MANILA, Philippines?Are the movies of the 2008 Metro Manila Film Festival really better than the previous years?? With all eight entries earning the coveted A and B grades, the Cinema Evaluation Board (CEB) would have you think so. More interestingly, with ?Ang Tanging Ina N?yong Lahat? and ?Iskul Bukol: 20 Years After? winning as Second and Third Best Pictures, respectively, you?d think that local comedy and horror-fantasy flicks have indeed come of age.
By wanting to ?encourage? producers to make more movies by giving tax-based incentives even to poorly-made films, aren?t we sending the wrong signal to impressionable viewers that an inferior movie is actually a great one? You can?t educate moviegoers by equating noble intention or commercial viability with quality?they sometimes go together, but they?re far from being synonymous.
True, film appreciation can be subjective?but, adding politics and a ?compromised? standard to the contentious mix only exacerbates the problem. If the current trend continues, it?s only right for viewers to insist that the monopoly of MMFF movies during the Christmas season should come to an end, because patronage shouldn?t operate on blind faith?it has to be deserved.
That said, here are our other observations: Among ?Baler?s? strong points are its leads? fine performances and above-par production values. But, it is hobbled by continuity gaffes (the puppy that never grows old, etc.) and an episodic sensibility.
Parodies, farces and allegories can be used to reflect the socio-political realities of our time, but ?Tanging Ina?s? Ina Montecillo (AiAi delas Alas) rising to the Philippine presidency and ?Iskul Bukol?s? archaeologist protagonist, Victorio Ungasis (Vic Sotto), finding Rajah Humabon and Lapulapu?s magical artifacts while Cambodian and Japanese thugs chase him are just too much of a stretch.
Delas Alas proves that her comic team-up with Eugene Domingo is hard to beat?they make some jokes work even when they?re not all that funny. It?s also great to see Vic Sotto reunite with his brother, Tito, Joey de Leon and Mely Tagasa, but their movie wasted its chance to revisit the well-loved TV sitcom by using it as an excuse to cook up an illogical adventure saga.
Jose Javier Reyes? ?Magkaibigan? is technically polished and well-acted (particularly Christopher de Leon), but it lacks the expansive breadth of a big-screen offering?it feels more like a Hallmark TV movie.
In ?Dayo,? the use of Filipino folklore?s mythical creatures?like the tikbalang, kapre, manananggal, etc.?boosts the animated feature?s familiar story, but halfway through its running time, the exposition loses its momentum.
Joel Lamangan?s ?Desperadas 2? is just vacuous drivel. It has the most attractive cast, but it also possesses the silliest premise this side of celluloid camp, and is weakened further by over-the-top, hit-everywhere performances, most notably by Marian Rivera.
Ironically, it?s also the feisty Marian who turns in the most winning portrayal in ?Shake, Rattle and Roll 10.? In the rollicking ?Nieves,? directed by Michael Tuviera, Rivera plays an engkanto nemesis a la Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In fact, the the production can stand without the anthology?s first two episodes (Tuviera?s ?Emergency,? Topel Lee?s trite but serviceable ?Class Picture?).
Also worth a peek is Joey Reyes? light and breezy ?One Night Only,? with fine performances from its cast?most notably Alessandra de Rossi, Paolo Contis and Joross Gamboa. To have all those zany couples gather in one motel is highly unlikely, but Reyes cleverly strings their stories together with kitschy wit and catchy energy.