MOVIE REVIEW: GODZILLA (Gareth Edwards, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Godzilla:

1. “The Philippines, 1999.” My heart skipped a beat.

2. I bet it would have been a much better movie if they kept Juliette Binoche and Bryan Cranston until the end credits. The first 20 minutes had some really good performances from these veterans.

3. Aaron Taylor-Johnson may have kicked ass in Kick-ass but he was so bland in this movie. I’ve never seen a worse lead in a disaster popcorn flick since Taylor Kitsch in (choose any of his 2012 movies).

4. So Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen play husband and wife here and then twins in Avengers: Age of Ultron. What is up with these weird casting choices (see Divergent/The Fault in Our Stars)?

5. I’ve always liked Olsen ever since Martha Marcy May Marlene. Also because she’s the only Olsen sister that probably enjoys a plate of bacon.

6. Why did I feel like I just watched a lame Jurassic Park sequel? Oh, if you liked Pacific Rim I’m 99% sure you’ll like this one, too.

7. Godzilla didn’t come out until an hour into the movie. Pfft! They could have removed all the scenes involving Taylor-Johnson and it wouldn’t have made any difference. That train scene? Cut! That skydiving scene? Cut! That stadium reunion? Cut! Who wanted all of this human drama anyway? To recap: humans boring, monsters awesome.

8. Was Cloverfield a rip-off (or homage) of Godzilla? Now that one I really liked.

9. I just realized that I’m no different from Godzilla. I’m chunky, I’m cranky, I create chaos, I take long naps, and I wake up with atomic breath.

10. Did the dog die?! I was too woozy to remember. But did it really die? Isn’t it a rule in movies that dogs should never die?

11. Am I overthinking this or is Godzilla really a bitter and cynical beast? Why is he so against two creatures falling in love and creating babies? Is he simply jealous? Is this the monster version of The Legal Wife?

12. Hero?! Ok. Now I don’t regret sleeping through most of it.

13. The sequel should be set in the Philippines. I bet Godzilla’s enjoying his sweet ol’ time under the Payatas dumpsite.

14. Stay until the end credits. You’ll see a preview of…darkness.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published May 20, 2014.)

MOVIE REVIEW: AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (Anthony and Joe Russo, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

There’s really nothing to spoil when a movie barely has any stakes.

Anyway, was Marvel throwing major shade when the character who believed in the positive effect of genocide to cleanse the universe retired peacefully in the Philippines?

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published April 30, 2018.)

MOVIE REVIEW: MGA BILANGGONG BIRHEN (Mario O’Hara, Romy Suzara, 1977)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

70’s Pinoy class warfare. At eto yung panahon na ang halaga ng isang babae ay katumbas lamang ng dalawang kambing.

Napaka-pwetic nung train scene kung san itinutulak ng apat na nakahubad na alipin ang isang bagon habang may rape na nagaganap sa loob.

Kaso san nanggaling yung biglang Midsommar sa dulo? Bakit parang dinagdag lang para makita ang dede ni LoveliNess (na without reservation ay isa talaga sa pinakamagandang mukha in Philippine showbiz).

Sobrang galing nina Armida Siguion-Reyna at Leroy Salvador dito. Pero ang pinaka-memorable for me ay si Monang Carvajal as Doña Sagrada. Parang mas gugustuhin ko pa na sampalin ang sarili ko kesa murahin niya paulit-ulit (and in malutong na Spanish pa) huhu.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

MOVIE REVIEW: BAGAHE (Zig Dulay, 2017)

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Angeli Bayani for all the awards!! She was just so good that it felt like I was watching (and personally knew) Mercy the entire time.

I really liked how the first half made the audience go through the entire investigation process. I felt embarrassed and violated and I almost fainted when she had that actual (?) blood test.

The second half felt a bit aimless and too on the nose with its constant explanations (at least now I know the adoption guidelines for an abandoned baby). It was unfortunate that it didn’t know when and how to end the movie.

