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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

FDCP Partners with Theaters to Hold the Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino

In honor of the Buwan ng Wika, the Film Development Council of the Philippines is partnering with commercial theaters to exclusively screen Filipino films nationwide on August 16-22, 2017 dubbed as Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino. 

“Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino will be a big celebration of Filipino films for our audience – a festivity with a wide variety of genre films to choose from nationwide,” said FDCP Chair and CEO Liza DiƱo in a press conference held April 26. “We are grateful for the support and partnership of the National Cinema Association of the Philippines and SM Lifestyle Entertainment have graciously dedicated over seven hundred (700) of their screens for the Pista. This really is an incredible opportunity for our Filipino audience to reconnect with meaningful Filipino films that move and appeal to them in an exclusive platform,” she added.

The event is open to all Filipino filmmakers who may submit films on or before June 15, 2017. Ten (10) to twelve (12) films will be selected by a Selection Committee headed by the FDCP with genres ranging from family-oriented, to romantic comedy, horror, fantasy, and even historical films that emulate Filipino sensibilities and culture. Each film will be screened at a minimum of sixty (60) theaters.

In addition to the screenings, Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino will include caravans, audience surveys and forums to maximize the participation of film stakeholders, especially for the audience.

For more information, filmmakers may email FDCP at

  • Ayala Malls Cinemas
  • Cash & Carry Cinemas
  • Century City Cinemas
  • Cinema 2000
  • Commercenter Alabang
  • Eastwood Cinemas
  • Festival Cinema
  • Fisher Box Office
  • All Gaisano Cinemas in the Provinces
  • Gateway Alimall Cinemas
  • KCC Cinemas
  • Megaworld Lifestyle Malls
  • NCCC Cinemas
  • Power Plant Cinema
  • Promenade Greenhills
  • Robinsons Movieworld
  • Shang Cineplex
  • SM Cinemas
  • Sta. Lucia Cinemas
  • Starmall and Vista Cinemas

The Best & Worst Filipino Movie Posters Of 2016

A movie poster can either make or break the film, believe it or not. A good poster is equal to a good marketing strategy, which contribute to the film's success. I've always been fascinated with movie posters. Because the poster is the first thing you see before the actual movie. Now, I know that the first quarter of 2017 is already done and we are almost nearing end of the second quarter. But it's not too late to pick out the best and worst Filipino movie posters of 2016. This list includes all Filipino films (whether it was released commercially or screened through film festivals) from 2016.

The Worst

10. Mano Po 7 : Tsinoy
Seriously. I know the film has a star-studded cast, as seen in the trailer. But crowding this poster with all the characters of the film is just way too much to handle. This isn't another Star Wars sequel, for God's sake.

9. Kabisera
The poster would have worked with Nora Aunor alone in it. But cramming too many faces into the picture just messed it up.

8. Barcelona : A Love Untold
I am big KathNiel fan for six years now. I've watched all their films and television series. This movie was actually okay, but that poster isn't. I know Barcelona is a great place for an epic love story, but this poster makes me feel like the movie's a period drama, which it is not. Too dramatic, perhaps?

7. This Time
I know I sould feel a kilig sensation here but this poster is just too plain and unimaginitive. It doesn't do the film any justice. It doesn't do James Reid and Nadine Lustre any justice either. They deserve so much better. Take this from a Jadine fan for four years. Their poster for "Talk Back And You're Dead" was way better and more acceptable.

6. Just The Three Of Us
Where are you looking at, John Lloyd Cruz? Seriously?

5. Imagine You And Me
Aside from the movie's title being a reversed version of 2005 German-British romantic comedy "Imagine Me & You" starring Lena Headey (can't they think of any more generic title?), this poster is eerily similar to the poster of the #8 movie in this list. Just saying.

4. Everything About Her
Why do I feel like Ms. Vilma Santos' head is not equally proportional to her body. And that nose line? Ugh. I love Angel Locsin's facial expression though.

3. The Super Parental Guardians
Just like the problem with almost all Pinoy movie posters. Overcrowding it with all the characters from the film. And just look at poor Onyok Pineda's body here. Equal proportions, guys. Please.

2. The Unmarried Wife
Feels like something any seven year old with a smartphone could do with a photo-grid app. Did they ran out of ideas for a poster? Ugh.

