Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Film: Looper

In Looper, set in the year when time travel has become possible, a hired assassin is tasked to kill people sent to him from the future.

  • I don't normally have anything against Bruce Willis but when he appeared in the movie, I started not to take the film seriously. (-0.5)
  • His eyes are squinted the entire time, which is what I do when I'm taking a self-portrait and I don't want my eyebags to show. (-0.5)
  • In one scene, he decimates an entire mafia ring as he heaves by his lonesome with his machine gun. This reassured me of the soundness of my prejudice. (-1)
  • Except for a brief moment, Joseph Gordon-Levitt does not take off his shirt. (-10) Hello?!
  • In my book, Emily Blunt can do no wrong, never mind that her Southern American character hints of a British background every now and then. (+5)
  • The kid, Pierce Gagnon, is pure awesome. (+5) I think he can hold his own against Meryl Streep. In fact, someone should get the three of them all together, Meryl, Emily, and the kid for a sequel to The Devil Wears Prada. He would play Miranda's deputy chief and he'll be wearing Rick Owens, Margiela, and those brogue espadrilles from, of course, Prada.
  • But before that, I would reeeaally want him and that kid in The Orphan to tag team in a horror flick. Then we'd all run out of the theater in the middle of the movie because to stay would mean a concession to devil worship. (+100 to that movie)

Looper, which I did not really review, gets an 8/10 rating from me.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Snapshots, fourth week of October

I'm almost on my first 100 pages of The Casual Vacancy. (Thanks Richelle for sending me the eBook version!) I'm actually enjoying it even if the skeptic in me says JK Rowling wrote it with an epic film already in mind due to the sheer breadth of characters that are involved.

Went to Manila FAME. Entrance fee went down from P500 to P50 and that's the only reason why Giff, Jill, and Pam successfully made me go with them :-P (Originally planned on roaming around MOA while I waited for them.)

Birdcage ceiling lamps at Lugang (pronounced lukang) Cafe, a Taiwanese restaurant.
Luga in Tagalog means "earwax"; ng is a conjunction, describing what type of restaurant it is. 

Roast duck, also at Lugang. Review of the restaurant later.

I normally roll up my sleeves so I love this gray shirt from Topman.

Still at the MOA complex. Pam and I recalled how as kids, we asked the ferris wheel operator to prematurely stop the ride and let us off because we got scared of the height.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Film: Argo

Argo opens with one of the most intense and riveting 15-minutes I've ever seen onscreen. This same, gripping feeling would keep me at the edge of my seat at least until the last few minutes of the movie when the story, "based on true events," went overboard with the cliffhangers and drilled them onto the viewer one after the next. I thought it was an unnecessary sacrifice of intelligence over entertainment. Director Ben Affleck, who also stars in the film as the CIA agent tasked to fly six endangered Americans out of Iran at the cusp of the Iranian Revolution in 1979, painstakingly (and beautifully) created something close to a documentary: the frenetic camera work, the filter of warm hues, and the translation of actual photographs from that event into the film's narrative.

Rating: 9/10

* * * *

The great thing about this though, is that it makes the younger generation read up on the documented versions of these events and hopefully sniff out the truth.

Here's a good start:

One must also weigh in on an event that happened 20 years before the Iranian Revolution: the time the U.S. and U.K governments overthrew Iran's democratically elected president in 1953.

The anti-American sentiment took two decades to brew until the Iranians felt they've had enough. Many believe the world is still feeling its repercussions9/11 includeduntil today.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Fashion: FitFlop sandals

Grass green Sling in tumble leather

I was skeptical when I first heard of FitFlop, sandals that supposedly tone your legs. After two full days of walking around Bangkok wearing no other footwear, I became a convert.

