Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Santuaryo - Marooned On An Island of Morons

Monti Parungao isn’t quite over his “Survivor” experience so he conjures an insipid, reed-thin, lame-brained story and translates this into a movie - "Santuaryo" - about a group of able-bodied men who sets off on a treasure hunting adventure. This takes them to an island near their domicile (“Malapit sa amin,” remarked one of them) fabled to have buried a treasure. Meanwhile, another guy Archie (Basti Romero aka Ardie Bascara) aimlessly takes the road when his lover William (Will Sandejas) packs up and leaves for New York to work as a nurse! On the road, he meets Mang Erwin, an old man who lures him to the jungles of Quezon for – you bet! – the same treasure hunting adventure!

Unfortunately, Mang Erwin croaks and is found lifeless, leaving Archie by his lonesome. He takes the old man’s map and searches for the “treasure” himself. This is where he meets the 5 guys seemingly marooned on a big island – called “Luzon” – since Archie and Mang Erwin never actually left the mainland. At this point, you already find a very sketchy storytelling that smacks of a lethargic mind!

When Archie finally meets the guys, he learns that the group carries the other half of the map that would complete the hunt. He needs to get hold of it in a treacherous game of wits. Not that there’s much wit involved in this movie!

How come? Let me count the ways.

If there was indeed a popular urban legend about an oft-forgotten treasure buried by the Spanish conquistadors (and why for the life of Beelzebub would the Spaniards bury a treasure? they owned the islands for 500 years!), shouldn’t it reach the consciousness of archaeological authorities or, at the very least, professional bounty hunters who didn’t quite strike gold with the fabled Yamashita treasure? How did this come into being in the hands of wank-crazy young men or the infarct-ridden old man? And what are the odds that they would seek for this treasure within similar time frame. Wouldn’t it be too serendipitous?

One thing is sure, bad narratives always rely on chances to move their stories; Situations suddenly prop up like fungus on a desiccating tree. As the case here.

Next point, when the five guys declare to having been lost at sea, they weren’t exactly helpless . Their boat did not capsize, did it? In fact, that same night they reached the island, they hauled off a whole bag of goodies and canned goods - from the same boat, somehow giving the impression that they were really just on a camping trip. They weren’t lost! Neither were they trapped; not with a working boat! In fact, it didn’t take them long to start a bonfire! Moreover, instead of worrying for their whereabouts, one guy springs a bunch of porn magazines that all the boys could wank to. How convenient, right? You get seemingly marooned on an island (see the poster's blurb: "trapped on an island") and the first thing that comes into your mind is to masturbate beside your mates? Neurons alert!

Having a functional boat doesn’t necessarily make for a laudable shipwreck story, does it? In fact, if you closely check into the horizon, you see a big island in the far distance; probably Mindoro or Alabat Island (since Archie culminated his adventure in the jungles of Quezon)! Are they too lazy to steer their boat to another island if they indeed were lost? Or were they just plain stupid? My hunch would be the latter!

When Gener (Justin Dizon) forges a deal with Archie (Basti Romero), the latter lays his condition, “Gawin mo ang ginawa mo kay Migs para mapatunayan kong di ka nagsisinungaling.A blowjob! I was like, duh! Honey, there are better ways of proving ones loyalty than a blowjob, except that this film’s writer and director consider a blowjob as the deal-breaker of all transactions! Talk about brains the size of peanuts, right?

Will Sandejas, the phallic king from the movie “Sikil”, is specially billed. He plays William, a New York-based nurse who takes a leave from his lucrative job when he learns of Archie’s disappearance. But upon his return, he finds a paraplegic Archie who can’t walk, “pero tinitigasan pa rin ako.” Miracles never cease! From here, William’s conversation with Archie steers the film’s narrative string.

As the movie comes to its conclusion, Archie finally completes his story – he was found thrown off a cliff, near death, by some fishermen; the same fishermen who “rescued” the 5 other guys? As I said, storytelling was sketchy at best.


Drumroll, please! We then see wheelchair-bound Archie facing a romantically silhouetted William standing before him. The sun was setting on their shadows, and with supercalifragilistical wonderment, Archie miraculous pulls himself up his chair; he stands and walks! He moves towards William and they embrace in wild abandon. Sniff! May Himala, after all, Ms. Aunor! If only Walt Disney cartoons were this cinematic, magical – and superfluous!

Here’s the clincher of all clinchers – when the guys finally get hold of the complete map, what do they find? That they were encroaching on the treasure itself - the whole island is a “Wildlife Santuary”! Everyone missed the official entrance to the park? Hahaha! I bet the sanctuary even has a website that would give them free downloadable color maps! And they didn’t even have to sail the testy oceans to get there! JAC Liner lang or Pantranco papuntang Quezon, you’re there! It all boils down to having a movie where all the characters are nincompoops! Treasure turns out to be a Wildlife Park? Hahaha! That’s really GRAND! What imbeciles!

When one of the guys asked his mate how a blowjob feels, he follows this up with another moronic question – “eh sino ang top, sino ang bottom?” Huh? A blowjob has a top and a bottom? Does he even know what he’s talking about? There is constant discordance in every nook and cranny of this movie. The film seemed hurried and editing was clumsy: a narration and an on-spot scene were placed beside each other, both saying “Halos isang linggo na akong palakad lakad.” Like the proverbial broken record!

Haven’t you noticed how these independent films have continually showcased the miniscule brain activity that inhabit independent cinema in general? I am generalizing; after all, 95% of these Indies are crap! And these Pink Films flourish like unmoderated cow dungs at every corner of Philippine Cinema! God bless Monti Parungao for his spare and rather limited filmmaking capabilities!

Oh, I have to mention that “Santuaryo’s” story is from the brilliant mind of Danio Caw who also conveniently reviewed Parungao’s earlier masterpiece “Sagwan( I was just reading through his review of Parungao’s “Sagwan” which reads: “… a well-made movie everyone should see…kudos to the director who can be considered the master of scenic setting…he knows how to put up a good show for his audience…Master filmmaker, huh? LOL. Reading this was like jumping on trampoline. It had the heady pleasures of regurgitation! Honey, a good director knows how to tell his story, for starters. If the story doesn’t even ring true, the director should know how to tweak it into something acceptable, not riddled with narrative holes the size of the moon’s craters. The guys were “marooned” on the island - with a functional boat - for about a month yet we don’t see them grow their hair? No one even lost weight! Parungao should have learned from his “Survivor Palau” experience: “jungle survivors” look disheveled, dirty, frumpy, bemustached – even gorgeous creatures like Shaun, Marvin, Vlad and Suzuki weren’t immune to this … or was the director not taking down notes? He should have.

Mr. Caw, in his very objective and highly esteemable PEP review, further lamented, “As a moviegoer, I fervently wish that the indie films forego the usual first-person narration. Sagwan uses the same tired device. The script and the story are not particularly original. Sagwan is a good watch… after a series of disappointing gay indie films that have recently opened in the metro.” Guess what, Mr. Caw, your story isn’t original either, and it’s being told on first-person narration, haven’t you noticed? You should have fervently heed your own observations for your very own story! I am sure dear Monti would have listened! Or would he? "Disappointing gay indie films?" Spot on!

That this movie actually competed for the Cinemalaya Netpac Awards is just a testament of the pervasive atmosphere of mediocrity swirling around the current Digital Wave. There are just too many “idiots with cameras”. It obviously doesn’t speak well of this present movie industry.

God bless the paying movie-going public!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Heart Warming Teen Romance in Todd Kessler's Keith

I love teen romance movies. And Todd Kessler's "Keith" is one of them!

Things are looking up for Natalie (Elisabeth Harnois). She is possibly looking into a $10,000 tennis scholarship college grant - if her current high school standing remains within the Top 20 of the national players. Moreover, campus hottie Raff (the gorgeous Ignacio Serricchio) is finally noticing her! The only thorn on her bed of roses is her pesky lab partner Keith (Jesse McCartney, sporting dark locks). With Keith's carefully planned machinations, Natalie finds herself drawn to his "not-a-date" invites. But just when things start to stabilize, he suddenly drops out of the picture. She couldn't find him! What's a girl to do?

Though the initial half falls under several regulatory, albeit trite romcom pitfalls, the latter half soon detours from the expected and takes us to an austere realm. The last scene at the airport is particularly reflective - and inspires a sober moment to think! Harnois charms us with her relaxed performance while McCartney proves that he is not just a pretty face. In fact, his dark locks sort of deglamorizes his golden boy persona - the one he is known for. The third wheel in the picture is the gorgeous Ignacio Serricchio, but forgive me for salivating. He makes me blush!

