BORN BEAUTIFUL (Perci Intalan, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Born Beautiful:

1. Originally planned as a series on Cignal TV, this spin-off of the 2016 critical hit (and a personal fave) Die Beautiful was supposedly the first five episodes of the show turned into a full-length feature. Although the decision was understandable given the material’s commercial appeal, this also served as its main weakness. The transition from TV to film resulted into some messy storytelling (several arcs felt stretched to fill an episode), underdeveloped characters, the lack of a clear resolution (a lot of people would definitely find the ending bitin), and some surface-level views on weighty issues. Even worse, we didn’t really get to know more about everyone’s favorite BFF Barbs, except that she made funny “arf arf arf” sounds during sex.

2. I was very disappointed that Christian Bables didn’t reprise his Urian-winning role because he would always be the Barbs that we deserved. It was such an effortless and lived-in performance that was sorely missing in this movie (plus the fact that the original relied on the wonderful chemistry between him and Paolo Ballesteros’ Trisha, who sadly only showed up here for a couple of scenes including a killer Mama Mary moment).

Martin del Rosario was fine as Barbs 2.0, but under all the wigs and make-up (and occasional tucking) it still felt like a committed Martin del Rosario playing Barbs 2.0. And would it be weird to say that he was just much too beautiful for the role? If Barbs (hello Taong Lego?) looked this gorgeous, then she wouldn’t be playing second fiddle to Trisha and would actually be winning all the beaucons instead.

3. While Die Beautiful presented a clear picture of Trisha’s character with her childhood dream of becoming a beauty queen, growing up in a homophobic household, and being subjected to all forms of abuse, this sequel focused on Barbs being torn between two men (and facing possible fatherhood). Medyo mababaw lang.

I would have wanted to learn more about Barbs’ personal life, including her goals and motivations, or how she coped up with her best friend’s death, or even how she learned (or what inspired) all those make-up transformations. I guess her new and improved face only merited a love triangle plot.

4. To be fair, there were still a lot of enjoyable (read: LOL) moments here. I found it smart that they were able to connect the Jamby quip in the first with Barbs’ identity confusion problems in this one (“Mukha kang tomboy na nag-aalok ng Bear Brand!”). I cackled with glee when she mentioned that Kim Kardashian’s look cost 3.5k and the 350 version was for Kim delos Santos. And should I feel guilty that I laughed at the sight of the stroke victim’s corpse and after Barbs covered it up with a Lady Gaga circa 2009 MTV Video Music Awards kukur look (“Mukha siyang malaking regla at ikaw ang pasador”)? Or that the beki friends recommended a Rihanna transformation for their other friend that died from electrocution (“Dahil lang sunog, kelangan na negra?”) and ended up with a Sia walis-tambo look (“Sia Pusit!”)? Maybe not.

The lamest humor came from the tired beauty pageant introduction segment. Seriously, how many more times should we hear that rehashed “Seventy-eight, seventy-nine, Haiti!” joke before it gets permanently banned in Pinoy queer cinema?

5. Aside from Barbs, the Michael Angelo 2.0 character had a nose lift that resulted to a face overhaul and was now played by Artista Academy’s Akihiro Blanco. It felt odd that he was one of the men fighting over her when he was the ex of Trisha in the first film.

Wait lang Barbs, tumulong ka sugurin ang karibal ni Trisha, tinawag mo na ahas, nakipagsabunutan sa parlor, pagkatapos tinalo mo rin sa dulo ang BFF mo? Hindi talaga lahat ng ahas nasa gubat. Yung iba nagtatrabaho sa Happy Endings Funeral Homes. (Kaya ka rin siguro laging minumulto ni Trisha! Malandi, haliparot, talipandas!)

From the rest of the supporting cast, I really loved Lou Veloso back as Mama Flora (“Ang gugulo n’yo. Mag-chupaan na lang tayong lahat!”), Joey Paras as one of the Way of Light pastors, and Chai Fonacier as the baby mama Yumi. What happened to the other beki BFFs from the first film, though?

