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A Life Less Ordinary

This was one of Danny Boyle's earlier films. Of course this was way, way before Danny Boyle's Oscar.

A Life Less Ordinary is not your average, standard Hollywood rom-com. It's a romantic comedy with a twist. Delroy Lindo and the beautiful Holly Hunter play angels (literal, heavenly, cosmic angels) who are tasked by God to make sure that the odd couple of Ewan McGregor and Cameron Diaz fall in love.

This is the film where, in my opinion, Danny Boyle sold out. Danny Boyle's films have that unmistakable indie/art film quality about them, which seems to be missing in this particular film. We have less of the fantastic, magical, avante-garde shots characteristic of a Danny Boyle picture; instead, we have a safer approach to the overall visual feel, with less treading on experimental ground. Blame it all on the budget, and a cast of big-name stars.

But still, despite being described as a sell-out, Danny Boyle is still one of the best visual storytellers in the world right now. This film was released way back in 1997, and even then Boyle's visual style was already cemented.

Although Cameron Diaz and Ewan McGregor's onscreen chemistry passes the believability test, it's Delroy Lindo's and Holly Hunter's performances that the viewers will most likely remember. Well, that is of course aside from the brilliant supporting actors Stanley Tucci, Ian Holm, and Tony Shalhoub, whose mere presence in the film is a testament to its sell-out status.

*some info from imdb
photo from geekshow.us

A Life Less Ordinary. UK. 1997.

Rating: Seven over ten.


Coming Soon: Where the Wild Things Are

Some people may not be familiar with the title Where the Wild Things Are, even if you tell them it's a children's picture book. But show them the drawings, and it just might ring a bell for them.

Where the Wild Things Are, by the great Maurice Sendak, won the Caldecott medal (which is like the Oscars for children's books) way back in 1964, and even today parents still buy this book for their kids. This book is regarded as a classic in American children's literature, even if it is very, very short. It's so short you can read it in less than a minute. But it's the pictures that transport the reader into another universe, where the wild things dwell.

Yet despite its brevity, Warner Bros. will be making it into a movie. In fact, they already started. They are currently in post-production.

So how will they stretch ten sentences into at least ninety minutes? Leave that to the talented Spike Jonze, who is hopefully the perfect choice to pull this off.

*some info from imdb.com and wikipedia
pic from firstshowing.net


Secret Window

Typical Stephen King adaptation. But this one stars Johnny Depp.

By now, most people are already familiar with the elements of an adapted Stephen King story. You have the "it's-all-in-the-mind" thing going on, which is already enough to drive one crazy. Then you also have the cryptic words with double meanings. In this case, it's Shooter, the name of the villain played by John Turturro, which doubles as "Shoot Her," which is what Johnny Depp must do to his wife. Screw the spoilers, this is an old film anyway.

Johnny Depp plays the writer Mort Rainey, who forces himself into solitary confinement in order to write. Depp's acting is always excellent, and there is never a dull moment when he is onscreen. Mort Rainey is in fact a bit of a serious character, but Johnny Depp is able to make snide remarks that are really funny, but which do not compromise the tone of the film. He gives some jabs of sarcasm, all consistent with his character, without even letting his performance border on anything remotely comedic. That, ladies and gents, is fine acting.

John Turturro, on the other hand, is another brilliant creature altogether. Turturro is underrated simply because he chooses to do comedy instead of more serious roles like this one. But Turturro's acting talent cannot be denied.

Director David Koepp (who co-wrote the screenplay with the original author Stephen King) tells a relatively straight, concise story, yet somehow, he falls short in the suspense department. I mean Depp and Turturro can hold a suspense flick, no question, but their performances depend heavily on the script as well. What is not in the script cannot possibly appear onscreen. Well honestly, I'm not quite sure if the failure is in the directing or in the script, since Stephen King is, after all, partly responsible for the screenplay.

Final verdict: Terrific performances, yet not-so-effective treatment of the material.

*some info from imdb.com.
pic from scribbleking.typepad.com

Secret Window. USA. 2004.

