Monday, December 31, 2012

Chito Rono's Shake Rattle & Roll 14 The Invasion - Not So Scary Tales

PAMANA (Writer: Ricky Lee)

A mysterious uncle leaves a P20-million inheritance to four of his relatives whom he hasn’t seen in ages: Donald (Herbert Bautista) is a mild mannered former priest who’s financially hard up. Myra (Janice de Belen) is the intemperate business woman with abusive streaks to his husband’s son. Faye (Arlene Muhlach) is Myra’s congenial cousin. The fourth cousin is Tisoy aka Benedict Collins (Eri Neeman) who’s vaguely interested with his departed uncle’s wealth. The dead uncle was once a popular comic book writer who’s done well creating macabre characters.

Once summoned by their uncle’s lawyer, the cousins troop down to a ramshackle house that reeks with malevolence. But what's important is the departed's millions, right? Unfortunately, the big stash carries a catch: Paintings of the uncle’s cast of popular characters – the vampire Man de Nado (Fabio Ide), hair monster Filomena (Dimples Romana), the mother-killer Tiyanak and piano-playing Rosalda (Snooky Serna) - are distributed among the cousins. They have to keep them for a month – and if they survive, only then will they be able to get their share of the 20 million.

This condition isn’t as easy. The characters come to life and Tisoy, who dumped the painting in a garbage, becomes the first victim. The gang rush back to their uncle’s house, taking their family with them: Myra’s husband Benjie (Dennis Padilla), Benjie’s son Felimon (Gerald Pesigan), Faye’s daughters Cynthia (Empress Schuck) and Gladys (Anna Vicente), and Cynthia’s suitor Emerson (Ivan Dorschner). Once inside, doors shut and they find themselves trapped inside. What’s worse, the comic characters start to appear, wrecking havoc all around. And the only one to stop them was a fifth character, heart-eating Buboy, Ang Munting Diablo (Rain Papa). But why would Buboy help them when all he wants to do is play with his victims before consuming their hearts? Will the gang survive their uncle’s monsters?

LOST COMMAND (Writer: Rody Vera)

On cursory surveillance, a group of soldiers head into the dense jungle of Barangay Putotan. They’ve heard of the mysterious disappearance of folks and the wandering creatures that go bump in the night. Is the ragtag group of former soldiers responsible for this? The platoon soon begins to lose their men cryptically seized in the silhouettes of the woodland. With briskly dwindling numbers, Martin Barrientos (Dennis Trillo) decides to follow Linda (Ella Cruz), a blind girl, who takes them to her “Itay” (Ronnie Lazaro) said to be able to help them. What they find instead is more bewildering – former soldiers and comrades have turned into the undead, and they’re being recruited to be part of this group. With the help of Corporal Upaon (Paulo Avelino) who’s been fed the flesh of others and Private Conde (Martin Escudero) who steers the undead away from Barrientos, the platoon leader is taken by Linda's father to where he could jump to his freedom. “Kunin mo lang ang anak ko, at ilayo mo sya dito,” pleads Itay. But the jungle is treacherous and the path is long. What becomes of Barrientos?

UNWANTED (Writer: Roy Iglesias)

A catastrophic earthquake separates Hank (Vhong Navarro) from his pregnant girl friend Kate (Lovi Poe) who’s lost in the rubble. Upon gaining consciousness, two days after the incident, people are still trapped as they find their way out. Hank finds other survivors, Ming (Eula Caballero), Neil (Albie Casino), and their Uncle Tom (Eric Tai); there’s Rex (Carlo Aquino) and a loud gay man (Chokoleit). Each one eventually fall prey to the peculiar creatures similarly trapped in the rubble. When Hank finally finds Kate, they scamper out of the building, only to discover that the world they once knew had ceased to exist. Space ships hover in mid-air; dinosaur-like creatures saunter across them, and they’re approached by unidentifiable beings who soon take their semblance.

Director Chito Rono seems to be the perfect person to handle three disparate stories for the 14th installment of the horror trilogy. In fact, there’s something nostalgic with the return of Janice de Belen, Arlene Muhlach and Herbert Bautista into the series since their first appearance 18 long years ago: Bautista for Peque Gallaga’sManananggal”, De Belen for her iconic role in Ishmael Bernal’sPridyider”, and Muhlach for Emmanuel H. Borlaza’sBaso”. But while these three old tales were compelling to watch, Rono’s new age fables are emotionally distant and uninteresting. There’s nothing much in its exposition that draws you in. More importantly, the element of suspense is tepid, if non-existent.  

In a scene in “Pamana”, the group finds a spinning top in the middle of the room. Do you get: 1. Scared? 2. Perplexed? 3. Move away? Human instinct is basic, and when we’re accosted by something sinister, we either fight or “fly”. Instead, Janice and company stare and engage in a discussion. It was almost too funny. In both “Pamana” and “Unwanted”, Rono tried injecting humor - that both Myra and Faye got pregnant before getting married, for example, and there’s Vhong Navarro in “Unwanted” who refers to Chokoleit as “Di tiyak”. While Vhong is a brilliant comedian, fear and laughter are too unrelated, and fusion of both results into anything but harmonious. The end product: lukewarm exposition with an apocryphal emotional engagement. As an audience, we invest something into our viewing experience: Do we get sad and sympathize? Do we shiver in our knickers and shriek with fear? Do we laugh until we’re blue? Curiously, SSR 14 doesn’t induce any. We just didn’t care enough.

Lost Command”, on the other hand, feels like a spiritless version of the Korean movie, “R-Point”, about a band of missing soldiers, presumed dead, who sends a radio transmission to their base. But while “R-Point” is relentlessly gripping, “Lost Command” is languid with characters almost unrecognizable from the next. It was mostly successful in gathering some of the hottest soldiers in the cinematic universe: Dennis Trillo, Martin Escudero, Paulo Avelino, Alex Castro, JC Tiuseco, AJ Dee, Kenneth Paul Salva, Then Rono renders them disposable. What a waste of masculine meat. Tee hee.

SRR 14 was Rated A by that dubious ratings group, Cinema Evaluations Board (CEB). Considering that this is actually one of the worst installments from the series speaks oodles about the capacity of the CEB to rate quality films. How much government money is being spent to maintain this useless arm? Heaven knows this group badly needs to be scrapped. 

Paulo Avelino, Dennis Trillo, and JC Tiuseco

Kate and Hank are in a quandary: she's pregnant!

Survivors: Eric Tai, Vhong Navaro, Eula Caballero & our favorite baby-maker Albie Casino.

Dead Korean soldiers come to life in "R-Point".

Andoy Ranay's Sosy Problems - The Funny and the Unfinished

There’s unabashed delight in the depiction of bratty, filthy-rich social butterflies as seen in Andoy Ranay’s “Sosy Problems”. Lizzie Consunji (Rhian Ramos) leads an enviable pack of the “super duper rich” that further constitutes Danielle Alvarez (Bianca King), the daughter of a former congressman (Ricky Davao) with briskly dwindling fortunes; Margaux Bertrand (Solenn Heussaff), best friend of Claudia Ortega (Heart Evangelista). Margaux and Claudia’s relationship is dragged down by the simmering rivalry between their former beauty queen-mothers Martina (Cherie Gil) and Glory (Agot Isidro), Claudia’s mother. They’re the privileged bunch. They arrive in private helicopters; ride horses like Mikey Cojuangco; employ yayas who ride in specially-assigned cars; and they can sniff fake designer bags from a mile away.

But all’s not well on the horizon. The Polo Club, their favorite hangout, was bought by Bernice (Mylene Dizon), a former club cashier who got hitched to a billionaire. Bernice plans to turn the club into a Yaya Mall. The girls are appalled. After all, they couldn't fraternize with the masa. What becomes of their memories? More importantly, what happens to the employees of the club, some of whom have worked there half their lives. Lizzie turns to her dad for help, but he wouldn't budge so she takes matters into her hand. She organizes a picket to protest against the plan of the new owner. This gets them arrested for their stunt.

As punishment, Lizzie is sent to the remote town of Sapang Bato to join her lola (Nova Villa) and cousin Becca (Barbie Forteza). But provincial life is far removed from Lizzie’s cosmopolitan lifestyle. There are no clubs, no internet or wifi, and phone signal is intermittent, she had to climb a tree to secure one. Lizzie invites her friends to help get over the tedium of rural living, but they end up fighting with each other. What’s worse, Lizzie becomes a big burden, financial and otherwise, to her well meaning grandmother (her lola’s sister) and cousin.

Back in the city, Danielle starts to deal with her own financial troubles the only way she can. So she devises ways to hook up with Inaki Montinola (Alden Richards) whose fortune is legendary. With the help of Santi (Mikael Daez), a stranger he met at a party, she invites Inaki for dinner. Will she get an audience with the eligible bachelor? Would Inaki show up? Meanwhile, Margaux and Claudia are fighting over Benjo (Aljur Abrenica), the club’s good looking stable boy-cum-waiter who seems oblivious to the girls’ constant flirting. With their internal strife piling up, the fall of the Polo Club seems inevitable… or is it?

Andoy Ranay’sSosy Problems” is riddled with loopholes, you start to wonder if there were cognitive beings driving this cinematic vehicle. Aside from the threadbare plot, the motives of the characters are dubious. If these people truly had a plethora of riches, they had several options in the drawing room: 1. Hire a lawyer to negotiate their demands, not that they have proprietary say on a privately owned property; 2. Pool their resources and gather their amigas to buy the property from the new owner; 3. Take to the media by bombarding the public with articles about the poor employees; 4. Purchase another property and equip it with even better facilities. Planking at the facade is as ridiculous as the thought of someone purchasing the playground of the rich and famous. Besides, who did Bernice marry – the Prince of Brunei?

