‘Maria’ review: Cristine Reyes astounds in a well-executed badass film

Pedring Lopez’ ‘Maria’ almost gives Hollywood action flicks a run for their money.

When a former BlackRose cartel assassin, Lily (Cristine Reyes), deliberately betrays her team by refusing to complete a certain mission, the cartel orders her execution. Unbeknownst to them, she fakes her own death and proceeds to create a new life of her own.  Seven years have passed, Lily now goes by the name Maria, a loving wife to her husband Bert (Guji Lorenzana) and a caring mother to her daughter Min-min (Johanna Rish Tongcua). Unfortunately, her dark past catches up to her present when her former boyfriend and partner-in-crime, Kaleb (Ivan Padilla) who’s also the son of a notorious crime boss named Ricardo de la Vega (Freddie Webb), spots her in the crowd and wastes no time to raid her home. This resulting fray turns her idyllic present life upside-down into a bloody chaos.

Maria is your typical kind of guilty pleasure, revenge film – the one where the protagonist suffers with a huge loss in the first act, before finally exacting his/her retribution come second act. Yes, one may call it a rip-off from John Wick or the more recent Peppermint but what makes this stand out is its execution. The use of camera and drone shots is very proficient; the framing shows everything that’s happening even beyond the action segments. Compared to Pedring Lopez’ past films, this one simply takes his film-making skill into a whole next level. It is well-choreographed, well-shot and tightly edited; none of those kinetic quick-cuts and distracting shaky cams are present here. This new era of technical achievement is a testament to the resurgence of the local action genre in the coming years. Maria gives the Hollywood action flicks a run for their money and it even has the potential to take a shot for an international Asian release, given the right audience.

Fight choreographer Sonny Sison and his crew deserve a commendation for staging an impressive fight choreography. From thrilling hand-to-hand combats, curved knife fight scenes to gunfire and explosions, the film succeeds in depicting creative yet believable action sequences that should make the audiences drop their jaw in astonishment. Since this is a no-holds-barred action film, the violence is taken to a maximum, even to the point of challenging the limits of its R-16 rating. There’s a femme fatale bathroom showdown that is simply just lit! If this is your cup of tea, look no further.

Moving forward with an international reach, a female-led action film might just be the Philippines’ best asset. Last year, Anne Curtis totally rocked as a fearless rookie PDEA agent in BuyBust and not long after, Erich Gonzales gave her shot as a tough movie stuntwoman in We Will Not Die Tonight. This year, it is Cristine Reyes who cements her spot as the newest action heroine with her amazing and dedicated performance. Her portrayal is surprisingly entertaining, way beyond the usual sexy roles that we often see. She’s a girl on fire who’s worth rooting for throughout the film’s run time. While the role requires physicality, it is her ability to infuse each punch and kick with a wide range of emotion that makes her craft engrossing to watch.

That being said, Maria has its own share of minor shortcomings. For a film that has the ambition to go international, the consistent use of a dual language (English and Filipino) can be off-putting at times. It could have benefitted from lesser language transitions and instead, sticking to a native language for the most part, to give the film a more domestic and convincing vibe. Another nitpick would have to be the employment of zooming effects – a common problem in Filipino films which should be avoided in the future. Such technique can be acceptable when it comes to gunfights, but then the occasional lack of proper lighting causes difficulty on appreciating a full cinematic experience – that, however may just depend on the cinema’s projection. Hopefully next time they shoot with wider and brighter shots. Overall, these flaws can be easily improved and it never spoils the whole fun. Maria is almost at par with Hollywood standards, and hopefully it won’t get stuck at delivering redundant beats. But as for now, this is the best technically-made local action flick that we have for now.

Maria is definitely an essential viewing for action aficionados out there. As one of the most visceral revenge flicks in recent memory, it successfully delivers a heightened sense of adrenaline from start to finish.

4.5 out of 5 stars
Now showing in cinemas nationwide, Maria is produced by VIVA Films, BlackOps Studios Asia, and Psyops8. Directed by Pedring A. Lopez, and stars Cristine Reyes, Germaine De Leon, KC Montero, Guji Lorenzana, Freddie Webb, Jennifer Lee, Cindy Miranda, L.A. Santos, and Ronnie Lazaro.

‘Captain Marvel’ earns over P613-M in PH, making it 7th all-time highest-grossing movie

Carol Danvers’ first foray into the Marvel Cinematic Universe has Marvel Studios soaring to another box office success in the Philippines! On its fourth week in theaters, Marvel Studios’ “Captain Marvel” created a new record as it now holds the 7th highest-grossing movie in Philippine history with USD11.7 million at the box-office. Indeed, “Captain Marvel” has inspired a new generation of fans in the Philippines with her story of courage, heroism, and self-discovery.

The action-adventure arrived in the Philippines last March 6 in time for the International Women’s Month, a month honoring women and celebrating their achievements. Women lifting up women is an important part of this day, and something that can be felt throughout “Captain Marvel.”

The March 6 first-day box-office performance of “Captain Marvel” had broken several records, including the Biggest Opening Day for 2019, Highest screen count for 2019, Highest Origins Opening Day and Highest Female Superhero Opening Day. And that was just the beginning.

