Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Mini-reviews: 3 MMFF films

Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah Ze Moveeh

Probably director Joel Lamangan's most inspired work in years, Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah Ze Movie is a visual and aural delight. It's a fun musical based on (and quite faithful to) Carlo Vergara's hit graphic novel about a gay parlor owner who becomes a super-powered babe upon swallowing a large rock from outer space. Despite some shortcomings, the visual effects are highly commendable for a local production and adequately capture the humor inherent in even the most sophisticated of sequences. Rustom Padilla as Ada and Zsa Zsa Padilla as Ada transformed into the superheroine Zaturnnah are both amazing in their respective roles, both showing great vulnerability and, in Padilla's case, just the right amount of flair to be believable as someone who has just newly acquired a much-wanted female anatomy. Chokoleit as sidekick Didi has good comic timing (though it can be argued that the role isn't much of a stretch for him), and Alfred Vargas is appropriately charming (and undressed) as the object of Ada/Zsa Zsa's fantasies. Pops Fernandez's screen presence fizzles despite being the main antagonist Femina Baroux, but she makes up for the general lack of luster with a fiery musical showdown with Padilla (both of them are highly skilled singers). The musical numbers are all fun sequences (one has enemy zombies singing in the background as Zaturnnah pleads in song with her undead father to accept his son's chosen way of life) but do not dominate the movie, giving the actors time to show their mettle and the story to develop until the satisfactory though slightly gratuitous and artificial (one of the departures from the source material) ending. Grade: B+


Director Cesar Montano should probably be commended for trying a different approach at storytelling and directing, especially since his Ligalig is a thriller, but here is an example of good intentions gone seriously wrong. While the cinematography and editing work in a few sequences, it usually borders on being completely abominable. Short sequences with Montano's character Jun in his cab provide a harrowing glimpse into how a director could use too much of something he thinks would be cool to see in a movie. In this case, the camera angle turns carelessly and annoyingly from one side of the car to the other without dramatic sense. The plot is utterly predictable and the concept a tired cliche in thrillers, though in an industry steeped in tearjerkers and teen dramas and superhero movies, Montano will still probably get [overly] praised for his effort. To this viewer, who has more respect for what Filipinos are capable of doing, Montano's latest is a pretentious waste of cinematic style. One of the few things going for it: an impressive performance from Montano's wife, Sunshine Cruz. Grade: D

Super Noypi

Quark Henares, the director of Super Noypi, is of that generation of filmmakers to which audiences and industry insiders have looked to renew the local film industry with new ideas and styles. That is what makes this film, already a dud in all aspects, even more disappointing. The visual effects are a painful throwback to the inadequate and cringe-worthy attempts in staple Filipino fantasy films of the 80s and the early 90s. The acting is atrocious. Why do two movies in this film festival have as the main villain Monsour del Rosario, a wooden, lifeless actor who should just focus on sports (at least he excels in that field)? The cheap puppets used as monsters in local horror flicks can give him acting lessons. Did Henares simply tell Sandara Park: "Just act as dumb and annoying as most people think you are"? Why are the kids acting like their parents haven't been kidnapped by the villain (unless they know how pathetic he really is and aren't that worried)? And do the parents, after being rescued, enjoy watching their children get tossed aside by said pathetic villain on a video screen in their safe and comfy aircraft? What was Quark Henares thinking? He obviously does not know how to handle a large budget for a film. Logical flaws, plot holes, and acting duds aside, the film has an even greater sin: blatantly ripping off many aspects of the Marvel comic book "Runaways" without due credit. The few funny moments, mostly courtesy of a surprisingly scene-stealing John Pratts, are not enough to even make this insipid, innane film remotely watchable. Grade: F

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