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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Movie Digest # 088

Power Plant Cinemas, Cinema 1, September 12, 6:00pm

There are supposedly three bestselling points in the film. First, the mistress as human factor. This is connection with the blockbuster success of films like “No Other Woman” and “A Secret Affair”. Secondly, the John Lloyd - Bea tandem. They have done a lot of romantic films under Star Cinema, mostly hits. And third, the Kapamilya Acting 101 as instructed by Olivia M. Lamasan. First point seemed forgotten in the end. Second point worked well as I expected. The third point, occasionally effective but high-pitched all through out. It still has that Star Cinema ending only slightly less irritating than the rest (with emphasis on "slightly").

Friends who might appreciate it: Those who think that John Lloyd Cruz was a better replacement of Derek Ramsay.

Robinsons Galleria, Cinema 7, September 16, 6:00pm

The saving grace of this crime drama is that it is fast paced and the take on corruption and poverty is not that in your face. It’s an outsider’s commentary and it doesn’t try hard to address anything. The focus is on human struggle, initially projected as a father in search for his daughter, as something universal and relatable. It could have been be better if the lead character doesn't cry a lot just to highlight the drama. Best part for me is the epilogue.

Friends who might appreciate it: Those who can prove that this is a better “Taken”.

SM Megamall, Cinema 9, September 19, 6:00pm

Still feels like a short “Shake, Rattle and Roll” episode to me, with a conflict that can be easily resolved in, say, 30 to 45 minutes of running time. But there are a lot of good stuff out of its simplistic premise. Those violent and gross scenes are quite enjoyable. CGI is also well utilized, probably one of the best in recent Pinoy films. And there's discipline. It doesn't have the impact or even the statement of Ishmael Bernal's original but Rico Maria Ilarde is psyching its audience once again to dig deep on what's inside or what's underneath. Only more literal this time. Andi Eigenmann has proven that she’s really an Eigenmann. She has the sensuality and the flair needed for the role. Her screen presence with JM de Guzman worked really well.

Friends who might appreciate it: Those who are tired of having a Kris Aquino horror movie experience.

SM Mall of Asia, Cinema 1, September 29, 7:00pm

This is a glaring proof that we can make outstanding movies during the 50's. It's a triumph for those who restored it and have it handed over to our shores. Of course, it's not perfect, like the continuity issue with the fight scenes, etc., but it's never shallow. Manuel Conde's sense of filmmaking is just ahead of his time. It's beautifully shot given the budget limitation and the storytelling is intact. Filipino filmmakers (and audience) of this generation should start reconsidering.

Friends who might appreciate it: Every Filipino, film lover or not.

Glorietta 4, Cinema 3, September 29, 10:10pm

I've seen it all somewhere before (emo movie packed with emo songs) but it got me. It's a well acted, coming of age film with an agenda that is broader than what I expected. It's about family and friends, about high school and about first love pre-social media days. What sets it apart is that it provides a different dimension on facing the first day of highschool. Charlie (Logan Lerman) is seen here as having difficulty on meeting other people and blending in. This could be taken as an experience that is easily relatable since most of us had gone through it. Then the last 10 minutes just tweaked that notion into something more introspective.

Friends who might appreciate it: Parents of tweens or just tween at heart.

Greenbelt 3, Cinema 3, October 2, 8:20pm

It’s an all-out formula movie with the main intention of providing "kilig" for the audience. Though it did not succeed, I had the impression that the writer did a good job in researching for the characters, given the limitation that Aga and Regine can no longer do a John Lloyd - Bea. The first part that introduces the pair in their respective worlds had me hooked. I'm not sure if it is the brisk editing or it is the effort in making it less Star Cinematic as possible. It doesn't have the customary montage while the theme song is playing and it has no irritating chase scene in the end. Bb. Joyce Bernal must be mellowing.

Friends who might appreciate it: I don’t mind recommending this to everybody with a thought that there’s hope in mainstream cinema.

Greenbelt 3, Cinema 1, October 7, 7:30pm

Empty and trite, very Luc Besson. I hope there are no more sequels after this.

Friends who might appreciate it: A part of me is saying that Turkey remains a promising tourist destination after watching it so I recommend this to travel buffs.

