Archive for June 2013

REVIEW: Four Sisters and a Wedding   3 comments

Four Sisters and a Wedding

As an opening salvo to Star Cinema’s 20th anniversary celebration, they certainly opened it with a bang by coming up with a family drama that combined some of the most popular actor and actresses of this generation. Helmed by ultimate box office director Cathy Garcia Molina and starred by Toni Gonzaga, Angel Locsin, Bea Alonzo, Shaina Magdayao, and Enchong Dee, Four Sisters and a Wedding tackles family issues in both comedic and dramatic fashion.

After announcing that the youngest (and the only male) Salazar sibling, Ceejay (Enchong Dee) is getting married, his four other sisters   Teddie (Toni Gonzaga), who works in Spain, Bobbie (Bea Alonzo), working now in New York, Alex (Angel Locsin) a production assistant for indie films, and Gabbie (Shaina Magdayao) teacher and the one in charge to live with their mother, come up with a master plan to halt the said occasion.

On one hand, it’s actually refreshing to see a Star Cinema family film that is not a straight up drama (think of Tanging Yaman or Sa’yo Lamang) and not a straight up comedy as well (think of Tanging Ina or Tanging Pamilya). It lends more freedom for the director and the writer to flex where the vision of the film wants to go.  Some of these concepts were highlighted in the film such as the complex relationship of sisters Alex and Bobbie, or the competitive nature of oldest sibling Teddie juxtaposed with the complacent and content stature of youngest sister Gabbie. Then you’d have the voiceless feeling of the only thorn among the roses, Ceejay. This is where the major strength of the movie kicks in.

I’d also note that it’s refreshing to see a product placement that does not bother me the same way that usual local films do. Rebisco biscuits product placements were scattered all throughout the movie, but it’s not as forced as it was carefully inserted in films and does not scream blatant product insertion, to me at least.

With that said though, the comedic themes were less inspired, as compared to the dramatic ones. As for one, the main premise of the film is ridiculous itself, but the approach could have been much tighter, so as not to make it look lamer when compared to the themes on the paragraph above this. I also noticed lack of full characterization especially in the characters of Alex and Gabbie. While Teddie and Bobbie’s stories went full circle, the other two sisters are just going around in circles. It’s probably a case of editing issues, but I would have wanted to learn more of them too, or at least, give them the spotlight every now and then.

But of course, I know what you’re here for. You want to know who’s the best among all the actresses in this film. Okay so I’ll try to break it down for you. Toni Gonzaga is my favorite in the film. I already saw how she goes back and forth with comedy and drama still back from My Amnesia Girl, but this vehicle lets her sashay from one genre to the other instantly. She knacks you off with her comedic timing, and she knocks you as well when it comes to her more dramatic ones. I think the reason why I like her most is because I still think that the film leans more on comedy, and she’s the best in show in terms of that aspect. Bea Alonzo, on the other hand, is the reliable dramatic actress that delivers, and she benefits from playing a character that was complexly written, and she pays that off by giving it justice. Her moment during the family’s confrontation (albeit too long and overdone) is really effective and one of the film’s highlights. And I know I have already said this in my past reviews of her previous films, but hers is a face that the camera really loves. Angel Locsin might not have the most moments, but she certainly makes the best of what she has to do. It is not the type of acting that screams awards, but the way she switch emotions in seconds is a testament of how much growth she has achieved already. What I particularly like about her performance is that she’s not getting all the forefront in terms of scenes, and she usually is relegated to  reacting in most of them, but she plays the same intensity to all of them. One might consider Gonzaga’s character as bordering on cartoonish, and Alonzo’s as too TV type, but Locsin’s is the most human in my opinion. More characterization from the writers would have made her character more impactful though.

The rest of the actors were also necessary but given mostly smaller to almost thankless roles (Shaina Magdayao’s Gabbie comes to mind), but they were all serviceable. Coney Reyes was inspired casting though as the family matriarch, while Carmi Martin was a hilarious scene stealer and gets the best character entrance in the film.

All in all, the main flaw that I see in this film is that despite being half comedy and half drama, the stories they used in order to cater both are not in the same vein. We see inspired storytelling in the dramatic parts of the movie, while the comedic ones were usually rehashed and less inspired. But since they’re promoting it more as a comedy, it could have used much better material in that context. That said, it’s an enjoyable film that is saved by the cast’s chemistry and one that caters to most members of well… the family.

