THIRD EYE (Aloy Adlawan, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Third Eye:

1. Where did Regal Films get these extras? The acting in the first five minutes was just horrendous! I hope that wasn’t the only scary thing here.

2. You know that somebody else dubbed for Ejay Falcon since he spoke fluent English.

3. The lead character with the third eye played an opthalmologist. With a cheap painted office signage.

4. Girl, you actually wore a lacy frock paired with a gypsy skirt. Don’t act surprised that your husband left you!!

5. Palmolive should give Carla Abellana a bonus. She was haggard from all the running, but her hair maintained that perfectly bagsak look.

6. It was broad daylight. Wasn’t it too early for the aswangs to be wearing Mena cream?

7. Carla decided to fight back and returned to the aswang village carrying a… golf club!! I hope that was a 9-iron.

8. The aswangs had proper dining etiquette. They placed the laman-loob first in a bowl before making papak. Emily Post would be proud.

9. An entire village had to use a battering ram to break open a puny wooden door. Even if the house had a lot of open windows. LOL!

10. Poor Alex Medina. He was so good in Babagwa and he was just wasted in this crapfest.

11. Wait, if this was an aswang movie, why was it called Third Eye?!

12. Blind.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published February 28, 2014.)

S6PARADOS (GB Sampedro, 2014)

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I started #CinemalayaX with a disappointment and it was only fitting to end it with a clunker.

GB Sampedro’s S6parados was like a bad compilation of Regal movies stitched together for no reason. Or an extended Erik Santos music video.

At least we know that Joel Lamangan just might be a better actor than director.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published August 7, 2014.)

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: ★☆☆☆☆

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: ★★☆☆☆

MANO PO 7: CHINOY (Ian Loreños, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Mano Po 7: Chinoy:

1. ‪I learned two Chinese words in college that would appropriately describe my viewing experience of this movie. Yes, both are nasty curse words.

I suddenly missed the glory days of Regal Films when it rightfully earned that crown in its bright red “R” logo (shown in their ’90s OBB that resembled a horror movie) and it wasn’t reliant on a tired franchise that just seemed to get worse with every new sequel. Seriously, the Mano Po series would be no different from an inaamag na tikoy.‬

2. I had high hopes for this one since Ian Loreños directed one of my favorite films of 2012, the father-son drama slash human trafficking cautionary tale Alagwa. I remember sobbing hysterically by the end of that movie and taking a mental note that I would never leave any child unattended ever. It was that powerful. I wondered what happened with this one. The only reason I could think of was that it was rushed to ensure a slot in the MMFF. Such a waste of talent.

3. For a Chinoy movie, there was nothing distinctly Chinoy about the problems of this family. The stories here could very well have been another family drama with all-Pinoy characters directed by Laurice Guillen.

It was a disaster from the moment Enchong Dee (as the black sheep) made a grand entrance in his parents’ 25th anniversary party. That scene was no different from the first Mano Po with Ara Mina disrupting the engagement party of sister Maricel Soriano by showing up in a backless dress with the cut dropping all the way to her butt crack (that’s how you do it, Enchong).

4. Good news: At least we didn’t get actors donning exaggerated chinky eyes and speaking in weird Chinoy accents that bordered on being racist.

Bad news: Except for the veteran greats like Jean Garcia (looking very much like the lovely Michelle Yeoh) and Eric Quizon (such an underrated actor), the rest of the Chinoy cast seemed to have been chosen because they looked the part even if they couldn’t act the part.

The worst offender was Sir Chief Richard Yap who only displayed two types of emotions in the entire movie: furious with matching nanlilisik na mata and shocked with matching nanlilisik na mata. He displayed more range playing the chef in that Chowking commercial.

5. Rose Po Que? Really? Didn’t these Chinese name jokes peak during the Bubble Gang era?

6. Sir Chief’s character was supposed to be cold and uptight because he had a damaged childhood. His mother was so strict that she wouldn’t let him play in the street with the other kids. In effect, he wouldn’t let his wife join him in bed without cleaning up first after a long day at work. But wait, wasn’t that the first rule of hygiene regardless?

7. Several scenes were spent on the rehab love story between Enchong and Jessy Mendiola (who probably watched Girl, Interrupted several times before taking on the role) but it really had no weight on the story, except to assert his masculinity and dismiss all the gay rumors.

8. I would probably go crazy the next time I see a board meeting where somebody would be presenting a pitch like “The higher the risk, the higher the reward” and everyone would be nodding their heads and smiling like it was Confucius talking and they were just blessed with his wisdom.

