Monday, May 30, 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides


This is another one of those trailers which did nothing for me except to show that Penelope Cruz still got her Spanish accent:

Let me just get this out of the way: I don't get Penelope Cruz, particularly her Oscar win for Best Supporting Actress for Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Up to this day, I'm not sure if she was awarded for her lips, hair, accent or histrionics.

As it turned out, the movie (directed by Rob Marshall; written by Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott) was better than the trailer, and I found Penelope to be more tolerable than I expected. In this fourth installment of the film, Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) finds himself in the midst of three crews who are racing to find the Fountain of Youth: the monarchies of Spain and Great Britain, and a pirate ship, captained by Black Dead (Ian McShane).

Black Dead is a newly introduced character in the Pirates film, but other characters have returning roles. It's just that I can't be bothered to Wikipedia the plot structure of the entire franchise because I'm lazy like that. But I did IMDB the names of the rest of the cast and there I learned that the captain of the pirate ship is in fact, Blackbeard and not Black Dead as I've heard it in the entire two hours of the film. I'm perplexed at this point.

To access the Fountain of Youth, they need to perform a ritual, which requires among other things, a teardrop from a mermaid. You'd think that with all the Pinoy fascination that we have on mermaids—from Alice Dixson to Charlene Gonzales to Claudine Barretto—I'd have my fill on them, but as it turned out, this particular story arc was not only engaging, but it was the only thing that kept me hooked throughout the film. I wish the film concentrated on them so we could have seen a royal battle between the sea creatures and the pirates. Then Penelope could have played a mermaid instead—a Spanish beauty lost in the seas and who is attacked by the Nordic mermaid legion because it thinks she doesn't deserve the Oscar.

May issue talaga sa Oscar, lol!

Instead, we see Penelope play Jack's love interest, which was really unnecessary in this film: take this particular relationship away and you still end up with a sound plot.

The script has its hilarious moments but nothing can be funnier than the climax—it's essentially an argument against the Catholic Church. Quite appropriate considering the Reproductive Health bill debate going on in the country today.

Wait until after the end credits for a few seconds of extra screen time by my favorite actress, lol.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Now Singapore becomes a first world country

Fast Five


I was bent on not watching Fast Five or Fast and The Furious 5 because the trailer bored me to death:

(My friends and I watch movies every time, which means I saw this trailer in the theaters over and over and over again; it became obnoxious.)

However, I began reading reviews, which I found intriguing. It was getting more raves than rants.

Fine, I decided to see it.

Before the movie, I went through the Fast and the Furious entries on Wikipedia just so I wouldn't get lost in the plot since this is, chronologically, the fourth installment in the series. (F&F: Tokyo Drift takes place in the future.)

I also learned that seeing Vin Diesel and The Rock together for the first time (this is the first F&F for The Rock), is a huge deal. I guess it's like seeing Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren in a sequel to Death Becomes Her (Sorry Goldie).

Well, it was a good thing the movie was better than the trailer. Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) escapes from prison with the help of Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) and Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster), as seen in the end of Fast & Furious 4. The group then find themselves in Brazil, where they clash with business magnate Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida), who runs a string of illegal activities and who is powerful enough to have an entire police station under his payroll. To bring Hernan down, Dom assembles an elite team, the members of which will be familiar to fans of F&F, but looks more like a mature Benetton ad campaign for me.

(When token sexy, albeit anorexic-looking, gal Gal Gadot appeared onscreen, my cerebral database just knew she was a Miss Universe contestant. It turned out that she was: she represented Israel in 2004. She did not place.)

Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson aka The Rock) arrives in Brazil to head the photo shoot for the new catalogue of International Male.

Dom and Luke then go head to head in a bid to become Brazil's Next Top Model. These two are massive and we see their raging biceps and erect nipples, which long for emancipation under their tight shirts and tank tops, many times. While they were manhandling each other, I saw a lot of sexual tension between the two. Maybe they should remake Death Becomes Her.

