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Men vs. Wild

You all know Will Ferrell. He's that comedian who likes to strip naked.

And you all know Bear Grylls. He's that really cool guy who can drink urine.

Now put them together into an hour-long program, and you get Men vs. Wild. Actually, the complete title is Will Ferrell and Bear Grylls are Men vs. Wild.

For those of you unfamiliar with the show Man vs. Wild, it's the wilderness survival show on Discovery Channel, hosted by Bear Grylls, where he shows you survival techniques that you never even knew were possible.

In this special episode, Bear Grylls shows us how to survive in Sweden's arctic tundra, this time with Hollywood comedian Will Ferrell tagging along. Now Will Ferrell may seem obnoxious in a lot (in fact, most) of his films, but he does know how to tone down for serious shows like this. I mean, he is still funny, but without upstaging the show's host. He just sits in the back seat and limits himself to a few side comments here and there. But believe me when I say that he grabs every possible opportunity to crack a joke. Good work, Mr. Ferrell.

When I first heard about this, I thought that the show might turn out to be a spoof or a parody, but no. It surprisingly remained true to the essence of the show. Will Ferrell did not transform it into a laugh-out-loud riot. It was still the same Bear Grylls show, only with Will Ferrell in it, which made it cooler, more interesting, and more humorous.

Will Ferrell apparently was not chosen at random for this special episode. As it turns out, this is part of his promotional campaign for his upcoming film Land of the Lost. Boo to his shameless plugging, but hooray for a great show.

*pic from socialitelife.celebuzz.com

Will Ferrell and Bear Grylls are Men vs. Wild. Discovery Channel. 2009.

Rating: Eight and a half out of ten.
Will Ferrell's subdued humor: Eight and a half out of ten.
Bear Grylls' survival techniques: Nine out of ten.


Public Enemies

(Before anything else, let me just say that this is the best man-crush movie this year.)

Sadly, Michael Mann did not give me what I was expecting. A biography is totally different from a historical narrative. One is character-driven; the other is plot-driven. From the onset, it becomes clear that this movie is a biography of John Dillinger (since that is what the story focuses on) and not some cops-and-robbers tale. So they should have told more of John Dillinger, since he really was a colorful character anyway. And I blame Michael Mann because he co-wrote the screenplay.

But Michael Mann redeems himself by giving the coolest movie shoot-out since Heat. If there were a lot more shoot-out scenes, this film too could get an Oscar nomination for sound design. Just the brat-ta-tat-tat of the machine guns in digital surround makes this worthwhile.

Public Enemies has two of my favorite actors going head-to-head. This isn't like American Gangster, where the two powerhouse leads didn't have a scene together until the film's final minutes. Johnny Depp and Christian Bale actually talk face-to-face. Not a lot, but still. It's better than Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe.

Now you may think that Depp and Bale will cancel each other out onscreen, both being terrific actors and all. But such is not the case. When cast side by side, Depp comes out on top. Although I admire Bale for his unorthodox acting methods, it is apparently Johnny Depp who is the better actor. Or maybe because this is Depp's movie. I'm not really sure.

Christian Bale is good as always, although his attempt at the southern dialect sounds...unnatural. Sorry.

Also, at the end credits, there's a dialect coach for Ms. Cotillard, and a dialect coach for Mr. Bale. And none for Mr. Depp. Because Mr. Depp doesn't need a dialect coach.

Marion Cotillard is really, really pretty. And, like Yao Ming, her English is getting better. Hooray for Marion Cotillard, who is now my favorite French actress after Sophie Marceau.

On to the supporting cast: 1) Billy Crudup made J. Edgar Hoover look gay. 2) I didn't recognize Stephen Dorff. 3) Giovanni Ribisi was good. And 4) Stephen Graham was so effective as Baby Face Nelson that I hated him.

Oh, and also: Mr. Dillinger and Mr. Depp are both nicknamed "Johnny", and they both have the initials "J.D." Useless trivia for you.

*some info from IMDb
pic from matchcuts.wordpress.com

Public Enemies
. USA. 2009.

Rating: Seven out of ten.
Marion Cotillard's English: Eight out of ten.


Monty Python's Life of Brian

Consistent with my view on seventies flicks, Monty Python's Life of Brian seemed avant-garde enough. But not because the church wanted it banned, like all flicks with the word "Jesus Christ!" and "Fuck!" in it. I felt it was advanced for its time because of the heavier theme of revolutionary groups' pitfalls. It follows Brian (duh) who was mistaken for the Messiah and found himself joining one group of supposed revolutionaries against the Romans and ended up getting caught and singing a catchy tune in the end. That wasn't my joke, it's the movie's. (Meaning it happened in the movie, you do get that right?) Thinking about it now, the religious stuff might have been a cover-up for its true controversial content.

But then again, knowing an iota on Marx is only a crime in this country--where the military brainwashes unsuspecting happy villagers to act like American rednecks, dissing or setting fire to communists. I haven't met an American redneck though, so what the hell do I know?


I make jokes about people on fire. I can't believe I still have a hangover from the movie. Or maybe it was that research I did earlier today on Human Rights Violations.


Whatever. When you're bombarded with so many depressing data on who's oppressing who, and how many gallons of blood have been shed because all of the oppressing going on, the only way to stay sane is to make stupid, politically incorrect jokes about it and pass it off as parody or satire--depending on the boat you want to float.

And that, my imaginary friends, is the beauty of Life of Brian. It ranges from serious to silly. Plus it is smart enough to know that great jokes come from great tragedies. And what's more tragic than the actual life of Brian?---Of course, the pitfalls of revolutionaries.



What If...

What if...what if...what if...what if...what if...

what if, for the third Transformers sequel, they decided to kill off Optimus Prime (noooo!), and everyone found out that Optimus wasn't the last Prime, and they discovered that there was another living Prime whose name was Hot Rod, and that Hot Rod would eventually become Rodimus Prime, and Mr. Judd Nelson who did the voice of Hot Rod in the 1986 animated film volunteered to do the voice of Hot Rod in the Michael Bay version, and that Judd Nelson really needed a break like this because a lot of people think his last movie was The Breakfast Club, and that Michael Bay agreed because he felt sorry for Judd Nelson and wanted to help him restart his career?

Wouldn't that be really cool?


Astonishing X-Men (Vol. I) by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday

Two simple words for Astonishing X-Men:

Fucking great.

But since it is so fucking great--that I tried to restrain myself from saying something corny but will now fail for saying "it fucking astonished me"--we will not limit ourselves to two simple words, and try our best to find other synonymous words for "fucking great." And at the same time, refrain from further expletives.

Ajuiorthljsjasofujwkklsjdnflsjlf.f aj wjew,fnw hroweiklacoiweuroqjfal!!!!!!KAJlkjLjalqtoqjqieruPQPOWrjkklew kldhoznzvkjksjkjxflpp[oewruoiwtu.cx;spa[paf!!!!!

Ah, incoherent-ness. Such is the curse of a drooling fangirl.

But first, as usual, disclaimers: As the few imaginary people who have read my previous reviews before already know, I am not a comic book person (which the pretentious ones call graphic novels). I do not claim to scavenge second-hand bookstores for the latest Neil Gaiman or Alan Moore wonders as a kid, nor do I know the difference between characters from Marvel and DC. Of course, I am not completely ignorant of it, for hello, we have Hollywood-versions-that-aim-to-bleed-both-old-and-young-geeks'-pockets-dry. Moreover, my little knowledge of comics came from trying to impress two different girls, one back in high school, and the other back in my early years in college. Needless to say, it was more than unsuccessful--it was downright embarrassing.

Hence, this disclaimer. The only comics I gobbled up as a kid were the local and foreign funnies. One can also count in the Gospy comics at the end of that I-forget-and-never-ever-will-I-want-to-read-that-again magazine they distribute in the homes and schools of good Catholics.

The X-Men I learned from the good old nineties. From the weekly television series and from unrenovated arcades in Cubao that needed only a five-peso coin and a cocky competitor to work. (Nowadays, I think aside from doubled-up prices, the demographic of cocky competitors has grown a bit older. But then again, maybe that's just me. Maybe the younger kids don't have money. Or their parents are the ones playing.)

Point being, I don't have a goddamn clue if the television series, or even the video games, were faithful to the comics. All I know is that I found western Superheroes that I actually liked. I was always leaning towards Japan--Sentais, Sailor Moon, and the hotness of Masked Rider Black. Power Rangers were meh (after a dozen Bioman, Maskman, Jetman, Fiveman, etc. another colorful bunch wasn't really a big deal), Superman was boring, Batman was out-colored by Robin, and Wonder Woman paled nothing to Darna inside my kiddie brain. Oh, Spiderman's okay because my mom likes him (she'll always choose Spiderman when we used to play Marvel vs. DC). X-Men came as a surprise to me. They were weird enough, they were always trash-talking as much as the supervillains, and they also wore colorful costumes.

Also, the government seemed to hate them. The people they were rescuing seemed to hate them. And yet they keep rescuing them.

That struck the self-righteous kid in me.

