Archive for the ‘star cinema’ Tag

Top Local Movies of 2012   8 comments

2012 in cinema is probably one of the most enjoyable in a while. I liked a lot of the movies that I’ve seen this year, (though maybe I really avoided the bad ones? LOL), and a lot of these films would have topped any other weaker years. On top of that, we’ve also seen a lot of impeccable performances from these films. Mind you, while I have seen 60+ local films this year, there’s a lot left still to be seen. Despite that, I feel that 2012 is one of the better years in recent Filipino cinema, and here are 12 reasons why:

Unofficially Yours

12: UNOFFICIALLY YOURS

Arguably, the best output from commercial filmmaking this year is this Cathy Garcia Molina’s relationship story between two people that sprouted from a one night stand. Molina has really mastered how to make supposedly conventional studio produced films more engaging and interesting. Also, watch out for John Lloyd Cruz and Angel Locsin’s palpable chemistry here.

MNL 143

11. MNL 143

I’m a sucker of travel/road movies. With that said, Emerson Reyes’s first feature length film is a poignant love story of a man (Allan Paule) who’s looking for the woman of his life is something that’s easier to relate to; not the search per se, but the longing and the optimism for it to finally arrive is a familiar feeling that can resonate well to its viewers.

Requieme

10. REquieme!

Loy Arcenas’ consecutive Cinemalaya entry is a dark comedy that focuses on Swanie, a barangay captain who involves herself as a relative of a suspect in an international murder case. With a witty screenplay and Shamaine Buencamino’s effective portrayal as Swanie and breakthrough talent Anthony Falcon, the movie is definitely one of 2012’s brightest spots.

Pascalina

09. PASCALINA

This Cinema One Originals winner which was also Pam Miras’s feature debut about one’s self discovery about her monsters within is one of the surprise entries in my list. Not because it is bad, but because I liked and appreciated it better days after seeing it. Oh, and if Maria Veronica Santiago’s performance in the title role won’t charm you enough, then I don’t know what will.

Ang Nawawala

08. ANG NAWAWALA

Another first feature effort this year, this time by Marie Jamora, Ang Nawawala is bound to be a cult classic. Yes, it probably caters to a younger crowd, to those in the middle status, or to those who are into local music scene, but one universal thing that I sure can relate to is how it connects you back to yourself. Plus points for the eye candy production design and the compilation soundtrack.

Bwakaw

07. BWAKAW

The Philippines’ submission to the Oscar Foreign Language Film category this year (and its best submission in years, I must say) is this little gem by Jun Lana about an old gay man living alone with only his dog named Bwakaw, and how he tries to make the most out of his remaining days. It’s just one of the most heartfelt films of the year that makes you laugh and cry while watching. Also, Eddie Garcia’s performance is to watch for here.

Thy Womb

06. THY WOMB

Brillante Mendoza’s Venice entry this year is also the comeback vehicle of one of the Philippines’ greatest actresses to date, the Superstar Nora Aunor. I guess my favorite aspect of the film is how it showcased to us this little gem of a place called Tawi-Tawi, and how the film introduced us to its culture. That, and of course La Aunor’s towering performance in it.

Ang Paglalakbay ng Mga Bituin sa Gabing Madilim

05. ANG PAGLALAKBAY NG MGA BITUIN SA GABING MADILIM

My favorite from the whole Cinema One Originals bunch this year is Arnel Mardoquio’s feature about the escape of three Muslim rebels, together with a ten year old child in the midst of the Bangsa Moro issues in Mindanao. But unlike any previous Mindanao related war-themed films, this one stands out because it’s  does not lecture you. And within this silence is where the actual emotions linger.

Give Up Tomorrow

04. GIVE UP TOMORROW

This Filipino/Spanish/American production directed by Michael Collins on what was labeled as the trial of the century in the Philippines (the involvement of  Paco Larrañaga to the disappearance of the Chiong sisters) is one film that probably triggered the most emotions while watching. The film for the most part was half maddening and half heartbreaking. But it probably contains one of my most favorite quotes of the year when Paco said “If you want to give up, give up tomorrow. When tomorrow comes, then give up tomorrow.

Aparisyon

03. APARISYON

Vincent Sandoval’s Cinemalaya entry about the secluded lives of nuns in a monastery in 1972. The film’s strength lies in its capability to build an atmosphere that was intense and arresting that once the movie hits it middle part, you just feel as if you’re a part of it. If you’re into the technical aspect, this movie also boasts of a complete top notch production values: neat production design,  applicable costumes, captivating cinematography, polished editing, and haunting score.

