Friday, October 30, 2009

Patient X

By Reymundo Salao

Synopsis: Dr. Lukas Esguerra comes home to his rural hometown and finds that one of the suspects in the brutal murder of his brother and his family was caught by the police and was able to sustain multiple gunshot wounds. But then this suspect is still alive, and apparently cannot die. The police locked up this suspect in the basement section of a hospital, because of the suspect’s involvement in the recent massacre that resulted to the deaths of the family of the police chief. On the evening of Dr. Esguerra's visit, the sinister and mysterious companions of the suspect has come knocking on the hospital doors and is bent on freeing their companion locked up inside, even if it kills everybody on the way.

According to press releases for this movie, Patient X shows us director Yam Laranas' take on the Aswang folklore, and puts it in the storyline that asks "What if we ever caught one of these aswangs?" The movie does show that, but it quickly becomes this survival horror about a group of people stuck inside a rural hospital that is being attacked by a group of aswangs.

PATIENT X is a movie that many Pinoy horror audiences will definitely enjoy. Preferably for the same audiences that had made movies like Feng Shui or the Shake Rattle & Roll movies a hit at the box office. Because Patient X does provide the jumps, the scares, and the monsters, all enough to make its mainstream audiences scream. It is the kind of movie that will preferably be enjoyed by a large mainstream crowd (preferably not film critics) who just want to have a good time, brains left outside the theater doors preferably.

Now that is the extent of what little praise I have for the movie. I am really sorry to say this because I am a fan of his works, but Patient X is probably Yam Laranas' weakest movie. The movie has a good premise to begin with. The idea of an aswang held in captivity is something that can create a far more interesting film than what was made. The story never does a good job in covering its loopholes. For instance; none of the characters seem to think of using their cellphones or their mobile radio communicators to call for outside help. This error just makes the film's characters look like idiots. The policemen in the movie felt like cardboard horror victims, their characters are almost too cartoonish. It’s like they all wore a bright yellow t-shirt that says "filler character" or “victim no.1”. The flow of the film is oozing with predictability. One could even easily guess the sequence of who dies first and who survives at the end.

I feel that the monster design on the aswangs looked awkwardly-placed. It was as if they just came off a Halloween Party, what with faces too white and outlandish. Sure their make-up was intricate, but there were moments that they looked silly. It was also a bit inconsistent that at an earlier scene the aswangs could talk to each other coherently, and the next scene, they appear and act orc-ish (communicating in growls and snarls and acting animalistic. Even though one could justify that they were in their "aswang mode" it still felt so inconsistent with their earlier scenes. As if they were taking on a completely different character all of a sudden). But this is just a very minor factor, because what really made a difference in the movie was Richard Guttierez's acting, which is really unbearably bad.

I felt that it really is unfortunate that Guttierez plays the lead role in this movie. No matter how many times he's had movie and TV appearances, it seems to never have any progressive effect on his acting. His performance looks like it is only equivalent to some high school actor in a classroom play. In some scenes he looks like he's too conscious of how he looks, and in most of the scenes, I feel like the director should inject him with some heavy narcotics just to get him to do some real acting. Somebody better either get him into some military-type acting workshop or get him into substance abuse. But then again, some people are just born to be really bad actors.

Despite these bad factors that plague Patient X (pun intended), the film does have its great points. A Yam Laranas film always looks great. His direction makes sure that the cinematography is outstanding. As harsh as my review seems to be, I still urge true lovers of cinema to watch this because of how Laranas executes beautiful lighting and stylish scenes. His use of the lightning effects on some characters, the use of shadows and darkness in a scene, the blurry silhouettes that gives way to creeping anticipations. These are things that make Patient X worthwhile to watch despite its flaws. I also love the concept of how the aswangs hold their victims using their mouth, as if how a wolf carries around their victims: held tightly in their mouth.

Critiquing Laranas is not a simple task because his skill has already gone beyond just local filmmaker borders. Laranas is to be judged alongside international mainstream-friendly directors, like Paul Anderson (Event Horizon, Resident Evil), James Wan (Saw, Death Sentence), and even Sam Raimi (Evil Dead, Drag Me to Hell). You just can’t compare Laranas’ works to the typical Viva, Regal, Star, GMA films. Patient X is not a movie that I liked. But at least in comparison, this was a great, spectacular horror movie compared to what is usually released by the mainstream local film industry. As I have said earlier, this is a film recommended for mainstream audiences, preferably in large crowds. If you and your barkada are out to watch a movie where you can just scream or maybe laugh at, this is for you.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

STAR WARS to return in 3D? has reporter what seems to be a rumor, that may well be reliably turn out to be true...

