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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles

The Philippines has a very rich culture. Folklore for one, is the best example of how imaginative our ancestors are. Since we are kids, we are bombarded by stories about Aswang, Tiktik, Kapre and Manananggal. Either our parents enjoys the thought of us being afraid or they just simply want us to stay home at night, but these stories make up our childhood. For years, Shake, Rattle and Roll delivered folklore to the modern era but we are getting tired on the concept of the series. Tiktik is a risk, financially and of quality.

Makoy (Dantes) will do everything to get Sonia (Poe) back in his life together with their unborn baby. He sets a trip to Sonia's province to fetch her and bring her back to Manila. Makoy is your usual conceited type of guy who would bad-ass everyone in his way. This is not a good indication for someone who visits a place for the first time. As the saying goes, be polite to the people you don't personally know and you will be leaving the place alive and with complete body parts, with Makoy, the attitude follows various conflicts. When the news of Sonia being pregnant was known by a group of people living in the hills, the race to survival reached in a greaters heights as the infant-hungry Aswangs raids Sonia's house trying to acquire the unborn child. 

The film stays true to the concept of Philippine folklore. The strength and weaknesses were covered with some funny exceptions. The movie is not entirely a horror film and follows the concept of Bulong. Tiktik is amusing in various ways. Visually, the film is stunning. Erik Matti and his graphics designer put enough effort to the technology they used. The same approach was used in making films like 300, Sin City and Watchmen. This is a first for Philippine Cinema. For years, they has been a lot of attempts in using 3D animation in fantasy movies like Agimat and Enteng but even with those two combined, they could not surpass the quality of animation and background effects of Tiktik. If I were to ask, GMA films should have released this during the MMFF festival and it will surely be a hit and that P80 Million budget would be just a 1php in the sidewalk. 

While film boasts of great imagery, it also gives out rich cultural references as well as accuracy in terms of production design. The house where Sonia lives is like an exact replica of the houses in the provinces, sturdy, has a mini-veranda, owner-type jeep, laminated diplomas, old wooden furniture and that murky environment complete with gravel and dust. With this, the film already succeeded. While I abhor obvious product endorsement in films, Tiktik is an exception. 

The cast did well with their parts. I am surprised with Joey Marquez as he was not that effective as a comedian with earlier films, but with Tiktik, he simply geared up a notch and was really good in comic timing. Ramon Bautista's character Bart stole the show as he displayed a few antics that really make you laugh. Janice De Belen excels as the typical provincial mother. Basically, it was the veteran actors who excelled in this film and it was not a surprise. 

Director Erik Matti may have delivered his finest film to date. Dingdong Dantes may have his best film made. Tiktik is one of the films that dares to be different and take the risk and they succeeded. There was a right mix of fun and tension in Tiktik, something that has been long forgotten by film makers in the Philippines. And oh, please remind me to stack a bunch of Boy Bawang, it might come in handy.

GRADE: A-

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

This Guy's In Love With You, Mare


One year ago, Vice Ganda starred in a movie that seemed to be considered as one of the worst films ever made. Praybeyt Benjamin was the least of the movie I expected to hold the Philippines most watched film in terms of box-office returns. The repetitive dialogue and lazy directing has to be blamed with the low class quality of the film. In defense of the actors who were at that film, they delivered but could have been better with proper guidance from their director. This year, Wenn Deramas collaborates with Vice Ganda once again to deliver another comedy about the strangest relationship about a gay man, bisexual and a woman.

Lester has been with Mike for 5 years as a partner. Lester was Mike's provider, from college to even supporting the basic needs of Mike's family. So when Mike broke up with Lester in their 5th Anniversary, Lester was left with nothing but devastation with their failed relationship. Mike, on the other hand, has been in a relationship with Gemma for a year. This was unknown to Lester until he saw the couple which made him to devise a plan that would separate the two and make Mike come back to him by acting as a straight man and court Gemma.