6. I really appreciated some of the witty ways the film expressed its views on current issues like the death penalty (“People can change for the better”), gender neutral bathrooms, single-blessedness (“Hindi mo naman kelangan ng partner para maging reyna”), abortion, and open relationships. That entire conversion therapy bit was also brutal (literally and figuratively) that many overzealous faithful would probably get triggeredt.

7. In one scene, Yumi was graphically describing how she ended up getting pregnant through some vulgar words and hand movements. It was meant to be hilarious (and probably one of the movie’s highlights), but ended up getting completely ruined by all the bleeping (even the subtitles were censored!). Please note that the version I watched was already rated R-18, or For Adults Only by the tasked moral guardians.

I just found it funny that one of the promotional materials for this film commended the MTRCB for being “progressive”. Totoo ba? Saang banda?

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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‪SAKALING MAGING TAYO (JP Habac, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Sakaling Maging Tayo:

1. For a romance film to work, I needed to fall in love with the love story. I should find myself rooting for the lovers and wishing that they end up together because they were meant for each other. It just didn’t happen here.

Pol (McCoy de Leon) spent an entire night in a mini Baguio tour with his long-time crush Malaya (Elisse Joson) and yet he couldn’t find time to buy medicine for a sick parent (Bembol Roco). At one point he actually drove past a Mercury Drug store and I expected some sort of product placement, but no, he had far more important things to deal with. The only time he remembered his father was when he got his heart broken and needed a shoulder to cry on. But still no medicine.

There was an overwhelming sense of pettiness with these characters and their love problems that triggered my inner Titas of Manila. I was that person in the theater making the loud “Tsk tsk!” noise while muttering “Kids these days…”.

2. I didn’t know much about Elisse outside of her Burger McDo commercial (I couldn’t even remember her in the camp classic #Ewankosau Saranghaeyo, or maybe I just tried to repress all memories of that movie) so I was pleasantly surprised with her naturally charming performance here. Her beauty and talent reminded me of early Bea Alonzo and I could see her as a future star if given a much better project (and in this case, better partner).

She had enough spunk to pull off corny lines like “Mahal ko ang mga bagay na di masyado napapansin” and the right amount of vulnerability to deliver the heartbreaking “Sorry, okay ka sana kaso di ako okay eh”. Instant fan here.

3. Chai Fonacier’s character was unfortunately named Erna. If I was named after the slang term for shit, why would I still let people call me thay? Why not say, Poopie? As always though, Chai was in a league of her own and made even a throwing up scene (how gross could this character get?) look like a bid for another Urian nomination. (Also, Black Sheep people, I expected better from you.)

4. With all of the things that the lovers and their friends were able to accomplish during that single night (they went in every possible hangout in Baguio that included a visit to the creepy Teacher’s Camp), this should have been called Nagalit ang Buwan sa Haba ng Gabi… Ulit. In the end, Malaya was even able to catch the first bus trip out of the city. Oh, the wonders of cinema!

Pero ang ganda talaga ng Baguio at night. It once again served as a soothing backdrop that reminded me of that touching moment between Kiko and Yaya Diday in Kiko Boksingero. And speaking of, did Malaya live in the same house that was used in the horror-comedy Halik sa Hangin?

5. Two of the friends were gay characters so they obviously ended up together because they were probably the only two gay people that lived there. I suddenly remembered that episode in Sex and the City when Charlotte tried to set up a blind date between her gay bff Anthony and Carrie’s gay bff Stanford thinking that they were perfect for each other just because they were both gay. Uhh, not exactly how things worked, straight people. (Wait, didn’t the pair end up getting married in the movie sequel? More reasons not to like that stinker.)

6. Why was Malaya wearing the exact same dress that she was supposed to sleep in when she rushed to the club to confront her ex-boyfriend? Wala nang ligo-ligo kasi malamig naman sa Baguio?

7. So Pol brought his father’s taxi to the concert and Malaya mistook him as a cab driver. I really thought for a second that this would turn into The Night Of, but of course it didn’t because this was still a Star Cinema-ish movie.

