MISS GRANNY (Joyce Bernal, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Miss Granny:

1. As a huge fan, my Popster heart would always break a little whenever I’d get to read nasty comments about my Bebe Idol Sarah Geronimo. “Ang tanda na ayaw pa payagan magka-boyfriend!”, “Gurang na wala pa rin kissing scene sa movies!”, “Grabe naman si Mommy Divine gusto ata tumandang dalaga ang anak niya!“, “Ano yan pabebe hanggang 60?”, and these were even the relatively tamer ones.

I was really thrilled when I heard that she agreed to star in the remake of a Korean movie about a loathsome grandma who magically transformed back to her 20-year old self. (Manang pala si Sarah ha? O ayan literal na manang talaga sya.) Instead of raising a huge middle finger to all of her bashers, she agreed to poke fun at herself, chuckle along with the online trolls, and kill them with kindness (and laughter).

2. Although she would forever be associated with her iconic Laida Magtalas role, I could easily say that this was her best performance to date. She was just so charming as Odrey, an oldie trapped in a young person’s body. It was also a delight to see her doing things (“Ay puke!!”) that her prim and proper real persona would never do. (With that said, the limitations set to protect her image left the film with several missing pieces. More on that later.)

One of my favorite scenes was when she kept slapping Lorenz (Xian Lim) with fresh bangus without ever breaking out of character (as opposed to the latter who could barely contain his giggles). She even said something like “Bakit mo ako sinusundan na parang asong kakasta?” that cracked up every senior citizen in the audience. Another really good scene was the family dinner where grandson Jeboy (James Reid) joked about them getting married soon which made her spit out her sinigang soup. She then gave him a huge batok and said something like “Natatae ako!” which had everyone rolling in the aisles.

3. I was able to watch the original Korean version a few days before this and I had the same reservations in terms of storytelling, especially since the Pinoy adaptation was almost a shot-by-shot remake (save for the opening sequence where the original used ball metaphors to discuss ageism on women while this remake focused more on finding real happiness in motherhood). The transitions were completely off here though and several key scenes were left out that made the story feeling a bit incomplete.

One of the biggest changes was the removal of romantic encounters with Lorenz. In one scene, the Korean Odrey was asked by Korean Lorenz what she wanted in a man and her response was something like “as long as he’s a good person and good in bed”. Maybe Mommy Divine didn’t approve of hearing her daughter wanting a “lalaking magaling sa kama”? Another one that was removed and that had a huge impact on me while watching was the hairpin gift. Towards the end of the original version, old Korean Odrey locked eyes with Korean Lorenz while wearing that hairpin and it just made the scene more heartbreaking considering the new life/love that she gave up just to save her grandson.

4. I was really surprised with the jarring transitions given that Joyce Bernal’s strength as a filmmaker was that she started as a really good editor. When a local critic described this production as sloppy, I completely understood what he meant. Even little things like a few grainy scenes, some wonky subtitles (“braised beff”, “son of a tofu”??, “lawrenz”), the credits with the tilted names, and the reduced screen at the end even without the credits rolling just felt lazy overall.

5. I did appreciate the small touches made for the Pinoy setting (the taho vendor, the use of chico, the Lola Madonna reference, etc.) And there were some really inspired 60’s/70’s OPM song choices that had me in LSS mode for several hours now. The only one that I really knew was the classic Rain (originally by Boy Mondragon) because it was covered by THE Donna Cruz in the 90’s, but I couldn’t stop singing Efren Montes’ Kiss Me, Kiss Me as well (“Tanan tanan tanan!!”). Where do I send my petition for a Sarah G. retro album?

Side note: That blatant BDO billboard might have ruined the moment of a crying Fely (Nova Villa), but it was actually in the original movie only with a different brand of course (it served as a juxtaposition of a young and old woman). Now that scene where Lorenz ordered using his BDO debit card? Shameless promotion. (I did sing “Just debit with BDO!” during that sequence so…).

Another side note: Why did Odrey have a Cherry Mobile ringtone? Oppo would not be happy. And why was she made to eat crispy pata to prove the strength of her real teeth when she could have munched on a crispylicious, juicylicious Chickenjoy instead?

6. Wait, how was she able to buy Valium over the counter? And why did one banig only cost Php289? Seryoso? (Eksenadora si pharmacist, though. He made the most out of his limited screen time, unlike the usually excellent Angeli Bayani who gave a terrible performance in this movie. What happened?! Bakit level 10 agad ang pasok ng acting?)

7. I missed the Pretty Woman montage in the original, but I’m sure everyone would agree that Sarah looked incredibly gorgeous in that makeover payong reveal. Now I need to buy a parasol before my next trip to ATC.

8. I really liked the “Wag kang bibitaw” montage shown during the “Forbidden” production number. Nakakaiyak considering all the sacrifices she had to make as a single mother. It made the “letting go” scene with her son (Nonie Buencamino) even more meaningful (and even more nakakaiyak, naturally!). When he said something like, “Ma, pwede ka na umalis. At sa pag-alis mo wag kang magsasakripisyo para sa masamang anak na katulad ko”, the whole theater was flooded with tears.

Ang galing ni Nonie and natapatan sya ni Sarah sa iyakan. She was so good that I felt the need to renew my Popster card even if I already had a lifetime membership.

9. I was so excited to see the actor who would play the young Bert (Boboy Garovillo) in the big reveal at the end. I really thought it would be Matteo Guidicelli, but it ended up to be Sam Concepcion. Bakit??? What a downer!! 

Anywho, I wonder when the Forever Young Portrait Studio would magically appear again in Mother Ignacia Street. I need to be ready.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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#EWANKOSAU SARANGHAEYO (Roman Perez, Jr., 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on #Ewankosau Saranghaeyo:

1. I remember watching Dawson’s Creek a decade ago and Dawson Leery was this amateur filmmaker who kept shooting these no-budget horror flicks. This movie looked and felt exactly like that. It wasn’t a horror movie but it very well could have been one.

2. Leo Martinez played the lead actor’s grandfather and he was supposedly a modern day Balagtas, spewing romantic and philosophical lines while riding a railway trolley. He was no different from Janet Jackson in Poetic Justice. In one scene, he staged a balagtasan face-off with local flip-toppers.

3. There were actually two recent Cinemalaya Best Supporting Actress winners in this movie. I felt really bad that this would forever be on their Wikipedia filmography.

4. In one clunky scene, three characters were talking loudly about another character who was painting just five feet away. The scene ended with this gem of a line, “Tara alis na tayo baka mapansin pa niya tayo.” Sigh.

5. Jon Lucas looked like Matteo Guidicelli. Why wasn’t he given the lead role instead? And what kind of parent would name their kid River Mondragon?

6. Francis Magundayao was a terrible actor and he had zero chemistry with Barbie Forteza. Even Forteza (great in Mariquina) felt limited by the bad screenplay. I guess it was hard for her to act when the highlight of the movie was her character mourning a dead pet chicken.

7. My favorite lines in the movie were:

• “Kung bibigyan ka ba ng pagkakataong maging malaya, hindi ka ba lilipad?” (No, she wasn’t talking to her dead pet chicken.)

• “Pahinga na tayo ha.”

“Ok, ikaw din.”

• After dancing with the prom king:

“Baste, gusto ko ikaw ang first dance ko.”

• “Pakiramdam ko nasa adaptation tayo ng Wattpad.” (One that should never have been published.)

• And this classic…

“May gamot ang kabobohan. Konting iodized salt lang solb na. Pero yang katangahan mo di ko alam kung sang botika mahahanap ang lunas.”

8. Of course, there was a key product placement in the movie. Thank you BNY, makers of Bunny Jeans!!

9. I’d definitely wear that mini-barong under a beaded blazer look in our next Christmas party.

10. I would never forget that scene where he tried to skateboard from Roxas Boulevard to the airport because of heavy traffic. Love indeed makes us do really crazy things.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published January 25, 2015.)

CAN’T HELP FALLING IN LOVE (Mae Cruz-Alviar, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Can’t Help Falling in Love:

1. I think it was during the public bathroom scene where Dos (Daniel Padilla) was removing the heels of Gab (Kathryn Bernardo), which must have felt so good because she was having a wild orgasm, that I immediately knew I wouldn’t like this movie. It was clearly trying too hard to wring out laughs by placing its characters in the most absurd situations. That scene was capped off by strangers entering the room and looking disgusted even if it was completely obvious that nothing kinky was going on (hello, his head wasn’t even under her skirt!).

It was a shame really because Daniel and Kathryn were so game all throughout this movie even if the material failed to capitalize on their palpable onscreen chemistry.

2. I had been crowing about Daniel’s natural charms (reminiscent of his uncle Robin’s) in previous movies so the bigger surprise here for me was Kathryn. Not only did she look so fresh and lovely (a vision in yellow during her grand entrance! radiant in black during the wake!), but she also managed to drop most of her annoying acting tics.

Whatever decongestant she took worked because she didn’t sound as oddly nasal as before. She also managed to tone down her pabebe delivery and she was really effective in most of her dramatic scenes (my favorite was her quiet sumbat moment outside the police station; “Nagmahal ka na ba? Minahal ka na ba?”). The only thing left for her to work on would be controlling her eyes because she would resort to unintentionally widening them while speaking (nandidilat for no reason).

Anyway, I just made a mental note to buy Pond’s as soon as the stores open today.

3. As a rule, Star Cinema characters should avoid getting drunk in bars because they would always end up in sticky situations (literally and figuratively?) after. I didn’t buy the ridiculous premise of these two ending up married after a crazy night of partying (hey, this wasn’t Vegas and none of them were Britney; besides, were they carrying all the legal documents that night to get a marriage license issued on the spot?).

None of the succeeding events made a lot of sense as well. I wouldn’t recommend this movie to any of my lawyer friends because their eyes might end up rolling out of their sockets in the scenes where Gab interviewed Dos’ ex-girlfriends to prove his impotence or Gab pretended to make out with her girl friend in Sogo while Dos took pictures of them as proof of homosexuality (they ended up getting arrested after for supposedly creating a porno, wtf?!).

In one scene, Gab dressed up as a taong grasa because she was supposedly baliw sa pag-ibig and insanity was one of the major grounds for annulment. I guess they were to blame for hiring a lawyer from a firm called Hulog ng Langit. (Terrible, terrible screenplay, I tell you.)

4. Did we really need those cameos of Zanjoe Marudo, Ejay Falcon, and Piolo Pascual? Even a bald Daniel Radcliffe made a surprise appearance. Why create unnecessary distractions on an already messy story?

5. Since there was nothing original in this movie, I wasn’t surprised at all that Matteo Guidicelli played the third wheel yet again and that his character (unfortunately named Jason) was villified for being a controlling boyfriend. So basically he loved his girlfriend and supported her for six years even if she only loved him back for security and stability and yet he was the bad guy just for wanting what was best for her. Oh-kay!

Also, they called each other Bud so I guess it was meant to be a friendzone experience right from the start.

6. Of course there would be a reason to go out of town! Destination of choice? Argao, Cebu. A tour of the city’s old churches, cliff diving, coral reef diving, motorcycle rides along the cliffside roads, I was surprised they didn’t use these instead for the channel’s summer station ID.

7. I wish there were more of the small moments that genuinely made me smile (Dos offering a basahan to Gab while she was crying, or Dos distracting Gab with his love notes written on napkins). The scene where Dos was making his huling habilin to his extended family could have easily been milked for laughs and tears, but it just fell short of being great.

I have enjoyed a number of past rom-coms by Direk Mae (Bride for Rent, Everyday I Love You), but she was left with very little to work with here.

8. For every realistically heartfelt line like “Kapag natikman mo pala, nakaka-adik ang umasa”, there were even more empty platitudes like “Mas pipiliin ko ang isang bukas na nandun ka, kesa sa isang milyong bukas na wala ka.”

Ang Babae sa Septic Tank 2: #ForeverIsNotEnough should be required viewing for Star Cinema’s writing team. Seriously.