I would learn to love the X-Men as I grew older but the television networks would give me a hard time trying to watch each episode in order. They kept airing reruns of the same episodes! Even when I was in high school and tried to watch it right in a cable channel, I would still get to watch episodes I've caught when I was younger. They were always about Rogue and Wolverine's angst! Eventually, I got tired, and then hated them both (I also hated Wolverine because everyone loved him and I thought he was just an attention-grabber).

But this is not a review about The Uncanny X-Men (but we'll get to that, I'm finishing the few episodes left. Yay for technology!).

What I was trying to say is that generally, I had fun (even if I ended up hating Rogue and Wolverine). Like what you would hear from every X-Men fan, the characters seemed to have helped its young awkward audience in the murky world of "growing up." Unlike the other mainstream superheroes, these guys, after doing something nice, were either ignored or thrown stones at. And worse! Nobody said thank you!

And yet they keep being nice. Even if fellow mutants hate them as well. They keep being freaking nice. If that's not a very tactical way of instilling "moral lessons" in impressionable kids, then Professor Xavier is a jerk.

Which is exactly what Shadowcat says in the first pages of Astonishing X-Men. And which is exactly what we'll find out as the story progresses. (So much for my lousy attempt at paragraph transitions, right?)

"Professor Xavier is a jerk!" That's exactly how it begins and that's exactly how you know Joss Whedon is hellbent on leaving his fantastic mark: FUNNY. Underline that word. All caps, bold, and italicized. If Joss Whedon is in it and it's not funny, then some popular nitwit company is canceling his shows and has Whedon's loved ones as hostages in chains. That has to be the only explanation.

Joss Whedon never fails to crack a good joke. Each character can execute a sharp wisecrack without losing their separate identities and character tones. Furthermore, he seems to really know his comic book medium and uses every available form or structure (paneling, etc.) to give out a good laugh even without the need of a character to exercise verbal wit. Jokes are everywhere, even in dramatic moments, even in poignant moments. And this comic book undeniably has that too.

Not only because The X-Men already has the perfect formula to bring out these poignant moments, but because the story worked well with the drawings, the colors, and just about everything that should not be forgotten in the form of a comic book. But I have no knowledge of the necessary jargon to articulate everything.

I just know that the artist cracks jokes as much as Whedon does (look out for Wolverine looking funny-pathetic, as everyone's fighting in we're-so-cool-mode while he gets thrown back by this big monster), and the colors complement every mood the story is telling, guiding me quite carefully and accurately into which scene I was diving into. And the storytelling takes out boredom by swiftly jumping from one issue to another.

One has to be fucking capable of handling too many issues at once. There's the authentic mutant "cure", creating confusion, hope, and chaos. There's character conflicts and the ever-eternal unresolved issues in relationships. These would only be a few of the many complications: Former Villain Ms. Frost vs. Shadowcat. Ms. Frost battling the ghost of Jean Grey for Cyclops' love. Beast battling himself. Wolverine providing the cool factor. And Professor X battling a certain ghost of Christmas past.

And an awesome ghost at that. It brings up issues of oppressors oppressing one another. You get a sense of what writers are capable of when they make such fantastic villains.

But let's leave it that, for I've already given away too many spoilers. And my two simple words have already mutated into a thousand. I am forever in debt to the person who lent me this comic book. A comic book that did not need a black leather costume to be edgy and to be taken seriously. And a comic book that resurrected my childhood entertainment of Boom! and Bam! matched with the insights some only associate now with the term "graphic novels", or those supposedly deep, disturbing drawings of surreal horror stories. Astonishing X-Men takes pop to the level that forces its audience to look at the tragedy of society, at the shadows of themselves. A guilty pleasure, I admit, for I am currently trying to figure out how to get a copy of the second volume.



Rachel Getting Married

Bravo to Jonathan Demme. He didn't get a Best Director Oscar for nothing.

This film should be mandatory viewing for directing classes in film school. It is a great directorial work, which I shall explain in cinematic jargon.

First, the story. Great screenwriting by Jenny Lumet, but unfortunately, it was snubbed at the 2009 Academy Awards. Well, it did have a few weak points, but it was generally good.

Before we proceed, let me clarify first that Anne Hathaway is not Rachel. Rachel is her older sister, played by Rosemarie DeWitt (who looks like a prettier Franka Potente with a gentler face).

Okay, back to the story. This is about family life, sisterhood, inter-racial marriage, drug addiction, and family deaths. These are very personal subjects, and to tell a story like this effectively, you have to draw in your audience, and make them part of the family. Only then will the drama work.

That said, director Jonathan Demme could not have done a better treatment of the subject. All aspects of the cinematography worked well, from the natural lighting, to the hand-held camera movements, to the long takes, all giving the feel of a documentary, or a reality show. Even the editing contributed to the overall feel of a family gathering shot using a handycam. You can't get any more personal than a handycam.