While on sabbatical at the province, Lizzie’s lola had to “steal” from her other granddaughter’s piggy bank because they were low on resources to support Lizzie’s whims. Didn't Lizzie’s dad (Johnny Revilla), a successful hotelier, send enough money to finance her daughter’s stay in the province? The lola could have easily asked from Lizzie’s dad and, surely, he wouldn't mind sending a few thousands of pesos. A lola stealing from her granddaughter is a grave mistake, even if this were meant for good intentions. Stealing is 8th of the Ten Commandments, remember? This narrative strain is ill advised and reminds me of Sef Cadayona’s sexual assault in Emmanuel dela Cruz’s disputable “Slumber Party” where “rape” is horrendously treated with easy humor. We've never heard of grandmothers acting like juveniles since Australia’s Oscar-nominated “Animal Kingdom”. This isn't Oscar-worthy.  

The movie is, however, made bearable by the delectable turn of its lead stars portraying some of the most self-absorbed characters in local cinema. Rhian Ramos hams it up and shows why this role was written for her. She is brilliant and playful as bratty Lizzie. Think Alicia Silverstone's "Cher". Though humor in the film is a hit-and-miss affair, many of the gags involving our four ladies actually work. Enthusiasm is such an infectious malady. 

Take the “pilapil” (dike) scene: the girls wanted to visit the "pilapil” because someone told them it’s beautiful out there. Without an inkling of idea what a “pilapil” is, they march through dikes with high heels, wide brimmed hats and designer bags thinking they were heading into some kind of Shangrila when, in fact, they've reached their destination many times over. This really cracked me up. Another favorite scene was when the girls found a pot of mud they all thought was a facial regimen. They started rubbing  mud all over their faces while Claudia assures her friends with, “Don’t panic; it’s organic.” On the other hand, Bianca King’s part was the most sympathetic. Her story was better told than the rest. And King came out less of a caricature.

Mikael Daez registers strongly as the mysterious Santi, you couldn’t take your eyes off him. He was charming and he spoke well. Aljur Abrenica is a fetching Benjo, the club’s all-around boy, but then he isn't made to do much. There are cameos by Ruffa Gutierrez who plays the role of a lifestyle broadcast executive who wants to run a story about the girls. Tim Yap plays a bigger part (than previous movie roles) as Ruffa's lifestyle reporter.

The film actually stumbles hard as it scrambles into its finish line. Story telling turned reckless and banked on fast resolutions. The positive comeuppance felt undeserved because there were untold chapters that needed more narrative discourse. Elsewhere, the grapevine has tongues wagging: Ranay, the film’s director started acting flaky (think Angelina Kanapi) because his boyfriend left him. Sometime November, the still unfinished product was directorless. Grief has a way of skewing priorities, I know, but isn't Ranay a veteran theater habitue? You’d expect the demeanor of a stage professional, right? This was why Joyce Bernal was allegedly taken into the fold to finish the unfinished and do her editing magic. If this is true, then someone clearly doesn't deserve to work in the business again. Work is work. Oscar Wilde once said, “There’s always something ridiculous about the emotions of people whom one has ceased to love.” With grief, people do ridiculous things. Unfortunately, he didn't suffer alone.       

Aljur Abrenica. This photo only courtesy of

Mikael Daez is Santi aka Santiago Elizalde, lawyer and son of an influential scion.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Wenn Deramas' Sisterakas - Inscrutable and Derivative

Vice Ganda’s roles always thrive on the element of revenge. In “Petrang Kabayo”, his character, Peter grew up with an abusive father, prodding him to run away until a rich spinster (Eugene Domingo) adopts him for her son. But grown up Peter is a successful businessman who’s bitter, mean and wrecks havoc on the people who works for him. In Wenn Deramas’ “Sisterakas”, Vice Ganda is no different. He plays Bernice, the bastard son of a rich man (Epy Quizon) borne out of the latter’s indiscretions with the maid (Gloria Diaz). Mother and son Bernice were eventually thrown out of the house. Bernice grows up successful and, like his character in “Petrang Kabayo”, spiteful and feared by his staff. Not a few of his past 387 executive assistants have resigned while the current one (Melai Cantiveros) is, in fact, jumping off the ledge of their high rise building.

Bernice, now owner of an apparel firm, will only settle down once he has taken his revenge on the family who pushed his mother off the stairs (she’s now a paraplegic). Trouble is, he couldn’t locate them. Meanwhile, Dette (Ai-Ai de las Alas), Bernice’s half-sister has fallen on hard times. Unemployed and a single parent, Dette raises two daughters Kathy (Kathryn Bernardo) and Cindy (Xyriel Manabat). She’s also desperate for a job. And as fate would have it, she falls into the trap that would have Bernice fulfill his vengeful dream of making Dette’s life a living hell. Bernice would, for example, have Dette wash a truckload of curtains, or send her off to Lipa for dalandans straight from the hands of Governor Vilma. But Dette perseveres for her children. How very “Tanging Ina”, debah?

