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: SANA DATI (Jerrold Tarog, 2013)

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A direct punch in the gut with a truly detestable lead character. Love never felt this honest.

Sana Dati was like finding a shoebox full of pictures, the perfectly-taken photographs telling a love story of strangers.

The movie was not made for judgemental people like myself. I just found it hard to sympathize with a selfish, discontented slut.

Given that, full credit goes to the effective performance of Lovi Poe, who looked every bit unhappy and trapped.

The supporting cast was good as well although Benjamin Alves (who looked good onscreen) proved to be the weakest link.

Rating: ★★★★☆

(Originally published August 1, 2013.)

MOVIE REVIEW: GOYO: ANG BATANG HENERAL (Jerrold Tarog, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral:

1. One of the first Tagalog poems I learned as a kid was taught to me by my grandfather (be forewarned, it wasn’t one of his shining moments) and it involved the bad boy of Philippine History (no, not Ace Vergel nor Robin Padilla). It went something like: “Andres Bonifacio, a-tapang a-tao. A-putok a-baril, hindi a-atakbo. A-putol a-utin, a-takbo a-tulin.” This humorous take on a national hero might sound disrespectful to some, but it was exactly how I felt with this ongoing Araling Panlipunan Trilogy of Jerrold Tarog that started with the puñeta-filled Heneral Luna.

Both films seemed to have been made as easily-digestible History nuggets because nobody really wanted to sit through a boring lecture. And so we got an abrasive, menacing portrayal of a general in the first film who would deliver some occasionally amusing Cesar Montano quips that the audience could laugh at while this second one had a subservient and confused young general who left a trail of broken hearts (and panties) like he was the first official fuccboi of the country.

2. I never knew that Gregorio del Pilar (Paulo Avelino, medyo malamya) was such a bland and uninteresting character whose life didn’t really merit a biopic. I’d always thought he was this glorious hero who took his last stand (and not a literal one) in the Battle of Tirad Pass. I’m sure there was more to him as the youngest general other than being a Don Juan.

Unfortunately, the fictional (right?) Joven Hernando (Arron Villaflor, who sounded like his testicles hadn’t descended yet) summed up the first hour best when he asked “Bakit puro romansa at panunuyo?”. It was obvious that Goyo (and in turn Avelino, with his gorgeous brown eyes that sparkled in the sunlight; wait, why wasn’t he moreno?) was so swoon-worthy that women would actually have a shade showdown while comparing themselves to mangoes (“Ako hinog, ikaw totoong bulok” or something equally icky to that effect). But shouldn’t there have been more to him than that?

I walked out of the theater with the takeaway that his only contribution in our rich history was a last minute realization that he had been Emilio Aguinaldo’s (Mon Confiado, great as always) lapdog. Yun na yun?

Seriously, Goyo the character couldn’t even serve as the crucial voiceover (read: voice of reason) in his own film.

3. I felt bad that the talented Carlo Aquino (who played Vicente Enriquez) couldn’t secure a lead role in this franchise (was it because he looked so cute and tiny like a keychain?). I did like the underlying homoerotic tension between him and Joven (because why else was he so protective of him?). And was I the only one that sensed this blooming “bromance” between Joven and Juan del Pilar (Carlo Cruz)? Ooh, a love triangle! (Or was that just some wishful thinking?)

Side note: That tampisaw sa batis scene. Not complaining at all.

4. I honestly couldn’t stand the acting of the kid that played Angelito so I wouldn’t even bother mentioning his name here. His lines consisted merely of cries of anguish/despair (“Kuyaaaaahhh!”, “Tamaaaah naaaahh!”) and he still couldn’t deliver them properly. Didn’t he learn anything from his Kuya Manuel Bernal (Art Acuña)? Awoooooo!!

5. Miss Granny reference: I was a bit disappointed that after all those pictures taken by the same photographer (Jojit Lorenzo) of the Forever Young Portrait Studio, Goyo didn’t turn into a Goyito (given his age though, if he turned fifty years younger, then he’d still be a sperm and this would have been a completely different kind of movie).

6. Bitterness 101 – Exhibit A:

Felicidad (Empress Schuck) to ex-jowa: “Kumusta?”

