SUNDALONG KANIN (Janice O’Hara, 2014)

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I won’t be surprised if Janice O’Hara’s Sundalong Kanin ends up as this year’s Audience Choice. It was flawed but completely engaging.

Not even the overacting of Marc Abaya (who just graduated from the post-80s Christopher de Leon School of Acting) made me dislike the movie.

I hope they give the Ensemble Cast award to the kids of Sundalong Kanin, easily the most charming kids since last year’s Iskalawags.

Rating: ★★★★☆

(Originally published August 3, 2014.)

TRAGIC THEATER (Tikoy Aguiluz, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on the aptly-named Tragic Theater:

1. The urban legend surrounding the Manila Film Center accident in 1981 was the stuff of a great horror movie. Apparently, Imelda Marcos wanted the building completed as part of the beautification of Manila in time for the first Manila Film Festival. Rescuers weren’t allowed at the site until 9 hours after the accident. Since the construction had to be rushed, some bodies were buried alive and the rest were never retrieved. The ghosts of these men still haunted the said building. Spooky, right? All of these were never in the movie.

2. The screenplay was credited to Movpix Creatives. Was this a pseudonym or a group of geniuses that came up with the following choice lines:

Spirit Questor to ghosts: “Ang babaw ng mga dahilan nyo. Wala kayong pakialam sa aming mga buhay pa. Umalis na kayo!!”

Spirit Questors to the possessed Andi Eigenmann (Annie) floating 10 feet in the air: “Annie, bumaba ka diyan!!”

John Estrada (Fr. Nilo) gave a long sermon on why everyone should listen to him (all while Annie floated) and ended it with: “Wag na tayong magsisihan.”

Fr. Nilo: “Sino ang nasa katawan ni Annie?”

Possessed Questor: “Hindi namin siya kilala. Ang tawag namin sa kanya ay Diablo.”

Fr. Nilo: “Maari mo ba sabihin kung ano ang itsura ng Diablo na ito?”

The group asked for help from a Bishop (Christopher de Leon) and Fr. Nilo said: “Hindi ko po alam ang nangyari kay Annie pero nakasabit po sya sa ere.”

Annie during flashbacks: “Anong nangyayari? Bakit bumabalik ang mga nakaraan ko?”

3. I honestly couldn’t remember the rest of the atrocious dialogue from laughing too hard.

4. Did we really need that flying scarf?

5. I loved how the movie wanted to be a Public Service Announcement regarding the horrors of technology. There was a scene where Annie was checking her phone while driving and she almost rammed into another car. In another scene, everyone that was part of the seance was given the directive “Walang bibitaw” and when her phone rang, the first thing she did was check it. Twice.

6. To be fair, there were glimpses of the greatness of Tikoy Aguiluz who made Pinoy classics like Bagong Bayani and Segurista. But then again, three beautiful shots couldn’t compensate for an hour and a half of torture.

7. There was a gratuitous rape scene that merited the R-16 rating, a hint of a relationship between Annie and Fr. Nilo, and an overlong possession story with the Bishop. Too many stories being crammed when all it needed was focus on the actual theater plot.

8. Dear Andi, when your mother is considered one of Philippine Cinema’s Greats, you just can’t give that kind of performance.

9. It took the team a good forty minutes to realize that all they needed to bring Annie down was a stepladder. Really.

10. Hint of a sequel? I can’t wait!!

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published January 12, 2015.)

KASAL (Ruel Bayani, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Kasal:

1. According to the Urban Dictionary (one of my online sources of truth), the word “triggered” meant getting filled with hate after seeing, hearing, or experiencing something you couldn’t stand. By the end of this completely offensive movie masquerading as an LGBTQ+ advocacy film, you could definitely consider me triggeredt (with the additional t for emphasis, and also as a millennial).

I actually decided to let my emotions simmer down before writing anything but after a full 8 hours of sleep, I was still feeling the exact same thing. Who were the bright minds behind this monstrosity??!

