11th Cinemanila Digital Lokal 2009 Pre-review

I have already seen five out of six films for the Digital Lokal Category. I will post the reviews soon.
Charlie Koon's Ratings:
Dolores by Lito Casije
Anacbanua by Christopher Gozum
Iliw by Bona Fajardo
Ang Beerhouse by Jon Red
69 1/2 by Ted Manotoc
Just a comment, what's with the strictly invitational screening for Biyaheng Lupa? I know its their premiere night but come on, I have seen four out of the five films during its premiere. They should have made a note in their brochure or even post it somewhere prior to its screening day. This kind of film should not be supported for its lack of consideration to people who go all the way to Market Market. They would not even gain profit from it as audience like me are the ones they need. We could pay whatever price they want.
The head organizer said in one of his interviews that he hopes audience will embrace what Filipino filmmakers have to offer. I hope its not for the marginal few. Its not even open to the public.
Sorry I'm just pissed.

Anyway, I do recommend Anacbanua to hardcore art-film lovers out there. The cinematography is superb. It has similarities with the poetic films made by the Russian filmmaker Sergei Parajanov and even our very own John Torres. Also 69 1/2 which is a musical comedy film. It has lots of film references that could excite most film junkies. Its a mixture of Rocky Horror Picture Show by Sharman, with a slice of Godard style and a pinch of John Waters' crass yet lovable and culty. It is very French in so many ways. If you are too hesitant to try this artsy stuff, try Iliw, a romantic period film during the Japanese Occupation about a girl who fell in love with a Japanese Captain. Vigan is used as a backdrop for the film - promotes tourism I guess. The other two are not worth recommending but if you still insist to choose, try Ang Beerhouse than Dolores.
Charlie's Picks:
Best Director: Christopher Gozum for Anacbanua
Best Film: 69 1/2 by Ted Manotoc


Fast-food Love

Take a bow

I think the point of the film Nandito Ako... Nagmamahal Sa’yo is that if two people look good together, it is ridiculous not to end it that way. I know that in romance, there is love. And possibly, the two will unite in the end no matter how ridiculous the conflicts arise within the story. Although in William Wyler’s Roman Holiday, it is an open ending. It is Audrey Hepburn’s first film that widely establishes her as an actress. It seems that the material they have used to amplify the increasing popularity of this love pair is risky but its risks made its story’s heart beat palpitate irregularly. I think the screenplay needs a doctor.

I seldom watch television so I only know the actors through films that are being shown. At least I had been familiar with the two leads for their first film appearance is last year’s Loving You. It is a four-segment kind of romantic tale that gives focus to call center agents. I remember praising Kris Bernal for her role in the film saying – She is bubbly, witty, charming and consistent. But I questioned Aljur Abrenica’s supposedly strength to be recognized as a dramatic actor. He is common in my eyes and actors sometimes need to be distinctive. Nevertheless, Aljur Abrenica is taking the lead of this film which is quite alien if you will surrender to my candid opinion that romantic films are more fervently focused with women.

Abrenica plays the role of Tata, a young teenage boy who grows only with his mother in the frenzied streets of Quiapo Manila. He wants to finish his studies as a seaman but his mother Aida (Ana Capri) deals with a sickness that hampers his yearning to study once more. Aida makes a hasty decision to go back to Tagbilaran Bohol with Tata. One day, they visited a residence and a secret was revealed with the identity of Tata’s real father.

Conflicts make the story more credulous with its substance as well as the believability of the love that is tested by different factors. But if these are not mounted well, the coherence or the flow of the story is now being undervalued. Why do we need to hurry with the love aspect if there is the intention to make blocks in between? It is time to have a progressive love story that gives values to the devices being used. Hopefully, they have disregarded the holes in between. It only makes the fantasy aspect of love they wanted to share as a convoluted pseudo-reality. Or maybe that’s the thing with love, the more real it is, the less pleasant it is to watch. A love story that is real (relatable) and beautiful is a true masterpiece.

To continue further with my discussion of the film, Tata was introduced to his father (Lloyd Samartino) and half-brother Prince (Baron Geisler) who easily accepted this supposedly odious discovery. To be honest, in real-life this is highly unlikely to happen. I could have been fossilized right at that moment. And Tata too have accepted it without any resentment. And then, a light shines in with the introduction of Stephanie, the fiancée of Prince who he had just met with her two-week stay in the United States. So we ended up with the building up of the instant liking of Tata to Stephanie and presto a multi-layered alarming conflict arises. I could have accepted the pairing of the two since its just magic that could explain everything. But the consistency it is supposed to strive for has been neglected resulting in a scrawny romantic film.

The pairing of the two is a viable love pair based on what, attractiveness is less than basic, it’s base. So when it happens, they just ignore it since they have no source of intricate emotions. And when reality sinks in, it is too late to have pondered on such sentiments. I don’t really mind if love stories are fabricated as long as the story development is cohesive. But on this one, it is one of those greasy potato fries you could buy from the fast-food chains. We eat it fast until we realize, it is not real potato. And we cry like a baby.

Charlie Koon's Rating:

Carnival Fun

I know you will lurve it

Eugene Domingo stars as the twin sisters in the comedy film Kimmy Dora. These twins are rivals. No one will dare tie them back again with their own umbilical cords. Kimmy and Dora are the daughters of Luisito Go Dong Hae, a tycoon who is estimably one of the most influential settlers of our country. I am not sure whether they are made out of dumplings or kimchi as their surname implies so, but this comedy film will not hasten to use most of your brain for further analysis of its lampoon. To simplify things up, as long as a comedy film makes you laugh, the film itself is already vindicated and could be praised for its worth.

Kimmy is the smart, career-obsessed and devilish head honcho of the company. She is moody to her staff and sadistic to her assistant Gertrude (Miriam Quiambao). But her heart softens when Johnson (Dingdong Dantes) is around despite their differences in ideas when it comes to managing business prospects. Unfortunately, Johnson is more amiable to Dora, the super-special twin sister of Kimmy who is the opposite of her radical behavior. This made Kimmy be upset even more and sibling rivalry in the past has been dug. With the tension on the loose again, the petty fights has led to the heart attack of their father Luisito (Ariel Ureta). While recovering from her father’s ailment, Kimmy finds out that the will and testament favors more to her sister Dora.

Kimmy Dora will be the newest addition in our recent comedies that are exceptional and charming like Ded na si Lolo and Last Supper No. 3. But those two have a different switch, using social satire as a way to provoke laughter. Ang Tanging Ina could be a grand similarity due to its heavy usage of farce and the slapstick. I think these four films combined define what comedy in our times works. We make films for us to laugh but at the same time, it has the aroma of being our own, something that is not time-bounded.

I have said this before and I will repeat it further even if I sound obnoxious. Yes, I am a fan of comedy films. I have high expectations from our filmmakers when these films show up in our theaters and most especially if it’s the slapstick kind of comedy. I do want to progress with my own taste for comedies even if I have sung praises for the works of Charlie Chaplin and Leonid Gaidai. I am not really fond of Woody Allen films but I do regard his works as universal. Why am I saying this? I think most of our writers have this notion that even comedies should be intelligent with its rendering. And most of them dismiss slapstick as a flawed type of comedy. I will definitely disagree and this film Kimmy Dora will prove them wrong without me saying any further. I could have slapped their coconut brains with my IPOD and entrenched them with my Chaplin Collection. That scene for sure will be hilarious. But they could use wit as their defense tactic for this is the only kind that should progress in the comedy arena. And they could mistake slapstick for being offensive and mindless.

But true to the word, slapstick is not really the type of fresh corals that will sway your brains constantly. It is more of the mechanical type, perfunctory with its domain to produce laughter. Kimmy Dora does most of its pleasing moments on this approach. I will not be surprised with its great deal of slaptickness since it’s the territory of the director Joyce Bernal, who have expressed mightily a great form of absurdity and passed it over as a great entertaining film. Chris Martinez as the sole writer has the upper hand in layering its story with humor for its script with a classifiable ordeal of figures of speech. Kimmy mostly utters her lines in hyperbole while her sister Dora is more ‘intelligent’ and discreet for her one-time use of a palindrome, naming her adopted stray dog ‘Mickey’. Kimmy could have thrust her stilettos for its obvious slur. But she is at home with word exaggeration and slang offenses. Kimmy Dora is a great blend of different comedy types and as an outcome, it is miraculously compelling and mind enthralling.

I am more optimistic that our audience will be guided better so that they will eradicate some of its wrong notions towards film appreciation. Slapstick will always be a great form of comedy - if used judiciously. I am really saddened that most of the times, the audience has lots of pretensions that comedies are garbled as a serious matter and should be viewed with all our brain cells moving towards Level Ten – Einstein brainpower. I may be misconstrued for being narrow-minded, boxing the appreciation only to a certain type of comedy. But my point of view is just simply bending the values of a good comedy. The values of our times have changed. Blame consumerism for the abhorrent proclivities towards any form of appreciation. But I don’t mind the trends. I only believe in good films. Whether it is Chaplin or Allen, as long as it makes you laugh, then it proves that the film that you are watching is a good comedy. But always remember, laugh first before you think.

Charlie Koon's Rating:

Glamour Card


Jun Lana’s first attempt in the mainstream arena in the horror film Mag-ingat ka sa... Kulam has been derided in my review. In his new film Tarot, I could now feel that he has now returned in his better form. Not as a faerie that would cast magical spells that play with our senses on the supernatural aspects of our society but as a real fabulist. After all, it is his passion and the typewriter back then could be his supernatural tool into the invention of his stories. Tarot could be a little tricky with its plot and stiff twists; yet it still deserves to be seen.

The lady Gambit of the hour is played by a reel and real enchantress, Marian Rivera. She plays the dazzling Cara who has a tragic and mystifying past. The film starts with a flashback when Mount Pinatubo erupted and the young and naïve Cara has foreseen this in the tarot cards of her grandmother played by the legendary Gloria Romero. On New Year’s Eve, Cara feels she is being called by the whispery cards. As she lays it down, she manifests the knowledge that tragic events will happen.

The film is about fortunetelling. Ironically, the film cancels out the word fortune, and speaks. A few months back, I had my first tarot card reading session given by a lady who looks quite typical for her eerie profession. She introduces her craft more as psychotherapy. She prohibits questions that will be regarding health and death. I think it’s quite disreputable for her to tackle those things so it is really something to avoid. I am astounded that two films I have recently seen have tackled the misfortune. The other film is
Ang Manghuhula by Paolo Herras. I could have bashed both films for their irregularities and being quite negligent with the repercussions it could get across to the viewers. But I assure you, both films have squeezed in other elements to make them realistic, imaginative and entertaining.

Years have passed; Cara decides to climb a mountain with his fiancé Miguel played by Dennis Trillo. They are lost in the forest side of the mountain and decide to stay in a cave for the night. When Cara wakes up, Miguel is nowhere to be found. Weeks have passed; there is no news of Miguel. Cara decides to get hold of the tarot cards of her grandmother to know where he is.

Cara seems to be highly intuitive with the things around her and this could be a great benefit on her part. I think, even without the tarot cards, you could see in her dazzling eyes the wisdom she has manifested. I think she might do a better acting foray in the horror genre like the role as Nieves in the Shake Rattle and Roll X than flaunting her comedic prowess in Desperadas 2 and even a hysterical drama stint in
One True Love. But in Tarot, she has proven again that she shines. This could be a genre she is at home with and has saturated all the excesses of the melodramatic acting.

Tarot could be your next DVD purchase and could be relished for its worth especially if you crave for audience-oriented horror thrills. This film has been sprinkled with conflicts and twists, similiar to your well-liked flavored popcorn. But sometimes flavored writing needs some buffing up and polishing despite a contentment whether between the filmmaker and the studio or with the filmmaker himself. Still, it is every man to his taste. But my intuition says, Jun Lana’s writing is in best form in Sa Pusod ng Dagat by Marilou Diaz-Abaya.

