Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Review of HALLOWEEN (2018): Sentimental Showdown

October 31, 2018

The first "Halloween" film, written and directed by John Carpenter, was released in 1978. It starred Jamie Lee Curtis, who was chosen partly because she was the daughter of Janet Leigh of "Psycho." It had 8 sequels in all from 1981 to 2002 under various directors. It was rebooted by Rob Zombie in 2007 which had its own sequel in 2009. This year, prolific Blumstone Productions does a direct sequel of the original 1978 film.

In the first "Halloween" film, we first met Michael Myers as a six-year old who stabbed his older sister Judith to death in their home in Haddonfield, Illinois on Halloween, 1963. 15 years later, also on Halloween night, Michael (Nick Castle) escaped from the custody of his psychiatrist, Dr. Samuel Loomis (Donald Pleasance), and returned to his hometown to wreak bloody terror among uptight babysitter Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her promiscuous friends Annie (Nancy Kyes) and Lynda (P.J. Soles). 

For this current sequel, set 40 years after the events in the first film, Michael Myers (Nick Castle and James Jude Courtney) was being transported to another facility, this time under the care of Dr. Ranbir Sartain (Haluk Bilginer). Of course, he was able to escape again. He returned to his hometown of Haddonfield to seek out and confront his old nemesis Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), who was now a grandmother who had estranged her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and grand-daughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) with her PTSD-induced obsession against the bogeyman of her nightmares. 

Poster of Halloween 1978

I was never a fan of slasher films, so I had not seen the original "Halloween" until I was planning to see this new sequel this week. By today's standards, the first "Halloween" was much simpler in the way John Carpenter created an atmosphere of dread and the ways Michael Myers killed his victims. There seemed to have been a message against promiscuity, in that it was the repressed virgin who survived in the end against the unkillable psycho. There was an eerie humor that pervaded the dread because of these elements. 

In this sequel, Jamie Lee Curtis portrayed the elderly Laurie Strode (still sporting the same 1978 hairstyle) with an over-the-top sense of paranoia that led her to make her house a hyper-secure fortress. Laurie also inculcated this fear in her daughter and grand-daughter, for which they resented her all these years. With such a toxic psychological preoccupation, I was surprised Laurie even got married and had a family at all. I would have thought that her original trauma with Michael should have pushed her deeper into her sexual repression. 

As expected, with all the special effects technology at hand, this current sequel had Michael killing his victims with more violent means to create bloodier, more disgusting murder scenarios. Since there was that perverse idea that pretty young people were more "fun" to kill in a slasher movie, Allyson's shallow gang of friends provided that fodder. Some attempts at comedy (like that bit by the dad about peanut butter) seemed uncalled for. 

Aside from Curtis and Castle reprising their original roles, the babysitting scenes were a nice throwback reference to the original story. Carpenter's updated musical score worked well to enhance the tension. Director David Gordon Green still kept Michael obscure in the shadows. We never clearly see his face even if he was not masked. This was in keeping with how John Carpenter originally depicted his now-iconic bogeyman. Head to head, the 1978 "Halloween" is still the better slasher film for sentimental reasons, which is why the 2018 sequel had nostalgia in its favor. 

"Halloween" 1978: 7/10.
"Halloween" 2018: 6/10.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

QCINEMA 2018: Review of MASLA A PAPANOK: Nebulous and Numbing

October 29, 2018

The year is 1892 in Maguindanao. Bal Intan, the teenage daughter of a Moslem chieftain sought refuge at an abbey of Catholic nuns, who gave her the Christian name Clara after her eventual baptism. Meanwhile, her younger cousin Dumingal, the playful son of the current datu, witnessed how the sudden appearance of giant diabolical "bird" foretold the violent decimation of their entire village.

The acting and the actors were mostly unremarkable. Quennie Lyne Demoral played Clara like sleepwalking through a dream. Alaska Ordona played Elena, Clara's companion in the abbey, who must be wondering how come she was responsible for Clara's behavior, not the nuns. Krigi Hager played the conflicted soldier Jorge with a persistent question mark on his facial expression. Child actor Ameir Hassan, who played Dumingal, gave one of the better performances, together with Adnan Zaid Juanday, who played his datu father. 

The film was written and directed by Gutierrez Mangansakan II, who seemed to be experimenting with various film forms with his three cinematographers, namely Arnel Barbarona, Bagane Fiola, and Willie Apa. The photography of the whole project felt like a major throwback to the early days of film. The Clara segment felt like Murnau. The Dumingal segment felt like Conde. The pace of storytelling was likewise 

The Clara part was in black and white, while the Dumingal part was in color. It actually felt like two separate short films which were just barely connected to each other. The family connection between Clara and Dumingal was hardly even felt nor necessary. The other connection involved the Spanish officer Jorge and his affinity with Filipinos, which was never elucidated further. There was even a short epilogue about Clara, Dumingal and the "bird", but it still did not help me see the point of it all. 3/10. 


Screening Schedules of "Masla A Papanok":

OCT 22 (Monday)
3:30 PM -- Gateway Cinema 6

OCT 23 (Tuesday)

8:30 PM -- Gateway Cinema 6

OCT 24 (Wednesday)

1:00 PM -- Gateway Cinema 6
1:30 PM -- SM Megamall
4:00 PM -- SM Fairview
6:30 PM – SM Fairview

OCT 25 (Thursday)

1:30 PM -- SM Southmall
4:00 PM -- SM Megamall
4:00 PM -- Trinoma
6:30 PM -- SM Manila
8:30 PM -- Gateway Cinema 6 (Gala Screening)

OCT 26 (Friday)

1:00 PM -- Robinsons Galleria
4:00 PM -- UP Town Center
4:00 PM -- SM Southmall
9:00 PM -- SM Fairview

OCT 27 (Saturday)

1:30 PM -- SM Fairview
3:30 PM -- Gateway Cinema 6
4:00 PM -- SM Southmall
6:30 PM -- SM Megamall
9:00 PM -- SM Manila

OCT 28 (Sunday)

1:00 PM -- Gateway Cinema 6
3:30 PM -- Robinsons Galleria
6:30 PM -- SM Megamall
6:30 PM -- SM Southmall

OCT 29 (Monday)

4:00 PM -- SM Fairview
8:30 PM -- Gateway Cinema 6
9:00 PM -- SM Megamall

OCT 30 (Tuesday)

1:00 PM -- Robinsons Galleria
4:00 PM -- SM Manila
6:30 PM -- SM Fairview
9:00 PM -- SM Southmall

Sunday, October 28, 2018

QCINEMA 2018: Review of DOG DAYS: Weird and Wooly Work

October 28, 2018

Michael Jordan Ulili was the son of Earvin, a black basketball player from Los Angeles, and Carmen, a Filipina who believed in black magic. She sacrificed all that she had to ensure that Michael would grow up into a basketball superstar. However, when he was in college, Michael still could not seem to achieve the path to glory for which he had been destined. In his desperation, Michael turned to his godfather Luis for guidance, but instead he was led down a path of uncertainty and misdirection.

