Sunday, December 29, 2013

Weekly Round-Up (12/22/13 - 12/28/13)

These are in addition to the stuff I saw at Cinemanila.

Ang Turkey Man Ay Pabo Din (Randolph Longjas) *** - The title roughly translates to "A Turkey Is Still a Turkey". Who knew that there would be such a thing as a Filipino Thanksgiving comedy? Well, here it is. This one is about the love story between an American man and his Filipina fiancee whom he met online. The film skewers culture clash and Filipino habits, beliefs and idiosyncracies that would seem weird to outsiders. The result is often quite but I wish they had gotten a real professional actor to play the American. I found his acting is amateurish at best. One could argue that it adds to his charm but I found it jarring. Still, a better comedy than most mainstream Filipino comedies.

Dukit (Carved from Wood) (Armando Lao) *** - This is a unique biopic since the actual guy plays himself! (In fact, several people in his life play themselves). This tells the story of Waldo Tayug, a man who made a name for himself for his beautiful religious themed wood carvings. He makes those statues we see in churches. The film follows his story from childhood to present day but jumping back and forth in between time periods (and at times it's a bit confusing). Brillante Mendoza co-produced this film and directed by his script collaborator Armando Lao and Mendoza's docu-drama style shines through this one. It's imperfect but when it works, it works.

Mga Anino ng Kahapon (Shadows of the Past) (Alvin Yapan) ***1/2 - After her husband leaves to work abroad, a woman starts to exhibit symptoms of schizophrenia. This is from one of the Philippines' most promising indie directors, Alvin Yapan. I will definitely say that this is a far better cinematic depiction of schizophrenia than, say, A Beautiful Mind. I'm surprised by the terrific performance of Agot Isidro. Before now, I've never thought of her as that much of an actress but she was great. This one gets a very high recommendation from me.

 Blue Is The Warmest Color (Abdellatif Kechiche) **** - I saw this film on Christmas Day because nothing says "Christmas" like graphic lesbian sex. Actually, the much ballyhooed sex scenes were nowhere near as graphic as I imagined them to be based on the reactions I've read. They were about as graphic as, say, Lust, Caution and Y tu mama tambien. But it's graphic enough that I'm glad I saw it in the comfort of my bedroom instead of a movie theater filled with people. Those scenes aside, the controversy and a brouhaha surrounding it often makes people overlook the fact that this is a wonderful, beautiful bittersweet story about young love/first love. It's simple enough: A teenage girl's sexuality is awakened as she falls for an older woman. The audience is taken to the journey of their relationship. As I was watching this, I almost forget the fact that it's about two women and I was just taken by a beautifully and intelligently told love story. At almost three hours, is it a bit too long? Perhaps but personally, I didn't mind.

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (Adam McKay) *** - This is another one of my comedic blind spots since I'm not really the biggest Will Ferrell fan (I mean, I find him funny in small doses but big doses, he can get annoying to me). With the sequel already out, I thought I should finally catch up on it. Though it's nowhere near the comedic masterpiece its fans thinks it is, there are still quite a number of very funny moments in this just enough that I would like to see the sequel now. The gags and jokes are hit-and-miss but when they hit, it REALLY hits. Not a comedy classic but it's still quite enjoyable.

Boy Golden: The Arturo Porcuna Story (Chito S. Roño) ***1/2 - Very loosely based on the true to life story of an infamous Filipino criminal from the early '60s, this film was described by a critic as being like Johnnie To film --- and he is right. I don't particularly like the lead actor of this film, Jeorge ER Estregan, who always strikes me as an arrogant prick who thinks he's more talented than he is. I didn't mind him in this film because there are sooooooo many fun elements: The colorful cinematography, the surprising twists and turns, the fight scenes that are on the level of the best Southeast Asian (Thai, Hong Kong, etc.) martial arts action movies, a genuine sense of humor, outrageous violence and it's ridiculous and silly in the best possible way. I've always thought why can't we produce a fun action flick/crime drama on the level of, say, The Raid or Ong Bak or Kung Fu Hustle. Well, I can now say we do! Seriously. I'm surprised. Who knew Chito Roño (who is best known for dramas) had this in him? I like this better than On The Job.

Donkey Skin (Jacques Demy) ***1/2 - This is a fairy tale written by Charles Perrault who also did Cinderella and I was wondering why I haven't heard much about this one. Oh, and then I find out there's attempted incest in this one. That aside, this is a beautifully mounted musical-fantasy. The costumes and the production design are eye-popping. Those combined with sharp, almost dream-like cinematography creates something that's like literally straight out of a picture storybook and gives it a surrealism and beauty that's surpassed only by Jean Cocteau. Jacques Demy definitely had Cocteau in mind since Jean Marais (who played the Beast in Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast) plays the King.

10,000 Hours (Joyce Bernal) *** - This is a thinly-veiled, fictionalized version of a true story involving a cop turned Philippine senator being unfairly prosecuted for murder. This film where the names were changed whitewashes his character a bit and obviously upped the action-thriller ante. Is it any good? Yes, it's a solid, fairly decent, well-made thriller. Director Joyce Bernal, previously known for doing broad, light comedies, acquits herself well as an action director. It didn't blow me away (totally not Best Picture material) but it was fun.

The Great Beauty (Paolo Sorrentino) **** - This film surprised me. I mean, I heard that it was really good but I was surprised by how much I loved it. It's about an ageing writer who hasn't written another novel in years seeing friends, having affairs, going around the city and reminiscing about the old days. The film is quite Felliniesque in its content and structure. As great as Fellini? Not quite but it's still holds up as a great film on its own two feet. I'd like to think that this is Fellini's spirit living on, seeping through the present day. There's also a Wild Strawberries element in it as well. It's also beautifully filmed (boy those steadicam shots!), designed and acted. It's one of the very best films of the year.


Adam said...

I heard about blue is the warmest color, now that sounds very interesting.

MRanthrope said...

I kept putting off seeing Blue Is The Warmest Color not for the graphic content but it's epic length. Just couldn't find the time to see it. Bummer.

Bersercules said...

A Turkey is still a Turkey sounds like a good movie! Hopefully I'll be able to find a copy to watch here in Canada. And the fact they got a bad actor to play the American makes some sense! I've seem plenty of American movies where the foreign characters are played badly by crappy actors!

Also yes, nothing represents Christmas better then lesbian sex! I know what I'll be watching next Christmas!