Tambolista is a raw drama about poverty, guilt and redemption directed by Adolfo Alix Jr. One of five finalists chosen for the 2007 Cinema One Originals. The feature film stars Jiro Manio, Coco Martin, Sid Lucero, Ricky Davao, Susan Africa, Anita Linda, Fonz Deza, Simon Ibarra.Jason, 14, had one passion: playing the drums. His dream is to get a drum set of his own. But life is never as constant and regular as the beat of a drum; it often skips a beat or moves too fast. Jason's brother Billy discovers that his girlfriend is pregnant, and he needs to raise the money for an abortion. Their friend Paolo finds himself homeless, jobless, and burdened with a secret. When Jason tries to help Billy, he gets caught up in a web of betrayal and violence. He may finally be able to get his drum set, but is it worth it?

Tambolista will then be screened at Indiesine, Robinsons Galleria starting August 27, 2008.

For The First Time

For The First Time is a Filipino romantic film produced by Star Cinema and directed by Joyce Bernal. It stars Richard Gutierrez and KC Concepcion with Phillip Salvador, Jake Cuenca, Geoff Eigenmann.For the First Time follows the lives of two teenagers from very different worlds. Seth (Richard Gutierrez) is a rich, impulsive playboy who runs away from serious relationships and doesn’t give much thought to the women he goes out with, and Pia (KC Concepcion), a prude, ambitious girl who feels responsible for the tragedy she once encountered, and with a scar to constantly remind her about this unfortunate experience. But when the two accidentally meet in Santorini, their differences did not stop them from spending one unforgettable summer together—that is until Seth runs away again, scared of the very unusual feeling that is happening within him.


Love's Blunders

Caught in the act

Kilig meter definitely reached its highest peak. As well as its quality... in reverse form. Loving You certainly is a crummy film with lots of beautiful faces, with an abundance of mushy moments all marketed to raise the kilig level to extreme. But the movie is automated to self-destruct.

Tom, Jepoi, Lane, Tonee, and Bry are group of friends who work in a call center industry. Tom (JC De Veyra) and Lane (Yasmien Kurdi) are best friends. Their love is trapped in an awkward state of denial. Tom’s bestbud is Jepoi (Polo Ravales), a call center instructor. He met Cyrill (Jean Garcia), a 40-year-old professor, while they were in college. Their love is hampered by the dictates of a prejudiced society. The boyish chic in the group is Tonee (Kris Bernal). Evidently it is due from her upbringing by a lesbian couple. Things change when she meets Ryan, (Aljur Abrenico) a fellow call center trainee. The fashionista in the group is Bry. She is an aspiring model hoping for a better living. She has a live-in partner. One night, an incident made her depressed. She was comforted by Axel (John Prats), her regular cab driver. Axel has a secret crush on her.

Loving You is directed by Don Cuaresma and he sets it in the burgeoning world of the Business Process Outsourcing Industry. We had a glimpse of their lives in such an environment: we see them going to the office at night, taking lunch breaks past midnight, being accosted by fumed callers, and having drinking sessions in the early morning. It was nice to see these simple aspects of their lives. The director’s attempts to balance a love story within a particular social stratum have its own repercussions: it will be too vague or too somber. Unfortunately, Loving You is neither, as it is meandering into oblivion. If the call center surrounding has a prime importance to the story, it is expected to assess the impact of working in a tedious industry while their romantic engagements are progressing - not just mere love situations.

The liberation is a plus factor to the film. It’s engaging and gives a wider grasp for character’s response to delicate issues. The old-school harana is given a better twist though you might have not noticed it. When Ryan is waiting for a band practice, he plays his guitar while singing a self-composed song to Tonee. The ‘love fantasy’ element is much accounted for the film’s syrupy moments. Yes, a lot of it - sweetness in the rain, love proposals in public, marriage proposal in the office – and many more. For some it might look too cheesy. But a certain crowd will find it endearing.

