Eugene Domingo steals the spotlight in Working Girls

Twenty-six years ago, the great Filipino filmmaker Ishmael Bernal (director of Nunal sa Tubig, City After Dark, and Himala among others) helmed Working Girls–a movie about women in the labor force. As the original working girls (played by Gina Pareño, Carmi Martin, Maria Isabel Lopez, Rio Locsin, Hilda Koronel, Chanda Romero, and Baby Delgado) deal with their personal problems and occupation-related dilemmas, they also fight for gender equality in the workforce. During that time, there were biases against the so-called fairer sex, thus limiting their career choices to secretarial and clerical jobs. Unlike other Bernal classics, Working Girls tackled these socio-political issues in a lighter manner by throwing in humor and sex in the mix.
As tempting as the idea may sound, remaking Working Girls doesn’t make sense. The themes prevailing in the original are no longer relevant today. Women have already found their rightful place in male-dominated professions including politics and business. There is a paradigm shift on the role of women in society. They have proven that they can head corporations as ably as they can head households. So GMA Films, Viva Films, and Unitel Productions did the next best thing: a sequel.

Director Jose Javier Reyes is no stranger to sequels (Sakal, Sakali, Saklolo), girlie comedies (Pinay Pie), ensemble films (One Night Only), and working girls (Makati Ave.: Office Girls) so it’s no surprise that he was picked to pay homage to the 1984 classic. Although four of the original working girls are in this sequel, the spotlight is on the new batch of working girls.
Eugene Domingo is a mompreneur, daughter-in-law of Gina’s original character, who sells fake bags via her online Multiply store so that her two sons can study in “the Ateneo”. When she discovered that her lazy and unsupportive husband (Antonio Aquitania) had an affair, an unlikely romance blossomed between her and her delivery driver (Ricky Davao).

Eula Valdez is a well-known plastic surgeon caught in a highly-publicized squabble with Maribel’s original character who is now a feminist activist. Think of Vicky Belo versus Liza Maza of Gabriela.

Ruffa Gutierrez is a widow, friend of Carmi’s original character, running after her husband’s riches. The former beauty queen slash gold-digger finds a glimmer of hope in a bootless family business, but her dead husband’s daughter (Cherie Gil) stands in her way. Meanwhile, Bianca King is the bratty daughter of Cherie’s character who accepts a job as a segment producer of a news and current affairs program. Despite her diploma from UC Berkley, her bitchy co-workers (Mylene Dizon, Andrea del Rosario, and Joey Paras) aren’t impressed.
Jennylyn Mercado is a single mother, illegitimate daughter of Rio’s original character, who works as a call center agent. She grows affectionate to her officemate (Carlo Aquino) who is too blind to see her. Apparently, his officemate is going loco over a liberated promo girl (Cristine Reyes) on the prowl for a wealthy lawyer (Rafael Rossel). Finally, Iza Calzado is a nurse, friend of Jennylyn’s character, tasked to take care of the dying wife (Ina Feleo) of the guy who broke her heart (Jao Mapa).

In true ensemble film style, the stories of the new characters are interwoven with each other and also with the original cast. But Working Girls 2010 suffers from the same problems that beset One Night Only. Direk Joey stuffs the movie with as much characters and as much stories as he could, resulting to underdeveloped characters and unresolved conflicts. Did Ina eventually die? What happened to the feud between Eula and Maribel? How did Carlo and Jennylyn ended up together? Did Ruffa salvage the dying business? These loose threads could have been avoided if Direk Joey’s mantra was “quality over quantity” instead of “the more, the merrier”.

Meanwhile, the most matured and well-acted segment is Iza’s. Her character is torn between duty and choice. Should she offer forgiveness or indifference to the man who broke her heart? Also, watch out for the brilliant turn of Ina as she confides her dreams that are shattered by her illness. She once dreamed of pursuing Law and bearing a child, but doing such will be the end of her because of her deteriorating health. She pulls an emotional punch as she delivers the lines: “My heart has been broken so many times keeping my body alive.”

As expected, Uge owned the film. Her humorous quips never fail to elicit thunderous laughter from the audience. There are two key scenes you shouldn’t miss: (1) the hospital scene where Uge hysterically weeps for her bruised husband only to turn even more hysterical after discovering why he got beaten up; and (2) the “dramatic” goodbye scene complete with falling rain, slow-mo, and adobong pusit. This talented thespian overplays her character to maximum comedic effect.

Working Girls 2010 is uneven and undeniably inferior compared to the original, but the ingenuity behind connecting the story of the original working girls with the story of the new batch should not be left unappreciated. But the top reason why you need to see this film comes in two words and 13 letters – EUGENE DOMINGO.

Rating: 2/5

* published in PEP

Most Played Songs On My iPod (April '10)

Everyone knows how much I adore films, but my interests are more than that. Aside from being a cineaste, I'm also an audiophile. I'll see to it that my iPod is regularly updated with the latest songs on the airwaves. So as a regular monthly feature, let me share with you the 10 most played songs on my iPod.

