Pinoy Blonde (Peque Gallaga, 2005)

pbRemember Pinoy Blonde? That plot-less Tarantino send up that doesn’t seem like it? Not sure if this was obvious enough, but I’d assume most didn’t realize that Peque Gallaga & Lore Reyes weren’t really channeling Quentin Tarantino, unless they’ve read Peque Gallaga’s Playboy interview, in which he also expressed his dislike for Lav Diaz’s films, prior or after watching the film. (By the way that issue has a stunning cinema-themed cover and a popcorn-covered girl on its centerfold.) Some people thought it was cool. Some people said the filmmakers thought they were cool. Some said Pinoy Blonde was to Pulp Fiction as Tataynic (a Dolphy movie) was to Titanic. That we don’t have the so-called “originality”. That we ripped off Hollywood. Again. What does “originality” really mean, anyway? Um, okay, let’s not get into that. Those who liked the film probably said that those who didn’t, just didn’t get it. But the question is, did they? Did they know it was supposed to satirize Quentin Tarantino movies? Sure, it was trippy. With the movie’s point—that Tarantino, in making his movies, just masturbates to his favorite films and that Gallaga, in this movie, is showing him how it (masturbation) is properly done, or, how not to do it—is lost in the movie’s non-sense and pop culture rabbit hole. I don’t know. If I recall correctly, there’s a scene where Ricky Davao’s character suggests that the finest Filipino filmmaker is neither Lino Brocka nor Ishmael Bernal—as the film’s two main characters endlessly argue about—but Joey Gosiengfiao, the guy behind the camp classic Temptation Island. There’s also a short animation a la Kill Bill. But that’s it, it was a forgettable movie with a few memorable scenes. Cool soundtrack tho’.

10 Films

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Jolens tagged me in a post, some kind of chain letter. She said “list 10 books that stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes and don’t think too hard. They don’t have to be ‘right’ or ‘great’ works.” I did the list, but I cheated—couldn’t make a list of 10 in just few minutes. She suggested that I do movies instead. I said okay, but I made three sets instead of one—in less than five minutes. First, I limited myself to pick only Filipino films. Then, foreign films, which I kind of did already before. For the third, I made a list of movies which I thought have a strong (or at least memorable) female character, or features mostly female characters. Not that the first two lists lack in that department, some of those movies (e.g., Nausicaa, Terminator, Segurista) also belong to the third list.

 

Pila Balde
Kakaba-kaba Ka Ba?
Magnifico
On the Job
Bad Boy
Dito sa Pitong Gatang
Diskarte
Segurista
Salawahan
Orapronobis

 

The Terminator/Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Fight Club
The Matrix
Army of Darkness
The Eternal Evil of Asia
Re-Animator
Guardians of the Galaxy
Spider-Man/Spider-Man 2
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
13 Assassins
Kelly’s Heroes
Back to the Future

 

The Hot Chick
Mean Girls
The Notebook
Spy
Jackie Brown
Hollywood Boulevard
Abakada, Ina
End of the Affair
Original Sin

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Ten Books, Asterix, Regina Spektor, and The History of the World, Part 1

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So this is the cover Manuel L. Quezon III was talking about.

Coming up with a list of my favorite books, within a few minutes and without thinking too hard, isn’t really as easy as, say, whipping up my top ten punk/rock records while making peanut butter sandwich or coughing out my top ten superhero movies while reading a white paper on vibration analysis. Which is to say, I haven’t read that much to warrant a top ten list. If you read the list below, keep in mind that there are only a few titles that I left out.

Even though I like the idea of reading books, I’m not really much of a reader. It’s like, you know, like being in love with the idea of being in love with someone, without really loving that someone. Books, like girls, you can smell them up close, only a book would smell paper, instead of cologne or shampoo. You can read, write annotations, fold the pages, decrypt the text to see if you can find some hidden meanings or you could read between the lions (Clever band name!) You could even sleep with them if you want to—the books, not the lions. Just make sure you don’t spoil the pages.

I’ve always find reading books to be more consuming, that it requires a little more (time, money, effort, imagination, thought) than watching movies, listening to the radio, or reading magazines, song hits, komiks or just about anything found on the internet. Also, there weren’t really many books around the house back then, aside from the ones we get from school.

Lucky I was able to read komiks back when there were real komiks (e.g., Funny Komiks, Romance, Aliwan, Wakasan, Horror, heck, even ST Komiks). Heck, I was even able to read a comic version of the bible—yes, most of the books from the Old Testament in comic book form. No, not the monthly publications from the Sisters of Canossa with kid-friendly comic strips that features Jesus, but a real bible. It’s a bible from the kind sisters from Jehovah’s Witness. Believe me brother, there’s nothing more awesome (and religious at the same time), than reading about Moses, the ten biblical plagues of Egypt, and the parting of the Red Sea, or how Samson would dispose off his enemies with ease—doesn’t matter if it’s a lion, a beast, or an army—in a way not so different from those in the modern day superhero movies. All those colorful stories had me thinking up to this day: Did Delilah really love Samson? Were there really three tablets instead of two and fifteen commandments instead of ten? Yet, despite all the wars, the killings, the burning of cities, despite all the violence and possibly, hatred, there’s Ruth and her mother-in-law, in a story full of kindness and compassion.

