MOVIE REVIEW: BAO (Domee Shi, 2018)

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I found the accompanying short film Bao a more effective representation of parenting (than The Incredibles 2). One scene elicited the loudest gasps from the audience and I immediately knew how much I loved this bizarre little treat. The fact that it broke my heart in just a few minutes (very much like Up’s opening sequence) was just a bonus.

I probably would never look at a dumpling the same way again. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t have strong cravings for Din Tai Fung’s Xiao Long Bao (those in HK, not the terrible ones in BGC) after watching, though.

Rating: ★★★★★

(Originally published June 19, 2018.)

MOVIE REVIEW: BELLE DOULEUR (Joji Villanueva Alonso, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

Umay levels ang iba’t-ibang anggulo ng pwet ni Kit Thompson na medyo tuod pa rin umarte. Sa sobrang dami ng sex scenes nila ni Mylene Dizon, naubusan ng “nadiligang flower” metaphors ang director. (Also, ang saya talaga kapag privileged kasi pwedeng mag-sex na lang kayo all day, every day na walang iniisip na trabaho.)

Sobrang hot ni Mylene na parang hindi masyadong tumanda si Melanie Suntay niya sa Gimik. Kaya di rin masyadong ramdam for me ang sinasabing age gap. Yung parang Maricel Soriano-Diether Ocampo sa Soltera na mapapaisip ka kung true love ba or pineperahan lang siya.

Technically, malinis ang pelikula. Napaka-glossy na parang Star Cinema movie. Nung naglakad nga si Mylene sa UP grounds, akala ko biglang magiging Alone/Together. Tapos self-love ulit ang theme. Kakapanood ko lang nito sa Hello, Love, Goodbye ah.

MOVIE REVIEW: ISKA (Theodore Boborol, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

Gusto ko talaga mahalin ang pelikulang ito nang buong-buo dahil sa powerful first scene niya kung saan si Aling Iska (ang napakahusay na si Ruby Ruiz) ay matiyagang binibihisan ang kanyang apo na special needs kid. Ang mga katulad niya na magulang/lola/guardian ang best people in the whole wide world.

Ang ganda nung umiikot lang ang kuwento sa buhay nilang maglola at sa bwiset na lolo (played to demonic perfection by Soliman Cruz, na ultimo pagkamot ng bayag eh nakakairita). Photocopy-photocopy sa UP, laba-laba with Zonrox, linis-linis ng ibang bahay as sideline. Sadyang napakahirap maging mahirap.

(Side note: Ang ganda ng sound design niya na bumagay sa top-notch surround sound system ng Evia Cinema. Naririnig ko ang lahat ng ingay sa bawat sulok ng sinehan na parang nasa gitna mismo ng Krus na Ligas.)

Kaso kasabay ng pagtaas ng kanyang blood pressure ang paggamit ng shaky cam at tuluyang pagkalat ng istorya at pagkalito sa nais niyang iparating. Kalaunan hindi ko alam kung maaawa ako sa kanya o matatawa sa bangayan nilang mag-asawa.

May subplot tungkol sa pakialamerang Martina Tulfo. May eksena ng mga aktibistang estudyante na di ko alam ano ang ipinaglalaban. Tapos biglang may staredown sina Aling Iska at Romina Mondragon na hindi totoong dragon kasi biglang umurong para ikadena si Cazzie. Iiyak na ba ako o maiiyak kakatawa?

Rating: ★★★☆☆

DAGITAB (Giancarlo Abrahan, 2014)

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Imagine a date with this really gorgeous UP graduate. You know she’s smart and she knows she’s smart. She keeps yapping endlessly about all her philosophies in life. It reaches a point though where you lose interest and just want to finish your freakin’ drink.

That was my entire viewing experience of Giancarlo Abrahan’s Dagitab, a film full of gorgeous images but was a clear test of patience.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published August 5, 2014.)

