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Philippines’ 88th Oscar Submission: Heneral Luna   Leave a comment

11541975_1632374606977269_5171522840825921614_nIt was only a few hours ago when the Film Academy of the Philippines (FAP) announced via its director Leo Martinez that Jerrold Tarog’s film “Heneral Luna is the Philippine submission for the 88th Academy Awards. It’s first time for director Tarog whose film tells the tale of underrated Filipino hero Antonio Luna in his quest to lead the country against the Spanish colonizers during Emilio Aguinaldo’s regime.

As per Marinel Cruz of Inquirer, “Heneral Luna” beats out five other contenders including Brillante Mendoza’s Un Ceratin Regard entry this year “Taklub” and Carlos Siguion Reyna’s multiple Cinemalaya winner last year “Hari ng Tondo.

The journey of “Heneral Luna” is really impressive to say the least. The film opened up to decent numbers but the strong word of mouth particularly in social media paved the way for more cinemas to bring it back to more screens. As a matter of fact, its second week opening day was way higher than its initial first day grosses. It has received raves one after the other with critics praising its polished direction, great ensemble headed by John Arcilla in a career-best role and the different treatment it used as compared to the other biopics about our Filipino heroes.

Now less than two weeks after it opened, its now the Oscar submission of the country representing it in the world platform against more than 70 countries in the world. It’s also the first time the Philippines submitted a film about one of its heroes in the 27 times that we have sent a bid at the Oscars. It’s a bittersweet feeling for everyone in the film involved as well as its fans, and the announcement of it as the country’s submission was met with such enthusiasm and clamor.

But now, let’s talk about the real deal. How will it fare at the Oscar race this year? Just like how I predicted that both “Bwakaw and “Transit” aren’t going anywhere or that “Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan can count a top nine inclusion at most, it’s time to analyze Heneral Luna‘s chances. When I wrote about my usual Oscar submission analysis and recommendations a month ago, I specified how this is a year when we’re lacking that ecstatic contender that can bring us at least that much-awaited Oscar attention. And now a month later, I still think stand with the same sentiment.

As for starters, this year shapes up as a stacked group of submissions by far from Oscar-friendlier countries. Portugal went with the Cannes movie “Arabian Nights Part 2″ by Miguel Gomez while Hungary is close to have that Oscar wrapped up already with its entry Laszlo Nemes’ “Son of Saul” which won the Grand Prize Jury earlier this year at Cannes. There’s also “Embrace the Serpent” from Colombia, “The Second Mother” from Brazil, and Un Certain Regard winner “Rams” from Iceland. Among Asian contenders, Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s comeback film “The Assassin” leads the pack. Not only are they miles ahead from Heneral Luna in terms of festival buzz, but they all have US distributors already who will campaign the hell out of them. Maybe Heneral can still hop in a competent enough distributor (FWIW, announcement was only made a few hours ago so it’s not as if they’re already on full gear with their campaign plan).

Another thing blocking Heneral Luna‘s way is that its theme isn’t really the Academy’s cup of tea. For Oscar, it’s Holocaust or bust. I’ve read some comments how the portrayal of Americans in the movie would pick up interest among the voters, and that point is pushing it. Antonio Luna, probably as underrated as he is, doesn’t bring the same type of buzz as let’s say if it was a Jose Rizal biopic (which isn’t the film’s fault). The film’s biggest hurdle is that it needs to be seen in order to be voted. It’s really not safe to count on the “plus three” system of the executive system (those that don’t get in the popular vote) especially since it’s reserved for quirky and non-traditional films that aren’t really Academy friendly (think of Dogtooth or An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker). Heck, even Lav Diaz’ Norte last year didn’t get in the plus three system and that has the Cannes buzz surrounding it.

Heneral Luna is a great film — no doubt about that, but all its Oscar talk about it “as our shot at winning an Academy Award” or even that “we have a chance” is setting themselves up for disappointment. And let it be clear that it’s not because of its quality. It’s a well-made film that deserves to be seen by every Filipino. Period. But if we are to talk about the aspect of it being our Academy Award submission, then it’s a different story altogether. If anything, the greatest thing that comes with this announcement (aside from recognition for the team behind the movie) is that it shows that the Filipino audience is willing to show up for quality films. Forget about Oscars, it’s a long shot at best.

