SineBuano recommends HIMALA

Ricky Lee’s Himala = The Placebo Effect??

I’m not sure how many people find the hysterics and shrilly wailing of people in Tagalog films appealing, but it tends to annoy me. But I think HIMALA is a very interesting character study. The prostitute’s lover and her future plans, the curious and troubled documentary filmmaker and the people whose only concern is livelihood and hand to mouth existence.

There’s also Elsa herself who uses the paranormal or the pseudo-paranormal if only to be of help to those in need. My favorite scenes were the confession of the filmmaker to the priest, and perhaps the priest talking about the possibility of benign deceptions to uplift the human condition.

Minus the overwrought hysterics, and the terrible and crude opening score, HIMALA is great and it does not fall into the trap of having an incomprehensible storytelling since this was originally meant to be “experimental.” The final message is delivered with enough decisiveness, and ultimately reflects the cultural and religious taboos of the Filipino people.


SineBuano recommends KNOWING and DARK CITY


Alex Proyas is an expert in framing his scenes; with very curtailed and premeditated camera moves.

The images in the film are indeed disturbing; my favorite is the train sequence; watch the very disturbing shot through the window POV. (I won’t spoil anything here). Though strange little kids have become a cliche these days, Cage and Rose Byrne are very believable in their roles, and there’s enough planting in the beginning that gets payed off later (After all, there are NO coincidences in movies.)

I think the film has also just the right dose of theological allusion; but it has extra treatment on great visuals, and special effects that are NOT wasted because of characters whom we care about.

Marco Beltrami’s score is edgy and generic as always; and somehow he makes it work in this dark drama. Very disturbing images, but hopefully also very inspiring ones. The first very good movie of 2009 for me.


Fantastic performances from everybody. Was that Jennifer Connelly singing? But the 2 actors who stand out are William Hurt, for a very imposing, sincere and agitated police officer and Kiefer Sutherland; the quintessential verbal pause machine.

Just like the movie, KNOWING this film is loaded with special effects that DO matter because of characters that make us care; and it has very universal themes especially towards the end that make this more than just a dark movie.

And just like Proyas’s KNOWING; the ending has awe inspiring imagery that contrast it to the entirety of the film.

Murdoch says, what makes us different, you won’t find it in here. (as he points to his head.)

Cardinal’s rating for both films: 10/10

SineBuano enthusiastically recommends GRAN TORINO

If I had my way at A.M.P.A.S, I would give this the Best Picture, if they couldn’t at least let Benjamin Button win. There is no doubt that this is a very personal effort for Eastwood; as the character he plays jives with how he is in his years of reflecting on generativity vs. stagnation. It’s full of caustic wit, irony; a very slow moving but thoughtful story told in a taut manner. It also has a lot of furious scenes, and you see very visibly how Kowalski’s character changes throughout the film, and affecting those around him. This isn’t a spaghetti western or shoot ’em up; but it is a story about redemption. And 27 year old virgins who just graduated from seminaries would be able to relate too.


SineBuano recommends (but not quite as much) SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE

I don’t really know Danny Boyle all that much, but his passion and gusto that are shown in films like “28 Days Later” definitely carry over into this Hindi set drama. I thought it was a little bit too self indulgent at times, but I liked the temporal displacement of the narrative. I also thought the direction and cinematography were a little too flamboyant; but I loved the final scene where Salim is juxtapoused in the bathtub scene to Jamal taking his final question, and lifeline from Latika.

Though this is probably the most enjoyable of all the Best Picture nominees (and it won!) I’d say the direction in movies like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button or Milk was better, and much more subtler. I have yet to see The Reader and Frost/Nixon.

8/10 Slumdog Millionaire is overrated.

SineBuano recommends: DOUBT (2008)

Solid performances from all 3 main characters. Amy Adams has a knack for playing vulnerable characters;but only this time much wiser and less gullible. Meryl Streep attacks her role with so much intensity; at least so much more than Philip Seymour Hoffman needed to invest. As Hoffman combined, sincerity and decisiveness in his stand against Streep and her ways.

Also, for something based on a play; that would inevitably have very talky scenes; the proper and appropriate styling and use of the Dutch angle is put into practice.