THROUGH NIGHT & DAY (Veronica Velasco, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Through Night and Day:

1. I used to have an Entertainment Weekly subscription when the magazine only cost around Php100 (it’s now priced at Php400!!). One of my favorite film critics there was Lisa Schwarzbaum and although we would usually have opposing views (she had the audacity to call Fight Club “dumb” and even gave it a D grade), I enjoyed her brutal (read: honest) opinions.

I was reminded so much of her Pay It Forward review which she described as a “shameless cliché of emotional and physical damage”. I couldn’t understand her hate back then because I was a sobbing mess by the end of that film. After watching this JaMill in Iceland travelogue turned manipulative tearjerker, I finally got it. Some movies would simply throw in a last minute trope (an accident, death, cancer) that appealed to the most basic sentiments and hope that the audience would equate their reaction of crying to quality. As a sucker for three hankie weepies who would bawl my eyes out while watching a Jollibee Christmas ad, I have had enough of this type of emotional manipulation.

2. The movie started off okay as it followed this annoying couple (Alessandra de Rossi as Jen and Paolo Contis as Ben) who had been together for thirteen years deciding to finally have an out of the country trip. It was supposedly the real test of their relationship (oh just wait until you guys actually lived together) because travelling would bring out the worst in people (as seen in every season with couples in The Amazing Race). Their country of choice was Iceland probably because it was a new destination for a Pinoy romcom and not a lot of people saw the fake-looking Aurora Borealis in the Piolo Pascual-Yen Santos snoozefest Northern Lights: A Journey To Love.

They rented a van without any insurance (a sign of an impending accident), complained about the exorbitant food prices (a trip to a local 7-11 cost them almost Php4k), provided Kuya Kim trivia about the place (zero crime rate in the country), and bickered and fought and made up, and bickered and fought and made up, and bickered and fought and made up.

You know how when you’re single and you would simply glare at these irritating naglalandian couples in the corner of Starbucks while bitterly thinking “Maghihiwalay din kayo”? Exact same feeling. After the nth time of watching them fight over the pettiest things, I wished that they would just head home and never see each other again.

3. I must have wished really hard because they did break up over a lost passport and a missed return flight. She was fire and he was ice (their words, not mine) and they just weren’t MFEO. I was already good with that ending (hey, a one hour travelogue for a Php190 movie ticket in Festival Mall wasn’t all bad) but then it decided to jump three years later with Ben already engaged to another girl and Jen all bald and suffering from a brain tumor. Why? Why? Whyyyyy??

If two people weren’t meant to be, why should guilt be induced to prove that there wasn’t any love lost between them? Jen’s affliction was even used as a reason for her blatant irrationality (although it still didn’t support why she chose to wear her engagement ring on her middle finger just because of a bad manicure). Should I feel guilty about that as well?

4. Even in her bad films, I couldn’t remember Alessandra de Rossi ever giving a terrible performance. She was always this sensitive actress able to transcend any material given to her (even crap like Spirit of the Glass). I couldn’t say the same for her work in the first two-thirds of this movie. Pabebe acting just didn’t suit her well (no to baby talk and girls trying to be cute by saying “Plith”).

Plus, she looked far too intelligent and decent to be groping tomatoes in a farm for a photo op and even spitting on the ground and contaminating all the pananim. After getting dumped over that missed flight, Jen asked “Dito talaga sa Iceland? Dito mo sasabihin na ayaw mo ako pakasalan? Kung saan ang ganda ng sky?” Huh?? And she even found humor in the situation when she screamed “I will stay here in my country! Not this country. This is not my country!”. I felt really, really bad for Alex.

Even worse, she shaved her head for this mess (fyi, she was a producer of this movie with a story and concept credit so it must be a passion project worthy of a buzz cut). Brave move, yes, but let’s not forget that Demi Moore also won a Worst Actress Razzie for her shaved head work in G.I. Jane.

Side note: That scar on the back of her head looked like a strip of Play Doh. Eek!

5. Paolo Contis fared a bit better because he always had this pilyo, pang-asar vibe even during his Ang TV days that was apt for the character of Ben. Most people would probably be surprised that he could cry a river (and believe me, there were enough tears in that final thirty minutes to solve our country’s Maynilad problems). Nothing new though if you were a huge fan of that Aga Muhlach-Dayanara Torres fantasy Basta’t Kasama Kita.

