ALPHA: THE RIGHT TO KILL (Brillante Mendoza, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Alpha: The Right To Kill:

1. You know how sometimes we would say something that wasn’t an outright lie, but wasn’t completely honest either? How we would do this to try and avoid any possible confrontation or drama because we knew that people would get upset with the truth? Well, I think I just watched the movie equivalent of a white lie.

Similar to his controversial Netflix series Amo, this newest “internationally-acclaimed” film by Brillante Mendoza couldn’t be accused of being blatant propaganda, but it wasn’t an accurate depiction of our country’s current war on drugs either. It wanted to appease both the DDS (the policemen had every right to kill these addicts!) and anti-DDS (look, corrupt cops ruining the system!) all while flashing disclaimers at the beginning and end that: a) it wanted to “present reality with no intention of maligning or besmirching the integrity of police officers”, and b) this was a “complete work of fiction and any similarities to actual people or events were purely coincidental”. It even had the audacity to state that “the task of ending corruption needed our utmost cooperation and that change should start with us”. Ermm-kay.

2. This was shot in Mendoza’s signature shaky cam style (read: gritty!) so newcomers should come armed with a dose of Bonamine taken an hour before the screening. Trust me, you would need it because several scenes involved a lot of running in eskinitas and on rooftops (like a more chaotic and migraine-inducing version of Buy Bust).

3. I saw this foreign language film several years back called Maria Full of Grace where a poor (literally and figuratively) girl named Maria (naturally!) was forced to become a drug mule. She had to swallow dozens of these drug pellets that needed to be transported from Colombia to New York and she was chosen because her pregnancy would exempt her from the x-ray inspection. Imagine carrying that much paraphernalia in your belly (along with a fetus!) with the possibility that any of them could rupture any time. Que horror!

No drug pellets were swallowed in this one, but the mules used were in the form of fruit (kawawang mangoes!), pigeons (lalong bumaba ang lipad ng kalapati!), and even baby diapers (shudder!). Yes, one drug pusher actually used his baby (unfortunately named Neknek) to deliver drugs so the movie made sure that he was severely punished for this horrific crime (kebs na daw sa human rights and due process, mamatay na lahat ng mga adik!).

4. Allen Dizon (dependable as always) was the sole corrupt cop here. Everyone else was just doing what the law required of them to do. In one scene prior to a swat operation slash drug raid, one officer said, “Gagawin natin ito para sa bayan at para sa mga susunod na henerasyon!”. I couldn’t remember exactly, but he just might have been one of the awardees of the Medalya ng Katapatan sa Paglilingkod during the closing ceremony attended by real PNP Chief Oscar Albayalde. His team deserved a commendation because they were able to properly arrange a row of dead bodies (all nanlaban).

5. The head drug lord that was protected by a community of users and pushers (“Di lang livelihood, cottage industry na ito!”) was played by Baron Geisler to further lose every ounce of sympathy from the viewers and force them to collectively moan, “Gahd, we hate drugs!”.

6. There were a few (both intentional and unintentional) comic moments here that did make me laugh. One pusher with blonde curly hair was nicknamed Santo Niño. In another scene, an officer was documenting the events that transpired earlier while banging furiously on his desktop keyboard, but the words on the monitor were not moving.

But the funniest one had to be the poem that was recited by a kid towards the end of the movie that went “Pulis ang aking tatay. Tapang na walang kapantay. Tagapaligtas ng ating bayan. Blah blah blah kaayusan ay ating makamit.” Was it called Oda sa Wala?

7. So the entire moral of the story was that as long as people didn’t do drugs, they would be fine (PNP: We gotchu fam!)? Wow, I feel extra safe living in this country already!!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

ANAK (Rory Quintos, 2000)

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Although saddled by melodramatic conventions, this film was still a truthful depiction of the OFW life and its adverse effects on the core of a Pinoy family.

“Kung hindi mo ako kayang ituring bilang isang ina, respetuhin mo na lang ako bilang isang tao.” Ang sakit sakit naman, Ate Vi. 😭😭😭

Eh yung gusto ko talagang saktan si Carla (Claudine Barretto). As in Mon Tulfo in the airport level ganun. Ang effective nya bilang bwiset na ingrata haha!

I liked how they subverted the villain stereotype in one scene. Bad girl si Carla so more yosi. Tapos biglang sinabayan ng nanay nya. Ang galing.

Hindi ko nga maintindihan bakit sya galit na galit kay Ate Vi. Si Michael (Baron Geisler) nga giant dictionary ang nakuhang pasalubong tapos tahimik lang.

Rating: ★★★★☆

GET OUT (Jordan Peele, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Get Out:

1. It was probably around the 40-minute mark when the mostly white houseguests were excitedly fawning over Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) that I realized this film had the exact same setup as Shake Rattle and Roll 2: Aswang. Chris was obviously Portia (Manilyn Reynes) and his white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) was Monica (Ana Roces), the bearer of the townspeople’s feast of the month. The similarity was so uncanny that when a white woman grabbed Chris’s bicep and asked if black meat really tasted better, I really thought that he would be the night’s main course (my brain was screaming: “Stay away from the banig!!”). I felt a tad disappointed that it wasn’t the silly premise that I expected, but I was still surprised with the crazy route that this film took.

2. The opening sequence alone screamed Wes Craven, with a black man getting assaulted in a dimly-lit and deserted (read: quietly creepy) street (I wouldn’t be surprised if it were named Elm). It had the same laugh and then shriek approach that the director used in the cold open of Scream 2 (remember when Omar Epps got stabbed by a dildo through a glory hole? Oh wait, that was Shawn Wayans in Scary Movie, but same diff).

3. “My father would have voted for Obama a third time” was the equivalent of “I’m not racist, I have a lot of black friends” excuse. The fact that it was repeated several times here (and even declared proudly by an older white male) clearly drove home the movie’s message. Actually, there were so many instances that showed the day-to-day realities of the black man experience (Chris’s initial reaction to meeting Rose’s parents was: “I don’t want to be chased off the lawn with a shotgun”, a white police officer asked for his ID even if he wasn’t driving) that felt terribly depressing (and scary, very much like Bradley Whitford’s corduroy pants).

4. Excellent performances all around. The Armitages (Whitford, Catherine Keener, and Williams in her very appropriate, most annoying Marnie mode) made me frightened of these seemingly perfect white suburban liberal-minded families. But even better were the performances by the black cast. Kaluuya delivered a starmaking turn, LilRel Howery had the best lines (“T, S, motherfuckin’ A!”, and reminded me so much of Atlanta’s PaperBoi), but my favorite was Betty Gabriel with her creepy Stepford Wife smile. I didn’t care so much about the Baron Geisler brother, though.

5. I was such a skeptic and would usually laugh whenever I’d hear people getting held-up through hypnosis (Budol Budol!), but the Sunken Place here really left me feeling disturbed. The sound of a spoon stirring in a teacup would never be the same again. Also, all the hypnosis scenes with the out-of-body experience and peering through distant holes made me think so much of Being John Malkovich (also with Keener!).

6. That Behold the Coagula video reminded me of The Dharma Initiative in Lost. We need to go back.

7. I wish there was a more directly racist explanation on why black people were being targeted for the experiments (when one character asked, the simple response was a bit generic that they wanted people that were physically superior). It could have been an even more effective commentary on racism in this kind of social satire.

8. Seeing Papa Armitage getting killed by the horns of the very animal that he hated was just sweet revenge. I also had this oddly satisfying feeling while Rose was getting choked (maybe it was because she annoyingly ate her colored cereal separate from her glass of milk, with a straw to boot).

9. When the police car arrived towards the end of the movie, I actually felt really bad for Chris because in my mind, a white officer would step out and shoot him right on the spot. I would like to believe that I wasn’t the only one who thought the same way. Such a sad world we’re living in, no?

Rating: ★★★★☆

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: ★★☆☆☆

JUST THE 3 OF US (Cathy Garcia-Molina, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Just The 3 Of Us:

1. The movie reminded me so much of this late 90’s rom-com with Matthew Perry as a happy-go-lucky bachelor who had a one night stand with a sultry Salma Hayek in Vegas. She ended up pregnant, they got married, and then discovered each other’s personalities while fixing family and work issues. It was called Fools Rush In and I would have asked you to rent it in a local Video City, but I think all of their stores closed ages ago.

2. In this version though, the girl CJ (Jennylyn Mercado) would rather stalk the potential father and be the emotional punching bag of Uno (John Lloyd Cruz) who had a bad temper (F-words everywhere!), an a-hole attitude (“So what? Buhay ko ‘to. Kahit mag-swimming ako sa alak wala ka pakialam!”), crazy reasoning (he wanted to take care of CJ and the baby, but made her sleep on an uncomfortable sofa bed in the living room with poor ventilation), and a drinking problem that were all supposedly reasonable because of abandonment issues. Hey, he wasn’t named Abusado for nothing.

