Monday, June 23, 2014

Greg Mclean's "Wolf Creek 2" - Steeplechases in Remote Australia


A pair of bored highway police officers patrol a desolate strip of the Australian backways. When they finally see a lone vehicle plying the route, they stop and ticket him - just for kicks. Little did they realize who they were dealing with. Not long after, the younger cop gets his head blown into smithereens while the older one is made to crawl and, later, burn to his demise inside their patrol car. Carnage follows when a couple of German backpackers are hiking their way to Wolf Creek Crater, a well-preserved meteorite crater found in a remote area in Western Australia. When night falls, the campers meet grumpy Mick Taylor (the creepy John Jarratt), the same highway culprit earlier encountered by the erring cops.

Mick offers to take them to a camping site but when the couple refuses his "help", he turns to them, bludgeoning cute pie Rutger (Philippe Klaus) with his knife and raping Katarina (Shannon Ashlyn). Later, we see Mick dissecting Rutger's remains into pieces. He even snips off Rutger's penis, raises it for inspection and quips, "Ain't he a donkey."

This gives Katarina the chance to escape - and get haunted by Mick who didn't want to let go of his "new toy". Katarina strays to the highway, "rescued" by British surfer Paul (Ryan Corr) who takes his sweet time to interrogate her in the middle of nowhere. Would they escape Mick's steeplechase? Guess.


Like its predecessor screened 8 long years ago, Greg Mclean's "Wolf Creek 2" follows a framework not dissimilar from the first. Strangers stray to a remote place and finds their sanguinary comeuppance. The concept is intriguing as much as its employ of a mysterious crater, discovered by scientists in 1947. The metaphor- laden association is uncanny and stokes a degree of paranoia and wonder among us.

The film is buoyed by a charismatic cast and a villain that seems sturdier than metal or mortal (see: he gets hit by a hammer yet he stands, bloodied, but seemingly unhurt). Before long, we're treated with carcasses and snappy slideshows of bondage and rotting corpses. Novelty wears off half way through though what buoys the remaining narrative is Ryan Corr's enigmatic presence. in fact, at the torture chair, we wince and grunt as he loses some of his fingers to a "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire"-style mind game.

Like many films of its genre, the characters exhibit immense stupidity in multiple situations. They linger when they're supposed to run away. When given the chance to fight back, they allow the villain to recover when they could easily finish him off and end their misery right there. This narrative ruse is, of course, unfortunate because you don't want them harmed. I mean, come on, I'd rather see Kris Aquino appearing in another Chito Rono flick - with stickers of "My Little Bossings" on her forehead, cut down to pieces and her tongue tied down her double chin - than Ryan, Ashlyn or Philippe in several stages of dismemberment. Now that would rid this Oprah-wannabe of her eternally smug countenance, right?

Other than all the blood bath, we were quite comfortable right where we were sitting the whole duration of the film. For a suspense thriller, that's not such a good thing.

The prologue offers that some 30,000 people are reported "missing" in Australia every year - 90% of whom are eventually found. The rest is gone forever. And yeah, this story is based on actual events. I have my doubts, but who am I to say? ;)

Ryan Corr as Paul Hammersmith



Wolf Creek Crater is believed to be 300,000 years old (Pleistocene) but was discovered in 1942. It was named after a gold rush-era storekeeper Robert Wolfe. 

Ryan Corr seems to transform well. Check out a younger, albeit sunshiny Ryan below.

When Ryan Corr was younger. Wasn't he a doll?

Philippe Klaus

Shannon Ashlyn

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Tony Y. Reyes' "My Illegal Wife" - Humor Challenged Borrowings


After getting booted out of a job in Japan, 39 year-old Clarisse Sabaldica (Pokwang) comes home with a resolve to find her children a “father”, someone they can depend on. As fate would have it, she serendipitously meets Henry James Acuesta (Zanjoe Marudo) on her flight back to the Philippines. It's love at first sight. Unfortunately, her attraction is not reciprocated. But when their plane crashes, they find themselves marooned on an island. What’s worse, Henry suffers from amnesia. It's the opportunity opening up for her fervent wish.

Clarisse then concocts a plan to convince the poor guy that they are a married couple. “Pinatulan kita?” asks a baffled Henry. So goes the start of their blissful lives. Unknown to Clarisse, Henry is a “gold mule”. Several pieces of gold have been incredulously planted in his abdominal viscera prior to the plane crash (as though this was even medically possible). As if that wasn't enough, Henry is actually in a relationship with struggling jeweller Clarize (Ellen Adarna) who plotted the stygian operation. And the latter is desperate to find her missing beau. 

