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2013 Metro Manila Film Festival Review: Part 2   5 comments

Hi! here’s the second part of my Metro Manila Film Festival reviews. The first part which you can read here includes Marlon Rivera’s My Little Bossings, Frasco Mortiz’ Pagpag Siyam na Buhay, Wenn Deramas’ Girl Boy Bakla Tomboy, and Chito Rono’s Boy Golden. Here’s the other four films of this year’s batch:

Kimmy Dora

KIMMY DORA: ANG KIYEMENG PREQUEL
Director: Chris Martinez
Cast: Eugene Domingo (x2), Sam Milby, Ariel Ureta, Angel Aquino, Joel Torre

A prequel of this prominent movie twins, this shows how newly grad Kimmy GoDongHae and then theater actress Dora GoDngHae trained under their father’s wing only to later save the company itself.

The Kimmy Dora film experiments this time, as it’s under the guidance of Chris Martinez since original director Joyce Bernal was unavailable due to a commitment to another MMFF entry. On one hand, it’s an interesting move to inject something fresh about the series after that so-so second film. On another, it gives some sort of a stale feeling to the franchise already. Sure it’s nice to see a throwback references to the first movie, and all the cameos were cute. This (at least) tried to embrace a story, but while they give a clear explanation of the turn out of the events, this futuristic approach seems so left out and ahead of its time from the first two films. I was pleasantly surprised seeing Joel Torre and Angel Aquino for the nth time here (I think their pairing is one of my favorite 2013 discoveries), though they weren’t given much to do. Speaking of nothing much to do, Sam Milby was pretty much in a thankless role as well, though with all the amount of kicks and punches he gave here, he and KC Concepcion should be given an action project soon. The roles of Kimmy and Dora will definitely go down in history as Eugene Domingo’s career defining role, and I think she’s really great in it. It’s just that this time she has more inferior work to do. I like the intricate production design and costume design of the film; they’re really lavish, but then again it always brings me back to “Wait this happened before the first movie right?” Don’t get me wrong, this one still provided the laughs , and Eugene Domingo is still a hoot (I think I can watch her doing nothing for hours), but at times you question of this is still necessary. I think I like this better than that horror sequel.

Rating: 2.5/5

Pedro Calungsod

PEDRO CALUNGSOD: BATANG MARTIR
Director: Francis Villacorta
Cast: Rocco Nacino, Christian Vasquez, Ryan Eigenmann, Jestoni Alarcon, Victor Basa

Biopic on Pedro Calungsod, the second Filipino canonised by the Catholic Church. The film shows how he assisted Fr. Diego San Vitores in Marianas Islands in introducing Christianity there.

Oh boy this is as straightforward as it gets. We follow their journey back from the Jesuit house in Cavite until they reach the Marianas Islands. From then, we see Rocco Nacino’s bad wig, then Father Vitores’ leading an example of a selfless act, followed by some Chamorro natives killing one of the volunteers, then Pedro getting hallucinations seeing his father. Lather rinse repeat for about five times, and there you have your movie. This is by no means an attack on Saint Pedro Calungsod or for his contributions, but the film is so repetitive that I won’t take it against you if you zone off by the half of the film. You can see Rocco Nacino’s dedication to the role, but not even him can save it. Nor does Christian Vasquez’ one note written role. Not the fault of both actors as they were given stagnant things to do. I’m sure the intent was to show how selfless and giving Pedro was, but then again, it does not necessarily translate that it was what the movie achieved. It’s either you feel bad for yourself that you’re not as nice as him or you appreciate Father Vitores more since he did the bigger sacrifices in the movie. And it’s never a good thing if you leave the movie house thinking that the lead character, coincidentally the title of the movie, played second fiddle to the supporting character.

Rating: 1.5/5

Kaleidoscope World

KALEIDOSCOPE WORLD
Director: Eliza Cornejo
Cast: Sef Cadayona, Yassi Pressman, Mayton Eugenio, Alma Concepcion

Inspired from the music of the great late Francis Magalona, the movie shows the romance that transpired between rich girl Elsa and poor boy Lando in the midst of their hip hop dance crew contest rehearsals.

