THE COMMUTER (Jaume Collet-Serra, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Commuter:

1. Can Hollywood please give Liam Neeson’s reel family and friends a break? Why do they always have to be the unfortunate ones to suffer? After the Taken films, Non-Stop, and now this, what other mode of transportation is left that will cause him and his ilk a lot of trouble?

See, this is the very reason why I’m not hoping for that Love Actually sequel. I don’t want to see his stepson Sam suddenly getting kidnapped aboard a ship on Christmas Day.

2. I really liked the opening montage that showed the utter tedium of any working person’s life (waking up at the exact same time every single day, doing the same mundane morning ritual, traversing the same path on a daily commute, all while the seasons changed). Unfortunately, what could have been an insightful morality tale turned into a trashy (albeit stylized) thriller. Definitely as original as Neeson making his signature threats on the phone.

3. How preposterous was that story? The villains obviously had all the resources in their hands, but they still could not pull off a simple assassination? Why would they even need him when they had the power to track his every movement on that moving train?

I hadn’t seen this much cat-and-mouse game silliness since James Marsden and Cameron Diaz agreed to push the deadly button in The Box.

4. What saved this one from being a complete trainwreck were the impressive action sequences. There was a fight scene that was shot in one long continuous take where you could feel every punch in the face (except for Neeson who was neither bloodied up nor bruised after that encounter). It also had a sequence where he was dragged under the train and had to roll away from it, narrowly missing its deadly wheels. I could swear one audience member almost fainted after that one.

5. When the survivors started placing wet newspapers to cover the windows, I was reminded of the same scene in Train to Busan and actually wished that there were zombies on that train. Liam Neeson vs the undead. Hmm, really cool concept.

6. “I’m Spartacus!”

“No, I’m Spartacus!”

“Girl, please. I’m Spartacus!”

*groan*

7. I found it really funny that after the train got derailed and he survived an army of snipers, his family arrived and consoled him like he just came home from another day at work. Come to think of it, it was indeed just another typical Liam Neeson work day.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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TRIP UBUSAN: THE LOLAS VS ZOMBIES (Mark Reyes, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

To say that this was inspired by Train to Busan would be an understatement since it directly lifted several key scenes (and characters) from that Korean sleeper hit. In this Kalyeserye version though, Lola Nidora (Wally Bayola) played the role of Gong Yoo (shoray ni lola!), also bitten by a zombie in the end before she jumped (was pushed?) off a moving speedboat. (Don’t worry, the saltwater magically cured her for the requisite happy ending.)

We rarely get local zombie movies (either we’re not technologically advanced to accidentally unleash a new virus strain or our bodies were just auto-immuned from all the pollution and dirt in our country) so I was a bit excited to watch this one. Unfortunately, it relied too much on slapstick humor that it ended up without a sense of danger or threat on any of the characters all throughout.

In one scene, the ragtag group (mostly Eat Bulaga alums) just happened to pass by a welding shop and it took a miraculous two-minute montage for them to fortify their bus. In another, the barbed wire separating the humans from the zombies was (questionably) raised so that Angelika dela Cruz could easily run to her zombie husband for a dramatic reconciliation.

Nothing here really made sense. Which would have been fine if at least the gags were funny. The three lolas pulled all the weight and the drop in energy was noticeable whenever they were offscreen. I would love to see them next in a family drama. Mukhang magaling magpaiyak ang JoWaPao. Until then, we’d have to be contented with this zombie movie where the undead extras try their best to avoid a rampaging bus.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

THE SUPER PARENTAL GUARDIANS (Joyce Bernal, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Super Parental Guardians:

1. When it was first announced that Joyce Bernal would be taking over the reins of the late Wenn Deramas in the newest Vice Ganda MMFF entry, I felt excited and hopeful that the new combo would bring something new and fresh to the Pinoy comedy genre. Sadly, this movie basically recycled every single joke and gag that worked in previous Deramas-Ganda collaborations slash blockbusters (beating a dead horse? wink, wink).

