Sunday, October 31, 2010

Life as We Know It: Life As It Should Be

The story behind director Greg Berlanti's "Life As We Know It" is as basic as pandesal. It's a generic rom-com indulgently structured around two opposing personalities brought together by tragedy.

Holly (Katherine Heigl) and Messer aka Eric (Josh Duhamel) are left custody of their goddaughter Sophie (triplets Alexis, Brynn & Brooke Clagett) whose parents die from an accident. Holly is the deceased mom's bestfriend - while Messer is the departed dad's best buddy. Despite Holly and Messer's dislike for each other, they were suddenly thrusted joint responsibility for the care of baby Sophie. On top of that, they have to "live together" under one roof. Otherwise, baby Sophie may as well be sequestered into the ambiguous care of Child Protection Services. The couple has to make it work, won't they?

One part of me knew of the basic structure of this narrative. It's as predictable as saying that Richard Gutierrez is a bland actor. But somehow, the brisk pace of its crowd-pleasing script is buoyed by the endearing performances of Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel (an actor I've had a crush with since Robert Luketic's "Win A Date with Tad Hamilton" in 2004). Under normal circumstances, I'd steer clear from Messer, a cad whose bothersome charm duplicates the reliability of PLDT's DSL services! But Duhamel has had enough experience to transcend this mundane character and carry it across mainstream legitimacy. Before the film ends, it's nothing short of a miracle that we find ourselves rooting for Messer!

Katherine Heigl, on the other hand, has adequately filled the shoes of the former American Sweethearts (Julia Roberts, Meg Ryan, Sandra Bullock). She gives life to histrionic Holly whose idea of a great time is baking a cake. Sure, we've seen her take this road before - as Jane in "27 Dresses", as Abby in "The Ugly Truth", and more recently as Jen in "Killers" with Ashton Kutcher! We may fret a bit for the uncanny similarity of all of these characters - but we laugh, and we cry, and we laugh again despite a sense of dejavu!

Josh Lucas provides third party milk-curdler! He plays Sam, the delectable pediatrician who flirts with Holly!

I'm not too sure if Ms. Heigl is pleased with the reviews her movie is getting. As for me, I pity the film nerd - that avowed film lover; that film critic- who fails to experience the simple joys of watching "Life As We Know It". I really do!

Katherine Heigl: America's sweetheart!

Josh Duhamel stands 6'3 1/2". All those vertical extensions will have all the girls, including Fergie and myself, swooning with infatuation. ;->

Josh Duhamel returns to "Transformers - The Dark of the Moon" due out in 2011. And a Disney-produced "What's He Got!" As though that needs to be asked! LOL

Josh Duhamel was once a bath attendant. Lucky Fergie!

Josh Lucas plays 3rd wheel!

What's with the name "Josh" and gorgeousness? i swear when I've kids of my own, I'll name my boy "Josh". ;->

Josh Lucas' signature grin! Melts any butter from Los Angeles to Zimbabwe!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Making It French - Jules Dassin & His "Naked City"

I have always thought that Jules Dassin was French!

One of the royalties of noir is actually an American who was a subject of the Hollywood blacklist during the McCarthy era (remember that swiveling, power-hungry idiot?)

So... he packed up his bags and moved to France where he revived his career as a film maker! Julius Dassin of Middletown, Connecticut became Jules Dassin who made France his base!

Dassin is responsible for "Rififi", the film that inspired the original versions of "Mission: Impossible" and "Oceans 11". Though the latter films sound very mainstream to us, Dassin's story telling is anything but! His magic rests on his ability to create that unsettling undertow of emotions and an ambiguous, indeterminate atmosphere of gloom that has characterized what we now refer to as the "film noir". Grim urban setting, somber tones, feeling of despair.

I recently chanced upon Dassin's "Naked City" and the first 10 minutes alone were more compelling than all the gory stuff in "Pilantik", "Cinco" and "666" combined! A New York model drowning in a bathtub indeed sounds very current! Did she OD on the sleeping pills beside her bed? Or was she deliberately smothered before she was drowned? Calling C.S.I. denizens!

This was a film from 1946!

