Erotika M2M

December 26, 2007

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Dexter Castro

There are many things “wrong” with this straight-to-video erotica, beginning with the premise. Another instructional on the art of sensuality? We never really believed it when the trend started, did we?

But the things that are wrong are exactly what’s enjoyable about Erotika M2M. I have come to love the fake premise of teaching something as an excuse to showcase male bodies. It’s terrific. They can teach applied physics with stripping professors, and I’m there.

If you’ve been wondering where the hell Pinoy camp has gone to, look no further. Erotika M2M is not a clone of the slick Viva Hotmen productions, but almost a bad simulacrum, a refreshing send-up. It looks cheaper and more naive, funnier and on a class of its own. The choreography here is straight out of the gayest dance number from That’s Entertainment, 1980′s — tacky, cheesy, an exercise in overacted “gracefulness”. The romantic episode, especially, is set to an unbearable, sappy song, and it would have been a pain if it weren’t also hilarious. There’s also a synth tune somewhere that’s bogus rock with bogus ‘tude. In an office interview lap dance number, the boy applicant pulls down his pants to reveal… a scary bright ugly-orange brief. The boss pulls down his own pants to reveal… more or less the same brief but blue. That, my friends, is inspired campiness. A number in which all the boys, buff-naked, gyrate behind wooden crates is also so outrageous, it’s awesome.

The boys (Dexter Castro, Gael, Ivan Maxwell, Seff Posadas, and Rojer) are cute but rather ordinary, and the hotness lies in the trainwreck spectacle of ordinary boys doing extraordinarily limp flights of showmanship. They’re ultimately lovable.

If there’s one fault I can’t easily forgive, it’s the videography. I often found my eyes straining for clarity. The shadows that cloak the delicate body parts are garish. A tease is supposed to make good on a show. Even if it doesn’t show us what we want to see, what’s onscreen should look good enough for us to stay glued. But the more important question is: Why hide the goods at all? If this disc included a behind-the-scenes feature similar to Masahe M2M (from the same makers), with wall-to-wall naked flesh, it would be unquestionably satisfying. Erotika M2M is flawed and an easy target for whiners, but it actually shouldn’t be missed.

GRADE: B

Ang Lalake Sa Parola – “Approved Without Cuts” Video

December 26, 2007


Harry Laurel, in one of the restored scenes

The “X-rated” shots that were deleted for the theatrical version are thankfully present in this video release: Harry Laurel’s erection; Justin De Leon beats his meat; testicles-on-testicles grinding; jewels and pubes. Plus, no one talks about it, but Xeno Alejandro goes full frontal in his very brief appearance. I don’t think we’ve been treated to this much male goodies in a legitimate Pinoy film.

The added sexiness really does make for a more pleasurable viewing, but it doesn’t really make it much of a better movie. You may discover the money shots are quick and enshrouded in cliche romantic “tastefulness”. Sadly, the narrative doesn’t hold up to repeat viewings; Performances and scenes betray an amateurish weakness. But so what? The male exposures are gold, and a treasure in any collection.

GRADE: A-

Related Link:
Review of the Movie with Cuts

Paper Dolls

December 13, 2007

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This Israeli-produced documentary, directed by Israeli Tomm Heymann, follows a group of Filipino drag performers, known as “The Paper Dolls”, who also work as caregivers for the elderly in an orthodox suburb in Israel. The early moment when Giorgio, a Filipino hairstylist, started conversing in Hebrew, the movie had me enthralled. This is one fascinating, revealing, ultimately great portrait of my fellow Filipinos and fellow gays who are also living in a more extreme otherness.

The journey takes us deep and far, with highlights such as a dream performance at a famous Tel Aviv nightclub that turns into sad disillusionment, an offbeat intergenerational friendship between a caregiver and his charge, and the ominous fear of deportation that depicts a larger view of the plight of immigrant workers. Through it all, the transsexual Pinoys display an admirable and inspiring dignity, and so does the movie. I fell in love with it.

Now showing. For showtimes, click here.

GRADE: A

Related Links:
Film Trailer
Reviews at Rottemtomatoes
Review at Film-Forward
Negative Review at Fipresci
Buy DVD

Vhagets

December 12, 2007


Jordan Herrera, in Pinoy Mano-Mano Celebrity Boxing Challenge

Bagets (with a B) was a movie phenomenon that defined the youth culture of the country in the 80′s. The word is slang for “youth” and is still widely used today. The new title Vhagets, a corruption of the term to sound gayspeak, suggests we need a movie that will be as definitive to kids today who are growing up gay.

