MISSION UNSTAPABOL: THE DON IDENTITY (Michael Tuviera, 2019)

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Move over, Martin Scorsese! Kinabog ng visual effects team ni Bossing ang ginawang de-aging kay Robert de Niro sa The Irishman. Infer, may effort for authenticity ang pelikula. Sana lang nag-level up din siya from the usual Pinoy slapstick humor.

Nung una ko makita ang trailer nito sabi ko parang Ocean’s movie tapos ganun nga siya. Hirap na ako maniwala na very advanced ang technology abroad to pull off that kind of heist eh sa Pilipinas pa kaya? May pa-Mission Impossible reveal pa sa dulo that didn’t make any sense at all. To be fair, may apparent self-awareness siya about local action films na nakakaaliw.

Bakit halos lahat ng ginaya ng character ni Wally Bayola eh from Star Cinema/ABS? (Very Wenn Deramas ang comedy ha.) Napaisip tuloy ako kung wala ba talagang iconic characters ang GMA. Why not Victor Magtanggol or Kara Mia para mas self-deprecating? Konti lang makakuha ng reference?

Gusto ko yung unang eksena pa lang ni Jake Cuenca eh level 10 na agad ang acting niya. Yung parang hindi na ulit siya mabibigyan ng ibang pelikula ever kaya tinodo na niya lahat. Kahit pag-nguya lang niya ng gum talagang may nuance, may galit. Nagsusumigaw na “May Yahoo! OMG Award ako for Male Kontrabida of the Year mga amateurs!”

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

GATILYO (Harold Lance Pialda, 2019)

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Habang pinapanood ko ‘to, sabi ko kamukha nung bida yung jowa ni Eula Valdez. Pareho kasi sila ng intensity yung konting-konti na lang magiging OA level na ala-Jake Cuenca. Tapos nung closing credits nakalagay na siya nga si Rocky Salumbides. Ganda ng rehistro niya sa screen.

Maganda naman ang mensahe ng short na ‘to tungkol sa post-traumatic stress disorder ng isang sundalong nanggaling sa digmaan. Marami pa rin kasi sa atin ang di naiintindihan ang mental and emotional toll nito sa mga tao na tulad niya.

May overall feeling ang pelikula na parang Homeland. Sana lang hindi tunog plastic yung bumagsak na baril.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

NUWEBE (Joseph Israel Laban, 2013)

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Nuwebe touched on a delicate (and controversial) subject matter handled much better in recent MMK episodes. Several scenes had people laughing.

The interview parts were problematic. The kid was forcing herself to cry while uttering weird word choices that elicited giggles.

Jake Cuenca failed to bring anything to his role, except show his ass. Nadine Samonte fared better as the suffering, confused mom.

There were so many elements of Insiang apparent in this movie. I wonder if that classic served as an inspiration to the director.

And did we really need that blatant Eskinol Master product placement? Did it deserve a scene of its own even if it had no bearing at all?

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published August 7, 2013.)

 

BLOODY CRAYONS (Topel Lee, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Bloody Crayons:

1. During the height of Scream fever in the late ’90s, Viva Films attempted to create (read: blatantly ripped-off) a Pinoy version of that popular slasher flick and came up with the terrible Sumigaw Ka…Hanggang Gusto Mo. It was directed by Eric Quizon who had the audacity to cast himself as the movie’s killer and also included the entire cast of T.G.I.S. (kids today would never know the kilig brought by the Wacks and Peachy love team), plus other GMA Artist Center artists question mark.

In one scene, the killer (probably a fan of Mara del Valle) was running after Gladys Reyes who actually tried to escape by climbing up a fireplace. She ended up getting roasted, of course (silly girl, not even Becky would go up a chimeneya to run away from Ms. Minchin).

It was the kind of So Bad, It’s Horrible type of movie that you would only want to see once in your life due to severe trauma, but couldn’t resist to mock whenever it would get shown on cable. It was also the reason why a number of my friends that I forced to watch with me ended up swearing off ever watching Pinoy films in cinemas. I hope you could forgive me, FDCP.

