A Capsule of Interweaving Perceptions

November 20, 2008

Quantum of Solace (2008)

Filed under: Movie Review — Tags: , , , , , — dementedguy @ 7:57 pm

Director: Marc Forster
Running time:
106 minutes


In Casino Royale, we saw a gritty, Hard-Boiled style with a certain dash of vulnerability version of James Bond — a welcome re-boot for the fledgling franchise stricken with monotony and generic feel. The franchise has gone stale after twenty reincarnations of the Ian Fleming-authored books, a common disease plaguing a movie franchise. Ideas run out. Characters are fleshed out entirely in each successive movie that came out to the point that inventiveness is near-impossible to attain.

A new direction for the franchise was needed and fans got it in Casino Royale, a massive critical and commercial success that featured grit, toughness and bravado — a certain Bond-character elements that had been missing for the past decade. It certainly helped that Daniel Craig, however un-Bond-like (I’m one of the doubters back then) he looks like carried the Bond character like a veteran.

james_bond_quantum_of_solace_posterQuantum of Solace, the sequel to Casino Royale, features the second outing of Daniel Craig as Agent 007. It’s the first James Bond movie that requires viewing of the previous Bond film to grasp the movie’s storyline.

I will settle the score once and for all this early — QOS is not at par with CR. It features Bourne Ultimatum-inspired mano y mano fighting, shaky camera movements that thwart the should-be impact of the fight/chase scenes and a disjointed storytelling brought about by poor editing or sequencing. But one thing’s for sure, QOS maintained the momentum CR brought on this once-fallen franchise. It reserved the grit, edge and charisma that brought Agent 007 back to life.

While not certainly better than CR, QOS can stand on its own against other Bond movies before CR. The mantra of the Bond movies nowadays seems to be “Less sex. Less gadgets. More action.” And man, its working big time in my book.

Daniel Craig carries Bond with a combination of precision and ruggedness that mesh beautifully to create a dynamic character, retaining the charisma and awe-inspiring aura that we come to expect from the iconic character. Olga Kurylenko, plagued by detractors tagging her as possibly “the worst Bond girl ever,” is in my opinion what a Bond girl should be. Certainly hot, with her girdled complexion, a certain emission of resiliency and independence and her own mission to boot. Not just an eye-candy or a creature included for the alpha male fans, but a motivated woman who just crossed paths with Bond. Very different from the cannon fodder, caricature Bond girls of the past (Vesper not included).

The movie’s theme revolves around greed and monopoly — where deprivation of the society from a basic need takes a backseat to the motive of profit generation. A droplet of water being shared by thousands in a God-forsaken country, exposed to scorching heat of the sun making thirst unquenchable. There’s a supply but someone wants to make it his own, not beyond his control and authority; holding the fate of many innocent lives. All in the name of money, some can do such things — a common theme in film today. But Bond is not about breaking grounds, re-inventing a genre, doing the never-been-than-before — Bond movies are for those looking for escapism, unadulterated fun without being too deep to confuse nor trivial to mock the intelligence. Somewhere in between is more like it. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I came to see Bond for a chest-pounding action flick; not for a philosophical watershed or social commentary. And in my opinion, it delivered.

The Final Word

In this installment of Bond, we learned that jerky camera movements, confusing storyline, mediocre villain and poor editing can actually produce a good movie. While these elements diminish the overall experience, the film still retains the spirit and energy of a good action flick.



August 5, 2008

Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros (2005)

Director: Auraeus Solito
Running time: 100 minutes

Synopsis and Evaluation

In a world where different forms of discrimination are prevalent, it’s no wonder that conflicts are an inevitable part of our society. Gender, social and racial discrepancies are all part of life’s endless cycle. Some people have the tendency to look down to others, airing an aura of superiority for their supposedly normality, attractiveness or wealth.

In the Philippines, we like to make fun of homosexuals especially gays. We derive sources of cackles from their seemingly unique antics, modified quality of voice and outrageous outfits. We treat them as disdainful, an unworthy piece that takes up space in this packed archipelago; a disgrace to our patriarchal and machismo-laden society. We characterize them with stereotypical comments such as loud, talkative, frisky and cocksuckers (despicable, yes, but they are sometimes labeled as such).

Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros, written by Michiko Yamamoto (of Magnifico fame) and directed by Auraeus Solito, is the story of the eponymous 12-year old gay (Nathan Lopez) who is thrown in the middle of a world where the “real” boys have the playing field to themselves. His brothers (Bogs (Ping Medina) and Boy (Neil Ryan Sese)) and father Paco (Soliman Cruz) are crooks, stealing mobile phones from innocent people to fund their survival. He assumed the duties of a surrogate mother after his mother died a few years back. He cooks food, washes dishes and clothes, cleans the house and repairs damaged clothes for his tough, gritty and macho family. Save for the few instances of harassment and potshot by some, Maxi is relatively well-received in his community, including his war freak father and brothers.

On his way home one night, he was rudely made fun by two bystanders. Fortunately, there was a policeman by the name Victor (J.R. Valentin) who came to his rescue and brought him home. He fell in love with Victor, attracted by his charms and principled rendering of his duty as an honest-to-goodness policeman. This gave birth to a maze-like, complicated situation where Maximo is in the middle of a violent struggle; torn in a moral dilemma not just because of his feelings for Victor but also the fact that he is now learning the repercussions of his family’s way of life, a coming-of-age realization that made him run away from all the apathy and carefree attitude of an innocent youth. But his discombobulating stance is only fraction of the perplexities shrouding the minds of the supposedly more mature, experienced and “macho” boys surrounding him.

Paco is often startled by how Maxi blurts out the truth about their way of life. He is well-aware of such fact but he is dazed in a state of self-denial, poisoned by his lifelong activity that blurs his mind and eyes preventing him to see better alternatives. Boy, who committed a heinous act of homicide, decides that hiding is the only option available, not bothering to consider other possible courses of action to take. Bogs, not knowing what to do with his life, still stuck in a limbo — an idle, monotonous state of life where direction is hard to come by. Finally there’s Victor, confused on whether he can uphold his code of conduct if presented by a set of circumstances which will give him several options — not necessarily all good.

Maxi, who has seen fewer places and tenured in the world for a far shorter duration, appears to know more about life than them. He values and respects his family more than anybody but he also knows how to utter resistance, how to raise arguments when he knows himself that he is right. “Wala na bang ibang paraan Itay?” he murmured to Paco, asking if this violent kind of life is all there is, if this will be the kind of life they will be having for the rest of their lives. He urges them to explore better alternative, correct the mistakes they have committed and change their way of life. He has a tiny, effeminate voice that resonates louder than the baritone of the machos.