The film (directed by Justin Lin) is funny and entertaining, and I'm sure fans would get a kick out of the many private jokes that reference previous F&F films. However, I would have found it even more entertaining (the novelty of biceps, nipples and bulges wears off pretty soon) if the writer (Chris Morgan) put more brains into ***WARNING: Spoiler coming up*** how the group carried out plans to amass Hernan's money.  For example, they needed a hand print to access a biometrics-controlled vault and their solution was get to him to touch a bikini bottom and transfer that print onto a transparent film? ***Spoiler ends*** The film could've used some sophistication similar to Brian De Palma's Mission: Impossible but I guess F&F didn't want to take itself too seriously.

As when the duo, Dom and Brian, wreaked havoc in the streets of São Paulo and practically trashed everything on sight: I can't help but think that surely, the Brazil government is going to announce a National Day of Mourning for all innocent casualties the next day. But for Dom and Brian, it was just another fast, furious and fun ride.

Wait until the end of the credits to see a glimpse of F&F 6.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Something Borrowed


The trailer was promising, although looking back, I realized, what else can you expect from the movie except for the resolution: so does the guy end up with his fiancée or the best friend?

I was looking forward to enjoying this chick flick* but that's hard when faced with characters who are one-dimensional and vapidthey have been lifted from stereotypes that have pervaded pop culture since time immemorial. You have two best friends: Darcy (Kate Hudson) is blond, supposedly prettier (I didn't think so), popular and the life of every party; Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin) is average, supposedly less pretty (I didn't think so) but has the brains and a law degree from NYU. Dex (Colin Egglesfield) is a jock, prettier than both ladies combined (YES!), and in what was probably the only non-cliché twist in the story, he is actually a nice guy.

Imagine these three constantly barraging you with indecision:
  1. Darcy gets cold feet. So should she walk down the aisle?
  2. Rachel realizes she likes Dex. So should she pursue him?
  3. Dex is confused. What to do?

The writers (Emily Giffin, who wrote the book from which this movie is based on, and Jennie Snyder) must have felt how irritating the characters were and had foreseen the audience's frustration and therefore, parlayed that into the picture (directed by Luke Greenfield) with a fourth character: Rachel's other best friend, Ethan (John Krasinski). He constantly screams at them to force them to a decision.

But of course, we all know that an adult-like decision from any of the three 30-year olds would have cut this film into 30 minutes, and therefore, it would have been more appropriate as a Friends episode than a full-length film. If you are seeing this film, note how the story feels clunky and segmented: the plot switches from the present to flashbacks, then on to the future, zooming past weekends and months. This really should have been a TV show.

It has some funny moments and it did manage to squeeze some mush out of me: the guy's really hot. Oh, and wait until after the end of the credits as it hints a sequel. Like we're supposed to take that seriously.

*I do love chick flicks. Faves include Bridget Jones's Diary, Confessions of a Shopaholic and The Devil Wears Prada. Oh, and How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days, where I actually liked Kate Hudson.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Never Say Never—in person, lol

I was prepared to be out of place at the Justin Bieber concert because not only do I not belong in Justin's demographics, I also have a brain.



As I posted in my review of his movie, Never Say Never, I actually like AND respect Justin (close!): he is hardworking and he does have musical talents. In fact, as reported by TMZ (via Pammy; not sure how reliable TMZ's source is), he had to barf his way through his Manila concert last night, taking breaks in between to cope with his "chest infection," supposedly. I was amazed that he was still able to sing and dance to his songs without me noticing anything different about his energy.

Though I have to say that more than the concert (too bad, I hardly knew his songs and I didn't have the time to listen to his album) I was more amusedand I mean that in a good wayby the fans, 90 percent of whom were screaming, giggling and gushing girls. I found it very refreshing to be surrounded by people who were pure in their fascination, admiration and dare I say, love for Bieber. The much-awaited part of the concert of course, was finding out who was the lucky girl picked for the song, "One Less Lonely Girl." Tatin and I had a major LOL moment when the chosen one finally appeared on stage, shock and disbelief obvious in her eyes. The camera caught her mouthing the words, "I love you" to Justin so earnestly, and there was a sudden flash of sadness on her face, probably because she knew it would be a fleeting moment and that she can never have him. (Though she must realize that Justin's personal slogan is "Never say never.") I was like, "Girl, dose ka pa lang!" (And I really would like to know what the boys in the audience had in mind when they were watching him. I wonder if they get him or their respective date's propensity to throw themselves at Bieber even if he were only standing still and sweating.)