Back on the home front, Henry is starting to enjoy the attention he’s getting in Clarisse's household. The couple is, in fact, planning their church wedding with the help of their zany circle of friends (Beauty Gonzales, Pooh, Empoy Marquez, Edgar Allan Guzman). But sinister Clarize - "with a Z" - is closing in on them.

What happens if Henry regains his memory? Will Clarisse’s annoyingly cloying son Liam (John Steven de Guzman) lose a father figure? Will Clarisse forfeit her chance to have a complete family? Guess.

Tony Y. Reyes’ “My Illegal Wife” predicates solely on borrowed narrative snippets culled from Star Cinema’s array of blockbuster romcoms and the hit Angel Locsin teleserye, not to mention Kathniel's "Got2Believe": “It Takes a Man and a Woman”, “She’s the One”, “Bakit Di Ka Crush ng Crush Mo”, “Bride for Rent”, “Starting Over Again”, and that commercial-riddled vomitus called “Maybe This Time”. Its derivative content makes movie viewing utterly predictable and an unnecessarily gargantuan snooze . I felt like playing “sipa” or “tumbang preso” inside the cinema. I wanted to be anywhere but there. 


Even the supporting characters feel manufactured. Let’s take Empoy Marquez’s fractured and specious use of English words. Hasn't he done this similar ruse in a couple of romcoms in the recent past? If you had a fourth of a brain, you’d get exasperated by Marquez’s ludicrous shenanigan. "I smell something specie?" Duh. Too much of something is, well, “too much” – so we wanted to flush this charmless dingbat in a toilet bowl. Get rid of this abomination already. Beauty Gonzales’ briskly disappearing pout (supposedly born out of her rabidly kissing lover) is present in one scene and gone the next. She even felt the need to reference Wella, her character in “Starting Over Again”, as though people would find it amusing. I didn't. Wella’s two minutes of fame has rightfully passed so puh-lezzz bury her now!

There are several lines that make fun of physical attributes: "Ang isa, mukhang itik." In another scene, it becomes "Ang mga kaibigan niyang mukhang nalubog sa putik." "Janitor fish!" This is a hallmark of old school humor; the lazy variety that comedians/humorists of low-tier capability employ very often. And what's with the side story involving Jimmy Santos? Wasn't it one of the most painful movie moments you've ever watched in your life? Santos' idea of heightening emotions is his annoying sudden shouts. He would follow this up with grievous dramatic caterwauling. You'd think this old man had schizophrenia instead of Alzheimer's Disease. Santos apparently can't act to save his life. Yes, "Bang Bang Alley" was a fluke. But then Santos is being directed by Reyes; someone who's as clueless with on-cam emotions as he is in telling stories. 

Joy Viado’s cookie character is likewise troublesome. “Ba’t mo in-Indian si Liam, hindi ka naman Indian?” That was a joke? Seriously? Who laughed? And the clincher was...? Tony Reyes’ idea of humor is so 80’s that he could be responsible why Vic Sotto’s filmography is worth nothing but crap. “Pak! Pak! My Doktor Kwak?” “Lastikman?” “Fantastic Man?” “Iputok Mo, Dadapa Ako (Hard to Die)?” “Kabayo Kids?” Enumerating these titles even feels like an ominous predicament, a prostitution of sobriety and common sense.


Pokwang doesn't really take on a character. The movie runs with a succession of parody that doesn't quite synthesize into a singular coherent narrative. It's a feast of paper-thin caricatures. Pokwang is, of course, comfortable "being herself" but the film medium is a make-believe world and she isn't making believe. She's doing a protracted stand-up comedy show. Her impression of Nora Aunor elicited laughter ("Meron ba akong hindi alam, asawa ko?"). Zanjoe’s impression of Xian Lim, Daniel Padilla and Enrique Gil bear no semblance to the aforementioned gents so you end up with a headache trying to connect his so-called "joke". It was so flat I heard the wind from the east on its way to Ecuador. Zanjoe’s “Pinatulan kita,” was funny though. Joy Viado’s flirting with men was cringe-worthy. Zanjoe’s “I need an acceptable explanation” likewise flatlined and went to heaven. You see, everything about the film is a “hit-and-miss” affair; but they're mostly “misses”.

After Sarah Geronimo and Coco Martin’s recent disaster, Pokwang and Zanjoe Marudo follow awkwardly like another blundering pair, you’d never believe in a hundred million light years that something will romantically curdle between these two disparate souls. That Marudo and Pokwang are hailed as the “King and Queen of Skylight Films”, respectively, is pure gas. It is a slice of dishonor, if you ask me. Skylight Films, Star Cinema's alter-ego, has been churning out one mediocre film after another, with the exception of Veronica Velasco's “Tuhog”. This purveyor of second-rate mainstream fare is giving Star Cinema a bad rep.

