Showing posts from November, 2013

SHIFT (Siege Ledesma, 2013)

Estela Alano (Yeng Constantino) doesn't find joy and fulfillment in her work as a call center agent anymore. That is until a senior agent, Trevor (Felix Roco) is assigned to mentor her, and Estela quickly and unknowingly gets attracted to him. 
Trevor is fun to be with.  A great confidante. Humorous. Charming. Thoughtful. Estela is head over heels. Suddenly, work became really interesting with Trevor around.
Estela may have found the perfect man: emotionally available, tender, and loyal. The only catch is, and Estela is perfectly aware of this- Trevor is gay. 
SHIFT, the film debut of singer/musician Yeng Constantino is the film of our times, vividly defining an industry that has become indelible with modern Philippine culture, as represented by Yeng's call center agent character Estela who like many others of her real-life counterparts, is currently on a path of self-discovery.   
This is where Estela encounters a sexual awakening, one of the many hardships she will eventual…

ALAMAT NI CHINA DOLL (Adolfo Borinaga Alix, Jr., 2013)

China Doll is an alias given to a young woman with changing identities, infamous for her criminal history at a tender age. Today,  China Doll exists only as a myth, or rather a legend, until one reporter exposes the "truth" about her. 
The newest addition to the wide range of Adolf Alix Jr's ever-changing and often surprising cinematic oeuvre, comes in the form of a detective story. Detective, in the sense that the journalist character, Perry Nanali played with  unflinching ruthlessness by Cesar Montano, strips China Doll (Angelica Panganiban) of her layered character and publishes a tell- all biography, even at the expense of her safety. Also, the film, from a screenplay by another esteemed filmmaker, Lav Diaz takes on the form of a sleuth journal, as we follow clues and chronology leading to the events that would be defined by that singular act of opportunism, or bravery by Perry. 
ALAMAT NI CHINA DOLL does not follow a linear plot. From time to time we get flashbacks…

BENDOR (Ralston Jover, 2013)

BENDOR opens inside an abortion clinic, where Blondie (Vivian Velez) reveals to her abortionist friend (Evelyn Vargas) about how she caught her womanizing husband, and how that resulted to an awkward and humorous encounter. The conversation is casual, until a woman screams in the other room. It is a patient- a young woman, and her condition does not look good. 
We then see Blondie's usual day: by breakfast, having to deal with the problems brought about by her grown-up children; then there's her good-for-nothing husband; by midday, she has to man her stalls in Quiapo, and; on occasion, she sells the prohibited abortifacient Cytotec discreetly. 
Today, Blondie's whole life will unravel in front of her. Premonitions will save her from a tragic fate. Almost. 
BENDOR, a film that highlights the matriarchal role in present society shows us through Blondie how crippled we would be if not for the mother of our homes. In this aspect, Ralston Jover gets my sympathy in presenting t…

ONLY GOD FORGIVES (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2013)

Atmospheric, dark, and astonishingly silent despite its graphic depiction of violence and its ominous psychological undertones, Nicolas Winding Refn's ONLY GOD FORGIVES could have been one of the best films of this year. Almost.
Clearly an exhibition of style over substance, Refn's film set in Bangkok, Thailand depicts a cycle of vengeance where blood surely begets blood, and the obvious question should have been, where does it end? Yet ONLY GOD FORGIVES oftentimes concerns itself with remaining attractive to look at, that it forgets to show at least some glimmer of poetic justice, especially that the subject matter is that of revenge.
Make no mistake: ONLY GOD FORGIVES features some of the finest cinematography you will ever see this year, with its masterful use of shadows and red and gold palettes to heighten the dark and decrepit feel of its subject matter. Also, the lighting and the production design, which renders huge room for visual space emphasizes the sad, sad existe…

ANG HULING CHA-CHA NI ANITA (Sigrid Andrea Bernardo, 2013)

Young Anita (Teri Malvar) has a feeling she is afraid to express to anybody: that she has feelings not for a boy, but for a girl, and more so, a grown up woman, Pilar (Angel Aquino). 
Being part of a family with a deeply Catholic background, and living in a rural town where the old ways seem to still govern everyday life, Anita is in real trouble once her secret gets out. Not even her best pals Carmen (Len-Len Frial) and Goying (Solomon de Guzman) are in the know. 
Growing pains form the center of Sigrid Andrea Bernardo's debut full-length feature, a lighthearted, oftentimes humorous glimpse into a young girl's acquaintance with her sexuality. Yet, ANG HULING CHA CHA NI ANITA discusses a lot more than female homosexuality; through Anita, the film takes us on a bittersweet romantic journey between two people with a very wide age gap (hence, redefining the May-December affair) and treating it with much empathy for the motivations of each character.
Pilar is a broken soul return…

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (Paul Greengrass, 2013)

The name Paul Greengrass is synonymous with heart-pounding suspense. As exemplified by two Bourne films and GREEN ZONE, all topbilled by Matt Damon, Greengrass is well-versed with the kinetic language, which he uses to tell a story. The suspense itself is a palpable element of his movies. 
CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, a retelling of the incredible but arduous ordeal of ship captain Richard Phillips against Somali pirates in 2009, is an uneasy exercise in morality. What starts out as a fight for survival gradually becomes an examination of personal motivation. Suddenly, the antagonists are not just plain evil- they have a cause worth fighting for, which is poverty. Poverty that also leads to fear. And in order to overcome that fear, they must elicit that fear into the hearts and minds of their captives. 
While the lot of us will still readily associate Somalia with piracy (and a film is yet to be made I think about Somalia which does not involve piracy, unless you'd consider Ridley Scott'…