Movie #3: Frozen

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I love Elsa. I think she is the main reason why I enjoyed watching Frozen so much. First and foremost, her character design which is just so pretty and soft, so different from the Snow Queen that I envisioned from my childhood. That Snow Queen is terrifying and cold and Elsa is just the complete opposite of that, loving and caring even if it’s from behind a closed door. There were times when I was watching, though, when  I was afraid that that she would turn into that scary Snow Queen. They easily could have made her like that but they didn’t. I’m glad she didn’t get turned into the actual villain of the story and that the story didn’t follow the usual boy-meets-girl-boy-saves-girl-from-evil-relative sort of storyline. (Though the treatment of Hans is one thing I’m not that happy with…)

I love how Elsa cares so much for Anna, so much so that she’s ready to sacrifice her happiness to keep her safe. Maybe some people will think it’s excessive, that it’s not helping Anna anyway and they may be right but I love that that’s just how much Elsa cares. And it may seem corny, clichéd but I also love how it’s love that saves everyone in the end and that it’s Elsa herself who’s able to fix her mistakes, learn from them and in the end become an even better person than before.

And of course there’s Elsa’s song, Let It Go, sang by the incomparable Idina Menzel and covered by Demi Lovato. It’s an inspiring song and it’s a celebration of Elsa beginning to love herself for just how she really is and what she’s capable of. She sings, “The perfect girl is gone” but I think she’s perfect as she is when she’s finally happy with herself and her relationship with Anna.

All aspects that I’ve mentioned about Elsa are the things that make Frozen great: beautiful character designs, complex, relatable characterizations and a different take on a story that can be so much more predictable. Great job, Disney! One of your best releases in recent years.

Movie #2: I, Frankenstein

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I really need to stop procrastinating on posting… So yes, hello! I am still alive! I have just been eaten up by fandom stuff lately and so this blog has gotten kind of ignored. Still, though, I haven’t forgotten about my 14 movies, 14 books for 2014 thing and so now this entry has come to be.

So. I, Frankenstein. Admittedly, this is the kind of movie that I’m such a guilty sucker for: lots of supernatural elements alongside tons of special effects and eye-catching cinematography. I love my monsters, my vampires, my werewolves, and I suppose Frankenstein’s monster can now be a part of that group too because I kind of enjoyed this movie. Admittedly, it’s not one of those movies that will stick to me, definitely not one that I could say has carved a place in my personal canon of well-loved films. I don’t think I’ll even purposely watch it again unless there’s nothing else better to watch but it’s an enjoyable enough diversion for an hour and a half.

It’s made by the people who produced Underworld and I kind of had an inkling of that before I even saw the poster or the credits. There’s just signs of it everywhere: the subject matter,  the distinctive style of cinematography, the look and feel of the characters. Heck, Bill Nighy was there along with Kevin Grevioux who were both part of the Underworld franchise. And if you’ve seen Underworld then I think you can pretty much expect the same kind of stuff from I, Frankenstein though you’ve got demons, gargoyles and Adam a.k.a. Frankenstein’s monster instead of vampires and werewolves. What kind of disappoints me about both Underworld and I, Frankenstein is while they are both so stylishly made, there’s just something lacking story-wise. They’ve got all these interesting twists on existing mythology, these badass characters but then somehow the stories just don’t reach their full potential for me and it’s kind of sad.

But then I guess sometimes you just want to see Aaron Eckhart shirtless (still kind of gorgeous despite the scowls, stitches and shadows) and some badass demon ass-kicking and if that’s what you’re after then I guess this movie’s not bad at all in those cases.

Movie #1: The Wolf of Wall Street

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Leo is in it. That’s pretty much the selling point for me. I don’t think I’ll ever get over my crush for him and so I knew I’d end up watching his latest movie, The Wolf of Wall Street. And besides, did you see that trailer? Leonardo DiCaprio dancing! That doesn’t happen in a movie! You know you have to see it!

