Movie: Walang Forever

"Walang Forever"

Mia, a celebrated writer of romantic-comedy films, is at a turning point in her life which makes it difficult for her to believe that love could last. Everything comes to a head when Ethan returns, only for her to find out that he has become a cynic of lasting love because she broke his heart.

Walang Forever wears its heart on its sleeve, and that’s a good thing. Because out of the four movies I’ve seen this Metro Manila Film Festival season, this is the only one I actually enjoyed watching. One, because it didn’t try to be too clever for its own good. And two, because it didn’t capitalize on any popular love team. Story was king.

It also helped that Jennylyn Mercado is proving herself to be the romcom lead to beat.

I only have four gripes with the movie: the splicing together of scenes in the exposition-heavy beginning that could’ve done with a bit more cutting, the climactic confrontation between the two leads which I felt could’ve used some tweaking in dialogue, the too-vague planting of the main conflict and its reveal, and the acting decisions of the guy who played Aldus–

But, at the end of the day, I think the movie was well made. My gripes are just nit-pickings at things that I felt could have been improved more, but in no way detracts from one’s enjoyment of the movie. Walang Forever proves that Filipinos are just as capable at making romantic movies that tug at hearts and tear ducts both.

I also have to commend Kim Molina for her acting in this film. Out of the four films I’ve seen, she was most deserving to win the Best Supporting Actress Award– And I’ll leave it at that.

If you enjoyed English Only, Please last year– you’re bound to enjoy this one as well. So if you haven’t seen Walang Forever yet, do check the film out while it’s still in theaters. Support quality films!

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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: So It’s You

"So It's You"

So It’s You is a romantic-comedy offering from Regal Films starring Carla Abellana and Tom Rodriguez. It tells the story of two people who are lost in love–one ready to move on, while the other is still desperately hanging on. When they meet, they think that life is finally giving them a second chance… Unfortunately, Lira (Carla Abellana) sees the chance as a way to get her previous love back, and not a chance to move on.

The film is pretty solid for a Filipino film… Which isn’t a qualifier I wanted to use, because I have high respect for writer-director Jun Lana, and I loved Bwakaw. But I feel like So It’s You could’ve been better.

Carla Abellana, Tom Rodriguez, Paolo Ballesteros, and Kevin Santos bring their A game… But when you’re willing to list the actors who made you enjoy the movie, what does that say about the other actors? I mean, JC de Vera continues to do what JC de Vera used to do… But he looks tired for most of the movie. Leo Martinez is at his wise-man best… but it’s not something we haven’t seen from him before…

But, as you might have noticed in previous blog posts about films I watched, I usually ignore the acting when the story is engrossing. And this wasn’t. And I blame the confused point-of-view of the story-telling. In Regal Film’s efforts to balance the screen time between leads Carla and Tom, the story kinda gets confused on whose story it’s actually telling: is this the journey of Carla’s character to realize that love isn’t something you cling on to desperately? Or is this a finding hope in love again story for Tom’s character?

We start with Carla, where Tom is just an incidental character. When they finally have their meet-cute, we see more of Tom’s character…and we kind of stick with Tom during the duration of his relationship with Carla’s character. So we have his point of view during most of the love story… But it’s Carla who we are with when conflict comes. And it’s Carla who flashes back to all of Tom’s memories. So you can see why we get a confused perspective on the whole thing… Right? Or is it just me?

I find it admirable that So It’s You doesn’t have perfect characters. I like that. I like the fact that none of them are two-dimensional stereotypes… Well, save for Kevin Santos’s character. But I find him funny. And  I find Paolo Ballesteros’s character hilarious. Neither one of them really adds anything substantial to the story, but they surely amp up one’s enjoyment of the film.

But the long short of it is… I’m just trying to find something to like about the film. My mom liked it. My mom cried during the big confrontation scene. So the film works for some people. I’m just not one of them.

I still admire Regal Film’s for continuing to be a player in a market that’s dominated by Star Cinema though. And I hope they continue to produce films… better films… that will compete against Star Cinema.

Web: Jorgendipity

"Jorgendipity"

I’m taking a break from writing about Pinoy books and komiks for one Friday to talk about something I scripted for the web: Jorgendipity.

Take note, I said scripted and not wrote. Though, technically, I did write for it. But, well, to cut things short–I don’t own the story. The characters and the premise were given to me, as were the major plot points–which I will not spoil, because the biggest one is coming in the fourth episode which hasn’t come out yet.

So what did I do for Jorgendipity exactly? Well, I put structure into the story (with the person who actually conceptualized the story, Jane Bracher of M2Comms), and I wrote the actual script they used during filming. So I guess the words are mine.

And thus, here I am promoting.

Mind you, Jorgendipity is far from perfect. As a scriptwriter who relies on a lot of visuals (I like to picture the scene before I write it, to see how my characters would move), I tend to be nitpick-y with my material–and I can nitpick with the best of them.

But I know that I’m have my faults too. I know that I have a tendency to be unclear with my scripted directives.

