Saturday, June 13, 2009

nail bites and james patterson

so... i found myself drawn to james patterson's latest novel - "sundays at tiffany's". (i keep telling the sales clerk "nicholas sparks", geez...)

i just couldn't stop myself from purchasing this one. the blurb intrigued me no end. for 3 straight days, i stopped myself from swiping my credit card. though i thought i've succeeded, i soon started having dreams! dreams! can you believe it?

so... on a weekend, and what do i find in my bag? james patterson!

24 hours later, i am half way through and half done... and i need to finish this pronto before i end up without any my thumb nails from my bites. lol

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Cinematic Recess - Predictability in "Kamoteng Kahoy" Consumption

It's a big suprise how the movies coming out from the Sine Direk project are faring. Except for Soxie Topacio, who I don't exactly remember directing a high profile or critically acclaimed movie from the past, most of the directors in this series are big names - Peque Gallaga and Lore Reyes, Maryo J. de los Reyes, and Joel Lamangan. Mel Chionglo, who last came out with a mediocre exploitation gay movie, was supposed to come up with an interesting film called "Bente" - but Maryo de los Reyes' "Kamoteng Kahoy" was released first! I was expecting a surplus of great cinematic satiety but for some reason, the best of the lot has to come from a relatively "inexperienced" Soxy Topacio - in terms of film output. His "Ded na si Lolo" was an unexpected critical as well as commercial success. In fact, "Ded..." enjoyed a longer shelf life in most of the SM cinemas all over the country than say, Sharon Cuneta's BFF. There's no doubt in my mind that "Ded" was a more successful piece than any other entries from Sine Direk.

Unless, the still to be shown "Bente" turns out great...

The latest to come out from this series is another Gloria Romero starrer called "Kamoteng Kahoy", graded A by the Cinema Evaluations Board (CEB), a really funny set of individuals with the credibility and believability of a bad harvest of peanut.

Lola Idang( or was it Edad), played by the lovely Gloria Romero is a kind hearted ambulant vendor at San Isidro Elementary School. She is such an endearing character that she even gives out her free kamoteng kamoy merienda to half the school's population who doesn't have the money. Unfortunately, after such philatrophic inspiration, the kids started vomiting blood, just minutes after consuming the kamote. Some 75 children were downed by the kamote, and 27 of them eventually died. It was apparent that Lola had accidentally mixed a caustic chemical while she was cooking her "paninda". I was inclined to retitle it - "Na Ded ni Lola". LOL

The aforementioned events set a melodramatic turn of events that involved a lot of pathos, of grief, of annoying wails and hysteria. Who wouldn't if your child died from a mere kamoteng kahoy, right? Unfortunately for its audience, everything falls into some tediously predictable conclusion that seemed to highlight out-of-work actors - Yul Servo, Tofee Calma, Anton Bernardo,

Nash Aguas is a breath of fresh air. This child actor has always been watchable. Gloria Romero does adequately although the way her character was written (by the venerable Ricky Lee, I was surprised!) could be a little less annoying - a little less mawkish!

It is a curiosity why these Sine Direk works come up with mostly "passable" works, especially if these were supposed to elevate the quality of "Pinoy Cinema". I couldn't help but expect better works from these cinematic greats. More importantly, except for Joel Lamangan, these works have been helmed by semi-retired "master directors" of the 80's and 90's. Could be a contributing factor? Budgetary constraints could be a factor too, but then several indies have succeeded with much less. I can only guess.

"Baka minadali," a friend offered. After all, these works come out every week.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Date with Baby Angelo

So I braved the rains to watch another indie - Joel Ruiz's "Baby Angelo" at the Robinson's Galleria.

A fetus well over his first trimester is found buried in the rubble of a garbage dump beside an apartment block. This discovery becomes catalyst to a series of events that gradually hones in on the seemingly humdrum lives of the occupants of Genevieve Homes. In almost glacial pace, we are introduced to a bevy of characters whose personalities are gradually shaped by piece meal vignettes: a landlady who fends to and polices her tenement, a social welfare employee who dotes on his curiously lazy wife, a geriatric who regularly snags provision (soup, food, fruits, flowers) from a mysterious benefactor, a failed medical student and his devoted limpwrist brother, an Indian couple, and – let’s not forget – the happy-go-lucky girls of Room 1F who pollutes the tenement all day long with gratingly bad Karaoke ballads. When a “local” investigation ensues, this multitude of characters begins to unravel into more complex individuals. At the heart of this fact-finding exploration is Bong (Jojit Lorenzo) who is tasked to interrogate the aforementioned. Will they ever find the answers to the mystery surrounding Baby Angelo’s origin?