Getting tickets was easy enough though I had to joke with my friend, wondering if they’d even give us tickets in the first place since the rating is a solid R-18 and at times we’re mistaken for high school girls. Ticket buying was uneventful and soon enough we were seated to watch the movie. The next three hours was in one word: crazy. Crazy unbelievable story and storytelling and crazy good acting.

The whole time I was sitting there I kept on asking, “Can this really happen? For real?” All this sex, money and greed all day, everyday? It’s an unbelievable kind of life for someone like me who doesn’t have that much money among other things. It’s excessive and in-your-face and and it left me reeling. And it made me ask, “So what’s better: being poor but honorable or rich but greedy?” I guess that’s a question that one will really ask when they watch this movie and the answer is actually quite difficult to get to. The movie can make you think, if you’re the kind of person who actually takes the time to do it about movies they watch. Otherwise, it’s stock full of naughty, hedonistic fun that only a movie can safely give you.

As for the acting, everyone was good, from Leo to Matthew McConaughey to Jonah Hill and even Margot Robbie, who I haven’t seen before and was a bit skeptical of how she’d act given how she looks like a Barbie doll. Awful prejudgment but I’m glad to be proven wrong. You really have to hand it to Leo for how much he poured into the role. As my friend said, all the emotions that he could go through in the movie, he went through and delivered. Plus he was funny. Did you ever think Leonardo DiCaprio could be funny? He was in this movie and it was kind of surreal but a joy to watch, though his character suffers through it. Still, Leo stepped up on his game this time around.

Someone give him that Oscar already, okay?

Cinemalaya Day 2: Instant Mommy

No picture today because I was a loser and didn’t bring my good camera to take Eugene Domingo’s picture. I was also a chicken and didn’t have the balls to ask Angel Aquino to have a picture taken with her. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

So today, I was scheduled to watch Instant Mommy with a friend. We went there for the 12:45pm showing. It was at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (the CCP Main Theater) and today was apparently the Gala “Night” for Instant Mommy. The cast and crew were there and so it was quite a special experience. This was actually the second time that I was in the same room as Eugene Domingo. The first time was when we watched Ang Babae sa Septic Tank and it was revealed that she was in the audience with us after the end of the showing. She was as warm and approachable as ever though again, I wasn’t able to take any pictures. Such is my crippling introversion.

Anyway, so what about the movie?

Instant Mommy is directed by Leo Abaya and starring Eugene Domingo, Yuki Matsuzaki and Rico J. Puno. The story is about Bechay, who is a wardrobe mistress involved in the making of TV commercials. She has a Japanese boyfriend with whom she is going to have a baby with. Misfortune strikes, unfortunately, and Bechay miscarries. Now, she has to do something in order to keep her boyfriend’s interest.

It seems like such a typical premise and one so familiar in our society. We’ve heard of Filipino women having foreign boyfriends and going to great lengths to please them.  But this is Cinemalaya so you have to expect that there’s a twist here somewhere. Or twists. I didn’t really know what to expect and I didn’t really bother trying to think of how the story will resolve. I had a nice surprise at the end and it was quite satisfying in a realistic sense. There was shock and hurt for Bechay and I felt for her after everything she did and went through, but still it was a good ending, both for her and the story.

Eugene Domingo was great. She hadn’t lost her spark. She could make you laugh and cry where it was appropriate and it was so easy to sympathize with the character she played. It was also quite cool to see Rico J. Puno acting. I thought he was very convincing as Bechay’s father and it was his way of working with little things about his characterization that made it work.  This movie also really utilized its supporting cast well. Hardly anyone was wasted, though I had to wonder what Earl Ignacio’s character was really for.  And of course I have to give special kudos to Yuki Matsuzaki. He did a great job at his role, especially the effort he put into speaking some Filipino (which was especially hilarious at one point of the film) and it was just really, really awesome how they were able to cast a Hollywood actor to play his role. And he and Eugene had kilig. They were actually quite cute together, with great chemistry, and they worked so well with each other, even when most of their interactions was over Skype video calls in English, Filipino and Japanese.

