Spears Films presents two competition films at Cinemalaya 2019

The Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival 2019 to be held from August 2 to 13 is doubly special for Albert Almendralejo’s Spears Films because the company is presenting two films.

Last year, Albert, a former GMA 7 executive-turned-filmmaker was so happy that his directorial debut—the documentary “Journeyman Finds Home: The Simone Rota Story”—was shown in exhibition at Cinemalaya.

Albert is a big fan of the festival. When it is Cinemalaya week, he clears his busy schedule so that he can watch the films at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Last year was memorable because he attended the prestigious indie filmfest as a producer-director and not just as a member of the audience. “Journeyman Finds Home,” the story of Italian Filipino footballer Simone Rota’s search for his biological mother, is Almendralejo’s collaboration with director Maricel Cariaga.

For the Cinemalaya 2019 competition, Spears Films is fielding the drama about art and love entitled “Malamaya,” and the family picture, “Children of the River.”

The team of “Malamaya”: director/co-writer Leilani Chavez, actors Enzo Pineda and Sunshine Cruz, director Danica Sta. Lucia and producer Albert Almendralejo. Photo courtesy of Erickson Dela Cruz.

“Malamaya,” is a romance that Spears Films is co-producing with ALV Productions and Cine Likha Productions. It features Sunshine Cruz as a seasoned visual artist who reignites her lost passion with an aspiring photographer played by Enzo Pineda. Getting in the way of their romance is a potter played by Raymond Bagatsing. “Malamaya” is directed by Danica Sta. Lucia and Leilani Chavez.

“Children of the River,” meanwhile, is Spears’ venture with Luna Studios and GMA Network Films. This movie written and directed by Maricel Cariaga tells the tale of three young friends whose fathers have gone off to war and are now left with the responsibility for caring for their respective families.  In the cast are: Cinemalaya 2017 Best Actor Noel Comia Jr., Juancho Trivino, Rich Asuncion, with the special participation of Urian Best Actor Jay Manalo.

Spears Films’ Albert Almendralejo with “Children of the River” actors Jay Manalo, Rich Asuncion, and Noel Comia, Jr., and writer-director Maricel Cariaga. Photo courtesy of Erickson Dela Cruz.

Albert says, “While ‘Malamaya’ is a romance in a cosmopolitan setting and ‘Children of the River’ is an idyllic story in the province of Quirino, both are coming-of-age stories of persons rising above their weaknesses. I was drawn to produce these films because both show the process of maturity.”

For Albert, Cinemalaya 2019 is a homecoming of sorts. He says, “It’s full cycle for me because the first film I produced, Ralston Jover’s directorial debut, ‘Bakal Boys,’ won the NETPAC Prize in the 2009 Cinemalaya. It feels great to be part of this significant festival.”

Spears Films also produced “Tumbang Preso,” a drama thriller on human trafficking directed by Kip Oebanda; and the documentary about the training of young Filipino footballers in the UK entitled “Little Azkals” by Babyruth Villarama, and “Pangarap Kong World Cup,” a two-part docu series that chronicles the preparation of the Azkals Philippine Men’s National Football Team. “These are stories about the youth and how to improve their well-being,” says Albert.

For updates about Spears Films/Spears Activation and PR, visit Spears Activation & PR on Facebook and http://spearsactivationandprco.com.

Witness extraordinary with ‘Rocketman’ at SM Cinema

 Some of may have grown up listening to his catchy songs, some may just be about to discover his musical brilliance. Either way, it’s hard to find someone who has never heard the name, Elton John – see this icon’s biopic, Rocketman and see his story and the story behind his music in the big screen. Rocketman is now showing in SM Cinema!

Elton John has been defying norms and performing songs at a theatrical grandeur ever since he started his career in 1962. Since then, he has written music that have spanned generations such as “Your Song”, “Skyline Pigeon”, “Tiny Dancer” and “Candle in the Wind” among others.

His biopic, Rocketman, whose title is based on another one of his famous songs, follows the colorful life and musical career of pop culture icon, Elton John, as he navigates the musical world. Featuring his time as a prodigy of the Royal Academy of Music and his musical partnership with Bernie Taupin, Rocketman will show us that being different is not so bad after all.

Fans of Elton John don’t need to worry about missing this movie because there is always SM Cinema for you, wherever you are! With 64 branches nationwide, SM Cinema offers accessibility at an affordable price – perfect for the ultimate family or barkada bonding! So get ready to sing along to the classic Elton John songs in SM Cinema theatres across the country and marvel at the life of one of the world’s best-selling rock idols.

READ MORE: Movie review of ‘Rocketman’

Catch Rocketman starting June 19 at any of the SM Cinema branches nationwide. Book your tickets through the website, www.smcinema.com or download the SM Cinema mobile app. You can also follow /SMCinema on Facebook and @SM_Cinema on Instagram for updates. Satisfy your cravings at Snack Time, the official food concessionaire of SM Cinema, which offers a wide array of snacks like popcorn, hotdogs and burgers to complement your movie watching experience. Follow /SnackTimeOfficial on Facebook for more information.

‘Rocketman’ review: The glamorous and heartbreaking life of Elton John

With its highly imaginative direction and Taron Egerton’s magnetic performance, ‘Rocketman’ finishes on a high note.

