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2013 Metro Manila Film Festival Review: Part 1   12 comments

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

My Little Bossings

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

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

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

Rating: 2.5/5

Pagpag

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

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

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

Rating: 3/5

Girl Boy Bakla Tomboy

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

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

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

Rating: 2/5

Boy Golden

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

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

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

Rating: 3.5/5

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

You can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

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2012: The Year in Lead Actors   1 comment

2012 lead actors

Hey everyone! We’re still continuing the yearend lists over here at Tit for Tat. Aside from that, we’re also doing the recap of the movie performances in local cinema the past year. The past two days, we gave the focus to the supporting actresses and supporting actors. It’s time to move now to the leading categories. For this day, we’d give the spotlight to the men and tackle the Best Actor category. Like what I said, these are possible choices from all the award giving bodies this year from mainstream to indie and those that can cross-over in between. Let’s begin!

LEADERS OF THE PACK

Probably the strongest contender in this category for this year is acting legend Eddie Garcia as he adds another memorable turn for his role as the old gay man living with his dog in Bwakaw. His competition this year might skew to much younger actors though as there have been lots of good awards-bait performances this year such as the likes of Dingdong Dantes‘ MMFF winning performance in One More Try, Coco Martin‘s indie comeback as the father who found the remains of his daughter in Santa Nina, Jericho Rosales as the single parent whose son gone missing in Alagwa, and JM de Guzman as the mussel diver in the title role Intoy Syokoy ng Kalye Marino.

MIDDLE TIER

As for the other lead roles in contention, award giving bodies might also throw a bone to Arnold Reyes as the loyal driver who was caught in the middle in his Congressman employer in the Tribeca hit Graeland, awards staple John Lloyd Cruz might get some nominations as well for his performance opposite Bea Alonzo in The Mistress or for his movie with Angel Locsin, Unofficially Yours.  Scene stealing Archie Alemania should hear his name be read especially at the Comedy Best Actor of the Golden Screen Awards for his role in Cinema One Original entry Slumber Party. And in a surprising turn of events, we’d have a battle of two heroes this year in the Best Actor category: Alfred Vargas as Andres Bonifacio in Richard Somes’ Supremo and ER Ejercito as Emilio Aguinaldo in the MMFF entry El Presidente.

Cinemalaya movies also produced a lot of worthy Best Actor turns such as the winning performance of Kristoffer King in Oros, Pen Medina in Kamera Obskura, Dominic Roco‘s Gibson in Ang Nawawala, and Thai actor playing lone soldier Ananda Everingham in Kalayaan. Casting issues (from Cinemalaya) aside, Allan Paule‘s fantastic turn in Emerson Reyes’s MNL 143 can possibly reap nominations as well.

THE REST OF THE RACE

Other lead actor contenders that might are still in the race are Dennis Trillo in the title role of Ang Katiwala, Cinema One Originals Best Actor winner Alex Medina in Palitan, newbie actor Gerry Adeva as the title role in Mamay Umeng, Allen Dizon in Joel Lamangan’s drama Migrante, and the most intelligent and uptight of the three gay friends Markki Stroem in Slumber Party. Among mainstream movies, one can also consider Derek Ramsey in A Secret Affair, Aga Muhlach in Of All The Things, Piolo Pascual in Every Breath U Take, Enchong Dee in The Strangers, and Vice Ganda in either This Guy’s in Love With U Mare or Sisterakas.

That’s it. Last part of the acting spotlight tomorrow with everybody’s favorite category: Best Actress!

As always, you can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

REVIEW: Sisterakas   12 comments

Sisterakas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grade: 2/5

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

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

You can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

REVIEW: This Guy’s in Love with U Mare!   1 comment

 

The country’s phenomenal box office star, Vice Ganda, is now up for his third annual comedy film, and from the looks of it, this one is off to break box office records. While Wenn Deramas still helms the newest movie, we get Luis Manzano and Toni Gonzaga as his co-stars via This Guy’s in Love with U Mare!

Lester (Vice Ganda) is in a relationship with Mike (Luis Manzano). However, Mike breaks up with him to pursue a more foreseeable future with his girlfriend, Gemma (Toni Gonzaga). Learning upon this relationship, Lester puts up an act showing a machismo and masculine side to make Gemma fall for him, and in the process, ruin Gemma and Mike’s relationship.

It’s very easy to dismiss all of Wenn Deramas’ works. After all, it uses the same recyclable plots and treatments in his films which makes his body of work very unoriginal and predictable. With that said, this one tends to be a surprise as this one is less ridiculous than the usual, and providing some ( meaning a bit) layers within its storytelling. I must admit I was caught off guard when watching as it shows some breath of fresh air that it’s enough to give the movie a chance.

But of course, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This still contains the usual Deramas fare which at times, work, and at times, miserably fail. There’s the big gang of extras, the copycat scenarios of pop culture references, and the montage of “funny” scenes. But one factor that works in its advantage is the chemistry of the three leads. Vice Ganda can overact in most of the scenes, but he contains this charisma that makes used jokes still acceptable. He’s willing to do anything that this role requires him to do, and it makes the portrayal more ridiculous, but at the same time, effective. I’ve always been a fan of Toni Gonzaga’s acting skills, and this one is another of her good showing both as a comedic and dramatic actress. She knows that it’s a Vice Ganda venue, but she knows how to show her skills without upstaging the lead character. Luis Manzano gets a vital, albeit thankless role, but he was also game with the material that it barely matters.

All in all, while this one contains what one must expect in Wenn Deramas productions, it also contains some fresh potential that I did not see coming at all. With that, I’d give this one more props than the usual and even recommend this.

Rating: 3 / 5

REVIEW: Praybeyt Benjamin   6 comments

After the very successful No Other Woman (which is officially the highest grossing local film of all time), one might think how Star Cinema and Viva Films will follow that superb path. When in doubt, then go with Vice Ganda. This military themed comedy about how a gay man sacrifices his identity in order to save his family is having the last laugh with its box office success.

Vice Ganda plays Benjamin Santos, the flagbearer of the iconic name that spells machismo and hero at the same time. When his famous grandfather (who holds the same name) figured out that he’s gay, his family was altogether banned from the entire clan. Tables turned when this specific Benjamin Santos, together with a bunch of imperfect friends, became the life saver of the clan that threw his family off.

The movie uses a specific type of humor to carry the film. Sarcasm is their best weapon, and if that’s the kind of humor you are looking for, then you’re in for a very fun ride. Lucky for me, I do well at sarcasm and the film had me rolling in stitches. The dialogues are not deep and relied on the delivery of the actors. There are still some weak and failed jokes that obviously has been recycled to death already. I also do feel that there are no need for cameos and some pop culture references that were mentioned in the film. Most of them failed to give justice to what they are supposed to do.

Still, this is the Vice Ganda show. The role was tailor made for him, and the lines were obviously written for him. Had this been any other actor in the lead role, then  it wouldn’t have had the same success. The supporting cast were good as well, though most of the jokes were straight from their personal life. Everything in the film seems calculated from the actors to the roles. Good thing though is that this is not the type of film that must be taken seriously. So it works.

If you want to laugh out loud like there’s no tomorrow, then I recommend you to watch this one. On the other hand, serious “critic” reviewers must avoid this like a plague. They’ll be missing the point of the entire film.

Grade: B-

Posted October 30, 2011 by Nicol Latayan in Films, Reviews

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