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2013 Metro Manila Film Festival Review: Part 1   12 comments

In the last three decades, Christmas time in the Philippines is not complete without the celebration of the Metro Manila Film Festival. The history of this festival might have been very shaky at best, but this one produced some of the best films our country ever produced ranging from Ishmael Bernal’s Himala and Eddie Romero’s Ganito Kami Noon Paano Kayo Ngayon. Other notable films include Marilou Diaz Abaya’s Jose Rizal, Jose Javier Reyes’s May Minamahal, and last year’s entry Brillante Mendoza’s Thy Womb. With that said, the last decade of the festival has focused mostly on commercially viable films with the same actors, producers, and even stories to watch every single year. Now on it’s 39th year, here’s the first half of my reviews for the MMFF entries of this year’s batch.

My Little Bossings

MY LITTLE BOSSINGS
Director: Marlon Rivera
Cast: Vic Sotto, Kris Aquino, Ryzza Mae Dizon, Bimby Aquino Yap, Aiza Seguerra

For his eleventh consecutive year in the film fest, Vic Sotto takes off his superhero costume and lays down all the swords and the magic as he now portrays Torky, who lives alone now after his wife died four months into their marriage. Working as a bookeeping accountant to a wealthy single mother Barbara (Kris Aquino), all he wanted was to travel around the world and leave where he’s at. Tides change when Barbara’s life was put into danger as her stepsister puts the blame on her on a pyramid scam and she relied on Torky to take care of her son, spoiled kid Justin (Bimby Aquino Yap).

The film is actually a feel good one in terms of emphasizing the role of the family and while it did not offer anything new, it was engaging and at times, really funny. There were some inspired approaches used in the film such as that of the Ili Ili montage in the first half hour of the movie involving mother Barbara and son Justin. I guess one of the movie’s most valuable asset is the chemistry: Aiza Seguerra and Vic Sotto has one, Kris Aquino and Vic Sotto has one, Ryzza Mae Dizon and Bimby Aquino Yap has one. Vic Sotto’s schtick (and his looks) really never gets old. He might have been doing the same act for years now both in TV and film, but he has that charisma that appeals to the movie goers. I like it more when Kris Aquino pokes fun at herself (confession: I love her in Sisterakas last year), so when she keeps doing all these drama scenes here opposite a very campy Jaclyn Jose shows her awkward kunot noo theatrics. Aiza Seguerra’s doing more mother roles now no? I think it actually suits her as she gives an affecting mother figure here. But then again, the stars of the show are the kids. Ryzza Mae Dizon is really a natural. She’s such a blast to watch as she’s not conscious in front of the cameras. On the other hand, Bimby Aquino Yap has been mostly relegated to scenes where he does the “reaction face” (think of the person reacting after the punchline was thrown in gag shows), but the kid has the charm that’s lovely to watch. He does not look awkward and it seems like he’s enjoying this acting stint. If anything, I think this film perfectly encapsulates the usual feel good family movie of the earlier MMFF days, and it’s this season that fits the vibe of the film the most.

Rating: 2.5/5

Pagpag

PAGPAG
Director: Frasco Mortiz
Cast: Daniel Padilla, Kathryn Bernardo, Paulo Avelino, Shaina Magdayao, Clarence Delgado

The film tackles the different superstitious beliefs that one should not do after visiting a wake, with Death knocking at your doors if you fail to do so. When a group of five teens accidentally visits a wake that a funeral wake service group prepared for, things start to get eerie for both camps.

Another mainstay genre at the MMFF is that of the horror one. I don’t know why people love to scare themselves on Christmas day, though “scaring” them is quite a task since most of the horror films failed to deliver. Pagpag is an interesting one. When the film starts to be get predictable, the writers still inject something twisted or new in order to balance it. And for the most part, it actually works. The superstition niche is one that never gets old, and we’re given a rich serving of that in the movie. The Final Destination deaths were actually hit or miss with some really interesting deaths and some senseless lazy ones. The movie also opens with an interesting short story explaining the concept of pagpag. If anything, I guess the final act went on too long and it just.doesn’t.die.down. And of course in the middle of scaring us all, there’s the obligatory kilig scenes, since this stars the top love team for Christ’s sake. But that’s countered with the great visuals offered by the movie. The editing, production design, and cinematography were really great. I love the colors palette used, and the crisp editing was put into good use in the death scenes. Overall, I felt this one is a very competent film style wise, and whether you’ll actually be scared is up to you. But it’s one of the better ones did the past few years.

Rating: 3/5

Girl Boy Bakla Tomboy

GIRL BOY BAKLA TOMBOY
Director: Wenn Deramas
Cast: Vice Ganda (x4), Maricel Soriano, Joey Marquez, Ruffa Gutierrez, Kiray Celis

Quadruplets representing each possible gender preference reunite, and it’s not as warm and loving as one actually thinks it is.

Disclaimer: I actually enjoy most Vice Ganda movies. Maybe I share the same humor with him, but when he starts to do his schtick, I really end up cracking. I laugh with him while watching Showtime  and Gandang Gabi Vice, and I laugh a lot in his past films. However, this one is really tiring and overkill. I give him props though for playing all these four characters, as I find it a really daunting task, but it’s just too much for me. He made the mannerisms work somehow by sticking one quality per character, but I did not buy the boy and girl part at all. There’s a reason I guess why bakla is the narrator and center of the film, as it is his most natural. His tomboy used this lower voice which he held on until the end. Of course, there are still some hilarious parts. Bakla’s scene in the near end is one for the books and it’s really funny, but everything else feels so dated and tired. And I won’t even begin with the black face character of Kiray Celis and how many endless jokes were done about it (though I guess it’s sadder that the audience bought it a lot and we’re hilariously dying at it). Meh. I’m indifferent on this one, but I expect it to be this batch’s top grosser.

Rating: 2/5

Boy Golden

BOY GOLDEN
Director: Chito Rono
Cast: ER Ejercito, KC Concepcion, Eddie Garcia, John Estrada, Gloria Sevilla

Based on the Arturo Porcuna story, ER Ejercito plays the title role of Boy Golden as he partners with dancer Marla Dee (KC Concepcion) in taking revenge against the biggest mafia in town.

Color me surprised, but boy is this my favorite so far. I’m surprised because I don’t even have any idea what the film will be about, but this is an enjoyable as one can get. It has camp!!! I mean how can you not love it when there’s a white face character named Boy Putla. There’s Boy Putla, there’s an endless Elvis references, there’s Gloria Sevilla pulling her underarm hair while talking to Roi Vinzons. There’s even a Valentina motel with an unguarded big yellow python crawling on the tree near its entrance. I guess the lack of hype over this one is what wins me over. Manila Kingpin was good for the most part, and I like the black and white approach used. I’m simply not here for overdone El Presidente. But I think this one manages camp and action smoothly that it’s an enjoyable watch. I enjoyed the twists and turns in the story, and the fight scenes were for the most part, well done. As always though, my main problem with an ER Ejercito film is ER Ejercito himself. He’s really just awkward and it was painful to see him jumping off the roofs with his bulging belly in tow. But then he gets saved by the wonderful ensemble as KC Concepcion enjoying her role as Marla Dee, Eddie Garcia in an Eddie Garcia performance, and John Estrada, Jhong Hilario, Baron Geisler, and Tonton Gutierrez delivering as well. I guess the person most responsible here is director Chito Rono. He made this thing more interesting with the shots, and the production design and costumes here are top notch. He could have trimmed 10-15 minutes here as it’s quite long, but I’m living for the camp of this film. Whether it’s intentional or not, I don’t know, but I enjoyed it a lot.

Rating: 3.5/5

There you have it. What where your favorites this year? You can click here to see the second batch of MMFF reviews which includes Chris Martinez’ Kimmy Dora ang Kiyemeng Prequel, Francis Villacorta’s Pedro Calungsod, Eliza Cornejo’s Kaleidoscope World, and Joyce Bernal’s 10,000 Hours. Happy post Christmas day everyone, and happy MMFF season! 🙂

You can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

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REVIEW: Sisterakas   12 comments

Sisterakas

With the current Metro Manila Film Festival system of including mostly box office friendly films in its line up, it is no surprise that one came up with the idea of including a lot of stars with box office draws in it. And before you shout Si Agimat at si Enteng Kabisote or Enteng ng Ina Mo to me, I’d complete my sentence by continuing “a lot of stars with box office draws in it… without the over expensive visual effects.”

So now enters Sisterakas starring Box Office Queens Kris Aquino, Aiai Delas Alas and Box Office Phenomenal Star Vice Ganda directed by box office director Wenn V Deramas. Notice ho wmany times I used the word box office above? Do you now have a clue with where I’m heading here? Go read the rest.

Bernice (Vice Ganda) and Detty (Aiai delas Alas) are childhood friends. But such friendship was ruined when Detty’s mother found out that her husband is having an affair with Bernice’s mother. This led to the mother’s lifetime disability. Fast forward to now, and we meet  Roselle (Kris Aquino) a competitive executive of the rival fashion company that Bernice heads. When the two childhood friends unexpectedly crossed paths, and with Roselle now in the picture, chaos definitely ensues.

I’m probably one of those who appreciated Deramas’ last effort This Guy’s in Love with You, Mare! But it seems that for every one step forward, he goes three steps backward. For one, the story is just grasping at straws here. It’s typical Deramas fare staring with a childhood story of the protagonist. Then comes a lot of physical comedy and sarcastic humor in between. It will definitely end with a happy ending. Lather, rinse, repeat.

But let’s move on past that. It’s not as if its storytelling is its selling point. It’s a comedy after all (or that’s how I interpreted such), but for a comedy, I find it lacking. There were mostly comprised of overused jokes, really long jokes that the wit already expired before the punchline was said, and lots of personal jokes from the cast. A lot of it has been done by the director himself in his past movies. In short, even in the laugh department, there’s nothing new that was presented.

Both Vice Ganda and AiAi Delas Alas were just okay here. One thing for sure is that this isn’t both’s funniest performances. However, if there’s one star who rose above this, it was Kris Aquino. I think she knows how camp the movie is, and that she tripled it up with her performance. The screen really lights up whenever she’s in it. I find her really engaging in this one, and her mere existence (even as background in some scenes) was such a joy to watch. I don’t think she would ever get a role as fun as this one.

The rest of the characters were all thankless roles. From Kathniel to Xyriel Manabat to Tirso Cruzz III. I’d even say that Kris’s role was unnecessary in the movie but I wouldn’t dare wish that the role should have been altogether eliminated just for Kris’s performance. One might perceive these comments as a joke, but Kris Aquino was the saving grace of the movie, and I’d probably watch it again just to see her again.

Grade: 2/5

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
Sosy Problems
The Strangers
Thy Womb

You can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

13 Best Filipino Horror Movies of the Last 12 Years   6 comments

Halloween is right around the corner, and though the primary purpose of All Saints Day is to recognize those who are already there up with Him in the heavens, majority of those who await Halloween season are in for the horror stories that come during this period. Horror themed stories, shows, and movies seem to be a hit here in the Philippines, and with Asia being the region that produces the best horror films, the country has produced its fair share of horror themed films.

So for those who are looking for a Halloween themed movie playlist to marathon these next few days, here are thirteen titles that I  consider as the best of the best of the last twelve years and can recommend to you:

Director: Chito S. Roño
Stars: Maricel Soriano, Mika dela Cruz, Derek Ramsay
Story and Screenplay: Chito S. Roño, Aloy Adlawan, Chris Martinez
Release Date: April 11, 2009

While I’m no big fan of the over the top yet unpolished CGI effects in this one, I’m still pretty amused with the storytelling in the first two-thirds of the film. It focused on the different sayings, rituals, and legends from the Southern provinces of the country. I remember our helper telling me that she has experienced some of the scenes featured in the film like the group of black pigs that will suddenly block your way when traveling late at night which supposed to reincarantion of a group of aswangs. Doppelgangers were also present,  in the film, as well as the legends involving seeing a big submarine in a small creek or the simple sundo concept from the dead. If anything, this is the scary part of learning the rich culture of some parts in the country.

