Brillante Mendoza shares background on latest masterpiece ‘Ma’ Rosa’

2009 Cannes Best Director Brillante Mendoza talks about Ma‘ Rosa, his inspiration, and the challenges in making the film.

1. Describe Ma’ Rosa in one sentence

Ma’ Rosa shows us a glimpse of a Filipino family set on a typical district in Manila, giving us a slice of life in a community.

2. What made you pursue the story behind Ma’ Rosa?

The idea of this film came up four years ago when I became indirectly involved with the said incident. It captured my interest to tell this story because it shows a unique but also disturbing characteristic of a common Filipino family. That when a family member is backed against the wall for the wrong doings that he or she made, you will do everything to keep them out of trouble even if it means violating basic virtues. In a society where survival of the fittest is a fact that we have to live with, family becomes amoral.

3. What were the challenges in putting the story together for the screen?

The whole film was treated like a documentary film with a strong feel of realism, using found objects and locations in production design. But what seems to be a simple production endeavor is actually a formidable challenge to any filmmaker because even though this was filmed in a minimalist manner, the truth is we are still doing a feature film with real actors trained in different disciplines of acting.

In able for us to capture the precision raw emotions, I told them to throw away everything that they have learned in their acting profession and just act plain and natural as their characters since they should blend with non-actors on screen.

4. We heard that you shot the sequences without any script? Why is this?

That’s correct. The actors were never given a copy of the script and were only directed based on how I commute the script. Dialogs were delivered very naturally as they depend on their personal instincts throughout the film. In fact, sequences were filmed in the same order as the story so that the actors can relate to the plight of their character as the shooting progresses. The feeling of uncertainty must materialize on screen as the editing subscribes to the main character’s point-of-view as we follow their account of what transpired that evening.

5. After Ma’Rosa, what’s next?

A lot of films are in the pipeline. Also a bigger Sinag Maynila for 2017. There is of course the The Brillante Mendoza Film Workshop which is part of my advocacy to “rethink and redefine cinema”. This is also my way of giving back and training new generations of film makers and storytellers.

Mendoza is known for his advocacies and groundbreaking films that tackle social issues. He is committed in sharing his knowledge and experience in filmmaking with a new generation through his works and workshops.

Ma’ Rosa is Mendoza’s 4th film to be shown at the Cannes Film Festival in France. The first one was Serbis in 2008, which was nominated for the coveted Palme d’Or (Golden Palm). In 2009, Mendoza won Best Director at Cannes for his film Kinatay, and in 2015, his movie Taklub was given the Ecumenical Jury-Prize Special Mention.

Ma’Rosa gave the Philippines and Southeast Asia its first acting award when Jaclyn Jose won as Best Actress in the 69th Cannes Film Festival. Among the nominees were Charlize Theron, Marion Cotillard, Isabelle Huppert, and Kristen Stewart.

The Philippines will get to see what the buzz is all about come July 6, 2016 (Wednesday) as Ma’ Rosa opens in cinemas nationwide.

Guatemalan legend becomes horror story in ‘Worry Dolls’

The Guatemalan Indians teach their children an old story. If you have worries, you share them with your Worry Dolls at bedtime. You put the dolls in a box and come dawn, the worries have been taken away.

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In the upcoming horror movie of the same title, Worry Dolls is set in a peaceful town where a series of brutal murders sees a detective racing against time to save his daughter.  A brutal serial killer is finally gunned down in the middle of carrying out one last heinous act of bloody murder. In the maniac’s possession, a box of Guatemalan talismans, which mistakenly end up being sold as charm jewelry in Chloe’s Collectables thrift shop. Soon those who bought the Worry Dolls begin to act strangely out of character and cause another rash of senseless slaughter. An ancient curse is consuming the city and pits a hardened detective against the clock to save his 8 year-old daughter’s life.

Worry Dolls is now showing in Philippine cinemas, distributed by Silverline, Inc.

Shang Cineplex participates at World Premieres Film Festival 2016

Shang screens best new films of the World Premieres Film Festival. Leading lifestyle destination Shangri-La Plaza is set to host one of the anticipated runs of the World Premieres Film Festival, the cinematic showcase of critically-acclaimed works and upcoming film directors from across the globe. All the entries in the festival will either make a worldwide or an international premiere, with the Main Competition, Intercontinental and “ASEAN Skies” categories screening at the Shang Cineplex from June 30 to July 5.

