HITMAN (Cesar Montano, 2012)

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If Montano was trying to bring back the glory days of Pinoy action movies, then he had ultimately failed with this piece of crap. Except for the opening credits (that didn’t feature the usual red fonts), everything in this movie was horrendous. The actors could barely act (Sam Pinto could have been replaced by a mannequin and nobody would have noticed), the screenplay was one big mess (did we really have to hear Montano comment on all the action that was happening onscreen?), and the direction was simply sloppy.

This was the kind of movie that you’d: 1) kick yourself in the head for wasting time and money on, and 2) wish would end after 30 minutes. Easily one of the worst movies of the year.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published March 23, 2012.)

SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION FROM LILIA CUNTAPAY (Antoinette Jadaone, 2011)

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Even with the “aswang lady” headlining this faux documentary, the only scary thing here was how vastly underutilized Ms. Lilia Cuntapay remained in our local industry. Sure, she got stereotyped as the ultimate kid’s nightmare but her acting skills (shown here in its full glory) deserved to be in more than just horror movies. Equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking, this was one of the best Pinoy films in 2011 and possibly of all-time. I’m surprised it didn’t reap a lot of awards from local award-giving bodies this year, including one for Nanay Lilia. It just made this movie even more powerful and real.

Rating: ★★★★★

(Originally published November 18, 2012.)

CHUB CHASER (Crisaldo Pablo, Remar Mallari, Bobby Galura, Jonathan Batoy, 2010)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

Ano ba ‘tong mga pinapanood ko? Damn you, COVID-19!!

Obviously gay fantasy ito kasi bawal magsuot ng underwear ang mga lalaki. If ever meron man suot, kelangan hubarin bago lumabas ng frame ang characters. Ang mga roommates kelangan sabay-sabay maligo sa isang banyo tapos kanya-kanyang frontal nudity paglabas. Lahat nangyayari habang may soft-core porn music sa background. (It took four directors to come up with this??)

Medyo weird lang kasi hindi siya tungkol sa isang chub chaser kundi sa isang chabelita (named Chubi, naturally). Nakakalungkot yung reality na sobrang discriminated sa gay community yung chubs tulad ng effems and bottoms. Kaya every time makipag-hook up si Chubi dito eh lagi siyang rejected. Kahit matandang kalbo yung ni-meet niya eh nilait pa siya at tinawag na majubis. Sayang hindi na-explore ang theme kasi ang objective lang naman talaga ng pelikula eh to satisfy your queeriosity (meaning kebs sa art of filmmaking basta may gratuitous gay sex and nudity every twenty minutes).

Mas magaling pa umarte yung mga high school classmates ko kesa sa cast nito (maliban kay Pinoy Pink Film Kween Chamyto Aguedan). Parang on the spot lang pinag-isipan yung mga sequences. Ang haba ng mga eksena na naglalakad lang ang mga potential hook-ups ni Chubi papunta sa apartment niya. Kaya din siguro tumataba siya kasi naubos na niya ang isang bag ng Clover Chips bago pa sila makarating.

Fat people deserve some love, too? Tell me something I don’t personally know.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

INANG YAYA (Pablo Biglang-awa, Veronica Velasco, 2006)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

Siguro kung ililista ko lahat ng gusto kong sabihin tungkol sa pelikulang ito, aabutin ako ng 10,000 words no exag. Kasing-dami yan ng patak ng luha ko sa sobrang daming beses ko na din siya napanood.

Sino ba ang Maricelian sa Young Critics Circle? Wag ka aalis diyan ha dahil ikaw lang talaga ang may taste for recognizing her excellent performances (even in genre films like Vampira). As a huge fan of Maricel Soriano, ipaglalaban ko na ito ang kanyang best performance ever (close second yung critically-lauded Ikaw Pa Lang ang Minahal). Napaka-understated kasi ng pag-arte niya dito. Nawawala ang usual acting tics na hate ng Manunuris sa kanya kaya never siya nanalo ng Urian.

Kung tutuusin, very anti-Maricel ang atake niya sa role ni Mommy Yaya Norma. Nung bumili siya ng “Skeechers” para sa anak na si Ruby (a wonderful Tala Santos) tapos ibinato lang nito kasi fake at pagtatawanan daw siya ng mga kaklase, yung tahimik na pag-upo niya grabe gusto ko siya yakapin. Walang hagulgol, pigil ang pag-iyak habang hawak ang rejected na pinag-ipunang regalo. Ang sakit sakit.

