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Survivor type

YET ANOTHER Lamberto Avellana film on Mike de Leon’s Citizen Jake vimeo site, this one arguably his most famous: Anak Dalita, or Child of Sorrow (1956).

Superpsychocebu: God Bless This Trip

SUPERPSYCHOCEBU has been touted as the first Pinoy stoner film. It’s a wonder that it ever got made in a country with, notoriously, among the harshest penalties for marijuana possession and use. On the other hand, House Bill 180 on medical marijuana and the bill to revive the death penalty were passed practically together, one after the other. (The House approved the bill legalizing medical marijuana on Jan. 29 this year while the bill to resume capital punishment passed the House of Representatives in February 2017. Both stalled in the Senate. — Ed.)

Waterworld

THE FILM Badjao or The Sea Gypsies (1957) starts with an image of waves lapping onto shore, the divide between land and sea stretching diagonally across the screen. With his first frame Lamberto Avellana (collaborating with the great cinematographer Mike Accion) summarizes what the film will be all about: the tension between sand and surf, between people of differing loyalties, communities, ethnicities. A man standing beside a roof of dried palm raises his horn against a clouded sky and blows; cue the bombast (and lovely lilting melody) of Francisco Buencamino, Jr.’s theme music.

Sex tape

JOSELITO ALTAREJOS’ Jino to Mari (Gino and Marie, 2019), about a pair of sex workers hired to do a Japanese porn film, is (to put it mildly) fairly explicit — about as explicit as a Filipino independent film probably gets nowadays without actually being porn.

Ulan: The Shapes of Water

GENTLE sun-dappled rainfall is the benign form water takes for the child Maya (Elia Ilano) who lost her parents in a storm at sea. In Filipino folklore, this odd synchronicity of sunshine and rain is whimsically believed to happen during the weddings of tikbalang, those horse-headed creatures of our lower mythology who like to lead wayfarers astray. Do take note of the lovely cinematography and the thoughtful production design of this beautifully photographed film.

Ang Pangarap Kong Holdap: Wa-is Guys

PERHAPS the MTRCB wasn’t in on the jokes between the wonderful ensemble cast and their brilliantly demented director and screenwriter Marius Talampas. That may have been why this puckishly politically incorrect feature got the R-16 rating which also effectively restricted its access to screens nationwide. When God closes off a cineplex, Mama Mary opens a cinematheque, and it is along the art house circuit that Mr. Talampas’ first full length feature has found its destination audience.

Sweet as a spoonful of sugar

Now that’s what I call a fantastic follow-up of a pop-in.

Bites off more than it can chew

JOEL LAMANGAN’s Rainbow’s Sunset is a convoluted story of a rich troubled clan, whose main conflict revolves around the family members’ having to deal with grandfather Ramon (played by Eddie Garcia), who comes out as gay and wants to live with his best friend and lover Fredo (Tony Mabesa) who is dying from cancer. But Ramon’s outing himself at the age of 84 (“It’s already 2018!”) should be the least of this family’s — and the audience’s — concerns because Rainbow Sunset doesn’t only feature a conflicted clan, but its storyline is problematic too.

Lacking a beating heart

1” is a concept in Filipino romance that’s undefinable in other languages. We could describe it in parts: the giddiness; the rush when you feel a frisson of emotion for your beloved. Could you call “kilig” butterflies in your stomach? In any case, it won’t matter for this review, because I felt no such thing while watching One Great Love, which to me lacks a beating heart.

We are family, I got all my sisters with me

NO sisterhood is ever perfect, but Mary, Marry Me makes it look so fun. I guess that’s how I would describe the rest of Mary, Marry Me: imperfect, but at least a good romp.

No ghosts are needed when the monsters are real

By Nickky F.P. de Guzman, Reporter Movie Review Aurora Directed by Yam Laranas EVEN WITHOUT the ghosts in it, Metro Manila Film Festival’s Aurora is a horror story:...

It happened one night

FILIPINOS love love stories, So it comes as no surprise that this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival had three romantic entries: Mary, Marry Me by Paul Soriano, One Great Love by Eric Quizon, and the focus of this review, The Girl in the Orange Dress by Jay Abello.

An all-star cast in a film on the same old things

THIS year, Jose Marie “Vice Ganda” Viceral’s entry to the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) might have avoided the overly obvious product placements of his previous outings, but the people behind the film still made sure their film, Fantastica, would suck in all that blockbuster moolah by stuffing in as many big stars and cameos as they could in the almost two hour-long film.

Promising horror but…

A FOOLISH decision to submit to an oppressor defeats the purpose of proving one’s worth.

On the front-line

MARIE COLVIN was one of the great combat correspondents of our time, covering conflicts everywhere from Chechnya to Sierra Leone to Sri Lanka to East Timor, and breaking stories of great impact in a career spanning more than a quarter-century.

A tale of three Grinches

With How the Grinch Stole Christmas
In Nineteen Fifty-Seven
Dr. Seuss made such a splash
We were all in Whoville Heaven!

