ANNIE (Will Gluck, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Annie:

1. The movie opened with a typical Annie, a tiny freckle-faced Caucasian redhead, reading a report on former US Presidents. The teacher then called the real Annie, played by Quvenzhane Wallis, a smart and spunky African-American. I loved this wink, wink opening because Wallis was just too adorable in the lead role. I was also happy with the color blind casting because the role of Annie had nothing to do with her skin color anyway.

2. When I heard the teacher call Annie B., I immediately thought Annie Batungbakal and I started humming the theme song and imagined Nora doing a song and dance number (“Sa umaga, dispatsadora. Sa gabi, siya’y bonggang-bongga…”).

3. For a musical, most of the production numbers felt lacking. The only one I truly enjoyed was It’s The Hard Knock Life. Everything else felt joyless. Even the classic Tomorrow wasn’t memorable since it just had her walking the streets of Harlem. Why bother with a remake?

4. Cameron Diaz can be funny whenever she goes bat-shit crazy in her movies. Here, her campiness only served as a distraction. She was just irritating all throughout. Even her musical number was horrible. Do you still remember her singing “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” in My Best Friend’s Wedding? She sang exactly like that in the most grating voice ever. Only here it wasn’t played for laughs.

5. Blatant Purell product placement. No better than a Kris Aquino movie. (“Product placement keeps the movie business afloat!”, said one character.)

6. The viral video of Jamie Foxx saving Annie was all wrong. How could it have different takes and taken from two different angles when it was supposedly shot by an onlooker?

7. I love Rose Byrne, I really do, but she should not be allowed to sing again. Hey, why was this musical populated by terrible singers given their own musical highlights? All it needed was Russell Crowe.

8. The updated version had Annie with a Twitter account and saved by Instagram. Groan.

9. I felt bad for Sia. I actually liked “Opportunity”.

10. The final act had a last minute twist, a villain that never really got his due, a final conflict, and a quick resolution that led to a song and dance number by way of Mother Lily. Ugh.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published January 28, 2015.)

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BORN BEAUTIFUL (Perci Intalan, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Born Beautiful:

1. Originally planned as a series on Cignal TV, this spin-off of the 2016 critical hit (and a personal fave) Die Beautiful was supposedly the first five episodes of the show turned into a full-length feature. Although the decision was understandable given the material’s commercial appeal, this also served as its main weakness. The transition from TV to film resulted into some messy storytelling (several arcs felt stretched to fill an episode), underdeveloped characters, the lack of a clear resolution (a lot of people would definitely find the ending bitin), and some surface-level views on weighty issues. Even worse, we didn’t really get to know more about everyone’s favorite BFF Barbs, except that she made funny “arf arf arf” sounds during sex.

2. I was very disappointed that Christian Bables didn’t reprise his Urian-winning role because he would always be the Barbs that we deserved. It was such an effortless and lived-in performance that was sorely missing in this movie (plus the fact that the original relied on the wonderful chemistry between him and Paolo Ballesteros’ Trisha, who sadly only showed up here for a couple of scenes including a killer Mama Mary moment).

Martin del Rosario was fine as Barbs 2.0, but under all the wigs and make-up (and occasional tucking) it still felt like a committed Martin del Rosario playing Barbs 2.0. And would it be weird to say that he was just much too beautiful for the role? If Barbs (hello Taong Lego?) looked this gorgeous, then she wouldn’t be playing second fiddle to Trisha and would actually be winning all the beaucons instead.

3. While Die Beautiful presented a clear picture of Trisha’s character with her childhood dream of becoming a beauty queen, growing up in a homophobic household, and being subjected to all forms of abuse, this sequel focused on Barbs being torn between two men (and facing possible fatherhood). Medyo mababaw lang.

I would have wanted to learn more about Barbs’ personal life, including her goals and motivations, or how she coped up with her best friend’s death, or even how she learned (or what inspired) all those make-up transformations. I guess her new and improved face only merited a love triangle plot.

