‘Krampus’ director paints the holidays with fright

Krampus writer-director Michael Dougherty has long taken an interest in the delightfully dark and subversive.  From his breakout feature, 2007’s “Trick ’r Treat,” which began as a small release and has grown to attract a rabid cult following, to his unexpected research into the origins of the winter solstice, the filmmaker has discovered that the dark side of pop culture and folklore is often much more fascinating than the humdrum stories we’ve been told.

Dougherty explains that it was about 15 years ago that he was introduced to the dark side of December’s beloved holiday: “The same way that Americans send out Christmas cards, Europeans have this rich tradition of sending out Krampus cards.  I was shown these beautiful illustrations of this creature called Krampus, who stole children, and images of people cowering in fear.  Still, they had such a fun, mischievous quality, similar to our Halloween.  I found that appealing because it made Christmas more enjoyable to know that there was this dark, mischievous side to the holiday that Americans didn’t have yet.  It was lurking in the shadows waiting to be rediscovered.”

The more he explored, the more Dougherty realized how intricate the cloven-hooved demon’s history actually is.  He states: “One theory is that Krampus goes back to the roots of the holiday itself, which go all the way back to pagan history.  Before it was Christmas, it was the winter solstice.  It was closer in tone and style to Halloween, in that it was more debaucherous and more of an outlet for our pent-up frustrations.  When Christians rolled in and took over, they saw how much people liked the solstice celebration, and so they co-opted it and parked Christmas on top of it.”  He pauses.  “There are theories that Santa Claus was even created as an antidote to Krampus.”

For the filmmaker, Santa’s dark shadow seemed to stay top of mind.  “He just kept coming into my consciousness,” says Dougherty.  “In the past few years, they discussed Krampus on `The League’ and `American Dad.’  He showed up on `The Colbert Report.’  It was like this indie band that people were passing around, and it just felt like the right time.  So I worked with a couple friends, Todd Casey and Zach Shields, on the script for quite a while.  We fine-tuned it until it felt just right, and the timing now feels very fortuitous.”

Producer Alex Garcia, who has worked with Dougherty since their days together on “X-Men 2” and “Trick ’r Treat,” was in love with the universe that the writing partners imagined.  He says: “Todd, Zach and Michael created this incredibly genuine and fun backdrop for Krampus’ coming-out party for modern audiences.  They set the story in a seemingly everyday world with very real and relatable characters.  Max’s family has come to represent everything that’s wrong with how we celebrate Christmas: the over-commercialization, the inordinate pressure for perfection, and the holiday’s stressed and frenetic nature.  When they break the last straw and nearly stamp out Max’s belief, they bring forth the wrath of Krampus, and all comic hell breaks loose.”

With the support of his fellow producers, Dougherty aims for a balance of comedy with thrills in his movies.  “If you look at the Krampus myth and the history of the character, there is something quite loveable and likeable about him,” he reflects.  “Therefore, it wouldn’t feel right to make a film that was overly intense, gory or extreme.  There’s the comedy aspect of our story, the horror, obviously—and it’s full of monsters and scares and suspense—but there is also a very heavy dose of dark fairytale and fantasy to it.  My whole career, I’ve been trying to bring that mischievous quality to movies, the kind I missed from the ’80s.  I hope we’ve achieved that with Krampus.”

Opening across the Philippines on December 2, 2015, Krampus is distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.

— PRESS STATEMENT FROM UNITED INTERNATIONAL PICTURES

‘In the Heart of the Sea’ stars future Spider-Man Tom Holland

Before debuting on next year’s “Captain America: Civil War” as Peter Parker a.k.a. Spider-Man, young actor Tom Holland makes a splash in Warner Bros.’ new action-adventure In the Heart of the Sea.

Oscar winner Ron Howard directs “In the Heart of the Sea,” based on Nathaniel Philbrick’s best-selling book about the dramatic true journey of the Essex.  In the winter of 1820, the New England whaling ship Essex was assaulted by something no one could believe: a whale of mammoth size and will, and an almost human sense of vengeance.  The real-life maritime disaster would inspire Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick.

Holland plays the 14-year-old cabin boy Thomas Nickerson setting off on his first whaling expedition, on the Essex.  Veteran actor Brendan Gleeson portrays the man thirty years later who still bears the scars of his ordeal, although most of them are invisible.

Howard explains, “Our two Nickersons gave us a chance to explore individual aspects of the story that are both interesting and emotional. There’s the danger and the excitement of the adventure seen through the eyes of a boy, and the trauma of the tragedy as remembered by the man.”

