THE VOW (Michael Sucsy, 2012)

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I am happy and in love.

With that said, I didn’t fall one bit for this sickly-sweet love story that will surely melt hearts this Valentine season. As soon as the words “inspired by a true story” appeared onscreen, I knew what I was in for.

There were so many unbelievable clichés thrown in that you’d completely understand why they had to start with that disclaimer.

Channing Tatum may have looked the romantic lead part but he was definitely not equipped to play it (and no, gratuitous nudity doesn’t fall under the “equipped” part).

There were some good moments in there but very much like a fling, most of the film was completely forgettable.

In the scale of romantic movies, this one was closer to the execrable Dear John than the uber-cheesy but more heartfelt The Notebook.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published February 14, 2012.)

GAME NIGHT (John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Game Night:

1. One of my all-time favorite episodes of Friends was The One With the Embryos where the gang played a heated, high stakes game of (personal) Trivia. Not only did I learn a lot about each of them (Monica was nicknamed Big Fat Goalie in field hockey, Chandler was scared of Michael Flatley, Lord of the Dance, Rachel’s favorite movie was actually Weekend at Bernie’s and not Dangerous Liaisons, Joey had an imaginary childhood friend called Maurice), but it also culminated in the most hilarious moment in the show’s history that reduced me to tears every time I would watch it.

In the said scene, the girls were stumped on the question regarding Chandler’s job. In a desperate attempt for an answer, Rachel shouted, “He’s a transponster!” that prompted Monica to scream, “That’s not even a word!”. It was succeeded with a huge howl of “Noooooooooo!!” when she realized that they just lost and had to give up their gorgeous apartment. (I seriously couldn’t stop laughing while writing this at the thought of Courteney Cox’s face.)

I could easily relate to Monica because I would get really competitive during any of these team party games (Charades, Pictionary, Scrabble, Hangman, Trivial Pursuit, Pinoy Henyo, even that Dribble Dribble Dribble balloon game in a Jollibee Kiddie Party, you name it). It wasn’t even about the prize, just the pure sense of false satisfaction I’d get knowing that I was better than someone on something. (Forgive me, I had really low self-esteem and needed constant validation.)

I was actually happy with the resurgence of these niche stores that provided the option of puzzles and board games as an alternative source of entertainment on a lazy Saturday night. Now if I could just find some really good challengers out there. (Yabang haha!)

2. The opening credits of this film alone was the ultimate 90’s nerd fantasy. Tokens from different games like Monopoly and Cluedo were floating around as if part of a geek’s hazy wet dream. You could laugh all you want, but only a few would understand the incredible happiness brought about by owning several red hotels on Boardwalk and Park Place.

3. I had always imagined Rachel McAdams as the iconic (and airhead) Regina George so it felt a bit weird to see her play somebody relatively smart for a change. Simply put, she was fantastic as Annie with her best bit involving an awkward shimmy to Third Eye Blind’s Semi-Charmed Life while she dorkily waved a loaded gun in front of some real thugs (and even took a selfie with the gun’s muzzle in her mouth). The humor stemmed from her character thinking that everything was still part of a game and the more clueless she was, the funnier the situation got.

Her energy here was matched by the usually sardonic Jason Bateman as Max, whose deadpan stares could mine laughs even in petty discussions about Tostitos Scoops.

Among the competent cast though, my favorite was Jesse Plemons whose neighbor Gary looked like a creepy version of Matt Damon by way of Phillip Seymour Hoffman. I really couldn’t understand why his seemingly sympathetic character was no longer invited in these game nights until he actually drew a picture of himself crying to represent The Green Mile. No, no, no. He would definitely not be part of my team.

4. I liked the go-for-broke silliness of the film, but I wish it was able to sustain its comedic rhythm all-throughout. It just needed more genius scenes like the one where Annie tried to remove a bullet from Max’s arm and ended up tapping on his bone before she realized that there was actually an exit wound.

I also enjoyed the mockery of action films when the glass tables here never really broke regardless of the number of bodies that crashed into them. The entire one-take egg chase around the mansion looked impressive, but just didn’t have the right energy to match earlier shenanigans.

5. Fake Denzel Washington was a great payoff to a running celebrity gag, but I laughed harder when the group was able to enumerate all of the actors that played The Hulk, except for Edward Norton. You could barely remember him in this role as well, right? The Incredible Hulk was actually the second film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and was directed by Louis Leterrier. His commercial debut film? The Transporter. (Nope, still not Chandler’s job.)

Rating: ★★★☆☆

WOKE UP LIKE THIS (Joel Ferrer, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Woke Up Like This:

1. Aside from superhuman strength and the ability to time travel, one of my favorite fantasies was to swap bodies with a (popular) celebrity. I mean, who wouldn’t want to wake up looking like, say, Benjamin Alves? I’d have instant abs without having to cut down on that extra rice. Plus, I really wanted to know how it’d feel like to be ogled at while window shopping in SM Southmall.

Of course a part of that fantasy didn’t involve kissing my twin sister Julie Ann San Jose, because my life really wasn’t an episode of Game of Thrones.

2. I had seen one too many films that dealt with body swapping and this movie directly lifted scenes from most of them.

• Rob Schneider waking up in a silk lingerie and discovering in the bathroom that he lost his bigalow (and fainting afterwards)? Check.

• Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan trying to bump into each other hoping to shake up their souls enough to make them return to their original bodies? Check.

• Athlete Kevin Zegers acting really funny in a game since his body was inhabited by a girl? Check.

• Mean girl Rachel McAdams trying to stop making an expression happen? Check. (Wait, this wasn’t even a body swap movie. Oh well. They even had a scene where the villains were run over by a speeding vehicle. So not fetch.)

The blatant laziness would have been more forgivable if the copied scenes were actually funny, but they just weren’t (unless you find Vhong Navarro as Nando accidentally drinking his own urine hilarious).

3. Most of the jokes here felt really dated, like they came out of late 90’s Regal-early 00’s Star Cinema comedies. It had scenes where family members would always grab the food that Nando was supposed to eat (bakit kasi ayaw nya agad kagatin ang pandesal?), or to fool another character from receiving a kiss, he would point somewhere and say, “Uy, si John Lloyd!”, sabay takbo. And if it wasn’t obvious enough, his bff was Bayani Agbayani, doing the exact same schtick he had been doing since his Otso-Otso days when he would cry and whine like a modern day Bondying.

4. Suspension of disbelief would be a must in this type of comedy, but this one really pushed it to the limit. Family members and friends simply brushed off the apparent gender switch. Nando and Sabrina (Lovi Poe) went on with their normal lives in different bodies. And so we were treated to a makeover montage with Vhong donning different women’s clothes and having his ass crack waxed for a casting call. What?!

This type of craziness would have worked if the characterizations were at least consistent. In one scene, Lovi was taking a dump and Vhong asked, “May tubol?” (there’s absolutely no way that the posh Sabrina would say or even know something like that). In another, Vhong joined a beauty contest and couldn’t walk properly in heels (even in a man’s body, Sabrina would have rocked that runway).

If anything, at least Lovi was really game and felt more committed to her role, whether she was doing Babalu impressions or merely scratching her crotch.

5. Should I blame Serbis for the proliferation of these juvenile exploding pigsa jokes of late? Definitely swearing off anything cream-filled.

6. Too many corny extras in annoying roles. The OA yaya, the basketball commentator with his sock puppet, even the usually campy Dionne Monsanto was just trying way too hard.

7. Another mannequin challenge?! Eek!

8. To quote one of the characters: “Wag mo nga sabihin tae. Sabihin mo poo poo.” Ok, poo poo.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