Movie: Buy Now, Die Later

"Buy Now, Die Later"

BUY NOW, DIE LATER is a compendium of five interconnected stories, each one representing one of the five senses. The stories featuring ODIE, ATO, CHLOE, PIPPA and MAITA will remind us that every bargain comes with a price.

I really wanted to like this film. Especially because out of the three films I’ve seen so far off this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival entries, this has been the best. But being better than My Bebe Love or Haunted Mansion isn’t really something to be proud of.

Buy Now, Die Later suffers from putting style over substance. The film is, for the most part, beautifully lit and shot. There was obvious thought put into lighting the scenes, in the camera’s movements, and in blocking the scenes. But the same thought wasn’t given into casting two of the main leads, because I completely do not understand why the producers of this film thought Alex Gonzaga and Vhong Navarro were right for the roles they played here.

Let’s start with Vhong. The actor’s swagger did not fit the underdog character he was meant to portray here. Based completely off the events and the dialogue, you’re supposed to feel that the character is meant to be looking to escape the shadow cast by a too famous father. Unfortunately, Vhong’s portrayal only made him out to be a fame-hungry bottom-feeder who wants the easiest way to get into the spotlight. Which would’ve been a fine character on its own, if it weren’t for the fact that this doesn’t fit his character’s actions and dialogue in the second half of the film.

And then there’s Alex. I don’t know if it was a conscious effort on her part to emulate the speaking and movement of certain local celebrities, but it was a little too over the top for me. It certainly didn’t help that she would jump from one emotion to the next without any nuance, making her character feel like she’s suffering from a psychological disorder.

Which makes me feel bad for the rest of the cast, Lotlot de Leon and TJ Trinidad most notably. You can see that these two made an effort to make their characters breathe and be real. I actually feel especially sorry for TJ Trinidad because the director or the producer subjected him to wearing an awful mask that was completely unnecessary. It’s like they didn’t trust that he could bring the malevolence needed to make his character work, when his character was actually already scary enough–until the mask appeared and made his character look like a joke.

Story-wise, I must commend the film for trying a different kind of story-telling from what the masses are used to. Especially during the Metro Manila Film Festival season. But I think they bit off more than they can chew with this one. Especially when it comes to logic and continuity. The biggest flaw in the story-telling comes near the end of the story when Lotlot’s character is seduced by the promise of youth–during the time when she’s worried about her daughter’s safety. It should make sense, but the dialogue given her does not–and neither do the scenes that follow after she succumbs to the devil’s bargain.

Then there’s the foreshadowing of how the devil’s items work; they used three characters to underline the fact that the magic of the items don’t affect those who have been cursed. Except one of the three characters hasn’t even been cursed yet. That’s a problem someone in editing, or the writer himself, should have been on the look out for.

And speaking of editing– I don’t know who was in charge of trimming down the movie, but the latter half of Buy Now, Die Later suffered from a lot of cuts that didn’t make sense–leaving characters finishing lines of dialogue that viewers never saw start in the first place.

Don’t even get me started on the garish music video that jolts viewers into the second story.

So would I recommend this movie to anyone? I want to say yes, if only for Lotlot de Leon and TJ Trinidad–but Buy Now, Die Later is really only entertaining two-fifths of the time, so I would say no. If you want to support Quantum Films so they could make more films, watch Walang Forever instead.

Movie: My Bebe Love

"My Bebe Love"

Vic Sotto plays the role of Vito who finds himself at odds and in a bitter professional rivalry with Cora, played by Ai-Ai delas Alas. The two are both in the business of mounting special events. The conflict happens when their respective wards – Anna (played by Maine) daughter of Vito, gets romantically entangled with Cora’s beloved nephew Dondi (played by Alden). As expected, the “parents” actively reject the budding romantic involvement between the star-crossed lovers.

It’s that time of the year again when theaters in the Philippines are showing only entries for the Metro Manila Film Festival. And as is the case every year, my mom had the family watching a Vic Sotto movie. Which means that I watched My Bebe Love.

I didn’t hate it.

I mean, I didn’t love it either, but it wasn’t as bad as some of the other Vic Sotto-starrers I’ve been subjected to. But it wasn’t as good as the Vic Sotto films that got it right either. (I have very low expectations set when it comes to films starring Vic Sotto. Ever since the very first Enteng Kabisote film.)

The thing with My Bebe Love is–it doesn’t seem to know who the central characters are. And I sort of blame the AlDub phenomenon. (I’m not going to explain what the AlDub phenomenon is, but you can read about it on Wikipedia. That’s right. It has a Wikipedia page.)

Now, watching My Bebe Love, it was obvious that the story being set up is supposed to center on conservative Vito clashing and then falling in love with the liberal Cora. They’re the ones with the premise and promise right at the beginning. Their respective charges, Anna and Dondi, are only supposed to move their plots along. It’s a very basic story set-up.

I don’t know during what part of the production period the AlDub phenomenon happened, but you can clearly see that when this movie was being filmed, some Vito-Cora development was thrown out the window in favor of giving more screen time for the better-loved supporting players. And it ruins the love story that the film was supposed to be about: that of Vito’s and Cora’s.

The thing is, this could have not been the case.

I know the producers of My Bebe Love were banking on the popularity of the AlDub love team to make this movie bigger than it was projected to be. But how hard was it to make their participation not feel shoe-horned in?

The set up is there. The stakes are there. But instead of using the additional scenes featuring the supporting characters to give their story more substance, they were underutilized and made to do what they’ve been doing every day in their Kalyeserye on television. And it makes their plot, the subplot, disjointed. Because, obviously, their characters had plot points they needed to hit. But instead of just progressing with those and letting those plot points define their character arcs, they were given scenes that didn’t serve anything more than a fleeting sense of romance and giddiness.

And they’re not the only ones to suffer. Suddenly, the main plot of the film is also missing two of its most vital parts: it’s supporting plot, and the time to progress their story forward. At one point, it felt like they were the ones supporting the subplot.

I feel bad for all the actors involved in this film. There was potential for My Bebe Love to be something more (and something different) from what the Vic Sotto films usually turn out to be), but it was wasted on poor story structuring and character progression.

Movie: Pedro Calungsod

"Pedro Calungsod"

I really wanted to like this film. Not because I’m Catholic, I’m not, but because I want to see a non-mainstream story make a mark on a mainstream event like the Metro Manila Film Festival.

Unfortunately, while the sentiments behind this film is lovely (as is the cinematography), the story itself is not.

Pedro Calungsod: Batang Martir is a fictionalized retelling of the life that the newly canonized saint led back in the day. I say fictionalized because, if I remember correctly, no one really knows the entire story of Calungsod’s life. Just snippets. Enough to get him beatified almost a couple of decades ago.

The film follows Calungsod, portrayed by Rocco Nacino, as he joins a mission that would take him to an island off the coasts of the Visayan region, where Spanish priests wish to spread the good word of Christianity.

We are then treated to a series of events that take place in that island; events that supposedly happened in real life. Events that are really boring to watch, to be perfectly honest.

Conflicts break out suddenly and are never followed up on. The every day life shown in between conflicts are pretty peaceful, and feel really off because these people are supposed to be living in constant fear of a seige.

You never really understand the motivation of any of the characters shown–save for Christian Vasquez’s Spanish priest and Nacino’s Calungsod. Then again, they’re the central characters. They’re men of faith and nothing else; and they will defend their faith to their last breath.

And they do.

And then you wonder: what was the reason for this movie to be made? I mean, really? What was the point? Because I don’t get it. We see Calungsod die early on in the film. And then we see the journey they make towards the island. Their every day life. And then, just because one man is angry, Calungsod dies. And the film ends.

Really, that’s it.

