ULAN (Irene Villamor, 2019)

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I adored the (commendable) bits of magical realism steeped in Pinoy folklore. Sadly, the rest of it was a confused, tropes-filled mess with a very questionable central message.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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BORN BEAUTIFUL (Perci Intalan, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Born Beautiful:

1. Originally planned as a series on Cignal TV, this spin-off of the 2016 critical hit (and a personal fave) Die Beautiful was supposedly the first five episodes of the show turned into a full-length feature. Although the decision was understandable given the material’s commercial appeal, this also served as its main weakness. The transition from TV to film resulted into some messy storytelling (several arcs felt stretched to fill an episode), underdeveloped characters, the lack of a clear resolution (a lot of people would definitely find the ending bitin), and some surface-level views on weighty issues. Even worse, we didn’t really get to know more about everyone’s favorite BFF Barbs, except that she made funny “arf arf arf” sounds during sex.

2. I was very disappointed that Christian Bables didn’t reprise his Urian-winning role because he would always be the Barbs that we deserved. It was such an effortless and lived-in performance that was sorely missing in this movie (plus the fact that the original relied on the wonderful chemistry between him and Paolo Ballesteros’ Trisha, who sadly only showed up here for a couple of scenes including a killer Mama Mary moment).

Martin del Rosario was fine as Barbs 2.0, but under all the wigs and make-up (and occasional tucking) it still felt like a committed Martin del Rosario playing Barbs 2.0. And would it be weird to say that he was just much too beautiful for the role? If Barbs (hello Taong Lego?) looked this gorgeous, then she wouldn’t be playing second fiddle to Trisha and would actually be winning all the beaucons instead.

3. While Die Beautiful presented a clear picture of Trisha’s character with her childhood dream of becoming a beauty queen, growing up in a homophobic household, and being subjected to all forms of abuse, this sequel focused on Barbs being torn between two men (and facing possible fatherhood). Medyo mababaw lang.

I would have wanted to learn more about Barbs’ personal life, including her goals and motivations, or how she coped up with her best friend’s death, or even how she learned (or what inspired) all those make-up transformations. I guess her new and improved face only merited a love triangle plot.

4. To be fair, there were still a lot of enjoyable (read: LOL) moments here. I found it smart that they were able to connect the Jamby quip in the first with Barbs’ identity confusion problems in this one (“Mukha kang tomboy na nag-aalok ng Bear Brand!”). I cackled with glee when she mentioned that Kim Kardashian’s look cost 3.5k and the 350 version was for Kim delos Santos. And should I feel guilty that I laughed at the sight of the stroke victim’s corpse and after Barbs covered it up with a Lady Gaga circa 2009 MTV Video Music Awards kukur look (“Mukha siyang malaking regla at ikaw ang pasador”)? Or that the beki friends recommended a Rihanna transformation for their other friend that died from electrocution (“Dahil lang sunog, kelangan na negra?”) and ended up with a Sia walis-tambo look (“Sia Pusit!”)? Maybe not.

The lamest humor came from the tired beauty pageant introduction segment. Seriously, how many more times should we hear that rehashed “Seventy-eight, seventy-nine, Haiti!” joke before it gets permanently banned in Pinoy queer cinema?

5. Aside from Barbs, the Michael Angelo 2.0 character had a nose lift that resulted to a face overhaul and was now played by Artista Academy’s Akihiro Blanco. It felt odd that he was one of the men fighting over her when he was the ex of Trisha in the first film.

Wait lang Barbs, tumulong ka sugurin ang karibal ni Trisha, tinawag mo na ahas, nakipagsabunutan sa parlor, pagkatapos tinalo mo rin sa dulo ang BFF mo? Hindi talaga lahat ng ahas nasa gubat. Yung iba nagtatrabaho sa Happy Endings Funeral Homes. (Kaya ka rin siguro laging minumulto ni Trisha! Malandi, haliparot, talipandas!)

From the rest of the supporting cast, I really loved Lou Veloso back as Mama Flora (“Ang gugulo n’yo. Mag-chupaan na lang tayong lahat!”), Joey Paras as one of the Way of Light pastors, and Chai Fonacier as the baby mama Yumi. What happened to the other beki BFFs from the first film, though?

6. I really appreciated some of the witty ways the film expressed its views on current issues like the death penalty (“People can change for the better”), gender neutral bathrooms, single-blessedness (“Hindi mo naman kelangan ng partner para maging reyna”), abortion, and open relationships. That entire conversion therapy bit was also brutal (literally and figuratively) that many overzealous faithful would probably get triggeredt.

7. In one scene, Yumi was graphically describing how she ended up getting pregnant through some vulgar words and hand movements. It was meant to be hilarious (and probably one of the movie’s highlights), but ended up getting completely ruined by all the bleeping (even the subtitles were censored!). Please note that the version I watched was already rated R-18, or For Adults Only by the tasked moral guardians.

I just found it funny that one of the promotional materials for this film commended the MTRCB for being “progressive”. Totoo ba? Saang banda?

Rating: ★★★☆☆

BOY TOKWA: LODI NG GAPO (Tony Reyes, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Boy Tokwa: Lodi ng Gapo:

1. Anak ng tokwa! I was hoping for a palate cleanser after the mediocrity (to put it lightly) of the recently concluded Metro Manila Film Festival, but I ended up with this problematic garbage (to put it lightly) as my very first movie of 2019. Which shouldn’t be a surprise since I started 2018 with the stinker Haunted Forest and ended it with Jack Em Popoy: The Puliscredibles. Why break tradition, right?

2. The movie opened with a disclaimer that it was inspired by a true story, but any similarities to actual persons or events were purely coincidental. Was that supposed to be a joke? Like the opening scene with the announcement of the arrival of Cebu Pacific flight 5JX while a clip of (I think) a non-Cebu Pacific plane was landing at Clark International Airport?

3. The cast of young unknowns (half of which looked like they were part of the Sotto clan, since Tito Sotto was a producer) were just awful. Everyone talked like they were communicating with dogs that lived three blocks away from SM Southmall. The ones that played the local relatives had an American twang even if they were just explaining what ukay-ukay meant. One had the unfortunate task of delivering this line: “Lodi ng Gapo? Petmalu! Boom panes!”. Like, eww.

4. Jose Manalo played the titular role who was some sort of Robin Hood in 1940’s Olongapo. He would con American soldiers into buying overpriced tuko (gecko?) or used smelly panties and then donate the money to the needy. He also cheated them a lot in poker games, but was supposedly just doing a heroic deed. As one character (Joey Marquez) described him, “Hindi siya katulad ng ibang con man na walang puso. May moral standards siya at hindi tuma-target ng mga Pinoy.” Eh di wow!

(In hindsight though, anybody willing to pay 250 dollars for funky-smelling underwear probably deserved their fate.)

5. The iconic Vangie Labalan was Mommy Tokwa. Nothing follows.

6. It’s already 2019 and the sources of humor here included a stutterer (“Pina-kiki-kiki-kiki-usapan ko pa…”), a Chinese character named Tsing Tsong Atsay (Epy Quizon) who used an abacus to compute his poker winnings, and a joke about a maliit na unan (unano, of course!). Woke social media… attack!!

7. Tito Sen, what happened to the movie’s budget? Why were the same American soldier extras and pokpok chorus walking in the background in every Olongapo scene? Why was a green screen used in the Guam tourist spots montage? Why didn’t they even change the name of Kandi Towers in Pampanga when it was supposed to substitute for a hotel in Guam?

On the other hand, four different actresses played Daughter Tokwa and yet they looked nothing like each other.

8. My favorite moment in the movie was when Boy Tokwa was abandoned by his wife and he started reading her goodbye letter. The voiceover screamed, “I AM LEAVING YOU BOY! YOU ARE NEVER SEEING US AGAIN!”. I imagined that the letter was also written in all caps.

Immediately after, Boy had a walling scene while wailing, “Juskopo, anong kasalanan ko?” and then the camera focused on an altar of religious images. Buti hindi nagsalita ang mga rebulto ng, “Anak, nanloko ka kasi ng mga ‘Kano. Karma yan.”

9. Sample dialogue that made me fart in my seat:

• Boy Tokwa courting his future wife with this bagung-bagong pick-up line: “Remember M, remember E, put them together, remember ME!”

• Millennial apo after the con man story: “In this house, we stan a generous low-low!”

• One of the Sotto kids on the phone with his mom (Karel Marquez): “Sometimes I like talking to Siri more than talking to you!”

• Girlfriend to one of the Sotto kids: “The stars shine so bright, but if you take a closer look, they burn deep inside… just like you.”

Repeat after me: Anak ng tokwa!!

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

HAUNTED FOREST (Ian Loreños, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Haunted Forest:

1. This movie is shaping up to be one of the worst movies of 2017 so I will just provide a blow-by-blow so that you can all save your money. Obviously, spoilers ahead.

2. So the first twenty minutes consisted of a gagamba running after a taong grasa played by Jerald Napoles. As the resident baliw, he was blamed for the death of a woman hanging from a tree even if obvious naman na hindi niya kaya magpulupot ng thick branches ng puno (can anyone?).

3. Raymart Santiago and his bitchy daughter Jane Oineza went to the province for vacation (or prolly to do some soul-searching) after the death of his cancer-stricken wife. They stayed at the house of Maris Racal and Beverly Salviejo (and it’s a mystery how she’s related to them).

4. All the women in town are fond of wearing white kamison while strolling the haunted forest at night. Yes, this is a Mother Lily-produced movie.

5.

Maris: Di naman ako mahilig sa social media kaya ok lang kahit walang signal sa bahay.

Maris after looking at Jane’s iPhone: Uy, add mo naman ako diyan!!

6. Joey Marquez plays a cop with a habit of hitting suspects at will. I’d like to say that his character’s trapped in a Pinoy 90s sitcom, but he very much seems to fit right in the current police force.

7. Ok, mukhang gorilla yung killer.

8. Sample conflict…

Maris: Naku, naiwan ang bawang! Paano ako maggigisa nito?

