CHAIN MAIL (Adolf Alix, Jr., 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Chain Mail:

1. Some of my all-time favorite Filipino films (Mater Dolorosa, Isda, and Adela come to mind) were directed by Adolf Alix, Jr. so I was completely surprised with this mess of a movie. It was like he gave up midway through production and finished it with a “Pwede na ‘to” attitude. The final product was just so far off from his usual technically-proficient films.

2. In the opening scene, Nadine Lustre (in a “special role”) got run over by an out of control jeepney that rammed the computer shop where she was checking her email. Everything was supposed to have a supernatural feel with the requisite gore but the clunky setup just made it look funny. And why was she in full party mode red dress just to check her email anyway? And why was she immediately killed if she just opened and read the chain mail? What if she had no access to Wifi or 3G at home to check before the 9th day? I therefore blame Globe for her death.

3. This chain mail thing probably would have been scarier 20 years ago. It just felt so dated. Like watching The Ring and its cursed VHS in this day and age of Piratebay.

4. A lot of people got killed in the movie. I barely knew them (both the artists and the characters) and I didn’t really care much about them. I mean how could you invest on someone that got trapped in a car and her first instinct was to tap loudly on the window? Sure she might have been in a state of panic but if she only reached for the door handle…

5. The faceless creature with blasted areolas looked like it came straight out of Pan’s Labyrinth. (I apologize to Guillermo del Toro for including his classic film in the notes of this dreadful movie.) Later on it was explained that the girl victim cut off her nose (yes, her entire nose with scissors) and she had time to slash her entire body and cut her hair before actually going into shock.

6. So many scenes were so badly-lit it reeked of lack of budget.

7. In a cheering practice…

M! A! B! U! H! A! Y! Mabuhay!! (Repeat 10x)

Head cheerleader: Ok from the top.

Scene continued without any sound coming from the squad. What?!

8. All the kids in this movie checked their email every single time like it was Twitter. Do people really do this? Are they waiting for an email from LiNa?

9. The characters here were so sosyal. A post office worker and a high school teacher both lived in these lavish houses in posh subdivisions. Did they have a cut in the pork barrel as well?

10. 80’s icon Bernardo Bernardo played an albularyo that probably would have been funnier if he were flamboyant and in full Oda Mae Brown mode.

11. One schoolgirl got killed in the bathroom (the creature came out of the toilet while she was peeing) but it was classes as usual on the same day for the rest of the students while they mourned their dearly departed classmate. Seriously, in what crazy school does this happen?

12. In another scene, the manager of Project Pie got locked in the walk-in freezer for two minutes before turning into a literal malamig na bangkay.

13. Terrible, horrible, god-awful performances all around. The only real source of horror in this horror flick.

14. One character almost drowned in the pool because she kept flailing around and didn’t bother standing up. Seriously.

15. Nadapa si Ate Shy Carlos sa kalsada. Dinala sa Ospital ng Maynila. Naka-wheelchair sa susunod na eksena. Na-confine. Que horror!

16. The school gossip (the gay teacher of course!) got killed when a ceiling fan rotated on his neck (sorry, that’s the only way I could describe it). He even had time to scream before it fell on him. Blood spurted out of his sliced neck. In succeeding scenes, a character kept saying that the gay teacher was “napugutan”. Since I didn’t see any rolling head, apparently, he didn’t know what the word meant.

17. In one sequence with a continuous real-time conversation, a character kept changing places after every line while the background turned from day to night. How long exactly was that discussion?

18. Rain effects. Overhead shot of the car moving on the road. And then you see the dry spot where the car used to be. Paano nakakalusot ang mga ganitong bagay?

19. The movie ended up as a cautionary tale on viral sex videos. And pedophile teachers.

20. And the Best Performance by a Pamintang Durog goes to…

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published July 23, 2015.)

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FANGIRL/FANBOY (Barry Gonzalez, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Fangirl/Fanboy:

1. In one scene, a supposedly talented dubber Aimee (Ella Cruz) was not allowed to enter the studio because she forgot her company ID. To prove that she actually worked there (as a “Dubberkads”, wenk wenk), she mimicked the voices of her famous characters such as Shan Cai of Meteor Garden and Princess Sarah of Patatas Kingdom. The problem though was that she didn’t sound anywhere close to them and it was very much like Ella Cruz doing terrible impersonations that would make Miss Minchin furious.

