Archive for the ‘films’ Tag

86th Oscars Predictions: December Edition   Leave a comment

With the Globe and SAG nods already announced, and three of the four major critics already revealing their choices, here’s the state of the race (and the last one prior to noms on January).

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lead actor

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FLF

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86th Oscars Predictions: November Edition   Leave a comment

Okay one more month before we get to see the precursors. Sorry there’s no write up this month, since I’ll soon be updating for December, and this is a pretty stagnant month in terms of premieres and shake ups. Anyway, post your comments and questions below if you have anything. 🙂

PS: Best Actress is so effin boring there’s no changes at all for this month.

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original screenplay

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foreign language film

86th Oscars Predictions: October Edition   Leave a comment

Here we go! October batch, as we get closer and closer to the precursors season. Also, Wolf of Wall Street is still in a deadline to meet for this year, and no such announcement was formally made that it will transfer to 2014. Until then, I’d just include it here yet. Plus, screenplay categories and foreign language film!

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best actress

 

best supp actor

 

best supporting actress

 

original screenplay

adapted screenplay

 

foreign language film

 

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

86th Oscars Predictions: September Edition   7 comments

Now we’re getting closer to the Oscar precursor season especially since Venice, Telluride, and Toronto film festivals are all over. They all solidified some films’ and performances chances. Here’s the state of the race for this month:

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9th Cinemalaya Film Festival Review: Part 1   8 comments

Hi everyone! It’s Cinemalaya time of the year again. It’s the time when we get to see some of the most exciting and most promising independent films produced by directors both veterans and new ones. This year’s crop of films are really interesting as they varies from different genres and with more big stars having their first Cinemalaya entries (coughVilmaSantoscough). Over the next few days, I’ll be posting my reviews of this year’s entries, and weigh in my thoughts about the ninth batch of indie films. Let’s get the ball rollin’ shall we? 🙂

LIARS
Director: Gil Portes
Cast: Alessandra de Rossi, Jan Harley Hicana, John Michael Bonapos, Arnold Reyes
Competition: Director’s Showcase

The film tells the story of journalist Eloisa (Alessandra de Rossi) whose expose’ of the truth results in life-changing consequences to a baseball team of poor boys. It is inspired by a true story.

It is interesting to note that the director claims that the movie is a fictional take just based from a true to life story that happened in 1991. While the whole film gives you a lifetime TV movie of the week feels, this is a familiar territory that combines two concepts that Gil Portes excels at: children and inspirational story. The tandem of writer Senedy Que and director Gil Portes already did it before in Mga Munting Tinig, and they successfully did it again with Liars. The story, as told from a series of flashbacks, recounts the step by step process of the fictional Smokey Mountain team, though what’s special with this is that the two main characters (played by Jan Harley Hicana and John Michael Bonapos) were given ample attention in the story and they certainly delivered. Alessandra de Rossi was dependable as always, and the ensemble consisting of Arnold Reyes, Cris Villanueva, and Sue Prado were all given moments to work on. The movie is not something that hasn’t been told before, but it goes on point with the message that it wants to deliver successfully.

Rating: 3/5

REKORDER
Director: Mikhail Red
Cast: Ronnie Quizon, Mike Lloren, BuboyVillar, Earl Ignacio
Competition: New Breed

The film tells the story of a former 1980’s film cameraman who now currently works as a movie pirate operating in present day Manila. He routinely smuggles a digital camcorder into movie theatres in order to illegally record films. One night, he records something else… and the footage goes viral.

The premise of this film is one that simply strikes me as interesting when I first read the synopsis. But I guess that ended up as its strongest downfall, as it did not live up to what I was expecting to see. Helmed by Raymond Red’s son, Mikhail Red, there seems to be a lacking in terms of storytelling. The perceived impact of what Maven (Ronnie Quizon) has captured did not totally live up to the build-up of the film’s intensity. With that said, the style of the direction is commendable here, and if anything, Maven was written and portrayed as a complex and intriguing character that really holds your attention. I like the film’s opening and ending shots, and for some reason, some of the earlier parts with the police reminded me of Lawrence Fajardo’s Posas from last year. Quizon was awkward but that’s what made his performance engaging and convincing, and his portrayal gave justice on how his character was written. If only the viral video was more engaging, it would have been an overall better film.