Iisipin mo na typical Pinoy melodrama siya kaya nakakatuwa na medyo na-subvert yung genre. Lutang pa rin ang issue on class differences pero kaunti lang ang tropes na ginamit. Masyado nga ako nasanay sa mga teleserye kaya nung may eksena si Norma na nagpa-plantsa akala ko meron masusunog o nung pinagdala niya ng mainit na tsaa si Ruby, akala ko mabubuhos sa matapobreng lola (Liza Lorena). Buti walang ganun dito. Napakabait pa ng mga amo niya (Zoren Legaspi and Sunshine Cruz) na mapapaisip ka kung meron ba talagang tulad nila in real life or nakasanayan lang natin na maldita lagi si madam at mas mababa ang pagtrato niya sa mga yaya/maid. Hindi ito pelikula para sa mga cynical na tao.

Grabe, I can quote this film for days.

Louise (a charming Erika Oreta): “Eww, why are you eating the head of the shrimp?”

Ruby: “It’s mah-sah-rap kasi.”

HAHAHAHAHA!!

Ang galing talaga ng mga batang ‘to. Ang ganda pa ng chemistry nilang tatlo kaya durog na durog ang puso ko pagdating sa realistic ending. Such an underrated gem.

Rating: ★★★★★

ILO ILO (Anthony Chen, 2013)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Ilo Ilo:

1. Yeo Yann Yann was great, but Angeli Bayani owned this movie. Her acting was so natural and free of hysterics typical in any movie with a Filipina maid.

Actually, the movie wasn’t even about the Filipina maid. She didn’t get raped or abused in Singapore. It was about a Singaporean family trying to live through the effects of the late ’90s financial crisis.

2. Everything here was so vivid and authentic that I felt like I grew up in late ’90s Singapore. Subtle and lovely.

Loved the atmosphere. Just watching it made me feel homesick.

3. I found some of the dialogue a bit off, though. How often do Filipinos really use the words “rubbish” or “nonsense”?

4. The sight of Lucky Plaza always makes me feel happy.

5. There was one sloppy scene where the cameraman was visible in the school bathroom mirror. What happened there?

6. Tamagotchi!! Do you guys still remember that? I cried every single time mine died from poop overdose.

7. It was amazing how restrained the movie was. It had all the ingredients of a full-blown melodrama but there were no extended crying scenes, no blatant heart-tugging moments, no excessive hysteria. If this were a Pinoy film, the airport scene would have been 15 minutes long with overflowing Urian-worthy tears and a swelling cheesy musical score.

8. Speaking of airport scene, I bawled my eyes out in that one even if the movie didn’t really set it up to be a dramatic moment. Angeli didn’t even cry. All the tears came from my seat because I was so invested in these characters.

When Jiale grabbed Terry’s arm, I sobbed like there was no tomorrow. I am a walking Pinoy melodrama.

Rating: ★★★★☆

(Originally published March 16, 2014.)

PADDINGTON (Paul King, 2014)

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My notes on Paddington:

1. Why do these foreign movies now start with a disclaimer from the distributor explaining why the version you’re about to watch got mutilated? It’s not like we had a choice to begin with. (Ok, illegal downloads but don’t be such a smart-ass.)

2. I still couldn’t understand why the movie filled with British characters had to be dubbed by local actor Xian Lim. It didn’t add anything to the final product. It wasn’t like Paddington had to say a few Tagalog phrases. He actually ended up sounding like a Pinoy Harry Potter with a wobbly accent. Or a distant relative who lived in London for a few months and suddenly had a bloody faux British accent.

3. The mostly English cast was superb. Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, all it needed was a few more Downton Abbey players. And then there was Nicole Kidman.

4. To be honest, I was baffled by the glowing reviews for this movie. Maybe I was just too old and cranky to watch something so juvenile. I know it was primarily aimed at kids but if your idea of humor was a bear sticking toothbrushes in his ear then licking the earwax off before a human character actually used one to brush his teeth, then you might enjoy this.

5. The trench coat on Paddington reminded me so much of streakers. He could be the nicer cousin of Ted.

6. Two scenes were straight out of the Mission: Impossible movies and I have to say Kidman did it better than Cruise.

7. I liked the bit explaining how parents suddenly become overprotective of their kids. If only the film focused more on the heart instead of the crass.

8. The movie did make me crave for marmalade. Wait, is that different from jam? Or jelly? Either way, I need a jar now.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published February 16, 2015.)

STARTING OVER AGAIN (Olivia Lamasan, 2014)

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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.)

BIRDS OF PREY (AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN) (Cathy Yan, 2020)

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This is a man’s world, but it wouldn’t be nothing without a woman or a girl.

