Oh My Girl!

OMG! (Oh My Girl!) (Click on the title for my review) is a romcom film directed by Dante Nico Garcia. It stars Judy Ann Santos and Ogie Alcasid. Also in the cast are Manilyn Reynes, Roderick Paulate, carmi Martine, John Prats, Sheena Halili, Jon Avila, Carlo Aquino and Frenchy Dy.It is shown in theatres nationwide starting July 29, 2009.


Yanggaw is a horror film directed by Richard Somes. It is one of the films in competition in last year's Cinema One Originals. It stars Ronnie Lazaro, Joel Torre, Tetchie Agbayani, Aleera Montalla and Erik Matti.
It will be shown at Indiesine Robinsons from July 29 to August 4, 2009.
Charlie Koon Film Review: Yanggaw
Charlie Koon's Rating:


Mellow the Drama

I'm kindda nostalgic

Sanglaan is written and directed by Milo Sogueco whom I am reluctant to praise even though the technicalities are quite efficient and above par. The story is not really light. The heavy musical scoring is on the cusp of evoking urgent emotional environs even the drama has not taken place yet. But it is not only that, the situation is verging on the unlikable aspect of melodrama which I think was not intended by the film. In simpler terms, Sanglaan could be the damp squib of the competition due to a good casts of efficient actors.

Sanglaan is about the lives of the people that some way or another has an involvement in the pawnshop owned by the strict Olivia (Tessie Tomas). The assistant is Amy played by Ina Feleo. Other characters intermingling with the two are the old couple (Flor Salanga and Jess Evardone), a seaman played by Joem Bascon and Amy’s suitor Henry (Neil Ryan Sese). The little twist in the story is the love angle not between Amy and Henry but more on Amy’s stubborn fondness towards David, the prince charming turned seaman.

Since the cues I am hearing from the start of the film states that it is a melodrama, then don’t expect much on the humorous side from the comic Tessie Tomas. And do expect a lot of tissues getting wet as the story weaves through since it really is drama that you are watching. I am not complaining but the entire story lacks true urgency and has splattered aims for the individuals for the sake of getting through life’s harshest challenge. It’s baffling to me that most of the films (its the new trend) want to show a metaphor just for the sake of having one, but has no control of its intention.

There are lots to complain with the acting, except for Amy, who I think has the best character development in them all. Tomas is a wonderful actress but just like her performance in 100, the directors could have been too shy to guide her in the drama arena. She fails to shine in a way wherein she must go against the banality of melodramatic actors. Well aside from the fact that David is the long gone prince charming of Amy, his character lacks development. Flor Salanga goes over the top in most parts; she should have been guided with her acting approach. I think Sogueco has to balance both sides of the stream.

Sanglaan will surely inundate you with dried out tears. Despite having a well-made cinematography (bright), flawless camera works and other behind-the-scene aspect which makes up for its technical superiority, the film could not be at the same level with other better films in the competition. It is not even a good dramatic film. Sanglaan won two acting awards for Best Actress? (Ina Feleo) and Best Supporting Actress? (Tessie Tomas). Just like the jury who gave the awards, Sanglaan could not differentiate the appropriate melodramatic flavors to stand out in the dramatic category. And I prefer Tessie Tomas in the comedy genre wherein she shines all throughout.
Charlie Koon's Rating:

Embellish it with Humor

Oh my effin God!
Last Supper No. 3 is definitely one of the crowd-pullers of this year’s Cinemalaya Film Festival. It has a real plum to begin with due to the nature of its material. It is a comedy about our judicial system, a flawed one as a matter of fact. The film executes it well without being too harsh in its predilections. The writer/director Veronica Velasco with co-writer Jinky Laurel has made a film that could be an eye-opener with some tummy-tickling on the side.

Wilson Nañawa (Joey Paras) is an assistant production designer who has a new project in hand. He has to make an authentic lower to middle class look for a dining room. It is a commercial for a mouth-watering corned beef. He is tasked to look for a last supper that will be used as a prop with the help of his assistant Andoy (JM de Guzman). They got three last suppers but on the day of the shooting, the third one has gone missing.

Velasco certainly improved in terms of technical execution compared to the well-acted and well written film Maling Akala which she also co-directed together with Pablo Biglang-awa. She is also well-rounded since the previous film is a drama and now she tries her hand in the comedy genre. The craftsmanship did improve since Maling Akala. I remember stating that there are scenes that are too repetitive. Last Supper No. 3 is well paced; the scenes are more compact and coherent. That is very vital in comedies since the execution itself has to be swift and upfront.

