Friday, September 24, 2021

Vivamax: Review of PARALUMAN: Listless Lost Lass

September 24, 2021

After their father died, 18-year old Mia (Rhen Escano) had to go live with her elder brother Joonie (Melvin Lee) who had long been estranged from the family because of his homosexuality. A middle-aged neighbor Peter (Jao Mapa) helped carry Mia's luggage, and Mia was immediately smitten with his good looks. One day, Peter's common law wife, barangay captain Giselle (Gwen Garci), hired Mia to teach the tech illiterate Peter about the computer. There was sown the seeds of an illicit affair.

The title of the film "Paraluman" means "muse" and it referred to the pretty Mia being the muse of Peter, who was the town photographer. He still used an old film camera and developed his prints himself at home. With Giselle and Joonie very busy with their work, there was a lot of opportunity for the idle Peter and the lovestruck Mia to fall into a forbidden love. There was nothing much else to keep the affair from happening except Peter's conscience and self-control, which he unfortunately lacked.

Director Yam Laranas took his time to bring us along on those secret photo sessions after their nominal computer "tutorials". These repetitive scenes between Mia and Peter, which were supposed to convince us they were falling in love (or lust) with each other, were very lazily composed and executed, with no artistic efforts at all. Everyone was just phoning in their acting as well. Rhen Escano may be a beautiful actress with an expressive face and effortlessly sexy aura, but she cannot carry this thing on her own. 

One of the problems here is miscasting of leading man Jao Mapa, who seemed to have lost whatever charm he had in the past. His portrayal of Peter, with his unkempt hair, hefty dad bod and smirk on his face, came across as creepy and predatorial. Mia cannot convince us that she had fallen in love with this guy at first sight, even if she said so in her voice-over narration. Mapa had no chemistry with Escano nor Garci. None of his sex scenes (and he was in all of them) worked for their intended purpose, all were flat and lifeless.

Vivamax had been churning one "quickie" film after the other practically weekly this year, and it had proved that they can be good, despite a limited budget and short production time. But this one seemed to have served no purpose at all for being made, even at its most basic prurient aim to titillate. It was a waste of Rhen Escano's beauty and acting talent which she had already proven before in previous films like "Adan" or "Untrue." She deserves a much better solo vehicle than this lackadaisical slog. 2/10. 

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Netflix: Review of SQUID GAME: Competitors in Crisis

September 23, 2021

The games started with 456 players. All of them were financially desperate owing millions of won to their creditors. They have all signed an agreement that they will be joining the games to win an unspecified cash prize.  They were made to play grand versions of traditional children's games. However, they soon found out that each game had violent twists where the losers literally get eliminated. Fear loomed over the contestants, but the grand prize of 45.6B Won was just too tempting to resist. 

We follow the stories of a few of these players. #456 was a compulsive gambler who was about to lose custody of his daughter. #218 was a graduate from a prestigious business school only to be involved in large scale financial fraud. #067 was a defector from North Korea who lost her money trying to get her family together. #001 was an elderly man with a brain tumor. #199 was an illegal migrant from Pakistan victimized by an unscrupulous employer. #101 was a vicious gangster who dared to defraud his boss. 

As we have seen in similarly-themed films like the "The Hunger Games," series like "Alice in Borderland, "or reality TV shows like "Survivor," these competitive activities bring out the best and the worst in the contestants. At first, they form alliances and help their teammates go forward like in the tug-of-war game. However in the later stages, self-preservation takes over and its each man for himself. Some people are inherently more ruthless than others and this was best seen Game 4 with the marbles, and Game 5 on the glass bridge.

Lee Jung-jae is a big movie star of famous films like "Il Mare" (2000), "The Housemaid" (2010), "New World" (2013) and more recently, the "Along With the Gods" films (2017 and 2018). He completely deglamorized himself here for the role of the chronic down-and-out loser Gi-hun, contestant #456. He is a flawed character for sure, but you knew he had a good heart. Of course, since he was the main character, you sort of knew that he should make it all the way to end despite all the tough luck he had during the games. 

The elaborate playing arenas, costumes, masks, various set pieces and props they built for the games in this series were quite memorable, especially with hot pink dominating the color scheme. That giant doll in the first game of "red light, green light" is already an iconic meme on social media. The waltz lilt of "The Blue Danube" was a haunting aural backdrop. The guest appearance of Gong Yu as the recruiter was quite a pleasant surprise, but the revelation of the actor behind the mask of the ice cold Front Man was outright flabbergasting. 