Graceland

02. GRACELAND

Ron Morales’s Tribeca entry about a loyal driver caught in the middle of his congressman employer’s paying of sins is as intense as one can get. Fifteen minutes in, there’s already a shooting scene. And the rest of the movie was packed with emotional punches, as it dwells with questions about one’s choices in life. Is this the correct choice? What happens when it’s not? Where do we go next? Also, Arnold Reyes’s terrific performance as the driver is a must see.

Kalayaan

01. KALAYAAN

And my top pick for local cinema this year is Adolf Alix’s Kalayaan. On the outside, it’s about a soldier solely stationed in the Kalayaan islands and a run on his daily activities, until two additional soldiers were sent there with him. The first hour of the film solely shows on the day to day routine of Julian. Rarely any dialogue was spoken in it, but the message was effectively sent. Once the credits rolled, you feel that you’ve known enough yet it will also prompt you to ask some more. Definitely my favorite film of the year!

Well that’s it! What are your favorite local movies of the year? In case you are wondering, the reason why there’s no top international picks yet is because I’m still catching up on a lot of the Oscar movies til the next two months. So I guess, you can expect my list by March.

And as always, you can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

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REVIEW: 24/7 in Love   4 comments

247 in Love

24/7 in Love is every Kapamilya’s dream come true. It combines a lot of their favorite Star Magic artists which makes it a dream come true for these teen and network driven audience that seems to be the film’s target. Just when you thought that Cinco is already crowded when it fits five stories in a film, then you’d be surprised to find out that this one incorporated seven stores in it.

The main story involves Jane (Kathryn Bernardo) who wants to meet her biggest crush who happens to be singing heartthrob Billy Fernandez (Daniel Padilla). In order to do that, she must enter a video contest that begs the question “What will you do if the world ends on December 21?” The approach Jane used in it is to interview random people to ask for their answers, and that served as the common link to the other six categories. Not the laziest methinks, but not the most creative as well.

The first interviewee happens to be forty year old virgin Virginia (Pokwang), and knowing that the world is about to end, the only thing she wants to do is end the drought as well. Coming from a heartbreak from long time boyfriend, her friend set her up on a male prostitute hiring site which led her to meet Charles (Sam Milby). Apparently, it was Charles first time in the business as he’s only doing it for fast cash. Among all the stories, this seems to be the most loyal to the recurring theme of what will you do til the world end. Pokwang and Sam Milby has this fun chemistry that it’s not weird to watch at all.

The second story involved Barbara (Maja Salvador) who’s head over heels over his playboy bachelor boss Ken (Diether Ocampo). There’s not a lot that happened in this part, though it’s always a joy to see Maja Salvador on screen. She’s just so natural and comfortable to watch. Diether Ocampo, on the other hand, has already proven himself before, but it seems that not being on the screen for quite some time can make your acting look dull especially when you’re paired with an energetic actress like Maja.

Next story is about a gay and a girl bestfriend between Isabella (Bea Alonzo) and Butch (Zanjoe Marudo). As Isabella realizes that she’s starting to like her bestfriend who happens to have the same preference with boys as her. This one is a case of friendship and where one draws the line in pursuing the next step. While watching this episode, I’m just really amazed with how beautiful Bea Alonzo is. I have already mentioned it before in my The Mistress review, but she really just radiates the screen. Zanjoe Marudo was convincing at most times, and their chemistry works. I just find the story too long especially since after it’s two predecessors were fast and resolved quickly.

The fourth story involves heartbroken Verna (Angelica Panganiban) who mends a broken heart in Vietnam, and there she meets Pinoy bartender Elvis (John Lloyd Cruz). It was a fast encounter; too fast that things ended real fast as well. With that said, this is my favorite among the series, and probably one that can stand as a lone film. There’s too much that one can explore here, and this gives a tight and mature portrayal that stands out among these bubblegum love stories. Angelica and John Lloyd clicked naturally, and both were good in their individual scenes.

Piolo Pascual headlines the next part as Pipoy, which is reminiscent of the famous Gerald Anderson character Budoy. He and his constant buddy Jomar (Zaijan Jaranilla) are the closest of them all, and that involves him doing all the tricks for Jomar’s crush Ayee (Xyriel Manabat) to like him. When a confused Ayee thought that it was Pipoy who was doing the movies to her, Pipoy and Jomar’s friendship was put to a test. This is one of the fun episodes in the series, as it showcases how Zaijan and Xyriel are the best child actors of their generation and has cemented their status to join the club of the best child stars ever. Piolo, despite not being totally relegated to supporting status, was good as well. This is probably the episode that will leave you with a smile when it ends.

