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: ★★☆☆☆

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YOU’RE MY BOSS (Antoinette Jadaone, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on You’re My Boss:

1. My biggest problem with the entire movie was that the love story between Georgina (Toni Gonzaga) and her ex-boyfriend Gino (JM de Guzman) was much more interesting than her strained blooming relationship with Pong (Coco Martin). Whereas the latter relied heavily on the typical rom-com cliches and the requisite happy ending, the former easily hit home with its relatable (read: “hugot”) take on breaking up and moving on.

2. Toni played the bitch boss from hell who probably watches The Devil Wears Prada during her free time while Coco played her assistant who couldn’t even properly pronounce the words “global” and “social media” (actually, almost any English word). They might have been playing variations of themselves but they still nailed their respective roles. And I just have to say that Coco’s lisp was actually part of his charms.

3. A lot of people will compare this to The Proposal but it actually felt like a rip-off of every Jadaone movie (love song sing-off: check, plane scene: check, travelogue destination: check). Not that I’m complaining.

4. How slow was that elevator? It took several minutes just to reach the third floor. No wonder Georgina’s always mad.

5. Although there were a couple of scenes that made me laugh (“Huwag mo ko i-pressure iho. Load lang ‘to, di mo ‘to ikamamatay”), the rest of the jokes just fell flat. The elevator scene where Georgina mentioned “more chances of winning” was met with cricket sounds. Some scenes also stretched on forever without any major punchlines (Georgina teaching Poy how to properly pronounce words, for example). Even some will be completely dated a few months from now (“Ikaw yung nasa Binibining Pilipinas! Are you looking forward to your second time?”).

6. Georgina who was supposedly a fashion expert said, “Ang lalaki kapag bulaklak ibinibigay, hindi isinusuot.” I guess she missed last year’s Prada and Gucci Spring/Summer collection. Mayor Atienza is definitely way ahead of the times. (Was the stab at Coco’s fashion sense intentional? Kris and Kim were probably laughing somewhere.) Oh, and Toni’s clothes here were fabulous.

7. I found it funny that the van scenes were shot in a loop around Madrigal and Daang Hari. They were literally going in circles before ending up in Makati. Only a Southerner would know that.

8. For the role reversal to be completely believable, the movie’s asking us to check our brains at the door. How could an AVP make such stupid business decisions (to correct an already stupid viral scandal, to boot)? How could investors not know the VP of an international airline that they would like to have business with? How long will that charade continue before the Japanese investors find out that Pong wasn’t really the boss? They couldn’t keep that a secret forever, right? Was it done just to deliver the movie’s message of honesty? Please. Everything was a business fantasy where a slide show presentation made by a 12-year could win over an international investor.

9. I expected Pong to teach Georgina how to treat people well (like Manong Driver). So many missed opportunities.

10. Does the Seen functionality work on all phones? Georgina mocked the cellphone of Pong (“Walang magnanakaw niyan”) but it seemed to be working with its own iMessage.

11. Coco was able to shill most of his endorsements but the one that really worked for me was Argentina corned beef. I started craving for a hot bowl of rice topped with onion-covered corned beef. Yum!

12. Expect a lot of people flocking to Batanes after seeing this movie. The place just looked gorgeous. It was much better here than in Dementia. I would definitely want to visit that Honesty Store. And any place with zero crime rate is tops in my book.

13. Stay for the end credits. It was the funniest bit in the entire movie.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published April 5, 2015.)

LAST NIGHT (Joyce Bernal, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Last Night:

1. Let me begin with an erratum on a glaring boo boo that I made when I posted my notes on Love You to the Stars and Back. I incorrectly identified the character of Julia Barretto as Carmina Salvador since I actually saw Last Night’s trailer prior to that movie.

Whether it was cinema fatigue or my inner cinephile that went bonkers upon hearing that film reference (that was the same name of Dawn Zulueta’s character in Hihintayin Kita sa Langit), I would like to apologize for the confusion that it caused especially to all the JoshLia fans that lost sleep over that inaccurate trivia.

2. We first see the real Carmina Salvador (Toni Gonzaga) dangling from a billboard on the side of the Jones Bridge after a botched suicide attempt. Her cry for help was noticed by Mark Peters (Piolo Pascual), who was also on a suicide mission at the said bridge. (Side note: Is this really a popular destination for depressed people in the Binondo/Ermita area? I’m really curious to know how many suicide cases have happened here within the last decade. Google wasn’t really helpful.) Anyway, they ended up helping one another and in the process also fell madly in love with each other. The end.

