12 (Dondon Santos, 2017)

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I just watched almost two hours of petty sumbatan between two people that were never really meant to be together. I wish I were their therapist so I could have shushed them both with “Tengene maghiwalay na nga kayo!!”.

Alessandra de Rossi was fine as expected, but she needed a stronger partner to make the whole thing work. It would have also been nice if her broken character didn’t have to repeatedly verbalize that she was broken, broken, broken.

Ivan Padilla was such a terrible actor that he made Matthew Mendoza look like an Urian winner. I had to constantly shield my face every time he would start a shouting match because spittle would just keep flying everywhere.

I was surprised that Ivan even found the time to take a shower during their lengthy squabble, except that we needed a gratuitous topless shot of him in just a towel. He probably would have been better suited as a Bench model.

If you hadn’t learned anything from Ate Clau, here’s the moral of the story: Never get a relationship tattoo (unless you know a really good dermatologist that could laser that off).

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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NORTHERN LIGHTS: A JOURNEY TO LOVE (Dondon Santos, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Northern Lights: A Journey to Love:

1. It must be tough to be a Piolo Pascual. When people commonly refer to you as Papa, there’s this high level of expectation (or fantasy) that you’re constantly required to fulfill (or satisfy). I’m not at all surprised that at the ripe old screen age of 40, he still plays these cutesy roles that merely require him to flash his gorgeous smile and ensure that hundreds of Soen panties (and a few Bench briefs) fall inside the cinema.

But having him deliver lines like “Are you London Bridge? Are you falling?” while making pungay eyes just doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s time to pass on that Mikimoto crown.

Speaking of, he had several topless scenes while flirting with different women (in one, he was in a sleeping bag on a snowy hill, jusko pneumonia! shrinkage!) just to remind everyone that he’s straight, Straight, STRAIGHT!! (Maybe he should rethink that man bun then.)

2. Everything here screamed generic (yes, it was the Rite-Med version of any Nicholas Sparks adaptation) and this was evident as soon as the movie started with a discussion about the Northern Lights (uhh, duh!). Apparently, the souls of the dead (including those of animals!) would win a free one-way trip to Alaska and become part of the Aurora Borealis.

When the kid (Raikko Mateo) asked his mother (Maricar Reyes), “Puwede po ba ako pumunta diyan?”, I immediately knew that one of them wouldn’t survive before the end credits.

3. This was the kind of original movie where:

• Strangers would bump into each other in an airport as part of the Meet Cute scene

• A douchebag character would continuously harass a girl, but it would be considered romantic because the said douche looked like Papa P (who sounded even douchey-er with his Diether Ocampo American accent)

• Characters would speak in unison several times because it was supposedly cute

• A romantic leading man would say “Lilingon ka rin in 3, 2, 1…” like we hadn’t seen it in previous rom-coms

• A girl would recall an experience that sounded like rape (“Nilasing niya ako at paggising ko wala na akong saplot”) and it would be played for laughs

• Somebody would give an instant lecture about the Treaty of Paris to give more perspective about their location

• Music and Lyric’s Way Back Into Love served as the closing theme

4. Yen Santos was just too bland for the role of a girl in search of her missing OFW mother (her reason: “Kahit ganito na ako katanda gusto ko pa rin tinitirintas nya ang buhok ko”). Leah Olivar would probably be laughing in her Mrs. Pizza costume right about now.

Seeing a fresh face onscreen was definitely a welcome change, but I wish she had shown a bit more personality. Her delivery sounded very malamya that I was constantly reminded of that Shield bath soap nurse and I expected her to suddenly burst into song (“Di biro maging nurse, dapat marunong sa sakit. At marunong mag-alaga, yun bang may malasakit…”).

In one scene, she was supposed to do a bad cover of Air Supply’s All Out of Love and she was just terrible in pretending to sound awful (how was that even possible?). Oh well, not everyone could be Nico Antonio.

5. Also, Yen’s character had the nerve to question Piolo’s constant state of toplessness amidst the freezing weather and yet she had a scene where she was only wearing an oversized boyfriend shirt with one side barely hanging on her shoulders and part of her back exposed like she was in an Olay commercial. Guuurrrrrl!!

6. Although Raikko had some really cute moments, the real saving grace here was Glydel Mercado in full Ate Vi in Anak mode as the mother (!!) of Yen. Her character’s motivations were not clear, but she did cry a river that was enough to remind everyone why she was a Grand Slam winner for Sidhi.

