Ekis (1999)/ Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles (2012)/ Dos Ekis (2001)

Ekis (1999)
Erik Matti’s second film is about a group of kidnappers, in hiding and waiting for the ransom money. Tagalized Tarantino this quite isn’t, more like Peque Gallaga meets John Woo’s heroic bloodshed, with reams of dialogues from formulaic 90’s pinoy action movies finally put to good use. It’s a variation on the heist-gone-wrong type with a cast that doesn’t need to be color-coded to be memorable. Hot-headed and mutinous Roger (Raymond Bagatsing) is a hoot, especially around the usually reserved Gene (Albert Matinez), who’s seemingly torn between his criminal wrongdoings and the promise of escape to a normal life. A sense of normalcy, is what he gets it seems, every time he goes to Dolor (Sunshine Cruz) to do the “dirty work” — um, y’know, fixing pipe leaks, changing the fridge bulb, cleaning the aquarium. This may not be on par with Matti’s later works (On the Job, Honor Thy Father) but it’s occasionally funny. The look on their faces when they find two dead bodies in the trunk — priceless. For an action movie, this has, well, sex and violence. And there’s one scene clearly inspired by Polanski’s Lunes de fiel. This has the looks of a decent noir-ish thriller i.e., one can almost smell the dark dingy corners of the group’s hideout. And one thing you can count on in most of Matti’s movies, is that the sets are mostly detailed, look real, feel real — even if the plot/story sometimes doesn’t.

Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles (2012)
Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles is a horror story within another. It’s ‘meet the parents’ horror comedy within the bigger aswang story. Good-for-nothing boyfriend/husband and domineering matriarch, tropes maybe older than John en Marsha, are both served and subverted. And this has aswang lore that’s probably never used before in other aswang movies (i.e., an aswang turned himself into a pig and sold to the unsuspecting family). Jokes about giant wooden fork and spoon and Lipps candies are references definitely older than internet jokes about computer mouse and hard-boiled eggs. This is both fun and clumsy in the same way Gwapings: The First Adventure was. The use of pesticide sprayer and Boy Bawang blowgun is quite a hoot but the mostly CGI buntot-pagi disappoints. The movie’s shot entirely in chroma key and it looks okay considering they didn’t have Hollywood budget. Though I wish Erik Matti stuck with actors/make-up/practical effects, instead of purely CGI monsters, the same way Richard Somes did with the similarly-themed Lihim Ng San Joaquin.

Dos Ekis (2001)
Benito (Mark Anthony Fernandez) is a hardware store worker who frequents a nightclub just to see Charisse (Rica Peralejo), one of the club’s buxom dancers. An altercation between Charisse and her pimp Bunny (a pre-Heneral Luna John Arcilla) turns into a riot when Benito gets involved, and the two ends up running away with the club’s money. If the first movie has somewhat memorable characters, Dos Ekis is saddled with seemingly bored passive characters, and imposing but ultimately disposable villains. Instead of the amusing back-and-forths in the first, this has villains making lengthy monologues (John Arcilla’s pimp and Godfather figure played by Celso Ad. Castillo). But again, the set design is something to look at. Bunny’s nightclub is all lights, smoke, and mirrors. And Benito’s bedspace is located behind the silverscreen in an old theater — he can watch movies for free but the images are reversed. This doesn’t offer much in terms of story or characters. But there’s a steamy dance number in a makeshift shower that recalls both Ekis and Burlesk Queen. And there’s an extended sex on a couch while in the background, Ang Utol Kong Hoodlum II plays on the movie screen.

The Night Comes For Us (2018)/ Honor Thy Father (2015)/ The Yellow Sea (2010)

The Night Comes For Us (2018)
Underneath all the carnage, this is actually about something. It’s about Ito (Joe Taslim) trying to save himself — by saving the little girl Reina (Asha Kenyeri Bermudez). It’s about two friends who dreamt of “making it big” by joining the Triad — big brother Ito warning the younger Arian (Iko Uwais) not to make same mistakes he did. “Don’t join the Triad. Been there and it wasn’t all that great. There are chicks, booze, and stuff all around but ain’t got time for that, because all we do is traffic drugs and kill [mostly] innocent people.” Okay, he didn’t really say that. It seems that way anyway. Ito probably couldn’t even enjoy a good lay anymore, or have a guilt-free sleep at night. See, it’s not easy being one of the bad guys, with all this “guilt and conscience” stuff eating you inside. So when Ito saw a glimpse of redemption in Reina, he took a 180 degrees turn (also, literally) — killed his men, took the girl, went into hiding. And what follows is a zombie apocalypse — minus the zombies — a series of action setpieces, meticulously crafted as they are horrifyingly graphic, with all sorts of bad people trying to get their hands on Reina, Ito, and his friends. Most of the fights are pretty bonkers, with blood and violence, dialed to eleven. The two-against-one brawl between Julie, Alma and Elena is definitely one for the books. And for the movie’s final fight, well, I’d probably never look at a box cutter the same way ever again.

