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Sinag Maynila 2016   Leave a comment

Sinag

So yesterday I did a marathon of all Sinag Maynila entries. Sinag Maynila is a project close to me since I worked on it in its initial year up until the announcement/selection for this batch (before I left my previous work). I was really interested with the movies this year particularly because I already have a clue with these entries, so to see them translated in the big screen is what made me excited. Anyway, here are short thoughts on the 2016 batch.

  1. TPO (Joselito Altarejos)
    Probably the best in this bunch, Altarejos managed to capture in less than 80 minutes the pain, the process, the aftermath of domestic violence and how this goes beyond the victim and the abuser. Characters weren’t one-dimensional and the use of long shots made the situation linger. If anything, TPO shows how people cope up with this illness and how it’s reflective of our society.

    4/5

  2. Expressway (Ato Bautista)
    Everything in Expressway is flamboyant from its full opening credits to its choreographer stunts. One can make a case that it has a tendency to go style over substance for a paper thin story that’s predictable and excessive, but it was a joyride to see Alvin Anson and Aljur Abrenica navigate through it – the former to get a leading role like this, the latter to totally embrace the batshit character he’s portraying (even if in some scenes, he went full retard). Oh, and for some reason, setting the film during Christmas season somehow added to its appeal.

    3/5

  1. MRS. (Adolf Alix)
    MRS. is a character study for its lead Virignia (what a comeback for the always dependable Elizabeth Oropesa) as she deals with everything happening around her – her older sister wanting to sell the lot of her house, her loyal house helper who’s getting married, her daughter who has joined a cult, her missing child. She’s living in a house situated on a fault line thus her house has cracks and looks old which probably signifies where she is in her life right now. The film contains really powerful moments, and I acknowledge the intent more than I appreciate it. That said, Alix continues to bring out the best in his actors.

    2.5/5

  2. Dyamper (Mes de Guzman)
    What’s exciting about Dyamper is director Mes de Guzman’s humor obviously present in it. When following about the lives of these so-called “dyampers”, the movie is at its peak. The back story of Alchris Galura’s character however, while not cringe-worthy and him totally selling it, felt a bit disjointed than the “dyamper” storyline. It’s not actually bad, but I think there’s a lack of smooth transition between these two parts that’s a tad jarring.

    2.5/5

  3. Lila (Gino M. Santos)
    Philbert Dy summed it best when he said that “Lila feels like a script that Regal rejected.” For what it’s worth, the film was stylishly done and everyone involved seemed so committed with it. That said, not only is the lead character one of the more clueless leads in recent horror film memory, but probably one of the slowest readers… ever? Like if I discovered someone’s thin diary, you bet on it I’m done with it by the second hour, notes and all. Heh.

    1/5

Since the Gabi ng Parangal happens tonight, I’ll offer my personal choices on this batch’s winners. Picture and Directing obviously goes to TPO and Joselito Altarejos. Actor I give to Aljur Abrenica (give or take his really over the top scenes, but playing that annoying young character seems right up his alley). Actress is obviously Elizabeth Oropesa (no contest!). Screenplay and Editing go to TPO, Cinematography is Dyamper, Production Design is MRS, and Score goes to Expressway. Lila probably gets best outfits for Enchong Dee.

Sinag

While we’re at it, I still invite you to watch all five films from this year’s Sinag Maynila. And (heh), avail the Sinag Maynila ePLUS Festival Kit Card because trust me, it’ll save you a lot of money (I think a movie is at Php280 each if I’m not mistaken). Until next year! #SinagMaynila2016

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REVIEW: Pure Heroine, Bangerz, Prism, Wrapped in Red, Artpop, Britney Jean   Leave a comment

The mainstream pop scene is a very competitive field. In a field one can call as shallow, it’s very important to deliver the music that people will dig in. After all, the next popstar is just waiting to replace the current ones; thus, it is crucial to stand out in this type of competition. Female pop stars, in general, have been more dominant of the past few years, and it is a tougher one out there for them, as they build their own fanbase and rule their spots in this niche. The latter part of 2013 has been a showcase of different efforts from some of the female popstars we have by releasing their albums offering a wide spectrum of music to listen to. Here are six of them:

Lorde

Pure Heroine

The most recent pop female artist to join the force is 16 year old Kiwi singer-songwriter Ella Yelich-O’Conor, more familiarly knows as Lorde. Combining a distinctive tone and that is devoid of autotune, Lorde provides a nice change of pace in terms of her sound and the music that she wants to offer. In Royals, she took a shot at the lifestyles of the rich and the famous, indicating what she thinks of such a fickle and superficial world. What amazes me most while listening to Pure Heroine is that you hear a young girl, full of ideas and observations, and it reflects on her songs. Whether it’s her vivid description of this world or the song’s narrative, Lorde tells a story in a manner that is direct and blunt, one that perfectly works in the context of her album. If you happen to love Royals, then I’m pretty sure you’d like this album as there are lots of other songs in the same vein. I’d even dare say that there are songs even better than it (which is not a knack to the song, but a testament of how much potential this lady has). I don’t know if age is simply just a number for Lorde, but with this success of hers, I’m interested to see the direction she’d tackle after this. I hope she doesn’t turn into an Avril Lavigne though, who was seen as the anti-pop star when she debuted, but settled to the same world in the end.

Rating: 4/5
Favorite tracks: 
Royals, Tennis Court, Team, White Teeth Teens

Miley Cyrus

Bangerz

After years of trying it, Miley Cyrus has finally transitioned into the pop star she has long been waiting for. And while it has been a long time waiting, it’s definitely worth the wait for her, as I think she is the most prominent pop star and definitely carved her name as pop’s it girl for 2013. It wasn’t a smooth start for Miley, but for this era, the jumpstart was to release a single that will elicit buzz. We Can’t Stop, attached with a weird and over the top video, did maneuver this era into what it is. The biggest break however is of course the MTV VMAs performance. I admit that even I find her schitck there such a try hard, but then like Miley, I guess I should have just waited since it will make sense in the end. She then followed it up with Wrecking Ball licking sledgehammers and rocking back and forth a lifesize wrecking ball in her birthday suit, and it makes her more polarizing than she is already. It only takes one listen of her album Bangerz to identify what Miley channels in her persona. It all starts with  the album’s best song Adore You, a slow track ballad that says she offers her whole self to her love, and you’d be quick to realize that beneath all this gimmicks, she opens her most raw self in this effort. And for that, it’s simply hard to deny her. She gave a taste of country with 4×4, and a Pharell track in #GETITRIGHT. Probably my favorite is the transition to Wrecking Ball by using  My Darlin’s as an intro to the ballad. If anything, the Britney collab is one of the weaker songs in it, and if I may add, it just did not mesh well with the rest of the songs. Not everyone might get Miley, but it is hard to deny that she is the most important popstar in the field now, and everything she does will always be the talk of the town.

Rating: 4/5
Favorite tracks: 
Adore You, Wrecking Ball, #GETITRIGHT

Katy Perry

Prism

After such a big era like Teenage Dream, it is interesting to know which direction Katy will next pursue. After all, everything she touches is gold especially if we’re talking about the Billboard Hot 100. She then says that this era will show the other side of Katy, a darker era like we’ve never seen before. I guess I should have known better and not believed her at all since Prism is anything but dark. After all, she started this era with Roar, an anthemic pop song, backed up with a Life of Pi meets Dr. Jones music video, that reminds us that we’re gonna hear her roar. And boy she did. Lots of times. With that said, the rest of the album offers the usual Katy fair: safe bubblegum pop songs that has potential to be #1 on charts. But I’ll admit that most of these songs are okay and catchy especially the first six tracks. I guess Spiritual is one of the darker tracks she’s referring, and it worked for me. However, there are also a lot of songs in it that does not ignite any passion nor reaction at all. It’s just there and existing. I won’t take it against Katy that she’s sticking with this type of format since this is what works for her commercially; after all, like what I say this is a very competitive field and taking risks is indeed… risky. If anything, I find her album too long and she could have cut off three to four songs from it especially since hers is the voice that is not distinct or something that makes you appreciate it.

