Bingbing’s fan!

I’m not really a big X-Men geek, but the Days of Future Past has some of the of the most awesome action sequences I’ve seen. Especially towards the end, where the Sentinels finally found the mutants in the monastery and began killing them one by one. It was just heartbreaking to see them get killed like that. Special mention to Blink, played by Chinese actress Fan Bingbing, who was the last X-Man to fall before the Sentinels penetrated the barricaded temple! It was so awesome watching her avoid all those beams with portal after portal! I think there was a good chance she could’ve escaped them, but maybe seeing your friends get ripped apart in front of you can be really emotionally and physically taxing. Good news is that we’re seeing more of Blink because Bingbing signed up for four more movies with 20th Century Fox!

The Kings of Summer (2013)

vlcsnap-2013-10-24-23h53m42s188

Another long weekend is upon us and I know we all can’t wait to sleep like the dead. But in between snoozing and pigging out you may want to do other equally, uh, satisfying activities, like maybe catch up on your favorite shows. While picking your toenails.

If you want to watch something new, I recommend Kings of Summer, a highly escapist coming-of-age American comedy-drama that premiered in Sundance this year. It’s a beautifully shot film that makes you wanna turn into a cat and lie on a foot rug under the sun all day long.

vlcsnap-2013-10-26-10h10m36s44

 
Joe’s (Nick Robinson) adolescent angst, chiefly directed towards his single father (Nick Offerman), is all too relatable. You probably didn’t take too long in the shower and scatter cream all over the bathroom floor to make it look like you had just masturbated, but most of Joe’s other attempts to piss of his father will remind you of your old, teenage self!

vlcsnap-2013-10-26-09h54m43s8

You will cheer him on as he drags his best friend Patrick (Gabriel Basso) on a quest to build a house deep in the woods. It’s preposterous, but they manage to build a ramshackle hut from scraps of wood and metal. Together with the outcast Biaggio (Moises Arias), they lose themselves in their dreamy, I-make-my-own-rules world, frolicking under the sun and attempting to hunt for food (but often end up “cheating” by shopping in the town supermarket). It’s a preppy version of Lord of the Flies, with a lot of twenty-first-century idiosyncrasies.

vlcsnap-2013-10-26-10h09m40s233

There will be a girl (and a snake), and they will soon find that they are still bound to the civilization they left behind. In the woods, they are kings,  but back in suburbia, they are just teenagers caught in that bittersweet lull between childhood and adulthood.

vlcsnap-2013-10-26-10h21m10s6

It’s worth taking an hour and a half off your afternoon siesta. And Biaggio, with his absurd one-liners (“The other day I met a dog who taught me how to die”), is an endearing character.

“Purok 7” and “Gaydar”

Since I missed this year’s Cinemalaya, I decided to catch some of the entries’ reruns last Saturday at the Quezon City Film Festival. I wouldn’t have known about it had my friend not invited me to go. It looked like it was extensively promoted only in Quezon City’s schools, since the crowd comprised mostly of chirpy grade school and high school students.

I enormously liked Purok 7 (“Purok Siyete”) because of its honest depiction of rural life. I love everything small-town, so I liked seeing on the screen the glowing sunsets and dusty farm roads. I liked the opening scene of the fiesta with the boisterous cheers and the smiling brown faces.

The film’s real gems, however, were its child actors. Whether it’s Diana (Krystle Valentino) daydreaming about her tisoy childhood crush, or Julian (Miggs Cuaderno) timidly asking his neighbors to buy the frogs he’d caught, every scene put a smile on my face. They were the sort of characters that really grew on you, and it was hard not to empathize with them.

miggs-purok

Miggs Cuaderno is a promising child actor.

While we often see onscreen the classic interweaving of the innocence of childhood and troubled family dynamics, the film nonetheless offered a very fresh lens, propping the plot against the idyll of a dirt-poor farming town. The film made me want to visit my grandparents in Santa Maria.

I wanted to stay for the screening of Transit. but my college friends were getting together in Maginhawa, so I decided to have dinner with them before catching the nine p.m. screening of Alvin Yapan’s Gaydar, whose only redeeming factor was the cute soundtrack sung by Kaleidoscope Eyes.

I don’t know if it was the very misleading synopsis on the film fest’s programme, or Pauleen Luna endlessly yapping about gay men, but the film fell short of my expectations. I hadn’t seen Ang Pagdadalaga ni Fe and Debosyon, but I’d heard favorable reviews about them and liked Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa enough to have expected something witty and funny and cute about Alvin Yapan’s latest project.

Gaydar was not so much about gaydar as it was about ambiguous characterizations and incredulous FX service arrangements. It would’ve been alright if Nick (Rafael Rosell) was actually gay, but it turned out he was just another sensitive, fashionable guy who helplessly fell in love with his office bff, Tina (Luna).

Tina, meanwhile, had always fallen for men who turned out to be silahis, so when she met Richard (Tom Rodriguez), the handsome driver of her new FX service, she took no chances and asked Nick to help her sniff Richard out.

What followed was an incoherent plot peppered with noisy dialogues. It also tried very hard to add depth to the plot by injecting it with Nick’s frequent asides about the “class divide” between him and Tina, as if he didn’t work in the same company and wore fashionable outfits every single day. And Richard pretending to be a poor driver when he actually owned the whole FX fleet in the terminal? Come on.

Everybody seemed to like the film anyway. I suspect most of them were still hung over Rodriguez, who, before the screening began, walked down the line to greet the screaming fans.

On The Job (2013)

piolo1

It’s intoxicating right from the very start, when, amid the pagan frenzy of a Catholic fiesta in downtown Manila, Joel Torre blasts the brains out of an unsuspecting Chinese businessman. The ensuing action sequences then take viewers on an exhilarating HD tour of the city’s dingy alleys filled with bullet-proof SUVs streaming by mendicants and grimy vendors.

Erik Matti’s On The Job is at the very minimum a visual feast. It’s a treat in itself seeing Manila captured in all its Third World glory—the LRT chugging along above slums, a rainy date on a sidewalk carinderia, an indoor Jacuzzi in the plush home of a solon. Instead of obscure, up and coming actors, you see the characters portrayed by popular faces in local Tinseltown, which makes the gritty, multi-layered plot more palatable to general audiences.

The movie lets us in on the discomforting but all too real racket of hiring inmates as gunmen to foil any attempt of investigation. Matti says he got the idea ten years ago from one of his drivers, who, being a former inmate, casually recounted how he was discreetly let out of prison every now and then to kill people. This perverted “business” is brokered by corrupt officials on every level of the bureaucracy, with high-ranking military men often at the very top.

Joel Torre and Gerald Anderson play Mario and Daniel, a pair of these inmates-cum-contract killers, who become in demand as the cheeky General Pacheco (Leo Martinez) moves to eliminate previous clients who might rat on him as he guns for the elections.

An idealistic NBI agent, Francis Coronel (Piolo Pascual), catches on the rotten dealings as he investigates the murder of the Chinese businessman. With the help of the hard-up yet straight police officer Joaquin Acosta (Joey Marquez), he chases the killers and those who pull their strings—a group of high-ranking government officials whose gall is matched only by their avarice.

A group which, unfortunately, includes Francis’ father-in-law.

We then see the gaping cracks in our culture, which fatalistically puts the family in the center of everything—a potent force that cowers even the most righteous of us to stomach evil and merely look the other way when it is dealt. This is the central dilemma that hounded many of the characters: Mario as he takes killing jobs in the hope of providing a better life for his family, Francis as he agonizes in his decision to go against his father-in-law, and Acosta as he painstakingly tries to apprehend his drug-dealing son.

A couple of shocking twists towards the end rams at you like a bullet, and by the time the movie wraps up in what seems like an open-ended promise of redemption, you are not very hopeful that Francis’ iPhone, the most solid forensic evidence left at that point, will lead to anything.

We should be pleased that Star Cinema, which has become synonymous to “fluff,” is beginning to take initiatives to co-produce films like this. From the elite casting to the masterful cinematography and scoring, On The Job is miles away from the usual budget indie film, and shows that big-ticket production and sensitive film topics can go well together. Also, unlike the usual indie fare, the film doesn’t revel in the characters’ poverty—Mario, for one, is able to send a daughter to law school, showing a very nuanced description of socioeconomic conditions so often lacking in “poverty porn” indie films.

The film deserves a lot more than its two-minute standing ovation at the Cannes Festival this year. We have often debated if the Filipino mainstream audience is ready for such films, but we have consistently fallen short of walking the talk. Will the movie usher in a new era in mainstream Philippine cinema? It’s tall order for Matti’s film, but it just might be up to the job.

Saved by the LRT’

I thank God for our trains, because even if they’re decrepit and crowded, they do get you around. And they’re always a sure way to find your bearings whenever you’re lost. Wednesday night I found myself in Escolta, where I’ve never been before. I was actually coming from Intramuros, but I was just so relieved to be out of Comelec after waiting two hours for a five-minute interview that I hopped on the first jeep that passed by. As soon as I realized it wasn’t going to bring me to Lawton, however, I got off to find my way back.

Escolta was as messy as the rest of Manila. And it had just rained, so you can just imagine what the sidewalks were like. Luckily, LRT1’s tracks were visible through all the tangled electrical wiring and chaotic signage. Carriedo station, it turned out, was just a block away.

The trains also have a way of leading you to secret nooks you wouldn’t have found otherwise. The UN Avenue Station was connected to the sparsely occupied Times Plaza, where, I was very delighted to discover, there was a well-stocked Booksale branch on the first floor. It was the perfect way to cap a day of tiring legwork—still nothing like poring over musty bargain books. I bought four new titles, one of which is an interesting memoir titled “Sex Tips for the Living.” I hope to be able to read them as soon as the hell week’s over.

Bargain books are the best.

I want a direwolf for a pet

Yes yes yes. I’ve finally gotten my hands on A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin and its TV adaptation by HBO Game of Thrones, and I have done absolutely nothing else all weekend. Already I am so engrossed in the series but it’s so hard to catch up on everything because it’s the middle of the semester and schoolwork has piled up like snow on a particularly fierce winter. Not that I have experienced many winters, but the Starks of Winterfell have lived with snow all their lives, and I can’t wait to finish the first book, and the next four, to find out what happens when the winter finally comes!

Image

Robb’s Grey Wind. Imagine walking one down a busy street in Quiapo. Bring it on, snatchers! And I bet it could take on all the canine members of the government’s bomb squad!