Dinig Sana Kita

Dinig Sana Kita (Please click on the title for my review) is a film directed by Mike Sandejas starring Romalito Mallari and Zoe Sandejas. It won the Audience Choice Award, Children's Award & Best Original Music Score for the recently concluded 5th Cinemalaya Film Festival.It will be shown in Robinsons Indiesine from August 26-September 2, 2009.

Charlie Koon's Rating:


Tarot is a horror film written and directed by Jun Lana. It stars Marian Rivera and Dennis Trillo.
It will be shown in theaters nationwide starting August 26, 2009.


Cheesy Pizza


Perfect love does not exist. And if it did, Mother Nature will be so pissed; she will make a way to counteract it. The idea of perfect love is the premise of the film And I Love You So. The marriage between Lara and Oliver is shown in montage so as to hide their little dirty secret of unimpeachable love. But hey, five months is too long, as we too have seen so much, this has got to stop.

And so it did - good heavens. We do love to see people being forever ‘in-love’; redundancy is still not enough to accentuate this horrifying notion. Monotonous cuddling and those perfect cheesy pepperoni dialogues could make its way to a collection of flimsy love quotes. It’s a death-defying act just like what happened to Lara who at the age of twenty four has become a member of the widows support group. Her husband Oliver dies of an aneurysm a few months after their marriage. But life goes on as usual. But the writers (Vanessa Valdez and Jacqui Franquelli) are persistent. They want to use a story device that could test love and that is by mounting a good conflict.

The increasingly gorgeous Bea Alonzo plays Lara, a happily married pre-school teacher to a saintly but devilish looking husband Oliver played by Derek Ramsey. But the setup changes after Oliver dies exactly on Lara’s birthday. Seven months have passed, Lara still mourns on the death of her husband. She grows desperate as she needs money to pay for the condominium unit and the rental fee for her pre-school site. So she was advised by her brother-in-law to have her own condominium for rent. Then the story segues to another man named Chris (Sam Milby) who is quite liberated and does a lot of flirting.

It is a long row to hoe for Lara and to be convinced that she has other duties to fulfill is quite difficult. If you will notice, she talks about her husband in present tense. It is as if the departed and the living live side by side. And the film did it to an extent which could be a little spooky. But admirably, the risk it has done looks rather authentic and heart pounding. Surrealism is a crucial element in the film that gently interweaves exchanging of dialogues between Lara and the deceased Oliver. We could not guess if the dead has emotions. But if they do show some tenderness, we could not help but reciprocate it. But don’t freak out, ghosts have no tears.

The character of Chris is the ultimate seducer. The weeping beauty is the perfect victim nonetheless. But the catch is Chris did not make an offense. He might have been appreciative for other good things life could offer. Isn’t that startling from a sexually-driven man to articulate such a decent thought. That is also for you to find out. Anyway, Chris helps Lara to cope not just with the advance rental payments but something more personal. Lara needs someone that is her obverse, someone who is bold and lighthearted. Chris is the unfortunate prey. But soon the concealed intentions dissolves as there really is a potential for love to flourish through these two people.

If watching films in our recent years have been reduced as a commodity, then I won’t argue. It is almost unlikely that most of you could be convinced by critics to watch the greatest films that were actually made. I could not even let my own mother to watch Dogville, Andrei Rublev, Cries & Whispers, Rashomon, 400 Blows and not even Amelie for art’s sake. It’s easier to keep things to myself more so on serious matters. And I Love You So conjures up people’s fantasies. Its love could still be quite a mess but what would you expect from a grieving widow? It’s hard for her to be subtle but at some point she was able to compose her thoughts. She should be at an advantage since most would have depended on anti-depressants with that condition. And I Love You So is nicely written and direction by Laurenti Dyogi is fairly meritorious. I would not mind if people will flock to view it. If the love formula will be used again and again, I don’t mind either. That is why it’s called a formula.

