ISA PA, WITH FEELINGS (Prime Cruz, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Isa Pa, With Feelings:

1. As a certified reality-competition junkie, one of my favorite shows is that cheesy, Eezy Dancing-like US program called Dancing with the Stars. If the title isn’t a giveaway, it’s a dance competition program where washed up film and TV stars and/or B-list celebrities from other arenas (music, sports, politics) are willing to make fools of themselves (sorry, I mean learn the art of dance and prove their worth) on national TV.

In a previous season, America’s Next Top Model hottie Nyle DiMarco defied all odds by giving stunning performances week after week before finally winning the coveted Mirror Ball trophy. Oh yeah, he’s Deaf by the way. Imagine not being able to hear the music (relying on just vibrations) and still move in perfect rhythm with his professional ballroom partner like he’s the king of the dance floor. It would be an understatement to say that I was in tears after his every number.

I had the exact same feeling of awe and (tears of) joy when Deaf Gali (Carlo Aquino) performed that lovely contemporary routine with Hearing Mara (Maine Mendoza) during this film’s climactic dance recital. Teacher Geleen Eugenio really taught them well.

2. There’s something about Maine’s smile that can light up an entire room. When Mara woke up on the day of her licensure exam and started prepping by nonchalantly dancing around in her condo, the oldie in me wanted to slap her silly for not taking things seriously (neng, make or break moment ito mag-last review ka o ayusin mo ang mga requirements na dadalhin mo hindi ito Carefree commercial juskong mahabagin), but the growing hatred simply disappeared as soon as she grinned from utter embarrassment (oops, cutie neighbor alert!). Also, (insert “super gwapo ni Carlo nakakababa ng self-esteem leche” here).

Even with a few noticeable acting tics (mostly broad reactions to look funny) carried over from her Kalyeserye days, I was happy to see that Maine was able to flex her dramatic skills here. As in magaling talaga siya that I literally said “And galing naman” in every scene where she was required to cry (after seeing that she failed the exams, during that touching moment when she hugged her mom after a heartbreak, and that entire “Gali, mahal kita eh” sequence). It was also fun to see her DubSmash skills put to good use during that hilarious “Matitikman nila ang ganti ng isang api!” reenactment.

(Of course, Carlo was amazing as well because I cried every time he cried and laughed every time he laughed and turned into a teenage girl every time he smiled. If you still need more words to describe his performance here, simply look up all the synonyms of exceptional in the dictionary.)

Side note: As a lapsed fan, kinikilig ako na 2019 is actually the year of AlDub. Ang laki ng growth nina Alden and Maine as artists in their separate projects. Sana the rest will learn from this, risk on new material, and continue to explore outside of their standard love teams.

3. One of the things that I loved about this film was all of those moments of silence, not just to let us better understand Gali’s perspective, but also because we didn’t need an intrusive musical score to make us feel things in every poignant scene. The amount of restraint here considering that this was still a commercial local rom-com was truly commendable.

4. It was nice to be reminded that we should be grateful for things that we usually just take for granted. One of my pet peeves whenever I have food delivered at home would be the constant buzzing of the doorbell (because seriously, once or twice should suffice). And yet there are people in the world like Gali who wouldn’t even know that he had a package waiting outside his room because there was just no way to properly notify him. I guess it’s true that you will always meet someone who will definitely put things in perspective.

Speaking of, that entire Christmas lights concept turned me into a weeping mess. After exposing us to simple things that end up as major challenges faced by the Deaf community (Gali’s expressions said it all during that entire package fiasco), it was a joy to see him smile (and tear up) after Mara’s plan worked. Loved the callback on that one, too. That uber romantic slash heartbreaking scene involving a famous pop song and blinking lights would probably end up as my favorite moment in Philippine Cinema 2019.

(Plus points for completely wiping out the trauma of the use of Christmas lights in Stranger Things.)

5. It was amusing to watch the audience imitate and learn some basic phrases during the couple’s Sign Language 101 sessions. I mean, isn’t it great that we would all walk out of that theater knowing another way to say “Hello”, “Thank you”, and “Sorry” with the proper expressions and emotions? Of course if I were Mara, I would have asked Gali to teach me the most important words first (curse words, naturally!) because that’s a pre-requisite in every new language.

(Another side note: In college, I had a lot of Filipino-Chinese classmates from Xavier and they told me that the most important phrases to remember were “piao si di siao siao” and “di lanciao bin”. Surely I’m all prepped for that return visit to Shanghai.)