For all his maturity, he still cries like a little child… a little girl you can say, like when Victor dumped him. But he knows how to accept such catastrophe in life because he knows better. He knows that he can’t force Victor’s feelings. He knows that inflicting pain to Victor is not the proper way of redemption, unlike his brother Bogs. He wants a peaceful life, far from the world he is currently in. He belongs to their world only physically, but his mind and heart is in a different spectrum. He is pulled by this unwanted environment but he willfully pushes back himself to a place, to a state of mind of peace and serenity where he can do what he desires and would not be subjected to public scrutiny; where he is not submerged in a world of violence; where killing and stealing are not options; where there is always a better alternative; where he can achieve growth without running away.

He was able to teach these supposedly macho and matured guys more than they are normally expected to teach a pre-teen boy like him. They learned from him the ways of the world they are in. Maxi has a fragile and effeminate emotion that has more strength than the machos’ combined. He is a supposedly dependent boy but thinks and lives with an independent mind. And yet, he has a youthful exuberance that resonates to the wind; charming everybody like a Miss Philippines beauty contest candidate; like leading ladies in romantic films; like actresses doing mall tours and gracing the pages of magazines. He is a princess in the world dominated by heterosexual males.

The Final Word

Is this a coming-of-age film? Yes, but not for Maxi alone. He is not the only who grew up mentally and emotionally. He became a source of motivation for change and commitment to people who somehow forgot the proper way of living their ephemeral lives. This is a recommended viewing.

August 3, 2008

Tanging Yaman (2000)

Filed under: Movie Review — Tags: , , , , , — dementedguy @ 12:09 pm

Director: Laurice Guillen
Running time: 112 minutes

Synopsis and Evaluation

Perhaps two of the most important aspects in a Filipino’s life are God and family. It’s a disputable claim for some but we are a nation who values relationship with God and relatives a superlative facet of life, above anything else. Most families go to church every Sunday and pray the rosary together every day. Family reunions are a huge deal for us, a mandatory event so to speak. Sons and daughters support their parents almost throughout the remaining lives of the latter, a way of showing their gratitude even if they are not obligated by nature or law. It’s a unique characteristic to us Filipinos, our yearning for company and eternal salvation unparalleled.

Tanging Yaman, written and directed by Laurice Guillen, take these two aspects of a typical Filipino family into an interwoven tale of greed, jealousy, rivalry and redemption. This is a poignant film, perhaps trying too much to be very emotional, about three siblings who are very different to each other. There’s Danny (Johnny Delgado) who went astray during a period in his life, have aged penniless but have a very strong relationship with his wife, children and mother. Then there’s Art (Edu Manzano) who is very successful in his career but distant from everybody else, forcing his own will to everybody. Finally, there’s Grace (Dina Bonnevie) who is living in the US together with her family, transforming into a money-centric monster at the expense of her relationship with her husband and children. At the center of this is their mother, Loleng (Gloria Romero), who later was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Each sibling has his/her own reason; they attempt to sell an 80-hectare land to a commercial developer. Grace and Art somewhat connived to leave out Danny from partaking a portion from the sale proceeds. Danny, protecting their mother, is quite hesitant to proceed with such plan. This triggered a chain of events that motivated each one of them to reflect on what they have become; what happened to each one of them that made them distant to each other not just in terms of physical proximity but also in their relationship with each other. The past was brought out in the open, explaining the reasons why their relationships have been tarnished ever since.

This is a story that will appeal to a typical Filipino. It was weaved and told in a very simple manner, straightforward so to speak, that it directly speaks to us. It leaves an indelible mark to our minds that in spite of everything wrong that we would do, our (immediate) family will always be there for us for guidance and support. Danny, the black sheep, the prodigal son that expended his inheritance to worldly activities, was accepted by his mother with open arms. Art, despite his authoritarian and materialistic qualities was forgiven by everybody, his own family including. And there’s Grace, whose husband Francis (Joel Torre) painstakingly put up with her intolerable attitude ever since they got married.

During the sequence when Rommel (Jericho Rosales) went missing, the whole family gathered in prayer for his safety. This is a scenery directly taken from a typical Filipino family, together asking God for His compassion and mercy; where God is the center of most Filipino households; where everything is conveyed and linked to God’s actions. The whole movie itself is a prayer of Loleng, who prayed intently to God for his children’s reconciliation and peace. This speaks of our trust to God, or to the Christian faith in particular.

While the film is very heartwarming, it suffered from some melodramatic and over-sensationalized scenes. One such scene is the drowning scene of Rommel where an angel supposedly saved him. It’s too artsy and dramatic for my taste. This is a sappy, tearjerker movie that is slightly influenced by a certain element present in almost all Filipino telenovelas. Nevertheless, it’s a good film that is focused, coherent and well-executed that elevated it above telenovela-level.

The Final Word

Tanging Yaman is not a unique film by all means. It’s such a simple film that will manage to touch a viewer’s heart. Nevertheless, it’s a heartwarming tale of a Filipino family trying to set things straight; trying to rekindle the happy moments of the distant past; trying to correct mistakes committed; and trying to repair the tainted bond. Its simplicity might just be its greatest asset.

August 1, 2008

Bayaning Third World (2000)

Director: Mike de Leon
Running time: 93 minutes

Synopsis and Evaluation

We are a nation fascinated with Jose Rizal — not just his heroism but also his being a womanizer, his classic hair style and many more. We devour two of his greatest literary works in secondary schools. We celebrate his birth and execution dates. We have countless movies relating to Rizal and his works. We even name our streets (Rizal Avenue, Rizal Province), corporations (RCBC), schools (Rizal High School) and products after him. There’s even a religion devoted to Rizal and his works. Even the most well-known place in Laguna is Calamba (Rizal’s hometown), not Santa Cruz which is its capital.

Despite being subjected to countless scrutinizes by various historians, how well do we know Rizal? Is it really important to know him adequately since he’s our nation’s symbol to our fight against four centuries of foreign colonialism?

Bayaning Third World, directed by Mike de Leon, is a mockumentary on making a film about Rizal. Lots of questions were thrown around and dissected in this feature film that concern Rizal. Have Rizal really written and signed a retraction letter signifying his intention to turn back from his beliefs and re-join the Catholic Church? Did he marry Josephine Bracken? Did he retract so that he can marry Josephine Bracken? (There was no civil wedding back then.)

These were “discussed” in the film by interviewing various people connected to Rizal for their points of view. Throughout the film, the filmmakers (Ricky Davao and Cris Villanueva) asked lots of questions, examined evidences, analyzed various information they have gotten from their “interviews” and still didn’t reach a conclusion about the questions they want to clarify right from the start. The more they dug deeper, the more questions left unanswered popped up. It’s one big loop that mocks the futility of digging deep down Rizal’s personal life, his inner feelings and motivations.

