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Where the Wild Things Are

By Mary Quite Contrary
Sun, 18 Jul 2010, 15:49.

Like with any form of fiction, the imagined is used to arrive at a deeper understanding of reality. So it is with Max’s stories, reflecting his thoughts, emotions and experiences with his family. Most of the time he is left to play by his lonesome because his sister Claire is preoccupied with her friends, and Mom with her work; we can only infer that his father is not part of the household because his mom had invited her boyfriend over for dinner. The film commendably makes the father’s absence causative with a shot of a globe in Max’s room. Inscribed: “To Max, the owner of this world,” introducing the desire for control. His loneliness and fear of abandonment, which his father may have been the first one to instill, is reinforced with a storytelling scene with his mom about a toothless vampire. Though the story didn’t provide much comfort to a mother of two kids in danger of losing her job, we are surprised—as we always are of children—of his sudden insight.

Childhood is so difficult to portray in all its raw tenderness and complexity. Its difficulty lies in experience because the storytellers are often adults,jaded with the world and looking for their own childhood, which is a different perspective entirely. Where The Wild Things Are is a winning portrayal of a nine-year-old boy’s ego, and it does so without a moralizing/othering voice. On the contrary, it preserves a child’s innocence in anger and in violence. Max runs from home in the middle of the night after a pulling a violent fit with his mother. He sails on a boat night and day, and discovers an island where big, hairy monsters live. They want to eat him but he tricks them into making him their king. They wish that he could be king forever. But there were promises he couldn’t keep. Like how he couldn’t keep everybody together and how he couldn’t keep sadness away. The monsters love him and are sad to see him go. Max runs home to find his mom waiting for him with his dinner. In his mind, Max is able to literally deal with his own demons, namely: Carol, Judith, Ira, Douglas, Alexander, The Bull and KW. Screenwriters Dave Eggers and Spike Jonze are noteworthy in characterizing imaginary monsters of depth and resisting stereotype. Later in the movie, Max divides them into “good guys” and “bad guys.” We see how favoritism affects family members. The “bad guys” feel neglected and need the same understanding Max does in real life.

Carol's attitude resembles Max’s in real life. He is angry at KW and eventually towards Max, because he feels abandoned and betrayed by them. He has a destructive tendency towards himself and others around him, but that doesn’t make him bad. He just needs to learn how to control his emotions. Max learns that kings and mothers don’t have the power to protect the ones they love from being hurt, or lonely.

Spike Jonze rocked so hard in directing this masterpiece. The music is edgy and touching with a boost of raw emotion. It was a delight hearing Karen O of The Yeah Yeah Yeahs on vocals! The resounding scream, in the scene where Carol is enraged from being tricked by Max (he wasn’t really a king with superpowers), was so pivotal in the climax for signaling danger, creating urgency and giving energy to the chase that follows. At first I thought it was Max screaming, but realizing that it was the part of the music made it all the more memorable and brilliant. Cinematography is by Lance Acord. A shaky camera follows Max whenever he chases his dog or runs away from home to a world of his own. For balance, the film gives us superb geographies, beautiful sceneries in long shots. Production design was the first question in my head after reading the book, as to how extensive the graphic/special effects would be. Using gigantic stuffed monsters, gave a uniqueness to the film, which is also internal to the story. They are after all inspired by Max’s toys in his room. They have a wide variety of facial expressions, can jump around and throw big things (I want to have a Douglas for myself). The set also was amazing in size and detail, from the stick houses to the tree holes, to the fortress, to Carol’s miniatures. And where would we be if not for the special effects and seamless animation? I was, upon seeing the film, nothing short of ecstatic and content. Sound, image, and timing are in perfect unity to rival anyone’s imagination of this storybook by Maurice Sendak.

A perfect ten.

Source: Warner Bros.

(Read more on Where the Wild Things Are after the jump.)


Bottle Rocket

When I was in grade school and high school, I would buy all sorts of magazines related to films. They were expensive, especially for someone who had an average food allowance but I managed to buy a few foreign magazines such as Entertainment Weekly, Premiere and Empire magazines as well as the underrated Glitter magazine, a local one.

That's where I found this film that they called "an indie gem": Bottle Rocket. There are three things that attracted me to this film. 1) The stars were brothers (Owen and Luke Wilson); 2) I like bottle rockets; and 3) I felt like I was the only one who knew about it.

I scoured my local video rental place, the last one that I haven't been banned from, and surpisingly found it on Laser Disc. Not surprisingly, looking at the card, it showed that nobody has rented it.

I half expected bottle rockets and to tell you the truth, I was sligtly disappointed that there weren't any.

But the story was good, and its pace was very different from the usual films I used to watch.

Briefly, it's about three friends (The Wilsons plus Ned Dowd) whose mundane lives bring them to finding a bit of adventure by becoming criminals. Owen Wilson is the star of the film and his nose has never been as prominent. I think I spent half an hour just thinking how this guy had the guts to be on film with that grotesque nose.

The film was very well done and funny at times but its significance is not how good the film was, but what it did to those who were part of it.

This film launched three careers, particularly: Owen and Luke Wilson, and director Wes Anderson.

We all know how things have turned out for Owen Wilson, who has headlined some of the best comedies in recent years such as Zoolander and The Wedding Crashers.

Luke is probably two levels below Owen, as he has become the prennial "boyfriend" in female-oriented flicks. Other than Old School where he portrayed The Godfather, nothing seems to be of note but at the same time, he doesn't seem to be trying either.

Wes Anderson on the other hand has become a respected director despite the limited resumé. His latest one is The Fantastic Mr. Fox, and it has been getting a lot of great reviews.

Dignan, Owen Wilson's character, had a catch phrase just before they did a job. True to their nature of not being cerebral criminals, he'd say, "Time to Get Lucky".

And I guess they all did.



Important Things with Demetri Martin Season One

Okay for those of you who do not know who Demetri Martin is, the easiest way to make you go "Ahhhh" is that he used to be a writer for Conan O' Brien in Late Night.


Surely you still don't know him, but I guess you now know what kind of comedy he brings.

Demetri Martin is probably the most talented young comedian today. The best way to describe him is he comes across as a young Jery Seinfeld, finding humor from almost absoultely nothing. That's where his genius lies. He observes and then makes a funny comment about it and we all laugh while at the same time we're thinking "I knew that! I could've made that joke!"

You probably could, but you didn't.

Important Things with Demetri Martin is an extension of his stand-up comedy. I guess this is a staple anyways. Tim Allen with Home Improvement, Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock with their shows. Hell, Seinfeld plays himself in his show! (And as Seinfeld once said, "The show may no longer be on air, but I played myself in it. So I'm still having Episodes!")

Martin's show is a sketch comedy complete with stand up, music (provided by himself), short filmed segments and funny drawings.

I've always been a fan of these types of shows and for the most part, they have been dominated by blacks, most notably by Rock and Chappelle. The problem is, as funny as those two are, the issue of race seems to get thrown in a lot almost as a "Go-to" joke. Yeah it's funny. In fact it's hilarious. But sometimes you need a break from that and that's exactly what Martin provides. A breezy comedy, with no hang ups but still with an edge.



Black Star Rising by Frederik Pohl

Back in the 1980's Russia and America went into war and blew themselves up. China took over the "inferior" races, so communism was afoot, except that it wasn't really communism but much more like imperialism. Which is the author's way of saying "I'm trying to copy George Orwell's Animal Farm." Or that history repeats itself. Something like that. Only with an alien invasion.

Disappointingly, this still isn't one of Pohl's best works. It just really blows on so many levels I don't know where to begin.

So let's get the communism thing out of the way first. It's not that I don't like it because it's anti-communist, and because the depiction of communists-turned-imperialists is not probable. I don't like the anti-communist depiction because it's so stupidly absurd.

George Orwell can get away with communist absurdity because that's what he was all about to begin with. Metaphors through fables and going easy on the details so he wouldn't have to worry about getting specific flaws of the communist party accurate.

But here we have science fiction slash future fiction. It can't escape the need to paint a more normal but probable detail of the post-American/Russian war that it all went downhill from there. The bias of stupidity shows up too much.

For example, the author tried to make the communist party's criticizing and self-criticizing mantra a laughing matter. In the world of the author, this will happen in a large number, 300 people in fact, as they criticize the designated person in the hot seat.

This is by far the most ridiculous insult to an ideology I've heard of. Does Frederik Pohl really think it would have happened like that? Or did he just choose to paint an absurd picture amidst the whole more normal picture? I'm just saying his absurdity is inconsistent which makes it unfunny. And the way he couldn't attack the other ideologies except for communism is so, I don't know, I guess unresearched, uneducated, and just disappointing. He was comparing communism to imperialism; I just wish he'd done it more properly so he could've gone on a high moral ground if he wanted to.

Because at the latter part of the novel, it turned a whole lot preachy, hammering my head with "Make Love, Not War" hippie images. Sure, at some point the novel tells me that war is necessary but it doesn't exactly show me the argument for it. The moral lesson is as narrow-minded and as dogmatic as the Han Chinese in the novel.

But sure, lame anti-communism sentiments aside, did the novel work in a formalist manner? Simply no, and that's even in the usual popular culture standards. At a supposed crucial point in the climax, one of the protagonists had a stroke. I mean, really?


We Are the World. 25 For Haiti.

Okay, let's break this video down.

0:47 ─ What Jamie Foxx said: "Reach deep into your hearts." What Jamie Foxx really meant: "Reach deep into your pockets."

1:30 ─ Most people don't like the fact that Justin Bieber opened the song. I don't mind, actually. Lionel Richie gave him the go-signal. And Lionel Richie co-wrote this song with Michael Jackson. So what's good enough for Lionel is good enough for me.

1:46 ─ Who the hell are you?

1:52 ─ Josh Groban enters. Wow, you're good.

2:22 ─ Okay, nice move by including Michael Jackson in the original.

2:27 ─ Okay, not-so-nice move by inserting Janet Jackson there. I mean, they could've at least matched the video quality. You can tell that MJ was shot in analog, while Janet was shot in HD. Boo.

2:34 ─ Barbra Streisand, you're old enough to be in the eighties version. All those who are old enough to be in the original video, please exit the studio. That goes for you, Tony Bennet at 2:04.

2:49 ─ Miley Cyrus? What the...

3:15 ─ Okay, Wyclef, I know you're a talented musician and all, and that you're Haitian. But honestly, I didn't like the screaming. Maybe in another song. Not here.

3:21 ─ Okay, vocalist from Maroon 5. I still don't like your voice.

3:28 ─ I like you, Pink.

3:41 ─ MJ again. Nice work.

3:51 ─ Hello, Celine Dion. I like what you did with Cindy Lauper's part. I also like Lionel Richie hanging around while you belt out your lines.

3:59 ─ Is that Michael Jackson's guitarist from This is It?

4:02 ─ What the hell is that shot?? A door? This is supposed to be directed by Academy Award-winning director Paul Haggis. But really, the door seems off. It makes it look like a home video. Another fail, after that Michael and Janet superimposition at 2:27.

4:10 ─ Nicole Scherzinger, you are the sexiest female in this video. Let me just wipe off my drool.

4:22 ─ Randy Jackson from American Idol?!

4:28 ─ Is that you, Toni Braxton? You look so...butch.

4:47, 5:12, and 5:27 ─ Li'l Wayne, Akon, and T-Pain, you've just demonstrated the different levels of using Auto-Tune. From bad, to worse, to please stop.

5:28 ─ Is that like a Haitian jeepney?

5:39 ─ First I thought that was Ray Charles.

5:45 ─ Vince Vaughn?! Come on!

5:47 ─ It wasn't Ray Charles. It was Jamie Foxx. Nice work.

5:51 ─ The rap part. I'm still undecided if it's good or bad. Anyway, it was dominated by LL Cool J, Xzibit, and Will. I. Am.

6:57 ─ Because Kanye West is good, he gets a solo.

7:02 ─ Wyclef, I thought I told you to stop with the screaming?

7:48 ─ Okay, just found out that Wyclef was one of the producers of this song. Fine, do what you want.

This is one of my all-time favorite songs, and I love singing this on videoke. The eighties version, that is. This one is not as good, though.

Original rating: Ten stars (because the eighties version is pure heart).
Use of Michael Jackson's original parts: Plus two stars.
Director Paul Haggis's superimposition of Janet Jackson and the door shot: Minus two stars.
Use of singers old enough to be in the eighties version: Minus two stars.
Excessive use of Auto-Tune: Minus two stars.
Jamie Foxx's impersonation of Ray Charles: Plus one star.
Rap part: One...no, wait...half a star.
Wyclef's screaming: Minus two stars.
Wyclef's Haitian roots and producer status: Plus two stars.
Final rating: Seven and a half out of ten.

*video from wearetheworld at YouTube


The Vampire Diaries Season 1, Episode 13 Children of the Damned

image source: http://www.vampire-diaries.net/tv-series/episode-still-from-children-of-the-damned-ep13

If I had any hesitations on loving this show before, I don't know where it went because goddamit, OHMYGAWD I FUCKING LOVE THIS SHOW. ARGH. I love it so much I want to do the whole micro review thingo in all caps. But that would suck for the imaginary audience, me yelling in their heads, so...The Vampire Diaries ep 13. Fuck. Historical flashbacks. Yeah. And more Damon bonding with Elena equals squee! And why can't bad guys like that exist in real life? Yes, they are psychotic but they kind of do things all for the sake of wuv. Damon's like Spike, only less hot. But he's also like Wolverine, only less annoying, so from this point on, I'm not going to complain about his annoying make-up anymore. And oh, the hotness of mini-Alyssa-Milano-vampire. This sure beat her stint in Nickelodeon's Unfabulous. So, whole episode. Fuck yeah. Traditional vampires yeaaaaaah. Women vampires in cohorts with women witches (also the traditional kind). I'll probably do an analysis on that some day. Also, cliff-hangers! Squee! I want to jump. Going to wipe my drool now. Will get better coherent review after the season finale, I promise, as I trust that it will blow me away.


The Vampire Diaries Season 1, Episode 12 Unpleasantville

image source: http://images.buddytv.com/

More more more vampires! For the season finale, I'm expecting sparkly battles! This line by Stefan best summarizes this episode "I'm really sorry that it won't be of any help with your Diabolical Plan: The Sequel."


Eight Legged Freaks

(This is one of those reviews I need to jot down because they're already rotting inside my head as I've seen this movie weeks ago.)

After watching and being entertained by Slither, I can't help but be disappointed with Eight Legged Freaks. It just doesn't work on a comedic level as Slither did, and spiders do not scare me so...

There's toxic waste. Then mutated giant spiders. A smart kid. And David Arquette. That's the whole summary.

I like David Arquette (especially in Pushing Daisies) but he's the only funny one. And well, that scene where they were arguing about if the spiders were aliens or just mutated spiders. And spraying the spider with cologne. But that's just about it.

The spiders were irritating because they were slightly squeak-talking and the jokes were too... it was trying too hard to be funny it's annoying.

Also, a lot of the events were illogical. Sure, sure, I can suspend my rational belief with toxic waste turning spiders into giant killers. But when they tell me they can't use guns or light a match inside the cave because of some gas-leak thingo (methane?), I expect Arquette not to drive a freaking motorcycle inside the cave and not get blown up.


4 because I like David Arquette.



(This is one of those reviews I need to jot down because they're already rotting inside my head as I've seen this movie weeks ago.)

So, saying Slither is a homage to horror movies would be like making this review the same as every little review out in this hyped-up-democracy-on-crack-Internet.

But I'm lazy, so on we go.

Slither is a a homage to horror movies. Meaning you'd be a total idiot if you criticize it for its idiocy. That's the point. And Slither makes good points.

Because it's fun and it's horror on crack.

So there's this alien like thing that landed in some forest. Infects one of the small-town persons, characterized as a rich loser but who loves his wife very much so he's actually okay. Until of course, he gets infected by alien and turns into blobby squid-like alien himself. So he almost infected his wife too. But rich loser loves his wife so much that he was able to stop himself and look for some other woman to impregnate his baby alien-slugs and spread the disease much faster and more efficiently. Awww.

So alien-zombies plus love plus sarcastic referential dialogue equals weeee.

I love it when Nathan Fillion says "Well, now that is some fucked-up shit. " And he says that about every thirty minutes because there's funny or wtf gore about every fifteen minutes.

Also, this scene where there are bunch of zombies pampering wife of alien-infected-guy while the song "Every Woman in the World" plays in the background. Bunch of zombies and Air Supply? You just can't go wrong with that.



The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones is...lovely. What else can I say?

You can learn a lot about a film by its opening credits. And I learned that this is a DreamWorks and Wingnut production. DreamWorks is Steven Spielberg's, and Wingnut is Peter Jackson's. This means that these two are friends. And this means I am excited about the upcoming 3D CGI adaptation of the Tintin comic books.

Anyway, I will not spoil this for those who have yet to see the film. So I shall just limit myself to non-spoiler comments.

I saw this movie with no idea what this is about. All I knew was that this was directed by Peter Jackson, and this was entitled The Lovely Bones. That's all I knew. And then I just got blown away by Peter Jackson's storytelling. He was able to balance light and heavy, sad and happy, and any other binary moods you can think of. I was gripping my seat during the suspenseful parts, and Jackson actually succeeded in raising my heart rate. No surprise there. Hasn't Jackson proven his storytelling skills are worth millions after The Lord of the Rings?

Saoirse Ronan did an excellent job portraying the girl who...okay let me stop there. Spoiler. Wait, how do you even pronounce your name?

Susan Sarandon was great. It would be nice to have a grandmother as cool as her.

Mark Wahlberg made acting look so effortless that he should be fined. It should be a crime to be such a natural actor.

And Stanley Tucci, I love you now. He went to great lengths to make his character more authentic, even putting on a different set of teeth to alter his jawline. In fact, all throughout the movie, I was deciding whether he was really Stanley Tucci, or just some actor who looks like him.

Oh, and Rachel Weisz, you are really beautiful, and you shall soon be in my Crush Archives, even if you didn't get nominated for an Oscar. In fact, this whole movie got snubbed by the AMPAS this year, with its sole nomination going to Stanley Tucci for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

*some info from IMDb

The Lovely Bones. USA/UK/New Zealand. 2009.

Rating: Nine out of ten.


The Vampire Diaries Season 1, Episode 11 Bloodlines

Something came good out of the Twilight hype, and it's The Vampire Diaries. The Vampire Diaries that gives us a glimpse of a vampire ripping out the heart of some human with his bare hands on mainstream television.


Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. 3D

Okay, let's get this straight first. This film is for kids. If you're an adult expecting a Pixar film, you're not going to get it here.

That said, I shall just turn this into an analysis of the 3D medium. Hopefully, my (still limited) 3D knowledge can be put to use for Philippine cinema.

1. 3D is best viewed up close. The closer you are to the screen, the better the 3D experience. This is because of our field of vision. When you sit on the upper part of the theater, farther away from the screen, the theater's side walls will be included in your field of vision. Viewers of course don't want that. That's why the best way to view 3D is on IMAX 3D. The screen will just swallow you whole.

2. 3D directors, and cinematographers especially, should always remember to use deep focus lenses. The rack focus technique, or shifting focus from foreground to background, is a useful technique only for traditional 2D cinema. This is because this camera technique works by trying to simulate how the human eye focuses on objects. 3D cinema, on the other hand, works by simulating reality. Everything should be in focus. Then it is the viewer's eye that chooses which element to focus on, leaving the other elements out of focus. All the focusing should happen in the viewer's eyes, not in the camera.

3. There should be a rule, like for every 3D movie you watch, you have to watch five 2D films after it. This is because you will get accustomed to the look of 3D. The magic will be gone. So if you want to keep giggling like a child when wearing your 3D glasses, do not saturate yourself with 3D. Of course, that's just me. But I'm mostly always right.

Okay, maybe some of you will not appreciate the information I just shared, so before I end, I'll just give my traditional-style review.

Character designs were okay. I especially liked the design for Tim Lockwood. He reminded me of Sully from Sesame Street ─ all eyebrows, no eyes. And I also loved the design for Manny, the cameraman slash Guatemalan doctor. Benjamin Bratt did a great job with the voice. Of course, how hard can it be for a Latino actor to do a Latino accent?

Hearing Mr. T's voice was refreshing. Maybe warming us up for the upcoming A-Team film.

Neil Patrick Harris, you were reduced to a monkey. That's sad. But it shows that you're a team player. Well done.

Baby Brent, who later became Chicken Brent, is possibly the most annoying movie character since Jar-Jar Binks.

James Caan, I didn't know you were the voice for Flint Lockwood. You had an Italian accent. And they said in The Sopranos that you weren't Italian.

Apparently, this was based on a book. Well, I've never read the book. So there.

Again, typical adults will definitely get bored with this film, so if you're not watching this with your kids, watch it in 3D. At least you won't sleep through it.

*some info from IMDb

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. USA. 2009.

Rating: Six out of ten.
3D-ness: Seven out of ten.



Okay, you have to admit, Disney is the king of traditional animation.

This is actually the second Disney film to utilize CGI. The first was Beauty and the Beast, which was this film's predecessor. But here, they took it further, providing CG animation with the head of the Cave of Wonders, the pattern on the flying carpet, and the scenery as the flying carpet tries to escape the collapsing cave.

Anyway, this story is not the same as the original Arabian Nights tale. This has been Disney-fied. Go figure.

I think, though I'm not entirely sure, that this is the first animated film to use a celebrity voice talent since The Transformers way back in 1986. Again, I'm not entirely sure. Don't quote me if I'm wrong. Robin Williams as the Genie can get a bit tiring. After all, Robin Williams as a person can get really tiring after a while. Where does he get his manic energy?

And finally, this film caused this country to raise our flag high when it was released. That's because we have Lea Salonga doing the singing voice for Princess Jasmine. Just the singing voice, mind you, not the speaking voice. But still...that's something we can all be proud of.

*some info from IMDb
pic from linda4343.blogspot.com

Aladdin. USA. 1992.

Rating: Seven out of ten.


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