Yves Bagadiong played the lead role of Michael. There are certain roles where physical appearance of the actor cast is important and this was one of them. The whole story was focused around Michael so his casting was of vital importance for the film to work. While Bagadiong had the correct skin color, he was not tall nor athletic enough to look like the next great basketball star. His form and moves with a basketball looked unconvincing. 

The script really made him do a lot of bizarre scenes throughout the film. The most extreme was that sick scene where Michael was seen stuffing bloody stuff into an envelope. As a relative newcomer, Bagadiong still needed to develop more acting skills to be able to rise above whatever the absurdity level of the scene given for him to play. But to be fair to him, I think no actor can really come out unscathed from a scene as far-out as the one where Michael met and spoke with his father in a brook. 

Bagadiong should get his acting cues from his co-star Marcus Adoro, who played Carmen's best friend Luis. Despite being a new actor himself, Adoro was able to create a focused character from a thankless role of a hippie with mad guitar skills (after all, he was the lead guitarist of the Eraserheads), drug-addled mind and outlandish superstitious beliefs. Throughout the film, we feel the depth of his loyalty despite unrequited love.

Adrienne Vergara played Michael's guardian Rochelle. Every time she was onscreen, she would steal the scene with her florid, over-the-top acting of an alcoholic loudmouth nagger. She gave audiences a welcome respite to laugh out loud occasionally. It was too bad that Rochelle dropped out of the story in the second half of the film, until a random eleventh hour reappearance from out of nowhere.

Barbara Ruaro played Michael's passionate and supportive girlfriend Maureen. They had some very daring intimate scenes together, with Ruaro trying her best to act like Maureen was in love with Michael. Unfortunately, they did not have any believable romantic chemistry together. On Maureen alone though, the committed Ruaro held her own against the crazy things her character was made to do in the film. 

In the first half of this film written and directed by Timmy Harn, I thought I understood where the film was going. However, when crystal meth got into the picture midway through, the film became more and more insane as it went off into various bewildering directions. It just went on and on and on, interminably, until that totally off-the-wall ending. It felt as if the whole script was written and the whole film was shot while drunk or under the influence of a powerful hallucinogenic -- a nightmare come to life.

This film actually won the Netpac Jury Prize for the circle competition. The jury saw something award worthy in it. I did not. 2/10. 


Screening Schedule for "Dog Days":

OCT 22 (Monday)
9:00 PM -- UP Town Center

OCT 23 (Tuesday)
3:30 PM -- Gateway Cinema 6

OCT 24 (Wednesday)
1:00 PM -- Robinsons Galleria
4:00 PM -- UP Town Center
6:00 PM – Robinsons Galleria (Gala Screening)

OCT 25 (Thursday)
6:00 PM -- Gateway Cinema 6

OCT 26 (Friday)
4:00 PM -- Trinoma
6:00 PM -- Gateway Cinema 6

OCT 27 (Saturday)
4:00 PM -- Trinoma

OCT 28 (Sunday)
1:30 PM -- UP Town Center
8:30 PM -- Gateway Cinema 6

OCT 29 (Monday)
3:30 PM -- Gateway Cinema 6

QCINEMA 2018: Review of ODA SA WALA: Lunacy in Loneliness

October 25, 2018

Sonya was a 44-year old spinster who ran their family business, Langit Funeral Services, from their house in a suburban town. She lived a quiet lonely life with her similarly quiet lonely father Rudy. One day, the body of a dead old woman was brought in for embalming services by two men in the middle of the night, and was just left abandoned. The presence of that anonymous corpse in their house wielded a strange effect on Sonya leading to an increasingly bizarre series of events. 

Pokwang used her real name Marietta Subong in the credits of this film. I know she had done dramatic roles using her comedic screen name before, and she had gained critical acclaim for them. However, the director Dwein Baltazar requested her to make an exception in this case for good reason. Sonya was a serious role for a serious actress. Subong totally subsumed into the role. She gave a consistent and convincing portrayal of one lonely woman's descent into madness. 

Subong's attack on the difficult role was eerily subtle, slowly and steadily developing. She started with some repetitive behavior (chewing on her fingernails, fiddling with the cassette player, etc) and went downhill from there, reaching a crescendo in that stormy grave-digging scene. Despite the very dark nature of the plot and the disturbing psyche of her character Sonya, the natural comedienne in Subong still surfaced with welcome touches of humor to provide lightening relief from the oppressive tension of the story.

Joonee Gamboa played her eccentric father Rudy, who felt estranged from Sonya even if they lived under one roof. I guess we can see where Sonya inherited her reclusive personality. Dido de la Paz played the ruthless creditor Theodor, who constantly hounded Sonya about paying back the huge debt she owed him. Anthony Falcon played the ambulant taho vendor Elmer, the object of Sonya's suppressed romantic desires. Credit has to go to Angelita Loresco for the difficult role of realistically playing the corpse. 

Cinematographer Neil Daza showed innovative artistry in his camera work, while production designer Maolen Fadul was obsessively meticulous with the little set details in Sonya's house. Writer and director Dwein Baltazar, fresh from the box-office success of "Exes Baggage" which she wrote, went back to meditate on the subject of loneliness -- a common theme of the two previous films she wrote and directed, namely "Mamay Umeng (2012) and just earlier this year, "Gusto Kita With All My Hypothalamus" (2018). 

Given its grim and morbid subject matter, this peculiarly offbeat film is definitely not for all tastes. Be that as it may, when viewed purely as cinematic art,"Oda sa Wala" is an excellently crafted piece. 8/10.



