Money Talks

July 11, 2016 at 11:00 AM | Posted in Film Reviews, Movies | Leave a comment
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Kapit sa patalim.

This succinctly describes Rosa’s predicament in life in the indie film, Ma’ Rosa. In a world where you have to do everything to survive, there is little choice left except to take big risks regardless of whether it’s even legal or not.

Ma’ Rosa is yet another indie film by Brillante Mendoza that tackles the social ills of Philippine society, particularly poverty and corruption. It took the local cinema by storm when it won an award at the Cannes Film Festival early this year. Its lead star, Jaclyn Jose, bagged the Best Actress award at Cannes beating out veteran Hollywood actresses such as Charlize Theron, Marion Cotillard and Kristen Stewart.

Ma' Rosa movie poster

I was surprised and proud as well when Jaclyn Jose won the award. And it was thrilling to see that it was Mads Mikkelsen (a.k.a TV’s Hannibal Lecter) who announced the winner. The movie wasn’t even locally released yet at that time so the moviegoing public had no idea what it was about. Thankfully, the movie is now showing in local cinemas so I had the opportunity to check it out.

Ma’ Rosa is about a family living in a poor neighborhood somewhere in Manila. Rosa Reyes (played by Jaclyn Jose) and her husband Nestor run a small convenience store adjacent to their humble home with their four kids. However, many people in their neighborhood know that the couple is also selling drugs on the side and using their store as a front. It’s not long before their home is raided by corrupt policemen who take them to the police station. The corrupt cops then demanded a large sum of money from Rosa and her husband in exchange for their freedom. Most of the movie then tackles on how the family scramble to raise the money to pay the cops.

The tone of the entire film was bleak and dreary. There was a general feeling of jadedness among its characters, perhaps highlighting the hard life that they were into. Some camera shots were intentionally shaky. Other shots zoomed in for a closer look at scenes such as Nestor crossing out the name of one of his customers on a tattered notebook, reminding local viewers that this was not your typical mainstream Tagalog movie.

Jaclyn embodied the typical woman I see on the streets with her bare face, basic outfit and street language. Her deadpan facial expressions were refreshing to see. She barely evoked emotions. Only a couple of worrying frowns betrayed the inner turmoil she was feeling. That last scene where she finally let loose and silently cry was truly touching.

Julio Diaz, who played Nestor, looked like he was high on drugs the entire time with his slurred speech and swagger. Maria Isabel Lopez, on the other hand, only had one scene in the movie but she provided some light and amusing moments to the film with her hugot-filled one-liner, “O ayan, isaksak mo ‘yan sa bunganga ng nanay mo!

The script needed tightening, though. Some of the dialogues came out trite, thus resulting in shallow performance by the supporting characters.

Overall, the movie was okay. It was not that bad but it could have been better.

From Coming Out to Coming In

June 10, 2016 at 12:14 AM | Posted in Film Reviews, Movies | Leave a comment
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The 21st French Film Festival just started this week and there are about four films in the lineup that I really want to see. Last year I was able to watch only one French film in the festival, and that was Dans La Cour, which starred Catherine Deneuve. It was a rather depressing movie so I thought that this year, I would watch something light and funny. That’s why I picked Toute Première Fois as the first movie I’d watch.

Toute Premiere Fois

Toute Première Fois (I Kissed A Girl) is about a thirty-something man named Jérémie who finds himself in a sticky situation after waking up beside a woman he doesn’t know. Normally, this would cause no problem for a regular guy who is used to having one night stands with women – except that Jérémie is gay.

Jérémie has been living with his boyfriend Antoine for the past 10 years. They recently got engaged and are set to exchange wedding vows. But after a night of fun drinking with business clients, Jérémie is shocked to find out that he slept with a Swedish woman named Adna. Apparently, Adna doesn’t know that he is gay.

In panic, Jérémie turns to his best friend and business partner Charles for help. But Charles isn’t much of help since he decided to hire Adna despite Jérémie’s objections. Soon, Jérémie finds himself getting attracted to Adna as they spend more time together at work. Will he tell her the truth about him and his boyfriend?

