MOVIE 43 (Elizabeth Banks, Steven Brill, Steve Carr, Rusty Cundieff, James Duffy, Griffin Dunne, Peter Farrelly, Patrick Forsberg, Will Graham, James Gunn, Brett Ratner, Jonathan van Tulleken, 2013)

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And I thought Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve were star-studded bombs. Stinky and disgusting.

This has to be the worst movie I’ve seen this year. Probably ever. I’m still in shock that all of these talented people agreed to this.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published March 15, 2013.)

 

THE VOW (Michael Sucsy, 2012)

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I am happy and in love.

With that said, I didn’t fall one bit for this sickly-sweet love story that will surely melt hearts this Valentine season. As soon as the words “inspired by a true story” appeared onscreen, I knew what I was in for.

There were so many unbelievable clichés thrown in that you’d completely understand why they had to start with that disclaimer.

Channing Tatum may have looked the romantic lead part but he was definitely not equipped to play it (and no, gratuitous nudity doesn’t fall under the “equipped” part).

There were some good moments in there but very much like a fling, most of the film was completely forgettable.

In the scale of romantic movies, this one was closer to the execrable Dear John than the uber-cheesy but more heartfelt The Notebook.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published February 14, 2012.)

THE LOVE AFFAIR (Nuel Naval, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Love Affair:

1. Let’s get this out of the way. If you’re a woman who feels a sense of redemption and triumph in seeing a mistress put in her proper place (refer to No Other Woman, The Mistress, The Legal Wife, and countless viral videos of wives confronting and ultimately bitchslapping their husbands’ kulasisi), then nothing should stop you from seeing this movie. Definitely no judgments here. Kabit movies have always been a good source of entertainment for us Pinoys.

2. Speaking of kabit movies, there were so many similarities between this and Maryo J. delos Reyes’ A Love Story. It involved a doctor meeting a future lover through an accident, multiple flashbacks, water sports, and confrontation scenes that all it needed was an out of the country location. But then again, all kabit movies usually follow the same formula so I shouldn’t have expected anything new.

3. I was completely distracted by the poor production values. All those out of focus shots, bad lighting, and horrendous dubbing were unusual for a Star Cinema glossy movie.

4. I know that people lose their bearings and cool when placed in stressful situations but I was still shocked by the words coming out of these professionals’ mouths. For a doctor and lawyer, their liberal use of the words suso, or libog, or Shit, or Fuck just sounded really off. Maybe the dialogue was indeed sprinkled with these vulgar words for shock value. Either that or I was just being a complete prude.

5. Bea Alonzo to ex-boyfriend Tom Rodriguez: “I know this is your house, but I need you to leave. Kelangan ko ng buong araw para makapag-impake ng gamit ko.”

Nasaan ang pride, girl?

6. I feared a lot for the characters’ health and wellness. Lagi na lang umuulan and almost all of them got soaked because they just loved making drama under the pouring rain. Have they never heard of pneumonia?

7. I had a great time watching Bea’s cuts and bruises appear, disappear and re-appear in several scenes. If you would look closely in one of the stairs scenes, Bea’s shirt was actually stained on the back with the same color as her arm bruises. No wonder they keep disappearing.

8. If you’re a lawyer applying for a job in a prestigious firm, won’t you even try to cover the cut on your forehead and try not to look like a walking liability? I can recommend a good concealer dear.

9. This movie gave a whole new meaning to serendipity. Bea and Richard Gomez just kept bumping into each other in the weirdest places and situations. The fact that they didn’t end up together only supported the theory of #WalangForever.

10. In one scene, Richard offered a ride to Bea:

“You wanna borrow my car?”
“No, I’ll just use Grab.”

And with that, GrabTaxi just one-upped Uber.

11. I loved the best friend/conscience played by Ina Feleo. She was judgmental with reason and that scene where she slapped Bea silly was justified. I could only wish for more friends just like her.

12. Whatever happened to Ana Capri? She played the stereotypical pokpok role here but she’s still one of the best pokpoks in Philippine Cinema. Please give her more projects that will put her great acting skills to good use (e.g. Pila Balde, Live Show, Sa Paraiso ni Efren).

