SANTA SANTITA (Laurice Guillen, 2004)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

Just imagine kung yung pinakamalandi mong bff nagising isang umaga with healing powers. At hindi lang siya basta pokpok version ni Elsa (Ate Guy, not Frozen) ha. More of Magdalena ikaw ay sawimpalad to Mama Mary real quick.

Ganun ang naging kapalaran ni Malen (Angelica Panganiban) dito. Nung una allergic siya sa simbahan at galit na galit sa nanay (Hilda Koronel) na nagdadasal kapalit ng donasyon. Tapos in a cruel twist of fate, naging instant prophet (ata kasi bigla siya nagsuot ng costume ng mga jakono) slash faith healer siya. Sa sobrang lakas niya humiling sa pagdadasal, inakala ng jowa-jowaan niya na si Mike (Jericho Rosales) na kaya niya buhayin ang namatay nitong anak na nabubulok na pero nakakunot pa rin ang noo.

Blatant ang influence ng Himala dito. Sayang lang kasi wala masyadong nasabi ang pelikula. May konting sundot about the hypocrisy of Catholics (tulad nung mga chismosang Titas of Quiapo na nagsabi na binababoy ni Malen ang simbahan for wearing her Freeway outfits with plunging necklines and short skirts pero more paninira naman sa isa’t isa to get prayer customers).

Easy target pa naman ang religion sa mga ganitong klaseng pelikula pero parang natakot siya mabansagang makasalanan. Bagay na bagay pa naman kay Angelica ang Madonna-whore role (she wasn’t Rubi for nothing). Sana mas na-explore pa yung confused feelings niya regarding that dichotomy. Para que pa na nagkaron siya (or at least visions) ng stigmata diba?

And speaking of, naalala ko tuloy bigla si Bianca Lapus na hinihimatay tuwing may interview dati tapos dumudugo bigla ang mga palad. Medyo bata pa ako nun (wew) pero I really didn’t fall for that publicity stunt. After her fifteen minutes of fame, ayun she went the way of the infamous Judiel Nieva. Tama si Ate Guy all along. Wala talagang himala.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

SEGUNDA MANO (Joyce Bernal, 2011)

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Given all the hyperboles used to promote the movie, here are my thoughts: 1) If this movie were a Prada bag, it would be a cheap knockoff sold in Quiapo, 2) Dingdong Dantes equates intensity with constipation and in full eyes popping mode gives Richard Gutierrez a run for his money, 3) Angelica Panganiban could have been replaced by a blow-up doll and people wouldn’t have noticed, 4) Kris Aquino’s calculated performance reminded me of Merrill Lynch, 5) Second-rate? Not even. This movie makes Dalaw look like The Exorcist.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published March 14, 2012.)

MIDSOMMAR (Ari Aster, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Midsommar:

1. Let me preface this by stating that I would never recommend this film to just about anyone. My high rating wasn’t really a reflection of its overall quality. Rather, it spoke more about the perverse pleasure that I had watching old people’s faces smashed to smithereens or the silly thought that a horny teenage girl used her pubic hair trimmings as a vital ingredient to a love elixir (or better put, organic gayuma that would put all those Quiapo-made ones to shame).

Pretty sure a good number of you might find this misadvertised (?) horror movie reaaaaally slow and excruciatingly boring (even worse, lacking a decent payoff). I should know, I felt the exact same grief with Ari Aster’s feature length debut film Hereditary and its snail-paced two hours (plus knockoff Paranormal Activity 3 ending). You had been properly warned.

2. I mentioned before that Get Out gave me that creepy Shake, Rattle & Roll II: Aswang vibe where Daniel Kaluuya’s character Chris resembled the offering of the month Portia, played by local horror princess Manilyn Reynes. Well this one took it to a whole new level by increasing the number of Portias and cranking up the overall weirdness (and this coming from someone who had seen both versions of Wicker Man).

I had never been this scared of villagers wearing all-white outfits (imagine the boxes of Tide that they consumed!!) and faint, chanting sounds that would never be part of my ASMR nightly playlist. Because of this movie, Sweden definitely dropped to the bottom of my travel checklist, just a little above Slovakia (no thanks to you Hostel!!).

3. There were several moments here that required suspension of disbelief because nobody in their right minds would see a body freefall from a cliff and not run as far away as possible from that crime scene (no, not even if one would win a Pulitzer for Anthropology by writing about that cultish ritual). And who wouldn’t question the type of meat pies that were being served to them, especially one that had a golden pube? (This reminded me again of another Manilyn classic, the Zombies episode of Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang where they got served a special soup filled with hair, nails, and ultimately “MATAAAAAA!!”).

Why didn’t these people ever feel the need to… wait for it, get out?!