It’s also becoming clear that Dette has fashion acumen that could help Bernice’s sagging sales as competition with rival Roselle (Kris Aquino) is fierce. What’s worse, a mole (DJ Durano) is divulging the company’s classified projects to Roselle. Will Dette survive Bernice’s sadistic ways? Moreover, will Dette accept Roselle’s lucrative offer to work for her? 

Director Wenn Deramas’ latest opus banks on his stars’ impeccable comic skills as there’s really not much to chew where its derivative story is concerned. A good part of the movie feels like déjà vu. We're sure we’ve seen these scenes in the recent past.

Kris Aquino’s character is similar to Judy Anne Santos’ presence in “Enteng Kabisote”. She doesn’t belong in the story. This isn’t saying that Aquino did horribly as the campy Roselle. She was in fact fun to watch as she overstepped her usual thespic boundaries, frivolously making fun of herself (“like a bad Kris Aquino horror experience”), her failed marriage (“natuto na ako diyan” in relation to pre-nuptial agreements), and the oft repeated, “Yap, yap, yap”! When asked about basketball, she gamely quipped: “Tapos na ako dyan. I’m so over it.” When a personality of her stature consents to spoof the unpalatable chapters of her public life, this only highlights her level of maturity, not to mention strength of character. And we could only commend Kris Aquino for her irresistible turn in “Sisterakas”, though she has to do something about her “sinister laugh” which sounds as fraudulent as her two-inch lashes.

Vice Ganda and Ai-Ai delas Alas do well, but Ganda needs a fresher take on the oft-repeated tale of the vengeful gay man. His quips are as delectable, but they’re also turning familiar. In time, people would get tired of similar comedic approaches – and that would be too sad. Ai-Ai has really mastered her dramedian skills that makes it easy to empathize with her. Unfortunately, all this enthusiasm is hobble by mediocre writing, stale situations, and poor production values.

Check out the “chin prosthesis” placed on the child playing the young Ai-Ai. Any idiot could easily point out the fake chin due to skin color discrepancy. Now isn’t this easily remediable? Why were they too lazy to fix this snag? Simple! Because they can’t be bothered. This after all is comedy, thus “puwede na yun”. Curiously, this mentality has won them a “3rd Best Picture Award”. And please remind me what exactly did Best Supporting Actress winner Wilma Doesnt do to even merit a nomination? Was she better than Cherry Pie Picache in “The Strangers”? It makes you wonder if the board of judges really watched the entries – or were they merely guessing? Wilma’s award is truly inscrutable. The only vaguely memorable scene with her was this:

Waitress to Vice Ganda: Black coffee, maa’m?
Vice Ganda: Black coffee for the black lady. (He looks at Wilma who couldn't even react to this. She was so lost. A truly award-winning moment.)

Kathryn Bernardo as Kathy, one of Dette's daughters, figures in an impish story line involving Angelo Santos (Daniel Padilla) who's been adopted into Bernice's family. As part of his uncle's revenge, he was to make Kathy fall in love with him, before he ultimately breaks her heart. But Kathy isn't so easy to please - not with his cheesy pick-up lines and loopy smile. Angelo gets head over heels taken by the winsome young lady. The pair provides bubble gum moments in the busy exposition. Unfortunately, though Kathryn and Daniel are charming performers, theirs is a disposable subplot. Daniel's scenes with Vice are as playful (like their wheelchair scene).

Other performers do walk-on parts: Tirso Cruz III plays Kris Aquino's dad; Daniel Matsunaga plays Marlon, the Brazilian model recruited by Kris who eventually signed up for Vice's firm (Ai-Ai helped him fix his flat tire on the way to the signing of the documents); DJ and model David Callum, Beauty Gonzales, Maliksi Morales, the hilarious Joey Paras (playing Ai-Ai's friend); and Luis Manzano (believed to be Deramas' cinematic lucky charm - but what would that make DJ Durano?) :)


Prior to Deramas’ speech when he accepted this highly contentious award, Kris Aquino enumerated some of MMFF’s previous Best Picture winners: “Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon” (1976), “Himala” (1982), “Jose Rizal” (1998). There’s more: “Kisap Mata” (1981), “Karnal” (1983), etc. So it was jarring to watch Deramas accept a 3rd Best Picture Award within the realm of the aforementioned masterpieces. Is "Sisterakas" the new age legacy of excellence? The criteria for “best” have radically metamorphosed into something gag-inducing in the last 10 years or so. “Enteng Kabisote: Okay Ka Fairy Ko – The Legend Goes On and On and On” won its Best Picture Trophy in 2006. I am still reeling from that win. Are we truly rooting for a historical faux pas or just plain mediocrity?

Vice Ganda and Ai-Ai delas Alas play half-siblings.

Kris Aquino: unexpectedly funny as Roselle, the contravida.

