THE LOOKOUT (Afi Africa, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Lookout:

1. It must be true that one couldn’t really appreciate good films without experiencing the bad. In effect, Cinemalaya also wouldn’t be complete and considered an annual triumph if not for misguided, execrable fare like Amor Y Muerte, Asintado, The Diplomat Hotel, or last year’s infamous Ang Guro Kong ‘Di Marunong Magbasa.

Keeping up with tradition, this year’s festival delivered another knockout clunker so inane (insane?) that it should be deemed a cult classic twenty years from now. It had the makings of the worst (read: best, but actually worst) kind of Elwood Perez film that I even wondered if the name Afi Africa was just a pseudoynm of the said director (fact check: no, completely different person).

A gay hired killer out to seek revenge on his childhood abusers? Compelling stuff. The terrible execution though made this one a hilariously campy “film mwah” (I missed you, Belinda Bright!).

2. The opening scene alone that revealed the highlights of the movie was a sure sign of impending doom, er… I meant the tremendous enjoyment that this one would bring. It reminded me of the flash cuts used in my favorite TV series that I actually expected to the hear the words “Previously on Scandal…” as soon as it started.

3. Why was this movie rated PG when the first fifteen minutes alone featured a graphic anal sex scene? It also included oral sex, a threesome in a tub, a lengthy rape scene, gratuitous nudity, and excessive violence and profanity. How did this elude the prudes of MTRCB?

I wouldn’t be complaining if I wasn’t seated two rows behind a boy (barely ten) who had to hear the line “Tangina nakikipagkangkangan ako!”. Somebody should be made accountable for this. (FYI, I watched this again on a different day and it still had the same rating. I asked the cinema personnel and they said they couldn’t do anything to restrict younger viewers.)

4. I made the right decision of staying away from the good seats (crowd) because I just couldn’t control my laughter in several odd moments. In one scene, George/Timothy/Lester (Andres Vasquez, a budget Wendell Ramos) started his voiceover with “Ito ang The Kingdom…” referring to a high-end, exclusive membership club where rich patrons could buy any of the topless boys in a swimming pool (Did they stay there all day waiting for customers? Imagine the pruning and shrinkage!). He was offered a drink (“Zhenk yhu zho match!”) and then proceeded to select (“Dat guy ober der”) Travis (Jay Garcia, as a human goat), who actually had a slo-mo shot of him coming out of the water like he was shooting one of those Instagram Vitamin Sea pictures. G/T/L then stretched his arms wide open while slowly saying “Welcahhhm to mayhhhh layhhhf!” and at that point I was already crying because my appendix shot out of my ass.

In another, a group of government operatives were discussing the crime scene and Grace/Monica (Elle Ramirez) went through an entire litany of bullet trajectories and how the killer made an elaborate setup to mislead the investigators. Their leader (Efren Reyes, Jr.) then asked “So may identity na kayo ng assailant?” to which a constipated-looking G/M replied, “Unfortunately sir, no.” Bwahahahaha! If only this was a satire on the current state of our nation.

Also, don’t even get me started on that “Tao o ibon? *flipped coin* Kiss mo ako sa leeg” scene. My nebulizer’s not ready.

5. I hadn’t even touched on these words of wisdom that I had difficulty transcribing because I was just cracking up really hard. Some examples:

• On the power of words: 

“Ang ‘I LOVE YOU’ ay mula sa puso. Ang ‘MAHAL KITA’ ay mula sa puso tagos hanggang kaluluwa.” 

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!

(Don’t get me wrong. This actually made a lot of sense given that words in the vernacular would have more impact, but you really needed to hear the clunky delivery to understand why people spontaneously laughed during this scene.)

• On the sanctity of body parts:

“Ang labi ko ay para lamang sa babaeng mamahalin ko at ang pwet ko ay bilang respeto sa pagkatao ko at pagkalalaki ko.”

• On mutualism in relationships:

“Sa tingin mo gusto ko na chupain kita at kantutin mo ako?”

• On Melanie Marquez as a literary genius:

“Ang tao ay parang libro. Hindi mo napipili ng dahil lang sa cover kundi dahil sa laman nito.”

• On love computations:

“Alam mo ba ang ibig sabihin ng mahalaga? Mahal + alaga.”

