CLASS OF 2018 (Charliebebs Gohetia, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Class of 2018:

1. Seeing the Goin’ Bulilit slash Star Circle Quest kids all grown up in a reunion movie made me feel so much older. I was part of the Class of ‘97 and every year we were tasked to stage these plays for the batch competition (a prison drama called Condemned, a reinterpretation of Florante at Laura, and excerpts from Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo). I was greatly reminded of them while watching this movie (para kasi siyang high school production na lahat ng students sa class pinilit ni Ma’m na sumali kahit konti lang talaga sa kanila ang marunong umarte; sadly, mukhang row 4 sa acting workshops ang mga ‘to).

2. As soon as “February 1986” was flashed onscreen, I knew that this genre mash-up would try to be politically-relevant. Characters spouted platitudes like “Basta galing sa taas ang utos, sinusunod n’yo na lang kahit walang dahilan” or familiar quotable quotes like “I invoke my right to self-incrimination”, anti-fascism messages were spray-painted on the walls, and the biggest reveal in the end was that Sharlene San Pedro (Ada) actually played Jover Laurio.

3. So Ada maintained a blog called The Dark Side of Things where she posted school chismis and blind items (wait, shouldn’t she be Fashion Pulis instead?) complete with pictures of creepy clay dolls that she made for each of her subjects. It was very much like an online Burn Book for public consumption.

Ada probably should have spent less time in front of the computer because I noticed that she was using the extra large fonts on her cellphone. Also, she was lactose-intolerant and therefore hated pastillas. We wouldn’t be friends in high school.

Side note: If there was one thing that I liked here, it was the opening credits with the vandalized yearbook-type photos.

4. Fe GingGing Hyde won an Urian Best Actress award in 2011 for Sheika. As the terror teacher (or principal, didn’t matter) here, she was all kinds of awful. It was already bad enough that she got saddled with a caricature who was expected to blow her top off in every scene, but her shrill performance only made it worse. She was only overshadowed by that scientist actress at the start of the movie whose absurd reactions kept me thinking if she was also infected by the zombie virus.

5. Pop culture references aside from Mean Girls included the freshly ripped-off decapitation scene of Hereditary, the flashsideways of Lost that played after every person’s death, a pilit Temptation Island quote, a Kimmy Dora rapping duo (subtitled Tweedledee and Tweedledum), and current mobile games (“Mega Kill!”). Even the entire twist of the Super Soldier program was also vaguely familiar (it reminded me of The Cabin in the Woods, but I’m sure there was another similar movie).

Oh and in one scene, a zombie student shouted “Wakanda forever!” inside a bus before he terrorized his classmates. Just the kind of inanity expected from this.

6. For a part-horror movie, there was no sense of danger at all. Na-hostage na sila at ang iba naging zombies with raccoon eyes pero yung mga characters parang naglalaro lang. Puro kaartehan at patawa.

Kiray Celis (Venus) to kidnapper: “Ouch! Don’t touch me. Eww!” Seryoso??

But nothing here really made a lot of sense. In one scene, a manyak guy was accidentally gored by a protruding rusty pole. It ended with class clown slash babaeng bakla Kristel Fulgar (Princess) asking, “Ano mag-walk out na lang ba kayo? Hindi man lang ba tayo mag-moment?” Huh??

In another, a girl hugged her zombie boyfriend (“Babe kumalma ka na please. Tama na ha…) like she was pacifying a stubborn puppy. She probably thought that love was the cure to everything. Ayun, sinaksak sya sa likod and eventually died which was actually how all love stories ended.

7. Burning questions:

• Where did Ada learn how to handle heavy firearm? And why did she use her machine gun to destroy the CCTV cameras but only made tusok-tusok movements when the zombies attacked her?

• One of the mean girls plunged several floors down to her death and her equally mean girl friend pretended to frame her corpse and said “Nice shot!”. Another girl got stabbed on the chest, but she had enough time to take a selfie before dying. Were these supposed to be funny in a “millennials are so shallow haha!” way?

• Yung isang character natuluan ng ihi. He just removed his shirt and continued eating chips. Medyo baboy. Who was that actor? (Asking for a friend.)

• Mauuna pa ba magka-kissing scene si Sharlene kesa kay Sarah G? (Seriously though, malakas ang kilig ng NashLene. A future Black Sheep rom-com, perhaps?)