OCT 23 (Tuesday)
1:00 PM – Robinsons Galleria
9:00 PM – Trinoma (Gala Screening)

OCT 24 (Wednesday)
1:30 PM – SM Manila
3:30 PM – Gateway Cinema 6
6:30 PM – SM Southmall

OCT 25 (Thursday)
1:30 PM – SM Manila
1:30 PM – UP Town Center
4:00 PM – SM Fairview
9:00 PM – SM Megamall

OCT 26 (Friday)
1:00 PM – Gateway Cinema 6
4:00 PM – SM Megamall
4:00 PM – SM Manila
9:00 PM – SM Southmall

OCT 27 (Saturday)
1:30 PM – SM Manila
6:00 PM – Gateway Cinema 6
6:30 PM – SM Fairview

OCT 28 (Sunday)
1;30 PM – SM Fairview
3:30 PM – Gateway Cinema 6
4:00 PM – SM Megamall
6:30 PM – SM Manila

OCT 29 (Monday)
1:00 PM – Robinsons Galleria
4:00 PM – Trinoma
4:00 PM – SM Southmall
9:00 PM -- SM Fairview

OCT 30 (Tuesday)
1:30 PM – UP Town Center
1:30 PM – SM Southmall
4:00 PM – Trinoma
4:00 PM -- SM Fairview
6:30 PM – SM Megamall
9:00 PM – SM Manila

Thursday, October 25, 2018

QCINEMA 2018: Review of SHOPLIFTERS: Family Foibles

October 21, 2018

This year, the opening ceremonies of the QCinema International Film Festival was held last October 20, 2018 at the Gateway Mall Cinema 5. The festival was declared open by Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte who had been a driving force behind the festival since it started as a small, parochial filmfest in 2012. The festival grew in stature every year, eventually going international along the way. This year, there is a bigger thrust to make Quezon City a major film destination, at par with Cannes, Venice, Sundance, etc. Hence, the keynote speaker that night was Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat.

To make that point, there are more and more prestige foreign films in the lineup this year. Six films submitted by their respective countries for consideration in the Best Foreign Language Film category are in the QCinema list this year. These are films from Poland ("Cold War"), South Korea ("Burning"), Paraguay ("The Heiresses"), Thailand ("Malila, the Farewell Flower"), Taiwan ("The Great Buddha"). Not but not the least is this film from Japan which had already won the Palm d'Or from Cannes this year, which had the honor of being the opening film of the festival -- "Shoplifters" by Hirokazu Koreeda.

Osamu Shibata lived in a poor section of Tokyo, with his ragtag family. Osamu and wife Nobuyo had menial jobs in construction and a laundry, respectively. Daughter Aki work at a sex shop. Grandmother Hatsue contributed her pension and allowances. His pre-teen son Shota was Osamu's apprentice and assistant in being a shoplifter, to augment the family's need for groceries. One night, Osamu brought home an abandoned and abused little girl Yuri. When they decide to keep her, she threw their well-oiled family dynamics in a loop.

This is probably the first time I had seen a Japanese film portray a family living in extreme poverty in an urban setting. It is very unsettling to see a part of Tokyo you never thought even existed even if you had actually been there. Despite their poverty, Osamu and family lived harmoniously with each other. Despite the petty crimes they commit, they are generally happy and content with the little they had. This is one "Modern Family" -- Japan style. After all, there was still honor and dignity within this family, even though they were thieves. 

I had only seen one previous film by writer-director Koreeda which was "Like Father, Like Son" (2014, MY REVIEW), and I liked it very much. Here we see Koreeda again in his favorite element -- showing how a family reacts to a life-changing event. Unlike other films about poverty, this one did not make you cringe in disgust because of its hard-core exploitation. This was a frank and straightforward depiction of life in a Tokyo slum as it really can happen, we do not feel compelled to feel sorry for them for the way they live. 

Every actor had their moments to shine in their authentic performances. Lily Franky as Osamu was a cheerful and responsible patriarch. Sakura Ando as Nobuyo was a pragmatic yet compassionate mother. Kirin Kiki as Hatsue may look like an ordinary delightful grandmother, but she can hustle with the best of them. Mayu Matsuoka as Aki brought us behind the scenes of those infamous live peep shows. Kairi Jo had a challenging role as Shota who experienced angst and conscience with their way of life. Miyu Sasaki was practically silent as Yuri, but her presence changed their life in a major way.

The critical acclaim and awards buzz that precede this film may give unrealistic expectations. There are no big events that happen in most of the film. Things just coasted along like they do in real life. One climactic event does happen towards the end which then led to an unforeseeable emotionally-charged conclusion. The languid pace at which Koreeda told the story may be too slow for one used to mainstream action-packed cinema. However, scattered scenes of beautiful though muted poignancy and subtle humor make watching the film worth your time and perseverance. 8/10. 


Screening schedule of "Shoplifters":

OCT 23 (Tuesday)
6:30 PM – Gateway Cinema 7

OCT 26 (Friday)
9:00 PM -- Trinoma

OCT 29 (Monday)
9:00 PM – UP Town Center

Monday, October 22, 2018

Review of FIRST MAN: Archetypal Astronaut

October 20, 2018

This was a movie we all knew the ending too. We knew that Neil Armstrong was the first man to land and walk on the moon on July 20, 1969. The only reason we would be watching this movie is to see its backstory. We would like to witness the evolving drama and the exciting processes before reached that historic ending. We would like to know more about the first man on the moon, how Armstrong was as a man before he took that giant leap for mankind and became an icon. 

We follow Neil Armstrong's career from a NASA test pilot in 1961 to a full-fledged astronaut in Project Gemini in 1965. We hear about the Space Race between the USSR and the US, how the US lagged behind every step of the way. We watch with horror at disastrous US space missions along the way that claimed lives of hapless astronauts. We witness the charmed piloting skills of Armstrong in at least three accidents when he cheated death, en route to him being chosen to captain of the Apollo 11 mission. 

Ryan Gosling looked nothing like Neil Armstrong, and for me that was distracting. As far as his personality was concerned, Armstrong was portrayed to be all business. He was stoic and taciturn. He was cool to a fault, aloof, unemotional. Maybe these are the very traits that made him a successful astronaut, but the way these qualities were shown on the big screen, his type of persona came across as dull and unengaging. There was a scene when Armstrong was trying to say goodbye to his young son, but I did not feel any warmth.

Claire Foy played Neil's wife Janet. She was not exactly portrayed as the ideal ever-supportive wife. Like many housewives, she was also beset with insecure feelings that she was not the first priority in her husband's life, which most likely was true in her case. 

