DAGSIN (Atom Magadia, 2016)

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Like The Notebook turned Philippine History lesson. Tedious and thirty minutes overlong.

It was hard to fully appreciate the fine performance of Tommy Abuel when I was trying not to giggle lest I wake up the sleeping people.

Benjamin Alves acts very much like Piolo Pascual, no?

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published August 7, 2016.)

 

THROUGH NIGHT & DAY (Veronica Velasco, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Through Night and Day:

1. I used to have an Entertainment Weekly subscription when the magazine only cost around Php100 (it’s now priced at Php400!!). One of my favorite film critics there was Lisa Schwarzbaum and although we would usually have opposing views (she had the audacity to call Fight Club “dumb” and even gave it a D grade), I enjoyed her brutal (read: honest) opinions.

I was reminded so much of her Pay It Forward review which she described as a “shameless cliché of emotional and physical damage”. I couldn’t understand her hate back then because I was a sobbing mess by the end of that film. After watching this JaMill in Iceland travelogue turned manipulative tearjerker, I finally got it. Some movies would simply throw in a last minute trope (an accident, death, cancer) that appealed to the most basic sentiments and hope that the audience would equate their reaction of crying to quality. As a sucker for three hankie weepies who would bawl my eyes out while watching a Jollibee Christmas ad, I have had enough of this type of emotional manipulation.

2. The movie started off okay as it followed this annoying couple (Alessandra de Rossi as Jen and Paolo Contis as Ben) who had been together for thirteen years deciding to finally have an out of the country trip. It was supposedly the real test of their relationship (oh just wait until you guys actually lived together) because travelling would bring out the worst in people (as seen in every season with couples in The Amazing Race). Their country of choice was Iceland probably because it was a new destination for a Pinoy romcom and not a lot of people saw the fake-looking Aurora Borealis in the Piolo Pascual-Yen Santos snoozefest Northern Lights: A Journey To Love.

They rented a van without any insurance (a sign of an impending accident), complained about the exorbitant food prices (a trip to a local 7-11 cost them almost Php4k), provided Kuya Kim trivia about the place (zero crime rate in the country), and bickered and fought and made up, and bickered and fought and made up, and bickered and fought and made up.

You know how when you’re single and you would simply glare at these irritating naglalandian couples in the corner of Starbucks while bitterly thinking “Maghihiwalay din kayo”? Exact same feeling. After the nth time of watching them fight over the pettiest things, I wished that they would just head home and never see each other again.

3. I must have wished really hard because they did break up over a lost passport and a missed return flight. She was fire and he was ice (their words, not mine) and they just weren’t MFEO. I was already good with that ending (hey, a one hour travelogue for a Php190 movie ticket in Festival Mall wasn’t all bad) but then it decided to jump three years later with Ben already engaged to another girl and Jen all bald and suffering from a brain tumor. Why? Why? Whyyyyy??

If two people weren’t meant to be, why should guilt be induced to prove that there wasn’t any love lost between them? Jen’s affliction was even used as a reason for her blatant irrationality (although it still didn’t support why she chose to wear her engagement ring on her middle finger just because of a bad manicure). Should I feel guilty about that as well?

4. Even in her bad films, I couldn’t remember Alessandra de Rossi ever giving a terrible performance. She was always this sensitive actress able to transcend any material given to her (even crap like Spirit of the Glass). I couldn’t say the same for her work in the first two-thirds of this movie. Pabebe acting just didn’t suit her well (no to baby talk and girls trying to be cute by saying “Plith”).

Plus, she looked far too intelligent and decent to be groping tomatoes in a farm for a photo op and even spitting on the ground and contaminating all the pananim. After getting dumped over that missed flight, Jen asked “Dito talaga sa Iceland? Dito mo sasabihin na ayaw mo ako pakasalan? Kung saan ang ganda ng sky?” Huh?? And she even found humor in the situation when she screamed “I will stay here in my country! Not this country. This is not my country!”. I felt really, really bad for Alex.

Even worse, she shaved her head for this mess (fyi, she was a producer of this movie with a story and concept credit so it must be a passion project worthy of a buzz cut). Brave move, yes, but let’s not forget that Demi Moore also won a Worst Actress Razzie for her shaved head work in G.I. Jane.