It actually felt like Vice commandeered the entire thing (he even received an “Additional Scenes and Dialogue” credit), not wanting to change anything that he perceived wasn’t broken (or in his own words, “quality”). The result was a disappointing rehash, no different from eating last night’s cold leftover pizza.

2. Sample checklist for reference:

• Outrageous outfits – In one scene, he wore a rejected ribbon dress from the Lady Gaga collection that would obviously be unwound in a succeeding scene (because seeing Vice in a black leotard was supposedly funny). Oh, and the punchline was that he was advised to dress for the occasion and the said event was a ribbon-cutting. (Wenk, wenk.)

In another, he attended a funeral wearing a costume with a matching headdress that made me want to do the Shigi Shigi dance from Shaider.

• Word(name)plays – Remember the restaurant scene in Beauty and the Bestie where they joked about looking like Bea Bunda and Liza Lorena? Here, they had a Kath Tonying Taberna, Liza de Lima, Nadine Munyoka, and Arci Taulava. How about the “Ang bata na-bonjour” joke in Praybeyt Benjamin? This time it was “Ang bata nalaglag” in a terribly unfunny “miscarriage” gag.

• Sidekick slapping and insults – Now he had Kiray to slap as well. And of course there were several pockmarked face jokes.

• Game of the year – Ooh, Vice wearing an Ash costume while collecting pokeballs from a spinning pokestop. How current! Except that Pokemon Go mania died a couple of months ago.

• Duet – The Hold On sing-off was a highlight in BatB so they obviously needed to do it again here (this time with Coco Martin singing his heart out to “Kung wala ka nang maintindihaaaaan…”, one of the possibly three times that I actually laughed throughout the entire movie).

• Pinoy films homage – This was a staple in Deramas movies because you could feel his obvious love for them. Here, they just needed to include a bit from Minsan Lang Kita Iibigin because, well, just because.

3. Why wasn’t this called Ang Probinsyano the Movie? It really wasn’t any different from the series (down to the repetitive Wag Ka Nang Umiyak gag), except that Coco looked like a deranged Harley Quinn who was late for the Valkyrie Halloween party.

Also, what were all of those mini-explosions in the slums fight sequence? If this were New Year’s Eve, the best term to describe them would be “supot”.

4. I found it really weird that a strong proponent of LGBTQ rights would subject his character to the stereotypical perception of gays to generate laughs. One with him quivering in seeing topless construction workers, or him acting like a sexual predator to a drunk straight man (sinukahan na, kinilig pa rin), or him giving all of his cash to a tormentor simply because he looked good.

In a year when other films (The Third Party, Bakit Lahat ng Gwapo May Boyfriend?, Working Beks) tried to change how gay characters were portrayed in Philippine cinema, this one seemed to be contented with them being the laughing stock of society.

5. Onyok Pineda wasn’t as funny here compared to his stint in Ang Probinsyano where his genuine reactions to a closeted friend were comedy gold. He did have one cute scene that worked (“Kuya pangkain lang po. Ganern!”), but he was clearly overshadowed by Awra Briguela.

I wish they gave Awra more to do than the endless showdowns with Vice. His funniest moments to me were when he wasn’t even trying (just him sharply enunciating “freshly picked tomatoes” had me giggling in my seat). I also couldn’t stand all the physical abuse that he received from Vice (that sabunot scene would have been funny in the ’90s before the launch of Bantay Bata).

6. As expected, there were mini-commercials for Gluta-C, King Cup sardines, and even (gasp!) Pigrolac?!

7. Matet de Leon’s character here was addicted to balut, which shouldn’t come as a surprise because her sister in real-life is Balot. (If you got that reference, then you’re way too old.)

8. Although most of the corny jokes failed (that low batt modelling sequence, the used hanky scene, the Ilonggo-maskara bit, the Train to “Boosan” gag, the Baron vs Matos fight), there was one that really made me laugh. It involved Vice getting thrown in all directions for a Family Day dance number and his resulting expressions were just too funny. We needed more of these and less of the out-of-the-blue Leila de Lima impersonations.

9. “Bakit di nila tayo isinama sa filmfest? Itong mga batang ito ata ang malas!” Nope, definitely not their fault.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