7. Why did the Northern Lights look like CGI?

8. The denouement with a dead character communicating with the living loved ones through video was directly stolen from My Life. It could have stopped there but since this was a Regal Films co-production, of course it needed a happy ending. On the beach. Hello Pico de Loro!!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

IMAGINE YOU & ME (Michael Tuviera, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Imagine You & Me:

1. Hi, I’m Json and I am a lapsed AlDub fan. (Hi, Json!) I joined the bandwagon right before a wall separated Alden and Yaya Dub in Kalyeserye and jumped off a little after their love team’s debut fizzled in My Bebe Love. Although I continued to receive updates from some die-hard friends, I was still pleasantly surprised to witness the newfound chemistry that they had been raving about. In this movie, AlDub had indeed moved on to being MaiChard and everything just felt right…and real.

2. Could someone explain Maine Mendoza’s appeal to the older crowd? Whenever I watched this type of rom-com, most of the shrieking would come from teenage girls (and directed at the male lead, like Daniel Padilla or James Reid), but I swear about half the people screaming and getting their fill of kilig in our screening were older women (even grandmothers!) rooting for Maine (as Gara). They could very well have been watching the newest Sampaguita or LVN picture.

3. I didn’t have high hopes when the movie started with “Sabi nila ang pag-ibig ay…” and then showed a montage of star-crossed lovers, especially since this quirky style and formula had been trademarked and more effectively used by Dan Villegas and Antoinette Jadaone, but the story progressed much better than expected (up until the dreary final moments).

The movie rested heavily on Maine’s tiny shoulders and she more than delivered, keeping the first thirty or so Alden-less minutes brisk, light, and fun to watch, whether she was getting dumped by her gay boyfriend, lamenting her supposedly cursed lovelife, or simply getting off her bike because the road was “matarik”. I probably laughed the most when she took a selfie with that pader (kasi wala naman talagang ganung pader sa Pilipinas haha!).

4. Elapsed time before the first advertisement: one minute-ish (Magnolia), probably the fastest one so far in recent memory. I wasn’t surprised to see a barrage of other products (including McDonald’s and O+) figure prominently in the story. In one scene where Alden Richards was supposedly drunk, I think there was even a hint of Bench underwear peeking under his jeans (or was I just too fixated on that area?).

5. I really liked how Alden (as Andrew) was always on the verge of tears in every scene (whenever he wasn’t being bugnutin). The movie was able to play on his strength as a dramatic actor and he could easily give John Lloyd Cruz (or even Judy Ann Santos) a run for best crier in local cinema. My favorite scene of his was the videoke session (“Wala ako sa kondisyon eh”, “Ano ‘to grand finals?”) ending with him crying over a sappy Tagalog love song. (Side note: Alden seems to be such a genuine person. I really get that strong vibe from him.)

6. “Mag-ingat ka sa mga lalaking mapuputi na ganyan. Mga pa-fall ang mga ‘yan.” – Kakai Bautista referring to…

(Yang tataaaaaaaa?)

7. There were so many gorgeous shots of Italy and I’m sure that a lot of people would start saving up just to experience grabbing the right breast of Juliet’s statue in Verona. (Hey, if I were to touch one again it might as well be for good luck.) I really liked that tracking shot that followed the pair going in and out of the adjacent rooms and veranda (overlooking a mountain view) with them barely missing each other.

8. Loved Jasmine Curtis-Smith since Transit and she was good here as the leukemia-stricken third party, but it felt like her character’s arc was unnecessary (besides, wouldn’t it have been more depressing if Gara was competing with a dead girl?). Actually, the entire dramatic third act including the last minute (out of nowhere) accident felt forced and didn’t earn the tears (similar to that rant of Gara after she was accused of stealing, “Oo mahirap lang ako…”; where did that come from, such a weird transition).

9. Carpool karaoke officially became a staple in local rom-coms. Although it was fun to see Gara sing April Boy Regino’s Di Ko Kayang Tanggapin, it was still hard to believe that Andrew would have that in his playlist. As one character said, “Makikilala mo ang isang tao sa song choices niya” and I could have sworn snobby Andrew was the Ed Sheeran type.

10. “Kaya naimbento ang glue, para kahit gaano kawasak ang isang bagay, pwede pa ring mabuo.” Sigh.

11. My favorite nods to AlDub:

• Gara during the car sing-along, “Eh sa gusto kong mag Dubsmash.” (Although it wasn’t technically a Dubsmash.)

• Gara asking, “Hindi ka nagulat na NBSB ako. Sinasabi mo bang panget ako?” (Wink wink, haters.)

• That Tamang Panahon reference.

• July 16, 2016 written on the lock that they left on Juliet’s wall (Happy anniversary! For real?).

12. If you’re a big believer of fate and destiny ala Romeo and Juliet (“Ang bawat coincidence ay nakatakda na”), then you would really enjoy this movie. I had my reservations since I belong in the “I create my own destiny” team.

13. Prepare your ears for that second sweet kiss (since the first happened while one of them was in a coma). You have been warned.

Also, this may not be a Marvel movie, but stay until the very end of the closing credits. Confirmed!!

Rating: ★★★☆☆