• Two notable movies from PPP

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    ‘100 Tula Para Kay Stella:’ Splendor of a love story

    There’s magic created on screen when two actors, Bela Padilla and JC Santos, deliver brilliant and intelligent performances in Jason Paul Laxamana’s heartbreaking but otherwise charming film “100 Tula Para Kay Stella.”
    Fidel Lansangan (JC Santos), a college freshman student who suffers inferiority complex brought about by a speech defect (he stutters) meets the free spirited rock band singer Stella (Bela Padilla) during their Freshies Night on campus.

    Bela Padilla and JC Santos as Stella and Fidel

    An instant friendship develops between them. But Fidel is really infatuated with Stella. Soon, she becomes his inspiration in committing to writing poetry as an expression of his feeling towards her.

    Through the course of their friendship, running the entire college years, he pens a hundred poems for Stella. This is also as long as Fidel can eventually tell her that he loves her. By this time though, the turn of events in her life, troubled with her quest for a career as a singer, will not allow him the heaven he imagined with her.

    So, there goes a heartbreaker of a movie. But it is one beautifully told by Laxamana, Padilla and Santos. There is a calm, grace, mystery and subtle intensity in the way this team deals with the material.

    It brings to mind the Elia Kazan classic film “Splendor in the Grass” starring Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood. It evokes the same feeling and atmosphere that made the Hollywood classic a tearjerker.

    When Stella reveals to Fidel that she left because she didn’t want to use him, the pain is just insufferable.
    Laxamana can give Nicholas Sparks a run for his money. It is with absolute certainty then that I say 100 Tula Para Kay Stella is his best work to date.

    Those among us who are suckers for romance can easily relate with this film. After all, love has a way of bringing us up and pulling us down. It’s as if one is standing at the edge of a cliff embraced by the wind, the same wind that suddenly abandons him. He is left alone at the edge with a view of a sea of love.

    This is the magic created by very good filmmaking. Laxamana benefits from the competent work of cinematographer Rommel Sales, editor Mai Calapando and production designer ZarsMagbanua.

    Above all, Laxamana triumphs with an exciting cast. Commendable are the performances of Ana Abad Santos as Mrs. Barloza, Prince Stefan as Chuck and Arvic Tan as Barrie.

    It is however, the endearing performances of Bela Padilla and JC Santos that pulls the whole film through.

    Padilla’s Stella reveals a maturity and clarity of character that is amazing to watch. She has embraced the character completely and succeeds in being Stella. Only a few actresses of her generation has the ability to tackle the complexities of such a role. She exhibits the range of a seasoned actress already.

    Santos works out his character Fidel with ample nuances to reveal what he is feeling. He shows intelligence in handling the varied emotions of his conflicted character. There’s a simplicity and method to his performance that is so exciting to watch. He can be calm, then turn red, heaving as though about to explode and eventually burst with emotions. Intense and truthful, he is a thinking audience’s dramatic actor.

    “100 Tula Para Kay Stella”, an entry to the Film Development Council of the Philippines’ PistangPelikulang Pilipino, is a thoroughly lovable filmic experience.”

    Sikat Na Si Van Damme Stallone:’ A mother’s unparalleled capacity to love

    There’s something endearing about Randolph Longias’s film “Sikat na si Van Damme Stallone,” an unapologetic look at a mother’s struggles to raise a son inflicted with the Down Syndrome.

    Nadia (Candy Pangilinan) is trying her best to make ends meet for her sons Tano (Isaac Aguirre) and Van Damme Stallone (Paolo Pingol) a.k.a. VanVan. But her financial bind is just the beginning of it. She also has to deal with the odds brought about by VanVan’s Down Syndrome, a situation that poses a higher degree of difficulty.

    Candy Pangilinan as Nadia

    She makes a firm stand though to fight for her sons’ future and guide them in fulfilling their dreams. One day,
    VanVan announces that he wants to be an actor and be paired with actress Jasmine Curtis Smith. Gathering enough courage, she indulges her son in his dream.

    A mother will always fight the good fight for her children and since it is believed that stars don’t die in Movielandia, she takes up VanVan’s challenge and willingly goes through the process of securing auditions for him in the hope that he will be hired as an actor one day.

    Life is a Litmus test for Nadia with the passing away of her own mother, the reappearance of VanVan’s father Jim (Ebong Joson) and the constant rejections from the advertising agencies.

    But she is relentless and determined to confront the challenges ahead. She’s not about to throw the towel in, not on her son’s future. Instead, she stands as the wall to fend for them and journey with them with what dreams may come.

    An endearing film about daring to dream and risking everything. More importantly, Sikat na si Van Damme Stallone is about love and how it heals the wounds of the past and prepare Nadia and her sons for the challenges of tomorrow.

    This film works on an emotional level that is often overlooked by today’s filmmakers. Allan Habon has written a script with an ample dose of honesty. Intelligently translated on screen by Randolph Longias, there is nothing insincere about the cinematic piece.

    There is an overwhelming sense of naturalness about it that clings to the truth. It is not at all trying to impress and that is worth appreciating.

    The performances are just as well as natural as it can get. No grandstanding moments, no excesses of facial nuances, crying nor unsolicited humor. Only honest to goodness everydayness feel of actions and thoughts of real people.

    The ensemble is ingeniously connected and has the rapport of a family. Isaac Aguirre as the young Tano is admirable in using his eyes to convey true emotions. Paolo Pingol and Jadford Dilanco, playing the adult and young VanVan, goes beyond the expected consciousness of newcomers. The competent actor Ebong Joson reveals his clear understanding of character through his performance.

    But at the core of the performances is Candy Pangilinan’s career defining portrayal of Nadia, a.k,a, Ermat. Her brilliant performance threads the acting ensemble into a formidable whole. She delivers a dramatic performance that sheds off her established comedic talent. She tackles her character with clarity, simplicity and sincerity that reveals absolute believability.

    We don’t see an actress merely building on her character. What we see is a real person sharing the experience of the character on screen. She completely embraced the situation of Nadia and puts across her experiences closest to the truth.

    Her dramatic take on the role does not even call attention to itself, a feat that is rarely achieved by comediennes. Pangilinan delivers a topnotch performance of an actress in full understanding of her character’s dramatic arc and command of her material.

    A highly commendable entry to the Film Development Council of the Philippines’s Pistang Pelikulang Pilipino, “Sikat Na Si VanDamme Stallone” is a celebration of a mother’s unparalleled capacity to love

     

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