Cris Villanueva always asks if it’s still relevant to discuss these issues a century after Rizal’s death. Maybe it is still relevant so that we can have a hero who will not be anymore subjected to doubts by many scholars — a “flawless” hero so to speak to maintain Rizal’s legacy to our country.

But what is a hero really? Is there a perfect or flawless hero? Will there ever be an unblemished hero?

A long time already went by since Rizal’s death. A lot of things have already happened since 1896. Maybe knowing the complete story is not that important anymore. Rizal is an image of Filipino intelligence and an inspiration to the youth of today and tomorrow. Many look up to him. If the truth would tarnish everything that was built and preserved, maybe it’s not worth pursuing anymore. So what if he retracted his statements and beliefs? We are already influenced by Rizal in many ways… positively I believe. His greatness would not be diminished by a mere renunciation since damage was already inflicted to the colonizers by his works and statements. Nothing will ever change today.

On the technical aspect, this film is superior with its use of black and white (perfect for the period of time covered by the film), mock commercials and re-creations and parodies of historic events (e.g. execution of Rizal where he run away from his executors). One interesting bit of information; the actors did not know they are filming a comedy. This was done to preserve the authenticity of their acting since not knowing that they’re filming a comedy, the actors would not force themselves trying to be funny. This strategy worked excellently for this film as spontaneity and zest were preserved throughout the film.

The Final Word

The final segment of the film dubbed as “Kanya-Kanyang Rizal” conveyed that we know Rizal in lots of different ways. Depending on who we ask, a different “version” of Rizal will always be told. It’s like history in general, where even in the presence of various pieces of evidences there would always be some room for a historian’s opinion to enter his discussion. What would history become without discussions and debates? A mere collection of information regarding and records of the past. It’s an endless cycle, almost futile, but not entirely useless since it encourages us to think within our own minds.

July 27, 2008

The Dark Knight (2008)

Director: Christopher Nolan
Running time: 152 minutes

Synopsis and Evaluation

Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, a follow-up to his Batman Begins, is probably the most anticipated film of the year, if not of the millennium so far. Warner Bros. churned out a massive promotional campaign for the movie with catchy taglines, countless variations of movie posters and viral marketing. With the revitalization of the Batman franchise in 2005, hardcore and casual fans of the character awaited with much excitement and hype. The movie is already a critical and commercial success breaking box office records left and right and entering the discussions for the Greatest Superhero Movie of All-Time.

Is it that good? Read on.

In various promotional materials fed to the public, it was very clear from the very start that the star of the show this time is The Joker (Heath Ledger). We see his messy make-up, sardonic smile and sarcastic collisions of his hands populating the Internet and our television tubes.

In conceiving the Joker character for the movie, Christopher Nolan together with his co-writers decided not to delve into the sadistic character’s origins to portray him as “absolute.” Absolute as in pure and empty? Or absolute as in “absolutely evil?” For those who have not read any Batman comic (or at least The Killing Joke), they will definitely wonder where Joker came from or how he became Joker in the first place.

It has been said that there were numerous versions as to the origins of Joker. This might be a reason why writers opted to leave that out from the story arc. But it would be very interesting to see the writer’s adaptation or version of the Joker’s past. As it appeared, Joker is a pure maniac without any compelling reason for doing what he does. He’s destroying the world just to prove that there are people as evil as him, if only driven to madness. But what drove him to prove that point? What happened to him in the past that enables him to channel all that hatred within himself and release its vileness and wickedness to people, to the world? As it stands, I can’t feel his hatred, pain, suffering, or whatever I am supposed to feel. It’s an empty slate. As much as Heath Ledger morphed into The Joker character, the character is still hollow, meaningless and boring — not far from Burton’s portrayal in Batman played by Jack Nicholson which I also didn’t like.

It was a missed opportunity because I truly believed that The Joker is a very interesting character to explore. Just like Batman, he had a bitter past that molded his current actions and behavior. It might be better if the film delved into The Joker’s life a little bit more to show why he became what he is today. Preserving the mystery behind a character is one thing but shrouding his entire identity to preserve such mystery is another thing entirely. He was not fleshed out as much as I hoped for.

Well, that decision cut a small chunk from its very long running time which brings me to my main gripe about this film — it’s a hodge-podge of many ideas that did not blend in successfully. Just like the case with The Joker, no character was adequately fleshed out (Dent’s character, a little bit). The Dark Knight, the supposedly main character, was relegated to a supporting role just like the previous Batman films except Begins, an approach which I definitely do not prefer.

Moreover, TDK is an incoherent and unfocused work which is perplexed about the direction in wants to take. It attempted to discuss a lot of things (e.g. The Joker, Harvey Dent’s transformation, Bruce’s romance with Rachel Dawes, the Gordon situation, the mobsters) but failed to bring a lasting impression in any one of them. It seems that the entire movie is one big build-up for the momentum or climax that did not occur. If there’s a moment in the film that supposedly is the climax, I’m pretty sure I did not feel it.

This is why I like Begins way more than TDK because it has consistency. It is coherent. Its effort is more focused that enabled it to tightly grip my attention which is not the same case with TDK. TDK felt overlong and repetitive. It became a torture during the latter parts of the movie.

I don’t know if I’m supposed to feel this but TDK, in my opinion, is in the same breadth as Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3. They both tried to compress a plethora of mish-mashed ideas into 120-150 minute spectacles that did not hold together — where the parts did not form a greater sum, an objective which they are supposed to achieve. Both came out flat and disappointing.

The Final Word

The Dark Knight is not a bad film. It just suffered from an attempt to cram as many ideas as the filmmakers can into a single movie that unfortunately did not bind together. It suffered from the pitfalls of trying to make an epic film. It lost its focus and coherence along the way that inevitably doomed its promising potential. It’s definitely better than a lot of superhero movies but it’s not the or one of the greatest.

July 25, 2008

Batman Begins (2005)

Filed under: Movie Review — Tags: , , , , , , , , — dementedguy @ 3:45 am

Director: Christopher Nolan
Running time: 140 minutes

Synopsis and Evaluation

“It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.”

In the previous Batman films made by Burton and Schumacher, Batman/Bruce Wayne was relegated to a mere superhero only as means that would eradicate the antagonists. He was just the archetype superhero who tries to put a lid on a container holding a menace, a monster inside. It’s almost as if Batman/Bruce Wayne is not the most important character, and is just there to complete the ensemble cast. The main attraction of the previous Batman films was its villains — The Joker in Batman, Penguin in Returns and The Riddler in Forever. Batman Begins shifted the focus to Batman himself. In Begins, Batman takes center stage.

I don’t like to compare Begins with the previous incarnations of the series but I’m compelled to do it to draw attention to how Nolan changed the approach in handling the series.

