MOVIE REVIEW: A GHOST STORY (David Lowery, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

Lakas ng tawa ko nung biglang bumangon si Casey Affleck at nagliwaliw sa ospital habang nakatalukbong ng kumot (with eye holes para hindi sya matapilok).

Meron pa eksena na kumakain si Rooney Mara ng pie tapos subo lang siya nang subo so inisip ko baka uubusin niya kaya nag-check muna ako ng Twitter. Aba after five minutes, kumakain pa rin sya at di man lang nag-alok! (Ayun sa kadamutan niya, sinuka din nya lahat.)

This supposedly profound tale of a time-travelling ghost was roughly ninety minutes, but felt longer than a typical Terrence Malick feature. Watching this was the perfect penance for Good Friday.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published March 30, 2018.)

MOVIE REVIEW: TU PUG IMATUY (Arbi Barbarona, 2017)

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It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that every scene in this movie was so gorgeously shot that they could rival those in a Terrence Malick film. Even a burial scene looked bright and lovely with a grieving Lumad family in their traditional colorful garbs.

This was a tough watch considering the leisurely pacing (ironically, it had the fastest growing toge in cinematic history) and the lugubrious subject matter (actually surprised that Mocha wasn’t promoting this unapologetically anti-Dilawan movie).

Given such a serious (and oftentimes infuriating) story, I really wish the performances were much stronger so that it didn’t feel like mere torture porn.

One character was unfortunately named Dawin and I swear that freakin’ Dessert song kept playing in my head every time he was mentioned huhuhu.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published March 14, 2017.)

MUSMOS NA SUMIBOL SA GUBAT NG DIGMA (Iar Lionel Arondaing, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

Tipid Tip of the Day: Whenever critics describe the story as a slow burn, it’s just their polite way of saying that watching the film may cause drowsiness. If you’ve ever seen a Terrence Malick or Lav Diaz without ever nodding off, then you’ll have no problems with this one.

To be fair, I liked the performances of the lead kids and the beautiful (oftentimes haunting) imagery (sure win for this year’s Balanghai for Cinematography?). I do have a limit on the amount of time I can watch a burning field before it turns from mesmerizing to when will this end.

I think it was an inspired choice to frame the entire thing with religious chanting (prayers/verses from the Quran). Having the characters speak entirely in Tagalog made everything feel less authentic, though.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published August 8, 2018.)

DEBOSYON (Alvin Yapan, 2013)

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Poetry on film (like a Malick) that was just too highbrow for my commercial viewer’s sensibilities.

I will not even pretend that I fully understood Debosyon’s message. I will also not pretend that I fully appreciated that viewing experience.

Its slow pacing reminded me so much of last year’s Kalayaan. Technically great, but left me emotionally detached.

I really appreciated Mara Lopez’s performance here. I missed Palitan but I now have an idea why she won in Cinema One Originals last year.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published August 5, 2013.)

 

MOVIE REVIEW: ANG BABAENG HUMAYO (Lav Diaz, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Ang Babaeng Humayo:

1. Do you know those times when you would rather watch a silly Adam Sandler movie than wallow in all the glorious art of a Terrence Malick film (I still could not finish The Tree of Life without falling asleep)? I had that experience while watching this four-hour Venice Film Festival Golden Lion winner from master filmmaker Lav Diaz. Although this one was just half the length of Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis, I still wondered if all of those scenes needed the extra two to three minutes of…something (nothing?).

2. I kept imagining the film as a glorified version of Charles Bronson’s revenge flick Death Wish and I had my own wish for a scene where Horacia (Madam Charo Santos-Concio) would throw away her cap, remove her denim jacket, raise her fists, and fight mano a mano with the person that sent her rotting in prison for thirty years. Fortunately (or unfortunately, I kept switching sides during its entirety), this was an art film so instead we were knocked on the head with various metaphors while our heroine waited (and waited and waited and waited and waited…) in the shadows.

3. Speaking of shadows, as with any Diaz film, this was meticulously shot in gorgeous black and white. Every scene was just picture perfect and ready for cinephiles to screencap for their year-end best of lists. (I would like to suggest that scene outside the church with Horacia standing next to a billboard saying “Huwag kang papatay.”)

4. It was a delight to see Madam Charo back on the big screen and she managed to give a good performance despite the long hiatus. There were still moments though when her classy, glamorous persona came out even when the role required more pathos and grit (or angas, especially when delivering lines like “Loaded ako, pare.”).

One scene required her to assault a woman twice her size and it was obvious that she pulled her punches. Another involved a lot of wailing on the stairs after learning that her husband died and it was met by laughter from the audience. At her best, she was able to effectively convey the moral journey of a scorned woman. At her worst, she reminded me of Kris Aquino playing a beggar in Pido Dida.

5. There were several instances where Horacia narrated her own horror story (one kid brilliantly butted in with “Wala bang fairy tale?”) and as soon as I heard that familiar soothing voice straight out of MMK, I immediately started guessing an episode title.

6. My favorite scene in the film involved a joyous song and dance number between Horacia and Hollanda (an epileptic transgender that she took under her wing, played with great nuance by John Lloyd Cruz, as if we expected anything less from him). It started with Sunrise, Sunset from Fiddler on the Roof, then continued with Somewhere from West Side Story, and ended with the familiar “shadam dradam” sounds of Donna Cruz’s Kapag Tumibok ang Puso. It was great to see the characters (and actors) finally lowering their guards and just simply having the time of their lives.

7. When Hollanda mentioned the funny faux story of how she got her name (her pregnant mother spun the globe and her finger landed on Holland), I was so happy that my mom never thought of doing that because Uzbekistan Javier would have been bullied to death in school.

8. Even with Lloydie playing against type (sounding like a millennial gay in the 90s) and hilariously complaining about his painful butthole, the standout performances were from the dependable Nonie Buencamino as the hunchback balut vendor (I craved for balut while watching, no kidding) and Jean Judith Javier (no relation, I swear) as Mameng, the taong grasa that kept accusing everyone of being demons (“Puro demonyo ang mga nagsisimba dito!!”) Applause!

9. In the film’s final moment, it showed Horacia walking round and round (and round and round and round and round…) on the posters of her missing son. Was it a metaphor for her futile search? Was that another social commentary on the state of the country during that time (and even today)? Nahilo ba sa eksenang yun si Madam Charo?

Rating: ★★★☆☆