Sunday, August 20, 2017

Movie No. 54 (2017): ATTRACTION (aka Prityazhenie)

Attraction (aka Prityazhenie) (2017)
Director: Fedor Bondarchuk
Cast: Irina Starshenbaum, Alexander Petrov, Rinal Mukhametov
In Russian, with English subtitles

The premise in not novel - a flying object from another world falls into Earth, in Moscow. Naturally, we expect it will bring chaos to the local community. Chaos do happen before our eyes. But the good thing about the movie the way it injects into the narrative mankind's questioning the existence of higher beings from another planet, which is caused by this recent "attraction." Then there's unusual romance (or attraction) that brews between a human and an alien being. Interesting. All the characters are integral to the story.

Allegory or not, the movie is powerful. 

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: August 19, 2017

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Movie No. 53 (2017): TU PUG IMATUY

Tu Pug Imatuy (The Right To Kill) (2017)
Director: Arnel Barbarona
Cast: Malona Sulatan, Jong Mozon, Luis Georlin Banaag III, Jamee Rivera
In Lumad dialect, with English subtitles

Tu Pug Imatuy was this the big winner at the Sinag Maynila film festival early this year.

The movie started (almost) as a semi-documentary, which worked well for me since my knowledge about the Lumads and their culture is scant. The few scenes that suggested the simple living in isolation were enough. Then came the conflict - the militarization of their ancestral lands. On the side, there's the communist rebels. The Lumads were caught in the middle. The ugliest forms of injustice were committed against them and their basic human rights violated. 

The narrative is straightforward. Poetically composed cinematography complements the narrative. Raw, but great acting by the lead actress makes the movie unforgettable.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: August 7, 2017

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Movie No. 52 (2017): ANG PAMILYANG HINDI LUMULUHA

Ang Pamilyang Hindi Lumuluha (2017)
Director: Mes De Guzman
Cast: Sharon Cuneta, Nino Muhlach, Moi Bien, Kiko Matos
In Tagalog, with English subtitles

Let me just go straight to my observations.

As a comedy, the movie has unexpected charms until the last quarter, when the narrative make a sudden diversion to irritating melodrama. Sharon does well in a role that's far and different from what she used to be doing. It's so unfair to her for she really delivers despite the flaws in her character. 

Rating: 2.0/4.0

Date seen: August 11, 2017


Movie No. 51 (2017): RESPETO

Respeto (2017)
Director: Treb Monteras
Cast: Abra, Dido Dela Paz
In Tagalog, with English subtitles

Rap is a relatively new genre of music. If this is the case, the Respeto qualifies as a musical-drama. What makes the movie even more interesting is the premise: "a young wannabe rapper meets a poet of the Martial Law Era." 

The movie is brave to tackle a story that may be inspired by snippets of tales taken straight from the evening news at one particular phase of our country's recent history. The rapper and the poet share same interest and love for verse. I guess the rapper's love for rhyme is to escape the bleak reality - he lives with his sister whose boyfriend is a drug dealer. He occasionally works as runner for his sister's boyfriend. The threat of demolition of their shanty is part of his everyday existence. Then he commits a petty crime that leads him to meet the poet. The poet writes verse as catharsis and commentary to that bleak phase of our country's history. Both the rapper and the poet are witnesses of injustice and impunity. 

I expected for a "hopeful" resolution despite the bleakness. But it didn't happen. The cycle, instead, would go on. That final shot, though, was great. I heard sighs in the darkness of the theater. Wonderful. I didn't see the ending that I expected. But the one I saw seemed fit. Then a few pair of hands started a slow clap as the end credits rolled up. A few seconds later, the sound of applause was deafening. What a movie!

Respeto might just this year's dark horse. Abra and Dido Dela Paz are so good.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: August 9, 2017


Saturday, August 12, 2017

Movie No. 50 (2017): KIKO BOKSINGERO

Kiko Boksingero (2017)
Director: Thop Nazareno
Cast: Noel Comia Jr., Yul Servo, Yayo Aguila
In Tagalog, with English subtitles

Kiko (Noel Comia Jr.) is left under the care of his dedicated Nanny (Yayo Aguila) when her ailing mother died. In a picturesque neighborhood in Baguio City, Kiko is tied to an everyday routine, though aimless, while waiting for his relatives in US to adopt him. Then he tries to break the routine by frequenting an abandoned house with makeshift boxing implement after school, which his nanny would notice because he returns home later than usual. The empty house happens to be be his estranged father's. For an undisclosed reason, other than selling the house, George (Yul Servo), returns to Baguio. Father and son bond.

Kiko Boksingero is a charming and sensitive coming-of-age movie. It's pure cinema, with the hysterics and unnecessary melodrama and twists. In fact, it is plotless. It is told in a way plain and simple. Noel Comia Jr.'s believable and truly-affecting performance make the movie memorable. Scenes showing father and son bonding, although tentative in some instances, are unpretentious and sublime. Yul Servo and Yayo Aguila's supporting performances complements Comia's sensitive portrayal of Kiko.