The charismatic Corey Stoll was Buzz Aldrin, and Lukas Haas was Michael Collins, Armstrong's crew on Apollo 11. Jason Clarke was Ed White (the first American to walk in space) and Patrick Fugit played Elliot See, astronauts with tragic fates. Kyle Chandler was Deke Slayton, NASA's official in charge of astronaut training and other affairs.

As far as the scenes of space travel are concerned, of course they looked spectacular on the big screen - - executed with the latest cinematic technology. The moon landing scenes are predictably the main highlights, but the rest, I don't really notice anything particularly innovative about them though. The camera shook a lot during the moments that the rockets were in danger, which may cause vertigo for some sensitive viewers. 

Unlike other biopics about the American space program, "First Man" did not have a politically-charged, flag-waving patriotic moment at the end. Much had been already said about Damien Chazelle's controversy-baiting omission of that key scene of Armstrong actually planting the US flag on the moon. 

This film is more about Armstrong the man than the Apollo 11 the mission, but the mission is really the more interesting cinematic subject matter than the man we meet. 6/10. 

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Review of FIRST LOVE: Healing a Heart

October 19, 2018

Allison Castillo, 32, met Nick Gutierrez, 45, at a hospital in Vancouver, Canada. From the onset, Ali admitted to Nick that she had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and that she needed a heart transplant. Despite this, she felt confident that a relationship between will prosper. On the other hand, while he enjoyed Ali's company a lot, Nick was hesitant to give love a chance. Ali's charm and kindness won Nick over eventually, such that he wanted to be able to do whatever it took to help her get well.

Bea Alonzo gave such an irresistibly winsome performance as Ali, it was impossible for anyone not to fall head over heels in love with her. Her smile was just so radiant and her charisma so vibrant that she could easily break down any man's resistance. It definitely did not look like Ali had any serious heart disease at any time, yet with Bea portraying her with such sincerity, we never doubted her health condition. 

Aga Muhlach had not played a leading man in a romance for a long time. I could sense some tentativeness in his performance as Nick, as if he was nervous or unsure, though these were qualities of his character as well. While Aga still got his movie-star good looks under those glasses and beard, there was oddly an uncertain, uneasy romantic chemistry between him and Bea, not an instant nor compelling one. 

Sandy Andolong was constantly dour and unsmiling as Ali's concerned mother Bernadette. Albie Casino was against his usual bad boy type of roles to play Ali's gay younger brother Sebastian. Edward Barber was a natural playing Nick's nephew Simon who was dealing with the death of his father. It was good to see the beautiful Ms. Giselle Toengi again onscreen as Simon's mother Vicky. These characters were not really necessary in the main love story, but were just there to give Ali and Nick additional dimensions. 

The cinematography around Vancouver and its various scenic spots looked very glossy, but felt like common backdrops already as far as local romances go. For a recent example, a scene set on a long rope bridge was also in "Nakalimutan Ko Nang Kalimutan Ka." Mining the 1970s for a catchy ballad ("Ikaw Ang Aking Mahal" by VST & Co.) to use as a love theme was cool, but "Goyo" also did just that ("Bato sa Buhangin" by Cinderella) to more LSS effect. That Nick wore an astronaut suit to a costume party was a nice touch, but Sam Concepcion just did that in "Para Sa Broken Hearted" just last month. 

I thought the pace taken by director Paul Soriano was rather slow and meandering, as if to overemphasize the melodramatic nature of the story. Aside from that one major plot twist which was necessary, there were also several needless detours and repetitive issues just used to prolong the running time and to delay the inevitable. There was strangely no emotional payoff for me at the end, maybe because I was already expecting it already long before it happened. 6/10. 

Friday, October 19, 2018

C1 ORIGINALS 2018: Review of ASUANG: Mock Mythology

October 19, 2018

Twenty years ago, Asuang (the mischievous god of sins) was humiliated on television by his elder brother Gugurang (the draconian god of goodness). Since then, Asuang eschewed his godhood and had been concentrating his efforts to trend on social media instead. He even had a film crew led by Direk Aica to document his every move, all with lousy results. When Mayon Volcano was acting up to explode, Asuang saw his chance to be a big hero by stealing the sacred fire, saving the world and be a viral sensation doing it.

Alwyn Uytingco was the pulsating narcissistic center of this absurdist film. He was manic, over-the-top and shameless as Asuang, or his desperately trying-hard social media persona Ash Ang. He was no-holds-barred in doing whatever it took to make his character pop, no matter how crazy, disgusting or cringey the gag. For me, his antics, while delightful, were rather hit and miss, but I think it was more a problem of the script than Alwyn's. 

The rest of the cast had to keep up with Alwyn's energy level, with varying results. Chai Fonacier was the wry, patient and dedicated director Aica. Her crew was composed of soundman Jomar (Brenda Mage), cameraman Bert (Tads Obach) and script girl Chelsea (Toni Almazan). The eerily accurate Karen Davila impersonator Kaladkaren played the ageless hostess Janet of the very long-running TV talk show Albay.

The rest of the gods of Bikol mythology were played by Paolo O'Hara (the nebulous Gugurang), Earl Figuracion (as the party boy storm god Onos), Jelson Bay (as the "small but terrible" Ekis), Chrome Cosio (as Ekis's action star wannabe brother Ompong), and Jun Sabayton (as the out-of-shape guardian of Mayon, Lord Okot). Nats Sitoy was Asuang's sneaky shape-shifting sidekick KitKat. Lui Manansala played the prophetic babaylan Adelaida. Hashtag member Jon Lucas played the stoic skillful thief of the gods, Miguel. 

I was encouraged by positive reviews to go check it out, but came out generally unamused and disappointed. The story concept is fine on paper -- a mock documentary with a message about the nature of reality on social media. The execution by young director Raynier Brizuela aimed to be hip and cool for the millennial target demographic. However, for older viewers like me, the breezy freewheeling style came across as a bit crude and haphazard.  4/10. 

Thursday, October 18, 2018

C1 ORIGINALS 2018: Review of A SHORT HISTORY OF A FEW BAD THINGS: Deceiving Detectives

October 17, 2018

A man named Daniel Binaohan was shot point blank and killed by a motorcycle rider while he was waiting for the light to turn green at an intersection. Cebu City police chief Ouano assigned senior detective Felix Tarooy and his partner Jay Mendoza to the case. They encountered one dead end after another in their investigation, with no clear suspect. Five other people died grisly deaths in the next days. At the last minute, Tarooy realized a shared connection based on a past event that had been staring him right in the eye.

