Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Cleo Paglinawan's Bugaw - Death by the Kangkungan

Lito (Jerome Pineda) is turning over a new leaf. He has decided to stop peddling his flesh to voracious gay men. He was 12 years old when he left his brother from the province to seek greener pastures, but ended up in the flesh trade. Though relatively young, Lito is changing careers from the peddled to the peddler. Now he’s pimping others for the fast buck. One night, Lito finds Efren (Jeff Luna) dancing at a gay club. He was impressed by the tall and lanky gentleman so he offers a deal that Efren couldn't resist: Efren could stay in his house for free, but Lito becomes his pimp. That way, Efren could stop dancing altogether.

Little did Efren know that Lito harbors affection on him. In fact, Lito takes care of Efren needs: he even cooks for him. But Efren gets other ideas. He wants to reunite with his former girlfriend Ellen (Adriana Gomez) who’s also a dancer in another club. “Di ka na nagsasayaw, pero puta pa rin,” jests Ellen. But Efren is serious: “Kahit magpasuso ako sa lahat ng bakla dito, gagawin ko. Makaahon lang tayo.” Such hopeful sentiment, debah? Efren then takes Ellen home to the consternation of Lito who’s not merely jealous. The bills are piling up and here comes another mouth to feed. He couldn’t afford supporting Efren and Ellen – so Lito books himself to his old clients (Ike Sadiasa). Later, he comes up with a plan to set up Ellen with a customer (Nico Baltazar). What happens when Lito clandestinely books Ellen for a session with Efren who though that his girlfriend has retired from the trade? Would Lito succeed to create animosity between the lovers? Would Efren turn his attention to the besotted Lito?

Jeff Luna
In “Bugaw”, Director Cleo Paglinawan, recreates a narrative filled with a dozen improbabilities. There are wringers in every situational turn. Why is Lito writing to his younger brother about his emerging feelings for Efren? Older brothers are supposed to be more discreet where younger (non-gay) siblings are concerned. Instead, he fills his brother’s head with irresolute thoughts. It’s also a stretch to believe that pubescent-looking Jerome Pineda and his alter ego, Lito, are jaded this early from their trade. And that someone as young as Pineda could actually manage the affairs of someone like Jeff Luna. I am sure that Luna could outhustle Pineda in manner, form or persuasion. How can Efren offer a haven to a homeless girlfriend when he himself is freeloading from Lito? Are vestiges of reason alien in third-rate cinema such as this one? When guilt consumes Lito, why did he leave his own home? The economics in such decision is quite incongruent to the financial capability of our protagonist.

Jeff Luna, despite his thespic inadequacies, is a welcome presence. He has always exuded the appeal that has made him the “it” boy of the Pink Film industry for several years now. This charm hasn’t faded one bit. The better news is: Luna has finally shown signs of confidence and artistic improvement. He isn’t as monotonous in delivery as his previous efforts. Luna – still - isn’t shy of disrobing and this is evident in a shower scene where he proudly displays his frontal appendage for his peeping landlord/pimp. Yes, there’s an engorged earthworm in Paglinawan’s cinematic canvas. :) Most times, these peekaboos are a rarity in the director’s unenviable, gag-inducing body of work.

Jeremy Ian cameos as Luna’s “macho dancing” colleague; his partner on stage (they soap each other on stage). Jerome Pineda is miscast as the prematurely retired hustler who’s in love with Luna. Pineda, though always an enthusiastic performer, is more perfunctory than believable. Age and experience are a factor to this, clearly. Adriana Gomez looks waylaid in most of her scenes. This is mostly because her character is ill-conceived and underdeveloped. In fact, it’s clear that Ellen is a mere afterthought in the story. She might as well get buried in this heap of mediocrity. Gomez, if you haven’t noticed, is one of 2012’s busiest actresses. This is great news for the sexy actress who was introduced early this year in GA Villafuerte’s plagiarized “Ang Lihim ng mga Nympha”. Gomez is even able to secure a role for a Cinema One flick that’s getting screened this November.

Adriana Gomez as Ellen and Jerome Pineda as lovelorn Lito.

The script is written, once again, by Kenneth Montero and Cleo Paglinawan. Darry dela Cruz, a ubiquitous presence in many Paglinawan flicks, wears the Assistant Director’s hat. How can anything so dry and technically impoverished be the end-product of more than one brain? You wonder. Maybe it's a cogitative calisthenics to render the bare minimum? Maybe it's a film movement outside the realm of Moron Cinema? Paglinawan's exposition is unmistakably the product of drunken stupor. Having said that, here’s the pop quiz that’s wanting to be asked: Children, what is Darry dela Cruz’s narrative trademark? Answer: His character always dies a violent death, remember?


This time around, they get more imaginative. Lito, the flick’s main protagonist, drowns and dies in the kangkungan (water spinach). I am not kidding. Don’t laugh. It’s real. Believe it or not.      

Jeremy Ian cameos as a macho dancer.

