Doctor Strange (Scott Derrickson, 2016)

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I’ve Seen Stranger Things

Like Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins, Stephen Strange went to Asia looking for the cure (unbeknownst to the former doctor, the band resides in England—y’know, Three Imaginary Boys, 1979). Unlike Christian Bale’s Wayne, Benedict Cumberbach’s Dr. Strange has a slick sense of humor (“Just Wong?… Like Adele… Or Aristotle? Drake? Bono? Eminem…”) He didn’t find the cure (but later encountered their black-eyed goth followers). Instead, he got into the world of sorcery, or in his ex-girlfriend’s words, he joined a cult. Just like this movie joining the cult of fairly entertaining but underwhelmingly average MCU movies.

At the outset, the movie looks impressive (i.e., architectural wonders folding and unfolding like clockworks). Marvel definitely put their money where their mouth is—that is, on SFX, bold and capital. Still, Doctor Strange isn’t the Ditko/Kubrick/Miyazaki/The Matrix mind-trip Kevin Feige said it needed to be.  Ditko, sure, a li’l bit from The Matrix and a lot from Inception, minus the well established logic of the latter and the Wachowskis’ stylish kung fu mix. In short, it looks different from all other MCU movies. Yet, for some reasons, it also feels and looks the same—it’s lightweight, jokey, and heavy on CGI.

Doctor Strange isn’t as mind-bending as Kevin Feige thought it should be. Why? Because it takes more than fancy 3D eye candy to be truly mind-bending. It never quite absorbs you into its world in the same way The Matrix and Inception do. In comparison, Thor’s rough sketch of the Tree of Nine Realms was more interesting—yes, it sounds BS—but at least that movie understands no one’s supposed to take it seriously.

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But they got Doctor Strange’s character right. Tilda Swinton, who anchors the movie’s more serious moments, disappears into her character as expected. Rachel McAdams, who plays Strange’s ex-lover, is just lovely and fun to watch—too bad she’s underused in the movie. Continue reading “Doctor Strange (Scott Derrickson, 2016)”

Bliss (Jerrold Tarog, 2017)

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Bliss is a well-crafted little film, an elaborate tease tinged with mild voltage of shock, a psycho-sexual thriller that approaches but never quite reaches the level of mind-fuck. The movie’s a clever play on parallels: Iza Calzado’s showbiz career with that of Jane Ciego; Jane’s to that of Abigail, the protagonist in Bliss; Jane’s real-life husband Carlo to the actor who plays her husband in Bliss, played by Ian Veneracion; Bliss’ indie writer-director Lexter Palao (Audie Gemora) to Jerrold Tarog; and that bald TV host played by Michael de Mesa to real life TV host Boy Abunda. But the most important of all is that of Jane Ciego and the nurse played by Adrienne Vergara. One child gets to live her dream of fortune and fame. The other child lives to share her nightmares with the other.

Jerrold Tarog’s script leaves clues and peanut shells along the way, makes sure you don’t get lost in the strip tease. Movies like Misery, Persona and Inception were mentioned in the film, but not Satoshi Kon’s Millennium Actress and Perfect Blue. Bliss may be lacking in full-sized thrills and effective scares, but intrigue, gratuitous nudity, and moments that are strictly not for the squeamish, more than makes up for it. That being said, claims that the film’s ending spells mind-fuck are grossly exaggerated. Bliss is nothing but a tease; like a bomba film that didn’t go full “pene” but just slides in the tip. It’s like minutes and minutes of foreplay without the actual sex.

But no sex is OK, especially when one is tired and badly needs to sleep. Like Jane at one point in the movie, getting tired of all her showbiz routines. I thought she’s much like the local movie theaters and the movie goers, already tired of looking for something different, feeling shortchanged most of the time. There should be more choices in our cinemas; not just the usual studio love teams, tepid rom-coms, and the predominant but mostly unimaginative Hollywood movies.

Perhaps this is what Bliss is: it’s the evil nurse pushing us away from the comfort zone, sending voltage of shock and sensation, rousing us, leaving us gasping for air, asking for more. There are lots of good local indie movies out there waiting for a wider audience. Bliss is just one of them. If only the local theater owners would realize, we’re more than willing to pay to see them.