Honor Thy Father (2015)
Kaye and Edgar get caught in financial ruin after being involved in an investment scam. The promise of get-rich-quick suddenly becomes a living nightmare, when Kaye’s father turns up dead, the money, all gone. And their friends, co-parishioners at the Church of Yeshua, quickly turns on them, demanding their money back. But they are just small fry compared to some influential people, demanding a much bigger sum from the couple, in exchange for their daughter’s safety, and eventually, their lives. As a devoted member of the church, Kaye pleads for help. “Yeshua will provide,” said the Bishop. But he can’t help them, the money isn’t his, it’s the church’s. This leaves Edgar with only few options. Even so, he still sees to it that he goes with the lesser evil, until he’s cornered with no other option but the worst. Honor Thy Father is not something good to watch when you’re worrying about something or after stressful day at work. The movie makes little difference between scam investments and toxic religious groups. It gets a little too real sometimes, too close to home (i.e., financial troubles, sans the death threats of course). It is that good. An assuredly paced thriller that’s able to sustain its edge-of-your-seat atmosphere for long. A bleak crime drama with a little bit of The Bank Job, minus Princess Margaret’s naked pictures in a vault. It’s thrilling and despairing at the same time. And that ending, man, that ending. Really powerful stuff.

The Yellow Sea (2010)
Taxi driver Gu-nam is in serious debt. And he’s yet to hear from his wife, who left months ago to work in South Korea. Worse, he’s having nightmares of her being with another man. When local gangster Myun Jung-hak offers him a job to be able to settle his debt, he takes his chances. The job, go to South Korea and carry out a hit; his target, a professor named Kim Seung-hyun, later revealed to be gangster. When the hit doesn’t go as planned (turns out there’s more than one party who wanted Kim dead) Gu-nam finds himself running away from the cops, the gangsters, and eventually, from Myun, who travels to Korea to tie up the loose ends. Triple-crossed by Myun, and with no chance to return to Yanji, Gu-nam makes it his goal to find out who actually hired him (Myun was a middleman). The Yellow Sea works best when it’s a tight crime thriller, particularly in the first and second act. When it switches to gangster mode, it gets a little overbearing, especially when they bring out their axes/knives for the nth time. Whether or not it’s saying ‘this is how gun control looks like,’ this movie features, almost exclusively, knives, and the stabbiest of fights. Beneath the nihilistic bloodshed, it doesn’t seem to say much. And if there’s anything Gu-nam learns in the end, it’s probably that some men will go at great lengths, when they learn they’re being cheated on by their wives.

BuyBust (2018)

‘Goyo’ was the worst, ’til I saw ‘BuyBust’

Thought ‘Goyo’ was already the worst well-received movie of the year. But after watching Erik Matti’s latest, I guess we now have a winner. BuyBust/Anne Curtis rips Goyo/Paulo Avelino’s pretty face to shreds. Gloriously. Imagine that. Would probably make a good movie.

Save for one action sequence fueled by a punk rock song, where Anne Curtis tries to ward off the angry wives and mistresses of Gracia Ni Maria using an aluminum palanggana while Brandon Vera does the same with an umbrella, Erik Matti’s BuyBust is just endless gunfights and hand to hand combat that range from sloppy to well-executed, some rapid fire editing, some shaky cam, some unsustained tension, plenty of senseless violence (i.e., one poor lady got her head cut off), and lots of dead cops, henchmen, and poor civilians. Continue reading “BuyBust (2018)”

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sinehan

Sunud-sunod na putok ng baril ang umalingawngaw. Sagutan ng putok. Habulan at barilan sa gubat. May mga humahabol kay Ben-Hur. Gumanti sya ng putok. Tumingin sa camera, nakangiwi ng bahagya. Sa harap naman ay may lumang sofa na bahagyang tumatabing sa ibabang bahagi ng telon. Medyo malabo din ang pelikulang nakasalang, at tila baligtad ang mga imaheng lumalabas dito. Sa harap ng telon, sa ibabaw ng sofa, umahon ang imahe ng isang babae.