A glimmer of hope in this gloriously wasteful effort is Ellen Adarna. She initially comes off irresolute, no thanks to vapid, albeit one-dimensional character development, but she eventually catches up, playfully pursuing the sinister-but-occasionally-funny vixen. When she contorts her face, you knew she was going to be a fumbling menace. And oh God, what a beautiful menace she is. If her character’s a bit unhinged or incoherent, it’s the brilliant writers’ undoing.

In one scene, she yells, “Sino ba ang babaeng yan?” How can she not know? Her henchmen had been spying on Pokwang’s Clarisse for some time to get to Zanjoe's Henry. It was even the reason why they found him, wasn't it? Someone conveniently forgot?

SURPRISES

Here's a surprising fact: I watched "My Illegal Wife" twice to confirm my observations about this film, but what I've observed was this. Sarah Geronimo's "Maybe This Time", released 2 weeks ago, has folded for good. It's not in cineplexes anymore as I write this. How long did Toni Gonzaga's "Starting Over Again" run in our cinemas? An impressive 8-9 weeks, and even longer. "Maybe This Time" (MTT), after its 2nd week is gone. So tell me honestly, would you believe when they say that the Sarah-Coco starrer was a gargantuan hit? In fact, "My Illegal Wife" enjoyed a bigger and fuller crowd in Cebu (SM Cinema 3) as it was at a Gateway cinema. Moreover, while the Manila crowd had a more reserved reception to the film's humor, Cebu crowd was rowdier. Davao audience wasn't as pleased. The movie played on almost empty halls and the few who watched weren't laughing. What does this signify? Is the Manila crowd a more sophisticated audience than the provincial folks? Is Davao more urbane in their humor? There should be a sociological explanation to these discrepancies, shouldn't there?
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But this much is true, when a comedy flick offers laughters that are exceeding few and far between, you would wonder about the material’s raison d’etre and, subsequently, its source of inspiration. They designed a persona with Pokwang's ebullience and temperament. "My Illegal Wife" is a bad idea in the guise of comedy. One wonders why Star Cinema is “making hay” successively producing bad films this year! Is it following the foot steps of GMA Films? Anyare?   


Saturday, May 31, 2014

Jerry Lopez Sineneng's "Maybe This Time" - All Around Awful


Awful. I was incredibly perplexed. When Sarah Geronimo opened “Maybe This Time” with a voice over, it was like listening to a “best elocution exercise”. It could earn a good mark if we were in class, but it was an exercise nevertheless. Deriving sincerity from her skewed delivery was another thing. Why Geronimo would exclusively speak in the Queen’s tongue in a story that involved Tagalog-spewing Pinoy blue collar workers is as baffling as Kris Aquino comparing “My Little Bossings” and “Spiderman 2”. It was off-putting to say the least, because it came out stilted and unnatural. Lea Salonga in “The Voice” commented that Geronimo’s English is improving. “Push mo yan,” she’d egg her on, but hearing Geronimo’s “There was never as ussssssssssss….” kept giving me goose bumps. Sharon Cuneta spoke impeccable English yet her quotable film quotes were kilometric Tagalog words, not vacuous pretentious English phrases that reeked of hollow emotions and cliches lifted from some undisclosed romantic novels. Viva Films is apparently trying hard to elevate Sarah’s hip quotient. If Jerry Lopez Sineneng’s film is any indication, then they’re doing Sarah a disservice because it is becoming obvious what she is not.

The story leaves much to be desired. Boy meets girl (Coco Martin and Sarah Geronimo, respectively) during the latter’s outreach program in an idyllic seaside community. He flirts with her while she’s giving the poor children reading lessons. But what can you say about a guy who disrupts classes, flirts in front of the kids, puts his arms on her shoulder without any resistance, sweeps her off her feet and carries her to the sea – all these even before he officially asks if he could court her. Yeah, sure, we’re tickled pink. Their world is an alternate universe of light-hearted romance. Yipee! But we have to wait for another day before she accepts his romantic offering, right? When that day finally comes, Sarah learns that she’s been abandoned. No notes, no goodbyes, no text messages, no emails, no YM offline nor Kakao talk messages. Nada. This was of course 10 years ago.

