BARBARA REIMAGINED (Benedict Mique, Chris Ad. Castillo, 2019)

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Ang basic rule lang naman for a remake (or reboot) ay dapat mapantayan (or mahigitan) niya ang original. Otherwise, para que pa ito diba?

Maayos naman na yung 1995 remake ni Chito Roño. May sayang dulot din ang pananakot kay Kris Aquino dun sa 2008 mini-series. Feeling ko tuloy yung poot at planong paghihiganti nung multo ay hindi talaga directed kay Barbara.

Tawang-tawa ako kay Nathalie Hart dito. Hindi ko alam kung umaarte siya or hindi niya lang naiintindihan ang instructions ng director. Sayang sana ginawa nilang campy version ito kasi sure ako mag-excel siya dun.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

SIGNAL ROCK (Chito Roño, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

Where the little details of small town life mattered a lot (effects of people coming and going, pros and cons of the bayanihan concept, limited supply of electricity and lack of network signal, barrio problems that consisted of petty brawls in a pasayaw, etc.).

The strong ensemble cast made me feel that I had known these characters my entire life. My favorites were the dependable Nanding Josef (who had a heartbreaking carabao English scene) and Joel Saracho (one of the hardest working character actors in these last two local festivals).

I had concerns with the pacing that might have intentionally mirrored the slow town life. One storm scene that involved a bangka also had awful special effects. At least the scenes with waves crashing on those rock formations looked really gorgeous.

Side note: Did we not learn anything from that Bagani brownface brouhaha?

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published August 15, 2018.)

 

THE HEALING (Chito Roño, 2012)

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It didn’t aim high so it succeeded on its only goal: scaring the crap out of its audience. I’ve never heard this much shouting since Sukob and I’ve never heard this much clapping in a crucial scene since Cinemalaya. This is probably the first bad movie that I’m recommending to watch. It had an awful story but it was also filled with great scare scenes. Best viewed in a packed theater. Good fun!!

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published August 1, 2012.)

THE NUN (Corin Hardy, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Nun:

1. Long before Kidzania, Sky Ranch, Enchanted Kingdom, Star City, Boom na Boom, Glico’s, Payanig sa Pasig and Big Bang sa Alabang, the certified 80’s kids had that glorious haven located in the heart of Cubao called Fiesta Carnival. It was an indoor amusement park filled with the coolest rides and the best perya games ever created.

My favorite attraction there was this dingy horror ride (the predecessor of the corny horror train) where you would sit in a tiny cart that would pass through this long, dark tunnel split into several rooms (your cart would enter them by bumping onto the sliding doors) and each room was filled with every kind of supernatural entity designed to scare the crap out of you. One area would have like a ghost suddenly flying above your head while another would have a vampire jumping out of his coffin.

It felt very much like a nightmare that wouldn’t stop until you literally puked your kiddie guts out from all the screaming. That experience would probably be the closest equivalent I could think of for this movie that was relentlessly packed with jump scares. The only difference though was that I was no longer six years old.

2. In the Conjuring Universe, this would probably fall right smack in the middle with the best being the first Conjuring film and the worst being the first Annabelle. As a huge horror fan, I’d usually hate the ones that would sacrifice a good story over some cheap scares, but this one proved to be an exception (yes, I enjoyed it more than I probably should have).

Maybe it was because it didn’t take itself seriously (it definitely failed as an origin story because it didn’t really tell much about Valak aka Sister Marilyn Manson) and just took on the full silliness of its premise by upping the scream quotient (regardless of how effective they were).

3. With all the hilarious moments here through Frenchie-Canadian (Jonas Bloquet), I wasn’t even sure if it was trying to be a parody of the past movies (or even the genre). I mean, that scene where he pulled an oversized cross from a grave and ran with it all the way to a local bar was definitely a joke (and a really funny one, too).

