THE DAY AFTER VALENTINE’S (Jason Paul Laxamana, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

I can come up with ten things that I didn’t like about this movie, but I’m sure you’ll still watch this Hawaii travelogue narrated by damaged souls because of Bela Padilla and JC Santos (both much better in 100 Tula Para Kay Stella).

If I learned anything from Bela’s bangs, it was that I did the right thing in not trusting those DIY haircut tutorials on YouTube.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published August 16, 2018.)

RESUREKSYON (Alfonso Torre III, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Resureksyon:

1. The movie began with a chilling premise: that of a coffin being transported back to the country with the cause of death of the woman inside unknown and the words “BURN IMMEDIATELY” written on the boards. The story of a woman returning from the city carrying with her a mystery wasn’t a new concept (I kept thinking of Richard Somes’ Yanggaw) but it was still an interesting one.

2. Even with a strong 10-minute opening that set up everything we needed to know (flashbacks showing the reason why she left, stories showing the bond between the orphaned sisters, etc.), the remaining hour of the film was just too awful to watch. (A huge disappointment given that this was from the same director of Kabisera, one of my favorite movies of 2013).

3. The biggest problem started when the said woman (played by Isabelle Daza, the loveliest corpse since Dawn Zulueta in Patayin Sa Sindak Si Barbara) rose from the dead making all the neighbors and friends run out screaming and then…nothing. No furor about this miracle, no news crew or paparazzi hearing about this supernatural event, no YouTube videos of this modern day Lazarus, no invite to be the next Pastillas Girl of It’s Showtime, nothing. Like rising from the dead was such a common occurrence. Really? Even the family members didn’t question her on what happened as if their Ate/Nanay just woke up from a coma. Really??!

4. The backdrop reminded me so much of Dementia. I swear some locations looked exactly like Batanes. Such a lovely place for a horror hot spot.

5. And speaking of Dementia, this one took the easy route as well and had the typical cheap scares and loud sounds that would make your grandmother pee in her diaper. Another scene of a cat jumping out from the bushes? Groan.

6. Look, an extremely fake moon!!

7. There was a deliberately annoying Mayor’s wife and I kept wishing that she would be the first to get killed. Question: does a supposed alta really sit in the front of the car next to her driver? Anyway, my wish came true but then she returned as a vampire. Sigh.

8. Do vampires teleport? How did she get inside the locked car?

9. I pity Paulo Avelino. He was in full serious acting mode when the movie was nowhere near the level of his talent. At least he satisfied the eye candy part and made the rest of the time partly bearable.

10. In one scene, there was a white light in the corner of the living room that was turned on even if it was set during the day. Please tell me that wasn’t a technical issue.

11. The vampires in this movie had smoky eyes and smudged eyeliner. That should be an easy Halloween costume.

12. One character wanted to know how to kill an aswang so he…looked it up in Wikipedia! I’m serious.

13. Some lines didn’t even make any sense.

“San galing ang kapatid mo?”
“Nagtrabaho sya sa embahada ng Serbia.”
“Sa Central Europe, tama ba?”

Did we really need that Geography lesson? And the point was?

14. Here’s another one.

“Parating na ang mga aswang!”
“Saan?”
“Sa ospital!”

And then the next scene showed the aswangs/vampires attacking the hospital (virtually deserted except for our bidas of course). Hahaha!

15. One scene had a fake YouTube video playing with the timer on the bottom right of the screen not moving. Hay.

Never mind.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published September 26, 2015.)

THE GREATEST SHOWMAN (Michael Gracey, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Greatest Showman:

1. It had been over a year already and I still couldn’t forget the fabulous opening sequence of La La Land. Another Day of Sun fully encapsulated the reason why I really love musicals. I’d always imagine myself stuck along EDSA during Friday night rush hour traffic and I would get out of my car and burst into song while commuters inside cars and buses would sing a chorus and dance along with me. Why would there be any road rage when I could simply belt out my six octave range (bye Mariah!) and shimmy with the takatak boys? Our lives as a series of music videos would definitely be one sweet sweet fantasy, right?

2. As a musical, Showman was an enjoyable treat with its dazzling set pieces, spectacular choreography (that rooftop dance sequence with the dancing kumots!), and soaring sugar pop melodies. My favorite number was Rewrite the Stars with Zac Efron and Zendaya flying through the air on ropes, making it the most dangerous flirtation since I joined (and ultimately deleted) Tinder five years ago.