Talk to me about it on Twitter: @nikowl

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Tit For Tat Local Film Awards 2013   6 comments

May used to be the awards season here in the Philippines, but that tradition has been long since gone. But not for me. This is when I reveal my top picks for the best in Philippine cinema. 2013 is a very difficult one, not because there are only few films to choose from, but because of the many selections the year gave us. Granted I still missed some few films here and there, I’ll share to you my picks in 20 different categories (including my three top choices per film component.) And without further ado, here’s my 2013 Tit for Tat Local Film Awards:

first feature

GOLD: BLUE BUSTAMANTE (Miko Livelo)
SILVER: TRANSIT (Hannah Espia)
BRONZE: PUROK 7 (Carlo Obispo)

ensemble

GOLD: the cast of Iskalawags
SILVER: the cast of Norte
BRONZE: the cast of Transit

visual effects

GOLD: KUNG FU DIVAS
SILVER: DEBOSYON
BRONZE: PAGPAG

sound

GOLD: RIDDLES OF MY HOMECOMING (Arnel Barbarona)
SILVER: ON THE JOB (Corrine de San Jose, Mikko Quizon)
BRONZE: NORTE (Corrine de San Jose)

song

GOLD: INDAK (Sana Dati)
SILVER: SCARED TO DEATH (Tuhog)
BRONZE: SEA OF TREES (Shift)

score

GOLD: DEBOSYON (Teresa Barrozo)
SILVER: SANA DATI (Jerrold Tarog)
BRONZE: RIDDLES OF MY HOMECOMING (Gauss Obenza)

hair and make up

GOLD: Quick Change
SILVER: Kung Fu Divas
BRONZE: Boy Golden

editing

GOLD: ON THE JOB (Jay Halili)
SILVER: BADIL (Carlo Francisco Manatad)
BRONZE: TRANSIT (Hannah Espia, Benjamin Tolentino)

costume design

GOLD: Boy Golden
SILVER: Kung Fu Divas
BRONZE: Ekstra

cinematography

GOLD: NORTE (Lauro Rene Manda)
SILVER: ON THE JOB (Ricardo Buhay III)
BRONZE: DEBOSYON (Dexter dela Pena)

art direction

GOLD: ON THE JOB (Richard Somes)
SILVER: BLUE BUSTAMANTE (Marielle Hizon)
BRONZE: PAGPAG (Luis Custodio IV)

breakthrough actor

GOLD: MIMI JUAREZA, Quick Change
SILVER: JUNJUN QUINTANA, Philippino Story
BRONZE: VINCE TANADA, Otso

breakthrough actress

GOLD: KRYSTLE VALENTINO, Purok 7
SILVER: JASMINE CURTIS, Transit
BRONZE: YENG CONSTANTINO, Shift

screenplay

GOLD: NORTE (Lav Diaz, Rody Vera)
SILVER: SANA DATI (Jerrold Tarog)
BRONZE: BABAGWA (Jason Paul Laxamana)

supporting actress

GOLD: ANGELI BAYANI, Norte
SILVER: BING PIMENTEL, Kabisera
BRONZE: IRMA ADLAWAN, Transit

supporting actor

GOLD: DICK ISRAEL, Badil
SILVER: JOEY MARQUEZ, On the Job
BRONZE: JOEY PARAS, Babagwa

lead actress

GOLD: KRYSTLE VALENTINO, Purok 7
SILVER: LOVI POE, Sana Dati
BRONZE: VILMA SANTOS, Ekstra

lead actor

GOLD: SID LUCERO, Norte
SILVER: JHONG HILARIO, Badil
BRONZE: JOEL TORRE, Kabisera

directing

GOLD: LAV DIAZ, Norte
SILVER: CHITO RONO, Badil
BRONZE: ERIK MATTI, On the Job

picture

GOLD: Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan
SILVER: Badil
BRONZE: Sana Dati

Whew, there you have it! 🙂 As a recap, here’s the complete list of my 2013 winners:

BEST PICTURE: Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan
BEST DIRECTOR: Lav Diaz, Norte Hangganan ng Kasaysayan
BEST ACTOR: Sid Lucero, Norte Hangganan ng Kasaysayan
BEST ACTRESS: Krystle Valentino, Purok 7
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Dick Israel, Badil
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Angeli Bayani, Norte Hangganan ng Kasaysayan
BEST SCREENPLAY: Lav Diaz, Rody Vera, Norte Hangganan ng Kasaysayan
BEST BREAKTHROUGH ACTOR: Mimi Juareza, Quick Change
BEST BREAKTHROUGH ACTRESS: Krystle Valentino, Purok 7
BEST ART DIRECTION: Richard Somes, On the Job
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Lauro Rene Manda, Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan
BEST COSTUME DESIGN: Boy Golden
BEST EDITING: Jay Halili, On the Job
BEST HAIR AND MAKE UP: Quick Change
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: Teresa Barrozo, Debosyon
BEST SONG: “Indak” from Sana Dati
BEST SOUND: Arnel Barbarona, Riddles of my Homecoming
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: Kung Fu Divas
BEST ENSEMBLE: the cast of Iskalawags
BEST FIRST FEATURE:Blue Bustamante” by Miko Livelo

Until next year! 🙂

Also, you can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

Top Local Movies of 2013   3 comments

Last year, I opened my list by saying that 2012 was an enjoyable year in local cinema. Turns out, I was speaking way too soon because 2013 turned out to be an even better one. To say it is great is probably a hyperbole, but at the same time, I say it with much conviction (and even an understatement). The medium of cinema has never been more exciting and adventurous in the past few years than what the 2013 batch has offered. That goes without saying that it didn’t have its share of misfires and mess, but then again, this year is too strong to focus on that. Three titles you wouldn’t see on the list, however, are Lav Diaz’ Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan, Alvin Yapan’s Mga Anino ng Kahapon, and Sigrid Andrea Bernardo’s Ang Huling Chacha ni Anita, because I was foolish enough to miss them during their run. With that said, here are my 15 picks for the best in 2013 local cinema:

15. Tuhog

15. TUHOG (Veronica Velasco)

Maindie is one of those terms that sounded so forced you don’t want to hear it ever again, but this Veronica Velasco film of three intertwined stories connected by an unfortunate incident gives it a free pass to be used just this time. Each of the three sub-stories provided interesting characters and back stories that any of them could have been further fleshed out to a whole film. But then again, maybe that’s one of the film’s asset? The movie also boasts of a fitting soundtrack to its story, and the end result is one of 2013’s most fresh mainstream or in this case, maindie, offerings.

14 Otso

14. OTSO (Elwood Perez)

Otso is director Elwood Perez’ first film in ten years, and in this case, it is really worth the wait. I think that doesn’t apply on waiting for Elwood’s comeback only, but for the film as well. Otso started in scenes that were still in multicolor, but it just sets up for an even better film once it turns black and white. I don’t think I’ve necessarily picked up everything that the film wants to show, but it’s part of its appeal. It lures you to its world where the crazy and the wicked happens, and you’re simply hooked.

13. Babagwa

13. BABAGWA (Jason Paul Laxamana)

One of the two Audience choice winners at last year’s Cinemalaya, it’s easy to see why a lot fell in love with this film. Its humor is one that appeals to everyone. But digging deeper, I think it speaks a lot to the curious and inquisitive nature of ourselves. In here, we see two people fleshing out two different personas of each, and we, as the audience, are the witness to all of it. It’s such an engaging scenario that by the time the slow reveal at the end happens, you probably have an idea of what’s about to happen yet you still want to see it happen. It also boasts of an inspired screenplay and one that speaks of the current times.

12. Boy Golden

12. BOY GOLDEN SHOOT TO KILL: The Arturo Porcuna Story (Chito Rono)

I’ve been quite dismissive of this MMFF entry just because it’s Jorge Estregan with a leading lady almost half his age yet again, but I guess surprises do come when you least expect it. Not only does this film serve as a perfect throwback to the yesteryears of enjoyable action flicks, we’re also served with its topnotch technical achievements. The twists and turns of thew characters here, plus that out of nowhere scenes that provided the camp makes it a good reminder that every now and then, never judge a movie by its horribly made poster.

11. Kabisera

11. KABISERA (Alfonso Torre III)

Yes I’m not here for that Breaking Bad comparisons simply because they are two different films that happened to have some similarities. it happens, but I don’t see any “copying” between these two. In Borgy Torre’s directorial debut, Kabisera shows us how one family man’s dreams happen and its good and bad repercussions not only to him but to the people around him. Anchored with a commanding performance by Joel Torre (one of his two this year) and a really great supporting ensemble, Kabisera is really thrilling as it can get.

10. Quick Change

10. QUICK CHANGE (Eduardo Roy Jr.)

Eduardo Roy Jr.’s follow up has a dark humorous tone in it that is simply irresistible. Just like how the characters in the film get totally pumped over having those “shots” that lead character Dorina provides to them, we are really drawn and addicted to what happens. It gives us a peak into this world which not many of us are particularly adept about, and it does a great job in doing so. That of course, and lead actor Mimi Juareza’s haunting turn in it.

09. Bukas Na Lang Sapagkat Gabi Na

09. BUKAS NA LANG SAPAGKAT GABI NA (Jet Leyco)

One of the common themes I noticed among the Cinema One Originals entries this year is that the films are more experimental in nature. Jet Leyco’s Bukas Na Lang Sapagkat Gabi Na provides a mysterious atmosphere that makes you more interested as the film goes on. It is weird and eerie and that’s what make it work. The film, in its own nature, has a great grasp of what it wants to show in a really inspired manner (the handheld camera effect, black and white parts, gunshot sounds), and it  makes the whole viewing more enjoyable. It’s one film I think I’ll enjoy more in repeat viewings.

08. Purok 7

08. PUROK 7 (Carlo Obispo)

A portrait of an optimistic girl living in small rural town was vividly depicted in Carlo Obispo’s debut feature Purok 7. As we follow the story of 14 year old Diana and her younger brother, we were given an escape, thanks to the eye catching scenery of the country side. But more than that, we witnessed and felt the agony of two kids who have long wanted to be a part of something and be a part of a family. The simplicity of it all is what makes this whole thing fresh, endearing, and leaves a lasting impression.

07. Transit

07. TRANSIT (Hannah Espia)

As the overall winner of last year’s Cinemalaya New Breed category, Hannah Espia’s debut effort Transit is an achievement on so many levels. Not only does its display of technical achievements noteworthy, but its storytelling was also seamlessly interwoven. It’s not everyday that we see this kind of potential on a first time full feature, but for this particular effort, Espia manages to hit the right buttons. And as a bonus, it even ended up as the country’s Oscar Foreign Language Film submission.

06. Blue Bustamante

06. BLUE BUSTAMANTE  (Miko Lovelo)

OFW movies have been done to death already during the past decade, but first time director Miko Livelo puts a new spin on it in his Cinema One Originals entry Blue Bustamante. The expected dramatic scenes were instead replaced with an earned sentimentality that just wins you over. As main protagonist George, Joem Bascon was such a delight to watch as he finds a replacement work in Japan that will not only bring in the money but an even closer bond to his son and family who are miles apart. It’s definitely one of the most fun times I had at the movies for 2013.

05. Debosyon

05. DEBOSYON (Alvin Yapan)

Hypnotizing right from the start, this tale of one’s faith and acceptance  – may it be because of love or commitment or just one’s mere existence – is one that lingers even after the credits roll.  The film, which also is aided by minimal dialogues but really magnificent visuals, takes its viewers to some breathless imagery. The movie rested solely on its two lead’s but they did more than what they were asked for. Plus, the last 20 minutes of this film is still one of the bests I’ve see for this year.

04. Iskalawags

04. ISKALAWAGS (Keith Deligero)

Like OFW films, coming of age films have been done to death now, but Keith Deligero’s refreshing approach in the Cinema One entry Iskalwags puts a more inspired approach to it. It’s not hard to fall for the film as it certainly evokes an environment that is light and not totally sentimental. It sparks a certain touch of youth and playfulness that is rarely captured this well on screen. The voice over also adds a more interesting spin, and it features an ensemble whose innocence translates in a totally natural manner.

03. On the Job

03. ON THE JOB (Erik Matti)

Probably one of the most buzzed films of the year, this picture depicts a setting of a dirty and very complex government; one which needed more than just a person who has an optimistic view to eradicate it and start anew.  It is through this core notion where these characters live and breathe, as Erik Matti gives us a more than satisfying crime action thriller that is gripping and at at the same time, really, really timely. It’s one of the rare movie experiences that makes you even sadder as you come out of the theaters because of how easy one can reflect and connect it to what’s really going on.

02. Sana Dati

02. SANA DATI (Jerrold Tarog)

The cinema has given us lots of love stories. Most of them with happy endings, while some were flat out tragedies.  In Jerrold Tarog’s closing effort to his camera trilogy, he uses the notion of whether to stay stagnant or to let go as a path to understand how love really works. In the case of Lovi Poe’s Andrea, it’s a hard task, especially when you’re ready to move on yet a reminder of the past shows up hours before you’re ready to take the jump. Sana Dati is one of the best stories about love I’ve seen in a long time. And there’s no other way to end the film that with Up Dharma Down’s Indak.

01. Badil

01. BADIL (Chito Rono)

At one point, it doesn’t even seem that this would make it at the Sineng Pambansa festival last August. But thankfully, it did. Chito Rono’s entry which focuses in a small Samar town on the eve of election day is as arresting as one can get. Like On the Job, it’s a depiction of what’s wrong in a society, but this one is less technically polished but of the same, if not even more, intensity. It’s a film that has a lot of long continuous shots, probably making the whole experience more captivating. It also has a good ensemble with a very intense Jhong Hilario leading the ship.  Badil was an entry in the All Master’s Edition of the Sineng Pambansa, and with his controlled and almost restrained direction, Rono definitely lives up to the challenge.

You can also follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

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

REVIEW: Menor de Edad, Seduction, A Moment in Time, The Bride and the Lover, Bromance, Juana C. The Movie   5 comments

Hi everyone! I have been terribly busy the last few weeks, but I’ll try my best to catch up on local cinema for this year. So instead of doing full reviews for each, I’ll try to tackle them in small dosages. Most of these I’ve seen during their release but doesn’t have the time to write a full review, some I caught up on, and some via other sources *wink*. Anyway, here are six more films from 2013’s collection:

MENOR DE EDAD

Director: Joel Lamangan
Cast: Meg Imperial, Ara Mina, Wendell Ramos, Jaycee Parker, Chynna Ortaleza

2013’s kick off local movie is Joel Lamangan’s socio-political drama Menor de Edad which aims to provide an honest and raw look of the slum life by focusing on a story of juvenile teenagers living in the squatters area. While the intention was there, viewers might get lost as Lamangan goes back and forth to documentary approach and the melodramatic aspects of the film. Scenes were mostly contrived and there were too many plots running that it’s hard for anything to stand out; in the end, all seemed half baked versions of what they really wanted to achieve. The cast was okay, though I can’t help but see them relying on scenery chewing approach of acting which made the over the top story… more over the top.

RATING: 1.5/5


SEDUCTION

Director: Peque Gallaga
Cast: Richard Gutierrez, Solenn Heusaff, Sarah Labhati, Jay Manalo, Al Tantay

Fatal Attraction meets Unfaithful is the theme of Peque Gallaga’s 2013 drama which centers the character of fireman Ram in a choice between two babes: Trina, the one he likes, and Sophia, the one he’s concerned about. It also did not help that Trina is reserved while Sophia can be the answer to his family’s financial obligations. I appreciate the fact that this could have been a good character study of the main characters (particularly Ram and to a certain extent, Sophia), but it wasn’t as interesting as what I expected it to be. I saw some of the classic Peque Gallaga shots in terms of the angles and framing in his shots which maintained interest to say the least, but his actors let him down. It seemed as if it was a battle of “Who can act the worst?” among the three lead stars. It’s a case of seeing the film go one step forward, then two steps behind, and by the time the movie ended, we’re there at the same place where it started.

RATING: 2/5

A MOMENT IN TIME

Director: Emmanuel Palo
Cast: Coco Martin, Julia Montes, Gabby Concepcion, Cherie Gil, Zsazsa Padilla

Star Cinema’s Valentine’s offering this year is composed of one of 2012’s television’s favorite couples: Coco Martin and Julia Montes via A Moment in Time. This story of “strangers getting to know each other though bounded by fate before they even met each other” is a hit or miss for me. For one, Coco Martin and Julia Montes really has a chemistry that was visible in the movie, but on the other hand, I don’t think I already have recovered from their age differences. More than that though, once the back stories of both their characters were revealed (which happened during the earlier part of the film), it’s pretty predictable already. Sure Coco Martin made the whole audience kilig, I still don’t think he has found the suitable mainstream project for him. Plus points though since Amsterdam was really good to look at, and for Cherie Gil’s straight faced delivery of the line “Mukha ba akong kontrabida sa isang pelikula?

RATING: 2/5

THE BRIDE AND THE LOVER

Director: Joel Lamangan
Cast: Paulo Avelino, Lovi Poe, Jennylyn Mercado, Joem Bascon, Hayden Kho

In the never ending tradition of “two women fighting over one man” films that still shows no signs of stopping (everyone… sigh) comes another from the vault. This time, about  best friends who both took the characters of the bride and the lover. That’s also probably the most this movie can offer in terms of standing out among all these kerida films, and while that’s not saying too much, I appreciate that they even tried doing it. The movie is, indeed, entertaining with its shift to comedic and dramatic tones though it also gets tiring by the time we’ve reached the latter part of the film. There were also too many unnecessary characters (the best friend/bodyguard storyline is one that can be eliminated already), but the climax part is enjoyable and almost made up for the rest of the clunks. Jennylyn Mercado stood out the most in this trio, and I hope she gets movie roles because she really has the chops to be even better.