With so many characters (mostly unlikable) involved, there were too many stories to weave together. Some of them were not as interesting as others so the pace bogged down many times. There was grisly subplot of organ trafficking, which provided more scenes of gratuitous gore, was confusing, and not entirely necessary. How the policeman Hwang Jun-ho (Wi Ha-joon) infiltrated and moved around the game complex undetected was not too convincing. The ending sequence had a good last minute twist, but went on a bit too long. 

This series certainly upped the level of violence seen in Korean drama series that I had seen so far. I had seen the zombie gore of "Kingdom," the teenage bullying in "Extracurricular," and the gangster shootouts of "Vincenzo," but this one was on another level. This violence in this show felt far more brutal and senseless, because the killings here were only done on the poor downtrodden people for the sake of bloody entertainment for perverse rich foreigners, like enslaved gladiators were for the sadistic Roman emperors. 7/10. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

HBO Go: Review of SCENES OF A MARRIAGE (2021): A Couple's Challenging Conversations

September 21, 2021

Married couple Jonathan and Mira were both around 40 years old. They had a six year old daughter named Ava whom they dote on. He was Jewish, worked in the academe and took care of the house and child. She was a successful I.T. executive who was being assigned big projects at work, so only had her nights and weekends to spend at home. This series recounts five separate days, each several months apart, recounting five critical situations in the evolution of their relationship as a couple. 

Based on a 1973 Swedish mini-series by Ingmar Bergman, this new series was about intimate conversations between Jonathan and Mira in their big house in the suburbs. Writers Hagai Levi and Amy Herzog wrote these conversations in a way they think couples would probably say them in real life if they were in these touching circumstances. In this show, we witness how arguments between a married couple can be so insensitive, self-centered, manipulative, bitter, hostile to downright cruel. It could feel contrived occasionally, unpleasant mostly. 

The episodes had titles which you will think were probably revelatory of how the story was going to go, particularly Episode 1 ("Innocence and Panic"), 3 ("Vale of Tears") and 5 ("In the Middle of the Night, in a Dark House, Somewhere in the World"). However, it was Episode 2 ("Poli") and especially Episode 4 ("The Illiterates") which had the most explosive confrontations, and proved to be the most difficult, most harrowing episodes to sit through.  I have to admit, this was a very tough watch for me as a husband. 

What transpired in Episode 1 was so upsetting to me, I could not accept that it even happened. Episode 2 was just so devastating that I could not watch it straight through as I needed a break to breathe. Episode 3 and 4 further solidified my opinions about these characters as the story twisted and turned, only to be challenged again by Episode 5. Everything can feel too real, so director Levi had to remind us that this was just a movie after all by showing the actors off the set behind the scenes.

The totally committed performances of Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain make this couple worth watching. Even if we do not see exactly agree with what they were talking about, this show will affect you. We are intruding in their most private, most vulnerable moments, hearing issues from both sides, deciding for ourselves who was right and who was wrong. We are pitting our moral compass against theirs, our definition of love against theirs. This is thought-, emotion- and conscience-provoking TV, not really entertainment.  8/10.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Amazon Prime: Review of EVERYBODY'S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE: Queenly Quest

September 20, 2021

When gay high school senior Jamie New (Max Harwood) turned 16 years old, he made the bold decision that he will be going to their prom in full drag. To prepare himself of his flashy debut, Jaime sought the mentorship of drag store proprietor Hugo Battersby (Richard E. Grant), who was a flamboyant star drag performer named Loco Chanelle. 

His mother Margaret (Sarah Lancashire) and his best friend Pritti Pasha (Lauren Patel) were supportive of Jamie's plan. However, class bullies led by the cruel Dean Paxton (Samuel Bottomley), strict teacher Miss Hedge (Sharon Horgan) and his frustrated estranged father Wayne (Ralph Ineson) would hear nothing more of it. 

This film was based on a 2017 stage musical of the same title. featuring music by Dan Gillespie Sells and book and lyrics by Tom MacRae. This story was based on a documentary film entitled "Jamie: Drag Queen at 16" directed by Jeanne Popplewell, about a real incident involving a gay teenager who wanted to wear a dress to his prom. The stage origins of the film can be clearly felt in the production style of the song and dance numbers.