8. Ang funny lang nung hipster jazz discussion (hello La La Land!) tapos biglang kumanta si Moira dela Torre in a succeeding scene. You know that 30-day Film Challenge where on a specific day you were supposed to name a movie where you liked the soundtrack more? This could be my entry. Sana soundtrack na lang talaga siya.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

CLASS OF 2018 (Charliebebs Gohetia, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Class of 2018:

1. Seeing the Goin’ Bulilit slash Star Circle Quest kids all grown up in a reunion movie made me feel so much older. I was part of the Class of ‘97 and every year we were tasked to stage these plays for the batch competition (a prison drama called Condemned, a reinterpretation of Florante at Laura, and excerpts from Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo). I was greatly reminded of them while watching this movie (para kasi siyang high school production na lahat ng students sa class pinilit ni Ma’m na sumali kahit konti lang talaga sa kanila ang marunong umarte; sadly, mukhang row 4 sa acting workshops ang mga ‘to).

2. As soon as “February 1986” was flashed onscreen, I knew that this genre mash-up would try to be politically-relevant. Characters spouted platitudes like “Basta galing sa taas ang utos, sinusunod n’yo na lang kahit walang dahilan” or familiar quotable quotes like “I invoke my right to self-incrimination”, anti-fascism messages were spray-painted on the walls, and the biggest reveal in the end was that Sharlene San Pedro (Ada) actually played Jover Laurio.

3. So Ada maintained a blog called The Dark Side of Things where she posted school chismis and blind items (wait, shouldn’t she be Fashion Pulis instead?) complete with pictures of creepy clay dolls that she made for each of her subjects. It was very much like an online Burn Book for public consumption.

Ada probably should have spent less time in front of the computer because I noticed that she was using the extra large fonts on her cellphone. Also, she was lactose-intolerant and therefore hated pastillas. We wouldn’t be friends in high school.

Side note: If there was one thing that I liked here, it was the opening credits with the vandalized yearbook-type photos.

4. Fe GingGing Hyde won an Urian Best Actress award in 2011 for Sheika. As the terror teacher (or principal, didn’t matter) here, she was all kinds of awful. It was already bad enough that she got saddled with a caricature who was expected to blow her top off in every scene, but her shrill performance only made it worse. She was only overshadowed by that scientist actress at the start of the movie whose absurd reactions kept me thinking if she was also infected by the zombie virus.

5. Pop culture references aside from Mean Girls included the freshly ripped-off decapitation scene of Hereditary, the flashsideways of Lost that played after every person’s death, a pilit Temptation Island quote, a Kimmy Dora rapping duo (subtitled Tweedledee and Tweedledum), and current mobile games (“Mega Kill!”). Even the entire twist of the Super Soldier program was also vaguely familiar (it reminded me of The Cabin in the Woods, but I’m sure there was another similar movie).

Oh and in one scene, a zombie student shouted “Wakanda forever!” inside a bus before he terrorized his classmates. Just the kind of inanity expected from this.

6. For a part-horror movie, there was no sense of danger at all. Na-hostage na sila at ang iba naging zombies with raccoon eyes pero yung mga characters parang naglalaro lang. Puro kaartehan at patawa.

Kiray Celis (Venus) to kidnapper: “Ouch! Don’t touch me. Eww!” Seryoso??

But nothing here really made a lot of sense. In one scene, a manyak guy was accidentally gored by a protruding rusty pole. It ended with class clown slash babaeng bakla Kristel Fulgar (Princess) asking, “Ano mag-walk out na lang ba kayo? Hindi man lang ba tayo mag-moment?” Huh??

In another, a girl hugged her zombie boyfriend (“Babe kumalma ka na please. Tama na ha…) like she was pacifying a stubborn puppy. She probably thought that love was the cure to everything. Ayun, sinaksak sya sa likod and eventually died which was actually how all love stories ended.

7. Burning questions:

• Where did Ada learn how to handle heavy firearm? And why did she use her machine gun to destroy the CCTV cameras but only made tusok-tusok movements when the zombies attacked her?

• One of the mean girls plunged several floors down to her death and her equally mean girl friend pretended to frame her corpse and said “Nice shot!”. Another girl got stabbed on the chest, but she had enough time to take a selfie before dying. Were these supposed to be funny in a “millennials are so shallow haha!” way?

• Yung isang character natuluan ng ihi. He just removed his shirt and continued eating chips. Medyo baboy. Who was that actor? (Asking for a friend.)

• Mauuna pa ba magka-kissing scene si Sharlene kesa kay Sarah G? (Seriously though, malakas ang kilig ng NashLene. A future Black Sheep rom-com, perhaps?)

8. Best part yung may tumakbong totoong daga from one end of the screen to the other (kasama ba sa bayad yan Southmall Cinemas?). Sabagay san pa ba lalapit ang daga kundi sa basura?

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

WALWAL (Jose Javier Reyes, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Walwal:

1. Being a certified coot (aka ‘thunder cats’) that recently turned another year older, I previously thought that the word ‘walwal’ had a dirty connotation (like it was something done in secret inside a locked bathroom that could result to hairy palms). I brushed up on my millennial-speak and it apparently meant wallowing in excesses (drinking, partying, smoking, drug use, sexual activity) until one loses his bearings and ends up living a directionless life. Now where was all of that in the movie?

I was expecting to walk out of the theater feeling traumatized and bemoaning the future of the world with the kind of self-entitled kids nowadays, but that didn’t happen. Was my Titos and Titas of Manila-certified morals supposed to get scandalized by the sight of these young boys drinking a few bottles of Red Horse beer (curiously labelled ‘I Drunk Dial A Lot’)? Yan na yung walwal? Eh wala pala kayo sa lolo ko eh…

2. Billed as this generation’s Pare Ko (a 90’s teen classic also directed by Jose Javier Reyes), this one felt very much like my lolo was educating me on the importance of using the best Instagram filter. Were millennials really this boring? What happened to those neurotic kids that swam face-first in a toilet bowl full of their own vomit in Gino Santos’ The Animals? (Now that one shocked me to my core.)

This just didn’t feel like it was telling the story of a specific generation. It was the same old cliches (lovelife problems, teenage pregnancy, another networking joke??) recycled for a new breed of young stars.

3. Through this movie, I learned that millennials were also being pressured by parents to select a college degree that had always been planned for them. When Marco (Kiko Estrada) told his mom (Cheska Diaz) that he wanted to shift to Tourism, she replied, “Tourism? Anong gusto mo mangyari? Tourist guide?”. (Hala momshie, mukhang kelangan mo rin bumalik ng college and major in sense of humor.)

In another scene, Bobby (Donny Pangilinan) told his french fries magnate father (Rolando Inocencio) that he wanted to be a filmmaker and father said, “Itigil mo na ang ilusyon mo na ikaw ang susunod na Lino Brocka!” to which he replied, “Brillante Mendoza!”. (DDS pala si Bobby.)

4. Jerome Ponce (as Intoy) was the clear standout in the young cast, a feat considering that most of his dramatic scenes were with the great Angeli Bayani (loved that Urian reference). His story about the search for his estranged father (Ricardo Cepeda) was definitely the most affecting. Sadly, he was also saddled with the worst possible dialogues:

• In a conversation with his half-brother…

Bro: “Magkakaiba ba tayo ng tatay, Kuya? Yung sa’yo stuntman, yung sa akin seaman, yung kay bunso tubero.”

Intoy: “Wag ka magpapaniwala sa chismis.”

Bro: “Kinonfirm ko kay Nanay.”

(Hala sya, confirmed na pala more tanong pa.)

• In a conversation with Bobby…

Bobby: “Bro, bakit cannot be reached ka lagi?”

Intoy: “Wala akong load eh.”

(Harujosko!)

• In a Facebook Messenger chat with his father:

Intoy (typed): “I am the son of Ramona Martinez.”

Father (typed): “How are you related to her?”

(Ay itay!!)

I also felt bad for him when his mother said: “Ang pangalan ng tatay mo ay Diosdado Pindodo. Isa yan sa dahilan bakit ko siya iniwan. Ang bantot!” I would have understood it more if she called him out for his reading slash comprehension skills.

5. Continuity alert: Dondi’s (Elmo Magalona) haircut kept changing in every scene. Also, I wonder if his really tight jeggings affected the way he spoke throughout the movie. I wasn’t surprised when his girlfriend (Jane de Leon) dumped him for a lesbian instead.

6. Since Bobby and close friend Ruby (Kisses Delavin, dressed up as budget cosplay Jolina Magdangal circa Chuva Choo Choo) were supposed to be film experts, they were required to say terms like ‘existential study of post-digital life’, ‘neorealism’, ‘Pasolini’, and ‘Franco Zeffirelli’. And yet when they played a random trivia game where they guessed the film that starred Guy Pearce and John Leguizamo, they both agreed that it was called ‘To Wong Foo, With Love Julie Newmar’. (Nope!)

Pinapainit ng mga batang ‘to ang ulo ko. Waiter, one Cali Shandy please!!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

SID & AYA (NOT A LOVE STORY) (Irene Villamor, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Sid and Aya (Not a Love Story):

1. The comparisons between Dingdong Dantes’ privileged, cutthroat stock broker Sid and Leonardo DiCaprio’s hedonistic stock broker Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street would be inevitable, but if anything, Sid reminded me more of Dingdong’s privileged car salesman character in the early 2000s flop Akala Mo… (ellipsis included) with Judy Ann Santos as a lady guard drooling over him.

In one scene, iconic character actor Mandy Ochoa was furious at Dingdong for stealing a customer using only his natural good looks and charm. The same thing happened in this movie when Sid got punched in the face by a colleague for poaching a client. (Why did I remember such petty details? Because my brain preferred to latch on to useless trivia rather than store new knowledge that would make me the next Jordan Belfort.)

2. I had never been a fan of Dingdong and his constipated acting, especially since he would always use the exact same glare whether he was surprised for being caught cheating, frustrated for getting turned down on a possible kitchen counter sex, or just pretending to be downright scary as an abusive lover. One of my happiest Christmas seasons was when he won Best Actor in the MMFF for Segunda Mano because I was laughing every day all the way through Three Kings.

After watching him play the arrogant yet sympathetic Sid, I could actually hear him say “Fuck you no-name feeling critic! Look for MY name in next year’s Urian nominees.” Yes, he was that good here. He had me at “Sino ba ang gagong ito?” and made this entire Black Swan theory of Taleb worth pondering upon. Weirdly enough, said theory worked on the premise of “may mga pangyayaring di inaasahan mangyari na magbabago ng lahat”.

(Side note: Anne Curtis also had a children’s book called Anita the Duckling Diva so I guess lapitin silang dalawa sa ibon talaga.)

3. “Napakaraming kupal sa mundo” would actually apply to people who would have the gall to say that they could easily relate to Sid, so I guess I would be the ultimate kupal. All the sleepless nights of discontentment, all the feelings of worthlessness even at the peak of success, the emptiness, the search for life’s meaning. What struck me the most was when he said “Sino ba ang hindi malungkot? Sino ba ang hindi galit sa mundo? Isang pitik, isang maling sagi, sasabog ka bigla.” When he mentioned the history of depression and suicide in his family, I actually expected it to play a big part in his story (one of the early shots was an overhead view of his condo’s balcony and I really thought it hinted that he would eventually jump off the building). I guess this was Not a Netflix Series as well.

4. Magaling na talaga mag-Filipino si Anne. Struggling slang-speaking actors that want to make it big in local showbiz should learn a thing or two from her. As Aya, she was just the right amount of Pinoy manic pixie dream girl who would brutally call Sid out (“Sobrang lungkot mo naman para magbayad ka ng kausap”) or tease him even while her heart was breaking (“Kung tumaya ako sa‘yo, ikaw naman ang masasaktan”).