The lineup includes a special premiere of Filipino entry Dalisay (June 30 at 9:00PM), and two other international section entries 3 Beauties and Damn, New York. The main competition section counts Redha and Daughters of the Three Tailed Banner with gala premieres at the Shang on July 1 at 7:00PM and 9:00PM respectively. The last three films include ASEAN Skies section entries 7 Letters, a collaboration between Singapore’s seven most illustrious directors, and another Filipino entry Laut, plus the lauded Galloping Mind.

Ticket price for the film festival is P100. Check out the complete World Premieres Film Festival screening schedule at the Shang Cineplex or at www.facebook.com/shangrilaplazaofficialfanpage.

For inquiries, call 370-2597 or follow the Shang on Instagram: @shangrilaplazaofficial.

Scratastrophic chillogy continues in ‘Ice Age: Collision Course’

In the latest epic family movie adventure Ice Age: Collision Course from the highly successful Ice Age franchise, audiences worldwide will be propelled to new environments like the cosmos and a crystallized world known as Geotopia, with many of the characters beginning their own new journeys.

Scrat is, of course, one character that never changes. In Ice Age: Collision Course he continues his pursuit of the cursed acorn. But this time Scrat’s quest is taking him where no Ice Age character has gone before—the cosmos—where the consequences of his antics are nothing short of “Scrat-tastrophic.” Scrat’s epic pursuit of the elusive acorn catapults him into the universe, where he accidentally sets off a series of cosmic events that transform and threaten the Ice Age world. To save themselves, Sid, Manny, Diego and the rest of the herd must leave their home and embark on a quest full of comedy and adventure, as they travel to exotic new lands and encounter a host of colorful new characters.

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In this film, Scrat drives the story, instead of merely providing comic relief to the main story of the herd. And it’s about time. Scrat is literally at every major moment in the history of the natural world. He ushered in the Ice Age, started the Meltdown, unleashed the Lost World of the Dinosaurs into the Ice Age, started the separation of the continents—and now, he’s triggered a series of cosmic disasters that threaten the Ice Age world. “In this film, Scrat is pretty much responsible for the expansion of the universe as we know it,” notes Forte. “It’s his version of the Big Bang.”

Director Michael Thurmeier embraced the opportunity to find a unique environment—and catastrophes—for the cherished acorn-chaser. “I see so much potential with what you can do with Scrat,” he notes. “He’s become a true classic animated character. Scrat never stops persevering, no matter what happens to him.”

The filmmakers’ new path for Scrat also presents fresh obstacles to overcome. This time, he must deal with gravitational forces, otherworldly technology, and the infinite mysteries of the cosmos. ICE AGE 5

The new film’s story is deeply rooted in the mythology of the original Ice Age. Producer Lori Forte, who has been with the franchise since its inception, and whose ideas have sparked several of the films’ stories, explains: “In the first film, there was a scene where the herd passes through a kind of ice ‘museum,’ where we see a prehistoric fish, a dinosaur, the evolution of Sid, and then a spacecraft or flying saucer. “We always recognized that the spaceship was intriguing and knew there was some kind of mythology attached to it that we’d someday explore, but at that time we didn’t know exactly what it was,” she continues. “So we decided the time was right to come back around to that piece of Ice Age, and sowed the seeds for Collision Course.”

Another connection to the original film—and to its subsequent chapters—is the herd’s relatable family dynamics, which provide heart and emotion, and complement the comedy and adventure. But like most families, the herd must adapt to a world that’s always in flux. “We take our family of characters further than we’ve seen them before,” says Forte.

Ice Age: Collision Course brings an all-star voice cast with returning and new herd members led by Ray Romano as the voice of Manny the Mammoth, John Leguizamo as Sid, Dennis Leary as Diego, Queen Latifah as Ellie, Jennifer Lopez as Shira, Adam Devine as Julian, Jessie J as Brooke, Jesse Tyler Ferguson as Shangri-llama, Josh Peck as Eddie, Simon Pegg as Buck, Sean William Scott as Crash and Wanda Sykes as Granny.

