Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Cliques in High School Revisited in American Teen

Nanette Burstein follows a bunch of high school kids in the small town of Warsaw, Indiana. in "American Teen", these kids represent a certain clique that each one of us belongs to when we were in high school. There's popular girl Megan whose pressured by her dad to attend Notre Dame in college; basketball jock Colin who desperately needs to up his game to attract the attention of recruiters so he can go to college through a basketball scholarship (his dad is an Elvis impersonator who can't afford his college studies); the pimply nerd Jake who's too aware of how invisible he is in school; the artistic Hannah, et. al.

Though the narrative occasionally appears scripted and moderated, the initially non-appealing line-up soon turns interesting as we selectively follow their lives. The film made me look back to my own high school which wasn't so long ago and feel how "shallow" some of their concerns were. Were we this shallow before? There were stories that didn't need telling because they're plain uninteresting. Even the epilogue that updates us of these characters more than a year after these kids have graduated from high school (and have moved on to college) - just seemed superficial. But yeah, superficial I can watch as long as there's a delectably cute guy like Mitch Reinholt! You can text me anytime, Mitch! Make me blush!

Megan Krizmanich is the queen bee, the popular girl.

Mitch Reinholt, the jock who breaks up with a gf through text. What a seriously gorgeous scum. LOL

"American Teen" won at the 2008 Sundance for Best Documentary Film Director and was nominated for Best Documentary at the Chicago Film Critics Association (losing to James Marsh's "Man on Wire" which eventually won the Oscar).

Friday, April 23, 2010

Working Girls 2010 - A Dizzying Parade of Little Women Stories

Thirty minutes into Jose Javier Reyes' updated version of the 80's Ishmael Bernal classic, "Working Girls", you find yourself catching your breath and tuning your senses to accommodate its myriad of characters. In fact, enumerating all the characters here for its synopsis is already a daunting task in itself. So I won't even try.

For some people, "Working Girls" is an emotional nostalgia - seeing the returning original cast in various side stories: Gina Pareno, Rio Locsin, the still-hilarious Carmi Martin, but where's Hilda Koronel?

Eugene Domingo fills her character Paula with her usual comedic schtick, and for the most part, she pulls this off with wanton verve. Her manic energy tends to go overboard at times, but this is pretty forgivable as she invariably takes you on intermittent laughing spells! Ruffa Gutierrez plays her Marilou Cobarrubias with the endearing modesty of a seemingly brain-dead ex-beauty queen. Gone are her annoying kolehiyala posturings (it's about time) evident in her previous works ("My Monster Mom" and "Desperadas"). She actually reveals moments of Anna Faris-brilliance in her small scenes (one was while reading the "annual report" of the company she acquired from her dead husband).

There are stark references to pop figures: Eula Valdez's Dr. Cleo Carillo is obviously patterned after Dr. Vicky Bello; Jackie Lou Blanco's Head of News and Current Affairs is ABS-CBN's tough chick, Maria Ressa; Mylene Dizon's acid queen-cum-TV host Connie Valderama is Korina Sanchez; Rafael Rossel's Atty. Rodney Camacho is a loose characterization of cute lawyer Adel Tamano (though I'm not aware of his clandestine womanizing activities); Jennilyn Mercado's single mother-cum-call center agent is culled after, well, Jennilyn Mercado minus her loopy moments as Jennilyn Mercado. LOL

Bianca King's Berkeley-bred Dara de la Vega storyline is a tad too predictable but the pretty Miss King does her struggling journalist well! And finally, Cristine Reyes is luminous as the bed-hopping model Wendy. It's a tailor-made role that perfectly suits her. One of the high points of this dizzying array of little stories is the bittersweet chapter on Paula's (Eugene Domingo) love triangle with her lazy husband Bobby (Antonio Aquitania) and car-for-rent guy Nelson (the amiable Ricky Davao). Several cameos include: Cherie Gil, Maria Isabel Lopez (as a Liza Maza-styled activist); Katya Santos as Wendy's girl friend; Andrea del Rosario as a bitchy news producer. There's Joel Lamangan, Biboy Ramirez, and Carlo Aquino too.