I also really liked the powerhouse performance of Rebecca Ferguson in Never Enough, until 1) I discovered that it really wasn’t her singing (it was actually dubbed by The Voice contestant Loren Allred), and 2) I realized immediately after that she was pining for a married man. In a culture fascinated with kabit movies where viewers enjoy seeing these women get their comeuppance, I wonder how many Pinoys actually loved this (in context) mistress song.

3. I wasn’t a huge fan of Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables (a singing Russell Crowe scarred me for life), but amidst the distractingly tight close-ups was an undeniably terrific performance by Hugh Jackman. He delivered again here as P.T. Barnum, serving as a ringleader to his troop of circus oddities and trying to stay true on the promise of being the greatest showman.

I actually liked him better in this movie because he was just more effective as a performer than a singer (check his Tony Awards hosting work on YouTube!). I also had a good laugh when the young Barnum got caught stealing a loaf of bread, the very reason why Jean Valjean turned into prisoner 24601.

4. I wish there was more of a story here to latch on to. Sure, I bawled my eyes out during the A Million Dreams song and also when the family moved into their mansion and one of the daughters received her ballet slippers, but everything else just felt very basic.

Did we really need two langit-lupa love stories when we didn’t even know much about the circus members (I couldn’t even recall any of their names!)? Even American Horror Story: Freak Show was able to bring life to its characters (sorry, but Kathy Bates would always be the Bearded Lady to me) and went beyond the “They’re humans, too!” message. When the group belted out the supposedly cathartic This Is Me song, it felt more like a production number on Glee rather than a poignant anthem about celebrating diversity.

Wait, did I just sound very much like a “theater critic who can’t find joy in a theater”?

5. I also felt a bit sad that the movie just glossed on some seemingly important topics, especially the one regarding exploitation. I wish we had more insights to this so-called celebration of humanity where people with disabilities weren’t treated any differently from animals in a zoo.

As a kid, I remembered going to a local perya and paying Php20 to watch a Lalaking Alimango (billed as a half-human, half-crab, but in reality was a man with underdeveloped arms and limbs and had pincer-like growths instead of fingers). I cried out of fear and also out of pity because they made him swim in this tub of dirty water.

I guess the idea of tackling freaks as entertainment was just too heavy for this movie that only aimed to be a feel-good one, ending with Jackman joyously riding an elephant in the city to meet his loving family. And after that, all was right with the world.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

RINGS (F. Javier Gutierrez, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Rings:

1. Huge advancements in technology had not been kind at all to this tired, old franchise. Fifteen years ago, a long-haired girl in a white kamison crawling out of a television screen might have been considered scary. But very much like VHS tapes, this type of horror now felt very much outdated (and definitely not vintage).

Besides, in this day and age where one could update his Facebook status on a watch, who else would be using a VCR (or even had one that was still working)?

Even more absurd, not a single click-hungry site (not BuzzFeed, not TMZ, not even Snopes!) picked up the urban legend of a killer video. I actually expected it to be the most viewed clip in YouTube and Samara’s/Sadako’s biggest problem would be how to properly schedule the deaths of millions of people that watched. Surely, she would rather jump back in the well out of sheer exhaustion.

2. If you hadn’t seen The Ring or Ring Two (or their far superior Japanese source Ringu), let me do a quick recap. Adopted child drowned in well for having witch powers wanted to seek revenge on mankind through a cursed video that killed its viewers after seven days and the only way to escape death was to create a copy that somebody else needed to watch.

Yup, it worked exactly like a chain letter or an ambush multi-level marketing scheme in Starbucks. Scary, huh?

3. This entire lore was completely thrown out the window when Samara basically chose whoever she wanted to kill and towards the end of the movie even turned into a virus and started sending her own video to everyone on a character’s contact list. I was guessing part of her rebirth consisted of becoming the ultimate social media famewhore. (Also, sorry bitch, but the terrible Feng Shui 2 beat you to it.)

4. I definitely missed Naomi Watts who brought a certain depth in an otherwise standard fright flick. In this one, she was replaced by some college kids that didn’t know how to act scared or even let out a proper scream. Nobody could authentically pull out an incredibly long and chokeable foreign matter out of one’s throat (you pervert!) like Naomi and she did it first and much better in The Ring.

5. In one scene, a girl entered a projector room and disturbed everyone else that was seated when she crossed their path to get to the other side. It reminded me so much of my terrible viewing experiences in Greenbelt 3 Cinemas 1 and 2 where people would treat the last row of seats as if it was an aisle for them to get to the bathroom (and of course, they would return to their seats the same way and bother you a second time around). Hmm, I should probably start listing down my cinema pet peeves.