Presented by 20th Century Fox and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, Ice Age: Collision Course opens in Philippine cinemas on July 6, 2016.

MOVIE REVIEW: The Legend of Tarzan (2016)

The Legend of Tarzan (2016) Review
Directed by David Yates

The Legend of Tarzan is yet again one of those movies that try to recreate an age-old tale about a character who’s been around in children’s literature since forever. The most recent remarkable rendition in living millennial memory is none other than the 1999 Walt Disney animated feature Tarzan, which I have to say I grew up loving (cue: Phil Collins’ You’ll be in my heart! You’ll be in my heart! Okay, enough). But apparently, there’s also this fairly obscure animated rendition of Tarzan from 2014 subtitled “The Legend lives.” And perhaps the reason why nobody knows about it is because it’s horrible (at least, that’s what the critics say, because I haven’t seen it, and I don’t plan to).

Perhaps there are a dozen other unknown (and unknowable) recreations of the archetypal tale about a young child raised by a pack of apes, whether that be on TV, on film, or in writing, and we don’t have to know them all. But the question is, given that the story has been there since since the original author Edgar Rice Burroughs published his novel Tarzan of the Apes in 1914, does this 2016 Warner Bros. rendition—created a century after—have anything significant to offer to its audience? Allow me to break it down for you.

Visually, I would say the film is good. The cinematography is ace, what with the picturesque plains of Africa, the mighty rivers of the ancient continent, and the subtropical jungles of the Congo (and the chase scenes therein). Production design is also well-done; wardrobe, props, and set design are of the quality expected of a major Hollywood production company. I would say, however, that they could have done better with animating the apes who look quite artificial and wouldn’t fool a child into thinking they’re real. I mean, Aslan from the Walt Disney movie The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe looks more stunning and convincing, and we’re talking about a film that came out in 2005.

legend of tarzan movie

Thematically, I guess the film has some depth. It touches upon issues such as racism and slavery, and I’m a fan of its modern use of Tarzan as a symbol for the struggle between what society would perceive as cultured and what it would negatively label as wild. If I’m allowed to do a bit of interpretation, I guess one of the things the film wants to express is how what may appear civilized on the outside might actually be inhuman in the inside, and vice versa. In this sense, I could say the film has some good points because of its attempt to comment on socially relevant themes. But with regards to the overall writing and how exactly these themes are expressed, eeerrr I can’t say I’m satisfied.

Personally I found its pacing to be a bit too draggy especially during the first quarter of the film when it takes too long to establish its characters and set up the first few blocks of the main conflict. We’re frequently bombarded with memories of John Clayton III as the boy Tarzan, and frankly I find the writer’s use of flashbacks a bit lazy. There are some exceptions, however, but the majority of them don’t contribute much to the build-up of the narrative. What I mean to say is, we already know that Tarzan was once a kid who grew up in the jungles of Africa, so why do we have to be constantly reminded of that? And is there really no other way to establish character background besides the use of flashbacks? Rather than being helpful in heightening the anticipation of the audience, the story is bogged down and made dull.

Having said all this, there was not one scene that made any significant impact in my mind. There were no moments that made me want to hold my breath because everything’s too overwhelming to take, and consequently there were no moments of relief that allowed me to relax and exhale until the cycle repeats. I’m not saying it should try to be a thriller, all I’m saying is if not for the gorillas screaming, I probably would have fallen asleep.

There were also no remarkable lines in the dialogue, no tearjerker moments (I mean, it doesn’t have to, but you know, good drama goes a long way), and no surprising turns in the plot. Quite frankly, it’s a very straightforward, hero-saves-damsel-in-distress, type of narrative. Nothing’s really new, and it doesn’t appear to try to do anything new. We’ve seen this type of story countless of times before, and do we have to see it again?

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I would say that The Legend of Tarzan is your average Hollywood action and adventure movie complete with explosions and desensitizing fight scenes. So to answer my question in the beginning, I can’t say that I found anything remarkable with this newest rendition of the tale. It’s not something you would remember for a long time, and I guess it’s not trying to be that kind of film. To be fair, it’s okay, but it’s not anything great.