Kathryn Bernardo (as Kathy) and Daniel Padilla (as Angelo)

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Tony Reyes' Si Agimat, Si Enteng at Si Ako - What People Deserve

Enteng Kabisote’s (Vic Sotto) life couldn’t be more satisfactory, but for his mother-in-law Ina Magenta’s (Amy Perez) occasional surprise visits even during Enteng and Faye’s (Gwen Zamora) intimate moments. One day, Enteng finds another visitor from the kingdom of Amuleto, the sword-bearing warrior Agimat (Bong Revilla) who needs his help: Agimat, you see, is getting hitched to warrior princess Samara (Sam Pinto). The new couple wants the Kabisotes’ halcyon lifestyle on Earth. The earthly couple has been married for 25 years – and Agimat and Samara want the same. But what if invaders try to overrun Agimat’s kingdom again? “Iilaw ang aking kuwintas, at agad akong babalik,” assured the amorous warrior. Unfortunately, life in Manila isn’t a walk in the park. Agimat has scanty skills for the modern world so he relies on Enteng for his family’s daily sustenance. After all, Samara is heavy with a child.

Meanwhile, environmental activist Angeline Kalinisan Ortesa, aka “Ako” (Judy Anne Santos) is tickled pink when she finally meets the legendary duo. “Super duper guapo,” Ako giggles interminably. She briskly insinuates herself in the enviable company, prodding occasional “group hugs” at every possible turn. This annoys wives Faye and Samara no end, seeing Ako as a husband-grabbing opportunist. Who wouldn't when they find the pretty stranger wetting her knickers whenever she’s around their husbands? Unknown to them, Ako is herself an “engkantada”; a magic-wielding princess who mean no harm. But these marital concerns are the least of their problems. In the netherworlds of Engkantasia, Amuleto, and Diwatara (Samara’s kingdom), an onslaught of invasion looms. The dark forces from the evil kingdom of Tokatok have plotted a takeover. When Aiza (Aiza Seguerra) and her friends get captured by the alien forces, the rest of the world is under siege. What to do?  

Agimat, Enteng Kabisote and Ako

Director Tony Reyes’Si Agimat, Si Enteng at Si Ako” is narratively spare and its content artistically destitute. Employing “invasion” (again) to move its plot, and spruced up with the alacrity akin to grade school children, the movie is spreading itself too thin. Haven’t we seen this before? They introduced a new character in Judy Anne Santos’ Ako, but this hardly makes up for its cinematic vacuity. No one really roots for a girl who salivates silly in the company of married men; forget that she’s the svelte Judy Anne Santos. Moreover, the annoying Ako is bereft of any form of empathy, making her presence silly and negligible at best. That she fawns over an in-law hating hero and a potbellied warrior, both wrinkly, is one for the books. Something has to be said about sensory deprivation that makes people weak in the knees in the company of curmudgeonly protagonists.

The film is loud. As it careens recklessly towards its conclusive comeuppance, it drives into auditory overkill. Il n’est pire eau que l’eau qui dort,right? The shallowest makes the most noise to compensate for its hollowness. There’s a gay-and-pink version of Hulk (John Lapus), a shameless Sun Cellular product placement, a gang of white-painted ethnic tribesmen, a horde of alien invaders who look like bad Disney squids, and CGI effects circa 1990. Yes, Virginia. In the age of ubiquitous high technology, we’re back to cheap special effects: the screen turns dark whenever a special effect is introduced. And this one is co-produced by 4 or 5 film companies, GMA Films included? How much did they invest in it, P10,000 each and zero brain activity? Alleluiah, pagpalain ang nagtitipid. Yet this film is raking oodles at the box office! The Filipinos who trooped to the cinemas to watch this – and in the process, ignored Nora Aunor’sThy Womb” or Mark Meilly’sEl Presidente” – get what they deserve. Garbage!

Enteng gets a massage from Faye.

Samara fights the ethnographic nemesis

The diwatas join forces.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Cleo Paglinawan's Itlog na Pula - Eggs and More Eggs

As a Christmas present to the hundreds of souls who love their Pink Film articles, I am posting one of the dozen-or-so completed, albeit unposted reviews of a Pink Film shown during the first quarter of 2012. This has been pre-scheduled for a November 28 posting but I got tired of them. The main thing here is, the blank page has managed unbelievable traffic and page views compared to the other flicks of its genre (except for one particular title). People LOVE garbage and this is proof of that. This is also one of the reasons why Blank Posts have been placed here; so I know which ones to post WHEN I feel like it, honey. Maybe another Pink Film review gets posted for the New Year. Maybe not. Enjoy your eggs! They are red, and perfect for the season. :)


In Cleo Paglinawan’sItlog na Pula”, there’s paucity of opportunity and commerce in a remote, impoverished town where Jerome (Jerome Pineda) tends to the ducks, processing red (salted) eggs from his fowls. To supplement his income, he has occasional rendezvous with the town’s limpwrists (Ike Sadiasa) enthusiastic enough to shell out P100 (ohmygawd) to manipulate Jerome’s “smoking gun”. Jerome has known destitution since he was abandoned by his mother as a child. “Dito na rin siguro ako mamatay,” muses Jerome. He lives his humdrum life with resignation until a fascinating couple from the city arrives, seemingly eluding a patchy situation from the mean streets of the big city.

