Saturday, December 31, 2016

Movie No. 95 (2016): LAND OF MINE

Land of Mine (2015)
Director: Martin Zandvliet
Cast: Rolland Moller, Louis Hofmann, Joel Basman, Mikkel Boe Folsgaard
In German and Danish, with English subtitles

The year is 1945. The five-year German occupation of Denmark ends. German troops retreat; they are heading homeward on foot. In the first few minutes of the movie, Danish Army Sergeant Rassmussen is seen venting his rage on two unfortunate Nazi soldiers. But, more unfortunate are a group of very young (teenage) German soldiers who are assigned under Rassmussen's command to neutralize and remove some 45,000 land mines the Germans planted on the beach. 

This movie shows the dynamics of the relationships between the soldiers, and also between the soldiers and the Sergeant as pressure and tension build up due to the nature of their predicament. Some hints of sentimentality are subtly woven into the narrative; however, the movie is focused. 

The movie is a real cliffhanger in most parts. It consistently sustains tension and suspense. The experience seeing it is really rewarding.

The movie makes the short list of nine (9) movies from which the final nominees for the Best Foreign Language Film category of the 89th Academy Awards for movies of 2016.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: December 31, 2016

Movie No. 94 (2016): MUSTANG

Mustang (2015)
Director: Deniz Gamze Erguven
Cast: Gunes Sensoy, Ayberk Pekcan, Bahar Kerimoglu, Burak Yigit
In French, with English subtitles

On their way home from school, five teenage sisters decide to frolic in the beach with their male classmates. Their game, splashing water to each other, seems innocent. But in the eye of a passing neighbor, it's scandalous,therefore not permitted by their culture. The neighbor reports the "scandal" to the girls' grandmother. This results in confiscating of the girls so-called "instruments of corruption" like cellular phones, computers, etc., and turning their rooms into a "prison." 

Time lapses. The girls get bored. One by one they're being married off to men or boys they don't know. That's the culture in this part of the world. But the last two girls refuse to be tied to the tradition and do the impossible.

I see the movie as a manifesto of suppression. It is presented in a way that is provocative. It imparts thrill, and the suspense I feel seeing it is part of the rewarding experience. All the actors give great performances. 

This kind of movie us rare. It will stay with you for quite some time.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: December 31, 2016

Movie No. 93 (2016): A BETTER TOMORROW

A Better Tomorrow (1986)
Director: John Woo
Cast: Chow Yun Fat, Leslie Cheung, Ti Lung
In Chinese (Cantonese), with English subtitles

This stylish, super-charged action movie is now a classic. It never fails to deliver a gratifying entertainment that I don't see in many too-much-hyped Hollywood blockbusters in the past years. This story of two brother who are on opposite sides of the law may not be original, but it's the expertly woven circumstances thrown into the screenplay that makes it work.

Chow Yun Fat registers on screen like a real star, which, I guess, has made him a household name not only in the region but in the northern and western part of the world as well, 

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: December 31, 2016

Movie No. 92 (2016): HELL OR HIGH WATER

Hell of High Water (2016)
Director: David Mackenzie
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, Ben Foster

I see the movie as a good interpolation of several movies of the genre. This cops and robbers type of movie may not be as the same caliber as Bonnie & Clyde, but the execution of the narrative has similar lasting effect.

Jeff Bridges is excellent. 

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: December 31, 2016

Movie No. 91 (2016): SILENCED

Silenced (2011)
Director: Hwang Dong-hyuk
Cast: Gong Yoo, Jung Yu-mi
In Korean, with English subtitles


Kang In-ho is the new art teacher in a school for the deaf in the foggy city of Mujin, far from Seoul, South Korea. There he observes the weird behavior of some students and eventually discovers the dark secrets of the school and the cover-up of authorities. With the help of a human rights activist, Kang In-ho brings the situation to media and trial. But, due to some loopholes of the law and the conspiracy, the accused have been met with light punishment only.

It is said that the story is based on actual events. It ends how it's supposed to end, which may be weak and uncalled for if this is fiction. But, the movie is strong where it's supposed to be strong. It's capability to maintain suspense is one. The fluid script, though not really innovative, is another. The kid actors who play victims are believable (I'm nt sure if they really are deaf or just acting). 

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: December 31, 2016




Movie No. 90 (2016): LAKE TAHOE

Lake Tahoe (2009)
Director: Fernando Eimbcke
Cast: Diego Catano, Juan Carlos Lara III, Daniela Valentine, Yemil Sefami
In Spanish, with English subtitles


This a "one-day-in-the-life-of" kind of movie. Juan, a teenager, in an attempt to escape "something," takes the car his father gave him and drives aimlessly. He accidentally crashes it into a post in the outskirts of town. In the next 45 minutes, we see him search for help. We see him meet eccentric characters: a paranoid, old mechanic and his dog; a punk, teenage mother and her baby; and a Kung-Fu-obsessed teenage auto mechanic. Dealing with these characters makes his day.

Some can easily dismiss the movie as boring because of its minimal dialogue, ironically claustrophobic wide-angle shots, and old school editing. However, this may be exactly what the director wants us to feel. The movie is conspicuously calm. We see characters move as if we're there, observing people come in and out of our chosen frame. The movie chooses to be a situational comedy instead of delving into heavy drama. Knowing the reason for Juan wanting to temporarily escape a present reality makes me think, the makers of the movie could have made a heavy drama instead, but they didn't.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: December 30, 2016


Friday, December 30, 2016

Movie No. 89 (2016): LAKE MUNGO

Lake Mungo (2009)
Director: Joel Anderson
Cast: Talia Zucker, David Pledger, Martin Sharpe

This horror film is a documentary film, or, at least, presented as one. To think this really happened makes the movie even scarier.

It all starts when Alice drowned in a dam while having picnic with her parents and only brother. The death is followed by eerie, ghostly apparitions in the family's house and in video and photographic captures. What makes the story more interesting is the accidental discovery of Alice's dark secrets that eventually leads them to Lake Mungo. 

The director and writer could have opted to use the usual narrative (non-documentary) template. But this decision to use the documentary template makes the movie more interesting and engrossing. The horror is real.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: December 30, 2016


Movie No. 88 (2016): THE 33

The 33 a.k.a. Los 33 (2015)
Director: Patricia Riggen
Cast: Antonio Banderas, Juliette Binoche, Lou Diamond Phillips, Gabriel Byrne

This is the story of the miraculous rescue of the thirty three miners who got trapped underground when an earthquake struck Chile in 2010.

