GHOST WIFE (Mate Yimsomboon, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Ghost Wife:

1. If you still hadn’t seen the film that pushed me into (temporarily) becoming a sacristan with the thought that my holiness would shield me from a demonic possession, then let this be your nth reminder to watch the Akin ang Walang Diyos episode of Lovingly Yours, Helen: The Movie. I swear I had never seen a scarier exorcism which resulted to a lot of sleepless nights (not even Linda Blair’s twisting head or the contortionist moves of Emily Rose could even come close).

This was also the infamous source of the 80’s urban legend that an evil lamang-lupa fell in love with young superstar Julie Vega while filming that led to a mysterious illness and her eventual demise.

2. I was greatly reminded of that creepy story during this movie’s opening sequence where a shaman (wearing the biggest Buddha beads so you’d know he was mystical) was seemingly whipping a possessed child (was he using a buntot pagi?). But then the girl started screaming at the camera revealing her obvious blue-grayish contact lenses and I just couldn’t stop laughing from thereon. Was it supposed to be scary? This Thai horror flick was definitely no Shutter.

3. Completely off-topic but I found it really cute that the male students still wore short shorts as part of their high school uniform. I remember wanting to wear the khaki pants back in Grade 6 (next to circumcision and hair growing in every part of your body, it was a sign that you were one of the big boys). And now I realized that shorts were just so much more comfy, especially if you were always close to peeing yourself during a Calculus exam. To paraphrase Venus Raj, “I love it because it’s so comfortable to use and it’s very, very flowy.”

4. It was fascinating to see some cultural differences right off the bat. The teens here (who looked like Thai versions of Janella Salvador and Marlo Mortel) were more open to sex. When Thai Janella’s mom learned that her young daughter got pregnant, she took her to an abortion clinic instead of forcing a shotgun on Thai Marlo’s head (“Panagutan mo ang anak kohhh!”). 

One common factor though was that the Thai neighbors also lived for the latest chismis. Nothing wrong with being well-informed.

5. The abortion scene here would put the one in Hinugot sa Langit to shame. The quack doctors looked like they were actually pulling a baby rhinoceros out of the poor girl’s vajayjay. Did it really need that much heaving, and pulling, and grunting?

6. Before the Buddha beads-wearing shaman, Thai Janella’s mom sought the help of a female exorcist who sported heavy bangs and brought a trusty sling bag (what did that contain really? White Flower and a tin can of mints?). She ended up getting attacked by a medicine cart and was never seen again.

7. Speaking of urban legends, this was supposedly a modern day retelling of Nang Nak, the story of a husband who returned to his wife and child not knowing that they had been dead for months. This version was full of the usual horror movie tropes mostly taken from The Eye (the hallway scares, the ghost in the elevator) and none of them were scary.

When the baby was finally revealed as a tiyanak, I was laughing too much in my seat while wishing that Janice de Belen actually made a cameo. Imagine that reunion. Oh my god, ang anak ni Janice!!

8. I really wasn’t sure why dead Thai Janella was mad at her neighbors, except for being chismosa. Did she want them to keep her death a secret? Or was she just as annoyed at their sheer stupidity? After fearing for their lives and believing that their tenement was haunted, they stormed into the landlady’s office and demanded that she get rid of the ghost.

Yes, gusto nilang palayasin ang multo dahil laging nanggugulo. Hey chismosas, a scary ghost would still be much better than a drunk neighbor singing Itchyworms’ Beer for the tenth time at 3 freakin’ AM.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

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I LOVE YOU. THANK YOU. (Charliebebs Gohetia, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on I Love You. Thank You.:

1. I wasn’t exaggerating when I initially said that this movie felt as inauthentic as the overpriced Shrimp Tom Yum served in Mango Tree Bistro GB3. Although admirable for not indulging on gratuitous (and graphic) sex scenes that had become a common trait of Pinoy pink films, this one didn’t exactly feel like a gay movie.

The main couple Red and Ivan (played by Prince Stefan and CJ Reyes, respectively) who were supposedly in a relationship for four years never once kissed on the lips. On their anniversary, one of them kept saying “I love you here” before kissing a specific facial part of his partner (the forehead, the nose, the left cheek, the right cheek), but not on the lips. Even in bed, the most romantic thing they did was hug each other.

Was this just a long-term bromance? Or did these (supposedly) straight good-looking actors have a clause that they couldn’t do something that might ruin their careers and stereotype them in gay roles forever (ehem Martin Escudero)? It actually would have been more forgivable if they could act, but their every dialogue felt like they had constant bouts of constipation.