13. Walang ibang kinakain ang pamilya nina Richard at Dawn kundi ice cream at kape? Like really. For real. In real life.

14. Can someone explain the following:

a. Why does Richard have a neck pimple in all past and present scenes? When will he pop that damn thing?

b. What happened to the lips of Evangeline Pascual? Call a doctor, stat!

c. Is there any effect if a defibrillator is used on top of tubes or an actual hospital gown?

d. Can anyone identify the man wearing a blue shirt in the elevator scene and explain why he suddenly disappeared in the next scene?

e. Why is every day Valentine’s Day in this movie?

15. I did not fancy that daddy swimwear of Richard. He went swimming with shades on his head, a white shirt and shorts, and a watch. Cringe.

16. And there was this sex sa batuhan scene that made me really uncomfortable just thinking of all the scratches that will get inflicted on Bea’s supple back. And don’t get me started on all the lumot.

17. Bea typed “Vincent Ramos neurosurgeon wife” in Google and all the pictures of Dawn suddenly showed up. Wow, how popular was Richard’s character?

18. As expected, there was a confrontation scene between Dawn and Bea wherein two intelligent, classy professionals forgot their breeding and good manners and tried to outwit and outbitch each other. These two great actresses deserved much better. Besides, nothing could ever beat the classic Maricel-Zsa Zsa scene in Minsan Lang Kita Iibigin:

“Wag mo kong ma-Terry Terry. Sagutin mo ang tanong ko ‘Are you FACKING my husband??!'”

19. “Pagod na pagod na ko ginagago ng mga taong mahal ko.” Naku, deserved mo yan girl.

20. Was I the only one wishing for John Lloyd Cruz or Zanjoe Marudo to suddenly show up in the end and deliver the typical Star Cinema (really) happy ending? Cue Alamid’s Your Love.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published August 13, 2015.)

MR. & MRS. CRUZ (Sigrid Andrea Bernardo, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Mr. & Mrs. Cruz:

1. As a huge fan of the Before Trilogy (Sunrise, Sunset, Midnight) and even That Thing Called Tadhana, I’m not averse to talky (and sometimes cerebral) romance films where the audience basically listens in on a couple having conversations about life and love and relationships and literature and cinema and music and food and even any mundane stuff that can serve as a possible source for an emotional hugot. It takes a consistently smart screenplay and incredibly talented actors to keep people glued to the screen and not make them wish that they never get stuck on an island with these characters.

At around the first hour mark when Gela (Ryza Cenon) and Raffy (JC Santos) were having their nth Cliff’s Notes discussion of Romeo and Juliet, I was already busy checking my phone for the cheapest flights to Puerto Princesa.

2. It was tough to stay invested in their love story when the song that was played upon their meet cute was Freestyle’s Before I Let You Go (talk about a doomed relationship). No amount of convincing (their Valentine’s Day hotel room number, their matching curls and the idea that couples look alike after being together for a long time, the obvious metaphor of him saving her life after a Heimlich maneuver, and even their shared adventurousness in eating the local delicacy tamilok) could make me believe that they were destined to end up with each other. Besides, Raffy owned a pair of neon peach swimming trunks. Very, very fishy.

3. I was actually okay with everything up until the unnecessary twist (of fate) slash big reveal in the third act that just plucked us out of reality. It was disappointing to see Sigrid Bernardo, one of my fave local directors, relying on yet another gimmick to end a love story (hello Kita Kita!). At least walang nasagasaan this time, especially considering the beach setting.

4. To be fair, JC and Ryza were completely charming in their roles and when they were provided with really sharp dialogue (my favorite was that entire discussion on commitment and the formality/legality/security of marriage), they just knocked it out of the park. Both of them also made the most out of their drunk breakdown scenes (“I found Nemo, but I didn’t find myself”) which should be screened in acting workshops for Star Magic and GMA Artist Center talents.

