SNOWPIERCER (Bong Joon-ho, 2013)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Snowpiercer:

1. I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed this film. From the dull title to the seemingly tacky poster, I thought it would be a terrible B-movie at best. It ended up as a stylish and ambitious futuristic English film from a French novel and Korean director. Mindblown.

2. I guess I just really appreciated the vision of Korean filmmakers. I started last year with Park Chan-Wook’s Stoker and loved it as well. Great minds.

3. I rarely liked action films but this one just belonged to a different genre. There were equal parts suspense, violence, and comedy.

4. In an alternate universe, Tilda Swinton would get an Oscar for this film. The “Be a shoe” speech alone was just pure brilliance.

5. I’m happy I knew little about the film. Every time an Oscar nominee or winner showed up, I squealed with delight. They were all perfect!

6. I’d shut up now before I spoil it for you guys. The less you knew, the better. (I fear that it’s an acquired taste, though.)

Rating: ★★★★★

(Originally published January 30, 2014.)

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MISS GRANNY (Joyce Bernal, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Miss Granny:

1. As a huge fan, my Popster heart would always break a little whenever I’d get to read nasty comments about my Bebe Idol Sarah Geronimo. “Ang tanda na ayaw pa payagan magka-boyfriend!”, “Gurang na wala pa rin kissing scene sa movies!”, “Grabe naman si Mommy Divine gusto ata tumandang dalaga ang anak niya!“, “Ano yan pabebe hanggang 60?”, and these were even the relatively tamer ones.

I was really thrilled when I heard that she agreed to star in the remake of a Korean movie about a loathsome grandma who magically transformed back to her 20-year old self. (Manang pala si Sarah ha? O ayan literal na manang talaga sya.) Instead of raising a huge middle finger to all of her bashers, she agreed to poke fun at herself, chuckle along with the online trolls, and kill them with kindness (and laughter).

2. Although she would forever be associated with her iconic Laida Magtalas role, I could easily say that this was her best performance to date. She was just so charming as Odrey, an oldie trapped in a young person’s body. It was also a delight to see her doing things (“Ay puke!!”) that her prim and proper real persona would never do. (With that said, the limitations set to protect her image left the film with several missing pieces. More on that later.)

One of my favorite scenes was when she kept slapping Lorenz (Xian Lim) with fresh bangus without ever breaking out of character (as opposed to the latter who could barely contain his giggles). She even said something like “Bakit mo ako sinusundan na parang asong kakasta?” that cracked up every senior citizen in the audience. Another really good scene was the family dinner where grandson Jeboy (James Reid) joked about them getting married soon which made her spit out her sinigang soup. She then gave him a huge batok and said something like “Natatae ako!” which had everyone rolling in the aisles.

3. I was able to watch the original Korean version a few days before this and I had the same reservations in terms of storytelling, especially since the Pinoy adaptation was almost a shot-by-shot remake (save for the opening sequence where the original used ball metaphors to discuss ageism on women while this remake focused more on finding real happiness in motherhood). The transitions were completely off here though and several key scenes were left out that made the story feeling a bit incomplete.

One of the biggest changes was the removal of romantic encounters with Lorenz. In one scene, the Korean Odrey was asked by Korean Lorenz what she wanted in a man and her response was something like “as long as he’s a good person and good in bed”. Maybe Mommy Divine didn’t approve of hearing her daughter wanting a “lalaking magaling sa kama”? Another one that was removed and that had a huge impact on me while watching was the hairpin gift. Towards the end of the original version, old Korean Odrey locked eyes with Korean Lorenz while wearing that hairpin and it just made the scene more heartbreaking considering the new life/love that she gave up just to save her grandson.

4. I was really surprised with the jarring transitions given that Joyce Bernal’s strength as a filmmaker was that she started as a really good editor. When a local critic described this production as sloppy, I completely understood what he meant. Even little things like a few grainy scenes, some wonky subtitles (“braised beff”, “son of a tofu”??, “lawrenz”), the credits with the tilted names, and the reduced screen at the end even without the credits rolling just felt lazy overall.

5. I did appreciate the small touches made for the Pinoy setting (the taho vendor, the use of chico, the Lola Madonna reference, etc.) And there were some really inspired 60’s/70’s OPM song choices that had me in LSS mode for several hours now. The only one that I really knew was the classic Rain (originally by Boy Mondragon) because it was covered by THE Donna Cruz in the 90’s, but I couldn’t stop singing Efren Montes’ Kiss Me, Kiss Me as well (“Tanan tanan tanan!!”). Where do I send my petition for a Sarah G. retro album?

Side note: That blatant BDO billboard might have ruined the moment of a crying Fely (Nova Villa), but it was actually in the original movie only with a different brand of course (it served as a juxtaposition of a young and old woman). Now that scene where Lorenz ordered using his BDO debit card? Shameless promotion. (I did sing “Just debit with BDO!” during that sequence so…).