Problems arise when Gareth (Jojit Lorenzo) asks for a big amount for the lost Last Supper. After a meeting with the barangay officials, things did not end well when Andoy defends himself from being attacked by Gareth. In effect, Gareth immediately files a case for Estafa and Physical Injury against the two. Then the riotous adventures of Wilson begin with further pleasantry on its way.

The comedy could be a mixture of farce and social satire. It is also distressing to think that our very own mishaps could be of great use to comedic narratives. The humor that it has gotten into is not entirely offensive if it has the pretense to mock our own judicial system. The problem is it is flawed to a degree and is downright slow. Classic lines are installed in court cases with numerous references to audacious lawyers, dramatic testimonies and even common jargons that could also be a form of parody.

I wonder what the story could have become if it was more focused on Andoy’s character. Certainly it would be totally unexciting. The openly gay character of Wilson did help with its aim to amplify a simple occurrence. The quirkiness of his character pays a big tribute to make the film funnier. The executions have no intention to make use of slapstick so the acting approach is more realistic. I think what is funny in our generation has changed. Today, audiences love wit and humor, especially for intelligent viewers who think that fun is a serious matter that affirms their own substance. I am not complaining and I am positive about the film. We really are good in comedies. My only complain is that the audience we have right now certainly has a tainted understanding of the true value of comedies. The best part is there are directors like Veronica Velasco who could mock on something and we could easily laugh about it without pretensions.
Charlie Koon's Rating:

Death is in our Midst

Real-time look

Pepe Diokno, the director of Engkwentro, has method in his madness. He definitely commits to a vision that most artist won’t even dare to touch. I admire the efforts that were put into this film not just for its bravery or its technical style (which I may say is not entirely original) but for the simple reason that the film has something to say. He is not just babbling a condition of a city that was ruled by Vanity. If I was not aware that I am in the studio theatre, I would think that I was deployed to hell. The guts and rawness of the film certainly worked for this one. Engkwentro might not be for all but its material is so interesting; the film could really pull a rabbit out of a hat.

Let’s be more scholastic this time and start with the technique they used in the film. The film has borrowed the theory of real time. In this film, it happens in a day with almost only four or even five super long takes. The technique is ideal due to the nature of the scenes. It involves a chase between the death squad and the protagonist of the film. The technique itself is not new to me but the usage is quite effective like Jeffrey Jeturian’s Kubrador and even Adolfo Alix’ Adela. In foreign filmmakers, Gus Van Sant’s Elephant also has the same approach of long takes. It also have the roughness and grittiness of Gaspar Noe’s Irreversible. It is pretty much a style trend nowadays and there are other films of the same ilk but do not take into consideration the logic of its usage.

The film is about two brothers who are stuck in a city where death happens everyday. Richard (Felix Roco) is being chased by the death squad. While Raymond,(Daniel Medrana) his younger brother, joins the Batang Dilim gang which is a rival gang of his elder brother. Richard decides to run away with his girlfriend Jenny Jane (Eda Nolan) but was thwarted by Tomas, (Zyrus Desamparado) the leader of Batang Dilim gang. After a while, it was revealed that Raymond’s final task is to kill Richard in order for him to be an official member of the gang.

Since the shots of the film mostly linger on the slums of Davao, the film has a radio voiceover of the city Mayor Danilo Suarez. He announces himself as the catalyst of change. He enunciates his great works with the cities cleanliness, peace and prosperity while we see the endless squalors right in front of our eyes. We follow the protagonist while hearing a simple voiceover.

Pride could be the best theme I could give for the film (I excuse myself from ‘politics’ ha-ha). This goes to all the characters. The gang members think highly of themselves and their strengths; think they could get away with anything. It is also the same with the death executioners. I wonder why the city Mayor defends himself from accusations he gets from the volunteers of Human Rights. Well, he promotes peace and prosperity; he could have stopped the killing spree of young juveniles, particularly street children and junkies. Not unless he could not control his own compulsions. Anyhow, the bravery towards ones principles could only be measured by the extremity of their acts. Cowardice is the effect of their vanity and their mouth-watering principles only delights their own bellies.

Engkwentro enlightens the ‘poor me’ ideology in my system. I know the atrocities we have in life but I never realized that there are people who could make Earth a living Hell. The fact that this was made into a film gives reason to its importance. Our life here on Earth could not be taken away by limp-minded people. Engkwentro is a film that most people should see - if they are daring enough to have a glimpse of Hell.
Charlie Koon's Rating:

Drag me to the Pit

Show me the bling-bling

24K is a film that is made by a woman (Ana Agabin) with an all-male cast. The material itself is too manly and I think it has gone overboard on being quite technical in the approach. Surely some of the audience when I screened the film had some laughing time in trivialities not to mention the comical rendition of masculine characters digging Yamashita’s treasure in the vast mountain of Ilocos Sur. Despite an exceptional cinematography and well-acted casts, the story lacks urgency in order for it to be hailed as one of the best films in the festival.

The story is pretty simple. The story is about treasure hunters of gold bars. They dig holes; get dirt out of it until they find something. That’s it. So you will see how deep the hole is and how it fascinates them that somehow, they believe that gold bars are there buried for decades. Manok is played by Julio Diaz who has an obsession with the treasure hunting trade. He even left his pregnant wife just to catch up on the site where their other buddies, Karlo and Arturo, have already established a spot for the gold digging. He is accompanied by Freddie (Archi Adamos) and Boyet (Jojit Lorenzo) into the ultimate quest of dirt digging.

One interesting aspect is not entirely the foremost in the story. It is the insertion of cultural traditions being practiced from the northern region. One of this is the Ensalay Ritual. This was witnessed by Manok upon going down the mountain. It is a ritual of good harvest. Speaking of rituals, Boyet is the most courteous in terms of respecting rituals. They always offer food for the spirits in the mountains and believe that having a clear conscience would help in finding the fortune that is now owned by the supernatural spirits. At the start of the film, they had to kill a rooster to seek signs of good fortune for their quest. It is in the gall bladder that the signs will emerge. Despite their respect through offering, human greed could definitely be a warning of impending disaster.

24K is just adequate in terms of its meticulous camera works and cinematography. They have captured intricate scenes inside the dungeon. They also had an elaborate production design for the mining. There are also invigorating shots made in the Rice Terraces in the region while the native inhabitants dancing their way to the sky. But the story has failed to expand the material without losing its simplicity. There are other story devices that could pump up the film but it has been hanging on unsafe grounds. 24K could still be enjoyed but it is more into the technical aspect which most audience does not care about.

Charlie Koon's Rating:

Underdeveloped Madness

Where's the Genie?

Nerseri is directed by Vic Acedillo Jr. It receives the least of my admiration in the competition. I have to disagree with its attempt of depicting a deranged family. I certainly understand the illness and I think they are bordering on the clichés with just a pinch of the true nature of the madness. Although it tries to change the color palette with hues and saturations for artistic merits, I still do not buy to the entirety.

The color palette is interesting but that is just about it. I am not a symbologist like Langdon to further interpret anything that I would see. That would be the start of my insanity. It is up to the audience to interpret it. Mai (Jacklyn Jose) is a mother who is more casual about the abnormalities happening in their house. His eldest son Dean (Lance Raymundo) is a junkie who has manic tendencies every now and then. The other brother Jun (Alwyn Uytingco) is also a drug addict who constantly hears voices. Lyn (Claudia Enriquez) is the sister who is a total weirdo and sometimes she just bangs her head on the wall. The youngest is Cocoy (Timothy Mabalot) who is perfectly normal. He even masturbates at a time when Dean is hallucinating. One day, Mai decides to sell their land in Bohol. It is up to Cocoy to take care of his other siblings apart from his own sanity.

Jacklyn Jose is well reserved as the mother. It could be true that taking care of orchids is one therapy to alleviate her from the stressful day to day situations she is experiencing inside their home (I doubt she will talk to the orchids). The story basically progresses while Mai is far from their home and Cocoy do the normal chores in store for him. But months have passed since they lacked the support from their mother (similar to Koreeda’s Nobody Knows) and he experiences the downside of the illness of Dean and Lyn.

The interesting aspect of the film is its attempt to inundate the viewers with the colors of the images. Has this something to do with the insanity aspect of getting colors that are of no ordinary tones? I guess so. The story is basically more into the situational type or is it from the director’s personal experience? It is not really something that we should rave about. Yes it is simple but it lacks the authenticity of being demented. Since most of the characters are like that, well it is expected to integrate a more careful depiction of the characters. The film is more on the trivialities involved like will the young Cocoy be insane too? I think we need to assess the sickness itself. Is it really a threat? There are certain films that have tackled this with a more natural approach in their relationships. They have been subtle all along; they should have stuck with it all along.

Well, nothing is really all good in festivals. This could be the least kind of film that I would like and could commend in the further screening. The only interest the filmmaker has is something very visual, more in tune with the colors and the possible effect of the style to the viewers. Well for me, everybody has a ‘tic’ in our head that would create a different tone in our perceptions.

Charlie Koon's Rating:

A Stronger Foundation

Let's talk more often

Laya is not the carefree type of woman. She is a deconstruction of the female psyche. She thinks like a man and her principles are similar to men. This is how she is and has become. She confesses that her father sleeps with her when she was a child. Mangatyanan is the second film of the Camera Trilogy directed by Jerrold Tarog. The first film Confessional, I did not like. In fact, I was really insulted. It is not about the technique that I did not like. I just always consider stories to be crucial element in films. Mangatyanan made something exquisite. The mixture of our dying culture and the human condition are combined to exteriorize the frailties of our existence.

Why did I admire Mangatyanan and not Confessional? Confessional is pretentious. It was trendy during the time wherein most film enthusiasts are so frustrated with how our films have become. In effect, they have a high regard for brave filmmakers. But that was just a fad. Now, I think the majority of film aficionados could easily mock the brave. When filmmakers go back to the essence of film which is to tell meaningful stories, regardless of whether it is brave or candid, it will be praised for its ingenuity. Mangatyanan is an example. It definitely has a good story. It is about us. They talk about the people who are not merely fixated into life’s trivialities just for the heck of individualism. Now, we have a character that has the right to be who she is. The protagonist of the film, Laya Marquez played by Che Ramos has the bravura in extending certain aspects of humanity that is too soaring to be synthesized. It is hard to understand the courage of the principles she has acquired, but that is the blood of the film. This is the life that should flow into our own existence.

The mere fact that Jerrold Tarog’s name has registered into my memory, that a certain filmmaker has a recall could be very important. Tarog has definitely improved and has fused his technical expertise with a good story (Ramon Ukit). A trilogy in general has a common theme. They are not expected to be a continuation of the first or the second. Famous filmmakers have done this way of focused storytelling. Ingmar Bergman has made a trilogy that centers on a spiritual theme (Through a Glass Darkly — conquered certainty, Winter Light — penetrated certainty, The Silence — God's silence — the negative imprint). It is also same with a more contemporary approach by Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Death Trilogy (Amores Perros, 21 Grams and Babel). Tarog made use of the camera in order to base the commonality of the previous story with the recent one.

Laya is also suffering from an injury that now haunts her. His father Danilo played by Pen Medina is dying and her mother played by Irma Adlawan tries to patch things up. Laya resists without giving her reasons. She shuts herself from her ‘obligations’ and goes up quickly to Isabela for her job assignment. Little is told about her even with the insistence of her boss played by Neil Ryan Sese to open up. It is only in her conscience that we are introduced to Laya, a woman that tries to be normal for society’s sake but will never forgive a father who taught her what she is today. But the consistency of her courage will also have its toll. The tribe is headed by Mang Renato (Publio Briones III) who is very strict and devoted to the ritual. Through the ritual, Laya gets more bravery to face a daunting task to resist her own predilection.

Mangatyanan could still have the vibrant social commentaries relayed in Confessional. But in this one, it is more subdued in the context of political beliefs. Well, it is already in our blood to relate every aspect of our lives to the political arena. Mangatyanan on my perspective has deeply penetrated the harshness of our own beliefs. We have no right to human condemnation but we are reaffirmed by the task in hand which is to forgive. I have to say that most of the films in the Cinemalaya competition are really good. But Mangatyanan excels from the rest of the films in competition.
Charlie Koon's Rating:

Feel it Instead

Let's stare at each other

Dinig Sana Kita is the indie-kilig, a crossbreed of High school Musical and the gummy bear film series starring John Lloyd Cruz and Sarah Geronimo. I am certain that this will rake megabucks in the succeeding screenings. And if the screams resonate to unbearable excess, hopefully no one gets out of the movie house with bleeding ears. I was silent all throughout the screening. I myself could not get away with its sweet assortments. Yes, they made my heart scream in abysmal silence, at least no one would hear.

The film is simple and very basic; it is about the love between two people. At first, you might get baffled with how these two characters will work on-screen. But they did. Niña (Zoe Sandejas) is the typical angst-rich girl who loves music. She is the vocal singer of a rock band. Kiko (Romalito Mallari) is a deaf-mute who loves to dance. One intense night, they both got into trouble. Unfortunately for Niña, the school administration was all ears regarding her whereabouts for her rebellious behavior and decided to kick her out. But Dr. Raffy Mendoza (Robert Seña) mediates and asks Niña to reconsider a sort of retreat with deaf-mutes in Baguio. Upon Niña’s arrival, Kiko remembers her face. He was a bit attached and intrigued with Niña. One day, Niña’s behavior has caused a minor disturbance in the activities and Kiko immediately helps, causing Niña to make more violent outbursts which she directs towards Kiko.

Something is wrong with Niña. There is a cause of her recalcitrance. It goes somewhere deep into her personality. We could easily predict that it has connections with her past or even family matters. While watching this film, I remember Agaton & Mindy. It has a similar anti-tragic and the anti-romantic kind of film. There is nothing wrong with it to be honest. Going back to the similarities, Dinig Sana Kita is more polished in terms of technicalities. Niña is also more likeable. She could be the polished version of Mindy with slighter insanity for the sake of better perception for the audience. Kiko is not just a talent but also has the magnetism especially for the romantics. These aspects are important because it is a romantic film and the two leads should have film presence to be a viable love pair.

Just like what Gallaga did in Agaton & Mindy, the love aspect is not the entire focal point. Given that the characters have attitudes, the problems arise not merely in connection to the possible love between the two but also with their interrelationships with the people around them. Niña does not go along very well with her father. Kiko is an orphan. See what love can do between these two people. They only face their problems when they get inspired by someone. It is also possible that it gives them courage to make a move. The story progression is a bit calculative with the events but it seems that the resolution ends the way it is expected to end. That is again the artsy factor of indie-kilig made films.

Dinig Sana Kita could pull you on a personal level. It seems that anyone, even those who are not deaf, could easily relate to it. It is easy to like this film and the two characters are lovely as well. Well, it could lack the artistic vision that Cinemalaya is looking for. But Dinig Sana Kita gets hold of audience that could sustain its aim for a wider territory in terms of reaching the common people. In that way, it still succeeds. This could be your pre-New Moon screening. You know what I am talking about. If you do, Dinig Sana Kita will definitely make you listen.
Charlie Koon's Rating:

What a Journey

Where's my uniform?

This is the first film that I have seen and the only one that required a second viewing (since its first screening had a technical problem). I am a bit compulsive in not deviating from a well-planned schedule. So I have to endure the technological malfunction and the queasy visuals. I was relieved after my second screening for the reason that despite the irrevocable film crash that happened on its first screening, my assessment of the film is much higher for improved visual experience.

Colorum is about Simon (Alfred Vargas), a young cop who inadvertently meets an ex-convict named Pedro (Lou Veloso) while driving his illegal FX taxi along the metropolis. Upon reaching the end route, Pedro still could not direct him to the Oasis Bus Liner. Simon courteously offers to bring him to the terminal. While they are arguing and looking for signs, Simon accidentally hit a man on the street. Fear of getting busted with his illegal taxi, he locked Pedro as advised by his godfather (Archie Adamos) and embarked on a road trip to Visayas to avoid probable incarceration.

So from that premise alone, we are now wary to avoid misfortune. If Simon could have known from the start that Pedro was an ex-convict, he could have made a pass. Before they meet, it was revealed that Pedro is looking for his only son after thirty years of being in prison. He tried to re-establish his relationship but his son obviously stands firm to cut the ties. The interesting feature in Pedro is that he was played by the pleasing and talented comic actor Lou Veloso. If not for him, I would not even care for the character. Since Veloso is the one playing it, the character of Simon could not resist but help. I would certainly do the same.

Alfred Vargas is a good choice for the role and he played the character without superfluities that most mainstream actors are supposedly known. In here, he was still charming and his approach is very minimalist. His competence as an actor is tested upon his pairing with Veloso. The younger-senior combination swiftly coheres upon the progression of the story. It is a good duo even when there are characters that interfere, both actors shine all throughout. Some might be indifferent with the intervention of minor characters; the failed writer, a teenage girl who is seeking for an abortion and a sham religious preacher. But the movie is most likely in the road trip genre and they have a destination. The director also used situational story devices to enhance the journey by creating blocks, detours and even stopovers. The characters themselves are mere situational devices used to show how a created tandem would react in different social contexts. The essence of its entirety is that it will have logic. Colorum has simple aims with the situations they have presented but the add-ons made the film more convincing and engaging.

