MOVIE REVIEW: Punla (2016, CineFilipino)

“Punla” Review
Written and Directed by Kenneth Mandrilla
Cinefilipino Film Festival 2016

Bugoy and Mikko are two friends who barely have any similarities between them; Mikko is chubby and clumsy, while Bugoy is slender and agile. Despite their differences, the two friends make things work and make sure to meet in their favorite playground every day.

One day, the two friends end up fighting due to Mikko’s  attempt to keep a mango Bugoy picked for himself. Furious, Bugoy pushes Mikko, not knowing the river was right behind him. Bugoy then rushes home to inform his father that Mikko has drowned, and his father decides to cover up for him by burying Mikko’s body in the playground.

One year later, Bugoy returns to the playground and finds a mango seedling, and with the belief that it’s his friends essence, pulls it out and keeps it to himself. Mikko’s phantom painfully stares at Bugoy as he walks away from the place that separated them.

Punla is a story about the sudden and unexpected loss of someone close to your heart, and the need to find something to remember them by due to the suddenness of it all. Bugoy never had a chance to apologize, he never had the chance to say goodbye. Mikko served as the Punla, and the seedling served as his spirit and memory that will carry on through his absence.

cinefilipino 2016 punla poster

‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ earns P86.65-M on 1st day in PH

MANILA, March 27, 2016 – Warner Bros. Pictures’ action adventure “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” took the Philippine box office by storm on its opening day yesterday, earning P86.65-million across 598 screens and setting new box-office records, with no signs of slowing down.

Opening virtually day-and-date across the globe, director Zack Snyder’s highly anticipated follow-up to “Man of Steel” brings Batman and Superman together on the big screen for the first time in history, and is the very first feature film appearance of Wonder Woman, the third Super Hero in DC Comics’ iconic Trinity.

In the Philippines, the film has broken a number of industry records, namely:

  • Biggest Single Day Gross in cinema history, surpassing last year’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron’s” P83.2-M (Sunday Gross);
  • Biggest Opening Day All-Time Industry-Wide, ahead of “Avengers: Age of Ultron’s” P72.7-M (Wed opening);
  • Biggest Saturday Gross All-Time Industry-Wide, eclipsing “Avengers: Age of Ultron’s” P81.9-M;
  • Biggest WB Opening Day All-Time, beating “Man of Steel’s” P69-M (Wed – holiday opening); and
    Biggest Superhero Opening Day, surpassing “Avengers: Age of Ultron’s” P72-M.

The announcement was made today by Francis Soliven, General Manager of Warner Bros. Pictures Philippines.

Soliven said, “Anticipation for `Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ has been building across the country and these incredible results are a testament to not only the enduring appeal of these global icons but the power of the epic cinematic showdown Zack Snyder and his brilliant cast and crew have delivered. We couldn’t be more thrilled with the film’s incredible debut and strong word-of-mouth and repeat business promises to propel its success well into the season.”

From director Zack Snyder comes “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” starring Oscar winner Ben Affleck (“Argo”) as Batman/Bruce Wayne and Henry Cavill (“Man of Steel”) as Superman/Clark Kent in the characters’ first big-screen pairing.

Fearing the actions of a god-like Super Hero left unchecked, Gotham City’s own formidable, forceful vigilante takes on Metropolis’s most revered, modern-day savior, while the world wrestles with what sort of hero it really needs. And with Batman and Superman at war with each other, a new threat quickly arises, putting mankind in greater danger than it has ever known before.

Directed by Zack Snyder, the film also stars Oscar nominees Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, Diane Lane as Martha Kent, and Laurence Fishburne as Perry White; Oscar winners Jeremy Irons as Alfred, and Holly Hunter as Senator Finch; and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince.

Snyder directed from a screenplay written by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer, based on characters from DC Comics, including Batman, created by Bob Kane with Bill Finger, and Superman, created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. The film is produced by Charles Roven and Deborah Snyder, with Wesley Coller, Geoff Johns and David S. Goyer serving as executive producers.