Finally, there is Iza Calzado who's once again brilliant as heartbroken nurse Teresa, although her scene with a cancer-stricken patient (the wife of her former boyfriend - played by Jao Mapa; the same boyfriend who dropped her like a hot potato) is a tad too sappy and malamya for my taste! In fact, the movie sags every time their portion plays.

Director Jose Javier Reyes has been doing these omnibus projects and he almost never meanders into mediocrity - except for "My Monster Mom" which was horrible. His last 2 projects - "Status Single" and "One Night Only" - had numerous characters that focused on the plight of contemporary women. Though "Working Girls 2010" is a bit too random and unfocused (too much stories to really invest your empathy), it still manages to draw insight (though a bit superficial) and entertainment from its audience.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Crazies - Epidemics and Lunacy

Watching Breck Eisner's "The Crazies" is like sitting on your favorite chair on a lazy Saturday night watching your old favorite horror films once again. You just know what to expect!

Ogden Marsh, a sleepy town in Ohio, is suddenly enmeshed with a water-borne virus that turns people crazy. They go bonkers (paging Bea Alonzo!), start killing people (their wives and children), burn down their houses, then start to decay and eventually die! Sheriff Dutton - the very boyish Timothy Olyphant ("Hitman") - is caught in this horrific predicament that has the town being rounded up and quarantined by a very brutal army! Those who resist are shot on and incinerated on site! And you sometimes wish Gloria Macapagal Arroyo would turn up as one of the victims because God knows how badly she needs to vanish in our midst! ;->

After having seen too many pinoy digital films, you start appreciating films like "The Crazies" - clear photography, sound that isn't here now and gone later, movie budget that's sure worth your P170 cinema admission. Sure, it may need a dose of originality sometimes, but then at least you leave the cinema without sacrificing your eyesight - in comparison to watching pirated copy-quality movies on the big screen!

This Hawaii-born 6 footer is married with 2 children. He could have been "Iron Man" if Downey didn't happen!

Timothy Olyphant was a competitive swimmer while attending USC and actually became US National Finalist in the 200m individual medley. What a guy! Didn't like him all shaved in "Hitman" but he was good in it.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Amateur Hour in Party Pilipinas

Sundays are lazy days at home and I get to channel surf, immerse myself in the slambang musical numbers cooked up by ABS-CBN's "A.S.A.P.". Though I would occasionally switch to GMA's now-defunct "S.O.P.", I would eventually find my way back to the former.

Kapamilya's noontime variety is better planned and its rooster of talents is an enviable riches of the country's most popular, most talented, brightest stars. Not only that, their numbers are better choreographed, better conceptualized, well rehearsed and a lot of fun! When "S.O.P." finally folded, it felt like it was about time they do away with that show full of starlets and unknowns. In fact, every time I watch it, my family and I are always reduced to redundancy, "Sino yan? Eh sino naman yang girl na yan?" It's always the same scenario. I wouldn't mind if they match up their anonimity with real talent, but most of the time - they end up as mere lip synching trolls who sound horrendous even with recorded voices.

Then came "Party Pilipinas". They have ads in Megamall that seem to herald something new and exciting. Wow, I wanted to watch! So I did...

How was this viewing experience?

I caught a quartet of girls in white - dancing in front of a horizontal bar - Lovi Poe, Glaiza de Castro, Carla Abellana & Isabel Oli. They did this bit last week with Bianca King as one of the girls. When Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" started playing, it took the girls several seconds before they realized their number has actually started! Were they deaf? Didn't they hear the starting strains of "Bad Romance"? The girls looked at each other, not sure if they were to start or not! Their recorded voices boomed like discordant seagulls flying off to Iceland. Don't they have recording engineers to make sure these talentless gobs sound BETTER in recordings? Or are these engineers deaf themselves? For a while there, I thought they were starting a comical skit. That would be a novel idea - featuring bumbling idiots on high heels. Haha. Lip sync na nga, di pa makasayaw ng sabay o mahusay.

Choreographed numbers should focus on making sure one of the other works - lip synching or dancing? But in their case, these lovely idiots fumbled their way all through out their number. Can't sing? Can't lip sync? Can't dance? OMG! What are they doing in a Musical Variety Show - GMA's showcase of their talents! SHOWCASE! GMA's big bosses should start looking up the word "showcase" in the dictionary to fully understand its meaning - and how they should address their embarrassing musical variety extravaganza!

Not only were these girls intermittently lost, but when they found their steps, they couldn't even coordinate their movements. It was kanya kanyang kayod - "matira ang matibay". They had to cancel and reformat "S.O.P." for this god-awful world-class embarassment??!! Nursery students at St. Paul's can do a lot better!

Earlier in the program, I was transfixed watching Ogie Alcasid doing Michael Jackson's "Black or White" with new recruit Rachelle Ann Go! That really caught my attention! In the first few verses of the song, Mr. Alcasid was straining to reach : "I took my baby on a saturday bang..." His forehead forrows and his sternocleidomastoids stretch! Of course we knew that as this song progresses, the fast beat and ascending melody would not let up! The beat gets faster, the lyrics too. But it got painful listening to a veteran like Ogie groping. Wasn't his presence meant to render a degree of excellence to this maudlin array of amateur newbies? Good thing Rachelle Anne was there to actually render this degree of quality to a butchered song!

Now I have to be honest to say that I don't exactly like Ms. Go's performances in "A.S.A.P." Her vocal affectations and curlicues get too annoying sometimes, compared to the straight singing of her former colleagues in "A.S.A.P." But seeing her perform amidst low caliber artists in this new new show called "Party Pilipinas" instantly made her a gold mine! If I were to watch "Party Pilipinas" regularly, I knew I'd start liking Ms. Go! She is just a cut above the mediocre talents being fielded by GMA. And I am disappointed this had to include Mr. Alcasid's failing vocal capacity as a singer. Maybe age is catching up with him. Or just maybe, he is under-rehearsed? Note-perfect Regine Velasquez can't coach him? She has to lecture them on the importance of hitting your notes! If it's too high, don't be arrogant and switch to songs you can reach! I am sure there are millions of songs to choose from! Whatever the reason, veteran artists like Mr. Alcasid shouldn't rest on old glory. Practice still makes better performances. This would prevent further embarrassing himself alongside relatively new, but ultimately more talented exciting talents like Ms. Go who's used to singing with the best that the country can offer way back in "A.S.A.P."

Later in the show, a new talent was left to sing his alternative rock number. I recognized him as "M.E." - Miguel Escueta. I actually own his CD but has since played it once. Listening to him further aggravated my headache. As he was belting the chorus of his own song (I think it's the title track coz I kept hearing "This is me" or "I am me."), he would pull the microphone 14 inches away from his mouth, then he would stoop as though he was caught in his moment. What moment? The moment when a singer can't even sing the chorus of his very own song as it proved too high for him! Ohmygod! He shouts and still misses the note by a couple of bars! He tries again - for nought! Horrendous! New talents and their amateur skills!

Now listen here, GMA people: If the pitch of your songs are too high for your "singers", you have musicians to remedy that! Raul Mitra can play it a key lower, can't he? Don't let your artists croak with pain! It's not entertaining to your audience. Moreover, it gives the wrong expression to the young audience that it's ok to be a professional entertainer and be sintunado! Hit those notes! Don't grope, don't bear down, don't shriek! It's not a horror screamfest but a musical show, for pete's sake! At masakit din po sa tenga ng nanonood!

More importantly, I shall reiterate - "practice still makes perfect numbers"! Let your performers rehearse their numbers coz, my gosh! - their middling talents can't actually do LIVE performances! Learn from A.S.A.P.'s world-class professional performers!

If this is the kind of party you're hosting every Sunday, I'd rather hibernate in peace - than suffer!

Lovi Poe (above) and Glaiza de Castro (below)

Over at "A.S.A.P.", they've launched a new Prime Time Princess - the very beautiful Empress Schuck! I have seen this girl essay roles with sophisticated ease and sincerity and I have always known that she would one day make a lovely lead! Her time has come - and I am just too happy for her. Of course, it is going to be a "Kampanerang Kuba"-styled teleserye, but these are what people actually prefer to watch these days - brain-challenged fantaseryes! "Agua Bendita", anyone?

