Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sizzlers on Queue - RCS7 Concert, Depraved Girls, Spider-Man & Spice Girls the Musical


There is an exciting buzz whirling around my social calendar these days. At work, I have finally ensnared an account that I've worked so hard on in the last 8 months of my life - and this really calls for a celebration. Cooperating with my personal triumphs are a few events that I have already marked my calendar for! There's a concert, a movie, a hilarious if a tad racy television series and a new musical in the Westend that I shall be saving up for in the first quarter of 2013. And I would like to share these here - to get me breathing space from writing about the movies.

RCS 7 : ENVIABLE COLLABORATION

The first item crept up from social media. And the buzz is too audible to be ignored. Something hot - and exciting - is cooking up at the Music Museum. This involves Ryan Cayabyab, theatre director Rito Asilo ("Into the Woods", "Vagina Monologues", "The Male Voice", "Rachel Corie"), and uber-choreographer Dexter Santos ("Orosman and Zafira", "Rizal X", "Bona"). Then there's this line-up of 7 new singers collectively called RCS - the Ryan Cayabyab Singers who shall try to live up to the standard that the aforementioned names have been known for! Jolina Magdangal will be doing a special number. RCS is Mr.Cayabyab's latest singing group - a pastiche of excellent vocal performers handpicked by Mr. C as the new generation's version of Smokey Mountain.

I've read that the eclectic line up of numbers includes "Moves Like Jagger" mashed up with "Mamang Kutsero" (now how would that sound?); there's also the show tune "Hard Work", a tap dance number, a fully choreographed "Katy" Medley, a Metro Pop Medley, and several other numbers that shall spotlight bravado singing from this youthful group - all employing Mr. Cayabyab's style. If I am too excited for this, it's because I've missed the thrill and magic of beautiful singing and heart warming music sung live before me! And I am grateful to my dear, dear honey for his early gift! Love and kisses!

So if you are free on July 7th, I may just see you at the Music Museum at 7:30 PM. For reservations, call 0917-8743499 or 6685559.



THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN


Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man 3" is really hard to beat! And we're quite curious why Spidey's story needed retelling when the last 3 films about the webslinger were narratively compact. However, this doesn't stop us from wanting to watch the "untold story" in Marc Webb's "The Amazing Spider-Man". In fact, I'm looking forward to Peter Parker (played by Andrew Garfield) pinning down his campus bullies - again! Then there's Peter falling in love with Gwen Stacy (played by Emma Stone). Where is Mary Jane? This is the battle between an arachnid and a reptile. Who win win?

I'm more excited with the supporting cast which has Sally Field playing Aunt May, Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben, cutie Campbell Scott playing Richard Parker, and C. Thomas Howell finally returning to blockbuster territory. Rhys Ifans plays The Lizard!

VERDICT:

If the previous Spider-man movies glazed over the mystery behind Peter Parker's parentage, this "version" tackles the subject head on. In fact, it explains the motivations of the young protagonist. It also tries to weave a tale about Peter's brilliant father (Campbell Scott) who has been working on Cross-Species Experimentation, up until Mr. & Mrs. Parker both had to run away, leaving the young Peter under the care of Aunt May and Uncle Ben. This story is pretty significant because it is almost contributory to the evolution of Peter who, as everyone knows, has been bitten by a radioactive spider during the latter's visit at his father's former scientific laboratory.

Gwen Stacy (the fabulous Emma Stone) is Peter's dream girl in school; the smart and popular girl who stood for Peter while he was being bullied by Flash (Chris Zylka), the campus jock. While Peter acclimatizes with his powers, Gwen's dad (Denis Leary), NYPD's head honcho, is running after "this masked vigilante" unaware that he was indeed Gwen's suitor. But life of a super hero opens windows of dangers, and lives will somehow fall. Meanwhile, scientist Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) has started human trials on himself. Soon, his amputated stump grows an arm. But along with this, he develops reptilian scales, intermittently transforming into a giant reptile. In the process, he wrecks havoc in an embattled New York City. Will Spider-Man be adequately equipped to stop The Lizard?

TRIUMPHANT


The Amazing Spider-Man is a triumph of storytelling. It has cooked up a compelling backstory that involves the family and a little of young romance - and lots of action that doesn't rely on a dizzying array of CG's and improbable Transformer-style adrenaline bravado. Everything in the "Amazing Spider-Man" is well tempered. Part of its narrative success is in the spectacular cast. Andrew Garfield imbues Peter Parker and his alter-ego with enough emotive heft, you actually feel for him all through his ordeal. Emma Stone radiates with warmth and magic that you suddenly forget that Spidey's more popular girl is someone named "Mary Jane". The two share cinematic magic on screen (and off). Mary Jane is supposedly Peter's classmate too so we might expect her in one of the future sequels; maybe as Gwen's "rival". Now, I'm looking forward to that!

This was far from the disappointment that I kind of expected.

Watch it! Watch it! Watch it! 




Spider-Man and Gwen Stacy
Andrew Garfield is Peter Parker



THE GIRL'S GUIDE TO DEPRAVITY

I've "accidentally" had the chance to watch the TV series "The Girl's Guide to Depravity". This series is inspired by a blog (Heather Rutman's) so this rightfully caught my attention. Go, go, bloggers! :)

The series follows the misadventures of best friends Lizzie (Sally Golan) and Samantha (Rebecca Blumhagen) as they envision and follow a set of rules that shall govern their having fun, their dating and sleeping around, as they take measures to avoid getting hurt. The rules are a narcissistic coterie of funny lines: "There's more than one way to f**ck a man"; "Free drinks taste better", "The best way to get over a man is to get under another man", "There's no friend in ex-boyfriend", "Don't shit where you drink", etc. Each 30-minute episode is headlined with eye-catching titles: "The Breakup Rule", "The Last Woman Standing Rule", "The Vibrator Rule", "The Bitch Rule", "The Fuck Buddy Rule", "The Pill Rule", "The Getting His Attention Rule", etc. Now tell me that doesn't interest you, girl friend?

Having said that, this series is rather sexually explicit, both thematically as well as visually. In fact, I was taken aback as early as the first episode where Sam cavorts with a hunky guy on their third date ("the shag him already" date). The scenes are racy and rather too graphic for prime time viewing. Naked bodies hump away like there's no tomorrow with breasts and asses gyrating in wild abandon, I was blushing until the next scene! There indeed is a surfeit of good looking people. Moreover, the irreverent humor and naughty situations push the limits of boobtube boundaries. In fact, it makes "Sex and the City" seem like a Nickelodeon series. If you think I am exaggerating, give it a watch.

Why is it watchable? Because it takes risks, thus has refreshing presentation. More importantly, it is hilarious! It takes us inside intimate powder room mentality of girl friends and how sexual politics is being played these days! It is, I repeat, explicit. This is modern day erotica! If you're timid, for Pete's sake, keep away from this series! Don't say I didn't warn you!




VIVA FOREVER - THE MUSICAL

Lastly, the Spice Girls have "reunited" in London to help drum up interest for "Viva Forever" - a new musical based on the hit songs of the biggest girl group of the 90's. The musical will be produced by Judy Craymer, the same think-tank behind the very successful "Mamma Mia!" With songs like "Wanna Be", "Say You'll Be There", "Mama", etc. - how can this musical fail? Will we get a theatrical run in Manila? We've successfully brought "Mamma Mia!" to our shores last February so why not this?

As I've a couple of weeks worth of holiday sometime in early 2013, I shall probably be able to sashay in the Westend for "Viva Forever" - so I am keeping my fingers crossed! Let's all do!

The Spice Girls reunited last June 26 in London. This photo's courtesy of PA's Ian West. News courtesy of Yahoo Music's "Stop the Presses". 



Monday, June 25, 2012

Edz Espiritu's Hubo - Stupid as Stupid Gets



People should have been duly warned about Director Edz Espiritu’s return to commercial cinema in his latest offering “Hubo” (Naked). But then most catastrophes come unannounced like the tsunamis of Indonesia, the earthquakes of Turkey and the lethal landslides of the south. They creep in like the rancid thief in the night. This film is no different.

Arkey (Arkey Munoz) is a highly respected painter with a lucrative stature in the industry. One day, he is contracted by a high-paying client for his next obra. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a subject who could enveigle the same artistic inspiration he once enjoyed with now-wife Adriana. With the help of his business associate and confidant (Jobben Bello), he meets Lance (Lance Lopez of “Anton Tubero”), the cash-strapped brother of Ian (Jeremy Ian) who is Jobben’s lover. Sparks fly when Lance shows off his well sculpted body - and Arkey’s quandary turns into artistic euphoria. “Nakikita ko sa kanya ang isang obra,” remarks Jobben as they ogle at Lance’s half naked body. “Turuan ninyo ako,” Lance quips. “Madali lang yun, mag po-pose ka lang ng hubo’t hubad – walang malisya!” informs Arkey who, by this time, has got his tongue wagging and salivating below his umbilicus.

During their first session, Lance turns into the perfect mannequin – the Machete of the new millennium, if you must. He also meets Arkey’s voluptuous wife Adriana (Adriana Gomez) who’s been married to the artist for 5 years. Unknown to Lance, Adriana has endured their cold marital bed with her disinterested husband, she might as well turn into an icicle. You don’t exactly wonder why they remain childless. But the day Lance shows up, Arkey gets his libido back. Adriana is happy, but something unsettles the temperamental artist.

One day, Arkey unravels his dilemma to his friend Jobben:  “Magmula nung makatrabaho ko si Lance, parang gusto kong makipagtalik sa lalaki.” Jobben offers a solution: a tryst with a discreet rentboy (Mikho Madrid) and a pocketful of aphrodisiac which tends to further saturate the already murky waters. After all, why give a horned out guy Viagra? This barely makes sense. Moreover, Arkey is married; what’s the logic of peddling a male hustler to a guy who’s in a moral quandary? It’s like dousing gasoline on a flicker of light.

But things turn to a head when Arkey is enshrouded by a baffling sense of paranoia and jealousy geared towards Adrianna and Lance. Are they having an affair? What becomes of Arkey’s pent up desire for Lance?




In what could easily be one of the year's silliest, funniest, most mindless ouvre, director Espiritu once again exhibits his stark cluelessness with his craft. And if the opening scenes are an indication, you would readily discern the sound of your cinema admission flushing down the drain - right down to the lattrine filled with excreta. He labels this as "A Master piece film by..." Isn't he even aware that "masterpiece" is a compound word?  Master piece? Is it like "Master bate"? Could "master" be the adjective of "piece"? This is certainly a first.

WANTED MODELS

This movie boasts of a gazillion inanities. When the job was offered to Arkey, they were beset with a huge problem - the absence of a model who shall pose naked before the esteemed painter! So we see them brood around waiting for nothing. Haven't they ever heard of auditions? Or go-sees? Jobben once again offers brilliant suggestions: "Punta tayo sa Pampanga!" Haha. What's in Pampanga that isn't found in the great metropolis of Manila? Or the backroads of Bukidnon, Marinduque, Basilan , Negros, or the Babuyan Islands? Jeez! When this didn't pan out, he offers a more horrific solution: "gay bar!" I almost fell off my seat! What idiot can't find a model for a highly respected painter ("a legend" is how they refer to him) that he had to scour gaybars for?

The film is also riddled with cringe-worthy and homophobic lines:

After enjoying a lay on the hay with his boytoy Ian, Jobben tells the latter: "Sana mahalin mo ako ng buong buo kahit ganito ang kalagayan ko." Is he inflicted with an infectious, incurable disease?