Rating: Six and a half over ten.


Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Undoubtedly, one of the best (if not the best) naval movies ever made.

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World can be summed up in two words: time machine. It takes you back to the time when Napoleon was master of Europe, when oceans were battlefields.

And like a true magical phenomenon, no words can aptly describe this film. You have to watch it for yourself. For the entire duration of the film, you'll feel as if you've signed up for the crew of the HMS Surprise, joined them on deck when they sing their sailor songs, and shattered your eardrums with them while firing their big guns. And oh, the salt water. You can almost smell and taste the sea spray.

Another acting combo from Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany prove that after A Beautiful Mind, these two can conquer the world. These two actors, under the expert hand of director Peter Weir (the true master and commander), weave a universe so solid that nothing else exists except the ship and the vast ocean. Their acting skills actually spill over to the rest of the crew, and what you get is a solid, believable performance by everyone involved.

This film won two Oscars, one for Best Cinematography (for Russell Boyd) and another for Best Sound Editing (for Richard King). Two well-deserved Oscars, I might add, since Russell Boyd captured the authentic feel of the sea with the ship's constant rocking. In fact, the ship never stops rocking except for the sequence at the Galapagos isles, where our sea-legs are temporarily put to rest.

Strangely, Russell Crowe was not nominated for his acting, but it doesn't matter, as his performance here earned him a slot in my Acting Hall of Fame. But still, Crowe's performance isn't what holds this film together; it's the performance of the entire crew. From start to finish, the audience's disbelief will surely be suspended. The males will love it for the testosterone-filled camaraderie, while the ladies will love it for the damn cute sailors (ooh, James D'Arcy).

some info from imdb.com
pic from greatsite.com

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. USA. 2003.

*For tina, who never saw me give a film a ten-star rating.

Rating: Ten stars.


Madonna. The Immaculate Collection.

Guy Ritchie, my heart goes out to you. But your ex's album is still the best.

This album has the same effect as the Grand Theft Auto: Vice City soundtrack---maximum nostalgia. Especially for those who grew up in that wonderful decade known as the eighties.

This was back in the time when Madonna was the most controversial thing in music, with her alleged anti-Christ antics (with a name like Madonna and a single like "Like a Virgin," I mean, come on. Wait, come to think of it, even the title of this album is a religious pun), and everybody knows that was a great time in music. But before we go into the nitty-gritty, let me just share some facts about this album named after the virgin birth.

First of all, if you want to turn someone on to Madonna, then this is the perfect album to start with. This has all the Madonna basics, all the way from her innocent dance floor-days. The songs in this album are remixed by Shep Pettibone, and most of them remain true to the sound of their album versions. One exception is "Like a Prayer," (one of my most favorite Madonna songs), whose Latin disco version in this album sounds way better than the original.

This album, by the way, is Madonna's best-seller in the United States, selling more than ten million copies, and holds the record for the all-time best-selling compilation album from a female artist, with twenty-two million copies sold worldwide.

And since this is not your usual review, I will share some nostalgic memories with the lady known as Madonna:

"Live to Tell": I remember the video with Sean Penn and Christopher Walken always being shown on that TV station. I think it was CTV 31 or something.

"Like a Prayer": I had this classmate in grade school named Mike. I had a feeling he was gay. Then one day we went to his house, and he played this new single from Madonna, and he kept raving about how good it was, and he knew the lyrics to the whole song. And right there and then I knew he was gay.

"Papa Don't Preach": I remember my aunt forcing me to take an afternoon nap, with this song blaring on the radio.

"Cherish": My female neighbors danced to this song once at a Christmas or New Year's party. I forgot which, exactly.

"Material Girl": this is the video, ladies and gentlemen, where I had my first sexual awakening. (Okay, too much information.)

These are just some of the more vivid memories I have with Madonna. And contrary to popular belief, males who love Madonna are not necessarily gay. Well, all guys have a gay side to them, anyway.

some info taken from Wikipedia and cduniverse.com.

Rating: Ten stars.


U2. No Line on the Horizon.

How does a band sound when they're old? Like this.

Well, there's nothing wrong with being old, really. There's no escaping the grave.

A lot of fans have been complaining about U2 going soft and all that, but the fans are just looking for something else. This album was recorded in Fez, Morocco (how exotic!) and the original idea was to come up with a really experimental album, something new even to the four of them. However, the Moroccan air seemed to have laid them back somehow; hence, this milder, more mellow sound from the biggest band in the world. (Strangely, the biggest band in the world is also spelled with the fewest letters.)

So, try not to look for the Vertigo sound in this album, as you will not find it. Their heaviest track on this album is "Get On Your Boots," and one track out of eleven will not be enough to satisfy those fans with a hunger for heavy. No Line on the Horizon is more meditative, reflective. But tell that to the fans.

Anyway, they promised a follow-up album, possibly by the end of this year or early next. And they promised a new direction for their music, so there. Enough complaining.

Some info taken from popwatch.eu.com and U2.com.

Also try visiting The Captain, the biggest U2 fan I know.

Rating: Eight out of ten.


Q and A

First thing's first: this was the book that Slumdog Millionaire was based on. But this review is not a comparison between book and screenplay. This is a review about the book alone.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's move on to the finer points.

Great story, riveting, makes you want to finish the book in one sitting (I finished it in less than two days). Possibly just a very slight problem with the structure---it's too rigid. Each chapter is about one question in the quiz show, and is structured as "flashback-answer, flashback-answer." I don't think the rigid structure goes well with the stream-of-consciousness flow of the flashbacks. But that's just me nitpicking.

What's great here is the story. Vikas Swarup is a gifted storyteller. He gives you all these characters, literally coming out of nowhere that you'd suspect that Swarup was addicted to the "Deus ex machina" literary device. But once you reach the end, that's where you will appreciate the beauty of the character web that Swarup has woven for us. And the twist at the end---absolutely brilliant.

So for those who wish to learn the fine art of story adaptation, read this. Then watch Slumdog Millionaire. Similar, yet totally different. And totally difficult to pull off.

Rating: Eight and a half over ten.


What's Up, Joaquin Phoenix?

I've wanted to write about this for a long time now, but it totally slipped my mind.

Oh, Joaquin Phoenix...what went wrong?

How did you go from this:

to this:

You can read up on his antics here. But that's just one incident. There are more.

So, multiple choice. What's up with Joaquin?
  • a. He snapped out. Poor guy.
  • b. He is tripping. In a very eccentric manner.
  • c. He is doing publicity for an upcoming film.
  • d. He is method acting for an upcoming film.
  • e. I honestly don't know.

Emperor pic from slick-n-wet.tripod.com
Caveman pic from usmagazine.com

also on: concernedcitizenkane.blogspot.com



The business of computer animation seems to be a very lucrative one indeed, which is why Disney tries so hard to establish its own animation arm that will rival, if not surpass, Pixar. Good luck.

These are what I have to say about the film:
  • Bolt is cute. I don't know what breed he is.
  • Mittens the cat is scrawny.
  • Rhino the hamster is the cutest.

Somehow, you can always tell if a film is a non-Pixar film. It's in the story. But in this film, the similarities with Pixar stories are quite noticeable. That's because John Lasseter (the same Lasseter from Pixar) is the head honcho for Bolt. So if another guy from Pixar heads off to Dreamworks, then it's bye-bye to Pixar's monopoly of quality computer-animated flicks.

Still, only Pixar can pull off a blockbuster hit without using celebrity voices. Bolt however, relies heavily on their star-studded voice cast, with John Travolta (as the dog) and Miley Cyrus as the cutesie dog owner. Oh, there's also a voice cameo by wrestling legend Randy Savage. But I'll bet none of the youngsters today even know who he is.

This film, by the way, was released by Disney. I don't know why I kept saying Pixar.

Bolt. USA. 2008.

Rating: Seven out of ten.



