HENERAL LUNA (Jerrold Tarog, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Heneral Luna:

1. The disclaimer at the start of the movie was scary for two reasons: a) for a biopic slash historical epic, we don’t know the extent of cinematic license used in the movie, and b) indeed, a fictionalized history (or work of fiction inspired by true events?) doesn’t take away the fact that this is still a clear representation of the truth (both past and present).

2. Jerrold Tarog has always been a competent filmmaker. He’s the kind of director that can make a Shake Rattle and Roll episode end up better than most of the full-length Pinoy movies shown that year. (Also, watch Senior Year!!)

3. I think everyone will agree that the movie had one of the best ensemble casts in any Pinoy film. I loved how the receding hairline of Epy Quizon was put to good use as Apolinario Mabini. In terms of acting, Mon Confiado (as Emilio Aguinaldo) and Nonie Buencamino (as Felipe Buencamino) were clear standouts. I hope none of them show up in Felix Manalo or I will start getting confused.

4. One of the best lines in the movie:

“Para kayong mga birhen na naniniwala sa pag-ibig ng isang puta!!”

I wonder when I can deliver this line in real life.

5. I particularly liked the Manifest Destiny scene because it stirred up emotions that shouldn’t even be there in this day and age (I so hated the American soldiers that I almost swore off eating burgers.)

6. A lot of reviews have pointed out that the film is a farce. I guess I’m being a purist then because I still want my History lessons all serious and dramatic. The rich content of Philippine History alone will never be boring. I guess I just didn’t understand all the funny quips despite the current situations (hey, it’s just war, people are just getting blown up, let’s all be like Cesar Montano and throw a witty one-liner or two!).

7. I was happy to see Antonio Luna portrayed as a deeply flawed character (never liked biopics that glorify their subject matter) but did it go too far? I could barely remember him in History class and now all I could think of was that he’s no different from Anger in Inside Out. Just about everything seemed to irk him to no end and everyone around him just looked completely dumb or incompetent. John Arcilla was fine in the lead role but I kept imagining him invoking the spirit of Captain Jack Sparrow in every scene. I hate to say it but it bordered closely on caricature.

8. Did we really need that gratuitous head shot for shock value? If they were depicting the reality of war then why was Luna shown as someone invincible? He just kept saying his lines while walking close to enemy lines without getting hit. Maybe he had an agimat that we didn’t know of? (Was it the magical coin pouch that saved his life?)

9. In one scene, Luna was trying to talk to an American soldier and ended up saying something like, “Hulihin nyo na yan. Naubusan na ko ng Ingles” all for comic relief. I was surprised he didn’t just say “Nosebleed!”. Why didn’t they really get Montano for this role?

10. I remember one of my History teachers saying that when Rizal got shot, he tried to face the firing squad as a sign of pride and dignity. Is this correct? (I’m only asking because the Rizal here just waited to be shot at the back. Wait, that didn’t sound right.)

11. In another scene, Luna was strumming his guitar and he was shown to have perfectly polished nails. With this, I will always remember that even in trying times, one should never forget to have a manicure.

12. Why is Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata the song of choice for war flashback scenes? I first heard this used in Madrasta with Sharon Cuneta’s grandfather recalling the war with Japanese soldiers. (Ooh, I need to watch that again.)

13. Old people love hitting tables for emphasis. (If you’ve done that recently…)

14. The scene that I abhorred the most would have to be the one where Luna was killed and the movie turned into a comical Carlo J. Caparas movie. Luna was betrayed and stabbed and shot several times (and had a hole carved in his right eye) by Filipino soldiers and I should have been appalled and angry by the betrayal but I was instead preventing a huge fart from trying not to laugh. Sure, History books would say that he was stabbed 30 or so times and that he continued to flinch after his death but I’m sure it didn’t say that he was Fernando Poe, Jr. (or a horror movie villain that just won’t die).

15. I remember Aguinaldo getting a bad rap for apparently ordering the assassination of Andres Bonifacio. He was portrayed the exact same way here with fingers directly pointed at him for giving the directive on the ambush of Luna. I never knew our first President was such a villain. Has anything changed since then?

16. The burning flag scene in its entirety covered everything that the movie was trying to say in two hours. Such powerful imagery.

17. There’s a mid-credits sequence!! In the same way that Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo had a Heneral Luna teaser, this one hinted at a Gregorio del Pilar spin-off (meaning more Paulo Avelino!). Move over Marvel, we have our Pinoy superheroes!

