Ang Babaeng Allergic sa WiFi (2018)

Genre/s: Romance

To Be Released on August 15, 2018 (PH Release Date; Limited Release Only)

Presented by Cignal Entertainment, OctoberTrain Films, and The IdeaFirst Company

Writer and Director: Jun Robles Luna

  • Sue Ramirez as Norma
  • Jameson Blake as Aristotle "Aris" Miller
  • Markus Peterson as Leo

  • Produced by Perci M. Intalan and Jun Robles Luna
  • Music composed by Emerzon Texon

Life without WiFi ... the mere thought of it makes we want to hyperventilate. And why not? Our dependence on the Internet to communicate and develop personal relationships is such that we feel lost without it. But what if you are forced by circumstances to avoid it, is there life or love without it? Welcome back to Dateline Movies, and this is is the interesting story of "Ang Babaeng Allergic sa WiFi", a quirky exploration of love in the world of the Internet.

What is the movie about?

The Internet has taken over the world, but for one young woman, Norma, played by Ramirez (Hanggang Saan), she does not seem to mind the fact that she is almost completely attached to it.

As she indulges in the many joys the Internet can give her, as well as her flourishing relationship with her boyfriend Leo, played by Peterson, she discovers, to her horror, that the very thing that keeps her the happiest is killing her. She has "Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity" (E.H.S.), which means exactly what it says in the title of the movie.

Forced to disconnect herself from cyberspace so as to keep herself safe, Norma retreats to a nearly secluded, and idealistic provincial land. There, she is forced to come to terms with the real world, without the Internet, and she must finally know if true love is with her boyfriend, or a secret admirer of hers, Aristotle "Aris" Miller, played by Blake (2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten).

On the premise of the flick, director Jun Robles Luna mentioned that “what interested (him) most about the idea, when I came across a 2009 news report about a British man who was allergic to Wi-Fi, is the opportunity to explore the underlying sadness and emptiness of modern relationships.”

On the social themes of the film, he added that “nowadays, with the advances of technology, no matter where we go, it’s so easy to get in touch with our loved ones. But a lot of our correspondence has also been reduced to emojis and likes and superficial interactions online. What happens if the technology that’s supposed to connect you to the whole world suddenly isolates you literally and takes away your freedom and the life you once lived and knew?”

Honestly, I am gently surprised that a person can actually becoming allergic to the Internet itself. I do look forward to seeing Cignal Entertainment's first-ever movie film myself, and I do hope to see you at the theaters. There are seven other films made by Filipinos currently showing in the Philippines, much like this little potential gem. All of these eight movies are part of the P.P.P. And what is that, you ask?

“Ang Babaeng Allergic sa WiFi” is Cignal Entertainment’s first venture into full length feature film production and is one of the eight feature films chosen by the Film Development Council of the Philippines for the Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino 2018 happening in August.

The Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino (PPP) is a nationwide week-long celebration which will exclusively screen Filipino films in all theaters nationwide from August 15-21, 2018. It is now on its second year and is in line with the Buwan ng Wika. This is organized by the Film Development Council of the Philippines in partnership with the theaters, and public and private partners.

For more information you may check-out Cignal Entertainment’s Facebook page by clicking here, and check-out the film's official Facebook page for more updates here. And as always, we leave a video related to our subject at the end of each of our posts. Be sure to listen to an original song for the movie titled "Wish" by Keiko. Stay tuned for more Dateline Movies!

Photo by Eugene Lim on Unsplash

One lazy afternoon while watching re-runs of gymnastic competitions, I got a sudden urge to check out movies about gymnastics. There were three which were consistently on the list of several movie aficionados. These include "An American Girl: McKenna Shoots for the Stars" (2012), "Stick It" (2006), and "The Gabby Douglas Story" (2014). I made a mental note to watch these movies soon.

Gymnastics Equipment

When watching movies like these, scenes showing gymnastics equipment are expected. But of course. So it was inevitable that during my search for these movies , I came across references for gymnastics equipment as well.  One in particular caught my eye. 

The main reason being that I have no idea as to how it is used and so my curiosity got piqued. This is called an air tumble track. It comes in different colors and sizes including the airtrack small. It even has a fun factor attached to it as it allows you to slide while combining the benefits of having a trampoline, spring floor, and a landing mat in one for serious gymnastics practice.

