Erich Gonzales’ CORAZON, UNANG ASWANG

 

CORAZON, UNANG ASWANG – When we talk about horror films, we expect it to be full of suspense/terrifying scenes, blood, violence, lots of screaming and all that jazz. Star Cinema’s Corazon, Unang Aswang breaks that trend and gave the horror genre a twist. The traditional ingredients are still there but the film highlights the story more than anything else. Its one of the very few horror flicks that has depth and can be classified as a proper ‘film’ and when I say a proper film, something that can compete in festivals, various award-giving bodies, the quality is there, the commercial viability is there – a complete package!

 

One of Corazon’s biggest asset is the cinematography. Very crisp and exceptional – it mirrors reality and it kind of brings me back to the era where the storyline actually happened. The production design, the sound editing, the musical score – they all lined up perfectly giving this movie a very strong technical foundation. It is not the best to come out in the Filipino silver screen in terms of the production value but for a film concentrated in drama and horror, it is definitely one of the most outstanding to date. The acting is also brilliant. Erich Gonzales SHOULD win a Best Actress award for her performance – her character’s transition is a fantastic journey to watch out for. I love how Erich’s acting transformed from one phase to another, she’s natural, it was effortless, it was very convincing. I didn’t expect her to deliver such a powerful portrayal and I’d love to see her in future projects that’ll showcase her brilliance just like this. This is also the third time (in the last three months) that I’ve seen the great Tetchie Agbayani and I cannot fault her performance at all – her character here proves the fact that she is indeed one of the most versatile actresses in showbiz. Her scenes with Erich are some of the bests and you can really tell the clash of talent and excellence. Jeffrey Quizon, Mon Confiado and Sharlene San Pedro were also good and provided an amazing supporting cast. If there is only one mistake this film has, that would be the inclusion of Derek Ramsay in the cast – his acting was all over the place, he does not suit the role, he drags Erich into the pit during their moments together – WRONG CHOICE!!!

 

But all in all, it is my favourite Filipino film of the year so far. I’d love to watch it again and I don’t think I will get tired of witnessing how great this film is – the balance of technical excellence and Erich’s genuine performance – absolutely spot on! I recommend this to everyone, it is one of the Filipino films we can be really proud of.

 

9/10

 

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Vera Farmiga’s THE BOY IN STRIPED PYJAMAS

 

THE BOY IN STRIPED PYJAMAS – Talking about films with unexpected twists and turns, I think I have a new personal favourite. It’s been out for quite some time but I never really had a chance to see it until last week. The Boy in Striped Pyjamas is, perhaps, one of the most poignant and incredible films I’ve seen in my life. The conglomeration of drama, history, light comedy and a touch of suspense makes it an amazing masterpiece that will hook you right from the first 5 seconds of the movie.

 

A lot of cinematic gems have tackled the historic Hitler era. Prior to this, my favourite ‘Hitler-inspired’ picture is Tom Cruise’s Valkyrie. I think the best part of all these films is its ability to convey the real message behind the scene that we see during that unforgettable period. That’s what The Boy in Striped Pyjamas did – real emotions, real drama behind the action… it’s all about the simplicity of their lives and how complex it is when you dig down to the details. It’s about friendship and family. It’s about the love of a mother to her children. It’s about loyalty and fidelity to your words as a public servant. It’s all about the magic of innocence and the joys of being a child – free from worries, adventurous and carefree.

 

The rawness of the emotions exhibited in this film equates to the genuine performances of the lead stars especially the two boys who played the roles of Bruno and Schmole (did I spell that right?!). Vera Farmiga was exceptional as always. I love how her character evolved from a sophisticated, glamorous mother/soldier’s wife to an emotional and intense woman fighting for her children’s welfare. I cannot fault the performances and even Rupert Friend gave an outstanding shot making this a perfect venue for his intense talent. The production was equally stunning too. I particularly love the cinematography – classic but powerful.

 

I will definitely recommend this to anyone – full of values and not a single dull moment in it. This is the type of film that should reap recognitions from different award-giving bodies. Quality production, brilliant acting, spectacular screenplay, what else could you ask for?!

 

10/10

Jean Dujardin’s THE ARTIST

 

THE ARTIST – When I first heard about the The Artist, I wasn’t too interested about it. Ever since, I was never a fan of the silent movies era as I personally find films under this genre a complete waste of time. I am a very loud person and sitting down watching a film ran and driven by musical scoring isn’t my thing. I’ll either get uber-stressed at the end or simply fall asleep. That’s why I am flabbergasted to find myself up and awake (and liking every single bit of it) up to the very last screen shot of this masterpiece from Michel Hazanavicius. The Artist is a classic and powerful gem that’ll certainly shape the trend we’re seeing in modern cinema.