Seeing the movie, we know how it will end. So, the challenge for the movie is how to keep the audience in suspense and entertained at the same time. The movie, in my opinion, did not fail in such aspect. But then, the decision to use English dialogue, though actors speak with South American accent, is not wise. It's distracting.

Rating: 2.5/4.0

Date seen: December 26, 2016

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Movie No. 87 (2016): OUR LITTLE SISTER

Our Little Sister a.k.a. Umimachi Diary (2016)
Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Cast: Haruka Ayase, Kaho, Masami Nagasawa, Suzu Hirose
In Japanese, with English subtitles

Hirokazu Kore-eda is a renowned master at observing family dynamics in a Japanese society, which he effectively exhibits on some of his films. 

Synopsis: Three sisters Sachi, Yoshino, and Chika live together in a large house in the city of Kamakura. When their father, absent from the family home for 15 years, dies, they travel to the countryside for his funeral and meet their shy teenage half-sister. Bonding quickly with the orphaned Suzu, they invite her to live with them. Suzu eagerly agrres, and a new life of joyful discovery begins for the four siblings. - from www.rottentomatoes.com

This film proves that one can be thrilled watching a movie without plot twists, explosions, chase scenes, horror, and sinister sound effects. Here, Kore-eda uses the plum or plum wine metaphor to describe the family's past and present. Even strolling aimlessly on a beach or secret paths or on secret paths on hills, traversing in a tunnel of cherry blossoms, or observing fireworks on a non-moving boat in the sea, suggest deep-seated emotions of the characters. The characters are so real. Their actions are justified. Even the supporting characters are well utilized to make a smooth narrative flow.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: December 26, 2016

Movie No. 86 (2016): DIE BEAUTIFUL

Die Beautiful (2016)
Director: Jun Robles Lana
Cast: Paolo Ballesteros, Christian Bables, Joel Torre, Gladys Reyes, Lou Veloso, Albie Casino, Luis Alandy
In Tagalog, with English subtitles

Paolo Ballesteros is Patrick/Trisha, a transgender who's disowned by his family. In real life, Paolo Ballesteros, is world famous for his talent on transforming his face into deadringers of famous celebrities (local and international) using make-up. It's no-brainer that the script capitalizes on this. It's expected that at some point in the movie, these transformations shall be exhibited. And as suggested by the title, that point shall be during Trisha's death. Of course, the script takes care of how things lead to that point.

The script, though not really focused, is capable of effectively essaying aspects of Trisha's life as a transgender. Dialogues are realistic. Performances of Paolo Ballesteros, Christian Bables (the best friend), and Joel Torre (as the father) are excellent. The presentation of the funeral wake having turned into a circus or media event reminds me of some scenes in Fellini movies. The non-linear editing, though confusing at some points, has definitely contributed to the experience watching a film as original as Die Beautiful.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: December 25, 2016

Movie No. 85 (2016): KABISERA

Kabisera (2016)
Directors: Arturo Boy San Agustin & Real Florido
Cast: Nora Aunor, Ricky Davao, Jason Abalos, JC De Vera, Victor Neri, RJ Agustin, Ces Quesada
In Tagalog, with English subtitles

The movie tackles extra-judicial killing. However, it can;t be considered an attack to the present administration since the movie was made last year. The movie was submitted to last year's Metro Manila Film Festival but it failed to make the cut. This year, when selection criteria are revised, Kabisera makes the list.

The only conspicuously good thing that I can mention about the movie is the praiseworthy ensemble acting, with special mention to Nora Aunor. Well, it's been said that you can rely on Nora Aunor's capabilities as actress even in mediocre films. I agree. In my opinion, the movie has some scenes that need to be cut. At the same time, there are scenes that I find wanting. The script is flawed. But despite these shortcomings, the film has still managed to convey its point.

Rating: 2.5/4.0

Date seen: December 25, 2016

Movie No. 84 (2016): SEKLUSYON

Seklusyon (2016)
Director: Erik Matti
Cast: Neil Ryan Sese, Lou Veloso, Rhedd Bustamante, Ronnie Alonte, Dominic Roque
In Tagalog, with English subtitles


The premise is very simple. Four young deacons are sent to seclusion to face their inner demons before being ordained into priesthood. A faith healer, an angelic child called Anghela, and her guardian, who is a nun, join them in the seclusion upon the order of the bishop. Meanwhile, another priest, hunts Anghela and the nun, suspecting that the duo are devil-sent. The year is 1947.

The movie succeeds in practically all aspects. The cinematography turns scenes sinister when necessary. It also effectively reflects the era. The suggestion that the presence of Anghela in the seclusion forces the deacons to face their inner demons is cleverly executed on screen. Editing in most instances are awesome. The script weaves into the narrative the suggestion that the movie may be interpreted metaphorically. The movie, therefore, can be taken literally or metaphorically. While, for me, it's not an outright horror movie, it still elicit thrill ans chills to the spine, which are necessary for any movie of the genre. However, the metaphor that the movie conveys is very universal and very timely, at least for what is happening in our country.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: December 25, 2016



Movie No. 83 (2016): HOME ALONE 2: LOST IN NEW YORK

Home Alone 2 : Lost In New York (1992)
Director: Chris Columbus
Cast: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, Catherine O'Hara, John Heard
Dubbed in Tagalog

I saw Home Alone more than 20 years ago. I remember liking and being truly entertained by it. Macaulay Culkin was an immensely popular Hollywood child actor. Everyone who saw his Home Alone movies would know why. 

I never got a chance to see the next two sequels of the Home Alone until a few days ago, more than twenty years later. Christmas eve, having nothing to do, I turned on the television. Home Alone 2 was just starting. I decided to see it in full despite that it's dubbed in Tagalog. I don't usually see films dubbed in Tagalog or English. I have mastered reading subtitles. If it's in non-English language it should have English subtitles. If it's in English language, there's no need for subtitles; there's no need for dubbing it in Tagalog. It's just me. I'm not imposing my preference to anyone.

For me it was awkward to see white people on screen speaking perfect Tagalog. But I still managed to see the movie in full. Was I entertained? Yes, but slightly, despite that I knew how it would end. But the misadventures involving the lead character leading to the movie's conclusion were, for me, too formulaic, lackadaisical. Had I seen it twenty years ago, my reaction would be different. I guess I'm old for this kind of film.

