GHOST WIFE (Mate Yimsomboon, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Ghost Wife:

1. If you still hadn’t seen the film that pushed me into (temporarily) becoming a sacristan with the thought that my holiness would shield me from a demonic possession, then let this be your nth reminder to watch the Akin ang Walang Diyos episode of Lovingly Yours, Helen: The Movie. I swear I had never seen a scarier exorcism which resulted to a lot of sleepless nights (not even Linda Blair’s twisting head or the contortionist moves of Emily Rose could even come close).

This was also the infamous source of the 80’s urban legend that an evil lamang-lupa fell in love with young superstar Julie Vega while filming that led to a mysterious illness and her eventual demise.

2. I was greatly reminded of that creepy story during this movie’s opening sequence where a shaman (wearing the biggest Buddha beads so you’d know he was mystical) was seemingly whipping a possessed child (was he using a buntot pagi?). But then the girl started screaming at the camera revealing her obvious blue-grayish contact lenses and I just couldn’t stop laughing from thereon. Was it supposed to be scary? This Thai horror flick was definitely no Shutter.

3. Completely off-topic but I found it really cute that the male students still wore short shorts as part of their high school uniform. I remember wanting to wear the khaki pants back in Grade 6 (next to circumcision and hair growing in every part of your body, it was a sign that you were one of the big boys). And now I realized that shorts were just so much more comfy, especially if you were always close to peeing yourself during a Calculus exam. To paraphrase Venus Raj, “I love it because it’s so comfortable to use and it’s very, very flowy.”

4. It was fascinating to see some cultural differences right off the bat. The teens here (who looked like Thai versions of Janella Salvador and Marlo Mortel) were more open to sex. When Thai Janella’s mom learned that her young daughter got pregnant, she took her to an abortion clinic instead of forcing a shotgun on Thai Marlo’s head (“Panagutan mo ang anak kohhh!”). 

One common factor though was that the Thai neighbors also lived for the latest chismis. Nothing wrong with being well-informed.

5. The abortion scene here would put the one in Hinugot sa Langit to shame. The quack doctors looked like they were actually pulling a baby rhinoceros out of the poor girl’s vajayjay. Did it really need that much heaving, and pulling, and grunting?

6. Before the Buddha beads-wearing shaman, Thai Janella’s mom sought the help of a female exorcist who sported heavy bangs and brought a trusty sling bag (what did that contain really? White Flower and a tin can of mints?). She ended up getting attacked by a medicine cart and was never seen again.

7. Speaking of urban legends, this was supposedly a modern day retelling of Nang Nak, the story of a husband who returned to his wife and child not knowing that they had been dead for months. This version was full of the usual horror movie tropes mostly taken from The Eye (the hallway scares, the ghost in the elevator) and none of them were scary.

When the baby was finally revealed as a tiyanak, I was laughing too much in my seat while wishing that Janice de Belen actually made a cameo. Imagine that reunion. Oh my god, ang anak ni Janice!!

8. I really wasn’t sure why dead Thai Janella was mad at her neighbors, except for being chismosa. Did she want them to keep her death a secret? Or was she just as annoyed at their sheer stupidity? After fearing for their lives and believing that their tenement was haunted, they stormed into the landlady’s office and demanded that she get rid of the ghost.

Yes, gusto nilang palayasin ang multo dahil laging nanggugulo. Hey chismosas, a scary ghost would still be much better than a drunk neighbor singing Itchyworms’ Beer for the tenth time at 3 freakin’ AM.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

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MY FAIRY TAIL LOVE STORY (Perci Intalan, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on My Fairy Tail Love Story:

1. Never ever commit the mistake of making an analogy between Oscar-less Amy Adams and Grammy-less Katy Perry because I would surely hunt you down. It was this undying love for Adams that made me promise to watch Enchanted at least once every year. You know, that clever retelling of a fairy tale where she played a storybook Disney princess banished by her stepmother into the real world and searched for her ever ever after.

I think this movie wanted to be very much like Enchanted (aside from the obvious The Little Mermaid), but it failed to capture the magic of that film. Its idea of romantic love was having a character deliver the line, “With or without your tail, kahit amoy palengke ka pa, bottomline is mahal na mahal kita”. I guess it was meant to be sweet, but overall this mermaid out of water story felt very (insert Ariel’s voice here) what’s that word again… bilasa.