Jerome offers his kubo to Charles and Barbara (Charles Delgado and Barbara Chavez) “kung mapagtiisan ninyo ito”. The couple’s only too pleased to find board and accommodations. After all, their savings amount to almost nil. Charles needs to find a job fast because the couple has conveniently freeloaded off Jerome’s hospitality, staying in his hut and eating his “itlog na pula”. But the host doesn’t seem to mind: he believes Charles will eventually pay him. Besides, Barbara has beguiled the young man who has never slept with a girl. Barbie’s occasional peekaboo bathing sessions become inspiring anatomical lessons for Jerome. Barbie, it turns out, is attracted to the strapping young lad. In fact, nights turn into feu de joies of temptation as Barbie stares at her half-naked landlord while he sleeps. But what's more interesting, Charles shares Barbie’s fascination with Jerome. And the couple soon takes turns surreptitiously canoodling Jerome’s “red eggs”. Isn't it about time they just make an omelet out of this funky triumvirate? It seems clear Jerome has adequate raw materials for such gastronomic serving, debah?

Jerome Pineda

Charles Delgado

Like her other ouvres, director Cleo Paglinawan’s tale is a story that has been told many times over by Paglinawan herself. Unfortunately, she isn’t equipped with enough neuron to conjure innovation for her narrative twists. It doesn’t help that her scriptwriters are as artistically impotent. If you “cut and paste” a scene from any of Paglinawan’s movies this year and insinuate them in one of her film, the scene wouldn’t seem misplaced. Her scenography has been monotonously similar. You can easily interchange stories and scenes in her films. Try “Mga Lalake Sa Balsa”: desperate men in a poor town; able bodied guys surrendering their body to cringe-worthy parlorista; seemingly straight men turning gay without prior hint; then a sudden violent twist to cap the story.  

Paglinawan is eternally disoriented. Her individual scenes are incongruent. Making movies with her constitutes nothing more than owning a movie camera. Forget new stories and original scripts. These elements never figure in Paglinawan’s artistic endeavor.

It’s too bad because Charles Delgado and newbie Jerome Pineda are able actors; both are comfortable delivering their lines and they’re never awkward in their scenes. Barbara Chavez, on the other hand, is a perpetually flustered presence. Her depiction of a nymphomaniac may “take” within the context of the story (the reason why the couple in the story keeps moving from one place to another), but if you watch her in other films like “Three-in-One” and “Frontal”, her performances are nothing but kindred; they’re one and the same. She needs to realize that it’s her job to take on different personalities in every role she appears in. Iba ibahin mo, ‘Ne!  

This film made me remember Seiko Films’Itlog”, one of Robbie Tan’s enviable "masterpieces" from 2002. Compared to “Itlog na Pula”, Francis “Jun” Posadas’ exploitative flick feels like a masterpiece. It was about a hunky caretaker (Winston Elizalde) who gets into his hospitable boss’ (Celso Ad. Castillo) good graces until the latter’s prodigal son (Rodel Velayo) makes his intractable homecoming. In the film, Winston and Rodel vie for Diana Zubiri's affection. Then the eggs start cracking. Ohdearme!

"Itlog na Pula" was first screened sometime March this year. If you've never heard of it, there must be justice in the cinematic world, right? How can egregious works like this one have commercial screenings while commendable indie flicks from say, Mes de Guzman, not have any?


On hindsight, Tan’s reign as purveyor of slickly-produced softcore flicks wasn’t as bad as today’s “indie machinery”: great locations, beautiful actors, well-threshed out convoluted plots, and stories that “try” to weave fresher tales. Seiko has likewise contributed to the birth of some of our most dependable actors – Rosanna Roces, Diana Zubiri, Rita Avila, Via Veloso, Ana Capri, Jestoni Alarcon, Cesar Montano, Gardo Versoza, In fact, scriptwriter Jerry Gracio (who wrote “Itlog”) had his start here. From “Talong”, “Sisid”, “Bayaran” and “U-Belt”, Gracio graduated into writing better scripts – “Colorum”, “Magdamag”, “Isda”, “Ligo na U, Lapit na Me”, etc. 

One sometimes wishes that Seiko Films was still producing their exploitative flicks to displace these New Age cinematic garbage. Robbie Tan's films were clearly superior works compared to the likes of “Id'nal (Mapusok)’, “Hubo”, “Kapalit ng Ligaya”, "Kapa", "Hardinero", "Masukista", “Kasalo”, "For Adults Only", “Tiyo Pablo”, and other new generation skin flicks. At least you’d know that Seiko Films spent a considerable amount to produce their film projects. They take weeks and even months to finish while GA Villafuerte movies ridiculously complete their principal photography in - hold your panties! - ONE day! Heck, even films from impoverished Burkina Faso take days to finish. Only in the Philippines do we have movies hastily done within 24 hours and still find a venue - like Robinsons Galleria - to screen them on. Villafuerte and Paglinawan - and now there's even a Benny Andaya responsible for one of the most vomit-inducing gay-flavored flicks in the last 5 years or so - "Uhaw sa Piling Mo". These films are fit for Ripley's. Believe it or not!

