Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pelicula: 10th Spanish Film Festival


Now on its 10th year, the Spanish film festival will have an impressive lineup of films from Spain as well as the Latin American countries. This year entries from Argentina, Chile, Mexico, and Uruguay are included in the screenings.

The 10th Spanish Film Festival will take place at the Greenbelt 3 Cinema 3.

Screening dates are from October 5 to 16, 2011.

Ticket price is P65.00.

The event is made possible by Instituto Cervantes and the Spanish Embassy with the cooperation of supportive Spanish filmmakers.

For more details, check out its official website at

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Korean Film Festival
Cinema 3, SM North Asia

If you knew that you don't have much time left in this world how would you spend your last few days? This premise is poignantly explored in this simple yet meaningful Korean film.

Jung-Won, a 30 something owner of a photo store goes about with his daily existence fully aware that he is terminally ill. Yet he doesn't succumb to fear or self pity, but remains his smiling and joyful self. Only his family knows of his condition and the audience is not given elaborate details of his sickness.

Pretty content to live his life based on routine by minding his photography business, he slowly finds himself falling in love with a regular customer of his shop. Da-rim is a young traffic enforcer who frequently goes to his shop to have the pictures of the parking offenders developed. Soon enough, they go out on 'dates' but Jung-Won never discloses to her about his illness.

This film features the Asian perspective in dealing with a tricky subject like death. There are no tragic melodramatic moments where the lead character goes off to find himself before his life ends. They are no 'bucket list' chores to be fulfilled. No lengthy drawn out crying scenes of self pity, either.

Even though we get a sense of how Jung-won and Da-rim feel about each other, there was never a formal declaration of their feelings. This is a singular romance in which no one actually says "I love you" or displays any other such overt signs of affection, yet the emotional undercurrent is no less stirring.

The movie stands on its own by virtue of its ability to convey the most powerful and moving emotions with simple gestures, subtle expressions, and a measured and intimate approach.

The subtle approach taken by the director as well as the powerful yet restrained performances of the two lead stars make "Christmas in August" an invigorating and thought provoking movie about life, death and love!

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Under the theme "7 Different Colors of Love", this year’s festival will feature seven films that headline some of Korea’s famous stars.

Korean Ambassador to the Philippines Hye Min Lee will grace the premiere screening of "Secret Reunion" on Sept. 19 at Cinema 6 of the SM Mall of Asia.

The seven films will be shown at Cinema 6 of SM Mall of Asia and Cinema 3 of SM North Edsa from Sept. 20 to 25. Fans in Cebu will be able to see the films at Cinema 1 of SM Cebu from Sept. 28 to Oct. 2.

All the screenings are free to the public.

The 2011 Korean Film Festival is organized by the Korean Embassy in the Philippines, Korean Cultural Center in the Philippines and SM Cinemas.

MALL OF ASIA, Cinema 6
19 September

20 September
Happy Life 1:15PM,
Scandal Maker 8:30PM

21 September
My Dear Enemy 6:30PM
Hwang Jin Yi 9:30PM

22 September
Christmas in August 6:30PM
Eternal Hearts 9:30PM

23 September
Secret reunion 6:30PM
Happy Life 9:30PM

24 September
Hwang Jin Yi 12:45PM
Eternal Hearts 3:00PM
Christmas in August 7:30PM

25 September
Happy Life 12:45PM
Scandal Maker 3:00PM
My Dear Enemy 7:30PM

20 September
Hwang Jin Yi 1:40PM
Secret Reunion 6:30PM

21 September
Scandal Maker 1:40PM
Eternal Hearts 6:30PM

22 September
Happy Life 1:40PM
My Dear Enemy 6:30PM

23 September
Christmas in August 1:40PM
Scandal Maker 6:30PM

24 September
Secret Reunion 1:40PM
Happy Life 6:30PM
My Dear Enemy 9:30PM

25 September
Hwang Jin Yi 1:40PM
Eternal Hearts 6:30PM
Christmas in August 9:30PM

Click here for more details about the featured films.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Cine Europa 14
Cinema 1, Shang Cineplex

This ambitious project directed by legendary Italian directors/brothers Paolo and Vittorio Taviani had all the potential to be classified as an epic. Yet somehow it fails miserably. The Italian film focuses on a horrible event in world history - the genocide of Armenians by the troops of the Ottoman Turkish empire in 1915.