Anyhow, here's an audio clip of what being in the middle of the frenzy was like:

Thanks to Pammy for the ticket! I didn't take photos because I leave it to professionals, like Jill.

And here's what my boss wrote to me this morning when she learned what I did last night:

I think your approval rating just went a few points lower but I will take your word for it that you have been either bribed or someone had pointed a gun to your head.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Scream 4


Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) returns to Woodsboro on the 10th anniversary of the Ghostface murders as part of her book tour. She has become a cult figure in the community (hard to tell if her popularity covered the entire US based on the movie), since her story has spawned a series of movies based on books penned by Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) regarding the murders.

She hopes her autobiography would show her in a new light as a survivor, after years of being depicted as the victim, particularly in Gale's books. Perhaps, to further show her seriousness in this new role, she wears suits and her hair in a chignon.

Her past returns to haunt her as the community learns that two young females were murdered in their homes the night before Sidney's arrival. Ghostface then contacts her new targets—Neve's niece and her friends—by phoning them and asking for their favorite scary movie, as is his style.

What follows is a series of guessing games: new characters and murders are introduced and you are reduced to identifying and eliminating suspects.

It would have been a pleasant and funny movie—it was amusing to see Scream parodizing itself. However, in a bid to shock the audience (though, not really) in unveiling the murderer behind the mask, it overshot what would have been an acceptable possibility. In fact, the film was so bent on defending its choice of murderer, that the murderer had to have a long speech on why he/she did what he/she did. The movie went downhill from there, although that's just about the last 20 minutes of the 111-minute film.

* * * *

Since I am reading Rogert Ebert's book (see sidebar), this is my attempt to write a film review (admittedly, an Achilles' heel) following his easy, breezy style :-P

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Give us this day

Wow, did I change.

While some reaction in Twitter-verse and Facebook-dom after Osama's death were pragmatic, e.g., "It does not stop Al Qaeda"; "Terrorist cell groups still exist"; and "It was a great moral victory but it may not mean more than that*,"opinions I probably would've sided with in a different time of my lifeI'm all like,

Can't we just be happy for the Americans, the world, for us (this country has been, and continues to be a victim, too) for ONE DAY, and just relish that thought, that fantasy, that there's world peace in place at that very moment?!

*Ressa and other experts I can understand: they've studied terrorist movements long enough to be in a constant state of pragmatism. I'm not as understanding with the rest.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Reblogging: An open letter to the Philippine writing community


