Tag Archives: Movie Review

tv + film by Philbert Dy

‘Magbuwag Ta Kay’ Offers a New Perspective

While technically rough around the edges, this Cebuano film has considerable charm

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Magbuwag Ta Kay follows young couple Roy and Kay (Rowell Ucat and Akiko Solon). The story kicks off with Kay announces to her boyfriend that her family is moving her to Toronto in about month. And rather than face the prospect of struggling through a long-distance relationship, the two mutually resolve to break it off. Except they don’t do it right away. With one last month together, they take a stroll down memory lane, spend some time with friends, and run away together for a little while, looking for some way to deal with what’s become inevitable.

It should be mentioned that this film is Cebuano, and apart from some English dialogue, it is almost entirely in Bisaya. This is an interesting development in local cinema, as regional films to date have mostly been exhibited only within the confines of festivals. But it’s easy enough to see why Viva was willing to give this film a national platform. While it is a little rough around the edges, particularly when it comes to technique, it’s a perfectly sweet little film that deserves to earn a larger audience. It’s a youthful romantic movie that puts its heart in the right place.

The movie’s scope is pretty small. There are quirky little flashbacks to how the two met, but it isn’t at all about how they fell in love. The film instead details the comfort of a long-term relationship, Roy and Kay displaying a rapport that feels like it was built over a substantial amount stretch of their lives. It’s clear enough that the two actual have something to lose, despite being really young. They’re genuinely part of each other’s life, and even as they pretend that the breakup won’t hurt, the depth of their potential loss is pretty evident.

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And this becomes key as the movie tries to play around with more intriguing themes. The two are trying very hard to hold on to what little time they have, but there are also other people in their lives. The movie’s most interesting dimension lies in its depiction of how all-consuming this crisis is for these characters, and how it doesn’t just let them get away with it. It doesn’t let their impending breakup be an excuse for mistreating the other people in their lives, the hurt they cause their loved ones popping up in the fringes. It gives these characters a measure of surprising depth, balancing out the occasional bout of overt quirkiness.

The film’s biggest weak point is its technical package. Its attempts at being cinematic feel pretty facile, and they do little to contribute to the overall feeling of the film. The sound design could use some work as well. Rowell Ucat and Akiko Solon are pretty watchable together. Ucat doesn’t always look comfortable on screen, but there’s an earnestness to his performance that sells the appeal of his character. Solon is a pretty radiant presence on screen, and she is more than able to handle the film’s bigger dramatic turns.

Magbuwag Ta Kay is probably worth recommending just for the fact that it doesn’t come from Manila. Regional cinema is the most exciting aspect of our local film scene, and any effort to move it out of the fringes of the national conversations is welcome. But it’s also worth recommending just for how sweet it is, and how it delivers what feels like a new perspective on the romantic comedy. The production values could be better, but that will come with time, especially if the industry becomes willing to invest in these talents.

MAGBUWAG TA KAY IS NOW SHOWING IN SELECT CINEMAS NATIONWIDE
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Philbert Dy
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Rogue.ph. Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.
tv + film by Philbert Dy

‘Ang Pambansang Third Wheel’ Forgets the Basics

While the movie does some interesting things, it falters in just telling the story of its romance

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Ang Pambansang Third Wheel tells the story of Trina (Yassi Pressman), who thanks to a string of bad relationships, as resigned herself to being the third wheel to her coupled-up friends. But then she meets Neo (Sam Milby), who becomes her creative partner at the ad agency they both work at. Trina opens up to him, and she lets herself consider falling in love. And that’s when she meets Neo’s young son Murphy (Alonzo Muhlach). Trina struggles with the complications of having to deal with all the added baggage that Neo brings with him into her life. And she’s soon forced to make tough choices for both her and her new beau.

The movie gets through a lot in its first act. It conveys Trina’s painful romantic past, her relationships with her friends and her dad, the introduction of Neo and their subsequent courtship, which dovetails with the story of her first trial in her new role as an advertising copy writer. The sheer density of this setup makes the the central relationship a little shaky. The movie doesn’t invest enough time to build the depth necessary to justify a lot of what goes on in the meat of the narrative. It at times feels like the characters are talking about a love that we don’t really get to see.

There is a real disparity between the seriousness of the relationship and the seriousness of the obstacles that the characters have to face. The film is never really able to sell this pairing as valuable enough to put up with that level of struggle. What’s worse is that the film cheats through its resolution, denying the characters the chance to work through the obstacles, and instead just conveniently removes them from the picture. The film plays at the same highs as every other romantic comedy, but hardly does the work to earn any of it.

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The aesthetic of this film could be described as “Ally McBeal.” It functions on about the same level of quirk as that show, and it’s prone to the same kind of surreal fantasy sequences that speak of the main character’s mental state at any given moment. While it doesn’t feel entirely original, it does feel somewhat fresh for the genre locally. And it allows the film to make some interesting choices, Trina allowed a measure of frankness that is unusual for films of this ilk. But this does become excessive after a point, the ongoing narration of the character tending to overexplain simple concepts.

The pairing of Yassi Pressman and Sam Milby doesn’t feel entirely right. It could just be the difference in age, but their attraction in the film feels like a put-on. They’re just bringing completely different energies to their characters, and it never really clicks. It’s pretty clear, though, that there’s still a lot of upside to Pressman. The commitment that she brings to this role goes a pretty long way, even if the character doesn’t seem very different from others that she’s played. It might be interesting to see the actress being taken out of this comfort zone.

To its credit, Ang Pambansa Third Wheel does do some interesting things. It has at least one really bracing moment, where the character’s ability to step into fantasy is broken down, and she is confronted with a reality that she isn’t prepared to deal with. But while the film displays cleverness, it fails to make its more basic elements work out. The central relationship never quite feels like it’s worth fighting for, and in the end, it feels like the film comes to the same conclusion. Rather than having these characters go through their obstacles, it magically removes what was keeping them apart.

 

ANG PAMBANSANG THIRD WHEEL IS NOW SHOWING IN SELECT CINEMAS NATIONWIDE
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Philbert Dy
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Rogue.ph. Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.
tv + film by Philbert Dy

‘Tomb Raider’ Keeps the Focus on the Action

This reboot has a plot that doesn’t make much sense, but it makes up for it through sheer velocity.

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Tomb Raider casts Alicia Vikander in the role of video game icon Lara Croft. The movie follows the character seven years after the disappearance of her father Richard (Dominic West). She has been refusing to legally acknowledge his death, and has thus been deprived of an inheritance. But she ends up receiving one last message from her father, which leads her on a journey to an uninhabited island in the middle of the Pacific, which might have been his final destination. And there she discovers the truth about her father’s disappearance, as well the existence of a mysterious organization that seeks to use relics as weapons.

One thing is very clear right from the start: very little in this movie makes sense. The only thing consistent about these characters is that they’re prone to making irrational choices. But it’s clear that the film knows it, too, and it seems to acknowledge that nobody is going into the theater looking for an intricate narrative. So it just keeps pushing out the exposition as fast as it can, leaving more time for the kind of real fun the film can deliver: scenes of its heroine running through jungles, falling into all manner of ridiculous peril, and somehow powering her way out of it.

That’s really all there is to this movie. More often than not, Lara Croft finds her hanging over some impossibly high structure that’s falling apart, and she has to pull herself up. This hanging portion is almost always the climax of some other bit of action: chasing after some thugs, running away from thugs, or narrowly avoiding death by trap. Whatever the case may be, Lara Croft will perform an intensely strenuous pull-up and narrowly save herself from falling into some bottomless pit. And often, it’s just a brief moment of respite before having the rug pulled out from under her and having to rescue herself again.

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So while the film is full of characters that make irrational decisions, and sequences that don’t have a coherent timeline, it’s all in service of delivering the kind of visceral thrills available in the video game, particularly the 2013 reboot that this whole thing is somewhat based on. Like the best bits of the game, it at times feels like Lara Croft is being put through a Rube Goldberg machine of peril, with one bit of danger just leading straight into the next. And this is pretty fun.

Alicia Vikander is also a real strength of the film. It’s clear that she put herself some intense physical training for this film, and it really pays off. She is absolutely convincing in these action sequences, whether she’s grappling with a thug, or trying to pull herself up on to a rusted out airplane wing. And there are even a couple of dramatic moments that Vikander pulls off with aplomb. The supporting roles aren’t written deeply enough for anyone to do anything particularly interesting, but given that, Walton Goggins and Dominic West pull off these archetypes pretty perfectly.

Tomb Raider is a film that keeps it pretty simple. It knows that it can’t get tangled up in an intricate plot, so it just delivers its exposition as quickly as possible, almost shrugging it off as just something it needs to get through. And then it just goes, sending its hero hurtling through a jungle, making it clear that she’s capable but still vulnerable, a fish out of water slowly getting used to her new reality. And she takes on all these challenges, and through sheer strength and determination, she comes out on the other side. The movie could be a lot smarter, but there is value to its velocity.

TOMB RAIDER IS NOW SHOWING IN CINEMAS NATIONWIDE.
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Philbert Dy
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Rogue.ph. Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.