RATING: 3/5

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5 Underrated Star Cinema Movies   5 comments

Now celebrating its 20th year as the country’s premiere film outfit, Star Cinema has been delivering a lot of the most memorable movies  during the past two decades. The latter half of its 20-year production, though, mostly has been more on coming up with box office hits, as it now fills up all ten of the ten highest grossing films in the country. With that said, here are five reminders that every now and then, Star Cinema is still able to deliver quality potential films instead of the usual moneymaking ventures.

Dreamboy

05. DREAMBOY (2005)

DIRECTOR: Gilber Perez
CAST: Piolo Pascual, Bea Alonzo
PLOT: Hopeless romatic Cyd (Bea Alonzo) met three versions of the same man (Piolo Pascual), until she was in for a rude awakening.
WHY IS IT UNDERRATED: It was 2005, and television is slowly taking over the cinema as the basis of celebrity popularity. With artista search happening left and right, the people weren’t particularly interested with the approach that the film did. It was brave for Star Cinema to pull off something like this during the peak of cutesy loveteams (and Piolo-Bea is an experiment pairing to say the least), and while it was not seen as total success during its time, I appreciate the risk they did with it.

My Amnesia Girl

04. MY AMNESIA GIRL (2010)

DIRECTOR: Cathy Garcia-Molina
CAST: John Lloyd Cruz, Toni Gonzaga
PLOT: When Apollo (John Lloyd Cruz) thinks that the answer to his great love is ex-girlfriend Irene (Toni Gonzaga), he finds her back only to find out she is now suffering from amnesia (or so we think).
WHY IS IT UNDERRATED: Sure it was the biggest hit of 2010, and John Lloyd and Toni were robbed of Box Office King and Queen titles during that year, but let’s take some few steps back and reminisce that during the release of the first trailer, everyone already dismissed it as a 50 First Dates rip-off. And boy they were wrong. While box office receipts were always mentioned, the out of the box  approach of the film (especially during the first 40 minutes of the film) is a fresh take on Star Cinema love story standards.

Forever and a Day

03. FOREVER AND A DAY (2011)

DIRECTOR: Cathy Garcia-Molina
CAST: Sam Milby, KC Concepcion
PLOT: Strangers Eugene (Sam Milby) and Raffy (KC Concepcion) met in the lovely place of Bukidnon for different reasons. He wants a break from work; she wants to prove something to herself. Once they start to get to know each other, true secrets were revealed about Raffy.
WHY IS IT UNDERRATED: By this time, Cathy Garcia Molina is already the perennial box office director that she is now, and everyone expects that she will deliver the same combination that makes all of her previous hits box office success. While this is the mere exception from the group, it’s an exception that gives her room to try other approach when handling stories, and one that’s rare to see in mainstream filmmaking.

Nasaan Ka Man

02. NASAAN KA MAN (2005)

DIRECTOR: Cholo Laurel
CAST: Claudine Barretto, Jericho Rosales, Dietehr Ocampo
PLOT: Set in the haunted and mystical city of Baguio, it tells the story of three adopted children (Rosales, Barretto, and Ocampo) who grew up under two spinster sisters (Hilda Koronel, Gloria Diaz). Life has been pretty good to all of them until Pandora’s box of their family secrets were unveiled.
WHY IS IT UNDERRATED: UP graduate Cholo Laurel’s first foray into mainstream directing seemed to be a double edged sword. On one hand, this was a great debut for someone of his caliber. To be given this chance was definitely overwhelming for him. After all, its powerful storytelling (written by Ricky Lee himself), together with his direction, is a combination that made this one of the best films that year. It sucks that this did not perform too much commercially, as it was a good risk that should have paid off.

RPG Metanoia

01. RPG METANOIA (2010)

DIRECTOR: Luis Suarez
CAST: Zaijan Jaranilla, Vhong Navarro, Aga Muhlach, Eugene Domingo
PLOT: When a virus from online games started to affect society, it will be up to this generation of computer game-loving kids to save the day.
WHY IS IT UNDERRATED: Animated film fans in the country are definitely many, and this is actually more than qualified to be the first local animated 3D film we have ever produced. That alone would have made this an “event” not to miss. Add the fact that it was a part of the annual Metro Manila Film Festival, and Star Cinema behind it, and I’m still not sure why it just didn’t reach its audience. Their loss, I guess, since it’s one of 2010’s best films.