9. Sumakay si Jane sa dimples ni Jameson Blake para balikan ang naiwang bawang. Kaso naaubutan sila ng malakas na ulan. Walang silong kaya basang-basa sila. Sabay labas si Jameson ng panyo.

Jameson: Eto, punasan na lang kita.

Seryoso??!

10. Kanina umihi sina Joey at Raymart sa gilid ng kalsada. Ngayon naman umiihi si Jane sa damuhan. Eh kaya kayo minumulto kasi di kayo marunong magpasintabi sa mga nuno. Mga bastos!

11. One sequence looked like the director was just having fun with a Snapchat filter. Hihihi!

12. Hirap ng role ni Jane. Her character fainted for the fourth time already. On the other hand, it’s the third time I’m trying not to fall asleep.

13. I probably would have been more scared of Myrtle Sarrosa’s dead character if she didn’t look like she was wearing the wrong shade of foundation and just forgot to brush her hair.

14. So the sitsit was supposed to eat Jane, but changed his mind when he saw Raymart. May sensual wagging of the tongue involved pa. Should we consider this as a step forward for equal representation of the LGBTQ community in local cinema?

15. So ayun na nga dinukot na ng sitsit ang gusto niyang dukutin kay Raymart. Tegi.

16. Everyone knew the tree where the sitsit lived but the townspeople decided to do a prayover around it instead. Nobody bothered to burn or cut it down. Until today.

17.

Jane to sitsit: Hoy! Magpakita kita!

After magpakita…

Everyone: Takbooooooo!!

Tengene.

18. Ayan happy ending na for Jane. Masaya siya kasi kahit napatay ng sitsit ang tatay niya nagka-lovelife naman siya sa probinsiya. Hindi na nga naman masama.

The end. Leche.

19. Ay buti di ako agad umalis. May mid-credits sequence. Buhay pa ang sitsit at lumipat sa katawan ng bangkero. Ready for a sequel kaso mukhang flop. Paano na?

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published January 3, 2018.)

The Best of Pinoy Cinema 2018

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1. THERESE MALVAR (Distance)

2. MOI BIEN (Kuya Wes)

3. CHERIE GIL (Citizen Jake)

4. GILLETH SANDICO (Sol Searching)

5. INA RAYMUNDO (Kuya Wes)

6. DEVON SERON (Bakwit Boys)

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1. MENGGIE COBARRUBIAS (Kung Paano Hinihintay ang Dapithapon)

2. NICO ANTONIO (Delia & Sammy)

3. KETCHUP EUSEBIO (Mamang)

4. NICCO MANALO (Gusto Kita With All My Hypothalamus)

5. EJ JALLORINA (Mamu; And A Mother Too)

6. JM SALVADO (Sol Searching)

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1. GLAIZA DE CASTRO (Liway)

2. IYAH MINA (Mamu; And a Mother Too)

3. GINA PAREÑO (Hintayan ng Langit)

4. POKWANG (Oda sa Wala)

5. CELESTE LEGASPI (Mamang)

6. NADINE LUSTRE (Never Not Love You)

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1. DANTE RIVERO (Kung Paano Hinihintay ang Dapithapon)

2. EDDIE GARCIA (Hintayan ng Langit)

3. DINGDONG DANTES (Sid and Aya: Not a Love Story)

4. NONIE BUENCAMINO (Distance)

5. EDDIE GARCIA (ML)

6. JAIME FABREGAS (Delia & Sammy)

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1. SA SAIYANG ISLA (Christian Candelaria)

2. GABI NG KABABALAGHAN (Stephen Lopez)

3. LUISA AT GUADA (Jude Matanguihan)

4. BOYET LOVES YOU (Josel Fajardo)

5. DUYAN NG ALON (Kaye Banaag)

—-

TOP 10 FEATURE LENGTH FILMS

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#10

Written by: Keavy Eunice Vicente

Directed by: Perci Intalan

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#9

Written and directed by: Samantha Lee

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#8

Written by: Juan Miguel Severo

Directed by: Dan Villegas

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#7

Written by: John Carlo Pacala

Directed by: Carlo Catu

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#6

Written and directed by: Dwein Baltazar

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#5

Written and directed by: Rod Singh

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#4

Written and directed by: Antoinette Jadaone

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#3

Written and directed by: Dwein Baltazar

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#2

Written by: Kenneth Lim Dagatan, Eduardo Dayao

Directed by: Kenneth Lim Dagatan

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#1

Written by: Kip Oebanda, Zig Dulay

Directed by: Kip Oebanda

—-

And here’s my 2018 scorecard:

★★★★★

GABI NG KABABALAGHAN (Stephen Lopez)

LIWAY (Kip Oebanda)

LUISA AT GUADA (Jude Matanguihan)

MA (Kenneth Lim Dagatan)

SA SAIYANG ISLA (Christian Candelaria)

—-

★★★★☆

ALL GROWN UP (Wena Sanchez)

BAKWIT BOYS (Jason Paul Laxamana)

BILLIE & EMMA (Samantha Lee)

BOYET LOVES YOU (Josel Fajardo)

DELIA & SAMMY (Therese Cayaba)

DISTANCE (Perci Intalan)

DUYAN NG ALON (Kaye Banaag)

GUSTO KITA WITH ALL MY HYPOTHALAMUS (Dwein Baltazar)

HINTAYAN NG LANGIT (Dan Villegas)

KOLEKSYONG PAMALO (Len Frago)

KUNG PAANO HINIHINTAY ANG DAPITHAPON (Carlo Catu)

MAMU (AND A MOTHER TOO) (Rod Singh)

NEVER NOT LOVE YOU (Antoinette Jadaone)

ODA SA WALA (Dwein Baltazar)

SOL SEARCHING (Roman Perez, Jr.)

