Saturday, August 30, 2014


Right when Survivor San Juan del Sur was about to be filmed, the Survivor community was alarmed by the news of EW writer Dalton Ross and the Survivor host himself Jeff Probst about one pair not passing their medical exams a day before they started filming in Nicaragua. The result? This pair didn't make it to Day 1, heck they didn't even make it to Day 0. What's worse is that they didn't have an alternative so they ended up pushing through with an 18-player cast. The twist? An uneven ratio of male to female (10:8). Truth be told, I think the worst part of this is that the pair that didn't make it are rumored to be Korean sisters and I watched their video and they seem like what this cast really need. First of, they're pretty, and then they seem fun and most importantly, they seem intelligent. They're like the Chemical X Prof. Utonium poured in his experiment to form The Powerpuff Girls.

Then a day after they announced this news, another one came. With the unfortunate fate of the Korean sisters, and with the Survivor staff not being able to replace them, it also affected the Redemption Island twist. They scrapped it! Just when we started on warming up on this twist for a BvW season. I won't complain though because they brought back the Exile Island twist where one of the pairs will be sent to the island after his/her pair defeats him/her in a challenge or something. Although I'm not entirely positive if this will stimulate drama just like how Redemption Island did to the first Blood vs Water, because the clue to the Hidden Immunity Idol is actually found on Exile so... I guess we'll find out everything about it after the premiere. After all, Exile Island is a Survivor twist that I never mind them using.

A string of bad news occurred as if Survivor going back to Nicaragua is not yet terrible of a news to begin with. But another bad news came a month before the premiere of this season wherein the show's editors went to a strike that endangered the premiere schedule of the show. This news totally reminded me of Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco and Johnny Galecki delaying The Big Bang Theory's production for weeks because they demanded a million dollar salary per episode. Good news is it seems like CBS/Survivor and the editors settled it out quickly as they went back on working only one day after the boycott.

Phew! This season is starting really badly. This is what happens when they reward us with four consecutive decent to brilliant Survivor seasons. Or I guess we can conclude that Philippines is Survivor's good luck charm and Nicaragua is the bad omen in terms of locations.

I must admit that the cast didn't really make me excited about this season. I'm totally uninspired. I truly think that the Korean sisters would have made this cast better, like if they're on, everyone would be great but if they're not, this is the result. Totally humdrum. But wouldn't it be funny if there's actually no Korean sisters and I'm just believing a total lie or gossip? Anyway, after watching their CBS and EW interviews and reading their CBS bios, here's my Survivor San Juan del Sur Cast Assessment. WARNING: I'm really indifferent by the majority of the cast and you'll see the word 'boring' several times.

18. Wes
Age: 23
Tribe: Coyopa
I think Wes' father Keith is totally outshining him that his father didn't leave any likable quality for him. He's my least favorite of the bunch so far. But to be fair, I think he's going to be good in the game. He seems capable and social enough to go deep in this game but if I were to choose, I hope he gets voted out early. I really hate that he compared himself to Russell Hantz. That alone is the deal breaker why we should not root for this guy.
Prediction: Mid-jury

17. Dale
Age: 55
Tribe: Coyopa
Oh my goodness! We already have Keith. His only role in this game is to support her daughter's journey in winning this game. I should be thankful to him for that but other than that, I find him really bland. :(
Prediction: Early boot

16. Reed
Age: 31
Tribe: Hunahpu
It's not cool that he sort of looks like Frankie of this season's Big Brother especially that I loathe the self-proclaimed social media mogul. But that's about the only thing I hate about Reed. I actually think he's nice. Probably great in the game too. We shall see.
Prediction: Late jury

15. Julie
Age: 34
Tribe: Hunahpu
This bombshell seems like she's going to be crazy and funny. She's supposed to be the second coming of Monica Culpepper but obviously Julie is way hotter but I think Monica is way better in terms of playing the game. I can't imagine Julie living on an island with minimal source of food and comfort. I can't imagine her sleeping in the dirt. With all of these stuff I just said about her, there's a huge room for Julie to prove me wrong. I hope she proves me wrong and is actually a game player. The thing is, I.don't.see.that.happening. Props for comparing herself to Colleen though. That's Survivor knowledge right there.
Prediction: Early boot

14. Josh
Age: 32
Tribe: Coyopa
I think he's nice but I think he's going to be super nice that he'll end up being invisible and boring. For now, I believe Reed will be the better player between the two but I can see it being the other way around too if Reed ends up being an over aggressive playing mess.
Prediction: Premerge

13. Jeremy
Age: 36
Tribe: Hunahpu
I think Jeremy will go far solely because his tribe is going to need him in challenges. He's buff and he seems social enough to bond with the rest of the cast so good for him. But even though I see good things with this guy, I also think he's going to fade in the background ala Cliff Robinson last season.
Prediction: Merge boot

12. Jon
Age: 26
Tribe: Hunahpu
I think they're pegging Jon to be the John Cody of this season. The nice guy who loves his girlfriend so much. Unfortunately, as much as I think Jon will be nice, I also think he's extremely boring that there's no way he can duplicate the niceness and vulnerability of John Cody in the first Blood vs Water.
Prediction: Early Merge

11. Jaclyn
Age: 25
Tribe: Coyopa
Jaclyn has a nice and touching story but I don't think it translates into her being a great player. Jaclyn and Jon's obvious affection for each other is adorable but so far I think they're so vanilla that they're going to be boring. Oh my! I hope their adorbs self will be fun to watch on the show. But she compared herself to Jefra and we know what happened to her despite her adorableness.
Prediction: Early boot

10. Alec
Age: 22
Tribe: Coyopa
He's giving me massive 90s vibes because of his resemblance with The Moffats and the Hanson brothers. Between the Christy brothers, I think one of them will be the Jason Siska and the other will be the Malcolm Freberg. Obviously, I think Alec will be the Siska but I guess slightly better. Well for one, Jason believed that a stick is an Immunity Idol. I don't think Alec will fall into blunders like that but I'm starting to think that it would be fun if he will.
Prediction: Midjury

