Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sana Dati (Jerrold Tarog, Cinemalaya 2013 Best Picture Winner)

How to describe the film? Well, Sana Dati is Before It is Kung Mangarap Ka't Magising. It is 'Here's looking at you, kid' and 'Play it, Sam.'

In one short description, Sana Dati is talky, heartbreaking, 
classic story-telling, and must-see 'Takas tayo' romantic movie of the year.

'Nuff said.

Ang Kwento ni Mabuti (Mes de Guzman, CineFilipino 2013 Best Picture Winner)

Everybody it seems has a favorite acting highlight of Nora Aunor in Ang Kwento ni MabutiThe veteran actress squeezes pure acting juice from her bag of tricks. She plays a well-loved healer named Mabuti. There is the scene showing Mabuti bewildered with the contents of a heavy burden of a bag. Another memorable scene shows her stealthily entering the house and promptly hiding her bag on an old trunk. Both scenes are dazzling, delicious displays of thespic excellence. 

The little moments though are the ones I treasure. Try to watch Mabuti's facial gestures after every healing session. A dog-eater of a neighbor gets his comeuppance from aggressive canines. The neighbor seeks the help of Mabuti every time he gets bitten. We see Mabuti with her charming smile after every session. There's a big change however with her reaction after treating the neighbor's snake bite. The smile is not as sunny as ever. It must have something to do with her being whisked off her ride and the need to pay fare once more.

Another crucial scene is Mabuti's partaking of the yummy Ilocano delicacy called tupig. She munches them quickly and yearns for some more. She doesn't grab one right away. She waits for the owner to look her way before asking for another piece. This segment sets up beautifully to Mabuti getting hold of a treasure. She seeks to dispatch of the money because it is not hers. 

What would Jesus do? What would you do if you get a windfall of money? Mabuti is put in a dilemma because the money can save her mortgaged land. In the end, she adheres to the basic rule of returning back things to the rightful owner.

Director Mes de Guzman is on a roll. Every film festival entry of his either wins the Best Picture award or nabs him the Best Director award. For the CineFilipino film Ang Kwento ni Mabuti, he gets both awards along with the Best Screenplay award. His stories capture vividly the rural scene in Nueva Vizcaya. The improvised home water system segment is a beauty. The army of insects shoo Mabuti away from going the wrong path. Then, there are those maddening landslides, jueteng, and verdant scenery. I relate deeply with the provincial values of his characters. 

Nora Aunor may not be a Miss World winner or a CineFilipino Best Actress winner, but she brought life to a beautiful winning character. Mabuti is goodness personified. She refuses to accept donations from patients. She shares her snack with a hot-headed bus driver. She radiates with the glow of inner beauty. It is interesting to note that her mother's advice is similar to what the mother of Miss World Megan Young aptly said, 'you can never go wrong with goodness.' Indeed, the kindness and honesty of Mabuti is worth emulating.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Bizarre CineFilipino incident at Lucky Chinatown, Manila

A strange thing happened during my CineFilipino foray at Lucky Chinatown yesterday morning (19-September). 

I was at the counter to buy ticket for the 10:15 am screening of The Guerrilla is a Poet. I was dumbfounded when the girl said that she will only sell tickets if there are three other patrons. A man behind me reiterated his intention to buy a ticket. I learned later that he was told to buy three tickets in order for the screening to push through. It is a good thing he held his ground. So, there we were, waiting for two more patrons.

A lady, who'd came all over from Alabang, approached the booth and tried to buy a ticket for The Guerrilla is a Poet screening. The counter girl hesitated a bit. I butted in to say that since there are three willing viewers then maybe they can finally sell tickets. The counter girl talked to someone and came back later to sell us the tickets.

During my whole stay there in the vicinity of the ticket booth, I'd overheard films not pushing through because only one or two people expressed interest to buy tickets. The policy of the Lucky Chinatown cineplex group it seems is to push through with screenings only if there are a handful of potential viewers. But, I hope that they do not apply that policy to festival films.

What I had experienced is in stark contrast to SM Cinema group's handling of the Sineng Pambansa National Film Festival. Despite marketing complaints, the group is to be commended for its simultaneous screenings of festival films nationwide for a period of one week. Even the group's plush cinemas participated in the festival. When I tried to buy a ticket at SM Aura's Directors Club cinema, the counter girl immediately assisted me right away. There is no more checking if there are other viewers interested to buy tickets. The screening will definitely push through even if it was only me watching the film.

If the CineFilipino film festival has the tagline 'Kuwento ang Hari,' then the Lucky Chinatown cineplex group's tagline should be 'Kuwarta ang Hari.'

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Otso (Elwood Perez, Sineng Pambansa 2013)

Don't judge a film by its poster.

I'd shied away from viewing the film Otso because of its theatre poster. No, it's not the one above. The poster I'm talking about has a picture of about four nude hunks in lieu of Sabina's picture. The beefcake picture seems to suggest that it is a gay film. Well, it isn't a gay film. It is, how do I put it, an artistic meditation on truth and perception.

A balikbayan scriptwriter named Lex is enamored with old Manila. He treads the cobblestones, rides the calesa, and admires the statue of Laong Laan. The picturesque beauty of Intramuros soon gives way to images of a chaotic, cluttered city caught up in electioneering frenzy. 

Lex rents an apartment and starts to work on a commissioned screenplay. One day, he sees a pretty co-tenant. He follows her and sees her wearing a necklace. The piece's prominent design is that of an infinity symbol. From that point on, his creative juice explodes. What follows is a Kaufman-ian glimpse into the maddening scriptwriting process. An eternity of cascading images, characters, and storylines collide with one another and metamorphose into an impishly script.

A character from the film advises Lex to show his script to Brillante Mendoza. I think Lav Diaz is the better option for him because topics such as truth, artists, and art are major concerns of most Diaz films. But, Otso is unlike any Lav Diaz film. It is sui generis. What film can combine diverse characters and issues such as Anita Linda (playing herself), a pair of porn stars, a fresh, young scriptwriter, and the issue of pork barrel and pull it off?

The fun part is trying to figure out who's who and what's what after the denouement.

I'd finished watching all of the major new films included in the Sineng Pambansa National Film Festival. Otso and Chito Roño's impeccable political film Badil are my top picks. If you can only view one film today (17-Sep), then make it Otso. There's a chance that Badil may get an extended run.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

CineFilipino Film Festival schedule at Shang Cineplex, Shangri-La Plaza

 September 21, 2013 (Saturday)
  • 10:30AM SHORTS 2
    KATHANG ISIP by Jo Paulo Madarang
    PRINCESS URDUJA by Tiffanie Ang
    LIGAW by Pam Reyes
    LOGARITMO by Kim Ocariza
    WORLD IPIS by Kristin Joyce P. Barrameda, Joana Carla Ubaldo
  •  12:00PM MGA ALAALA NG TAG-ULAN by Ato Bautista
  •  2:30PM THE GUERRILLA IS A POET by Sari and Kiri Dalena
  •  7:30PM ANG KWENTO NI MABUTI by Mes De Guzman
  •  10:00PM PUTI by Mike Alcazaren

 September 22, 2013 (Sunday)
  •  10:30AM SHORTS 1
    ALKANSIYA by Joan Cajes
    SANGANDAAN by Jose Ibarra Guballa, Benjo Ferrer III
    LAST CALL by Khalil Bañares
    ONANG by JE Tiglao
  •  12:00PM BINGOLERAS by Ron Bryant
  •  2:30PM ANG HULING CHA-CHA NI ANITA by Sigrid Andrea Bernardo
  •  7:30PM ANG TURKEY MAN AY PABO RIN by Randolph Longjas
  •  10:00PM THE MUSES by Janice Perez 

Bahay ng Lagim (Celso Ad Castillo, Sineng Pambansa 2013)

Sineng Pambansa National Film Festival is an excellent showcase of the filmmaking skills of 12 acclaimed directors. I've seen eight films and majority of them are movies worth seeing again. Even the clunkers have their unique assets and possibly have their own legion of backers.

The sleeper hit of the festival is the special entry Bahay ng Lagim by horror master Celso Ad. Castillo. It is a super-duper chiller to the core. A young lady named Fatima (Karel Marquez) has recurring nightmares of a girl asking for help. But, when these pleas begin to bug her even during waking hours, she seeks the help of a healer, Sister Sophia (Bing Loyzaga).

The whole segment leading to the delicious, wonderful credits is high-level suspense. When the names of the cast appear onscreen, I had a gleeful smile while being at the same time shivering from the chills. There I am slinking in my seat with my head down because I had a feeling someone possessed will sneak up on unsuspecting people. The fear factor won't ebb down for another 45 minutes. 

Sister Sophia's fight with the beast is another highlight of the film. Who says you cannot teach old directors new tricks? The hideous monster magically comes alive via computer graphics.

I was wary when I learned that the horror film was being prepared for the fest without the guidance of Castillo. The late director was supposed to create a new film specifically for the festival but he died of heart attack in November 2012.

Followers of the late director decided to spruce up an unreleased film, Bahay ng Lagim. They did an amazing job. The film is a masterpiece of Castillo and a worthy inclusion to the All Masters Edition of Sineng Pambansa.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Sineng Pambansa National Film Festival 2013 theatrical schedule for all malls

Sineng Pambansa is here... there... and everywhere.