The underdevelopment of the Batman character in the previous films was my biggest gripe about them. It’s not as if Batman’s persona is uninteresting to explore and relay — in fact, I find Batman’s personality very complex and to some degree, subterranean. He’s in the open on this one… a full-blown account of his emotions, the way he thinks, his fears, his past, his origins and his motivations. We see Batman at his fullest. We were able to delve into his personal life — the intricacies that make him a very interesting character.

“The world is too small for a man like Bruce Wayne to simply disappear. No matter how deep he chooses to sink.”Batman is humanized in Begins. We do not feel that he’s distant from us, that he’s different from us. We feel like he’s just like us… one of us. Remove his wealth, influence, costumes and weapons, he’s human after all. It should be because he’s Bruce Wayne after all, a mere mortal with a different agenda than the rest of us fellow mortals.

He’s not presented here as a one-dimensional superhero character but someone who has emotional depth; someone who is not stoic; someone who is not just the stereotypical “billionaire superhero” but an individual which has his own battles within himself.

Just like us, he has his own fears and has some trouble facing or eradicating them from his system (“To manipulate the fear in others you must first master your own.”). What does he really fear the most? Bats? Criminals? Or himself for his thirst for revenge?

Just like us, he’s confused about what he’s destined to in this world. What’s his purpose? What should he accomplish (“If you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal and if they can’t stop you, you become something else entirely – legend, Mr. Wayne.”)?

Just like us, he has his own share of failures. He must learn to accept them, stand up and continue (“Why do we fall Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”). He has weaknesses. He commits blunders. Just like us, he’s not perfect and will never be.

Just like us, he must make big decisions. Should he join the League of Shadows? Should he kill criminals? Should he destroy Gotham City which has already become a living hell? Just like us, these decisions can make or break him.

And beneath his mask, who is he really? Or is Rachel Dawes correct when she said that Batman’s/Wayne’s real face is what the criminals now fear? Just like us, he doesn’t know who he truly is. We suffer the same predicament, an identity crisis, during a point in our lives. More often than not, we battle such predicament all our lives. This is Batman’s struggle within him (“My anger outweighs my guilt.”). He wrestles his desires, emotions and personal satisfaction against the greater/common good where morals play a huge part in molding how he thinks and acts. Just like us, he’s an individual with a multi-layered human psychology.

“Strange injuries a non-existent social life, these things beg the question as to what exactly does Bruce Wayne do with his time and his money.”
“And what does someone like me do?”
“Drive sports cars, date movie stars, buy things that are not for sale… who knows, Master Wayne? You start pretending to have fun, you might even have a little by accident.”

This is also the first time where we see in detail how Bruce Wayne lives the dual life inherent with having a superhero side. We see him sleep until the broad daylight emits beneath his bedroom windows (“Bats are nocturnal.” “Bats may be but even for billionaire playboys, three o’clock is pushing it. The price of leading a double life, I fear.”). We see him bringing women who are galloped by each of his arms to a party, buying restaurants and hotels and swimming in a pool which purpose is aesthetically rather than functionality. He is not the prim and proper, goody-good gentleman we saw in previous Batman films. He is flamboyant and proud with a tinge of spunk and bravado. He is a different Bruce Wayne this time. He hides his Batman side and protect people not by running away nor blending unnoticeably with the crowd to change into his costume but by sarcasm and fake speeches (To all of you,, all you phonies, all of you two-faced friends, you sycophantic suck-ups who smile through your teeth at me, please leave me in peace. Please go. Stop smiling. It’s not a joke. Please leave. The party’s over. Get out.”).

“People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy, and I can’t do that as Bruce Wayne. As a man, I’m flesh and blood. I can be ignored, I can be destroyed. But as a symbol, I can be incorruptible. I can be everlasting”

In the eyes of many, Bruce Wayne is just a billionaire who is a son of a philanthropist. He does not strike fear to anyone. No one will believe he can change Gotham City. How true. This is the reason why he looked for a symbol so that he can drive Gotham City’s people to fight and change the status quo.

People need to have heroes or examples to act drastically. We had Rizal to trigger our battles against the Spaniards. Yes, there were numerous battles against the colony before Rizal’s exploits but he became an inspiration to Filipinos — a source of hope for our floundering nation.

We endured Ninoy’s death before we ousted the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. Ninoy is a symbol for our continuous fight against oppression. His death triggered the nation’s emotions that led to the first People Power.

They are symbols. They are inspirations. They are embodiments for our battles against injustice and tyranny.

Like the Philippines, Gotham City is in dire need of a hero. Public officials are bribed to handcuff their own wrists and shut their mouths. Corruption, greed, crime, drugs are just some of the problems lingering in our country… in Gotham City. Just like Gotham City, we are in a situation where we need somebody like Batman to protect us from the oppressors. He’s strong. He strikes fear to the tormentors of justice — something not present in our society because the tormentors hold the power, influence and wealth which are things that Batman/Bruce Wayne has.

The Final Word

We see Batman at his weakest, most discombobulated and most fragile. We see what he thinks. We think about what he sees. We are able to hear the beats of his heart. We see the human aspect of this oft-misunderstood superhero. It makes us reflect within ourselves about who we really we are; who we want to be; what we want to accomplish during the course of our lives. It asks a lot of questions about how we think and act. It triggers self-introspection… it motivates us to examine ourselves. This is a very powerful film that manages to hold my attention and encourages me to think. This is a great character study. This is the definitive Batman movie for me.

July 22, 2008

Keka (2003)

Filed under: Movie Review — Tags: , , , , , , , , — dementedguy @ 3:31 am

Director: Quark Henares
Running time: 93 minutes

Synopsis and Evaluation

If one would set his expectations based on the posted synopsis on various websites attempting to offer a gist for Quark Henares’s Keka, such person would be sorely disappointed after watching this film. This is described as a revenge flick for the death of a girl’s special someone. There are slitting of throats, stabbing of knives to a victim’s chest, strangulation and gunshots.

Others would see this as another bold film because its lead star is Katya Santos who forged an invisible alliance with other voluptuous, scantily-clad women such as Maui Taylor, Maricar de Mesa and Aubrey Miles to resurrect the R-rated bold films that populated the 90s film landscape. This may be the reason why the film flopped commercially because people expect this to be just another run-on-the-mill sex film. Or are we Filipinos that dumb to not appreciate this kind of film? I’m leaning towards the former because I still have high hopes for the Filipino audience.

Looking at the film from these perspectives is a disservice to its ingenuity and novelty. It’s a blasphemy that a film like Keka would succumb to other box office heavyweights who offer nothing but star quality and a massive promotional campaign (which Keka sorely needed). It’s also a miracle that a movie outfit such as Viva Films (which is also responsible for a slew of the aforementioned bold movies) willingly produced and financed this kind of film which, more often than not, do not perform well financially. Are they just milking the cow from the then-popularity of Katya Santos? Whatever their motives were during the time, it doesn’t matter now. Keka was made and released for public consumption and gave the few who chose to watch their money’s worth.

