THE HOWS OF US (Cathy Garcia-Molina, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Hows of Us:

1. If you’re an old soul (read: an oldie afraid to admit that he’s beyond his prime) like me, you probably have downloaded and played Homescapes (currently ranked #73 in the Apple App Store) where your goal was to build this dream house and decorate it with all types of furniture. The first five minutes of this movie reminded me so much of that game, with George (Kathryn Bernardo) and Primo (Daniel Padilla) providing the voiceover while they selected the perfect couch for their living room. That scene culminated in a huge shouting match that signalled the end of their relationship before transitioning to a split screen sequence that was completely lifted from Kalyeserye (I swear I could hear an instrumental version of Rey Valera’s Kahit Maputi na ang Buhok Ko in the background, a song I have associated with AlDub ever since I died of kilig from their McDonald’s commercial heydays). And then it turned into a Mannequin Challenge with the camera moving around while the pair pretended to be serious contenders in a game of stop dance. Wait, were they aiming to do a recap of pop culture references for this decade?

2. I honestly expected this to be KathNiel’s response to the critical success of JaDine’s Never Not Love You, but it simply lacked the depth and maturity (in terms of characters and story) needed to display their growth as artists (insert that meme of Tyra Banks screaming “I was rooting for you! We were all rooting for you!!”).

Hearing Kathryn utter the word “Putangina!” repeatedly just wasn’t enough, especially if you would consider a Miss Granny like Sarah Geronimo saying vulgar words like “puke” and “hindot” in her most recent film. While their screen rivals tackled weighty themes like long distance relationships and adult responsibilities, the biggest conflict in this movie was whether George should continue with her jeepney ride to take her med school exam or scream “para!” to get down and help a drunk Primo who was slumped on the road. These were supposed to be real people problems? Seryoso?

Side note: I guess it spoke a lot about the maturity of these characters that the fans still shrieked their lungs out every time the lovebirds kissed.

3. Dear Star Cinema, wasn’t it too early to start recycling elements from your recent hits? There were so many things here that reminded me so much of Starting Over Again from George’s line of “In him, I saw a good man…” to that supposedly sensual flirtation reminiscent of Toni Gonzaga’s stepladder scene down to that drunk rant of George with her gay BFF (Juan Miguel Severo) that never reached the comedic heights of Beauty Gonzalez’s “Yang hope na yan, lason yan” moment. I’m sure you have a strong pool of writers. Wala na bang bago? (As in Susan Africa played a Tita Lola role and ended up dead after a few scenes.)

4. If anything, Kathryn looked so gorgeous here (with or without her EO Optical contacts) and I’d have to commend her for making the most out of her thinly-written character. She only had one off moment when she was required to overact like crazy in that “Pagod na pagod na pagod na ako!” scene. Otherwise, she was actually good in her dramatic scenes (even if she played a selfish girlfriend required to say lines like “Wala kang pambili kahit cupcake man lang para sa akin?”) and was even better during the (abruptly) comedic second half. She seemed headed back to her glorious Magkaribal/Mara Clara days. Really happy for her!!

And no amount of Daniel sporting a horrible mullet and looking like a deranged version of Lady Diane (“Sa-sa-Saddami ng problema natin!”) minimized the fact that this tandem could still deliver the requisite kiligs. My favorite moment had to be that cringey-sweet hugot of Primo: “Matagal na naman akong talo eh simula nung hinayaan kong mawala ka”. Awww!

(P.S. Ang galing na nila umarte pareho. Please give them the movie that they deserve!!)

5. I had seen the entire filmography of Maricel Soriano so I know that that entire splitting of the house with masking tape gag was already done with much better results in Kung Kaya Mo, Kaya Ko Rin! (and yes, it was also just copied from a much earlier film with Dolphy and Nida Blanca or some other Philippine Cinema legends that I was too lazy to Google). If I remembered it correctly, there was also a scene where Cesar Montano played his guitar and tried to win back Maricel through a harana. And when Maricel’s BFF Ruby Rodriguez decided to visit the house, she had to drag her over to her side because the rest of the space was off-limits. All of those exact same scenes were in this movie. Again, wala na bang bago?

6. In one clunky scene, George and Primo were selling their “conjugal” ancestral home to a potential buyer (Odette Khan) and after stating that it really didn’t have much value, Primo countered that it did have a lot of history and special memories, thus making it priceless. And I kept thinking, “Totoo ba? Ano naman paki ng buyer sa memories na yan?” so I was really surprised when she instead replied with “I like it! Eto na ang pera!” Huwaaaat?

7. Real jokes delivered while the lovebirds biked around Amsterdam:

• “Bakit ang daming nag-ba-bike dito?” “Eh bike-it naman hindi?”

• “Anong instrumento ang favorite sa Amsterdam?” “Eh di Amsterdrums!”

• “Ano ang favorite pet sa Amsterdam?” “Eh di Hamsterdam!”

• “Ano ang paboritong kainin sa Amsterdam?” “Eh di Hamsterdam and Cheese!”

Should I continue? AMSTERDAMMIT!!

8. “Sana samahan mo pa rin ako in finding out the answers to all the hows.” Hahahaha! Naipilit pa rin ang title.

But seriously, after My Ex and Whys and The Hows of Us, I wonder if Star Cinema still has plans of using the remaining 4W’s. Who Who Belles? What’s Upon a Time? Ready to Where? When Dramas? Oh, too punny!!

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: ★★☆☆☆