MOVIE REVIEW: MILAN (Olivia Lamasan, 2004)

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Best scene: Ilonah Jean eating pizza with rice (sans utensils, naturally) while discussing the hardships of OFWs in Italy.

Best line: After Lino (Piolo Pascual) teased Jenny (Claudine Barretto) that even God rested on the seventh day, her wry response was: “Eh kasi naman wala Siyang pinadadalhan sa Pilipinas.”

Best performance: Iza Calzado as Lino’s wife, Mary Grace. Maximum impact with minimal screen time, as always.

Runner-up best performance: Peak Ate Clau, of course. Her delivery of the line “Hanggang ngayon pakiramdam ko pokpok pa rin ako” made me reach for some Kleenex.

Needed improvements: Piolo’s pedestrian acting, jarring shifts between the love story and the documentary bits, justification (glorification?) of illegal immigrants, and that horrible Hunchback of Notre Dame outfit of Lino in the final scene. Mamma mia!!

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published April 24, 2017.)

MOVIE REVIEW: BUHAY HABANGBUHAY (Paolo Herras, 2016)

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A dark comedy about a pesky ghost that just wouldn’t move on. I could see its rich comic book beginnings, but it just didn’t successfully translate to the big screen. Although filled with some great images, it was oftentimes baffling, with bad special effects and a waste of a talented cast.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published March 17, 2016.)

MOVIE REVIEW: BLISS (Jerrold Tarog, 2017)

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What the eff did I just watch?!

I’m not sure if it was the brutal similarity to the disturbing relationship of Sarah and Mommy Divine or the blatant homage to one of my favorite Stephen King adaptations, but I really liked this messed up film.

Iza Calzado was excellent as always and the entire ensemble cast that included pure a-hole TJ Trinidad, the hilariously pretentious director Audie Gemora and the divine (wink, wink) Shamaine Buencamino was great as well. The standout though was Adrienne Vergara whose mere laugh made me giggle like crazy in my seat.

P.S. Don’t expect a traditional horror movie, especially since real life nowadays is proving to be so much scarier.

Rating: ★★★★☆

(Originally published May 10, 2017.)

MOVIE REVIEW: STARTING OVER AGAIN (Olivia Lamasan, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Starting Over Again:

1. With a better treatment (and alternate ending), this could have been a great Star Cinema, feel-bad Pinoy movie. It might have been predictable and clunky, but it did have some really good lines and realistic scenes of heartbreak.

2. Toni Gonzaga (as Patty) was effortlessly funny, although she struggled a bit in her dramatic scenes. (Side note: She needs to have her legs insured. They looked amazing and she knew just how to accentuate them.)

As Marco, Piolo Pascual just didn’t seem to exert any effort at all. Was I the only one annoyed by his excessive use of the word “diba” in that confrontation scene? It didn’t help that he sounded more bitchy than hurt. (At least he fared much better in his silent crying scenes.)

3. In all my years of travelling to and from Alabang, I’ve never taken an actual train. Especially since there are hundreds of buses and jeepneys and shuttle services that will drop you in South Station or Metropolis/StarMall. Where is this train and where are its stops?

On a related note, my favorite scene in that sequence was that of Patty getting off a moving bus. It was just too hilarious. And it elicited the expected reactions from the very amused crowd.

4. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Iza Calzado is a brilliant actress. I loved how calm and collected she was during Patty’s confrontation scene with Ginny. Her restraint showed the maturity of her character and her nuanced performance made that scene even more powerful. She also had the best lines in the movie. I wonder why she’s not given the projects she deserves.

5. “A relationship should have the right ingredients: love, trust, and an allowance for mistakes. Love is greater than someone’s failures. In love there is no fear.”

I bawled my eyes out.

And Patty’s line about their non-romantic love:

“Our love may be quiet and boring, but it’s sure.”

Shet. Pass me the tissues.

6. If I were in this movie, I would be Beb played by the dependable Cai Cortez (ok, insert the fat joke here). But really, I saw myself in her character. I would be that one friend who wouldn’t mince words no matter how brutal the message would be; that one friend who would offer you a hug then slap you back to reality.

7. I will forever use these memorable lines in future drinking sessions with relapsing friends:

“Yang hope na yan, lason yan. Parang drugs, nakaka-adik.”

“Adik ka na naman sa pag-asa. Try mo kaya lumaklak ng realidad.”