READ MORE: 'Captain Marvel' Movie Review [1 of 2]

Eventually, “Captain Marvel’s five-day opening weekend (March 6 to 10) soared as the all-time 4th biggest in Philippine history, as well as the highest first stand-alone character MCU opening weekend, and biggest March opening weekend ever.

Marvel Studios’ “Captain Marvel” tells the origin story of Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel, played by Academy Award® winner Brie Larson. It also stars Samuel L. Jackson, Jude Law, Annette Bening, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Honsou, Gemma Chan, Lashana Lynch, and Clark Gregg. Said to be the most powerful force in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Captain Marvel” takes the vast movie franchise higher, further, and faster.  

Marvel Studios’ “Captain Marvel” is still showing in Philippine theaters. Join the conversation online and use the hashtag #CaptainMarvelPH

READ MORE: 'Captain Marvel' Movie Review [2 of 2]

About Marvel Studios’ “Captain Marvel”

Marvel Studios’ presents “Captain Marvel,” an all-new adventure from a previously unseen period in the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that introduces the MCU’s first stand-alone, female-franchise title character—Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel.

Set in the 1990s, “Captain Marvel” follows Carol Danvers’ journey as she becomes one of the universe’s most powerful heroes. As the story unfolds, Danvers finds herself and a small cadre of allies at the center of a maelstrom when a galactic war between two alien races reaches Earth.

Based on the beloved Marvel comic book series, first published in 1967, “Captain Marvel” stars Academy Award® winner Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Rune Temte, Algenis Perez Soto, Mckenna Grace, with Annette Bening, with Clark Gregg, and Jude Law.

Marvel Studios’ “Captain Marvel” is produced by Kevin Feige and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Jonathan Schwartz, Patricia Whitcher and Stan Lee are the executive producers. The story is by Nicole Perlman & Meg LeFauve and Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck & Geneva Robertson-Dworet, and the screenplay is by Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck & Geneva Robertson-Dworet.

Jay Altarejos returns to Sinag Maynila filmfest via erotic drama ‘Jino to Marī’ (Gino and Marie)

Acclaimed director Joselito “Jay” Altarejos—whose “Tale of the Lost Boys” won the Sinag Maynila 2018 Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Box-Office and Best Editing awards—returns to the celebrated festival with a new film, Jino To Mari (Gino and Marie).

Altarejos’ new work takes an inside look into the pornographic film industry. It tells the story of a young man, played by Oliver Aquino, and a young mother, played by Angela Cortez, who are hired to act in a pornographic film. The two are taken to a far place where they face challenges they never imagined. The film title is the Japanese phrase for “Gino and Marie.”

Jino To Mari is one of the five finalists in the Sinag Maynila 2018 full-length feature category, together with Akin Ang Korona by Zig Dulay, Persons of Interest by Ralston Jover, Jesusa by Ronald Carballo, and Pailalim by Daniel Palacio.

Oliver Aquino in ‘Jino To Mari.’

Being selected for Sinag Maynila 2019 marks the Philippine premiere of the movie that had its world premiere last January at the Black Movie: Festival de Films Festival de Films Indépendants-Genève in Switzerland. Also, Jino To Mari is one of eight local motion pictures in the “Panorama on Filipino Cinema” section of the 9th Cambodia International Film Festival held last March 9 to 14 in Phnom Penh.

Altarejos is known for tackling LGBT themes amid social issues, many of his previous films have won recognition in local and international filmfests; these include Kasal which won Director’s Showcase Best Picture at the 10th Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival, Lihim ni Antonio which won Best Film at the Festival del Mar de Gran Canaria; and Unfriend which premiered at the Panorama section of the Berlinale 2014. “My films are very personal and almost confessional. It’s an expression of what I am,” he said in an interview at the Black Movie Film Festival in Switzerland.

Jino To Mari is Altarejos’ most courageous to date. “It’s provocative, bold and daring… It poses the question, ‘When you take away one’s respect and dignity… what is left of that person?’”

Angela Cortez in ‘Jino to Mari.’

You can catch Jino To Mari at the following theaters and times:

April 4, Thursday, 4 pm at SM North Edsa;
April 4, Thursday, 4 pm at SM Manila;

April 5, Friday, 1:30 pm at SM Megamall;
April 5, Friday, 1:30 pm at Cinema ’76 Anonas;
April 5, Friday, 6:30 pm at Gateway;
April 5, Friday, 6:30 pm at Black Maria;

April 6, Saturday, 9 pm at Gateway (Gala Screening);
April 6, Saturday, 9 pm at Black Maria;

April 7, Sunday, 6:30 pm at Black Maria;
April 7, Sunday, 9 pm at SM Megamall;
April 7, Sunday, 9 pm at Cinema ’76 Anonas;

April 8, Monday, 1:30 pm at Gateway;
April 8, Monday, 6:30 pm at Cinema ’76 Anonas;

April 9, Tuesday, 6;30 pm at Gateway; and
April 9, Tuesday, 6:30 pm at Black Maria.

For more information, log on to www.sinagmaynila.com and www.facebook.com/SinagMaynila/.