6. To be fair, I really liked the dingy setting of G/T/L’s apartment with his room overlooking the LRT.

Yayo Aguila (as the abused mother) also had some fine moments whenever she wasn’t required to overact like crazy.

7. Even after watching this twice, these were some of my burning questions:

• Why did Rez Cortez’s abusive character have to be raped by two twinks? Would it really have served as a punishment for him considering that he was a child molester?

• Where could we buy those voice changers used here as an app in a Nokia phone? (“Sino ka?” “Isang kaibigan. O pwede ring kaaway.” HAHAHAHAHA!)

• If the movie wanted a big reveal regarding the identities of the siblings, why did they have to own matching little black booklets?

• Was the excessive fascination with removing/putting on underwear done by several characters a symbolism for something? Did G/T/L really have to take a shower wearing black briefs? I thought he had no “quangs showing his body”?

• What were the tilted shots for? Was this an homage to American Horror Story?

• What was the purpose of G/T/L saving that crying young girl? Was it to show that a ruthless killer like him had a soft spot, too? But whatever happened to that girl after the said scene?

8. Overheard after the screening: “Ang tulis ni Travis natuhog ang magkapatid!” HAHAHAHAHA!

9. That ending!! I couldn’t wait for part 2 to learn more about Jeffrey Santos’ character who showed up at the very last minute just to dramatically unzip his hoodie and give a sinister look, like he was in possession of the diary that contained the deepest, darkest secrets of Mara Clara.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

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JUST THE WAY YOU ARE (Theodore Boborol, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Just The Way You Are:

1. Why does Star Cinema keep using the same font for their opening credits in almost all of their movies?

2. The movie began with Enrique Gil in full policeman uniform invading a teen party and stripping down to his bare bottom (boxers actually, but admit it you instantly decided to watch). Not complaining on that Magic Mike XXL primer at all.

3. So Enrique’s character loves to wear leather jackets in this kind of weather because I guess baskil is cool.

4. The first of the annoying blatant product placements (ABS-CBN Mobile) appeared in the first 15 minutes. The Generics Pharmacy, Alpine Sterilized Milk, and EO Optical followed every twenty minutes or so. These in-your-face commercials need to stop. (I loved the cameo of Ate Vi, though.)

5. I therefore conclude that an uglified Liza Soberano with thick eyebrows and braces still looks much better than 90% of our population during our best days.

6. If the movie had a makeover scene, it would have only lasted five seconds. Liza just needed a good tweezer to look like a goddess. Ang ganda ganda ganda ganda ganda niya. #kainggit

7. Yayo Aguila was really funny as the doting mom that still smelled the armpits of her teenage son. Who else could relate?

On the other hand, Sunshine Cruz was still looking gorgeous as ever. Really classy, too.

8. Enrique was obviously wearing shorts in the shower scene. It was a clunky setup with Liza entering and screaming. The exact same sequence was done much better in Bride for Rent.

9. The Case of the Disappearing Black Eye.

10. What is with this growing trend of “shout your feelings” scenes as catharsis in recent films? Enough please. Why can’t people just break stuff just like I do? Or just tweet them or post as a Facebook status.

11. Even with her twang (that sounded awkward during her Filipino lines), Liza actually proved that she’s a good actress. We can’t expect her to play the same Am-girl over and over, though so she needs to neutralize that accent. I can’t wait to see her in more serious roles.

12. “Sana hindi na lang tayo nagmamahal, no? Siguro hindi na rin tayo nasasaktan.” #hugot

13. Enrique is undeniably gwapo but he seriously needs a haircut. And get rid of the cheap highlights, please!!

14. Please Lord, sana hindi malason si Enrique ng milk tea!

15. Kinikilig ako! Juskopo! I’m too old for this!!

16. LizQuen is a winning combo. They’re both charming and they look really good together. Bagay sobra. I just wish they had better material. Chemistry can only do so much to save a movie.

17. “When you love, you always win. Kahit masaktan ka, may makukuha ka pa rin. Love will always leave you with a stronger heart.” #arayqbeh

18. Same old ending. I wish this love team will be given better projects in the future because it deserves much, much better than this derivative drivel.

19. I really love this no kissing clause. The constant teasing just makes it more kilig. Yun ang wala sa JaDine movies kasi laplapan sila nang laplapan lagi.

20. Why bother with a She’s All That remake when this was originally done in the Dingdong Dantes-Antoinette Taus cult classic, Kiss Mo Ko?

