MOVIE REVIEW: NABUBULOK (Sonny Calvento, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Nabubulok:

1. Whatever happened to that Anti-Chismis Law? In a country powered by daily gossip (ranging from the newest kabit of your neighbor to the escapades of the resident office slut to the questionable sexual preference of a popular matinee idol), could that even be successfully implemented?

The great Jessica Zafra once said that we could never breed serial killers in our country because we’re a nation of nosy people. Secrets could never be kept for long in a community since Pinoys are naturally suspicious of the littlest odd behaviours of others.

This was the very first thing that came to mind while watching this mystery-thriller (in my mind, more of a dark comedy slash social commentary) about an American accused of killing his Pinay wife and how he was subjected to a public trial by chismis (or was it?).

2. How apt that the gossip started from local labandera Aling Ingrid (a brilliant Gina Alajar, her “Putang Ina” scene alone deserved a Balanghai), who smelled something rotten emanating from the house next door and immediately concluded that her cousin Luna (Sue Prado) was killed by foreigner husband Jason (Billy Ray Gallion).

She then had the audacity to ask her son (“Rockyyyyy!!”) to climb a tree just to check on their shady neighbor (in this scene, they were talking too loudly not to get noticed, though). When the seed of doubt was planted, it was funny and ultimately scary to see just how fast it grew and spread around the xenophobic town.

3. Definitely not happy that characters in Pinoy films named Jason always turned out to be villains and this was no exception. Fortunately, they were mostly good-looking and the one here resembled Hugh Jackman in his younger Logan days.

4. I had some problems with the bad lighting especially since most of the scenes were shot at night and I strained my eyes trying to decipher what was happening onscreen. It almost ruined that exciting trespassing sequence with Rommel (JC Santos, required to go topless in one scene).

Also, was the Harper family actually living in complete darkness? Was that why the policemen never bothered to turn on any of the lights when they searched the house?

The day shots were just as bad since one couldn’t even see what was written on cellphone screens. I expected the washed out colors for added effect, but it shouldn’t require a visit to an opthalmologist after.

5. This movie had the balls to actually associate the Duterte administration with the current vigilante culture. The President’s face was plastered everywhere, even on a killer’s shirt. I guess that smell of decay might be coming from the current state of our society as well.

6. Some of the subtitles weren’t in sync with what the characters were saying. In one scene, the word “Motherfucker” was shown, but nobody was actually cursing. ‘Nak ng tokwa!

7. The funniest moments were just from some random lines delivered by extras:

• Horny Ate entering the internet cafe: “Kuya, one hours!”

• Single Ate on a boyfriend that she met through a miraculous santo: “Magpapa-free taste na ako sa kanya!”

• Host of a gay beauty pageant: “Thank you Anne Curtis. Next we have Champagne Morales!” (I was the only one who really laughed out loud during this part because I could still remember the Metropop rivalry between Champagne and Roxanne “Roxee B!” Barcelo, surely the Pia Wurtzbach of singing competitions.)

8. What was up with that rushed Calvento Files ending? Did we really need a title card to explain what happened to each character? Whatever happened to the “Show, Don’t Tell” rule of film?

Rating: ★★★☆☆

MOVIE REVIEW: ANG PAGSANIB KAY LEAH DELA CRUZ (Katski Flores, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Ang Pagsanib Kay Leah dela Cruz:

1. Sarah Lahbati, in an effort to act like a tough and cool policewoman, decided to strip down all possible emotions from her character and spoke in a weird monotone with a slight gruff reminiscent of Sharon Cuneta’s performance as the tomboy-ish jeepney driver Jack in the 80’s cult classic Jack & Jill. She had an air of “I may look and sound like a bad-ass lesbian, but I’m still straight as an arrow deep inside.” Never forget to check the label, Mommies!

(Not like anybody would actually think that she bats for the other team since she sashays in every scene wearing her butt-hugging jeans and high-heeled boots like a smoldering beauty queen doing her farewell walk.)

2. Although the story about a satanic cult and its link to the possession of Emily Rose, er, Leah dela Cruz left much to be desired, the movie made up for it through some gorgeous visuals.

I really liked the opening scene with the abandoned road and the phantom kids running after the car and how they all tied up to that chilling image of dead children forming a circle with demonic symbols.

3. Why do a lot of Pinoy horror movies happen during Holy Week (especially Good Friday) and end up with catharsis and redemption on Easter Sunday?

Sana next time Valentine’s Day naman para maiba. Tapos walang catharsis. Scary diba?

4. When Yaya Rosario referred to Leah as “ba-it”, I was reminded of my grandmother calling the rats in our house the same way before poisoning them with cheese-crusted Dora. Apparently, being nice to rats and using pet names would prevent them from nibbling on your clothes and you could nicely drive them out like you’re the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Oh wait, didn’t that story involve a lot of missing children as well?

5. In one scene, an intubated Yaya Rosario kept talking wildly to non-lesbian policewoman about all the secrets that she knew. I think I had seen enough Grey’s Anatomy episodes to know that this wasn’t possible since that tube would actually go through her trachea (friends from the medical field, please correct me as needed).

Unless of course that was a dental suction whose main purpose was to suck the saliva of poor Yaya.

6. My favorite part was the Lights Out scene that tried to subvert the genre with the heroine fearlessly chasing after the lady ghost instead. Talk about a great diva showdown.

7. Shy Carlos as the possessed Leah surely had a lot of fun in the role. She was really good without going overboard and I probably would have been more impressed with her performance if I hadn’t seen her do the exact same thing in Lumayo Ka Nga Sa Akin. Still, she was one of the few reasons to watch this.

8. Every time Jim Paredes as a priest (!!) would mention the word demonyo, I actually expected him to go on another endless anti-Duterte tirade.

Also, that bit with Angelina Kanapi as a nun on the run sounded a bit like Sister Act, no?

9. “Ang pagtatalik ay isang uri ng pagdarasal at bata ka pa lang dapat marunong ka na magdasal.” Creepy and icky. It needed more of this and less of the horror movie clichés.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

MOVIE REVIEW: ACROSS THE CRESCENT MOON (Baby Nebrida, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Across the Crescent Moon:

1. If the Mocha Uson Blog were to venture into the film industry and dramatize its controversial posts, this would be the end product. I could easily imagine all the Dilawans instantaneously frothing at the mouth while watching this blatant propaganda movie that justified extrajudicial killings, supported the death penalty, and made living heroes out of PNP Chief dela Rosa and President Duterte (whose presence was onscreen for a significant amount of time that he should have received secondary billing).

Regardless of one’s political stand though, everyone would definitely agree that this was a poorly-made, self-important flick that thought too highly of itself just because it had subtitles.

2. The opening action scene alone was already problematic with machine guns being fired but nobody was getting hit and explosions that just came out of nowhere (nasaan yung nagpapasabog? Nasaan?!). It also had a long chase scene that started late afternoon on the road and ended up post-Primetime Bida in a forest village.

3. The director’s idea of dynamism and movement was to have two characters having an argument walk from the kitchen to the living room to the bedroom. Mga bes, paano kayo magkakaintindihan kung paikot-ikot kayo sa bahay?

4. I already used a thesaurus but I couldn’t find the most appropriate word to describe how awful the performances were. I still haven’t fully recovered from his tragic acting in last year’s Tupang Ligaw and now Matteo Guidicelli has returned to torture me yet again. The good news was that he looked like an Urian winner next to the girls that played his wife and sister-in-law.

Every time one of them spoke (in full akting na akting mode, of course), I felt like I was on the verge of an aneurysm. I never knew that watching a movie would now be considered buwis buhay.

In one scene, the teenage sister (who must have thought that she was in a grade school elocution contest) welcomed back her older sister with the line (please note that her eyes were wide open and hands clasped), “Oh, you must be starving!”. Tengene, patayin nyo na ako!!

5. Even with the in-your-face product placements for Tanduay, Beer na Beer, and Colt 45, nothing could beat the mini-commercial for Cobra energy drink.

Previous scene –

Matteo: “Kelangan natin mahanap agad ang mga biktima bago sila mapadala sa Malaysia!”

Next scene –

Matteo: “Ate, may malamig na Cobra diyan?”

6. When Matteo learned that his wife was pregnant, they decided to celebrate with drinks by the pool. He must have been so happy that he threw her in the water not once, but three times! Why?!

7. My favorite lines from the movie:

• Matteo to Joem Bascon: “Ikaw ba ang anghel ko? Anghel dela guwardiya?” Yihee!!

• Also Matteo to Joem: “Ayoko ng partner na may bisyo: alak, babae, sugal, yosi.” Ay strict boyfriend, er, partner!

• Sandy Andolong to Matteo’s wife: “Huwag kang mag-alala Emma. Bukas luluhod ang mga tala.” Ooh, Sharonian!

• Christopher de Leon sharing his words of wisdom: “Ang buhay ay parang buwan. Bilog yan. Umiikot din yan.” I kennat!!

• Joem inside a steel container: “Napakainit naman dito. Anong akala nila sa atin, baboy na ibebenta por kilo?” Dear, you should have requested for first class accommodations from your kidnappers.

• Kidnap victim on their whereabouts: “Binilang ko. Mga sampung minuto lang ang isla mula dito.” Koya, wala kang relo. Manual counting of seconds? Wow, how to be you po?

8. Burning questions:

• Were Matteo and Joem required to watch Street Fighter before filming? Why did their fight scenes always start with a drop kick?

• When Matteo got shot on the arm, why did he go home hours later without having it checked in the nearest hospital?

• Why were the kidnapped victims’ pictures all taken from Studio City?

• Where can I learn to make that excellent bar graph Powerpoint presentation showing the number of babies sold per month?

• Seriously, why was this movie even made?

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

MOVIE REVIEW: MA’ ROSA (Brillante Mendoza, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Ma’ Rosa:

1. The film opened with Rosa (Jaclyn Jose) hoarding what seemed to be packs of Ri-Chee and other chichirya for her small sari-sari store. Similar to that weird sweet milk snack, Brillante Mendoza’s oeuvre would definitely be an acquired taste. As always, expect your senses to be assaulted by the headache-inducing shaky cam and the palpable stench of Manila’s esteros emanating from the screen. As a sucker for poverty porn (that had been getting a bad rap in the local indie scene) and Mendoza’s cinema verite style of filmmaking, I absolutely loved the entire experience. Ri-Chee, not so much.

2. I have always wondered why vendors give candy in lieu of actual change ever since I was given a sukli of Juicy Fruit gum. Is this just a Pinoy thing? (Also, my OCD self really hates butal.)

3. Much had been said about Jaclyn’s brilliant final scene (seriously, that had to be the saddest fishball moment ever), but I really loved how un-Jaclyn she was here. Before she went crazy over-the-top in her recent kabit movies and loony teleseryes, I usually associated her performance with the one parodied in Jeffrey Jeturian’s Tuhog where she talked in this seemingly lazy monotone like a drugged diva who didn’t really care much about performing.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved her type of non-acting acting, but in this film, her performance just felt more…alive. Every dialogue and curse word that came out of her potty mouth sounded true and I felt the dread of being part of her doomed family.

4. Is there a President Duterte biopic in the works? Please consider this Cannes-winning treasure. (Speaking of, I loved how timely this film was considering the recent drug busts happening everywhere in the metro.)

5. Who was the kid that played one of Rosa’s sons and looked like a cross between JM de Guzman and Rainier Castillo? Where have I seen him before?

6. Considering the grim subject matter, I enjoyed the little bits of humor thrown in whether it was Rosa asking the policemen for load to call her supplier, or her husband Nestor (Julio Diaz, effectively understated as always) getting mocked for looking good in a lieutenant’s uniform, or Racquel’s (Andi Eigenmann) description of her mom as someone who looked like her but with humongous breasts, and even the intentional (?) Pare Ko videoke homage to Mark Anthony Fernandez (as one of the corrupt cops).

7. When Rosa uttered the line, “Sir, hindi kami puwedeng makulong kasi mahirap lang kami”, I felt like I was in the middle of a fender bender with a reckless jeepney driver sheepishly scratching his head while looking at the damage that he caused. (Not being elitist, but still…)

8. I was fascinated with the treatment of the gay characters here. One was a young boy wearing his Little Miss Trouble shirt constantly called fag (in a non-derogatory Pinoy way, if there ever was such a thing) and being one of the boys/cops as they celebrated their extortion bounty over lechon manok and San Mig Light (that he was tasked to buy naturally) and later on caught trying to steal a suspect’s cellphone. Another one was a pony-tailed server with heavy make-up and a masculine voice (maybe he wasn’t gay and I was just being judgmental?) who blatantly lied about his boss’ whereabouts. The last was Allan Paule as a benefactor easily fooled by the whims of his needy and manipulative beh. Should this be considered progressive cinema or a sad reality of our society? (Or both?)

And for the curious minds, this was a Mendoza film with Allan Paule playing another gay stereotype so of course, there was a gay sex scene. (Oh, the irony!)

9. Do you still remember Maria Isabel Lopez stealing the scene on the Cannes red carpet with an Albert Andrada emerald dress? She did the exact same thing here while wearing a daster (I think) and spewing profanities and she was nothing short of amazing. This woman was the epitome of the word eksenadora.

10. If you had completely lost faith in our corrupt criminal justice system and thought that policemen rank second on the list of most annoying reptiles in Malabon Zoo, this one definitely wouldn’t help change your mind. Reality sucks.

Rating: ★★★★★