Side note: That scar on the back of her head looked like a strip of Play Doh. Eek!

5. Paolo Contis fared a bit better because he always had this pilyo, pang-asar vibe even during his Ang TV days that was apt for the character of Ben. Most people would probably be surprised that he could cry a river (and believe me, there were enough tears in that final thirty minutes to solve our country’s Maynilad problems). Nothing new though if you were a huge fan of that Aga Muhlach-Dayanara Torres fantasy Basta’t Kasama Kita.

6. My favorite part of this movie was when Ben complained that Jen wasn’t “decently” dressed and since she was a devoted Christian saving herself for marriage, it was a problem for him not to feel horny beside her (“Wala namang utak ‘to. Tanga ‘to eh!” referring to his shrinkage-proof member that wasn’t affected at all by the freezing weather.) I immediately (sinfully) thought, “Well, maybe she should pray over his erection”. And she did. Bwahahaha!

(It was also interesting to note that Jen completely forgot her Christian ways after getting sick by forcing herself on Ben and basically trying to covet another person’s jowa.)

7. My least favorite part was when BenJen did a duet and sang the entire version of Gary Valenciano’s “I Will Be Here” while sobbing like there was no tomorrow (okay, bad pun because there really was no tomorrow for Jen).

I hated it because: 1) I had always been averse to that song ever since it was played in a good friend’s wake, 2) all the crying felt like one of those acting workshops where a mentor would make you remember the saddest memory and force you to weep for thirty minutes as a sign that you could act and cry on cue, and 3) they sang an entire song. Again, why? To give the audience enough time to cry along with them? Repeat after me: emotional manipulation.

Side note: The dark humor toward the end of the movie (the fake dying, Jen’s sudden outbursts, etc.) felt really off, too. The hilariously robotic delivery of that nurse about the re-occurrence of Jen’s condition didn’t help, either.

8. How did I know that I was completely unaffected by all the sadness onscreen? While the couple was singing that entire (it had to be noted, yet again) death song, my brain was focused on the fly perched on Joey Marquez’s left shoulder. Malungkot kaya yung langaw mag-isa?

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

SILONG (Jeffrey Hidalgo, Roy Sevilla Ho, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Silong:

1. Do you know how those M. Night Shyamalan movies relied on a twist to make the audience think that they’re watching something clever? This one felt exactly like that. I wouldn’t be surprised if people would compare this to other similar films of late (Gone Girl, Return to Sender) or similar torture porn out of Eli Roth’s ouevre or even the camp classic Boxing Helena. Even with all the red herrings thrown in the first hour of the film, all the twists were just too obvious.

2. I’ve read somewhere about this pop culture trope called Chekhov’s Gun. Basically, if a film shows a gun in the first act, expect it to go off in the last act. In this movie, it was a locked door. If you still couldn’t smell the twist a mile away, then visit an EENT.

3. I found a lot of dialogue completely off. It might have been Rhian Ramos’ kolehiyala language but I was still surprised it wasn’t dubbed correctly. Here are some sample lines:

“Papatayin tayo ng asawa ko kung di mo ako tinulungan.”

“Yun ang nakasabi sa bote.”

Even Piolo Pascual had to comfort a crying Rhian with “Tahan na”. Seriously, does anyone still say this to someone over seven?

4. Speaking of Rhian, her acting was unbearable prior to the said twist. She sounded like someone out of an elocution contest (“Alms, alms! Spare me a piece of bread. I am a child so young, so thin…”) To be fair, she got more comfortable after she turned her psycho bitch mode on. And then she started rapping (!!) some Taylor Swift-like bitter lyrics and I almost walked out of the theater.

5. The biggest mysteries in this movie were: a) actually how did Rhian keep that perpetually curled Vidal Sassoon hair, b) why didn’t the young Piolo have his signature mole, and c) why did the pregnant lady have a pillow on her belly?

6. I liked a lot of the shots used in this movie. It created the needed atmosphere for a pseudo-psychological thriller. At least we know what to expect from the directors given a better script.

7. I was happy to see that even dyosas have their flaws. You could clearly see the stretch marks on Piolo’s butt in that much-hyped shower scene. We live in a just and fair world.

8. Wasn’t this the same house used in the new Peque Gallaga Tiyanak movie? That fountain looked really familiar. But the fountain scene here, though. Ugh.

9. Can someone explain that weird Alamat ng Kape? It didn’t even sound like an alamat at all. Or was that the point of the story? Meh.

10. Seriously, in a huge house with dozens of rooms, would you really hide under a table when somebody shouts “Magtago ka!”? Next time, I suggest the big old vase.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published September 21, 2015.)

LAST NIGHT (Joyce Bernal, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Last Night:

1. Let me begin with an erratum on a glaring boo boo that I made when I posted my notes on Love You to the Stars and Back. I incorrectly identified the character of Julia Barretto as Carmina Salvador since I actually saw Last Night’s trailer prior to that movie.

Whether it was cinema fatigue or my inner cinephile that went bonkers upon hearing that film reference (that was the same name of Dawn Zulueta’s character in Hihintayin Kita sa Langit), I would like to apologize for the confusion that it caused especially to all the JoshLia fans that lost sleep over that inaccurate trivia.

2. We first see the real Carmina Salvador (Toni Gonzaga) dangling from a billboard on the side of the Jones Bridge after a botched suicide attempt. Her cry for help was noticed by Mark Peters (Piolo Pascual), who was also on a suicide mission at the said bridge. (Side note: Is this really a popular destination for depressed people in the Binondo/Ermita area? I’m really curious to know how many suicide cases have happened here within the last decade. Google wasn’t really helpful.) Anyway, they ended up helping one another and in the process also fell madly in love with each other. The end.

Well, not really. Of course there had to be a big twist because the screenplay seemed to have been built around that gimmick. In a reveal that would make M. Night Shyamalan curl up in a fetal position, Carmina actually turned out to be a ghost (she died in 1973 during Martial Law; naks, relevant!) that only appeared before Mark. Yes, he could see dead people (well, one dead person in the beginning and a few more towards the end of the movie). Eek!

3. I really wish the movie didn’t rely too much on the (obvious) twist so that it didn’t have to spend its final 30 minutes explaining everything (in washed-out flashbacks!) and feeling smart on how much it was able to fool the audience.

Aside from The Sixth Sense, most of the scenes that had Mark interacting with Carmina reminded me a lot of the “I Love You, Moo Moo” episode of the 90’s movie Tatlong Mukha ng Pag-ibig. My favorite scene there was when Tonton Gutierrez carried the ghost of his dead wife (played by Sharon Cuneta) inside their honeymoon suite while the caretaker (Leroy Salvador) watched in horror as his crazy amo flirted with an imaginary entity. I actually wondered if that straightforward format that wasn’t reliant on a twist would have made the story here much better (and less cornier).

Also, I’d actually need help in remembering another Hollywood/foreign movie about a living human being that communicated and fell in love with the spirit of a deceased person (something like Just Like Heaven, but not really). I wouldn’t want to be up for the next few nights.

4. Thirteen Reasons Why received a lot of flak for apparently romanticizing suicide and I kinda understood that perspective when I watched Mark and Carmina play cutesy with a blow dryer while they were inside a tub. Or when they fantasized on placing an aircon and a mattress on their backs before diving in a pool. Or when Carmina suggested “maligo sa dinuguan at magpakain sa shark” (huh?).

This made the shift in tone during the latter part of the movie even more jarring when it suddenly turned pro-life and started spreading a message of optimism and hope. All that was lacking in that final bubblegum bridge sequence was a dancing unicorn.

5. I was a huge fan of the Toni-Piolo pairing in Starting Over Again so I was a bit surprised at how much I was turned off by their performances here. Toni had her quirkiness turned up to its maximum level and she kept shouting her lines like she was still hosting Pinoy Big Brother (“Hello Philippines! Hello world!!”).

Piolo fared much better (as he was required to go topless yet again and shamelessly showed off his abs twice!), but he spent most of his scenes brooding and acting really stuck-up. Sayang, because I really missed this fun partnership.

6. At least the technical aspects were really commendable. Before Cathy Garcia-Molina, I think Joyce Bernal was the queen of rom-coms and she really tried to make the most out of the weak story here.

The movie also looked really good, very much like a glossy maindie. I also loved the song choices (except for one that sounded like it had Piolo singing).

7. I couldn’t get over the fact that Toni was the twin of Joey Marquez. And that Joey was named Ricardo Reyes. Yes, Ricky Reyes! Bwahahahaha!

Also, Carmina (whose real name’s Jennifer, btw) was actually a smart entrepreneur and influencer for bringing her new living friends to their family restaurant every single time. Shouldn’t it have been time for her to start a Twitter or Instagram account, though?

8. Burning questions:

• Why did an old soul like Carmina sound very much like a millennial? Also, why did she keep acting like she didn’t know that she was already dead? Diba audience lang naman may hindi alam?

• If she really wanted to prevent Mark from committing suicide, why did they spend most of their time trying to figure out how to die together? Did she only realize that after she fell in love with him?

• Did they play Bloody Crayons in one scene as a cross-promotion for Star Cinema movies?

• If nobody could see her, why didn’t anyone (except for the friend of dying lola) even ask who Mark was talking to? More chismis, more fun lang?

• Why did she kill herself after just seeing blood on the side of Jones Bridge (sure, her boyfriend was supposed to be there, so she automatically assumed that the blood was his)? Why, gurl, why?

• Paano sila maghihintayan sa langit if she’s stuck in limbo?

• If Carmina killed herself during Martial Law, why was her brother played by Patrick Sugui (shouldn’t he be like 40ish) and her mother was the still youthful Marina Benipayo? Were they also ghosts? Then why couldn’t they all see each other? Or was Patrick supposed to be the young Joey Marquez? Help!!

• Bakit kapag si Piolo ang nagsasabi ng “nangulangot” parang classy and sexy pa rin? Huhuhu!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

CAN’T HELP FALLING IN LOVE (Mae Cruz-Alviar, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Can’t Help Falling in Love:

1. I think it was during the public bathroom scene where Dos (Daniel Padilla) was removing the heels of Gab (Kathryn Bernardo), which must have felt so good because she was having a wild orgasm, that I immediately knew I wouldn’t like this movie. It was clearly trying too hard to wring out laughs by placing its characters in the most absurd situations. That scene was capped off by strangers entering the room and looking disgusted even if it was completely obvious that nothing kinky was going on (hello, his head wasn’t even under her skirt!).

It was a shame really because Daniel and Kathryn were so game all throughout this movie even if the material failed to capitalize on their palpable onscreen chemistry.

2. I had been crowing about Daniel’s natural charms (reminiscent of his uncle Robin’s) in previous movies so the bigger surprise here for me was Kathryn. Not only did she look so fresh and lovely (a vision in yellow during her grand entrance! radiant in black during the wake!), but she also managed to drop most of her annoying acting tics.

Whatever decongestant she took worked because she didn’t sound as oddly nasal as before. She also managed to tone down her pabebe delivery and she was really effective in most of her dramatic scenes (my favorite was her quiet sumbat moment outside the police station; “Nagmahal ka na ba? Minahal ka na ba?”). The only thing left for her to work on would be controlling her eyes because she would resort to unintentionally widening them while speaking (nandidilat for no reason).

Anyway, I just made a mental note to buy Pond’s as soon as the stores open today.

3. As a rule, Star Cinema characters should avoid getting drunk in bars because they would always end up in sticky situations (literally and figuratively?) after. I didn’t buy the ridiculous premise of these two ending up married after a crazy night of partying (hey, this wasn’t Vegas and none of them were Britney; besides, were they carrying all the legal documents that night to get a marriage license issued on the spot?).

None of the succeeding events made a lot of sense as well. I wouldn’t recommend this movie to any of my lawyer friends because their eyes might end up rolling out of their sockets in the scenes where Gab interviewed Dos’ ex-girlfriends to prove his impotence or Gab pretended to make out with her girl friend in Sogo while Dos took pictures of them as proof of homosexuality (they ended up getting arrested after for supposedly creating a porno, wtf?!).

In one scene, Gab dressed up as a taong grasa because she was supposedly baliw sa pag-ibig and insanity was one of the major grounds for annulment. I guess they were to blame for hiring a lawyer from a firm called Hulog ng Langit. (Terrible, terrible screenplay, I tell you.)

4. Did we really need those cameos of Zanjoe Marudo, Ejay Falcon, and Piolo Pascual? Even a bald Daniel Radcliffe made a surprise appearance. Why create unnecessary distractions on an already messy story?

5. Since there was nothing original in this movie, I wasn’t surprised at all that Matteo Guidicelli played the third wheel yet again and that his character (unfortunately named Jason) was villified for being a controlling boyfriend. So basically he loved his girlfriend and supported her for six years even if she only loved him back for security and stability and yet he was the bad guy just for wanting what was best for her. Oh-kay!

Also, they called each other Bud so I guess it was meant to be a friendzone experience right from the start.

6. Of course there would be a reason to go out of town! Destination of choice? Argao, Cebu. A tour of the city’s old churches, cliff diving, coral reef diving, motorcycle rides along the cliffside roads, I was surprised they didn’t use these instead for the channel’s summer station ID.

7. I wish there were more of the small moments that genuinely made me smile (Dos offering a basahan to Gab while she was crying, or Dos distracting Gab with his love notes written on napkins). The scene where Dos was making his huling habilin to his extended family could have easily been milked for laughs and tears, but it just fell short of being great.

I have enjoyed a number of past rom-coms by Direk Mae (Bride for Rent, Everyday I Love You), but she was left with very little to work with here.

8. For every realistically heartfelt line like “Kapag natikman mo pala, nakaka-adik ang umasa”, there were even more empty platitudes like “Mas pipiliin ko ang isang bukas na nandun ka, kesa sa isang milyong bukas na wala ka.”

Ang Babae sa Septic Tank 2: #ForeverIsNotEnough should be required viewing for Star Cinema’s writing team. Seriously.

9. I think I developed an acute case of tinnitus when Gab serenaded Dos with her own version of Panalangin. And that was minutes before his critical brain surgery. Pigain nyo na lang ang apdo ko, but take that portable Magic Sing away from her!!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

NORTHERN LIGHTS: A JOURNEY TO LOVE (Dondon Santos, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Northern Lights: A Journey to Love:

1. It must be tough to be a Piolo Pascual. When people commonly refer to you as Papa, there’s this high level of expectation (or fantasy) that you’re constantly required to fulfill (or satisfy). I’m not at all surprised that at the ripe old screen age of 40, he still plays these cutesy roles that merely require him to flash his gorgeous smile and ensure that hundreds of Soen panties (and a few Bench briefs) fall inside the cinema.

But having him deliver lines like “Are you London Bridge? Are you falling?” while making pungay eyes just doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s time to pass on that Mikimoto crown.

Speaking of, he had several topless scenes while flirting with different women (in one, he was in a sleeping bag on a snowy hill, jusko pneumonia! shrinkage!) just to remind everyone that he’s straight, Straight, STRAIGHT!! (Maybe he should rethink that man bun then.)

2. Everything here screamed generic (yes, it was the Rite-Med version of any Nicholas Sparks adaptation) and this was evident as soon as the movie started with a discussion about the Northern Lights (uhh, duh!). Apparently, the souls of the dead (including those of animals!) would win a free one-way trip to Alaska and become part of the Aurora Borealis.

When the kid (Raikko Mateo) asked his mother (Maricar Reyes), “Puwede po ba ako pumunta diyan?”, I immediately knew that one of them wouldn’t survive before the end credits.

3. This was the kind of original movie where:

• Strangers would bump into each other in an airport as part of the Meet Cute scene

• A douchebag character would continuously harass a girl, but it would be considered romantic because the said douche looked like Papa P (who sounded even douchey-er with his Diether Ocampo American accent)

• Characters would speak in unison several times because it was supposedly cute

• A romantic leading man would say “Lilingon ka rin in 3, 2, 1…” like we hadn’t seen it in previous rom-coms

• A girl would recall an experience that sounded like rape (“Nilasing niya ako at paggising ko wala na akong saplot”) and it would be played for laughs

• Somebody would give an instant lecture about the Treaty of Paris to give more perspective about their location

• Music and Lyric’s Way Back Into Love served as the closing theme

4. Yen Santos was just too bland for the role of a girl in search of her missing OFW mother (her reason: “Kahit ganito na ako katanda gusto ko pa rin tinitirintas nya ang buhok ko”). Leah Olivar would probably be laughing in her Mrs. Pizza costume right about now.

Seeing a fresh face onscreen was definitely a welcome change, but I wish she had shown a bit more personality. Her delivery sounded very malamya that I was constantly reminded of that Shield bath soap nurse and I expected her to suddenly burst into song (“Di biro maging nurse, dapat marunong sa sakit. At marunong mag-alaga, yun bang may malasakit…”).

In one scene, she was supposed to do a bad cover of Air Supply’s All Out of Love and she was just terrible in pretending to sound awful (how was that even possible?). Oh well, not everyone could be Nico Antonio.

5. Also, Yen’s character had the nerve to question Piolo’s constant state of toplessness amidst the freezing weather and yet she had a scene where she was only wearing an oversized boyfriend shirt with one side barely hanging on her shoulders and part of her back exposed like she was in an Olay commercial. Guuurrrrrl!!

6. Although Raikko had some really cute moments, the real saving grace here was Glydel Mercado in full Ate Vi in Anak mode as the mother (!!) of Yen. Her character’s motivations were not clear, but she did cry a river that was enough to remind everyone why she was a Grand Slam winner for Sidhi.

7. Why did the Northern Lights look like CGI?

8. The denouement with a dead character communicating with the living loved ones through video was directly stolen from My Life. It could have stopped there but since this was a Regal Films co-production, of course it needed a happy ending. On the beach. Hello Pico de Loro!!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

BARCELONA: A LOVE UNTOLD (Olivia Lamasan, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Barcelona: A Love Untold:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11. Burning questions:

• Why did the interior shots look like Tondo?

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

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

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

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

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

• Do these lines sound familiar?

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

“Stop acting like you own my pain!”

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

LOVE ME TOMORROW (Gino Santos, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Love Me Tomorrow:

1. Dawn Zulueta would always be one of the loveliest faces in Philippine showbiz (Fountain of Youth? Renew Placenta Soap? Tell us your secret!) so it was hard to stomach that her pairing with Piolo Pascual was considered a May-December love affair. Seriously, in what universe would they be seen in a mall and people would mistake him as her son? I even cringed a bit when he called her Tita because they looked practically the same age (no, the earring didn’t make him look a decade younger). If they really wanted to show the disparity, they should have gotten Inigo Pascual instead, but I guess believability wasn’t the movie’s strongest suit.

2. “Life as I knew it was over nung ma-stroke ang asawa ko after 15 years of marriage.” Huh? What kind of wife are you? What happened to the in sickness and in health vow? Naka-wheelchair lang ang asawa mo katapusan na ng mundo? Since she was married to a much older man (Freddie Webb, or at least his Madame Tussaud’s version), I guess that solidified the perception that she was just after his money.

3. Do vets really administer rabies shots to humans? If I were bitten by a dog in Alabang Town Center, I would have rushed myself to RITM instead so I was really curious.

4. The Animals and #Y perfectly captured the fun and filth of the younger generation’s lifestyle and this was no exception. That scene where Dawn ended up wasted after a night of clubbing was reminiscent of Danny Boyle’s camerawork in Trainspotting (I really thought there would be projectile vomiting involved but I guess there was a specific clause in Dawn’s contract pertaining to cleanliness and hygiene).

5. MOMOTA = make out make out tapos awkward

DFML = da fuck makaimbento lang

6. Dawn made the most out of the terrible material thrown her way and I really enjoyed all the Titas of Manila bits (the occasional old women brunch, the joke involving Oriental Palace vs The Palace, her old person dance moves, the frequent Zumba references, etc.).

Still, I couldn’t understand why a smart designer like her would be the type to get lost in a beach in Laiya (how big was that resort?) or would prioritize pag-kerengkeng when she was supposed to launch her own line and fulfill her lifelong dream. No wonder her models had ill-fitting clothes on the runway.

7. Pet peeve in movies: People having a normal (slightly louder) conversation in clubs. Any party person would know that you could barely hear anything with the loud music and you could actually use this to make a move and whisper some nonsense while really close to your crush’s ear. (Everyone has tried that, right?)

8. Yes, Piolo had lots of topless scenes. (I get this question in every review so I might as well respond to it beforehand.)

Also, the sex scene between Piolo and Dawn was so tame (read: pa-ahrt) that it could very well have been the first one to be rated General Patronage.

9. Piolo was such an in-demand DJ that he only had one song (Love Me Tomorrow Tatlong Bibe Remix, of course!) in his setlist. Groan.

10. “Kailan pa naging mali na piliin ang maging masaya ka?” Gurl, siguro pag merong nasasaktang iba?

11. Who played Coleen Garcia’s sister? She looked and talked like she was born from and raised in a different household.

12. Continuity issue: Dawn called Piolo as babe while they were walking in Madrigal Business Park and then a few scenes after she was surprised when Piolo called her babe and she asked if that was their pet name. Huh?

13. Someone had what looked like a cold sore on the lower lip. Eew! Please tell me that was a pimple.

14. Kagulo ang last act. Why should we even care about these petty people with their petty problems? This movie should not have been two hours long.

15. As always, the failure of a love story was the fault of a successful career woman. Ugh.

Anyway, that scene on the bench where Dawn was giving motherly advice to Piolo reminded me of another May-December Pinoy movie, Jerry Lopez-Sineneng’s Soltera with Maricel Soriano, Diether Ocampo, and Claudine Barretto. It was much better, funnier, and it didn’t include a SunLife commercial.

16. Since this was by Star Cinema, the cameos in the end weren’t really surprising. Actually, it made the pairing even more dreadful since the people were obviously more kilig with Dawn and Richard Gomez. We demand a CharDawn movie!!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

HELE SA HIWAGANG HAPIS (Lav Diaz, 2016)

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My notes on Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis:

1. Hele. Hiwaga. Hapis. These three words appropriately described my overall experience of the movie. I was oftentimes lulled to sleep, with its 8-hour runtime and scenes that seemed to never end. I was enchanted by the intersecting stories of both fictional and real characters in Philippine history, even if the movie remained a mystery until the very last scene. Lastly, my butt was screaming in pain and sorrow and felt every minute of it (like I had imaginary flaring hemorrhoids and I had to keep adjusting in my seat). I came out of that challenge feeling like the winner in Survivor: Cinema.

(For the record, Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan was the exact opposite experience and enthralled me with every minute of its four-hour length.)

2. Don’t get me wrong, this was far from being a bad movie. Each gorgeously-shot misty frame in glorious black and white (this movie really put the mist in mystery) should still be worth the price of admission (plus, the P500 ticket in Newport came with unli-popcorn, a large cup of rootbeer, and a giant siopao; pa-fiesta pa lang ni Mayor sulit na).

I was just never a fan of lyrical poetry. Ayoko ng mga mabulaklak at paligoy-ligoy na salita. Wasn’t it Shakespeare who said that “brevity is the soul of wit”? (Believe me, the irony wasn’t completely lost on me.)

3. My favorite characters came in groups of threes. The screen has never been more alive than when the diwatas of Quiroga (Queenmelo Esguerra, Moira Lang, Bianca Balbuena) would appear in their fabulous kaftans, creating chaos with a menacing laugh or a throwaway pick-up line. The other trio would be the excellent tikbalangs (Bernardo Bernardo, Cherie Gil, Angel Aquino) that mesmerized viewers with every trick played on Gregoria de Jesus and company. I was sold on these characters as soon as Bernardo Squared let out a loud neigh. Such splendid actors!

(Oh, John Lloyd Cruz was fine, although I felt that his take on Mi Ultimo Adios was like a response to Maja Salvador’s Trisha’s “I love you and I will tell you everyday, everyday until you forget the things that hurthhhh.” The less said about Piolo Pascual’s stiff performance, the better. He had the requisite abs scene so no complaints here.)

4. The long takes were impressive, especially the dialogue-heavy scenes. As someone who botched a twenty-line poem in a Talumpatian back in grade school, I could just imagine the amount of time spent memorizing that script. The downside was that there were some glaring flubs (and obviously pulled punches and kicks) that Lav Diaz didn’t feel the need to retake.

It was important to note that if a character started singing a song or reciting a poem, expect that performance to be completed (8 hours, take your time). The same could be said with a lot of scenes that just stretched on for several minutes (Simoun crying in pain, Basilio endlessly digging, nipa hut burning down to the ground, etc). I wasn’t surprised at all when some critics accused Diaz of being self-indulgent. One character even mentioned, “Masyadong makasarili ang sining”. My butt nodded in agreement. Maybe some opium would have helped?

5. My two favorite scenes were:

a) Susan Africa (sans tuberculosis or any other life-threatening disease) as Aling Hule wading in an entire stretch of muddy rice field like it was some sort of punishment from Clara del Valle

b) Alessandra de Rossi as Caesaria Belarmino asking for forgiveness for being the “pinakamagandang dilag ng Silang”. Pak na pak!

6. The movie felt a bit preachy towards the end. I half-expected Whitney Houston’s Greatest Love of All to start playing.

7. Several people cheered after the screening. I was sure that some really loved the movie. I was just part of those that were thankful that it was finally over.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

GIRLFRIEND FOR HIRE (Vanessa de Leon, 2016

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My notes on Girlfriend for Hire:

1. It was only a couple of years ago when they showed Bride for Rent, a Star Cinema rom-com where a hilarious Kim Chiu played the beard of the wooden Xian Lim. She pretended to be his future bride because she desperately needed money and he plotted the whole charade to please his grandmother (and get his trust fund).

Girlfriend for Hire had the exact same plot. Nami (Yassi Pressman) needed scholarship money so she agreed to be the pretend girlfriend of Bryle (Andre Paras) whose desperate grandfather wanted him to continue their Stanford legacy.

Seriously though, why couldn’t these rich, decent, good-looking men land real girlfriends? Made me wonder if it was an equipment or gender issue. And why do these movies always involve renting/hiring women? May I suggest Boytoy for Lease with KC Concepcion and Piolo Pascual?

2. I found it off that Bryle kept treating Nami like shit and it was supposed to be funny and romantic. In one scene, he actually commanded her to “get down on (her) knees and give it to (him)”. In another scene, out of selos, he dragged her inside a room like Chris Brown being sweet to Rihanna. The worst was when he ate the only piece of chocolate strawberry cake that she was craving for. As a fat kid outside, I felt her physical and emotional pain.

3. I love the Yassi-Andre love team not only because they’re bagay but also because they’re not annoying actors (they even had the most genuine onscreen kiss in this movie). I guess I was surprised when the usually charming Andre was forced to let loose (eyes popping, nostrils flaring, spittle flying) and overact like he was auditioning for a The Mask sequel. In his previous (terrible) movies (Diary ng Panget, Your Place or Mine?), he was funny without even trying. I hope they get way better projects soon. Sayang ang potential.

4. I therefore conclude that the Ultimate Kakaibabe Donnalyn Bartolome is the new Nikki Valdez.

5. My favorite scenes in the movie were:

• When Bryle’s alta grandfather showed him a Powerpoint presentation (presumably made by a 6-year old) of the country’s eligible bachelorettes that he probably met in Cafe Havana

• When Nami mindlessly crossed the street under the pouring rain and Bryle almost hit her with his car and he screamed, “Anong ginagawa mo sa gitna ng ulan?” (Hindi talaga sa gitna ng kalsada??)

• When Nami took Bryle to a palengke and he had the gall to complain about his ruined outfit (white shorts and Toms) (Wait, sarado ba ang lahat ng supermarkets?)

• When Nami’s hot neighbor saw all the ingredients of pesto pasta (noodles, pesto sauce) and correctly guessed that she was preparing the said dish, she acted all shocked and asked, “Paano mo nalaman??” (Girl, it doesn’t take a chef to know that.)

6. Product placements galore. The SMDC sign (complete with Sarah G.’s face) was shown every thirty minutes. I think they even used the exact same room in The Breakup Playlist.

Also, after eating a heavy meal (three cups of rice and all), Bryle still ordered a Greenwich Barkada-Size Ultimate Overload and I knew that was what he ordered because the Greenwich delivery guy loudly said it at the door (“Hello Sir! Here’s your order of one Greenwich Barkada-Size Ultimate Overload!”). Now that got me hungry. Product placement worked.

7. You know this was a fantasy because the lovely Yassi still had her own makeover montage (when all she needed to do was comb her hair). Weirdly enough, she reminded me so much of Mailes Kanapi (please tell me I’m not crazy).

Also, Yassi preferred Andre’s baby fats over her abstastic neighbor (you immediately knew that she didn’t like hottie neighbor because she devoured an entire chicken right in front of him).

8. The last minute introduction of Shy Carlos as Bryle’s girlfriend didn’t serve any purpose except to ensure that the movie reached its quota of Viva talents.

Again, better movies for them, please!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