Adriana Gomez looking fresh and innocent.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Erik Matti's Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles - Visual Feast

Makoy (Dingdong Dantes) is an unemployed engineer who braves the craggy and tempestuous roads of a remote village to fetch Sonia (Lovi Poe), his pregnant partner who’s had enough of his arrogant ways. Upon Makoy’s arrival, Sonia refuses to see him. Fely (Janice de Belen), Sonia’s mother, is only too willing to drive him away. She would rather see Sonia raise her child alone than wed her off someone like Makoy who unwittingly finds an ally in mild mannered Nestor (Joey Marquez), his prospective father-in-law.

To find his way back to Sonia and Fely’s favor, Makoy volunteers to pay for swine that will be served as lechon for a birthday celebration. Nestor, along with oddball cousin Bart (Ramon Bautista), takes him to the market. Unfortunately, the rates aren't within his financial means. Bart recommends a slaughterhouse run by a nomadic people: “Sabihin n’yo lang pangalan ko, makakamura kayo.” The place, it turns out, is a side show of grim countenance where they encounter street smart kids who eventually offer them the merchandise at half the price. This becomes Makoy’s ticket to the dining table later that night. However, Sonia won’t budge. And Makoy is once again turned away. A man’s ego can only take so much.

Then Nestor starts hearing the peculiar sound that’s getting fainter by the second: “May aswang. Pag malakas ang tunog, malayo pa. Pag humihina, malapit na sila.” In the dark of night, Nestor gets a visitor – his Pareng Antonio and son Abel. Little did they know that the pig they bought has transformed into Kulot (RJ Salvador), the curly haired leader of the street urchins who sold them the pig. The swine monster comes after Sonia, but he gets killed in the heist. But their troubles aren't over yet. The slain monster's cohorts have assembled outside ready for carnage. Before long, Pareng Antonio is devoured like roadkill. More than anything, the hungry pack wants the child in Sonia’s womb. Meanwhile, the embattled family, alongside nosy neighbor Aling Pacing (Rina Reyes), braces to defend themselves – with asin (salt), bawang (garlic), buntot pagi (manta ray’s tail), methanol bombs and a bottle of lana (oil) that boils when tiktiks are nearby. Will Makoy, Sonia and their child survive the impending siege of these folkloric monsters?

Director Erik Matti’sTiktik: The Aswang Chronicles” is a sumptuous re-imagining of the “aswang” mythology, punctuated by visually succulent images filmed entirely before a “green screen”. With green screen, it's simple to superimpose anything or anyone into any shot. You can transport yourself to the moon, appear in your favorite film, or make a presentation along with all the relevant facts and figures. This is a ground breaking technological splendor in local cinema. I have never seen a film as gorgeous as this since Pedro Valdes’Dagim”, though the latter employed a different technology. 

The first half of the narrative is the stuff of cinematic magic. It's almost a fully realized concept. The film creates an atmosphere as stunningly otherworldly as the settings in Peter Jackson and JK Rowling flicks. They stick in your mind like some burdensome nightmare. Briskly paced and peppered with tongue-in-cheek humor, “Tiktik” is a refreshing journey into cinematic netherworld.

Unfortunately, the narrative structure crumbles as climax is being built. The onslaught of monsters soon turns tedious and errr... repetitive. You’d have thought by the time Tatang (Roi Vinzon) arrives, all hell would break lose and the excitement would further escalate into pulse-pounding, nail-breaking tension. At this point, the narrative element plateaus, losing much of its cinematic steam. The baby switching scene is particularly a head scratcher. A powerful flying monster as gargantuan as Tatang could easily take the poor child and the four baby-carriers in one clean sweep. He doesn't have to choose at all. 

During the house offensive, the monsters could have gone straight to the roof knowing fully well they’re salt and garlic-free. The Visayan folkloric “kikik” operates the same way: they find themselves on roofs, drill a hole and insinuate their elongating tongue on a pregnant mother’s engorged belly. Yet the tiktik’s intrusion took forever; a cinematic conceit to prolong the siege surely. 

This aforementioned tack is conspicuous early on. When Pareng Antonio and son arrive in Nestor’s home, they were urgently instructed to run for cover, yet after a painfully long wait, they just stood there waiting for kingdom come; and came it did. You couldn't help but think: “Good for you! You’re too stupid to live.

How about the events surrounding wife Fely's eventual demise? When Nestor finds his wife being pulled and munched on like a piece of meat in the corner of the room, he stands and pretends to fall – several times – instead of the “fight-or-flight” instinct of protecting a spouse. Is this part of the running gag that perpetuates Nestor’s character – that he indeed doesn't have the balls? Like some bad joke that needed to be told? This doesn't bode well because you don’t build up empathy by providing your audience with idiots who won’t even try to protect their loved ones when they need their help the most. In the scheme of things, idiots die in horror stories. Yet Nestor lives on to see another day. Go figure. It’s more “kainis” than “katuwa”.

Personally, I still believe that horror and comedy are an ambiguous cinematic pairing. These two discrepant emotional entities - fear and joy - are as mismatched as a pair with one piece Crocs and another Louboutin. Can you validly say you shiver with fear then shift easily to a joyous laughter? You have to be twisted to say "yes". If you want to be truly scared, try Ben Affleck's "Argo". I was hyperventilating in my seat waiting for them to board their Swissair plane out of Iran.   