Plus, you could probably name every cliché in the horror rule book and it was included here (except for a cat jumping out of the shadows, unless I missed that one). When one nun fell face down on the floor, everybody knew that somebody would grab her legs and pull her away from the camera. That corpse covered with a white sheet? It would come alive screaming, of course. And the scene where a nun suddenly dropped from a tree while hanging from a noose? It was done far better by Ynez Veneracion with her crazy eyes in Chito Roño’s The Healing. But all of these generated a symphony of screams (with some people literally jumping out of their seats) in our almost sold-out screening that made me enjoy the viewing experience even more.

4. When that horse-drawn carriage suddenly pulled up outside that monastery, I half-expected Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker to come out and seduce Valak with his tasty blood. I didn’t even care much about the supposedly creepy atmosphere of the broken-down monastery and smoky graveyard, I still found olden Romania incredibly romantic. Now what does that say about me?

5. Did Father Burke (Demián Bichir) provide an answer to his question on the opposite of miracle? This had been bugging me for days and Google was no help. Also, his character didn’t really figure much in the overall story, but at least he was able to deliver lines like “There is a time for prayer and a time for action”. Ooh, very Balweg, the Rebel Priest!

6. Glad that they actually made the effort to tie this up with the earlier films, although I was a bit disappointed that Sister Irene (an effective Taissa Farmiga) did not have any relation to Lorraine Warren (my darling Vera Farmiga) even if they obviously looked exactly alike. I would just assume that she was her reincarnation, which would explain why Valak was stalking her for several decades.

Side note: It felt iffy when the crowd started shipping Sister Irene and Frenchie-Canadian after that “kiss of life” scene, complete with an audible (and juvenile) “Yiheeeee!”. I felt the same way when this group of horny teens let everyone know that they were lusting over Phoebe Walker’s Sister Cecilia in Seklusyon. Forgive them Mother Butlers, for they have sinned. (Ang linis ko, thank you!)

7. I really liked that silent circle of prayer scene. Never thought I would ever get scared of a group (waddle? nyahaha!) of nuns especially after Sister Act, but this one came really close when they suddenly blew up in all directions (the Silent Hill-type scene that followed where they weren’t moving when Frenchie-Canadian entered the chamber was spooky, too). And then Sister Irene grew a burning parol on her upper back and I was laughing yet again (still not over all those Jose Mari Chan memes).

Another side note: I suddenly remembered that Netflix movie Veronica with the blind Mother Superior. Considering that I never had the traumatic experience of a nun hitting me with a ruler for wearing a skirt two inches shorter than the required length, I had always wondered why people were actually scared of them. Why would an image of a nun staring directly at you from outside your bedroom window elicit chills? And why would it be frightening if that same nun would now be standing right next to you while you were reading this? Don’t look!!

8. I usually hated watching with such a noisy crowd (seriously, everyone started screaming when the lights were turned off, even if it was just the Aquaman trailer that was played after), but hearing these straight guys pretend to be the bravest souls while clutching on to their girlfriends’ hands just doubled the entertainment factor. And yes, mas malakas pa sila tumili kesa sa mga date nila. Aliw lang.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

ETIQUETTE FOR MISTRESSES (Chito Rono, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Etiquette for Mistresses:

1. It was not the train wreck that I expected and it was all because of the skillful direction of Chito Rono and his cast of competent actresses. The movie was actually reminiscent of Rono’s own Separada with five women dealing with their own personal problems but united by a common concern (basically, men).

2. The story of the core group (that included an understated yet exemplary performance by Iza Calzado, a light and comical take by Kim Chiu, a fiery turn by Claudine Barretto in full Mela mode, a hilarious Cheena Crab, and not-so-annoying acting by Kris Aquino) didn’t break new ground but it would make one pity (not empathize with) these “holiday orphans”.

3. The mix of cameos (the stellar Pilar Pilapil, a graceful Mother Mistress Helen Gamboa), the interesting rules (“Mistresses don’t complain, that is the job of the Mrs.”, “Perish all thought that someday you’ll be number 1”, “When all else fails, leave him”), and the overall sadness of situations made it completely watchable.