8. Why do we have this growing trend in local movies where seemingly smart women beg other women to lend or give up their boyfriends/husbands? Icky.

I’m happy to see though that the “third wheel” here wasn’t made to look like a devil in the last act just to justify the break-up and possible happy ending for the leads. Patty was really nice and giving and there was just no reason for Marco not to love her. In fact, she did look like Mama Mary.

9. And here’s my message to all my exes (parang ang dami): “I can never un-love you. I just love you in a different way now.” (Sob.)

10. I really hated that wood-crashing scene. It felt straight out of a Wenn Deramas movie. Worst possible deus ex machina.

11. After Forever and a Day, I wonder if Star Cinema will ever have the balls again to end films the way they really should.

I’m sure a lot of people loved the cameos and they felt the need to give its audience a hopeful ending. In real life though, it would take years before Ginny will get over Marco, more years for her to pick up the pieces, and even more years to finally meet the right one. (And that’s already being hopeful.)

12. If the movie ended with Ginny deleting the message and the camera panning out showing Ginny ready to move on with the swelling theme song in the background, I would probably have rated this higher. Maybe they’ll consider that for the DVD? For all the Bebs out there, please?

P. S. Two girls in front of us were taking selfies (with flash) during the closing credits so I gave one of them “sungay”. Made them stop.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published February 14, 2014.)

FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW: MMFF 2019 SCORECARD

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Best Feature-Length Film

1. WRITE ABOUT LOVE (Crisanto Aquino) – ★★★★☆
2. MINDANAO (Brillante Mendoza) – ★★★☆☆
3. MIRACLE IN CELL NO. 7 (Nuel Naval) – ★★★☆☆
4. SUNOD (Carlo Ledesma) – ★★☆☆☆
5. CULION (Alvin Yapan) – ★★☆☆☆
6. MISSION UNSTAPABOL: THE DON IDENTITY (Michael Tuviera) – ★★☆☆☆
7. THE MALL, THE MERRIER (Barry Gonzalez) – ★☆☆☆☆
8. 3POL TROBOL: HULI KA BALBON! (Rodel Nacianceno) – ★☆☆☆☆

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

1. ROCCO NACINO (Write About Love)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

1. JUDY ANN SANTOS (Mindanao)
2. MILES OCAMPO (Write About Love)
3. CARMINA VILLARROEL (Sunod)
4. IZA CALZADO (Culion)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

1. JC SANTOS (Miracle in Cell No. 7)
2. JOEM BASCON (Write About Love)
3. JOHN ARCILLA (Miracle in Cell No. 7)
4. ALLEN DIZON (Mindanao)
5. JOJIT LORENZO (Miracle in Cell No. 7)
6. JOEL TORRE (Miracle in Cell No. 7)
7. MON CONFIADO (Miracle in Cell No. 7)
8. SOLIMAN CRUZ (Miracle in Cell No. 7)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

1. MERYLL SORIANO (Culion)
2. KRYSTAL BRIMNER (Sunod)
3. YUNA TANGOG (Mindanao)
4. JASMINE CURTIS-SMITH (Culion)

Until next year!!

MOVIE REVIEW: CULION (Alvin Yapan, 2019)

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Very disappointing, especially since I’m a lowkey fan of Yapan’s films. Yung kahit di ko masyado maintindihan ang poeticism/lyricism/symbolism (at lahat ng -ism) sa mga pelikula niya, lutang naman ang artistry at craftsmanship. Nawawala yun dito.

Maliban sa dalawang creative choices (yung dream sequences ni Jasmine Curtis-Smith at yung goosebumps-worthy kidlat scene sa dulo), iisipin mo na si Joel Lamangan ang nag-direct nito. Daming gustong sabihin pero walang pinatunguhan. Sobrang kalat.

Sayang kasi andito ang mga acting greats ng Pinoy cinema (Jasmine, Iza Calzado, and Meryll Streep-Soriano). Bonus pa yung much-hyped cameo ni John Lloyd Cruz. Nagtitigan lang sila ni Meryll pero dalang-dala ako sa eksena. (Please come out of retirement!!)

Ang pakiramdam nung over two hours na runtime ng pelikula ay para kang nagbabasa ng History book. Alam mo na may sinasabing importante pero sobrang bagot. Tatlo na nga lang kami na nanuod tapos ang sarap pa ng tulog nung magkayakap na mag-jowa sa harapan ko.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

MOVIE REVIEW: MADILIM ANG GABI (Adolf Alix, Jr., 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

Poverty porn? War on drugs? Shaky cam? The only reason why this wasn’t a Brillante Mendoza film was because of its anti-DDS view. In lieu of the infamous fishball scene of Ma’ Rosa, this had Gina Alajar (great as always) eating a bowl of kwek kwek.

I spent majority of the time shouting the name of every celebrity that showed up every few minutes for their 30-second cameo. Zanjoe Marudo! Laurice Guillen! Iza Calzado! Flora Gasser!! Divine Tetay!!!

If the message of the movie wasn’t obvious enough, a character had to state “Masama na ang panahon. Sana nakikinig sila. Hindi hayop ang pinatay nila: isang anak, kapatid, mahal sa buhay, kamag-anak!!” Wew.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published August 15, 2018.)

PANDANGGO SA HUKAY (Sheryl Rose Andes, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

Naawa lang ako kay Iza Calzado dito. Sobrang committed niya sa role kahit biglang pinag-shinger siya habang pinapanood si Bembol Roco (may fetish si Elena sa kalbo?) pagkatapos ginawang joke time ang rape niya.

Ganda na nung simula na parang a day in the life of a midwife tapos biglang nagkalat sa second half na may kidnapping arc ng Etibak Gang. As in super kalat. Yung mapapaisip ka paano nanalo ng Palanca award ang screenplay eh nothing really made sense sa pinaggagawa ng mga characters.

Gusto pa ata ng pelikula na maging dark comedy sa dulo kasi may eksena na naka-handcuff si Elena sa pintuan ng ref tapos binabaril siya ng mga kidnappers habang umiiwas sa mga bala na parang nagsasayaw. Akala ko nga papasok ang music, ipapatong niya sa ulo ang natanggal na pinto, tapos magsasayaw siya ng pandanggo.

You really can’t spell Etibak Gang without ebak. (Kung di ko lang talaga mahal ‘tong si Iza…)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

MOVIE REVIEW: DISTANCE (Perci Intalan, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

In some weird way, this worked very much like a burgis version of Anak, except that the mother intentionally abandoned her family to be with the person that she really loved. Even the rebellious teenage daughter was named Karla!!

I really liked the overall simplicity of the film (the lack of swelling music during the dramatic highlights made the silence even more deafening, the Balanghai-worthy editing with interweaving flashbacks, and the lack of a clean resolution).

The performances of Iza Calzado, Nonie Buencamino, and Therese Malvar were definitely top-notch. That climactic confrontation scene should secure Therese the Best Supporting Actress win. Napakahusay na bata!

Rating: ★★★★☆

(Originally published August 8, 2018.)

 

MOVIE REVIEW: ETIQUETTE FOR MISTRESSES (Chito Rono, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Etiquette for Mistresses:

1. It was not the train wreck that I expected and it was all because of the skillful direction of Chito Rono and his cast of competent actresses. The movie was actually reminiscent of Rono’s own Separada with five women dealing with their own personal problems but united by a common concern (basically, men).

2. The story of the core group (that included an understated yet exemplary performance by Iza Calzado, a light and comical take by Kim Chiu, a fiery turn by Claudine Barretto in full Mela mode, a hilarious Cheena Crab, and not-so-annoying acting by Kris Aquino) didn’t break new ground but it would make one pity (not empathize with) these “holiday orphans”.

3. The mix of cameos (the stellar Pilar Pilapil, a graceful Mother Mistress Helen Gamboa), the interesting rules (“Mistresses don’t complain, that is the job of the Mrs.”, “Perish all thought that someday you’ll be number 1”, “When all else fails, leave him”), and the overall sadness of situations made it completely watchable.

4. Favorite scenes:

• Explanation of Lucky Moon

• The throwaway Timezone joke

• That confrontation scene shot in the shadows! And that slap heard around the world!! (I swear everyone in the theater gasped and feared for their own lives.)

Worst scenes:

• Cellphone breaks car window (huh?)

• Excessive focus on Kim’s character (did we need that lengthy guitar sequence?)

• The police sequence straight out of Eskapo

5. If only Star Cinema could control itself on its requisite happy ending complete with surprise leading men cameos.

Now sing with me: “And don’t tell me what to do, and don’t tell me what to say, and please when I go out with you, don’t put me on display. You don’t own meeeee…”

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published October 1, 2015.)