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Kick-Ass (Matthew Vaughn, 2010)

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With great firepower comes great kick-ass finale

Damon Macready (Nicholas Cage) was a good cop out to get NY kingpin Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong)—who in turn framed him for drugs and got him incarcerated. Macready lost everything while in prison, save for his little girl—thanks to his buddy Sgt. Marcus Williams (who showed up in the movie for a few minutes just to read Macready’s first graphic novel and reveal what this movie is all about: Macready’s revenge). Of course, Macready has since returned. This time as the masked vigilante known as Big Daddy. Big Daddy together with Hit-Girl a.k.a. his now 11-year old daughter Mindy (Chloe Grace Moretz), are on to destroying D’Amico once again. They’re no super-heroes; they’re only out for blood.

Elsewhere, there’s Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and his friends wasting time geek-talking about superheroes—how no one’s attempted to wear the mask and fight crime in real life. When Dave finally decided to don the green unitard and take on the streets, the results ranged from “nothing happens” to downright bone-crushing. In other words, he got his own ass handed to him a few times. And then he went viral and eventually conquered MySpace. (MySpace, of course, would eventually lost to Facebook, as can be seen in David Fincher’s brilliant Mark Zuckerberg movie, The Social Network.)

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I can make my own graphic novel out of screenshots from this movie!

On the side, there’s Lyndsy Fonseca as Katie Deauxma, the requisite (not that I’m complaining) love interest, Dave’s long-time crush and Kick-Ass‘s own MJ (an improvement over Spider-Man‘s Kirsten Dunst). Continue reading “Kick-Ass (Matthew Vaughn, 2010)”

Foo Fighters’ Albums, Ranked From Worst to Best

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The Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl’s solo studio project that quickly evolve into a full band, are now well on their way to becoming a “classic rock” band. More than two decades old and they’re still at it. For better or worse. They are like the granddaddies of corporate rock now—irrelevant and boring—in the same way Van Halen and Aerosmith were during the nineties. But that’s not to say the Foos never had excellent albums. They had a few. And before you start typing a hundred word vomit in defense of your favorite rock band, hear this: they’re my favorite band too. Or at least they used to be on my top five. Until they eventually slipped, around the time they released another album produced by Gil Norton, around the same time their concerts got bigger and bigger, while their songs started to sound more and more like lesser variations of their older hits.

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The band’s least favorite album is also their worst. That makes sense. Over-produced, formulaic, and over-compressed—while arguably not their weakest set of songs—One by One is easily their worst sounding record. Tellingly, the best song from the album is the raw acoustic version of “Times Like These”, which can’t be found on the actual album.
Notable Tracks: All My Life, Have It All

Sonic Highways (2014)
You can resort to all sorts of gimmicks—TV documentaries, record your songs in different cities, invite your idols—or you can write your best damn songs and never worry much about the extraneous stuff. None of the eight tracks here are downright bad, none half-assed. If anything, they’re more likely to be full-assed or over-assed (i.e., one song features three guitarists plus the guy from Cheap Trick). But none of which are Continue reading “Foo Fighters’ Albums, Ranked From Worst to Best”

Ant-Man (Peyton Reed, 2015)

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The Top Secret World of Ant-Man

I kept thinking. That this could have been funnier like Shaun of the Dead. That this could have been geekier like Scott Pilgrim. That there could have been more inventive fight scenes—had Edgar Wright stayed to finish what he started. Just take Luis’ (Michael Peña) crafty way of telling his stories, for example, or the many times where Ant-Man fights, shrinks and puffs up—all of which could have been much much more engaging with Wright at the helm. I was thinking of things Marvel could have done to address this issue—this lack of panache on the director’s end. Perhaps, they should have made poor Scottie steal some sugar cubes like Arrietty and her Dad in that Ghibli movie. And made this a heartwarming children’s movie. Or better, made him watch Ms. Marvel (Brie Larson) while she . . . she . . . wait, she isn’t even introduced yet in this universe, so that would not be possible.