Rating: 3/5

PUROK 7
Director: Carlo Obispo
Cast: Krystle Valentino, Miggs Cuaderno, Arnold Reyes, Julian Trono
Competition: New Breed

The film follows Diana (Krystle Valentino) and her younger brother as they strive to relieve their longing for a family.

Pronounced as Purok Siyete (or its English translation “Zone 7”), the movie depicts and creates an atmosphere of its own – something that gives you a clear description of how it feels like for Diana and her brother. The concepts of waiting and longing to be a part of a family were on full display effectively, thanks to the endearing performances of both Krystle Valentino and Miggs Cuaderno. I admit that this is one of the few great surprises I have seen so far, and most of it is credited to director and writer Carlo Obispo. Diana’s character is one that is probably more known in movies: the optimistic barrio lass who despite the trials and being the breadwinner of her and her brother do not lose an inch of hope that someday, they too will finally get what they long have wanted. What makes this one different though is that Diana was more humanized; she’s very much transparent that it’s easy for the audience to smile, laugh, and feel for her. I also like how this one ended when it puts the whole story on a full circle. And yes, let me reiterate that you have to pencil in Krystle Valentino bas she showcased one of the best performances of the year by far.

Rating: 4/5

EKSTRA (The Bit Player)
Director: Jeffrey Jeturian
Cast: Vilma Santos, Tart Carlos, Marlon Rivera, Vincent de Jesus
Competition: Director’s Showcase

A socio-realist drama-comedy film, it follows a seemingly usual day in the life of Loida Malabanan (Vilma Santos), as she embarks on yet another shooting day of a soap opera as an extra.

Probably the most buzzed about film in this year’s batch, Ekstra will surely go on to be one of the more prominent and memorable films this year. On one hand, it gives us a glimpse of how it feels like to be an extra – how they’re treated in TV production, what they do in between takes, how they get the roles that they do among others. It’s this kind of “backstage peek” that makes the audience get really interested in. And Ekstra showed that comprehensively in a funny and humorous manner. On the other, if you’re not into that kind of thing, then this one is not for you. It’s too overstuffed that it just went on and on and on. There are parts that can still be trimmed down from it, and it just felt too long. The truth is despite the normal people enjoying the glimpse of what it’s like in a soap opera set, it does cater more to those people who are really a part of it with inside jokes thrown endlessly left and right. With that said, this is a Vilma Santos vehicle, and Santos certainly delivered. More than the witty one-liners or the endless lines, one thing that I’ve always like about her is her great physical acting, and she does that lot in here. She really commands the screen, and it’s nice to see her show it again. I guess my favorite is the one near end of the film when the camera just stares at her – that’s when her emotions are on full display, stripped of the environment where she was just the day before. This somehow reminded me of Ang Babae sa Septic Tank¸ and while both contained impeccable lead performances, it just tends to go beyond the line of too much over the top every now and then. If anything, I enjoyed Antoniette Jadaone’s solo feature Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay as a better vehicle to see a day in the life of a bit player.

Rating: 3/5

Expect the second batch to come during the next few days. And as always, you can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

REVIEW: Thy Womb   6 comments

Thy Womb

The Metro Manila Film Festival kicks off today, and there’s no better way than to start the reviews by writing one for arguably the most quality film of the bunch. Brillante Mendoza’s Venice entry Thy Womb was in the shortlist months before but actually did not make the final list. However, as fate would have it, one movie backed out paving the way for its inclusion in the final eight.

Thy Womb takes us all the way to Tawi Tawi in Mindanao. There, we meet Shaleha (Aunor) a Badjao midwife who ironically can’t provide her own offspring to her husband Bangas-an (Roco). This led the couple to explore endless options in order for Shaleha to give what she knows her husband wanted from the start.

With such an interesting premise, director Mendoza grabbed every possible chance in order to let the story speak for itself. Most of the time, we are following Shaleha and Bangas-an’s daily routines. It is with this straightforwardness that the story let the audience be a part not only of their culture, but with the life of the couple. I’ve always like how the breathtaking Tawi Tawi was depicted; in its own, it can be considered as a character in the film. Think of Manhattan in Manhattan or New York in Sex and the City series (lousy comparison, but I do hope you get the point), where in the location itself has a lot of stories to share to its viewers. And Mendoza introduces Tawi Tawi to us by giving us bits and pieces of their colorful traditions and culture.