—-

★★★☆☆

ALAS-NUEBE NG TANGHALI (Enalyn Legaspi)

ANONYMOUS STUDENT VLOG (Christian Babista)

BAHAY-BAHAYAN (Brian Spencer Reyes)

ANG DALAWANG MRS. REYES (Jun Lana)

CITIZEN JAKE (Mike de Leon)

EXES BAGGAGE (Dan Villegas)

ISANG TULA PARA SA NAWAWALA (Rod Singh)

JODILERKS DELA CRUZ, EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH (Carlo Manatad)

MGA ANAK NG KAMOTE (Carlo Catu)

MISS GRANNY (Joyce Bernal)

NANGUNGUPAHAN (Glenn Barit)

KUYA WES (James Mayo)

PAGLISAN (Carl Joseph Papa)

PAG-UKIT SA PANINIWALA (Hiyas Baldemor Bagabaldo)

PARA SA BROKENHEARTED (Digo Ricio)

.RAW (Eugine Frondoza)

SI ASTRI MAKA SI TAMBULAH (Xeph Suarez)

SID & AYA (NOT A LOVE STORY) (Irene Villamor)

SIGNAL ROCK (Chito Roño)

SIN ISLAND (Gino Santos)

—-

★★☆☆☆

1957 (Hubert Tibi)

AMUSIN PA (Raiza Masculino)

ANG BABAENG ALLERGIC SA WIFI (Jun Lana)

BABYLON (Keith Deligero)

BATO BATO PIK (Ardinian Sanque, Lorys Plaza)

BINATA NA (Dexter de Jesus)

BUYBUST (Erik Matti)

THE DAY AFTER VALENTINE’S (Jason Paul Laxamana)

THE ETERNITY BETWEEN SECONDS (Alec Figuracion)

EVERYBODY LOVES BABY WENDY (Wenn Deramas, Alan Chanliongco)

EXCUSE ME PO (Ronald Batallones)

THE GIRL IN THE ORANGE DRESS (Jay Abello)

GLORIOUS (Connie Macatuno)

GOYO: ANG BATANG HENERAL (Jerrold Tarog)

THE HOPEFUL ROMANTIC (Topel Lee)

THE HOWS OF US (Cathy Garcia-Molina)

I LOVE YOU, HATER (Giselle Andres)

JACK EM POPOY: THE PULISCREDIBLES (Michael Tuviera)

KUNG PAANO SIYA NAWALA (Joel Ruiz)

LOGRO (Kani Villaflor)

MADILIM ANG GABI (Adolf Alix, Jr.)

MAMANG (Denise O’Hara)

MAMA’S GIRL (Connie Macatuno)

MARY, MARRY ME (RC delos Reyes)

MASAYA AKO (Daniel Delgado, Tiara Nicolas)

MASLA A PAPANOK (Gutierrez Mangansakan II)

MATA TAPANG (Rod Marmol)

MEET ME IN ST. GALLEN (Irene Villamor)

ML (Benedict Mique)

MR. & MRS. CRUZ (Sigrid Andrea Bernardo)

MUSMOS NA SUMIBOL SA GUBAT NG DIGMA (Iar Lionel Arondaing)

MY PERFECT YOU (Cathy Garcia-Molina)

MY 2 MOMMIES (Eric Quizon)

ANG PAMBANSANG THIRD WHEEL (Ivan Andrew Payawal)

PAN DE SALAWAL (Che Espiritu)

ANG PANAHON NG HALIMAW (Lav Diaz)

PINAY BEAUTY (SHE’S NO WHITE) (Jay Abello)

RAINBOW’S SUNSET (Joel Lamangan)

RUFYLA (Coleen Tanco)

RUNNER (Levi Miscala)

SCHOOL SERVICE (Louie Ignacio)

A SHORT HISTORY OF A FEW BAD THINGS (Keith Deligero)

SI APONIBOLINAYEN AT ANG MGA BATANG LUMILIPAD (April Aspiras)

SINGLE/SINGLE: LOVE IS NOT ENOUGH (Veronica Velasco, Pablo Biglang-awa)

SIYUDAD SA BULAWAN (Jarell Serencio)

TANABATA’S WIFE (Lito Casaje, Charlson Ong, Choy Pangilinan)

THREE WORDS TO FOREVER (Cathy Garcia-Molina)

TO LOVE SOME BUDDY (Jason Paul Laxamana)

WE WILL NOT DIE TONIGHT (Richard Somes)

