Review: Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros (4/5)

Contrary to common notions, Pagdadalaga is not a gay movie. It is not generally about the self-discovery of a 12-year old gay boy. Although Maxi is the pivotal character, this movie is mainly about his family's attempts to break free from the clutches of almighty poverty. The incorporation of the gay theme is just a symbolism utilized by the film. It made use of a number of metaphors between Maxi's coming of age and the epidemic that continuously plagues the metro. There's no antagonist in this movie but the cruelty of life itself which drives the characters to engage in antagonistic acts. There is a story behind every character. Thus making the viewers empathize with each character and understand where they are coming from.

Unlike other indie/ art films which rely on controversial sexually-charged representations (like Live Show, Pila Balde, Masahista, etc.) to depict the bleakness of life, Pagdadalaga captured the admiration of the critics amidst the absence of this. The movie steered clear of the pitfalls of such delicate subject matter. A breath of fresh air in an industry jaded by senseless blockbuster fantasies and foreign superheroes clad in spandex.

If you are going to watch this film, the main consideration should be the core content of this magnum opus and not its production greatness. Nonetheless, Pagdadalaga got away with its so-so technicalities because of the laudable camera work and intelligent shots. The musical score is also praise-worthy. The scenes were funny and poignant at the same time. A very realistic depiction of the way of living in the stews of Sampaloc.

Maxi's naivete nature with his innocence and vulnerability can make you cry even without any dialogue. More so, other mediums aside from talking were employed, intent gazes and whistles speak of emotions that even the speech mechanism cannot utter. The complexity of each character is vividly illustrated through subtle means. My favorites are Maxi's father and his brother (played by Ping Medina). But despite its meritorious characterization, the portrayal of some of the actors lack depth.

Pagdadalaga is a heartfelt family movie -- a tale of life in the slums and the bittersweet aftertaste of first love. This film will surely touch your heart.

"100" Opens in Cinemas on December 3

After bagging the Audience Award in the 13th Pusan International Film Festival (South Korea) and being chosen as one of the competing films for the 8th Marrakech Film Festival (Morocco), “100” finally lands a commercial run on selected cinemas on December 3.

“100” chronicles the remaining days of a terminally ill woman (played by Mylene Dizon) and the things she wants to do before she dies. But unlike other films that deal with death, Director/Screenwriter Chris Martinez shunned away from melodrama and peppered each scene with jest and humor with the help of comediennes Eugene Domingo and Tessie Tomas.

Last July, “100” successfully swept five awards during the 2008 Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival, namely: Best Actress (Dizon), Best Director and Best Screenplay (Martinez), Best Supporting Actress (Domingo), and Audience Choice.

If there’s one Filipino film that you need to see this year, let “100” be that movie. This is an indie film so accessible that virtually everyone, from art film aficionados to ‘masa’ moviegoers, will enjoy. Catch it at Robinsons Movieworld starting on December 3.

Btw, this is not a press release. I’ve decided to write this blog because I love this film to bits. In fact, I’m bringing my family to watch it, even though I’ve already seen it last July during Cinemalaya.

To read my review on “100”, visit:

Active Vista Film Festival

Active Vista recognizes the country’s longstanding struggle for change, and aims to awaken a progressive spirit in our people---- if not a social conscience, at least a social consciousness. It’s a little ambitious, but there is just enough genius in its roster of films to believe it can work. The weeklong festival will be held at the Robinson’s Galleria IndieSine from November 26 to December 2, 2008.


Ang Daan Patungong Kalimugtong (The Road to Kalimugtong) by Mes de Guzman

For Jinky and Potpot, life in Benguet is simply a trek to and from school. Every day, together with other children, they have to cross mountains, rivers and hanging bridges to get to their destination. They survive thanks to the work of their elder brothers, Manong Ramil and Manong Ronaldo, who inherited the task of looking after their siblings and grandfather on their parents' death. Both work for a mining company, leaving the younger brothers in their grandfather's care. But the elder brothers haven't been back for months. The film tackles the blatant ills of the Philippines' educational system and its surrounding issues on poverty without being too preachy. It is quite good that the film is narrated and is shown through the point of view of the children; and as such, the presentation of the issues is filtered by their inherent naivete and innocence, making the exercise a lot more palatable yet poignant.

Hunghong sa Yuta (Earth’s Whisperer) by Arnel Mardoquio

"Earth's whisper." The English translation of "Hunghong sa Yuta" — the title of Arnel Mardoquio's film about war and peace in Mindanao — easily cues us on how to read this story about a clutch of deaf-mute children in a mountain community consisting of Christians, Muslims and Lumads, and the teacher from the city who introduces them to the alphabet and numbers. War between rebels and the military has devastated the community of Hinyok, its most telling casualty being children born without the ability to speak and hear, and whose fathers are nevertheless intent on training them to become fighters to defend their land. Vigo Cruz, artist and toy-maker, answers a posted notice about Hinyok's need for a teacher, and his work with the children brings joy and hope to the young war victims and their mothers.

