Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B Review: Romancing monsters
The most interesting thing about Prime Cruz’s Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B is not its ingenious pairing of the bored youngster (Martin del Rosario) and his pretty neighbor (Ryza Cenon) who turns out to be a monster out of Philippine folklore. The unlikely romance is perhaps more a reaction of Cruz and writer Jen Chuaunsu to the redundant couples that populate local rom-coms – the mix of cute and monstrous results in scenes that fuse lust, love, bloodshed, and murder. What is really interesting about Cruz’s second film is how it manages to navigate its urban parable about true love amidst moral gray areas to be critical of a society that has become callous to nightly reports of corpses bearing cardboard signs of their alleged crimes. Given a social landscape that has gotten used to death without due process, the film seems to be saying that there exists real monsters and most of them don’t kill out of love.
Paglipay Review: Love and division
Zig Dulay’s Paglipay, about an Aeta man (Garry Cabalic) who falls in love with a college student (Anna Luna), is a lovely little film. Its tale of unrequited longing speaks volumes about the cultural and social divisions that exist despite supposed modern values. The film, however, depicts the issues tenderly, choosing the route of traversing the familiar grooves of an unrequited romance to spell out the glaring disconnection between people separated by differences in culture and the intolerance such differences breed. Dulay makes most of his sparse cast, creating a film that is most delightful when it is intimate, driving its precious gravitas from the charming innocence of Cabalic’s lead, most especially if pitted against a world where he is both an underdog in love and a victim of consequence.
Hamog Review: Unflinching bleakness
It is easy to dismiss Ralston Jover’s Hamog for needlessly contributing to the tired discourse of urban decay and poverty. However, to do so would be a grave disservice to the film’s lyrical effort to paint very human portraits of the children who are stripped of innocence by the city’s various cruelties. The film essentially essays the separate fates of street kids who were separated after their botched attempt to rob a cab driver (OJ Mariano). It’s a loose triptych with the story of Jinky (Therese Malvar) who ends up being housed as a maid in the cab driver’s apartment as the clear centerpiece because of the unexpected implications of its noir-ish elements. The film suffers when it retreats back to the tropes of the usual film that dwells on poverty, when it becomes redundant. Thankfully, when the film decides to pull away from convention to explore areas of truly unflinching bleakness, it becomes truly devastating.
100 Tula Para Kay Stella Review: Banking on nostalgia
Jason Paul Laxamana’s 100 Tula Para Kay Stella is essentially a typical romance between an introverted stutterer (JC Santos) and his ambitious muse (Bela Padilla). The convention love story however isn’t so much a fault of a film as it is a frame for Laxamana to grant the film’s more compelling story of an underdog succeeding in his endeavors a more marketable appeal.The film banks on nostalgia, specifically setting itself in the 90’s with songs and attitudes that pertain to a less divided era where both love and ambition seem to be the most pressing considerations for the youth. The film could have been set today yet it insists on reliving the past. 100 Tula Para Kay Stella, even in all of its glamorous presentation of love that is fought for and lost, still feels oddly wistful with its dreamy portrayal of the past. It almost feels like a love letter to simpler and calmer times, an escape to an age when all we had to think about is the future because the present isn’t very terrifying.
Salvage Review: Compelling subversions
The compelling repercussions of Sanchez’s experiment with the genre are tremendous. In a way, Salvage, with its narrative of Manila-based media workers suddenly facing unknown terrors in Mindanao, puts into question not just the integrity of the footage but the integrity of the people creating the footage, or in a larger context, truths. Taken completely as a metaphor for how little imperialist Manila knows of the regions, the film proposes that the truths we have been led to believe through the bombarded impositions of mass media are filtered, damaged, and perhaps, even fabricated. The film, by evolving from a crazed chase around the jungle into an orgy of bewitching imagery, plays with its audience’s expectations, resulting in an experience that can only lead them to suspect and to doubt the ages-old notion that to see is to believe. In all the exquisitely constructed chaos of Salvage, the only thing that is certain is uncertainty, and nothing is more horrifying than that.
Patay na si Hesus Review: Family fun
Heart and humor are the main ingredients of Victor Villanueva’s sophomore feature, Patay na si Hesus. Most of the time, the film focuses its efforts more on consistently dishing out jokes to the point of eclipsing its emotional affect, but the screenplay by Fatrick Tabada and Moira Lang doesn’t really lose sight of its goal to conclude with at least a semblance of emotional resonance to all of Villanueva’s irreverent gags. The film’s balancing act isn’t always seamless but what that is also part of the film’s overall charm. In all of its fervent effort to stuff itself with all the nonsensical punchlines it can manage to pepper its tale of a middle-aged mom, played wonderfully by Jaclyn Jose, who takes her children on a road trip from Cebu to Dumaguete to pay respects to her recently departed husband, it turned itself into a statement comedy, one that manages to say all the right things about the modern Filipino family by celebrating the hilarity of all of its wrongness.
AWOL Review: Problematic violence
On its face, Enzo Williams’ AWOL is a straightforward action film. The protagonist, a sniper played by Gerald Anderson, is simply shown violently pursuing the killers of his friends. Williams, given the very tight budget, has crafted a film that in all its simplistic endeavors to thrill with its unflinching display of brutality of an overly loyal comrade out for revenge, is entertaining enough. The film’s biggest problem however lies in its insistence to be relevant, to connect its utility of violence with a confusing advocacy to promote the heroic efforts of the military. In that sense, AWOL shapes up to be a potentially dangerous film, given its intention to carelessly reduce a respectable advocacy within the limitations of a genre feature made within an oppressive budget and timeline. The film can be seen to depict brash violence as a moral act, sending all the wrong signals to a public that has already been fed with so many wrong signals about violence and morality.
Birdshot Review: Astoundingly mature
What begins as a simple coming-of-age of young girl under the guidance of her stern elderly father turns into a harsh unraveling of a nation’s narrative of strife. When the young girl shoots a national symbol out of wanting to prove to his father that she is no longer a child, an odd pairing of an idealistic cop and his more hardened superior is forced to investigate amidst a more pressing case of a bus full of farmer-protesters gone missing. Birdshot is a confidently crafted film. While its statement is clear and very relevant, it doesn’t rely on it. The film is paced elegantly, with striking visuals that match its depiction of the very fragile peace of a corrupt society. While the criticism that Birdshot doesn’t feel like it is set in any specific locality is valid, that lack of specificity also lends the film a certain timelessness and universality to its discourse. All in all, Mikhail Red’s sophomore feature is an astoundingly mature work. – Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas’ ‘Tirad Pass.’ Since then, he’s been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema.