Wednesday, November 30, 2016

John Paul Su's "Toto"- The U.S. Visa as Measure of Success

Toto (Sid Lucero) has but one dream - to go to America. So he's turning every rock to find the means to get there. But the American visa is a huge stumbling block. It doesn't help that the amiable hotel bellhop has very few treasures to show at the embassy. His checklist is a tall order: a rich family, a fat bank account and the steadfast resolve to hurdle every rejection. Now where can he acquire the aforementioned?

Toto's prospects aren't promising. His head is up in the clouds, barely looking over his shoulders to realize that his girlfriend Tessa (Mara Lopez) and best friend Yam (Thou Reyes), who both harbor feelings for him, are conveniently being taken for granted. But this is his "show", not theirs, so he's all too willing to dance to the popular tune, the "Macarena", no matter how cheesy it is, to find his place in the American sun.

On the side, Toto peddles pirated DVDs and postures like Tom Cruise. He meets Eve Porter (LIza Dino), a fil-am guest in the hotel where he works, who accepts his marriage-for-convenience proposal, But it will cost him. Another guest, David (Blake Boyd), a gay businessman from Texas, becomes an unexpected mentor and friend. But even the best laid plans don't always turn the way we want them to. 

John Paul Su's "Toto" is a comedy of manners, though this time it zeroes in on the working class. Many stories have been told about the much-vaunted American dream. Heck, even Cameron Mackintosh's "Miss Saigon" (recently screened in SM Cinemas nationwide) sang-and-danced for it. Bela Padilla's more recent "I America" was screened at the Cinemalaya with very similar story and setting, it even has Thou Reyes playing another gay friend named Whitney! 


People dream for different reasons although most Filipinos do it for the opportunities they present. Economic and financial security are, after all, as basic a need as breathing air. Sid Lucero, in an Inquirer interview, mentioned that he dreams of just flipping burgers, feeding people and surfing - that's his piece of the American dream. I don't have an American dream. I may be as colonial in manner and sensibility, but my heart lies in this archipelagic mess. This takes me to the wayward ideation that getting to America is, by itself, a measure of success. Babaw huh. Filipinos should put a lid on this and readjust their criteria to something more substantial. Your stepping on American soil does not automatically make you the epitome of success, but a mere statistics of migration.

This exactly is the reason why I am hardly fond of movies with such themes. Opportunities are available right within our shores. You don't need to go to, say Hong Kong, earn P7,000 a month as a domestic helper, and call yourself an achiever, do you? Propagating the mystic of migration does a disservice to the talent of the Filipino. Despite all these, the diaspora continues.

"There is desperation all over, but one tendered with glee and enthusiasm.

"Toto" makes the journey to acquiring a visa more upbeat, and Sid Lucero does a great job depicting the resolute spirit of the Filipino dreamer. There is desperation all over, but one tendered with glee and enthusiasm. This is the Filipino's penchant for seeing the silver lining in the midst of misfortune and apathy. Doing Toto is like walking on thin ice because it is a crucial balancing act. Besides, Lucero once admitted that he isn't too crazy about slapstick comedy - or just comedy, in general. Thou Reyes is adorable as the protagonist's gay best friend who would rather go behind bars than see Toto fail. In some ways, he mirrors what true love is all about, i.e. that sacrifices are part of the package. Reyes is insightful, vulnerable and funny. 


I saw this movie last year at the Indie section of the Metro Manila Film Festival. I wasn't over-the-moon then, but I wanted a second viewing this time so I could place it alongside "I America" which is one of the better outputs from this year's hundred-and-one film festivals. Both movies are a companion piece. Robin Padilla's "La Visa Loca" (2005) is a distant cousin. I may have readjusted my perceptions about it but I am of the opinion that stories like these should be given a rest. Make no mistake, Director John Paul Su's movie is well made, adequately paced, entertaining and has great performances all around. But the subject matter is a bit of a pickle.

In my book, getting an American visa is a mere procedure and doesn't deserve a parade. Or a whole movie for that matter. More importantly, stepping on American soil is not a measure of success, and shouldn't be celebrated as such.          

Toto, Tessa and Yam share more than friendship.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Chris Martinez's "Working Beks" - Cinematic Preponderance and the Gay Men

Okay. Here's a premise that's almost too simplistic to share. But sometimes, people need reminding. Like other homo sapiens, gay men are human beings with their own burdens to carry. In Chris Martinez's "Working Beks", some of these specimen get fishbowl scrutiny. 

The film follows the lives of five gay men within a 24-hour period. Champ Reyno (Edgar Allan Guzman), a matinee idol, figures in a gay video scandal. He’s gone incommunicado and taping for his popular teleserye is put on hold for two weeks. 

