Tuesday, January 19, 2016

My Yearend Roundup: The Best FILIPINO Films of 2015 That I Have Seen

January 19, 2016

For the year 2015, I had only been able to watch 17 Filipino films (down from 25 in 2014).  I only got to see 2 from the Sinag Manila filmfest in March.  I got to watch 2 entries from the QCinema Filmfest in October and 3 entries in the CinemaOne Originals festival in November. I got to watch 3 from the Main category from the MMFF in December. The big difference was that I was not able to watch any of the new films (an all-Short Film fest in 2015) shown during the Cinemalaya filmfest in July (whereas I was able to watch 9 of them last 2014). Hope to be able to catch more in 2016.

Honorable Mentions:

12. #Walang Forever (My Full Review) (7/10)

11. Above the Clouds (My Full Review) (7/10)

Counting down my Top 10 Filipino Films of 2015 that I have seen:

10. Felix Manalo (My Full Review)

This whole movie by director Joel Lamangan had the sedate tone of a documentary with an episodic enumeration of highlights in the life of Felix Manalo and the INC, with the characters portrayed by an all-star (all-network) cast for mainstream appeal. The focus was mainly on Felix Manalo's search for the perfect completely bible-based religion. Religious discourse and debate would dominate the screenplay by Bienvenido Santiago. Historical and personal events would play in the background, but religion is always in the foreground. The running time of nearly three hours worth of religious philosophizing may be formidable (especially if you are not a member of that faith), but the epic scope, solid production values and Dennis Trillo's central performance do make this film worth the while. (7/10)

9. Buy Now Die Later (My Full Review)

I liked the way the stories five overlapped over each other in the course of the film as told by director Randolph Longjas. The story was strange and over-the-top in execution. The brilliant cinematography, meticulous set design, effective sound mixing and atmospheric musical score were all top notch. It was just too bad that the last act which combined all the five stories together turned sort of messy, thereby marring this with a rather unsatisfactory ending. Anyhow, the film looked great production-wise and the storytelling was really clever which made for a very entertaining horror-comedy. (7/10)

8. An Kubo Sa Kawayanan (My Full Review)

The most memorable scenes for me are those close macro shots of insects, the nice angle on that handsome carabao, and that novel point of view shot on that bamboo pole being unloaded off the river. The editing work on the embroidery sequence in the beginning with shots all in macro was very striking, as was the editing work on the tinikling dance sequence of the kids which was very thrilling. I thought of it as an allegory about Filipinos (Michelle) and the Philippines (her House) -- that we should not abandon our home country. Is that what director Alvin Yapan meant to tell us? I do not know. The true meaning is not explicitly spelled out. You give it your meaning. That is the art in films like this. (7/10)

7. Bambanti (My Full Review)

Sometimes the simplest stories make the best films. It depends on the way the filmmaker frames this simple story in the most breathtaking images and scenes. Director Zig Dulay effectively contrasted the way children and adults react to an accusation. Those moments of childhood innocence between Popoy and his sister were priceless. The cinematography of this film is glorious, with camera angles that are very imaginative and compelling and colors that burst through the screen. The symbolic festival dancing scenes were very colorful and enticing. (8/10)

6. Baka Siguro Yata (My Full Review)

On paper, the three intertwined stories are not at all new. The third act was also too neatly tied up. However the humorous way that these stories were written and directed by Joel Ferrer makes them resound to the millennial, senior and the youth generations. Ferrer was also able to assemble together the right actors to embody his wacky yet endearing characters. The loud guffaws and the generous applause at the end credits were proof of its effective connection with the audience. It is no wonder it won the Audience Choice award. (8/10)

5. Honor Thy Father (My Full Review)

To simply say that John Lloyd Cruz went out of his comfort zone to play Edgar would be an understatement. There was nothing romantic nor comedic about his performance here. Of course, his leading man looks and carriage do somehow get in the way of being convincing as a Bontoc miner, but Cruz was completely committed to his character and we all felt it. It was disappointing that he was not rewarded with the Best Actor Award. Director Erik Matti made it so stifling and uncomfortable from beginning to end. It was so relentlessly bleak down to its uncertain ending, yes, yet you know you are witnessing something extraordinary. (8/10)

