Friday, August 29, 2008

Movie Review: Joyce Bernal's For The First Time

Candy Pangilinan plays KC's "yaya" in Joyce Bernal's latest movie, "For The First Time". She also started the ball rolling down to a treacherous slope that has no promise of redemption, except for the fact that KC Concepcion stars in her very first movie. Unfortunately for KC, who is obviously bound for greater glories, the well anticipated movie miserably disappoints.

When the loquacious yaya starts spouting invectives, everything that comes out of her mouth doesn't quite translate into anything humorous. In fact, she was my main source of aggravation in the first 15 minutes of the movie. She just wasn't funny! She inspired my violent rages that I began seeing myself wringing her neck, shaking her endlessly until she realizes that her performance was nowhere endearing or amusing. Her character could be a latter-day incarnation of Suzanne Gonzales or Nova Villa who have played the hilarious nanny to many of Sharon Cuneta's early characters. Unfortunately again, Pangilinan doesn't possess the subtlety of the aforementioned actresses. She is as crass as a those MILF characters spouting ideals on peace. LOL. Having said that, let me go back to the movie.

I had high hopes about this movie. It was an "event" that hasn't escaped even my mother who's vacationing in Davao. And like me, she queued to witness this historical event. Me in Galleria, she in SM Davao. We basically know how the story goes: Rich, but hard working girl Pia (KC Concepcion) meets heartbreaker Seth (Richard Gutierrez) while vacationing in Santorini. She despises him like a fatal disease, which amuses the lothario into wooing her overnight. Sparks fly... or I thought it was supposed to.

There was something amiss with their screen pairing. I can't quite pinpoint the culprit. To be honest, I was never enthralled by Richard Gutierrez. Sure, he is "beautiful" - and though I have watched all his cinematic forays, i was never infatuated with him. His beauty is a novelty that's easy to overcome. He never made my toes curl. He just doesn't seem to possess the gravitas that makes leading men compelling - and that is purely personal. I am sure he has made lots of girls dream wild. Not me. I prefer my men "handsome", not "beautiful".

I have to admit though that his television appearances with KC are something to get yourself worked up with. As a couple, they are a perfection. Which begs the question why they didn't quite work onscreen. The answer must lie somewhere in the technicality of cinematic storytelling. This movie was recklessly told in all its mediocrity. It is such a shame, considering they even have to fly to Greece to spice up the formula. Here's another rub: One hour into the movie, the images onscreen start to blur! Their Grecian canvas becomes badly photographed, I could have shot those scenes better with my amateur video cam. It was so bad, it went on for the next 40 minutes or so! Was this partially filmed using a digital camera? Budget constraints maybe? And isn't Star Cinema a reliable source of glossy, flashy, picture-perfect visuals? The answer is obviously "not all the time". Not this time, at least!

Our troubled heroine Pia trades verbal tussle with Seth while in Greece. By stroke of luck, she makes a deal with the devil (Seth, of course). In a day's worth of flirtation, she falls head over heels in love with the cad. Ganun kabilis nawala ang yamot nya sa manlolokong maningibig. What made her change her mind? Simple! Seth pushed her off the jetty and down the aegean seas! Hahaha. As far as I am concerned, if a guy who woos me pushes me to any body of water, not only will I file a criminal case against him, he will also get a kick in the central recesses of his masculinity! I don't get wooed by murderous maneuvers! In my book, it is brutal, not romantic! But hey, it worked, Pia softens up and even accepts a dinner date that night!

Now let me focus on Seth's character who is inadequately threshed out. He has had a long history of "loving" most of Pia's girl friends, so - when did he have the time to actually live in Greece, learn the language - and in the process stamp an idiotic Italian accent to it - then acquire mastership of a tavern? Not only won't he open the guesthouse at the peak of the tourist season, he also kept dating a bevy of ladies. How did he manage to finance himself or his dates? So, in principle, Richard's character is at best, a figment of an extravagantly fertile imagination; a pulp fiction so desirable that you just have to believe sans logic.

Even as the couple gets back to Manila, the situations kept defying rationality: the greek restaurant scene is one of such scene. Allow me to backtrack to Santorini. When Pia's character fails to find a hotel in Greece, she goes back to Seth's tavern. Instead of eating a humble pie, she kept insulting the owner of the house. Didn't she just beg him to take them back? If so, how can she afford to be rude? This is just among a series of mindbenders littering this cinematic event! And yet, this is such a masterpiece that it actually gets a B Rating from the Cinema Evaluations Board! Which makes you think. Who are these nincompoops manning the C.E.B?

And since when has Phillip Salvador turned into a one-dimensional, sour-faced, caricaturish actor? Maybe coz he was underemployed for years? He comes out with a single expression on his face from start to finish - he might as well wear a mask to save him the agony of a transfixed grimace!