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published June 18, 2015.)

The Best of Pinoy Cinema 2017

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TOP 9 FEATURE LENGTH FILMS:

#9

LOVE YOU TO THE STARS AND BACK

Written and directed by: Antoinette Jadaone

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#8

HAUNTED: A LAST VISIT TO THE RED HOUSE

Written and directed by: Phyllis Grande

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#7

ALL OF YOU

Written by: Carl Chavez, Mae Chua, and Dan Villegas
Directed by: Dan Villegas

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#6

ANG LARAWAN

Written by: Rolando Tinio
Directed by: Loy Arcenas

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#5

BLISS

Written and directed by: Jerrold Tarog

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#4

PAKI

Written and directed by: Giancarlo Abrahan

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#3

RESPETO

Written by: Njel de Mesa and Treb Monteras II
Directed by: Treb Monteras II

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#2

CHANGING PARTNERS

Written by: Lilit Reyes and Vincent de Jesus
Directed by: Dan Villegas

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#1

KIKO BOKSINGERO

Written by: Denise O’Hara, Ash Malanum, Heber O’Hara, Emmanuel Espejo, Jr.
Directed by: Thop Nazareno

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2017 Scorecard:

★★★★★
CHANGING PARTNERS (Dan Villegas)
KIKO BOKSINGERO (Thop Nazareno)

★★★★☆
ALL OF YOU (Dan Villegas)
BLISS (Jerrold Tarog)
HAUNTED: A LAST VISIT TO THE RED HOUSE (Phyllis Grande)
ANG LARAWAN (Loy Arcenas)
LOVE YOU TO THE STARS AND BACK (Antoinette Jadaone)
PAKI (Giancarlo Abrahan)
RESPETO (Alberto Monteras II)
SORRY FOR THE INCONVENIENCE (Carl Adrian Chavez)

★★★☆☆
100 TULA PARA KAY STELLA (Jason Paul Laxamana)
BAGAHE (Zig Dulay)
CAN WE STILL BE FRIENDS? (Prime Cruz)
DEADMA WALKING (Julius Alfonso)
FATIMA MARIE TORRES AND THE INVASION OF SPACE SHUTTLE PINAS 25 (Carlo Francisco Manatad)
HILOM (P.R. Patindol)
I’M DRUNK, I LOVE YOU. (JP Habac)
KITA KITA (Sigrid Andrea Bernardo)
KRISTO (HF Yambao)
LOLA LOLENG (Che Tagyamon)
MARIA (JP Habac)
NABUBULOK (Sonny Calvento)
SEVEN SUNDAYS (Cathy Garcia-Molina)
SI CHEDENG AT SI APPLE (Fatrick Tabada, Rae Red)
TU PUG IMATUY (Arbi Barbarona)
UNEXPECTEDLY YOURS (Cathy Garcia-Molina)

★★☆☆☆
12 (Dondon Santos)
ALIENS ATA (Glenn Barit)
BACONAUA (Joseph Israel Laban)
BAWOD (TM Malones)
BHOY INTSIK (Joel Lamangan)
CAN’T HELP FALLING IN LOVE (Mae Cruz-Alviar)
DEAR OTHER SELF (Veronica Velasco)
THE DEBUTANTES (Prime Cruz)
FALLBACK (Jason Paul Laxamana)
FINALLY FOUND SOMEONE (Theodore Boborol)
THE GHOST BRIDE (Chito Roño)
ILAWOD (Dan Villegas)
ISLABODAN (Juan Carlo Tarobal)
JUANA AND THE SACRED SHORES (Antonne Santiago)
LAST NIGHT (Joyce Bernal)
LOVING IN TANDEM (Giselle Andres)
MANONG NG PA-ALING (E. del Mundo)
MY EX AND WHYS (Cathy Garcia-Molina)
NAKAW (Arvin Belarmino, Noel Escondo)
NAY (Kip Oebanda)
NERVOUS TRANSLATION (Shireen Seno)
NORTHERN LIGHTS: A JOURNEY TO LOVE (Dondon Santos)
ANG PAMILYANG HINDI LUMULUHA (Mes de Guzman)
ANG PAGSANIB KAY LEAH DELA CRUZ (Katski Flores)
SA GABING NANAHIMIK ANG MGA KULIGLIG (Iar Lionel Arondaing)
SIARGAO (Paul Soriano)
SMALLER AND SMALLER CIRCLES (Raya Martin)
THROWBACK TODAY (Joseph Teoxon)