We also had a few issues of Liwayway magazine back then. I remember a serialized short novel called “Paru-parong Burgis” (about a playboy and his activist girlfriend, if I remember correctly) and a comic serial called “Dugo sa Disyerto”, an action-thriller about three Filipino women caught in the Gulf War. I also used to collect clippings from the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the sports stories and sometimes, the editorial cartoons. Inquirer used to feature really good NBA Finals stories back when we live far from the city and we didn’t have Cable TV.

My first foreign comic book was this French-Belgian comic Asterix, which my first-grade teacher brought into our classroom when the year was about to end. During free time, me and my friends would browse the books from cover to cover. We loved the artworks, every panel, every page, and we finished the books without really reading them. We loved how the Romans always outnumbered the Gauls, but the Gauls would always send them home flying, bruised, bleeding, with lots of broken bones.

Sooner or later, I was finally able to buy or borrow books. A friend who printed out in the office a copy of Harry Potter from an e-file, twenty to thirty pages each day until he finished reading the book, introduced me to The Silmarilion, To Kill A Mockingbird, and Bob Ong. I’ve read a few Bob Ong’s. But dude, is he prolific. Between reading Stainless Longanisa and Ang Paboritong Aklat ni Hudas, which I didn’t even finish, Bob Ong was able to release more books than I could remember. What’s the use of catching up, I thought, it isn’t like it’s the Hunger Games series. And I don’t even read Hunger Games, or watch the Hunger Games movies even though I like Jennifer Lawrence. But I like Shailene Woodley more than Jennifer Lawrence, so I watched the Divergent one time it was on Star Movies.

Long before I was able to get my hands on one of his books or stories, I knew and read about Nick Joaquin, partly from school, but mainly from a movie where Rica Peralejo’s portrayal of a woman possessed by the fertility goddess was so unintentionally funny, therefore memorable, even if mostly un-erotic. She made it looked like she was possessed by a hybrid of an evil spirit (like something from the Evil Dead movies) and a succubus. The movie was directed by no less than Tikoy Aguiluz, based on a play adapted from Nick Joaquin’s “Summer Solstice”. If I remember correctly, the film was part of that year’s film festival. But my favorite Nick Joaquin short story (among those that I’ve read and I’ve only read a few) is easily “May Day Eve”, where Joaquin mixes romance, superstitions, time travel, and historical fiction in a sad magical story about a failed marriage, a failed revolution and a magic mirror.

 

Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects, Marshall McLuhan & Quentin Fiore
A Question of Heroes, Nick Joaquin
Heroes & Villains, Carmen Guerrero Nakpil
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
Asterix the Gaul / Asterix and the Banquet, René Goscinny & Albert Uderzo
Dylan Dog: Dawn of the Living Dead, Tiziano Sclavi
12, Manix Abrera
Elmer, Gerry Alanguilan*
Stainless Longanisa, Bob Ong

 

*You can read Gerry Alanguilan’s first ever comic book Wasted here. Just a bit of trivia, Barbie Almalbis’ “The Dance” was inspired by and written after reading Wasted.

Free Fire (Ben Wheatley, 2016)

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There are brief moments within its 90-minute running time, where Free Fire succumbs to tedium, which slowly takes you out of the movie while you wait for something to happen. Then it goes back to business, then slows down again. For the most part, the movie alternates between bang and silence, hit and miss, limp and roll, dash and crawl, funny dialogue and stupor. I myself almost passed out one time from all my imaginary non-fatal wounds.

It could have been a one-hour movie. But with its 30 minute set-up and character sketches, and the meticulously planned and staged shoot outs that followed—unfortunately between guys and one girl who kept missing from mid-range—director Ben Wheatley is able to underline what’s wrong with most action films nowadays. They (e.g., Fast & Furious and Transformers series) are overloaded, incoherent, lack suspense and characterization and gives the audience 360 degrees of action every five minutes just to keep those with ADHD from walking out or falling asleep.

