BRIDE FOR RENT (Mae Czarina Cruz, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Bride for Rent:

1. Trying hard to act was one thing. Trying really hard to play it straight was another.

2. The lines were so corny but Kim Chiu delivered them with such gusto. I really loved her comic timing in these rom-coms.

3. Lola’s boy. Check. Spiffy wardrobe. Check. Worked in a production company. Check. Screamed like a girl. Check. No wonder he didn’t want to get married.

4. I think I just split my kidneys while laughing so hard during Kim’s shower scene. She completely owned this movie.

5. Kim and Xian looked good together so the kilig factor was high but I wished he could go toe-to-toe with her acting prowess.

6. I really liked the bit with the real-life couples. It made me want to believe in forever.

7. “If a person knows how to say sorry, then he is a step closer to becoming a better person.”

8. Oh no, I bet Chinito would be messing with my brain the entire night!

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published January 20, 2014.)

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ETIQUETTE FOR MISTRESSES (Chito Rono, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Etiquette for Mistresses:

1. It was not the train wreck that I expected and it was all because of the skillful direction of Chito Rono and his cast of competent actresses. The movie was actually reminiscent of Rono’s own Separada with five women dealing with their own personal problems but united by a common concern (basically, men).

2. The story of the core group (that included an understated yet exemplary performance by Iza Calzado, a light and comical take by Kim Chiu, a fiery turn by Claudine Barretto in full Mela mode, a hilarious Cheena Crab, and not-so-annoying acting by Kris Aquino) didn’t break new ground but it would make one pity (not empathize with) these “holiday orphans”.

3. The mix of cameos (the stellar Pilar Pilapil, a graceful Mother Mistress Helen Gamboa), the interesting rules (“Mistresses don’t complain, that is the job of the Mrs.”, “Perish all thought that someday you’ll be number 1”, “When all else fails, leave him”), and the overall sadness of situations made it completely watchable.

4. Favorite scenes:

• Explanation of Lucky Moon

• The throwaway Timezone joke

• That confrontation scene shot in the shadows! And that slap heard around the world!! (I swear everyone in the theater gasped and feared for their own lives.)

Worst scenes:

• Cellphone breaks car window (huh?)

• Excessive focus on Kim’s character (did we need that lengthy guitar sequence?)

• The police sequence straight out of Eskapo

5. If only Star Cinema could control itself on its requisite happy ending complete with surprise leading men cameos.

Now sing with me: “And don’t tell me what to do, and don’t tell me what to say, and please when I go out with you, don’t put me on display. You don’t own meeeee…”

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published October 1, 2015.)

YOU’RE MY BOSS (Antoinette Jadaone, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on You’re My Boss:

1. My biggest problem with the entire movie was that the love story between Georgina (Toni Gonzaga) and her ex-boyfriend Gino (JM de Guzman) was much more interesting than her strained blooming relationship with Pong (Coco Martin). Whereas the latter relied heavily on the typical rom-com cliches and the requisite happy ending, the former easily hit home with its relatable (read: “hugot”) take on breaking up and moving on.

2. Toni played the bitch boss from hell who probably watches The Devil Wears Prada during her free time while Coco played her assistant who couldn’t even properly pronounce the words “global” and “social media” (actually, almost any English word). They might have been playing variations of themselves but they still nailed their respective roles. And I just have to say that Coco’s lisp was actually part of his charms.

3. A lot of people will compare this to The Proposal but it actually felt like a rip-off of every Jadaone movie (love song sing-off: check, plane scene: check, travelogue destination: check). Not that I’m complaining.

4. How slow was that elevator? It took several minutes just to reach the third floor. No wonder Georgina’s always mad.

5. Although there were a couple of scenes that made me laugh (“Huwag mo ko i-pressure iho. Load lang ‘to, di mo ‘to ikamamatay”), the rest of the jokes just fell flat. The elevator scene where Georgina mentioned “more chances of winning” was met with cricket sounds. Some scenes also stretched on forever without any major punchlines (Georgina teaching Poy how to properly pronounce words, for example). Even some will be completely dated a few months from now (“Ikaw yung nasa Binibining Pilipinas! Are you looking forward to your second time?”).

6. Georgina who was supposedly a fashion expert said, “Ang lalaki kapag bulaklak ibinibigay, hindi isinusuot.” I guess she missed last year’s Prada and Gucci Spring/Summer collection. Mayor Atienza is definitely way ahead of the times. (Was the stab at Coco’s fashion sense intentional? Kris and Kim were probably laughing somewhere.) Oh, and Toni’s clothes here were fabulous.

