BUNDOK BANAHAW, SACRED AND PROFANE (Dempster Samarista, 2017)

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The screening that I attended yesterday in G4 was like a game of survival of the fittest. By the thirty minute mark, a mass walkout started to happen and I wasn’t even surprised. This was pure torture to watch and I only stayed because sayang ang aircon.

There were so many fascinating themes here (prevalence of mysticism in our country, the effects of commercialism to the place, etc.), but there was a complete lack of focus on the subject matter. We were treated to random scenes that any tourist with a videocam could have taken. And chanting. Lots of chanting.

People onscreen would reference sacred images on the wall and we wouldn’t get a glimpse of what they were seeing. Were we expected to experience these things for ourselves? With the many steep staircases and tight spaces that were shown, that would be a hard pass for me.

I remembered watching Man on the Moon where a sick Andy Kaufman (Jim Carrey) visited the Philippines to seek treatment from a (sham) psychic healer. Those few scenes said so much about faith vs science than the entire two hours of this tedious drone shots-filled documentary.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

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MANG KEPWENG RETURNS (G.B. Sampedro, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Mang Kepweng Returns:

1. My late grandmother was a big believer in quack medicine. Whenever I’d get sick as a kid, she would bring me to this seaside hut where an even older lady prayed over some wax paper (with Latin words written on them), licked them like stamps, and slapped them on my forehead to help exorcise the bad spirits causing my illness.

I never once believed in her sorcery (especially since my mom would ask me to take Aspilets after the session), but without her magical saliva, I would not have developed a stronger immune system.

2. I could barely remember the original Mang Kepweng movie, except that the late Chiquito (who was here in hologram form, but his mouth never moved while talking) played the title role with his trademark reverse bandana and Hitler mustache. I do remember its comics origins so I wasn’t surprised when this one started very much like a Marvel movie. Until it actually turned into a wannabe Marvel movie.

3. Much like any of its superhero origin stories, Kiefer (Vhong Navarro) found out the secrets to his past (he’s the bastard child of Mang Kepweng!), learned to harness his powers (polka dot bandana activate!), discovered how to be Doctor Strange (summoning those holograms and all!), and even staged a Civil War in the climactic battle sequence.

I even joked that I should stay until the end credits just in case there was a closing credits sequence. I wasn’t disappointed. Eat your heart out, Stan Lee!!

4. For a supposed update to a cult classic, most of the jokes here felt so dated. It reminded me so much of the humor in Home Along Da Riles (only that was hilarious and nobody could ever match the comic timing of the late Dolphy).

There were so many gags that were just not funny. One involved bungled haircuts (one man wanted his head shaved, the long-haired one wanted his dyed blonde, you know how this would end), another one had cha-cha music played during a funeral march, a latent gay character was always used as a punchline, and the worst had to be the renaissance of the yakapsule and kisspirin joke. Now watch me whip, now watch me anyenyeh!

5. Aerial shots galore. Congratulations on your new drone!

6. Is Jollicious Hotdog an actual product? That entire Zumba sequence where a large woman (named Petite, of course) fainted and was brought back to her senses by the smell of a jumbo Jollicious hotdog reeked of shameless product placement.

7. Two major characters kept questioning if the bandana had magical powers even if they grew a unibrow and a mustache after wearing it. Demanding much, mga bes?

8. Vhong used to be really funny, very much like a local Jim Carrey. In this movie, he was reduced to overacting like crazy while constantly cowering in fear (why was he working in a funeral parlor anyway if he was always close to having a stroke every time something eerie happened?).

9. The only joke that really landed was delivered by Bangky. When asked what he was smoking, he answered “Beep”. Vhong corrected him and said “Hindi po yan beep. Vape po yan” to which he replied “Beep ang plebor. Sa susunod chicken naman.” Mabuhay ang bangkay!

10. I would forever remember this movie as the one where a character actually said the line, “Ate kinagat ako ng tiyan mo!”. Horrors!!

