LOVE YOU TO THE STARS AND BACK (Antoinette Jadaone, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Love You to the Stars and Back:

1. As a kid, I believed everything that my mother told me. I would immediately take a shower after getting drenched in the rain to avoid getting pulmonya. I would forego that extra cup of rice during dinner lest I end up dying of bangungot. I never went to bed with wet hair because I didn’t want to wake up crazy and dragged all the way to the basement of Makati Med. I was proud of my huge ears because they meant that I would live a long life. I also ate an entire roasted lizard because it was supposedly a cure for my asthma.

I wasn’t surprised at all that young Mika (Julia Barretto) swallowed up all the alien talk of her soon-to-be-departed mother (Carmina Villaroel). I mean it would be nice to believe that E.T. (yes, as in “E.T., phone home!”) would one day abduct me and bring me to the stars so I could observe EDSA traffic from above. In Mika’s own words, “Walang imposible sa mundong ito. Kelangan mo lang maniwala.”

2. So Mika decided to look for aliens in Mt. Milagros (fictional place, right?) somewhere in Batangas and the very first thing she bought as supplies were…Choco Muchos?! Please tell me this wasn’t a blatant product placement (similar to that succeeding Oppo selfie) and that she was really a junk food junkie. Also, would Sapporo now be considered the official beer of Pinoy love stories? Better luck next time Red Horse Litro.

3. Leo Martinez had always been the token Batangueño character in Pinoy cinema and his accent (read: punto) would always be played for laughs. I was happy to see a different version here represented by Caloy (Joshua Garcia, another true-blue Batangueño), but I wish he kept the accent all-throughout the film just for authenticity (sadly, the ones by the supporting cast were spotty at best).

Joshua made up for it though with such a strong performance that displayed his versatility. The John Lloyd Cruz comparisons made during Vince & Kath & James were even more obvious (and justified) here. Naiiyak ako habang pinapanood lang sya umiyak, whether he was telling the story of how his father abandoned them over a plate of tapang kalabaw, or peering through the gate while getting rejected by said dad, or calling his mom to assure her that he was okay. Nanay pa niya si Cherry Pie Picache so wag na umasang di ka maiyak.

(I think the only weakness of Joshua would be his fake laugh because, well, it felt fake. Bawi naman sa pa-karug. Har har.)

4. I loved how the characters here bonded over the grossest things, making them more human and their relationship more relatable. Their meet cute moment actually involved pooping and pissing in a talahiban (another mother’s advice: always say ‘tabi tabi po’ to prevent the wrath of a nuno) and since a significant part of the movie had them inside a car, I was happy when somebody actually farted (with a round of finger-pointing after, of course!).

5. Wait, so Caloy was sick and he decided that the best way to go from Lemery to Calaca (this would be like going from Southmall to MOA ba?) was on a bike?

6. The manong manok character was definitely me to millennials: “Ang babata n’yo pa, ang lalandi n’yo na!”

Mika was able to provide a good defense though: “Bakit kung uso na ang cellphone nung EDSA Revolution, hindi rin ba kayo mag-selfie?!” Touché!

(Another Titas of Manila moment: my brain kept screaming “Eyes on the road!” while they kept making landi in a moving vehicle. Ay josko ka!)

7. Goldie, their pet chicken, was left in the car while they ate lunch. Buti hindi naging Chickenjoy pagbalik nila.

8. I was never really fond of Julia because of her rumored kaartehan and perceived brattiness (I read a lot of FashionPulis, sorry!), but she definitely proved her mettle here. Not only did she look and sound very much like her Aunt Claudine, she actually acted the exact same way.

I especially liked her in that bridge scene where all of her emotions just felt raw and natural. Any lesser actress would have disappeared amidst the powerful presence of Joshua. She also had this really cute (albeit bittersweet) scene with Mika imagining that Caloy was still in the passenger seat. All it needed was her playfully saying, “Mukha kang chewing gum na masarap nguyain.”

9. Although it had elements similar to The Fault in our Stars (and even Your Name), the film overall was still distinctly Jadaone. Iba pa rin ang magic niya kapag usapang pag-ibig. She always knew the right blend of kilig and drama.

I really liked how this was able to differentiate itself from TFIOS by showing the ugly side of cancer. It would be hard to forget that heartbreaking scene with Caloy all covered in his own puke and blood, trying to pretend that nothing was wrong with him. Also, it had one of the most unromantic (pero damang-dama pa rin) declarations of love in cinema. Move over, Ansel and Shailene!

