Sunday, December 31, 2017

Movie No. 93 (2017): VOICE FROM THE STONE

Voice From The Stone (2017)
Director: Eric D. Howell
Cast: Emilia Clarke, Edward Dring, Martin Csokas

A Gothic setting. A child who refuses to speak. A hired nurse hired to take care of the child. A disconnected father. A dead mother. A voice from the stone. Strange dreams. Supernatural phenomena. All these seem to be a complete ingredient for a horror film. But I was wrong. While the movie has the feel of a horror film, it's not necessarily a horror film. More of mystery. All the characters have their own kind of sadness and longing, which are important forces for the flow of this slow burning narrative.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: December 30, 2017

Movie No. 92 (2017): THE LION KING

The Lion King (1994)
Director: Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff
Voice cast: Matthew Broderick, Jeremy Irons, Moira Kelly, Nathan Lane, James Earl Jones
Animated film

I saw the movie in early 1995. The movie was praised by adults and enjoyed by children despite some scenes depicting violence that were essential to the story. For me, it was awesome. I really enjoyed it, everything about it - story and script, characters, and, since the movie is a musical, the songs and score. 

This is the only second time seeing the movie. I saw it on December 30, 2017 when it was shown on HBO. While I was not as ecstatic as when I saw it in 1995, the movie still looked great. It has now definitely earned the tag 'classic."

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: December 30, 2017

Movie No. 91 (2017): BEFORE THE FLOOD

Before The Flood (2016)
Director: Fisher Stevens
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio (host)

Before The Flood is movie documentary treatise about climate change, its perceived causes and effects. The scope is epic, which extends to scientific, political, and social aspects of it. Leonardo DiCaprio hosts the documentary effectively, using his influence as celebrity and as UN Messenger of Peace.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: December 29, 2017

Movie No. 90 (2017): PARIS CAN WAIT

Paris Can Wait (2017)
Director: Eleanor Coppola
Cast: Diane Lane, Alec Baldwin, Arnaud Viard

The wife of a movie director decides to go for a road trip en route to Paris while her husband has already flown ahead to Paris for some business meetings. One of her husband's associates is her chauffeur and tour guide. This movie is supposed to be a road trip with stops at some interesting places along the way. While the stops are interesting, the trip itself is almost boring. If I were in that road trip, I'd rather sleep in the car in between stops instead of listening to two uninteresting characters.

Rating: 2.0/4.0

Date seen: December 29, 2017

Movie No. 89 (2017): FREE FALL

Free Fall (2013)
Director: Stephan Lacant
Cast: Hanno Koffler, Max Riemelt
In German, with English subtitles

A policeman who is soon-to-be father embarks into an unfamiliar "world" when a new colleague arrives. Now he lives in two "different worlds." The world he has always known gets stirred. This new unfamiliar world sucks him into a free fall. This is just the way I describe it. 

As a gay film, Free Fall is conspicuously unconventional for one made in Europe. It's full of cliches that can only be associated with those in the stage of denial. The outstanding aspect of the film is the believable portrayals of the two lead actors. The other aspects are passable.

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: December 29, 2017

Movie No. 88 (2017): CALL ME BY YOUR NAME

Call Me By Your Name (2017)
Director: Luca Guadagnino
Cast: Timothee Chalamet, Armie Hammer

A coming-of-age tale or a story of first love or a story of sexual awaking is not uncommon in many movie narratives. Call Me By Your Name is not different. But, the rustic setting and the Graeco-Roman ruins as backdrop of the unfolding story make this bittersweet movie nostalgic and poetic. The characters are real persons. The place is an omnipresent character. The performances are heartfelt.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: December 28, 2017


Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)
Director: Martin McDonagh
Cast: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell

A grieving mother pours her frustration into painting three billboards along the road leading into her town (Ebbing, Missouri) her protest directed at the chief of the local police, for having done no arrest, so far, more than half a year after her daughter was raped and murdered. The result is a darkly comic drama that will keep the audience on the edge of their seats. 

Good performances. Good script and story
. Good editing. Good movie.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: December 28, 2017

Movie No. 86 (2017): BABY DRIVER

Baby Driver (2017)
Director: Edgar Wright
Cast: Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx

The movie's creativity in using various music for effective characterization and to move the narrative forward with ease is conspicuous. This is a crime movie and it's done with style, with characters who can be real people. We don't need superheroes here. Only a well-written script is key.

This is definitely one of the best movies of 2017.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: December 28, 2017

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Movie No. 85 (2017): LOVELESS

Loveless (2017)
Director: Andrei Zyvagintsev
Cast: Alexei Rozhin, Maryana Spivak, Matvey Novikov
In Russian, with English subtitles

The movie is a complex narrative that discusses a "loveless" marriage and divorce and their effect on an "unwanted" child in the midst of religious fundamentalism, current social norms and selfie culture in Russia.

The movie is full of metaphors. There are cinematic executions that make the movie more artful and help make the narrative flow fluidly. Some scenes that linger on my mind are those that show the soon-to-be-divorced couple having sex with their respective lovers while their son is "walking out" of their lives. The image of a severed body of a child in one scene is a shocking metaphor to the effect of the negligence of the adult society on Russian children in general. Writing reminds me of Stings protest song called "Russians." The line "I hope the Russians love their children, too." reverberates. I also love the movie's seeming tribute to Michael Antonioni's L'Avventura, Ingmar Bergman's Scenes From A Marriage, and, in my opinion, Atom Egoyan's Exotica, in some scenes.

I really love this movie despite its disturbing theme or message. As a movie, with all the necessary aspects, Loveless deserves love. This is one of the best movie's I've seen recetly.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: December 26, 2017

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Movie No. 84 (2017): DEDMA WALKING

Dedma Walking (2017)
Director: Julius Alfonso
Cast: Joross Gamboa, Edgar Allan Guzman, Dimples Romana, Candy Pangilinan

Dedma Walking is part of 2017 Metro Manila Film Festival.

Upon learning he has cancer and having only a few months to live, John convinces his best friend, Mark, to stage his fake death, wake, and funeral, to see who come to his wake and hear what people say about him. John, a CEO of his own businesses, and Mark, a salesman and part-time theater actor, are best friends. John is reserved when needed; Mark is loud. Both cross dress on occasions.

The scenes at the wake are fun to watch. All comic scenes with Mark are hilarious. Edgar Allan Guzman is really good. He and Joross Gamboa deserve an acting nod for their respective portrayals. 

Equally hilarious is the constant reference to an French Film which can be taken as a metaphor for the ticking clock that send John to his final days. Then French Film, which is in blank and white photography, stars Eugene Domingo who is being chased by the reaper. 

While the movie is generally hilarious, some unexpected dramatic moments balance the overall feel of the movie. Dedma Walking is really very entertaining.

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: December 25, 2017

Movie No. 83 (2017): ANG LARAWAN

Ang Larawan (2017)
Director: Loy Arcenas
Cast: Rachel Alejandro, Joanna Ampil, Paulo Avelino, Sandino Martin, Noni Buencamino, Menchu Lauchengco, Celeste Legaspi, Robert Arevalo
In Tagalog, with English subtitles

"Ang Larawan" is part 2017 Metro Manila Film Festival.

The "larawan" in the movie is a painting by the patriarch of a once affluent family. The painting depicts a representation of an artist and his conscience. The patriarch, now a recluse, leaves the care of their ancestral house and its utilities to his two daughters, Candida and Paula, both still unmarried. Their two older siblings, who live comfortably with their respective families, persuade their younger siblings to sell the house. Then there's this tenant, Tony Javier, a vaudeville piano player. Paula and Candida let him a room. Tony flirts with Paula. He persuades the sisters to sell the painting for an amount that may solve their money problems. And then there's the nosy neighbors and family friends who visit the house that provide good vantage to watch the procession of Virgen La Naval. All these happen before the second world war comes to Manila.

The movie is based on the play "A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino" by Nick Joaquin, National Artist in Literature. Another National Artist, Rolando Tinio, translated it to Filipino. This movie adaptation is a musical. Ryan Cayabyab provides the score and music.

The lead actors, Rachel Alejandro and Joanna Ampil, are both competent as Paula and Candida, respectively. They have no problem hitting high and difficult notes while maintaining their respective characters. Paulo Avelino does a good job as the seducing and scheming tenant.

Some of the lyrics sound weird in the way they are matched with notes. Initially, I felt uncomfortable hearing such lyrics while being sung. But, if these were in English, they would sound smooth. Realizing this, I forgive such minor flaw. The musical score and songs sound good.

The "larawan" may also be referring to the portrait of the family as they struggle to live while maintaining dignity in the midst of changing times and impending war. The attempts to sell the house and the painting are obvious metaphors relevant to the state of society during the period.

Considering also the other aspects, such as cinematography and production design,"Ang Larawan" is a splendid work of art.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: December 25, 2017

Tuesday, December 26, 2017


The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Cast: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan

Everything about the movie, including the story, is an enigma. The characters are strange, some bordering to being pervert. There's not one character that is likable. Some are really menacing. 

The movie is part mystery, part thriller, part horror, and part character study. Whatever its is, I give it my stamp of approval if only for creating tension in an innovative way.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: December 22, 2017

Movie No. 81 (2017): ON BODY AND SOUL

On Body and Soul (2017)
Director: Ildiko Enyedi
Cast: Alexandra Borbely, Geza Morcsanyi
In Hungarian, with English subtitles

Sharing a common dream, the manager and the new quality control staff of a slaughterhouse become enmeshed in a brooding romance. But, of course, there are complications. The circumstances that lead to making them aware of their common dream are well staged. The subplots are integral to characterization and fluid flow of the narrative.


The film is this year's Golden Bear winner at the Berlin film festival. This is also Hungary's official submission to Academy Awards for Best Foreign-Language Film.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: December 17, 2017

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Movie No. 80 (2017): THE ESCORT

The Escort (2016)
Director: Enzo Williams
Cast: Derek Ramsay, Lovi Poe, Christopher De Leon, Jean Garcia
In Tagalog

Saw this movie one Sunday on TV (Kapamilya Blockbusters).

The movie appears like it wants to be a memorable, if not great, love story. But, it falters because the premise is (again) recycled. The conflict and resolution are all predictable and poorly are poorly executed. While I can consider the performances, especially the two supports, commendable, the characters, especially the two leads, are poorly written. I never believe in the actions of Lovie Poe's characters. Derek Ramsay's character is vapid. And that ending is so uninspired and cringe-worthy.

Rating: 1.0/4.0

Date seen: December 10, 2017

Movie No. 79 (2017): THE SECRET SCRIPTURE

The Secret Scripture (2016)
Director: Jim Sheridan
Cast: Rooney Mara, Vanessa Redgrave, Eric Bana

I got lured into watching the movie for three reasons. First, Jim Sheridan. He made some movies that, in my opinion, are great and unforgettable, such as My Left Foot, In The Name of the Father, and In America. He has a share of some forgettable movies, too. Second, the material. I read the Sebastian Barry's book, The Secret Scripture, some years back. But, I stopped, or simply forgot to finish it, almost halfway through the book. I don't remember why. But, I remember to have been intrigued by the book based on how far I got through it. Third, Vanessa Redgrave and Rooney Mara, who I consider dependable actors.

The movie, however, looks like a daytime TV soap opera. Too melodramatic and overly sentimental. Yes, the narrative is clear despite the tedious flashbacks. But, at some point, I got bored. The movie doesn't have the capability to hold attention. I suspect a failure in writing. Even Vanessa Redgrave's acting prowess or Rooney Mara's effort is sidelined because it's the faults that we see first.

Rating: 2.0/4.0

Date seen: November 26, 2017

Friday, December 22, 2017

Movie No. 78 (2017): MY EX AND WHYS

My Ex and Whys (2017)
Director: Cathy Garcia Molina
Cast: Enrique Gil, Liza Soberano
In Tagalog, with occasional English and Korean

If there's one good thing I can say about the movie, it's this: Liza Soberano is really pretty. That's it. Everything else about it is recycled trash. And there's a good market for it. 

I saw the movie on Kapamilya Megablockbusters one lazy Sunday. Curiosity glued my attention to the movie. Judging from the first 10 or 20 minutes, I should have done something else. But then, I was hoping for a relief or some redeeming elements in the last few frames. So I stayed, only to witness an ending that I've seen gazillion times in many local romcoms. Imagination, nowadays, is dead. The Ryan Bang subplot is pilit na pilit. The acting of the lead characters are uninspired and mechanical.

My verdict?

Silly. Inane, Horrible.

Rating: 0.1/4.0

Date seen: November 5, 2017 (on TV)

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Movie No. 77 (2017): INFERNO

Inferno (2016)
Director: Ron Howard
Cast: Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones

My take on the movie is the same as my take on The Da Vinci Code. A decent thriller in some of the most interesting and historical places in Europe. 

Of course, the plot is similar. The formula for thrill/suspense is the same. The movie experience is same. 

And, yes, Tom Hanks is weal as Robert Langdon.

Rating: 2.5/4.0

Date seen: November 4, 2017

Monday, November 6, 2017

Movie No. 76 (2017); THE DA VINCI CODE

The Da Vinci Code (2006)
Director: Ron Howard
Cast: Tom Hanks, Audrey, Tautou, Jean Reno

I didn't read the book because everyone was reading it and I knew there would be a screen adaptation. It's a good thing I didn't read the book because I was spared from comparing it with the book. I'm the kind who believes that a movie and the book from which the movie is adapted should never be compared. They are completely different media. There are aspects of literature that are difficult to translate into screen.

So, while there was a negative hype against the adaptation, I still found the movie as a well made thriller when I first saw it. I never planned to see it again. But, my recent trip which made me visit some interesting places that were seen in the movie prompted me to see it again. I was delighted.

I still believe though that Tom Hanks's portrayal of the Robert Langdon character is wanting. 

Rating: 2.5/4.0

Date seen: October 18, 2017

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Movie No. 75 (2017): BEFORE SUNRISE

Before Sunrise (1995)
Director: Richard Linklater
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy

My third time to see the time.

I was on board PAL en route to Manila from London. It really partly eased the feeling of boredom and anxiety of the long non-stop flight.

I thought I really liked the movie after seeing it for the second time. When the sequel (Before Sunset) came out, I had to see Before Sunrise again. The sequel validated the greatness of Before Sunrise. In fact, the two looked even greater when viewed one after the other. The third movie in the trilogy (Before Midnight) put the exclamation point to seal the (now) masterpiece status of the trilogy.

The premise of the movie is very simple: A brief and chance encounter on a train in Europe broods romance between an American and a French, only to abruptly end before sunrise. What happens in between is what makes the movie truly memorable.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: October 27, 2017

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Movie No. 74 (2017): DEAR OTHER SELF

Dear Other Self (2017)
Director: Veronica Velasco
Cast: Jodie Sta. Maria, Xian Lim, Joseph Marco
In Tagalog and English, with English subtitles

Saw this on board, on my way back to Manila from Heathrow.

The first few minutes is interesting. The movie actually reminded me of a Gwyneth Paltrow - starrer called Sliding Doors in the late 1990s. But, it went downhill from there. It could be great despite the non-novel, but still innovative, narrative structure.

Rating: 2.0/4.0

Date seen: October 27, 2017

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Movie No. 73 (2017): VINCE & KATH & JAMES

Vince & Kath & James (2016)
Director: Theodore Boborol
Cast: Joshua Garcia, Julia Barretto, Ronnie Alonte
In Tagalog and English

Judging from its trailer, I'd been wanting to see the film. This was an entry in 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival. It certainly deserved its inclusion in the festival.

I had the chance when I spotted the film as one of the Tagalog movies in the on-board selection of PAL entertainment, on my flight to Heathrow in October. It was a long flight; this movie helped shorten it by 1 and 1/2 hours. The movie was really a good entertainment. The script, while far from great, is decent. What I admire about the film are the performances of the lead actors. 

At least, this movie is significantly different and better than most silly romcom movies that rake millions at local box office.

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: October 10, 2017

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Movie No. 72 (2017): I, DANIEL BLAKE

I, Daniel Blake (2016)
Director: Ken Loach
Cast: Dave Johns, Hayley Squires

First, the movie is angry, but humane. 

The titular character, Daniel Blake, a widower, turns to social welfare after surviving a heart attack, only to get disappointed by the red tape there. The  story of a man who fights bureaucracy, often with tragic outcomes, is not uncommon. Here, the story is told with compassion. It's universality is easily comprehensible.

The movie is well written. Dave Johns, as Daniel Blake, is outstanding.

The movie won the Palm d'Or Award in 2016 at the Festival de Cannes.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: October 8, 2017

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Movie No. 71 (2017): THE CRANES ARE FLYING

The Cranes Are Flying (1958)
Director: Mikhail Kalatozov
Cast: Tatiana Samoilova, Alexei Batalov, Vasiliy Merkurev, Alexander Shvorin
In Russian, with English subtitles

The movie is tragic and melodramatic. But, it shies away from being manipulative. Instead, it effortlessly suggests the damage war can do to relationships and life in general. There's loss. There's longing. There's betrayal. There's death. But, there's hope.

The black and white photography does wonders to the milieu and mise en scene of every frame. The lead actress delivers an outstanding performance. 

I saw it in late 1990s on VHS. This is just the second time to have seen it again. I remember to have liked it and affected by it the first time I saw it. In the second watching, I find more reasons to love it, despite it being tragic.

The movie was awarded the Palm d'Or at Festival de Cannes in 1958.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: October 7, 2017

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Movie No. 70 (2017): BABETTE'S FEAST

Babette's Feast (1987)
Director: Gabriel Axel
Cast; Stephane Audran, Bodil Kjer, Birgitte Federspiel
In Danish and French, with English subtitles

"Feast" suggests food. Yes, there's feast, and there are foods in the movie. But, the movie is not about food. Foods, in this case, are a metaphor. Foods may represent temptation or worldly aspirations, which the people of the remove island village in Denmark reject. The movie's cinematic achievement is right there in the feast, where the dinner guests are transformed into personifications of guilt, regret, and hope at different stages of the dinner. 

Babette prepared the extravagant dinner. She was introduced earlier in the movie as the stranger fleeing the French Civil War; she ended up as housemaid and cook, serving the spinster sisters whose father was a preacher who everybody in the island revered. Babette was referred to the sisters by the rejected past lover of one of the sisters.

This is my second time to see the movie in full. Just like the first time, I feel attached to some of the dialogues which I think are central to the narrative:

"Like the wedding at Canaa, the food is of no importance."

"An artist is never poor."

"Through the world sounds one long cry from the heart of the artist: Give me the chance to do my very best."