9. Kelley
Age: 28
Tribe: Hunahpu
I like Kelley! I think she's perfect for Survivor. She seems physically fit, socially capable and strategic. That's something that's going on for her. I hope she doesn't end up being like Brooke Struck though or Kelly Czarnecki. I believe Kelley is going to be a force but I don't wanna jinx her so I put her in the middle of this ranking.
Prediction: Midjury

8. Keith
Age: 53
Tribe: Hunahpu
Keith seems comedic in a good way. He seems feisty, easy going, fun loving and likable. One friend told me that Keith's giving him Roger Sexton vibes though and when he said that, I believed that it could be true. Here's hoping he ends up being hilarious.
Prediction: Premerge

7. John
Age: 39
Tribe: Coyopa
I'm looking forward to John Rocker because he seems like a firecracker in this dull cast. I think he's going to be offensive and hilarious at the same time. He's obviously casted to be the Brad Culpepper of this season but I kind of find Rocker a little chill compared to Culpepper so I think he's not going to be as aggressive as what the majority probably thinks of him.
Prediction: Early boot

6. Val
Age: 35
Tribe: Coyopa
Another police officer! But I think Val is going to be nothing like Sarah or Tony from Survivor Cagayan. I think Val is going to be an asset in her tribe in terms of challenges but I think her weakness would be the social aspect. I think she's going to be unaware too. I hope she provides the laffos. Most importantly, I hope she proves me wrong and does a Tasha -- someone I predicted will be an early boot but ended up being my top favorite of her season.
Prediction: First boot

5. Drew
Age: 25
Tribe: Hunahpu
Like I mentioned in my Alec writeup, I think Drew is going to be the Malcolm of the duo. He's got the complete package and more importantly, he's a fan of the show. I think he's going to win if he overcomes the fact that he's an obvious threat to win and people are likely going to target him once they hit the merge. All he need is a solid alliance and he's aces. 
Prediction: Winner

4. Nadiya
Age: 28
Tribe: Coyopa
I can't distinguish her personality right now compared to Natalie. I didn't watch her TAR season but all I know is that the two will be a force to be reckoned with in this game. Their interviews are way LIVELY compared to their competitors and as much as I think there's a possibility that they're gonna be annoying, I have no choice but to root for them because I'm a fan of enthusiasm. Twinnies got them.
Prediction: Late merge

3. Natalie
Age: 28
Tribe: Hunahpu
I already laid out the reasons why I like the Twinnies but one thing that made me like Natalie more than Nadiya is that when Dalton Ross asked her which player her twin Nadiya is going to play like, she answered Rupert and ruthlessly laughed right after. LMFAO
Prediction: Runner-up

2. Missy
Age: 47
Tribe: Hunahpu
Missy and Baylor have a massive shoes to fill in because they're this season's Laura and Ciera. Good thing is that I think they're capable of being great players. I love their answers in their interviews and I love how firm Missy is that they're going to set Survivor records. I'm excited for that. Unfortunately, as much as I like Missy, probably more than Baylor, is that I think she's going to be seen as a threat early in the game and she won't be able to fight back. She might end up having the fate of Laura Morett in BvW but as we know, there's no second life this season. No RI. :(
Prediction: Early boot

1. Baylor
Age: 20
Tribe: Coyopa
The youngest this season and also has the award for the Most Unique name. I also think that she's the most promising. Ciera in the first BvW was polarizing and it's hard to follow her archetype and obviously, Baylor is this season's Ciera. But part of me wants Baylor to succeed more and I think she has a chance. I love her energy in her interviews. I think she's going to be out there playing instead of hiding behind the bushes so I'll appreciate that. Of course she can end up being a disappointment but for now, I am rooting for her the most and if she fails, then boo-hoo. I hope not. Scary thing though is that I'm really not good at assessing these players. I picked J'Tia first last season for chrissakes.
Prediction: Late jury

Well there you have it! I am most certainly hoping that my predictions will end up being wrong and we'll have an unpredictable season coming our way. Predictable or not, I'm just hoping that it'd be good. My expectations are low especially with the success of its predecessor Survivor Cagayan and the string of bad news that it overcame.

But as fans of Survivor, we should be thankful another season is about to begin with new players, and hopefully new games.

Survivor San Juan del Sur premieres September 24 in the US, and September 25 in the Philippines.

Follows me on Twitter: @jaynormouskid 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Giver

Director: Phillip Noyce
With: Brenton Thwaites, Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Odeya Rush, Katie Holmes, Alexander Skarsgård, Cameron Monaghan, Taylor Swift

What's up with the number of Dystopian/Utopian films this year? We just had Divergent, and earlier this year we had Snowpiercer, then in the last quarter we'll have the third installment of The Hunger Games trilogy, Mockingjay. But I'm not here to complain, if these films continue to entertain then I wouldn't mind watching more of them. Like The Giver, it's thoroughly entertaining. I didn't regret watching it at all even though I was planning on skipping it and just wait for HBO or Star Movies to show it.

Based on the children's novel by Lois Lowry, The Giver follows a boy named Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) living in a Utopian society where pain, hunger, poverty and even love were eliminated. A society wherein every member has an assignment or a job for the community. It's basically like other futuristic films wherein there are factions, or districts, or people are separated into class but in no way it's repetitive or too familiar.

It's probably best that I didn't read the book as I've learned from some friends that the film adaptation didn't give justice to its origin. I guess it's better this way because I'm highly satisfied by the film. Yes, it's notably far from being perfect but the things I like about it are wonderful. The line between utopia and dystopia in The Giver is very interesting and fun to follow. I enjoyed the absurdity of their community. How the words 'family', 'terrified' and 'love' are offensive and how kisses, colors and music are taboo. Weirdly enough, I also enjoyed the repetition of the phrases -- 'Thank you for your childhood', 'precision of language' and 'I accept your apology'. The characters are also eminently engaging may it be the heroes, the villains and the innocents. Everything is amusing. Another highlight is Marco Beltrami's mesmerizing score that multiplies the beauty and intensity of the scenes. His music is a standout that I really waited for the credits to roll to take note of his name. He gave Taylor Swift something to sing and play with the piano.