The first thing that catches your attention about this film is the exquisite photography coupled with a commodious color tone. If at first there is something to complain about this decision to employ an almost monochromatic palette, it gradually becomes obvious that this was setting a cinematic milieu that would help focus the viewer’s attention more on the richness of characters co-habiting in this apartment complex. Soon, these denizens seemed to deserve separate movies of their own. As its narrative winds into a tentative close, the utterly slow middle part of the movie begins to bristle and brew, and each character experiences a degree of metamorphosis, ironically capped by a scene involving a cheerful free make-up session within the tenement. Suddenly, the dour Genevieve Homes transforms into an environment in dire need of colors and make-overs, regardless of how glib and desultory – and superficial – they may be.

To be honest about it, I was fidgeting as the movie draws into its first hour. There were so many individual stories told, but there wasn’t a lot of stuff happening. The lives of the characters seem to fall into an abysmal routine – the boring daily grind of people stuck in their dismal, mediocre lives. And who wants to watch that? But the last 15 minutes or so surprises, as events unravel – for everyone! Suddenly, there’s a flash of inspiration that moves the events. Things happen and situations radically change. Then we are back to where it all started – the garbage! The movie ends and I was thinking, hmmm… how very French! If you’ve seen most of the movies being screened at the current French Film Festival, you will know what I mean.

The performances are topnotch, most notable are Jojit Lorenzo (was never fond of him before), Diana Malahay (who was mediocre in “Tukso” but registers strongly here) and Katherine Luna (Gosh! Now I remember how great she was in “Babae sa Breakwater”).

Then I remember that this is from the same director who megged the cerebral short film, “Mansyon” – and I feel it’s about time that Joel Ruiz fields a full length film at a commercial cinema. After all, IMHO, what is a good filmmaker if he can’t even offer his work to a commercial public. What does a Lav Diaz mean to a film enthusiast like me if I’d need to go to Brussels or France to suffer his 16-hour masterpieces? LOL. His contributions to Philippine cinema becomes absolutely nothing to a Pinoy like me since he seems to prefer to exhibit his works anywhere but the Philippines (except of course those once in a blue moon elitist local film festivals).

Now back to Mansyon, which was a personal favorite during that Cinemalaya season - THAT was also very Frenchy. Very sophisticated – a tightly woven piece of cinema.

I have several trivial questions though about “Baby Angelo” (BA). Were all the actors tasked to learn those creepy jukebox ballads? If BA was a Joel Lamangan flick, would Bong ride into the sunset with Apple? Would Lamangan make Lisa own up to dumping the fetus? Me thinks she friggin has to. LOL. Does Mr. Noel’s entrepreneurial skills involve the ladies of Room 1F? Does Joel Ruiz watch a lot of French films? The answers could be somewhere in the dumpster.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Male Voice - An Intensely Entertaining Theater Experience

Joaqui Valdes charms...

Delfin and Zamora - Powerful, insightful, poignant parallel monologues in "The Stain".

I am anti-hype, so I was reluctant spending a fraction of my savings to watch a play about men justifying their existence on the violence that permeates the modern world. Vagina Monologues for men? But since it was a barkada decision, sige na nga. So off we trooped to the RCBC Plaza to watch "The Male Voice".

What I didn't expect was a consistently powerful set of monologues that reek with honesty and an opulence of stories that for the next 2 hours transfixed me on my seat. Divided in 15 parts, the stories start coming alive in carefully placed monologues that were culled from interviews of real people. These are a variety of anecdotes about a child's first "palo" to another child's deadly kiss to his mother, a homecoming that unravels a lifetime of secrets, etc. Since I was caught unaware the play had no intermission, I didn't dare leave the theater for a toilet break. I couldn't. Joaqui Valdes was charming his way through a monologue about a popular macho dancer and escort. Not only did he perfectly personify "Adonis", he somehow justified Adonis' descent into moral oblivion, it was almost unbelievable when things turned 180 degrees and we find him bearing his soldier's gun. But then reality is sometimes stranger than fiction, isn't it?

