SEVENTH SON (Sergei Bodrov, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Seventh Son:

1. The movie opened with Jeff Bridges playing a drunk Gandalf talking with his mouth full and giving a whole new meaning to scenery-chewing. I hope the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voters never have the time to see this terrible performance.

2. Speaking of the Oscars, I was just happy to see that this won’t be shown in the US until February. Julianne Moore’s work here wasn’t the stuff of a future Oscar winner. This was way below Norbit levels.

3. I want that instant rejuvenation spell. I wonder if it’s on Belo Medical’s list of services.

4. Twenty minutes into the movie and I still had no idea what was happening. There was mention of a spook, something about a blood moon, and the seventh son of the seventh son, but all I cared about was the charred body of Jon Snow.

5. Those blood cakes combined the best of both worlds: it was simply puto made of dinuguan. Yum!!

6. Oh, so Gandalf was also Mr. Miyagi with a Medieval Irish accent.

7. A character was given an ogre scrotum for his enjoyment. Now I understand why they walk really funny.

8. Apparently, there would be a literal spark (and blue for that matter) when two people were destined to be together. We kept seeing the literal spark but the bland young actors actually didn’t have any. I wished for Lorna Tolentino to suddenly enter the scene in full racist Chinese eye make-up and scream, “Ano kayo Meralco? Kelangan may spark?”

9. I laughed so hard during the final scene when our hero flipped his hood, the music swelled, the screen faded to black, and it hinted at a possible sequel.

10. For whatever it’s worth, at least it was no Season of the Witch.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published January 10, 2015.)

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IKAW PA LANG ANG MINAHAL (Carlos Siguion-Reyna, 1992)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Ikaw Pa Lang ang Minahal:

1. In a recent screening of the remastered and restored version of this Pinoy classic, Maricel Soriano spilled some scalding tea when she (jokingly) expressed her disappointment on not winning any major award for her performance in this film which she considered one of her favorites (she lost in the Big Four to Lorna Tolentino for Narito ang Puso Ko). She then mentioned that her loss at least inspired her to come up with much better output and more collaborations with director Carlos Siguion-Reyna. 

You could ask any Maricelian and they would definitely share the same frustration, including the fact that she had never won an Urian award. Some would probably even bring up these unfounded rumors that Lolit Solis (then manager of Lorna) used her clout and bribed the academy (Famas, FAP) and press (Star Awards) voters and that a couple of Manunuris (Urian) had a particular dislike for Maricel and blocked most of her wins.

Regardless of the eventual results, the truth remained though that her flawless turn as Adela Sevilla would be one for the books. To paraphrase her character: “Mamahalin nila ako. Mamahalin nila ako para sa inyong lahat na hindi nagmahal sa akin!”.

2. I originally saw this when it was first released back in 1992 and it felt surreal watching it again in a theater 26 years later. I didn’t even know back then that this was an adaptation of William Wyler’s 1949 film, The Heiress with Olivia de Havilland, which in turn was based on Henry James’ novel, Washington Square (did I miss the acknowledgments during the opening/closing credits or was there really no mention of this?). I was so clueless that when I saw the 1997 Washington Square film with Jennifer Jason Leigh, I wanted to personally write to Direk Carlos that somebody copied his masterpiece (thank goodness for ISP Bonanza’s slow dial-up connection!).

3. To this day, I still couldn’t get over the fact that Dr. Maximo Sevilla (a terrific Eddie Gutierrez) was a renowned doctor considering that he couldn’t even perform basic CPR. He almost crushed his dying wife’s rib cage and never resorted to mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and he even followed the same process with his dying daughter several years later (thankfully, the latter survived). At least his character made me understand the cariño brutal way that my mother used to raise all of her kids (if you’re reading this mom, I only included that to raise my word count).

Also, it was so ironic that the coldhearted Dr. Sevilla was actually right from the start in seeing through the real motives of David Javier (a wily Richard Gomez). Minsan na nga lang magka-Javier na character eh tuso pa. (Side note: Richard used to be my mom’s favorite local actor. Ipinaglihi niya ang youngest brother ko sa kanya. Ayun nakuha naman ni utol ang nunal sa right temple ni Richard hahaha!)