There is nothing fancy or avant-garde about my taste in music. I listen to what everybody is listening, but a little heavy on pop and electro/house. In this month's list, we have two soundtrack singles, two remixes, an actress, and a Filipina.

Charice Ft. Iyaz - Pyramid (Barry Harris Remix)

With the plethora of 'champions' from local singing competitions, I've become tired of divas who belt every note every time they get the chance to. So when Charice Pempengco was featured in Ellen and Oprah, I didn't think it was such a big deal. Pyramid changed my mind. Given that she doesn't sound original (her vocals is reminiscent of Jojo) and this is not exactly her style, this song still continues to amaze me. In fact, I have three versions of this song on my iPod - the original version, the Dave Aude remix, and the Barry Harris remix. Among the three, this has got to be my favorite.

The official music video of Pyramid is already out. You can check it out here.

Lea Michele & Chris Colfer - Defying Gravity (Glee OST)

The hit TV show Glee has spawned a lot of memorable covers. Among my favorites are Don't Stop Believin', Maybe This Time, Don't Rain On My Parade, Don't Make Me Over, and this song from the musical Wicked. Who do you think is better in this "diva-off"? Rachel or Kurt?

Justin Beiber Ft. Ludacris - Baby

Admit it, every time this song plays on the radio, you can't help but sing: "And I was like / Baby, baby, baby ohhh / Like baby, baby, baby noo / Like baby, baby, baby ohh / I thought you'd always be mine mine" complete with all the ohhh's and noo's. Well, me too.

Ke$ha Ft. P. Diddy - Tick Tock

Speaking of ohhh's, this song's catchy chorus can get anyone humming "Woah-oh oh oh / Woah-oh oh oh" in its distinct intonation. It's the type of feel-good song that will make you wake up in the morning feeling like P. Diddy. It's the perfect pick-me-up together with Ke$ha's other tracks Blah Blah Blah and Your Love Is My Drug (not to be confused with Leighton Meester's Your Love's A Drug).

Lady Antebellum - Need You Now

I never liked country music and maybe, I never will. The likes of Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood certainly did not help change my mind. But this country ballad has that potent power to suck you in. It reminds me of Rascal Flatts' What Hurts the Most, which is one of my favorite songs from that year.

David Guetta Ft. Tocadisco & Chris Willis - Sound of Letting Go

David Guetta and Chris Willis are frequent collaborators. Before Guetta worked with Akon, Black Eyed Peas, and Kelly Rowland, the two set the dancefloor ablaze with infectious house tracks such as Love is Gone, Tomorrow Can Wait, Everytime We Touch, and Just A Little More Love among others. For their nth collaboration, their chemistry hasn't worn off even a bit.

Blake Lewis - Heartbreak On Vinyl (LA Riots Vocal Remix)

The beat-boxin' American Idol runner-up is not dead, though he isn't as "alive" as we expected him to be either. Nevertheless, he continues to make smooth club tracks reminiscent of 1000 MIles and How Many Words from his debut album Audio Daydream.

Lady Gaga - Teeth

As Lady Gaga says "Don't be scared / I've done this before / Show me your teeth" in the opening of the song, I can already imagine how her music video for Teeth will look like. There will be men strapped on dentist's chair while Gaga and her girls forces them to "open their mouth and say ahhh" using dental equipment slash torture devices. Too bad Alejandro was chosen as her next single.

Chris Brown - Crawl

I heard there are radio stations in the US and around the globe who refuse to play this song. If that's the case, these people are missing a lot. And watch out for half-Filipina RNB singer Cassie on the video below. What a hair.

Marion Cotillard - Take It All (Nine OST)

Nine is probably my most anticipated movie for 2009 because (1) it's a musical; (2) it's directed by Rob Marshall who helmed one of my most favorite films of all time, Chicago; and (3) it stars Oscar winners Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, and Judi Dench. So what more can you ask for? After watching the film, it left wanting for more... more plot, more drama, and more substance. NIne was such a letdown.

I could name more than nine things I hated about the movie, but let's focus on the good ones instead. Here's two: (1) Fergie's performance of Be Italian, amazing voice and great choreography and (2) Marion Cotillard as Luisa Contini. She gives this lifeless musical the much needed human warmth. Too bad she's only on screen for less than 20 minutes. Her crowning glory is this scene and this song. Below is a clip from Nine.

So the song from Nine completes the 10 most played songs on my iPod this month. I have just finished downloading new songs including three versions of The Climb, 3OH3!'s remix of Blah Blah Blah, and Christina Aguilera's latest Not Myself Tonight. Be back next month for another batch of great songs.

Clash of the Sams

The behemoth manufacturer of modern Filipino fairy tales goes head to head with the behemoth manufacturer of American blockbusters this week in the box office. It's Star Cinema’s Babe, I Love You versus Warner Bros.'s Clash of the Titans in the epic battle for a share of the moviegoer's peso. Although Babe, I Love You is at a disadvantage, I'm sure it will put up a good fight against the Titans. Why? Because Filipinos can't get enough of happy endings and they will pick Sam Milby over Sam Worthington any day.

