MOVIE REVIEW: FENG SHUI 2 (Chito Roño, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Feng Shui 2:

1. Roño mentioned in a recent interview that he didn’t want to do a sequel since he didn’t want to make the same movie. He named this Feng Shui and it was supposed to be a continuation of the original story. The title was apt since it was basically a retread of the original.

2. The previously novel idea of people dying based on their animal signs proved to be stale this time around. Who could forget the well-thought out sequence in the original where Lotlot de Leon (born on the year of the horse) got hit by an ironing board and fell to her death on cases of Red Horse? None of the deaths here had the same impact.

3. Every death had to be explained and every animal connection had to be in full view just in case the audience didn’t get it. What happened to subtlety? We’re not idiots.

4. Rat killer, Red Bull, Doug wearing a dogtag, Playboy shirt and Red Rabbit fire extinguisher, Snake Island truck, chicharon, these were the best that they could think of?

5. Bad dubbing. Really bad dubbing.

6. A lot of the characters here had never seen a bagua. I guess they weren’t able to watch the original movie.

7. Am I the only one who found it funny that a movie about karma (or close to it) actually starred Carmi Martin? Carmi Martin was really just around the corner.

8. As expected, there were mini-commercials shilling products endorsed by the stars. And so we got all the reasons why we needed to buy Nxled lights by Akari. I suddenly missed that Chunkee dinner scene in the original.

9. One clunky scene had Coco being thrown around by an invisible being. The special effect was too funny. And too lame. What was that?

10. And yet another scene was ripped from The Grudge (the eye and hair shot, you’ll remember when you see it).

11. Kris Aquino had this perpetually constipated look like she was watching Darla consume a whole lechon.

12. I guess all the zumba did her good with all those running scenes.

13. I saw the movie with the noisiest crowd ever (both fun and annoying at the same time). They were screaming their heads off as soon as the lights dimmed. I think they had lots of fun shouting in every scare scene regardless if these weren’t really scary.

14. The ending hinted at another sequel (hey Direk Chito what happened to that no sequel thingie?) and the final scene tried to be social media relevant with the bagua being shared online. So the third movie will be The Ring? Digital na ang karma? Wait, you can’t see your reflection on a picture! How will that work? I give up.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published December 26, 2014.)

MOVIE REVIEW: FENG SHUI (Chito Roño, 2004)

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Bakit ba tuwang-tuwa tayo na nakikitang pinahihirapan si Kris Aquino? Blockbuster halos lahat ng massacre movies at horror films niya kahit ang chaka niya talaga umarte at mas nakakatawa kesa nakakaawa siya kapag sumisigaw.

Kung si Ate Guy na-perfect ang pagluha sa isang mata lang, kabog siya dito ni Kris na mala-bidet ang tatlo-tatlong chunky na luhang pumapatak sa mga mata niya.

Speaking of chunky, sobrang underrated talaga nung batang kapitbahay nila dito. Tawang-tawa pa rin ako nung sarap na sarap siya sa Purefoods Chunkee Corned Beef (“Ang sarap! Iba ‘tong sa inyo no, buo buo pa!!”). Hahahaha! Tapos ang classic lang nung scene na nagtakbuhan na sila palabas ng bahay tapos yung mag-aama sumakay sa kotse at siya ay hirap na hirap mag-bisikleta palayo. Langhiyang tatay yun haha!

Memorable talaga yung death sequence dito ni Lotlot de Leon. Very Pinoy ng conceit kaya hindi makukuha ng foreign viewers kung gaano kagaling na hinataw siya ng kabayo (as in plantsahan) at nahulog sa mga bote ng Red Horse.

Sana malaki ang bonus nung nakaisip ng teaser nito. Yung may batang kumakanta ng “May uwi si nanay, si nanay sa bahay…”. Kinilabutan ka ba nung maalala mo?

Rating: ★★★☆☆

MOVIE REVIEW: SCREAM (Wes Craven, 1996)

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“Don’t you blame the movies. Movies don’t create psychos. Movies make psychos more creative!” Hahaha! Such a smart screenplay!

Wouldn’t it be great to see a Kris Aquino horror flick where she’d actually get killed within the first fifteen minutes? Your move, Star Cinema!

Rating: ★★★★★

(Originally published June 13, 2018.)