Offering a plot summary to Keka is not appropriate. The revenge subplot is just a device for the movie like the murder in Robert Altman’s The Player. Just like the Altman movie, this is a dark comedy — a satire with lots of jeers and jabs directed to our current local film industry which is filled with rehashed ideas and tiresome jokes. This is also a potshot to some issues on a nationwide scope.

Allow me to list some of the gibes presented in the film and do my best to offer an explanation or an example to explain its humorous aspect. This is my attempt to explain the greatness of Keka. Be warned, lots of spoilers ahead.

• When Keka and Marco Torres (Bobby Andrews) were having a date dinner, Marco asked what Keka’s job is. Keka told him that she’s working in a call center. Marco associated this kind of job to a mere telephone operator with a clear tinge of mockery and sarcasm. Later when Keka is describing her job, she said she’s helping customer troubleshoot their problems using her “stupid American accent.” This is an obvious jab directed at the call center industry and agents which are sprouting like mushrooms these days.

"Sa Iyo Lang ang Puso Ko at ibang pang lamang-loob kung nais mo pa"

"Sa Iyo Lang ang Puso Ko at iba pang lamang-loob kung nais mo pa"

• The Showbiz Kachipan segment is clearly inspired by Startalk’s Da Who with their use of gay lingo and annoying voice to report a showbiz-related news which is also cheap and nonsense. The actor being reported was Bobby Domingo (Eigenmann) who plays the lead role in “Sa Iyo Lang ang Puso Ko” with an additional quip that goes like this: at iba pang laman loob kung nais mo pa — a clear mockery of our telenovelas which almost always deal with love with unimaginative titles such as Maging Sino Ka Man and Pangako Sa’Yo becoming household names.

• During the scene when Jason (Wendell Ramos) is attempting to propose to her then-girlfriend, she rejected him before he does so. He almost choked to death with an accompanying music provided by the restaurant’s musicians. Hilarious! This has got to be seen by our own eyes because my attempt to describe it doesn’t give it justice.

• During the girlfriend search of Jason, he met with a single mom who is breastfeeding her child during the dinner date, an ecstasy addict and a woman deranged with thoughts of salvation — not exactly girls Jason wanted to have. This is a nicely executed scene.

• The telenovela shooting scene where the woman slapped Bobby twice with amusing results — an attempt to ridicule an act that is a staple of Filipino dramas. Love triangles also; supposedly-actresses who cannot act even if their lives depended on it; TV/film directors settling for a pwede na or mediocre output just to finish the project; and people screaming their lungs out to blindly worship famous celebrities like they are God.

• Our knack for churning out cheesy, rhyming ad taglines did not escape from being lambasted by this film. Athlete’s Foot Cologne’s “Mabisang lunas para sa kili-kiling amoy bulok na prutas” will definitely rival the infamy of the classic Dragon Katol’s “La-mowk… sigura-downg tey-powk” with its phony American accent.

• When Jason quipped “anak ka ng congressman at artista ka pa” to describe the near-impossibility of convicting Bobby Domingo, this is a criticism of our justice system where the padrino and palakasan system is in full scope and throttle.

• The use of National University (NU) as the school where the killing and frat wars happened — a mockery of traditional movies which have dealt with the issue one way or another which were usually set in the University of the Philippines (UP) premises.

• When Jason asked the cab driver to turn up his driving speed, the latter retorted that there’s a speed limit. Jason presented his police badge to ease the worry of the driver of getting caught by authorities. A police breaking the rules and regulations — ironic but it happens regularly in real life.

•The line “hihintayin kita magpakailanman” uttered by Jason at the end is a tribute to a typical Robin Padilla or Bong Revilla action cum romance flick littered with cheesy dialogues and hackneyed plot.

• Perhaps the most famous scene from this movie is the song and dance number which is seemingly an indispensable part of Filipino comedies. We even see dead guys singing and dancing! Brilliant!

The famous song and dance number

The famous song and dance number

This is a film where no actor dominated or carried the film all by himself. The small parts played by various people contribute to the overall quality, where the sum is clearly greater than its parts. The technical aspects such as the lighting (especially with the use of blue hue in certain scenes), editing and camerawork are well-made. Henares seems to be in total command of this film which is much-deserved given his filmmaking talent. The best aspect of this film is the script which is full of punch lines, witty one-liners and sarcastic remarks and how it does not take itself seriously which is a perfect atmosphere for this kind of film. This is a Filipino comedy unlike any other Filipino comedy.

The Final Word

Filipino filmmakers’ favorite genre seems to be drama with some of the greatest Filipino films made falling under this umbrella. Rarely do we see a Filipino comedy, a dark comedy especially, of high caliber such as Keka. Hundreds or even thousands of comedy films have been produced throughout the years but you can count by your fingers the notable ones from that bunch. Keka is one of such few comedy gems… a diamond in the rough so to speak.

P.S. If you’re a music lover, a perfect complement to this film is Noon Time Show by Itchyworms. But then again, you probably know that by now… I’m just saying.

July 20, 2008

Batman Returns (1992)

Filed under: Movie Review — Tags: , , , , , , — dementedguy @ 5:00 am

Director: Tim Burton
Running time: 126 minutes

Synopsis and Evaluation

The problem with reviewing book and comic book adaptations is that people expect you to compare the movie with its source material, decide which is better or if the big screen version gave justice to its origins. People, especially fans of these series/novels, expect to see what they have read on the books — nitpicking every difference and detail missing. In the end, they feel disappointed or dissatisfied with the final output.

I’m not an avid reader. The obvious drawback of that is, I’m not exposed to a lot of things. I’m confined to my own, self-made thinking. But if there’s an advantage to that, it allows me to evaluate things within my own standpoint — no biases, no bases of comparisons. It allows me to look at movies (or things in general) objectively and with a sense of individuality. I believe that every movie should be reviewed as it is… meaning, it should not be compared to anything else. Or if you insist, movies should be compared only to other movies… not to books, not to literary writings. Books and movies are like apples and oranges. What’s the point of making a film if people would just insist of making a carbon copy of what they have read in the books? This is how I approach evaluating book/comic book adaptations — with a clean slate of mind and no expectations.


Superhero movies are a bunch these days. Just like any type of movies, some are highly successful critically and commercially (e.g. Spider-Man, Iron Man) while others have been languishing on the murky depths of oblivion (e.g. Elektra, Catwoman, The Punisher). The highly successful ones, at least commercially, spurn a bunch of sequels, “three-quels,” until they reach the moment where quadrilogy boxed sets are on the horizon. One such follow-up is Batman Returns released in 1992, three years after its predecessor Batman was viewed by the general public. Michael Keaton reprised his role as the wealthy Bruce Wayne a.k.a. Batman. Joining his Gotham City parties this time are Max Shreck (Christopher Walken), Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Penguin (Danny DeVito).