After seeing his mother plead on television, Champ resurfaces. His handlers decide to face him off with a veteran investigative journalist (Leo Martinez) for a scripted revelation that would have him admit his romantic affair with perennial screen partner Joy Madriaga (Bela Padilla). But how do you smokescreen a viral video scandal?

Meanwhile, Tommy Sarmento (TJ Trinidad), a marketing executive for a liquor and beverage company, is on tenterhooks. Their company's number one product endorser is missing, but his extracurricular shenanigans might affect sales of their product. More than this, Tommy is gearing up for a well-earned promotion. But he soon discovers that he is being passed up for the position because he is gay. In fact, his homophobic boss detests Tommy’s flaunting of his “alternative lifestyle' - one that involves overachieving children and a supportive partner (Arnold Reyes).

Jet (Prince Stefan), a call center agent, learns that the random stranger he’s recently had unprotected sex with committed suicide upon learning that he’s HIV positive. To make matters worse, Jet has been feeling under the weather, with symptoms that include fever, coughing, malaise and night sweats. Does he? Could he?

Jet's lifestyle is an accident waiting to happen. His promiscuity has him cruising bars, hooking him up with strangers 7-8 days a week. His body is taking the brunt  of it all. He knows he needs to get himself tested. But he realizes that the journey to finding the truth is harder to accomplish.

Gorgeous aka Gregorio (John Lapuz), a cross-dressing food vendor, struggles to support his extended family who all depend on him. His mounting obligations don’t allow him to socialize so he keeps flirtations with a hunky security guard Gardo (Jeric Raval) at bay. Meanwhile, his no-good father (Rez Cortez) is harassing him for a dole out, something that he doesn’t have.  

Finally, Mandy (Joey Paras), a “reformed” gay man, is preparing to march down the aisle with sensitive bride Judith (Cai Cortez) who’s aware of his struggles. Unfortunately, Champ’s sex video provides an inconvenient bump on the road. This temptation is too potent to remind him of his real preferences. As a desperate measure, he enlists the help of his colleague Brother Benj (Atak) to cure him of his homosexual tendencies. In the process, they employ various methods of pseudoscience once believed to avert homosexuality. Would they work or should Mandy just walk away?


Intermittently told in dramedic fashion, the cross-section of characters tackles concerns of the contemporary gay men, and there's considerable amusement to be had. Jet's story particularly rings like a discordant bell. In a society where even "killing" is sanctioned, endorsed and condoned by the authorities and its gutter-minded apologists, moral conventions become moot and academic. 

Killing loses its "illegality" (let's forget the moral grounds) because it is no longer regarded a social taboo. It's an everyday occurence. Weighed alongside these murders, Jet's nihilism seems inconsequential; a non-issue, in fact. What people don't realize is that this moral apathy is gradually rejecting even the very basic social conventions like manners and social grace.

In the movie, Jet finds meaning in his life by filling a vacuumn satisfied by his material desires, leading to an excessive hedonistic lifestyle of shallow sex and loud social events with even louder, if disposable, friends. He congratulates himself for his sexual catharsis that only provides temporary escapism. Unfortunately, Jet represents a steadily growing population of nihilists. 


Champ's dilemma, on the other hand, is a common scenario nowadays. This is a new world that fosters digital voyeurism, that even orgasm is one-click away. People's inherent nature to connect allows others to take advantage, employing the digital media to nefarious use. How many personalities have succumbed to the lure of the watchful and omnipresent video camera? These salacious videos, recorded and even traded for a bigger audience, have willing viewers because people are basically curious and wouldn't want to be left out of the bandwagon. Add into the fray, that dash of superiority of witnessing a person satisfying his most basic urges. 

This is why watching Champ tintinnabulate another guy's genitalia on video isn't too alien a concept. Not anymore. This leaves Mandy's story a bit stale, prosaic. Champ's proud member becomes part of a hundred others, nothing particularly special unless he has a gold-plated schlong the size of a molave branch. If I were Mandy, I'd go watch the video then move on. A mere sex video won't figure in any normal person's decisions - gay or straight. It baffles me why a silly video would make a dent on Mandy's marital plans, to be honest. The most that we should get from his story is its comic proclivities, a pampakwela more than a didactic exposition.  

This takes us to the elements surrounding Mandy's gay exorcism a.k.a. "conversion therapy". The design involves a series of "conditioning" meant to catechize or indoctrinate the mind into believing that homoerotic tendencies are distasteful and aberrant. It should averse the subject.

Thus "aversion therapy" is employed in the form of repetitive mantras ("I love the vagina", "Gay is not okay"); emesis therapy preconditions the subject to throw-up upon application of a visual stimulus, i.e. half-naked men. Then there's the more drastic and invasive electric shock therapy (ECT) employed similarly for schizophrenics and depressives unresponsive to medicine.

These treatments are, of course, considered archaic nowadays and have no scientific basis so it is rather odd that such ridiculous methods find their way in a modern, "educated" comic tale. But let's treat this as an artistic license to mine the comic possibilities. The result is a hit-and-miss affair. It would have been productive if they shortened these episodes in favor of a more grounded, albeit situational approach involving Mandy's surroundings and personal relationships. After all, it should be clear to every half-wit that no amount of rubber band punishment will change one's sexual preference. How do you combat an affliction too deeply ingrained in the genetic composition of a person? Immanuel Kant’s critique on metaphysics and conditioning doesn’t have a place in this diatribe. Surely, you don't psychoanalyze nature nor treat it as a pathological disease.


Among the five characters, it is John Lapus' skillfully depicted and well-limned turn as Gorgeous we find most sympathetic, and for obvious reasons. Gorgeous doesn't deny his cross-dressing nature, and he acts and dresses like one, but this doesn't stop him from working hard for the people he loves. 

Neither does his homosexuality prevent him from becoming a decent person - and a productive member of society. In fact, it is his selflessness that defines him, not his being gay. It is in Gorgeous' story where we find the movie's cinematic worth and beating heart.

Like many Chris Martinez films, "Working Beks" bristles with wit and, in some way, cinematic urgency. Portions of it skid away carelessly, and stereotypical delineations sometimes get in the way of an insightful discourse. Nevertheless, it is a brave effort to showcase stories of the gender-benders otherwise relegated to comic support in mainstream films. While the arc of the narrative doesn't exactly allow it to soar, it is hard to dismiss the film as something less relevant. The stories fleetingly interconnect, but you get a decussatory feel among the characters; that there's a string that pulls them together to fuel cinematic preponderance.


Why we sometimes despise Web Criticism? (Our featured post)

- Read and weep: Cinema Bravo's Gag-Inducing Contributions

#workingbeks   #chrismartinez   #edgardallanguzman   #johnlapus   #tjtrinidad   #belapadilla   #princestefan   #joeyparas

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Jean-Francois Richet's "Blood Father" - Return to Form

John Link (Mel Gibson), a reforming ex-convict on strict parole watch, gets a desperate call from his estranged daughter Lydia (Erin Moriarty) whom he hasn’t seen in years. Holed up in a trailer truck park in the California desert with few options, John makes a living as a tattoo artist. He has been sober for 2 years, and is trying to keep it together.  But Lydia’s situation is a game changer. The 17 year old girl is being pursued by a Mexican drug cartel after she accidentally shots boyfriend Jonah (Diego Luna), who may have used Lydia to conceal contraband. John refuses to get pulled back into his past, but he must take action to protect Lydia by knocking on these doors. 

The story is one that may have been told several times in the past, and the theme is universal, much like Brad Pitt's also-showing "Allied", i.e. protecting the people your love at all cost. 

But Mel Gibson and the film's cavalcade of characters are an engrossing bunch, you're compelled to watch the events unravel. Besides, this is Gibson's comeback after a two-year hiatus (last seen in Patrick Hughes' "The Expendables 3").  

I keep thinking of Peter Craig's novel where, surely, Link's story is better told. John Link is a former Hell's Angel, an ex-con, trying to stay clean and sober while running a tattoo parlor from the kitchen of his trailer home. Link was in fact in prison for 9 years. While Lydia hails from a relatively wealthy upbringing, her relationship with her mother leaves much to be desired. The teenager has had three stepfathers.

The movie is told in straight-forward fashion. It takes us to the dusty, craggy and scabrous communes of this desert community. Despite adequate screen time, Moriarty's character is poorly threshed out, thus she comes off a bit on the tepid side, barely convincing as a good-girl-gone-bad. But the motley crew of characters may suffice - there's an all too-eager AA sponsor (Macy), a white supremacist (Parks), a nasty cellmate, a cartel soldier called sicario (with unnerving tattoo inked all over his face) and an opportunist boyfriend (Luna) - each one navigating Link's netherworld with ulterior motives. 

The script doesn't hold much traction, but this is vintage Mel Gibson, the quintessential action hero we all root for. In "Blood Father", you can't miss his raw magnetism and the unmistakable hint of humor in his eyes. If this isn't obvious enough, this cinematic vehicle is a return to form.  

Erin Moriarty

Mel Gibson when the world was his oyster.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

George Vail Kabrisante's "Upline Downline" - Old World Tricks, Senile Ramblings

Audiences don't want to be lectured at, spoken down to or given bittersweet lessons, thus news-worthy topics have to struggle to find balance between real-world problems and entertainment. In the former, if a viewer gets catharsis, or to some degree, enlightenment or epiphany, then these pictures will elicit the appreciation they deserve. As a general rule though, whether a film teaches, informs or entertains, it has to be deeply invested in the human dramas underneath.

