Monday, September 23, 2013

Bon Chon Switches On The Fun For Switch!

.:Because Improvisers Need To Eat, Too!:.
So there we were, at my house, last weekend, hankering for some good food in the middle of both a Switch Improv meeting/rehearsal for the group, and a few minutes into the session, it occurred to us to have something delivered. Now, this is no secret to anyone who knows me, but I went straightaway to asking for Bon Chon delivery (They were part of one of the 8Lists I ghostwrote last week, after all.) from 633-18-18.

And like a boss, guess who showed up at our doorstep momentarily after?

An eyepatch was the only thing that could make him look even more bad-ass.

It didn't really take much for us to get going with the food. Thighs and drumsticks, both mixed and matched, of course, my favorite Calamares, Iced Tea, and even a generous heaping of both Beef and Chicken Bulgogi. Overall, you couldn't have asked for much more for a delivery meant for just four people, really.

Looks inviting, doesn't it?

It was just me, Jona, and my brother at this point, so we were waiting for a couple other Switch members to show up, but only Xandre did. Xandre, being the way he really is, actually ended up eating the food before anyone else did. This is considering we kinda waited for him for a couple of hours, but that's Xandre for you.

"That chicken was only sixteen! She was only sixteen! Not many people know that."  - Michael Caine

Needless to say, a good time was had by all, and it's hard to disagree with the satisfied faces all of us had while we were eating our food, right?

Except me, since I was holding the camera.

I don't know about you guys, but I'm glad that Bon Chon delivers. It was perfect for the Switch meeting, and a great way to fuel the insane improv goodness that you've come to expect from us. But yes, even improvisers have to eat, too, so here we are, showing you exactly what we like to have during our downtime. No joke: we do have Bon Chon a lot to before our shows in The Fort, in case you've been wondering.

I'm sure anyone out there who wants good food delivered at their doorstep could do worse than availing of Bon Chon. They deliver all over the Metro, and they're pretty prompt about it. We at Switch wholeheartedly are fans of Bon Chon. :D

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Strange Postscript To "On The Job"

.:A Strange Postscript To "On The Job":.
So even before it showed in cinemas, I already had an inkling that "On The Job" was gonna be awesome, thanks to a friend showing me the trailer for the film. But this isn't a tale about me being all hipster about my love for the movie and telling people that I liked it before it was cool, but of the very odd way the film ended up getting promoted shortly before it actually screened locally.

I think it was the week I watched "Ekstra," actually. There I was, going up the escalator in Trinoma, when I noticed that a crowd had gathered around what turned out to be a leg for the promotional tour of OTJ, and guess what? Gerald Anderson was there.

And he was singing and dancing to One Direction's "One Thing."

OTJ was an awesome movie. I reviewed it just recently, and definitely would be happy to see it a third or even fourth time. It was that good. And while I don't necessarily shun the uniquely Pinoy quirks that we often dismiss as "bakya," it never ceases to amaze me that the only way to promote a movie of this magnitude, no matter how gripping and good, is to have one of your lead stars do a song and dance routine for everyone.

Not that there's anything wrong with doing a song and dance routine in and by itself. I just find it strange that they have to. Every single time. I don't remember Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie singing and dancing to promote Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and I definitely wished Russel Crowe never sang to promote Les Miserables, let alone actually try to "sing" in the movie. It just isn't done in Hollywood. Maybe in Bollywood, but not Hollywood, to be sure.

And it does make me wonder why the Filipino movie-going public is perceived by people as an audience that needs to be pandered to in this way. Would the movie have not appealed to the masses as much? Somehow, I don't think so. I genuinely feel that they could have done away with that entire bit of promotion, and the movie would still be every bit as strong as it is right now.

It's funny, really. Before sitting to write this, I thought I was going to complain about the practice, and then I realized that there isn't anything genuinely objectionable about the practice, at all. It's just something that honestly puzzled me, and something that made me think of how different our ideas of promoting film locally happen to be no matter how much we try to ape the sensibilities of our American counterparts. And there's nothing wrong with that. It just really threw me for a loop that no matter how respected you may be as a performer, if you can't sing and dance and your name isn't Joel Torre, there's little hope for you to be a box-office success in this country.


The hardest thing about this is that I realize, with each passing day, that if it were purely up to you, you would rather not have anything to do with me. No hi. No hello. No nothing.

I guess I just really thought that everything we went through would count for something more than that, you know? Inasmuch as I'd love to pretend I'm okay with this, I just can't. It's not right. It's not fair. And I realize if I told you all this, you'd get all defensive, and tell me you never asked for any of the kindness that I showed you, but has it not occurred to you that at this point, I'm just wondering why you chose to pretend I don't exist in your life?

I guess such is my lot in life.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Film Reviews: On The Job and Ekstra

.:Film Review: On The Job:.
OTJ Poster
In this movie, Joey Marquez demonstrates how "putang ina" can be used in 200 different ways.

On The Job

Finally, Pinoy action done right.

Unlike most of my film reviews, I will try my best to keep this review spoiler-free, perhaps even more so than I tried to with my 8List about this film. True, this movie wasn't the reflection of perfection, but you know what? I'm glad it was made. Did it make some deep commentary about the disturbing realities facing a crime-infested country? No. But did it keep you on the edge of your seat with each twist and turn, never quite knowing what to expect? Absolutely.