Victor Neri is really at home playing these gritty police officer characters. His Felix Tarooy was glum, unsmiling, and had a mind of his own, to a fault. He seemed to have had a painful past, always looking at a video of a young boy on his phone, but we never get his complete story. Jay Gonzaga played Jay Mendoza as the cool cop, charming with a sense of humor, balancing the dourness of Tarooy. 

Publio Briones III played Chief Ouano, a colorful character who had mood lights in his office and preferred speaking in English. The scenes where Ouano was involved were the most interesting in terms of character interactions, and we can pick up some insights about the people he spoke to. Briones kept his portrayal of Ouano light and likable, even if we knew he was dead serious. 

Maricel Sombrio played Gemma, the young wife of a much older man who was also one of the victims. Kent Divinagracia played Ivan, a young man who worked for Gemma's husband Hector as a coconut sap extractor. Julius Augustus Amrad played the first victim Daniel Binaohan, while Reynaldo Samaco played his imposing father Arturo. Arnel Mardoquio played the rich businessman Trifon "Tito" Abog, flamboyant in white but radiating danger. Vitto Neri, Victor's son in real life, played Abog's gun-toting teenage son Marty. 

Director Keith Deligero's decision to cast local Cebuano actors gave this film a unique flavor all its own. Their unpolished portrayals gave a odd sense of realism, awkward as some of them may have been. The humor is subtle but effective, though I suspect some of it may have been lost in the translation of the subtitles. The background music was very eclectic ranging from Cebuano pop to heavy metal to long piercing high-pitched tones. 

As far as crime dramas go, Deligero's very laid back storytelling style may not have been as exciting as Raya Martin's style in "Smaller and Smaller Circles," but it was absorbing just the same with its rustic pacing and quirky characters. 7/10. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

C1 ORIGINALS 2018: Review of DOUBLE TWISTING DOUBLE BACK: Sleazy Sensibilities, Severed Sensitivities

October 15, 2018

Of all the films in this year's Cinema One Originals filmfest, this is the one that had the most aggressive social media campaign. This was the only title I was actually aware of coming into this year's festival. The lead character was a gymnast, a male one at that -- definitely not a common protagonist in local cinema, maybe the only one. This made it an interesting and intriguing film to watch out for.

Gerald Zion (nickname Badger) was already up for promotion in his company for consistently exceeding his quota. However, when he received a call inviting him to resume training for the national team for Gymnastics, his lifelong ambition to win an Olympic gold made him choose his passion over his job. However, underneath his charming demeanor, athletic skills and gold medals, Badger is one psychologically-damaged wreck who can barely keep himself together.

For a new actor (this was only his second film afte "ML" earlier this year), Tony Labrusca was very daring to accept a difficult role like Badger. The most obvious challenge were the physical demands, as he needed to have a background in basic gymnastic workouts and routines. While there may have been subtle substitutions in the rings, pommel horse or the parallel bars (aided by the editing prowess of Apol Saspa-Dating), those floor exercises with the handstands and somersaults were definitely all Labrusca. 

In addition, there were the unbelievable mental, emotional and specially the psychological demands of the role, as Badger suffered from severe internal anguish and torture. Labrusca tried his best to cope with this formidable acting challenge, although there seemed to have been more depth that could still have been squeezed out of him. Labrusca only played the default form of Badger with his strong drive to win despite the turmoil within.

This limitation may have been due to the way the writer-director Joseph Abello chose to portray Badger's confusing psyche with several varied personalities struggling to gain control. The story was not like "Split" (Shyamalan, 2016) where one actor shifted from one personality to another. demanding a wide range of acting prowess. Here, like it was in "Black Swan" (Aronofsky, 2010), we see Badger's inner demons played by other actors. 

Badger had a very close and constant companion (oddly nameless) with whom he had the most conflict with, yet he cannot seem to live without. This interesting character was played by Joem Bascon. Bascon was a crazy, sleazy sex-addict, id personified.  He was the devil who only wanted to have fun all the time. He wanted none of the rigid discipline Badger needed during his gymnastics training, especially with all those pretty lithe female gymnasts around him ripe for the picking. Bascon boldly played him in full abandon of morality.

"Double Twisting Double Back" is a frequently-heard description of somersaults in artistic gymnastics. Here in this film, it is used to describe the intricately complex psychological contortions that are all jumbling up within Badger's head. It can also be used to describe that final hair-raising loop that this whole roller-coaster ride of a film will climax on. 

One could grumble about the the lag in the pacing midway, or the repetitive sex scenes with random girls all echoing the same inner conflict. The attempt to air the grievances of the gymnastics national team was admirable, but could have been better done. However, by the time you see that mind-blowing final scene, it will simply make your jaw drop in shock and haunt you long afterwards. 6/10. 

C1 ORIGINALS 2018: Review of PANG-MMK: Funny Fracas at a Funeral

October 15, 2018

In 1999, the story of 10-year old Janus Lopez and his family was featured on the TV drama anthology MMK (or "Maalala Mo Kaya"). In that episode, entitled "Origami," his father Jun, a movie scriptwriter, left their mother Celia to live with his mistress Alora. 20 years later, Janus, now a theater actor, wrote MMK again to relate an update about their family story. When his father, already a noted action director, succumbed to a heart attack, Janus had to be the one to take charge of the contentious funeral arrangements.

Neil Coleta was not the original child actor (Alwyn Uytingco) who played Janus in the 1999 episode, but he was supposedly the actor of choice of the letter writer to portray his role. To his credit, Coleta was able to carry the whole film on his shoulders as the central character who had to contend with the wacky people at his estranged father's wake, account for the finances for the burial and keep his sanity throughout the whole crazy process. Coleta was consistent with Janus's sassy gay persona throughout, never losing a beat at any time.

Nikki Valdez returned to play the role of the eldest daughter Luisa, who had grown up to be a loud, overly dramatic, potty-mouthed housewife. Her current pregnancy (her 7th) was not stopping her from chugging down one family-sized bottle of Red Horse beer after the other, cursing like a sailor at anybody who she thought was not welcome to her father's wake. This was a scene-stealing, attention-grabbing role for Nikki because her voice was decibels louder than anyone else in the film.