Charlie Koon's Rating:

Same Consumption, More Cuddle

Green Shirt Pink Shirt

For me, Little Boy Big Boy is at the same boat with most of our mainstream romantic comedies with lesser decorousness. Indie films now start to use the romantic formula with a slight implication of societal function. Little Boy Big Boy could be the first to do this in its flock. To make a better comparison; if You Changed My Life made my body calories shrink into mottled skittles, and Dinig Sana Kita confined me in silence in the Himalayan Mountain, Little Boy Big Boy made me a tadpole. I could hop in all the vacant seats with every sweet gesture. It is really my mistake that I could not react so well in kilig types of films. But I could feel that my reaction in contrast could be better for people who prefer to watch this harmless entertainment.

Raymond (Paolo Rivero) has a good career as a graphic artist but he is known to be unlucky in love. He is flirty with the guys he meets and chats with. One day, he breaks-up with his partner upon knowing from a ‘kiss and tell’ guy that they had a night together. Then his sister visits and asks a favor to take care of his niece Zach (Renz Valerio) for a couple of weeks. Zach and Raymond did not get along well in the next couple of days. But with some doughnuts and hotdogs, the two could fit the perfect mold of father and son.

Raymond in simpler terms is promiscuous. He could not sustain a stable relationship with any guy he’s with. Due to his frustrations, he joins an odd speed dating event hosted by this petite guy in a Sailormoon inspired outfit. I am getting the theme of it and it’s obligatory in a way that you wear only briefs in the entire event. It could be a form of fetish for some viewers to see skimpy clad men posing in the utter darkness and searing boiler compartment of a made-up ship. It’s a bit funny that they play this boat sinking game and group them into classified orgies. They fondle each other just like sex-autobots. There should be a stall outside giving away muscular Smurf gummies in mankinis as their advertising tactic. Going back to the kinky event, he meets Tim (Douglas Robinson). Raymond made certain moves to Tim to get what he desires all along.

And there I get the entire story. I know there is a possibility for love to evolve between these two hedonistic thinkers. Zach is in Raymond’s house and the tandem he had with his uncle could have helped Tim to consider such possibility of a relationship. Zach is a very likable kid. He is not just a brat. He understands very well even considering the ambiguity of the setup as something part of life itself. So there it goes, Tim gets attached as well with Zach.

Zach has no father to speak of. Even with the openness of the relationship between Raymond and Tim, he accepts it for it is. It works in a way since there could be this hidden maternal instinct between two guys in a relationship and with Zach looking for a fatherly figure. But there the assessment stops as the two guys had more things to ponder on in their instantaneous affair. And that bemuses me a lot that these two still have a lot of inhibitions inciting to a lot of rules that need to be followed. Isn’t it given that once you love each other, you will only hold onto that and that alone - just thinking out loud. Anyway, this should be also applicable to anyone. I remember the guys’ night-out we often have in the office and a lot of crappy stories are out in the open. Even in heterosexual relationships, more rules could have been obliged by their beaus as their guys are literal whores. A chastity belt does not sound like a good idea for sanity’s sake. Men will always be in differing polarities – just take your side with caution.

Still in the same account with the cult film Ang Lalake sa Parola (The Man in the Lighthouse), the film has explored social acceptance and admittance. It is a must in order to achieve the desired happiness -- so they say. It could be a little pushy for some, lest the solution is still in the uncharted Limbo of human dignity. But the film is cool just like the two Apple computers owned by Raymond that I wouldn’t mind having. Seriously, the film could still improve with its cinematography and even camera works. If you wish not be offended with glorified nudity, it has little of it anyway, this could be a quick look of nearly there state maturity of love between the two guys – still a lot to improve upon. The story is intentionally on the lighter approach and the Zach boy is cuddly and endearing to an extent. And they should really thank Zach for that matter. It’s also hard to judge as we also have our own imperfections and crosses to carry in our lives. Hopefully, we carry it with grace and with dignity. At most, we carry it out of love.

Charlie Koon's Rating:

Unlikely Privilege

Remember me

With the struggling state of Philippine Cinema, one could not help but be lenient to first-time filmmakers. Actually it is more cause to be severe, there is no room for mediocrity. In this case, Seymour Barros Sanchez might be privileged enough to be granted such an awful justification. Handumanan is a sloppily made film. But not an utter disaster – you could still distinguish the difference. Hopefully Sanchez would not get disgruntled with the unpleasing remarks as this frankness could help him reassess the story development.

I had these little discussions with another writer through a previous film review. He said that there’s no room for common sense in art. I will perpetually disagree with it. But I’m not a theorist, if I am now sounding one. Handumanan lacks these practical and logical approaches in polishing the overall qualities of the film. Let’s look at other works of art. Van Gogh started with somber earth tones, still-life representations of life making it darker to see. Soon enough, he developed his style with use of vivid colors, swirls and visually optimistic paintings making him the pioneer of Expressionism. Dining is also an art form. If its taste is bland, pinch some salt and pepper. And why excuse filmmaking from other art, for freedom’s sake? If the story doesn’t work, then polish it.

Handumanan suffers from a narrative not because it is disjointed or the structure is not linear. It has rather lost grip to the aims of the three characters. A famous pocketbook writer Sol (Chin Chin Gutierrez) resists writing erotic stories and goes back to her province in Negros Oriental. Carlos (Akihiro Sato) is a Filipino-Brazilian model who is searching for his roots. Lean (Jason Abalos) dreams of becoming a writer but is stuck as a government auditor. Carlos finds his picture in a pocketbook written by Sol and the two eventually chats through the internet. Lean is tasked to go to Dumaguete to audit but gets delayed. He soon gets sick and is taken into custody by Sol. After a few days, the trio is completed. Carlos and Leon inundate their frustrations in life. On the other end, Sol is hushed and seemingly optimistic despite her obvious infirmity.

Some might consider the setup too contrived. In Handumanan (Remembrance), it is rather a situational type of story in order to get insights from how the characters will relate. But that’s the idea. He also incorporates the unconventional non-linearity. The effect is that the aims for the characters look improbable. It is because there are gaps in between that needs to be filled in. Jump cuts are known in editing. Incorporating this could still work but not necessarily on top form in treating the story. It is goal obsessed as the film implies it so, guess they forgot to remember. I am getting the idea in the story structure and where the director is heading. If he possesses the passion in the craft, he would certainly know the areas to develop.

Sometimes, I could not help myself to silently accuse filmmakers for being too self-indulgent. They are not supposed to waste any second for unnecessary scenes. There are famous filmmakers that I don’t necessarily understand especially when they hang around certain scenes. Just like this scene wherein Sol is chopping green peppers. Should it take ten long seconds for that shot? I mean, I understand that maybe the point is to make it the only important thing happening. It’s her focal point. It’s just a waste of scene. Three seconds will be enough.

Handumanan could have the promise just as it is granted by the National Commision for Culture and the Arts. I could not disagree with it. If it is his dream to make films, he can never be discouraged, but the fact persists, Handumanan is not really well-made. This could be his first film experience. At least for him, he could learn something from the chaos.

Charlie Koon's Rating:

Dust Everywhere

Did you find my daughter?

Last Viewing is a dramatic film with special cameo appearances of questionable human beings. These pseudo-extraterrestrial caricatures could easily snatch the limelight from Janice de Belen. Just a sight of them could induce violent attacks from fellow viewers and mild hallucinations. On the lighter side, this is Janice’s most subtle dramatic performance so far. Pity for her as the claws of disapproval made her efforts descend unto nowhere.

Laura (Janice de Belen) is a crematory supervisor. A simile of her way of life could be compared to the lifeless humans they are serving. But she is living so we expect more tension from her part. On the first part of the story, her father dies. But she responds without a hint of grief. Possibly for a tainted past when she got pregnant in her teenage years and she was thrown out of their house. And she moves on quickly with her brother Arnel (Sherwin Ordonez) and her daughter Heidi in Manila. One day, her daughter who has autism got lost in a crowded street near the church. Things begin to change as the cold lady catches light of a full spectrum of emotions that was buried for a long time.

Last Viewing is one of those films wherein they will put a well-defined character into a situation. It’s sometimes in connection to her career and the future. As for these stories, it will either sink or swim. Last Viewing for peculiar reasons gets swollen. The idea itself is presumably enough for synopsis. It has fuss and feathers all throughout the story. If we write stories, we have to ensure that our methods of enriching the idea we had in mind still have focus.

