Saturday, November 29, 2008

What was the Hottest Pinoy TV Moment of 2008?

It's scientifically impossible to watch everything on TV, even in the age of TiVo. That is why we rely on each other to tell us what we missed.

Thus, this survey. What was the hottest thing you saw on TV in the last twelve months? A particular hunk doing a particular thing on a particular soap, perhaps? Anything sexy from the reality shows, variety, sports, comedies, documentaries, news, even commercials? It could be a moment as quick as a blink of an eye or one that lasts an entire episode. Post your pick(s) in the comments section. A video link to convince us would be nice.

To get the ball rolling, I submit my first nomination.

For your consideration...

Ejay Falcon Makes a Tarzan Entrance in Pinoy Big Brother Teen Edition Plus

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Lalamunan


Jordan Herrera and Ran Domingo

The ridiculousness doesn't stop in Lalamunan, but the experience is more frustrating than fun. That's because the potentially delirious setup -- a husband who sleeps with his driver and batters his wife, who sleeps with her doctor -- has been plotted and executed in the lamest way imaginable. Lalamunan is cheap, in all senses of the word.

I worry that Writer-Director Jigz Recto, who also composed the beer garden theme song, has neither eye nor pulse for what he's doing, because the movie is afflicted by an ugly stiltedness that makes every acting awkward and the scenes moribund, including the sex. How can a buttfuck between Jordan Herrera and Ran Domingo not be steamy? Or Rico Barrera in a bunch of lovemaking with his women? See it and weep.

A few silly moments, however, got my blood going. Rico Barrera's nipple is "absentmindedly" finger-flicked by his partner throughout an entire sequence of talking in bed. Ran Domingo sports an attention-calling stiffie in his white undies. And, best of all, Jordan Herrera's buns in full view in the shower cuts directly to Ran Domingo's buns in the bedroom. If only the rest of this boring movie were as cheeky.

GRADE: C-

Related Links:
Trailer at YouTube
Negative Review by Philbert Dy

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

States of Independence: 2008 South East Asian Conferences - Manila



It's held every year in a different South East Asian country, and this year it's in Manila, at the Ateneo De Manila University and Mogwai Film Bar in Cubao, Quezon City, from November 18-23. The film conference is a series of screenings and panels that are usually academic in tone, with highly specific topics for discussion.

Of special interest this year, as far as this blog is concerned, is a panel entitled "Gender Issues in Independent Cinema" on Saturday, November 22, 1:00-2:30 PM. The panel will be moderated by everyone's hero Danton Remoto, and includes a reading of a paper by Roberto Reyes Ang from New York University entitled "Recontextualizing Sexual Identities: The Validation of the Non-feminine Homosexual in Philippine Movies". You might be interested in that one.

You may also be interested in more intellectual orgies about indie cinema, including one roundtable on writing and criticism, plus a screening of Serbis, if you still haven't seen it or wish to torment yourself again with its third world chic. Complete schedule of film screenings here. Programme of panel discussions here.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Walang Kawala (No Way Out)


Jean Garcia nurses Polo Ravales and Joseph Bitangcol

Joel Lamangan has always been a director of B-movie sensibilities. He makes movies fast and relatively cheap, and everything he touches acquires a bulldozing brazenness, stripped of subtlety. This is why his prestige bids for Art or High Drama, like Mila or Mano Po, are accessible but clunky. Yet when the movies go over-the-top, as in the camp of his comedies, the sensationalized violence, or sexploitation, there's something to enjoy. Like a true B-movie filmmaker, Lamangan's movies aim for some kind of social/political/spiritual higher power, falling instead on simplistic and recycled ideas, and only really succeed when they delight us on a brainless level.

Walang Kawala at first appears to be the Studio Man hopping on the gay indie bandwagon, working for independent company DMV in the digital format, complete with a dramatic English translation of a title, as if positioning for a festival abroad. But the film turns out to be everything we already know about the director's work: Irritating when it tries to be important, and delightful when it's lurid. It's a mix bag.