In George Vail Kabrisante's "Upline Downline", the struggle lies in the story telling as it vacillates between trite and convuluted - and messy! It doesn't help that the production values are way way below par. Kumbaga sa pyramidal business, na scam. On a more sophisticated jargon, this is textbook "artistic bankruptcy", but that would mean there was considerable artistic merit or investment to begin with, debah?


Married life isn't a walk in the park for Richard and Ann (Matt Evans and Ritz Azul, respectively). Love alone does not guarantee financial stability to sustain their rich-girl-poor-boy scenario. Their elopement has estranged them from Ann's acid-mouthed mother (Snooky Serna) who would have married off her daughter to flashy Carlo (Alex Castro) who hails from a well-to-do family. What's worse, the couple has been threatened with eviction for failure to pay rent. 

When Richard gets fired from work, he turns to networking, selling a gamut of products from skin whiteners and hair growers to a "pampasikip" (just one sip of the concoction and your coochy snorcher tightens automatically - like magic). His goal is to win the annual networkers' convention which will gain him a car, a house and lot; and P5 million.

But Richard's hours are grueling and long, leaving pregnant Ann to her own devices in a shanty in Antipolo where she regularly fetches pails of water from a well, you'd think she was filling up an olympic-sized swimming pool. Tsk tsk tsk. 

One day, Ann suffers from threatened abortion and decides to abandon Richard. Meanwhile, Carlo, now a networking rival, is gaining up on Richard who even loses his flirty client (Inez Veneracion) to Carlo. It turns out, former pimp Carlo (yes, this rich boy pala pimps escort girls!) even peddles his own flesh to get horny downline matrons to invest. How revolutionary!

How will Richard catch up? He turns to his uncle (Juan Rodrigo) who just got out of prison for embezzlement and estafa; the same uncle who wears thick-rimmed glasses and a lab gown even at home. He's actually on his way to discovering a potion that will turn brown Pinoys into Caucasians - and fair-skinned people to tanned gods! Uncle ex-convict is so generous that he even invests millions as downline for Richard! I had to stop myself from gagging! 

Meanwhile, Snooky can afford to shell out a million peso-worth of investment for Carlo, but can only spare a giveaway rice cooker for her own daughter! She didn't care if Ritz were making igib from the balon in a barong barong in the bayan. Everything is so quaint and sensible!

George Vail Kabrisante's movie bills itself as "the first ever film in recent history that tackles nontraditional multilevel marketing and networking business". It even describes this film project as "searing". I have more appropriate adjectives for this flick but I'll get to that in a bit. Ambition seems to fuel its story. In fact the film structure is predicated on a pile of tales awkwardly pieced together. Here are a few of those that branch out from Richard and Ann's marital woes:

1. Carlo's own networking business bafflingly involves pimping, product selling, talent management, etc. This strain has a gay guy named Jogi J. Jigo (Jai Ho) who ends up committing suicide.

2. Prof. Robert Dumlao (Juan Rodrigo), a beaker-and-flask bearing "scientist" who concocts a skin whitening potion, is just released from jail. Jojo Alejar regularly appears as his hammy and eager-beaver legal counsel/financial adviser. 

3. A school of thugs kidnaps Carlo because he owes them millions.

The story evolves into different genres: from romance and drama to action suspense. Each one fails in their respective little episodes. The style is a throwback to the sensibilities of the 80's, with tired, old world tricks and senile ramblings. 

Kabrisante just doesn't have the directorial insight to give this "searing" tale its cinematic justice. It isn't even well told, but a mere hodgepodge of random strains that lacked urgency, congruence or believability. 


* When Snooky sees her daughter Ritz on her hospital bed, she shouts to the doctor: "I'd like to transfer to another hospital. A more expensive hospital." Somebody needs a fat slap on the face.

* When Matt and Ritz were thrown out of their house for not paying rent, guess where they conveniently found shelter? Alex, who's Matt's romantic rival!

* When Alex invites Ritz for an unspecified sortie, she gets all dolled up like a hooker. She didn't even bother to ask where she's supposed to go or inquire about the job description. Is she a robot who just follows orders? Then she learns that she's being pimped to Rez Cortez by the man she was formerly betrothed to. Go figure.

* There's a lingering reverb in the actor's lines so you are transported to videoke country. 

* Ambient sound is heard in most scenes,which is disturbing.

* A rioting scam victim is decked in silvery sequined gown. She even gets a complete cinematic moment - by fainting (or dying!) with her shining, shimmering outfit! Was she dressed for heaven?

* Action scenes involve a torture scene and men in leather jackets reminiscent of those mediocre action flicks of the 80's.

* When Snooky sees Matt driving a Porsche, she suddenly changes tunes and quips, "A woman's place is with her husband." How a Porsche can briskly change a mother's point of view, right?   

Darkness in Araneta!
Lastly, when Richard finally won his award at the Araneta Coliseum, he goes up the stage and delivers an impassioned speech - bathed in darkness! Naubusan nga ng budget? He has P5 million from a company who can't afford lights? Or just maybe, someone forgot to light the winner? Or maybe Araneta Coliseum forgot to pay its Meralco dues? They could have used candles too; those scented ones.

The intersection of genuine social issues and fictionalized drama can take audiences somewhere different and new. This is one of the personal draws of the cinema for me; that it takes you to places. But when film making techniques put out something that makes people run away from the nearest cinema, then that's a disservice to the medium. Do you wonder why some people keep away from indies? A film like this is one of the culprits. Brava?

"I can pimp your wife because you're both freeloaders!"

"Maawa kayo! Ibalik n'yo pera ko! Naubos sa sequins ng gown ko!" Collagen implants are expensive too. Teehee.

#uplinedownline   #mattevans   #ritzazul   #alexcastro  

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Mike Flanagan's "Ouija Origin of Evil" - The Fortune Teller's Horror Tale

Headstrong widow Alice (Elizabeth Reaser) is at wit's end raising her daughters Lina (Annalise Basso) , a high school sophomore, and 9 year-old Doris (Lulu Wilson). Her fortune telling job, which are staged readings, doesn’t suffice to save their house from impending foreclosure. But their fortunes turn when she obtains a Ouija board that communicates with the departed, including husband Roger. These spirits even drag Doris to the basement for a quick fix of their financial woes, i.e. a valuable stash. (Give me these spirits anytime, I say!) However, the board also inadvertently draws malevolent spirits. 

But communing with tenebrous spirits, including one named Marcus and a Polish victim of the Holocaust, takes a toll on sweet Doris who soon displays a peculiar disposition. 

Lina senses unsettling changes happening to her sister, which Alice refuses to acknowledge so Lina summons the help of Father Tom (Henry Thomas) who's only too happy to oblige. After all, he took Alice out for a dinner date at a fancy restaurant where he used to take his wife (before he turned to priesthood). Convenient, right?

Director Mike Flanagan’s "Ouija Origin of Evil" has hair-raising moments involving otherworldly critters that navigate walls and jump from ceilings. A dozen jumpy tricks coupled with thunderous bangs will jolt you from your seats. There are even references to the atrocities of the Nazi regime. Make no mistake, this is your well intentioned horror concoction. But sometimes, these explicitly obvious scare tactics ignore logical narrative flow, thus ultimately off-putting. 

My misgivings involve a few scenes. When a body is dropped on a noose hanging down a ceiling, no one budges. They just look and move elsewhere. When Doris disappears, the same set of characters just stand looking around until Doris'voice is heard shouting for help. Suddenly you suspect a neurotransmitter has been blocked disallowing them to act with a sense of urgency. On the whole, the compelling first half doesn’t deserve the muddled, predictable and gimmicky second.

To stop the voices, Lina has to keep it shut.

Parker Mack plays Lina's 17 year old boyfriend Mike

#ouijaoriginofevil   #horror   #lulu wilson

Monday, November 21, 2016

Ipaglaban Mo's "Riding-in-Tandem" - Vetting Stories and Scraping the Narrative Bottom

I was waiting for Mang Ruben, my driver, who was unusually running late because of an earlier errand he had to run for my mom. I decided to kill time by scouring the television for any interesting show. The first that caught my attention was this beautiful cherubic face looking so forlorn - Albie Casino's.


Albie Casino's career resurgence is something of a miracle. The erstwhile baby-maker rascal turned out to be a convenient fall guy of a not-so-palatable situation sometime in the past. 

The itchy bitchy one was so confused with her bedtime frolics she couldn't tell who the real father was. Either that or she was just using someone so people would sympathize with her. That prematurely ended a flourishing career and destroyed Albie. Even I was so disgusted with him.  Why am I discussing this? Somehow there are lessons to be learned from his situation, particularly now that he's successfully staged a comeback. Perseverance pays off. He's in indies; in mainstream flicks, in teleseryes, in drama shows, in deodorant commercials. Heck he's even in the scandal sheet for flexing his wares and flashing his magic wand. Indeed, Milton and Mrs. S. Hall were right:"There's a silver lining to every cloud that sails about the heavens if we could only see it." These days, Albie is back with a vengeance.

in "Riding-in-Tandem", Albie plays the role of a reluctant petty thief Fredo (Casino) who's being coerced by the shady Domeng (Jao Mapa) to assist in his dubious deals, i.e. driving a tandem motorbike to snatch bags from unsuspecting pedestrians. 