In 2005, Ang Pagdadalaga Ni Maximo Oliveros (The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros) introduced us to a feminine adolescent boy who lives in the slums. Maxi was an instantly iconic character, and, depending on where you live, was also instantly familiar. There are quite a number of boys his age who dress and act like him. It was about time we saw him on the screen. What few people may remember though is that Ang Pagdadalaga was never really about Maxi’s homosexuality or transgender. His family and community mostly (maybe not completely) accepted or even encouraged his ways. That movie was an otherwise traditional story of romance versus family, cops versus robbers. It skipped the part about the usual specific fears, pains, and confusions connected to gay identity — the internal aspect of being gay at 13.

The new movie Vhagets fills that gap — somehow. Three adolescent friends survive individual dillemas that spring directly from their being gay. One fears coming out to his father; another is beaten up by his; the third gets constantly nagged by his mother for his girly behavior. All of them are taunted by bullies their age. Their stories whiz by with lightfooted comic panache, especially in the first half, that the movie is mostly funny and fun even as it tugs at deep hurts surely recognizable to many of us. Vhagets is the stylistic reverse of Ang Pagdadalaga: The former documentary-like neorealism gets replaced by broader comedy, subjective narration, hyperbolic fantasy sequences.

There’s a lot going on in Vhagets, for better or worse. It’s hard to see the integrity amidst the storytelling shortcuts. As it turns out, the movie is really centered on one gay old man whose house is like a refuge for the troubled boys. SPOILERS AHEAD!!! His murder, which the boys witness, also acts as the miraculous solution to banish all issues between parents and their gay sons. There are speechy expositions here and there, a dash of how domestic anti-gay violence is passed on to generations, how repressed gay emotions can lead to crimes of passion, and of course, a schoolboy crush who’s so close yet so far to touch.

Alas, the best reason to watch Vhagets is Jordan Herrera. The hunk plays “pantasya ng mga bakla” (gay men’s fantasy), and he fits the bill perfectly. We first see him sweaty playing basketball, then with drinking water assaulting his full lips and cascading down his body. He’s a force of sex throughout, even by just the simple act of walking in jeans, but most especially when he’s showering in his black briefs and when near-naked in bed. The only other scene to rival any of Jordan Herrera’s appearances is an opening number in which four guys in briefs and shorts bathe themselves on the street, in full view of our three young heroes and the old gay man up in his house.

The conclusion should have had a little more balls. After all that is done, our boys grow up to the realization that they’re more men than real men. (“Mas lalaki pa.”) I rather wish they had advanced to eschew the language of machismo, which is to say in their own terms and not in society’s imposition that the best values are necessarily masculine. It kind of dillutes everything back to zero.

GRADE: B

For showtimes, click here.

Related Link:
Jordan Herrera pictures on Pinoyceleb.Blogspot

Maling Akala

December 8, 2007

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The movie kicks off in classic romantic comedy fashion: Boy meets girl in a bus, the pregnant girl suddenly goes into labor, the boy is mistaken to be her husband, and they decide to uphold the lie, all the way unto the girl’s rural hometown. It’s all very pleasing, funny, and convincing, but what really motors the comedy is a twin mystery: Is the boy a criminal-on-the-run? And, Is he gay?

SPOLIER AHEAD! He’s gay. The press releases don’t hide the fact, so it’s not exactly a spoiler, but part of the pleasure of watching the comedy lies in the ticklish way the movie only hints it, withholding the confirmation til the very end. It’s also its sly genius. In asking us to be involved in the “love” story, with the usual sturcture and pratfalls of the genre, but also pushing us back to say don’t get too comfortable because the guy could be a homo, Maling Akala is really inviting us to pick apart the mind of a certain gay guy. And okay, the girl too. The movie, although entertaining in familiar ways, is actually a thoroughly modern, original double character study: of the woman who falls for the gay man, and of the man who’s embracing a new self as a means to escape — not only the chaos of the city and the crime he committed back there, but also the nature of his sexuality. Although he doesn’t seem to be in denial about his homosexuality (and this is refreshing), he is in a different kind of gay crisis: How is he to practice this sexuality, especially with the convenient alternative to pose as someone straight? And what is it at the core of many gay men everywhere that drives us to consider a relationship with a woman when clearly it isn’t our preference? The movie is more progressive yet also subtler than it appears. It’s practically essential viewing.

Victor Basa, model-turned-hearththrob-actor, is himself the subject of the big is-he-or-isn’t-he controversy in real life, and casting him in the role of JP, the man-with-a-mystery, only adds to the movie’s playful allure. His JP is easily one of the most fascinating and fully-formed gay creations in Philippine cinema. I do wish there were more visuals of the one-and-only man-to-man sex scene (we hardly see it) and more of the country hunk he’s fooling around with, but that’s the horny me nitpicking.

