Cebu-born Galen Tan Chu, co-director in ‘Ice Age: Collision Course’

Cebu-born Galen Tan Chu helms the latest installment of the global “Ice Age” hit franchise – “Ice Age: Collision Course” as co-director with acclaimed filmmaker Michael Thurmeier.

Galen Tan Chu spent his early (11) years in the Philippines before migrating to the US where he studied illustration and animation at Pratt Institute. Chu is a true veteran of the “Ice Age” franchise and Blue Sky Studios, having started his career at Blue Sky Studios as an animator on “Ice Age” (2002). He then became a lead animator on Blue Sky’s second animated feature “Robots” (2005). On “Ice Age: The Meltdown” (2006), he was promoted to supervising animator and then served as supervising animator on “Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!” (2008), “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” (2009), “Rio” (2011) and “Epic” (2013). He also directed the direct-to-DVD short “Surviving Sid” (2008).

Audiences everywhere love the Ice Age films, one of the biggest animated motion picture series in the world. Each new story increases the stakes, scale, adventure, humor and heart—making “Ice Age: Collision Course” the biggest and most ambitious film of the series. Propelling audiences to new environments, like the cosmos and a crystallized world known as Geotopia, this is the defining chapter in the Ice Age “chillogy,” with many of the characters beginning new journeys.

“Ice Age: Collision Course” sees Scrat playing pinball with the planets chasing his elusive acorn, he creates the ultimate Scrat-aclysm, sending the mother of all asteroids hurtling toward Earth. Again, Scrat’s misadventures have life- and world-changing consequences for our sub-zero heroes on the ground. At the same time, there are earth-shaking events of an entirely different nature playing out for the gang. Manny and Ellie’s daughter Peaches is getting married, and to Manny that’s as unwanted a development as an asteroid landing in his backyard.

“Ice Age: Collision Course” sees Manny’s world changing—and he’s not happy about it. Peaches has dropped a bombshell on her parents, and, says co-director Galen Tan Chu: “Manny sees that as a threat. She’s not only getting married, she and her soon-to-be hubby Julian are moving away to begin their lives as a couple.”

Indeed, the” Ice Age” films are also love stories: Manny has Ellie, Peaches has Julian, Diego has Shira. Even the crazy brotherly bond between daredevils Crash and Eddie is a kind of love story. But what about Sid the sloth? For Sid, romantic love has proven elusive, if not impossible.

It’s not that Sid isn’t deserving of finding that special sloth. As Thurmeier points out, “If Manny is the emotional core of the Ice Age films, then Sid is the comic conscience. He has a good heart, and, as we saw in the first film, he was instrumental in bringing the herd together and was the one who cracked Manny’s tough exterior.” And it’s not that Sid isn’t interested in romance; as Chu notes, Sid “wears his heart on his sleeve.”

Reflecting on the franchise’s global central theme, Galen Tan Chu notes, “What strikes a chord for audiences around the world is that the members of the herd look out for each other. They’ve grown up together as this family, and people really connect to that journey.”

“Ice Age: Collision Course” opens July 6, 2016 in cinemas (2D and 3D) from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.

MOVIE REVIEW: Iadya Mo Kami (2016)

There have been many moments in my life when I felt disappointed. For instance, when I received a clear envelope for a Christmas exchange gift back when I was a kid; or when Alex Turner cut his hair and started pretending like a British Elvis; or when The Hobbit movie came out and it was horrible and it didn’t do the book justice; or whenever I would watch a 2010s live video of The Strokes which, to be fair, is my favorite band. There are many more instances, and usually I would just forget them in an hour or so later. But having been through the worst, such as your favorite indie rock songwriter changing appearance, I still haven’t got quite used to being disappointed. It still bites. And I rediscovered that fact about myself last Saturday when in a twist of fate I was able to watch Iadya Mo Kami.

Like I always say, I don’t take pleasure in negatively criticizing any topic, and it is of great suffering that I have to say bad things even if they were about matters that genuinely disappointed me. Like for instance, Ricky Lee’s writing in this particular film we speak of.

To be fair, Mel Chionglo’s direction was generally good. He was able to bring out the best in his actors, and consequently they were able to deliver well on-screen. Moreover, the technical aspects of the film is of professional quality, a trait that is foundational to good filmmaking. For example, the cinematography is spectacular, utilizing well the beauty of the surrounding mountains that take up a significant portion of the movie’s mise-en-scene. This is augmented by an excellent work in color grading that gives the picture such vibrance and nostalgia. And who could forget that wonderful work in production design which makes the characters and the different physical elements in the narrative come alive.

