ANNIE (Will Gluck, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Annie:

1. The movie opened with a typical Annie, a tiny freckle-faced Caucasian redhead, reading a report on former US Presidents. The teacher then called the real Annie, played by Quvenzhane Wallis, a smart and spunky African-American. I loved this wink, wink opening because Wallis was just too adorable in the lead role. I was also happy with the color blind casting because the role of Annie had nothing to do with her skin color anyway.

2. When I heard the teacher call Annie B., I immediately thought Annie Batungbakal and I started humming the theme song and imagined Nora doing a song and dance number (“Sa umaga, dispatsadora. Sa gabi, siya’y bonggang-bongga…”).

3. For a musical, most of the production numbers felt lacking. The only one I truly enjoyed was It’s The Hard Knock Life. Everything else felt joyless. Even the classic Tomorrow wasn’t memorable since it just had her walking the streets of Harlem. Why bother with a remake?

4. Cameron Diaz can be funny whenever she goes bat-shit crazy in her movies. Here, her campiness only served as a distraction. She was just irritating all throughout. Even her musical number was horrible. Do you still remember her singing “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” in My Best Friend’s Wedding? She sang exactly like that in the most grating voice ever. Only here it wasn’t played for laughs.

5. Blatant Purell product placement. No better than a Kris Aquino movie. (“Product placement keeps the movie business afloat!”, said one character.)

6. The viral video of Jamie Foxx saving Annie was all wrong. How could it have different takes and taken from two different angles when it was supposedly shot by an onlooker?

7. I love Rose Byrne, I really do, but she should not be allowed to sing again. Hey, why was this musical populated by terrible singers given their own musical highlights? All it needed was Russell Crowe.

8. The updated version had Annie with a Twitter account and saved by Instagram. Groan.

9. I felt bad for Sia. I actually liked “Opportunity”.

10. The final act had a last minute twist, a villain that never really got his due, a final conflict, and a quick resolution that led to a song and dance number by way of Mother Lily. Ugh.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published January 28, 2015.)

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THE LOOKOUT (Afi Africa, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Lookout:

1. It must be true that one couldn’t really appreciate good films without experiencing the bad. In effect, Cinemalaya also wouldn’t be complete and considered an annual triumph if not for misguided, execrable fare like Amor Y Muerte, Asintado, The Diplomat Hotel, or last year’s infamous Ang Guro Kong ‘Di Marunong Magbasa.

Keeping up with tradition, this year’s festival delivered another knockout clunker so inane (insane?) that it should be deemed a cult classic twenty years from now. It had the makings of the worst (read: best, but actually worst) kind of Elwood Perez film that I even wondered if the name Afi Africa was just a pseudoynm of the said director (fact check: no, completely different person).

A gay hired killer out to seek revenge on his childhood abusers? Compelling stuff. The terrible execution though made this one a hilariously campy “film mwah” (I missed you, Belinda Bright!).

2. The opening scene alone that revealed the highlights of the movie was a sure sign of impending doom, er… I meant the tremendous enjoyment that this one would bring. It reminded me of the flash cuts used in my favorite TV series that I actually expected to the hear the words “Previously on Scandal…” as soon as it started.

3. Why was this movie rated PG when the first fifteen minutes alone featured a graphic anal sex scene? It also included oral sex, a threesome in a tub, a lengthy rape scene, gratuitous nudity, and excessive violence and profanity. How did this elude the prudes of MTRCB?

I wouldn’t be complaining if I wasn’t seated two rows behind a boy (barely ten) who had to hear the line “Tangina nakikipagkangkangan ako!”. Somebody should be made accountable for this. (FYI, I watched this again on a different day and it still had the same rating. I asked the cinema personnel and they said they couldn’t do anything to restrict younger viewers.)

4. I made the right decision of staying away from the good seats (crowd) because I just couldn’t control my laughter in several odd moments. In one scene, George/Timothy/Lester (Andres Vasquez, a budget Wendell Ramos) started his voiceover with “Ito ang The Kingdom…” referring to a high-end, exclusive membership club where rich patrons could buy any of the topless boys in a swimming pool (Did they stay there all day waiting for customers? Imagine the pruning and shrinkage!). He was offered a drink (“Zhenk yhu zho match!”) and then proceeded to select (“Dat guy ober der”) Travis (Jay Garcia, as a human goat), who actually had a slo-mo shot of him coming out of the water like he was shooting one of those Instagram Vitamin Sea pictures. G/T/L then stretched his arms wide open while slowly saying “Welcahhhm to mayhhhh layhhhf!” and at that point I was already crying because my appendix shot out of my ass.