But then as the story progresses, it has fused some elements of rubbish and insignificant interpolations of overdramatic actors. The intention is deeply unbearable. There is a probable cause for a collapse in the story, as if termites could possibly macerate future unused emotions I have. Cremation will be a great alternative.

Last Viewing is a disappointment. But this does not apply with de Belen’s acting foray as a troubled cold mother. Even with a subtle approach due to the nature of her character, people will certainly extend an arm or two to sympathize. The courage, sorrow and righteousness can also be masked with a cold demeanor. It is a form of a defense mechanism. But in the end, our glimpse of our existence could only remain in our memory. See, at least we could still learn from the film despite its flaws. I’m extending a helping hand if viewers could get maddened with it. Just blow the dirt out of your nostrils if you are not pleased.

Charlie Koon's Rating:

Who am I?

Mrs. Doubtfire??

I made a mistake. I just got into the mall when I suddenly remembered that I forgot my umbrella in the open parking lot. Upon reaching the lobby it rained right away wrathfully. I could have left my brain for a while in my car before seeing Oh My Girl!. But the weather became erratic, it gave me no choice. And I was right. The security could have placed a warning sign outside the theater similar to the one I see in the trailer of District 9. They could have warned the viewers that the film could prohibit future usage of human emotions, except of course a full-range of facial tweaks while vomiting (endlessly perhaps). Lacuna Incorporated could have been in the credits too by performing a free procedure of erasing one’s memory (selective) after watching.

I could have forgotten the film afterwards but here I am in front of my laptop, remembering such a gloomy experience in this supposedly bubbly comedic film. The ironic effect has been successful without really intending to do so. Oh my, I should not be thinking this way – it has crossed the borders of the film’s intentions. Okay, if you hope to really laugh hard, there’s really a ploy for your wish to come true – amnesia. But you may also skip it; you are not obliged towards self-infliction.

The start of the story shows a little flashback of the lives of our two lead characters. Darling (Judy Ann Santos) gets on the train hoping to travel for a future romance (very 2046). But instead, her recollection of the past always gets in the way. She remembers her childhood as a chubby girl with a raisin mole in her cheek. She is called “Opao”. Biboy is her best friend who is with her when they escaped the orphanage. But due to Opao’s hunger, Biboy is forced to go back. A sudden twist of fate happens when Opao is adopted by a semi-retired beauty queen named Inday Langging (Carmi Martin) and separates the two friends. Biboy runs away and is now taken care by Crisp Pops (Roderick Paulate).

Years have passed, Darling is a successful all-around artist. Biboy (Ogie Alcasid) has not yet reach the success of his long lost friend. It is totally understandable that Biboy is an underachiever since he dedicated his entire life searching for Opao. One day, Biboy heard their friendship song being sung by Darling in one of her television shows. Fast as lighting, his step-brother Bob (John Prats) helps him since he will be part of Darling’s latest commercial. Coincidentally, an old looking lady needs to be in the commercial and Biboy snatches the identity of Aling Sita (Nova Villa) and presents himself as Frida Akikla.

Well at least in here; Ogie’s female impersonation has more humanitarian bearing than his character in Desperadas 2 as Luga Luda. No wonder Darling admired her in an instant and chemistry ignites. But that’s only at the start when most of the succeeding scenarios fail on the aspect of being comical. It seems that before we point a sore finger at our actors, the spoiled script is by large the reason of the films’ downfall. If we also sift through with the actor’s execution, they seem half-dead or even confused with the purpose of their dialogues. So the timing suffers even with our country’s most gifted comedians.

Dante Nico Garcia’s move into mainstream is totally understandable and I think he wants to downplay his previous achievement in Ploning. He wants to get more in touch with an audience. Comedy genre is a great choice that could make a connection since most of us loves to laugh even for the simplest matters. But unintentionally, we laugh in the film for the mishaps of its entirety. It is a misery on their part. They might consider this as their failure to impart genuine comedy.

I enjoy dance sequences in films. Some might get really annoyed with this but I have grown with films that has more dancing and singing. It is important too that this should be done in a way that is not really disparaging to the aim of light comedies. Oh My Girl! has made a parody of the train dance sequence similar to Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire upon its closing credits. It could also be the tradition by Mother Lily Monteverde’s previous films in the 80’s and even in the 90’s era when dancing is also part of the credits. I think they just have to use this more often to humanize the characters instead of novel-length dramas happening without really basing the proper emotions. But if they dance, it reinvigorates. The aim gets to be larger than nearly one and a half hour long of sloppy shenanigans. Oh My Girl! has simple aims to make us laugh. Instead, it made me forget that laughing is a great quality of our existence.

Charlie Koon's Rating:


And I Love You So

And I Love You So (Click on the title for my review) is a romantic film directed by Laurenti Dyogi. It stars Sam Milby, Derek Ramsey and Bea Alonzo.
It will be shown in theaters nationwide starting August 12, 2009.


Outright Confused

Manila is a film directed by Adolfo Alix Jr. and Raya Martin. This is actually a film tribute to Ishmael Bernal’s Manila by Night (City After Dark) and Lino Brocka’s Jaguar. I knew this was coming since most of our independent directors have their absolute and all-out praises for these two prominent filmmakers at a time when our film industry is soaring high. Last year, I had the chance to read interviews of Lino Brocka. They were very insightful and perhaps presented opportunities for curious people like me in having a glimpse of his intellect and predilections towards creating films. Based on that interview alone, Brocka might be displeased with this film.

Lino Brocka is known to be a perfectionist. If he does not like what he has made out of his film, he will make the first move to caution his comrades in watching it. In comparison to today’s generation, even if the film is downright sickening, most of them still have the audacity to promote their self importance. This is not about Alix and Martin as this is a direct admonition towards the broad-spectrum of filmmakers. Of course all filmmakers have their own principles. But I could not feel the inspiration that could have been passed over by Brocka or even Bernal towards our diversely influenced artists.

These filmmakers are really confused with their craft. I could now feel that they are more in tuned with creating a new era which they could call their own. And all of them are struggling to be the first. You will notice that with most of their outputs, something lies beyond which is their personal thirst for a larger achievement. Their revolution is of course spineless since they still carry on the mark of the past. Manila is a fair illustration of what they have in mind. If we will think outside of the box or the seemingly bigger idea of what films are, it is not just about being recognized as a post-modern form of artwork. The film is a direct implication of a budding era of films. I think it does not matter for Alix and Martin if the film fails or succeeds. What matters to them right now is if this could lead to their names being embellished in Philippine film history as the birth of the radical age.

Going back to the film Manila analyzed on a normal plane, I could call it the equivalent of Pop in terms of film. It has parody elements all throughout, they could never deny it. Upon seeing the ‘Night’ segment of the film which is directed by Raya Martin, I could not distinguish the artistic difference with the ‘Day’ segment directed by Adolfo Alix Jr. I don’t know who’s copying who nor is it intended that the film must be cohesive even on the artistic voice of the director. Despite the superiority the film has relayed in terms of cinematography, lighting, sound design and all those technical stuff, it has muddled merits that they covet to acquire. It is more of an excuse than a tribute.

Piolo Pascual’s endeavor in making this film might dissipate into thin air. At least there’s the consolation of being part of Cannes Film Festival this year – he’s glad having the laurel leaf in his film portfolio. His acting in both roles as the dirty junkie William and as the bodyguard Philip is not something that you’ll flip over with delight (maybe that was the point). I could hear his conscience saying, “Oh, this is great. I should play darker roles to showcase my bloody abilities as a great actor.” He looks conscious in most of his scenes trying to look subtle as much as possible, it led to superficiality. He should look back to his acting in the film Chopsuey for better acting tips from himself.

Manila has picked-up some pieces not necessarily to enhance the greatness of Brocka and Bernal but for the sake of their own greatness. The point of the story is not only to show the interrelating characters but also has convoluted intentions. If these filmmakers have the primal idea of what Brocka and Bernal’s films are all about, then they should throw away all hindsight. Films are not made only for the marginal few - a film clubby thing. I assume films will always be for everyone no matter how radical the idea is.