Honestly while I was watching this movie, I was rooting for Jérémie to stay with Antoine. Antoine is sweet, dependable, supportive and best of all, he loves Jérémie. But then, Jérémie is discovering a new side of himself. And this movie explored that side of him – albeit in a funny, heart-tugging way.

The movie is rather predictable, though. Halfway through the movie, I knew who Jérémie was going to end up with. The usual tropes are also played out in this movie: Charles as the womanizing best friend, Adna’s background, the climax, and the surprise ending involving a gay marriage.

But Toute Première Fois is still worth to watch if you like popcorn movies and want a laugh or two.

Ignorance is Bliss

May 15, 2016 at 1:21 AM | Posted in Film Reviews, Movies | 3 Comments
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Here’s a rather morbid thought: Would you want to know how and when you will die or would you rather let it happen unexpectedly? Do you want to be caught by surprise when it happens? At least this is the question that the movie, The Surprise poses to viewers.

The Surprise is a Dutch film by Mike van Diem and stars Jeroen van Koningsbrugge and Georgina Verbaan. It’s currently showing at a local cinema. Although I do wonder why it is just being locally released now since the movie is from last year.

The Surprise

Anyway, I liked the movie simply because it’s a quirky, dark comedy with a heart. It tells the story of Jacob – a multimillionaire aristocrat who is lonely and wants to end his life. After a few failed suicide attempts, he stumbles on a secret company that offers a one-way ticket to the afterlife. The company caters to customers who want to end their life for whatever reason and offers them several options on how they want to die. Jacob chooses the “Surprise” option, which means he cannot know when or how he is going to die. All the company promises him is that it will be soon.

However, he meets a female customer at the company who also takes the “Surprise” option. Jacob soon falls in love with her and now wants to delay his passing. Unfortunately, the contract he signed with the company prevents him from doing so. What happens next is a hilarious tale of dodging bullets, following family obligations, and greedy lawyers.

The Surprise is a lighthearted movie that shows how one chooses to live his life no matter the tragedies that might have fallen on him.

I miss these kinds of movies because it’s so different from the usual romantic comedies that Hollywood keep on making.

Paris, Interpreted

August 23, 2007 at 9:58 PM | Posted in Film Reviews, Movies | Leave a comment
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When I watched the film, Paris Je T’aime, I didn’t know what to expect. Though I read the film synopsis before, I have completely forgotten about it so I had no idea what the story was about. All I knew was that the film is set in Paris and composed of an international cast, which includes Natalie Portman. But when the movie unfolded in front of my eyes, I quickly became engrossed.

Paris Je T’aime (which translates to “Paris, I Love You”) is a collection of 18 short stories, each showing a different interpretation of what Paris is all about. These stories are set in different areas of Paris and shows what the City of Lights has to offer: romance, joy, pain, loss, struggle, and even violence. Each “episode” is directed by a different director and played by various actors.

Paris Je T'aime

The movie lets you take a look at Paris from different angles. It forces you to think that the City of Love is not just all about romance. It’s about people who live, love and learn in Paris. Some of the stories were sad, some were funny, and a few were tragic.

I particularly loved the story “Quartier de la Madeleine,” which stars Elijah Wood, wherein Elijah’s character became the object of affection of a female vampire. I thought it was a hilarious rendition of horror B-movies. I also loved “14th Arrondissement” in which an American postal worker narrates her visit to Paris in a heavily-accented French. I laughed myself silly when she pronounced “Simone de Bouvoir” as “Simone de Bolivar”! Special mention goes to “Faubourg Saint-Denis,” which stars Natalie Portman — a great story; “Porte de Choisy” — a funny, quirky story; Gus Van Sant’s “Le Marais;” “Bastille;” and “Pere-Lachaise.”

Paris Je T’aime assembles an international host of directors such as Alfonso Cuaron, Wes Craven, and Gus Van Sant, and a cast of international actors including Natalie Portman, Elijah Wood, Juliette Binoche, Steve Buscemi, Miranda Richardson, Gerard Depardieu, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Nick Nolte, and many others.

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