DOTGA: DA ONE THAT GHOST AWAY (Tony Reyes, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on DOTGA: Da One That Ghost Away:

1. I was surprised that Vhong Navarro wasn’t included in the cast given that he headlined the last two horror-comedy films of Star Cinema (please note that I didn’t consider the unintentionally comedic horror films of Kris Aquino, like Segunda Mano where she pissed her pants in terror for buying a secondhand Prada bag).

In terms of comparison, this one was less like Bulong (actually a guilty pleasure) and more of Da Possessed (which had the gall to make fun of Vhong’s rape case). I already expected tons of corny jokes and lame slapstick humor, but even with my IQ lowered and in full babaw mode, I could only muster one giggle in all 100 minutes (again, I only counted the intentional one because I spent the entire movie hysterically laughing at Enzo Pineda’s acting that he equated with wide eyes and flaring nostrils).

2. Carmel (Kim Chiu) and Jerald (Ryan Bang) were ghost hunters slash con artists that brought along their team dressed as horror film characters (Ghost Bride, Chucky, Tiyanak, etc.) to terrorize and pretend exorcise haunted houses. She used a magical triangle (yes, the musical instrument in the percussion family) and shouted nonsensical chants (“Mother Ignacia! Sergeant Esguerra! Papuntang Abra!”) as part of her ritual. I was surprised that there were people who actually fell for this kind of silliness (although their first victim was a Krizzy impersonator and we all knew how gullible she could get).

3. This movie was rated PG because the MTRCB thought that parents could easily explain what Carmel meant when she said “Sabi na di ako nagpi-pinger eh” after using a dating app called PinGer. Or why she kept emphasizing the name of Enzo as JACK COLmenares (just in case it still wasn’t obvious enough, his name was written exactly like that on a white board). Should we expect the Colmenares sisters to be named Jaja, Nadia, and Gina? Seriously, this type of Pinoy green humor hadn’t been funny since my high school days circa ‘90s.

4. Terrible, terrible editing. In one scene, Serrah (Maymay Entrata) was looking at her compact mirror and asking “What is that ghost I see?” and then it abruptly cut to her and Chire (Edward Barber) walking to school. What was that about?

(Also, as a huge #MayWard fan, please give them a good film that they actually deserved! Sayang talaga sila!)

5. Oh, Jerald also worked as a language teacher in a school called Fil-Eng-The-Blanks. Wala na bang ikaka-corny pa ang pelikulang ito?

6. The only funny scene that I mentioned earlier was a brief gag where Carmel hugged a sweaty Jack, then wiped the wet part of her cheek with her left hand, and smelled it like she was endorsing the newest Downy fabric conditioner. It was a testament to Kim’s charm and sharp comic timing that a throwaway moment like that would actually work.

7. If Enzo acted like his life (or career?) depended on it, on the other end of the spectrum was Ronnie Alonte who didn’t even feel the need to act at all (was it because it was just a cameo role?).

8. Tabako vs Sadako? Bearable. Valak vs Halak? Meh. Black Panty vs Black Panther? Wala na maisip??

9. I felt bad for the extras in the scene where they pretended to freeze as part of a spell (think Mannequin Challenge only without music). Carmel had this really lengthy monologue (“Oo nasaktan na ako lola. Shinota niya ang best friend mo!!”) and you could actually see some of them in the background starting to shake (as in nanginginig na sa sobrang ngalay). I could have subbed for any of them because I had always been a master Statue Dancer.

10. Carmel: “Ikaw pa rin ang DOTGA ko!”

Jerald: “Da One That Ghost Away?”

Carmel: “Da One That Gusto Ako Pero Baka Maging Gusto Ko Rin!!”

Huh? Isn’t that DOTGAPBMGKR?!

Kimmy, pinapainit mo ang anit sa ibabaw ng ulo ko!!

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

WOKE UP LIKE THIS (Joel Ferrer, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Woke Up Like This:

1. Aside from superhuman strength and the ability to time travel, one of my favorite fantasies was to swap bodies with a (popular) celebrity. I mean, who wouldn’t want to wake up looking like, say, Benjamin Alves? I’d have instant abs without having to cut down on that extra rice. Plus, I really wanted to know how it’d feel like to be ogled at while window shopping in SM Southmall.

Of course a part of that fantasy didn’t involve kissing my twin sister Julie Ann San Jose, because my life really wasn’t an episode of Game of Thrones.

2. I had seen one too many films that dealt with body swapping and this movie directly lifted scenes from most of them.

• Rob Schneider waking up in a silk lingerie and discovering in the bathroom that he lost his bigalow (and fainting afterwards)? Check.

• Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan trying to bump into each other hoping to shake up their souls enough to make them return to their original bodies? Check.

• Athlete Kevin Zegers acting really funny in a game since his body was inhabited by a girl? Check.

• Mean girl Rachel McAdams trying to stop making an expression happen? Check. (Wait, this wasn’t even a body swap movie. Oh well. They even had a scene where the villains were run over by a speeding vehicle. So not fetch.)