What the film really struggled on is how to execute the requirements of the story. Like Life of PiThe Giver is considered as one of the hardest books to adapt into a film. But unlike the former, Noyce's The Giver wasn't backed up by stunning visual effects. Bad, bad effects. I also didn't appreciate that it used some visuals/scenes from other resources. Although the visuals that they borrowed are magnificent, it would probably been much better if they made their own 'realities'. Then again I doubt they would be successful in creating their own ones because it was obvious the visuals is not the film's strongest suit.

I also have to commend on how good Brenton Thwaites is as a lead. He's not the Jonas that I've envisioned when I read the novel's synopsis but it's easy to overlook the miscasting when the actor is good. It doesn't hurt that he's got great chemistry with the ridiculously beautiful Odeya Rush. Love both Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep here too. I thought they only have a few scenes here and that the film would focus more on Thwaites but they actually have a bunch. Often juicy too. Streep here proved yet again that she's an effective villain. A calm one for that matter. In fact, she sort of reminded me of her Miranda Priestly, except less glamorous and less epic. Still, the distracting Anjelica Huston hair didn't wipe out her undeniable talent. Also, the amazing baby! ;_;

What's a futuristic film without its share of philosophy? After all, the book it was adapted on is known for it. Well, The Giver is rich in thought provoking philosophical concepts. It clearly captivated the importance of knowledge, feelings and other aspects that form an imperfect community that somehow, this imperfection makes us all human beings. Again, I wouldn't know if the film dug deep enough into the thoughts of its origin. It's Lois Lowry for cryinoutloud but I must say, The Giver, despite its imperfection will probably end up as one of my favorites by the end of the year.

Monday, August 25, 2014

What If

Director: Michael Dowse
With: Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, Adam Driver, Rafe Spall, Mackenzie Davis, Megan Park

I've been waiting for a sweet and cute love story this year but no bueno. Two of my favorite films last year are love stories (About Time and Before Midnight) and to be honest, no 2014 film has yet to fill what About Time and Before Midnight provided for 2013. What If seems like the perfect movie that will fill that gap but not quite.

What If also known as The F Word is about the story of a medical school dropout Wallace played by Daniel Radcliffe who's been repeatedly burned by bad relationship, and Chantry played by Zoe Kazan, an animator who lives with her longtime boyfriend Ben. Wallace and Chantry meet and strike up an instant connection but with their current status, they couldn't be together so they formed a close friendship.

It's quite refreshing to watch a romantic film that's sincere, quirky, righteous but not preachy. The first half of the film where Chantry and Wallace are getting to know each other was interesting to watch. Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan's quirkiness are perfect for these two characters. Radcliffe is as awkward as ever especially he's playing a guy who's supposed to be romantic but somehow, his quirkiness works and actually matches Kazan's charm. Zoe Kazan who previously played the famous Ruby Sparks is also very charming. There's one scene where she's talking to her boyfriend while drunk and she's super cute in it. Their chemistry carried the whole film that despite the flaws of the second half, I still find myself not hating it.

It's unfortunate because the sincerity of the first half wasn't maintained in the second. I liked the film until the conflict, in which they started to become hypocrites to each other and it was just shallow and annoying. The movie felt like it tried to put a little depth in the second half but failed miserably. It would have been best if they kept the lightness of the film. That way it wouldn't be corny and roll eye worthy when they tried to be deep about the relationship of Wallace and Chantry. Still, it's a feel good film that showcased a cute love story utilizing Radcliffe and Kazan's light acting talent. I'm still on the lookout on a perfect romantic comedy for 2014. It sucks because romcoms are starting to become rare like the horror genre. Oh well, I should have probably watched Begin Again?

Saturday, August 16, 2014


Director: Richard Linklater
With: Ellar Cortrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater

As we all probably know by now, Richard Linklater directed yet another film that transcends the possibilities of filmmaking through Boyhood which is 12 freakin' years in the making. So impressive considering that he had projects in between and just when I thought his Before trilogy is already amazing because of how he played with time, here goes Boyhood

Boyhood follows the life of 6-year old Mason (Ellar Cortrane) as he grows to be 18. Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke play his parents and Linklater's own daughter, Lorelei, plays Sam as Mason's older sister. Twelve years with the same cast is already impressive, but the result of the whole film is even better. As you watch the film, the gimmick somehow didn't even matter that much. Linklater smartly chose to feature the ordinary days in the lives of this family instead of squeezing out the 12-year stunt by inserting jaw-dropping stories and in the end, it's much more rewarding emotionally because he made it impossible not to relate with them. 

Okay, there is 100% chance that I wouldn't be able to articulate all the reasons why I love this film or let alone explain how beautiful Boyhood is. I don't even know where to begin. I'm afraid my thoughts won't give justice to how amazing this film experience is and how much it moved me. I feel like Boyhood is a film for everyone who grew up so basically, almost everyone. LMFAO. I mean let's start with the easy and fun one, the film is nostalgia fever with all the pop references that it used -- from Dragon Ball, to Harry Potter, to Twilight, to iPods, to Lady Gaga, Aaliyah and Britney Spears. To its soundtrack that includes Coldplay, Phoenix, Foster the People, Gotye, The Flaming Lips and Family of the Year. It's our generation and it's so easy to be familiar with it. It's like a trip down to memory lane and that it's something that will truly force you to reflect and look back at your own life as you watch Mason move forward to his. And somehow, as much as this film is about Mason growing up, it also explained grownups so well through his parents.

Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke are so good in this that it would also be acceptable if they changed the title of the film to Parenthood because they're as much as stars of the film as the breakthrough star Ellar Cortrane. Both characters are far from being perfect parents but there's something about them that's very admirable. Especially Patricia Arquette's character who walked on a parade of jerks. Her scene in the end where Mason was about to move out of her apartment was extremely affecting as she's always been tough and so when she broke down and looked back to the life that she had, it's insurmountably touching. Ethan Hawke on the other hand portrayed a picture of an ideal father, at least for me. Well, he's not the most responsible father there is but his love for his children and how he communicated with them is held in great respect. Ellar Cortrane is amazing as Mason. I don't think the film would work this much if weren't for his phenomenal transformation characteristically and physically. The young Mason to me felt like my nephew (and I love my nephew so much), so when Mason grew up and experienced the ups and downs of life, I can't help but feel proud or feel sad or feel whatever according to what's happening in his life.