6. Hala biglang naging Don’t Breathe! What the fork!

7. If you were the type that get easily scared by umbrellas that loudly open, you would enjoy this one. As for me, na-sad ako. (Whee! I’m so punny!)

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE (Dan Villegas, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Always Be My Maybe:

1. This has been really bugging me ever since I heard the title: does it also remind you of Ate Mariah with a really clogged nose?

2. Even if I’m a Dan Villegas groupie (I liked all of the previous films that he directed), I was honestly prepared to hate this one simply because of my bias against Gerald Anderson. My Bebe Idol may have already moved on from her heartbreak, but I still haven’t forgiven the guy for his (supposed) philandering.

To be fair (to me), he was always the weakest link in good movies, like On the Job. I went inside the theater in full “Matitikman niya ang batas ng isang API!!” mode, already coming up with the best possible potshots. Boy, was I in for a surprise! As the dashing dumped gentleman named Jake, he was actually really good here (a huge improvement from his work in Everyday I Love You where he couldn’t even act as a guy in a coma). Titig pa lang niya matutunaw ka na. (Excuse me while I cry in a fetal position).

3. The film itself was a straightforward, light-hearted (real meaning of) romantic-comedy without a lot of cliched external conflicts. The lovebirds fell in love, they realized their true selves (one’s egotistic and the other one’s krungy, both with trust issues), and they tried to make the relationship work. There were no real third parties (hello, Gerald’s ex was a complete tuod), no typical family problems (dealing with class differences or sick parents), no career issues, etc. Everything just revolved on the “do these two people deserve each other” premise (or as one friend pointed out, “Ang simple lang ng problema nyo”). It was actually refreshing given the hugot-driven formula recently required by the genre.

4. All of the hugots were done for laughs by the wonderful Arci Munoz (as the crazy in love make-up artist Tintin) in her YouTube tutorials. Yes, she played a gorgeous MUA and we all know for a fact that most of them do look better than their celebrity clients.

Arci was scorching hot that I swear several gay men immediately forgot their Rebel Heart Tour experience as soon as she appeared onscreen. She had that beautiful alta look with a palengkera mouth (raise your hand if you suddenly thought of Marian Rivera) and matching babaeng bakla personality (as if her unicorn doll wasn’t enough of a giveaway). Also, best ASG look ever. Popoy, you were such an idiot for letting her go.

5. My favorite tip for single people on a first date: “Surface lang. Huwag mo muna ikwento yung MMK life mo.”

6. I was a bit confused when Jake showed his IG page to Tintin and his last picture with his ex showed “12 weeks ago” when he actually got dumped 6 months prior. Was that a relapse move or just a technical error?

Speaking of social media, is it true that girls are more likely to block and delete past relationships? Hey, I do that all the time!! Uhm…

7. Best use of Aegis’ Halik in a movie ever. Perfect timing. I cried laughing.

8. Tintin had an amazing set of friends in Esang (Kakai Bautista) and Andre (Ricci Chan). Kakai, as expected, was a perennial scene-stealer (best out of the blue line: “Ang dami mong utos, may patago ka?”, second best bit: the entire Wag Tularan si Tintin monologue) and Ricci has perfected the sensible gay best friend role. With friends like them, who needs a lovelife?

9. For a change, the lovers were not eating pares (if you’re a Jadaone/Villegas fanatic, you’d understand this one).

10. Shaira Luna may be a professional photographer now but she would always be the gifted Promil kid to me. Weirdly enough, I could barely recall her spiel about the human anatomy, but I always associated her with “The sun is the center of the solar system, moving around it are the planets” which was said by a different Promil kid. (FYI, I have always blamed my mom for letting me drink Nido instead of Promil and not ending up as the next Doogie Howser.)

11. I really liked the sensual photoshoot scene. Everything that Tintin said came out unintentionally funny (“Can you unzip me?”, “Anong gusto mo gawin ko?”) that if this were a Regal movie, she would definitely be removing a magic kamison.

12. Admit it, you’ve also done the wrong send technique. And when truly desperate, you would have resorted to a wrong dial as well.

13. Single friends, listen to Tintin. Always be “confidently beautiful with a wais heart”. Huwag laging hopia mani popcorn cough syrup expectorant. Char!!

Rating: ★★★★☆