Rating: 2.5/5
Favorite tracks: 
Legendary Lovers, Spiritual, This Is How We Do

Kelly Clarkson

Wrapped In Red

Okay this is some sort of cheating since this is not a regular album, but I stan and love this girl much. I think any popstar cannot call herself such if she still doesn’t have a Christmas album yet. I mean Mariah, Christina, and even Britney all have Christmas albums, and even Queen of Pop Madonna is in Christmas mood. So yes, Kelly joins the squad and what I like is she has four original songs written for this plus one Imogen Heap cover. The moment Wrapped In Red begins already gives the festive Christmas spirit. Add the fact that Kelly’s vocals is smooth and lovely to listen to, and you’ll wonder why it took so long for her to release such. The second track, another original, Underneath the Tree gives me some Mariah’s All I Want for Christmas is You homage with the fun upbeat and quick beats. Of course there are also the classics such as Have Yourself a Merry Christmas and Baby It’s Cold Outside which are staples, but she’s lovely to listen to so whatever. Plus points as well for including a Sound of Music song via My Favorite Things! All in all, I can go all day listenign to Kelly sing the phonebook, but this one is a lovely addition to some pre-Christmas feels!

Rating: 3.5/5
Favorite tracks: 
Wrapped in Red, Underneath the Tree, My Favorite Things

Artpop

Artpop

Definitely one of the biggest stars in pop era, Lady Gaga releases her fourth album Artpop. While Born This Way didn’t live up to its initial hype as the album of the decade, it still is a sold album overall. This time, however, Gaga upped the theatrics and the sex by coming up with her most sexually suggestive album to date. What I like about Gaga is you know that she’s knows more than fluff when it comes to her music. She knows her art and how much it has an influence her and it shows in this album. But my main issue with Artpop is I don’t see coherence with the vision she has set on it. It’s like she threw everything she has on the wall and just waited to see which will stick. Thus, while we get gems like Sexxx Dreams and Artpop, we also get duds like the one two punch of Fashion and Donatella. A lot of songs in this album suffer from being too overwrought that they ended up sounding messy and overdone. I’m pretty certain that she is better than this, but part of me thinks that she has nothing left on her sleeves if she keeps on overthinking her efforts. It does not sound organic nor original already. And like Prism, it suffers from being too long and a lot of fillers can be cut from it. Still, there are some great stuff in it like G.U.Y (which Zedd produced) which should have been the opening track instead. Do What U Want, sans the Aguilera type of oversinging, is the best song off the album and one of the few which totally hits the intention she had with it. And of course, a Gaga album will always have that one ballad that shows Gaga at her most vulnerable and for this one, Gypsy was it. I know Gaga will never reach the type of acclaim she had during The Fame Monster era, but she better have some sort of alternative because this type f shtick is one that does not make of a long and successful career.

Rating: 2.5/5
Favorite tracks: 
Do What U Want, Gypsy, G.U.Y

Britney Jean

Britney Jean

And lastly, though still unavailable (but already up for iTunes streaming), Britney’s eighth album comes two years after her last effort Femme Fatale. By now, it is pretty obvious that voice is not Britney’s biggest asset, so she has to rely on the production of the songs she used in this album. I think that’s what makes both Blackout and Femme Fatale as her strongest efforts. While you won’t find anything from them that gives this spectacular singing, the sick production saves the day. I think Britney Jean tackled both. On one hand, her vocals were surprisingly present in the Sia penned track entitled Perfume. I think that will end up as one of my most favorite Britney songs ever. For once, you can really hear her singing. Then on the other hand, the sick production was hit or miss here. I understand her getting into the EDM thing if it gives us something like Work Bitch and Alien with the slick beats, but those songs in the album which were wil.i.am produced were really weak. I also LOL’ed at her collaboration with sister Jamie Lynn Spears in “Chillin with You.” One thing I thought while listening to this is that the album balances itself that for every good song in it, there’s a dud that counters it. However, it’s an album that gets better with repeat listening. I’d admit though that after listening, the only phrase you’d remember is her lines in Tik Tik Boom as she says it like DICK DICK DICK DICK DICK DICK BOOM.