Huling Balyan ng Buhi (Woven Stories of the Other) by Sherad Anthony Sanchez

Huling Balyan ng Buhi is a war film, one that doesn't relish in the flagrant violence and casualties but speaks of and for the lives that are ultimately affected. Sanchez's film, instead of relying on the traditional narrative, crosscuts between real-time sequences that is more telling of the currency of conflict than what is manufactured by the creative mind of a screenwriter, who mostly merely rewrites personal impressions of war or what has been published in newspapers. The stories are finally woven together not by the common considerations of traditional narrative but by an overbearing feeling caused by prolonged warfare where no bet can ever be capable of winning. The thread that finally connects everything is inevitable loss: of a mother we'll never get to know, of a real reason to fight, of the last balyan, the final bastion of a cultural identity.


My Fake American Accent by Ned Trespaces (Cinemalaya 2008)

The film is a slice-of-life workplace comedy following the lives of technical support call center agents in the span of six months. Speaking with a fake American accent is a prerequisite for the job. This ensemble comedy is an inside look into the maddening, sleep-deprived, caffeine-fuelled lives of those who ply their trade in the call center industry.

Pepot Artista by Clodualdo del Mundo

Pepot Artista is a comedy-musical that focuses on a ten-year-old boy whose dream is to become a movie star. Pepot, the dreamer, is surrounded by people who are equally dazzled by the movie world- from his own mother to the principal in his school to the impersonators in the neighborhood carnival. Coming from a poor family, Pepot overcomes adversity to have a chance at fulfilling his dream. He tackles school bullies, a strict teacher, and an unwelcoming world that fails to comprehend his intense desire to become a star. The story happens in the ‘70s when superstars brightened the film world in Pepot’s country. The film explores the penchant of Filipinos for entertainment in the midst of serious social problems.

Barako: Small time, Big time Politics by Manolito C. Sulit

Barako is a haunting account of a young man’s attempt to effect change in his town by gathering his friends around a kapihan called “barakuhan”. In the absence of media, it effectively becomes a venue for the townsfolk to practice their democratic rights, colliding expectedly with the elite’s political and economic interests. The movie starts glaringly with the American occupation of Batangas (early 1900) with the valiant Gen. Malvar and another local hero, Mateo Ilustre plotting its defense. It then takes us to a seemingly restive yet impoverished Batangueño community 100 years later, taking shifting points of view of the people from the grassroots, drawing them initially around one central figure, an unnamed character labeled only as the Publicist and later on, around yet another, Mando— referred to in the story (by the Publicist himself) as "ang tunay na barako".

Ploning by Dante Garcia

The popular Cuyonon folk song, “Ploning” is the main inspiration for the film. It presents the story of a Cuyonon woman’s promise, her struggle with hope and love told from the point of view of a young boy. It is a loving tribute to small-town life, folk tradition and timeless tenets; its textured characters, each with an affecting story to tell; its private locales; its actors' deeply-felt performances; and its shared insights about the different forms of love that bind people to each other. All of these elements come to bear on the principal story of Ploning (Judy Ann Santos), a selfless woman who mourns a departed love but doesn't let her private grief prevent her from helping many others with their personal problems.


The Probe Team

Gintong Pamana (2008)
In 1981, Berto Morales, a farmer employed as a bulldozer operator in an irrigation project in Surigao, struck gold. He discovered a treasure trove of gold ornaments while bringing down a hill to collect filling materials. The discovery, hitherto unknown to the public, is among the largest collection of Philippine archaeological gold in the country as well as in the rest of the world. PROBE reporter Cheche Lazaro searches for Berto in Surigao and from then on, she uncovers that Berto’s gold discovery takes many twist and turns -- involving threats to his life and family. With the help of historians and experts, Gintong Pamana reveals an amazing story about the Philippines’ forgotten civilization.

Gusto mo bang mag-migrate? (2004)
A first on Philippine television—get a glimpse of what reality has in store for those who seek that elusive greener pasture abroad. Probe Team artist-reporter Robert Alejandro returns from his grueling first 6 months in Vancouver, Canada and brings home a personal home video of his stay in the land of the maple leaf—from plunging to the depths of loneliness days after his arrival to apartment and job-hunting. Robert Alejandro is only one of the countless Filipinos who dare leave and try their luck elsewhere.


Alab aims to capture the idealism and intensity of student filmmakers and how they view the world in their young eyes.
Anino by Raymond Red
Winner of the Golden Palm at the Cannes International Film Festival, Raymond Red’s Anino (Shadow, 2000) is a thirteen-minute short about a photographer from the provinces (Ronnie Lazaro) wandering about the streets of Manila. He meets a man in black (John Arcilla) just outside a church, and is nearly run over by an old man driving a car (Eddie Garcia); in between, he has a quiet interlude with a child (Ronnie Pulido). People meet, then meet again; harsh words are spoken, and violence inflicted. The film ends on what may be seen as either a hopeful or ironic note--it’s up to you to decide which.


Strangebrew was launched in early summer of 2001 on UNTV, and became a popular show among Filipino youth. It was hosted by Arvin "Tado" Jimenez, and Angel "Erning" Rivero. The show was directed by R.A. Rivera. The show also featured filmmakers Ramon Bautista and Jun Sabayton, playing odd characters. The reality comedy show features fun facts about how things are made in a factory, or making a movie. Trivial pursuits and road trip like episodes were produced, as means to make a transition from one topic to another.

