MISS GRANNY (Hwang Dong-hyuk, 2014)

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Miss Granny nga diba? So tungkol sa lola? Na merong paboritong apo? Tapos pinanood mo pa rin Javier! Ano iyak ka? Iyak ka ngayon?

I completely get why this Korean feel-good fantasy already had multiple successful Asian reincarnations. I can already imagine how this will work in a Pinoy setting.

Now I’m even more eager to see if Bebe Idol Sarah Geronimo and Nova Villa can match (or even exceed) the wonderful performances of the two leads here. Can’t wait!!

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published August 21, 2018.)

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SALVAGE (Sherad Anthony Sanchez, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

Although admirable for its unapologetic commitment to craziness and its interesting take on some Pinoy mythologies, the film as a whole just didn’t work for me.

Jessy Mendiola registered well onscreen, but the role needed an actress with a bit more depth (and an actual scream queen). I had more fun watching the Barbie character (now she was a real shrieker).

Also, this fell victim to the basic pitfalls of the found footage genre (characters running for their dear lives, yet continuously filming for documentation purposes). Seriously, if an aswang was running after me, posting a potential viral video would be the least of my priorities.

Pa-explain ng ending ples.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published August 19, 2017.)

RAKETEROS (Randy Santiago, 2013)

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A comedy that felt old and made me feel old. It should have been turned into a sitcom instead.

Raketeros harkened back to the 90’s brand of Pinoy comedy with jokes that were incredibly corny and stale, and had the requisite beach scene.

With all the cameos, it was a test of your Pinoy showbiz knowledge. I was able to name all of them, except for one PBB starlet.

Sam Pinto continued her streak of starring in the worst Pinoy movies ever made. She really needs to reconsider her acting career.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published August 12, 2013.)

SA AMONG AGWAT (Don Senoc, 2019)

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Actually, very Pinoy teleserye ang kwento ng magkapatid na Jun at Mako na meron na lamang konting panahong mag-bonding sa gubat, sa batis, at sa bukid bago ampunin si bunso ng kanilang mayamang tita. Pero dalang-dala ako sa mga moments nila.

Yung kahit hindi sa’yo nangyari, maluluha ka na lang habang inaalala na ugali nilang tumawid ng hanging bridge habang kumakanta ng “Tong tong tong tong pakitong-kitong…”. Yung sepanx just got real level na parang ikaw mismo ang nangungulila habang mag-isa na lang si Jun sa mga lugar na lagi nila pinupuntahan.

Sobrang weakness ko pa talaga ang mga pelikulang maayos ang subtitles. Eto ang may pinakamalinis at pinakamalinaw sa lahat ng short film entries ngayong taon. Yung alam mong pinagtuunan talaga ng pansin lahat ng aspeto ng production. Bravo!!

(At sobrang bothered pa rin ako dun sa alphabet guide na may Q for querubin.)

Rating: ★★★★☆

TUOS (Derick Cabrido, 2016)

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Napakahusay!!

A lot of people will get turned off by the dream-like narrative of Tuos, which included deeply-rooted Pinoy folklore, breaking traditions, a tribal dance by La Aunor, gorgeous animation set to Banaue Miclat’s haunting voice, and a hung tikbalang. I was just enthralled.

Is it even possible to upstage THE Superstar? Well, Barbie Forteza just did. Such a talented young actress!!

THE DICTATOR (Larry Charles, 2012)

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Offensive, politically-incorrect, and incredibly hilarious. You’ll feel guilty for laughing after every joke but I guess that’s expected from a Sasha Baron Cohen movie.

Also, I noticed that the audience laughed at every racist joke except for the Filipino one. Typical Pinoy!!

Rating: ★★★★☆

(Originally published August 1, 2012.)

TROPHY WIFE (Andoy Ranay, 2014)

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Not even a guilty pleasure. It was so bad, it was really bad.

SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Trophy Wife:

1. In the opening credits, the movie’s title was credited to Elwood Perez. How hard was it to come up with that one?

2. Speaking of Elwood Perez, there’s a certain guilty pleasure that you get from most of his movies. They usually ooze with sensuality and are filled with crazy people and situations, but you get them. I wonder how the movie would have turned out if he directed this one instead.

3. In one scene, G Toengi took a hit on the toilet bowl. Eww! I wonder what else she snorted with her crack.

4. Although the movie promised a lot of steamy sex, it was only rated R-13 so don’t expect too much. Most of the kissing and pretend licking didn’t involve any tongue (I know, right?!).

5. Cristine Reyes’ Kapampangan accent came straight out of Poveda.

6. One of my pet peeves in a local production is lack of crowd control. You would usually see the entire barangay in the background watching the shoot. I understand the challenge though given our Pinoy “uzi” mentality.

7. In one scene, Derek Ramsay’s character got reprimanded for being noisy in a club. To quote Donya Ina, “Paki-explain. Lab you!”

8. Whenever the characters appeared with bruises, they would usually look like they had too much blush-on. Sometimes the bruises looked like lipstick stains. And in one scene, Heart Evangelista actually had a lipstick stain on her cheek for no reason. What happened to the make-up department?

9. This movie defied time and logic. A character got knocked up the day after having sex. A restaurant was up and running a few hours after the business meeting. A crisp, white blouse gets stained with uling and was Tide-white in the next scene. Bruises and burns were healed minutes after Betadine was applied. Forget Belo, I want that Betadine.

10. And in another groan-worthy scene, a pregnant character was run over by an SUV and she sustained…scratches on her arm. Forget the Betadine, I need her vitamins.

11. For the US park scene, I think they filmed in Tagaytay and just asked some foreigner extras with backpacks to keep passing by. In the US restaurant scene, they filmed in a branch of Friday’s and asked Callum David to be a waiter. I guess that made it more realistic.

12. If you already have a low tolerance for Heart, let this serve as a stern warning.

13. The movie abruptly ended with a visa approval. Everyone just screamed “WTF?!”. We started trooping out of the cinema demanding a refund.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published August 1, 2014.)

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: ★☆☆☆☆