4. Favorite scenes:

• Explanation of Lucky Moon

• The throwaway Timezone joke

• That confrontation scene shot in the shadows! And that slap heard around the world!! (I swear everyone in the theater gasped and feared for their own lives.)

Worst scenes:

• Cellphone breaks car window (huh?)

• Excessive focus on Kim’s character (did we need that lengthy guitar sequence?)

• The police sequence straight out of Eskapo

5. If only Star Cinema could control itself on its requisite happy ending complete with surprise leading men cameos.

Now sing with me: “And don’t tell me what to do, and don’t tell me what to say, and please when I go out with you, don’t put me on display. You don’t own meeeee…”

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published October 1, 2015.)

TOP 10 MMFF MOVIES (2000-2016)

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ESKAPO (Chito Roño, 1995)

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Our own version of (a real-life!) Prison Break. This is the part of history that I choose to believe in and no amount of revisionism can make me think otherwise.

You know you’re watching an effective thriller when you still get excited over something that 1) you’ve seen several times already, and 2) you very well know how the film will end.

My favorite moment though would have to be that brilliant aerial shot of Teresa Loyzaga as the Imelda Marcos tossing petals at the coffin of the late Don Eugenio Lopez. Pasabog as always in a scene rich with symbolism.

Rating: ★★★★☆

SMALLER AND SMALLER CIRCLES (Raya Martin, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

One character probably summed it up best when he mentioned that the others may have seen one too many Hollywood crime films since there were no serial killers in the Philippines (hail Queen Jessica Zafra!). Although this adaptation of the Palanca-winning novel by F.H. Batacan had a distinctly Pinoy setting (what screamed poverty more than the Payatas dumpsite?), nothing else felt authentic in this slow-paced procedural slash disappointing non-thriller.

I couldn’t get past the unnatural dialogue between the two conyo Jesuit priests (Nonie Buencamino and Sid Lucero). When the latter said something like “Nobody raised a stink?”, I just wanted to make tungga a bottle of holy water. Although these served well during one Atenista joke, the English conversations just felt (what did you call it again, Holden Caulfield?), ah yes, phony. Don’t get me started on the unnecessary (oh look we’re multilingual!) French talk.

Even the themes didn’t exactly break new ground. Inefficiency of our local crime units? Politicians taking advantage of the poor? Abusive power of the Church? Pedophile priests? Where was Joel Lamangan when you needed him? Worse, the big reveal of the killer felt very anticlimactic with the introduction of a last minute character (and not in a menacing Kevin Spacey in Se7en way) whose motives and modus weren’t fully explained.

At least it had the budget for a competent all-star cast, lovely cinematography and terrific production design (that fully captured the grimy late 90s aesthetics). It also obviously wasn’t a rushed production with a pre-keto diet Mae Paner (and was that the late Joy Viado in one scene?).

I got bored during the sluggish killer confession scene so I just imagined a more interesting version of the movie in my head. I renamed Buencamino’s Father Saenz as Father Science since he was a forensics expert anyway and with all the victims’ missing hearts and genitals, he sought the help of Kim Chiu’s Mayen who already had an experience with monsters that shove organs down people’s throats. Chito Roño’s Smaller and Smaller Bagwas, anyone?

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

SEPARADA (Chito Roño, 1994)

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It was refreshing to see an honest and fair treatment of marital infidelity (as one character revealed, it could go both ways).

Star Cinema would usually punish its female characters for being tough and powerful, but here it rewarded the lead with a strong support group of other women.

My favorite among the titas would have to be the sardonic Mabel, played to wicked perfection by Racquel Villavicencio.

Her words of encouragement to a friend abandoned by her husband: “Mel, we’re your friends. Kami na ang magbabayad ng dinner ngayon. You don’t have to share.” Very me.

Even the mistress played by Sharmaine Arnaiz was a hoot. Her suggestion: “Dapat mauso na pinapalitan ang asawa every ten years.” Spoken like a true kabit.

Rating: ★★★☆☆