You’re still reading Tit for Tat’s Cinemalaya X coverage, and we’re now on the fourth of our short review capsules. As a reminder, you can check the my three previous posts with Part 1 covering Real Florido’s “1st Ko si 3rd“, Giancarlo Abrahan’s “Dagitab“, and Milo Sogueco’s “Mariquina”, Part 2 Francis Pasion’s “Bwaya“, Gino M. Santos’ “#Y“, and GB Sampedro’s “S6parados”, and Part 3 which has Ida Anita del Mundo’s “K’na the Dreamweaver“, Joselito Altarejos’ “Kasal“, and Louie Ignacio’s “Asintado.” Now let’s add three more films in the list.
Director: Joel Lamangan
Cast: Nora Aunor, Rocco Nacino, Sunshine Dizon, Rosanna Roces
Competition: Directors Showcase
Biring (Nora Aunor) has worked for a long time now as Vivian’s (Rosanna Roces) right-hand assistant. The former usually takes care of delivering messages and money that they earn from their human trafficking business. But after an incident in which Vivian frames up Biring, they’re all by themselves at that point.
Hustisya starts strong in which we follow a day in the life of Biring as she does her usual businesses. She switches and delivers money to church officials, politicians, other businessman, and in the middle of it, throws money in the air on top of the Manila City Hall Clock Tower. But it is the supposed game-changing incident of frame up when the film just rolled downhill. At this point, it’s now a parade of the usual Lamangan schtick which probably is his vision of a political statement. He doesn’t dip so much into these so called issues but instead, stays content with just enumerating them. And that’s what he has been doing for the past few years with his foray into such. I don’t doubt that Lamangan can pull off these political statement films (I’m a big fan of 2001’s Hubog as for starters), but Hustisya falls into this lazy OMG-important angle which was the same template as in Dukot… and Sigwa… and Patikul… and Lihis… and even Burgos. The thing that makes Hustisya further down the drain is that there’s a scene in the near end where Biring is walking and hallucinating into a random Manila alley seeing all these “things wrong with out society” and by that time, the last thing we needed is another in your face reminder of such. Nora Aunor is always dependable though, and she knows how to make fun of this role. You can see her totally committed but has a grasp of when to make things light as the situation calls for such. It doesn’t hold a candle to any of the previous Lamangan/Aunor collaborations, and it’s probably her weakest since her 2012 comeback. That said, the less said about the film overall, the better.
Director: Michael Tuviera
Cast: Dennis Trillo, Richard Gomez, Ricky Davao, Derek Ramsay
Competition: Directors Showcase
The Janitor is based from the infamous 2008 RCBC bank robbery that happened in Cabuyao, Laguna which claimed the lives of 10 victims. In the film, Crisanto (Dennis Trillo) was a suspended policeman tasked to be a hitman and eliminate the people responsible for the said bank incident.
For the most part, The Janitor is really entertaining as its approach to the retelling of the incident is straight to the point. But then again, straight to the point can be too straight to the point that it now borders on formulaic. And that’s how the first 3/4 of the film ended up. The format goes something like “torture the lookout”, “let him speak another name”, “hitman goes for that name.” Lather, rinse, repeat. It is undeniably entertaining but can easily get tiring. In between, we witness Crisanto’s domestic problems with his pregnant wife, his non-believer father, and his disabled mother. Once again, lather, rinse, repeat. The film tried to pull off a shift in its storytelling by the last act, and while it indeed changed the monotonous approach of the film, it wasn’t really successful as well in achieving the same impact. There were clearly some notice-able goofs between the film’s concept of day and night with two scenes suddenly changing time frame in a snap, and that can be really bothering. Other than that, Dennis Trillo is a hoot in this role and made me remember how versatile he is as an actor. It’s probably his best Cinemalaya effort yet among his three films in this festival’s history (2009’s Astig and 2012’s Ang Katiwala). I would have love to see more of his interaction with Derek Ramsay, as I felt their moments were too abrupt given how much they play off each other’s strengths. While one can’t help but wish that the film’s approach wasn’t totally by the numbers, it’s hard to deny that the film itself is really entertaining, and the potential for thrilling action films to come back is really present.
