‘Now showing,’ ‘coming soon’ and a ‘newbie’ like no other

What makes Philippine Tinseltown always bullish, interesting and relevant are not the breakups, invented and imagined gossips, nor the intrigues and salacious scandals.  What gives the industry respectability and confidence are the people who matter — the Originals, the Seasoned, the Showbiz Royals and the producers and talented new finds.

THE cast of ‘slay Zone.’ | photograph courtesy of GK PRODUCTIONS

For capital, jobs and content for the public’s consumption, we have producers to thank.

New talents provide inspiration, aspiration and satisfaction of believing, rooting and connecting with someone whose charisma, nerve and skills are undeniable. The Originals, Seasoned and Showbiz Royals are not just curious, but are always on their toes with the arrival and presence of the New Hopes.

A duo of dynamic producers, Wide International Production gives us its cinematic Valentine offering, Louie Ignacio’s Slay Zone; while GK Productions raises the cinema curtains with Joel Lamangan’s Apo Hapon on 6 March.

Singing wonder Dindo Caraig arrives with a Vehnee Saturno original Filipino ballad, “Kung Hindi Ikaw.”

‘Slay Zone,’ director Louie Ignacio brings the requisite jolt, tension, thrills and surprises.

Bloody Valentine

In Slay Zone, director Louie Ignacio brings the requisite jolt, tension, thrills, surprises and more. Audiences could not contain their shouts and shrieks as the movie rolled during its premiere.

Ignacio displayed familiarity with the suspense thriller/slasher genre, ably maximizing it with his artistic stamp. Among these were the cinematic color palette by TM Malones that provided the foreboding atmosphere, the musical score that heightened the scenes and the twisted narrative of Lawrence Nicodemus that added a layer of trepidation to the whole motion picture experience.

Committed and credible performances from Glaiza de Castro as V, the vlogger, and Mariette Subong aka Pokwang as the small town’s chief of police highlighted the work.

Noteworthy supporting cast  are Maui Taylor as the friend/vlogger with a hidden agenda, the charismatic pairing of Queenay Ramos and Richard Armstrong as the young lovers, Hero Bautista who gave a whole new meaning to what a character actor does to give his small part  gravitas, and Abed Green, who the camera loved as his screen presence screamed ‘next leading man to watch out for.’

On a personal note, Slay Zone had scenes that felt like an homage to the classic Vilma Santos film Tagos ng Dugo; and it made me remember the URIAN winning performance of Jaclyn Jose in Sarungbanggi during a pivotal moment with Subong. 

DINDO Caraig

Charming mix

Director Joel Lamangan’s Apo Hapon, with screenplay by Eric Ramos, was a truly charming mix of discovering and finding one’s roots, remembering a war that brought heartache and healing, and the blossoming of fine romance.

Sakura Akiyoshi plays Mozuki, a vlogger who wants to find the truth about the history of her great grandfather, a Japanese soldier named Kazuo.  In this quest, her collaborator and guide is the historian Reyson, portrayed by JC de Vera.  They visit the Cordillera region, interview people who give them answers and a clearer perspective of what happened to Mizuki’s great grandfather.

Presented in a breezy, light and visually stunning manner, aside from its narrative and direction, Apo Hapon works for the charm and rawness of Japanese star Akiyoshi. One not only senses but feels her laudable efforts in making Sakura an endearing character searching for answers.

JC de Vera as Reyson acts with authority and credibility as a historian.  His distinctly Filipino handsomeness screams A-list leading man and yes, the manner he gifts his leading lady tender moments is always like true love’s kiss.

Also a stunner is Nelia Dizon as Lorena, the Igorot maiden that Kazuo, Fumiya Sankai’s character, falls in love with.

Love is truly a splendored thing, and this is realized in Apo Hapon with its premiere night slated on 22 February. Nationwide cinema run is scheduled on 6 March.

Gen Z’s singing wonder

What a talent! What a showman! This were my thought balloons as I watched the Gen Z Singing Wonder Dindo Caraig perform.

His repertoire for the launch of his single included Sam Smith’s “Lay Me Down,” Cher’s “Believe,” the Adam Lambert version performed during the Kennedy Awards, a stripped and almost ballad like take of Rivermaya’s “Kisapmata,” Mariah Carey’s interpretation of “Open Arms” and his original song by the OPM legendary hitmaker Vehnee Saturno, “Kung Hindi Ikaw.”

Caraig’s voice, without a doubt, is his biggest strength — his range, the power and prowess to hit the notes and that gung ho attitude to showcase the length and breadth of his vocal scale.

He also had the feels, and that storytelling quality that makes the listener understand better the nuances and subtexts of a song.

When he sang the Saturno composition, he wowed in the most positive of ways.

When he spoke with that distinctive manner of Batangueno, it made him all the more authentic.

And his gamble to reveal his sexual orientation was indeed courageous and very now.

With seasoned theater stalwart Roeder Camanag as his vocal coach and guide, everything will be coming up roses for Dindo Caraig.

A young and honest gay man with a voice like no other, hail, indeed, to the Gen Z Singing Wonder!