GRADE: B+

Related Links:
Victor Basa Shrugs Off Gay Issue
Victor Basa Screen Test
Full Movie Trailer
Movie Teaser

Ataul For Rent

November 12, 2007

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Denver Olivarez

The street of low-lives in this slum neighborhood represents the country at large and the human condition at largest. There, that’s the gist. Many “great” Filipino films are micro-macro like this. Ataul For Rent reaches for a grand encapsulation, but with minimum preciseness and less subtlety. It’s the kind of movie in which a crazy homeless person is the wisest man among fools, with the wisest words. Like the recent Tribu, Ataul is not much of a narrative and not much in insight, but an achievement in slice-of-ghetto-life bits and pieces. Some details are hard to forget.

Among the cast of bottom-dwellers, Coco Martin plays a snatcher and a callboy. For a prostitute, the actor, chunkier than when we last saw him, doesn’t even get shirtless in the entire film. There are also two female prostitutes here, who also remain discreetly covered or slightly turned so that we don’t see anything. If this movie were made in the late 90′s, such missed opportunities for sex and nudity would be unforgivable. Writer-Director Neal Tan, who made several B-movie boldies in the past, seems to have found a more chaste aesthetic. Or could the culprit be either of the following: (a) the aim for a respectable rating from the MTRCB censors? Or (b) the aim to be called Art Film, and the notion that art must be tasteful?

More positively, Denver Olivarez, in his first movie role since winning the Ginoong Filipinas 2007 title, plays a drug pusher and snatcher who’s often shirtless. In one scene, he’s taking a shower in a street corner in white briefs. But he’s shot too far away that we barely get to enjoy it as a wet underwear moment. His naughty face brings excitement though. Jet Alcantara, a third hunk, is unrecognizable here, and his role disposable.

Ataul has two homosexual characters worthy of close scrutiny. Tita Swarding is the pimp who peddles women prostitutes, then later a minor girl; and an unnamed swishy Customer in a taxi who picks up the callboy, then… (SPOILER ALERT!) gets murdered. Later, Coco Martin gets chased as the killer. It’s an interesting storyline straight from the headlines. Maybe something is being said about how the lives of the poor can only get more miserable and how salvation lies in the afterlife, but I’m more interested in this: In a movie of varied representations of Filipino people, the only gay people are the pimp who sells sex and the customer who buys. Even the male prostitute who sells his body is depicted as possibly non-gay (heterosexual) with a female love interest. Is this our role in the world? As criminals and victims? Should we be bothered? Discuss.

GRADE: C+

Related Link:
Full Trailer on YouTube
News: Ataul For Rent Gets an A-Rating

The Studs Calendar Magazine 2008

November 9, 2007

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So you think you’re satisfied with the pics you see on the net? There’s nothing like holding this baby in your two hands. The pages are big, the quality is crisp — details like the fine hairs growing on the armpit or around the belly button or the delicate contours of nipples or the pores of skin are vivid and savory and nearly life-size. I’m tempted to curl up in bed next to the pages.

The eight models are members of a soon-to-be-launched boy group called The Studs. Not all of them are at par with my personal taste in men, but there’s no denying each of them look especially good, photographed spectacularly well. The X-Ray Books have thus far been consistently exquisite works of beauty. The lesson here is that execution and quality of production are as important as the models employed.

It’s not a full calendar though, and that’s my only gripe. Some photos are cut visually down the middle by the line that separates two adjacent pages. A full-spread centerfold would allow an unobstructed view of Dion Ignacio’s underwear bulge, for example. But once you accept that this is really a photo booklet more than a calendar, then it’s easy to see it’s the best of its kind out there — its virtues a possible template for others to follow. A warning to the discreet buyer: You need a large bag to fit it in. God, I love it when it’s big.

GRADE: A

Related Link:
X-Ray Book Yahoo Group

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

Roxxxanne Trailer

November 4, 2007

What a great trailer. Technically, though, it’s not a trailer; it’s a “preview clip” or a “teaser” — whatever difference that makes. But it does the job of a good trailer in a single well-made, abruptly-truncated scene, packing intrigue and mystery and a whole lot of gay sexiness, with a delectable underwear bulge and armpits (by Janvier Daily) and cute twinkish horny-confused reactions (by Jay Aquitania). The scenario is so familiar, it practically taps into a universal homo consciousness. The official trailer (below) is less effective, muddled, and focuses more on the female title character. Boo. If the movie doesn’t turn out to be the pulsating modern sexual thriller it promises, at least the teaser is already classic.

GRADE:
Teaser: A
Trailer: C-

Related Links:
Official Movie Site
Jay Aquitania Shirtless
Jun Lana’s Blog
Behind the Scenes Stills

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


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