Director: Derick Cabrido
Cast: Buboy Villar, Miggs Cuaderno, Gloria Sevilla, Allen Dizon, Nathan Lopez
Competition: New Breed
Inspired by true events, the film focused on brothers Jun (Buboy Villar) and Al (Miggs Cuaderno) who in between pedicab driving earn money by participating in an underground wrestling for teenagers ran by a syndicate. The film focused on how they both try to survive with their grandmother a midst the harsh realities of their poverty stricken life.
As early as the breakthrough of independent film by the mid-aughts, poverty porn is one of those recurring themes. And I know that most of you are gonna go like “WHY. POVERTY.PORN. AGAIN. UGH”, but Children’s Show isn’t really all that. If anything, it flips the usual schtick and injects with it something optimistic and new. The film itself tends to overdo the drama with the situations these brothers are dealing, but it doesn’t forget to counter the despair with the comedic elements (both intentional and otherwise). The movie gives a feel of “the little movie that could”, and it indeed does. The way the film goes back and forth to hopeful and depressing is mostly smooth, and its intensity really crosses the brink and just a little bit beyond. There’s a certain amount of rawness with the two lead actors’ deliveries that make it more affecting than expected, and it just pulls you in. The rest of the ensemble is great as well, and the cinematography is top notch here. I really like the color palette used in the film specifically the underground boxing place and the whole squatters area which reeked of dirty and gritty (and reminded me of Christina Aguilera’s Dirrty music video (I know it’s terrible and I’m sorry but I can’t help insert this. Lol)). If anything, I’m a bit half baked on the slow mo too polished fight scenes. On one hand, it’s really a cool moment for the film, but on the other, I really don’t think its needed anymore. Six days in the fest, and I’m really waiting for a surprise from this year’s batch that’s devoid the hype, and this is certainly one of those.
Last three films (finally whew!) to be posted on Saturday morning before malls open so you’d have a complete guide on what to watch and what to skip if you’re running low on time and/or budget. 😉
As always, you can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl
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: 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
First things first: this is not a gay movie. Nor is it a film about homosexuality. It saddens me to see people who feel that way. When I saw this months ago in a film showing in a top university, the crowd was going crazy wild thinking it was some sort of a soft core porn. If anything, the film is sensual and stimulating to the mind. 🙂
Sayaw is the story of Marlon (Avelino) who likes his literature professor Karen (Garcia). Since he’s not doing great in her class, he decided to compensate it by enrolling in Karen’s another class: dancing. But in order for him to do well, he asked the help of fellow classmate and Karen’s dancing class assistant, Dennis (Nacino). What happened next is a combination of a bizarre relationship among he three characters, with some dancing and poetry in between.
Initially, I have reservations with how the filmmaker and screenwriter tried to spoonfeed the viewers on how they should interpret the poems. Every line is being explained by the teacher in her own interpretation; there’s no room left for the audience to interpret it in their own way. But of course, I spoke too soon. I love how the filmmaker balances the feat of giving too much and still holding back to the audience. That’s probably one of the reasons why I admire this film.
As for the technical aspect, I commend on how the film translates the intricate and delicate choreography through the cinematography. It was delightfully captured on screen. The editing is passable with some brilliant moments and some that could have been better. The music is a vital component in this film, and it finds its rhythm together with the rest of the film.
Surprisingly, the acting is nothing to be ashamed of. Jean Garcia is a given already, but her compassionate performance as the teacher makes you appreciate how dedicated she was not only in that role, but as an actress in general. The two young actors did not outdo each other. With every move and every dance, the undeniable chemistry is sizzling right there in your eyes.
Films that tackle art in various forms only come once in a blue moon. This is one of those films. For that reason alone, it deserves to be seen by more people.