2. Anybody who had seen the teaser/trailer would already have an inkling on the much-hyped twist here. If you guessed that Philip (Paulo Avelino) and Wado (Derek Ramsay) were previously lovers and their entire history would be the major cause of drama prior to the wedding with Lia (Bea Alonzo), then you had a much better story right there.

The only twist here wasn’t exactly a twist. Philip was just secretly gay. Yun na yun. Now that would have been fine if only the movie had the thoughtfulness to handle such a topic. Shown after the heels of the critically-adored Love, Simon, one would expect that homosexuality would no longer be used as a regressive plot device and that serious topics like coming out would be handled with the required sensitivity. But no, this was a Star Cinema movie where a gay lead character would actually identify as bisexual because heaven forbid it would end without a happy couple walking out of the church very much in love.

3. Did I mention that Wado was the straight ex of Lia and part of his plan to win her back and break up her engagement with Philip was to blackmail the latter by playing footsies with him and using a seduction video of them in the shower (complete with an ominous, slightly porn-ish musical score)? Huh?? Seryoso? Wouldn’t Lia even question why Wado was also making out with another guy? In the shower??

Even worse, the video showed Wado physically and sexually assaulting Philip! How could that possibly work in his favor? That was obviously just another stunt to get two heterosexual local actors kiss (oh, how brave!). And no, Paulo’s upper-half butt exposure was not enough to appease me.

(Side note: A couple of women next to me were loudly screaming “Yuck!” during the entire sequence. I hope that was their reaction at the apparent foolishness of the movie and not at the sight of two men kissing because, c’mon guys, it’s 2018!)

4. But wait, I hadn’t even touched on the worst scene in this awful mess. After Philip’s (who was running for mayor) secret was revealed in public, Lia confronted him and said something like “Ang tatay ko transgender. Ang fiancé ko bisexual. Konti na lang mabubuo ko na ang LGBTQ!”. Please note that Philip in this supposedly emotional scene was just outed without his consent and had a bloodied face after a scuffle with Wado and the entire cinema was howling with laughter because of that dialogue.

And then Lia backtracked by saying that she wasn’t really mad about his sexuality, but at the deception and lies that she had been experiencing all her life. I was so happy you corrected yourself and made it all about you, girl! Confetti and glitter for you!

5. Since Lia was such an endearing and selfless character, here are my words of advice for her: 1) never wear white pants when doing an ocular visit in a dusty location, 2) learn to listen every once in a while and stop these empty declarations (“Don’t you ever speak to me about pain again!”, “Sino ka para sabihin sa akin kung anong gagawin sa buhay ko?”), and 3) if your wet armpits had always been an issue in previous relationships, there are several deodorants and anti-perspirants in the market to choose from (I can attest to the miraculous powers of Arm & Hammer).

6. I was surprised this wasn’t made into a teleserye since most of the characters seemed to be plucked from local soap operas:

• Philip’s controlling mother (Cherie Gil) to blushing bride-to-be Lia: “I was supposed to let you wear my custom-made Oscar dela Renta wedding gown. Of course, I was slimmer then, baka hindi magkasya.”

• Domineering father (Christopher de Leon, with flaring nostrils as always) to his wimpy, disappointing son Philip: “If only your brother Andrew did not die in that accident!”

• Olivia Papa in her signature white blazer (Cris Villonco): “!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” (Basta laging galit at sumisigaw.)

• Lia’s realizations after getting her heart broken by a bisexual: “Now I know that marriage is not just one big event. It’s a choice that you make every single day.”

Jusko, not even Primetime Bida levels! More of Kapamilya Gold. With another Moira dela Torre theme song. Bagong-bago! Itigil ang kasal!!

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

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: ★★★★☆

HINDI NAHAHATI ANG LANGIT (Mike De Leon, 1985)

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It was hard to get over the fact that Christopher de Leon (with his pornstache) was going to prom. Also, there were just too many immature characters trapped in this noisy melodrama.

Sample dialogue:

“Ronald, virgin pa ba ako? Sagutin mo ako. Niloko mo ba ako? Damn you!”