Present day. Sarah, aka Stephanie Asuncion, works for an advertising firm whose main client is Kakao Talk (so we basically know how juvenile and cheap the company is, right?) This is headed by Ruffa Gutierrez aka Boss Monica, who eats Steph for breakfast, Steph for lunch and, once again, Steph for dinner. Monica detests Steph’s ideas so much that she had to entrust an exquisitely important project to – drum roll please! – Steph! At this point, my neck wasn't moving sideways, but spinning Linda Blair 360 degrees. Why hand over a special account to the underling who constantly drew your ire? The math here just doesn't add up. But then how would Sarah and Coco (aka Anton Bugayon) meet again if we don’t overlook this unbelievable lapse of judgement and turn of events?

Turns out, Steph is still sporting a heartache, and Anton is likewise carrying a torch for Steph. Between our star-crossed lovers is a tall and statuesque, Prada-toting Monica, replete with her middle-aged lateral canthal crow’s feet. What to do?

MISMATCHED

In 2010, Sarah Geronimo and Coco Martin starred in “Idol”, a Glee-inspired TV series that didn’t fly. In fact this was unceremoniously shut down way before it’s supposed to. Even Sarah’s million-and-counting Popsters were so bored with it, they kept their distance. Writing was middling and painfully derivative, but more than that, there was no real and palpable chemistry between the two stars. What changed 4 years later? Nothing. Their pairing is as tepid now as it once was. You would think they’d learn from the TV debacle, right?

If Sarah and Coco are a match made in purgatory, Ruffa Gutierrez’s presence is a behemoth mystery. Think Bermuda Triangle, or the Stonehenge, or (ready with those lightning-catchers!!!) Kris Aquino shamelessly proclaiming herself as the Oprah Winfrey of the Philippines. Gutierrez is simply too superannuated to complete the romantic triangle of an already belabored screen pairing. And if she were a tad intuitive as an actress, she could have helped sweeten the already murky cinematic palette. But Ruffa is a Gutierrez and what have we realized about the Gutierrezes as far as thespic quotient is concerned?


That an advertising firm is suddenly tasked to turn a sorely lisping new millionaire into a socially copacetic restaurateur is one for the fairy tales. Isn't owning P40 million socially fragrant enough? They could have invested on a speech coach who could doctor the sibilant-heavy script, couldn't they? Aga Muhlach lisps but we were never aggrieved by his deliveries in movies. Coco meanwhile struggles, and these awkward moments pile up like a dozen crucifixes on our shoulder. Oh how I suffered.

WORLD RECORD OF WORSTS

The bigger question is, why was everyone in “Maybe This Time” ridiculously bad, it almost felt like it was vying for a world record of worst performances in a single movie. Steph’s trio of friends were ill-conceived. They were fugly, a fabricated gay man and an idiotic looking lass who consistently looked befuddled. Ogie Diaz as Mama Mae was more eccentric than funny you simply wanted him rushed to the loony bin. Even Shamaine Centenera – in her worst performance ever - is dragged down by a vomit-inducing script fit for GMA Films, not a Star Cinema vehicle. It’s just embarrassing! 

GREED AND THE PINOY ARTIST

Now, which self-respecting “artist” would allow his narrative dredged with product placements? Only the greedy ones – Sharon Cuneta and Mark Meilly did this with “Crying Ladies”; Sarah Geronimo did the same with “Hating Kapatid”; Kris Aquino sprinkled that cinematic garbage called “My Little Bossings” with 20 products; now it’s Coco Martin’s turn – a pawnshop, an over-the-counter analgesic, an alcoholic beverage. If you are conscientious of the products you are endorsing, why would you endorse a business which takes advantage of the miseries of people in dire need of financial support? The pawning business is largely unregulated, thus it has unfair practices that prey on people’s desperation. Saying that it provides beneficent service to the needy is akin to proclaiming that Dracula loves his victims. ;) Sarah and Coco lovingly endorse this business. How inspiring, debah?

Product placements in a medium where people pay hard-earned money to watch and be entertained is simply a disrespectful and reprobate practice to a paying audience. Pambabastos. This is something Viva Films and Kris Aquino have yet to realize, but then the latter lives in the cloud of fantasy she wouldn't even comprehend the simple concept of delicadeza. There should be a law that would require local movies to have disclaimers outside the cinema stating how many "commercial products" are being peddled in the film. Say, "My Little Bossings" - 20 products; "Hating Kapatid" - 9 products, etc. This way, the movie going public will be made aware of such flagrant and abusive peddling. Enter at your own risk. Think Chito Rono's "Feng Shui" if it had shampoos, cooking broth, laundry products, fastfood chain, sanitary napkin, etc. in its story. Pakapalan na lang ng mukha, right Sarah?