I think the biggest con that the movie had was during the near end of the movie, when a turning point was revealed. I don’t feel that it was established well enough to elicit the intended impact that the writer aimed. While it is, indeed, a game changer, it felt a bit premature given the lack of actual build up. With that said, I like the insertion of small ironies here and there regarding the couple’s life experiences.

Time and again, it is a common fact that Nora Aunor is one of the best talents that ever graced Philippine cinema. And Thy Womb is another testament of that. I’d even dare say that at times, she elevates the material with her performance. Her poignant turn as Shaleha  is probably one of my favorites for the year. La Aunor’s stare can paint a thousand emotions without even battling a single word. Bembol Roco was an apt counterpart to Aunor’s Shaleha. Roco is the yin to Aunor’s yang. Both Lovi Poe and Mercedes Cabral have shorter screentimes and weren’t given that much to do, but their presence were definitely felt.

Thy Womb, above anything else, is a journey. A raw and poignant journey that leads its viewers not only to the bluest of the seas and the farthest of the islands, but to the lives of Shaleha and Bangas-an. And it is a journey that is definitely worth seeing.

Grade: 4/5

Here are the reviews of the other Metro Manila Film Festival 2012 entries:

El Presidente
One More Try
Shake, Rattle, and Roll 14: The Invasion
Si Agimat, si Enteng, at si Ako
Sisterakas
Sosy Problems
The Strangers

You can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

REVIEW: Suddenly It’s Magic   6 comments

After a string of horror, comedy, and flat out drama movies the past few months, Star Cinema goes back to one of its strongest genre by doing a romance film. Suddenly It’s Magic stars Filipina Erich Gonzales and Thai superstar Mario Maurer and helmed by one of their top notch directors, Rory B. Quintos.

Thai superstar Marcus Hanson (Mario Maurer) is in a personal and professional burnout, so he escaped to the Philippines in order to get much deserved rest. There, he met provincial lass Joey (Erich Gonzales), whom he felt a strong connection with. Joey was mending a broken heart, and the two find each other’s company special. Once Marcus goes back to Thailand, the two must adjust to the conditions of their previous lives in order to maintain their relationship.

As for starters, this film was obviously greenlit due to Maurer’s sudden popularity in the Philippines. With that said, I already left my expectations before I entered the cinemas. I knew this will have the same predictable and recycled subplots especially since there seems no room left for a more creative one or interesting story to tackle. And boy was I surprisingly correct. One can see what will happen a mile away, and the only thing that will make you gasp is… how correct you are! Fiesta scenes? Check. Upstaging gay best friend? Check. Girl falling over the boy? Check. It’s as if someone was tasked to collect different scenes from past rom-coms and combine them here.

There also seems to be some major continuity issues here and there, such as hair colors and the language used. Are we supposed to believe that when Joey’s character speaks Taglish, Marcus’s character will really understand the whole context of it? Some storylines were also just dropped off in the middle of the film, with no signs of even coming back.

Despite that, I still find a handful of interesting things to see in the film. I like the scene where Marcus’s mother is talking to Joey. This highlights what the different approach in acting we have from them. A scene that could have been histrionically portrayed here was calm yet full of impact delivered by the Thai mother. There was also the language play with Thais being forced to speak in English in some parts that sacrifices the impact of the movie. I also notice how Rory Quintos has this knack of showing beautiful cinematographic scenes to envelope the watchers to be a part of it (though it was done better in Kailangan Kita)

The camera really loves Mario Maurer’s face, and there’s no bad angles of him. I recall the whole cinema going wild every time he has a close up scene. Time and again, Maurer has proven that he has the chops (Love of Siam anyone?), though it still depends on the material he was given to. In here, he was not required to do much except to be cute and charming, and that’s not difficult for him to do. Erich Gonzales captures the naive woman effectively, and she seems to be a fit to Mario’s mestizo features. The supporting characters were alright, and while Joross Gamboa’s gay best friend was a crowd favorite, the role has been done a thousand times now and has already lost most of its magic. My favorite though is every scene that involves Thai actress Baifern Pimchanok, as I was smitten by her.