With the rising popularity and success of the latest advancements in digital 3D cinema, Lucasfilms is prepping up a new STAR WARS trilogy, this time in stereoscopic 3D. This is NOT the TV series, these are brand spankin' new 3D STAR WARS movies.

And we are also not talking about the re-release of the six existing STAR WARS movies which is already being set to be released in 3D format as well. We are talking about a NEW set of Star Wars movies.

I know some of you are rolling your eyeballs because Lucas has already ruined his own Star Wars Universe by directing Episode 1,2, & 3. I admit being one of those who has already lost faith in the Star Wars Universe actually. But in a positive turn of events, Lucas will be producing and NOT directing these new episodes. The source of this news, which is at also revealed that Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola (both personal friends of Lucas) may be tapped to direct these movies.

Check out the full article here

Well, I WAS a big STAR WARS Geek. I still sometimes am one. And I do want STAR WARS regain its respect. Lucas should have done this (giving directorial powers to a batter director) earlier though. The damage of the Prequels has been done.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

James Bond 23 to start filming late 2010

JAMES BOND 23 Begins
According to Daniel Craig has just put the Bond 23 timeline into perspective, stating that production is set to kick off in the second half of 2010.
The comment was made by Craig after a performance of his Broadway play A Steady Rain alongside Hugh Jackman. While signing autographs and posing for photos with fans, one female member in the crowd asked when the next James Bond film was coming out—to which Craig replied ‘Uh, we start the end of the next year, so…’

Furthermore, according to the site, producer Michael G. Wilson had stated that work had begun on Bond 23 earlier this year, although he failed to divulge any specifics. With Craig’s latest comment now, it seems fairly certain that we’ll be back to a three-year wait between Bond films.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Future of the X-Men, Magneto, & Wolverine movies

The X-Men spin-off movie: "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" may have been one of the worst and ugliest big budget action movie last summer, but there will be more X-Men spin-off movies.

Empire magazine talked to Ian McKellen about "X-Men" spin-off Magneto and he thinks it doesn't involve him:

"There's meant to be a Magneto script floating around, but I've not read it, so I suspect it wouldn't involve me," he said. "I think it would be about the younger Magneto, and the most I could hope for would be to top and tail that. They can't have someone whose face is as lined as mine any longer!"

And Wolverine? Even though it was a bad BAD movie, its earnings in the box office was enough for the studio (the ever-predictable & a clear corporate pig-- 20th Century Fox) to plan a sequel for it. According to an interview (made by Oscar Hillerstrom of Rotten Tomatoes) with Wolverine director Gavin Hood --"at the moment is that the studio has just commissioned the script for Wolverine 2 to be written. Whether that film will ever get made will depend on so many factors -- whether the studio likes the script, whether they find a director who responds to the script. Might that be me? Sure, I'd be extremely interested and thrilled if they were to send it to me"

As for the X-MEN itself, according to the Associated Press, Bryan Singer is interested to direct more X-Men movies. Well, I really am glad if he does return to the X-Universe. But unfortunately, the damage has been done, and in my opinion, the awful third movie (X-Men 3: The Last Stand) in the X-men film series franchise he started, kind of destroyed what reputation the X-men universe might have had (spoilers: most especially after the third movie had Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Professor X killed off, in a story that did not deserve such drastic twists). Last summer's "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" made sure that the X-Men reputation stay dead and down the drain, if not just made it an even less reliable franchise.

With a Magneto movie planned to be made & another X-Men spin-off also in the works; It is so sad that we are about to see these spin-offs in a time when the X-Men Universe has already gone the route of awfulness.