RATING: 2.5/5

BROMANCE: MY BROTHER’S ROMANCE

Director: Wenn Deramas
Cast: Zanjoe Marudo, Cristine Reyes, Arlene Muhlach, Nikki Valdez, Joey Paras, Lassie

If there’s one thing that I like about Bromance is the fact that Wenn Deramas was mostly in a clean slate in this: no Vice Ganda, no Tanging Ina jokes, no DJ Durano to be seen. This gives a fresh new energy that makes most of the film work. Zanjoe Marudo still continues to challenge himself as an actor, and his last few movie projects continue to shape him as an all around actor. I like how committed he was in it, and it shows in his performance. Cristine Reyes also seems to have a knack at comedy, and I think this type of role suits her better than let’s say El Presidente. The cameos in the film were a lot, but most worked for me (especially the one who played the doctor). This movie made me laugh more than what I expected, so if this is what we can expect from the next few Deramas outings, then he might have mastered the type of comedy for his audience after all? But then again, it’s hard to speak that early. 

RATING: 3/5

JUANA C. THE MOVIE

Director: Jade Castro
Cast: Mae Paner, John James Uy, Jelson Bay, Angelina Kanapi, Annicka Dolonius, Mads Nicolas

From the same group that gave us Zombadings,  Juana C. is a political satire that gives us a funny and honest glimpse of the wicked world of politics. It’s pretty obvious that the movie has a lot to offer, and while some of the subplots didn’t work for me, the main message of the film stood out in the end. It’s a pretty enjoyable ride that sometimes tend to go overboard, but manages to stay still and in the end, ultimately reached its destination. Juana Changge (Mae Paner) is an engaging lead character that serves as the glue that holds all of them together, but the whole ensemble is top notch, giving you endless riots and bundles of laughter. You can see the commitment that the people gave this film, so it’s easy to forgive the noticeable flaws in it.

RATING: 3/5

Whew that’s a handful. There are still some films left to be seen from the first half of the year before we go overboard with the Cine Filipino and Cinemalaya contenders this month and the next, so it’s good to finally put this out already. 🙂

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

Best Actors of the New Generation   3 comments

The concept of who is the best for a particular field is a very subjective one. Each taste differs from another one. The current lead acting winners at the Gawad Urian last week gave me a thought that we are slowly shifting to younger actors to handle lead roles in both mainstream and independent films. With that, I came up with a list of the best young actors of the current generation. The main and single criteria that I used here is that the actors need to be under the age of 35 and below. Their filmographies, performances, and other relevant factors were considered as well. However, like what I mentioned, each opinion is subjective, so I’m sharing this with you and you can agree with me or take it with a grain of salt.

First, here are names that were close but failed to make the cut: Wendell Ramos, Vhong Navarro, Ketchup Eusebio, and Paulo Avelino.

So now, let’s begin with the actual countdown:

16. ZANJOE MARUDO
Age:
29
Notable Performances:
Altar, Sa’yo Lamang, Wedding Tayo Wedding Hindi

Zanjoe Marudo is probably one of the underrated contemporary actors we have. While he is usually relegated to supporting roles and leading man roles, he simply makes the best out of what’s given to him. It also does not hurt that he’s one of the actors that works well in the comedy genre while not totally being ignorant in dramatic roles. As a matter of fact, he has starred in straight comedies (Kimmy Dora), straight dramas (Sa’yo Lamang), straight thrillers (Altar), as well as rom-coms (You Got Me), and horror-comedy (Cinco episode: Puso). It seems that his handler aims for a pretty much versatile résumé.

15. JOEM BASCON
Age:
25
Notable Performances:
Noy, Ka Oryang, Batanes

Started out in the business as part of the teenage show Let’s Go, Joem Bascon was first launched as simply a Piolo Pascual look a-like. Years later, he emerged as one of the go to young character actors with his hunky looks and strong features as add-ons to his undeniable talent. He also went on to win a Supporting Actor Urian in 2010 for his performance as a wheelchaired drug dealer in the politically themed movie Noy. While Joem’s current projects is the ABSCBN drama Walang Hanggan, he still takes indie movie roles every now and then such as his recent turn in Ka Oryang.

14. SAM MILBY
Age: 
28
Notable Performances: 
Third World Happy, Forever and a Day, My Big Love

Sam Milby, who was once a housemate in the country’s biggest reality show, turned out to be one of the best actors of his generation. Whether it’s his work as the lovable chubby guy Macky in My Big Love or an academe member in Babe I Love You, Sam has this certain movie star charisma that is difficult to resist. Beyond that though is the depth in his recent performances that require more emotional tugs such as the son who experiences a life changing realization in Third World Happy or his serious competitive businessman in Forever and a Day, It is very easy to predict that there’s still a long way ahead waiting for Milby’s star to shine even brighter.