I've been anticipating this film for months and watching it finally with my nephew was such a prize. He wasn't able to finish the whole film though. But I've always wanted him to see this because whenever I tell him to watch the trailers and other Boyhood clips, he kept on asking me about growing up and how did Mason grow up, and how they filmed the film. It's a healthy discussion and I would love if we got to watch the whole film together because I enjoy answering his questions too. Even though it annoys me sometimes when he keeps on asking questions in almost every scene. LOL. I wanted him to see it because I thought it would be awesome for any child to see a glimpse of how people transform, or how they would change eventually through the years because of the experiences they go through. Basically the same thing why I was eager to see it except I've already gone through it but wouldn't it be awesome to watch someone literally grow up before your eyes? Mason and I didn't have similar experiences but growing up through obstacles with family, friends and oneself is something everyone would relate with. And the film made it even more possible by featuring scenes that are not necessarily groundbreaking. But instead it featured the normal living of the characters, from Mason to his sister, to his parents, to every other people that he encountered in his boyhood. That's why it's much easier to be invested in it that despite these normal day-to-day living scenes, I was glued to it. I didn't even notice the time because it's such an interesting and relatable story that I wouldn't mind seeing another three hours of it.

Who knows? Richard Linklater and Ellar Coltrane are probably filming right now for a sequel to this film which will be called 'Adulthood' or 'Manhood'. If it turns out to be true, then I'd be ecstatic but if it's not, Boyhood alone can stand on its own and I'm pretty sure this movie will also stand the test of time. Yarara

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Barber's Tales (Mga Kwentong Barbero)

Director: Jun Robles Lana
With: Eugene Domingo, Gladys Reyes, Sharmaine Buencamino, Iza Calzado, Nonie Buencamino, Nicco Manalo, Sue Prado, Eddie Garcia, Daniel Fernando

Could this film get any more hype? Well, in the Philippines it could use some because my audience when I saw it was only a handful and its marketing is virtually non-existent here. But internationally, Barber's Tales is a big deal especially after winning several awards such as Best Actress for Eugene Domingo at the 2013 Tokyo International Film Festival, Best Director for Jun Robles Lana (also director of Bwakaw; writer of Jose Rizal, Muro Ami, Bagong Buwan) at the 2014 Madrid International Film Festival and was also awarded 3rd Place, Audience Award at the 2014 Udine Far East Film Festival. Amazing!

So all these awards set the bar high prior to watching the film. I think it's safe to say that it lived up to it because the craftsmanship of director Jun Robles Lana who also wrote the film was fully established. It's artsy, it's neat, it's beautifully shot and is something to be taken seriously. Like Bwakaw, its setting focused on a small town province in the Philippines but this film tackled a crucial period in the Philippine history which is the Marcos regime during the height of rebellion.

Not gonna lie, it's a bit surprising how heavy the film actually is. I expected it to be dramatic but I didn't anticipate the importance and the history that it enacted. It's a good thing because the Philippine cinema, from what I've observed, is lacking period dramas lately and Barber's Tales is a refreshing Filipino film that can be added among other great historical films like Dekada '70 and Aishite Imasu 1941: Mahal Kita to name a few. So lots of kudos to Jun Robles Lana for continuously writing and directing films that are relevant, films that showcases Philippine history. Also, much like Dekada'70, one of the elemental themes of Barber's Tales is women empowerment.

However, Barber's Tales is not the most exciting and gripping film. Its pacing is a bit monotonous, building so many characters, story-arcs in the middle. But the slow build up is rewarding in the end as it made the shocking events even more electrifying like a cobra finally eating its prey after keeping an eye on it for so long. Okay, that's a strange comparison but it's totally apt. The last 10 minutes of the film is very exhilarating. It doesn't hurt that the film surprised its viewers with a pleasant cameo by a superstar. :3

We're so used into laughing at Eugene Domingo's antics in movies but here, she never tickled anyone's funny bones. Most of the time, she's in her depressing facial expression mode that got a little tiring at some point, but there's really nothing more we can ask for with this actress. She's phenomenal whether in drama or comedy. "Death defying stunts and full frontal nudity? CHECK." I still prefer the funny Eugene though and the good thing is, it will always be there. Her performance in Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank will never be outstripped. TV PATROL ACTING :). Aside from Eugene, the film's ensemble is pretty rad. Great performances from Eddie Garcia, Gladys Reyes, Nonie Buencamino, Nicco Manalo, Iza Calzado and Sharmaine Buencamino.

It's rare nowadays to witness a great Filipino period drama so I really hope this film gets the number of audience it deserves. It won several awards for a reason. For Filipinos who keep on complaining about the never-ending mainstream love stories, well Barber's Tales is not mainstream for one, and it's definitely not a love story. So no more excuses. LOL #sapilitan

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Cinemalaya 2014 Plummy Awards

I've only watched 8 Cinemalaya films this year -- 2 in Directors Showcase category and 6 in New Breed -- so instead of predicting the winners for tonight's Awarding ceremony, I decided to just come up with my personal awards for the 8 entries I've seen. Never mind their categories.

Here are the eligible films:

Best Picture
Children's Show
Sundalong Kanin

I went back and forth between #Y and Dagitab as my top favorite. I watched both films during my first day of Cinemalaya movie marathon and 7 days after, I'm still torn between the two. At the end of my Day 1, I was sure that #Y is my favorite but days passed, I can't stop thinking about the beauty of Dagitab. In the end, since today is what matters, I'm rewarding Giancarlo Abrahan's Dagitab. It's mesmerizing, it's technically golden and I think it should be a contender for our country's submission at the Oscars.

Best Actor
Arnold Reyes (Kasal)
Buboy Villar (Children's Show)
Elmo Magalano (#Y)
Nathaniel Brit (Sundalong Kanin)
Nonie Buencamino (Dagitab)

Nathaniel Brit and Buboy Villar proved to be serious young actors. Arnold Reyes in Kasal is committed, brave and truly impressive. But for me, the two standouts are Elmo Magalona and Nonie Buencamino. Elmo Magalona has a lot of award baity scenes in #Y particularly his telephone conversation with Chynna Ortaleza's character. Nonie Buencamino on the other hand gave a much more quiet performance but nothing short of brilliance. In the end, Buencamino's silence yet consistent performance in Dagitab prevails. I'm a sucker for actors who play quiet characters yet manages to be compelling and moving.