Rating: 2.0/4.0

Date seen: December 24, 2016

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Movie No. 82 (2016): EN LA CIUDAD SIN BRUJULA

In The City Without A Compass (2015)
Director: Antonio Savinelli
Cast: Javier Mejia, Agnes Kiraly
In Spanish, with English subtitles

I didn't know about the film. I picked it from the list of titles on board, on my way from Malaysia to Manila. I didn't regret the decision. I was engrossed.

I am a fan of character-driven movies and character studies. This one is about two foreigners who meet and get to know each other in a foreign land. The script interpolates between the mix of personal, local, and cultural problems of the two main characters, i.e., immigration issues, acclimatization, and homesickness. They come from very different cultural backgrounds. In the city where they meet, they get lost in their dreams. 

The movie is very honest. Some may find it slow. In my case, I was not prepared when it's finally done. Then it slowly sunk in. 

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: December 4, 2016

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Movie No. 81 (2016): HITCHCOCK

Hitchcock (2012)
Director: Sacha Gervasi
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren

The movie exhibits that phase of Alfred Hitchcock's life when he was filming one of his masterpieces, Psycho. It includes in the script the side stories involving his wife and his actors. 

Let me mention the best and not so good parts of the movie. The make-up has really transformed Anthony Hopkins into Hitchcock. But. I'm not totally in awe when Anthony Hopkins tries to ape Hitchcock. In some scenes, I can see Hitchcock in him. In most scenes, however, Anthony Hopkins desperately struggle to sound like Hitchcock. Helen Mirren is good although I know nothing about the character she's portraying. 

Is the movie bad? No. But, I can't decide if it's worth my time. 

I saw the movie on plane, en route to Malaysia. 

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: November 30, 2016

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Movie No. 80 (2016): TRAIN TO BUSAN

Train To Busan (2016)
Director: Sang-ho Yeon
Cast: Yoo Gong, Yumi Jung, Dong-seok Ma
In Korean, with English subtitles

A lot of movie fans and enthusiasts went gaga over the Train To Busan. It was immensely popular. people were exchanging anecdotes on how they screamed and how they were thrilled inside the theater.

Now it's my turn.

Is the movie the best of the genre?

No. But, it's definitely one of the best films of the genre that I've seen. Yes, I have my share of gasping for air and screaming. The thrill is non-stop. And it ends differently, much different from the formulaic Hollywood ending. I have to be reminded that this is a Korean film. It has been executed and it ended the Korean way. which I like. The script is not flawless, but the editing is something to note.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: November 20, 2016


Monday, November 7, 2016

Movie No. 79 (2016): THE JUNGLE BOOK

The Jungle Book (2016)
Director: Jon Favreau
Cast: Neel Sethi and the voices of Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Lupita Nyong'o, Giancarlo Espsito, Idris Elba

This year's The Jungle Book reimagines the 1967 classic animated adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's books. This time, the movie uses live action despite that only the Mowgli character and his father are played by real actors. The animal characters are, of course, computer generated, but made alive by the actors' voices. This is that kind of movie whose use of special effects are really necessary for a fluid narrative flow. 

The movie effectively takes the audience with Mowgli's journey of self-discovery as he encounters his adoptive wolf family, a panther for a guardian, a traitorous anaconda, the elephants, a lazy but lovable bear, a Captain Kurtz-like ape king, and an vindictive tiger. The narrative is straightforward. The movie is engrossing and effectively entertaining.

Rating: 4.0/4.0
Date seen: November 7, 2016

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Movie No. 78 (2016): COMPLETE UNKNOWN

Complete Unknown (2016)
Director: Joshua Marston
Cast: Rachel Weisz, Michael Shannon, Kathy Bates, Danny Glover

The first few minutes, showing Rachel Weisz in different characters (doctor, magician's assistant, hippie scientist, etc.), is interesting, making me expect a satisfying thriller. However, after the intriguing opening sequence through the waning minutes of the movie, everything but Rachel Weisz's performance seems to dilute my initial excitement. I don't totally dislike the movie, but I'm disappointed seeing four great actors in a movie that's underwhelming.

Rating: 2.5/4.0

Date seen: November 6, 2016

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Movie No. 77 (2016): IN THE BEDROOM

In The Bedroom (2001)
Director: Todd Field
Cast: Sissy Spacek, Tom Wilkinson, Marisa Tomei, Nick Stahl

Great movies demand multiple viewings. This is second time to have seen it. The first time was in 2002. Now, fourteen years after, certain images from the movie still stay with me. So, I have to see it again. This recent viewing gives me more reason to like the movie. Indeed, it is a great movie.

In The Bedroom is one of those movies that examine grief without resorting to ridiculous melodrama. Maybe, it takes great actors (Sissy Spacek, Tom Wilkinson, Marisa Tomei) to portray the calculated depth required for their respective characters. The narrative flow is sublime.

Rating: 4.0/4.0
Date seen: November 5, 2016




Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Movie No. 76 (2016): BLEAK NIGHT

Bleak Night (2010)
Director: Yoon Sung-hyun
Cast: Lee Je-hoon, Park Jung-min, Seo Jun-young, Jo Sung-ha
In Korean, with English subtitles

Like the father who is mystified about his estranged son's suicide, we need answers. The father reaches out to the two best friends - one moved to another school a few weeks before the tragedy, the other didn't attend the wake. Through flashbacks  and points of view of the best friends we only get glimpses of what could have triggered the suicide. There are things they can't share to the grieving father. This takes us to the sad and turbulent relationship of the three friends. We easily get involved because we know, these things happen to boys of their age, usually under the nose of their parents.

Everything in this movie is bleak. The story is bleak. The cinematography is bleak. Even the milieu is bleak. This is how it's supposed to be. It's bleak, but remarkable. I don't know how to write a review that justifies how great the movie is. The actor who played Ki-Tae, the high school bully who committed suicide, captures all the necessary nuances of the character. I can;t imagine any other actor who can effortlessly play Ki-Tae.

This is one of the most remarkable movies I've seen so far.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: November 1, 2016

Monday, October 31, 2016

Movie No. 75 (2016): TRIANGLE

Triangle (2009)
Director: Christopher Smith
Cast: Melissa George, Michael Dorman

Cruising in the Bermuda Triangle, a group of six encounter a strange weather condition that throws them into the water and overturns the yacht. Most of them survive; they jump into a another ship that suddenly appears when the dark clouds disappears. But, the perceived rescue turns into a nightmare.

It's hard to make a gist of what happens in the ship. The twists can mess up your head in an intriguing way, like what Chris Nolan's Inception did to my head. This is definitely an achievement in writing, editing, and directing. One of the best movies of last decade!