I did like Bernal’s character and acting. She is bubbly, witty, charming and consistent. Garcia as the sophisticated forty-ish advertising manager is very sexy in that red backless evening dress. Apparently, Ravales is a call center trainer but needs more improvement in speaking English. The Garcia and Ravales love pair is a bit new to see in local movies in young romance films but their characters were flawed. Their peak scenes have dialogues that were like – speaking plunders of love. It is annoying. Prats is a bit odd to be a cab driver. Madrigal as his conquest is also odd. Her boobs might actually be bigger than him. I often confuse Abrenica for De Deyra as they look similar – apologies for I’m not a showbiz fanatic. Their names in the movie are so cool; you can’t spell them upon dictation. Kurdi and De Veyra are supposedly best friends but were caught to have special feelings with each other. It is disappointing to see a good character concept/situation executed in such a tremendously awful manner. These were young adults and they were expected to converse maturely. The script is simply lame. Even Kurdi looked constipated uttering those silly lines. It was a total disaster. And add the dubious dubbing to its blunders. Is this the new ‘tagalized’ tagalog film? Dubbing made easy to conceal all the slip-ups. Whether the film did it on purpose or through neglect, the same elements are still found wanting.

Love in any situation must be dealt with utmost sincerity. Because when you speak of love, it comes from the heart. I had all the kilig the film has to offer. But that’s about it.

Charlie Koon's Rating:


A Troubled Duo

Aging Chef

Okay I admit it, I laughed, and worse, I laughed twice. First, when Dolphy was defecating, second, at the hoarse laugh of the person seated in front of me. Dobol Trobol would be your average dumb film modernized with special effects. It’s not really a bad film: It’s a light comedy! A good technique though to appreciate this film: Leave your brains somewhere and revive it after.

The film is almost two and a half hours long and thank heavens; it abstained from the usual song and dance number. You know the customary extravaganza at the beach, in the park, or wherever. That’s a good deal for me and mind you, it’s a risk on their part. A certain crowd loves those sequences.

Dobol Trobol is about Macario, an aging chef/security officer in an exclusive resort. He is played by Dolphy Quizon. Flashback, Macario left his home due to frustration from his nagging wife, Gabriela (Carmi Martin). With the help of his best friend, he stayed at his resort to be a chef. Along came Arthur who is played by Vic Sotto. He joins a gang hoping for a job. But to his surprise, it’s a job set for robbery. The entire sequence is odd. Imagine a businessman in full professional attire, holding an attaché case. He walks out of a grill restaurant, not even a bank, being eyed for robbery by a gang. Suddenly, just like any other superhero, Arthur rescued the businessman against the thieves. Then he offered Arthur a job in the resort as a security guard. If you hated this premise, then you might have brought your brain.

When Arthur arrived in the resort, he was mistaken as a guest by Mac. Arthur took advantage of the situation, asking for incredible demands. Mac was furious upon realizing that Arthur is a fellow worker. Worse, they will share one room. Then the rumble begins.

Slapstick and burlesque were apparent comedic devices utilized in Dobol Trobol. They were predictable choices as these were easy tools in extracting laughter from a weary audience. And there were lot of these “devices” in the film. When Arthur can’t sleep due to Mac’s snoring, he did his unusual modus operandi to put an end to it. He made use of clips, handkerchiefs and even coins. The rest was like a cat-mouse chase scenario. They had their own share of revenge; from a porridge that causes constipation, to scheming with bull ants (yes talking insects), and switching toothpaste to adhesive along with other outrageous mishaps. You name it, they got it. I bet Quizon and Sotto were much involved in the conceptualization. They would certainly do stupid things just to please the audience and they’re veritably proud of it! But they had a hard time on this one though. The lead actors, no matter how experienced, looked sluggish and distraught. But by default, actors are not the only one responsible; rather it is also the director as well as the writers that should take blame. In fact, Dobol Trobol was barely written. Scripts were scratched for adlibs and gay slang. Quizon looks awkward in speaking such lingo.

In the middle of the story, Bonifacia (Riza Santos), Macario’s daughter arrived from the United States. Bonnie wanted to fix their family dispute so she headed immediately to the resort where his father, Macario, works. Her beauty captured Arthur’s heart. Bonnie will be celebrating her birthday and she wants her father to attend her party.

The storyline has a huge potential for a comedy. Luckily it was not a total failure. The prime weakness might be the direction. How could the pair of the Comedy King and the Prince of Comedy be wrong? I sensed a good chemistry in their tandem. The minimalist style of both comedians made the usual slapstick modern and pragmatic. Compared to Charlie Chaplin, which I am a big fan, you see his style is more amplified and over the top. His gags were done with a lot more endeavor corroborated with precision. And it is indeed entertaining. For Quizon and Sotto, they are more reserved but still manage to keep the audience amused, but not all the time. In these perspectives, they almost failed to meet the two primary requirements of slapstick: exquisite timing and skillful execution. Some might mistake it for a rotten parody of time-honored comedy films that Chaplin did or any other old-school comedian. But in essence, slapstick and burlesque are highly regarded comedic styles. It’s neither outdated nor rubbish. These actor/comedians crafted these styles to their sensibilities. But they still need a lot of improvement and further guidance to make their tandem enthralling and avoid too much confusion. The chemistry is there. Comedy is still alive. But it lacks vision.

Dobol Trobol is not made to be a magnum opus. It’s not intelligently written and executed. But you got to use your common sense. I used mine. In effect, it got me a couple of laughs. And I was able to revive my brain at the end of the movie.

Charlie Koon's Rating:
• The shooting location was at Canyon Woods, Tagaytay City.
• Zsa Zsa Padilla and Pia Guanio have a special participation in the film. They are the real life sweethearts of Dolphy and Vic Sotto.


Years When I Was a Child Outside

An experimental feature, Years When I Was a Child Outside, begins as an attempt by John Torres to make a documentary on his father. However, this becomes one of his many abandoned projects. In the end he decides to use the various images and sounds he has gathered to create a new film on isolation and self-expression.
The film is about the relationship between a father and son. That father, Rodolfo Torres, was a successful author and seller of self-help books, whose publishing empire collapsed at a certain point. After this disaster for the family, it also emerges that the father has yet another complete family with a wife and children. It is upon this revelation that his son decides to flee the house.

Years When I was a Child Outside is directed by John Torres and will be shown at IndieSine Robinsons Galleria from August 20 to 26, 2008.

Loving You

As the saying goes, love can be found in the most unlikely places and this time a Call center moonlights into a house of love-talking witness to the sometimes funny, sad and loveable stories of its “Cupid struck” workers:
The fresh from the US boss who secretly falls for the charms of his headstrong assistant, An aspiring model who unexpectedly found love with a cab driver, two outrageous Bestfriends who are lovers in denial, a wannabe rockstar who is clueless about his co-worker’s growing affection and an unlikely couple headed to a May-December affair.

Loving You is directed by Don Cuaresma and will be shown in theatres this August 20, 2008.


A Bewilderment of Lies and Half-truths

I Confess

“A clever person could easily negate a testament of truth.”

And it is. That’s why I won’t dare watch this pseudo art film again. This would only leave you with nausea, preaches of shallow ideologies and an insulting epilogue. Confessional is one of the films in exhibition in last year’s Cinema One Originals 2007. I have watched all five films. The films’ outcomes as well as the panel’s decision were disappointing. Although, it is totally understandable why many critics praised the film’s exploration of truth and how it conveyed a raw and intense brand of energy; that’s probably why it is hailed as one of the best pieces of contemporary cinema in the Philippines. But for me, the film’s message of truth was more of hype.

Frustrated and obsessed in seeking for the truth in work, relationships and society, Ryan Pastor, a documentary filmmaker made some time-off to look for it. Together with his girlfriend, he decides to join a documentary contest regarding the Sinulog Festival in Cebu City. Before he arrives in Cebu, Ryan had a quarrel with his girlfriend Monet and was left alone. Events suddenly took an awkward turn when he got to interview a former politician, Lito Caliso. Lito reasonably wants to confess important matters to the filmmaker. But Ryan shows reluctance.

Then, we get to see a showcase of the film’s sidelight: The Sinulog Festival. The narration of the protagonist is very much enmeshed in the entire film. We are being overwhelmed with his reactions, personal insights, and discomforts. Towards the end of act two, there is a back-story in a town in Mindanao. This is greatly connected to Lito’s personal decision to squeal all his sins. A school building project of Lito Caliso collapsed due to a weak foundation. Many people died, mostly children. We get a melodramatic side story from one of the victims, a teacher. The teacher is pregnant while her husband is being sought to kill a known politician. He certainly doesn’t want to do it. Not until the school collapsed burying his wife and unborn child. There is a total blackout in the screen, the audience only hearing the sound of children screaming and crying for help. The husband decided to seek revenge. Then we are back again in Cebu where Lito recounted all his mistakes in front of the camera. There is a threat to his life; will he be able to tell-all before his time is over?

Overall, there is nothing fresh in this film. These are recycled ideas from some of my favorite lists of films and poetic jazz music. From the dark humor and shock value created by American Beauty, to the mockumentary and gutsy style of Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, mixed with a similar voice over of Lourd de Veyra’s never ending rant about politics, society and drugs. And now we get a paranoid and discontented filmmaker searching for the truth in a plausible Utopian Society. Are we reaching for a paragon of selfish ideologies? My intellectual capacity was devalued to its dehumidified depths by the films’ expositions. Everything it was trying to show is already common knowledge. Politicians might be corrupt. Politicians do murder. Liars are everywhere. Relationships tarnish. These are all possibilities and truths.

I don’t want to argue about Confessional’s deflationary theory of truth. That the proposition ‘Lies + Lies = Truth’ is ‘true’. But when I viewed the film, how could I submit myself with their proud proposition? This is why I detest Confessional because of the entire message. But we cannot argue, as the film implies so. Confessional believes we are that indolent and accepting. Are we are in some sort of Spanish Era Part Two? Like we are in dire need of enlightenment? Confessional insinuates to us all the horrifying truths about life but in the end we would hear it say: What the heck! You know, it’s all smoke and mirrors. The entire scenario itself does not require such grandiose exhibition. This film deserves no praise for its foolishness.

I believe films are the wrong medium for truth. According to Wikipedia, truth is subjective, relative, objective or absolute. This difficult material is better written and published. I personally have no distaste for self-ideologies or political convictions. As a matter of fact, I personally liked Ayn Rand’s statements on Objectivism, Jose Saramago’s subject matters on human condition and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn revelations on Soviet Communism afflictions. These artists were hailed in their respective fields. Given that the film was written, it still does not level to these literary compositions, neither does it approach the edge of it. But one thing I did like in this film is its musical scoring. It is pleasing and could be of a quality soundtrack.

Confessional is by far the most illogical and ridiculous film made in previous years. It’s merely the first mockumentary film made in the Philippine shores, nothing more. Within its genre, let’s compare it with Borat, which I did like. Borat tries to find levity in a subject that is difficult and politically taxing, the subject of racism. It tried to illuminate the truth through humor, or at least tried to poke fun at it through racial slurs and outrageously detestable situations. It made people say, “Yeah, the world is like that, haha.” Through the film, people saw something primal, and they laughed. As for Confessional, what did this film try to accomplish? Was it being too ambitious or self-indulgent? Why was the audience initially captivated? Humans have a theoretical affliction towards the truth. Once we encounter artists who supposedly proffer it to us in a form wrapped and decorated for our viewing pleasure we naturally applaud. But once confronted by the truth, without embellishment, without ornamentation, will humans really be that pleased. One might say that vomit is too polite a response.