6. Sad facts: i) There are not enough Deaf schools in our country, ii) Most parents of Deaf kids do not know how to sign, iii) There are insensitive people in the world like Vangie Labalan’s character who referred to Gali as “di mo aakalain na may diperensya”. (Tawagin ulit ang Undin, please!!)

7. Burning questions:

• Whatever happened to Mara’s dreams of becoming an architect? Will she finally prep properly and take that exam seriously? Did her father (Cris Villanueva) roll up that tarp and keep for future use?

• Why didn’t we get a payoff on those sign language sessions? Is Mara’s niece still waiting for that special surprise?

• Is “Were you worried about me?” the newest pick-up line?

• How were they able to afford those condo units? And who do I need to call to replace our doorbell with blinking Christmas lights?

• With lines like “Puro de lata ang kinakain mo, magkaka-UTI ka!!”, is Mara’s mother (Lotlot de Leon) actually related to mine?

• What was that siomai stand doing in a party, aside from serving as product placement for SIOGO? (Sio clean! Sio good!)

• Gali literally jumping to Mara’s condo was a metaphor that he was taking a leap of faith on their relationship, yes?

• Will the LTO permanently suspend Mara’s license for being so accident-prone?

• “Mahal ba talaga natin yung jowa/asawa natin ngayon kung sino at ano siya, o minahal lang natin siya dahil lagi siyang nandiyan para sa atin?” (Require your significant other to answer this in less than five sentences.)

8. Ganda ng communication gaps shown throughout their love story. The use of cellphones in lieu of spoken words and signs (ang inspired nung text messages flashed between their condos), the times they both felt OP while in two different parties (although the Deaf crowd felt more welcoming, no? Well, except for that intrimidida girl), and the acceptance of their differences plus sacrifices they were both willing to make with that touching “Then I’ll be deaf for you” line. Wala talagang hadlang kapag mga puso na ang nag-uusap. ❤️

Rating: ★★★★☆

THE PANTI SISTERS (Jun Lana, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

Nung napanood ko pa lang yung teaser nito (with that wonderful Dalagang Pilipina remix), na-excite na ako sobra. Based kasi sa recent baklaan films ni Jun Lana (like my favorite Die Beautiful), usually smart ang humor at hindi basta dinadaan sa typical Pinoy slapstick or lowbrow comedy na naglalaitan ng itsura (insert your chosen MMFF entry here). Sad to say, napamura na lang ako na parang si Heneral Luna habang palala nang palala ang takbo ng pelikula.

Kahit nagamit na sa trailer, benta pa rin sa ’kin yung “Sa exit ka dumaan, hindi sa entrance” scene nina Gabriel (Paolo Ballesteros) at Kat (Roxanne Barcelo). Tapos nakakaaliw na faux brand fashionista slash film lover si Samuel (Christian Bables, bringing back that fabulous Barbs vibe) bilang nakasuot siya ng Supreeme at Mosohino habang nagde-deliver ng quotes from Himala, Kaya Kong Abutin ang Langit, at It Takes a Man and a Woman. At ang cute ng datingan ni K-Pop Daniel (Martin del Rosario) lalo na nung iniiyakan niya ang kanyang Pepe.

Nakakatawa naman talaga ang ibang parts lalo na sa simula kasi maganda ang batuhan ng linya at eksenahan ng mga sizies. Yung magagaling na performances ng tatlo talaga ang nagdala ng buong movie (kasama na rin si John Arcilla as the coldhearted, homophobic father Don Emilio). Kung meron man talaga part 2 (as hinted during the end credits), sana magamit ng husto ang overflowing talents nila.

Sayang lang at mabilis naging repetitive ang jokes, from the breaking the fourth wall (na very local sitcom) to the nth Panti equals panty punchline (that also ruined a touching scene in the end). Yun ngang long table parang nagamit na sa exact same gag ng Kalyeserye (bakit sikat ang bahay ni Lola Nidora sa PPP? Ito rin ang bahay sa Circa).

Ang gulo ng transitions minsan lalo na yung sa kare-kareng kokak na napunta bigla sa abortion talk. Cute pa naman sana yung entire Moon Prism Power Make-up sequence (lalo na at ang genuine ng interactions ng magkakapatid) kaso sobrang haba ng fight scene na hindi naman nakakatawa. Buti bumawi ng slight sa hilarious “Ikaw ay Akin” mata-mata showdown.