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What we got is a movie that follows the basic premise of Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man (a version of the movie that, sadly, we’ll not be able to see). Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man and a scientist who distrusts Howard Stark (and by extension Iron Man and his cohorts), wants to pass the torch to a protege. And that protege is Scott Lang, a well-meaning thief, an ex-con who needs to secure a job for his young daughter Cassie. And it’s also a heist film that has Lang and lots and lots of ants break and enter a highly secured facility to “steal some shit”. And of course he has to fight the villain Darren Cross, who’s easily the most convincing bad guy in the Marvel universe (he turned one co-worker into a sushi earlier in the movie, in a scene probably inspired from the original RoboCop).

But that’s only half the movie, more or less. The other half is what Peyton Reed, Adam Mckay and Paul Rudd, contributed to the script: the music, Luis’ tip montage, Falcon, Quantum Realm, adding more of Hope Van Dyne in the story, and streamlining the whole movie to make it more fit to the pre-existing bigger story. Allegedly, all this in lieu of the crazier stuff, the more far out ideas Wright and Joe Cornish had originally. Still, the movie ends up like a B-side—disconnected but not totally unrelated—to all the towering destruction from all the other Phase Two movies. Which only adds to the disappointment—that we didn’t get to see the crazier stuff—given this wouldn’t have much impact on either the crossover or the other standalone series. Continue reading “Ant-Man (Peyton Reed, 2015)”

Wonder Woman (Patty Jenkins, 2017)

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Ms. Marvel

Near the end of Wonder Woman, I couldn’t help but think of that hapless lady, who found Diana Prince hiding behind the shrubbery, and subsequently gave her dress to her. I wonder what happened to her. Or in case she’s well and alive, how would she explain to her friends, what happened there in the woods.

Of course, the whole thing happened off screen. After that, we see Diana enter the party in a long blue dress, the god-killer sword concealed behind her back. And this was after Diana was told that she “can’t do this, can’t do that”, for the nth time—with Steve Trevor and the rest of team leaving her alone in the woods. Some found this empowering, that throughout the movie, she does what she needs to do and not what she’s told, and the fact that this was helmed by a female director. While some noted the total absence of male gaze, totally refreshing. Me, I was ready to revamp my top ten superhero movie list. Was already thinking which among a number of movies—Joss Whedon’s The Avengers, Matthew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass, and Deadpool—should go down a notch or two.

Did I just make it sound like Wonder Woman is really an awesome movie? In parts, yes, it is awe-inspiring—more than some of the more popular superhero movies (i.e., The Avengers, Civil War, The Dark Knight). The other time Diana was told she can’t do something—that she can’t save those people caught in the crossfire—I literally had to pick both my heart and jaw up from the floor. Continue reading “Wonder Woman (Patty Jenkins, 2017)”

Your Universe (Rico Blanco, 2008)

AlbumArt_YUBefore we were re-introduced to the now solo Rico Blanco, the story went like this: the then-Rivermaya frontman went MIA; his former band, reduced to a trio, released the brilliant Bagong Liwanag, then staged an overblown TV search for a frontman, a new member. Meanwhile, some speculated Rico Blanco formed a new band and he’s called it Blanco.

Then came the signal fire: the five-minute plus “Yugto”, an anthemic folk-rocker replete with strings, tribal beats and horns; chorus that echoes Joey Ayala at Ang Bagong Lumad’s “Lumiyab Ka” and bridge that alludes to the Battle of Jericho. In short, it’s big, gigantic. A song one could easily put alongside the Eraserheads’ “Ang Huling El Bimbo”, “Center Of the Sun” from Wolfgang’s Acoustica, and Rivermaya’s “Alab Ng Puso” from Live & Acoustic or their live rendition of “You’ll Be Safe Here”, at the 2006 MTV Asia Awards in Thailand. We’re talking about epic numbers here.

After the ballsy first single, comes Your Universe, Rico Blanco’s first solo album. Contrary to what some fans have expected (myself included), Your Universe isn’t Magkabilaan with electric guitars, or something along the lines of Rivermaya’s punchier, darker oeuvre. Rivermaya’s version of “Ilog” and “Padayon” could have been the perfect jumping-off point for Blanco to get on full folk-rock mode; instead, the other nine songs in the album has Blanco exploring different avenues, revisiting past excursions while also charting new territories.

