HINTAYAN NG LANGIT (Dan Villegas, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Hintayan ng Langit:

1. Imagine your poor, unfortunate soul in the hereafter rooming with your ex slash TOTGA (The One That Got Away, anubuzz tita!!) and dealing with your unresolved issues. Isn’t that the ultimate definition of purgatory? (Although, if you realized that you still loved your TOTGA long after your heart literally stopped beating, shouldn’t that be the equivalent of eternal hell?)

Manolo (Eddie Garcia) quickly learned this when he started sharing a room with ex-jowa Lisang (Gina Pareño) in said waiting area (also called The Middle) that looked like the final stop before reaching The Good Place (the actual one, not The Bad Place pretending to be The Good Place). Both of them obviously carried a lot of emotional baggage (I was surprised these got through customs in the arrivals area that had an actual x-ray machine). In some weird way, this film actually felt like a sequel of Exes Baggage set fifty years later in the afterlife. 

2. Sobrang daming hugot sa purgatoryo. Pero mas tagos talaga sa puso kapag oldies ang nagbabato ng hugot lines, no? Ramdam mo na walang halong kababawan. Kasi kung namatay ka na’t lahat kakahintay sa ex mo, di pa ba matatawag na true love yun?

3. It was heartbreaking to rewatch one of the final (great) performances of Manoy Eddie, especially since 2018 was another banner year for him with equally commendable turns in ML and Rainbow’s Sunset. I would always remember him as my favorite villain in Fernando Poe, Jr. films where they would play a game of verbal volleyball during that climactic (endless) final showdown. He had this annoyingly iconic way of delivering insults just by elongating most of his syllables that would rival Noli de Castro’s Teeeeveeee Patrol. (Lisang to Manolo: “Ulol! Hindi ka naman si FPJ ano?”)

In this film, he kept teasing her the Manoy way with lines like, “Hay nakooooohh! Ulyanin na si Lisaaaaaang. Pangalan ko lang hindi na matanda-aaaan! Ulyanin na ngaaaahh, malabo pa ang mataaaaaahhh!!” (Surely you read that in his voice. He was that effective, right?)

There was an overwhelming feeling of sadness listening to Manolo/Manoy sharing his regrets on not having the opportunity to properly bid farewell to his family. Nakakaiyak lalo hay. (It also made me wonder how many of our departed loved ones still carried that guilt over their unfinished business.)

4. I loved Gina’s performance here as well the moment she screamed “Mga pukengkay!!” to the noisy kids in the hallway (who morbidly died in a tragic field trip, fyi). It was reminiscent of her hilarious turn as Judy Ann Santos’ mother slash longganisa magnate in Kasal, Kasali, Kasalo. During that bar scene where she was discussing something about local politics, I half-expected her to say “politicians” the Belita way. It was also amusing to see her go toe-to-toe with Manoy and basically play cat and mouse in full juvenile mode (“Excuse me di kita type bleh!!” HAHAHA!). Kinilig din ako dun sa “Am I easy to forget?” ha.

She had two amazing scenes in this film. The first that brought me to tears was when she delivered the line “Dahil ayokong sabihin mo na hindi na naman kita hinintay”. (Waaah!) The other one was when she called her husband Nestor in heaven and said, “Alam mo ba kung bakit sigurado akong mahal kita? Dahil araw-araw kitang pinili”, which was actually bittersweet given the eventual ending.

Also, tawang-tawa ako sa pagkasabi niya ng Zest-O as Syes-to.

5. There were a lot of details in this interpretation of the afterlife that I really liked, from the support group that provided counselling for the recently departed that were in denial, the surge of souls arriving that were killed due to tokhang, that the vow of marriage might have its limits (‘Till death do us part, diba?), and the portal that could connect the living and the dead.

My favorite one from the admirable production design was that blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sign in the elevator that stated the maximum capacity of 10 souls and weight of 210 grams. It reminded so much of Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu’s 21 Grams (the second film in his Death Trilogy) that included the line: “They say we all lose 21 grams at the exact moment of our death.” Yup, there was an actual scientific study done that determined the probable weight of one’s soul. (At least kahit sa kaluluwa man lang magaan ako.)

6. Politicians woman: “What really matters is the void we leave behind.” 

Lisang: “Pero hindi ba mas mahalaga na makita mong masaya yung mga naiwan mo?”

Points to ponder.

7. Nung nawala ang kalasingan ni Lisang sa pagtawag ni Esther na asawa ni Manolo, nasagot ang tanong sa kung ano ang best cure for a hangover. Obviously, jelly. As in jealousy.