64 years later, the Philippines fields "Fidel" at the Berlin Film Festival! LOL

New York City: Already the concrete jungle where dreams are made of!

What a gorgeous scene!

Director Jules Dassin: Born in Connecticut, lived in France, died in Athens (at 96)!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Social and Paranormal Joys & Pitfalls of Movie Watching

I find it quite fetching that a phenomenon as definitive as Facebook is borne out of spite and heartbreak. Why do the smartest of beings have trouble relating socially when it seems easier to just smile at people than turning them away? We could have just asked Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg if he weren't so elusive, but his infatuation to Ms. Erica Albright (played by Rooney Mara) doesn't necessarily translate to wooing. Mark actually drives her away with his arrogance and misplaced rationalization. We should all thank Ms. Albright for the eventual birth of Facebook, which gets addicting at times.

This David Fincher film is brisk and pertinent. it's multi-level character delineation is rich and thought provoking; never the cartoon characters that usually befall real-life personalities fictionalized within films. Jesse Eisenberg personifies Zuckerberg with perfect temperament, and I admire Fincher's attention to details (Zuckerberg seen wearing slippers even in his classes at Harvard).

Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Saverin, the soon-to-be latest incarnation of Spider-man/Peter Parker, is precisely supportive and sympathetic; while Justin Timberlake as the sly Sean Parker (founder of napster) slithers through seamless exposition. The eye-catchingly gorgeous Armie Hammer (as twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss) as well as Max Minghella shine in their scenes as well.

This film deserves a Best Performance by an Ensemble. Youthful exuberance is infectious and an extant atmosphere is palpably captured.

The Social Network is Oscar-bound!

Jesse Eisenberg standing proud.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is camera-shy. To be so young and smart and a billionaire.

Armie Hammer is 6'5" tall.

"Paranormal Activity 2" fiddles with the family history of our protagonist Kristi (Sprague Grayden), the sister of the first part's Katie (Katie Featherston). In this movie, Kristi lives a charmed life with her husband Dan (Brian Boland), teen-age daughter Ali and baby Hunter.

Director Todd Williams' narrative is a prequel of sorts, occuring about 2 months prior to the disappearance of Katie and the death of Micah (Micah Sloat). Similar artifice, efficiently used in the first movie, is used here, employing hand-held, as well as surveillance cameras spread across the Rey household. Tweaking with sisters Kristi and Katie's mother's cryptic past would have been a convenient go-to in moving the narrative, but it proved suspicious at best and unsatisfactory, leaving more unanswered questions. This makes "Paranormal 2" a tad too laborious and "manipulative", i.e. less effective than the first part.

Does it deliver ample supply of goosebumps? Yes, it does, albeit less successfully than its predecessor.

Postscript: LOUD AND UGLY!

To the two ugly midget girls who annotated and discussed the film during its whole 91-minute run at the Galleria, you BOTH should go back to the mountains where you rightfully belong. The first girl, who sported long pubic-haired tresses, and who carried a tacky backpack, looked like she came straight from the wet market, while her yellow-clad pudgy companion needed a daily date at the gym: Yes! Both of you! Gawd! Grow brains and zip those stinking yappers! The movie theater is for "watching" - and not a public discussion forum!

I so hate idiots who use their mouths more than their white-and-gray matter!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"eXsena" Lures Jeff Luna, Charles Delgado and the Pink Boys

There was a time when guys were mere afterthoughts in skin flicks. These days, with the economic viability of pink-flavored flicks, guys have become centers of attraction, while baring ladies are treated as disposable decoratives. I think times have dictated the showcasing of guys as "objects of desire" instead of the fairer sex. This trend is evident in the current crop of exploitation films being churned out by 2nd rate production companies like Leo Films who's producing male-oriented films week after week. One such flick is the fly-by-night indie called "eXsena".

Darry dela Cruz’seXsena” gathers some of the country’s most in-demand pink cinema boytoys - Paolo Rivero, Kristoffer King, Charles Delgado, Jeff Luna and Rob da Silva (of "Lagpas") - apparently, to knock some sense into viewers’ libidinous heads as the gay indie cautions them about the hazards of poverty and male prostitution! Sounds noble, doesn’t it? But “nobility” should only be attributed to something (or someone) illustrious - like the British Queen perhaps, who’s born into it.