6. My favorite part of this movie was when Ben complained that Jen wasn’t “decently” dressed and since she was a devoted Christian saving herself for marriage, it was a problem for him not to feel horny beside her (“Wala namang utak ‘to. Tanga ‘to eh!” referring to his shrinkage-proof member that wasn’t affected at all by the freezing weather.) I immediately (sinfully) thought, “Well, maybe she should pray over his erection”. And she did. Bwahahaha!

(It was also interesting to note that Jen completely forgot her Christian ways after getting sick by forcing herself on Ben and basically trying to covet another person’s jowa.)

7. My least favorite part was when BenJen did a duet and sang the entire version of Gary Valenciano’s “I Will Be Here” while sobbing like there was no tomorrow (okay, bad pun because there really was no tomorrow for Jen).

I hated it because: 1) I had always been averse to that song ever since it was played in a good friend’s wake, 2) all the crying felt like one of those acting workshops where a mentor would make you remember the saddest memory and force you to weep for thirty minutes as a sign that you could act and cry on cue, and 3) they sang an entire song. Again, why? To give the audience enough time to cry along with them? Repeat after me: emotional manipulation.

Side note: The dark humor toward the end of the movie (the fake dying, Jen’s sudden outbursts, etc.) felt really off, too. The hilariously robotic delivery of that nurse about the re-occurrence of Jen’s condition didn’t help, either.

8. How did I know that I was completely unaffected by all the sadness onscreen? While the couple was singing that entire (it had to be noted, yet again) death song, my brain was focused on the fly perched on Joey Marquez’s left shoulder. Malungkot kaya yung langaw mag-isa?

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

THE DEBUTANTES (Prime Cruz, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Debutantes:

1. I still haven’t forgotten about the clunky twist of last week’s Last Night and now we get another movie that hinged on the big reveal of an ‘imaginary’ being. Are our writers running out of original ideas to surprise the audience?

It probably would have been more acceptable if the said twist wasn’t so obvious the moment you see young Jona Soquite (or at least who I thought was her). Seriously, why would ‘siblings’ with a huge age gap have that twinning kind of severe BANGS (yes, nagsusumigaw) anyway? The only mystery left was whether she was the evil side of Carrie, er, Kate (a competent Sue Ramirez), or a completely different entity altogether (answer: sadly, the latter).

2. I had this discussion recently with a filmmaker friend on the lack of creative main titles in recent films (especially Star Cinema ones). We would usually see the same old cast names in red (or white) Times New Roman or Comic Sans fonts that clearly revealed the lack of originality or how much the final product was rushed.

One good thing about this movie was that it had a good opening credit sequence with blood flowing/dripping endlessly on various objects like a flower (cattleya?) or on the lips that would figure prominently later on. Reminded me so much of the Emmy-winning design for Six Feet Under.

3. Although the bullying and the public humiliation reminded me of Carrie, the similarity ended there because it was hard not to sympathize with the Mean Girls when this was obviously not an outright revenge flick. How could I cheer for the eventual deaths of young, irritating girls when Kate wasn’t the one doing the killings?

I never really rooted for a maligno, except for this one time when the Undin hid in the toilet bowl and preyed on the loudmouth landlady played by Vangie Labalan.

4. Speaking of Mean Girls, I couldn’t get why Ivy Aguas wannabe Jenny (Jane de Leon) was considered the Queen Bee. She didn’t look or speak the part and Michelle Vito as Candice had more of the Regina George vibe (although the latter was also a terrible actress so maybe that was the reason?).

To be fair, the Jenny character was a hoot. I laughed out loud when she said, “Hey guys, as you all know it’s my birthday. Yeeeees! Happy birthday to meeeee!!”.

5. I also couldn’t understand how Miles Ocampo ended up with this group of bitches considering that her Lara character seemed like the typical goody two-shoes. Sure, she lived alone in a humongous house and had an annoying fringed bag that screamed social climber, but her personality just didn’t seem to fit with the group. Was it because she was too dumb to know the difference between Geometry and Calculus and the group needed a budget Karen Smith?

6. Why would Kate agree to wear a revealing halter top when she had visible scratch marks on her back? Also, why didn’t she even bother to check how loose those strings were prior to attending a party full of privileged brats?