Personally, I would not recommend this movie if you’re looking for something that would stun or wow you, or would leave a memory of it that you would carry till you’re aged. But I would recommend it if you’re just looking for some way to get your mind off of things, like if you need to get away from work, or if your kids need their dose of tolerable, cinematic violence. If that’s you, then go ahead, watch The Legend of Tarzan and see if you’ll like it. Everything I said might just be my opinion, and I can be wrong.

Catch Warner Bros. Pictures’ The Legend of Tarzan starring Alexander Skarsgård, Margot Robbie, and Samuel L. Jackson opening in Philippine cinemas June 30, 2016 (Thursday). 

 

World Premieres Film Festival 2016 to debut Vietnam’s ‘Yen’s Life’ at Uptown Cinemas

Uptown Cinemas kicks off the 3rd annual World Premieres Film Festival at Uptown Mall with an exclusive Gala Premiere of the Main Competition entry, Yen’s Life at Uptown Cinema 1, on June 30, 7:30 PM.

READ MORE: GUIDE: World Premieres Film Festival 2016

The event will be attended by acclaimed foreign directors including the international jury which will be judging for the WPFF’s prestigious awards such as the Grand Festival Prize and Grand Jury Prize. The exclusive gala will be followed by a Q&A with the film’s award-winning Vietnamese director Dinh Tuan Vu.

The World Premieres Film Festival is an international celebration of film in cooperation with the Film Development Council of the Philippines, the Cinematheque Centre Manila and the Embassies of participating countries where over 60 international films will be showcased at the country’s top cinema venues including Uptown Mall from June 30 to July 10. The festival will be open to the public for a ticket price of P100 at Uptown Cinema 4.

Only 5 films including Yen’s Life are selected to compete in the festival’s Main Competition section. Yen’s Life is a Vietnamese entry, and tells the story of a young Vietnamese woman who, because of a family arrangement, was married off at the tender age of 10.

wpff 2016 at uptown cinemas

The World Premieres Film Festival is a grand international affair that celebrates the wonder of film and the human experience as seen by diverse cultures of the world. The event is also a platform for international and local filmmaking talent to elevate their craft and to reach a wider global audience.

Participating countries will each premiere a new film that has yet to be screened elsewhere highlighted in the festival’s many categories. Audiences will be treated to film entries from all around the world in the Main Competition.

Featured films from ASEAN member states will be screened at the ASEAN Skies section, and narratives of non-ASEAN member states in the Intercontinental section. The WPFF will also present works that take a look in into contemporary cinemas of featured countries, Vietnam, Russia and China.

Experience the World Premieres Film Festival at Uptown Cinemas, one of the country newest and premiere theatres featuring groundbreaking technology and top quality facilities such as the 84-seater VIP Cinema with luxurious reclining seats and free popcorn with drinks.

Uptown Cinemas also goes above and beyond in giving cinema goers their movies on demand with 24-hour screenings every Fridays and Saturdays. Uptown Cinemas also has a dedicated online ticketing service, at http://www.blockbusterseats.com where audiences can see live updates on the WPFF schedule as well as regular screening times.

Enjoy a world class cinematic experience at the country’s premiere cinemas located at Uptown Mall, 36th St. cor. 9th Ave. Uptown Bonifacio in Fort Bonifacio. For more information, please call the Uptown Cinemas hotline at 869-9029. For other inquiries on Uptown Mall please contact the Megaworld Lifestyle Malls Concierge at 709-9888, 709-0888, 0917-8380111 or visit http://www.megaworldlifestylemalls.com.

Jun Lana highlights cinematic elements at Yabang Pinoy’s screening of ‘Anino sa Likod ng Buwan’

Funded primarily by the profits earned from working for mainstream cinema, Anino sa Likod ng Buwan (Shadow Behind the Moon) is a “passion project” which strives to engage in non-traditional ways of storytelling, accomplished filmmaker Jun Robles Lana said June 25 in a masterclass held at U-View, Fully Booked, Bonifacio Global City.

Citing influences from the 1920s German Expressionism movement, Lana described the creative choices he made in creating the one-shot-one-sequence film such as its “boxed” aspect ratio and its “VHS look” which, according to him, gave the film its “spirit.” In the tradition of the Expressionist movement, this he said, reflects the mind and the suffering of the characters portrayed in the film.

