MOVIE REVIEW: CHAIN MAIL (Adolf Alix, Jr., 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Chain Mail:

1. Some of my all-time favorite Filipino films (Mater Dolorosa, Isda, and Adela come to mind) were directed by Adolf Alix, Jr. so I was completely surprised with this mess of a movie. It was like he gave up midway through production and finished it with a “Pwede na ‘to” attitude. The final product was just so far off from his usual technically-proficient films.

2. In the opening scene, Nadine Lustre (in a “special role”) got run over by an out of control jeepney that rammed the computer shop where she was checking her email. Everything was supposed to have a supernatural feel with the requisite gore but the clunky setup just made it look funny. And why was she in full party mode red dress just to check her email anyway? And why was she immediately killed if she just opened and read the chain mail? What if she had no access to Wifi or 3G at home to check before the 9th day? I therefore blame Globe for her death.

3. This chain mail thing probably would have been scarier 20 years ago. It just felt so dated. Like watching The Ring and its cursed VHS in this day and age of Piratebay.

4. A lot of people got killed in the movie. I barely knew them (both the artists and the characters) and I didn’t really care much about them. I mean how could you invest on someone that got trapped in a car and her first instinct was to tap loudly on the window? Sure she might have been in a state of panic but if she only reached for the door handle…

5. The faceless creature with blasted areolas looked like it came straight out of Pan’s Labyrinth. (I apologize to Guillermo del Toro for including his classic film in the notes of this dreadful movie.) Later on it was explained that the girl victim cut off her nose (yes, her entire nose with scissors) and she had time to slash her entire body and cut her hair before actually going into shock.

6. So many scenes were so badly-lit it reeked of lack of budget.

7. In a cheering practice…

M! A! B! U! H! A! Y! Mabuhay!! (Repeat 10x)

Head cheerleader: Ok from the top.

Scene continued without any sound coming from the squad. What?!

8. All the kids in this movie checked their email every single time like it was Twitter. Do people really do this? Are they waiting for an email from LiNa?

9. The characters here were so sosyal. A post office worker and a high school teacher both lived in these lavish houses in posh subdivisions. Did they have a cut in the pork barrel as well?

10. 80’s icon Bernardo Bernardo played an albularyo that probably would have been funnier if he were flamboyant and in full Oda Mae Brown mode.

11. One schoolgirl got killed in the bathroom (the creature came out of the toilet while she was peeing) but it was classes as usual on the same day for the rest of the students while they mourned their dearly departed classmate. Seriously, in what crazy school does this happen?

12. In another scene, the manager of Project Pie got locked in the walk-in freezer for two minutes before turning into a literal malamig na bangkay.

13. Terrible, horrible, god-awful performances all around. The only real source of horror in this horror flick.

14. One character almost drowned in the pool because she kept flailing around and didn’t bother standing up. Seriously.

15. Nadapa si Ate Shy Carlos sa kalsada. Dinala sa Ospital ng Maynila. Naka-wheelchair sa susunod na eksena. Na-confine. Que horror!

16. The school gossip (the gay teacher of course!) got killed when a ceiling fan rotated on his neck (sorry, that’s the only way I could describe it). He even had time to scream before it fell on him. Blood spurted out of his sliced neck. In succeeding scenes, a character kept saying that the gay teacher was “napugutan”. Since I didn’t see any rolling head, apparently, he didn’t know what the word meant.

17. In one sequence with a continuous real-time conversation, a character kept changing places after every line while the background turned from day to night. How long exactly was that discussion?

18. Rain effects. Overhead shot of the car moving on the road. And then you see the dry spot where the car used to be. Paano nakakalusot ang mga ganitong bagay?

19. The movie ended up as a cautionary tale on viral sex videos. And pedophile teachers.

20. And the Best Performance by a Pamintang Durog goes to…

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published July 23, 2015.)

MOVIE REVIEW: HELE SA HIWAGANG HAPIS (Lav Diaz, 2016)

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My notes on Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis:

1. Hele. Hiwaga. Hapis. These three words appropriately described my overall experience of the movie. I was oftentimes lulled to sleep, with its 8-hour runtime and scenes that seemed to never end. I was enchanted by the intersecting stories of both fictional and real characters in Philippine history, even if the movie remained a mystery until the very last scene. Lastly, my butt was screaming in pain and sorrow and felt every minute of it (like I had imaginary flaring hemorrhoids and I had to keep adjusting in my seat). I came out of that challenge feeling like the winner in Survivor: Cinema.

(For the record, Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan was the exact opposite experience and enthralled me with every minute of its four-hour length.)

2. Don’t get me wrong, this was far from being a bad movie. Each gorgeously-shot misty frame in glorious black and white (this movie really put the mist in mystery) should still be worth the price of admission (plus, the P500 ticket in Newport came with unli-popcorn, a large cup of rootbeer, and a giant siopao; pa-fiesta pa lang ni Mayor sulit na).

I was just never a fan of lyrical poetry. Ayoko ng mga mabulaklak at paligoy-ligoy na salita. Wasn’t it Shakespeare who said that “brevity is the soul of wit”? (Believe me, the irony wasn’t completely lost on me.)

3. My favorite characters came in groups of threes. The screen has never been more alive than when the diwatas of Quiroga (Queenmelo Esguerra, Moira Lang, Bianca Balbuena) would appear in their fabulous kaftans, creating chaos with a menacing laugh or a throwaway pick-up line. The other trio would be the excellent tikbalangs (Bernardo Bernardo, Cherie Gil, Angel Aquino) that mesmerized viewers with every trick played on Gregoria de Jesus and company. I was sold on these characters as soon as Bernardo Squared let out a loud neigh. Such splendid actors!

(Oh, John Lloyd Cruz was fine, although I felt that his take on Mi Ultimo Adios was like a response to Maja Salvador’s Trisha’s “I love you and I will tell you everyday, everyday until you forget the things that hurthhhh.” The less said about Piolo Pascual’s stiff performance, the better. He had the requisite abs scene so no complaints here.)

4. The long takes were impressive, especially the dialogue-heavy scenes. As someone who botched a twenty-line poem in a Talumpatian back in grade school, I could just imagine the amount of time spent memorizing that script. The downside was that there were some glaring flubs (and obviously pulled punches and kicks) that Lav Diaz didn’t feel the need to retake.

It was important to note that if a character started singing a song or reciting a poem, expect that performance to be completed (8 hours, take your time). The same could be said with a lot of scenes that just stretched on for several minutes (Simoun crying in pain, Basilio endlessly digging, nipa hut burning down to the ground, etc). I wasn’t surprised at all when some critics accused Diaz of being self-indulgent. One character even mentioned, “Masyadong makasarili ang sining”. My butt nodded in agreement. Maybe some opium would have helped?

5. My two favorite scenes were:

a) Susan Africa (sans tuberculosis or any other life-threatening disease) as Aling Hule wading in an entire stretch of muddy rice field like it was some sort of punishment from Clara del Valle

b) Alessandra de Rossi as Caesaria Belarmino asking for forgiveness for being the “pinakamagandang dilag ng Silang”. Pak na pak!

6. The movie felt a bit preachy towards the end. I half-expected Whitney Houston’s Greatest Love of All to start playing.

7. Several people cheered after the screening. I was sure that some really loved the movie. I was just part of those that were thankful that it was finally over.

Rating: ★★★☆☆