The movie is one of my favorite movies of all time. In fact, I consider it one of the greatest movies ever made.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: September 30, 2017

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Movie No. 69 (2017): TAMPOPO

Tampopo (1985)
Director: Juzo Itami
Cast: Nobuko Miyamoto, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Ken Watanabe, Koji Yakusho
In Japanese, with English subtitles

The movie consists if several vignettes, or comedy sketches, that all contribute "deliciously" to this this rare treat of a movie. The centerpiece story of course is that of Tampopo's and her "search" for a perfect noodle (ramen) and a noodle restaurant that will "steal" the customers from competing restaurants. The real treat is Tampopo and her gang of so-called "ramen ronins" spying on the secrets of the competition, which is executed in very entertaining fashion, akin to "spaghetti westerns." 

I really enjoyed the movie. Sure, it's comedy. But, just like a complete ramen dish, it has some other "ingredieents" like action, eroticism, death, and drama, that makes the movie more "delectable."

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: September 16, 2017

Movie No. 68 (2017): 11 MINUTES

11 Minutes (2015)
Director: Jerzy Skolimowski
Cast: Richard Dormer, Paulina Chapko, Wojciech Mecwaldowski
In Polish, with English subtitles

The movie weaves several stories of totally unrelated people which happen in 11 minutes. The movie's running time, however, is stretched to approximately 80 minutes. Of course, it's quite acceptable that simultaneous stories can't be fit in the same frame at the same time. It needs masterful editing. The movie does just that, resulting in a smoothly flowing narrative. 

This is a kind of movie which, in my opinion, doesn't need thorough characterization. Actually, I don;t care about the characters. I care more about the achievement of this kind of 'experimental' story-telling.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: September 16, 2017

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Movie No. 67 (2017): ARRIVAL

Arrival (2016)
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Amy Adams, Forest Whitaker, Jeremy Renner

Okay. This is science fiction. But, not the usual summer blockbuster science fiction. Its strength lies in its quirky script and narrative. Do I say cerebral? I like it when the a movies challenges or disturbs or tickles my brain cells. Amy Adams is terrific her performance is so affecting. The scenes leading to the ending are jaw dropping. Saw this a few weeks back; but, as of this writing I'm still in awe. I really like the message of the movie, or of "Abbott and Costello." And, I have to commend the technical quality - cinematography, sound, score - of the movie.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: September 3, 2017

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Movie No. 66 (2017): DIVINES

Divines (2016)
Director: Houda Benyamina
Cast: Oulaya Amamra, Deborah Lukumuena
In French, with Englisg subtitles

Two high school girls are at the center of the narrative. They both want to get out of the present predicament they're currently in. Douna, being the impatient and ballsy, is the first to walk out of school and seek the treacherous path to the so-called "freedom." Her best friend, Maimouna, joins her though tentative for a reason that's well established in her back story. We'll meet some characters that will contribute to shaping the movie's narrative, down to the bleak conclusion.

The characters are not likable. It's easy to understand their actions, but difficult to empathize with them. Whatever they do are enough to justify the consequences of their actions that will lead to the final resolve. The lead actors are believable, particularly the one who played Douna. She's so effective you'll want to hate and hit her for being the drama queen that every one can easily despises.

Divines looks like a movie from the film movement that was French New Wave.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: September 3, 2017

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Movie No. 65 (2017): BITTER HARVEST

Bitter Harvest (2017)
Director: George Mendeluk
Cast: Max Irons, Samantha Barks, Terence Stamp, Barry Pepper

I'm not sure if the original audio track is Russian or Ukrainian. I saw the version with English audio. I would have preferred the audio track to be in the native language (Russian or Ukrainian, or dialect), with English subtitles, of course. Despite the competent cinematography, the movie is easy to dismiss as wanting.

The movie is confused. While it appears like an account of the genocide by starving the people of Ukraine, by virtue of Stalin's policy, the fate of the lovers, whose point of view the movie is told, gets in the way. That dark phase of history has just been set aside as mere backdrop, which, in my opinion, is an utter disrespect to millions who died during these dark times. And, by the way, the melodrama is just not appropriate.

Rating: 2.0/4.0

Date seen: September 3, 2017

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Movie No. 64 (2017): THE MISSION

The Mission (1986)
Director: Roland Joffe
Cast: Robert De Niro, Jeremy Irons, Liam Neeson

The movie, set in 18th century South America, is about missionaries and slave traders who compete for the trust of Native Indians living above an enormous waterfalls. The story is told in terms of letters which appear like a reportage about what happened to the mission. 

I have to admit, the movie has some lapses in the narrative. Despite this, however, the movie still manages to be something that's so beautiful to watch, even up to the heartbreaking finale. Even after seeing the movie, I tend to forget the lapses. What remains lingering in my head are the stunning photography, proficient editing, great performances of the lead actors, and the haunting musical score. Gabriel's Oboe (by Ennio Morricone) has been one of my favorite music of all time. 

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: August 30, 2017

Movie No. 63 (2017): HOWL

Howl (2015)
Director: Paul Hyett
Cast: Mark Huckerby, Nick Ostler, Amit Shah

The title suggest the movie is of the horror genre. It lives up to expectations from a horror movie. It may not be among the best horror movies ever made, or the best of the werewolf sub-genre, but Howl really gives real and decent thrill, all with near-escapes and gore. 

Howl's milieu is similar to Train To Busan's. The former has werewolves while the latter has zombies that haunt and terrorize the passengers. In both cases, there are more reasons to like than to dislike the movies. In Howl, in my opinion, it would be more thrilling had the werewolves not been shown in (many) close-ups. Their howling and shadows as they move past the bushes are more than enough for the audience to feel the terror. 

But then, I enjoyed the show.

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: August 27, 2017

Monday, August 28, 2017

Movie No. 62 (2017): GET OUT

Get Out (2017)
Director: Jordan Peele
Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Catherine Keener, Allison Williams

It's Meet The Parents and Guess Who's Coming To Dinner gone awry. And it's both fun and thrilling to watch like I don't expect it to be. It gets to the point that it becomes disturbing, which justifies its horror classification. 

This is horror with style. It discusses racism in its most horrifying way.


Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: August 26, 2017

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Movie No. 61 (2017): DEVIL'S KNOT

Devil's Knot (2014)
Director: Atom Egoyan
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Colin Firth, Dane DeHaan

Three little boys are murdered. The witch hunt for the murderers and hysteria-filled trial follow. The community is very much involved and affected by the incident and subsequent "circus." Atom Egoyan has shown in his previous films a similar cinematic treatise of collective despair. But, the problem is focus. The film tends to divert into something that, instead of providing answers, creates more questions that dilute the narrative. Despite this, however, the film is watchable and is a decent piece of entertainment.

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: August 26, 2017

Movie No. 60 (2017): MOONLIGHT

Moonlight (2016)
Director: Barry Jenkins
Cast: Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Janelle Monae, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes

The movie is a portrait of young (black) man in search of his identity. It's told in three "chapters," each of which focusing on a phase of his life - as a child, as a teenager, as an adult. Generally, the movie is good, sometimes haunting. Performances are outstanding. But, for it to be called monumental or masterpiece, in my opinion, is an exaggeration. 

In the three of four times of trying to see it during the weeks leading to Academy Awards ceremonies early this year, I would doze off within the first 10 or 20 minutes. I was indifferent despite the praises the movie received. But, yesterday I managed to finish it. I'm glad I got to see its so-called genius. 

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: August 26, 2017

Movie No. 59 (2017): HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS

Hello, My Name Is Doris (2016)
Director: Michael Showalter
Cast: Sally Field, Max Greenfield, Natasha Lyonne

Sally Field is Doris, a senior citizen who works as office staff. Her domineering mother has just died. Now, she seems helpless having lived a sheltered life in an apartment cluttered with "collections" decades gone by. Life has to go on.

On the first day of her return to the office, after the funeral, her "coming of age" begins with a smile from a man half her age in a crowded elevator. And so, the begins her new adventures and misadventures.

Doris is funny, but her spur-or-the moment decisions, brought by the desire "to live" a life she missed (or didn't have) are heartbreaking. Sally Field's comedic timing is awesome. The movie is enjoyable to watch.

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: August 26, 2017

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Movie No. 58 (2017): PATAY NA SI HESUS (Jesus Is Dead)

Patay Na Si Hesus (2016)
Director: Victor Villanueva
Cast: Jaclyn Jose, Angelina Kanapi, Chai Fonacier
In Cebuano and Tagalog, with English subtitles

The premise is very simple. Jesus is dead. His ex wife and children embark in a road trip of some hundred kilometers to attend his wake. The movie is about the what happens during the trip, where we learn about each character's story.

It's entertaining, hilarious, and irreverent. It's easy to love this movie. While this may remind one of Little Miss Sunshine, this is definitely very much different. It has its own genius.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: August 21, 2017

Movie No. 57 (2017): 100 TULA PARA KAY STELLA

100 Tula Para Kay Stella (2017)
Director: Jason Paul Laxamana
Cast: JC Santos, Bela Padilla

I find the movie too long for the point it tries to convey. But, still, I enjoyed it as an escapist flick  despite its flaws. It appears to me that the Stella and Fidel characters are fish out of water. They gasp for air in a premise that may not be suited for them. All the supporting characters are dud. Despite this, however, both Bela Padilla and JC Santos do well in portraying their respective characters. Most of the so-called poems are unimpressive and contrived. 

Rating: 2.5/4.0

Date seen: August 21, 2017

Friday, August 25, 2017

Movie No. 56 (2017): A UNITED KINGDOM

A United Kingdom (2017)
Director: Amma Assante, Steven Hall
Cast: David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike

While a student in London, Seretse Khama, the future king of Botswana meets a British clerk (Ruth Williams). They fall in love and get married despite objections from both families. But that's not the major problem. The marriage stirs and challenges present political climate and the recently installed apartheid. The movie is about this hurdle.

I see the movie as something that's not much different from some blockbuster romance movies, from basic premise, to second act, to conclusion. But this one happens in a  real premise that will become an important phase in history. This, too is not unique. But the reasons the movie works are the excellent performances of the lead actors and the balanced treatment of the narrative considering that the movie discusses racial tension and other political issues.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: August 20, 2017

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Movie No. 55 (2017): IN THE HOUSE

In The House (Dans La Maison) (2013)
Director: Francois Ozon
Cast: Fabrice Luchini, Kristin Scott Thomas, Emmanuelle Segner, Denis Menochet
In French, with English subtitles

A writing exercise submitted by a high school student to his Literature teacher catches the latter's attention. It gets the interest of the teacher's wife, too. The student writes about his classmate - parents and house. But, he can only write what he sees in the house; so, he must always find his way into the house. This makes the movie a certain kind of voyeurism. The comedic and cleverly psychological approach to the narrative have certain level of novelty. Performances are competent.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: August 19, 2017

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


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, without 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


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

Movie No. 44 (2017): CAPTAIN FANTASTIC

Captain Fantastic (2016)
Director: Matt Ross
Cast: Viggo Mortensen

A family lives in isolation in their self-created "paradise" in the forests of Pacific Northwest. The father is devoted but controlling. A mother figure's absence is conspicuous. Then a news of a tragedy shakes the otherwise "ideal" family living. The father and his six children must temporarily leave the paradise and take a journey into the outside world. And so begins the character study.

Viggo Mortensen as the titular father figure has a strong presence in practically every scene he's in. That's a remarkable feat, playing as the controlling father. His strong performance is most noticeable. The movie brings to mind Peter Weir's The Mosquito Coast. While, in my opinion, Peter Weir's movie is the better movie, Captain Fantastic offers some fresh insights, particularly on challenges of parenting. Matt Ross seems to be in control except form a few but important scenes. 

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: July 29, 2017