7. I found it funny that the van scenes were shot in a loop around Madrigal and Daang Hari. They were literally going in circles before ending up in Makati. Only a Southerner would know that.

8. For the role reversal to be completely believable, the movie’s asking us to check our brains at the door. How could an AVP make such stupid business decisions (to correct an already stupid viral scandal, to boot)? How could investors not know the VP of an international airline that they would like to have business with? How long will that charade continue before the Japanese investors find out that Pong wasn’t really the boss? They couldn’t keep that a secret forever, right? Was it done just to deliver the movie’s message of honesty? Please. Everything was a business fantasy where a slide show presentation made by a 12-year could win over an international investor.

9. I expected Pong to teach Georgina how to treat people well (like Manong Driver). So many missed opportunities.

10. Does the Seen functionality work on all phones? Georgina mocked the cellphone of Pong (“Walang magnanakaw niyan”) but it seemed to be working with its own iMessage.

11. Coco was able to shill most of his endorsements but the one that really worked for me was Argentina corned beef. I started craving for a hot bowl of rice topped with onion-covered corned beef. Yum!

12. Expect a lot of people flocking to Batanes after seeing this movie. The place just looked gorgeous. It was much better here than in Dementia. I would definitely want to visit that Honesty Store. And any place with zero crime rate is tops in my book.

13. Stay for the end credits. It was the funniest bit in the entire movie.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published April 5, 2015.)

DOTGA: DA ONE THAT GHOST AWAY (Tony Reyes, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on DOTGA: Da One That Ghost Away:

1. I was surprised that Vhong Navarro wasn’t included in the cast given that he headlined the last two horror-comedy films of Star Cinema (please note that I didn’t consider the unintentionally comedic horror films of Kris Aquino, like Segunda Mano where she pissed her pants in terror for buying a secondhand Prada bag).

In terms of comparison, this one was less like Bulong (actually a guilty pleasure) and more of Da Possessed (which had the gall to make fun of Vhong’s rape case). I already expected tons of corny jokes and lame slapstick humor, but even with my IQ lowered and in full babaw mode, I could only muster one giggle in all 100 minutes (again, I only counted the intentional one because I spent the entire movie hysterically laughing at Enzo Pineda’s acting that he equated with wide eyes and flaring nostrils).

2. Carmel (Kim Chiu) and Jerald (Ryan Bang) were ghost hunters slash con artists that brought along their team dressed as horror film characters (Ghost Bride, Chucky, Tiyanak, etc.) to terrorize and pretend exorcise haunted houses. She used a magical triangle (yes, the musical instrument in the percussion family) and shouted nonsensical chants (“Mother Ignacia! Sergeant Esguerra! Papuntang Abra!”) as part of her ritual. I was surprised that there were people who actually fell for this kind of silliness (although their first victim was a Krizzy impersonator and we all knew how gullible she could get).

3. This movie was rated PG because the MTRCB thought that parents could easily explain what Carmel meant when she said “Sabi na di ako nagpi-pinger eh” after using a dating app called PinGer. Or why she kept emphasizing the name of Enzo as JACK COLmenares (just in case it still wasn’t obvious enough, his name was written exactly like that on a white board). Should we expect the Colmenares sisters to be named Jaja, Nadia, and Gina? Seriously, this type of Pinoy green humor hadn’t been funny since my high school days circa ‘90s.

4. Terrible, terrible editing. In one scene, Serrah (Maymay Entrata) was looking at her compact mirror and asking “What is that ghost I see?” and then it abruptly cut to her and Chire (Edward Barber) walking to school. What was that about?

(Also, as a huge #MayWard fan, please give them a good film that they actually deserved! Sayang talaga sila!)

5. Oh, Jerald also worked as a language teacher in a school called Fil-Eng-The-Blanks. Wala na bang ikaka-corny pa ang pelikulang ito?

6. The only funny scene that I mentioned earlier was a brief gag where Carmel hugged a sweaty Jack, then wiped the wet part of her cheek with her left hand, and smelled it like she was endorsing the newest Downy fabric conditioner. It was a testament to Kim’s charm and sharp comic timing that a throwaway moment like that would actually work.

7. If Enzo acted like his life (or career?) depended on it, on the other end of the spectrum was Ronnie Alonte who didn’t even feel the need to act at all (was it because it was just a cameo role?).

