Saturday, February 25, 2012

Jigz F. Recto's Kasalo - Of Distracting Front Teeth and Degenerative Brain Disorders

The first hint on the quality of brain activity that the film maker possesses occurs in the first few scenes of the movie.

It opens with Anton (Anton Molina) in a state of ennui. He's restless and his crotch is flaunted in front of the camera so he fondles his joystick for a second, but even the appendage was enveloped by hormonal lassitude. He stands and takes his seaman's uniform hanging nearby, taking them off the hanger then he puts them on. His limbs almost disfigures as it becomes clear that the uniform in question is 3 sizes too small! I had to suppress my giggle. Not quite 15 minutes into the story and we're already given hints what to expect! Is it really that hard to find a uniform that actually fits your actor? I figure that doesn't need training for a triple heart by-pass nor mastery of the periodic table. It doesn't even need a painful amount of resourcefulness.

Anton, you see, is eternally waiting for that opportunity to get a job as a sea man; something that, he believes, would give him the financial capability of Bill Gates. "Maghintay ka; Pag natanggap ako, mabubuhay kang princesa," he tells his partner Selma (Bambi Martinez) whose patience is briskly diminishing. In fact, Selma berates Anton unceasingly. She even begrudges his sexual compulsions.

One day, Bea (Sidra Lorenzo), Selma's younger sister, unexpectedly shows up, having made a fast escape from her stepfather's sexual advances. There, she left her mother and siblings. Unfortunately for Bea, Selma was displeased. Not another mouth to feed, Selma thought! Though she acquiesces, Selma wears her wicked sister persona and treats the poor provincial lass like a house help.

Bea's lone sense of inspiration is "tri-sikad" driver Ricky (Rocco Mateo) who showers her with modest gifts and oodles of admiration. Moreover, her "kuya" Anton is extra nice and even promises that he would spend for her education once he gets hired. This guy is seriously "counting the chick", faster than he lays errr... "eggs"? One night, after another argument with Selma, a drunken Anton finds a sleeping Bea, with her lower extremities furtively announcing that, "Hey, guys, it's open season." So he accepts the invitation with unspeakable bravado. Virgin Selma isn't anymore. She's unconsolable, and runs away with a bewildered Ricky, now her boyfriend. He takes her to a decrepit motel, imaginatively named "Check Inn", and does his way with the girl who, this time, shouts like she's been decapitated; a reaction too baffling considering she didn't even whimper when her Kuya Anton plugged his tool. Kuya Anton, this is a very telling clue!

What's worse, Ricky rebuffs Bea - after humping the living daylights out of her! "Ayoko na sa yo! Akala ko iba ka. Di ka na pala virgin! Ang luwang mo!" Ouch! Is he probably talking about an oversized jeans? What's a girl to do? Will Anton mend her ways? Not that it would matter if you knew what eventually happened!

You've heard this story before, and if you haven't, did you join an intergalactic journey sometime in your life? Director Jigz F. Recto is fastly depleting the last remaining working neurons from his cranium, and it shows oh-so vividly in his latest film. Someone obviously needs to see a neurologist fast! Sometimes, symptoms of exceedingly low cerebral function is pathognomonic of Degenerative Diseases!

Let's take for example the side story of a drug peddler (Jeremy Ian), a supposedly powerful and petrifying "drug lord" of sorts who can only afford an effete and balding elderly on the verge of cataract - as his right hand man (Ike Sadiasa). When he gets horny, this drug lord forces himself on Ricky (Bea's boyfriend), the gay pusher's occasional boytoy (the former in fact gives him cash to pay for his "trisikad"). Suddenly, we find Anton doing the collection - and pocketing a percentage of the stash for his P50,000 seaman's application fee.

Anton Molina can hardly deliver a line - any line for that matter! He cannot finish a simple declarative sentence. He pauses midway into his spiel trying to remember his lines. He displays an inspiringly robotic monotone reminiscent of Jeff Luna, only worse! Suddenly, Jeff has competition! After all, Anton is tall and slim, fair and moderately hairy, and he possesses a face that reminds me of that former teen star, Kristopher Peralta! And like Jeff, he exhibits in a shower scene and a long shot (after coitus with Selma) that there is gold in inches! LOL

But this is the ladies' golden hour too! We see them in countless mammary exposures and frontal showers. Unfortunately, some of their scenes are too careless and unflattering that we actually see Bambi Martinez' gargantuan "mole" in the vicinity of her perineum. Not "kulugo" I hope. Moreover, stretch marks (unless that wasn't a stretch mark but a scary infestation of pin worms invading the dermis of the skin!) adorn her waist. Good Heavens!


But what bothered me most were her unduly protruding front teeth that are eternally displayed - because she cannot seem to adequately close her mouth! She laughs, they're wide open! She stares into space, they're minimally open (but open nevertheless)! She cries, they're still open; I was close to being hypnotized by her opening buccal anatomy! She could make a great hypnotist!