4. Kid Kulafu (My Full Review)

The grittiness and realism of this film is rooted in the casting of an relatively unknown young actor Buboy Villar, who actually looks like one of those lean sinewy amateur pugilists we see in undercard fights. Villar's acting skills were impressive as they have a raw unforced quality. His athletic ability was also evident in those shadow boxing scenes, hauntingly executed so that it looked as if we were watching Pacquiao himself. He was also excellent in those recreations of Pacquiao's early fights -- very excitingly choreographed and edited. This film tells the familiar life story again, but director Paul Soriano manages to tell it again in a gritty and realistic style which will connect with most audiences. (8/10)

3. Apocalypse Child (My Full Review)

Writer-Director Mario Cornejo had created very rich web of interesting characters. All of them were very well-rounded real people who had a stories that could be individual films in themselves. I wanted to know them all more. One hour and a half of this film is not enough. Cornejo captured the beauty of Baler in breathtaking vistas and compelling close-ups to frame and enhance his characters. It is such a mystery for me that the beautiful cinematography of this film was not cited for an award. The images we see were powerful and symbolic as they were imaginative and energetic. (9/10)

2. Manang Biring (My Full Review)

I really enjoyed this film from beginning to end. There was not a dull moment even if the topic about cancer and impending death should have been very depressing. Writer-director Carlo Joseph Papa has triumphed with his concept and his delivery in rotoscopic animation. That scene at the nightclub was psychedelia in monochrome, enhanced by the award-winning musical score. The ending sequence kept me at the edge of my seat, until that final scene and word made me gasp and catch my breath. (9/10)

1. Heneral Luna (My Full Review)

Even from his intense penetrating gaze and formidable mustache in the poster alone, you already know John Arcilla will be excellent in this film. His comic timing was impeccable. It was a most vibrant performance of a most vivid man, making him really loom larger than life. He was over-the-top in his explosiveness, just the way director Jerrold Tarog wanted him to be. The way he was built up, we were ready for that climactic assassination scene, however outrageous the savagery. 

This film will also grab you with its gorgeous cinematography. The images on the big screen had such vivid colors and innovative camera angles. The period production design and the costume design were meticulous in detail. During a beautifully-edited flashback sequence, there was a stylized scene about Rizal's execution that was so uniquely and hauntingly rendered. There are most gruesome and graphic special effects showing the violent brutality of warfare which will shock you. That reference to the Juan Luna's painting masterpiece "Spoliarium" towards the end was both poignant and ingenious. (9/10)


  1. I have seen all these movies' trailers. Buy Now Die Later seemed very interesting and promising in the trailer however the actual movie wasn't quite good. My favorite has to be Walang Forever. I cried and laughed a lot like crazy. :)

  2. I haven't watched a lot of movies lately and I'm glad to have this list as my reference.

  3. I am not fond of watching local films and on your list, I have only watched one, but I don't regret it, because it's Heneral Luna. It is truly one of the few local films that I liked!

  4. In you list, I have seen Heneral Luna and Walang Forever. I tend to watch popular Pinoy romantic comedies. I should watch more of the movies in your list. Manang Biring sounds interesting because it is given the same rating as Heneral Luna and I love Heneral Luna.

  5. Okay, I'll start with one. Why don't you suggest me the best one to start with?

  6. Your reviews are definitely worth the read. These films sound great and I'd love to see if not all, then most of them.

  7. Hi! 17 films is not so bad, I have only seen around five movies last year! It is great that you write reviews, and I guess many will appreciate it :)

  8. I haven't seen any Filipino films! If I ever begin to, I'm gonna begin with this list. Esp., An Kuba Sa Kawayanan sounds interesting & my type of movie! :)

  9. General Luna has been a masterpiece in its own time. I like that even some smaller films get to go high on this list.

  10. Yey to Heneral Luna. Wasn't able to watch it in theaters but was very happy to see a copy online. It really was a great movie.

  11. I like a lot of movies and I saw that Heneral Luna has an excellent rating on IMDB.

  12. i looooove walang forever and heneral luna. <3 i will try to watch the others. thanks for this list.

  13. Waaaah Heneral Luna was number one. I haven't watched most of those movies you listed. But will check some of them out. :) Great top list! :D

  14. I wonder if I'll ever be able to see any of these. I remember reading your review of Honor Thy Father and I still would love to see it.