9. I think I developed an acute case of tinnitus when Gab serenaded Dos with her own version of Panalangin. And that was minutes before his critical brain surgery. Pigain nyo na lang ang apdo ko, but take that portable Magic Sing away from her!!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

ACROSS THE CRESCENT MOON (Baby Nebrida, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Across the Crescent Moon:

1. If the Mocha Uson Blog were to venture into the film industry and dramatize its controversial posts, this would be the end product. I could easily imagine all the Dilawans instantaneously frothing at the mouth while watching this blatant propaganda movie that justified extrajudicial killings, supported the death penalty, and made living heroes out of PNP Chief dela Rosa and President Duterte (whose presence was onscreen for a significant amount of time that he should have received secondary billing).

Regardless of one’s political stand though, everyone would definitely agree that this was a poorly-made, self-important flick that thought too highly of itself just because it had subtitles.

2. The opening action scene alone was already problematic with machine guns being fired but nobody was getting hit and explosions that just came out of nowhere (nasaan yung nagpapasabog? Nasaan?!). It also had a long chase scene that started late afternoon on the road and ended up post-Primetime Bida in a forest village.

3. The director’s idea of dynamism and movement was to have two characters having an argument walk from the kitchen to the living room to the bedroom. Mga bes, paano kayo magkakaintindihan kung paikot-ikot kayo sa bahay?

4. I already used a thesaurus but I couldn’t find the most appropriate word to describe how awful the performances were. I still haven’t fully recovered from his tragic acting in last year’s Tupang Ligaw and now Matteo Guidicelli has returned to torture me yet again. The good news was that he looked like an Urian winner next to the girls that played his wife and sister-in-law.

Every time one of them spoke (in full akting na akting mode, of course), I felt like I was on the verge of an aneurysm. I never knew that watching a movie would now be considered buwis buhay.

In one scene, the teenage sister (who must have thought that she was in a grade school elocution contest) welcomed back her older sister with the line (please note that her eyes were wide open and hands clasped), “Oh, you must be starving!”. Tengene, patayin nyo na ako!!

5. Even with the in-your-face product placements for Tanduay, Beer na Beer, and Colt 45, nothing could beat the mini-commercial for Cobra energy drink.

Previous scene –

Matteo: “Kelangan natin mahanap agad ang mga biktima bago sila mapadala sa Malaysia!”

Next scene –

Matteo: “Ate, may malamig na Cobra diyan?”

6. When Matteo learned that his wife was pregnant, they decided to celebrate with drinks by the pool. He must have been so happy that he threw her in the water not once, but three times! Why?!

7. My favorite lines from the movie:

• Matteo to Joem Bascon: “Ikaw ba ang anghel ko? Anghel dela guwardiya?” Yihee!!

• Also Matteo to Joem: “Ayoko ng partner na may bisyo: alak, babae, sugal, yosi.” Ay strict boyfriend, er, partner!

• Sandy Andolong to Matteo’s wife: “Huwag kang mag-alala Emma. Bukas luluhod ang mga tala.” Ooh, Sharonian!

• Christopher de Leon sharing his words of wisdom: “Ang buhay ay parang buwan. Bilog yan. Umiikot din yan.” I kennat!!

• Joem inside a steel container: “Napakainit naman dito. Anong akala nila sa atin, baboy na ibebenta por kilo?” Dear, you should have requested for first class accommodations from your kidnappers.

• Kidnap victim on their whereabouts: “Binilang ko. Mga sampung minuto lang ang isla mula dito.” Koya, wala kang relo. Manual counting of seconds? Wow, how to be you po?

8. Burning questions:

• Were Matteo and Joem required to watch Street Fighter before filming? Why did their fight scenes always start with a drop kick?

• When Matteo got shot on the arm, why did he go home hours later without having it checked in the nearest hospital?

• Why were the kidnapped victims’ pictures all taken from Studio City?

• Where can I learn to make that excellent bar graph Powerpoint presentation showing the number of babies sold per month?

• Seriously, why was this movie even made?

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

TUPANG LIGAW (Rod Santiago, 2016)

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My notes on Tupang Ligaw:

1. I really had no plans of watching this movie, but because of my great love for Sarah G., an R-16 rating that promised possible nudity, and just a little over one hour running time, I thought how bad could it be? (The answer was very.)

2. I hope that Matteo Guidicelli was a much better boyfriend than actor. Although he looked really good onscreen, his face barely registered any genuine emotion. His constant preening and difficulty in delivering his Filipino lines were just distracting. One scene involved a young kid aiming a loaded gun at him and he casually said, “Delikado ‘to, ok?” like he was just teaching him the dangers of tumbang preso. Can he just release a scandal, please?

3. Matteo played Abel Rosaryo and if his name wasn’t enough of a giveaway, he was the good son turned lost sheep out to seek revenge on the death of his prodigal brother at the hands of Paolo Contis’ Señor El Diablo (yup, this movie didn’t know the word subtlety) and his caricature goons. Oh, and said Diablo ruled Barrio Paraiso (ooh, at least it knew irony).

4. Barrio Paraiso was a stinkhole full of really nice people, so nice that the teens actually queued to buy their daily supply of drugs. The other characters in this forsaken town included a widowed prostitute (Ara Mina) and her young boy, an old haciendero with a borta caregiver fond of grey tank tops, and a cowboy hat-wearing priest. The said priest asked for Abel’s help because he was so concerned about his town’s current state (“Sana matulungan natin ang mga kabataan”). The next scene showed said teens…twerking. Miley Cyrus was the devil?

5. Señor El Diablo’s goons in the movie all carried machine guns that they never really used whenever Abel was around. They usually ended up pointing them at him, never firing (sayang ang bala?), and then just using them to make pukpok the bida. Seriously, these were the oppressors that ruled the poor barrio?

I bet Abel just spent a few hours watching Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon to prep for these fights. He actually put the late, great Fernando Poe, Jr. to shame by singlehandedly killing all goons in sight with his bare hands. I swear in one scene the said goons actually even lined up so that they could get punched one after the other.

6. The said R-16 rating proved to be a disappointment because it was mostly due to the constant throat-slitting. To be fair though, there were so many shots of Abel tucking the gun in the waistband of his jeans so we had more than enough glimpses of Matteo’s flawless belly. Such a tease!

7. Flashbacks galore. Every plot detail and motive needed one. I think the entire movie was actually half-flashbacks, half-action sequences.

And because the movie was so original, it had a scene where Matteo looked up at the high heavens, raised his arms, and let out a loud scream while the camera panned out for an aerial shot. (It was original because it didn’t rain.)

8. The shoddy production values were probably limited by the measly budget. The movie didn’t even bother with retakes. One scene had the camera on Matteo just waiting for his cue to speak (if that wasn’t bad enough, he still missed his cue). In another, he flipped a table out of anger but since it didn’t fully turn, he just flipped it again all in the same take.

The sound of a passing tricycle would be much louder than the actual conversation. Even a vase used in one scene was fake because it didn’t break when it was accidentally hit by a character.

The movie’s producer at least knew her priorities. She was addressed with a Ms. on the opening and closing credits. More importantly, she played a crucial role as Tiger Rose, uhm, actually her character had no bearing in the entire movie until a last minute explanation on one of the last few scenes. This reminded me so much of another producer (ahem, GMA Films) that had to be included as an extra in every scene of all her movies.

9. One of my favorite scenes here was when Ara Mina stepped out of her room that night with her boobs almost popping out of the plunging neckline of her skimpy bedazzled black dress (with matching floral clutch) and told Matteo that she was off to work and he still asked what kind of work she had.

Uh, I surely hope she wasn’t a call center agent (or worse, Team Leader).

I was already reaching for my inhaler by the time Ara replied, “Eh di sa beerhouse.”

10. Speaking of said beerhouse, the movie’s idea of being progressive was having a transgendered prostitute dance in a club full of presumably straight men. Good move for equal opportunity, right? And then the said transgender did a somersault before eating a live chicken. (Fear the wrath of the LGBT!)

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