MR. & MRS. CRUZ (Sigrid Andrea Bernardo, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Mr. & Mrs. Cruz:

1. As a huge fan of the Before Trilogy (Sunrise, Sunset, Midnight) and even That Thing Called Tadhana, I’m not averse to talky (and sometimes cerebral) romance films where the audience basically listens in on a couple having conversations about life and love and relationships and literature and cinema and music and food and even any mundane stuff that can serve as a possible source for an emotional hugot. It takes a consistently smart screenplay and incredibly talented actors to keep people glued to the screen and not make them wish that they never get stuck on an island with these characters.

At around the first hour mark when Gela (Ryza Cenon) and Raffy (JC Santos) were having their nth Cliff’s Notes discussion of Romeo and Juliet, I was already busy checking my phone for the cheapest flights to Puerto Princesa.

2. It was tough to stay invested in their love story when the song that was played upon their meet cute was Freestyle’s Before I Let You Go (talk about a doomed relationship). No amount of convincing (their Valentine’s Day hotel room number, their matching curls and the idea that couples look alike after being together for a long time, the obvious metaphor of him saving her life after a Heimlich maneuver, and even their shared adventurousness in eating the local delicacy tamilok) could make me believe that they were destined to end up with each other. Besides, Raffy owned a pair of neon peach swimming trunks. Very, very fishy.

3. I was actually okay with everything up until the unnecessary twist (of fate) slash big reveal in the third act that just plucked us out of reality. It was disappointing to see Sigrid Bernardo, one of my fave local directors, relying on yet another gimmick to end a love story (hello Kita Kita!). At least walang nasagasaan this time, especially considering the beach setting.

4. To be fair, JC and Ryza were completely charming in their roles and when they were provided with really sharp dialogue (my favorite was that entire discussion on commitment and the formality/legality/security of marriage), they just knocked it out of the park. Both of them also made the most out of their drunk breakdown scenes (“I found Nemo, but I didn’t find myself”) which should be screened in acting workshops for Star Magic and GMA Artist Center talents.

5. I was a bit bothered that Raffy and Gela only brought one backpack each for their weekend trip. I spent three days in El Nido (looking even lovelier here btw) and brought a medium-sized luggage with half the contents of my closet. Gela’s stuff included around six classic novels (yes, one was Romeo and Juliet). When would she even find the time to read all of them considering that she booked guided tours as well?

On a different note, I really liked her insight that we should re-read our faves because they would be subject to a different interpretation given our maturity and experiences in life. Let me dig up my old issues of Liwayway.

6. It wasn’t lost on me that one of the couples in that tour resembled Ogie Alcasid and Michelle van Eimeren. Our tourism slogans of Wow Philippines and It’s More Fun in the Philippines weren’t for naught. Also, Dido dela Paz as one half of the Golden Couple continued to provide great work, coming off the heels of his critically-lauded performance in Respeto.

7. So who lost that wedding gown sa batuhan during one of the movie’s early scenes? Please tell me that was just an illusion because I could not stand littering in our tourist spots.

8. I felt bad that some of the good jokes were literally lost in translation. When Raffy tried to be funny by replying with “Minikaniko ni Monico ang makina ni Monica”, the subtitle reflected it as “pulled a MacGyver” which didn’t really make a lot of sense. But then how would one even translate that?

9. That disgusting suka scene omg. I would probably avoid oatmeal for the next few months (who am I kidding, does my double chin even look like I eat oatmeal?). Bonus crotch shot though so…

10. I laughed really hard when Raffy mentioned that everything happens for a reason and then started telling the story of his ex who was a nurse that taught him first aid. I was reminded of my ex who was also a nurse that taught me the wonders of sushi. Both life-saving, I tell you.

11. Okay so they didn’t remember that they actually met a few years back in Palawan? Try Memo Plus Gold, kids. What was more unforgivable was that they never even bothered to re-dub the part where Ryza had a voiceover and said the word “trud-jedy”. Watch your back, Maja!!