13. JIRO MANIO
Age:
 20
Notable Performances: Magnifico, La Vida Rosa, Foster Child

At a very young age, Jiro Manio has already given some of the finest performances in recent Philippine cinema. His turn as the lovable child Magnifico won raves not only here in the country but in other parts of the world as well. Before that, he used to sweep Child Acting categories for his performances in other movies such as Bagong Buwan, Mila, and La Vida Rosa. While his succeeding movies ranged from excellent (Foster Child), to good (Tanging Ina) to bad (Bahay Kubo) to unfathomable (Manay Po series), his capabilities as an actor will never ever be denied.

12. JASON ABALOS
Age:
27
Notable Performances: Endo, Thelma, Adela

For his age, Jason Abalos seems to exude this level of confidence and maturity of men older than him. That was most evident in his Urian winning performance “Endo” when partnered with more mature actress Ina Feleo. He also got a chance to be paired with the country’s top young actress Judy Ann Santos in a TV anthology. While Jason is very much active in his television career (he never runs out of series whether it’s in daytime or primetime), it will be better to see Jason Abalos do movies and take the center stage once again.

11. MARVIN AGUSTIN
Age:
 33
Notable Performances: Tanging Yaman, Kutob, Patikul

Marvin Agustin was once a member of the elite club of loveteams in Philippine entertainment in the late 90s. His early works were usually pairings with loveteam Jolina Magdangal. However, the decade 2000 showed the best of Marvin Agustin when he started to move on to projects that tend to result to critical and commercial acclaim such as “Tanging Yaman” and “Trip”. And even before Dingdong Dantes showed the psychopath role in Segunda Mano last year, Marvin already did the same performance in Jose Javier Reyes’ Kutob in 2005. While he veered away from leading man materials in films, Marvin still stars in notable ones such as his nominated performance in last year’s indie film “Patikul.”

10. YUL SERVO
Age:
 
33
Notable Performances: Batang Westside, Laman, Naglalayag

While he was never introduced as a matinee or teenage idol, Yul Servo has made a name for himself via Lav Diaz’s Batang Westside in 2001. This 33 year old Moreno chinito actor has then made his mark in the industry when he starred in Maryo J delos Reyes’s Laman in 2002 and Albert Martinez’s Rosario last year. He also played the leading man of the one and only Superstar Nora Aunor in Naglalayag which gave him lots of nominations during that year’s awards season. Servo has acted and starred with the likes of Joel Torre, Nora Aunor, Jaclyn Jose, Albert Martinez, and Elizabeth Oropesa in his decade long career, and if that’s not impressive, then I don’t know what is.

09. DENNIS TRILLO
Age:
 
31
Notable Performances: Aishite Imasu, Blue Moon, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Dennis Trillo gave one of the most memorable breakthrough performances in Philippine movie history when he starred as a cross-dressing man to whom a high Japanese officer fell in love with in the middle of war. This performance gave Trillo two Star Awards, a Luna, and a FAMAS. His next performances such as the gradpa’s son in Blue Moon, the syndicate leader in Mano Po 6, and the gym instructor torn between a mother and her daughter in Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow merited awards consideration as well.

08. PAOLO CONTIS
Age:
28
Notable Performances: Pagsasamang Kay Ganda: Noon at Ngayon, Banal, Listonero

One of the most successful Ang TV alumnus, Paolo Contis managed to smoothly translate his career from sidekicks and ensemble members to actual stars and lead actors of the films he starred in. While he currently works as a co-host of GMA’s Manny Manny Prizes, his film performances such as the gay son in Noon at Ngayon and his Star Awards Best Actor winning performance in Banal were some of the reasons why Contis is ahead to some of his contemporaries in terms of achievements.

07. BARON GEISLER
Age: 
30
Notable Performances: Jologs, Jay, Manila Kingpin: Asiong Salonga Story

                                                                                                        Baron Geisler’s personal issues usually meddle with people’s perception of him as a celebrity but never when it comes to his works. As an actor, Geisler is one of the most versatile out there. As for starters, he played Vilma Santos’ goody two shoes in Anak that gave him several awards nominations. Next, he made an impact as the gay survivor who was almost killed in the ensemble driven film Jologs. While most of his succeeding performances were villainous turns in Nandito Ako Nagmamahal Sa’yo, Baler, and Manila Kingpin: The Asiong Salonga Story, his most compelling performance to date was when he play the title role of the gay report Jay in 2009.