Continue reading “Your Universe (Rico Blanco, 2008)”

How the Foo Fighters Got Old Really Fast

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In the closing scene of The Hurt Locker, Sgt. William James told his son that “As you get older, some of the things you love might not seem so special anymore.” Function of age, I guess.

The Foo Fighters were news to me back ’97—“Monkey Wrench” on MTV, a friend’s got a tape of The Colour and the Shape, Grohl’s new short hair, Pat Smear’s gay, etc., etc.

Are they still news to me now, twenty years later?

Hardly. Actually, hardly anything not about Stephen Malkmus, Pavement, Eraserheads and a few other artists/bands could pass as music news to me. It just so happen that I was trying to write something about the Foo Fighters, so I searched them and found this news article.

Foo’s latest single “Run” was released on June 1 and it’s already got six million views on YouTube. Good for them. If you haven’t seen or heard it yet, it’s good—but you’re not missing a lot. Nothing exceptional. Except maybe for the fact that the video reminds me of “Kick the Can” from The Twilight Zone.

The Twilight Zone—that’s a nice movie, that one you shouldn’t miss.

Independence Day is Dry Day

12.jpgA personal note on celebrating Independence Day, what it means to us, and drinking beer on holidays.

15 Aug 2016. We have just celebrated our 118 years of independence last June; our lasting friendship with Uncle Sam last July 4th. Yesterday, I saw a lot of people, friends on social media raising our collective middle finger to Lim-A-Hong and his adventures in the West Philippine Sea/South China Sea. While some people took the news as enough reason to go out on the streets and celebrate, I couldn’t bring myself up to join them in their online ranting; as if keeping myself on the sidelines saying “we’re just pissing in the wind”. And despite the decision clearly going to our favor, I see it this way: the jury finally announced that you actually won the grand prize, but the other guy already took it, ate it, slept with it, some five years ago.

Still, I hope the new government have a clear plan on what to do next. And I hope it’s not some cop-out B-movie plan I grow up watching on TV because in reality, no plot armor could save us. I’m not expecting us to take back what was ours; neither I expect us to get into something we clearly aren’t prepared for and capable of. War should be the last thing on our list. (Or maybe it shouldn’t be there at all.)

But this is about the 12th of June, as it is about the 15th of August, the celebration of Indian Independence from the British Empire. This I learned about, only this morning, when I saw my colleagues from India, all dressed up, like there was something really special. I was just planning to greet them casually, like “Hey, Happy Independence Day!” but one offered a hand and so I end up greeting them one by one and shake hands with each one of them. Not that I have anything against shaking hands, I just thought that it would be too formal. Then I ask them, how many years of independence and someone answered 70 years. And from them I saw that it’s something really important. That today isn’t just another holiday back home. That they appreciated my simple gesture—I felt it when I shook their hands. And it surprised me. Because we never really took June 12th seriously. We never get together to celebrate it back home nor when we’re away from home. We only see it as a holiday. Which is probably why I’m not entirely sold on the idea of many people clamoring for change online. I see it more like a knee-jerk reaction, more like out of anger or frustrations with all the shit that’s happening everyday and with the previous administration.

But let’s go back to my well-dressed friends. After I greeted them I asked, “Is Independence Day also a Dry Day?” they said yes and everyone burst into laughter.

Dry Days are specific days when the sale of alcohol is not permitted. Most of the Indian states observe these days on major national festivals or occasions.

Revisiting The Dark Knight (Almost) Ten Years After

tdk2You Could Have It So Much Better

If I have to pick my favorite scenes or sequence in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, one would be the part when Batman failed to save Rachel Dawes, second would be the opening bank heist, Heath Ledger’s Joker bombing the hospital would be third and lastly, Batman interrogating the Joker.

The Dark Knight is not a bad movie—isn’t that great either. On paper, it’s probably the best big screen Batman adaptation. But since Batman is hardly the detective/ninja he is supposed to be in this movie (despite his rigorous training in Batman Begins), and TDK hardly a decent action-thriller, despite glimpse of greatness in the Heat-inspired opening sequence, I’d say it’s a little overrated.

Christopher Nolan can’t shoot action—let’s get that out of the way as early as possible. The action scenes in TDK are a jumbled mess, badly edited and poorly executed. Just take the part where Gordon was shot on stage. It happened so quickly and executed so poorly, that that sequence alone didn’t make much impact. It did make its point, that another major character died, but not much else. (Without the scene where Gordon’s wife was informed by the cops, it’s not too hard to miss what the hell happened there.) Which renders the reveal, or the prestige if you like, of this particular sub-plot later—that Gordon is alive and thus, was able to arrest the Joker—much less impact, like a poorly executed magic trick. They could delete that scene and the result would be the same. Also, Gordon’s death hasn’t even sink-in yet (for me at least), before it is revealed that he’s alive. Of course, all Nolan was trying to tell is that Batman, Gordon and Dent thought they were able to trick the Joker; turns out he was already ahead of them—this I’ve realized, only after watching the movie again.

Then, there’s the supposedly climactic battle where Batman tried and miraculously succeeded—despite fighting like an under-cranked ninja—in saving the hostages from Gordon’s men. Oh I forgot, he was wearing a specialized visor that renders Ethan Hunt and the rest of IMF totally old-school. Of course, the Joker’s ploy was brilliant, and Batman made a commendable job finally having realized that with the Joker, “it isn’t that simple”. What most tend to ignore, is the fact that this supposedly spectacular final battle, was awkwardly executed and visually flat.

If there’s a bigger schemer here, it’s Christopher Nolan himself—not Dent, not Batman, not the Joker. Joker’s disappearing pencil has got nothing on Nolan’s favorite trick: misdirection. While the Joker lays his plans like dominoes ready to tip over and fall one after another, Nolan layers poorly edited set-pieces with lazy exposition and badly executed action scenes, and toss them with Hans Zimmer score that should imply relentlessness and sustained tension. He loads the script with a lot of things enough to distract you from thinking how the execution—especially in terms of action film-making and visual storytelling—could have been so much better.

All this would result, nonetheless, to Nolan’s greatest inception—instilling many the idea that this ambitious but deeply flawed sequel is the Godfather II of the comic-book moviedom.

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Is the Joss Whedon Sequel We Never Had

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Before The Avengers became Marvel’s biggest hit (to the tune of $1.5B), Joss Whedon was asked about making Avengers 2 and gave his thoughts on what makes a better sequel. He said that the sequel should go smaller, more personal, instead of just repeating what worked in the first. Then came Avengers: Age of Ultron—it’s not quite the kind of sequel Whedon said he’d like to make.

(Presses fast-forward button…)

Marvel’s favorite A-holes are back.

From the opening title sequence, where they fight the Abilisk to the tune of ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky” (yes, an expanded version of Star-Lord’s “Come And Get Your Love” number from the first) to the moment Ego reveals himself to be Peter Quill’s father, the Guardians have managed to be the two things we love about them: being the “heroes” they are now known after the Battle of Xandar; and minutes later, the bunch of assholes they were known for before saving Xandar. First, they save the Sovereign the trouble of fighting a giant squid-like battery-munching monster; then on the next, they fight among themselves, crash their own ship, insult, offend and eventually, earn the wrath of High Priestess Ayesha and the rest of the Sovereign—the same people whose precious batteries they have just “saved”.

They’re just being themselves, I guess. Compared with the Avengers’ banter-heavy work-like team dynamics, the Guardians’ we’re-a-happy-family kind of shit (a Ramones reference, by the way) is, just on another level—of crazy. For them, doing the right thing, saving the world or saving one’s own ass isn’t always top priority. They’ll do it for the money, sure, or in exchange for something valuable. Sometimes, it’s just for the simple “Fuck it, we’re the Guardians of the Galaxy, bitch” reason. And that’s probably why Drax was dangling from outside the Milano, during one of the space battles—just like Han Solo in Air Force One. They’re erratic and unpredictable, and unfortunately for you, Andromedans, they’re the savers of your galaxy.

And that’s the primary reason James Gunn loves these characters so much. Or is it the other way around? That Gunn loves them so much that’s why… Nevermind. There’s definitely a lot of love going on here—in the movie and in making this movie. So much that Gunn made Vol. 2 just like the first—only in reverse. Less on saving the world and McGuffins, more on the characters and their backstories—expanding them, revealing hidden lines, connecting the dots.

Awesome Mix Vol. 2 takes the same dip, highlighting obscure titles and Gunn’s personal favorites in as much as the hits. If the first sounds like some hipster mix-tape you play in front of friends so you’d look cool, the new set is truly your parents’ music. They’re the songs you listen to when you’re alone and misses the times when you’re still small, being with your folks, playing with your He-Man action figures, and the songs your parents love, were playing in the background. It’s kind of sad and beautiful… Like a picnic in the park, or your family watching The Empire Strikes Back at home, on the old Betamax.

Continue reading “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Is the Joss Whedon Sequel We Never Had”

Buddha’s Pest (The Mongols, 2004)

mongbudGot Buddha’s Pest few months ago—got it pre-loved, second-hand, from eBay. As advertised, it is in mint condition. The CD inserts, with production notes and lyrics, are still intact—means the previous owner really took good care of it. It’s quite amusing though, that the liner notes come with directions and precautions, warning about the dangers in playing it loud and listening closely. That at full volume, it is no different from the red pill that could lead you down the rabbit hole; that it’s as potent as any mind-altering substance that could trigger mental time travel or worse, disorient and fuck the brain.

Buddha’s Pest is Jesus “Dizzy” Ventura’s (a.k.a. Ely Buendia) first proper release, post-Eraserheads; The Mongols, his first formal band since “graduation”. Like the five-track EP Fraction of A Second, which was sold in their gigs in CD-R format, Buddha’s Pest is also self-produced by the band, released via their own Criminal Records, but under a major label imprint for wider distribution. Much like Teeth’s unintended swan song I Was A Teenage Tree, Buddha’s Pest  is criminally underrated.

Quite interesting that The Mongols open the album with repeated sampled noises (which echoes, whether intentional or not, the electronic beats and loops from the Heads’ last outing), before kicking the flood gates open with “The Keeper”. What follows is a string of tunes that not only recalls the early ’90s—particularly shoegaze and grunge—but also reminds of Ely Buendia’s witticisms and penchant for melody—with the latter having gone a bit suspect on Carbon Stereoxide.

The Mongols mine old gold, both tuneful and mouthful: whether it’s the fragmented lyricism of “Bulakbol”, Buendia’s internal monologues in “Bakit Nga Ba?”, or his parade of comic-book characters in both the Billy Corgan-esque “Wig Out” (a troglodyte, a silent sentry, the Minotaur) and the impossibly sublime “Irish Spring” (the dragon-slayer, his lady fair, and the little monster). The words aren’t just sounds that flows with the tunes. There are stories in there, floating in a whirl of fuzz and distortion. Needless to say, this is easily Buendia’s best set of songs since Sticker Happy.

Continue reading “Buddha’s Pest (The Mongols, 2004)”

Have you ever wished you were a 90’s kid? FYI, the 2000’s was awesome too!

Note: This was originally written in September 2016, around the time everyone was going crazy over a TV ad featuring the Eraserheads.

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“We grew up listening to the music from the best decade ever.”

                                                             – Lariat (Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks, 2014)

Everyone wants to be a 90’s kid these days. Everyone wants to relive those times when “Pare Ko” hits the top of the charts; when “Alapaap”, “Banal Na Aso” and “Laklak” almost got banned; when Rivermaya premiered their music video for “Elesi”; and when the boys of Parokya Ni Edgar debuted on national TV, wearing skirts and dusters. Nostalgia moves in mysterious ways. There’s probably another Eraserheads reunion brewing around the corner (or maybe that’s just how a certain Telco giant wants us to think and feel). There’s also this rumor spreading around of the band re-recording Ultraelectromagneticpop. But the Eraserheads and their fans aren’t alone on the reunion bandwagon. Four out of five members of Rivermaya’s 1994 lineup had a one-night reunion last January. For some, it was a night to remember, with or without Bamboo; for the others, their wish remains the same – the reunion of the “original” Rivermaya.

We’re halfway past the 2010’s already. It makes me wonder. Are we gonna be nostalgic soon for the previous decade, as we were for the 90’s ten years ago? In case you forgot, Ultraelectromagneticjam came out in 2005, a few days before the 10th year anniversary of Cutterpillow. And if you want to gauge how nostalgic we were back then, just think about this – Ultraelectromagneticjam was a tribute album for a band that disbanded merely three years prior. Yeah, that’s how badly we missed the Eraserheads, specifically the Eraserheads of early-to-mid 90’s (the Eraserheads of late 90’s to early 2000’s? Not much, I guess).

How about the 2000’s? Doesn’t anyone want to go back to the early to mid-2000s? Are we not going to see our collective nostalgia snowball into a Sugarfree reunion? Or at least make the members of Orange & Lemons play together again? Would there be online petitions for the members of Bamboo and Rivermaya circa 2004, to double-bill one big concert?

Continue reading “Have you ever wished you were a 90’s kid? FYI, the 2000’s was awesome too!”

Light Peace Love (Bamboo, 2005)

lightAs The Music Plays, more than anything else, was about how “ecstatic” the band was, that its principal songwriter’s friend, the rockstar vocalist had finally came back, after deserting them, some five years ago. It was good—that debut/comeback album—but not without its flaws. The lesser songs, I could barely remember now.

This rushed follow-up is a bit more ambitious, at times, more interesting; but fumbles on the attempt to produce a single that matches their previous hits. Much of their earthly charm (e.g., Hudas, Masaya) were gone, overtaken by swagger and the fast ballooning self-importance that seeps through its three-word title. As if between the lines, the liner notes read—Bono was here.

“Hallelujah” had (almost) everybody hail hallelujah to the GOAT—I thought the guitars could have been louder, fatter, thicker, or dirtier. “F.U.” was probably directed at their detractors, haters, who in turn found more reason to dis them after it was released as second single. (Who would’ve thought they were so environment-friendly, that they’re kind enough to recycle the melody from the first single). Luckily, there were still leftovers of the band magic they had on their first: “04”, “I-You”, “Peace Man” and “Truth”, the real winners here. The more interesting parts, like “Diner at 6”, are just that—interesting. “Much Has Been Said”, is soulful but also a bit boring, which also informs us where Bamboo would be headed, once he ditch his band-mates again.

10 Things I Learned In Japan

Disclaimer: No offense meant for people who usually gets offended by lazily written articles that contain stuff like compact discs, bikes, and Maria Ozawa. Also, no offense meant for Spotify-lovers.

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Stand on the right, walk on the left. It’s not just for the work-crazy Japanese, always rushing to get to work. It’s also for us who are always rushing to get back home from work, those who are rushing to the next big sale in the mall, those who are rushing on their way to work to catch the morning bell. We’ll probably take years to learn this simple trick. Not because we’re slow. But because we love to break rules. Or simply, maybe, we hate rules and prefer chaos over the orderly.

Trains are cool, trains are great. They’re fast, effective and convenient too. I remember Jello Biafra saying something like “9/11 might have been averted if America was as crazy about trains as they were about airplanes”, that it would be “more fun to travel across the states in bullet trains.” We only have four train lines in Metro Manila. Imagine if we could double that number. It wouldn’t be much compare to Japan, but it would surely felt heavenly for commuters. Or, it could be worse. Imagine all of them not in good working condition, with all trains taking hours to arrive, and you have to suffer long lines before you reach the turnstiles.

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They even have dedicated walkways with color coded tiles for the blind. Color coded tiles. For the blind. Go figure.

Book-Off is a record collector’s paradise. You can buy old stock CD’s—lots and lots of them—for as low as ¥250. You would usually find albums from the most popular 90’s bands: Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Green Day, Garbage, Radiohead, Foo Fighters, NoFx and The Offspring. If you’re lucky and patient enough to check all those alphabetically arranged racks every once in a while, like me, you’d probably find some rare items—something from either the Pixies, Stephen Malkmus or My Bloody Valentine.