It is hard to pick favorites in a cast that pulls heavy punches. Michael Williams was downright hilarious in Victor/Victoria, it's hard not to recognize the internal facility of an actor who is veteran to some of the most complex characters on Philippine Stage. However, in Victor/Victoria, Williams simply comes of age. He was sympathetic and engaging in every line that comes out of his mouth, I so wanted to meet him and shake his hand. Even in less serious piece like "The Belt" - an anecdote about a guy's shopping experience with a girl when they detoured to shop for a belt in a Bangkok market! Williams took hold of the material and transformed it into his own experience. I could swear he was telling his own story. This anecdote gave me an insight into the male viewpoint when girls like me get ourselves in a tizzy shopping! Should we apologize for finding materials other than a much-needed "belt"? I am inclined not to - but I'll try to be more understanding of guys' exasperation. There are elements of nature that are hard to control. That includes our penchance to roam and shop! Excuse moi! That was funny!

In Tommy Abuel's performances lie years of well-honed experience. I was shaken by his "Apat na Sulok ng Kalayaan ni Bobby", about a convict who finds salvation at the penitentiary, then he finds his son joining him in jail. It was hard not to sympathize with his plight. Miren, my friend, would cower down her seat everytime Abuel shouts at the audience (in "Si Adonis, Si Dennis", etc.). He was just such a powerful presence, I find my friends saying, "Nakakatakot naman sya." Tommy Abuel's power lies in his facility to deliver words like his life depended on them. They embody clarity and strength, I couldn't help shed a tear as he concluded his monologue.

Then there's Joel Trinidad. In "Kuya's Picture", he narrates a life cloistered within the secret walls of family betrayal. He was consistently empathic - as though there is a vicarious experience that suddenly needed closure. From his initially muted ramblings to a building guilelessness that belies a thespian at work, Joel Trinidad was a force to reckon with. He displays the same grit in the thought-provoking "LRT/MRT" about sexual equality in the realm of riding the LRT/MRT!

Now, let me point out that one of my favorite scenes was the ingeniously interconnected monologues of a couple of HIV cases in "The Stain" (Batik), performed by Rem Zamora and Pete Delfin. This piece is carefully structured to parallel the lives of men who have fallen victims into the reality of HIV/AIDS - one promiscuous (an escort who would travel as far as Australia) and one discrete. There are lessons to be learned here - that it will take a single moment of carelessness (thoughtlessness) to suffer a consequence as morbid as HIV. Rem Zamora was intense and absolutely persuasive though his monologue is characterized by a very subdued delivery. He was so believable, Tina, my seatmate kept saying, "It's his story, I'm sure! It is his story!" And I was tempted to ask after the show. Pete Delfin was similarly engaging. The power of these vignettes come from the way these seemingly, excessively cumbersome tales of human experience are told matter-of-factly - sans melodrama. These amazing tales of grief and excesses have been carefully tempered, giving them the respect that they deserve. After all, these stories are not mere caricatures. They are real stories - and they haven't been taken advantaged of.

It was easy to fall into the mistake of milking the peculiarity of these individual situations, but THIS is New Voice Company. This is the company that turned the Liza Minelli's song "Cabaret" from a frisky ebullient Broadway song to a more appropriate moody, cheerless, haunting version (sung by Ms. Monique Wilson) that perfectly suited the fate of what befell the Jews during the Holocaust.

Monologues are a tricky thing to perform. Even big named stars in the Westend and Broadway try to avoid one-man shows. They are daunting. For one, you have to be pretty secure of your capacity to engage your audience the whole time you are on stage. In monologues, an actor will have to solely interact with the audience. It is more difficult than sharing the stage with others. Though in TMV, there were several interactions among the 4 actors on stage, they were mostly left to their own devise. What a fantastic ensemble. If there was a competent Theater Awards in the Philippines like the Tony's, this ensemble should win hands down! And I salute New Voice Company for a brilliant material and fantastic show.

As usual!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

my next visit at my aunt's

I was fortunate to listen to Cecilia Bartoli at my tita's house when we visited last weekend. But she wouldn't lend me her copy for a quick burning (copying) - I once scratched her Andrea Bocelli. It wasn't intentional of course. She brought her cd from her recent visit in Rome and she wouldn't lend me any. Boo hoo!

While I was checking out Power Books, guess what i found? Bartoli's "Semele" - both the cd and the DVD.

Guess I have something to take with me to my next visit at my aunt's. Guess who won't get to borrow my Cecilia Bartoli DVD? LOL

Thursday, May 21, 2009

gabby's cameo inspires toni gonzaga to enunciate


Overheard several times last week at Entertainment Live.