Best Actress
Eula Valdez (Dagitab)
Mylene Dizon (Mariquina)
Nora Aunor (Hustisya)
Nova Villa (1st Ko Si 3rd)

Nora Aunor is such a joy to watch in Hustisya. As one of my friends described her, her performance is very anti-Nora. She flips, she jokes, she curses and still, she remains lovable. Mylene Dizon's subtle and mature performance in Mariquina is also quite commendable. She doesn't need OTT scenes to be good. Her facial expressions alone are excellent. Nova Villa in 1st Ko Si 3rd is adorable. I think it's one of her best performances to date especially she's given a material where she was able to broaden her potential. But despite these great performances, Eula Valdez in Dagitab got my love. She's one of the reasons why I love Dagitab. Her performance is very natural and raw. Reminds me of Berenice Bejo in The Past. I hope she wins tonight!

Best Supporting Actor
Art Acuña (Sundalong Kanin)
Martin Del Rosario (Dagitab)
Miggs Cuaderno (Children's Show)
Paolo O'hara (Sundalong Kanin)
Ricky Davao (Mariquina)

I think Art Acuña blows everyone out of the water with his performance for Sundalong Kanin. So good and one of my favorite performances in this year's Cinemalaya. Paolo O'hara in the same movie is a close second for me though.

Best Supporting Actress
Barbie Forteza (Mariquina)
Bing Pimentel (Mariquina)
Chynna Ortaleza (#Y)
Coleen Garcia (#Y)
Divine Grace Aucina (Children's Show)
Ruby Ruiz (1st Ko Si 3rd / Kasal)

I love everyone in this category that I had a hard time picking only 5 of them so I chose 6. Barbie Forteza was a revelation in Mariquina. This lady is going to be a serious actress one day. Ruby Ruiz is a great comedian and I hope to see more of her in the future. Bing Pimentel in Mariquina is compelling and she turned out to be my favorite character in the film even if her character is supposed to be unlikable. But the top 3 for me is Divine Grace Aucina (Lupita Nyong'o), Coleen Garcia (Jennifer Lawrence)  and Chynna Ortaleza (Julia Roberts). I never considered Ortaleza a serious actress but her brief yet amazing performance in #Y changed it all. She's great! Coleen Garcia on the other hand is such a revelation and if not for her, I wouldn't enjoy #Y as much as I did. Aucina's portrayal of Kara is brave, surprising and impressive and she had me at her boxing scene. In the end, JLaw wins this time as Coleen Garcia is my winner for Best Supporting Actress in this batch.

Best Director
Giancarlo Abrahan (Dagitab) - WINNER
Gino Santos (#Y)
Milo Sogueco (Mariquina)
Roderick Cabrido (Children's Show)

Best Screenplay
Gian Abrahan (Dagitab) - WINNER
Janice O'Hara, Denise O'Hara (Sundalong Kanin)
Jeff Stelton (#Y)

Best Score
1st Ko Si 3rd - WINNER
Children's Show
Sundalong Kanin

Best Editing
Children's Show
Sundalong Kanin

Best Cinematography
Children's Show
Dagitab - WINNER

9 nominations - #Y
8 nominations - Dagitab, Children's Show
7 nominations - Mariquina, Sundalong Kanin
3 nominations - 1st Ko Si 3rd
2 nominations - Kasal
1 nomination - Hustisya

6  - Dagitab
2  - #Y
1  - Sundalong Kanin, 1st Ko Si 3rd

Saturday, August 9, 2014

1st Ko Si 3rd - Cinemalaya New Breed

Director: Real Florido
With: Nova Villa, Dante Rivero, Freddie Webb, Ruby Ruiz, Lara Morena

Synopsis from Cinemalaya: A 65-year old woman gets reunited with her first love, and finally the supposed first date happens four decades after they got separated.

I'm pretty sure most Cinemalaya fans expected this film to be the feel-good movie of the bunch. The trailer suggests that and well, it stars the veteran comedian Nova Villa. But while it's comedic in some parts, it actually ended in a dark manner. The story is kind of predictable and the humor is kind of corny sometimes, but this comedy-drama ended in such a high note that it's easy to overlook the film's flaws.

I love the depiction of Corazon's monotonous life after retiring from her job because it reminded me so much of my mom who painted our house after she retired lol. And then the film got a little more interesting when Third (Freddie Webb), Corazon's first love appeared. Unfortunately, they did not juice out Freddie Webb's potential and it's sort of disappointing. I like the flashbacks though but I thought their relationship was too shallow and silly especially the sprain part. Then it got a little too serious when the film shifted back on Corazon's relationship with her husband Alejandro (Dante Rivero). But I guess it's part of the message they're trying to convey.

It's a promising film in the beginning but it slowly faded to grey when nothing spectacular or interesting is happening and then the climax happened and it felt a little too late but it didn't have a catharsis which interestingly made me appreciate the film a bit more.

Nova Villa was adorable as Corazon. She's so cute and she shines in the comedic parts of the film, and even in the serious ones. This is probably unpopular though but her Becca of Rabbit Holesque breakdown scene inside the car was sort of forced for me and it wasn't moving so I am not that wow'd by her performance. Her best friend played by Ruby Ruiz however is a great supporting actress. I find her funnier than Villa. I wouldn't be surprised if she gets another nod this year after her win for Ekstra from last year because she aces every scene she's in.

Overall, it's an okay film. I really love its ending because there's such an ambiguity to what Corazon was feeling when she left the memories of Third. There's something about the last frame that's bittersweet and I love that I can't define the line between the bitter and sweet in it. Somehow it reminds me of Jason Reitman's way of ending Young Adult. That there's something about the film that will leave you feeling dark and sad.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Kasal - Cinemalaya Director's Showcase

Director: Joselito Altarejos
With: Arnold Reyes, Oliver Aquino, Rita Avila, Maureen Mauricio, Rener Concepcion

Synopsis from Cinemalaya: Kasal is a slice of life drama of a gay couple whose resolve to stay together is challenged as they attend a wedding. It also is an examination of how a gay couple navigates through the different institutions in Philippine society.