More than the toning effect, what I loved most about FitFlop was that it's one of the most comfortable shoes I've ever worn (along with my pairs of Sebago, which deserve a separate post). Granted my pair of FitFlop falls under the sandals category—ergo, they are ideally comfortable—I was really impressed when I used my pair to tour the Asian city and my feet did not complain by nighttime.
Lake blue Sling in textile-nubuck leather combination

Compared to your normal sandals, FitFlop has about two inches of thick, firm padding, which is necessary for guys like me who have heavy feet. The first time I wore it, my heel felt like it sunk onto cloud nine—the insole deliciously cushioned the arch of my feet; I hardly felt the impact of each step I made. At the end of my day as a tourist, my feet may have been tired but my sole had no sore points even if I tried placing pressure on my usual problem areas. I didn't require a Thai foot massage! By next morning, I was ready for another day.

Also, despite its chunk, the sandals were as light as they could be. To top it all off, my toes could wiggle freely thanks to the Sling’s strap design.

(By the way, the reason why it took me this long to write a review is because I wanted to make sure the padding would remain as thick and firm as it was on its first day. After nine months, I'm happy to report that still holds true.)

Another advantage of the thick cushioning is that it protects your feet from getting dirty or wet, especially when there are small puddles on the street. Again, two inches of additional height surely do not hurt, especially for Pinoy guys :-)

Model wears Sling in blue. (Lol.)
Model wears the lake blue Sling in nubuck leather. (Lol.)

Going back to the toning effect, I did feel it activated leg muscles that don't normally sore during strenuous activities, though I doubt it would actually make a noticeable difference on your legs on the outside.

Overall, I do feel the incredible support it gives my feet and legs. When I switched footwear on my way to the airport (I always dress up for flights :-) after having used FitFlop extensively, I immediately felt the less-than-stellar performance of my boat shoes.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Film: Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles

"Hay." (Sigh.) That was exactly what I had in mind when cracks in Tiktik were beginning to show as I was watching it. To be fair, I will run out of superlatives if I were to describe the positive things about the film: the post-production; the acting, particularly those of Dingdong Dantes and his biceps, Joey Marquez (who I strongly dislike in real life but who I found absolutely charming in his role), Janice de Belen, and Roy Vinzon; and the overall styling (love the clothes of the teenage aswangs, very street-style fashion!) and vision of the film. That's why I find it almost unacceptable that the film allowed itself to be scarred by a highly preventable problem in pre-production: inanities in the plot. I really thought it wasted an opportunity to make an outstanding contemporary Filipino horror film.

The script, written by Erik Matti (who also directed this movie) did have some golden moments especially when it creatively incorporated Pinoy pop culture: I loved, for example, the unexpected use of that candy and that nuts brand. I thought the final confrontation scene, when the group attempted to fool the alpha male aswang, was a subtle nod to noontime game shows. There were also the self-aware, hybrid of scary-funny scenes that sell like they did in Drag Me to Hell.

My major beef was when the actors, both normal people and monster chracters, seemed to compete for the title of stupidest persons in the planet. I could not understand why, if your house was being attacked by aswangs, you'd actually opt to give birth BESIDE the window, with your back FACING it. I don't know how you could outrun aswangs when a few minutes earlier, they were able to catch up to your jeep. I don't get why the aswangs, who have the upperhand, would take their sweet time before killing off their victims. And I absolutely have no idea how a whole barangay of aswangs was not able to overcome a poorly secure, two-storey house with enough windows to compete with the Manila Cathedral. I won't even question how a newly birthed woman was able to sashay out into the field, with her duster flapping in the wind—fine, I'll attribute that to adrenaline.

The plot really counts on its viewers to be that stupid to accept such questionable and unreasonable storylines. That many people and aswangs did not have to die. Yes, I'm standing up for aswang rights here, lol.

My minor issues in the post-production was that some of the scenes no longer looked Pinoy. In one, Tatin both and I looked at each other and exclaimed, "the African savannah?" There were also the very slow-mo scenes that obviously intended to highlight the special effects, but which seemed farcical when you consider the plot.

Also, the aswangs at one point looked like your generic Hollywood alien. The male alpha aswang was no longer recognizable, as far as Filipino folklore was concerned. It would have been nice if they looked original and organic, instead of obviously looking like CGI.