2. I actually thought the movie never recovered from the moment Chantel (Janella Salvador) cracked a joke during her birthday party, “My late mother would be proud of me. Oh, she’s not dead! She’s just late.” Nyek! And that was only ten minutes in.

The only source of fun I had was listening to every properly enunciated word coming out of her mouth (Tita Lea Salonga would be proud). It might be intentional (I’d like to say it was more fortuitous), but Janella sounded very much like a theater actress. If Atlantis Productions would ever stage The Little Mermaid again locally, I’m sure she would be great in the lead role.

3. Wait, if Chantel was a mermaid, why didn’t she have any problems living and breathing in a water-free environment? Instead of a bathtub, she spent her days on a bed. Or even jumping (!!) around from room to room (let me see you do that, Ariel!). Seriously, if I had scaly legs, I would always make sure they were properly moisturized.

4. I couldn’t get over the fact that Chantel immediately accepted that she grew a palikpik overnight, but fainted in the bathroom at the sight of Noah’s (Elmo Magalona), uhm, baby shark?

5. To be fair, the production design and the underwater photography looked really good. One of the very few clever bits here was when Chantel surfaced on the beach with a plastic bag on her head. Environmental awareness from a fantasy film? Not bad. Liked the theme song, too.

6. Speaking of fantasy film, you know you were watching one when spoiled rich kid Chantel looked giddy and excited upon seeing the racks of wonderful clothes that were available in… Robinson’s Department Store.

7. Burning questions:

• When Chantel broke into the highest falsetto and cracked her mirror, how did Noah’s designer glasses remain intact?

• Did Chantel readily own a pair of orange seashell bikini top to match her tail? (More importantly, how much do they cost in Robinson’s Department Store?)

• When Noah mentioned that being in a wheelchair was the latest fashion craze in New York, how dumb were those kids to believe him? And how many PWDs did he actually offend?

8. Chantel was head over heels in love with Ethan (Kiko Estrada) even if he had Keempee de Leon hair and dressed very much like a typical 50ish gay uncle who was on vacation from Saudi Arabia. Didn’t she smell anything fishy?

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: ★☆☆☆☆

NOW YOU SEE ME 2 (Jon Chu, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Now You See Me 2:

1. In Christopher Nolan’s vastly superior The Prestige, it was revealed that a magic trick consisted of three critical acts: The Pledge (where a magician shows you something ordinary, say an empty box), The Turn (where he creates something extraordinary out of it, like entering the box and disappearing), and The Prestige (where he ups the ante and completely stuns the audience, by suddenly appearing at the very back of the stage).

It would be very hard to successfully pull off this kind of magic now given the discerning minds that wanted to know how every trick was done and the countless Unmasking the Magician and Breaking the Magician’s Code episodes.

Some of us still wanted to be fooled, though, especially after the enjoyable first Now You See Me movie where The Four Horsemen pulled a literal million dollar stunt. Unfortunately, this sequel stopped trying after reaching The Turn.

2. Similar to watching a magic show, you know that you would have to suspend your disbelief for long stretches of time. You usually check your brain at the door and say goodbye to your Doubting Thomas self as soon as you enter the cinema. There is a limit to this, though, and that limit was completely abused here.

The worst sequence had to be the one where they kept throwing a card around while everyone around them (talk about a tight security) barely even noticed. It was elaborately designed to make the audience giddy with excitement and go “Ooooh!” at the end but that scene just flopped and I let out my trademark “Pfft!”. Mas pilit pa siya kesa sa Elmo Magalona and Janella Salvador loveteam tbh.

3. There were still some nifty bits (I particularly liked the sushi plate that turned into an attache case), but when the movie started explaining everything that happened (how the group ended up in Macau, for example) in the middle of the movie (!!!), it was just hard not to roll my eyes.

4. Lizzy Caplan would always be Janis Ian and I wasn’t sure why she was trying to act like Max Black (the broke waitress, not the philosopher) here. Kat Dennings wasn’t available?

5. Woody Harrelson stole every scene that he was in, especially as the curly twin brother who seemed lost in a 60’s time zone. I wouldn’t have complained if the movie focused on them instead of the tragic back story of Mark Ruffalo’s father.