2. Bloody Crayons would probably be the millennial equivalent of that trashy movie, only this time produced by Star Cinema and starred a number of Star Magic starlets. Most of the previous horror films directed by Topel Lee had obvious influences from popular Asian counterparts and this one was no exception (albeit more of Hollywood movies from the opening film-within-a-film sequence used in the Scream series down to the other ones reminiscent of the Final Destination series, Identity, Cabin in the Woods, Don’t Breathe, and countless others of the same genre).

I hadn’t read the Wattpad novel that this was based on so I really wasn’t sure if the lack of originality was from the actual material or the treatment itself. (I was also confused by the separate original story credit given to its three writers when this was clearly an adaptation.)

3. The horror genre had always been the waterloo of our best local directors so I really wasn’t expecting much from this slasher flick. Unfortunately, it still lacked the fun and excitement of seeing mostly annoying characters get killed one by one. Really, all I hoped for was that the cast would be killed according to their acting prowess (naturally starting with the most bano ones), but that obviously didn’t happen with Ronnie Alonte and Elmo Magalona as two of the three remaining survivors.

I actually couldn’t decide who gave the worse performance since both of them could easily replace Aljur Abrenica as the real-life Machete. Ronnie still sounded like a talking robot jakono while Elmo acted like he was a hypnotized victim of the Budol-Budol Gang (except in one kitchen scene where he delivered his lines like he was having a seizure, complete with flailing hand movements). Seriously, mas gusto ko pa si Elmo nung nagpagulong-gulong siya sa burol with Julie Ann San Jose in Just One Summer.

4. Wait, a young wannabe director obsessed with shooting a horror movie near a body of water? Oh, Dawson Leery!!

5. I still couldn’t fathom why there had to be a sequence where the entire gang decided to go for a swim at the beach and they took their clothes off one at a time while the camera voyeuristically lingered on their young bodies (slow motion shots of topless, abs-less guys and granny bathing suit-wearing girls, really?!).

I could almost hear the director saying, “Pasensiya na kayo sa acting ni Ronnie. Eto additional three seconds ng pusod nya para di kayo masyadong lugi.” Next time please leave this type of sexploitation to the experts (yes, Seiko Films of course!).

6. Speaking of acting, I really liked the performances of Jane Oineza and Maris Racal. I wish they could be given more to do in future Star Cinema movies other than the typical best friend or sister roles.

On the other hand, could somebody please tell Yves Flores not to imitate Jake Cuenca’s “akting na akting” delivery? People laughed hysterically in the scene where he was screaming “Bro, anong nangyari sa’yo??” to a corpse with huge stab marks on its neck. Was he gunning for the PMPC Star Award for Best New Movie Actor?

7. If you’d seen a lot of horror movies (or read a lot of R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike) with fake twists and red herrings (this one reminded me of The Last Act), it really wasn’t too hard to guess the identity of the killer. All it took was just a single head shot to ruin the surprise.

8. I was really interested to know more about the Bloody Crayons game since it looked fun to play during a barkada night out. Sadly, I couldn’t see any group including it in any of their parties any time soon since the rules were just too complex (relative to Truth or Dare). Who would even remember what each color stood for when all of you would be presumably drunk on Red Horse?

Also, was it just my oily skin or do crayons really not work as markers on the face? Did they use craypas instead? So this should have been Bloody Craypas?

9. Where was this movie shot? (I noticed one of the characters was carrying a Bohol bag so…) The place looked gorgeous. At least maganda ang cinematography.

10. One character’s words of wisdom to another standing on a cliff: “Mag-ingat ka ha. Pag mahulog ka dyan, baka di ka na makabalik.”

Wehhh, di nga??