12. Why would Raffy even know a brief hack that could turn his underwear into a bikini top? Even worse, it was a used pair of undies that he just removed on the boat (butt exposure alert!). Why does hygiene have to go out the window for a supposedly romantic gesture? Did the phrase “smell of love in the air” actually refer to the scent of bayag? Medyo eww.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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KITA KITA (Sigrid Andrea Bernardo, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Kita Kita:

1. Where do we draw the line between persistence and obsession? Do we consider a grand gesture like asking someone out for a coffee date via a huge billboard in Morayta sweet or repulsive? If Xian Gaza actually looked like Daniel Matsunaga, would he still be considered a creepy stalker or just a determined romantic?

2. One of my biggest concerns with this movie was that after it made us fall in love with its unconventional lovers, it tried to sell us this disturbing (and Machiavellian?) big reveal that nothing was actually wrong with the couple’s predator-prey relationship history (I felt the exact same way when Maricel Soriano fell in love with her rapist in Dahas, but then that wasn’t even close to being a romantic-comedy). He knowingly took advantage of her disability, period.

It was truly unfortunate not only because the first two-thirds of the movie was deeply engrossing and enjoyable, but also because it didn’t really need any twist to come up with an interesting resolution.

I was more curious to know how Lea (Alessandra de Rossi) would have reacted after she regained her sight and discovered the true physical aspects of Tonyo (Empoy Marquez). In one scene, she even joked “Kung makita kita, baka pang-leading man ang mukha mo”. Wouldn’t it have been great to know her actual feelings upon seeing that he actually looked more like a stuntman?

3. Having said that, I was really impressed with the #AlEmpoy tandem because despite the odd pairing and clunky third act, they really made this love story work. Halos mamatay ako sa kilig sa unang Two Less Lonely People in the World montage. I swear I had this huge smile plastered on my face during that sequence. I even teared up a bit because I get really emotional whenever I see two people happily in love. Sobrang bagay sila.

4. Alessandra has always been consistently good in everything. Here, she was empathetic even as a cranky and bitter blind woman. When she cried while drawing on the eyes of the Daruma Doll to complete her wish, I was crying along with her.

The bigger acting surprise though was Empoy. He was just effortlessly funny whether he was applying breath freshener on his wrists, or mangling idioms (“The way to man’s heart is through large intestine”), or delivering a throwaway quip (“Kelangan mo ng asukal, ang asim kasi ng mukha mo”). There were moments when Alessandra looked like she was no longer acting while laughing at some of Empoy’s hilarious jokes (best one: “We have similar. Rities.”).

And that ramen scene, oh my heart!!

5. Pinoy Film/TV Trope: Any character crossing the street or standing near the sidewalk with vehicles zooming by has a 90% chance of getting run over. Survival rate of that unfortunate soul would be 10%. The victim in this movie did not beat any of the said odds. Enough please.

(Also, what happened to that sickness storyline of Tonyo?)

6. Some of the dialogue in the movie sounded off, like when Lea kept saying PG-rated lines (“Puputulin ko ang talong diyan sa gitna ng mga hita mo!”, “May nunal ka sa pribadong parte ng katawan mo!”) or sexist remarks (“Mas malandi ka pa sa babae!”). She also had this Isa, Dalawa, Tatlo voiceover during the confrontation scene with her cheating boyfriend that lasted forever. It was supposed to sound poetic, but fell flat.

7. Several scenes had poor lighting and instances where the camera kept tilting and shaking violently. What happened there?

At least those gorgeous shots in the Sapporo Botanical Garden (?) more than made up for them. I really need to visit Japan soon. Friends, ano na? The international setting was also really apt since this had the feel of a (Japanese? Korean? Thai?) rom-com.

8. For a blind person, Alessandra’s eyebrows were always on fleek, no?

9. Sigrid Bernardo is one of my all-time favorite local directors. If you end up really liking this one, you should also watch Ang Huling Cha-Cha ni Anita, Lorna, and her short film Ang Painting ni Tatay. I loved every single one of those (all five-star films, sadly her streak ended here).

10. So all this time I thought that “nomo” was actually gay lingo (or jeprox slang) for “inom”. I had no idea that it was an actual Japanese word that meant “let’s drink”. Nyeaaaaaaaam!!