Pero ang worst offense ng pelikula ay yung biglang naging drama sa dulo just to drive home its point. Yung feeling na parang isinasampal sa pagmumukha ng audience ang message na hindi salot ang mga bakla (kahit na may ongoing joke na nagnanasa ang Pantis sa kanilang cousins at hypocrite ang hindi aamin) at kelangan ng lahat ma-enlighten sa necessity ng SOGIE bill at gay marriage (para hindi mapilitang magpakasal ang mga bakla sa fag hags nila habang todo ang muk-up sa simbahan; pumayag si Father?). Yes, important ang topics, pero nagkulang talaga sa execution.

Anyare sa subtlety? Kulang na lang merong “Ang mga bakla na lumilipad ay mahal ng Diyos, di kumukupas…” remix.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

HELLO, LOVE, GOODBYE (Cathy Garcia-Molina, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Hello, Love, Goodbye:

1. Naalala ko nung nagpunta ako ng Hong Kong around 2014, napadaan ako sa Central area isang Linggo at nagulat ako sa dami ng mga OFWs (mostly women) na nasa gilid-gilid mula sa overpass malapit sa train station hanggang sa mismong kalye na ang isang parte ay ipinasara para tayuan ng makeshift stage (“Beauty and the Best” ang theme ng show slash pageant noon).

Parang isang mahabang row ng mga nagpi-picnic ang itsura nila sa kani-kanilang mga puwesto habang nakaupo sa ibabaw ng mga karton ng balikbayan boxes. Maririnig mo ang malalakas na tawanan at maiingay na kuwentuhan/chismisan kasabay ng pagsasalu-salo nilang magkakaibigan sa baong pancit, adobo, at kung anu-ano pang ulam na niluto para sa araw na yun.

Pero mas nakakagulat na ang lahat ng ito ay nagaganap sa harapan mismo ng mga high-end designer stores tulad ng Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Armani, Cartier, atbp. Maganda siyang juxtaposition na sumasalamin din sa OFW experience na kung tutuusin ay nakakalungkot sa kabila ng nangingibabaw na kasiyahan.

2. Isa sa strongest aspects ng pelikulang ito ang realistic depiction ng buhay ng isang domestic helper sa Hong Kong.

May isang montage kung saan ipinakita ang lahat ng ginagawa ni Joy (Kathryn Bernardo) bilang kasambahay, kasama na ang pagbabantay sa isang atribidang lola (“Too cold! Too hot!”) at pag-aalaga sa isang special needs kid. Todo kayod siya kasi nakadepende sa kanya ang pamilya niya sa Pilipinas. Kabilang na dito ang bulag niyang ama at ang mga kapatid na more hingi ng sapatos habang siya naman ay more tiis kasi ang long-term plan niya ay maka-migrate sila ng Canada.

Kaya kahit Nursing ang natapos niya ay mega linis siya ng inidoro (“Ang choice ay para lang sa may pera”) at baka sakaling ma-flush na rin ang kinikimkim niyang sama ng loob.

(Side note: Natuwa ako na hindi blatantly masama ang ugali ng amo ni Joy. Kasi ang typical DH story along the lines of Flor Contemplacion or Delia Maga.)

3. Nagustuhan ko yung direct reference sa Anak kasi hindi ko pa rin makalimutan si Ate Vi bilang the ultimate selfless mother of all DH at kung gaano kadaming pagkain ang tiniis niyang hindi kainin makapagpadala lang ng malaking pera para sa pokpok (ay sorry, troubled) niyang dalaga na si Carla.

Gusto ko rin yung indirect reference sa Sunday Beauty Queen with Joy and her friends joining the pageant for extra income. Kahit sa day-off nila todo kayod pa rin para lang sa pamilya. Ang bigat sa puso.

4. Sobrang effective ni Kathryn dito. Gamit na gamit ang mata-mata acting. Yung level na pinapamukha niya sa mga bashers na deserving din siya ng Urian nomination. (Ang ganda pa ng natural make-up niya na super layo sa espasol look in Barcelona.)

Favorite ko yung scene na depressed siya na sumakay sa train tapos sobrang saklap ng araw niya nakasabay pa ang ex niya at bagong girlfriend nito. Nung tinanong siya kung saang hospital siya nagtatrabaho, ramdam mo talaga yung pait at hiya nung sumagot siya na “DH ako dito. Ending ko din katulad ng nanay ko.” Ouch!!

