Tag Archives: Philbert Dy

tv + film by Philbert Dy

‘Trip Ubusan’ Serves Too Many Masters

Not funny enough to be a comedy, not smart enough to be anything else

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Trip Ubusan stars the popular Lola characters from Eat Bulaga. Tinidora, Nidora and Tidora (Wally Bayola, Jose Manalo and Paolo Ballesteros) are preparing for their niece Charmaine’s ninth birthday party when cases of zombie transformations start popping up around Metro Manila. The lolas try to leave the city with their young niece, but get separated from her during a chaotic scene at a gas station. They all eventually manage to hook up with a group of survivors that were able to hop on to a tour bus. This ragtag group must now work as one in order to get to safety.

The title is a clear reference to last year’s breakout Korean hit film Train to Busan, which might imply that this movie is a parody. But there aren’t really any jokes made at the expense of the Korean film, the movie more or less a straightforward zombie horror film that just happens to star the characters popularized on Eat Bulaga. Their particular brand of humor doesn’t even really come to the fore, as the movie seems to prioritize the zombie content, spending its time on explaining various mechanics and going long stretches without any jokes as the character fend for their lives.

It’s not the most intuitive approach for a vehicle starring three men cross dressing as affluent grandmothers, but if the film was really serious about making the film work as a serious zombie film, then that would be something interesting as well. Unfortunately, the movie’s zombie ambitions don’t go beyond taking advantage of the aesthetics. It just doesn’t work hard enough to make it various elements work logically. It plays at drama that it doesn’t earn, and has characters acting in ways that don’t really make sense within the context of what they’re experiencing.

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For the zombie stuff to work, the film needed to be judicious about the staging of its peril. But in almost every scene, it seems to treat logic as its enemy. There is a fairly long sequence, for example, that has the character “zombie-proofing” the bus that they’re on. After all that effort, however, the characters seem to take every opportunity to leave the safety of their zombie proof bus. There is a scene later on where characters discover that the zombies are averse to seawater, but no one takes advantage of that fact. The scene has characters running through a zombie horde on the beach, inexplicably ignoring the fact that they could be completely safe if they just waded in the shallows.

This would matter less if the movie was funnier, but there just aren’t that many jokes. The film is actually more prone to delivering trite moral lessons than delivering any humor. These lola characters have always stood for very conservative values, and the film makes room for their proselytizing in the middle of this zombie outbreak. The three leads are good at what they do, but they just aren’t as amusing in a scripted format. And the film reaches for levels of sentiment that aren’t quite consistent with the fact that these actors are inherently playing to ridiculous stereotypes.

Trip Ubusan isn’t funny enough to work as a comedy, and isn’t smart enough to really work as anything else. To be completely fair to the movie, there is a surprisingly high level of production value in here, the film on the surface just looking better than it has any right to be. But that’s hardly cause for celebration. The movie is serving too many masters: it has to stay true to the comedic roots of its main characters; it wants to deliver a credible zombie film ala Train to Busan, and it also seems to want to provide space for showcasing younger talents. It does none of these things particularly well, and the result is ultimately very skippable.

TRip UBUSAN IS NOW SHOWING IN CINEMAS.
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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

Relevance is Shoehorned into ‘Suburbicon’

George Clooney makes awkward additions to an old Coen Brothers script

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Suburbicon is set in the summer of 1959, in a suburban community boasting 60,000 homes. The film kicks off with the arrival of the first African-American family into the area. While the community stirs itself into a tizzy over the new residents, Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon) and his family suffer a terrible tragedy as a criminal home invasion leads to the death of his wife Rose (Julianne Moore). His son Nicky (Noah Jupe) soon notices, however, that not everything is at it seems. He begins to suspect that there’s something darker lurking beneath his family’s placid Episcopalian façade.

This film has a somewhat interesting history. It’s a decades-old shelved script written by the Coen brothers around the time of their debut Blood Simple. George Clooney got his hands on the script, and decided to produce it, but not without adding his own little touch to it. In this case, it’s a subplot that serves as an allegory to an ugly incident in American history concerning the first black family that moved into all-white Levittown, Pennsylvania. It turned out to a facile addition, however, as Clooney gets to display vague outrage at the issues at hand, without really investing too much into this subplot in terms of writing.

It makes for an odd fit. The main plot of the film is a Coen Brothers dark screwball caper, with seemingly ordinary people getting into macabre business and thinking that they’re much smarter than they really are. It is the kind of story that can play death as a comedic beat, the violence spiraling out of a general sense that the universe is just an inherently ironic place. But this is juxtaposed against images of racism and hatred that can’t really stand that kind of abstraction. So the film is often cutting between sincere images of injustice and comic sequences with violent punchlines. It doesn’t work.