If you’re still not yet a fan of the fantabulous Margot Robbie, this will definitely convert you into one. Harley seeking revenge for the murder of her bacon and egg sandwich is my kind of life coach.

I also found it oddly funny that Cassandra Cain was played by half-Pinoy Ella Jay Basco and her character was an expert snatcher. Hahahaha! #PinoyFried indeed.

Rating: ★★★★☆

THE BEST OF PINOY CINEMA 2019

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1. RICKY DAVAO (F#*@bois)
2. SOLIMAN CRUZ (Iska)
3. VANCE LARENA (Dead Kids)
4. JC SANTOS (Miracle in Cell No. 7)
5. JOEM BASCON (Write About Love)
6. JOHN ARCILLA (Miracle in Cell No. 7)

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1. TUESDAY VARGAS (LSS)
2. ANNA LUNA (Tayo sa Huling Buwan ng Taon)
3. JACLYN JOSE (Circa)
4. IANA BERNARDEZ (Metamorphosis)
5. ELORA ESPAÑO (Kalel, 15)
6. MERYLL SORIANO (Culion)

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1. ELIJAH CANLAS (Kalel, 15)
2. LOUISE ABUEL (Edward)
3. JANSEN MAGPUSAO (John Denver Trending)
4. CARLO AQUINO (Isa Pa, With Feelings)
5. GIO GAHOL (Sila Sila)
6. ROCCO NACINO (Write About Love)

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1. RUBY RUIZ (Iska)
2. MERYLL SORIANO (John Denver Trending)
3. JUDY ANN SANTOS (Mindanao)
4. ANGIE FERRO (Lola Igna)
5. SARAH GERONIMO (Unforgettable)
6. LIZA SOBERANO (Alone/Together)

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1. HEIST SCHOOL (Julius Renomeron, Jr.)
2. ANG GASGAS NA PLAKA NI LOLO BERT (Janina Gacosta, Cheska Marfori)
3. SA AMONG AGWAT (Don Senoc)
4. THE SLUMS (Jan Andrei Cobey)

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Written by: JUN LANA, KEAVY EUNICE VICENTE, ASH MALANUM
Directed by: JUN LANA, PERCI INTALAN

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Written by: CRISANTO AQUINO, JANYX REGALO
Directed by: CRISANTO AQUINO

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Written by: JADE CASTRO, SIEGE LEDESMA
Directed by: JADE CASTRO

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Written by: WANGGO GALLAGA, KOOKAI LABAYEN, DWEIN BALTAZAR
Directed by: ANDOY RANAY

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Written and directed by: ADOLF ALIX, JR.

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Written by: JEN CHUAUNSU, KOOKAI LABAYEN
Directed by: PRIME CRUZ

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Written by: THOP NAZARENO, JOHN PAUL BEDIA
Directed by: THOP NAZARENO

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Written and directed by: JUN LANA

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Written and directed by: ARDEN ROD CONDEZ

MABUHAY ANG PELIKULANG PILIPINO!!

 

MISSION UNSTAPABOL: THE DON IDENTITY (Michael Tuviera, 2019)

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Move over, Martin Scorsese! Kinabog ng visual effects team ni Bossing ang ginawang de-aging kay Robert de Niro sa The Irishman. Infer, may effort for authenticity ang pelikula. Sana lang nag-level up din siya from the usual Pinoy slapstick humor.

Nung una ko makita ang trailer nito sabi ko parang Ocean’s movie tapos ganun nga siya. Hirap na ako maniwala na very advanced ang technology abroad to pull off that kind of heist eh sa Pilipinas pa kaya? May pa-Mission Impossible reveal pa sa dulo that didn’t make any sense at all. To be fair, may apparent self-awareness siya about local action films na nakakaaliw.

Bakit halos lahat ng ginaya ng character ni Wally Bayola eh from Star Cinema/ABS? (Very Wenn Deramas ang comedy ha.) Napaisip tuloy ako kung wala ba talagang iconic characters ang GMA. Why not Victor Magtanggol or Kara Mia para mas self-deprecating? Konti lang makakuha ng reference?

Gusto ko yung unang eksena pa lang ni Jake Cuenca eh level 10 na agad ang acting niya. Yung parang hindi na ulit siya mabibigyan ng ibang pelikula ever kaya tinodo na niya lahat. Kahit pag-nguya lang niya ng gum talagang may nuance, may galit. Nagsusumigaw na “May Yahoo! OMG Award ako for Male Kontrabida of the Year mga amateurs!”

Rating: ★★☆☆☆