4. There were so many moments here that crushed my heart (Dr. Sevilla enumerating his regrets on having a pathetic daughter, Adela’s waterfall breakdown scene, the forced writing of the will, the deathbed reconciliation, etc.), but the scene that made me cry the most didn’t even have any dialogue (just some background music). It was the part where Adela was sitting inside her room, her face a mix of emotions, and then she finally smiled because she felt loved. She stood up, got a pink flower from the bouquet that David gave her, stood near the window, smelled the flower, and broke into tears. Yung feeling na “Lord thank you at nagka-jowa pa ako akala ko talaga mamamatay na akong single at walang magmamahal sa akin!”.

Seriously though, parang ako ang naka-jackpot ng jowa while watching this woman (tormented all her life by her disapproving dad even if she was a skillful manggagantsilyo) experience the gift of happiness that she deserved. (Again, Maricel didn’t win anything for this??)

5. That scene where Adela in glasses and wearing the dowdiest clothes stood next to the glamorous portrait of her mom (also named Adela btw and played by the lovely Dawn Zulueta) spoke volumes. Direk Carlos employed the same juxtaposition technique in Inagaw Mo and Lahat sa Akin to effectively differentiate social classes. Such a brilliant director (and still my favorite local one).

(Side note: Maricel in an old maid’s costume still looked gorgeous, sorry, but I was willing to suspend my disbelief.)

6. Anybody would want to have a kunsintidora aunt like Tiyang Paula. She was a welcome comic relief in this heavy drama. “Mukhang matindi ang sipon mo at kelangan mo pang lunurin sa alcohol.” Nyahahaha!

Sadly, Charito Solis was an acting legend who was gone way too soon.

7. Choice quotes for some melodramatic moments in your life…

• “Hindi baleng pulubi, basta hindi ahas!”

“Hindi baleng ahas, basta mahal ko!”

• “Bibilhin ko siya sa bawat singko na ipamamana mo sa akin! Tingnan ko lang kung di ka mangisay sa libingan mo!”

• “Gustuhin ko man, di ko magagawa. Sa puso nanggagaling ang pagpapatawad. Wala akong puso, nagmana ako sa’yo!”

8. Speaking of ahas, why did they always choose to have sex in the talahiban? It looked really scary. And mukhang makati.

9. Adela’s transformation from naive doormat to a feisty and heartless heredera. Wow! I wanted to stand up and cheer when she entered that church with her luscious curls wearing the bitchiest red dress with a matching belt bag. And that scene where she threw the hundred peso bills and David was temporarily stunned by all the flying cash? Iconic.

10. Was it just a coincidence that ugly Adela wore pearls while beautiful Adela wore diamonds? Shine bright like a real Diamond Star indeed.

Rating: ★★★★★

HINDI NAHAHATI ANG LANGIT (Mike De Leon, 1985)

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It was hard to get over the fact that Christopher de Leon (with his pornstache) was going to prom. Also, there were just too many immature characters trapped in this noisy melodrama.

Sample dialogue:

“Ronald, virgin pa ba ako? Sagutin mo ako. Niloko mo ba ako? Damn you!”

As a kid, I remember watching my mom put make-up on and she would complete her look with a penciled dot on her upper lip. I think she was going for a Lorna Tolentino, but I was too scared to tell her that it looked more like a Bing Loyzaga.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

ANG GURO KONG ‘DI MARUNONG MAGBASA (Perry Escaño, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Ang Guro Kong ‘Di Marunong Magbasa:

1. In the film Abakada…Ina, Lorna Tolentino played an illiterate mother who had the unfortunate luck of having a nasty schoolteacher for a biyenan (played by the late great Nida Blanca). One of the movie’s highlights was their verbal showdown where Nida bluntly called her tanga, ignorante, and iliterada. The apparent shame that she felt upon hearing those words was enough to make me bawl my eyes out.

Although the issue of illiteracy would always be an important topic, some Pinoy films only used this as a default plot device to tug at heartstrings. I think the last film I watched that dealt with this as well was that MMFF New Wave film Turo Turo, where AJ Dee played a fishball vendor who went bankrupt because he didn’t know how to properly count the exact change.

2. Similar to these movies, Guro also had good intentions, but its execution was completely disastrous. It wasn’t even about the illiterate teacher played by Alfred Vargas, or a scathing look at child warriors trained for political propaganda. It was just a poor excuse to shoot an action film where the main villain was tied to a tree and shot with a grenade launcher (after a controversial spit bukkake scene as a form of torture), or for Kiko Matos playing a soldier to keep tumbling around for no apparent reason.

3. It was hard to take the movie seriously when everything about it was just awful, in particular:

• Gunshots sounded like they came from plastic toy guns.

