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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47 RONIN (Carl Rinsch, 2013)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on 47 Ronin:

1. Ohmy, they speak English in feudal Japan. I think I’ll enjoy this movie. Ugh!

2. Wait, isn’t this the sensei of Emily Thorne? Is she also one of the ronins? That would be so cool!

3. I want the Lady Gaga-inspired outfit that the old man wore when he committed seppuku. It’s perfect for the Golden Globes tomorrow.

4. I loved the part where Keanu Reeves started singing, “Langit kaaaa, lupa akoooo…”

5. One character is named Oishi. My tongue started craving for those delicious salty shrimp crackers.

6. A man gets thrown in a deep pit and one year later he still looks healthy. What multivitamins do these samurais take? I want ’em.

7. A version of the the Sanduguan using blood fingerprints to sign a contract. I wish they focused more on this band of brothers.

8. The theater actor with the funny white mask looks like Ketchup Eusebio. Watch the movie and tell me I’m wrong.

9. “I will search for you through one thousand worlds and ten thousand lifetimes until I find you.” Eek! It just gave me heartburn.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published January 13, 2014.)

AROUND THE WAY GIRL: A MEMOIR (Taraji P. Henson, Denene Millner, 2016)

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In the 2016 Golden Globes where she won Best Actress in a Drama Series, Taraji P. Henson went full Cookie Lyon mode upon the announcement of her name. She spontaneously grabbed a handful of complimentary cookies from her table and started handing them out to everyone including Lady Gaga and Leonardo DiCaprio. She feigned an attitude when an usher accidentally stepped on her gown (“Get off my train!”) and said a mouthful when asked to wrap up her speech (“I waited twenty years for this, you’re gonna wait!”).

In this squeaky-clean memoir, it was obvious that the real Taraji wasn’t too far off from her beloved onscreen persona (less the crack and jail time, of course). It actually gave us a glimpse of all the hardships that she faced as a black kid growing up in a troubled home and how it shaped her into becoming a strong and successful woman of color in Hollywood.

Although admirable for its honesty, this book didn’t really strive to be more than inspirational. The later chapters skimped on her interesting life in showbiz. Where were the juicy details? Why was the best part about Squad Goals only a few pages long? It was also odd that everything in her life seemed to be very much like the films she made (and did we really need a synopsis of Baby Boy and Hustle & Flow every time they were mentioned?).

Hopefully her next book would be more “You want Cookie’s nookie? Ditch the bitch!”. Bring it, Taraji!

Rating: ★★★☆☆

 

THE SUPER PARENTAL GUARDIANS (Joyce Bernal, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Super Parental Guardians:

1. When it was first announced that Joyce Bernal would be taking over the reins of the late Wenn Deramas in the newest Vice Ganda MMFF entry, I felt excited and hopeful that the new combo would bring something new and fresh to the Pinoy comedy genre. Sadly, this movie basically recycled every single joke and gag that worked in previous Deramas-Ganda collaborations slash blockbusters (beating a dead horse? wink, wink).

It actually felt like Vice commandeered the entire thing (he even received an “Additional Scenes and Dialogue” credit), not wanting to change anything that he perceived wasn’t broken (or in his own words, “quality”). The result was a disappointing rehash, no different from eating last night’s cold leftover pizza.

2. Sample checklist for reference:

• Outrageous outfits – In one scene, he wore a rejected ribbon dress from the Lady Gaga collection that would obviously be unwound in a succeeding scene (because seeing Vice in a black leotard was supposedly funny). Oh, and the punchline was that he was advised to dress for the occasion and the said event was a ribbon-cutting. (Wenk, wenk.)

In another, he attended a funeral wearing a costume with a matching headdress that made me want to do the Shigi Shigi dance from Shaider.

• Word(name)plays – Remember the restaurant scene in Beauty and the Bestie where they joked about looking like Bea Bunda and Liza Lorena? Here, they had a Kath Tonying Taberna, Liza de Lima, Nadine Munyoka, and Arci Taulava. How about the “Ang bata na-bonjour” joke in Praybeyt Benjamin? This time it was “Ang bata nalaglag” in a terribly unfunny “miscarriage” gag.

• Sidekick slapping and insults – Now he had Kiray to slap as well. And of course there were several pockmarked face jokes.

• Game of the year – Ooh, Vice wearing an Ash costume while collecting pokeballs from a spinning pokestop. How current! Except that Pokemon Go mania died a couple of months ago.

• Duet – The Hold On sing-off was a highlight in BatB so they obviously needed to do it again here (this time with Coco Martin singing his heart out to “Kung wala ka nang maintindihaaaaan…”, one of the possibly three times that I actually laughed throughout the entire movie).

