[MOVIE REVIEWS] Ekstra (The Bit Player) & Transit

[DISCLAIMER] The author of this post has not come to terms with his tenses. Please forgive the shift to past tense to present tense and back.

I won’t pretend that I am a movie critic who really knows what he’s talking about. Who am I kidding? I love Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight just as much as I love Spy Kids and A Very Special Love.

Anyway highway, I was with a couple of my friends and we watch two Cinemalaya entries yesterday at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. I’m not an avid follower of Cinemalaya, mainly because I thought most of the films before were out of my understanding. Masyadong malalim para sa akin kumbaga.

Last night we watched Ekstra (The Bit Player) and Transit.

When I arrived at CCP at around 4:00 PM, all of the movies to be screened at 6:15 PM where all sold out. We were lucky enough that one of our friends, who is a Vilmanian through and through, was there and was able to secure us tickets for the gala screening of Ekstra.

Ekstra

According to the Cinemalaya website, Ekstra is “a socio-realist drama-comedy film, it follows a seemingly usual day in the life of LOIDA MALABANAN (Vilma Santos) as she embarks on yet another shooting day of a soap opera as an extra. As the shoot goes on, we get a glimpse of the truth in the ruling system of the production as well as the exploitation of the marginalized laborers like her.” It is part of the Directors Showcase category.

Vilma Santos stars in the film as an ekstra, or the nameless talents we usually see in scenes of movies and TV shows. Not being a Vilmanian (I hope no one from the crowd we were with last night reads this), I surprisingly enjoyed most of her scenes in the film. I also liked how the film bravely pointed out the things the production people had to do (against their will) because of the business side of the industry.

I could not say anything really bad about what the director has offered in the film. Only that what he offered was not enough. There was something lacking about the film. It was good. But it was not great.

The story is also not that original. Marlon Rivera, who stars as the director in the fictional soap opera in the movie, did Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank last year starring Eugene Domingo which delved in the production of an independent film. While it had a different premise, Septic Tank was more effective in showing the real issues of the production people compared to Ekstra. And let’s admit, Vilma Santos pales in comparison to Eugene Domingo when it comes to comedy. (NOTE: This is not meant to discredit Ate Vi as an actress.)

Also, the OC in me wanted to stand up and ask the producer or directer what the heck happened with the subtitles. The characters kept on saying “Attorney Macaspac” and yet the subtitles read “Attorney Mascapac.” And there were a couple of times when the subtitles did not match what the character was saying at all. Since the film is Vilma Santos’ first independent film, you could have made sure that everything was spot on.

All in all, the not-so-movie-critic in me gives the film 3 out of 5 stars. (O diba, kung maka-rate lang, akala mo naman may magqu-quote sakin. LOL)

The next film we watched (UGH!) was Transit.

Transit

The only consolation that we had for watching this film last night was we got to see Anne Curtis and Erwan Heaussaff. The film was produced by the company of director Paul Soriano. And what happens when Paul Soriano produces your film? You get to have Toni Gonzaga do a cameo role for a teleserye-is scene complete with all the ingredients to make it the cheesiest part of the film (magagalit sa inyo n’an ang mga gumawa ng Ekstra, e).

According to the Cinemalaya website, Transit, part of the New Breed: Full Length category is a film that “begins and ends in an airport during a father and son’s transit flight from Tel Aviv to Manila.  It tells the story of Moises, a Filipino single-dad working as a caregiver in Herzliya, Israel, who comes home to his apartment in Tel Aviv to celebrate his son Joshua’s 4th birthday. I twas on that day that Moises, together with their Filipino neighbors Janet, and her daughter Yael, find out that the Israeli government is going to deport children of foreign workers.  Afraid of the new law, Moises and Janet decide to hide their children from the immigration police by making them stay inside the house.”

With an impressive cast which includes Irma Adlawan, Ping Medina and Mercedes Cabral, it was so disappointing that none of these actors really stood out in the film. And I was not hoping for some explosive, dramatic scenes. I was actually longing for subtle, quiet scenes where they would really shine. But sadly, none of those for this film.

It was Marc Justine Alvarez, the child star of this film, that really warrants applause. His presence in the film was really a joy to watch

This film is also the first independent film of Jasmine Curtis-Smith (Uma-Ate Vi lang ang peg), hence the support of all the VIPs of Republiq. Chos. Her performance as a daughter of a Filipina OFW and an Israeli who cannot speak and understand Filipino and does not identify herself as Filipino was okay at best. I guess I really could not judge her performance because I was busy reading the subtitles during her scenes to understand what she was saying. (OC in me: Good thing the subtitles were okay unlike that of Ekstra’s)

Maybe it was the time, or maybe it was the fact that I was really tired earlier that day, but I was really sleepy during the film. I believe I also missed around 2 or 3 minutes of the film when I dozed off. My friend and I were like dancing in our seats just to keep ourselves awake.

The story was not also compelling enough to warrant that kind of storytelling. The treatment made the film sooooooo draaaaaaaaagging.

The not-so-movie-critic in me gives Transit 2 out of 5 stars.

Tonight, the partner and I will watch Instant Mommy. I expect to laugh tonight.

instant-mommy

Then it’s Porno on Saturday. I heard it had quite negative reviews, but hey the title of the film is enough reason for me to watch it (SORRY).

Porno poster

UPDATE: I made a ticket-buying frenzy. We’ll be watching more films this week! We’ll watch Sana Dati on July 31, Babagwa on August 1 and Debosyon on Saturday. Weeeee

Sana Dati

Babagwa

Debosyon

For more information about the films and the festival, visit http://www.cinemalaya.org/

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