★☆☆☆☆
ACROSS THE CRESCENT MOON (Baby Nebrida)
AWOL (Enzo Williams)
BAR BOYS (Kip Oebanda)
BARBI D’ WONDER BEKI (Tony Reyes)
BES AND THE BESHIES (Joel Lamangan)
BEYOND THE BLOCK (Ricky Carranza)
BLOODY CRAYONS (Topel Lee)
BUNDOK BANAHAW, SACRED AND PROFANE (Dempster Samarista)
FANGIRL/FANBOY (Barry Gonzalez)
FOOLISH LOVE (Joel Lamangan)
ANG GURO KONG ‘DI MARUNONG MAGBASA (Perry Escaño)
HISTORIOGRAPHIKA ERRATA (Richard Somes)
I FOUND MY HEART IN SANTA FE (Bona Fajardo)
LADYFISH (Jason Orfalas)
MANG KEPWENG RETURNS (G.B. Sampedro)
NAKAUWI NA (Marvin Cabangunay, Jaynus Olaivar)
PWERA USOG (Jason Paul Laxamana)
REQUITED (Nerissa Picadizo)
SPIRIT OF THE GLASS 2: THE HAUNTED (Jose Javier Reyes)
THIS TIME I’LL BE SWEETER (Joel Lamangan)
TRIP UBUSAN: THE LOLAS VS ZOMBIES (Mark Reyes)
TRIPTIKO (Miguel Franco Michelena)
WOKE UP LIKE THIS (Joel Ferrer)

 

FANGIRL/FANBOY (Barry Gonzalez, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Fangirl/Fanboy:

1. In one scene, a supposedly talented dubber Aimee (Ella Cruz) was not allowed to enter the studio because she forgot her company ID. To prove that she actually worked there (as a “Dubberkads”, wenk wenk), she mimicked the voices of her famous characters such as Shan Cai of Meteor Garden and Princess Sarah of Patatas Kingdom. The problem though was that she didn’t sound anywhere close to them and it was very much like Ella Cruz doing terrible impersonations that would make Miss Minchin furious.

Even worse, when she dubbed the lines for her Korean robot character Sandy/Android 5000 (Yam Concepcion), it seemed that they used another person’s voice in lieu of Ella’s. So we had a Koreanovela character dubbed by a dubber character who was also dubbed by another real person? Confused yet? Was this supposed to be the Inception of dubbing?

2. Even with a half-decent story, it was just hard to buy the romance between Aimee and Ollie (Julian Trono) because the leads had zero chemistry. There were instances when it felt like I was watching siblings flirt with each other and it just made me squirm in my seat.

Maybe it was because Ella still looked like a kid (Aryana feels!) so it was weird seeing her sexualized by wearing a French maid costume (why did she even own one in the first place?). It was like a scene straight out of Toddlers and Tiaras.

There was also something off with Julian and his slo-mo pa-cute scenes that reminded me of Michael Jackson in Moonwalker.

When the two were having fun running around a fountain (drone shots galore!), it was the same kind of happiness I saw between Jocelyn and Jervy in Mga Batang Yagit. Now where was Xian Gaza when you actually needed him?

3. Aimee’s mom (a sublime Yayo Aguila): “Anong nangyayari sa’yo?”

Aimee (kinikilig): “Ay, wala po. May ipis kasi.”

Aimee’s mom: “Ipis?! Nasaan?!”

Aimee: “Ay, ayun po. Lumipad palabas. Feeling butterfly eh.”

Wenk, wenk, wenk.

4. Given their huge height difference, how did Aimee end up kissing Ollie on the lips when she got hit by that fire exit door? Napatalon ang mga labi sa takot? Para-paraan? Hokage moves? (Yung totoo. Sa Adam’s apple ni Ollie sya dapat nasalubsob.)

5. I felt bad that Aimee was given a gay bff (trope) that proved useless to her. When they were having a discussion regarding that unfortunate (?) kiss, she asked his advice if it actually meant something and his response was, “Wala nang panget ngayon. Marami na lang tamad mag-ayos.” Huh?! Whatever happened to a gay character being the voice of reason in rom-coms? You were supposed to be her friend, not her pimp. Bakla ka ng taon!

