I LOVE YOU, HATER (Giselle Andres, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on I Love You, Hater:

1. In the words of the great Beyoncé, “Honesty is such a lonely word. Everyone is so untrue. Honesty is hardly ever heard. And mostly what I need from you.” (I know this was a Billy Joel original, but I’m a self-proclaimed millennial.)

Joko (Joshua Garcia) lived in his own world of lies. He fabricated a story to his family about working in New York and then he pretended to be a swishy beshie so that he could apprentice (read: be the next Darla) for Digital Empress Sasha Imperial (Kris Aquino, in her most challenging role as herself).

On the other hand, Zoey (Julia Barretto) with all of her emotional baggage that stemmed from father abandonment issues was allergic to lies. Would these two morally opposite poles attract (even with a pretend gender conflict)? We wouldn’t need an alien intervention to know the answer to this one.

In the spirit of honesty and the movie’s #SaTrueLang hashtag (wait, was that redundant?), let me say that I’m no hater, but I did not love this one at all. Similar to Giselle Andres’ last directorial effort Loving in Tandem, the weak and muddled plot could not be salvaged by the enthusiastic performances of its leads.

2. This might sound like a Julia Barretto Appreciation Post because I would be raving like a lovestruck lunatic over the next few sentences so be warned.

In last year’s Love You to the Stars and Back, I hailed her performance as the second coming of Queen Claudine Barretto. With this movie, she just officially earned her right to finally step out of her aunt’s shadow (yes, this would be the last time that I would compare her to Ate Clau).

In one scene, Zoey (who looked gorgeous with her wet, slicked back hair) attended the wedding of her half-sister where her absentee father (Ricardo Cepeda) proudly bragged about his “only daughter”. It was such a sad moment and you could see the terrible pain and humiliation in Zoey’s eyes, especially when the tears started to well up while she stormed out of the event (the succeeding scene where she sobbed in her room wasn’t even needed).

When Zoey admitted her feelings for Joko and then discovered his ruse, their confrontation scene (“Di ko alam kung bakit ako nagmahal…”) was an acting highlight for Julia. What started as an iyak-tawa delivery turned into full-blown rage and a definite nganga (did this girl really do that?) moment for me. I wonder how much of the behind the scenes issues and tension contributed to that brilliant scene. Hugot kung hugot, you go girl! Also, those seemingly naughty stares while she teased Joko were just too funny. Mahusay talaga siya dito.

(Side note: Joshua could still cry on cue, but his performance here seemed to lack the usual sensitivity and depth.)

3. Kris was surprisingly tolerable here and her supporting role was obviously stretched to ensure that she would get as much screen time as JoshLia. I guess it didn’t hurt that most of her scenes involved Sasha shooting her vlogs (for National Bookstore and iFlix, no less) so it was definitely in her wheelhouse. She also had a subplot about an Alzheimer’s-stricken father (Ronaldo Valdez, wonderful as always) and was given a couple of dramatic highlights (one closely resembled the McDo Karen ad) that probably would have been more effective if she weren’t trying so damn hard to squeeze her tearducts (as in literal na more pikit para pumatak ang luha).

If anything, I really loved her joyously colorful Happy Pride outfits. I wonder how many glitter unicorns had to die just to make them.

4. Speaking of pride, I was shocked to see an unrecognizable Mark Neumann playing one half of a gay couple (the other half was Markki Stroem). He was built up as a teen idol in Artista Academy and here he looked like a lipstick lesbian who might also own a Mio.

Why wasn’t the couple even invited when Zoey and Joko went to O Bar (billed here as Rave)? You know this was a work of fiction because in that scene where a Sarah Geronimo impersonator was performing, nobody from the crowd was doing the viral Tala dance moves.

5. Joshua must really be trying to fill the void left by John Lloyd Cruz because he had a Biogesic-like scene where he took Enervon and a few seconds later an extra was tasked to say “Ang taas ng energy mo!!”. Agad-agad??

I laughed out really loud though when promdi Joko called out the terrible food served in the wedding by saying “Hilaw nga nila sinerve yung steak eh. May dugo-dugo pa. Gross!” Nyahahaha!

6. My favorite scene was when Joko’s clan threw a surprise birthday party (complete with papier-mache lechon and cake) for Zoey. He then offered his father to dance with her and said, “Pahiram ko muna sa’yo ang tatay ko.” It was touching, heartfelt, and made me wish that Zoey had a standalone movie.

7. Burning questions:

• Why was Zoey wearing those short shorts (albeit stylish) for an important job interview?

• Would a Digital Empress really hire somebody that she met in an elevator and gave basic graphic design suggestions? More importantly, why couldn’t she afford to pay (or give a shoutout) for a decent logo design?

• Were those Instagram pictures intentionally Photoshopped to make Zoey’s father and his family look like they were levitating directly across the Leaning Tower of Pisa?

• Whenever Joko would get a hard-on, where was the actual bukol? What was he trying to cover?

• Why did Sasha give Joko some National Bookstore gift certificates and ask him to buy a new outfit? (Made out of cartolina, glitter, and glue gun?)