Arkey would say: "Di ko nga alam kung ano ang pagkatao ko." As though having feelings for another guy makes him a monster of unknown DNA series. :)

HOMOSEXUALITY IS DETESTABLE

Now brace yourselves for the arcane as Arkey theatrically espouses on his nature: "Ang obra ng katawan ko ang humuhubog ng pagkatao ko. Ang obra ang pilit kong inililihim." Huh? And he further delivers his gibberish to underline the fact that his homosexuality is such a detestable condition. It should, in fact, be kept hidden at all cost. Isn't it ironic that a Pink Film sees homosexuality as a deplorable, gag-inducing condition? The same film that has so blatantly displayed Lance Lopez and Jeremy Ian's considerable inches in a couple of 5-second flashes (Lance takes his briefs off in front of Adrianna; Jeremy soaps his body as his appendage hangs like a half mast flag).

Espiritu exploits his actors further by displaying them in poster size full frontal nudes displayed in Arkey's work room - and if you don't blink, you would definitely appreciate the "length" that these actors underwent to accomplish their roles. Yes, Ian Felix Alquiros' photographic genius (of the naked form) is on full display but then that's beside the point.

THREE THIRD SESSIONS

Espiritu's cinematic bewilderment is on display in a series of scenes that come off like drugged out spectacles. After canoodling with callboy Mikho (he is Mico in one film, Mickho in another, then Mikho here - go figure), Arkey comes home and finds wife Adrianna kissing Lance. He gets to his studio and waits for Lance, then tells him that this third session would be their last! "Ayoko ng makita ang pagmumukha mo rito," he tells his model.  The next scene has him storming off and out the gate where he meets the newly arrived Lance. Huh? Wasn't Lance inside his studio? They even exchange pleasantries. "Saan ka pupunta?" "Bibili lang ako ng supplies." How easily he forgets that he just fired him. Next scene has Lance arriving again for his 3rd third session? Are we expecting triplets here? This time, Arkey finds Lance and Adrianna going at it like rabbits. After all, he laced their drinks with the same aphrodisiac given to him by Jobben. But it begs the question: why would you set up your wife and your model for a fast shag?

The succeeding scenes are painful to watch. He orders Adriana to get the rope: "Lyu-ped! Lyu-ped! Kunin mo ang lyu-ped, Adriana!" Arkey sounds like he has a huge appendage stuck down his throat so "lubid" sounds "lyu-ped". Adriana ties Lance to a chair, then Arkey subsequently ties down his wife. He then begins to touch Lance, flicking his pert nipples, then (goodness!) fellating him until Lance spurts a dash of milky substance on his 8-pack abdomen. All throughout this inspired ordeal, we see Arkey cry, shout, growl, scowls, huffs and frets like a raving confused lunatic. Was he jealous? Was he having schizophrenic attacks? How else do you explain the distinct change of emotions and affect? Arkey Munoz seems to have been given the notion that bawling his heart out is excellent acting, but what we experience is a protracted annoyance to a dog whose bark doesn't really bite as rabidly as the noise he creates. If you hated Arkey Munoz in Edz Espiritu's "Masikip sa Tatlo" - one of the most horrendous films to come out from last year, you would easily hate him more in this cinematic vomitus.    



Arkey, the painter, rubs oil on Lance's sculpted chest, specifically lingering on his nipples.


How are the performances? Lance Lopez may have successfully passed muster in "Anton Tubero", but in "Hubo", his smoldering look is lost in a single facial expression that highlights how under-directed he is. He wears this generic facial expression - that never waxes and wanes - which is such a waste of a strong screen presence. After all, you cannot merely coast on an arresting presence, lest you want to be exiled to cinematic limbo. On his first nude session with the painter, Lance looks nonplussed while the painter languidly rubs oil over his body (talk about that special touch), specifically lingering and flicking his left nipple in wild abandon. That should have elicited a different emotion. Well, it didn't. He was as stolid and lethargic. He reminded me of Derek Ramsey, the smoldering igneous rock. Only inanimate objects - like the igneous rock - fail to show emotions. Are Lance and Derek rocks?

Adriana Gomez sashays into the screen like she's walking the catwalk. To be fair, her aura provides a breath of fresh air. She looks classy and moves like a queen, albeit in constant heat. Otherwise, she is not made to do much except gaze longingly at hubby Arkey and model Lance. She has a very revealing shower scene, flabby buttocks, pert breasts, and shaved frontals in full view. Adriana's advantage is that she bears a glimmer of sophistication which is a far cry from second-tier sex nymphets that populate these Pink Films. We earlier saw her in "Ang Lihim ng mga Nympha" (our review coming soon). She might as well be one of those classy Hot Babes of the 90's. Yun nga lang, when she showers, she doesn't wet her hair. This exposes her to dandruff and head lice, debah? Ouch.

Jobben Bello could have been a decent supporting character. Unfortunately, he sees himself as part of the major action and fashions himself as the uber-thespian. In fact, when Arkey drops by his place to seek emotional refuge, we see Jobben shed his tears so unabashedly - even before Arkey tells him what his problem was. Cry me an ocean talaga! He goes the same thespic route when Arkey calls him after having tied down Adriana and Lance. Jobben does a Vilma Santos-style "ngarag" schtick a la "Relasyon". With tears dripping down his adequately fed cheeks, unties their ropes, writes a cheque for Lance and mumbles the gibberish "mata sa mata, laman sa laman", then even gets Lance to sign a "receipt". All sense of urgency briskly dissipates during this cheque-signing session. Haha.

Bello even enjoys a couple more theatrical scenes: one had him caressing Lance's nude portrait while he cries to the heavens, saying, "Sinira ko ang buhay mo, Lance." You would think that Lance was dismembered or killed! The other has him saying goodbye to lover Ian who tells him: "Minahal kita ng buong buo." Huh? Bello should learn how to temper his moments if he wants to be an effective supporting character instead of fashioning himself as anything other than a support. Otherwise, he comes off annoying and irritating much like the rest of this atrocity. He should take lessons from Cris Pablo's comic muse, Chamyto Aguedan. With Aguedan, you don't feel like throwing rotten tomato at the screen. Bello, on the other hand, inspires such proclivities.

