BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE) (Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance):

1. I had always associated Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu with the intersecting stories narrative where major characters in his films had their lives connected and intertwined (FYI, I really loved Amores Perros, Babel, and 21 Grams). It was one big gimmick that worked for me. I wasn’t surprised that his newest film relied on another gimmick (“one long continuous take”) to drive the story.

2. Off the bat, people would either love this or find it completely boring. There were so many insider jokes on cinema and theater and the arts that might just go over their heads. As one character stated, “Audiences love action, not this talking philosophical bullshit.”

3. Michael Keaton looked like Robert Duvall whenever he wasn’t wearing a wig. He was excellent here by the way. The mere fact that he agreed to make fun of his current status (washed up actor who used to be Batman!) was just brave. If Al Pacino could win for all the scenery-chewing in Scent of a Woman, why couldn’t Keaton? I wouldn’t be complaining if he got that Best Actor Oscar.

4. “You confuse love for admiration.” Raise your hand if you were guilty of this.

5. Edward Norton had a lot of nudity here (or scenes that showed him in his underwear or sported a boner). For a more lengthy peek on his gift, you could watch the brilliant American History X. I loved the Norton the Method Actor playing a Norton-ish Method Actor joke.

6. I was initially bothered by the drumming soundtrack. I was expecting Miles Teller to show up practicing in one corner. And then the movie revealed an actual drummer and later on a band in Times Square. I guess the joke was on me.

7. Naomi Watts’ character had this great repartee with Andrea Riseborough’s:

“Why don’t I have any self-respect?”

“You’re an actress, honey!”

8. Speaking of Watts, she was really good in this movie. I was surprised her performance was virtually overlooked against co-star Emma Stone. Everyone knew how much I loved Stone (I even named my car after her) but she was just fine here.

9. Speaking of, there was a blatant Lancome product placement that was here either as a real product placement or as a joke on product placements in movies (or both). With this kind of dark comedy, it was just hard to tell.

10. Similar to Annie, they showed a viral video that was taken from different angles. Probably the only sloppy thing in this film.

11. Did the film miss an Oscar nomination for Best Editing since it really looked like one continuous take? Shouldn’t it have gotten one for making it look like it was one brilliant, seamless take?

12. When Keaton’s character complained about getting overshadowed by Clooney, it was just a wink on the battle of the Batmans. I’d be happy to see a fourth Batman win an Oscar tbh.

13. I hope Wenn Deramas could watch this just for that wonderful takedown on film criticism. I bet he’d have a major meltdown.

14. “A thing is a thing, not what is said of the thing.” This was a sad, sad film. Watch at your own risk.

Rating: ★★★★☆

(Originally published February 1, 2015.)

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THE PRENUP (Jun Lana, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The PreNup:

1. If there was one word to describe this movie, it would have to be shrill. Most of the characters delivered their lines a pitch higher than their normal speaking voice. Even the situations felt heightened to an absurd degree that was neither funny funny nor weirdly funny. I was surprised this wasn’t directed by Wenn Deramas.

2. Jennylyn Mercado was a delight to watch in English Only, Please. She was fine here as well but there just wasn’t enough good material for her to work on. With this and the upcoming Walang Forever, I hope that she wouldn’t get typecast in the usual kooky jologs role that really puts the manic in Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Oh, I liked that her character kept talking to herself. She was like a walking Facebook status update. I could definitely relate in all that craziness.

3. Why can’t there be more diversity of gay characters in Pinoy comedies? Do we really have to see the same stereotypical shrieking gay dressed in rainbow-colored outfits? Gardo Versoza (playing one of Jennylyn’s adoptive fathers) sounded like he recently got castrated. Besides, I don’t know any self-respecting gay that would wear a multi-colored, polka-dotted dress shirt unless they have a “Multi-Colored, Polka-Dotted Dress Shirt Theme Day” in the office. In another scene, he was wearing a fitted purple shirt, leopard scarf, and puruntong shorts. Why dear, why?

4. Speaking of adoptive fathers, the other half was played by Dominic Ochoa who was probably just a decade older than Jennylyn. How was that even possible? One of the adopted sisters was played by the delightful Melai Cantiveros and she had a Bisaya accent that was never explained as well.

5. To be honest, Melai completely stole the movie with her outrageous characterization and wicked slapstick comedy. Nothing made sense but her croaking frog scene made me laugh so hard that I actually decided to raise the movie’s rating a star higher.

6. One scene (shown in the trailer) had Jennylyn and Sam Milby engaged in a loud banter that never bothered the other passengers. If I bought an expensive ticket to fly first class and I ended up behind these two loudmouths and their endless bickering, bodies would have flown out the plane.