2. Do they really serve a drink called Sperm in Thailand? Everyone in that place seemed to like it and kept ordering one every time there was a bar scene. I tried to Google it, but the sperm cocktail that showed up would definitely be considered #NSFW.

3. In one scene, Paul (Joross Gamboa) was on a moving train and he decided to stick his head out the window to signal that he was carefree and ready for another adventure. Although it was a meet cute moment for Tang (Ae Pattawan, a budget JM de Guzman), it still triggered my travelling anxiety of getting locked up in a foreign country brought about by repeat viewings of Brokedown Palace.

Thank goodness for Joross though, because he was the only credible actor here (Pinoy or otherwise). Every inflection, flick of the wrist, or brush of his hair could have easily fallen under the gay stereotype but they just added a bit more nuance in his performance. Now about that excessive use of BB cream…

4. The hugot lines would either make you reflect about your love story and cry all the way home or (in my case) cringe in your seat and wish that you did not develop diabetes after hearing them. Sample dialogue:

• “May dalawang klase ng tao sa mundo: ang nagmamasid at ang minamasdan; ang umaalis at ang iniiwan.” (At ako ang pangatlong taong tumatawa habang nanunuod sa nagmamasid at minamasdan.)

• “I loved you first. I loved you even before Ivan loved you. And I loved you more even after he left you.” (Anong kamartyran yan, teh?)

• “Who goes through more pain: the one who went away or the one who is left behind?” (Malamang the one who is left behind kasi iniwan sya diba kasi yung the one who went away nakahanap na ng bago kahit di nya aminin yun ang totoo.)

• “I’m willing to wait for you until you’re healed.” (Tangaaaaa!!)

5. In a job interview for a wedding company, Paul mentioned that he wasn’t really good and that his friend was only exaggerating with his recommendation, but he would still try his best. The interviewer slash owner just said, “Ok, you promise?” and hired him on the spot. Ganun ba talaga kadali maghanap ng trabaho abroad? Wait, let me update my resume.

6. Why couldn’t we have smart and drama-free gay characters in films? I couldn’t understand why there were actually two habulan scenes here that ended up like scenic tours of Thailand. The funnier one was a supposed metaphor of the love triangle involving Red, Paul, and Tang, where they ran after each other (ala My Best Friend’s Wedding) passing through houses and roads and a bridge. It was intended to be serious and dramatic, but was clumsily shot and made me cry from laughter.

Speaking of love triangle metaphors that hit you right on the head, there was an actual photograph where Paul was looking at Red who was looking at Ivan (the only person staring at the camera). Totoo? May nagpapa-picture ng ganito?

7. If there was one moment that I really liked, it would be the ferry scene (wait, MBFW reference again?) where Tang grabbed the finger of Paul and wrote the Thai words “I love you” in the air. When Paul asked what that meant, Tang just smiled and said, “It means beautiful sunset”. Awww!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

DEAR OTHER SELF (Veronica Velasco, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Dear Other Self:

1. As the great Basha Belinda Eugenio once said, “I want to stop wondering ‘what if’. I want to know ‘what is’.”

And so I assumed that after countless viewings of One More Chance (or probably Sliding Doors), Rebecca/Becky (Jodi Sta. Maria) imagined a world of infinite possibilities with the question, “What if hindi nangyari yung moment that changed your life? Nasaan ka na ngayon?”.

2. Would she be like Becky, a financially stable corporate slave trying to find love in the workplace? In this fantasy world, she experienced the following:

• Had a good night’s sleep because of a brownout that stopped the loud videoke session of a neighbor (this probably happened prior to global warming when people could easily sleep without an electric fan or airconditioning)

• Rode a bike to work because she would rather pay for expensive coffee than get an Uber (how she remained fresh with all the city’s smog was never explained, though)

• Presented a winning sales pitch to a client using three Powerpoint slides and was awarded a car for her great work (wait, how did she learn how to drive?)

• Developed a workplace romance with Chris, played by Joseph Marco who delivered his lines like a doctor trying to tell a patient that he had terminal cancer (to be fair, masarap sya kumain ng tortang talong).

3. Or would she be more like Rebecca, a free spirit slash pretentious travel blogger trying to find love in exotic Thailand? Now in this fantasy world, she experienced the following:

• Woke up cranky after a neighbor’s all-night videoke session (although seriously, who doesn’t wake up cranky before going to work?)

• Spilled coffee on herself and her laptop prior to a presentation, almost got run over by the client that she called “kalbo”, and delivered the craziest sales pitch that really wasn’t any better than the one given by Becky (she didn’t have a back-up file and only prepared the night before, why would I feel bad for her?).

Also, her manager asked her to speak in English and when she failed to do so, she was replaced by a colleague who delivered the pitch in…Filipino. (Huh!?)

• Chose to be a travel blogger instead (which consisted of two Twitter posts and one blog entry), flew to Thailand (I thought her family was cash-strapped?), had a pillow fight and fell in love (agad agad?) with Henry, played by Xian Lim who spoke like he wanted you to open a new BDO savings account.

4. In the end, the movie didn’t really want to choose just one fantasy world and simply summed up her experiences with the life lesson, “The best part of travelling is coming home.”

What?! This is the very reason why a lot of people really hate millennials.

5. As always, Jodi was the sole reason to watch this movie. She was endearing and funny and made the most out of her cardboard-thin characters, whether she was trying her best to hold back her pee or blurting out “Sex!” when asked to choose between cheesecake or chocolates.

In a fantasy world, she would be a much bigger star with better leading men.

6. I wonder if this premise would have worked better as a teleserye. I read somewhere that the story was actually similar to a Taiwanese series called Life Plan A or B. Definitely adding that one to my queue.

7. One character kept rolling his eyes that I wondered if he should have been named Becky instead. (He’s the one with the good hair, of course!).

8. And speaking of, in one scene, the cab driver in Thailand asked Chris if he wanted a ladyboy and he felt very offended that he said, “Uupakan ko na ‘to”. When Becky asked him, “Anong ladyboy?”, he replied with a wrist flick.

Dear Chris, do you know that one of the signs of homosexuality is extreme homophobia?

Why were there so many Beckys in this movie?

9. If this movie got one thing right, it was the distinctly Pinoy feeling of being homesick. Take it from the guy who immediately missed his bed a few hours after landing in Laoag.

10. Burning questions:

• Were the extras in the airport the same ones used during the elephant bathing scene?

• If Rebecca went to Thailand as a tourist, why did it show her working there as well? (No to illegal immigration!)

• When Becky and Chris stepped out of the theater after watching a horror movie, why was the poster The Third Party?

• Bakit ang daming natatapong kape sa pelikulang ito??

11. In Jodi’s next movie, I would be more than happy if she starred with an elephant instead. It looked like they had more chemistry anyway.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

THE 5TH WAVE (J Blakeson, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The 5th Wave:

1. Why are aliens always portrayed as dimwits in alien invasion movies? For a supposedly more advanced species that can create a now identified flying object, they don’t seem to have any good battle strategy and always lose in the end. I guess they have never played Clash of Clans.

In this one, their idea of going into war was a 5-step plan that included an electro-magnetic pulse, tsunamis, mutated bird flu, humans against humans, and basically training an army of kids to work for them. It took months of hovering over the planet to see their brilliant idea self-destruct because they forgot the strongest weapon of all: LOVE.

Cue maniacal laughter.

2. The movie started off fine with our plucky heroine (aren’t they all?) basically narrating all the events ever since the invasion started. It felt like the usual apocalypse survival movie (planes crashing from the skies, huge waves wiping out Thailand, pestilence spreading everywhere) and it was engaging and interesting. But then the movie got sidetracked by a developing love story (and you know that since this was based on a young adult novel, it would be a love triangle) that didn’t serve much purpose except to show a topless tampisaw sa batis scene with our lucky (I mean, lovely) heroine ogling her eyes out.

3. There was also a huge chunk of filler scenes involving a Quantico-style training school with the hopes that this movie would merit a sequel (uhh, I don’t think so).

4. I loved the school’s dedication to continue holding classes even with a huge UFO floating above the building. This should be a lesson for all kids (and parents) eagerly awaiting the announcement on cancellation of classes as soon as it starts drizzling. I remember as a kid waking up at 4am just to listen to the news on the radio. The words “Signal Number 3 in Metro Manila” made me feel like it was Christmas in July.

5. Crocs (yup, the awesome-looking footwear) are very much like cockroaches that can survive a nuclear explosion. Don’t forget to stock up in time for the next end of the world prophesy.

6. I really felt bad for the good actors trapped in this inferior movie. Liev Schreiber didn’t do much except bark orders, Maria Bello was made to look like a rotting corpse, Ron Livingston was tasked to keep making his eyes look big, and of course the talented Chloe Grace Moretz was given a scene where she searches a bag screaming “Where’s my gun? Where’s my gun??” just in case the audience was too dense to know that she was looking for her gun. (FYI, she also had a slow motion run in the woods because, well, the director wanted a slow motion sequence.)

7. I couldn’t believe that this was written by Akiva Goldsman and Susannah Grant (the same people behind A Beautiful Mind and Erin Brockovich). Can someone check if there are alien bugs controlling their brains?

8. “Love’s not a trick, it’s real. I know now because of you.” I suddenly wished that I was one of those people killed by the bird flu.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