The scenes are beautifully shot. Christian Vasquez makes it known that he can be a serious actor. Victor Basa looks pretty while he baptizes the natives (and the dead). Rocco Nacino looks weird with his wig. Alvin Aragon has a weird accent while speaking Bisaya.

And that’s pretty much what I took from the film. I don’t think that’s what the producers intended when they decided to produce this. It’s definitely not what I expected when I went in the theater.

I wish I could say Pedro Calungsod is a must-watch, but it just might turn people off non-mainstream Filipino films.

Movie: 10000 Hours

"10000 Hours"The movie deserved its best picture win, even though I enjoyed the Kimmy Dora prequel more.

10000 Hours tells the story of a senator who has, all his life, believed that justice will prevail. Until justice turns against him. Afraid of how the law will be twisted to keep him from revealing the truth about the administration’s corruption, the senator takes off–to search for the one thing that would unmask the corrupt, even if he ‘disappears’ permanently.

What I loved about the film was the pacing. You know how you don’t notice the time when you’re engrossed with what you’re watching? That happened. I lost track of time. I was hanging on to the events unfolding on screen. 10000 Hours was gripping, and I credit this to director Bb. Joyce Bernal.

Bernal is known for her romantic comedies and her dramatic soap operas, but after 10000 Hours, I think she should be known now for her versatility as a director. Although, I would credit her background on the dramatic for making most of the action scenes in the film necessary–

Of course, she’s not the only reason why the film worked.

I’m not a fan of Robin Padilla, but I must say that he is effective as the senator on the run. The character is flawed, and Padilla doesn’t pretend otherwise. Sure, this is nothing new for Padilla. But you have to appreciate an actor who knows not to overexert, or to overact.

Ketchup Eusebio manages to steal every single one of the handful of scenes he is in. Bela Padilla has shown growth as an actress, and Cholo Barretto gives as much as he takes in the scenes he shares with Mylene Dizon.

But the best part of the film is that the unnecessary scenes are minimal, and those that aren’t important are kept short.

Of course, no movie is perfect. And I would just like to point out how wishy-washy Bella Padilla’s character is. For someone who has built her life on journalism and exposing the truth, the reveal of her character’s origins come completely out of the blue–and a little out of character.

But aside from that one tiny complaint, I applaud the existence of 10000 Hours. I don’t usually enjoy watching action films, so this is a pleasant and welcome surprise.

Movie: Kaleidoscope World

"Kaleidoscope World"

Lando, a poor boy, meets a rich girl, Elsa, in an open audition for the number one local hip hop crew that is competing for an international dance event. Lando and Elsa make it to the team but as their life and love unfold their dance crumbles.

Deep breaths. Deep, deep breaths.

I wanted to like this film. Really, I did. It stars two actors who I really believe has the acting chops to pull off lead roles, and they do showcase their acting capabilities in this film well. Unfortunately, that’s the only good thing I can say about this film: Sef Cadayona and Yassi Pressman acted their asses off.

But the whole film was just bad. Really bad. So bad that I wanted to walk out in the middle of the film. I didn’t. Because I had to stick through the whole thing to see if it gets better.

Spoiler alert: it doesn’t.

Let’s list down the things that was wrong in the film:

Number one is structure. We have two characters whose lives intertwine, but are given problems that don’t really have anything to do with each other. Until past the halfway mark, when the writer seemed to have realized that the audience will have no idea what would make them root for the our lead couple. So the lead female is forcibly made to bear the brunt of the male lead’s conflict.

I feel as if the writer of the screenplay fell into the trap of trying to keep the twists surprising. Which is not what you want to do with a love story. You want your audience to know what’s going to keep your couple apart. So they root for the couple. By keeping the conflict a secret, you’ve only made your viewers apathetic.

When nothing is standing in the way of your lovers, you don’t root for them to succeed. Having finished the film, I already know that there’s an obstacle. But by the time it is introduced, viewers would have already stopped caring… and the conflict is made to look like a last minute addition.

