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Monday, January 20, 2014

REVIEW: My Little Bossings


Considering all the talk against My Little Bossings in the previous MMFF season, you'd think that it's the scourge of the Earth, single-handedly destroying whatever good there is left of Philippine cinema.

But it isn't that bad. Most of the criticism leveled against it is that it is full of product placements, such that it is a symptom of today's mainstream cinema that puts box-office earnings as a priority instead of cinematic artistry. 

I'm not here to defend My Little Bossings against this criticism, because I think it is very valid. What I don't like is how the movie's critics are judging the movie based only on these merits, most of them giving the movie the lowest score possible.

What's more confounding is how many of these critics haven't even seen the movie. They did not spend time to go to the cinema to watch the film, yet they unfairly say that it is the worst movie ever.

But My Little Bossings isn't that bad. There's a good story under the trappings of sponsor-driven mainstream cinema. It has heart. 

The movie explores the strange relationship between two characters played by Vic Sotto and Aiza Seguerra. Their characters are suffer from deep sadness caused by the past events in their lives. Discovering the cause of their relationship's problem, and seeing how they try to mend each other, makes for a remarkable experience.

The movie is better than the previous Vic Sotto efforts at MMFF, those that force a fantastical story around a tired, old actor. What I like about it is how it doesn't paint Vic Sotto as a viable heartthrob. Here he looks old and haggard. Realistic.


We also see Aiza Seguerra as a viable actress, whose talent has always been ignored because of her gender. Her portrayal as a lesbian in the film is the most honest portrayal of an LGBT character in mainstream cinema to date, so it's a shame how the awful GBBT, which thrived on gay stereotypes, got MMFF's gender sensitive award.

Sure, we don't see much of Ryzza Mae Dizon and Bimby Aquino in the film, but it doesn't matter because the story is not centered on them.

(Let's just forget that Kris Aquino is in the movie. She sucks.)

But what about the numerous product placements? I can say that they are not too divert the film's message. Director Marlon Rivera should be praised for choosing to integrate these sponsorships into the movie so that they are not distracting. Most of them are chosen as backgrounds, or are products that are used within the story.

Some of these placements work. The bit about the wound disinfectant, for instance, happened to me as a child, and watching the same event play out on screen made me nostalgic. There are also a few that are annoying, most notably the bit centered on a brand of detergent powder.

My Little Bossings may feel like a movie-long commercial break, but that should not be the only basis for dismissing it. One should also consider that it presents a good story that would resonate had it not been drowned by a few ads.
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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

REVIEW: Pedro Calungsod



The best word that describes Pedro Calungsod: Batang Martir is humdrum. It has a confusing plot that a bored viewer won't even want to figure out.

The movie tells the story of Pedro Calungsod, the newest Filipino saint. It shows Calungsod and his group's journey to convert the Chamorros, who actively resist foreign teachings that can replace their existing beliefs.

The movie presents Calungsod as a living saint. He prays all day, bears no ill will against his enemies, has tons of patience and is filled with good will for other people. He's also a martyr, his death shown at the beginning of the film.

But what the movie fails to show is why Calungsod is a saint, and why the other people in his group aren't. In fact, his mentor San Vitores, the priest who dies with him, isn't a saint yet. There are also several other individuals in the movie who are martyred, and have been forgotten.

Pedro Calungsod: Batang Martir successfully achieved depicting the titular character as a saint only because the characterization of the other martyrs are sparse. The movie was able to show Calungsod as saintly only because it pretended the other characters aren't as special, by not showing them at all.

The movie even squanders some running time by developing characters that are not important to the plot. Ryan Eigenmann's character, for instance, can be excised from the story completely. Mercedes Cabral is on the poster, but she's in the movie only for less than two minutes.

The film also fails to develop a coherent story because it scatters scenes showing Calungsod in his quiet moments, deadening any plot development. There's something wrong about a person who constantly daydreams about his faith or his father when his friends are being killed left and right.

Calungsod and his group are also shown to lack respect for the beliefs of the Chamorros--disrespecting their dead, for instance--and the movie presents this as the reason why they are killed. But the real story is quite different, so the movie also fails as a biopic.