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And while the film certainly has its heart in the right place, it doesn’t really seem to do enough to make these scenes anything more than a blank caricature. It wallows in its outrage, while never really writing much of a personality for its African-American characters. They are simply there as a symbol, standing in for whatever issues are on the mind of their creators. It’s a film that calls for the recognition of the equality of all humans that doesn’t quite do enough to make humans out of its characters.

Clooney as a director doesn’t really seem to have the right tools for a story so darkly comic. His strengths lie in his obvious reverence for the aesthetics of bygone eras, and it’s evident here in the details of the production and sound design. But the comedic scenes lack comic punch, the pace just a little bit off. Matt Damon and Julianne Moore command the screen in this movie, with Damon particularly relishing in embracing the more shadowy side of his character. But there are times when it feels like the movie itself is at odds with what he’s trying to bring out in the performance.

Suburbicon takes an interesting risk, but it doesn’t pay off. One can give Clooney credit for trying something weirdly radical, but one could just as quickly point out that his call for social justice in this movie feels empty. It is easy enough to agree with the sentiment of the film, easy enough to see the value in pointing out the strange ironies inherent in the white suburban ideal. But there’s much left to be desired in the execution, the film never really able to make an eloquent argument for its very obvious point.

SUBURBICON IS IN NOW SHOWING IN CINEMAS.
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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

Though Formulaic, ‘Coco’ Delivers the Emotional Goods

Bring tissues to the theater. You’re going to need them.

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The prologue of Coco explains that the great-grandmother of Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) was abandoned by her musician husband, and then dedicated the rest of her life to erasing his memory, making shoes, and keeping her family away from music. But in present day, the young Miguel has developed a real passion for music, secretly idolizing the town’s most famous musician, the long departed Ernesto de la Cruz. On Dia de los Muertos, the day of the dead, he goes to the tomb of de la Cruz, hoping to borrow his guitar to play in a show, but this instead causes him to cross over into the land of the dead.

Miguel has until sunrise to find a way back into the land of the living. It should be a simple affair: all he has to do is get a blessing from one of his ancestors. But his great-grandmother Imelda (Alanna Ubach) will only give him the blessing on the condition that he never play music again. And so, with the help of the vagabond Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal), Miguel attempts to find a way to reach Ernesto de la Cruz, who he believes is the true source of his love for music. It isn’t at all difficult to see where this is all going, the film doing little to stray from a familiar path.

And yet, it’s all still rather wonderful. Coco is a prime example of what can be done within the limits of formula, how creators can still imbue real emotion into shopworn narrative tropes. The plot may be schematic, but the execution feels heartfelt and powerful. The care put into this film is seen in every single frame, in each little detail of this wondrously constructed world of the dead. And beyond the visual splendor of this massive city of skeletons, the film imagines an economy of memory that serves as the emotional underpinnings of this young man’s journey.

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There are twists, but they are telegraphed so often and so early that they might as well not be twists. There just isn’t much of an element of surprise in the plot, the true nature of some of these characters almost immeidately evident to a mildly observant viewer. But the film can be surprising in other ways, like in how it earnestly takes on matters of life and death, how it trusts its young viewers enough to tell them a story that involves profound loss. The candy colored visuals are just a coating on a story that explores what it means to be gone, and the great tragedy in forgetting.

It all comes in a technical package that is of a level that one has just come to expect from Pixar. The skeletons are a particular visual marvel, the flamboyant cartoon designs belying the complex mathematics of such natural movement. Or notice the detail put into Miguel playing his guitar, the sheer accuracy with which the film depicts the fingers plucking the strings. At this level of technology, it’s becoming harder to pick out what makes one animated film different from another animated film on a technical level. But this film makes it clear that there are still plenty of animated territories to conquer.

Coco can be pretty powerful, even if you recognize all of its plot components. You know where this story is going, but it hardly matters. The film hits those beats with expert timing, delivering an emotional punch that will likely turn audiences into puddles of sentiment. This is really what separates the film from most other animated features: through its frantic, at times overly busy heroic adventure, it never loses sight of its heart. It doesn’t just tack on its sentiment: it’s there right from the start, and informs everything that’s going on. These emotions are real, and this movie really wants people to feel them.

COCO IS NOW SHOWING IN CINEMAS.
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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

‘Justice League’ isn’t Quite Inspiring, but it’s Okay

The DC Cinematic Universe takes some uneasy steps in the right direction.