It’s complicated

FROM THE trailer and the stars, one expects just another romcom. The screenwriter-director Joel Ruiz admirably tries to go deeper. He even manages to insert his advocacy for fostering abandoned or abused pets through PAWS (Philippine Animal Welfare Society). The film’s most endearing characters are Whisky and Hammer, both rescue puppers. Kudos to JM de Guzman and Rhian Ramos for subtly yet sweetly serving as poster folks for such a worthy cause. Their characters are enhanced by the added dimension of their being animal lovers. In the film’s ambiguous ending, it is only the love between human and animal which is constant and unconditional. The protagonists also represent two industries dominated by millennials: food service and BPOs.

BDSM in the time of ML

BENEDICT MIQUE, Jr. the writer and director of the acclaimed Cinemalaya Festival entry ML (which stands for Martial Law) uses the popular framework of the standard teen slasher horror thriller to get his message across. It is an inspired choice. In that revered form, a bunch of attractive young people are inadvertently trapped somewhere, then one by one they meet a gruesome end. The good or virtuous teen is spared. As in fairy tales with a moral lesson to tell, the youths who die deserve it. They are usually fatally flawed to begin with: obnoxious bullies, disrespectful of their elders or of authority, criminally inclined or sexually promiscuous — generally all of the above. A recent local example was Topel Lee’s Bloody Crayons (2017) based on a popular wattpad novel, which unexpectedly had the audience ROFL. For Mique’s film though, any elicited laughter is nervous and hollow because of the dark seriousness of his subject.

Dugo-Dugo Gang

IF THERE had been an award for Best Soundtrack at the recently concluded QCinema Film Festival, Timmy Harn’s Dog Days should have won it, hands down. Bold and daring, shamelessly derivative, with wailing trombones, brash percussion, melancholy lounge piano, the excellent soundtrack variously enhanced and complemented the stark black and white cinematography, just as the right hymn might during a religious service. Because Dog Days has the transcendent quality of religious homage to film itself. A particular favorite is the insistent electric thrumming bass, while the girlfriend Maureen (Barbara Ruaro) leans out of a car window, and thoughtfully puffs on a post-coital cigarette as she gazes at the trees speeding by overhead. Her pixie haircut and the elegiac road trip setting evoke the French Nouvelle Vague (New Wave) of Jeanne Moreau by Goddard, and even Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday.

Winners of the 6th QCinema International Film Festival

• Circle Competition Audience Choice Award: Hintayan ng Langit by Dan Villegas • Circle Competition NETPAC Jury Prize: Dog Days by Timmy Harn • Circle Competition...

Movie reviews of QCinema films

THIS IS the realism of dreams, not of mundane reality. In the humble life of Sonya (Marietta Subong a.k.a. Pokwang) these fears, desires, longing, and rage which make up the human condition are oddly manifest: she is bereft of her parents’ love, without friends, unworthy of anyone’s lust.

Rainbow bright

HOW refreshing it is to encounter a coming of age film without the usual adolescent angst and anger! More so when the teen protagonists, both high school seniors, are one committed butch lesbian (Isabelle C. Santos, aka Billie, played by Zar Donato) and the bi-curious, and very accomplished flirt Emma (Gabby Padilla) who cope with their respective personal crisis with humor and grace.

Second chances

THE Hollywood film genre of the too-soon departed and basically decent soul, on a temporary reprieve to take care of unfinished business back on earth is a favorite since many of us pass on with an uncertain peace. Closely allied to this, is the deux ex mundi (not machina) variant where God or guardian angels (even Santa Claus) take on ordinary human form and mingle with mere mortals for the express purpose of helping out a deserving but clueless individual with a celestial fix that guarantees a miraculously happy ending.

Twisted sister

THIS is the realism of dreams, not of mundane reality. It makes as much sense as the illogic of longing and inexplicable desire, the obverse sides of which are primal fear and uncontrollable rage at random fate. In the humble life of Sonya (Marietta Subong a.k.a. Pokwang) these fears, desires, longing, and rage which make up the human condition are oddly manifest: she is bereft of her parents’ love, without friends, unworthy of anyone’s lust. A merciless moneylender Theodor (Dido Dela Paz) turns up without warning, even in the middle of the night, like a demoniacal bangungot squeezing the life out of her by taking all her earnings and later, even her home.

Don’t cross

AT LEAST half the time, Robert McCall is more of a Wish Granter/Life Saver than an Equalizer.

SIGNAL ROCK: Doon Po Sa Amin

A VERITABLE who’s who of the Philippine indie film scene’s repertory of players, makes this warm, feel-good feature by veteran director Chito Roño about family and community in a poor, remote Samar island village, a delight to watch. Unfortunately, it is unevenly photographed. In especially poignant scenes, such as the quietly desperate, lovelorn encounter in the harsh big city between our hometown hero, Intoy (Christian Bables) and his beloved Rachel (Elora Espano), their beautifully expressive faces are inexplicably cast in murky shadow. They might as well have been wearing bags over their heads.

