Streaming Reviews: Life and the left hook

Published August 12, 2021, 7:02 AM

by Philip Cu Unjieng

The two films today capture life with its surprises that come out of nowhere. One is a documentary about a Hollywood star that faded, and the second an action drama that talks about reaching for the stars.

Val (Amazon Prime) – One of the ironies of Val Kilmer’s Hollywood career is that he’ll probably be best known for Iceman in Top Gun, a movie where it was Tom Cruise playing the lead. The films where Kilmer actually had the lead role, such as The Doors & Batman Forever, will likely end up as trivia questions. Most would also have an inkling that he disappeared from the scene by the mid-2000’s, not knowing he suffered from throat cancer some years ago, and now speaks electronically assisted. There was a point when he was condemned as one of those ‘difficult actors’, and studios would avoid casting him. So while his Hollywood career may have a spotty track record, it does make for an interesting documentary about hubris, persistence, and revisionism – i.e. his version of the tale.

On the surface, Val declares this film as one about acting, about truth and illusion. He considers himself blessed, regretting nothing about the journey and how it has led him to find himself. He’s amassed tons of personal videos, and the early footage is fun to watch, with his Juilliard stint, backstage scenes with Kevin Bacon, Sean Penn, Anthony Edwards, wife Joanne Whalley, etc. Robert Downey Jr. defending Kilmer as a difficult actor to work with sounds too self-serving though, as Downey also had that same rep. The family footage can at times go on for too long and seem indulgent, but there is a purpose in helping us understand his relationships to older brother, to his late Mom & Dad. It’s as personal a journey as one can get in an actor’s life, and it comes down to how interesting Val Kilmer makes it, given that he isn’t a household Hollywood name.

Ikaw at Ako at ang Ending (Vivamax) – Yes it is Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte, but there’s no Dawn Zulueta or Richard Gomez. Instead, we have Kim Molina and Jerald Napoles as star-crossed lovers who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. This is no romantic comedy, but an existential action-drama that’s heavier on the drama. And it works! The chemistry between these true life partners is palpable, and it glosses over the slight narrative that tries to situate us in early day COVID pandemic. I guess the idea was to somehow make the film topical, but given how fluid and prolonged this COVID situation has become, it makes this film look nostalgic, in an unintentional way.

Written & directed by Irene Emma Villamor, the film starts off establishing our two main protagonists – Jerald as a bagman for a corrupt Congressman who’s stolen the money he was entrusted with, and Kim as a chambermaid at the Pagudpud resort hotel where Jerald’s character decides to lay low. There are steamy scenes, and an underlay of tragedy to come. We have a succession of scenes that act as foreshadowing, and I’ll give due credit to the structure of the film and it’s exposition. Jerald seems more at ease in essaying his character, while the spunky chambermaid that Kim has to portray seems elusive at times, or strains credibility. But we suspend disbelief in the name of getting these two together, and forging on with the plot. At its heart, the film is a character study, and the two leads pull it off.