The group songs sung by the lead characters and their classmates, like the "Spotlight," "Everybody's Talking About Jamie" and the closing song "Out of the Darkness" have a very "High School Musical" quality about them. However, the best song for me was "My Man, Your Boy," an emotional duet sung by Jamie and his mother when they profess their love and loyalty to each other. This beautiful mother-son duet can transcend its context in the film.

Making his auspicious film debut here is 23-year old Max Harwood in the lead role of Jamie New. As a confused teenager, the character of Jamie could be irrational, annoying and may not always be likable, but Haywood made us all feel Jamie's plea for acceptance. Veteran British actress Sarah Lancashire was moving as Jamie's supportive mum. 2018 Academy Award nominee Richard E. Grant surprised in his brave performance as a faded drag queen. 

The topic it tackles is very controversial and still may not be easily accepted by conservative audiences. It is one thing for a boy to come out as gay, but quite another thing for a gay boy to further come out as a drag queen. Even if this was in the form of a musical, it was not all fun and games. The filmmakers did show the cruelty, pain and violence involved. After everything though, somehow you knew how things would all turn out at the prom. 7/10. 

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Netflix: Review of HOSPITAL PLAYLIST: Medical Musical Mashup

September 19, 2021

HOSPITAL PLAYLIST is a 2020 K-drama series about five doctors in their early 40s who had been best of friends since their med school. Their bond was strengthened further by the band they formed together to play their own versions of their favorite songs. There would a song number performed by them before each episode ended, covering older Korean hits. Surprisingly, there would be a cover of a Bon Jovi song in S2E10. 

The five friends were: liver surgeon Lee Ik-jun (Jo Jung-suk), heart surgeon Kim Jun-wan (Jung Kyung-ho), pediatric surgeon Ahn Jung-won (Yoo Yeon-seok), obstetric surgeon Yang Seok-hyeong (Kim Dae-Myung) and the only rose among the thorns neurosurgeon Chae Song-hwa (Jeon Mi-do). Cases in these specialties have the most emotional heft for TV. I guess a specialty ENT did not really have much potential for melodrama.

We did not watch this series when it premiered on Netflix in June of 2020. We only began watching Season 1 one episode a night this summer when we learned that Season 2 will be starting June 2021. This was not really an easy series to binge because the episodes were more than 1-1/2 hours long each. Watching one episode a week as released was just right for all of us. Each season had 12 episodes each.

Each episode tackled not their close friendship with each other, but also their families and their relationships, professional or romantic, with other consultants, fellows, residents and med students. Romances between male consultants and younger female residents seemed so casual and acceptable, which is rather surprising in the local context. All these multiple love stories will have been sorted out by S2E11. 

Interspersed in between these threads were various challenging cases in each of their specialty, involving tough decision-making for doctor, patient and family. They had their most critical cases of the season in S2E12 -- emergency liver transplant with bleeding varices, heart surgery in a boy with Marfan's, small bowel transplant, a premie delivery for a woman with breast cancer post-chemo, and an evacuation of a medullary bleed. 

This was a generally feel-good series with no antagonists. Most of the "ships" you were rooting for eventually wind up together. The comedy can be corny (like the "delightful" singing of Song-hwa) or even slapstick (like those silly "fights" between Ik-jun and Jun-wan), but always lighthearted and good-natured. By the end of the series, you feel like you saying goodbye to your real friends and you'd want to see them back. 8/10.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Vivamax: Review of BEKIS ON THE RUN: Amalgam of Advocacies

September 18, 2021

Andres (Diego Loyzaga) and his gay brother Donald (Christian Bables) staged a hold-up a construction site office to get money for the kidney transplant operation of Donald's adoptive mother, Nanay Pacing (Lou Veloso). When their plans went awry, they had to go on the run. They took the pretty secretary Adriana (Kylie Versoza) with them in tow, and hid out in the house of Donald's on-and-off boyfriend Martin (Sean de Guzman). 

It seemed effortless for Christian Bables to play the swishy Donald, a young gay guy with angst, like his breakthrough character Barbs in "Die Beautiful" (2016).  He did not wear dresses here, but engaged in torrid kissing scenes with film stud of the year, Sean de Guzman. In contrast, Diego Loyzaga did a lot of macho posturing to emphasize that Andres is not gay. While Kylie Versoza nailed her drama scenes, she seemed nervous doing comedy. 