A quick look at the site reveals a wide variation of air trak mats for sale

Going back to movies about gymnastics. While flipping through the channels on tv,  I stumbled upon this replay of an episode of the animated show, Family Guy, on Fox. I was not able to watch the entire episode, but I was able to watch one specific scene specifically, wherein one of the show's main protagonist, Stewie Griffin, voiced by the show's creator, Seth MacFarlene, makes use of "Gymkata" to save a woman. After watching the scene, I thought to myself, "what is Gymkata?", and "why is this referenced and used for a gag?" 

I did some research, and from my discovery, Gymkata is actually an obscure 1985 martial arts film starring real-life gymnast Kurt Thomas, and is directed by the man who gave us arguably the most notable Bruce Lee film of all time, Enter the Dragon. Long story short, after reading about this typical 80s-themed, weird yet interesting film, I too wanted to learn more about this art, which is a fusion of karate and gymnastics.

From all of us here at Dateline Movies, we hope you too can learn a little Gymkata as well. Remember to get yourself an air track or two to make learning more interesting. If you are still at a loss on what the practice really is, take a look at the film's trailer here, and stay tuned for more Dateline Movies!

Ant-Man and The Wasp (2018)

Rated PG-13: For Mild Violence

Running Time: 118 minutes (1 hour and 58 minutes)

Genre/s: Action, Comedy, Science Fiction, Superhero

Released on July 4, 2018 (PH Release Date; Available for Worldwide Viewing)

Presented by Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Motion Picture Studios

"Ant-Man" Created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby

"The Wasp" Created by Stan Lee, Ernie Hart, and Jack Kirby

Writers: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Paul Rudd, Andrew Barrer, and Gabriel Ferrari

Director: Peyton Reed

  • Paul Rudd as Scott Lang / Ant-Man / Giant-Man
  • Evangeline Lilly as Hope Van Dyne / The Wasp 
  • Michael Peña as Luis
  • Walton Goggins as Sonny Burch
  • Hannah John-Kamen as Ava Starr / Ghost
  • Michelle Pfeiffer as Janet Van Dyne / The Wasp 
  • Laurence Fishburne as Doctor Bill Foster
  • Randall Park as Agent James "Jimmy" Woo
  • Michael Douglas as Doctor Henry "Hank" Pym / Ant-Man 

So, it has been awhile ladies and gentlemen. An entire month, to be exact. A lot can happen at the start of the school year, such as having to go through another research process at the second week, loads of review days for college exams, and getting reassigned to editor-in-chief for the school paper. The sad thing was that we were working on plenty of other movie reviews last month, but they all remained in blogging hell. But we are back now, and we will remain as active for as long as we can.

Back to the post at hand, we were left shocked and traumatized to the core by the events of Avengers: Infinity War. Now Marvel Studios decided to give us some breathing space in preparation for an epic finale in 2019. Are the Earth's Tiniest Heroes enough to tide fans over until Captain Marvel, and finally Avengers 4? Welcome back to Dateline Movies, and movie court is back in session for the case of Ant-Man and The Wasp!

Since it is still showing in theaters, a spoiler warning is in order. You really don't need a truth serum to know that one, right?

What is the movie about?

After former thief Scott Lang, played by Rudd (Clueless), participated in a battle that he should not have, he is rebranded as a criminal, and is now placed under house arrest, under the strict supervision of F.B.I. agent Jimmy Woo, played by Park (The Interview).

It has been two years since Scott reached-out to both Hope Van Dyne, played by Lilly (Real Steel), and Hank Pym, played by Douglas (Wall Street). The father-daughter team-up has been spending their time trying to rescue Hope's mother and Hank's wife Janet Van Dyne, played by Pfeiffer (mother!), from the Quantum Realm.

But their little rescue mission is being derailed by the emergence of two villains: gangster and arms dealer Sonny Burch, played by Goggins, and the enigmatic phaser known only as "Ghost", played by John-Kamen (Both Goggins and John-Kamen appeared in Tomb Raider). To rescue Janet and save the world from the dangers of the Quantum Realm, it would take the combined might of Scott, Hope, Hank, Scott's best friend Luis, played by Peña (End of Watch), and Hank's former assistant Bill Foster, played by Fishburne (Passengers).


