24/7 IN LOVE (Mae Czarina Cruz, John-D Lazatin, Frasco Mortiz, Dado Lumibao, 2012)

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Definitely a mixed bag but the good ones greatly outweighed the stinkers. The weaker stories were saved by strong performances from Maja Salvador, Angelica Panganiban, and Kim Chiu while the interesting segments were further enhanced by the excellent turns of Bea Alonzo, Zanjoe Marudo, Xyriel Manabat, and Pokwang.

The Bea-Zanjoe segment was just so good it could have worked as an entire movie. I’d recommend this just for that wonderful bit alone.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published December 5, 2012.)

CRAZY BEAUTIFUL YOU (Mae Cruz-Alviar, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Crazy Beautiful You:

1. The movie opened with a car race straight out of The Fast and the Furious. Only Kathryn Bernardo was no Michelle Rodriguez because she would rather die than hit a stray dog. And at the rate that her car was going, how did she not even end up slamming the post?

2. Do we really allow cellphones in jail? I’m asking since I’ve never seen jail selfies. Or anyone tweeting how sad they are in solitary confinement.

3. Kathryn sounded like she had a constant cold. Every word had an additional H (“Ghive mhe bhack mhy phhone, pfowsz!”). She used to be one of my favorite local actresses but she hasn’t done anything substantial after her excellent stint in Magkaribal. She really needs to break free from this love team in the same way that the other Mara became a fully-realized actress after going solo.

4. Did the chase sequence really have to be in slow motion? Did we really need that shot of calamansi (or whatever produce) slowly fly in the air for cinematic effect? No. Just no.

5. Daniel Padilla fared much better in this movie even with his constant posturing reminiscent of uncle Robin Padilla circa ’90s. He was charming and sympathetic and yes, much cuter with his new clean-cut and borta look. More swooning expected. (He might need to bleach his teeth, though.)

6. Why do a lot of these young guys (especially the ones from ABS-CBN) shave their armpits? None of my business, but still curious.

7. The movie was so badly-lit that the actors’ faces either looked lahar-ridden or overexposed. What happened to the usual Star Cinema gloss?

8. Mini-commercials for ABS-CBN Mobile and KFC. They should have used the extra income on the movie’s photography.

9. Wait, I’ve seen this immersion movie before when it was still called Catch Me… I’m in Love with Sarah Geronimo and Gerald Anderson. And it was also directed by Mae Cruz. Have we really run out of ideas?

10. I bet Kathryn has a separate closet for all of her crop tops. Does she seriously wear anything else?

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published March 1, 2015.)

HALIK SA HANGIN (Emmanuel Palo, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Halik sa Hangin:

1. The movie opened with a surprise party that must have been designed to give bit roles to lesser-known Star Magic talents and PBB teen stars. How these kids were able to rent/decorate/reach such place would be one of the movie’s biggest mysteries.

2. The LGBT community should thank Star Cinema for always supporting these gay actors playing straight roles. I suddenly remembered this network war joke that GMA actors were straight guys playing gay roles and ABS actors were the exact opposite. 

3. I was happy to see the return of Ina Raymundo. And then I felt bad for her for being part of this movie.

4. Speaking of gay actors playing straight roles, I think this was John Lapus’ best role to date. He was great as Julia Montes’ father and even played the guitar really well. Good for him!

5. Heard during a Full Moon party scene:

“Yeah party! Whoo ang saya!!”

Seriously, would self-respecting partygoer will say this?

6. Julia to Gerald Anderson: “Ang lamig mo.” His response: “Hindi mainit ka lang.”

Another reason why we should never have a Pinoy Twilight remake.

7. Gerald: “You’re MTB.”

Julia: “Meant to be?”

Gerald: “Meant to break…my heart.”

Koya, eh di MTBMH na yan!!

8. Julia looked really good onscreen. She reminded me a bit of MJ Lastimosa and I kept wondering if she had veneers. Her collaborations with director Emmanuel Palo had all been disastrous. It’s time for a new director. Or probably just better material?

9. In one scene, our heroine arrived using a Vespa. In the next scene, she was shown walking home. It’s The Case of the Disappearing Vespa.

10. Here’s the best line of the movie:

“You made me fall in love with you. You’re so unfair. Shit ka! Hindi ka buhay. Patay ka na! Patay ka na! Anong gusto mo gawin ko tumawid sa kabilang buhay para makasama ka?”

And that kids is why you shouldn’t do drugs.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published February 1, 2015.)

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: ★★☆☆☆

BLOODY CRAYONS (Topel Lee, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Bloody Crayons:

1. During the height of Scream fever in the late ’90s, Viva Films attempted to create (read: blatantly ripped-off) a Pinoy version of that popular slasher flick and came up with the terrible Sumigaw Ka…Hanggang Gusto Mo. It was directed by Eric Quizon who had the audacity to cast himself as the movie’s killer and also included the entire cast of T.G.I.S. (kids today would never know the kilig brought by the Wacks and Peachy love team), plus other GMA Artist Center artists question mark.

In one scene, the killer (probably a fan of Mara del Valle) was running after Gladys Reyes who actually tried to escape by climbing up a fireplace. She ended up getting roasted, of course (silly girl, not even Becky would go up a chimeneya to run away from Ms. Minchin).

It was the kind of So Bad, It’s Horrible type of movie that you would only want to see once in your life due to severe trauma, but couldn’t resist to mock whenever it would get shown on cable. It was also the reason why a number of my friends that I forced to watch with me ended up swearing off ever watching Pinoy films in cinemas. I hope you could forgive me, FDCP.

2. Bloody Crayons would probably be the millennial equivalent of that trashy movie, only this time produced by Star Cinema and starred a number of Star Magic starlets. Most of the previous horror films directed by Topel Lee had obvious influences from popular Asian counterparts and this one was no exception (albeit more of Hollywood movies from the opening film-within-a-film sequence used in the Scream series down to the other ones reminiscent of the Final Destination series, Identity, Cabin in the Woods, Don’t Breathe, and countless others of the same genre).

I hadn’t read the Wattpad novel that this was based on so I really wasn’t sure if the lack of originality was from the actual material or the treatment itself. (I was also confused by the separate original story credit given to its three writers when this was clearly an adaptation.)

3. The horror genre had always been the waterloo of our best local directors so I really wasn’t expecting much from this slasher flick. Unfortunately, it still lacked the fun and excitement of seeing mostly annoying characters get killed one by one. Really, all I hoped for was that the cast would be killed according to their acting prowess (naturally starting with the most bano ones), but that obviously didn’t happen with Ronnie Alonte and Elmo Magalona as two of the three remaining survivors.

I actually couldn’t decide who gave the worse performance since both of them could easily replace Aljur Abrenica as the real-life Machete. Ronnie still sounded like a talking robot jakono while Elmo acted like he was a hypnotized victim of the Budol-Budol Gang (except in one kitchen scene where he delivered his lines like he was having a seizure, complete with flailing hand movements). Seriously, mas gusto ko pa si Elmo nung nagpagulong-gulong siya sa burol with Julie Ann San Jose in Just One Summer.

4. Wait, a young wannabe director obsessed with shooting a horror movie near a body of water? Oh, Dawson Leery!!

5. I still couldn’t fathom why there had to be a sequence where the entire gang decided to go for a swim at the beach and they took their clothes off one at a time while the camera voyeuristically lingered on their young bodies (slow motion shots of topless, abs-less guys and granny bathing suit-wearing girls, really?!).

I could almost hear the director saying, “Pasensiya na kayo sa acting ni Ronnie. Eto additional three seconds ng pusod nya para di kayo masyadong lugi.” Next time please leave this type of sexploitation to the experts (yes, Seiko Films of course!).

6. Speaking of acting, I really liked the performances of Jane Oineza and Maris Racal. I wish they could be given more to do in future Star Cinema movies other than the typical best friend or sister roles.

On the other hand, could somebody please tell Yves Flores not to imitate Jake Cuenca’s “akting na akting” delivery? People laughed hysterically in the scene where he was screaming “Bro, anong nangyari sa’yo??” to a corpse with huge stab marks on its neck. Was he gunning for the PMPC Star Award for Best New Movie Actor?

7. If you’d seen a lot of horror movies (or read a lot of R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike) with fake twists and red herrings (this one reminded me of The Last Act), it really wasn’t too hard to guess the identity of the killer. All it took was just a single head shot to ruin the surprise.

8. I was really interested to know more about the Bloody Crayons game since it looked fun to play during a barkada night out. Sadly, I couldn’t see any group including it in any of their parties any time soon since the rules were just too complex (relative to Truth or Dare). Who would even remember what each color stood for when all of you would be presumably drunk on Red Horse?

Also, was it just my oily skin or do crayons really not work as markers on the face? Did they use craypas instead? So this should have been Bloody Craypas?

9. Where was this movie shot? (I noticed one of the characters was carrying a Bohol bag so…) The place looked gorgeous. At least maganda ang cinematography.

10. One character’s words of wisdom to another standing on a cliff: “Mag-ingat ka ha. Pag mahulog ka dyan, baka di ka na makabalik.”

Wehhh, di nga??

11. I wasn’t sure if I laughed the loudest when the group used a rattan chair as a battering ram, or when a character was miraculously saved from a gunshot by his dog tag, or when Umagang Kay Ganda suddenly played during the final sequence.

12. BBC One recently adapted Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None into a mini-series. Better actors, better production values, better use of your time.

13. Hanggang sa horror movie may hugot pa rin ang hindi maka-move on na killer? Tengene lungs.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

DUKOT (Paul Soriano, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Dukot:

1. We sadly live in a world of victim-blaming, where a grieving mother gets shamed as a negligent parent, an injured person is reprimanded for not being more careful, and a woman who cries rape gets bashed for being a tease with her plunging neckline and short skirt. It scares me that a lot of people have this knee-jerk reaction, especially since I see myself as one of them.

When the movie opened with Ellen Adarna in a skimpy outfit trying to withdraw from an ATM at such an odd hour, my brain just kept thinking that she would get robbed and she had no one to blame but herself. My worst fear happened and she was even shot and left for dead. I hated myself for having thought that way and it made me want to do another self-check. Unfortunately, that was all the deep thinking that this movie required me to do.

2. Although technically impressive, Dukot was marred by lapses in logic and believability, falling short of being an effective thriller. Sure, one could easily say everything that happened was based on true events, but another could argue that if that were the case, then this should just have been a documentary. No amount of awesome aerial shots or perfectly-framed scenes could compensate for the lack of an engrossing story (a dream sequence to generate tension, really?). I felt very much like one of the guests of Mr. Sandoval (Ricky Davao), watching him discuss a Powerpoint presentation about himself during his birthday party.

3. I think my lack of compassion for his family was because he was a corrupt Customs officer. I still had not forgotten the vultures in my city’s Customs office that charged an exorbitant amount for my non-taxable Amazon book orders. Also, he was the type of stingy father that would rather haggle with his son’s kidnappers rather than pull strings to come up with the ransom money.

When his daughter Cathy (Shaina Magdayao) called him up in the middle of the night crying that Carlo (Enrique Gil) was kidnapped, he didn’t even show any concern or bother asking if she was ok and just calmly said that everything was insured so she shouldn’t be crying. Father of the Year Awardee right there.

4. In a world (and country) where CCTV cameras had become necessities, I couldn’t understand why the kidnappers never bothered to cover up their faces. They also kidnapped Carlo instead of the beautiful Cathy just because the former begged that he take her place instead. In the safe house, they were almost always drunk and careless and even allowed Carlo to pee behind closed doors. They were such bumbling kidnappers that I was wondering why they didn’t just choose a different occupation (I swear they could have been more effective and probably richer selling Royale whitening soap).

5. Did you see that viral video where a policeman was using two miniature (Matchbox?) cars to simulate an accident? I laughed so hard when something similar was shown in this movie. In that scene, Mr. Sandoval received a call from one of the kidnappers which prompted an investigator to turn on her tape recorder. Yes, she recorded the conversation like she was conducting an interview. I really hoped it wasn’t our third world version of tracing a call.

6. Speaking of, I wasn’t sure if I missed something but did they do a phone to phone call using an old Nokia model without a speaker function? How??

7. In a cast of good actors (that also included Bing Pimentel, Christopher de Leon, Ping Medina, and Manang Biring), the real standout was Alex Medina. Seriously, you could never go wrong with someone whose roles ranged from Bonifacio’s brother to a man possessed by a gay ghost.

8. I really loved the juxtapositions used here, from the birthday celebrations to the one where the two ladies were smoking. They were as effective as the ones done by Carlos Siguion-Reyna in Inagaw Mo Ang Lahat Sa Akin.

9. It really felt like the material was modified in favor of the Star Magic talents. Kidnapping the son instead gave Enrique a lot of dramatic highlights (to be fair, he was able to acquit himself well) and at one point, Ricky’s character conveniently suffered a heart attack so that Shaina could have her shining crying moment while lugging around three duffel bags containing millions of pesos (still not sure why Mr. Sandoval agreed to endanger his daughter, though).

10. How would you know the kidnapper that grew a conscience? He was the one with the angel wings tattooed on his back, naturally.

Rating: ★★★☆☆