4. To be fair, there were still a lot of enjoyable (read: LOL) moments here. I found it smart that they were able to connect the Jamby quip in the first with Barbs’ identity confusion problems in this one (“Mukha kang tomboy na nag-aalok ng Bear Brand!”). I cackled with glee when she mentioned that Kim Kardashian’s look cost 3.5k and the 350 version was for Kim delos Santos. And should I feel guilty that I laughed at the sight of the stroke victim’s corpse and after Barbs covered it up with a Lady Gaga circa 2009 MTV Video Music Awards kukur look (“Mukha siyang malaking regla at ikaw ang pasador”)? Or that the beki friends recommended a Rihanna transformation for their other friend that died from electrocution (“Dahil lang sunog, kelangan na negra?”) and ended up with a Sia walis-tambo look (“Sia Pusit!”)? Maybe not.

The lamest humor came from the tired beauty pageant introduction segment. Seriously, how many more times should we hear that rehashed “Seventy-eight, seventy-nine, Haiti!” joke before it gets permanently banned in Pinoy queer cinema?

5. Aside from Barbs, the Michael Angelo 2.0 character had a nose lift that resulted to a face overhaul and was now played by Artista Academy’s Akihiro Blanco. It felt odd that he was one of the men fighting over her when he was the ex of Trisha in the first film.

Wait lang Barbs, tumulong ka sugurin ang karibal ni Trisha, tinawag mo na ahas, nakipagsabunutan sa parlor, pagkatapos tinalo mo rin sa dulo ang BFF mo? Hindi talaga lahat ng ahas nasa gubat. Yung iba nagtatrabaho sa Happy Endings Funeral Homes. (Kaya ka rin siguro laging minumulto ni Trisha! Malandi, haliparot, talipandas!)

From the rest of the supporting cast, I really loved Lou Veloso back as Mama Flora (“Ang gugulo n’yo. Mag-chupaan na lang tayong lahat!”), Joey Paras as one of the Way of Light pastors, and Chai Fonacier as the baby mama Yumi. What happened to the other beki BFFs from the first film, though?

6. I really appreciated some of the witty ways the film expressed its views on current issues like the death penalty (“People can change for the better”), gender neutral bathrooms, single-blessedness (“Hindi mo naman kelangan ng partner para maging reyna”), abortion, and open relationships. That entire conversion therapy bit was also brutal (literally and figuratively) that many overzealous faithful would probably get triggeredt.

7. In one scene, Yumi was graphically describing how she ended up getting pregnant through some vulgar words and hand movements. It was meant to be hilarious (and probably one of the movie’s highlights), but ended up getting completely ruined by all the bleeping (even the subtitles were censored!). Please note that the version I watched was already rated R-18, or For Adults Only by the tasked moral guardians.

I just found it funny that one of the promotional materials for this film commended the MTRCB for being “progressive”. Totoo ba? Saang banda?

Rating: ★★★☆☆

FIFTY SHADES DARKER (James Foley, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on 50 Shades Darker:

1. After two films, my biggest problem with this series remained to be Jamie Dornan in the role of Christian Grey. Not even his six-pack abs (from his pommel horse workouts?) could distract me from the fact that he wasn’t the incredibly sexy and attractive billionaire lothario that was promised in this ultimate female wish fulfillment fantasy.

He just looked incredibly bored, bland (ooh, like vanilla!), and forgettable amidst all the kinky fuckery. No wonder the lady in front of me was trying to Google him way after the movie had started.

2. Did the director really know the target audience of this chick flick? Weirdly, it actually felt like he was trying to draw in the male crowd with the copious breast exposures of Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele (definitely not the nude johnson women were expecting) and endless scenes of having her panties taken off (I couldn’t understand why she wore them in the first place when she was obviously allergic to them).

Also, why did Christian keep his pants on in almost every sex scene? Asking for a friend.

3. I liked this slightly better than the first (in no shape or form a compliment) simply because it fully embraced its seemingly trashy roots. While the first one desperately wanted to be an artful BDSM movie, this one didn’t even bother trying.

Instead it gave us lots of gratuitous nudity and sex (I choked on my Zagu when she asked him to kiss her on the pepe, how romantic!, and let’s not get started on that elevator finger scene) and taught us the proper usage of vaginal beads, spreader bars, and sensual oils (although that coconut oil scene reminded me so much of Jean Garcia in Impaktita that I was grateful Anastasia’s torso didn’t break free from her waist).