—-

★☆☆☆☆

ABAY BABES (Don Cuaresma)

ABOMINATION (Yam Laranas)

ALIMUOM (Keith Sicat)

ALL SOULS NIGHT (Aloy Adlawan, Jules Katanyag)

AMNESIA LOVE (Albert Langitan)

ATE, KUYA, GUSTO KONG KAPE (Mark Bayani)

AURORA (Yam Laranas)

BAGYONG BHEVERLYNN (Charliebebs Gohetia)

CLASS OF 2018 (Charliebebs Gohetia)

CRY NO FEAR (Richard Somes)

DOTGA: DA ONE THAT GHOST AWAY (Tony Reyes)

DOUBLE TWISTING DOUBLE BACK (Joseph Abello)

EL PESTE (Richard Somes)

FANTASTICA (Barry Gonzalez)

FIRST LOVE (Paul Soriano)

HOSPICIO (Bobby Bonifacio, Jr.)

JACQUELINE COMES HOME (Ysabelle Peach)

KASAL (Ruel Bayani)

KAUYAGAN (WAY OF LIFE) (Julienne Ilagan)

KIKO (Jojo Driz)

KUSINA KINGS (Victor Villanueva)

LASINGTUNADO (Miguel Fernandez)

THE LOOKOUT (Afi Africa)

MELODRAMA/RANDOM/MELBOURNE! (Matthew Pastor)

MY FAIRY TAIL LOVE STORY (Perci Intalan)

NAKALIMUTAN KO NANG KALIMUTAN KA (Fifth Solomon)

NEVER TEAR US APART (Whammy Alcazaren)

ONE GREAT LOVE (Enrico Quizon)

OTLUM (Joven Tan)

PANG-MMK (John Lapus)

THE SIGNIFICANT OTHER (Joel Lamangan)

THROUGH NIGHT & DAY (Veronica Velasco)

TRES (Richard Somes, Dondon Santos)

TUGMA (Joshua Tayco)

UNLI-LIFE (Miko Livelo)

YAKAP (Mika Fabella, Rafael Froilan)

 

Until next year!!

NAKALIMUTAN KO NANG KALIMUTAN KA (Fifth Solomon, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Nakalimutan Ko Nang Kalimutan Ka:

1. Whoever said that forgiveness was the hardest part of a breakup probably never lost thirty pounds and developed gastritis from crying all night and skipping meals for an entire month. No, forgiveness was relatively easy because it would usually come after the acceptance phase. The real challenge for anybody mending a broken heart would be trying to forget those damned (happy) memories where every littlest thing meant something and always re-opened the floodgates of pain and hurt.

Where even a tiny flying ipis would remind you of the happy and fun times you had with your ex and without realizing it, you’d miss the person again and start questioning what you did wrong and why your love story never worked out the way it should and if you could have done better as a partner even if in reality it was the hinayupak’s fault but you still love the person and that was still your hinayupak and huhuhu another thirty pounds lost after a month.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could just easily wipe our memories clean very much like clearing our browser history after visiting PornHub?

2. In this lowest form of a Pinoy hugot movie (I swear it was one hundred minutes of hugot lines, hugot jokes, and hugot poems), Jaz (a game Alex Gonzaga) decided to literally change her heart to get over her ex-fiancé Migs (Vin Abrenica, an Abrenica who could act!). Not really sure how a heart replacement surgery in an abandoned warehouse called NSKTN Klinika (Room 143, of course!) could make her forget but at least it wouldn’t be too obvious that it was a complete rip-off of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Hmm, Walang Hanggang Sikat ng Araw ng Walang Bahid na Isip (thanks Google Translate!) actually sounded ripe for a spoken word poetry session.

3. This probably would have been forgivable if it was at least funny, but it was just a series of repetitive and corny jokes. In one scene, Jaz was applying for a job and when her interviewer (Ricci Chan) asked her to tell something about herself, her groan-worthy reply was “Di ko na nga alam eh. Di ko na alam kung sino ako magmula nung iniwan niya ako.” And when he followed it up with “Tell me your weaknesses”, she answered back with “Siya. Siya ang weakness ko.” I couldn’t believe I actually paid good money for this when the same brand of humor was available online for free on the VinCentiments Facebook page.

4. I actually felt bad that Alex wasn’t asked to do much except bawl her eyes out whenever she would hear the song Let Me Be the One (the “H”-filled version, “Shomebodehh told meh yhou were leavuhhhrnn…”). You’d be better off rewatching her amusing vlogs instead (especially the ones with newest Internet Sensation Mommy Pinty).

Sayang because Alex did have some nice chemistry with Vin. It probably helped that he was more than just a walking six-pack. I knew he could act (and sing!) ever since his Artista Academy days.

5. Not surprised with the abundant Nagaraya and Happy Cup product placements. But FrontRow?

6. In one scene, a depressed Jaz was shown in full baliw mode celebrating an anniversary with a teddy bear after suffering from UTI (Umibig Tapos Iniwan). It was played for laughs but that moment actually made me sad thinking of the craziest things that people had done while nursing a heartache. Pro tip: Never ever use muriatic acid as a chaser for your Empi Light.