Judging by the title, "Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles" there's bound to be  sequels. I hope the script would then give its audience the credit it deserves. Again, sayang.

Rating: 6/10 overall; 10/10 for post-prod.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Food: Quiznos

Quiznos, which opened its doors in High Street, Taguig about two weeks ago, is a fairly new franchise in the Philippines but this U.S. brand has been around for over two decades. In fact, it got a headstart in the toasted sandwich business, even before rival chain, Subway, according to its Wikipedia entry. It will be interesting to see how the brand will do here considering that we are a rice country. For starters, the local franchise has adobo in the menu.

The restaurant's ambience is bright and open with a sleek vintage aesthetic. Everything is done by self-service; sauce and utensils are in one corner, and you are also strongly encouraged to clean up after yourself by placing your tray, basket, and trash in the proper recycle bins.

For the sandwiches, we tried chicken carbona (chicken, bacon, mozzarella, mushroom, parmesan alfredo sauce), meatballs in marinara sauce (with mozzarella and parmesan), and pulled pork with barbecue sauce (with cheddar and lettuce), all in rosemary parmesan bread. Other bread choices are wheat and Italian white. They come in 5-, 8-, or 11-inch sizes.

The 11-inch sandwich in rosemary parmesan bread

Pulled Pork with Barbecue Sauce (P235)

Meatballs in Marinara Sauce (P235)

Chicken Carbona, already split in thirds (P235)

The runaway winner for me was the carbonara sandwich. I admit I initially questioned the judgment of whoever thought of this (lol) but the rich and creamy combination did work for my palate.

I'm not sure if it was just birth pains or a fluke that particular day but I found the rest our orders a little wanting in salt. (Among my four friends, only two of us complained about this, so it may also be just our taste. Also, as a warning, eat carefully :-P The toasted bread tends to scrape your gum as it happened to the three of us.) Fortunately, you can get this from the condiment corner:

This has to be the Magic Sarap of sauces because this greatly enhanced my eating experience. It has a sweet, spicy, and barbecue flavor that I thought made the meat sandwiches perfect. On a somewhat related note, I hope the restaurant would at least provide a washroom (it has no toilet) as it would prevent us from licking the juice and sauces off our hands :-P

We had to split up the 11-incher (from P225); 8" (from P175) should be filling for someone with a regular appetite, while the 5-incher (from P125) looks enough for someone on a diet :-P See the complete menu here.

A pleasant surprise was the cookie, which we all raved about. Make sure to eat it while it's fresh from the oven and hot.

Chocolate Chip Cookie (P35)


Fort Bonifacio
G/F One Parkade, 7th Ave cor 28th St
Fort Bonifacio, Taguig

Mon to Thu, Sun: 10am - 11pm
Fri to Sat: 10am - 12am

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Book: The Virgin Suicides (updated)

"You never get over it," she said. "But you get to where it doesn't bother you so much."

The Virgin Suicides is about five sisters, who within a span of a year, all kill themselves. Set in an American suburb before its elm trees were uprooted and its river polluted, the novel paints a picture of the adolescent experience when there were no social media and personal gadgets yet and neighbors, beyond cordial and communal duties such as going to church and raking leaves in the fall, are reduced to spying on families next door, behind their window blinds, to entertain themselves.

It was from those encounters and non-encounters that a group of boys tell the story of the Lisbon sisters. Their collective voice, spoken in the first person, serves as the novel's narrator, which retraces the events leading to the suicides by conducting interviews, collecting artifacts, and sharing their own version of the experience.

Jeffrey Eugenides has a gift for––I've no other word for it––rendering his setting and characters. Take this excerpt for example, as he tours the reader around the Lisbon's home:

"He came back to us with stories of bedrooms filled with crumpled panties, of stuffed animals hugged to death by the passion of the girls, of a crucifix draped with a brassiere, of gauzy chambers of canopied beds, and of the effluvia of so many young girls becoming women together in the same cramped space."

Yes, I smelled it.