8. Tabako vs Sadako? Bearable. Valak vs Halak? Meh. Black Panty vs Black Panther? Wala na maisip??

9. I felt bad for the extras in the scene where they pretended to freeze as part of a spell (think Mannequin Challenge only without music). Carmel had this really lengthy monologue (“Oo nasaktan na ako lola. Shinota niya ang best friend mo!!”) and you could actually see some of them in the background starting to shake (as in nanginginig na sa sobrang ngalay). I could have subbed for any of them because I had always been a master Statue Dancer.

10. Carmel: “Ikaw pa rin ang DOTGA ko!”

Jerald: “Da One That Ghost Away?”

Carmel: “Da One That Gusto Ako Pero Baka Maging Gusto Ko Rin!!”

Huh? Isn’t that DOTGAPBMGKR?!

Kimmy, pinapainit mo ang anit sa ibabaw ng ulo ko!!

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

SMALLER AND SMALLER CIRCLES (Raya Martin, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

One character probably summed it up best when he mentioned that the others may have seen one too many Hollywood crime films since there were no serial killers in the Philippines (hail Queen Jessica Zafra!). Although this adaptation of the Palanca-winning novel by F.H. Batacan had a distinctly Pinoy setting (what screamed poverty more than the Payatas dumpsite?), nothing else felt authentic in this slow-paced procedural slash disappointing non-thriller.

I couldn’t get past the unnatural dialogue between the two conyo Jesuit priests (Nonie Buencamino and Sid Lucero). When the latter said something like “Nobody raised a stink?”, I just wanted to make tungga a bottle of holy water. Although these served well during one Atenista joke, the English conversations just felt (what did you call it again, Holden Caulfield?), ah yes, phony. Don’t get me started on the unnecessary (oh look we’re multilingual!) French talk.

Even the themes didn’t exactly break new ground. Inefficiency of our local crime units? Politicians taking advantage of the poor? Abusive power of the Church? Pedophile priests? Where was Joel Lamangan when you needed him? Worse, the big reveal of the killer felt very anticlimactic with the introduction of a last minute character (and not in a menacing Kevin Spacey in Se7en way) whose motives and modus weren’t fully explained.

At least it had the budget for a competent all-star cast, lovely cinematography and terrific production design (that fully captured the grimy late 90s aesthetics). It also obviously wasn’t a rushed production with a pre-keto diet Mae Paner (and was that the late Joy Viado in one scene?).

I got bored during the sluggish killer confession scene so I just imagined a more interesting version of the movie in my head. I renamed Buencamino’s Father Saenz as Father Science since he was a forensics expert anyway and with all the victims’ missing hearts and genitals, he sought the help of Kim Chiu’s Mayen who already had an experience with monsters that shove organs down people’s throats. Chito Roño’s Smaller and Smaller Bagwas, anyone?

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

GIRLFRIEND FOR HIRE (Vanessa de Leon, 2016

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My notes on Girlfriend for Hire:

1. It was only a couple of years ago when they showed Bride for Rent, a Star Cinema rom-com where a hilarious Kim Chiu played the beard of the wooden Xian Lim. She pretended to be his future bride because she desperately needed money and he plotted the whole charade to please his grandmother (and get his trust fund).

Girlfriend for Hire had the exact same plot. Nami (Yassi Pressman) needed scholarship money so she agreed to be the pretend girlfriend of Bryle (Andre Paras) whose desperate grandfather wanted him to continue their Stanford legacy.

Seriously though, why couldn’t these rich, decent, good-looking men land real girlfriends? Made me wonder if it was an equipment or gender issue. And why do these movies always involve renting/hiring women? May I suggest Boytoy for Lease with KC Concepcion and Piolo Pascual?

2. I found it off that Bryle kept treating Nami like shit and it was supposed to be funny and romantic. In one scene, he actually commanded her to “get down on (her) knees and give it to (him)”. In another scene, out of selos, he dragged her inside a room like Chris Brown being sweet to Rihanna. The worst was when he ate the only piece of chocolate strawberry cake that she was craving for. As a fat kid outside, I felt her physical and emotional pain.

3. I love the Yassi-Andre love team not only because they’re bagay but also because they’re not annoying actors (they even had the most genuine onscreen kiss in this movie). I guess I was surprised when the usually charming Andre was forced to let loose (eyes popping, nostrils flaring, spittle flying) and overact like he was auditioning for a The Mask sequel. In his previous (terrible) movies (Diary ng Panget, Your Place or Mine?), he was funny without even trying. I hope they get way better projects soon. Sayang ang potential.

4. I therefore conclude that the Ultimate Kakaibabe Donnalyn Bartolome is the new Nikki Valdez.

5. My favorite scenes in the movie were:

• When Bryle’s alta grandfather showed him a Powerpoint presentation (presumably made by a 6-year old) of the country’s eligible bachelorettes that he probably met in Cafe Havana

• When Nami mindlessly crossed the street under the pouring rain and Bryle almost hit her with his car and he screamed, “Anong ginagawa mo sa gitna ng ulan?” (Hindi talaga sa gitna ng kalsada??)