Now entering their 20th year of producing and distributing local films, I hope that Star Cinema will still give focus to quality filmmaking even only every now and then. They used to do this more often, and it’s quite saddening how it has fallen way way below now. But with Erik Matti’s On the Job as one of their features this year, there’s still hope I guess.

As always, you can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

12 Best Nicole Kidman Performances   4 comments

It is no big secret that my favorite actress ever is Legend Nicole Kidman. It’s definitely not because we share the same name (well maybe before when I was still young), but my appreciation for Kidman as an actress has really grown over the years. Sure, she might not have the numerous Oscar nods like the Blanchetts and the Winslets, and there was a point in her career where she was considered as a box office poison (which is really stupid because her films do better in the worldwide box office and US ≠ world), but she really takes on interesting projects and directors despite compromising situations. As a matter of fact, I think she belongs solely on a category that is a movie star that is also an auteur darling. She’s an A-list star but she does more indies than commercial outings, and that’s probably one of the reasons why I love her.  As for the other reasons, here are 12 performances that will help you understand what I’m saying.

12. THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY (1996)

In one of Jane Campion’s underrated pieces, Kidman played lead character Isabelle Archer who in the midst of finding herself gets entangled in a complicated twists and turns resulting to her further  desolate life. Kidman has her way of portraying sadness in the screen quite effectively, and this is one of the complex ones. It’s quite sad that this turned out to be underwhelming to a lot of people, but I say it’s a matter of releasing it in a time not ready for it. I’ve read a lot of sudden appreciation for this film, and one of its biggest asset is that of the actors’ performances in it, including Kidman’s.

11. HEMINGWAY & GELLHORN (2012)

Kidman’s first foray into the TV movie territory is via Philip Kauffman’s Hemingway and Gellhorn with Clive Owen. While the overall response to the film was mixed, Kidman’s performance as journalist Martha Gellhorn earned good response resulting to Emmy, Golden Globe, and SAG nominations. What I particularly like about this performance is that it shows Kidman’s variety in approaching characters. While she also has the physicalities in it, she also punches the emotional needs of the character effortlessly.

10. THE HOURS (2002)

On one hand, I’m glad to see that Kidman’s take on author Virginia Woolf is what paved her way to Oscar glory. It’s really a combination of the voice, the nose, and the whole physical changes that she did  that made it memorable. It’s even more impressive to learn that she shot this film at a stage in her career when her personal life is going into shambles. However, it’s a bit saddening that she won her Oscar for this, when it’s not even one of her five best performances. Yes, the train station scene was pure acting gold, but I guess I’ll have to settle with the fact that an Oscar is an Oscar no?

09. EYES WIDE SHUT (1999)

Probably one of the best career highlights that Nicole Kidman ever had was that she got to work with the great late Stanley Kubrick on his final film. While the production for the film has reached over two years in the making, it was two years worth working for. Kidman even herself wrote a letter about how much she find this film memorable and important to her saying she learned a lot from this film. And this is also one of her underrated performances, as she was magnetic all throughout in it.

08. MARGOT AT THE WEDDING (2007)

There is just something so brave about Kidman’s options that makes you ask WTF when you watch the movie, but goes on understanding why she chose to do that film by the end. That’s where Noah Baumbach’s Margot at the Wedding falls too. Probably darker than the other more obvious comedies, Kidman’s Margot exudes this vulnerability and awkwardness that translates not only to the other characters in the film but to the audience as well. Plus, you can’t take the tree climbing scene against her.

07. DOGVILLE (2003)

One of the most memorable risks that Nicole Kidman did in her career was after her Oscar win, when she was the top A-list actress in Hollywood, she opted to work with someone like Lars von Trier. Of course, we know von Trier has been tried and tested when it comes to his actresses, giving them risky roles and churning out fearless performances. And that’s exactly what we have witnessed in Nicole’s performance of Grace in the film. How she failed to nab the Cannes Best Actress that year is beyond me.

06. THE PAPERBOY (2013)

Kidman’s latest movie offering is from one of the critically panned movies of last year: Cannes entry The Paperboy by Lee Daniels. Despite the movie getting unanimous thumbs down response, what seemed to be the only silver lining in it is that of Kidman’s performance. As Charlotte Bless, the white trash who Zac Efron’s character fancies like no other, not only does she performed a telepathic sex scene with John Cusack, but she also peed on Zac. How Legend does it at 45 showed no signs of stopping for this bravura actress.

