MOVIE REVIEW: THE HOWS OF US (Cathy Garcia-Molina, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Hows of Us:

1. If you’re an old soul (read: an oldie afraid to admit that he’s beyond his prime) like me, you probably have downloaded and played Homescapes (currently ranked #73 in the Apple App Store) where your goal was to build this dream house and decorate it with all types of furniture. The first five minutes of this movie reminded me so much of that game, with George (Kathryn Bernardo) and Primo (Daniel Padilla) providing the voiceover while they selected the perfect couch for their living room. That scene culminated in a huge shouting match that signalled the end of their relationship before transitioning to a split screen sequence that was completely lifted from Kalyeserye (I swear I could hear an instrumental version of Rey Valera’s Kahit Maputi na ang Buhok Ko in the background, a song I have associated with AlDub ever since I died of kilig from their McDonald’s commercial heydays). And then it turned into a Mannequin Challenge with the camera moving around while the pair pretended to be serious contenders in a game of stop dance. Wait, were they aiming to do a recap of pop culture references for this decade?

2. I honestly expected this to be KathNiel’s response to the critical success of JaDine’s Never Not Love You, but it simply lacked the depth and maturity (in terms of characters and story) needed to display their growth as artists (insert that meme of Tyra Banks screaming “I was rooting for you! We were all rooting for you!!”).

Hearing Kathryn utter the word “Putangina!” repeatedly just wasn’t enough, especially if you would consider a Miss Granny like Sarah Geronimo saying vulgar words like “puke” and “hindot” in her most recent film. While their screen rivals tackled weighty themes like long distance relationships and adult responsibilities, the biggest conflict in this movie was whether George should continue with her jeepney ride to take her med school exam or scream “para!” to get down and help a drunk Primo who was slumped on the road. These were supposed to be real people problems? Seryoso?

Side note: I guess it spoke a lot about the maturity of these characters that the fans still shrieked their lungs out every time the lovebirds kissed.

3. Dear Star Cinema, wasn’t it too early to start recycling elements from your recent hits? There were so many things here that reminded me so much of Starting Over Again from George’s line of “In him, I saw a good man…” to that supposedly sensual flirtation reminiscent of Toni Gonzaga’s stepladder scene down to that drunk rant of George with her gay BFF (Juan Miguel Severo) that never reached the comedic heights of Beauty Gonzalez’s “Yang hope na yan, lason yan” moment. I’m sure you have a strong pool of writers. Wala na bang bago? (As in Susan Africa played a Tita Lola role and ended up dead after a few scenes.)

4. If anything, Kathryn looked so gorgeous here (with or without her EO Optical contacts) and I’d have to commend her for making the most out of her thinly-written character. She only had one off moment when she was required to overact like crazy in that “Pagod na pagod na pagod na ako!” scene. Otherwise, she was actually good in her dramatic scenes (even if she played a selfish girlfriend required to say lines like “Wala kang pambili kahit cupcake man lang para sa akin?”) and was even better during the (abruptly) comedic second half. She seemed headed back to her glorious Magkaribal/Mara Clara days. Really happy for her!!

And no amount of Daniel sporting a horrible mullet and looking like a deranged version of Lady Diane (“Sa-sa-Saddami ng problema natin!”) minimized the fact that this tandem could still deliver the requisite kiligs. My favorite moment had to be that cringey-sweet hugot of Primo: “Matagal na naman akong talo eh simula nung hinayaan kong mawala ka”. Awww!

(P.S. Ang galing na nila umarte pareho. Please give them the movie that they deserve!!)

5. I had seen the entire filmography of Maricel Soriano so I know that that entire splitting of the house with masking tape gag was already done with much better results in Kung Kaya Mo, Kaya Ko Rin! (and yes, it was also just copied from a much earlier film with Dolphy and Nida Blanca or some other Philippine Cinema legends that I was too lazy to Google). If I remembered it correctly, there was also a scene where Cesar Montano played his guitar and tried to win back Maricel through a harana. And when Maricel’s BFF Ruby Rodriguez decided to visit the house, she had to drag her over to her side because the rest of the space was off-limits. All of those exact same scenes were in this movie. Again, wala na bang bago?

6. In one clunky scene, George and Primo were selling their “conjugal” ancestral home to a potential buyer (Odette Khan) and after stating that it really didn’t have much value, Primo countered that it did have a lot of history and special memories, thus making it priceless. And I kept thinking, “Totoo ba? Ano naman paki ng buyer sa memories na yan?” so I was really surprised when she instead replied with “I like it! Eto na ang pera!” Huwaaaat?

7. Real jokes delivered while the lovebirds biked around Amsterdam:

• “Bakit ang daming nag-ba-bike dito?” “Eh bike-it naman hindi?”

• “Anong instrumento ang favorite sa Amsterdam?” “Eh di Amsterdrums!”

• “Ano ang favorite pet sa Amsterdam?” “Eh di Hamsterdam!”

• “Ano ang paboritong kainin sa Amsterdam?” “Eh di Hamsterdam and Cheese!”

Should I continue? AMSTERDAMMIT!!

8. “Sana samahan mo pa rin ako in finding out the answers to all the hows.” Hahahaha! Naipilit pa rin ang title.

But seriously, after My Ex and Whys and The Hows of Us, I wonder if Star Cinema still has plans of using the remaining 4W’s. Who Who Belles? What’s Upon a Time? Ready to Where? When Dramas? Oh, too punny!!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

MOVIE REVIEW: CRAZY BEAUTIFUL YOU (Mae Cruz-Alviar, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Crazy Beautiful You:

1. The movie opened with a car race straight out of The Fast and the Furious. Only Kathryn Bernardo was no Michelle Rodriguez because she would rather die than hit a stray dog. And at the rate that her car was going, how did she not even end up slamming the post?

2. Do we really allow cellphones in jail? I’m asking since I’ve never seen jail selfies. Or anyone tweeting how sad they are in solitary confinement.

3. Kathryn sounded like she had a constant cold. Every word had an additional H (“Ghive mhe bhack mhy phhone, pfowsz!”). She used to be one of my favorite local actresses but she hasn’t done anything substantial after her excellent stint in Magkaribal. She really needs to break free from this love team in the same way that the other Mara became a fully-realized actress after going solo.

4. Did the chase sequence really have to be in slow motion? Did we really need that shot of calamansi (or whatever produce) slowly fly in the air for cinematic effect? No. Just no.

5. Daniel Padilla fared much better in this movie even with his constant posturing reminiscent of uncle Robin Padilla circa ’90s. He was charming and sympathetic and yes, much cuter with his new clean-cut and borta look. More swooning expected. (He might need to bleach his teeth, though.)

6. Why do a lot of these young guys (especially the ones from ABS-CBN) shave their armpits? None of my business, but still curious.

7. The movie was so badly-lit that the actors’ faces either looked lahar-ridden or overexposed. What happened to the usual Star Cinema gloss?

8. Mini-commercials for ABS-CBN Mobile and KFC. They should have used the extra income on the movie’s photography.

9. Wait, I’ve seen this immersion movie before when it was still called Catch Me… I’m in Love with Sarah Geronimo and Gerald Anderson. And it was also directed by Mae Cruz. Have we really run out of ideas?

10. I bet Kathryn has a separate closet for all of her crop tops. Does she seriously wear anything else?

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published March 1, 2015.)

MOVIE REVIEW: BARCELONA: A LOVE UNTOLD (Olivia Lamasan, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Barcelona: A Love Untold:

1. In the movie Milan, the central mystery revolved around the disappearance of Lino’s (Piolo Pascual) wife, Mary Grace (Iza Calzado), and his quest to find answers. It was an interesting premise that kept people guessing until the big reveal.

In the movie Barcelona, the central mystery fell on the character of Celine, the ex-girlfriend of Ely (Daniel Padilla). It was not so much about what happened to her, but who was supposedly playing the role. Her identity was kept a secret through partially concealed phone and laptop wallpapers and first person point of view shots. The big reveal turned out to be an even bigger disappointment because it was played by (surprise, surprise!) Kathryn Bernardo with a mole on the chin and a prosthetic nose straight out of Blusang Itim.

It was as lame as the teaser on Four Sisters and a Wedding that hid the identity of Enchong Dee’s chararat bride, who turned out to be Angeline Quinto. Nobody really cared.

2. Seriously, if they wanted to make a big deal about the Celine character, why didn’t they cast Nadine Lustre instead? It definitely would have been so controversial and ballsy that it could have sent several KathNiels straight to the emergency room.

3. Finding new love in a foreign land might sound romantic but this was one love story that really should have remained untold. Star Cinema could have done a Spain travelogue instead and focused on this architecture capital of the world (I just added Sagrada Familia on my Places to Visit list).

Besides, there were so many subplots that veered away from the main story that included: Ely’s conflict with his father and the fate of their business, Mia’s conflict with her father, Ely’s abandonment issue with his mother, Mia’s unemployment for being duped into networking, etc. Even minor characters played by Aiko Melendez and son Joshua Garcia needed their own dramatic highlights. The running time of two hours felt like an eternity.

4. Speaking of Joshua, there was a running gag about his character needing to poop every single time. Was this ever explained? Did they edit out that he had colon cancer or something? What’s another hour of extraneous plot?

5. Ironically, the movie told the same plight of OFWs that was better tackled in the first few weeks of On The Wings of Love (also, the animation bit was signature Antoinette Jadaone). Aiko took on the role of Tita Jack, Joshua was Jigs without the love triangle element, and most of the trials that Mia experienced on the job happened to Leah.