Rating: 3/5
Favorite tracks: 
Work Bitch, Perfume, Alien

There you have it. What are your favorite albums from the group? Did you miss Rihanna’s annual album release? Were you also hooked by Kelly’s Christmas songs? And did you hear it as Dick Dick Boom as well?

You can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

9th Cinemalaya Film Festival Review: Part 1   8 comments

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

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

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

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

Rating: 3/5

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

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

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

Rating: 3/5

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

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

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

Rating: 4/5

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

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

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

Rating: 3/5

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

REVIEW: 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: Four Sisters and a Wedding   3 comments

Four Sisters and a Wedding

As an opening salvo to Star Cinema’s 20th anniversary celebration, they certainly opened it with a bang by coming up with a family drama that combined some of the most popular actor and actresses of this generation. Helmed by ultimate box office director Cathy Garcia Molina and starred by Toni Gonzaga, Angel Locsin, Bea Alonzo, Shaina Magdayao, and Enchong Dee, Four Sisters and a Wedding tackles family issues in both comedic and dramatic fashion.

After announcing that the youngest (and the only male) Salazar sibling, Ceejay (Enchong Dee) is getting married, his four other sisters   Teddie (Toni Gonzaga), who works in Spain, Bobbie (Bea Alonzo), working now in New York, Alex (Angel Locsin) a production assistant for indie films, and Gabbie (Shaina Magdayao) teacher and the one in charge to live with their mother, come up with a master plan to halt the said occasion.

On one hand, it’s actually refreshing to see a Star Cinema family film that is not a straight up drama (think of Tanging Yaman or Sa’yo Lamang) and not a straight up comedy as well (think of Tanging Ina or Tanging Pamilya). It lends more freedom for the director and the writer to flex where the vision of the film wants to go.  Some of these concepts were highlighted in the film such as the complex relationship of sisters Alex and Bobbie, or the competitive nature of oldest sibling Teddie juxtaposed with the complacent and content stature of youngest sister Gabbie. Then you’d have the voiceless feeling of the only thorn among the roses, Ceejay. This is where the major strength of the movie kicks in.

I’d also note that it’s refreshing to see a product placement that does not bother me the same way that usual local films do. Rebisco biscuits product placements were scattered all throughout the movie, but it’s not as forced as it was carefully inserted in films and does not scream blatant product insertion, to me at least.

With that said though, the comedic themes were less inspired, as compared to the dramatic ones. As for one, the main premise of the film is ridiculous itself, but the approach could have been much tighter, so as not to make it look lamer when compared to the themes on the paragraph above this. I also noticed lack of full characterization especially in the characters of Alex and Gabbie. While Teddie and Bobbie’s stories went full circle, the other two sisters are just going around in circles. It’s probably a case of editing issues, but I would have wanted to learn more of them too, or at least, give them the spotlight every now and then.

But of course, I know what you’re here for. You want to know who’s the best among all the actresses in this film. Okay so I’ll try to break it down for you. Toni Gonzaga is my favorite in the film. I already saw how she goes back and forth with comedy and drama still back from My Amnesia Girl, but this vehicle lets her sashay from one genre to the other instantly. She knacks you off with her comedic timing, and she knocks you as well when it comes to her more dramatic ones. I think the reason why I like her most is because I still think that the film leans more on comedy, and she’s the best in show in terms of that aspect. Bea Alonzo, on the other hand, is the reliable dramatic actress that delivers, and she benefits from playing a character that was complexly written, and she pays that off by giving it justice. Her moment during the family’s confrontation (albeit too long and overdone) is really effective and one of the film’s highlights. And I know I have already said this in my past reviews of her previous films, but hers is a face that the camera really loves. Angel Locsin might not have the most moments, but she certainly makes the best of what she has to do. It is not the type of acting that screams awards, but the way she switch emotions in seconds is a testament of how much growth she has achieved already. What I particularly like about her performance is that she’s not getting all the forefront in terms of scenes, and she usually is relegated to  reacting in most of them, but she plays the same intensity to all of them. One might consider Gonzaga’s character as bordering on cartoonish, and Alonzo’s as too TV type, but Locsin’s is the most human in my opinion. More characterization from the writers would have made her character more impactful though.