This concept of a hiphop dance film probably looked good on paper, but everything about this movie isn’t. Intent can only get you so far. I feel bad for everyone involved in it because I don’t think this is what they intend to produce, but this film is just not ready to be seen yet. Okay so where do we begin? Let’s start with the story where all the possible drama cliches are inserted in it. A love story between a rich girl and poor boy? Check. A history check that the poor boy was actually rich before but fate led them to their current state? Check. The rich girl is under the supervision of her strict aunt who does everything to contradict her niece? Check. And there are lots more as the movie progresses. Sadly, the film can’t depend on its technical accomplishments as the transition of the scenes just fades in and out. The dance numbers weren’t even shown in whole due to bad camera angles which only usually shows the upper part of the body. And the worst offender is the sound. There are literally scenes with no sound while there are some scenes where the dubbing screwed it all as you hear both the dubbed and the actual lines of the actors. It’s really painful to watch it on a technical standpoint and the less said about it, the better. The acting isn’t even commendable as well since they were all acting on a different platform. If not amateurish (which most of them were), you have Alma Concepcion whose sheer dedication should be commended, and while Sef Cadayona and Yassi Pressman share some sort of chemistry, it’s not even enough to save even a tenth of the movie. The discography of Francis Magalona is the only bright spot in this otherwise mess of a film, but I feel more sorry because it seems that it was rushed just to make it in the festival. Continuous polishing could have fixed at least the technical issues, and I think they’d even get a longer release period had it not been a part of the MMFF.

Rating: 0.5/5

10000 Hours

10,000 HOURS
Director: Joyce Bernal
Cast: Robin Padilla, Mylene Dizon, Michael de Mesa, Pen Medina, Bela Padilla

Loosely based on the life of Panfilo Lacson, then prominent senator Gabriel Alcaraz leaves the country and turns to be a fugitive when he was accused as a part of a big political pandemonium.

And to cap it off is Joyce Bernal’s entry in this year’s film fest. It’s the reason why she had to drop off Kimmy Dora ang Kiyemeng Prequel, and it’s actually a good trade. Time and again, the movie has to remind us all that it is a fictional one despite being loosely based on a politician, but I don’t get why the movie keeps on giving us winks every now and then such as a female president, some shout outs to current national issues etc only to remind us again that yes, it’s not a close adaptation. But other than that, it’s a pretty solid and well done effort. Production of the film is top notch here. Cinematography, sound, and stunts all factored in to come up with a really thrilling output. Instead of using some old fashioned tricks when it comes to pulling action scenes, Bernal decides to give it a refreshed spin, and it shows. I also like Ketchup Eusebio’s character’s throwback to the infamous Michael Fajatin viral reporting video in one of his earlier scenes. I guess if there’s another qualm about it is that of the uneven turn of events especially with the countdown clock showing every now and then. It was fairly quick in the earlier parts only to get longer as the movie enters its second half. We’re also treated to some commendable acting here especially that of Robin Padilla’s. His stature as an action star figure in the country will never get old, and I like that he showed restraint by not going all on his usual mannerisms here. Both Michael de Mesa and Pen Medina share a chemistry with Padilla that worked well in the film whether as a sidekick or an arch rival. Bela Padilla was also a surprise here, though I can’t remember if this is the first I’ve sen of her in the movies. She exudes a natural charismatic vibe that fits in the movie. I guess in the end, the film’s biggest achievement is that it proved we are still capable of coming up with solid popcorn action thrillers, probably in the veins of Taken or Prisoners, without always going back to the 60s or 70.

Rating: 3.5/5

There you have it! What are your favorites from this year’s batch? Mine’s Boy Golden and 10,000 Hours by a mile. This year, the action flicks delivered and they both deserve to be seen more.

You can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

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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