MOVIE REVIEW: MADRASTA (Olivia Lamasan, 1996)

1DC43787-C7BB-4CE5-8D79-F33196CBC7E1

SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Madrasta:

1. Bakit obsessed ang Hollywood sa pag-plagiarize ng films ni Claudine Barretto? Masyadong glaring ang similarities ng Got 2 Believe at 27 Dresses. Lalong hindi ako maniniwala na coincidence lang ang mga eksena na parehong-pareho sa Stepmom at Madrasta (kasama na yung confrontation scene ng dalawang nanay sa restaurant at yung ending na pagsali ng madrasta sa family picture). Akala n’yo tayo lang ang walang originality lagi ha. O ayan may masusumbat na din tayo sa Hollywood. Sana ang susunod na gayahin nila ay Kailangan Kita, where we’ll see a braless country girl played by Jennifer Lawrence fall in love with New York celebrity chef Chris Evans.

2. Isa siguro ito sa mga pelikula na kaya kong sumulat ng 1,000-word essay of random thoughts na walang kahirap-hirap. Memorable pa siya kasi bahay ng friend ko nung high school ang ginamit na location dito. Muntik na nga ako magka-film debut nung sinabihan niya kami na naghahanap ng extras for a party scene ni Ate Clau. Ang tagal ko pa namili ng best Giordano outfit ko tapos biglang na-pack up. Ayun siya na lang ang nakasama nung sumunod na shooting day (wearing her best Giordano outfit). Pero feel na feel ko pa rin na kasama ako sa pelikula by association.

3. If you’ll watch this through woke lenses in 2020, lalabas talaga na sobrang problematic niya. Marami kasing aspects ang film dealing with the class divide (“Pinakikisamahan ko na ang mga anak mo. Pati ba naman mga katulong kelangan ko pa pakibagayan?”) to the patriarchal system na hindi na acceptable ngayon. Although it did speak to an audience that lived through that period. Yung mga nakaporma ng Umbro jerseys or yung mga 90’s titos and titas na nagulantang ang pagkatao nang makita si Mariel (Megastar Sharon Cuneta) na nakaupo sa kubeta.

4. Peak Tita Shawie talaga ito. Deserved ang Grand Slam kasi ibang-iba ang atake kumpara sa mga blockbuster 80’s melodramas niya. Yung tahimik lang umiyak pero ramdam na ramdam yung sakit na kahit anong gawin niya, hindi siya talaga magiging parte ng pamilya ng asawa niya. Na kahit nagreklamo siya na lagi siyang nag-take ng backseat para sa mga bata, ang sinagot lang sa kanya ay, “I cannot give importance to my happiness at the expense of my children”. Saklap! Nasabihan pa na hindi masarap ang gawa niyang baked mac huhu.

Best scene niya dito yung almost wordless na pag-iyak niya sa deathbed ng kanyang favorite lolo set to the haunting Moonlight Sonata. Parang binuksang gripo ang mga mata niya pero very restrained ang acting. Halos hindi na rin ako makahinga kakaiyak nung umabot na sa sweet and touching na pa-ilong nila.

5. Nagustuhan ko yung twist na hindi madrasta ang maldita for a change. Effective talaga si Ate Clau basta pasaway ang roles niya (see also: Anak, Dahil Mahal na Mahal Kita). Kahit yung jumper outfits niya parang nagsusumigaw na super bitch. Tawang-tawa ako nung ibinibida siya ni Mariel sa kapatid nito by saying, “Mukhang suplada lang si Rachel pero kapag nakilala mo… ano… (two second pause)… ok naman.” Hahahaha!

Si Ms. Vangieeeee Labalan naman sobrang atribida as the household mayordoma. Walang bukambibig kundi ang kanyang idol na si Ma’m Sandra (Zsa Zsa Padilla). Feeling ko kung ganun din ang ugali niya sa akin, di rin siya magtatagal ng isang linggo. Either that or lagi ko papatunugin yung bell na pantawag sa kanya (very 90’s burgis film nga diba).