18. How many times did I mention History?

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published September 16, 2015.)

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MINSAN, MINAHAL KITA (Olivia Lamasan, 2000)

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We had the right love at the wrong time ang peg.

Sa huli, magkakatabi ang mga kotse nila dahil sa sobrang traffic.

Magkakatitigan. Susunod ang matatamis na ngitian. Lalong lalakas ang chorus ng Somewhere Down the Road habang hindi gumagalaw ang mga sasakyan nila at lalong magiging sanhi ng traffic sa Parañaque.

Tatak Lamasan. #iconic

Rating: ★★★★☆

UNEXPECTEDLY YOURS (Cathy Garcia-Molina, 2017)

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I think I just had a Classic Pare Titos and Titas of Manila moment while watching this movie since I couldn’t help myself from twitterpating (kilig lang yan, inartehan ko) over such a cute couple. Nope, not talking about JoshLia (even if Joshua Garcia and Julia Barretto were also really charming here). I was of course referring to the Sharon Cuneta-Robin Padilla love team that still showcased such palpable chemistry twenty five years after Maging Sino Ka Man.

I previously mentioned that I liked this combo much better than the Sharon-Gabby and Sharon-Richard pairing because the very Pinoy langit-lupa theme (and all the conflicts that stemmed from this social class gap) always made for great dramedy. It was even put to good use here because it was an older people romance straight out of the Nancy Meyers universe.

This should have been the comeback vehicle of Ate Shawie since her performance here just felt more relaxed and natural compared to the one in Ang Pamilyang Hindi Lumuluha. She displayed great comedic timing, especially while verbally sparring with Robin (mega kilig yung sagutan nila ng “Adik!” and “Sa’yo!” waaah!). Her controlled emotions during her dramatic moments were even reminiscent of her grand slam performance in Madrasta. I really liked the scene where she was crying out of self-pity (“Matanda na ako…”) because her realizations were genuinely painful to watch.

I wish the movie focused more on their romance since the JoshLia story actually served as a distraction. It would have worked still without their love angle since the young ones were so believable as their blood relatives (Julia as Sharon’s daughter and Joshua as Robin’s nephew). Also, all the millennial discussion including a cringey FGD just felt off. It had just as much insight about this generation as any episode of Survivor: Millennials vs Gen X.

Speaking of Julia, I was really surprised at how much she had continuously improved in terms of acting (even after her good work in Love You to the Stars and Back). She had this lovely scene with Sharon where she was telling her why she didn’t want to end up just like her mother and she definitely held her own against the Megastar. The Claudine comparisons would be inevitable, but with the right projects, she should be able to step out of her aunt’s shadow soon.

In one scene, Julia was wearing a shirt that had the word “MIST” on the right shoulder and “AKES” on the left side. I thought, “Wow, cool! A gay shirt saying that she’s a mist!”. It took me a full twenty seconds to realize that it actually spelled “mistakes”. Bwiset! Chalk that up to another Titos and Titas of Manila moment.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

LAST NIGHT (Joyce Bernal, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Last Night:

1. Let me begin with an erratum on a glaring boo boo that I made when I posted my notes on Love You to the Stars and Back. I incorrectly identified the character of Julia Barretto as Carmina Salvador since I actually saw Last Night’s trailer prior to that movie.

Whether it was cinema fatigue or my inner cinephile that went bonkers upon hearing that film reference (that was the same name of Dawn Zulueta’s character in Hihintayin Kita sa Langit), I would like to apologize for the confusion that it caused especially to all the JoshLia fans that lost sleep over that inaccurate trivia.

2. We first see the real Carmina Salvador (Toni Gonzaga) dangling from a billboard on the side of the Jones Bridge after a botched suicide attempt. Her cry for help was noticed by Mark Peters (Piolo Pascual), who was also on a suicide mission at the said bridge. (Side note: Is this really a popular destination for depressed people in the Binondo/Ermita area? I’m really curious to know how many suicide cases have happened here within the last decade. Google wasn’t really helpful.) Anyway, they ended up helping one another and in the process also fell madly in love with each other. The end.