• Pinoy films homage – This was a staple in Deramas movies because you could feel his obvious love for them. Here, they just needed to include a bit from Minsan Lang Kita Iibigin because, well, just because.

3. Why wasn’t this called Ang Probinsyano the Movie? It really wasn’t any different from the series (down to the repetitive Wag Ka Nang Umiyak gag), except that Coco looked like a deranged Harley Quinn who was late for the Valkyrie Halloween party.

Also, what were all of those mini-explosions in the slums fight sequence? If this were New Year’s Eve, the best term to describe them would be “supot”.

4. I found it really weird that a strong proponent of LGBTQ rights would subject his character to the stereotypical perception of gays to generate laughs. One with him quivering in seeing topless construction workers, or him acting like a sexual predator to a drunk straight man (sinukahan na, kinilig pa rin), or him giving all of his cash to a tormentor simply because he looked good.

In a year when other films (The Third Party, Bakit Lahat ng Gwapo May Boyfriend?, Working Beks) tried to change how gay characters were portrayed in Philippine cinema, this one seemed to be contented with them being the laughing stock of society.

5. Onyok Pineda wasn’t as funny here compared to his stint in Ang Probinsyano where his genuine reactions to a closeted friend were comedy gold. He did have one cute scene that worked (“Kuya pangkain lang po. Ganern!”), but he was clearly overshadowed by Awra Briguela.

I wish they gave Awra more to do than the endless showdowns with Vice. His funniest moments to me were when he wasn’t even trying (just him sharply enunciating “freshly picked tomatoes” had me giggling in my seat). I also couldn’t stand all the physical abuse that he received from Vice (that sabunot scene would have been funny in the ’90s before the launch of Bantay Bata).

6. As expected, there were mini-commercials for Gluta-C, King Cup sardines, and even (gasp!) Pigrolac?!

7. Matet de Leon’s character here was addicted to balut, which shouldn’t come as a surprise because her sister in real-life is Balot. (If you got that reference, then you’re way too old.)

8. Although most of the corny jokes failed (that low batt modelling sequence, the used hanky scene, the Ilonggo-maskara bit, the Train to “Boosan” gag, the Baron vs Matos fight), there was one that really made me laugh. It involved Vice getting thrown in all directions for a Family Day dance number and his resulting expressions were just too funny. We needed more of these and less of the out-of-the-blue Leila de Lima impersonations.

9. “Bakit di nila tayo isinama sa filmfest? Itong mga batang ito ata ang malas!” Nope, definitely not their fault.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS (James Bobin, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Alice Through The Looking Glass:

1. Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland was a blatant visual feast that I found lacking in story given its fantasy-adventure format. This second one by James Bobin (who also directed the fun Muppets movies) was slightly better than the first because it focused on the interesting backstories of some major characters. Although the movie still lagged in some places, it was able to capitalize on its great cast making it a more enjoyable romp.

2. I previously lamented that Johnny Depp’s zaniness had reached its limit and he needed to go back to playing (relatively) normal characters (I blame the fourth Jack Sparrow movie), but his return to the Mad Hatter role was actually quite welcome. I just couldn’t think of any other actor who could perfectly balance the man-child lunacy of the role. When the dying Hatter with all of his colors seeped out of him was lying in bed, it was hard not to get your heart crushed.

3. I had always wondered why the Red Queen (of Hearts) had such a big head that grew even bigger when she was furious and it was explained in detail here. Habang nagagalit, lalong lumalaki (insert Beavis and Butthead laugh here).

Anyway, she was my favorite character ever since. How could you not love someone who would shake a terrarium of pet ants and scream “Earthquake!!”? Besides, Helena Bonham-Carter played the role with such delicious glee (forget Amy Adams, isn’t HBC overdue for an Oscar as well?).

4. When Sasha Baron Cohen showed up as Time who was pining for the Red Queen, all I could think of were the Thenardiers and I was hoping for a Master of the House encore.

5. I loved the gorgeous costumes by Colleen Atwood from Alice’s multi-colored Mandarin-inspired gown to the Lady Gaga-ish shoulders of Time and the luscious art direction. I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets recognized in both categories again next year.

6. Three important themes here: a) you can’t change the past, b) a previous lie will haunt you forever with great repercussions, c) a person with a wild imagination can get thrown in the loony bin. And you can add d) Kasalanan ito lahat ni Anne Hathaway.

7. This might be one of the few movies that properly addressed the space-time continuum that proved problematic in films like Looper. I really liked how the future started to rust when a character met her old self and messed up with time (or Time).

8. Pink’s girl power anthem played during the end credits was very fitting given the strong feminist character of Alice. Also, that tribute to the late Alan Rickman (who voiced the blue caterpillar Absolem) made me miss such a great actor. To paraphrase the Cheshire Cat, “Goodbye, sweet butterfly!”.

Rating: ★★★☆☆