While the movie isn't as bad as Cris Pablo’s schlongs-and-gutterfests nor as brain-dead as Adolf Alix’s self-indulgent "Temptation Island" parody he labelled “D’Survivors,” Darry dela Cruz's film isn't that much different from other perfidious gay flicks that use every conceivable tricks in the Exploitation 101 Handbook to eke out scenes that “artistically” display their actors’ assets (or liabilities, depending on how you look at it) in flagrante delicto. And which “actors” can do this daunting task of displaying phallic cartilages better than King (“Serbis”, "Indie Boys") and Delgado (“S.R.O.", "Pagnanasa", "Junior,” “Senior”)?

Luna, Rivero, King, Delgado and Da Silva - Pink Film boytoys in "eXsena"!

The movie follows Ron (Kristoffer King), a perpetually cash-strapped cameraman who witnesses how the stories of the film’s other protagonists play out. Charles Delgado is 18-year-old Ferdie Romero, a provinciano bit player who relocates to Manila after a gay director-pimp, Leonard Villarama, convinces him he’s got what it takes to be a sexy star (wasn't he another provinciano lured into the big city in "Pagnanasa"?) - this occurs during an excruciatingly vomit-inducing moment they share on the casting couch (a similar scene with Delgado opened "Pagnanasa" produced by the same film outfit!) When Ferdie gets to Manila, however, he realizes that the megman is dirt-poor, and there’s really not much (film) work to be had from the director, who then peddles Ferdie’s sexual services to other gay men.

Meanwhile, Ron is having a difficult time making ends meet, as he is being constantly nagged by his wife (Lorraine Lopez). Worse, he’s unaware that his disconsolate wife is having a scorching affair with a strapping Cebuano hunk (Jeff Luna) who wants to elope to Nueva Ecija with her. Ron manages to steal a colleague’s assignment by dropping his pants in front of his arrogant gay producer (Rob da Silva, who once again bottoms as he did in "Lagpas").

Ron’s ability to “find” work amazes another financially needy cameraman (Paolo Rivero), who eventually shoves his crotch on Da Silva’s face to earn much-needed money he desperately needs to pay off his debts.

Another opportunity presents itself to Ron when he gets to the location shoot of the porn-flick racket he stole from his cameraman friend—darn it, the film’s hunky lead is nowhere to be found! So, he convinces the gay director that he’s more than able to pull off the “challenging” task of performing sex scenes in front of the camera.

Leo Films can't seem to go beyond caricatures. After all, it's obvious that "art" isn't its primary objective, is it? This reduces every actor in this film looking like walking penises, instead of sympathetic characters. As always, King and Delgado are more than willing to strip and shake their chunky nakedness in front of the camera. Rivero at least displays an affecting vulnerability in a role that he’s done ad nauseum

But what bothered me most was the expendability of the lone female lead, Lorraine Lopez ("Pipo", "Big Night"). When are females suddenly second-class citizens in sex flicks? When Lorraine finally gets to disrobe, I shivered at witnessing unsightly adiposal excrescences. I suddenly understood why she's just a side show.

Lorraine Lopez: flawless beauty, artistic pose that hide unflattering flabs. Nothing that a few hours of treadmill a week won't remedy.


Please read our featured post on how Web Criticism is at times populated by wanna-be writers who can't even write yet they posture like critics!! Example - Cinema Bravo!

Monday, October 25, 2010

10 Horrific Truths About Topel Lee's "White House"

A horror flick with smiling faces and a sexy pose. Go figure!

1. That the honeymoon period for comebacking actor Gabby Concepcion is over. In this movie, Gabby plays spirit expert Jet Castillo who inadvertently exposes his daughter Sien and wife Issa (Angel Jacob) to the nasty spirits that roam the hall ways of Baguio City’s “White House”. Mr. Concepcion’s performance ranges from the frowning Latin-spewing spiritist to the cinematic sycophant who grovels in front of the screen to please his “fans”.