Goyo: “Mabuti! Ikaw?”

Felicidad: (deadma) (walk-out)

Move on, move on din pag may time. (Uso pa ba ‘to?)

7. Was the slang term “goyo” or “nagoyo” actually after the flirtatious general? I need the real etymology of this word please! My futile Google search led me to “weneklek” and “kukurikapu” instead.

8. Every peso of the movie’s reported Php160M budget was in full display here with its lush cinematography (that amazing shot of the troops marching on the mountainside during sunset, the magical Shape of Water-like underwater scene) and great production design.

9. I was excited to see the Battle of Tirad Pass especially with its dramatic twist of a local Igorot betraying the Philippine troops, but it didn’t really showcase anything interesting. It was just a lengthy sequence of some Pinoy mestiso actors pretending to be a bunch of American soldiers running around until they finally annihilated the locals. It was also odd that they continued to mine humor in such a serious situation (“Nakagat lang yan ng langgam sa bayag!”, “May bangin dyan!” and then a couple of Pinoy soldiers comically fell off a cliff, “Kam! Amerikan Welkam!”).

Even del Pilar’s death felt very anticlimactic (and un-heroic). Like a Superman film where Clark Kent never really wore his red trunks and cape because he was better off as a regular person. (But we paid to watch Superman, didn’t we?)

10. Burning questions:

• How long could one survive munching on just sugar cane? (Because you know, inflation.)

• The soldier named Daclan was actually Matt Daclan, right?

• Why couldn’t Apolinario Mabini (Epy Quizon) get his own movie? Echapwera na naman?

• During the mid-credits scene with a latex-faced, older Aguinaldo (still played by Confiado), why was the older Manuel Quezon on the poster played by a latex-faced TJ Trinidad? Were they not confident enough with the acting skills of Benjamin Alves?

• Wait, was the film trying to equate Emilio Aguinaldo with our current President? So did that make Goyo a misguided, egotistical, famewhore general who loved hogging the limelight (read: mahilig magpa-pogi)? Now I get my complete lack of interest.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

MOVIE REVIEW: HENERAL LUNA (Jerrold Tarog, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Heneral Luna:

1. The disclaimer at the start of the movie was scary for two reasons: a) for a biopic slash historical epic, we don’t know the extent of cinematic license used in the movie, and b) indeed, a fictionalized history (or work of fiction inspired by true events?) doesn’t take away the fact that this is still a clear representation of the truth (both past and present).

2. Jerrold Tarog has always been a competent filmmaker. He’s the kind of director that can make a Shake Rattle and Roll episode end up better than most of the full-length Pinoy movies shown that year. (Also, watch Senior Year!!)

3. I think everyone will agree that the movie had one of the best ensemble casts in any Pinoy film. I loved how the receding hairline of Epy Quizon was put to good use as Apolinario Mabini. In terms of acting, Mon Confiado (as Emilio Aguinaldo) and Nonie Buencamino (as Felipe Buencamino) were clear standouts. I hope none of them show up in Felix Manalo or I will start getting confused.

4. One of the best lines in the movie:

“Para kayong mga birhen na naniniwala sa pag-ibig ng isang puta!!”

I wonder when I can deliver this line in real life.

5. I particularly liked the Manifest Destiny scene because it stirred up emotions that shouldn’t even be there in this day and age (I so hated the American soldiers that I almost swore off eating burgers.)

6. A lot of reviews have pointed out that the film is a farce. I guess I’m being a purist then because I still want my History lessons all serious and dramatic. The rich content of Philippine History alone will never be boring. I guess I just didn’t understand all the funny quips despite the current situations (hey, it’s just war, people are just getting blown up, let’s all be like Cesar Montano and throw a witty one-liner or two!).

7. I was happy to see Antonio Luna portrayed as a deeply flawed character (never liked biopics that glorify their subject matter) but did it go too far? I could barely remember him in History class and now all I could think of was that he’s no different from Anger in Inside Out. Just about everything seemed to irk him to no end and everyone around him just looked completely dumb or incompetent. John Arcilla was fine in the lead role but I kept imagining him invoking the spirit of Captain Jack Sparrow in every scene. I hate to say it but it bordered closely on caricature.

8. Did we really need that gratuitous head shot for shock value? If they were depicting the reality of war then why was Luna shown as someone invincible? He just kept saying his lines while walking close to enemy lines without getting hit. Maybe he had an agimat that we didn’t know of? (Was it the magical coin pouch that saved his life?)

9. In one scene, Luna was trying to talk to an American soldier and ended up saying something like, “Hulihin nyo na yan. Naubusan na ko ng Ingles” all for comic relief. I was surprised he didn’t just say “Nosebleed!”. Why didn’t they really get Montano for this role?

10. I remember one of my History teachers saying that when Rizal got shot, he tried to face the firing squad as a sign of pride and dignity. Is this correct? (I’m only asking because the Rizal here just waited to be shot at the back. Wait, that didn’t sound right.)

11. In another scene, Luna was strumming his guitar and he was shown to have perfectly polished nails. With this, I will always remember that even in trying times, one should never forget to have a manicure.

12. Why is Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata the song of choice for war flashback scenes? I first heard this used in Madrasta with Sharon Cuneta’s grandfather recalling the war with Japanese soldiers. (Ooh, I need to watch that again.)

13. Old people love hitting tables for emphasis. (If you’ve done that recently…)

14. The scene that I abhorred the most would have to be the one where Luna was killed and the movie turned into a comical Carlo J. Caparas movie. Luna was betrayed and stabbed and shot several times (and had a hole carved in his right eye) by Filipino soldiers and I should have been appalled and angry by the betrayal but I was instead preventing a huge fart from trying not to laugh. Sure, History books would say that he was stabbed 30 or so times and that he continued to flinch after his death but I’m sure it didn’t say that he was Fernando Poe, Jr. (or a horror movie villain that just won’t die).

15. I remember Aguinaldo getting a bad rap for apparently ordering the assassination of Andres Bonifacio. He was portrayed the exact same way here with fingers directly pointed at him for giving the directive on the ambush of Luna. I never knew our first President was such a villain. Has anything changed since then?

16. The burning flag scene in its entirety covered everything that the movie was trying to say in two hours. Such powerful imagery.

17. There’s a mid-credits sequence!! In the same way that Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo had a Heneral Luna teaser, this one hinted at a Gregorio del Pilar spin-off (meaning more Paulo Avelino!). Move over Marvel, we have our Pinoy superheroes!

18. How many times did I mention History?

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published September 16, 2015.)

YEAR-END MOVIE REVIEW: THE BEST OF PINOY CINEMA 2017

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TOP 9 FEATURE LENGTH FILMS:

#9

LOVE YOU TO THE STARS AND BACK

Written and directed by: Antoinette Jadaone

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#8

HAUNTED: A LAST VISIT TO THE RED HOUSE

Written and directed by: Phyllis Grande

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#7

ALL OF YOU

Written by: Carl Chavez, Mae Chua, and Dan Villegas
Directed by: Dan Villegas

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#6

ANG LARAWAN

Written by: Rolando Tinio
Directed by: Loy Arcenas

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#5

BLISS

Written and directed by: Jerrold Tarog

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#4

PAKI

Written and directed by: Giancarlo Abrahan

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#3

RESPETO

Written by: Njel de Mesa and Treb Monteras II
Directed by: Treb Monteras II

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#2

CHANGING PARTNERS

Written by: Lilit Reyes and Vincent de Jesus
Directed by: Dan Villegas

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#1

KIKO BOKSINGERO

Written by: Denise O’Hara, Ash Malanum, Heber O’Hara, Emmanuel Espejo, Jr.
Directed by: Thop Nazareno

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2017 Scorecard:

★★★★★
CHANGING PARTNERS (Dan Villegas)
KIKO BOKSINGERO (Thop Nazareno)

★★★★☆
ALL OF YOU (Dan Villegas)
BLISS (Jerrold Tarog)
HAUNTED: A LAST VISIT TO THE RED HOUSE (Phyllis Grande)
ANG LARAWAN (Loy Arcenas)
LOVE YOU TO THE STARS AND BACK (Antoinette Jadaone)
PAKI (Giancarlo Abrahan)
RESPETO (Alberto Monteras II)
SORRY FOR THE INCONVENIENCE (Carl Adrian Chavez)

★★★☆☆
100 TULA PARA KAY STELLA (Jason Paul Laxamana)
BAGAHE (Zig Dulay)
CAN WE STILL BE FRIENDS? (Prime Cruz)
DEADMA WALKING (Julius Alfonso)
FATIMA MARIE TORRES AND THE INVASION OF SPACE SHUTTLE PINAS 25 (Carlo Francisco Manatad)
HILOM (P.R. Patindol)
I’M DRUNK, I LOVE YOU. (JP Habac)
KITA KITA (Sigrid Andrea Bernardo)
KRISTO (HF Yambao)
LOLA LOLENG (Che Tagyamon)
MARIA (JP Habac)
NABUBULOK (Sonny Calvento)
SEVEN SUNDAYS (Cathy Garcia-Molina)
SI CHEDENG AT SI APPLE (Fatrick Tabada, Rae Red)
TU PUG IMATUY (Arbi Barbarona)
UNEXPECTEDLY YOURS (Cathy Garcia-Molina)

★★☆☆☆
12 (Dondon Santos)
ALIENS ATA (Glenn Barit)
BACONAUA (Joseph Israel Laban)
BAWOD (TM Malones)
BHOY INTSIK (Joel Lamangan)
CAN’T HELP FALLING IN LOVE (Mae Cruz-Alviar)
DEAR OTHER SELF (Veronica Velasco)
THE DEBUTANTES (Prime Cruz)
FALLBACK (Jason Paul Laxamana)
FINALLY FOUND SOMEONE (Theodore Boborol)
THE GHOST BRIDE (Chito Roño)
ILAWOD (Dan Villegas)
ISLABODAN (Juan Carlo Tarobal)
JUANA AND THE SACRED SHORES (Antonne Santiago)
LAST NIGHT (Joyce Bernal)
LOVING IN TANDEM (Giselle Andres)
MANONG NG PA-ALING (E. del Mundo)
MY EX AND WHYS (Cathy Garcia-Molina)
NAKAW (Arvin Belarmino, Noel Escondo)
NAY (Kip Oebanda)
NERVOUS TRANSLATION (Shireen Seno)
NORTHERN LIGHTS: A JOURNEY TO LOVE (Dondon Santos)
ANG PAMILYANG HINDI LUMULUHA (Mes de Guzman)
ANG PAGSANIB KAY LEAH DELA CRUZ (Katski Flores)
SA GABING NANAHIMIK ANG MGA KULIGLIG (Iar Lionel Arondaing)
SIARGAO (Paul Soriano)
SMALLER AND SMALLER CIRCLES (Raya Martin)
THROWBACK TODAY (Joseph Teoxon)

★☆☆☆☆
ACROSS THE CRESCENT MOON (Baby Nebrida)
AWOL (Enzo Williams)
BAR BOYS (Kip Oebanda)
BARBI D’ WONDER BEKI (Tony Reyes)
BES AND THE BESHIES (Joel Lamangan)
BEYOND THE BLOCK (Ricky Carranza)
BLOODY CRAYONS (Topel Lee)
BUNDOK BANAHAW, SACRED AND PROFANE (Dempster Samarista)
FANGIRL/FANBOY (Barry Gonzalez)
FOOLISH LOVE (Joel Lamangan)
ANG GURO KONG ‘DI MARUNONG MAGBASA (Perry Escaño)
HISTORIOGRAPHIKA ERRATA (Richard Somes)
I FOUND MY HEART IN SANTA FE (Bona Fajardo)
LADYFISH (Jason Orfalas)
MANG KEPWENG RETURNS (G.B. Sampedro)
NAKAUWI NA (Marvin Cabangunay, Jaynus Olaivar)
PWERA USOG (Jason Paul Laxamana)
REQUITED (Nerissa Picadizo)
SPIRIT OF THE GLASS 2: THE HAUNTED (Jose Javier Reyes)
THIS TIME I’LL BE SWEETER (Joel Lamangan)
TRIP UBUSAN: THE LOLAS VS ZOMBIES (Mark Reyes)
TRIPTIKO (Miguel Franco Michelena)
WOKE UP LIKE THIS (Joel Ferrer)