8. Best part yung may tumakbong totoong daga from one end of the screen to the other (kasama ba sa bayad yan Southmall Cinemas?). Sabagay san pa ba lalapit ang daga kundi sa basura?

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

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THE HOWS OF US (Cathy Garcia-Molina, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Hows of Us:

1. If you’re an old soul (read: an oldie afraid to admit that he’s beyond his prime) like me, you probably have downloaded and played Homescapes (currently ranked #73 in the Apple App Store) where your goal was to build this dream house and decorate it with all types of furniture. The first five minutes of this movie reminded me so much of that game, with George (Kathryn Bernardo) and Primo (Daniel Padilla) providing the voiceover while they selected the perfect couch for their living room. That scene culminated in a huge shouting match that signalled the end of their relationship before transitioning to a split screen sequence that was completely lifted from Kalyeserye (I swear I could hear an instrumental version of Rey Valera’s Kahit Maputi na ang Buhok Ko in the background, a song I have associated with AlDub ever since I died of kilig from their McDonald’s commercial heydays). And then it turned into a Mannequin Challenge with the camera moving around while the pair pretended to be serious contenders in a game of stop dance. Wait, were they aiming to do a recap of pop culture references for this decade?

2. I honestly expected this to be KathNiel’s response to the critical success of JaDine’s Never Not Love You, but it simply lacked the depth and maturity (in terms of characters and story) needed to display their growth as artists (insert that meme of Tyra Banks screaming “I was rooting for you! We were all rooting for you!!”).

Hearing Kathryn utter the word “Putangina!” repeatedly just wasn’t enough, especially if you would consider a Miss Granny like Sarah Geronimo saying vulgar words like “puke” and “hindot” in her most recent film. While their screen rivals tackled weighty themes like long distance relationships and adult responsibilities, the biggest conflict in this movie was whether George should continue with her jeepney ride to take her med school exam or scream “para!” to get down and help a drunk Primo who was slumped on the road. These were supposed to be real people problems? Seryoso?

Side note: I guess it spoke a lot about the maturity of these characters that the fans still shrieked their lungs out every time the lovebirds kissed.

3. Dear Star Cinema, wasn’t it too early to start recycling elements from your recent hits? There were so many things here that reminded me so much of Starting Over Again from George’s line of “In him, I saw a good man…” to that supposedly sensual flirtation reminiscent of Toni Gonzaga’s stepladder scene down to that drunk rant of George with her gay BFF (Juan Miguel Severo) that never reached the comedic heights of Beauty Gonzalez’s “Yang hope na yan, lason yan” moment. I’m sure you have a strong pool of writers. Wala na bang bago? (As in Susan Africa played a Tita Lola role and ended up dead after a few scenes.)

4. If anything, Kathryn looked so gorgeous here (with or without her EO Optical contacts) and I’d have to commend her for making the most out of her thinly-written character. She only had one off moment when she was required to overact like crazy in that “Pagod na pagod na pagod na ako!” scene. Otherwise, she was actually good in her dramatic scenes (even if she played a selfish girlfriend required to say lines like “Wala kang pambili kahit cupcake man lang para sa akin?”) and was even better during the (abruptly) comedic second half. She seemed headed back to her glorious Magkaribal/Mara Clara days. Really happy for her!!

And no amount of Daniel sporting a horrible mullet and looking like a deranged version of Lady Diane (“Sa-sa-Saddami ng problema natin!”) minimized the fact that this tandem could still deliver the requisite kiligs. My favorite moment had to be that cringey-sweet hugot of Primo: “Matagal na naman akong talo eh simula nung hinayaan kong mawala ka”. Awww!

(P.S. Ang galing na nila umarte pareho. Please give them the movie that they deserve!!)

5. I had seen the entire filmography of Maricel Soriano so I know that that entire splitting of the house with masking tape gag was already done with much better results in Kung Kaya Mo, Kaya Ko Rin! (and yes, it was also just copied from a much earlier film with Dolphy and Nida Blanca or some other Philippine Cinema legends that I was too lazy to Google). If I remembered it correctly, there was also a scene where Cesar Montano played his guitar and tried to win back Maricel through a harana. And when Maricel’s BFF Ruby Rodriguez decided to visit the house, she had to drag her over to her side because the rest of the space was off-limits. All of those exact same scenes were in this movie. Again, wala na bang bago?

6. In one clunky scene, George and Primo were selling their “conjugal” ancestral home to a potential buyer (Odette Khan) and after stating that it really didn’t have much value, Primo countered that it did have a lot of history and special memories, thus making it priceless. And I kept thinking, “Totoo ba? Ano naman paki ng buyer sa memories na yan?” so I was really surprised when she instead replied with “I like it! Eto na ang pera!” Huwaaaat?

7. Real jokes delivered while the lovebirds biked around Amsterdam:

• “Bakit ang daming nag-ba-bike dito?” “Eh bike-it naman hindi?”

• “Anong instrumento ang favorite sa Amsterdam?” “Eh di Amsterdrums!”

• “Ano ang favorite pet sa Amsterdam?” “Eh di Hamsterdam!”

• “Ano ang paboritong kainin sa Amsterdam?” “Eh di Hamsterdam and Cheese!”

Should I continue? AMSTERDAMMIT!!

8. “Sana samahan mo pa rin ako in finding out the answers to all the hows.” Hahahaha! Naipilit pa rin ang title.

But seriously, after My Ex and Whys and The Hows of Us, I wonder if Star Cinema still has plans of using the remaining 4W’s. Who Who Belles? What’s Upon a Time? Ready to Where? When Dramas? Oh, too punny!!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

MISS GRANNY (Joyce Bernal, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Miss Granny:

1. As a huge fan, my Popster heart would always break a little whenever I’d get to read nasty comments about my Bebe Idol Sarah Geronimo. “Ang tanda na ayaw pa payagan magka-boyfriend!”, “Gurang na wala pa rin kissing scene sa movies!”, “Grabe naman si Mommy Divine gusto ata tumandang dalaga ang anak niya!“, “Ano yan pabebe hanggang 60?”, and these were even the relatively tamer ones.

I was really thrilled when I heard that she agreed to star in the remake of a Korean movie about a loathsome grandma who magically transformed back to her 20-year old self. (Manang pala si Sarah ha? O ayan literal na manang talaga sya.) Instead of raising a huge middle finger to all of her bashers, she agreed to poke fun at herself, chuckle along with the online trolls, and kill them with kindness (and laughter).

2. Although she would forever be associated with her iconic Laida Magtalas role, I could easily say that this was her best performance to date. She was just so charming as Odrey, an oldie trapped in a young person’s body. It was also a delight to see her doing things (“Ay puke!!”) that her prim and proper real persona would never do. (With that said, the limitations set to protect her image left the film with several missing pieces. More on that later.)

One of my favorite scenes was when she kept slapping Lorenz (Xian Lim) with fresh bangus without ever breaking out of character (as opposed to the latter who could barely contain his giggles). She even said something like “Bakit mo ako sinusundan na parang asong kakasta?” that cracked up every senior citizen in the audience. Another really good scene was the family dinner where grandson Jeboy (James Reid) joked about them getting married soon which made her spit out her sinigang soup. She then gave him a huge batok and said something like “Natatae ako!” which had everyone rolling in the aisles.

3. I was able to watch the original Korean version a few days before this and I had the same reservations in terms of storytelling, especially since the Pinoy adaptation was almost a shot-by-shot remake (save for the opening sequence where the original used ball metaphors to discuss ageism on women while this remake focused more on finding real happiness in motherhood). The transitions were completely off here though and several key scenes were left out that made the story feeling a bit incomplete.

One of the biggest changes was the removal of romantic encounters with Lorenz. In one scene, the Korean Odrey was asked by Korean Lorenz what she wanted in a man and her response was something like “as long as he’s a good person and good in bed”. Maybe Mommy Divine didn’t approve of hearing her daughter wanting a “lalaking magaling sa kama”? Another one that was removed and that had a huge impact on me while watching was the hairpin gift. Towards the end of the original version, old Korean Odrey locked eyes with Korean Lorenz while wearing that hairpin and it just made the scene more heartbreaking considering the new life/love that she gave up just to save her grandson.

4. I was really surprised with the jarring transitions given that Joyce Bernal’s strength as a filmmaker was that she started as a really good editor. When a local critic described this production as sloppy, I completely understood what he meant. Even little things like a few grainy scenes, some wonky subtitles (“braised beff”, “son of a tofu”??, “lawrenz”), the credits with the tilted names, and the reduced screen at the end even without the credits rolling just felt lazy overall.