Bayani by Raymond Red

On the eve of Bonifacio Day, we will be showing a re-mastered version of the film as it marks its 15th anniversary this year. Bayani is a tale about the rise, fall and resurrection of the "Katipunan" and its Supremo and a semi-biography of Philippine hero Andres Bonifacio. Noted for its heavy stylistics and painstaking attention to filmic detail, the biopic also tackles the momentous events surrounding the Philippine struggle against Spanish colonialism.


Bunso by Ditsi Carolino

The film allows us to look into the bleak fate of children from the impoverished slums of the largest cities of the third world. The main character of the film is 11 year old Bunso, who is serving time for minor theft in the metropolis of Manila, in the Philippines. Together with Diosel, who is a few months older and 13 year old Tony, they are passed up against hundreds of adult prisoners in overcrowded cells, many of whom are sentenced for rape, murder and dealing drugs.

Tribu by Jim Libiran (Cinemalaya 2007)

The movie depicts, in graphic detail, the gang culture of Tondo, a Manila slum notorious for its chaos, filth, poverty and violence. The story is told from the point of view of a 10-year-old boy who witnesses the violence as a gang avenges the death of one of its members. The gangs call themselves "tribes," thus the title "Tribu."

Namets by Emilio “Jay” Abello (Cinemalaya 2008)

Namets is a colorful celebration of food as well as love, and the love of food above all, which is central to being Negrosanon and being Filipino. It follows the flirtation between Jacko and Cassie, two Negrenses who grew up in Bacolod, and whose lives revolve around food. The film will be shot on location in Negros Occidental and will be primarily in Hiligaynon, the language spoken in that region.


Brutus by Tara Illenberger (Cinemalaya 2008)

Brutus tells the tale of two Mangyan children, hired by illegal loggers to smuggle wood from the mountains of Mindoro, as they embark on a dangerous journey to deliver the goods to the lowlands. In the process, they discover a world run by the greed of men, a world governed by ideologies that bring about the armed conflict that plagues the Mindoro highlands, the home of their own people.

Manoro by Brillante Mendoza

A young girl tries to teach her elders a lesson about self-determination and respect in this drama inspired by actual events. The Aeta are indigenous people who have traditionally lived in the nation's mountain regions. However, after the eruption of a long-dormant volcano, an Aeta community is relocated to the nearby lowlands, and the children of the Aeta attend state-sponsored schools for the first time. Jonalyn is a 13-year-old girl who has just graduated from grade school and is eager to put her knowledge to use for the good of the community. When she learns that an upcoming election will choose the nation's new leader, she encourages the adults in her village to vote; however, she soon discovers that most of them can't read a ballot and have no idea how the voting process works. With the election only a few days away, Jonalyn organizes a crash course to teach the grown-ups in her community how to take part in the democratic process. However, not all of them are eager to learn, and when Jonalyn discovers her grandfather has gone missing during a hunting trip, she and her father set out to find him before Election Day rolls around.

Jay by Francis Xavier Pasion (Cinemalaya 2008)

Jay is the name of the two protagonists in the film, one is living, the other dead. The living Jay is producing a documentary of the dead Jay, a gay teacher who was brutally killed. As Jay recreates and examines the life of his subject, his own life is affected when he unravels his subject's hidden life and secret love.

Huling Byahe by Rom Dongeto

“Huling Byahe” (The Final Journey) is a story of a young woman named Minda, an OFW returning to her tribal hometown after working abroad for six years—a chapter in her life that is shrouded in silence and from which she returned shaken and wounded. “Huling Biyahe” is a story of trials and courage amidst compelling issues confronting women—gender based violence, family planning, and migration. Set against the stunning backdrop of the Cordilleras and its colorful culture and rituals, “Huling Biyahe” is a film that behooves its audience to rethink harmony between customs/traditions and pressing, modern-day socio-economic issues.


Pisay by Auraeus Solito (Cinemalaya 2007)

Pisay” relates the stories of eight Philippine Science High School (PSHS) students during the volatile 1980s when the Philippines was in its greatest moment in history- as the Marcos Dictatorship is ousted by the 1986 People Power Revolution to Cory Aquino's New Government- as they come of age in a time filled with excitement, conflict and change.

Signos by Mike de Leon

The assassination of Ninoy Aquino in August 1983, generally believed to be the work of the military, became a key moment in Philippine history for a renewed opposition to Marcos. In the same year, Mike de Leon made Signos (1983). The film is an independent Brecthian styled documentary about the anti-censorship protest movement, labor and student rallies, and the funeral of Aquino. Signos is Mike de Leon’s first attempt at an explicitly political film and it is his first film outside mainstream cinema. It was produced on a limited and non-commercial scale by the progressive nongovernmental organization, Asia Visions, known for producing socially relevant films. The screening of Signos is a once in a lifetime chance to see an unreleased work of one of the most brilliant filmmaker that Philippine Cinema has produced.