4. Still, the most disturbing bits for me were the ones where Dani Gurl (Florence Pugh) suffered from panic attacks caused by the trauma of her bipolar sister killing their entire family (the sight of the sister with that exhaust tube taped around her mouth was the stuff of nightmares).

One of my favorite scenes was this smooth transition of Dani exiting the living room and ending up hyperventilating in the plane’s lavatory (my other favorite was that disorienting upside down shot of the car traversing the country road, reminiscent of Martin Scorsese’s Bringing Out the Dead).

Pugh’s a terrific actress and effortlessly made me feel the pain that she was going through. Seriously, I needed some high-grade Ativan as well to calm me down after her breakdowns. 

(Although I did find it weird that Dani experienced a lot of grisly stuff yet only threw up when she witnessed her “cheating” boyfriend. Iba talaga ang effect ng pag-ibig.)

5. Happy to see The Good Place’s Chidi (William Jackson Harper) playing a variation of his geeky TV persona on the big screen. Wait, he wasn’t too smart in this one pala considering where his character (and leg) ended up.

6. When the one of the elders used the tambyolo to pick out the village’s other 90-year offering, was it a direct reference to Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery?

7. Moral of the story: Always treat your partner right or you might end up drugged inside a hollowed-out bear while burning in a cult’s yellow temple. You had been warned, Gerald Anderson.

Rating: ★★★★☆

ANG DALAWANG MRS. REYES (Jun Lana, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Ang Dalawang Mrs. Reyes:

1. In Netflix’s Grace and Frankie, the titular characters played by Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin were two oldish women that bonded together after the devastating discovery that their husbands were gay (and actually lovers). Although they initially wanted to break them apart, the series became less about their planned revenge and focused more on how they learned to accept the truth. It was a delightful comedy filled with interesting insights regarding the gay community and the people that surrounded them.

The same could be said about this latest offering from Star Cinema. Although it struggled a bit to find the right balance of comedy (went too broad for my taste) and drama (considering its serious themes), it was still a fun watch. By the end of the movie, I really wanted to see more of Lianne (Judy Ann Santos) and Cindy (Angelica Panganiban). Would they still fall for gay men? Would they have a deeper understanding of homosexuality? What if Lianne’s daughter Macy (Andrea Brillantes) came out as a lesbian?

Dear ABS-CBN, please give them the comedy series that they deserve.

2. Juday is Juday is Juday. Whether she was wiggling her newly-refurbished boobies or delivering a hazy rant while heavily-anesthesized, she was a complete hoot and basically nailed every scene that she was in.

In one of the best sequences, she skirted on the question if something happened between them and macho dancer with a heart of gold Steve (Nico Antonio) to which he replied, “Hindi ko po kayo pinagsamantalahan kasi parang tiyahin ko na rin po kayo”. It was already a hilarious moment made funnier when Juday simply quipped, “Gago ka pala eh sana pinagsamantalahan mo na lang kami.”

I was also happy to see that she still had an abundant supply of tears. It wasn’t hard to forgive her character’s vindictiveness since one could clearly see and feel her pain caused by her husband’s deception.

(Because of this reason, I chose to ignore the fact that a top cosmetics executive like her would serve Goldilocks pastries in a classy private event.)

3. On face value, I wouldn’t have thought that Gary (Joross Gamboa) was gay as well. Sure, he fainted upon seeing his wife floating in a pool of blood, but it could just have been hemophobia. Besides, no self-respecting gay person outside of Ru Paul’s back-up dancers would wear his blazer and khaki shorts combo for a yacht cruise.

Fresh from his Deadma Walking stint, it would be easy to assume that Joross was essentially playing the same role so it was a testament to his acting skills that he was able to differentiate Gary from John. He had a scene in Ma Mon Luk where his emotions shifted from guilt to sarcasm (“Gusto keteng sekten, gusto keteng peteyen…”) to regret to optimism in seconds and it was just a terrific performance.

(I had never been to Ma Mon Luk in Quiapo, but I would love to visit that place, if I could get a seat.)

4. For Jeannie Mai, yellow may be the color of joy and celebration, but I really think that it should be pink. I loved the abundance of that color here and every pink item (the envelope with the farewell note, the cat cage of Mimi, the highlighter used by Cindy) made my heart really happy.

5. Speaking of the farewell note, I couldn’t understand the lengthy sequence of Cindy taking an entire day to read what looked like a ten-page letter. Ganun ba sya kabagal magbasa (considering that her husband’s revelation of being gay was clearly on the first page)?

I was reminded of this other movie called Lila where Janine Gutierrez took a year to finish reading a haunted diary. Totoo ba?

6. I guess that was my other concern about this movie. Jun Lana had always been technically proficient in terms of staging his scenes. There was a natural rhythm in them and you would rarely see any abrupt transitions. This had one too many of them that would just end and shift to another unrelated sequence.