06. CARLO AQUINO
Age: 
26
Notable Performances: Bata Bata Paano Ka Ginawa, Minsan May Isang Puso, Sa Aking Pagkakagising sa Kamulatan

Carlo Aquino shared the screen with veterans such as Vilma Santos, Albert Martinez, Ricky Davao, and Jaclyn Jose. It’s difficult to make level yourself up with them but Carlo does it with so much ease that he even gets nominations and trophies even at a young age. When he got older, he suffered some career lie low due to the awkward transition of every celebrity child star to adulthood. However, that did not stop him from giving bravura performances one after the other may it be in leading roles such as Sa Aking Pagkagising sa Kamulatan in 2005 and Torotot in 2008 or supporting turns such as Baler and Tanging Ina franchise.

05. PIOLO PASCUAL
Age:
35
Notable Performances: Dekada ’70, Milan, Manila

Probably the most famous eligible bachelor in the local entertainment industry, Piolo Pascual is by no means just a guy with good looks. Time and again, he has already proven that he is an all around guy that made waves whether it is in recording, television, and now, producing industry as well. But of course, when we mention Piolo Pascual the actor, his effective and intense performances in his films such as his FAMAS winning stint in Milan, Star Awards winning performances in Don’t Give Up On Us and Paano Kita Iibigin are some of what folks will remember. Awards aficionados though will always remember how Piolo Pascual was the last person who achieved grandslam status by winning all major supporting actor awards from the MMFF, PMPC, FAP, FAMAS, and Urian for his turn as son Jules Bartolome in Star Cinema’s Dekada 70.

04. JERICHO ROSALES
Age:
32
Notable Performances: Tanging Yaman, Santa Santita, Pacquiao: The Movie

From one Hunk to another, Jericho Rosales has really come a long way from his Mr. Pogi days. This former fish vendor achieved so many from being a primetime royalty to a member of The Hunks to recording artist and to an award winning actor. While most criticisms re: Echo always root from his English accent, no one can deny his approach to move roles given to him. His supporting performances in Tanging Yaman, Bagong Buwan, Noon at Ngayon up to his lead ones such as Baler, Pacquiao: the Movie, and Santa Santita are living proofs of his effectiveness as one of the best actors of his generation.

03. COCO MARTIN
Age:
30
Notable Performances: Serbis, Kinatay, Noy

Dubbed as the Prince of Philippine Indie Movies, Coco martin must feel a lot of pressure in his shoulders to be named as such. However, that cool and effortless demeanor he exudes when he portrays his roles is a big testament on why he is achieving success both in mainstream and independent industry. That characteristic is most prevalent in his performances wherein he was a masseur (Masahista), a conflicted young husband (Kinatay), and a desperate reporter (Noy). Lately, Coco is busy fulfilling his television star status, but I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one waiting for his next big screen output.

02. SID LUCERO
Age:
31
Notable Performances: Selda, Independecia, Muli

Given that he is the son of one of the country’s best actors, it is easy to figure out that 31 year old actor Sid Lucero will really do well in this field. But while we are expecting good stuff from him, we’re still surprised to find out that not only did he bring the good stuff, he even brought the great stuff in his performances. With Sid, what you see is not necessarily what you get. Behind his machismo overload demeanor comes a vulnerable and effective portrayal of different types of people such as his performances in the movies Selda, Donsol, and Muli. Sid is also one of the only six actors (and the youngest at that) to receive multiple Best Actor awards at the Gawad Urian Awards. Yes, you can close your mouth now.

01. JOHN LLOYD CRUZ
Age:
28
Notable Performances: One More Chance, In My Life, My Amnesia Girl

Finally, the one I consider as the best actor, in my opinion, of his generation, John Lloyd Cruz is one of the best risk takers among his contemporaries. He started out showing potential already when he won Best Actor at the 2000 Star Awards for TV beating the likes of Eddie Garcia and Richard Gomez. His movie star status started out doing love teams one after the other, but it wasn’t until his performance of Popoy in 2006 cult classic One More Chance that relegated him into the most charismatic actor in recent years. Whether it’s with Bea Alonzo, Sarah Geronimo, Toni Gonzaga, and Angel Locsin, all of John Lloyd’s movies never fail to hit stride with the watchers. Oh, and he is always at the top of his acting game. Have I mentioned the big slap he gave Vilma Santos after shouting at her face? That’s some pretty big balls out there, and John Lloyd always I’m sure is the country’s best among his peers.

There you have it. Who do you think was left out? Did you agree with my John Lloyd pick? Are you looking for Rainier Castillo? Pipe them in at the Comments section. 🙂