Archive for the ‘jake cuenca’ Tag

2013 Sineng Pambansa Review: Part 1   3 comments

Hi everyone! Aside from Cinemalaya and Cinema One Originals, there are two newbie local festivals that will offer other possible venues for local cinema to be seen. The first one is the Sineng Pambansa: All Masters Edition which is hosted by the Film Development Council of the Philippines. This year, ten outputs from some of the most memorable names in the local filmmaking scene participated to be a part of this (hopefully) annual festival. SM Cinemas served as the venue partner of the FDCP this year, and each movie ticket is only for a hundred pesos. Anyway, I’ll be dividing my coverage into three parts (especially since three films are still in post-production status). Here are the first three films I’ve seen during the festival’s opening day.

Sonata

SONATA
Directors: Peque Gallaga and Lore Reyes
cast: Cherie Gil, Chart Motus, Joshua Pineda, Chino Jalandoni

Set in the beautiful and photogenic lands of Negros Occidental, Sonata tells the story of an aging opera diva dealing with an breakdown caused by the slow losing of her voice. When the son of their family caretaker joins and spends his vacation there, an unlikely friendship develop between the two as they both continue their journey to self-discovery.

Sonata is a lovely way to start my Sineng Pambansa experience this year. It is a light-hearted drama that a lot of people can find themselves enjoying because of the film’s simple but heartfelt approach. It somehow reminded me of Ellen Ongkeko-Marfil’s Boses on how two opposites (an adult and a child) managed to  help each other in discovering more about themselves and life in particular. However, you can replace the violin with opera here. It is within these heartfelt scenes that the movie find its best footing. With that said, I could have lived without that ending, as it veered away from what worked in the initial parts of the film. If anything though, it was already predictable given the lots of context clues scattered in the film up until that ending. Cherie Gil was marvelous in her take of Margo Channing meets Norma Desmond. The parts where she’s talking about all the previous operas she starred was a hoot. It could have been an easy way out for an actress of her caliber to phone it in, but she refused to take that route, and instead give a satisfying and effective performance. Also, Negros Occidental is so beautiful to look at. Gallaga and Reyes’ collaboration here was satisfying for the most part; it’s not a masterpiece per se, but it gives an effective and poignant take on what it has to offer.

Rating: 3.5/5

Lauriana

LAURIANA
Director: Mel Chionglo
Cast: Allen Dizon, Bangs Garcia, Victor Basa, Adrian Cabido

Going back to 1955, the movie captures pretty barrio lass Lauriana (Bangs Garcia), and how she left an impact to two of the closest men in her life: the soldier who treated her as his “wife”, and the child who used to teach her the English language.

In this film, director Mel Chionglo served too much in the film that resulted to an over of some sorts. First, the story felt disjointed and forced despite being overwhelmed with everything that’s happening in it (and I’m telling you there’s a looooot that’s happening in it). If some movies usually weaken because of abandoning minor plots, this film does the opposite and discussed all possible areas they possibly can. What resulted is a combo of messy plotting and a very uneven pacing. It seems to go back and forth into different perspectives without a smooth connection (well I guess Lauriana’s character) that actually works. This is disappointing since there are some parts in the film that can be focused longer to come up with a more interesting end result. Instead, it just went on and on and on during the last act showing no signs of stopping. Add the fact that the acting here is all over the place with mostly everyone’s acting motto is described in one word : histrionics. I guess the film’s lack of focus is the root of all these problems; otherwise, there would have been a different (and probably better?) product.

Rating: 2/5

Lihis

LIHIS
Director: Joel Lamangan
Cast: Jake Cuenca, Joem Bascon, Lovi Poe, Isabelle Daza

In the midst of the Martial Law years, two NPA rebels find not only sharing ideologies and beliefs, but feelings for each other. The film is told in a flashback approach as the daughter of one of them find more information about her father.

I wasn’t initially sold by the approach that Lamangan used in order to narrate the story, but the end product did not have any problem translating it to the viewers. After seeing a lot of Lamangan’s more recent features (from 2009’s Dukot up to Burgos from earlier this year), I am reminded that he probably fancies this niche too much lately, because I think the whole NPA stuff was just a background piece in this story. The focus of the film actually deviates more than what I expected. What I mean is that the love story between Ador and Cesar could have been set in a ranch and they’d be sheep herders (wink wink) and what you’d get is practically the same story. i saw that the film tried to go deeper than that to address the said concern (by leaving it to the present day scenes), but it just didn’t completely work out. With that said, there were commendable performances especially from the 1970s part with Joem’s Ennis and Jake’s Jack having no inhibitions with each other. And Lovi Poe is always a treat to watch. Issues aside, I think it’s a decent enough effort from Lamangan that you can see.

PS: Is it just me or the middle image of the film’s poster reminds you of the near end part of 2000’s Plata Quemada? Or for a more common reference, the bottom part of the poster of Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa. 

Rating: 2.5/5

Anyway, that’s it. Next batch hopefully by Saturday. I urge all of you to go watch and support the Sineng Pambansa Film Festival. The whole fest will run from September 11-17 in all SM cinemas nationwide for only 100 pesos!

Also, you can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

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9th Cinemalaya Film Festival Review: Part 3   6 comments

Okay guys, here’s part three of the my coverage of the 9th Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival. For those who missed the previous ones, Part 1 consists of Gil Portes’ Liars, Mikhail Red’s Rekorder,  Carlo Obispo’s Purok 7, and Jeffrey Jeturian’s Ekstra.  Part 2 has Adolf Alix’s Porno, Alvin Yapan’s Debosyon, and Leo Abaya’s Instant Mommy. Here’s four movies from this year’s batch:

SANA DATI
Director: Jerrold Tarog
Cast: Lovi Poe, Paulo Avelino, Benjamin Alves, TJ Trinidad
Competition: Director’s Showcase

The film is a love story about a woman whose wedding is thrown away when a mysterious person arrives and reminds her of the man she really loves.

As the conclusion to his Camera Trilogy, director Jerrold Tarog intimately showcases how love can make a person strong yet vulnerable, how some instances push us to move forward despite wanting to be stagnant, and ultimately teaches us to let go. I’m captivated with how the story unfolds – one does not need a personal experience to feel Andrea’s (Lovi Poe) jitters on her wedding day, but you can clearly identify what she’s going through. It’s difficult to move to another stage of your life when you still attach yourself to the previous one and it’s even more difficult to unlatch yourself from it because you do not know where and how to begin. When Dennis (Paulo Avelino) enters the picture and made his presence be known to her, it makes her confront the lingering feelings that she still has. Probably my favourite scene is when Andrea was on the rails and just closed her eyes and probably gives her the peace of mind she wanted even just for a few moments. Aside from the strong writing and directing, the film benefits from having a great ensemble of actors. Lovi Poe is definitely one of the best actresses of her generation and this is just another addition to her list of memorable performances. Paulo Avelino resembles the “mysterious” person effectively – his curiosity leads you to think what his intentions really are. Both Benjamin Alves and TJ Trinidad were effective too, as well as the whole ensemble of actors who played as family members and friends in the movie. Tarog mentioned that he tried to pitch the movie several times since he conceptualized it seven years ago, and that this was the only time when he felt it was ready. And he surely knows what he is doing. Oh, and plus points for the Up Dharma Down song in the end.

Rating: 5/5

THE DIPLOMAT HOTEL
Director: Christopher Ad Castillo
Cast: Gretchen Barretto, Art Acuna, Mon Confiado, Nico Antonio
Competition: New Breed

Victoria Lansang (Gretchen Barretto) is a popular news reporter who has been requested to mediate a hostage crisis. And in front of a national television audience, something horribly goes wrong.

I really do not know what to make of The Diplomat Hotel. I must admit that it’s one of the more exciting films I have for this year, since the hotel itself is a popular horror destination which is known for its ghosts and other spiritual sightings. I acknowledge that the film wants to go on a different direction – it’s more of a psychological thriller and the ghosts that you probably expect to see are not literal ghosts but the ones people have within. I guess that made the film flat for me. When you have a prominent ghost location, it sets the mood for something that will build up the tension and fear; instead, all those fears came from the characters themselves and it leaves no attachment to the viewers. I can’t pinpoint what is wrong with the film (since I don’t think that WRONG is even the correct word to use for this), but I feel that it was a missed opportunity to highlight something better. The characters weren’t fleshed out interestingly, and as they scare themselves to death already, you won’t care a bit. If anything though, you can see that they tried – the Baguio shots were crisp, the “tour” inside the hotel was also good, and the ensemble is living up for their roles. Mon Confiado’s physically transformed look and Art Acuna were always dependable. As for Gretchen Barretto, you know she’s clearly trying and while certain deliveries still caught me off guard and resulted to some laughs, I see the effort. I guess that’s how I’ll sum the movie: the end result was bleh, but I acknowledge the effort.

Rating: 1.5/5

QUICK CHANGE
Director: Eduardo Roy Jr.
Cast: Mimi Juarenza, Jun-Jun Quintana, Miggs Cuaderno, Francine Garcia
Competition: New Breed

Life of Dorina, a middle-aged transsexual looking for his niche amidst the complexities of the world he is in. This is a story of suffering, acceptance, and hope.

Quick Change is one of the lesser known entries in this year’s filmfest: it does not have big stars in its cast, it does not have the most audience friendly story; however, it’s also one of this year’s biggest surprises. The film follows the life of Dorina, as he offers cheaper collagen injections to transsexuals and young women who want to have bigger breasts or more noticeable cheekbones. He’s particularly known in their community because of that business. Alongside his young nephew whom he calls Kuya, this is how Dorina lives his daily life. Oh, and he has a boyfriend who’s cheating on him with another transsexual. I like how Dorina’s personal predicament is ironic with what he’s doing for a living. Think of how Dr. Gregory House is someone who cures for a living but can’t cure his own. It’s also an interesting look on how this whole business works: who are the usual customers, what are their motives in doing so, and what are its implications to all of them. There is a scene in the near end where we see someone who looks like a frozen mannequin already due to countless injections but then goes on saying “Iturok niyo lang ng iturok, kahit ano. Basta gusto ko ang feeling ng karayom sa mukha ko” and that leads you to an idea that somewhere along the way, it will catch up to all of them. Dorina is a well written complex character supported with a fearless award worthy performance by Mimi Juarenza. It is safe (no pun intended) to say that it is this year’s “little film that could.”

Rating: 4/5

NUWEBE
Director: Joseph Israel Laban
Cast: Barbara Miguel, Jake Cuenca, Nadine Samonte, Anita Linda
Competition: New Breed

Inspired by the actual story of one of the youngest mothers in Philippine history, the film charts the story of Krista, who at the tender age of nine got pregnant from the sexual abuse of her own father.

Nuwebe benefits from having a really interesting premise and something that can speak volumes about an issue in our country considering that it was inspired from an actual story. With that said, it’s really hard to identify your place as a viewer while watching the film. I think the biggest problem of the movie is its writing. It was a big letdown from the film’s intriguing story. The dialogue was cringe worthy, and I know that I’m supposed to feel for Krista, but she left me confused and apathetic. She’s spewing lines to her mother like “Ano ako? tanga?” and “Ayoko ipalaglag ang anak ko.”, and while I give the director the benefit of the doubt that the “real” Krista did say that, it’s just too awkward to be believable. Her character was portrayed as an intelligent person in her class (as she’s the only one reciting – about the sperm and pollens of all topics), yet she admits to her mother that she did not know it was a bad thing that she and her father made a baby. By the near end, I just ended up not caring for any of the characters, Krista included. The premise has really some potential, but I don’t think it was smoothly fleshed out to totally work.

Rating: 1.5/5

Eleven down, four left to review. Last batch consisting of Hannah Espia’s Transit, Jason Paul Laxamana’s Babagwa, Emmanuel Palo’s David F, and Ces Evangelista’s Amor Y Muerte will be posted on Saturday morning.

You can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

REVIEW: Tuhog   7 comments

Tuhog

Skylight Films, the indie army of Star Cinema, does their own celebration of the film outfit’s 20th year by coming up with a comedy that plays with intertwined fates of three strangers. Written and directed by Veronica Velasco, and starred by Eugene Domingo, Leo Martinez, Enchong Dee, and Jake Cuenca, Tuhog is a take on the connection of me, you, and everyone else you know.

Due to a highway bus accident, three strangers Tonio (Leo Martinez), Caloy (Enchong Dee), and Fiesta (Eugene Domingo) are literally connected by a piece of steel bar; unfortunately for them, the small hospital where they were directed has only two operating rooms, and before the decision can be made, we get a glimpse of their own lives prior to the said incident. There, we see Tonio, a retired family man, whose aim is to put up a bakery.  Fiesta is a cranky female bus conductor who’s being haunted by her past, while Caloy is a typical college student whose world revolves with the notion of finally having her long distant girlfriend deflowered.