7. More gasgas hugot moments:

• Kung bagay ka, ano ka? – Sana piso kasi ang piso kapag nalaglag, dinadampot. Samantala ako nahulog na, di pa sinalo.

• Kung pipili ka ng lugar, san mo gusto? – Sa sementeryo para ibaon ko na feelings ko sa kanya.

• Kung mahihiram mo ang time machine ni Doraemon, anong babalikan mo? – Babalikan ko siya kasi sa kanya lang naman ako masaya.

Grabe bakit di na lang ‘to ginawang hugot quote book?

And if that wasn’t bad enough, they even included two lengthy spoken word poetry scenes. One had an animated Juan Miguel Severo talking about a pillow soaked in tears. I think it was meant to be poignant, but all it made me feel was head over to the nearest Tempur.

(Side note: The end credits mentioned that Antoinette Jadaone served as a script consultant for this movie. Seriously??)

Kakalimutan ko na lang na pinanood ko pa ‘to. Now where’s that damn clinic to help me forget?

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

GOYO: ANG BATANG HENERAL (Jerrold Tarog, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral:

1. One of the first Tagalog poems I learned as a kid was taught to me by my grandfather (be forewarned, it wasn’t one of his shining moments) and it involved the bad boy of Philippine History (no, not Ace Vergel nor Robin Padilla). It went something like: “Andres Bonifacio, a-tapang a-tao. A-putok a-baril, hindi a-atakbo. A-putol a-utin, a-takbo a-tulin.” This humorous take on a national hero might sound disrespectful to some, but it was exactly how I felt with this ongoing Araling Panlipunan Trilogy of Jerrold Tarog that started with the puñeta-filled Heneral Luna.

Both films seemed to have been made as easily-digestible History nuggets because nobody really wanted to sit through a boring lecture. And so we got an abrasive, menacing portrayal of a general in the first film who would deliver some occasionally amusing Cesar Montano quips that the audience could laugh at while this second one had a subservient and confused young general who left a trail of broken hearts (and panties) like he was the first official fuccboi of the country.

2. I never knew that Gregorio del Pilar (Paulo Avelino, medyo malamya) was such a bland and uninteresting character whose life didn’t really merit a biopic. I’d always thought he was this glorious hero who took his last stand (and not a literal one) in the Battle of Tirad Pass. I’m sure there was more to him as the youngest general other than being a Don Juan.

Unfortunately, the fictional (right?) Joven Hernando (Arron Villaflor, who sounded like his testicles hadn’t descended yet) summed up the first hour best when he asked “Bakit puro romansa at panunuyo?”. It was obvious that Goyo (and in turn Avelino, with his gorgeous brown eyes that sparkled in the sunlight; wait, why wasn’t he moreno?) was so swoon-worthy that women would actually have a shade showdown while comparing themselves to mangoes (“Ako hinog, ikaw totoong bulok” or something equally icky to that effect). But shouldn’t there have been more to him than that?

I walked out of the theater with the takeaway that his only contribution in our rich history was a last minute realization that he had been Emilio Aguinaldo’s (Mon Confiado, great as always) lapdog. Yun na yun?

Seriously, Goyo the character couldn’t even serve as the crucial voiceover (read: voice of reason) in his own film.

3. I felt bad that the talented Carlo Aquino (who played Vicente Enriquez) couldn’t secure a lead role in this franchise (was it because he looked so cute and tiny like a keychain?). I did like the underlying homoerotic tension between him and Joven (because why else was he so protective of him?). And was I the only one that sensed this blooming “bromance” between Joven and Juan del Pilar (Carlo Cruz)? Ooh, a love triangle! (Or was that just some wishful thinking?)

Side note: That tampisaw sa batis scene. Not complaining at all.

4. I honestly couldn’t stand the acting of the kid that played Angelito so I wouldn’t even bother mentioning his name here. His lines consisted merely of cries of anguish/despair (“Kuyaaaaahhh!”, “Tamaaaah naaaahh!”) and he still couldn’t deliver them properly. Didn’t he learn anything from his Kuya Manuel Bernal (Art Acuña)? Awoooooo!!

5. Miss Granny reference: I was a bit disappointed that after all those pictures taken by the same photographer (Jojit Lorenzo) of the Forever Young Portrait Studio, Goyo didn’t turn into a Goyito (given his age though, if he turned fifty years younger, then he’d still be a sperm and this would have been a completely different kind of movie).

6. Bitterness 101 – Exhibit A:

Felicidad (Empress Schuck) to ex-jowa: “Kumusta?”

Goyo: “Mabuti! Ikaw?”

Felicidad: (deadma) (walk-out)

Move on, move on din pag may time. (Uso pa ba ‘to?)

7. Was the slang term “goyo” or “nagoyo” actually after the flirtatious general? I need the real etymology of this word please! My futile Google search led me to “weneklek” and “kukurikapu” instead.

8. Every peso of the movie’s reported Php160M budget was in full display here with its lush cinematography (that amazing shot of the troops marching on the mountainside during sunset, the magical Shape of Water-like underwater scene) and great production design.