MOVIE REVIEW: SEGUNDA MANO (Joyce Bernal, 2011)

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Given all the hyperboles used to promote the movie, here are my thoughts: 1) If this movie were a Prada bag, it would be a cheap knockoff sold in Quiapo, 2) Dingdong Dantes equates intensity with constipation and in full eyes popping mode gives Richard Gutierrez a run for his money, 3) Angelica Panganiban could have been replaced by a blow-up doll and people wouldn’t have noticed, 4) Kris Aquino’s calculated performance reminded me of Merrill Lynch, 5) Second-rate? Not even. This movie makes Dalaw look like The Exorcist.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published March 14, 2012.)

MOVIE REVIEW: MISTERYO SA TUWA (Abbo dela Cruz, 1984)

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Kung may natutunan man ako sa Feng Shui ni Tita Krizzy at sa kwento ni Hurley sa Lost, ito ay laging may kapalit ang swerte (lalo na ang biglaang yaman). Isipin mo one moment nag-iinuman at nagsasayawan kayo sa isang pagdiriwang tapos dahil sa isang twist of fate ay biglang nabalot ng malas at kamatayan ang masaya n’yong barrio.

Ang daming gustong sabihin ng pelikula at ganito ang masarap himayin sa isang film class or movie club. Nakakatuwa din na nauna pa ito sa A Simple Plan ni Raimi (kasi sobrang pareho sila ng story) at Reservoir Dogs ni Tarantino (na may similar tenga-slicing scene).

Johnny Delgado, Tony Santos, Sr., Ronnie Lazaro, Alicia Alonzo, Ama Quiambao, Lito Anzures, Ray Ventura, Vangie Labalan, etc. Mapapamura ka na lang sa galing ng ensemble na ‘to.

May looting scene na nag-uunahan at nag-aagawan ang mga taong-bayan dun sa pinagbagsakan ng eroplano. May pact ang magkakaibigan na walang aamin sa secret nila. Tapos biglang may anti-rat campaign ang gobyerno hahaha ang talino!!

(Also, ang ganda ng restoration pero may mga parts talaga na hindi na na-salvage sayang.)

Rating: ★★★★★

MOVIE REVIEW: BARBARA REIMAGINED (Benedict Mique, Chris Ad. Castillo, 2019)

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Ang basic rule lang naman for a remake (or reboot) ay dapat mapantayan (or mahigitan) niya ang original. Otherwise, para que pa ito diba?

Maayos naman na yung 1995 remake ni Chito Roño. May sayang dulot din ang pananakot kay Kris Aquino dun sa 2008 mini-series. Feeling ko tuloy yung poot at planong paghihiganti nung multo ay hindi talaga directed kay Barbara.

Tawang-tawa ako kay Nathalie Hart dito. Hindi ko alam kung umaarte siya or hindi niya lang naiintindihan ang instructions ng director. Sayang sana ginawa nilang campy version ito kasi sure ako mag-excel siya dun.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

MOVIE REVIEW: THE DIPLOMAT HOTEL (Christopher Ad. Castillo, 2013)

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Que horror indeed.

It’s hard to believe but The Diplomat Hotel just beat Amor Y Muerte as the worst movie I’ve seen in #Cinemalaya2013, and possibly this year.

It was like The Shining. Only with everyone playing Jack Nicholson. And without the scares. Or anything that makes sense.

The hotel and its rich history would have made a great horror movie but everything was wasted. It would have been better as a Magandang Gabi Bayan Halloween special.

Let’s get this out of the way. Gretchen Barretto was horrible here. Kris Aquino could have done better and that says a lot.

The production values were awful, several scenes were out of focus, there were a lot of missing dialogue, subtitles were not in sync, etc.

The only thing scary here was that La Greta’s lovely face was barely moving.

End of rant.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published August 6, 2013.)

MOVIE REVIEW: ANNIE (Will Gluck, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Annie:

1. The movie opened with a typical Annie, a tiny freckle-faced Caucasian redhead, reading a report on former US Presidents. The teacher then called the real Annie, played by Quvenzhane Wallis, a smart and spunky African-American. I loved this wink, wink opening because Wallis was just too adorable in the lead role. I was also happy with the color blind casting because the role of Annie had nothing to do with her skin color anyway.

2. When I heard the teacher call Annie B., I immediately thought Annie Batungbakal and I started humming the theme song and imagined Nora doing a song and dance number (“Sa umaga, dispatsadora. Sa gabi, siya’y bonggang-bongga…”).