The character of Nanay Pacing was an honest and compassionate transgender woman who made it her mission in life to take bullied gay boys off the street and care for them in her home. Lou Veloso went all out drag -- wig, make-up, dresses -- for this role that had him to go through an entire spectrum of emotions with his tongue fully in-cheek, as he dealt with his wards of all ages from the oldest (Jim Pebanco) to the youngest (Kenken Nuyad).

A standout supporting character was the widowed cashier of the construction company, Upeng, played by indie actress Tabs Sumulong.  She stole her scenes with her sharp-witted tongue and boldness with physical comedy. She also shared some heartwarming scenes with Veloso's Pacing. Johnny Revilla and Lander Vera Perez were nothing more than one-dimensional bad guys as Adriana's abusive father and brother respectively. 

Despite the silly title, director Joel Lamangan and writer Ricky Lee actually tackled LGBT solidarity and activism here. The whole film was an uneven mixed-up roller-coaster of genres. There was a little crime action at the start, a lot of family melodrama in the middle, with a generous helping of slapstick comedy all around, with sex scenes in the middle for a drastic change of pace, while throwing shade at toxic masculinity and gays in the military. 4/10. 

Thursday, September 16, 2021

HBO Go: Review of IN THE HEIGHTS: Immigrant Inspirations

September 16, 2021

Washington Heights was a poor section of New York City populated by immigrants from various Central and South American countries and Caribbean islands. A young man named Usnavi (Anthony Ramos) owned a little bodega selling coffee, drinks and lottery tickets. But he thought he had not made much in his life so far, and longed to follow his dream to return back to his homeland, the Dominican Republic. The story of how Usnavi got his unique name will have a scene of its own, as he tells the story to a group of little kids.

Vanessa (Melissa Barrera) worked on nails at Daniela's (Daphne Rubin-Vega) beauty salon, but her dream was to open up her own fashion boutique. Nina (Leslie Grace) was the first in the Heights pass Stanford, but she could not cope with the pressure and prejudice she faced there. Benny (Corey Hawkins) worked as dispatcher for Nina's father Kevin Rosario's (Jimmy Smits) taxi company, which supported her tuition demands. The heart of their community was Consuelo, whom everyone had adopted as their Abuela (Olga Merediz).

This film directed by Jon M. Cho ("Crazy Rich Asians") was based on the hit 2008 Broadway show that made its composer/lyricist Lin Manuel Miranda a household name. Miranda took the tough decisions that young people living in poverty in New York had to make in their lives, and brought them to life in vibrant songs of Latin flavor, many of them employing his distinct rapid rapping style, which will be developed further in his next hit show "Hamilton." Miranda had a featured role in the film as the piragua man selling shaved ice. 

The best songs were those awesome dancing that involved the whole community. The opening song "In the Heights" introduced us to the neighborhood and its people. Set in a public swimming pool, "96000" was about the prize money of a winning lottery ticket. "Carnaval del Barrio" was Daniela's pickup speech to cheer up everyone depressed by the prolonged electrical blackout. Special effects were employed to liven up songs, like "When the Sun Goes Down" had Nina and Benny dancing on the side of a building. 

I had seen a local stage production of "In the Heights" back in 2011, and there were plot differences in this film adaptation. (MY FULL REVIEW). Lacking the infectious energy of a live performance, the pace of the film could feel slow in certain parts, and the storytelling may not gel together too well in other parts. However, the heartwarming emotion of the words in the screenplay, as adapted by Quiara Alegría Hudes from her original book, still radiated strongly to touch the hearts of viewers, even if they don't share exactly the same challenges. 8/10.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

HBO GO: Review of FREAKY: Virginal Vince Vaughn

September 14, 2021

The night before homecoming night, mousy high school student Millie Kessler was attacked by the Butcher on the football field after the game. But when the Butcher stabbed her with his mystical ceremonial dagger, a flash of lightning caused him and Millie to magically switch bodies at the strike of midnight. Based on the inscriptions on the dagger, she only has 24 hours to get her body back, or else she will be in Butcher's body forever.

The title "Freaky" was a nod to "Freaky Friday," a 1972 children's book by Mary Rodgers which had already been previously adapted into a number of films. The most notable ones would be in 1976, with Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster; and then again in 2003, with Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan. In the book and in these movies, it was a mother and her daughter who mystically switched bodies after a major disagreement between them. 