There was also this:

"He put his finger in the ravenous mouth of the animal leashed below her waist. It was as though he had never touched a girl before; he felt fur and an oily substance like otter insulation. Two beasts lived in the car, one above snuffling and biting him, and one below, struggling to get out of its damp cage."


It certainly takes a dark sense of humor to appreciate this novel considering it's in flashback format and you already know that these girls, particularly this one with the gnawing monster, is already dead.

Initially, I had reservations about the book because the last thing I wanted was for the author to romanticize suicide. While the narrator does rationalize it to make sense of the tragedies, he eventually expresses the same frustration I feel whenever I hear of someone taking his own life: Why???

This is one of the best books I've read this year: the plot and writing style are breezy and engaging, considering the subject. Looking forward to watching the movie directed by Sofia Coppola; reviews were generally favorable.

* * * *


Jessica Zafra recently interviewed the author for her column.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Film: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Will 10,000 live salmon imported from Britain survive in the Arabian peninsula? A sheik takes a British team to task: he wants to introduce salmon fishing to his desert country, the Yemen. (Who knew it required the article, 'the'? Also, who else thinks 'salmon fishing' should be hyphenated?) Fred (Ewan McGregor) as the UK government's fisheries expert initally dismisses it as a wealthy man's capricious project but later realizes there must be more to it than what appears to be a hobbyist's £50-million whim.

This romantic comedy, which is delightfully British in every way, would have probably become cheese fodder for less capable actors, but in the hands of Ewan, Emily Blunt (Harriet, the love interest) and Kristin Scott Thomas, who plays the racuous press secretary of the Prime Minister, the film pulsates with humor, wit, and self-reflection. While it glossed over its broad themes (love, politics, religion: the big three, no doubt) with easily solved conundrums, the plot does have surprises up its sleeve.

Rating: 9/10

The film is exclusive to Ayala Cinemas.

Meanwhile, There's no salmon fishing in Yemen, tourist board warns.

The Yemen Tourism Promotion Board said they had been "inundated" with requests about the Western Asian country following the cinema release of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.

Benjamin Carey, Yemen Tourism's UK spokesman said today : "There's been a real surge in visitors to our website since the film. There's been thousands of visits to our website.

"One negative is that salmon fishing isn't actually that popular in Yemen, but there are excellent sea fishing opportunities in the country.

"Also, unfortunately the EU is currently advising against travel to Yemen, which we think is excessive.

"Some places are very hospitable but I wouldn't advise people to go to certain places at this time."