05. THE OTHERS (2001)

In a one two punch of her 2001 performances that showed her versatility as an actress, first we get to see Nicole Kidman in Alejandro Amenabar’s The Others. In the film, she played single mother Grace, who comes to so much extent of love in order to defend her children. Despite the film being of horror genre, Nicole commanded the screen showing a boatload of emotions, that of love, hope, and even confusion as the movie unravels. It’s one of those performances that just sizzled all throughout the movie.

nicole kidman

04. MOULIN ROUGE! (2001)

As for her other 2001 performance, it’s from Baz Luhrmann’s Oscar Best Picture nominee Moulin Rouge! For this, she received her first Academy Award nomination in 2001. What’s fascinating about this performance is that she did almost everything here. Sings? Check. Dances? Check. Makes us laugh? Check. Makes us cry? Check. Satine has turned out to be one of the most memorable movie characters of the last decade, and this performance is here to stay. This is a good representation of how she penetrated Hollywood, and there’s no turning back then.

03. RABBIT HOLE (2010)

For her first producing duties, Nicole Kidman chose this Tony award winning play and gave a really depressing and heartbreaking performance as Becca Corbett, the grieving mother of a child who died from an accident. While she gets a lot of Oscar scenery chewing scenes it, the Kidman in this film is annoying but sensible, open but still holds back every now and then, and it is the subtle moments in it that actually remains more with the viewers after. Also, this is her Oscar comeback, as it was her first nominations after winning eight years ago for The Hours.

02. TO DIE FOR (1995)

Before, she was simply seen as Mrs. Tom Cruise and the Aussie eye candy that he has. But all it took was a single performance that will change the way she is perceived in Hollywood. That performance came from her character as Suzanne Stone Maretto in Gus Van Sant’s To Die For. In it, she was just deliciously evil playing her comedic skills to the top. It was such a natural performance that hits right with the tone that van Sant aimed in this movie, and the result is a new found Hollywood actress, aside from her Golden Globe win that year.

01. BIRTH (2004)

And Nicole Kidman’s best performances comes from the underrated Jonathan Glazer cult classic Birth.  As Anna, Kidman plays a wife who thinks her dead husband reincarnated in the form of a ten year old boy. Kidman was just on a different level here. The intensity of her performance lingers to you all throughout. I just can’t at how intense the character was from the way it was written, but her performance just elevates in further. Plus, it featured the classic close up “theater scene” which still is one of the best acting moments I’ve ever seen in any film.

Now, let me ask you, what is/are your favorite Nicole Kidman performance/s? Pipe them in below!

By the way, the reason why I wrote this is because it is Legend’s 46th birthday today. Happy birthday to my favorite actress! 😀

As always, you can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

REVIEW: World War Z   1 comment

If there’s one theme that makes pop culture in demand now, it’s definitely zombies. Whether it’s The Walking Dead in television or Warm Bodies in film, the trend is livelier than ever, and joining now is Brad Pitt’s personal passion project, the film adaptation of Max Brooks’ 2006 novel World War Z, directed by Marc Forster.

In the midst of an unexplainable surge of zombie attacks in different parts of the world, former United Nations employee Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) left his family in order to take an assignment that will bring him to different parts of the world in order to find the solution to the said zombie pandemic.

For all the creative differences that happened before and during the film production, the final output is better than what most will probably expect. The film is full of tensed moments that will hold the audience screaming at their seats. Fans of zombie attack films will surely appreciate this one, as the suspense level keeps on taking a notch higher. The first 40 minutes alone will already satisfy your zombie intensity cravings.

I also liked the film’s musical score combining haunting sounds during the tense filled parts of the film, and it offered solid technical visual achievements from production design and cinematography. The visual effects and the zombie make up were deserving of mention as well. Plus, it does not hurt at all that the main character is played by one of the most charismatic movie stars in the world. Brad Pitt, as much as one takes too much interest in his personal life, dominates the screen with his performance and proves how an engaging lead he is in this film.