This new version was produced by Jason Blum of Blumhouse, so it is no surprise that it is in the horror genre -- in the slasher subgenre to be specific. The director Christopher Landon had just recently directed two other successful slasher-comedies for Blum -- "Happy Death Day" (2017) and its sequel (2019), so he was right in the zone for this project as well. The kills in this film were quite ghastly, especially the very first one with the wine bottle. The opposite personality- and gender-switching in this version lent itself to even more comic situations.

It was quite a stretch to accept the very pretty Kathryn Newton to be shy nerdy Millie, the unfortunate girl inside the beaver mascot of their school. She was quite in the zone after the body switching, and went to school as foxy Millie dressed in skin-tight jeans and a sexy red leather jacket. Of course, you'd wonder how the Butcher knew anything about makeup and fashion. Newton was totally fierce in those gory scenes where "Millie" turned the tables on her bully classmates and carpentry teacher.

The most entertaining aspect of this film was the stellar performance of Vince Vaughn as Millie inside the body of Butcher. He was very meticulous in his transformation into a teenage girl -- her girly gestures, mannerisms, speaking inflection, style of running, screaming. Everything was so on point, it was quite a blast and a total joy to see. The scene where he was convincing Millie's best friends, Nyla (Celeste O'Connor) and Josh (Misha Osherovich), and that one with Millie's big crush Booker (Uriah Shelton) were a lot of fun. 7/10

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Amazon Prime: Review of THE VOYEURS: Visual Vexation

September 12, 2021

Pippa and Thomas move into an apartment with a great view. It did not take them long to notice the exhibitionistic couple across the street who were not shy to make love with no curtains and with all the lights on. This secret activity sparked up their own sex life at first. However as they knew their neighbors better, they felt there was something amiss with them. By then, despite Thomas objections, Pippa was already too obsessed with them to let go.

From the outset, this immediately gave the vibes of Hitchcock classic "Rear Window" (1954) and more recently Amy Adams' "The Woman in the Window" (2021). These were all movies that dealt with protagonists spying on the people who lived next door and consequently getting involved in something a lot more than they bargained for. Writer-director Michael Mohan gave "The Voyeurs" an erotic thriller spin to make it provocative for jaded viewers. 

Mohan certainly had a very attractive and daring cast to bring his sexy tale to life. With her innocent face, ample curves and the vulnerable air about her, Sydney Sweeney was perfectly cast as the naive, curious and susceptible Pippa. Justice Smith ventured outside his comfort zone of wholesome films like "Jurassic World" and "Detective Pikachu" to play Thomas. He felt he needed to obviously deepen his voice to convey maturity, which sounded awkward.

The mysterious but eye-catching couple across the street were really named Julia, a model, and Seb, an artist with a camera, but at first Pippa gave them preppy code names Margo and Brent.Australian-Italian-Chinese beauty Natasha Liu Bordizzo played the alluring but subservient martyr, Julia. Meanwhile, British actor Ben Hardy played the narcissistic Seb who beleived that he was God's gift to women. He was practically nude the whole time to prove it. 

Since it was about voyeurism, the film had an "eye" theme with Pippa's job as an optometrist, and Seb's job as a photographer. Those scene transitions from eyes to eggs were an unsettling idea. I would not call the story totally predictable as the grand reveal did surprise me, with a cruel but not totally undeserved lesson. However, it did not stop there and went on some more for it to drop another ending, which I felt was too over-the-top already. 6/10. 

Netflix: Review of KATE: Deadly but Dying

September 12, 2021

Kate is an assassin for hire under the mentorship of her trainer and handler Varrick (Woody Harrelson), whom she lovingly called V. In her last case in Osaka, she was able to complete her job to kill a Yakuza man, but was disturbed by the fact that she had to shoot the man dead in the unexpected presence of a teenage girl. 

10 months later in Tokyo, a temporary moment of carnal carelessness led Kate to contract acute radiation syndrome and was only given 24 hours to live by her doctors. She only had that much time to find the mob boss Kijima (Jun Kunimura) who was responsible for the dire condition she was dying from, and settle the scores accordingly. 

Name an action film recently, there is invariably an assassin as the primary character, either a man or a woman. Films about female assassins had starred the most glamorous actresses to play the ruthless main character, from Natalie Portman ("La Femme Nikita"), Angelina Jolie ("Wanted"), Scarlett Johannsen ("Lucy") and Charlize Theron ("Atomic Blonde"), to the more unlikely ones like Geena Davis ("The Long Kiss Goodnight"), Saoirse Ronan ("Hanna"), Jessica Chastain ("Ava") or Cristine Reyes ("Maria").