Set in Marag Valley, Apayao in the 90s, the film tackles controversial themes such as brutalities and human rights violations that allegedly happened in the region when the struggle between the Philippine military and the communist movement reached a climax.

Interested ako sa cinema of the oppressed (I am interested in the cinema of the oppressed),” the director said regarding his motivation in directing a film concerned with those caught in the crossfire in the valley.

Lana also described a “motif of displacement” which characterizes the “archaic” writing of the screenplay’s dialogue. Through this, the filmmaker said he attempts to portray the narrative as something “absurd, unreal” and yet true.

The masterclass was preceded by a screening of his 120-minute, one-shot cinematic masterpiece starring LJ Reyes, Luis Alandy, and Anthony Falcon, an event organized by Filipino pride movement Yabang Pinoy.

As of the present, the film has received international recognition, being nominated for categories such as Best Picture, Best Direction, and Best Screenplay at the Gawad Urian Awards, and winning the Pacific Meridian International Film Festival, for Best Feature Film.

A theatrical release of Anino sa Likod ng Buwan (Shadow Behind the Moon) is slated on July 20 at select cinemas to be announced soon.

 

Enchong Dee excited for acting comeback in ‘I Love You to Death’

Swimmer-turned-celebrity Enchong Dee expressed excitement for making a comeback in his acting career, in a press conference held June 27 at 38 Valencia Events Place for Regal Entertainment and The Idea First Company’s upcoming romantic horror-comedy film I Love You to Death.

After recording a self-titled album for Star Records and doing work outside the movie industry, the 27-year old actor said this time he would focus on honing his craft for acting, hoping to inspire a succeeding generation of artists.

Newbie actors Nico Nicolas and Christian Bables who were with Enchong and his leading lady Kiray Celis at the conference, supported Dee and said they felt inspired to work with the male lead actor.

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Enchong also said he felt eager working with director Miko Livelo for a film he claimed as “experimental” and “different” from his past works in mainstream cinema. Livelo said the film would be a combination of horror and comedy, with the latter he claims as his “forte.”

Kiray, on the other hand, described the movie script as smart and witty, and she proudly invited the audience to watch and support the local film industry.

The former Goin’ Bulilit cast member also expressed excitement for having worked with Enchong as her leading man, citing how at times it was challenging especially when the shoots involved intimate love scenes.

Also with Enchong and Kiray in the press conference were supporting actresses Trina Legaspi and Michelle Vito who likewise showed their enthusiasm for the release of Regal Entertainment’s latest picture.

Catch I Love You to Death, directed by Miko Livelo and written by Ash Malanum, opening this July 6, 2016 in cinemas nationwide.

MOVIE REVIEW: Anino sa Likod ng Buwan (2015)

A search for the truth behind mere surfaces—the subject matter presented to us by director Jun Lana’s 2015 masterpiece, Anino sa Likod ng Buwan (Shadow Behind the Moon).

I had the chance to see the one-shot-one sequence film when it was screened recently at Fully Booked Bonifacio Global City’s U View theater, an event organized by local NGO and Filipino pride movement Yabang Pinoy. It was followed by a masterclass with none other than the director himself Jun Lana who defined his work as a ‘passion project,’ a ‘personal film’ quite opposed to his mainstream cinema and TV endeavors. Hearing the director talk about his own work surely made it easier for me to organize the multitude of thoughts I had about the piece, but still, I find that the more I think about Anino, the more the work becomes profound.

Admittedly I doubted the film would be anything extraordinary, given that at face value it looks nothing more than your artsy ‘indie film,’ complete with a racy film poster and an enigmatic title designed to scare at least 80 percent of the general public—the remaining 20 percent who would see the film would be your run of the mill 20-something hipsters bracing their Murakamis and bubble milk teas. But as its name suggests, there is something behind the surface which makes this film more substantial and worth a watch than that one sketchy film sitting at a dark corner in the cinemas.