As a kid, I remember watching my mom put make-up on and she would complete her look with a penciled dot on her upper lip. I think she was going for a Lorna Tolentino, but I was too scared to tell her that it looked more like a Bing Loyzaga.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

KUNG MANGARAP KA’T MAGISING (Mike De Leon, 1977)

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Taob ang tambalang Baguio nina Bujoy at Ned dito kina Ana at Joey.

Ang ganda ganda ganda ni Hilda Koronel. Ang sikip sikip sikip ng pantalon ni Christopher de Leon (as in bellbottoms na balls-hugging/splitting sa itaas tapos mega flared sa legs). Ang husay ng supporting cast. Pinakapaborito ko sina Laurice Guillen as Dimples Romana and Bibeth Orteza as Nikki Valdez.

Ang linis ng love story. Meron silang ibang mga problema sa buhay pero pinakita lang sa ilang eksena. Naka-focus talaga ang kwento sa bawal nilang pag-iibigan.

Usapan habang nanonood:

“Ay, andyan pala ang APO Hiking Society. Pero bakit wala si Jim Paredes?”

“Malamang kasi dilawan siya.”

Rating: ★★★★☆

ACROSS THE CRESCENT MOON (Baby Nebrida, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Across the Crescent Moon:

1. If the Mocha Uson Blog were to venture into the film industry and dramatize its controversial posts, this would be the end product. I could easily imagine all the Dilawans instantaneously frothing at the mouth while watching this blatant propaganda movie that justified extrajudicial killings, supported the death penalty, and made living heroes out of PNP Chief dela Rosa and President Duterte (whose presence was onscreen for a significant amount of time that he should have received secondary billing).

Regardless of one’s political stand though, everyone would definitely agree that this was a poorly-made, self-important flick that thought too highly of itself just because it had subtitles.

2. The opening action scene alone was already problematic with machine guns being fired but nobody was getting hit and explosions that just came out of nowhere (nasaan yung nagpapasabog? Nasaan?!). It also had a long chase scene that started late afternoon on the road and ended up post-Primetime Bida in a forest village.

3. The director’s idea of dynamism and movement was to have two characters having an argument walk from the kitchen to the living room to the bedroom. Mga bes, paano kayo magkakaintindihan kung paikot-ikot kayo sa bahay?

4. I already used a thesaurus but I couldn’t find the most appropriate word to describe how awful the performances were. I still haven’t fully recovered from his tragic acting in last year’s Tupang Ligaw and now Matteo Guidicelli has returned to torture me yet again. The good news was that he looked like an Urian winner next to the girls that played his wife and sister-in-law.

Every time one of them spoke (in full akting na akting mode, of course), I felt like I was on the verge of an aneurysm. I never knew that watching a movie would now be considered buwis buhay.

In one scene, the teenage sister (who must have thought that she was in a grade school elocution contest) welcomed back her older sister with the line (please note that her eyes were wide open and hands clasped), “Oh, you must be starving!”. Tengene, patayin nyo na ako!!

5. Even with the in-your-face product placements for Tanduay, Beer na Beer, and Colt 45, nothing could beat the mini-commercial for Cobra energy drink.

Previous scene –

Matteo: “Kelangan natin mahanap agad ang mga biktima bago sila mapadala sa Malaysia!”

Next scene –

Matteo: “Ate, may malamig na Cobra diyan?”

6. When Matteo learned that his wife was pregnant, they decided to celebrate with drinks by the pool. He must have been so happy that he threw her in the water not once, but three times! Why?!

7. My favorite lines from the movie:

• Matteo to Joem Bascon: “Ikaw ba ang anghel ko? Anghel dela guwardiya?” Yihee!!

• Also Matteo to Joem: “Ayoko ng partner na may bisyo: alak, babae, sugal, yosi.” Ay strict boyfriend, er, partner!

• Sandy Andolong to Matteo’s wife: “Huwag kang mag-alala Emma. Bukas luluhod ang mga tala.” Ooh, Sharonian!

• Christopher de Leon sharing his words of wisdom: “Ang buhay ay parang buwan. Bilog yan. Umiikot din yan.” I kennat!!

