ANG PAMILYANG HINDI LUMULUHA (Mes de Guzman, 2017)

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One long and badly-edited sitcom. It would have been more bearable if most of the jokes (in the vein of Dolphy and Babalu circa 90s) were actually funny, except that they weren’t. I had more laughs watching The Lilian Velez Story.

Sharon Cuneta’s dramatic breakdown scene during the latter part of the movie reeked so much of desperation. She hopelessly attempted to out-uhog Viola Davis for that coveted Balanghai.

Even worse, people would most likely remember Moi Bien’s performance.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published August 9, 2017.)

DISTANCE (Perci Intalan, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

In some weird way, this worked very much like a burgis version of Anak, except that the mother intentionally abandoned her family to be with the person that she really loved. Even the rebellious teenage daughter was named Karla!!

I really liked the overall simplicity of the film (the lack of swelling music during the dramatic highlights made the silence even more deafening, the Balanghai-worthy editing with interweaving flashbacks, and the lack of a clean resolution).

The performances of Iza Calzado, Nonie Buencamino, and Therese Malvar were definitely top-notch. That climactic confrontation scene should secure Therese the Best Supporting Actress win. Napakahusay na bata!

Rating: ★★★★☆

(Originally published August 8, 2018.)

 

MUSMOS NA SUMIBOL SA GUBAT NG DIGMA (Iar Lionel Arondaing, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

Tipid Tip of the Day: Whenever critics describe the story as a slow burn, it’s just their polite way of saying that watching the film may cause drowsiness. If you’ve ever seen a Terrence Malick or Lav Diaz without ever nodding off, then you’ll have no problems with this one.

To be fair, I liked the performances of the lead kids and the beautiful (oftentimes haunting) imagery (sure win for this year’s Balanghai for Cinematography?). I do have a limit on the amount of time I can watch a burning field before it turns from mesmerizing to when will this end.

I think it was an inspired choice to frame the entire thing with religious chanting (prayers/verses from the Quran). Having the characters speak entirely in Tagalog made everything feel less authentic, though.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published August 8, 2018.)

LAST FOOL SHOW (Eduardo Roy, Jr., 2019)

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It was the Ang Babae sa Septic Tank of local rom-coms that needed a bit more smart humor. As a Star Cinema production, I was a bit disappointed that it didn’t have the balls to completely bite the hands that financed it (most of the in-jokes focused on their posters).

Instead, it poked fun at recent non-SC love stories (albeit some were brutally spot-on, like that Ocean Deep montage ala Kita Kita or the awkward beach dancing ala Mr. and Mrs. Cruz). Seriously, they chose Arci Muñoz in the lead and not a single callback from Always Be My Maybe or Can We Still Be Friends? Wasted opportunity.

Muñoz was irritating in the kooky Issa character, but fared better as the serious Mayessa. JM de Guzman was just okay. Both performances lacked that “wink wink” factor that made Eugene Domingo in Septic Tank and Klaudia Koronel in Tuhog hilariously brilliant.

Plus half a star each for the use of (what I assumed were) the director’s real Balanghais and that Baby Arjan reference.

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: ★★★☆☆