In another, a group of government operatives were discussing the crime scene and Grace/Monica (Elle Ramirez) went through an entire litany of bullet trajectories and how the killer made an elaborate setup to mislead the investigators. Their leader (Efren Reyes, Jr.) then asked “So may identity na kayo ng assailant?” to which a constipated-looking G/M replied, “Unfortunately sir, no.” Bwahahahaha! If only this was a satire on the current state of our nation.

Also, don’t even get me started on that “Tao o ibon? *flipped coin* Kiss mo ako sa leeg” scene. My nebulizer’s not ready.

5. I hadn’t even touched on these words of wisdom that I had difficulty transcribing because I was just cracking up really hard. Some examples:

• On the power of words: 

“Ang ‘I LOVE YOU’ ay mula sa puso. Ang ‘MAHAL KITA’ ay mula sa puso tagos hanggang kaluluwa.” 

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!

(Don’t get me wrong. This actually made a lot of sense given that words in the vernacular would have more impact, but you really needed to hear the clunky delivery to understand why people spontaneously laughed during this scene.)

• On the sanctity of body parts:

“Ang labi ko ay para lamang sa babaeng mamahalin ko at ang pwet ko ay bilang respeto sa pagkatao ko at pagkalalaki ko.”

• On mutualism in relationships:

“Sa tingin mo gusto ko na chupain kita at kantutin mo ako?”

• On Melanie Marquez as a literary genius:

“Ang tao ay parang libro. Hindi mo napipili ng dahil lang sa cover kundi dahil sa laman nito.”

• On love computations:

“Alam mo ba ang ibig sabihin ng mahalaga? Mahal + alaga.”

6. To be fair, I really liked the dingy setting of G/T/L’s apartment with his room overlooking the LRT.

Yayo Aguila (as the abused mother) also had some fine moments whenever she wasn’t required to overact like crazy.

7. Even after watching this twice, these were some of my burning questions:

• Why did Rez Cortez’s abusive character have to be raped by two twinks? Would it really have served as a punishment for him considering that he was a child molester?

• Where could we buy those voice changers used here as an app in a Nokia phone? (“Sino ka?” “Isang kaibigan. O pwede ring kaaway.” HAHAHAHAHA!)

• If the movie wanted a big reveal regarding the identities of the siblings, why did they have to own matching little black booklets?

• Was the excessive fascination with removing/putting on underwear done by several characters a symbolism for something? Did G/T/L really have to take a shower wearing black briefs? I thought he had no “quangs showing his body”?

• What were the tilted shots for? Was this an homage to American Horror Story?

• What was the purpose of G/T/L saving that crying young girl? Was it to show that a ruthless killer like him had a soft spot, too? But whatever happened to that girl after the said scene?

8. Overheard after the screening: “Ang tulis ni Travis natuhog ang magkapatid!” HAHAHAHAHA!

9. That ending!! I couldn’t wait for part 2 to learn more about Jeffrey Santos’ character who showed up at the very last minute just to dramatically unzip his hoodie and give a sinister look, like he was in possession of the diary that contained the deepest, darkest secrets of Mara Clara.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

I LOVE YOU, HATER (Giselle Andres, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on I Love You, Hater:

1. In the words of the great Beyoncé, “Honesty is such a lonely word. Everyone is so untrue. Honesty is hardly ever heard. And mostly what I need from you.” (I know this was a Billy Joel original, but I’m a self-proclaimed millennial.)

Joko (Joshua Garcia) lived in his own world of lies. He fabricated a story to his family about working in New York and then he pretended to be a swishy beshie so that he could apprentice (read: be the next Darla) for Digital Empress Sasha Imperial (Kris Aquino, in her most challenging role as herself).

On the other hand, Zoey (Julia Barretto) with all of her emotional baggage that stemmed from father abandonment issues was allergic to lies. Would these two morally opposite poles attract (even with a pretend gender conflict)? We wouldn’t need an alien intervention to know the answer to this one.