3. For a musical, most of the production numbers felt lacking. The only one I truly enjoyed was It’s The Hard Knock Life. Everything else felt joyless. Even the classic Tomorrow wasn’t memorable since it just had her walking the streets of Harlem. Why bother with a remake?

4. Cameron Diaz can be funny whenever she goes bat-shit crazy in her movies. Here, her campiness only served as a distraction. She was just irritating all throughout. Even her musical number was horrible. Do you still remember her singing “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” in My Best Friend’s Wedding? She sang exactly like that in the most grating voice ever. Only here it wasn’t played for laughs.

5. Blatant Purell product placement. No better than a Kris Aquino movie. (“Product placement keeps the movie business afloat!”, said one character.)

6. The viral video of Jamie Foxx saving Annie was all wrong. How could it have different takes and taken from two different angles when it was supposedly shot by an onlooker?

7. I love Rose Byrne, I really do, but she should not be allowed to sing again. Hey, why was this musical populated by terrible singers given their own musical highlights? All it needed was Russell Crowe.

8. The updated version had Annie with a Twitter account and saved by Instagram. Groan.

9. I felt bad for Sia. I actually liked “Opportunity”.

10. The final act had a last minute twist, a villain that never really got his due, a final conflict, and a quick resolution that led to a song and dance number by way of Mother Lily. Ugh.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published January 28, 2015.)

MOVIE REVIEW: CRAZY RICH ASIANS (Jon M. Chu, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Crazy Rich Asians:

1. I remembered watching this episode of Bonkers Closets on Facebook that featured the humongous fingerprint-protected walk-in closet (and by walk-in, I meant way bigger than our entire house) of crazy rich Singaporean socialite Jamie Chua. It stored hundreds of her Birkins and Louboutins and every kind of sparkly Chanel dress that any woman (and gay man) could ever dream of. She even called one of her purchases, an Hermès Mini Pochette worth over $11k, completely useless because it could only fit a credit card and a piece of tissue. It was this same kind of opulence (read: ridiculously excessive levels) that I expected from this movie.

As a third world citizen without a Jamba Juice card, but mooches off of my friend’s Netflix account, I wanted to see how these crazy rich Asians were living my fantasy life that I would have to pick my jaw off the sticky floors of the cinema after every scene of extreme extravagance. Aside from that overhead shot of the Young estate with what seemed to be a built-in lagoon, there really weren’t a lot of “Kalokang mayayaman ‘to!” moments here, though. I had more “Wow!” moments while skimming over the Yes! issue of Willie Revillame flaunting his mansion and luxury cars.

(If anything, this movie worked as a really effective tourism video for Singapore because every location just looked incredibly gorgeous.)

2. Wait, I’m not required to lower my standards naman just because Asians are finally getting represented in Hollywood, right? So I should be as brutal to this cliché-ridden rom-com the same way that I would to a Star Cinema langit-lupa love story? Because seriously, that plane scene reeked of Bea Alonzo flying to Cagayan de Oro with Dingdong Dantes running after her and then making that grand proposal while every passenger cheered even with their flight delayed. Why should this one get a free pass as an enjoyable, fluffy piece of entertainment just because it’s an “important” film?

3. The opening scene was my favorite because I weirdly enjoyed squirming in my seat while watching that really uncomfortable discrimination situation. I even remembered being in a slightly similar incident when my family had a vacation in (guess where?) Singapore back in the early 90’s. We were eating at KFC and the locals sneered at us like we were stray dogs that got lost in that establishment (of course back then I had no clue that they looked down on Pinoys as second-class citizens so I just thought they weren’t too happy with the crispy chicken they were eating).

When the legendary Michelle Yeoh served that fitting retribution to the hotel manager with such intense coldness, I came very close to standing up and cheering from my seat. I’d have preferred it though if she ended that scene with “Wala pang taong hindi rumespeto sa pangalang ELEANOR Young! At ang hindi marunong rumespeto sa AKING pangalan ay ASO lamang!!”. (If you got that reference, you have excellent taste in films.)

4. So many #PinoyFried in this movie, although none of them actually portrayed Pinoy characters (except for Astrid’s maids, of course!). Nico Santos’ fey turn as cousin Oliver was a delight, although it wasn’t surprising given his amazing turn as Mateo Fernando Aquino Liwanag in Superstore.

And speaking of Aquinos, when crazy rich Kris showed up onscreen as Princess Intan, there were some audible gasps from the audience. I guess none of them were able to watch Magic to Win 5 on the big screen. I still think it would have been the biggest casting coup if she played Imelda Marcos (the only woman that could put Jamie Chua’s shoe collection to shame).