8. If there was one thing that I learned when Manolo arrived late at the pier thus forever altering their lives, it was the importance of punctuality. I would never, ever be late to anything ever again. (Hopefully.)

9. That final shot. Goosebumps!! (Pero napaisip din ako gaano kadaming multo ang nakasakay sa eroplano. Goosebumps ulit.)

Rating: ★★★★☆

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HENERAL LUNA (Jerrold Tarog, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Heneral Luna:

1. The disclaimer at the start of the movie was scary for two reasons: a) for a biopic slash historical epic, we don’t know the extent of cinematic license used in the movie, and b) indeed, a fictionalized history (or work of fiction inspired by true events?) doesn’t take away the fact that this is still a clear representation of the truth (both past and present).

2. Jerrold Tarog has always been a competent filmmaker. He’s the kind of director that can make a Shake Rattle and Roll episode end up better than most of the full-length Pinoy movies shown that year. (Also, watch Senior Year!!)

3. I think everyone will agree that the movie had one of the best ensemble casts in any Pinoy film. I loved how the receding hairline of Epy Quizon was put to good use as Apolinario Mabini. In terms of acting, Mon Confiado (as Emilio Aguinaldo) and Nonie Buencamino (as Felipe Buencamino) were clear standouts. I hope none of them show up in Felix Manalo or I will start getting confused.

4. One of the best lines in the movie:

“Para kayong mga birhen na naniniwala sa pag-ibig ng isang puta!!”

I wonder when I can deliver this line in real life.

5. I particularly liked the Manifest Destiny scene because it stirred up emotions that shouldn’t even be there in this day and age (I so hated the American soldiers that I almost swore off eating burgers.)

6. A lot of reviews have pointed out that the film is a farce. I guess I’m being a purist then because I still want my History lessons all serious and dramatic. The rich content of Philippine History alone will never be boring. I guess I just didn’t understand all the funny quips despite the current situations (hey, it’s just war, people are just getting blown up, let’s all be like Cesar Montano and throw a witty one-liner or two!).

7. I was happy to see Antonio Luna portrayed as a deeply flawed character (never liked biopics that glorify their subject matter) but did it go too far? I could barely remember him in History class and now all I could think of was that he’s no different from Anger in Inside Out. Just about everything seemed to irk him to no end and everyone around him just looked completely dumb or incompetent. John Arcilla was fine in the lead role but I kept imagining him invoking the spirit of Captain Jack Sparrow in every scene. I hate to say it but it bordered closely on caricature.

8. Did we really need that gratuitous head shot for shock value? If they were depicting the reality of war then why was Luna shown as someone invincible? He just kept saying his lines while walking close to enemy lines without getting hit. Maybe he had an agimat that we didn’t know of? (Was it the magical coin pouch that saved his life?)

9. In one scene, Luna was trying to talk to an American soldier and ended up saying something like, “Hulihin nyo na yan. Naubusan na ko ng Ingles” all for comic relief. I was surprised he didn’t just say “Nosebleed!”. Why didn’t they really get Montano for this role?

10. I remember one of my History teachers saying that when Rizal got shot, he tried to face the firing squad as a sign of pride and dignity. Is this correct? (I’m only asking because the Rizal here just waited to be shot at the back. Wait, that didn’t sound right.)

11. In another scene, Luna was strumming his guitar and he was shown to have perfectly polished nails. With this, I will always remember that even in trying times, one should never forget to have a manicure.

12. Why is Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata the song of choice for war flashback scenes? I first heard this used in Madrasta with Sharon Cuneta’s grandfather recalling the war with Japanese soldiers. (Ooh, I need to watch that again.)

13. Old people love hitting tables for emphasis. (If you’ve done that recently…)

14. The scene that I abhorred the most would have to be the one where Luna was killed and the movie turned into a comical Carlo J. Caparas movie. Luna was betrayed and stabbed and shot several times (and had a hole carved in his right eye) by Filipino soldiers and I should have been appalled and angry by the betrayal but I was instead preventing a huge fart from trying not to laugh. Sure, History books would say that he was stabbed 30 or so times and that he continued to flinch after his death but I’m sure it didn’t say that he was Fernando Poe, Jr. (or a horror movie villain that just won’t die).

15. I remember Aguinaldo getting a bad rap for apparently ordering the assassination of Andres Bonifacio. He was portrayed the exact same way here with fingers directly pointed at him for giving the directive on the ambush of Luna. I never knew our first President was such a villain. Has anything changed since then?

16. The burning flag scene in its entirety covered everything that the movie was trying to say in two hours. Such powerful imagery.

17. There’s a mid-credits sequence!! In the same way that Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo had a Heneral Luna teaser, this one hinted at a Gregorio del Pilar spin-off (meaning more Paulo Avelino!). Move over Marvel, we have our Pinoy superheroes!