Now, the ending (spoilers beware!). Pia turns up to Seth's family gathering with her whole clan in tow, declaring her undying love for the heartbroken Seth. It was nothing but a failed gimmickry that was farcical at best. It unsuccessfully pushed the boundaries of romance, teetering on the vicinity of desperation. But make no mistake, it was neither romantic nor cute. Again, in my book (which took 22 years to write), romance ends with a cute guy wooing the cute girl. Not the other way around!

Now, to the only gem in this otherwise puddle of mud: KC Concepcion! She overflows with a natural instinct and charm that lights up the screen! She is intuitive and formidably competent - way way better than her mother when the latter was April in "Dear Heart" - or her next 10 movies thereafter! In "For the First Time", a movie star is born! It's just too bad that she had to shine in a mediocre movie! Mel Gibson did it in his very first starrer, the Australian teenage flick "Summer City".

Now, what has happened to Joyce Bernal? Why was this story so banal? Doesn't Star Cinema have creative consultants who scrutinize the storyline and the script? Olivia Lamasan? Ricky Lee? Here's more bad news: I watched the evening screening (7:30PM) at the Galleria, cinema 2 (their biggest I believe) and there was no crowd inside. "Caregiver" was almost-full on its FIRST SCREENING on its first day! What gives? But then again, who cares about that observation? I've read somewhere that the film has allegedly earned P15 million already as of 4 PM on its first day! Alleluia!

Would I still recommend this to people? Of course. This is still a must-see movie if only for the fact that this is KC's first movie! This will be remembered and often referred to when KC is at her prime as one of the stellar movie queens in the distant future - like her mom is!

As to my own mother, she forced herself to watch it in SM Davao. My mom is easy to please when it comes to Pinoy movies. She liked most of the Pinoy films she's seen so far, including Sara Geronimo's "Very Special Love". When asked how she liked the movie, she stopped herself to think, then said, "Ah.... ok lang!" And it was the most tentative thing I've heard from my mom!

Santorini moments...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Had To Be Michael

I was staring at the screen and there he was, my destiny, my boyfriend! He looks intently through the boob tube and, like a dash of arctic shower, my mom pinches my shoulder! And my dashing gentleman disappears like a bubble popping! Don't they call pinching child abuse?

I have been pausing some scenes from a romantic comedy called "It Had To Be You" which starred my ultimate lothario, Michael Vartan! Oi oi oi! The half French hottie has me goo-goo eyed during its whole syrupy run! It sure took him forever to star in a romantic comedy, something that i have been waiting for a fourth of my lifetime already.

In the film, a gorgeous boy meets gorgeous girl (Natasha Henstridge) on the day they were supposed to finalize their wedding preparations. For a whole week, the seemingly contented couple kept bumping into each other all over New York's Central Park, etc. Then they suddenly realize something: make a good guess!

I am so deeply infatuated with my Michael, I hardly care if the story was as predictable as the fact that one day, in the distant future, Sharon Cuneta and Gabby Concepcion will, once again, pair up on screen! Oh gosh! Vartan just makes me blush! The way his forehead furrows into the sexiest of scowl, the way he cocks up a half smile. oooohlala.... ;->

When a rom-com fields an unpretentious story and the simplest of intentions, the goal can't be too hard to achieve. Who cares about predictability and a trite story when you have a pair whose chemistry sparks up the whole Central Park with their charm and beauty? I don't!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

very special

Who would have thought!

Here's the pitch. Laida (Sarah Geronimo) finally lands a job as an editorial assistant at a troubled men's magazine. Whaddaya know, her boss is grumpy cutie Miguel (John Lloyd Cruz), whose cut-outs and posters grace every available space in Laida's bedroom. Grumpy cutie meets bubbly lovelorn Laida. Will she be able to tame her grouchy paramour? Raise your hand for the affirmative. Otherwise, you deserve to jump off Mandaluyong Bridge right down to the brackish Pasig River. It's as predictable as the succeeding letters of the alphabet. That is, unless you are illiterate.

But for all its embarassing predictability, the almost-nonexistent chemistry between the 2 leads creeps up from the backdoor and grows on you. Thanks to the infectiously enthusiastic performance of Geronimo and the undeniable appeal of a gorgeous Cruz. It seems there is a premeditated effort to follow on to the formula that made Regine Velasquez a movie star, i.e. with non-ambitious, saccharine-sweet romantic crowd-pleasers. Good news is, Sarah has a more natural vibe about her than the songbird who appeared awkward in her first, say, 7 starrers.

Other than what was mentioned, never for a second did I believe that THAT was a publishing office. If all seemed like a high school class of bumbling dimwits (excluding Joross Gamboa - and only because he is a certified eyecandy who deserves his own romantic comedy LOL).

I love light romantic films. Makes you believe in fairy tales. Makes you think that there's goodness in everyone. Makes you believe that there is a feeling as genuinely pure as L-O-V-E. Makes my toes curl when, as the film closes, the reel couple starts frolicking and laughing in the rain.

Yeah, makes me blush. Who would have thought!

Sarah and John Lloyd say "eeee...!"