This is Jon Steffan Ballesteros first venture into film directing. He wrote it together with fellow screenwriters Diana Malahay (Baby Angelo) and Jerry Gracio (Astig, Imoral). Colorum has also its faults. First, I remember one sequence where Pedro’s character in spite of being a sinner and an ex-criminal, he lectures way too much. This is where the saying less is more could have been applied. Anyway, this could be minor but could really make a little or considerable difference. Hopefully, the promise they have shown here will still improve for their future films. Stories are the important element in films. Just like in Colorum, some lessons are learned the harder way.
Charlie Koon's Rating:


And the Winners Are...?

Okay... before I post my reviews, I am again upset with how they award trophies for this year's Cinemalaya Film Festival. I have no problem with the Best Film which is Last Supper No. 3 since its one of the films I gave a higher rating. Colorum and Ang Panggagahasa kay Fe also deserves the Jury Prize. But for the rest, I doubt their decision.

1. Best Actress - Ina Feleo
She is not even the lead role in Sanglaan. But I do admire her acting on this film. But its not just right. Tessie Tomas is the lead actress. Do they know how to categorize? I could not find the names of the jury members. I would not be surprised if Laurice Guillen is there. Irma Adlawan (although I think her role as Fe is her comfort zone) or Che Ramos should have won.

2. Best Director - GB Sampedro
The style is too Amoresian, that is why the film is nearly well-made. Why not have Diokno win for its vision of a society without morals. Or even Yapan for evoking the perfect mood and brave usage of mythical creatures. Or even Tarog for its depiction of human condition and the collapse of tribe ritual. But not Sampedro...

3. Best Actress in a Leading Role - Tessie Tomas
Again, she should not win even in the Lead Actress category. Trying to be subtle but she has made an over-the-top dramatic acting performance in the climax. I'm disinclined to praise her.

4. Best Actor - Lou Veloso
It is Alfred Vargas who is the lead actor in Colorum. Maybe if he was in the Supporting Category, Veloso deserves to win. Still questionable category

5. Best Actor in Supporting Role - Arnold Reyes
I don't agree. Lou Veloso should be on this category. Reyes is not as good as Edgar Allan Guzman in the same film. And there are other actors who are more worthy for this award.

Just like Cinema One Originals last year, the awards are always and will be questionable. They have to raise the standards more higher. I hate to think if it is politically motivated and run by padrino system. But I hope they will be more detach or else, winning in the next coming years is not that worthy to have. Charlotte Rampling's character in Swimming Pool could be partly true. Sarah Morton said: 'Awards are like hemorrhoids. Sooner or later every asshole gets one.'


Cinemalaya Pre-Review and Predictions

Quick Updates:
I have just finished watching all ten films for this year's competition. Hopefully I could post my individual reviews by the end of the week. For now, I will just post the ratings (objective as possible) and bets. (You don't have to believe it okay)

Charlie Koon's Ratings:
Colorum by Jon Steffan Ballesteros
Dinig Sana Kita by Mike Sandejas
Mangatyanan by Jerrold Tarog
Nerseri by Vic Acedillo Jr.
Astig by GB Sampedro
24K by Ana Agabin
Ang Panggagahasa kay Fe by Alvin Yapan
Last Supper No. 3 by Veronica Velasco
Engkwentro by Pepe Diokno
Sanglaan by Milo Sogueco
Charlie Koon's Bets:

Best Film - Mangatyanan
Best Director - Pepe Diokno (Engkwentro)
Best Actor - Romalito Mallari (Dinig Sana Kita)
Best Actress - Che Ramos (Mangatyanan)
Top 3 Films in the Box Office - Astig, Dinig Sana Kita and Last Supper No. 3


Cinemalaya Cinco!

Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival will be held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines on July 17-26, 2009.
The opening film will be Manila, a film directed by Adolfo Alix Jr. and Raya Martin. It stars Piolo Pascual with Rosanna Roces, Angelica Panganiban, Alessandra de Rossi, William Martinez, Iza Calzado, Baron Geisler, Jon Avila, Jay Manalo and the legendary actress Anita Linda. There are also special participations from John Lapuz, Katherine Luna, Aleck Bovick, Menggie Cobarrubias and Marissa Delgado.