Elisabeth Harnois

Jesse McCartney trades his golden boy persona with dark grungy locks.

Ignacio Serricchio - Eye candy personified!

"Who's hot?" asks Ignacio.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Night Time Picnic

I thought I was watching a Shinji Iwai movie called "Picnic" until I realized it was a different Japanese movie - Masahiko Nagasawa's "Night Time Picnic". I am glad of this mistake.

High school kids are celebrating the annual Walking Festival where the kids take to the streets - decked in white uniform - and brave an 80 kilometer hike. In the center of this festivity is the beautiful Takami (Tasuki Emoto) and high school heartthrob Nishiwaki (Takuya Ishida) who both share a palpable attraction with each other. They keep stealing glances. But instead of meeting up, they keep avoiding each other; a situation that isn't missed by their group of friends. Their romantic tension between seems hopeless. Or is it?

I a tentative to the gradual build up to introduce the film's characters as they make their way to their 80 kilometer goal - and that unexpected twist that is eventually revealed at the end.

I couldn't help but smile and cry as this film finally comes to an end. And Ishida is such a looker, makes me blush!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Agora - Masters, Slaves & Loving Someone to Death

Intolerance is the root of all wars in the world. If we lived to respect each others beliefs and learned to live with others - there wouldn't be any war!

In 4th century Alexandria (Egypt), a growing fervor of Christianity is pushing the patience of the ruling minority of pagan leaders. When the Christians began openly mocking the pagan gods, believers had to retaliate. This escalated into a full scale civil war that tore Alexandria apart. In the center of this strife is Hypatia (Rachel Weisz), the atheist philosopher whose hunger for knowledge (and astronomy) is boundless! But "Agora" really focuses on the romantic love that a young slave Davus (Max Minghella) has for his master Hypatia - and how he ultimately offers a particularly painful sacrifice for the sake of his love.

One of my all-time favorite directors Anthony Minghella ("The English Patient") passed away recently, but has left behind a breathing and living legacy - his son Max Minghella who captivates as the smart slave servant who's in love with his master (mistress)!

If you loved "The Others", then this is another Amenabar film that will have you shaken as the credits roll by. It won seven awards at the Goya - the Spanish Oscars! Director Alejandro Amenabar - "Thesis", "Open Your Eyes", "The Sea Inside", etc. - is a cinematic God!

Max Minghella is Davus.

Stealing glances.

Rachel Weisz is electrifying as the philosopher Hypatia.

Max Minghella is brilliant like his dad. He is Eurasian, thus the very exotic looks.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Brothers - Spoils of War, Crumbs on a Family

In the scorching drama "Brothers", directed by the always reliable Jim Sheridan ("My Left Foot", "In The Name of the Father" & "The Field"), a sibling rivalry comes to the fore when a missing marine Sam (intensely scary Tobey Maguire) is rescued from the clutches of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Sam comes home scarred from the inside out, and his family is feeling all the scraps of his shriveled sanity. Meanwhile, Tommy (dangerously sexy Jake Gyllenhaal) - the family's blacksheep - had been mending his ways and taking care of Sam's family - wife Grace (the endearing Natalie Portman) and their 2 daughters.

The film examines the family dynamics of jealousy and the limits of human frailty. How much can one take without exploding personal shrapnels of grief on your family?

This movie boasts of searing performances all around. Maguire ("Spider-man") is uncharacteristically intense, it was almost unbearable watching him simmer. He had absolute control to a role that could have easily gone ballistic. Gyllenhaal is easily sympathetic, taking on a role that he lived out with rich nuances making Tommy "real". Natalie Portman is charismatic from start to finish.

This is an excellent remake from 2004's "Brother" - a Danish production directed by Susan Bier ("Things We Lost in the Fire", "After the Wedding"). This was also a superior work - which became one of the 100 Favorite Movies of the Decade by "Film Experience".

Doing a Bruce Lee.

"Is this smile good enough?" asks Jake.

Spidery pose.

The Danish original "Brothers" (2004) by Susan Bier.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

TV Series - Agent and Criminal Team Up in "White Collar"

Before Brandon Routh became "Superman", there was one name that dominated the drawing board. He was a relative unknown who then had only done a few stage plays and a daytime drama series. I was fascinated by him because he was enigmatic and, well, beautiful! He could be Superman.

As fate would have it, he didn't quite make the cut, but I knew that one day, he would get the due notice he deserves.

He is Matt Bomer, and he gets a new TV series - "White Collar" - about a very smart art thief Neil Caffrey (Matt Bomer) who, 3 months before completing his 4-year prison sentence, escapes a maximum security prison - to run after a girl. Unfortunately for Neil, he loses the girl and her whereabouts become a mystery. He gets caught - again! -by FBI Agent Peter Burke (Tim DeKay), the only person who could catch him!

So, he is back in the cell. Meanwhile, Burke is in a bind to catch the very slippery criminal called "The Dutchman". And Neil just might lead the FBI to him! So Neil offers his services in exchange for a conditional release - but he gets a tracking device on a foot. Soon, Burke and Caffrey become unlikely partners, solving crimes and catching criminals. Thus starts this interesting and relatively funny cop-buddy series that also stars Tiffani Amber-Thiessen (as Burke's wife). Though some stories are too simplistic, it isn't as bad as the plot being followed by the first season of "The Vampire Diaries". And Neil - the ex-convict - is obviously solving all the cases. When the police almost lost their criminal, they summon Neil saying if they don't succeed, they'll throw him back to prison, which is idiotic - since all they seem to do is follow each of Neil's hunch!

And I couldn't take my eyes off the lovely Mr. Bomer. I am quite content that my Superman became a cop. Another would-be Superman is riding on the waves of a cult hit TV series, Ian Somerhalder of "The Vampire Diaries".

Matt Bomer & Tim DeKay

Bomer, DeKay & Tiffani Amber-Thiessen

It's illegal to look that cute, isn't it?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Post-Apocalyptic Faith Fuels Denzel in the Book of Eli

The Hughes Brothers' "Book of Eli" is a post-apocalyptic tale like no other. The world has become a dry and dusty wasteland where water has become a rationed commodity, and the seat of power belongs to the few gun-toting landlords and their minions. In the film, a wandering man Eli (Denzel Washington) heads west of the wasteland that's now the United States with the sole intention of delivering a special book - the Bible! But the sneaky Redridge (Gary Oldman) is hot on Eli's heels so he can get his paws on the "book" - the last of its kind in the world. He says, "Soon, people from all around will come to seek counsel."

With the help of a spirited girl Solara (Mila Kunis), Eli travels across America - on foot! - to deliver the book to a fortress - where humanity is planning to rebuild everything from scratch!

Though the idea of this story sounds epic, the narrative structure is rather weak. And if you start this in the middle of the movie, you would think this was a western - with cowboy bars and tough talking hoods, etc. This is not how I envision a post-apocalyptic world! Production design is rather uninspired!

Hollywood seems to have gone religious. "Legion" directly talked about God, "The Book of Eli" centered on protecting the bible. What's next, Moses in Beverly Hills?

"Everything's in my head," remarks Eli.

Denzel Washington

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones Navigates Limbo

It's the "in-between", the blue horizon between heaven and earth. This is where director Peter Jackson takes us in "Lovely Bones". Cathechism used to acknowledge its presence - "limbo" - but they are backtracking and starting to refute its existence.

Suzy (Saoirse Ronan) navigates in this world. At 14, she was lured by a eccentric next-door neighbor (the incredible Stanley Tucci) to her death. She watches over her family as her parents (Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz) deal with their grief, but Suzy longs for justice - or worries for her younger sister Lindsay. She also regrets for the first kiss she never had.

Poetry and existentialism converge in this dramatic thriller that paints "the in-between" with lurid and frisky imagination, but as a Peter Jackson ouvre ("The Lord of the Rings"), the finished product underwhelms. Others have done a better limbo - as in Robin Williams' "What Dreams May Come".


Just a thought: Since Suzy's remains were thrown at the "bottomless pit" and never recovered (although the culprit was apprehended), does her soul rest?

Saoirse Ronan. Girl, how do I say your name?

Mark Wahlberg plays hide and seek.

Stanley Tucci eavesdrops by the cornfield.

Reece Ritchie. Object of a dead girl's affections.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Romance and Music in Cape No. 7

I missed this movie when it was shown at the Spring Film Festival in Shangri-La last month so I was ecstatic when my friend Luke offered to lend me a copy!

"Cape No. 7" is important for many reasons: 1. It is Taiwan's highest grossing movie of all time, earning 50 billion taiwan dollars (bulk of which is from its immense DVD sale). They made it at just 5 million taiwan dollars so the profit is more than ten-fold; 2. This was Taiwan's submission at the Oscar's Best Foreign Film Category (although it didn't quite make it); 3. It is a great movie with a heart warming story and beautiful music!

In the film, a local band is hastily formed to play alongside a Japanese star invited for a big event in a seaside resort. Against all odds, different characters come together for the event. Foremost of whom is Aga (brooding looker Van), an angry man who failed to make a splash as a musician in Taipei. Aga moonlights as a postman, but most of the letters remain undelivered, stocked in a basket in his room! Japanese expat Tomoko (Chie Tanaka) is keeping the group together - she is the "band's" glorified production manager. In the center of their preparations is a 60 year old letter from Japan that has to be delivered to an old woman whose address in Taiwan is unknown. Sigh.

If you love romance and music, Te-Sheng Wei's "Cape No. 7" shouldn't be missed!

Monosyllabic Taiwanese actor Van is electric. He is a reluctant postman by day, a belligerent musician by night - and an angry soul most of the time!

Chie Tanaka is Tomoko, a former Japanese beauty queen and a present-day glorified events coordinator and the manager of a bumbling band.

Robert Pattinson is Worth Remembering

Allen Coulter's "Remember Me" gave me a few apprehensions even before I saw it. I was afraid it would lose the mysticism that Robert Pattinson carries for his "Twilight" persona. But how wrong can I be?

Very wrong. In fact, Pattinson proves that there's more to him than being a gorgeous vampire. In the film, we see him bear a full smile - which looks a bit skewered to be honest, but sexy nevertheless. The story goes: Perky girl Ally (Emilie de Ravin) meets moody boy Tyler (Robert Pattinson) - and they fall in love. On the side, Pattinson's character is dealing with personal demons that concern his emotionally distant dad - the amazing Pierce Brosnan - and his bullied sister Caroline!

As the movie draws ro a close, we see Tyler's face light up, gazing at a window from a luxurious office in New York, we believe that he finally found the peace that he'd been seeking. The camera pans from the window and moves further afield as it gradually draws away from New York's Twin Towers. The date: September 11, 2001.

I had tears streaming down my face.

Caroline and Tyler

Emilie de Ravin

"I love the sunshine," declares Robert Pattinson.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Intellectualizing Romance in "The Red Shoes"

If you're a smart cookie raring to watch something that feeds your brain, you can't go wrong with Raul Jorolan's "The Red Shoes". I have to warn you though that all this intellectualizing can go overboard, so instead of charming its audience, it may just turn them off instead. But patience is a virtue, and I'd rather invest my patience on smart flicks like this one than the garbage of "Parisukat", "Pilantik", "Fidel" (in my book, the worst film to come out in 2010 - and an easy candidate for the decade's worst!), "Ben and Sam" and well, most of the films of Neal and Joven Tan, and Cris Pablo. While others compete for excellence, these aforementioned compete for pretension and mediocrity!

I watched "The Red Shoes" with my bff Kyle and my soul sister Iya (who 3 weeks ago swore off Tagalog films after watching "SpedHearts", "Pilantik" and "Fidel" - she claimed her brain actually shrunk by 50% - hahaha). We had to transfer from Galleria to Megamall coz the former pulled "The Red Shoes" out after just 2 days!

As the story would have it, Lucas (Marvin Agustin) stole a pair of Imelda Marcos' red shoes at the height of the 1986 Edsa Revolution - and attributed the misdeed in the name of justice and love! He eventually gave one shoe to his mother Chat (Liza Lorena) and the other to his childhood girlfriend Bettina (Nikki Gil). Chat refuses to move on 13 years after her husband Domingo (Tirso Cruz III) accidentally perished and got buried under the rubble of the Manila Film Center! She has visited 13 ispiritistas (seance) and spent a fortune on them for the hint of Domingo's whereabouts! In comes Madame Vange (Tessie Tomas), an Imelda Marcos impersonator who's believed to possess the power to get through souls of the departed. Meanwhile, another girl (Iwa Moto) is out to seduce Lucas. And the plot thickens.