Holland describes the younger Nickerson as “one of the hardest kids I’ve ever come across.  He’s an orphan, he has no one, and he sets out on this voyage with a bunch of hardened men who have been doing this for years, and he genuinely has no idea what he’s doing.  So he heads into it wide-eyed and ready to go, but he doesn’t really know what he’s in for.”

Thirty years later, we see Nickerson—now the last remaining survivor of the Essex—as he is being pressed to recount the events that continue to haunt him.  Brendan Gleeson remarks, “He was only a child when he witnessed this awful thing and has never spoken about the horror of what he went through.  It’s something he’s suppressed for years upon years, and it’s essentially killing him.  When he is able to bring himself to a place where he can finally confront it, it’s quite cathartic.”

“In the Heart of the Sea” was filmed almost entirely in sequence for several reasons, not the least of which was the gradual change in the characters’ appearances as they waste away from a lack of food and water, as well as shelter from the unforgiving elements.

The appearance of the men who survive the sinking of the Essex changes drastically over time, so the actors, in turn, had to lose a substantial amount of weight over the course of production.  Lead actor Chris Hemsworth details, “The men were lost at sea for months, so by the time any of them were found, they were basically just skin and bones.  We were eating minimal amounts of food, but we kept reminding ourselves that it was nothing compared to what they suffered.  We all banded together to keep morale up and distract us from how hungry we were.”

Holland suggests, “There’s no stronger glue than getting a bunch of guys to lose weight together.  But it helped forge a bond between us on the set, which was really important.”

Tom Holland made an auspicious feature film debut in the critically acclaimed true-life drama “The Impossible,” with Naomi Watts.  His performance as a young boy who survived the devastating 2004 tsunami brought him a number of honors, including London Film Critics Circle, NationalBoard of Review and Empire Awards.

Opening across the Philippines on Thursday, December 3, in theaters and IMAX®, In the Heart of the Sea is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.

— PRESS STATEMENT FROM WARNER BROS. PICTURES

Sylvester Stallone reprises most iconic role as Rocky Balboa in ‘Creed’

For the seventh time in his illustrious career, Sylvester Stallone portrays his most iconic role of boxing legend Rocky Balboa, in Warner Bros. Pictures’ Creed which explores a new chapter in the “Rocky” story, now focusing on Adonis, the son of Apollo Creed, Rocky’s late best friend.

Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) never knew his famous father, world heavyweight champion Apollo Creed, who died before he was born. Still, there’s no denying that boxing is in his blood, so Adonis heads to Philadelphia, the site of Apollo Creed’s legendary match with a tough upstart named Rocky Balboa.

“He thinks that because Rocky was close to Apollo, he might be the only other person who could understand what he’s going through, and that because of his history with the father, he’ll be willing to train the son,” Jordan offers. “But that’s not the case.”

Rocky makes it clear he’s not interested in going back to that world, and, Jordan says, “that just because his father’s Apollo Creed doesn’t mean he’ll become a world champion. It takes a lot of hard work.”

But the wholly self-trained Adonis doesn’t shy away from hard work; he’s ready to knuckle down. That says a lot to someone like Rocky, who decides to take him on despite his misgivings.

Having created Rocky Balboa and played him in six prior incarnations, Stallone slipped easily back into the role, eager to explore the character in this phase of his life, when he’s presented with this unexpected opportunity. “Even though the character comes out of me, I wish I was able to be more like him,” Stallone laughs. “He’s the epitome of patience, there’s not a mean bone in his body and, though he’s very competitive, he fights for pride.”

“Sly knows Rocky better than anybody, and he knows more about the sport of boxing and how to make a movie about it than I ever could,” director Ryan Coogler says. “We’d be writing scenes and I’d call and ask him, ‘What would Rocky do here?’ If I had ideas, he’d be the first person I’d call. If he had an idea, he’d call me. He was so generous. It was a great collaboration.”

“Boxing, probably like most sports, is about 80 percent in your head,” Stallone surmises. “You can be defeated before you walk out of the dressing room. That’s why a good corner man has to be a psychoanalyst, right on the spot. He’s got to hold his guy together. It’s a pretty extraordinary occupation, and I thought it was a great place for Rocky to go—to take everything he’s known from all his years as a fighter and give it to this kid.”