 

For silent films, musical scoring, sound editing and sound engineering are vital. These elements must be 110% better than a standard film as these will help the viewers to connect and digest the message of the film. These serve as the bridge between the movie and the audience. And I felt The Artist succeed on this part and effortlessly communicated the message of the film despite the absence of dialogues. The storyline can also make or break a silent film. It’s got to be a dynamic plot and the subject needs to be very interesting to make it work. It must also jive well with music and therefore The Artist’s central storyline is picture-perfect as it tackles the glitz and the glamour of show business. One last factor that is imperative in the success of a silent film is the actors in it. They have to step up their performances and ensure that they connect with the viewers even without uttering a single word. Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo were correspondingly spectacular, exquisite, stunning and magnificent in this film. Dujardin in particular was extraordinary and deserves every recognition he is getting at the moment. His eyes were very expressive which can naturally speak a thousand words. He has the charisma and magnetism required from a silent movie actor. Bejo has also managed to exude and emanate a strong screen presence and was also outstanding. I wouldn’t classify her performance as a Best Actress material but a Supporting nod should be fine.

 

Can it win this year’s Academy Awards Best Picture? DEFINITELY! Without a shadow of a doubt. Its strongest contender would have to be The Descendants but apart from that, no other film has reached the same level of excellence as The Artist. It is on a league of its own and truly world-class.

 

9/10

John Lloyd Cruz’ UNOFFICIALLY YOURS

 

UNOFFICIALLY YOURS – Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake’s ‘Friends with Benefits’ is one of the bravest films of 2011 – it’s fun, bold, entertaining and raw. We love films that mirror the real drama and the real facts of life – we all like fairy-tale love stories but in this modern day and age, not all romance are based on what we read in the book – whether we admit or not, sex plays a vital role in every relationship nowadays and, more often than not, it becomes the key factor to make a relationship work. Without a shadow of a doubt, this film was Cathy Garcia-Molina’s inspiration when she created Unofficially Yours. And because Philippine cinema is not used to these type of movies, the audience were too curious about it, the steamy scenes spread like a virus and next thing we know, everyone’s hooked in this John Lloyd Cruz – Angel Locsin starrer.

 

Unofficially Yours is ‘Friends with Benefits’ or ‘No Strings Attached’ given a Filipino flavour. It’s definitely an adult material but not overly obscene.  Apart from the unique concept (at least for the Filipino viewing public), the core strength of this film lies in its lead casts. We all love Angel Locsin – beauty and talent in one – in this movie, Angel showed us her different side, the wilder ‘Angel’ that is far from what we see in her TV series. Angel’s acting in this picture wasn’t her best but she managed to gave justice to the role that was entrusted to her. The attitude is there but you wouldn’t really think Angel would be like that in real life (the likes of Anne Curtis or Angelica Panganiban would have been better choices) – she has a very innocent face which makes it a bit awkward to watch her doing ‘it’ with John Lloyd Cruz. And speaking of JLC, it is very refreshing to see him in a whole new different set-up – far from his boy-next-door or hopeless romantic image (although you could still see touches of those characterization). There were not a lot of opportunities for him to showcase his best asset – his acting prowess. The approach was very light and I think Garcia-Molina’s aim was to reinvent JLC and show his ‘cheeky’ side – it did work but the latter part of the film kind of brought him back to the JLC we used to see in his previous films with Bea Alonzo. The supporting cast are okay – not sure why they’ve actually given Yayo Aguila’s daughters those roles (as JLC’s sisters) – they need A LOT of acting lessons and it made JLC scenes (where they’re in it) uninteresting and dragging. Not a lot of to talk about in terms of the technical side of the film. The editing is good – cinematography, production design and make-up – average (nothing stand out IMO).

 

I admire the bravery of Star Cinema to bring the Filipino audience something ‘out of the box’ and far from the typical rom-coms that we’ve seen but I personally don’t think the finished product conveyed the ‘real message’ they wanted to get across. Much that they’ve tried to come up with a sexy-comedy-romance film, the typical Filipino ingredients were still there and it wasn’t as contemporary as I thought it would be. I was slightly disappointed as I think the film lost the plot right in the middle and because it was struggling to revive the ‘new’ formula they’ve been bragging about, they ended up biting on the traditional Pinoy drama – overused and boring. It is a good film overall but do not expect too much when you see it – not as quality and as liquid as ‘Friends with Benefits’ – it tried hard though.

 

7/10