The VOD (victim of the day) would be Hazel (Ingrid dela Paz), a hard-working girl who has a bratty sick mother to take care of. To cut the long story short, Hazel's bag gets snatched by Domeng who's in a bike driven by Fredo. A concerned taxi driver, Mang Conrado (Smokey Manaloto), who was himself a holdup victim, decides to pursue the tandem. The result was tragic for Fredo, but Domeng was apprehended by the cops. He was charged with "robbery with homicide", due to Fredo's death.

As legal proceedings go, this seemingly petty crime took faster to litigate than most. Domeng was eventually convicted, not of "robbery with homicide" as he didn't directly cause the death of Fredo who was, for all intents and purposes, accomplice to the crime. 

Domeng was eventually convicted of simple "robbery" that will get him imprisonment between 6 months to 4 years and 2 months depending on the judge's decision, circumstances considered.

The story is rather hackneyed and under-developed, but with an hour to tell its story, they have an excuse for its paltry character development. But think "Maalaala Mo Kaya"! They have almost similar running time, yet the series is usually braver and adept in expounding convoluted, albeit difficult stories. So you see, length shouldn't be an excuse. Another point of reference is King Palisoc's "Tandem" (2015) starring JM de Guzman and Nico Antonio. Now that was particularly stirring - with great turns from its more-than competent cast. 

Was Fredo really a victim himself? From the way the snatching was executed, this is highly unlikely. Check out a Youtube  trailer and you will observe that their motorbike was actually driving towards Hazel. Fredo was on the wheel. How can he not know? But that's just how this particular scene was set up. The story is based on real events so the film could have been tweaked for cinematic purposes.


Since "Ipaglaban Mo" is a legal drama that plunges into situations involving crime and punishment, it would sit well if they vet their crime stories more meticulously, instead of this narratively gaunt tale. On point of performance, Albie Casino was particularly engaging. I was going to channel-surf but ended up staying put, not the least of reasons included that gorgeous face. Dear Mr. Casino, if you ever decide to steer clear from doing tandem rides, mirror selfies and self-gratification videos, my house welcomes you for your eternal vacation. Love, Catherine. Tee hee. 
Jao Mapa is rather intense but I have this sneaking suspicion he was trying too hard to don the bad guy's hat. 

Such roles require a dash of subtlety to be truly street-smart credible. Jao on the other hand was loud and livid (see left photo). An insightful perspective isn't borne out of glaring eyes and loud barks.

Smokey Manaloto does better, but this comedian has always been dependable, thanks to his years of experience in the business. As for newcomer Ingrid dela Paz, who plays Hazel, she seems promising. She even reminds me of Shaina Magdayao. Unfortunately, her character isn't particularly momentous,is it? Regardless, may her appearance jumpstart a successful career in the business.

Cathy writes, "Dear. Mr. Casino...

#IMtandem   #jaomapa   #albiecasino   #ingriddelapaz


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Maryo J. delos Reyes' "The Unmarried Wife" - Lines That Make The World Tremble

If it seems like Angelica Panganiban's high wire act in this flick is analogous to being in a great movie, let's thank the heavens and attribute this to brilliance and insightful performance. In fact, this fantastic actress admits to finding her role easy. Opps! Slip of the tongue? She did say that in an interview.

To be fair, there are situations in the story of Maryo J. delos Reyes' "The Unmarried Wife" that's cunningly relatable. In fact, I texted a friend who reminded me of the protagonist's marital dilemma. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Ann Victorio (Angelica Panganiban) is a fairly successful advertising director of a "morally upright" firm whose battlecry is the rather hypocritical "We take care of families". She's just been promoted so Ann tries to spend her time proving it was her boss' best decision since mankind discovered Skype and viber. But let me backtrack a bit.

Geoff (Dingdong Dantes) met relationship-weary Ann over coffee. Her mother's a screwed up floozy (Irma Adlawan) who has affinity to bad boys and boytoys so most of Ann's growing up years were spent convincing herself she wouldn't end up like her mother. She was ready to brush off romance until Geoff offered her free coffee. After a zippy courtship, Ann falls for the handsome rascal - and they find themselves in a blissful marriage. A son follows thereafter.

Unfortunately, not all fairy tale romances end up with princesses riding into the sunset. Real life happens and we eventually make choices too far removed from lollipops, roses and cotton candy dreams. The busier Ann gets, the more sexually frustrated Geoff becomes - so he finds a way to remedy his needs. But Ann catches him in flagrante delicto. Trouble in paradise. What did you expect?

As if that weren't enough, Geoff does it again just when Ann was softening up her resolve. For awhile, I was enjoying Ann and the mistress' (Maricar Reyes) heated exchange at a cafe. That could be the highlight of this film. But not quite. Angelica really takes command all throughout.

Ann reminds Cristina (Reyes), "Nuknukan ka ng tanga at utu uto." The exchange was too delectable I was ready to see Amor Powers join the fray. She reasons why she wonn't even dare slap the lovely chef,"Ayokong madumihan ang kamay ko. Wala akong dalang panlinis." At this point, I was ready to tap my stilettos and cry, "Bravo!" Cristina was of course bragging about her "bedside manners" but no need to convince us, Maricar. We have "seen" exactly what you're capable of doing. Tee hee.

Ann eventually meets laidback guapito Bryan (Paulo Avelino) who refuses to talk about his own failed relationship. While others try to seek catharsis through a talkfest, our flawless Romeo just wants to love Ann - and be her knight in shining armor. But something's not quite right somehow.

What becomes of Ann's marriage? Will Bryan give her a new lease on love?  

The answers are Facebook status-worthy. Yup, they're complicated. In this rigodon of couplings, a demented lady suddenly emerges from nowhere - Louise (Denise Laurel) who breathes, scratches and screeches like a scorned dragoness. While I realize that this was designed as the story's excuse from predictable triteness, the narrative strain seemed too abrupt and flimsily written. In fact, Louise was unadulterated caricature. She even changes her mind as briskly as shooting stars blaze the sky.


It is rather hard to sympathize with Dingdong's character, to be honest. This is a father and husband who would rather hump on his working day. Come on. Sex is pleasurable but in the real world, there is a time for canoodling and a time to earn your keep. 

So while his wife is busy, there's a slew of productive activities to be had, not the least of which is putting his big hands to good use. Like playiing his organ? Or his piano? Or ukelele. Tee hee. Dingdong Dantes is more than competent, and even intermittently compelling, but his character is rather pre-ordained like a total jerk. When he finally declares that he will wait for "forever", I couldn't help but think, until the next itch comes along? Besides, calamine lotion is cheap noh. Go buy yourself a barrel.

Paulo Avelino's character seems like an afterthought, written like a narrative device used to shift plots. In fact, he only appears 38 minutes into the movie, then disappears again. He resurfaces a good 73 minutes later to fulfill his third wheel duties. Of course I don't mind seeing more of his gorgeous face, but his character could have been fuller.

This takes me back to Angelica Panganiban who transforms a cinematic circus act into a legitimate heroine worth rooting for. For this alone, she validates what could otherwise turn into a mawkish urban melodrama. She is cinematic magic personified.


If you love funny, silly, insightful, memorable or just plain droll cinematic lines, there's a cadre of them here. Parloristas and gay beauty contestants, take note

Angelica to Dingdong: "Huwag mo akong gawing parausan kasi mawawalan ng silbi ang kabit mo!" Fierce, right? Which husband would want to shag someone as briery?

Dimples to Angelica re:annulment - "Baka hindi kumampi sa yo ang batas at ang mundo." International crime of arbitration? 

Angelica to Denise (when the former was accused of breaking up an already broken marriage) : "Hinihingi ko ang isang bagay na kailanman hindi hiningi ng mga kabit ng asawa ko." Sniff! Sniff!

Bing Pimentel to Angelica (talking as a new employer): "I firmly believe that we are more than our mistake!" Miss Universe Q&A ?

Finally, Martin Escudero delivers his indellible contribution: "Ginagawa nyo kaming mga emotional punching bag para sa mga hanash n'yo sa buhay."

If only for these quotes alone, you ought to bring your pompoms to your nearest cinema and get ready to cheer! Go!

Read our featured post on Cinema Bravo and why we sometimes hate Web Criticism:

#unmarriedwife   #angelicapanganiban   #dingdongdantes   #pauloavelino   #maricarreyes

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Diane Ventura's TheRapist - Living with the Other

After being accused of rape, Alex (Marco Morales) attends a psychotherapy session with a psychiatrist (Cherie Gil) who listens to her client’s impassioned defense. He recalls the incident that transpired. He met Shar, the alleged victim, at a frat party. But a few drinks later, Alex is in a bedroom with Shar. Things happened. 

 Alex insists it was consensual, and bemoans this double standard against men. The shrink concedes and says it is indeed “discriminatory and prejudiced”. Before long, Alex is assured by the doctor - “You’re not a bad person.

She opens up saying that her profession actually contributes to the abuse because “probing into the psyche of another person is a (form of) violation.” The session ends. But as Alex walks out of the room, we realize that Alex was never in the room. Door closes, and we see a sign that reads: "Dr. Alex Laney."

"TheRapist", as titles go, is a clever word play descriptive of the theme. Director Diane Ventura's psychological drama indubitably justifies how a good story doesn’t require protracted screen time to tell a thought-provoking tale. Like her main feature "Mulat", she tackles urgent psychological issues; i.e. schizophrenia and psychological abuse. Both Gil and Morales shine in this provocative short, a fully realized cinematic achievement.

Marco Morales, Cherie Gil, and director Diane Ventura

Marco invites you to his boudoir.

Please read our post on Cinema Bravo and why we sometimes feel nginig about Web Criticism:

#Therapist   #cheriegil   #marcomorales

Saturday, November 12, 2016

David R. Corpuz & Cenon O. Palomares' "Kusina" - Nurture and Her Nature

Nurture is the sweeping theme that fuels this brave cinematic experiment. In its every yarn-spinning stride, Corpuz and Palomares' "Kusina" is meticulously conceptualized. I was hooked from beginning to end. 

The story follows Juanita (Judy Ann Santos-Agoncillo) from her precarious arrival on a kitchen table. As mother Emilia (Angeli Bayani) succumbs to childbirth, the young and cheerful girl (Princess Ortiz) is left to the care of her grandmother (Gloria Sevilla). Puten (Bong Cabrera) mostly ignores his daughter. But her Inang often reminds her of  her father's loss and inconsolable grief. 

Influenced by the doting grandma, Juanita spends most of her time learning the joys and clutter of gastronomy.  

Time moves along. Juanita grows into a peppy teenage girl (Katrina Legaspi). She meets and falls in love with handsome engineer Peles (CJ Navato) who eventually marries her. A daughter (Elora Espano) comes into their lives. They would live happily ever after, but things don't always turn out the way we want them to. 

Peles (Joem Bascon) hardly comes home anymore. Somehow, Juanita longs for her husband's affection. But Alejandro (Luis Alandy), Peles' friend, comes into the picture. He falls for Juanita and insinuates himself into the household, Juanita's loneliness turns into indiscretion; one that bore her a son Adrian. This further strains the couple's relationship. One day, Peles abandons his family altogether. Juanita vows to take care of her family the only way she knows how - through her cooking. Would her affection and determination be enough? 

"Kusina" is a master class in theatrical story telling. Though others called it "messy", I celebrate its impeccable composition. Entrenched in a one-piece kitchen set, Juanita's life unravels around this limited space, which is a tall artistic order to pull off. Lars von Trier employed this style in "Dogville". The kitchen essentially becomes an important actor in the movie.Take note that the film has a single exterior shot: As Juanita carries a basketful of goods, she ushers us into her home.


As the story progresses, touches of director Yasujiro Ozu's style emerge. His narrative artifice never conforms to the usual convention. He'd occasionally employ static transitions between scenes. But what we've noticed, as consequence of a single set, is his figurative "tatami shots". He would use ellipses, i.e. the decision not to show major events in the story. To eschew a few key scenes, he would pass over moments that would otherwise stir excessive emotional reaction. The effect is more staggering because the audience is tasked to imagine. And nothing supersedes the power of imagination.

In the movie, these ellipses occur outside the camera frame: fighter planes heralding the arrival of the Japanese; soldiers ransacking the neighborhood; a festive wedding is being celebrated; people scurrying off to Bataan, Isabela or the mountains of Sierra Madre; military personnel arriving outside to capture the boy who eloped with a general's daughter, etc. 

Another stroke of inspiration - the assignation of a character's favorite food: dinuguan with puto for Puten; pinakbet for Inang; Adrian's ginataang monggo and sapin-sapin; Myrna's leche flan; Alejandro's biko; and the dish that never gets served until the very end - adobo! Attributing catharsis in a serving of adobo is nothing short of brilliant.

Even the costume changes are deliberately planned, probably to signify hierarchy, permanence or even mood or state of mind: gray for Inang; blue for Puten; bluish green for Alejandro; pink for Myrna; and hues of brown for Juanita. This story telling method inspires expostulations from a myopic audience (i.e. those noisy geriatric audience in Glorietta during our Cinemalaya viewing), but let's leave them to their naivete. Even Toni Munoz's music is well conceived as it calls attention to itself, thus it avoids overpowering a scene.

These elements allow us to concentrate on the motivations, missteps, and reflections of its central character. The film delves deeply into Juanita's human frailty and strengths. Inherent traits sometimes dictate a character's tragedy or victory. More importantly, there are aspects in life that require attention other than servitude. Humanity is a complex creature that also requires nourishment of the other aspects outside physical sustenance, the same way that society has concerns outside the dimensions of peace and security as prerequisite for development. We aren't fulfilled by mere food or affection alone. These are realizations ponderously derived from Juanita's life.

In Kusina, Judy Ann Santos-Agoncillo delivers a complete character exposition. We see her evolve. We become witness to her joys, frustration, pride and defeat. She is, in fact, a virtual force of nature. If there's an injustice in the world, it is the fact that a film festival's best feature didn't win a single award at the Cinemalaya.