What we think of the movie?

The Defense:
  • Ant-Man and The Wasp is definitely one of the funniest M.C.U. entries, so far.

Comedy in the Marvel Cinematic Universe tends to be a mixed bag. There are cases that it does make a movie, and also adds layers to a character, and there are times when they are oddly placed, to the point that the placements pretty much ruins the entire movie. Ant-Man and The Wasp definitely delivers on the laughs, although I might say that there is some part of me that still wonders on how Edgar Wright, the originally slated director of the first Ant-Man movie, could have continued his story arc.

There are two scenes that I want to highlight, and one of them, of course, involves comedic standout Luis, played by none other than the ever lovable Michael Peña. In this particular sequence, we get the obligatory "Luis Recounts an Event in Funnily Excessive Detail", but this time, he is under the influence of "not" a truth serum. Luis', Kurt's, played by David Dastmalchian (The Dark Knight), and Dave's, played by Tip "T.I." Harris (Takers) insistence that it is a truth serum, much to the maker, Uzman's, played by Divian Ladwa (Lion) dismay, is hilarious. 

The other scene that I very much enjoy is when Janet, who through the power of convoluted quantum science made Scott Lang into an antenna, takes control of Scott and course corrects Hank and Hope's quantum tunnel, the gateway to the Quantum Realm. (They really had to add "quantum" to everything, huh?) Paul Rudd definitely steals this scene by acting as if it is Michelle Pfeiffer controlling him, and what really seals the deal is when Janet uses Scott's body to express how much Janet misses her family, much to Hank's confusion.

There is this one scene when both Scott and Hope visit Scott's daughter Cassie's, played Abby Ryder Fortson (Playing It Cool) high school to obtain his old suit, Scott's new regulator malfunctions and he reaches the size of a ten-year old. It might be dragging for some, but it is just the kind of lighthearted nature that makes this film a decent time at the theater.

  • It ties in exceptionally well to the events of Avengers: Infinity War, even if it is completely standalone in nature.
Marvel's recent line of standalone films are given much more chances to stand on their own two feet, without having to constantly place Easter eggs or have pointless cameos just to cement its place in the universe. That trend lives-on as, even if they cranked-in a few references to the events of Captain America: Civil War, this movie, from start to finish, really did feel like a movie about its two titular leads in their own adventures. It is completely standalone is what I am saying, and they did not even get to have any of the other heroes out there to at least make a cameo just to keep things focused.

However, even if it is pretty much a standalone feature, it manages to tie-in relatively decently with the happenings of Avengers: Infinity War with just one mid-credits scene. I will not spoil it to you here, since it would ruin the surprise, even if I have already mentioned a lot of spoilers with regards to the film. Let me just say that the stakes for Scott Lang have just increased once Avengers 4.

  • Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly are an awesome pair.

Once again, Marvel knock it out of the park with yet another star-studded cast, and the best performance among all of them is given by the film's main star. There really is so much to say about Rudd in his second, major outing as our ant-controlling, minuscule hero. Aside from the fact that I enjoyed that scene when Janet takes control of Scott's body, as Rudd pretty much personifies Janet's unique personality traits, I love how Rudd has a very touching, very relatable with his on-screen daughter Abby Ryder Fortson, who continues to be an integral part of the Ant-Man story with her small but meaningful performance. In fact, their small pretend treasure hunt is a dun exploration on how much they have connected as a family.

Evangeline Lilly finally gets her time to shine as the highly anticipated Wasp, and her next to perfect chemistry with Paul Rudd continues to shine. Just seeing Lilly tease Rudd's character whenever his regulator malfunctions, and just seeing her be her usual snarky self, is pretty entertaining. And heck, she even gets the honor of having the very first fight scene all to herself.

However, there is something about this script that made me feel as if not all of the actors managed to actually stand-out. Regardless, all actors, including Michael Douglas as Hank Pym, Michael Peña as Luis, and even Laurence Fishburne as Bill Foster are all pretty good.

  • Some of its creative visuals, evident especially in Ghost's phasing abilities, and costume designs are a-okay.
Like all other previous M.C.U. titles, Ant-Man and the Wasp also has some of the most decent, eye-catching visuals cinema has to offer, even if they are not as grandiose or memorable as the ones featured from its predecessors.