What have our "nubile" sex nymphets become? There was a time they were at least gorgeous little vamps, though vacuous and emotionally spare. Erotic Cinema is meant to exhibit "allure"! We needed "bighani", not "mangha". We should be "namamalikmata", not "nahihindik" or "nababagabag". It's really a basic criteria that only idiots disregard.

If they only had Rosanna Roces' thespic gifts, we would have disregarded their physical dis-endowments, but they are as gifted as - say a 4 year old!

Sidra Lorenzo

To be honest, we feel like the proverbial broken record already. The points from one movie to the next are all the same: an exceedingly familiar plot, borderline amateur actors who can't discern one emotion from the next.

Check these scenes for an inspiring coterie of incoherence:

Bea arrives from the province hauling a huge duffel bag of personal effects. Then Selma asks: "May damit ka"? Then she hands her a worn out duster which Bea obligingly dons. Isn't Selma visually impaired? What does she think is inside Bea's huge bag - kitchen utensils? A bowling ball?

Then there's the bathing scenes (they use a dipper, i.e. "tabo"), the bathroom doors are kept wide open. Maybe they're air drying themselves? But this becomes a convenient excuse for Anton to accidentally see Bea's jewels, isn't it?

When Selma finishes her own bath, she walks around the room - and talks to her sister bare-breasted. Seriously? Have we gone French?

When Selma checks her face in front of a mirror, she quips: "Boobs, ok na, check! Face, bongga! Nose, konti na lang!" The audience snickered. There was commotion in the gallery. Selma has such wild imaginations and bounding self esteem. Such confidence!

When Bea informs Selma that she wants to go home, she said, "Ate, uuwi na lang ako sa amin." But shouldn't this be "atin"? After all, Selma and Bea are sisters!

When Ricky accuses his girlfriend Bea of being loose, literally and figuratively, he conveniently forgot that he's in the trade of offering his "appendageal sprout" to his gay benefactor. And Bea - who was raped - was "loose"? Talk about double standard!

Finally, as the film concludes, we see Selma cry while she's holding her sister's duster. Did she cry this much when Anton died? I am not too sure, I was so distracted with her two front teeth.

Bambi Martinez and Sidra Lorenzo

Jeremy Ian

Sidra and Jeremy clowning around

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

G.A. Villafuerte's Id'nal (Mapusok) - Fragments of Gibberish Confusion

It’s a roll call: Kenneth Jimenez, Glenn Katigbak, Kenjie Samonte, Bernard Osorio, Jacko Melendrez, Reggie Chua, Mark Samonte, These were just some of the names that populate the alternate universe of GA Villafuerte’s Id’nal (Mapusok)”. Such thoughtful provision of complete names of characters would have you thinking that this was a scholarly dissertation about troubled relationships; a thoughtful traipse on infidelity - of epic proportion; with carefully limned characters in insightfully threshed out vignettes. But such attention to detail was sadly limited to these names – nothing more! They conveniently slept through most of the film making process, occasionally waking up for the belabored and passionless sex scenes.
God-awful” – Now there’s a compound term that appropriately befits this cinematic vomitus!

Eirik Cruz and Anton Nolasco as lovers Kenneth Jimenez and Glenn Katigbak

Blink and you'll miss their resplendent cameos! Yet each of them have individual posters for "Id'nal". Any one who didn't get a poster was a joke? :)

Kenneth (Eirik Cruz) is a college professor while Glenn (Anton Nolasco) is a med rep (a drug salesman). The two seemingly contrasting personalities nurture a relationship as they live together in absolute disharmony. While Glenn craves for Kenneth’s attention, Kenneth is dismissive and (though mild mannered and mostly conciliatory) never offers Glenn the time of the day – or night! This frustrates Glenn no end so he indulges his sexual impulses by mollycoddling with his masseur Jacko (TJ Morello) and a bevy of anonymous guys (even that guy who stopped him from jumping off a bridge, you better believe it). Kenneth, on the other hand, diligently tends to the needs of Kenjie (Orlando Sol) who’s eternally needy and indigent – kinda like what a sugar daddy does with his ward. Curiously, we don’t find any hint of romantic affection between Kenneth and Kenjie so why the clandestine rendezvous, or the you-and-me-against-mama scenario? This baffles.

Glenn gets exceedingly disheartened. Why isn’t he able to tinker Kenneth’s bells anymore? Is Kenneth getting tintinnabulated by others? Horrors! We ought to call the fireman and cool Glenn down, pronto! One day, Glenn catches Kenneth and Kenjie in tight embrace. The latter is in dire need of Kenneth’s boundless emotional appropriation: “Nag away na naman kami ni Nanay eh,” Kenjie laments, then they hug and caress each other’s trapezius muscles, not to mention that pulsating, if hypertrophied latissimus dorsi. Those darn tight, toned muscles that twitch involuntarily calm their emotional core, you know.
Upon seeing Kenneth and Kenjie snuggle, Glenn conflagrates like the spurned matron. “Ang kakapal talaga! Dito pa!” Glenn confronts the embracing couple and further adds, “Porke ba mas malaki ang titi nya kesa sa akin?Ouch! I seriously felt sorry for Glenn. My eyes were beginning to well up! Oh heavens, help me! I didn’t know this was a 5-hanky flick! But if you've been observing Anton Nolasco’s sojourn into Pink Cinema, there’s tangible pictographic evidence (in a hundred and one shower scenes) that his appendageal attributes aren’t as modest as he makes us believe. Kenjie’s must then be a venomous cobra? Weeh!