Director: Jose Javier Reyes
Stars: Rica Peralejo, Marvin Agustin, Dingdong Dantes
Story and Screenplay: Jose Javier Reyes
Release Date: December 25, 2003

This one is very reminiscent of that Keanu Reeves’s starrer The Gift about a woman’s psychic abilities. In here, Sara (Peralejo) has shown signs of possessing that gift of knowing if something bad will happen. The first sign of it will be a nose bleed which she has experienced way back when she was still a child. What I find creepy about this is that I experience nose bleed in a very frequent manner, so I somehow got paranoid after seeing this one. The film also benefits from having slick effects, cinematography, editing, and sound.


Director: Yam Laranas
Stars: Rhian Ramos, Marvian Agustin, Carmina Villaroel
Story and Screenplay: Yam Laranas, Aloy Adlawan
Release Date: November 30, 2011

The Road is one of those psychological thrillers more than your typical straight out horror film. With that said, it is very engaging and captivating enough to stay all through out the film. While there are particular loopholes within the storytelling of the film, its lavish technical effects make up for it. Also, watch out for Carmina Villaroel’s performance who was so good here and deserved some awards mention for her portrayal in the movie.

Director: Chito S. Roño
Stars: Vilma Santos, Janice de Belen, Pokwang
Story and Screenplay: Chito S. Roño
Release Date: July 25, 2012

The Healing certainly fits the bill of those Chito Roño horror film formula. However, with that said, this one goes deep into the Filipino habit of depending on healers for help. This one poses the man of science vs. man of faith concept that has been one of the age old questions that has every been asked. Also, among all of his past horror flicks, this one is the goriest and fits right up the crazy story that it presented in the movie.


Director: Richard Somes
Stars: Mark Anthony Fernandez, Tanya Garcia, Elizabeth Ororpesa
Story and Screenplay: Joven Tan
Release Date: December 25, 2005

After an eight year hiatus, in 2005, the Filipino film franchise Shake, Rattle, and Roll is back and has become the longest horror trilogy in Philippine cinema. While films in the series has been a hit or miss, there are still few solid gems in it like this one directed by Richard Somes. Lihim ng San Joaquin  is about a young newly-wed couple played by Mark Anthony Fernandez and Tanya Garcia who transfers into this rural town that is known to be inhabited by a manananggal and attracts all the men there and kills them one by one. This is a real breath of fresh air in terms of storytelling and production skills.


Director: Bobi Bonifacio
Stars: Maricel Soriano, Albert Martinez, Meryll Soriano
Story and Screenplay: Juan Miguel Sevilla, Bobi Bonifacio
Release Date: November 3, 2006

Numbalikdiwa has a richly interesting concept, probably one of the cleverest in recent years. The horror is not in your face; it’s more of something that will creep you out when you think about it. Here’s an interesting definition of what numbalikdiwa is as taken from the movie’s official blog site: An ancient, macabre ritual where the dead assumes the body of a living person. Like cannibalism, it involves the ingestion of the deceased’s ground meat andbones as part of the ritual. With the help of the Sasigloho, an ancient tribal deity, the dead assumes the identity of the living and continues to live his/her life accordingly, granting near immortality to the one who practices it. And yes, after seeing the film, I laid off eating any grilled street foods.

Director: Jerrold Tarog
Stars: Kathryn Bernardo, Louise delos Reyes, Sam Concepcion
Story and Screenplay: Maribel Ilag, Jerrold Tarog
Release Date: December 25, 2011

The 13th batch of the SR&R episode is one of its best. The first one, while bordering on fantasy territory, has good production values. The third one is relevant and also excellent. However, the best is the second one entitled Parola. Not only does it brag of a rich storytelling, it is also a perfect throwback to the early heydays of the said franchise. It represents the type of horror that Filipino moviegoers love, and it also contains exemplary production skills to boot. Definitely one of the best the whole series has ever produced.


