ANG TANGING INA (Wenn Deramas, 2003)

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In retrospect, Nikki Valdez probably did the right thing in beating up Heart Evangelista who wouldn’t be appearing in the final (reunion) installment.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

 

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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: ★★☆☆☆

GIRLFRIEND FOR HIRE (Vanessa de Leon, 2016

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My notes on Girlfriend for Hire:

1. It was only a couple of years ago when they showed Bride for Rent, a Star Cinema rom-com where a hilarious Kim Chiu played the beard of the wooden Xian Lim. She pretended to be his future bride because she desperately needed money and he plotted the whole charade to please his grandmother (and get his trust fund).

Girlfriend for Hire had the exact same plot. Nami (Yassi Pressman) needed scholarship money so she agreed to be the pretend girlfriend of Bryle (Andre Paras) whose desperate grandfather wanted him to continue their Stanford legacy.

Seriously though, why couldn’t these rich, decent, good-looking men land real girlfriends? Made me wonder if it was an equipment or gender issue. And why do these movies always involve renting/hiring women? May I suggest Boytoy for Lease with KC Concepcion and Piolo Pascual?

2. I found it off that Bryle kept treating Nami like shit and it was supposed to be funny and romantic. In one scene, he actually commanded her to “get down on (her) knees and give it to (him)”. In another scene, out of selos, he dragged her inside a room like Chris Brown being sweet to Rihanna. The worst was when he ate the only piece of chocolate strawberry cake that she was craving for. As a fat kid outside, I felt her physical and emotional pain.

3. I love the Yassi-Andre love team not only because they’re bagay but also because they’re not annoying actors (they even had the most genuine onscreen kiss in this movie). I guess I was surprised when the usually charming Andre was forced to let loose (eyes popping, nostrils flaring, spittle flying) and overact like he was auditioning for a The Mask sequel. In his previous (terrible) movies (Diary ng Panget, Your Place or Mine?), he was funny without even trying. I hope they get way better projects soon. Sayang ang potential.

4. I therefore conclude that the Ultimate Kakaibabe Donnalyn Bartolome is the new Nikki Valdez.

5. My favorite scenes in the movie were:

• When Bryle’s alta grandfather showed him a Powerpoint presentation (presumably made by a 6-year old) of the country’s eligible bachelorettes that he probably met in Cafe Havana

• When Nami mindlessly crossed the street under the pouring rain and Bryle almost hit her with his car and he screamed, “Anong ginagawa mo sa gitna ng ulan?” (Hindi talaga sa gitna ng kalsada??)

• When Nami took Bryle to a palengke and he had the gall to complain about his ruined outfit (white shorts and Toms) (Wait, sarado ba ang lahat ng supermarkets?)

• When Nami’s hot neighbor saw all the ingredients of pesto pasta (noodles, pesto sauce) and correctly guessed that she was preparing the said dish, she acted all shocked and asked, “Paano mo nalaman??” (Girl, it doesn’t take a chef to know that.)

6. Product placements galore. The SMDC sign (complete with Sarah G.’s face) was shown every thirty minutes. I think they even used the exact same room in The Breakup Playlist.

Also, after eating a heavy meal (three cups of rice and all), Bryle still ordered a Greenwich Barkada-Size Ultimate Overload and I knew that was what he ordered because the Greenwich delivery guy loudly said it at the door (“Hello Sir! Here’s your order of one Greenwich Barkada-Size Ultimate Overload!”). Now that got me hungry. Product placement worked.

7. You know this was a fantasy because the lovely Yassi still had her own makeover montage (when all she needed to do was comb her hair). Weirdly enough, she reminded me so much of Mailes Kanapi (please tell me I’m not crazy).

Also, Yassi preferred Andre’s baby fats over her abstastic neighbor (you immediately knew that she didn’t like hottie neighbor because she devoured an entire chicken right in front of him).

8. The last minute introduction of Shy Carlos as Bryle’s girlfriend didn’t serve any purpose except to ensure that the movie reached its quota of Viva talents.

Again, better movies for them, please!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