Thursday, October 22, 2009

Movie Capsule Reviews: Cinemanila 2009

It's movie heaven again at Cinemanila. The international film festival runs from October 15 to 25, 2009 at Market! Market! cinemas and Fully Booked High Street. I have a resolve to watch more good Filipino movies this time and it seems like Cinemanila is the perfect venue for it. Here are some capsule reviews of movies that I recently saw at the festival:

*69 1/2 (Ted Manotoc)
stars: Nico Manalo, Bituin Escalante

An aspiring filmmaker and his best friend accept the offer of a green-minded businessman to make a pornographic film to disastrous results. The film itself is an absolute disaster -- it's pretentious, unfunny and filled with "Long live Philippine cinema!" chest-beating. This is the stuff that makes you feel sorry about the freedom that independent cinema affords. When some un-talented hack makes a pathetic film that does not deserve an audience. I almost feel sorry for the miscast Nico Manalo who was sensational in "Spring Awakening".
Verdict: BOMB! Avoid!

*WHEN TIMAWA MEETS DELGADO (Ray Gibraltar), 2007
stars: Kristoffer Grabato, Rhenomar Soqueño
An Ilonggo film that revolves around the unconventional lives of Jun and Ruben and their American dream. The transfer of the version I saw was a bit pixelated and I really have something against hand-held indie crapola. But then again, it invested in a wonderful story about Filipinos taking up Nursing and migration. I take it's a very personal film and it's not hard to be drawn in. Stylistically, the film is a winner. The use of Ilonggo music also creates mood.
Verdict: Four stars! Watch it!

*LAKE TAHOE (Fernando Eimbcke), Mexico, 2008
stars: Diego Cataño, Hector Herrera
One of the joys of going to film festivals is when you walk inside a theatre not having an idea about what you would see and leaving it enthralled. "Lake Tahoe" is a simple picture with a very simple story and I just....fell in love with it. A young man crashes into a pole and gets introduced to different people while finding someone to fix his car. There's no music, no attention- calling camerawork, no kilometric dialogues-- just a straightforward story with a tight script. Lovely.
Verdict: Four stars!

*LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (Tomas Alfredson), Sweden, 2009
stars: Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson
A friend whose film instincts I trust has already enshrined this film in his "best of the year" list before I had the chance to see it. When I finally had my turn, I was blown out of the water. Twilight what?! "Let the Right One In" is the shit! It follows Oscar, a 12-year old bullied boy who befriended a beautiful vampire-girl. Vampire-girl has a peculiar relationship with an old man willing to kill people to protect her. The screenplay is hefty and the performances stupendous. There's also a most poignant ending that will turn your heart into jelly.
Verdict: 5 stars!

*KINATAY (Brillante Mendoza), 2009
stars: Coco Martin, Maria Isabel Lopez
Finally had the chance to see the much talked-about film by the 2009 Cannes Best Director winner. I didn't hate it. I didn't like it either. Let's just say, it has it's moments-- mostly gross. It follows a newly- married policeman who accepts a job involving killing (and hacking to pieces) a prostitute. The film's biggest argument: Coco Martin is the sharpest actor of today. I'd go as far as saying that we now have a male Nora Aunor incarnate. Here, his eyes do all the acting. Otherwise, the film is a dark, violent headtrip to Pinoy police crime.
Verdict: 3 stars

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