Well, not really. Of course there had to be a big twist because the screenplay seemed to have been built around that gimmick. In a reveal that would make M. Night Shyamalan curl up in a fetal position, Carmina actually turned out to be a ghost (she died in 1973 during Martial Law; naks, relevant!) that only appeared before Mark. Yes, he could see dead people (well, one dead person in the beginning and a few more towards the end of the movie). Eek!

3. I really wish the movie didn’t rely too much on the (obvious) twist so that it didn’t have to spend its final 30 minutes explaining everything (in washed-out flashbacks!) and feeling smart on how much it was able to fool the audience.

Aside from The Sixth Sense, most of the scenes that had Mark interacting with Carmina reminded me a lot of the “I Love You, Moo Moo” episode of the 90’s movie Tatlong Mukha ng Pag-ibig. My favorite scene there was when Tonton Gutierrez carried the ghost of his dead wife (played by Sharon Cuneta) inside their honeymoon suite while the caretaker (Leroy Salvador) watched in horror as his crazy amo flirted with an imaginary entity. I actually wondered if that straightforward format that wasn’t reliant on a twist would have made the story here much better (and less cornier).

Also, I’d actually need help in remembering another Hollywood/foreign movie about a living human being that communicated and fell in love with the spirit of a deceased person (something like Just Like Heaven, but not really). I wouldn’t want to be up for the next few nights.

4. Thirteen Reasons Why received a lot of flak for apparently romanticizing suicide and I kinda understood that perspective when I watched Mark and Carmina play cutesy with a blow dryer while they were inside a tub. Or when they fantasized on placing an aircon and a mattress on their backs before diving in a pool. Or when Carmina suggested “maligo sa dinuguan at magpakain sa shark” (huh?).

This made the shift in tone during the latter part of the movie even more jarring when it suddenly turned pro-life and started spreading a message of optimism and hope. All that was lacking in that final bubblegum bridge sequence was a dancing unicorn.

5. I was a huge fan of the Toni-Piolo pairing in Starting Over Again so I was a bit surprised at how much I was turned off by their performances here. Toni had her quirkiness turned up to its maximum level and she kept shouting her lines like she was still hosting Pinoy Big Brother (“Hello Philippines! Hello world!!”).

Piolo fared much better (as he was required to go topless yet again and shamelessly showed off his abs twice!), but he spent most of his scenes brooding and acting really stuck-up. Sayang, because I really missed this fun partnership.

6. At least the technical aspects were really commendable. Before Cathy Garcia-Molina, I think Joyce Bernal was the queen of rom-coms and she really tried to make the most out of the weak story here.

The movie also looked really good, very much like a glossy maindie. I also loved the song choices (except for one that sounded like it had Piolo singing).

7. I couldn’t get over the fact that Toni was the twin of Joey Marquez. And that Joey was named Ricardo Reyes. Yes, Ricky Reyes! Bwahahahaha!

Also, Carmina (whose real name’s Jennifer, btw) was actually a smart entrepreneur and influencer for bringing her new living friends to their family restaurant every single time. Shouldn’t it have been time for her to start a Twitter or Instagram account, though?

8. Burning questions:

• Why did an old soul like Carmina sound very much like a millennial? Also, why did she keep acting like she didn’t know that she was already dead? Diba audience lang naman may hindi alam?

• If she really wanted to prevent Mark from committing suicide, why did they spend most of their time trying to figure out how to die together? Did she only realize that after she fell in love with him?

• Did they play Bloody Crayons in one scene as a cross-promotion for Star Cinema movies?

• If nobody could see her, why didn’t anyone (except for the friend of dying lola) even ask who Mark was talking to? More chismis, more fun lang?

• Why did she kill herself after just seeing blood on the side of Jones Bridge (sure, her boyfriend was supposed to be there, so she automatically assumed that the blood was his)? Why, gurl, why?

• Paano sila maghihintayan sa langit if she’s stuck in limbo?

• If Carmina killed herself during Martial Law, why was her brother played by Patrick Sugui (shouldn’t he be like 40ish) and her mother was the still youthful Marina Benipayo? Were they also ghosts? Then why couldn’t they all see each other? Or was Patrick supposed to be the young Joey Marquez? Help!!

• Bakit kapag si Piolo ang nagsasabi ng “nangulangot” parang classy and sexy pa rin? Huhuhu!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

FINALLY FOUND SOMEONE (Theodore Boborol, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Finally Found Someone:

1. I knew something was wrong with this production as soon as the rumor came out that Star Cinema had to scrap sixteen days’ worth of filmed scenes and basically reshoot everything. Apparently, several spoiler-ish photos leaked online and ruined the entire story, or possible twist (ooh, very Game of Thrones!). After watching the entire thing, all I could think of was, This was the improved version?!

2. As a huge fan of the Laida-Miggy trilogy, I was happy that Star chose to give the Sarah Geronimo-John Lloyd Cruz tandem a fresh and new story…until I realized that there was nothing really fresh or new in this trope-filled mess. It felt like the creative team just gave up on the project and threw in every lazy detail that they could think of to come up with a finished product.

• “Eto bagong-bago. Kelangan more kilig so may habulan at batuhan ng harina!”

• “Oh my gosh, ang ganda! Tapos since nag-bake na ng cake eh magpahiran na rin sila ng icing! Awww!”

• “Guys, di pwedeng pa-cute lang dapat maiyak din ang mga tao. Eto as in naisip ko lang now, dagdagan kaya natin ng may sakit na nanay?”

• “Ay, don’t forget ang mga chuwariwap friends! Very important! Check mo na rin ang schedules nina Joey Marquez at Dennis Padilla for the tatay roles.”

• “Current and relevant din dapat so kelangan involved ang social media.”

• “Wait, nagamit na natin yan sa Dear Other Self, My Ex and Whys atsaka Vince & Kath & James diba?”

• “Eh di ulitin! Pati theme song na nagamit na sa Born for You nina Coco at Angeline i-recycle na rin.”

• “Yung hugot line ha wag kalimutan. Eto naisip ko, Love needs truth to be true.”

• “Eh why not, Does love need truth to be true or does truth need love to be true?”

• “Sakit sa ulo. Tulog na tayo.”

3. Raffy Sandoval? Why not Oliver Papa?

Anywho, I was just happy that John Lloyd was here because he made everything bearable, very much like a cinematic Rumpelstiltskin turning crappy scenes into pure gold with just his radiant smile (faney alert!). I would not be doing that Lungkot Kembot bit any time soon (unlike the Rain Dance that I perform before any out-of-the-country trip), but I’d always remember how sad it made me feel when he sobbed while making kembot near the BGC fountain.

And yes, I also shed a few tears in the scene where he opened up to his sick mother, but then I would probably cry watching him cry over a paper cut.

4. Lakas ng appeal ni Sarah to the older crowd. Was it because they could see the ideal and virtuous anak/apo in her? I watched this twice on opening day and there was always that one old person that would loudly say, “Ang galing ni Sarah!” or “Ang ganda ni Sarah!” (bias aside, I think everyone would agree that she looked really, really good here).

I just wish she was given a character that didn’t need to be too quirky to be funny. The clunky opening sequence alone didn’t do her any favors because it just looked too awkward (that ladder scene should have been saved for Toni Gonzaga).

Sarah fared much better when she wasn’t forced to act funny and her natural self would come out. Ever since Filipinas, I knew that she could effectively handle a dramatic role so I really loved that confrontation scene with Aprilyn saying, “Alam mo kung bakit ka tatanda mag-isa? Kasi takot ka magsabi ng totoong nararamdaman mo. Well, ako hindi. I’ve fallen in love with you.” Ang sakit! Bravo!!

5. I could feel the tension between the two when they recently guested in Gandang Gabi Vice and it was obvious as well in that Two Truths and a Lie kitchen scene. Whatever personal issues they had actually helped make that scene authentic and honest. (Now if only it didn’t stretch on forever…)

Pero iba pa rin talaga ang kilig ng AshLloyd. My favorite moment was the restaurant scene where John Lloyd said, “Meron special diyan. Wala sa menu. Nasa harap mo.” Like Sarah, I giggled like a schoolgirl.

6. It was sad to see recent Urian winner Christian Bables sounding like BFF Barbs acting all paminta to get near Lloydie. His talent was wasted on a thankless role that probably could have been saved by (trope alert!!) Janus del Prado or Ketchup Eusebio.

Also, what was up with that checkered polo and striped cardigan combo? Trisha definitely wouldn’t have approved.

7. As expected, product placements galore. What I found amusing was that we didn’t even need to see the brand of the pill that John Lloyd was handing over to (yet another) sick relative. Everyone assumed (knew!) it was Biogesic. Now that was an effective endorser.

8. So Aprilyn’s a pre-school teacher (and probably The Voice Kids coach given the incredibly high pitch of that Hello, Hello, Hello song), an Honesty Cookies baker, and a successful Hallmark card maker, samantala ako bum sa bahay. Okay.

9. Pet peeve: continuity issues. And this one just had too many from the changing lengths of Sarah’s hair to the missing icing stain on the back of John Lloyd’s shirt. My OCD self died a little.

10. Dear Future Star Cinema Rom-Com, if ever Sarah finally agrees to do a kissing scene by the time she’s 35, can you make sure it will be with John Lloyd, please? Goodbye drone shot!!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