5. I was a bit bothered that Raffy and Gela only brought one backpack each for their weekend trip. I spent three days in El Nido (looking even lovelier here btw) and brought a medium-sized luggage with half the contents of my closet. Gela’s stuff included around six classic novels (yes, one was Romeo and Juliet). When would she even find the time to read all of them considering that she booked guided tours as well?

On a different note, I really liked her insight that we should re-read our faves because they would be subject to a different interpretation given our maturity and experiences in life. Let me dig up my old issues of Liwayway.

6. It wasn’t lost on me that one of the couples in that tour resembled Ogie Alcasid and Michelle van Eimeren. Our tourism slogans of Wow Philippines and It’s More Fun in the Philippines weren’t for naught. Also, Dido dela Paz as one half of the Golden Couple continued to provide great work, coming off the heels of his critically-lauded performance in Respeto.

7. So who lost that wedding gown sa batuhan during one of the movie’s early scenes? Please tell me that was just an illusion because I could not stand littering in our tourist spots.

8. I felt bad that some of the good jokes were literally lost in translation. When Raffy tried to be funny by replying with “Minikaniko ni Monico ang makina ni Monica”, the subtitle reflected it as “pulled a MacGyver” which didn’t really make a lot of sense. But then how would one even translate that?

9. That disgusting suka scene omg. I would probably avoid oatmeal for the next few months (who am I kidding, does my double chin even look like I eat oatmeal?). Bonus crotch shot though so…

10. I laughed really hard when Raffy mentioned that everything happens for a reason and then started telling the story of his ex who was a nurse that taught him first aid. I was reminded of my ex who was also a nurse that taught me the wonders of sushi. Both life-saving, I tell you.

11. Okay so they didn’t remember that they actually met a few years back in Palawan? Try Memo Plus Gold, kids. What was more unforgivable was that they never even bothered to re-dub the part where Ryza had a voiceover and said the word “trud-jedy”. Watch your back, Maja!!

12. Why would Raffy even know a brief hack that could turn his underwear into a bikini top? Even worse, it was a used pair of undies that he just removed on the boat (butt exposure alert!). Why does hygiene have to go out the window for a supposedly romantic gesture? Did the phrase “smell of love in the air” actually refer to the scent of bayag? Medyo eww.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

ANG PAGSANIB KAY LEAH DELA CRUZ (Katski Flores, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Ang Pagsanib Kay Leah dela Cruz:

1. Sarah Lahbati, in an effort to act like a tough and cool policewoman, decided to strip down all possible emotions from her character and spoke in a weird monotone with a slight gruff reminiscent of Sharon Cuneta’s performance as the tomboy-ish jeepney driver Jack in the 80’s cult classic Jack & Jill. She had an air of “I may look and sound like a bad-ass lesbian, but I’m still straight as an arrow deep inside.” Never forget to check the label, Mommies!

(Not like anybody would actually think that she bats for the other team since she sashays in every scene wearing her butt-hugging jeans and high-heeled boots like a smoldering beauty queen doing her farewell walk.)

2. Although the story about a satanic cult and its link to the possession of Emily Rose, er, Leah dela Cruz left much to be desired, the movie made up for it through some gorgeous visuals.

I really liked the opening scene with the abandoned road and the phantom kids running after the car and how they all tied up to that chilling image of dead children forming a circle with demonic symbols.

3. Why do a lot of Pinoy horror movies happen during Holy Week (especially Good Friday) and end up with catharsis and redemption on Easter Sunday?

Sana next time Valentine’s Day naman para maiba. Tapos walang catharsis. Scary diba?

4. When Yaya Rosario referred to Leah as “ba-it”, I was reminded of my grandmother calling the rats in our house the same way before poisoning them with cheese-crusted Dora. Apparently, being nice to rats and using pet names would prevent them from nibbling on your clothes and you could nicely drive them out like you’re the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Oh wait, didn’t that story involve a lot of missing children as well?

5. In one scene, an intubated Yaya Rosario kept talking wildly to non-lesbian policewoman about all the secrets that she knew. I think I had seen enough Grey’s Anatomy episodes to know that this wasn’t possible since that tube would actually go through her trachea (friends from the medical field, please correct me as needed).