When the closing credits rolled, I swiftly leave the theatre as I was experiencing a minor headache because of all the ‘fine art’. Much to my expectation, the audience was so amazed. They clapped and cheered. Was it a sarcastic gesture towards my departure?

Charlie Koon's Rating:

• Confessional won 7 awards in Cinema One Originals 2007.
• Confessional won 5 awards in 24th PMPC Star Awards.
• Confessional won Best film in 10th OSIAN's CINEFAN in New Delhi, India.



Ryan Pastor knows this by heart. As a small time filmmaker, he knows how sound and images can be manipulated to say anything. And he’s tired of the lies—the lies at work, in his relationships, the lies one must keep in society just to exist. On a whim, he decides to go to Cebu to document the Sinulog festival. There he stumbles upon a truth he didn’t ask for and is reluctant to touch. One of his subjects, Lito Caliso, a former politician who may or may not be dying, decides to confess his sins—all the crimes he committed while in office—before Ryan’s camera.
What follows is a story of revelations and bitter truths, of buried secrets and sweet lies. Confessional takes you to the heart of a criminal...or an honest man.
Confessional is a mockumentary film directed by Jerrold Tarog and Ruel Antipuesto. This won the grand prize in last year’s Cinema One Originals 2007.


A Moral Quandary

Ménage à trois

If you love shopping and you have the means, you tend to buy anything. You are likely to be an impulsive buyer. Adolfo Alix Jr., likewise, is one impulsive filmmaker. He is notorious for making a handful of independent films every now and then. So what? He has the means and he’s got a statement. A statement he wants to be heard, captured and seen.

Imoral explores the dynamics of this perplex relationship summarized in the tagline: The Man… His Wife… and his Lover... Eager to start anew and avoid the repercussions of gossip in the community, the couple and his male lover moved into a new apartment. Dante is the husband who is a taxi driver played by Paolo Paraiso. His wife Abi, a former waitress, is played by Katherine Luna while his male lover, Jonathan, is an engineer played by Arnold Reyes. Their jobs respectively reflect their social status thus it is the husband’s male lover’s obligation to provide for their living. Things take a drastic turn when Dante discovers a bag full of money inside his taxi.

Genuine intentions of this film surpass the licentious theme being undertaken. Perverts are sure to be thwarted when viewing this film. The film has no purpose to showcase Kama Sutra techniques worthy for a trio. Although the film branding is towards the sexually 'curious' men who would definitely go delirious upon knowing beforehand that two straight guys will be kissing in this film. Admit it; it’s a come-on treat having Paolo Paraiso kissing their one and only Dodong, Arnold Reyes. Anyway I don’t want to discuss the gayness in this ‘gay film’ or so they say as this film has a lot more to discuss and will be altogether analyzed in the years to come.

When Dante found the money in his taxi, there were a lot of things to be pondered. His father has an ailing disease, he has high hopes to have his placing fee for Dubai, vis-à-vis his wife’s sentiments and his lover's principles. What would be his decision? Well, you have to watch it yourself. You might be surprised that you’ll come up with your own conclusion.

Acting-wise, the three lead actors are pretty good. There is neutrality implicated towards the release of their emotions. In effect, you are obligated to fill up the cracks and be the extension of affection to these beguiling characters. You might view it as a sad film. Individuality is a factor to the film’s entire appeal. In my view, I saw this as a positively funny film with crude wit.

Alix probably disdains film expositions and explanations. This film will move your brain cells freely. Imoral has a statement you might detest but it could not be ignored. A statement that is humorous and unique.

If I may ask you, what would you do if you found a bag full of money? Unlike morality, money is a thing you can actually touch.

Charlie Koon's Rating:
· Arnold Reyes played the role Dodong, the love interest of Ada. Dodong is the character in the musical play Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah.
· This is the 8th directorial film of Adolfo Alix Jr in a span of two years. Two more films are on it's way: Kalayaan and Manila.