Jeremy Ian doesn't do much although he has a spotlight shower scene. Did you expect anything less? Yes, Jeremy, we know you have "gifts". Unfortunately, not where his performance or delivery is concerned. He spews his lines in robotic, staccato convention - not unlike a 6 year old tasked to deliver her "Little Red Riding Hood" lines. At least the latter has the verve. The same is true with Mikho Madrid who has an accent as thick as a Victor Hugo novel.


The film making crew is as bad. We have a cinematographer (Ipe Alvarez) whose gimmicky idea of fast zoom ins and zoom outs are as exasperating as his actors. You don't understand this rankling style at all. What's worse, most of the scenes are laced with a schizopheric sound and music (by Tony Cortez) who shifts from a suspenseful musical strain to a sax music, then to a ballad as gag-inducing as Air Supply's "Goodbye" - all in a 15 minute scene. He doesn't understand the specific emotional content of the moment so he lathers them with 3 to 4 genres of music. Ano ba talaga, kuya? More succinctly, what planet do these creatures come from?

The film opens with a premise written by someone in dire need of grammar lessons: "You are a respected legend, how will you admit that you are a gay?" Please don't laugh yet. Reserve that for the statement written at the end of the film: "Yes, I was born this way!" Move over, Lady Gaga! After having been embarrassed of his sexual orientation all throughout the narrative, the writer shifts gear with this Gay Empowerment hurrah! I was ready to chant: "Don't be a drag, just be a queen. Whether you're broke or evergreen. You're black, white, beige, chola descent. You're Lebanese. You're orient!"

Lastly, after Adriana whispers something to Lance ("Mahal kita, Lance... pero hiwalay na muna tayo."), we eventually find them riding away together. Now tell me Edz Espiritu isn't a confused being? The appropriate adjective is really in the title.


Arkey daydreams of a soiree with Lance.



Jobben and loverboy Ian

Ian Felix Alquiros' photographic nudes on full display in the movie.

Lance arrives for his 3rd session, yet earlier, he was already fired! They forgot? LOL

Adriana Gomez, Arkey Munoz and Lance Lopez

Lance Lopez

Lance Lopez

Adriana Gomez

Adriana Gomez

Adriana Gomez



Friday, June 22, 2012

Cleo Paglinawan's Mga Lalake Sa Balsa - Of Underwear Holes & Rafters Who Never Sail






In a remote riverside town, able-bodied rafters (“magbabalsa”) peddle their flesh to tourists to augment their meager income. Times are hard, and customers are a dwindling breed. This is real life for Arnold (Jeremy Ian). After all, his mother was a hooker. While he desperately mopes around, roommate Tirso (Rocco Mateo) patiently listens to his constant gripes. Arnold is also unaware that Tirso harbors recondite affection for him.

If Tirso could have his way, he would sell his hut (“kubo”) so Arnold and he could start anew in the big city. Meanwhile, Lea (Barbara Chavez) – a married girl whose husband up and went because of his her penchant for canoodling with the town’s male population – has become Arnold’s constant benefactor and girl friend. During Tirso and Lea’s conscupiscent rendezvous, Tirso is left to his own devise wanking over his friend’s soiled briefs.

Meanwhile, aggressive and enterprising Jessie (Jerome Pineda) doesn’t think twice about turning tricks – even for a measly P100 with his limp wristed neighbor (Ike Sadiasa). Brimming with machismo, he offers his wares to any willing customer. But one person is particularly immune to his charms – the eternally lecherous Lea who is so infatuated with his hustling lover Arnold. “Ba’t di mo patulan si Jessie?” Arnold tells Lea but she wouldn’t hear of it.  


One day, tragedy strikes when JC (Mico Madrid – aka Mickho Madrid) forces himself on Jessie’s errr… uncharted territory. Despite Jessie’s colorful sexual past, taking it from his backside was beyond his limit. He suddenly feels violated, debased… “binaboy”, he laments. This event unravels into a tragic turn that has grave repercussions in the lives of his friends.


Jeremy Ian is Arnold


Director Cleo Paglinawan (“S.R.O.”, “Itlog na Pula”) returns with Kenneth Montero’s trite and confused story. In fact, “Mga Lalake sa Balsa” is a second banana to Monti Parungao’s decidedly middling “Sagwan”. To be fair, “Sagwan” feels like a masterpiece beside this atrocity. Paglinawan seems to be experimenting on how to pull down the iota of artistic standard she possesses. And she has succeeded in doing just that. She has done assistant directorial duties (under another mediocre director, Joven Tan) in countless B-movies that it’s baffling why she never learned the medium (“Bahay ni Lola 2”, ”Paupahan”, “Vhagetz”, “Project X”, “Eskandalo”, ”Binyag”, “Booking”, “Tutok”, “Dalaw”, “Bigasan”, “Dampi”, “Indie Boys”, etc.) Clearly, the blind can’t lead another into the light. Bad teachers can never mold better students.  

VEGETABLE CONNECTION

To some people, experience is obviously not the best teacher. How else do you explain the conundrum that’s Cleofe Paglinawan? If you saw her “Itlog na Pula” shown last April (wait for our review in this blog), you would agree with me when I say that these two films feel so similar, you could randomly insert scenes from either films and you wouldn’t notice the difference! Telling a simple story is a major dilemma for Paglinawan and her storytelling posse which, then, begs the question – why stay in a business that you so miserably botch every time? She could be more productive planting say, turnips, or patola and mustasa. Or even kadyos! My dad loves kadyos – so Paglinawan will make one soul happy if she switches careers! If she has green thumbs, she could even get herself declared “Farmer of the Year” in Bayombong, Catanduanes or Tawi Tawi. Ayaw n'ya nun? It's a relatively more promising career!



Jerome Pineda exudes good looks, confidence and natural charisma.


JESSIE, JC

“Mga Lalake sa Balsa” is told in chronology, but it might as well be otherwise. Now here are just a few of the befuddling loopholes in its very elementary narrative. I was transported to the twilight zone when, from out of the blue, Jerome Pineda’s character Jessie suddenly bursts into “Baboy ka JC!” – as he stands with wet white briefs on riverine waters. Where did his palpable indignation come from? Isn’t Pineda’s character named Jessie? Was there another Jessie? Turns out, the town voyeur – played by Mico Madrid – is homonymously named JC! Brilliant, right? Such flashes of inspiration. Jessie and JC! Weeh. Is there a dearth of names I wasn’t aware of? Or does this highlight the limited ideation of the scriptwriter? Mind you, naming characters has got to be the hardest preoccupation for a writer, debah?

Here's a possibility. There could only be one Jessie. Mico Madrid's character could originally be left unnamed, but some time, during the filming, the actors were fed the name of Jessie, thus this confusion! But adhering to this theory is highlighting the fact that the film makers are nothing but bunch of sniveling morons with brains the size of a mosquito. How can you not remember the name of characters you yourselves created? Thinking this much gives you toothache ba? :)

Mico's character hides behind rocks and bushes as he salivates on Jeremy Ian, Rocco Mateo and Jerome Pineda who enjoy several bath scenes (river and bathroom). These barrio boys are so hygienic, don’t you think? Moreover, when they bathe at the batis, they all assume supine position - they lie on their back with face and crotch upward! Is this how we are supposed to enjoy the river? This must be the new fad for summer! How fashionable!

Now why was JC “baboy”? Does he mimic porcine snort? Does he eat slop or kangkong? Not really. Towards the film’s conclusion, the dastardly deed is shown. JC sodomizes the unwilling Jessie during a transaction gone awry. (Jessie expects oral service, but JC overpowers the obviously mightier, taller, more muscular Jessie.) The film editor evidently misplaced the post-“rape” scenes of a grieving Jessie 30 minutes too early, and we’re not even talking about “flashbacks” since the narrative is, as said earlier, told in chronology. 

If the narrative thread is familiar, it is probably because (director) Darry dela Cruz is on board as Paglinawan’s assistant director. You see, in Dela Cruz’s films (“Bingwit”, “Daklot”, “Frontal”), his main characters always resort to prostitution, then someone always dies in the end. “Mga Lalake sa Balsa” is no different. In fact, two major characters die! How’s that for leveling up? J



Barbara Chavez as Lea, Mico Madrid (now Mickho Madrid) is the town voyeur JC


TATTERED BRIEFS

If you need a good laugh, look no further and take note of a couple of separate scenes involving Jeremy Ian and Jerome Pineda where, with cameras panning closely on their crotches, you notice big “holes” on their underwear! Holes! I swear I could see the rings of Venus and the moons of Jupiter. Or was that my imagination? What is this world coming to when a film production cannot even afford decent underwear for their actors? I was actually willing to loan my yaya to the production because she is excellent where needle work and sewing are concerned. In fact, I was ready to practice my crochet on those tattered undergarments, most especially Jerome’s. Ayayayayay! I whole heartedly volunteer! J

NO RAFTING

What’s funnier is how we never see these “rafters” row a balsa not once. The rafts shown were broken and, surely, rafts couldn’t buoy on rocks. This makes the title - “Mga Lalake Sa Balsa” - spurious. Rafters who never sail? Ang galeng, right Chris Tiu?

Robots populate this ouvre, but you can hardly blame the actors who are made to portray character sketches with no valid sense of intent, each one a fallacious caricature. It’s likewise hard to impart empathy on people who deliver lines as oddly as this lot.

GLIMMER OF LIGHT

But there’s a surprising find at the end of this nebulous adventure – newcomer Jerome Pineda! With his gorgeous masculine features, Pineda delivers lines earnestly and naturally as though he has done this several times in the past. Yet this is just his second film (we saw him earlier in Paglinawan’sItlog na Pula”). Sure, his lines are befuddling, and the situations are egregious, but Pineda exudes confidence and a star swagger. It doesn’t hurt that he is exceedingly easy on the eyes! Barbara Chavez looks particularly doped out. Poor girl! As for the rest, let’s just say that their parts haven’t been kind to them.

So why should I?



Rocco Mateo is Tirso. He's in love with his friend Arnold.

Mico Madrid smells the plant? Or his underarm? :)

Jerome Pineda: naughty smirk!

Jerome Pineda invites you to his shower. :)

Barbara Chavez looked dazed all throughout.




Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Three in One - Scatterbrain Confusion and Misdirection



Director Rene Cruz, Jr.’sThree in One” is a gibberish gabfest that tries to veer away from the norm of Pinoy Indie-cum-exploitation flick. In fact, it deserves a trophy for not resorting to half a dozen male shower scenes (although there’s one with its female lead). To be honest, we’re so sick of this cheap ploy from unimaginative schmucks. What is the limit of one’s artistic talent if a film maker has 7 shower scenes in a movie that’s barely an hour long? This also clues you in on the sexual orientation of its director – that he isn’t a libidinous, salivating gay man (Paul Singh Cudail – check; GA Villafuerte – check) moonlighting as a clueless film maker so he could ogle at the shortcomings of his male leads. 

Why am I talking about the director’s sexual orientation? Simply put, in such genres, sexual orientation dictates the content and flavor of the film. It predicates on their priorities and leanings, not on their artistic capability. Having said that, let’s get into the heart of the story - if you could call it that.



Director Rene Cruz, Jr. plays the friend who gets cold feet after proposing to his girlfriend. He shares his scenes with Jo Regis.


Three disparate stories are woven together by two friends who hang out together in a third floor pad. For purposes of discussion, let’s call them Rene and Jo since these characters are not given names. Rene (Director Rene Cruz, Jr.) gives his chubbier buddy Jo (Jo Regis) a visit to discuss an exigent matter – he wants to get hitched to his girlfriend Beth. He’s been mulling over the idea for a year. He is 30 and is gainfully employed. He sold some stuff, even his prized Xbox, so he could finance the ring. But minutes after dropping the bomb to his friend, he shifts gears. Suddenly, he gets cold feet. “Bigla na lang… ayun, wala na! Ayoko na!” He is weighed down by his cloak of indecision. Jo decides to take the wheel of their conversation by telling his friend about the people he met at a resort in Laguna (a resort that his family owns).