18. How many times did I mention History?

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published September 16, 2015.)

SING (Garth Jennings, Christophe Lourdelet, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Sing:

1. When the Illumination logo showed up and the Minions started singing, I suddenly wished that they were part of the movie. What kind of animals (critters?) were they, anyway? At least it made me excited for their next outing. Hopefully, it wouldn’t be as bad as the last one.

2. I really liked the zippy opening montage introducing all the animals and their current dilemmas. Most of the characters here reminded me so much of Zootopia (like they existed in a parallel cinema universe). I wish their story arcs (young man going against his father’s dream for him, housewife wanting to fulfill her passion, teenage girl experiencing her first heartbreak, etc.) were more developed though, because they represented majority of us and our insecurities.

3. Buster Moon’s (Matthew McConaughey) love for theater at a young age reminded me of my early days watching Fernando Poe, Jr. (and the occasional Sharon Cuneta) films in Alabang Twin Cinema. My grandmother would always drag me to see Da King decimate an entire army of goons with just a .45 (without ever reloading bullets!).

Parents, it’s never too late to expose your kids to the arts.

4. Any American Idol fan would be able to relate to the entire audition process and competition rules (at one point, Buster dictated the songs that he wanted the contestants to perform; hello Simon Fuller controversy!). The selection of songs used here ranged from the classics (Hallelujah, also one of the most-performed songs on AI) to the current pop songs (Crazy in Love, Bad Romance, Firework, Stay With Me).

My favorite auditionees were the Asereje spiders and the Japanese little foxes girl group. They made me cheer from my seat out of nostalgia.

5. The movie occasionally made fun of one character with a disability, an elderly iguana with a glass eye. I laughed out really loud when the said eye fell out of its socket and bounced on the keyboard, resulting to an error on the actual cash prize for the competition. Would I go straight to hell for that?

6. Although the story was only fairly decent, most of the voice performances were really strong. Aside from McConaughey singing Call Me Maybe, it was a delight to hear Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Seth McFarlane and Taron Egerton belting their hearts out.

My favorite though was Tori Kelly as Meena, a shy elephant with stage fright. When she had her shining moment performing Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing, I was cheering along with the rest of the animal crowd.

7. The squid light show looked enchanting but weirdly enough also made me crave for Mesa’s Baby Squid Adobo in its own ink.

8. As a person with stage fright myself (I forgot a huge chunk of my speech during a Talumpatian in grade school and cried onstage), I would always remember what Buster said to Meena, “Don’t let fear stop you from doing the thing you love.” Noted and noted.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

SUICIDE SQUAD (David Ayer, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Suicide Squad:

1. I honestly couldn’t care less about the whole Marvel v DC discussion (I would have to leave that up to the expert rabid fanboys) and with all the early (brutal) reviews that came out, I was prepared to see the worst film of the year (which according to the online universe as well was previously Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a movie that I actually liked). Sure, this wasn’t a breakthrough in comic book adaptations with its weak story and cheesy special effects, but at least it was a bit more fun to watch than say, the ho-hum X-Men: Apocalypse. Also, anybody who would say that this was worse than the Fant4stic Four reboot probably never watched the entirety of that snoozefest.

2. Harley Quinn (played to playful perfection by Margot Robbie) was the most memorable (and obviously fitting) in a movie that was a whole lot of pretty and a whole lot of crazy. From the moment she appeared dangling like Maddie Ziegler (of the Sia videos) doing another performance art inside a cage (set to the tune of You Don’t Own Me, no less), she stole every scene without effort. I could see a lot of girls donning her costume in time (literally with watches on their arms) for Halloween. I seriously wish they would have really nice and plump butt cheeks as well.

3. Dear Star-Lord, check out this movie’s soundtrack for another perfect mix tape. House of the Rising Sun, I Started a Joke, Without Me, Bohemian Rhapsody…oh wait, you already had that.

4. I was thankful for the quick introduction (flashing dossiers) of characters because aside from The Joker (Jared Leto invoking Jack Nicholson), I really didn’t know any of them. Deadshot (Will Smith) reminded me of Hancock with a Terminator’s eye, Diablo (Jay Hernandez) and Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) were reminiscent of Human Torch and Thing, Boomerang (Jai Courtney) had a boomerang plus a really creepy pink unicorn fetish, and Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) looked like a starving pre-show Victoria’s Secret Angel (please tell me I wasn’t the only one laughing at her wiggling during the post-heart transplant scene).