Shattering the Silence

From the moment that sports blogger Jaemark Tordecilla brought to the light of public attention the fact that Alfred “Krip” A. Yuson had plagiarized an article by GMA News Online sportswriter Rey Joble, entire portions of which appeared in a piece under Yuson’s name in the April 2011 issue of Rogue magazine, we, members of the Philippine reading public, have followed the issue avidly and with great concern as to its resolution.
Our interest is rooted primarily in the fact of Yuson’s prominent position in the cultural matrix. As Tordecilla pointed out in his exposé, Yuson is a Hall of Fame awardee of the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, arguably the most prestigious literary distinction in the country. In addition, he has authored and/or edited several publications in different genres, has won recognition for his work at home and abroad, evaluates the output of other writers for the purpose of competitions and workshops—not least among them the annual Silliman University National Writers Workshop, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year—teaches with the Department of English at Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU), and helped found organizations like the Philippine Literary Arts Council (PLAC) and the Manila Critics Circle (MCC). Finally, many of the texts that he has produced have found their way into the classroom as standard readings, which likely secures a place for him in the canon of Philippine literature.
It need hardly be said that Yuson’s stature as a writer, teacher, and gatekeeper affords him not only great power, but also a commensurate degree of responsibility. We believe that he has shown himself undeserving of the one and unequal to the other by virtue of how Yuson has thus far dealt with the matter in Tordecilla’s blog and in his own weekly The Philippine Star column. In these responses, rather than simply acknowledging the offense and apologizing for it, he offers up excuses—his advanced age, deadline pressure, and exhaustion, among others—deployed in rhetoric that belies his claims to contrition.
Moreover, Yuson seeks to confuse the issue by invoking the fraught relations between author and editor, in spite of the fact that his engagement with these relations, as well as with the concept of plagiarism, lacks the self-reflexivity, rigor, and intelligence required in order for it be tenable or acceptable. That he would resort to such subterfuge and at the same time admit that he had deliberately omitted any indicators that he had lifted material from Joble, like reportorial credits and purportedly “clunky” quotation marks, is breath-taking in its audacity and impunity. Surely integrity ought not to be incinerated upon the altar of aesthetics.
It is in this regard that we commend GMA News Online for its decision not to renew Yuson’s contract as editor at large. It is in the same regard that we profess ourselves disturbed and outraged by the deafening silence with which the writing establishment has met this controversy. The plagiarism of Yuson does not involve him alone: to the extent that he is representative of—because deeply imbricated in—the larger world of Philippine letters, his act also necessarily implicates the figures and structures that make up that world. The prevalent reluctance, nay, refusal among Yuson’s peers to openly condemn him would seem to indicate cowardice at best, and complicity at worst. Neither speaks well of our writers, journalists, scholars, and institutions—and may even be symptomatic of a more deeply entrenched cancer of corruption in our cultural sector.
What is certain is this: allowing the scandal to fester in a season of indifference would be tantamount to a virtual relinquishment of any moral authority and credibility that the Philippine writing community may have.
In view of the foregoing, we, the undersigned:
Condemn the act of plagiarism that Yuson committed. We reiterate what is generally accepted knowledge in journalism and the academe: plagiarism consists of misrepresenting the work of others as one’s own, and is considered a heinous violation of ethical standards. Furthermore, when one lifts information or material from a source without the appropriate quotation marks, formatting, and documentation, one has already committed plagiarism, and no amount of laziness, carelessness, or forgetfulness can be admitted as an exculpatory factor. We also denounce Yuson’s attempts to evade accountability for his actions by forwarding arguments that, as the Center of Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) has pointed out, tend toward the legitimization of plagiarism. Finally, we decry Yuson’s callous and cavalier treatment of Rey Joble and the effort that he put into his work as a sportswriter.
Challenge the members of the Philippine writing community to make an unequivocal stand against Yuson’s plagiarism. At the very least, we expect Rogue magazine and The Philippine Star to emulate GMA News Online in its commitment to integrity. Associate Justice Maria Lourdes P. Sereno, in her dissenting opinion on the Supreme Court decision to exonerate her colleague Mariano del Castillo from charges of plagiarism, argues that when entities involved in the intellectual life of a culture uphold guidelines against plagiarism, these bodies “are not making themselves out to be error-free, but rather, they are exerting themselves to improve the level of honesty in the original works generated in their institution”. It is true that valuable questions have been raised about the very notion of originality from various fields of inquiry, but we contend that the specificity of the situation at hand calls for no such questions, and would invest it with more profundity than it deserves.
Enjoin the institutions of Philippine letters to cooperate in order to educate their constituents and the wider public about plagiarism. Contrary to Yuson, plagiarism is not a “blooming buzzword” but a chronic problem, which many a teacher will no doubt confirm. Recognizing and avoiding plagiarism is a matter of acquiring particular skills, which, as this incident would seem to illustrate, are not taught as well or as widely as they ought to be. The need for these skills will become especially urgent as our society becomes increasingly knowledge-based. We presume to suggest that Ateneo de Manila University, unfortunately entangled as it has become in various plagiarism disputes, take the initiative in bringing students, teachers, writers, readers, and institutions together to work through this admittedly complex matter. Regardless of who takes the lead, however, Yuson’s offense constitutes a teachable moment for us all, and should not be allowed to pass from our cultural memory unremarked and ignored for the sake of a spurious harmony.

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