JUST A STRANGER (Jason Paul Laxamana, 2019)

4600C22F-1C77-46B0-8ECE-1A9D719661C1

SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Just a Stranger:

1. Sobrang tagal na pala since my last confession. (Mababasa ito ng nanay ko kaya, Sorry ma, I’m not proud of it.) Feeling ko sa haba ng listahan ng kasalanan na ikukumpisal ko, baka mauna pa matapos ang Probinsyano bago ang pag-uusap namin ni Father.

Eh paano pa kung kasing-chismoso siya ng pari dun sa simbahan ni Mae (Anne Curtis) na nagpa-kuwento ng bawat detalye ng adulterous affair niya with Jekjek (Marco Gumabao)? Yung inabot sila ng halos dalawang oras kasi kelangan niya talaga malaman kung ilang beses nag-sex yung mga cheater bago maka-prescribe ng penance (one Hail Mary ba ang norm for every instance?).

Tapos kelangan may comic relief na sisilipin niya kung gaano talaga kaganda si cougar Mae na nahumaling sa kanya ang isang teenager. At para mas nakakatawa, may reaction siya na “My God! Oh shit, sorry!” na feeling ko katumbas ng isang Sorrowful Mystery. Okay ka lang ba, Father?

(Pero salamat sa refresher on the difference between mortal and venial sins, I guess.)

2. Bilang dating president ng Reyster-Ems Fans Club – Las Piñas Chapter, alam ko na ka-love team ni Anne sa T.G.I.S. si Chubi del Rosario (who was several batches lower sa akin sa Zobel) so parang ang hirap maniwala na she was playing somebody around my age. Common naman for actors to play roles na way older or younger than their actual (or screen) age pero may binabagayan din siguro.

Hindi ko talaga matanggap na 40ish na si Anne dito at doble ng edad ni Marco (na mukha namang mid-20s). Malayong-malayo sa casting ng recent May-December love affairs na kakapanood ko lang from Glorious (Angel Aquino-Tony Labrusca) to Belle Douleur (Mylene Dizon-Kit Thompson) to Malamaya (Sunshine Cruz-Enzo Pineda).

Ang off lang nung tinawag si Mae na “tita” at tinawag niya namang “totoy” si Jekjek kasi papasa pa silang halos magkaedad (does that make me “lolo” levels ganern?). Hindi ba available si Alice Dixson?

3. Maliban sa kabit factor, selling point ng pelikula ang promised steamy love scenes na hindi ko naman masyadong naramdaman. Sobrang hot nina Anne and Marco (as in yung sexual attraction sa kanila transcends any gender; their characters even shamelessly described themselves as “attractive, winnable, charismatic”) pero parang walang heat or passion kapag magkasama na sila sa kama (or their chosen place of torjakan).

Konting halik, konting himas, tapos na agad ang eksena at pawisan na sila parehong nakahiga. I didn’t expect naman na dapat super graphic, extended, or gratuitous ang sex scenes pero at the very least ramdam yung electricity between them as soon as their bodies touched, diba? Yung parang kelangan mo ng cold shower para mahimasmasan katulad nung pagkatapos ko mapanood ang Unfaithful.

Pero wala talaga eh. Baka dun pumapasok na para nga silang mag-tita. (Btw, ang weird nung “Mobile Legends” reference.)

4. Given naman na magaling umarte si Anne. Kita mo yung loneliness sa mata niya bilang trophy wife kaya nagawa niyang lokohin ang kanyang asawa (Edu Manzano). (Side note: Bakit nga ba hindi issue ang age gap sa atin kapag lalaki ang mas matanda?)

May hint of repressed naughtiness din siya kaya madalas mag-give in sa temptations. Yung restrained niya na pag-iyak sa balcony scenes were impressive. Also, parang siya lang ang kayang magdala nung glamorous alta look pa rin habang nakasakay sa sidecar with her oversized abaniko.

Alam ko they were going for realism in terms of ugly crying (as in uhog levels ni Tita Viola Davis) pero nagtawanan (at nandiri?) ang mga tao nung nag-stretch na parang cheese sa pizza ang laway niya habang umiiyak sa kitchen. Not a fan of her acting din sa eulogy dream sequence.

5. On the other hand, okay lang ang performance ni Marco. Hindi naman siya nilamon (even literally) ni Anne. Medyo malamya lang talaga ang acting niya when the role required an immature, feeling alpha-male boy. Yung kelangan ng conviction ang pag-overcompensate niya sa sarili with lines like “You guys can take turns on me, I can go all night” kahit alam mo lalabasan talaga siya after 30 seconds. At least believable siya magsuot ng brief.

(Also, I’m officially declaring 2019 as the Year of the Cinematic Pwet.)

6. Tbh medyo nagulat ako sa output ni Jason Paul Laxamana this time kasi maayos siya na writer at storyteller. Yung tipong aawayin ka niya on social media pero wala kang malait masyado sa body of work niya kasi usually nga malinis talaga ang mga gawa niya (my favorites are still Mercury is Mine and Bakwit Boys).

Dito parang ang sloppy ng screenplay pati technical aspects. May sub-plot about Mae’s fibromyalgia na walang pinatunguhan. May eksena na nagtanggal siya ng heels in full view of other guests kahit sobrang sophisticated ng character niya. Minsan hindi ko alam kung gusto nilang maging discreet or mahuli ng ibang tao (part ba ng thrill yung naglaplapan sila sa kotseng wala namang tint?). Bigla na lang hindi na issue ang age gap nung dulo.

Pero ang worst for me was the ending. Grabe lang yung cringe factor dun na may linyahang “Who are you?” tapos sumagot si Mae ng “No one…” at nakisabay ang buong sinehan sa pagsabi ng “I’m just a stranger”. Juskopong mahabagin.

7. Cherie Gil was onscreen for a good five minutes and ended up as the most memorable character. Eksenadora ang tita mo talaga. Oh wait, don’t call her tita pala!

(At teka, naguluhan ako nung nilandi ni Edu si Cherie kasi apparently he was “into women (his) own age” pero si Mae ang asawa niya. Ano ba talaga ang type niya?)

8. Irita ako dun sa girlfriend na Febbie simula nung fake surprise scene niya (na ewan ko paano siya nagtago sa likod ng parents ni Jekjek) hanggang dun sa chaka niya na pag-iyak sa church. Mas bagay siguro yung girl sa role ni Diablita (the doll).

9. Ang pinaka-suspension of disbelief talaga para sa akin dito (maliban sa supposed age gap) ay yung super rich kid ni Jekjek kasi sinustentuhan siya ng tatay niya para tumira sa Tokyo, Washington, at Lisbon tapos ang suot niya lagi na undies eh Bench Body.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

MALAMAYA (THE COLOR OF ASH) (Leilani Chavez, Danica Sta. Lucia, 2019)

B2B5475D-5A08-4F59-9256-173036E31426

SPOILER ALERT!!

Yung akala mo quota ka na sa cinematic pwet scenes this year salamat kay Kit Thompson sa Belle Douleur tapos biglang nagpa-hold my beer etong si Enzo Pineda. Mapapaisip ka na lang kung allergic ba siya sa underwear (at kung bakit ang weird ng tan lines niya sa butt area).

Nakipagsabayan naman si Mommy Sunshine Cruz sa hubaran pero mas artsy ang sa kanya so more takip-takip ng kumot sa private areas na dati eh in full display in all their shining glory sa Ekis at Ang Kabit ni Mrs. Montero.

Hindi glorious ang May-December tambalan na ito kasi gusto ko agad sila maghiwalay after their first chorvahan sa kotse. Wala akong nakitang reason at all for them to be together. Kahit sa sex parang di sila compatible. Mas may heat pa yung mga askals na laging magkadikit sa kalye namin.

Ang idea pa nito ng female empowerment ay yung hindi kelangan ni Sunshine ng lalaki to climax kasi kaya niya yun sa tatlong haplos ng kanyang abstract art piece. Besides, who needs a guy when she can perform teabagging on her own using Lipton diba?