Eirik Cruz and Anton Nolasco

Director GA Villafuerte is as confused – and pedestrian - as ever. His last film “Bahid” might as well be a masterpiece compared to this one. The story is a glorified series of narrative fragments; the strains don’t articulate in manner or form. The biggest question would be: Why do Kenneth and Glenn even bother staying together? They don’t have anything in common; they can’t converse like ordinary human beings; they don’t share even a meal together. Their coupling hails from a drugged out imagination. This might as well have a Shakespearean title: “Much Ado About Nothing”!
Eirik Cruz stars in his first cinematic salvo (His "Bunso" is yet to be screened commercially.) He surely satisfies the “artistahin” criteria unlike most Pink Film studs. He speaks well, be it English or the vernacular, but he mitigates his deliveries with careful, albeit studied elocution, giving a perception of naturalness. He succeeds in some; other times, he comes off like someone cajoling a mentally deficient individual. When he is finally given lines bearing emotional disquiet, this is where he struggles - painfully. His arms act up, flailing awkwardly to his sides and elsewhere, and his face contorts disturbingly. Noobs ought to be guided by insightful director, something that’s not in this production. Yes, Elvis has left the building! With experience and better projects, good looking Cruz just might turn out to be a reliable character actor.
Anton Nolasco, on the other hand, is scaling artistic hurdles of greater magnitude. The character of a wayward Glenn could have showcased his artistry. Unfortunately, like his director, Nolasco mistakes acting in the form of incessant frowns and interminable disgust. He’s eternally angry, even after coitus! You’d wish someone could give him a sedative so he relaxes a bit. What’s worse, when he finally confronts his lover, his effete tendencies flourish like the pink marmalades on a summery Sunday morning!
Mygz Molino (playing Kenneth’s brother Kyro) who’s prominently displayed and billed in the theatrical poster appears for 10 seconds or thereabout. Doing what? Texting and tinkering with his laptop. Then he fades into oblivion. Maybe he gets better exposure in an upcoming film called “Mestizo: A Beautiful Boy” where every guy looks grim and ashen faced; the Pinoy brothers of Edward Cullens. Maybe “Mestizo” is the Pink version of those blood suckers? Why then are they so pale? Iron deficiency anemia? Unless it isn’t blood they’re intent on sucking. J

Eirik Cruz

There are several side stories that muddle the already befuddling narrative: there's Glenn's fractious "rape" by a gang of street urchins (ano yun?); Kenneth’s co-teacher Bernard (Miguel Alcantara) has daydreams (or was that a memory?) of him and Kenneth going at it. Meanwhile, one of his students make a surprising visit in school. Together, they paint the toilet err... “red”? Confused already? Don't worry! It's not you! It gets ridiculous because they could have discarded Bernard's character altogether, and it wouldn’t have made a difference. In fact, while we’re on the subject, they could have discarded THIS movie altogether too!
What’s more painful for the expectant crowd was the sanitized scenes. The production circulated the fact that this was rated X by the MTRCB. They were so proud of that! Meanwhile, the impressionable public expected genitalia galore! Did this segment of the pink public even understand what an X-rating meant? It bluntly meant that there could not be a commercial showing unless they get rid of penises! And to the half a dozen anonymous messages I received complaining about “Id’nal” – even before I reviewed it here – PLEASE direct your complaints to the production outfit! It is clear I am not in any way connected with them – heaven forbid!
Here's a funny thing about "Id'nal". In its desperate bid for promotion, they have made a hundred and one posters, utilizing every forgettable actor doing cameo in the film. Heck they even have a poster of Lloyd Khal Santos who played a doctor for 4 seconds; of Karl Tiuseco who portrayed as one of Kenneth's friends. It's too bad I wasn't in the flick or I'd have gotten my very own blushing theatrical poster! Darn!
While the story furtively seeks its conclusion, the film resorts to a “5 years later” tack. It shows Kenneth (who teaches “English proficiency” and “phonetics” – with mysterious mathematical equation and formulas written on his board – go figure!) looking the same and wearing exactly the same thick-rimmed glasses. Dorian Gray anyone? How well preserved he is, I was amazed. The camera pans to his class – and even the students in attendance were the very same faces who studied there 5 years ago! Will these students ever graduate? Or were they permanent fixtures from here to eternity? Hmmm. Maybe this was de javu? Maybe there’s English 101 in Medicine? Or Law? Or Rocket Science?