It’s impossible not to think of Bohemian Rhapsody while watching Rocketman. Not to mention the fact that Rocketman director Dexter Fletcher himself assumed directing duties after Bryan Singer’s untimely exit while shooting Bohemian Rhapsody, both musical biopics feature flamboyant, gay pop-rock icons who reinvented themselves amidst adversity.

Rocketman, however, has a surefire edge over the other as Taron Egerton here does his own singing. We first heard him spectacularly perform an Elton John classic in Dreamworks’ Sing, and that credential alone suggests that he might have the vocal chops to do the rest of his jukebox. And he does not disappoint. Egerton may not exactly look or sound like Elton, but he channels the superstar’s flair and vibe with such authenticity that goes beyond an impersonation. Donned with signature over-the-top costumes, he successfully puts on a fearless and electrifying show. If Rami Malek can win an Academy Award for his work in Bohemian Rhapsody, it’s only righteous to start the Oscar hype as early as now for Taron Egerton.

“…how wonderful life is when you’re in the world.”
Taron Egerton as Elton John performs ‘Your Song.’

Both movies pretty much follow a standard template for musical biopics – a calculated yet effective retelling of the rise, the fall and the rebirth of an icon, accompanied by a wheelhouse of greatest hits. In Rocketman, piano prodigy Reginald Kenneth Dwight (Elton’s birth name) meets an aspiring lyricist Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) and together, they produce a number of hits that skyrockets Elton’s hollywood career to superstardom. The costs of fame soon catches up and he falls into an abyss of depression and various addictions – shopping, alcohol, painkillers and even sex. Whereas Bohemian Rhapsody is on a disadvantage for being confined to a PG-13 setting, Rocketman greatly benefits from its R-rating as it avoids sugarcoating the edgy chapters in Elton’s extravagant and promiscuous lifestyle.

But what makes Rocketman truly soar is Fletcher’s assured and adventurous direction that deftly weaves fantasy elements into Elton’s trajectory. Unlike Bohemian Rhapsody, the film disregards the chronological release of his songs and goes for a full-blown musical: the characters break out in songs and dances whenever the narrative calls for it. Given the eccentric nature of its protagonist, it’s quite easy to suspend disbelief and allow the film to take us to wherever it wants to go.

Jamie Bell (Bernie Taupin) and Taron Egerton bring warmth and sincerity to their friendship in ‘Rocketman.’

Musical scorer Matthew Margeson brings new arrangements to some of Elton’s songs and in doing so, the film produces multiple music genres that bear wide range of emotions. An energetic “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” marks Elton’s rebellious transition from childhood to young adult. The “Crocodile Rock” performance – where gravity cease to exist for a moment and the crowd starts floating – represents an insurmountable joy during Elton’s music career. “Bennie and the Jets” is played with an increasingly aggressive tempo to portray his psychedelic descent to rock bottom. The highly imaginative sequence of “Rocketman” is presented as an accompaniment to Elton’s suicide attempt and desire to leave the spotlight.

The film also shines with its slow ballads like the iconic “Tiny Dancer” being reinterpreted as a song about longing and unrequited love; an intimate “Your Song” that brings earnestness to the film’s core friendship; and an emotional duet of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” that reflects Elton and Bernie’s anger and disappointment at each other. It’s an epic celebration of the superstar’s enduring legacy and Elton’s spirit is very much alive throughout.

A rising star. Elton John performs “The Crocodile” in Troubadour, London.

At times, Rocketman feels like a Broadway production, where its pompous musical numbers occasionally outweigh the introspective drama involved. But thankfully, Fletcher takes us back to a third act where film’s cliché narrative setup – a frustrated Elton recounts his life during a therapy session – finally pays off as he confronts his inner demons. It’s in this moment when the pieces fall together and we understand the complexities of the character. Here is a son who poses a peculiar persona in a subconscious attempt to gain the affections of his uncaring father (Steven Mackintosh) and promiscuous mother (Bryce Dallas Howard). A performer who took risks in the music industry because his dashing yet devious manager/lover (Richard Madden) urges him to leave a mark in the world. A gay man whose told to be choosing a life of loneliness because of his decision to embrace his sexuality. A star who succumbs to self-destruction after failing to earn the validation of the people who mattered to him. And finally, a flawed human who decides to turn his life around with the help of his loyal best friend.

Livin’ the high life? Taron Egerton, Bryce Dallas Howard (Sheila) and Richard Madden (John Reid) in ‘Rocketman.’

With all the entertainment that Rocketman offers in its great performances and splendid production design, there lies an incredibly relatable tale of unconditional friendship, atonement, freedom and self-actualization. It’s only fitting that the film ends with the song “I’m Still Standing” to cap off Elton John’s moment of redemption. This can be your song too, and you can tell everybody.

4.5 out of 5 stars
Directed by Dexter Fletcher, ‘Rocketman’ stars Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, Bryce Dallas Howard, Stephen Graham, Gemma Jones, Jason Pennycooke, Kit Connor, Matthew Illesley, Charlie Rowe, Steven Mackintosh, and Tom Bennett. 121 minutes. R-13.