1. That Thing Called Tanga Na
A poster that tries to be funny but ended up lame and tasteless. Sorry.

The Best

10. Ma'Rosa
The film's gritty and realistic depiction of drug trafficking and police brutality is perfectly captured in this poster, featuring a still from the film.

9. Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis
Though this isn't the poster they used for the theatrical distribution of the film (they choose the one featuring Piolo Pascual and John Lloyd Cruz, for obvious marketing reasons) this is the better one for me. It's simple yet it thought-provoking. And it also adds more mystery for the film. No need for star-power.

8. Always Be My Maybe
Of all the posters of the dozen romance flicks from Star Cinema last year, this one really stood out. It's simple, sexy and sweet. It looks natural too. Not computer-generated. And the chemistry of the two actors fills up the picture.

7. Apocalypse Child
How can you ignore this beautifully watercolor-painted poster courtesy of the brilliant Christina Dy, who is known for her large-scale illustrations, and also happens to be the production designer of the movie.

6. Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank 2
This colorful poster for this film seems like a throwback to the old school Technicolor films of yesterday. Not to mention, the posing of the lead gives a satirical stab on the romance films of today.

5. Baka Bukas
Simple, yet elegant and stylish. This poster perfectly captures the spirit of today's millennials. The juxtaposition of the lead character and the title (which literally translates to "tomorrow maybe") evokes a sense of hope that, maybe tomorrow, everything would be better for her.

4. Sakaling Hindi Makarating
This colorful postcard is not only gorgeous to look at, but is actually an integral part of the film's story. I actually bought a copy of this postcard during the film's screening in UP Diliman last year. I just love it.

3. Mercury Is Mine
Pokwang's clingy gesture says it all. Plus, that big knife she's holding adds a grim and unsettling look to this poster of this dark comedy film.

2. Seklusyon
Though we see a lot of characters depicted in this poster, it doesn't feel so overcrowded. Instead, it actually makes it more catchy with the way they are arranged. And Rhed Bustamante's look couldn't be much more scarier.

This was the first poster they released during the film's film festival run last year in the 2016 Cinema One Originals. It perfectly captures the film's 90's vibe with it's polaroid styled image of the three lead characters, plus the way the credits were placed here makes it look like one of those high school projects that you used to do before you discovered the power of computers and printers. An instant throwback to the yesteryears.

So do you have some other eye-catching movie posters from Filipino films released in 2016 that you have in mind and you think should have been included in the list? Share us your thoughts in the comments section below!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Can't Help Falling In Love movie review

Destiny plays a big part in every great love story. And it does too in almost every Filipino romance film that we see every now and then. It is that one cliche that people seems to never get really tired of. After all, we Filipinos are all hopeless romantics. And destiny plays a big role in the story of this latest offering from Star Cinema, featuring today's hottest love team, Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla.

Can't Help Falling In Love follows how fate will bring together two strangers, named Gab (Kathryn Bernardo) and Dos (Daniel Padilla), who accidentally got married. Gab is the typical perfect girl who's always focusing on achieving her goals, particularly in her career. She has been in a relationship with her longtime boyfriend Jason (Matteo Guidicelli) for six years, until  he propose marriage to her which she immediately accepted. But soon after this, she receives a letter in the mail containing her certificate of marriage with a total stranger. Unsure of how she got married and confused with what to do about it, she tracks down her husband, Dos (Daniel Padilla), a happy go lucky guy and her total opposite. Together, they try to recall how the two of them got married and find a way to get divorced without Gab's boyfriend knowing about it.

This is director Mae Cruz-Alviar's second full length feature film with Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla after their 2015 box-office hit Crazy, Beautiful You. Mae Cruz-Alviar has been one of the most promising directors of this generation. I personally loved her previous works, with Crazy, Beautiful You and Everyday, I Love You (Starring Liza Soberano, Enrique Gil & Gerald Anderson) being my top favorites. The good thing about director Mae Cruz-Alviar is that she knows how to handle her actors and actresses well. She knows how to bring them together on screen and squeeze out all the juice she could get to create those kilig-filled moments. She knows when to make the audience laugh and when to make them feel the kilig. In short, she knows how to make a good romance film. And that's what makes this film work so well. This is Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla's eight film together and after being partnered on screen for almost six years now, it is undeniable that the two have already been so close to each other. They look good together, and there is an overflowing chemistry between the two when they're on screen (and even off screen). And director Mae Cruz Alviar uses this in the film's advantage. The film is packed with scenes that would make the audiences blush and feel giddy with kilig. Audiences paid to see a good romance film, and they get exactly what they were looking for.

The film features a really strong cast. Matteo Guidicelli was okay as the story's third party, although his character isn't given much background and remained one dimensional from start to finish. His only purpose was to act as a hindrance to the main characters from being together and nothing more. You don't even feel any sympathy towards him, unlike Gerald Anderson's character Tristan in Mae Cruz-Alviar's Everyday, I Love You. It was also refreshing to see Cherry Pie Picache in the film as I haven't seen her in very long time on screen. Lotlot de Leon and Dennis Padilla were also great additions to the cast as Dos' adopted family. Kristel Fulgar was so funny as Gab's bestfriend, a must in every Pinoy romcom. 

But let's all face it, the biggest strength of the film is it's leads. After being in the show business for quite some time now, I must say that Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla have both grown better in terms of their acting skills over the years, aside from the fact that the two of them are oozing with chemistry. Their roles here in Can't Help Falling In Love as Gab and Dos are probably their most mature roles to date. Not only we get to hear them play around with green jokes (yeah, that comfort room scene where we hear Gab say "Ang haba..."), we also get to hear them curse like normal young adults. Their characters are not as deep and serious as their previous roles in Olivia M. Lamasan's Barcelona : A Love Untold (2016) and it worked so well for them. Kathryn and Daniel portrayed Gab and Dos with little to no effort. I guess romcoms really is their forte. Kathryn Bernardo shines in her scenes showing her character struggling to find a resolution to her problem. My favorite scene of her would be the one where Dos left her alone in a fast food restaurant and she ends up in tears because she doesn't know what to do anymore to fix the whole marriage problem she have. For me, Kathryn really stood out in that scene and proved once again that she is one of the most talented actress of her generation. But Daniel Padilla steals the show in his take on his character, Dos. Although a lot of us may find Dos similar to his role as Kiko in Crazy, Beautiful You, his portrayal here is way better. Daniel Padilla has mastered the art of charming his way into every audience's heart. His acting was good, but his humor really made his character more enjoyable to watch. His character's funny quips suited him and his comic timing is perfect in every scene. I remember when I watched the film, the whole theater was laughing out so hard every time he throws in some quick, witty jokes here and there. He's a real charmer. He is today's definition of a heartthrob.

Even though the film follows a weird and unusual story line that's almost impossible to happen in real life, their approach in handling the plot made it somehow believable. It's actually more believable than the story line of Barcelona : A Love Untold. Also, their characters here faces the real life difficulties of marriage and the process of annulment. The film gives people an idea on how hard it is to void marriage in a country that strongly believes that marriage is sacred and cannot be broken. What I loved about the story is that instead of revealing everything right away, the film takes some time to build up some mystery around it, making the audience guess how the two characters ended up marrying each other without them knowing about it. But just like past Star Cinema romcoms, the film eventually falls into the typical romance stereotype once it reaches it's third and final act. But still, the journey that Gab and Dos had was worth the admission price. And we got what we were craving for in a KathNiel movie.

Funny, charming, and overflowing with kilig, this is by far the best KathNiel movie I've seen in the past six years. It's one competently made romcom that will sweep fans and audiences off their feet with it's magic, despite some inevitable cliches. All in all, I just Can't Help Falling In Love with this movie, no pun intended.

Rating:  out of 5

Can't Help Falling In Love (2017)
Starring Kathryn Bernardo, Daniel Padilla 
Directed by Mae Cruz-Alviar 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Ang Sayaw Ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa movie review

Recently, I've discovered this new haven for indie film lovers like me. It's called Uno Morato, a cafe, a bookstore, a bar and art space all in one. But that's a different story. Anyways, I discovered the place after learning about their special screening of this indie film released way back 2011. It was Alvin Yapan's Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa (The Dance of Two Left Feet) starring Paulo Avelino, Rocco Nacino and Jean Garcia. It was produced by Alemberg Ang (yes, the same force behind the critically-acclaimed coming-of-age flick and my favorite film of all time, 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten). It was an official entry to the Cinemalaya Film Festival.

Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa explores the intersection and divergence between feminist and gay concerns in the third world context, as it features the poetry of Merlinda Bobis, Ruth Elynia Mabanglo, Joi Barrios, Rebecca Anonuevo, Benilda Santos and Ophelia Dimalanta. When Marlon (Paulo Avelino), a college student, stalks Karen (Jean Garcia), his literature professor, he finds out that she moonlights as a choreographer and dance teacher in a dance studio. Frustrated over his performance in her literature class, he plans to impress her instead by learning to poeticize his body movements and enroll in her dance class. He hires his classmate to teach him the basics of dancing. As Dennis (Rocco Nacino), his tutor, teaches him how his body should move, Marlon begins to understand the intersections between the art of poetry and dance.

This opens up his world to new insights about the life of Karen as s single woman who chose to live the life of an artist in a third world setting. Marlon begins to understand how the poems being discussed by Karen in class are testaments to her choice to stand by her art. Karen eventually finds out, through Dennis, that Marlon only enrolled in her class to be near her. She confronts Marlon about this and wishes that his interest for dance would survive his infatuation for her. Marlon feels betrayed over Dennis telling Karen. But it is also this sense of betrayal that tells him that he has already become close to Dennis, whom he now considers a friend. Up until then, Marlon and Dennis have become inseparable as they both tackled the complexities of poetry and dance. Sensing the coldness between the two, Karen set them up to help her train a group of dancers for a cotillion dance. Eventually, Karen trains both Marlon and Dennis to star in her dance adaptation of the epic Humadapnon, when she bags a grant. Marlon will play the lead role of Humadapnon, who becomes trapped in a cave full of women. Dennis’ character now has to rescue Marlon from the women, as he plays the role of Sunmasakay, the male incarnation of the goddess Nagmalitong Yawa. On the eve of their performance, in a drunken conversation, Marlon confronts Karen how he could not understand her poetry. Karen, in response, assures Marlon that he does understand her poetry. His mind is just unwilling to, unlike his body which already understands. Karen invites Marlon to dance with her, but in the middle of her dance, she passes him onto Dennis. Their drunken dance culminates with Marlon and Dennis taking on the roles of Humadapnon and Sunmasakay on stage. (Cinemalaya website)

This is unusual for me, as I'm featuring a movie that's been released years ago. But to be honest, after watching the film, I didn't feel that it was already dated. I think that the film would resonate with today's audiences, particularly millennials like me. Yes, this is the first time that I've seen this film, although I've heard before but I haven't really paid any attention to it. And now, after watching it for the very first time, I'm really glad that I took the opportunity of experiencing it.

I've only watched one movie by Alvin Yapan before. It was the psychological-horror film Ang tulay ng San Sebastian starring Joem Bascon and Sandino Martin, which was an official entry to the 2016 CineFilipino Film Festival. The film portrays two men, an ambulance driver and a nurse who are headed back home in the province, trying to keep each other awake by sharing road ghost stories in the midnight of Good Friday and eventually experiences these urban legends themselves. So I don't know a lot about him until I went to see this movie. One thing that I found similar between Ang Tulay ng San Sebeastian and Sayaw is it's homoerotic themes. Both films features two male lead characters, and both films plays with the bromance between these two individuals. This reminds me of the other Alemberg Ang produced film, 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten. In 2 Cool, we have Felix and Magnus. Here, we have Marlon and Dennis.

What I liked about the film is the way Alvin Yapan weaves a love triangle between the film's three characters, but never actually pushes too far to the point that it falls into the usual stereotypes of Philippine movies.  During the short Q&A session with director Alvin Yapan after the said special screening, he mentioned that he was aiming to make a subtle love story between two men instead of a passionate, racy gay movie. And he succeeded in doing so. Although the story starts with Marlon's infatuation with his teacher Karen, it doesn't actually uses the theme of love to move the story forward. The love angle was touched very lightly. Instead, the film becomes focused to each of the three characters, and how their lives are changed with the proceedings. The film becomes an exploration of each character, particularly Marlon and Dennis which is actually what made me loved the film. It's almost like a coming-of-age for these two characters. As I get to know these two characters more deeply, I slowly became connected with them. I sympathize with them. I feel the tension between them. I feel their pain.

Of course, the lead actors also deserve praise for their amazing portrayal of these characters. Jean Garcia was perfect for the role of Karen. Her performance was restrained, which made her believable even if we don't know a lot about her character. I remember this scene where she watches the two boys dance for the audition of her dance adaptation of Humadapnon. The scene was focused on her, particularly her face as she watch the the boys dance with wonder. That was one of my favorite scenes from the film because Jean Garcia was able to show how great her acting skills are through the expression of her eyes. Rocco Nacino also nailed his role of Dennis. He embodied the character and owned it. You can really feel the awkwardness he felt whenever he and Marlon would get close while dancing. You can feel the tension that runs through his body whenever their skin would touch one another. You can feel his innocence, his confusion and his pain. Then, there's the young Paulo Avelino. I've always liked watching him on screen, with my favorite being his short but memorable take of Gen. Gregorio "Goyong" del Pilar in the 2015 biopic Heneral Luna and his portrayal of Dio in the 2017 romance film I'm Drunk, I Love You. But after watching Sayaw, I can say that this is my favorite performance of Paulo Avelino so far (despite the fact that this was released years ago). He has this rawness in him that makes him charm you and will steal your attention whenever he's around. He maybe a bit inexperienced in acting since he was still fresh and new to the industry during this time but he already proved that he has what it takes to be a great actor in this movie. He already showed promise here, and when you look at him now, you'll realized how far he has evolved in his craft from watching this film. Plus, he shares great chemistry with his co-star, Rocco Nacino which makes their tandem work.

Another thing that I loved is the cinematography and editing of the film. The way Marlon and Dennis would overlap one another's blocking in most of the shots which feature the two male characters really got my attention. It adds more tension and makes the film sexy than it should be. The editing of the film, particularly the opening sequence right before the title was really good and fun to watch. The way it jumps from one scene to another and back and forth without breaking the pacing and continuity of the film was genius. Also, the music and poetry featured in the film adds more emotional resonance to it and gives the film a heart.

This film is just one of the latest addition to my all time favorite Filipino films of all time. Featuring bravura performances from the three leads, a beautifully written script, gorgeous cinematography and masterful direction, this indie gem is a must-watch for everyone. Restrained, yet teaming with sexual tension, Alvin Yapan's Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Paa is a touching study of the human nature, and will leave a mark in you long after watching it. And that final shot in the film's ending is sure to break your heart.

Rating:  out of 5

Ang Sayaw Ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa (2011)
Written and directed by Alvin Yapan
Starring Paulo Avelino, Rocco Nacino and Jean Garcia

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

BLISS Movie Review

"Hindi ko maintindihan!" (I can't understand!)

This is one of the lines of Iza Calzado's character Jane in director Jerrold Tarog's latest film, Bliss. This is also the exact same thing I've been murmuring to myself while watching the movie last Monday, April 3, 2017 at CineAdarna, UP Diliman during the film's special screening. The screening was attended by hundreds of people who flocked the film theater since early afternoon just to catch a glimpse of the film that got it's lead actress, Iza Calzado, her Best Performer Award from the recent Osaka Film Festival. The film became controversial after MTRCB slapped it with an X-rating, banning it from being commercially released in the country. Until now, I still can't figure out what I've watched that night. Director Jerrold Tarog said he aims to push the boundaries of Philippine Cinema with this film. And he did it, in a way no one could have imagined.

BLISS tells the story of an aging actress, Jane Ciego (played by Iza Calzado in her most daring role yet) who started acting in showbiz at a young age. Now in her 30s, she decides to produce her own film to win some respect in the industry. But things do not go as planned and an accident on location cripples her. Jane wakes up unable to walk and trapped in her own home, a large house filled with strange sounds and people who may want to harm her. She is looked over by her cold husband Carlo (TJ Trinidad) and a sadistic nurse named Lilibeth (Adrienne Vergara), and then there is Rose, a nurse wanted by authorities for sexually molesting a patient. She mysteriously enters Jane’s life and soon begins affecting her dreams as much as her waking life. Jane’s sanity begins to crumble as the horrors pile up in a symphony of blood, tears and madness. What was supposed to be a simple dream for Jane soon becomes an endless nightmare.

Director Jerrold Tarog is no stranger to the horror genre, as he have been making horror films even before BLISS. He helmed the Shake, Rattle & Roll 12 episode "Punerarya" starring Carla Abellana and Sid Lucero, the feature film Aswang (2011) starring Lovi Poe and Paulo Avelino, the Shake, Rattle & Roll 13 episode "Parola" (one of my favorite episodes of SRR) starring Kathryn Bernardo and Louisse Delos Reyes and the Shake, Rattle & Roll XV episode "Ulam" starring Ms. Abellana and Dennis Trillo. his lead actress, Iza Calzado, is also considered as one of Philippines' modern day scream queens, as she has starred in films like Sigaw (2004), Shake, Rattle & Roll 8 (2006), Ouija (2007), The Echo (2008), White House (2010), Maria, Leonora, Theresa (2014), Haunted Mansion (2015), and Ilawod (2017). Therefore, BLISS is a dream come true for a horror fan like me because two big names in the country's industry have collaborated to come up with this project.

For the past years, I've seen a lot of horror films. And when I say A LOT, I mean it. I remember, there was even a time when for one whole month, I was watching a horror movie almost every single day. I guess this is the reason why I got so numb when it comes to horror movies. I don't get scared easily anymore, which is really depressing because whenever me and my friends watch horror movies in the theater, all of them are shrieking out of fright the whole time while I stare blankly at the screen. No reactions at all. But luckily, there are some few good horror flicks that comes out of the blue that I get to enjoy. So whenever I say that a horror movie is good, believe me. It is good. The last Filipino horror film that I've watched and enjoyed was Erik Matti's Seklusyon. I've had some pretty good time watching that film. And since then, I've been looking forward to seeing another good horror film. Unfortunately, I haven't seen one since the start of this year. I haven't seen a local horror movie that I actually enjoyed. Until I saw BLISS.

I still can't figure out what BLISS actually is. I couldn't come up with a single word to describe it. It's never-before-seen. It's trippy. It's insane. It's mind-boggling. It's surreal. It's fucked-up. Yeah. It is so fucked-up. I've never seen a Filipino movie this fucked up since Sherad Anthony Sanchez's Salvage starring Jessy Mendiola. But BLISS takes the word "fucked-up" to a whole new level. I don't even know where to start in reviewing the film. Jerrold Tarog's BLISS is like a big mystery, slowly being peeled one layer after another. And every time it sheds off another layer, it becomes more and more unsettling, and disturbing, and deranged, and messed-up. And this is what makes BLISS a one of a kind movie experience.

First and foremost, BLISS is a horror film. And it's scary when it wants to be. But Jerrold Tarog doesn't just settle for this. Instead, his witty script (he also penned the film) infuses dark humor to make the film stand out from the rest of the local horror films we've seen before. It's like a hybrid of something that the Sam Raimi and the late Wes Craven would make if they write a film while they're drugged. Aside from the film's dark humor, the film also pushes boundaries in Philippine cinema by featuring taboo themes that most directors and film companies are avoiding to tackle, like pedophilia, marital rape and commercialism. As the story progresses, director Jerrold hits us with these unsettling themes one blow after another. I remember myself during the screening of BLISS at CineAdarna. I was covering my mouth with my handkerchief, held by my two hands, as I watch in shock in one cringe-worthy scene featuring a naked woman standing in front of a mirror, touching herself while she is having flashbacks of a lesbian molesting her when she was young. I don't want to give out a lot of details because it will spoil everything but that scene was too much to handle that a part of me wants to cover my eyes until the scene fades away. But it's too late. I'm already hypnotized by this nightmarish fairy tale and I couldn't take my eyes off the screen anymore. I'm stuck in this demented mind of Jerrold Tarog, along with the rest of the hundreds of audiences inside that theater.