This movie reminds me of Sana Dati and Rachel Getting Married for obvious reasons. I like this kind of slice of life format because the main event which is the wedding is not the main focus, but rather on the development of the main characters. In Sana Dati, it's Lovi Poe's Andrea, Anne Hathway's Kim in Rachel Getting Married and in Kasal, it's the story of Sherwin (Arnold Reyes) and Paolo (Oliver Aquino) -- a gay couple on the rocks because of their priority differences.

It's melodramatic and it's too much sometimes. I'm not the biggest fan of the film as I thought there's so much unnecessary scenes and drama going on. I'm not the one to judge though. After all, I'm just a viewer watching a director's vision who obviously wants to convey a message about gay rights in our country. I rarely say this in film, but Kasal could have used a little more cuts in some of its scenes. Because there are scenes that will make you look at your watch and probably roll your eyes and I'm not even referring to the more or less 10-minute sex scene which btw, made the audience hold on to their seats as if we're watching The Conjuring. LOL. I actually find it necessary to the film but what about the very long wedding parade? and the excessively dramatic family of Sherwin? Yes they're allowed to be dramatic but seriously, some of their 'dramas' are just too hard to swallow, it's insane and some are just out of the context. Indie films and wedding traditions? I say it would have been best if he just focused on the characters and the plot.

But anyway, aside from those comments, Kasal works in its impassioned ways. The last act particularly was emotionally compelling that I can easily forget its flaws. It's exceptionally affecting. Think of Blue is the Warmest Color diner scene. I'm sorry I can't help but bring up that comparison. It's just that their relationship, the fight before the wedding and the differences of the couple was established so well that one can't help but be invested not only in their situation but also in their characters as individuals just like how the audience loved Emma and Adele.

Arnold Reyes as Sherwin is remarkable. I just recently watched She's Dating the Gangster and there's an undeniable difference in the way he acted here. So natural and committed and I've got nothing but praise. I wish the dubbed audio wasn't horribly edited in the video because it's very distracting throughout the film.

Oh well... if you love being devastated by well... love and heartbreaks, this is perfect for you. Just bring heavyweight popcorn and extra dose of patience for better viewing.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Sundalong Kanin - Cinemalaya New Breed

Director: Janice O'Hara
With: Nathaniel Brit, Ian de Leon, Gardo Verzosa, Via Veloso, Enzo Pineda, Marc Abaya, Art Acuña

Synopsis from Cinemalaya: Set during the Japanese Occupation, four friends (Nitoy, Benny, Carding, and Badong) aspire nothing more than to become soldiers fighting the Japanese until they are confronted by the realities of war that threaten to destroy their families and their friendship.

Another favorite from this year's batch of New Breeds. You can never go wrong with Sundalong Kanin that even if it's flawed, it managed to be likable and engaging. It's funny, light-hearted, deep, heart warming, depressing, crazy, suspenseful... I can go on and on but the movie really showcased all of these qualities. It's crazy because the movie tackles one of the darkest times in the Philippines yet it lifted the hearts of its viewers and the reason for that are the four enjoyable and charismatic characters who are fun to root for the same way we rooted for Guido and his son in Life is Beautiful, in which both films exhibit humor and sentimentality in the midst of the war.

It's not the situation of the Philippines under the Japanese occupation that made this film sentimental, but it's the story of the friendship of the four main characters which lead to both heroism and betrayal. The film is very plot oriented that no scene is wasted and every scene is vital to the story. The film began by establishing the solid friendship of the four characters evoking their naivete and ignorance of the state of the country. It kind of slowed down in the middle, slightly weakened by the overly staged scenes with some extras but in its last act is when it started to pick up and never looked back. It was intense and devastating but there's also a bittersweet feeling from its last frame to the end credits. It was hard to look at their fun pictures in the end credits because they're tear-inducing.

Benny, Badong, Carding and Nitoy
Sundalong Kanin is satisfying enough but it would have been MILES better if some scenes with the extras were orchestrated well and the jokes by the leader of the guerrillas didn't exceed the borderline of ridiculousness. Because it has everything -- an engaging plot and a magnetic and enjoyable cast, but the weak execution of the screenplay pulls this film down a bit. The greatness of the cast prevails though because the four main lead actors gave River Phoenix, Wil Wheaton, Corey Feldman and Jason O'Connell of Stand By Me a run for their money. They're wacky but they also have mad acting skills. Arthur Acuña is also a standout as the film's Japanese leader. At first, I laughed at myself by the thought that he's portraying a Japanese character but when he started to speak, geez, if Meryl Streep can do British perfectly, so can Art Acuña with his stellar Japanese accent. So believable and amazing. Paolo O'hara is another standout as the filthy-mouthed father of one of the kids. He's so funny to watch that despite being hot headed and loudmouth, he still managed to be adorable. Marc Abaya didn't impress here though and I hate his character so much!

Sundalong Kanin is a film that's poignant and sad more than fun and happy and I wish someone would remake the film with the same actors just because it really is a promising film that sadly didn't reach its full potential. With better direction and I guess a score like Nicola Piovani in Life is Beautiful, this would be perfection and perhaps it would end up being my favorite. Having said those, I still love it in spite of its weaknesses.

Children's Show - Cinemalaya New Breed

Director: Roderick Cabrido
With: Buboy Villar, Miggs Cuaderno, Allen Dizon, Gloria Sevilla, Divine Grace Aucina, Suzette Ranillo, Nathan Lopez, Jacob Clayton

Synopsis from Cinemalaya: Children’s Show is a full-length film based on a real life story of children ages 10-15 years old being used by a syndicate for an underground wrestling match.

Not gonna lie, poverty in Filipino films is starting to get tiresome and repetitive. In this year's Cinemalaya alone, there's already a couple that tackled it. Poverty porn. Although I can't complain too much because there are lots of stories to tell about poverty in the Philippines. Children's Show for one covered something we haven't seen before. Underground wrestling. Sounds intriguing? (Hi Fight Club!) but when it involves children, at first I thought it's going to be just plain interesting but it's rather disquieting to see them fight for money without realizing that they're doing something wrong and illegal. It's one of their ways to survive life. An eye-opener. But what transcends the subject of poverty is the heartwarming true story of brotherhood.