The original actors who played their parents are also back. It was good to be reminded how they looked like twenty years ago. Joel Torre came back as the corpse of Director Jun Lopez. He actually played dead very well, not breaking out in laughter despite the histrionics going on around him in that morgue. Great looking funeral portrait he had! Cherrie Pie Picache again played the role of Mrs. Celia Lopez, who was conveniently abroad touring various cities in the USA during the funeral. It was not clearly indicated how she got the money to be constantly touring the world.

Ricky Davao hammed it up to play Senator Lon, who used to be a movie actor launched to super-stardom by the King Cobra action/bold film series written and directed by Jun Lopez. That bit about King Cobra 4 was a bit too repetitive, but sort of saved by that final time when it was mentioned. Jojit Lorenzo and Agot Isidro (CinemaOne Originals Best Actor and Best Actress last year for "Changing Partners") played various funeral parlor staff who handled the casket, makeup, urn and columbarium niche. 

Marife Necesito, as mistress Alora, was just seen crying through the whole week of the wake, with no line of dialogue given her to explain why. At least young Ricel Vito, as her daughter Girlie, got to say a few words. Zeppi Borromeo played Janus's supportive best friend Boyet. Of course, since Janus was a young gay guy, there were handsome hunks Anjo Damiles and Erik Gudelano, Jr. for him to flirt with. Not to be forgotten is the appearance of Ms. Charo Santos herself as the MMK narrator, as only she can do it. 

John Sweet Lapus was one of the writers of the original script of "Origami" in 1999, along with Jun Lana and Don Michael Perez, both of whom had become film directors since then. Now, Lapus had the bright idea to write a sequel of sorts for the story and took on the directorial mantle himself for the first time with promising results. His signature brand of broad noisy comedy was clearly stamped over it. Lapus even wrote the lyrics to the original song played over the closing credits sung by a ghostly Kakai Bautista.

 "Pang-MMK" reminded me of "Crying Ladies" (Mark Meily, 2003) and "Ded na si Lolo" (Soxie Topacio, 2009), films in that particular niche of macabre comedy that humorously dealt with Filipino behavior and traditions during funerals. It may have been a bit rough or too over-the-top at certain spots, but overall it was engaging, good-natured (well, except maybe for Ate Luisa's endless profanities) and a lot of fun to watch. 6/10. 

Monday, October 15, 2018

C1 ORIGINALS 2018: Review of BAGYONG BHEVERLYNN: Messy and Meta

October 15, 2018

While Bheverlynn was wallowing in her depression after a bitter breakup, a supertyphoon also named "Bheverlynn" is threatening to engulf the whole country in its destructive power. Her spaced-out mother Gaye and strange gay cousin Melba want to help her to snap out of her woes. Meanwhile, her arrogant ex-boyfriend Bradley and her own reflection-based "Storm Alter Ego" want Bheverlynn to keep crying her eyes out while quoting lines by Eeyore and viewing Juan Miguel Severo videos on repeat. 

The usually winsome Ruffa Mae Quinto looked out of sorts in her latest outing here. She had two roles to play, and they both did not work for me. As Bheverlynn, she was an unsympathetic martyr. She was trying too hard to make her lines funny, even breaking the fourth wall, but her jokes were mostly not connecting. As the "Storm Alter Ego," she was an unconvincing antagonist.  The funniest thing about this gag was the obvious goof that parts of Ruffa Mae were blatantly seen beyond the mirror frame where she was supposed to be only the reflection. 

Edgar Allan Guzman played his character Bradley with slick smarminess, as a guy who thought only of himself as the most perfect man in the world. When we first met them, they had already broken up, so we never really knew how a rich blowhard like Bradley will fall for a ditzy foolish girl like Bheverlynn. I thought that this unfortunate neglect of a logical backstory was one of the major factors why we cannot get into the story that well.

Angelina Kanapi again played another one of the quirky characters she's known for -- Gaye, Bheverlynn's lusty mother. You will never expect what symbolism she would give the hand signal from "The Hunger Games." I had seen Barbie Capacio before as Jessie Mendiola's annoying sidekick in "Salvage". Here she played Bheverlynn's annoying sidekick, Melba. It was like Capacio was just acting her jaded cynical self, as she was pretty much the same character here and in "Salvage". At one point, there was even a green moth-eaten hand puppet named Kuya Bimb advising Bheverlynn.

Jude Matthew Servilla was a most puzzling character, Grego, an odd English-speaking nerd who was an unlikely sidekick of Bradley. Shady Lanes, Bradley's shades-wearing bodyguard, was played by four different dark-skinned overweight guys, but all were dubbed by a certain Brian Wilson to have a British accent. All these rom-coms about "hugot" have made poet Juan Miguel Severo a big celebrity. The scene where he got majorly doused with water from a fire hose was one of the funniest scenes for me. 

Like many recent rom-coms, this was yet another comedy based on a girl who could not move on from a failed relationship. However, "Bagyong Bheverlynn" by writer-director Charliebebs Gohetia, definitely surpasses all previous similar-themed films when it comes to wackiness and weirdness, and that may not necessarily a good thing. Everything about this film is extremely exaggerated and over-the-top in its silliness, to the point that it can already be exhausting and exasperating. 4/10. 

Sunday, October 14, 2018

C1 ORIGINALS 2018: Review of PAGLISAN: Rough Renditions, Raw Reactions

October 14, 2018

Animated feature films are not commonly seen in the Filipino film scene. Mostly, they are indies. I have seen "RPG Metanoia" (2010, MY REVIEW), "Saving Sally" (2016, MY REVIEW), and "Manang Biring" (2015, MY REVIEW). That last film was actually the big winner of C1 Originals 2015, Best Picture and the Champion Bughaw award for director Carl Joseph Papa. This year, Papa is back with another animated film, simply entitled "Paglisan."

Crisanto (Cris for short) and Dolores (Oreng for short) are a middle-aged couple. Cris was a noted composer and singer in stage musicals. Oreng was also a theater performer but gave it up when she got married to Cris and was raising their family. Their only son Ian had left home to work in Singapore, and was now involved with a gay partner Paul. 

Cris was stricken with early onset Alzheimer's disease which rendered him unable to function as he would normally. His fragile condition turned their home life upside down with his forgetfulness and unreliability, which led to him to withdraw from public interactions. One day, Cris was invited to perform in the anniversary of their theater group. Will he accept? 