So on the superficial level, Iadya Mo Kami looks and feels good. It was promising, from the title to the visuals. And this is precisely why I’m saddened by it, because everything was great–that is, except for the writing.

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For context, the film is basically about a certain Father Greg who gets reassigned to a parish high up in the mountains. Through his encounters with the the proletariats living in the area and the powerful elite clan of the goatherd Julian, we are introduced to Greg’s struggles and his attempts to detach from his fleshly desires. In a lot of ways, it’s a commentary on the nature of religious life and the institution which governs it, particularly the Roman Catholic Church. With that established, let me begin highlighting in brief why I think the writing for the film fails in a lot of ways.

For me the most noticeable flaw in the screenplay is that the pace is too draggy. I don’t have much of a problem if the writer is merely taking his time to establish the characters, their motivations, and their inner struggles and undercurrents, in the same way that the great writer-director Hirokazu Koreeda takes his sweet time in cooking the characters for his films. But in the case of Iadya, there’s no other way to say it other than there was just too much time wasted on less valuable elements so that it didn’t really pay off in the end. It makes you feel like your choice to stay awake until the ending was a choice badly made. In short, the film’s a tad bit boring.

As an example, I’d like to highlight the fact that the script contains a number of superfluous characters that aren’t really relevant to the entire narrative. For instance, we have the rural bishop who does nothing to motivate (or discourage) Greg to carry out a plan of action; then we have that one sickly guy called Kulit (subtitled Mr. Obstinate) who happens to be Greg’s colleague; and then we have, for some strange reason, the Pope. To be fair, I somewhat understand Kulit’s role as the demonstration of ‘the weak flesh,’ a theme which fits well to the story of Father Greg. But my problem with him is that his addition to the tale is a bit late, and his character doesn’t really get developed for him to be relevant to the story. I am also not quite aware on why the Pope has to make an appearance; I don’t see his inclusion in the narrative as something which enhances the depth of the film’s inner meaning. Thus, I believe these characters can be omitted because they do nothing to push the narrative forward. In truth, I feel that they are merely distractions that function only to further slow down the sluggish pace.

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To be fair, there’s a slightly interesting turn further down the storyline. But I say ‘slightly’ because I feel that it was a bit forced and predictable. I also found the use of flashbacks to introduce this particular turn a bit dull and lazy. I mean, isn’t there any other way to reveal the details without using that age-old tactic? Not to mention, the reaction of the protagonists after the momentous event was illogical and bland. Frankly, the ending did nothing to resuscitate the dying script. I felt betrayed.

I know that Ricky Lee is a great writer, and for his works in advancing contemporary Filipino literature, he deserves every ounce of my respect. But as to what exactly happened with Iadya Mo Kami, I am not sure, and I don’t think I want to know. Indeed, Lee’s work in Ringgo: The Dog Shooter is commendable, and having seen it the night before Iadya premiered, I guess my expectations failed.

*profound sigh*

But you know, everyone messes up sometimes, and my faith in Ricky Lee as one of the luminaries of modern Filipino writing is still intact. As I said earlier, I usually forget about disappointments, and I will most likely forget about this one as well.

Give me a week.

Iadya Mo Kami premiered July 2, 2016 as part of the World Premieres Film Festival which will run until July 10 at SM Megamall, SM North EDSA, Greenbelt 3, Uptown Mall, Shangri-La Plaza Mall, and Cinematheque Centre Manila. The film won awards for Best Musical Score, Best Production Design, and the Special Jury Prize.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Curiosity, Adventure and Love (2016)

The documentary is perhaps the hardest genre of cinema. Here, when we talk of it, we’re not talking about the TV-style documentary which we regularly see on the National Geographic Channel—the type that almost always does not go beyond the layer of being merely factual. But when we talk of documentary for film, we’re talking about the type of genre in which stories of people, groups of people, or events are told not only factually, but creatively in order to strike not just facts but also a deeper, underlying meaning. Having said this, the documentary genre is hard precisely because you’re using a material which is mostly unscripted, and so you would have absolutely no idea where things would lead. It’s volatile, and it’s hard to make sense of something of that nature.

Curiosity, Adventure and Love, a film by Sunshine Lichauco de Leon and Suzanne Richiardone, attempts to convey meaning through the genre we have just spoken of. It’s primarily about the story of Jessie Lichauco, a 104-year-old woman who lives in a 150-year-old house in Sta. Ana, Manila. The film not only tries to put together her biography, but also attempts to encapsulate the voluminous amount of wisdom she has accumulated through a century in as little as an hour—a feat that is understandably applaudable.