9. You knew immediately that Jake Cuenca’s character would be a villain because he looked so sleazy in a man bun. Besides, why would a customer like him confide to a Miladay jeweller like Jean after his fiancee broke up with him? Sabagay, kapag malungkot din ako ang unang tinatawagan ko ay ang alahera ng nanay ko.

10. I wouldn’t have been too harsh on this movie if there weren’t so many groan-worthy scenes (Enchong running after his father’s car while saying “Papa!”, Jake’s breakdown scene in the car, Enchong wailing in a van with an overdosed Jessy, “Gumising ka! Lumaban ka naman oh! Waaaah!”, Janella Salvador hugging Jean from behind and saying “Mama, don’t go!”, Marlo Mortel punching a maniac professor while screaming “We will report you and sue you for harassment!!”, and Sir Chief asking his estranged wife to dance as a gift to his daughter). Very much like airplanes, cinema seats should be equipped with barf bags, no?

11. In one scene, Sir Chief was jogging around Nuvali. He suddenly stopped and bent over and I really thought for a moment that it would turn out to be an ad for Flanax (he ended up having a Ventosa).

12. Bakit wala yun bunso sa Taiwan family trip? Kinulang sa budget?

13. Two hours and the movie still didn’t want to end. Siao siao!!

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

I LOVE YOU TO DEATH (Miko Livelo, 2016)u

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My notes on I Love You To Death:

1. As soon as Janice de Belen showed up on screen as Kiray Celis’ mother, all I could think of was the popular 80’s catchphrase (“Oh my god! Ang anak ni Janice!!”) that was used in the trailer of Regal Films’ cult classic Tiyanak and spawned the flop sequel Anak ni Janice.

Whether this was intentional or not, the movie’s best moments involved the running joke of her character’s brutal honesty towards her daughter’s physical appearance. She was the type of mom that would scream “Wag mo nga akong ginugulat anak!” upon seeing Kiray’s I-woke-up-like-this face or would recommend to fix her daughter’s bridal look by covering her face with a veil.

2. This brand of comedy harkens back to the early 90’s Rene Requiestas Pido Dida/Cheeta-eh era that I wasn’t surprised when his lookalike actually showed up. It made me miss this type of humor, especially in this day and age of political correctness. One simple punchline in his movies (say Michael and Madonna) would be Rene smiling and showing his missing teeth and it would be okay for people to laugh (“Ay bungi! Hahaha!”). If you’d do that now, a group of keyboard warriors would demand respect for dentally-challenged people while a group of activists burned effigies of the President protesting the lack of funds for dentures and the proliferation of lowbrow comedy in local cinema. How times have changed.

3. The biggest problem of this movie was that there really wasn’t a lot going for it aside from making fun of Kiray’s looks. It shouldn’t be a surprise given that the movie’s supposed highlight extensively used in promotions was the kissing scene between her and Enchong Dee (wait, was it supposed to be icky because of her looks or because of his…never mind).

This reminded so much of Joe Dante’s Burying the Ex, another awful dark comedy about a spurned lover that rose from the dead to seek revenge. Even with torn limbs and blood spurting onscreen, it didn’t have much of a story either.

4. I didn’t bother taking note of the young supporting cast’s names because I hadn’t seen this much bad acting since the last season of Pinoy Big Brother: Teen Edition. I had so much fun seeing them get killed one by one because it would just mean one less irritating person to watch. Besides, I wasn’t even sure why Kiray was friends with them when they would openly mock her appearance and blatantly wish for her character’s harm (was it because she only owned one orange Prada bag that she used every single time, regardless if it clashed with her outfit?).

5. Burning questions:

• What bowling alley would allow kids to wear Jimmy Choo heels?

• What was up with Enchong’s hair? His short bangs reminded me of that scene in Dumb and Dumber when Jim Carrey placed a bowl over his head before getting a haircut.

• Why did these kids never grieve for their dead friends? After one of them got murdered in school, the next scene showed the gang in a salon. I guess the best way to really move on would be to get a Brazilian blowout and a mani-pedi. Yet in another scene, they were shown mourning…in a club.

6. Speaking of club, this was a Regal movie so I wasn’t surprised that there was an extended dance-off sequence. I should just be thankful that it wasn’t at a beach.

7. I never really understood the “mukha kang pantasa” joke, especially when the woman looked more like an eraser. And that #deathbypencil scene reeked too much of Zoolander 2.

