MANILA, Philippines – This year’s lineup of films for the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) is stacked high with sequels and remakes, but there’s still a lot to look forward to this holiday season.
Whatever your thoughts on the festival, this year’s lineup showcases a diverse offering of horror films, love stories, historical epics, and family comedies.
The MMFF runs from December 25 to January 8, with the festival’s New Wave selections showing from December 17 to 24. Here are all the main and New Wave entries in this year’s film festival, along with reasons to see of them:
THE MAIN ENTRIES
Studio: Philippians Productions
Starring: Robin Padilla, Vina Morales, Daniel Padilla, Eddie Garcia, Jasmine Curtis-Smith
Director: Enzo Williams
Synopsis: A modern-day student gives a history report on the true-to-life, but little known, story of Filipino revolutionary Andres Bonifacio.
Why You Should Watch: MMFF has always been a favorite stomping ground for big budget historical epics. Though a majority of them have come up short, Robin Padilla aims to break that trend with a supposedly different take on the well-known story of Andres Bonifacio.
Whether Padilla and director Enzo Williams can deliver on that promise remains to be seen, but if the film’s title is anything to go on, Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo won’t be the history lesson a lot of Filipinos are familiar with.
Studio: Quantum Films
Starring: Jennylyn Mercado, Derek Ramsay
Director: Dan Villegas
Synopsis: A tutor-student relationship gets turns into a first class lesson in love when the two begin falling for each other.
Why You Should Watch: Derek Ramsay has always been an actor known for serious, tough-guy characters. But in English Only, Please, his pairing with Jennylyn Mercado gives Ramsay a chance to flex his comedic muscles. The film’s real potential, however, is with its script.
Penned by screenwriters Anj Pessumal and Antoinette Jadaone, English Only, Please is the festival’s lone romantic comedy. But given Pessumal and Jadaone’s penchant for breaking free from formula, this love story has the chance of being a crowd-pleasing surprise.
Studio: Star Cinema and Kris Aquino Productions
Starring: Kris Aquino, Coco Martin, Cherry Pie Picache, Carmi Martin, Ian Veneracion
Director: Chito Roño
Synopsis: When a cursed bagua is unearthed by an unsuspecting young man, its former owner takes it upon herself to save him from the evil spirit, Lotus Feet.
Why You Should Watch: This year’s MMFF may be front-loaded with sequels, but Feng Shui 2 may be the most surprising. It’s been 10 years since the release of the first film, earning more than P130 million at the local box-office.
While that may sound like chump change by today’s standards, Feng Shui was one of the highest-grossing local films of the mid-2000s. This year, Feng Shui 2 is poised to strike gold once again with veteran filmmaker Chito Roño and leading lady Kris Aquino reuniting for the sequel.
Studio: Reality Ent, GMA Films and Agostodos Pictures
Starring: Dingdong Dantes, Isabelle Daza, Hannah Ledesma
Director: Erik Matti
Synopsis: Kubot: The Aswang Chronicles 2 is the direct sequel to the action-horror-comedy Tiktik released in 2012. The sequel reunites survivors from the first film as they take on another breed of aswang.
Why You Should Watch: It didn’t seem likely that the Aswang Chronicles would get a sequel, not after the lackluster box-office showing of the original action-horror-comedy. But maybe a strong MMFF debut is all this sequel needs to turn things around. With director Erik Matti returning to direct, Kubot is shaping up to be a more stylish, more violent, and more over-the-top improvement to the original 2012 film.
Studio: Scenema Concept International and Viva Films
Starring: ER Ejercito, Sam Pinto
Director: Francis ‘Jun’ Posadas
Synopsis: A modern update to the Fernando Poe Jr. film from 1986, Magnum Muslim .357 follows undercover cop Lt. Jamal Rasul when he is tasked with rescuing a kidnapped Muslim princess.
Why You Should Watch: Based on the ‘80s action classic starring Fernardo Poe Jr., Magnum Muslim .357 aims to introduce the rebellious law enforcer to a whole new generation of filmgoers. Although skeptics may still be wary of E.R Ejercito’s capability as both an actor and action hero, it is worth noting that Boy Golden, which also starred Ejercito, was arguably the best entry to come out of last year’s MMFF.
Although Ejercito is admittedly no FPJ, the right script and some clever direction could allow this new Magnum Muslim .357 to deliver the same ridiculous action afforded by the original.
Studio: Octoarts, MZET and APT Entertainment
Starring: Ryzza Mae Dizon, Vic Sotto, Marian Rivera,
Director: Joyce Bernal, Marlon Rivera, Tony Reyes
Synopsis: My Big Bossing is a three-episode follow up to last year’s My Little Bossings, telling three comedy stories of adventure, fantasy, and horror.
