THE SKELETON TWINS (Craig Johnson, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Skeleton Twins:

1. The first few minutes of the film opened with two suicide attempts. That they were being done at the same time by troubled siblings just made it more interesting.

2. Depression (the disorder, not the emo kind) seems foreign to our culture, no? Anyone showing signs of mental health problems is immediately tagged as baliw. I bet you wouldn’t really know anyone who actively sees a psychiatrist (and not in a Makati Med basement kind). I guess that’s why I’ve been very fascinated with this topic. The problem is real and the resulting effect like suicide is just scary.

3. There were four comedians that starred in this film (Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Ty Burrell, Luke Wilson), each of them completely effective in their respective roles. It further proved that the funniest people also make the best dramatic actors.

4. Hader’s gay character Milo had a hissy fit when he realized that it was, as one lesbian called it, “Dyke Night” at the local bar. Do we have those here? It looked really fun.

5. Why do gay characters love wearing scarves? Is it because they can dramatically throw it around their necks and make a scene? I’m looking at (for?) you, Waldo.

6. There was one touching moment where the siblings bonded over prophylaxis and nitrous oxide. It was something so ordinary and yet ended up as special. The amazing performances helped a lot as well. I was a big mess after watching it.

7. Milo (Hader) to Maggie (Wiig) after realizing that she was cheating: “You’re not a whore. You’re a restless housewife with whore-like tendencies.” Too funny!!

8. You know how sometimes we just have to sing and dance our troubles away? In one great sequence, Milo and Maggie performed the Mannequin theme song (Starship’s Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now). You know this one. Cue music. “And we can build this dream together, standing strong forever, nothing’s gonna stop us now…”

8. A discussion regarding expectations and reality was very heartbreaking. Milo recalled how their dad said that a popular jock already peaked in high school and that he (Milo) would peak later on in life. Several years later, he learned that the jock was successful and had a happy family while he was a complete mess. Oftentimes life could be cruel.

9. “Maybe next time you should cut deeper.” I bawled my eyes out.

10. The final attempt to find redemption didn’t ring true to me. I felt cheated by the happy ending because I know it wouldn’t be a happy ending. But hey, I wish them all the best.

11. Are you still singing Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now?

Rating: ★★★★☆

(Originally published January 4, 2015.)

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LOVE YOU TO THE STARS AND BACK (Antoinette Jadaone, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Love You to the Stars and Back:

1. As a kid, I believed everything that my mother told me. I would immediately take a shower after getting drenched in the rain to avoid getting pulmonya. I would forego that extra cup of rice during dinner lest I end up dying of bangungot. I never went to bed with wet hair because I didn’t want to wake up crazy and dragged all the way to the basement of Makati Med. I was proud of my huge ears because they meant that I would live a long life. I also ate an entire roasted lizard because it was supposedly a cure for my asthma.

I wasn’t surprised at all that young Mika (Julia Barretto) swallowed up all the alien talk of her soon-to-be-departed mother (Carmina Villaroel). I mean it would be nice to believe that E.T. (yes, as in “E.T., phone home!”) would one day abduct me and bring me to the stars so I could observe EDSA traffic from above. In Mika’s own words, “Walang imposible sa mundong ito. Kelangan mo lang maniwala.”

2. So Mika decided to look for aliens in Mt. Milagros (fictional place, right?) somewhere in Batangas and the very first thing she bought as supplies were…Choco Muchos?! Please tell me this wasn’t a blatant product placement (similar to that succeeding Oppo selfie) and that she was really a junk food junkie. Also, would Sapporo now be considered the official beer of Pinoy love stories? Better luck next time Red Horse Litro.

3. Leo Martinez had always been the token Batangueño character in Pinoy cinema and his accent (read: punto) would always be played for laughs. I was happy to see a different version here represented by Caloy (Joshua Garcia, another true-blue Batangueño), but I wish he kept the accent all-throughout the film just for authenticity (sadly, the ones by the supporting cast were spotty at best).

Joshua made up for it though with such a strong performance that displayed his versatility. The John Lloyd Cruz comparisons made during Vince & Kath & James were even more obvious (and justified) here. Naiiyak ako habang pinapanood lang sya umiyak, whether he was telling the story of how his father abandoned them over a plate of tapang kalabaw, or peering through the gate while getting rejected by said dad, or calling his mom to assure her that he was okay. Nanay pa niya si Cherry Pie Picache so wag na umasang di ka maiyak.

(I think the only weakness of Joshua would be his fake laugh because, well, it felt fake. Bawi naman sa pa-karug. Har har.)

4. I loved how the characters here bonded over the grossest things, making them more human and their relationship more relatable. Their meet cute moment actually involved pooping and pissing in a talahiban (another mother’s advice: always say ‘tabi tabi po’ to prevent the wrath of a nuno) and since a significant part of the movie had them inside a car, I was happy when somebody actually farted (with a round of finger-pointing after, of course!).

5. Wait, so Caloy was sick and he decided that the best way to go from Lemery to Calaca (this would be like going from Southmall to MOA ba?) was on a bike?

6. The manong manok character was definitely me to millennials: “Ang babata n’yo pa, ang lalandi n’yo na!”

Mika was able to provide a good defense though: “Bakit kung uso na ang cellphone nung EDSA Revolution, hindi rin ba kayo mag-selfie?!” Touché!

(Another Titas of Manila moment: my brain kept screaming “Eyes on the road!” while they kept making landi in a moving vehicle. Ay josko ka!)