I have to say that I enjoy the two titular leads' costumes, especially Scott's latest Ant-Man suit, because its much sleeker, and much more contemporary take on the trademark costume makes him much more believable to see on-screen. At first, I was not that exactly sure with The Wasp's costume, since they just pretty much just gave her with the usual black leather suits with an extra sprinkle of yellow coating. I was actually yearning to see The Wasp's sleeveless suit from The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes animated series, since it makes her standout more. However, after giving enough thought into it, I have to say, The Wasp's suit here is brilliant, and it does make the idea of a sleeveless suit less logical in terms of the movie.

Perhaps the best costume design for me is arguably Ghost's. By removing the cartoonish cape from the character's earliest appearances, and by taking inspiration from the modern comicbook version's slightly ghastly appearance, you can immediately tell that, from a distance, Ghost is definitely someone that you should not be messing with. And her menacing get-up is equally complimented by the unique special effects that are featured whenever Ghost makes use of her phasing abilities.

Even if the majority of the film takes place in less than imaginative set pieces, the times when it does actually try to be playful with visuals become a tad bit memorable. The entire sequence of Hank Pym entering the Quantum Realm, only to be threatened by the general quantum weirdness that lingers in this pocket dimension is wonderful. From the color, to the unrealistic and heavily imaginative designs of certain Quantum Realm features, everything about that sequence makes me wish that the entire movie is set in it. Plus, the Hank's portable laboratory that serves as the location of his Quantum Tunnel is also pretty creative in design, especially that weird computer system that they have.

Lastly, the two main action sequences, The Wasp's solo fight, and the climactic pursuit of Hank's shrunken laboratory, combined with Christophe Beck's good score, are quite the delight to watch. I personally did enjoy the last fight because we did not have to sit through yet another CGI-filled and over-bloated extravaganza, and we are instead treated to a cat-and-mouse pursuit between our villains and our heroes, who are all fighting over a shrunken building! Yes, a building.


The Prosecution:
  • Every single creative, comicbook-inspired concept is wasted.(Showing all of them in the trailers is also a mistake.)
Now that the elephant is out of the room, I think that it is time for me to be clear that Ant-Man and The Wasp ... is only an "okay" movie. I mean, it really is not overly unwatchable. It does have its fair share of moments, but ultimately, it somewhat boggles down to "uninspired". The real problem here lies with how this movie managed to not make use of what makes it unique, unlike how all of the Captain America movies centered on political affairs and the lead hero's struggles with time, how the Iron Man trilogy tackled corporate corruptions and the protagonist's growing fear of the unknown, how Spider-Man: Homecoming featured a coming-of-age story from a superhero's perspective, or how the Guardians of the Galaxy explored the cosmic side of the M.C.U. In other words, this films struggles to find its groove, and it shows.

And when I mean uninspired, I really do mean that they wasted every single one of their most interesting concepts and ideas. Hey, you know the Quantum Realm? Yeah, Janet Van Dyne is stuck there for nearly two to three decades, and the pocket dimension could seemingly give people powers from prolonged exposure. Sounds interesting, right? Well you can forget about it and settle in for spending more time in the least interesting sets yet, from Scott's house, a gangster's restaurant, to San Francisco's roads. You mean to tell me that Janet has a sort-of link to Scott after his trip to the Quantum Realm? Yeah let us just use that concept for one scene, use that for laughs, and never ever bring it up again. So Bill Foster can grow almost as big as Giant-Man, and that Hank has a lot of skeletons in his closet? Yeah, no one wants to see any of those. In fact, why bother showing any other cool story points when we can just show them all in the trailers? 

I cannot remember this idea that I stumbled upon somewhere over at Facebook, but the idea revolves around Ant-Man and The Wasp following the same story structure of The Godfather: Part II, wherein one story takes place in the present, revolving around Scott Lang and Hope Van Dyne, the other talking about Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne's doomed mission. I think that would have given the writers so much more room to explore all of their unexplored ideas. I suggest that, by following this structure, they ought to have the present arc about Scott and Hope attempting to recover the portable laboratory from Sonny Burch, who is working with Ghost to harness the Quantum Realm's power, and the past storyline revolve around Hank, Janet, and Bill discovering a conspiracy within S.H.I.E.L.D. This way, we get a much more character-driven story, complete with world-building that expands Hank and Janet's past adventures.

The list of the things that went wrong goes on and on, and the biggest disappointment comes in the form of its supposedly main villain: Ghost, which brings us to ...

  • Everything that could have made Ava Starr intriguing and sympathetic is mentioned, but never explored.
After three years of giving us brilliant, threatening, sympathetic, and most of all, fully developed super-villains, Ant-Man and The Wasp decides to take a bold misstep, deciding that since this film is more or less just meant to be a filler episode, less effort should be given to fleshing-out the main antagonist, and by less effort, I mean absolutely no effort at all.

So Ghost's backstory goes like this. Back way back when, when Hank Pym and Bill Foster were scientists for S.H.I.E.L.D., Pym fired his former project partner Elihas Starr, played by Michael Cervais (Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant), after he suspected him of being a traitor to the agency. Desperate to clear his own name, Starr attempted to build his prototype Quantum Tunnel, but it only resulted in his and his wife, Catherine's, played by Riann Steele (Sket), deaths. The blast also affects the young Ava Starr, giving her uncontrollable phasing powers that is slowly killing her. S.H.I.E.L.D. found-out about this, so they trained her to be an assassin, but after the agency collapsed, Bill adopted her in her quest to cure herself, to almost no avail.

First off, I just want to point-out how strongly similar Ghost's origin story is to Whiplash, played by Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler), who was the main antagonist for Iron Man 2, and was also angry at the main character's father for discrediting his co-worker. Second, you can immediately tell that the writers have almost no idea which motivation should the villain take. Should it be about revenge for the deaths of her parents and for the fact that she is raised to become a child soldier, or should it be desperation for a cure? Third, had the story focused only on Ghost's desire to survive, combined with the moral argument of either letting Janet or Ava die, Ghost could have been a truly unique antagonist. I mean, you really don't get to hear about a villain just wanting to live everyday, after all.

Perhaps the worst thing that could have happened to Ghost is that her own needless origin story is talked about in the laziest way possible, through an expository monologue. Heck, even after Ava reveals her whole story, it is never brought-up again later on. 

Also, the introductions to both Sonny Burch, Jimmy Woo, and Bill Foster feel unnecessary and pointless, because Burch is just an average street-level villain who takes the spotlight away from the supposedly main antagonist, while Jimmy Woo is your more comedic Inspector Javert that makes little to no impact on the overall story other than being Scott's parole officer, Foster has no other reason to be here than to be a fun reference to the comics. No offense to the actors though, at least they did the best they all could have. On the plus side, both Burch and Starr survive their debut appearances, so I do expect that they get much more expanded roles in the third Ant-Man outing.

  • For a superhero film, there is not much action or stakes to go around.
Did you notice that I only mentioned two fight scenes? You know, I really would have loved to talk more about the action scenes, if only they actually added more.

Yes, this is arguably one of the most dialogue-driven M.C.U. films to date, and yes, it does feel sluggishly paced after an endless barrage of jokes, and even a scene dedicated to explaining the intricacies of the Quantum Realm. Yes, even if the jokes are as funny as I have mentioned awhile ago, it eventually feels bloated, as if the writers have absolutely no idea what they should be doing. This becomes evident in the truth serum scene, with Luis pretty summarizing things that we already know, even the details that non-M.C.U. fans should more or less be familiar with, from his origin story, to his involvement in Captain America: Civil War.

Also, is it me, or did the film pretty much just rehashed the core story of the first movie, with Scott again trying to be a model father and law-abiding citizen in a brave, new world, and eventually becoming involved in a game of hot potato against villains who want something made by Hank Pym? Yep, they did. To paraphrase what YouTube user "Browntable" said, just because this film is made for the sole purpose of keeping audiences busy until Avengers 4, it shouldn't be dull overall. It should still be groundbreaking in the best way possible, and it should always strive to standout.

  • Michelle Pfeiffer's Janet Van Dyne is just a glorified, overhyped cameo.
Finally, for my other biggest gripe against this film, aside from the squandered villain, and that is the underuse of Michelle Pfeiffer as the highly awaited cinematic debut of Janet Van Dyne, the original Wasp in this universe, and the most popular incarnation in the comics. Remember the feature-length set-up for the return of Janet Van Dyne that was released in 2015? Prepare to lower your expectations, as we only ever get to see Janet at the very last scenes of the film, including the post-credits scene.

Honestly, that really won't be much of a problem, had they not treat the character as if she is extremely that important to the film. Her appearance here also raised much more questions than answers, as now she possesses a wide variety of powers that become useful at the ending, which conveniently placed the film closer to the conclusion. How convenient? The entire film revolves around Ghost getting Janet's quantum energy, which could kill Janet but heal Ava. How did this film resolve such a tremendous conflict? Janet heals Ava with a magic touch, without a context on how she got her powers, or how she even managed to survive the dangers of the Quantum Realm, then the film ends with, you guessed it, avoiding being arrested by Jimmy Woo and his team for violating his house arrest sentence. Sigh.

The movie would have been way better if Janet is made into a sentient plot device, similar to what was done with The Vision, played by Paul Bettany (Priest) in Avengers: Infinity War, leaving Pfeiffer much more room to interact with Douglas and Lilly, and delivering on that family dynamic that is sorely missing from the Pym family in this flick. Alas, Pfeiffer is wasted in a potential-filled yet overall squandered film that could have been great with its interesting ideas, but only settled for "okay" with it by-the-numbers execution. It's not a bad film though. I'll give you that one.

The Ruling: Not Guilty!

Two charming leads and a sense of humor are probably just enough to make Ant-Man and The Wasp a fun, laid-back time at the theaters, despite having a boring and unoriginal story that does not live-up to its unique potential.

So to answer the question of this film being a decent enough a feature to keep fans hooked? It depends actually. If you are a fan of the franchise, surely you will take the time to appreciate the film for what it is, but if I were to be a typical audience member who has no interest in the franchise, I definitely would not be waiting until Avengers 4, unless if I were to be interested in the resolution to the mid-credits scene's cliffhanger. I do hope Marvel gets Ant-Man back on track in their succeeding films.

And with that, we end our latest movie review in a long time. Hopefully you too can stick around for more of our content in the coming days. Before you leave, here is Ant-Man's official theme song, composed by Christophe Beck. Stay tuned for more Dateline Movies!

Citizen Jake (2018)

Rated R-13: For Strong Language

Genre/s: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Running Time: 137 minutes (2 hours and 17 minutes)

Released on May 23, 2018 (PH Release Date; Limited Release Only)

Presented by Cinema Artists Philippines, through Solar Pictures

Writers: Mike De Leon, Atom Araullo, and Noel Pascual

Director: Mike De Leon

  • Atom Araullo as Jake Herrera
  • Adrian Alandy as Jonie
  • Teroy Guzman as Jacobo Herrera, Sr.
  • Gabby Eigenmann as Roxie Herrera
  • Max Collins as Mandy

Our dear friends at Solar Entertainment Corporation have cordially invited us on the twenty-fourth of May, 2018, to see a special screening of director Mike De Leon's latest feature at the luxurious VIP Cinema 2 of Evia Lifestyle Center in  Las Pinas City. Starring real-life journalist Atom Araullo, it promises to be an eye-opening look at the controversial political climate of the Philippines. Does it live-up to its massive cinematic potential, or does it disappoint at the lowest order? Welcome back to Dateline Movies, and film court is officially open for the case of Dateline v. Citizen Jake!

Some secrets are left buried, and if you have not seen this film yet, that includes spoilers.

What is the movie about?

Jake Herrera, played by Araullo in his film debut, despises the corruption that now defines his family name. His malevolent father, the "honorable" Jacobo Herrera, played by Guzman (If You Leave), and his bigger, more dimwitted brother Roxie, played by Eigenmann (Swipe), have carried on that legacy, while he has since attempted to step away from it, and settle as a teacher, living with his childhood friend and family servant Jonie (Anino Sa Likod ng Buwan).

However, Jake's peaceful existence has been disrupted when a student of his and his on-again-off-again girlfriend Mandy, played by Collins (The One That Got Away), has been murdered. With no one talking, it is now up to Jake to bring the murdered to justice, even if it means having to reopen old wounds once more.


What we think of the movie?