Charlie Koon's Rating:

Pink Power Puff Army


I thought Harry Potter suddenly laid the “Stupefy” spell on me. I was like in a cataleptic condition at some point in watching 1017: Sa Paglaya ng Aking Salita. The film is like making a film about a Mongoloid – I know it is politically incorrect to use such a word. Aiming to make it a bona fide, they look for another Mongoloid, an actor perhaps, to act like the other. This is totally unacceptable. Suspicions will soon arise with its concealed expositions; they should not be shocked if the authorities are disgusted.

The story revolves on the lives of two friends. Jojo (Kahlel Urdaneta) meets his long lost friend Manuel (Kristofer King) during a rally demonstration somewhere along the metropolis. And then, there is an insinuation that Jojo is secretly in love with his friend. He joins his friend in the NPA probably for his undying love that is revolting for so many years. He could only express his love through poems and suspending his promise to declare what he really wants to convey from his heart. And so the film goes like a road trip with an instrumental song from Joey Ayala’s Walang Hanggang Paalam (Never Ending Goodbye) on cue.

It seems that something should be stopped. Or else, they will certainly be mocked. We may not be in the position to tell the what’s and the not’s in filmmaking else, we could have made our own film, right? But there is a collision in the story with its backdrop. It tends to dissipate principles with a resemblance of anarchism and clog it through our throats. Films are not the proper medium to beseech a millenarian way of thinking. And besides, the entire concept of the New People’s Army will not be tackled in its entirety. Is this their way of advertising their cause to the people of our country? They want to save us from oppression, repression cruelty, corruption and the unjust? How come I was not informed? Or is it more of a propaganda to put their organization in the pedestal of merits without actually considering their liabilities.

The backdrop of the film is the NPA movement. Their causes can be traced way back to the Japan Occupation. They are called the Hukbalahap. Their way of thinking is very Maoist in nature and their founder is Jose Maria Sison. They are the left-wing communist. I still wonder why up to now they have been fighting for something that is so overdue. Obviously, they have such high regard of themselves and they think they are destined to wear the crown. I can’t help criticize this aspect in the film as they only offer a one-sided view of our society. Aren’t we in the same country who strives for the betterment of all the people? So where are they heading? There is censorship from the filmmakers themselves hiding their intent with a use of a mawkish love angle between two guys. Why can’t they use a different medium and be straightforward? Why hide in films which are used to educate and retain the values that every one of us should transmit into our souls. I am doubtful of their intentions and sorrowful that film history could explain better what I am really trying to point at.

There’s an underlying proposition that minorities are being hauled to the revolution. Like the gay marriage that is being discussed in the film. They could easily lure the idiotic students who are supposedly true believers of a purified world or to that extent. They are powerful with the use of verbal wit; you could be convinced even how irrational their definition of politics is. As long as they are not yet in command, they will maneuver the development of society to something very awful since they have lost in touch of the essence of revolution. Revolution should have a cause which should not be just a petty constitutional amendment or proclamation concerning freedom of speech. It is as if they have been contented with any administration seated in the government.

Well, the film’s message is quite metaphoric in a way not because they are hiding something. They are using the film medium as a way of indoctrinating our fellow Filipinos with something that is already tainted. But the film made a clear indication of a love story in the making between two guys which could create curiosity with its peers. But does the leftist party really want to indoctrinate gays, are they that desperate? I think filmmakers must avoid using this medium to provide their political stance. A film is a medium that should have a single voice for all of us, not one that creates fragmentation. But I am not prohibiting them as I did like some films with political undertones like Bertolucci’s The Dreamers wherein it explores free love and sexuality during a student protest in France. Even the classic film Arsenal directed by Alexander Dovzhenko is a direct representation of the political era in Uzbekistan and Russia. It is an assessment of a 1928 film with a 2003 film in terms of being political in films. Anyway, I am just taking this seriously as films will also be for the edification of the society and not just an insurrection in the community.

Charlie Koon's Rating:



Boy is a film directed by Aureaus Solito starring Aeious Asin, Noni Buencamino, Madeleine Nicolas, Aries Pena and Danton Remoto.
It will be shown in Robinsons Indiesine from October 7-13, 2009.
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