Good luck, Ms. Schuck! I do hope you look up to the prowess of Erich Gonzales than sappy Kim Chiu!

Empress Schuck

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Paano Ko Sasabihin - On Deceptions and Taking the Romantic Train

Erich Gonzales cuts a charming lead in Richard Soriano Legaspi’s “Paano Ko Sasabihin” (How Can I Tell You). She plays Erhyl, a script writer who works hard to buy her deaf brother Wilhem (Johann Alcantara) his hearing aid. But what fuels excitement to Erhyl’s otherwise lackluster life is her growing fascination with a strapping fellow LRT commuter Mike (Enchong Dee). After several close encounters with the latter, Erhyl finally gets his attention. What’s more, he even painstakingly returns a shoe which she clumsily left during a mad rush out of the train. How anyone could leave a strapped high heeled shoe in a train is still a mystery to me. But to get on with the story, let’s consider that such stupidity actually happens. Excuse me, Cinderella.

Having seen Mike use the sign language, Erhyl pretends that she is deaf as well. So they start going out on dates. What a lovely and perfect pair. Truth is, Mike – who teaches at a school for “special” kids – is not deaf! And it’s just a matter of time before they both find out about their own deceptions, right?

The movie’s tension rests on this rather preposterous predicament. Hearing adults both pretending to be deaf!


The first half of the movie showcases an endearing, if a tad too silly, boy-meets-girl scenario, and just when we were ready to be swept off our feet, the movie swerves into a ridiculous turn of events! When Erhyl decides to see Mike and confess, he just stood there dumbfounded looking like an idiot. It was golden opportunity to confess and come clean for the same folly. Instead, he lets her run to the nearest LRT station for the awkwardly played out scene where Mike uses the train’s speaker system to make a message for Erhyl – and for hundreds of passengers to hear, “Magkita tayo sa Central Station. Ako ang lalaking …” and so on! Of course, this throws Erhyl into a loop. Who is this idiot who wouldn’t even say his name? And why would Erhyl even think that this absurd message was meant for her? After all, it was a generalized message that could have been meant for someone else.

So she waits at the Central Station. Will he be there? Of course! She finds Mike at the other side of the platform. They do a ridiculous patintero. A train arrives to impede her vision of the hunky teacher. When the train pulls out of the station, he’s gone! She turns around broken hearted, but when she looks up, Mike is beside her! And their lips lock to a swelling romantic song! Aww!

How can something so promising end into a trite and disappointing finish? The story writer suddenly loses steam, and the general plot that promisingly fueled the whole narrative suddenly seemed silly!

There are awkward moments riddling this movie. When Mike admits his own part of the whole double whammy-deception, Erhyl accuses him: “How can I trust you after what you’ve done?” Girl, go get a mirror and shout it out on your impervious skull. It’s the thief accusing the other thief of, err, thievery! Hilarious really!

Fortunately, Erich and Enchong enjoy a palpable chemistry that’s easy to love. In fact, I like Erich. Even in her mediocre telenovelas, she has always exuded sensitivity and sincerity. She never resorts to woe-is-me portrayals (paging the eternally sappy Kim Chiu) that reek with slap-happy scenes and garalgal-cum-boses-kiki cries. Erich is one of the few young actresses of her generation who has learned restraint early in her career. It must have come from years of playing support and second – even third - fiddle. Patience does that to intuitive actors. Unfortunately, this particular film just isn’t too smart. It was on its way to becoming a good movie when it suddenly veered to the path of wild imaginings and melodramatic machination! You don’t have the guts to admit your shortcomings to a girl, but you have enough balls to address a public address system? That just doesn’t make sense! Something is disjointed, not to mention – on the part of the storyteller – Machiavellian. Narrative expediency is placed above logic, and deceit is literally and figuratively carried out to move the story. Just when the complexities have reached their quota, everything finds a fast resolution! How simple. If only life were that simple.