Free Fire is a well made shoot ’em up comedy, brought to life by its characters, a handful of rogues trapped inside a warehouse in an unscrupulous arms deal, and Ben Wheatley’s scrupulous direction and attention to details (i.e., there’s a very graphic scene where one character’s head get ran over by a van done with minimum to zero CGI). It absorbs you into the action (otherwise, you won’t get bored when there’s nothing happening for long stretches). Among the cast, Cillian Murphy’s IRA agent Chris, Armie Hammer’s middleman Ord, Sharlto Copley’s South African arms dealer Vernon (whose thick accent is comic gold), Sam Riley despicable Stevo, and Brie Larson’s Justine, whom I thought could have fired a couple of shots more, take the cake.

While Free Fire gives you one hour of gunfights happening in real time (if I remember correctly, slow motion was used only once—in the scene right after the first shot was fired), it never overloads your senses; it gives you time to recover, regroup, before the bullets come zinging again. It never gives you everything all at once, instead Wheatley stretches your patience for a couple of minutes, then rewards you on the next (this is true, especially, when the movie slows down to a crawl). Some movies use shaky camera and rapid-fire editing to get you “in” the action. Oftentimes, these are used to hide non-hits, weak choreography or poorly staged action. Also, oftentimes, they’re just confusing. In Free Fire, there are also times when you’re not sure who’s shooting whom, times when things just happen so fast that you lose track of things. But not because of nauseating camera movements or poor editing. This, is what I’d assume as Wheatley’s idea of getting the audience “in” the moment. And it just makes sense. There are more than ten people inside the warehouse and it’s not easy to take account of everything and everyone amidst all the banter and the gunfire. Like that one character in the movie, there was also a time when, “I’ve forgotten whose side I’m on”.

Baby Driver (Edgar Wright, 2017)

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Edgar Wright was supposed to be the perfect director for Ant-Man, the perfect director for comic book movies. His movies are delightful mixes of action, comedy, in some cases, special effects and music. I didn’t expect Baby Driver to be any different. That’s why the grittier parts of the film left me stunned, the in-sync loud music got me distracted, disoriented even. There are times when the characters on screen, whether good or bad, innocent or ruthless, are in grave danger. And I’m not sure if I’m supposed to care for them, or should I just enjoy the ride. I expected something that’s more like a dance, Baby Driver threw me in a mosh pit. I also expected some sort of humor. Too bad Simon Pegg isn’t part of the cast. And only Jaimie Foxx’s Bats is funny… well, because he’s bat-shit crazy. That’s why his early exit came as a shock and there wasn’t enough time to gather fear for the Mad Man, except to take as it is what she said. She, by the way, was extremely hot and dangerous, whether she’s with her two smoking barrels or not. Oh, I’m not talking about Lily James’ character by the way. By the time Brian May’s guitar solo goes blaring from one car’s sub-woofers and Baby loses his ears, I was just starting to find my footing. This movie threw me off balance, to say the least. And yes, that’s a compliment.

Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver takes its cue from serious stuff: 70’s crime movies, gritty, realistic car chases. On camera effects, no CGI. The only difference is, he does it MTV-style. Which is to say Wright has set himself some pretty tough hurdles. Intense loud music plus intense action sequence doesn’t always work together. The opening sequence featuring “Bellbottoms” by Jon Spencer Blues Explosion was easily the movie’s most impressive song + car chase number. Syncing intensely choreographed action scenes with The Damned’s “Neat Neat Neat” and “Tequila” could be exhilarating, numbing and frustrating at the same time. It throws you in and out of the movie. Blur’s “Intermission” segueing to “Hocus Pocus” was my favorite part of the film, when the in-sync sound and scenes don’t detract from each other. Barry White’s “Never, Never Gonna Give Ya Up” was also quite perfect for the movie’s quietly intense moments. The rest of the songs work out fine, except for Queen’s “Brighton Rock”, which was distracting, instead of highlighting that one key stunt pulled by Baby near the movie’s end.

Baby Driver had me thinking about Ant-Man—y’know, that small movie within Marvel’s gigantic franchise? I thought Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man would have been so much better than the one we ended up with. But after seeing Baby Driver, maybe not. Assuming it is 100% true that the finished movie we got from Peyton Reed is based on the same script Wright was working on, plus, some “things” added by Reed and Paul Rudd, which I believe improved the movie (e.g., Luis’ tip montage, the quantum realm, Hope Van Dyne, etc.), we can also assume then that if Wright’s Ant-Man would be the better movie, it would be only in terms of execution: style, direction, editing, the action sequence and pacing perhaps. In theory, we would have a better looking, more stylish, more dynamic action movie, but without the things that I actually liked in the movie, like Hope’s relationship with her father, or Scott going sub-atomic to save his daughter. Wright is arguably the better director but Peyton Reed’s movie has the better script.

2017: Movies & Music Year-end List

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Movies

I missed some pretty big movies this year. Just like the previous year. And the year before that. And the year before the year before that. And the year before the year before… Oh, this could go on forever. By “pretty big”, I mean movies like Blade Runner 2049 and Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. Or the last Star Wars movie. I also haven’t seen Okja and Get Out yet, smaller movies that definitely deserve no less. But I’ve seen a few films, both big and small.