Also, that ensemble with some of the most amazing character actors in Philippine cinema! Wow!!

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published August 9, 2017.)

JO KOY: COMIN’ IN HOT (Shannon Hartman, 2019)

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Asian and Latino stereotypes and accents, more Filipino childhood stories (including a hilarious bit on munggo), and the power of small dick energy make for an enjoyable hour of racist (but funny, “Hey, it’s just a joke!”) comedy.

Nerd alert: The Philippines wasn’t colonized by Spain for over 350 years (this one was actually easy for me to remember because it was 333). Also, unlike a quinceañera, a Filipina’s debut is celebrated on her 18th birthday.

Time to work on your credit, kabayans!!

Rating: ★★★☆☆

MOVIE REVIEW: THE HOWS OF US (Cathy Garcia-Molina, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Hows of Us:

1. If you’re an old soul (read: an oldie afraid to admit that he’s beyond his prime) like me, you probably have downloaded and played Homescapes (currently ranked #73 in the Apple App Store) where your goal was to build this dream house and decorate it with all types of furniture. The first five minutes of this movie reminded me so much of that game, with George (Kathryn Bernardo) and Primo (Daniel Padilla) providing the voiceover while they selected the perfect couch for their living room. That scene culminated in a huge shouting match that signalled the end of their relationship before transitioning to a split screen sequence that was completely lifted from Kalyeserye (I swear I could hear an instrumental version of Rey Valera’s Kahit Maputi na ang Buhok Ko in the background, a song I have associated with AlDub ever since I died of kilig from their McDonald’s commercial heydays). And then it turned into a Mannequin Challenge with the camera moving around while the pair pretended to be serious contenders in a game of stop dance. Wait, were they aiming to do a recap of pop culture references for this decade?

2. I honestly expected this to be KathNiel’s response to the critical success of JaDine’s Never Not Love You, but it simply lacked the depth and maturity (in terms of characters and story) needed to display their growth as artists (insert that meme of Tyra Banks screaming “I was rooting for you! We were all rooting for you!!”).

Hearing Kathryn utter the word “Putangina!” repeatedly just wasn’t enough, especially if you would consider a Miss Granny like Sarah Geronimo saying vulgar words like “puke” and “hindot” in her most recent film. While their screen rivals tackled weighty themes like long distance relationships and adult responsibilities, the biggest conflict in this movie was whether George should continue with her jeepney ride to take her med school exam or scream “para!” to get down and help a drunk Primo who was slumped on the road. These were supposed to be real people problems? Seryoso?

Side note: I guess it spoke a lot about the maturity of these characters that the fans still shrieked their lungs out every time the lovebirds kissed.

3. Dear Star Cinema, wasn’t it too early to start recycling elements from your recent hits? There were so many things here that reminded me so much of Starting Over Again from George’s line of “In him, I saw a good man…” to that supposedly sensual flirtation reminiscent of Toni Gonzaga’s stepladder scene down to that drunk rant of George with her gay BFF (Juan Miguel Severo) that never reached the comedic heights of Beauty Gonzalez’s “Yang hope na yan, lason yan” moment. I’m sure you have a strong pool of writers. Wala na bang bago? (As in Susan Africa played a Tita Lola role and ended up dead after a few scenes.)

4. If anything, Kathryn looked so gorgeous here (with or without her EO Optical contacts) and I’d have to commend her for making the most out of her thinly-written character. She only had one off moment when she was required to overact like crazy in that “Pagod na pagod na pagod na ako!” scene. Otherwise, she was actually good in her dramatic scenes (even if she played a selfish girlfriend required to say lines like “Wala kang pambili kahit cupcake man lang para sa akin?”) and was even better during the (abruptly) comedic second half. She seemed headed back to her glorious Magkaribal/Mara Clara days. Really happy for her!!

And no amount of Daniel sporting a horrible mullet and looking like a deranged version of Lady Diane (“Sa-sa-Saddami ng problema natin!”) minimized the fact that this tandem could still deliver the requisite kiligs. My favorite moment had to be that cringey-sweet hugot of Primo: “Matagal na naman akong talo eh simula nung hinayaan kong mawala ka”. Awww!

(P.S. Ang galing na nila umarte pareho. Please give them the movie that they deserve!!)

5. I had seen the entire filmography of Maricel Soriano so I know that that entire splitting of the house with masking tape gag was already done with much better results in Kung Kaya Mo, Kaya Ko Rin! (and yes, it was also just copied from a much earlier film with Dolphy and Nida Blanca or some other Philippine Cinema legends that I was too lazy to Google). If I remembered it correctly, there was also a scene where Cesar Montano played his guitar and tried to win back Maricel through a harana. And when Maricel’s BFF Ruby Rodriguez decided to visit the house, she had to drag her over to her side because the rest of the space was off-limits. All of those exact same scenes were in this movie. Again, wala na bang bago?

6. In one clunky scene, George and Primo were selling their “conjugal” ancestral home to a potential buyer (Odette Khan) and after stating that it really didn’t have much value, Primo countered that it did have a lot of history and special memories, thus making it priceless. And I kept thinking, “Totoo ba? Ano naman paki ng buyer sa memories na yan?” so I was really surprised when she instead replied with “I like it! Eto na ang pera!” Huwaaaat?

7. Real jokes delivered while the lovebirds biked around Amsterdam:

• “Bakit ang daming nag-ba-bike dito?” “Eh bike-it naman hindi?”

• “Anong instrumento ang favorite sa Amsterdam?” “Eh di Amsterdrums!”

• “Ano ang favorite pet sa Amsterdam?” “Eh di Hamsterdam!”

• “Ano ang paboritong kainin sa Amsterdam?” “Eh di Hamsterdam and Cheese!”

Should I continue? AMSTERDAMMIT!!

8. “Sana samahan mo pa rin ako in finding out the answers to all the hows.” Hahahaha! Naipilit pa rin ang title.

But seriously, after My Ex and Whys and The Hows of Us, I wonder if Star Cinema still has plans of using the remaining 4W’s. Who Who Belles? What’s Upon a Time? Ready to Where? When Dramas? Oh, too punny!!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

MOVIE REVIEW: 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: ★★☆☆☆

MOVIE REVIEW: JACQUELINE COMES HOME: THE CHIONG STORY (Ysabelle Peach, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Jacqueline Comes Home: The Chiong Story:

1. Back in October of 2012, I was able to watch this little-known documentary called Give Up Tomorrow about the controversial 1997 rape and murder case of Cebu City’s Chiong Sisters. It worked very much like a true crime drama (ala Netflix’s Making a Murderer or the Serial podcast) that presented convincing arguments on the wrongful conviction of Paco Larrañaga (and the rest of the Chiong Seven) and doubled as an exposé on the filthy Philippine justice system. Only a handful of us in that theater watched as a corrupt and broken system destroyed the life of an innocent young man.

I was pleasantly surprised to see the resurgence of this film (made free) online because of the promotions for Jacqueline Comes Home (if there was one good thing that came out of this exploitative massacre movie, it was that at least it generated renewed interest on the case and started a public outcry). GUT had a clear agenda though so I had always wondered if there were facts or details omitted to establish a more foolproof argument. The Chiongs (especially Mrs. Chiong) were also portrayed in such a bad light that it was hard for the public to sympathize with them even if they were victims themselves.

JCH really piqued my interest because this was supposed to be their version of the story and I wanted to see if they had any other pasabog up their sleeves. It was their chance to come up with a reply to GUT’s incredibly well-made presentation of evidence after solid evidence. Sadly, JCH’s version (or as the disclaimer at the start of the movie would like to call it, “loosely inspired by a retelling of a tragic story”) chose to focus on ghostly apparitions and the Lord directly communicating (ala Big Brother) to Mrs. Thelma Chiong (Alma Moreno). (No, He didn’t ask if she had reservations on the RH Law.) There wouldn’t be enough facepalm emojis to describe this tragedy.

2. I hadn’t fully recovered yet from Carlo J. Caparas’ Angela Markado and yet there I was on the very first day of screening watching an exact copycat of his notorious 90’s massacre movies this time directed by his daughter Ysabelle Peach. If you had seen all of his infamous subtitled classics from Vizconde Massacre (God, Help Us!) to The Marita Gonzaga Rape Slay (In God We Trust!), this one would be incredibly familiar. It had:

• the requisite beach scene to establish a happy family whose lives would be ruined by a senseless crime

• a group of despicable villains armed with cartoonish maniacal laughs (in this version, “Sonny” was played by Ryan Eigenmann, invoking the spirit of 90’s John Regala, and he was tasked to spout words like “pendejo!” and “hijo de puta!” out of the blue just in case people forget that he was actually playing “Paco”

• a confusing interweaving timeline

• the ghosts of the victims asking for justice (in one scene, Marijoy Chiong played by Ultimate Kakaibabe Donnalyn Bartolome stood at the foot of the ravine where she was pushed to her death as a badly-bruised ghost trying to catch a bouquet of flowers thrown by her living boyfriend, eek!)

• gratuitous rape and violence misdirected to elicit sympathy (where one of the rapists kept screaming, “Sharing is caring!”)

• and, it wouldn’t be complete without Joel Torre (as Mr. Dionisio Chiong) overacting in the worst possible way to show immense grief at the death of a loved one (see also: Lipa Massacre, Lord Deliver Us From Evil!).

3. I was surprised that Meg Imperial played the bespectacled Jacqueline Chiong since she looked more like Marijoy (and vice-versa). The latter role also required somebody who could effectively convey fear (in this version, Sonny/Paco was a stalker) and no amount of lip-quivering and nail-biting made me think for a second that Donnalyn was genuinely threatened. She even had to verbally state multiple times that she was scared (“Nakakatakot! Iba sya tumingin Ate!”). Hala paulit-ulit?

Side note: One of the most disgusting things I read online stated something like “Why would a Spanish mestizo like Paco actually court and rape an unattractive Chiong sister when he could pay to have any beautiful woman he wanted?” Seryoso?? Rape culture and victim-blaming in 2018? Yan ang kadiri!

4. Remember that indelible scene in GUT with Mrs. Chiong laughing like a mad woman while saying that she would personally kill Paco if she ever saw him? It was such a powerful image that made it even hard to reconcile with this movie’s version of a meek and God-fearing lady who spent most of her time praying in Church.

There were moments here that could have worked in the Chiongs’ favor and probably helped depict their current grieving state to the public (scammers offering to return Jacqueline, how the rest of the family members were neglected after the tragedy, etc.) but they weren’t fully explored.

Instead it focused on blatantly revising documented facts with its portrayal of Davidson Rusia (billed as Nervous Boy) being non-complicit to the crime, the gang as serial rapists, and even the sisters getting abducted in a random waiting shed as opposed to Ayala Center Cebu. It also included a lot of irrelevant scenes where Sonny/Paco’s gang had a fight with barbecue vendors, hysterical protesters showed their support to the Chiong family, Spirit Questors communicated with the dead, and the most laughable one of all, a group of random Law students discussed the case, questioned the loopholes and assumed that some of the convicts might be innocent and then concluded by saying that we needed to trust our justice system because it would ultimately do the right thing. Talaga ba?! Guys, watch Give Up Tomorrow.

5. Feeling ko mas maayos pa yung TV movie na pinalabas during the trial. Yes, the one with Jennifer Sevilla and Niño Muhlach. I wonder if it would ever be made available online.

6. So did Jacqueline Come Home? No. Neglected youngest sister and Jacqueline-lookalike Debbie did. (Kung ano man ibig sabihin nun.)

Honestly, I was very disappointed that this movie wasn’t called Jacqueline Comes Home (Jusko Lord!).

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