What I appreciate most about the film is that one can easily see the amount of hard work that the filmmakers put in in making a comprehensive documentation of Jessie’s life. Her story was not told without context, and a great deal of effort was spent to portray the eras she had lived through. We see the nostalgic pictures and videos of the Philippine islands during the American occupation period; the energy and vibe of glorious pre-wartime Manila; the buildings and houses that were ruined in the fallout of the Second World War; and the images of struggle to rebuild a post-war nation as gradually the remnants come into filmic color. There was much effort to research on the subject matter, and the act of knitting them together to depict Jessie’s life from her halcyon youth to her aged days living beside an ancient tree is nothing short of amazing. In this way, the documentary film deserves attention.

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Moreover, the film is brimming with wisdom; it is filled with insights from someone who learned from the best teacher (as the cliche goes): experience. We are injected with knowledge on youth, friendship, marriage, love, aging, and many more valuable lessons that are applicable to anyone regardless of his or her season. The film is therefore inspirational in many ways, and it not only encourages people to behave more like people, but also restores one’s faith in the good fight. In this sense, the film is commendable for its humanitarian message.

But this particular quality of the documentary is what could also be a source of a certain weakness. And it’s that, amidst the many sayings in the film, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is trying to say in its entirety. There are attempts to establish a grand theme, for instance when they talk about the ancient tree at the Lichauco house and the timeless river flowing beside it. However, in my opinion, this grand theme lacked its required pursuit, and if much more effort was done to develop a central meaning instead of opening up new sources of knowledge via Jessie’s proverbial sayings, the film could have struck a more profound meaning lying deep beneath her story. The sayings were interesting, and they are appreciated, but they could have also been limited for a much better purpose.

What I also have an issue with is how we get to see only one side of ‘Tita Jessie.’ I understand that this is a personal film, made by one of her granddaughters Sunshine Lichauco de Leon, so this might have had a rather subconscious influence on the making of the movie. But if we look at another personal documentary such as Stories We Tell by Sarah Polley, a film which Polley made about the story of her parents, we see that it is quite possible to detach yourself from your subject in order to have a more objective method of research. In that particular film, Polley does not only show the good and wonderful side of her mum and pa; she also spends a considerable amount of time dealing with the darker pasts of her family. Through this we become more engaged in her personal story and much more appreciative of the message she tries to convey.

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I’m not claiming that at one point in her life, Jessie was a bad person. Of course not. I’m also not pushing the film to be ‘scandalous’ for the sake of audience reception. No! All I’m saying is, we can’t deny the fact that Jessie is a mere person who is also able to commit mistakes. And that if there are some things she had done that she is not particularly proud of, and she is willing to share these to the world, it might be easier for the audience to connect with her because then they would realize that she is as much as human as them. What I mean to say is, all saints have had their share of self-inflicted misfortune, and that is precisely what makes their stories convincing. Because as readers of their biographies, we get to know where they fell short and how they were able to redeem themselves from the miry pit. Thus, the lessons they learned and teach become weightier, and they become more relevant to another person’s life. This is exactly what could have been done to improve Curiosity, Adventure and Love.

I would say that despite these issues, the film is still good. Being 104 years old is enough detail to make any story interesting, and thus the film is still very much valuable. It’s also a very nice opportunity to learn something that one could apply in one’s life, and so I would still highly recommend the documentary to anyone willing to learn.

For its historical relevance and inspiring nature, Curiosity, Adventure and Love is worth a watch, and perhaps it would take a couple more to remember everything essential.

So if ever you do get the chance to see it, be sure to open your mind and prepare yourself to glean from an excellent student of the school of age—in which experience teaches.

Curiosity, Adventure and Love premiered July 2, 2016 as part of the World Premieres Film Festival which will run until July 10 at SM Megamall, SM North EDSA, Greenbelt 3, Uptown Mall, Shangri-La Plaza Mall, and Cinematheque Centre Manila. The film won the Special Jury Prize.

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‘Ringgo: The Dog-Shooter’ bags four awards at World Premieres fest

“Ringgo: The Dog-Shooter” has won a total of four awards at the 3rd World Premieres Film Festival (WPFF) 2016: Second Best Picture (Olive Oteyza, producer), Best Actor (Sandino Martin), Best Actress (Janice De Belen), Best Screenplay (Ricky Lee). It is one of the six finalists in the Filipino New Cinema section.

Organized by the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) in cooperation with the Cinematheque Centre Manila, “Ringgo: The Dog-Shooter” has three remaining screenings to date:

  1. July 6, Wed, 7pm – SM Megamall Cinema 6
  2. July 8, Fri, 7pm – SM Megamall Cinema 6
  3. July 9, Sat, 9pm – SM Megamall Cinema 6

The film is produced by Olivia Films Production and direction by Rahyan Carlos.