10. “Walang sigurado pero minsan kelangan mo lang maniwala.” I now believe in you, JoshLia. Elyen!!

Rating: ★★★★☆

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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: ★★☆☆☆

Metro Manila Film Festival 2016 Scorecard

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After travelling to three cities and four cinemas in two days, I have officially completed the MMFF2016 marathon.

I’m happy to report that the festival achieved its goal and stayed true to its promise of change, of giving the Pinoy audience something new during the holiday season.

Even with a supposed indie selection, I still had a great time in cinemas. Some films made me laugh out loud, some made me cry like a baby, one scared me to my core, the rest I enjoyed watching with young ones (yes, even kids liked these indies!), but most importantly, they required me to think.

Napakasarap makatikim ng ibang klaseng putahe ngayong Kapaskuhan. Hinihintay na lang nila ang ating suporta.

With that said, here’s my festival scorecard:

Best Picture

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1. SUNDAY BEAUTY QUEEN (Baby Ruth Villarama, 2016) – ★★★★★

Napakagandang pelikula! Matututo kang magpasalamat sa bawat biyayang natanggap, pati na rin sa mga sakripisyong hindi mo ginagawa.

At bes, huwag mong sabihin na ayaw mong manood ng malungkot ngayong Pasko dahil sigurado akong pinanood at iniyakan mo lahat ng Christmas ads ng Uber, Selecta, at Coke. Magdala ng isang box ng tissues.

Dahil ang Pasko ay para sa mga bata, isama ang buong pamilya at manood na kayo. Now na. Tapos group hug kayo after. Merry Christmas!! 😊

 

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2. DIE BEAUTIFUL (Jun Lana, 2016) – ★★★★★

Nakakatuwang makatikim ng isang matalinong comedy sa MMFF. Yung nakakatawa ang mga linya at patok sa masa kahit wala ni isang karakter na nahuhulog galing sa bubungan.

Mas nakakatuwa na ang ganitong klaseng produkto ay tinatangkilik ngayon ng mga manonood (puno ang sinehan nung screening namin sa GB3). Pwede naman pala. Kaya naman pala.

Ang talento ni Paolo Ballesteros sa pelikulang ito ay directly proportional sa kanyang kagandahan bilang Trisha Echevarria. Ang husay! Hindi rin nagpakabog si Christian Bables na napakagaling bilang si BFF Barbs. #FriendshipGoals talaga sila. Sana masungkit nila ang Lead at Supporting Actor trophies.

Nuod na mga bes!! 😊

 

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3. SEKLUSYON (Erik Matti, 2016) – ★★★★☆

Sobrang nanghihinayang ako sa pelikulang ito dahil mas maganda pa sana siya kung marunong lamang umarte ang apat na deacons lalo na si Ronnie Alonte.

Ang husay ng technical aspects mula sa production hanggang sound design. Mahirap makalimutan ang lahat ng religious imagery na ginamit dito. Mahusay din ang direksyon para sa isang kakaibang Pinoy horror movie.

Ito talaga ang perfect anti-Christmas movie ngayong taon. Hahamunin kang mag-isip tungkol sa katatagan ng iyong pananampalataya.

 

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4. ANG BABAE SA SEPTIC TANK 2: #FOREVERISNOTENOUGH (Marlon Rivera, 2016) – ★★★★☆

Para sa katulad kong napanood na ata lahat ng Pinoy rom-com at kabisado na ang Star Cinema formula, natawa ako sobra sa pagka-brutal ng pelikulang ito. Bugbog na bugbog ang mainstream filmmaking at escapism in cinema. Walang sinanto katulad ng ginawa nila sa indie filmmaking at poverty porn doon sa unang pelikula.

Awakening talaga ito ni Eugene Domingo. Amoy na amoy ko na naman ang deserving na panalo as Best Actress. Sa three levels of hugot pa lang niya, sulit na ang bayad.

Magaling din si Jericho Rosales bilang Jericho Rosales. May self-awareness ang pagka-plakado bilang rom-com leading man. Naalala ko tuloy si Jaclyn Jose dun sa film within a film ng Tuhog.

Medyo off lang yung abrupt shift in tone dahil sa love story ni Kean Cipriano (na isiningit to ground the film). Pero totoong hinika ako kakatawa hanggang sa pinakahuling sequence. Waging-wagi!!