SM Megamall, Cinema 2, October 14, 9:40pm

It takes a while to get the hang of the found footage approach but past that, this film by David Ayer is a rare and enjoyable viewing experience. The police, for a change, are depicted as the way we expect them to be: trusted keepers of peace and security who are willing to risk their life on the streets. Stellar performances from Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña deserve at least some nods from any major award giving body. Bonus: Must-see, cute wedding dance number from Jake and Anna Kendrick.

Friends who might appreciate it: Those who dig MC Hammer.

Glorietta 4, Cinema 4, October 15, 9:25pm

Effective in minimal quiet scenes that involve the nature, something that is expected from a Lasse Hallström film. The political satire part did not work for me but at least it showed that Kristin Scott Thomas can justify an Emma Thompson role. Emily Blunt can pull a romance film anytime but the film is not only about her or her screen partner Ewan McGregor. It's also about the British government, the sentiments in rich Arab countries and the faith in fishing.

Friends who might appreciate it: No idea. The eclectic mix of themes is very tricky.

Greenbelt 3, Cinema 1, October 16, 8:10pm

What I find depressing is the idea that it is mainly banking on a gay character (by an openly gay actor) doing a caricature on male sexuality just to get his man back. In the first place, he should have just spilled the beans upfront and the ex-boyfriend's new relationship would be over. The film tried to introduce a kind of relationship that's rarely tackled in mainstream cinema but it's not very clear with its intent. If the reason behind Mike’s (Luis Manzano) relationship with Lester (Vice Ganda) is about the money, then we're down to the old, maligned treatment of the third sex. It is a lousy filmmaking as well. One glaring proof is that it should have gone a bit further in making the gay character look believable with his attempt on machismo. We've seen the likes of Mrs. Doubtfire, Tootsie and even the Ogie Alcasid-starrer Oh, My Girl! This one just presented the idea and stopped there.

Friends who might appreciate it: Those who have extra money.

Newport Cinemas, Cinema 2, October 20, 3:55pm

This Ben Affleck-directed film is an insightful and well executed entertainment with a rousing last 15 minutes that kept me to the edge of my seat. In a very accessible way, it retells a story of CIA agent (Ben Affleck as well) who tries to rescue the employees of the American Embassy through a mock location shoot in Iran with the help of a Hollywood producer. Could be treated as a popcorn film but it also has some good stuff underneath. Production-wise, it's more ambitious than the director's first two films. It seals the notion that he has a rightful place in filmmaking, one of the rare instances that Hollywood is doing it right.

Friends who might appreciate it: Everybody.

Newport Cinemas, Ultra Cinema, October 20, 6:55pm

It's not an all-out, action-packed sci-fi film that I expected it to be but I enjoyed it being unpredictable. This time machine material lays down the piece one after another and brings the audience to a small scale but satisfying resolution. The first half introduced the concept in a brisk pace while the second half slowed down a bit to connect the bits of the puzzle. Joseph Gordon-Levitt did great, as well as (surprisingly) Bruce Willis.

Friends who might appreciate it: Eventhough I did like it, I think most of my friends will.

Newport Cinemas, Cinema 4, October 20, 10:20pm

It's a buena mano for the green screen filmmaking in Pinoy cinema with a thin, segunda mano storyline. It seemed like it was stuck toying with the new technology, which ocassionally worked, and forgot to expound the aswang folklore. It showed that they are there, period, and the humans didn't even have some sort of disbelief. Was it even in the Philippines and in what period? It didn't help, too, that Dingdong Dantes was exerting too much effort for the bad boy role. He has to be reminded to downplay a bit.

Friends who might appreciate it: Not for me but this is an essential viewing for Filipinos.

SM Megamall, Cinema 11, October 21, 11:20am

This film that debuted at Sundance Film Festival last year worked fine as it is, except for the last story that contained too much CGI. There's actually nothing much but I appreciate the playfulness and the feel. It doesn't look like it's achieving a lot of things other than to inject small bits of fear. Some stories may be too short to savor but at least it is conscious enough in providing a plot given the limited time. Among the episodes (including the frame narrative), I enjoyed the very first one about guys who met a strange woman and the one that deals with videochat.

Friends who might appreciate it: I can easily single out some.

SM Megamall, Cinema 12, October 21, 2:30pm

The boogie man's image is scary enough but the rest are the usual, manipulative cheap tricks. It isn’t hard to guess the twist and the appearance of the kids somewhat breaks the chill. Also, I'm not impressed with the acting (especially Ethan Hawke who does a Christopher de Leon here) and the resolution looked detached and questionable.

Friends who might appreciate it: Those who will enjoy V/H/S.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Habilin ni Direk Mario

Produksyon: Tanghalang Pilipino
Direksyon: Chris Millado
Mandudula: Mario O’Hara
Mga Nagsiganap: Shamaine Centenara-Buencamino, Nonie Buencamino, Mailes Kanapi, Mae Paner, atbp.

Madali namang makuha ang konsepto ng dula. High concept s’ya sa totoo lang. Nasa iisang linya ito ng mga “Mamma Mia!”, “We Will Rock You”, “Rock of Ages” at maging ang lokal na produksyon na EJ: Ang Pinagdaanang Buhay nina Evelio Javier at Edgar Jopson. Lahat ng mga halimbawang ito ay bumuo ng isang kwento mula sa koleksyon ng mga awit na nailathala na mula sa isang musikero (Abba, Queen, The Dawn) o mula sa isang dekada o genre. Sa kaso ng “Stageshow”, ang kuwento naman ay hinabi gamit ang iba’t ibang karayom at sinulid na skit mula sa isang hugis ng theater performance na matagal nang naisilid sa baul.

Gusto ko ‘yung paglalagay ng kabi-kabilang act upang i-recreate ‘yung era. Mataas ang variety at nag-uumapaw. Merong kantahan, ilang skit na medyo berde, ilang magic at ilang pagtatanghal ng mga singer na merong equivalent sa Amerika (“Ang Fred Astaire ng Pilipinas” na makapigil hiningang ginampanan ng 70-year old na si Tony Casimiro sa isang number). Tingin ko, lahat na yata ng act sa nasabing era ay naisiksik sa dula. Hubad na hubad naman ang stage design ni Tuxqs Rutaquio. Maliban sa ilang bumbilya sa itaas (ang ilan dito ay sinadyang maging pundido) at isang drum set sa kaliwa para sa banda, walang masyadong gimik sa entablado bago makarating sa finale number. Siguro ang ideya ay nakaakbay pa rin sa pagsasabuhay n’ung panahon na ‘yun at ang audience ang nagsilbing mga taong-bayan na nagpapalipas ng oras sa plaza. Sa puntong ito ng pagdala sa akin sa ibang panahon at dimensyon, wala naman akong naging problema. Kung tutuusin, ito marahil ang pangunahing vision ni direk Mario O’Hara, ‘yung hindi malimutan ng kontemporaryong manonood ang panahon ng stageshow. Siguro ay nakasaksi na ako ng ilang mutation ng ganitong pagtatanghal n’ung bata pa pero sa akademikong aspeto, tila ang bodabil lang at iba pa ang mas naisalibro.

Kapag tinanggal natin ang bihis ng high concept, ang matitirang premise nito ay tungkol sa stageshow performer na si Ester (Shamaine Centenara-Buencamino), ang kanyang mga kasamahan sa trio na Tres Dahlias (Mae Paner at Mailes Kanapi) at ang kanyang dakilang pag-ibig kay Tirso (Nonie Buencamino). Tatak-Mario O’Hara ang mga ganitong sensibilidad tungkol sa mga taong pinaglumaan na ng panahon at kung paano sila tinatrato ng kasalukuyan. Kung hindi ako nagkakamali, naalala ko ang karakter ni Ester d’un sa isang project na nakalaan dapat kay Nora Aunor. Sinabi mismo dati ni direk sa pagbisita ko noon sa set ng “Sa Ngalan ng Ina” na ang plano n’yang indie film para kay Nora Aunor ay tungkol sa isang sarswela performer na umeekstra-ekstra na lang sa mga palabas kung piyesta. Marami sanang interesanteng pagkakataon sa dula na minsan ay umaalagwa na ang pagka-cinematic. Mahaba ang panahon na tinahak ng dula, mula sa pagsibol ng musical era na ‘yun n’ung 1950’s hanggang sa makabagong panahon. At mula rito ay kailangang ipakita ang decay na nangyari sa mga performer. Ang paghahanap ni Ester sa kanyang baldadong asawa, halimbawa, ay kinakailangang dumaan sa paglapastangan sa kanya ng isang pulubi. Statement siguro ito na gaano man kadakila ang iniambag mo sa sining, babalahurain lang ito ng iba nang walang pakundangan. Ipinakita rin sa huling 15 minuto kung gaano kawagas ang pag-ibig ni Ester kay Tirso (kahit na minsan ay ipinagpalit s’ya nito sa kanyang kasamahan sa Tres Dahlias) sa pag-aalaga rito at sa pagpapalibing nang marangal at maalwan. Ang naging challenge lang mismo sa pagsasadula ay hindi masyadong even ang mga arko ng kuwento. May ilang minuto na ginugol na tila introduksyon pa rin ng mga karakter samantalang sa bandang dulo ay tila nagkukumahog naman sa mga nais pang isaad sa manonood.

Ang una kong impresyon sa pagkuha sa mag-asawang Buencamino bilang Ester at Tirso ay walang masyadong kulay. Alam ko na mahusay sila sa larangan ng teatro pero bihirang bihira ko silang mapanood sa isang musical na nangangailangan ng sapat na pisikalidad at ritmo. Lumalabas minsan ang limitation na ito. Naisip ko n’un na bakit hindi na lang kumuha ng ibang pares na mas maigting ang musical background. Nitong mga nakalipas na araw ko na lang natanggap na ang ideya sa pagkuha sa mag-asawang Buencamino ay isang mataas na antas ng tribute sa kung anumang era ang gusto nitong iduldol sa ating alaala. Ang pagsayawin mo ng tap dance ang mga artistang hindi naman talaga gumagawa nito ay isa nga palang dalisay na pagbibigay-pugay kahit na ang finished product ay hindi kasing kinis nang nakasanayan.

Tingin ko, love letter ni direk Mario O’Hara ang akda para sa Filipino crowd, kung hindi man isang high-importance na memo para sa mga manonood na walang sense of time. N’ung iniwan n’ya tayo nang tuluyan, mas una n’yang iniwan ang Pinoy film industry. Pakiramdam ko, hindi ko na makikita mula sa hanay ng mga filmmaker ngayon ang dedikasyon at artistry na naipunla n’ya sa kanyang mga pelikula na tumahak ng ilang dekada, mapa-mainstream man o indie. Baka dumating ang araw na gagahasain lang ng isang basurero ang kanyang mga obra. Ang kanyang “Stageshow” ay isang malinaw na pagpupumiglas ng “Huwag po! Huwag po!”

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Pagsasanay ng Mata sa Dilim

Walang Kukurap
Produksyon: Tanghalang Pilipino
Direksyon: Tuxqs Rutaquio
Mandudula: Layeta Bucoy
Mga Nagsiganap: Sharmaine Suarez, Sherry Lara, Peewee O’Hara, Lou Veloso, Mymy Davao, Ding Navasero, Doray Dayao, atbp.

Paminsan-minsan ay nakakatikim tayo ng mga political play mula sa Tanghalang Pilipino kamukha ng musical na “EJ: Ang Pinagdaanang Buhay nina Evelio Javier at Edgar Jopson” ni Ed Maranan, kung hindi pa man sapat ang mga pagtalakay ni Paul Dumol noon sa ating mga bayani katulad ng “Aguinaldo 1899: Ang Pagpatay kay Luna”. Kahanay ng mga ito ang “Walang Kukurap” (na marahil ay wordplay ng “kurap” ang “corrupt”). Tinalakay ng dula ang sugat sa ugat ng korupsiyon, mula sa mga nasa dulo ng linya hanggang sa kung sino man ang nakapila. Bagama’t maraming beses na natin itong namalas sa dula, pelikula at sa mga nag-uumapaw na mga palabas sa TV, nais paalalahanang muli ang manonood na tuminging mabuti sa bawat kandidatong magsasalita sa entablado at mangangampanya sa darating na elekyson sa 2013.