Ang strength ng pagkababae niya ay evident naman tuwing tumatayo siya directly sa harap ng projector na hindi nasisilaw. Anong migraine-migraine? Weaklings!! She’s a strong, independent woman na pwede ding substitute for a white screen.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

BELLE DOULEUR (Joji Villanueva Alonso, 2019)

1F3F0F2C-D06D-4AA8-8F0F-0D5E6E6B83BD

SPOILER ALERT!!

Umay levels ang iba’t-ibang anggulo ng pwet ni Kit Thompson na medyo tuod pa rin umarte. Sa sobrang dami ng sex scenes nila ni Mylene Dizon, naubusan ng “nadiligang flower” metaphors ang director. (Also, ang saya talaga kapag privileged kasi pwedeng mag-sex na lang kayo all day, every day na walang iniisip na trabaho.)

Sobrang hot ni Mylene na parang hindi masyadong tumanda si Melanie Suntay niya sa Gimik. Kaya di rin masyadong ramdam for me ang sinasabing age gap. Yung parang Maricel Soriano-Diether Ocampo sa Soltera na mapapaisip ka kung true love ba or pineperahan lang siya.

Technically, malinis ang pelikula. Napaka-glossy na parang Star Cinema movie. Nung naglakad nga si Mylene sa UP grounds, akala ko biglang magiging Alone/Together. Tapos self-love ulit ang theme. Kakapanood ko lang nito sa Hello, Love, Goodbye ah.

#Y (Gino Santos, 2014)

714EB301-D482-4E3B-AB0E-CE0017246DB6

SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on #Y:

1. We do not live in a Star Cinema world where all conflicts get magically resolved for the requisite happy ending. In our reality, mental health problems exist without an absolute cure. In our reality, people think that “clinical depression with mild bipolar and schizophrenic tendencies” is just a fancy-schmancy condition conjured by quack doctors to explain the loneliness felt by millennials. In our reality, people with suicidal tendencies get crucified for being selfish and for not having Jesus in their lives.

And so I was incredibly furious upon realizing that the nihilistic version of this film (that I really liked) during its Cinemalaya run was turned into a positive, life-affirming, family-friendly fluff in its theatrical cut (that I recently rewatched on iWant). Why, Star Cinema, why??

2. The film started with Miles (Elmo Magalona and his perpetually glazed eyes) standing on a building’s rooftop and contemplating suicide. He described in detail his past encounters with death before proclaiming that life was a prison that needed an escape and then he… whipped out his phone to record his goodbye message. Kids nowadays, right?

One of the things I admired about Gino Santos’ early works (this and his breakthrough debut The Animals) was that he had a clear grasp of his subjects. He (lovingly/viciously) presented the duality of the social media generation as vapid and careless and self-absorbed (one character slashed her wrist using a cut-up Platinum credit card) while being independent and liberal and carefree. All the partying, drug use, and casual sex depicted here would definitely make the old ladies clutch on to their pearl necklaces, but hey, that was this Gen-Y’s (unapologetic) reality.

3. Whenever Miles would smile and assure his friends that he was okay even if he clearly wasn’t, I really felt that. I’ve always had moments when I also needed a stranger like Abbie (Chynna Ortaleza and her spot-on call center accent) to calm my nerves and bring me back to my senses. Somebody who didn’t know you enough to judge you or question why you still weren’t happy even if it felt like you had everything you needed in your life. The fact that it was never really explained why Miles wanted to end his life spoke so much about his debilitating condition.

I just hope Abbie didn’t reflect the current status of our local lifeline centers. It was sad and frustrating to hear her touch on spirituality and even guilt-trip her caller into backing out of suicide (“Isipin mo ang mga maiwan mo na tao, hindi nila deserve yun”). The fact that she was consoling other people while suffering from her own grief was doubly heartbreaking, though.

4. The good-looking, real-life conyo kids that played Miles’ friends definitely fit their respective roles. My favorite was easily Coleen Garcia as the school slut (her words, not mine) Janna. That entire bit about a lover licking her ears that hadn’t been cleaned for a week made me want to puke while laughing. (Although if she really had been bedding a lot of her schoolmates, why would these guys still think that she was a virgin?). Coleen was so good here that I remembered saying that she even performed better than the Superstar that year. Who else could deliver a throwaway line like “Kinikilig ako just by looking at him” and totally bring the house down? Your move, La Aunor.