7. Awkward closet gay joke. Really awkward.

8. Jun Lana is an incredibly talented filmmaker and he directed the beautiful film Bwakaw. I was surprised with all of the continuity errors and technical issues in this movie. In one scene, Jennylyn was writing down everything that she was hearing but the shot prior to that showed the exact same line that she would eventually hear. Was she psychic? Yet in another, she opened her bedroom door saying “Katok ka kasi ng katok” even if Sam was just calling out her name. And how in the world did she end up in a room overlooking the Fort Strip when the previous scene showed her in the MOA grounds? A psychic and a teleporter. Wow!

9. In case you’re curious, Sam did well in his topless shots.

10. The actual prenup wasn’t brought up until midway through the movie when it transformed into a langit vs. lupa clash of clans that was purely offensive and tragically unfunny. Besides, Jennylyn’s house was bigger than our entire street, how could her family even be mistaken as poor? And don’t even bother asking about the ending. Like we’d expect anything else. Yes, everyone had an instant change of heart in the end and they lived happily ever after. Confetti! Confetti! Wooooh!!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published October 15, 2015.)

THE SUPER PARENTAL GUARDIANS (Joyce Bernal, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Super Parental Guardians:

1. When it was first announced that Joyce Bernal would be taking over the reins of the late Wenn Deramas in the newest Vice Ganda MMFF entry, I felt excited and hopeful that the new combo would bring something new and fresh to the Pinoy comedy genre. Sadly, this movie basically recycled every single joke and gag that worked in previous Deramas-Ganda collaborations slash blockbusters (beating a dead horse? wink, wink).

It actually felt like Vice commandeered the entire thing (he even received an “Additional Scenes and Dialogue” credit), not wanting to change anything that he perceived wasn’t broken (or in his own words, “quality”). The result was a disappointing rehash, no different from eating last night’s cold leftover pizza.

2. Sample checklist for reference:

• Outrageous outfits – In one scene, he wore a rejected ribbon dress from the Lady Gaga collection that would obviously be unwound in a succeeding scene (because seeing Vice in a black leotard was supposedly funny). Oh, and the punchline was that he was advised to dress for the occasion and the said event was a ribbon-cutting. (Wenk, wenk.)

In another, he attended a funeral wearing a costume with a matching headdress that made me want to do the Shigi Shigi dance from Shaider.

• Word(name)plays – Remember the restaurant scene in Beauty and the Bestie where they joked about looking like Bea Bunda and Liza Lorena? Here, they had a Kath Tonying Taberna, Liza de Lima, Nadine Munyoka, and Arci Taulava. How about the “Ang bata na-bonjour” joke in Praybeyt Benjamin? This time it was “Ang bata nalaglag” in a terribly unfunny “miscarriage” gag.

• Sidekick slapping and insults – Now he had Kiray to slap as well. And of course there were several pockmarked face jokes.

• Game of the year – Ooh, Vice wearing an Ash costume while collecting pokeballs from a spinning pokestop. How current! Except that Pokemon Go mania died a couple of months ago.

• Duet – The Hold On sing-off was a highlight in BatB so they obviously needed to do it again here (this time with Coco Martin singing his heart out to “Kung wala ka nang maintindihaaaaan…”, one of the possibly three times that I actually laughed throughout the entire movie).

• Pinoy films homage – This was a staple in Deramas movies because you could feel his obvious love for them. Here, they just needed to include a bit from Minsan Lang Kita Iibigin because, well, just because.

3. Why wasn’t this called Ang Probinsyano the Movie? It really wasn’t any different from the series (down to the repetitive Wag Ka Nang Umiyak gag), except that Coco looked like a deranged Harley Quinn who was late for the Valkyrie Halloween party.

Also, what were all of those mini-explosions in the slums fight sequence? If this were New Year’s Eve, the best term to describe them would be “supot”.

4. I found it really weird that a strong proponent of LGBTQ rights would subject his character to the stereotypical perception of gays to generate laughs. One with him quivering in seeing topless construction workers, or him acting like a sexual predator to a drunk straight man (sinukahan na, kinilig pa rin), or him giving all of his cash to a tormentor simply because he looked good.

In a year when other films (The Third Party, Bakit Lahat ng Gwapo May Boyfriend?, Working Beks) tried to change how gay characters were portrayed in Philippine cinema, this one seemed to be contented with them being the laughing stock of society.