Snyder’s behind-the-scenes creative team includes director of photography Larry Fong (“300,” “Watchmen”) and production designer Patrick Tatopoulos (“300: Rise of an Empire”), and from his “Man of Steel” team, editor David Brenner, costume designer Michael Wilkinson, visual effects supervisor John DJ DesJardin, and Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer (“The Lion King”) working in conjunction with composer Junkie XL (“Mad Max: Fury Road”).

Warner Bros. Pictures presents, an Atlas Entertainment/Cruel and Unusual production, a Zack Snyder film, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” The film can be seen in IMAX, Dolby Cinema, 3D and 2D, and is being distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.

J.J. Abrams awakens ’10 Cloverfield Lane’ as unofficial sequel

While he was directing, producing and co-writing a little film called “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” J.J. Abrams still found some time left over to produce Paramount Pictures’ new suspense thriller “10 Cloverfield Lane,” an “unofficial” sequel to the 2007 found-footage hit “Cloverfield” which he also produced.

Described as a mere “blood relative” to “Cloverfield,” the new film “10 Cloverfield Lane” stars John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher, Jr. The film’s official synopsis only reads, “Monsters come in many forms.” Dan Trachtenberg directs “10 Cloverfield Lane” from a screenplay by Josh Campbell and Matt Stuecken.

Q: In what aspects is “10 Cloverfield Lane” a “blood-relative” to “Cloverfield?”

J.J. Abrams: Well, there are a number of connections, some obvious, some not. Things that I want people to sort of find on their own. Some are thematic, some are genre. But what defines a Cloverfield movie is part of a kind of bigger idea we had. This is sort of part anthology and part a larger idea. And the fun of having a movie that is connected to Cloverfield, but not a literal “Cloverfield 2,” which is of course what we would have called it had it been a literal sequel. It would have been a more obviously titled sequel. This is something that hopefully if we get a shot to continue this idea that we have, we can have a lot of fun with and come clearer what constitutes a Cloverfield movie.

Q: Even though this film isn’t shot in found-footage style like “Cloverfield,” it feels, there’s a lot of moments in it that you get the same POV feeling that “Cloverfield” had. Is that one of the connections? Is that something that you’re gonna bring on hopefully to other movies?

Abrams: I think that because the premise of this movie is so strong, meaning it is so singular in point of view, I feel like one of the many cool things that Dan did was allowed the audience to vicariously experience moment to moment what Michelle is going through. And part because Mary Elizabeth Winstead is so good. And that is there’s no strategy behind that other than I think Dan telling a story very well.

Q: How did you find Dan Trachtenberg? This is a big movie to give to a first time director.

Abrams: Lindsey Weber who produced “10 Cloverfield Lane” with me knew Dan beforehand. When we were searching for the director, she brought him in. What I was mostly impressed by was the clarity and strength of his vision for how he would do this movie. He had a confidence that I think is apparent in the film. A strong sense of tension and focus and he did this really beautiful work with the actors, with the camera, with modulation. I think that the tension of the movie, it’s not just creepy and scary, but there’s a great sense of tension to the movie that I think is really all about what Dan brought to it. So I would credit Lindsey for finding him and credit Dan for what the movie is.

Q: During the making of this film, you were off filming “The Force Awakens.” How involved were you in “10 Cloverfield Lane?”

Abrams: Well, I was involved in the script stage. I was involved in what dailies sending in, notes or suggestions or trying to help whenever I could be of help to Dan and Lindsey who was on set all the time. In post I was like more involved in helping wherever Dan needed it. But again, this was something that really was Dan’s vision and I was just trying to do what a producer does, which is help out.

Q: You are not showing much of the film, marketing-wise. How does that work? Do you have a contract with the studios to have control over the marketing?

Abrams: I can only speak for our experience with Bad Robot and the marketing department, the films we worked on. And what’s been great is there’s a relationship we have the marketing departments that feel like it’s about mutual understanding and respect and strategy. And we get together very early on to discuss how we’re gonna approach what I think it is. Obviously it’s a hugely important thing, how you announce and reveal and hopefully pique interest in a story. And we made a very specific decision early on to not announce this movie a year in advance, six months in advance. We thought let’s break the template and try something new. In an age of people knowing most everything about every stage of the prep, production, post and release of a movie. And the fun of saying here comes a movie. It will be in theaters in two months. Or three months. Not give people much time to conclude to pass judgment on a movie that they could already feel that they know everything about. But rather have some fun with a movie that I think is a fun movie worth having fun with and then surprise the audience.