It is open for public viewing, for free I think (but I doubt if you'll be able to see it if you're 'the others'...). Its a first-come-first-serve basis (line up at around 12nn... joke!) and the film will start at 7:30pm. I remember my experience with the premiere of Independencia last June 12, a little bird told me that the free viewing can only accomodate 20-30 (for 'the others') people. The other tickets were already reserved (at around 150-200 tickets) for the rest of the crew and their friends. I lined-up at around 3pm for the 6pm release (not typical of me lining up). Good thing there was another screening after 8pm just to accomodate 'the others'. But I was able to join the 8pm screening (the early bird, catches the worm). Anyway, if you're not that lucky, the commercial release of Manila will be next week, July 22, 2009 at selected cinemas nationwide. Star Cinema is the official distributor of the film.

Ten films will compete in the full-length category. Click on the titles for my reviews. These are 24K by Ana Agabin; Ang Panggagahasa kay Fe by Alvin Yapan; Astig by GP Sampedro; Colorum by Jon Steffan Ballesteros; Dinig Sana Kita by Mike Sandejas; Engkwentro by Pepe Diokno; Last Supper No. 3 by Veronica Velasco and Jinky Laurel; Mangatyanan by Jerrold Tarog; Nerseri by Vic Acedillo Jr. and Sanglaan by Milo Sogueco. For schedules, click here.

Aside from this, the first Cinemalaya-NETPAC competition will premiere nine films. These are Aurora by Adolfo Alix Jr.; Baseco Bakal Boys by Ralston Jover; Bayaw by Monti Parungao; Boy by Auraeus Solito; Handumanan by Seymour Barros Sanchez; Karera by Adolfo Alix Jr.; Latak by Jowee Morel; Prince of Cockfighting by Yeng Grande and Walang Hanggang Paalam by Paolo Villaluna and Ellen Ramos.

Special Screenings will also be held for the following films: Independencia by Raya Martin, Melancholia by Lav Diaz and Serbis by Brillante Mendoza.

For the LGBT community, a special screening will be held for recent full-length films. Click on the title for my reviews. These are Dose by Senedy Que; Heavenly Touch by Joel Lamangan; Jay by Francis Pasion; Quicktrip by Cris Pablo; Selda by Paolo Villaluna and Ellen Ramos; Thank You Girls by Charliebebs Gohetia and The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela by Olaf de Fleur Johanneson.

Lastly, there is another sidebar called Indie Ani: A Harvest of Recent Full-length Features. Click on the title for my reviews. These are 100 by Chris Martinez; Agaton & Mindy by Peque Gallaga; Alon by Byron Bryant; Bente by Mel Chionglo; Concerto by Paul Alexander Morales; Confessional by Jerrold Tarog; Ded na si Lolo by Soxie Topacio; Fausta by Felino Tanada; Forgotten War by Carlo Marco Cruz; Imburnal by Sherad Anthony Sanchez; Kamoteng Kahoy by Maryo J. delos Reyes; Kolorete by Rouello Lozendo; Litsonero by Lore Reyes; Manong by Arnold Argano; Motorcycle by Jon Red; Next Attraction by Raya Martin; Padyak by Aloy Adlawan; UPCAT by Roman Olivares and Yanggaw by Richard Somes.

Charlie Koon Recommends:

Two films that have gotten my attention in my one year of film reviewing are Alon and Independencia. Alon is directed by Byron Bryant and is the highest rating I have given so far (4.5/5) and is my top film of last year. The last time I saw an exceptional film was Kubrador by Jeffrey Jeturian. Its hard to praise any art film just for the sake of being different or too experimental. Cinematic Integrity is the most important of all. If you will ask me, I prefer a well-made story than style. Alon excelled in having a rich and well-knitted narrative and well-researched characters. This is a superior work. It could penetrate your soul; as this film conveys love on its simplest form. I admire Mark Gil's performance. He's subtle. He's got style. He's just an outstanding actor.
In terms of being a good technician and crafting a film with a lot of promise, Raya Martin is the man to beat. Take note, I did not like Indio Nacional and Next Attraction. Raya Martin impressed me with his unique approach towards storytelling. And it is mostly all about our Filipino heritage. There are flaws in this film like Sid Lucero's obscure acting style and way too lyrical dialogue executions. Its just not right. But Alessandra shines all-throughout without any effort with her minimalist acting approach, it looks very natural. The overall creation of an artificial backdrop did create a bit of controversy. For me, its what he intended to do in the first place and the execution was too obvious for us to validate its synthetic appeal. The important aspect is that, Martin's got balls to do this stuff and this film could be a turning point of his increasing maturity as a filmmaker
Special Mention:If you love comedies, I recommend Ded na si Lolo directed by Soxie Topacio.

