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: ★★★☆☆

THE DEBUTANTES (Prime Cruz, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Debutantes:

1. I still haven’t forgotten about the clunky twist of last week’s Last Night and now we get another movie that hinged on the big reveal of an ‘imaginary’ being. Are our writers running out of original ideas to surprise the audience?

It probably would have been more acceptable if the said twist wasn’t so obvious the moment you see young Jona Soquite (or at least who I thought was her). Seriously, why would ‘siblings’ with a huge age gap have that twinning kind of severe BANGS (yes, nagsusumigaw) anyway? The only mystery left was whether she was the evil side of Carrie, er, Kate (a competent Sue Ramirez), or a completely different entity altogether (answer: sadly, the latter).

2. I had this discussion recently with a filmmaker friend on the lack of creative main titles in recent films (especially Star Cinema ones). We would usually see the same old cast names in red (or white) Times New Roman or Comic Sans fonts that clearly revealed the lack of originality or how much the final product was rushed.

One good thing about this movie was that it had a good opening credit sequence with blood flowing/dripping endlessly on various objects like a flower (cattleya?) or on the lips that would figure prominently later on. Reminded me so much of the Emmy-winning design for Six Feet Under.

3. Although the bullying and the public humiliation reminded me of Carrie, the similarity ended there because it was hard not to sympathize with the Mean Girls when this was obviously not an outright revenge flick. How could I cheer for the eventual deaths of young, irritating girls when Kate wasn’t the one doing the killings?

I never really rooted for a maligno, except for this one time when the Undin hid in the toilet bowl and preyed on the loudmouth landlady played by Vangie Labalan.

4. Speaking of Mean Girls, I couldn’t get why Ivy Aguas wannabe Jenny (Jane de Leon) was considered the Queen Bee. She didn’t look or speak the part and Michelle Vito as Candice had more of the Regina George vibe (although the latter was also a terrible actress so maybe that was the reason?).

To be fair, the Jenny character was a hoot. I laughed out loud when she said, “Hey guys, as you all know it’s my birthday. Yeeeees! Happy birthday to meeeee!!”.

5. I also couldn’t understand how Miles Ocampo ended up with this group of bitches considering that her Lara character seemed like the typical goody two-shoes. Sure, she lived alone in a humongous house and had an annoying fringed bag that screamed social climber, but her personality just didn’t seem to fit with the group. Was it because she was too dumb to know the difference between Geometry and Calculus and the group needed a budget Karen Smith?

6. Why would Kate agree to wear a revealing halter top when she had visible scratch marks on her back? Also, why didn’t she even bother to check how loose those strings were prior to attending a party full of privileged brats?

In this day and age of social media prominence, who would still post a public status of them embarrassing other people? Have these kids already forgotten about Ate Amalayer, or the Kuya that threw a hissy fit in Alfamart and got knocked down by a loaf of Gardenia, or the Sisteret that wanted to hog all the chairs in Starbucks? A documented case of bullying sounded like an instant lawsuit to me.

7. This was a Prime Cruz movie so of course it looked good. I really loved the use of saturated colors and I hope that it wasn’t just a product of SM Cinemas’ poor projection. I kinda missed his cool soundtrack though and the songs were mostly utilized during the end credits.

8. I really don’t get how these onscreen characters would cut their own hair and they’d always end up with salon gorgeous looks after. If I were to handle my own haircut, my mother would most probably ask if I recently had ‘tipus’ (uhm, thyphoid fever).

9. Why would a traumatized Kate immediately attend the wake of one of her bullies? Was it because we needed a scare scene involving a coffin? And why was Candice wearing a stylish cover-up and pekpek shorts there? Jenny should really have risen from the dead and slapped her silly for stealing the limelight (and for lack of respect, naturally).

10. Most of the horror elements were familiar tropes (they basically replaced the hair braid coming out of Naomi Watts’ throat in The Ring with a necklace; the jump scene when somebody would open a fridge and a person would be standing behind it was used twice, the other with a locker; the setup where the ghost would pull on the blanket of a sleeping person looked straight out of The Conjuring) and even impressive scenes like when the engkanto came out of Kate’s mouth looked similar to the one in The Possession (or one of the Ouija movies). I spent most of the time chuckling at how bad the death scenes were staged.

11. That was one dirty toilet bowl. Candice, please ask your maid to check the Coke hack on Facebook pronto.

12. This was the type of horror movie where a person in a pool would see the moo moo and decide to swim to the other side instead of getting her ass out of the water and fleeing for dear life. Congratulations Shayne (Chanel Morales) for winning this month’s Darwin Award!!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

RESIDENT EVIL: THE FINAL CHAPTER (Paul W.S. Anderson, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Resident Evil: The Final Chapter:

1. When a movie promised to be the final chapter and still ended with a scene that was a complete set-up for another sequel, it wouldn’t be any different from opening a box of KFC with a measly original recipe leg part even if the store specifically agreed to deliver a hot and crispy breast part.

I would never ever be fooled in watching another entry from this trashy series again. (I’d still order from KFC though, because well, KFC.)