6. I liked how the movie touched on the Koreanovela craze and the local industry’s expectations on love teams. I wish they could have done more than just provide basic observations. Also, why were they already shooting a local remake of that Program to Love show when the original was still being shown?

7. I wouldn’t want to work in that studio that seemed to receive bomb threats every week. Hindi sapat ang HMO para sa stress at near-death stampede experience.

8. As always, Shy Carlos (as bitchy diva Cheska) was the highlight of the movie. Along with her entourage (personal assistant Donnalyn Bartolome and twin set of alalays), she effectively wreaked havoc over everything that stood in her path (literally and figuratively). I laughed so hard when she delivered the line, “Aminin mo nga sa kin. Girlfriend mo ba ‘tong jej fangirl na ‘to?” Seriously, we need her in all Viva movies.

9. Librarian to Aimee after the latter misplaced a History book: “Kelan pa naging fiction ang History?”

Aimee: “Kapag ‘di mo na alam ang guni guni sa katotohanan.”

Ehrm. I was more troubled that Aimee ruined the Dewey Decimal System.

10. So Aimee suffered a mild heart attack after Ollie acted all Judas Iscariot and denied (three times?) that she was his girlfriend. But then Ollie retaliated against Cheska and blamed her for everything. His final, profound words: “Not everyone revolves around you and your heng-eps.” Huehuehuehue!!

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

KIKO BOKSINGERO (Thop Nazareno, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Kiko Boksingero:

1. In the same way that men would never understand the pains of menstrual cramps or childbirth, I think women wouldn’t also fully realize the physical and psychological effects of circumcision. The humiliation of being called supot, the mixed fear and anticipation of that chosen summer, the embarrassment in asking your father to accompany you to the nearest hospital, the excruciating agony of walking around in XXXL basketball shorts, and the horror of letting your mother (mine’s a nurse huhu!) tend to your wounded member (in full kamatis mode) would always be an essential and memorable part of a young Pinoy boy’s rite of passage.

2. In one touching scene, Kiko (the endearing Noel Comia, Jr.) was explaining to his estranged dad George (a terrific Yul Servo) that all the other boys in his school got circumcised the previous summer and that he missed it because he didn’t have a father to go with him. It was such a simple moment, but heartbreaking enough to make me text a single mom friend about how sad it made me feel and that I would be willing to be a proxy circumcision father for her son as needed.

The scene ended on a light note with George joking about the high medical fee (“Sana pala sa albularyo na kita dinala. Ako nga pukpok lang. Kita mo ang laki na!”) and it just made everything feel really genuine.

3. It was this kind of authenticity that made this perfectly-told coming-of-age film really special. It could have easily gone the typical Pinoy melodrama route, but it decided to keep things very straightforward. There were no big moments, no acting highlights, no twists, no spoonfeeding of explanations, no unnecessary frills, no pretensions and yet it kept me thinking and made me burst with emotions (yes, I sobbed like crazy) as soon as the end credits rolled.

4. I really loved the movie’s take on a modern family. We were basically just watching Kiko and Yaya Diday (Yayo Aguila) do the most ordinary things (the scene where she applied baby powder on his neck and placed a bimpo on his back took me back to my grade school days).

I smiled every time she lovingly corrected him on his lack of manners (“Para kang sira”, “Para kang sira PO”) and laughed every time she would complain that she should have picked him up from school, but never really bothered to do so.

Yayo (in a career-best performance) fully captured the essence of her character and it would make everyone wish that they had a Yaya Diday to comfort them during times of trouble and force them to eat their veggies every meal time.

5. In one emotional scene, a heartbroken Kiko (abandoned yet again) and Yaya Diday hugged each other while we were treated to a majestic view of the Baguio landscape at night. Definitely one of the best moments in Pinoy cinema this year.

6. Originally titled Pacboy and supposedly about a kid’s quest to look for his father Manny Pacquaio, I was actually happy with all of the creative changes (I heard that the legendary boxer didn’t approve of the story). Since the updated plot just had him as Kiko’s favorite boxer, it further highlighted the difference between his hero worship vs idol worship. This was even more obvious when George asked Kiko if he wanted to be the next Pacquaio and his smart retort was, “Ayoko maging senador”. Now that was a knockout line.

Rating: ★★★★★