Even worse, when she dubbed the lines for her Korean robot character Sandy/Android 5000 (Yam Concepcion), it seemed that they used another person’s voice in lieu of Ella’s. So we had a Koreanovela character dubbed by a dubber character who was also dubbed by another real person? Confused yet? Was this supposed to be the Inception of dubbing?

2. Even with a half-decent story, it was just hard to buy the romance between Aimee and Ollie (Julian Trono) because the leads had zero chemistry. There were instances when it felt like I was watching siblings flirt with each other and it just made me squirm in my seat.

Maybe it was because Ella still looked like a kid (Aryana feels!) so it was weird seeing her sexualized by wearing a French maid costume (why did she even own one in the first place?). It was like a scene straight out of Toddlers and Tiaras.

There was also something off with Julian and his slo-mo pa-cute scenes that reminded me of Michael Jackson in Moonwalker.

When the two were having fun running around a fountain (drone shots galore!), it was the same kind of happiness I saw between Jocelyn and Jervy in Mga Batang Yagit. Now where was Xian Gaza when you actually needed him?

3. Aimee’s mom (a sublime Yayo Aguila): “Anong nangyayari sa’yo?”

Aimee (kinikilig): “Ay, wala po. May ipis kasi.”

Aimee’s mom: “Ipis?! Nasaan?!”

Aimee: “Ay, ayun po. Lumipad palabas. Feeling butterfly eh.”

Wenk, wenk, wenk.

4. Given their huge height difference, how did Aimee end up kissing Ollie on the lips when she got hit by that fire exit door? Napatalon ang mga labi sa takot? Para-paraan? Hokage moves? (Yung totoo. Sa Adam’s apple ni Ollie sya dapat nasalubsob.)

5. I felt bad that Aimee was given a gay bff (trope) that proved useless to her. When they were having a discussion regarding that unfortunate (?) kiss, she asked his advice if it actually meant something and his response was, “Wala nang panget ngayon. Marami na lang tamad mag-ayos.” Huh?! Whatever happened to a gay character being the voice of reason in rom-coms? You were supposed to be her friend, not her pimp. Bakla ka ng taon!

6. I liked how the movie touched on the Koreanovela craze and the local industry’s expectations on love teams. I wish they could have done more than just provide basic observations. Also, why were they already shooting a local remake of that Program to Love show when the original was still being shown?

7. I wouldn’t want to work in that studio that seemed to receive bomb threats every week. Hindi sapat ang HMO para sa stress at near-death stampede experience.

8. As always, Shy Carlos (as bitchy diva Cheska) was the highlight of the movie. Along with her entourage (personal assistant Donnalyn Bartolome and twin set of alalays), she effectively wreaked havoc over everything that stood in her path (literally and figuratively). I laughed so hard when she delivered the line, “Aminin mo nga sa kin. Girlfriend mo ba ‘tong jej fangirl na ‘to?” Seriously, we need her in all Viva movies.

9. Librarian to Aimee after the latter misplaced a History book: “Kelan pa naging fiction ang History?”

Aimee: “Kapag ‘di mo na alam ang guni guni sa katotohanan.”

Ehrm. I was more troubled that Aimee ruined the Dewey Decimal System.

10. So Aimee suffered a mild heart attack after Ollie acted all Judas Iscariot and denied (three times?) that she was his girlfriend. But then Ollie retaliated against Cheska and blamed her for everything. His final, profound words: “Not everyone revolves around you and your heng-eps.” Huehuehuehue!!

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: ★★☆☆☆

GIRLFRIEND FOR HIRE (Vanessa de Leon, 2016

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My notes on Girlfriend for Hire:

1. It was only a couple of years ago when they showed Bride for Rent, a Star Cinema rom-com where a hilarious Kim Chiu played the beard of the wooden Xian Lim. She pretended to be his future bride because she desperately needed money and he plotted the whole charade to please his grandmother (and get his trust fund).

