Archive for the ‘movies’ Category

Apat Dapat, Dapat Apat: Friends 4 Lyf and Death

November 4, 2007

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Andrew Schimmer

The female bonding comedy. It’s about time we pay attention to this pesky genre of Pinoy cinema. About two or three of them get made a year. Pinay Pie, Bridal Shower, I Will Survive — to name the more memorable ones — seem cut from the same women’s apparel cloth. Do they really make money? Are they even funny?

I will not attempt to answer these two questions, but will instead pose a third one: Are female bonding comedies really, at their core, gay?

In such a movie, the women, playing a tight-as-a-pussy group of friends, often with a token gay friend (who’s often flamboyant), are female actors who are cast mainly for their funniness or their ability to go over-the-top. Meanwhile, the supporting men are cast mainly for their hunkiness.

In Apat Dapat, a fine stable of men all manage to, at one point or another, parade shirtless. Christian Vasquez plays the worthless, dependent stuntman-lover of Eugene Domingo (it echoes Nora Aunor and Philip Salvador’s Bona) and he’s slinking in his skivvies most of the time, including one extended sequence of him getting chased and splashed by boiling water right unto an EDSA flyover in just his red briefs. Deejay Durano, who always has a role in director Wenn Daramas’ projects (you may raise your eyebrows), is Candy Pangilinan’s thug husband, also dependent, albeit romantic. Kian Kazemi plays Rufa Mae Quinto’s ignored suitor, who doesn’t do much but gets topless anyway. My favorites are Chester Nolledo and Andrew Schimmer, who don’t do much either as tattooed thug brothers, but my eyes are glued on their smooth bodies and faces everytime. Even Vince Saldana, playing Pokwang’s teenage son, remaining fully clothed, appears to be a hunk in the making.

The plot is ostensibly about four women breadwinners who enlist as domestic helpers in Hong Kong as the ultimate act of love for their dependents and also, more unconventionally, for themselves. There’s the old hide-the-dead-body situation, some old racial stereotypes, and some old special-effects action sequences milked supposedly for old laughs. Much of the punchlines (and indeed, plotlines) are sketched in the realm of non-logic. Most of it is unfunny, but I’m kept entertained by the film’s idea of women’s liberation as really rooted in economics — that love is expressed by providing financially; self-worth is measured by men’s (and children’s) simple appreciation — and that it applies to more of my gay friends in real life than my female ones. Do the women in these films behave the way they do to reflect real women, or are they stand-ins for the ultimate aspiration: to be gay? Or a certain idea of gay, as in loud, wild, sexual, cliquish, fools for love and pleasure, responsible, and underappreciated. Are homosexuals really just women inside, or are women really just gay inside? I’m not about to buy this notion just yet, but maybe someday, an enterprising student of media can explore the topic in depth in his thesis. Is it a gay fantasy to be surrounded by hot men everyday of our lives? I know the answer to that one.

GRADE: C

Related Link:
Catholic Movie Reviewer Thinks It’s a Morally Sound Movie, But Warns About The Homosexuality, Without Further Explanation of What He Means

Moreno (Bronze)

November 4, 2007

In Moreno, Cris Pablo, that trailblazing godfather of gay digital movies, finds the connection between the real-life plight of T’boli women in South Cotabato and the fictional story of one man who suffers from a boyfriend with an itch for multiple sex partners. What’s the connection? Polygamy. On a socio-anthropological level, Moreno is an inquiry into the nature and effects of man’s mysterious need for more and merrier.

The strange mix of documentary-style ethnographic study and gay domestic melodrama makes for an uneasy viewing. The parallelism remains cerebral and remote. We never do get to see how polygamy in tribal tradition informs modern gay mash-ups or vice versa. The lead character Cris, a scorned lover played warts-and-all courageously by the director himself, journeys through all that trouble only to prove himself righteous in matters of fidelity. The tone is middle-ground too: cold and a little too academic. I do wish it were a sexier film, considering the ready-to-bare actors already on board. Who knew a movie about multiple gay boinking could be so sterile? I guess that’s brave, but also a let-down. Maybe the X-rated original version, disapproved by the MTRCB, is a livelier film?

Even with a boom in small, gay-themed films, from Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros to Ang Lalake Sa Parola, and the studio-financed same-same in between such as Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah, Cris Pablo seems to be the only filmmaker today who tackles the “alternative” in alternative lifestyles. As in his first feature Duda, the dillemas in Moreno are the difficult round of gay conflicts. It’s not a romantic fantasy in which boy-girl has simply been substituted with boy-boy. The questions — about open relationships or “May bakla bang monogamous?” — are mined deep from a very specific gay experience. So far, Cris Pablo is the lone voice of gay dysfunction in urban Philippines. Moreno may lack appeal or entertainment rewards, but in the future, when aliens seek to learn about what plagues homosexual relationships in Metro Manila in the 2000′s, we’ll point to Duda, Bath House, and this.

