ANNIE (Will Gluck, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Annie:

1. The movie opened with a typical Annie, a tiny freckle-faced Caucasian redhead, reading a report on former US Presidents. The teacher then called the real Annie, played by Quvenzhane Wallis, a smart and spunky African-American. I loved this wink, wink opening because Wallis was just too adorable in the lead role. I was also happy with the color blind casting because the role of Annie had nothing to do with her skin color anyway.

2. When I heard the teacher call Annie B., I immediately thought Annie Batungbakal and I started humming the theme song and imagined Nora doing a song and dance number (“Sa umaga, dispatsadora. Sa gabi, siya’y bonggang-bongga…”).

3. For a musical, most of the production numbers felt lacking. The only one I truly enjoyed was It’s The Hard Knock Life. Everything else felt joyless. Even the classic Tomorrow wasn’t memorable since it just had her walking the streets of Harlem. Why bother with a remake?

4. Cameron Diaz can be funny whenever she goes bat-shit crazy in her movies. Here, her campiness only served as a distraction. She was just irritating all throughout. Even her musical number was horrible. Do you still remember her singing “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” in My Best Friend’s Wedding? She sang exactly like that in the most grating voice ever. Only here it wasn’t played for laughs.

5. Blatant Purell product placement. No better than a Kris Aquino movie. (“Product placement keeps the movie business afloat!”, said one character.)

6. The viral video of Jamie Foxx saving Annie was all wrong. How could it have different takes and taken from two different angles when it was supposedly shot by an onlooker?

7. I love Rose Byrne, I really do, but she should not be allowed to sing again. Hey, why was this musical populated by terrible singers given their own musical highlights? All it needed was Russell Crowe.

8. The updated version had Annie with a Twitter account and saved by Instagram. Groan.

9. I felt bad for Sia. I actually liked “Opportunity”.

10. The final act had a last minute twist, a villain that never really got his due, a final conflict, and a quick resolution that led to a song and dance number by way of Mother Lily. Ugh.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published January 28, 2015.)

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WALKING WITH DINOSAURS: THE 3D MOVIE (Barry Cook, Neil Nightingale, 2013)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Walking with Dinosaurs: The 3D Movie:

1. I feel like I’m reading a volume of Encyclopedia Britannica dedicated to dinosaurs with the movie pausing to explain each dino name.

2. This is the kind of movie you watch in class where you start zoning out, thinking of how to complete the materias in Final Fantasy VII.

3. I didn’t know dinosaurs communicated via mental telepathy. They keep talking but their mouths aren’t moving. I’m getting confused.

4. I just spent P220 to read Facebook and Twitter updates. Such a waste.

5. I therefore conclude that dinosaurs became extinct because they bored themselves to death.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published January 14, 2014.)

CHAIN MAIL (Adolf Alix, Jr., 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Chain Mail:

1. Some of my all-time favorite Filipino films (Mater Dolorosa, Isda, and Adela come to mind) were directed by Adolf Alix, Jr. so I was completely surprised with this mess of a movie. It was like he gave up midway through production and finished it with a “Pwede na ‘to” attitude. The final product was just so far off from his usual technically-proficient films.

2. In the opening scene, Nadine Lustre (in a “special role”) got run over by an out of control jeepney that rammed the computer shop where she was checking her email. Everything was supposed to have a supernatural feel with the requisite gore but the clunky setup just made it look funny. And why was she in full party mode red dress just to check her email anyway? And why was she immediately killed if she just opened and read the chain mail? What if she had no access to Wifi or 3G at home to check before the 9th day? I therefore blame Globe for her death.

3. This chain mail thing probably would have been scarier 20 years ago. It just felt so dated. Like watching The Ring and its cursed VHS in this day and age of Piratebay.

4. A lot of people got killed in the movie. I barely knew them (both the artists and the characters) and I didn’t really care much about them. I mean how could you invest on someone that got trapped in a car and her first instinct was to tap loudly on the window? Sure she might have been in a state of panic but if she only reached for the door handle…

5. The faceless creature with blasted areolas looked like it came straight out of Pan’s Labyrinth. (I apologize to Guillermo del Toro for including his classic film in the notes of this dreadful movie.) Later on it was explained that the girl victim cut off her nose (yes, her entire nose with scissors) and she had time to slash her entire body and cut her hair before actually going into shock.

6. So many scenes were so badly-lit it reeked of lack of budget.

7. In a cheering practice…

M! A! B! U! H! A! Y! Mabuhay!! (Repeat 10x)

Head cheerleader: Ok from the top.

Scene continued without any sound coming from the squad. What?!

8. All the kids in this movie checked their email every single time like it was Twitter. Do people really do this? Are they waiting for an email from LiNa?