Well, not really. Of course there had to be a big twist because the screenplay seemed to have been built around that gimmick. In a reveal that would make M. Night Shyamalan curl up in a fetal position, Carmina actually turned out to be a ghost (she died in 1973 during Martial Law; naks, relevant!) that only appeared before Mark. Yes, he could see dead people (well, one dead person in the beginning and a few more towards the end of the movie). Eek!

3. I really wish the movie didn’t rely too much on the (obvious) twist so that it didn’t have to spend its final 30 minutes explaining everything (in washed-out flashbacks!) and feeling smart on how much it was able to fool the audience.

Aside from The Sixth Sense, most of the scenes that had Mark interacting with Carmina reminded me a lot of the “I Love You, Moo Moo” episode of the 90’s movie Tatlong Mukha ng Pag-ibig. My favorite scene there was when Tonton Gutierrez carried the ghost of his dead wife (played by Sharon Cuneta) inside their honeymoon suite while the caretaker (Leroy Salvador) watched in horror as his crazy amo flirted with an imaginary entity. I actually wondered if that straightforward format that wasn’t reliant on a twist would have made the story here much better (and less cornier).

Also, I’d actually need help in remembering another Hollywood/foreign movie about a living human being that communicated and fell in love with the spirit of a deceased person (something like Just Like Heaven, but not really). I wouldn’t want to be up for the next few nights.

4. Thirteen Reasons Why received a lot of flak for apparently romanticizing suicide and I kinda understood that perspective when I watched Mark and Carmina play cutesy with a blow dryer while they were inside a tub. Or when they fantasized on placing an aircon and a mattress on their backs before diving in a pool. Or when Carmina suggested “maligo sa dinuguan at magpakain sa shark” (huh?).

This made the shift in tone during the latter part of the movie even more jarring when it suddenly turned pro-life and started spreading a message of optimism and hope. All that was lacking in that final bubblegum bridge sequence was a dancing unicorn.

5. I was a huge fan of the Toni-Piolo pairing in Starting Over Again so I was a bit surprised at how much I was turned off by their performances here. Toni had her quirkiness turned up to its maximum level and she kept shouting her lines like she was still hosting Pinoy Big Brother (“Hello Philippines! Hello world!!”).

Piolo fared much better (as he was required to go topless yet again and shamelessly showed off his abs twice!), but he spent most of his scenes brooding and acting really stuck-up. Sayang, because I really missed this fun partnership.

6. At least the technical aspects were really commendable. Before Cathy Garcia-Molina, I think Joyce Bernal was the queen of rom-coms and she really tried to make the most out of the weak story here.

The movie also looked really good, very much like a glossy maindie. I also loved the song choices (except for one that sounded like it had Piolo singing).

7. I couldn’t get over the fact that Toni was the twin of Joey Marquez. And that Joey was named Ricardo Reyes. Yes, Ricky Reyes! Bwahahahaha!

Also, Carmina (whose real name’s Jennifer, btw) was actually a smart entrepreneur and influencer for bringing her new living friends to their family restaurant every single time. Shouldn’t it have been time for her to start a Twitter or Instagram account, though?

8. Burning questions:

• Why did an old soul like Carmina sound very much like a millennial? Also, why did she keep acting like she didn’t know that she was already dead? Diba audience lang naman may hindi alam?

• If she really wanted to prevent Mark from committing suicide, why did they spend most of their time trying to figure out how to die together? Did she only realize that after she fell in love with him?

• Did they play Bloody Crayons in one scene as a cross-promotion for Star Cinema movies?

• If nobody could see her, why didn’t anyone (except for the friend of dying lola) even ask who Mark was talking to? More chismis, more fun lang?

• Why did she kill herself after just seeing blood on the side of Jones Bridge (sure, her boyfriend was supposed to be there, so she automatically assumed that the blood was his)? Why, gurl, why?

• Paano sila maghihintayan sa langit if she’s stuck in limbo?

• If Carmina killed herself during Martial Law, why was her brother played by Patrick Sugui (shouldn’t he be like 40ish) and her mother was the still youthful Marina Benipayo? Were they also ghosts? Then why couldn’t they all see each other? Or was Patrick supposed to be the young Joey Marquez? Help!!

• Bakit kapag si Piolo ang nagsasabi ng “nangulangot” parang classy and sexy pa rin? Huhuhu!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

ANG PAGSANIB KAY LEAH DELA CRUZ (Katski Flores, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Ang Pagsanib Kay Leah dela Cruz:

1. Sarah Lahbati, in an effort to act like a tough and cool policewoman, decided to strip down all possible emotions from her character and spoke in a weird monotone with a slight gruff reminiscent of Sharon Cuneta’s performance as the tomboy-ish jeepney driver Jack in the 80’s cult classic Jack & Jill. She had an air of “I may look and sound like a bad-ass lesbian, but I’m still straight as an arrow deep inside.” Never forget to check the label, Mommies!

(Not like anybody would actually think that she bats for the other team since she sashays in every scene wearing her butt-hugging jeans and high-heeled boots like a smoldering beauty queen doing her farewell walk.)

2. Although the story about a satanic cult and its link to the possession of Emily Rose, er, Leah dela Cruz left much to be desired, the movie made up for it through some gorgeous visuals.

I really liked the opening scene with the abandoned road and the phantom kids running after the car and how they all tied up to that chilling image of dead children forming a circle with demonic symbols.

3. Why do a lot of Pinoy horror movies happen during Holy Week (especially Good Friday) and end up with catharsis and redemption on Easter Sunday?

Sana next time Valentine’s Day naman para maiba. Tapos walang catharsis. Scary diba?

4. When Yaya Rosario referred to Leah as “ba-it”, I was reminded of my grandmother calling the rats in our house the same way before poisoning them with cheese-crusted Dora. Apparently, being nice to rats and using pet names would prevent them from nibbling on your clothes and you could nicely drive them out like you’re the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Oh wait, didn’t that story involve a lot of missing children as well?

5. In one scene, an intubated Yaya Rosario kept talking wildly to non-lesbian policewoman about all the secrets that she knew. I think I had seen enough Grey’s Anatomy episodes to know that this wasn’t possible since that tube would actually go through her trachea (friends from the medical field, please correct me as needed).

Unless of course that was a dental suction whose main purpose was to suck the saliva of poor Yaya.

6. My favorite part was the Lights Out scene that tried to subvert the genre with the heroine fearlessly chasing after the lady ghost instead. Talk about a great diva showdown.

7. Shy Carlos as the possessed Leah surely had a lot of fun in the role. She was really good without going overboard and I probably would have been more impressed with her performance if I hadn’t seen her do the exact same thing in Lumayo Ka Nga Sa Akin. Still, she was one of the few reasons to watch this.

8. Every time Jim Paredes as a priest (!!) would mention the word demonyo, I actually expected him to go on another endless anti-Duterte tirade.

Also, that bit with Angelina Kanapi as a nun on the run sounded a bit like Sister Act, no?

9. “Ang pagtatalik ay isang uri ng pagdarasal at bata ka pa lang dapat marunong ka na magdasal.” Creepy and icky. It needed more of this and less of the horror movie clichés.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

SANA’Y WALA NANG WAKAS (Leroy Salvador, 1986)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Sana’y Wala Nang Wakas:

1. Even before the classic Pinoy LGBTQ film Do Re Mi manifested the power of female camaraderie through musical numbers, there was this movie in the late 80’s (probably inspired by the Broadway musical Dreamgirls) that showcased the value of friendship.

If it weren’t obvious enough, the girl group composed of Bianca Eleazar (Sharon Cuneta), Monique Verzosa (Cherie Gil), and Michelle Williams, er, Camille Gonzaga (Dina Bonnevie) was actually named “Friends” and their go-to song was “That’s What Friends Are For” (sung during the opening scene while they wore shiny, silky costumes with gigantic ribbons on the chest area, probably borrowed from the Boyoyong clowns).

Also, Sharon sported a female mullet. Let that sink in.

2. There was one incredibly long montage (worth one full song, I think) where Bianca and Teddy (Tonton Gutierrez, terrible in an Aljur Abrenica way) toured Luzon and it could have been used as a tourist ad for the Philippines (Have some buko juice in Tagaytay! Jet ski in Taal Lake!).

At one point, Teddy dove head first in a shallow pond to get a lotus flower. I thought he was trying to catch a frog, but then it wouldn’t match with Bianca’s ever-changing ribbons on her ponytail.

Naudlot pa ang first kiss nila nang biglang dumating ang order nila na…Pepsi! (We would always complain about product placements in today’s films, but apparently it had been shamelessly done even before. This one also had blatant shills for Master Sardines and Silver Swan Soy Sauce.)

3. It was sad to see the late Dindo Fernando again here, especially since he was one of the finest actors in local cinema that was gone too soon. As Bianca’s father slash music composer, he brought a lot of depth in his character who was prone to making silly decisions.

Upon learning that he had terminal cancer, he did some soul-searching by walking the entire stretch of Manila Bay. He also abandoned his family because he didn’t want to be a pabigat for them, but ultimately returned home for one last deathbed duet. (By the way, this scene was so effective that I was a blubbering mess when it ended. Galing din ni Ate Shawie dito.)

4. As expected, jealousy and fame were the reasons for the group’s eventual break-up. I would have guessed that it was actually Dina’s singing voice because she just sounded awful (refer to Barbie Forteza’s viral video).

There was a scene where Camille was singing drunk and another one where she was warbling while sobbing uncontrollably and she didn’t sound any different from her supposedly better days. She more than made up for it in acting though because I really loved the scene where she started throwing beer bottles at her gay BFF Manny Castaneda.

5. Sample dialogue…

• Teddy being defiant to his overbearing father: “Pigain mo man ako, di mo mapipiga ang musika sa buhay ko!” (Nux!!)

• Teddy’s matapobre father to Bianca: “Magkano ang kelangan mo para layuan ang anak ko?”

Bianca with matching flaring nostrils: “Magkano ang kaya nyong ibayad? Bilhin nyo sya ng pera nyo. Bibilhin ko sya ng pag ibig ko!” (Applause! Standing ovation!!)

6. Burning questions:

• If Bianca was so famous that she was being mobbed by fans, why did she take a cab during her walk-out scene?

• How did Bianca and Monique become huge recording stars if most of their songs were remakes? Greatest Love of All vs Through the Fire? (Sabagay, diamond artist si Nina.)

• What happened to breach of contract? How could Monique miss the farewell concert of the group and get away with it? And did Bianca really have to sing Part-Time Lover (with matching luha) after seeing Camille and Teddy kiss?

• Hindi pa ba uso ang aircon noon? Bakit ang nasa loob ng dressing room nila ay isang malaking electric fan?

7. It was so funny how all the conflicts were magically resolved during the final musical number of Bianca. In this scene, the song composed by her dearly-departed dad won the top prize in a music festival that suddenly turned into her concert, complete with surprise appearances by Monique and Camille.

Friendship was restored, a marriage proposal was done, and Manny Castaneda remained a faithful alalay.

Never, ever question the power of a Willy Cruz song.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

SING (Garth Jennings, Christophe Lourdelet, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Sing:

1. When the Illumination logo showed up and the Minions started singing, I suddenly wished that they were part of the movie. What kind of animals (critters?) were they, anyway? At least it made me excited for their next outing. Hopefully, it wouldn’t be as bad as the last one.

2. I really liked the zippy opening montage introducing all the animals and their current dilemmas. Most of the characters here reminded me so much of Zootopia (like they existed in a parallel cinema universe). I wish their story arcs (young man going against his father’s dream for him, housewife wanting to fulfill her passion, teenage girl experiencing her first heartbreak, etc.) were more developed though, because they represented majority of us and our insecurities.

3. Buster Moon’s (Matthew McConaughey) love for theater at a young age reminded me of my early days watching Fernando Poe, Jr. (and the occasional Sharon Cuneta) films in Alabang Twin Cinema. My grandmother would always drag me to see Da King decimate an entire army of goons with just a .45 (without ever reloading bullets!).

Parents, it’s never too late to expose your kids to the arts.

4. Any American Idol fan would be able to relate to the entire audition process and competition rules (at one point, Buster dictated the songs that he wanted the contestants to perform; hello Simon Fuller controversy!). The selection of songs used here ranged from the classics (Hallelujah, also one of the most-performed songs on AI) to the current pop songs (Crazy in Love, Bad Romance, Firework, Stay With Me).

My favorite auditionees were the Asereje spiders and the Japanese little foxes girl group. They made me cheer from my seat out of nostalgia.

5. The movie occasionally made fun of one character with a disability, an elderly iguana with a glass eye. I laughed out really loud when the said eye fell out of its socket and bounced on the keyboard, resulting to an error on the actual cash prize for the competition. Would I go straight to hell for that?

6. Although the story was only fairly decent, most of the voice performances were really strong. Aside from McConaughey singing Call Me Maybe, it was a delight to hear Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Seth McFarlane and Taron Egerton belting their hearts out.

My favorite though was Tori Kelly as Meena, a shy elephant with stage fright. When she had her shining moment performing Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing, I was cheering along with the rest of the animal crowd.

7. The squid light show looked enchanting but weirdly enough also made me crave for Mesa’s Baby Squid Adobo in its own ink.

8. As a person with stage fright myself (I forgot a huge chunk of my speech during a Talumpatian in grade school and cried onstage), I would always remember what Buster said to Meena, “Don’t let fear stop you from doing the thing you love.” Noted and noted.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

WANTED: PERFECT MOTHER (Ike Jarlego, Jr., 1996)

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My notes on Wanted: Perfect Mother:

1. A strict father slash widower in need of someone to discipline his brats, er, kids hires a singing tutor slash nanny that teaches them the power of love, kindness, and respect through various song and dance production numbers.

Yes, this was The Sound of Music with Regine Velasquez sporting a faux-hawk and heart choker instead of a nun’s habit.

2. So much had changed in terms of child-rearing within the last few decades. There were several scenes here where adults would use force to make the children follow their will (e.g. the yaya played by Tita Winnie Cordero would grab and pull a young girl who didn’t want to go to school). Today, these things would easily fall under child abuse (hello Bantay Bata!). Our elders were able to get away with a lot back then, no?

3. The dad (played by Christopher de Leon, naturally) felt the need to look for a mother to his kids because: a) he didn’t know what tie would match his suit, b) he always woke up to the sound of his kids screaming their lungs out, c) as one of his friends put it, “Kelangan mo maghanap ng matinong babae na mag-aalaga sa’yo”. Which all begged the question, did he really need a spouse or a maid?

(No wonder Tita Shawie threw a bitch fit in Madrasta: “You’re absolutely right. Yan lang ang tingin mo sa akin. Taga-handa ng isusuot mo, ng kakainin mo. Taga-ayos sa bahay mo. Taga-salo sa mga problema mo.” I guess some things never changed.)

4. One of the best things in watching these old movies was a look back at the fashion during that time. Some of my favorite looks here were the mosaic top and black leather pants (and the perennial heart choker, of course) worn by Regine in the audition scene, the black baby doll dress with zippered red lips on the breast area matched with tattered tights (her idea of sexy when the bar manager said that her show needed “konting landi”), the high-waisted pants worn by the guys (with the belt area way above the belly button), and Bobby Andrews’ head scarf which looked like a cross between Ms. Celia Rodriguez and Madam Auring. Noted for next year’s Halloween.

5. Bing Loyzaga (who else?) played the wicked third party signaled by the dark eye shadow that covered the entirety of her eyelids (as if her flaring nostrils weren’t a giveaway). She was supposedly the evil one because she was cultured (she took the kids to a museum and they found her entire explanation on national painters really boring), she had pit stains in one scene, and she got mad when the kids wanted her to peel the shrimp for them (also, when they requested for sukang may bawang as a substitute for lemon butter sauce). Apparently, the fondness for art and the idea of independence was too elitist and therefore not mother material.

6. There were so many unintentionally hilarious lines in the movie but these were my favorites:

• “Bakit ka bibili ng alarm clock eh sa gabi naman ang trabaho mo?” (Collective groan from BPO associates.)

• “Miss Barubal! Miss Barubal!!” (Regine calling her landlady because that was her actual name.)

• “Kilala mo ba si Mickey Mouse? Diba lagi siyang hinahabol ng pusa?” (Huh? Sino? Si Hello Kitty?)

• “Ang alam ko sa butter palaman lang yan sa tinapay eh.” (Another point against lemon butter sauce.)

• “Ang trabaho mo tutor lang meaning glorified alalay.” (That’s why it’s always important to check the job description before applying.)

7. Do you still remember Kim delos Santos? Raven Villanueva? Mumay Santiago? Graciaaa? Welcome to the oldies club!

8. There was one touching moment when the kids were talking about their fears of somebody replacing their real mom. The youngest one even cried, “Sana hindi na lang kinuha ni God si Mommy.” So many realistic issues here that could have been explored in a much better movie (see Madrasta).

9. I loved how Regine was like the Pied Piper who turned tantrum-throwing brats into obedient angels with just her magical voice, all the problems vanishing after every musical number. One rendition of You Are My Song (of course I sang along) resolved all the issues and they lived happily ever after.

10. Oh, and the movie’s last line was Christopher asking Regine to change her blue nail color. To match her pink maid’s uniform, perhaps?

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

CAMP SAWI (Irene Villamor, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

(Watch the movie before reading this and then let’s discuss. Enjoy it first. Go!)

My notes on Camp Sawi:

1. If I were to create a custom pain scale (you know, the one that doctors used to determine how unbearable your gastritis was even if you were already as pale as Edward Cullen), I would probably place having a broken heart in between a bony impacted wisdom tooth extraction and getting stuck in EDSA traffic on a Monday rush hour morning.

The physical, mental, and emotional anguish of a heartbreak really takes its toll especially on the abandoned party (read: tangang umaasa pa rin) and everyone knows that it usually takes forever to get through the real stages of grief: 1) Nasaktan, 2) Niloko, 3) Iniwan, 4) Umiyak, 5) Nagdusa, 6) Nag-Let Go, 7) Nag-Move On, 8) Nagbago, 9) Sumaya, 10) Gumanda.

2. In this light and lovely comedy that would probably end up as my favorite guilty pleasure this year, brokenhearted women could find solace and redemption in a fictional boot camp (shot in gorgeous Bantayan Island, Cebu City) where sodium-free meals were specially-prepared to avoid further depression, phones and Facebook were deemed useless due to lack of any signal (“only Mother Nature!”), nightly bonfires were held to destroy the remaining memories of your tormentor (“if you want to sunog anything”), and group activities (yoga sessions, morning jogs, film viewing of the classic Sharon-Robin starrer Maging Sino Ka Man, open forums) were conducted to assist in the moving on process.

With the popularity of hugot films of late, this type of resort would actually be a lucrative franchise. Investors, anyone?

3. Remember that brilliant opening in Up that followed the beginning and tragic end of Carl and Ellie’s love story? This movie came close to recreating that sequence, except that nobody died but Bridgette’s (Bela Padilla) poor heart. Those first ten minutes covered the entire gamut of a failed relationship and its tragic aftermath (stalking an ex on social media to check the new partner, baliwan mode while getting drunk, Google search of “how to heal a broken heart”). Bela was just so good in this role that it made me forget how much she struggled in the recent I America. She clearly had the best scenes in the movie:

• bargaining for ten more minutes on the phone (“kasi ten years kita tinawag na babe eh”)

• bitterly saying lines like “Sino bang brokenhearted ang maganda? Sasaksakin ko!”

• the pig-out scene with Camp Master Louie (Sam Milby) complete with loud munching and reminiscent of Meg Ryan’s orgasm sequence in When Harry Met Sally (“I’ll have what she’s having!”)

• endlessly ranting on getting dumped for not being Chinese (“Sampung taon kami nag-celebrate ng Chinese New Year. Hindi ba niya nakita ang mata ko?”)

4. I really liked the millennial character Jessica (Yassi Pressman) and how her life was always in relation to a pop culture event (on her breakup: “It actually hurt more when Zayn left One Direction”, on her gay boyfriend: “I didn’t know! Did you see Bruce Jenner?”). Instead of being annoying, she was just so charming throwing lines like, “He’s really old. Like ka-age mo old”.

As an old person myself, I did feel a bit happy seeing her receive her comeuppance when Bridgette retorted, “Bata ka pa. Marami ka pang makikilalang bakla.”

5. Parents, please do not bring your kids to this movie. The theme and content aren’t for them anyway. It just felt a bit uncomfortable that there were kids watching when they showed the implied shower fellatio scene. Bring your husbands instead since I’m sure they will at least enjoy ogling at the bikini bodies in full display. Or in my case, wondering how these beautiful women achieved their perennial rosy white cheeks.

6. At this point in her career, Arci Muñoz could do no wrong. As the rocker chick Gwen aka Lovejoy (self-proclaimed Kilabot ng Altura), she was endearing even while getting wasted and throwing up on fresh sheets. Her little girl voice was really funny given that it was coming out of this scorching hot woman’s body and everything she said regardless of sense connected with the audience (“Kelangan ko uminom kasi ang panget mo!”, “Kinukumutan mo ko, pang may boypren yun!”). Her character even asked the exact same question I had about Louie being seen everywhere (“Understaffed ba kayo?”).

That lovely singing voice and song, though. Wow.

Also, seeing Ramona Thornes wearing a Ramones shirt was pure genius.