Opening across the Philippines on April 6, 2016, “10 Cloverfield Lane” is distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.

MOVIE REVIEW: Aki (2016, CineFilipino)

“Aki” Review
Written and Directed by Rommel Tolentino
Cinefilipino Film Festival 2016

Aki (Japanese for autumn) is gone. Her mourning lover, Haruo, wanders around Japan trying to cope with her loss. And then it all goes black.

In the Philippines, a woman named Myla is brutally raped by her own husband. She eventually dies but miraculously resurrects with memories not her own. Visions of autumn, a forest, and running water race through her mind as clear as day.

Fragmented scenes of Haruo and Aki show that they seem to have an awareness of each other’s existence, regardless of the distance. Haruo’s fond memories of Aki and Myla’s borrowed memories of autumn (as of this point in time, audiences can probably assess that all of it are Aki’s memories) establish a connection between them that goes beyond the physical.

Aki is avant-garde in its own way, requiring a bit more intelligence and perception to understand the message writer and director Rommel Tolentino (who goes by the moniker of MILO) wants to convey. His presentation of Haruo and Myla’s metaphysical connection is beautifully made and can make you say “Wow!” with its visual quality.

The film also addresses physical abuse a number of women have to go through, simply because they are tied to their husband with a marriage contract. As depressing as it may be, her only escape is through someone else’s memories. The domestic abuse in her household is tolerated even by her mother, and Myla’s only solace is the comfort of her connection with Haruo.

MILO made the film using his fascination for autumn as an inspiration. But there lies the ominous message. Autumn is scarlet and bursts with a violent kind of beauty. Nevertheless, it is only a prelude. After the haze of color, everything becomes black and white, and everything dies.

cinefilipino 2016 aki poster

MOVIE REVIEW: Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis (2016)

“Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis” (A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery) Review
Written and directed by Lav Diaz

May kung anong hiwaga sa loob ng bagong pelikula ni Lav Diaz na sa unang eksena pa lang ay mararamdaman na. May kung anong pagtagos mula sa halos kwadradong litrato patungo sa pandama ng manonood. Mananatili ito sa loob ng dibdib, sa nakakuyom na palad at sa mga labing magnanais maging tikom sa kabila ng pagkamangha.

Naglalaro ang itim at puti, ang dilim at liwanag, at lahat ng matatagpuan sa gitna. Sa halip na maging sunod-sunod na imaheng walang kabuuan, ang kinalabasan ay ang pagkakapinta ng isang nakakabighaning larawan: gumagalaw, buháy na buháy at punong-puno ng kaluluwa. Sa loob ng walong oras, nagawa ni Lav Diaz na pamahalaan ang ganitong gawi habang inilalatag ang kuwento ng Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis.

hele sa hiwagang hapis movie

Sa huli ang pagtatagni ng mistulang sala-salabid na salaysay at doon may kaginhawaan: hindi dahil natapos na ang walong oras at limang minuto ng pagtutok sa panoorin kundi dahil may mainam na dulot sa pagkagutom, sa pagkauhaw at sa kawalan o halos kawalan ng pag-asa para sa sariling bayan.

May apat na sinusundang daloy ang Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis: ang kuwento ni Jocelynang Baliwag at ang isang mangingibig na musikero (Ely Buendia), ang paghahanap ni Gregoria de Jesus o Oryang (Hazel Orencio) sa asawang rebolusyonaryong si Andres Bonifacio, katuwang ang taksil na si Cesaria Belarmino (Alessandra de Rossi) at pati na sina Karyo (Joel Saracho) at Aling Hule (Susan Africa); ang pakikipagsapalaran nina Isagani (John Lloyd Cruz) at Simoun o Crisostomo Ibarra (Piolo Pascual), na paminsan-minsang nakikipagtunggali ang isip kay Basilio (Sid Lucero) at paglao’y kay Padro Florentino (Menggie Cobarrubias); at ang pakikisalamuha ng tatlong anyo ng tikbalang (babae ang kay Cherie Gil, lalaki ang kay Bernardo Bernardo, at halong babae’t lalaki ang kay Angel Aquino) habang tinutunton ang maalamat na si Bernardio Carpio, at sa paglayo’y makakahalibulo ang pinunong si Sebastian Caneo (Ronnie Lazaro).