Empire Magazine, Rotten Tomatoes, Associated Press

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The ECHO to be released (FINALLY)

The ECHO opens October 16. Finally. No more delays.
After having been postponed for almost more than twice, the Hollywood Remake of the movie SIGAW, entitled THE ECHO, is to be released this coming, plus, a promise of "No More Delays" for the screening/opening of the movie.
the Manila Bulletin recently talked to a source from the Viva Entertainment, Inc., which distributes “The Echo” locally through its affiliate, Viva International Pictures. Read their full article here.
You can read about our previous report on The Echo's delay here

The Echo

A Ghost Story
By Reymundo Salao

The ECHO is the Hollywood remake of the Filipino horror movie from director Yam Laranas entitled “Sigaw” which is also released in the international market with the similar title “The Echo” The story begins when a young ex-con comes home to the apartment where her mother who passed away, lived. He curiously tries to find out what happened to her and why she died. He discovers that the apartment he lives in is having strange occurrences. He finds drops of blood, hears noises of things that are not there, and at the same time, he is also concerned about his apartment neighbor; a mother and daughter who is being victimized by an abusive live-in partner. All these things that haunt him soon affect his life, his work, and his relationship. He even begins to question his own sanity. Soon enough, he must face these things so that it will bring him peace.

Yam Laranas is one of the very few mainstream Filipino directors who have a real serious eye for film. His movies look magnificent and the stories he tell actually make perfect sense (unlike the many local mainstream directors out there who make cartoonish serious movies). It is actually very deserving for him to direct a Hollywood version of his own classic “Sigaw”. And yes, he did accomplish a fine feat with “The Echo”.

Supposedly one that should be categorized as something which is more of a Ghost Story and Psychological Drama, THE ECHO is rich in stylistic visual images. An artful blend of bleak beauty in terms of cinematography and atmosphere, with the eerie vibe created by its storyline. The moments of horror may not be too bloody (except perhaps for one scene that had me biting my own finger) but they indeed transmit the sense of gloom well into its audience.

Jesse Bradford obviously did a better performance than Richard Guttierez (in the original). His fear and sense of paranoia can communicate well with the audience. Iza Calzado is as haunting as she was in the original. I actually felt that the movie needed more focus on Iza whose role in the original was underlined well, and was very relevant with real world issues of abuse.

The Echo takes a lot of time to build up the horror. The slow build-up is reminiscent of old horror movies like The Exorcist, which takes its time to make its characters whole and establish a familiarity with the audience before it spills out the full extent of the horror.

The minor problem with The Echo is that if you have already watched the original Echo movie which is known locally as "Sigaw" and you already have an idea what these hauntings are all about and why they occur, you might feel that it tends to drag and bore, because the surprise is already spoiled for you. Much of the movie’s appeal relies on not knowing why these things happen.

As much as my heart goes out to the director, though, I am sorry to say that I felt that the build-up just dragged too slowly. Some sequences felt like it was just an exercise of waiting for something to happen. I feel that this needed to be re-cut, just to delete off the sequences that are horribly unnecessary. The subplots in between the horror sequences sometimes feel uninteresting. There is a good pay-off at the end but its pay-off is not as satisfying as, say, The Exorcists' final act which all goes off to hellish chaos. Instead, its pay-off is still storyline-based. It does not go off in a whimper, no, it does unleash some hell. But not enough to get it off its track, as it maintains its disciplined pace, leading to an appropriate end which makes the story go full circle. You will soon realize that this is NOT the Exorcist; this is a Ghost Story.

If you watch this movie, do not expect this to be like your run-of-the-mill slasher flick or torture horror; you should just expect a good ghost movie. There is some violence and gore in it, but this is no monsterfest. It is never goofy and it treats its own story in a very serious manner. It feels like something that may have happened in reality. That is actually its beauty because many other horror movies out there tend to overblow their stories to a point that it feels bogus and cartoonish. The Echo takes its time and is more or less grounded in reality. Quiet, but eerie. Just like the ghosts that live around us.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

PREDATORS Cast Revealed

The Hollywood Reporter has revealed the cast for Robert Rodriguez's Predator movie: "Predators", which includes Topher Grace (That 70's Show), Danny Trejo (Grindhouse, Desperado, Bubbleboy), Alice Braga (I Am Legend), Oleg Taktarov (Righteous Kill), Mahershalalhashbaz Ali (The 4400), Walton Goggins (The Shield), and Adrian Brody (The Pianist, King Kong) as the film's main character.