5. Onyok Pineda wasn’t as funny here compared to his stint in Ang Probinsyano where his genuine reactions to a closeted friend were comedy gold. He did have one cute scene that worked (“Kuya pangkain lang po. Ganern!”), but he was clearly overshadowed by Awra Briguela.

I wish they gave Awra more to do than the endless showdowns with Vice. His funniest moments to me were when he wasn’t even trying (just him sharply enunciating “freshly picked tomatoes” had me giggling in my seat). I also couldn’t stand all the physical abuse that he received from Vice (that sabunot scene would have been funny in the ’90s before the launch of Bantay Bata).

6. As expected, there were mini-commercials for Gluta-C, King Cup sardines, and even (gasp!) Pigrolac?!

7. Matet de Leon’s character here was addicted to balut, which shouldn’t come as a surprise because her sister in real-life is Balot. (If you got that reference, then you’re way too old.)

8. Although most of the corny jokes failed (that low batt modelling sequence, the used hanky scene, the Ilonggo-maskara bit, the Train to “Boosan” gag, the Baron vs Matos fight), there was one that really made me laugh. It involved Vice getting thrown in all directions for a Family Day dance number and his resulting expressions were just too funny. We needed more of these and less of the out-of-the-blue Leila de Lima impersonations.

9. “Bakit di nila tayo isinama sa filmfest? Itong mga batang ito ata ang malas!” Nope, definitely not their fault.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

BEAUTY AND THE BESTIE (Wenn Deramas, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Beauty and the Bestie:

1. Ever since Petrang Kabayo became a huge hit (and after close to a dozen collaborations), you already knew what to expect from a Vice Ganda-Wenn Deramas movie. It was the same old formula recycled to death (insult one-liners, Pinoy pop culture parodies, endless sight gags, lowbrow slapstick, etc.) and your enjoyment depended on how you embraced this kind of humor.

BATB was still trashy to a fault but at least it was really funny. (Deramas had been vocal about the goal of his movies and he actually succeeded on this one.)

2. That awful anti-piracy ad with Derek Ramsay was ripe for a parody and the movie really got it right (eskinita chase, Kristoffer King, tomatoes and all). Maybe we should have replaced that one with this so that everyone could have a great laugh before each screening. Runner-up for best parody: the Ate waitress Happy Birthday dance.

3. Sample brand of humor:

Vice and his stand on riding in tandem…

“Paano gaganda ang buhay mo sa pagsakay sa motorsiklo na yan? Bumbay ka ba?”

Vice on the importance of skincare…

“Bakit di yang mga pores mo ang isara mo dahil bukas na bukas?”

Coco Martin displaying his English proficiency…

“Alam mo kung bakit di kita pinapansin? Kasi di kita maintindihan Ingles ka ng Ingles.”

4. Speaking of Coco, I was happy to see that he has improved a lot as a comedian. His best moments were those where he wasn’t even trying (twerking like a hot mess, taking advantage of his lisp by saying things like Elith Thupher Thecreth Thask Force, or making a fist by instinct when Vice tried to kiss him). Maybe it was time for him to rest from all the heavy drama and explore his rom-com leading man potential instead.

5. Not all of the jokes worked but those that did were just hilarious. Inasmuch as I really enjoyed that Hold On car sequence, I probably laughed the loudest in that whole Japanese restaurant fishpond scene.

I mean seriously, what was the most embarrassing thing you had done in an upscale resto? Had you ever chewed on the compressed table napkin? Mistook the bowl of water for hand washing as soup? Spill!

6. The JaDine romance (similar to AlDub’s in My Bebe Love) was completely disposable. Although Nadine Lustre was really game, the tandem’s love story was obviously just included to pull in the teen audience (and the love team’s ginormous fan base). All was forgiven though because James Reid bared his abs.

7. Further proof that Jacky Woo was the only available actor that can play Japanese characters in local cinema.

8. If you were keeping track of Deramas’ fascination with videogames, here was a rundown:

Praybeyt Benjamin 1 – Angry Birds
Praybeyt Benjamin 2 – Plants vs. Zombies and Dota
Beauty and the Bestie – Fruit Ninja

What else did I miss?

9. I felt bad that Miss International 2013 Bea Rose Santiago had to fart during the beauty pageant. Definitely not something fit for a queen. And speaking of queens, Vice Ganda’s got legs for days, no?

10. In one scene, I watched in horror as Nadine paraded onscreen wearing a horrible off-shoulder yellow blouse and pleated grey skirt combo. In a hospital. The fact that Vice made a brutal joke about it made me love him even more. Grabe sya oh!!

Rating: ★★★☆☆