In this day and age of social media prominence, who would still post a public status of them embarrassing other people? Have these kids already forgotten about Ate Amalayer, or the Kuya that threw a hissy fit in Alfamart and got knocked down by a loaf of Gardenia, or the Sisteret that wanted to hog all the chairs in Starbucks? A documented case of bullying sounded like an instant lawsuit to me.

7. This was a Prime Cruz movie so of course it looked good. I really loved the use of saturated colors and I hope that it wasn’t just a product of SM Cinemas’ poor projection. I kinda missed his cool soundtrack though and the songs were mostly utilized during the end credits.

8. I really don’t get how these onscreen characters would cut their own hair and they’d always end up with salon gorgeous looks after. If I were to handle my own haircut, my mother would most probably ask if I recently had ‘tipus’ (uhm, thyphoid fever).

9. Why would a traumatized Kate immediately attend the wake of one of her bullies? Was it because we needed a scare scene involving a coffin? And why was Candice wearing a stylish cover-up and pekpek shorts there? Jenny should really have risen from the dead and slapped her silly for stealing the limelight (and for lack of respect, naturally).

10. Most of the horror elements were familiar tropes (they basically replaced the hair braid coming out of Naomi Watts’ throat in The Ring with a necklace; the jump scene when somebody would open a fridge and a person would be standing behind it was used twice, the other with a locker; the setup where the ghost would pull on the blanket of a sleeping person looked straight out of The Conjuring) and even impressive scenes like when the engkanto came out of Kate’s mouth looked similar to the one in The Possession (or one of the Ouija movies). I spent most of the time chuckling at how bad the death scenes were staged.

11. That was one dirty toilet bowl. Candice, please ask your maid to check the Coke hack on Facebook pronto.

12. This was the type of horror movie where a person in a pool would see the moo moo and decide to swim to the other side instead of getting her ass out of the water and fleeing for dear life. Congratulations Shayne (Chanel Morales) for winning this month’s Darwin Award!!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

RINGS (F. Javier Gutierrez, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Rings:

1. Huge advancements in technology had not been kind at all to this tired, old franchise. Fifteen years ago, a long-haired girl in a white kamison crawling out of a television screen might have been considered scary. But very much like VHS tapes, this type of horror now felt very much outdated (and definitely not vintage).

Besides, in this day and age where one could update his Facebook status on a watch, who else would be using a VCR (or even had one that was still working)?

Even more absurd, not a single click-hungry site (not BuzzFeed, not TMZ, not even Snopes!) picked up the urban legend of a killer video. I actually expected it to be the most viewed clip in YouTube and Samara’s/Sadako’s biggest problem would be how to properly schedule the deaths of millions of people that watched. Surely, she would rather jump back in the well out of sheer exhaustion.

2. If you hadn’t seen The Ring or Ring Two (or their far superior Japanese source Ringu), let me do a quick recap. Adopted child drowned in well for having witch powers wanted to seek revenge on mankind through a cursed video that killed its viewers after seven days and the only way to escape death was to create a copy that somebody else needed to watch.

Yup, it worked exactly like a chain letter or an ambush multi-level marketing scheme in Starbucks. Scary, huh?

3. This entire lore was completely thrown out the window when Samara basically chose whoever she wanted to kill and towards the end of the movie even turned into a virus and started sending her own video to everyone on a character’s contact list. I was guessing part of her rebirth consisted of becoming the ultimate social media famewhore. (Also, sorry bitch, but the terrible Feng Shui 2 beat you to it.)

4. I definitely missed Naomi Watts who brought a certain depth in an otherwise standard fright flick. In this one, she was replaced by some college kids that didn’t know how to act scared or even let out a proper scream. Nobody could authentically pull out an incredibly long and chokeable foreign matter out of one’s throat (you pervert!) like Naomi and she did it first and much better in The Ring.

5. In one scene, a girl entered a projector room and disturbed everyone else that was seated when she crossed their path to get to the other side. It reminded me so much of my terrible viewing experiences in Greenbelt 3 Cinemas 1 and 2 where people would treat the last row of seats as if it was an aisle for them to get to the bathroom (and of course, they would return to their seats the same way and bother you a second time around). Hmm, I should probably start listing down my cinema pet peeves.