• When Zoey’s friend encouraged her crush on “gay” Joko by shouting “Wag matakot, maki-beki!”, was she really being a supportive friend or a staunch LGBT advocate?

• With the movie already running far too long, did we really need a recap of their sweetest moments before the climactic… hug?

8. “Kumain ka ng torta para lumaki kang borta.” And yet in my dyslexic brain it kept coming up as “Kumain ka ng borta na may malaking torta.” #SaTrueLang tayo besh.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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FINALLY FOUND SOMEONE (Theodore Boborol, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Finally Found Someone:

1. I knew something was wrong with this production as soon as the rumor came out that Star Cinema had to scrap sixteen days’ worth of filmed scenes and basically reshoot everything. Apparently, several spoiler-ish photos leaked online and ruined the entire story, or possible twist (ooh, very Game of Thrones!). After watching the entire thing, all I could think of was, This was the improved version?!

2. As a huge fan of the Laida-Miggy trilogy, I was happy that Star chose to give the Sarah Geronimo-John Lloyd Cruz tandem a fresh and new story…until I realized that there was nothing really fresh or new in this trope-filled mess. It felt like the creative team just gave up on the project and threw in every lazy detail that they could think of to come up with a finished product.

• “Eto bagong-bago. Kelangan more kilig so may habulan at batuhan ng harina!”

• “Oh my gosh, ang ganda! Tapos since nag-bake na ng cake eh magpahiran na rin sila ng icing! Awww!”

• “Guys, di pwedeng pa-cute lang dapat maiyak din ang mga tao. Eto as in naisip ko lang now, dagdagan kaya natin ng may sakit na nanay?”

• “Ay, don’t forget ang mga chuwariwap friends! Very important! Check mo na rin ang schedules nina Joey Marquez at Dennis Padilla for the tatay roles.”

• “Current and relevant din dapat so kelangan involved ang social media.”

• “Wait, nagamit na natin yan sa Dear Other Self, My Ex and Whys atsaka Vince & Kath & James diba?”

• “Eh di ulitin! Pati theme song na nagamit na sa Born for You nina Coco at Angeline i-recycle na rin.”

• “Yung hugot line ha wag kalimutan. Eto naisip ko, Love needs truth to be true.”

• “Eh why not, Does love need truth to be true or does truth need love to be true?”

• “Sakit sa ulo. Tulog na tayo.”

3. Raffy Sandoval? Why not Oliver Papa?

Anywho, I was just happy that John Lloyd was here because he made everything bearable, very much like a cinematic Rumpelstiltskin turning crappy scenes into pure gold with just his radiant smile (faney alert!). I would not be doing that Lungkot Kembot bit any time soon (unlike the Rain Dance that I perform before any out-of-the-country trip), but I’d always remember how sad it made me feel when he sobbed while making kembot near the BGC fountain.

And yes, I also shed a few tears in the scene where he opened up to his sick mother, but then I would probably cry watching him cry over a paper cut.

4. Lakas ng appeal ni Sarah to the older crowd. Was it because they could see the ideal and virtuous anak/apo in her? I watched this twice on opening day and there was always that one old person that would loudly say, “Ang galing ni Sarah!” or “Ang ganda ni Sarah!” (bias aside, I think everyone would agree that she looked really, really good here).

I just wish she was given a character that didn’t need to be too quirky to be funny. The clunky opening sequence alone didn’t do her any favors because it just looked too awkward (that ladder scene should have been saved for Toni Gonzaga).

Sarah fared much better when she wasn’t forced to act funny and her natural self would come out. Ever since Filipinas, I knew that she could effectively handle a dramatic role so I really loved that confrontation scene with Aprilyn saying, “Alam mo kung bakit ka tatanda mag-isa? Kasi takot ka magsabi ng totoong nararamdaman mo. Well, ako hindi. I’ve fallen in love with you.” Ang sakit! Bravo!!

5. I could feel the tension between the two when they recently guested in Gandang Gabi Vice and it was obvious as well in that Two Truths and a Lie kitchen scene. Whatever personal issues they had actually helped make that scene authentic and honest. (Now if only it didn’t stretch on forever…)

Pero iba pa rin talaga ang kilig ng AshLloyd. My favorite moment was the restaurant scene where John Lloyd said, “Meron special diyan. Wala sa menu. Nasa harap mo.” Like Sarah, I giggled like a schoolgirl.

6. It was sad to see recent Urian winner Christian Bables sounding like BFF Barbs acting all paminta to get near Lloydie. His talent was wasted on a thankless role that probably could have been saved by (trope alert!!) Janus del Prado or Ketchup Eusebio.

Also, what was up with that checkered polo and striped cardigan combo? Trisha definitely wouldn’t have approved.

7. As expected, product placements galore. What I found amusing was that we didn’t even need to see the brand of the pill that John Lloyd was handing over to (yet another) sick relative. Everyone assumed (knew!) it was Biogesic. Now that was an effective endorser.