Which leads me to the second problem of the film: conflict. Sef Cadayona’s character has a very alienating conflict: he freezes up whenever he remembers what happened to his dad. And this is not revealed until near the end of the film. And this is never resolved.

Oh, wait, should I have warned that there will be spoilers? Well, there are spoilers here. You have been warned now.

Back to Sef Cadayona’s very internal conflict: we get flashes of it, bit by bit, throughout the film. And this will confuse the hell out of you. Especially near the end, when two characters involved with Yassi Pressman’s character are revealed to be integral to Sef Cadayona’s conflict–and yet they don’t recognize Sef’s character at all.

I am serious. It doesn’t make sense.

And let’s not even start on the conflict between Yassi’s aunt and uncle that keeps getting addressed, but gets dropped with nary a mention ever again after their one confrontation. Suddenly, everything is right with the two again.

That leads me to the third problem of the film: resolutions. There are none. I’m not looking for a happy ending. I’m not looking for a wrap-up with a nice bow. I just want to see that the stories introduced are actually going somewhere.

We have a story thread about a dance competition, a group story arc, that suddenly ends with a performance. There are problems introduced into this arc that gets resolved off screen–if they did get resolved at all.

We have a thread on Yassi Pressman’s criminal past, and the part dancing plays in it. This does not get resolved, because Yassi’s story is suddenly cut short.

There’s a thread on Sef Cadayona’s juggling act between taking classes, starting to nod off at his part-time work, practicing during all the free time he has left, and still finding time to go to different malls just so he could stalk Yassi’s character. Oh wait, that’s not so much a problem about resolution as it is a problem on logic, and maybe Sef’s ability to clone himself so he can be in different locations at the same time.

And then there’s the weird cousin of Yassi’s character and her desire to dance. That goes nowhere fast.

But the worst offender of this is the main love thread. Yassi takes off from her aunt’s house, goes to Sef’s neighborhood, gets stabbed–apparently, to death, and yet appears to hug her group mates in the dance competition abroad.

What now?

I wanted to support Kaleidoscope World because it’s different from the usual fare. Also, I want to support Yassi and Sef’s career. But I can not, on good conscience, recommend this film to anyone.

Because the biggest problem I have with this film is that it masqueraded as a dance film. The characters dance, yes. But this is not a dance film. Street Dance is a dance film. Save the Last Dance, Center Stage, heck even I Do Bidoo Bidoo is a dance film. The Step Up franchise, even when the story is at its flimsiest, are dance films. Kaleidoscope World is a an acting reel masquearading as a film, much less a dance film.

Dance films feature dance prominently. Dance films have good music. Dance films do not use stock, royalty-free music during montages. Dance films will not just pile together different dances just to show the characters dancing. Dance is the most important part of a dance film. You do not give it the short end of the deal.

A dance film can get away with a threadbare story if the dance is good. And the biggest crime Kaleidoscope World commits is casting good dancers and never featuring them properly.

Kaleidoscope World isn’t just a waste of time and money. It also wastes the talent of the actors and dancers involved. And I’m not surprised that the director seem to have had his name stricken out of the credits.

Movie: My Little Bossings

"My Little Bossings"

When millionaire Babu is put under the bus for a pyramid scheme she isn’t even involved with, she tasks her personal assistant to hide her son with his family. But Torky, her assistant, will have family issues of his own to deal with when he brings his boss’s son home, only to find an estranged relative with a strange ward.

Okay, so I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. It helps, I think, that the direction was good. But the best part of the film for me has to be the fact that Vic Sotto’s character is not the main focus of the story.

My Little Bossing do actually focus on the characters played by Kris Aquino’s son Bimby, and Ryzza Mae Dizon. Neither of whom are good actors, but deliver solid enough performances that will tug at your heart strings.

The best part of the film though has to be Jaclyn Jose, who seems to just be enjoying the film for what it is: good fun. Her acting here is by no means awards-worthy, but the fun she’s having with role is positively contagious. You can’t help but have fun alongside her.

