Friday, April 3, 2015

Movie No. 25 (2015): THE DROP

The Drop (2014)
Director: Michael R. Roskam
Cast: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, James Gandolfini

More than halfway through the film I felt like I was reading a Dennis Lehane book. Then, in the end, paying attention to end credits scrolling up, I was surprised to find that the film was indeed written by Dennis Lehane. And he based from his book I never knew existed.

It seems that this crime drama's main character is the collective relationship of people in that Brooklyn neighborhood, which is the setting of the movie. All other characters are just part of the tapestry of evil intentions, schemes, guilt, and secrets. 

The titular "drop" refers to drop boxes at Brooklyn bars through which dirty money for a local gangster are temporarily held for pick up later. But when a robbery at one bar tended by Bob Saginowski (Tom Hardy) goes awry, Bod finds himself in an investigation that digs into the neighborhood's ugly past.

What I like most about the film is on how the writing builds up character and tension slowly, making the twist really unexpected and compelling. Tom Hardy, James Gandolfini, and Noomi Rapace constitute a commendable ensemble performance. 

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: April 2, 2015

Movie No. 24 (2015): NINJA PARTY

Ninja Party (2015)
Director: Jim Libiran
Cast: Annicka Dolonius, Bea Galvez, Teresa Loyzaga, Odette Khan

This film competed in the Sinag Maynila Film Festival two weeks ago. Synopses describe it as a coming of age film of senior high school students from a Catholic-run, all-girls school. It's very controversial in a way that these supposedly rich school girls get preoccupied with organizing a masked orgy with boys from other high schools - their version of soiree after the supposedly clean soiree was cancelled. Well, this may have been based on some rare reality, and that's acceptable. Trouble is the characterization that sets the girls' preoccupation is wanting despite a couple of the newbie actresses showing acceptable acting. Of course Teresa Loyzaga and Odette Khan don't disappoint. While the story is interesting, the writing seems unsure of where to take it. Production design is a disaster. For example: I'm not convinced that these girls come from rich families when their houses' interiors look like boarding houses with cheap bedding and toilets. The school which is supposedly exclusive for rich girls doesn't even have a decent auditorium. And the school looks like a public school with cheap furniture.

Rating: 1.5/4.0

Date seen: March 22, 2015

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Movie No. 23 (2015): BAMBANTI

Bambanti (a.k.a. Scarecrow)
Director: Zig Dulay
Cast: Alessadra De Rossi, Micko Laurente, Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino, Juli Diaz

This is another film of the five-film Sinag Maynila Film Festival this year.  This film is another affirmation that some memorable or great films center on simple stories. These can be stories that we often take for granted in favor of heavily-plotted thriller or mysteries, inane love stories, or poorly structured fantasies, or mindless slapstick comedies. Films that come to mind are Bicycle Thieves and Children of Heaven. These are great films that capitalized on simple stories. While Bambanti may not have achieved the greatness of Bicycle Thieves and Children of Heaven, it will remain, in my opinion, as a strong character study with a disturbing twist. The script is not perfect, but it's imperfection is practically overshadowed by Alessadra De Rossi's superb performance as the widowed mother of a child who's the main suspect of stealing a gold watch. Yes, the whole film is practically about finding who really stole the watch and, in the process, relationships are put strain and characters forced to react. 

The film is good, but a different ending would have the film better.

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: March 22, 2015

Movie No. 22 (2015): IMBISIBOL

Imbisibol (2015)
Director: Lawrence Fajardo
Cast: Ces Quesada, Bernardo Bernardo, Allen Dizon, JM De Guzman, Ricky Davao, Mailes Kanapi

This slow-moving narrative about illegal and undocumented Filipino workers in Japan during the 1980s is captivating. I guess the factors that will hold the audience's attention are effective performances, well-written script, and the winter backdrop that ironically intensifies already intense emotions. The final scenes leading to the ending, though heartbreaking, avoid being melodramatic, resulting in honest portrayal of characters who end up in such predicament. And yes, the final scene is something like a symbolic or artful commentary of a fact that these characters need to stay invisible.

This film was adjudged Best Film winner at the first Sinag Maynila Film Festival  two weeks ago. Ces Quesada and Allen Dizon were Best Actress and Best Actor, respectively. It actually got all but one award at stake.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: March 22, 2015