‘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.

Cristine, Kylie, Nathalie, Meg, Roxanne star in sexy rom-com ‘Abay Babes’

VIVA Films’ latest offering this September, ‘Abay Babes,’ is a feast for the eyes as it brings together Cristine Reyes, Kylie Verzosa, Nathalie Hart, Meg Imperial, and Roxanne Barcelo, who are all oozing with sexiness and pizzazz.

Along with the visual treat is a story that has a right mix of fun and intrigue to captivate all audiences.

Many years after high school, Emerald, Ruby, Perla, and Goldie (considered the Bicol “It Girls” of their batch) are reunited for the latter’s upcoming wedding. Joining them is Jade, Goldie’s friend from America. Everyone is excited about this get-together, but somehow, Goldie’s friends are finding it hard to believe that she is going to be the first to fulfill their dream of getting married, considering that she is the least attractive among them.

Emerald, Ruby and Perla secretly joke that Goldie might just be making this all up. And when they can’t see any videos or pictures of the groom, Zack, the three start to take their joke seriously. As if their skepticism is not enough, their past issues against one another are also reopened. At a time when friendship and love are supposed to be celebrated, will doubt and rivalry get the better of them?

Playing the role of Emerald is Nathalie Hart who entered showbiz in 2008 through ABS-CBN’s Star Magic. In May 2018, she was the cover of the final print issue of FHM. Emerald has the alias “Bicol Express” because, according to her, she is the hottest among her friends. She works as a commercial model.

Ruby, the class topnotcher back in high school and is now a doctor, is played by Cristine Reyes. She is called “Pili Nuts” because, ultimately, guys would choose her beauty over all others. (Pili is the Tagalog for choose.) Cristine shared in an interview that she enjoyed jamming with the girls between takes. Her last film was a family drama, making this comedy film really fun to do.

Perla, who is called “Mt. Mayon” because of its perfect shape, just like her figure, is played by Miss International 2016 Kylie Verzosa. She has appeared in the movies “Ang Panday” and “Kasal”, but this is her first leading role. “I have this desire to be really good at something,” Kylie once said in an interview. “I want to be good at acting, not being an artista.”

Goldie, the class clown in the movie, is played by Roxanne Barcelo who is also the funniest one in the cast. Goldie is given the moniker, “Abaca” (fiber, in English), because she is the toughest of them all. In real life, Roxanne has both the toughness and the talents (like singing and hosting) that are necessary to last in the world of show business.

Jade, the videographer who will document the girls’ road trip to the wedding venue, is played by Meg Imperial. A recent IG post of Meg is captioned “Once you become fearless, life becomes limitless.” Indeed, Meg’s career is flourishing because she is open to doing different roles.

Abay Babes also stars Tom Rodriguez, Marco Gumabao, Mark Bautista, Candy Pangilinan and many more.

Directed by Don Cuaresma, Abay Babes will open on September 19 in cinemas nationwide from VIVA Films.

WATCH: A ghost haunts in teaser for ‘Spirit of the Glass 2: The Haunted’

The first teaser for the new supernatural horror film ‘Spirit of the Glass 2: The Haunted’ has just been released online and can be viewed below.

This is the much anticipated sequel to the 2004 film featuring Rica Peralejo, Marvin Agustin, Dingdong Dantes, Paolo Contis, Ciara Sotto, Drew Arellano, Alessandra de Rossi, Jake Cuenca, and Jay Aquitania. Both films are helmed by Jose Javier Reyes.
In the new trailer, a group of friends decides to play with a ouija board thinking it was a toy and unwittingly opening the gates of the other world for spirits to connect with them. A ghost appears to have been summoned by the end of the video.

The cast consists of Cristine Reyes, Daniel Matsunaga, Maxine Medina, Benjamin Alves, Ashley Ortega, and Enrico Cuenca.

Produced by OctoArts Films and T-Rex Entertainment, ‘Spirit of the Glass 2: The Haunted’ is slated for a November 1 release in Philippine cinemas.

