ALPHA: THE RIGHT TO KILL (Brillante Mendoza, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Alpha: The Right To Kill:

1. You know how sometimes we would say something that wasn’t an outright lie, but wasn’t completely honest either? How we would do this to try and avoid any possible confrontation or drama because we knew that people would get upset with the truth? Well, I think I just watched the movie equivalent of a white lie.

Similar to his controversial Netflix series Amo, this newest “internationally-acclaimed” film by Brillante Mendoza couldn’t be accused of being blatant propaganda, but it wasn’t an accurate depiction of our country’s current war on drugs either. It wanted to appease both the DDS (the policemen had every right to kill these addicts!) and anti-DDS (look, corrupt cops ruining the system!) all while flashing disclaimers at the beginning and end that: a) it wanted to “present reality with no intention of maligning or besmirching the integrity of police officers”, and b) this was a “complete work of fiction and any similarities to actual people or events were purely coincidental”. It even had the audacity to state that “the task of ending corruption needed our utmost cooperation and that change should start with us”. Ermm-kay.

2. This was shot in Mendoza’s signature shaky cam style (read: gritty!) so newcomers should come armed with a dose of Bonamine taken an hour before the screening. Trust me, you would need it because several scenes involved a lot of running in eskinitas and on rooftops (like a more chaotic and migraine-inducing version of Buy Bust).

3. I saw this foreign language film several years back called Maria Full of Grace where a poor (literally and figuratively) girl named Maria (naturally!) was forced to become a drug mule. She had to swallow dozens of these drug pellets that needed to be transported from Colombia to New York and she was chosen because her pregnancy would exempt her from the x-ray inspection. Imagine carrying that much paraphernalia in your belly (along with a fetus!) with the possibility that any of them could rupture any time. Que horror!

No drug pellets were swallowed in this one, but the mules used were in the form of fruit (kawawang mangoes!), pigeons (lalong bumaba ang lipad ng kalapati!), and even baby diapers (shudder!). Yes, one drug pusher actually used his baby (unfortunately named Neknek) to deliver drugs so the movie made sure that he was severely punished for this horrific crime (kebs na daw sa human rights and due process, mamatay na lahat ng mga adik!).

4. Allen Dizon (dependable as always) was the sole corrupt cop here. Everyone else was just doing what the law required of them to do. In one scene prior to a swat operation slash drug raid, one officer said, “Gagawin natin ito para sa bayan at para sa mga susunod na henerasyon!”. I couldn’t remember exactly, but he just might have been one of the awardees of the Medalya ng Katapatan sa Paglilingkod during the closing ceremony attended by real PNP Chief Oscar Albayalde. His team deserved a commendation because they were able to properly arrange a row of dead bodies (all nanlaban).

5. The head drug lord that was protected by a community of users and pushers (“Di lang livelihood, cottage industry na ito!”) was played by Baron Geisler to further lose every ounce of sympathy from the viewers and force them to collectively moan, “Gahd, we hate drugs!”.

6. There were a few (both intentional and unintentional) comic moments here that did make me laugh. One pusher with blonde curly hair was nicknamed Santo Niño. In another scene, an officer was documenting the events that transpired earlier while banging furiously on his desktop keyboard, but the words on the monitor were not moving.

But the funniest one had to be the poem that was recited by a kid towards the end of the movie that went “Pulis ang aking tatay. Tapang na walang kapantay. Tagapaligtas ng ating bayan. Blah blah blah kaayusan ay ating makamit.” Was it called Oda sa Wala?

7. So the entire moral of the story was that as long as people didn’t do drugs, they would be fine (PNP: We gotchu fam!)? Wow, I feel extra safe living in this country already!!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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: ★★☆☆☆

SEX AND THE CITY (Michael Patrick King, 2008)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Sex and the City:

1. Unpopular opinion: I abso-fuckin’-lutely despised John James Preston aka Mr. Big (Chris Noth) and I never really pictured (fully accepted?) him as the ideal man slash husband for Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker). Except whenever I had these cyclical realizations that she was innately selfish, annoying (she wore a pearl necklace in bed!), and narcissistic so they totally deserved to end up with each other.

Nope, I definitely wasn’t a hater of the series. I had watched all six seasons so many times that I couldn’t help but wonder if I was actually a thirtysomething single New York woman in my past life.

2. It must be my inner Charlotte York (Kristin Davis) but I had always been a supporter of #TeamAidan (John Corbett) aka The One That (Luckily) Got Away. Some of my most favorite episodes involved his toxic relationship with an emotionally confused Carrie in Season 3 (All or Nothing, Running with Scissors, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell). Fans of Big would most probably come up with this argument that Aidan was a dreadfully boring choice and Carrie would just be settling with him, but the very fact that he was loyal, warm, forgiving, sincere, and understanding (plus, he obviously loved her more than she loved him) just made him the perfect boyfriend.

(Are there any fans here of Aleksandr Petrovsky? Seriously??)

3. Did we need a film version to continue the stories of our four beloved women, their beaus, and their friendly gay friends? Not really, but it was a joy to see them reunited one more time (and once more in the awful sequel). This felt like an overlong episode that basically rehashed the same old conflicts (oh, poor Carrie got her heart broken by Big yet again!), but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t cry when Charlotte screamed “No! No!” at Big after he deservedly got smashed with a wedding bouquet on the head.

4. Anybody obsessed with fashion would truly be happy with the style choices made here (even with the controversial dead bird that Carrie wore on her head for her wedding, which she winkingly mocked in a later scene). Aside from the Fashion Week sequence, there were even two (!!) montages: one with Carrie modelling fabulous wedding gowns by Vera Wang, Oscar dela Renta, and ultimately Vivienne Westwood, and another one where she was trying on her vintage clothes, including the iconic tutu that she wore in the show’s opening credits.

5. “She was a smart girl… till she fell in love.” Story of all my relationships right there.

6. Was Jennifer Hudson (as Louise) cast as an apology for the series’ apparent lack of diversity? Did the lone black woman in this version of New York really have to play Carrie’s assistant? Unfortunately her Bag, Borrow or Steal storyline had nothing going for it and she even had to deliver the most unfortunate pun (“And you gave me Louise Vuitton!”).

7. Speaking of puns, the entire Mexi-coma sequence where Carrie spent days moping in bed after a terrible breakup completely resonated with me (yes, even the one where Charlotte Poughkeepsied in her pants). The fact that her friends kept checking on her and Samantha (Kim Cattrall) even spoon-fed her some soup reminded me of how wonderful my friends were during those dark times that I was nursing a broken heart. It was fascinating to read all the dirt that these women didn’t really get along on set because they were so believable and authentic as BFFs onscreen.

(On a different note, search for the Saturday Night Live skit where Christina Aguilera had a spot-on impersonation of Samantha. Totally wicked!)

8. When Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) grabbed a witch’s mask and said that for Halloween she would just bring her suitcase and go as herself, it was something that I would totally say. Yes, if I were to take a Buzzfeed test, I would definitely be a Miranda Hobbes.

9. So Big copy/pasted some classic poems and wrote two personal lines and that was already supposed to be romantic? Please. (Laki talaga ng galit ko kay Big, no? Yes, very big. Ugh, pun!)

10. “Some love stories aren’t epic novels. Some are short stories, but that doesn’t make them any less filled with love.” Hay, completely true. At least it was comforting to know that your lovers might come and go, but your true friends would remain forever.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

MY FAIRY TAIL LOVE STORY (Perci Intalan, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on My Fairy Tail Love Story:

1. Never ever commit the mistake of making an analogy between Oscar-less Amy Adams and Grammy-less Katy Perry because I would surely hunt you down. It was this undying love for Adams that made me promise to watch Enchanted at least once every year. You know, that clever retelling of a fairy tale where she played a storybook Disney princess banished by her stepmother into the real world and searched for her ever ever after.

I think this movie wanted to be very much like Enchanted (aside from the obvious The Little Mermaid), but it failed to capture the magic of that film. Its idea of romantic love was having a character deliver the line, “With or without your tail, kahit amoy palengke ka pa, bottomline is mahal na mahal kita”. I guess it was meant to be sweet, but overall this mermaid out of water story felt very (insert Ariel’s voice here) what’s that word again… bilasa.

2. I actually thought the movie never recovered from the moment Chantel (Janella Salvador) cracked a joke during her birthday party, “My late mother would be proud of me. Oh, she’s not dead! She’s just late.” Nyek! And that was only ten minutes in.

The only source of fun I had was listening to every properly enunciated word coming out of her mouth (Tita Lea Salonga would be proud). It might be intentional (I’d like to say it was more fortuitous), but Janella sounded very much like a theater actress. If Atlantis Productions would ever stage The Little Mermaid again locally, I’m sure she would be great in the lead role.

3. Wait, if Chantel was a mermaid, why didn’t she have any problems living and breathing in a water-free environment? Instead of a bathtub, she spent her days on a bed. Or even jumping (!!) around from room to room (let me see you do that, Ariel!). Seriously, if I had scaly legs, I would always make sure they were properly moisturized.

4. I couldn’t get over the fact that Chantel immediately accepted that she grew a palikpik overnight, but fainted in the bathroom at the sight of Noah’s (Elmo Magalona), uhm, baby shark?

5. To be fair, the production design and the underwater photography looked really good. One of the very few clever bits here was when Chantel surfaced on the beach with a plastic bag on her head. Environmental awareness from a fantasy film? Not bad. Liked the theme song, too.

6. Speaking of fantasy film, you know you were watching one when spoiled rich kid Chantel looked giddy and excited upon seeing the racks of wonderful clothes that were available in… Robinson’s Department Store.

7. Burning questions:

• When Chantel broke into the highest falsetto and cracked her mirror, how did Noah’s designer glasses remain intact?

• Did Chantel readily own a pair of orange seashell bikini top to match her tail? (More importantly, how much do they cost in Robinson’s Department Store?)

• When Noah mentioned that being in a wheelchair was the latest fashion craze in New York, how dumb were those kids to believe him? And how many PWDs did he actually offend?

8. Chantel was head over heels in love with Ethan (Kiko Estrada) even if he had Keempee de Leon hair and dressed very much like a typical 50ish gay uncle who was on vacation from Saudi Arabia. Didn’t she smell anything fishy?

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

JUSTICE LEAGUE (Zack Snyder, 2017)

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Poor Amy Adams! I had not seen her this lost since Princess Giselle got magically transported to modern day New York. She was in full “gunning for a sixth Oscar nomination” mode in a DC movie that suddenly wanted to be a lighter, funnier version of its recently dreary efforts.

For the record, I was one of thirteen people that actually liked Batman v Superman AND Suicide Squad. This one just took forever for the superheroes to assemble and I felt as sad as Ben Affleck’s Batman when I couldn’t really understand all that Mother Box story (wait, didn’t we see these cubes as well in The Avengers?).

At least Ezra Miller was funny as Flash even if he had the exact same sequences that were previously done by Evan Peters as Quicksilver (and none of them even close to that awesome Time in a Bottle in Days of Future Past). I wouldn’t mind just a Flash and Wonder Woman road trip movie ala Thelma and Louise (or even Crossroads). Hopefully, without any boxes this time.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