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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Dec 23, 2019


vice ganda in 'the mall the merrier;

coco martin, jennylyn mercado, ai ai de las alas in 'tripol trobol'

vic sotto, pokwang, maine mendoza & jake cuenca in 'mission unstapabol'

the cast of 'miracle in cell. no. 7' led by aga muhlach & xia vigor

'sunod' starring carmina villaroel

write about loce with rocco nacino, miles ocampo, yeng constantino and joem bascon

judy ann santos, allen dizon and child star yuna tangog as their daughter

'culion; with meryll soriano, jasmine curtis smith & iza calzado

THE METRO-MANILA FILMFEST is upon us, with eight local films chosen by its screening committee to keep us entertained during the Christmas holiday. So which ones will be blockbusters and which ones will lay big fat eggs at the box office? Here’s what we think!

In the first three slots, it’s given that the number one spot will go “The Mall the Merrier”, starring Vice Ganda and Anne Curtis as a pair of warring brother and sister fighting for ownership of a big mall. The plot is nothing new as it echoes the story of “Sisterakas” with Vice and Ai Ai de las Alas seven years ago.

But then, we're still in the season of Vice at dahil panahon niya ngayon, he can do no wrong in the eyes of his fans, which is why year in, year out, his movies continue to be numero uno in the annual festival, just like “Girl Boy Bakla Tomboy”, “Praybeyt Benjamin”, “Beauty & the Bestie”, “Super Parental Guidance”, “The Revengers”, “Fantastica”. His detractors say his movies are garbage but as his defenders keep saying, “May pera sa basura”.

As to until when he will be able to hold on to his post as perennial topgrosser remains to be seen. This year, he gets extra help from Anne Curtis who’s a box office star in her own right, as attested to by her recent hits like “Zid and Aya”, “Aurora” and “Just Like a Stranger”.

But some quarters think this movie will also be a test case for Vice Ganda, who’s very open about his gay relationship with Ion Perez, who’s now also in the movie’s cast. Let’s see if its box office take would be affected by those who don’t approve of his flagrantly flaunting their gay relationship in public and choose to stay away from the movie.

Next is “3Pol Trobol”, produced, directed and starred in by Coco Martin, whose “Ang Panday” and “Jack Em Popoy” (with Vic Sotto) were second placers to Vice Ganda’s entries the past two years. This time, he teams up with Ai Ai de las Alas, who plays his mother, and Jennylyn Mercado as his love interest, with Sam Mliby as the contravida. Let’s see if the presence of Ai Ai and Jen will help in boosting the movie’s chances at the box office.

Number three is Vic Sotto’s “Mission Unstapabol, The Don Identity”. There was a time when Vic was the perennial topgrosser during his heydays with his “Okay Ka Fairy Ko” and “Enteng Kabisote” franchise, until Vice Ganda took over.

This time, he tries a heist comedy-action flick for a change and he’s supported by Maine Mendoza, Pokwang and Jake Cuenca, plus his usual “Eat Bulaga” co-stars Jose Manalo as the main contravida and Wally Bayola, directed by Mike Tuviera.

Scrambling in the fourth to six slots are “Miracle in Cell No. 7”, “Mindanao” and “Sunod”.

The edge of “Miracle” is it is based on a hit Korean movie and is really engineered by Director Nuel Naval to be a real “masa” crowdpleaser that makes sure it presses every button available to guarantee the viewers that they will get a good cry with its lachrymal story between a mentally challenged father and his devoted, adoring daughter. Producer Viva Films has also made sure it is one of the most well promoted entries.

“Mindanao” has won accolades in Busan and Cairo International Film Festivals. Lead actress Judy Ann Santos even won as best actress in the A-lister Cairo filmfest, with Director Brillante Mendoza winning the award for best artistic contribution.

That’s definitely a distinct advantage, even if Mendoza is not considered a box office director locally. Serious film aficionados would surely be curious and make it their priority in watching the MMFF entries. Juday has also not made a full length film for sometime so her fans who missed her will surely support this one.

“Sunod” is the only horror film entry and it’s common knowledge that local moviegoers just love getting a good scare during the holiday season, so those who enjoy being frightened might make this the number one entry to watch in their filmfest list. The drawback is that it does not have any real big stars, unlike before when all of Kris Aquino’s scary flicks are sure box office winners at the MMFF.

The lead actress is Carmina Villaroel, who has not done a movie for sometime, and the director, Carlo Ledesma, is a newcomer who’s a balikbayan from Australia. Supporting stars are Mylene Dizon, JC Santos, Susan Africa and child star Red Bustamante as the ghost., So let’s see if viewers would give them a chance.

The kulelat entries would be “Write About Love” and “Culion”. The edge of “Write About Love” is that it’s the only romcom in the festival and its makers are hoping it will follow in the footsteps of “Vince Kath James”, the little known Star Cinema entry that surprised everyone by becoming a big sleeper hit when it turned out to be the only romcom in the 2016 filmfest.

Its advantage is that leads Julia Barretto and Joshua Garcia undoubtedly have an amazing on screen chemistry. Let’s see if the “Write About Love” leads Rocco Nacino and Miles Ocampo, Yeng Constantino and Joem Bascon, will have that similar kind of attractive  on screen chemistry to lure the filmfest viewers inside the theaters. It also has a new debuting director, Crisanto Aquino, who has not proven anything yet at the box office.

“Culion” is a real ‘suntok sa buwan’ since it’s a period movie set during World War II and its characters are afflicted with leprosy. As a rule, local moviegoers are not fond of historical period dramas set in a bygone era, and the examples for this include “Rosario”, “El Presidente”, “Baler”, “Aishite Imasu”, all past entries in the MMFF.

Add to that the fact that its characters suffer from an ugly disfiguring illness (which has since then found an effective cure), so this might turn of viewers who prefer escapist flicks. There has been a movie about leprosy before, “Init o Lamig”, starring Gina Alajar with the late Charito Solis and Dindo Fernando, directed by Eddie Rodriguez. It was also an entry in the MMFF in 1981 and failed to make waves.

Then, let’s face it, it’s lead actresses are not necessarily top box office draws. Iza Calzado and Jasmine Curtis Smith are two of our most competent actresses today and they’ve both won acting awards, but sadly, they have yet to translate that into box office gold mine.

Commercial success has eluded them in such films as “Ilawod”, “Bliss” (an acclaimed award winner at that), and the more recent first day, last day disaster, “Cara X Jagger”. But still, we wish this movie all the best. We hope that it will win some trophies and be the real miracle in this year’s filmfest.

One curious thing about the movie is that this is the comeback project of Director Alvin Yapan, who became controversial and caught the ire of animal-lovers in 2016 when his movie “Oro” graphically showed a dog being butchered.

After three years, we’re glad he’s finally able to bounce back as he has proven himself to be a capable director in past films like “Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa” and “Gaydar”.

So, to all the entries. May the viewing public all support you so that no one will really lose money. And come awards night on December 27, may the real best films win!