11. I wasn’t sure if I laughed the loudest when the group used a rattan chair as a battering ram, or when a character was miraculously saved from a gunshot by his dog tag, or when Umagang Kay Ganda suddenly played during the final sequence.

12. BBC One recently adapted Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None into a mini-series. Better actors, better production values, better use of your time.

13. Hanggang sa horror movie may hugot pa rin ang hindi maka-move on na killer? Tengene lungs.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

FOOLISH LOVE (Joel Lamangan, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Foolish Love:

1. I have a lot of single women friends, but thankfully none of them have ever reached the level of desperation of Virginia (Angeline Quinto). After getting dumped by her gay boyfriend and with the end of the world coming soon (read: her 30th birthday), she decided that her eggs had been unfertilized enough and she needed to find a partner by hook or by crook (or in this case, by Facebook). Let me count her kagagahan ways.

2. Together with her very smart friends, they stalked her Sasmoan childhood sweetheart on FB, but never bothered to check his profile picture. Through some miracle, they were able to get the addresses of all the Rey dela Cruzes, especially the half dozen that lived in the Quiapo area. As expected, none of them were the real Rey and they just ended up having their appearances mocked (one was ngongo, the other a midget, and the rest were just your local tambays sa kanto).

Everyone knows that the most logical thing to do was to go back to Pampanga and ask his relatives for any information on his whereabouts, but I guess the cute search was a must in the rom-com formula.

3. When her plan failed, Virginia (wink, wink) decided to visit her mother and while on a bus, met this handsome stranger (EJ Falcon) that she just couldn’t resist flirting with. Nagpaakbay agad si gaga even if it was so obvious that he was a thief. I think she immediately fell in love with him after this conversation:

“Ang galing ng moment na ‘to. Ikaw si Virgie, ako si Vhal. V ka. V ako. Ang galing no?”

4. After all these mishaps, she decided that the best thing to do was to enter the convent and become a nun. I wasn’t surprised because she was very religious. In one scene, she was being eaten by “Rey” (Jake Cuenca) and the camera focused on her delirious face while she was screaming “Thank you Lord!”.

By the way, she met “Rey” while he was sitting on a bench wearing a hoodie under the pouring rain. She asked this stranger to enter her house with the reason “Masyado syang gwapo para maging magnanakaw.” Yup, some women never learn.

5. I wasn’t sure why they forced Angeline to deliver some lines in English (“I was like a timebomb. Tik tak tik tak!”), but I guess it was part of the movie’s weird humor. I mean Vangie Labalan’s face was plastered on a beauty soap for crying out loud.

I’m still crossing my fingers for that Angeline Quinto-Maja Salvador comedy where they both play John Robert Powers instructors.

6. The ToMiho loveteam had a chunk of the screen time even if they couldn’t act to save their lives. I was close to throwing up every time they called each other Leading Man and Leading Lady (ironically, in a movie where they were playing support).

The only decent performance here was from Cai Cortez. I bet she would have made a great leading lady.

7. In one scene, Virginia apologized to “Rey” for offering 3-in-1 coffee. He replied with “Hindi ko nga alam bakit ang iba nagbabayad ng mahal para sa kape.” Aba walang pakialamanan! Ikaw nga nagpapaulan sa bench na naka-hoodie!!

8. In a bizarre last act twist, the movie turned into 50 Shades of Grey with all the sado-masochism, including a strangulation sex scene. Huwat?!

9. At this point, I really shouldn’t be surprised anymore. The movie was already as dumb and as desperate as its lead character. Fittingly enough, it ended with this crazy scene with a pregnant Virginia running around in a cemetery. Dead.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

MANO PO 7: CHINOY (Ian Loreños, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Mano Po 7: Chinoy:

1. ‪I learned two Chinese words in college that would appropriately describe my viewing experience of this movie. Yes, both are nasty curse words.