When it comes to the film's technicalities, this movie is one handsome horror picture. The handheld shots of the film evokes a sense of uneasiness. Whenever the camera follows Jane while she's treading along the hallways of their big house, it brings a feeling of dread and impending threat, specially when she pass by an open door of a dark, empty (or not) room. The house itself is brimming with a sense of claustrophobia, drowning her with whispers and mysterious sounds from every corner. The music is simple but adds a creepy atmosphere to every scene. The editing was also good. The film's pacing moves briskly and doesn't have any dull moments. Horror fans like me will be delightfully pleased with the violence and blood in the film. Yes, there's blood. Lots of blood. Unlike Iza Calzado's previous horror pic Ilawod which is more restrained, BLISS is unabashed when it comes to violence, and goes for the jugular. There's a lot of stabbing here in this pic, I'm telling you. And I can't help but squirm every single time.

I guess this film wouldn't have worked if not for the outstanding performances of it's cast. Audie Gemora plays his role with flair and humor as the Cannes-obsessed director Lexter Palao. Michael de Mesa is like an over-the-top fictional version of Boy Abunda. Shamaine Buencamino is brilliant as the stage mother Jillian. Ian Veneracion isn't given much screen time but definitely catches everyone's attention every time he's on screen. TJ Trinidad impresses us with his portrayal of Carlo, Jane's husband who eventually messes up everything for her wife. You'll hate him. You'll love him. He's that good. Adrienne Vergara steals the show as the creepy nurse Lilibeth. At first, she was distracting and may come off a bit over the top. But as the story progresses, you eventually enjoy her character. Her presence alone brings menace to every scene. She will make you squirm, feel uncomfortable, disgusted and uneasy. I assure you, she will make your skin crawl. But at the end of the day, this is still Iza Calzado's film. And she definitely owns it. The character of Jane Ciego worked so perfectly with her. I don't think any other actresses could fit this role aside from Iza. Honestly, I don't even think any other actresses in her generation would be brave enough to take this challenging role. Iza Calzado risks everything in this movie, and it's worth it. She really stood out with her brilliant portrayal of a woman slowly being driven to insanity by her own husband while locked up inside a house with a demented nurse. Iza Calzado connects with the audience in a way no other actresses can. We understand her confusion. We feel her frustration. We sympathize with her tragic life. We are threatened whenever she is in danger. We become part of her psyche. We become her. No wonder she wowed everyone at the Osaka Film Festival last March 2017. She truly deserve that Yakushi Pearl Award for Best Performance. I guess we can all agree that she is one of the most underrated actresses of this country, and she deserves so more.

Now, about that rating. I agree that the film contains a lot of nudity, sex and mature themes. But to be honest, I think and I firmly believed that it doesn't deserve it's X-rating from the MTRCB. Yes, there is prolonged nude scene featuring Iza Calzado's character, but it wasn't meant to arouse audiences. I was actually shocked at that scene. Honestly, I've seen worst than this. Has everyone already forgot how Christian Grey fingered Anastacia Steel because she was still a virgin in 2015's Fifty Shades of Grey which, mind you, was given a lower rating of R-18? how about all those moments where we watched her nipples grow erect as they make love in that blockbuster romance film. And those uncensored cocks hanging out from some glory holes as Vince Vaughn makes fun of them in the 2015 comedy Unfinished Business which was rated R-16 by the MTRCB. Is it just me, or is the MTRCB really giving more priority to foreign films than the locally produced movies which, FYI, are critically acclaimed not only here in the country but even abroad? Is this history repeating itself too soon? Are we getting another round of that 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten controversy? I honestly don't know. As I quote Felix Salonga of 2 Cool, I am in a conundrum. This is not the first time an MTRCB rating has stumped me. I just hope that the appeal of the producers of the film will be a success. Because this movie is something that the Filipino audience deserves to see in the big screen, nationwide.

BLISS is indeed the most fucked up, unapologetic, disgusting, shameful, and demented Filipino film I've seen on screen. But it is also the most fun, mind-boggling, surreal, riveting and wildly entertaining local film I've watched. Intelligently written, imaginatively directed and brilliantly acted, this film pushes the boundaries of Philippine Cinema way past it's limits. BLISS is deliciously disturbing. It's like that little, sugary confection that you've been warned not to eat because it's bad for your health. Problem is, once you get a taste of BLISS, you'll be craving for more.

Rating:  out of 5

BLISS (2017)
Directed by Jerrold Tarog
Starring Iza Calzado, TJ Trinidad, Ian Veneracion and Adrienne Vergara 
Best Performance Award (Iza Calzado), Osaka Film Festival 2017