MOVIE REVIEW: MUST BE… LOVE (Dado Lumibao, 2013)

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The great chemistry of its charming leads was wasted in this worn-out love story of best friends.

Even teaches young girls that it’s the appreciation of oneself that makes you beautiful. And that using Olay for whiter skin helps, too.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published March 15, 2013.)

MOVIE REVIEW: SA NGALAN NG AMA, INA AT MGA ANAK (Jon Villarin, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Sa Ngalan ng Ama, Ina at Mga Anak:

1. Somebody needed to trim his armpit hair.

2. Since the cast included a big star like Daniel Padilla, he got his own love story arc. Unfortunately the girl was not Kathryn Bernardo.

3. I wonder if all the Padilla boys acted the same way. They talked like there was phlegm permanently stuck in their throats. All hammy, too.

4. Mariel Rodriguez got out of bed butt naked and people started giggling. Was it because of the gratuitous nudity?

5. Wait, was that Aljur Abrenica in a Star Cinema movie? Where was his gratuitous nudity?

6. Robin’s constant posturing and pouting in this movie would make him the perfect choice for a local version of Zoolander.

7. Remember those Fernando Poe, Jr. movies where he was invincible to all flying bullets? Here, the entire Padilla clan played Fernando Poe, Jr.

8. Kylie Padilla delivered her lines like she was in a third grade elocution contest where she kept pausing and forgetting her next words.

9. I’ve never seen this many time jumps since Quantum Leap.

10. With all the splattered blood onscreen, I wonder why this movie was not R-18 for excessive violence. It was like a Tarantino film, less the art.

11. I bet BB Gandanghari could have made this Padilla movie more interesting.

12. So a character jumped on a grenade but didn’t get blown to pieces and even got resurrected by an “agimat”. Ehrm.

I’d rather play Flappy Bird.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published February 4, 2014.)

TV REVIEW: SARAH GERONIMO: THIS 15 ME (Paul Alexei Basinillo, 2018)

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Popstar Royalty Queen Sarah Geronimo is Popstar Royalty Queen Sarah Geronimo.

Sayang lang kasi hindi fully na-capture ng special ang collective energy ng sold-out crowd sa Araneta (considering na highest grossing local concert siya of all time).

May time pa na mas malakas ang sigawan for James Reid. Wait, ano na pala nangyari sa prods with Daniel Padilla and Xian Lim?

Impressive ng dancing niya sa Tala number kahit mas marami pa kanta ng mga back-up singers nya. Tapos sunod-sunod yung foreign covers eh ang daming magagandang OPM songs from her last four iconic albums.

15th anniversary and di isinama ang career-defining na To Love You More? Uhm.

Nagustuhan ko yung mga behind the scenes na lumabas ang genuine personality niya. Mas open na siya at spontaneous. Ang laking difference from her Expressions days. We needed more of that here.

The best part pa rin yung Leaving on a Jet Plane na nakasuot lang siya ng plain white tee and ripped jeans. Parang nagpapaalam na siya sa glamourous showbiz life kasi lalagay na siya sa tahimik (pero parang lang pala). Sigurado ako bumaha ng Popster tears sa Araneta that night.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

MOVIE REVIEW: HELLO, LOVE, GOODBYE (Cathy Garcia-Molina, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Hello, Love, Goodbye:

1. Naalala ko nung nagpunta ako ng Hong Kong around 2014, napadaan ako sa Central area isang Linggo at nagulat ako sa dami ng mga OFWs (mostly women) na nasa gilid-gilid mula sa overpass malapit sa train station hanggang sa mismong kalye na ang isang parte ay ipinasara para tayuan ng makeshift stage (“Beauty and the Best” ang theme ng show slash pageant noon).

Parang isang mahabang row ng mga nagpi-picnic ang itsura nila sa kani-kanilang mga puwesto habang nakaupo sa ibabaw ng mga karton ng balikbayan boxes. Maririnig mo ang malalakas na tawanan at maiingay na kuwentuhan/chismisan kasabay ng pagsasalu-salo nilang magkakaibigan sa baong pancit, adobo, at kung anu-ano pang ulam na niluto para sa araw na yun.