It can’t be helped to place “Paano Ko Sasabihin” beside Cinemalaya’s similarly themed “Dinig Sana Kita” which absolutely bowled us over! Just a few years ago, an online-writer once put a veteran entertainment journalist to task for having Cinemalaya as his personal cause to support, instead of Cinema One. It was actually funny for why would anyone impose his own causes on someone else’s. Makialam ba. In one of this online-writer’s annual year-end rants, he arrogantly assailed the elder journalist for this cause. In the same list of rants (where he wished Ketchup Eusebio more cinematic exposure! Eww! Eusebio to my mind is a modern-day Smokey Manaloto! There is nothing brilliant about him!), he comparatively weighed the 2 film festivals, obviously favoring Cinema One!

But comparing “Paano Ko Sasabihin” to “Dinig Sana Kita” is like comparing Picasso as a visual artist to a Carlo Caparas! While Caparas gloats on the income-generating power of his “art”, Picasso laid on his death bed proclaiming, “Drink to my health, you know I can’t drink anymore”. Huh? Yes, honey, I’m saying there’s no point of comparison. LOL

Anyone who favors “Cinema One” over “Cinemalaya” is in obvious need of re-tuning his cinematic taste. Simply put, when the works of Cinemalaya are placed beside the works of Cinema One, the latter comes up with middling, unfocused, overly ambitious but ultimately underwhelming works! Paging "Manghuhula". Yet year in and out, you hear of Indie film makers violently resisting and shaking off the "guidance" that Cinemalaya organizers insist. What an arrogant lot!

Sure, there are breakaway films like “Yanggaw”, “Tambolista”, “Confessional” - but most of their (Cinema One) outputs are mediocre! I remembered back in 2006 when a movie called “Pandanggo” premiered at the Galleria. Unfortunately, I was there! It was a “trilogy” of sorts – a film that’s lost in its own ambition and confusion, and I was like, “WTF”! That’s “Cinema One” for you! To be honest, Cinemalaya occasionally comes up with seemingly unfinished works like “In The Red Corner” (2006), but these are mere exceptions to the rule. In fact, “In the Red…” feels like a Truffaut compared to the Godardesque-dizzy-weezy “Pandanggo” which came out the same year!

Cinemalaya films are better conceptualized, while “Cinema One” films are more experimental. Sad thing is, they miss more than they hit! They lose their way through the very basic requisite of telling a story! They mine an interesting idea then lose their way expounding it, thus resulting into a messy piece of cinema!

I am actually glad that less and less digital works are getting shown in commercial theaters these days. Dapat lang! Visuals pa nga lang, di na nila naayos. Cinema is after all a visual medium! This is a basic precept that majority of the digital film makers keep forgetting. If you can’t lend a legible and acceptable “visual” to your movie, get into radio! Mag radio drama ka na lang! LOL. Don’t be too ambitious to be called a film maker when your films look like pirated copies when shown at the cinema. Why movie goers should watch fuzzy visuals with shoddy sound and pay P170 for borderline cinema over “real movies” is beyond me.

I am sure someone would remind me that the director’s works have been shown in Pyongyang, Naoussa, Tallinn and Budapest. So iffing what? Mel Chionglo’s “Midnight Dancers” was shown at the Toronto Filmfest and - ohmygosh, 2010's worst film "Fidel" was invited at the Berlin! - it would become Chionglo's worst work too! That “Paano Ko Sasabihin” won the Audience Choice Award at the Cinema One Originals Digital Film Festival is not a testament to the film’s technical excellence, but to the obvious charm of its leads. Nothing more!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Be Very Wary of Your Reality in Shutter Island

When I first saw the trailer of "Shutter Island" last year, I was in a tizzy! Martin Scorsese - one of the greatest living directors of all time - with Leonardo DiCaprio in a thriller? Are you kidding? It's nothing short of an event! And for all the right reasons!

Writing even a movie capsule about it gives a lot of its story away thus I shall limit it here: U.S. marshals Teddy and Chuck (Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo, respectively) are sent to an island off the coast of Massachusetts where a facility exists to incarcerate violent crime offenders who are mentally incapacitated! A criminal has escaped and no traces of "her" has been found. But Teddy has more personal reasons for his visit. His wife and children were killed by someone who's in Shutter Island! Unfortunately for the marshals, the management and staff of the facility seem to be hiding something. They suspect that sinister activities are being performed on the patients. Just when they are to call off their investigation, a hurricane lashes out, trapping them in the island. Will they succeed in uncovering the secrets that cloak this island?