Mother’s ghosts

MARIO O’HARA passed on in 2012. His niece Janice O’Hara chose one of his scripts (rewritten extensively by her father Jerry O’Hara) to be her debut feature (Sundalong Kanin [Rice Soldiers, 2014]), arguably one of the best of 2014. Janice died two years later, leaving us that one film, compelling us to ask: is there some kind of curse on this family that blesses them with filmmaking and storytelling talent, but relatively fragile lives?

Matti’s Inferno

THE FILIPINO film auteur Eric Matti’s BuyBust was two years in the making and the extraordinary care and effort that went into crafting this action-packed (an understatement) extravaganza are evident. Overall, it’s a pleasant surprise to find the many frenetic fight scenes so competently choreographed, although somewhat haphazardly staged. There are incoherently sincere homagic echoes of classic cinematic blood fests like Kill Bill and the Mad Max movies. Through the stylized grime and luridly lit detritus, BuyBust occasionally shines with sparks of wit and fun. Nonetheless, the depictions of crazed slum dwellers as rabidly violent and lethally zombie-like, raise disturbing questions, foremost of which is: does this characterization of the poor intend to justify killing them off in such inordinate numbers in real life?

Caged

JOHN FOWLES’ debut novel The Collector has been adapted several times for theater, stage, and big screen, most notably by William Wyler, later by Mike de Leon for a 1986 feature — Bilanggo sa Dilim (Prisoner in the Dark), shot on video.

A space prodigy

THE FIRST TIME I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey it was in a basement, in a projected 35 mm print. I was maybe 10 or 12 years old, had heard about the film, and was eager to watch.

Sailing away

IT MUST be a kick for the makeup and nifty effects people to sit in the back of a theater and soak in the reaction from the audience when a character has to stitch up that nasty cut on her forehead with a makeshift needle and thread. Or how about that moment when someone rips open a jeans leg, and we see the “bone” jutting out from a gaping wound? GROSS!

You’re it

DEEP into the astonishingly dopey, odiously off-putting and thoroughly unfunny Tag, one of the main characters says, in all sincerity:

Home is where the harm is

THE TRUE HORROR in Ari Aster’s Hereditary doesn’t come so much from demoniac forces as they do from human frailty and the cruel chaotic confusion of life.

At the bloody Hotel Artemis, amazing actors do the obvious

And she said, ‘We are all just prisoners here, of our own device.” -- The Eagles, “Hotel California”

Citizen me

MIKE DE LEON’s first film in — has it been 18 years? — has to be an event; the latest from one of our finest filmmakers, in the same league as Lino Brocka, Mario O’Hara, Ishmael Bernal, Celso Ad. Castillo. If it’s arguably the weakest feature he’s done to date (hopefully not his last) it still stands head and shoulders above most anything out there today, Filipino or Hollywood.

Rock the Devil

NOT LONG AFTER Brillante Mendoza’s Amo (which takes its cue from Respeto’s rap-driven score) we have Lav Diaz’s take on the Duterte regime. Panahon ng Halimaw (Season of the Devil, 2018) is no small-scale response: 234 minutes long, some six minutes short of four hours. And it’s a musical.

The Devil in the details

ANG PANAHON ng Halimaw (Season of the Devil) is a musical, the way the pasyon (passion play) may be broadly and loosely defined as a musical. There are 33 songs, of varied forms, uneven musicality and occasionally strained rhymes, all of them written and arranged by the director Lav Diaz. The incantatory refrains are mesmerizing and primal as katutubo (indigenous persons) chants, especially as rendered by the Kwentista (Bituin Escalante as the Narrator, a sort of omniscient muse). Amazingly, these musical sequences are one-take wonders, performed without any instrumental accompaniment.

A really good John Hughes high school movie for the 21st...

By Richard Roeper Movie Review Love, Simon Directed by Greg Berlanti MAYBE IT’S TOO EASY to say Love, Simon feels like a 21st-century John Hughes high school movie...

An experience you’ll not soon forget

By Richard Roeper Movie Review The Florida Project Directed by Sean Baker FOR MOST of The Florida Project, I found myself rooting for unseen authorities. The police. The Florida...

Say it again, Peres

By Richard Roeper Movie Review 7 Days in Entebbe Directed by Jose Padilha THE RAID is on. Israeli commandos are about to descend on Entebbe Airport on a mission...

Wargames

Movie Review Ready Player One Directed by Steven Spielberg By Noel Vera ADAPTED from Ernest Cline’s best-seller, Ready Player One is Steven Spielberg returning to form as entertainer...

Citizen Jake: Of fathers and sons

By Menchu Aquino Sarmiento Movie Review Citizen Jake Directed by Mike de Leon FILIPINO FILM auteur Mike de Leon’s varied oeuvre spans musical screwball comedy (Kakabakaba Ka Ba,...

Catholic school girls in trouble

By Noel Vera Movie Review Lady Bird Directed by Greta Gerwin HAVE TO admit that taking on actress-turned-filmmaker Greta Gerwig’s second feature gave me pause. Not my favorite...

The drowned world

By Noel Vera Movie Review The Shape of Water Directed by Guillermo del Toro GUILLERMO DEL TORO’s latest film begins with a world already underwater — fish fluttering...