One day, three rooms are reserved by different customers. The first room is occupied by newlyweds Bimbo and Hannah (Bench dela Torre and Tanya Morales). The couple goes at it like most honeymooners do. But it soon becomes evident that Bimbo, a vain and narcissistic hunk, is more concerned with his sexual needs. Hannah is frustrated. “Ako ang nanligaw sa kanya, ako ang nagyayang magpakasal. Sana minsan, ako naman ang asikasuhin nya,” complains Hannah to Dennis (Jonas Gruet), a stranger she meets at the resort restaurant.

The second room is booked by Dennis (Gruet), a freelance writer who finds himself alone in a different resort. His friends went to another. Dennis intends to make good use of his solitude by hooking up with single ladies in similar situation. He meets frustrated Hannah, but Bimbo finds them and Dennis gets hit on the face. He meets Sherry (Mia Henares), another frustrated wife who gets testy when Dennis asks what it is that’s troubling her. Dennis ends up with a big slap on the face. Finally, he finds Czarina (Barbara Chavez) who, like him, solitarily roams the resort looking for love. After a drinking spree and a minor stripping moment, Dennis gets puked on by the inebriated Czarina.

The third room has old couple Philip and Sherry (Enrique Joe and Mia Henares). They stay in separate beds and even a romp in the hay is as perfunctory as a morning dump. Unemployed Philip feels neglected by Sherry (a manager of a shop somewhere) who performs their conjugal coupling by the number. When he cajoles her with “Sex tayo?”, she nonchalantly disrobes on bed. Philip, all clothed, rides into the moment until Sherry asked with a “Matagal ka pa?” effectively ending their concupiscent rendezvous. They fight. Sherry sleeps while Philip wanks away his sexual frustrations. Sherry catches him so he walks out and joins a drinking party outside.



Bench dela Torre gets lead role in his 2nd film for 2012. He reminds me of the powerful screen charisma of  Pink Films' "it " boy Jeff Luna.



Now how do all these vignettes relate to Rene’s situation? The conceit here is high on philosophical gibberish, i.e. a lot of things could happen in a day, predicating on the ephemeral, temporal nature of things. Will this provide answers for Rene’s dilemma?

The film is divided by Chapter Titles: “Bimbo and Hannah”, “Dennis and Czarina”, “Philip and Sherry” – and subchapters: “Sa Isang Araw, Maraming Puwedeng Mangyari”, “Mabuhay ang Bagong Kasal”, “Ang Araw ng Hassle”, “Happily Ever After”, etc. but what’s clear is the scatterbrain storytelling that confuses the audience more than shedding light. In fact, it breaks grounds by doing a tackily edited “Groundhog Day” scenario, oft repeating scenes to piece the three stories together. These vignettes appear in episodic fashion between Rene and Jo’s protracted conversation that runs the gamut between amusing to weird. How else do you explain a topic about masturbation when the subject at hand is about Rene’s matrimonial Catch-22?

In this discordant thread, Rene and Jo discuss their first time (to self pleasure): one of them started at 13 years old and it lasted for a brisk minute; the other offers that he used sexy tabloids as inspiration; the exquisite use of baby oil; the technique of a good soap lather and a double-hand mash; dad’s porn video stash; one couldn’t masturbate standing up, etc. While the discussion could be interesting, it clearly departs from the narrative focus. Furthermore, you’re hard up hearing about the details because of the noisy “room tone”. This is a major problem in the film because most of the details are drowned out by noise. Getting the details (names, etc.) becomes utter punishment for someone like me who tries to make heads or tails of the story. How else could I share it for Blush, debah?

The two friends also discuss their sexual fantasies: Rene wants to do it with a mascot – and with someone afflicted with Tourette’s Syndrome (a neuropsychiatric disorder where a patient suffers with involuntary, albeit violent muscular and verbal tics). Jo bizarrely gets his kicks with Sitophilia (Sitophiles are turned on by food, but this can be through consumption, direct sexual contact with the food or simply by rolling around in it.) He wants steak all over his flabby protruding belly as his partner partakes on the slab of meat. (You don’t wonder why he’s pushing 250 pounds when even during sex, it’s food he’s thinking about.) Do these contribute to move the main story? Or to the arbitrary nature of things (that indeed, a lot of things could change within the day)?

Director Cruz coasts on a badly written script, unable to fully realize any of his three main vignettes. In fact, his scenes with Jo Regis is a tighter film making simply because this doesn't allow him greater level of difficulty in technique. They just stay in a room, talking it away like there's no tomorrow. Most of his lines with Regis are ad libs, thus you end up with scene fillers: "Putang ina", "ang labo mo", "ano ang punto mo", "ang weird"... just to tide over the incipient ideas and lines that eventually made it in the flick. While I am aware that it is important to distinguish the individual elements that comprise the 'design' of a narrative structure, you have to be able to seamlessly piece them together. Instead, his anecdotes are like pages of different uninteresting stories that don't contribute to the movement of the plot. Not legibly anyway. While credits rolled, he thanked his film school for "creating a monster". But from the looks of it, the school hasn't really taught him much. And that's really a lot of wasted finance. Don't tell me this is another DLSU film graduate? Oh dear. :) 



Mia Henares (Marimel Candelaria in real life) plays Sherry, Philip's wife. She's also seen in "Ang Lihim ng mga Nympha".

Jonas Gruet as freelance writer Dennis. This photo from Ian Felix Alquiros who seems to have mastered the art of photographing the male form.

Barbara Chavez (aka Vanessa Kate del Prado in real life): She sometimes looks like an inferior version of dancer Saicy Aguila.

Enrique Joe plays the sexually frustrated husband Philip.

This could be Tanya Morales playing Hannah. Got the photo (by way of deduction) from the theatrical poster of "Ang Lihim ng Mga Nympha".