The plot is fairly simple: Gotham City is again experiencing chaotic times brought about by the Penguin who craves for attention and respect that he is looking for his whole life because according to him, nobody respects him because he is different. He was sent down the sewers by his parents when he was born. He was betrayed and wants to get back at the city that cast him away. Helping him to do this is Max Schreck, a wealthy businessman whose image and reputation far exceed his inner devils. He wants to build a power plant that would usurp power from Gotham and use it for his personal gain.

Batman Returns has that striking, gothic and dark look and feel that perfectly blend with the state Gotham City is in. It’s visually appealing, a Tim Burton trademark (e.g. Sleepy Hollow, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Edward Scissorhands). The plot is pretty straightforward with a predictable ending. This film is one big shout-out to the way politics is run on most nations — lots of blackmailing, under-the-table deals, corruption, greed, deception and insincere motives. These are represented by the insidious ways of Max Shreck.

One of the things I like about this film is the way the Catwoman character was handled. Pfeiffer exudes charm and confidence and the emotional emptiness of Catwoman. She has nine lives but none of it has been joyful or interesting. Yes, it has relevance but for other people’s sake, not hers. She is a lonely woman who was burnt many times before and is afraid to let it all out — just like Bruce. They are perfect for each other but an invisible gap prevents them from staying together. It’s an enigma, a mystery that was beautifully delivered.

I also think that Penguin’s motives are far more pressing than Joker’s in Batman. This is a half man-half bird who was deprived of respect and attention all his life. He just wants somebody to see and listen to him when he speaks. Unfortunately, he also wanted revenge directed to those who have not done anything to him. He’s a deranged creature, blinded by his past experiences. He is a more sympathetic character than Joker (in Batman at least) because I can feel his hatred and sadness inside unlike the latter which is one big psycho from the beginning. DeVito was great as Penguin portraying him as a ruthless and blinded bastard with a subtle hint of mourning and poignancy. This is not saying that Jack Nicholson’s Joker was inferior. In my opinion, they are both great and have sort of stolen the show from the main protagonist — although villains are normally more interesting and developed character-wise than the hero who’s trying to stop them.

The Final Word

Batman Returns, while not deep and thought-provoking, is a very entertaining movie. Its cinematography and production values are competent and admirable. This is better than its predecessor. Just don’t expect a great film.

July 19, 2008

Maynila: Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag (1975)

Filed under: Movie Review — Tags: , , , , , — dementedguy @ 9:30 am

Director: Lino Brocka
Running time: 123 minutes

Synopsis and Evaluation

In conversations regarding the best Filipino film of all time, lots of titles pop up. Some would say Oro, Plata, Mata by Peque Gallaga. Others would mention Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos by Mario O’Hara. And then some would claim that such honor should be bestowed upon Maynila: Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag (Manila in the Claws of Light) by the legendary Lino Brocka. This film is quite possibly the most famous piece of Philippine cinema abroad having been considered as one of the 100 best films worldwide by notable critics.

I only got to see this after three decades of its initial release. During those three decades, a lot of things have already happened. Our country had already seated four presidents, three People Power revolutions and elongated its national debt by massive proportions.

Did things change from how Maynila described the life back then to how the Philippines is today? Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding no.

The face that tells it all

The face that tells it all

Maynila is the story of Julio Madiaga’s (Bembol Roco) journeys while wandering and living in the streets of Manila. He came from the province to look for her girlfriend in the person of Ligaya Paraiso (Hilda Koronel) which was lured by a certain Mrs. Cruz to work in Manila in exchange for money and education. During his search for Ligaya, Julio stumbled upon various experiences that perfectly describe the rottenness and wretchedness of our society. The film has that certain episodic feel since it tackled many different social issues prevalent in our country.

During the first part of the film, we see Julio working in a construction site where he only earns P2.50 per eight hours of work. He is not compensated enough for a strenuous and risky job. Adding insult to the injury, he later learned that he should get four pesos for his troubles but the foreman already sequestered the difference. He cannot complain because his job will be in jeopardy the moment he does so.

Sounds familiar? Surely it does since the problems tackled by Maynila three decades ago still linger in our present society. It seems that nothing ever changes.

Take the case of Ligaya which was duped and became a libido-releasing creature of a monstrous Chinese businessman in Binondo. She can’t escape because the bastard impregnated her and threatened that he would kill her the moment she tried to. This is similar to those young women being promised a comfortable life by recruiters and then will be “sold” like a commodity — heinous, soulless people that deserve the fire and brimstone of hell. Poverty, corporate greed and slavery, prostitution (both male and female), human exploitation, injustices are some of the problems shown in Maynila.

These gloomy stories are set against a backdrop of barren soils, contaminated drainages, garbage-filled lands and slums — perfect to describe the filthy and ugly side of our country. These shots are breathtaking — breathtakingly painful, suffocating and depressing. Brocka painted the picture of our society with power, emphasis and dismal energy that is crying for help and attention.

I can compare this film to Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. Julio, like Travis in Taxi Driver, is a gentle and ignorant person that was slowly devoured by what he sees on the environment around him. At first, they are still absorbing the cruelty of the real world but a countless barrage of murky events around took its toll on them and made them do things out of character.

But allow me to emphasize that Maynila is a far stronger film than the Scorsese classic. And Julio, unlike Travis, suffered a tragic ending which is a more powerful and emphatic way of showing the miserable life of a person such as Julio. Maynila’s ending is shocking, poignant, angry, emphatic and memorable.

The Final Word

During the dangerous time that is the Marcos regime, Brocka crafted a film with a lot of courage. This is a brave endeavor that deserves all the accolades it is receiving up to now. This is one of the films that makes me proud as a Filipino — a masterpiece in every sense of the word. This is a required viewing.

July 18, 2008

Segurista (1995)

Filed under: Movie Review — Tags: , , , , , , — dementedguy @ 9:56 am

Director: Tikoy Aguiluz
Running time: 111 minutes

Synopsis and Evaluation

During the mid 90s to early 21st century, we saw the advent of ST films which populated the local movie scene. Film outfits such as Seiko and Viva released countless films with the intention to titillate the audience particularly the male ones. Suggestive movie titles such as Patikim ng Pinya and Sutla became household names for their playful meaning in the context of sex. I was young back then meaning I can’t view these kinds of films legally. The only consolation that I could get is that I didn’t miss a lot. Many of these films are dirty, substance-less, horrible and boring.

But I did miss one particularly significant film. For many, this is a movie that would fall under the umbrella of ST films if they didn’t give this a chance to show its worth. I remember this was marketed as a sex romp like many sex flicks back then. This was even rated by the ever-reliable MTRCB with an “X” rating. I was young so I don’t know yet how inept MTRCB was and is. And I always associate a movie with an “X” rating to a plethora of lascivious scenes which a movie can do without.

