MOVIE REVIEW: INANG YAYA (Pablo Biglang-awa, Veronica Velasco, 2006)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

Siguro kung ililista ko lahat ng gusto kong sabihin tungkol sa pelikulang ito, aabutin ako ng 10,000 words no exag. Kasing-dami yan ng patak ng luha ko sa sobrang daming beses ko na din siya napanood.

Sino ba ang Maricelian sa Young Critics Circle? Wag ka aalis diyan ha dahil ikaw lang talaga ang may taste for recognizing her excellent performances (even in genre films like Vampira). As a huge fan of Maricel Soriano, ipaglalaban ko na ito ang kanyang best performance ever (close second yung critically-lauded Ikaw Pa Lang ang Minahal). Napaka-understated kasi ng pag-arte niya dito. Nawawala ang usual acting tics na hate ng Manunuris sa kanya kaya never siya nanalo ng Urian.

Kung tutuusin, very anti-Maricel ang atake niya sa role ni Mommy Yaya Norma. Nung bumili siya ng “Skeechers” para sa anak na si Ruby (a wonderful Tala Santos) tapos ibinato lang nito kasi fake at pagtatawanan daw siya ng mga kaklase, yung tahimik na pag-upo niya grabe gusto ko siya yakapin. Walang hagulgol, pigil ang pag-iyak habang hawak ang rejected na pinag-ipunang regalo. Ang sakit sakit.

Iisipin mo na typical Pinoy melodrama siya kaya nakakatuwa na medyo na-subvert yung genre. Lutang pa rin ang issue on class differences pero kaunti lang ang tropes na ginamit. Masyado nga ako nasanay sa mga teleserye kaya nung may eksena si Norma na nagpa-plantsa akala ko meron masusunog o nung pinagdala niya ng mainit na tsaa si Ruby, akala ko mabubuhos sa matapobreng lola (Liza Lorena). Buti walang ganun dito. Napakabait pa ng mga amo niya (Zoren Legaspi and Sunshine Cruz) na mapapaisip ka kung meron ba talagang tulad nila in real life or nakasanayan lang natin na maldita lagi si madam at mas mababa ang pagtrato niya sa mga yaya/maid. Hindi ito pelikula para sa mga cynical na tao.

Grabe, I can quote this film for days.

Louise (a charming Erika Oreta): “Eww, why are you eating the head of the shrimp?”

Ruby: “It’s mah-sah-rap kasi.”

HAHAHAHAHA!!

Ang galing talaga ng mga batang ‘to. Ang ganda pa ng chemistry nilang tatlo kaya durog na durog ang puso ko pagdating sa realistic ending. Such an underrated gem.

Rating: ★★★★★

MOVIE REVIEW: MIA (Veronica Velasco, 2020)

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Kung gusto ko makarinig ng non-stop random trivia about earth science eh di sana nakipag-date na lang ako kay Kuya Kim.

Favorite part ko nung dinala ni Edgar Allan Guzman si Coleen Garcia sa minahan tapos nagka-realization si Ate mo: “Ngayon nakikita ko na talaga na open pit mining is MADNESS!!”.

Greta Thunberg is shooketh!!

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

MOVIE REVIEW: THROUGH NIGHT & DAY (Veronica Velasco, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Through Night and Day:

1. I used to have an Entertainment Weekly subscription when the magazine only cost around Php100 (it’s now priced at Php400!!). One of my favorite film critics there was Lisa Schwarzbaum and although we would usually have opposing views (she had the audacity to call Fight Club “dumb” and even gave it a D grade), I enjoyed her brutal (read: honest) opinions.

I was reminded so much of her Pay It Forward review which she described as a “shameless cliché of emotional and physical damage”. I couldn’t understand her hate back then because I was a sobbing mess by the end of that film. After watching this JaMill in Iceland travelogue turned manipulative tearjerker, I finally got it. Some movies would simply throw in a last minute trope (an accident, death, cancer) that appealed to the most basic sentiments and hope that the audience would equate their reaction of crying to quality. As a sucker for three hankie weepies who would bawl my eyes out while watching a Jollibee Christmas ad, I have had enough of this type of emotional manipulation.

2. The movie started off okay as it followed this annoying couple (Alessandra de Rossi as Jen and Paolo Contis as Ben) who had been together for thirteen years deciding to finally have an out of the country trip. It was supposedly the real test of their relationship (oh just wait until you guys actually lived together) because travelling would bring out the worst in people (as seen in every season with couples in The Amazing Race). Their country of choice was Iceland probably because it was a new destination for a Pinoy romcom and not a lot of people saw the fake-looking Aurora Borealis in the Piolo Pascual-Yen Santos snoozefest Northern Lights: A Journey To Love.

They rented a van without any insurance (a sign of an impending accident), complained about the exorbitant food prices (a trip to a local 7-11 cost them almost Php4k), provided Kuya Kim trivia about the place (zero crime rate in the country), and bickered and fought and made up, and bickered and fought and made up, and bickered and fought and made up.

You know how when you’re single and you would simply glare at these irritating naglalandian couples in the corner of Starbucks while bitterly thinking “Maghihiwalay din kayo”? Exact same feeling. After the nth time of watching them fight over the pettiest things, I wished that they would just head home and never see each other again.

3. I must have wished really hard because they did break up over a lost passport and a missed return flight. She was fire and he was ice (their words, not mine) and they just weren’t MFEO. I was already good with that ending (hey, a one hour travelogue for a Php190 movie ticket in Festival Mall wasn’t all bad) but then it decided to jump three years later with Ben already engaged to another girl and Jen all bald and suffering from a brain tumor. Why? Why? Whyyyyy??

If two people weren’t meant to be, why should guilt be induced to prove that there wasn’t any love lost between them? Jen’s affliction was even used as a reason for her blatant irrationality (although it still didn’t support why she chose to wear her engagement ring on her middle finger just because of a bad manicure). Should I feel guilty about that as well?

4. Even in her bad films, I couldn’t remember Alessandra de Rossi ever giving a terrible performance. She was always this sensitive actress able to transcend any material given to her (even crap like Spirit of the Glass). I couldn’t say the same for her work in the first two-thirds of this movie. Pabebe acting just didn’t suit her well (no to baby talk and girls trying to be cute by saying “Plith”).

Plus, she looked far too intelligent and decent to be groping tomatoes in a farm for a photo op and even spitting on the ground and contaminating all the pananim. After getting dumped over that missed flight, Jen asked “Dito talaga sa Iceland? Dito mo sasabihin na ayaw mo ako pakasalan? Kung saan ang ganda ng sky?” Huh?? And she even found humor in the situation when she screamed “I will stay here in my country! Not this country. This is not my country!”. I felt really, really bad for Alex.

Even worse, she shaved her head for this mess (fyi, she was a producer of this movie with a story and concept credit so it must be a passion project worthy of a buzz cut). Brave move, yes, but let’s not forget that Demi Moore also won a Worst Actress Razzie for her shaved head work in G.I. Jane.

Side note: That scar on the back of her head looked like a strip of Play Doh. Eek!

5. Paolo Contis fared a bit better because he always had this pilyo, pang-asar vibe even during his Ang TV days that was apt for the character of Ben. Most people would probably be surprised that he could cry a river (and believe me, there were enough tears in that final thirty minutes to solve our country’s Maynilad problems). Nothing new though if you were a huge fan of that Aga Muhlach-Dayanara Torres fantasy Basta’t Kasama Kita.

6. My favorite part of this movie was when Ben complained that Jen wasn’t “decently” dressed and since she was a devoted Christian saving herself for marriage, it was a problem for him not to feel horny beside her (“Wala namang utak ‘to. Tanga ‘to eh!” referring to his shrinkage-proof member that wasn’t affected at all by the freezing weather.) I immediately (sinfully) thought, “Well, maybe she should pray over his erection”. And she did. Bwahahaha!

(It was also interesting to note that Jen completely forgot her Christian ways after getting sick by forcing herself on Ben and basically trying to covet another person’s jowa.)

7. My least favorite part was when BenJen did a duet and sang the entire version of Gary Valenciano’s “I Will Be Here” while sobbing like there was no tomorrow (okay, bad pun because there really was no tomorrow for Jen).

I hated it because: 1) I had always been averse to that song ever since it was played in a good friend’s wake, 2) all the crying felt like one of those acting workshops where a mentor would make you remember the saddest memory and force you to weep for thirty minutes as a sign that you could act and cry on cue, and 3) they sang an entire song. Again, why? To give the audience enough time to cry along with them? Repeat after me: emotional manipulation.

Side note: The dark humor toward the end of the movie (the fake dying, Jen’s sudden outbursts, etc.) felt really off, too. The hilariously robotic delivery of that nurse about the re-occurrence of Jen’s condition didn’t help, either.

8. How did I know that I was completely unaffected by all the sadness onscreen? While the couple was singing that entire (it had to be noted, yet again) death song, my brain was focused on the fly perched on Joey Marquez’s left shoulder. Malungkot kaya yung langaw mag-isa?

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

MOVIE REVIEW: 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: ★★☆☆☆