BELLE DOULEUR (Joji Villanueva Alonso, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

Umay levels ang iba’t-ibang anggulo ng pwet ni Kit Thompson na medyo tuod pa rin umarte. Sa sobrang dami ng sex scenes nila ni Mylene Dizon, naubusan ng “nadiligang flower” metaphors ang director. (Also, ang saya talaga kapag privileged kasi pwedeng mag-sex na lang kayo all day, every day na walang iniisip na trabaho.)

Sobrang hot ni Mylene na parang hindi masyadong tumanda si Melanie Suntay niya sa Gimik. Kaya di rin masyadong ramdam for me ang sinasabing age gap. Yung parang Maricel Soriano-Diether Ocampo sa Soltera na mapapaisip ka kung true love ba or pineperahan lang siya.

Technically, malinis ang pelikula. Napaka-glossy na parang Star Cinema movie. Nung naglakad nga si Mylene sa UP grounds, akala ko biglang magiging Alone/Together. Tapos self-love ulit ang theme. Kakapanood ko lang nito sa Hello, Love, Goodbye ah.

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HELLO, LOVE, GOODBYE (Cathy Garcia-Molina, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Hello, Love, Goodbye:

1. Naalala ko nung nagpunta ako ng Hong Kong around 2014, napadaan ako sa Central area isang Linggo at nagulat ako sa dami ng mga OFWs (mostly women) na nasa gilid-gilid mula sa overpass malapit sa train station hanggang sa mismong kalye na ang isang parte ay ipinasara para tayuan ng makeshift stage (“Beauty and the Best” ang theme ng show slash pageant noon).

Parang isang mahabang row ng mga nagpi-picnic ang itsura nila sa kani-kanilang mga puwesto habang nakaupo sa ibabaw ng mga karton ng balikbayan boxes. Maririnig mo ang malalakas na tawanan at maiingay na kuwentuhan/chismisan kasabay ng pagsasalu-salo nilang magkakaibigan sa baong pancit, adobo, at kung anu-ano pang ulam na niluto para sa araw na yun.

Pero mas nakakagulat na ang lahat ng ito ay nagaganap sa harapan mismo ng mga high-end designer stores tulad ng Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Armani, Cartier, atbp. Maganda siyang juxtaposition na sumasalamin din sa OFW experience na kung tutuusin ay nakakalungkot sa kabila ng nangingibabaw na kasiyahan.

2. Isa sa strongest aspects ng pelikulang ito ang realistic depiction ng buhay ng isang domestic helper sa Hong Kong.

May isang montage kung saan ipinakita ang lahat ng ginagawa ni Joy (Kathryn Bernardo) bilang kasambahay, kasama na ang pagbabantay sa isang atribidang lola (“Too cold! Too hot!”) at pag-aalaga sa isang special needs kid. Todo kayod siya kasi nakadepende sa kanya ang pamilya niya sa Pilipinas. Kabilang na dito ang bulag niyang ama at ang mga kapatid na more hingi ng sapatos habang siya naman ay more tiis kasi ang long-term plan niya ay maka-migrate sila ng Canada.

Kaya kahit Nursing ang natapos niya ay mega linis siya ng inidoro (“Ang choice ay para lang sa may pera”) at baka sakaling ma-flush na rin ang kinikimkim niyang sama ng loob.

(Note: Natuwa ako na hindi blatantly masama ang ugali ng amo ni Joy. Kasi ang typical DH story along the lines of Flor Contemplacion or Delia Maga.)

3. Nagustuhan ko yung direct reference sa Anak kasi hindi ko pa rin makalimutan si Ate Vi bilang the ultimate selfless mother of all DH at kung gaano kadaming pagkain ang tiniis niyang hindi kainin makapagpadala lang ng malaking pera para sa pokpok (ay sorry, troubled) niyang dalaga na si Carla.

Gusto ko rin yung indirect reference sa Sunday Beauty Queen with Joy and her friends joining the pageant for extra income. Kahit sa day-off nila todo kayod pa rin para lang sa pamilya. Ang bigat sa puso.

4. Sobrang effective ni Kathryn dito. Gamit na gamit ang mata-mata acting. Yung level na pinapamukha niya sa mga bashers na deserving din siya ng Urian nomination. (Ang ganda pa ng natural make-up niya na super layo sa espasol look in Barcelona.)

Favorite ko yung scene na depressed siya na sumakay sa train tapos sobrang saklap ng araw niya nakasabay pa ang ex niya at bagong girlfriend nito. Nung tinanong siya kung saang hospital siya nagtatrabaho, ramdam mo talaga yung pait at hiya nung sumagot siya na “DH ako dito. Ending ko din katulad ng nanay ko.” Ouch!!

Pero magaling din siya sa kilig aspect ha. Kapag nakatitig siya kay Ethan (Alden Richards), di mo iisipin na may Daniel Padilla na siya in real life. (Pero siguro kasi ang gwapo din ni Alden dito with the scruffy, playboy look kaya di din siya masyado nahirapan magpanggap, ano?)

5. Speaking of Alden, nag-level up din ang acting niya dito. Nawala yung lalaking puro pabebe wave sa Kalyeserye at lumabas ang isang certified matinee idol. Nung sinabi niya na dapat “All or nothing kasi kung mag-hold back ka, bakit ka pa nagmahal?”, more tango lang ako na parang nabudol-budol. Atsaka yung reaction niya habang pinapanood si Joy na sintunado kumanta at mukhang tanga sa stage, maniniwala ka talaga na true love ang nararamdaman niya. At okay lang rin siguro kahit mang-asar siya at kulitin niya ako habang nagkikiskis ako ng kaldero.

Tapos sobrang puti pa ng legs niya parang mapapabili ako ng lifetime supply ng Snow Caps.

(Note: Believable na kapatid niya si Jameson Blake down to the dimples. Actually, pati yung bunso na akala ko si Timothee Chalamet papasa din na brother niya haha!)

6. Nung pinanood ko ang BTS ng Anak, na-kwento dun na nahirapan silang i-shoot yung final scene kung saan dadaan sa crowd si Ate Vi kasi lahat gusto siya yakapin, hawakan, at tingnan. Mukhang mas maayos ang crowd control dito considering na nag-shoot sila sa Central at Lan Kwai Fong (isa lang yung super obvious na nagvi-video sa eksena dito).

7. Happy to see Maricel Laxa again. Walang kupas pa rin sa pag-arte. Maganda yung storyline niya bilang nanay ni Joy. May kurot sa puso na alam ng pamilya niya na nagpakasal siya sa iba para maging citizen at ma-petition sila dun.

Joy, walang-wala ang paglilinis mo ng inidoro kumpara sa sakripisyo (at pambubugbog) na na-experience ng nanay mo. Teka, bakit ako naiiyak ulit?

8. Kinilig ako nang todo sa KathDen. Kahit hindi ko maintindihan bakit kelangan nilang ipagsiksikan ang mga sarili nila sa stuck room na yun. Puwede naman umusog diba?

Pero malakas talaga ang chemistry nila. Nagulantang nga yung mga KathNiel na nakaupo sa harapan ko dun sa (fake) kissing scene. Yung isa parang hinimatay dun sa “love scene”.

Napaka-possessive naman ng ibang fans. Let your idols grow as artists.

9. TANGA = TANYA. Natatawa pa rin ako dito. (At yung pasalubong na broccoli. Hahahaha!)

10. Kung tutuusin plakado sa Star Cinema template ang pelikulang ito. Nandiyan lahat ng tropes tulad ng chuwariwap friends (bet ko na Mary Dale ang pangalan ni Maymay Entrata at bumagay ang aligaga acting ni Kakai Bautista dito), tatay na maysakit (si Lito Pimental na itinuloy lang ang role niya sa Starting Over Again), sound bite-ready na linyahan na never mo maririnig in real-life conversations (“Kung mahal mo ako, bakit pinapapili mo ako?” “Kung mahal mo ako, bakit di ako ang piliin mo?”, “Don’t you trust me enough?” “Don’t you love me enough?”), etc.

Ang kulang na lang ay ang requisite happy ending na hindi nito ibinigay. Siguro mas malakas ang loob ng Star Cinema kasi hindi naman talaga love team ang KathDen pero it worked for the best.

Ang sakit ng farewell at ang ganda ng realistic ending (“Kung di rin tayo sa huli…”). Bravo!!

11. Yung Ulan daw tungkol sa self-love but for me, nagmukha lang si Maya (Nadine Lustre) na selfish. Etong si Joy na independent, may pangarap, may gustong patunayan, at tinalikuran ang pag-ibig to find her worth ang totoong definition nun.

“Mahal kita pero sa ngayon mas mahal ko ang sarili ko.” I do not love you, Joy. I do not love you.

Rating: ★★★★☆

FAMILY HISTORY (Michael V., 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Family History:

1. In one of the funniest Bubble Gang moments to date, the brilliant Michael V. came up with a parody video of Lady Gaga’s super hit Bad Romance (called Bathroom Dance). Dressed up in a knockoff iconic white leotard, he twisted and turned around a huge bathroom set while singing (or more appropriately, moaning) about the things he ate (“Okoy, candy, ice cream, laing, siopao, beer, gravy”) that caused his diarrhea-like symptoms.

My favorite bit was when he converted the French lines in the original song to fit his condition and ended up with the hilarious “Jeux tot lang yun, pero parang hindi. Jeux tot lang ba? Ay nakakadiri!”. Genius, right?

2. I was somewhat anticipating that same brand of humor in this movie (where he performed triple duty of acting, writing and directing; move over, Bradley Cooper!!), but what I didn’t expect was for each scene to have a punchline. Seriously, why did everything need to be funny?

When the oncologist (Dingdong Dantes, credited for a cameo role naturally) was discussing the grave illness of May (Dawn Zulueta), her husband Alex (Michael V.) kept making jokes about her situation and it wasn’t even his character’s form of coping mechanism. It was just Michael V. the comedian trying to prove that he was a worthy successor to the late Dolphy. I had a tough time brushing off that queasy feeling of hearing the audience laugh when the doctor confirmed that May had a malignant tumor (read: cancer).

Sure, I was a fan of Jonathan Levine’s cancer dramedy 50/50, but that film knew how to properly balance things out in order to elicit the right emotions. It wasn’t just a series of gags that continued to mine laughs at the expense of a dying, bald woman undergoing chemotherapy.

3. It was for this same reason that I didn’t feel much during all of those dramatic highlights. One of the few scenes that I liked here involved Alex singing an original song to a bedridden May and eventually asking for her forgiveness. It was the kind of scenario that would make me weep and curl up in a fetal position, except that I felt completely detached from these characters. Or maybe because this happened towards the end and I was just expecting the requisite punchline to ruin the moment.

4. I had never seen this many “fade to black” since my college Powerpoint presentation of the “Most Beautiful People in Showbusiness”. While other filmmakers limited the use of this basic editing style to signify the end of an act (or the film itself), this one just had too much fun with it. Why? Because. (Fade to black.)

5. Since Alex’s boss (Nonie Buencamino) was a closeted homosexual, he wore a lot of baby pinks and purples. Bakit hindi na lang siya nilagyan ng rainbow tattoo sa forehead?

6. Other burning questions:

• Did we really need that same exterior shot to establish the hospital scenes? Ano ‘to, teleserye? And why were there so many static scenes? Bawal gumalaw ang camera?

• Although it was established that Alex was a 2D animator that shunned new technology, how could he not know about file formats (“HIV ata”)? Was he also too old-school to not use a television and that was why he never learned of Michael Jackson’s death?

(I appreciated the choice of having animated sequences given the nature of his work, though. Sana lang hindi ganun ka-off ang pagka-insert sa mga eksena.)

• Was Miguel Tanfelix trying to relive the 90’s boyband look with that perennial side brush?

• If Kakai Bautista’s character was such a good influence to May, why was she too eager to support her married friend’s love affair? (And was there ever a scene here where her acting wasn’t immediately set to level 999?)

• It’s 2019 and we still got a scene where Alex sexually harassed another woman and it was played for laughs? (Eww.)

• How could Alex reminisce scenes that he never really saw or experienced?

• Most importantly, who in their right mind would use the rough (green) side of a Scotch-Brite to wash glasses? Imagine those scratches! Horrors!! (Ay, commercial pala siya for Joy in the middle of the movie.)

7. Medyo cute yung juxtaposition na like father, like son in terms of quoting lyrics. At least they both had good taste for knowing the Eraserheads’ Maling Akala and Parokya ni Edgar’s Buloy.

8. You know how Star Cinema kept  punishing its strong female leads with a philandering husband and a broken family? That being a successful, career-driven woman was a curse on one’s marriage? GMA Films had a reverse take with Alex being too busy to attend to his wife’s needs that led to her extra-marital affair with John Estrada and his enormous package (no really, it was referenced and highlighted in the movie). May even justified the act by saying that it was needed to fix her family. Huwat?? (Even weirder, it wasn’t a big deal to John and his wife. Deadma lang.)

9. “Minsan mas okay maging mabait kesa maging tama.” I wonder if Auggie Pullman was shooketh.

10. Amidst all the gags, it was fun to see Michael V. living his fantasy of being fawned over by lovely women and putting the DILF status of Ian Veneracion to shame. Jeux tot mo haha!!

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

LAST FOOL SHOW (Eduardo Roy, Jr., 2019)

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It was the Ang Babae sa Septic Tank of local rom-coms that needed a bit more smart humor. As a Star Cinema production, I was a bit disappointed that it didn’t have the balls to completely bite the hands that financed it (most of the in-jokes focused on their posters).

Instead, it poked fun at recent non-SC love stories (albeit some were brutally spot-on, like that Ocean Deep montage ala Kita Kita or the awkward beach dancing ala Mr. and Mrs. Cruz). Seriously, they chose Arci Muñoz in the lead and not a single callback from Always Be My Maybe or Can We Still Be Friends? Wasted opportunity.

Muñoz was irritating in the kooky Issa character, but fared better as the serious Mayessa. JM de Guzman was just okay. Both performances lacked that “wink wink” factor that made Eugene Domingo in Septic Tank and Klaudia Koronel in Tuhog hilariously brilliant.

Plus half a star each for the use of (what I assumed were) the director’s real Balanghais and that Baby Arjan reference.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

‪SAKALING MAGING TAYO (JP Habac, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Sakaling Maging Tayo:

1. For a romance film to work, I needed to fall in love with the love story. I should find myself rooting for the lovers and wishing that they end up together because they were meant for each other. It just didn’t happen here.

Pol (McCoy de Leon) spent an entire night in a mini Baguio tour with his long-time crush Malaya (Elisse Joson) and yet he couldn’t find time to buy medicine for a sick parent (Bembol Roco). At one point he actually drove past a Mercury Drug store and I expected some sort of product placement, but no, he had far more important things to deal with. The only time he remembered his father was when he got his heart broken and needed a shoulder to cry on. But still no medicine.

There was an overwhelming sense of pettiness with these characters and their love problems that triggered my inner Titas of Manila. I was that person in the theater making the loud “Tsk tsk!” noise while muttering “Kids these days…”.

2. I didn’t know much about Elisse outside of her Burger McDo commercial (I couldn’t even remember her in the camp classic #Ewankosau Saranghaeyo, or maybe I just tried to repress all memories of that movie) so I was pleasantly surprised with her naturally charming performance here. Her beauty and talent reminded me of early Bea Alonzo and I could see her as a future star if given a much better project (and in this case, better partner).

She had enough spunk to pull off corny lines like “Mahal ko ang mga bagay na di masyado napapansin” and the right amount of vulnerability to deliver the heartbreaking “Sorry, okay ka sana kaso di ako okay eh”. Instant fan here.

3. Chai Fonacier’s character was unfortunately named Erna. If I was named after the slang term for shit, why would I still let people call me thay? Why not say, Poopie? As always though, Chai was in a league of her own and made even a throwing up scene (how gross could this character get?) look like a bid for another Urian nomination. (Also, Black Sheep people, I expected better from you.)

4. With all of the things that the lovers and their friends were able to accomplish during that single night (they went in every possible hangout in Baguio that included a visit to the creepy Teacher’s Camp), this should have been called Nagalit ang Buwan sa Haba ng Gabi… Ulit. In the end, Malaya was even able to catch the first bus trip out of the city. Oh, the wonders of cinema!

Pero ang ganda talaga ng Baguio at night. It once again served as a soothing backdrop that reminded me of that touching moment between Kiko and Yaya Diday in Kiko Boksingero. And speaking of, did Malaya live in the same house that was used in the horror-comedy Halik sa Hangin?

5. Two of the friends were gay characters so they obviously ended up together because they were probably the only two gay people that lived there. I suddenly remembered that episode in Sex and the City when Charlotte tried to set up a blind date between her gay bff Anthony and Carrie’s gay bff Stanford thinking that they were perfect for each other just because they were both gay. Uhh, not exactly how things worked, straight people. (Wait, didn’t the pair end up getting married in the movie sequel? More reasons not to like that stinker.)

6. Why was Malaya wearing the exact same dress that she was supposed to sleep in when she rushed to the club to confront her ex-boyfriend? Wala nang ligo-ligo kasi malamig naman sa Baguio?

7. So Pol brought his father’s taxi to the concert and Malaya mistook him as a cab driver. I really thought for a second that this would turn into The Night Of, but of course it didn’t because this was still a Star Cinema-ish movie.

8. Ang funny lang nung hipster jazz discussion (hello La La Land!) tapos biglang kumanta si Moira dela Torre in a succeeding scene. You know that 30-day Film Challenge where on a specific day you were supposed to name a movie where you liked the soundtrack more? This could be my entry. Sana soundtrack na lang talaga siya.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

EXES BAGGAGE (Dan Villegas, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Exes Baggage:

1. In the movie As Good As It Gets, obsessive-compulsive Melvin (Jack Nicholson) professed his love to Carol (Helen Hunt) by saying one of the sweetest lines in film history, “You make me want to be a better man.” I remembered watching this in high school when my innocent heart had never experienced any real heartbreak yet. I gobbled up each word of that declaration with the belief that people would actually change themselves to win over (or win back) the person that they truly loved. I obviously didn’t know any better back then.

Through the years, I must have heard every single version of that promise. Changing for the better? Swearing to always remain faithful moving forward? Pledging undying love after endless second chances? Although there wasn’t any bitterness left for any of my exes after our failed relationships, my already jaded heart couldn’t hold still when Nix (Carlo Aquino) told his ex Pia (Angelica Panganiban), “Paulit-ulit kong isusugal ang puso ko maramdaman ko lang ulit kung anong meron tayo noon.” ULUL!! I expected her to say, “Narinig ko na yan, boy! Wag ako!!”, but this was still a Star Cinema movie after all.

2. I really liked how this was able to capture those awkward moments specific to recent exes (because after our hearts were fully healed, we would usually end up as good friends with them, right?). In one scene, Pia bumped into old married flame Migz (Joem Bascon) and I felt every uncomfortable minute of that encounter. I also used to run the other direction whenever I would see a recent ex heading my way in the mall (twice as fast if said ex was with a new jowa). I mean, what kind of small talk would we have? “Uy, ang gwapo ng ipinalit mo sa akin! Good job! High five!!”. Uhh, no thanks! Not everyone could be as strong as Angelica who even declared on national TV that she was willing to be a ninang to the baby of a recent ex. Tibay mo, gurl!

I also appreciated how it fully displayed all the insecurities that couples would feel whenever they start discussing their exes (especially when comparisons would come into play). No amount of self-confidence or belief on the strength of your relationship would go unscathed once the classic “Sinong mas minahal mo?” question comes up. Or even worse, “Nagustuhan mo lang ba ako para makalimutan sya?”.

(Side note: It was a bit understandable for Pia to feel insecure about Nix’s ex Dwein because she was played by the gorgeous and classy Coleen Garcia. Ibang level ang ganda ni Ate Gurl dito.)

3. I wish we knew more about Nix and Pia for us to fully root for their relationship. How could we say that these two people really loved each other when the only grand gesture we saw was Nix preparing her a romantic dinner? Sure, he was also a gentleman for not taking advantage of a drunk woman, but you wouldn’t go into a relationship with every decent guy you meet.

The thin plot mainly worked because of the undeniable chemistry of CarGel (that entire pretend dancing in the condo scene alone was worth the ticket price). I felt bad that Carlo got saddled with an unsympathetic, irrational (“Sana pinakilala mo ako ng maayos para di na sya nag-small talk sa’yo!”) character full of hang-ups, but he still made the most out of his role. And what was his problem with his girlfriend showing a little bit of cleavage? Insert Nadine Lustre sound bite here.

It was Angelica who really stood out though for embodying a perfectly flawed character who could be my best friend any day (even if she had the gall to ask Nix to take her home after a night of partying then drive her back to work immediately after). Her wonderful performance ranged from hilarious (“Gumising talaga ako para magising mo ako”) to heartbreaking (“Sanay naman ako. Sabihin mo lang talaga. Sanay na akong iniiwan”). I wanted to give her the tightest hug during the scene where she was packing her suitcase.

4. It was a bit funny how the Alamat ng Santol turned into the Alamat ng Werewolf in the subtitles pero naitawid naman. But I was more curious about that Alamat ng Bakla on Social Media and the belief that guys with more than fifty photos in their Facebook profile pic album were gay. But what if they only had five choice topless pa-delight and pa-abs pics? Asking for a desperate friend.

5. Best moment in the film for me:

When Pia offered to prepare breakfast and coffee for Dwein but she declined (di ata sya umiinom ng Great Taste White) which prompted Pia to say, “Meron naman akong dalang bibingka.” I wasn’t sure if it was meant to be hilarious, but I really laughed my head off.

6. “Ang takot magmahal after masaktan, di nagmahal in the first place. Kaya mo dapat pagdaanan ulit lahat ng pain at sakit para maramdaman ulit ang pagmamahal. Dapat ganun ang love, it overpowers pain.” O di sige Pianalyn, ikaw na ang matatag!!

7. Lovely cinematography. Of course I wondered why Pia would read under a green lamp/light, but I wouldn’t want that to ruin the movie’s aesthetics.

Also, first time to watch panties being removed while set to an indie soundtrack. Loved most of the songs though, especially Maybe the Night.

8. I teared up a bit when Nix started talking to Pia’s car, not because it was unfortunately named Ogie, but because he was making a last habilin to a non-living object to take care of this person that he truly loved. I thought it was the perfect sad ending to a relationship that was never meant to be.

But then Pia stepped out of her car, ignored the mystery man named Anton calling her, and implied a more hopeful ending. Tanga!! (Also, poor Anton.)

Rating: ★★★☆☆

THE EQUALIZER 2 (Antoine Fuqua, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Equalizer 2:

1. Back in my sophomore year of college, I would usually spend the long gaps between classes with the rest of the boys in an internet shop right across our school. We would be playing this first-person shooter game called Counter-Strike in two opposing groups (sometimes against other schools) killing terrorists and defusing bombs. People hated having me on their team because I was the noob that would shoot at anything that moved (including my teammates) and never fully grasped the concept of stealth.

In the final action sequence of this movie that closely resembled that game, the main villain (who looked a bit like Justin Trudeau) committed every amateur (read: loser) move until he finally got himself killed. Because seriously, why would you be standing on a tower, thereby exposing yourself to any opponent below you? Any long range sniper rifle could easily take you out. I was so frustrated that I had no control on this character until I realized that I was just basically the pot calling the kettle black.

2. I wasn’t fond of the Death Wish-like vigilante original so I felt surprised when Denzel Washington chose to reprise his Robert McCall character (he should have left these action sequels to Keanu Reeves or Jason Statham). Given our country’s current political setting, I also found it off-putting that he played a character that still took matters into his own hands. Sure, it felt slightly good watching him serve justice on these rapists by breaking their noses and ribcages and fingers, but there was still this nagging feeling at the back of my mind whether that was the (morally) right thing to do.

On the other hand, maybe I was just overthinking things and this violence-filled entertainment was really just an excuse to watch good ‘ol Denzel beat the crap out of people. (It still didn’t explain how he actually found the time to set up posters and other props for that final, stormy showdown, though.)

3. It was a relief to see that he actually played a Lyft driver on the side because after all of my horror stories with Grab, I would never think that any of them were modern-day superheroes. If they could easily pretend to be stuck in traffic while asking me to cancel the booking on my end, why would I even trust them to save my life? (Ang pait!)

Side note: If he was registered in the company’s system (and even ordered five star ratings), wouldn’t his enemies know how to track him down? Wasn’t that against the entire point of superheroes having secret/alter identities?

4. Nuggets of wisdom:

• “There are two kinds of pain: the pain that hurts and the pain that alters.” (This was so ripe for a Star Cinema translation!)

• “Always be nice to anybody who has access to your toothbrush.” (One of the reasons why I always tried to avoid conflict with Madam Rose, especially since I never saw her clean my bathroom with an actual toilet brush.)

My favorite line though was when a young man asked “Who the (f-word) is this (n-word)?” and Denzel replied without missing a beat, “I’m your father. Your momma just didn’t tell you.” (Insert dab pose here.)

5. Melissa Leo was horrible in this movie. Her performance reminded me of that cringey “Did I really win even if I collected almost all of the precursor awards and even paid for my own FYC ads?” act during her Oscar speech.

6. Were the Hurricane references intentional? My inner trivia geek was happy.

7. That tense phone call was taken straight out of Taken. It didn’t make the two-way mirror scene any less nail-biting, though.

8. See this would be one of the reasons why I never wanted to make a lot of enemies. The easiest and most cruel revenge would always be to get back on your loved ones. Or maybe use your toothbrush to clean the toilet.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Hows of Us:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Should I continue? AMSTERDAMMIT!!

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

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

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

CRAZY RICH ASIANS (Jon M. Chu, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Crazy Rich Asians:

1. I remembered watching this episode of Bonkers Closets on Facebook that featured the humongous fingerprint-protected walk-in closet (and by walk-in, I meant way bigger than our entire house) of crazy rich Singaporean socialite Jamie Chua. It stored hundreds of her Birkins and Louboutins and every kind of sparkly Chanel dress that any woman (and gay man) could ever dream of. She even called one of her purchases, an Hermès Mini Pochette worth over $11k, completely useless because it could only fit a credit card and a piece of tissue. It was this same kind of opulence (read: ridiculously excessive levels) that I expected from this movie.

As a third world citizen without a Jamba Juice card, but mooches off of my friend’s Netflix account, I wanted to see how these crazy rich Asians were living my fantasy life that I would have to pick my jaw off the sticky floors of the cinema after every scene of extreme extravagance. Aside from that overhead shot of the Young estate with what seemed to be a built-in lagoon, there really weren’t a lot of “Kalokang mayayaman ‘to!” moments here, though. I had more “Wow!” moments while skimming over the Yes! issue of Willie Revillame flaunting his mansion and luxury cars.

(If anything, this movie worked as a really effective tourism video for Singapore because every location just looked incredibly gorgeous.)

2. Wait, I’m not required to lower my standards naman just because Asians are finally getting represented in Hollywood, right? So I should be as brutal to this cliché-ridden rom-com the same way that I would to a Star Cinema langit-lupa love story? Because seriously, that plane scene reeked of Bea Alonzo flying to Cagayan de Oro with Dingdong Dantes running after her and then making that grand proposal while every passenger cheered even with their flight delayed. Why should this one get a free pass as an enjoyable, fluffy piece of entertainment just because it’s an “important” film?

3. The opening scene was my favorite because I weirdly enjoyed squirming in my seat while watching that really uncomfortable discrimination situation. I even remembered being in a slightly similar incident when my family had a vacation in (guess where?) Singapore back in the early 90’s. We were eating at KFC and the locals sneered at us like we were stray dogs that got lost in that establishment (of course back then I had no clue that they looked down on Pinoys as second-class citizens so I just thought they weren’t too happy with the crispy chicken they were eating).

When the legendary Michelle Yeoh served that fitting retribution to the hotel manager with such intense coldness, I came very close to standing up and cheering from my seat. I’d have preferred it though if she ended that scene with “Wala pang taong hindi rumespeto sa pangalang ELEANOR Young! At ang hindi marunong rumespeto sa AKING pangalan ay ASO lamang!!”. (If you got that reference, you have excellent taste in films.)

4. So many #PinoyFried in this movie, although none of them actually portrayed Pinoy characters (except for Astrid’s maids, of course!). Nico Santos’ fey turn as cousin Oliver was a delight, although it wasn’t surprising given his amazing turn as Mateo Fernando Aquino Liwanag in Superstore.

And speaking of Aquinos, when crazy rich Kris showed up onscreen as Princess Intan, there were some audible gasps from the audience. I guess none of them were able to watch Magic to Win 5 on the big screen. I still think it would have been the biggest casting coup if she played Imelda Marcos (the only woman that could put Jamie Chua’s shoe collection to shame).

5. I completely get the use of the very Asian mahjong game in that climactic showdown between Eleanor and Rachel (Constance Wu), although I honestly didn’t understand all of the symbolisms. The only thing I noticed was that Eleanor took the East seat which was significant in The Joy Luck Club (now there’s a brilliant Hollywood Asian film) since that was where the dealer sat and where all things began (in the novel/film, Jing Mei took that seat to replace her dead mother Suyuan who started the said group). 

Wouldn’t it have been great though if they amped up the camp factor and showed more clashes between these strong women (very much like a Pinoy cockfight)? With two brilliant actresses front and center (fyi, this should serve as your reminder to finally catch up on Fresh Off the Boat), this could have been really fun.

(Also, the Nick character was so bland that I couldn’t see why two amazing women were “fighting” over him. No amount of Henry Golding’s shirtless scenes could hide that fact.)

Side note: Given that Jon M. Chu also directed Now You See Me 2, I actually had this gnawing feeling during the mahjong scene that Rachel would perform some sort of elaborate magic trick. Like she would be able to switch her bamboo tiles without Eleanor ever noticing. Pong!!

6. I teared up a bit when I realized that the Ah Ma character was played by Lisa Lu, who was also Auntie An-Mei in Joy Luck Club (“My mother not know her worth until too late. Too late for her, but not for me.” Waaaah!).

7. I wasn’t particularly fond of Awkwafina in Ocean’s 8, but she was hilarious in the Nikki Valdez role here. As Peik Lin (aka Asian Ellen), she stole every scene that she was in whether she was criticizing Rachel’s look as Sebastian of The Little Mermaid, playing around with her car window, or simply taking a selfie around the Young mansion.

My favorite (very Asian) joke though was when Wye Mun (Ken Jeong) said something like, “Red’s a lucky color if you’re an envelope”. I also liked the bite in his line that “There’s a lot of children starving in America”.

8. Supposedly affluent young women going crazy over off-the-rack items? Shouldn’t they be turning their enhanced pointed noses up on anything that wasn’t bespoke? How un-crazy rich. (And what to make of that tacky tassel necklace? Only Kat Galang could have pulled that one off.)

9. The story about Astrid’s failing marriage felt like complete filler. It was like one long setup for the sequel. (Which probably was made more obvious when Harry Shum, Jr. showed up in one scene and yet received top billing in the end credits.) Her story only served as a distraction to what could have been more screen time for Nick and Rachel or Rachel and Eleanor. Also, Gemma Chan looked very much like Nathalie Hart, no?

10. One of the highlights here was the royal wedding of Araminta (Sonoya Mizuno) where the guests held lighted butterflies (dragonflies?) as she walked down that water-filled aisle. While everyone else teared up when Kina Grannis’ Can’t Help Falling in Love played in the background, my OCD kicked in high gear imagining that lovely wedding dress turning all soggy and getting completely ruined. These crazy rich people paid $40M for that? 

Meanwhile here in the Philippines, a bride in Bulacan went viral for actually wading in murky floodwater (which she got free courtesy of the monsoon) out of necessity just to continue with her dream wedding. Now that was something that really made me cry.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

ETIQUETTE FOR MISTRESSES (Chito Rono, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Etiquette for Mistresses:

1. It was not the train wreck that I expected and it was all because of the skillful direction of Chito Rono and his cast of competent actresses. The movie was actually reminiscent of Rono’s own Separada with five women dealing with their own personal problems but united by a common concern (basically, men).

2. The story of the core group (that included an understated yet exemplary performance by Iza Calzado, a light and comical take by Kim Chiu, a fiery turn by Claudine Barretto in full Mela mode, a hilarious Cheena Crab, and not-so-annoying acting by Kris Aquino) didn’t break new ground but it would make one pity (not empathize with) these “holiday orphans”.

3. The mix of cameos (the stellar Pilar Pilapil, a graceful Mother Mistress Helen Gamboa), the interesting rules (“Mistresses don’t complain, that is the job of the Mrs.”, “Perish all thought that someday you’ll be number 1”, “When all else fails, leave him”), and the overall sadness of situations made it completely watchable.

4. Favorite scenes:

• Explanation of Lucky Moon

• The throwaway Timezone joke

• That confrontation scene shot in the shadows! And that slap heard around the world!! (I swear everyone in the theater gasped and feared for their own lives.)

Worst scenes:

• Cellphone breaks car window (huh?)

• Excessive focus on Kim’s character (did we need that lengthy guitar sequence?)

• The police sequence straight out of Eskapo

5. If only Star Cinema could control itself on its requisite happy ending complete with surprise leading men cameos.

Now sing with me: “And don’t tell me what to do, and don’t tell me what to say, and please when I go out with you, don’t put me on display. You don’t own meeeee…”

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published October 1, 2015.)