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: ★★☆☆☆

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JUST THE WAY YOU ARE (Theodore Boborol, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Just The Way You Are:

1. Why does Star Cinema keep using the same font for their opening credits in almost all of their movies?

2. The movie began with Enrique Gil in full policeman uniform invading a teen party and stripping down to his bare bottom (boxers actually, but admit it you instantly decided to watch). Not complaining on that Magic Mike XXL primer at all.

3. So Enrique’s character loves to wear leather jackets in this kind of weather because I guess baskil is cool.

4. The first of the annoying blatant product placements (ABS-CBN Mobile) appeared in the first 15 minutes. The Generics Pharmacy, Alpine Sterilized Milk, and EO Optical followed every twenty minutes or so. These in-your-face commercials need to stop. (I loved the cameo of Ate Vi, though.)

5. I therefore conclude that an uglified Liza Soberano with thick eyebrows and braces still looks much better than 90% of our population during our best days.

6. If the movie had a makeover scene, it would have only lasted five seconds. Liza just needed a good tweezer to look like a goddess. Ang ganda ganda ganda ganda ganda niya. #kainggit

7. Yayo Aguila was really funny as the doting mom that still smelled the armpits of her teenage son. Who else could relate?

On the other hand, Sunshine Cruz was still looking gorgeous as ever. Really classy, too.

8. Enrique was obviously wearing shorts in the shower scene. It was a clunky setup with Liza entering and screaming. The exact same sequence was done much better in Bride for Rent.

9. The Case of the Disappearing Black Eye.

10. What is with this growing trend of “shout your feelings” scenes as catharsis in recent films? Enough please. Why can’t people just break stuff just like I do? Or just tweet them or post as a Facebook status.

11. Even with her twang (that sounded awkward during her Filipino lines), Liza actually proved that she’s a good actress. We can’t expect her to play the same Am-girl over and over, though so she needs to neutralize that accent. I can’t wait to see her in more serious roles.

12. “Sana hindi na lang tayo nagmamahal, no? Siguro hindi na rin tayo nasasaktan.” #hugot

13. Enrique is undeniably gwapo but he seriously needs a haircut. And get rid of the cheap highlights, please!!

14. Please Lord, sana hindi malason si Enrique ng milk tea!

15. Kinikilig ako! Juskopo! I’m too old for this!!

16. LizQuen is a winning combo. They’re both charming and they look really good together. Bagay sobra. I just wish they had better material. Chemistry can only do so much to save a movie.

17. “When you love, you always win. Kahit masaktan ka, may makukuha ka pa rin. Love will always leave you with a stronger heart.” #arayqbeh

18. Same old ending. I wish this love team will be given better projects in the future because it deserves much, much better than this derivative drivel.

19. I really love this no kissing clause. The constant teasing just makes it more kilig. Yun ang wala sa JaDine movies kasi laplapan sila nang laplapan lagi.

20. Why bother with a She’s All That remake when this was originally done in the Dingdong Dantes-Antoinette Taus cult classic, Kiss Mo Ko?

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published June 18, 2015.)

NEVER NOT LOVE YOU (Antoinette Jadaone, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Never Not Love You:

1. You know how in a relationship you’re willing to look beyond the faults of your partner simply because you really like/love the other person? I felt the exact same way about this gorgeously-shot, well-told long-distance relationship film that was eerily similar to Drake Doremus’ Like Crazy from its London setting down to the bittersweet montage of memories ending. It couldn’t have been all just a coincidence, right?

2. For a love team that prided itself as Team Real, it was a joy to watch Nadine Lustre (as Joanne) and James Reid (as Gio) in a mature love story that wasn’t afraid of ruffling conservative feathers (I found it funny that I was very much that old lady in the corridor during the moving in scene that lamented, “Mga kabataan talaga ngayon!”).

I also admired the gutsy decision of not upholding/protecting any wholesome movie star image by having them play characters that looked, sounded, and acted like any authentic young adult. Smoking a cigarette? Living together outside of marriage? Expletives-filled shouting matches? Post-coital bed scene? I could just imagine a horde of grandmothers shrieking “Santissima santa!” while clutching on to their plastic rosaries and JaDine’s all like “C’mon guys, it’s 2018!”.

3. As a South person that couldn’t even maintain a relationship with an ex who relocated to Quezon City, I wouldn’t be the best advocate slash strong believer of a long distance romance (mad props for people that could sustain this kind of relationship, though). The challenges were made more blatant in this movie when the only form of communication between Joanne and Gio consisted of Skype calls. They basically lived in two separate worlds where time difference was the least of their concerns. This level of commitment alone triggered a major anxiety attack on my end.

4. Sobrang ganda ng cinematography. It reminded me so much of Wong Kar-Wai’s films (I suddenly pictured a bunch of cinephiles raising their eyebrows right about now). If you hadn’t seen any of his stylish films, this could serve as your introduction (then move on to In the Mood for Love or Chungking Express).

Also, how were they able to shoot all those lovely motorcycle scenes? Ang galing!

5. I wish James could work more on his accent so that he would be able to deliver his Pinoy lines more comfortably (it would also give him a broader range of characters outside of the typical conyo or Amboy). Side note: I had a good laugh though when he said “May mustard po kayo?” at the carinderia.