MOVIE REVIEW: LIWANAG SA DILIM (Richard Somes, 2015)

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My notes on Liwanag sa Dilim:

1. A lot of Pinoy movie titles are usually famous pop songs that sometimes I wonder if people actually create a concept or screenplay out of them. This movie seems to be a prime example. I can only imagine the writer listening to the radio when Rivermaya’s hit song came on and a lightbulb went off for him to write a story about an aswang terrorizing a small village. I can’t wait for the serendipitous rom-com set in UP based on Sarah Geronimo’s Ikot-Ikot.

2. Jake Vargas played the son of Sunshine Cruz but he kept calling her “Ma’m”. I wasn’t paying too much attention so he might actually have been playing a houseboy.

3. Although this was a fantasy movie, did the characters really have to be complete caricatures? And why was everyone shouting their lines like there was no tomorrow? Terrible acting across the board.

4. Bea Binene had the unfortunate name of Bea Binene but she did look good onscreen. When she opened her mouth though, she gave a whole new meaning to “boses pekpek”.

5. One scene required Vargas to strip down to his boxers before swimming in a batis (actually a waterfall). It made me put down my tub of popcorn and re-examine all my baby fats.

6. Rico Blanco played a local cop and I could only assume that he was given the role for easier licensing agreements.

7. This was the kind of movie where a character would hide behind a rock to avoid the aswang but still loudly say “Please, please sana di niya ako makita!” just in case the audience was so stupid not to notice that he was fearing for his life.

8. Several scenes reminded me so much of Erik Matti’s much superior Aswang Chronicles. And those didn’t have a lot of laughable MMA-style action sequences involving an aswang in a chokehold. Seriously.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published February 15, 2015.)

MOVIE REVIEW: CAMP SAWI (Irene Villamor, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

(Watch the movie before reading this and then let’s discuss. Enjoy it first. Go!)

My notes on Camp Sawi:

1. If I were to create a custom pain scale (you know, the one that doctors used to determine how unbearable your gastritis was even if you were already as pale as Edward Cullen), I would probably place having a broken heart in between a bony impacted wisdom tooth extraction and getting stuck in EDSA traffic on a Monday rush hour morning.

The physical, mental, and emotional anguish of a heartbreak really takes its toll especially on the abandoned party (read: tangang umaasa pa rin) and everyone knows that it usually takes forever to get through the real stages of grief: 1) Nasaktan, 2) Niloko, 3) Iniwan, 4) Umiyak, 5) Nagdusa, 6) Nag-Let Go, 7) Nag-Move On, 8) Nagbago, 9) Sumaya, 10) Gumanda.

2. In this light and lovely comedy that would probably end up as my favorite guilty pleasure this year, brokenhearted women could find solace and redemption in a fictional boot camp (shot in gorgeous Bantayan Island, Cebu City) where sodium-free meals were specially-prepared to avoid further depression, phones and Facebook were deemed useless due to lack of any signal (“only Mother Nature!”), nightly bonfires were held to destroy the remaining memories of your tormentor (“if you want to sunog anything”), and group activities (yoga sessions, morning jogs, film viewing of the classic Sharon-Robin starrer Maging Sino Ka Man, open forums) were conducted to assist in the moving on process.

With the popularity of hugot films of late, this type of resort would actually be a lucrative franchise. Investors, anyone?

3. Remember that brilliant opening in Up that followed the beginning and tragic end of Carl and Ellie’s love story? This movie came close to recreating that sequence, except that nobody died but Bridgette’s (Bela Padilla) poor heart. Those first ten minutes covered the entire gamut of a failed relationship and its tragic aftermath (stalking an ex on social media to check the new partner, baliwan mode while getting drunk, Google search of “how to heal a broken heart”). Bela was just so good in this role that it made me forget how much she struggled in the recent I America. She clearly had the best scenes in the movie:

• bargaining for ten more minutes on the phone (“kasi ten years kita tinawag na babe eh”)

• bitterly saying lines like “Sino bang brokenhearted ang maganda? Sasaksakin ko!”