5. I completely get the use of the very Asian mahjong game in that climactic showdown between Eleanor and Rachel (Constance Wu), although I honestly didn’t understand all of the symbolisms. The only thing I noticed was that Eleanor took the East seat which was significant in The Joy Luck Club (now there’s a brilliant Hollywood Asian film) since that was where the dealer sat and where all things began (in the novel/film, Jing Mei took that seat to replace her dead mother Suyuan who started the said group). 

Wouldn’t it have been great though if they amped up the camp factor and showed more clashes between these strong women (very much like a Pinoy cockfight)? With two brilliant actresses front and center (fyi, this should serve as your reminder to finally catch up on Fresh Off the Boat), this could have been really fun.

(Also, the Nick character was so bland that I couldn’t see why two amazing women were “fighting” over him. No amount of Henry Golding’s shirtless scenes could hide that fact.)

Side note: Given that Jon M. Chu also directed Now You See Me 2, I actually had this gnawing feeling during the mahjong scene that Rachel would perform some sort of elaborate magic trick. Like she would be able to switch her bamboo tiles without Eleanor ever noticing. Pong!!

6. I teared up a bit when I realized that the Ah Ma character was played by Lisa Lu, who was also Auntie An-Mei in Joy Luck Club (“My mother not know her worth until too late. Too late for her, but not for me.” Waaaah!).

7. I wasn’t particularly fond of Awkwafina in Ocean’s 8, but she was hilarious in the Nikki Valdez role here. As Peik Lin (aka Asian Ellen), she stole every scene that she was in whether she was criticizing Rachel’s look as Sebastian of The Little Mermaid, playing around with her car window, or simply taking a selfie around the Young mansion.

My favorite (very Asian) joke though was when Wye Mun (Ken Jeong) said something like, “Red’s a lucky color if you’re an envelope”. I also liked the bite in his line that “There’s a lot of children starving in America”.

8. Supposedly affluent young women going crazy over off-the-rack items? Shouldn’t they be turning their enhanced pointed noses up on anything that wasn’t bespoke? How un-crazy rich. (And what to make of that tacky tassel necklace? Only Kat Galang could have pulled that one off.)

9. The story about Astrid’s failing marriage felt like complete filler. It was like one long setup for the sequel. (Which probably was made more obvious when Harry Shum, Jr. showed up in one scene and yet received top billing in the end credits.) Her story only served as a distraction to what could have been more screen time for Nick and Rachel or Rachel and Eleanor. Also, Gemma Chan looked very much like Nathalie Hart, no?

10. One of the highlights here was the royal wedding of Araminta (Sonoya Mizuno) where the guests held lighted butterflies (dragonflies?) as she walked down that water-filled aisle. While everyone else teared up when Kina Grannis’ Can’t Help Falling in Love played in the background, my OCD kicked in high gear imagining that lovely wedding dress turning all soggy and getting completely ruined. These crazy rich people paid $40M for that? 

Meanwhile here in the Philippines, a bride in Bulacan went viral for actually wading in murky floodwater (which she got free courtesy of the monsoon) out of necessity just to continue with her dream wedding. Now that was something that really made me cry.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

MOVIE REVIEW: I LOVE YOU, HATER (Giselle Andres, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on I Love You, Hater:

1. In the words of the great Beyoncé, “Honesty is such a lonely word. Everyone is so untrue. Honesty is hardly ever heard. And mostly what I need from you.” (I know this was a Billy Joel original, but I’m a self-proclaimed millennial.)

Joko (Joshua Garcia) lived in his own world of lies. He fabricated a story to his family about working in New York and then he pretended to be a swishy beshie so that he could apprentice (read: be the next Darla) for Digital Empress Sasha Imperial (Kris Aquino, in her most challenging role as herself).

On the other hand, Zoey (Julia Barretto) with all of her emotional baggage that stemmed from father abandonment issues was allergic to lies. Would these two morally opposite poles attract (even with a pretend gender conflict)? We wouldn’t need an alien intervention to know the answer to this one.

In the spirit of honesty and the movie’s #SaTrueLang hashtag (wait, was that redundant?), let me say that I’m no hater, but I did not love this one at all. Similar to Giselle Andres’ last directorial effort Loving in Tandem, the weak and muddled plot could not be salvaged by the enthusiastic performances of its leads.