The story is concentrated on the Avakians, an affluent Armenian family. They continue to live their comfortable lifestyle convinced that the rising Turkish hostility towards Armenians won't affect their existence. Until one day, the Turkish troops raided their house and brutally slaughter all the male members of the family. The females along with young children were herded across the desert to Aleppo, Syria where they would eventually be massacred.

While "The Lark Farm" is peppered with moments of harrowing tragedy, the film gets weighed down by soap opera style subplots. One involves Nunik (Spanish actress Paz Vega) as an Armenian beauty who winds up romantically linked to two Turkish soldiers. Another silly side plot is the planned rescue of the Avakians by a group of Turkish beggars who were employed by the family. Such lifeless shenanigans ultimately strip the film of the emotional resonance one expects from this sort of movie. The overwrought performances are uniformly undermined by terrible dialogue, very melancholic music at the most inopportune time and bad editing.

The film's cast involves a number of actors from different countries, yet they are truly hindered by a poorly written script. Such a pity since there are very few films which dare to tackle this tragedy. A horrific chapter in history that is worth telling for the world seems to have forgotten about it. The film ends with a statement that says that the trial for the war criminals who perpetuated this injustice was indefinitely suspended. To this day, the descendants of the victims still seek justice for this genocide. Sad!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Cine Europa 14
Cinema 1, Shang Cineplex

This Danish film explores the consequences of living one's life based on a lie and how eventually that lie comes back to haunt your 'perfect' little existence.

Feisty Danish journalist Rikke Lyngvig (Iben Hjejle) is in Afghanistan for a report when she is captured by Islamic terrorists. They use her as a pawn to force the government of Denmark to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan. When their demands aren't met, the Taliban decide on slow torture before her execution. For the next ten days, they will cut off one of her fingers and send the footage of it to the western media.

A member of the group who abducted her is Nazir, a young man who became a Taliban after tragedy struck. His father was killed by U.S. soldiers in the Afghanistan war and his uncle, a Taliban member forced him to join them in their cause of Islamic revolution.

The film takes off when Nazir decides to help Rikke escape with the condition that she lies to everyone by saying that she knocked him out and escaped on her own. Then the movie shifts gear, going from exciting thriller to a slow paced tale about Rikke's return to work in Denmark.

The latter part of the film goes up a notch when Nazir shows up in Denmark to seek asylum. In no time, the whole lie that made Rikke a best selling author is put on the line. Will she be able to help Nazir, as he helped her, or will he be tried as a terrorist?

"The Escape" thrives on an intelligent script that smoothly integrates several plot lines. The bleak cinematography as well as the slow pace of the film can be a bit boring. But a terrorist thriller from a non-US perspective about war torn Afghanistan is quite an intriguing story. How Denmark handles refugees, extradition, and terrorism are contemplated using scenes involving talk shows, and news reports.

The unexpected open ended conclusion may raise a few questions but overall "The Escape" is a watchable thriller.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Cine Europa 14
Cinema 1, Shang Cineplex

Swedish director Lukas Moodysson presents this interwoven drama about the effects of globalization. The film is in English with some dialogue in Filipino and the Thai language. Scenes were shot in New York City, the Philippines and Thailand. It stars two actors (Gael Garcia Bernal and Michelle Williams) known for their acting skills.

Video game designer Leo (Gael Garcia Bernal) and his ER surgeon wife Ellen (Michelle Williams) live in New York with their 8 year-old daughter Jackie, who is cared for by a Filipino nanny named Gloria. When Leo leaves for a business trip to Thailand, Ellen encounters a particularly bad case at work and realizes that the bond between Jackie and Gloria is stronger than she thought. Meanwhile, Gloria desperately misses her two sons in the Philippines. While Leo experiences culture shock in Thailand.