GRADE: C

Related Link:
Review by LoudCloud

Ang Lalake Sa Parola (The Man in the Lighthouse)

November 4, 2007

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Justin De Leon and Harry Chua

It begs to be asked: When was the last time we saw an erect penis in a Filipino movie? In commercial theatres or legitimate video?

With the release of the R-rated Ang Lalake Sa Parola — sans the erection and a variety of other sexual images that were the reason for its previous X-rating by the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) — we really should be wondering aloud: What’s wrong with dick? Is our conservative taste in cinema a reality or merely imagined? And, most importantly, could our backward cinematic culture be directly related to the absence of acceptable phallus?

I have not seen the notorious X-rated (and therefore practically banned) version, but I imagine it to be a superior film to the one I saw. In the R-rated Parola, I sensed an underlying spirit of bravery and bravura. Images of complete nakedness and overt sexuality would have certainly made sense. My plea: Unleash the original cut.

For the most part, Parola plays out like something old and useless: a country hunk (Harry Chua) is visited by a city hunk (Justin De Leon), and country hunk “comes of age” — which, in a gay film like this, means he gets it on with another guy and “discovers himself”. His girlfriend (Jennifer Lee) is consequentially waylaid. It’s Brokeback Mountain by way of standard Pinoy boldie. Sex scenes appear as key turning points of the story. Mateo has sex with his girlfriend, then Mateo has sex with Jerome, then Mateo doesn’t have sex with his girlfriend but continues to have sex with Jerome. In the “bold” genre, plot can easily be understood just by outlining the sex scenes. Scenes and dialogue can sometimes seem nicked straight from ordinary online erotica. The steamiest scene, involving unzipped trousers, is a great work of tease.

But something unexpected happens towards the end, where the movie achieves a kind of mindfuck. STOP READING NOW IF YOU WISH TO AVOID SPOILERS.

In the city, Mateo has dinner with his now-boyfriend Jerome and friends. In the middle of bilingual, educated but trivial chatter, he finds himself lost and unable to relate. If the movie hadn’t been an effective romance up to that point, and not even an effective psychological study of a man, it’s at least a movie with a big central idea. It invites us to pry into the nature of identity.

In a succeeding scene, the nextdoor maid asks Mateo if he’s the new boyfriend, which he instinctively denies. A kitchen argument between the lovers ensues, in which Jerome forces Mateo to admit he’s gay, but poor Mateo can’t. I was rooting for Mateo not to answer. The movie asks: Could the label of homosexuality be largely an intellectual construct? As Mateo gradually rejects his taste for women, the film presents to us a slippery notion of gender. Although that final shot of Mateo framed by a painting of a woman’s figure is telling of the filmmakers’ position (they seem to say Mateo is, afterall, gay), I’d like to think it’s not as closed. What I admire most is the depth and importance of the discourse.

There’s a running narration about some silly folklore about a diwata (fairy) who seduces men. It intercuts with the main narrative, and it drove me nuts. It suggests the case of Mateo is not an isolated one but is the general plight of many men through time — how straight men can turn gay or whatever. At some moments, I was reminded of Sa Paraiso Ni Efren, that classic Pinoy film in which a man who’s primarily a woman-fucker goes into a relationship of love with a gay man. There’s also a fairy symbol there, that signifies both a missing parental figure and also an elusive sexual identity waiting to be grasped. Anton Bernardo, that film’s star, is similar to Harry Chua, too. Both embody the conflicting forces of man and child, starting with their physiques: a delicious balance of bulging muscle and baby fat.

Harry Chua is truly remarkable. He was perfect as a boy who was not necessarily inexperienced nor ignorant, but still in a way innocent. Clothed or undressed, fornicating or not, he was a joy to watch. My favorite scene was of him doing housework in just his whities. In that scene and others where the actors similarly expose or perform more than what conventional flicks would deem tasteful, Parola is elevated from a mere “story” into a filmmaking that approaches — dare I say it — Art. As the film coaxes the viewers to be voyeurs, it also implicates us in the ongoing exploitation: of one man’s devolution (or evolution) as an object-slave. Too bad the truly baring incidents were wasted on the cutting room floor. I still maintain: A more explicit version of this movie could have been something powerful, as it moves farther from standard sex narrative into a reflexive provocation, in which our reaction to the image matters as much as the image itself. And besides, it would have been an even hotter film. Right now, in the sanitized cut, what we have is an incredibly steamy film that’s not quite good, but close.

GRADE: B+

Related Links:
Forum on the movie at PinoyPride
synopsis and stills at FilipinoQueer
Parola Gets X-Rating
Parola Gets X-Rating 2

Hubad! Striptease Sessions for the Daring Men

October 27, 2007

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Johnron Tanada

The important distinction is that “Hubad” in the title is a verb, not an adjective; it means “to strip” and NOT “naked”. There’s a lot of bumping and grinding here, but it doesn’t get to the point of full exposure. Such a premise is doomed to be disappointing. Thus, the video hardly satisfies, even though it shows us quite a lot: skin upon skin of about eight lean dancing men spreading themselves all over the floor in all manner of turns and tumbles, with some great, unprecedented dick-to-dick touching — under the briefs, of course. In the final segment, there’s a quick peek-a-boo of a hefty shaft followed by some charcoal-dark pumping, but it’s too little, too late for a climax.

Essentially, Hubad is a conceptual dance performance. Divided into three “lessons” on the how-to’s of stripteasing, a group of men will first demonstrate the dance onstage, followed by story-type suggested “applications” for real life — one application is man-to-man (such as a man seducing a stranger on the alleyway via striptease), another is man-to-woman (such as an office guy seducing an office girl during a slide presentation), but both portions are quite gay anyway. What keeps the show less-than-explosive is how mechanical the performances can seem.
Because everyone onstage is doing the same thing at the same time, the action doesn’t gather primal steam. Robots aren’t as sexy as, say, an unpredictable, spontaneous animal moving about as if possessed by his raw instincts. A truly moving sexual dance number seems to require a different kind of energy. If the spectacle is lacking, at least there’s wall-to-wall eye candy. Johnron Tanada is a star. A couple of the dancers could be stars too, but this is not the video to do it for them. A star is created by packaging a solid personality, as in the strategy of Provoq, last year’s video that launched instant sex idols.

The behind-the-scenes DVD bonus is dirtier and more delighftul. Models rubbing their crotches to get them hard. The camera tracking too close to a model’s bulge that it actually hits it. The make-up artist going “Sarap!” It’s the turn-on I was looking for.

GRADE: B+

Related Links:

Teaser from MiongXXX

I’ve Fallen For You

October 27, 2007

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Gerald Anderson

I spent the entire film intently observing the teen gorgeousness of Gerald Anderson: the fine hairs of his arms and legs, the (fake) sweat stains on his T-shirt, that disarming face, and for too shortly, nipples that fight through wet T-shirt; it’s criminal he doesn’t remove that shirt while wading in a pond. The young actor seems to be growing on the skinny side, but he’s also approaching the look of an active, brooding hardworker, and I think even without the beef, he’s hunkier for it.

The movie hangs on the bullshit conflict of how parents’ ancient love affairs threaten the romance of two teenagers linked by college applications, anime, and bicycling. If Gerald Anderson doesn’t tickle your fancy, then there really is no point.

GRADE: C

Related Links:
Official Movie Site
Full Trailer

A Love Story

August 30, 2007

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Is Aga Muhlach a sexy actor? Perhaps a survey is in order. He was certainly one of the most valuable faces of the 80′s, and his trademark boyish appeal seemed to spill over into the next decades even as he aged. His latest movie A Love Story coincides with the packaging of a buffer Aga Muhlach, not-so-afraid to show off some flesh, as seen in magazines nationwide. His role in the film sounds sexy: a man torn between sexual affairs with two women, and who’s also somewhat of a stunted man-child with father issues. The actor’s newly toned bod is on discreet display for several combined seconds in the film.

Is A Love Story a sexy movie? Probably not, and that’s the problem. It’s a drama where people talk or shout, explain themselves in words, but I couldn’t feel the dirt of their insides, the desires that make them tick or push them to do wrong things. The scenes lack a tactile specificity. Though Muhlach here is the most attractive he’s been for quite some time, he failed to move me. He doesn’t create chemistry with his women (Maricel Soriano and Angelica Panganiban). He can’t even connect with his father or his family, not with the pain and not with the sincerity. He’s a guy who should burn, but doesn’t. Sexy is not merely about looking good. With a character like his, I wanted to see masculine guts exposed, splattered, poked. I wanted a man who could hold my attention by baring himself.┬áPanganiban, as the younger woman, displays flashes of heat that was crucial. She was alive. Everyone else, I couldn’t understand.

There’s a clever structural gimmick that reverses our expectations, both in cinema and in real life, of extramarital affairs. Some call it a “twist”. It’s the best thing about this movie, if only anything that came before or after it were enjoyable to watch.

GRADE: D


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