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: October 31, 2016

Movie No. 74 (2016): MOONLIGHTING

Moonlighting (1982)
Director: Jerzy Skolimowski
Cast: Jeremy Irons
In English and Polish (with English subtitles)

Nowak (Jeremy Irons) and three other Polish construction workers arrive in London, practically smuggling cheap hardware implements. They have been contracted to provide cheap labor in repairing the apartment bought by a Polish official living in London. Only Nowak speaks English. Problems arise when the news about changing political state in Poland reaches Nowak. Back home, the Solidarity movement falls. Travel from or into Poland is difficult. He keeps the news from the other three. Soon, the group is plagued with financial difficulty, which leads to Nowak's getting into shoplifting schemes and other petty crimes to make ends meet.

The script presents a daily pattern among the four men. Pattern changes, through subtly, when Nowak gets into his shoplifting schemes, which provide scenes that are tense and mostly well-orchestrated (kudos to good writing). Nowak can be interpreted as the metaphor for the hypocrisy of communism. Jeremy Irons does the Nowak character excellently (thanks to his good looks). 

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: October 30, 2016

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Movie No. 73 (2016): CHRONIC

Chronic (2016)
Director: Michel Franco
Cast: Tim Roth

The movie is about David, an on-demand home care nurse for terminally ill patients. He provides for the patient as long as the patient is alive. When the patient dies, he'll be assigned to another. What's peculiar about David is the emotional attachment he develops with every patient he's assigned to give care. When he's alone, he seems to be in another world. He has chronic depression. The movie's title could have been referring to his psychological state or to the state of David's patients. 

The movie is a character study with well-structured script. David is a departure from the types of characters Tim Roth would play on screen. But, he did it excellently. I've only seen a handful of Tim Roth's films. I'm convinced his best performance, so far, is as David in Chronic.

That ending; I don't know how to digest it. I'm still puzzled at the moment. This is not the first time I've seen this kind of ending. But, looking back, I think, the early parts of the film prepared the unprepared audience for it.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: October 29, 2016

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Movie No. 72 (2016): LOUDER THAN BOMBS

Louder Than Bombs (2016)
Director: Joachim Trier
Cast: Gabriel Byrne, Jesse Eisenberg, Isabelle Huppert, Amy Ryan

When grief, loss, and memory are at the center of the story, expect drama that can be weird or detached. Louder Than Bombs is both weird and emotionally detached. But, that's not a bad thing. That's what it is.

A father and his two sons deal with the death of the mother, a war photographer. The loss has different effects on the three men. The younger son seems to be the most affected, creating weird memories about her mother to hold on to, avoiding having friends, and drowning himself in violent video games. The older son, an academic whose wife has just given birth, has taken a break to deal with the mother's photographs that are to be exhibited as a posthumous tribute to her. The father is shown to be opening himself for a new relationship - after two years - and discovering secrets of his (now) dead wife. This turns the family home into a battlefield - where a silent war is conspicuous.

While flashback is used as effective narrative vehicle, it's the performances, calculated phase, different points of view, and cinematography that contribute greatly to the mood the movie attempts to convey. 

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: October 29, 2016


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Movie No. 71 (2016): THE WAILING

The Wailing (aka Goksung)
Director: Na Hong-Jin
Cast: Kwak Do-Won, Jun Kunimura, Hwang Jung-Min
In Korean (and some Japanese), with English subtitles

The movie was also released outside South Korea as "The Strangers."

A stranger arrives in a quiet village. A murder, almost a massacre, happens. The stranger is suspect. But when family members begin killing each other, the village is stirred. This the movie's plot. This plot drives the narrative, which makes an entertaining, suspenseful, brain-twisting, and unforgiving movie.

This is practically a horror movie. But this is one that doesn't necessarily induce scare and screaming. The horror lies in the way the movie disturbs the consciousness. It's scary because it stays with you for quite sometime after seeing it.

I have to mention, too, the outstanding cinematography. The editing, particularly during the last 10 to 15 minutes, is masterful. 

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: October 23, 2016

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Movie No. 70 (2016): ANG BABAENG HUMAYO

Ang Babaeng Humayo (The Woman Who Left) (2016)
Director: Lav Diaz
Cast: Charo Santos, John Lloyd Cruz, Noni Buencamino, Michael De Mesa, Shamaine Buencamino
In Tagalog, with English subtitles

The film won the 2016 Venice Film Festival Golden Lion Award last month.

I will not write about the cinematic and editing styles Lav Diaz used in the film. These are the same style he used in his other masterpieces. I have adapted to these styles. I have adapted to his cinema. I like every minute I'm immersed into his cinema. It's the same experience watching Ang Babaeng Humayo. Most, if not all, scenes are mesmerizing.

Like his other movies that I've seen (Norte, Hele, and Serafin Geronimo), Ang Babaeng Humayo is based partly from classic literature; this time Tolstoy's God Sees The Truth, But Waits. The movie begins with Horacia being set free from prison after 30 years of confinement. Her best friend in prison confesses having committed the crime that was used to frame Horacia 30 years ago. Horacia's ex-flame (Rodrigo) masterminded the frame up out of jealousy. Horacia, now outside the prison, plots for revenge patiently. She assumes two identities: dressed as tomboy at night while stalking Rodrigo, maintaining a local diner and frequenting the church at daytime. In this quest, she meets unlikely but interesting 'creatures.' Of these, the most interesting is an epileptic homosexual tranvestite, Hollanda (John Lloyd Cruz). Hollanda seems like a lost soul with whom Horacia easily forms bond after some (cinematically well-developed) circumstances. The revenge is materialized, with some (justified) twist, leaving Horacia "empty but relieved." The ending, however, is uncertain.

While Charo Santos delivers a strong performance, the supporting cast also perform explosively. John Lloyd Cruz is most notable. With the Hollanda character, he just proves that he's one of the best actors that ever graced the Philippine Cinema. A lot of TV and movie celebrities now are mostly just TV and/or movie stars. Only a few of them are real actors or artists. John Lloyd Cruz is both a star and actor/artist. John Lloyd Cruz stands out in three scenes, in my opinion: (1) the dance in the dark, (2) the Sunrise, Sunset scenes, and (3) the interrogation scene. In the other scenes he's just being Hollanda. Noni Buencamino is unrecognizable as balut vendor befriended by Horacia. he is unrecognizable not because he has prosthetic on but because he's simply in character. Michael De Mesa's brief scene is unforgettable.

The movie is not perfect. In fact, I'm wandering how Horacia learns about being a thug. In one scene she's shown beating hard a bully like a real thug. In some scenes with voice-over, Horacia narrates like Charo Santos in Maalala Mo Kaya. But these are easily eclipsed by the good things about the movie.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: October 2, 2016

Movie No. 69 (2016): HESUS, REBOLUSYONARYO

Hesus, Rebolusyonaryo (2002)
Director: Lav Diaz
Cast: Mark Anthony Fernandez, Ronnie Lazaro, Donita Rose, Pinky Amador, Joel Lamangan
In Tagalog, with English subtitles

The movie was made in 2002. The setting of this dystopian drama is 2011. This movie tells the story of a freedom fighter (Hesus, played by Mark Anthony Fernandez) and his comrades in the movement under the totalitarian regime of General Racellos. The feeling of dystopia is shown in the movie through deserted streets and burning shanties. There are instances of erring citizens shown queued up to sing Lupang Hinirang, reminiscent of Martial Law days. In fact, what the movie depicts in the backdrop is akin to Martial Law's. 

I've recently seen three of Lav Diaz's recent masterpieces. In the late 1990's I saw Serafin Geronimo. In fact, I saw the movie again a couple of years ago. In all these films, the style of Lav Diaz are very conspicuous. This style of immersive long shots from immobile camera, which places the audience where scenes take place, is one style that he is known for, which many around the world love. I saw this, too, in Hesus, Rebolusyonaryo. The cinematography is certainly artful.

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: September 25, 2016



Sunday, September 25, 2016

Movie No. 68 (2016): STRAWBERRY AND CHOCOLATE

Strawberry and Chocolate (1993)
Directors: Tomas Gutierrez Alea / Juan Carlos Tabio
Cast: Vladimir Cruz, Jorge Perugorria, Mirta Ibarra
In Spanish, with English subtitles

Personalities and ideologies clash in this charming comedy about two men. One is homosexual who is an individualist. The other is a heterosexual who is Communist. Their odd friendship stems from a casual encounter in an ice cream shop at a park. The unusual bond is shaken in an exciting way by the intrusion of a suicidal neighbor. 

The screenplay is riddled with some witty and funny dialog. Watching it, I thought the movie could make a good and interesting play. It reminds of "Kiss of a Spider Woman" without the bleakness. Jorge Perugorria gives a calculated performance that's just charming and competent.

The movie was nominated Best Foreign-Language Film at the 1994 Academy Awards.

This is my second viewing of the movie. The first time was in Columbus, OH in 1997.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: September 11, 2016


Monday, September 5, 2016

Movie No. 67 (2016): STRANGER THINGS (Season 1)

Stranger Things (Season 1)
Directors: The Duffer Brothers and others
Cast: Winona Ryder, Matthew Modine, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Charlie Heaton, Millie Bobby Brown

Season 1 of Stranger Things consists of eight episodes. It's like one long movie (more than 5 hours). I watched all the 8 episodes in one seating; so, I'm considering the entire season one movie.

Stranger Things is an original mini-series, created by The Duffer Brothers, who also directed and wrote some episodes. Stephen King's thumb marks may have been conspicuous in the plot, subplots, and narrative, however the series is still original (with influences). 

The story begins with four boys playing Dungeons and Dragons then a little later one of them (Will Byers) disappears on his way home. The year is 1983. Once Will's family, friends, and the whole county learn about his disappearance every seems to care and get involved. In the process of finding Will, we get to know the story of the county. We get to know the back stories of every character that matters. We get to know the importance of friendship and family in trying times. Even secrets get exposed, past pain rekindles. All these are intricately woven in the narrative. 

There are lots of interesting aspects of Stranger Things. The cinematography and art direction easily convince the audience that everything they see on the screen are in the 1980s. In the dialogue, there are references to pop culture during that time - Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, etc. I agree that it is a homage to iconic movies of the 1980s. There's this scene where a little girl follows the flickering Christmas lights, reminiscent of Poltergeist. The image of four kids walking in the train track in search of the body of will Byers, reminiscent of Stand By Me. The bike chase, reminiscent of ET, The Extra-Terrestrial. In fact, hiding the runaway girl with telekinetic power is also reminiscent of ET. The girl with telekinetic power is Carrie-ish. There are scenes that are reminiscent of Alien, Aliens, Explorers, Goonies, Legend, etc.

This is one movie where every performance is superb and convincing. Winona Ryder may have given the most memorable performance, but, we can't discount that the five child actors, including the telekinetic girl, also give calculated but electrifying performances. Ensemble acting has enhanced the movie's strengths and greatness.

There's a rumor about second season of this show. In my opinion, there's no need for it since season is an accomplished work. But, if there's really a second season, I really can't wait to see what will happen.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: September 4, 2016

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Movie No. 66 (2016): THE TEACHER'S DIARY

The Teacher's Diary (2014)
Director: Nithiwat Tharatorn
Cast: Sukrit Wisetkaew, Laila Boonyasak, Sukollawat Kanaros
In Thai, with English subtitles

I like this movie very much. There isn't any movie of the recent past that has affected this much.

The movie is about two teachers (Ann and Song) who have walked the same path but never met. They were assigned to a school floating on a lake in the outskirts of Chiang Mai but at different times. Both times, the number of pupils of different ages was small: seven during Ann's time, four during Song's. Ann came there first, Song a year later. He found Ann's diary in the decrepit school, which would be his one important connection to Ann. The other connection being the pupils under Song's care during his time. For both characters, their forced exile into the floating school cost them their respective relationships. The agreed on calling the floating school a school of the broken hearts. 

Song learns about Ann's triumphs, misgivings, and frustrations from her diary. The movie cuts from the present to past then from past to present seamlessly, giving the audience the two lead characters' back and present stories. The combined tight script and seamless editing is one of the movie's major strengths. The social relevance of the movie is tackled in a subtle yet resonating fashion. 

One can see this movie is romance-comedy. Indeed, it is as conveyed by the movies theme song a few lines of which go like this: "Have you ever seen what love is like? I haven't, but I feel it." The two lead actors have what it takes to lead in an effective romance comedy. This means their performances are believably great. 