Forget the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF). Sineng Pambansa is the real national film festival. SM cinemas from all over the country are screening 10 new works by accomplished local directors from September 11-17, 2013. Admission price is only PHP 101. Yes, we can watch more films that are hopefully of better substance than the stale MMFF fare we get every year.

Here are the major new films and their running times:

Ang Tag-araw ni Twinkle  (1:53) - Gil Portes
Ano ang Kulay ng Mga Nakalimutang Pangarap? (1:32) - Jose Javier Reyes
Badil - Chito Roño
Bamboo Flowers (2:12) - Maryo delos Reyes
Eman - Tikoy Aguiluz 

Lauriana (1:58) - Mel Chionglo
Lihis (1:38) - Joel Lamangan
Otso (1:23) - Elwood Perez
Sonata (1:47) - Peque Gallaga and Lore Reyes 

Tinik - Romy Suzara

Updated (11-Sep)

As of tonight, only seven films are showing at SM Megamall. I have no idea what happened to the films Badil, Eman, and Tinik.  

I'm happy with what I have seen so far. These two films, Sonata and Ang Tag-Araw ni Twinkle, are better than most of the films featured at Cinemalaya 2013's Directors Showcase.

Sonata is an ode to films, opera, and Negros Occidental. Ang Tag-araw ni Twinkle highlights the allure and beauty of spoken Tagalog.

Searching for the Sineng Pambansa theatrical schedule for all SM malls? Click here

I've pasted below the cineplexes that can accommodate the full slate of ten films. Sadly, all of them are in Metro Manila. (Are there cineplexes with at least 10 theaters outside Metro Manila?)

SM Fairview
Day 1 to 7
Screen 1 - Otso
Screen 2 - Lauriana
Screen 3 - Sonata
Screen 4 - Lihis
Screen 5 - Eman
Screen 6 – Ang Tag-araw ni Twinkle
Screen 7 - Tinik
Screen 8 – Bamboo Flowers
Screen 9 – Ano ang Kulay ng mga Nakalimutang Pangarap?
Screen 10 - Badil
Screen 11 – Bahay ng Lagim/The Gospel According to Celso Kid
Screen 12 - Salvi

SM Manila
Day 1 to 7
Screen 1 – Bamboo Flowers
Screen 2 – Otso
Screen 3 - Sonata
Screen 4 – Ang Tag-araw ni Twinkle
Screen 5 - Lihis
Screen 6 - Tinik
Screen 7 - Badil
Screen 8 - Lauriana
Screen 9 - Eman
Screen 10 - Ano ang Kulay ng mga Nakalimutang Pangarap?
Screen 11 – Bahay ng Lagim/The Gospel According to Celso Kid
Screen 12 - Salvi

SM Megamall
Day 1 to 7
Screen 1 - Sonata
Screen 2 – Ang Tag-araw ni Twinkle
Screen 3 - Lihis
Screen 4 - Lauriana
Screen 5 – Bamboo Flowers
Screen 6 - Badil
Screen 7 - Eman
Screen 8 - Otso
Screen 9 - Ano ang Kulay ng mga Nakalimutang Pangarap?
Screen 10 - Tinik
Screen 11 - Bahay ng Lagim/The Gospel According to Celso Kid
Screen 12 - Salvi

SM North Edsa
Day 1 to 7
Screen 1 – Ano ang Kulay ng mga Nakalimutang Pangarap?
Screen 2 - Lihis
Screen 3 – Ang Tag-araw ni Twinkle
Screen 4 – Bamboo Flowers
Screen 5 - Eman
Screen 6 - Lauriana
Screen 7 - Tinik
Screen 8 - Otso
Screen 9 - Badil
Screen 10 - Sonata
Screen 11 - Bahay ng Lagim/The Gospel According to Celso Kid 

SM Sta Mesa
Day 1 to 7
Screen 1 - Sonata
Screen 2 - Otso
Screen 3 - Lihis
Screen 4 - Lauriana
Screen 5 – Bamboo Flowers
Screen 6 – Ang Tag-araw ni Twinkle
Screen 7 – Ano ang Kulay ng mga Nakalimutang Pangarap?
Screen 8 - Eman
Screen 9 - Tinik
Screen 10 - Badil

Note: The rest of the cineplexes will change their slate of films every day to enable them to feature all 10 new films.

Click here for theater schedules

in Marikina, South Mall, Mall of Asia, San Lazaro, Bacoor, Cebu, Consolacion, Iloilo, Davao, Lanang Premier, Pampanga, Clark, San Fernando, Olongapo, Baguio, Calamba, San Pablo, Sta. Rosa, SM Lucena, SM Naga, Aura Premier, Podium, General Santos, Cagayan de Oro, Dasmariñas, Bacolod, Taytay, Tarlac, Baliwag, Marilao, Batangas, Lipa, Rosales, Muntinlupa, Novaliches, Sucat, Bicutan, Valenzuela, Masinag, Molino, and Rosario. 