The last one is about childhood sweethearts Patty (Kim Chiu) and Alvin (Gerald Anderson). After graduating from high school, Patty left to pursue his dreams leaving Alvin behind. Now as an intern in an ad agency, she gets the task of finding the local town hero who happens to be Alvin. The material they worked on was one of the weaker ones in the series, but it was fun seeing over the top Maricar Reyes as the boss from hell, and the Kimerald team together. However, it seems as if the whole episode was just focused on exploiting Gerald Anderson’s body by making him run in slow mo with only his undies on, or have him take his shirt off.

The whole movie closes by going back to the first story which involves a song number and a not so surprising appearance by all the previous couples in the venue with Kathniel taking the spotlight in this one. I’m not surprised but I’m stunned that every time either Daniel Padilla or Kathryn Bernardo appears on screen, the whole cinema goes crazy.

All in all, the movie was uneven at best, and that’s because of the too many stories which were unbalanced. With that said, it was definitely entertaining with some premises worth of being uncovered better. I find it more of a Valentines Day than a Love Actually.

Grade: 3/5

REVIEW: Suddenly It’s Magic   6 comments

After a string of horror, comedy, and flat out drama movies the past few months, Star Cinema goes back to one of its strongest genre by doing a romance film. Suddenly It’s Magic stars Filipina Erich Gonzales and Thai superstar Mario Maurer and helmed by one of their top notch directors, Rory B. Quintos.

Thai superstar Marcus Hanson (Mario Maurer) is in a personal and professional burnout, so he escaped to the Philippines in order to get much deserved rest. There, he met provincial lass Joey (Erich Gonzales), whom he felt a strong connection with. Joey was mending a broken heart, and the two find each other’s company special. Once Marcus goes back to Thailand, the two must adjust to the conditions of their previous lives in order to maintain their relationship.

As for starters, this film was obviously greenlit due to Maurer’s sudden popularity in the Philippines. With that said, I already left my expectations before I entered the cinemas. I knew this will have the same predictable and recycled subplots especially since there seems no room left for a more creative one or interesting story to tackle. And boy was I surprisingly correct. One can see what will happen a mile away, and the only thing that will make you gasp is… how correct you are! Fiesta scenes? Check. Upstaging gay best friend? Check. Girl falling over the boy? Check. It’s as if someone was tasked to collect different scenes from past rom-coms and combine them here.

There also seems to be some major continuity issues here and there, such as hair colors and the language used. Are we supposed to believe that when Joey’s character speaks Taglish, Marcus’s character will really understand the whole context of it? Some storylines were also just dropped off in the middle of the film, with no signs of even coming back.

Despite that, I still find a handful of interesting things to see in the film. I like the scene where Marcus’s mother is talking to Joey. This highlights what the different approach in acting we have from them. A scene that could have been histrionically portrayed here was calm yet full of impact delivered by the Thai mother. There was also the language play with Thais being forced to speak in English in some parts that sacrifices the impact of the movie. I also notice how Rory Quintos has this knack of showing beautiful cinematographic scenes to envelope the watchers to be a part of it (though it was done better in Kailangan Kita)

The camera really loves Mario Maurer’s face, and there’s no bad angles of him. I recall the whole cinema going wild every time he has a close up scene. Time and again, Maurer has proven that he has the chops (Love of Siam anyone?), though it still depends on the material he was given to. In here, he was not required to do much except to be cute and charming, and that’s not difficult for him to do. Erich Gonzales captures the naive woman effectively, and she seems to be a fit to Mario’s mestizo features. The supporting characters were alright, and while Joross Gamboa’s gay best friend was a crowd favorite, the role has been done a thousand times now and has already lost most of its magic. My favorite though is every scene that involves Thai actress Baifern Pimchanok, as I was smitten by her.

All in all, this one seems predictable as the other romance movies, but one thing that it genuinely and successfully achieved is the charm of the two lead characters. With that, there’s no wonder, it will be a hit to its definite target audience.

Grade: 2.5/5

REVIEW: The Mistress   38 comments

Star Cinema’s latest offering, Olivia Lamasan’s The Mistress, is a reunion of some sort. First, it’s the comeback project of  the tandem of John Lloyd Cruz and Bea Alonzo after 2010’s Miss You Like Crazy. Incidentally, it’s also a celebration of a decade of being paired together. This is also Hilda Koronel’s comeback movie after 2005’s Nasaan Ka Man, and her first, since she decided to live with her husband abroad. Thus, it gives The Mistress some sort of an advantage in terms of chemistry and acting intensity which can be both beneficial and disadvantageous at some parts.