Unless of course that was a dental suction whose main purpose was to suck the saliva of poor Yaya.

6. My favorite part was the Lights Out scene that tried to subvert the genre with the heroine fearlessly chasing after the lady ghost instead. Talk about a great diva showdown.

7. Shy Carlos as the possessed Leah surely had a lot of fun in the role. She was really good without going overboard and I probably would have been more impressed with her performance if I hadn’t seen her do the exact same thing in Lumayo Ka Nga Sa Akin. Still, she was one of the few reasons to watch this.

8. Every time Jim Paredes as a priest (!!) would mention the word demonyo, I actually expected him to go on another endless anti-Duterte tirade.

Also, that bit with Angelina Kanapi as a nun on the run sounded a bit like Sister Act, no?

9. “Ang pagtatalik ay isang uri ng pagdarasal at bata ka pa lang dapat marunong ka na magdasal.” Creepy and icky. It needed more of this and less of the horror movie clichés.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

THE ACHY BREAKY HEARTS (Antoinette Jadaone, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Achy Breaky Hearts:

1. More than Valentine’s Day, I think the annual family reunion is the ultimate source of pain and trauma in any single person’s life. There will always be that one snooty aunt that will ask you the age-old question of “Kelan ka mag-aasawa?”, like your being single is a source of shame for the entire clan that they want to immediately sweep under the rug. On the flip side, you can view it positively that they only ask out of love because they don’t want you to end up as an old maid. A shameful old maid that they want to lock up in the basement, away from the prying eyes and loose lips of neighbors. Sigh.

2. The first few minutes of the movie smartly tackled this perceived dilemma of single women. Can one truly be alone and happy? Does Gabriela revoke your feminist card if you still long for someone that you can clutch onto while watching a horror movie in a cinema (especially one packed with lovers)? Is it wrong to admit the feeling of sadness even if you’re toasting for independence with your other single amigas?

3. Jodi Sta. Maria was perfect in the role of Chinggay because she was able to easily convey these mixed feelings, even when the movie started to default to a typical Star Cinema rom-com. The best scene involved an iyak-tawa moment of her dancing to Sasakyan after getting her heart broken yet again. She may drink a lot of Anlene, but she still gets weak in the knees when it comes to boy problems.

Also, although Chinggay was a successful jewelry store manager, she still seemed very submissive to the two men in her life. I wonder when Jodi will play an actual tough careerwoman that wouldn’t require her to call a man “Sir” every ten seconds.

4. I really abhor voiceovers that feel intrusive and basically explain the characters’ feelings and motives. Show us, don’t tell us. If an effective narrator is really needed, then please refer to Jane the Virgin.

5. I almost died from kilig in the scene where Ryan (Ian Veneracion) removed the ring from Chinggay’s finger using his mouth, but there were two thoughts that immediately countered that feeling: 1) my grandmother told me that you should never remove another person’s ring because you’ll end up becoming enemies, and 2) GERMS!!

6. I have always been #TeamTisoy ever since All You Need is Pag-ibig (they even tried to recreate that movie’s charming Bilanggo sing-along, but it just wasn’t as effective here). Besides, ex-boyfriend Frank (Richard Yap) looked like her father, was a bit malamya, and talked like a wooden spoon. He was no match to the vampiric looks of Ryan that made three women collapse from their seats when the camera zoomed in on his sleeping face. (Speaking of, I was happy to see that Ian sweats a lot like any human being. But then again his sweat might actually smell like Clinique Happy, dammit!)

7. Was that really a De Luxe room in Victoria Court? The faux gold and matching thunderstorms looked like a Premiere Off Beat room. No, I’m not a suki. Please don’t be judgmental.

8. Here are some more burning questions:

• Kelangan talaga meron mini-commercial ng Jolly Spaghetti where Chinggay can reminisce about her childhood? Or a Flanax scene that rivaled the Biogesic cameos in all the John Lloyd Cruz movies?

