Monday, September 27, 2010

Pelicula: 9th Spanish Film Festival

Instituto Cervantes de Manila, the cultural arm of the Spanish Embassy, is bringing back the Película Spanish Film Festival now in its ninth edition.

Film aficionados will once again enjoy another brilliant line-up of 23 exceptional and awarded films carefully selected from Spain and Latin America. The Película film festival is now the biggest presentation of Spanish cinema in Asia and the Pacific.

“Due to the successes of the first eight seasons, we are especially proud of the reputation the Película film festival has developed over the years as a great local venue to feature and premier award-winning Spanish films,” says Instituto Cervantes director Jose Rodriguez. “We believe Película has the potential to foster incredible growth in arts and entertainment and attract the best of the best-acclaimed Spanish and Latin American filmmakers to this area.”

2 Weeks. 23 Films.

Location: Greenbelt 3 Cinemas

Ticket Price: P65.00

Official Website:

For more details, call the Instituto Cervantes de Manila at 526-1482.

Instituto Cervantes de Manila is at 855 T.M. Kalaw St., Ermita, Manila.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

1st Taiwan Film Festival

From Sept. 24-28, 2010 seven Taiwanese films will be screened for FREE at the Cinema 4 of the Shangri-La Plaza’s Shang Cineplex in Mandaluyong.

The impressive lineup of must-see Taiwanese films is headed by "Cape No. 7". It is a moving love story that touches on Taiwan’s history and way of life through the story of young man named Aga (Van Fan). After failing to find success in Taipei, Aga returns to his town where, together with other musicians in Hengchun, he becomes part of a band that eventually becomes an incredible musical sensation.

The movie "Chocolate Rap" centers on the tough world of break dancing as seen through the eyes of dancer Choco (Hsin-Hung Chen), who single-handedly outperforms six breakdancers and is taken under the wing of renowned manager and rap artist Pachinko (Po-Ching Huang).

Three young friends take the spotlight in the 2005 drama "Fishing Luck", directed by Wen-Chen Tseng. One summer day, their lives are changed by the arrival of a woman -- bursting through the tranquility that had so peacefully once ruled their lives.

Basketball takes center stage in the 2008 movie "Kung Fu Dunk", a film that follows the story of youngster Shi-Jie who possesses impressive skills both in kung fu and basketball. Kung Fu Dunk is reminiscent of Hong Kong movies like Shaolin Soccer.

The 2008 movie "Orz Boyz!" chronicles the story of two young pranksters who plan the trick of their lives. However, things change when this childhood pact is threatened by a betrayal.

Meanwhile, the 2009 drama-fantasy movie "Our Island Our Dreams" is a story about a girl and two boys who grew together in Kinmen, a small island near mainland China, but is under the control of Taiwan. Their relationship changes when a soldier arrives from Taiwan and develops an attraction for the girl, despite the fact that it is forbidden for soldiers stationed in the island in the 1970s to date locals.

Finally, the 2009 musical drama "Yang Yang" follows the journey of Eurasian Yang-Yang (Sandrine Pinna), who has always longed for a family and appears to have gotten her wish with her mother’s remarriage.

Screenings schedule

Sept. 24, Friday
2 p.m. - Orz Boyz!
5 p.m. - Yang Yang
8 p.m. - Our Island, Our Dreams

Sept. 25, Saturday
2 p.m. - Chocolate Rap
5 p.m. - Cape No. 7
8 p.m. - Kung Fu Dunk

Sept. 26, Sunday
2 p.m. - Yang Yang
5 p.m. - Our Island Our Dreams
8 p.m. - Fishing Luck

Sept. 27, Monday
2 p.m. - Kung Fu Dunk
5 p.m. - Chocolate Rap
8 p.m. - Orz Boyz!

Sept. 28, Tuesday
2 p.m. - Our Island Our Dreams
5 p.m. - Orz Boyz!
8 p.m. - Yang Yang

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Cine Europa 13
Cinema 2, Shang Cineplex

This Czech film is from the father-son duo who graced us with the Oscar award winning film "Kolya".