JD (John Lloyd Cruz) meets Sari (Bea Alonzo) and invites her for a date; Sari refuses, yet their paths meet again. When JD uncovers the reason, he became more persistent; Sari starts to become confused. Thing is, Sari is a mistress of a rich businessman (Ronaldo Valdez); thus, she claims herself as taken already. But JD won’t stop, while Sari shows her vulnerability. What happens in the end?

There’s always something that strikes me to like the film, only to pull me out of it every now and then. For one, I really like how the story ended. It embodies something that I long waited in Philippine mainstream films. but of course, Lamasan can’t stray away from pleasing all types of movie watchers with her treatment of it. Still, I appreciate what they did there.

I actually liked the first 20-30 minutes of the film, where the tension is built and it engages you into something interesting, only to see it fall downhill from there. We were then treated to almost a different film that focused on the romantic montages reaching to the climax which will lead to a bunch of recycled Star Cinema treatments. For someone who’s tolerant about Star Cinema dramas, even I got tired seeing and knowing what happens next. It will only lure you again with the ending but not enough to save the whole experience. Though, I must say I like the production design of this one especially during the wedding cave scene. That’s actually really beautiful.

Also, I really find it hard to like anyone in the film. John Lloyd is so mad against the world, but you get confused with his intentions. But since it’s John Lloyd Cruz, I guess he is entitled to a free pass? Hmm. Not this time. JD is confident yet pleasing, he has opinions yet he can be petty which makes one wonder how can he still be someone you are rooting for? The same can be said for Alonzo’s Sari. She’s a mistress who does not know what her perspective in life is. She claims herself taken, yet she entertains. She loves her grandmother, yet she’s bitter about her mother who commits the same fate as her. Ronaldo Valdez is bitter, but he’s in denial. He thinks he can handle   everything in his hands, only to see him admit it’s not possible since the movie’s about to end. Hilda Koronel’s character is some sort of a mess, and despite being “the original”, you don’t actually care for her at all.

I guess that somehow affects the performance of the actors. John Lloyd Cruz and Bea Alonzo really has this palpable chemistry, so it’s not surprising to witness their banters working perfectly. However, I think John Lloyd fared better in his individual scenes as compared to Bea (she was good in the film generally), who can’t help but do the “kunot noo-pikit mata” acting during their confrontation while her partner steamrolls all this emotions in front of her. With that said, I am captivated by how the camera loves Bea Alonzo’s face. She is ravishing and sparkling whatever angle you look at her. She really commands the camera and her face knows no angle to highlight her beauty. Ronaldo Valdez was typical Ronaldo Valdez, while Hilda Koronel seemed to suffer the most from the writing with her mostly relying on theatrics with her line deliveries.

In entirety, I see this is as a hit or miss. When The Mistress is good, it’s really good. But when it falters, one can easily notice the weakness in it.  Sadly, the latter trumps the former in this one.

Rating: 2.5 / 5

REVIEW: Captive   1 comment

Cannes Best Director Brillante Mendoza’s first shot at the Berlin Film Festival involves a familiar territory that he has long been covering. In “Captive”, we get a closer look and a blow by blow update of a national issue that once hogged all the spotlight here in the Philippines. The only difference is that it has Isabelle Huppert here.

Inspired by the events during the 2001 Dos Palmas kidnapping of tourists, we get to see the struggle they have to endure when they get dragged in the fight between Muslims and the government in order for them to give in to what the Muslims wanted. The hostages ranged from cliche casting to effective ones with Isabelle Huppert leading the pack as the French missionary assisting old woman Soledad.

Mendoza effectively makes the viewers feel as if they were there with them combining  vivid portrayal of what the hostages experienced during that year long captivity and commendable technical aspects particularly Odyssey Flores’ cinematography and Teresa Barrozo’s score. With that said, one can’t help but think that there are times when you see style over substance as the treatment left something more to be desired. I see symbolism everywhere (giving birth scene, animals in the forest, two Muslims playing spiders, the colorful eagle) and some parts were just overdone. One can also recognize the similar Mendoza trademark that he used in his previous films, so if you’re someone who’s familiar with his filmography, there’s sort of a “been there, done that” approach with his treatment. Supposed to be pivotal scenes were also scattered that it’s hard to digest every thing so when you see one, it does not leave that much mark to the readers.