In the spirit of honesty and the movie’s #SaTrueLang hashtag (wait, was that redundant?), let me say that I’m no hater, but I did not love this one at all. Similar to Giselle Andres’ last directorial effort Loving in Tandem, the weak and muddled plot could not be salvaged by the enthusiastic performances of its leads.

2. This might sound like a Julia Barretto Appreciation Post because I would be raving like a lovestruck lunatic over the next few sentences so be warned.

In last year’s Love You to the Stars and Back, I hailed her performance as the second coming of Queen Claudine Barretto. With this movie, she just officially earned her right to finally step out of her aunt’s shadow (yes, this would be the last time that I would compare her to Ate Clau).

In one scene, Zoey (who looked gorgeous with her wet, slicked back hair) attended the wedding of her half-sister where her absentee father (Ricardo Cepeda) proudly bragged about his “only daughter”. It was such a sad moment and you could see the terrible pain and humiliation in Zoey’s eyes, especially when the tears started to well up while she stormed out of the event (the succeeding scene where she sobbed in her room wasn’t even needed).

When Zoey admitted her feelings for Joko and then discovered his ruse, their confrontation scene (“Di ko alam kung bakit ako nagmahal…”) was an acting highlight for Julia. What started as an iyak-tawa delivery turned into full-blown rage and a definite nganga (did this girl really do that?) moment for me. I wonder how much of the behind the scenes issues and tension contributed to that brilliant scene. Hugot kung hugot, you go girl! Also, those seemingly naughty stares while she teased Joko were just too funny. Mahusay talaga siya dito.

(Side note: Joshua could still cry on cue, but his performance here seemed to lack the usual sensitivity and depth.)

3. Kris was surprisingly tolerable here and her supporting role was obviously stretched to ensure that she would get as much screen time as JoshLia. I guess it didn’t hurt that most of her scenes involved Sasha shooting her vlogs (for National Bookstore and iFlix, no less) so it was definitely in her wheelhouse. She also had a subplot about an Alzheimer’s-stricken father (Ronaldo Valdez, wonderful as always) and was given a couple of dramatic highlights (one closely resembled the McDo Karen ad) that probably would have been more effective if she weren’t trying so damn hard to squeeze her tearducts (as in literal na more pikit para pumatak ang luha).

If anything, I really loved her joyously colorful Happy Pride outfits. I wonder how many glitter unicorns had to die just to make them.

4. Speaking of pride, I was shocked to see an unrecognizable Mark Neumann playing one half of a gay couple (the other half was Markki Stroem). He was built up as a teen idol in Artista Academy and here he looked like a lipstick lesbian who might also own a Mio.

Why wasn’t the couple even invited when Zoey and Joko went to O Bar (billed here as Rave)? You know this was a work of fiction because in that scene where a Sarah Geronimo impersonator was performing, nobody from the crowd was doing the viral Tala dance moves.

5. Joshua must really be trying to fill the void left by John Lloyd Cruz because he had a Biogesic-like scene where he took Enervon and a few seconds later an extra was tasked to say “Ang taas ng energy mo!!”. Agad-agad??

I laughed out really loud though when promdi Joko called out the terrible food served in the wedding by saying “Hilaw nga nila sinerve yung steak eh. May dugo-dugo pa. Gross!” Nyahahaha!

6. My favorite scene was when Joko’s clan threw a surprise birthday party (complete with papier-mache lechon and cake) for Zoey. He then offered his father to dance with her and said, “Pahiram ko muna sa’yo ang tatay ko.” It was touching, heartfelt, and made me wish that Zoey had a standalone movie.

7. Burning questions:

• Why was Zoey wearing those short shorts (albeit stylish) for an important job interview?

• Would a Digital Empress really hire somebody that she met in an elevator and gave basic graphic design suggestions? More importantly, why couldn’t she afford to pay (or give a shoutout) for a decent logo design?

• Were those Instagram pictures intentionally Photoshopped to make Zoey’s father and his family look like they were levitating directly across the Leaning Tower of Pisa?

• Whenever Joko would get a hard-on, where was the actual bukol? What was he trying to cover?

• Why did Sasha give Joko some National Bookstore gift certificates and ask him to buy a new outfit? (Made out of cartolina, glitter, and glue gun?)

• When Zoey’s friend encouraged her crush on “gay” Joko by shouting “Wag matakot, maki-beki!”, was she really being a supportive friend or a staunch LGBT advocate?

• With the movie already running far too long, did we really need a recap of their sweetest moments before the climactic… hug?

8. “Kumain ka ng torta para lumaki kang borta.” And yet in my dyslexic brain it kept coming up as “Kumain ka ng borta na may malaking torta.” #SaTrueLang tayo besh.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

ONE HOUR PHOTO (Mark Romanek, 2002)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on One Hour Photo:

1. Remember when your parents would invite guests over and the worst thing that your mother could do was bring out her stack of family albums and proudly show your most embarrassing photos to these strangers? Like that picture of you swimming nude in a palanggana looking really silly and it would be everyone’s source of laughter? No? Then you must have been born after the digital revolution.

In my time (did I again sound like I just lived through the Mesozoic Era?), the term Kodak wasn’t just the most popular brand name in the world of photography (sorry Agfa and Fuji!), it was actually a verb synonymous to taking a selfie (“Kodakan na! Piktyuran na!”). Except that it would be really hard to take a selfie back in the day with those chunky Olympus cameras.

2. With the number of filters and Photoshop tools available now, film photography could definitely be considered a lost art. There was always that feeling of excitement in having your film roll developed (I actually missed that whirring sound when rewinding), crossing your fingers that it wouldn’t be exposed (otherwise, goodbye memories!), and just admiring the finished product that couldn’t be saved by any second takes or Camera 360.

3. Although this film might feel a tad dated (Robin Williams’ Sy Parrish actually said “When people’s houses are on fire, what’s the next thing they save after loved ones and pets? Family photos!”. Uhh, I don’t think so), the idea of a lonely psychopath stalking people through pictures could very well apply in this world of Facebook and Instagram. In hindsight, these social media platforms actually made it easier to gain access to people’s lives, unlike before when only the film developers could see you in your kinkiest outfits (hmm, I was suddenly reminded me of a grade school teacher who “accidentally” shared her scandalous lingerie photos to some of the boys in class).

4. The late great Robin Williams would always be Mrs. Doubtfire to me, but he was undeniably better in his more serious roles (his critically-acclaimed turn in Good Will Hunting, his criminally-underrated performance in Insomnia, etc.). His character here may be downright creepy (in one hair-raising scene that was the stuff of my nightmares, he imagined trespassing in his victims’ house and decided to poop in their toilet, their TOILET! Nooooo!), but he still exuded a certain warmth that made it hard to completely be scared of him.

His best scene was that reaction shot of him after being told that he was getting fired. The way his face scrunched up not because he was losing his job, but because he realized that he would lose access to the private lives of his victims was terrifying.

Side note: His set of baby blues were just perfect for all the blatant eye symbolisms used in this film.

5. “Nobody takes a photograph of something they want to forget.” Ironically, happy couple pictures would usually be the first to get deleted in your camera roll after a bad break-up. Just me? Okay.

6. I was weirded out a bit in that market scene where old family photos were put up for sale. Why would people sell pictures of their loved ones? And who would buy these stuff (because apparently there were potential customers if these were being sold)? Didn’t they see The Others?

7. I wonder how many people would feel paranoid about posting their photos online after watching this one. Just imagine all the possible stalkers lurking out there. Don’t worry, I promise never to poop in your toilet.

Rating: ★★★★☆

LAST NIGHT (Joyce Bernal, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Last Night:

1. Let me begin with an erratum on a glaring boo boo that I made when I posted my notes on Love You to the Stars and Back. I incorrectly identified the character of Julia Barretto as Carmina Salvador since I actually saw Last Night’s trailer prior to that movie.

Whether it was cinema fatigue or my inner cinephile that went bonkers upon hearing that film reference (that was the same name of Dawn Zulueta’s character in Hihintayin Kita sa Langit), I would like to apologize for the confusion that it caused especially to all the JoshLia fans that lost sleep over that inaccurate trivia.

2. We first see the real Carmina Salvador (Toni Gonzaga) dangling from a billboard on the side of the Jones Bridge after a botched suicide attempt. Her cry for help was noticed by Mark Peters (Piolo Pascual), who was also on a suicide mission at the said bridge. (Side note: Is this really a popular destination for depressed people in the Binondo/Ermita area? I’m really curious to know how many suicide cases have happened here within the last decade. Google wasn’t really helpful.) Anyway, they ended up helping one another and in the process also fell madly in love with each other. The end.