The blatant laziness would have been more forgivable if the copied scenes were actually funny, but they just weren’t (unless you find Vhong Navarro as Nando accidentally drinking his own urine hilarious).

3. Most of the jokes here felt really dated, like they came out of late 90’s Regal-early 00’s Star Cinema comedies. It had scenes where family members would always grab the food that Nando was supposed to eat (bakit kasi ayaw nya agad kagatin ang pandesal?), or to fool another character from receiving a kiss, he would point somewhere and say, “Uy, si John Lloyd!”, sabay takbo. And if it wasn’t obvious enough, his bff was Bayani Agbayani, doing the exact same schtick he had been doing since his Otso-Otso days when he would cry and whine like a modern day Bondying.

4. Suspension of disbelief would be a must in this type of comedy, but this one really pushed it to the limit. Family members and friends simply brushed off the apparent gender switch. Nando and Sabrina (Lovi Poe) went on with their normal lives in different bodies. And so we were treated to a makeover montage with Vhong donning different women’s clothes and having his ass crack waxed for a casting call. What?!

This type of craziness would have worked if the characterizations were at least consistent. In one scene, Lovi was taking a dump and Vhong asked, “May tubol?” (there’s absolutely no way that the posh Sabrina would say or even know something like that). In another, Vhong joined a beauty contest and couldn’t walk properly in heels (even in a man’s body, Sabrina would have rocked that runway).

If anything, at least Lovi was really game and felt more committed to her role, whether she was doing Babalu impressions or merely scratching her crotch.

5. Should I blame Serbis for the proliferation of these juvenile exploding pigsa jokes of late? Definitely swearing off anything cream-filled.

6. Too many corny extras in annoying roles. The OA yaya, the basketball commentator with his sock puppet, even the usually campy Dionne Monsanto was just trying way too hard.

7. Another mannequin challenge?! Eek!

8. To quote one of the characters: “Wag mo nga sabihin tae. Sabihin mo poo poo.” Ok, poo poo.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

MANG KEPWENG RETURNS (G.B. Sampedro, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Mang Kepweng Returns:

1. My late grandmother was a big believer in quack medicine. Whenever I’d get sick as a kid, she would bring me to this seaside hut where an even older lady prayed over some wax paper (with Latin words written on them), licked them like stamps, and slapped them on my forehead to help exorcise the bad spirits causing my illness.

I never once believed in her sorcery (especially since my mom would ask me to take Aspilets after the session), but without her magical saliva, I would not have developed a stronger immune system.

2. I could barely remember the original Mang Kepweng movie, except that the late Chiquito (who was here in hologram form, but his mouth never moved while talking) played the title role with his trademark reverse bandana and Hitler mustache. I do remember its comics origins so I wasn’t surprised when this one started very much like a Marvel movie. Until it actually turned into a wannabe Marvel movie.

3. Much like any of its superhero origin stories, Kiefer (Vhong Navarro) found out the secrets to his past (he’s the bastard child of Mang Kepweng!), learned to harness his powers (polka dot bandana activate!), discovered how to be Doctor Strange (summoning those holograms and all!), and even staged a Civil War in the climactic battle sequence.

I even joked that I should stay until the end credits just in case there was a closing credits sequence. I wasn’t disappointed. Eat your heart out, Stan Lee!!

4. For a supposed update to a cult classic, most of the jokes here felt so dated. It reminded me so much of the humor in Home Along Da Riles (only that was hilarious and nobody could ever match the comic timing of the late Dolphy).

There were so many gags that were just not funny. One involved bungled haircuts (one man wanted his head shaved, the long-haired one wanted his dyed blonde, you know how this would end), another one had cha-cha music played during a funeral march, a latent gay character was always used as a punchline, and the worst had to be the renaissance of the yakapsule and kisspirin joke. Now watch me whip, now watch me anyenyeh!

5. Aerial shots galore. Congratulations on your new drone!

6. Is Jollicious Hotdog an actual product? That entire Zumba sequence where a large woman (named Petite, of course) fainted and was brought back to her senses by the smell of a jumbo Jollicious hotdog reeked of shameless product placement.

7. Two major characters kept questioning if the bandana had magical powers even if they grew a unibrow and a mustache after wearing it. Demanding much, mga bes?

8. Vhong used to be really funny, very much like a local Jim Carrey. In this movie, he was reduced to overacting like crazy while constantly cowering in fear (why was he working in a funeral parlor anyway if he was always close to having a stroke every time something eerie happened?).

9. The only joke that really landed was delivered by Bangky. When asked what he was smoking, he answered “Beep”. Vhong corrected him and said “Hindi po yan beep. Vape po yan” to which he replied “Beep ang plebor. Sa susunod chicken naman.” Mabuhay ang bangkay!

10. I would forever remember this movie as the one where a character actually said the line, “Ate kinagat ako ng tiyan mo!”. Horrors!!

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