Cristine Reyes stars in supernatural horror-thriller ‘Elemento’

Early this year, VIVA International Pictures gave us the heart-pumping blockbuster horror movie, “The Boy.” If you’re one of those who enjoyed the psychological tension brought by its leading character, Brahms, then brace yourself for another story of an ominous boy in VIVA Films’ “Elemento.”

While on a field trip to a forest, grade-school student Lucas (Albert Silos) gets a call of nature and relieves himself among the foliage. Unknown to him, he was being observed by a couple of children who seem displeased by his deed. Upon his return home, Lucas starts to exhibit unusual behavior that makes even his own dog ill at ease around him.

Kara (played by Cristine Reyes), who is a very doting mother to Lucas, also cannot ignore the fact that her mild-tempered son has become menacing. A neighbor (played by Elizabeth Oropesa) tells her of the dreadful possibility that something from the woods may have possessed her son. Kara’s fear intensifies when she receives a call from a boy who sounds like Lucas, frantically begging her to rescue him in the forest. The harrowing ordeal that follows also leads to a shocking discovery.

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Elemento is Mark Meily’s first creative venture into the horror genre. Aside from being the director, he also wrote the screenplay, basing it on his own child’s supernatural experience. As evident in the trailer, Meily has made a gripping movie that is worth watching in full. His roster of films include the acclaimed movies like Crying Ladies, La Visa Loca, ABNKKBSNPLAko, and award-winning historical masterpieces Baler, and El Presidente.

Playing the role of Lucas, this film is a big break for young actor Albert Silos who appeared in Turo Turo which was part of MMFF New Wave competition last December. Elemento also stars Jake Cuenca as Lucas’ father.

“Elemento” opens in Philippine cinemas April 6, 2016 from VIVA Films and Thriverion Media Production.

Bob Ong’s best-selling novel ‘Lumayo Ka Nga Sa Akin’ gets epic film adaptation

VIVA Films greets the new year, 2016, with a big bang as it presents the much-anticipated film, Bob Ong’s “Lumayo Ka Nga Sa Akin,” dubbed as the epic trilogy to end all trilogies, come January 13.

Based on Bob Ong’s best-selling novel of the same title, “Lumayo Ka Nga Sa Akin” is a comedy, action, romance, horror and drama film rolled into one.

It stars some of local filmdom’s biggest stars including Maricel Soriano, Herbert Bautista, Cristine Reyes, Benjie Paras, Candy Pangilinan, Paolo Ballesteros, Jayson Gainza, Antoinette Taus and teen sweetheart Shy Carlos.

The trilogy is a rib-tickling spoof of the commercial filmmaking in the Philippines, under the able direction of three of today’s well-respected filmmakers, Mark Meily, Andoy Ranay and Chris Martinez.

Group 1

Direk Mark is at the helm of episode one, “Bala sa Bala, Kamao sa Kamao, Satsat sa Satsat,” featuring Benjie and Candy in lead roles.

It tells the story of a guy who is one of only two survivors in a massacre, which occurs right after his church wedding. Along the way he meets and falls in love with a famous actress, who unwittingly leads him to the drug lord who masterminded the massacre.

Group 3

The second episode, meanwhile, Direk Andoy’s “Shake, Shaker, Shakest,” marks the first team up of Diamond Star Maricel Soriano and QC Mayor Herbert Bautista on the big screen.

“Shake…” talks about a middle class family that gets stranded in a haunted house and experiences all sorts of horrific adventures/misadventures during their stay. The family must race against time to find the cursed object, which they unknowingly brought with them at the start of their journey.

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On the other hand, Direk Chris handles episode three, “Asawa ni Marie,” which is a soap opera-comedy about the love quadrangle among poor farm girl Marie (played by Cristine), the two brothers who own the farm and the girlfriend of one of the brothers who makes life miserable for poor Marie.

Moviegoers need not go far to experience action, romance, comedy, horror and drama in just one seating. Bob Ong’s Lumayo Ka Nga Sa Akin promises to serve every cineaste’s craving in generous proportions.

“Lumayo Ka Nga Sa Akin” opens January 13, 2016 in theaters nationwide. Rated PG by the MTRCB.