Charlie Koon's Rating:

Dark Fruits

But... I prefer watermelons

It is fairly meritorious what Alvin Yapan has done, he took the elements of common Filipino fear and infused it into his current Cinemalaya offering, Ang Panggagahasa kay Fe, under the banner of pontifical local feminism no less. As with small-town frights, the bucolic atmosphere is first scratched by a gossip, seemingly innocuous whispers, a small bird disemboweled on the clean grass. Then it begins, under the picnic cloth of hardworking rural artisans and artificial marital civility lie a darkness that if viewed closely, is scarcely different from the desire that created it.

And how cleverly the disconcerting insinuations have been woven, which along with a few stylistic flourishes, effectively comprise the better half of the film. It almost has that Blair-Witchian factor, I never took a second thought on how disturbing a patchily woven basket of mangosteens could be. Along with some sibilant window calls stitched on a quiveringly restrained but brilliant musical score, the production has achieved a contextually nuanced film that burrows itself into a reluctantly curious consciousness. Yapan is truly a director of his time, technically proficient and with a flair for emotional urgency. Yet the film is not entirely preachy, not exactly what I would expect from something endorsed by the Women’s Crisis Center. Still it is a cautionary tale, shattering the stereotype that all abused women are bleating weaklings. Irma Adlawan’s Fe is no wilted lamb, but her helplessness provides another crude specter of societal inequity, just the type of message the foundations are gunning for. Hence it is unclear if the movie’s core lies in eliciting fear or social outrage. If you wish to scare, suck blood, if you want a rally, paint with it. One must not push to do both. The ambivalence could certainly be off-putting to the pedestrian gatherer, but what do you expect from an indie film?
Another aspect of Panggagahasa that fulfilled expectations was the title character. Rapture, rape, and the ravenous were all portrayed with an unyielding constancy that only Adlawan could deliver, the male characters only served as rocks on the opposite sides of the fulcrum. Ever since Pusang Gala Adlawan has already exhibited a noteworthy thespian range that could approximate the breath of the modern Filipina’s psyche. In this movie that frail and elusive landscape is accentuated more with excruciating quietude than screams of pain, truly a Filipina proclivity. Black-eyes veiled under stupid excuses, ignorance mistaken for womanly trust, so silent the usages of that unfunny wound. The pleasure is portrayed similarly, but the fact that it was portrayed at all is reason enough for celebration. True to his artistic predilections, Yapan is tastefully fearless in his endeavors. The rape scene was graciously no Irreversible and the longer take of Fe burying the black fruits of her trepidation yielded so much more of the intrinsic state-of-affairs of an abused individual.

Mainstream horror films could certainly learn from this movie. Presently there is a cavity that is clawing to be filled. The franchise should start realizing that in fear, less is more. Directors from Thailand understand this, so why is the catching up so belated. This is what Yapan employed which made his work quite effective that is until the ending, definitely risky and perhaps potentially disastrous almost to the point of negating the effect that the entire movie has accumulated. But the risk is a product of his generation. Weaned with magical realism his was an expected seduction, ultimately to show the object of dread only for it to share an almost avuncular caveat to the furniture-making enemy lover. It could have been worst. I thought Fe was going to get banged on the newly carved Sala piece. In the end, post-modern directors cannot help but to be ironic, whether they decry postmodernism or not. It’s charming though. Why choose your carabao-oriented husband Dante (Nonie Buencamino), or Arturo (TJ Trinidad) for that matter when you can have a real man, one who’s not really a man, who lives in a tree of undying love. Who says there’s no romance in fear?
Written by: Alex Milla (Guest Critic)


Handumanan (Click on the title for my review) is a film directed by Seymour Barros Sanchez. It stars Chin Chin Gutierrez, Jason Abalos and Akihiro Sato.
It will be shown at Indiesine Robinsons from August 5-11, 2009.

Last Viewing

Last Viewing (Click on the title for my review) is a film directed by Ronaldo Betrubin. It stars Janice de Belen, Sherwin Ordonez, Tommy Abuel and Leandro Baldemor.
It will be shown in selected theaters starting August 5, 2009.

Little Boy Big Boy

Little Boy Big Boy (Click on the title for my review) is a film directed by Joselito Altajeros. It stars Paolo Rivero, Douglas Robinson and Renz Valerio.
It will be shown in selected theaters starting August 5, 2009.
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