CIRCA (Adolf Alix, Jr., 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

Bilib na bilib ako kay Ms. Anita Linda dito. More than double my age na siya (she’s almost 95!!) pero alam pa rin niya lahat ng mga lines niya dito as the incredibly rich film producer Doña Atang na nakatira sa bahay ni Lola Nidora. Samantala ako hindi ko na maalala minsan saan ko naipatong ang cellphone ko. Iba talaga kapag batikang artista. Totoong walang kupas!!

Napaka-appropriate lang na kasama ito sa Sine Sandaan section ng PPP. May pagka-love letter siya to Philippine Cinema with all the juicy tidbits on the history of local film productions/filmmaking (shooting processes, crucial role ng lagarista, yung diva attitude of certain celebrities, yung rivalry nung mga stars of the golden age, etc.) tapos may mga sundot pa sa current industry (nakakatawa yung sinabi ng character ni Alessandra de Rossi na di na uso ang quality films ngayon kaya puro TV work na lang, na “mouth to mouth” duguan levels ang paggawa).

Mahilig talaga sa all-star cast si Alix (parang halos kalahati ng local film industry may cameo dun sa last movie niya na Madilim ang Gabi) kaya di naman ako nagulat sa mga bigating artista dito kabilang na sina Gina Alajar, Elizabeth Oropesa, Laurice Guillen, Ricky Davao, Liza Lorena, Perla Bautista, etc. Nakakalungkot din makita si Eddie Garcia in full Manoy glory. (Pero kasama ba sa original script yung “Ingat ka baka ka madapa?”. Grabe yung gasp ko sa part na yun nag-echo sa buong theater bilang ako lang ang nanunuod.)

Pinaka-natuwa ako kay Jaclyn Jose dito as the mayordoma of the house. Walang dramatic highlights (except for that weird Amour moment) pero markado ang pagganap. Lakas ng tawa ko nung nag-advocate siya for DVD piracy considering na nagsisilbi siya sa isang producer. Sabagay yung isang character nga sinabi na “Di naman ako namimirata ng local. Puro English lang, makabawi man kang kasi sila ang dahilan bakit tayo humina.” Hmm, magandang topic yan for discussion ha.

Marami siguro ang mababagalan sa pacing ng pelikula pero ok naman siya for me. Medyo mahaba lang at repetitive yung tribute section sa party scene. Pero sobrang fascinated talaga ako in all things na local showbiz kaya nagandahan ako (siguro ang litmus test would be if kaya mo ma-distinguish ang difference ng FAMAS at FAP statues, then this one’s for you). Natuwa din ako dun sa tikbalang na inaalayan ng ponkan kapalit ng box office returns (Mother Lily, what’s your secret?).

Basta sobrang affected ako dito. Nung nag-start na si Doña Atang ng speech niya with “Ang buhay natin ay parang pelikula…”, naluha na lang ako bigla.

Rating: ★★★★☆

THE EXPENDABLES 3 (Patrick Hughes, 2014)

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It’s the pinakbet of Hollywood action stars. With Frasier. Never been fond of pinakbet.

I’m still waiting for our local version starring Bong Revilla, Cesar Montano, Lito Lapid, Ronnie Ricketts, Ian Veneracion, Dante Varona, Jeric Raval, Baldo Marro, Chuck Perez, Jestoni Alarcon, Robin Padilla, and Eddie Garcia.

Paging Mother Lily!!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published August 25, 2014.)

STEP UP REVOLUTION (Scott Speer, 2012)

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Sure, the dancing was great, but it was nothing different from what we commonly see on So You Think You Can Dance or even Mobbed. The group even came off as annoying and a complete nuisance (I know that was their goal, but I didn’t think it was meant for the viewers).

Everything clichéd in a dance movie was here, including a syrupy love story that tested my gag reflex. Did they really have to practice on the beach with the saltwater splashing on their diaphanous clothes? Paging Mother Lily and her white kamison.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published August 10, 2012.)

BREAKING THE WAVES (Lars von Trier, 1996)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

I’d always remember this film as the one that my college Theology professor detested so much that she spoiled the entire story in one of our classes and discouraged us from ever seeing it, lest our souls burn in the pits of hell.

Being the obedient, saintly, Catholic school-raised kid that I was, of course I ignored her warning and immediately looked for a copy from my favorite mIRC channel (the cinema-related one, not the other kind). I was enthralled for two and a half hours and absorbed every “immoral” theme it had to offer. My spirit felt completely free by the time the bells started chiming in the end.

I guess I still turned out okay. (Not so sure about my soul, though.) Sadly, I never had the chance to tell my dear old teacher how much I loved it and that she “had no right to consign Bess to hell”.

Emily Watson was just phenomenal here. The rest of the cast (especially Stellan Skarsgard and the late Katrin Cartlidge) were terrific as well.