And for the first time in a Vic Sotto movie since the second Enteng Kabisote movie (the only one with Alice Dixon and Marian Rivera), we actually get a lot of heart. Now, I have some complaints about the lines and some set-ups, but I love how the film underlines how important talking is in families.

It’s no secret to my friends how much I’ve wanted to write an Okey Ka Fairy Ko movie; one that puts the franchise back on what really made it work before: its emphasis on family values. Watching My Little Bossings, I think I can let go of that dream now. Because this film actually actualizes the story I’ve been wanting to write for Okey Ka Fairy Ko. And although it’s not perfect, it hits the right notes.

There is actually just one thing I want to complain about in this film. (Surprising, again, for a Vic Sotto film.) It’s the characters. Some of them have questionable principles (Vic’s being on the forefront of this one), most of them are not consistent, and some of them have unclear goals. I think, had the screenplay clarified the characters and made them more whole, the whole movie would’ve been better.

But the movie’s already out there. We can only be thankful for the parts they got right.

Hopefully, this starts a trend for Vic Sotto movies to start focusing again on what made his old films something we remember fondly: the right family values.

Movie: Kimmy Dora, Ang Kiyemeng Prequel

"Kimmy Dora: Ang Kiyemeng Prequel"

Kimmy Dora: Ang Kiyemeng Prequel is the third film of the Kimmy Dora movie all produced by Spring Film and directed by Chris. It is an action-packed movie that shows how Kimmy and Dora started their special bond as sisters and with the help of the character played by Sam.

Kimmy Dora is back with a vengeance!

After the abominable Kimmy Dora: The Temple of Kiyeme, I admit that I was a little wary of the final installment to the Kimmy Dora trilogy. The trailer did nothing to assuage my fears, especially with the hooded mystery villain named Bogart.

I thought we were going to get another horror-fied installment that, I felt, was one of the reasons why The Temple of Kiyeme failed.

Thankfully, Ang Kiyemeng Prequel doesn’t make the same mistakes that the sequel did. And I’ve taken note of the fact that Star Cinema doesn’t seem to be involved in this installment. Or if they have, they seem to have kept their meddling at the bare minimum.

And the result is a return to form for Kimmy Dora. The wit is back, the charm has returned, and there’s more laughs to be had than ever before.

It all begins with a James Bond-inspired opening credits that immediately sets the mood for the film. The opening bars of the music, and the visual gag of the two dancers accompanying Eugene Domingo’s Kimmy and Dora, already points out the obvious: this is not Temple of Kiyeme. There are no rules. Everything is fair game.

And when I say everything, I mean everything.

They’ve also pulled out all the stops when it comes to cameo appearances. We get Mylene Dizon, Paulo Avelino, the hilariously mute Cai Cortez, a surprisingly subdued John Lapus, and more. There are also a couple of cameos that, I feel, are better left unspoiled. Let’s just say, fans of the first film will enjoy said cameos.

Admittedly, I’m slightly disappointed that we don’t get Baron Geisler making a cameo as the nephew or son of one of Luisito Go Dong Hae’s fellow board members. But with everything the prequel has given us, I don’t have a right to complain.

There’s something missing in Eugene Domingo’s portrayal of Dora. Something I haven’t seen since the first film. Her portrayal of Kimmy on the other hand is still fun to watch. But it’s actually Sam Milby who really shines in this film–as someone who doesn’t talk a lot. Casting directors, I think Sam has finally found his calling: as an action star who doesn’t talk much. Limit him to that, and he might actually revive his acting career.

As for the story, the whole thing is actually predictable. Which is a good thing, in this case. Everything is set up in a way that nothing comes left of field. Everything is planted and plotted out right from the start. This allows you to sit back and enjoy the performances of the actors and actresses, and just bask in the hilarity of Kimmy Dora: Ang Kiyemeng Prequel.

If you’re going to watch just one Metro Manila Film Festival entry this year, let it be Kimmy Dora: Ang Kiyemeng Prequel. It’s money well spent.