Anton Nolasco

Orlando Sol

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Unofficially Yours - Quandaries of Falling in Love

After an anonymous sexual rendezvous at the beach, a couple fortuitously meets again as work colleagues in a newspaper company. Cess (Angel Locsin) is a zealous writer for her paper’s lifestyle section. Macky (John Lloyd Cruz) is a dentist who’s pursuing a different career trajectory – he wants to become a writer. As fate would have it, Macky becomes Cess’ writing protégé! Unfortunately, the dismissive Cess makes it clear their concupiscent rendezvous was nothing but an uncomplicated lay in the hay, strictly with no strings attached. Macky is disconsolate because he wants more from her. In fact, he couldn’t get Cess off his mind since the day she surreptitiously left without a word.

Though work constantly throws them in each others’ company, it becomes clear that their attraction wasn’t a fleeting circumstance. And they continuously end up sharing their beds, in a frivolously and savagely passionate affair. “Malabo ba yung tayo?” Cess would ask Macky, just to underline the noncommittal state of their relationship. What’s a guy do if all a girl wants is his sexual stamina? Would he deny her sexual advances? And why is she being emotionally elusive?

Director Cathy Garcia-Molina goes for the romantic jugular to weave the tale of Macky and Cess caught in the quagmire of their romantic past. It becomes a dilemma when physical coupling spills on their agreed emotional boundaries. And the only other way from there is to commit, something that Cess isn't willing to do. We later learn the reason behind her apprehensions; turned out it was a valid excuse to get twice shy about a commitment.


John Lloyd Cruz and Angel Locsin candidly depict what could have been prosaic characters running on hackneyed plot, but their kinship has evolved into a cinematic partnership that translates into something akin to magic - on screen. It's such a sedulous connection; this credibility never wavers despite the peppering of a multitude of contrivances designed to concoct a brew not dissimilar to "My Cactus Heart". Wasn't the latter also about a commitment-shy heroine?

Cruz and Locsin scorch the screen as they parry the blows of an impending emotional avalanche; one that they'd have to directly face - sooner or later. Locsin has transformed into a very confident actress. Her wanton disregard of vanity is contributory to this, thus she's able to plummet into unflattering expressions that would seem silly on other less insightful actresses. These made her more captivating. But then, that's easy when you're an exceptional beauty, isn't it? :)


The rest of the charming cast provides more than adequate distractions complementary to the protagonists' story. Tetchie Agbayani, playing Angel's eternally hopeful mother, is particularly winsome. Her scene with Angel at the kitchen was memorable. Cess asked her mom: "Ba't parang di ka nagsasawang masaktan?" She replied: "Hindi lang ako napapagod magmahal. Pwede naman akong magpahinga sandali. Kung hindi, paano ko makikilala kung meron mang nakalaang magmamahal ng tunay?" These lines could have easily turned mawkish; instead, they were breezy, but nonetheless decisive and sincere. Her sentiment warrants attention - and introspection.


The film also has obvious careless (and imagined) details that needed remedial measures: Journalists fumbling around the frenzied press room in 3-inch heels? Seriously? Ouch! Then there's the oversight about Macky's Dental Education - where? University of Santo Tomas! While it was indeed established in 1904, it has since been abolished. The last dental graduates have probably set sail with Limahong to rediscover the Spice Island. Where then did Macky finish his dental education? Then there's the on-the-job "writing" tutorial. Such active coaching really occurs in a hectic work place like the Manila Bulletin? Kinda like medical interns and clerks "training" in hospitals? Highly unlikely. No wonder no one reads them :) Oops!

Once a newspaper takes you in, you've already developed a style; the same style responsible for getting you "in". No one's there to laboriously teach you technique! The mechanics of an interview isn't learned in the press room, that's for sure! But these are quibbles easy to disregard, simply because the story becomes real; it comes alive right before our eyes.


Now that I've mentioned Cruz's thespic gifts, let me zero in on a few minor distractions. John Lloyd Cruz should start doing something about his unsightly bulges soon! He has "man boobs" (as well as a distended and flabby abdomen) and he isn't even 30 yet! It's unbecoming to be a romantic lead and have Sharon Cuneta's lipid excrescences. Has he given birth? What's his excuse for his pudginess? Romantic leads should fulfill a certain physical criteria because it's part of his trade to look physically fit! Furthermore, seeing him walk around sockless is cringe-worthy! Sooner or later, this unhygienic habit becomes an olfactory nightmare.


Finally, Garcia-Molina has mastered the art of romantic bedazzlement. She relishes her narrative condiment with giggle-worthy lines (On not falling in love: "Huwag kang mag alala, di kita pipilitin!"); quirky characters (Macky's roommates, Macky's exceedingly healthy family, Cess' nosy workmates) and songs that make your heart flutter (Janno Gibbs' "Binibini", VST & Company's "Ikaw Ang Aking Mahal", Eric Santos & Angeline Quinto's "If You Asked Me To"). Sometime before the story folds, a musical duet ensues - complete with doo-wopping back-up singers. Now, that's unabashed romanticizing! Heck, even the third wheel, Vincent Villegas (played by the radiant Patrick Garcia) is swoon worthy!