All in all, this one seems predictable as the other romance movies, but one thing that it genuinely and successfully achieved is the charm of the two lead characters. With that, there’s no wonder, it will be a hit to its definite target audience.

Grade: 2.5/5

REVIEW: Six Degrees of Separation From Lilia Cuntapay   3 comments

One of the more prominent entries from last year’s Cinema One Originals finally gets a cinematic release this year, and Antoinette Jadaone’s first feature offering is definitely worth of all the accolades it has received. Six Degrees of Separation From Lilia Cuntapay does not only strike someone’s pop culture knowledge (it’s Lilia effin’ Cuntapay for chrissakes), but it also manages to go deeper into the life of a very taken for granted actress in Philippine movie history.

The movie, which applies the documentary approach, follows the life of prominent showbiz extra Lilia Cuntapay who played roles of  aswangs and other horror creatures every Halloween specials of [insert TV show here]. Form there, we learned that she received a Best Supporting Actress nomination, and we follow her every step of her journey to the awards ceremony including choosing the perfect gown, coming up with the speech, and conducting interviews from others.

The film shifts from mockumentary at one part to a probable good look of what her life was about to the next one, and Jadaone’s direction does a perfect job of not confusing the watchers. It’s a pretty good study of Nanay Lilia’s character as one can see the  juxtaposition of  the “nominee Lilia” from the “day in the life of Lilia.” There were also a handful of celebrity cameos that re-assures the impact that she has already left in the industry.

Amidst all that, probably the best thing I love about it (and I warn you, as this will definitely be cheesy) is that the movie has a heart. For someone who has been taken for granted for the longest time, it’s really not difficult to attach yourself with Nanay Lilia. You find yourself rooting for her every step of the way, and the movie does an exceptional job of achieving that. Nanay Lilia with the aswang costumes and the thick make up is already a fascinating character, yet the one behind it does make a more interesting character. In the end, everyone benefits.

I’m really saddened that this did not make a mark awards-wise this past year (aside from the Urian nominations), as it clearly deserved some recognition. Lilia Cuntapay deserves some Best Actress awards (and she was my personal pick last year for that title), and Geraldine Villamil should have at least a nomination. Well I guess, we can cherish the fact that they were, at least, triumphant at the Cinema One Originals Awards night last year.

I know by now that I’ve already sounded like a broken record, but in case you still want to hear it one more time: Six Degrees of Separation From Lilia Cuntapay is the best film of 2011. To add to that, it’s also the best one in years. It does a lot more than just telling a story; it presented us this persona of a tour de force woman that will forever remain immortal in our eyes sans the aswang portrayals.

Grade: 5/5

SHAMELESS PLUGGING: Please please do catch this film. It deserves to be seen by a looooot of people.  You can see it in the following theaters: SM Megamall, Sm City North EDSA, SM Southmall, and Robinson’s Galleria.

REVIEW: Argo   Leave a comment

Oscar season is right up the corner, and before it goes crazy with the non-stop campaigning and critics awards given left and right, it is rightful to start it with the current Oscar Best Picture frontrunner (see current Oscar predictions here) by Ben Affleck entitled Argo. This is Affleck’s third directorial job after 2007’s Gone Baby Gone and 2010’s The Town, and if it’s any indication, he keeps getting better and is on his way to become one of the greats of his generation.

After the Iranian revolutionaries attacked the US Embassy in 1979, six workers luckily managed to escape the venue and seek refuge to a Canadian ambassador. Back in the US, the government through the help of CIA Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) planned a device on how to rescue the six employees without the whole world identifying it. The only possible way is to come up with a plan so bad that it will be good. Mendez then contacted Oscar winning make up artist John Chambers (John Goodman) and a veteran has been producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) enters the picture to finalize the plan of doing a fake Hollywood movie entitled “Argo” that will use the six employees as “members” of the film production who visited Iran, and in the process, escaping from Iran.

With a very interesting topic to tackle, director Affleck wasted not a single thing to come up with an extensive and tightly packed direction which is still the movie’s strongest aspect to boot. Seriously, Ben Affleck might not be the best actor in all of Hollywood, and Gigli jokes might never even disappear, but his directorial skills are top notch surpassing each of the previous films that he has done. In Argo, one of my main concerns is that it might get sucked up by the material that it tackles, but Affleck ensured that the the direction will highlight the story and not the other way around.