Kakabakaba Ka Ba? (Will Your Heart Beat Faster?) by Mike de Leon

Mike de Leon's wittily demented musical satire about Japanese yakuza, Chinese gangsters, bohemian hedonism, and the Catholic Church. “Undoubtedly, one of the finest Filipino comedy films ever made, KAKABAKABA KA BA is refreshing, literate, and very engrossing. It says more about our society than many of the so-called important films of recent vintage. In fact, it "was considered by critics as one of the landmark films of the 1980's in its absurd, comical, and irreverent treatment of an otherwise serious theme about foreign control of the Philippine economy… had to hurdle the censors, who originally sought to ban the film for its alleged racist attacks against the Japanese and the Chinese." [CCP Encyclopedia: Film]


New Filipino films challenge status quo

NEW YORK -- The crumbling Manila movie theater at the center of director Brillante Mendoza's indie film "Serbis" could be a body-double for Filipino moviemaking.

"But no, please, don't say that," protests Yam Laranas, another director, whose just-completed Hollywood remake of his own 2004 horror film "Sigaw" signals a possible new career path for Filipino artists.

"There's also a new breed coming up with new styles and techniques and adapting to new ways of getting out there," Laranas, 39, says over the phone from Manila.

Remakes? New techniques? It's about time for a second coming because making movies for the largely Catholic audience in the Southeast Asian nation of 90 million people hasn't paid much to more than a few lucky filmmakers for at least 10 years.

Even celebrity-obsessed Filipinos now wait months to watch movies on TV or cable. In the global recession, they're sure to snap up first-run films on pirated DVDs for 30 Philippine Pesos ($0.63) rather than splurge tickets costing four times as much.

According to the Motion Picture Association of America, which -- at last check in 2005 -- estimated 78% of the discs sold in the Philippines were bootlegs, Filipino cinema owners are the worst offenders in Asia for failing to stop illegal camcording. "We stand by these numbers today," an MPA official says.

These days, the Philippines releases fewer than 50 mainstream films a year into its cinemas, down from nearly 300 a year during the heyday of the 1970s and '80s. By the early 1990s, when a spate of bomb scares at shopping malls scattered moviegoers, the industry was in a tailspin.

Rising as fast as the industry around him collapsed, 48-year-old "Dante" Mendoza, (many Filipinos take nicknames to shorten long, formal Christian names), took "Serbis," his seventh film, to Cannes in May. The film, set in a rundown family-owned cinema whose owners, to make ends meet, resort to showing skin flicks to crowds of gay hustlers, didn't win but it did sell: Fortissimo Films rapidly cut deals for distribution in Canada, France, Israel, the Benelux countries and the U.S. -- even though it was barely seen in the Philippines.

There, screens are dominated by Filipino-language comedies and John Hughes-style teenybopper movies, most of which get a run for their money from Hollywood films in English, the nation's fluent second tongue.

Indeed, the MPA doesn't complain about Filipino market barriers. Film imports aren't capped as they are in China and local movie houses often favor Hollywood blockbusters made for hundreds of millions of dollars over even the biggest local films. The average local budget is less than 35 million pesos ($728,000).

Refusing to call the glass half empty, Laranas says that, after 300 years "in the convent" (under Spanish rule) and 45 years "under Hollywood's spell" (as a U.S. colony until 1946), the storytelling culture of The Philippines now faces a new opportunity.

"In terms of canvas and the medium, it's all changed. New filmmakers will eventually become the mainstream, changing the story as they go," says Laranas, whose real name is William.

Paving the way for part of this new wave was Cinemalaya, a local film festival held in Manila each July for the last four years. ("Malaya" means "freedom" in Tagalog, the dominant Filipino dialect).

Funded by TV and cable station owner Tony "Boy" Cojuangco and the Film Development Council of the Philippines, Cinemalaya grants each winning project 500,000 pesos (around $10,000).

Early Cinemalaya selection committee member and judge "Manet" Dayrit says most projects are made by a crew of friends for less than 2 million pesos ($41,000). She says their quality has risen rapidly each year.

However, Dayrit, the managing director of Roadrunner Network, the Philippines' largest post-production house (in turn owned by Star Cinemas, the biggest studio), cautions that aspirants to Mendoza's fast path to glory could be disappointed.

"Young, fresh filmmakers are making digital movies with a new outlook and without a formula," she says. "Trouble is, most of them still lack distributors and a real market locally or overseas. They may be capturing the imagination at film festivals, but as a business, we still have to figure this out."

An optimist, Laranas still allows "99% of the movies in the resurgence are of low technical quality, presenting real problems for overseas distributors. "

"Sigaw" (and now its remake "The Echo") is one of the lucky ones. It was inspired by a real-life murder in Laranas' Manila apartment building. He says it made back four times its $300,000 budget at the domestic boxoffice and then "more than paid back its budget" again when No. 2 Filipino studio, Regal Entertainment, sold remake rights to Roy Lee and RightOff Entertainment in Los Angeles.

Elsewhere, Chris Martinez, 37, won the audience award at the Pusan International Film Festival in October with his directorial debut, "100." Unlike the escapist scripts he'd written with names like "Bridal Shower" and "Bikini Open," "100" chronicles a cancer patient going through her list of things to do before she dies. Still, the movie is a celebration, Martinez says on the phone from Manila.