I tried not to swoon. But I couldn't help myself smile!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Lem Lorca's "Bola" - Lessons in Basketball

In the poverty stricken seaside fringes of the city, Lester (Kenneth Paul Salva) and his friend Brat (Jacob Miller) weave their ambition of playing professional basketball. But such are mere pipedreams. Lester cannot afford to enroll in college, while Brat turns tricks by accommodating liaisons with lascivious homosexuals. Meanwhile, they content themselves with their barangay basketball league which is in need of a manager who will provide their jerseys.

When Lester gets the idea from girlfriend Angel (Sofia Valdez) with whom he’s nurtured a strong 6 year relationship, Lester and Brat turn to couturier Pandy (Arnell Ignacio) who’s only too willing to manage the league. What’s more, the besotted philantrophist even offers to pay for Lester’s college education. Pandy even enveigles the help of the university’s coach Rito (Dustin Jose) to get the boys playing for the varsity team. With these earlier encumbrances remedied, their dreams start taking shape.

But Lester is slowly unsettled by Pandy’s suffocating presence: he makes a hundred calls; extends numerous invitations; he’s everywhere, even during team practices. Even the coach, who was once Pandy’s protégé and lover, starts to resent Pandy’s distracting ubiquity. He starts prohibiting outsiders, Pandy especially, from watching his team practice.

But a collegiate life isn’t as easy for our beleaguered protagonist – Lester is failing his subjects. His mother (Suzette Ranillo) suggests the option offered by his cousin to migrate to Canada – to become a nanny! “Ayokong maging yayo,” Lester adamantly refuses. It would seem understandable for a young, 6-footer to emasculate himself by even considering the option, di ba? His way to redemption is staying in the varsity – but what about his failing grades? Coach Rito offers a winking solution: “Ako’ng bahala. Kakausapin ko ang professors mo.” How convenient, right? But this generous offer doesn’t come without a price – like a coach and his player sharing a shower together. With his luck briskly running out, Lester acquiesces.

When Pandy learns of the coach’s ministrations, he is grief stricken. Sheldon (Simon Ibarra), Pandy’s confidant, offers a solution: “Gusto mong makaganti?” So Sheldon offers Brat the chance to pay for the latter’s debt. Would Brat betray Lester? Will Lester extricate himself from his piling misfortune? Will Pandy get his retribution?

Another pink trash?

The first hint of this production's motive comes from its theatrical poster which has a dramatically placed basketball floating on mid-air as it casts a heart-shaped shadow on the ground below. Had this been commercially bent on attracting the hormone-crazy pink crowd, it would have been more convenient to use the fetching images of its well sculpted stars - have them stand half naked with enticing gazes directed at the camera, instead of using a sexless inanimate object.

Much like Miko Jacinto's "Salo", I was mildly surprised to find this to be a compelling watch. Sure, there are a few conscious artistic contrivance meant to satisfy a subset of its intended audience (in separate scenes, the camera pans over Lester and Brat's half naked body while their hand gently reach down their crotches and enticingly insert a finger under their briefs - while asleep!). But most of the sexually-charged scenes were never gratuitous. In fact, these cinematic teasing felt sexier than the brainless fodder that the Pink Industry has been churning out!

Arnell Ignacio delivers a nuanced performance, richly contextual and adequately tempered although his concluding scenes needed restraint. His obsession with Lester becomes a believable entity. Some attractions, after all, need resolution. Kenneth Paul Salva, a former Viva Hotmen, occasionally feels tentative and unsure, but watchable. Though not particularly drop-dead gorgeous, he oozes with sex appeal and his shirtless scenes scorches the screen like a well-done baby back ribs!:) Yum! Am I really writing this? LOL

My point here is, titillating an audience doesn't rest solely on indiscreet flashing of genitalia. The art of seduction goes way beyond full frontals. This isn't even saying that "Bola" is the quintessential erotica - it isn't! This is a film that doesn't desperately exploit its actors - like most of the 30 Pink Films that was shown in 2011.

"Bola's" most unexpected achiever is the amerasian Jacob Miller, playing the willful Brat. Miller, despite his beguiling looks, acts naturally on screen. He is comfortable with his declarative lines as it it when the thespic degree of difficulty is raised. After a scene where Sheldon, the scorned gay man, confronts him in front of Brat's basketball team mates then expropriates the gifts given to him by his benefactor: shoes, cell phone, wrist watch - the scene cuts to a heart broken and absolutely embarrassed Brat drinking his heart away. He bawls like a child and there was never a hint of hesitation how he depicted his character. This guy can act! Seriously!

There are, of course, reckless narrative strains and hints of social commentary: the egregious misappropriation of SK funds; government officials who can't be bothered, etc. But these were harmlessly grazed upon. Even sociological statements like "Gay men should fall in love with fellow gay men, not straights" spring out of nowhere. The vengeful plot is also imprudent. They will first have you thinking that an assassination plot is in the offing. Then it turns out to be a mere video scandal in front of a basketball audience! Video scandals almost never "kills" anyone, does it? Katrina Halili is alive. Hayden Kho is selling Parisian perfumes. Toffee Calma and Mark Herras still have their lives. So much for nefarious schemes.