This was in reference to Gabby Concepcion's swoon-worthy guest appearance in Sharon Cuneta's movie, "BFF". The lovely Toni Gonzaga effusively and repeatedly said:" There is a "ca-me-yo" (accent on the 2nd syllable). Did I really hear her say that in all its trisyllabic glory? Hmmm. Must have misheard it. But I heard it again while she was interviewing KC Concepcion (who vowed how much she "love Toni talaga").

What can you say about your dad's "ca-me-yo"? (mentioned twice during the segment)

...and I fell off my seat as I rolled through my kingdom of hilarity.

Class, all together now - "cah-m'yo"! Again, class, "cah-m'yo". Tintin and Glorybell, the accent is on the 1st syllable.

Asus, and the english proficient Bianca Gonzales can't even correct a dear friend!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

hayden kho and porn as a primetime entertainment

gosh! i just saw 3 of the dashing doctor's private video productions, and he suddenly turns from a prince to a frog!

so... he sets these cam moments unknown to his lovers - a brazilian model, katrina halili and, the really shocking one is model/new actress maricar reyes who had a showy few weeks in "i love betty la fea" as armando's (john lloyd) former gf who succumbs into cancer!

i am no prude and i have seen some blue flicks but these trio of intimate moments put the porn flicks to shame! These are even more salacious, more vulgar than the x-rated who transcends lust through acting. this however is real, and the positions and the acts are even revealingly kinkier. who would have thought the ponds model has the makings of a really heated animal?

i cringe at the thought of myself getting caught in the heat of things with a bf then finding myself at the end of a video tape, heaving and moaning and contorting and blowing and groping. oh dear! now i am suddenly afraid of men! beware of the gwapos for they may be wolves in cute guy masks.

that the senator from cavite is calling him maniac is a bit of a farce. haven't we heard of his shenanigans as married guy? sure, he doesn't necessarily capture them on video, but what makes him less of a cad than those who videotape their deeds? or should we just easily subscribe to the fact that commiting a crime is fair game as long as you aren't caught - on tape?

now as to the legal repercussions. it would be hard to convict the perverted doctor since it is hard to prove that he actually uploaded those sex videos on file shares. why would he? he has more to lose than ms. halili. it is similar to a career suicide - for who would allow herself to be examined by a physician who videotapes women who get naked in front of him? that he will be stripped of his medical degree? based on a "law" thats dated 1959? videotaping oneself doing sexual things do not necessarily constitute a crime - NOT when it couldn't be proven that he actually intended to scandalize these 3 girls and himself! immorality is a gray zone. hayden kho is immoral coz he shags katrina? and katrina is not? you have to remember that this purported video happened at a time when every tom, dick and harry knew that hayden and vicky bello are an intimate pair. ms. halili knew that she was sleeping with another girl's bf. should we clear her of immorality coz she got caught on video - and awww what a pity? who is clean then?

Sure! Hayden Kho is the lowest form of a prick! A cad! A pervert! A maniac, says the senator! But what law did dr. kho break by filming himself without the consent of the ladies he's sharing his bed with? I am not sure there is a tangible law that will castigate him for his devious, perverted deed. The most that he will get is probably a censure, a suspension... but revocation of license? Yes, mr. senator, go make a law first - but please don't overrule the right of free information by censoring or policing internet use.

what lesson do we learn from such? as a girl, i am not sure. when we love, we trust and we give a huge part of ourselves, that includes the precepts of passion. and Dr. Hayden Kho, you are an abomination to the male species. you are what my father and what my brother and what my male friends and cousins and acquaintances shouldn't emulate.

shame on you.

Monday, May 18, 2009

national anthem and singing it as a showstopper

We've noticed how the hullabaloo on Martin Nievera's singing of the Philippine National Anthem at Manny Pacquiao's fight has come to play. That the Historical Society has uttered their displeasure for Nievera's tweaking of the last 6 notes (he raises the note from "tay" of "ang mamatay ng dahil sa yo" then consequently dipped it to effect a concluding rousing finish). Sure, I understand. Something historic should be sacred. But I am surprised why suddenly, Nievera's being castigated in the gravity that we are hearing from the news.

Some years ago, Christian Bautista was tasked to sing the song, and through all his correct notes, Bautista jumbled the lyrics into an embarassing mishmash. When another no-named lady singer - the relative of a former actor/then senator - was given the opportunity to do the same, she horrifically sang with all the flats and sharps as she peaked into the song! Kinatay ang Lupang Hinirang. I thought she was spweing, "Sulong mga kapatid!" These were horrible performances that placed our lyrically-rich anthem to shame. Yet all these historians seem to have forgiven them and charged them to human error. You are put to task to represent our anthem and you don't even memorize your lyrics enough? You don't even rehearse enough to get your notes right? Yet we hardly hear of threats of punishment from the politicians and historians.