In "Empties", Jan Sverak again directs his father, the venerated screenwriter/actor Zdenek Sverak in a realistic role about the life of a former high school teacher Josef Tkaloun who has to deal with "forced" retirement. Not one to sit on his laurels, he promptly finds a new job. A sharp contrast to his old work, he gets hired at a supermarket as a bottle sorter. The title "Empties" refers to the empty glass bottles which the customers return to the grocery for disposal.

This film is funny and poignant as well. It explores several aspects into the main character's life (aside from his dealings with the customers of the supermarket) like his marriage which is falling apart, his relationship with his troubled daughter as well as his need to still be useful and fruitful at his age.

These issues were tackled seriously but presented with an armful of wonderful humor. The scenes are funny because they are so realistically human and presents a good perspective on aging and everything it entails. It also has great scenery shots of the Czech countryside as well as the bustling city of Prague. This heart warming film is entirely in Czech (with a sputtering of German) with English subtitles.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Cine Europa 13
Cinema 2, Shang Cineplex

This French film starts in the mid 1990s. Victor, a French writer lives with his Austrian wife Annette and their daughter Pamela in Vienna. But all is not well in the marriage as Victor is primarily a bum who spends his days and nights out to escape the doldrums. Two years later back in Paris much to his wife's chagrin Victor continues his fancy free days and has turned into a drug addict.

Annette who is fed up with his bad habits leaves him and disappears with Pamela. Eleven years later, Pamela is now seventeen years old and lives in Paris with her mother and her new family. One day she learns through her aunt that Victor is still in Paris so she decides to see him once again.

The film moves at a painstakingly slow pace with characters who are hardly vibrant nor endearing to watch. The dysfunctional family is briefly explored but never given much depth. Most of the time, you feel like slapping Victor out of his stupor and give him a tough tongue lashing for wasting his life away. Other than that, nothing much happens.
Even after a span of 11 years, the characters hardly age at all so it wasn't credible at all.

To add insult to injury, the film abruptly ends mid scene and the end credits suddenly scroll by with the audience not getting any closure from the bland reunion between an estranged father and his teenage daughter.

Honestly, I didn't really find myself invested in any of the characters so perhaps it was for the best that it got cut off without much warning because at the point, I frankly couldn't really care less how it ends!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Cine Europa 13
Cinema 2, Shang Cineplex

This 2008 Bulgarian film has a very long title yet has a poignant story attached to it. I figure it is a popular saying in their language that perhaps got lost in its English translation so it sounds a bit strange. It is based on the autobiographic novel by Bulgarian-German writer Ilija Trojanow.

The film starts with an animated narration by a young man named Alexander who is nicknamed Sashko. It begins in the 1980s in Communist occupied Bulgaria in a small provincial town. We are introduced to his parents and his grandparents. Bai Dan, his grandfather is the local king of Backgammon, a board game. His father who works in a factory is hounded by the local Communist comrade to spy on the supposedly subversive activities of his father-in-law.

Cue in to Germany in the year 2006. Sashko and his parents are on their way to Bulgaria. But they figure in a horrific car accident where both his parents perish. He is confined in a hospital and suffers from amnesia. Bai Dan decides to go to Germany to help Sashko restore his past. They soon embark on a long journey back home on a tandem bicycle.

It is during the journey where through flashbacks, we are given glimpses into Sashko's life. This movie effectively explores the political situation in Communist Bulgaria as well as the problems faced by immigrants in their struggle to have better lives. Backgammon is given a lot of emphasis as the game plays an important role in every aspect of Alex's life. It also delves into poignant bonding moments between a grandfather and his grandson who learns about his parents numerous sacrifices to give him a stable future.

The film is entirely in Bulgarian along with German and Italian dialogue but has English subtitles.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


George Clooney, Johan Leysen, Thekla Reuten, Violante Placido

Cinema 4, Greenbelt 3

"The American" is devoid of any computer generated special effects, loud car chases and fast paced action scenes yet it still manages to reel you into its character driven approach of telling a story.

Most of the movie is spent on the most mundane of tasks, the main character "Jack" (George Clooney) who is a weapons expert/hired assassin goes about the details of his business with meticulous attention. Much of it is carried out in complete silence amidst the serenity of a very picturesque Italian town where he hides as he waits for his next assignment. He connects with an intuitive local priest, as well as a beautiful young prostitute named Carla. As he goes about his work, he contemplates on his existence and decides to retire from the assassination industry. But in a business dominated with violence and ruthless people, retirement isn't really an option.