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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

REVIEW: Pagpag


Pagpag disappoints. It had good ideas, but most of them get squandered to make way for a love story that feels half-baked.

This love story is Pagpag's most visible fault. It is the movie's greatest hurdle, the one that stops the movie from achieving consistent plotting, real scares, or logical character development.

This is a shame because I felt that the movie had good ideas that felt fun on paper. A group of young kids go to a wake and violate several superstitions without their knowledge. So the spirit of the dead gets angry and hunts them down one by one, and they die according to the superstition that they violated.

This idea recalls the smash hit Feng Shui back from 2004, the landmark Filipino horror film that ushered in the new style of Philippine horror flicks.



In Feng Shui, the characters were dying according to their Chinese horoscope. It was fun to guess how the characters will die, and the filmmakers fulfilled that excitement. One character died from leptospirosis, while one died after being hit by a Rabbit bus. One died after she fell to her death onto broken bottles of Red Horse, which, frankly, was less fun than the guess my siblings and I made: kinabayo by the rapist chasing her.

Once I learnt what was happening in Pagpag, I eased up from my critical chair and prepared to have fun. I am a big fan of crazy-cheesy horror films, after all.

Like this one. Watch it now.
Unfortunately, Pagpag's fun moments are killed whenever the movie stops to show the love story. I don't understand how the characters of Daniel Padilla and Kathryn Bernardo can fall in love with each other in such short time, and while their friends are dying around them. Isn't that the height of insensitivity?

The two does not also look devastated after most of the people they know have been killed. This may just be bad characterization, or the two actors just don't know how to act out desperation and pathos yet.

It is also illogical how the ghost is sparing the lives of the two. Near the end, the ghost only picks Kathryn up by her hair and does not kill her. In fact, he floats around stupidly with the girl so Daniel can come for rescue.

This isn't the only plot hole. More: why was Matet de Leon's character killed when she did not violate any superstition? Why would the ghost be resurrected when the number of deaths aren't yet complete? There was also this guy who died naked, and his ghost later showed up with shorts on.

Lesson: ghosts are modest.

There's also this thread where we are shown that the guy has a bleeding wound on his chest. I was waiting for a twist, but it never came. If it is a red herring, then it's the least graceful red herring there is.

I can only assume that Pagpag would be a horror classic if it wasn't made to be an MMFF vehicle for the Kapamilya loveteam.
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Sunday, December 29, 2013

REVIEW: Kaleidosope World


One wonders why Kaleidoscope World was admitted to this year's MMFF. The annual film festival champions commercial viability in Philippine cinema, so seeing a movie such as this--sans any commercial appeal--is a mystery.

Sure, there are exceptions in recent history. What comes to mind is Thy Womb, the universally acclaimed indie film that bombed in the box office. It was pitted against titans such as Sisterakas and Panday that it really had no chance.

But Kaleidosope World is no Thy Womb. Unlike the latter film, Kaleidoscope World is artistically bankrupt, forgettable and technically flawed.


Kaleidoscope World tells the story of  Lando de Guzman (Sef Cadayona) and Elsa de Joya (Yassi Pressman), two young dancers who meet in an audition for a national street dance team. They fall in love, but their different societal standings and tragic pasts threaten their relationship.

The film feels like the work of an amateur. Framing is faulty, as there are shots when the character speaking are cut off from the frame. Most scenes are blurred, and the audio is either too loud, too soft, muted, or has this annoying echo.

Story-telling is not that strong, either. The first half is not very original, but it was familiar and serviceable. Then it illogically spirals into a tragic MMK-type story in the second half, with twists that come out of nowhere.

Let me spoil it for you: it turns out that Lando's father died because of Elsa's uncle. It gets worse. Realizing what happened in the past, Elsa runs off to Lando's place among the slums. While on the way, she gets stabbed by holduppers, and she dies in Lando's arms.

Or does she? The end shows the two together after a dance contest, like nothing happened. So why was the tragedy added? So the lead stars can get nods for their acting, and so they may get nominations?

Does it even matter? What Kaleidoscope World should have been is a story of two young dancers who find themselves while committing to their passion for dancing. But the movie is a complete mess that it is a disservice to the young dancing community it wants to echo.


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Saturday, December 28, 2013

REVIEW: Girl, Boy, Bakla, Tomboy



The biggest fault of Girl, Boy, Bakla, Tomboy is that it doesn't even try to be good. It's an unrepentant cash grab: every single scene is window dressing so Vice Ganda can make jokes that can be shown on trailers, which can attract a myriad of people who will think that the movie is damn hilarious they can shell the contents of their wallets for it.



There's a semblance of plot, but it feels trite and half-baked. This time, Vice plays quadruplets with genders already depicted in the title. They get separated at birth, but they eventually get together to save a sibling's life.

The plot is poorly presented. Characters move from major scene to major scene without any build-up, like most of the exposition has been edited out to make way for more Vice Ganda jokes.

There's a lot of characters but they're all under-utilized. Bobby Andrews and Angelu de Leon are in the movie but we don't know why. There are four kids but only Kiray Celis gets a meaty role as the punching bag to Vice Ganda's insults. JC de Vera and Ejay Falcon are interchangeable.

I'll admit that I looked forward to seeing this film because I did like last year's Sisterakas. I was disappointed, and remembered that my assumption must be true: Vice Ganda's comedy skills are weak when he's made to act in a scripted material. His skills are in improv; the funniest scenes of Girl, Boy, Bakla, Tomboy are when Vice breaks the fourth wall. In here, his jokes feel fresh and improvised.

Sisterakas might have been funny not only because of Vice but also because he was working with another comedian, Ai-Ai delas Alas, and Kris Aquino, who was willing to make fun of herself.

In Girl, Boy, Bakla, Tomboy, Vice had no competent actor to work with, so most of the scenes fell flat. In the film, Maricel Soriano looks out of place, like she's hoping the film was a drama. Joey Marquez looks bored, Joy Viado's character was toned down after a few scenes, and Ruffa Gutierrez just couldn't act.

There were also names in the billing that are only in the movie for a few seconds. For instance: Atak and Eagle Riggs were only in the wedding ensemble, so why give them billing importance?

I saw this movie in a half-filled theater, and most of the audience there could only produce a few chuckles here and there. This movie's just really dull.

What's the bright spot in this film? We finally see Vice Ganda in a dramatic scene, and this is where we see where Vice's future should be headed. Seeing the emotional scene where he confronts his father for leaving him made me wish Vice tackles more dramatic roles. One can only hope.

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Seven Most Uplifting Songs Ever

Someone nosy once told me to listen only to uplifting songs. While I believe that anyone is free to listen to whatever music he or she likes without being judged for it, this person's pseudo-advice still got me thinking: how does one determine if a song is uplifting or not?

So I combed through my song collection and realized that I've been listening to some of the most uplifting songs ever, all along.

1. Precious Things - Tori Amos


Tori Amos's song "Precious Things" off the album Little Earthquakes is as strong live as it is on the record, with angst-filled lines that talk of moving on from painful experiences that come up regularly when the mind is idle.

2. Fuck the People - The Kills


There's something cathartic about singing this song by The Kills, particularly when shouting the title again and again in the chorus. You may be doing things that other people may not approve of, but fuck the people--just keep going.

3. We Can't Stop - Miley Cyrus


It may have the worst lines in a song (the whole second verse is a mess), but it's message that we can do whatever we want without worrying whatever people may think is what everyone should follow. "We run things, things don't run we." Indeed, Miley.

4. Catch My Breath - Kelly Clarkson


There will always be people who oppose you anywhere you go, so don't mind them. The only reason to stop is to catch your breath, so you can keep moving.

5. Brave - Sara Bareilles



This song is inspirational without being gratingly schmaltzy. The lyrics cut deep, and the story behind the song should be enough for it to be a mainstay on anyone's playlist.

6. Carry On - fun.


This song is a suicide anthem that talks about living even if there is nothing much to live for. It is amazingly constructed, with the bleak and hopeless line "You swore and said we are not/we are not shining stars" inverted and sang triumphantly towards the song's end. Nate Ruess sings "We are shining stars" with so much conviction that we have no choice but to believe.

7. Iridescent - Linkin Park


I think Linkin Park's A Thousand Suns, a concept album about nuclear fallout, is their best album to date. All the tracks in the album are solid, including "Iridescent", which appears towards the end as a breather after such frenetic and nuclear songs as "Wretches and Kings" and "Wisdom, Justice, and Love". "Iridescent" is a positive song that indicates that there may be hope in the middle of the death and destruction that just happened.

BONUS: Next to the Last Song - Bjork


Bjork's "Next to the Last Song" is a a heart-breaking masterpiece, best experienced not as a song but a performance. It can be seen on Danish director Lars Von Trier's outstanding film Dancer in the Dark, as the last song that Selma (Bjork) sings before her execution. Singing that her song is not the last song gives hope to her character and the viewers. Selma may die, but her memory will always live on.
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Monday, October 28, 2013

These days all I really do is wait.


I still think of suicide. There's almost zero chance that I'll off myself anytime soon, but I still think of it. At least the option is there.

Suicide is a selfish act. I don't blame anyone who has done it, and I sympathize with them when they think that they are alone and that their lives don't matter to anyone. But no one is really alone, and killing thyself will hurt those who care about you. Partaking in suicide, therefore, is a cop out--you only make yourself happy, but destroy the lives of the people who love you.

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I have stopped praying. It never does anything, really. The mistake most religious people make about prayer is that they think it is a proactive action, that God will give them anything as long as they pray hard for it. That is not the case.

Everything is predetermined; God is all-knowing and exists through time and space. Therefore, he knows what will happen to any individual at any time. Every life story is already written long before it is started.

Prayer, then, is nothing but a way to see God's will. God's will is whatever your life story leads to. If you really want that car, any amount of prayer asking for that car won't result in you getting it, if it is not in your story, i.e., not in God's will. What you should be praying for instead is to ask God if the car is in your life story.

Prayer is not proactive, but a way to be calm and a way to be ready. Forewarned is forearmed.

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There was a time in my life when I thought I could see what God wills for me, but people who are purportedly closer to him said what I see is wrong. This broke me, and I feel like I've been lied to.

So: I have stopped praying. It never does anything, really. Or maybe it does something, like give you hope that will prove to be false, and will hurt so much it will render you motionless for months.

from Radiohead's Just

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First comes hurt, then comes anger. Burning anger.

I feel betrayed. I feel let down. I feel like the people I have trusted have turned their backs on me. I now see them as hypocrites, people who say the holiest thing and do the opposite.

At this stage, the only thing I watch out for is to not be a hypocrite. I don't hold any pretense that I am a good person, or that I going to church automatically makes me holy. I try to be truthful to myself, and that is the only thing I can do.

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Not being a hypocrite only means this: I don't do or say anything that can be contradictory to my standards or moral code. I don't say I love my work then commit only halfway. I don't say I'm a fitness buff and deliberately miss going to the gym, or break my diet due to a flimsy reason.

More importantly, I don't claim to be a good Christian then be the first to judge people for their actions, however immoral it can be, because they might have committed the act due to reasons beyond their control.

I think it is always unbecoming to judge without knowing all the facts. I'm not that self-righteous bitch who calls the people involved in the latest sex scandal immoral and hell-bound.

Source unknown


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These days all I really do is wait. I'm a hard worker, and I earn money that's rightfully mine through working, but I am not delusional that I can be rich quickly.

So all I can do is wait--wait for my savings to be large enough for me to buy a car, or to get a condo. Or for that raise. Or for that luck to work, in that raffle that's impossible to win. Or wait for that love that I never seek, but may just be lurking around the corner. Or just wait for death.

There are times when I am caught off-guard and start praying. In those moments, the top prayer I say is for God to strike me dead instantly. I'm a coward and I don't want to suffer.

These days all I really do is wait.

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Note: I started writing 80% of this post more than a month ago, and abandoned it because I thought it was too true. I reread it today and I liked the honesty in my voice that I had to publish it.

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