Another side note: Why did Odrey have a Cherry Mobile ringtone? Oppo would not be happy. And why was she made to eat crispy pata to prove the strength of her real teeth when she could have munched on a crispylicious, juicylicious Chickenjoy instead?

6. Wait, how was she able to buy Valium over the counter? And why did one banig only cost Php289? Seryoso? (Eksenadora si pharmacist, though. He made the most out of his limited screen time, unlike the usually excellent Angeli Bayani who gave a terrible performance in this movie. What happened?! Bakit level 10 agad ang pasok ng acting?)

7. I missed the Pretty Woman montage in the original, but I’m sure everyone would agree that Sarah looked incredibly gorgeous in that makeover payong reveal. Now I need to buy a parasol before my next trip to ATC.

8. I really liked the “Wag kang bibitaw” montage shown during the “Forbidden” production number. Nakakaiyak considering all the sacrifices she had to make as a single mother. It made the “letting go” scene with her son (Nonie Buencamino) even more meaningful (and even more nakakaiyak, naturally!). When he said something like, “Ma, pwede ka na umalis. At sa pag-alis mo wag kang magsasakripisyo para sa masamang anak na katulad ko”, the whole theater was flooded with tears.

Ang galing ni Nonie and natapatan sya ni Sarah sa iyakan. She was so good that I felt the need to renew my Popster card even if I already had a lifetime membership.

9. I was so excited to see the actor who would play the young Bert (Boboy Garovillo) in the big reveal at the end. I really thought it would be Matteo Guidicelli, but it ended up to be Sam Concepcion. Bakit??? What a downer!! 

Anywho, I wonder when the Forever Young Portrait Studio would magically appear again in Mother Ignacia Street. I need to be ready.

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: ★☆☆☆☆

FANGIRL/FANBOY (Barry Gonzalez, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Fangirl/Fanboy:

1. In one scene, a supposedly talented dubber Aimee (Ella Cruz) was not allowed to enter the studio because she forgot her company ID. To prove that she actually worked there (as a “Dubberkads”, wenk wenk), she mimicked the voices of her famous characters such as Shan Cai of Meteor Garden and Princess Sarah of Patatas Kingdom. The problem though was that she didn’t sound anywhere close to them and it was very much like Ella Cruz doing terrible impersonations that would make Miss Minchin furious.

Even worse, when she dubbed the lines for her Korean robot character Sandy/Android 5000 (Yam Concepcion), it seemed that they used another person’s voice in lieu of Ella’s. So we had a Koreanovela character dubbed by a dubber character who was also dubbed by another real person? Confused yet? Was this supposed to be the Inception of dubbing?

2. Even with a half-decent story, it was just hard to buy the romance between Aimee and Ollie (Julian Trono) because the leads had zero chemistry. There were instances when it felt like I was watching siblings flirt with each other and it just made me squirm in my seat.

Maybe it was because Ella still looked like a kid (Aryana feels!) so it was weird seeing her sexualized by wearing a French maid costume (why did she even own one in the first place?). It was like a scene straight out of Toddlers and Tiaras.

There was also something off with Julian and his slo-mo pa-cute scenes that reminded me of Michael Jackson in Moonwalker.

When the two were having fun running around a fountain (drone shots galore!), it was the same kind of happiness I saw between Jocelyn and Jervy in Mga Batang Yagit. Now where was Xian Gaza when you actually needed him?

3. Aimee’s mom (a sublime Yayo Aguila): “Anong nangyayari sa’yo?”

Aimee (kinikilig): “Ay, wala po. May ipis kasi.”

Aimee’s mom: “Ipis?! Nasaan?!”

Aimee: “Ay, ayun po. Lumipad palabas. Feeling butterfly eh.”

Wenk, wenk, wenk.

4. Given their huge height difference, how did Aimee end up kissing Ollie on the lips when she got hit by that fire exit door? Napatalon ang mga labi sa takot? Para-paraan? Hokage moves? (Yung totoo. Sa Adam’s apple ni Ollie sya dapat nasalubsob.)

5. I felt bad that Aimee was given a gay bff (trope) that proved useless to her. When they were having a discussion regarding that unfortunate (?) kiss, she asked his advice if it actually meant something and his response was, “Wala nang panget ngayon. Marami na lang tamad mag-ayos.” Huh?! Whatever happened to a gay character being the voice of reason in rom-coms? You were supposed to be her friend, not her pimp. Bakla ka ng taon!

6. I liked how the movie touched on the Koreanovela craze and the local industry’s expectations on love teams. I wish they could have done more than just provide basic observations. Also, why were they already shooting a local remake of that Program to Love show when the original was still being shown?

7. I wouldn’t want to work in that studio that seemed to receive bomb threats every week. Hindi sapat ang HMO para sa stress at near-death stampede experience.