2. Since this was supposedly the final chapter, it started with a recap of the events from the first 20 movies with another explanation on why the T-virus was created. Apparently, mankind should be grateful because it served as a cure for progeria (a condition that worked like a reverse Benjamin Button).

I then remembered watching this documentary about a girl named Ashley who had the same sickness and I felt bad that there wasn’t a real T-virus (or zombies, for that matter).

3. Speaking of, the initial zombie attack here happened inside a cable car and I thought that it would take the 28 Weeks Later route (hey, the videogames had always been about getting the crap scared out of you in a zombie apocalypse). Unfortunately, it decided to be the next Matrix and focused on Alice’s revenge and subsequent infiltration of the labyrinthine The Hive.

4. Perennial Golden Raspberry nominee Milla Jovovich summoned the spirit of Keanu Reeves (or probably Kristen Stewart, in one of her good moods) and thankfully wasn’t required to do much except shoot her gun and look cool on a motorcycle.

5. A lot of the nifty action sequences were rehashed supposedly as an homage to the previous chapters, only they weren’t as effective (I was happy to see that they brought back the moving laser beams but I wanted to see more than just fingers getting sliced off).

Besides, with all the flash cuts, dim lighting, and nauseating editing, it was just too hard to decipher whatever action was happening onscreen.

6. In one scene, several rounds of machine gun ammo and heat missiles were fired, but none of them even came close to hitting our heroine. Cue Invincible by Kelly Clarkson.

7. “The trinity of bitches united in hatred.” Also known as Regina George, Gretchen Wieners, and Karen Smith.

8. Although a bit contrived, it was interesting to see the two POVs determining the success rates of different options (choice of weapons: ice pick, decanter, phantom pen). I actually wished that there was an app that worked the exact same way.

Dear app, what food could fully satisfy my midnight cravings?

• McDonald’s 2 pcs. Mushroom Pepper Steak Meal (68%)

• Jollibee Chicken and Spaghetti Meal (82%)

• KFC Fully Loaded Meal (91%).

I really hope they would get my order right this time.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

HAUNTED MANSION (Jun Lana, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Haunted Mansion:

1. I could have easily written the first fifteen minutes of this movie. It involved a kid searching a (spoiler alert!!) haunted mansion saying different variations of the word “mom”. “Mom? Mom? Mooom? Mom! Mom!! Mooommm!! Mom, mom, mom!!” Instead a mumu appeared and ate him.

2. The best friend character played by Sharlene San Pedro apparently lost her cellphone in the canteen so she nonchalantly walked back to that area. She must have had a Nokia 3310 as well. I remember when I left the same unit in a restaurant and ten minutes later, it was still sitting untouched on the table. I guess possible thieves saw my precious phone more as a liability.

3. Janella Salvador’s character had a third eye so she was approached by dead people everywhere. Forget the mansion, it was haunted wherever she went. Haunted Everywhere would have been more original than anything in this movie.

4. I audibly gasped when I saw Lilet appear onscreen as Janella’s mom. I will forever remember her as the iconic manyika that came to life opposite Herbert Bautista in Pik Pak Boom. (If you know that one, then cheers to a life well-spent.)

5. One of the mean girls in school (who will never be Regina George) gave Janella a box of chocolates with live cockroaches in lieu of actual chocolates. The fact that she didn’t notice the movements of the critters inside the box made me question her senses (sixth or otherwise).

6. I was appalled by the general lack of rules in the school here. One male student had an eyebrow piercing, most of the girls wore skimpy shorts, the faculty even extended the stay of several students in the haunted mansion as a form of punishment. Actually I shouldn’t be surprised because this same school thought that a haunted mansion with a next-door private cemetery would be the perfect place for a retreat.

7. Jun Lana directed the excellent Bwakaw so I wasn’t sure why he was channelling Dementia with the same cheap scares and loud banging noises.

8. An hour into the movie and not one of the lame young actors had been killed yet. Instead we saw the talented ones like LJ Reyes, Joem Bascon, and Iza Calzado get hanged, burned to ashes, or died of boredom (oh wait, that was me).

9. I always sympathize with any movie character that has asthma or uses an inhaler. In this movie, it was the Horror Royalty Janice de Belen. Unfortunately, she had a thankless role where she was asked to say inane lines. When several people started getting killed, her word of advice while looking at the corpses was, “Ang magagawa natin ay ipagdasal na lang sila.” Girl, you cray!!

10. In a movie populated by dim-witted characters that hide under a table to flee a shrieking ghost, I wasn’t surprised that the ghost itself was stupid. It initially got killed by a flaming cross and you’d expect that it would have learned its lesson to stay away from an altar but no, the story flashed three months forward and it still went near an altar and eventually got killed by a rosary.

11. Here’s my favorite scene:

Janella ran to the corpse of her very dead friend Faye and screamed, “Faye, anong nangyari??”

At that point, I laughed so hard that my appendix shot out of my ass, bounced on the theater wall, and knocked the usher unconscious until the end credits.

He was actually the lucky one.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