Martinez says he has nothing against the Filipino stories that do well at foreign film festivals that exoticize and romanticize poverty, but wants the world to know that his country has "other stories away from the slums and squatter areas."

Though Martinez hopes "100" is the first Filipino indie to succeed in telling a story about Manila's middle, educated, financially comfortable class, the film hasn't yet made any money. Still, he feels that audiences have liked it for its perceived variety.

"They must have been shocked to see that we too love Haagen Dazs, travel to Disneyland and drive SUVs," Martinez said.

But what an audience finds entertaining is different all over the world and isn't guaranteed to travel. As such, Wouter Barendrecht, Fortissimo Films co-chairman, says that "Serbis" was sold not as a Filipino film but rather as a film by Brillante Mendoza. So-called "passport sales," made on the director's nationality, can only be made once or twice, he says.

Noting that many Filipino dramas are sobby, three-hanky affairs, Barendrecht says, "If you're Meryl Streep, in the West you win an Oscar for crying without tears. In Southeast Asia, the dry-cry is not appreciated. This can be a commercial handicap."

Hence, even when a film like "Serbis" lands big-territory distribution it still isn't guaranteed to make bundles. Regent Films will release "Serbis" in New York and L.A. in Spring 2009, targeting Filipinos, film buffs and, says Mark Reinhart, the gay community, which "should help the film a lot." Still, Reinhart says, referring to the leading art house cinema chains in the U.S., "The Laemmles and the Landmarks will take it, but I don't think it will go much further."

HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: New Filipino films challenge status quo
by Jonathan Landreth

From Paperback to the Cinema


The Gist:
Symbologist and professor Robert Langdon tries to solve a murder and unravel a plot by an ancient group, the Illuminati, to blow up the Vatican during a papal conclave. Adapted from the Dan Brown novel of the same title, this is the prequel to the highly controversial “The Da Vinci Code”.

Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon
Ayelet Zurer (“Munich”) as Vittoria Vetra, Langdon’s sidekick
Ewan McGregor as Camerlengo Carlo Ventresca, the late pope's closest aid

Naomi Watts was supposed to play the role of Vittoria Vetra but the Israeli actress, Ayelet Zurer, nabbed the role in the end.


The Gist:
The maestro behind the Academy Award-winning “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy is back in this adaptation of Alice Sebold's runaway bestseller about a murdered young girl who watches her parents and her killer from heaven.

Saoirse Ronan (“Atonement”) as Susie, the murdered lass
Mark Wahlberg & Rachel Weisz as her parents

Susan Sarandon will make a cameo appearance. And Mark Wahlberg’s role was originally meant for Ryan Gosling (“The Notebook”, “Lars and the Real Girl”). However, Gosling left the project after gaining weight.


The Gist:
This epic love story penned by Audrey Niffenegger revolves around a librarian who is unable to control his tendency to time travel and his wife who is trying to cope with his disorder.

Eric Bana (“Hulk”, “Troy”)
Rachel McAdams (“The Notebook”)


The Gist:
The best-selling self-help book we’ve heard about in Oprah is coming to the big screen courtesy of this star-studded dramedy about love, commitment, miscommunication, and reading relationship ‘signs’.

Drew Barrymore
Ben Affleck
Jennifer Aniston
Jennifer Connelly
Scarlett Johansson
Ginnifer Goodwin

Christina Aguilera, Pink, and Katy Perry to Star in a Film Together

Judd Apatow, the man behind critically-acclaimed comedies such as “The 40-Year Old Virgin”, “Knocked Up”, “Superbad”, and “Pineapple Express”, produces a spin-off to this year’s “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”. The new movie, entitled “Get Him to the Greek”, will star Jonah Hill and Russell Brand in this buddy comedy where a fresh-out-of-college insurance adjuster (Hill) is hired to accompany out-of-control British rock star Aldous Snow (Brand) to a concert at L.A.'s Greek Theater. And since the direction is on the music scene, Christina Aguilera, Pink, and Katy Perry will grace the silver screen to play themselves. Let’s see how these pop stars will fare as comediennes.

The Holiday Season is the Oscar Season


In this World-War-II-era adventure, English blueblood Sarah Ashley finds herself whisked away to the land of Oz when she inherits a cattle ranch of truly epic proportions. When it seems the ranch will be taken from her, Sarah enlists the help of a tactless yet tempting cattle drover to move her gargantuan herd across country and foil the takeover plans. But the true test of the lady's mettle comes when she and her highly unseemly new lover get caught up in the brutal bombing of the city of Darwin.

Director Baz Luhrman (Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge) brings his expressive style to some real history. If Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman managed to make animated Antarctica sizzle in Happy Feet with their voices alone, just imagine the chemistry these two will bring to their homeland.


Benjamin Button, born in New Orleans in 1918, is no ordinary infant. A doctor declares his body to be aged like that of a man in his eighties, and no one expects him to live too long. Despite predictions, Benjamin survives, seeming in fact to grow younger and stronger. During his childhood he befriends young Daisy, who is unafraid of the "old man." He lives on to attend school, fight in a war, and baffle everyone he meets. As his body grows gradually younger, his heart learns the timeless nature of love.

It's the second on-screen pairing of Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, who were so good together in 2006's heart-wrenching Babel. Stylish and provocative director David Fincher reteams with Pitt for the third time after Seven and Fight Club. It's a lush, engaging and emotional story that has already been pegged by observers as a sure Best Picture nominee.


It all started with a few records sold out of the back of Leonard Chess's Cadillac. During two turbulent decades of history, the music machine Chess Records oversaw the rise of such legendary artists as Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Etta James, and Bo Diddley. In this true-life musical drama, writer-director Darnell Martin chronicles not only the life of Leonard Chess, but also the racial issues of the day and the stories of the many colorful personalities who contributed to the company's success.

Oscar winner Adrien Brody is joined by a veritable "Who's Who" of modern African-American acting and musical talent including Jeffrey Wright, Beyonce Knowles, Cedric the Entertainer, Gabrielle Union and Mos Def.


In 1974, Richard Nixon made history by resigning the office of the Presidency, evading trial and conviction for crimes committed while in office. Three years later, charismatic British talk show host David Frost convinced Nixon to do a televised interview. This film dramatizes the conflict between two famous egos: a disgraced President hoping to stage a comeback by outfoxing a journalistic lightweight, and an ambitious celebrity hoping to make his mark by giving Nixon the trial he never had.

With films like Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, and Cinderella Man under his belt, Academy Award winner Ron Howard is just the director to bring this acclaimed stage play to the big screen. Frank Langella won a Tony for his overwhelming performance as Nixon in the stage play, and is already being talked about as a strong contender for a Best Actor Oscar.


In this groundbreaking rags-to-riches fantasy, 18-year-old orphan Jamal Malik stuns the audience of India's "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire"-style game show by answering every question correctly. The show has to take a break from shooting before it reaches the final 20-million-rupee question, and in the meantime, Jamal finds himself under arrest. How could an unschooled street rat know so much without cheating? The police demand to know, but the answer to that question is neither simple nor multiple-choice.

The script by Simon Beaufoy (The Full Monty) is brought to vivid life by the visionary director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Millions). The story is based on the best-selling novel "Q & A" by Vikas Swarup, which has been translated into 32 languages. The audiences at the Toronto International Film Festival voted Slumdog Millionaire as their favorite feature, and the movie is already getting Oscar buzz from critics like Roger Ebert.


In 1977, a brash and indomitable camera shop owner named Harvey Milk made history. After two previous failed attempts, Milk finally became elected as a San Francisco city supervisor, making him the first openly gay man to hold public office in the United States. This biographical film, starring Oscar winner Sean Penn, looks deeply into the later life of the self-styled "Mayor of Castro Street," including his election and his assassination the following year.

The film is directed by the multitalented Gus Van Sant, best known for directing Good Will Hunting. Oscar-winner, Golden Globe winner, and controversial activist Sean Penn was Van Sant's first choice for the title role.


Set in 1964, this story takes place at the Bronx Catholic school of St. Nicholas. Draconian principal Sister Aloysius believes that children are best ruled with an iron hand, and disapproves of the changes that kindly Father Flynn wishes to make in the school's methods. When naive Sister James begins to suspect that Father Floyd may have an inappropriate relationship with the school's first African-American student, Sister Aloysius seizes the chance to punish Floyd for his sins... whether real or imagined.

Meryl Streep can always be counted on for a tour de force, but this promises to be one of her most wry, ruthless, and riveting performances yet. The play upon which the film was based has won not only the Drama Desk and Tony Awards for Best Play, but also the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.


IRS agent Ben Thomas believes that in one crucial moment in his past, he made the wrong decision and destroyed his chances at future happiness. Now, in a desperate attempt to atone for his guilt, he sets out to change the lives of seven people he has never met. In the process, he befriends a blind pianist and falls in love with a remarkable, courageous young woman who will make him reevaluate not only his plan, but his entire life.

If you loved The Pursuit of Happyness, you'll be thrilled to see director Gabriele Muccino working once again with the remarkable Will Smith.


In this surreal, haunting "animated documentary," director and Israeli Defense Force veteran Ari Folman explores his own experiences during the First Lebanon War. It begins with an encounter in a bar with a friend and fellow veteran, who reveals that he has a strange recurring nightmare about being chased by twenty-six dogs. Intrigued by the dream, and by the fact that he can remember nothing of his own experiences during the war, Ari sets out to interview other witnesses to piece together what happened.

It won six Israeli Ophir Academy Awards, and it was nominated for the Golden Palm at this year's Cannes Film Festival. Last year's Oscar-nominated Persepolis showed that animation can be used to tell a true story in a way that crosses all international borders.


Frank and April Wheeler, on the surface, appear to be a happy 1950s suburban couple. Frank has a steady, lucrative job, and April has given him two beautiful children, leaving their neighbors impressed and envious. Under the surface though, both Frank and April yearn for adventures and heightened experiences that their life of middle-class mediocrity denies them. As they each attempt to break out of their own perceived prisons, their marriage begins to dissolve and their lives spin wildly out of control.