Instant Mommy is another Cinemalaya gem and I commend Eugene Domingo for another job well done.

Cinemalaya Day 1: Sana Dati and Ekstra

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Cinemalaya 2013 officially started for me yesterday though I have been preparing for it for weeks. I paid close attention to ticket sale dates and before that, my friends and I were already planning which entries to watch. In the end, I decided to watch six entries this year, which will probably be the most I’ve ever watched in one Cinemalaya festival. It was made possible by buying tickets in advance through Ticket World which had convenient branches in National Bookstore. A week or so before the start of the festival, I was ready with tickets and I didn’t even have to wait in line long. So this is some advice that I would like to impart to people who don’t want to be hassled by buying tickets: buy them ahead of the screening dates. You would thank yourself later because honestly, it’s not only getting the tickets that could cause you a hassle.

Getting to CCP itself was always a bit of a stressful experience. I guess I could have left the house earlier, but I also wasn’t looking forward to standing in line before they let people into the theater. So instead, I decided to leave the house 45 minutes before the start of the film. Because of heavy traffic along Vito Cruz, I ended up getting there after 35 minutes. And to think I didn’t live that far from CCP.

I still had a few minutes to find the Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino where I was going to watch my first film at 12:45pm. Eventually, I managed to discover that this was the Little Theater. It was quite interesting to me that the ushers couldn’t tell you where the exact theaters were, like they didn’t know them by name, but if you showed them your ticket and they read the name of the film you were going to watch, they could tell you where to find the place it would be screened. I don’t know if this is a normal thing, but there you go.

The first film that I watched was Sana Dati directed by Jerrold Tarog starring Lovi Poe, Paulo Avelino and TJ Trinidad. The film is about a girl who is about to get married but seems to not be looking forward to it at all. Her feelings towards the marriage is further exposed by the wedding’s videographer who has his own hidden agenda for taking the job. This movie is the third and last installment in the Camera Trilogy and it’s made in a way that you don’t need to watch the other two films to understand what was going on, which I thought was a good and a bad thing. It was good because you wouldn’t get lost and you would get what it was that happened in the other two movies that then led to the happenings in this third installment. Meanwhile, I thought it was bad because it kind of got dragging and slow in parts. I just felt that there were some scenes that didn’t need to be shown but maybe that was just me. The plot, however, saved itself from being predictable a couple of times and that was a job well done, making the movie seem more realistic in a way that was just right and not downright disappointing. Then there was the scenic shots which made the movie beautiful to watch. The movie was pretty good, though, not at all like I expected. I was intrigued by the film at first because it featured Lovi Poe and it was intriguing to see her in an indie film. I thought she did a pretty good job of handling the many emotional turns the film took and by the time it was done, there were these feelings of loss, sadness and hope that left my friend and I putting our hands over our hearts and going, “Awwww.” It may sound juvenile but that was just how we were able to express how we felt about the film’s ending. Special Cast Kudos: Ria Garcia as Jamie, the little sister. I think she’s my favorite character, haha. I just enjoyed how she played her part. I thought she was really genuine. The typical little sister but there’s more to her than that.