• Joem inside a steel container: “Napakainit naman dito. Anong akala nila sa atin, baboy na ibebenta por kilo?” Dear, you should have requested for first class accommodations from your kidnappers.

• Kidnap victim on their whereabouts: “Binilang ko. Mga sampung minuto lang ang isla mula dito.” Koya, wala kang relo. Manual counting of seconds? Wow, how to be you po?

8. Burning questions:

• Were Matteo and Joem required to watch Street Fighter before filming? Why did their fight scenes always start with a drop kick?

• When Matteo got shot on the arm, why did he go home hours later without having it checked in the nearest hospital?

• Why were the kidnapped victims’ pictures all taken from Studio City?

• Where can I learn to make that excellent bar graph Powerpoint presentation showing the number of babies sold per month?

• Seriously, why was this movie even made?

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

WANTED: PERFECT MOTHER (Ike Jarlego, Jr., 1996)

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My notes on Wanted: Perfect Mother:

1. A strict father slash widower in need of someone to discipline his brats, er, kids hires a singing tutor slash nanny that teaches them the power of love, kindness, and respect through various song and dance production numbers.

Yes, this was The Sound of Music with Regine Velasquez sporting a faux-hawk and heart choker instead of a nun’s habit.

2. So much had changed in terms of child-rearing within the last few decades. There were several scenes here where adults would use force to make the children follow their will (e.g. the yaya played by Tita Winnie Cordero would grab and pull a young girl who didn’t want to go to school). Today, these things would easily fall under child abuse (hello Bantay Bata!). Our elders were able to get away with a lot back then, no?

3. The dad (played by Christopher de Leon, naturally) felt the need to look for a mother to his kids because: a) he didn’t know what tie would match his suit, b) he always woke up to the sound of his kids screaming their lungs out, c) as one of his friends put it, “Kelangan mo maghanap ng matinong babae na mag-aalaga sa’yo”. Which all begged the question, did he really need a spouse or a maid?

(No wonder Tita Shawie threw a bitch fit in Madrasta: “You’re absolutely right. Yan lang ang tingin mo sa akin. Taga-handa ng isusuot mo, ng kakainin mo. Taga-ayos sa bahay mo. Taga-salo sa mga problema mo.” I guess some things never changed.)

4. One of the best things in watching these old movies was a look back at the fashion during that time. Some of my favorite looks here were the mosaic top and black leather pants (and the perennial heart choker, of course) worn by Regine in the audition scene, the black baby doll dress with zippered red lips on the breast area matched with tattered tights (her idea of sexy when the bar manager said that her show needed “konting landi”), the high-waisted pants worn by the guys (with the belt area way above the belly button), and Bobby Andrews’ head scarf which looked like a cross between Ms. Celia Rodriguez and Madam Auring. Noted for next year’s Halloween.

5. Bing Loyzaga (who else?) played the wicked third party signaled by the dark eye shadow that covered the entirety of her eyelids (as if her flaring nostrils weren’t a giveaway). She was supposedly the evil one because she was cultured (she took the kids to a museum and they found her entire explanation on national painters really boring), she had pit stains in one scene, and she got mad when the kids wanted her to peel the shrimp for them (also, when they requested for sukang may bawang as a substitute for lemon butter sauce). Apparently, the fondness for art and the idea of independence was too elitist and therefore not mother material.

6. There were so many unintentionally hilarious lines in the movie but these were my favorites:

• “Bakit ka bibili ng alarm clock eh sa gabi naman ang trabaho mo?” (Collective groan from BPO associates.)

• “Miss Barubal! Miss Barubal!!” (Regine calling her landlady because that was her actual name.)

• “Kilala mo ba si Mickey Mouse? Diba lagi siyang hinahabol ng pusa?” (Huh? Sino? Si Hello Kitty?)

• “Ang alam ko sa butter palaman lang yan sa tinapay eh.” (Another point against lemon butter sauce.)

• “Ang trabaho mo tutor lang meaning glorified alalay.” (That’s why it’s always important to check the job description before applying.)

7. Do you still remember Kim delos Santos? Raven Villanueva? Mumay Santiago? Graciaaa? Welcome to the oldies club!

8. There was one touching moment when the kids were talking about their fears of somebody replacing their real mom. The youngest one even cried, “Sana hindi na lang kinuha ni God si Mommy.” So many realistic issues here that could have been explored in a much better movie (see Madrasta).

9. I loved how Regine was like the Pied Piper who turned tantrum-throwing brats into obedient angels with just her magical voice, all the problems vanishing after every musical number. One rendition of You Are My Song (of course I sang along) resolved all the issues and they lived happily ever after.

10. Oh, and the movie’s last line was Christopher asking Regine to change her blue nail color. To match her pink maid’s uniform, perhaps?

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

THE ESCORT (Enzo Williams, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Escort:

1. In Ikaw Lang ang Mamahalin, Gelli de Belen played a household help who owned a magical wardrobe full of expensive bikinis. She wore a different pair in every scene of the montage (set to the theme song, of course) with her making tampisaw under a raging waterfall or lying down the sandy beaches of Camiguin. She must have been employed in Ayala Alabang to be able to afford such a collection.

I wondered about the same thing here with Yassi (Lovi Poe), who wore the most fabulous outfits while working as a part-time waitress turned receptionist. Sure, there was mention that she would get paid handsomely for the desk job, but the upkeep was still very questionable (besides she was already wearing nice clothes prior to the makeover). The controversial bespoke white gown alone (read FashionPulis and get updated) must have cost her a fortune. Seriously, where should I send my resumé?

2. As someone completely fascinated with the dealings in Cafe Havana, my curiosity was piqued by the promise of an inside look at the escort service industry. Do rich men really pay to have an escort girlfriend in lavish private functions? How are they different from prostitutes? Since Yassi handled most of the girls’ bookings, does that make her their pimp? With the girls providing extra service, is the business even legal? Sadly, it didn’t really care much about these questions.

3. The movie’s justification for prostitution? “Lahat tayo nagbebenta ng parte ng katawan natin for a living.” Xyruz (Derek Ramsay) then provided examples, like how a doctor would use his brain to perform a surgery, or a painter would utilize his hands to create a masterpiece, or whatever crap he invented to get Yassi to sleep with him.

Jusko naman Xyruz, ganyan na ang spelling ng pangalan mo, ganyan pa ang logic mo! Aba, parang kahit magbenta ako ng kidney ko eh iba pa rin yun sa pagbebenta ng laman. What happened to just using a lame old pick-up line?

4. In Ex with Benefits, Coleen Garcia’s character slept with a dirty old dean so that Derek could take his revalida and graduate from college. In this one, Lovi agreed to sleep with a dirty old man (Christopher de Leon, in full ’00s Christopher de Leon mode) to cover Derek’s medical expenses. Why do these girls do the craziest things for him? Gaano ba talaga kalaki yan, Derek?

5. Tanduay product placement within the first two minutes of the movie. Also, every scene had an establishing shot with the sponsors’ names. One resort had its own montage that included drone shots of the place. Was this a world record in cinema shamelessness?

6. I was happy to see Dimples Romana as one of the escorts, giving hope to other plus-size women dreaming of becoming high-class hookers. She provided the much-needed comic relief, even if some of the jokes were just too weird. In one scene, she was served a birthday (Kink?) cake with boobs on top to which she said, “Blow ko na ba ‘to? Ang liit naman.” Huh?

One rape joke even bordered on being despicable (a girl found it funny that her father raped her after he learned the nature of her work). We’re supposed to laugh? Eww.

7. The escort service’s name was Luxe and a character described the business as “Bayad. Booking. Deal” which really reminded me of OLX (formerly Sulit.com).

8. This was reminiscent of the glossy, cheesy, sexy filth that pervaded in the late ’90s and required a good shower after viewing. There really wasn’t anything original here. Heck, even the villains wore black sando like bouncers.