There is a lesson to be learned from "Bola". An artist cannot be adept in all aspects of film making. Heard about the adage, "jack of all trades, master of none"? It is a valid statement even in the cinematic process. Director Lem Lorca benefits from Jerry Gracio's writing. Script constitutes half of the artistic success of a film. Technical proficiency completes that. This really makes multi-hyphenated artists somehow failing somewhere, although there are a few exceptions. This should not stop directors from tweaking with a script on hand. After all, his is the vision behind the movie. He can collaborate, but someone should step up to concentrate on the basics of a narrative, its contents and more importantly, the designed structure.

After watching "Bola", I went out of the cinema feeling light. It was far from being a masterpiece, but it didn't dumb me down. In fact, I went out of the cinema not feeling badgered or embarrassed. There is hope - even for the Pink Film industry! I hope Crisaldo Pablo and his cohorts take note.

Dustin Jose is Coach Rito: troublesome English delivery. Time and again, I've been saying don't compromise and expose your actor's limitations by having them deliver in the Queen's language. Tagalugin po! It doesn't make a character less authoritative by speaking the vernacular! Otherwise, I slide deeper and deeper into my seat while he painfully wrestles with his lines!

Jacob Miller: Surprisingly good!

Lester and mother (Kenneth Paul Salva and Suzette Ranillo)

Simon Ibarra as the scorned and vengeful gay man Sheldon.

The coach jumps shower stalls for an intimate errrr... stroke? P.S. Pink Cinema's
"it" boy, Jeff Luna has a blink-and-he's gone cameo.

Miller and Salva: Both models hail from Davao! What's with Mindanao waters?

Kenneth Paul Salva: Decent cinematic starrer!

Kenneth Paul Salva

Sofia Valdez in "Talong". Her other films include "Ang Kapitbahay", "Anakan Mo Ako" and "Kangkong". Don't you just miss the exquisite taste of Seiko Films' title-making machinery? How about "Sitaw ni Sofia"? Or "Bola at Mani"?

Unfortunately, it's almost impossible to google and find any other photos of Sofia. She's more beautiful now in "Bola" than when she was a nubile nymphet in Robbie Tan's masterpieces. Yes, there's a couple of mammary peekaboos here. :)


Please read our featured post on Cinema Bravo and why Web Criticism isn't always about good and reliable writing.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

My Cactus Heart - Ephemeral Popcorn Romance

Sandy Macalintal (Maja Salvador) has long brushed off romance ever since her father has chosen to live a life away from their family. Sure, he would occasionally show up - a couple of times a year with his current girlfriend awkwardly tagging along. Sandy had to live with a mother (Rosanna Roces) who eternally pines for that day when her husband (Ricky Davao) would find his way back to the fold - where he belongs. Sandy is cautious. Though she entertains suitors, she would eventually nip these budding romances in the bud once they get too close for comfort. Might as well cut her impending and perceived loses before they harm her fragile heart, right?

Meanwhile, Carlo (Matteo Guidicelli) is gradually falling for his boss' daughter Sandy. He occasionally waits tables for a catering business - and moonlights as a singer for a band. He dreams for a lot of things: to visit the grave of her fallen mother (Pinky Amador) in Singapore and to earn a decent living; one that would approximate his worth in the eyes of Sandy who's upbeat and charming. In fact, she takes his breath away. Unfortunately for Carlo, Sandy's twice shy about romantic intimacy. She comes from left of center - and is even wary of her irrefutable attraction to the strapping lad. What's worse: Sandy is entertaining another suitor, Benedict (Xian Lim) who's a formidable competition. What becomes of Sandy and Carlo?

Director Enrico Santos comes up with a winsome formula reeking with frothy narrative embellishments. In fact, if you've seen the trailer alone, it would make you want to rush to the nearest cinema to watch it. The film has an adorable heroine who steals your heart even when she furtively denies affection: "No as in no" indeed! Moreover, it has a romantic consort brimming with asian-italian charm. Heck, even the third wheel's as delectable as a sophisticated version of tikoy and hopia and pansit. Xian Lim is a dashing milk curdler: he is tall, sexy, and looks at girls with earnest heed. The romantic broth couldn't be perfect, right?

But there's this quibble: remember the note for the anonymous soul mate that's meant to find its way back to you? If love was indeed such a fallacy, why rest your romantic faith on a carelessly placed note inside a guitar? Or inside a bottle? The idea feels incongruous to Sandy's apathetic ideas about relationship. If having ones heart broken turns you into a tumbleweed of disaster, then it's evident you don't deserve to be happy. No one deserves to get hurt, more especially if it's a deliberate or expedient strategem.

Maja Salvador is splendid like she's always been, her tongue in cheek rendition always uttered in exquisite comic cadence. Most everyone in the cast tries to duplicate her verve, but her leading men suffer in comparison. Beside Salvador, they appear lightweight... like eye candies - and cotton candy, lovely to gaze at, but they dissipate in the mouth within seconds, easily washing off in our gustatory senses forever.

"My Cactus Heart" is ephemeral pleasure. Everything feels part of an ingredient that, in the scheme of things, don't quite linger for long. Like chips, cotton candy or popcorn, you masticate on them - then you eventually forget the heady pleasures of partaking.

Darna and the art of checking out someone else's hygiene.

Sandy meets the overeager Benedict.

Maja Salvador: perfect

Matteo Guidicelli as Carlo

Xian Lim as Benedict. he is once again "introduced" in this film though he has appeared in Gil Portes' "Two Funerals". This gross overlook spells either ignorance (for not knowing) or arrogance (for not considering Xian's first film part of his resume).

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Lucas Mercado's Hiram na Ama - Lipsticks, White Briefs and Natural Insemination

Baguio City - Ross and Peachy (Brando Madrigal and Angel del Rio respectively) are a young couple who learn a day before their wedding that Ross has azoospermia, a medical condition where a male doesn’t have a measurable level of sperm in his semen. This is associated with sterility – the inability to bear children through natural means. Distraught, the couple turns to a physician (Dr. Lito de la Merced) who advises on artificial insemination; an anonymous sperm donor is required for the procedure.

One day, Ross meets Rico and Bimbo (Ian Mencias and Luigi Romero), two chirpy, but cash-strapped college freshmen. Not an hour later, the three guys become fast friends. Ross unravels his dilemma and, in the process, recruits two willing sperm donors. He hands them a thousand bucks each (a donor will supposedly fetch P20,000 for his “uncomplicated and professional” services) – without even getting their full name, mind you – then he runs back home to inform his wife.

Unfortunately, there’s another hitch: Ross realizes that he couldn’t afford the expensive procedure. So he hatches a plan: the whole baby-making scheme turns au naturel! He pays the guys 50% of the agreed rate, then the two guys get it on with the enthusiastic young wife! To render participatory role, Ross even joins the sexual syntagma. “Para naman maramdaman kong meron akong partisipasyon,” he enthuses. Convenient, yes? Will Ross and Peachy succeed with their plan?

Brando Madrigal and Angel del Rio as young couple Ross and Peachy

Like most of his movies, director Lucas Mercado grapples in the dark while he laboriously expounds on his incipient idea. He navigates his narrative with blind skills and tentative exposition. What’s more tragic is how spare he paints his cinematic canvas with vacuous motives and one-dimensional characters as clueless as he is. To accommodate the requirement of the Pink genre, Rico and Bimbo intermittently turn gay whenever they’re in the privacy of their room, which they share! In fact, if you’re that part of the population who considers genital sighting a mark of quality film making, then you’re in for an “excellent movie”. Ian Mencias, now rechristened Jeremy Ian, somehow mimics a slumbering snake, if you won’t blink for 10 seconds! LOL

The actors – heavily made up in every frame - sleepwalk through most of their scenes. When Brando Madrigal implores the heavens for a miracle (he constantly prays at the Grotto), he might as well recite the alphabet; at least we could relate to that than his gibberish! It doesn’t help that sound is mostly drowned out by either noise or unregulated music. Yes, there’s a degree of sacrifice where auditory sensation is concerned too.

Romero as Bimbo and Mencias as Rico

Film editing is none but a brainless calisthenics. Some scenes are recklessly misplaced. Consider this: You see Rico and Bimbo inside their room, half naked on their bed. The next frame cuts to another scene where the guys arrive from class, while they “report” to their landlord (Dr. Wally Perez) who dispenses “maternal” words of wisdom. Cut to: both guys, once again on their separate beds; Bimbo is preoccupied tintinnabulating his “bells”, oblivious to his friend just an arm stretch away! Once Bimbo finishes, Rico follows suit! How swell! No pun intended!

The camera work is horrendous. When Madrigal delivers a line (with Burnham Park’s lake behind him), the camera struggles to linger on his face which remains unfocused throughout his spiel. We instead get to see fragments of people boating behind Madrigal’s mug! Isn’t camera proficiency basic in a visual medium like cinema? Or has professional cinema made mediocrity acceptable? Of course we know the answer. It’s pure rhetoric. We just needed to stress the futility of it all.

Then there’s the thick accent of Ian: “May prublima ka ba?”, “Ayaw ku ng alak, di nakaka sulb ng prublima!”, “Di dapat kilala ang dunur”, “Tutuu, kilangan namin ng pira!” While his character hails from the south, there’s stark carelessness in the execution of scenes, like they were in desperate rush before the world is decimated by an oncoming moon in the vein of Lars von Trier’sMelancholia”!

