THE LOOKOUT (Afi Africa, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Lookout:

1. It must be true that one couldn’t really appreciate good films without experiencing the bad. In effect, Cinemalaya also wouldn’t be complete and considered an annual triumph if not for misguided, execrable fare like Amor Y Muerte, Asintado, The Diplomat Hotel, or last year’s infamous Ang Guro Kong ‘Di Marunong Magbasa.

Keeping up with tradition, this year’s festival delivered another knockout clunker so inane (insane?) that it should be deemed a cult classic twenty years from now. It had the makings of the worst (read: best, but actually worst) kind of Elwood Perez film that I even wondered if the name Afi Africa was just a pseudoynm of the said director (fact check: no, completely different person).

A gay hired killer out to seek revenge on his childhood abusers? Compelling stuff. The terrible execution though made this one a hilariously campy “film mwah” (I missed you, Belinda Bright!).

2. The opening scene alone that revealed the highlights of the movie was a sure sign of impending doom, er… I meant the tremendous enjoyment that this one would bring. It reminded me of the flash cuts used in my favorite TV series that I actually expected to the hear the words “Previously on Scandal…” as soon as it started.

3. Why was this movie rated PG when the first fifteen minutes alone featured a graphic anal sex scene? It also included oral sex, a threesome in a tub, a lengthy rape scene, gratuitous nudity, and excessive violence and profanity. How did this elude the prudes of MTRCB?

I wouldn’t be complaining if I wasn’t seated two rows behind a boy (barely ten) who had to hear the line “Tangina nakikipagkangkangan ako!”. Somebody should be made accountable for this. (FYI, I watched this again on a different day and it still had the same rating. I asked the cinema personnel and they said they couldn’t do anything to restrict younger viewers.)

4. I made the right decision of staying away from the good seats (crowd) because I just couldn’t control my laughter in several odd moments. In one scene, George/Timothy/Lester (Andres Vasquez, a budget Wendell Ramos) started his voiceover with “Ito ang The Kingdom…” referring to a high-end, exclusive membership club where rich patrons could buy any of the topless boys in a swimming pool (Did they stay there all day waiting for customers? Imagine the pruning and shrinkage!). He was offered a drink (“Zhenk yhu zho match!”) and then proceeded to select (“Dat guy ober der”) Travis (Jay Garcia, as a human goat), who actually had a slo-mo shot of him coming out of the water like he was shooting one of those Instagram Vitamin Sea pictures. G/T/L then stretched his arms wide open while slowly saying “Welcahhhm to mayhhhh layhhhf!” and at that point I was already crying because my appendix shot out of my ass.

In another, a group of government operatives were discussing the crime scene and Grace/Monica (Elle Ramirez) went through an entire litany of bullet trajectories and how the killer made an elaborate setup to mislead the investigators. Their leader (Efren Reyes, Jr.) then asked “So may identity na kayo ng assailant?” to which a constipated-looking G/M replied, “Unfortunately sir, no.” Bwahahahaha! If only this was a satire on the current state of our nation.

Also, don’t even get me started on that “Tao o ibon? *flipped coin* Kiss mo ako sa leeg” scene. My nebulizer’s not ready.

5. I hadn’t even touched on these words of wisdom that I had difficulty transcribing because I was just cracking up really hard. Some examples:

• On the power of words: 

“Ang ‘I LOVE YOU’ ay mula sa puso. Ang ‘MAHAL KITA’ ay mula sa puso tagos hanggang kaluluwa.” 

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!

(Don’t get me wrong. This actually made a lot of sense given that words in the vernacular would have more impact, but you really needed to hear the clunky delivery to understand why people spontaneously laughed during this scene.)

• On the sanctity of body parts:

“Ang labi ko ay para lamang sa babaeng mamahalin ko at ang pwet ko ay bilang respeto sa pagkatao ko at pagkalalaki ko.”

• On mutualism in relationships:

“Sa tingin mo gusto ko na chupain kita at kantutin mo ako?”

• On Melanie Marquez as a literary genius:

“Ang tao ay parang libro. Hindi mo napipili ng dahil lang sa cover kundi dahil sa laman nito.”

• On love computations:

“Alam mo ba ang ibig sabihin ng mahalaga? Mahal + alaga.”

6. To be fair, I really liked the dingy setting of G/T/L’s apartment with his room overlooking the LRT.

Yayo Aguila (as the abused mother) also had some fine moments whenever she wasn’t required to overact like crazy.

7. Even after watching this twice, these were some of my burning questions:

• Why did Rez Cortez’s abusive character have to be raped by two twinks? Would it really have served as a punishment for him considering that he was a child molester?

• Where could we buy those voice changers used here as an app in a Nokia phone? (“Sino ka?” “Isang kaibigan. O pwede ring kaaway.” HAHAHAHAHA!)

• If the movie wanted a big reveal regarding the identities of the siblings, why did they have to own matching little black booklets?

• Was the excessive fascination with removing/putting on underwear done by several characters a symbolism for something? Did G/T/L really have to take a shower wearing black briefs? I thought he had no “quangs showing his body”?

• What were the tilted shots for? Was this an homage to American Horror Story?

• What was the purpose of G/T/L saving that crying young girl? Was it to show that a ruthless killer like him had a soft spot, too? But whatever happened to that girl after the said scene?

8. Overheard after the screening: “Ang tulis ni Travis natuhog ang magkapatid!” HAHAHAHAHA!

9. That ending!! I couldn’t wait for part 2 to learn more about Jeffrey Santos’ character who showed up at the very last minute just to dramatically unzip his hoodie and give a sinister look, like he was in possession of the diary that contained the deepest, darkest secrets of Mara Clara.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

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CAN THIS BE LOVE (Jose Javier Reyes, 2005)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Can This Be Love:

1. I recently had a discussion with a friend who used to work for Star Cinema regarding that studio’s process of churning out stories for ABS-CBN’s roster of artists (meaning projects were custom-made for hot stars or popular love teams). It was very much evident in this movie that was obviously created to showcase the winners of Star Circle Quest Batch 1, primarily grand winner Hero Angeles and runner-up Korean sensation Sandara Park. Sadly, what could have been an interesting take on cultural differences was hobbled by rom-com tropes and the limited range of the leads.

2. It wasn’t a surprise that Hero won SCQ because he had a little bit of everything going for him: the F4 circa Meteor Garden hair, the deep dimples pre-Alden Richards, the moreno skin unusual in an industry (and nation) obsessed with glutathione, and a great sob story to boot. As Ryan, he struggled a lot in his dramatic scenes where he mostly shouted his lines and acted like a complete bitch (even to Sandara’s character, Daisy). It certainly didn’t help that his uneven Mary Kay foundation that stopped mid-neck and horrible lip gloss and liner made me laugh every time the camera focused on his face.

3. Hindi naman nagpakabog si Sandara with her cosplay every day look with matching purple eyeshadow, pink blush, red lipstick combo. Thankfully the role didn’t require much from her except to fill the Pambansang Krung-Krung bill so she was okay just looking and acting silly. Her genuine challenge in speaking and understanding Filipino (“Slow down please!”) made her more endearing.

4. The pair’s love story started from a text message that was sent incorrectly through their Nokia 3310s. And here I thought the “Sorry, wrong send” message only worked if you were trying to make papansin from your deadma crush or happy in another relationship ex.

5. Roderick Paulate played Ryan’s landlord and provided much needed comic relief. He was in full Kumander Gringa mode by way of Maricel Soriano in any of her babaeng bakla roles (which was basically 80% of her filmography).

6. Ryan being the typical Pinoy was fuming mad when he read Daisy’s paper titled “What’s Wrong With Filipinos” but had no problems showing his prejudice against Koreans. Or maybe he really just had anger issues since he threw a hissy fit when Daisy visited him while he was in the midst of terrible constipation and even called her “Hoy” after she walked out. He was very patola to girls that I actually wondered if he really liked Daisy, especially after referencing Tito Boy Abunda and The Buzz.

7. Wait, Daisy’s Korean so she had to eat noodles all day every day? Or was she just required to eat them because they were different varieties of Tekki Asian Classics? (More product placement alert: BNY Jeans and Globe Autoload Max).

8. In one scene, Eugene Domingo (as Daisy’s landlord) mentioned President Magsaysay to Ryan and he was completely clueless, presumably because he was taking up Nursing. What?! He didn’t have any Philippine History classes in grade school or high school? Please.

9. Music video montage galore (I think I counted four!) and that didn’t even include the resort scene where kids danced to Sandara’s In or Out song.

10. Most cringe-worthy (aka my favorite LOL) scene:

Ryan: “How do you say ‘I love you’ in Korean?”
Daisy: “Saranghae.”
Ryan: “Saranghae.”
Daisy: “This is not the end yet, right?”
Ryan: “Oo, this is not the end. Sasamahan pa kita sa airport.”

I kid you not.

11. What was up with that rushed scrapbook ending? Naubusan ng budget so plane ticket na lang yun Korea trip? Tapos wedding invite na agad? Anyare sa Korean family vs Pinoys conflict? Argh! Pass me the kimchi.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

DUKOT (Paul Soriano, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Dukot:

1. We sadly live in a world of victim-blaming, where a grieving mother gets shamed as a negligent parent, an injured person is reprimanded for not being more careful, and a woman who cries rape gets bashed for being a tease with her plunging neckline and short skirt. It scares me that a lot of people have this knee-jerk reaction, especially since I see myself as one of them.

When the movie opened with Ellen Adarna in a skimpy outfit trying to withdraw from an ATM at such an odd hour, my brain just kept thinking that she would get robbed and she had no one to blame but herself. My worst fear happened and she was even shot and left for dead. I hated myself for having thought that way and it made me want to do another self-check. Unfortunately, that was all the deep thinking that this movie required me to do.

2. Although technically impressive, Dukot was marred by lapses in logic and believability, falling short of being an effective thriller. Sure, one could easily say everything that happened was based on true events, but another could argue that if that were the case, then this should just have been a documentary. No amount of awesome aerial shots or perfectly-framed scenes could compensate for the lack of an engrossing story (a dream sequence to generate tension, really?). I felt very much like one of the guests of Mr. Sandoval (Ricky Davao), watching him discuss a Powerpoint presentation about himself during his birthday party.

3. I think my lack of compassion for his family was because he was a corrupt Customs officer. I still had not forgotten the vultures in my city’s Customs office that charged an exorbitant amount for my non-taxable Amazon book orders. Also, he was the type of stingy father that would rather haggle with his son’s kidnappers rather than pull strings to come up with the ransom money.

When his daughter Cathy (Shaina Magdayao) called him up in the middle of the night crying that Carlo (Enrique Gil) was kidnapped, he didn’t even show any concern or bother asking if she was ok and just calmly said that everything was insured so she shouldn’t be crying. Father of the Year Awardee right there.

4. In a world (and country) where CCTV cameras had become necessities, I couldn’t understand why the kidnappers never bothered to cover up their faces. They also kidnapped Carlo instead of the beautiful Cathy just because the former begged that he take her place instead. In the safe house, they were almost always drunk and careless and even allowed Carlo to pee behind closed doors. They were such bumbling kidnappers that I was wondering why they didn’t just choose a different occupation (I swear they could have been more effective and probably richer selling Royale whitening soap).

5. Did you see that viral video where a policeman was using two miniature (Matchbox?) cars to simulate an accident? I laughed so hard when something similar was shown in this movie. In that scene, Mr. Sandoval received a call from one of the kidnappers which prompted an investigator to turn on her tape recorder. Yes, she recorded the conversation like she was conducting an interview. I really hoped it wasn’t our third world version of tracing a call.

6. Speaking of, I wasn’t sure if I missed something but did they do a phone to phone call using an old Nokia model without a speaker function? How??

7. In a cast of good actors (that also included Bing Pimentel, Christopher de Leon, Ping Medina, and Manang Biring), the real standout was Alex Medina. Seriously, you could never go wrong with someone whose roles ranged from Bonifacio’s brother to a man possessed by a gay ghost.

8. I really loved the juxtapositions used here, from the birthday celebrations to the one where the two ladies were smoking. They were as effective as the ones done by Carlos Siguion-Reyna in Inagaw Mo Ang Lahat Sa Akin.

9. It really felt like the material was modified in favor of the Star Magic talents. Kidnapping the son instead gave Enrique a lot of dramatic highlights (to be fair, he was able to acquit himself well) and at one point, Ricky’s character conveniently suffered a heart attack so that Shaina could have her shining crying moment while lugging around three duffel bags containing millions of pesos (still not sure why Mr. Sandoval agreed to endanger his daughter, though).

10. How would you know the kidnapper that grew a conscience? He was the one with the angel wings tattooed on his back, naturally.

Rating: ★★★☆☆