The screenplay is also strong, though I don’t think there’s a need to include Mendez’ personal struggles, as it is too minor to be included, but I tend to understand where the inclusion is coming from. The flow of the story can tend to go borderline procedural in the middle of the film and sappy in the last part, but the first part and especially the climax were too strong enough to elicit reaction from it viewers, and it succeeds in doing so. The other aspects of the film were strong as well. Costumes and production design were noticeable and cinematography, in particular, was excellent.

The reason why I think this is the frontrunner for the Oscars is that it’s the type of movie that has social relevance (especially with cultural misunderstandings), and shows that a business like Hollywood is not totally detached from the real world. If anything, the industry will eat it up, and I see wins for Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, and Editing among others.

Ben Affleck has vastly improved with his acting skills, usually letting the eyes and the emotions act for themselves without battling a word, and he was a charismatic and believable enough in the lead role. However, it’s the three supporting actors that stole the show: John Goodman as make up artist John Chambers who was every bit enjoyable and lights up the screen, Bryan Cranston as Edward’s supervisor Jack O’Donnell who was in charge with the dramatic acts especially in the climax part of the film. But it was veteran Alan Arkin who was the scene-stealer as the foul mouthed producer. Arkin’s role is the type that usually gets accolades, and I’m seeing another nomination for him next year.

It is safe to say that Argo is one of the best thrillers of the past few years, and it certainly deserves that distinction. If anything, this is a solid impressive film that benefits from a lot of good characteristics that mix together. That’s enough to be considered as one of the best pictures of the year.

Grade: 4.5/5

REVIEW: Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles   1 comment

 

2012 has given us a lot of horror films in the local scene that it’s hard to keep up with all that has been shown and those that are still next in line. With that said, one film that stood out early on is director Erik Matti’s Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles. Most of the buzz surrounding it is because of the green-screen filmmaking that the director used as the approach while shooting the whole film. This definitely makes my list as one of the must-sees of the year.

Carefree and borderline arrogant Makoy (Dingdong Dantes) goes to the province to fetch pregnant girlfriend Sonia (Lovi Poe). However, Sonia’s mother Fely (Janice de Belen) is vocally against it. Makoy approached the father(joey Marquez) instead and helped him to provide a celebration for Makoy and Sonia’s forthcoming baby. Unbeknownst to them, this includes a trip to a barrio of aswangs and inform them that Sonia is pregnant and piqued interest from them.

For all the press release that mentioned the green screen approach, the effects certainly was polished and delivered. While there were some that were not totally polished, they’re pretty much forgivable as the whole work was engaging and passable enough to nitpick. It also worked in the context of the film, as it really introduced you to their own environment. So in that aspect, I must say that it definitely worked. It’s also really flattering to see that we’re improving on the CGI aspects of our films, though the movie can’t help but be more over the top with its effects; clearly, someone is enjoying their time in the editing room of the film.

The music was commendable as well, as it is compatible with the building of the atmosphere of a barrio far away and plays a large role especially in the different parts of the movie. Matti’s approach with the different boxes is also a good play especially for an over the top movie like this one. He seems particularly fond of the material and knows where the strengths lie and which parts need some cover up.

However, all the focus on the effects clearly can’t hide the lack of storytelling. While the movie only runs an hour and forty minutes (credits included), the movie already stretched out its very thin story that already has run its course after the first hour. The remaining minutes were overdone and overwrought already, and it’s up to the actors and the effects on how to sell the remaining hour to its audience.

Acting wise, the cast was definitely engaging, and the audience ate it up. Dingdong Dantes was more than serviceable in the lead role combining his good looks and machismo in a role that requires him to do so. I can’t imagine any other actor who can provide the same impact to the said role. Janice de Belen always hits a stride, and Lovi Poe wasn’t given much to do. Joey Marquez seems to be the crowd favorite, and he certainly is one of the strongest factors of the movie especially during the third act. I won’t be surprised if he gets notice from mainstream award giving bodies next year.

It’s easy to see why the movie banked on the green screen effect, as it clearly showed some laziness on the storytelling, but it is indeed every inch entertaining. I’m also kinder to films that introduce unique approaches, and Tiktik: Aswang Chronicles certainly fits the bill.

Grade: 3/5