When the parents of Felix (JC de Vera) crashed his housewarming party, it ended with a friend (Kim Molina) saying that she was a babaeng bakla. The joke not only fell flat, but ended a scene that needed to be seen. Sadly, it was only mentioned in passing during the next one, the consequences and repercussions of that confrontation never fully discussed.

7. Oh, Mimi was the name of Felix’s cat. I bet all of my Sarah Geronimo autographed CDs that he also had an entire collection of Mariah Carey albums. (And sang Through the Rain in the shower, naturally.)

8. I really thought that Angelica could do this in her sleep, but she just wasn’t given enough funny material to work with. That Catwoman bit wasn’t as hilarious as Maricel Soriano’s in I Will Survive and her constant showdowns with Carmi Martin felt childish and really off-character. She even played second fiddle to Juday when she should have been very much her equal. At least she delivered in that cunnilingus scene that ended with a really silly meow.

9. JC de Vera felt lost in his role and sounded like he was in an elocution contest. Where was the sensitive actor that was so good in Best Partee Ever?

Fortunately, he wasn’t the most annoying character in the movie. I wasn’t sure how Quark Henares ended up with that private investigator role, but he might want to do the exact opposite of Joel Lamangan and stay behind the camera.

10. Juday referring to her boobs as Mara and Clara gave me so much life. Also, her takedown of Winnie the Pooh made me snort Pepsi out of my nostrils (“Pucha sinabi ng bear yun?”).

11. “How can I be homophobic? I have colleagues that are gay. Strong supporter ako ng LGBT community.” Definitely ripe for a teaching moment. But seriously, I wonder how women would really react if they found out that their boyfriends or husbands were gay? How would they cope with the said reality? Friends with the same experiences, time to share.

12. “Kung hindi pechay ko ang problema, anong problema natin?”

“I just don’t see myself growing old with you.”

Saklap. Hay.

13. By the way, pechay was translated as oysters in the subtitles. Was tahong too graphic for our imagination? And since we’re on the topic, after the screening, this group of women started loudly discussing what they would do if they found out that their husbands were gay. One of them said, “Ako, magpapalago ng pechay!”.

Ate, what did that even mean? Still, natakot ako ng slight at the thought of it.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

FOOLISH LOVE (Joel Lamangan, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Foolish Love:

1. I have a lot of single women friends, but thankfully none of them have ever reached the level of desperation of Virginia (Angeline Quinto). After getting dumped by her gay boyfriend and with the end of the world coming soon (read: her 30th birthday), she decided that her eggs had been unfertilized enough and she needed to find a partner by hook or by crook (or in this case, by Facebook). Let me count her kagagahan ways.

2. Together with her very smart friends, they stalked her Sasmoan childhood sweetheart on FB, but never bothered to check his profile picture. Through some miracle, they were able to get the addresses of all the Rey dela Cruzes, especially the half dozen that lived in the Quiapo area. As expected, none of them were the real Rey and they just ended up having their appearances mocked (one was ngongo, the other a midget, and the rest were just your local tambays sa kanto).

Everyone knows that the most logical thing to do was to go back to Pampanga and ask his relatives for any information on his whereabouts, but I guess the cute search was a must in the rom-com formula.

3. When her plan failed, Virginia (wink, wink) decided to visit her mother and while on a bus, met this handsome stranger (EJ Falcon) that she just couldn’t resist flirting with. Nagpaakbay agad si gaga even if it was so obvious that he was a thief. I think she immediately fell in love with him after this conversation:

“Ang galing ng moment na ‘to. Ikaw si Virgie, ako si Vhal. V ka. V ako. Ang galing no?”

4. After all these mishaps, she decided that the best thing to do was to enter the convent and become a nun. I wasn’t surprised because she was very religious. In one scene, she was being eaten by “Rey” (Jake Cuenca) and the camera focused on her delirious face while she was screaming “Thank you Lord!”.

By the way, she met “Rey” while he was sitting on a bench wearing a hoodie under the pouring rain. She asked this stranger to enter her house with the reason “Masyado syang gwapo para maging magnanakaw.” Yup, some women never learn.

5. I wasn’t sure why they forced Angeline to deliver some lines in English (“I was like a timebomb. Tik tak tik tak!”), but I guess it was part of the movie’s weird humor. I mean Vangie Labalan’s face was plastered on a beauty soap for crying out loud.

I’m still crossing my fingers for that Angeline Quinto-Maja Salvador comedy where they both play John Robert Powers instructors.

6. The ToMiho loveteam had a chunk of the screen time even if they couldn’t act to save their lives. I was close to throwing up every time they called each other Leading Man and Leading Lady (ironically, in a movie where they were playing support).

The only decent performance here was from Cai Cortez. I bet she would have made a great leading lady.

7. In one scene, Virginia apologized to “Rey” for offering 3-in-1 coffee. He replied with “Hindi ko nga alam bakit ang iba nagbabayad ng mahal para sa kape.” Aba walang pakialamanan! Ikaw nga nagpapaulan sa bench na naka-hoodie!!

8. In a bizarre last act twist, the movie turned into 50 Shades of Grey with all the sado-masochism, including a strangulation sex scene. Huwat?!

9. At this point, I really shouldn’t be surprised anymore. The movie was already as dumb and as desperate as its lead character. Fittingly enough, it ended with this crazy scene with a pregnant Virginia running around in a cemetery. Dead.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

THE UNMARRIED WIFE (Maryo J. Delos Reyes, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Unmarried Wife:

1. I had an overwhelming sense of deja vu while watching this newest kabit movie from Star Cinema. Hmm, a non-linear narrative written by Vanessa Valdez and directed by Maryo J. Delos Reyes where Angelica Panganiban played a scorned wife trying to win her husband back. Oh, it was 2007’s A Love Story! Only without a plot twist to support the chosen style.

Well, that movie was a box office hit so they probably wanted to employ the same technique and replicate the same commercial success. Or maybe the non-chronological events would distract the audience from the fact that this wasn’t any different from the normal kabitserye on Primetime Bida.

2. Angelica played Anne, a group director for the feminine hygiene division in an advertising agency. Her smart pitch for a sanitary napkin involved a recollection of the best days with her father with the slogan “I’m an Always Free girl because of my dad”. I wish this were an actual commercial because it would definitely crack me up and send me good vibes every time I would see it on TV.

As with any successful career woman in the Star Cinema universe, she was instantly cursed to have a troubled family life. Being accomplished at work apparently meant that she neglected her wife and mother duties at home. The lack of kitchen counter sex was reason enough for her husband Geoff (Dingdong Dantes) to cheat on her. Obviously, Geoff wasn’t an Always Free dad.

3. In one hilariously terrible scene, Anne was caught leaving early by her boss and the exact reason she gave was, “I’m the only wife of my husband. He is not just my husband, he is my life.” Her early out was approved.

4. When Paulo Avelino showed up as the third party Bryan, he was so white that I expected him to sparkle when he took his shirt off. I bet Anne could have made a killer slogan with that one (“Fresh Funda, para sa kutis Twilight”).

5. It was really hard to take the movie seriously when it was peppered with these lines that wanted to one-up the Quiapo dialogue in No Other Woman:

• “Mabuti pa ang mga isda hindi kelangan makipagkiskisan sa mga asawa.”

• “Ang itlog kapag hindi nalilimliman ay nabubulok. Ang pechay kapag hindi nadidiligan ay nalalanta.”

• “Ano ba ang sorry sa’yo? Isang lisensya para paulit-ulit mo akong lokohin at gaguhin?”

• “Wag mo akong gawing parausan kasi mawawalan ng silbi ang kabit mo!”

6. But wait, there’s more! As expected, there was a confrontation slash showdown with an equally-bitchy mistress played by Maricar Reyes. Women, you might want to write these down for future reference:

• “Akala ko naliligaw lang ako. Bakit andito ka sa Quezon City eh mas bagay ka sa Makati?”

• “Ayoko mahawa sa kadumihan mo. Wala akong dalang panglinis.”

• “Can you not fuck my husband?” (“Wag mo ‘kong ma-Terry-Terry!!”)

All of these lines were delivered with flared nostrils and in full nanlilisik ang mga mata mode. Madam Claudia Buenavista, isdatchu?

7. To be fair, there was a good story here somewhere. I have always wondered why women stay in abusive relationships for the sake of marriage or their kids (“When our men are weak, we have to be stronger”). Also, why do we always have this fantasy that cheaters will change their ways and that love will always lead them back to us? Why does our local justice system seem to heavily work in favor of men? Why does society still have this double standard in terms of cheating husbands vs cheating wives (not that they’re justifiable)?

If only the movie tried to explore these concepts further instead of reveling in the usual soap opera tropes.

8. Most of the performances here were okay so it was a welcome treat to see Mart Escudero (as the typical gay assistant) delivering the most crowd-pleasing line, “I don’t want your life Ma’m. Ayoko maging katulad n’yo na ginagawa kaming punching bag sa mga hanash n’yo sa buhay”, sabay walk-out. Also, Denise Laurel in Shakira extensions. Enough said.

9. At least the movie followed the general rule in ’90s melodrama: Lahat ng pwedeng mabasag, dapat mabasag. Goodbye kitchenware! So long wine bottle! You will be missed windshield!!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