Rating: ★★★☆☆

The Best of Pinoy Cinema 2016

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TOP 10 BEST FEATURE LENGTH FILMS

#10

ANG BABAE SA SEPTIC TANK 2:#FOREVERISNOTENOUGH

Written by: Chris Martinez
Directed by: Marlon Rivera

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#9

SEKLUSYON

Written by: Anton Santamaria
Directed by: Erik Matti

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#8

PAMILYA ORDINARYO

Written by: Eduardo Roy, Jr.
Directed by: Eduardo Roy, Jr.

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#7

FOREVER BRIDGELESS

Written by: Racquel Zaballero-Sanchez and Glenn Ternal
Directed by: Racquel Zaballero-Sanchez and Glenn Ternal

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#6

STAR NA SI VAN DAMME STALLONE

Written by: Ronald Allan Habon
Directed by: Randolph Longjas

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#5

SAKALING HINDI MAKARATING

Written by: Ice Idanan and Petersen Vargas
Directed by: Ice Idanan

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#4

DIE BEAUTIFUL

Written by: Rody Vera
Directed by: Jun Lana

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#3

MA’ ROSA

Written by: Troy Espiritu
Directed by: Brillante Mendoza

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#2

SUNDAY BEAUTY QUEEN

Written by: Baby Ruth Villarama
Directed by: Baby Ruth Villarama

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#1

TUOS

Written by: Denise O’Hara
Directed by: Derick Cabrido

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2016 Scorecard:

★★★★★
DIE BEAUTIFUL (Jun Lana)
FOREVER BRIDGELESS (Racquel Zaballero-Sanchez, Glenn Ternal)
FOREVER NATIN (Cyrus Valdez)
MA’ ROSA (Brillante Mendoza)
OKTOPUS (JP Habac)
ANG PAINTING NI TATAY (Sigrid Andrea Bernardo)
SAANMAN NGUNIT DITO (Cheska Salangsang)
SAKALING HINDI MAKARATING (Ice Idanan)
STAR NA SI VAN DAMME STALLONE (Randolph Longjas)
STOP. STEADY. SAYAW. (Dan Villegas)
SUNDAY BEAUTY QUEEN (Baby Ruth Villarama)
TUOS (Derick Cabrido)
XXX (Allison Barretto)

★★★★☆
ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE (Dan Villegas)
CAMP SAWI (Irene Villamor)
CHICBOY (Jasper Ramon Tulabot)
DIGPAN NING ALTI (Bor Ocampo)
FISH OUT OF WATER (Mon Garilao)
ANG BABAE SA SEPTIC TANK 2: #FOREVERISNOTENOUGH (Marlon Rivera)
KATOK (John Rhys Guarina)
KUNG ANG ULAN AY GAWA SA TSOKOLATE (Galileo Sioco Te and Prime Reyes)
LUMAYO KA NGA SA AKIN (ASAWA NI MARIE) (Chris Martinez)
MERCURY IS MINE (Jason Paul Laxamana)
MRS. (Adolf Alix, Jr.)
AN ORCHESTRA IN SEARCH OF A HOME (Ida Anita del Mundo)
PAMILYA ORDINARYO (Eduardo Roy, Jr.)
PEKTUS (Isabel Quesada)
SEKLUSYON (Erik Matti)

★★★☆☆
THE ACHY BREAKY HEARTS (Antoinette Jadaone)
AREA (Louie Ignacio)
ANG BABAENG HUMAYO (Lav Diaz)
BAKA BUKAS (Samantha Lee)
BAKIT LAHAT NG GWAPO MAY BOYFRIEND? (Jun Lana)
BESHIE (Joyce Bernal)
DUKOT (Paul Soriano)
DYAMPER (Mes de Guzman)
EVERYTHING ABOUT HER (Joyce Bernal)
EXPRESSWAY (Ato Bautista)
GET CERTIFIED (Isaias Zantua)
HELE SA HIWAGANG HAPIS (Lav Diaz)
IMAGINE YOU & ME (Michael Tuviera)
JUST THE 3 OF US (Cathy Garcia-Molina)
LUNA (Rae Red)
MANILA SCREAM (Roque Lee, Blair Camilo)
MGA BITOON SA SIUDAD (Jarell Serencio)
NAKAUWI NA (John Relano, Patrick Baleros, Luis Hidalgo)
NED’S PROJECT (Lemuel Lorca)
AN OPEN DOOR (Paul Soriano)
ORO (Alvin Yapan)
SAVING SALLY (Avid Liongoren)
SITSIRITSIT (Brian Spencer Reyes)
SINA DINO AT ANG KANILANG SIKRETO (Miller Ursolino)
ANG TABA KO KASI (Jason Paul Laxamana)