Pero magaling din siya sa kilig aspect ha. Kapag nakatitig siya kay Ethan (Alden Richards), di mo iisipin na may Daniel Padilla na siya in real life. (Pero siguro kasi ang gwapo din ni Alden dito with the scruffy, playboy look kaya di din siya masyado nahirapan magpanggap, ano?)

5. Speaking of Alden, nag-level up din ang acting niya dito. Nawala yung lalaking puro pabebe wave sa Kalyeserye at lumabas ang isang certified matinee idol. Nung sinabi niya na dapat “All or nothing kasi kung mag-hold back ka, bakit ka pa nagmahal?”, more tango lang ako na parang nabudol-budol. Atsaka yung reaction niya habang pinapanood si Joy na sintunado kumanta at mukhang tanga sa stage, maniniwala ka talaga na true love ang nararamdaman niya. At okay lang rin siguro kahit mang-asar siya at kulitin niya ako habang nagkikiskis ako ng kaldero.

Tapos sobrang puti pa ng legs niya parang mapapabili ako ng lifetime supply ng Snow Caps.

(Side note ulit: Believable na kapatid niya si Jameson Blake down to the dimples. Actually, pati yung bunso na akala ko si Timothee Chalamet papasa din na brother niya haha!)

6. Nung pinanood ko ang BTS ng Anak, na-kwento dun na nahirapan silang i-shoot yung final scene kung saan dadaan sa crowd si Ate Vi kasi lahat gusto siya yakapin, hawakan, at tingnan. Mukhang mas maayos ang crowd control dito considering na nag-shoot sila sa Central at Lan Kwai Fong (isa lang yung super obvious na nagvi-video sa eksena dito).

7. Happy to see Maricel Laxa again. Walang kupas pa rin sa pag-arte. Maganda yung storyline niya bilang nanay ni Joy. May kurot sa puso na alam ng pamilya niya na nagpakasal siya sa iba para maging citizen at ma-petition sila dun.

Joy, walang-wala ang paglilinis mo ng inidoro kumpara sa sakripisyo (at pambubugbog) na na-experience ng nanay mo. Teka, bakit ako naiiyak ulit?

8. Kinilig ako nang todo sa KathDen. Kahit hindi ko maintindihan bakit kelangan nilang ipagsiksikan ang mga sarili nila sa “stuck” room na yun. Puwede naman umusog diba?

Pero malakas talaga ang chemistry nila. Nagulantang nga yung mga KathNiel na nakaupo sa harapan ko dun sa (fake) kissing scene. Yung isa parang hinimatay dun sa “love scene”.

Napaka-possessive naman ng ibang fans. Let your idols grow as artists.

9. TANGA = TANYA. Natatawa pa rin ako dito. (At yung pasalubong na broccoli. Hahahaha!)

10. Kung tutuusin plakado sa Star Cinema template ang pelikulang ito. Nandiyan lahat ng tropes tulad ng chuwariwap friends (bet ko na Mary Dale ang pangalan ni Maymay Entrata at bumagay ang aligaga acting ni Kakai Bautista dito), tatay na maysakit (si Lito Pimental na itinuloy lang ang role niya sa Starting Over Again), sound bite-ready na linyahan na never mo maririnig in real-life conversations (“Kung mahal mo ako, bakit pinapapili mo ako?” “Kung mahal mo ako, bakit di ako ang piliin mo?”, “Don’t you trust me enough?” “Don’t you love me enough?”), etc.

Ang kulang na lang ay ang requisite happy ending na hindi nito ibinigay. Siguro mas malakas ang loob ng Star Cinema kasi hindi naman talaga love team ang KathDen pero it worked for the best.

Ang sakit ng farewell at ang ganda ng realistic ending (“Kung di rin tayo sa huli…”). Bravo!!

11. Yung Ulan daw tungkol sa self-love but for me, nagmukha lang si Maya (Nadine Lustre) na selfish. Etong si Joy na independent, may pangarap, may gustong patunayan, at tinalikuran ang pag-ibig to find her worth ang totoong definition nun.

“Mahal kita pero sa ngayon mas mahal ko ang sarili ko.” I do not love you, Joy. I do not love you.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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: ★★☆☆☆

TRIP UBUSAN: THE LOLAS VS ZOMBIES (Mark Reyes, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

To say that this was inspired by Train to Busan would be an understatement since it directly lifted several key scenes (and characters) from that Korean sleeper hit. In this Kalyeserye version though, Lola Nidora (Wally Bayola) played the role of Gong Yoo (shoray ni lola!), also bitten by a zombie in the end before she jumped (was pushed?) off a moving speedboat. (Don’t worry, the saltwater magically cured her for the requisite happy ending.)

We rarely get local zombie movies (either we’re not technologically advanced to accidentally unleash a new virus strain or our bodies were just auto-immuned from all the pollution and dirt in our country) so I was a bit excited to watch this one. Unfortunately, it relied too much on slapstick humor that it ended up without a sense of danger or threat on any of the characters all throughout.

In one scene, the ragtag group (mostly Eat Bulaga alums) just happened to pass by a welding shop and it took a miraculous two-minute montage for them to fortify their bus. In another, the barbed wire separating the humans from the zombies was (questionably) raised so that Angelika dela Cruz could easily run to her zombie husband for a dramatic reconciliation.

Nothing here really made sense. Which would have been fine if at least the gags were funny. The three lolas pulled all the weight and the drop in energy was noticeable whenever they were offscreen. I would love to see them next in a family drama. Mukhang magaling magpaiyak ang JoWaPao. Until then, we’d have to be contented with this zombie movie where the undead extras try their best to avoid a rampaging bus.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

IMAGINE YOU & ME (Michael Tuviera, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Imagine You & Me:

1. Hi, I’m Json and I am a lapsed AlDub fan. (Hi, Json!) I joined the bandwagon right before a wall separated Alden and Yaya Dub in Kalyeserye and jumped off a little after their love team’s debut fizzled in My Bebe Love. Although I continued to receive updates from some die-hard friends, I was still pleasantly surprised to witness the newfound chemistry that they had been raving about. In this movie, AlDub had indeed moved on to being MaiChard and everything just felt right…and real.

2. Could someone explain Maine Mendoza’s appeal to the older crowd? Whenever I watched this type of rom-com, most of the shrieking would come from teenage girls (and directed at the male lead, like Daniel Padilla or James Reid), but I swear about half the people screaming and getting their fill of kilig in our screening were older women (even grandmothers!) rooting for Maine (as Gara). They could very well have been watching the newest Sampaguita or LVN picture.

3. I didn’t have high hopes when the movie started with “Sabi nila ang pag-ibig ay…” and then showed a montage of star-crossed lovers, especially since this quirky style and formula had been trademarked and more effectively used by Dan Villegas and Antoinette Jadaone, but the story progressed much better than expected (up until the dreary final moments).

The movie rested heavily on Maine’s tiny shoulders and she more than delivered, keeping the first thirty or so Alden-less minutes brisk, light, and fun to watch, whether she was getting dumped by her gay boyfriend, lamenting her supposedly cursed lovelife, or simply getting off her bike because the road was “matarik”. I probably laughed the most when she took a selfie with that pader (kasi wala naman talagang ganung pader sa Pilipinas haha!).

4. Elapsed time before the first advertisement: one minute-ish (Magnolia), probably the fastest one so far in recent memory. I wasn’t surprised to see a barrage of other products (including McDonald’s and O+) figure prominently in the story. In one scene where Alden Richards was supposedly drunk, I think there was even a hint of Bench underwear peeking under his jeans (or was I just too fixated on that area?).

5. I really liked how Alden (as Andrew) was always on the verge of tears in every scene (whenever he wasn’t being bugnutin). The movie was able to play on his strength as a dramatic actor and he could easily give John Lloyd Cruz (or even Judy Ann Santos) a run for best crier in local cinema. My favorite scene of his was the videoke session (“Wala ako sa kondisyon eh”, “Ano ‘to grand finals?”) ending with him crying over a sappy Tagalog love song. (Side note: Alden seems to be such a genuine person. I really get that strong vibe from him.)

6. “Mag-ingat ka sa mga lalaking mapuputi na ganyan. Mga pa-fall ang mga ‘yan.” – Kakai Bautista referring to…

(Yang tataaaaaaaa?)

7. There were so many gorgeous shots of Italy and I’m sure that a lot of people would start saving up just to experience grabbing the right breast of Juliet’s statue in Verona. (Hey, if I were to touch one again it might as well be for good luck.) I really liked that tracking shot that followed the pair going in and out of the adjacent rooms and veranda (overlooking a mountain view) with them barely missing each other.

8. Loved Jasmine Curtis-Smith since Transit and she was good here as the leukemia-stricken third party, but it felt like her character’s arc was unnecessary (besides, wouldn’t it have been more depressing if Gara was competing with a dead girl?). Actually, the entire dramatic third act including the last minute (out of nowhere) accident felt forced and didn’t earn the tears (similar to that rant of Gara after she was accused of stealing, “Oo mahirap lang ako…”; where did that come from, such a weird transition).

9. Carpool karaoke officially became a staple in local rom-coms. Although it was fun to see Gara sing April Boy Regino’s Di Ko Kayang Tanggapin, it was still hard to believe that Andrew would have that in his playlist. As one character said, “Makikilala mo ang isang tao sa song choices niya” and I could have sworn snobby Andrew was the Ed Sheeran type.

10. “Kaya naimbento ang glue, para kahit gaano kawasak ang isang bagay, pwede pa ring mabuo.” Sigh.

11. My favorite nods to AlDub:

• Gara during the car sing-along, “Eh sa gusto kong mag Dubsmash.” (Although it wasn’t technically a Dubsmash.)

• Gara asking, “Hindi ka nagulat na NBSB ako. Sinasabi mo bang panget ako?” (Wink wink, haters.)

• That Tamang Panahon reference.

• July 16, 2016 written on the lock that they left on Juliet’s wall (Happy anniversary! For real?).

12. If you’re a big believer of fate and destiny ala Romeo and Juliet (“Ang bawat coincidence ay nakatakda na”), then you would really enjoy this movie. I had my reservations since I belong in the “I create my own destiny” team.

13. Prepare your ears for that second sweet kiss (since the first happened while one of them was in a coma). You have been warned.

Also, this may not be a Marvel movie, but stay until the very end of the closing credits. Confirmed!!

Rating: ★★★☆☆

MY BEBE LOVE #KILIGPAMORE (Jose Javier Reyes, 2015)

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My notes on My Bebe Love #KiligPaMore:

1. One of the first few scenes showed Vic Sotto looking at a mirror and combing his eyebrows. This was meant to be funny and it was the type of slapstick comedy that will be used all-throughout the movie. It felt dated (Pinoy comedy has not evolved much?) but still elicited laughs from the audience. A succeeding scene had Joey de Leon referring to Vic’s “Sandata ni Hudas”. Dated and recycled.

2. Aiai delas Alas, on the other hand, played her character really loud and broad (with matching frilly hair, pastel outfits, and purple & green eyeshadow in case it still wasn’t loud enough for the viewers). She kept screaming all of her lines reminding me of my mom whenever I forget to place my clothes in the hamper. I think they would make the perfect BFFs.

3. I was thrown off by the ADHD-style editing with screens flipping and splitting every few minutes. If only it helped the movie’s really slow pacing.

4. The people that will only watch this to see the big screen chemistry slash film debut of the Alden Richards-Maine Mendoza tandem will be very disappointed. The material completely failed them with their love story feeling tacked on for ticket sales. I didn’t feel even one ounce of kilig (something that we overdose on in the Kalyeserye episodes). FYI, they recycled some elements of the Kalyeserye in the movie (the long table joke? Seen and done). I was surprised there was no falling wall to separate the lovebirds. Here’s hoping they will have a good rom-com sa tamang panahon.

5. I think the worst offense of this movie were the endless shoved-in-your-face product placements. Similar to My Little Bossing, it had a mini-commercial shilling Tide for turning clothes sparkly white for only 6 pesos. That bit had no bearing on a previous or succeeding scene. It just had to be inserted because Vic endorsed the said product. One scene even had Alden shopping for Tide in a convenience store. Maybe he missed laundry day?

6. Let’s play the annual Shameless Shilling Name Game: Bear Brand Adult Plus, Glutamax, O+, Phoenix Petroleum, Tide, Goldilocks, McDonald’s, Talk n Text, Solmux, Google, PLDT Home, San Miguel, and Coke. Do I get a perfect score this year?

7. Enough of the hashtags please. Whenever a movie character starts sentences with the word hashtag, a Twitter bird dies and goes to heaven.

8. The best performer in this movie was actually Valeen Montenegro. She looked gorgeous and fit her role well. I hope we see more of her in better roles.

9. Does Alden smoke?

10. That scene where they traversed Daang Hari to go to and from Zambales made me laugh out really loud.

11. To be fair, Vic and Aiai played off each other well and surprisingly delivered the expected kilig (fully supported by the audience reactions). Maybe the film should have focused on this love story instead.

12. Lola Nidora hinted at a possible sequel (highly likely given the long lines at the cinemas). Hashtag fantastic baby. Hashtag groan.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