• Why didn’t she clean her bag? How long was that expired condom in there?

• Was Marion Aunor the only Star Records artist? (To be fair, most of her songs were really good.) Let me rephrase, was Marion Aunor the only good Star Records artist?

• Did you really expect us to believe that Ryan’s character knew the lyrics of Sasakyan by heart?

• Did they use the exact same locations (restaurants) in You’re My Boss and Everything About Her, among others?

• Why couldn’t Ryan take Chinggay to the real Paris? (Please don’t tell me that a Ducati owner like him was just being a cheapskate.)

9. Jodi looked really good, but she also needed some chapstick. There were also times when I wanted to feed her a cookie.

10. Special hugot quotes for my single friends:

• “Next time wag tayo tatanga-tanga sa investment.”

• “Ang love hindi para sa mga duwag o tamad. Ang love hinahanap at pinaglalaban.”

• “Kapag nagmamahal, nasasaktan. Pero kapag nasasaktan, ang mahalaga lumilipas.”

• “Ang pagmamahal hindi nawawala. Pero hindi porke’t mahal mo, para sa ‘yo.”

11. Shamaine Buencamino could play all of Star Cinema’s mother roles and I would never complain.

12. As expected, the ending was a cop-out. I would have been happy even if she didn’t choose between the two and the movie ended with a close-up of her single-blessedness face, but then it decided to tack on this hopeful ending negating every single platitude delivered by the voiceover.

Seriously, just because it didn’t introduce a twin or a doppelganger in the end didn’t mean that the movie was being brave. Teka lang muna wait, Star Cinema…

Rating: ★★★☆☆

JOY (David O. Russell, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Joy:

1. If David O. Russell and his repetitive cast (Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Robert De Niro) had a TV equivalent, it would definitely be Ryan Murphy and his American Horror Story crew.

Joy would be American Horror Story: Freak Show, a complete mess from such a talented group and a huge letdown from their previous effort (American Hustle = American Horror Story: Coven).

Wait, so does that make Silver Linings Playbook the American Horror Story: Asylum of the series? I guess that would explain the mind-boggling accolades (an Oscar for Lawrence over Jessica Chastain and Emmanuelle Riva? Please.) I know, I sound even more bitter than my single friends last Valentine’s Day.

(Weirdly enough, this film started with the Name Game song which was also an iconic production number in Asylum.)

2. There was always a certain level of camp in these Russell movies and when this one started with the life as a telenovela metaphor (complete with a Susan Lucci cameo), I thought it would nail its theme of female empowerment with a certain degree of winking fun. Unfortunately, it got bogged down by the too obvious inspirational message (“You’re just one kitschy invention away from becoming a success!!”) that led to a predictable and phony resolution.

3. In one scene, Lawrence (playing Curacha) divided the basement with a masking tape so that her father and ex-husband would know their sides of the room. It reminded me so much of Maricel Soriano “splitting” areas and possessions with her husband Cesar Montano in Kung Kaya Mo, Kaya Ko Rin. Maricel was so obsessed with boundaries that she even placed markers on walls, on the floor, and even inside the refrigerator (and since she bought all the grocery items, she moved them all to her side naturally). It was that kind of crazy humor sorely missing in this movie.

4. I previously mentioned my obsession with the O Shopping Channel and prior to that, the Home Shopping Network. If I actually bought everything that I wanted there (Butterfly Abs, Siluet 40, and Ab Rollers, among others), I would have been Laboracay ready as early as Christmas.

5. Seriously, how could QVC have sold that many Miracle Mops within the short timeframe given the number of customer service representatives on the phones inside the room? Did they have call centers in the Philippines that wasn’t shown? 50,000 items sold in a matter of minutes and yet some agents would complain when there were 30 calls on queue. This movie should be a requirement in Call Center Orientation.

6. Don’t you find it weird that when these characters chop off their own hair, they always end up getting a salon-ready look? I once cut my bangs and I ended up looking like I had a severe case of typhoid fever. Why don’t we have Miracle Scissors? Hey, that may be a good invention idea!!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