6. Hala biglang naging Don’t Breathe! What the fork!

7. If you were the type that get easily scared by umbrellas that loudly open, you would enjoy this one. As for me, na-sad ako. (Whee! I’m so punny!)

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

THE THIRD PARTY (Jason Paul Laxamana, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Third Party:

1. In the latest teaser of Bakit Lahat ng Gwapo May Boyfriend?, the character of Anne Curtis provided a helpful checklist to determine if a guy was check na check na check. She must have missed sending this memo to the hospital where Max (Sam Milby) and Christian (Zanjoe Marudo) worked because everyone there was oblivious to the fact that these two smart, attractive (matte makeup on fleek!), clean-looking, dapper, perfectly-coiffed doctors were actually gay. I would love to be in that non-judgmental hospital where not one of the staff secretly wondered why these bachelors didn’t have wives or girlfriends and just swooned whenever the couple would rendezvous in the lobby.

I was almost certain Christian was the type that would play The Emancipation of Mimi in full blast in his office, but I guess nobody would still get a clue.

2. When the teaser for this one came out, some people quickly dismissed it as a rip-off of Pusong Mamon (that campy 90’s Joel Lamangan comedy with Lorna Tolentino, Albert Martinez, and Eric Quizon). I initially thought that it wasn’t anywhere near that flick since it didn’t even hint at a pregnant Andi (Angel Locsin).

Well, I was obviously wrong because it was indeed an updated version of that movie. Even with a few tweaks made (the biggest one being that the father of Andi’s baby was neither of the two), it was still the same surrogate mother cohabiting with the gay couple story. Weirdly enough, it focused less on the interactions between the three and more on Andi’s life story. Seriously, how many more times would we see Angel face these mother abandonment issues?

3. Didn’t we learn anything from the convoluted multi-subplots in Barcelona? Aside from Andi’s mother issues, we also had to deal with Max coming out to his homophobic father (but this being a Star Cinema movie, you already know how this would end) and perennial BFF Beauty Gonzalez prepping for her wedding. Her minor character even had a lengthy wedding scene where her vows were meant to serve as a reminder (or wake-up call?) to Andi’s character. Huh?

4. I couldn’t get over the fact that Max chose to come out to his ex-girlfriend in a noisy club. Shouldn’t this be treated as a sensitive matter that merited a heart-to-heart conversation over Starbucks frappucinos? Or at the very least McSpicy with Shake Shake fries?

In another scene, the gay couple decided to have a serious talk on the status of their relationship in an art gallery. Why?? So that the wall between them could serve as a metaphor for their crumbling relationship? Or so that Max could contemplate next to a wooden pregnant art piece? Insert eye roll here.

5. Zanjoe was really good here as the controlling second party. Ibang atake from his previous gay roles. His best gay performance to date though was in 24/7 In Love. Skip the other stories and watch his episode with Bea Alonzo. Completely heartbreaking.

On the other hand, Sam’s performance left a lot to be desired. I was actually happy that his character opened up this discussion on gender fluidity, but he just lacked the depth required for the role. He also still needed to work on his accent because he already had that slight twang even before his character flew to San Diego. At least his abs had a highlight of their own again. Plus, he had a scene where he gleefully ate a hotdog. Wala lang.

6. Oh, and I never believed for a second that Zanjoe and Sam were a couple. I could still feel the ilang factor and they lacked the warmth and sweetness to each other. Even the kiss simply felt mechanical. I suddenly had the urge to rewatch In My Life.

7. I laughed a little when Angel mentioned that she wanted to work in Australia. So Love Me Again (Land Down Under) didn’t give her enough nightmares? Also, another Darna reference. Will we get this in every Star Cinema movie until the 2017 film comes out?

8. Ultrasound scene. Street food chatter. Videoke scene. Same old, same old.

9. Andi to the couple: “Kung kayo ba merong double deck, saan kayo pwesto?” Sadly, that was never answered. (Or was Sam’s hotdog-eating scene the answer? Hmm.)

10. I recently mentioned the guilty pleasures of Nympha (“Ikaw lang ang lalaking kumakain ng apoy na matagal uminit!”) so I was happy to see Alma Moreno playing the aunt of Andi here. I wish she was given more to do than just make a piggy bank out of her ample cleavage, though. Not even a Loveliness-level campaign-worthy dance number? Sigh.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