Except for the bleeding foot. Who would ever wear heels while working in a palengke? Also, how could you sympathize with Mia when she was working as a nanny sporting palazzo pants, heels, and clutching a designer bag? She also neglected a child. Why would I feel bad that she got fired? Kairita.

6. Any romantic movie addict knows that the Meet Cute part is crucial in establishing the connection between the potential lovers. In this movie, Ely and Mia met each other while on a train. An old man dropped his supot of abubots and Ely stopped and helped him pick up his stuff. Mia, who probably thought of herself as a subway goddess, simply stepped over the said goods and headed straight to the doors. I had the sudden urge to pull her stringy hair back ala Clara del Valle and ask her to help clean up the mess.

There was also one scene where Ely carried a drunk Mia on his shoulder like a wild boar back to his apartment. Was that supposed to be funny and romantic?

7. Much had been said about the makeup in this movie that I felt the need to discuss it in detail. I just couldn’t get over how horrible they looked. Daniel was like a walking espasol while Kathryn had the bronzed Spanish bread look. As one KathNiel pointed out, I am not a makeup expert and I do not know the perfect shades to complete a fresh summer look. My amateur critique on the makeup here is more on the lines of “Bes, Foundation Day ba today?”. Too distracting, too scary.

(Also, one scene involved mimes with white paint on their faces. I really thought it was them. That bad.)

8. Ano ang laman ng maleta ni Mia? Packets of Nescafe, of course. Laman ng cupboard ni Ely? Cans of San Marino Chili Corned Tuna. Pinoy essentials, naturally.

9. The leads’ performances were fine, with Daniel faring much better than Kathryn. She still had that distracting nasal voice and could not get rid of her pabebe acting tics. When she started crying in the latter part of this movie, I seriously expected subtitles so that the audience would understand what she was saying. Whatever happened to that brilliant actress that was a revelation in Magkaribal? In one scene, she was asked to perform a Spanish dance (freestyle flamenco?) and it severely lacked the needed sexuality. So awkward to watch!

Daniel, on the other hand, looked really good onscreen and reminded me a lot of a charismatic Robin Padilla in his prime. I hope that his potentials won’t be limited by his love team. Sayang naman if the only maturity he would be able to show would be doing a supposed nude scene while Kathryn watched from her bed.

If there was one performer that really stood out, though, it was Ma. Isabel Lopez who played Ely’s mother. As usual, eksenadora na naman. She stole every scene (one of them in a gorgeous red gown) like she was hogging the limelight in Cannes all over again. Brava!

10. Even with all the pop culture references (diary in Mara Clara, one character saying “Shut up na lang ako”, etc.), the best one leaned on being political since the movie inadvertently ended up as a public service ad against extrajudicial killings. In a nutshell, the Celine character was accidentally shot by riding-in-tandem goons who were actually targeting (I’m guessing) a drug pusher. I’m not kidding.

11. Burning questions:

• Why did the interior shots look like Tondo?

• Was it just me or did one of the tour guides actually look like Maine Mendoza?

• Will the trend of shouting from a high place (this time on a ferris wheel) as a form of catharsis continue in future movies?

• What was up with all those close-ups of their lips while drinking mineral water?

• Will I ever get to hear Gary V. sing a ballad without ever laughing after those hilarious “If (show/movie) was made in the Philippines…” videos?

• Was Cathy Garcia-Molina actually a good sport for showing up as herself while barking orders to poor extras?

• Do these lines sound familiar?

“Ingat ka sa lungkot-lungkot na yan. Mahirap magmahal ng isang taong hindi pa tapos magmahal ng iba.”

“Stop acting like you own my pain!”

“Tama ka! Hindi ka si Celine. You will NEVER be Celine!”

“‘Wag mo ko mahalin dahil mahal kita. Mahalin mo ko dahil mahal mo ko. Because that is what I deserve.”

“Mahal kita dahil mahal kita. Yun na yun.”

12. If you’re planning to watch this movie, make sure you’re armed with a first aid kit. During the much-hyped kissing scene, one KathNiel in yesterday’s screening let out an ear-piercing scream, jumped out of her seat, and started frothing in the mouth.

The other one beside me was sobbing like her favorite pet just died. I cried along with her because I really wanted a refund.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

MOVIE REVIEW: BEGINNERS (Mike Mills, 2011)

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I feel like I’ve aged like Christopher Plummer by the end of the movie. Man, that was a tough one to sit through.

Such a shame since Plummer and Ewan McGregor were so into their characters. It would have been more interesting if the movie focused on the father’s story instead of the tacked-on love angle of son and girlfriend.

And are old gay men supposed to wear neckerchiefs to show their sexual preference? It reminded so much of Robert Arevalo’s Papang in Magkaribal.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