This is very highly recommended.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: August 28, 2016

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Movie No. 65 (2016): IT FOLLOWS

It Follows (2014)
Director: David Robert Mitchell
Cast: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Daniel Zovatto, Jake Weary, Olivia Loccardi

"It Follows" is a strange kind of horror movie. There is some interesting semblance of originality in it that we can't find in horror movies in the past. Jay gets some kind of curse after having sex with her new boyfriend, Hugh, who intentionally does the "passing" of the sexually-transmitted curse to her. Hugh sees and being followed by a demon or monster who takes the form of dead human being. He'll be dead if the thing get him. It is now Jay that is being followed.

Now, Jay and her friends make a childish (and stupid) plan to trap and kill the monster. The desperate move seems to have succeeded, so they think. So, Jay and her friend (Paul) have sex to see if the curse is gone. But the ending - although ambiguous - suggest a different thing, which makes me wonder what has happened between the end of the "duel" and that final shot. 

The movie is gorgeously shot; the script is competent. This is not your typical horror movie loaded with teens that end up being killed one by one - the type of blockbuster movie that Hollywood usually makes to rake money at the box office. The movie, while not having the capacity to elicit loud screams, remains to be scary in a sublime way. 

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: August 27, 2016


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Movie No. 64 (2016): THE THIRD HALF

The Third Half (2012)
Director: Darko Mitrevski
Cast: Katarina Ivanovska, Sasko Kocev, Richard Sammel
In Macedonian, with English subtitles

It is World War II. Dimitry, local journalist in Macedonia, dreams of making the local football team world class. He hires Spitz, a football legend in Europe. Spitz is half-Jewish. It's only matter of time when Nazi forces finally arrives in Skopje. The star player (Kosta) of the local soccer team is pursuing the daughter (Rebecca) of a local businessman, who is Jewish.

When the Bulgarian forces start to deport the Jewish into concentration camps, Rebecca elopes with Kosta and pretends to be non-Jewish to avoid deportation.

This is a Holocaust movie, which, in my opinion, is quite different from other movies of the genre. It follows the manipulations of the Nazis to sabotage the matches between the local team and the German team in a desperate move to convince themselves of their supremacy.

The love story embedded in the narrative is well-placed and beautiful. The tale of survival in it is convincing and inspiring. The technical aspects like editing and cinematography are precise and exquisite, respectively.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: August 15, 2016

Movie No. 63 (2016): ZOOTOPIA

Zootopia (2016)
Director: Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush
Featuring the voices of Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Shakira, Idris Elba

Let me say this: Zootopia is the best animated feature that has come from Disney Pictures in two or three decades. Yes, better than Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Cars, etc. This, of course, is my personal opinion.

More than a feel-good movie featuring lovable and scheming animal characters, Zootopia's narrative, which boasts of intelligent twists, is excellently written. This is something I don't really expect from an animated movie fro Disney - the twists. The characters and their actions are allegory of simple issues that face humans. These are masterfully etched into the script.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: August 14, 2016


Movie No. 62 (2016): RINGGO: THE DOG SHOOTER

Ringgo: The Dog Shooter
Director: Rahyan Carlos
Cast: Sandino Martin, Janice De Belen, Liza Dino, Bembol Roco, Bodjie Pascua
In Tagalog, with English subtitles


In this year's Cinemalaya, this is the only out-of-competition film that I saw. The reason: a movie about dog-shooting (i.e., "assisted" and "paid" dog sex) is more than interesting than it is weird. I have to say, my time and money didn't go to waste. I really liked the movie.

The dog-shooting is the lead character's means of income. He was battered as a child and, still, is battered by his adoptive father at 19. In one dog-shooting engagement, a lesbian couple offer him an extra job that is to take care of their dogs to which he agrees. The couple become fond of him; they develop a bond with them. The relationship become deep, though never sexual. The back stories of the main characters, including that of the rescued dog, now in the care of the couple, are sufficient to understand and care for the characters. Even their mannerisms, some of which are awkward, are effective vehicle to understand how their fast affects their present.

Sandino Martin was believable as Ringgo. He's perfect for the role. Janice De Belen gave a performance of a lifetime. I had goosebumps whenever Janice De Belen appeared on screen. What she did was definitely outside her comfort zone. It paid off.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: August 8, 2016

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Movie No. 61 (2016): HIBLANG ABO

Hiblang Abo (2016)
Director: Ralston Jover
Cast: Lou Veloso, Leo Rialp, Nanding Josef, Jun Arbano
In Tagalog, with English subtitles

I was in the gala screening of the movie so that before the movie was screened the director shared that the movie was based on a play. Indeed, there were scenes that were theatrical, but not as conspicuous as Kusina's.

The film is about four old men who share the same room in a home for the aged. Each one of them has secret that they don't want to share to the other despite the considerable length of time that they've been living together in the same room. But, their demons in the past catch up on them, which cause tension among them. The tension peaks one day, a Palm Sunday; something tragic happens, making life or what remains of it no longer the same. 

Each of the actors has his own moment. I will not be surprised if Cinemalaya awards the Best Actor trophy to all of them. At points where each of the old men's secrets are revealed in flashbacks, the same actor is used to play their younger selves. This is a clever decision, which can suggest that each one's past is not different from the others'. 

Generally, I'm satisfied with the movie except for the technical aspects of it. I may have just ignored it but I don't spare the technical lapses of the other films in this batch pf Cinemalaya entries. So here it is. The cinematography is bleak. I'm not sure if its is made to look that way, which may be suggestive of the protagonists' predicaments. Production design is wanting. There also issues in editing as some scenes tend to drag.

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: August 9, 2016

Movie No. 60 (2016): KUSINA

Kusina (2016)
Director: Cenon Palomares / David Corpuz
Cast: Judy Ann Santos, Joem Bascon, Luis Alandy, Gloria Sevilla
In Tagalog, with English subtitles


Juanita was born in the kitchen; or, the early scene showing Juanita's mother giving birth to her on a kitchen table may be figurative. Then the entire movie shows Juanita's confinement at the kitchen - from birth to death, which is interesting. But, despite the linear narrative, which is easy to follow, there are many technical issues that caught my attention. The decision to shoot every scene in the kitchen, which looks like a sound stage, is innovative (though not original); however, that's also the source of some lapses in production design and editing. There might have been lapse in selecting proper angles to obscure some parts of the makeshift kitchen that shows the "other side" of the kitchen wall. In some scenes which are supposedly happening at lunch time, we see darkness outside the window. The technique to show passage of time is, in my opinion, poorly executed (i.e., the actors don't change costumes). Maybe, there's a point that the movies wants make. I don't get it. While I'm aware that the source of the material is an award-winning play, I find the movie to have lacked imagination in adapting it to a "real" movie because play and movie are supposedly different media. I entered the theater expecting to see a movie, instead I saw a play.

While Judy Ann Santos and Gloria Sevilla deliver competent performances, some of the supporting actors are painful to watch. I'm not referring to Joem Bascon or Luis Alandy, but the other actors. But I have to commend the metaphor of the kitchen in the life of Juanita.

Rating: 2.5/4.0

Date seen: August 9, 2016


Saturday, August 13, 2016

Movie No. 59 (2016): ANG BAGONG PAMILYA NI PONCHING

Ang Bagong Pamilya Ni Ponching (2016)
Director: Ina Salazar Acuna / Dos Ocampo
Cast: Janus Del Prado, Ketchup Eusebio, Odette Khan, Joyce Burton Titular, Jackie Lou Blanco, Ricardo Cepeda, Lollie Mara
In Tagalog, with English subtitles


Ponching is twenty-something and is jobless. Despite that he's religious, he does petty crimes with his friend. One day he randomly sends a scam text to random number, trying to extort some petty amount of money from the unassuming recipient. But, the recipient, thinking that Ponching might be the illegitimate son of their deceased relative, takes the text message seriously. 

A situational comedy, this movie really entertains. The comedic timing is well placed, eliciting laughter from the audience. Even the musical score is memorable. 

Despite what, in my opinion, is an inappropriate scene when the family matriarch (of Ponching's "new" family) delivers a preachy monologue toward the end of the movie, the movie still delivers its point successfully. 

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: August 8, 2016

Movie No. 58 (2016): LANDO AT BUGOY

Lando At Bugoy (2016)
Director: Victor Acedillo Jr.
Cast: Allen Dizon, Gold Azeron, Roger Gonzales

The movie's focus is on a strained father and son relationship. Lando, a 40-year-old tombstone engraver, now a widower, is a high school dropout. His son, Bugoy, a delinquent high school student, disrespects and spites him. Bugoy thinks that his father has no moral ascendancy to force him to take his schooling seriously because the latter doesn't have the brains to finish high school. Bugoy then makes a dare: he will take his schooling seriously if his father goes back to high school and finish his schooling, too. Bugoy's dare is not serious. To his surprise and dismay, however, Lando gives in to the challenge. 

The movie, in general, is inspiring. In fact, it is based on a true story. It's a good thing that it does not fall into the trap called preaching. Instead, the movie presents its point lightly despite some uncomfortable confrontations between father and son. The movie succeeds in presenting the struggles of father and son and how both characters discover realities about themselves, their classmates, and neighbors in the small community they belong to. 

There are scenes where Lando or Bugoy is shown threading a rocky beach on his way to school or home. The sunken cemetery, which is a famous landmark of Camiguin, is conspicuous on the backdrop. I don't know if it's a way to promote the place or it really has artistic relevance to the narrative. In my opinion, it is not necessary. But, it doesn't dilute the movie's good points. This kind of movie is not a function of the milieu because the centerpiece of the movie is the father-and-son relationship.

Another minor flaw of the movie, in my opinion, is the excessive number of scenes showing father and son bickering or spiting each other. 

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: August 7, 2016

Friday, August 12, 2016

Movie No. 57 (2016): MERCURY IS MINE

Mercury Is Mine (2016)
Director: Jason Paul Laxamana
Cast: Pokwang, Bret Jackson
In Tagalog, Kapampangan, and English, with English subtitles

Carmen, a fifty-year-old cook and owner of the only eatery at the foot of Mt. Arayat, within which vicinity a treasure is rumored to be buried, decides to close down her business. But, the coming of a teenage American (name Mercury), who begs for temporary shelter from the heavy rain at that time, changes her plans. The transient, then, becomes semi-permanent, resulting in Carmen's business picking up again, all due to the presence of Mercury.

The film, in my opinion, is a direct attack of Filipinos' fascination with foreigners (aka cololial mentality), particularly the fair-skinned like Americans. The Carmen character, although shown to have initial hesitation, welcomes a complete stranger in her household. At the point when Carmen learns about Mercury's dark secret, she seems to have just accepted Mercury no matter what. This, for me, is puzzling. I guess, it is after this revelation when selfish intentions of the two characters start to brood. But, we don't know know about it. 

Despite that we see how the lead characters' evolve due to circumstances thrown into them, I'm not comfortable seeing Pokwang (as Carmen) acting out comedic scenes as Pokwang, not as Carmen. Bret Jackson (as Mercury), however, is a revelation. His performance is worth praising.

The film's script is fluid although I'm not convinced of the backstory behind Carmen's almost estranging her family. Some scenes are unnecessary; they only dilute the film's strength. The cinematography is competent. Overall, the film is enjoyable.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: August 7, 2016

Movie No. 56 (2016): Cinemalaya 2016 Shorts B

Butas (2016)
Director: Richard Cawed

This short film tells the journey of a single mother. What makes the movie interesting is that the she works in a mine. This is an interesting premise; however, it's not used to its full extent. 

Rating: 2.0/4.0












Ang Hapon Ni Nanding (2016)
Director: Rommel Tolentino

Nanding's afternoons are repetitive. But, when he finds a way to to escape this boredom, things get interesting that lead to major changes and failed expectations.

Rating: 3.5/4.0









Get Certified (2016)
Director: Isaias Zantua

Hilarious and entertaining, this (very) short movie follows Angelica in the afterlife as she lines up and applies to get certified as demon. 

Rating: 3.0/4.0











Fish Out Of Water (2016)
Director: Mon Al Garilao

This heartbreaking short film is about Minjae, a Filipino-Korean teenager, who faces a daily dose of discrimination in the Korean society. His mother's decision (a Filipina) to send him to the Philippines to study adds complication to Minjae's dilemma.

Rating: 3.5/4.0










Forever Natin (2016)
Director: Cyruz Valdez

Despite their great love for each other, a couple weave their version of "forever" in a society that is generally judgmental toward this kind of relationship.

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: August 7, 2016




Movie No. 55 (2016): I AMERICA

I America (2016)
Director: Ivan Payawal
Cast: Bela Padilla, Elizabeth Oropesa, Matt Evans
In Tagalog, with English subtitles

The movie depicts what preoccupies the Amerasian kids in Olongapo - searching for their identity while "life goes on". The narrative is combined comedy and drama, which makes the movie entertaining. Bela Padilla is a joy to watch whether in comedic scenes or dramatic confrontations. She disappears in Erica.

