan mo. Wala akong dalang panglinis.”

• “Can you not fuck my husband?” (“Wag mo ‘kong ma-Terry-Terry!!”)

All of these lines were delivered with flared nostrils and in full nanlilisik ang mga mata mode. Madam Claudia Buenavista, isdatchu?

7. To be fair, there was a good story here somewhere. I have always wondered why women stay in abusive relationships for the sake of marriage or their kids (“When our men are weak, we have to be stronger”). Also, why do we always have this fantasy that cheaters will change their ways and that love will always lead them back to us? Why does our local justice system seem to heavily work in favor of men? Why does society still have this double standard in terms of cheating husbands vs cheating wives (not that they’re justifiable)?

If only the movie tried to explore these concepts further instead of reveling in the usual soap opera tropes.

8. Most of the performances here were okay so it was a welcome treat to see Mart Escudero (as the typical gay assistant) delivering the most crowd-pleasing line, “I don’t want your life Ma’m. Ayoko maging katulad n’yo na ginagawa kaming punching bag sa mga hanash n’yo sa buhay”, sabay walk-out. Also, Denise Laurel in Shakira extensions. Enough said.

9. At least the movie followed the general rule in ’90s melodrama: Lahat ng pwedeng mabasag, dapat mabasag. Goodbye kitchenware! So long wine bottle! You will be missed windshield!!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

OUR BRAND IS CRISIS (David Gordon Green, 2015

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Our Brand Is Crisis:

1. From the very start, Sandra Bullock’s character Jane Bodine set the tone of the movie by saying things like “I could convince myself anything… at a price” or “Truth is relative”. Also called “Calamity Jane” by her peers, she was a political consultant/strategist (think a less-fashionable Olivia Pope in a scruffy beige jacket) tasked to clean up the image and campaign of a Bolivian presidential candidate. This movie couldn’t have been any timelier given our country’s current political climate.

2. A lot of the things that were shown here should be familiar to our nation (or any nation for that matter) during election season: a deluge of idiotic political ads with crappy jingles, smear campaigns aimed to generate disgust or fear of an opposing candidate, politicians carrying babies or singing in general assemblies, candidates crying in interviews to generate sympathy from voters. Basically every trick in the campaign book was covered and although these weren’t new to anybody, the scenes were still depressingly hilarious because of its authenticity (fake tears and all).

3. One really funny scene showed the group shooting a lame commercial involving a llama. It ran out of the building and got hit by a car prompting Sandra to say “He’d rather kill himself than be in our commercial.”

4. Politics is a joke in itself so I couldn’t really understand why the movie had to resort to groan-worthy slapstick for laughs. Sandra may be a pro with that brand of comedy but seeing her fall from a broken chair, constantly throw up, moon people, and have trouble closing a van’s window was completely unnecessary. The elastic bra prank didn’t really add anything to the story.

5. Joachim de Almeida who played the Bolivian candidate they were saving looked so much like Eddie Garcia. Look him up.

Also, a lot of the viewers kept saying that he was eerily similar to Mayor Rodrigo Duterte (lagging in current polls, has temper issues, etc.). Duterte’s supporters (Duterters?), there is still hope. You know who to call.

6. The endless quotes uttered in the movie from Sun Tzu to Warren Beatty to Muhammad Ali reminded me so much of Tito Boy Abunda. He would be the type of host that would blurt out things like “Friedrich Nietzsche said, ‘If you fight monsters for too long, you become one'” while asking Angelica Panganiban to confirm her breakup with John Lloyd Cruz.

7. Speaking of quotes, one scene involved a rival campaign manager not doing a fact check before feeding a (mis)quote to his candidate. I guess he wasn’t too smart after all.

8. The Cult of the Cosmic Wind sounded like a group that converged inside my stomach after eating at Mexicali.

9. During the presidential debate, a candidate was asked a tough question about constitutional reform for indigenous people of Bolivia. I was so happy that nobody replied “PILLS!!”, although that would have made a funnier movie.

10. Why do characters always have to grow a conscience in the end? To quote Tito Boy quoting George R.R. Martin, “A good act does not wash out the bad, nor a bad act the good. Each should have its own reward.”

Rating: ★★★☆☆