5. I did appreciate the small touches made for the Pinoy setting (the taho vendor, the use of chico, the Lola Madonna reference, etc.) And there were some really inspired 60’s/70’s OPM song choices that had me in LSS mode for several hours now. The only one that I really knew was the classic Rain (originally by Boy Mondragon) because it was covered by THE Donna Cruz in the 90’s, but I couldn’t stop singing Efren Montes’ Kiss Me, Kiss Me as well (“Tanan tanan tanan!!”). Where do I send my petition for a Sarah G. retro album?

Side note: That blatant BDO billboard might have ruined the moment of a crying Fely (Nova Villa), but it was actually in the original movie only with a different brand of course (it served as a juxtaposition of a young and old woman). Now that scene where Lorenz ordered using his BDO debit card? Shameless promotion. (I did sing “Just debit with BDO!” during that sequence so…).

Another side note: Why did Odrey have a Cherry Mobile ringtone? Oppo would not be happy. And why was she made to eat crispy pata to prove the strength of her real teeth when she could have munched on a crispylicious, juicylicious Chickenjoy instead?

6. Wait, how was she able to buy Valium over the counter? And why did one banig only cost Php289? Seryoso? (Eksenadora si pharmacist, though. He made the most out of his limited screen time, unlike the usually excellent Angeli Bayani who gave a terrible performance in this movie. What happened?! Bakit level 10 agad ang pasok ng acting?)

7. I missed the Pretty Woman montage in the original, but I’m sure everyone would agree that Sarah looked incredibly gorgeous in that makeover payong reveal. Now I need to buy a parasol before my next trip to ATC.

8. I really liked the “Wag kang bibitaw” montage shown during the “Forbidden” production number. Nakakaiyak considering all the sacrifices she had to make as a single mother. It made the “letting go” scene with her son (Nonie Buencamino) even more meaningful (and even more nakakaiyak, naturally!). When he said something like, “Ma, pwede ka na umalis. At sa pag-alis mo wag kang magsasakripisyo para sa masamang anak na katulad ko”, the whole theater was flooded with tears.

Ang galing ni Nonie and natapatan sya ni Sarah sa iyakan. She was so good that I felt the need to renew my Popster card even if I already had a lifetime membership.

9. I was so excited to see the actor who would play the young Bert (Boboy Garovillo) in the big reveal at the end. I really thought it would be Matteo Guidicelli, but it ended up to be Sam Concepcion. Bakit??? What a downer!! 

Anywho, I wonder when the Forever Young Portrait Studio would magically appear again in Mother Ignacia Street. I need to be ready.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

I LOVE YOU, HATER (Giselle Andres, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on I Love You, Hater:

1. In the words of the great Beyoncé, “Honesty is such a lonely word. Everyone is so untrue. Honesty is hardly ever heard. And mostly what I need from you.” (I know this was a Billy Joel original, but I’m a self-proclaimed millennial.)

Joko (Joshua Garcia) lived in his own world of lies. He fabricated a story to his family about working in New York and then he pretended to be a swishy beshie so that he could apprentice (read: be the next Darla) for Digital Empress Sasha Imperial (Kris Aquino, in her most challenging role as herself).

On the other hand, Zoey (Julia Barretto) with all of her emotional baggage that stemmed from father abandonment issues was allergic to lies. Would these two morally opposite poles attract (even with a pretend gender conflict)? We wouldn’t need an alien intervention to know the answer to this one.

In the spirit of honesty and the movie’s #SaTrueLang hashtag (wait, was that redundant?), let me say that I’m no hater, but I did not love this one at all. Similar to Giselle Andres’ last directorial effort Loving in Tandem, the weak and muddled plot could not be salvaged by the enthusiastic performances of its leads.

2. This might sound like a Julia Barretto Appreciation Post because I would be raving like a lovestruck lunatic over the next few sentences so be warned.

In last year’s Love You to the Stars and Back, I hailed her performance as the second coming of Queen Claudine Barretto. With this movie, she just officially earned her right to finally step out of her aunt’s shadow (yes, this would be the last time that I would compare her to Ate Clau).