How do you make "itlog na pula". This film can't even make a decent documentary from this subject.

Sleepy Charles Delgado

Barbara Chavez hides behind foliage.


Please read our featured post about Cinema Bravo and why we sometimes feel nging about Web Criticism:

Monday, December 24, 2012

Soxie Topacio's D' Kilabots: Pogi Brothers Weh - Nothing To Say or Laugh About

Soxie Topacio’sD’ Kilabots: Pogi Brothers Weh” is as preposterous as its title; its story even more so. Justine (Jose Manalo) lapses into convulsive seizures every time he comes in contact with a woman. This has prevented him from pursuing a relationship with Kitty (Pokwang) who turns to Bruno (Wally Bayola), Justine’s brother, for romantic denouement. Their eventual marriage has caused due strain between the siblings to the consternation of their rambunctious mother (Gina Pareno). Enter Lulu (Solenn Heussaff), the daughter of Sir Donald (Tirso Cruz III), an influential businessman.

While Lulu openly fawns over Justine, the latter is adamant, despite the seemingly mutual attraction. Trouble comes to a head when Bruno decides to open a lugawan, an enterpreneural bid that would challenge Justine’s isawan. What to do? But all these become inconsequential when Bruno discovers the nefarious plot of Lucio (Michael de Mesa), an avaricious businessman, who, along with Sir Donald (Lulu's dad), has devised a scheme to incinerate Justine’s property. Justine's refusal to sell his property prevents Lucio from building a mall in the area.  

"Kilabots..." boasts of an all-star cast, with familiar faces gracing the screen for sitcom-style gags: Maricel Soriano and Roderick Paulate play a room switching couple; Vic Sotto as the intervening barangay chairman, German Moreno (with his eternally vomit-inducing "Walang Tulugan" spiel), Aljur Abrenica and Victor Basa as the hunky policemen; Jimmy Santos as the dead father; Jobelle Salvador, Allan K, Nina Jose, Nyoy Volante, Paolo Ballesteros dolls up (and curiously looking prettier than most women) as the movie enthusiast who spews cinematic lines, movie titles and their date of release. But at some point, the gag loses its novelty. After all, no one remembers lines from "Gaano Kadalas ang Minsan" anymore. 

The narrative is an uninspired tripe of calculated situations kept afloat by an enthusiastic cast. There’s not a lot one can do with borderline ideas and a mediocre script. Having the gorgeous Heussaff salivate over Manalo is just plain silly. And being silly doesn't automatically translate into humor. Some ideas are incoherent, like Justine's supposed attraction with Lulu. When she came to serenade him (Heussaff singing “Ipagpatawad Mo”), he ended up drenching her with a pail filled with urine. How’s that for good taste? Or is uncouth and revolting behavior supposed to be funny?

During a public squabble between Justine and Bruno, Gina Pareno (playing their mother) intervened, telling them: “Ang totoong matapang, nag iisip muna.” I've never heard of such discordant aphorism. Might does not necessarily translate to intelligence, does it? These desperate narrative struggles to say something logical underline the absence of a considerable “burden” that should fuel the narrative. The brazen fact is, these issues are a sham. And its film makers have absolutely nothing to say.  

Emerson Reyes' MNL 143 - Misguided Elements

At the heart of Emerson Reyes’ “MNL 143” is Ramil (Allan Paule) who has raked the populace of Metro Manila within the last 5 years searching for Mila (Joy Viado), the girl who got away. They were supposed to share a future together, but 13 years ago, Ramil up and left without saying goodbye, but for a letter saying he was leaving town to work abroad. Big mistake. He has since returned home to make amends.

But today was Ramil’s last day. Five years into his search, he’s throwing down the towel and taking another stint for a job overseas (Saudi Arabia). Mila was never found. Regret cloaks Ramil’s remaining hours in the chaotic metropolis. As he winds down his day, a familiar face flags down the FX taxi Ramil is driving. What’s left of his romantic past?

Framing Ramil’s eleventh hour search is a cornucopia of characters who come and go, as passengers hop in and out of our protagonist’s taxi, as he plies the Philcoa-to-Fairview route: a testy old woman who does nothing but complain; two would-be OFWs whose interest is piqued by a Japanese seatmate; a wife who unexpectedly learns of his hubby’s job dismissal; a couple of enthusiastic film students; a cell phone snatcher; a band of gay men discussing the ritual of giving gifts to their disengaged lovers.