The renditions of the human figures and the background items were very rough, as if they were mere sketches only that still need further refinement. The colors were not within the lines and would actually lag behind when the figures moved in slow motion. You can even see through the colors of the human figures to see what was behind them. Despite these observations about the artwork, there were some very dramatic blocking of the characters in the scenes that made you not nitpick too much. 

During the final act of the film, it looked like another artist did the artwork with the different boldness of the brushstrokes and less detailed character coloration. I wonder if this was purposefully done because of the corresponding shift in plot in that part of the film. Anyhow, it felt as if either the drawing or the animation processes were being rushed to beat the deadline. If that was really the case, I wish that the art of the final scenes could still be corrected to look like the rest of the film. 

Ian Veneracion gave Cris a youthful and hopeful voice, even if we knew that his condition is going to be progressive. His delivery of those dementia-afflicted lines were very affecting, especially in that song where Cris was being tested by his doctor ("Ten Past Eleven"). Eula Vasquez played the exhausted and harassed wife, Oreng, with inner strength and unwavering dedication despite the obvious difficulties. With her smoking, drinking and sagging breasts, she had obviously neglected herself to care for her husband.  

Khalil Ramos played the dutiful son Ian, while Junjun Quintana played Ian's partner Paul. Thanks to video calls, Ian remained close with his parents despite working abroad, and his interactions with them were moving and tear-jerking. Writer-director Carl Papa himself voiced the role of Cris's doctor who provided the exposition about early onset Alzheimer's. To his credit, Papa's voice sounded very good, as cool and clear as doctor should sound.

I was pleasantly surprised that this was a musical. All the songs were beautifully written, melodious to the ear, and winningly sung by the voice actors themselves.  In the upbeat first song "Hari ng Kuwento," Cris tells us about his past glory as a theater artist. In "Naalala Ko Pa," Cris tells a sleeping Oreng about how he will always remember her and the easy, simple, happy life they had together. This song had a fantasy dance scene on a pure white background, so the white subtitles could not be seen. 

In "Pagod Na," Oreng tells us about her travails ever since her husband suffered his unwelcome affliction. In the duet "Paglisan," both Cris and Oreng express their apologies to each other, ending with a wish that they will remain with each other even if one partner would leave. The most memorable song number would have to be a rendition of "I Can" (from the 1996 musical film "Do-Re-Mi" starring Regine Velasquez, Donna Cruz and Mikee Cojuanco) by Cris and Oreng, together with Ian and Paul.

Papa's previous film "Manang Biring" used rotoscope animation and was rendered in black and white. In contrast, the animation used in "Paglisan" was painted in pastel watercolors with a basic 2D animation style. However, the whole look was so atypical in its seemingly haphazard artistic style, as un-Disney-like as it could get. The visuals certainly needed getting used to at first, but as the film went on, the rawness of the art greatly added to the rawness of the story. 8/10. 

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Review of JOHNNY ENGLISH STRIKES AGAIN: Manic Mortifying Madness

October 12, 2108

It is hard to believe that this is already the third film in the "Johnny English" franchise. The first one came in 2003, and the first sequel "Johnny English Reborn" came in 2011. I think I may have seen them both, and probably enjoyed the antics of Rowan Atkinson in the title role, but I do not recall much detail about them anymore. Seven years later which is this year, the third episode is released for another hilarious send-up of British spy movies. 

The computer system of M7 had been hacked and the identities of all current British spies had been exposed. The British Prime Minister directed M7 to locate and contact older inactive spies to work on the case. That was how Johnny English, who had been working as a geography teacher since his retirement from M7, back into action as an agent in Her Majesty's Secret Service. 

English and his trusty aide Bough were investigating a lead in the south of France about the ultra-modern yacht Dot Clam, encountering the exotic Ophelia along the way. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister was planning to tie up with American IT tycoon Jason Volta to solve the series of serious major transport system hacking attacks the UK had been experiencing lately, and will announce the partnership during the G12 meeting in Scotland. 

This was another showcase of James Bond spy parodies, as Johnny English was meant to do. Most of the gags were old-fashioned slapstick gags, as Rowan Atkinson was best known for. However, it was too bad that a lot of its best jokes had already been spoiled by being shown in the trailer, such as the bit about inflatable raft in the car, the cocktail umbrella up his nose, or the backward dive onto the lower deck. They were still funny to watch, but the impact had been diminished by repeated viewings.

Mercifully, there were still a number of silly gags for us to enjoy for the first time. Some of these situations were so embarrassing, I could not look straight at the screen. There was so much more to that virtual reality sequence than what was seen in the trailer. There was that entire cringe-fest at the fancy restaurant where Johnny English and Bough dressed up like waiters to try to swipe the phone of a suspect. There was that entire final act in the Scotland conference where Johnny English was trapped in a suit of armor. 

Ben Miller played English's long-suffering but ever-loyal sidekick Bough, a character who was in the first film, but sidelined in the second. I enjoyed their crazy interactions with each other so much here, I'd like to re-watch the first film again. Emma Thompson was all wide-eyed over-the-top in playing the super-stressed out British Prime Minister. She got even more harassed when she got wind of English's shenanigans, realizing he was all they got. 

Former Bond girl Olga Kurylenko had no problem playing Ophelia, a parody of her own femme fatale character in "Quantum of Solace" (2008), the Bond film that launched her Hollywood career. She had silly scenes of her own as she was trying to keep up with the uber-hyperactive Atkinson and his manic moves on the dance floor. 

Jake Lacy played Jason Volta, the magnetic billionaire tech magnate. All those fancy gadgets with the super-efficient artificial intelligence were fascinating to watch at work, with just his mere spoken orders. At the same time, it showed the imminent danger of the whole Internet being held hostage by a greedy megalomaniac. 

Of course, Rowan Atkinson showed us that he still got what it takes to make audiences laugh, and by no means did he mellow down now that he is already in his 60s. His style may be tired and corny for some, but hey, that distinctive face alone with all its weird contortions could already make me laugh. He had absolutely no shame in doing the most shameful scenes. The more ridiculous, the better. The more mortifying, the better! Classic old school British comedy still can rock it. 7/10. 

