BORN BEAUTIFUL (Perci Intalan, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Born Beautiful:

1. Originally planned as a series on Cignal TV, this spin-off of the 2016 critical hit (and a personal fave) Die Beautiful was supposedly the first five episodes of the show turned into a full-length feature. Although the decision was understandable given the material’s commercial appeal, this also served as its main weakness. The transition from TV to film resulted into some messy storytelling (several arcs felt stretched to fill an episode), underdeveloped characters, the lack of a clear resolution (a lot of people would definitely find the ending bitin), and some surface-level views on weighty issues. Even worse, we didn’t really get to know more about everyone’s favorite BFF Barbs, except that she made funny “arf arf arf” sounds during sex.

2. I was very disappointed that Christian Bables didn’t reprise his Urian-winning role because he would always be the Barbs that we deserved. It was such an effortless and lived-in performance that was sorely missing in this movie (plus the fact that the original relied on the wonderful chemistry between him and Paolo Ballesteros’ Trisha, who sadly only showed up here for a couple of scenes including a killer Mama Mary moment).

Martin del Rosario was fine as Barbs 2.0, but under all the wigs and make-up (and occasional tucking) it still felt like a committed Martin del Rosario playing Barbs 2.0. And would it be weird to say that he was just much too beautiful for the role? If Barbs (hello Taong Lego?) looked this gorgeous, then she wouldn’t be playing second fiddle to Trisha and would actually be winning all the beaucons instead.

3. While Die Beautiful presented a clear picture of Trisha’s character with her childhood dream of becoming a beauty queen, growing up in a homophobic household, and being subjected to all forms of abuse, this sequel focused on Barbs being torn between two men (and facing possible fatherhood). Medyo mababaw lang.

I would have wanted to learn more about Barbs’ personal life, including her goals and motivations, or how she coped up with her best friend’s death, or even how she learned (or what inspired) all those make-up transformations. I guess her new and improved face only merited a love triangle plot.

4. To be fair, there were still a lot of enjoyable (read: LOL) moments here. I found it smart that they were able to connect the Jamby quip in the first with Barbs’ identity confusion problems in this one (“Mukha kang tomboy na nag-aalok ng Bear Brand!”). I cackled with glee when she mentioned that Kim Kardashian’s look cost 3.5k and the 350 version was for Kim delos Santos. And should I feel guilty that I laughed at the sight of the stroke victim’s corpse and after Barbs covered it up with a Lady Gaga circa 2009 MTV Video Music Awards kukur look (“Mukha siyang malaking regla at ikaw ang pasador”)? Or that the beki friends recommended a Rihanna transformation for their other friend that died from electrocution (“Dahil lang sunog, kelangan na negra?”) and ended up with a Sia walis-tambo look (“Sia Pusit!”)? Maybe not.

The lamest humor came from the tired beauty pageant introduction segment. Seriously, how many more times should we hear that rehashed “Seventy-eight, seventy-nine, Haiti!” joke before it gets permanently banned in Pinoy queer cinema?

5. Aside from Barbs, the Michael Angelo 2.0 character had a nose lift that resulted to a face overhaul and was now played by Artista Academy’s Akihiro Blanco. It felt odd that he was one of the men fighting over her when he was the ex of Trisha in the first film.

Wait lang Barbs, tumulong ka sugurin ang karibal ni Trisha, tinawag mo na ahas, nakipagsabunutan sa parlor, pagkatapos tinalo mo rin sa dulo ang BFF mo? Hindi talaga lahat ng ahas nasa gubat. Yung iba nagtatrabaho sa Happy Endings Funeral Homes. (Kaya ka rin siguro laging minumulto ni Trisha! Malandi, haliparot, talipandas!)

From the rest of the supporting cast, I really loved Lou Veloso back as Mama Flora (“Ang gugulo n’yo. Mag-chupaan na lang tayong lahat!”), Joey Paras as one of the Way of Light pastors, and Chai Fonacier as the baby mama Yumi. What happened to the other beki BFFs from the first film, though?

6. I really appreciated some of the witty ways the film expressed its views on current issues like the death penalty (“People can change for the better”), gender neutral bathrooms, single-blessedness (“Hindi mo naman kelangan ng partner para maging reyna”), abortion, and open relationships. That entire conversion therapy bit was also brutal (literally and figuratively) that many overzealous faithful would probably get triggeredt.

7. In one scene, Yumi was graphically describing how she ended up getting pregnant through some vulgar words and hand movements. It was meant to be hilarious (and probably one of the movie’s highlights), but ended up getting completely ruined by all the bleeping (even the subtitles were censored!). Please note that the version I watched was already rated R-18, or For Adults Only by the tasked moral guardians.

I just found it funny that one of the promotional materials for this film commended the MTRCB for being “progressive”. Totoo ba? Saang banda?

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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GLASS (M. Night Shyamalan, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Glass:

1. Unbreakable was supposedly a play on the yin and yang elements between superhero David Dunn (Bruce Willis) and villain Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson). One was just discovering his superpowers (and in turn his kryptonite: water!!), one was searching for his polar opposite slash ultimate foe (blowing up trains and buildings in the process), and both of them were trying to determine their purpose in this world. Although Elijah’s story was integral to the whole superhero lore, his evil character still played a supporting role to the real bida of the first film.

I was really excited to hear that the third installment to this Eastrail 177 Trilogy was called Glass because it should place his character front and center (considering that the movie was named after him, right?). Well, not exactly. He didn’t even show up until almost an hour into this bloated movie. If I were a secondary character in my own film, I’d probably feel the need to create a lot of chaos as well.

2. Even worse, it gathered three really interesting superhero comic book characters (that also included Kevin Wendell Crumb aka The Beast and twenty-something plus other personalities called The Horde, all played by the terrific James McAvoy) and decided to keep them locked up in a psychiatric facility for majority of the running time. They were only set free to interact with each other during the final act showdown (and yes, one of them actually explained how a showdown worked in comic books for the non-nerds) which still made little sense.

Side note: When we had some American clients come over for a visit, they were creeped out when I informed them that they would be staying at The Bellevue Hotel Alabang. One of them later on explained that Bellevue’s a popular mental hospital in the U.S. At least her family and friends had a good laugh when they learned where she was checked in.

3. Sarah Paulson played a doctor straight out of her American Horror Story wheelhouse who kept trying to make the three believe that they were merely suffering from delusions of grandeur. Wait, who was she trying to convince? It couldn’t possibly be the audience that knew the truth from the first two films. Oh, it was all just a setup for the requisite twist in the end with the Clover Chips Organization.

Also, given the nature of these patients, why was security so lax in that place? If Elijah (with the most brittle bones and in a wheelchair) could easily get out of his room, shouldn’t they have more people manning the place? Oh, also part of the twist. Pfft and pfft!!

4. It was a treat to see a grown up Spencer Clark (wink, wink). I just wish his acting skills matured as well (that wide-eyed kid look could only take him so far). He did have one of the funniest lines here when he mentioned the catchphrase, “We’re gonna salt bae your ass!”. Now if only Robin Wright returned as well… (It was nice to see some of the old/unused footage from Unbreakable, too.)

5. The lines that made me cringe:

• “Only the true version of love can heal (him).” Eww! So all this time, Kevin could have been cured by true love’s kiss? What’s next, Elijah proclaiming the wonders of a happy working song?

• “You’re fighting for the broken. You found your purpose.” Not enough space for the eyeroll emojis.

• “This is not a limited edition. This was an origin story the whole time.” Keep explaining for the non-nerds at the back, Elijah!

6. The lines that made me happy:

• The cool delivery of “First name Mister. Last name Glass”.

• “Have you ever been to a comic book convention? They sell teen TV shows there!” LOL!!

7. Burning questions:

• Wait, so Elijah Price who wanted to be the best (or worst?) antagonist in the world ended up as a hero? Why??

• How deep was that puddle?

• Was I the only who thought that every single one of The Horde personalities would get a chance to have its own tearful goodbye? (That was a really long dying scene, no?)

• In that final train station scene, how did they know it was the CCTV footage that was going viral and not say, the news about Kim and Kanye’s new baby?

8. M. Night Shyamalan created his own cinematic universe so he made sure of his Stan Lee-like cameo in almost every one of his movies. Or was he trying to be Hitchcock instead? (Insert possible twist here.)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