If you were able to watch the National Anthem episode of Black Mirror, you might have heard of the Dogme 95 style as part of the hostage taker’s demands in terms of filming that pig scene (“no background music, only natural light for authenticity”). That directorial choice worked really well in this one. Made me wonder if it was time to revive the Mother Lily Pito-Pito cinematic movement.

Rating: ★★★★★

ANNIE (Will Gluck, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Annie:

1. The movie opened with a typical Annie, a tiny freckle-faced Caucasian redhead, reading a report on former US Presidents. The teacher then called the real Annie, played by Quvenzhane Wallis, a smart and spunky African-American. I loved this wink, wink opening because Wallis was just too adorable in the lead role. I was also happy with the color blind casting because the role of Annie had nothing to do with her skin color anyway.

2. When I heard the teacher call Annie B., I immediately thought Annie Batungbakal and I started humming the theme song and imagined Nora doing a song and dance number (“Sa umaga, dispatsadora. Sa gabi, siya’y bonggang-bongga…”).

3. For a musical, most of the production numbers felt lacking. The only one I truly enjoyed was It’s The Hard Knock Life. Everything else felt joyless. Even the classic Tomorrow wasn’t memorable since it just had her walking the streets of Harlem. Why bother with a remake?

4. Cameron Diaz can be funny whenever she goes bat-shit crazy in her movies. Here, her campiness only served as a distraction. She was just irritating all throughout. Even her musical number was horrible. Do you still remember her singing “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” in My Best Friend’s Wedding? She sang exactly like that in the most grating voice ever. Only here it wasn’t played for laughs.

5. Blatant Purell product placement. No better than a Kris Aquino movie. (“Product placement keeps the movie business afloat!”, said one character.)

6. The viral video of Jamie Foxx saving Annie was all wrong. How could it have different takes and taken from two different angles when it was supposedly shot by an onlooker?

7. I love Rose Byrne, I really do, but she should not be allowed to sing again. Hey, why was this musical populated by terrible singers given their own musical highlights? All it needed was Russell Crowe.

8. The updated version had Annie with a Twitter account and saved by Instagram. Groan.

9. I felt bad for Sia. I actually liked “Opportunity”.

10. The final act had a last minute twist, a villain that never really got his due, a final conflict, and a quick resolution that led to a song and dance number by way of Mother Lily. Ugh.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published January 28, 2015.)

THE LEGEND OF HERCULES (Renny Harlin, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Legend of Hercules:

1. The special effects were so bad that they used the same fake lion that mauled Eugene Domingo in Momzillas.

2. If Hercules was a demigod with extraordinary strength, then why couldn’t he kill his opponents with one blow? I know I’m overthinking. So bored.

3. Hercules won a fight and the people started throwing confetti. That scene really made me laugh out loud.

4. Kellan Lutz had saucer-sized nipples. I remembered this product I saw in Makati Cinema Square that could make one’s nipples rosy pink.

5. Lutz was a bad actor. As in Gerald Anderson level. And he loved making tampisaw in the batis. He should have Mother Lily’s magic kamison.

6. Why do people keep shouting their lines in these Greek/Roman movies? It was like the other soldiers or townspeople were deaf. Laging galit din.

7. Stay for the end credits. I think they used live goats on the soundtrack. I have no words.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published January 11, 2014.)

HAUNTED FOREST (Ian Loreños, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Haunted Forest:

1. This movie is shaping up to be one of the worst movies of 2017 so I will just provide a blow-by-blow so that you can all save your money. Obviously, spoilers ahead.

2. So the first twenty minutes consisted of a gagamba running after a taong grasa played by Jerald Napoles. As the resident baliw, he was blamed for the death of a woman hanging from a tree even if obvious naman na hindi niya kaya magpulupot ng thick branches ng puno (can anyone?).

3. Raymart Santiago and his bitchy daughter Jane Oineza went to the province for vacation (or prolly to do some soul-searching) after the death of his cancer-stricken wife. They stayed at the house of Maris Racal and Beverly Salviejo (and it’s a mystery how she’s related to them).

4. All the women in town are fond of wearing white kamison while strolling the haunted forest at night. Yes, this is a Mother Lily-produced movie.

5.

Maris: Di naman ako mahilig sa social media kaya ok lang kahit walang signal sa bahay.

Maris after looking at Jane’s iPhone: Uy, add mo naman ako diyan!!

6. Joey Marquez plays a cop with a habit of hitting suspects at will. I’d like to say that his character’s trapped in a Pinoy 90s sitcom, but he very much seems to fit right in the current police force.

7. Ok, mukhang gorilla yung killer.

8. Sample conflict…

Maris: Naku, naiwan ang bawang! Paano ako maggigisa nito?

9. Sumakay si Jane sa dimples ni Jameson Blake para balikan ang naiwang bawang. Kaso naabutan sila ng malakas na ulan. Walang silong kaya basang-basa sila. Sabay labas si Jameson ng panyo.

Jameson: Eto, punasan na lang kita.

Seryoso??!

10. Kanina umihi sina Joey at Raymart sa gilid ng kalsada. Ngayon naman umiihi si Jane sa damuhan. Eh kaya kayo minumulto kasi di kayo marunong magpasintabi sa mga nuno. Mga bastos!