Joseph Bitangcol runs away from their fishing town, then becomes a macho dancer in Manila, while Polo Ravales, his lover, follows to find him -- a gay transposition of the plot of Maynila Sa Mga Kuko Ng Liwanag. A couple of references made about the Desaparecidos hint that the journey of these two lost homosexuals is an allegory to military abductions in the Philippines, but I think the forced comparison is empty, in much the same way that Hubog never really said anything about EDSA 3 Revolt, no matter how many references were crammed into it.

When you get down to it, Walang Kawala is a standard potboiler in which two men spiral down involuntarily into an inferno of sexual torture, right unto its merciless, meaningless standard ending, and it's the brash embrace of that exploitation that keeps us glued, even if we don't admit it. In one tense scene, Polo Ravales' innocent, tearful face is stuffed with a pistol, which slides in and out of his mouth, and I'm not as shocked by the overt sexual suggestiveness as much as the thought that the competent actor has fearlessly subjected his body for snuff spectacle. We actually watch the weapon abuse his orifice! I cringed and I laughed and I cheered at the bravura of it all. It's true elsewhere in the film. Joseph Bitangcol strips his bikini to flaunt his butt onstage, then later, while asleep, his brief bulge occupies nearly half the entire screen, to be fondled by the hands of Paolo Rivero. A crew of macho dancers are cute and near-naked, and, in a shot that's the talk of the town, Marco Morales, as the stardancer, makes a confident full frontal flash that may be the most in-your-face our movies have ever seen. That the actor seems to be intelligent as well as charming, as displayed in a couple of earlier scenes, including one in which he bathes in wet briefs, makes the stunt more shocking -- and appealing.

But the ringleader of this flesh circus is Emilio Garcia, who chews on the role of a sadistic cop like a cartoon demon in heat. In one scene, he appears to be the stand-in for a filmmaker of exploitation such as this, as he directs the two lovers to strip, kiss, and fuck each other while he jerks off. In Lamangan's totally mainstream style -- with bright rainbow lighting and perfectly safe angles and musical cues -- the edge in these situations is dilluted into a kind of S&M rape fantasy fulfillment. It's likely none of us will find any of it repulsive enough to walk out on, making it a palatable kind of sickness.

It's also nostalgic to see once sex idols Mike Magat and Jon Romano as thugs, still sexy, even though they remain clothed, like Paolo Rivero as a gay head waiter. Big-breasted Althea Vega, who hams and pounds in early scenes, is also an acting and baring discovery, one for the dudes.

The best part is that the movie was approved for an R-18 rating, without cuts, by the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB). It's baffling, considering just two weeks prior, three Filipino films had been X'ed -- Melancholia, Next Attraction, and Imburnal -- films that are definitely less graphic and arguably more sincere and effective in their artistic intentions. You're allowed to posit your own conspiracy theory as to why -- such as, "Obscenity for the MTRCB is a matter of political content" or "Art is X; Commerce is PG" -- and let's discuss. But bravo to the Board for making one of their most enlightened decisions in recent years, and I'm not being sarcastic. Because if trash -- granted, it's enjoyable trash -- is allowed to find an audience that can appreciate it, then who knows what sublime beauty the future of a free Philippine cinema can bring? If Melancholia, for example, were to be reassessed for classification, wouldn't it be silly to call it unfit now? Hey, isn't that movie also about the Desaparecidos?

GRADE: B-

Related Links:
Negative Review by Philbert Dy
Positive Review by Miong
Trailer at YouTube

Friday, November 14, 2008

Kurap (Blink)


Sherwin Ordonez (front) with his mates

As a glimpse into the underworld of small-time crooks in the district of Quiapo in Manila, Kurap is a little shortsighted -- the inferior successor of Tirador, a recent film that covered the same territory with more sweeping verve and detail. In Kurap, the plotting is brisk, but that's because of the many shortcuts and contrivances. But it has an intimate lead in Ambet (cutie Sherwin Ordonez), a petty thief with a rather poetic mission: To save his kid sister from impending blindness.

Director Roni Bertubin had also been vague about the nitty-gritty of the male prostitution underworld in his previous film Sikil, but he got away with a pained romantic center. In Kurap, a thorough insider's grasp -- of the milieu and the people -- is necessary but missing. Couldn't Ambet snitch on other criminals before those closest to him? The environment seems strangely limited. When it ends, in tragedy, there's a gaping sense of incompleteness. The stylish use of camera focus is a nice symbolic touch -- and also a completely motivated way of distorting sex images -- but overall, the craftsmanship is hit-and-miss.

If Kurap fails as a realistic depiction of a world, it does succeed as a homoerotic glossary of it. Apparently, all the criminals in Quiapo are good-looking men. Even the resident mute is a hunk (Rico Lazaro), who's also a closet homosexual, who makes time for bare-ass fucking with carwash hottie/thief Jeff Luna. The other studs in the gang are Christian Burke, Dexter Castro, and Nikolai Villamor. Everyone is hot. Most magnetic is star Sherwin Ordonez, who also shows ass and fucks with a woman. His personality flits from friendly to hostile to dropping trousers for a blowjob just because he knows the other guy wants it (Jojit Lorenzo, as a news videographer). You may call it character inconsistency, or just among the movie's many unexplained whims, but the actor is so adorable, I'm at least kept interested.

GRADE: B-

Related Links:
Sherwin Ordonez Sexy Photos
Positive Review at Vancouver International Film Festival
Negative Review by Philbert Dy
Rico Lazaro: Piolo Pascual Look-a-Like

Thursday, November 13, 2008

More New Trailers

Hikbi (Cry For Redemption)

(premieres November 15)

Concerto

(opens November 19)

Sapi

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

New Trailers

Lovebirds


Xenoa 2

Sunday, November 9, 2008

My MVP: Most Valuable Pinoy


My MVP Winner Luis Palaganas (left), Finalist Adrian Pellejera (right), with guru Alex Compton

Quick, name the current reality show with the largest cast of crushable manly men! If you said Survivor Philippines or Pinoy Fear Factor, you're wrong. My MVP: Most Valuable Pinoy, on the revamped TV5 network, is a search for the next basketball superstar in the Philippines, and boy, does it have a lot of men. The show began with hundreds of applicants, whittled down to a top 25 for training camp, then to a final team of 12. The hosts are Bayani Agbayani and Jason Webb, with Norman Black and other coaches playing key mentor roles. The first episodes capitalized on the comedy factor of not-hot, typically unathletic wannabes, but also showed some undeniably cute players. Choice personalities got mini-features on their life stories, and, at its most touching and human, My MVP plays like Hoop Dreams for an entire nation. It's hard not to root for all the Filipino men taking a chance -- for some, a second chance -- at pro glory. Now, that's what I call a reality contest.

Too bad the show doesn't seem to be aware of its sexy potential. There's a fly-on-the-wall journalistic approach to coverage that makes it look like news footage. It lacks the clean elegance and jolty sensationalism that can make people ogle and swoon at the exciting events and personalities, which is what the most addictive game shows offer. Like sitting on upper box B, you'd have to squint and keep from blinking to relish the muscles and sweat.

The one advantage of buying an established international franchise like Survivor is that the format has already been perfected. With shifty focus and too-loose story editing, My MVP is a sometimes messy viewing experience. I even forget what the guys are playing for, and what the rules are exactly. I didn't even know this week's challenge against PBA veterans was to be the last episode. (The show bows this week.) I should have promoted this show earlier, with this unsolicited advice: If My MVP stepped up to woo a gay audience plus women who are only into the game because of the boys, we would have new basketball idols right now with obsessive following. Hey, there were at least a couple of homoerotic jokes thrown by the boys during the show's run, and we all know sports is gay anyway. Let's hope for a second season.