The movie itself reminds me of the snappy dialogues of a Danny Zialcita film in his heyday where every character (from the yaya to the driver, from the tindera to the sidewalk bypasser) speaks with delicious cadence and syncopated spunk! I remembered bribing the family driver (with my meager school allowance) to wander around while my yaya and I would sneak inside Cubao movie houses. I was really too young to go on my own. But I relished on the sense of freedom. And the pleasures of the silver screen to an 8 year old child! Cinema was pure magic!

"The Red Shoes" wallows in metaphors and Jorolan peppers his narrative with smart food-for-thought and seemingly trivial fyi's - e.g. the top 3 cinematic bridges of New York; the body's pressure points; the sternocleidomastoids and deltoids and other muscular landmarks of the body (at some point, I was already raising my brows with annoyance; she SHOULD know her muscular system because she's a Physical Therapist. Otherwise she'd be an idiot, wouldn't she? But they were laying on the smarts overtime.)

There was this anecdote about Jose Rizal who lost one shoe at a river (and what he does with the other). This figured rather dramatically as the movie draws to its conclusion, and I appreciate how it drove the idea that even a single shoe has its worth!

Marvin and Nikki are charismatic actors, but there's something amiss from their pairing. It doesn't quite catch fire! This is not saying they did poorly because that would be an injustice. In fact, on their own, Marvin and Nikki delivered commendable performances that should alert the other smart filmmakers of their presence! Their chemistry on the other hand tips toward being lukewarm, and for lack of a more appropriate term, there is a degree of detachment, which is too bad since this is after all a romantic movie! I need to be swept off my feet when I watch a romantic film!

This observation should not deter its makers from producing more movies. Obviously, this is a very talented group of people who takes the time to put "brains" into their work. At a time like this where, 4 of the 5 local films that are being shown monthly turn out bad (read: exploitative brain-dead gay films), we need films like "The Red Shoes". It deserves my P160 and my patronage!

To the Galleria idiots who pulled out "The Red Shoes" after just 2 days of showing (while the appalling "Ben and Sam" and "Parisukat" stay on), SHAME ON YOU!

Compelling performance


Ben and Sam - Love in the Realm of Pretenses

Conceit seems to successfully filter through the director of “Ben and Sam”. In one of the scenes, a film class shows its students what would be a superior film; a film that champions the truth – or “troot” as beautifully enunciated several times by the characters! The film in question? The remarkable “Fidel” – Mark Shandii Bacolod’s horrible amateur schlock!

What university classifies “Fidel” as a respectable work of art deserves to be shut down for good for they teach spurious materials to impressionable young minds! In fact, whoever made the scholastic curriculum for this particular film class should be crucified and fed to the lethal Safari Ants of Kenya! Yes, that’s you, Angeli Bayani! LOL

That a film director would refer to his own work as a landmark film of sorts really smacks of unfounded narcissism! We wouldn’t mind if he was Jerrold Tarrog talking about his “Confessional” or Peque Gallaga talking about his “Oro, Plata, Mata” or Brillante Mendoza talking about “Foster Child”. After all, there would be basis for that! But this is the self-important Mark Shandii Bacolod for his Fidel”! We suddenly thought we were watching a mockumentary – where Bacolod finally gets insight of how bad that garbage was! Really now, is there any moniker better than “garbage” to refer to “Fidel”?

Not to its director Mr. Bacolod, nor to Boy Rosas (who single handedly championed Lance Raymundo’s “sensitive portrayal”), its producers and filmmaking crew!

I guess there is no better avenue to hail your work than on your next film! If no one praises it, praise it yourself! Isn’t that sad?

The Story: Ben (Rayan Dulay) and Sam (Jess Mendoza) are polar opposites. They couldn’t be more dissimilar from each other, except that they share a dubious Film Class together – and that they vie for the “Campus King” title. While Ben is the resident sports jock, Sam is the eccentric chabacano who takes dance lessons! When Sam invites Ben as partner for their thesis, the latter accepts. Then one day, they share an unexpected kiss; something that gave our testosterone king Ben a stiffy! And thus starts their arduous journey towards social acceptance!