Dingdong Dantes turns in a consistent, albeit solid performance, thus his depiction of a not-so-lovable loafer is valid and believable. He succeeds to make his audience root for him despite his brassy and course demeanor. That, in itself, is a testament to his escalating thespic brio. However, Lovi Poe, though fetching, is hobbled by her underwritten character. Sure, we know she’s the town’s only source of inspiration (the only girl to have graduated  from college - and proceeded to become a teacher) – until she got knocked up. She wasn't given much except look bored or exasperated - and anything between these emotional brackets. This clearly isn't much.

It’s actually Janice de Belen and Rina Reyes who shine in their limited screen moments. De Belen was feisty and funny. Reyes was restrained when she could have gone to town as the "town tsismosa". Now imagine what Irma Adlawan could have done for the same role? I shiver at the thought. The street urchins – Mike Gayoso (as Ringo), LJ Reyes (as Hilda), RJ Salvador (as Kulot), Cris Pastor (as Mutya), were also adequately sinister. In fact, the throng reminds me of Joel Schumaker'sLost Boys” – or even the gang from "Twilight". They were wonderfully conceived and executed. If only a more legible second half of the narrative was ironed out adequately.  

But all these quibbles are moot and academic. The fact is, this is a groundbreaking visual feast and has to be appreciated and patronized so that the think tanks of the industry can consider making more in the same cinematic constitution. It’s not a perfect film, as other critics would make you believe, but it isn't run-of-the-mill either. There isn't much emotional pillar to hang on to so you leave the theater disconnected from any of the film's character. But the movies are a visual medium, and "Tiktik" succeeds in this aspect. Michiko Yamamoto, the film’s script consultant, could have tweaked its script to a more compelling finish.  

Lastly, the limited nationwide screenings of "Tiktik The Aswang Chronicles" can only harm the production's chances of making money (although it's said to have grossed P10 million since its opening). In Cebu, for example, Ayala Cinema doesn't carry this title in their four-cinema movie house. SM Cebu, on the other hand, only screens "Tiktik" from 4 PM onward - thus they only have 3 screenings per day, as it is in several SM cineplexes in Metro Manila (In Megamall, it shares a theater with "V/H/S"). Same is true in Davao City (no "Tiktik" in Ayala's Abreeza Mall either) where "Tiktik" shares a theater with another ("Looper").

This makes you wonder. Isn't "Tiktik" produced and released by GMA? You can't get more mainstream than a horror film headlined by Dingdong Dantes and Lovi Poe, can you? Or is GMA's cinematic reach and influence really limited - thus incomparable to the seemingly boundless dominion of ABS-CBN's releasing arm? This dilemma made GMA's "Just One Summer" a fly-by-night wonder. In fact, it got swatted and disappeared in infamy after just 2 days in cinemas - all over the country (except SM North Edsa)! 

GMA has been trying to produce films of considerable narrative heft so it's sad how they're faring badly at the box office. Is this why they're peddling the entertainment network for any willing buyer to the tune of P100 Billion? Manny Pangilinan didn't bite. Why is it being sold if it's really the number one network? Do the math! I just hope the ship doesn't sink. 


A beautifully conceived netherworld of nomads, vagrants and immigrants in their own swine market.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Found Footage Overload in "V/H/S" - a Horror Anthology

A group of thugs is commissioned by a third party to retrieve a VHS tape in an abandoned house in the middle of nowhere. With visions of doing a reality show-styled film, the crew takes the job, documenting their every move. Upon locating the place, they find a dead old man sitting on a chair in front of stacks of old televisions sets - and a number of VHS tapes scattered around the house. Each character soon discovers the  ominous and preternatural content of each tape.

The characters - and the audience - are then treated into a series of unrelated "found footage" films, each one with their own brand of horror. These segments are divided into the following:

"Tape 56", directed by Adam Wingard, connects these unrelated stories together into an anthology of suspenseful stories. Each thug is tasked to watch - and get spooked by - a VHS tape; then they disappear one after the other.

"Amateur Night", directed by David Bruckner, is my favorite among this set. It is also the best realized narrative. A group of young men decide to hook some girls at the bar, take them to their room, then without their knowledge, film their intimate moments through an eyeglass with a built-in camera. One particular catch is a creepy girl, amazingly portrayed by Hannah Fierman, with the most off-tangent affect. Her gaze looks blank, but she seems as "game' as the guys who soon gather round her naked. Then, her true nature unravels. What follows is one of the most malevolent scenes we've scene this year. Short and chilling.

"Second Honeymoon", directed by Ti West, takes us alongside a couple's road trip to celebrate their wedding anniversary. They check-in into dingy motels and avoid rowdy crowds in towns with "bad reputation". One night, they get a visitor who unwittingly trespass their room while they sleep. The stark beauty of an arid landscape contrasts beautifully with the ill-boding situation that they get into. And every single night, the visitor - a young girl - come for an unannounced visit. One night, things happen.