7. The wild drunk scene with Bridgette and Gwen was already worth the price of admission. I had never laughed so hard hearing things that would only sound funny coming from two drunk women:

• “Kapag Chinese kuripot!” “Hindi! Kapag Chinese masipag, walang holiday!”

• “Hindi lahat ng nag-e-English taga-England, tanga! Minsan taga-Makati lang.”

8. I wonder if this would have worked better as a series instead, along the lines of Orange Is the New Black. There were just so many stories that needed enough time to breathe: the mistress Clarisse (Andi Eigenmann), Joan (Kim Molina) and the untimely death of her fiancé, the chubby girl left by her chubby boyfriend after he lost ten pounds (and resorted to baking to mend her broken heart, familiar no?), and the only gay guy in camp whose heart was full of regrets. Even Louie needed a bit more back story other than he wanted to help these people overcome their sadness. It was hard to feel for all of them and their sob stories when they were mere strangers.

9. New forms of catharsis in Pinoy cinema: jumping off a cliff as a leap of faith, the undying love of videoke (this time set to Regine Velasquez’s Dadalhin), and women stripping off (almost) everything to swim in the beach (ala Chris Martinez’s 100).

10. “Ang mga panget kapag nagkajowa sobrang blessing at kapag iniwan naman ay isang sumpa.” Aray ko beh!

11. Somebody asked me recently how one would know when a person’s already over (or close to moving on from) an ex and the last few moments of the movie perfectly encapsulated my response.

Some people would fear bumping into an ex in a public place (especially with a new partner), but that would be the ultimate test. Sure, it might still sting a bit but instead of digging up the past, if you’re able to ask “Kumusta ka? Ok ka lang ba? Masaya ka ba?” without any form of bitterness or resentment, then you wouldn’t need to book another summer in Camp Sawi.

Welcome back to the real world and get excited for your new “balang araw”.

12. Seriously, is there a place similar to Camp Sawi right now? I already have a list of names that I will recommend it to. 😊

Rating: ★★★★☆

THE CHOICE (Ross Katz, 2016)

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My notes on The Choice:

1. Nicholas Sparks movies should now be classified as cinematic junk food, alongside Michael Bay blockbusters and Adam Sandler comedies. They have low nutritional brain value, usually with excessive cheese or sugar, and should never be consumed in high doses unless you want severely clogged arteries. I guess that’s also why we only get one (or max two) of them every year to enjoy. Anything more than that would be lethal.

2. This one followed the same Sparks formula from beginning to end and your enjoyment will depend on your tolerance level for cornball entertainment and three-hankie weepie conflicts. Here’s a Sparks movie checklist for reference:

• Usually set in a Southern town, preferably a coastal village (increasing the chances of a sappy boat ride scene, fyi, Ikaw with Sharon Cuneta and Ariel Rivera did it much better)

• Two young lovers that are direct opposites will still fall in love with each other and undergo self-realization and acceptance (most likely with a love triangle or square, for them to fight for their love)

• Rain, lots and lots of rain, where our lovers will run in, make tampisaw, heavily kiss or fornicate under without any fear of getting pneumonia

• Love notes and love letters will still be used in this time of iMessage and emails because they are just so romantic

• The vehicle of choice would be a pick-up truck or a motorcycle because they are darn masculine and sexy

• Possible meet-up at a town fair and may include a ferris wheel ride as needed

• Empty platitudes that the viewers can quote and tweet about after

• Lastly, any form of tragedy that will be introduced in the third act to ensure a downpour of tears (death through leukemia, cancer, Alzheimer’s, a car accident, war, state of coma)

3. It was funny seeing a religious girl (with a boyfriend) talk about her faith and then flirt with another guy who’s also in a relationship. Since the movie was asking us to root for these destined lovers, we were asked to hate on the faithful boyfriend for being busy in his work as a doctor. Are you kidding? This was just hypocrisy at its finest.

4. The best part of the movie were the really cute dogs, whether they were the basket of puppies or the fully-grown pets. One thing I learned was that you should never name the fresh litter because it would be hard to give them up for adoption. This should be good news for my future puppies especially since I usually give them generic names like Bubbles or Spot regardless of gender or actual spots on their skin.

5. I sobbed my eyes out when the line “I wish I could breathe for you” was uttered. And then the puka shell chimes signaled a change of fate and I started cheering with the rest of audience. Pure cheese, I’m warning you.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