HELE NG MAHARLIKA (Norvin delos Santos, 2019)

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Nakakatakot yung pakiramdam na mala-Zero Dark Thirty na parang nakatago lang sa isang sulok si Osama bin Laden. Ang ganda pa ng reveal na batang sundalo ang armadong figure na nag-iikot sa madilim na bahay. May odd videogame feel pa siya kahit digmaan sa Marawi ang setting.

Naka-relate ako nung ipinanghugas niya ang pitcher ng tubig (bakit sobrang linis?) kesa inumin kasi ganun din ang gagawin ko. Kung mamamatay man ako sa uhaw, mas gusto yung di nanlilimahid sa libag. Kaya bwiset ako sa Maynilad talaga kapag walang tubig.

Ipinakita dito na kayang i-set aside ang differences (lalo na sa religion) para matamo ang kapayapaan. Kelan kaya ito tuluyang mangyayari?

Rating: ★★★☆☆

MALEDICTO (Mark Meily, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Maledicto:

1. It had been two days already and I still couldn’t get over the fact that I paid Php335 to watch this exorcism comedy. Ano bang masamang espiritu ang sumapi sa akin kahapon? Seriously, I could have used that money for a month’s worth of Netflix subscription so I wouldn’t need to leech off my bff’s account anymore. Besides, this was the kind of cheapie horror film meant to be seen on TV on a late Sunday night while battling a serious case of insomnia (an effective cure, for sure).

2. Tom Rodriguez (who might also be affected by Maynilad’s water shortage given his constantly constipated, hadn’t taken a dump in three days look) played Father Xavi, a psychiatrist turned priest (ooh career shift!) that didn’t believe in demonic possessions. As a man of science first, he assumed that there was always a logical, non-spiritual explanation on these supposed otherworldly events.

When asked to perform an exorcism on a possessed kid, the skeptic in him looked for signs that the boy was actually suffering from a medical condition. His initial diagnosis? “Madumi ang ngipin. Baka hindi lang nagsisipilyo.” Hek hek hek!!

3. In the late ‘80s, Phillip Salvador portrayed Father Balweg, a Catholic priest who founded the militant group Cordillera People’s Liberation Army. Father Xavi tried to one-up the said rebel priest by doing such un-holy, mej bad boy stuff like excessive drinking and smoking while playing a somber piece on his piano. His brashness was also evident when dealing with other people, like when he had this conversation with Sister Barbara (Jasmine Curtis-Smith):

Father Xavi: “Ok, I’ll help you, but I get to call you Barbie because your name’s boring.”

Sister Barbara turned Barbie: “Shige ne nge!”

Kaloka ka Sis!!

4. Non-sponsored plug: the screen in Evia was crystal clear and merited the exorbitant ticket price. The movie’s production team probably forgot that these cinemas exist though because in the first scene alone, the bruises on Mara’s (Inah de Belen) face looked like she just had too much fun with the Vice Cosmetics line.

Several scenes were noticeably out of focus and I just kept getting distracted by that hazy filter that blurred the edges in most frames. In terms of visual effects, I couldn’t determine where the swarm of flies came from in the scene where Mara had her mouth open ala The Mummy (parang they were just traumatized by her bad case of halitosis). And in what tacky club/bar would we see these ribbon strips dangling from the ceiling? Que horror!!

5. One of my favorite, laugh-out-loud moments was when Agnes (Miles Ocampo) chased an askal in this eskinita and then it turned on her and bit her. Sabay labas si Manang Sisa (Liza Lorena) who grabbed her bloody hand, looked at her palm, and said something like, “Gusto mo ba malaman sino ang magiging boyfriend mo?” and everything was just forgotten. Gurrrl, never heard of rabies?!

Side note: Agnes supposedly got possessed by the demonic doggie spirit so in the succeeding scene, she was shown wearing skimpy clothes and displayed her new goth look. Anak ng demonyo! Who made this movie? My grandmother?? (Or maybe it was just the rabies?)

6. First time to hear a voiceover while a character was flipping through a book: “Ahh, here it is!”.

Also, first time to see a person’s name crossed out during the end credits. Kawawa naman si Russel Remo.

7. During the exorcism, psychiatrist turned priest and probably turned chef Father Xavi started pouring mounds of salt around the bed. Hala, may balak pa ata siya gawing daing si Agnes! (But wait, wouldn’t her extended, wagging tongue make a better lengua instead?)

8. So there was a sub-plot slash twist about the Church’s cover-up on demonic possessions by equating them with drug use related to a coven of witches with horoscope signs on their palms. Would this be tackled further in the possible sequel that was hinted at by a mid-credits sequence? Juskong mahabagin!!

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

THROUGH NIGHT & DAY (Veronica Velasco, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Through Night and Day:

1. I used to have an Entertainment Weekly subscription when the magazine only cost around Php100 (it’s now priced at Php400!!). One of my favorite film critics there was Lisa Schwarzbaum and although we would usually have opposing views (she had the audacity to call Fight Club “dumb” and even gave it a D grade), I enjoyed her brutal (read: honest) opinions.

I was reminded so much of her Pay It Forward review which she described as a “shameless cliché of emotional and physical damage”. I couldn’t understand her hate back then because I was a sobbing mess by the end of that film. After watching this JaMill in Iceland travelogue turned manipulative tearjerker, I finally got it. Some movies would simply throw in a last minute trope (an accident, death, cancer) that appealed to the most basic sentiments and hope that the audience would equate their reaction of crying to quality. As a sucker for three hankie weepies who would bawl my eyes out while watching a Jollibee Christmas ad, I have had enough of this type of emotional manipulation.

2. The movie started off okay as it followed this annoying couple (Alessandra de Rossi as Jen and Paolo Contis as Ben) who had been together for thirteen years deciding to finally have an out of the country trip. It was supposedly the real test of their relationship (oh just wait until you guys actually lived together) because travelling would bring out the worst in people (as seen in every season with couples in The Amazing Race). Their country of choice was Iceland probably because it was a new destination for a Pinoy romcom and not a lot of people saw the fake-looking Aurora Borealis in the Piolo Pascual-Yen Santos snoozefest Northern Lights: A Journey To Love.

They rented a van without any insurance (a sign of an impending accident), complained about the exorbitant food prices (a trip to a local 7-11 cost them almost Php4k), provided Kuya Kim trivia about the place (zero crime rate in the country), and bickered and fought and made up, and bickered and fought and made up, and bickered and fought and made up.

You know how when you’re single and you would simply glare at these irritating naglalandian couples in the corner of Starbucks while bitterly thinking “Maghihiwalay din kayo”? Exact same feeling. After the nth time of watching them fight over the pettiest things, I wished that they would just head home and never see each other again.

3. I must have wished really hard because they did break up over a lost passport and a missed return flight. She was fire and he was ice (their words, not mine) and they just weren’t MFEO. I was already good with that ending (hey, a one hour travelogue for a Php190 movie ticket in Festival Mall wasn’t all bad) but then it decided to jump three years later with Ben already engaged to another girl and Jen all bald and suffering from a brain tumor. Why? Why? Whyyyyy??

If two people weren’t meant to be, why should guilt be induced to prove that there wasn’t any love lost between them? Jen’s affliction was even used as a reason for her blatant irrationality (although it still didn’t support why she chose to wear her engagement ring on her middle finger just because of a bad manicure). Should I feel guilty about that as well?

4. Even in her bad films, I couldn’t remember Alessandra de Rossi ever giving a terrible performance. She was always this sensitive actress able to transcend any material given to her (even crap like Spirit of the Glass). I couldn’t say the same for her work in the first two-thirds of this movie. Pabebe acting just didn’t suit her well (no to baby talk and girls trying to be cute by saying “Plith”).

Plus, she looked far too intelligent and decent to be groping tomatoes in a farm for a photo op and even spitting on the ground and contaminating all the pananim. After getting dumped over that missed flight, Jen asked “Dito talaga sa Iceland? Dito mo sasabihin na ayaw mo ako pakasalan? Kung saan ang ganda ng sky?” Huh?? And she even found humor in the situation when she screamed “I will stay here in my country! Not this country. This is not my country!”. I felt really, really bad for Alex.

Even worse, she shaved her head for this mess (fyi, she was a producer of this movie with a story and concept credit so it must be a passion project worthy of a buzz cut). Brave move, yes, but let’s not forget that Demi Moore also won a Worst Actress Razzie for her shaved head work in G.I. Jane.

Side note: That scar on the back of her head looked like a strip of Play Doh. Eek!

5. Paolo Contis fared a bit better because he always had this pilyo, pang-asar vibe even during his Ang TV days that was apt for the character of Ben. Most people would probably be surprised that he could cry a river (and believe me, there were enough tears in that final thirty minutes to solve our country’s Maynilad problems). Nothing new though if you were a huge fan of that Aga Muhlach-Dayanara Torres fantasy Basta’t Kasama Kita.

6. My favorite part of this movie was when Ben complained that Jen wasn’t “decently” dressed and since she was a devoted Christian saving herself for marriage, it was a problem for him not to feel horny beside her (“Wala namang utak ‘to. Tanga ‘to eh!” referring to his shrinkage-proof member that wasn’t affected at all by the freezing weather.) I immediately (sinfully) thought, “Well, maybe she should pray over his erection”. And she did. Bwahahaha!

(It was also interesting to note that Jen completely forgot her Christian ways after getting sick by forcing herself on Ben and basically trying to covet another person’s jowa.)

7. My least favorite part was when BenJen did a duet and sang the entire version of Gary Valenciano’s “I Will Be Here” while sobbing like there was no tomorrow (okay, bad pun because there really was no tomorrow for Jen).

I hated it because: 1) I had always been averse to that song ever since it was played in a good friend’s wake, 2) all the crying felt like one of those acting workshops where a mentor would make you remember the saddest memory and force you to weep for thirty minutes as a sign that you could act and cry on cue, and 3) they sang an entire song. Again, why? To give the audience enough time to cry along with them? Repeat after me: emotional manipulation.

Side note: The dark humor toward the end of the movie (the fake dying, Jen’s sudden outbursts, etc.) felt really off, too. The hilariously robotic delivery of that nurse about the re-occurrence of Jen’s condition didn’t help, either.

8. How did I know that I was completely unaffected by all the sadness onscreen? While the couple was singing that entire (it had to be noted, yet again) death song, my brain was focused on the fly perched on Joey Marquez’s left shoulder. Malungkot kaya yung langaw mag-isa?

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