I wasn’t surprised that Annalise Keating, er, Amanda Waller (the exquisite Viola Davis) was the one chosen to round up and torture another team of puppets. Also, one character looked very much like Frank Delfino, I swear.

5. Ooh, blink-and-you’ll-miss-em cameos from two popular DC characters! These ones I knew.

6. The huge subtitles without punctuation marks triggered my OCD. My right index finger kept tapping at an imaginary period button whenever those showed up.

7. I snickered a bit when the camera zoomed up to reveal the Instagram-ready knife and champagne flatlay of The Joker. On a related note, I really loved that shot of him and Harley in a vat of swirling blue and red paint. Ahrt!!

8. The best moments were when it was just being really silly with its villains-as-heroes theme and had intentionally funny lines like “Don’t touch me!”, “What’s that crap on your face? Does that wash off?”, and my favorite “Behold the face of God!” (close runner-up: “Why are you not dead?”).

9. The worst moments were when it decided to grow a heart amidst the messy fight sequences (reminiscent of David Ayer’s Fury and in one sequence, The Raid) complete with an obvious fake-out and a gag-inducing slo-mo that included a gun being thrown to the bida (sorry, Margot and Will but Fernando Poe, Jr. and Janice de Belen/Julie Vega did it much better in Roman Rapido).

10. The ending initially hinted at a sequel focusing on Harley and The Joker, but the mid-credits sequence showed a picture of Ezra Miller, among others. Since he played The Flash, should we expect the Justice League movie next?

Critics, start sharpening your claws!! (Wait, wrong franchise…)

Rating: ★★★☆☆

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (Anthony and Joe Russo, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Captain America: Civil War:

1. I had no clue who Doctor Strange was but that awesome trailer made me wish it were November already. Did I just sound like a die-hard Cumberbitch? Probably. But what really sealed the deal was Tilda Swinton looking like a cooler version of the Last Airbender.

2. Was it just me or did this actually feel like a Bond thriller (or a Bourne thriller, or any thriller for that matter)? You could have replaced the Marvel superheroes with real common people and it would still have been completely enjoyable. Sure, the climactic battle scene wouldn’t have been as fun, but my entire point was that this was a good film.

3. Everyone knows that I’m not the biggest fan of action movies, but I really enjoyed all the fight and chase scenes here (the drone shots were really impressive). The movie delivered on its trailer’s promise of an epic battle between the superheroes. I guess I was so used to Fernando Poe, Jr. movies where the bida and (lead) kontrabida have a match-up of their own while the minor characters get their own one-on-ones (with the women relegated to their own eye-scratching and hair-pulling). I really expected a bitch fight between the (balimbing) Black Widow and Scarlet Witch, but I was actually happy it didn’t happen. Each superhero was able to demonstrate his/her strengths and weaknesses by battling every other superhero from the opposing team. Definitely worth the wait.

4. I actually thought that Robert Downey, Jr. discovered the Fountain of Youth when his younger self appeared onscreen until his real more scruffy-looking (and better-looking, right?) other walked out and started discussing the wonders of BARF (was this the same machine used by Clementine to erase the traumatic memories of ex-boyfriend Joel? If you got this reference, you have great taste in films).

Also, that scene with him and Alfre Woodard made me want to start singing “Walk Like A Man” (if you still got this reference, I love you already). And, RDJ was so good in that big reveal scene. *sob*

5. I wonder how King T’Chaka’s campaign would have been if he ran for President here. He would have needed a really good manager.

6. Chris Evans looked so pale, like he stepped out of a Twilight movie. With that said, he still decimated my remaining self-esteem when he started flexing his biceps and flaunting his ripped upper torso while holding on to the runaway helicopter. No wonder Captain America only needed a shield when he already had those big guns. (Emily Thorne, you lucky girl.)

7. The proposed UN agreement regarding the need for supervision of superheroes was reminiscent of the Mutant Registration Act in the X-Men movies. One of them said it best with “If we don’t put limitations, we’re no different from the bad guys” and of course, my recently quoted “You’re wrong. You think you’re right. It makes you dangerous.” Who knew that choosing if you’re #TeamCap or #TeamIronMan would actually reflect one’s political views?

8. I know that one character mentioned it but why were Thor and Hulk really missing in action? The Incredible Hulk going head-to-head with the giant Ant-Man (Hantik Man! Har har!) would have been a real showdown. Also, I wanted to see Pepper. Please tell me she’s really pregnant. Everyone has a gimmick now, right? I hope that would be hers.

9. The movie felt like it was really made for grown-ups. It took its time (read: felt overlong) to explain everything and some might find these parts a bit dragging. I’m still a kid so yes, my mind wandered a bit during all the pseudo-philosophical discussions. It was a giant (bold) step for Marvel movies, though. (Wait, why was this a Captain America movie when it felt very much like an Avengers movie?)