9. This will most likely be remembered as the movie where a woman was so disgusted with herself for being so impure after losing her virginity that she actually uttered the lines, “Di na ako malinis. Di na ako karapat-dapat mahalin.” Hala bes, 2016 na ganyan ka pa mag-isip!

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

DUKOT (Paul Soriano, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Dukot:

1. We sadly live in a world of victim-blaming, where a grieving mother gets shamed as a negligent parent, an injured person is reprimanded for not being more careful, and a woman who cries rape gets bashed for being a tease with her plunging neckline and short skirt. It scares me that a lot of people have this knee-jerk reaction, especially since I see myself as one of them.

When the movie opened with Ellen Adarna in a skimpy outfit trying to withdraw from an ATM at such an odd hour, my brain just kept thinking that she would get robbed and she had no one to blame but herself. My worst fear happened and she was even shot and left for dead. I hated myself for having thought that way and it made me want to do another self-check. Unfortunately, that was all the deep thinking that this movie required me to do.

2. Although technically impressive, Dukot was marred by lapses in logic and believability, falling short of being an effective thriller. Sure, one could easily say everything that happened was based on true events, but another could argue that if that were the case, then this should just have been a documentary. No amount of awesome aerial shots or perfectly-framed scenes could compensate for the lack of an engrossing story (a dream sequence to generate tension, really?). I felt very much like one of the guests of Mr. Sandoval (Ricky Davao), watching him discuss a Powerpoint presentation about himself during his birthday party.

3. I think my lack of compassion for his family was because he was a corrupt Customs officer. I still had not forgotten the vultures in my city’s Customs office that charged an exorbitant amount for my non-taxable Amazon book orders. Also, he was the type of stingy father that would rather haggle with his son’s kidnappers rather than pull strings to come up with the ransom money.

When his daughter Cathy (Shaina Magdayao) called him up in the middle of the night crying that Carlo (Enrique Gil) was kidnapped, he didn’t even show any concern or bother asking if she was ok and just calmly said that everything was insured so she shouldn’t be crying. Father of the Year Awardee right there.

4. In a world (and country) where CCTV cameras had become necessities, I couldn’t understand why the kidnappers never bothered to cover up their faces. They also kidnapped Carlo instead of the beautiful Cathy just because the former begged that he take her place instead. In the safe house, they were almost always drunk and careless and even allowed Carlo to pee behind closed doors. They were such bumbling kidnappers that I was wondering why they didn’t just choose a different occupation (I swear they could have been more effective and probably richer selling Royale whitening soap).

5. Did you see that viral video where a policeman was using two miniature (Matchbox?) cars to simulate an accident? I laughed so hard when something similar was shown in this movie. In that scene, Mr. Sandoval received a call from one of the kidnappers which prompted an investigator to turn on her tape recorder. Yes, she recorded the conversation like she was conducting an interview. I really hoped it wasn’t our third world version of tracing a call.

6. Speaking of, I wasn’t sure if I missed something but did they do a phone to phone call using an old Nokia model without a speaker function? How??

7. In a cast of good actors (that also included Bing Pimentel, Christopher de Leon, Ping Medina, and Manang Biring), the real standout was Alex Medina. Seriously, you could never go wrong with someone whose roles ranged from Bonifacio’s brother to a man possessed by a gay ghost.

8. I really loved the juxtapositions used here, from the birthday celebrations to the one where the two ladies were smoking. They were as effective as the ones done by Carlos Siguion-Reyna in Inagaw Mo Ang Lahat Sa Akin.

9. It really felt like the material was modified in favor of the Star Magic talents. Kidnapping the son instead gave Enrique a lot of dramatic highlights (to be fair, he was able to acquit himself well) and at one point, Ricky’s character conveniently suffered a heart attack so that Shaina could have her shining crying moment while lugging around three duffel bags containing millions of pesos (still not sure why Mr. Sandoval agreed to endanger his daughter, though).

10. How would you know the kidnapper that grew a conscience? He was the one with the angel wings tattooed on his back, naturally.

Rating: ★★★☆☆