Friday, October 12, 2018

Review of WILD AND FREE: Tepid Teasing

October 10, 2018

The topic of exes meeting each other again after a period of estrangement had been tackled in two of the biggest box-office hits this year, namely "The Hows of Us" and "Exes Baggage." This very same topic is explored again in this new film "Wild and Free." However despite this commonality of theme, I don't expect this to reach the impressive ticket sales of the two aforementioned films. 

Ellie was a driver for a transport network service called Driveby. One rainy night, she picked up a passenger, who turned out to be Jake, her ex-boyfriend. During the trip, they talked about how they met at the Toyota car showroom where Ellie used to work in sales, and the fun things they used to do together like road trips on Jake's motorbike, surfing in La Union, among other titillating things. 

When their conversation got to the part when Ellie first met Jake's mother at a family gathering, this revealed a major secret that would lead to serious suspicions between the two of them. This eventually corrupted their bliss, leading to their parting of ways. Now that they had crossed paths once again two years later, will this chance encounter lead to a reconciliation of the two passionate lovers?

Sanya Lopez is sexy and alluring for sure, especially in that white string bikini on the beach. However, the way her character was so badly-written made you wonder why Ellie was behaving the way she did. Derrick Monasterio's acting was unnatural and very self-conscious. He actually came across awkward or scary when Jake was giving Ellie his "come-hither" looks. There was hardly any chemistry between them to convince us that there was love beyond the lust. 

Cheska Diaz did not look nor act like Jake's mother. They had to mention that fact several times to remind us who she was.  Juancho Trivino was barely onscreen as Jake's elder brother Carlo, but he still he got to have a sex scene of his own, which was actually better shot than those of Jake's. Ash Ortega was amusing as Ellie's frankly opinionated best friend Bangshie, a scene-stealer when she's on.

If you are watching this for the steamy sex scenes, the MTRCB rating of R-13 should temper your expectations beforehand. It was mostly the typical scenes of torrid kissing with modest flashes of skin and a washing machine to spice things up. Nothing really more daring given the actors involved are new to the genre. Even then, it is disturbing that they think 13 year-olds can already watch this type of movie without parental guidance. 4/10.

Review of A STAR IS BORN (2018): Glorious Gaga

October 11, 2018

Before this present incarnation, there had already been three previous versions of "A Star is Born." The original version (written by Willam Welman, Robert Carson, Dorothy Parker and Alan Campbell) was released in 1937, starring Janet Gaynor (as Esther Blodgett) and Frederic March (as Norman Maine) set in the movie industry. 

In 1954, there was another version also set in the movie industry but about musicals, starring Judy Garland (as Esther Blodgett) and James Mason (as Norman Maine). In 1976, there was a second remake set completely in the music industry, starring Barbra Streisand (as Esther Hoffman) and Kris Kristofferson (as John Norman Howard).

I had not seen any of these three older films before, but I did have a general idea about the basic story. An established star nurtures the career of a new artist whom he loved. While her star swung upward, his own career would decline. It was a classic story about the entertainment industry and the rise and fall of its stars. Hollywood simply could not get enough of it, and decided to remake it a third time.

Ally was a waitress who moonlit as a singer in a drag queen joint. Jackson Maine was a famous rock star who happened to be drinking in the audience that night, and was enthralled by Ally's version of "La Vie en Rose." From that fortuitous meeting, Jack featured Ally in one of his big arena concerts and their surprise duet of Ally's original song "Shallow" (a song bound for Oscar gold) became viral with his fans. 

The two also connected on a personal level and became husband and wife. Eventually, Ally was picked up by a major record label and was acclaimed as a rising pop star. Meanwhile, Jack became more and more consumed by his alcoholism and drug use, which negatively affected his career and was a source of serious embarrassment for both him and Ally. Can he turn his life around and restore their damaged partnership?

Lady Gaga was positively glorious in the role of Ally. She was very believable as a young idealistic singer-songwriter. The production designer even made sure we saw a a framed cover of Carole King's album "Tapestry" on her bedroom wall so we know what kind of artist Ally was. Gaga's singing voice with its rich tangible emotions needs to be heard to be fully appreciated, and could not be described by mere words. This was a powerful breakthrough performance of Lady Gaga as a film actress. There is hype that she will figure prominently in the race for Oscar Best Actress, and I can certainly see that happening.

Bradley Cooper auspiciously debuts as a director in this film, and boldly decided to direct himself in the role of Jackson Maine.  He really looked and sounded like an actual rock superstar when he was performing his music, which was very impressive considering that he did not really play the guitar before doing this role. (He had guitar lessons for 18 months to master it.) Cooper felt like a younger Jeff Bridges in his Oscar-winning role "Crazy Heart," that of an alcoholic country singing star. As director, he made sure that Jackson did not get totally overshadowed by Ally, but the effort can come across as self-indulgent for some.

Sam Elliot played the role of Jackson's much-older brother Bobby, who raised him after their father died. He did well in his confrontation scenes with Cooper. Andrew Dice Clay had completely mellowed out from the offensive characters he played in the 1990s. He was surprisingly delightful as Ally's starstruck father Lorenzo. Another 90s comedian Dave Chappelle played Noodles, an old musician friend of Jackson's. Rafi Gavron looked too young and too stiff to be completely believable as Ally's manager Rez. 

As the fourth iteration of this same story, this version had to give something new to make it relevant and necessary as a remake. I'm sure viewers who has seen one or all the older films will have their own opinions about that. I cannot make that judgment myself because I had not seen the previous ones, so therefore, I can only judge this film on its own, and not on its merits as a remake.  

The first half of the film was more about Ally and her rise. We see about how Jack met Ally, their first night hanging out together, and the first time they sang on stage together. These parts of the story were so perfectly told onscreen. With the camera of cinematographer Matthew Libatique tightly focused on their faces most of the time, we immediately felt the spark that lit up between them and saw how it developed into a bright ball of fire. This part of the film was so raw and honest with heartfelt chemistry between the two characters, truly amazing film-making by Bradley Cooper. 

The second half of the film was more about Jack and his fall. This part felt long to watch as it became a familiar melodrama about musicians and their drinking and drugs, which we've all seen before. On the other end of the stick, as pop star Ally was hitting the big time and with the artificial red hair and sexy dance numbers and the Grammy ceremony, she also lost the simple genuine person we met and fell in love with in Act 1. When the whole scenario blew up to become larger than real life for Jack and Ally, the film sort of lost the charming heady intimacy that made the first half so beautiful. 8/10.