9. I was excited to see the Battle of Tirad Pass especially with its dramatic twist of a local Igorot betraying the Philippine troops, but it didn’t really showcase anything interesting. It was just a lengthy sequence of some Pinoy mestiso actors pretending to be a bunch of American soldiers running around until they finally annihilated the locals. It was also odd that they continued to mine humor in such a serious situation (“Nakagat lang yan ng langgam sa bayag!”, “May bangin dyan!” and then a couple of Pinoy soldiers comically fell off a cliff, “Kam! Amerikan Welkam!”).

Even del Pilar’s death felt very anticlimactic (and un-heroic). Like a Superman film where Clark Kent never really wore his red trunks and cape because he was better off as a regular person. (But we paid to watch Superman, didn’t we?)

10. Burning questions:

• How long could one survive munching on just sugar cane? (Because you know, inflation.)

• The soldier named Daclan was actually Matt Daclan, right?

• Why couldn’t Apolinario Mabini (Epy Quizon) get his own movie? Echapwera na naman?

• During the mid-credits scene with a latex-faced, older Aguinaldo (still played by Confiado), why was the older Manuel Quezon on the poster played by a latex-faced TJ Trinidad? Were they not confident enough with the acting skills of Benjamin Alves?

• Wait, was the film trying to equate Emilio Aguinaldo with our current President? So did that make Goyo a misguided, egotistical, famewhore general who loved hogging the limelight (read: mahilig magpa-pogi)? Now I get my complete lack of interest.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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: ★★☆☆☆

MISS GRANNY (Joyce Bernal, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Miss Granny:

1. As a huge fan, my Popster heart would always break a little whenever I’d get to read nasty comments about my Bebe Idol Sarah Geronimo. “Ang tanda na ayaw pa payagan magka-boyfriend!”, “Gurang na wala pa rin kissing scene sa movies!”, “Grabe naman si Mommy Divine gusto ata tumandang dalaga ang anak niya!“, “Ano yan pabebe hanggang 60?”, and these were even the relatively tamer ones.

I was really thrilled when I heard that she agreed to star in the remake of a Korean movie about a loathsome grandma who magically transformed back to her 20-year old self. (Manang pala si Sarah ha? O ayan literal na manang talaga sya.) Instead of raising a huge middle finger to all of her bashers, she agreed to poke fun at herself, chuckle along with the online trolls, and kill them with kindness (and laughter).

2. Although she would forever be associated with her iconic Laida Magtalas role, I could easily say that this was her best performance to date. She was just so charming as Odrey, an oldie trapped in a young person’s body. It was also a delight to see her doing things (“Ay puke!!”) that her prim and proper real persona would never do. (With that said, the limitations set to protect her image left the film with several missing pieces. More on that later.)

One of my favorite scenes was when she kept slapping Lorenz (Xian Lim) with fresh bangus without ever breaking out of character (as opposed to the latter who could barely contain his giggles). She even said something like “Bakit mo ako sinusundan na parang asong kakasta?” that cracked up every senior citizen in the audience. Another really good scene was the family dinner where grandson Jeboy (James Reid) joked about them getting married soon which made her spit out her sinigang soup. She then gave him a huge batok and said something like “Natatae ako!” which had everyone rolling in the aisles.

3. I was able to watch the original Korean version a few days before this and I had the same reservations in terms of storytelling, especially since the Pinoy adaptation was almost a shot-by-shot remake (save for the opening sequence where the original used ball metaphors to discuss ageism on women while this remake focused more on finding real happiness in motherhood). The transitions were completely off here though and several key scenes were left out that made the story feeling a bit incomplete.

One of the biggest changes was the removal of romantic encounters with Lorenz. In one scene, the Korean Odrey was asked by Korean Lorenz what she wanted in a man and her response was something like “as long as he’s a good person and good in bed”. Maybe Mommy Divine didn’t approve of hearing her daughter wanting a “lalaking magaling sa kama”? Another one that was removed and that had a huge impact on me while watching was the hairpin gift. Towards the end of the original version, old Korean Odrey locked eyes with Korean Lorenz while wearing that hairpin and it just made the scene more heartbreaking considering the new life/love that she gave up just to save her grandson.

4. I was really surprised with the jarring transitions given that Joyce Bernal’s strength as a filmmaker was that she started as a really good editor. When a local critic described this production as sloppy, I completely understood what he meant. Even little things like a few grainy scenes, some wonky subtitles (“braised beff”, “son of a tofu”??, “lawrenz”), the credits with the tilted names, and the reduced screen at the end even without the credits rolling just felt lazy overall.

5. I did appreciate the small touches made for the Pinoy setting (the taho vendor, the use of chico, the Lola Madonna reference, etc.) And there were some really inspired 60’s/70’s OPM song choices that had me in LSS mode for several hours now. The only one that I really knew was the classic Rain (originally by Boy Mondragon) because it was covered by THE Donna Cruz in the 90’s, but I couldn’t stop singing Efren Montes’ Kiss Me, Kiss Me as well (“Tanan tanan tanan!!”). Where do I send my petition for a Sarah G. retro album?

