Monday, June 23, 2014

Greg Mclean's "Wolf Creek 2" - Steeplechases in Remote Australia

A pair of bored highway police officers patrol a desolate strip of the Australian backways. When they finally see a lone vehicle plying the route, they stop and ticket him - just for kicks. Little did they realize who they were dealing with. Not long after, the younger cop gets his head blown into smithereens while the older one is made to crawl and, later, burn to his demise inside their patrol car. Carnage follows when a couple of German backpackers are hiking their way to Wolf Creek Crater, a well-preserved meteorite crater found in a remote area in Western Australia. When night falls, the campers meet grumpy Mick Taylor (the creepy John Jarratt), the same highway culprit earlier encountered by the erring cops.

Mick offers to take them to a camping site but when the couple refuses his "help", he turns to them, bludgeoning cute pie Rutger (Philippe Klaus) with his knife and raping Katarina (Shannon Ashlyn). Later, we see Mick dissecting Rutger's remains into pieces. He even snips off Rutger's penis, raises it for inspection and quips, "Ain't he a donkey."

This gives Katarina the chance to escape - and get haunted by Mick who didn't want to let go of his "new toy". Katarina strays to the highway, "rescued" by British surfer Paul (Ryan Corr) who takes his sweet time to interrogate her in the middle of nowhere. Would they escape Mick's steeplechase? Guess.

Like its predecessor screened 8 long years ago, Greg Mclean's "Wolf Creek 2" follows a framework not dissimilar from the first. Strangers stray to a remote place and finds their sanguinary comeuppance. The concept is intriguing as much as its employ of a mysterious crater, discovered by scientists in 1947. The metaphor- laden association is uncanny and stokes a degree of paranoia and wonder among us.

The film is buoyed by a charismatic cast and a villain that seems sturdier than metal or mortal (see: he gets hit by a hammer yet he stands, bloodied, but seemingly unhurt). Before long, we're treated with carcasses and snappy slideshows of bondage and rotting corpses. Novelty wears off half way through though what buoys the remaining narrative is Ryan Corr's enigmatic presence. in fact, at the torture chair, we wince and grunt as he loses some of his fingers to a "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire"-style mind game.

Like many films of its genre, the characters exhibit immense stupidity in multiple situations. They linger when they're supposed to run away. When given the chance to fight back, they allow the villain to recover when they could easily finish him off and end their misery right there. This narrative ruse is, of course, unfortunate because you don't want them harmed. I mean, come on, I'd rather see Kris Aquino appearing in another Chito Rono flick - with stickers of "My Little Bossings" on her forehead, cut down to pieces and her tongue tied down her double chin - than Ryan, Ashlyn or Philippe in several stages of dismemberment. Now that would rid this Oprah-wannabe of her eternally smug countenance, right?

Other than all the blood bath, we were quite comfortable right where we were sitting the whole duration of the film. For a suspense thriller, that's not such a good thing.

The prologue offers that some 30,000 people are reported "missing" in Australia every year - 90% of whom are eventually found. The rest is gone forever. And yeah, this story is based on actual events. I have my doubts, but who am I to say? ;)

Ryan Corr as Paul Hammersmith

Wolf Creek Crater is believed to be 300,000 years old (Pleistocene) but was discovered in 1942. It was named after a gold rush-era storekeeper Robert Wolfe. 

Ryan Corr seems to transform well. Check out a younger, albeit sunshiny Ryan below.

When Ryan Corr was younger. Wasn't he a doll?

Philippe Klaus

Shannon Ashlyn

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Tony Y. Reyes' "My Illegal Wife" - Humor Challenged Borrowings

After getting booted out of a job in Japan, 39 year-old Clarisse Sabaldica (Pokwang) comes home with a resolve to find her children a “father”, someone they can depend on. As fate would have it, she serendipitously meets Henry James Acuesta (Zanjoe Marudo) on her flight back to the Philippines. It's love at first sight. Unfortunately, her attraction is not reciprocated. But when their plane crashes, they find themselves marooned on an island. What’s worse, Henry suffers from amnesia. It's the opportunity opening up for her fervent wish.

Clarisse then concocts a plan to convince the poor guy that they are a married couple. “Pinatulan kita?” asks a baffled Henry. So goes the start of their blissful lives. Unknown to Clarisse, Henry is a “gold mule”. Several pieces of gold have been incredulously planted in his abdominal viscera prior to the plane crash (as though this was even medically possible). As if that wasn't enough, Henry is actually in a relationship with struggling jeweller Clarize (Ellen Adarna) who plotted the stygian operation. And the latter is desperate to find her missing beau. 

Back on the home front, Henry is starting to enjoy the attention he’s getting in Clarisse's household. The couple is, in fact, planning their church wedding with the help of their zany circle of friends (Beauty Gonzales, Pooh, Empoy Marquez, Edgar Allan Guzman). But sinister Clarize - "with a Z" - is closing in on them.

What happens if Henry regains his memory? Will Clarisse’s annoyingly cloying son Liam (John Steven de Guzman) lose a father figure? Will Clarisse forfeit her chance to have a complete family? Guess.

Tony Y. Reyes’ “My Illegal Wife” predicates solely on borrowed narrative snippets culled from Star Cinema’s array of blockbuster romcoms and the hit Angel Locsin teleserye, not to mention Kathniel's "Got2Believe": “It Takes a Man and a Woman”, “She’s the One”, “Bakit Di Ka Crush ng Crush Mo”, “Bride for Rent”, “Starting Over Again”, and that commercial-riddled vomitus called “Maybe This Time”. Its derivative content makes movie viewing utterly predictable and an unnecessarily gargantuan snooze . I felt like playing “sipa” or “tumbang preso” inside the cinema. I wanted to be anywhere but there. 