• Characters having dinner were squeezed on one side of the table for framing reasons (kahit mag-isa lang si Alfred sa kabilang side).

• The camera moved from side-to-side behind the students and half of the screen would just be a shot of their backs (was this supposed to be a nod to early Shyamalan?).

• The sound of goats bleating was louder than the actual dialogue.

• Terrible editing that never really cared about transitions or continuity.

4. One of the scenes that garnered the biggest laughs from the audience included a cassette tape used to teach the alphabet to kids.

Sample phonics:

• A is for Animal
• B is for Beast
• C is for Ceasefire (huh?)
• D is for Dark Side (huwat?!)
• E is for Education
• F is for Freedom (nux!)

I suggest that the updated 2017 version include the following: O is for Ohmygulay, P is for Pisting yawa…

Also, this magical cassette knew exactly when to proceed to the next letter. It didn’t speak until after Alfred mimicked what it just said. Wow lang.

5. My favorite scene though included foreign delegates that volunteered to teach the young students in that far-flung barrio (they probably never heard that the place was as safe as Marawi so they travelled without any security). They were supposedly from different countries like Singapore or the US, but most of them looked like they came from Las Piñas.

I had to control a fart when one of them was asked why she decided to help and she replied with, “I would like to smell the fresh air of the forest.” Q is for Qiqil si acoe.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

THE THIRD PARTY (Jason Paul Laxamana, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Third Party:

1. In the latest teaser of Bakit Lahat ng Gwapo May Boyfriend?, the character of Anne Curtis provided a helpful checklist to determine if a guy was check na check na check. She must have missed sending this memo to the hospital where Max (Sam Milby) and Christian (Zanjoe Marudo) worked because everyone there was oblivious to the fact that these two smart, attractive (matte makeup on fleek!), clean-looking, dapper, perfectly-coiffed doctors were actually gay. I would love to be in that non-judgmental hospital where not one of the staff secretly wondered why these bachelors didn’t have wives or girlfriends and just swooned whenever the couple would rendezvous in the lobby.

I was almost certain Christian was the type that would play The Emancipation of Mimi in full blast in his office, but I guess nobody would still get a clue.

2. When the teaser for this one came out, some people quickly dismissed it as a rip-off of Pusong Mamon (that campy 90’s Joel Lamangan comedy with Lorna Tolentino, Albert Martinez, and Eric Quizon). I initially thought that it wasn’t anywhere near that flick since it didn’t even hint at a pregnant Andi (Angel Locsin).

Well, I was obviously wrong because it was indeed an updated version of that movie. Even with a few tweaks made (the biggest one being that the father of Andi’s baby was neither of the two), it was still the same surrogate mother cohabiting with the gay couple story. Weirdly enough, it focused less on the interactions between the three and more on Andi’s life story. Seriously, how many more times would we see Angel face these mother abandonment issues?

3. Didn’t we learn anything from the convoluted multi-subplots in Barcelona? Aside from Andi’s mother issues, we also had to deal with Max coming out to his homophobic father (but this being a Star Cinema movie, you already know how this would end) and perennial BFF Beauty Gonzalez prepping for her wedding. Her minor character even had a lengthy wedding scene where her vows were meant to serve as a reminder (or wake-up call?) to Andi’s character. Huh?

4. I couldn’t get over the fact that Max chose to come out to his ex-girlfriend in a noisy club. Shouldn’t this be treated as a sensitive matter that merited a heart-to-heart conversation over Starbucks frappucinos? Or at the very least McSpicy with Shake Shake fries?

In another scene, the gay couple decided to have a serious talk on the status of their relationship in an art gallery. Why?? So that the wall between them could serve as a metaphor for their crumbling relationship? Or so that Max could contemplate next to a wooden pregnant art piece? Insert eye roll here.

5. Zanjoe was really good here as the controlling second party. Ibang atake from his previous gay roles. His best gay performance to date though was in 24/7 In Love. Skip the other stories and watch his episode with Bea Alonzo. Completely heartbreaking.

On the other hand, Sam’s performance left a lot to be desired. I was actually happy that his character opened up this discussion on gender fluidity, but he just lacked the depth required for the role. He also still needed to work on his accent because he already had that slight twang even before his character flew to San Diego. At least his abs had a highlight of their own again. Plus, he had a scene where he gleefully ate a hotdog. Wala lang.

6. Oh, and I never believed for a second that Zanjoe and Sam were a couple. I could still feel the ilang factor and they lacked the warmth and sweetness to each other. Even the kiss simply felt mechanical. I suddenly had the urge to rewatch In My Life.