• When Nami took Bryle to a palengke and he had the gall to complain about his ruined outfit (white shorts and Toms) (Wait, sarado ba ang lahat ng supermarkets?)

• When Nami’s hot neighbor saw all the ingredients of pesto pasta (noodles, pesto sauce) and correctly guessed that she was preparing the said dish, she acted all shocked and asked, “Paano mo nalaman??” (Girl, it doesn’t take a chef to know that.)

6. Product placements galore. The SMDC sign (complete with Sarah G.’s face) was shown every thirty minutes. I think they even used the exact same room in The Breakup Playlist.

Also, after eating a heavy meal (three cups of rice and all), Bryle still ordered a Greenwich Barkada-Size Ultimate Overload and I knew that was what he ordered because the Greenwich delivery guy loudly said it at the door (“Hello Sir! Here’s your order of one Greenwich Barkada-Size Ultimate Overload!”). Now that got me hungry. Product placement worked.

7. You know this was a fantasy because the lovely Yassi still had her own makeover montage (when all she needed to do was comb her hair). Weirdly enough, she reminded me so much of Mailes Kanapi (please tell me I’m not crazy).

Also, Yassi preferred Andre’s baby fats over her abstastic neighbor (you immediately knew that she didn’t like hottie neighbor because she devoured an entire chicken right in front of him).

8. The last minute introduction of Shy Carlos as Bryle’s girlfriend didn’t serve any purpose except to ensure that the movie reached its quota of Viva talents.

Again, better movies for them, please!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

ALL YOU NEED IS PAG-IBIG (Antoinette Jadaone, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on All You Need Is Pag-ibig:

1. It’s easy to identify if you’re watching an Antoinette Jadaone romantic-comedy. After the success of That Thing Called Tadhana, almost everything that she has written and/or directed followed a standard template with the usual elements (an animated prologue with a heart, a scene inside a moving vehicle like a bus or a plane, crying scene over the same pares restaurant, lovely out-of-town location, etc.). The only thing different in this movie was the omnibus structure similar to Love Actually.

2. The problem with having a lot of interconnected stories was the limited time being allotted per narrative. The movie also tried to force several unnecessary connections with its characters. Unfortunately, it chose to focus on the weakest and most formulaic love story (sorry KimXi fans), further reducing the screen time of the most interesting ones (the more grown-up A Very Special Love workplace romance of Jodi Sta. Maria and Ian Veneracion, and a variation of 1st Ko Si 3rd’s dying marriage between Nova Villa and Ronaldo Valdez).

3. Kris Aquino played a love guru named Love with her own popular talk slash advice show. Her character suffered a major meltdown on live TV while being interviewed by Boy Abunda. It should be noted that Kris was completely silent during the first few minutes of the said interview (a first on Philippine TV) and that the said meltdown was not triggered by Boy’s imaginary mirror. It should also be noted that in a future scene, Kris could be seen wearing a bikini and that immediately set off my holiday depression.

4. The major source of kilig here came from the Jodi and Ian tandem simply because they were really bagay. There was nothing original in their love story but you couldn’t help but feel all tingly inside with every stolen glance and sweet gesture. Their story alone was worth the price of admission.

Star Cinema, please tell me that they have their own movie coming out soon (preferably without Jodi’s horrendous wig).

5. Coron, Palawan looked gorgeous. If only I were not averse to sunshine, I would have booked a flight already.

6. I have loved Kim Chiu since she discovered her inner comedienne in Bakit Hindi Ka Crush ng Crush Mo. Sometimes she just needed to rein herself in a bit especially since she was matched with the very wooden Xian Lim (perfect for a Machete remake). Every scene with him was just so annoying (no, he was not clap clap POWERFUL!) that I almost went half-bald from tearing my hair out.

7. The Facebook-like page used in one scene showed “View Photo’s”. At this point, I really went bald.

8. A lot of the funny scenes in this movie involved naked actors. Nova Villa brought the house down with her (literally) stripped down performance. A topless Xian with his mismatched face and body skin tones (put down that Chin Chun Su!) made my stomach hurt. And Derek Ramsey running butt naked on the beach wasn’t really funny but the thought that this role was originally given to Herbert Bautista (imagine Bistek’s bum!) made me laugh really hard. May I request that for a possible sequel, please?

Rating: ★★★☆☆