It looks like RPG Metanoia raised the bar for my appreciation of Filipino films. There are these 2 other 2010 Metro Manila Film Festival entries that I was keen on seeing and reviewing, but since then it had been an effort just to drag myself to go watch them. Well, I have, and here are my reviews. I won't say whether you should go see them or not, I'll just tell you what I liked and didn't like about them, and perhaps you can make your own decisions from there.
A remake of the 1988 movie of the same name which starred Maricel Soriano and Aiza Seguerra in the title roles. In this version, the Golden Bibe ("Golden Duck") is now a gay fallen angel (John Lapus) who must earn his way back to Heaven by turning country girl Inday (Marian Rivera) into a superheroine. Meanwhile, Inday has her own personal drama regrding her long-lost parents and journeys to the city in search of them.
What I Liked:
Marian Rivera is a damn good actress. She can play just about any role they give her, and here we see her shifting effortlessly from serious to comedic in literally seconds. I guess it comes with being isa pong psychology.
Buboy Villar appears to be Marian's official sidekick, and there's a reason for that. They have great onscreen chemistry.
Jake Cuenca is a capable enough romantic lead and action hero. His character Amazing-J is like a combination of Bruce Wayne and Blade (except he can fly), and his suit reminds me a little of Kamen Rider.
If you've seen the original Super Inday with Maricel Soriano, she wore one of the ugliest pinoy superhero costumes ever (what was up with the hideous wig?). When Maricel's niece Meryll Soriano took over the role for the 2006-07 ABS-CBN TV series Super Inggo, they later gave her a costume that looked even worse. Finally, after years of super-fashion disasters, the costume in the 2010 version is a vast improvement. She kinda looks like a pink She-Ra.
What I Didn't Like:
The only cheese I like is the edible kind. I don't like too much of it in my movies.
John Lapus and Pokwang. I don't find them funny. At all. Everybody else seem to, though, so maybe there's something wrong with me.
The film's marketing made it a point to keep the "mystery" villain's identity a secret-- despite the fact that it's bloody obvious who it is. Just the same, I won't spoil it for the one clueless person out there who hasn't figured it out.
The bad guys in this version are an old witch, a bunch of zombies and a gang of evil mascots (actually, they're supposed to be man-sized living toys, one of which looks like a cardboard version of one of those mechanized creatures from Hellboy II). Yawn. Compare this to the original film, which had a scorpion woman, a scrawny shape-shifting lizard dude, alien monsters and a giant spider. Now granted, that movie's special effects were too flimsy to effectively realize them, but the idea at least sounds imaginative on paper. The remake does have a giant creature show up at the end, but it's too little too late.
The theme song f@$#ing grates. When it played at the end, it made me feel embarassed to be there. I literally walked out of the theater with my head hanging low in shame.
A 2-in-1 sequel, this would be the 5th film in the Enteng Kabisote franchise (or if you like, the 7th film in the Okey Ka, Fairy Ko franchise), as well as the follow-up to the 2002 film Ang Agimat: Anting-anting ni Lolo. Mystical warrior Agimat (Ramon "Bong" Revilla, Jr. ) and mortal everyman hero Enteng (Vic Sotto) cross over into each other's worlds to battle a common evil. The alliance is an uneasy one, as Enteng gets jealous when he thinks Agimat is flirting with his fairy wife Faye (Gwen Zamora), while the solitary Agimat is envious of Enteng's family. The villains then try to take advantage of this to turn the two heroes against each other.
What I Liked:
If you've seen any of the previous Enteng Kabisote movies, you pretty much know what to expect. That may be tedium to some, but its simply friendly familiarity to its fans. The EK films are made for a particular audience that will love them no matter what, so they're almost "critic-proof." These viewers aren't there for high-art; they're just there to hang out with their old onscreen buds and be entertained.
There's a genuine sense of family among the regular EK cast that comes through in their performance. Also, Vic Sotto and his fellow comedians are just naturally funny. The jokes in the film aren't necessarily funny by themselves, but its Sotto and company's natural delivery that makes them so. They can make any line, no matter how corny, sound hilarious.