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Justice League picks up around a year after the events of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. The world appears to be reeling from the death of Superman. Batman (Ben Affleck) is looking into an incursion of strange alien creatures that have been abducting humans. These creatures turn out to be tied to an ancient conquering evil that seeks three artifacts that could mean the end of life on Earth. With the help of Diana (Gal Gadot), Batman seeks out other superpowered allies that can help defend the world from this apocalyptic threat.

The film actually gets off to an interesting start: a cell phone video of some kids talking to Superman. It is the first real indication that the film is trying to be a little different from the films that came before it. In this opening bit, the Man of Steel is actually shown to be smiling and enjoying himself talking to human beings. It’s a little burst of optimism and lightness in what has so far been two grim-and-gritty movies that are mostly about how alien and dangerous Superman is. This doesn’t really last, the movie losing that freshness as it tries to lay out the disparate pieces of its plot.

Most of the film is devoted to getting the team together, which feels a little needlessly complicated. It just takes a little too long for the film to have these characters in the same room. The film seems to really model itself after The Avengers, but it comes with the disadvantage of having to establish all of these new characters. So the film moves pretty slowly, and ends up having to marginalize its villain in order to make space for all of the heroic introductions. The threat never really feels real in this film, and as much as Batman might talk about the catastrophic consequences of inaction, there’s very little sense in the film of the danger that the world is actually facing.

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Once the team is actually together, things start looking up. The appeal of this movie really comes through when these characters are interacting. It really does try to give these heroes distinct personalities, giving them heft beyond their ability to cause all sorts of damage to infrastructure. This Batman is trying to get back in touch with his humanity. Wonder Woman is regretting her time away. The Flash is on some sort of spectrum, but wants desperately to connect with others. Aquaman is kind of a frat boy who happens to be king of the seas. The only underwritten role is Cyborg, the film treating him more as a plot device than an actual character. But he works well enough.

What doesn’t work are the visuals. It’s all still pretty ugly. A lot of the conversations in this film take place in cramped quarters, usually with some sort of rubble in the background. The action sequences, particularly the ones that involve The Flash, produce some compelling imagery, but they come with visual effects that look subpar considering the kind of budget this film is working with. The cast is largely a strength, though. Ben Affleck brings some interesting dimensions to his aging Bruce Wayne, and Gal Gadot is still a wonder. Ezra Miller and Jason Momoa are fine enough additions to this whole thing, bringing some new, lighter energy to this overall still-grim world.

Justice League is okay. It’s just okay. It isn’t particularly inspiring as a piece of cinema. It is clearly a product of a studio machine, flattening out the rough edges to create something widely palatable instead of interesting. But within this context, the film at least feels like it’s taking steps in the right direction, displaying a genuine fondness for the characters it’s depicting, making them out to be the heroes that they are, rather than the snotty, illogical narcissists that they’ve been in their previous outings. That’s an improvement, at least, and what’s established here could lead to better things for these characters down the line.

JUSTICE LEAGUE IS NOW SHOWING IN CINEMAS.
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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

‘Fallback’ Wallows in Romantic Artificiality

Rhian Ramos and Zanjoe Marudo are unable to make sparks in this disappointingly soulless film about having a romantic plan B.

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Fallback is about film location manager Michelle (Rhian Ramos), who is starting to get the feeling that her boyfriend Chris (Daniel Matsunaga) is going to leave her for another woman. She is told by a friend at work to look for a plan B, a guy that she can be with just in case. And while scouting for locations, she runs into her ex-boyfriend Alvin (Zanjoe Marudo). She ends up making Alvin her “fallback” guy, taking advantage of the feelings he still has for her to give herself insurance against heartbreak.

The movie starts on a strange, goofily surreal note, depicting what turns out to be the heartbreak that Michelle experienced when Alvin broke up with her all those years ago. The scene is modeled after exorcism films, with an old man called in to banish the vengeful spirit that has apparently taken over the young woman. If the opening scene of a film is supposed to set the tone for the movie, then this fails miserably. Nothing else that happens in this picture even comes close to that level of unreality. It mainly becomes an indication of a movie that doesn’t really know what it wants to do.

The central conceit, which theoretically explores a rather sober approach to adult relationships, doesn’t really pan out. It never really commits to the idea, and ends up playing the same tired romantic drama beats in spite of the choices that the characters have already made. This mostly has the effect of making the main character deeply unsympathetic. The film doesn’t do nearly enough to make it seem like she had something to hold on to with Chris. His presence is barely felt throughout the movie, and the few scenes that he’s in seem to repeatedly make the case that he isn’t worth the trouble.

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And so, the film marches on inevitably with a notable lack of dramatic tension. For most of the movie, it’s pretty unclear what Michelle actually wants, the character devoid of personality apart from her trite aversion to heartbreak and her glaring incompetence at work. There’s not much that actually goes on between her and Alvin, either. The story struggles to find some way to get them together in the end, and ends up contriving a clunky situation that has them inexplicably working together to solve a problem that only highlights just how bad Michelle is at her job.

