ANG PAMILYANG HINDI LUMULUHA (Mes de Guzman, 2017)

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One long and badly-edited sitcom. It would have been more bearable if most of the jokes (in the vein of Dolphy and Babalu circa 90s) were actually funny, except that they weren’t. I had more laughs watching The Lilian Velez Story.

Sharon Cuneta’s dramatic breakdown scene during the latter part of the movie reeked so much of desperation. She hopelessly attempted to out-uhog Viola Davis for that coveted Balanghai.

Even worse, people would most likely remember Moi Bien’s performance.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published August 9, 2017.)

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: ★★☆☆☆

6 BALLOONS (Marja-Lewis Ryan, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on 6 Balloons:

1. In The One with the Boobies episode of Friends, Phoebe had a date named Roger who psychoanalyzed Chandler as a person that masked his depression and sadness through constant humor and sarcasm (“I wouldn’t want to be there when the laughter stops”). Even with the prominence of the sad clown trope, I was continually surprised by comedians that would play against type and turn in credible (sometimes even incredible) dramatic performances (Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting, Mo’Nique in Precious, Bill Murray in Lost in Translation, just to name a few). Our very own Comedy King made me bawl my eyes out by bravely playing a loving gay foster parent in Ang Tatay Kong Nanay.

2. I was all the more excited when I saw this Netflix movie where Abbi Jacobson (one half of my favorite power couple in Broad City) actually tried to take on a more serious role. Even in that TV series, her Abbi Abrams was more straightfaced and rational compared to the always wild and crazy Ilana Wexler (Ilana Glazer), but that made her funnier and even more endearing.

Sadly, this wasn’t the right vehicle to draw out her more sensitive side. Whenever her character Katie delivered a line that should have been solemn or earnest, I was waiting for her to crack up and mock what she just said Abbi-style. At least her effort for reinvention was commendable.

3. One thing that I really liked in this depressing drama was Dave Franco’s authentic portrayal of a person with substance abuse issues. His Seth was torn between the need to change his lifestyle for the love of his young kid, and his apparent heroin addiction. It was disturbing (he cleaned his syringe with toilet water!!) to see him go through this entire spectrum of emotions while he brutally battled his subsequent relapse (zoned out and depressed at the start, then sweaty, shaking, and desperate for a fix in the middle, and finally high and playful after his hit towards the end).

As somebody addicted to Coke (Coca-Cola hala!) whose mouth would go dry and hands all clammy after not getting a drink of my favorite ice cold soda every six hours, I couldn’t even imagine the pain and suffering that these people would go through to overcome their drug dependency.

4. I completely understood that Katie loved her younger brother so much that she was willing to do anything to help, but I just didn’t get why she made these really foolish decisions along the way. Why would she even bring a child with her when she tried to score some drugs in what looked like the scariest part of the neighborhood? Why would she leave the poor kid alone in the vehicle with an obviously sick person? Even if her brother was physically suffering, why did she act as an enabler and even agreed to buy him needles in a pharmacy?

I might be too quick (self-righteous?) to judge and maybe the entire point of this movie was that drug addiction was really a family disease, but I ended up getting stressed and frustrated with every terrible choice that she made.

(Side note: The young girl must have been a fan of Monsters Inc. because of her strange fascination with the word “Kitty”.)

5. Jane Kaczmarek had a brief appearance here as their mother and I was reminded yet again that she was criminally robbed of an Emmy for her brilliant turn as a fierce and controlling matriarch in Malcolm in the Middle.

(Also, I found it funny that the actor who played her husband in this movie closely resembled Bryan Cranston.)

6. So Katie broke the pharmacy’s glass door with their own bathroom keys, hit some posts while driving away, and we were expected to laugh along at the apparent silliness of these events? Why??

7. Instead of paying attention to that cheesy audio book about leaking boats, she should have listened more to her talking GPS navigator (it even asked her to “turn around” when she entered that drug-infested street).

Now why couldn’t my Waze be more like that whenever I was headed to the nearest KFC?

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

MANG KEPWENG RETURNS (G.B. Sampedro, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Mang Kepweng Returns:

1. My late grandmother was a big believer in quack medicine. Whenever I’d get sick as a kid, she would bring me to this seaside hut where an even older lady prayed over some wax paper (with Latin words written on them), licked them like stamps, and slapped them on my forehead to help exorcise the bad spirits causing my illness.

I never once believed in her sorcery (especially since my mom would ask me to take Aspilets after the session), but without her magical saliva, I would not have developed a stronger immune system.

2. I could barely remember the original Mang Kepweng movie, except that the late Chiquito (who was here in hologram form, but his mouth never moved while talking) played the title role with his trademark reverse bandana and Hitler mustache. I do remember its comics origins so I wasn’t surprised when this one started very much like a Marvel movie. Until it actually turned into a wannabe Marvel movie.

3. Much like any of its superhero origin stories, Kiefer (Vhong Navarro) found out the secrets to his past (he’s the bastard child of Mang Kepweng!), learned to harness his powers (polka dot bandana activate!), discovered how to be Doctor Strange (summoning those holograms and all!), and even staged a Civil War in the climactic battle sequence.

I even joked that I should stay until the end credits just in case there was a closing credits sequence. I wasn’t disappointed. Eat your heart out, Stan Lee!!

4. For a supposed update to a cult classic, most of the jokes here felt so dated. It reminded me so much of the humor in Home Along Da Riles (only that was hilarious and nobody could ever match the comic timing of the late Dolphy).

There were so many gags that were just not funny. One involved bungled haircuts (one man wanted his head shaved, the long-haired one wanted his dyed blonde, you know how this would end), another one had cha-cha music played during a funeral march, a latent gay character was always used as a punchline, and the worst had to be the renaissance of the yakapsule and kisspirin joke. Now watch me whip, now watch me anyenyeh!

5. Aerial shots galore. Congratulations on your new drone!

6. Is Jollicious Hotdog an actual product? That entire Zumba sequence where a large woman (named Petite, of course) fainted and was brought back to her senses by the smell of a jumbo Jollicious hotdog reeked of shameless product placement.

7. Two major characters kept questioning if the bandana had magical powers even if they grew a unibrow and a mustache after wearing it. Demanding much, mga bes?

8. Vhong used to be really funny, very much like a local Jim Carrey. In this movie, he was reduced to overacting like crazy while constantly cowering in fear (why was he working in a funeral parlor anyway if he was always close to having a stroke every time something eerie happened?).

9. The only joke that really landed was delivered by Bangky. When asked what he was smoking, he answered “Beep”. Vhong corrected him and said “Hindi po yan beep. Vape po yan” to which he replied “Beep ang plebor. Sa susunod chicken naman.” Mabuhay ang bangkay!

10. I would forever remember this movie as the one where a character actually said the line, “Ate kinagat ako ng tiyan mo!”. Horrors!!

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