I suddenly missed the glory days of Regal Films when it rightfully earned that crown in its bright red “R” logo (shown in their ’90s OBB that resembled a horror movie) and it wasn’t reliant on a tired franchise that just seemed to get worse with every new sequel. Seriously, the Mano Po series would be no different from an inaamag na tikoy.‬

2. I had high hopes for this one since Ian Loreños directed one of my favorite films of 2012, the father-son drama slash human trafficking cautionary tale Alagwa. I remember sobbing hysterically by the end of that movie and taking a mental note that I would never leave any child unattended ever. It was that powerful. I wondered what happened with this one. The only reason I could think of was that it was rushed to ensure a slot in the MMFF. Such a waste of talent.

3. For a Chinoy movie, there was nothing distinctly Chinoy about the problems of this family. The stories here could very well have been another family drama with all-Pinoy characters directed by Laurice Guillen.

It was a disaster from the moment Enchong Dee (as the black sheep) made a grand entrance in his parents’ 25th anniversary party. That scene was no different from the first Mano Po with Ara Mina disrupting the engagement party of sister Maricel Soriano by showing up in a backless dress with the cut dropping all the way to her butt crack (that’s how you do it, Enchong).

4. Good news: At least we didn’t get actors donning exaggerated chinky eyes and speaking in weird Chinoy accents that bordered on being racist.

Bad news: Except for the veteran greats like Jean Garcia (looking very much like the lovely Michelle Yeoh) and Eric Quizon (such an underrated actor), the rest of the Chinoy cast seemed to have been chosen because they looked the part even if they couldn’t act the part.

The worst offender was Sir Chief Richard Yap who only displayed two types of emotions in the entire movie: furious with matching nanlilisik na mata and shocked with matching nanlilisik na mata. He displayed more range playing the chef in that Chowking commercial.

5. Rose Po Que? Really? Didn’t these Chinese name jokes peak during the Bubble Gang era?

6. Sir Chief’s character was supposed to be cold and uptight because he had a damaged childhood. His mother was so strict that she wouldn’t let him play in the street with the other kids. In effect, he wouldn’t let his wife join him in bed without cleaning up first after a long day at work. But wait, wasn’t that the first rule of hygiene regardless?

7. Several scenes were spent on the rehab love story between Enchong and Jessy Mendiola (who probably watched Girl, Interrupted several times before taking on the role) but it really had no weight on the story, except to assert his masculinity and dismiss all the gay rumors.

8. I would probably go crazy the next time I see a board meeting where somebody would be presenting a pitch like “The higher the risk, the higher the reward” and everyone would be nodding their heads and smiling like it was Confucius talking and they were just blessed with his wisdom.

9. You knew immediately that Jake Cuenca’s character would be a villain because he looked so sleazy in a man bun. Besides, why would a customer like him confide to a Miladay jeweller like Jean after his fiancee broke up with him? Sabagay, kapag malungkot din ako ang unang tinatawagan ko ay ang alahera ng nanay ko.

10. I wouldn’t have been too harsh on this movie if there weren’t so many groan-worthy scenes (Enchong running after his father’s car while saying “Papa!”, Jake’s breakdown scene in the car, Enchong wailing in a van with an overdosed Jessy, “Gumising ka! Lumaban ka naman oh! Waaaah!”, Janella Salvador hugging Jean from behind and saying “Mama, don’t go!”, Marlo Mortel punching a maniac professor while screaming “We will report you and sue you for harassment!!”, and Sir Chief asking his estranged wife to dance as a gift to his daughter). Very much like airplanes, cinema seats should be equipped with barf bags, no?

11. In one scene, Sir Chief was jogging around Nuvali. He suddenly stopped and bent over and I really thought for a moment that it would turn out to be an ad for Flanax (he ended up having a Ventosa).