Among the best reviewed films, I thought Baby Driver and Logan were overrated. So was Wonder Woman. I liked Baby Driver but there’s something lacking. I’m not really sure Logan was better than X-2 or Days of Future Past and I liked Deadpool better for sure. Wonder Woman, I liked for having the right balance between humor and pathos, which most Marvel movies lack, but the third act was just disappointing. Speaking of disappointments, Kong: Skull Island was simply the most disappointing movie I’ve seen this year, mainly for wasting the scenic locations in Vietnam for a generic thrill-less CGI mayhem. Comic book/superhero movies reached a new high in 2017. Of the three movies from Marvel, Spider-Man: Homecoming was OK and that’s the problem, it’s a merely OK movie. I’ve seen three movies featuring Vin Diesel this year and I thought two of them (xXx: Return of Xander Cage and Fate of the Furious) were a total waste of time.

Listed below, in no particular order, are the ones that made into my “best of” list.

Happy Death Day (Horror, Comedy, 2017)
The Big Sick (Romance, Comedy, 2017)
Tale of Tales (Fantasy, 2015)
Take Me (Comedy, 2017)
Kita Kita (Romance, Comedy, 2017)
Headshot (Martial Arts, Action, 2016)
Westworld (Science Fiction, 1973)
The Mermaid (Fantasy, Romance, Comedy, 2016)
Free Fire (Action, Comedy, 2016)
Logan (Superhero, 2017)
Baby Driver (Action, Crime, 2017)

And my favorites are below with added explanation, extra toppings, or one line review:

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Wonder Woman Mainly for that jaw-dropping sequence in No Man’s Land. That and Clio’s twelve volumes of ancient texts on girl-on-girl erotica.

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Thor: Ragnarok This is easily Marvel’s funniest with Hulk vs. Thor at the center and that fight sequence that burns Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” for fuel.

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Bliss Jerrold Tarog’s pycho-sexual thriller featuring Iza Calzado is the most elaborate tease of the year.

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 James Gunn’s we’re a happy family of A-holes strikes back in Marvel’s most spacey and outlandish adventure yet.

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Blade of the Immortal Forget about Logan, this is the (fast-healing) superhero film of the year. Takashi Miike’s 100th film about the titular hundred killer is a killer.

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Birdshot Easily the most beautiful film I’ve seen this year. Part-Brothers Grimm, part-Miyazaki, Birdshot is a coming of age tale awash in blood, violence and corruption, a haunting political parable told through visual poetry.

 

***

 

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Music

Now, 2017 is quite a huge year in music. So huge I’ve only managed to discover five new songs to add to my playlist.

Ely Buendia and Co. goes the soul/Rn’B/funky route with Apartel. “Guijo St. (Makes You Wonder)” is something Michael Jackson would have written after listening to “With A Smile” on repeat. “Better Off” has this Al Green vibe to it but starts off like that song by this Native American band to which Star-Lord danced to in the opening sequence of Guardians of the Galaxy.

I liked Sharlene San Pedro‘s “Stars & Caramel Bars” the first time I saw it on MYX. Sharlene San Pedro covers one from Mayonnaise and one from a band I never heard of. The former child star from “Going Bulilit” isn’t writing her own material (yet) but at least she knows what she likes and I like what she likes.

I’m not really into funk or soul. Yet somehow I find myself liking IV of Spades’ “Hey Barbara”. And Barbara is cute.

The unreleased studio version of “Lift” (a.k.a. the greatest unreleased Radiohead song), finally surfaced with OKNOTOK. And it did not disappoint, unlike the new version of “True Love Waits”.

Here are my top ten songs for 2017:

ApartelBetter Off / Guijo St.
RadioheadLift / Man of War
IV of SpadesHey Barbara
UDDUnti-Unti
Sharlene San PedroStars & Caramel Bars / Paraan
Temple of the DogHunger Strike
SoundgardenThe Day I Tried To Live

 

Looking Back at Marc Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man

amzingspdr.pngSuck it up Raimi fanboys!

Finally got around to watching The Amazing Spider-Man. Oh boy is it great! Not only is it a reboot, it’s also an update, an upgrade, both, of the Spider-Man mythos we’re mostly familiar with. The guys behind this movie definitely went the extra mile (or extra swing) to give the fans more than what was promised.

This version took no time in expanding the Spidey universe, introducing Peter Parker’s parents right in the opening scene and how Peter ended up with Aunt May and Uncle Ben. Then, it also corrected the main deviations in the first trilogy: Gwen Stacy, a much more convincing and sophisticated girl next door, as played by Emma Stone and, the mechanical web-shooters—which is part OSCORP’s product, part Peter’s invention. (Midway thru the movie, I thought OSCORP would eventually hire Spidey to endorse their product, and let the abusive J.J. Jameson, this time as an ad agency mogul, enter the story.)

