Red Review: Getting the story straight
Rumor has it that Red (Jericho Rosales), a charming local fixer, has blood on his hands. When he’s framed for murder by a rich congressman’s son, Red’s best friend Milton (Nico Antonio) tries desperately to concoct a story to save his friend’s life and reputation.
At least, that’s supposedly how the story goes.
Red is an ambitious drama about gossip and storytelling that’s half love story and half thriller. Unfortunately, these two halves don’t come together in a very coherent whole. On one hand, there is the story of Red and his childhood love Mai (Mercedes Cabral). On the other, there is the story of the rich Art (JM Rodriguez) and his attempt to have Red take the fall for a drug bust gone bad. It’s all told through the eyes of Milton, a voice actor whose knack for storytelling is matched only by his loyalty to Red. Unfortunately, it’s all part of a story that is as about as hard to follow as it is to understand.
The film’s story is a complex tale of love and betrayal, but Red struggles to distill its narrative into something even remotely intelligible. Red swings wildly from one time period to another, and relies heavily on exposition instead of action, voiceover instead of conversation.
However, Red is easily one of the best-looking films to come out this year. Beautifully shot and styled, Red is so visually engaging it’s tempting to forgive the film for its many narrative transgressions. But without a coherent story to accompany the film’s strong visuals, Red falls short of its grand cinematic ambitions.
For a film about storytelling, Red struggles to gets its story straight. Its ambition may be worth commending, but it is sadly, about as difficult to appreciate as it is to follow.Seoul Mates Review: The High price of comedy
Alice (Mimi Juareza) is a transgender woman who decides to end it all when she discovers her boyfriend with another girl. But her suicidal plans are postponed when she meets a Korean musician named Joon (Jisoo Kim) who has the exact same intentions.
Seoul Mates employs romantic comedy tropes and sitcom clichés with the noble intent to entertain. But when Mimi Juareza’s gender identity becomes the butt of jokes, the film ends up mostly crass if not cheap.
Seoul Mates is a film so focused on easy punchlines and mass market entertainment, it misses the clear opportunity to tackle something far more substantial. This isn’t to say that cinema need only cater to academics and intellectuals, but when the subject matter is as pressingly relevant as gender identity and cultural oppression, it becomes particularly disappointing when a film trivializes those very issues.
Seoul Mates ends with a blanket statement that being true to oneself is the secret to happiness. And while there is an undeniable if clichéd truth in that statement, the film presents it in a way that feels oversimplified and uncomplicated. It’s anything but.
Regardless of the circumstances today, there’s an unmistakable callousness to Seoul Mates that didn’t sit well. This doesn’t mean that Seoul Mates shouldn’t have been made. On the contrary, it’s even more reason for it to have been. Gender issues demand more active, public discussion, and entertainment is an effective way to open up dialogue to a larger market. But it misses the mark. Seoul Mates is a film that is occassionally funny and frequently absurd. But the laughs come at a very high price, and often at the expense of a community it is supposed to support.Soap Opera Review: Primetime viewing
To the disdain of local intellectuals, melodramas have long been embedded in the DNA of Filipino entertainment. But instead of shunning our local obsession with soap operas and teleseryes, director Remton Siega Zuasola puts it under a microscope.
In Soap Opera, Zuasola mirrors the lives of Liza (Natileigh Sitoy) and Noel (Matt Daclan) through the fictional television shows they follow. But Liza and Noel live no small screen fairytale. When their son falls sick, the couple hatches an elaborate plan to get an unsuspecting foreigner to act as their cash cow. But as their well-intentioned con job begins to claw at their marriage, their lives start to mimic the tragic tales onscreen.
Zuasola makes a clear distinction between fantasy and reality, employing big name stars like Lovi Poe and Rocco Nacino to contrast against Sitoy and Daclan. But unlike the polished aesthetic of their beloved television dramas, Noel and Liza’s lives are raw and unrefined. In their world, there are no commercial breaks, no villains, and no lengthy speeches.
Zuasola employs soap opera elements of jealousy, betrayal and surprise to push Noel and Liza’s story forward. But when the film concludes with a preposterous climax, Soap Opera becomes as absurd as the television dramas it comments on. Soap Opera’s outlandish climax fits well with its themes, but it reduces Noel and Liza to nothing more than pawn pieces in a primetime soap.
But by the end of the film, Soap Opera strikes a tenuous balance. We discover that each of the characters are far removed from the fantasy land of television fiction.
Soap Opera makes no damning accusations of teleseryes, nor does it call them out as a commercialized sedatives for the masses. Instead, it is a tragic exploration of story and reality, and how one influences the other, and vice versa.That Thing Called Tadhana Review: A trip worth taking
Where do broken hearts go? It’s a question that feels ripped from the pages of some discarded teenaged diary. But it’s also the central question of That Thing Called Tadhana.
Inspired by Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise, That Thing Called Tadhana goes through similar motions. Two characters, Mace (Angelica Panganiban) and Anthony (JM De Guzman), meet in Rome, Italy through an rather inconvenient case of overweight luggage.
What starts out as an innocent gesture of kindness, ends up as a road trip across Luzon. Like Before Sunrise, the film is a simple observation of two conversing individuals. There is no elaborate romantic setup, and no arbitrary goal. But in the latest film by writer-director Antoinette Jadaone, the story simply relies on words, time and two people.
In a way, That Thing Called Tadhana feels derivative of Linklater’s work, but Jadaone wears that inspiration on her sleeve, and she isn’t afraid to admit it. The film meanders in parts, and admittedly lapses in some. But it speaks from a place that is honest, funny, and coincidentally painful.
Towards the end of That Thing Called Tadhana, Mace stands atop one of the mountain views in Bontoc and yells out to the sky. We don’t quite hear what she’s saying, but we don’t have to. We’ve all said it ourselves, one time or another.
“Ayoko na.” (I don’t want this anymore.)
That Thing Called Tadhana is the love story between Mace and Anthony, but in a way, it’s also the love story of every heart that’s ever been broken.
That Thing Called Tadhana is the anti-romantic comedy. It may be cut from the same fabric as mainstream films, but its fashioned in a way that leaves only the essentials. It is as honest as it is flawed. Like any love story, there are moments to love, hate, despise and admire. But like any good love story worth saving, it’s also one worth having.Violator Review: Preview the apocalypse
Violator is a sneak preview of the end times. When a storm threatens to sweep Metro Manila, the city begins to swallow itself whole. And although Violator is a horror film in the most fundamental sense, it tackles the genre with a certain sharp-eyed confidence that breaks free from its often predictable mold.
The film opens with a series of vignettes. A young girl strips naked before jumping to her death, a man wears the head of a pig before being found dead inside a classroom, and two men burn themselves to death as they run across hills of stone and gravel. Each vignette stands well own its own, but they all set the tone for armageddon, an appetizer for the apocalypse.
But the real story lies when 5 men (played by Joel Lamangan, Victor Neri, RK Bagatsing, Anthony Falcon and Andy Bais) are stranded in a police station by the severe storm. There, they are confronted by a seemingly harmless prisoner, (Timothy Mabalot) a boy who, the men suspect, could be the devil.
Violator is a horror film that aims to subvert as much as it aims to scare. But what makes Violator so impressively engaging is how it strips down the nuts and bolts of a horror film and builds it back up again.
Like his vignettes, writer-director Eduardo Dayao eases us into his detoriating world. But right at the very end, he pulls the rug right from under it. Violator may lack the narrative propulsion of a conventional horror film, but Dayao seems intent on actively avoiding it.
Violator is perfectly aware of more traditional entrants to the genre. And in an effort to break free from convention, Violator reskins itself with razors and teeth while keeping most of its bones intact. In the end, there is only darkness and chaos, and Violator delivers on both those fronts. – Rappler.com
Zig Marasigan is a freelance screenwriter and director who believes that cinema is the cure for cancer. Follow him on Twitter at @zigmarasiganhttp://www.rappler.com/entertainment/movies/75132-reviews-cinema-one-originals-film-festival-2014