The constant and kinetic introduction of a variety of characters may insinuate passage of time to highlight Ramil’s emotional logrolling, but they don’t contribute much to the main narrative. In fact, much of it is cinematic ruse and deflects from the story at hand. The central plot has been disregarded in favor of the tacky page-flipping of its hundred-and-one disparate anecdotes. Allan Paule packs an insightful wallop as the regretful Ramil. Unfortunately, his chemistry with Joy Viado is awkward; a major blunder – only individuals with lofty invention would consider it brilliant casting. It wasn't  The pairing itself displays parsimonious chemistry. It is misguided at best; the product of an obstinate, albeit arrogant artistry. That’s just too bad since director Emerson Reyes is technically proficient. His story telling is a different matter altogether.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Gerardo Calagui's Marcie - Squalor Inspiration

There isn't much Marcie (Rain Javier) wouldn't do for his friends: Lolita (Savannah Lamsen), who operates a small parlor, and the closeted Benson (Kurt Lander), the barangay captain’s effete son. Marcie seems contented with his life in the slums. At sundown, he moonlights as a cross dressing street walker who peddles sexual services to the passing vehicles of a tenebrous alley.

One night, he gets caught by miscreant police officers who then took turns to sexually assault him. Like a heaven sent, Makoy (Eugene Tejada), a police asset and, more importantly, Lolita’s sexually ravenous boyfriend, rescues Marcie inside the precinct. After Makoy’s intervention, Marcie is set free. Grateful to the taciturn gentleman, Marcie vows to repay for Makoy’s help. As fate would have it, Makoy becomes the convenient fall guy for the lost stash of drugs retrieved from a drug bust operation. The asset suddenly becomes the prey.

Marcie steps forward by taking Makoy to a safe place, a “tambakan” (repository) of used cars in an otherwise abandoned lot; a valid option before running off to distant Sorsogon. “Walang pumupunta dito,” Marcie offers. Makoy is holed in an empty bus that quickly becomes his half way house. When Lolita’s at work, Marcie attends to Makoy’s needs. But Makoy's confinement soon turns into desperation. He needs a companion. Life of a pursued fugitive isn’t a walk in the park – and it gets lonely.

Makoy gradually falls for the attentive Marcie – and they eventually share the concupiscent bed. The accidental couple turns serious. In fact, Makoy turns green whenever Marcie leaves for work. What becomes of Lolita who’s clueless of her boyfriend’s burgeoning relationship with Marcie? Elsewhere, Benson’s dilemma is escalating. His abusive father (Brylle Mondejar) gets so frustrated with his son’s “wayward” sexuality, he employs the iron fist whenever Benson acts up. Can Makoy hide in the dump site forever?

Benson and Marcie

Marcie dolls up for work.

Erroneously marketed as a Pink Film by virtue of a transvestite protagonist, Director Gerardo Calagui’s tale boasts of a valid story replete with well defined characters from a script by Mark Duane Angos. On cursory glance, despondent characters sweep the narrative tableau as they ride their apathetic lives. As we follow their journey, we realize there's more to Calagui's tale. In E.M. Forster's book “Aspects of the Novel”, he deftly defines the proper nature of these individuals, dispatching them as “round characters” because they’re “complex and undergo development”. Marcie maybe a benevolent soul, but he isn't immune to attraction and seduction. He laments about his choices, but is powerless over them. He is a flawed individual yet he regrets about his inability to overcome his weakness. Rain Javier (first seen in Cleo Paglinawan’sS.R.O.”) is a revelation as the cross dressing hooker. In "Marcie", you find his emotional investment.

Eugene Tejada is likewise a natural. He moves without a hint of cloddishness. This is good news considering this is just his second feature film. He was in Paul Singh Cudail’s elementary effort “Kubli”. Tejada is gifted with an inherent charm that grabs your attention as his image saunters through the silver screen. And it helps that he's easy on the eyes. Savannah Lamsen’ Lolita is underwritten. In fact, for a good part of the story, you wonder what happened to her. But the former “Fear Factor” contestant and FHM model could do well in character roles.

The movie doesn't exactly conform to the mold of a Pink Film as we know it: there is no unnecessary shower scenes requisite in these exploitation flicks and the plot is far from being thread-bare. Sure, Tejada figures in a pumping scene with Lamsen, but this is integral to defining his relationship with Lolita. Moreover, the scene isn't unnecessarily amplified to provide extended exposure of the actor’s bits and pieces. Even Tejada’s moments with Javier – or Javier’s fellating scenes with Mark Gonzalez, playing the sexually frustrated Albert whose wife fools around because he is incapable of fathering a child, are duly clipped.  

"Marcie: Ang Pag Ibig Ba ay Short Time?" maybe viewed as a defeatist's fare, but there's something inspiring about the recalcitrant human spirit. What else is left to do when we've tried everything yet we still fail. Life goes on.       

Benson (Kurt Lander) hides from his father.

Dustin Jose plays one of the police officers who sexually assaults Marcie.

After  a harrowing first meeting, Albert (Mark Gonzalez) becomes Marcie's regular customer.

Jeffrey Santos plays the police chief in pursuit of the lost loot of shabu.

Friends share a meal together.

Intimate moment with Lolita and Makoy.

Marcie joins lonely Makoy.

The barangay captain (Brylle Mondejar)

Eugene Tejada as police asset-turned-fugitive Makoy

Savannah Lamsen plays Lolita.