8. So Aprilyn’s a pre-school teacher (and probably The Voice Kids coach given the incredibly high pitch of that Hello, Hello, Hello song), an Honesty Cookies baker, and a successful Hallmark card maker, samantala ako bum sa bahay. Okay.

9. Pet peeve: continuity issues. And this one just had too many from the changing lengths of Sarah’s hair to the missing icing stain on the back of John Lloyd’s shirt. My OCD self died a little.

10. Dear Future Star Cinema Rom-Com, if ever Sarah finally agrees to do a kissing scene by the time she’s 35, can you make sure it will be with John Lloyd, please? Goodbye drone shot!!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

THE ACHY BREAKY HEARTS (Antoinette Jadaone, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Achy Breaky Hearts:

1. More than Valentine’s Day, I think the annual family reunion is the ultimate source of pain and trauma in any single person’s life. There will always be that one snooty aunt that will ask you the age-old question of “Kelan ka mag-aasawa?”, like your being single is a source of shame for the entire clan that they want to immediately sweep under the rug. On the flip side, you can view it positively that they only ask out of love because they don’t want you to end up as an old maid. A shameful old maid that they want to lock up in the basement, away from the prying eyes and loose lips of neighbors. Sigh.

2. The first few minutes of the movie smartly tackled this perceived dilemma of single women. Can one truly be alone and happy? Does Gabriela revoke your feminist card if you still long for someone that you can clutch onto while watching a horror movie in a cinema (especially one packed with lovers)? Is it wrong to admit the feeling of sadness even if you’re toasting for independence with your other single amigas?

3. Jodi Sta. Maria was perfect in the role of Chinggay because she was able to easily convey these mixed feelings, even when the movie started to default to a typical Star Cinema rom-com. The best scene involved an iyak-tawa moment of her dancing to Sasakyan after getting her heart broken yet again. She may drink a lot of Anlene, but she still gets weak in the knees when it comes to boy problems.

Also, although Chinggay was a successful jewelry store manager, she still seemed very submissive to the two men in her life. I wonder when Jodi will play an actual tough careerwoman that wouldn’t require her to call a man “Sir” every ten seconds.

4. I really abhor voiceovers that feel intrusive and basically explain the characters’ feelings and motives. Show us, don’t tell us. If an effective narrator is really needed, then please refer to Jane the Virgin.

5. I almost died from kilig in the scene where Ryan (Ian Veneracion) removed the ring from Chinggay’s finger using his mouth, but there were two thoughts that immediately countered that feeling: 1) my grandmother told me that you should never remove another person’s ring because you’ll end up becoming enemies, and 2) GERMS!!

6. I have always been #TeamTisoy ever since All You Need is Pag-ibig (they even tried to recreate that movie’s charming Bilanggo sing-along, but it just wasn’t as effective here). Besides, ex-boyfriend Frank (Richard Yap) looked like her father, was a bit malamya, and talked like a wooden spoon. He was no match to the vampiric looks of Ryan that made three women collapse from their seats when the camera zoomed in on his sleeping face. (Speaking of, I was happy to see that Ian sweats a lot like any human being. But then again his sweat might actually smell like Clinique Happy, dammit!)

7. Was that really a De Luxe room in Victoria Court? The faux gold and matching thunderstorms looked like a Premiere Off Beat room. No, I’m not a suki. Please don’t be judgmental.

8. Here are some more burning questions:

• Kelangan talaga meron mini-commercial ng Jolly Spaghetti where Chinggay can reminisce about her childhood? Or a Flanax scene that rivaled the Biogesic cameos in all the John Lloyd Cruz movies?

• Why didn’t she clean her bag? How long was that expired condom in there?

• Was Marion Aunor the only Star Records artist? (To be fair, most of her songs were really good.) Let me rephrase, was Marion Aunor the only good Star Records artist?

• Did you really expect us to believe that Ryan’s character knew the lyrics of Sasakyan by heart?

• Did they use the exact same locations (restaurants) in You’re My Boss and Everything About Her, among others?

• Why couldn’t Ryan take Chinggay to the real Paris? (Please don’t tell me that a Ducati owner like him was just being a cheapskate.)

9. Jodi looked really good, but she also needed some chapstick. There were also times when I wanted to feed her a cookie.

10. Special hugot quotes for my single friends:

• “Next time wag tayo tatanga-tanga sa investment.”

• “Ang love hindi para sa mga duwag o tamad. Ang love hinahanap at pinaglalaban.”

• “Kapag nagmamahal, nasasaktan. Pero kapag nasasaktan, ang mahalaga lumilipas.”

• “Ang pagmamahal hindi nawawala. Pero hindi porke’t mahal mo, para sa ‘yo.”

11. Shamaine Buencamino could play all of Star Cinema’s mother roles and I would never complain.

12. As expected, the ending was a cop-out. I would have been happy even if she didn’t choose between the two and the movie ended with a close-up of her single-blessedness face, but then it decided to tack on this hopeful ending negating every single platitude delivered by the voiceover.

Seriously, just because it didn’t introduce a twin or a doppelganger in the end didn’t mean that the movie was being brave. Teka lang muna wait, Star Cinema…

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: ★★★☆☆