There are small additions changes here and there. The enhanced spiders and webs were retconned to be made by OSCORP, and it’s also implied that Peter’s powers may have originated from the older Parker’s experiments. My only beef is that they turned Uncle Ben’s famous words into a joke, albeit unintentionally. Martin Sheen’s cool, funny uncle could have been an improvement over Cliff Robertson’s, but without that classic line, he becomes secondary.

The biggest change of them all is Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker, who’s actually a cool kid pretending to be a geek. He’s a quippy masked vigilante who’s also kind of a dick. He ditches his girlfriend in time of grief, for a promise he couldn’t keep, and then break the same promise just because “those were the best kind.” All in all, this Peter Parker is an affable jerk. (At least he got the girl this time, and is able to actually fork her brains out—for a change.) Continue reading “Looking Back at Marc Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man”

13 Reasons Why I’m (Not) So Excited About Avengers: Infinity War

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Can’t say I’m not the least bit excited about Avengers: Infinity War. It is after all an Avengers movie. Something I have always looked forward to more than any other series or sub-franchise in the ongoing Marvel universe. Outside of the Guardians of the Galaxy, of course.

One reason I’m not too excited about Infinity War is that the Russos are directing it. And the writers of Captain America trilogy are the guys behind the script (Edit: They also wrote The Dark World, which I actually liked, but y’know Joss Whedon also had a hand on it). Sure, Civil War had some funny, sometimes witty back and forths, but it’s not the same as when Joss Whedon was still Marvel’s go to guy. Of course, Age of Ultron was a massive let down but so was Civil War.

At their best, the script for the last two Captain America movies, were just a little more than serviceable. Except for The Winter Soldier‘s bone-busting, fast-cut ADHD-style and a little shaky fight sequences (not really that good, if you ask me, since they tend to get repetitive in the long run), and Civil War‘s airport scuffle, those movies didn’t really stand out from the rest of the MCU. They didn’t have a distinct look or tone. Neither the triumphantly comedic/dramatic as the Guardians, nor as outrageously “out-there” as Thor: Ragnarok, and never as heartfelt as Ant-Man. Nothing really inventive or out-of-the-box.

Speaking of out-of-the-box ideas, that scene in where Loki was falling thru nothingness for thirty minutes is one of the most inventive sequence I’ve seen among recent MCU films. Sure that sequence is simple on the surface, not much CGI required to pull off, but it definitely required more than a bit of imagination to come up with. Yes, it was played for laughs and didn’t really forward the plot but it’s actually great in that, it demonstrated Strange’s power, his magic, it fleshed out the contrast between characters Loki and Doctor Strange, and also, it was very funny. My complaint with Doctor Strange is that it wasn’t magical enough, it wasn’t really strange. (Should Waititi take on next Doctor Strange movie, I would be excited for that.)

Going back to Cap’s movies, on pure technical aspects, they’re as exciting as Ant-Man. Outside of things mentioned above, they look so run-of-the-mill. Too bad for them, Ant-Man had a smaller but more relatable, not to mention more convincing, story to tell.

So yeah, the trailer is out. And it was different from the one shown in D23, which already leaked thru the internet. Trailer breakdowns are everywhere. This guy found 13 reasons to be so excited about this movie coming out next year. So I decided that I’d rip him off and give my own—kind of contrarian—take on the list. Here we go:

Vision Goes Through Changes
Not a big fan of Vision. Though I like Age Of Ultron more than the next guy, Vision’s origin is one of those sub-plot in that movie that left me… I don’t know. It’s was kind of magical and dumb and also very contrived. I like Scarlet Witch. There’s a part in Ultron where Hawkeye told her that none of these (the things happening in the movie) makes sense, and it was followed by her character transformation. I also like her being paired with Vision in Civil War. But that brings me to one of my biggest gripes about the movie: Where the hell is Vision during that Lagos mission?

Continue reading “13 Reasons Why I’m (Not) So Excited About Avengers: Infinity War”

Thor: Ragnarok — Some Loud Thunder

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Warning: Some Lou Ferrigno-sized spoilers ahead

“What are you, god of hammers?” Odin asks Thor at one point in the movie. Then Thor does his thunderbolt thing and we’re treated to what might be the coolest battle sequence in the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe since Scott Lang turned into Giant-Man, or since Peter Quill made a giant Pac-Man to the tune of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain”. It’s so frickin’ awesome and thanks to director Taika Waititi, Thor: Ragnarok is now officially, the wackiest Marvel ensemble comedy to date this side of Joss Whedon.

