THE MALL, THE MERRIER (Barry Gonzalez, 2019)

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Siguro ang pinakamagandang masasabi ko dito ay hindi siya kasing-chaka ng value ng pamilya. Kaso natabunan ng sobrang ka-cornyhan.

Dalawang beses lang ata ako natawa (at pareho kay Anne Curtis). Mas masaya pa manood ng memes at viral videos sa Facebook. Walang bago at all. Kaya may TB pa rin dito si Susan Africa.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

THE GIFTED (Chris Martinez, 2014)

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Funny at first but then it turned mean and dark towards the end.

Does the ending make you feel like an idiot for liking the movie or actually smart for hating it?

At least it made me want to see Do Re Mi again.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published September 9, 2014.)

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: ★☆☆☆☆

BUYBUST (Erik Matti, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

So in the end, the movie basically mocked the “Nanlaban” defense and yet served it as a source of entertainment where the PDEA had every reason to kill the poor because majority of them were addicts and/or drug protectors? I didn’t get this contradiction.

I love my BFF Anne, but she was terribly miscast in this role. In one scene, she shrieked “Gooooo!” like she was storming a meet and greet with Gong Yoo. She just lacked the grit (angas?) needed by her character and it was even more blatant whenever a cornrowed Mara Lopez (in the Michelle Rodriguez role) was onscreen. Siya ang totoong astig.

Commendable production values (the one take fight scene and the final rooftop shot were good), but I just couldn’t get over the neon-lit slums. Magkano kaya Meralco bill nila?

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published August 3, 2018.)

SID & AYA (NOT A LOVE STORY) (Irene Villamor, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Sid and Aya (Not a Love Story):

1. The comparisons between Dingdong Dantes’ privileged, cutthroat stock broker Sid and Leonardo DiCaprio’s hedonistic stock broker Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street would be inevitable, but if anything, Sid reminded me more of Dingdong’s privileged car salesman character in the early 2000s flop Akala Mo… (ellipsis included) with Judy Ann Santos as a lady guard drooling over him.

In one scene, iconic character actor Mandy Ochoa was furious at Dingdong for stealing a customer using only his natural good looks and charm. The same thing happened in this movie when Sid got punched in the face by a colleague for poaching a client. (Why did I remember such petty details? Because my brain preferred to latch on to useless trivia rather than store new knowledge that would make me the next Jordan Belfort.)

2. I had never been a fan of Dingdong and his constipated acting, especially since he would always use the exact same glare whether he was surprised for being caught cheating, frustrated for getting turned down on a possible kitchen counter sex, or just pretending to be downright scary as an abusive lover. One of my happiest Christmas seasons was when he won Best Actor in the MMFF for Segunda Mano because I was laughing every day all the way through Three Kings.

After watching him play the arrogant yet sympathetic Sid, I could actually hear him say “Fuck you no-name feeling critic! Look for MY name in next year’s Urian nominees.” Yes, he was that good here. He had me at “Sino ba ang gagong ito?” and made this entire Black Swan theory of Taleb worth pondering upon. Weirdly enough, said theory worked on the premise of “may mga pangyayaring di inaasahan mangyari na magbabago ng lahat”.

(Side note: Anne Curtis also had a children’s book called Anita the Duckling Diva so I guess lapitin silang dalawa sa ibon talaga.)

3. “Napakaraming kupal sa mundo” would actually apply to people who would have the gall to say that they could easily relate to Sid, so I guess I would be the ultimate kupal. All the sleepless nights of discontentment, all the feelings of worthlessness even at the peak of success, the emptiness, the search for life’s meaning. What struck me the most was when he said “Sino ba ang hindi malungkot? Sino ba ang hindi galit sa mundo? Isang pitik, isang maling sagi, sasabog ka bigla.” When he mentioned the history of depression and suicide in his family, I actually expected it to play a big part in his story (one of the early shots was an overhead view of his condo’s balcony and I really thought it hinted that he would eventually jump off the building). I guess this was Not a Netflix Series as well.

4. Magaling na talaga mag-Filipino si Anne. Struggling slang-speaking actors that want to make it big in local showbiz should learn a thing or two from her. As Aya, she was just the right amount of Pinoy manic pixie dream girl who would brutally call Sid out (“Sobrang lungkot mo naman para magbayad ka ng kausap”) or tease him even while her heart was breaking (“Kung tumaya ako sa‘yo, ikaw naman ang masasaktan”).

Her best scene was when she was trying to hold back her tears after Sid revealed his plans to propose to his real girlfriend. I wanted to give her a hug while whispering in her ear, “Bakit di mo sinunod yung sinabi mo dati sa No Other Woman na ‘You can kiss me, but don’t you dare fall in love with me’ ang gaga nito!”.

(Also, congratulations to her glam team because she looked absolutely gorgeous in every single frame.)

5. There was a moment where Sid and Aya were staring at an aquarium-like screen with dazzling moving visuals and it would probably be the most memorable one in this film. My second favorite was when a flurry of umbrellas started moving in Shibuya Crossing. Ganda! Great soundtrack, too.

6. My OC side kept wondering about the schedules of Aya and how she was able to sustain her multiple jobs (barista at The Grind, laundry shop lady, Stardome princess at Star City, part-time escort). I knew she desperately needed the money for her father’s operation, but how did she find time to sleep? Was that why we never really saw her eat or take a shower?

7. While Aya’s co-worker wondered if Sid’s longganisa was Vigan or Lucban, I was curious to know why Dingdong’s left nipple was so close to his armpit even if he was sleeping on his right side. (Petty details, you have been warned.)

8. I was shocked when Sid’s boss (Gabby Eigenmann) was bragging about him and mentioned “To the best fucker I know… and I mean that literally.” Omg pano nya alam? Does that mean…???

9. For a supposed non-love story, it was actually very much like a love story. Even the ending couldn’t hold back on the requisite happy twist of fate. If it had chosen to go all (500) Days of Summer instead, I really wouldn’t complain.

10. “The things that we love will eventually kill us.” Definitely the reason why I no longer watch movies in Festival Mall’s crumbling cinemas.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

NABUBULOK (Sonny Calvento, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Nabubulok:

1. Whatever happened to that Anti-Chismis Law? In a country powered by daily gossip (ranging from the newest kabit of your neighbor to the escapades of the resident office slut to the questionable sexual preference of a popular matinee idol), could that even be successfully implemented?

The great Jessica Zafra once said that we could never breed serial killers in our country because we’re a nation of nosy people. Secrets could never be kept for long in a community since Pinoys are naturally suspicious of the littlest odd behaviours of others.

This was the very first thing that came to mind while watching this mystery-thriller (in my mind, more of a dark comedy slash social commentary) about an American accused of killing his Pinay wife and how he was subjected to a public trial by chismis (or was it?).

2. How apt that the gossip started from local labandera Aling Ingrid (a brilliant Gina Alajar, her “Putang Ina” scene alone deserved a Balanghai), who smelled something rotten emanating from the house next door and immediately concluded that her cousin Luna (Sue Prado) was killed by foreigner husband Jason (Billy Ray Gallion).

She then had the audacity to ask her son (“Rockyyyyy!!”) to climb a tree just to check on their shady neighbor (in this scene, they were talking too loudly not to get noticed, though). When the seed of doubt was planted, it was funny and ultimately scary to see just how fast it grew and spread around the xenophobic town.

3. Definitely not happy that characters in Pinoy films named Jason always turned out to be villains and this was no exception. Fortunately, they were mostly good-looking and the one here resembled Hugh Jackman in his younger Logan days.

4. I had some problems with the bad lighting especially since most of the scenes were shot at night and I strained my eyes trying to decipher what was happening onscreen. It almost ruined that exciting trespassing sequence with Rommel (JC Santos, required to go topless in one scene).

Also, was the Harper family actually living in complete darkness? Was that why the policemen never bothered to turn on any of the lights when they searched the house?

The day shots were just as bad since one couldn’t even see what was written on cellphone screens. I expected the washed out colors for added effect, but it shouldn’t require a visit to an opthalmologist after.

5. This movie had the balls to actually associate the Duterte administration with the current vigilante culture. The President’s face was plastered everywhere, even on a killer’s shirt. I guess that smell of decay might be coming from the current state of our society as well.

6. Some of the subtitles weren’t in sync with what the characters were saying. In one scene, the word “Motherfucker” was shown, but nobody was actually cursing. ‘Nak ng tokwa!

7. The funniest moments were just from some random lines delivered by extras:

• Horny Ate entering the internet cafe: “Kuya, one hours!”

• Single Ate on a boyfriend that she met through a miraculous santo: “Magpapa-free taste na ako sa kanya!”

• Host of a gay beauty pageant: “Thank you Anne Curtis. Next we have Champagne Morales!” (I was the only one who really laughed out loud during this part because I could still remember the Metropop rivalry between Champagne and Roxanne “Roxee B!” Barcelo, surely the Pia Wurtzbach of singing competitions.)

8. What was up with that rushed Calvento Files ending? Did we really need a title card to explain what happened to each character? Whatever happened to the “Show, Don’t Tell” rule of film?

Rating: ★★★☆☆

FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS (Stephen Frears, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Florence Foster Jenkins:

1. I remember reading this incredibly malicious yet equally juicy blind item about a popular local young star who ordered that hundreds of mannequins be placed in her concert venue to mislead the general public in believing that she actually had a sold out show. It sounded incredibly silly when I first read it, but after seeing this movie, it might not have been too far-fetched.

Florence (Meryl Streep, a hoot) was a rich socialite in the ’40s who clearly thought of herself as a really talented opera singer (in reality, the New York Times dubbed her the Worst Singer in the World). Without her knowledge, her husband St. Clair (a terrific Hugh Grant) would often pay a select group of audience members to cheer and applaud during her shows (one old lady even said “I don’t hear very well, but I know Madame Florence is magical”).

It must be true that what the eyes don’t see (or the ears don’t hear?), the heart doesn’t grieve over.

2. I really liked the fact that St. Clair (I thought it was Sinclair up until the end credits rolled) was also an unsuccessful artist (he moaned over the fact that he had never played the lead in Hamlet). It was like watching two losers who were bonded by their failures find happiness in each other. His blatant love and respect for her (notwithstanding a mistress on the side) also made his being an enabler a bit more understandable.

3. With a voice that defied medical science, one could easily conclude that Florence was the Anne Curtis of her time, but the biggest difference was that Anne acknowledged the fact that she couldn’t sing that well (or to some people, at all). Florence might have shared the exact same passion but she was simply oblivious to her blatant lack of vocal skills.

Even worse, she was surrounded by greedy (practical?) people that were all in on the joke. On the flipside, would you rather be the heartless cynic willing to speak the truth and crush the dreams of a dying old lady?

4. I suddenly missed the American Idol auditions where contestants entered the room like they were the second coming of Adele or Beyoncé, but ended up instead as part of the show’s gag reel because they couldn’t hit a single note. Were their delusions of grandeur coming from vainglorious egotism or enablers from home that declared them the best singers ever?

Search for Mary Roach, James Lewis, and Isadora Furman. You can thank me later.

5. Momma Meryl obviously had a lot of fun in the role and this would probably be what the late Julia Child sounded like while singing in the shower. In one scene, she had the audacity to stop a pianist from playing because he was “raping her ears” and it was made even funnier delivered by the greatest actress of all time pretending to be the worst singer of all time. Her final aria (with the realization that people were laughing at her) really broke my heart.

With all of that said, Amy Adams was robbed of an Oscar nomination.

6. “People may say I couldn’t sing, but no one can ever say I didn’t sing.” Sounds like a good tagline for the next leg of the Annebisyosa Tour.

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: ★★☆☆☆

IN YOUR EYES (Mac Alejandre, 2010)

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The movie, the characters, and the storyline were all completely despicable. It was hard to root for anyone in this awful movie because the characters probably weren’t written to make clear judgements.

Don’t get me started on the horrendous non-acting of Richard Gutierrez. Stupid decisions were made, improbable outcomes happened, and then the movie had the gall to fast-forward two years later where the characters simply forgot everything that happened and lived happily ever after. “Hey, you made out with my sister but that’s okay since we all have green cards now. Let’s fix our relationship and forget everything. Call me maybe?”

You would definitely want to take a long cold shower to remove this much filth from your mind.

Rating: 1/5