Brody plays Royce, a man who ends up inheriting the mantle of leader and is known as a hunter of men. Grace would play an accountant-type whose unassuming facade masks a dangerous serial killer. Braga is the tough female killer. Ali is a man not afraid to die, Goggins is the loose canon of the group and Taktarov is a former Russian special ops agent. Trejo, who was the first actor cast in the film, is Cuchillo, a hardened warrior with twin uzis strapped to his back.

Predators, which was written by Rodriguez, Alex Litvak and Michael Finch, is set to be directed by Nimrod Antal (Vacancy).

The movie is about to start shooting on location in Hawaii and Rodriguez's Austin-based Troublemaker Studios, and is set for a July 9, 2010, release.

SOURCE: The Hollywood Reporter

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The Echo release cancelled

Sad news for local cinema; the screening of the movie THE ECHO seems to have been canceled and moved yet again. Apparently, according to the official facebook account of the movie The Echo, as stated in one shoutout status: "QED the international distributor is showing how inefficient they are. The material needed for the prints needed for the Manila screening did not arrive. We wonder - if we take out QED in the equation - things would have been different." QED is a production company which has been responsible for films like District 9, A Perfect Getaway, and W, they are the distributors of The ECHO. And it seems that the delay for the film was due to the non-arrival of film prints. In addition, according to the facebook account, the film has officially been canceled in Davao citing "lack of print". Sources around the net also revealed that there was only one print that was available, and it was the print used in the premieres.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The FAME Remake's Notorious Awfulness

Sir Alan Parker says he feels 'mugged' by Hollywood over Fame remake
By Anita Singh, Showbusiness Editor

Sir Alan Parker, the British director, has accused Hollywood executives of "mugging" him by remaking one of his most famous films, Fame, without his approval.

Fame remake feels like I've been mugged, says Sir Alan Parker

Sir Alan's tale of young hopefuls at a New York school of performing arts is regarded as one of the defining works of the early 1980s. It won two Oscars and was nominated for four more, and was later turned into a popular television series.

The new version of Fame was released at the weekend and is currently topping the UK box office, although critics have called it a pale imitation of the 1980 original.

While the makers of the new film claim it has Sir Alan's blessing, the 65-year-old director said he had not been consulted and was appalled by the "dreadful" project.

"It's a bit like being mugged. Such are the realities of Hollywood manners and American copyright law," Sir Alan said.
(Read the full article on The Telegraph)

On the other hand, critic consensus blast this FAME remake with a thumbs down. The most well known critic Roger Ebert quotes on the intro of his review: "Why bother to remake "Fame" if you don't have clue about why the 1980 movie was special? Why take a touching experience and make it into a shallow exercise? Why begin with a R-rated look at plausible kids with real problems and tame it into a PG-rated after-school special?" The Boston Globe's Wesley Morris ends his review with "the glorious threat of the title song seems like a joke. I’m gonna live forever? Not this time"

It is clearly obvious that this remake is nothing more than a cashcow; one that is made with no sense of creativity. Do yourself a favor and go find the original FAME movie instead.

Monday, October 05, 2009

The ECHO will be showing this week

The ECHO is here!
By Reymundo Salao

The long wait is over. The Hollywood remake of the tagalog horror movie SIGAW, which is entitled ECHO is now going to be released in Philippine movie theaters. SIGAW was directed by Yam Laranas, whose directing skills really are impressive in terms of coherence in its storytelling, matched with great cinematography. Yam is not only a master in visual beauty, but also prefers to tell his stories in a very orderly fashion, one that makes his movies be at par with good foreign films. When he made SIGAW, the film became a success and probably has come up to become the best horror movie to come from local cinema. The reason for this, is not because of the popular actors and actresses in it, but because of Yam’s vision. His concept of horror that slowly builds up from creeping you psychologically and into a fiesta of terror. At the time it was released, SIGAW was marketed to be an Angel Locsin and Richard Guttierez movie. But their performances were actually sort of satisfactory, because the actress that truly has pushed the movie into being a great film is Iza Calzado, who plays as the ghastly apparition that dwells the apartment compound which is the setting of the movie. Joemari Yllana is also the other actor that was the driving force of that movie, as he plays an abusive policeman whose cruelty reflects real life horror characters that unfortunately exist in every day life.

When SIGAW was marketed internationally, the film gained popularity among horror aficionados around the world. Just like the popularity of Japan’s The Ring, Ju-on (The Grudge), and Hongkong’s The Eye, SIGAW which is entitled internationally as The ECHO was then taken interest by Hollywood to do an American remake of. Vertigo Entertainment, which is responsible for the Hollywood remakes of The Ring & The Grudge, had acquired from Regal Films the rights to The ECHO (SIGAW) and to produce a remake for the movie. Much to the pride of Filipinos, they wanted Yam Laranas himself to direct the movie, in addition, Iza Calzado was also included in the remake, reprising her role as the ghastly apparition. The film also includes Jesse Bradford, Amelia Warner, and Kevin Durand in their cast.

The remake was done in 2008 and made a good run at various prominent film festivals around the world. Unfortunately, due to the recent recession and also the way Hollywood has been working (if you ask me, Hollywood has been devolving, slowly becoming more and more commercial and becoming less focused on real cinema), the film would not be having a North American theatrical release. On a lighter note, The ECHO had great success in its theatrical run in South Korea, which has become the recent bastion of Asian Cinema (what with the success of films like The HOST and THIRST). The ECHO was able to enjoy basking in the top ten at the South Korean box office during its release. A clear indication that The ECHO is not something to be underestimated upon.

Now the work of Filipino Yam Laranas has come home to be released on its home country. It is to be released here in Iloilo City and nationally on October 7, 2009. Now this is one movie watch out for. My only problem is that the local media is not giving it much attention. Hey! THIS IS A HOLLYWOOD MOVIE MADE BY A FILIPINO! Heads up, man! I am upset because; just because this film is not under the hands of companies affiliated with the two giant local networks, they’re not giving it enough attention. Well, spread the word, because this is one Hollywood movie us Pinoys should be proud of. Mark the date. October 7. See you at the theaters!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Cinemanila 2009 Updates: Competing Films Announced

Cinemanila 2009 announces films competing in different sections

The 11th Cinemanila Intenational Fim Festival has recently released its finalists for the Digital Lokal Section (Philippine digital films); Young Cinema Section (Shorts in Competition and Exhibition); and SEA Shorts (Southeast Asian Shorts in Competition and Exhibition). The selected films are as follows:

The finalists for this year's Digital Lokal are Christopher Gozum's Anacbanua, Armando "Bing" Lao's Biyaheng Lupa, Jon Red's Beerhouse, Lito Casaje's Dolores, Ted Manotoc's 69 1/2 and Bona Fajardo's Iliw.

For Young Cinema Competition the finalists are Janus Victoria's Dalaw, Mikhail Red's Harang, Antoinette Jadaone's Ito ang Gabing Babalikan Kita Pagkatapos ng Tatlong Taon nang Hindi Maiiyak at Masasaktan, Ice Idanan's Limang Libo, Ramon del Prado's Save Me!!!, Emmanuel Quindo Palo's Stations, and Remton Siega's Zuasola To Siomai Love.

For Young Cinema Exhibition are Marcus Adoro's The Artist Is In, Ryan Nikolai Dino's Ang Ibig Sabihin ng 'OK Lang', Leo Valencia's Gemini, Glenn Ituriaga's Gusto Kong Lumipad, Paolo Herras's Irene F**king Jordan, Michael Angelo Dagnalan's Karoler, Rianne Hill Soriano's Technophilia, and Ely Buendia's Waiting Shed.

For the SEA Shorts Competition the finalists are Uwan Init Pista Sa Langit (Philippines) by Remton Siega Zuasola and Keith Deligero, Focal Point (Malaysia) by Alizera Khatami & Ali Seifourri, Rat (Malaysia/Taiwan) by Lau Kek Huat, Outing (Singapore) by Jow Zhi Wei and Sea Horse (Indonesia) by Shalahuddin Siregar.

For the SEA Shorts in Exhibition are Lakad ni Sammy (Philippines) by Joel P. Ruiz, Love Suicides (Malaysia) by Edmund Yeo and It's Not Raining Outside by Josep Anggi Noen.

The 11th Cinemanila International Film Festival

The 11th Cinemanila International Film Festival will be held from October 15 to 25, 2009 in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig. Around 100 international and local films will be screened in a span of 10 days—from the current toasts of the local indie scene to the award-winners and favorites at prestigious festivals such as Cannes, Berlin, Rotterdam, Sundance, and Pusan. The festival will also feature workshops, seminars and master classes. For more info, check out their website.