Why You Should Watch: After courting a firestorm of criticism in last year’s MMFF, My Big Bossing hopes to rectify at least some of the grievances from the original My Little Bossings. With co-star Bimby Aquino-Yap missing from the cast, directors Joyce Bernal, Marlon Rivera, and Tony Reyes are taking the opportunity to start with a clean slate, crafting a whole new episodic series starring Vic Sotto and Ryzza Mae Dizon with hopefully less product placement and more punchlines.
Studio: Star Cinema, VIVA Films
Starring: Vice Ganda, Richard Yap, Roderick Paulate, Bimby Aquino-Yap, Alex Gonzaga
Director: Wenn Deramas
Synopsis: Private Benjamin Santos returns to duty in this family comedy that throws him back into action.
Why You Should Watch: The original Praybeyt Benjamin earned a whopping P300 million at the local box office in 2011, holding the record for highest grossing Filipino film before being overtaken by Sisterakas the following year. While box-office receipts are never a sure mark of quality, Praybeyt Benjamin is at least poised to delight Vice Ganda fans, especially with Bimby-Aquino Yap and Richard Yap appearing alongside the popular comedian.
Studio: Regal Films
Starring: Dennis Trillo, Carla Abellana, Matteo Guidicelli, JC De Vera, Erich Gonzales, Lovi Poe
Director: Jerrold Tarog, Dondon Santos, Perci Intalan
Synopsis: The Filipino horror series returns with three new episodes, Ahas, Ulam, and Flight 666.
Why You Should Watch: After missing out on last year’s MMFF, Shake, Rattle & Roll was thought dead after the lackluster box-office performance of its 2012 last installment, SSR14: The Invasion. But the 20-year-old series is returning to its roots with three episodes that draw inspiration from Chinese superstition and current events.
NEW WAVE ENTRIES
Director: Ato Bautista
Starring: Sheena McBride, Brigitte McBride, Mon Confiado
Synopsis: A psychological thriller about a psychiatric patient who is tormented by past sins committed by her and her twin.
Why You Should Watch: Director Ato Bautista has never been a filmmaker to shy away from sensitive topics, utilizing strong and often unsettling visuals to push his point across.
But Gemini seems more visually ambitious even by Bautista’s standards. After making its world premiere at the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival in South Korea last July, Gemini finally makes its local debut among this year’s MMFF New Wave selection.
M. (Mother’s Maiden Name)
Directed: Zig Dulay
Starring: Zsa Zsa Padilla, Dennis Padilla, Nico Antonio
Synopsis: When a woman is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, she asks her withdrawn son to stand by her through the treatment.
Why You Should Watch: Director Zig Dulay may be more widely recognized for his work as a screenwriter, but his television and feature length background has provided him with a strong foundation to make M far more than its typical premise lets on. M has been described as far more than a mother-son story, acting as commentary on the broken medical system plaguing the Philippines.
Magkakabaung (The Coffin-Maker)
Starring: Allen Dizon, Gladys Reyes, Emilio Garcia, and Felixia Crysten Dizon
Director: Jason Paul Laxamana
Synopsis: A single father and coffin-maker is burdened with burying the remains of his own 8-year-old daughter after mistakenly treating her with the wrong medication.
Why You Should Watch: Director Jason Paul Laxamana returns to the independent film scene with a story about regret and fatherhood. While Magkakabaung seems drastically different from his previous film, Babagwa (Spider’s Lair), Laxamana’s inherent interest in his characters and their personal conflicts give Magkakabaung the opportunity to elevate itself above the typical drama.
Maratabat (Pride and Honor)
Starring: Ping Medina, Julio Diaz, Kristoffer King
Director: Arlyn dela Cruz
Synopsis: The people of Maratabat become victims of widespread violence when a rival corrupt political clan is challenged by a rival family.
Why You Should Watch: Despite Maratabat’s obvious similarities with the Maguindanao massacre of 2009, director and veteran broadcast journalist Arlyn dela Cruz claims no relation between her debut film and the controversial mass execution in Ampatuan. But that doesn’t mean that audiences won’t draw their own comparisons between Maratabat and one of the country’s most alarming tragedies in the last decade.
Maratabat may be helmed by a first-time director, but Arlyn dela Cruz’s experience as a journalist could prove essential in transforming this work of fiction into relevant sociopolitical commentary.
Starring: Jake Cuenca, Loren Burgos, Ryan Eigenmann
Director: Ma. Diane Ventura
Synopsis: A woman with a strange mental affliction is forced to come to terms with her relationship with two men who have fallen in love with her.
Why You Should Watch: Despite Jake Cuenca’s popularity in mainstream film and television, it is his performance on Mulat that has earned him his first Best Actor award in the recent International Film Festival Manhattan. But first-time feature film director Diane Ventura is proving to be equally as commendable. After landing the Best Director award at the same festival, Ventura’s lack of experience is proving to be no obstacle for the up and coming filmmaker.
What will you be watching? Let us know in the comments below. – Rappler.com