6. Speaking of social classes, ang galing nung juxtaposition ng lunch scenes ng dalawang pamilya. Yung kina Mariel talagang magkakatabi sila in a compact dining area tapos ang ingay mag-kwentuhan. Tapos nung kina Edward (Christopher de Leon) na, nasa may garden at naka-long table tapos very refined at tahimik lang. Yung mom lang niya (Madam Tita Muñoz) ang nag-lead ng entire conversation (at mukhang siya rin ang totoong may-ari ng bell).

Naalala ko nung pinanood ko ito sa sinehan sobrang lakas ng tawanan na more lamon ang brother ni Mariel (Cris Villanueva). Tapos biglang sigaw naman nung nahulog ang crab ng isang sister niya (Eula Valdez) na pinulot bigla at inilagay niya sa kandungan. Very relatable talaga sila.

Although ang funniest scene ni Eula for me still was yung pinabili siya ng McCormick Black Pepper tapos ang binili niya cornick kasi akala niya kelangan ng chichirya sa fancy birthday party ni Ate Clau. Bwahahaha!!

7. One of the few local films that first used live sound kaya minsan di mo marinig ang sinasabi ng characters kasi mas malakas pa ang mga palaka sa background.

8. Points to ponder:

“Meron ba namang nagmahal na hindi nasaktan? Kaya ka nasasaktan kasi nagmamahal ka. Pero mas masakit kung naghihintay ka ng kapalit. Yun bang iniisip mo kung ano ang dapat mong matanggap sa halip na isipin mo kung hanggang saan ang kaya mong ibigay. Kasi tayo eh mahilig tayong tumingin sa katabi kapag tayo ay nasasaktan na. Yun bang iniisip nating sila ang may kasalanan. Bakit? Wala din ba tayong mga pagkakamali?”

Rating: ★★★★★

MOVIE REVIEW: MILAN (Olivia Lamasan, 2004)

8C2F4B8F-240E-4DBC-95EE-1D058E6705DD

Best scene: Ilonah Jean eating pizza with rice (sans utensils, naturally) while discussing the hardships of OFWs in Italy.

Best line: After Lino (Piolo Pascual) teased Jenny (Claudine Barretto) that even God rested on the seventh day, her wry response was: “Eh kasi naman wala Siyang pinadadalhan sa Pilipinas.”

Best performance: Iza Calzado as Lino’s wife, Mary Grace. Maximum impact with minimal screen time, as always.

Runner-up best performance: Peak Ate Clau, of course. Her delivery of the line “Hanggang ngayon pakiramdam ko pokpok pa rin ako” made me reach for some Kleenex.

Needed improvements: Piolo’s pedestrian acting, jarring shifts between the love story and the documentary bits, justification (glorification?) of illegal immigrants, and that horrible Hunchback of Notre Dame outfit of Lino in the final scene. Mamma mia!!

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published April 24, 2017.)

MOVIE REVIEW: STARTING OVER AGAIN (Olivia Lamasan, 2014)

D95B4F1F-F3DB-4140-AD35-F83DFBF8715B

SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Starting Over Again:

1. With a better treatment (and alternate ending), this could have been a great Star Cinema, feel-bad Pinoy movie. It might have been predictable and clunky, but it did have some really good lines and realistic scenes of heartbreak.

2. Toni Gonzaga (as Patty) was effortlessly funny, although she struggled a bit in her dramatic scenes. (Side note: She needs to have her legs insured. They looked amazing and she knew just how to accentuate them.)

As Marco, Piolo Pascual just didn’t seem to exert any effort at all. Was I the only one annoyed by his excessive use of the word “diba” in that confrontation scene? It didn’t help that he sounded more bitchy than hurt. (At least he fared much better in his silent crying scenes.)

3. In all my years of travelling to and from Alabang, I’ve never taken an actual train. Especially since there are hundreds of buses and jeepneys and shuttle services that will drop you in South Station or Metropolis/StarMall. Where is this train and where are its stops?

On a related note, my favorite scene in that sequence was that of Patty getting off a moving bus. It was just too hilarious. And it elicited the expected reactions from the very amused crowd.

4. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Iza Calzado is a brilliant actress. I loved how calm and collected she was during Patty’s confrontation scene with Ginny. Her restraint showed the maturity of her character and her nuanced performance made that scene even more powerful. She also had the best lines in the movie. I wonder why she’s not given the projects she deserves.

5. “A relationship should have the right ingredients: love, trust, and an allowance for mistakes. Love is greater than someone’s failures. In love there is no fear.”

I bawled my eyes out.

And Patty’s line about their non-romantic love:

“Our love may be quiet and boring, but it’s sure.”

Shet. Pass me the tissues.

6. If I were in this movie, I would be Beb played by the dependable Cai Cortez (ok, insert the fat joke here). But really, I saw myself in her character. I would be that one friend who wouldn’t mince words no matter how brutal the message would be; that one friend who would offer you a hug then slap you back to reality.

7. I will forever use these memorable lines in future drinking sessions with relapsing friends:

“Yang hope na yan, lason yan. Parang drugs, nakaka-adik.”

“Adik ka na naman sa pag-asa. Try mo kaya lumaklak ng realidad.”

8. Why do we have this growing trend in local movies where seemingly smart women beg other women to lend or give up their boyfriends/husbands? Icky.

I’m happy to see though that the “third wheel” here wasn’t made to look like a devil in the last act just to justify the break-up and possible happy ending for the leads. Patty was really nice and giving and there was just no reason for Marco not to love her. In fact, she did look like Mama Mary.

9. And here’s my message to all my exes (parang ang dami): “I can never un-love you. I just love you in a different way now.” (Sob.)

10. I really hated that wood-crashing scene. It felt straight out of a Wenn Deramas movie. Worst possible deus ex machina.

11. After Forever and a Day, I wonder if Star Cinema will ever have the balls again to end films the way they really should.

I’m sure a lot of people loved the cameos and they felt the need to give its audience a hopeful ending. In real life though, it would take years before Ginny will get over Marco, more years for her to pick up the pieces, and even more years to finally meet the right one. (And that’s already being hopeful.)

12. If the movie ended with Ginny deleting the message and the camera panning out showing Ginny ready to move on with the swelling theme song in the background, I would probably have rated this higher. Maybe they’ll consider that for the DVD? For all the Bebs out there, please?

P. S. Two girls in front of us were taking selfies (with flash) during the closing credits so I gave one of them “sungay”. Made them stop.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published February 14, 2014.)

MOVIE REVIEW: MINSAN, MINAHAL KITA (Olivia Lamasan, 2000)

319FFB29-07AE-4AC0-B8A8-E80051996704

We had the right love at the wrong time ang peg.

Sa huli, magkakatabi ang mga kotse nila dahil sa sobrang traffic.

Magkakatitigan. Susunod ang matatamis na ngitian. Lalong lalakas ang chorus ng Somewhere Down the Road habang hindi gumagalaw ang mga sasakyan nila at lalong magiging sanhi ng traffic sa Parañaque.

Tatak Lamasan. #iconic

Rating: ★★★★☆

MOVIE REVIEW: LA LA LAND (Damian Chazelle, 2016)

8C3B9087-CA6B-4A31-ABA3-08B71B5785F2

SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on La La Land:

1. One character in this film probably summed up my entire viewing experience of this oftentimes joyous homage to classic Hollywood musicals: “How are you going to be a revolutionary if you’re such a traditionalist?”

Damien Chazelle (who also directed Whiplash, one of the best of 2014) concocted such a nostalgic fantasy world that easily razzle dazzled the audience and made them forget that they were basically watching the same old romance tropes (why am I mentioning romance like it’s a dirty word?). I think Billy Flynn in Chicago said it best with “How can they see with sequins (or in this case, thousands of stars?) in their eyes?”.

2. The “Another Day of Sun” opening sequence was such a delight to watch that it was hard for me not to stomp my feet along with it. Wouldn’t it be great if people suddenly burst into an all-out song and dance production number while stuck in EDSA rush hour traffic? Besides, your obnoxious soulmate might just be right there in the next Tas Trans bus.

3. I named my current car after Emma Stone so my love for her was unquestionable. It would also be out of love for me to say that she was great here as struggling actress Mia (the first audition scene when she was rudely interrupted for a sandwich was heartbreaking), except when she was required to sing. Her voice was just too weak (thin? airy?) and it hobbled what could have been a brilliant showstopper with “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)”. (This song sounded like “The Rainbow Connection” while “A Lovely Night” reminded me so much of Frank Sinatra’s “Cheek to Cheek”.)

4. Ryan Gosling as Sebastian was just as charming and had the right amount of smarm, like he was the better person simply for being a jazz enthusiast. He actually looked like he was literally dying of embarrassment while playing A-ha’s “Take On Me”. His fingers were a bit stiff during the piano scenes, but he fared much better vocally. Also, could someone teach me how to whistle that “City of Stars” piece?

5. When J.K. Simmons stormed out of the kitchen to fire Gosling, I actually thought that he would throw a ladle at him and scream, “Not quite my tempo!!”. (Seriously, if you hadn’t seen Whiplash, watch it now!!)

6. Passion, hard work, and the sacrifices made to realize your dreams. Different priorities, different outlooks. Long-distance relationships (“My aunt used to live in Paris…”) rarely worked. Why must life be so cruel?

7. The seasons as metaphors for their relationship status and even the bench break-up scene reminded me so much of (500) Days of Summer. On the other hand, the coffee shop scenes were very Bituing Walang Ningning. I loved the newly-transformed Dorina Pineda vibe she gave when she walked in five years later to get her latte. Uwian na, may nanalo na.

8. That alternate reality sequence would probably go down as the ultimate hopia moment of 2016.

9. Much had been said about the bittersweet ending complete with their longing looks (disappointment? regret? hope? acceptance? closure?) and it probably would have been more poignant if I didn’t see it first in Olivia Lamasan’s The Mistress.

Rating: ★★★★☆

MOVIE REVIEW: BARCELONA: A LOVE UNTOLD (Olivia Lamasan, 2016)

14264913_10154494566103544_4620116065289126511_n

SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Barcelona: A Love Untold:

1. In the movie Milan, the central mystery revolved around the disappearance of Lino’s (Piolo Pascual) wife, Mary Grace (Iza Calzado), and his quest to find answers. It was an interesting premise that kept people guessing until the big reveal.

In the movie Barcelona, the central mystery fell on the character of Celine, the ex-girlfriend of Ely (Daniel Padilla). It was not so much about what happened to her, but who was supposedly playing the role. Her identity was kept a secret through partially concealed phone and laptop wallpapers and first person point of view shots. The big reveal turned out to be an even bigger disappointment because it was played by (surprise, surprise!) Kathryn Bernardo with a mole on the chin and a prosthetic nose straight out of Blusang Itim.

It was as lame as the teaser on Four Sisters and a Wedding that hid the identity of Enchong Dee’s chararat bride, who turned out to be Angeline Quinto. Nobody really cared.

2. Seriously, if they wanted to make a big deal about the Celine character, why didn’t they cast Nadine Lustre instead? It definitely would have been so controversial and ballsy that it could have sent several KathNiels straight to the emergency room.

3. Finding new love in a foreign land might sound romantic but this was one love story that really should have remained untold. Star Cinema could have done a Spain travelogue instead and focused on this architecture capital of the world (I just added Sagrada Familia on my Places to Visit list).

Besides, there were so many subplots that veered away from the main story that included: Ely’s conflict with his father and the fate of their business, Mia’s conflict with her father, Ely’s abandonment issue with his mother, Mia’s unemployment for being duped into networking, etc. Even minor characters played by Aiko Melendez and son Joshua Garcia needed their own dramatic highlights. The running time of two hours felt like an eternity.

4. Speaking of Joshua, there was a running gag about his character needing to poop every single time. Was this ever explained? Did they edit out that he had colon cancer or something? What’s another hour of extraneous plot?

5. Ironically, the movie told the same plight of OFWs that was better tackled in the first few weeks of On The Wings of Love (also, the animation bit was signature Antoinette Jadaone). Aiko took on the role of Tita Jack, Joshua was Jigs without the love triangle element, and most of the trials that Mia experienced on the job happened to Leah.