I abhor Praybeyt Benjamin as much as I abhor Master of Disguise. With this film, there is much more to enjoy than the latter. There is more cohesion in terms of plot. However, I want to blame the people who made the trailer since most of the jokes seen there are the ones you will also see in the film with only few additions. There were some funny moments and there were icky moments as well. Vice Ganda now plays a different type of humor however it can also be tiring due to repetitions. The chemistry between the three lead characters are quite in sync. Toni seemed to be comfortable with her role and that goes with Luis and Vice. The movie seemed to fall apart in Act 3 where they all go melodramatic using lines from previous movies. It may have been effective during the early 2000s but not at this age. Sarcastic jokes is comedy at this time. Slapstick is dead.

This Guy's In Love With You, Mare is better than Praybeyt Benjamin by a mile but it does not match up with Wenn Deramas' Tanging Ina. There are a few laugh out loud moments with this film but I would not pay 200php for this film, maybe 100php.

GRADE: C+

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Taken 2

It was way back in 2008 when Taken swept the audiences feet. Though Liam Neeson was known to portray roles such as the iconic Oskar Schindler from Schindler's List or Aslan from The Chronicles of Narnia, he was never established as an action hero - well, not until Taken was release, garnering a surprising followers. From a measly $25M budget, Taken was a hit with roughly $230M box office worldwide. Not bad, right? 4 years went by, we never thought that a sequel would be produced (Surprise from the greedy Hollywood film producers). But does it live up from its predecessor?

Bryan Mills (Neeson) is now a retired Intelligence Agent. Still fresh from the incident with her daughter Kim (Grace) being abducted, he stays to be the paranoid father. While Lenore (Janssen), Bryan's ex-wife, is having her marital problems, he decided to invite her and Kim for a vacation in Istanbul after his freelance engagement as a bodyguard. Unknown to him is that a group of Albanians are plotting revenge against him for killing the men involved in Kim's abduction. The chase goes on as the Albanians try to abduct not only Bryan but his family as well.

Basically, Taken 2 suffers much in building up the tension. The first part felt so awkward as the Albanian's swore to their son's graves with a line saying, "We will kill him." I shuddered in fear sarcastically. There must be a better way of writing things as complex as revenge. I know that they will kill him but they don't have to be that straight forward like they are treating their audiences dumb. There is so much to do with the writing to improve. But what lacks with the dialogue makes up with the ingenuity of Bryan Mill's character and the tactics used in the film.

Taken 2 included a couple of car chases which is not present in the previous film. While there are a lot of chases in Taken, Taken 2 takes it up a notch with car chases which somehow felt like I am watching a Bourne movie. One of my complaints with the film is with the camera. The scenes which involves a lot of fighting is just messy and not good with the eyes.

Liam Neeson shows that he can still do action movies even in his early 60s. He clearly made a statement that even with his age, he can still make a name as an action star. With Taken 2, he establishes this thought more concrete. Taken 2 had some tricks left in its sleeve but not enough to be at par with the first one.

GRADE: B-

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Pitch Perfect

Glee is one of the surprise hit in television. When Glee became a boob tube sensation, everything seemed to be musical. There were a lot of covers made from recent pop hits. There were reality shows about glee clubs and even about finding the right voices and faces that would be part of the cast of the series. One thing we don't need is a film about glee club but Pitch Perfect's trailer promises a very great film, and did it deliver? Read on.

There were two Acapella groups in Barden College, an all girl group named "The Bellas" and their rival, "The Treblemakers." Though they are of the same school, they competed with each during the Regionals up to the Finals. It was not really a good year for The Bellas when one of their soloist turned out sick while singing solo during the finals and it is up for them to find new recruits to gain their reputation after a horrible year. The Treblemakers however, is enjoying a high class fame after winning the finals in which The Bella's lost horribly. Becca is a freshman who is trying to find herself through music and ends up in an acapella club after she was heard singing in the bathroom to David Guetta and Sia's Titanium. This turn out came to be a turning point of her life as she discovers that college is no different with high school as everyone is just trying to fit in.

Pitch Perfect is a surprise hit for me. I have never laughed so hard for a movie and believe me, it is very hard to control that boisterous laugh when you see something really funny. Pitch Perfect is Glee's PG-16 version. While Glee tries to explore how high school glee member try to fit in, Pitch Perfect is the semi-American Pie version where they are free to talk about sex like they were talking about Miley Cyrus and her new song.

Pitch Perfect also has better song choices in terms of mash ups and Riff-offs (a battale between Acapella groups). I would consider Pitch Perfect as the Step Up of singing. While they provide good vocals, they also showcase a lot of showmanship. There is not a dull moment while watching the film. Though there is a limited characterization among all the characters, you will come to love each one of them. Fat Amy is adorable, Lilly steals the show (you will see what I mean) and Chloe displays a very strong vocal performance. Anna Kendrick (Beca) is one adorable character.

Pitch Perfect is your typical film about an underdog gone victorious but it was the laughs and the performances which makes this film different from the rest. There is less characterization but hey, I was entertained and really had a good laugh. Pitch Perfect lives out its title. There was nothing pitchy about Pitch Perfect.

GRADE: A-

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Ted

Seth McFarlane is the epitome of adult humor. When I discovered Family Guy in 2006, it has been running for 4 seasons and I can see that the potty humor that series has will bring wonders to the new generation. Since then, there was no dull moments in TV. Family Guy challenges the genre that The Simpsons reigns supreme and yes, McFarlane is a genius when it comes to adult humor and satire. This year, McFarlane embarks his skill from the boob tube to the silverscreen by directing, producing and lending his voice talents in a movie about a young boy who wished upon a star for a friend and got one.

John Bennet is awkward boy who doesn't have any friends, not even the school loser would want to see with him. This lack of socialization was filled up one night after wishing for a friend. The wish was granted by bringing his teddy bear to life. They were good friends through thick and thin even until they reached adolescent to being an adult. Well, Ted also aged together with John.However, things are getting a wee bit complicated when John's girlfriend, Lori (Mila Kunis), wants Ted out of her apartment.

Ted delivers a hefty of laughs. If you are true Family Guy fan, you would notice the similarity of scores used in the series and in the film. Saxophone and trumpets are one of FG's insignia when it comes to score and it widely used in the entire film. The humor is potty to profane to gross. McFarlane even used his usual cutaway gags in some of the sequences.

There is a lot to be adored in the film. Ted is a boy's fantasy come to life. Who wouldn't want his teddy bear be alive. Ted as an adult is every man's fantasy. A friend who would tolerate every mistakes and backs you up even if you are at the wrong field. This scenario is true to John and Ted's relationship as friends. I can see the depth of their company and how strong their ties are. This can be credited to Mark Whalberg's happy-go-lucky presentation of his character and Ted's "I-will-push-you-to-whatever-you-want-coz-I'll-be-backing-you-up" attitude.

Ted is a lot of fun, however, it can be offensive to some viewers. This is the McFarlane signature. He would offend you and your principles for fun. Nevertheless, Ted delivers the goods. Profanity, drugs and sex but in a fun way. I agree with Philbert Ortiz's take on the construction of the film. One of its major setback is the third part of the film which somehow turned into a "kidnap-ending" just like a bad soap opera. However, the fun is their, the charm of the teddy bear is there.

Ted is a film for McFarlane fans and those who wants to see how hot Mila Kunis is. The humor is not of the faint of heart but for those who just wants to relax and have fun. Do not be misled of the poster and try bringing your little brother thinking that the movie is about an adorable teddy bear. Ted is an adorable teddy bear, until he starts opening his mouth of smoke pot.