Phew! That is a total of 46 malls. Here's hoping there are new masterpieces showing out there alongside the classics Maynila Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag and Genghis Khan.

All Masters Edition? Let's wait and see...

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Cine Europa 16 Movie Schedule (Shang Cineplex)

The first movie festival/competition on screens this month is the 16th edition of Cine Europa at Shangri-La Plaza. All screenings are free to the public.

Three fantastic Filipino films are also included in the festival, which runs from September 5 to 15, 2013. Newly restored classic films Genghis Khan and Oro Plata Mata will be screened at 2 pm and 4 pm respectively on Sunday, 8th of September. The Cinemalaya 2013 opening film Jazz In Love will have 2 pm and 4 pm screenings on Saturday, 14th of September.


While queuing up at Shang Cineplex yesterday, 5th of September, I'd overheard two youngsters talking with a middle-aged woman. They were discussing animatedly the last film Barbara. It seems that they could have enjoyed the German film more if only there were more subtitles. I was puzzled with their discussion.

One minute into the next screening, I knew what they were talking about. The movie is zoomed in therefore eliminating letterbox bars and half of the valuable subtitles. I complained to the security personnel about the missing subtitles. He said it had something to do with the DVDs they had received. I explained to him that the DVD is not the culprit. They just need to fix the image height projection. He relayed my suggestion to the usher. When I returned to my seat after two minutes or so, the problem was already fixed.

It is already the 16th edition of Cine Europa and yet, some staff at Shang Cineplex are clueless about subtitling problems. I laud Shang Cineplex for hosting international film festivals. Most of the foreign films screened are for free. But, free viewing doesn't mean accepting whatever is shown onscreen. I pity those who persevered watching the film Barbara with at least half of every line of dialogue missing.

I hope the Shang Cineplex people have smarted up because I will definitely come back for more screenings. I enjoyed the film I saw yesterday titled Almanya: Willkommen in Deutschland. I'm hoping to see a gem or two during the festival's 11-day run.

screening sked,

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

OTJ: On The Job (Erik Matti, 2013)

Corrupt lawmakers. Diligent NBI agents. Enigmatic sunglass-clad lady. Making a killing at a pork house.

Eerily reminiscent of current headlines, OTJ unveils a corruption scandal so deep and wide it creeps up onto the country's highest level of government. But, your definition of a government may soon change with this film. A shadowy figure arrogantly boasts 'We are the ones running the government. We are the government.'

There are lots of things to admire with OTJ (aka On The Job). Among the top reasons is the excellent acting of the ensemble led by Joel Torre, who plays a fatherly, grizzled mentor to a would-be-assassin. It is heartbreaking to see him cooped up once more in the tinted vehicle. Just when freedom is at hand for Tatang Mario (Torre), the shadowy figures tighten their noose on his neck. They truly have a hold on nearly every one. Those who escaped their clutches and managed to return back to the straight path are soon dispatched with impunity.

Then, there's the bravura opening act set during the Feast of Saint John the Baptist. The assassination scene plunges us into the world of inmates who are released for days to work as hired killers. Years ago, a Cinema One Originals film Layang Bilanggo barely scratched the prisoners-as-assassins concept. OTJ, with a screenplay by Erik Matti and Michiko Yamamoto, presents a meatier take on the hired killing business. Just like the intern Daniel (Gerald Anderson), we get an immersion into the whole, icky pit of political killings. 

In the end, there will be two types of people crawling away from the pit. One set gets gobbled up by all the muck. Their mindset is corruption will stay and might as well dip their dirty fingers on the pot.

The other group is determined to eradicate corruption. These are the people who are willing to sacrifice their marriage and even their lives for change. Stepping out from the shadows, they stand proud on the streets and defiantly raise dirty fingers up in the air. They are not afraid to mess things up.

OTJ is one, big dirty finger pointed towards all corrupt politicians. It is also an entertaining film with amazing action set-pieces.

There is a minor quirk with the film, though. The flag is hanged improperly at the police station. The blue side of the vertical flag should be to the left side of the observer.

Director Matti is a favorite of cinephiles for his visually and stylistic takes on genre films (e.g. Pa-Siyam, Exodus) and unique art films such as a favorite of mine The Arrival. He teamed up with Dondon Monteverde to form Reality Entertainment Inc. With OTJ and Before Midnight, the duo is responsible for bringing to the screens two of the best films I’ve seen this year. With their track record, they can count on me to check out their future projects such as Kung Fu Divas.