The last time Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio smooched onscreen, they set worldwide box office records. It's directed by Oscar-winner Sam Mendes (American Beauty), who hopefully has a happier marriage with Kate in real life than Leo does on screen. The Richard Yates book the movie is based on was called one of the 100 best novels of the century by Time Magazine. Kate Winslet is the youngest actress to have been nominated for five Academy Awards, but she still has not won. Leonardo DiCaprio has earned three nods, also without having won. However, Peter O'Toole trumps them both with eight acting nominations without a win.

"Himala" is CNN-APSA Viewers Choice Award for Best Asia-Pacific Film of all Time

The tale of a provincial girl who becomes a faith healer is voted as the Best Asia-Pacific Film of all Time. Ishmael Bernal's film Himala, starring Nora Aunor, bested nine other Asian movies in the online poll conducted by the Cable News Network entertainment website from October until November 11.

The 1982 Filipino movie Himala competed against other classics from the Asia-Pacific, namely Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (China), The Seven Samurai (Japan), Chungking Express (China), Internal Affairs (Hong Kong), Gabbeh (Iran), Gallipoli (Australia), Spirited Away (Japan), Pather Panchali (India), and Old Boy (South Korea).

Himala's CNN APSA Viewers Choice Award was given during a special ceremony held yesterday, November 11, on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.

The awards night was attended by more than 700 film industry luminaries from the Asia-Pacific region, Europe and the United States.

Another Filipino film, the Cinemalaya entry Pisay, was nominated in the Best Children's Feature Film category of the second edition of the APSA. However, it lost to the Australian film The Black Balloon.

Thirty two (32) films representing 17 countries were finalists in the APSA, with winners coming from Kazakhstan, Israel, Republic of Korea, Australia, Turkey, Islamic Republic of Iran, People's Republic of China and India received honors during the 2008 Asia Pacific Screen Awards.

The Asia Pacific Screen Awards (APSA) is an international cultural initiative of the State Government of Queensland, Australia, through Queensland Events Corporation and was first staged in 2007.

With the help of CNN, UNESCO and the International Federation of Film Producers Associations, APSA acclaims films that best reflect cultural origins and cinematic excellence across the Asia-Pacific region. This year APSA screened 180 films.

Article - "Himala" chosen as Best Asia-Pacific Film by Jocelyn Dimaculangan
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Review: Hairspray (5/5)

Good morning Baltimore and good morning movie musical die hards. I know that it’s been a while since Nikki Blonsky and the rest of the “Hairspray” ensemble (that includes John Travolta in Ms. Piggy’s costume) grooved their way to theatres and into our hearts. I absolutely love the movie, but apparently, it took me a long time to actually make a review of it. The movie is just so damn good that I honestly do not know what to write then. What I know for a fact is that “Hairspray” is the bounciest and most feel-good movie musical that I have seen. This is definitely in my top ten list of most favorite movies of all time.

So what makes this film special?

1. The song numbers are infectious and unforgettable. There are tunes that can turn non-dancers into JabbaWockeeZ. My favorites are “You Can’t Stop The Beat”, “Good Morning Baltimore”, “Run and Tell That”, “The New Girl In Town”, and “Welcome To The ‘60s”. Meanwhile, the slow songs will stick to your head like gum on hair: Blonsky’s love song to Zac Efron “I Can Hear The Bells” and Queen Latifah’s diva rendition of “I Know Where I’ve Been”.

2. “Hairspray” is highly entertaining and 100% mainstream. A storyline that is sensible and yet, free from complicated hooplas. It has everything for everyone – good music, excellently choreographed dance numbers, wackiness, romance, and light drama.

3. Its message is clear. The film pushed the issue on racial integration without being over the top preachy and ambiguous. Obama for President!

4. Well-acted by a sterling cast, composed of Nikki Blonsky, John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Queen Latifah, Amanda Bynes, Zac Efron, Christopher Walken, Brittany Snow, Elijah Kelley, and James Marsden.

5. And lastly, when the music fades and the dancers rest their tired feet, you will still find yourself smiling. There is an overwhelming positive energy and vibrancy surrounding the film, so contagious that it is impossible not to be carried away.

On that note, I give “Hairpray” topnotch recommendation as a must-see, no-frills, flashy, entertaining, and wholesome romp. When they said there’s something big coming your way, they were right.

Review: Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2/5)

"Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” is OK. As an animated film, I’m lost for words on what description this film deserves, so let me put it this way: As a drama, it is melodramatic. As a comedy, it is slapstick. But it is melodramatically touching and funny in delivering slapstick humor. So I guess that’s OK. It may be a bit outdated considering how much animated films has evolved story-wise, but this film goes back to the basics on why animated films are made: for a wholesome family entertainment.

Pros: Great voice actors. (Ben Stiller as Alex, Chris Rock as Marty, David Schwimmer as Melman, Jada Pinkett Smith as Gloria, Sacha Baron Cohen as Julien, Bernie Mac as Zuba, Will.I.Am as Moto Moto, et al.)

Cons: Is this film trying to rip off “The Lion King”?

Review: Teeth (3/5)

Ancient mythology speaks of vagina dentata. Folk tales relate stories of women with toothed vagina that castrate men’s member during sexual intercourse. It’s a story no one has probably heard of, but in the 2007 Sundance hit aptly titled “Teeth”, the myth achieves urban legend status and shows the world how sinister and gratifying it is for a woman to have vagina dentata.

