CRAZY RICH ASIANS (Jon M. Chu, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Crazy Rich Asians:

1. I remembered watching this episode of Bonkers Closets on Facebook that featured the humongous fingerprint-protected walk-in closet (and by walk-in, I meant way bigger than our entire house) of crazy rich Singaporean socialite Jamie Chua. It stored hundreds of her Birkins and Louboutins and every kind of sparkly Chanel dress that any woman (and gay man) could ever dream of. She even called one of her purchases, an Hermès Mini Pochette worth over $11k, completely useless because it could only fit a credit card and a piece of tissue. It was this same kind of opulence (read: ridiculously excessive levels) that I expected from this movie.

As a third world citizen without a Jamba Juice card, but mooches off of my friend’s Netflix account, I wanted to see how these crazy rich Asians were living my fantasy life that I would have to pick my jaw off the sticky floors of the cinema after every scene of extreme extravagance. Aside from that overhead shot of the Young estate with what seemed to be a built-in lagoon, there really weren’t a lot of “Kalokang mayayaman ‘to!” moments here, though. I had more “Wow!” moments while skimming over the Yes! issue of Willie Revillame flaunting his mansion and luxury cars.

(If anything, this movie worked as a really effective tourism video for Singapore because every location just looked incredibly gorgeous.)

2. Wait, I’m not required to lower my standards naman just because Asians are finally getting represented in Hollywood, right? So I should be as brutal to this cliché-ridden rom-com the same way that I would to a Star Cinema langit-lupa love story? Because seriously, that plane scene reeked of Bea Alonzo flying to Cagayan de Oro with Dingdong Dantes running after her and then making that grand proposal while every passenger cheered even with their flight delayed. Why should this one get a free pass as an enjoyable, fluffy piece of entertainment just because it’s an “important” film?

3. The opening scene was my favorite because I weirdly enjoyed squirming in my seat while watching that really uncomfortable discrimination situation. I even remembered being in a slightly similar incident when my family had a vacation in (guess where?) Singapore back in the early 90’s. We were eating at KFC and the locals sneered at us like we were stray dogs that got lost in that establishment (of course back then I had no clue that they looked down on Pinoys as second-class citizens so I just thought they weren’t too happy with the crispy chicken they were eating).

When the legendary Michelle Yeoh served that fitting retribution to the hotel manager with such intense coldness, I came very close to standing up and cheering from my seat. I’d have preferred it though if she ended that scene with “Wala pang taong hindi rumespeto sa pangalang ELEANOR Young! At ang hindi marunong rumespeto sa AKING pangalan ay ASO lamang!!”. (If you got that reference, you have excellent taste in films.)

4. So many #PinoyFried in this movie, although none of them actually portrayed Pinoy characters (except for Astrid’s maids, of course!). Nico Santos’ fey turn as cousin Oliver was a delight, although it wasn’t surprising given his amazing turn as Mateo Fernando Aquino Liwanag in Superstore.

And speaking of Aquinos, when crazy rich Kris showed up onscreen as Princess Intan, there were some audible gasps from the audience. I guess none of them were able to watch Magic to Win 5 on the big screen. I still think it would have been the biggest casting coup if she played Imelda Marcos (the only woman that could put Jamie Chua’s shoe collection to shame).

5. I completely get the use of the very Asian mahjong game in that climactic showdown between Eleanor and Rachel (Constance Wu), although I honestly didn’t understand all of the symbolisms. The only thing I noticed was that Eleanor took the East seat which was significant in The Joy Luck Club (now there’s a brilliant Hollywood Asian film) since that was where the dealer sat and where all things began (in the novel/film, Jing Mei took that seat to replace her dead mother Suyuan who started the said group). 

Wouldn’t it have been great though if they amped up the camp factor and showed more clashes between these strong women (very much like a Pinoy cockfight)? With two brilliant actresses front and center (fyi, this should serve as your reminder to finally catch up on Fresh Off the Boat), this could have been really fun.

(Also, the Nick character was so bland that I couldn’t see why two amazing women were “fighting” over him. No amount of Henry Golding’s shirtless scenes could hide that fact.)

Side note: Given that Jon M. Chu also directed Now You See Me 2, I actually had this gnawing feeling during the mahjong scene that Rachel would perform some sort of elaborate magic trick. Like she would be able to switch her bamboo tiles without Eleanor ever noticing. Pong!!

6. I teared up a bit when I realized that the Ah Ma character was played by Lisa Lu, who was also Auntie An-Mei in Joy Luck Club (“My mother not know her worth until too late. Too late for her, but not for me.” Waaaah!).

7. I wasn’t particularly fond of Awkwafina in Ocean’s 8, but she was hilarious in the Nikki Valdez role here. As Peik Lin (aka Asian Ellen), she stole every scene that she was in whether she was criticizing Rachel’s look as Sebastian of The Little Mermaid, playing around with her car window, or simply taking a selfie around the Young mansion.

My favorite (very Asian) joke though was when Wye Mun (Ken Jeong) said something like, “Red’s a lucky color if you’re an envelope”. I also liked the bite in his line that “There’s a lot of children starving in America”.

8. Supposedly affluent young women going crazy over off-the-rack items? Shouldn’t they be turning their enhanced pointed noses up on anything that wasn’t bespoke? How un-crazy rich. (And what to make of that tacky tassel necklace? Only Kat Galang could have pulled that one off.)

9. The story about Astrid’s failing marriage felt like complete filler. It was like one long setup for the sequel. (Which probably was made more obvious when Harry Shum, Jr. showed up in one scene and yet received top billing in the end credits.) Her story only served as a distraction to what could have been more screen time for Nick and Rachel or Rachel and Eleanor. Also, Gemma Chan looked very much like Nathalie Hart, no?

10. One of the highlights here was the royal wedding of Araminta (Sonoya Mizuno) where the guests held lighted butterflies (dragonflies?) as she walked down that water-filled aisle. While everyone else teared up when Kina Grannis’ Can’t Help Falling in Love played in the background, my OCD kicked in high gear imagining that lovely wedding dress turning all soggy and getting completely ruined. These crazy rich people paid $40M for that? 

Meanwhile here in the Philippines, a bride in Bulacan went viral for actually wading in murky floodwater (which she got free courtesy of the monsoon) out of necessity just to continue with her dream wedding. Now that was something that really made me cry.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

MANO PO 7: CHINOY (Ian Loreños, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Mano Po 7: Chinoy:

1. ‪I learned two Chinese words in college that would appropriately describe my viewing experience of this movie. Yes, both are nasty curse words.

I suddenly missed the glory days of Regal Films when it rightfully earned that crown in its bright red “R” logo (shown in their ’90s OBB that resembled a horror movie) and it wasn’t reliant on a tired franchise that just seemed to get worse with every new sequel. Seriously, the Mano Po series would be no different from an inaamag na tikoy.‬

2. I had high hopes for this one since Ian Loreños directed one of my favorite films of 2012, the father-son drama slash human trafficking cautionary tale Alagwa. I remember sobbing hysterically by the end of that movie and taking a mental note that I would never leave any child unattended ever. It was that powerful. I wondered what happened with this one. The only reason I could think of was that it was rushed to ensure a slot in the MMFF. Such a waste of talent.

3. For a Chinoy movie, there was nothing distinctly Chinoy about the problems of this family. The stories here could very well have been another family drama with all-Pinoy characters directed by Laurice Guillen.

It was a disaster from the moment Enchong Dee (as the black sheep) made a grand entrance in his parents’ 25th anniversary party. That scene was no different from the first Mano Po with Ara Mina disrupting the engagement party of sister Maricel Soriano by showing up in a backless dress with the cut dropping all the way to her butt crack (that’s how you do it, Enchong).

4. Good news: At least we didn’t get actors donning exaggerated chinky eyes and speaking in weird Chinoy accents that bordered on being racist.

Bad news: Except for the veteran greats like Jean Garcia (looking very much like the lovely Michelle Yeoh) and Eric Quizon (such an underrated actor), the rest of the Chinoy cast seemed to have been chosen because they looked the part even if they couldn’t act the part.

The worst offender was Sir Chief Richard Yap who only displayed two types of emotions in the entire movie: furious with matching nanlilisik na mata and shocked with matching nanlilisik na mata. He displayed more range playing the chef in that Chowking commercial.

5. Rose Po Que? Really? Didn’t these Chinese name jokes peak during the Bubble Gang era?

6. Sir Chief’s character was supposed to be cold and uptight because he had a damaged childhood. His mother was so strict that she wouldn’t let him play in the street with the other kids. In effect, he wouldn’t let his wife join him in bed without cleaning up first after a long day at work. But wait, wasn’t that the first rule of hygiene regardless?

7. Several scenes were spent on the rehab love story between Enchong and Jessy Mendiola (who probably watched Girl, Interrupted several times before taking on the role) but it really had no weight on the story, except to assert his masculinity and dismiss all the gay rumors.

8. I would probably go crazy the next time I see a board meeting where somebody would be presenting a pitch like “The higher the risk, the higher the reward” and everyone would be nodding their heads and smiling like it was Confucius talking and they were just blessed with his wisdom.

9. You knew immediately that Jake Cuenca’s character would be a villain because he looked so sleazy in a man bun. Besides, why would a customer like him confide to a Miladay jeweller like Jean after his fiancee broke up with him? Sabagay, kapag malungkot din ako ang unang tinatawagan ko ay ang alahera ng nanay ko.

10. I wouldn’t have been too harsh on this movie if there weren’t so many groan-worthy scenes (Enchong running after his father’s car while saying “Papa!”, Jake’s breakdown scene in the car, Enchong wailing in a van with an overdosed Jessy, “Gumising ka! Lumaban ka naman oh! Waaaah!”, Janella Salvador hugging Jean from behind and saying “Mama, don’t go!”, Marlo Mortel punching a maniac professor while screaming “We will report you and sue you for harassment!!”, and Sir Chief asking his estranged wife to dance as a gift to his daughter). Very much like airplanes, cinema seats should be equipped with barf bags, no?

11. In one scene, Sir Chief was jogging around Nuvali. He suddenly stopped and bent over and I really thought for a moment that it would turn out to be an ad for Flanax (he ended up having a Ventosa).

12. Bakit wala yun bunso sa Taiwan family trip? Kinulang sa budget?

13. Two hours and the movie still didn’t want to end. Siao siao!!

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