The movie is not perfect - in fact, far from perfection. In my opinion, however, the movie is a minor achievement in story-telling, despite unrestrained direction and some unnecessary characters and scenes.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: August 6, 2016

Movie No. 54 (2016): PAMILYA ORDINARYO

Pamilya Ordinaryo (2016)
Director: Eduardo Roy Jr.
Cast: Ronwaldo Martin, Hasmine Killip, Sue Prado
In Tagalog, with English subtitles


Street children are an elephant in the room. They exist. We see them. Sometimes, we don't care. But this movie cares about them. On a second thought, the movie may just be reminding us these street children exist. In this vein, the movie proves its point. There are occasional CCTV footage scenes, which, I think, should be someone else's point of view or just a mere suggestion that we see these things happen and we don't care. I'm not sure if this decision enhances the narrative flow.

The lead characters are Aries and Jane, 17 and 16, respectively. At this age, they really are just kids, but they already have a child, who is 30 days old. The couple do petty crimes for a living. But when their child gets stolen, they must face this unexpected blow that may force them to "come of age" or think and decide like adults. 

Watching this movie is like watching real life. The two lead actors look real. The way they talk, walk, run, and whatever they do look real. This is neorealism, which actually reminds me of a similar situation in The Bicycle Thieves. There is one important scene which I expected to be some homage to either Maynila Sa Kuko Ng Liwanag or The 400 Blows. In my opinion, the movie would be more powerful had it ended there. 

By the way, Ronwaldo Martin, who plays Aries, stands out. The Sue Prado character, I think, is unnecessary.

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: August 6, 2016




Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Movie No. 53 (2016): TUOS

Tuos (2016)
Director: Roderick Cabrido
Cast: Nora Aunor, Barbie Forteza, Flor Salanga, Ronnie Martinez, Ronwaldo Martin
In Kinaray-an dialect, with English subtitles


Synopsis: A woman chosen to keep an age-old tradition alive must choose between her granddaughter's life and a belief that shackled her in solitary confinement. (from the Cinemalaya brochure)

This movie is so different from the other competing movies in this year's Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival. I mean different in a good way. 

The movie's pacing is deliberately slow, which is a good decision because it can absorb the attention of the audience for a good viewing experience. In my case, I get to know the characters and feel the mise-en-scene well. The rituals look authentic.

The decision to use live action narrative for essaying the story of Pina-ilog and her family and tribe and animation to tell the myth of the spirits that are supposed to be in agreement with the tribe is brilliant. The parallel narratives, told in alternate succession, are carefully written and edited.

However, the best parts of the movie are the exquisite cinematography and performances. While it's quite obvious that every scene is this movie is a feast to the eye, there are also some scenes that are suggestive of the opposing views and beliefs of the main characters. Yes, I'm referring to the scenes involving the split mirror. The expected succession is beautifully staged (as suggested) in the scene at the dining table. Nora Aunor's tribal dance is mesmerizing. Both Nora Aunor's and Barbie Forteza's performances are commendable. I hope they both win acting awards for this movie. While there are no highs and lows that require intense acting, the consistency of being into character of these actresses are worth praising. What we see on the screen is an acting masterclass. No hysterics.

The movie is not perfect. There's one brief scene that I hope to be cut although it doesn't actually ruin the movie. The movie's final scene is open for interpretation. But, it doesn't matter.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: August 6, 2016

Movie No. 52 (2016): DAGSIN

Dagsin (2016)
Director: Atom Magadia
Cast: Tommy Abuel, Lotlot De Leon, Benjamin Alves, Janine Gutierrez, Sue Prado, Marita Zobel, Rolando Inocencio
In Tagalog and English, with English subtitles


This is the story of a Justino, retired judge, now a PWD, who became an atheist after the sufferings he experienced as POW during the Japanese occupation. The events that directly affected him as a practicing judge during the Martial Law also resulted in additional scars. At the start of the movie, he is shown grieving over the recent death of his wife. It appears that he just lives by the day, trying to kill himself by relying to luck (by point a gun loaded only with one bullet to his head, and clicking it). Taking care of him is Mercy who was adopted by Justino's wife (Corazon) during the early days of Martial Law regime. 

The movie bounces back and forth from the present to the past. This way we movie tries to explain to the audience the love story between Justino and Corazon and the events that lead to what has become of Justino at present. The technique works. But, why does it always have to be that a diary is used as a Pandora's box of secrets? This, of course, is not wrong. For me, even some brief scenes in which Justino is shown reading the diary is boring. 

There are scenes in which the young Corazon character seems to care more about writing an entry to the diary (hurriedly) than worrying about what is happening to her relatives and to the country in the midst of chaos. I would have liked the movie better had it ended in the suicide scene because the scenes after that dilute the movie's mystery. Despite this, however, the movie still appears good overall.

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: August 6, 2016

Monday, August 1, 2016

Movie No. 51 (2016): CEMETERY OF SPLENDOR

Cemetery of Splendor (2015)
Cast: Apichatpong Weerasethekul
Cast: Jenjira Pongpas, Banlop Lomnoi, Jarinpattra Rueangram
In Thai, with English subtitles

In my opinion, this movie is another example of cinema for the patient. If you're patient enough to last until the final scenes, you'll get your reward. The reward is satisfaction and a rewarding experience. In my case, I did get the expectation. However, I'm not ecstatic of the overall viewing experience.

The movie is mysterious. However, the slow burning narrative gets in the way to sustain the mystery. I'm not sure: maybe I don't have enough background on the mysticism that the movie uses as centerpiece. Soldiers with mysterious sleeping sickness in a facility that used to be an old school and installed in an estate that used to be a graveyard for kings is a very interesting premise. It's not all the time that we care about the characters - a volunteer care giver, a gifted medium who functions as bridge between the sleeping soldiers and their kins, and one of the patients. 

Despite its shortcomings, the movie is powerful, enchanting, and thought-provoking.

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: August 1, 2016

Movie No. 50 (2016): DORM

Dorm (2006)
Director: Songyos Sugmakanan
Cast: Charlie Trairat, Jintara Sukapatana, Sirachuch Chienthawom
In Thai, with English subtitles


Despite that it reminds me of Guillermo Del Toro's The Devil's Backbone (an excellent horror movie), Dorm is a ghost story like no other that I've seen. Fans of hardcore horror movies might be disappointed to see this movie. The scenes that elicit thrill and suspense are far and between. The movie's concern about the characters makes the movie a cut above some movies of the genre. In my opinion, the movie is more of the coming-of age type of movie. In this vein, the movie is a resounding success.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: August 1, 2016