In my opinion, this is the best movie in this year's batch of Cinemalaya movies in competition.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: August 9, 2017

Movie No. 49 (2017): BAGAHE

Bagahe (2017)
Director: Zig Dulay
Cast: Angeli Bayani, Arnold Reyes, Boots Anson-Roa, Bing Pimentel, Raquel Villavicencio
In Tagalog, with English subtitles


The movie almost appeared like an instructional video for medical and criminology students. While Angeli Bayani gives a terrific lead performance, her character is underwritten. The other women characters, are practically caricatures that, sometimes, look silly. 

It's painfully boring. 

Rating: 1.0/4.0

Date seen: August 5, 2017

Movie No. 48 (2017): NABUBULOK

Nabubulok (2017)
Director: Sonny Calvento
Cast: Gina Alajar, Lito Pimentel, JC Santos, Jameson Blake, Billy Ray Gallion
In Tagalog, with English subtitles

The wife of a neighbor has been missing. The American husband and his children don't seem to care, at least on the point of view of the nosy neighbors. An unbearable stench emanates from the gated abode of the American's family. The American and and his children seem to be unmindful of the smell. And so the intrigue begins.

The narrative is heavily anchored on what the nosy neighbors have to say, their theories and biases. Gina Alajar stands out as a nosy neighbor and a common citizen who's disappointed of the law enforcement authorities. Her character happens to be the cousin of the missing woman. Then comes the intervention of the authorities, which leads to more questions than answers. Then the enigmatic final scene.

The movie is escapist. It's not bad. It's not excellent either. It falters in its attempt to justify the titular suggestion. Nabubulok literally means decaying. It may be pertaining to the deterioration sense of family, or the metaphor of family house in advanced state of decay, or to the law enforcement. It could have been brilliant if the story dag deeper, instead of a cat-scratch attention paid to it.

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: August 5, 2017

Friday, August 11, 2017

Movie No. 47 (2017): BACONAUA

Baconaua (2017)
Director: Joseph Israel Laban
Cast: Elora Espano, Therese Malvar, Jess Mendoza, Erlinda Villaobos, Bembol Roco
In Tagalog, with English subtitles


Baconaua is sea sea serpent. The title brings some mysticism in a remote island where inhabitants believe that when their neighbors disappeared in the sea during a squall, the sea serpent claim might have claimed them. Focus of the story is three siblings whose father hadn't been found after the squall one fateful night. The siblings are still hopeful their father would return and that they couldn't join their neighbors in the (beautifully shot) funeral rites in the sea for their missing relatives. 

The film is bleak and everywhere seems to dark even in daylight. Cinematography is competent although the movie appears like it's more concerned to make the movie visually stunning that pay attention to the continuity and missteps in the narrative. The appearance of a thousand apples on the shore and beaches is poetic. The subplot that may or may not be a homage to Great Expectations is a welcome flash of genius. But this intrusion into the otherwise bucolic and sometimes mystical island town is somehow contrived. The national anthem played in two different languages on separate occasion is another contrivance. But despite all these complaints, some of the actors are able to give good performances.

Rating: 2.0/4.0

Date seen: August 5, 2017


Movie No. 46 (2017): SA GABING NANAHIMIK ANG MGA KULIGLIG

Sa Gabing Nanahimik Ang Mga Kuliglig (2017)
Director: Iar Lionel Arondaing
Cast: Angel Aquino, Ricky Davao, Jess Mendoza, Mercedes Cabral
In Tagalog, with English subtitles

One fateful night, as a small close-knit community do some Lent rituals, a woman confesses to the town's priest about a crime she has just committed. But, the altar boy accidentally hears the confession, too. Now, the priest and the altar boy face a dilemma. Will they protect the Seal of Confessional or follow the law? Both know the woman and the other personalities involved in the crime. Hence, the title.

I'm not going into the details of the narrative. I love a lot things about the movie. For a movie made with a tight budget for six days, Sa Gabing Nanahimik Ang Mga Kuliglig is unexpectedly good and almost perfectly polished. Using a square frame is a good decision for it gives the feel of a classic European cinema. Cinematography, particularly in night scenes, is sublime. Some shots are Tarkovskian. The ensemble acting is really praise-worthy.

This is easily one of the (few) best films of Cinemalaya 2017.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: August 5, 2017

Movie No. 45 (2017): REQUITED

Requited (2017)
Director: Nerissa Picadizo
Cast: Jake Cuenca, Anna Luna

One random day, Matt decides to bike all the way to Mt. Pinatubo. At some point along the way, Sandy shows up in full gears and joins Matt. The moment she appears and in many instances along the way, the two argue on a lot of things, some petty. From the almost incessant bickering we learn some things about the two characters. Fine. But, the build up is quite slow for a film with a relatively short running time for a feature film. Fine. Then something I totally don't expect happens. Interesting. But, it's downhill from there. Maddening. It looks like like the writer and director don't know what to do next. The ending is a mess. Some random episodes of local drama anthology on local television are much better than Requited.

Jake Cuenca as an ailing architect is believable only in scenes he's biking through some difficult trails. Partly, I'm blaming the what appears like underdeveloped character. I'm not convinced that Anna Luna is a volleyball superstar, although she's good in most dramatic scenes. The only good thing about the movie is the cinematography.

Rating: 1.0/4.0

Date seen: August 5, 2017