We have always found Dulay to be an insightful performer (he simmered in “Ang Laro sa Buhay ni Juan”) and he doesn’t disappoint here, except those painful moments when he is made to speak the queen’s language! This is really a pitfall! When your actors aren’t as proficient in the language as moi, pleaseeee don’t punish them with rigorous English lines. It will expose their shortcomings! It will further alienate the audience who’s supposed to sympathize with them. This is usually a writer’s myopic idea of rendering “intellect” to his character! Pa englishin mo para kunyari matalino! Honey, a person who speaks Tagalog can be as intelligent. False or Troot?

There are a myriad of cinematic gimmickry employed to buoy up interest in the lukewarm relationship that Ben and Sam shares! One, Ben’s mother (Ana Abad-Santos) is showcased in several scenes donning circus costumes a la Pokwang or, even better, Tessa Prieto Valdez! This was how they depicted the instability of the mother, a survivor of espousal abuse. Another gimmickry is the protracted use of slowmotion sequences that smack of bad visual poetry. We see this in a basketball game, and towards the end – when two full-length songs are played (one after the other) – while the lovers frolic naked in the rain! Once again, this is Bacolod’s version of rendering sophistication to his visual composition – slowmo! For a while there, I thought I was watching myx or that other music channel!


Moreover, Bacolod can’t shake off the storytelling tack of introducing an irate character when his narrative flow has gone dry. He did this in “Fidel” in that really-tacky scene when a would-be interview subject (who already said “no” for an interview, played by Von Arroyo) suddenly stormed into the news agency of that idiot journalist played wonderfully by Andrea del Rosario! This came out of nowhere. Why Arroyo went berserk is beyond me. What provoked his attack was the sole product of the writer-director’s imagination, bearing no logical explanation. Except of course that it is cinematic to have someone carry a gun while shouting crazy stuff! In “Ben and Sam”, this came in 6 months after Ben tells off his former bestfriend George (Micah Munoz). If you really think about it, George's actions fall under the Guiness Book of World Record's most super-duper delayed reaction! Hahaha! In the scene, George storms into a room and shoots Sam dead! It took George 6 months to gather balls to avenge his being scorned? Normal individuals tend to move on after 6 months. But of course, this is a Mark Shandii Bacolod narrative that doesn't necessarily follow the normal flow of human emotions. Like their director, the characters live in an alternate dimension where common acceptable logic takes the back seat!

I had dejavu of Von Arroyo’s harrowing, lengthy scene in "Fidel", where he wailed, “Ito ang gusto n’yo, di ba?” - again and again and again! Unfortunately, Micah wasn’t masterful enough to spout kilometric lines so he was sent to scamper off instead.

Then visual poetry makes a return: an empty university hall turns into a stage where – in glorious slowmo once again – people coming from different directions start walking towards the center and across, I was sure they were gonna latch into Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” any moment. At some point, everybody stopped. Good thing coz I thought the principal (Malou Crisologo) was going to hit the wall! Shivers! It was a surreal choreography! Like that party game where people freeze when the music stops? Yes.

Bacolod is fond of employing these cheap gimmicks. I remembered a scene in my favorite “Fidel” when the idiot government officials were discussing the fate of Fidel, you’d see them walking around in circles, decked in black costumes. As though, once again, they were prepping for another Michael Jackson number – “Beat it!

Finally, as Sam lies on his deathbed, we see Ben grieve for Sam. He cries, and the room stands still! My heart went to that lady doctor, looking like she swallowed 2 legs of pata tim; her position languidly oblique from the camera. Her face registering what it was like tasting crap! She stared at nowhere when she could have left the scene! But no! She stood there proudly like she’s seen the eyes of Medusa! Where is Percy Jackson when you need him most!


In a misplaced bath tub scene, Sam quips: "Bakla ka! Binabakla mo ako! Kaloka!" Hmmm, I knew that sounded familiar! That actually took me back to an anonymous message sender warning me (even before I actually saw the film): "“Bakla ka! ako ang magbibigay sayo ng 160 na binayad mo sa Fidel at Pilantik, nagpopcorn ka ba? sige isama mo na yun. pati pamasahe mo! Kaloka ka! Wag mong lalaitin ang pelikula ko... Kukurutin ko ang singit mo gurl!" Sometimes, you just can't take the palengke away from the palengkera!

Micah Munoz does well as shortfused George. He drops his lines effusively and clearly! Ana Abad Santos vies for Tessa Prieto-Valdez's enviable reputation!

Men with prominent love handles should never be allowed to dance in red tights!