6. I loved the Joy Luck Club film so I was pleasantly surprised to see Auntie Lindo (the wonderful Tsai Chin) being her Auntie Lindo self here. I could actually recite her lines from that movie still complete with her Chinese accent (“See hyeahhh…”). I suddenly remembered my favorite part in the book where another Chinese mother complained to her daughter about their nasty American male neighbor (“He raise his hand like this, show me his ugly fist and call me worst Fukien landlady. I not from Fukien. Hunh! He know nothing!”). Read the book, please!

7. So there’s really a champagne that’s worth $1.2M? Wow! If I owned one, I would probably be taking the smallest sips every other day so that it would last my entire lifetime. (Who am I kidding? I would probably keep it in our cabinet of wines where my mom stored all of my dad’s liquors that were never to be touched. I could swear we still have those Chivas Regal bottles that were placed there in the 80’s.)

8. That final airplane sequence was a complete mess. It was unoriginal, too, since it was first done to Paris Hilton in an Egyptian prank show. Says a lot about the movie, huh?

9. Daniel Radcliffe was looking more and more like the father of Liza Soberano in Dolce Amore. Also, all those years of studying magic in Hogwarts and he was still left clueless in the end. Hermione would be so disappointed. Tsk tsk!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

HAUNTED MANSION (Jun Lana, 2015)

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My notes on Haunted Mansion:

1. I could have easily written the first fifteen minutes of this movie. It involved a kid searching a (spoiler alert!!) haunted mansion saying different variations of the word “mom”. “Mom? Mom? Mooom? Mom! Mom!! Mooommm!! Mom, mom, mom!!” Instead a mumu appeared and ate him.

2. The best friend character played by Sharlene San Pedro apparently lost her cellphone in the canteen so she nonchalantly walked back to that area. She must have had a Nokia 3310 as well. I remember when I left the same unit in a restaurant and ten minutes later, it was still sitting untouched on the table. I guess possible thieves saw my precious phone more as a liability.

3. Janella Salvador’s character had a third eye so she was approached by dead people everywhere. Forget the mansion, it was haunted wherever she went. Haunted Everywhere would have been more original than anything in this movie.

4. I audibly gasped when I saw Lilet appear onscreen as Janella’s mom. I will forever remember her as the iconic manyika that came to life opposite Herbert Bautista in Pik Pak Boom. (If you know that one, then cheers to a life well-spent.)

5. One of the mean girls in school (who will never be Regina George) gave Janella a box of chocolates with live cockroaches in lieu of actual chocolates. The fact that she didn’t notice the movements of the critters inside the box made me question her senses (sixth or otherwise).

6. I was appalled by the general lack of rules in the school here. One male student had an eyebrow piercing, most of the girls wore skimpy shorts, the faculty even extended the stay of several students in the haunted mansion as a form of punishment. Actually I shouldn’t be surprised because this same school thought that a haunted mansion with a next-door private cemetery would be the perfect place for a retreat.

7. Jun Lana directed the excellent Bwakaw so I wasn’t sure why he was channelling Dementia with the same cheap scares and loud banging noises.

8. An hour into the movie and not one of the lame young actors had been killed yet. Instead we saw the talented ones like LJ Reyes, Joem Bascon, and Iza Calzado get hanged, burned to ashes, or died of boredom (oh wait, that was me).

9. I always sympathize with any movie character that has asthma or uses an inhaler. In this movie, it was the Horror Royalty Janice de Belen. Unfortunately, she had a thankless role where she was asked to say inane lines. When several people started getting killed, her word of advice while looking at the corpses was, “Ang magagawa natin ay ipagdasal na lang sila.” Girl, you cray!!

10. In a movie populated by dim-witted characters that hide under a table to flee a shrieking ghost, I wasn’t surprised that the ghost itself was stupid. It initially got killed by a flaming cross and you’d expect that it would have learned its lesson to stay away from an altar but no, the story flashed three months forward and it still went near an altar and eventually got killed by a rosary.

11. Here’s my favorite scene:

Janella ran to the corpse of her very dead friend Faye and screamed, “Faye, anong nangyari??”

At that point, I laughed so hard that my appendix shot out of my ass, bounced on the theater wall, and knocked the usher unconscious until the end credits.

He was actually the lucky one.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