For more info, visit VIVA Films social media accounts:
Facebook : VIVAFilms
Twitter : @VIVA_Films
Instagram : viva_films

MOVIE REVIEW: Lumayo Ka Nga Sa Akin (2016)

Bob Ong’s “Lumayo Ka Nga Sa Akin” gives the impression that it is self-aware. Those who have not (and did not) read the short novel from which the film is based will not get lost on that note. However, driving along its uneven grounds and humps leads to the idea that everything is just fine since it parodies Filipino movies and television shows. Each flaw can actually be deemed as merely part of the plan–intentional and just as is. But on a closer look, it fails miserably in weaving stories that would have been successfully told were it sure of what to do with itself as a whole.

Running a little later than two hours, Lumayo Ka Nga Sa Akin is divided into three unrelated episodes that respectively inspects the stereotypes of action, horror, and romantic movies and telenovelas. Needless to say, it is mostly enjoyable but it sticks to being uneven all throughout. As a good example of a hit and miss anthology, it is oddly unsure of what to do with itself despite actually being self-aware.

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The first episode is “Bala sa Bala, Kamao sa Kamao, Satsat sa Satsat,” directed by Mark Meily. It stars Benjie Paras as Diego, the personification of action hero, and Candy Pangilinan who plays the role of famous actress Divina Tuazon. They look great together up to the point that one would wish they were halves of a loveteam (think of Canjie as a suggestive portmanteau of their names). As a forty-minute section, their episode takes a look at the laughable templates of goons, guns and glamour in the world of commercial action movies. It starts with a bloody massacre, winds up discussing cliches which do not get along its plot, and finishes off with a bloody ridiculous ending. It also stars Bearwin Meily as the reliable sidekick of Benjie Paras (which calls to mind the great ensemble of the now-defunct sitcom Lagot Ka… Isusumbong Kita! where they were a part of), Rez Cortez as Bos and Roxanne Barcelo as Divina’s best friend Joleena Ann Baretto (a curious play of the names of three famous television/movie stars–Jolina Magdangal, Judy Ann Santos and Claudine Barretto).

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The second episode entitled “Shake, Shaker, Shakest” is a direct spoof of the largest Filipino horror franchise ever pursued—“Shake, Rattle and Roll.” This is the first time Diamond Star Maricel Soriano (Cora) and Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista (Carlos) are paired on the big screen. It follows the adventures of the Catacutan family that gets stranded in a haunted house. Welcomed by an off-tuned singing costumed Pundit (Ryan Eigenmann), they are told to find the cursed object before they could leave the place. They search amidst fright together with their children Aby (Shy Carlos), Mar (Andrew Muhlach) and Samuel (JM Ibañez). While poking fun at the cliches of horror movies, it mostly slips on its own worn out jokes made worse by its consistently loud characters.

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The redeeming factor of Lumayo Ka Nga Sa Akin is undeniably the last episode, “Asawa ni Marie” where overused elements of Pinoy soap opera are explored in a funny and engaging fashion. Helmed by Chris Martinez, Episode 3 showcases the entangled love story among poor farm girl Marie (Cristine Reyes), two rich brothers (Jason Gainza as Señorito Lapid and Paolo Ballesteros as Señorito Bogz) who fight over her, and the antagonist Antoinette Taus (Señorita Avila). Playing equally relevant roles are Jackielou Blanco as the matriach Señorita Onor and Joey Paras as Marie’s mother Aling Minda. The most obvious reference of the story is the popular Mexican telenovela Mari Mar which swept the country by storm during its first run in local tubes. Right from the very start, down through that familiar opening billboard and silly confrontations, this episode knows what to do with its story. The only let-down, though, is the final sequence where all the mess have settled in one grand production number.

More than just an anthology filled with sketches that are meant to be funny and entertaining, Lumayo Ka Nga Sa Akin is a relevant presentation of the shockingly bad qualities of mass media that Filipinos continue to patronize. The absurdities of life are indispensable and so is the grueling need to be more thoughtful in the way media feed its audiences.

Not everything shines in this second adaptation of a Bob Ong material, but when it does in most of its engaging scenes, hearty laughs beyond realizations are handily given by the audiences as every one is bound to rediscover themselves as consumers of commercialism as well as the ultimate recipient of all bad jokes.