Having been in and around the boxing arena—both fictional and real—for so long, Stallone has had ample opportunity to examine what makes a boxer tick. “Why fight when you don’t have to? What drives the fighter? It’s a very unique personality who wants to challenge himself in that way. Even Rocky, who is so gentle; when he’s in the ring there’s a primal thing that kicks in. It’s about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, testing yourself in this ultimate, mano a mano fashion that most people wouldn’t do.”

Stallone adds that, in addition to the emotions that come with the highs and lows of Rocky’s own life story, when confronted with Apollo’s son, “he’s suddenly faced with the grief of losing Apollo again, and feeling responsible for that death. He’s never really come to terms with it. Now he’s not only reminded, but he sees this kid, who looks so much like his friend, looking back at him, wanting to step into this dangerous arena and wanting Rocky to take him there. And Rocky doesn’t want to; he doesn’t want to feel responsible for Apollo’s kid getting hurt, too. But he knows if he doesn’t do it, someone else will, and Donnie may really get hurt. If Rocky does his best, maybe he can keep him safe, and make up for what happened all those years ago.”

Opening across the Philippines on December 9, 2015, Creed is distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.

— PRESS STATEMENT FROM WARNER BROS. PICTURES

WATCH: New trailer of ‘The Finest Hours’ comes to the rescue

The new trailer of Walt Disney Pictures’ The Finest Hours starring Chris Pine has just been released and may viewed below.

A heroic action-thriller, “The Finest Hours” is based on the extraordinary true story of the greatest small boat rescue in Coast Guard history. Presented in Digital 3D™, the film transports audiences to the heart of the action, creating a fully-immersive cinematic experience on an epic scale.

Directed by Craig Gillespie, “The Finest Hours” stars Chris Pine (the “Star Trek” films); Academy Award® nominee Casey Affleck (“Interstellar”); Ben Foster (“3:10 to Yuma”); Holliday Grainger (“Cinderella”); John Ortiz (“Silver Linings Playbook”); and Eric Bana (“Lone Survivor”).

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Produced by Jim Whitaker (“Cinderella Man”) and Dorothy Aufiero (“The Fighter”), the screenplay is by Oscar® nominee Scott Silver (“8 Mile”) and Oscar nominees Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson (“The Fighter”) based on the acclaimed non-fiction book of the same name by Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman. Doug Merrifield (the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films) serves as executive producer.

Opening across the Philippines on January 27, 2016, The Finest Hours is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International through Columbia Pictures.

Follow the official social media accounts of Disney in the Philippines, namely, (FB) WaltDisneyStudiosPH, (Twitter) @disneystudiosph and (Instagram) @waltdisneystudiosph.

— PRESS STATEMENT FROM WALT DISNEY STUDIOS MOTION PICTURES

MOVIE REVIEW: Angela Markado (2015)

Angela Markado is a confused, lowly incompetent if not entirely, disrespectful remake of a Lino Brocka classic. Its marketing boasts the name of the National Artist, together with the Hilda Koronel-starrer having received the prestigious grand prix award in France at the Nantes Film Festival in 1983, only to appear as a misleading note on the invites to the premiere night. (Let’s all be reminded that the original film won the award and not this 2015 version that has just premiered as of writing. If this continues to spread to lure audience in, then we have a big problem that must be called off.)

Andi Eigenmann, fresh from her equally horrible portrayals in Tragic Theater last January 2015 and Your Place or Mine? last April, now takes the spotlight as the titular character. The remake is under the helm of Carlo J. Caparas who wrote the comics from which the original film was based. If only the late Brocka were still alive today, he would surely find this an insult, if not a joke, to the craft itself more than anything else. It would not be a necessity to have seen the 1983 film just to realize that this so-called “updated” adaptation is nowhere near the former’s calibre. On first thought, why create this remake in the first place?

In a perfect world, you don’t start a revenge story with the revenge act itself unless it is executed well and unless you want to say something important. Angela Markado begins with a Magpakailanman-type of cold open: not useful and too foreign to the audience simply because there is no connection yet.

Along the way, the jumps between the present and the flashback do not help in easing the audience into the troubles of the protagonist. The intentions are not clear at all. Rather than aiding, the device seems only there for the heck of it: immature and poorly thought of as if everything is a manifestation of slack writing. Whenever the story rests to give way to flashback scenes, the tension is suspended instead of being built up for the emotions to sink in. Had that been the case, it would be more comfortable to sympathize with Angela in spite of the diabolic acts she resorts to doing.

In an alternate universe, we see a poor, charming Angela at the core of her character, until one night she meets the five men who would rape her, and later on she would seek revenge with the audience taking her side, believing in her, wholeheartedly knowing that a woman should stand up amidst misery. But then again, any of these are never a part of Caparas’ take on Angela Markado.

At one point, instead of Andi Eigenmann, the lead character could have been any of these two supporting characters: (1) Kayla Acosta’s policewoman character who constantly twitches her forehead to call it “acting” insofar as keeping her emotion at full blast even if her character does not call for it. Her tag name reads ACOSTA which later on reveals as a nod to Public Attorney’s Office chief Persida Rueda-Acosta who happens to be her mother. Kayla is a PETA (Philippines Educational Theater Association) actress–perhaps, that is why her acting is too big and uncalled for or she might have still been imagining the whole setup as a stage play. The audience keeps on laughing whenever she strikes her (signature) facial expression: fiery, undeterred and annoying. If this is an indication that there is something wrong, then her acting skills should be re-examined. Letting her take the role only because she is the daughter of Atty. Persida could sound superficial but we cannot merely dismiss such idea.

Same goes with character (2): Ysabelle Peach Caparas who plays the daughter of Bembol Roco’s character and sister to Buboy Villar’s. Together, they later on revolt, through a laughable climax, against the inhumane lordship over the ranch of Paolo Contis’s character.

There is too much exposure for such lame acting that needs a lot of polishing. No wonder, she is the daughter of Carlo J. Caparas. According to her during the press conference, she is the one being groomed as the next producer in the family after their mother Donna Villa. Maybe, since there is a chance in the midst of Angela Markado, they just let her take the role with more speaking lines than necessary. Ultimately, Ysabelle Peach is not ready to handle much of the responsibilities handed to her as an actress in the film. The result is a mess however hard it is to push herself. In due time, with more opportunities to improve their acting skills, these two character actresses would prove themselves as deserving for the role, rather than keeping people thinking that they are part of something just because of their parents.

Another Caparas who plays big in Angela Markado si CJ Caparas, one of the rapists that has ruined Angela Markado’s life. There is a striking potential in CJ as he possesses the stance of a determined actor. It is not difficult for him to keep with the pace of his “barkada” in the story: the characters played by Paolo Contis, Polo Ravales, Felix Roco and Epi Quizon. The five of them play their respective evil characters to their very best. Each of them showcases enough time to turn Angela’s world upside down as they kidnap, tie up, rape and brand her. The story attempts to flesh out the motivations of each rapist, only to end up swaying to and fro without any specific purpose.

When worse comes to worst, the bit players are there to ruin every single scene they are in. How can all of these even be called passable acting? Even when they are with the main actors in a scene, they all act minus the drive and they look unprepared. In one scene, since the story requires showing how courageous Angela has become, she randomly walks into an arguing couple and saves the wife from the hands of her husband. Only the acting of these bit players are as terrible as the idea of adding this blasphemy.

Also, if the actors cannot speak well in Filipino, why force them into delivering complicated lines with Filipino words that are hard for them to pronounce? Apparently, it does not sound natural at all, that even if the characters themselves are still learning the language somewhere unwritten in the story, trying so hard does not do them any good. A good example is Brett Jackson who plays the character of Angela’s boyfriend. He will be playing a lead role in the upcoming Cinemalaya entry Mercury is Mine, so he better be better in a Jason Paul Laxamana film.

All in all, the level of horrors in Angela Markado is indescribable that looking into the smallest details could even worsen the pangs and would even bring about heartaches and headaches to those who want to watch the worth of their movie tickets. We could forget about how the production forgets to bother for proper headline writing on their props, or how it passes off pasting cut-out words on a newspaper to make new headlines, or how it uses cardboards as makeshift microphones for TV reporters in the story. We could forget how bad and pointless the CGI effects are, how simple things turn out illogical, or how the found-footage-like treatment is dizzying and, again, pointless (other than being able to hide blood and violence). We could just forget how everything is a mess or how the story wraps itself at the end the way a makahiya would close its leaves when touched. That’s just how Angela Markado works: it folds when it is ashamed, it hides when it knows it’s bad. And it is a horrible, horrible film.

As an endnote, with Angela Markado’s blatant exploration of rape, drugs and violence, how come it received an R-13 rating from MTRCB? For a censoring body that gave a General Patronage (G) rating to the science fiction action film Transformers, nobody should be surprised.

angela markado movie poster