Philippine show business was big on love teams this year.
ABS-CBN ruled over early 2015 as the network’s “breakthrough love team” Liza Soberano and Enrique Gil concluded their hit primetime series Forevermore. Replacing the show was Pangako Sa’Yo’s remake starring the tried and tested love team of Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla.
As the year progressed, the “Kapamilya” station continued to dominate Philippine nighttime viewing with the premier of another romantic teleserye titled On The Wings of Love, featuring Viva Entertainment’s goldmine of a pairing in Nadine Lustre and James Reid.
Together, these three love teams amassed a loyal following from countless fans, not just in the Philippines, but also from parts of the world where ABS-CBN’s The Filipino Channel (TFC) is available.
However, come mid-2015, the “big three” received tough competition with the “accidental love team” of Alden Richards and Maine “YayaDub” Mendoza, a.k.a AlDub, from rival channel GMA-7’s block-timer Eat Bulaga. So unexpected and immense was the Filipino audience’s response to the handsome actor-host and online “Dubsmash Queen” that that the pair became an overnight sensation that caught the attention of foreign personalities, as well as features on CNN and BBC.
Unsurprisingly then, as 2015 comes to a close, love teams are the way to go to bring moviegoers to the annual 2015 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), which opens by tradition on December 25, Christmas Day.
The 41st edition of the country’s longest running film festival will showcase eight major entries these year—three of which feature the most promising celebrity pairings in the industry today.
Leading the list is the AlDub-starrer My Bebe Love: #Kilig Pa More!. While the hype for this erstwhile “phenomenal love team” has waned down since their introduction in Eat Bulaga’s “Kalyeserye,” there is no denying that they continue to flourish from the fanatical support of their fans, and also an endless list of big time advertisers. But as their star power is put to the ultimate test on the big screen, will AlDub meet expectations to make Bebe Love the blockbuster hit at this year’s MMFF?
Also top billing the movie are MMFF veterans Vic Sotto and Ai-Ai delas Alas, who have both starred either separately or together in previous film festivals.
Meanwhile, the successful pairing of Lustre and Reid returns to the screen in Beauty and the Bestie, the film headlined by Vice Ganda and Coco Martin.
The romantic-comedy All You Need Is Pag-ibig, also features one of the love teams from the ongoing Pangako Sa’yo reboot, as chosen by lead star Kris Aquino. However moviegoers will not see Kathryn Bernardo and Danile Padilla but Jodi Sta. Maria and Ian Veneracion who portray Amor Powers and Eduardo Venavista, respectively. The movie will also see the Kim Chiu-Xian Lim tandem return on the big screen.
Moreover, Walang Forever will introduce the fresh pairing of 2014 MMFF Best Actress Jennylyn Mercado and Jericho Rosales.
And while horror franchise Shake, Rattle and Roll will be missed at this MMFF edition, Filipinos can instead choose from not one but three films under the horror/thriller/suspense genres. These are Buy Now, Die Later, Haunted Mansion, and Nilalang.
The final entry rounding up this year’s “Magic Eight” is action-drama Honor Thy Father starring John Lloyd Cruz.
MY BEBE LOVE: #KILIGPAMORE
Producers: OctoArts Films, M-Zet Productions, APT Entertainment, GMA Films, Meda Productions
Director: Jose Javier Reyes
Starring: Vic Sotto, Ai-Ai delas Alas, Alden Richards, Maine Mendoza
Genre: Romantic comedy
Synopsis: Expect waves of high-spirited excitement, heartwarming romance, wholesome fun, and excellent Filipino values with My Bebe Love: #Kilig Pa More!, written by Bibeth Orteza and Jose Javier Reyes. Reyes also directs the comedy.
Sotto plays the role of Vito who finds himself at odds and in a bitter professional rivalry with Cora, portrayed by delas Alas. The two characters are both in the business of mounting special events and productions, running equally successful companies.
Conflict begins to brew when their respective wards—Anna (played by Mendoza) daughter of Vito, gets romantically entangled with Cora’s beloved nephew Dondi (played by Richards). As expected, the “parents” actively reject the budding romantic involvement between the star-crossed lovers and willingly strike an unexpected truce to prevent deeper feelings to develop between the young ones.
The plot thickens when the unexpected alliance of the Vito and Cora blooms into something else. Now, it’s the youngsters’ turn to feel disconcerted with the idea of having their folks step into a different relationship zone.
The movie also features Joey de Leon, the Eat Bulaga lolas Paolo Ballesteros, Jose Manalo, and Wally Bayola, and Ryzza Mae Dizon, in special appearances.
By the way: This early, festival observers are already predicting a surefire box-office win for My Bebe Love: Kilig Pa More! with the nation still swept away by the Aldub phenomenon. This is the love team’s most exciting film debut.
ALL YOU NEED IS PAG-IBIG
Producer: Star Cinema
Director: Antoinette Jadaone
Starring: KrisAquino, Derek Ramsey, Pokwang, Jodie Sta, Maria, Ian Veneracion, Kim Chiu, Xian Lim, Bimby Aquino Yap
Genre: Romantic comedy
Synopsis: All You Need Is Pag-ibig is a heartwarming and romantic family movie, written and directed by Antoinette Jadaone, with Yoshe Dimen as co-writer. The film illustrates and presents the varied forms of love through the intertwined stories of the characters portrayed by its ensemble cast.
Promising to be a rela¬table movie, it explores and presents the many facets of love: from puppy love to unrequited love; from love of family to a love that is the stuff of dreams; and from the kind love that has faded to a love that is jaded.
Joining Kris Aquino in the film are some of today’s most famous celebrities namely Jodi Sta. Maria, Ian Veneracion, Kim Chiu, Xian Lim, Julia and Talia Concio, Bimby Aquino Yap, Ronaldo Valdez, Nova Villa, Pokwang and Derek Ramsay.
By the way: All You Need Is Pag-ibig marks Jadaone’s return to the MMFF since the successful second installment of Feng Shui in 2014’s festival. She is also widely known as the “Blockbuster ‘Hugot’ Director of the Philippines” after That Thing Called Tadhana (2014) was officially recorded as the highest grossing Filipino independent film of all time.
BEAUTY AND THE BESTIE
Producers: Star Cinema, Viva Films
Director: Wenn Deramas
Starring: Vice Ganda and Coco Martin
Genre: Comedy Action
Synopsis: Star Cinema continues to provide fun and laughter for the whole family in this year’s MMFF as it collaborates with Viva Films for Beauty And The Bestie starring Vice Ganda and Coco Martin.
The film is centered on Erika (Vice Ganda), a gay photographer, and his former best friend, special agent Emman (Coco Martin). Emman offers Erika a secret mission to pose as the missing Miss Uzeklovakia in the Miss Uniworld 2015 pageant to prevent the latter’s recluse country from waging a possible world war. As Erika accepts the mission, the former BFFs find themselves entangled in the crazy world of beauty pageants in their action-packed adventure of finding the elusive Miss Uzeklovakia. As they race against time, Erika and Emman find themselves in an awkward situation that forces them to rekindle a peculiar flame in their past.
It also stars James Reid and Nadine Lustre, who are two of the hottest young stars today. Completing the cast are Badji Mortiz, Karla Estrada, Ryan Bang, MC Calaquian, and Lassy, and child superstars Marco Masa and Alonzo Muhlach.
By the way: Beauty and the Bestie is directed by Wenn Deremas and written by Mel Del Rosario. It also marks the fifth team-up of the box office-breaking tandem of Deramas and Vice Ganda in the film festival.
Producers: Quantum Films, MJM Production, Tuko Films and Buchi Boy
Director: Dan Villegas
Starring: Jericho Rosales, Jennylyn Mercado
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Synopsis: Walang Forever is from the same producers and filmmaker that brought to screen the 2014 MMFF “sleeper blockbuster,” English Only, Please. The said movie was topbilled by Jennylyn Mercado who won the Best Actress award for the said romantic-comedy.
This time, Mercado stars as Mia, a well-accomplished and famous romantic-comedy writer, while Jericho Rosales is Ethan, a Taiwan-based website developer. They fall in love but agree to part ways due to differences in priorities.
Mia’s screenplays begin to suffer from her breakup as Ethan decides to work and start a new life abroad. Just like his ex-girlfriend, Ethan no longer believes in the concept of “forever,” and so, he chooses to stay far away from home.
Years later, however, Ethan is forced to return to work on a few things. He crosses paths with Mia again during one “barkada night.” The encounter turns ugly as the ex-lovers blame each other for the failure of their relationship.
The evening ends up with Ethan and Mia together in bed. But the question remains: Do they give the relationship another chance at forever or should they just leave their love behind?
2014 MMFF Best Director Dan Villegas helms Walang Forever.
By the way: Surprise loveteams join the film as characters in flashback scenes reenacting Ethan and Mia’s happy moments as a couple.
Producers: Regal Entertainment
Director: Jun Lana
Starring: Janella Salvador, Marlo Mortel, Jerome Ponce
Genre: Horror, Suspense, Thriller
Synopsis: Haunted Mansion is filled with horrifying mystery that will give moviegoers goosebumps and send them screaming at the edge of their seats.
It topbills three of today’s freshest faces Jerome Ponce, Marlo Mortel and Janella Salvador who plays Ella. A gifted child, Ella’s father dies the first time she tries to make use of her third eye.
She will be put to a tough test, however, when she and her classmates—including the characters of Ponce and Mortel—go on a ghost-hunting adventure during a retreat. Evil spirits in the retreat house are awakened by their presence and start to claim young lives, one after the other.
This is where Ella is forced to use her third eye once again. She discovers the dark secret enveloping the haunted mansion of ghost sisters Amara and Veronika.
Also in the cast are Janice De Belen, Iza Calzado, Dominic Ochoa, and Joem Bascon.