4. Relieved to hear that he had moved on from his Beyonce fetish and the soundtrack now included catchy tunes from Sia, Zayn feat. Taylor Swift, and my favorite track Bom Bidi Bom by Nick Jonas feat. Nicki Minaj. Now that was a credible Xerex playlist.

5. That art exhibit by Anastasia’s creepy friend/stalker was, well, creepy. I also felt bad that Christian purchased all of the artwork but we never really saw any of them anywhere in his apartment.

6. Wait, so he wanted to have rough sex with women that reminded him so much of his abusive mother? For the love of Sigmund Freud, eek!

Was there also a psychosexual interpretation of him having the Chronicles of Riddick poster in his bedroom? Would this explain why Vin Diesel chose to sing Katy Perry’s Dark Horse in one of his vlogs?

7. Poor Kim Basinger looked like she overdosed on botox only to get the Lavinia Arguelles treatment (twice!) in one scene. Pinoy soap opera at its finest! (And please tell me that the shower sex scene was a direct nod to the erotic 9 1/2 Weeks!).

8. There was a tacked-on scene towards the end where Christian’s helicopter crashed and he was magically back onscreen after a few minutes. Huwat?! I surely hoped his bed escapades lasted longer than his disappearance.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

SUICIDE SQUAD (David Ayer, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Suicide Squad:

1. I honestly couldn’t care less about the whole Marvel v DC discussion (I would have to leave that up to the expert rabid fanboys) and with all the early (brutal) reviews that came out, I was prepared to see the worst film of the year (which according to the online universe as well was previously Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a movie that I actually liked). Sure, this wasn’t a breakthrough in comic book adaptations with its weak story and cheesy special effects, but at least it was a bit more fun to watch than say, the ho-hum X-Men: Apocalypse. Also, anybody who would say that this was worse than the Fant4stic Four reboot probably never watched the entirety of that snoozefest.

2. Harley Quinn (played to playful perfection by Margot Robbie) was the most memorable (and obviously fitting) in a movie that was a whole lot of pretty and a whole lot of crazy. From the moment she appeared dangling like Maddie Ziegler (of the Sia videos) doing another performance art inside a cage (set to the tune of You Don’t Own Me, no less), she stole every scene without effort. I could see a lot of girls donning her costume in time (literally with watches on their arms) for Halloween. I seriously wish they would have really nice and plump butt cheeks as well.

3. Dear Star-Lord, check out this movie’s soundtrack for another perfect mix tape. House of the Rising Sun, I Started a Joke, Without Me, Bohemian Rhapsody…oh wait, you already had that.

4. I was thankful for the quick introduction (flashing dossiers) of characters because aside from The Joker (Jared Leto invoking Jack Nicholson), I really didn’t know any of them. Deadshot (Will Smith) reminded me of Hancock with a Terminator’s eye, Diablo (Jay Hernandez) and Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) were reminiscent of Human Torch and Thing, Boomerang (Jai Courtney) had a boomerang plus a really creepy pink unicorn fetish, and Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) looked like a starving pre-show Victoria’s Secret Angel (please tell me I wasn’t the only one laughing at her wiggling during the post-heart transplant scene).

I wasn’t surprised that Annalise Keating, er, Amanda Waller (the exquisite Viola Davis) was the one chosen to round up and torture another team of puppets. Also, one character looked very much like Frank Delfino, I swear.

5. Ooh, blink-and-you’ll-miss-em cameos from two popular DC characters! These ones I knew.

6. The huge subtitles without punctuation marks triggered my OCD. My right index finger kept tapping at an imaginary period button whenever those showed up.

7. I snickered a bit when the camera zoomed up to reveal the Instagram-ready knife and champagne flatlay of The Joker. On a related note, I really loved that shot of him and Harley in a vat of swirling blue and red paint. Ahrt!!

8. The best moments were when it was just being really silly with its villains-as-heroes theme and had intentionally funny lines like “Don’t touch me!”, “What’s that crap on your face? Does that wash off?”, and my favorite “Behold the face of God!” (close runner-up: “Why are you not dead?”).

9. The worst moments were when it decided to grow a heart amidst the messy fight sequences (reminiscent of David Ayer’s Fury and in one sequence, The Raid) complete with an obvious fake-out and a gag-inducing slo-mo that included a gun being thrown to the bida (sorry, Margot and Will but Fernando Poe, Jr. and Janice de Belen/Julie Vega did it much better in Roman Rapido).