Thor: Ragnarok opens with Thor captured by the demon Surtur, bound and hanging from a chain in the Asgardian underworld. While Surtur tells about Ragnarok a.k.a. the destruction of Asgard, Thor kind of breaks the fourth wall as he interrupts the background orchestra and the demon’s grand proclamations every time he slowly spins away from Surtur’s view. It’s a sequence that brings to mind GotG and Deadpool, effectively planting the movie’s overall tongue and tone, firmly in its cheek.

Minutes later, it’s family reunion time, as Thor is re-united with Loki, who’s been ruling Asgard as Odin and staging plays about his pseudocide in the last movie; then later with Odin, who’s just waiting for his final moments in Norway; and finally, with his older sister Hela, who was imprisoned by Odin and written out of history for her great evil ambitions and has now returned to take over Asgard, leaving Thor not much time to grieve or be bitter over Loki’s deception. Thor and Loki, suddenly on the same side, finds themselves outmatched, as Hela destroys the Mjolnir without much effort and kicks the brothers out into space while they try to escape thru the BEEF-roast.

The fun ride continues as Thor crash-lands into an alien planet and becomes a gladiator-slave owned by Jeff Goldblum, who, here, goes by the moniker the Grandmaster, ruler of the colorful wasteland called Sakaar (a goofy combination of neon lights, pinball aesthetics and Jack Kirby-inspired sets). Thor is forced to fight a gladiatorial death-match against the current champion, who turns out to be… the green brute Hulk (“He’s a friend from work”)—but we already knew that. Continue reading “Thor: Ragnarok — Some Loud Thunder”

10 Filipino Horror Films To Watch Before the Sigbin Gets You

Better late than never. Listed in no particular order.

yanggaw.pngYanggaw / Director: Richard Somes / Year: 2008

 

Continue reading “10 Filipino Horror Films To Watch Before the Sigbin Gets You”

Ranking All MCU Movies from Iron Man to Ragnarok

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With the release of Thor: Ragnarok, Marvel has now churned out seventeen movies. Yep, that’s right. Seventeen fuckin’ Marvel movies and almost all of them widely popular with both critics and fans, almost all of them hit big at the box office. But not all of them are great or good. There are few stinkers and there are a few gold. The list below starts with the stinkers with the movies listed in descending order.

 

hulk (3).pngThe Incredible Hulk (Louis Leterrier, 2008). Say what you want about Ang Lee’s Hulk, that’s still better than this movie. This louder rehash only improves on the special effects the action, which everyone soon forgets once Mark Ruffalo shows up in The Avengers.

 

iron2Iron Man 2 (Jon Favreau, 2010). Iron Man 2, or: How To Make A Bloated Sequel. Black Widow made her first appearance in this movie. That’s the most vivid detail I remember from this really really long talky Robert Downey Jr. movie.  That and Tony Stark literally pissing his pants.

 

capam (3)Captain America: The First Avenger (Joe Johnston, 2011). Joe Johnston brought his Rocketeer aesthetic into an alternate 1940s giving it a frozen in amber quality. It was good in that it looked different, if only it wasn’t so boring.

Continue reading “Ranking All MCU Movies from Iron Man to Ragnarok”

Spider-Man: Homecoming (Jon Watts, 2017)

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How d’you like my Batman voice?

Deadpool reminded me of Spider-Man. Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, that is. Deadpool was half the movie that Spider-Man was, but with enough adult things—humor, language, sex, violence—to make up for the lacking half.

Spider-Man: Homecoming reminds me a lot of Deadpool, but in terms of the adult things—humor, language, sex, violence—the latter was (in)famous for, Homecoming‘s only half the fun that Deadpool was. It’s Deadpool-lite, with the latter’s hard-R rating cut to whiny PG-13.

Marvel has finally “marvelized” Spider-Man—which is both good and bad—the same way it did Thor, Cap, and Iron Man. The good: the casting of Tom Holland as Spider-Man/Peter Parker (easily the most precise (best?) incarnation of the character, a perfect middle ground for those who find Tobey Maguire too dorky and those who find Andrew Garfield too dicky), Marisa Tomei as Aunt May, and Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes, Marvel’s ability to present a plausible comic book world that’s close to our own, and the impressive visual effects—all of which, should be pretty much given by now in every Marvel movie. And these are among the main reasons for these movies’ box office draw and the franchise’s enduring appeal.

Continue reading “Spider-Man: Homecoming (Jon Watts, 2017)”

Is ‘Logan’ The Best X-Men Movie?

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The Last of Wolverine

No, I don’t think Logan is the greatest comic-book movie since The Dark Knight (which isn’t even great to begin with). But it’s probably the best X-Men movie yet. I used to agree with the general consensus that X2 was the best of the lot, but Logan is also a remarkable movie and it gets Wolverine right. And that for me, says a lot.