Her best scene was when she was trying to hold back her tears after Sid revealed his plans to propose to his real girlfriend. I wanted to give her a hug while whispering in her ear, “Bakit di mo sinunod yung sinabi mo dati sa No Other Woman na ‘You can kiss me, but don’t you dare fall in love with me’ ang gaga nito!”.

(Also, congratulations to her glam team because she looked absolutely gorgeous in every single frame.)

5. There was a moment where Sid and Aya were staring at an aquarium-like screen with dazzling moving visuals and it would probably be the most memorable one in this film. My second favorite was when a flurry of umbrellas started moving in Shibuya Crossing. Ganda! Great soundtrack, too.

6. My OC side kept wondering about the schedules of Aya and how she was able to sustain her multiple jobs (barista at The Grind, laundry shop lady, Stardome princess at Star City, part-time escort). I knew she desperately needed the money for her father’s operation, but how did she find time to sleep? Was that why we never really saw her eat or take a shower?

7. While Aya’s co-worker wondered if Sid’s longganisa was Vigan or Lucban, I was curious to know why Dingdong’s left nipple was so close to his armpit even if he was sleeping on his right side. (Petty details, you have been warned.)

8. I was shocked when Sid’s boss (Gabby Eigenmann) was bragging about him and mentioned “To the best fucker I know… and I mean that literally.” Omg pano nya alam? Does that mean…???

9. For a supposed non-love story, it was actually very much like a love story. Even the ending couldn’t hold back on the requisite happy twist of fate. If it had chosen to go all (500) Days of Summer instead, I really wouldn’t complain.

10. “The things that we love will eventually kill us.” Definitely the reason why I no longer watch movies in Festival Mall’s crumbling cinemas.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

IKAW PA LANG ANG MINAHAL (Carlos Siguion-Reyna, 1992)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Ikaw Pa Lang ang Minahal:

1. In a recent screening of the remastered and restored version of this Pinoy classic, Maricel Soriano spilled some scalding tea when she (jokingly) expressed her disappointment on not winning any major award for her performance in this film which she considered one of her favorites (she lost in the Big Four to Lorna Tolentino for Narito ang Puso Ko). She then mentioned that her loss at least inspired her to come up with much better output and more collaborations with director Carlos Siguion-Reyna. 

You could ask any Maricelian and they would definitely share the same frustration, including the fact that she had never won an Urian award. Some would probably even bring up these unfounded rumors that Lolit Solis (then manager of Lorna) used her clout and bribed the academy (Famas, FAP) and press (Star Awards) voters and that a couple of Manunuris (Urian) had a particular dislike for Maricel and blocked most of her wins.

Regardless of the eventual results, the truth remained though that her flawless turn as Adela Sevilla would be one for the books. To paraphrase her character: “Mamahalin nila ako. Mamahalin nila ako para sa inyong lahat na hindi nagmahal sa akin!”.

2. I originally saw this when it was first released back in 1992 and it felt surreal watching it again in a theater 26 years later. I didn’t even know back then that this was an adaptation of William Wyler’s 1949 film, The Heiress with Olivia de Havilland, which in turn was based on Henry James’ novel, Washington Square (did I miss the acknowledgments during the opening/closing credits or was there really no mention of this?). I was so clueless that when I saw the 1997 Washington Square film with Jennifer Jason Leigh, I wanted to personally write to Direk Carlos that somebody copied his masterpiece (thank goodness for ISP Bonanza’s slow dial-up connection!).

3. To this day, I still couldn’t get over the fact that Dr. Maximo Sevilla (a terrific Eddie Gutierrez) was a renowned doctor considering that he couldn’t even perform basic CPR. He almost crushed his dying wife’s rib cage and never resorted to mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and he even followed the same process with his dying daughter several years later (thankfully, the latter survived). At least his character made me understand the cariño brutal way that my mother used to raise all of her kids (if you’re reading this mom, I only included that to raise my word count).