10. I was amused by Peter Parker and his onesie but he will forever be Andrew Garfield to me. Also, the fall of War Machine was eerily similar to the death of Gwen Stacy.

11. Daniel Bruhl will have more screen time in the next movie, yes? Yes?

12. If I were the Winter Soldier, the key words that would trigger my inner rage would be: SIR. WALA. PONG. BREAST. PART.

What would be yours?

Rating: ★★★★☆

TUPANG LIGAW (Rod Santiago, 2016)

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My notes on Tupang Ligaw:

1. I really had no plans of watching this movie, but because of my great love for Sarah G., an R-16 rating that promised possible nudity, and just a little over one hour running time, I thought how bad could it be? (The answer was very.)

2. I hope that Matteo Guidicelli was a much better boyfriend than actor. Although he looked really good onscreen, his face barely registered any genuine emotion. His constant preening and difficulty in delivering his Filipino lines were just distracting. One scene involved a young kid aiming a loaded gun at him and he casually said, “Delikado ‘to, ok?” like he was just teaching him the dangers of tumbang preso. Can he just release a scandal, please?

3. Matteo played Abel Rosaryo and if his name wasn’t enough of a giveaway, he was the good son turned lost sheep out to seek revenge on the death of his prodigal brother at the hands of Paolo Contis’ Señor El Diablo (yup, this movie didn’t know the word subtlety) and his caricature goons. Oh, and said Diablo ruled Barrio Paraiso (ooh, at least it knew irony).

4. Barrio Paraiso was a stinkhole full of really nice people, so nice that the teens actually queued to buy their daily supply of drugs. The other characters in this forsaken town included a widowed prostitute (Ara Mina) and her young boy, an old haciendero with a borta caregiver fond of grey tank tops, and a cowboy hat-wearing priest. The said priest asked for Abel’s help because he was so concerned about his town’s current state (“Sana matulungan natin ang mga kabataan”). The next scene showed said teens…twerking. Miley Cyrus was the devil?

5. Señor El Diablo’s goons in the movie all carried machine guns that they never really used whenever Abel was around. They usually ended up pointing them at him, never firing (sayang ang bala?), and then just using them to make pukpok the bida. Seriously, these were the oppressors that ruled the poor barrio?

I bet Abel just spent a few hours watching Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon to prep for these fights. He actually put the late, great Fernando Poe, Jr. to shame by singlehandedly killing all goons in sight with his bare hands. I swear in one scene the said goons actually even lined up so that they could get punched one after the other.

6. The said R-16 rating proved to be a disappointment because it was mostly due to the constant throat-slitting. To be fair though, there were so many shots of Abel tucking the gun in the waistband of his jeans so we had more than enough glimpses of Matteo’s flawless belly. Such a tease!

7. Flashbacks galore. Every plot detail and motive needed one. I think the entire movie was actually half-flashbacks, half-action sequences.

And because the movie was so original, it had a scene where Matteo looked up at the high heavens, raised his arms, and let out a loud scream while the camera panned out for an aerial shot. (It was original because it didn’t rain.)

8. The shoddy production values were probably limited by the measly budget. The movie didn’t even bother with retakes. One scene had the camera on Matteo just waiting for his cue to speak (if that wasn’t bad enough, he still missed his cue). In another, he flipped a table out of anger but since it didn’t fully turn, he just flipped it again all in the same take.

The sound of a passing tricycle would be much louder than the actual conversation. Even a vase used in one scene was fake because it didn’t break when it was accidentally hit by a character.

The movie’s producer at least knew her priorities. She was addressed with a Ms. on the opening and closing credits. More importantly, she played a crucial role as Tiger Rose, uhm, actually her character had no bearing in the entire movie until a last minute explanation on one of the last few scenes. This reminded me so much of another producer (ahem, GMA Films) that had to be included as an extra in every scene of all her movies.

9. One of my favorite scenes here was when Ara Mina stepped out of her room that night with her boobs almost popping out of the plunging neckline of her skimpy bedazzled black dress (with matching floral clutch) and told Matteo that she was off to work and he still asked what kind of work she had.

Uh, I surely hope she wasn’t a call center agent (or worse, Team Leader).

I was already reaching for my inhaler by the time Ara replied, “Eh di sa beerhouse.”

10. Speaking of said beerhouse, the movie’s idea of being progressive was having a transgendered prostitute dance in a club full of presumably straight men. Good move for equal opportunity, right? And then the said transgender did a somersault before eating a live chicken. (Fear the wrath of the LGBT!)

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