I wonder whatever happened to Sophie Albert’s career. I really thought she would make it big after winning Artista Academy. As Lia, she was the right amount of annoying and insecure (especially with her Forever 21 wardrobe). On the other hand, Kit Thompson’s Ping was extremely detestable and probably best represented the (worst?) kind of his generation. His biggest comeuppance was when Miles included him in that farewell video with the words “I’ll see you soon”. Ouch!!

Side note: Why did they have to butcher his masturbation scene? Damn you, Star Cinema!!

5. It was only apt that Miles idolized Holden Caulfield (The Catcher in the Rye, hello?) who taught me the meaning of the word “phony”. A seemingly inauthentic and shallow generation unfairly judged by society while they faced real-life problems? This story needed a tragedy, not a forced inspirational ending. Release the Cinemalaya cut!!

“Being happy and having no right to be unhappy are two completely different things.”

Rating: ★★★★☆

(Originally published August 2, 2014.)

LAKBAY2LOVE (Ellen Ongkeko-Marfil, 2016)

12642808_10153875490403544_3966404949248712505_n

SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Lakbay2Love:

1. I didn’t have a lot of good memories with bicycles. I learned how to bike after several scrapes and bruises because I didn’t have one with training wheels and my grandfather’s idea of teaching was letting go after five steps and pushing as hard as he could to propel me forward. When I was six, I had the unfortunate luck of biking on a street with rabid dogs that tried to chomp on my then skinny legs (friends, now you know why I’m also scared of dogs). As a teen, my mountain bike got stolen even if we had high walls and it was safely parked in our dirty kitchen. On that day (and with the loss of belief in the goodness of society), I swore off biking in my life forever.

2. Solenn Heussaff played Lianne, a girl that also swore off biking after her father abandoned them for good and left her crying on the gutter under the dramatic pouring rain. She then engaged herself in the world of biking towards a journey of love and self-discovery. Lianne’s tragic life story was boring (“I’m torn between Dennis Trillo and Kit Thompson! Oh, poor me!”). On the other hand, the introduction to the world of biking was awesome. Now why didn’t they make this one a documentary instead?

3. If the Yolanda reference, climate change discussion, and scenes of deforestation weren’t obvious enough, this was an environmental advocacy movie. Lianne was completely right when she mentioned that her problems were so petty compared to the themes being presented here. I wish there were less “Ang pagbibisekleta ay parang lovemaking. Pag nagawa mo na, di mo na makakalimutan” and more of “Kapag maraming alitaptap, ibig sabihin malinis ang hangin.”

4. I really believe that Solenn is one of our underrated actresses. Her performance here was so natural that it was like watching outtakes of the entire shoot. She was just being herself and she (and her flawless armpits) looked even lovelier amidst the gorgeous sunset and luscious rainforests. Who else could deliver a line like “Ang sakit sa pechay!” and still look classy and respectable?

5. If Victor Basa and Rami Malek had a child, it would be Kit Thompson.

6. In one scene (and as if she wasn’t unreachable already), Solenn spoke in fluent French. Dennis (playing Alamat, a cyclist so passionate that he even wore t-shirts with bicycles on them) then joked “Akala ko kasi di mo lang masabi ang mamon nung bata ka pa eh.” I told you we didn’t need this love story.

7. To further drive the point, here’s another groaner delivered by Dennis:

“Relak! Baka ka mag collap. Wag ka ten.”

8. Why are feminine hygiene products so versatile? I’ve seen tampons used as nose plugs and here they used a pantyliner as first aid to a face wound. How absorbent were those things? (Obviously, very.) Talk about a happy period.

9. I loved the scene where the chismosa relatives started spilling the childhood secrets of Alamat (“Naku nung bata yan, hindi yan naliligo!”) A family reunion wouldn’t be complete without any form of embarrassment.

10. It was my first time to hear a version of the Eraserheads’ Overdrive as a biking theme. “Magba-bike ako hanggang Bicol” made me reach out for my inhaler.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