A hint? This is a Martin Scorsese film and essaying predictions or jumping into conclusions isn't as easy as watching a Star Cinema movie, that's for sure. LOL

Peppering this gritty thriller is an amazing cast that includes Ben Kingsley, Michael Caine, my favorite Patricia Clarkson (of "Cairo Time") and Michelle Williams. The setting is as sinister as the convolutions in the story, and there's the brilliant use of a hurricane to create an atmosphere of paranoia, claustrophobia and isolation! Leonardo DiCaprio is downright intense; when was he not? And I giggle every time I see Mark not because he's bad, but because he's as cute as ever - ohmygosh! Pardon the lady in me. ;->

Leonardo DiCaprio - intense as usual.

Mark Ruffalo - a marshal or a doctor? He was once diagnosed with a brain cancer - which turned out to be benign. After a brain surgery, he was completely healed although he is suffering from a minor facial paralysis due to the operation - that's where he gets this very sexy lopsided grin. ;->

Mark Ruffalo, who stands 5'9", understands the idea of patience. He worked as a bartender in New York for 9 long years - where he was said to have auditioned for some 800 roles - before luck finally came.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Personal Demons Plague Beautiful People in the Burning Plain

I wasn't expecting much when I went to watch Guillermo Arriaga's "The Burning Plain". I could get frothy heaping praises about it, but for now, I shall behave coz it's a difficult job making a capsule about it.

Gina (Kim Basinger) is distraught that after a radical mastectomy to battle her cancer. But her loving husband is unable to make love to her after the operation. So she starts an affair with a married man Nick (Joaquim de Almeida). This affair will affect both of their families. And a twist involving Gina's daughter Mariana (Jennifer Lawrence) and Nick's son Santiago (JD Pardo) unwittingly starts where their parents' indiscretion ends.

Meanwhile, a successful restaurant manager Sylvia numbs herself with joyless one night stands - from her chef to her customer. But Sylvia seems not capable of any form of intimacy. What gives?

Across the Mexican border, a farmer (Danny Pino) crashes his plane. Before jumping into the operation, he sends his friend Carlos to take the his daughter to California.

These seemingly unrelated stories are deftly and masterfully weaved and edited into a nonlinear narrative that is compellingly told. Everyone gives a commendable performance, although my favorite part is the narrative string of Mariana and Santiago! Charlize Theron once again proves that she won that Oscar (2003's "Monster") some years back for the right reasons - and that wasn't a fluke! I take my hats off to her and to its writer-director Guillermo Arriaga!

Charlize Theron is a force of nature.

The cutie JD Pardo as Santiago: "Can I sleep with you? I promise not to touch you," asks Santiago to Mariana.

Jennifer Lawrence as Mariana.

The incredible cast walked the red carpet at the Venice Film Festival where the film was nominated for a Golden Lion. Young Jennifer Lawrence won the Marcello Mastroianni Award!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Babe, I Love You - Bland Formula Flick Hits Box Office Gold

In the last few years, Star Cinema has suffered stark gauntness in their materials. Their films have become extensively hyped but emaciated drivels that somehow inspire dejavus - you've seen them before, but they're peopled by different actors! Mae Cruz's "Babe, I Love You" is no different!

Anne Curtis is promo girl Sasa Sanchez (referenced to KC Concepcion's "promodizer" in "When I Met You"), a peculiar character who has no qualms making a scene in front of a congested university. She meets eternally brooding Nico Ibarra (Sam Milby), a brilliant architecture professor who's a shoo in for his university's vice dean position! One fateful night, Sasa witnesses Nico's run in with some thugs. She maneuvers her car towards Nico's assailants - and the rest, as they say is history!

This movie shamelessly adheres to a very basic Star-Cinema-formula that could be divided into 4 chapters:

Chapter 1 - boy meets girl

Pretty poor girl Sasa meets rich and pretty boy, albeit tortured soul Nico. He seems to dislike her but we see him constantly making reasons to see her! That he is an ambulatory guilt-tripper is thus an understatement!