OTJ is a noir-inspired crime thriller by Erik Matti, focusing on two hired killers, Tatang (Joel Torre) and Daniel (Gerald Anderson), as they try to earn a living, while hotshot NBI agent Atty. Francis Coronel, Jr. (Piolo Pascual) and well-meaning but underachieving cop SPO1 Joaquin Acosta (Joey Marquez) try to stop them from doing just that. With a lurid and engaging tale of betrayal, deception, and subterfuge, can our investigators figure out what has been going on right under their noses?

It's an amazing byplay in methods, personalities, and even ideologies, as the two hired killers attempt to elude detection and capture, all while already remaining as prisoners who are snuck in and out of their cells on day passes to accomplish their work.

But let's not discuss the plot. Everyone knows it if they've seen it, and I'd only be doing it a disservice to those who didn't if I gave it all away here. Let's talk about the fact that this film was a revelation to anyone who had little faith in the acting prowess of Gerald Anderson and Piolo Pascual, and anyone who may have not given Joey Marquez a second look solely because he's better known for comedic roles.

What really impressed me the most about this film is how tight the film was, all around. There was rhyme and reason to pretty much everything they did, and though many people would say it's flawed, very few would be capable of pointing these out, much less suggesting ways it could have been handled better. In fact, the notion about how flawed OTJ was as a Pinoy action film could be summed up in this image...
Also, why was there no pancit in a brown paper bag? Or someone giving a three-minute monologue while dying in someone else's arms?
OTJ breaks the mold for Pinoy action films, and it is through this that the film succeeds where Manila Kingpin: The Asiong Salonga failed miserably. Not to say that the latest take on Asiong Salonga was a bad film by any means, but this was simply superior, and shows us a direction that Philippine cinema can and should take, rather than to simply rehash another Enteng Kabisote mashup with some other franchise this December. It's noir, so if you know how that works, you know the one trope it will always follow for the ending, but it isn't nearly as Debbie Downer or as completely anticlimactic as a lot of Pinoy indie flicks happen to be (Which, again, does not mean they're bad films.).

I would daresay that in my book, except for one jarring instance of bad editing (the first time you see Joey Marquez running around), this film was perfect on pretty much every level that mattered to me. I didn't need deep commentary about corruption. The fact that it's touched upon merely pays homage to its noir influences. I didn't expect there to be a very clean way to wrap the whole film up. That's not what the director was trying to do, clearly. Ultimately, all I expected from the film was to be entertained by fine performances from the cast, see some very good pacing for buildup and action, and hey, they absolutely delivered on that count.

This film is worth watching, and if the rumors that they plan to adapt this to Hollywood happen to be true, I will definitely want to go and see it, much in the same way I appreciated comparing Infernal Affairs to The Departed back in the day.

This is definitely a great film that shows Pinoy flicks can generate amazing output in action, to complement all our likewise excellent films in poverty porn, Asian horror, and romantic comedies. To me, this wasn't just a great Pinoy flick: this was a great movie, period, and something I will always cite as a counterpoint to anyone who believes Philippine cinema is dead.

Fun Rating: A+ (I hate to sound like those stupid blurbs you see on movie posters, but I was on the edge of my seat the whole time!)
Critical Rating: A+ (We Filipinos deserve to have films  as good as this. Your move, Ang Tanging Ina Part 33.)

.:Film Review: Ekstra:.
poster - ekstra
You know you're watching a Pinoy Indie film, when...
Read all about it!

An entry for this year's Cinemalaya, I watched Ekstra without really knowing what to expect. It was definitely a different Vilma Santos I saw in this flick, and you can't say a single thing about her acting prowess, but I have to admit that the entire film left me feeling deflated because the ending just came at a point too anticlimactic for me to appreciate. I understand people would feel differently about this, but I guess that's why I prefer mainstream films more, in general. This ending just left me cold.

Ekstra follows the tale of Loida Malabanan (Vilma Santos), a bit player in television shows, making a living as a single parent. It pretty much follows a day in her life, showing in loving detail every little thing she has to do just to make the money she needs for her daughter's tuition while scrounging up what she can through her work. On top of that, she experiences a brush with greatness, and just when things are looking up for her, things come crashing back right down - with surprisingly mundane results.

Again, I won't belabor to spoil the film here, but I would be very quick to point out that this film definitely has indie written all over it, and I don't mean that derogatorily. The lingering shots where nothing really happens, the banality of poverty and hardship for the average person trying to strike out in the world, all of these things are too real, and too close to home for many of us, but the plain-as-day presentation, stripped of most of the bombast and pomp and circumstance, definitely makes the relatively minor twists and turns in the story hit us just that harder when they do come. It's as slice-of-life as can be, and if you watched it without actually knowing who Vilma Santos is, you might even argue that it was a documentary of sorts, given how the movie progressed. It was natural. It was the epitome of no-acting acting, and while that definitely works for people, I suppose I was hoping for something a little less banal to wrap things up, as sort of a nice "reward" for following Loida's story until the very end.

Alack and alas, I didn't quite get that.

Fun Rating: B+ (Comedic moments here and there, a lot of insight into the industry of the bit player, but definitely revels in its being mundane a little too much.)
Critical Rating: A+ (Great acting, great script, definitely a strong sense of realism, but I come to movies to be entertained, not to be lectured, so for once, this takes a bit of a backseat to my "fun" rating.)