Also, it was so ironic that the coldhearted Dr. Sevilla was actually right from the start in seeing through the real motives of David Javier (a wily Richard Gomez). Minsan na nga lang magka-Javier na character eh tuso pa. (Side note: Richard used to be my mom’s favorite local actor. Ipinaglihi niya ang youngest brother ko sa kanya. Ayun nakuha naman ni utol ang nunal sa right temple ni Richard hahaha!)

4. There were so many moments here that crushed my heart (Dr. Sevilla enumerating his regrets on having a pathetic daughter, Adela’s waterfall breakdown scene, the forced writing of the will, the deathbed reconciliation, etc.), but the scene that made me cry the most didn’t even have any dialogue (just some background music). It was the part where Adela was sitting inside her room, her face a mix of emotions, and then she finally smiled because she felt loved. She stood up, got a pink flower from the bouquet that David gave her, stood near the window, smelled the flower, and broke into tears. Yung feeling na “Lord thank you at nagka-jowa pa ako akala ko talaga mamamatay na akong single at walang magmamahal sa akin!”.

Seriously though, parang ako ang naka-jackpot ng jowa while watching this woman (tormented all her life by her disapproving dad even if she was a skillful manggagantsilyo) experience the gift of happiness that she deserved. (Again, Maricel didn’t win anything for this??)

5. That scene where Adela in glasses and wearing the dowdiest clothes stood next to the glamorous portrait of her mom (also named Adela btw and played by the lovely Dawn Zulueta) spoke volumes. Direk Carlos employed the same juxtaposition technique in Inagaw Mo and Lahat sa Akin to effectively differentiate social classes. Such a brilliant director (and still my favorite local one).

(Side note: Maricel in an old maid’s costume still looked gorgeous, sorry, but I was willing to suspend my disbelief.)

6. Anybody would want to have a kunsintidora aunt like Tiyang Paula. She was a welcome comic relief in this heavy drama. “Mukhang matindi ang sipon mo at kelangan mo pang lunurin sa alcohol.” Nyahahaha!

Sadly, Charito Solis was an acting legend who was gone way too soon.

7. Choice quotes for some melodramatic moments in your life…

• “Hindi baleng pulubi, basta hindi ahas!”

“Hindi baleng ahas, basta mahal ko!”

• “Bibilhin ko siya sa bawat singko na ipamamana mo sa akin! Tingnan ko lang kung di ka mangisay sa libingan mo!”

• “Gustuhin ko man, di ko magagawa. Sa puso nanggagaling ang pagpapatawad. Wala akong puso, nagmana ako sa’yo!”

8. Speaking of ahas, why did they always choose to have sex in the talahiban? It looked really scary. And mukhang makati.

9. Adela’s transformation from naive doormat to a feisty and heartless heredera. Wow! I wanted to stand up and cheer when she entered that church with her luscious curls wearing the bitchiest red dress with a matching belt bag. And that scene where she threw the hundred peso bills and David was temporarily stunned by all the flying cash? Iconic.

10. Was it just a coincidence that ugly Adela wore pearls while beautiful Adela wore diamonds? Shine bright like a real Diamond Star indeed.

Rating: ★★★★★

12 (Dondon Santos, 2017)

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I just watched almost two hours of petty sumbatan between two people that were never really meant to be together. I wish I were their therapist so I could have shushed them both with “Tengene maghiwalay na nga kayo!!”.

Alessandra de Rossi was fine as expected, but she needed a stronger partner to make the whole thing work. It would have also been nice if her broken character didn’t have to repeatedly verbalize that she was broken, broken, broken.

Ivan Padilla was such a terrible actor that he made Matthew Mendoza look like an Urian winner. I had to constantly shield my face every time he would start a shouting match because spittle would just keep flying everywhere.

I was surprised that Ivan even found the time to take a shower during their lengthy squabble, except that we needed a gratuitous topless shot of him in just a towel. He probably would have been better suited as a Bench model.

If you hadn’t learned anything from Ate Clau, here’s the moral of the story: Never get a relationship tattoo (unless you know a really good dermatologist that could laser that off).

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: ★★☆☆☆