The Cell


DIRECTOR: Tarsem Singh (The Fall)

TAGLINE: His mind is her prison.

Jennifer Lopez (child therapist)
Vince Vaughn (FBI agent)
Vincent d’Onofrio (psychotic serial killer)

NEWSDAY SAYS: Taken on its own boldly visual terms, The Cell can be enjoyed as a stroll through a contemporary museum of your purplest imaginings.

I SAY: An optical fantasy journey inside the mind of a schizophrenic. His world is built in pillars of nightmare where every crevice and every nook is infested with grim and horror. Dive into his mind but be warned: it’s not real.

Happy Together


DIRECTOR: Wong Kar Wai (In the Mood For Love, Chungking Express)

Leslie Cheung (motto: let’s start all over again)
Tony Leung (motto: martyrdom is the best policy)
Chang Chen (motto: the ears can see better than the eyes)

MOVIEMARTYR.COM SAYS: Through its stunning imagery, it creates an intimate visual essay about the mood swings of a love affair.

I SAY: A realistic portrayal of the fickleness of relationship. One day, you love him. The next day, you detest the very sight of him until you find yourself unable to distinguish what you really feel. You want to go but you can’t leave. As social networking sites put it, it’s complicated.



DIRECTOR: Joseph Cedar

THE GIST: Israeli soldiers guarding Beaufort, a fortress built atop a mountain in Lebanon, await a command to retreat.

WASHINGTON POST SAYS: The camera never leaves the beleaguered compound, and Beaufort itself becomes a character in the story, a surrealistic zone of tunnels, bunkers and sandbags, about as far from the possibility of heroism as possible.

I SAY: Although this is a war movie, there is no enemy in sight (just missiles dropping from the sky) and no fighting. The slow pacing gives the scenes ample time to breathe and showcase the beautiful cinematography and production design.

Cinema One Originals 2009

Wanted: Border
Rating: 3.5/5
Read my review here.

Si Baning, si Maymay, at ang Asong si Bobo
Rating: 3.5/5

Paano Ko Sasabihin?
Rating: 2/5

Maximus & Minimus
Rating: 2/5
Read my review here.

Rating: 1/5

Wanted: Border Sweeps 2009 Cinema One Originals Digital Movie Festival

Best Film: Wanted: Border
And I agree with the jury.

Best Director: Ray Gibraltar (Wanted: Border)
I agree.

Best Screenplay: Ray Gibraltar (Wanted: Border)
I’m not complaining.

Best Actor: Mikhel Campos (Maximus and Minimus)
This is a toughie. Not because there’s so much talents to choose from, but because of the lack of it. But if I have to choose the lesser evil, I’d hand out the award to Baron Geisler (Maximus & Minimus).

Best Actress: Rosanna Roces (Wanted: Border)
Who I think should have won? The ultra-charming child actress who played Baning in Milo Tolentino’s Si Baning, si Maymay, at Ang Asong si Bobo. Forgive me for not knowing her name.

Best Supporting Actor: Jan Harley Hicana (Si Baning Si Maymay at ang Asong si Bobo)
There isn’t much talents in this category as well. So I’ll just go with the judges.

Best Supporting Actress: Rio Locsin (Si Baning si Maymay at ang Asong si Bobo)

Special Mention: Paano Ko Sasabihin
If this is equivalent to the Jury Prize or the Second Best Picture, I’d give the award to Si Baning, si Maymay, at ang Asong si Bobo.

Audience Award (Viewers’ Choice): Paano Ko Sasabihin
Our audience needs to be seriously schooled.

Best Production Design: Al Alacapa, Winston Lazaro and Allan Hilado (Wanted: Border)
Best Music: Malik Lopez and Eric Romulo (Wanted: Border)
Best Cinematography: Ogie Sugatan (Wanted: Border)
Best Editing: Anna Isabel Matutina (Paano Ko Sasabihin)

Special Honorary Award: Brillante Mendoza and Danny Zialcita

PEP Review: Maximus & Minimus (2/5)

PEP Review: Maximus & Minimus (Unedited)
by Fidel Antonio Medel

When you see the poster of Maximus & Minimus, you may mistake it for a cover of a chick lit novel because of its cosmopolitan artwork and purple background. Aside from the fact that the film’s protagonist likes reading and can finish one novel in a day, there’s nothing else in it that will remind you of chick lit. In fact, this movie is uncharacteristic of a chick lit. For starters, chick lits are usually sassy, wholesome, and romantic. With high doses of vulgar language and sex, Maximus & Minimus is definitely a far cry from the definition of chick lit.

In this adult comedy, size really does matter. It tells the parallel stories of Max (Cai Cortez) and Papu (Mikel Campos). Max is a plus-size woman, while Papu is a tall but skinny guy. Both are relatively happy and brimming with confidence. Regardless of their difference in body size, the two shared an intimate evening that ended in catastrophe. This is the part when we find out why Papu is nicknamed Minimus. Let’s just say, he isn’t ‘gifted’ down there.

After the disastrous encounter, Max moves on and meets Elmo (Baron Geisler), the man with a mojo that will fire up her sex life. Elmo has a fetish with the color purple. When Max discovers the reason why, she turns sour and starts blaming it all on her full-bodied figure. Both Max and Papu find themselves in situations wherein their confidence takes a massive blow.

The parallelism of the two tales did not work for the film’s benefit. Although Max’s story is colorful and exciting, Papu’s story is anything but eventful. For the most part, he is stuck in his bedroom trying to figure out how to enlarge his puny member. And that isn’t funny or even interesting enough. This seriously bogs down the narrative.

The supporting cast takes on roles that are staples in Pinoy comedies. We have the sidekick (Kimmy Maclang as the exaggeratedly enthusiastic Sugar), the maid with a regional accent (Malou Crisologo as Upeng), and the only one in the cast who thinks rationally (Liza Lorena as the grandmother).

Maximus & Minimus is an in-your-face comedy that isn’t afraid to use toilet jokes and vulgarity to illicit laughter. It also has a lot of sex but no nudity, which is actually a good thing, unless a nude fat woman turns you on. To its credit, the raunchy humor and oddball moments will keep you laughing real hard.

In its overemphasis on being funny, it feels a bit strange when the characters gun for the dramatic fireworks. The momentum wanes every time there is an attempt to emotionally engage the viewers. The score is also at fault. It turns too loud that the dialogue is already inaudible. It’s called background music for a reason so they should’ve made sure that its volume is kept low.

In the end, Maximus & Minimus takes the predictable route in addressing self-esteem issues. It’s a rather unlikely resolution given the film’s bold and brash attitude. Nevertheless, the requisite humor will not fail to leave a smile on your face as you exit the moviehouse.

Maximus & Minimus is an entry in the Cinema One Originals Digital Movie Festival that will run from November 13 to 17 at the Gateway Mall.

* published in PEP

PEP Review: Wanted: Border (3.5/5)

PEP Review: Wanted: Border (Unedited)
by Fidel Antonio Medel

The Cinema One Originals Digital Movie Festival handpicks five scripts from thousands of submissions and gives each filmmaker a P1,000,000 seed money for production. Compared to its more popular counterpart, the Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival, the entries for Cinema One Originals are said to be more experimental and out-of-the-box.

In line with this notion, I bet no other film from this year’s roster will be more experimental and out-of-the-box than Ray Gibraltar’s Wanted: Border. He is best known for the film When Timawa Meets Delgado, a modest indie production that he directed, written, and edited in 2007. Although his debut effort did not win any award or international citation, critics hailed it as an important film that every Filipino should see. Even the late Alexis Tioseco, a renowned film critic, championed it. When Timawa Meets Delgado tackled the nursing boom in the Philippines through its peculiar brand of faux documentary and visual poetry.

This same peculiarity and pizzazz can be seen in Wanted: Border. This black comedy slash horror film is about Mama Saleng (Rosanna Roces), a religion freak who wants to be crucified for the holy week. She was bullied throughout her childhood because of rumors that she hails from an aswang lineage. Now at 60 years old, Mama Saleng owns an eatery and boarding house. Her eatery is famous for her delectable Kansi. What her patrons don’t know is that her secret ingredient is fresh human meat from her slain boarders. Before you accuse Wanted: Border of ripping off the Johnny Depp-starrer Sweeney Todd, the similarities end with the subplot of human meat being turned into mouth-watering delicacies.

The film will probably receive sneers and jeers from devout Catholics for its atypical interpretation of the Seven Last Words. Moreover, Wanted: Border deals with how destructive man’s innate lust for violence can become. Part of the reason behind Mama Saleng’s thirst for blood is her traumatic childhood, climaxing when the townsfolk killed her grandmother in the suspicion that she is a man-eating ghoul. And there’s another character who nurtured her killer instincts. The townsfolk and the surprise character brought the aswang out of Mama Saleng.

Ray Gibraltar has a knack for non-linear storytelling (read: the narrative is not in chronological order), cutting to different time frames and segueing to different characters. Initially, it seems as if we are presented with random characters set in a hodgepodge of trivial and nonsensical circumstances. Aside from Mama Saleng and her daft assistant, the other characters include the nosy obese girl, the Rugby-sniffing documentarist, and the sexually abused girl who finally extracted her madcap revenge. They are all characterized by crude behavior, sexual innuendo, and plain insanity.

Although it isn’t easy to make sense of Ray Gibraltar’s message, it isn’t hard to appreciate the film’s dark fantasy. He confidently showcases his bravura in creating a grotesque world reeking of drabness and madness. And to make our viewing experience more leisurely, bits of humor is inserted here and there.

Wanted: Border is an entertaining and thought-provoking experimental project that will keep you optimistic about Philippine alternative cinema.

Catch Wanted: Border and the rest of the entries for the Cinema One Originals Digital Film Festival at the Gateway Mall from November 13 to 17.

* published in PEP

Are You Itching to See Paranormal Activity?

When I first saw Paranormal Activity’s trailer in a fellow blogger’s site, it instantly captured my attention. The film is dubbed as this decade’s The Blair Witch Project.

Paranormal Activity was actually an old film. It was screened in various film festivals in 2007, Slamdance and Screamfest to name a few. DreamWorks loved it and commissioned Oren Peli, its director, to helm a remake with a bigger budget. So they conducted test screenings to determine areas of improvement. But the test screenings went so well that they ditched the idea of doing a remake.

The film started with midnight-only screenings in selected US theatres. Through an intensive viral campaign, Paranormal Activity was poised to become a sleeper hit. It soon became a trending topic on Twitter. As word of mouth grew, so does the number of theatres screening it.

The pinnacle of its rise to fame occurred during the Halloween weekend when Paranormal Activity trumped Saw VI on the box office. I know the Saw franchise is garbage but this was a feat for Paranormal Activity because of two things: (1) for the last five years, Saw has consistently dominated the Halloween weekend as box-office champion; and (2) Paranormal Activity was made under $11,000, which is not even a fraction of Saw’s promotions budget.
People have been hailing Paranormal Activity as the scariest film of the year, while some think it is an overhyped and boring piece of shit. If you’re itching to see the film, you’ll be glad to know that Manong Dibidi already carries a DVD copy of Paranormal Activity. But be warned, the version we will be getting on the silverscreen is not the same as what is available on pirated DVD. Why is that? The version available in pirated DVD is the 2007 original cut. After DreamWorks picked up the film for distribution, they implemented some changes: they cut scenes, edited sequences, CGI’d the special effects, and remade the ending.

Since I didn’t know this before, I got the original ending, which I thought was lame. Through blog-hopping, I found out what the new ending is and I regret that I haven’t seen that version. But I don’t have any plans of seeing Paranormal Activity on the big screen, simply because I don’t think it’s worth it.

I have terribly mixed feelings for Paranormal Activity. I admire its success story, which I have written above. But the film isn’t really that special. It’s a micro-budgeted film and that becomes noticeable right away. It doesn’t help that the actors were complete amateurs.

We all know it’s a mockumentary and I’m totally cool with that idea. However, I hate the fact that the director is trying too hard to pass the film off as authentic. Hence, the opening credits thanking the police department for the footage (the entire film is a ‘footage’) and the ending credits saying that the film is dedicated to Micah and Katie (the main characters of the film).

But no matter what I say, I know curiosity will take the better of you and you will still line up come December 2 to watch the film on the big screen. I can’t blame you. If it’s any consolation, there’s one scene that made me go OMFG with matching goosebumps, that itself may be worth the admission ticket.

Rating: 2.5/5

Other films I saw recently:

The Hurt Locker (4/5)

Tokyo (2/5)

Two for Gael: Bad Education & The Science of Sleep

Gael Garcia Bernal’s filmography includes:
Mammoth (2009)
Blindness (2008)
Babel (2006)
The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)
The Crime of Padre Amaro (2002)
Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001)
Amores Perros (2000)


RATING: 4.5/5

DIRECTOR: Pedro Almodovar (Volver, All About My Mother)

STARRING: Gael Garcia Bernal, Fele Martinex

THE GIST: So where do I start? Ignacio submits the script of “The Visit” to a filmmaker. It is a story inspired by his childhood – how the friars molested him and how he was separated from his first love. Mind you, that is just the tip of the iceberg.

NEW YORK MAGAZINE SAYS: It still exerts an uncanny power: Like the best of Almodóvar’s work, it throws you a first-love sucker punch that will stagger your heart, mind, and soul.

I SAY: To describe this Almodovar film as complex and layered may not be enough to cover its breadth and depth. The story goes farther than you can conceive and the surprises and reversals keep on whirring. It’s about life imitating art and art imitating life. It’s about concealed identities, guile, and hidden motives. It’s about pedophilia, religion, lust, and moral corruption. You’ve been warned: this film is a mouthful. And don’t miss Gael in drag.



DIRECTOR: Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Be Kind Rewind)

TAGLINE: Close your eyes. Open your heart.

BEST LINE/S: Randomness is very difficult to achieve. Organization always merges back if you don’t pay attention.

STARRING: Gael Garcia Bernal, Charlotte Gainsbourg

THE GIST: A boy, who distorts reality with his dreams, falls in love with his next-door neighbor.

UG-O SAYS: A creative, original work by a filmmaker with a fantastic visual flair who refuses to stick to any typical cinematic patterns, even if it's sometimes to a fault.

I SAY: This odd yet comic love story set in a cut-and-paste wonderland is nothing short of imaginative.

Two Documentaries: American Teen & Encounters at the End of the World



DIRECTOR: Nanette Burstein

TAGLINE: In high school, the toughest thing to be… is yourself.

THE GIST: A docu-drama, shot “The Hills” style, featuring the queen bee, jock, super geek, lady misfit, and a bunch of high school seniors in Warsaw, Indiana.

RICHARD ROEPER SAYS: Compared to the contrived junk we see on MTV masquerading as a reality series, I think this is very authentic.

I SAY: Makes us reminisce our pre-adolescent ambitions, acne, raging hormones, first love, and first heartbreak. And by the way, the illustrated simulations kick ass.


RATING: 2.5/5

DIRECTOR: Werner Herzog (Rescue Dawn)

THE GIST: Stunning footages of what’s it like to be living at the point where all the lines in the map converge.

ROTTEN TOMATOES SAYS: Encounters at the End of the World offers a poignant study of the human psyche amid haunting landscapes.

I SAY: Despite rousing insights about penguins wandering off-course and icebergs bigger than the country that built Titanic, this documentary feels clunky and cluttered. However, it made me ponder on my own philosophical questions about man’s abstract journey to find reasons behind our existence. Why do men keep trying to unearth the world’s greatest mysteries through charts and graphs? Why do men keep trying to explain the unfathomable? Can’t the world just exist as it is, that there are no stories or theories of creation.

Cinemanila 11: 24 Films in 6 Days

I know Cinemanila ended weeks ago, but I’m ready with a handful of excuses as to why this post is late. I got busy with work. I got sick. Yada-yada. Bottomline is: I wasn’t able to write reviews or even mini reviews for all the films I saw this year, which is a lot by the way. That’s why I decided to just post this wrap-up of sorts. I also posted my ratings just in case you’re interested to know.

Tulpan (3.5/5)

A Year Ago In Winter (2/5)

Anacbanua (1/5)

Ang Beerhouse (2.5/5)

Chengdu, I Love You (1/5)

Bakal Boys (3.5/5)

Beautiful (1.5/5)

Biyaheng Lupa (2.5/5)

Caramel (2.5/5)

Coco Avant Chanel (3/5)

Himpapawid (3.5/5)

Iliw (3/5)
Jeonju Digital Project 2009: Visitors (1/5)

Lake Tahoe (3/5)

Lola (3/5)

Macabre (1.5/5)

Mammoth (3.5/5)

Pandora's Box (1.5/5)

Passion (3/5)

Puntod (2/5)

Ricky (3/5)

When Timawa Meets Delgado (2/5)

Samson & Delilah (4.5/5)

Waltz With Bashir (2.5/5)


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