Now, here is Martin Nievera. Voice strong and clear. As he was singing the anthem, I couldn't help but notice how beautiful our anthem is. He made me realize how proud I should be - for even in the confines of an anthem - we are a very rich nation of brilliant musicians and singers like Nievera. He was note perfect! He was loud and clear. And he made me wanna sing my anthem once again! How proud I was that people were listening to Martin. How proud I was that foreign ears actually stood back and listened - and appreciated our anthem. I don't think we have succeeded in getting that sort of attention from any of Pacman's anthem aingers before! NEVER! Until Martin Nievera...

So, please... lay off Martin Nievera. Though there were some tweakings at the end, he didn't mean to disrespect our anthem. In fact, he made me proud. Just remind him that sometimes, some things ought to be sung the way they should be, the way they ought to be.

And he didn't forget his lyrics. He didn't sing into flats and sharps. He made me proud, as Manny Pacquiao made me proud.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sharon, BFF and Her Fans

It was a perplexing experience.

So... for the second time this week, I watched Sharon Cuneta's latest movie, "BFF - Best Friends Forever" - a project that the megastar considers as "my first all-out comedy", a statement that's spurious. To start with, this multi-media superstar has appeared in several all-out comedies before: "Jack & Jill" with Herbert Bautista, and its sequel "... Sa Amerika"; there's the inane "Megamol" which couldn't be anything less than an "all-out comedy" too. But hey, Sharon is known in the business as one who acquires a very sharp wit and keen memory. She remembers names of people - fans she has met only once, reporters who met her fleetingly, etc. Kris Aquino is said to be the same - that's why they inspire fanaticism.

Then comes Sharon's penchant for hyperbole. When she meets a person she takes a liking to, she says, "I really, really like you. I am a fan." And she says this to so many people. It is not that I am questioning her sincerity, because I do believe that she is one of the sincerest of the big stars. I am just stating that the Megastar - in all her earnest or gargantuan achievements - loves to please people. And who wouldn't fall under her spell when she declares that she likes you? Mortals prove powerless to Sharon's megawatt charms! She is one in a million!

Which takes me to watching "BFF" for the second time. I must have missed something the first time I watched it. Coz in all my fandom's ruminations, I seem to have missed any merits that would make a megastar do a movie like BFF - specifically NOT after a box-office and critical success like "Caregiver" that has succeeded in placing her capabilities as an actress into even greater echelons, than what she was known for. She has derived greater respectability as an actress, not just as a star.

I am aware though that one can't do a "Caregiver" all the time, but a "BFF" to add a creamy coating to a gem like "Caregiver" borders on the realm of thoughtlessness.

I am a fan. In fact, I am a 3rd generation fan. Question this fact and I will counter you with every silly trivias, every unfamiliar Sharon ditties of the past, every little movies that no one's ever seen. My grannies are huge followers; so are my parents who were weaned on "Dear Heart", "High School", " Cross My Heart", "Hagkan"and "Dapat Ka Bang Mahalin" way until they marched down the aisle and had me. One cannot help becoming a fan after growing up with a huge collection of vinyls spinning "Swing ang tawag dito... pinaghalong boogie at tango...", thanks to my folks I have learned a helluva trivias that will make me champion on any Sharon Cuneta trivia show. I have grown up with 3 - no - 4 Japanese spitzes named Bubbles - named after Sharon's spitz way back Dasmarinas days in Paraiso Street! But fans also deserve a certain degree of consideration: that the artists we actually look up to do not mock her own weight problems and inadequacies at discipline. That the artists we adore tries to take care of how she looks!

BFF - the movie, teeters unequally between drama and comedy.

If this was "an all-out comedy", the laughs are few and far between - I missed all the punchlines, except 3 scenes, none of which involve Sharon. Fortunately for me, the audience that was with me were also staid, serious... no knee-slapping guffaws and rollicking laughter. I wasn't alone after all. They must have expected the beeline from the masa - after all, Ai ai is there and her crowd will draw the comic fans - but we were so few in cinema 4 of Megamall on a suweldo weekend Saturday. Maybe it's coz there are 2 other theatres showing BFF in Mega? Maybe. One thing is sure, if this were an experiment, the comeuppance tilts towards a failed experiment.
Had this project - which the ads on TV label as "certified box office hit" - become a mammoth hit, THIS would have given the megastar the lazy excuse of appearing again in a comedy, with a girth 3x bigger than John Estrada, one of the disadvantages of a crane shot.