The plight of mothers forced to neglect their children so they can support them is familiar and quite depressing. Most filmmakers working in fiction tend to ignore this kind of struggle unless they can use it for melodrama or tragedy.

And Moodysson does use it for major blunt effect by taking on a preachy tone with much philosophical and moral angst hovering over his characters. By grossly exaggerating his characters' constructions, he forgoes any real ideas about the world's vast inequities and he is simply content to pummel his audience with portentous global guilt-tripping.

The film is less obsessed with coincidence and more interested in the ways people from various cultures connect, or don’t quite connect, in everyday situations. And there certainly was a huge amount of disconnect in this film. There was no chemistry among the cast. I was also hugely disappointed that the plot fell flat on its face. I kept expecting something explosive to happen and it never did.

And please don't get me started on how the Philippines was portrayed in this film, it would simply make my blood boil, so let's leave it at that!

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Cine Europa 14
Cinema 1, Shang Cineplex

This French drama is set in the 1950s in Russia which is under the dictatorial reign of Stalin. A young urologist named Anna Atlina desperately wants to have a child with her physicist husband, Vassily. So desperate that the neighbors have been complaining about the loud noises and threaten to report them to the police. Well that's communism for you!

Her world is turned upside down when she is commissioned to be the private doctor of the supreme comrade Josef Stalin, himself! Anna is 'blessed' with special healing powers which cures all types of aches and joint pains. That is the ultimate reason why she was chosen to heal the ailing leader. Another reason is that the paranoid Stalin has purged the nation of Jewish people and this includes his own private doctor. Thrust into such a powerful 'position' Anna must do everything to keep their healing sessions a state secret.

Set in dark gloomy and quite sombre tones, the film offers an interesting perspective into the final days of Stalin through the eyes of Anna Atlina. Although this is a highly fictionalized story weaved by the fertile imagination of Marc Dugain (he directed this film adaptation of his own novel), you can't help but believe its plausibility.

The chemistry between Anna and Stalin is palpable. Although the audience is constantly aware of that fact that at any given moment, Stalin can easily dispose of his doctor without any qualms. These encounters with Stalin take on an almost mythical quality. And their growing relationship, as laced with mistrust as it is, is simply fascinating to watch.

Andre Dussollier is excellent as the monstrous Stalin, playing him as a calmly brutish man able to inspire fear in his subjects using seemingly benign stories loaded with implicit threat.

The script is well written, directed and acted and moves easily from heartbreaking romantic drama, to chilling tension, to moments of light humor, such as Stalin trash-talking Truman or his henchman proudly discussing his grandson, Vladimir Putin. It's low on action and heavy on dark, often gloomy drama, with some dash of loud classical music weaved in to snap you back to your senses, lest you fall asleep from the slow pacing of the story.

Friday, September 9, 2011


Clive Owen, Catherine Keener, Liana Liberato

"What took her family years to build.
A stranger stole in an instant."

Ayala Malls Cinemas

David Schwimmer aka as Ross from the defunct TV series "Friends" directs this highly emotional tale about the perils of online chatting.

Annie (Liana Liberato) is a 14 year old girl who befriends a guy named "Charlie" through a chat program. He claims to be a teenager but eventually his true age keeps rising as they swap messages, chats and phone conversations. After two months, she agrees to meet him for real. When they meet at the mall, he turns out to be a man in his late 30s. Yet he is verbally charming and maintains that age doesn't matter and that Annie is the only one who truly gets him. The 'date' ends horribly after Charlie sexually molests the hapless girl in a motel.

This whole scenario is a parent's worst nightmare. The devastation of Annie’s parents (Clive Owen and Catherine Keener) is very realistically essayed although it does jar with poor Annie's jumbled emotions of infatuation and confusion – feelings which are treated with sincerity and respect.

Similarly, the emotional impact of Annie's story is slightly lessened by a shift of focus to Owen's character in the second half, though at least the film never turns into the vigilante drama it seems to be leaning towards.

"Trust" provided a good character study from the points of view of the victim Annie and her devastated father Will. Major portions of the film played out like the Hallmark TV movie of the week with its fair share of heavy drama to pull at your heartstrings.