★★☆☆☆
1ST SEM (Allan Ibanez, Dexter Hemedez)
ANG BAGONG PAMILYA NI PONCHING (Inna Salazar Acuña, Dos Ocampo)
BARCELONA: A LOVE UNTOLD (Olivia Lamasan)
BUGTAW (Noah del Rosario)
BUHAY HABANGBUHAY (Paolo Herras)
BUTAS (Richard Cawed)
DAGSIN (Atom Magadia)
ECHORSIS (Lemuel Lorca)
ANG HAPIS AT HIMAGSIK NI HERMANO PULI (Gil Portes)
ANG HAPON NI NANDING (Milo Tolentino)
HIBLANG ABO (Ralston Jover)
HOW TO BE YOURS (Dan Villegas)
HOW TO FIND LOVE (Quark Henares)
I AMERICA (Ivan Andrew Payawal)
I LOVE YOU TO DEATH (Miko Livelo)
KABISERA (Arturo San Agustin, Real Florido)
KUSINA (Cenon Palomares, David Corpuz)
LAKBAY2LOVE (Ellen Ongkeko-Marfil)
LILA (Gino Santos)
LOVE IS BLIND (Jason Paul Laxamana)
LOVE ME TOMORROW (Gino Santos)
LUMAYO KA NGA SA AKIN (BALA SA BALA, KAMAO SA KAMAO, SATSAT SA SATSAT) (Mark Meily)
LUMAYO KA NGA SA AKIN (SHAKE, SHAKER, SHAKEST) (Andoy Ranay)
ANG MAANGAS, ANG MARIKIT, AT ANG MAKATA (Ibarra Guballa)
MANSYONG PAPEL (Ogos Aznar)
MITATANG (Alvin Jezer Gagui)
MY CANDIDATE (Quark Henares)
NOT APPLICABLE (Carl Chavez)
PUNLA (Kenneth Mandrilla)
THE SUPER PARENTAL GUARDIANS (Joyce Bernal)
THE THIRD PARTY (Jason Paul Laxamana)
THIS TIME (Nuel Naval)
TISAY (Alfonso Torre III)
ANG TULAY NG SAN SEBASTIAN (Alvin Yapan)
THE UNMARRIED WIFE (Maryo J. Delos Reyes)
VINCE & KATH & JAMES (Theodore Boborol)
WHISTLEBLOWER (Adolf Alix, Jr.)
WORKING BEKS (Chris Martinez)

★☆☆☆☆
AKI (Milo Tolentino)
BIRDS (Christian Paolo Lat)
DIYOS-DIYOSAN (Cesar Buendia)
ELEMENTO (Mark Meily)
ENTENG KABISOTE 10 AND THE ABANGERS (Tony Reyes, Marlon Rivera)
THE ESCORT (Enzo Williams)
ANG HAPIS AT HIMAGSIK NI HERMANO PULI (Gil Portes)
LANDO AT BUGOY (Vic Acedillo, Jr.)
MANO PO 7: CHINOY (Ian Loreños)
MY REBOUND GIRL (Emmanuel dela Cruz)
PASSAGE OF LIFE (Renz Vincemark Cruz, Hannah Daryl Gayapa)
STRAIGHT TO THE HEART (Frank David Fabros)
THAT THING CALLED TANGA NA (Joel Lamangan)
TPO (TEMPORARY PROTECTION ORDER) (Joselito Altarejos)
TUPANG LIGAW (Rod Santiago)