Friday, October 12, 2012

Stella in High Street, The Fort

For starters, we were given a selection of bread and a tomato with garlic dip.
My friends and I were generally pleased with what we ordered. The meat dishes, in particular, were soft and tender—without being overcooked—and they practically melted in our mouths.
Stella's Porchetta (P395)
Pork belly roll stuffed with double smoked bacon (which I didn't see in my order), fennel, herbs, served with Warm Rosemary Sultana Sauce
Stella's Porchetta (P395) was beautifully plated. Just look at that skin crackled to golden brown perfection. It's stuffed with herbs and served with "warm rosemary sultana sauce," which provides a welcome sweet-sour (heavy on the former) layer to the dish.
Braised U.S. Beef Short Ribs (P495)
Spicy, sticky, sweet sesame glaze, grilled leeks, kimchi pineapples 495.00
Giff had the Braised U.S. Beef Short Ribs. I took a small bite from his plate, and again, it was fall-off-the-bone tender. I thought the marination had a Korean-stew sweetness to it.
Salt Baked Gindara Fillet (P395)
400g., light dill-citrus cream, citrus bits
Yes, this was as dry as it looks in the photo. I was hoping the fish would be steamy and juicy since it's presented in a clay pot, but when I took a bite, the texture was dry and flaky, almost like paper. I'm not sure if it's because the moisture was absorbed by that bread (Tatin insisted that that was in fact, a crust of salt; unfortunately, we only debated about it post-dinner and through the photos. No one bothered to touch it during dinner, lol. Well, if this is in fact, salt then that perhaps explains the dryness.) Pam and Tatin swear this was one of their favorites from a separate dinner at the same restaurant, so either of our orders may have been a fluke.
Butcher's Best (P325)
Homemade garlic-fennel sausage, double-smoked bacon, pepperoni, red onions, fennel dust, fresh Rizal dairy mozzarella
Tatin's order which I didn't get to taste but which she says she enjoyed. Anyway, I'm posting it for the photo because the crust looks beautiful :-P This is Butcher's Best (P325), with "homemade garlic-fennel sausage, double-smoked bacon, pepperoni, red onions, fennel dust, fresh Rizal dairy mozzarella."
For starters which yes, I'm writing at the end of this post (lol), we had the French Bean Friti (P295) from next-door and affiliate restaurant, Rocket Room. Based on the menu, it's fried with harissa aioli: the former is Tunisian chili sauce, and the latter is mainly garlic and olive oil. I loved the salty-spicy-oily combination, but gee, it's way overpriced in my opinion.
I've a mixed feeling about the service. The head waiter was initially over-enthusiastic—almost to a fault—and then later, mixed up one of our orders and seemed to have forgotten listing another dish. (Well, for the record, he didn't, in fact, list our orders but took them to memory.) Later, we were relegated to a different waiter, who got our orders for dessert, and then belatedly told us that they were no longer available. (It was as simple as ice cream—hardly something a restaurant should run out of stock of.) For the restaurant's price range, I guess I was more impatient about what I felt were rookie mistakes :-) Nevertheless, the staff remained in a pleasant disposition throughout our dining experience.
Bonifacio High Street Central
G/F Bonifacio High Street Central, East Superblock,
7th Ave cor 29th St
Fort Bonifacio, Taguig
+632 631 3222

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Simpsons: Tapped Out

I've always enjoyed games that allow me to organize stuff, hence my previous addiction to Sims City, Pet Society, and Cityville. I'm not sure if it's a case of wishful thinking, both for my home and the city of Manila, but I relish being able to design and build them from the ground up. My problem though with those games is that they require you to beg your friends to visit your 'house' or 'city' and click your Facebook links, say 15 times, to be able to give you the requisite virtual stuff to level up. Some also require you to sign up as much as 15 'neighbors' that I've actually befriended people I don't know in real life.

Mayor Quimby makes a speech in front of the city hall, while Devil Ned Flanders "shows his wrath" on the upper left. The rest of the citizens walk by.

Which makes The Simpsons: Tapped Out the BEST GAME of its genre. Save for a task to have about three friends as neighbors, you can enjoy this game without having to bother other people. And by enjoy, I mean enjoooy—the characters are a hoot particularly when they make self-referential jokes about being an iOS city-building game.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Green day

It's a bright Wednesday morning for me.

Some of the presents I've received from friends lately: fortune plant bonsai; Keep Calm and Carry On English breakfast tea from London; and loose-leaf Japanese green tea :-) 

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Tokyo Bubble Tea's cream cheese concoctions

I honestly could no longer tell the difference among the many bubble tea houses that have sprouted in the city. One thing's for sure though, I like all of them!

However, I think I've found a particular favorite. To me, this is better than the versions found in Happy Lemon and Chatime.

Japanese roasted tea with cream cheese from Tokyo Bubble Tea

The cream cheese is so thick, it'll last you 'til the last drop of your drink. This particular branch in The Fort, Taguig also has beautiful interior and aesthetics.

For its branches, see Tokyo Bubble Tea on Facebook.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Give Up Tomorrow (updated)

You may watch the entire film on PBS until November 4, 2012. (via @tammygdavid)

* * * * *

I was too stunned to react after seeing Give Up Tomorrow, which to me, was a sign of how it crushed my faith in the justice system in the country. Before seeing the film, Pam swore that when the credits rolled, I'd be driven mad by the ineptness of the Philippine government (as I usually am) but instead, I was overcome with sadness and hopelesness, especially when I think of the countless names and faces who are victims of injustice, most especially of the bureaucratic kind.