Side note: That blatant BDO billboard might have ruined the moment of a crying Fely (Nova Villa), but it was actually in the original movie only with a different brand of course (it served as a juxtaposition of a young and old woman). Now that scene where Lorenz ordered using his BDO debit card? Shameless promotion. (I did sing “Just debit with BDO!” during that sequence so…).

Another side note: Why did Odrey have a Cherry Mobile ringtone? Oppo would not be happy. And why was she made to eat crispy pata to prove the strength of her real teeth when she could have munched on a crispylicious, juicylicious Chickenjoy instead?

6. Wait, how was she able to buy Valium over the counter? And why did one banig only cost Php289? Seryoso? (Eksenadora si pharmacist, though. He made the most out of his limited screen time, unlike the usually excellent Angeli Bayani who gave a terrible performance in this movie. What happened?! Bakit level 10 agad ang pasok ng acting?)

7. I missed the Pretty Woman montage in the original, but I’m sure everyone would agree that Sarah looked incredibly gorgeous in that makeover payong reveal. Now I need to buy a parasol before my next trip to ATC.

8. I really liked the “Wag kang bibitaw” montage shown during the “Forbidden” production number. Nakakaiyak considering all the sacrifices she had to make as a single mother. It made the “letting go” scene with her son (Nonie Buencamino) even more meaningful (and even more nakakaiyak, naturally!). When he said something like, “Ma, pwede ka na umalis. At sa pag-alis mo wag kang magsasakripisyo para sa masamang anak na katulad ko”, the whole theater was flooded with tears.

Ang galing ni Nonie and natapatan sya ni Sarah sa iyakan. She was so good that I felt the need to renew my Popster card even if I already had a lifetime membership.

9. I was so excited to see the actor who would play the young Bert (Boboy Garovillo) in the big reveal at the end. I really thought it would be Matteo Guidicelli, but it ended up to be Sam Concepcion. Bakit??? What a downer!! 

Anywho, I wonder when the Forever Young Portrait Studio would magically appear again in Mother Ignacia Street. I need to be ready.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

THE PRENUP (Jun Lana, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The PreNup:

1. If there was one word to describe this movie, it would have to be shrill. Most of the characters delivered their lines a pitch higher than their normal speaking voice. Even the situations felt heightened to an absurd degree that was neither funny funny nor weirdly funny. I was surprised this wasn’t directed by Wenn Deramas.

2. Jennylyn Mercado was a delight to watch in English Only, Please. She was fine here as well but there just wasn’t enough good material for her to work on. With this and the upcoming Walang Forever, I hope that she wouldn’t get typecast in the usual kooky jologs role that really puts the manic in Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Oh, I liked that her character kept talking to herself. She was like a walking Facebook status update. I could definitely relate in all that craziness.

3. Why can’t there be more diversity of gay characters in Pinoy comedies? Do we really have to see the same stereotypical shrieking gay dressed in rainbow-colored outfits? Gardo Versoza (playing one of Jennylyn’s adoptive fathers) sounded like he recently got castrated. Besides, I don’t know any self-respecting gay that would wear a multi-colored, polka-dotted dress shirt unless they have a “Multi-Colored, Polka-Dotted Dress Shirt Theme Day” in the office. In another scene, he was wearing a fitted purple shirt, leopard scarf, and puruntong shorts. Why dear, why?

4. Speaking of adoptive fathers, the other half was played by Dominic Ochoa who was probably just a decade older than Jennylyn. How was that even possible? One of the adopted sisters was played by the delightful Melai Cantiveros and she had a Bisaya accent that was never explained as well.

5. To be honest, Melai completely stole the movie with her outrageous characterization and wicked slapstick comedy. Nothing made sense but her croaking frog scene made me laugh so hard that I actually decided to raise the movie’s rating a star higher.

6. One scene (shown in the trailer) had Jennylyn and Sam Milby engaged in a loud banter that never bothered the other passengers. If I bought an expensive ticket to fly first class and I ended up behind these two loudmouths and their endless bickering, bodies would have flown out the plane.

7. Awkward closet gay joke. Really awkward.

8. Jun Lana is an incredibly talented filmmaker and he directed the beautiful film Bwakaw. I was surprised with all of the continuity errors and technical issues in this movie. In one scene, Jennylyn was writing down everything that she was hearing but the shot prior to that showed the exact same line that she would eventually hear. Was she psychic? Yet in another, she opened her bedroom door saying “Katok ka kasi ng katok” even if Sam was just calling out her name. And how in the world did she end up in a room overlooking the Fort Strip when the previous scene showed her in the MOA grounds? A psychic and a teleporter. Wow!

9. In case you’re curious, Sam did well in his topless shots.

10. The actual prenup wasn’t brought up until midway through the movie when it transformed into a langit vs. lupa clash of clans that was purely offensive and tragically unfunny. Besides, Jennylyn’s house was bigger than our entire street, how could her family even be mistaken as poor? And don’t even bother asking about the ending. Like we’d expect anything else. Yes, everyone had an instant change of heart in the end and they lived happily ever after. Confetti! Confetti! Wooooh!!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published October 15, 2015.)