I would add "Kate" lead actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead to the list of the more unlikely ones. She had been in films since 2005 but was mostly relegated as the damsel in distress in various horror films. She had been lately been getting more high-profile roles on TV like "Fargo" (2017) and in films like "Birds of Prey" (2020). With her lean frame and brunette hair, her look was reminiscent of Sigourney Weaver in "Alien," strong and no-nonsense. Her fight scenes were realistically brutal, as were her symptoms she was suffering from.

The whole revenge scenario was admittedly very familiar, but "Kate" stands out from the other similar-themed films with its Japanese pop theme with the pink neon lights and the girl punk music soundtrack. The continuous deterioration of Kate's health while she was fighting off the entire cabal of Yakuza goons within her 24-hour time limit gives it an additional sense of immediacy. The presence of pretty and feisty 17-year old Miku Martineau as Kate's accidental sidekick Ani was also a big plus. 6/10. 

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Vivamax: Review of THE HOUSEMAID: Vulnerable Victim

September 9, 2021

Tall and pretty Daisy (Kylie Versoza) was recruited by housekeeper Madam Martha (Jaclyn Jose) to be the maid in the household of millionaire couple William (Albert Martinez) and Roxanne (Louise delos Reyes) Romero, and be the nanny of their daughter Nami (Elia Ilano). Roxanne was then on her 9th month of pregnancy and was expected to deliver twins, so William was left frustrated as he could not satisfy his sexual needs. The naive Daisy just so happened to be available as a vulnerable outlet for his tension release.

This film by Roman Perez, Jr. is an adaptation of the 2010 Korean film of the same title by Im Sang-soo, which in turn was a loose adaptation of a 1960 Korean film of the same title by Kim Ki-young. The critically-acclaimed 2010 film was in competition for the Palm D'Or at Cannes that year, starring Cannes 2007 Best Actress (for Lee Chang-dong's "Secret Sunshine") Jeon Do-yeon in the title role. It also won several awards for its director and supporting actress Youn Yuh-jung (who just won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar earlier this year for "Minari"). 

This Filipino adaptation was practically a word-for-word translation of the Korean script, as well as scene for scene transposition of the 2010 Korean film. Even the grim prologue about a girl who jumped off a building, and the bizarre epilogue about a child's birthday party was there, even though these scenes seemed more like afterthoughts here than in the original. Director Perez had to vary some things to make the proceedings more Filipino in context, like making do without the chilly winter scenes or the Korean herbal health drink. 

Even with her maid's uniform or simple hair and make-up, Kylie Versoza still looked so much classier and prettier than Louise delos Reyes who played the wife Roxanne, or even Jeon Do-yeon who originated the role. With her doe eyes, shapely curves and long legs, Versoza was effortlessly sexy, even without overtly revealing everything. Albert Martinez can play the rich handsome master William blindfolded, but electricity felt lacking between him and Versoza during their seduction and sex scenes. This was in contrast with much rawer, more animalistic sex scenes between maid Eun-yi (Jeon) and her master Hoon (Lee Jung-jae) in the original. 

Jaclyn Jose made the most of her supporting role as the formidable Madam Martha, in a performance that felt stronger than that of Youn Yuh-jung before. In true Pinoy melodrama fashion, Perez even extended Martha's soliloquy of frustration over her station in life. Jose went all out in that acting showcase scene, with all the profane language she can muster. With her signature tongue-in-cheek humor in her line delivery, Alma Moreno felt less sinister in her role as Roxanne's intrusive mother Ester, than Park Ji-young in the original. Child actress Elia Ilano showed much promise and had good screen presence as little Nami. 

Director Perez did well in the choice of the Romero's fancy mansion, with the staircase, piano bathtub and imposing chandelier which would play major roles in the story. The pace of the storytelling was deliberately slow in keeping with the original, but the second act here felt rather lagging. The yawning gap between rich and poor that pervaded the original was not that pronounced here, perhaps due to casting choices.  Perez's recreation of the both the notoriously disturbing bathtub scene and shocking climax in the living room were very well done, quite matching the impact of the original (especially for those who have not seen it). 7/10.