• the pig-out scene with Camp Master Louie (Sam Milby) complete with loud munching and reminiscent of Meg Ryan’s orgasm sequence in When Harry Met Sally (“I’ll have what she’s having!”)

• endlessly ranting on getting dumped for not being Chinese (“Sampung taon kami nag-celebrate ng Chinese New Year. Hindi ba niya nakita ang mata ko?”)

4. I really liked the millennial character Jessica (Yassi Pressman) and how her life was always in relation to a pop culture event (on her breakup: “It actually hurt more when Zayn left One Direction”, on her gay boyfriend: “I didn’t know! Did you see Bruce Jenner?”). Instead of being annoying, she was just so charming throwing lines like, “He’s really old. Like ka-age mo old”.

As an old person myself, I did feel a bit happy seeing her receive her comeuppance when Bridgette retorted, “Bata ka pa. Marami ka pang makikilalang bakla.”

5. Parents, please do not bring your kids to this movie. The theme and content aren’t for them anyway. It just felt a bit uncomfortable that there were kids watching when they showed the implied shower fellatio scene. Bring your husbands instead since I’m sure they will at least enjoy ogling at the bikini bodies in full display. Or in my case, wondering how these beautiful women achieved their perennial rosy white cheeks.

6. At this point in her career, Arci Muñoz could do no wrong. As the rocker chick Gwen aka Lovejoy (self-proclaimed Kilabot ng Altura), she was endearing even while getting wasted and throwing up on fresh sheets. Her little girl voice was really funny given that it was coming out of this scorching hot woman’s body and everything she said regardless of sense connected with the audience (“Kelangan ko uminom kasi ang panget mo!”, “Kinukumutan mo ko, pang may boypren yun!”). Her character even asked the exact same question I had about Louie being seen everywhere (“Understaffed ba kayo?”).

That lovely singing voice and song, though. Wow.

Also, seeing Ramona Thornes wearing a Ramones shirt was pure genius.

7. The wild drunk scene with Bridgette and Gwen was already worth the price of admission. I had never laughed so hard hearing things that would only sound funny coming from two drunk women:

• “Kapag Chinese kuripot!” “Hindi! Kapag Chinese masipag, walang holiday!”

• “Hindi lahat ng nag-e-English taga-England, tanga! Minsan taga-Makati lang.”

8. I wonder if this would have worked better as a series instead, along the lines of Orange Is the New Black. There were just so many stories that needed enough time to breathe: the mistress Clarisse (Andi Eigenmann), Joan (Kim Molina) and the untimely death of her fiancé, the chubby girl left by her chubby boyfriend after he lost ten pounds (and resorted to baking to mend her broken heart, familiar no?), and the only gay guy in camp whose heart was full of regrets. Even Louie needed a bit more back story other than he wanted to help these people overcome their sadness. It was hard to feel for all of them and their sob stories when they were mere strangers.

9. New forms of catharsis in Pinoy cinema: jumping off a cliff as a leap of faith, the undying love of videoke (this time set to Regine Velasquez’s Dadalhin), and women stripping off (almost) everything to swim in the beach (ala Chris Martinez’s 100).

10. “Ang mga panget kapag nagkajowa sobrang blessing at kapag iniwan naman ay isang sumpa.” Aray ko beh!

11. Somebody asked me recently how one would know when a person’s already over (or close to moving on from) an ex and the last few moments of the movie perfectly encapsulated my response.

Some people would fear bumping into an ex in a public place (especially with a new partner), but that would be the ultimate test. Sure, it might still sting a bit but instead of digging up the past, if you’re able to ask “Kumusta ka? Ok ka lang ba? Masaya ka ba?” without any form of bitterness or resentment, then you wouldn’t need to book another summer in Camp Sawi.

Welcome back to the real world and get excited for your new “balang araw”.

12. Seriously, is there a place similar to Camp Sawi right now? I already have a list of names that I will recommend it to. 😊

Rating: ★★★★☆