Girlfriend for Hire had the exact same plot. Nami (Yassi Pressman) needed scholarship money so she agreed to be the pretend girlfriend of Bryle (Andre Paras) whose desperate grandfather wanted him to continue their Stanford legacy.

Seriously though, why couldn’t these rich, decent, good-looking men land real girlfriends? Made me wonder if it was an equipment or gender issue. And why do these movies always involve renting/hiring women? May I suggest Boytoy for Lease with KC Concepcion and Piolo Pascual?

2. I found it off that Bryle kept treating Nami like shit and it was supposed to be funny and romantic. In one scene, he actually commanded her to “get down on (her) knees and give it to (him)”. In another scene, out of selos, he dragged her inside a room like Chris Brown being sweet to Rihanna. The worst was when he ate the only piece of chocolate strawberry cake that she was craving for. As a fat kid outside, I felt her physical and emotional pain.

3. I love the Yassi-Andre love team not only because they’re bagay but also because they’re not annoying actors (they even had the most genuine onscreen kiss in this movie). I guess I was surprised when the usually charming Andre was forced to let loose (eyes popping, nostrils flaring, spittle flying) and overact like he was auditioning for a The Mask sequel. In his previous (terrible) movies (Diary ng Panget, Your Place or Mine?), he was funny without even trying. I hope they get way better projects soon. Sayang ang potential.

4. I therefore conclude that the Ultimate Kakaibabe Donnalyn Bartolome is the new Nikki Valdez.

5. My favorite scenes in the movie were:

• When Bryle’s alta grandfather showed him a Powerpoint presentation (presumably made by a 6-year old) of the country’s eligible bachelorettes that he probably met in Cafe Havana

• When Nami mindlessly crossed the street under the pouring rain and Bryle almost hit her with his car and he screamed, “Anong ginagawa mo sa gitna ng ulan?” (Hindi talaga sa gitna ng kalsada??)

• When Nami took Bryle to a palengke and he had the gall to complain about his ruined outfit (white shorts and Toms) (Wait, sarado ba ang lahat ng supermarkets?)

• When Nami’s hot neighbor saw all the ingredients of pesto pasta (noodles, pesto sauce) and correctly guessed that she was preparing the said dish, she acted all shocked and asked, “Paano mo nalaman??” (Girl, it doesn’t take a chef to know that.)

6. Product placements galore. The SMDC sign (complete with Sarah G.’s face) was shown every thirty minutes. I think they even used the exact same room in The Breakup Playlist.

Also, after eating a heavy meal (three cups of rice and all), Bryle still ordered a Greenwich Barkada-Size Ultimate Overload and I knew that was what he ordered because the Greenwich delivery guy loudly said it at the door (“Hello Sir! Here’s your order of one Greenwich Barkada-Size Ultimate Overload!”). Now that got me hungry. Product placement worked.

7. You know this was a fantasy because the lovely Yassi still had her own makeover montage (when all she needed to do was comb her hair). Weirdly enough, she reminded me so much of Mailes Kanapi (please tell me I’m not crazy).

Also, Yassi preferred Andre’s baby fats over her abstastic neighbor (you immediately knew that she didn’t like hottie neighbor because she devoured an entire chicken right in front of him).

8. The last minute introduction of Shy Carlos as Bryle’s girlfriend didn’t serve any purpose except to ensure that the movie reached its quota of Viva talents.

Again, better movies for them, please!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

LUMAYO KA NGA SA AKIN (Mark Meily, Andoy Ranay, Chris Martinez, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Lumayo Ka Nga Sa Akin:

1. We usually see local parodies on gag shows like Bubble Gang or Banana Split, and in every Wenn Deramas movie so this one didn’t really have anything new to offer. It aimed to mock Philippine cinema tropes and the local moviegoing audience but didn’t tell us more than what we already knew.

2. My biggest problem with this movie was that it bordered on being mean-spirited. Several references were made on the Pinoy audience basically being stupid for loving the same old cliches in different genres (action, horror, and romance) and that anything outside of the norm would be an immediate flop. Sure, some of these observations may be factual but I still think that we’re much better than that. Was it really the audience’s fault if they enjoyed a good old formulaic movie? Weren’t the studios/producers to blame as well for churning out the same profit-driven product? Maybe this was an even bigger problem than the movie actually presented.