This film is notable for how little it explains. You won't find any tell all revelations nor any shocking twist towards the end that will make you go "ahhhh ok now I get it!" We are only given glimpses of how Jack operates in his temporary home. We do not know, for example, who is going to be killed by the gun he is constructing, or why that person is being killed. We do not know much about the people chasing Jack, other than their nationality. Everything is cloaked with an air of mystery and ambiguous intrigue.

I believe the film succeeds mainly due to George Clooney's subtle performance of a mysterious and complex character. A lesser actor might have balked at the ambiguity of this character, but Clooney revels in it. He plays up the mystery and his disconnection from the rest of society is notably visible. Even in the most mundane of scenes, Clooney looks haunted, indicating a history that we otherwise will never know.

"The American" is an unconventional thriller. A clever showcase of character driven technique sans the typical ear piercing action sequences of modern thrillers. Even though very little of the plot is actually revealed and the violent and haunted past of the character is never truly fleshed out for our viewing discretion, it is still a compelling film to watch!

Monday, September 13, 2010


Cine Europa 13
Cinema 2, Shang Cineplex

The main premise of this Italian movie hinges on an unusual custom. It is 1956 and in a small picturesque island during the 18th birthday of every lass, all her potential suitors in town line up to present gifts to her father. He then determines (based on the gift) who will date his daughter on her natal day.

Marcello is the son of a fisherman who initially scoffs at the tradition until he lays eyes on the daughter of the Mayor who returns home after her studies. He has the perfect gift in mind but before he can acquire it, he must barter with nearly everyone in the village, and it seems that each resident has a different request.

The pursuit of each item to be traded takes him all over town where we are presented to an array of colorful characters. Some are mysterious, others are secretive but each of them with their distinct eccentricities which give the village much of its local flare. Marcello's 'task' also exposes the pitfalls of the age old tradition which seems to have caused so much woes to the residents of this sleepy little town.

The scenery alone makes this a film worth watching - a quaint little coastal town surrounded by a sparkling sea, this whimsical comedy with delightful characters is entirely in Italian with English subtitles.

Friday, September 10, 2010


Penelope Cruz, Lluis Homar, Blanca Portillo

This Pedro Almodovar film opens with the reels of a film being shot. Then it flips to a blind person who recounts to a complete stranger that he used to be known as the director Mateo Blanco but now simply exists as Harry Caine (Lluis Homar), a screenwriter.

It is only much later when we learn of the events which led him to permanently use his pseudonym. A love story which commenced in 1992 with an enigmatic woman named Magdalena (Penelope Cruz) or Lena for short. A secretary who becomes the mistress of a wealthy businessman named Ernesto Martel. She ends up having a passionate affair with Mateo Blanco who was directing her in a film called "Chicas y Malletas".

The heart of the film lies on Almodovar's great muse, the enduring Penelope Cruz. Even though the role is not as meaty as her character in "Volver", she managed to mesmerize the entire audience with her stunning presence. Her portrayal of a mistress to an obsessive business tycoon is credible. And we see a complete change of character when she is in the throes of an illicit affair with Mateo.

The plot is complex with many side plots all coming to the fore. It unfolds with the use of flashbacks as Harry Caine recounts their tragic romance. Character development is extensive as each of the roles are well fleshed out for our viewing pleasure. You even have a lip reader thrown into the mix but strangely enough it blends perfectly well in an Almodovar flick.

A smorgasbord of drama, mystery, romance and a dash of comedy all mix well in this Spanish languaged movie with English subtitles. Although it reasonably pales in comparison to his previous movies like "Habla con Ella" and "Todo sobre mi Madre" it is still worth seeing!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Cine Europa 13

The much anticipated Cine Europa which is now on its 13th year opens on September 10 and runs until September 19, 2010 at the Shang Cineplex Cinema 2.

This year features over 20 European films from Austria, Belgium, Italy, France, Netherlands, Finland, Bulgaria, Denmark, Greece, Germany, Romania, Spain, Czech Republic, Slovakia and the United Kingdom.

Click here for the complete schedule and synopsis of the films:

Admission is free. Seats are on a first come, first served basis.

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