Indeed, at times, we felt like he was performing to the peanut gallery crowd who would sigh at his every line. He was insincerely taking us for a ride the way he did his several ex-wives. No, Mr. Concepcion, you’re playing the character of a desperate father out to retrieve the sequestered soul of his daughter Sien, shanghaied inside the White House. You’re not performing before an adoring “The Buzz” audience who would giggle at your every grin. How could a charming actor evolve into middle-age blandness?

2. That Mo Twister, aka Mohan Gumatay (whose mother is of Indian descent) needs to spend more time in acting workshops than writing his idle thoughts on twitter, speculating whether he should watch a movie or just stay home and masturbate.

I’d have to admit I once had a huge crush on him, and I love his TV interviews (remember that classic tete-a-tete with a spaced out and clueless Ara Mina). Mo has a fast wit and a loud, sexy voice. His boyish grin lights up the screen. However, the same demeanor doesn’t translate well into a believable character. It was Mo Twister pretending to be, er… Mo Twister. His delivery appeared to be all hot-air with no hint of redemption – a 2-D cartoon character that belongs to a different medium. When he finally gets his comeuppance, it was such a relief to have finally gotten rid of him.

Mo Twister & Sarah Labahti

3. That Megan Young has such an arresting presence on screen. She plays a heartbroken writer whose boyfriend (the horribly self-conscious Chris Cayzer) proposes a cool off period so he could date her friend. This took her to audition for a slot in a reality-TV program called “Pinoy Horror House” where 8 persons will vie for P1 million. Whoever is left inside the house after 5 days of being sequestered inside shall win the prize.

4. Joem Bascon spoofs a habitual male pageant contestant, Dom Romero, whose rhetorics and trite replies during interviews (“Thank you very much for that question.”) provided some of the film’s few pleasurable moments. However, as the narrative strain progresses, his character stagnates into someone who’s disdainful and annoying. We somehow knew he was gonna start the eventual pile up of body count.

Iza Calzado

5. That director Topel Lee has finally used up all the straws I’ve reserved for him as a promising film maker. If you’ve seen “Imahe-Nasyon” (2006), an omnibus project featuring 20 of the country’s most prolific indie film makers, addressing the issue on national identity 20 years after the Edsa Revolution, then you would agree with me that Topel Lee’s work there (“Ang Manunulat”) was one of the few visually-arresting original ideas. He went on to direct Judy Anne Santos and Jolina Magdangal in the serviceable horror film, “Ouija“ as well as the earlier “Dilim” (a ground breaking vigilante movie with a twist). Lee is, no doubt, a visual director. Unfortunately, that alone doesn’t constitute a great movie.

In “White House”, he litters his moods with loud dissonant music and a hundred-and-one distracting drones that half-way into the film, his audience’s capacity for fright has but run out. In fact, despite those ashen faced children creeping inside refrigerators and cabinets, crawling under the beds, you end up with a sinking feeling that Mr. Lee has been watching too much generic kwaidans and those Thai horror movies, he’s actually run out of fresh ideas of his own.

6. When all the spirits pile out of Gabby’s body, it felt like a bad version of “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus” instead of a troubling horror film. The only thing scary in this film was when a character actually remarked, ”This is better than your soap opera!” You wish! I’d say, this was more annoying that Simon Cowell. In White House’s TV ads, KC Concepcion is caught saying, “Come watch it. Kayo ay matutuwa!” What a smart girl! Then she suddenly realized this was an inappropriate phrase to describe a horror movie. She then corrects herself: “nakakatakot”! But hey, we’ve already got her real thoughts about her father’s movie. Atta girl, KC! We appreciate pretty girls who speak their minds. ;->

7. That after the abominable “Wapakman” and this banal “White House”, director Topel Lee should hibernate or revisit his indie roots where he thrived under less resources. In the mainstream world, Lee loses his inventiveness and ends up like the rest of GMA Film directors who are worse than mediocre.

Joem Bascon: ad model and male pageant contestant

8. That Sarah Labahti and Lovi Poe display their glaring limitations in “White House”. Enough of that gum-chewing persona, Miss Poe. That’s been done with great success in “Walang Hanggang Paalam. Redundancy of characterization only shows how lost Lovi was in “White House”. Not enough time to conjure a significant persona so she resorted to one that worked before.