"Tuesday the 17th", by director Glenn McQuaid, has a group of friends joining our female protagonist for a holiday in the desolate woods. As they head deeper into the wilderness, they hear her warning: "You're all going to die here." Then a seemingly invisible creature (his presence is demarcated by a misshaped static form) starts stalking them, killing them one by one - in the most brutal manner. Though the conceit of distorting images - as though a bad video copy - may have initially worked, this strategy soon turns annoying. No one wants to watch a "bad copy", after all.

"The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger", directed by Joe Swamberg, is an interesting piece of narrative. Emily constantly skypes with childhood friend-turned-lover, who's a doctor in Michigan. Apparently, some mysterious presence roam her apartment. She would call him deep in the night and he would be there, patiently accompanying her through her ordeal. When she gets diagnosed as schizoaffective, things turn to worse - she starts picking her bloodied arm with a knife, as though she's just dealing with a pimple. What's going on here? The concluding scenes are unexpectedly gruesome.

"10/31/98", directed by Radio Silence, follows a group of adult friends trick-or-treating at a seemingly abandoned house. As they navigate the bowels of this well-interiored house, they soon realize that a "party" was on-going at the attic. When they check it out, a sadistic ritual is indeed happening. Have they intruded on something they ought to have left alone?

This anthology of suspenseful narratives really take you on a roller coaster ride of thrills and gripping horror. There are a number of original ideas that beautifully work for the genre. However, I feel that the anthology should have concluded with Joe Swamberg's tale. After all, the thugs from "Tape 56" have all had their comeuppance so why continue with Radio Silence's feature? It seems misplaced outside the original concept that pieces these tales together.There is a nagging question while I was watching this. Why VHS tape? Why not the modern video/digital recordings? It would have been more believable or contemporary. Employing the VHS gives the narrative a "vintage" feel, i.e. "grim" or "hair-raising" - but hardly anyone uses VHS recorders anymore - so the probability of finding several "found footages" using the medium becomees a tall order.

Nevertheless, "V/H/S" is an engrossing frightfest. Horror fans shouldn't miss this.

"I like you," says the creepy girl.

She's back in the woods.

"There's someone in my room", says Emily to her boyfriend.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

BJ Morales' Dama - Feeling the Void

When Rolan (Jordan Samonte) learns that he has glaucoma and will eventually go blind, he decides to leave the big city where his cousin Allen (Paolo Bernardo) resides. He also leaves his buddy Angelo (Itcheru Lopez). In a fishing village in Batangas, Mang Nico, an elder, albeit sickly relative, tends to Rolan’s needs while he gradually loses his vision. But village life isn't all that bad. He acquires a new friend Ian (Iyann Marfori) and an enthusiastic admirer Vanessa (Jessica Ruiz), the town hussy, who doesn't hide her attraction to the "mabango" gentleman. What he doesn't know, Angelo, who’s Canada-bound, is distraught about his sudden departure.

One day, Rolan gets a surprise visitor, but what’s more surprising is how they rediscover their feelings for each other. They share one unforgettable night. Angelo, after all, is set to fly to Canada to join his mother. Unfortunately, Rolan’s elder guardian suffers a heart attack and dies, leaving poor Rolan alone. Though he gets an occasional visit from Allen, the latter still lives in Manila so Rolan has to fend for himself. Meanwhile, neighbor Ian falls under Vanessa’s diligent and amorous spell. What becomes of Rolan? Will Angelo disappear from his life forever? 

Director BJ Morales' "Dama" (Feel) follows a recent Pink flick tackling blindness, GA Villafuerte's "Kapa", a cinematic effort with backsliding artistry. "Dama" feels a wee bit improved, though not by much. Saying this, there's really not much to expect here. The film is flunky in presentation and thematically shallow. Narrative exposition is cursory, even desultory. As a result, our attention wears off when the compounding complications surface: he's blind, his parents passed away, his guardian croaked, his lover left for Canada - and he lives alone. Yet we end up not caring. Empathy is earned in insightful scenes that deliver human emotion, something that feels staged than felt in Morales' cinematic meandering.

The problem here: not a single character is real. They're mere character sketches wandering around like fictive cyborgs. Let's take the case of Ian, Roland's new friend. Why don't we see him assist the blind guy? Are we really a community of feckless beings more concerned with getting laid than offering a hand for a debilitated and helpless friend? Angelo's abrupt return from Canada (his mother dies so he finds no reason to stay there) feels like a foolhardy decision. Why not make a good life in that foreign land? His success could empower him to financially assist Rolan - and himself.

Now let's turn to the disease of the month - Glaucoma, a condition where there's persistently increased eye pressure within the eye affecting the optic nerve and, eventually, vision. While it is true that Glaucoma could lead to blindness, there are several measures that could prevent progression of the declining vision: Glaucoma eye drops, filtering procedures (those they call "laser" - an ambulatory procedure), and surgery. All these interventions seem to have been overlooked, giving the impression that Glaucoma is a hopeless case akin to death. It isn't. It's like saying that once you're diagnosed with HIV, you might as well proceed to the cemetery, dig your own grave and - while you're at it - bury yourself there!