Sharon is a leading lady, the biggest of the lot! This shouldn't be literally interpreted by Sharon who seems to have forgotten that certain degree of responsibility to appear fit and healthy and leading-lady-like FOR her fans - if not for her own health, then for those who have amassed a lifetime collection of memorabilias throughout these years. I silently grieved for my parent's silence as we headed back home, that day after we watched BFF.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

One Two Three Punch from Joel Lamangan

I'll be damned.

After not having posted any blogs here, Joel Lamangan would seem to dominate my pages. First off, there was the passable "When I Met You". Then there's the interesting indie, "Fuschia" which had a compelling narrative but tepid film-making, as well as disappointing bordeline performances from some of the industry's otherwise reliable veterans - Gloria Romero, Robert Arevalo and Eddie Garcia.

The movie itself could probably be divided in three parts - the light comic chapter, the dramatic segment peppered with sob stories, then the concluding action thriller-cum-pseudopolitical commentary, complete with guns and goons that's always seen in 98% of Joel Lamangan movies. As always, there are gun-toting matons riding a jeep, harassing people, kidnapping or mugging a character or two. This ouvre is also a glaring example of the limitations that even veteran performers like the aforementioned stars suffer in the hands of a mediocre script. Arevalo's supposed funny verbal tirades against Eddie Garcia kept falling flat. But it is heartening to see Ms. Romero churn out a charming, albeit spunky performance. She would have made Anita Linda's award-winning "Adora" a lot more engaging since we feel that most of the acclaim in the latter has been overrated. Bad bad me for bad mouthing veterans? Nah, just saying as I see it.

The third Lamangan feature is the homo-fantasy "Heavenly Touch" that's currently cashing in at the Galleria's Cinema 9. Rodel (Paolo Serrano) and Jonard (newcomer Joash Balejado) are disparate souls working together at a massage parlor. Errr, haven't we heard of this story before? Oh yes, we have - many many times before - and in better made films. Without batting an eyelash, we'd figure out that they earn a living by providing heavenly touch to tired bodies. Soon thereafter, they fall for each other - and get themselves into big trouble.

In Lamangan's oft-repeated cinematic imaginings, this is where we see bad politicos and corrupt police men who possess hordes of big burly men carrying guns, swatting poor denizens in their way. You guessed it too? Brilliant. Then you can predict the outcome of this story. These same burly contravidas were seemingly transplanted straight from "Fuschia" and even Lamangan's "Walang Kawala (No Way Out)" with Joseph Bitangcol and Polo Ravales. Only, this familiar reincarnation of metropolitan squalor has 3, no, 4 full frontal male genitalia swinging all over the celluloid canvas in wild abandon. Akala ko, anatomy class. Hahahaha.

Marco Morales, who always enjoys an enviable screen presence in floozy and run-of-the-mill "indies" shares his dickie wangwang along with Joash Balejado and a couple more extras where they are seen coming out of showers or getting out of a massage room. Alleluiah! Let the scrotal worshippers come rushing to the cinema. LOL. I wonder Marco Morales he keeps flashing the family jewels even in films where he is a virtual extra. His "Butas" seems to have made a lot of moolah thus he really deserves more lead roles, even in exploitation flicks like Heavenly Touch.

How are the performances? Balejado has the presence of former studs like Daniel Fernando, Julio Diaz, et. al. but he badly needs to learn the craft, and I guess it's not a very acceptable excuse that this is his first starrer. After all, there are intensive acting classes all over. On the other hand, Paolo Serrano comes off a natural - strong presence and movie star persona. There are no awkward moments even in ridiculous scenes where he's supposed to prey after Balejado. Baket? Serrano successfully breaks out from his usual male erotic features. Others in the cast suffer the fate of one-note characters: Irma Adlawan (who i thought has totally shed off her theatrical bad habits in several indie features - "Sa North Diversion Road", "Mga Pusang Gala", "ICU Bed 7", "Still Life") revisits these annoying habits ("Mga Munting Tinig", "Tukso", "Dose").

Lamangan is having a blast. But his "Huling Birhen sa Lupa" days are too far behind him, which is too bad. Then the Metro Manila Film Festival is just around the corner. Oh gawd!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Movie Review: When I Met U

Jenny (KC Concepcion) and Benjie (Richard Gutierrez) are two peas in a pod. They are kindred souls who live their seemingly joyful existence through the whims of their controlling and manipulative partners (Alfred Vargas and Iya Villania, respectively). One fateful day, they find themselves spending an overnighter, marooned on a deserted island after their plane encountered mechanical trouble en route to a common friend’s wedding ceremony in Coron, Palawan. After an infuriatingly cheesy cat-and-mouse flirtation amidst lush mangroves and giant lizard, they realize an unmistakable chemistry together.

Once back in civilization, reality sets in. Hooking up as fast friends, they also realize that keeping their current relationships may prove beneficial to both their immediate families as well. But we all know that loving hearts are stubborn, and true love, as the song goes, always finds a way, doesn’t it? Well, at least, in romantic comedies, they do. And this Joel Lamangan-directed starrer is no exception.

The first time I heard that Joel Lamangan was finally chosen to helm this pre-Valentine offering, I was disappointed. I am not such a fan of Mr. Lamangan. His body of work never impressed me, except for a few (Huling Birhen sa Lupa, Deathrow and Pusong Mamon) and I don’t expect “When I Met U” to be among those. KC deserves a better fare than her first movie.

Lamangan’s strong point comes to the fore in that he knows how to somehow please a crowd (Maricel Soriano’s “Bahay Kubo”, Regal's "Mano Po" series) – but not the critically-discerning crowd though. Character development is not among Lamangan’s gifts. This is obvious in “When I Met U”. In fact, the unevenness in the individual narratives between Jenny and Benjie tilts towards Richard’s character. You get to learn the intrinsic mechanics of Benjie’s character through his dysfunctional family: a not-so-easy domestic life of a struggling pilot, an opportunistic father (Tonton Gutierrez) who would rather sell his son’s soul to the devil over the fast buck, etc.

Having said that, Richard’s character Benjie is easily a sympathetic one, and by stroke of luck, Gutierrez comes off with his most believable performance in his entire “leading man” career! We have always been vocal about our indifference to Richard Gutierrez. He was always the “beautiful leading man”, but nary a hint of brilliance. This I believe is somehow because Gutierrez was always “fortunate” enough to be given roles that were always “too big” for his shoes. After all, sometimes greatness isn’t made in a day! In this movie, Richard – like Angel Locsin in “Love Me Again” – takes his artistic steps a notch higher, and I am glad! His mother studio (GMA) has finally given him something that doesn’t overwhelm him, thereby giving him enough space to let his character evolve at his own pace.

Which leaves us with KC Concepcion!

The first 20 minutes of the movie was nagging my patience. KC plays Jenny - a “mall promodizer” (is there really such a term?) who comes off a little too loud and flirty, crass and awkward, and for several instances, more infuriating than endearing or humorous. But as Jenny’s story unravels, we begin to see her in various levels of intensity. This beautiful face is an experimental actress, something that her dear mother Sharon Cuneta would have benefited from had the latter not been too sheltered by Viva Films back in the days. KC does not mind trying new techniques even if in the process, she would look ridiculous (the Hotdog scene), overzealous (the bayawak scene where instead of running away from fright, she waddles in the mud), or downright desperate (the airport scene where she bawls her heart out as her bridal train floats poetically in mid-air). KC is indeed her parent’s daughter – a natural! Had she been banal or flat, she would still look lovely on celluloid. But we have to underline the fact that KC is most effective in her quiet moments; when she weeps without saying much. She must have learned from her mom’s experience in “Madrasta”.

Now, how is “When I Met U” as a cinematic offering? Is it a masterpiece? Surely, it is not! And no one expects it to be. This is made without a grand ambition to be both epic and romantic (like the pretentious and amateurish "Baler"). In fact, the story is way too simplistic; the situations too “maneuvered” to be really believed, but this is where this film succeeds. When a fan-movie doesn’t pretend to be something more than what it is – a crowd-pleasing “fan movie”, then it won’t fall down the pit that made “For the First Time” or even “Paano Kita Iibigin” a big disappointment to “love story” fans like me!

Congratulations KC and Richard!

... an empty piece of a shell...

Thursday, February 5, 2009

flashback - crying ladies as a great film

seems only yesterday when the "crying ladies" heralded the advent of an exciting young film maker. my memories came rushing back as this week's features this movie in the site's "on our shelves" feature. suddenly, there is an exciting spirit that fields fresh story telling, brisk editing and a brave new persona for philippine showbiz's all-time megastar. we were thrilled, to say the least.

BUT THEN, 6 years have passed and what has its director mark meilly really accomplished based on his 3rd film since "crying ladies"? the answer isn't flattering. and i am once again transported back in time why the crying ladies was actually just a mirage of greatness.

here is what i remember: this was a commercial revamping of a popular actress' ambitions to be taken seriously. in some ways, sharon cuneta succeeded, but what cinematic vision is to be had from a director and an actress who flood their first movie together with product endorsements? love mo ba to? love ko to! lucky you and lucky me! haha...

talk about an uncompromising vision. LOL

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

revitalized after the disappointing holidays

With exams all behind me, i found myself enjoying the humdrum of my life as a shoe-obsessed, film-loving, Mauritius-dreaming Manila girl... so i gallantly offered to pay for my friend's movie seat to watch "Jay" - this Baron Geisler indie that my friend doesn't want to watch.

Lately, most of the movies that I've invited him were so bad he ends up literally vomiting after watching. This started with the whole line-up of Metro Manila Film festival trash that made my head spin. I have single-handedly busted a little fortune paying for the admissions of these basuras. My friend just laughs at my rants saying i deserve this artistic bankruptcy for patronizing the aforementioned movies. "Buti nga so yo," he keeps taunting me. Why? Because I patronized Pinoy films during the whole festival bonanza?

He was saying how asinine Joel Lamangan's Desperadas 2 was. And that I dozed off at a cartoon called Dayo - and I have always LOVE animated films! Don't rub it in! And Shake Rattle and Roll? Shouldn't they have buried this franchise back when Rambo was king? Then there's the multi-awarded Baler! Oh gawd! Whatever happened to occasional director Mark Meilly (he directed 3 films in 5 years) who brought cinematic gems (Crying Ladies, La Visa Loca) in the past. Every bit of that movie was plain amateurish! Para kang nanood ng school play na nagbabaril-barilan ang mga sundalo. LOL.

Then comes "Jay". Ok, I shelled out an extra P120 just to have a friend watch this movie with me. Guess what! After a sketchy start, the whole piece came through. This was a rewarding experience at the movies. People should watch this instead of all those TRASH that polluted the Christmas holidays! Lintik! Pinagastos pa ako!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

rourke vs penn

Between classes, I have avoided watching a Pinoy film these days. Forget Rory Quintos' Love Me Again, Piolo doesn't look fun in there! And what good is a romantic film without a fun-and-exciting hero? Forget Rufa Mae Quinto's funny antics, I am still not over the lobotomy that i suffered from watching the moronic lineup from the last MMFF. Thank God, there's Hollywood and the Oscars.

Sure, as it has been customary, we have continually berated on the Hollywood movie machine as nothing but a shallow and money-generating fuckups, but at a particular season like now, suddenly, great films crowd the cinematic gallery. To balance the horrific lack of intelligence in the Philippine MMFF movie season, Oscar-touted flicks gather round my Christmas tree!


And in my moments of movie-watching bliss, I suddenly realized that Mickey Rourke ("The Wrestler") just might steal the thunder from Sean Penn who was spectacular in Milk!

Go, Mickey!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

holiday virus and awarding mediocrity

Did you guys notice the virus that's been going around during the past Christmas-New Year holidays? My god! It sure hit me like the atomic bomb that hit Hiroshima and decimated a whole generation of people. It was a holiday shrouded with bad, bad, bad, bad films! Films that are spoonfed and forced on the Pinoys. Knowing that we - as Pinoys - love our movies, and admit it! - there's nothing better to do after all the Christmas revelry but sit on a dark corner of the theater, the organizers of the Metro Manila Film Festival has fielded a horrific lineup of movies. I of course reserved judgement after I have seen every one! Having done so, I suddenly developed a malady so grave I thought i wasn't gonna make it.

The result? Right after my very last movie, Mark Meilly's Baler - which I intentionally saved for last, I started getting stomach cramps. I could literally feel my brains getting chopped into pieces and my breath couldn't get rid of a stink so overpowering, I just felt sick! Heavens! Now I don't think I wanna invest my allowance on any Tagalog films at least for the good half of the year!

Now here's the funny thing:

They even dignified such festivities with an awards night! Hahaha! Awarding mediocrity is, after all, becoming the IN thing in the MMFF. It is tradition they've been carrying on long before I was even a fetus!