ANNIE (Will Gluck, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Annie:

1. The movie opened with a typical Annie, a tiny freckle-faced Caucasian redhead, reading a report on former US Presidents. The teacher then called the real Annie, played by Quvenzhane Wallis, a smart and spunky African-American. I loved this wink, wink opening because Wallis was just too adorable in the lead role. I was also happy with the color blind casting because the role of Annie had nothing to do with her skin color anyway.

2. When I heard the teacher call Annie B., I immediately thought Annie Batungbakal and I started humming the theme song and imagined Nora doing a song and dance number (“Sa umaga, dispatsadora. Sa gabi, siya’y bonggang-bongga…”).

3. For a musical, most of the production numbers felt lacking. The only one I truly enjoyed was It’s The Hard Knock Life. Everything else felt joyless. Even the classic Tomorrow wasn’t memorable since it just had her walking the streets of Harlem. Why bother with a remake?

4. Cameron Diaz can be funny whenever she goes bat-shit crazy in her movies. Here, her campiness only served as a distraction. She was just irritating all throughout. Even her musical number was horrible. Do you still remember her singing “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” in My Best Friend’s Wedding? She sang exactly like that in the most grating voice ever. Only here it wasn’t played for laughs.

5. Blatant Purell product placement. No better than a Kris Aquino movie. (“Product placement keeps the movie business afloat!”, said one character.)

6. The viral video of Jamie Foxx saving Annie was all wrong. How could it have different takes and taken from two different angles when it was supposedly shot by an onlooker?

7. I love Rose Byrne, I really do, but she should not be allowed to sing again. Hey, why was this musical populated by terrible singers given their own musical highlights? All it needed was Russell Crowe.

8. The updated version had Annie with a Twitter account and saved by Instagram. Groan.

9. I felt bad for Sia. I actually liked “Opportunity”.

10. The final act had a last minute twist, a villain that never really got his due, a final conflict, and a quick resolution that led to a song and dance number by way of Mother Lily. Ugh.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published January 28, 2015.)

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MY BIG BOSSING (Tony Reyes, Marlon Rivera, Joyce Bernal, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on My Big Bossing:

1. Vic Sotto just had this certain charm that I wasn’t surprised when the ladies kept fawning at him. In the movie’s very first scene, he simply said a throwaway “Exchuse me!” and I couldn’t control my laughter. In the second segment, he even showed some range dealing with a dead daughter. Good one, Bossing!

2. Sotto wore a crisp white polo shirt and of course I knew what was coming next: “Bossing sa kaputian!”. To be fair though, this sequel only had a few commercials. The only other product I noticed was PLDT Home.

3. The Sirena segment by Tony Reyes could have been an episode of Okay Ka, Fairy Ko. Only this one had Ryzza Mae Dizon donning a mermaid costume. It was still a very weak entry already given its sitcom roots. People just kept getting pushed in different bodies of water. Not funny.

4. Speaking of Dizon, why haven’t we seen her launching movie yet? She has the same spunk and charm of a young Aiza Seguerra. Given the right material, she can achieve the same superkid status. She’s just too adorable. Obviously I’m a fan.

5. The cast of Ina-Tay was here! (Refer to Cinemalaya 2014.)

6. Manilyn Reynes was supposed to play a fish vendor so they covered her up with dark make-up. Sometimes it looked like she had jaundice instead.

7. The Taktak segment by Marlon Rivera had a lot of potential. Unfortunately, there were just so many sub-plots to tackle in forty minutes. You’re not yet completely forgiven for the first one, Sir. Not yet.

8. Dizon here played Angel, a version of Elsa (more La Aunor, less Frozen) and she looked funny during the seances. This reminded me so much of Judiel Nieva, the transgendered lady who apparently could see the Virgin Mary back in the early 90’s. Wikipedia refers to her as an actress and businesswoman.

9. Marian Rivera looked good onscreen but has she ever played any character that didn’t scream her head off at other actors? Her characters always sounded shrill and high-strung like she was invoking the spirit of Maricel Soriano during her Inday days.

10. One obvious gaffe: Jose Manalo’s character texted Angel looking for her even if in the previous scene he was seen walking away with her.

11. One ghost mentioned something really scary and had always been one of my fears: “Susundan kita sa banyo.” Imagine a dead relative watching you take a shower in all your naked glory. Horrors!!

12. The third segment called Prinsesa by Joyce Bernal looked really good. Granted, most of the castle scenes were shot in Fernbrook Gardens in Las Pinas, I was impressed with the village that looked very much like The Shire and was populated by digital animals. Eat your heart out, Peter Jackson!

13. One character had his tongue cut off and was shown all bloody in a succeeding scene. What happened to the General Patronage rating?

14. If Mara Clara was a fairy tale, this would be that version.

15. At first I thought that the trilogy was very Eat Bulaga Holy Week presentation levels. And then it dawned on me. It was trying to be that other movie anthology, Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang. Am I right, 80’s kids?

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published January 5, 2015.)

BAKIT BUGHAW ANG LANGIT? (Mario O’Hara, 1981)

4DFA3551-8FA2-4C98-9A7C-B926F52E17E2Cinephiles would definitely mention the other showier works of Nora Aunor and the late Mario O’Hara on any Best Of list, but my favorite collaboration would have to be this underrated classic.

Everything about it was just distinctly Pinoy, from the unapologetic melodrama and soap opera caricatures to the literal and metaphorical filth and stench emanating from an urban compound.

I’m not a Noranian, but if anybody would declare that she’s the greatest actress in Philippine cinema and in a league of her own, I’d simply nod my head in agreement (and this coming from the son of a Vilmanian and the biggest Maricelian). As Babette, the ugly duckling (“Katulong ka ba nila?”) with a heart of gold, she was truly exceptional and empathetic.

My favorite characters here though would have to be the two extremely opposite women played by Anita Linda (as a washed up, delusional, materialistic starlet willing to barter her daughter Babette for a few pieces of daster) and Metring David (as the kooky but hardworking and patient mother to Bobby, a special needs man).

In one memorable scene, Bobby was quietly eating his lunch oblivious to all the chaos happening outside his house. Babette simply looked at him and said, “Mabuti ka pa. Mabuti ka pa.” I actually believed her.

Rating: ★★★★★

Metro Manila Film Festival 2016 Scorecard

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After travelling to three cities and four cinemas in two days, I have officially completed the MMFF2016 marathon.

I’m happy to report that the festival achieved its goal and stayed true to its promise of change, of giving the Pinoy audience something new during the holiday season.

Even with a supposed indie selection, I still had a great time in cinemas. Some films made me laugh out loud, some made me cry like a baby, one scared me to my core, the rest I enjoyed watching with young ones (yes, even kids liked these indies!), but most importantly, they required me to think.

Napakasarap makatikim ng ibang klaseng putahe ngayong Kapaskuhan. Hinihintay na lang nila ang ating suporta.

With that said, here’s my festival scorecard:

Best Picture

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1. SUNDAY BEAUTY QUEEN (Baby Ruth Villarama, 2016) – ★★★★★

Napakagandang pelikula! Matututo kang magpasalamat sa bawat biyayang natanggap, pati na rin sa mga sakripisyong hindi mo ginagawa.

At bes, huwag mong sabihin na ayaw mong manood ng malungkot ngayong Pasko dahil sigurado akong pinanood at iniyakan mo lahat ng Christmas ads ng Uber, Selecta, at Coke. Magdala ng isang box ng tissues.

Dahil ang Pasko ay para sa mga bata, isama ang buong pamilya at manood na kayo. Now na. Tapos group hug kayo after. Merry Christmas!! 😊

 

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2. DIE BEAUTIFUL (Jun Lana, 2016) – ★★★★★

Nakakatuwang makatikim ng isang matalinong comedy sa MMFF. Yung nakakatawa ang mga linya at patok sa masa kahit wala ni isang karakter na nahuhulog galing sa bubungan.

Mas nakakatuwa na ang ganitong klaseng produkto ay tinatangkilik ngayon ng mga manonood (puno ang sinehan nung screening namin sa GB3). Pwede naman pala. Kaya naman pala.

Ang talento ni Paolo Ballesteros sa pelikulang ito ay directly proportional sa kanyang kagandahan bilang Trisha Echevarria. Ang husay! Hindi rin nagpakabog si Christian Bables na napakagaling bilang si BFF Barbs. #FriendshipGoals talaga sila. Sana masungkit nila ang Lead at Supporting Actor trophies.

Nuod na mga bes!! 😊

 

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3. SEKLUSYON (Erik Matti, 2016) – ★★★★☆

Sobrang nanghihinayang ako sa pelikulang ito dahil mas maganda pa sana siya kung marunong lamang umarte ang apat na deacons lalo na si Ronnie Alonte.

Ang husay ng technical aspects mula sa production hanggang sound design. Mahirap makalimutan ang lahat ng religious imagery na ginamit dito. Mahusay din ang direksyon para sa isang kakaibang Pinoy horror movie.

Ito talaga ang perfect anti-Christmas movie ngayong taon. Hahamunin kang mag-isip tungkol sa katatagan ng iyong pananampalataya.

 

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4. ANG BABAE SA SEPTIC TANK 2: #FOREVERISNOTENOUGH (Marlon Rivera, 2016) – ★★★★☆

Para sa katulad kong napanood na ata lahat ng Pinoy rom-com at kabisado na ang Star Cinema formula, natawa ako sobra sa pagka-brutal ng pelikulang ito. Bugbog na bugbog ang mainstream filmmaking at escapism in cinema. Walang sinanto katulad ng ginawa nila sa indie filmmaking at poverty porn doon sa unang pelikula.

Awakening talaga ito ni Eugene Domingo. Amoy na amoy ko na naman ang deserving na panalo as Best Actress. Sa three levels of hugot pa lang niya, sulit na ang bayad.

Magaling din si Jericho Rosales bilang Jericho Rosales. May self-awareness ang pagka-plakado bilang rom-com leading man. Naalala ko tuloy si Jaclyn Jose dun sa film within a film ng Tuhog.

Medyo off lang yung abrupt shift in tone dahil sa love story ni Kean Cipriano (na isiningit to ground the film). Pero totoong hinika ako kakatawa hanggang sa pinakahuling sequence. Waging-wagi!!

 

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5. SAVING SALLY (Avid Liongoren, 2016) – ★★★☆☆

Gusto kong tumira sa makulay na mundo ni Marty kahit puno sya ng mga monsters dahil gusto ko makita ang Warner Barberos at Sandara Park. Naalala ko tuloy ang fantasy element ng Scott Pilgrim Vs The World dito.

Nakakakilig at bagay ang tambalang Enzo Marcos at Rhian Ramos. Sana lamang hindi sila Ingles magsalita kasi medyo off para sa akin. Ang hirap lubos na ma-feel ng story dahil sa coniotic speak (ironic ba?). Para lang akong napadaan ulit sa THE Ateneo conyo bench sa labas ng caf. Higad na lang ang kulang para makumpleto ang experience.

“You wanted mayhem, war, and chaos, but isn’t that what love is all about?” Tumpak!!

 

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6. ORO (Alvin Yapan, 2016) – ★★★☆☆

Nag-flashback sa akin ang mga naunang seasons ng American Horror Story sa mga tilted frames na parang see-saw sa pagpapalit-palit. Parang weighing scale na mahirap hanapan ng balanse.

Maganda ang mensahe ng pelikula bilang environmental drama. Malaman ang sinasabi at mabigat sa mga metaphors at symbolisms. May bonus pa na supernatural element (na hindi ko nagustuhan sa Ang Tulay ng San Sebastian pero pasok sa banga sa An Kubo Sa Kawayanan).

Palaban si Irma Adlawan (lagi naman eh). Tindig at upo pa lang naniniwala na akong siya talaga si Kapitana. Sana lang hindi reactionary ang halos lahat ng kanyang eksena kasi siya ang totoong ginto ng pelikula.

 

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7. VINCE & KATH & JAMES (Theodore Boborol, 2016) – ★★☆☆☆

Walang bago maliban sa mga artista. Pinagtagpi-tagping cliches na napanood na natin sa mga dating rom-coms. Hindi rin naman masyadong na-utilize ang textserye origins niya. Halos nakumpleto niya ang checklist ng Star Cinema formula na kinukutya sa Septic Tank 2. Sunset lang ang kulang.

May natural charm itong si Joshua Garcia. Magaling siya dun sa confrontation scene nila ni Ina Raymundo, parang early John Lloyd. Akala ko maiirita ako kay Julia Barretto dito kaya nagulat ako na maayos naman siya, parang early Ate Clau.

Kinilig ang mga teenagers na kasabay kong nanuod. Masyado na ata akong matanda para sa ganitong genre.

 

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8. KABISERA (Arturo San Agustin, Real Florido, 2016) – ★★☆☆☆

Maganda sana dahil napapanahon ang tema nito tungkol sa extrajudicial killings ngunit hindi maayos ang pagkakalahad ng kwento.

Parang binigyan ang bawat artista ng kanyang sariling dramatic highlight para magpakitang-gilas kaya lahat sila eh three notches higher ang akting. Maliban kay Nora Aunor, parang hindi na mabibigyan ng susunod na project ang supporting cast kaya bigay todo na sa pag-ngawa kahit hindi naman kelangan sa eksena.

Ang daming mga bagay na parang walang sense at pinahaba lamang para mapuno ang two hour requirement. Mas mabuti pa yata kung ginawa na lamang siyang episode ng MMK.

 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

1. PAOLO BALLESTEROS (Die Beautiful)

2. JOSHUA GARCIA (Vince & Kath & James)
3. JOEM BASCON (Oro)
4. ENZO MARCOS (Saving Sally)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

1. EUGENE DOMINGO (Ang Babae sa Septic Tank 2: #ForeverIsNotEnough)
2. IRMA ADLAWAN (Oro)
3. NORA AUNOR (Kabisera)
4. RHIAN RAMOS (Saving Sally)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

1. CHRISTIAN BABLES (Die Beautiful)

2. LOU VELOSO (Seklusyon)
3. JERICHO ROSALES (Ang Babae sa Septic Tank 2: #ForeverIsNotEnough)
4. NEIL RYAN SESE (Seklusyon)
5. LOU VELOSO (Die Beautiful)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

1. RHED BUSTAMANTE (Seklusyon)
2. PHOEBE WALKER (Seklusyon)
3. MERCEDES CABRAL (Oro)
4. MIMI JUAREZA (Die Beautiful)
5. GLADYS REYES (Die Beautiful)
6. SUE PRADO (Oro)
7. CAI CORTEZ (Ang Babae sa Septic Tank 2: #ForeverIsNotEnough)

Until next year!!

Cinemalaya 2016 Scorecard

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After a one year hiatus for feature length films (with only shorts shown last year), expectations (mine, especially) were really high for this year’s Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival. Its theme of “Break the Surface” and hilariously brutal ad (“Gusto mo ba ng iba?”) further added to the hype and excitement.

I was happy that several films this year tried to be different, even if some failed in execution. This year’s selections didn’t reach the highs of 2012, but it was nice to see that they were polarizing at best. People’s opinions varied greatly and generated a lot of discussions. And regardless of differing standpoints, everyone agreed on one thing: that we have some of the finest actors and actresses (both ingenues and veterans) in the entire world.

With that said, here’s my festival scorecard:

Best Feature-Length Film

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1. TUOS (Derick Cabrido) – ★★★★★

Napakahusay!!

A lot of people will get turned off by the dream-like narrative of Tuos, which included deeply-rooted Pinoy folklore, breaking traditions, a tribal dance by La Aunor, gorgeous animation set to Banaue Miclat’s haunting voice, and a hung tikbalang. I was just enthralled.

Is it even possible to upstage THE Superstar? Well, Barbie Forteza just did. Such a talented young actress!!

 

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2. PAMILYA ORDINARYO (Eduardo Roy, Jr.) – ★★★★☆

Gritty, filthy, and riveting. It needed a bit of trimming, but had solid performances from the entire ensemble.

Loved the deafening silence of the CCTV shots that always served as a witness to an ongoing crime.

Hasmine Killip was a revelation. Ang bigat sa dibdib (pun intended) ng eksena sa police station. Grabe lang.

Was the cardboard sex scene a nod to Kuya Coco Martin’s dirty copulation scene in Serbis?

“Hindi porket bakla mabuting tao.” Best line in the film. And probably in this year’s festival.

 

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3. MERCURY IS MINE (Jason Paul Laxamana) – ★★★★☆

An enjoyably weird ride that unfortunately went off the rails in its final twenty minutes.

I loved the screenplay because it didn’t try too hard to be funny. It also hit the jackpot with Pokwang who was truly phenomenal here.

Bret Jackson finally gave a decent performance. He had an easygoing charm that suited the role and (please don’t scoff) actually reminded me of a manic Leonardo DiCaprio.

Overall, this was a definite crowd-pleaser and I wouldn’t be surprised if it snagged the Audience Choice award.

 

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4. HIBLANG ABO (Ralston Jover) – ★★☆☆☆

At times, it felt like I was an old man wasting away on my deathbed. Sigh.

Looked like an experiment of techniques, but I liked the chemistry among the four veteran leads (Lou Veloso was exceptional).

 

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5. KUSINA (Cenon Palomares, David Corpuz) – ★★☆☆☆

Thank heavens for Judy Ann Santos since this dish went cold and sour really quick.

It felt like a Film student fell in love with Dogville and then staged his own high school production.

 

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6. DAGSIN (Atom Magadia) – ★★☆☆☆

Like The Notebook turned Philippine History lesson. Tedious and thirty minutes overlong.

It was hard to fully appreciate the fine performance of Tommy Abuel when I was trying not to giggle lest I wake up the sleeping people.

Benjamin Alves acts very much like Piolo Pascual, no?

 

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7. ANG BAGONG PAMILYA NI PONCHING (Inna Salazar Acuna, Dos Ocampo) – ★★☆☆☆

It only worked because of the wonderful (and woefully underrated) Janus del Prado. I liked the sweet little moments with Lola Ludivina, but the rest of the (family) cast, especially Tita Arianna, were just terrible.

For such a rich family, they didn’t have a lot to do except lounge around in their sala or kitchen, no? Too gullible pa.

At least it made me crave for the natural oiliness of Ludy’s Peanut Butter. Is it still available in supermarkets?

 

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8. I AMERICA (Ivan Andrew Payawal) – ★★☆☆☆

Like The Comeback, this one just couldn’t decide on the right tone. Except for the funny opening audition, the rest just strained for laughs and tears. Carabao English just doesn’t cut it anymore.

So Olongapo is a place where crushed dreams get brushed off and serious problems just magically disappear. Great.

I also couldn’t understand the choice of the shaky cam. The last fifteen minutes were really brutal to the eyes.

 

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9. LANDO AT BUGOY (Vic Acedillo, Jr.) – ★★☆☆☆

Nothing made sense to me. Badly needed reshoots, too.

I felt really bad for Allen Dizon because he tried his best to salvage something that was dead on arrival.

RIP.

 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

1. LOU VELOSO (Hiblang Abo)
2. TOMMY ABUEL (Dagsin)
3. JANUS DEL PRADO (Ang Bagong Pamilya ni Ponching)
4. RONWALDO MARTIN (Pamilya Ordinaryo)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

1. BARBIE FORTEZA (Tuos)
2. POKWANG (Mercury is Mine)
3. NORA AUNOR (Tuos)
4. HASMINE KILLIP (Pamilya Ordinaryo)
5. JUDY ANN SANTOS (Kusina)

*Special Mention: CHAI FONACIER (Get Certified)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

1. NANDING JOSEF (Hiblang Abo)
2. MATT DACLAN (Hiblang Abo)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

1. LOTLOT DE LEON (Dagsin)
2. ELIZABETH OROPESA (I America)

 

Best Short Film
1. FOREVER NATIN (Cyrus Valdez) – ★★★★★

Forever Natin was such a realistically honest depiction of a lesbian relationship. It broke my heart into a million tiny pieces. I just wish the sound was much better.

2. FISH OUT OF WATER (Mon Garilao) – ★★★★☆

My other fave in this group was the technically impressive Fish Out of Water, about a Filipino-Korean boy trying to find his space and purpose in a foreign homeland. It was alienating in the best possible sense.

3. PEKTUS (Isabel Quesada) – ★★★★☆

I did like the frantic Pektus and its impeccable cast of character actors (Nonie Buencamino, among others). Malinis ang pagkakagawa, including the subtitles. It made me look forward to the director’s future full-length feature.

4. GET CERTIFIED (Isaias Zantua) – ★★★☆☆

The brilliant Chai Fonacier made me look forward to the afterlife in Get Certified. All the craziness in the film (including Hitler as hell’s version of San Pedro) just couldn’t keep up with its star.

5. NAKAUWI NA (John Relano, Patrick Baleros, Luis Hidalgo) – ★★★☆☆

Nakauwi Na would’ve been more effective if I didn’t see the same theme in Cheska Salangsang’s Saanman Ngunit Dito, shown during this year’s CineFilipino. Made me wonder if I still had all of my old mix tapes.

6. BUGTAW (Noah del Rosario) – ★★☆☆☆

The animation-infused Bugtaw only got interesting towards the end, when fantasy and reality started to meld.

7. ANG HAPON NI NANDING (Milo Tolentino) – ★★☆☆☆

Ang Hapon ni Nanding was the story of a latent homosexual finding solace in the company of an orphan with a broken neck. It also made me want to break all sorts of furniture for attention.

8. ANG MAANGAS, ANG MARIKIT, AT ANG MAKATA (Ibarra Guballa) – ★★☆☆☆

Ang Maangas, Ang Marikit, at Ang Makata was over-the-top silly and not in a good way. It involved crazy dancing, double entendre harana, and fake wooden machetes. Not my cup of bourbon.

9. BUTAS (Richard Cawed) – ★★☆☆☆

Although it had good intentions (a tribute to Benguet miners) and had its heart on its sleeve, Butas reminded me so much of that local broadsheet’s ad shown before the actual movie. All it needed in the end was a copy of the front page.

10. MANSYONG PAPEL (Ogos Aznar) – ★★☆☆☆

Mansyong Papel was saved by the menacing performance of Odette (O-deht, not Oh-det) Khan. The story was a complete mess, just like the subtitles. How heavy was the three hundred million in cash and who was that terrible actress that played the daughter?

Until next year!!