The second film was Ekstra directed by Jeffrey Jeturian starring Vilma Santos and a star-studded cast that includes Cherie Gil, Piolo Pascual and Marian Rivera. Honestly, it seemed like an absolute crime if you didn’t even think of watching this one. You don’t see Governor Vi make movies anymore, so this was a must-see, especially given the premise of the film. Ekstra is about a woman who is employed as an ekstra, a bit player, in movies and TV. We get to witness one of her days at work for a popular TV drama and the kind of conditions she and her fellow ekstras put up with to earn a living. It was more lighthearted compared to Sana Dati but the message it tried to convey was probably more relevant. In this movie, we get a front seat view of what happened behind the scenes of a glamorous TV drama, the relentless power and control struggles and the stressful working conditions that actually didn’t look glamorous at all. Show business wasn’t all glitz and glamour and this film showed it very well, especially for the ekstras who were treated like cattle. Governor Vi was of course excellent, whether she was laughing along with her fellow ekstras or having an emotional, vulnerable moment. I also decided to watch the film when I saw Cherie Gil in the trailer and of course she was fabulous, an iconic kontrabida. She has uttered my favorite line from the festival so far: “I wasn’t born yesterday. I was born beautiful. You were just born. PERIOD.” And the script was just pure gold. It was witty and funny, candid and poignant. It was delivered so naturally by the actors that you would hardly think that so much thought was put into it and it was quite obvious that there was when you took the time to listen. Ekstra was also more than I expected. I expected to laugh and enjoy myself and I did. I didn’t expect to come out of Tanghalang Huseng Batute feeling kind of melancholy. The twist near the end was surprising but oh so effective. Special Cast Kudos: Vincent de Jesus as Vincent, the Assistant Director. Ang taray ng lola mo! But he was really, really good. The way he delivered his lines were so natural and it was so easy to be annoyed with his character, but he made him sympathetic. And Tom Rodriguez because he was a surprise and was just so handsome. (Sorry na, biased, hahaha!)

For tomorrow, Instant Mommy. Let’s see if Eugene Domingo continues to deliver.

I Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over My Crush for Leonardo DiCaprio

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I got a crush on Leonardo DiCaprio after watching Titanic. I was 11 at the time, an awkward pre-teener who was first discovering the charm of boys, and I thought Leo was soooooooo handsome. I tried to watch all his movies just to stare at his pretty face and along the way I got convinced that he did have talent along with charisma and looks and all that. Fast-forward a bit over a decade later and I found myself watching another movie with him in it. Yep, The Great Gatsby was the first Leonardo DiCaprio movie I’ve seen in the big screen after Titanic and I didn’t really mind. I really wanted to see Django Unchained too, but that didn’t happen between one thing or another. Imagine my surprise when my Mom expressed how she wanted to watch the movie today and so we did.

So what did I think of the movie. A lot of people seemed to hate it while a lot of people also seemed to like it. I could understand how people would hate it, seeing as how Baz Luhrmann made it in his usual garish (but totally awesome, in my humble, Generation Y opinion) MTV-visual type style and that just wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, especially given that The Great Gatsby was a very significant piece of American literature. At the same time, you had to love it for that crazy, glitzy style, the use of 3D to emphasize it along with the rather unexpected soundtrack choices.

And there was Leonardo DiCaprio. I have to ask a very pertinent question that has been asked several times through the years: Why does he not have an Oscar yet? It was a good move to cast him as the enigmatic Gatsby. He had the acting chops for it (and he displayed them rather well, obviously) and he was sure to bring in the fans, which I’m sure he did. I mean, I watched it. I thought it was pretty cool and I was pretty happy after I left the movie house because I saw yet another Leonardo DiCaprio movie where he was awesome as always.

Which probably would say a lot about the movie. For me, for it to be a really good movie, you have to be involved in it even after you’ve left the movie house. Sure, I left quite happy and not at all sorry that I spent a bit more for a movie in 3D and maybe I’m more curious about the Gatsby book which might lead me to reading it sometime in the future. However, that was it. I loved Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby, but I think I’d love him to do any other character he decides to play later on. I’d probably watch that movie, too. But The Great Gatsby movie itself? I’ll probably look it up on Tumblr for the pretty pictures and .gifs (mostly of Leo, I admit), probably get the soundtrack and that’s it. I thought it was pretty, I thought it was pretty wild and entertaining, but that was it. For me, I went in to watch Leo and I went out happy that I saw it because Leo was great.