Torotot (Destierro)

Torotot (Destierro) is a film directed by Maryo J. delos Reyes and written by Jun Lana which explores the story of two couples, why and how their marriages crumble and how their infidelity and passion brought them tragic endings. Leo and Marie (Baron Geisler and Maui Taylor) are having marital problems because the woman is spending too much time with her pet dogs. This prompts Leo, the art director of ad agency, to have a one-night stand. Marie then confronts her husband about his infidelity and plots her own revenge.

Another couple experiencing marital problems featured in the movie is composed of Gabby and Rita (Yul Servo and Precious Adona). The husband has to deal with pre-mature ejaculation but Rita doesn't mind at all. That is until she meets the very aggressive Gaston (a married meat vendor) who awakens her appetite for lust and forbidden passion.

Torotot will have it's Director's Cut Premiere in UP Film Institute on August 9, 2008 and hit theaters nationwide starting August 20, 2008.



Paolo Paraiso, Katherine Luna, and Arnold Reyes bring life to the true story of a three-way relationship in Adolf Alix Jr.'s latest project, Imoral.

Written by Gerry Gracio of Santa-Santita fame, Imoral tackles the dynamics of the relationship between a husband, his wife and his lover as they all live in one house. Paolo portrays the bisexual taxi driver who divides his time between his lover and his wife. Katherine is a former waitress who is now selling beauty products for a living. Theater actor Arnold Reyes plays an engineer who is nurturing lover of Paolo. By living with such an arrangement, the three lovers become the target of the community. Things take a drastic turn when Dante (Paolo) sees a bag full of money inside his taxi. Now that they have money, will they still decide to stay together or go their separate ways?

It opens on August 6, 2008 at the IndieSine of Robinsons Galleria. The film is produced by Videoflick Productions Inc.

A Surprisingly Special Love… Indeed

Sun dance is not anymore an Ancient ritual

Every local film pitched with a romantic theme will never escape this harsh pre-judgment; it is a copycat, baduy or trashy. As the saying goes, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” But in reality, not all of us are critics, who have a lot of time in their hands to check out this “chick flick” to reassure the relevance of this adage.

A Very Special Love is a romantic comedy film produced by Star Cinema, directed by Cathy Garcia-Molina and written by Raz dela Torre. The story is about a moody Editor-in-chief Miggy Montenegro who is in the verge of losing his staff as well as his men’s magazine, Bachelor. Laida, a naïve young girl, applies as an Editorial Assistant hoping to be close with the man she dreams of every night. The plot is fairly identifiable to the movie The Devil Wears Prada wherein a recent college graduate gets a job as an assistant to a powerful magazine editor. But this time, it is a love story. Although originality in the story is not a strong quality nevertheless the basic necessities of a Romantic Comedy were all addressed.

Geronimo’s performance in particular was quite a revelation. From her quirky antics, and humorous lines, to her on-screen charisma, the audience can’t stop laughing and crying and giggling and laughing again, a metaphoric state just like the theme, Love. On the other note, Cruz’s character was made complex and was wisely portrayed. He plays a not-so-likeable character you will despise at first sight. But as the film thoroughly progress, you will sympathize with him and be captivated with his charisma. I don’t want to elaborate any further as to how his character was layered as this might reveal the twists.

The probably advantage in having Star Cinema produce a film is the technical quality will not be compromised. Although I have qualms in certain dialogue scenes that were dubbed and its live recording needs to be improved. Too much musical scoring is what I loath in most mainstream local films. Moderation might ultimately be the cure.

Romantic comedy films are movies with light-hearted, humorous plotlines, centered on romantic ideals such as true love being able to surmount most obstacles. This is what this film offers. It is simple in definition, but hard to attain. It is a rare treat to watch a film in this genre and be able to say in the end, it was pleasing… and funny indeed.

Charlie Koon's Rating:
Negative Reviews:
See also my review of: You Changed My Life
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