8. Two obvious signs that their wedding was doomed: 1) she had her engagement ring on her middle finger, 2) her wedding gown had a sheer skirt that showed her boy shorts underneath.

9. In one scene, Kiray was kidnapped by her friends and had a sack thrown over her head. After it was removed, there were rice grains stuck on her face that made her complain, “Di nyo man lang tinanggal ang bigas sa sako!”. It was one of the few effortlessly funny gags that worked in this movie. I wish there were so much more because after this and Love is Blind, Kiray definitely deserved much better.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE (Dan Villegas, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Always Be My Maybe:

1. This has been really bugging me ever since I heard the title: does it also remind you of Ate Mariah with a really clogged nose?

2. Even if I’m a Dan Villegas groupie (I liked all of the previous films that he directed), I was honestly prepared to hate this one simply because of my bias against Gerald Anderson. My Bebe Idol may have already moved on from her heartbreak, but I still haven’t forgiven the guy for his (supposed) philandering.

To be fair (to me), he was always the weakest link in good movies, like On the Job. I went inside the theater in full “Matitikman niya ang batas ng isang API!!” mode, already coming up with the best possible potshots. Boy, was I in for a surprise! As the dashing dumped gentleman named Jake, he was actually really good here (a huge improvement from his work in Everyday I Love You where he couldn’t even act as a guy in a coma). Titig pa lang niya matutunaw ka na. (Excuse me while I cry in a fetal position).

3. The film itself was a straightforward, light-hearted (real meaning of) romantic-comedy without a lot of cliched external conflicts. The lovebirds fell in love, they realized their true selves (one’s egotistic and the other one’s krungy, both with trust issues), and they tried to make the relationship work. There were no real third parties (hello, Gerald’s ex was a complete tuod), no typical family problems (dealing with class differences or sick parents), no career issues, etc. Everything just revolved around the “do these two people deserve each other” premise (or as one friend pointed out, “Ang simple lang ng problema nyo”). It was actually refreshing given the hugot-driven formula recently required by the genre.

4. All of the hugots were done for laughs by the wonderful Arci Munoz (as the crazy in love make-up artist Tintin) in her YouTube tutorials. Yes, she played a gorgeous MUA and we all know for a fact that most of them do look better than their celebrity clients.

Arci was scorching hot that I swear several gay men immediately forgot their Rebel Heart Tour experience as soon as she appeared onscreen. She had that beautiful alta look with a palengkera mouth (raise your hand if you suddenly thought of Marian Rivera) and matching babaeng bakla personality (as if her unicorn doll wasn’t enough of a giveaway). Also, best ASG look ever. Popoy, you were such an idiot for letting her go.

5. My favorite tip for single people on a first date: “Surface lang. Huwag mo muna ikwento yung MMK life mo.”

6. I was a bit confused when Jake showed his IG page to Tintin and his last picture with his ex showed “12 weeks ago” when he actually got dumped 6 months prior. Was that a relapse move or just a technical error?

Speaking of social media, is it true that girls are more likely to block and delete past relationships? Hey, I do that all the time!! Uhm…

7. Best use of Aegis’ Halik in a movie ever. Perfect timing. I cried laughing.

8. Tintin had an amazing set of friends in Esang (Kakai Bautista) and Andre (Ricci Chan). Kakai, as expected, was a perennial scene-stealer (best out of the blue line: “Ang dami mong utos, may patago ka?”, second best bit: the entire Wag Tularan si Tintin monologue) and Ricci has perfected the sensible gay best friend role. With friends like them, who needs a lovelife?

9. For a change, the lovers were not eating pares (if you’re a Jadaone/Villegas fanatic, you’d understand this one).

10. Shaira Luna may be a professional photographer now but she would always be the gifted Promil kid to me. Weirdly enough, I could barely recall her spiel about the human anatomy, but I always associated her with “The sun is the center of the solar system, moving around it are the planets” which was said by a different Promil kid. (FYI, I have always blamed my mom for letting me drink Nido instead of Promil and not ending up as the next Doogie Howser.)

11. I really liked the sensual photoshoot scene. Everything that Tintin said came out unintentionally funny (“Can you unzip me?”, “Anong gusto mo gawin ko?”) that if this were a Regal movie, she would definitely be removing a magic kamison.

12. Admit it, you’ve also done the wrong send technique. And when truly desperate, you would have resorted to a wrong dial as well.

13. Single friends, listen to Tintin. Always be “confidently beautiful with a wais heart”. Huwag laging hopia mani popcorn cough syrup expectorant. Char!!

Rating: ★★★★☆