The film is centered on Paco Larrañaga, the primary face behind the seven men accused of and eventually convicted for murdering the Chiong sisters. I was a teenager when this case, which happened in a relatively peaceful and prosperous province, shook the country, and I still remember how Paco and his co-accused were immediately villified, notwithstanding the lack of hard evidence and balanced reporting. News reports were so biased against them––and there were no other sources of 'credible' information then––that the ordinary person had no other recourse but to turn against them as well. Jessica Zafra also makes an excellent point about how the case became the perfect storm for social-class stereotyping:

And there is Larrañaga himself - a large, fair-skinned mestizo from a well-to-do family, whose color, ethnicity, economic status and family connections made him so easy to demonize.

The documentary makes a steady and reasonable case for the defense. Interviews from Paco's family were as tempered as they could possibly be (given their situation), that at one point, you could see how the father's lips were trembling in an attempt to reign in his emotions. I thought that was the most heartbreaking moment in the film. (Talking about the movie's production value seems trivial at this point, but let me just say that it is one of the best I've seen; the editing was unassailable.)

On the other end you see Mrs. Chiong, mother of the murder victims, and her actions floor you. I can't tell for sure if her interviews/clips were taken out of context but again, the film had been very sober in its presentation, so I'll leave it to viewers to be the judge of her character. Personally though, I find it hard to villify her as I can only imagine the pain of what she had gone/goes through, as if she has an excuse not to act out of logic.

What disheartened me the most though was not the royal incompetence of the justice system. (Make no mistake, I'm shocked by how the Supreme Court handled this.) I honestly think the media could have turned things around, especially when the case hearings were going downhill. There was an angle about a drug lord connection, which any of the journalists could have pursued but didn't. (However, I also understand that journalists can only do so much and that they also value their lives.) Skipping the preceding step, they could have cited the irregularities in the courtroom, which had turned into a circus. Or they could have simply been fair, accurate, and reasonable in their news reports. (I could only smirk as TV journalist Teddy Boy Locsin makes a douchebag of himself through his grossly biased reports clip after clip.) I thought the Larrañagas were too nice, naive, and level-headed not to have tried to win public sympathy through press interviews; I wished the media had done their part and approached the family for their story.

This documentary does that but I'm afraid it's been over a decade too late.

Rating: 10/10

Give Up Tomorrow is having a limited run and would only be shown until Tuesday, October 9 at Robinson's Galleria and Ermita, SM North Edsa, SM Megamall, SM Manila, SM Mall of Asia, SM Southmall, and SM Cebu.

Monday, October 01, 2012

A slice of breakfast

After Zac Efron's fan conference, Giff, Pam, and I headed to Slice in High Street, Fort Bonifacio. Personally, I'm beginning to like the area particularly when it's close to midnight because it's quiet and the temperature is cooler. Like most of the times that we were there, it had just drizzled so we actually preferred dining al fresco.

We went for dessert but we actually ended up ordering breakfast food, haha.

Giff and Pam both had champorado, one with Belgian dark chocolate (P200) and the other with milk chocolate (below):

Champorado with milk chocolate, P160

We all thought the deconstructed presentation was Instagram-worthy.

The bright interior and beautiful plating are perfect for capturing Instagram moments.

It tasted creamy and yummy (I took a spoonful) but they both had a common complaint: it was damn tiring to chew, lol. I *think* the oats were the muesli variety so aside from the chewy exercise, they are an awesome source of fiber.

Meanwhile, I had an arroz caldo (P150), which is as good as this comfort food can get. It had several chunks of diced chicken meat, so it was pretty filling.

To complete my 'breakfast,' I also ordered an Americano (P90), which again, was beautifully presented. I thought the nuts and raisins were a nice touch and complemented my brew.

Slice Cafe

Mon - Thu: 9:00 am - 12:00 am
Fri - Sat: 9:00 am - 2:00 am
Sun: 9:00 am - 12:00 am

G/F Bonifacio High Street Central, West Superblock
7th Ave cor 29th St
Fort Bonifacio, Taguig

+63 2 565 1998

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