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

I LOVE YOU TO DEATH (Miko Livelo, 2016)u

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My notes on I Love You To Death:

1. As soon as Janice de Belen showed up on screen as Kiray Celis’ mother, all I could think of was the popular 80’s catchphrase (“Oh my god! Ang anak ni Janice!!”) that was used in the trailer of Regal Films’ cult classic Tiyanak and spawned the flop sequel Anak ni Janice.

Whether this was intentional or not, the movie’s best moments involved the running joke of her character’s brutal honesty towards her daughter’s physical appearance. She was the type of mom that would scream “Wag mo nga akong ginugulat anak!” upon seeing Kiray’s I-woke-up-like-this face or would recommend to fix her daughter’s bridal look by covering her face with a veil.

2. This brand of comedy harkens back to the early 90’s Rene Requiestas Pido Dida/Cheeta-eh era that I wasn’t surprised when his lookalike actually showed up. It made me miss this type of humor, especially in this day and age of political correctness. One simple punchline in his movies (say Michael and Madonna) would be Rene smiling and showing his missing teeth and it would be okay for people to laugh (“Ay bungi! Hahaha!”). If you’d do that now, a group of keyboard warriors would demand respect for dentally-challenged people while a group of activists burned effigies of the President protesting the lack of funds for dentures and the proliferation of lowbrow comedy in local cinema. How times have changed.

3. The biggest problem of this movie was that there really wasn’t a lot going for it aside from making fun of Kiray’s looks. It shouldn’t be a surprise given that the movie’s supposed highlight extensively used in promotions was the kissing scene between her and Enchong Dee (wait, was it supposed to be icky because of her looks or because of his…never mind).

This reminded so much of Joe Dante’s Burying the Ex, another awful dark comedy about a spurned lover that rose from the dead to seek revenge. Even with torn limbs and blood spurting onscreen, it didn’t have much of a story either.

4. I didn’t bother taking note of the young supporting cast’s names because I hadn’t seen this much bad acting since the last season of Pinoy Big Brother: Teen Edition. I had so much fun seeing them get killed one by one because it would just mean one less irritating person to watch. Besides, I wasn’t even sure why Kiray was friends with them when they would openly mock her appearance and blatantly wish for her character’s harm (was it because she only owned one orange Prada bag that she used every single time, regardless if it clashed with her outfit?).

5. Burning questions:

• What bowling alley would allow kids to wear Jimmy Choo heels?

• What was up with Enchong’s hair? His short bangs reminded me of that scene in Dumb and Dumber when Jim Carrey placed a bowl over his head before getting a haircut.

• Why did these kids never grieve for their dead friends? After one of them got murdered in school, the next scene showed the gang in a salon. I guess the best way to really move on would be to get a Brazilian blowout and a mani-pedi. Yet in another scene, they were shown mourning…in a club.

6. Speaking of club, this was a Regal movie so I wasn’t surprised that there was an extended dance-off sequence. I should just be thankful that it wasn’t at a beach.

7. I never really understood the “mukha kang pantasa” joke, especially when the woman looked more like an eraser. And that #deathbypencil scene reeked too much of Zoolander 2.

8. Two obvious signs that their wedding was doomed: 1) she had her engagement ring on her middle finger, 2) her wedding gown had a sheer skirt that showed her boy shorts underneath.

9. In one scene, Kiray was kidnapped by her friends and had a sack thrown over her head. After it was removed, there were rice grains stuck on her face that made her complain, “Di nyo man lang tinanggal ang bigas sa sako!”. It was one of the few effortlessly funny gags that worked in this movie. I wish there were so much more because after this and Love is Blind, Kiray definitely deserved much better.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

YES MAN (Peyton Reed, 2008)

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Do you still remember the last time that a Jim Carrey movie actually made you laugh out loud? This movie definitely didn’t do the trick. Although he tried his best to contort his face and do an even more manic version of his usual characters, this was nothing more than Liar Liar Redux. And incredibly less funny.

There was an inspired bit involving Carrey singing Third Eye Blind’s Jumper to a man on the ledge but everything else was just ho-hum. Even the adorkable Zooey Deschanel looked depressed to be in this movie.

I’d gladly settle for another Ace Ventura sequel.

Rating: 2/5