I wouldn't say that I'm a fan of Bong Revilla exactly, but he seems to be the only one out there in the local movie industry at the moment championing serious Filipino films in the fantasy-adventure genre. The production values keep improving with each of his movies, and I'm looking forward to what he comes up with next (Panday 2 is reportedly in the works).
Special effects in Filipino films are starting to get better. Sure, they may not be quite as spectacular as those in Hollywood productions, but they now look much more seamless and pleasing to the eye, and that's all I could ask for. I would say SAASEK has the best special effects of all the previous EK films.
Usually, I hate product placement, but the EK movies get away with it by making it look like a joke.
Amy Perez just may be the best Ina Magenta since Charito Solis.
Sam Pinto is hot. Gwen Zamora is cute.
What I Didn't Like:
While I did say this film is almost critic-proof, I'll whine a bit about it anyway.
There are no real surprises in the film. It just follows a set, predictable pattern. The bad guys don't have much of a master plan other than "Let's resurrect all our minions, then kill our enemies," and of course they never really make good on the latter part. Someone dies, then immediately gets brought back to life, which makes the death pointless. The conflict between the 2 leads lasts just about as long as it does in the trailer before someone breaks them up and irons-out the misunderstanding. Then the good guys fight the bad guys, they win and have a picture-taking session.
Throughout the film, we see a cool CGI (I think) exterior shot of the villains' lair; this massive, ominous, evil-looking temple set amidst a bleak, atmospheric backdrop. When the heroes raid them in the climax, it's suddenly this cheap-looking set on a hill in broad daylight.
The fights consist mainly of the combatants going at it until the good guys score a lucky shot and/or the bad guys just stop putting up a fight. The action isn't that bad, I just wish they were a little more, I don't know-- clever? When the main villains get killed, it just happens. No drama, just "Zap! You're dead!" I guess it doesn't really matter, considering one of those villains came back to life twice already. They'll probably be back in the inevitable sequel. The end fight is with a monster goon who just shows up out of nowhere. He puts up more of a fight, until he practically lets the heroes stab him to death in the end.
Speaking of sequels, I hate it when a movie announces "watch out for part 2" at the end. Lucky for them the film's a hit, but what if it tanked? Then they'd just look stupid. Sotto also pulled the same thing on Fantastic Man and Ang Darling Kong Aswang. Those sequels probably won't be coming out anytime soon.
Sam Pinto's character is creepy. She plays an amazon with a stalker-like fixation on Agimat. The romantic angle isn't really developed well; she's the love interest simply because the film says she is. Sam seems to have some potential as an actress, but her diction gets in the way.
Gwen Zamora feels like a generic leading lady. She doesn't seem to have the same presence as the previous Fayes. It doesn't help that in her intro scene, they just had her casually walk in. As for her acting, she seems to try a bit too hard, but still comes off bland.
Speaking of the many faces of Faye, in the scene where they enumerate the previous actresses who played the character, they missed one: Dawn Zulueta, who took over the role when the Okey Ka, Fairy Ko sitcom transferred to GMA 7 in the mid-1990's.
The theme song is basically the same damn one they've been using in all the EK films, but with slightly different lyrics and arrangement each time. Actually, the instrumentals aren't bad (the guitar version kinda rocks), but I don't think I can take any more of that chorus with the guy singing "EEEEEEEENTEEEENG KABISOOOOOOTEEEEEEEEHHH!!!!"
Then there are the constant TV ads where they boast that they're breaking box-office records. I don't f@$#ing care. So you're a hit, fine, I'm happy for you, I'ma let you finish, but RPG Metanoia is the best MMFF movie of all time, OF ALL TIME! (yeesh, that was so 2009.)
Ah, well, at least the ads don't have some annoying guy going "NUMBER ONE! NUMBER ONE! NUMBER ONE!" again.
It's also funny that those ads are proudly announcing that the Cinema Evaluation Board graded them a "B." You know, everywhere else in the world, being called a B-Grade movie isn't exactly a compliment...