CRAZY RICH ASIANS (Jon M. Chu, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Crazy Rich Asians:

1. I remembered watching this episode of Bonkers Closets on Facebook that featured the humongous fingerprint-protected walk-in closet (and by walk-in, I meant way bigger than our entire house) of crazy rich Singaporean socialite Jamie Chua. It stored hundreds of her Birkins and Louboutins and every kind of sparkly Chanel dress that any woman (and gay man) could ever dream of. She even called one of her purchases, an Hermès Mini Pochette worth over $11k, completely useless because it could only fit a credit card and a piece of tissue. It was this same kind of opulence (read: ridiculously excessive levels) that I expected from this movie.

As a third world citizen without a Jamba Juice card, but mooches off of my friend’s Netflix account, I wanted to see how these crazy rich Asians were living my fantasy life that I would have to pick my jaw off the sticky floors of the cinema after every scene of extreme extravagance. Aside from that overhead shot of the Young estate with what seemed to be a built-in lagoon, there really weren’t a lot of “Kalokang mayayaman ‘to!” moments here, though. I had more “Wow!” moments while skimming over the Yes! issue of Willie Revillame flaunting his mansion and luxury cars.

(If anything, this movie worked as a really effective tourism video for Singapore because every location just looked incredibly gorgeous.)

2. Wait, I’m not required to lower my standards naman just because Asians are finally getting represented in Hollywood, right? So I should be as brutal to this cliché-ridden rom-com the same way that I would to a Star Cinema langit-lupa love story? Because seriously, that plane scene reeked of Bea Alonzo flying to Cagayan de Oro with Dingdong Dantes running after her and then making that grand proposal while every passenger cheered even with their flight delayed. Why should this one get a free pass as an enjoyable, fluffy piece of entertainment just because it’s an “important” film?

3. The opening scene was my favorite because I weirdly enjoyed squirming in my seat while watching that really uncomfortable discrimination situation. I even remembered being in a slightly similar incident when my family had a vacation in (guess where?) Singapore back in the early 90’s. We were eating at KFC and the locals sneered at us like we were stray dogs that got lost in that establishment (of course back then I had no clue that they looked down on Pinoys as second-class citizens so I just thought they weren’t too happy with the crispy chicken they were eating).

When the legendary Michelle Yeoh served that fitting retribution to the hotel manager with such intense coldness, I came very close to standing up and cheering from my seat. I’d have preferred it though if she ended that scene with “Wala pang taong hindi rumespeto sa pangalang ELEANOR Young! At ang hindi marunong rumespeto sa AKING pangalan ay ASO lamang!!”. (If you got that reference, you have excellent taste in films.)

4. So many #PinoyFried in this movie, although none of them actually portrayed Pinoy characters (except for Astrid’s maids, of course!). Nico Santos’ fey turn as cousin Oliver was a delight, although it wasn’t surprising given his amazing turn as Mateo Fernando Aquino Liwanag in Superstore.

And speaking of Aquinos, when crazy rich Kris showed up onscreen as Princess Intan, there were some audible gasps from the audience. I guess none of them were able to watch Magic to Win 5 on the big screen. I still think it would have been the biggest casting coup if she played Imelda Marcos (the only woman that could put Jamie Chua’s shoe collection to shame).

5. I completely get the use of the very Asian mahjong game in that climactic showdown between Eleanor and Rachel (Constance Wu), although I honestly didn’t understand all of the symbolisms. The only thing I noticed was that Eleanor took the East seat which was significant in The Joy Luck Club (now there’s a brilliant Hollywood Asian film) since that was where the dealer sat and where all things began (in the novel/film, Jing Mei took that seat to replace her dead mother Suyuan who started the said group). 

Wouldn’t it have been great though if they amped up the camp factor and showed more clashes between these strong women (very much like a Pinoy cockfight)? With two brilliant actresses front and center (fyi, this should serve as your reminder to finally catch up on Fresh Off the Boat), this could have been really fun.

(Also, the Nick character was so bland that I couldn’t see why two amazing women were “fighting” over him. No amount of Henry Golding’s shirtless scenes could hide that fact.)

Side note: Given that Jon M. Chu also directed Now You See Me 2, I actually had this gnawing feeling during the mahjong scene that Rachel would perform some sort of elaborate magic trick. Like she would be able to switch her bamboo tiles without Eleanor ever noticing. Pong!!

6. I teared up a bit when I realized that the Ah Ma character was played by Lisa Lu, who was also Auntie An-Mei in Joy Luck Club (“My mother not know her worth until too late. Too late for her, but not for me.” Waaaah!).

7. I wasn’t particularly fond of Awkwafina in Ocean’s 8, but she was hilarious in the Nikki Valdez role here. As Peik Lin (aka Asian Ellen), she stole every scene that she was in whether she was criticizing Rachel’s look as Sebastian of The Little Mermaid, playing around with her car window, or simply taking a selfie around the Young mansion.

My favorite (very Asian) joke though was when Wye Mun (Ken Jeong) said something like, “Red’s a lucky color if you’re an envelope”. I also liked the bite in his line that “There’s a lot of children starving in America”.

8. Supposedly affluent young women going crazy over off-the-rack items? Shouldn’t they be turning their enhanced pointed noses up on anything that wasn’t bespoke? How un-crazy rich. (And what to make of that tacky tassel necklace? Only Kat Galang could have pulled that one off.)

9. The story about Astrid’s failing marriage felt like complete filler. It was like one long setup for the sequel. (Which probably was made more obvious when Harry Shum, Jr. showed up in one scene and yet received top billing in the end credits.) Her story only served as a distraction to what could have been more screen time for Nick and Rachel or Rachel and Eleanor. Also, Gemma Chan looked very much like Nathalie Hart, no?

10. One of the highlights here was the royal wedding of Araminta (Sonoya Mizuno) where the guests held lighted butterflies (dragonflies?) as she walked down that water-filled aisle. While everyone else teared up when Kina Grannis’ Can’t Help Falling in Love played in the background, my OCD kicked in high gear imagining that lovely wedding dress turning all soggy and getting completely ruined. These crazy rich people paid $40M for that? 

Meanwhile here in the Philippines, a bride in Bulacan went viral for actually wading in murky floodwater (which she got free courtesy of the monsoon) out of necessity just to continue with her dream wedding. Now that was something that really made me cry.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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.)

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: ★★★★☆