Even the doctor (Dr. de la Merced), who’s heavily made up – donning a thick paste of blood red lipstick - is prone to such distracting accent: “sperm washing” becomes “sperm WASSING”! If you thought you misheard it, he shall repeat it again for your peace of mind – “SPERM WASSING”! Oh Jeeves! The insightful doctor was going to perform the procedure (artificial insemination), but when asked how much it would cost the couple, his reply: “Hindi ko alam!” I almost broke my lovely nails as I gripped my arm rest in utter disgust. If you’re not the authority, what were you doing there in the first place?

What’s this movie doing in a commercial cinema anyway? This remains an inscrutable mystery.

Ian Mencias is now Jeremy Ian. The film was in the can as early as 2 years ago.

Luigi Romero

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tahanan - Sappy and Shallow in Crapland

As part of her class assignment, Samantha Benitez (Lauren Young), a 22 year old student, must undertake a two-month immersion at an orphanage. In the program, she has to live and help out in the activities of the orphanage called Bahay Kanlungan. Though initially cautious of her acquaintances, Sam gradually warms up to the motley characters that populate this subcommunity of disavowed children. Sam is also introduced to the dedicated Mama Precy (Angelina Kanapi), one of the foster mothers. Precy stays with the children 4x a week. But unknown to the children, Sam’s earlier animosity roots from a domestic issue: her mother abandoned the family for another man. She hasn’t heard from her mother since.

The orphanage is home to 12 children, but she is drawn to three of the kids: there’s Kyla (Sabrina Man) who treats her like a big sister; Rey (Miguell Tanfelix) whose father is preoccupied attending to his bed-ridden mother; and sprightly Efren (Khen Aldovino) who has trouble staying in school. Sam would eventually get emotionally attached to the children. One day, she receives word from her dad (Mark Gil) that her mother has returned, but the latter lies comatose at the hospital. Why should Sam care? She abandoned her, didn’t she?

Among the three entries from this year’s Big Shot Filmfest, Krizzie Syfu’sTahanan” was the most messy. It is blotchy in presentation, not to mention exceedingly zealous where emotionality is concerned. Everything is loud and unfettered. Not only were the characters reflective of overdrawn depictions, they were also excessively overeager in temperament. In short, “OA na OA!” Angelina Kanapi, for example, keeps forgetting that this isn’t a comic material where she could just ham it up and resort to her scene stealing afflictions – as she does in every single film she’s in. Listen to her prayer, you’d think she's a stand-up comic standing before an Apollo Theater crowd. She would speak in high sing-song pitches, then suddenly latch into clipped giggles, as though an orgasm is briskly underway while she was serving lunch. It’s unnerving. If she’s out of the frame, their other foster mother Myrna takes the “stage” with her high strung demeanor. And you wonder why the children are so effed up?

Lauren Young delivers a perfunctory performance from an otherwise mediocre script. She barely buoys a briskly sagging narrative. Fact is, Young is a gifted performer and she never resorts to brimming sentimentality, but there's so much one can do with a trite script and an even dour characterization.

When cloyingly adorable Kyla confronts Sam, the once-clingy and delightful teenager suddenly morphs into a cantankerous bitch from hell, spewing acid like a possessed soul. And everyone just stares at her. No one even dared to stop her from her constipated bravado, not even the authoritative figure in the room – Mama Precy. They were just frozen stiff. Why is it so hard to understand Sam’s dilemma? Her mother is on death’s bed, for pete’s sake! Even a 6 year old would be able to discern the right thing to do! Then there’s the ever annoying Efren – Khen Aldovino – who is prone to acting out like an overcharged version of a clown! Most times he’s in front of the screen, he behaves like an amused epileptic, I just wanted to throw darts at the screen.

When the action turns to Sam’s scenes at the hospital, the movie shifts to a different film altogether. The sense of disconnect is so palpable, I suddenly missed watching MMK. You then realize the unfocused attention of a film maker who: 1) is clueless on thespic executions, thus she is ill equipped to direct her actors, 2) cannot tell a legible story without resorting to unnecessary, albeit protracted detours, 3) drawn to melodrama – and not even succeeding to a coax a single tear from her audience after all the incessant caterwauling!


While I was watching, 5 rows ahead of me were two ladies freely discussing the film, oblivious to the rest of the paying crowd. For the duration of this painful experience, you could hear them annotating scene per scene what went on during the filming. One would say, “Naka ilang take kami dyan.” And so on. So it’s safe to refer to these dingbats as part of the production team.

This begs the question: Isn’t cinema etiquette taught in their university (DLSU)? Did they think they were immune to good manners by chatting up overtime like they were in their own story conference? Such uncouth behavior from the makers of the film itself makes you wonder why they can’t even render due respect that their film required. I began to comprehend why. Because they knew they were in crapland! And only still waters run deep!

So they kept making noise!

What's with film graduates from New York Film Academy? This is the second disappointing work we've seen from an alumnus of that institution.

Khen Aldovino needs restraint... or medication... or electroconvulsive therapy! He was distracting and annoying!

Lauren Young: insightful

Miguell Tanfelix reminds me of Derick Monasterio