7. Goldie, their pet chicken, was left in the car while they ate lunch. Buti hindi naging Chickenjoy pagbalik nila.

8. I was never really fond of Julia because of her rumored kaartehan and perceived brattiness (I read a lot of FashionPulis, sorry!), but she definitely proved her mettle here. Not only did she look and sound very much like her Aunt Claudine, she actually acted the exact same way.

I especially liked her in that bridge scene where all of her emotions just felt raw and natural. Any lesser actress would have disappeared amidst the powerful presence of Joshua. She also had this really cute (albeit bittersweet) scene with Mika imagining that Caloy was still in the passenger seat. All it needed was her playfully saying, “Mukha kang chewing gum na masarap nguyain.”

9. Although it had elements similar to The Fault in our Stars (and even Your Name), the film overall was still distinctly Jadaone. Iba pa rin ang magic niya kapag usapang pag-ibig. She always knew the right blend of kilig and drama.

I really liked how this was able to differentiate itself from TFIOS by showing the ugly side of cancer. It would be hard to forget that heartbreaking scene with Caloy all covered in his own puke and blood, trying to pretend that nothing was wrong with him. Also, it had one of the most unromantic (pero damang-dama pa rin) declarations of love in cinema. Move over, Ansel and Shailene!

10. “Walang sigurado pero minsan kelangan mo lang maniwala.” I now believe in you, JoshLia. Elyen!!

Rating: ★★★★☆

ELEMENTO (Mark Meily, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Elemento:

1. As a kid, I would always heed my late grandmother’s warning and utter the words “Tabi, tabi po!” before peeing on a tree. Apparently, some dwarves or entities lived there and you would need to ask permission before showering urine on their precious homes. Even if I thought that that was a weird sign of respect, I still did it because I didn’t want my Dingdong Dantes to rot and fall off if the homeowners got mad. As an adult, I just avoided anything related to camping or hiking so there would never be a reason for me to do a number one with Mother Nature.

2. Do Pinoys really go to psychiatrists? I knew of some people that sought professional mental health, but I didn’t really know anyone with his own psychiatrist. I just couldn’t imagine us lying on a couch sharing our deepest, darkest secrets and fears to (professional) strangers like Dr. Ben Harmon of American Horror Story or Dr. Jennifer Melfi of The Sopranos. It just didn’t seem to be part of our culture where any sign of mental illness would have a relative immediately sent to the basement of Makati Medical Center (or made fun of in jokes like “Nakatira ka sa Mandaluyong? Loob o labas?”).

3. Albert Silos was the same boy in the MMFF New Wave movie Turo-Turo. He wasn’t particularly awful. He was just unfortunate enough to have already starred in two stinkers.

4. I also felt bad for Cristine Reyes who was last seen having loads of fun and giving a great comedic turn in Lumayo Ka Nga Sa Akin’s Asawa ni Marie. Here she played a negligent mother (read: she only served hotdogs and eggs every single breakfast) who had no clue that her child was already replaced by an elemento even if he displayed a complete change in behavior after a bizarre field trip. She only realized this after he responded differently to the nickname Pork Chop (and you knew it would play a very significant part in the story because it had to be repeated at least four times in prior scenes) and this happened days after he returned.

Her performance was so bad that she couldn’t even pretend to drive properly (seriously, why do local actors keep moving the steering wheel even if they’re driving a straight path?) or wake up with any emotion from a bad dream (as in tulaley level of acting).

5. Speaking of the said field trip, the kids were led by these hyperactive tour guides that probably also worked as Jollibee Kiddie Party hosts on the side (“MGA KIDS SINONG EXCITED MAKITA SI JOLLIBEEEEEE??”). One of them even gave this description of the trees around them, “These plants are mostly abundant in tropical…and non-tropical.” So basically everywhere, Ate? I would never let my child join this kind of activity (the elemento being the least of my concerns).

6. Besides, the teachers here were so incompetent. A bully boy (who wore a gold watch from his father’s Saudi collection) would shout and hit his classmates and they didn’t even bother to stop him. When the same kid was bludgeoned on the head, nobody really did anything after and Miss Teacher just kept inspecting the bloody gashes on his face. Ma’m, sa dami ng dugo baka gusto nyo siya itakbo sa ospital. Suggestion lang naman.

7. Here are a few things that were scarier than the actual movie:

* The awful special effects with the elementos looking like fake wooden marionettes

* The print on print on print outfits (with matching chunky costume jewelry and gold hoops) of Elizabeth Oropesa as the resident gypsy (kaya ba lagi siya naka-gypsy skirt?) who had the best line of the entire movie (“Halika ligtas ka sa bahay ko” and then moments later ended up dead in her bedroom)

* Jake Cuenca’s long disheveled hair that looked like it hadn’t been washed for days

* Characters that dumbed down its viewers by saying things that were already obvious (“Umuulan na!” as soon as it started to rain)

* The gay BFF stereotype that preyed on men in gyms, said lines like “Marami nang insektong humahada sa locker room kaya kelangan na i-fumigate ang gym”, owned a rainbow umbrella (kasi nga umuulan na!), and recited the Prayer Before Meals (“Bless us oh Lord and these Thy gifts…”) for protection before entering the forest (should we be laughing now?)

8. If your idea of a horror movie was seeing mud-covered extras with leaves glued on their denim shorts pretending to be elementos, then this one would be highly-recommended. Enjoy!!

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