Ganito ko naalala ang isang eksena sa isang pelikula ni Erik Matti. Isa lang sa mga tagpo sa mga pelikula nya na pag napanood mo, mahirap nang makalimutan. Merong din syang pelikula kung saan yung eksena naganap naman sa loob isang aparador. Pero balik tayo dun sa nauna. Sa pelikulang iyon, napaisip ako kung meron ba talagang mga iskwater na ginagawang bahay ang likod ng telon sa loob ng sinehan.  Nasa pelikula eh, kaya malamang, nangyayari din sa tunay na buhay. Pwede rin na pinapaupahan ng management ng sinehan. Pero teka, ano nga bang klase ng sinehan ang tinutukoy ko? Meron pa bang mga tulad nito sa ngayon? Tingin ko meron pa, pero mangilan-ngilan na lang. Ito yung mga sinaunang sinehan. Wala sa loob ng mall at hindi rin nakakabit sa anumang establisemento. Ang sinehan, sinehan lang. Sa ganitong sinehan ako unang nakapanood ng sine, yung Magnum .357 ni FPJ. Sa probinsya meron din mga ganito, tulad nung sinehan sa isang pelikula ni Brilliante Mendoza na naipalabas sa Cannes. May napanooran pa nga ako dati nung bata pa ako, sinehan na wala pang aircon. Blower at air freshener lang. Pero mas gusto ko ang yari ng mga sinehan noon. Yung tipong makakapanood ka nang maayos kahit hindi ka nakaupo sa last row. Hindi naman siguro lahat ganun, pero tingin ko iyon ang standard noon. May balcony at may orchestra. Medyo mahal ng konti sa balcony. Pero mas kita mo naman nang buong-buo ang pelikula.

MCDSERV EC008

Sa probinsya namin, nung nasa college na ako, may isang sinehan na malaki, state-of-the-art ika nga. Fully air-conditioned na, digital surround sound pa. Ito na siguro ang pinakamagandang sinehang napasok ko. Ang kaibahan nya sa mga bagong mall ngayon, hindi sya sinehan sa loob ng mall. Isa syang sinehan, na may iba’t iba pang klaseng tindahan sa loob. Sinehan ang main attraction. Pero may mga side bet din tulad ng bar, mga kainan at ilang mga boutique. Pero olats mamili dun, kasi madalas, mas mahal ang mga bilihin. At wala syang grocery at department store. Pero kung panonood ng sine ang pakay mo, dun ka dapat pumunta. Isa syang paraiso, sa mga mahihilig…sa pelikula. Tatlo ang sinehan sa loob. Sa isang linggo, lagi akong may tatlong pagpipilian. Kung lahat gusto kong panoorin, kailangan kung iplano nang mabuti ang schedule ng panonood. Tinitimbang din kung aling subject ang pwede kong libanan, at kung magkakaroon ba ng exam o hindi. Mahalaga ring i-consider ang oras ng palabas. At itanong sa sarili kung aabot ba ako last trip pauwi, pagkatapos ng pelikula.

Dati, hindi pa uso ang mga malls sa probinsya namin. May isang malaking shopping center, pero hindi sya tinatawag na mall. Kung tutuusin, maituturing mo na rin syang mall. Meron lahat – food court, supermarket, grocery, arcade – lahat ng basic features ng isang mall, meron din sya. Meron din itong sinehan. Dalawa. Pero di tulad ng mga sinehan sa mga malls ngayon, malaki din ang sinehan dito.

Ano nga bang nangyari sa mga sinehan ngayon? Bakit paliit nang paliit ang mga sinehan.  Dahil ba kahit marami lagi ang tao sa mga mall, ay kakaunti naman ang pumapasok sa sinehan? At di na ba kayang punuin ng manood kung ang sinehan mo ay may espasyo na kasing laki nung sa luma? Hindi na ba uso ang sinehan na parang nasa balcony ka? Kung maliit ang sinehan bakit kailangan pagkalaki-laki ng screen nito? Ang hirap tuloy manood.

Naalala ko nung minsan manood ako ng pelikula ni Lav Diaz sa isang high-end na mall. Dahil high-end ang mall at ito ay nasa isang high-end na lugar, umasa ako na maayos ang sinehan dito. Pero hindi, tulad din mga sinehan sa ibang mall na kapareho ng pangalan nito, hindi sulit ang panonood. Hindi ko alam yung ibang nanonood kung napapansin ba nila ito. Na sobrang laki ng screen pero hindi sapat ang layo ng upuan mo para makita mo ng lubos ang pelikula. Walang tamang anggulo at hindi kayang saklawin ng paningin mo ang kabuuan ng telon. May mga detalya na hindi mo mapapansin. Pamaya-maya kailangan mo rin i-scan ang buong tabing para makita ang lahat nang nangyayari sa loob nito.

Bilang isang taong may kaunting nalalaman sa desenyo, naisip ko tuloy iyong mga propesyonal na nag-dedesenyo ng mga buildings tulad ng mall. Pasok ba sa standard ang sukat ng sinehan sa mall na ito? Makakalabas ba agad ang mga tao kung sakaling magkaroon ng sunog? Una hindi ko alam kung meron ngang standard na sukat, pero malamang meron. Eh ano ngayon? Alin ba ang mas mahalaga, makatipid at kumita ng maayos ang mga malls o ang pagsunod sa standard?

Pero hindi naman talaga ito malaking problema. Manonood na lang ako sa bahay. Magsasalang ng DVD at magbubukas ng malamig na beer. Sarap.

xx3

(Taxi Driver screenshot taken from http://cinemajam.com; Serbis screenshot taken from https://www.cineplex.com.)