GRADE: B+

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Hotel Transylvania

Sony Pictures Animation has been around for quite some time. They have quite a few hits and misses as well. This year, they gave Transylvania a shot at the box office with all the familiar characters that haunted children for years.

Hotel Transylvania follows the story of Dracula, an owner of a 5 star hotel for all mosters who wishes to take a break from cruel world of humans. In this movie, humans are depicted to be the bad guys of which the monsters are afraid of. Hotel Transylvania is a safe heaven for monsters as Dracula promises that the place is Human-free. He has a daughter named Mavis who is very curious about the world outside. Celebrating her 118th birthday, she wishes that her father would be true to his word of allowing her to venture outside the premises of the castle and explore the world of men. Manipulative as he is, Dracula made sure that Mavis will see the world as she was told by devising a plan involving zombies trying to play as humans. This made Mavis to go back to the castle and swore never to return. Everything changed when a human made it to the palace and discover the wonders hidden behind it.

There is nothing sort of special with the film. As you look closely there are bits of the plot that are similar with Monsters Inc. The plot is also thinly written. The conflict between Mavis and Dracula is so 1990s. This limited plot development allowed the writers to insert a lot of plot nuisance. They can be considered as fillers for them to meet the 90 to 100 minutes feature film limits. There were a few laughs. Children will be amused by this film but I would guess that adults may have a difficulty trying to stay put and not be restless in the entire duration of the film.

Adam Sandler provides the voice of Dracula and Selena Gomez for Mavis. Sandler's voice characterization is quite relaxed and controlled. Helmed by Genndy Tartakovsky, maker of Cartoon Network's Dexter's Lab and Samurai Jack, Hotel Transylvania is neither a hit or a miss. There were a few laughs but it was not enough to make it at par with Pixar's 3D Films.

GRADE: B-

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Perks of Being A Wallflower

There have been a lot of movies about teens, their angst, transition and their struggles that are usually considered petty by the older generation. Very few movies has depicted a truthful portrait of teens and most of them are usually treated as comedic. Mean Girls was one of the films that dared to open up the true world of high school, and that was 8 or 9 years ago. Back in 1998, Stephen Chbosky wrote one of the most important novels of out time. Considered as the J.D. Salinger of our time, Perks of Being A Wallflower is considered to be one of the most challenged books of all time.

The film primarily follows Charlie, a freshman, as he enters high school. He is not new to typical high school scene and has decided to be unknown and invincible. In that nature, he was able to see things differently. Aside from being a typical high school student, he is trying to get through the death of his best friend during the summer. As he was immersed through high school, he meets Patrick, a senior in his freshman shop class. Charlie grew closer with Patrick which led him to meet his stepsister, Sam. Together, they discover their own personas and live through high school dealing with realistic situations.

One might say that most moviegoers came to the film's screening due to curiosity on how Emma Watson would do post-Harry Potter. I was not even familiar with the book beforehand. It was Emma Watson who dragged me to the cinema. Although, there are some news that the book is indeed great, it was only second to my motivation to watch the film. Surprisingly, it was indeed one of the films that should not be missed.

The film boasts its powerful display of sincerity in every frame. It does not dwell on pretensions like almost every film that tries to understand the psyche of teens. It would be very hard to describe how beautiful the film was helmed. It made the lines sounded so truthful yet it does not sound corny that it would make somebody cringe to their seat. There was a balance of drama and humor in the film. Very strong performances from the lead actors. Watson was able to at least lose her British accent. Ezra Miller's portrayal of Patrick also lights up the screen while Logan Lerman shows a subtle portrayal of the damaged persona of Charlie.

Perks of Being A Wallflower as a film may be considered as important as the book it was based on. One of its advantages is to have its author be the director of the adaptation which gives him the complete control over the justice of the book. The message was sent clearly to the audience and they listened and they saw sincerity and beauty within the message. This is the reason Perks of Being A Wallflower is a film so important, it must be seen by people of all ages.

GRADE: A+

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