Movie releases tend to dry up in December. With the MMFF looming, distributors tend to be willing to hold off until the festival is over and done with. There’s usually only one big blockbuster release left, the one film that’s going to still be running in IMAX cinemas during the MMFF, and for the last three years that’s been a Star Wars film. In this relatively low-pressure environment, three local films have decided to take their chances in cinemas, fighting for what little they can until SM dumps them all for Star Wars: The Last Jedi next week. It’s just how this business works. Pause for sighing.
SMALLER AND SMALLER CIRCLES
The long-awaited movie adaptation of FH Batacan’s much-lauded detective novel finally makes it to the big screen after years of gestation. The film stars Nonie Buencamino as Father Saenz, a Jesuit priest and expert in forensic anthropology tapped to assist an investigation into the gruesome deaths of children living near a dumpsite. We talked to director Raya Martin and several members of his cast for our cinema issue. You can go check that out here.
ANG GURO KONG DI MARUNONG MAGBASA
This was one of the films of this year’s Cinemalaya. It concerns the exploits of an illiterate farmer (played by Alfred Vargas) talked into acting as an informal teacher for the children of a farming community in Muslim Mindanao. The film is currently being marketed as being “controversial,” owing mostly to the fact that the MTRCB initially gave it an X-rating for its violence. It’s a strategy that might help draw attention to the fact that most of the published reviews, including ours, were very unfavorable. Nothing controversial about that.
KAMANDAG NG DROGA
Gusi Peace Prize laureate Carlo J. Caparas makes his return as a director in Kamandag ng Droga, which tells the story of a family and a community torn apart by the menace of drugs. The film does not at all hide its allegiances, with Mocha Uson reportedly making appearance in it. Caparas, who made his name as a director with his massacre films, certainly does seem like an apt choice for documenting the horror of these times. Resume sighing.
BAD MOMS CHRISTMAS
Last year’s Bad Moms was apparently some sort of sleeper success, at least one warranting a holiday-themed sequel. The titular mothers (Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and Kathryn Hahn) return to wreak havoc on Christmas, bringing their penchant for speaking frankly to terrible people and getting playfully inebriated to the holiday set. The first movie was actually pretty decent, and hopefully going back to the well doesn’t ruin things completely.
BATTLE OF THE SEXES
Exclusive to Ayala this week is the dramatization of the landmark 1973 tennis match between avowed chauvinist Bobby Riggs (Steve Carrell) and rising superstar Billie Jean King (Emma Stone). It’s a story that has always captured the imagination of the media, its larger-than-life elements just prime for examination through documentary or fictional adaptation. This film seems to be the prestige film version of this story, and with any luck there will be more to it than the typical awards-bait performances.
This animated film tells the story of the nativity from the perspective of the animals who were at the manger. The main character is a donkey voiced by The Walking Dead’s Steven Yeun, and this donkey somehow ends up saving Christmas or something. It’s official: we’ve told the story of the nativity so many times, we now have a movie told from the point of view of a donkey. Merry Christmas.
NO GAME NO LIFE: ZERO
This is a prequel to the Japanese novel-turned-anime-film No Game No Life, set six thousand years prior to the events of the first film. The world is at war, and only one young man carries the responsibility of taking humanity to a better future. In the ruins of an old Elf city, the hero meets a female android that asks him to teach her what it means to have a human heart. Sometimes you just write down these descriptions and wonder where you are in this life. Anyway, fans of the first film ought to find plenty to like.
So here’s a surprise. Satan’s Slaves is a remake of a fairly well regarded 1982 cult horror film from Indonesia, and is now being touted as one of the best Indonesian horror films of all time. It’s about the ghost of a woman returning to the world of the living to claim her chhildren. In the spirit of ASEAN cooperation, we all might want to check this movie out. On the other hand, the movie is directed by Joko Anwar, who people might know as the kind behind the first season of HBO Asia’s Halfworlds, which just wasn’t very good.
Maggie Q stars as a sleep specialist tasked with trying to protect a family from a parasitic demon that attacks people during slumber. It looks like the movie is trying to capitalize the very real fears people have concerning the weird things that happen to them in their sleep, turning things like sleep paralysis and night hallucinations into the effects of said parasitic demon. The local distributor is promoting it as “Bangungot now has a face!” That’s one way to do it, I guess.
ACTIVE VISTA AT CINEMA CENTENARIO
The human rights themed festival continues its run at the newly-opened Cinema Centenario in Maginhawa. Go check out the film at this lovely venue. Expect it to become a regular haunt if you love cinema at all.
CINE LATINO AT SHANG CINEPLEX
From December 6-10, Shang Cineplex will be home to Cine Latino, the first-ever Latin-American Film Festival in the Philippines. It’s another one of those free admission festivals, and it’s notable for not just showing newer films. They’ve got the much beloved City of God in their lineup, as well as the rather wonderful 1985 Argentinan film Waiting for the Hearse. Go check it out. Expand your horizons. It’ll be great.