REVIEWS | ‘Exes Baggage’ and ‘Venom’

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Lightweight fare

A guy walks into a crowded, newly opened bar and, after several minutes, spots a blondish girl from across the room. The girl looks up, their eyes meet, and it’s not love at first sight, but a painful trigger for memories of their once promising romantic relationship.

And so we are brought back and forth between the past and the present, gradually understanding the beginnings of their relationship up to its downfall. How did they meet? Why did they break up? The answer is all in the title, Exes Baggage.

FORMER flames Angelica Panganiban and Carlo Aquino portray the roles of past lovers in “Exes Baggage.”

In intermittent and lengthy flashbacks, we watch Nix and Pia, played by real-life exes Carlo Aquino and Angelica Panganiban, go through the first stages of a romantic relationship, only to break up somewhere between Stage 2 and Stage 3, when they realize that both of them are not yet over their exes.

The dialogue-heavy romantic-drama by director Dan Villegas churns out a tiresome Instagram-artsy, milliennially hip-looking film with a dull, middling plot that heavily relies on the presence and the personality of its lead stars.

Screenwriter Dwein Baltazar (known for indie gem Gusto Kita With All My Hypothalamus) tries her hand at a commercial film and provides nothing new. She simply joins the parade of angsty, anti-fairytale love stories that cater to the “cool and liberal” Pinoy millennials with their hip taste in furniture and their fondness for beer, pre-marital sex and living together.

What makes Exes Baggage slightly different from the “same old, same old” romantic-dramas that permeate the mainstream industry is perhaps the voice that Baltazar gives her characters. It’s a dialogue-heavy film that brims with sarcasm and irritating wisecracks, chiefly uttered by the stronger personality of the two, the female.

Pia is a loud, inebriated stockbroker and Nix is a shy, quiet furniture designer. Their meet-cute also transpires in a bar, with Pia making the first, bold move, and initiating a game of “witty” jests using Facebook profile pictures.

The problem with the narrative is that their excess baggage is vaguely established, and is never a consistent threat to the relationship. It just explodes one day, upon Pia’s unexpected encounter with her ex while shopping.

Nix’s ex, named after screenwriter Dwein (with a lengthy self-indulgent commentary of the gender behind the name), is mentioned here and there, but feels too weak to be threatening.
The movie suffers from an excessive baggage of one-liners and sarcastic jests and pretty images of its stars that it neglects the more important aspect: a deep examination of the nature of rebound, heartbreak and rekindling.

Only enjoyable to fans of Carlo Aquino and Angelica Panganiban, and to those who find cockiness cute and endearing.

2 out of 5 stars

 

Uninspired

The opening of Sony’s Venom is a foreshadowing of the suffering to come. Its hurried, obligatory and perfectly uninspired prelude already establishes the feel of the entire movie.
Twenty minutes into the film, I was already feeling a strong urge to walk out. It did not help that SM Megamall’s IMAX was trying to freeze me to death. I do not know if a freezing temperature is crucial in operating an IMAX theater.

TOM Hardy transforms into the violent alien Venom. Hardy essays the dual role of the symbiote alien and reckless, investigative journalist Eddie Brock.

Spider-Man spin-off Venom stars Tom Hardy as our hero Eddie Brock, a kind of a dumb, reckless reporter for a mainstream investigative show. He is an unkempt, fast-talker devoid of any interesting or lovable traits.

When a black glutinous alien called a “symbiote” possesses Eddie and becomes his alter-ego, Eddie’s personality does not improve. He just transforms into a hyper eating-machine.
You cannot feel director Ruben Fleischer’s enthusiasm for this project. The entire movie feels like a lengthy trailer, with quick cuts and impatient transitions, preventing the scenes from sinking in or making an emotional impact.

Cinematographer Matthew Libatique, best known for lensing artsy art-house films such as Darren Aronofsky’s Mother!, continues to enjoy his style of severe close-ups and this time complements his cinematography with unnecessary tipsy and lopsided angles, as if these constant, restless movements will inject life into the insipid Brock/Venom.

Along with the hyper, seizure-like treatment to a thin script, the characters are forced to be funny. It is extremely painful watching the otherwise amazing actors such as Hardy and Michelle Williams resort to juvenile gags — arranging their facial muscles and playing with their voices to look and sound funny, as if they were entertaining six-year-old kids.

The climax is quick and uneventful—just a chaos of fire, ear-splitting sound frequency, and lots of blurry images. The plot also unravels with lazy and convenient details, with Williams always inexplicably popping up during the most opportune times.

Venom could have been a fun, entertaining and riotous ride due to the idea of an extra-terrestrial “parasite” walking the earth with Hardy as its host. But with its implausible premises, futile gags and complete disregard for visual coherency, it feels lost, tired and uninspired.

1 out of 5 stars

Exes Baggage and Venom are currently playing in cinemas.

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