It just doesn’t feel like the film is even really interested in its romance. Everything feels artificial, the plot an unpleasant obligation to the production. Rhian Ramos comes off badly in this movie, her formidable charms not nearly enough to overcome the deficiencies in the way the character is written. Zanjoe Marudo, generally a consistent performer, feels like he’s just sleeping through this role. The film only really comes alive when Ricky Davao is on screen, and even then, he is simply playing a type that is basically a staple of local cinema.

Fallback doesn’t display any particular personal investment in the story, and so it ends up feeling pretty soulless. There’s just so little truth in its romantic ministrations, so little effort put into making these relationships worth caring about. There isn’t even all that much effort put into crafting a cohesive picture. The movie just drifts through its strange little world where everyone seems to accept the idea of having a “fallback” significant other, while never really telling a compelling story that explores that potentially intriguing idea.

FALLBACK IS NOW SHOWING IN CINEMAS.
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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

‘This Time I’ll Be Sweeter’ Feels Like a Joke

All the most tired romcom tropes are mindlessly assembled in a movie that is inexplicably not a parody of a genre

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This Time I’ll be Sweeter is about Erika (Barbie Forteza), who back in college had a major crush on varsity swimmer Tristan (Ken Chan). This did not end well for Erika, who ended up feeling betrayed and played with. Years later, Erika is a TV reporter struggling to get her stories on air. But she gets her chance to go live when a plane crashes in her vicinity. And it just so happens that the airline that suffered the tragedy is owned by Tristan’s family. So in pursuit of the story, Erika reunites with Tristan and stirs up old feelings.

It should be noted that the extent of their relationship in college largely involves spending one afternoon together. But of course, the film treats it like the gravest betrayal of all time. Because the film is not at all concerned with the way relationships work in real life. This is a really strange film that feels like nothing more than a random assemblage of romcom tropes, with no real regard for what feels real or what makes basic logical sense.

The film throws in a bunch of subplots that add to the runtime, but offer no real value to the movie. The movie only cares about these subplots in the moment, their conflicts isolated, and their effects forgotten by the next scene. It should probably matter, for example, that Erika has deep qualms about the nature of the work that she’s doing. But the moment she feels any real conflict, she just quits, and everybody seems to be happy about that. It feels for a while that Tristan’s relationship with his father would be a major component of this story. But that conflict is resolved in the middle of the film, and then his father literally does not show up in the movie again.

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So the film goes on in little fits and starts, at times seemingly forgetting that it’s supposed to be about how these two characters feel about each other. The whole premise is built around Erika’s willingness to risk being hurt again, which is again, pretty weird since the film’s depiction of their college interactions is tame to the point of being completely inconsequential. But if we put that aside, we’re still left with an incredibly tepid romance that seems to progress purely through the soulless application of the genre’s tropes. The filmmakers don’t seem to really care about making a case for these characters being together. It just takes it for granted that audiences would like to see this pairing triumph in the end.

So there’s no sense of the two falling in love. There’s just a montage of scenes set in a water park that’s supposed to stand in for the development of their relationship. And then when the film inevitably splits them up again, it’s for a completely moronic reason that it almost feels like a direct insult on people who enjoy these kinds of films. There’s just no effort put into applying these tropes in a way that might actually be appealing. In all this, one starts to feel sorry for the two leads. Barbie Forteza has already shown that she deserves far better than this. Ken Chan basically looks like a fool in all this, clearly getting none of the guidance necessary to acquit one of this mess.

This Time I’ll Be Sweeter feels like it should be a joke, but it isn’t. It exhibits such outward disdain for the romcom and the people who like romcoms, the lack of care put into assembling the pieces of the film so palpable. This film is baffling right up to its last moments, which is a drone shot flying away from the central couple. It is baffling for how far away it flies, the camera rolling well past the point where it would have been reasonable to fade to black. It just keeps going, because it might as well. Nobody cares, apparently. You shouldn’t care about this movie, either.

THIS TIME I’LL BE SWEETER IS NOW SHOWING IN CINEMAS.
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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

‘12’ is a Lengthy Conversation that Doesn’t Really Go Anywhere

Alessandra de Rossi’s writing debut is about a breakup that’s taking too long to happen

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12 tells the story of Erica and Antonio (Alessandra de Rossi and Ivan Padilla), who are at odds with each other at the onset of the movie. Antonio has just proposed, but Erica, feeling stifled and listless in their relationship, doesn’t give him a yes. The film then largely takes place the day after, where the two are forced to deal with the fallout of her response, all their emotional baggage brought out into the open as they explore and argue over all the things that went wrong in their relationship.

So the film stays with the characters in the present while they argue about all manner of things, but it occasionally cut back to little scenes from the past that elaborate on the rift that grew between the couple. Or rather, elaborate on the increasingly bad behavior of Antonio, who turns out to be a pretty awful person. He’s moody, controlling, temperamental and prone to stumbling home drunk. The film firmly picks a side in this conflict, Antonio pretty much written to be a complete child in the guise of an adult man, basically keeping Erica a prisoner in her own home, his ego consuming the entirety of her identity.

This makes a lot of the movie pretty insufferable to sit through. The more we learn about Antonio’s weaknesses, the more we see of his bad behavior, the more unreasonable it seems that Erica stuck around for so long. The movie doesn’t invest much in showing the good parts of their coupling. There are a few scenes here and there, but it never really makes much of a case for what is being lost in their parting. And so, in the scenes set in the present, it starts to feel silly that Erica doesn’t just walk out, and that she continues to entertain the abuse of this apparently bipolar monster. And then the film goes on to add a strange layer of sentiment to the toxicity in which these two characters seem inured.

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In fact, the way things play out, the movie seems to be actively taking away the agency of Erica in this regard, making her completely incapable of just leaving under her own volition. It’s a real thematic problem, because her freedom, up to the very end, seems contingent on the choices of Antonio. It isn’t so much about a woman taking back her identity, but a man being chastised enough into finally granting the woman a measure of her own power. Stilted dialogue only serves to make things worse. Characters tend to speak in labored idioms that just don’t feel real.

Alessandra de Rossi plays the lead of this film, but she is also credited as the writer. If nothing else, the material does feel personal, and her familiarity with it allows for a performance that feels heartfelt even in moments that don’t quite ring true. Less successful in this movie is Ivan Padilla, who isn’t at all convincing while depicting the couple’s few happier moments, and only becomes less engaging once the character gets into darker emotions. To be fair, the character is written really badly, but even so, Padilla is unable to make any part of this performance appealing.

12 really tests one’s patience. And it isn’t just because it’s a movie that pretty much two people talking in one location for the entirety of its runtime. Conversation can be compelling, of course, and there are truly gripping movies that do the same. But the content and the context of these conversations matter. Content-wise, the film feels trite and tedious. And in terms of context, the film doesn’t make it feel like all this talk should be happening at all. Erica should be walking off into the sunset, into a happier life without the permission of the man who made her so miserable.

12 IS NOW SHOWING IN CINEMAS.
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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

‘Spirit of the Glass: The Haunted’ Never Actually Gets Scary

This belated sequel fails to create any peril for any its characters.

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Spirit of the Glass 2: The Haunted follows Bea (Cristine Reyes) and her friends, who have traveled to an old house in Batangas. The house belongs to Bea’s family, and she’s been asked to go there to pick up some boxes for her mother. Bea brings the boxes home and opens them up, there she finds an old Ouija board. She and her friends unwisely decide to play with it. In doing so, they inadvertently open a gate to the spirit world, and they’re soon seeing all manner of apparition, the spirits from the other side constantly making their presence known to this group of hapless friends.

For a horror movie, Spirit of the Glass 2: The Haunted doesn’t spend a lot of its time constructing scares. Making their presence known is about as far as the ghosts of this film go. There is very little sense that the characters are actually in any danger from these apparitions. For most of the story, the characters are running around trying to learn the backstory behind one of the spirits that shows up after they play with the board. The information is relayed through lengthy flashbacks matched with flat voiceover narration from a succession of characters that exist solely for the delivery of this exposition.

In all this, nothing really interesting happens with the six main characters. Nothing that was set up about their characters ends up mattering in the end. They could be any six people, since most of what they’re doing throughout this film is just listening to somebody to tell a story. What’s strange is that the film actually bothers to create plot hooks for the characters. The actress Lisette and her boyfriend, for example, are given a potential point of conflict involving fabricated rumors about a relationship with a leading man. This never actually becomes an issue in the story, the characters in the present less important to this movie than the characters in the past.

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And if the flashbacks actually led to anything interesting, it might all be easier to swallow. But there really isn’t much there, and the gradual discovery of details only serves to slow down the telling of an already slow story. And it turns out that the Bea’s investigation doesn’t really matter anyway. Nothing that she learns contributes directly to the resolution of this story, because it falls to an external character to simply show up and tell the friends what needs be done in order to free them of the strangely benign presence of these spirits.