GRADE: B-

Friday, November 7, 2008

New Trailers

Lalamunan


Dose

Watch It This Week



You say you want to watch a gay film without sex or nudity? Then catch Maling Akala, showing at Robinsons Indie Sine from November 5 to 11. Starring Victor Basa and Jodi Santamaria-Lacson, the film is a romance and a comedy and a mystery, which portrays the guy's homosexuality ambiguously until the end. But I find it's best viewed with the knowledge of his sexuality beforehand, as it allows the film to take on deeper psychological colors regarding women who pin their hopes on gay men and gay men who wittingly hide their true nature. My full review from 2007 here. For showtimes, click here.

Meanwhile, three gay sex-marketed films yet unclassified by the MTRCB (doesn't necessarily mean X-rated) get "director's cut" premieres this week at the University of the Philippines Cine Adarna: Walang Kawala on November 5, Kurap on November 8, and Lalamunan on November 13. Trailers here, here, and here. But even without my prodding, I bet you're already excited about those.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela



Raquela Rios is a ladyboy prostitute from Cebu City with a simple wish: To someday walk the streets of Paris. Based on actual events from Rios' life, whose birth name is Earvin, this work of fiction that's shaped like a documentary was made by Icelandic director Olaf de Fleur Johannesson and producers from Iceland, U.S.A., and the Philippines, and stars Rios herself. Her story is a geographic splurge -- New York, Bangkok, Amsterdam, Reykjavik, Cebu, Paris, and more -- a globe-trotting trip that has the easygoing flow of a fun fairy tale. Crucial to the charm are a cast of lovable supports, especially Raquela's transsexual and transgender friends in Cebu, a ladyboy internet superstar in Thailand, a ladyboy born and raised in Iceland but of Filipino origin, and Michael (Stefan Schaefer), an American owner of a ladyboy website who may possibly clinch romance with our heroine.

But the brilliance of The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela is in the sadness that shimmers underneath the fabric of hope. The film mirrors Raquela's restlessness with that of the entire Philippines: a spirit of third-world dislocation and longing. The movie lays the truth about ladyboy existence, and it cuts deep: Because she was born in a physical, material state she didn't want, Raquela will never be fully realized, even when she is already living the dream. Her place could be somewhere in the past, in myth, beyond this world.

GRADE: A-

Related Links:
Official Movie Website
Queen Raquela on MySpace
Positive Review by Francis Cruz

Altar


Zanjoe Marudo

Writer-Director Rico Maria Ilarde has been making fantasy fright films since 1988's Z-Man. I wouldn't call him a master of horror, but he's at least a mason of pulp. In his latest, 2007's Altar, which gets a theatrical release this week, the economy of his mounting affects the overall impact -- it's not scary -- but the elements have a tingly charm. Zanjoe Marudo plays a retired boxer assigned to do construction work with a precocious buddy (Nor Domingo) in a remote, haunted house.

The real trademark of Ilarde's movies is the casting of bodilicious actors as lead machos who must battle the monsters (previously, they included Yul Servo, Carlos Morales, and Monsour Del Rosario) -- of course a subversion of the usual horror practice in which the terrorized hero is a woman, but no longer the gender novelty that it was since 1987's Evil Dead 2. I enjoyed watching the vertical, lean-beef, ex-model Zanjoe peel off his shirt, or work up beads of sweat, or burst into a torso-grinding dance (though clothed), or generally be a convincing emotional actor. It's the brief sight of him bare-chested in body paint that got me through the parts when the story logic began to malfunction. Not exactly homoerotic, especially when the maids in short skirts arrive as paramours, and only occassionally sexy, Altar is a truly unpretentious B-movie, yes, but just an okay one.

GRADE: B-

Related Links:
Trailer on YouTube
Positive Review by Francis Cruz
Positive Review by Noel Vera
Positive Review by Richard Bolisay
ZanjoeMarudo.Net
Zanjoe Marudo Pictures