I still sympathized with Gio even if his character was an unlikable immature brat (seryoso, may lalaki lang kasama si Joanne sa club maninira na agad ng gamit?). And he was probably one of the few local actors that could deliver major kiligs with a line like “Maybe I don’t want you to wear other guys’ helmets”. Hongkyut!

Anyway, his accent was the only distraction in an otherwise heartfelt performance (I’m still amazed whenever he would cry on cue, with his best scene in bed feeling an overwhelming sense of comfort and contentment that his girlfriend agreed to move with him to London. Those silent tears just spoke volumes.)

6. Speaking of tears, I think everyone would agree that this was Nadine’s best performance to date. Everything about it screamed “I’m a serious actress!” that would definitely put her in the running for next year’s awards derby. My favorite scene was when she was driving her new car with the entire family in tow and her usually disapproving father (Rez Cortez) touched her arm and her face showed a mixture of pride, relief, and happiness. For a relatively quiet and subtle moment, it just had so much impact. Damang-dama ko siya dun.

7. Of course I cried during that “Wag kang lilingon” scene. I cried even more when Joanne didn’t look back the second time around.

Also, ang sakit sobra nung linya na “You’ve become the Joanne that you’re supposed to be…. but without me.” Waaaah!

8. Some of their issues felt a bit petty, no? When Gio shouted at Joanne (“Kung gusto mong umuwi, eh di umuwi ka!”), did it really merit a slap on the face? I thought you both swore to never not love each other?

9. Now let’s discuss that polarizing ending. I know a lot of people that hated how the resolution felt rushed or that the final scene was vague, but that was the exact reason why I found it to be perfect.

My interpretation of it was that Joanne felt trapped in the relationship. Things were just not the same as they used to be. Their exchange of I love yous already lacked genuine emotion and felt very perfunctory. There was an immense sadness in her eyes when Gio said that he would be returning for good. She didn’t show much excitement during his last visit either. And the clincher, hindi sya lumingon sa second airport scene. It was sad to see a doomed relationship even before the screen faded to black.

10. As a final note, this production was notoriously plagued by so many controversies that I was surprised at how good things actually turned out. In the end, was everything worth it?

Rating: ★★★★☆

BEAUTY AND THE BESTIE (Wenn Deramas, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Beauty and the Bestie:

1. Ever since Petrang Kabayo became a huge hit (and after close to a dozen collaborations), you already knew what to expect from a Vice Ganda-Wenn Deramas movie. It was the same old formula recycled to death (insult one-liners, Pinoy pop culture parodies, endless sight gags, lowbrow slapstick, etc.) and your enjoyment depended on how you embraced this kind of humor.

BATB was still trashy to a fault but at least it was really funny. (Deramas had been vocal about the goal of his movies and he actually succeeded on this one.)

2. That awful anti-piracy ad with Derek Ramsay was ripe for a parody and the movie really got it right (eskinita chase, Kristoffer King, tomatoes and all). Maybe we should have replaced that one with this so that everyone could have a great laugh before each screening. Runner-up for best parody: the Ate waitress Happy Birthday dance.

3. Sample brand of humor:

Vice and his stand on riding in tandem…

“Paano gaganda ang buhay mo sa pagsakay sa motorsiklo na yan? Bumbay ka ba?”

Vice on the importance of skincare…

“Bakit di yang mga pores mo ang isara mo dahil bukas na bukas?”

Coco Martin displaying his English proficiency…

“Alam mo kung bakit di kita pinapansin? Kasi di kita maintindihan Ingles ka ng Ingles.”

4. Speaking of Coco, I was happy to see that he has improved a lot as a comedian. His best moments were those where he wasn’t even trying (twerking like a hot mess, taking advantage of his lisp by saying things like Elith Thupher Thecreth Thask Force, or making a fist by instinct when Vice tried to kiss him). Maybe it was time for him to rest from all the heavy drama and explore his rom-com leading man potential instead.

5. Not all of the jokes worked but those that did were just hilarious. Inasmuch as I really enjoyed that Hold On car sequence, I probably laughed the loudest in that whole Japanese restaurant fishpond scene.

I mean seriously, what was the most embarrassing thing you had done in an upscale resto? Had you ever chewed on the compressed table napkin? Mistook the bowl of water for hand washing as soup? Spill!

6. The JaDine romance (similar to AlDub’s in My Bebe Love) was completely disposable. Although Nadine Lustre was really game, the tandem’s love story was obviously just included to pull in the teen audience (and the love team’s ginormous fan base). All was forgiven though because James Reid bared his abs.

7. Further proof that Jacky Woo was the only available actor that can play Japanese characters in local cinema.

8. If you were keeping track of Deramas’ fascination with videogames, here was a rundown:

Praybeyt Benjamin 1 – Angry Birds
Praybeyt Benjamin 2 – Plants vs. Zombies and Dota
Beauty and the Bestie – Fruit Ninja

What else did I miss?

9. I felt bad that Miss International 2013 Bea Rose Santiago had to fart during the beauty pageant. Definitely not something fit for a queen. And speaking of queens, Vice Ganda’s got legs for days, no?

10. In one scene, I watched in horror as Nadine paraded onscreen wearing a horrible off-shoulder yellow blouse and pleated grey skirt combo. In a hospital. The fact that Vice made a brutal joke about it made me love him even more. Grabe sya oh!!

Rating: ★★★☆☆