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Eraserheads: The Reunion

Eraserheads. Reuniting again after how many years. So, was it worth it?

Of course it was. Notwithstanding the fact that the concert was cut short during the halftime break.

And we all thought it was going to rain. Thank God it didn't. But still, there's Murphy's Law, and nobody can stop Murphy's Law except a well-prepared boy scout. Still, nobody could've predicted that Ely's health would fail at the last minute, as they even had a dry run the night before (sound engineer, whoever you are, give me a copy of the dry run). But probably the thirty thousand-strong crowd was too much for Ely Buendia to handle.

Anyway, it was a great show. It was good to hear Raimund Marasigan behind the drums once more, Buddy Zabala spitting out his bass chops (especially in Alapaap), Marcus Adoro (still my favorite E-head) with his steady riffs, and of course, Ely Buendia belting out his masterpieces. There's something about hearing them live once more, when the last time I heard them play live was in a gig at St. Scholastica's Manila, back in 1998. Man, I didn't realize that was like ten years ago.

Anyway, here is the list of songs they performed for their first (and only) set:
1. Alapaap (after which Ely exclaimed "Thank you, and good night!")
2. Ligaya
3. Sembreak
4. Hey Jay
5. Harana
6. Fruitcake
7. Toyang
8. Kama Supra
9. Kailan
10. Huwag Kang Matakot
12. With a Smile
13. Shake Yer Head
14. Huwag Mo Nang Itanong
15. Light Years

Let me just share something my brother told me last night. My brother was a marshall in the VIP section, and it was his job to check the names on the guest list. A guy approached him, and my brother asked, "Kanino pong guest list at ano po pangalan?" (Under which guest list, and your name, please.) To which the guy replied, "Kay Ely po, sabi niya sabihin ko raw Lito Metermaid. Hindi niya kasi alam last name ko eh." (Under Ely's, and he said I'm listed as Lito Metermaid. Ely doesn't know my last name.) My brother found this funny, being reminded of the Beatles song, so he asked the guy, "Kaanu-ano niyo po si Ely?" (How are you related to Ely?) And the guy replied, "Ako 'yung taga-basa ng metro niya." (I'm the guy who reads his electric meter.)

And true enough, there on the guest list was the name Lito Metermaid.

Rating: Four stars.


Star Wars: The Clone Wars

George Lucas makes his millions again.

Yes, The Clone Wars is another money-making venture from Lucasfilm, and yes, it's a shameless way to plug the upcoming animated TV series for Cartoon Network. But it's still Star Wars, and the legions of nerds and geeks (yours truly included) will soak this up like a sponge.

The CGI quality of this movie pales in comparison to the cinematic standard set by Pixar. The voices are not the original; only the ubiquitous Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu, Anthony Daniels as that effeminate droid Threepio, Matthew Wood as the battledroids, and the king of celluloid Christopher Lee as Count Dooku, return to reprise their roles. The music is obviously not by John Williams anymore (you'll know it's not your regular Star Wars when you hear electric guitars), and even the famous opening scroll has been replaced by a narrator's voice over.

Animation-wise, the characters are a bit too stiff, and their mouths lack motion (and emotion) when talking. But the animators succeeded in their efforts to try not to look like Beowulf or The Incredibles, for the style they came up with is totally unique. Basically, it's a 3D version of the 2003 Cartoon Network Clone Wars, and it may look a bit angular and dirty, but taken as a whole, the visual look is pretty nice. The vistas are spectacular, and the fight scenes are the film's saving grace. It actually puts the "Wars" in "Clone Wars". If you want battles, lightsaber duels, and outer space dogfights, this film has it all.

If you didn't like the film, that's probably because you're not a Star Wars fan, and this film wasn't made for you. George Lucas made this film for the fans, not for anyone else (who the hell cares about the Clone Wars anyway). Just don't watch this film with a non-Star Wars fan, if you don't want yourself bombarded by questions like "How did Anakin become a bad guy?" or "Why is Anakin stronger than the others?" Anyone new to Star Wars would be better off starting with A New Hope, just like the rest of us. Movies like these are for the more advanced freaks.

Rating: Three and a half stars.



And Pixar does it yet again.

Pixar Studios still continues to be the best and most artistic makers of computer-animated films, and it is rather hard to maintain that status, what with all the other studios racing to topple them off their pedestal. But after nine films under its belt, Pixar still remains the undisputed leader in quality storytelling.

WALL-E would be a shoo-in for another Academy Award. It pushes its boundaries this time by going into outer space which, after Finding Nemo, Pixar felt it was ready to do. The camera work for the space shots were carefully researched, including the nebulous clouds and the lens flares, and without too much dialogue to hold you down, you can just sit back and let the scenery sink in.

The absence of dialogue, especially for the first part of the film, makes WALL-E transcend language barriers, and just goes to prove that an actor's performance is not gauged by how good he is at accents or voice-changing, but by how well he can convey emotions without even opening his mouth. Then again, Pixar has already been proving this point with their short film tie-ins (this particular film is paired up with the short film Presto, which works wonderfully without any dialogue whatsoever).

The design of the characters is also quite interesting. The robot EVE's design was actually based on the sleek, white design of Apple products like the iPod (it would be interesting to note that Pixar used to be owned by Steve Jobs before it was acquired by Disney). Some critics say that WALL-E's design was based on Johnny 5, the talking robot from the eighties film Short Circuit. But the resemblance is only in the binocular eyes and the tank treads, and it stops there. WALL-E is a complete character on his own, and as soon as you see the film, you'll agree that it would be an insult to state that WALL-E is a Johnny 5 rip-off.

WALL-E's voice was created by Ben Burtt, the genius behind the excellent sound design of the Star Wars prequels, and he also does the voice of several other robots in the film, like the clean-up bot M-O (which stands for Microbe Obliterator). Kathy Najimy and Pixar favorite John Ratzenberger star as Mary and John, two obese humans on board the Axiom. And the Axiom's computer is voiced by Sigourney Weaver, a clear nod to the Alien films.

Again, WALL-E is not just a children's film, but one even adults would enjoy. So I suggest you see it with your special someone, and you'd be holding hands before the film ends. Oh, and before I forget: stay for the closing credits, for a run-through of the history of art.

Rating: Five stars.


You Don't Mess With the Zohan

One riotous laugh-out-loud movie.

Adam Sandler's Happy Madison production comes up with a noticeably intelligent comedy, and they definitely didn't hold back on the sex jokes. Zohan Dvir is Israel's modern-day superhero, a counter-terrorist who gets tired of the 2000-year old conflict in the Holy Land and decides to pursue his dream of styling hair in New York City. It may seem like a shallow plot, but it is actually inspired by the famous Arbib brothers, all former Israeli soldiers-turned-hairstylists (they still run the salons Shampoo and Shampoo Too in West Hollywood).

The script's no-holds-barred humor (sexually, politically, and racially) is a result of the comic brilliance of three distinguished comedians today: Sandler, Saturday Night Live writer Robert Smigel, and of course the popular Judd Apatow. But of course, it's the crazy performances of the actors that breathe life into the script.

Adam Sandler plays the Zohan perfectly, in a role tailor-made for him and his Jewish roots. Along with John Turturro as Phantom the terrorist, and joined by Rob Schneider as the cab driver Salim, the three buddies reunite once more, and make comic acting seem effortless (which, to them, it probably is). Nick Swardson is quite funny as Michael, the clueless New Yorker who takes Zohan in, and Emmanuelle Chriqui sizzles the screen as the hairdresser Dhalia. Filipino-American actor Alec Mapa also gets some screen time as the hairstylist Claude.

Speaking cameos abound in this movie, starting with Michael Buffer himself (you'd half-expect him to suddenly shout "Let's get ready to rumble!") as the tycoon Walbridge; the musician Dave Matthews as James; Chris Rock as a Jamaican taxi driver; and the following play themselves: actor Kevin James, tennis great John McEnroe, actor George Takei, and diva Mariah Carey herself.

Again, expect a lot of sex jokes, political jokes, and racist jokes, all tastefully done, and you'd be surprised how many times you'd catch yourself laughing out loud.

Rating: Four stars.


Batman: Gotham Knight

Can't get enough of the Batman.

Warner Bros. already did a similar trick during the Matrix run. Somewhere between The Matrix and The Matrix Reloaded, they decided to release an animated project that would sort of "bridge" the two movies together. While it is obviously an attempt at making more money (I frown upon Hollywood's money-making mentality), it nonetheless satisfies the cravings of a Batman junkie.

This is a straight-to-DVD release, with six animated short features, all about the crime fighter with the pointy ears. The stories are dark and sinister, consistent with Christopher Nolan's reboot of the franchise, and their animation style is---what else---Japanese anime. We all know how much the Western world loves anime.

Kevin Conroy, whose voice you might recognize as that from the original Batman animated series, once again lends his vocal prowess as the billionaire in a bat suit, which quite frankly makes me feel at home, like I'm once again in familiar territory. Veteran voice actor Jason Marsden also appears, as several characters, true to his cartoon-voicing roots, and even CSI's Gary Dourdan also provides the voice of Gotham cop Crispus Allen.

Again, this video was released with a target audience clearly in mind: the anime fans, and the Batman fans. You'd be surprised how many there are out there.

Rating: Four stars.


The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

Two words: Ho Hum.

First of all, Terra Cotta warriors were not mummies, so I don't know how they were able to force the mummy theme on a Chinese setting.

Brendan Fraser reprises his role as the tomb raider Rick O'Connell, but strangely, Maria Bello takes over the role of Evy from Rachel Weisz. Apparently, Rachel Weisz chose not to return to her role, citing "problems with the script." And those problems become pretty obvious as the film moves along.

John Hannah still plays the same comic relief character he played in the previous Mummy flicks, but he's become a bit more of a potty-mouth this time. Luke Ford plays the O'Connells' now-grown-up son Alex, but the fresh performances definitely come from the Chinese cast led by Russell Wong as General Ming, Michelle Yeoh as the sorceress Zi Yuan, and Mr. Jet Li himself as the Dragon Emperor.

The film is---let me put it bluntly---boring, and it's also riddled with inconsistencies. The story was supposed to be set in Communist China, so how was Jonathan, a foreigner, able to own a bar in Shanghai? And Yetis? They put Yetis in the story?

I'm sorry, but after watching this film, I regretted it immediately, and wished I'd just watched The Dark Knight again. At least I wouldn't have slept through that one.

Rating: Two and a half stars.


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