I’ve known of call center agents, none of whom chewed gums like there’s no tomorrow. None of whom acted like Calamine-requiring sluts. Of course I am aware of studies showing how such call center agents have become exponents of the effective dissemination and propagation of the HIV virus, but let’s not be too obvious, Ms. Poe. As for Ms. Labahti, the only thing she imparted was the impression that she could be perfectly forgettable. Jeez, these GMA talents are in desperate need of coaching from rival ABS CBN whose actors are proficient performers many times over. Wala bang budget sa GMA to get better acting coaches? Remember Angel Locsin’s blandness before she jumped to the other yard?

Megan Young & Lovi Poe: writer and call center agent

9. That “White House” has succeeded in giving Iza Calzado her worst performance in her enviable career.

Not even that nauseating Indie flick Jowee Morel’sMona: Singapore Escort” was she this bad! (Do you remember how Iza allegedly walked out during the preview screening of “Mona”, which was about a Pinay who worked as an escort girl in Singapore?) The lovely Iza – one of my all-time favorite actresses – just looked out of place within the exposition. This was funny because Iza was the film’s major nemesis! She was the “Black Lady”. Why she wore black was never explained. Baka she was fashionably conscious as a ghost? LOL

I would then venture on the obvious. For making Ms. Calzado look bad, the film’s writers are a bunch of sniveling idiots.

10. That their idea of “spirit attachment” is suspiciously similar to flu-like symptoms that eventually progressed into meningitis. The child suddenly developed fever, was vomiting, became weak, then got stuporous and unconscious! Didn’t I say meningitis? And Gabby had to travel all the way to Baguio for this misdiagnosis! Makes me wonder who their medical consultant was for this film. Baka si Dr. Vicky Belo. Then it would be such a relief to come out from their shooting looking all thermaged and botoxed out! Dang!

Gabby Concepcion: middle-age blandness takes the form of a spirit expert (huh?)

Iza Calzado and Jesse Bradford: two of my favorite artists in the world!

Death Finds Hilarity in the British Flick "Death at a Funeral"

When the family patriarch croaks, a dysfunctional family gathers to bury him. But a 4 foot tall man (Peter Dinklage) comes out to demand from the deceased's son Daniel (Matthew Macfadyen) and his siblings 15,000 quid as a funeral dowry of sorts. Or else, he would expose his affair with the old man to friends and family! And he's got photos to prove of their indiscretions!

Meanwhile, we are treated to a bevy of zany characters: the grumpy wheelchair-bound grand uncle (the delightfully scroogey Peter Vaughan), the brilliant but cooky and successful novelist brother Robert (Rupert Graves), the hopeless lover Justin (Ewen Bremner) and the drugged out solicitor Simon (Alan Tudyk) who was given Mescaline (a hallucinogenic) instead of Valium. What ensues is a rollicking ride of chaos. Funeral has never been this fun!

Tudyk refers to his naked scenes as memory from when he was younger when a drunken man suddenly took his clothes off and climbed the restaurant tables. He does better by climbing the roof - and letting it all hang out! The latest (2010 U.S.) version has the delectable James Marsden playing Simon! Yum!

"Death at a Funeral" is directed by Frank Oz. The U.S. version is directed by one of my favorite directors, Neil LaBute. Peter Dinklage - one of only 2 Americans, along with Tudyk, from the British original - was retained. Tudyk's Simon character becomes Oscar (James Marsden) in the new version. It's a tad silly though to remake something so new.

Matthew Macfadyen plays Daniel. In the movie, he plays husband to real wife Keeley Hawes.

Tudyk naked on the roof!

Alan Tudyk takes a bow!