Dawn (Jess Weixler) is a teenage spokesperson for a Christian group that advocates abstinence and celibacy among the youth. She meets Tobey (Hale Appleman) in the same group and it’s evident that they both like each other. ‘Like’ is a four-letter word and so is ‘lust’. When they visit a secluded swimming spot, the two try not to entertain their ‘unpure’ thoughts of seeing each other butt naked, but the more they try not to, the more they do. Damn that purity pledge.

The flesh sure is weak. The two began kissing and Tobey forced himself into Dawn, that’s when the unthinkable happened. A snapping sound is heard. Tobey screams frantically. Dawn screams as well. And the camera zooms in on Tobey’s wang. However, Tobey’s wang is not in its usual place anymore, rather it is seen on the floor. Another satisfied customer of vagina dentata. Congratulations.

Dawn desperately seeks for answers that will explain her condition. As she wrestles with her morals and guilt, she realizes that this curse is also a gift so that she can protect herself. From there, you can just imagine how our heroine turns herself from virginal to spiteful villainess hungry to emasculate more assholes.

“Teeth” is not your typical horror film. You won’t find random apparitions of long-haired women or guys screaming for help while Dawn runs after them in the lawn. This horror film slash dark comedy is a story of first love and innocence lost, and eventually transforms itself into a female revenge fantasy – a woman’s answer to men who only look at them as sex objects. Payback is a bitch.

Careful young lads, before you put your pole in that hole, be sure to inspect that there are no teeth in there.

* Good news: “Teeth” is coming to our cinemas soon. Its trailer is already playing in Robinsons malls, and its poster can already be seen in Gateway mall.

Review: Into the Wild (4/5)

Watching movies allowed me to travel to places – fictional or otherwise – and see life through the perspective of others. In “Into the Wild”, a film written and directed by Sean Penn, I empathized with Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) who wanted to disconnect himself from this superficial world that shaped him into something unknown and unidentifiable. So he decided to run away from home, abandon his car, and burn all his money to christen himself as Alexander Supertrump – a hitchhiker, an adventurer, a liberated man.

We all have our own forms of escape. Some seek the comfort of a friend’s shoulder, the embrace of a loved one, the warmth of beer and whiskey, the smoke of a cigarette, and the illusion of happiness brought by party drugs. But Chris performed the greatest escape by leaving his good life behind to run away from the pangs of society and walk into the wild.

After two years of treating the road as his home, Chris prepared himself for his greatest adventure yet – to live all by himself in Alaska. His adventures are exhilarating and are impressively caught on camera, ala NatGeo. His views on life are likewise inspiring and the people he met along the way gave this film of adventure and freedom an emotional depth.

Being based on a true story, this is the type of film that makes moviegoers rethink about the life they are leading. I can’t help but reflect on my own while watching this. The film is more than just about rebellion. It focuses on man’s need to break away from everything at one point in his life to regain his sanity and allow him to understand himself better. Our over-dependence and insatiable craving for more money and greater power only give us artificial happiness. Only by liberating ourselves from the things that imprison us subconsciously will we be truly happy.

Don’t miss this highly insightful film.

Most Controversial Films of the Decade

Directed by: Mel Gibson

A self-financed Biblical epic presented without a word of dialogue in English seemed to be quite a stretch for the guy who imitated the Three Stooges in the Lethal Weapon movies. But what caused an uproar was not the improbability of this movie, but the explicit violence and what some critics felt were anti-Semitic themes. All the talk didn't hurt the film, though, as it went on to became the highest grossing R-rated film of all time.

FAHRENHEIT 9/11 (2004)
Directed by: Michael Moore

Released in the midst of the 2004 presidential election, Michael Moore's muckraking look at the lead-up to and aftermath of September 11th drew harsh words from people who saw the movie, people who refused to see it, and even people who were in it. An injured veteran who was interviewed sued Moore, but the case was dismissed. Moore's movie is still has the biggest box-office gross ever for a documentary.

Directed by: Vincent Gallo

Writer/producer/director/star Vincent Gallo fully expected his indie road movie to get people talking. You have to when you include a graphic sex act in your film. But he wasn't expecting that Roger Ebert would call it the worst premiere in Cannes Film Festival's history. In response, Gallo called Ebert a "fat pig" and put a curse on the critic's colon. Ebert replied getting a colonoscopy would be more enjoyable than the movie.

Directed by: Ang Lee

A rare gay love story with big name actors, this film sparked debate on both end of the cultural spectrum. Before it was even released, conservative pundits decried the subject matter, and it was pulled from a Utah theater just two hours before its first screening. But some activists also complained that the marketing covered up the gay context, and accused Oscar voters of homophobia when the film lost to Crash.

Directed by: Ron Howard

You wouldn't think re-teaming the star and director of Splash could cause a theological uproar. Vatican officials called for a boycott of the movie, saying it was "full of calumnies, offenses, and historical and theological errors." Protests were staged in Greece, South Korea, the Philippines, India and the U.S. Still, the movie made enough to bring back Hanks and Howard for next summer's sequel, Angels & Demons.

* re-posted from Yahoo! Movies


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