Director: Chito S. Roño
Stars: Danilo Barrios, Vhong Navarro, Spencer Reyes
Story and Screenplay: Chito S. Roño, Roy Iglesias
Release Date: January 1, 2003

Probably one of the most prominent entries during its Metro Manila Film Festival batch, the follow up to the Spirit Warriors movie franchise is also the better movie between the two. I like how the movie has incorporated an interesting story to tackle referring to the “shortcut” that the spirits go to when they want to go to the world of the mortals. It also included a backstory at the start of the film that was shot perfectly in Vigan. I don’t see this in a lot of horror films list, but its inclusion is definitely merited here.

Director: Yam Laranas
Stars: Richard Gutierrez, Angel Locsin, Iza Calzado
Story and Screenplay: Roy Iglesias, Yam Laranas
Release Date: December 25, 2004

Sigaw is more popularly known as the horror flick that got an international version. But even with that distinction, I still prefer the original version about the bachelor who lives in an old building whose history seems to catch up with the present tenants. I feel that this is one of the underrated horror flicks of the past decade. People seem to catch on its appreciation with the film later on and not during its actual showing. And come on, a bloody Iza Calzado staring at your face? While Iza was every inch beautiful albeit the blood in her face, if that does not give you enough chills, then I don’t know what will.

Director: Richard Somes
Stars: Ronnie Lazaro, Tetchie Agbayani, Joel Torre
Story and Screenplay: Richard Somes, Dwight Gaston
Release Date: December 3, 2008

The Best Picture winner during the 2008 Cinema One Originals, Yanggaw definitely leans on its approach to manage the fight in you. With that said, the concept of a transforming aswang is something that is so popular and rich in this country’s culture, and that alone already deserves a slot in this list. The production design and cinematography, among all things, were also top notch. And lastly, the acting of the three actors (Ronnie Lazaro, Tetchie Agabayani, Joel Torre) is very convincing for that there’s no option left but to be swept along the whole ride.

Director: Jerrold Tarog
Stars: Carla Abellana, Sid Lucero, Nash Aguas
Story and Screenplay: Rona Lean Sales
Release Date: December 3, 2010

Another one from the Shake, Rattle, and Roll franchise, Punerarya follows the story of Diane (Carla Abellana) who home tutors two kids from the street’s funeral parlor. Unbeknownst to her, the family is hiding deep secrets that Diane unfortunately learned. The problem now is how she can escape unscathed from them. There are so many things that’s so commendable in this episode. Tarog’s approach in the direction is the primary reason for this episode to work, though. That, and Carla Abellana’s performance as the heroine  in the film. It definitely is deserving of the title as one of best Shake, Rattle, and Roll episodes of all time.

Director: Enrico Santos
Stars: Jodi Sta. Maria, Barbie Sabino, Gianna Cutler
Story and Screenplay: Joel Mercado
Release Date: July 14, 2010

Paa is the second episode in the five-parter Cinco (Duh. LOL). This one tackles a revengeful ghost of a young kid who visits the mother of her classmate. It was then revealed in the end what the connection of the mother (played perfectly by Jodi Sta. Maria) was to the untamed ghost. I think that this episode in particular is very underrated. The direction and approach was top notch, and the short length time of the episode worked well in its favor. The editing was also sharp, and Jodi Sta. Maria was more than capable in the lead role. My favorite scene perhaps was the end part with the montage, where everything was revealed. This is one of the few films that gets better and stands the test of time.

Director: Chito S. Roño
Stars: Kris Aquino, Lotlot de Leon, Jay Manalo
Story and Screenplay: Chito S. Roño, Roy Iglesias
Release Date: September 15, 2004

But of course, what’s a horror film list without Feng Shui? Chito Roño’s flick that showed how the fate of people depend on the Chinese ornament called bagua, and how one’s luck and demise are affected by it. Whether your creeped out by the “May uwi si Nanay… si Nanay… sa bahay” chant, the connection of one’s horoscope to the cause of your death, the scene where Alice (de Leon) comes across an image of the Lotus Feet holding a bloody and dead version of herself, or just by Kris Aquino’s kunot noo approach to show that she’s scared, there are no other reasons why this won’t be the top horror film of the last 12 years. 

How about you? What are some of your favorite local horror films? Do you feel there’s something that’s missing on the list? Or do you think there’s an undeserving entry here? Pipe them in below the Comments section.