9. The characters here were so sosyal. A post office worker and a high school teacher both lived in these lavish houses in posh subdivisions. Did they have a cut in the pork barrel as well?

10. 80’s icon Bernardo Bernardo played an albularyo that probably would have been funnier if he were flamboyant and in full Oda Mae Brown mode.

11. One schoolgirl got killed in the bathroom (the creature came out of the toilet while she was peeing) but it was classes as usual on the same day for the rest of the students while they mourned their dearly departed classmate. Seriously, in what crazy school does this happen?

12. In another scene, the manager of Project Pie got locked in the walk-in freezer for two minutes before turning into a literal malamig na bangkay.

13. Terrible, horrible, god-awful performances all around. The only real source of horror in this horror flick.

14. One character almost drowned in the pool because she kept flailing around and didn’t bother standing up. Seriously.

15. Nadapa si Ate Shy Carlos sa kalsada. Dinala sa Ospital ng Maynila. Naka-wheelchair sa susunod na eksena. Na-confine. Que horror!

16. The school gossip (the gay teacher of course!) got killed when a ceiling fan rotated on his neck (sorry, that’s the only way I could describe it). He even had time to scream before it fell on him. Blood spurted out of his sliced neck. In succeeding scenes, a character kept saying that the gay teacher was “napugutan”. Since I didn’t see any rolling head, apparently, he didn’t know what the word meant.

17. In one sequence with a continuous real-time conversation, a character kept changing places after every line while the background turned from day to night. How long exactly was that discussion?

18. Rain effects. Overhead shot of the car moving on the road. And then you see the dry spot where the car used to be. Paano nakakalusot ang mga ganitong bagay?

19. The movie ended up as a cautionary tale on viral sex videos. And pedophile teachers.

20. And the Best Performance by a Pamintang Durog goes to…

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published July 23, 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: ★★☆☆☆

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: ★★☆☆☆

MY BEBE LOVE #KILIGPAMORE (Jose Javier Reyes, 2015)

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My notes on My Bebe Love #KiligPaMore:

1. One of the first few scenes showed Vic Sotto looking at a mirror and combing his eyebrows. This was meant to be funny and it was the type of slapstick comedy that will be used all-throughout the movie. It felt dated (Pinoy comedy has not evolved much?) but still elicited laughs from the audience. A succeeding scene had Joey de Leon referring to Vic’s “Sandata ni Hudas”. Dated and recycled.

2. Aiai delas Alas, on the other hand, played her character really loud and broad (with matching frilly hair, pastel outfits, and purple & green eyeshadow in case it still wasn’t loud enough for the viewers). She kept screaming all of her lines reminding me of my mom whenever I forget to place my clothes in the hamper. I think they would make the perfect BFFs.

3. I was thrown off by the ADHD-style editing with screens flipping and splitting every few minutes. If only it helped the movie’s really slow pacing.

4. The people that will only watch this to see the big screen chemistry slash film debut of the Alden Richards-Maine Mendoza tandem will be very disappointed. The material completely failed them with their love story feeling tacked on for ticket sales. I didn’t feel even one ounce of kilig (something that we overdose on in the Kalyeserye episodes). FYI, they recycled some elements of the Kalyeserye in the movie (the long table joke? Seen and done). I was surprised there was no falling wall to separate the lovebirds. Here’s hoping they will have a good rom-com sa tamang panahon.

5. I think the worst offense of this movie were the endless shoved-in-your-face product placements. Similar to My Little Bossing, it had a mini-commercial shilling Tide for turning clothes sparkly white for only 6 pesos. That bit had no bearing on a previous or succeeding scene. It just had to be inserted because Vic endorsed the said product. One scene even had Alden shopping for Tide in a convenience store. Maybe he missed laundry day?

6. Let’s play the annual Shameless Shilling Name Game: Bear Brand Adult Plus, Glutamax, O+, Phoenix Petroleum, Tide, Goldilocks, McDonald’s, Talk n Text, Solmux, Google, PLDT Home, San Miguel, and Coke. Do I get a perfect score this year?

7. Enough of the hashtags please. Whenever a movie character starts sentences with the word hashtag, a Twitter bird dies and goes to heaven.

8. The best performer in this movie was actually Valeen Montenegro. She looked gorgeous and fit her role well. I hope we see more of her in better roles.

9. Does Alden smoke?

10. That scene where they traversed Daang Hari to go to and from Zambales made me laugh out really loud.

11. To be fair, Vic and Aiai played off each other well and surprisingly delivered the expected kilig (fully supported by the audience reactions). Maybe the film should have focused on this love story instead.

12. Lola Nidora hinted at a possible sequel (highly likely given the long lines at the cinemas). Hashtag fantastic baby. Hashtag groan.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