8. As always, Shy Carlos (as bitchy diva Cheska) was the highlight of the movie. Along with her entourage (personal assistant Donnalyn Bartolome and twin set of alalays), she effectively wreaked havoc over everything that stood in her path (literally and figuratively). I laughed so hard when she delivered the line, “Aminin mo nga sa kin. Girlfriend mo ba ‘tong jej fangirl na ‘to?” Seriously, we need her in all Viva movies.

9. Librarian to Aimee after the latter misplaced a History book: “Kelan pa naging fiction ang History?”

Aimee: “Kapag ‘di mo na alam ang guni guni sa katotohanan.”

Ehrm. I was more troubled that Aimee ruined the Dewey Decimal System.

10. So Aimee suffered a mild heart attack after Ollie acted all Judas Iscariot and denied (three times?) that she was his girlfriend. But then Ollie retaliated against Cheska and blamed her for everything. His final, profound words: “Not everyone revolves around you and your heng-eps.” Huehuehuehue!!

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

KITA KITA (Sigrid Andrea Bernardo, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Kita Kita:

1. Where do we draw the line between persistence and obsession? Do we consider a grand gesture like asking someone out for a coffee date via a huge billboard in Morayta sweet or repulsive? If Xian Gaza actually looked like Daniel Matsunaga, would he still be considered a creepy stalker or just a determined romantic?

2. One of my biggest concerns with this movie was that after it made us fall in love with its unconventional lovers, it tried to sell us this disturbing (and Machiavellian?) big reveal that nothing was actually wrong with the couple’s predator-prey relationship history (I felt the exact same way when Maricel Soriano fell in love with her rapist in Dahas, but then that wasn’t even close to being a romantic-comedy). He knowingly took advantage of her disability, period.

It was truly unfortunate not only because the first two-thirds of the movie was deeply engrossing and enjoyable, but also because it didn’t really need any twist to come up with an interesting resolution.

I was more curious to know how Lea (Alessandra de Rossi) would have reacted after she regained her sight and discovered the true physical aspects of Tonyo (Empoy Marquez). In one scene, she even joked “Kung makita kita, baka pang-leading man ang mukha mo”. Wouldn’t it have been great to know her actual feelings upon seeing that he actually looked more like a stuntman?

3. Having said that, I was really impressed with the #AlEmpoy tandem because despite the odd pairing and clunky third act, they really made this love story work. Halos mamatay ako sa kilig sa unang Two Less Lonely People in the World montage. I swear I had this huge smile plastered on my face during that sequence. I even teared up a bit because I get really emotional whenever I see two people happily in love. Sobrang bagay sila.

4. Alessandra has always been consistently good in everything. Here, she was empathetic even as a cranky and bitter blind woman. When she cried while drawing on the eyes of the Daruma Doll to complete her wish, I was crying along with her.

The bigger acting surprise though was Empoy. He was just effortlessly funny whether he was applying breath freshener on his wrists, or mangling idioms (“The way to man’s heart is through large intestine”), or delivering a throwaway quip (“Kelangan mo ng asukal, ang asim kasi ng mukha mo”). There were moments when Alessandra looked like she was no longer acting while laughing at some of Empoy’s hilarious jokes (best one: “We have similar. Rities.”).

And that ramen scene, oh my heart!!

5. Pinoy Film/TV Trope: Any character crossing the street or standing near the sidewalk with vehicles zooming by has a 90% chance of getting run over. Survival rate of that unfortunate soul would be 10%. The victim in this movie did not beat any of the said odds. Enough please.

(Also, what happened to that sickness storyline of Tonyo?)

6. Some of the dialogue in the movie sounded off, like when Lea kept saying PG-rated lines (“Puputulin ko ang talong diyan sa gitna ng mga hita mo!”, “May nunal ka sa pribadong parte ng katawan mo!”) or sexist remarks (“Mas malandi ka pa sa babae!”). She also had this Isa, Dalawa, Tatlo voiceover during the confrontation scene with her cheating boyfriend that lasted forever. It was supposed to sound poetic, but fell flat.

7. Several scenes had poor lighting and instances where the camera kept tilting and shaking violently. What happened there?

At least those gorgeous shots in the Sapporo Botanical Garden (?) more than made up for them. I really need to visit Japan soon. Friends, ano na? The international setting was also really apt since this had the feel of a (Japanese? Korean? Thai?) rom-com.

8. For a blind person, Alessandra’s eyebrows were always on fleek, no?

9. Sigrid Bernardo is one of my all-time favorite local directors. If you end up really liking this one, you should also watch Ang Huling Cha-Cha ni Anita, Lorna, and her short film Ang Painting ni Tatay. I loved every single one of those (all five-star films, sadly her streak ended here).

10. So all this time I thought that “nomo” was actually gay lingo (or jeprox slang) for “inom”. I had no idea that it was an actual Japanese word that meant “let’s drink”. Nyeaaaaaaaam!!

Rating: ★★★☆☆