British cinema starts off 2009 with a smart drama. The poster advertises it as "Trainspotting all over again," but that's just advertising crap. It's nothing like Trainspotting.

Clubbed tells the story of Danny, a dad of two separated from his family, his introduction to the world of club bouncers, and his eventual involvement in the dark side of his profession. The whole film centers around Danny's struggle, and I would like to congratulate the casting people for making an excellent choice. Mel Raido's portrayal of Danny, complete with all the bottled-up angst, is undoubtedly the film's selling point. Colin Salmon, possibly the only familiar face in the movie, does a great job too as the boxer-by-day-bouncer-by-night Louis, but still, Mel Raido outshines them all.

The title, I believe, is a play on "club," which is where these guys moonlight as bouncers, and possibly "club" as in to club someone to death (there are quite a few scenes of clubbings on the head). But whatever it is, it does not resemble Trainspotting at all.

Clubbed. UK. 2009.

Rating: Seven out of ten.


The Prodigy. Invaders Must Die

"We are The Prodigy."

What a way to start an album. As if we've forgotten.

Well it seems that fans have indeed forgotten, since their last studio album Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned left us in limbo. What sound would The Prodigy come up with next? Most critics have found AONO to be a bit too commercial, relying more on the repetitive synths and celebrity vocals than on the heavy drum and bass. I actually agree with them, save for the exception of a few tracks like "Spitfire," which remained true to the original Prodigy sound.

The Prodigy seems to be the Daniel Day-Lewis of electronica, with several years in-between their works, letting the public starve first before making their comeback. This time, though, Invaders Must Die shows us that The Prodigy is far from extinct; they were simply undecided as to what musical path to take. Invaders Must Die is their first studio album to feature all three band members (the great Liam Howlett, the crazy Keith Flint, and Maxim Reality) since The Fat of the Land, more than ten years ago. And they did indeed bring back their roots, showcasing their new sound as a a resurrection of 90s hardcore rave, complete with the heavy guitar riffs and headbanging beats.

Notable tracks of course are the title track "Invaders Must Die," "Run with the Wolves" and the trippy "Stand Up" (both featuring Dave Grohl on drums), and the distinctly old-school "Warrior's Dance." Just be careful when playing this in your car at night, you might get pulled over and searched for ecstasy.

Rating: Eight and a half over ten.



Sorry, fans. I never read the comic book, and I didn't like the movie.

It was eye candy, no doubt about that. With Zack Snyder at the helm, you can expect a real visual treat. But somehow the story just doesn't cut it.

The first rule in film adaptation is that someone without prior knowledge of the adapted material should still be able to appreciate the story. The adaptation should stand alone. That said, screenwriters David Hayter and Alex Tse should take the blame. Yes, I know people said that the comic book was unfilmable, but they said the same thing about Lord of the Rings, and look what Peter Jackson was able to pull off. Some screenplays take decades to write; all it requires is effort and a lot of creativity.

Well, there's the sexy Malin Ă…kerman, anyway, who kept my mind preoccupied most of the time. I love her hair. It looks good on her. Some things kept bothering me though, like why does Rorschach's mask keep changing all the time? Yes I know it's a reference to the Rorshach inkblot test, but why? Why does his mask do it, but not his face? Is it some kind of special mask? They never bothered to explain it.

Another thing that bothered me was the fact that they cut out a lot of shots in the lovemaking scene (another demented decision by the Philippine censors). They already gave it an R-18 rating, and they've been showing Dr. Manhattan's penis dangling all the time, so why did they even bother shortening the love scenes? It's not like there would be children in the audience, what with all the free-flowing blood and gore.

Anyway, this is my opinion, and go see it for yourself if you're a fan of the comic book. But like I said, a great adaptation should stand alone, and this film is not too friendly with people who have no idea about the comic book whatsoever.

Watchmen. UK. 2009.

Rating: Six out of ten.


Eraserheads Live! The Final Set

Lesson learned: Never be late for a concert. (In fact, never be late for anything.)

Well, with literally last-minute free tickets, who am I to argue, right?

For those who want to know which songs they actually played:

First set:
  • Magasin
  • Walang Nagbago
  • Maling Akala
  • Maskara
  • Poor Man's Grave
  • Waiting for the Bus
  • Huwag Mo Nang Itanong (reggae version by Marcus)
  • Slow / Slo Mo
  • Alkohol
  • Insomnia
  • Torpedo

Second set (acoustic version for the first six songs):
  • Minsan
  • Julie Tearjerky
  • Halika Tikman ang Langit
  • Wishing Wells
  • Fine Time
  • Pare Ko
  • Kailan
  • Back2Me
  • Trip to Jerusalem
  • Spoliarium
  • Overdrive

  • Superproxy
  • Alapaap
  • Kaleidoscope World/Ang Huling El Bimbo

After the encore, we already left the concert grounds. Then before we knew it, the four were back onstage, and they did a second encore.

  • Ligaya
  • Sembreak
  • Toyang

How could we have known there would be a second encore?! They've already rained confetti on the audience, and they've already set off the fireworks, I mean, come on!

Second lesson learned: Never leave a concert prematurely. Especially one this big.

Live but incomplete blow-by-blow here.


Pinoy Icons: Francis M

The whole nation mourns the passing of one of the great icons of Filipino music.

So instead of writing about how much Francis "Kiko" Magalona a.k.a. Francis M, has contributed to Filipino rap (you can find that on Wikipedia anyway), let me write about concrete experiences in my life where Francis M was involved. This will, however, reveal my age, but it matters not anymore, as we are all headed to the grave anyway.

In fourth grade, I did the "pineapple cut" once, less than a week after Francis M first sported it on national TV. For those of you who don't know what the pineapple cut is, it's a US marine-jarhead-type haircut, with the back and the sides of your head shaved in a criss-cross pattern, literally like a pineapple. My friends laughed at me back then, but I didn't care. Then the following week, three of them followed suit, but by that time my hair was already growing back, so I wasn't the cool one anymore.

Our school bus conductor, Rick, taught me (and the other rascals in our school bus) the proper way to rap "Mga Kabababayan." This included proper breathing, and where to pause to catch your breath.

One of the most popular rivalries in the 90s was Hip-Hop vs. Metal. Francis M and the Eraserheads were possibly the first musicians to try and bridge this gap through musical collaborations.

Musical genres for me were shattered with the release of the song "Kaleidoscope World." This made me appreciate the fact that the highest level of musical artistry is the ability to cross genres while retaining your fan base.

Let me just make it clear that Filipino music in the 90s was not dominated by the Eraserheads, nor by the other emerging rock acts back then. Francis M carved out a niche for Filipino rap, and along with Andrew E, paved the way for Filipino rap to blossom into what it is now. For being a pioneer, I salute Francis M, and I pray for our dearly departed comrade, who has now joined that big jam session in the sky.

Francis Magalona. 1964-2009.


Grand Theft Auto IV

Still the best game ever created.

By now, people should already be familiar with the GTA franchise, it being one of the most popular games of this generation. If you especially loved Vice City and San Andreas, this one is basically the same, except for a few minor differences:

  • The setting is present-day New York (but they insist on calling it Liberty City);
  • The protagonist is now an Eastern European war veteran named Niko Bellic (check out that gangster mug);
  • Automobile physics are more realistic (you could get thrown out of the car windshield);
  • The weather now includes (very realistic) fog;
  • Cars are now equipped with GPS (because real men don't ask for directions);
  • There are more radio stations, which now play their songs randomly (it used to be played in a single loop);
  • Niko Bellic has a cellphone (capable of sending text messages as well);
  • The voice actors are no longer big-name stars (recession?).

That said, it is still essentially the same GTA game format as before, only slightly better. And it makes you wonder when they'll make the GTA movie. Hopefully next year? Who knows.

Rating: Ten stars.


Coldplay's "Life in Technicolor ii"

Oh, Coldplay, you continue to amaze me.

If you don't like Coldplay, then maybe you'll like the video.