Even the supporting characters feel manufactured. Let’s take Empoy Marquez’s fractured and specious use of English words. Hasn't he done this similar ruse in a couple of romcoms in the recent past? If you had a fourth of a brain, you’d get exasperated by Marquez’s ludicrous shenanigan. "I smell something specie?" Duh. Too much of something is, well, “too much” – so we wanted to flush this charmless dingbat in a toilet bowl. Get rid of this abomination already. Beauty Gonzales’ briskly disappearing pout (supposedly born out of her rabidly kissing lover) is present in one scene and gone the next. She even felt the need to reference Wella, her character in “Starting Over Again”, as though people would find it amusing. I didn't. Wella’s two minutes of fame has rightfully passed so puh-lezzz bury her now!

There are several lines that make fun of physical attributes: "Ang isa, mukhang itik." In another scene, it becomes "Ang mga kaibigan niyang mukhang nalubog sa putik." "Janitor fish!" This is a hallmark of old school humor; the lazy variety that comedians/humorists of low-tier capability employ very often. And what's with the side story involving Jimmy Santos? Wasn't it one of the most painful movie moments you've ever watched in your life? Santos' idea of heightening emotions is his annoying sudden shouts. He would follow this up with grievous dramatic caterwauling. You'd think this old man had schizophrenia instead of Alzheimer's Disease. Santos apparently can't act to save his life. Yes, "Bang Bang Alley" was a fluke. But then Santos is being directed by Reyes; someone who's as clueless with on-cam emotions as he is in telling stories. 

Joy Viado’s cookie character is likewise troublesome. “Ba’t mo in-Indian si Liam, hindi ka naman Indian?” That was a joke? Seriously? Who laughed? And the clincher was...? Tony Reyes’ idea of humor is so 80’s that he could be responsible why Vic Sotto’s filmography is worth nothing but crap. “Pak! Pak! My Doktor Kwak?” “Lastikman?” “Fantastic Man?” “Iputok Mo, Dadapa Ako (Hard to Die)?” “Kabayo Kids?” Enumerating these titles even feels like an ominous predicament, a prostitution of sobriety and common sense.

Pokwang doesn't really take on a character. The movie runs with a succession of parody that doesn't quite synthesize into a singular coherent narrative. It's a feast of paper-thin caricatures. Pokwang is, of course, comfortable "being herself" but the film medium is a make-believe world and she isn't making believe. She's doing a protracted stand-up comedy show. Her impression of Nora Aunor elicited laughter ("Meron ba akong hindi alam, asawa ko?"). Zanjoe’s impression of Xian Lim, Daniel Padilla and Enrique Gil bear no semblance to the aforementioned gents so you end up with a headache trying to connect his so-called "joke". It was so flat I heard the wind from the east on its way to Ecuador. Zanjoe’s “Pinatulan kita,” was funny though. Joy Viado’s flirting with men was cringe-worthy. Zanjoe’s “I need an acceptable explanation” likewise flatlined and went to heaven. You see, everything about the film is a “hit-and-miss” affair; but they're mostly “misses”.

After Sarah Geronimo and Coco Martin’s recent disaster, Pokwang and Zanjoe Marudo follow awkwardly like another blundering pair, you’d never believe in a hundred million light years that something will romantically curdle between these two disparate souls. That Marudo and Pokwang are hailed as the “King and Queen of Skylight Films”, respectively, is pure gas. It is a slice of dishonor, if you ask me. Skylight Films, Star Cinema's alter-ego, has been churning out one mediocre film after another, with the exception of Veronica Velasco's “Tuhog”. This purveyor of second-rate mainstream fare is giving Star Cinema a bad rep.

A glimmer of hope in this gloriously wasteful effort is Ellen Adarna. She initially comes off irresolute, no thanks to vapid, albeit one-dimensional character development, but she eventually catches up, playfully pursuing the sinister-but-occasionally-funny vixen. When she contorts her face, you knew she was going to be a fumbling menace. And oh God, what a beautiful menace she is. If her character’s a bit unhinged or incoherent, it’s the brilliant writers’ undoing.

In one scene, she yells, “Sino ba ang babaeng yan?” How can she not know? Her henchmen had been spying on Pokwang’s Clarisse for some time to get to Zanjoe's Henry. It was even the reason why they found him, wasn't it? Someone conveniently forgot?


Here's a surprising fact: I watched "My Illegal Wife" twice to confirm my observations about this film, but what I've observed was this. Sarah Geronimo's "Maybe This Time", released 2 weeks ago, has folded for good. It's not in cineplexes anymore as I write this. How long did Toni Gonzaga's "Starting Over Again" run in our cinemas? An impressive 8-9 weeks, and even longer. "Maybe This Time" (MTT), after its 2nd week is gone. So tell me honestly, would you believe when they say that the Sarah-Coco starrer was a gargantuan hit? In fact, "My Illegal Wife" enjoyed a bigger and fuller crowd in Cebu (SM Cinema 3) as it was at a Gateway cinema. Moreover, while the Manila crowd had a more reserved reception to the film's humor, Cebu crowd was rowdier. Davao audience wasn't as pleased. The movie played on almost empty halls and the few who watched weren't laughing. What does this signify? Is the Manila crowd a more sophisticated audience than the provincial folks? Is Davao more urbane in their humor? There should be a sociological explanation to these discrepancies, shouldn't there?
But this much is true, when a comedy flick offers laughters that are exceeding few and far between, you would wonder about the material’s raison d’etre and, subsequently, its source of inspiration. They designed a persona with Pokwang's ebullience and temperament. "My Illegal Wife" is a bad idea in the guise of comedy. One wonders why Star Cinema is “making hay” successively producing bad films this year! Is it following the foot steps of GMA Films? Anyare?