Pero mas nakakagulat na ang lahat ng ito ay nagaganap sa harapan mismo ng mga high-end designer stores tulad ng Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Armani, Cartier, atbp. Maganda siyang juxtaposition na sumasalamin din sa OFW experience na kung tutuusin ay nakakalungkot sa kabila ng nangingibabaw na kasiyahan.

2. Isa sa strongest aspects ng pelikulang ito ang realistic depiction ng buhay ng isang domestic helper sa Hong Kong.

May isang montage kung saan ipinakita ang lahat ng ginagawa ni Joy (Kathryn Bernardo) bilang kasambahay, kasama na ang pagbabantay sa isang atribidang lola (“Too cold! Too hot!”) at pag-aalaga sa isang special needs kid. Todo kayod siya kasi nakadepende sa kanya ang pamilya niya sa Pilipinas. Kabilang na dito ang bulag niyang ama at ang mga kapatid na more hingi ng sapatos habang siya naman ay more tiis kasi ang long-term plan niya ay maka-migrate sila ng Canada.

Kaya kahit Nursing ang natapos niya ay mega linis siya ng inidoro (“Ang choice ay para lang sa may pera”) at baka sakaling ma-flush na rin ang kinikimkim niyang sama ng loob.

(Side note: Natuwa ako na hindi blatantly masama ang ugali ng amo ni Joy. Kasi ang typical DH story along the lines of Flor Contemplacion or Delia Maga.)

3. Nagustuhan ko yung direct reference sa Anak kasi hindi ko pa rin makalimutan si Ate Vi bilang the ultimate selfless mother of all DH at kung gaano kadaming pagkain ang tiniis niyang hindi kainin makapagpadala lang ng malaking pera para sa pokpok (ay sorry, troubled) niyang dalaga na si Carla.

Gusto ko rin yung indirect reference sa Sunday Beauty Queen with Joy and her friends joining the pageant for extra income. Kahit sa day-off nila todo kayod pa rin para lang sa pamilya. Ang bigat sa puso.

4. Sobrang effective ni Kathryn dito. Gamit na gamit ang mata-mata acting. Yung level na pinapamukha niya sa mga bashers na deserving din siya ng Urian nomination. (Ang ganda pa ng natural make-up niya na super layo sa espasol look in Barcelona.)

Favorite ko yung scene na depressed siya na sumakay sa train tapos sobrang saklap ng araw niya nakasabay pa ang ex niya at bagong girlfriend nito. Nung tinanong siya kung saang hospital siya nagtatrabaho, ramdam mo talaga yung pait at hiya nung sumagot siya na “DH ako dito. Ending ko din katulad ng nanay ko.” Ouch!!

Pero magaling din siya sa kilig aspect ha. Kapag nakatitig siya kay Ethan (Alden Richards), di mo iisipin na may Daniel Padilla na siya in real life. (Pero siguro kasi ang gwapo din ni Alden dito with the scruffy, playboy look kaya di din siya masyado nahirapan magpanggap, ano?)

5. Speaking of Alden, nag-level up din ang acting niya dito. Nawala yung lalaking puro pabebe wave sa Kalyeserye at lumabas ang isang certified matinee idol. Nung sinabi niya na dapat “All or nothing kasi kung mag-hold back ka, bakit ka pa nagmahal?”, more tango lang ako na parang nabudol-budol. Atsaka yung reaction niya habang pinapanood si Joy na sintunado kumanta at mukhang tanga sa stage, maniniwala ka talaga na true love ang nararamdaman niya. At okay lang rin siguro kahit mang-asar siya at kulitin niya ako habang nagkikiskis ako ng kaldero.

Tapos sobrang puti pa ng legs niya parang mapapabili ako ng lifetime supply ng Snow Caps.

(Side note ulit: Believable na kapatid niya si Jameson Blake down to the dimples. Actually, pati yung bunso na akala ko si Timothee Chalamet papasa din na brother niya haha!)

6. Nung pinanood ko ang BTS ng Anak, na-kwento dun na nahirapan silang i-shoot yung final scene kung saan dadaan sa crowd si Ate Vi kasi lahat gusto siya yakapin, hawakan, at tingnan. Mukhang mas maayos ang crowd control dito considering na nag-shoot sila sa Central at Lan Kwai Fong (isa lang yung super obvious na nagvi-video sa eksena dito).