Sometime in the film’s last third, the narrative downspirals into a mawkish melodrama. To tie the narrative pieces to an undeserved denouement, Steph enters an exhibition hall riddled with driftwood art pieces. What struck me were the droll, mediocre driftwood displays. Oh my goodness. No wonder Monica wanted to do away with Anton’s lofty ambitions. Weren't we supposed to be impressed? With such abominable driftwood displays, not by a long shot. I wouldn't take a single piece at home even if they gave them away for free.The point being, the story was supposed to show Anton's special skills in making precious pieces from driftwood. Turns out he was an unexceptional artist. Ho-hum! Back to the drawing board. He can't be an artist so he might as well be a restaurant owner. Get my drift?

We’re so glad that “Maleficent” had a bigger crowd when we watched both films on their opening day, considering that Jolie’s superlative film was screened in two cinemas and “Maybe This Time” only had one. Cinema Evaluations Board once again misrates the movie with a stupendous B rating. We’re not surprised. The people who populate the C.E.B. are the some of the most clueless, or opportunistic, individuals to have walked the earth. In this case, “B” could refer to that six-letter Tagalog word that means “waste, debris, rubble, trash, sweepingssssssssss”. And just maybe Sarah can elocute these enumerated words adequately.

"Maybe This Time" is like going to a buffet and coming home with steady bout of flatus. You pay much and are rewarded with nothing but air. Anyone who declares that it's a "solid movie" does not know what he's talking about, that's for sure.

Laughing all the way to the bank with a cinematic turd.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Ronald M. Rafer's "Gigolo" - Tens Years Back


Life hasn’t been a walk in the park for Julio (Mygz Molino) who, as a child, lived with a wicked stepmother who spared no affection for him. At last straw, he finally found the courage to runaway and live on the streets with other urchins. Fast forward to the present. Julio grows up an able bodied Romeo who, along with his friends (Maichel Fidelis and Jake Galeon), hang out in gyms and busy avenues to peddle his flesh to libidinous gay men. His girlfriend Margot (played by a girl who uses the ridiculous-sounding name “Kissy Babe Kisses”, believe it or not) doesn't mind. She herself is a prostitute.

One day, Julio overhears a story from Dominic (Christoff Ken), a gym guy with whom Julio is curiously drawn to, about Dominic’s mother Imelda (Carla Varga) who allegedly gave away her own child when she was younger. Why Dominic would unravel this to a complete stranger is stuff of legends. Anyway, Julio follows this lead and confronts Imelda. She was indeed the same mother who abandoned him. And she had been searching for him. They have a tearful reunion and vow never to be separated ever again. End of story?

Well, not quite. Julio comes home to find Margot battered and blue. Her last customer was Mr. Marquez (Rob Sy), an inveterate sadist. He gets his kicks torturing his girls. Julio vows to avenge Margot. He marches to the club where she works and finds the bald sadist. With great effect, he wears his hood and takes out his shiny knife, then bludgeons Mr. Marquez to his ultimate demise.

Next scene is a baffling testament to absurdity. The whole family: Julio and girlfriend Margot, mom Imelda and son Dominic walk the streets away from their house as they seek new glory under the sun. Yup, as easy as that. Murder completely erased from their timeline. Wide open smiles and bright inspired faces with no iota of guilt, grief or trepidation. Just how a fairy tale should be.

There has been a spate of entertainment writers and tabloid reporters who dabbled with Pink Indies. There’s Benny Andaya (“Tatlong Beses Isang Araw”), Sandy Es Mariano (last year’s “Jumbo Jericho”), and Ronald M. Rafer for “Gigolo”. Let’s not forget Ronald Carballo (“Pikit-Mata”). What’s the common denominator? Except for Carballo whose film we haven’t seen, each project is among the worst that Philippine Cinema has ever produced. In fact, giving these writers carte blanche to actually direct a film is several steps backward. Try 10 years! If this isn't a gargantuan slap on the face of Philippine Cinema, I don't know what is.

Rafer’s story telling technique is in desperate need of constitution. He tells his tales with barely any valid framework. Not only does he tell it in incongruent episodic clutter, he also resorts to spur-of-moment whims inserting narrative threads that do not belong to his story.


Let’s take the case of former Survivor Philippines’ Rob Sy and his protracted bed scene with the bar girl he hired to assault. Sy’s character could be absolutely stricken off because it dilutes the story of Julio and takes the focus away from the main characters. And it did. 

