I finally caught one of the Metro Manila Film Festival entries on its last few days, and it happens to be the horror-thriller “Segunda Mano.” It’s been sort of a ritual between me and my future daughter-in-law Tesh to watch local horror movies together, and to close the old year (or start the new one), we chose the Kris Aquino-Dingdong Dantes starrer.
I was quite startled when we entered the movie house and found it full, so much so that we found seats only on the very first row. You’d think that this being the closing weekend, the crowds would have thinned somewhat. But at the nearby theater where the top-earning film, a mashup of past box-office winners now called “Enteng ng Ina Mo” was showing, ticket-holders had to be turned away and told to return for the last full show. My son chose to watch “Kingpin: Asiong Salonga Story,” which won the award for best picture, and despite its “artsy” reputation, the film still drew a respectable crowd. I guess the long-proclaimed demise of local films was a bit premature, or else the absence of competition from any Hollywood production made for a captive audience. But then again, with so many entertainment options from cable TV to DVDs, iPads to iPods, people didn’t have to shell out good money to watch local movies, right?
Anyway, “Segunda Mano” proved to be worth the P185 premium ticket price for the MMFF entries. Rooted in Mabel’s (Kris Aquino) feelings of inadequacy and search for love, the movie tells the tale of her haunting by the ghost of her fiancé’s missing wife. A pre-owned designer handbag and a dress from an ukay-ukay (used goods) shop evoke the wife’s spirit, while bringing Mabel closer to the solution of the missing wife’s mysterious disappearance as well as that of her younger sister, long-missing and presumed dead.
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Dingdong Dantes plays against type as Ivan, husband of the missing Marielle (Angelica Panganiban) and boyfriend of Mabel. He faces the acting challenge of seeming to be kind and charming when he first meets Mabel, then releasing his tormented and tortured soul when he realizes Mabel is about to leave him.
We’ve seen this kind of dual portrayal before, a common device thought to assure “best acting” honors to actors eager to move on beyond their rom-com, matinee idol roots. But to Dantes’ credit, and that of his director Joyce Bernal, the transition between the two halves of Ivan’s character is handled smoothly, with no jarring inconsistencies or irrelevant tics to make his character more interesting.
Another notable performance is that of Bangs Garcia, who plays Anna, Mabel’s kooky best friend (a staple in local movies) who provides the enlivening and comic entertainment to liven up Kris Aquino’s rather lackluster characterization. She is appropriately shrill and silly, but has quite a compelling presence on camera.
Overall, “Segunda Mano” is a neat, credible and entertainingly chilling thriller. It provides a clear warning to those fond of buying used items—“pre-loved” is the current polite term—that even material goods may carry a bit of their original owner’s spirit which may manifest itself without warning.
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Close on the heels of the all-local MMFF fare is a slew of Hollywood productions, foremost of which is “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,” the second of what is anticipated to be another franchise loosely, very loosely, based on the Sherlock Holmes mysteries.
Robert Downey Jr. plays the legendary sleuth with a strong element of physicality and comedy, although the script has him “collecting” clues and devising plans without the audience realizing it. A strong element of this latest version of the Holmes franchise is the friendship and rivalry between the detective and his “sidekick,” Dr. John Watson, although as played by Jude Law, Watson is more of a partner than acolyte.
As directed by the kinetic Guy Ritchie, the duo of Holmes and Watson hurtle through a number of adventures despite Watson’s nuptials and rudely interrupted honeymoon and the death of Holmes’ archrival and presumed love interest Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams in a fairly long cameo). In his first outing directing the revived Holmes franchise, Ritchie dazzles with a number of tricks and gimmicks. Foremost of these are slow-motion demonstrations of Holmes’ thinking process (as well as of Professor Moriarty, Holmes’ archenemy), which he revives in this second installment, to greater effect.
The film also brings the audience to the final scene of the last of the Holmes books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: the confrontation between Holmes and Moriarty (Jared Harris) on a bridge in Switzerland where both fall, presumably to their doom. But wait till the end to find out whether the producers in fact intend this to be the last of Holmes’ adventures.
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Young audiences should make the effort to read the original novels if only to appreciate how the Sherlock Holmes character was conceived. The books display a more cerebral detective, who relies on an uncanny eye for tell-tale clues rather than physical harum-scarum scenes as shown in these movies.
But the Holmes as interpreted by Downey is far more human and humorous, accessible in his weaknesses and unafraid to confess his dependence on Watson, on whom he depends for wise counsel and physical assistance. And there is the assistance provided by a band of gypsies led by Madame Simza (Swedish actor Noomi Rapace who originated the role of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”), joining Holmes and Watson as they chase the nefarious Moriarty through most of Europe.
If you’re in search of a good romp and breathtaking action, then “A Game of Shadows” is just the ticket. No better way to usher in a year of adventures!
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