Isang representation ng pangkaraniwang bayan ang mga karakter ng dula. Ang pamilya Medina na pinapangunahan ng balong si Christina (Sharmaine Suarez) ay nakatakdang tumakbo bilang vice mayor upang tugunan ang pangangalaga sa maysakit na ama (Lou Veloso). Nakikipagsabwatan ito sa mag-asawang Molong (na tatakbong mayor) at Purita Perez (Crispin Pineda at Sherry Lara). Sa kabilang panig ng mga Medina, si Melba (Mymy Davao) ay hinahanda naman ang sariling anak na babae bilang kalaban ni Christina sa pagka-vice mayor. Isa pang kandidato na idinadaan sa pera ang kampanya, si Santiago Sr. (Ding Navasero), ang nais tumakbo sa pagka-mayor. Nakipagsabwatan ito sa inang si Aling Panchang (Peewee O’Hara) na namatayan ng anak matapos ang isang riot sa bar na dawit ang mga anak ni Christina. Kaibahan sa mga nasabing politiko, malinis ang hangarin ng isa pang kandidato na si Doray (Doray Dayao) subalit wala itong karampatang lakas at impluwensya upang manalo. Ang tagisan ng diskarte na parang isang chess ay malinaw na nasasaksihan ng kanilang mga anak na nakapila sa kani-kanilang trono at sapilitang kapalaran.

Challenging naman ang gumawa ng dula na gustong tumalakay sa political dynasty lalo na’t hindi na naman ito bago, sa loob at labas man ng theater scene sa Pinas. Kung hindi man masyado yata itong ambisyoso sa pagkakaroon ng maraming karakter at eksena. Sa kaso ni Layeta Bucoy, nagalugad naman n’ya ang bawat bloodline ng isang pamilyang aktibo sa mga serbisyong-bayan at lumabas naman ito nang buo sa dula. ‘Yun nga lang, lumuluwa ang limitasyon ng teatro sa pagkaumapaw. Sa isang punto sa isang eksena sa bar, kailangang mag-tableux ang mga karakter upang ma-highlight ang pag-uusap ng iba. Para sa akin, nagmukha nang mas cinematic kesa stagey ang buong paglalahad ng kuwento. Hindi ko rin nakita ang inaasahan kong Layeta Bucoy ending pero nakuha ko ang sikolohiya na gusto n’yang iparating sa manonood. Bonus na lang ang ilang touches kamukha ng conversation nina Melba at ang anak nito tungkol sa pagsusuot ng sapatos (na isang metaphor sa pagpasok sa politika) at ang madugong sakripisyo ng ama ni Christina.

Bukod sa pagsasatupad ng promise na ipinakita ni Tuxqs Rutaquio sa direksyon, mas lumutang sa akin dito ang kanyang pagiging stage designer. Bumenta sa akin ang mga backlighting na mahusay na nagamit sa unang eksena na tila isang bodega. Sa totoo lang, maganda ang opening scene dito at naihanda ako kung gaano karahas ang pumasok sa politika. Si Purita, halimbawa, na isang maybahay ay ipinakitang panatag subalit may nakahanda palang baril mula sa kanyang hita. Kung tutuusin at kung mapapalawig pa, puwede nang one act play ang nasabing eksena. Ang itaas naman ng “bodega” ay ginawa ring platform upang magsilbing stage sa ibang eksena. Mas payak ang ang nasabing portion pero ‘yun na siguro ang pinakamabisang maaaring gawin sa pag-optimize ng Tanghalang Huseng Batute.

Karamihan naman siguro sa atin ay merong agam-agam sa tuwing sasapit ang eleksyon. Sa maraming banda ay tanggap na natin ang pagsubo sa anumang korupsyon na magaganap kapag nahalal na ang mga nakaupo. At dito namuhunan ang dula, sa mga pag-aalinlangang may kinalaman sa kinabukasan ng isang maliit na bayan (o ng Pilipinas na rin) na nababalutan ng dilim. Ganoon pa man, pinapaalalahanan tayo na ‘wag na ‘wag kukurap sa mga ganitong sandali. Kung susumahin, mas mabilis masasanay ang ating mga mata sa dilim kung mas madalang ang pagkurap.
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