The best one can really say about the movie is that it looks fairly good. The scenes set in the past, at the very least, offer up some appealing production design. The film matches that with a faux-grainy treatment that makes it look a little different from every other horror movie. In the present, however, a few technical hiccups keep the film from being as smooth an experience as it could be. Cristine Reyes doesn’t really get to flex her muscles as Bea, as she’s mostly listening to stories told by other people. But her co-stars get it worse, the film just not providing any opportunities for them to create anything memorable.

Spirit of the Glass 2: The Haunted is a bore. It feels like the people involved didn’t even want to make a horror movie, or even a movie set in the present. It puts most of its care into its flashbacks, and doesn’t even really bother to try to thematically connect the two sides of its story, even though the hooks seem to be right there. So, this is a horror movie where the six main characters see ghosts but never feel like they’re in any danger. It’s either a fatal misunderstanding of how the genre works, or a clear display of disdain for what it can do. Either way, the result is pretty tedious.

SPIRIT OF THE GLASS 2: THE HAUNTED IS NOW SHOWING IN CINEMAS.
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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

‘Loving Vincent’ is Gorgeous, but Fails to Engage

Over 100 artists came together to provide stunning visuals for a scattered story

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Loving Vincent is being sold almost entirely on its process of creation. Live action footage was painstakingly rotoscoped, with over a hundred artists volunteering their time to hand paint the animated layer in the style of the paintings of Vincent van Gogh. Curiously, the movie’s main character isn’t the painter. The film follows Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth), the son of the postmaster than Vincent befriended. He reluctantly takes on the task of deliver Van Gogh’s final letter to his brother Theo. This mission takes him to Auvers-sur-Olse, where Van Gogh spent his last days.

The film has Roulin talking to various people that encountered the painter. Some are convinced that he committed suicide. Some aren’t. They talk about their relationship with him and how they viewed him. Roulin becomes obsessed with Van Gogh, and starts to make his own conclusions. So right from conception, this film built its story as an abstraction. It isn’t the story of Van Gogh, but rather the memories people had of him. If this isn’t obtuse enough, not everything here is based on historical fact. The film takes inspiration from the paintings, building characters and bits of narrative from the images that Van Gogh created.

It all just gets too distant from anything that feels real. The experience of Van Gogh’s life is filtered through so many layers: the film’s own crafted fictions, the various testimonies of unreliable characters, the perception and conclusions of the protagonist, and the method of presentation, beautiful as it may be. Those layers keep the movie from feeling as engaging as it could be. The plot just limps along, failing to reach the emotive heights of its inspiration’s works. And we get deeper into the movie, the novelty of beautiful animation starts to wear off, the film unable to give audiences something more solid to hold on to.

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Not that the art still isn’t amazing. Every single frame of this movie really is just astounding. But it’s an idea that works better in theory than in practice. If the film really wanted to do the story that it ends up telling, it might have helped to have one less layer of obfuscation. Alternatively, if they were really set on this style of presentation, then the film would have been better off with a more straightforward story that didn’t treat its main subject as a mystery. There is still plenty of merit to what the film does, but that’s mostly a testament to how effective Van Gogh’s images really are.

This is not to disparage the work of the artists who took part in this process, because the value of their work is clearly beyond measuring. But there is a real disconnect between the images and the narrative taking place. As fanciful as it may all seem, the film is actually pretty literal, the art reduced to a plain aesthetic that doesn’t really express much more than what it shows. Douglas Booth is okay as the movie’s lead, but the character doesn’t really get anywhere. The various supporting performances are okay as well, some even managing to cut through those layers to deliver a measure of true feeling.

Loving Vincent at times offers up visual so transcendent that it can be easy to forget about the weaknesses of the script. Clearly, if one loves the paintings of Van Gogh, this movie can be much more easily forgiven for its failings. But visuals alone do not a movie make, and Loving Vincent just gets too caught up in trying to be clever, in crafting an interpretation of paintings that do not really benefit from it. In all that, the film fails to be engaging, its narrative falling to the wayside as the film pursues its various extraneous elements.

LOVING VINCENT IS NOW SHOWING IN CINEMAS.
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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

Bad Comedy Smothers the Tender Heart of ‘Seven Sundays’

Oddly mean-spirited stabs at humor negate a lot of what’s good about this family drama

NBHD movie 2 ticketsSeven Sundays is about the Bonifacio siblings: Bryan (Dingdong Dantes), Cha (Cristine Reyes), Allan (Aga Muhlach), and Dex (Enrique Gil). The film begins with each of them finding some reason to not show up for the birthday of their father Manuel (Ronaldo Valdez). That same night, Manuel gets news that he has cancer, and that he has around two to six months to live. He asks his kids for one last wish before he dies: that they all spend the next few Sundays together as a family. And so, the siblings are forced to deal with their individual issues, as they each bring their baggage back home.Screen Shot 2017-10-12 at 12.34.45 PMThat baggage turns out to be the weakest part of the story. The individual problems of the siblings more often than not involve cartoonish side characters that display an unflattering mean streak on the part of the filmmakers. It ultimately clashes with the tender heart of the movie, which works best when it revels in the loving familiarity that the characters share. This is a sweet movie overall, but it could have done without its outsized exterior conflicts. There is already plenty of drama to be found in the family dynamics of these siblings.Screen Shot 2017-10-12 at 12.36.04 PMThe movie can be a little clumsy in laying out the plot. There is a pretty important point in the middle that has Manuel voicing out the details of his internal conflict, helpfully explaining it for the benefit of no one in particular. He might as well have said “this is going to be a problem later in the story.” But the movie can be pretty elegant as well, letting the histories of these siblings emerge organically simply from the way that they treat each other. What the film gets right is just how much can go unspoken among family: how old wounds fester, and how hard it is to be honest to those who know you best.Screen Shot 2017-10-12 at 12.36.55 PMThat stuff is real enough that it really hurts every time the movie brings in its contrived external conflicts. The script is just too careful to make the characters feel blameless, so there is scant real personal drama in a lot of these choices. We don’t really see Allan, for example, make the bad business choices that make the family store struggle. We don’t see Dex have to deal with the people chasing him. Instead, the film makes it out to be a misunderstanding setting up comedic scenes where he has to hide from them. In all these scenes, people are made out to be buffoons, which really cut into the real sentiment that exists in the scenes involving familial strife.Screen Shot 2017-10-12 at 12.37.29 PMThe film just gets distracted, as if weirdly insecure about its dramatic content. The film’s ending is one of the biggest emotional cop-outs of all time, basically negating the tender moment captured in its emotional climax. It’s really sad, especially since the cast does a pretty good job at selling the film’s central drama. Aga Muhlach, Dingdong Dantes, Cristine Reyes, and Enrique Gil don’t look much like siblings, but they collectively nail their roles within the family dynamic. Ronaldo Valdez hams it up a bit too far, but he mostly gets away with it. The mistake the film makes is building its comedy on status, these actors coming off badly as they deign to deal with people who aren’t as conventionally attractive as they are.Screen Shot 2017-10-12 at 12.37.55 PMSeven Sundays has good moments in it, but a lot of it is negated by the latent meanness exhibited in other sequences. Its drama can be gentle, but the comedy is blunt and built entirely on status. The film’s last sequence, which abandons the sweet sentiment in favor of mawkish comedy, and has the protagonists inexplicably sending an antagonist away crying, is really indicative of what goes wrong in this film. It has something, but it adds this layer of unpleasant, unspoken elitism into the mix, leaving a bad taste in the mouth.

SEVEN SUNDAYS 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.
tv + film by Philbert Dy

‘Balatkayo’ Has a Point, But Has Trouble Getting There

This OFW story gets distracted by the sights and loses the thread

NBHD movie 1-2 ticketsBalatkayo is about Edith (Aiko Melendez), who is an OFW in Singapore. Her husband Samson (Polo Ravales), meanwhile, works in Dubai. The movie starts out with Edith having to fly home because their son Jasper (James Robert) shows up in a sex video posted on the internet. While Edith deals with the situation back home, Samson is carrying on with an affair, and is secretly working on getting his marriage annulled. Soon enough, the couple is forced to reckon with the consequences of their choices.Screen Shot 2017-10-12 at 1.12.18 PMThe general point that the film seems to be to be making is that for all the benefits that being an OFW can bring, the price to the family might not be worth it. It’s certainly a worthy point to make, but the film lacks the narrative focus to make that theme work in a compelling fashion. It wanders aimlessly between its three main characters, giving them disconnected stories that offer the audience little to root for throughout the runtime.Screen Shot 2017-10-12 at 1.14.01 PMWhat’s most interesting about the film is that there’s a sense of satire written into the movie, its characters almost always directly commenting on the struggles of the OFW in a broad, somewhat comedic way. This is in contrast to the overall tone of the film, which is otherwise drab and listless. The film might be going for deadpan, but what it does instead is make its characters out to be just deeply unpleasant. Their unpleasantness is often compounded by the lack of forward action. An early sequence has Edith completely ignoring her friend while walking around Singapore. The scene seems designed to be funny, but it mostly makes Edith out to a terrible person prone to wasting everyone’s time.Screen Shot 2017-10-12 at 1.08.15 PMIt’s not a great start, and it just keeps going on this way. The film just seems unable to find a focus for its narrative, and is all too willing to linger in sequences that show off the fact that they got to shoot abroad. There is a long stretch in the middle that details a weekend getaway for Samson and his lover. It’s a montage of scenes of them enjoying various tourist attractions in the UAE. Nothing is gained from this sequence. The film has already previously made clear that the two are serious about each other, and want to be together. The whole thing just comes off as the production wanting to make it clear that they were really in the UAE.Screen Shot 2017-10-12 at 1.14.50 PMIn all that, the film struggles to come up with anything that might be considering dramatic. The script seems to actively avoid confrontation. It spends a good long chunk in the middle dryly explaining the convoluted legal process of annulment, rather than just dealing with what the children feel about it. The acting is not great overall. Aiko Melendez comes off badly, the film not playing along with her harsh, comedic delivery. Polo Ravales doesn’t give much at all. And James Robert, given the pivotal role of Jasper, doesn’t really seem to know what he’s supposed to be doing in any given scene.1Balatkayo actually takes a compelling position. In moments, it’s able to convey a trenchant point: that the “practicality” of working abroad comes at a harsh cost, and that the “sacrifice” that OFWs are making might be more complicated than the simple narrative often presented. But these moments get buried under a lot of tedious nonsense. At times, it feels like the film would rather be a travelogue than a story. The characters and their individual narratives end up paying the price. It just becomes impossible to feel anything for any of them.

 

BALATKAYO 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

‘Blade Runner 2049’ Walks Slowly Through a Fascinating Future Landscape

The belated sequel to the 1982 classic takes its time, luxuriating in incredible visuals

NBHD movie 5 ticketsBlade Runner 2049, as the title suggests, takes place thirty years after the events of the 1982 film. Opening text explains where we are: artificial humans known as Replicants rebelled against the social order but were crushed, later to be replaced by a more docile, controllable version created by the Wallace Corporation. Special police officers known as Blade Runners hunt down the remaining rogue Replicants. The story begins with Blade Runner K (Ryan Gosling) on a mission where he stumbles onto a much greater mystery that has him tracking down the participants in an impossible event that took place decades prior.BR-CC-7250This sequel expands on the original in rather interesting ways. Like the first, it is essentially a detective story dressed up in sci-fi elements, following a future gumshoe in a dystopian Los Angeles as he unravels a mystery that brings up questions about what is real and what it means to be human. And like the original, this film mostly lets the plot be a facilitator for exploring the world that it has built. The difference is that the world is much bigger this time, and this film is even more willing to linger in its curious little corners, luxuriating in the pure visual splendor of this dystopian future world.BR-11K walks slowly in almost every scene he’s in. It is a function of the character being cautious as he walks into dangerous situations, but it also sets the pace for the film. It walks slowly and methodically, giving time to take in the surroundings. It offers space for fairly lengthy conversations that overtly address the themes of the story. The dialogue can feel clunky at points, with characters spouting odd turns of expository phrase in pursuit of expressing these heady ideas. But they still serve to add intriguing layers to the central philosophical dilemma inherent to the setting.

And so, the plot is designed mainly to bring K to one strange, interesting place after another, revealing new horrors and wonders alike. A woman in isolation designs dreams for robots. Children forced to work in an orphanage in the middle of a massive scrapyard. The remnants of a once-alive city, now covered in a deadly orange haze. The film boasts a level of design that more than lives up to the reputations of the original, which turned out to be one of the most influential films of all time. It mitigates the effects of its lengthy runtime through its sheer ability to show the audience things they haven’t quite seen before. Director of Photography Roger Deakins is doing the best work of his lengthy, storied career. And that’s really saying a lot.BR-MarietteThe film exhibits skill and directorial aplomb in its less flashy moments as well. The direction is often elegant, the film’s procedural elements coming to life thanks to the calm, assured staging. Take note of a very simple scene early on where K revisits the scene of a crime, and notices something new. It is a small scene made up of as few shots as possible, perfectly timed to convey a feeling that goes beyond the plain facts of the scene. Ryan Gosling turns out to be a key part of what makes this film work, though. The actor, who has always shown a capacity for being a little alien, is used to great effect in this film. The very questions that the film seeks to answer play out on Gosling’s face.BR-26On a visual level alone, Blade Runner 2049 would be worth recommending. The film just puts together so many powerful and memorable images in its lengthy runtime, and it offers the space to take it all in properly. That the film actually works on a narrative level almost seems secondary. The script can be clunky at times, but it manages to find clever ways to tie into the past while still being its own thing, adding intriguing layers to what’s come before, digging deeper into a vision of the future where the very nature of humanity is put into question.

BLADE RUNNER 2049 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.