The rest of the actors were also necessary but given mostly smaller to almost thankless roles (Shaina Magdayao’s Gabbie comes to mind), but they were all serviceable. Coney Reyes was inspired casting though as the family matriarch, while Carmi Martin was a hilarious scene stealer and gets the best character entrance in the film.

All in all, the main flaw that I see in this film is that despite being half comedy and half drama, the stories they used in order to cater both are not in the same vein. We see inspired storytelling in the dramatic parts of the movie, while the comedic ones were usually rehashed and less inspired. But since they’re promoting it more as a comedy, it could have used much better material in that context. That said, it’s an enjoyable film that is saved by the cast’s chemistry and one that caters to most members of well… the family.

RATING: 3/5

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

REVIEW: One More Try   15 comments

One More Try

Star Cinema’s solely produced film in this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival is the heavy romance slash drama One More Try starring the quartet of Angel Locsin, Angelica Panganiban, Dingdong Dantes, and Zanjoie Marudo. This emotion packed film is from the same director who gave us the box office hit No Other Woman last year, Ruel S. Bayani.

In the movie, single mother Grace (Angel Locsin) is off to find the father of her son from a short lived fling years before. Their son (which the father, Edward (Dingdong Dantes), was not aware of) is in dire need of a bone marrow transplant in order to survive his condition.  Edward is now married to workaholic Jacqueline (Angelica Panganiban) while Grace is now with boyfriend Tristan (Zanjoe Marudo). The kid’s condition will connect these two couples, as we witness how far Grace will go for the betterment of her child.

I find the premise of the movie really interesting though at times, some scenes were too contrived to give more tension an to the four characters. It definitely is not lacking in drama; as a matter of fact, there’s a lot of effective emotional punches that appears every now and then. I like how the film was motivated enough to go back to its primary focus: the lengths that a mother can go to in order to save her child. It is within this facet where the film’s greatest strength lies.

Among the four characters, I liked how they wrote Grace the most. It’s probably because I felt that she was the most human. She was vulnerable but determined; she can be desperate but is persistent. One can question her, yet another can also see the reason behind her actions. The rest of the foursome weren’t really that bad, but I just felt that Grace has the best writing. On the other hand, characters of Carmina Villaroel as the unprofessional doctor and office mate Agot Isidro were annoying and unnecessary respectively.

The acting of the four leads in the movie was quite impressive. Dingdong Dantes is a leading man in every sense. With this and Tiktik, he managed to carve out interesting characters to play. Zanjoe Marudo was given the least to do, but he was given lots of money scenes to work on to. Angelica Panganiban for the most part was good; the only times I did not like her was with her earlier scenes with Agot Isidro where both seemed to be rehearsing for their first full English play. Carmina Villaroel was too perky to make me believe she was a convincing professional. Oh and did I say she was the most annoying character in the movie?

But the one who was the best in show in the film was Angel Locsin. While I’d say that having an interesting and well written character helped her, I still think that she helped the characterization of Grace to feel human and organic. It speaks a lot when I say that despite liking her in In the Name of Love and Unofficially Yours, I can still see patterns of her doing “OMG Actressing” in those movies. The same can’t be said with her compelling and expressive performance here. It’s somewhat regretful that she’s competing alongside the ethereal Nora Aunor (in Thy Womb), as I think Locsin also deserved trophies for this performance. Oh well; at most, I can say that it says more when your performance is now compared to La Aunor.

For the record, I’m not keen about the highly dramatic third act and the predictable ending. It’s just lazy. Giving characters closure does not always have to be happy or peaceful. But for the most part, I was hooked and contented with what I saw. Definitely one of the better movies this  filmfest.

Grade: 3.5/5

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

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

You can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl