THE BOURNE LEGACY (Tony Gilroy, 2012)

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It was great to see a lot of people that braved the rains and floods just to watch a jeepney on the big screen.

Unfortunately, the movie was two hours of exposition: a failed attempt to reboot a franchise. I’m sure a lot of people missed Matt Damon and the frenetic camerawork of Paul Greengrass.

Manila never looked this glossy, though, and it was a delight to see our local actors (John Arcilla, Madeleine Nicolas, Art Acuna, Lou Veloso, etc.) in a real Hollywood movie.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published August 10, 2012.)

RONDA (Nick Olanka, 2014)

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Nick Olanka’s aptly-titled Ronda was an hour of watching policemen roam the streets of Manila. It was the most boring ride-along ever.

In one scene, a mother said this clunker while searching for her kid: “Anak ko yun. Kilala ko ang anak ko.” I’m sure you do, lady.

And yet in another, a badly-hurt man rode with the police so they could rush him to a nearby hospital. And the car moved at 20 km/h.

If there’s one good thing in this film, it was the admirable restraint shown by Ai-ai delas Alas in her dramatic scenes. She usually sobs like crazy in all those Wenn Deramas movies so it’s good to see her rein back the hysterics. A fine effort.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published August 5, 2014.)

TRAGIC THEATER (Tikoy Aguiluz, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on the aptly-named Tragic Theater:

1. The urban legend surrounding the Manila Film Center accident in 1981 was the stuff of a great horror movie. Apparently, Imelda Marcos wanted the building completed as part of the beautification of Manila in time for the first Manila Film Festival. Rescuers weren’t allowed at the site until 9 hours after the accident. Since the construction had to be rushed, some bodies were buried alive and the rest were never retrieved. The ghosts of these men still haunted the said building. Spooky, right? All of these were never in the movie.

2. The screenplay was credited to Movpix Creatives. Was this a pseudonym or a group of geniuses that came up with the following choice lines:

Spirit Questor to ghosts: “Ang babaw ng mga dahilan nyo. Wala kayong pakialam sa aming mga buhay pa. Umalis na kayo!!”

Spirit Questors to the possessed Andi Eigenmann (Annie) floating 10 feet in the air: “Annie, bumaba ka diyan!!”

John Estrada (Fr. Nilo) gave a long sermon on why everyone should listen to him (all while Annie floated) and ended it with: “Wag na tayong magsisihan.”

Fr. Nilo: “Sino ang nasa katawan ni Annie?”

Possessed Questor: “Hindi namin siya kilala. Ang tawag namin sa kanya ay Diablo.”

Fr. Nilo: “Maari mo ba sabihin kung ano ang itsura ng Diablo na ito?”

The group asked for help from a Bishop (Christopher de Leon) and Fr. Nilo said: “Hindi ko po alam ang nangyari kay Annie pero nakasabit po sya sa ere.”

Annie during flashbacks: “Anong nangyayari? Bakit bumabalik ang mga nakaraan ko?”

3. I honestly couldn’t remember the rest of the atrocious dialogue from laughing too hard.

4. Did we really need that flying scarf?

5. I loved how the movie wanted to be a Public Service Announcement regarding the horrors of technology. There was a scene where Annie was checking her phone while driving and she almost rammed into another car. In another scene, everyone that was part of the seance was given the directive “Walang bibitaw” and when her phone rang, the first thing she did was check it. Twice.

6. To be fair, there were glimpses of the greatness of Tikoy Aguiluz who made Pinoy classics like Bagong Bayani and Segurista. But then again, three beautiful shots couldn’t compensate for an hour and a half of torture.

7. There was a gratuitous rape scene that merited the R-16 rating, a hint of a relationship between Annie and Fr. Nilo, and an overlong possession story with the Bishop. Too many stories being crammed when all it needed was focus on the actual theater plot.

8. Dear Andi, when your mother is considered one of Philippine Cinema’s Greats, you just can’t give that kind of performance.

9. It took the team a good forty minutes to realize that all they needed to bring Annie down was a stepladder. Really.

10. Hint of a sequel? I can’t wait!!

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published January 12, 2015.)

MA’ ROSA (Brillante Mendoza, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Ma’ Rosa:

1. The film opened with Rosa (Jaclyn Jose) hoarding what seemed to be packs of Ri-Chee and other chichirya for her small sari-sari store. Similar to that weird sweet milk snack, Brillante Mendoza’s oeuvre would definitely be an acquired taste. As always, expect your senses to be assaulted by the headache-inducing shaky cam and the palpable stench of Manila’s esteros emanating from the screen. As a sucker for poverty porn (that had been getting a bad rap in the local indie scene) and Mendoza’s cinema verite style of filmmaking, I absolutely loved the entire experience. Ri-Chee, not so much.

2. I have always wondered why vendors give candy in lieu of actual change ever since I was given a sukli of Juicy Fruit gum. Is this just a Pinoy thing? (Also, my OCD self really hates butal.)

3. Much had been said about Jaclyn’s brilliant final scene (seriously, that had to be the saddest fishball moment ever), but I really loved how un-Jaclyn she was here. Before she went crazy over-the-top in her recent kabit movies and loony teleseryes, I usually associated her performance with the one parodied in Jeffrey Jeturian’s Tuhog where she talked in this seemingly lazy monotone like a drugged diva who didn’t really care much about performing.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved her type of non-acting acting, but in this film, her performance just felt more…alive. Every dialogue and curse word that came out of her potty mouth sounded true and I felt the dread of being part of her doomed family.

4. Is there a President Duterte biopic in the works? Please consider this Cannes-winning treasure. (Speaking of, I loved how timely this film was considering the recent drug busts happening everywhere in the metro.)

5. Who was the kid that played one of Rosa’s sons and looked like a cross between JM de Guzman and Rainier Castillo? Where have I seen him before?

6. Considering the grim subject matter, I enjoyed the little bits of humor thrown in whether it was Rosa asking the policemen for load to call her supplier, or her husband Nestor (Julio Diaz, effectively understated as always) getting mocked for looking good in a lieutenant’s uniform, or Racquel’s (Andi Eigenmann) description of her mom as someone who looked like her but with humongous breasts, and even the intentional (?) Pare Ko videoke homage to Mark Anthony Fernandez (as one of the corrupt cops).

7. When Rosa uttered the line, “Sir, hindi kami puwedeng makulong kasi mahirap lang kami”, I felt like I was in the middle of a fender bender with a reckless jeepney driver sheepishly scratching his head while looking at the damage that he caused. (Not being elitist, but still…)

8. I was fascinated with the treatment of the gay characters here. One was a young boy wearing his Little Miss Trouble shirt constantly called fag (in a non-derogatory Pinoy way, if there ever was such a thing) and being one of the boys/cops as they celebrated their extortion bounty over lechon manok and San Mig Light (that he was tasked to buy naturally) and later on caught trying to steal a suspect’s cellphone. Another one was a pony-tailed server with heavy make-up and a masculine voice (maybe he wasn’t gay and I was just being judgmental?) who blatantly lied about his boss’ whereabouts. The last was Allan Paule as a benefactor easily fooled by the whims of his needy and manipulative beh. Should this be considered progressive cinema or a sad reality of our society? (Or both?)

And for the curious minds, this was a Mendoza film with Allan Paule playing another gay stereotype so of course, there was a gay sex scene. (Oh, the irony!)

9. Do you still remember Maria Isabel Lopez stealing the scene on the Cannes red carpet with an Albert Andrada emerald dress? She did the exact same thing here while wearing a daster (I think) and spewing profanities and she was nothing short of amazing. This woman was the epitome of the word eksenadora.

10. If you had completely lost faith in our corrupt criminal justice system and thought that policemen rank second on the list of most annoying reptiles in Malabon Zoo, this one definitely wouldn’t help change your mind. Reality sucks.

Rating: ★★★★★

SPOTLIGHT (Tom McCarthy, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Spotlight:

1. In one of the many interviews in this compelling film about the Catholic Church’s cover-up of child molestation scandals, a lawyer (played by the superb Stanley Tucci) clearly summed up the overall feeling of helplessness and blind faith when he said, “If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse them.” Chilling words considering that this was based on a true story and the end credits specifically mentioned the cities with reported cases (Manila and Cebu, among others).

2. Kids these days will never understand all the actual research needed to complete a thesis, prior to all the advancements in technology. Information now is just one click (or a Google) away whereas before, you actually had to go to a library (physical, not virtual), sort through the card catalog (that uses the Dewey Decimal System, of course!), find the hard copy of the book, and actually read the entire thing to gather information (without the help of a CTRL+F to search for keywords). Instead of clicking links for news reports, one had to find newspaper clippings and use a microfilm viewer. You wouldn’t really know hard work unless you were a kid growing up during the pre-Internet era.

3. Since this film was set in 2001 (when Facebook was still non-existent), the group of Boston Globe reporters that wanted to do an exposé resorted to manual work (scribbling down notes, knocking on doors, visiting libraries). It was like the most boring procedural TV show and yet you didn’t want to miss every detail that they uncovered. At one point, they had to go over actual physical copies of directories, highlighting the priests that were on “sick leave” before logging the entries in what appeared to be the very first version of Excel.

(Btw, sick leave meant that guilty priests got sent to treatment facilities instead of prison. Now that was really sick.)

4. In one of the most powerful scenes here, a victim recounted the experience he had with an abusive priest. He talked about the resulting guilt and shame, the long-term trauma (some were driven to alcoholism and drug abuse) of that incident, that he was not prayed for but preyed upon, and ended his story with this question, “How do you say no to God?”. How, indeed.

5. On the flipside, one of the priests admitted that he was guilty of molesting kids but showed no remorse, with the defense that he did not get any pleasure from the said act. (And further revealed that he was also abused by another priest.) Horrors!

6. “Pedophile priests are a billion dollar liability.”

“They turned turned child abuse into a cottage industry.”

I have no words.

Rating: ★★★★☆