7. I laughed a little when Angel mentioned that she wanted to work in Australia. So Love Me Again (Land Down Under) didn’t give her enough nightmares? Also, another Darna reference. Will we get this in every Star Cinema movie until the 2017 film comes out?

8. Ultrasound scene. Street food chatter. Videoke scene. Same old, same old.

9. Andi to the couple: “Kung kayo ba merong double deck, saan kayo pwesto?” Sadly, that was never answered. (Or was Sam’s hotdog-eating scene the answer? Hmm.)

10. I recently mentioned the guilty pleasures of Nympha (“Ikaw lang ang lalaking kumakain ng apoy na matagal uminit!”) so I was happy to see Alma Moreno playing the aunt of Andi here. I wish she was given more to do than just make a piggy bank out of her ample cleavage, though. Not even a Loveliness-level campaign-worthy dance number? Sigh.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

DEADPOOL (Tim Miller, 2016)

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My notes on Deadpool:

1. As promised, it was indeed a different kind of superhero movie from the hilarious opening credits, the outright mockery of the genre, the constant breaking of the fourth wall, the gratuitous sex and graphic violence, and down to the silly send-up of post-credits scenes. The actual structure of the movie didn’t stray that far from the superhero formula (origin story, cheesy love story with a damsel in distress, group of super friends, climactic battle scene with a felonious villain, acceptance of new identity) but the occasional profanity, crude humor, and immense self-awareness actually worked to its advantage. In the end, it was a very entertaining Marvel movie. (Were the jokes as funny after repeated viewings? Could fanboys confirm, please?)

2. Has there been another movie with opening credits of this kind? It was fun trying to match the stereotypes with the actual characters and actors (“God’s perfect idiot”, “a hot chick”, a “gratuitous cameo” that shouldn’t be a surprise to Marvel fans). The movie might have been directed by a “douchebag director” that was also an “overpaid tool” but all that money didn’t go to waste. (Kudos for acknowledging that the “real heroes here” were the writers.)

3. Inasmuch as I liked Ryan Reynolds as Van Wilder, I really thought that he could never recover from the Green Lantern disaster. After that, it was just one box office bomb after another that I already said RIP to his career after RIPD. Similar to Robert Downey, Jr., it took just one perfect role to jump-start his resurgence (US opening weekend at $135M, the biggest for an R-rated film). The fact that he openly and so gamely made fun of himself (requesting that his supersuit not be green, references to being the Sexiest Man Alive, joking about his obvious lack of talent) just made everything even funnier.

4. When is the next season of Silicon Valley? T.J. Miller (he played the bartender Weasel) may have bombed as the host of the recent Critics’ Choice Awards but he would always be one of my favorite TV geeks. And speaking of TV, I have seen the full glory of Morena Baccarin’s breasts on Homeland and they still looked glorious on the big screen (hey, I was also entitled to an R-rated comment!).

5. In one scene, Deadpool (“That sounds like a fucking franchise!”) mentioned a “fourth wall break in a fourth wall break, so that’s like 16 walls!” and my favorite ones would have to be:

• When Colossus asked him to see the Professor and he deadpanned, “Stewart or McAvoy? These timelines are so confusing!” (Preach!)

• When he visited the X-Men mansion and mentioned that he only kept seeing Negasonic Teenage Warhead and Colossus as if “the studio couldn’t afford another X-Men”.

6. The aforementioned cheesy love story (“Your crazy matches my crazy”, huhubelles) seriously reminded me of that Lorna Tolentino early 90’s movie Gaano Kita Kamahal. I probably alienated all of you fanboys with this reference but I swear Christopher de Leon also had the same burnt face and it was a remarkable true story of love and acceptance (and thankfully no dialogue that he had a face that she could sit on). I might need to dig up my VHS copy of that film and find a working player so I can rewatch.

7. I would never look at a dish soap brand the same way again (wink, wink).

8. Can someone explain why people start leaving as soon as the end credits roll when they know for a fact that this is a Marvel movie and has a 99% chance of a post-credits scene? Please tell me that I’m not the only one annoyed whenever the said scene would start playing and then people that have already stood up would suddenly stop and block the view of those that are still seated and patiently waited for it. End of rant.

P.S. Loved the “What were you expecting? Sam Jackson in an eye patch?” joke. I do hope they cast Keira Knightley as Cable.

Rating: ★★★★☆