12. Bakit wala yun bunso sa Taiwan family trip? Kinulang sa budget?

13. Two hours and the movie still didn’t want to end. Siao siao!!

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

ELEMENTO (Mark Meily, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Elemento:

1. As a kid, I would always heed my late grandmother’s warning and utter the words “Tabi, tabi po!” before peeing on a tree. Apparently, some dwarves or entities lived there and you would need to ask permission before showering urine on their precious homes. Even if I thought that that was a weird sign of respect, I still did it because I didn’t want my Dingdong Dantes to rot and fall off if the homeowners got mad. As an adult, I just avoided anything related to camping or hiking so there would never be a reason for me to do a number one with Mother Nature.

2. Do Pinoys really go to psychiatrists? I knew of some people that sought professional mental health, but I didn’t really know anyone with his own psychiatrist. I just couldn’t imagine us lying on a couch sharing our deepest, darkest secrets and fears to (professional) strangers like Dr. Ben Harmon of American Horror Story or Dr. Jennifer Melfi of The Sopranos. It just didn’t seem to be part of our culture where any sign of mental illness would have a relative immediately sent to the basement of Makati Medical Center (or made fun of in jokes like “Nakatira ka sa Mandaluyong? Loob o labas?”).

3. Albert Silos was the same boy in the MMFF New Wave movie Turo-Turo. He wasn’t particularly awful. He was just unfortunate enough to have already starred in two stinkers.

4. I also felt bad for Cristine Reyes who was last seen having loads of fun and giving a great comedic turn in Lumayo Ka Nga Sa Akin’s Asawa ni Marie. Here she played a negligent mother (read: she only served hotdogs and eggs every single breakfast) who had no clue that her child was already replaced by an elemento even if he displayed a complete change in behavior after a bizarre field trip. She only realized this after he responded differently to the nickname Pork Chop (and you knew it would play a very significant part in the story because it had to be repeated at least four times in prior scenes) and this happened days after he returned.

Her performance was so bad that she couldn’t even pretend to drive properly (seriously, why do local actors keep moving the steering wheel even if they’re driving a straight path?) or wake up with any emotion from a bad dream (as in tulaley level of acting).

5. Speaking of the said field trip, the kids were led by these hyperactive tour guides that probably also worked as Jollibee Kiddie Party hosts on the side (“MGA KIDS SINONG EXCITED MAKITA SI JOLLIBEEEEEE??”). One of them even gave this description of the trees around them, “These plants are mostly abundant in tropical…and non-tropical.” So basically everywhere, Ate? I would never let my child join this kind of activity (the elemento being the least of my concerns).

6. Besides, the teachers here were so incompetent. A bully boy (who wore a gold watch from his father’s Saudi collection) would shout and hit his classmates and they didn’t even bother to stop him. When the same kid was bludgeoned on the head, nobody really did anything after and Miss Teacher just kept inspecting the bloody gashes on his face. Ma’m, sa dami ng dugo baka gusto nyo siya itakbo sa ospital. Suggestion lang naman.

7. Here are a few things that were scarier than the actual movie:

* The awful special effects with the elementos looking like fake wooden marionettes

* The print on print on print outfits (with matching chunky costume jewelry and gold hoops) of Elizabeth Oropesa as the resident gypsy (kaya ba lagi siya naka-gypsy skirt?) who had the best line of the entire movie (“Halika ligtas ka sa bahay ko” and then moments later ended up dead in her bedroom)

* Jake Cuenca’s long disheveled hair that looked like it hadn’t been washed for days

* Characters that dumbed down its viewers by saying things that were already obvious (“Umuulan na!” as soon as it started to rain)

* The gay BFF stereotype that preyed on men in gyms, said lines like “Marami nang insektong humahada sa locker room kaya kelangan na i-fumigate ang gym”, owned a rainbow umbrella (kasi nga umuulan na!), and recited the Prayer Before Meals (“Bless us oh Lord and these Thy gifts…”) for protection before entering the forest (should we be laughing now?)

8. If your idea of a horror movie was seeing mud-covered extras with leaves glued on their denim shorts pretending to be elementos, then this one would be highly-recommended. Enjoy!!

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