Back-to-back movie treats from Viva Films

As if making up for Vivamax supposedly seducing movie-house audiences into massive and sustained patronage of streamed movies, senior company Viva Films seems to have decided to release movies in theaters practically every two weeks. It started last 30 March with Dearly Beloved, a blended-family drama headlined by Cristine Reyes and Baron Geisler. 

Today, 10 April, the company headed by veteran film producer and starbuilder Vic del Rosario Jr. releases Sunny, which has an all-star cast in a storyline that begins from high school days and goes all the way to married life and the passing of someone dear.

Young stars Heaven Peralejo, Bea Binene, Ashtine Olviga, Abby Bautista, Aubrey Caraan, Ashley Diaz and Heart Ryan topbill Sunny, alongside ’90s screen idols Vina Morales, Angelu de Leon, Katya Santos, Sunshine Dizon, Candy Pangilinan, Tanya Garcia and Ana Roces.

Casting the young ones with the seasoned stars of the ’90s mean pulling into the theaters two generations of moviegoers.

On 24 April, Viva will screen Elevator in cinemas, starring Paulo Avelino and Kylie Versoza. 

Avelino seems to be the “actor of the hour.” Still showing on ABS-CBN platforms and TV 5 since 22 January this 2023 is his Linlang series with Kim Chiu, JM Guzman and Maricel Soriano. It’s the teleserye version of the one streamed on Viu in October to November last year. About two weeks ago, Viu began streaming Avelino’s newest series, What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim, which also pairs him with Chiu. The real-life ex-boyfriend of Versoza — Jake Cuenca — is likewise a major player in What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim.

Sunny is actually a remake of the 2011 Korean movie of the same title. The Philippine adaptation is helmed by Jalz Zarate (Spellbound) and written by Mel Mendoza-del Rosario (Miracle in Cell No. 7, Family Matters). Overall, it is alternately happy and sad, playful and somber. 

It tells the story of former high school friends (calling themselves Sunny) who come together after 25 years to grant their friend’s dying wish. It is set in two periods, the earlier one in the ’90s. The young girls are kind of kookie and are preyed upon by a group of bullies in the same school. They love dressing up, singing, dancing and watching rented tapes of horror movies in one of the girls’ home. 

Only one in the group has a problematic family. This involves an activist son who passionately participates in rallies. When the Sunny sister ventures out to look for her brother, she meets her brother’s friend and develops a crush on him. Peralejo plays that Sunny girl and Marco Gallo portrays her crush. It’s the only love story in the film, though it soon falls apart.

Sunny has a soundtrack of songs from the ’90s. After all, Boss Vic (Del Rosario) also has complementary music businesses, three of which are Viva Records, Vicor Records and Viva Live!

First off in the list is a new version of the wistful Eraserheads classic, “With a Smile,” performed by the lovely and talented Shane Dandan. The Voice Philippines winner has a quirky feel for old tunes, such as her past cover of Cinderella’s “T.L. Ako Sa ‘Yo.” She does an excellent job with “With a Smile,” which comes out both sweet and torchy with the feel of a standard song.

Then there’s “Cool Ka Lang” by Pretty in Pink. The song composed by the group’s lead singer, Lei Bautista, may sound just another fun tune, but the lyrics go deeper than that. It means to stay cool, as things will change and hopefully get better soon.

The OST also features “Kapag Tumibok ang Puso,” composed by Aaron Paul del Rosario. It is a delightful look at the onset of young love. Back in the ’90s, it launched a pretty 13-year-old singer named Donna Cruz to stardom.  Sunny uses the original version effectively. 


More on Elevator: It is about OFW Jared (Avelino), an ambitious elevator operator in Singapore. Every time he gets a chance, he pitches ideas and concepts to some of his affluent passengers enroute to their desired floor. The routine takes a slightly different turn when he meets Bettina (Verzosa), who is the executive assistant of Byron (Singaporean actor Adrian Pang). Byron takes an interest in funding one of Jared’s conceived projects.

Jared and Bettina grow closer, but he later finds out that Bettina is Byron’s lover. Jared now faces a crossroad in his life — love or ambition?

At the media huddle for Elevator held recently at Viva Cafe, Versoza did not allow herself to even mention Cuenca, who had said in the past that Avelino is his real-life best friend. Instead, she stressed that Avelino has been her friend from way back. She went on saying that she is a big fan Avelino’s tandem with Chiu, popularly known as “KimPau.” 

“I’m so proud of them. Fan ako ng KimPau. Promise, ha. Kinikilig ako, at hindi ako madaling makilig,” she said.

Avelino rebutted, saying, “Hindi mo pa naman pinapanood ’yung (You haven’t seen) Secretary Kim, eh,” to which she replied, “Pinanood ko, snippets. Eh, sa video pa lang kinikilig na ako.” (I watched snippets. Just in the video, I already get giddy.)

The Elevator cast and crew filmed for 10 days in Singapore, where 90 percent of the scenes took place. Its producers, Lino Cayetano and Shugo Praico, shared that they also partnered with the Singaporean production outfit Dogma Films for the movie.

It is also a collaboration among Viva Films, Rein Entertainment and Cineko Productions. Its director, Philip King, is a Pinoy-Chinese and graduate of Ateneo de Manila. He has worked with ABS-CBN and other TV and film companies since 2011, from being a camera man to script supervisor to writer, assistant director and to full-fledged director and producer.