Rafer peppered his tepid story with its undeserved, unrelated and discrepant climax, but the character of Mr. Marquez is non-essential. He is disposable, and his presence puts emphasis to the movie’s randomness. Their scene which must have lasted a good 15 minutes involved an expendable, if not superfluous narrative string – a rape scene whose perpetrator humped away fully clothed! May medyas pa yata. :) How’s that for cinematic will or focus?

Rob Sy, Mahal, Maichel Fidelis and Ms. Carla Varga (Go figure!)

Rafer’s narrative exposition is painfully limited, and his scene transitions are very abrupt that one caterwauling scene briskly follows another head-splitting breakdown scene, then another “Magbabayad-ka-sa-ginawa-mo” scene. Carla Varga, who plays negligent mother Imelda, is a good example of Rafer’s very loose grip as director. Julio asks Imelda, “May anak kayo?” Then with no rhyme or reason, she bawls her heart out. They converse further. When Julio leaves, Imelda once again cries as though she just ate something awful.

TERRESTRIAL MYSTERY

Every scene with Carla Varga is executed with over-the-top melodrama, I half expected the Earth to open up and devour the actors for the noise they were generating. Moreover, I was befuddled why Varga is distinctively billed “Ms. Carla Varga”! Why the special title? Is she royalty in the league of Ms. Lea Salonga, Ms. Zsa Zsa Padilla, Ms. Lorna Tolentino or Ms. Eula Valdez? Is she an icon or hero? Is she vaguely popular? Raise your hand, children, if you know who she is. Is she young, vivacious and full of verve? Isn't she 55, or 65? Does she carry an enviable thespic prowess a la Nora Aunor, Bea Alonzo or Shamaine Centenera? Is she a personality of immense Helenic beauty? Mahal, is in fact, a more popular name than Carla Varga will ever be. Yet Mahal isn't billed “Ms. Mahal”. Mahal instead takes the film’s sidelight selling cigarettes at the bar entrance, with ribbon on her hair that's bigger than her head, screaming “Notice me! Notice me!” It’s woeful. We have a conundrum.

With all these peripatetic narrative detours, Julio’s story as “Gigolo” takes second fiddle. We are left out of Julio's kaleidoscopic world. Yes, there are more than half a dozen sex scenes, but some of them don’t even concern our protagonist. Rafer is taken to his “flights of ideas” leaving poor Mygz Molino disoriented in his own titular movie.  

Rafer further recruited some actors familiar in the genre for walk-on parts, as though he is cooking up chopsuey. Throw whatever he can into the brew to disguise the vacuity of his work. Brad Laurente awkwardly hams it up as a gayer-than-gay concupiscent queen bedding one of the guys. Jeremy Ian is likewise billed although I must have blinked and missed him.

Equal opportunity is a double edged sword. Anyone who dreams of directing can buy or borrow himself a camera and call himself a director with no heed for the filmic language or its artistic requisites. See any of G.A. Villafuerte's flicks to realize that the guy tells a single story in 15 of his films all told within 525,600 minutes. Repetition is supposed to turn into mastery, right? Not with Villafuerte, and in this case, Rafer, whose talents are limited to besting how to get worse than their last. In this country, even a secretary without any aptitude for governance can rise to become a Senator. That’s what makes this country great… and shitty.



Mygz Molino is Julio.


Saturday, May 10, 2014

G.A. Villafuerte's "Harot: Puso Ang Kikirot" - The Art of Dumping


Beejay (Richard Crisostomo) is in no rush to tie the knot with girl friend Jane (Ishang Fernandez) who’s putting the pressure on him. It has been two years since the couple decided to live together, but Beejay’s career as a photographer hasn’t taken off. And Jane’s mother is getting impatient. But things are looking up. Sarah (Merrylyn Quibingco), Jane’s friend, has scheduled photo shoots with Beejay whose calendar is filling up fast. And Randell (Icer Abella, below), Sarah’s ex boy friend, has repeat sessions with Beejay to muscle up his modeling portfolio. 

One day, Beejay’s assistant Jona (Francis Cariaso) comes home with his boss’ laboratory results. Beejay is more than surprised to learn that he tested HIV positive. What bothers him more was his concupiscent dalliances with both Sarah and Randell. Has he infected Jane, Sarah and Randell? As he walks away from home, Beejay turns introspective. He tearfully asks himself: “Kung pumapatol ba sa kapwa ay bading na rin?” Seriously? He's more concerned with labels now than his medical condition.

Such ponderous moment had me laughing in stitches, I was ready to roll down the floor with overflowing hilarity. People with such mind set are usually not turned into directors or storytellers; they’re better off sent up the mountains to plant camote or okra – and even more appropriately, talong (eggplant)! Now isn't this a more productive, albeit nutritious career?