7. Happy to see Maricel Laxa again. Walang kupas pa rin sa pag-arte. Maganda yung storyline niya bilang nanay ni Joy. May kurot sa puso na alam ng pamilya niya na nagpakasal siya sa iba para maging citizen at ma-petition sila dun.

Joy, walang-wala ang paglilinis mo ng inidoro kumpara sa sakripisyo (at pambubugbog) na na-experience ng nanay mo. Teka, bakit ako naiiyak ulit?

8. Kinilig ako nang todo sa KathDen. Kahit hindi ko maintindihan bakit kelangan nilang ipagsiksikan ang mga sarili nila sa “stuck” room na yun. Puwede naman umusog diba?

Pero malakas talaga ang chemistry nila. Nagulantang nga yung mga KathNiel na nakaupo sa harapan ko dun sa (fake) kissing scene. Yung isa parang hinimatay dun sa “love scene”.

Napaka-possessive naman ng ibang fans. Let your idols grow as artists.

9. TANGA = TANYA. Natatawa pa rin ako dito. (At yung pasalubong na broccoli. Hahahaha!)

10. Kung tutuusin plakado sa Star Cinema template ang pelikulang ito. Nandiyan lahat ng tropes tulad ng chuwariwap friends (bet ko na Mary Dale ang pangalan ni Maymay Entrata at bumagay ang aligaga acting ni Kakai Bautista dito), tatay na maysakit (si Lito Pimental na itinuloy lang ang role niya sa Starting Over Again), sound bite-ready na linyahan na never mo maririnig in real-life conversations (“Kung mahal mo ako, bakit pinapapili mo ako?” “Kung mahal mo ako, bakit di ako ang piliin mo?”, “Don’t you trust me enough?” “Don’t you love me enough?”), etc.

Ang kulang na lang ay ang requisite happy ending na hindi nito ibinigay. Siguro mas malakas ang loob ng Star Cinema kasi hindi naman talaga love team ang KathDen pero it worked for the best.

Ang sakit ng farewell at ang ganda ng realistic ending (“Kung di rin tayo sa huli…”). Bravo!!

11. Yung Ulan daw tungkol sa self-love but for me, nagmukha lang si Maya (Nadine Lustre) na selfish. Etong si Joy na independent, may pangarap, may gustong patunayan, at tinalikuran ang pag-ibig to find her worth ang totoong definition nun.

“Mahal kita pero sa ngayon mas mahal ko ang sarili ko.” I do not love you, Joy. I do not love you.

Rating: ★★★★☆

MOVIE REVIEW: THE HOWS OF US (Cathy Garcia-Molina, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Hows of Us:

1. If you’re an old soul (read: an oldie afraid to admit that he’s beyond his prime) like me, you probably have downloaded and played Homescapes (currently ranked #73 in the Apple App Store) where your goal was to build this dream house and decorate it with all types of furniture. The first five minutes of this movie reminded me so much of that game, with George (Kathryn Bernardo) and Primo (Daniel Padilla) providing the voiceover while they selected the perfect couch for their living room. That scene culminated in a huge shouting match that signalled the end of their relationship before transitioning to a split screen sequence that was completely lifted from Kalyeserye (I swear I could hear an instrumental version of Rey Valera’s Kahit Maputi na ang Buhok Ko in the background, a song I have associated with AlDub ever since I died of kilig from their McDonald’s commercial heydays). And then it turned into a Mannequin Challenge with the camera moving around while the pair pretended to be serious contenders in a game of stop dance. Wait, were they aiming to do a recap of pop culture references for this decade?

2. I honestly expected this to be KathNiel’s response to the critical success of JaDine’s Never Not Love You, but it simply lacked the depth and maturity (in terms of characters and story) needed to display their growth as artists (insert that meme of Tyra Banks screaming “I was rooting for you! We were all rooting for you!!”).

Hearing Kathryn utter the word “Putangina!” repeatedly just wasn’t enough, especially if you would consider a Miss Granny like Sarah Geronimo saying vulgar words like “puke” and “hindot” in her most recent film. While their screen rivals tackled weighty themes like long distance relationships and adult responsibilities, the biggest conflict in this movie was whether George should continue with her jeepney ride to take her med school exam or scream “para!” to get down and help a drunk Primo who was slumped on the road. These were supposed to be real people problems? Seryoso?

Side note: I guess it spoke a lot about the maturity of these characters that the fans still shrieked their lungs out every time the lovebirds kissed.

3. Dear Star Cinema, wasn’t it too early to start recycling elements from your recent hits? There were so many things here that reminded me so much of Starting Over Again from George’s line of “In him, I saw a good man…” to that supposedly sensual flirtation reminiscent of Toni Gonzaga’s stepladder scene down to that drunk rant of George with her gay BFF (Juan Miguel Severo) that never reached the comedic heights of Beauty Gonzalez’s “Yang hope na yan, lason yan” moment. I’m sure you have a strong pool of writers. Wala na bang bago? (As in Susan Africa played a Tita Lola role and ended up dead after a few scenes.)

4. If anything, Kathryn looked so gorgeous here (with or without her EO Optical contacts) and I’d have to commend her for making the most out of her thinly-written character. She only had one off moment when she was required to overact like crazy in that “Pagod na pagod na pagod na ako!” scene. Otherwise, she was actually good in her dramatic scenes (even if she played a selfish girlfriend required to say lines like “Wala kang pambili kahit cupcake man lang para sa akin?”) and was even better during the (abruptly) comedic second half. She seemed headed back to her glorious Magkaribal/Mara Clara days. Really happy for her!!

And no amount of Daniel sporting a horrible mullet and looking like a deranged version of Lady Diane (“Sa-sa-Saddami ng problema natin!”) minimized the fact that this tandem could still deliver the requisite kiligs. My favorite moment had to be that cringey-sweet hugot of Primo: “Matagal na naman akong talo eh simula nung hinayaan kong mawala ka”. Awww!

(P.S. Ang galing na nila umarte pareho. Please give them the movie that they deserve!!)

5. I had seen the entire filmography of Maricel Soriano so I know that that entire splitting of the house with masking tape gag was already done with much better results in Kung Kaya Mo, Kaya Ko Rin! (and yes, it was also just copied from a much earlier film with Dolphy and Nida Blanca or some other Philippine Cinema legends that I was too lazy to Google). If I remembered it correctly, there was also a scene where Cesar Montano played his guitar and tried to win back Maricel through a harana. And when Maricel’s BFF Ruby Rodriguez decided to visit the house, she had to drag her over to her side because the rest of the space was off-limits. All of those exact same scenes were in this movie. Again, wala na bang bago?

6. In one clunky scene, George and Primo were selling their “conjugal” ancestral home to a potential buyer (Odette Khan) and after stating that it really didn’t have much value, Primo countered that it did have a lot of history and special memories, thus making it priceless. And I kept thinking, “Totoo ba? Ano naman paki ng buyer sa memories na yan?” so I was really surprised when she instead replied with “I like it! Eto na ang pera!” Huwaaaat?

7. Real jokes delivered while the lovebirds biked around Amsterdam:

• “Bakit ang daming nag-ba-bike dito?” “Eh bike-it naman hindi?”

• “Anong instrumento ang favorite sa Amsterdam?” “Eh di Amsterdrums!”

• “Ano ang favorite pet sa Amsterdam?” “Eh di Hamsterdam!”

• “Ano ang paboritong kainin sa Amsterdam?” “Eh di Hamsterdam and Cheese!”

Should I continue? AMSTERDAMMIT!!

8. “Sana samahan mo pa rin ako in finding out the answers to all the hows.” Hahahaha! Naipilit pa rin ang title.

But seriously, after My Ex and Whys and The Hows of Us, I wonder if Star Cinema still has plans of using the remaining 4W’s. Who Who Belles? What’s Upon a Time? Ready to Where? When Dramas? Oh, too punny!!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

MOVIE REVIEW: CRAZY BEAUTIFUL YOU (Mae Cruz-Alviar, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Crazy Beautiful You:

1. The movie opened with a car race straight out of The Fast and the Furious. Only Kathryn Bernardo was no Michelle Rodriguez because she would rather die than hit a stray dog. And at the rate that her car was going, how did she not even end up slamming the post?

2. Do we really allow cellphones in jail? I’m asking since I’ve never seen jail selfies. Or anyone tweeting how sad they are in solitary confinement.

3. Kathryn sounded like she had a constant cold. Every word had an additional H (“Ghive mhe bhack mhy phhone, pfowsz!”). She used to be one of my favorite local actresses but she hasn’t done anything substantial after her excellent stint in Magkaribal. She really needs to break free from this love team in the same way that the other Mara became a fully-realized actress after going solo.

4. Did the chase sequence really have to be in slow motion? Did we really need that shot of calamansi (or whatever produce) slowly fly in the air for cinematic effect? No. Just no.

5. Daniel Padilla fared much better in this movie even with his constant posturing reminiscent of uncle Robin Padilla circa ’90s. He was charming and sympathetic and yes, much cuter with his new clean-cut and borta look. More swooning expected. (He might need to bleach his teeth, though.)

6. Why do a lot of these young guys (especially the ones from ABS-CBN) shave their armpits? None of my business, but still curious.

7. The movie was so badly-lit that the actors’ faces either looked lahar-ridden or overexposed. What happened to the usual Star Cinema gloss?

8. Mini-commercials for ABS-CBN Mobile and KFC. They should have used the extra income on the movie’s photography.

9. Wait, I’ve seen this immersion movie before when it was still called Catch Me… I’m in Love with Sarah Geronimo and Gerald Anderson. And it was also directed by Mae Cruz. Have we really run out of ideas?

10. I bet Kathryn has a separate closet for all of her crop tops. Does she seriously wear anything else?

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published March 1, 2015.)

MOVIE REVIEW: CAN’T HELP FALLING IN LOVE (Mae Cruz-Alviar, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Can’t Help Falling in Love:

1. I think it was during the public bathroom scene where Dos (Daniel Padilla) was removing the heels of Gab (Kathryn Bernardo), which must have felt so good because she was having a wild orgasm, that I immediately knew I wouldn’t like this movie. It was clearly trying too hard to wring out laughs by placing its characters in the most absurd situations. That scene was capped off by strangers entering the room and looking disgusted even if it was completely obvious that nothing kinky was going on (hello, his head wasn’t even under her skirt!).

It was a shame really because Daniel and Kathryn were so game all throughout this movie even if the material failed to capitalize on their palpable onscreen chemistry.

2. I had been crowing about Daniel’s natural charms (reminiscent of his uncle Robin’s) in previous movies so the bigger surprise here for me was Kathryn. Not only did she look so fresh and lovely (a vision in yellow during her grand entrance! radiant in black during the wake!), but she also managed to drop most of her annoying acting tics.

Whatever decongestant she took worked because she didn’t sound as oddly nasal as before. She also managed to tone down her pabebe delivery and she was really effective in most of her dramatic scenes (my favorite was her quiet sumbat moment outside the police station; “Nagmahal ka na ba? Minahal ka na ba?”). The only thing left for her to work on would be controlling her eyes because she would resort to unintentionally widening them while speaking (nandidilat for no reason).

Anyway, I just made a mental note to buy Pond’s as soon as the stores open today.

3. As a rule, Star Cinema characters should avoid getting drunk in bars because they would always end up in sticky situations (literally and figuratively?) after. I didn’t buy the ridiculous premise of these two ending up married after a crazy night of partying (hey, this wasn’t Vegas and none of them were Britney; besides, were they carrying all the legal documents that night to get a marriage license issued on the spot?).

None of the succeeding events made a lot of sense as well. I wouldn’t recommend this movie to any of my lawyer friends because their eyes might end up rolling out of their sockets in the scenes where Gab interviewed Dos’ ex-girlfriends to prove his impotence or Gab pretended to make out with her girl friend in Sogo while Dos took pictures of them as proof of homosexuality (they ended up getting arrested after for supposedly creating a porno, wtf?!).

In one scene, Gab dressed up as a taong grasa because she was supposedly baliw sa pag-ibig and insanity was one of the major grounds for annulment. I guess they were to blame for hiring a lawyer from a firm called Hulog ng Langit. (Terrible, terrible screenplay, I tell you.)

4. Did we really need those cameos of Zanjoe Marudo, Ejay Falcon, and Piolo Pascual? Even a bald Daniel Radcliffe made a surprise appearance. Why create unnecessary distractions on an already messy story?

5. Since there was nothing original in this movie, I wasn’t surprised at all that Matteo Guidicelli played the third wheel yet again and that his character (unfortunately named Jason) was villified for being a controlling boyfriend. So basically he loved his girlfriend and supported her for six years even if she only loved him back for security and stability and yet he was the bad guy just for wanting what was best for her. Oh-kay!

Also, they called each other Bud so I guess it was meant to be a friendzone experience right from the start.

6. Of course there would be a reason to go out of town! Destination of choice? Argao, Cebu. A tour of the city’s old churches, cliff diving, coral reef diving, motorcycle rides along the cliffside roads, I was surprised they didn’t use these instead for the channel’s summer station ID.

7. I wish there were more of the small moments that genuinely made me smile (Dos offering a basahan to Gab while she was crying, or Dos distracting Gab with his love notes written on napkins). The scene where Dos was making his huling habilin to his extended family could have easily been milked for laughs and tears, but it just fell short of being great.

I have enjoyed a number of past rom-coms by Direk Mae (Bride for Rent, Everyday I Love You), but she was left with very little to work with here.

8. For every realistically heartfelt line like “Kapag natikman mo pala, nakaka-adik ang umasa”, there were even more empty platitudes like “Mas pipiliin ko ang isang bukas na nandun ka, kesa sa isang milyong bukas na wala ka.”

Ang Babae sa Septic Tank 2: #ForeverIsNotEnough should be required viewing for Star Cinema’s writing team. Seriously.

9. I think I developed an acute case of tinnitus when Gab serenaded Dos with her own version of Panalangin. And that was minutes before his critical brain surgery. Pigain nyo na lang ang apdo ko, but take that portable Magic Sing away from her!!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

MOVIE REVIEW: BARCELONA: A LOVE UNTOLD (Olivia Lamasan, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Barcelona: A Love Untold:

1. In the movie Milan, the central mystery revolved around the disappearance of Lino’s (Piolo Pascual) wife, Mary Grace (Iza Calzado), and his quest to find answers. It was an interesting premise that kept people guessing until the big reveal.

In the movie Barcelona, the central mystery fell on the character of Celine, the ex-girlfriend of Ely (Daniel Padilla). It was not so much about what happened to her, but who was supposedly playing the role. Her identity was kept a secret through partially concealed phone and laptop wallpapers and first person point of view shots. The big reveal turned out to be an even bigger disappointment because it was played by (surprise, surprise!) Kathryn Bernardo with a mole on the chin and a prosthetic nose straight out of Blusang Itim.

It was as lame as the teaser on Four Sisters and a Wedding that hid the identity of Enchong Dee’s chararat bride, who turned out to be Angeline Quinto. Nobody really cared.

2. Seriously, if they wanted to make a big deal about the Celine character, why didn’t they cast Nadine Lustre instead? It definitely would have been so controversial and ballsy that it could have sent several KathNiels straight to the emergency room.

3. Finding new love in a foreign land might sound romantic but this was one love story that really should have remained untold. Star Cinema could have done a Spain travelogue instead and focused on this architecture capital of the world (I just added Sagrada Familia on my Places to Visit list).

Besides, there were so many subplots that veered away from the main story that included: Ely’s conflict with his father and the fate of their business, Mia’s conflict with her father, Ely’s abandonment issue with his mother, Mia’s unemployment for being duped into networking, etc. Even minor characters played by Aiko Melendez and son Joshua Garcia needed their own dramatic highlights. The running time of two hours felt like an eternity.

4. Speaking of Joshua, there was a running gag about his character needing to poop every single time. Was this ever explained? Did they edit out that he had colon cancer or something? What’s another hour of extraneous plot?

5. Ironically, the movie told the same plight of OFWs that was better tackled in the first few weeks of On The Wings of Love (also, the animation bit was signature Antoinette Jadaone). Aiko took on the role of Tita Jack, Joshua was Jigs without the love triangle element, and most of the trials that Mia experienced on the job happened to Leah.

Except for the bleeding foot. Who would ever wear heels while working in a palengke? Also, how could you sympathize with Mia when she was working as a nanny sporting palazzo pants, heels, and clutching a designer bag? She also neglected a child. Why would I feel bad that she got fired? Kairita.

6. Any romantic movie addict knows that the Meet Cute part is crucial in establishing the connection between the potential lovers. In this movie, Ely and Mia met each other while on a train. An old man dropped his supot of abubots and Ely stopped and helped him pick up his stuff. Mia, who probably thought of herself as a subway goddess, simply stepped over the said goods and headed straight to the doors. I had the sudden urge to pull her stringy hair back ala Clara del Valle and ask her to help clean up the mess.

There was also one scene where Ely carried a drunk Mia on his shoulder like a wild boar back to his apartment. Was that supposed to be funny and romantic?

7. Much had been said about the makeup in this movie that I felt the need to discuss it in detail. I just couldn’t get over how horrible they looked. Daniel was like a walking espasol while Kathryn had the bronzed Spanish bread look. As one KathNiel pointed out, I am not a makeup expert and I do not know the perfect shades to complete a fresh summer look. My amateur critique on the makeup here is more on the lines of “Bes, Foundation Day ba today?”. Too distracting, too scary.

(Also, one scene involved mimes with white paint on their faces. I really thought it was them. That bad.)

8. Ano ang laman ng maleta ni Mia? Packets of Nescafe, of course. Laman ng cupboard ni Ely? Cans of San Marino Chili Corned Tuna. Pinoy essentials, naturally.

9. The leads’ performances were fine, with Daniel faring much better than Kathryn. She still had that distracting nasal voice and could not get rid of her pabebe acting tics. When she started crying in the latter part of this movie, I seriously expected subtitles so that the audience would understand what she was saying. Whatever happened to that brilliant actress that was a revelation in Magkaribal? In one scene, she was asked to perform a Spanish dance (freestyle flamenco?) and it severely lacked the needed sexuality. So awkward to watch!

Daniel, on the other hand, looked really good onscreen and reminded me a lot of a charismatic Robin Padilla in his prime. I hope that his potentials won’t be limited by his love team. Sayang naman if the only maturity he would be able to show would be doing a supposed nude scene while Kathryn watched from her bed.

If there was one performer that really stood out, though, it was Ma. Isabel Lopez who played Ely’s mother. As usual, eksenadora na naman. She stole every scene (one of them in a gorgeous red gown) like she was hogging the limelight in Cannes all over again. Brava!

10. Even with all the pop culture references (diary in Mara Clara, one character saying “Shut up na lang ako”, etc.), the best one leaned on being political since the movie inadvertently ended up as a public service ad against extrajudicial killings. In a nutshell, the Celine character was accidentally shot by riding-in-tandem goons who were actually targeting (I’m guessing) a drug pusher. I’m not kidding.

11. Burning questions:

• Why did the interior shots look like Tondo?

• Was it just me or did one of the tour guides actually look like Maine Mendoza?

• Will the trend of shouting from a high place (this time on a ferris wheel) as a form of catharsis continue in future movies?

• What was up with all those close-ups of their lips while drinking mineral water?

• Will I ever get to hear Gary V. sing a ballad without ever laughing after those hilarious “If (show/movie) was made in the Philippines…” videos?

• Was Cathy Garcia-Molina actually a good sport for showing up as herself while barking orders to poor extras?

• Do these lines sound familiar?

“Ingat ka sa lungkot-lungkot na yan. Mahirap magmahal ng isang taong hindi pa tapos magmahal ng iba.”

“Stop acting like you own my pain!”

“Tama ka! Hindi ka si Celine. You will NEVER be Celine!”

“‘Wag mo ko mahalin dahil mahal kita. Mahalin mo ko dahil mahal mo ko. Because that is what I deserve.”

“Mahal kita dahil mahal kita. Yun na yun.”

12. If you’re planning to watch this movie, make sure you’re armed with a first aid kit. During the much-hyped kissing scene, one KathNiel in yesterday’s screening let out an ear-piercing scream, jumped out of her seat, and started frothing in the mouth.

The other one beside me was sobbing like her favorite pet just died. I cried along with her because I really wanted a refund.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

MOVIE REVIEW: 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: ★★★☆☆