11. One sequence looked like the director was just having fun with a Snapchat filter. Hihihi!

12. Hirap ng role ni Jane. Her character fainted for the fourth time already. On the other hand, it’s the third time I’m trying not to fall asleep.

13. I probably would have been more scared of Myrtle Sarrosa’s dead character if she didn’t look like she was wearing the wrong shade of foundation and just forgot to brush her hair.

14. So the sitsit was supposed to eat Jane, but changed his mind when he saw Raymart. May sensual wagging of the tongue involved pa. Should we consider this as a step forward for equal representation of the LGBTQ community in local cinema?

15. So ayun na nga dinukot na ng sitsit ang gusto niyang dukutin kay Raymart. Tegi.

16. Everyone knew the tree where the sitsit lived but the townspeople decided to do a prayover around it instead. Nobody bothered to burn or cut it down. Until today.

17.

Jane to sitsit: Hoy! Magpakita kita!

After magpakita…

Everyone: Takbooooooo!!

Tengene.

18. Ayan happy ending na for Jane. Masaya siya kasi kahit napatay ng sitsit ang tatay niya nagka-lovelife naman siya sa probinsiya. Hindi na nga naman masama.

The end. Leche.

19. Ay buti di ako agad umalis. May mid-credits sequence. Buhay pa ang sitsit at lumipat sa katawan ng bangkero. Ready for a sequel kaso mukhang flop. Paano na?

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published January 3, 2018.)

ILAWOD (Dan Villegas, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Ilawod:

1. For me, Pinoy horror stories with their local settings, deeply-rooted mythologies, and fascinating folklore would always be much scarier than any Hollywood flick. Whereas Linda Blair and her spinning head made me cackle with glee, I almost peed my pants when Manilyn Reynes was stalked by a horde of aswangs led by Vangie Labalan. I could never picture Valak looking at me through a mirror, but I could easily imagine that dead nun killed during the Bataan Death March in the Magandang Gabi Bayan Halloween episode staring right at me from outside my bedroom window. This must be all coming from my childhood belief that Count Dracula and every other foreign monster would never even bother taking a 21-hour flight to the Philippines.

2. I really tried to like this movie especially since I was easily drawn to the very Pinoy story of the Ilawod, a water elemental living in streams known to dominate human bodies and suck the souls out of them (the name itself literally means downstream). Unfortunately, it wasn’t able to differentiate itself from other horror movies with genre tropes that included an exorcism and possession.

There was a scene with a kid drawing black rings that could have been an early promo for the new Rings sequel. The real face of the Ilawod looked like a monster from Pan’s Labyrinth. The elevator footage eeriely resembled that viral video with Elisa Lam (Google it!). Even the haunting scenes involving water (dripping from the ceiling, puddles on the floor) in the condominium seemed to have been borrowed heavily from Hideo Nakata’s Dark Water.

3. In the opening scene, an old lady was possessed by the Ilawod and when she saw Ian Veneracion (playing a daddy daddy beat reporter), her long pointed tongue started flailing like crazy and my very first thought was, “Why wouldn’t it?” Veneracion just didn’t age since his Anak ng Demonyo days and I could easily see hordes of women and gay men doing the exact same thing when they see him in person, with or without spirit possession. (Where did you find the Fountain of Youth, Ian? Tell us please!!)

4. I might have missed it, but I couldn’t understand why the Ilawod got really mad at Ian and wanted to exact revenge on him and his family aside from the fact that he didn’t believe in the supernatural. I’d rather assume that she was just being bitter for getting rejected by a hottie.

5. I kinda felt bad for Therese Malvar since she’s currently one of the best young actresses in Philippine cinema and she got stuck playing an elemental with heavy makeup and a brushed-up wet look hairdo while sporting Mother Lily’s magic white kamison. I also couldn’t believe that Ian’s teenage son never once bothered to ask why she never changed outfits or why she was always making tambay by the poolside.

6. Speaking of teenagers, I was really shocked at how much Xyriel Manabat has grown. Her transformation made me feel even more old. But wait, why didn’t she look like any of her parents (the mother was played by Iza Calzado)?

In one hilarious scene, she was attacked by the Ilawod so she ran to her parents’ bedroom but the door remained locked. Her parents kept knocking and pulling on the knob but the door just wouldn’t budge. In her state of panic, Iza then asked the most logical question: “Ano na bang nangyayari sa mga anak natin?” HUH?!!

At least after that incident, she regained her bearings and got the services of Father Pnoy to bless their unit.

7. With its blatant sexualization of kids, I was surprised that the movie still took the safer, more sanitized route. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t suggesting a love scene, but I would have preferred it if not everything (even just a simple kiss) were merely suggestive. Nothing wrong with a horror movie making people squirm in their seats and making them feel uncomfortable.

8. If the Undin made me stay away from the sea, this one made me reconsider making tampisaw in a batis.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