Calling sexy back!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Cris Pablo's "Mga Pinakamahabang One Night Stand 2" - Lessons in Self-Flagellation & Mediocrity

Education isn't always a noteworthy endeavor. If you acquire it from a brilliant mind, then all your hard work would have been worth the trouble. In Cris Pablo's acting workshops, the ultimate graduation gift is becoming part of a commercially-shown film. But such paybacks (you pay to get yourself in a movie - cool concept, don't you think?) could signal that it is indeed quite acceptable to churn up nursery-school projects then sell them to a paying public. In principle, it also lowers the standard of an already mediocre indie scene. But Leave it to Cris Pablo to make this troubling trend a money-making scheme twice over! He gets paid to be mentor which should finance his schemes, then he gets to field a film in "commercial" cinemas. But what's worse than giving false hopes to impressionable young minds? This denouement becomes a harrowing situation not dissimilar to doctors who get their medical education from quacks. Someone's gonna eventually fall ill and croak! Cris Pablo's latest abomination is such undertaking.

Mga Pinakamahabang One-Night Stand 2” gathers four stories involving Cris Pablo’s inept but ambitious workshoppers (it would be a travesty to call them “actors”) who help Pablo bring to life (or a painful cinematic death) his boundless gay fantasies. Moreover, in his youtube workshop invitations, he pimps and parades Arjay Carreon as a "come on" - if you want to join Arjay, join our workshop! Whee!

Apparently, three of the four stories in "Mga Pinakamahabang One Night Stand 2)" (Longest One Night Stands 2) are directed by Kazan Anna Banzuela and David Mallari (“Call Center”), Julz Julia, Thor Manlangit, Maribel Argotero (Boto Mo, Boto Ko”), and Marlon Mamungay and Jilan Babagay (“Huling Subok”), under the supervision of Pablo. Topher Barretto is likewise billed in the cast, but is nowhere found in any of the shorts.

Arjay Carreon

Call Center” follows two repulsive English “patients” who are cast as a pair of gay call center agents cum lovers (Ronald Tacluyan, Marcus Valmadrid). One of them agonizes over his partner’s decision to quit his stable job, unaware that his lover has just been diagnosed with HIV. Not knowing this, he broods and sulks a lot, wondering why his partner doesn’t want to kiss him or get intimate with him even as he professes his love for him, while a third party (another unsightly wannabe) hits on him in the guise of giving him comfort. The two love birds clear the air after they take a shower together.

Boto Mo, Boto Ko” (Your Vote, My Vote) is about Banjo, the gay supervisor of a gay (surprise!) local politician’s volunteers who make (romantic) life a living hell for new recruit Karl (Francis Sienes) and the apple of his eyes, Rusty (Rusty Adonis). Karl and Rusty like each other, but Banjo wants Rusty for himself, so he berates his subordinate every chance he gets. Unfortunately, Banjo’s sinister schemes only bring the star-crossed lovers together. After Banjo throws paint on Karl, the latter ends up in the shower with Rusty, and they consummate their attraction for each other, while Banjo bawls his eyes out and throws a tantrum outside the toilet.

In “Tubero” (Plumber), a gay guy (Prince Tami Ballesteros, who’s horrible and annoyingly swishy) who just broke up with his boyfriend tries to mend his broken heart by calling a plumber to fix his leaky and clogged-up pipes (pun very much intended). They end up plugging each other’s leaks instead.

Huling Subok” (Last Trial) is the most serious—and most preposterous—of the four stories. It’s about a seminarian who must face his final test before he dedicates himself fully into the priesthood by hooking up with the good-looking Arjay Carreon, a cop who’s just been promoted in his job. The two guys/gays are former best friends and classmates who are haunted by an unfinished “business” eight years ago—they had an unexpected fling after getting carried away during a fateful get-together, after which the uglier guy vanishes on the face of the earth (he went to Singapore actually). When they meet again, they catch up, paint the town red…and take a dip in a swimming pool—then, they (again) make a go at their “huling subok” to satisfy Pablo’s craving for young men’s naked bodies and flashes of their shortcomings.

Is Cris Pablo out to outshower Hedji Calagui's "Lagpas" guys? When an exposition loses steam, he send his characters to the showers.

What is it about Cris Pablo and taking a bath?