But overall, it is a well made, terrifically acted and powerfully moving drama that delivers an important message. We cannot truly protect the ones we love from harm's way. What is more important is how we support the people we love when they are hurt rather than dwelling on how they got hurt.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


The 14th edition of Cine Europa kicks off from September 9 to September 18, 2011 at the Shang Cineplex of the Edsa Shangri-la Mall.

This year features 19 films from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

It has a good mix of films of varying genres — from comedy, drama to history and thriller and, at the same time showcases European's cultural tapestry and human experiences — love for country and family, migration, relationships, perseverance, struggle, hope, courage, faith, and victory.

Admission is free but tickets will be issued 30 minutes before screening time on a first come first served basis.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Renee Zellweger, Jodelle Ferland, Ian McShane, Bradley Cooper

"Some cases should never be opened."


Last night, an irritating case of insomnia prompted me to flip through TV channels. I came across this psychological thriller on HBO and decided to watch it. Never mind that it was a horror film, a genre I try to avoid because I scare easily. Well you might blame it on the insomnia but interestingly enough I finished it in its entirety.

The film follows social worker Emily Jenkins (Renee Zellweger) as she takes on the case of a young girl named Lilith (Jodelle Ferland) who's being abused by her parents. Emily takes pity on the 10 year old so she adopts her temporarily while she is put on the adoption list. But soon enough, problems crop us as it becomes clear that little Lilith isn't quite as wholesome and innocent as she appears.

The horrific nature of the film's plot doesn't make itself completely evident until around the halfway mark with a handful of gory thriller elements. Its slow pace becomes more and more problematic though as time progresses. Loopholes in the plot abound as predictability sets in.

Yet the truth is that as demonic children movies go, it's really not bad in the creepiness factor. The believable acting of the cast makes it seem a little better than your average creepy kid possessed by the devil films. Not much, but a little. Plus, Jodelle Ferland's Lilith is perhaps the creepiest demon child ever to grace the screen and if she’s not, she’s certainly in the running.

Still, "Case 39" despite all its flaws is still a perfectly watchable kid-from-hell chiller. My interest was piqued with the film which is as much as you can reasonably expect from this kind of picture. It was certainly more than I expected. It kept me on the edge of my bed but it certainly didn't relieve me of my insomnia! How can you sleep after watching so much evil emanate from a young child? Geez!

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Kristen Bell, Odette Yustman, Jaime Lee Curtis
Sigourney Weaver, Betty White, Kristin Chenoweth

"What doesn't kill you ... is going to marry your brother"

Star Movies

Anyone who has been bullied/maligned during their high school days, please nod your head and say 'aye'. Surely, we all could identify with the main character of this chick flick. Marni (Kristen Bell) comes home from her high paying job in New York to attend her brother's wedding. Much to her dismay, she discovers her brother is marrying Joanna (Odette Yustman) the cheerleader who incessantly tormented Marni in high school.

The rest of the film focuses on Marni desperate attempts to expose Joanna's true 'evil' self to her family who have grown quite fond of their future daughter in law. The silly wedding preparations complete with an over the top wedding planner portrayed by the miscast yet very talented Kristin Chenoweth. It also presents the rivalry between Joanna's aunt Ramona (Sigourney Weaver) and Marni's mom Gail (Jamie Lee Curtis). They used to be best friends during their high school days but arguably had some falling out with each other.

It started out with a good premise - the story about the enduring horrors of high school and learning to move on from your past. Then unfortunately it spirals into something completely senseless. It tries too hard to draw in laughs and there is not much logic to the characters' behavior.

The presence of two acting powerhouses does nothing to redeem this dismal comedy. Yet their perky performances were quite infectious. Weaver’s timing and deadpan delivery is spot-on, while Curtis has an engaging twinkle in her eye, even when she has to act like a fool.

The happy ending was very forced. It seems like the script writers simply gave up trying to piece all the loopholes in the side plots into one coherent structure. Although I have to admit there were (very few) instances which made me laugh and chuckle. But, I for one would know that there is simply nothing FUNNY about being tormented in high school. Gosh!

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