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The story was conceptualized by Carlos four years ago, who thought about making a film about dog-shooters – a person who assists dogs during mating. Carlos himself is a dog-lover and breeds Alaskan Malamutes, Saint Bernards, Dobermans and Golden Retrievers.

This film also tackles issues of lesbian couples, children who feel unloved by their parents, and the relationship between a dog and his owner. This is their story. “Ringgo: The Dog-Shooter” shows that people need not be related by blood to genuinely care for each other and that man’s best friend should be loved and never be physically abused by humans. Genre is dark drama and rated R-13 by the MTRCB.

Also in the cast are Liza Diño-Seguerra, Bembol Roco, Bodjie Pascua, Manuel Chua Jr., Rubi Rubi, and I’nca (the doberman). Introducing in this film is Micha Oteyza.

SYNOPSIS: This is a story of the journey of 3 souls heading towards healing and redemption. Ringgo is a 16-year old boy who works as a dog-shooter (the one who assists in mating dogs with breed — he will see to it that the private parts of the stud and the bitch will be locked during the mating and no sperm will be put to waste in the process).

Ringgo works for Bong, a 40-year old lesbian who is a breeder of dogs. One of Bong’s dogs is Inca, who is a traumatized Doberman. Things will get complicated when Ringgo, Inca and Bong develop a relationship as if they were really mother and child, and get entangled in each other’s personal issues and becomes each other’s protector and defender.

The one that ties the three of them is that invisible umbilical cord… the cord of love and sacrifice.

Dave Franco, Emma Roberts star in thriller ‘Nerve’

It’s an all-or-nothing online game in the exhilarating thriller “Nerve” set on the streets of New York City, where amateur daredevils competes for the highest payoff that mines their online information, exploiting their wildest dreams—and their deepest fears. “Nerve” stars Dave Franco, Emma Roberts, Emily Meade, Kimiko Glenn, Marc John Jefferies, Brian Marc, Samira Wiley and Juliette Lewis.

A cautionary tale for the highly-active social network generation, “Nerve” starts with an industrious, shy high school senior Vee Delmonico (Roberts) who is challenged by her best friend to take part in the game. Vee breaks out of her comfort zone when she impulsively signs up for Nerve, an adrenaline-fueled competition that streams live over the internet. Young thrill-seekers challenge each other to a series of dares that rapidly escalate from mildly embarrassing to downright deadly, as an anonymous community of “watchers” instigates the action.

Suddenly, Vee becomes an overnight superstar once partnered with a mysterious stranger named Ian (Dave Franco), their instant chemistry makes them online stars and fan favorites. As the night wears on, though, Vee alienates her longtime friends and puts her life on the line in pursuit of money and celebrity. Making a discovery about Ian’s past, Vee finds her family’s future at risk. As the tension mounts, the stakes rise—and the possible outcome shifts from win or lose to life or death.

The directing team of Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, best known for their work on “Catfish” and the “Paranormal Activity” series, have created an action-packed urban adventure that also offers keen insights into online behavior. “Our first film, Catfish, started a national conversation about the internet and identity,” says Joost. “This is a similar opportunity to talk about the way all of us, teenagers in particular, communicate these days. We can do all kinds of things on the internet that we might not do in real life.”

“We take a shy girl, sit her in front of the internet, and she’s suddenly inspired to be someone she didn’t have the courage to be yesterday,” says Schulman. “Someone in cyberspace is daring her to be something she may not want to be. Vee goes down the rabbit hole to the dark side of that. The online audience can be powerfully alluring. All of a sudden you’re posting pictures you never would’ve shown anybody, and that’ll catch up with you.”

The game operates through a smartphone app, allowing prospective players to sign up and start taking chances instantly. Getting out is another story. “The watchers have access to your personal information from Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat—everything else you’re using,” says Joost. “They custom-craft dares based on your fears and aspirations. It starts out pretty easy and fun. But the game tries to find your limits.”

The more sinister side of the internet seemed like a topic that was ripe for exploration to actress Emma Roberts, who plays Vee. “People are putting their whole lives on the internet today,” she notes. “This movie captures that phenomenon and takes it one step further.”

Roberts says she thinks twice now when she uses Instagram, Twitter—or even email. “Nothing’s ever truly private. I think this movie taps into that feeling. Whatever you post can potentially be seen by anyone, whether you want it to be or not.”

Are you a player or a watcher? Find out when “Nerve” opens in cinemas nationwide this July 27, 2016 from Pioneer Films.