Children's Show successfully incorporated a compelling drama about family while conveying the sad truth of poverty. The two main characters Al and Jun's tough love for each other is fun to watch and it made for a sadder story when they had to face their biggest obstacle in life as brothers - it's not the underground wrestling or poverty, it's their father (Allen Dizon) who likes to steal their money. It's a sad life for them.

Buboy Villar as Al
Miggs Cuaderno (Purok 7) and a mature Buboy Villar (Little Big Star) are brilliant in this and proved to be serious actors. They have undeniable chemistry as two brothers living in Metro Manila slums. Comedy or drama, they have the acting chops to pull them off. Even in the fight scenes they're brave and ready. Gloria Sevilla as usual is good. I liked her in Boy Golden, I liked her here too. Allen Dizon as the violent father is intense. The two standouts for me though are Divine Grace Aucina and Suzette Ranillo. Divine Grace Aucina is such a brave girl for accepting the role of Al's girlfriend who's also a fellow young fighter in underground matches. She steals every scene she's in when I thought she's just going to be on the sidelines. She's what I refer as the Lupita Nyong'o of the Philippines and I wish I'm not the only one who noticed her. I hope she gets recognition for her work in this even though her scenes are not that flashy. Suzette Ranillo on the other hand has only one scene but she managed to stand out because of her insane tearz. Her performance may be over-the-top but I love that she continued to act even when there's saliva and nasal fluids dripping all over her mouth. So Felicity Huffman of her.

Another thing I love about the movie is its style and it's not afraid of taking risks. Cabrido's take on Al's hallucinations are amazing especially that one outstanding scene where a giant chicken passed across a Metro Manila highway. It didn't look fake and it reminded me of Hushpuppy's encounter of the Beasts in Beasts of the Southern Wild. I love those kind of surprises.

My biggest flack about the film is how it ended. I got nothing to complain about the whole film but it ended so abruptly as in Bourne Legacy's ending level. I guess Cabrido left it as it is implicating that these kids got no future. There's no resolution, there's no hope and it's a sad (and again abrupt) ending. Still, it's nothing short of message, action, drama and even comedy that I think it's one of the better movies in this year's Cinemalaya.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Mariquina - Cinemalaya New Breed

Director: Milo Sogueco
With: Mylene Dizon, Ricky Davao, Bing Pimentel, Che Ramos, Barbie Forteza, Dennis Padilla

Synopsis from Cinemalaya: Unlike the former Philippine First Lady, this Imelda (Mylene Dizon, Barbie Forteza) is indifferent towards shoes. To her, they are fraught with the bittersweet nostalgia of childhood, one that was marred by a difficult relationship with her shoe-maker father, Romeo. Growing up, all of hers were handmade by him.

Mariquina is one of the impressive films in this year's festival. It's very apparent that it's well made, well written (by Jerrold Tarog of last year's Sana Dati) and a competent film to boot. But I'm not a huge fan. Although it's really commendable that a story about shoes/shoemaking was made and the story is nothing short of conflict, lessons and drama.

Shoes. Isn't it intriguing? Tarog's story is rich with creativity and imagination that he managed to incorporate shoes in a family drama that is deep enough for a film. However, for me the material lacks engaging and groundbreaking concepts to make it more remarkable. Don't get me wrong, a film doesn't always require groundbreaking scenes but Mariquina is something we can see in teleseryes slash MMK slash Magpakailanman. Like if it's an episode of MMK, I'm pretty sure its title would be 'SAPATOS' (or swelas since there's already an existing Sapatos episode :3). In brief, it's sort of nothing special.

The film has a lot of technical achievements for sure (although distracting make up :/). Outstanding screenplay, complex characters with Bing Pimentel's villainous unsung hero Tess as my favorite :), decent musical score that I really enjoyed especially the one where young Imelda was happily walking in her father's shoe factory, creditable performances by Mylene Dizon, Ricky Davao and Barbie Forteza, perfect production design and a surprise Imelda Marcos cameo. But these are not enough to rave the film.

Ricky Davao as Romeo via
I think it's biggest triumph is how it affected the viewers through its heartwarming lesson. It's a film that will make you think and realize about your relationships -- family relationships to be exact. Because even if the film is about shoes, its essence is really about family.

In a way, it reminds me of P.L. Travers life and her relationship with her father in Saving Mr. Banks even though Imelda and her father's relationship is actually quite different but still, both links involve buried resentments and that's probably why Mariquina didn't appeal to me immensely because like I've mentioned, it's something I've already seen and therefore, there's nothing really refreshing about it. It's worth a viewing though and I didn't feel like I wasted my money for it.

Dagitab (The Sparks) - Cinemalaya New Breed

Director: Giancarlo Abrahan
With: Eula Valdez, Nonie Buencamino, Martin del Rosario

Synopsis from Cinemalaya: While the marriage of two professors is on the verge of falling apart, the woman named Issey is dragged into a scandal involving a young student. On the other hand, the man Jimmy falls in love with his research – a deity (supernatural being) that appears to him as the ghost of an old flame.

Dagitab's synopsis didn't make me giddy when I first read it. In fact, no one from this year's entry got me excited unlike last year. A couple on the edge of their relationship? There's nothing new about that. But something about its trailer that's mystifying and then I watched the film and I went out of the theater thinking that this is one hell of a movie. Definitely one of my favorites this year.

I consider Dagitab a feel-good movie but before I realized that, it made me feel a soup of emotions that are far from being pleasant. Watching Issey and Jimmy's relationship at first felt like it's sucking the life out of you. Issey feels lifeless, tired and alone while Jimmy feels miserable in finding answers to his research for two decades. They seem hopeless and the audience felt it too. The series of scenes showing their lethargic misery is depressing to watch. But as the film progressed, one would start to wonder if they're in fact miserable or they're just exhausted with their relationship or they're just occupied by different things or all of the above. Giancarlo Abrahan effectively imposed these questions but by the end of the film, the status of their relationship was explained vividly.