Well, not really. Of course there had to be a big twist because the screenplay seemed to have been built around that gimmick. In a reveal that would make M. Night Shyamalan curl up in a fetal position, Carmina actually turned out to be a ghost (she died in 1973 during Martial Law; naks, relevant!) that only appeared before Mark. Yes, he could see dead people (well, one dead person in the beginning and a few more towards the end of the movie). Eek!

3. I really wish the movie didn’t rely too much on the (obvious) twist so that it didn’t have to spend its final 30 minutes explaining everything (in washed-out flashbacks!) and feeling smart on how much it was able to fool the audience.

Aside from The Sixth Sense, most of the scenes that had Mark interacting with Carmina reminded me a lot of the “I Love You, Moo Moo” episode of the 90’s movie Tatlong Mukha ng Pag-ibig. My favorite scene there was when Tonton Gutierrez carried the ghost of his dead wife (played by Sharon Cuneta) inside their honeymoon suite while the caretaker (Leroy Salvador) watched in horror as his crazy amo flirted with an imaginary entity. I actually wondered if that straightforward format that wasn’t reliant on a twist would have made the story here much better (and less cornier).

Also, I’d actually need help in remembering another Hollywood/foreign movie about a living human being that communicated and fell in love with the spirit of a deceased person (something like Just Like Heaven, but not really). I wouldn’t want to be up for the next few nights.

4. Thirteen Reasons Why received a lot of flak for apparently romanticizing suicide and I kinda understood that perspective when I watched Mark and Carmina play cutesy with a blow dryer while they were inside a tub. Or when they fantasized on placing an aircon and a mattress on their backs before diving in a pool. Or when Carmina suggested “maligo sa dinuguan at magpakain sa shark” (huh?).

This made the shift in tone during the latter part of the movie even more jarring when it suddenly turned pro-life and started spreading a message of optimism and hope. All that was lacking in that final bubblegum bridge sequence was a dancing unicorn.

5. I was a huge fan of the Toni-Piolo pairing in Starting Over Again so I was a bit surprised at how much I was turned off by their performances here. Toni had her quirkiness turned up to its maximum level and she kept shouting her lines like she was still hosting Pinoy Big Brother (“Hello Philippines! Hello world!!”).

Piolo fared much better (as he was required to go topless yet again and shamelessly showed off his abs twice!), but he spent most of his scenes brooding and acting really stuck-up. Sayang, because I really missed this fun partnership.

6. At least the technical aspects were really commendable. Before Cathy Garcia-Molina, I think Joyce Bernal was the queen of rom-coms and she really tried to make the most out of the weak story here.

The movie also looked really good, very much like a glossy maindie. I also loved the song choices (except for one that sounded like it had Piolo singing).

7. I couldn’t get over the fact that Toni was the twin of Joey Marquez. And that Joey was named Ricardo Reyes. Yes, Ricky Reyes! Bwahahahaha!

Also, Carmina (whose real name’s Jennifer, btw) was actually a smart entrepreneur and influencer for bringing her new living friends to their family restaurant every single time. Shouldn’t it have been time for her to start a Twitter or Instagram account, though?

8. Burning questions:

• Why did an old soul like Carmina sound very much like a millennial? Also, why did she keep acting like she didn’t know that she was already dead? Diba audience lang naman may hindi alam?

• If she really wanted to prevent Mark from committing suicide, why did they spend most of their time trying to figure out how to die together? Did she only realize that after she fell in love with him?

• Did they play Bloody Crayons in one scene as a cross-promotion for Star Cinema movies?

• If nobody could see her, why didn’t anyone (except for the friend of dying lola) even ask who Mark was talking to? More chismis, more fun lang?

• Why did she kill herself after just seeing blood on the side of Jones Bridge (sure, her boyfriend was supposed to be there, so she automatically assumed that the blood was his)? Why, gurl, why?

• Paano sila maghihintayan sa langit if she’s stuck in limbo?

• If Carmina killed herself during Martial Law, why was her brother played by Patrick Sugui (shouldn’t he be like 40ish) and her mother was the still youthful Marina Benipayo? Were they also ghosts? Then why couldn’t they all see each other? Or was Patrick supposed to be the young Joey Marquez? Help!!

• Bakit kapag si Piolo ang nagsasabi ng “nangulangot” parang classy and sexy pa rin? Huhuhu!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