Chapter 2 - they either constantly bicker or constantly enjoy sappy moments, a process that leads to a relationship

The first one exactly fits the bill. Guilt-ridden Nico offers to drive her around while she recuperates from her whiplash injury brought on by his encounter with the baddies. He even drives her for a fly-by-night beauty pageant in Zambales! I didn't realize it was a lot easier to drive around someone you loath than just pay her up to get rid of her!

Chapter 3 - they separate: this is the part where all those memorable kilometric lines are dropped like bombs in Pearl Harbor!

While Nico is slowly forsaking his work over her activities, he then learns of her past indiscretions. At a family dinner where Sasa is invited, we bear witness to Sasa's ultimate embarrassment when - aw, shucks! - she encounters the wife and duaghter of a married man (Ricardo Cepeda) she's had an affair with! And they happened to be Nico's family's close relations! How convenient, right? Such dramatic coincidences write itself into the story! Phew! Nico confronts Sasa, and they spend their time apart from each other!

Subchapter: This is the narrative's version of a song's coda where each of their family members console the inconsolable. She gets a heart-to-heart with her mama; he gets a dramatic moment with his mom or dad. (Referenced to Gerald Anderson and Zsa zsa Padilla's heartwarming moment in the moronic "Paano Na Kaya".)

Chapter 4 - epilogue to happily ever after (a week later, 2 years after, 25 years later, and so on...)

One year after they separate, we see the lovely Sasa make sawsaw a stick of qwekqwek somewhere in the vicinity of Morayta. Nico drives by and spots the woman of his dreams, the same woman just a year ago he accused of being untrustworthy! In true Star Cinema fashion, Nico turns the wheel over to his friend Guji Lorenzana. He then stands amidst human traffic, never even bothering to first cross the street which, if you've been there, you would know that it won't take him 5 steps to do so - and then he is beside Sasa who is immobile, busy with her qwekqwek-dunking techniques!

But no! It should be cinematic! Nico has to shout above all the noise to get her attention! She turns around. The music swells! The crowd is otherwise oblivious to all the romantic shenanigans happening around! She beams her Diosa smile, he unfolds his CloseUp grin! He crosses the street and they catch-up as though he was never an accusatory dick of universal proportions, and as though she was never a concubine! Life is easy in this vast universe called Star Cinema! End credits roll! Aww, I feel better already. At least they only had to contend with 1 year, unlike Bea and John Lloyd who did 5 years worth of Noel Trinidad psychic meddling!

Now, use this formula and get back to Star Cinema's filmography in the last two years - and I am pretty sure you can apply the aforementioned formula in most of their romantic comedies!

It's hard to find fault when you have a very likable and charming actress like Anne Curtis! She is extremely easy on the eyes; she's perky and healthy, a bundle of sunshine, and she possesses a sincere smile that warms your heart. But it also underlines the incontrovertible - she isn't quite in the league of Angelica Panganiban or Bea Alonzo! Not yet, anyway! Not where emotions are mined! But she is undoubtedly a star! She's never awkward or mediocre, but she probably needs a heartache that's more gut-wrenching than Sam Milby to acquire a bit more gravitas to make an unforgettable romantic heroine! Her undeniably delightful take as Sasa Sanchez is easily forgettable in a few month's time! Having said this, I can't wait to see her in a role that's worth more than a decade of her showbiz career!

Sam Milby, on the other hand is robotic at best! He has mastered this type of fury-inside characterization that has defined him in teleseryes like "Maging Sino Ka Man" and "Only You". In his confrontation with Anne ("I just can't trust you..."), he grapples with his paragraphs, dividing them in grouped phrases while he tries hard to enunciate with heavy syllabic cadence. It was painful listening to him! Aside from this, Sam's characterization is heavily flawed! Sure, such flawed characters make nonpareil cinematic heroes, but there has to be logical lucidity to such shortcomings. Take for example, when he gets a call about Sasa's arrest (he has to bail her out of jail), he could have sent his friend Guji while he finishes his academic presentation, couldn't he? After which, he can follow. Why would you jeopardize a career-making appointment over something that could be taken cared of later? For someone who's supposed to be brilliant, Nico moves around like a dumb jock.

It is hard to pick brilliant moments here. When the movie starts, the screen opens with a dark and fuzzy scene, I actually though "ah, flashback scene siguro". Lo and behold, it wasn't a flashback scene. Then we see Guji Lorenzana calling Sam to join them at the dance floor - and he was out of sync! These days, not only is Star Cinema churning out retreads, they have compromised technical quality too! There was a time when each of their movies was, at the very least, technically superior - with glossy cinematography, great production design, musical scores that help move their stories, etc. Obviously, those were days gone by.

In the movie, Nico's relationship with his mother (Laurice Guillen- who looked constipated and morose 98% of the time - the other 2% she spent looking dazed and busy enumerating lists of "original copy" of books - Considering how brilliant she was as Cory Aquino in "A Dangerous Life", what a waste) is strained after an unfortunate accident that killed his father! When Nico loses the position as vice dean of the university, she joins Nico at the patio and we are taken back to Gerald Anderson and Zsa Zsa Padilla's mother-son bonding scene in "Paano Na Kaya"- one of the very few positive points in the brain-dead Kim Chiu starrer! Yes, Jose, we've seen it just a few months back - and we are seeing it again with a different Fil-Am actor!

Now, the title: Why "Babe, I Love You"? This puzzles me. One, the song isn't even popular with the current generation. Two, I am not aware that the characters call each other "babe" even as a term of endearment. Three, Piolo Pascual's version is karaoke-quality warbling at best! Gesh, whoever gave Papa P the illusion that he will ever be taken seriously as an excellent singer should be taken to the gallows! Off with their heads! Pronto! Papa P is such a cutie pie, but he will never qualify as a world-class singer. Never! His vocal quality just doesn't suffice, unless you're deaf! Or maybe you equate "gorgeous male species" with "great singer" - which should naturally make you an idiot, doesn't it? The only barely-acceptable song from his "Decades" album is "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" - and it's mainly due to the finger-snapping arrangement! THAT could have been a more appropriate title! Fourth, never make remakes that's inferior from the original. Styx can vocally run rings around gorgeous Papa P so this was a really bad idea!

The good news from all these, which would probably cancel out all of my observations is: that this movie is raking moolah at the box office! I guess that's what matters to Star Cinema. Forget giving the people fresh cinema because idiots queue at the tills to watch retreads like "Babe, I Love You" anyway! Yes, I watched the film when it opened Saturday. Despite the early 2nd screening, SM Megamall's theater was almost full! Consider that they had 2 cinemas showing "Babe, I Love You". This has triple the crowd that I've seen in movies that were hailed as "breaking box office records on their first day" - like "For The First Time" (which had a crowd of 10 when I saw it), "Love Me Again" (which had a crowd of 12), "Paano Na Kaya" (which had a crowd of 15) and "BFF" (which had a crowd of 4)!

As the credits rolled when the movie ended, I noticed a growing list of Script Consultants. Wow, it takes all these people to tweedle-and-tweak a movie like this? My maid can write a story as mediocre as this one - easily, and she gets minimum wage! I should recommend my maid to Star Cinema - she is after all, cheap labor!

Congratulations for such a successful generic movie!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Filth, Wisdom and All That Crap

"Only when you eat a lemon will you appreciate what sugar is. Life is a paradox, or is it really?"

That is just one of the several misplaced philosophical musings that clutter "Filth and Wisdom". But all pretenses of intellect and taste are nowhere found in this grooveless, charmless work!

We love Madonna to bits, but her directorial debut, "Filth and Wisdom" provided the last straw of our tolerance to her cinematic ambitions. Time and again, she has proven to us that Madonna's cinematic I.Q. comes close to nil - and this film proves that!

In the movie, she follows the lives of 3 London flatmates - a Ukrainean S&M "man whore" named A.K (Eugene Hutz), pharmacy assistant Juliette (Vicky McClure) who steals medicine from her infatuated Indian boss, and an unemployed Russian ballerina whose only hope for employment is the city's strip clubs. Interesting people, right?

Unfortunately, these are made-up people from the mind of an insightless Madonna whose fascination with streetwise weirdos has stagnated to people of the 80's. That they live in modern day London is wildly debatable. They feel less real than Andy Warhol's underground babies way back when Joe Dallesandro and Divine were cool!

And this so uncool!