There’s nothing worth discussing about the performances, but Rene Cruz and Jo Regis enjoy comfortable banter. It’s also evident that any hint of a script is characterized mostly by elementary sketches of gibberish. This is why we hear several (count it and you should have nothing less than a dozen): “Ano ba talaga ang punto mo”, “ang punto ko lang naman ay…”, “ano ba talaga ang ibig mong sabihin,” “tang ina… ang labo mo” - yet there’s no valid perspective anywhere near these redundant utterances. An example of this is: “Matanda ka na kasi tapos pag di ka mamatay, mas tatanda ka pa, eh sinong mag  aalaga sa ‘yo?

Jonas Gruet does a perfunctrory Dennis, but it’s clear that his expletives are as benign as his thespic insight. He could have been a stronger presence had he invested on emotions more than the didactic nature of delivering lines. After all, he is the guy who gets punched, slapped and vomited on. A huge loophole in the story concerns his arrival in the resort. His friends went to a different place while he ended up in Carayan Resort (a place frequented by these indies and Pink Films). Cellphones exist in this day and age, don’t they? Can’t he drive himself to the other resort to join his friends? The rooms were supposedly reserved. What happened to the rooms reserved by his friends? Did he pay for them? Maybe his friends went to Boracay instead. It's possible you know. :)

Bench dela Torre packs a wallop where his cinematic presence is concerned. Now this is a guy who oozes with machismo and sexual charm, the proverbial “artistahin” not found in many of Crisaldo Pablo flicks who prefer his guys cachectic and “dugyutin”. Casting is imperative in a film like this because if the movie can’t offer much in content, the paying audience can at least feast their eyes on the pulchritude of its cast. Unfortunately, Bench dela Torre delivers like a duo-tone robot. His phrases are spewed in two pitches that are as tentative as reciting an alphabet. He could have benefitted from not opening his mouth at all. What did he “show”? You have to remember that this has a straight director, which means, there are no “labas-puwet” shower scenes here. Just tight bikini briefs. For that three-second peekaboo of his “shortcomings”, try GA Villafuerte's "Ang Lihim ng Mga Nympha" where Bench lies completely naked in a dimly lit room (oopps, I saw the mushroom head in its slumbering state) – the review will be posted here soon!




Among the girls, it’s Mia Henares who fares better, although not by much. She flaunts a frontal nudity (she takes off her towel in bed, showing everything) while Enrique Joe (who plays her husband Philip) is fully clothed, humping away until kingdom come. Did I say “come” Naughty me. :)

Barbara Chavez, billed "Barbie" in one of its three theatrical posters suffers from misdirection or the lack of it. I would have expected a little more from her since she has appeared in several film features this year ("Mga Lalake sa Balsa", etc.) Barbie epitomizes the sex nymphet common in the 90's - fair, petite, willing to show her mammaries, clueless. It's Tanya Morales that we could hardly find photographic materials of, although she was also in several flicks this year ("Ang Lihim ng mga Nympha", among others). While it's easy to google photos of the male cast, finding some for the female cast is like finding needle in a haystack. This only underlines the blatant shift of priorities of B-Cinema. Males have become the preferred commodity - and this is dictated by commerce and patronage. If only indie film makers of the genre would try harder, this resurgence of low budget flicks could be beneficial to a lot of parties, most especially the paying audience. 

But that's all wishful thinking.  

Bench horizontally enjoying the water.

Bench dela Torre as exquisitely photographed by Vic Fabe (above).

Director and actor Rene Cruz, Jr. and playful Mia Henares






Saturday, June 16, 2012

Kimmy Dora and the Temple of Kiyeme - Diminishing Comic Returns




Kiimy and Dora’s latest caper takes to light the origin of the Go Dong Hae’s fortunes. This time around, the discrepant twins get hounded by their patriarch’s unsavory past.

Kimmy and Dora (Eugene Domingo) have to take a trip with their father Luisito (Ariel Ureta) to Seoul to pay their respect for their fallen grandfather now entombed in a temple backyard. But little did they realize that there was more to this ruse than meets the eye. In fact, Kimmy is betrothed to the son of the Sang family instrumental in jumpstarting the business that has more than thrived in the Philippines (they even own and operate a new airline company).




As a young man in Korea, young Luisito’s (Ryan Bang) family was hard up but perseverance in the family’s kimchi stall soon pays off. With the Sang family’s financial succor, opportunities flourish and business grew exponentially. Luisito meets Kang Kang (Alodia Gosiengfiao), the Sangs’ favorite daughter, who fell head over heels in love with the amorous Luisito. When doors open for Luisito to study in Manila, the young entrepreneur grabs his chance, conveniently abandoning the heart broken Kang Kang who, through the years, has grown as bitter as her sagging wrinkles. When she eventually learns of Luisito’s marriage (though at gun point) to a Filipina lass Charito (Kiray Celis), the scorned woman dies – but not without a curse and an acrimonious spell that shall even out an unjust romantic field. Kang Kang shall claim whoever loves Luisito and Charito’s offspirings!

Meanwhile, upon the Go Dong Hae’s arrival in Seoul, Kimmy is obliged to meet her would-be groom who turns out repulsive, obese and child-like. Kimmy’s surly and antagonistic behavior towards the younger Sang repels the latter that he turns his sight to the saccharine-sweet Dora! Things get worse because Barry (Zanjoe Marudo) has actually proposed to Kimmy, while Johnson (Dingdong Dantes) has popped the question to Dora. Heck, even pet Micky is looking forward to marching down the aisle. All these complications become precursor to the spell earlier cast on the patriarch. 





In calculated stages, Sang Kang Kang sequesters the souls of Barry, Johnson and Luisito, while eternally badgering Kimmy with auditory hallucinations (she hears an ominously beating drum) and Dora with visual phantasms (she sees a ghost dressed as a witch). Suddenly, the Go Dong Hae’s world is in shambles. Will the twins get through this diabolical patch in their lives?