The performances leave much to be desired. Jordan Samonte is a curious choice for the protagonist. He isn't exactly what you'd "define" as "easy on the eyes". He isn't gifted where muscular development or postural gait is concerned. He eternally mopes, consistently manifesting a one-note performance. He also displays a bland affect that's seen in comatose patients - or worse, those with catatonic schizophrenia. For Pete's sake, give me Jeff Luna anytime. :) Luna maybe robotic, but at least he's an eye candy.

Placing myself in Rolan's situation, I'd be a bevy of emotions if I were going blind: I'd grieve, I'd be angry, I'd be defiant. I'd create a bucket list for the visually impaired. But Samonte is mostly a resigned soul which is just a single stage in "grieving". His emotive inclination reminds me of Annabelle Rama's acumen as a probable public servant. Yes, I am wondering what quality was seen that merited Samonte's coveting the lead role. Six inches of artistic intuition, perhaps? Or five, as the case maybe. But is it really moot and academic to seek answers from amateurish work? The by-product displays the nullity of the film maker's intentions.

In a scene where Samonte and Lopez frolic in the beach, we find the two lovers share lip service. While lying on the sand, Lopez gradually kisses Samonte. And the latter could hardly open his mouth. As though he smelled something pungent? It's a nondescript scene because it didn't validate any situation in the story. It however enforced the fact that Samonte, like his director, is clueless about his character's motivation. What's he - and his director - doing there then?

Ken (above) unwittingly discovers Angelo and Rolan sharing a bond beyond friendship. 

Vanessa flirts with Angelo (left). Angelo and Rolan play the "habulan" game  at the beach. (right)

Iyann Marfori, who plays Ian, performs the de riguer bathing scene while a mushroom head occasionally peeps from his  incredibly transparent shorts.

Jessica Ruiz and Iyann Marfori enjoy the floating cottage. (above and below)

Jordan Samonte plays Roland (left)and Itcheru Lopez plays Angelo (right).

Paolo Bernardo strikes a pose.

Iyann Marfori and his traffic-stopping briefs.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Wenn Deramas' This Guy's in Love With U Mare - Gender Bending Triangle

On their third anniversary, Lester Reyes (Vice Ganda) plans a scheme that would have boyfriend Mike (Luis Manzano) pop the big question. The ambiance has been fashioned for a romantic night - with the help of Lester’s gay posse’ (Ricky Rivero, Ricci Chan, Lassi and IC Mendoza). But while Lester has compiled his anniversary gifts (wrist watch, a pair of shoes, a new cellphone) for his lover, Mike is empty handed. What’s worse, the latter breaks up with Lester. He says he’s turned “born-again Christian”. Their relationship doesn't quite make the equation with regards to his religious belief. Lester is nonplussed and hurt, even mildly suicidal. He may not take Mike's excuse hook, line and sinker, but what can he do?

One day, he learns that Mike is actually engaged to toothsome bank clerk Gemma (Toni Gonzaga). So Lester devices a ruse to make Gemma fall in love with him. He conceives a staged mauling that would have him defend Gemma against some assailants. In this incident, Lester valiantly wins against the masked marauders (played by Lester’s gay friends). He adheres to the unwritten rule book on diligent courtship and showers Gemma with time, attention, and gifts. He deposits P5 million at Gemma’s bank. He ups the charm offensive. After all, he knows what girls want – and he’s pulling all the stops to break Gemma and Mike. Lester even successfully insinuates his presence on Gemma’s fractious parents (Buboy Garovillo and Carla Martinez). Gemma relishes Lester’s seemingly boundless devotion. After all, which girl isn’t flattered by such generous display of affection? Mike isn’t pleased. Why is his girlfriend even entertaining a suitor? They are engaged. Or is she falling for him?

When Lester invites Gemma for the “back to back to back” show of her favorite performers, Aegis and April Boy Regino (a show that Mike dismisses rabidly), she accepts the invitation which Mike eventually learns. Jealous and infuriated, Mike vows to meet this mysterious guy; only to learn that it’s his ex-lover Lester. How can she tell Gemma about his past and warn her about Lester’s real intention? He could lose her for this. What to do?

Director Wenn V. Deramas uncharacteristically delivers an ouvre with substantial cinematic flesh. The narrative is focused, and seems to adhere to a written script, thus Vice Ganda’s improvisational proclivity is less exploited here than his previous starrers. This is good news. The end-product is an engaging story that could be an authentic human experience which can’t be said about “Praybeyt Benjamin” or “Petrang Kabayo”.      

Of course there are jokes that didn’t quite work: like when Vice suddenly referenced Madam Auring and Zenaida Seva, the punch line wallowed in decumbency. His impression of Gollum was similarly flat. His constant reference to Lassy’s “repugnant” features eventually gets overbearing – and churlishness is never funny. In fact, in time it seems analogous to the humor that bullies get whenever they intimidate others. But I am nitpicking.

The scenes where Vice mimics Vilma Santos’ scenes from “Darna and the Planet Women” are almost a stroke of genius. Reference to Darna in relation to character definition for homosexuals isn’t lost in us.

This is clearly Vice Ganda’s vehicle. He moves with effulgent rhythm and motivation, almost never missing a beat. His effortless comic delivery is unmatched, and he’s a joy to behold when he drips with sarcasm. Toni Gonzaga, on the other hand, is enthusiastic. Like most of her romcoms (where she reigns supreme), Toni is a magnetic presence. Her self-deprecating ability successfully figures in most of her scenes. She doesn’t mind looking silly, making her comic scenes funnier than they should be.

Meanwhile, Luis Manzano’s efforts are a hit-and-miss. It’s obvious though that Luis has developed a degree of comfort and camaraderie with Vice Ganda (they’ve worked together five times in the past). However, Luis sometimes dives into obsequious territory, making his punch lines more academic than visceral. This tendency deflects humor.

There’s much to relish in “This Guy’s In Love With You, Mare”. I like that Lester is surrounded by a bevy of supportive friends – though they could only be servile since they all work for him. But the message of friendship is strong. The film also cursorily underlines the existence and/or validity of a male-male relationship. Unfortunately, this is comedy and there are limitations of genre, thus getting into the nitty gritty of things goes beyond its nature. But it could be interesting. After all, Mike was a guy who took advantage of Lester’s bounties in exchange of sleeping with him. Who’s prey and who’s predator?

Sam Milby is a delightful presence. He cameos as the anonymous soul who saves a character in the story, one who nearly drowned.

This Guy…” boasts of a compact narrative, brisk pacing, hilarious situations and inspired performances. It’s easy to see why people flock to see it. This is evident even on its first day of commercial release. This boundless energy is virulent. It electrifies all the way down my seat. So darn funny.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Darry dela Cruz's For Adults Only - More of Nothing

Mart Delgado (Charles Delgado) is tinseltown’s latest “it” boy. He graces blockbuster sexy flicks that are talk of the town. To up his ante, he decides to team up with his rival Lance Jacinto (Jeremy Ian) who’s only too willing to share the spotlight with Mart. The film, directed by Pink Flick auteur Popoy Legaspi, is called “Rated X”, and it promises to be as magniloquent as the title. Publicity mill starts drumming up interest and several male starlets want to be part of it. Unfortunately, just before wrapping up principal photography, the supervising producer runs away with the production budget, leaving the project unfinished and in limbo. What happens then?

To save the film, Mart and Lance decide to shoulder the expenses. But they don’t have much, and they’re desperate to get the movie done. After all, in this business, you’re only as good as your last project; and plenty is at stake here. When the director refuses to budge without payment, Mart and Lance decide to offer their non-financial assets, err, I mean “riches”. When the limpwristed camera owner refuses, Mart presents his six-inch solution. Quite fetching, right? But their carnal bounty just isn’t enough. Film editing alone costs P30,000 per session.

Then a solution presents itself: a lady (Priscilla Perez) is offering P20,000 for a concupiscent three-way with Mart and Lance. Since such “bookings” aren’t foreign to both actors, they agree to this exciting misdeed. After their libidinous session, the girl further proposes: that if Mart and Lance go at it, she would double the fee. They acquiesce, unaware that the girl is secretly recording their salacious same-sex coupling. What’s more, she is the girlfriend of one of the film’s auditionees (Rocco Mateo). Not long after, bootleg copies of their shenanigan spread like wildfire, pre-empting the commercial release of their film. Could they rely on their director’s help, who’s being relentlessly seduced by young upstart Anton (Jerome Pineda)? Will the film ever get shown? Mart and Lance have cooked up a tricky maneuver that involves a bottle of Muriatic Acid. Will this ruse work?

Charles Delgado as Mart Delgado

Jeremy Ian as Lance Jacinto

Jerome Pineda as Anton.

This week’s Pink Film tackles a familiar world. Director Darry dela Cruz’sFor Adults Only” recreates this subculture of the third-rate film business populated by the ugliest gay men I’ve ever laid eyes on. In fact, many of the scenes involve a flamboyant television anchor who does nothing but nag, fuss, and bitch around. He’s given carte blanche to deliver protracted monologues about how successful he is and how he’s irritated by the people around him. It was almost too painful to keep watching him insult people around when his mere presence was adequate enough for any cinematic audience to self flagellate. Crisaldo Pablo used to do this a lot – i.e. he populates his flicks with the ugliest beings ever to have walked the Earth; now Darry dela Cruz follows through.

Erotic dramas are supposed to cajole and seduce their audience, right? So – is it wise to field the most hideous creatures for people to ogle at? Were they going for titillation or vomiting? Anyone with a fourth of a brain would be cognizant to this dilemma. It’s really a no-brainer. But, lo and behold, these critters are given longer exposure than the stars of the film. I almost went out of the cinema bloating with evanescent hives and engorged larynx. You see, I am allergic to excessive ugliness, like the Madam who loves her expensive shoes. This film has that! Manong Pedring, my driver, was inconsolable as he drove me home, while I belly flop with my rendition of : “Dahil sa ‘yo nais kong mabuhay…” But let’s get back into the story.  

If you read through the narrative flow, there seems to be a crucial and considerable chronology of events, right? But the story is told in the driest of techniques, it was like watching paint dry. The only “proof of life” is Charles Delgado who looks youthful and earnest. Even Jerome Pineda frames his scenes with smug confidence – and clenched teeth, it’s baffling! Every scene is punctuated by bored blocking, they might as well film my Tita Blessy as she partakes her daily novena. At least she has more brio with her prayers. There are half a dozen shower scenes, but even these are as tired as the intelligence quotient of its makers. Yup, no peekaboos nor mushroom heads to whet the pervs’ appetites. Moreover, the sex scenes are as passionless as the drying laundry from my neighborhood window. Goodness.

Like other Cleo Paglinawan and Darry dela Cruz films, there’s always an unexplained scene where “straight guys” suddenly go at it – like rabbits in heat. After the deed, they would chat: “Ba’t natin ginawa yun? Bakla ba tayo?” Yes, check Dela Cruz and Paglinawan’s other works and this scenario is ubiquitous. Regardless of the script writer (this one is written by Len Ortega and Dela Cruz), the situational entanglements are always similar. Another familiar narrative strain is: at the end of the story, someone always dies of a violent death. This is Darry dela Cruz trademark. Straight guys shag each other then they end the living daylights out of their existence. This penchant for tragedy must be some subconscious circumspection to deal with his artistic dearth. Poor man.       

Friday, October 5, 2012

William Mayo's Yakman D Gigil King - Irreverence & Inadequacy

Inyaki Custodio (Leo Martinez) has a secret that prevents him from nurturing a relationship with the opposite sex. At 50, Yakie is still a virgin. What’s more confounding is his proclivity to get sexually excited – and prematurely ejaculate without much provocation. So Yakie spends most of his time turning his frustration to his livelihood, i.e. he runs a bakery. Meanwhile, his employees (Vincent Daffalong, Dinky Doo, Danny “Brownie” Pansalin, Robert Miller and Amay Bisaya) couldn’t help but wonder about his status. What keeps the boss single? After all, girls seem to gravitate towards Yakie. Maybe he swings the other way?

Yakie’s charm isn’t lost in sexy neighbor Alexa (Meg Vargas) who couldn’t understand why Yakie brushes off her advances, though he seems attracted to her. The same dilemma transpires when Yakie meets Mildred (Katrina Espe) who recently broke up with her skirtchasing boyfriend. A brush of hand, a blow of the wind, a glimpse of their cleavage has poor Yakie gushing in his pants. So he stays away to avoid further embarrassment.

One day, Yakie unexpectedly reunites with Maximo Olivarez (Soxy Topacio) inside a dingy movie house. Maxie was his best friend back in high school. These days, Maxie scouts talents; he trains and sends them to Japan as entertainers. Yakie confides to Maxie who then devises several methods to help his friend: hiring prostitutes, seeing a urologist, etc. But just when things turn hopeless, Yakie meets the lovely Rowena (Ghen Gabriel), one of Maxie's wards. Yakie is besotted. He falls in love. But despite Rowena’s curves and amorous touches, Yakie is able to control himself. Has our protagonist finally found a cure? More importantly, has Yakie found the love that once eluded him?

Director William Mayo’s resume comprises less than a dozen titles including the contentious Lito Lapid starrer “Lapu Lapu” (an MMFF 2002 entry which hilariously won multiple awards at the Film Academy, a testament to the inside joke that continuously float around this organization of film makers). Other titles include several Jeric Raval starrers like “Bunso: Isinilang Kang Palaban”(1995) and “Pistolero” (2003); “Tulume Alyas Zorro” (1983) with George Javier and Carmi Martin, among others. Ten years after Mayo’s “triumphant” historical epic, the action director resurrects his career with an effort best ignored and forgotten.

The comic sensibility of “Yakman: D’ Gigil King” seems to have languished and stalled in the slap-happy 80’s era of slapstick humor. Think Redford White and his ouvre: “Boni and Klayd”, “Tartan”, ”Darakula”, “Rambo Tan-go”, “Wrong Rangers”, “Hee-man Master of None”, etc. This film unwittingly transports us back to some bad eighties chapter. While those flicks were purely comic escapists, Mayo ups the ante by insinuating his update with some of the most grossed-out sentiment. The jokes are done in bad taste. What’s worse, they aren’t even funny! 

Alexa wets his dress.
Mildred goes out on a date with Yakie.

What’s so funny seeing a pudgy and aging Leo Martinez dancing with an apron and his rolling pin? I wonder. This scene punctuates the rest of the film since it ushers us into our protagonist's dilemma. Mayo further succeeds to populate his flick with some of the most forgettable, albeit charmless bit actors Philippine Cinema has ever produced. And in their desperate bid to extend their 15 minutes of spotlight, they come out rather disconsolate. And this film is supposed to be comedy. Here are some of these moments:

Yakie accidentally pours water on neighbor Alexa’s dress. He then wipes her chest with his hands while her nipple juts through the wet garment. “Basang basa na ako,” says Alexa. Yakie then stiffens, as though electrocuted, then he declares, “Tapos na ako.”

While riding a jeep, Yakie asks the driver, “Magkanong Quiapo?” The driver replies: “Di binebenta ang Quiapo.” Then Yakie replies with a question: “Ilaw ka ba?” Driver asks, “Bakit?” Yakie tells him: “Kasi ang sarap mong patayin eh.”

When Mildred pays Yakie a compliment for his gentlemanly ways, he replies with, “Tinuruan kaming gumalang sa utong.” I am not sure which girl would appreciate such glib talk. I’d probably be inclined to exercise my slapping technique.

While having a meal with Mildred, Yakie tells his date, “Hatid na kita. Late na eh.” Yet it’s obvious there’s daylight outside. Is it school night, maybe? :)

Man 1: “Anong kaibahan ng flat tire sa babae?
Man 2: “Ano?
Man 1: “Ang gulong, binobombahan muna bago sinasakyan. Ang babae naman, sinasakyan muna bago binobombahan.”

Man 1: “Ano ang kaibahan ng panty noon at ng panty ngayon?”
Man 2: “Ano?”
Man 1: “Ang panty noon, kailangang hawiin muna bago makita ang puwet. Ang panty ngayon, kailangang hawiin muna ang puwet bago makita ang panty.”

Man 1: “Ano ang kaibahan ng mainit na tubig sa palad ng babae?”
Man 2: “Ano?”
Man 1: “Ang mainit na tubig, nakakapagpalambot ng karne. Ang palad ng babae, nakakapagpatigas ng karne.”

There are jokes that don’t even make any sense, but are told anyway just to elicit a reaction:
 “Ang pandesal, habang tumitigas, mas masarap isubo.”


Suzette, habulin mo ako. Pag natalo ako, kiss kita. Pag natalo ka, kiss mo ako sa bayag.” Huh?

Man: “Laro tayo ng bahay bahayan. Ako ang tatay. Ikaw ang nanay.
Girl: “Ayoko nyan. Bastos yan.”
Man: “Sige, nanay nanayan at anak anakan na lang.”
Girl: “Sige.”
Man: “Nay, pa dedehen mo ako.”

While sharing a meal, Yakie tells Maxie how to eat the hotdog:
Kinakagat yan, di sinusupsop.”

When the bibingka arrives at their table, Yakie jests:
Ang sarap ng bibingkang matambok. May hiwa sa gitna.

Yakie describes his situation to Maxie:
Di na kailangang ipasok. Igulong lang sa hita, sagitsit na.”

Upon meeting with a urologist – aptly named “Dr. Steven T. Tinio” – thus, Doctor Titi Nyo, get it? :)

Dr. Tino espouses on “premature ejaculation” – “Ang maaaring sanhi nito ay ang mga sumusunod - 1) stress; 2)anxiety; 3) problema.” He’s just enumerating the synonyms of a single term, isn't he? I can add: affliction, burden, tension, hassle, apprehension, distress, dread, unease. Need I say more?

Yakie strangles his source of embarrassment... with unexpected results. :)

Leo Martinez’s Batangueno personification and accent used to draw rollicking laughter from the get-go, but time eventually puts premium on age and the kind of humor that one could carry. At a certain point, humor becomes acrimony and bad manners, and “bad manners” is never hilarious. Acceptable irreverence has to have circumscription. “Yakman” crosses boundaries and surpasses all archetype of poor taste. Aside from its grossed out humor, Yakman is misogynist’s delight. It’s rude to women and should be a cause of concern for the people of Gabriela! What’s worse, this film is extensively shown in SM Cinemas, the purveyor of “morally sound” movies. Yet 13 year old children can enjoy “bibingkang matambok na may hiwa sa gitna”, “padedehen mo ako”, "amoy pinipig na bagong bayo", “ikaw na lang ang lalamasin ko habang buhay” and “habang tumitigas mas masarap isubo.” Amazing, right?

But its brazenly tasteless humor seems to have conveniently smokescreened the gross inadequacy of the production’s filmmaking skills. Aside from being unfunny, “Yakman” is misguided and unsophisticated in handling humor and its sensitive topic. The jokes are a hit and miss, largely dependent on Leo Martinez’s time-tested skill to just ham it up. Even Soxy Topacio’s script input didn’t help largely because the premise itself is dubitable. Fifty year old virgin? Get outta here.

A beach scene suddenly has all three girls dancing in their bikinis.

"Bisaya pud ka day? Naglibog gyud ko sa imo."

Yakie discovers that his best friend Maximo has turned into a Maxie.

Yakie's dream sequence involving Rowena.

Yakie proposes to Rowena, but she declines. Why oh why?

What is Rowena's "big" secret?

Katrina Espe, Meg Vargas and Ghen Gabriel

Ghen Gabriel and Leo Martinez

Bakers have all the fun.