The Defense:
  • Atom Araullo proves himself a spectacular leading man, and the rest of the cast are also absolute scene stealers!
Atom Araullo is on a roll these days, with him even having a television show on AXN, on top of potentially having a worthwhile film career. In case the heading above is not straightforward for you, Araullo does, indeed, have the capabilities of a serious actor. I am not just saying that because of his background in the world of reporting, but he really is able to convincingly portray a man who is constantly haunted by the sins of his father, no matter how much he tries to escape its shadow. The scene that absolutely showed me just how capable Araullo is in the moment when he realizes that his best friend, Jonie, is unwillingly a spy for his corrupt family. His breakdown at the revelation, as well as his off-the-wall reaction to the discovery that his mother, played by Dina Bonevie (Magdusa Ka!), has been secretly sending letters, is awesome. I really do not understand what director Mike De Leon said about Araullo being disappointing, and I do respect his take on his work, but for me, Araullo delivers.

Also, Cherie Gil (Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike) is here, playing the seemingly decent wife of a politician, who is secretly running an illegal escort business, is only here for one scene, and she absolutely nails it by showing us just how the cycle of revenge can be. Besides, it is Cherie Gil. She is a brilliant, versatile actress, and I very much enjoyed her performance, despite having extremely limited screentime. And since we are talking about actors playing corrupt politicians, Teroy Guzman and Gabby Eigenmann are very much intimidating. For me, Guzman's performance is, hands down, one of the best in the entire film, as he effortlessly catches my attention whenever he is on-screen meddling with Jake's life. Plus, even if Eigenmann's character is played for laughs often, as evidenced by Roxie's somewhat cartoonish obsession with The Godfather Trilogy, he still proves himself a menacing, albeit insecure, presence on-screen.

Max Collins is also great being the hope that Jake desperately seeks, and I enjoyed how she portrays Jake's voice of reason, even if she is only in a couple of scenes. And of course, Adrian Alandy actually manages to get a little of my sympathy in his performance as Jonie.

  • It is an almost perfect allegory for corruption.
One of the lines of the film states that people from "two classes can never be friends". When I heard Jake mentioning that near the climactic moments of the film, it got to me, because it pretty much sums-up the message of the entire film.

The film centers around the murder of a girl named Grace, played by Elora Españo (Baconaua), who is forced to be an escort due to financial problems. Jake himself has three servants taking care of him, including his best friend Jonie. Jake is also unknowingly a servant to his own father, because he is supposed to be keeping the sacredness of their family name in-check. Heck, Jake is even an unwilling servant to his own mother-related trauma. Jake, despite being of a different class, chooses to consider Jonie as his one true friend, only for him to learn that Jonie is coerced to become a spy for Roxie and Jacobo. The sinister family bodyguard Enchong, played by Richard Quan (White House), is made into a bodyguard because his father was one. Cherie Gil's Patricia Medina was once a call girl to satisfy a former president's desires, only to now be the one to making other young girls other men's unwilling servants. Mandy is also making Jake her reasonable servant by convincing him to investigate the murder.

All of this culminating in the tragic reality that the people in power will do everything they can to remain in power. And while there may be some who are willing to humble themselves, the stereotype of the all-powerful, all-corrupt elite figure will surely prevent any potential relationships to bloom.

I am not going to lie that I did not like the inclusion of too many references to the Philippines' unsettling history, and the movie would have been way better had the amount of references be set to a minimum. Regardless, the film's exploration of the relationship between the master and the servant is very thought-provoking.


The Prosecution:
  • Despite an intriguing premise and theme, it feels tamer than it should have been.
While Jake and the rest of his main supporting cast do get their own respective character arcs, both Jacobo and Roxie are reduced to stereotypes. The movie has established from the beginning that Jake's father and older brother are both corrupt, but other than just being plain annoying by having Enchong and Jonie spy on Jake and attempting to make a new property over Jake's mother's old home, not a single scene shows Jacobo and Roxie being exactly as such. That is, unless you count taking vices like a cliched gangster straight out of the movies, even if that might have been the point in Roxie's case, being corrupt.

The movie did hint some unique character motivations for both of them, with Roxie admitting to Enchong that he sees himself as if he is the "Sonny Corleone" of the family, referring to their father's potential favoritism, but we never really get to see Jake and Jacobo have any moments of father-son bonding, excluding all of the scenes where they argue over the house. I also do wish that the film could have dug deeper on how Jacobo might have been abusive towards Victoria, because that would have fleshed-out Jake's character a whole lot more. Besides, if we really do get to actually see how Jacobo and Roxie have treated Jake over the years, prior to the House of Herrera dividing, because that would have made Jake's entire crusade all the more personal.