The fact that Star Cinema was willing to romanticize such an abusive relationship and treat the girl like a lovestruck puppy with a Messiah Complex was just absurd, but then again the flimsy story wasn’t its strongest suit. With a master director of the genre (Cathy Garcia-Molina) and two of the most charming comedic actors in local cinema, how could it not work?

3. Iba pa rin talaga ang charms ni John Lloyd (huge eyebags and all). When CJ said “Nabuntis mo ako dahil diyan sa bwiset na ngiti mo”, I actually believed her. I wouldn’t be surprised if several virgins walked out of the theater pregnant and that Lloydie would be faced with multiple paternity suits nine months from now.

The only thing I couldn’t stand about him was all the heavy drinking that he was required to do. Star Cinema, I already sent a plea way back in A Second Chance. Stop being negative enablers, please!

4. It was a good thing that Liberty Pacific was a fictional airline because the crew’s uniforms were tragic. The light blue and beige combination reminded me of horrible high school memories in Ateneo and I didn’t even attend that school.

5. I could easily understand why Lloydie was the regular Pinoy guy’s hero because he always looked like he last stepped in a gym when Slimmer’s World first opened. On top of that, his contract seemed to require that he show off his daddey bod and have a tween-friendly sex scene. A drunk and stooped over the toilet bowl Jennylyn with Lloydie ready to pump behind her even with a missing condom merited the R-13 rating and that scene was just hilarious.

I did feel a bit uncomfortable since there were a few kids from where I was seated. Surely their parents immediately regretted lying about their age.

6. Uno had to be the saddest bachelor because he only had kitchenware for one (seriously, why would anyone buy one plate and glass? Never expecting guests?). He ate microwaved food every day, stocked his fridge with yoghurt, and couldn’t even take care of a plant. Wait, I think I just described myself. Truly sad.

I also couldn’t understand how he could own a Chopard watch and a really nice SUV, and yet couldn’t afford a decent bed. Unless it was really his choice to just place a mattress on the floor for a zen Japanese effect which I totally respect.

7. Jennylyn has perfected these rom-com roles to a tee. Some jokes probably ended up funnier than intended because her every little reaction or expression just added so much to the scene. My favorites were: a) when she realized that she was already falling for him and had to control her smile, and b) when she treated a wasted Lloydie like a baby, cooing and wiping his mouth while saying “Naku naman ang baby naglungad”. Napakahusay.

She was so adorable that I didn’t mind if she was playing a crazy character who would place all of her used pregnancy test kits on a table (ewwness). The only scene that really fell flat was the airport stalking bit, not only because it made me question airport security but also because a bad wig and huge mole never really looked funny except on a Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo impersonator.

8. You know you’re watching a Lloydie movie because someone will definitely get a terrible headache and give him a chance to prescribe Biogesic with a glass of water. Also, there will be a scene where he hasn’t eaten for days and will be offered a partially consumed Magic Flakes crackers. Bonus na lang yung Western Union product placement.

9. Could someone check on Richard Yap? He seemed to have been replaced by a robot.

10. I really loved CJ’s white sando-wearing clan not only because they were the type that would put a huge tarp sa bayan to inform everyone about a family member’s success (raise your hand if you could relate), but also because they had a really funny mantra (the whole “Dahil lahat tayo Manalo!” bit). The scene where CJ didn’t know how to break the news about her pregnancy to her overeager family delivered the loudest and most genuine laughs (“Positive ba anak?”, “Ilang buwan ang training?” “Nine months po.”).

11. When a drunk Baron Geisler showed up as CJ’s ex, I started to wonder why she had a penchant for alcoholics. Forget being a flight attendant, she should have been a caregiver slash therapist.

12. The kid next door was initially cute and funny until she completely invaded their lives and turned into an unwelcome pet.

(Disclaimer: Being averse to kids and pets does not make me a monster. I’m a good person. Huhuhu.)

13. The final scene with the paper airplanes triggered my OCD and I just wanted to enter the screen, pick them all up, and throw them in the trash. How romantic of me.

P.S. Did they really have to reveal the paternity results? Did they expect viewers to go home in baliw-baliwan mode not knowing if Uno was the real father (even if this was a Star Cinema love story and it was all but a given)? Please.

Rating: ★★★☆☆