Director G.A Villafuerte cluelessly thows these fatuous and puerile lines one would expect from 4 year old kids – or anyone with an underdeveloped level of comprehension. Like other G.A. Villafuerte films, his characters have polysemous sexuality. There is no distinction between straights and homosexuals; their sexual persuasions are as ambiguous as the story teller’s capacity to shape believable characters or envision valid story lines. How else do you reconcile a thinking mind with someone who chooses to open his film with his protagonist taking a dump! Yes, the first few minutes has Crisostomo displaying his very healthy backside (as he wakes up in bed) before going to the toilet to (drum roll please) defecate! Inspiring, right? I actually thought it was going to be the requisite shower scene, which eventually and predictably came soon enough. Talk about scenographic variety.


Richard Crisostomo (above) is a relaxed performer although he isn't emotionally required to do much, not even when he learns of his affliction. The same demeanor is true where his requisite shower scenes are concerned. And, if you don’t blink, you’d see his shrunken bits. By this, I mean a degree of shriveling is evident. Icer Abella on the other hand, is more enthusiastic than competent. The two gentlemen are a study in contrast. While Crisostomo is “hunky”, Abella is “twinky”. On the other hand, Ishang Fernandez and Merrylyn Quibingco have a limited share of the spotlight. Fernandez figures in a shower scene. As I've said before, “showers” are the be-all and end-all of a Villafuerte movie. Other than that, there’s not much to discuss.

Funny things: Instead of fleshing out his story with something real, Villafuerte instead concerns himself with less important aspects, like assigning complete names for all his characters. If a pet animal was in the cast, I was sure it would have its own surname. In another scene, when Sarah related an anecdote on how a friend saw her ex-boyfriend cheat on her, Merrylyn Quibingco (who plays Sarah) quipped, "She confronted to me." She, of course, meant "confided". Where's the English doctor when you need one? There's always Tagalog, unless she was born with the Queen's tongue. "Ipinagtapat nya sa akin" - there. Isn't that easier?

Sometimes one wonders if Villafuerte ever takes stock of his body of work when not a single title from his ouvre is worth anything except as time fillers. This situation is probably like waking up one morning and finding out that all your collections weren't gold, but mounds of cow dung! Surely you can't be pleased with that situation - unless you're the fly that hovers over these stinking end products.When Villafuerte decides to open this film with his lead star moving his bowel, you realize that there's metaphor there somewhere.

Icer Abella

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Camille Delamarre's "Brick Mansions" - Action And Nothing Else


Detroit, 2018, is one of squalor, entropy, and lawlessness. In the dystopian district of the Brick Mansions, once progressive but now occupied by hardened criminals and low lives, a containment wall separates the public from these criminals. Undercover drug agent Damien Collier (Paul Walker) is keen to bring down drug kingpin Tremaine Alexander (RZA). But with a heavy coterie of thugs surrounding the latter, that’s not the easiest of tasks.

Meanwhile, Lino Dupree (David Belle) wants to clean up his community by interfering with the drug shipments. This doesn't put him in good stead with Tremaine who then kidnaps Lino’s girl friend. Things come to a head when a neutron bomb gets stolen and taken to the mansions. It detonates in 10 hours. Damien and Lino must come together to secure the bomb which is now under the care of the drug lord. Will they succeed before everything’s too late?

The first 15 minutes of the film will have you wide eyed and open mouthed. Lino gracefully sashays with his parkour skills, gliding on walls and staircases light as a feather as he escapes from thugs. He then jumps out of the building, swings by the ledge and straight into the window a floor under. But then David Belle is the founder of Parkour, so that's no surprise. And who needs spider web when you can be a super hero without wearing spandex?

Action is so fluid it washes you with a drum of adrenaline. Unfortunately, not all that’s kinetic makes good sense. In fact, there’s not much story to hang on to. The movie further highlights more action: watch two cars hit head on, missing both Damien and Lino while the guys tumble on the air and land on their feet unscathed. If you’re into heavy action, you’d probably enjoy this. Just leave common sense out of the picture. You’re also well likely to compare this to the claustrophobic atmosphere of “The Raid”, but all comparison stops there. This is an inferior version. Way, way, way inferior.

Delamarre’sBrick Mansions” is a remake of a 2004 French movie called “District 13” that also had David Belle playing the same character with a slightly different name “Leito” (instead of “Lino”). How does it feel to repeat yourself 10 years later? We better ask Mr. Belle. Better yet, let's ask airhead Kris Aquino to interview Belle so she could once again namedrop her vomit-inducing "My Little Bossings". What's funnier, "Brick Mansions" seems like a masterpiece beside that piece of shameful cinematic turd. Sometimes, there's no accounting for taste.



Paul Walker did better in Eric Heisserer's flood drama, " Hours".

The founder of Parkour, David Belle glides effortlessly for his parkour stunts.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Joyce Bernal's "Da Possessed" - Gold in Misery


Three ghosts are out to settle score when they are inadvertently dug out from an unmarked grave on a land where a casino is being built. Problem is, our would-be hero Ramon (Vhong Navarro) is a wimp, a “lampa”, with a weak heart. But he desperately needs to work to save his family’s house from foreclosure. He meets and falls in love with Ana (Solenn Heussaf), the spunky daughter of the casino’s owner Don Demetrio (Joey Marquez) who has a shady past.

Meanwhile, our ghosts (Empoy Marquez, John Lapus and Aaliyah Belmoro) have to intermittently take over Ramon's body to coax the truth out from the murderer who happens to be Don Demetrio. Will Ramon solve the ghostly trio’s dilemmas: revenge, a proper burial and finding a playmate? How will this affect Ramon’s burgeoning relationship with Ana? Will he save his family out of their financial rut? Guess.

Director Joyce Bernal spins an oft familiar yarn that’s not too far removed from her other collaborations with Vhong Navarro in the distant past. In fact, if you feel a certain degree of déjà vu while watching the movie, don’t worry, it isn't you.

But the spirited cast which also includes Joy Viado, Smokey Manaloto and Beverly Salviejo more than makes up for the narrative cliché.

Vhong Navarro hams it up and succeeds even in brain-dead comic punchlines. He has always been a brilliant comic. Try the banana jokes. “Paano pababalikin ang saging?” Answer: “Tu---ron! (Tarah)” “Paano mo paaalisin ang saging?” Answer: “Tanggalin mo ang B. Ana-na!” Are you laughing already? The jokes are a hit and miss affair, a tack not unfamiliar in Joyce Bernal’s slapstick comedies. Most of the jokes are highly dependent on the comedic intuition and quick wit of the actors. When Mama Belen (Beverly Salviejo) was abducted, Ramon’s sister-in-law Marie (Matet de Leon) insightfully deduced: “Nasa abandonadong bodega!” When asked how she knew, she replied:  “Lahat ng kinikidnap, si Mara (Clara), si Marimar, si Claudine, si Kristine Hermosa, lahat sila dinadala sa isang abandonadong bodega!” O nga naman.

Navarro perfectly complements with the gorgeous Solenn Heussaf who continues to amaze us with her spot-on characterization even in comedy. Heussaf has been known for her emotive honesty so it’s a surprise to find her perfectly tempering her Ana character with deft precision. Listen to her speak Tagalog like the natives, if that isn't impressive compared to other half-breeds, I don’t know what is. The girl just works hard so you don’t cringe listening to her speak her lines. Have you heard from the once-again-bankable Papa Piolo inviting you to “Download the Eb…”? “Epp?” Ah, “application”! Epp daw kasi eh. Ohgawd!

Like other Vhong Navarro movies, there’s a dance showdown somewhere in the movie. Vhong and Solenn in fact danced a hip-shaking Christian Martinez novelty tune with a large crowd at a mall. The theme – Bollywood! Irony isn't lost in us because wasn't Solenn in the amateurish “Mumbai Love” which had execrable musical numbers?  This is how a Bollywood musical number is done, Benito Bautista! Stop rationalizing that good choreography and cinematic execution require an enormous sum of money.


As for Vhong, his recent traumatic run in with fellating ladies and rich extortionists seem to have revitalized his sagging movie career. His last film with Star Cinema was 3 years ago with Chito Rono’sBulong”, wasn't it? His “Shake, Rattle and Roll’s The Invasion” for Regal was 2 years ago. Who regularly watched "Todamax" on TV? 

Now, scroll through your Facebook page. It’s easy to find dimwits calling him “idol”. While we are glad that Vhong recovered from his assault and that the arrogant Cedric Lee and company are wallowing in their legal woes, we shouldn't be quick to place philanderers on pedestals just because they survived an ordeal that would have been prevented had he not taken “foods” to a shadowy acquaintance’s condo in the wee hours of the night while his girlfriend waited at home. And some elevate him to being a “hero”. Would he have seriously apologized, albeit tearfully, to his partner and kids on national television had he not been caught? "Idol", you bet. Go figure.