I guess in that way the movie was kind of weak in comparison to Leo, the star, and it was kind of unfortunate in a way. But no tears shed. I got to see Leo be his handsome, talented self and I guess I got what I paid for.

OKAASAN! The Host Club is Back!

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Just like most fans of Ouran High School Host Club, I really didn’t think a drama would work. A big part of the manga and the anime’s charm was Tamaki’s dramatics and somehow, I felt that a drama wouldn’t be able to show that as effectively as the anime did to perfection. Besides, who would they cast as Tamaki? Where would they find an actor whom the fans would deem worthy of bringing their beloved Host Club King to life? And what about everyone else? No, I thought the drama wasn’t really a good idea at first.

Eventually, though, I found myself watching the drama on a whim since I re-watched the anime. Might as well give it a try, right? That was what I thought. I could always stop if I didn’t enjoy it and so I started watching. Eventually, I found it hard to stop.

Yes, an Ouran High School Host Club live-action drama is painfully awkward to watch, especially the first few episodes when it looked like everyone was still getting into their roles. The acting wasn’t flawless and yes, quite awkward at times, but you have to hand it to the cast and the crew, they tried and oh did they try hard. They tried so hard I couldn’t help but be won over eventually.

The cast certainly seemed like they were putting in a lot of effort into what they did, especially Yamamoto Yusuke who played Tamaki. Yamamoto Yusuke certainly wasn’t the perfect match to Tamaki in terms of looks, but he certainly made up for it by throwing himself into the role and pulling out all the stops to be Tamaki. He was dramatic, he was all over the place, he whined and cajoled and yelled “HARUHI!” and yet was also quite gentle and charming when he wanted to be. He even allowed himself to be wired up and tossed against walls. He probably had the most demanding role in the cast and I think he did splendidly. The rest of the cast also seemed to fit their roles quite well. I loved the Takagi twins as Hikaru and Kaoru and Nakamura Masaya and Chiba Yudai as Mori and Honey were pretty spot on too. Kawaguchi Haruna wasn’t my first choice for Haruhi, but I guess she did okay. I also loved how they gave the spotlight to Jounouchi Ayame in one episode and I loved her story and how well Nakabeppu Aoi played her. And Totsugi Shigeyuki as Ranka was just amazing, too. Special props must be given to Daito Shunsuke for bringing Kyouya, my favorite character, to life. He looked the part and was able to deliver a convincing performance of the Shadow King I know and love. He’s just so cool. *w*

As for the visuals, I have to say that there was a lot of sparkles and that was good because in Ouran, you can never have enough sparkles. The Hosts are always sparkling so I’m glad that the drama also incorporated that. The styling was also pretty good and the Ouran boys looked like real life obocchan as they strutted around, even when they’re out of their smart, spiffy uniforms (though I have to warn you guys about the Karuizawa episode. You’ll die. Just. DIE.). The drama also tried its best to be faithful when it came to scene composition, shooting scenes as they appeared in the manga and anime.

!!!SPOILER ALERT!!!

Is there anything about the drama that I didn’t like? Of course. For one, I didn’t like the obvious slant towards Kyouya/Haruhi that wasn’t really there in the manga or anime. It’s also quite biased of me, but I wish they showed more of Kyouya’s story. I was really waiting for that episode where Kyouya gets left alone in a mall with Haruhi, but that episode wasn’t in the drama so it was a disappointment. The drama is only 11 episodes all in all, each episode around 25 minutes long, and I wish it were longer or they just made a second season on top of the movie. But of course we fans can’t get everything. I guess there’s always the anime and manga to give us comfort, haha.

!!!END OF SPOILERS!!!

As I said earlier on in this review, the cast and crew of the Ouran drama tried very hard and I think in some ways they did very well. At the very least, they renewed interest for Ouran and I’m sure the fandom is pretty thankful for that despite everything.

Now, if only someone subbed the movie already…