On the outside, it’s easy to dismiss the definition of the film’s title from the main conflict that the film presented. If you’re a fan of Grey’s Anatomy, you’ll have a clear idea of what I’m referring to in the Season 2 episode Into You Like a Train. However, it goes deeper than that. We were then presented that even before the accident, there were already instances where the three characters have intertwined in the past. And I think that’s where the movie clearly succeeds – that there were already some puzzle pieces even before the picture was made.

Veronica Velasco really knows how to connect the story to the audience and vice versa. I like how each of the backstories were tackled, though it’s safe to say that Caloy’s story was the weakest of the three. Not because it was the lightest, but because it’s the one that comes close (but definitely didn’t) from being a filler. The most interesting one is hands down the first one with Tonio. It’s stories like his that personally strikes the most interest for me because it’s  a scenario that others can possibly see themselves at. Fiesta’s segment is the perfect middle story; it might not be the most original story, but it is successful in what it presented, and the crowd I was with definitely ate all of it up. If anything, the only thing I wasn’t particularly fond of was the resolution part as it tends to become preachy, and it seems sort of out of place to what the build up did.

I’ll dedicate a paragraph of my review to say this, because I want them to get the much deserved props, but the visuals in here is really fresh and well thought. The opening credits is one of the best I’ve seen in local cinema for a long time, and it is talents like such that convinces me that we need more avenue to expose them because the talent is clearly there.

With three different stories to tackle, a large ensemble is needed, and for the most part, I think all of them were okay. I don’t remember anything that strikes as an odd man out. Eugene Domingo was her typical charismatic self, and while most people know her for her comedic skills, her dramatic ones were equally good too. Enchong Dee is the definition of a boy next door and this role plays right up his alley. My favorite though is Leo Martinez, as one who is still in denial of his current state and simply aims for his dream to push through, you’d feel for him and what he’s going through. Martinez together with his barkada in the film (Bodjie Pascua, Jon Achaval, Menggie Cobarrubias) is one of the most enjoyable portrayal of friendship I’ve seen.

Tuhog is a very competent and inspired take on life’s many possibilities and how fate can possibly bring us to see that. It’s one that can make you ask questions about yourself despite not getting the answers instantly.

RATING: 4/5

REVIEW: My Neighbor’s Wife   1 comment

Regal Films has its own tale of infidelities and wife swapping in My Neighbor’s Wife. In the film, two couples, the superior a.k.a the rich (Jake Cuenca and Carla Abellana) swaps partners with the inferior a.k.a the struggling (Dennis Trillo and Lovi Poe), in this stuck in the 90s melodrama about trust and betrayal.

The film, though very predictable, has some good moments in it. There are scenes that highly explained the reason why the characters act such way, but it was overpowered by the contrived attempt of the director to dig deeper than what the film actually can carry. The wife swapping scene in the middle of the film was already predictable once you see how they resolved the first one in an earlier scene in the movie. Also, there are times where in you question what the agenda of those characters are in order to believe their actions. I feel bad for Lovi Poe’s character as I don’t get why she’s being treated as the most pathetic character in the film.

The acting in the film is also half baked. Despite being pathetic, Lovi Poe squeezes everything she can to play her character and comes off as passable in the film. Jake Cuenca showed off his rare buns; sadly, it was at the expense of a film that’s not worth it. Dennis Trillo’s acting has been the same for years. I wouldn’t hold it against him because his material didn’t give him anything to do. Carla Abellana is the obvious weakest link of the four. It is very obvious how much she wants to step up and I give her credit for that, but most of the time, she comes off as a constipated comatosed ham actress on screen. I give props to Dimples Romana who was effortlessly the scene-stealer of the whole movie. She is a breath of fresh air with her comedic relief as Abellana’s business partner.

All in all, this was better as a filler episode for some melodramatic once a week TV movie. The premise is there, but everything else isn’t. Had they tried to go the other direction, then we’d probably see a much better film.

Grade: C

Posted October 28, 2011 by Nicol Latayan in Films, Reviews

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