Nonie Buencamino (Jimmy) and Eula Valdez (Issey)
I'm crazy about Eula Valdez and Nonie Buencamino's performances. They're so good in seizing the emotions of their characters and their relationship with each other. They're one of the reasons why the movie provided an emotional journey from the start to end. Eula's cold approach to her character was amazing to watch and I was drawn to her facial reactions whenever she's on screen. As for Nonie Buencamino, there is a consistent calmness in his portrayal of Jimmy but one can still differentiate the changes in emotions of his character throughout the film. There are several long continuous shots of Eula and Nonie's interactions and they're nothing short of authenticity and greatness. I'm referring to the beginning where Issey got drunk while Jimmy was driving and they pondered about their catatonic relationship and how Issey got tired of them being smart and Jimmy insisted his personal desires and relationship inclinations. Martin del Rosario as the supporting character is not bad either. His confrontation with Nonie Buencamino near the end of the film was impressive.

From the first frame to the last, Dagitab inspires you to think endlessly. It is mysterious yet captivating. It takes it time yet it's gripping. It thrives with its emotional dialogue but it blossoms even more when it's quiet. The combination of thought-provoking words of the script and silent scenes is wildly alluring. It has one of the most beautiful scenes I've seen in any Filipino film where Eula Valdez and Martin del Rosario's characters are lying on the shore while the waves and its bubbles caress them. I'm a sucker for quiet scenes that evoke beauty, emotions and calmness and Dagitab is filled with that. It makes the movie even more poetic when the dialogue is already screaming poetry and fantasies. 

In the end, it will make you realize that love has many sides and what works for one relationship doesn't automatically work for others. It's not all about romance or intelligence, it's about maturity and acceptance. This is why I feel like in the end, it's a feel good movie. It made us understand the complexities of marriage and to an extent, life in general. It doesn't hurt that they used Side A's Tuloy Pa Rin Ako that I'm sure made every audience smile after the series of intricacies this film catered. Seriously, the words in this movie is music to my ears and the quiet scenes are both visual and emotional treat. I love Dagitab the same way I love Lost in Translation. I love films because of these qualities.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

#Y - Cinemalaya New Breed

Director: Gino Santos
With: Elmo Magalona, Coleen Garcia, Sophie Albert, Kit Thompson, Slater Young, Chynna Ortaleza

Synopsis from Cinemalaya: #Y chronicles the adventures of the members of this generation known for their affinity with social media and the Internet, and combines this with a tale of sex, drugs, and alcohol, and the nights they won’t remember but will never forget.

Gino M. Santos' #Y is my favorite film so far among any Cinemalaya movies I've seen. It's up there with Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank and while it won't make the audience laugh hysterically like the latter, it's one that will surely resonate emotionally whether you're a teenager, an adult, a parent - it stimulates passion out of everyone. Thanks to the young director Gino M. Santos who's confident in his vision of tackling the negativity of the modern day generation - vices, social media, and hell even corruption in society.

I love everything about it. The moment it started BOOM! you just know that it's going to be a great film. The cinematography, editing, and art direction gels like a slick pompadour hairstyle. It made the cityscapes of the metro look expensive and just plain beautiful. Parties looked legit, high class and never exaggerated or downplayed. It seemed like we're part of the first world countries. Its soundtrack is amazing! It's probably the best soundtrack in any Filipino movie and what I love about it is that it gave the film a melancholic and chill vibe when the scenes are sad, passionate and quiet. They featured a lot of indie Filipino songmakers one of which is a friend whose song was featured during the passionate sex scene. It turned out to be my favorite among the songs throughout the film even before knowing that it's composed by my friend. Seriously, it's amazing and far from being pretentious and hey! it showcased the talent of Filipino indie songwriters/composers so that's a huge plus.

Elmo Magalona, Coleen Garcia and Sophie Albert
in #Y / Cinemalaya
I'd go ahead and say that it blossomed more because of its screenplay but even though that's true, every aspect of the film really shined that it made for a close to perfect film. Its screenplay is one that hits close to home. Very personal and you just know that it's overflowing with emotions and thoughts that encompasses the modern generation's minds. It has a lot of 'conyo' dialogues and it's usually something that annoys people easily, but it never was annoying in #Y. The use of those language is very apt and natural. It doesn't hurt that they made perfect casting choice with Elmo Magalona, Coleen Garcia, Sophie Albert and Kit Thompson who comprised the four major characters of the film. In no way I am close to any of the characters' personalities but the narrative sure made me (and I think everyone) relate to what they went through in their lives. These characters are so spot-on of what the younger generation is like nowadays it's not even funny. The film may have focused on the negativity but it was never petty but rather serious and important. One would think that these characters have too many flaws, but one would also find themselves attached to these characters at one point in the film. These characters are human filled with imperfection and things the audience would probably find as immoral or controversial, but at the end of the day, they remained ironically likable and tolerable. Emphasis on the likable.

As much a cliche the upcoming statement will sound, it's so true when I say that Elmo Magalona and Coleen Garcia are both a REVELATION on their own. Elmo's suicidal Miles is something that will probably stick with you. It's as if Elmo waited for this film to give all his best emotionally. He captured the darkness of a young normal yet reserved and gloomy guy who's on the brink of ending his life despite being surrounded by his supportive friends and family. Coleen Garcia on the other hand perfectly portrayed a young liberated woman who treats sex and drugs like a normal habit. Every word punched by Coleen gave me life in this film. She served as the comic relief yet sometimes she also seemed like the group's voice of reason. Sophie Albert and Kit Thompson are nothing short of intensity and energy as friends and lovers who value different things in life. They're very impressive and made the cast even more diverse yet somehow, everyone mixes well together. I'll never end this acting performances praising galore without mentioning Chynna Ortaleza. Because I've never seen her that GOOD in any film or TV show she's in. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry in one of her scenes. It's THAT good and interesting. Gino Santos brought out the best in these people and it made for a great viewing.

It truly is a must-watch! It may seem like another film about Generation Y but it's surprisingly not like the norm. Not only it achieved great in the technical aspects, it's also one of the most important Filipino films I've seen in the recent years. This movie is aces.