For the extremely funny video, you've got to give credit where credit is due. So to the video team (which may or may not include the band members), let me just say that I loved the video. Immensely.

Video from: Parlophone


Gran Torino

Gran Torino

From the posters and from the ads, one would think that Gran Torino would be a solemn, action-packed film filled with one-liners designed to make the knees of an enemy shake and admit defeat even before the shot is fired. This is, after all, Clint Eastwood. Dirty Harry, the Unforgiven. These movies created this persona that Eastwood has now that he will shoot every person who violates his law and then sit back and have a beer two minutes after. This image is as important to the film Gran Torino as everything else that you actually see in the film. The film works because he was Dirty Harry before and carries that image into this movie.

Given that, Gran Torino is one of the funniest movies I have seen in years. Eastwood has always had a knack for one-liners and now, when it is put into a different context, it’s just funny as hell. Let me explain.

The story is about an old-timer American war veteran who is a product of the yesteryear’s upbringing both good and bad. Children should be respectful to elders and should dress decently. Old men know more than young people and there are no two ways about it. He is also estranged from his idiot of a family who knows nothing about caring for him. Additionally, this point of view and his time as a soldier fighting in the Korean War has enforced in him racial stereotyping. He hates the fact that foreigners now live in the US, particularly his own neighborhood which has now been taken over by Asians and Mexicans. After an incident that made him into a hero to the Asian community in the neighborhood, he is befriended by the next door neighbors and becomes a mentor to a young Asian kid who lives there.

Kowalski (Eastwood) kept using racial taunts against the people around him throughout the movie and it got funnier and funnier especially when they are no longer really used as a taunt but as a tease on his now best-friends. He softens up in time and teaches the young kid how to be a man. These scenes are poignant and heartwarming without being overly dramatic and sappy.

A lot of people believe that Gran Torino should have been nominated for an Oscar and I firmly believe that it should not. The biggest reason for this is the Godawful supporting cast that surrounded Eastwood. Note to Hollywood: There are a lot of good Asian actors out there. As good as Eastwood is, you will cringe every time he talks to one of his cast members. With the sole exception of Ahney Ler who played Sue Lor, the sister of the boy he is mentoring, the rest of the cast should not be allowed to act ever again. Watching them with Eastwood is like watching a great ballroom dancer with a wooden stool with two broken legs as a partner. It was so bad that the subtitles do not even seem to match the acting and the words they are saying.

Gran Torino is worth watching if only because it is supposedly Eastwood’s last film as an actor. He was great, no doubt about it. But I almost wanted to shoot the supporting cast, Dirty Harry-style.

Rating: 8 out of 10



And who thought Liam Neeson couldn't carry an action flick...

Taken isn't your run-of-the-mill action movie. Well, of course, there are similarities with the typical spy-action thrillers like the Bourne franchise. For one thing, it's set in Europe. Somehow, the best spy chases are always set in Europe. And then there's fight scenes, car chases, and more fight scenes.

What makes Taken different from the rest of them is Liam Neeson. Yes, he is actually director Pierre Morel's secret weapon, as the fight scenes in this movie are actually more realistic because of Mr. Neeson. Let me put it this way: the fight scenes in this film are more...brutal. You have Liam just giving one of the villains a chop in the windpipe, another a twist on the neck. In short, his fighting arsenal is composed of the same moves a retired spy actually has. And only a personal search for a kidnapped daughter will actually draw a spy out of retirement.

Liam Neeson gives a really great physical performance, and for those of you who thought he was growing old, you thought wrong. Mr. Neeson is as fit as a Jedi master. Famke Janssen, on the other hand, does nothing more than grace the screen with her pretty face. And she is noticeably older than we remember her from her Jean Grey days.

From a simple plot to complicated action sequences, master storyteller Luc Besson does it again (the screenplay was co-written with Robert Mark Kamen). Taken is sure to keep Besson fans entertained, as well as eagerly anticipating what movie he has next up his sleeve.

Taken. France. 2008.

Rating: Seven out of ten.


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