While the first two X-Men movies by were generally well-loved by both critics and fans, I’ve always find them lacking. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen as Professor X and Magneto respectively, brought gravitas to these surprisingly earnest comic book movies (the much maligned third movie had actually more fun to offer, especially with Juggernaut, Mystique and Multiple Man). Hugh Jackman took the role of Wolverine, and made a career playing the fierce but sensitive mutant from Canada. Unfortunately, the other supposedly key characters (Cyclops, Storm, Jean Grey, Beast) were sidelined, and nearly forgettable. While Rebecca Romijn, in her very physical and almost dialogue-free role as Mystique, steals the show from almost every one of them. Sure, Bryan Singer has style, but it’s a style that muted the colors and voices of these supposedly motley crew of outsiders.

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Yes, these movies touch on relevant issues (i.e., xenophobia, LGBT). But so did the comics and the ’90s cartoons, which, arguably did better doing so than the movies. In fact, that is only to be expected of these movies. What I did not expect was how Wolverine-centered they were. Were they called Wolverine and the X-Men, I won’t be complaining how the rest of team didn’t get to do much. Also, I thought these movies were just too serious for their own good. Logan was allowed to make jokes, but at the expense of the other characters, like Cyclops and Beast, who were both badly underwritten. And sometimes, the seriousness lapses into something silly, unintentionally (i.e., X-Men‘s amusing third act fight scenes, Prof. X saying goodbye to Cyclops in X2 (couldn’t Jean talk to Scott directly?)) Continue reading “Is ‘Logan’ The Best X-Men Movie?”

Dismay (Joel Lamangan, 2016)

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There are only two good things in Joel Lamangan’s Siphayo (Dismay): one of them is the subplot about shopping malls killing small business establishments and the conversion agricultural lands into commercial centers. The movie opens with a terminally-ill Fely coming home from the hospital with her husband Dante and their two sons. On the way home, they stop by the rice-fields and she tells his two sons to help their father till the fields and never ever let go of their land—even if it means a whole lot of money if the mall owners would buy their property.

Conrado, the eldest son, slaves in his father’s rice mill while his wife Sol cleans and cooks for them. Conrado wanted to work abroad, but decided to stay after he fell victim to illegal recruitment. Roland, the younger son, is soon to graduate from college and has no interest in dirtying up his hands. One day, Dante brought home Alice, a young pretty nurse—not to look after Fely, who died few days prior, but to take care of Dante’s nightly business. Yes, she’s the same nurse he brought home earlier and took care of his dying wife one day before she died. Conrado’s outraged and plots to roust Alice. Sol on the other hand, is just happy she could finally work in the nearby mall while Alice stays at home to do the chores. Roland, who’s made to look like a hulking hunk in a high school uniform earlier and an idiot for the most of the movie, is just happy to be complicit in his brother’s plan.

The movie’s overall clunky, with Sol the most grounded character in the story. Sol’s character, like the aforementioned subplot about shopping malls, adds something of interest to this overly familiar story. But it’s lost as the movie tries too hard to be an erotic-thriller and ends up mostly devoid of thrills.

This cuts the movie further down to its erotic elements. And it might have been better, had the movie dropped the “thriller” part and just focused on the family drama and in the bed department. Because as Nathalie Hart’s first big movie, it is a bit disappointing. Because Elora Espano’s lone bed scene packs more heat than all of Nathalie Hart’s nude scenes. Simply, Sol felt more like a real person compared to Hart, whose mestiza looks, big boobs, and thin frame, weren’t enough to compensate for Alice’s paper-thin character. Still, the movie would have been OK. If only the third act isn’t so silly and trying-hard, to put the “thriller” in erotic-thriller. It could have been an erotic-drama instead, but without the laughably contrived ending—which just feels weird, unnatural—like a well-endowed pair, made of silicone pudding.

 

*Screenshot from here.

What if Marvel gets Tarantino to do a Captain America spin-off?

Here’s what—should Marvel hire Quentin Tarantino and give him 100% free rein:

It would be set in the near future where the world is enslaved by Loki and the formation of Avengers never happened. Why? Because a deadly assassin killed Nick Fury in the ’70s. Doctor Strange would send Captain America back in time to stop the assassination.

Fury would be portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson in Jheri curl. He still has two good eyes, but he’ll lost one by the end of the movie. Cap would have few but important lines; Samuel L. Jackson would do most of the talking.

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To get to Fury, Cap would need to hook up with hookers, nuns with guns, and sexy spies. Expect lots of T&A and few glimpses of untrimmed hair because this is the ’70s! Cap’s magic shield wouldn’t work in this movie; he has to do a lot of heavy action scenes and sweaty bed scenes without CGI, green-screen, shaky cam and frantic editing.