Ticket Prices:
Regular Tickets are priced at 100 pesos while students can buy for only 50 pesos.
Day Pass are priced at 300 pesos. (5 screenings per day)
Festival Pass are priced at 1000 pesos. (All screenings)

Let’s Switch Souls

Am I still... Me?

Villa Estrella could be best described as a mainstream montage, a papier-mâché piñata of Rico Maria Ilarde’s lesser known films. Numerous reference are seen in this film that has been employed from the mysterious lady coming out of the water of Sa Ilalim ng Cogon, the water element also present in Shake Rattle and Roll 2k5 segment ‘Aquarium’. The religious iconography, gun chasing incidents and twist obsessions of Altar is quite perceivable as well. I have seen all of these films. I could say that Ilarde is not only inspired to make horror features, making a credible name in the genre, but also has the skills both as a technician and a storyteller. Villa Estrella is an entertaining suspense story with a dash of romance and horror twists.

Altar could have been a good commercial release but unfortunately it did not happen. But I could still be right in what I said in my review of the film. It is easy to discern independent filmmakers who could be really useful in the mainstream film industry. This is especially for their artistic skills to be employed and blend it with film economics, you could never complain. I also felt the same way with the indie director Jade Castro’s romantic film Endo, the director of the mainstream romantic film My Big Love (although I was not able to record or write what I have said in that). Ilarde’s artistry surely did not suffer and have made really bold moves especially in his recent film.

Ana (Shaina Magdayao) is an advertising agent who is suffering from an abusive father played by John Estrada. She is forced to make up with Alex (Jake Cuenca), the son of his best buddy played by John Arcilla. They are business partners and his father is convinced that the reconciliation with her and Alex could be beneficial since the collapse of their finances. Unfortunately for Ana, she has a steady boyfriend Dennis (Geoff Eigenmann) who convinces her to elope one night but due to the promise Ana gave her deceased mother, she opted not to leave his drunkard and abusive father. Not surprisingly, that was a wrong move for Ana because by the next day, Alex has planned to taken her with him in the undeveloped resort they had named Villa Estrella.

Ana suddenly feels terrible about the place mostly for the peculiar attention being given to her by the Mang Gusting (Ronnie Lazaro). He tells her of her childhood and with her supposedly closeness with Andrea, her missing daughter. Ana is quite withdrawn from her past and insists Alex for them to leave the place but he resisted. As the night is going near, Ana familiarized herself with the place and befriends the startling and enigmatic Giselle (Maja Salvador).

Writers John Paul Abellera and Adolf Alix Jr made a good task in layering drama, romance and horror in the film. But I could still feel the artistic voice of the director Ilarde in evoking a credible assailment on this kind of genre. His images are somewhat predictable but the imagination of a suspenseful atmosphere and the logic behind the mysterious evil spirit residing at the soiled swimming pool is totally understandable.

Ana has suffered emotional trauma and it is quite easy to be convinced why she forgets her past. But when unexplained things happen, almost all the people in the Villa feel the intensity and mystery, well except for Alex. He could have focused too much with his undying love, he could have been possessed. In the middle of the chaos, Dennis harps in to save Ana but gets troubled with the lost of his friend. At least he’s still optimistic and logically finds his friend near the backyard. But he soon falls in a deep dungeon where he finds a little sneaky secret that could unlock all the ambiguity of the resort.

It’s a bit fun though when you think about the ending. Could it really be possible? I mean, it’s so cool if you will ask me, it could really lead to a catfight. And yet again, Alex will always be dumbfounded and literally has no instincts that someway or somehow; all the things could have been altered. Villa Estrella is a commendable film and the money you allocate for this will not be wasted. But to the most discerning eyes, the film is not all out scary, so watch out for this factor as the film has fused in other genre devices from drama to romance and even comedy.

Charlie Koon's Rating:
Related Posts with Thumbnails