Huppert’s role, like the rest of the cast, was very physical, and I applaud how she was so “game” with everything that was required of her to do. While there are times when her character was relegated to do the typical histrionic touch when attacking the Muslims, I find her at her best when she was interviewed for a semi-documentary where she just gave her all when asked about the hostage experience. The local cast were good as well but there’s no real highlight for the rest of them that makes one a standout.

All in all, while it’s hard to nitpick about Mendoza’s visual output, it sadly didn’t leave the same amount of impact that the director intended his viewers to feel once the credits rolled.

Grade: 3 / 5

REVIEW: The Reunion   2 comments

There has been a long wait for a movie that will incorporate the iconic songs of Eraserheads , and the moment has finally came when it materialized via Frasco Mortiz’s barkada movie The Reunion starring four of the most popular actors now: Enchong Dee, Xian Lim, Enrique Gil, and Kean Cipriano.

The movie talks about how four close friends realized that they’ve been living a life of failures after being the “it boys” in high school when they attended their reunion years after. Pat (Cipriano) is still a wannabe actor who wants to make it a big by auditioning on different reality and talent searches. Boggs (Gil) is a hyper sexual man who was once a basketball varsity jock. Joax (Lim) works as a valet who brings disaster one after the other while Lloyd (Dee) is afraid to move on with his life and is stuck with being a low key photoshop editor. The movie progresses as each one of them tries to correct and improve their own lives.

There’s so much potential with the material that one can’t help but expect at least a decent material when they enter the movie house. It is very much advisable to leave all those expectations once you reach the ticket booth. This movie looks like a pilot of a teen series that will be canceled mid-season. There’s nothing that hasn’t been done before that this film did not incorporate. As if that’s not good enough, there’s also nothing that they did to make it at least innovative.

Now once the film hits its drama stride, things get worse. Whether it’s failed relationships, broken legs, and predictable twists, there’s nothing that can redeem this mess of a film from being a further mess. There were also some unnecessary transitions, sitcom level flashbacks, and an E-heads revival every now and then.

The chemistry among the four leads was passable at times, but overloading us with edited images of them won’t convince us that they’ve been friends forever. The four actors work better when they are tackling their individual storylines rather than being altogether in a scene. Even the female cast leaves no desire to have chemistry at all.

Don’t get me wrong, there were some funny scenes that I can think of, but the overall feeling of this film (together with the material they used) is such a wasted effort. Eraserheads fans and loyalists deserve better than this.

Rating: 1.5 /5

REVIEW: The Healing   1 comment

Celebrating her golden year in showbiz, the Star for All Seasons Vilma Santos tries doing something new by venturing new territories and doing a suspense-thriller movie under  the supervision of the country’s top horror master Chito  Roño. This experiment turned out to be more than satisfying and every inch enjoyable.

The Healing started with Seth (Santos) bringing her father to a faith healer in hopes that his stroke will be healed. Miraculously enough, her father is perfectly fine the following day. This prompted her neighbors (incidentally all having something to be healed) to ask Seth to accompany them and be healed as well. Surprisingly, Manang Elsa was reluctant and denied to lend them any help, but gave in the end as well. True enough, everyone felt better the following day, but it seemed that a pattern regarding death haunts their batch one by one.

As for starters, I really find the movie engaging despite the formula being pretty similar to past Roño efforts. As a matter of fact, there were some scenes recycled from his similarly themed movies. With that said, I noticed how crisp and sharp the technical details were. I’m probably one of the few who wasn’t bothered with the color themes of the movie, and I think that clearly helped set the mood of the scenes. The cinematography, editing, and visual effects were clean as well, and the score fits the bill of the impending scenes that were about to happen. This is a good testament of how Roño takes notice of the details in his film from the smallest up to bigger ones.

I noticed some flaws in the story telling (with the chronology of the events, to be more specific), and while at times you feel that it’s already predictable, there’s a way in which the director attacks the scene and hooks you back from the beginning. The highlight was probably the temple scene, as it was a clever take on different scare tactics which was handled effectively by the people involved. True enough, it has a large cast but it has a pretty good one at that; Vilma Santos was not given much to do yet still blends well with the rest of the ensemble.

If you enter the cinemas trying to be critical with how “authentic” the material will be, then you’d be disappointed. However, if you enter the cinema trying to ride the experience of what this movie has to offer, then I’m sure you’ll have a treat. Gore, laughter, drama, and supernatural haven’t blended that well in years, and The Healing is a very good representation of mixing that the right way.

Grade: 4 / 5