Arjay Carreon tests his faith...and his appaluse-worthy savvy to disrobe.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Playing With Horses - Vice Ganda Lights Up "Petrang Kabayo"

Vice Ganda has transcended barriers that were never crossed before. You see, the Philippine society, more specifically its male population is still, on the whole, homophobic. Sure, they'd laugh at gay impersonators and gay comedians, but they will never admit appreciation nor hold a high opinion of them. Once these performers turn their backs, they are discussed with a degree of derision, an amount of ridicule, and are reduced to side shows. Vice Ganda has changed that.

My ex-bf represents a good cross section of this happy-go-lucky, subconsciously homophobic Pinoy male population. He would sit back, wide eyed, intent on catching Vice Ganda's brisk puns on television; and I've never heard him refer to Vice as "yung bading" the way he does my friend Kyle (who dresses like a man, and acts like a man, unlike Vice who cross-dresses!)

Does this charm translate well in Vice Ganda's first starring role - Wenn Deramas' "Petrang Kabayo"?

Yes and no!


Peter (Vice Ganda/Makisig Morales) grew up with an abusive family. While trying to escape from his father (John Arcilla), he strikes gold when a rich spinster (Eugene Domingo) finds and adopts him. But instead of growing up generous and charitable, Peter is bitter, mean and acid-tongued. When his "mother" passed away, he acquires her riches, wrecking havoc on the people who work for him. But this is obviously a modern fairy tale where a fairy godmother turns out to be another cross-dressing, manga-inspired judge-and-jury.

Whenever Peter strays from the path of "righteousness", Peter transforms into a horse. And the only thing that can break the spell is the kiss of a gentleman who has professed his love for the horse! Are you happy with this magical parable so far?

The movie is littered with slapstick scenes that typify a Wenn Deramas movie - brisk-paced, superficial scenarios that don't quite leave an imprint way after you've left the theater. Without Vice Ganda, the movie would have fallen flat as a pancake. Despite that, Ganda's delivery is as "crunchy" as a well-fried bacon. Unfortunately, his wit is dependent on his spontaneous comebacks, something that is compromised on a dry-and-dead script. There are glaring inconsistencies: In some scenes, the horse would transform back to the human Peter buck naked; in other scenes, he is transformed back fully clothed. Someone needs to brush up on his narrative consistency.

Luis Manzano is turning out to be a very able comic actor. To be honest about it, I am never fond of Luis. His TV persona feels too "manicured" and even his delivery sounds too perturbingly "kolehiyala". But there's been a slew of movies where Luis transforms himself into a luminously affable cinematic actor. On the big screen, Luis becomes self-deprecating. His seemingly bland TV personality magically turns into a charming leading man. He's never looked so guapo. This is evident in movies like "Hating Kapatid" where Manzano's comic timing was impeccable.

Tom Rodriguez is such a dashing presence, I honestly wouldn't mind just staring at him for 1 1/2 hours! Unfortunately, his role is basically disposable, but he doesn't fail to leave an impression. Now "that" is a "movie star"!

I do have laugh-out-loud moments: When Peter decides to adopt his younger sister Pauline (Abby Bautista), the latter takes on the mean-spirited Peter mano-a-mano with her "Dahil maganda ako!" - a feat delivered with such dedication and convivial hilarity!

The film boasts of several cameos: Anne Curtis (who rides Luis' calesa); John Lapus, Gladys Reyes, Melason's Jason Francisco (as a cute waiter); and even a protracted cameo by Eugene Domingo as Peter's adoptive mother Donya Biday.

There are surprisingly impressive CG effects here, as well as occasionally great cinematography (though inconsistent). Sam Pinto is as bland as she is on TV. She delivers with the intuitive sincerity of a shoe brush. This is not a great news since Ms. Pinto is truly one of the most beautiful faces we've seen on Philippine TV.

With Vice Ganda's quick wit and smart alecky demeanor, the movie intermittently soars into moments of inspiration. But they are rather fleeting. Other times, it left me yawning with unequivocal ennui.

Vice Ganda

Luis Manzano sheds off bland TV persona.

Tom Rodriguez, aka Tom Mott, and friends - clowning around and looking even so much cuter!

It's illegal to be this handsome, Tom!

Now why would Tom photograph himself shirtless? And where's the rest of this set? Wink! Wink!