Patricia Medina could have completely subverted all of these problems, if only she could have been introduced way earlier, and if only they could have given her more than just a single scene. This is so because, unlike both Jacobo and Roxie, "Patti" Medina's motivations for running an illegal escort service are interesting and sensible. In fact, I might actually enjoy the film much more if Patti Medina really is the main antagonist. Alas, Citizen Jake only ever explained her backstory in a single scene, with Jake and Mandy just reading it from a book.

The third act also felt very, very forced-in. I call this so because, well, Jonie, killed by Roxie in broad daylight, had absolutely no reason to die, other than to probably show just how incompetent Roxie is. It does earn some of my praise for giving Jake a complete character arc, as he learns that even he, a do-gooder, is completely capable of killing, the movie would have been great already if it just ended with Jake coldly accepting that he can never win against his family. 

Also, that plot "twist" that it was the Herreras who placed the hit on Grace's lover and frequent customer, a judge, played by Nonie Buencamino (Maalala Mo Kaya), just to blackmail him, is so predictable, I would have been much more surprised if it was not really them. If you are setting-up a plot twist, I really do insist that they should keep the huge number of cliches at a minimum.

  • Frequently mentioning the exact same point does not make the film insightful, but preachy.
One of the golden rules of filmmaking is that visuals must be allowed to speak for themselves, so if narration included. How Citizen Jake used it to plot dump the audience on characters and basically all of the other moments that need no explaining is next to inexcusable. This is probably, what I see, as the film's biggest problem, and it somewhat slowed down the movie for me. One instance of this is when Mandy, and Mandy and Jake's professor colleague Lucas, played by Lou Veloso (The Bourne Legacy), are first introduced to the audience, with Jake explaining through voice-over his relationships. Dude, I do not even need you to explain that scene. All I needed to do is just pay attention.

There are also these parts when Jake is more or less breaking the fourth wall explaining various behind-the-scenes happenings, such as him revealing that a real-life forensics team, who were extras, had to pull-out of the shooting after a dead body was found during the production. These somewhat creative, somewhat oddly placed quasi-documentary style narration from the main protagonist, are actually pretty interesting. My only problem with this is that sometimes it tends to ruin emotional vibe of a scene. One scene with Max Collins explaining to a bunch of extras that they are shooting for the movie almost felt like I was watching a reality show instead of a film.

But the thing that truly bothers me about these narration segments are its numerous, unnecessary references to, no less, the Martial Law era in the Philippines. Yes, I know that the film is aiming to remind people that history can repeat itself, which I completely understand, but seriously, I do not need to be beaten on the head over and over again. The character Lucas, a survivor of the horrors of the Martial Law, after giving-out on-the-nose political commentary through a poem, never even came back until the very end of the movie, and it is evident that the character was only created for exposition.

One reference is alright, and it is way better if it is a subtle one, but if you are just constantly bringing-up history lessons, which in-turn only slow down the movie even more, and which takes huge amounts of screentime for various characters, it all just makes the experience a cinematic lecture. Most great, social commentary-filled films did not even have to really go overboard with the references, unless it is a historical adaptation. 

Also, if you are going to be taking shots at the current administration, which I myself would really do if I would be writing a screenplay for a political film, I do not recommend just name-dropping. I thought that moment when one of Grace's friends, Heidi, played by Anna Luna (Changing Partners), mentioned that two of their customers look a lot like Senators Revilla and Sotto a little funny, but really, they could have done better than that. Showing the same image of former President Ferdinand Marcos twice, or practically editing-in too much images from all throughout history, also does not help.

The Ruling: Not Guilty!

Anchored by strong performances from the cast, Citizen Jake goes above and beyond the call to show the dark side of the Philippine political scene, even if the film is not as fresh nor as thought-provoking as it could have been.

Even with its flaws, Citizen Jake is still a must see for everyone. Come and see it at selected theaters in the Philippines while it is still showing! And with that comes the end of yet another movie review. Be sure to also check-out his own television show, "Adventure Your Way", where he goes to various locations all over the country, and do various things based on the suggestions of viewers online. Stay tuned for more Dateline Movies!