Continue reading “10 Things I Learned In Japan”

Kong: Skull Island

kong_skull islandThe year is 1973 and the US troops are leaving Vietnam. A US senator reluctantly funds a scientific expedition to Skull Island, an uncharted island in the Southeast Asia. An expert hunter-tracker, a photojournalist, and a helicopter squadron join the scientists in the expedition, braving a cloud system of perpetual thunderstorms that covers the island. Once in, the group started dropping seismic bombs. Everything goes well until… Well, let’s just say the movie climaxes too early and never recovers.

Kong: Skull Island, the second movie in Legendary Pictures’ monster-verse, is a mishmash of old Kong movies, Apocalypse Now and Jurassic Park. Despite sharing the same fictional universe, this Kong has very little in common with Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla (2014). Kong plays more like a B-movie about war and monsters, compare to Edwards’ superb rethinking of the kaiju classic. Most of the human characters are half-written, save for John C. Reilly’s Hank Marlow, whose levity counterweighs Samuel L. Jackson playing Samuel L. Jackson as Col. Preston “Man Is the Monster” Packard. Tom Hiddleston makes for one good sword-slashing sequence while Reg Slivko provides the nifty soundtrack; but it’s Brie Larson’s anti-war photojournalist that kept me awake amidst the movie’s CGI overload and utter lack of suspense. In terms of sense of wonder, there’s none except for the one brief scene involving a giant water buffalo emerging from water.

Kong: Skull Island is loud, fast, and full of in-your-face monster mayhem. That sounds really appetizing. Unfortunately, it’s undone by haphazard filmmaking that leaves not much room for tension, surprises or memorable set pieces. The best part of the movie happens thirty minutes in: one uprooted tree flies towards one of the choppers and skewers it—easily the movie’s most inventive sequence. Then, Kong appears and battles the helicopter squadron, swatting them one by one, tearing and sending them down to the ground. After that, the movie retreads the old and familiar (i.e., the movies mentioned above) and the proceeding monster battles, never reach the same highs—just a bunch of big fights we’ve already seen before.

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X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Gavin Hood, 2009)

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When it comes to the worse Marvel-based movies, the B-grade X-Men Origins: Wolverine is easily among the front-runners. As a comic-book movie, Wolverine is one serious offender. It has no regards for a lot of things: the first X-Men movie (where Sabretooth appeared), the Weapon X series, the other X-Men characters (i.e., Gambit, Deadpool). But outside its irreverence, is a somewhat tightly constructed B-movie (particularly the first half) that knows its own thrills. If you think about it, the story was nothing more than a silly excuse to get Logan in Wolverine-mode. As a low budget action movie (they didn’t even bother to get back Brian Cox to play Stryker), it actually works—kind of. While there are still plenty to ask for in Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of Wolverine (he’s too soft, too pretty), at least his own movie is so bad—ass; not only does it cut its ties with both comics and other X-Men movies with ease (talk about the script’s adamantium quality), it also almost killed and forever shut-up the one exciting character that Fox has: the snarky anti-hero known as Merc with a Mouth.

Blind Fury (Phillip Noyce, 1989)

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The idea seems ludicrous enough—that of importing Zatoichi to Hollywood and have a blind man fight gunmen with a sword. Thought it would be no different than those clumsy and unintentionally funny American Ninja movies I liked as a kid. So I gave Blind Fury a pass one time it was airing on cable. Turns out, it’s by Philip Noyce, the guy responsible for no-nonsense thrillers such as Clear and Present Danger, Salt and, uhm…Sliver. And with Rutger Hauer as the blind sword-wielding war veteran, giving it a try the second time was not so bad an idea. Blind Fury doesn’t take itself too seriously. I mean, there’s one sequence where Hauer’s character drives a car like he isn’t blind. The action scenes were typically slower than the average action flicks of today, but at least they weren’t confusing or over-edited beyond recognition. The movie was able to throw in a few laughs as well: during a sword-fight, Hauer touches the face of his opponent (Sho Kosugi) and exclaimed, “Ha, Japanese!” And it has some surprisingly poignant moments too. It’s hardly a great action movie; but for something borne out of seemingly silly idea, it’s surprisingly well executed and fairly entertaining.