Except for the bleeding foot. Who would ever wear heels while working in a palengke? Also, how could you sympathize with Mia when she was working as a nanny sporting palazzo pants, heels, and clutching a designer bag? She also neglected a child. Why would I feel bad that she got fired? Kairita.

6. Any romantic movie addict knows that the Meet Cute part is crucial in establishing the connection between the potential lovers. In this movie, Ely and Mia met each other while on a train. An old man dropped his supot of abubots and Ely stopped and helped him pick up his stuff. Mia, who probably thought of herself as a subway goddess, simply stepped over the said goods and headed straight to the doors. I had the sudden urge to pull her stringy hair back ala Clara del Valle and ask her to help clean up the mess.

There was also one scene where Ely carried a drunk Mia on his shoulder like a wild boar back to his apartment. Was that supposed to be funny and romantic?

7. Much had been said about the makeup in this movie that I felt the need to discuss it in detail. I just couldn’t get over how horrible they looked. Daniel was like a walking espasol while Kathryn had the bronzed Spanish bread look. As one KathNiel pointed out, I am not a makeup expert and I do not know the perfect shades to complete a fresh summer look. My amateur critique on the makeup here is more on the lines of “Bes, Foundation Day ba today?”. Too distracting, too scary.

(Also, one scene involved mimes with white paint on their faces. I really thought it was them. That bad.)

8. Ano ang laman ng maleta ni Mia? Packets of Nescafe, of course. Laman ng cupboard ni Ely? Cans of San Marino Chili Corned Tuna. Pinoy essentials, naturally.

9. The leads’ performances were fine, with Daniel faring much better than Kathryn. She still had that distracting nasal voice and could not get rid of her pabebe acting tics. When she started crying in the latter part of this movie, I seriously expected subtitles so that the audience would understand what she was saying. Whatever happened to that brilliant actress that was a revelation in Magkaribal? In one scene, she was asked to perform a Spanish dance (freestyle flamenco?) and it severely lacked the needed sexuality. So awkward to watch!

Daniel, on the other hand, looked really good onscreen and reminded me a lot of a charismatic Robin Padilla in his prime. I hope that his potentials won’t be limited by his love team. Sayang naman if the only maturity he would be able to show would be doing a supposed nude scene while Kathryn watched from her bed.

If there was one performer that really stood out, though, it was Ma. Isabel Lopez who played Ely’s mother. As usual, eksenadora na naman. She stole every scene (one of them in a gorgeous red gown) like she was hogging the limelight in Cannes all over again. Brava!

10. Even with all the pop culture references (diary in Mara Clara, one character saying “Shut up na lang ako”, etc.), the best one leaned on being political since the movie inadvertently ended up as a public service ad against extrajudicial killings. In a nutshell, the Celine character was accidentally shot by riding-in-tandem goons who were actually targeting (I’m guessing) a drug pusher. I’m not kidding.

11. Burning questions:

• Why did the interior shots look like Tondo?

• Was it just me or did one of the tour guides actually look like Maine Mendoza?

• Will the trend of shouting from a high place (this time on a ferris wheel) as a form of catharsis continue in future movies?

• What was up with all those close-ups of their lips while drinking mineral water?

• Will I ever get to hear Gary V. sing a ballad without ever laughing after those hilarious “If (show/movie) was made in the Philippines…” videos?

• Was Cathy Garcia-Molina actually a good sport for showing up as herself while barking orders to poor extras?

• Do these lines sound familiar?

“Ingat ka sa lungkot-lungkot na yan. Mahirap magmahal ng isang taong hindi pa tapos magmahal ng iba.”

“Stop acting like you own my pain!”

“Tama ka! Hindi ka si Celine. You will NEVER be Celine!”

“‘Wag mo ko mahalin dahil mahal kita. Mahalin mo ko dahil mahal mo ko. Because that is what I deserve.”

“Mahal kita dahil mahal kita. Yun na yun.”

12. If you’re planning to watch this movie, make sure you’re armed with a first aid kit. During the much-hyped kissing scene, one KathNiel in yesterday’s screening let out an ear-piercing scream, jumped out of her seat, and started frothing in the mouth.

The other one beside me was sobbing like her favorite pet just died. I cried along with her because I really wanted a refund.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