10. The ending initially hinted at a sequel focusing on Harley and The Joker, but the mid-credits sequence showed a picture of Ezra Miller, among others. Since he played The Flash, should we expect the Justice League movie next?

Critics, start sharpening your claws!! (Wait, wrong franchise…)

Rating: ★★★☆☆

HOW TO BE YOURS (Dan Villegas, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on How To Be Yours:

1. In one crucial scene, babes Anj (Bea Alonzo) and Niño (Gerald Anderson) alternately slept and woke up in one bed, while barely seeing or interacting with each other. Both were too tired from their respective jobs and their conflicting schedules further worsened the situation (did that sound familiar, BPO peeps?). It was a painfully realistic depiction of a relationship that probably wasn’t meant to last. But was it really?

My biggest problem with this movie was that it wanted us to believe that career and love (and to some extent happiness) were mutually exclusive. It would always be between Choice A (love makes the world go round) or Choice B (werk, werk, werk, werk, werk, werk). Weirdly enough, one character pointed out that there was actually a middle ground (Choice C), although it would be hard work for both parties. In that world, this A Second Chance-lite movie wouldn’t even exist.

2. Since there were several coffee references here, I just had to mention that I loved the sight of Bea and Gerald’s clasped hands because their skin tones perfectly complemented each other, very much like coffee and cream. Or should that be Kopiko LA Coffee and Cream?

3. I found it funny that Niño took a small bite on the crust of the sandwich that Anj prepared and immediately declared it masarap. I could only imagine his foodgasm if he ate at Angel’s Burger (“Sa unang kagat, tinapay lahat!”).

Also, why would anyone ask a significant other to gauge cooking skills? No sane guy would ever criticize his girlfriend’s salpicao dish even if it tasted like bistek. (This joke was done much better in Kasal, Kasali, Kasalo where Ryan Agoncillo praised the afritada of wife Judy Ann Santos that prompted her to scream: “Pochero ‘to! Pochero ang paborito mong ulam!”.)

4. Definitely not complaining that Janus del Prado was basically playing the same BFF character in every Star Cinema rom-com. Who else could pull off a lame and awkward pick-up line like, “Joan? Joanna be mine?”.

5. More than the constant use of po (currently trademarked by Popstar Royalty Sarah Geronimo), I was really annoyed by the repetitive mentions of the word babe (douchebag alert: I called all of my significant others that to avoid saying the wrong pet name). Maybe Star Cinema should have a Babe Time contest and reward the person that would be able to give the exact word count.

6. The two lines that made me laugh out loud:

• “Love is like a rosary. Lagi ko dinadasalan.” (A welcome change from the full of mysteries joke.)

• “Hoy, mga walanghiya! Sa social media pa kayo naglandian!” (I found it weird though that the only tweets showing up were theirs. They weren’t following anyone else?)

The line that made me groan out loud:

• “I gave you everything, but you left me with nothing.” (Everything except understanding?)

Speaking of groan-worthy, I did not like the fake-out announcement at all. At all.

7. Those legs in the supermarket scene. Wow! (Also, I loved that Niño’s clothes were mostly pink. No wonder he was so tough with Anj.)

8. Okay, tell me if I missed anything but didn’t Niño say that he lived in Makati while Anj stayed in an apartment in UP Village? How was he able to show up at the gate as soon as she mentioned “ang magdadala ng kape, mamahalin ko forever”?

9. I could almost guarantee that Chef Pocholo’s (Bernard Palanca) recent torrents were episodes of MasterChef and Hell’s Kitchen.

10. Why wasn’t the other friend talking? And did he have a crush on Anj (or possibly Niño)?

11. Please let this be the last artsy sex scene set to the music of a Star Records artist. Or maybe something other than a kiss-the-back-of-the-shoulders shot?

(Was I the only one praying that they never hit any of the expensive-looking chandeliers? Was anyone wondering if that’s where Ate Vi’s Everything About Her character got hers? Were you somewhat playing Sia’s Chandelier in your head as soon as they entered the office? We need to talk.)

12. My takeaway from this movie was that it was okay to be jobless and nganga dahil mabubusog naman kayo ng pag-ibig. Aww, how sweet!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