“Tinupok ako ng hapis. Nilambungan ako ng kalungkutang waring di ko na kayang lampasan. Humihingi ako ng tawad, Isagani.”

Sa pagsasama-sama ng musika, kasaysayan, panitikan at alamat, gumawa ang Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis ng sarili nitong mundo na may pagyakap sa mismong pag-iral ng mga nabanggit. Tumugtog ang Jocelynang Baliwag at marapat nitong inihambing ang kundiman sa pagtangi sa bayan. Isa itong paalalang may marudbod na pagnanasang hamakin ang lahat para sa tinubuang lupa. Hindi panahon ang makakapagsabing naiwan na ang ganitong pag-iisip sa nakaraan; Nananatili pa rin ito sa kasalukuyan at lumagablab bilang isang malakas na damdamin. Bumigkas ng Mi Ultimo Adios sa wikang Kastila at Tagalog at may kuryenteng dadaloy upang dakilain ang kagitingan ng isang Rizal. Sa pagtatagpo ng alaherong si Simoun at ang Kapitan Heneral (Bart Guingona), mahaba-habang usapan ang iginugol sa kampayan ng alak at siyang haba ng panahong kailangan upang sariwain ang napag-aralan at nabasa. Mag-uudyok ng gigil at halaklak ang mga tikbalang, manlilito sa mga mortal, at magsisilbing panghilamos sa realidad. Mapaglaro ang mga eksena ngunit hindi ang katotohanan.

hele sa hiwagang hapis lav diaz 4

May pangil ang pakikipagtalastasan ng dalawang pangunahing tauhan na sa unang pagkakataon ay napagsama sa isang pelikula. Sa pagsabak nina Piolo Pascual at John Lloyd Cruz, sa isang mapangahas na obrang may layong punan ang mga patlang na iniwan ng Himagsikang Pilipino at ng nobelang El Filibusterismo, naipamalas ang kakaibang tambalang siya ring nagpaisog sa kakayahan ng Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis na buwagin ang kung ano mang harang na pumapagitna sa patok at sa di-nakasanay.

hele sa hiwagang hapis alessandra de rossi

Kailanman ay hindi biro ang walong oras. Kung may isang bagay kang kinagigiliwan, walang-wala ang oras kung susukatin ang lahat ng mapagtutuunang panahon. Nariyang magpapasakop ka na lang at magpapaubaya: hahayaang anurin ng sariling pagkalango sa di nalalagok na alak. Magpapakalasing sa sarili nating mga hilig at hindi man lang aalalahanin ang paglipas ng mga sandali. Sapagkat sa tuwing naroon tayo sa loob ng isang  bagay na malapit sa atin, walang ibang mapapansin kundi ang pagtatapos nito at doon matutunton ang halaga ng lahat. Makakasambit ng “Natapos na pala!” nang hindi man lang namamalayang may walong oras na nga ang lumipas. Saka natin pagninilayan. Saka natin masasabi sa sarili na may pakinabang ang lahat.

“Walang kabiguan sa tamang pakikibaka. Walang kabiguan sa tamang paghihintay.”

Higit sa isang hamon, ang pagbuno sa Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis ay isang katuparan ng hangaring makilalang muli ang sarili nating pagka-Pilipino. Hindi sapat ang sukat nito kung tuusin ang halaga ng mithiin, salamangka at panulaang gustong ipabatid ng pagkakahabi ni Lav Diaz. Sa huli, ito ay isang abot-kamay na paalalang dapat nating kagisnan ang nakaraan nang may buong puso at katuwiran bilang makabagong Pilipino.