By the way: The mother and daughter tandem of Mother Lily and Roselle Monteverde believe that Haunted Mansion will be a hit among horror fans who will miss Shake, Rattle and Roll from the lineup.
BUY NOW, DIE LATER
Producers: Quantum Films, MJM Production, Tuko Film Productions, Buchi Boy Films
Director: Randolph Longjas
Starring: Vhong Navarro, John Lapus, Alex Gonzaga, TJ Trinidad, Rayver Cruz, Lotlot de Leon, Janine Gutierrez
Synopsis: Buy Now, Die Later revolves around the five senses. Each one of the characters is made to pay the price for striking a deal with mysterious curio shop owner Santi (TJ Trindad).
Vhong Navarro is featured in “Masid” where he portrays an ambitious online blogger whose ultimate dream is to be better than his photo journalist-father. Unknown to him, however, the success he is able to reap, career-wise, carries with it a tough price. His character ends up solving the mystery behind the high-end camera application he uses for his scoops and its link to the serial death of celebrities.
Equally superb were the other members of the cast, like Rayver Cruz, who is featured in “Sarap.” The actor even took a crash course on Culinary Arts just so he can give justice to his role as a restaurant magnate.
Meanwhile, Alex Gonzaga is a revelation in “Dinig.” From her “kikay” brand of acting at the start of the movie, her character graduates into something else, especially when she starts to hear strange sounds from the set of earrings she bought from Santi’s shop.
John “Sweet” Lapus topbills “Halimuyak.” He plays a heartbroken gay, dumped by the man of his dreams for his twin sister Larra (Cai Cortez). To get even, he seeks out Santi, who sells him a perfume. Desperate for men’s attention and affection, Sweet’s character gets obsessed over the scent unaware that it attracts both the living and the dead.
Janine Gutierrez is introduced in the big screen in her role in “Kanti.” She portrays the young Lotlot in the story. Lotlot was a popular singer until she gives birth to daughter Chloe (Alex).
Moviegoers must watch out for Vhong, John, Rayver, Alex, and Lotlot’s confrontation scene with Santi as it is too exciting to miss.
By the way: Vhong Navarro, who is dubbed the “Comedy Prince,” leads the powerhouse of Buy Now, Die Later. From being a member of the popular all-male dance group, the Streetboys, Vhong was able to hone his craft in comedy movies. He further rose to stardom via horror-comedy films that placed him a notch above the rest.
Producers: Haunted Tower Pictures, WeLovePost, Parallax Studios, Viva Films
Director: Pedring Lopez
Starring: Cesar Montano, Maria Ozawa
Genre: Horror, Suspense, Thriller
Synopsis: A suspense thriller that tells the story of Tony (Cesar Montano), an NBI agent hot on the trail of a series of rapes and killings that counts, among them, Tony’s girlfriend, Tin (Aubrey Miles).
With his co-agent, Jane (Meg Imperial), they follow leads that take them to a meeting with Miyuki (Maria Ozawa), the daughter of Mr. Kazudo—an elder member of the Yakuza.
Together, they come face-to-face with an enemy that transcends time; and leaves a trail of mindless, cold-blooded crime at its wake.
Written and directed by Pedring Lopez, the film also stars Meg Imperial, Yam Concepcion, Cholo Barretto, Kiko Matos, and Dido Dela Paz.
By the way: A much-awaited film, Nilalang will be Maria Ozawa’s first film for the Philippine market. The Japanese star made waves in the early 2000s as an adult movie actress. She will be spending Christmas in the Philippines as she joins MMFF.
HONOR THY FATHER
Producers: Reality Entertainment
Director: Erik Matti
Starring: John Lloyd Cruz, Meryll Soriano
Genre: Action, Drama
Synopsis: Honor Thy Father, produced by Reality Entertainment and directed by Erik Matti, tells how a family’s life becomes chaotic when couple Edgar and Kaye, portrayed by John Lloyd Cruz and Meryll Sorian respectively, discover that the investment scheme they run is a scam.
With friends demanding payback and murderous big-time investors hounding them, Kaye turns to her formalist church to borrow their past donations.
The chruch’s Bishop (Tirso Cruz 3rd) turns down the request and simply gives prayers. Edgar is forced to resort to extreme measures to keep his family safe and alive.
The movie also stars Dan Fernandez, Boom Labrusca and Khalil Ramos as Edgar’s brothers, while Perla Bautista is his mother. Portraying Angel, Edgar and Kaye’s daughter, is nine-year-old Krystal Brimner.
Rounding up the cast are experienced actors William Martinez, Lander Vera Perez, and Yayo Aguila.
Honor Thy Father is the third collaboration between Matti and producer Dondon Monteverde, the creators of Kubot and On the Job. It is written by Michiko Yamamoto.
By the way: Honor Thy Father has gotten excellent feedback here and broad. It had its world premiere at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival where it garnered rave reviews. It was also the opening film of the Cinema One Originals Film Festival.