The film starts out typically, as how one would expect an indie to start: long take, purposely in low resolution, with handheld shaky shots and hardcoded English subtitles. Then it begins with a premise written white against an ominous black background; it informs us that this film would be about the brutalities in Marag Valley in the 90s, when the clash between the communist movement and the Philippine military would reach a frightening peak. It then presents us with three characters—the only ones to ever appear in the film—Emma, a housewife; Nardo, the husband of Emma; and Joel, a soldier playing the ‘good cop’ role. With these superficial ingredients on hand, it doesn’t require much thought to easily deconstruct the function of each character in the movie: Emma, as the ‘inang bayan’ archetype; Nardo, as the personification of the plight of the poor; and Joel as, obviously, the embodiment of fascism. It is therefore easy to dismiss the film as something predictable, lackluster, and even bland. But hold on for a moment and suspend judgment, because in the case of Anino, there is surely more than meets the eye.

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Immediately the narrative takes us to a dense maze of dialogue, at once colloquial, and then suddenly poetic—a joust of words that invites the audience to question the underlying motives of each persona. We witness the writer take his time, letting the words simmer and flavor with meaning, until the undercurrents boil and lay themselves bare. I found that even until the end it was difficult to answer the questions “Who is the hero?” and “Who is the enemy?” because the more the story moves forward, the more I am presented with sides I did not foresee the characters to possess. However, the complexity is not undesirable, it is in fact the strength of the narrative.

The director Jun Lana expressed that the decision to shoot the film in one long take was made due to his desire to engage in unconventional forms of storytelling. But as with every artistic decision, there must be an underlying reason that harmonizes with the central theme of the piece, and in this case, I would say the enterprise to shoot sans Hollywood-style multiple shots blends extremely well with the film’s thesis. A long take coupled with minimal editing would deprive the audience any awareness of other events happening simultaneously; instead, you would only see one side, one aspect that defines what you think of each character presented. Real intentions then, like the dark side of the moon, are hidden.

The film is therefore holistic, abounding in meaning not only with regards to its writing, but also with every aspect of its visual component. As Lana remarked about the expressionistic mise-en-scene, and the intentional boxed aspect ratio of the film, we feel, not only witness, the suffering, the darkness, and the mental torture of the oppressed. I would say its meditative pacing is even comparable to how the great directors of the transcendental genre like Ozu and Tarkovsky format their contemplative masterpieces. Except Anino does not only question supernatural forces, it deals with the immediate and the real.

With his masterpiece Anino sa Likod ng Buwan, Jun Lana invites us to question the truth, to see behind what we can perceive, to witness the other side of a surface we have taken for granted. If given the chance, I would definitely give this film another view, and perhaps I would see another side I did not initially see. Indeed, powerful in meaning and relevance, Anino sa Likod ng Buwan is a triumph for Philippine cinema.

WATCH: New trailer for ‘Lights Out’ sets up horror story

New Line Cinema has just revealed the new trailer for “Lights Out,” featuring the backstory of the haunting entity and more creepy scenes that test your fear of the dark. Watch the trailer here below.

From producer James Wan (“The Conjuring”) comes the new horror film “Lights Out,” a tale of an unknown terror that lurks in the dark.

When Rebecca left home, she thought she left her childhood fears behind. Growing up, she was never really sure of what was and wasn’t real when the lights went out…and now her little brother, Martin, is experiencing the same unexplained and terrifying events that had once tested her sanity and threatened her safety. A frightening entity with a mysterious attachment to their mother, Sophie, has re-emerged.

But this time, as Rebecca gets closer to unlocking the truth, there is no denying that all their lives are in danger…once the lights go out.

The film stars Teresa Palmer (“Triple 9”) as Rebecca; Gabriel Bateman (“Annabelle”) as Martin; Billy Burke (the “Twilight” franchise) as Martin’s father, Paul; Alexander DiPersia (“Forever”) as Rebecca’s boyfriend, Bret; and Maria Bello (“Prisoners”) as Sophie.

“Lights Out” marks the feature film directorial debut of David F. Sandberg, who directed the film from a screenplay by Eric Heisserer (“Final Destination 5”), based on Sandberg’s own short film. James Wan, Lawrence Grey and Heisserer produced the film, with Walter Hamada, Dave Neustadter and Richard Brener serving as executive producers.

Slated for release across the Philippines on July 21, 2016, “Lights Out” is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.