The music too played a big part in the storytelling, but not as a background score. Demme's treatment was so effective that you didn't need a musical score. It could actually stand alone using only ambient sound. But Demme maximized the element of music as part of the wedding celebration, since this was after all an inter-racial marriage. We are actually treated to all-original music, celebrating a cross-cultural union between musical clans.

Now we go to the acting. Anne Hathaway=win. To be able to sustain her character while shooting documentary-style requires a lot of skill. In the words of Breckin Meyer from the movie Kate and Leopold: "God, you are so method!" She totally deserved that Oscar nomination. This girl has a great future ahead of her. Bill Irwin, who played Anne Hathaway's father, was so brilliant that he really seemed like he wasn't acting at all. (I'd also like to mention that Debra Winger is still hot.) And of course, the rest of the cast was so equally realistic that it wouldn't surprise you if Jonathan Demme did actually shoot real, unsuspecting non-actors using a handycam.

Some viewers may try and look for any semblance of structure, or a narrative arc, to the story. But let me tell you right now that you won't find any. This story tells more like a tale told between family members, where flashbacks or back stories do not really matter. This is, again, the story of Rachel getting married, told from the point of view of not just an ordinary wedding guest, but someone really close to the bride.

*some info from IMDb
pic from pastemagazine.com

Rachel Getting Married. USA. 2008.

Rating: Eight and a half out of ten.


Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

Two words: Ho-hum.

The Fantastic Four franchise, for me, ranks second only to Daredevil in the worst comic book adaptations category. Now why oh why did they ever think of making this sequel?

1. The special effects were terrible. Maybe it was just me, but the effects seemed worse here compared to the first film. They could've at least improved on Mr. Fantastic's stretching ability. The only time the stretchy thing looked good was when the Human Torch absorbed it from Mr. Fantastic. But when Reed Richards was doing the stretchy thing while dancing – bleh. It looked like CGI from the early nineties.

2. The Surfer was cool, but he wasn't bad-ass. The Silver Surfer is actually one of the strongest characters in the Marvel universe, yet what does he do here? If my memory serves me correctly, I believe the Surfer can move at the speed of light, or somewhere close to it. In this film, he just moves fast. Not bad-ass fast. But the Surfer's voice was bad-ass, being voiced by Morpheus himself, Laurence Fishburne.

3. I liked what they did with Galactus, making him into this dark, planet-consuming cloud. But I really hated the way Galactus was destroyed. You can't just fly into the center of the cloud and dissipate Galactus into cosmic dust. Not even if you're the Silver Surfer. And even assuming the Surfer could do that, that would be the bad-ass, lightspeed-travelling Surfer. Not this impostor that travels at the mere speed of sound.

And before I forget, let me just mention Jessica Alba. Yes, she's hot as ever. But (let me break it down for you in monosyllables). She. Is. Not. Sue. Storm.

So. There.

*some info from IMDb
pic from comicbooks.about.com

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. USA. 2007.

Rating: Four out of ten.


Fantastic Four

This film tried very hard to capture the essence of the comic book. Tried, but failed.

Let me try to find some good points, though. Okay, the casting was great, except for Jessica Alba. Chris Evans was perfect as the cocky and arrogant Johnny Storm, and Michael Chiklis portrayed The Thing quite close to his comic book persona. Ioan Gruffud seemed to pull off Reed Richards quite well, as he made quite a believable dork. Jessica Alba however, was not even convincing as a scientist. Sue Storm should be smart with a strong personality, and should complement the character of Reed Richards. And this Jessica Alba failed to do.

Special effects-wise, it was great, like a typical Marvel movie. But again, effects are merely tools to help propel the story forward. And this film is nothing more than the story of how they got their powers. Big deal.

I'm really sorry, but the Christopher Nolan Batman reboot has raised the bar for superhero movies. Any film that falls short will just be popcorn fare.

Even if it has Jessica Alba in it.

*some info from IMDb
pic from thecia.com.au

Fantastic Four. USA. 2005.

Rating: Five out of ten.


Echelon Conspiracy


This movie is about a machine, a super-computer, that becomes too intelligent for the United States to handle, and thus must be stopped.

Ho-hum. I've seen that plot countless times before. No wonder the Los Angeles Times calls this "a poor man's Eagle Eye."

And one important lesson I learned from this movie: A-list actors do not equal a good movie. Not even Shane West, Ving Rhames, Edward Burns, or Martin Sheen can save this.

You can always tell when a director is a newbie. Somehow they are not yet that fluent with the language of cinema. Okay, so you have crane shots, and spectacular helicopter shots. Big deal. And because of that, Mr. Director, I shall not mention your name. You and that guy who played Yuri the hacker.

And why are the espionage scenes always set in Prague? Who ever said that Prague is the spy capital of the world?

So how did they stop Echelon the Super-computer? The lamest deus ex machina ever.

Just like this entire movie. Lame-O.

*some info from IMDb
pic from Los Angeles Times

Echelon Conspiracy. USA. 2009.

Rating: Four out of ten.



Rose Byrne looking a little worried as Nicholas Cage points out their sex scene in the script.

Nicholas Cage is not one of my favorite actors. But he's starting to grow on me.

Knowing is one of your typical horror flicks. Or is it suspense flick? Whatever. It's supposed to scare you sleepless. Supposed to.

The thing with this story is that it could not have been conceived twenty years ago. Why? Because there was no GPS back then. And the plot relies heavily on GPS coordinates to make the story work.

And of course, the best deus ex machina of all–aliens. All supernatural powers in this film come from aliens. How...creative.

However, I liked the film. Slightly. Because it didn't have your average ending. Everyone died. And the special kids were brought to another planet to fornicate and respawn the human race.

I just wish they'd bring me to that other planet to fornicate with Rose Byrne.

*some info from IMDb
pic from aceshowbiz.com

Knowing. USA. 2009.

Rating: Six stars.


American Icons: Farrah Fawcett

This is my obituary for Farrah Fawcett. I intentionally made it one week late, because Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson both died on the same day, and of course, MJ got most of the attention.

I never knew Farrah Fawcett. Yes, I know Charlie's Angels. But I never watched it. Okay, so she's one of the original Angels. But again, I never watched that show.

Okay, so she also had that classic seventies hair. But I'm not a girl, so I don't care. (Wow, that rhymes.)

In fact, I never knew anything about Farrah Fawcett. But my mom seems to be a fan.

My only memory of Farrah Fawcett is this: One day, when I was like three or four years old, I first heard my mother mention the name "Farrah Fawcett." And all I could think of was a faucet, a literal, plumbing-related faucet, that had two legs and high-heeled shoes. A walking faucet. That's my only memory of her.

Farrah Fawcett. 1947-2009.

*pic from glamorati.com


Trese: Murder on Balete Drive


Trese is a cute read. Although sometimes it seems a bit "pa-cool" to me as the character Trese sometimes rubs off, but the character's indifference makes the this-is-cool part actually cool.

What I mean is, Trese is lots of punches and kicks and sound effects (without leaving the noir mood) and the likes. From the point of view of having only read four cases: it's cute, it's good, it's fucking cool because it doesn't contain much pesky character angst or woe-is-me shit. Not yet anyway. (Unless you count "The Tragic Case of Dr. Burgos" which isn't really tragic. Just pathetic.)

Although I don't think I'm going to go all fangirl-y on it yet. I kind of expected actual mystery, crime-solving, and readers-acting-like-detectives but all I got was cavemen-clubbing with style. Which, I already said, is cool and all but it doesn't hurt to add just a little bit more salt. Having already said that, more pages please. Or more issues in a collection please. Or less cheesy narration and more drawings please.

When I was younger, I wasn't into reading comic books like these because the stories always felt too short (as opposed to short stories and novels) and I'd be left hanging. But then again, when I was younger, there were no comic books like Trese. The local-made kind of comic books anyway. Sure I laughed with Carlo Vergara and took a guilty-pleasure cruise trip with Arnold Arre but if we're supposedly outsourcing lots and lots of artists to Marvel and DC, where the hell is our comic book industry? (If cultural imperialism and money problems are the answers, don't say a word.)

So I'm just going to thank Trese for the contribution. Besides, the drawings are teh prettiest black and white sketches. Ah, my weak spot: sketch-a-like drawings.

Case 1: "At the Intersection of Balete and 13th Street"
This is the best case among the other cases in the collection. It does a nice job of introducing the feel of the comics and it will successfully hook you in for more. I sound like an ad.

Case 2: "Rules of the Race"
The tikbalang patriarchy is a very, very nice touch. I love drawings of big looming trees inside fancy buildings.

Case 3: "The Tragic Case of Dr. Burgos"
Cats! Lots and lots of cats! Also, like I've said: pathetic man.

Case 4: "Our Secret Constellation"
A Mars Ravelo tribute. With a moral lesson of: Another Pathetic Man or This Is What You Get If You Let Men Save You, They Fucking Screw Up (Since They Do Not Know the Difference Between Saving and Revenge).

I do not hate men. I think they're cute.



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