Having watched Segurista (Dead Sure) thirteen years after its theatrical release, it’s worth the wait. And like many great Filipino films, the issues tackled in the film very much apply to our current Philippine landscape.

Segurista is the story of Karen Fernandez (Michelle Aldana), an insurance agent by day and a guest relations officer (GRO) by night. She secures insurance policies from her wealthy clients in exchange for a steamy night with her. Aldana has that sultry, sophisticated and devilish vibe but still retains the “probinsyana” vibe that is perfect for the role of Karen. One of her clients, Sonny Santos (Gary Estrada), fell in love with her after several nights of steamy encounters (allow me to add that the two-minute sex scene between Aldana and Estrada is one of the hottest I have ever seen in Philippine cinema and there’s even no nudity on that particular scene). The problem is, Karen is already married and has a kid back in Pampanga. She hides her true personality and background to her clients and officemates to protect her family and her own dignity. Given the nature of her job, she still has self-respect for herself evident when she was devastated with the use of the word “puta” to describe her. She is strong and confident outside but a very fragile individual in reality.

Segurista portrays the kapit-sa-patalim way of life of many Filipinos where they are forced to do something against their wills just to survive and give their family a good life. It’s conveyed throughout the film that Karen did not want this kind of life since she repeatedly says that once she reaches her target of a million peso, she would finally settle with her family in Pampanga. This is not something she’s doing for fun unlike Ruby Dimagiba (Ruby Moreno).

This film also conveys that such way of life, while the consequences are not imminent at the onset, will slowly devour an individual away one way or another. One’s dignity, self-respect, reputation, health or even life is at risk with a life like Karen’s — a horrible journey that would only lead to its miserable and tragic ending.

While the rest of the cast is good, Aldana carries this film all by herself. Karen is a complex character who must show a great deal of sexuality, confusion, emotional baggage, deceptive qualities and fragility and Aldana carried her well. Pete Lacaba and Tikoy Aguiluz crafted a tragic tale which is powerful, compelling and relevant.

The Final Word

Segurista is one of the best films I have ever seen in my life. This is a top-notch film from start to finish. It’s still relevant especially in the current Philippine milieu. It’s greatly paced, superbly acted and a beautiful story with a very memorable ending. Segurista is a winner — and I’m dead sure of that.

Sicko (2007)

Filed under: Movie Review — Tags: , , , — dementedguy @ 5:06 am

Director: Michael Moore
Running time: 123 minutes

Synopsis and Evaluation

I love documentaries. Although I’m not an avid or regular viewer of documentary shows/films, if there’s an opportunity to view one I always make it a point to watch it. I’m easily engaged by these documentaries because more often that not, they tackle pressing issues that have broad national or worldwide scope.

These documentaries articulate to viewers the different slices or facets of our current society. Commonly, they expose certain malice present in our society — the harsh and sappy truths that deserve some attention to be able to correct it before it’s too late. There’s nothing more depressing and eye-opening than seeing and hearing it from, they like to say, horses’ mouth — the people involved and directly affected by the particular issue at hand. It’s like telling you how fortunate you are compared to these poor souls being depicted on television/film.

I’m a selective movie viewer. I don’t just watch every movie they throw out there. I value my money and time to just simply throw them away for a horrible movie although being duped sometimes is inevitable. When I heard Sicko, a documentary film about the health care industry (not system, because it is an industry) directed by Michael Moore, I know this is something I should not miss. Why? This is because it’s relevant to our present times right now with the growing lack of attention given to this particular aspect of our society. It’s also scary that America, the wealthiest, most powerful nation has problems with their health care industry.

Or is it that very wealth and power which strike their health care industry hard?

From this premise, Moore went on to interview those stricken with the catastrophe of being left out or forsaken by the hospitals, insurance companies and health maintenance organizations (HMO) these people need the most. In times of trouble with our health, we go to these institutions to seek help to cure us. But alas, they run away from their obligations to provide health care. It’s not as if they’re asked to do this for free. These people paid premiums for their insurance and health care coverage to receive assistance in times of sickness. These forms of assistance are deemed losses by these institutions. Losses. It’s an accounting term used for events such as obsolescence of inventory, worthlessness of an investment or selling a piece of asset below its book/accounting value. These institutions reduce these poor souls to a mere accounting term. Oh my gulay! What money can’t do, eh?

Moore also drew comparisons to the health care systems of Cuba, France, Great Britain and Canada where these countries supposedly have a system better than the US. In fact, US ranked only 37th among all nations when it comes to providing adequate health care to its citizens.

The Final Word

A documentary that is supposedly exaggerated and full of concocted claims? Ironic. Wrong. But it’s not as ironic or as wrong as the fact that the US, the wealthiest and most powerful nation, is lagging behind a plethora of other nations in terms of health care. They have trillions of dollars to spend to finance their war agendum. Why not use that for health care where the problem really exists and conspicuous instead of alleged claims of destructive weapons and terrorism. One has to wonder if America is really an avenue to reach one’s dreams.

This documentary may be filled with exaggerations or one-sided jabs and comments but it does not mean that a problem doesn’t exist. In fact, this is a documentary that does not need to present the entire truth to convey and accentuate the reeking stench that is the US health care industry. Nor it should be balanced to comply with the unspoken or unwritten rules of making a documentary. A documentary is supposed to communicate something, to expose something, to open the eyes of the general public. Moore’s agenda is irrelevant to assessing the worth of this film. We must admit that there’s something really wrong not just in the health care system but in our whole society (not just in the US) where money is really above everything else.

The Negotiator (1998)

Filed under: Movie Review — Tags: , , , , , , — dementedguy @ 3:06 am

Director: F. Gary Gray
Running time: 139 minutes

Synopsis and Evaluation

We’ve seen them in a lot of action flicks being made in the past and present. They are the suave smooth-talkers that persuade criminals to free their innocent hostages. They listen to the demands of the oft-discombobulated hostage-taker no matter how unreasonable. They make counter-offers in order to buy time in order to plan something more concrete and effective. But more often than not, they are just a minor part of the plot used for dramatic effect. In The Negotiator however, they take center stage.

The film started with a tension-filled hostage scene involving a father withholding his daughter by a gun. Danny Roman (Samuel L. Jackson) is a respected and reputable police officer whose asset is his loud mouth. He has been a negotiator for the past 20 years. Without further ado, the film imposed early on the character of Danny. This is a good thing so that the plot could quickly advance to the film’s main course. He saved the daughter and because of this accomplishment, a celebration of music and liquors followed. In the middle of this stress-reliever, his good friend Nathan asked him for a quick minute to talk. He learned that somebody on the inside are embezzling the disability funds set up for the benefit of police men like him. This triggered a string of events (one involving the murder of Nathan) that led to Danny Roman’s involvement in a serious crime.