There would be a scene where SHIELD’s Agent Skye shows Cap her voluptuous… vinyl collection. And Cap would unsheathe and play her delicate… Delfonics LP. Off-screen, she’d be heard whispering OMG’s ever so softly.

The assassin’s identity would be revealed as Cap, Fury, and Skye find themselves on the wrong end of a brutal fight. Cap would do the ultimate sacrifice to save Fury. (Cap dies during climax.) The assassin would escape through a time portal created by Doctor Strange.
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Epilogue: Present day. Bucky opens the door and enters his apartment, groceries on both hands. He finds Fury waiting inside with gun aimed at him.

Bang! Bucky’s hit between the eyes and falls on the floor.

A rodent crawls across the window.

Roy Buchanan’s “Sweet Dreams” fades in. Black screen. Credits.

Kita Kita (Sigrid Andrea Bernardo, 2017)

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Kita Kita (I See You) could be a distant relative of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise; only it isn’t presented in real-time, it’s set in Japan instead of France, and the male lead (Empoy Marquez) hardly resembles Ethan Hawke. And KZ Tandingan’s version of Air Supply’s “Two Less Lonely People” frequently plays in the background. Okay, the two movies are probably more different than similar. Kita Kita tells of a bittersweet love story between Lea (Allesandra de Rossi), a Filipina tour guide in Japan, who suffers from temporary blindness and her unlikely Prince Charming, whom she met after. The story follows this unlikely couple as they wander around the picturesque where-to-go attractions in Sapporo and Hokkaido. The movie happily forgoes typical romantic comedy tropes and mostly features its two leads talking to each other—the dialogue most likely improvised. In short, it’s not your usual rom-com with the best-looking couple, manufactured conflict, and predictable plot. And just when you think that that is all, it burst its own bubble by telling the B-side to the story in the second half. Truly, love is blind. And only in darkness can we see the stars. Or in the case of Tonyo, only after he got wasted drinking 24 cans of Japan’s famous Sapporo lager. Consider this as Philippines’ “thank you” to Japan for featuring San Miguel Beer in the original Ghost in the Shell. Oh, there’s a part that reminds me of Il Mare. Don’t ask, it’s a spoiler

 

Ai Fai.. Thank You Love You (Mez Tharatorn, 2014)

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Language barrier is a bitch. Kaya (Sora Aoi), a Japanese chick in Thailand leaves for the US after graduating from her English class. Then, she dumps her Thai boyfriend Yim (Sunny Suwanmethanon), via a recorded message (in English), thru the help of her friend/teacher/translator Ms. Pleng (Preechaya Pongthananikorn). You ask, how did they become lovers in the first place? Kaya probably speaks a little Thai, but according to Yim they’re really in love (they’re sleeping together). Thus, Yim gets desperate to learn his ABC’s just to win Kaya back. Pleng, who’s reasonably hesitant at first, eventually agreed to help Yim—but only after she received grave threats from the latter. There really isn’t much with movie’s will or won’t they plot. And it doesn’t need the whole movie for girl and guy to realize they’re meant to be together. Who would you rather: pretty, bubbly, and wholesome teacher Pleng or far and away and not a little bit promiscuous Kaya? It’s obvious (but I’m not gonna judge you if you choose former JAV idol Sora Aoi). If the romantic aspect isn’t much, is the comedy any better? The movie isn’t free from rote slapstick routines, but it’s funnier when it’s just the two leads together. One time, Yim tells Pleng’s ex-boyfriend/suitor that they’re married and she’s pregnant, only so he’ll stop seeing her. There’s also this really funny scene where one poor school boy shit his pants after Yim caught him in the act of taking upskirt picture of Pleng.

Logan (James Mangold, 2017)

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I don’t get this bias towards serious comic book movies. A movie has some convincingly Oscar-worthy drama, then all of a sudden it’s the best comic book movie since The Dark Knight. People heap praises on these two movies yet no one bothers to mention Unbreakable, M. Night Shyamalan’s subdued superhero drama and follow-up to his more popular debut The Sixth Sense. Why cream your pants over Logan and not Deadpool? When Deadpool had more success at being irreverently funny than Logan did with its sob story. Don’t get me wrong, Logan is a fine movie. It probably has the most memorable portrayal of both Logan and Charles Xavier in all of X-Men movies. Logan’s old, resigned, half the beast he used to be while Xavier’s annoying, old, and sick, which makes him more dangerous. And I liked the dynamics between these two characters (the plot concerning the young mutants, not so much); like in the scene where Xavier needs to take a leak. And with a little detour, it is able to give what should have been the true essence of every X-Men movie—humans and mutants—which made the movie for me. But the movie’s really about X-23, old man Logan, and their kind of forced father-daughter drama, and those other young mutants—it is more than OK, but nothing to get too crazy about.