Can love really bring two opposite worlds together? We've been taught since elementary that like poles repel and opposite poles attract, so we should know by now the answer to this question. In this romantic comedy, we get Nico (Sam Milby) on one pole. He is an affluent Architecture professor being groomed to be the next Vice Dean. He has been working hard for this promotion in order to win back the affection of his mom (played by Laurice Guillen) who indirectly blames him for the death of his dad.

Meanwhile, Sasa (Anne Curtis) stands on the other pole. She is the stereotypical promo girl: pretty, poor, soft-witted, and unapologetically bakya. She is a perennial beauty pageant contestant who has never won the crown because she tanks at the Q&A portion. The two initially repel each other in cat-and-dog fashion, but the law of gravity makes their opposite worlds clash into each other.

The first half of the movie is characterized by Star Cinema's trademark kilig sequences as the two pretend to repel each other in their pseudo-love/hate relationship. But after the first kiss seals the deal, the narrative moves on to tackle a more important theme—accepting your partner's past. Sasa gets pushed into Nico's world where she fits like an oversized glove. She is judged by her skimpy clothes, her lack of a college diploma, and her past.

When Nico finds out that Sasa used to have an affair with his married uncle, he starts to question everything they have. Should Sasa's old ways strain their relationship? Love should not be about one's number of flings or one-night stands. Nor it should be about mistakes that belong to the past. The studio's scribes hit a gold mine with this theme. I just hope that they have explored it further.

First-time movie director Mae Czarina Cruz, who previously helmed Krystala and Maging Sino Ka Man for TV, knows the greatest asset of her stars—smouldering sex appeal. We can sense Direk Mae's admiration for their beauty as the camera romances Anne's smooth thighs and Sam's rippled body through long takes and close-ups.

The overall picture still lacks the gloss of Paano Na Kaya? or the emotional potency of Miss You Like Crazy, but the stars make up for it. Anne is perfectly cast as the loud-mouthed beauty who wants to redeem herself from her not-so-perfect past. Sam's acting is getting better, although he fumbles on his Tagalog lines. Nevertheless, his undeniable talent puts him out of the list of showbiz perishables.

Even though they say that they are no longer a couple, Anne and Sam stilll have a connection that translates to palpable onscreen chemistry. And that is probably why Filipinos will choose Anne and Sam over a bunch of gods power tripping on mortals.

Rating: 2/5

* published in PEP

Holy Week is DVD Marathon Week

For most people, holy week stands for two Bs – beach and Bisita Iglesia. But I’m not most people. Why would I bother going elsewhere when Manila is the place to be? There’s no traffic, no crowds, and no establishments open. The densely populated city becomes a ghost town that you can actually take your driving lessons on EDSA. So instead of going on vacation, I went on staycation instead.

Staying in Manila can only result to two things – relaxation or boredom. But the latter will only happen if you don’t find anything entertaining to do. The key is in finding the perfect distraction. For me, it comes in three immaculate letters: D-V-D.

Here are the movies I saw during the holy week.


Directed by: Jeffrey Jeturian

Rating: 3/5

See how the true story of an incest rape victim is turned into a larger-than-life skin flick.

New York, I Love You

Directed by: Fatih Akin, Yvan Attal, Allen Hughes, Shunji Iwai, Wen Jiang, Joshua Marston, Mira Nair, Brett Ratner, Randall Balsmeyer, Shekhar Kapur, and Natalie Portman

Rating: 2/5

In the tradition of Paris, je t’aime, esteemed filmmakers present this anthology of love stories set in the city that never sleeps.

The Lives of Others

Directed by: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

Rating: 3.5/5

A thriller set before the fall of the Berlin Wall where a Stasi captain becomes tangled with the lives of a writer and his lover who are under his surveillance.

It’s All Gone Pete Tong

Directed by: Michael Dowse

Rating: 2/5

A mockumentary about a legendary DJ who loses his hearing but not his faith. Will the real Frankie Wilde please stand up?

The Squid and the Whale

Directed by: Noah Baumbach

Rating: 4/5

The semi-autobiographical account of the director’s experiences during his parent’s divorce. Typical much? Baumbach presents his not-so-typical experiences with unflinching observation and sardonic wit.

Children of Men

Directed by: Alfonso Cuaron

Rating: 2/5

Two years of infertility led societies to collapse and terrorism to flourish. Will the world be ready for God’s solution?

The Road

Directed by: John Hillcoat

Rating: 1/5

The post-apocalyptic tale of a man and his son struggling to survive. A film as lifeless as the version of earth it portrays.

The Lovely Bones

Directed by: Peter Jackson

Rating: 2/5

A candy-colored fantasy about a girl trapped in that place between heaven and earth.

And last but not the least, I saw Babe, I Love You. Is there anything else I haven’t written about these Star Cinema love stories? Most likely, I’ll find myself typing the same adjectives I used for Paano Na Kaya and Miss You Like Crazy – generic, formulaic, run-of-the-mill, etc. And I can’t help it because they are all the same, which is why I’m struggling to write a meaningful review for Babe, I Love You. I need divine intervention! Let Anne Curtis’ pink nipples create miracles!


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