With pessimism about the case consuming Danny, he felt that he must do something drastic not just to clean his name but to bring justice to Nathan’s death. This presented the central irony of the film – a negotiator that must be talked out to free his own hostages. With Danny on the other side of the fence, he issued demands like a stereotypical hostage-taker including a request for Chris Sabian (Kevin Spacey). Chris is also a negotiator that once talked for 55 hours in order to save a hostage by peaceful means.

Chris is a perfect contrast to Danny’s personality — he is low-key, calm, mild-mannered as opposed to Danny’s loud-mouthed and flamboyant attitude. This dualism set up a beautiful set of interplays between the two via tight retorts and good delivery from both. A minor gripe in the film is Danny’s excessive announcement of his accomplishments and work experience. OK, we get the point already that you are good and old. We are not dumb-asses to not understand it the first time we heard it. The two leads, while they have churned out better performances in other movies, delivered the needed output a film like this needs. The supporting cast quite complemented the leads especially Paul Giamatti who is responsible for a few laughs and chuckles in this suspense thriller.

With Chris learning of Danny’s innocence and good intentions, he helped him find his way out of this mess. As with most Hollywood movies, this movie’s mantra is “all’s well that end’s well.” But how the film arrived to its Hollywoodish conclusion proved to be somewhat fresh… which is certainly a good thing.

The Final Word

This is a solid action film that manages not to deteriorate your brains. It offers enough blood, gun fight and tension that blend in together satisfactorily. While it does not break new ground for the genre, it’s the perfect popcorn movie to watch when there’s nothing else to do.

Stardust (2007)

Filed under: Movie Review — Tags: , , , , , — dementedguy @ 2:53 am

Director: Matthew Vaughn
Running time: 127 minutes

Synopsis and Evaluation

Neil Gaiman has been around for some time now. He rose to fame with works such as Stardust and American Gods. Due to the impatience of yours truly, I haven’t read any of his works. Well, I do not read that much. In any case, I tried to divulge myself in his American Gods but it never appealed to me. It bored that hell out of me right off the bat. I halted at around the hundredth page and never picked up the book again.

So I went to the cinema expecting nothing from this adaptation. Well, I did the right thing.

Stardust is about a chase for the fallen star that caters to the intentions and desires of those who could acquire it. Tristan wants it to prove his “undying” love to the beautiful but superficial Victoria (Sienna Miller) who would give her hand in exchange for the star. Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer) moves heaven and earth to regain her lost youth. The three heirs of the King will cease lives just to become the next ruler of Stormhold. Sounds like a good premise for what should be an above-average film, right? Unfortunately, the film falls flat in many aspects.

For one, the dialogue is sketchy and forced… very unnatural. There are numerous cheesy interplays between characters that would make you bow down your neck in utter embarrassment. That’s right. The movie makes you cringe and feel awkward. One scene encapsulates this — Tristan said to Victoria “Victoria, for your hand in marriage, I’d cross oceans.” Victoria retorted “You’re funny, Tristan.” The problem with this scene is not the lines per se but how the actors executed the scene. Which brings me to my second gripe — acting.

This film accentuates the experience gap between the youngsters and the experienced ones. Robert De Niro masterfully played his role as the “secret” drag queen who has a rather imposing reputation. Additional commendations to the Princes at the Slaughterhouse who injected the much-needed humor to this otherwise dull movie. Michelle Pfeiffer also did a good job of portraying the ruthless witch Lamia.

The problem starts with Charlie Cox who played the lead role Tristan. I don’t know why he was chosen for this role aside from his rather good looks. Same case to Daniel Radcliffe of the Harry Potter fame probably. He is stiff, bland and generic. Boring in every sense of the word. Claire Danes who played the role Yvaine, while she looks dazzling, leaves much to be desired from her performance. There’s something lacking in her output that I cannot pinpoint exactly what it is.

While problems linger throughout the film, the audience were treated to a trip to dazzling locations and good special effects. The cinematography is dark, murky and gloomy to create the tension and atmosphere for the movie. This symbolizes the contamination of the soul brought about by the greed that consumes the individuals pursuing the star. It also emphasizes the importance of light that is emitted from a star.. without the stars, our world will be consumed by oblivion. Another point was made in a scene where the strands of hair of Yvaine were transformed into dust. Love is a double-edged sword… it can make or destroy you.

One notable observation is the time of day Tristan courts Victoria. During the first parts of the movie, courting occurred during the night. But when Tristan finally realized that Victoria is not the woman he really loves, he said this to her during day time. This change from the darkness of the night to the brightness of day time signifies the emancipation of Tristan from confusion… from blindness… from superficial admiration to an acceptance of reality and truth.

The Final Word

The film tries to be a fantasy movie in epic and grandeur proportions. The premise of the film certainly points to that direction. Unfortunately, it failed miserably by reducing the film to a showcase of special effects and cheesy dialogue. It’s not that bad but better keep your expectations low before seeing the movie to avoid being disappointed. Caveat emptor.

No Falter

Filed under: Personal words — Tags: — dementedguy @ 2:34 am

Established and well-known movie critics have a keen eye for details that enable them to dissect a film to smaller chunks to be evaluated with more depth and see in microscopic terms the cinematic quality and emotional impact it brings. They also have a vast knowledge of filmdom enabling them to cite inspirations, to accuse plagiarism and/or draw comparisons with other works. They are also skilled to convert their thoughts into a coherent and sophisticated flow of words enabling them to accentuate their thoughts, disseminate their opinions and sometimes influence many.

This may seem a tall order for a novice moviegoer like me. A “moviegoer” that has seen a whooping 320+ movies as of today. A “moviegoer” that lags in conversations regarding the newest films, the instant classics, universally-acclaimed films, etc. A “moviegoer” that has never went to a film festival or a movie premiere night.

But I have a dream. A dream that I aspire to acquire for the remaining years of my life.

As of the moment, I lack the experience, skill and knowledge but years of reading, watching and writing would certainly make me better. It requires time and effort but I’m willing to shell out those for that elusive dream of mine.

Why? Because movies enable me to experience different things. Because movies equip me with the tools to reach the peak of humanity or fall down to the deepest trenches of brutality and stupidity. Because it’s a double-edged sword that soothes me with warmth and compassion and at the same time, squeeze my heart with tremendous force that triggers my emotions. Three hundred twenty movies may not be enough to merit my worth but every giant achievement starts with one small step.

The Ratings System

I would rate movies on a scale of “five stars” with “no stars” designated as the lowest possible score. A rating of “five stars” does not necessarily mean that the film is perfect in every aspect because it is darn impossible to accomplish. On the flip side, a rating of “no stars” does not necessarily mean that a film has no redeeming value. It just means that it’s bad, bad, bad.

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