Trust scriptwriter Chris Martinez to come up with a valid story that imbues sense and narrative nuance to an otherwise preposterous, if droll chronicle. Unfortunately, there’s no getting around an inane material. Silly is silly. It’s like partaking ampalaya (bitter gourd). No matter how you garnish it to dilute its bitter taste, you will never rid of its sensory piquancy.

The main culprit is the briskly dwindling comic quotient of director Joyce Bernal who once again resorts to her feeble, diarrheic humor. Remember “Mr. Suave”, “D’Anothers” and “Agent X44”? Sure, she had “Booba” and “Kimmy Dora: Kambal sa Kiyeme”, but their levity were mostly attributive to their naturally rambunctious leads (Rufa Mae Quinto, Eugene Domingo). What’s more telling is how this story didn’t even make it to the final list of 7 at the 37th Metro Manila Film Festival (2011) – a spurious film movement that’s actually churned out slightly-better entries last year! The sequel is akin to a cinematic runt, i.e. “latak”.


Johnson (Dingdong Dantes) saves Dora (Eugene Domingo) from drowning?


CG work is patchy and takes us back to the technology of the 90’s: whenever a special effect is employed, the screen dims, giving you an incommodious prodrome of things to come by way of poorly realized effects.  Some are great (a witch flying over the Go Dong Hae household), but most are run of the mill. Besides, Korean witches don’t necessarily take the form of Western Witches with disfigured faces, extended and crooked noses, long frizzy hair garbed in black pointed hats and Cimmerian flowing gowns – riding on a flying broom. When did Sang Kang Kang evolve into a western miscreant? Why not play around the Hanbok, the traditional Korean costume? Maybe in her old age, Kang Kang turned to watching Hollywood freak shows?

It also doesn’t help that some of the supporting cast need lessons on maintaining accents like Kimmy and Dora’s attending physician (Alexander Cortez) who vacillates between British (“He is in a prolonged state of sho-k”) and Visayan English – and something in between. I cringe every time he’s on screen. Kyle (my BFF) whispered that Cortez is actually the artistic director of Dulaang U.P.  which begs the question: why is a supposedly well-placed thespian this hammy? Shivers! Someone give him remedial lessons in elocution and delivery – fast!

But all’s not lost really. The film takes you to scenic Korea – you shall see the Namsan Tower, Gyeongbokgung Palace, and the festive Myeongdong (a commercial, pedestrianized street littered with shops), among other places. If you like exotic scenery, you can check this filmic criteria. If you’re easily taken by a constellation of stars, there are quite a number here: Kris Aquino (who blurbs and refers to the film as “pang pamilyamay puso” – and you’re suddenly curious if she was indeed talking about “Kimmy Dora”. The silliness of people who speak first and think later just makes you puke, doesn’t it?); Piolo Pascual, Erik Santos, John Lapus, Jason Gainza, Maricar Reyes (resplendent as a flight attendant), Richard Poon, Marvin Agustin (playing Jose Rizal), Kean Cipriano, Mura, Tim Yap, Slater Young, Divine Smith, Jinggoy Estrada, Liz Uy, Raymond Gutierrez, et.al.




Alodia Gosiengfiao, who plays the scorned Sang Kang Kang, commands a strong presence, thus this should usher more films for the lovely cosplayer. Miriam Quiambao (the loony former beauty queen who turned infamous for her spaced out utterances: “Homosexuality is not a sin but is a lie from the devil”) does a great Gertrude, Kimmy's much abused secretary. She was fantastic in the first film so I half expected more screen time here. It’s too bad she was given scenes too menial for her promising character. Instead, spotlight shone brightly (albeit in heavily diffracted and broken luminescence) on Moi Marcampo – oddly billed as Moi Bien in the film. She awkwardly graces the screen as the Go Dong Hae's maid Elena - an abomination that further drags down the less-than-hilarious moments. Marcampo speaks like a somnambulist’s assistant so you do wonder why some people think of her as an actress worth hiring (aside from the fact that her boss is Spring Films' executive producer, Papa P). I even read a piece that referred to her as, and I quote: “a natural comedian whose presence and few lines are enough to make one roll a laugh”. I smell drugs. I sense dementia. I speculate on delusion. Roll a what? J Is it like rolling a dice or rolling weed? Or did the writer really mean Moi was laughable?

BRILLIANT

This takes us to Eugene Domingo who is expectedly brilliant. But there are no surprises here. She continues to amaze us with her thespic intuition as she masterfully delineates not just two, but three characters: the disagreeable and ill-tempered Kimmy; the coy but winsome Dora, and the nurturing Charito (the twins’ mother). However, at some point, Kimmy’s whiny demeanor – she has protracted scenes that stretch out for 15 straight minutes – grates through your senses and tries the heck out of your patience. Kimmy Dora, like “Ang Babae sa Septic Tank”, is a highwire act. Domingo’s hard work is so palpable that at some point you get exhausted looking  at her manic energy dripping throughout the narrative hyperboles. She has to be zanier than Mila (“Septic Tank”), needier than Aida (“My Househusband… Ikaw Na!”), more impertinent than Rowena (“Enteng ng Ina Mo”) and flakier than Mrs. Montano (“Zombadings 1…”) I’d surmise it’s a tall order to outshine yourself.

There are disparate moments of utter conjecture with punch lines that don’t quite make the scenes. I was baffled why laughter was few and far between. Was it just me? While making my way out of the cinema, I overheard comments: “Medyo nakakatawa din pero kulang”. In fact, I felt that these laughs were mostly episodic, albeit intermittent: two-second chuckles where there should be convulsive bursts of laughter. This is probably due to a contrived back story that complicates and dilutes the entertainment quotient of the film. Moreover, horror and comedy just don’t make comfortable bed fellows. 



Alodia Gosiengfiao: strong presence!



Ryan Bang and Alodia Gosiengfiao play Luisito and Sang Kang Kang respectively.

Eugene Domingo and director Bb. Joyce Bernal