The thing with productions like this though is this: you have to learn to let go. What’s important in the end is that people like the end product regardless of behind-the-scenes complications and miscommunications.

And I’m hoping you’ll like Jorgendipity.

There are two episodes left, and I believe the next one will be out very soon.

So, what do you think? I’d love to hear some feedback.

Movie: Warm Bodies

"Warm Bodies"

A funny new twist on a classic love story, WARM BODIES is a poignant tale about the power of human connection. After a zombie epidemic, R (a highly unusual zombie) encounters Julie (a human survivor), and rescues her from a zombie attack. Julie sees that R is different from the other zombies, and as the two form a special relationship in their struggle for survival, R becomes increasingly more human – setting off an exciting, romantic, and often comical chain of events that begins to transform the other zombies and maybe even the whole lifeless world.” — (c) Summit

It’s funny how, almost two years ago, I couldn’t imagine the book being turned into a film–much less a film worth recommending. But that’s just what happened. Summit has made a good movie.

What I really liked about Warm Bodies was how it was trying to change the zombie genre. But, as I said, I couldn’t imagine how the people behind the film would translate that. What we end up with is a romantic-comedy sort of film. And it works.

Warm Bodies, in essence, is a Romeo and Juliet story. You have two factions, and a love that was as much impossible as it was inevitable. But it happens. And the film captures this, and celebrates this. So much so that we actually get a balcony scene between Juliet and R which I found really hilarious.

Though, much as Nicholas Hoult and (a strangely plain) Teresa Palmer do great in their roles, it’s actually Rob Corddry and Analeigh Tipton who steals the film for me. They are awesome and hilarious–and they hit the right notes. Especially Analeigh Tipton. This is, I think, the first time that a movie version of a character made me like a book character that I didn’t really notice. And now that I love Nora, I’m very much looking forward to the paper book version of Isaac Marion’s The New Hunger which makes Nora a bigger character than she is in Warm Bodies.

Before I move on to the other things I liked about the film, I want to bring this up: what happened to Teresa Palmer? I’ve seen her in I Am Number Four, in Bedtime Stories–and she looked hot. So why does she look like a blonde Kristen Stewart in this film? That’s not a good thing, let me tell you.

Moving on.

What I like best about Warm Bodies the film is the subtle things they incorporated–especially with R’s character. Something is changing in R. As per the synopsis, he’s increasingly becoming more human. And the make-up department does wonders with their gradual change of his skin tone. Nicholas Hoult also does well with the slow subtle changes he puts into his character–like the fact that he’s always slouching in the beginning of the film, and starts to stand up straighter as he turns more human.

R’s asides in the book fit nicely with the voice overs for the film.

And I like how there are four different looks for the film: the blue-gray tint of the zombie ruins, the harsh lighting of the survivor camp scenes, the toned-down and yet vibrant colors of memories–and the warmer colors of the ending scenes. This is a great use of color-grading, I think. Something I hope the makers of Tiktik take notice of when they get to the post production of their sequel.

Overall, the movie is a must watch. It’s not perfect, but it’s totally worth the ticket price.

Movie: Pak! Pak! My Doctor Kwak!

"Pak! Pak! My Dr. Kwak!" starring Vic Sotto, Bea AlonzoI am all for promoting Filipino films in my blog, but this… How do I start?

Pak! Pak! My Dr. Kwak! is a romantic-comedy film that tackles the question: what happens when science meets faith? Vic Sotto plays a faith healer Angelo who clashes with a Cielo, a doctor, played by Bea Alonzo. But when a punished angel falls down from the sky and into their lives, the two learns that their ways of healing can co-exist—if they would only let it.

It’s a pretty basic story that follows the Vic Sotto movie formula: guy meets girl; girl is enamored by guy—but knows that they are incompatible; guy and girl starts to go out—but guy has one principle that goes against what girl is in his life; guy and girl makes a compromise, and they live happily ever after. Of course, we can’t discount the life-and-death situation that invariably crops up in all Vic Sotto movies—but I won’t say who almost bites the dust in this movie.

I’ve accepted this formula, and I am absolutely fine with the fact that many Filipinos (if the full theater last Saturday was any indication) find his brand of humor funny—regardless of the formula. Heck, I’ve even accepted the fact that Vic Sotto is getting partnered with a female lead who is decades younger than he is! But something about this movie rubbed me the wrong way.

Is it the fact that Bea Alonzo was reduced to a sniveling, whining b*tch who falls in love at a drop of a hat? Is it because of the mischievous angel who’s supposed to carry the morale of the movie doesn’t really show any angelic qualities aside from the “let’s pray” and “you have to do good deeds” mantras? Or maybe it’s because the movie glorifies faith healing, and then takes it back by suddenly saying that it is alternative medicine?

I don’t know who wrote the script for Pak! Pak! My Dr. Kwak! And I have nothing against him, her or them. But I have to ask, was there really a need to make this movie? Sure, from a financial and marketing point-of-view, I guess there is. But couldn’t they have written a different story that could’ve used both Vic Sotto’s and Bea Alonzo’s strengths? I’ve seen Vic Sotto in a very dramatic role, and he can pull it off. Bea Alonzo does seem to have comic timing from what I’ve seen of her work. So why weren’t these utilized in place of the cheap laughs?

If you’re going to say no one forced me to watch the movie, well, no one forced you to read this post either. And, actually, I was forced to watch the movie—by my mother who is a big Vic Sotto fan. So I’m writing these thoughts online just so I wouldn’t feel the PhP170 paid for my ticket doesn’t actually go to waste. Yes, it’s 20 pesos more expensive than Beastly, which wouldn’t bother me had the movie been any good.

But it wasn’t good. And it made me really sad listening to the people inside the full theater laugh out loud at the jokes that made fun of people’s looks, and their misfortune; and it made me even sadder that people would watch movies like this in droves, and wouldn’t watch good films, also produced locally, like Senior Year.

Is there still hope for Philippine Cinema? Or will we be subject to films like this because this is what the masses want? I’m not being pretentious. I’m not saying we should only watch quality films where we can learn. I’m all for entertainment, and escaping through means of film. But can’t we do that while maintaining some standards? Just a little bit of standards. Like, you know, not supporting comedy films that aren’t really funny if you take out all the mean things said about people who aren’t as good-looking as the lead stars.

What do you think?

movie: the wedding singer

"the wedding singer" starring adam sandler, drew barrymorethis is not the first time i watched THE WEDDING SINGER. i have seen it before, when i was still in high school. but my workshop facilitator told me to watch it again, and to take note of progressions and other story-telling devices, so i looked for a copy at a local video store.

no, the copy i bought wasn’t pirated. viva films, the local distributor of THE WEDDING SINGER here in the philippines, has re-released some of their more popular titles in a more eco-friendly packaging. and while i admire the effort–well, it looks hideous. there are better ways of being eco-friendly without looking like a cheapskate. or worse, as the case here is, looking like a knock-off.

and if the packaging wasn’t bad enough, the movie itself felt very bootleg. as if someone snuck in a video camera inside the movie house, captured the entire film, and then proceeded to change the aspect ration to fit into a square-ish tv screen.

the packagine = horrible. the copy = horrible. good thing the movie itself wasn’t bad.

i remember that i liked the film the first time i watched it. yes, i wasn’t a fan of romantic comedies. but i liked the movie’s cheesiness that i never denied liking the film. plus, there’s the grandmother rapping rapper’s delight. that was just plain awesome.

but now, i have to watch movies with a different perspective. well, i usually still watch as just a viewer, but this is a repeat viewing. i’m watching as someone studying an effective way of telling a love story. and while the movie is still good, i can’t help but notice how flimsy the movie’s plot is:

guy is engaged to married, but gets left at the altar. literally. girl is engaged to be married, but to a jerk who doesn’t deserve her. guy and girl meets, they become friends, and they slowly start falling in love with each other. then guy’s ex-fiancee wants to drop the ex in her title. but guy is in love with girl already so he chooses her over the ex. unfortunately, girl is already leaving to get married. now guy must go after her, and show her he deserves her more (which isn’t that hard, considering the fact that her fiance is a jerk). and then they live happily ever after.

let’s pretend i never mentioned THE WEDDING SINGER. what movie title would have come into your head?

don’t get me wrong. i still like the movie. i’m just saying the plot is generic. the presentation though is very nice. because you actually believe that guy and girl did fall in love. and you are never dubious as to how it could’ve happened, because you saw it happen.

and that’s the lesson my workshop facilitator wants me to learn. but  here’s the ‘lesson’ i got instead: you have to  make people believe that true love will come, but it’s still up to them to choose it.

obviously i learned what my facilitator wants me to learn, the second ‘lesson’ is just a bonus. and more than just teaching me a lesson, THE WEDDING SINGER also gave me something else: a much-needed break from non-stop working.

"the musical" stars gian magdangal as robbie hartspeaking of which: my friend is still selling tickets to the november 7 play date of 9 works theatrical production of THE WEDDING SINGER, THE MUSICAL.

the cast of the local production will be led by PARTY PILIPINAS‘s gian magdangal and myx vj iya villania. but the latter will be alternating with shiela valderama-martinez, a theater veteran who has worked in hong kong disneylands’s productions.

joining them are nikki valdez, analin bantug, jeremy aguado, lorenz martinez, johann dela fuente, myrene santos, and enchang kaimo.

some parts of the film were tweaked to fit the musical adaptation better, adn i am interested to see how differently the story will play out. i know that guy and girl will still end up growing old with each other by curtains down, but it’s always the journey to get to the end that makes it all worth it. right?

so let’s see how this particular journey goes.

for those who are interested to buy tickets for the november 7 play date, please visit: watch plays, or e-mail watchplays(at)yahoo(dot)com.

ticket prices are: php1400  for orchestra center; php1200 for orchestra side or loge center; php1100 for loge side; php700 for balcony center; and php600 for balcony side.