In one scene, Zoey (who looked gorgeous with her wet, slicked back hair) attended the wedding of her half-sister where her absentee father (Ricardo Cepeda) proudly bragged about his “only daughter”. It was such a sad moment and you could see the terrible pain and humiliation in Zoey’s eyes, especially when the tears started to well up while she stormed out of the event (the succeeding scene where she sobbed in her room wasn’t even needed).

When Zoey admitted her feelings for Joko and then discovered his ruse, their confrontation scene (“Di ko alam kung bakit ako nagmahal…”) was an acting highlight for Julia. What started as an iyak-tawa delivery turned into full-blown rage and a definite nganga (did this girl really do that?) moment for me. I wonder how much of the behind the scenes issues and tension contributed to that brilliant scene. Hugot kung hugot, you go girl! Also, those seemingly naughty stares while she teased Joko were just too funny. Mahusay talaga siya dito.

(Side note: Joshua could still cry on cue, but his performance here seemed to lack the usual sensitivity and depth.)

3. Kris was surprisingly tolerable here and her supporting role was obviously stretched to ensure that she would get as much screen time as JoshLia. I guess it didn’t hurt that most of her scenes involved Sasha shooting her vlogs (for National Bookstore and iFlix, no less) so it was definitely in her wheelhouse. She also had a subplot about an Alzheimer’s-stricken father (Ronaldo Valdez, wonderful as always) and was given a couple of dramatic highlights (one closely resembled the McDo Karen ad) that probably would have been more effective if she weren’t trying so damn hard to squeeze her tearducts (as in literal na more pikit para pumatak ang luha).

If anything, I really loved her joyously colorful Happy Pride outfits. I wonder how many glitter unicorns had to die just to make them.

4. Speaking of pride, I was shocked to see an unrecognizable Mark Neumann playing one half of a gay couple (the other half was Markki Stroem). He was built up as a teen idol in Artista Academy and here he looked like a lipstick lesbian who might also own a Mio.

Why wasn’t the couple even invited when Zoey and Joko went to O Bar (billed here as Rave)? You know this was a work of fiction because in that scene where a Sarah Geronimo impersonator was performing, nobody from the crowd was doing the viral Tala dance moves.

5. Joshua must really be trying to fill the void left by John Lloyd Cruz because he had a Biogesic-like scene where he took Enervon and a few seconds later an extra was tasked to say “Ang taas ng energy mo!!”. Agad-agad??

I laughed out really loud though when promdi Joko called out the terrible food served in the wedding by saying “Hilaw nga nila sinerve yung steak eh. May dugo-dugo pa. Gross!” Nyahahaha!

6. My favorite scene was when Joko’s clan threw a surprise birthday party (complete with papier-mache lechon and cake) for Zoey. He then offered his father to dance with her and said, “Pahiram ko muna sa’yo ang tatay ko.” It was touching, heartfelt, and made me wish that Zoey had a standalone movie.

7. Burning questions:

• Why was Zoey wearing those short shorts (albeit stylish) for an important job interview?

• Would a Digital Empress really hire somebody that she met in an elevator and gave basic graphic design suggestions? More importantly, why couldn’t she afford to pay (or give a shoutout) for a decent logo design?

• Were those Instagram pictures intentionally Photoshopped to make Zoey’s father and his family look like they were levitating directly across the Leaning Tower of Pisa?

• Whenever Joko would get a hard-on, where was the actual bukol? What was he trying to cover?

• Why did Sasha give Joko some National Bookstore gift certificates and ask him to buy a new outfit? (Made out of cartolina, glitter, and glue gun?)

• When Zoey’s friend encouraged her crush on “gay” Joko by shouting “Wag matakot, maki-beki!”, was she really being a supportive friend or a staunch LGBT advocate?

• With the movie already running far too long, did we really need a recap of their sweetest moments before the climactic… hug?

8. “Kumain ka ng torta para lumaki kang borta.” And yet in my dyslexic brain it kept coming up as “Kumain ka ng borta na may malaking torta.” #SaTrueLang tayo besh.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

NOTTING HILL (Roger Michell, 1999)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Notting Hill:

1. No matter how many times I tried to repress the memory, I would never forget that I once played Julia Roberts as Anna Scott for a skit about absolute love (how apt!) in a college Philosophy class. Long story short, I couldn’t make the Hugh Grant character William Thacker believable since I obviously lacked his puppy eyes and boyish charm so our group leader thought of reversing the gender roles where I ended up voicing (since I apparently wasn’t too pretty to be Anna as well) the female part.

We recreated that entire iconic bookstore scene and I delivered the “I’m just a girl standing in front of a boy…” line with an awkward high pitch that sounded like Lani Mercado’s wicked witch in the Sleeping Beauty episode of Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang. Our presentation obviously bombed (all those confused looks would continue to haunt me in my dreams) and I walked out of that class feeling like Vivian in Pretty Woman getting thrown out of a posh boutique in Rodeo Drive (and since this was real life, I didn’t even get a redemption scene).

2. Julia may have won her Oscar for Erin Brockovich, but her performance here would probably be my most favorite. Sure, the woman with the (then $15M) megawatt smile was basically playing another version of her rich and famous, A-list celebrity persona, but the fact that she gamely poked fun at herself (loved it when Anna pointed at her nose and chin when asked about her cosmetic surgeries) and revealed the sadness beneath all the fame and glory was really admirable.

Her Anna character was also completely flawed (and actually bordered on being despicable with just the way he treated William) and yet I still really, really wanted to be her friend (to the point that it would also be an honor for me to have her in my loo). Her best scene was at the dinner table where everyone was trying to win that last brownie and her face displayed the longing to experience the kind of love that the mortals (er, William and his friends) had.

3. Speaking of that dinner scene, I could easily pinpoint the part where I would immediately start sobbing every single time I’d watch this film. It was when Bella (Gina McKee) explained that she deserved the last brownie for having the saddest life because she was stuck in a wheelchair and could not bear kids. This was followed by a shot of her husband Max (Tim McInnerny) silently giving her this look of genuine love. Romantic or not, we all deserved someone just like him.

(Their other scenes that made me bawl my eyes out: when he carried her upstairs for the night when William decided to sleep over at their house and when he couldn’t afford to leave her during the climactic chase scene and carried her inside the car. Hala, just thinking of these made me teary-eyed again!)

4. A lot of people would probably knock this film down for being too formulaic to a fault, but it shamelessly peddled itself as a fairy tale so I didn’t mind at all (“This is the stuff that happens in dreams, not in real life.”) A huge Hollywood star falling in love with a commoner who looked like Hugh would be the ultimate fantasy, right?

Comical meet cute, set of kooky friends (Rhys Ifans’ Spike as the standout, course), soundtrack of sappy love songs (Ronan Keating’s When You Say Nothing At All >>> Alison Krauss’ version tbh), final romantic declaration of love, all tropes utilized to maximum effect. It was surreal, but nice.

5. I had a (fortunately) short phase where I pretended to be a charming Brit ala Hugh and ended up sounding like a post-Kabbalah Madonna. I replaced my “Susmaryosep” with “Whoopsie daisy” and “Ay tae!” with “Shickity brickity”, but those didn’t stick. Foreign catchphrases and accents were never really my thing. I couldn’t even properly imitate an American accent when I worked as a call center agent that resulted to one customer referring to me as a weird Hawaiian guy.

6. Spot the cameos: Matthew Modine! Alec Baldwin! Mischa Barton! Emily Mortimer!

7. That one long take of Ain’t No Sunshine with the changing seasons was really lovely. I would one day be able to visit Portobello Road Market and that iconic blue door. Who would be willing to fund my London trip?

8. “For June who loved this garden. From Joseph who always sat beside her.”

“Some people do spend their whole lives together.” ❤️❤️❤️

9. I didn’t really need this film to make me realize that some people could influence you to do something better or be a better person even if they had hurt you, but it was nice to be reminded of this with every viewing. #whogoat

10. “The fame thing isn’t really real, you know?”

A huge star ready to give up everything for love? Your move, Bebe Idol Sarah G. Rooting for your happy fairy tale ending as well.

Rating: ★★★★★

FELIX MANALO (Joel Lamangan, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Felix Manalo:

1. Let me start with a disclaimer. To all my INC friends, this is not an attack on your religious beliefs. All my opinions are about the movie and none on our differences of faith. Love and peace.

2. When I first saw the trailer of this film, I thought, what else was there to show? And I was right. Everything you needed to know was right there, down to all the stars and starlets that had cameo roles.

3. To be fair, there were some noteworthy things in this movie. The costumes and production design (except for the Xeroxed portraits of American Presidents) definitely showed that the movie had a huge budget and the attention to detail was commendable. Some roles (although predictable, Jaime Fabregas as a prayle? Groundbreaking!) were also well-acted.

4. I wasn’t sure why every location (down to street names) and year had to be flashed onscreen. I guess the movie wanted to clearly show the timeline (Birth to death! No wonder it was three hours long!!) of important events in Manalo’s life. But really, did we need to be reminded that they were in Paranaque when the shop clearly showed Sumbrereria de Paranaque? How about the word Maynila shown in the scene that was shot in front of the Manila City Hall?

5. For a movie with a budget though, the sound design was scratchy, the musical score was relentless, the editing was confusing (with abrupt transitions from scene to scene), and the visual effects (especially during the war scenes) were laughable. Also, in the latter part of the movie, Dennis Trillo and Bela Padilla (with perma-crimped hair) played older versions of themselves with full-on face latex but their hands didn’t even age one bit. That was a missed Vaseline endorsement right there.

6. I’m sure Manalo’s a very interesting person but this movie just didn’t give his life story any justice. The idea of a man constantly questioning his source of faith and transferring from one religion to another in search of the ultimate truth is a gold mine. Such a missed opportunity.

7. It was a typical Joel Lamangan (of late) movie. Some scenes were staged like a high school drama. Please bring back the director that created searing socio-political commentaries like Bulaklak ng Maynila and Ang Huling Birhen sa Lupa.

8. I really didn’t understand the whole Japanese War sequence. Was it to show that the INC were severely persecuted for staying true to their faith? The only thing I clearly understood was that we don’t have any other Japanese captain to cast in our movies except for Jacky Woo.

9. Speaking of great casting, Gabby Concepcion played the son of Dennis Trillo. I know, right?

10. One other thing that wasn’t clearly explained in the movie was the instant wealth of Manalo. The latter scenes showed him living in a mansion in Riverside, San Juan and another one showed him riding a Cadillac. Sure, it would have been a controversial topic that might spark a lot of debate but isn’t that what biopics are for?

11. If they got one thing right, it was to ask Sarah G. to sing the movie’s theme song. An additional star just for that (hey, this is my rating!).

12. The end credits listed the actors’ names in alphabetical order. By first name. I wanted to cry.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published October 19, 2015.)

CRAZY BEAUTIFUL YOU (Mae Cruz-Alviar, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Crazy Beautiful You:

1. The movie opened with a car race straight out of The Fast and the Furious. Only Kathryn Bernardo was no Michelle Rodriguez because she would rather die than hit a stray dog. And at the rate that her car was going, how did she not even end up slamming the post?

2. Do we really allow cellphones in jail? I’m asking since I’ve never seen jail selfies. Or anyone tweeting how sad they are in solitary confinement.

3. Kathryn sounded like she had a constant cold. Every word had an additional H (“Ghive mhe bhack mhy phhone, pfowsz!”). She used to be one of my favorite local actresses but she hasn’t done anything substantial after her excellent stint in Magkaribal. She really needs to break free from this love team in the same way that the other Mara became a fully-realized actress after going solo.

4. Did the chase sequence really have to be in slow motion? Did we really need that shot of calamansi (or whatever produce) slowly fly in the air for cinematic effect? No. Just no.

5. Daniel Padilla fared much better in this movie even with his constant posturing reminiscent of uncle Robin Padilla circa ’90s. He was charming and sympathetic and yes, much cuter with his new clean-cut and borta look. More swooning expected. (He might need to bleach his teeth, though.)

6. Why do a lot of these young guys (especially the ones from ABS-CBN) shave their armpits? None of my business, but still curious.

7. The movie was so badly-lit that the actors’ faces either looked lahar-ridden or overexposed. What happened to the usual Star Cinema gloss?

8. Mini-commercials for ABS-CBN Mobile and KFC. They should have used the extra income on the movie’s photography.

9. Wait, I’ve seen this immersion movie before when it was still called Catch Me… I’m in Love with Sarah Geronimo and Gerald Anderson. And it was also directed by Mae Cruz. Have we really run out of ideas?

10. I bet Kathryn has a separate closet for all of her crop tops. Does she seriously wear anything else?

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published March 1, 2015.)

LIWANAG SA DILIM (Richard Somes, 2015)

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My notes on Liwanag sa Dilim:

1. A lot of Pinoy movie titles are usually famous pop songs that sometimes I wonder if people actually create a concept or screenplay out of them. This movie seems to be a prime example. I can only imagine the writer listening to the radio when Rivermaya’s hit song came on and a lightbulb went off for him to write a story about an aswang terrorizing a small village. I can’t wait for the serendipitous rom-com set in UP based on Sarah Geronimo’s Ikot-Ikot.

2. Jake Vargas played the son of Sunshine Cruz but he kept calling her “Ma’m”. I wasn’t paying too much attention so he might actually have been playing a houseboy.

3. Although this was a fantasy movie, did the characters really have to be complete caricatures? And why was everyone shouting their lines like there was no tomorrow? Terrible acting across the board.

4. Bea Binene had the unfortunate name of Bea Binene but she did look good onscreen. When she opened her mouth though, she gave a whole new meaning to “boses pekpek”.

5. One scene required Vargas to strip down to his boxers before swimming in a batis (actually a waterfall). It made me put down my tub of popcorn and re-examine all my baby fats.

6. Rico Blanco played a local cop and I could only assume that he was given the role for easier licensing agreements.

7. This was the kind of movie where a character would hide behind a rock to avoid the aswang but still loudly say “Please, please sana di niya ako makita!” just in case the audience was so stupid not to notice that he was fearing for his life.

8. Several scenes reminded me so much of Erik Matti’s much superior Aswang Chronicles. And those didn’t have a lot of laughable MMA-style action sequences involving an aswang in a chokehold. Seriously.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published February 15, 2015.)

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: ★★★☆☆

BABY DRIVER (Edgar Wright, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Baby Driver:

1. That coffee shop scene early in the film where the barista smirked when Ansel Elgort said that his name was Baby reminded me of the time when I used to work as a manager for a customer service account in a call center. One of my basic tasks was to ensure that each associate got assigned an “appropriate”-sounding call name. The uniquely cool ones like Baby Juice or Shangri-La or Miracle Boy had to be changed into more “pleasant-sounding” generic nicknames. We also couldn’t use real names that sounded like terms of endearment such as Love, Sweetheart, Honey, and yes, just Baby (even if a quarter of our population probably used this as a name/nickname) lest callers began thinking that they actually dialled a phone sex hotline.

On a different note, I was so hooked on that B-A-B-Y song that I wanted to jump in my Subaru, put on my Wayfarer, and play that song on blast while driving around Commerce Ave. (okay, done with my social-climbing exercise for the day).

2. A lot of people would most likely look like an idiot doing that swaying dance routine with the windshield wipers, but Ansel had the right amount of charm to make it just the cutest thing ever. I could probably watch that one long continuous take of him singing and dancing during a coffee run on a loop for days. (Bonus na lang that he could also prepare a mean sandwich. Mukhang masarap sya.)

3. Aside from Monsters Inc. (“You and I are a team”), I was happy to see the references on my other faves here, like It’s Complicated, Fight Club, and The Little Rascals (although I still preferred the version of Alfalfa with his cowlick singing You Are So Beautiful to dear Darla).

4. Those impressive car stunts that could rival the ones in the Fast & Furious series! As if this movie wasn’t even cool and stylish enough already. More nganga lang ako. And that whole Tequila shoot-out. Worth the price of admission.

5. I knew that Jamie Foxx could not be trusted as soon as he showed up wearing that tacky King of Hearts sweater. I would rather trust that “puts the Asian in home invasion” guy even if he didn’t know the difference between Austin Powers’ Mike Meyers and Halloween’s Michael Meyers (or even Friday the 13th’s Jason Voorhees). Also, seeing those masks reminded me so much of the Betty Doll Bank Robbers from the underrated Sugar & Spice. Time for a rewatch.

6. Sorry Edgar Wright, but Prime Cruz beat you (twice!) on that colorful laundromat scene.

7. I had a bit of a problem with the last act when everything just went awry and people started growing a conscience. And inasmuch as I adored Debora (Lily Collins), I wasn’t completely sold on the romance and the idea that they fell in love even before their second date.

8. Baby cleverly used music to drown out the terrible memories of a traumatic event in his life. That definitely wouldn’t work with me since my playlist would mostly be weepies by Celine Dion and Sarah Geronimo huhuhu.

Rating: ★★★★☆