2. This might sound like a Julia Barretto Appreciation Post because I would be raving like a lovestruck lunatic over the next few sentences so be warned.

In last year’s Love You to the Stars and Back, I hailed her performance as the second coming of Queen Claudine Barretto. With this movie, she just officially earned her right to finally step out of her aunt’s shadow (yes, this would be the last time that I would compare her to Ate Clau).

In one scene, Zoey (who looked gorgeous with her wet, slicked back hair) attended the wedding of her half-sister where her absentee father (Ricardo Cepeda) proudly bragged about his “only daughter”. It was such a sad moment and you could see the terrible pain and humiliation in Zoey’s eyes, especially when the tears started to well up while she stormed out of the event (the succeeding scene where she sobbed in her room wasn’t even needed).

When Zoey admitted her feelings for Joko and then discovered his ruse, their confrontation scene (“Di ko alam kung bakit ako nagmahal…”) was an acting highlight for Julia. What started as an iyak-tawa delivery turned into full-blown rage and a definite nganga (did this girl really do that?) moment for me. I wonder how much of the behind the scenes issues and tension contributed to that brilliant scene. Hugot kung hugot, you go girl! Also, those seemingly naughty stares while she teased Joko were just too funny. Mahusay talaga siya dito.

(Side note: Joshua could still cry on cue, but his performance here seemed to lack the usual sensitivity and depth.)

3. Kris was surprisingly tolerable here and her supporting role was obviously stretched to ensure that she would get as much screen time as JoshLia. I guess it didn’t hurt that most of her scenes involved Sasha shooting her vlogs (for National Bookstore and iFlix, no less) so it was definitely in her wheelhouse. She also had a subplot about an Alzheimer’s-stricken father (Ronaldo Valdez, wonderful as always) and was given a couple of dramatic highlights (one closely resembled the McDo Karen ad) that probably would have been more effective if she weren’t trying so damn hard to squeeze her tearducts (as in literal na more pikit para pumatak ang luha).

If anything, I really loved her joyously colorful Happy Pride outfits. I wonder how many glitter unicorns had to die just to make them.

4. Speaking of pride, I was shocked to see an unrecognizable Mark Neumann playing one half of a gay couple (the other half was Markki Stroem). He was built up as a teen idol in Artista Academy and here he looked like a lipstick lesbian who might also own a Mio.

Why wasn’t the couple even invited when Zoey and Joko went to O Bar (billed here as Rave)? You know this was a work of fiction because in that scene where a Sarah Geronimo impersonator was performing, nobody from the crowd was doing the viral Tala dance moves.

5. Joshua must really be trying to fill the void left by John Lloyd Cruz because he had a Biogesic-like scene where he took Enervon and a few seconds later an extra was tasked to say “Ang taas ng energy mo!!”. Agad-agad??

I laughed out really loud though when promdi Joko called out the terrible food served in the wedding by saying “Hilaw nga nila sinerve yung steak eh. May dugo-dugo pa. Gross!” Nyahahaha!

6. My favorite scene was when Joko’s clan threw a surprise birthday party (complete with papier-mache lechon and cake) for Zoey. He then offered his father to dance with her and said, “Pahiram ko muna sa’yo ang tatay ko.” It was touching, heartfelt, and made me wish that Zoey had a standalone movie.

7. Burning questions:

• Why was Zoey wearing those short shorts (albeit stylish) for an important job interview?

• Would a Digital Empress really hire somebody that she met in an elevator and gave basic graphic design suggestions? More importantly, why couldn’t she afford to pay (or give a shoutout) for a decent logo design?

• Were those Instagram pictures intentionally Photoshopped to make Zoey’s father and his family look like they were levitating directly across the Leaning Tower of Pisa?

• Whenever Joko would get a hard-on, where was the actual bukol? What was he trying to cover?

• Why did Sasha give Joko some National Bookstore gift certificates and ask him to buy a new outfit? (Made out of cartolina, glitter, and glue gun?)

• When Zoey’s friend encouraged her crush on “gay” Joko by shouting “Wag matakot, maki-beki!”, was she really being a supportive friend or a staunch LGBT advocate?

• With the movie already running far too long, did we really need a recap of their sweetest moments before the climactic… hug?

8. “Kumain ka ng torta para lumaki kang borta.” And yet in my dyslexic brain it kept coming up as “Kumain ka ng borta na may malaking torta.” #SaTrueLang tayo besh.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