AMOR Y MUERTE (Cesar Evangelista, 2013)

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Alternate title: Sawa ni Apitong. Signalled the possible return of schlocky 90’s ST movies.

I’m still reeling from the amount of sex and nudity that Markki Stroemm displayed in Amor Y Muerte. Everything was just in full view. Gasp.

With all the graphic sex and nudity in this movie and it’s rated R-16, I wonder what falls under R-18. Soft core porn?

“Mahaba man ang espada ng mga Kastila, mas malakas ang sawa ng mga Pilipino.” The movie in a nutshell. I’m not kidding.

I checked my watch to see if I time travelled back to the 90’s and I was watching an ST flick. Wait, it’s our local The Piano! Eek!

A lot of people asking about Amor Y Muerte. Yes, it shows Markki’s Stroem. And yes, you might Markki over his Stroem. Ok, I ran out of puns.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published August 6, 2013.)

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: ★★☆☆☆

CAN WE STILL BE FRIENDS? (Prime Cruz, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Can We Still Be Friends?:

1. I had an overwhelming sense of dèjá vu during the opening scene with Sam (Arci Muñoz) looking bored and restless while her long-time boyfriend Digs (Gerald Anderson) was intently watching a show on TV. When she started complaining about the fact that they never really did anything else (“chill lang nang chill”) and that she wanted to do something different, I realized that I had been in this kind of relationship. I had been faulted (and eventually dumped) for the apparent lack of excitement and opting for a quiet and relaxed (ergo monotonous?) way of spending our quality time together. In the next scene, when Sam complained that they were having problems paying their bills, my inner meanie almost exploded with the thought, “Ang lakas lakas mong mag-aya wala ka naman palang pera!”

In another scene, she asked Digs to pick her up after work and she kept bugging him to hurry up. (Nagpapasundo na lang, siya pa nagmamadali?!) But wait, there’s more! When Digz finally arrived, she actually wanted him to do a u-turn so that she wouldn’t have to cross the street. She even had the gall to call him inconsiderate when he didn’t oblige. (Tatawid ka na lang gurl anubanaman!!)

Uhh, why was I so affected when this wasn’t even about me?

2. People expecting to see #TeamLablab in another Always Be My Maybe would be hugely disappointed since this was actually closer to One More Chance (they even recycled the “Pwede ba tayo na lang ulit?” line). In lieu of kilig moments, it was stuffed with mundane scenes of a couple realizing after nine years of being together that they actually hated each other. Its depiction of the breakdown of a relationship (down to petty quarrels over empty water bottles returned in the fridge) was so realistic that I wish it stayed true to the promise of a story about exes trying to maintain a post-breakup friendship.

3. Did Arci re-dub her lines? I noticed that her delivery in the actual movie was normal compared to her pabebe voice in the trailer. It was definitely a good decision because it just made her character more grounded. She was still an effective actress here and looked really gorgeous, but I wish her lips weren’t too distracting. Weirdly enough, they reminded me so much of Vibora, the talking serpent of Valentina. Star Cinema, has that role been cast already? You could thank me later.

In the end though, this was an acting showcase for Gerald who continued to display such depth and maturity in his role. I actually shed a tear in that confrontation scene when he said, “Tama ka naman eh. Hindi ako ang taong magpapasaya sa’yo.” Dear fellow Popsters, is it time to finally forgive him? (Putting my foot down on that Budoy bit though because it was more offensive than charming.)

4. That gif-worthy Magic Mike scene ooh-la-la! It was just funny though that the production couldn’t afford Ginuwine’s Pony so they had to create a Rite-Med version of the song. Still, all that grinding had me shooketh.

5. Juan Miguel Severo is officially the ultimate success story in local cinema. In every movie, his character would always end up with the cutest onscreen boyfriends (here it was Markki Stroem). I wasn’t a big fan of his spoken word poetry in On the Wings of Love and I still didn’t like how it was utilized here as part of the wedding vows. As soon as he started reciting lines like “Pipiliin kita sa araw na hindi tayo magkasundo…” in full “Oh captain, my captain!” mode, my eyes started rolling wildly in their sockets.

6. Mannequin challenge proposal? Very 2000 and late. Besides, who would take the video that they would eventually post on social media?

7. I still could not understand the couple’s decision to co-habitate after the breakup. I couldn’t even be Facebook friends with an ex agad agad. Not surprised that it led to the requisite Star Cinema happy ending. In TimeZone. Oh, TimeZone. So many memories.

8. “Kapag kaya mong maging friends sa ex mo, either mahal mo pa talaga or di mo talaga minahal.”

Nope, definitely not true. With acceptance comes maturity. Sabi nga ng Little Mix, “Shout out to my ex…you made my heart break and that made me who I am.”

Rating: ★★★☆☆