3. These were some of the lines that were supposed to be funny (wink, wink) but made me cringe a bit:

“Kelangan mo ikwento ang nangyayari sa audience kasi karamihan naman dyan…(wink)…” (I’m guessing they were going for tanga? Or in Cathy Garcia-Molina verse TANGA!!)

“Sabihan ang writer para di langawin. Ayaw ng audience ng bagong idea.”

“Hindi masyadong nakakaunawa ng English ang audience natin.”

Did the movie really think that it was smarter than its audience? And was this really specific to just the Pinoy audience?

4. On the flipside, did these observations hurt because they were true? Don’t we really love action films where people get killed in a wedding and it suddenly becomes a revenge flick? Don’t we enjoy the endless banter between the bida and kontrabida before the final shootout? Or the requisite sampalan scene during a tension-filled showdown between two women?

5. Very much like its poster, the movie was trying to be Scary Movie (1 to Sawa) except that it provided a broad look at Philippine Cinema instead of recreating scenes from specific movies. Funny enough, the episodic treatment was very similar to some of the movies it was trying to make fun of (Mga Kwento ni Lola Basyang, Stupid Cupid, Tatlong Mukha ng Pag-ibig, please tell me you know them as well hehe).

6. The first episode by Mark Meily didn’t have a lot of new things to say about Pinoy action films. I did like the John Regala Kontrabida Instructional Video but everything else was just meh. To be fair, I laughed a bit when Candy Pangilinan said “Pwede bang Face of the Night na lang kasi walang kwenta na ang Best Actress ngayon?”

7. The second episode was a horror send-up of Shake, Rattle, and Roll (if you watched the three movies I mentioned above, all of them had their horror episodes as the middle one). Maricel Soriano’s love-it-or-hate-it performance was reminiscent of her acting in 90’s action-comedy movies with Cesar Montano, Bong Revilla, and Lito Lapid, among others, down to her usual adlib of “Pigilan mo ako naniningkit na ang mga mata ko!”. It was shrill and hyper and your enjoyment will depend on your tolerance for that brand of comedy (everyone knows how much I love her so you know where I stand). The rest of the jokes (the botched subtitles, night time exorcism, Bollywood production number, etc.) were okay at best.

8. I really liked Shy Carlos here. I wasn’t a fan of her performances in Para Sa Hopeless Romantic and Chain Mail but she really stood out here just for being the bitchy voice of the people (Maricel to Shy: “Minsan lang ‘to gumawa ng movie nagkaganyan na.” Haha!)

9. The best among the three episodes was definitely Chris Martinez’s Asawa ni Marie because it was just really funny. I rarely enjoy Cristine Reyes’ performances but she was so game here down to bobbing assorted items from the putikan (“Wala pong putikan saan nyo ako ilulublob?”). I instantly liked her as soon as she started prancing on the seashore (ala Marimar) along with her lifesize dog/mascot Yagit and let out a typical hagikgik.

10. The rest of the cast were good as well (Jayson Gainza as the dashing leading man, Jackie Lou Blanco as the matapobre haciendera, etc.) but it was Joey Paras who stood out as the submissive mother (yes, mother!) of Marie. From the moment he said “Senyorita, nagbalik po ba kayo para sabunutan ako ng walang dahilan?” up to the scene where he carried said senyorita back to the mansion, I was out of breath from laughing that I had to use my inhaler.

11. Did they use the same room that stood in as the US condo of Clark and Leah on On The Wings of Love?

12. Out of all the self-awareness present in the movie, the best line had to be in that scene where Cristine kept hawking faux products, “Pelikula na, patalastas pa? Tama, wala tayong delikadeza.” Now that’s one masigabong palakpakan na sampal sa industriya.

Ratings:

BALA SA BALA, KAMAO SA KAMAO, SATSAT SA SATSAT (Mark Meily) – ★★☆☆☆

SHAKE, SHAKER, SHAKEST (Andoy Ranay) – ★★☆☆☆

ASAWA NI MARIE (Chris Martinez) – ★★★★☆