 

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5. SAVING SALLY (Avid Liongoren, 2016) – ★★★☆☆

Gusto kong tumira sa makulay na mundo ni Marty kahit puno sya ng mga monsters dahil gusto ko makita ang Warner Barberos at Sandara Park. Naalala ko tuloy ang fantasy element ng Scott Pilgrim Vs The World dito.

Nakakakilig at bagay ang tambalang Enzo Marcos at Rhian Ramos. Sana lamang hindi sila Ingles magsalita kasi medyo off para sa akin. Ang hirap lubos na ma-feel ng story dahil sa coniotic speak (ironic ba?). Para lang akong napadaan ulit sa THE Ateneo conyo bench sa labas ng caf. Higad na lang ang kulang para makumpleto ang experience.

“You wanted mayhem, war, and chaos, but isn’t that what love is all about?” Tumpak!!

 

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6. ORO (Alvin Yapan, 2016) – ★★★☆☆

Nag-flashback sa akin ang mga naunang seasons ng American Horror Story sa mga tilted frames na parang see-saw sa pagpapalit-palit. Parang weighing scale na mahirap hanapan ng balanse.

Maganda ang mensahe ng pelikula bilang environmental drama. Malaman ang sinasabi at mabigat sa mga metaphors at symbolisms. May bonus pa na supernatural element (na hindi ko nagustuhan sa Ang Tulay ng San Sebastian pero pasok sa banga sa An Kubo Sa Kawayanan).

Palaban si Irma Adlawan (lagi naman eh). Tindig at upo pa lang naniniwala na akong siya talaga si Kapitana. Sana lang hindi reactionary ang halos lahat ng kanyang eksena kasi siya ang totoong ginto ng pelikula.

 

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7. VINCE & KATH & JAMES (Theodore Boborol, 2016) – ★★☆☆☆

Walang bago maliban sa mga artista. Pinagtagpi-tagping cliches na napanood na natin sa mga dating rom-coms. Hindi rin naman masyadong na-utilize ang textserye origins niya. Halos nakumpleto niya ang checklist ng Star Cinema formula na kinukutya sa Septic Tank 2. Sunset lang ang kulang.

May natural charm itong si Joshua Garcia. Magaling siya dun sa confrontation scene nila ni Ina Raymundo, parang early John Lloyd. Akala ko maiirita ako kay Julia Barretto dito kaya nagulat ako na maayos naman siya, parang early Ate Clau.

Kinilig ang mga teenagers na kasabay kong nanuod. Masyado na ata akong matanda para sa ganitong genre.

 

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8. KABISERA (Arturo San Agustin, Real Florido, 2016) – ★★☆☆☆

Maganda sana dahil napapanahon ang tema nito tungkol sa extrajudicial killings ngunit hindi maayos ang pagkakalahad ng kwento.

Parang binigyan ang bawat artista ng kanyang sariling dramatic highlight para magpakitang-gilas kaya lahat sila eh three notches higher ang akting. Maliban kay Nora Aunor, parang hindi na mabibigyan ng susunod na project ang supporting cast kaya bigay todo na sa pag-ngawa kahit hindi naman kelangan sa eksena.

Ang daming mga bagay na parang walang sense at pinahaba lamang para mapuno ang two hour requirement. Mas mabuti pa yata kung ginawa na lamang siyang episode ng MMK.

 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

1. PAOLO BALLESTEROS (Die Beautiful)

2. JOSHUA GARCIA (Vince & Kath & James)
3. JOEM BASCON (Oro)
4. ENZO MARCOS (Saving Sally)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

1. EUGENE DOMINGO (Ang Babae sa Septic Tank 2: #ForeverIsNotEnough)
2. IRMA ADLAWAN (Oro)
3. NORA AUNOR (Kabisera)
4. RHIAN RAMOS (Saving Sally)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

1. CHRISTIAN BABLES (Die Beautiful)

2. LOU VELOSO (Seklusyon)
3. JERICHO ROSALES (Ang Babae sa Septic Tank 2: #ForeverIsNotEnough)
4. NEIL RYAN SESE (Seklusyon)
5. LOU VELOSO (Die Beautiful)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

1. RHED BUSTAMANTE (Seklusyon)
2. PHOEBE WALKER (Seklusyon)
3. MERCEDES CABRAL (Oro)
4. MIMI JUAREZA (Die Beautiful)
5. GLADYS REYES (Die Beautiful)
6. SUE PRADO (Oro)
7. CAI CORTEZ (Ang Babae sa Septic Tank 2: #ForeverIsNotEnough)

Until next year!!