With that said, the movie’s flaws are very visible as well. The story is noticeably chopped up, and as much as they came up with the best possible way to hide it, the movie feels like a combination of pieces of different stories patched up which led to contrived story lines and noticeable lapses in storytelling. It gave me a Contagion meets Beyond Borders vibe. What’s interesting though is that the film seems to be holding back in terms of connecting it to possible issues that would have made the whole movie more impactful. They were lumped up in a voice over that Brad Pitt did in the near end, but it wasn’t shown enough to actually linger.

For what it’s worth, World War Z is an entertaining and action filled zombie movie that does not lack in the visual treat that the audience will surely eat up. Its biggest liability lies in the fact that it could have further pushed buttons to make it a more impactful movie, but it did not attempt to go there.

RATING: 3/5

REVIEW: Man of Steel   Leave a comment

After a plethora of superhero stories the past few years now with everybody from Iron Man to Batman, and Thor to Captain America, one American superhero icon gets his spotlight once again: everyone’s beloved Superman takes his share on the big screen glory via Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel.

In Man of Steel, we go back to basics at the very beginning from the destruction of the planet Krypton and how survivor infant Kal-El lives his younger years until his identification as Superman. Through a series of flashbacks, we get a glimpse of his earlier years as he slowly discovers how he is a different child from the rest. The main conflict ensues when Zod visits the Earth and confronts Superman to surrender; otherwise, he’ll wreak havoc to humanity.

The premise might sound too slow for the whole movie to depend on it, but while it served as one of the weakest points of the movie, it opened a lot of interesting approach as well. The flashback worked for the most part and provided some of the more subtle and memorable parts of the movie. They provided a nice counter to the flashier scenes that comprised most of the film. John Williams’ score is also one of the notable parts of the film, and while this is not par with his iconic outputs, it was solid all throughout the movie.

With that said, the movie can’t help but be a victim of its own liking. The fight scenes, while interesting to say the least, just can’t help but go on and on and on and on. When you finally feel that scenes are coming to an end, it shows no signs of doing so. While I don’t think it can be considered as a case of restraint, it could have benefited from a tighter editing. What could have been a case of continuous “wow” moments turns into “wow when will this end?” Also, the product placement can be turned off a notch down, as Sears, 7-11, and iHop received more screentime than Kevin Costner. The love angle between Superman and Lois Lane feels underwritten too, or maybe the two leads just lack chemistry.

I know this has been said and mentioned multiple times already, but I still feel the need to reiterate it, but Henry Cavill was perfectly casted as Superman. His presence transcends to the audiences and you can hear gasps of “wow” when he first showed up in his Superman suit. Lois Lane, on the other hand, became a character that falls under misfortune and not even the usually reliable Amy Adams can rescue it. Most of the supporting casts were given thankless roles, but Michael Shannon’s commitment is worthy of a mention.

All in all, Man of Steel contains a lot of potential in it but was victimized by its own over the top nature. Still, it’s one film that I recommend watching because a polarizing film like this can bring out different reaction among its crowd.

RATING: 8/10

As always, you can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

86th Oscars Predictions: June Edition   3 comments

Now that the Cannes Film Festival is over, and a lot of primary contenders has released early screenings and major trailers of their films, it’s clearer to see on who will be the top contenders for film’s highest honors for next year. Here are my mid-June predictions:

best picture

best director

best actor

best actress

 

best supporting actor

best supporting actress

Now, what films are you excited about? Do you think Cameron Diaz will really be an Oscar nominee? Is Meryl Streep unstoppable? Will David O. Russell finally win an Oscar?

As always, you can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

65th Primetime Emmy Awards Nomination Predictions: June 2013   Leave a comment

We’re getting closer to the big announcement day eh? Since the last update, we have Neil Patrick Harris as the official host (his second stint), and we finally got the eligibility lists for all categories, and most of the shows have already ended (Veep is probably the last one remaining of the major contenders). Also, this will be the second to the last update before I reveal my official Emmy predictions a week before the actual nomination announcement. Do you have an idea who will be asked to announce this year?

Anyway, here are my predictions for this month, now including the guest categories:

drama series

drama actor

drama actress

drama supp actor

drama supp actress

drama guest actor

drama guest actress

comedy series

comedy actor

comedy actress

comedy supp actor

comedy supp actresss

comedy guest actor

comedy guest actress

tv movie

tv movie actor

tv movie actress

tv movie supp actor

tv movie supp actress

Who do you think am I overestimating? Who am I underestimating? Pipe them in below!

And as always, you can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl