Month: February 2014

As a study in book-to-movie adaptations, ABNKKBSNPLAKO gets poor grades

Director: Mark Meily
Screenplay: Ned Trespeces
Cast: Jericho Rosales, Andi Eigenmann, Meg Imperial, Vandolph Quizon

Mark Meily’s ABNKKBSNPLAKO movie experience is akin to being handed a present wrapped in a glossy package: it makes you giddy in excitement to see what’s inside, only to find that the box is empty and hollow.

The glossy wrappings are pleasing enough: we are taken a trip down memory lane through the eyes of Bob Ong, whose youth and naïveté was wonderfully portrayed by Adrian Cabido. Young Bob struggled with the innocuous evils of elementary education – corporal punishment, rainy days, gossipy cafeteria ladies, badly-timed stomach aches–and then morphs into an awkward pimply teen in high school. These are all conveniently triggered by a high school reunion which Bob (now played by Jericho Rosales) hesitates to attend, but goes anyway in the hopes of meeting his “special someone.”

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Nostalgia is nice and easy, and this much is already guaranteed to us by the original material. The eponymous book gave us various references which tickles the fancies of a true blue 80’s kid while appealing to the general experience we’ve all likely to have had through years of education. The movie undoubtedly gave us this. Meily smartly clings to the nostalgia factor, but he  pulls a trick or two from his sleeves by adding spiffy lettering and animation to accompany the scenes, cleverly-edited flashbacks, and properly-cued and chosen music. In a rarely-seen maneuver, Rosales breaks the fourth wall and directly addresses the audience. For a movie about the education system, however, it felt too neat and sharpened in an attempt to be witty, seemingly afraid to be too immersed in the context with which it finds itself in.

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More than just two kissing cowboys: Reviewing Brokeback Mountain

Here at MNL Film Club, we review movies past and present. We’ll try to give you the coolest throwbacks since Doc Brown, on monthly thematic dosages. This February, we give you the Most Romantic Movies of the Past Decade. We took this matter seriously, and rest assured, the team argued gruellingly (nevertheless, no MNL Film Club writer was harmed in the writing of this piece) to present four of the most noteworthy romantic movies of the 2000s.

This, of course, begged the question: what is romance? The delineation between this genre and those others more popularly consumed is blurry and undefined. We took the high road and put it simply as that which features love. More importantly, romance is an exploration of love; it captures love at its most picturesque moments, and it exposes the ugly undersides of its aftermaths. An example of which is the tragically beautiful (or beautifully tragic) love story of two cowboys chronicled in Brokeback Mountain.

Director: Ang Lee
Screenplay: Larry McMurty Diana Ossana
Cinematography: Rodrigo Prieto
Cast: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway

TRUTH: The idea of one full-length film about the love story of two gay (closeted) cowboys did not sound possible until Brokeback Mountain came out in 2005.

The movie tells the story of two cowboys, Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist (played by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, respectively) who were brought together to herd sheep in an isolated part of Wyoming for a certain period of time. The two (who were presumably “straight” at the start of the film) eventually developed a relationship which began from, yup, you guessed it right: sex. After finishing their job, the two separated and went on with their lives. But it seems that true love won’t be stopped as the two found a way to continue with their clandestine rendezvous and dalliance despite having their own families. The cowboys faced a lot of problems throughout the course of the story but none is as devastating as when Ennis found out that Jack was brutally murdered and must, therefore, endure the pain of losing his one true love.

As far as romantic queer films are concerned, Brokeback Mountain is close to perfection precisely because it isn’t a half-baked movie filled with gratuitous sex scenes that do nothing but to perpetuate cringe-inducing gay stereotypes and movie tropes.

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A New Brand of Heroine: Juno in Review

Here at MNL Film Club, we review movies past and present. We’ll try to give you the coolest throwbacks since Doc Brown, on monthly thematic dosages. This February, we give you the Most Romantic Movies of the Past Decade. We took this matter seriously, and rest assured, the team argued gruellingly (nevertheless, no MNL Film Club writer was harmed in the writing of this piece) to present four of the most noteworthy romantic movies of the 2000s. This, of course, begged the question: what is romance? The delineation between this genre and those others more popularly consumed is blurry and undefined. We took the high road and put it simply as that which features love. More importantly, romance is an exploration of love; it captures love at its most picturesque moments, and it exposes the ugly undersides of its aftermaths. In Juno, modern romance takes on the form of an unconventional and comical romance of a young girl who finds love without looking for it.

Director: Jason Reitman
Screenplay: Diablo Cody
Cinematography: 
Eric Steelberg
Cast: 
Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jason Bateman, Jennifer Garner

So much has been said already about Juno – praise for the humorous oddball characters and the smart screenplay, and on the other hand, criticism for the message it (may or may not have) conveyed. Juno was a sleeper hit; at first, it didn’t necessarily generate the buzz that it took for Ellen Page to be nominated for an Oscar. When I watched Juno for the nth time before finally putting my thoughts about it on paper, I tried to look for something new. And the film does not disappoint. It was the first time I actually laughed at the “cautionary whale” joke. Don’t judge me.

Sixteen-year-old Juno (Ellen Page) becomes pregnant after having sex with Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera). With the realization that babies have fingernails, she decides to keep the baby and put it up for adoption. She finds a yuppie couple, Mark and Vanessa Loring to be the adoptive parents. The story revolves around the juxtaposition of the pregnancy of the spunky and unlikely heroine with the other stuff she has to deal with still: the unjustifiable scrutiny by her high school peers, her family and friends (or friend), and her unsorted feelings for Bleeker. All this makes for one of the best and most hilarious films of the 2000s, with an impeccably quirky and witty screenplay, attractive and engaging storytelling, and amusing characters who are unbelievably complex and unapologetic for their weirdness. The casting as well was spot on; with the pacing of Juno, it would be difficult to keep up if different actors played the roles.

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LIST: Philip Seymour Hoffman’s 10 Most Essential Movie Performances

Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Throughout the years, the name alone was enough to generate a certain amount of excitement among film enthusiasts all over the world. Why so? Not only is the person behind the name a thespian in possession of a considerable range of skills and depth but also because he played some of the most remarkable characters in movies that resonated throughout his generation.

That’s why when Hoffman was found dead in his apartment two weeks ago, it didn’t feel like your favourite actor just died of an accidental drug overdose. It felt like a cold blooded murder.

To celebrate Hoffman’s legacy of unparalleled acting chops, the members of the MNL Film Club have re-watched his filmography and listed the 10 most essential movie performances of his entire career.

10. Boogie Nights (1997)

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In Boogie Nights, Hoffman plays Scotty J., a gay boom operator at a pornographic movie production company who falls madly in love with an up and coming (not to mention well-endowed) male porn star. Truth be told, the role is completely unnecessary to the plot of the movie (heck, it wasn’t even tangential).  But thanks to Hoffman’s sensitively spot-on portrayal, the short focus devoted to the character was not wasted; instead it was maximized by the actor himself. In the movie, Scotty J was lost, confused and loveable at the same time – all because of Hoffman’s sheer genius.

-X

9. Punch-Drunk Love (2002)

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While the highlight of Punch-Drunk Love is the character of Barry Egan and Adam Sandler’s portrayal of him, it would not be complete without the iconic scene wherein Barry complains to Hoffman’s character regarding the extortionist-phone-sex service which the latter offered and the former availed of, and which eventually led to the possibility of a hitch in Barry and Lena’s love. Dubbed as the “shut up scene,” this short but significant part played by Hoffman not only made the story more interesting and gave the film the character it evokes, but it also showcased his greatness as an actor. His performance confirmed his status as a renowned actor, who can steal the spotlight even in a role whose lines consist of about ten shut ups.

– J

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Starting Over Again is a Cliché But It Ain’t a Copycat

Director: Olivia Lamasan
Screenplay: Carmi Raymundo
Cast: Toni Gonzaga, Piolo Pascual, Iza Calzado

Watching Starting Over Again is reminiscent of being single, female, and watching a romantic comedy on a Valentine’s day: it’s kinda cliche. And I find myself doing both last night.

This is not to say that both are repulsive or completely unsatisfying. On one hand, this movie (and the movie before this, and the movie before that, and so on) roams on chartered territories of romantic comedies–uptight male meets vivacious free spirited girl, she makes him feel alive and fall for her, they each have a set of friends who only live to give them relationship advice– you get the drift. In here, Toni Gonzaga plays the giddy schoolgirl turned gorgeous architect Ginny who is on a dead-set mission to win back her former flame back, while Marco, played by Piolo Pascual, is her former professor and ex-lover. It could have been Sarah Geronimo and Gerald Anderson playing these roles, or it could have been John Lloyd and Bea. Heck, the movie itself gives an all-too familiar One More Chance vibe. Once and again, Star Cinema banks on the likeability of its actors to pull off yet another blockbuster while giving us the same tropes all over again. Familiarity does breed contempt, but it’s a little less so in this case.

It’s impossible, however, not to fall for Toni’s Ginny. She’s wacky, smart, and the movie has us laughing at her attempts to chase her ideal man. The movie has us falling for her crazy antics and her cute but garish manners, and then makes us hate her for being the one who left. In the end, we accept her and all of the characters in this love story, because of the compelling motivation that the movie gave each of them. The movie is very much in control, as the several plot reveals made through flashbacks were properly paced.

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Deconstructing the Perfect Romance: A Consolidated Review of Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight

Here at MNL Film Club, we review movies past and present. We’ll try to give you the coolest throwbacks since Doc Brown, on monthly thematic dosages. This February, we give you the Most Romantic Movies of the Past Decade. We took this matter seriously, and rest assured, the team argued gruellingly (nevertheless, no MNL Film Club writer was harmed in the writing of this piece) to present four of the most noteworthy romantic movies of the 2000s.

This, of course, begged the question: what is romance? The delineation between this genre and those others more popularly consumed is blurry and undefined. We took the high road and put it simply as that which features love. More importantly, romance is an exploration of love; it captures love at its most picturesque moments, and it exposes the ugly undersides of its aftermaths. Three of the best romantic films of the last decade that portray both the good and the bad in romance and love, in an ingenious package brimming with great chemistry and reasonable doses of reality are Before Sunset, Before Sunrise, and Before Midnight.

Before Sunrise
Director: Richard Linklater
Screenplay: Richard Linklater
Cinematography: Lee Daniel
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy

Before Sunset
Director: Richard Linklater
Screenplay: Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
Cinematography: Lee Daniel
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy

Before Midnight
Director:
Richard Linklater
Screenplay: Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
Cinematography: Christos Voudouris
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy

Chance meetings in trains or other modes of transit seem to fit only in a fictional world. It is the perfect romantic set-up – strangers meet on board, fall in love instantly, and live a happier life than what the characters had that the audience was initially introduced to. That is, until the plot gets boring and the flaw of the whole situation betrays its premise. But that didn’t happen in the story of Jesse and Celine, the two lovers of the critically-acclaimed Before series. 

It all began with a meeting on a train between Jesse and Celine in Before Sunrise. It just seemed inevitable that something is bound to happen as the two of them toured parts of Vienna, because nothing really happens for the most of it. They just talk. With my horrendously and fatally limited attention span, I didn’t watch the movie in its entirety in just one sitting. After deciding to come back, there was something that glued my eyes to the screen, in hopeful anticipation of how their story will unfold. 

It was a myriad of things that made it work – great characterization, plot possibilities, the picturesque setting, and arguably the best of it all, the genuine manner with which the characters effortlessly delivered the dialogue with tense chemistry. It was the way the entire story was told, the unabashed realness of it all, and the fact that it didn’t treat its audience as a stupid bunch who would be satisfied with saccharine scenes that would induce twitterpattering (I made an effort to find the closest translation to what Filipinos would term as kilig). It made an effort to make the audience think and supply them with enough wit to stay until the end. Really, how many movies have been able to do that?

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Your Ex-Lover Isn’t Dead: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in Review

Here at MNL Film Club, we review movies past and present. We’ll try to give you the coolest throwbacks since Doc Brown, on monthly thematic dosages. This February, we give you the Most Romantic Movies of the Past Decade. We took this matter seriously, and rest assured, the team argued gruellingly (nevertheless, no MNL Film Club writer was harmed in the writing of this piece) to present four of the most noteworthy romantic movies of the 2000s.

This, of course, begged the question: what is romance? The delineation between this genre and those others more popularly consumed is blurry and undefined. We took the high road and put it simply as that which features love. More importantly, romance is an exploration of love; it captures love at its most picturesque moments, and it exposes the ugly undersides of its aftermaths. One of the finest examples of this is the artful deconstruction of love and relationship seen in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

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Too much of this, not much of that: Review of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Director: Ben Stiller
Screenplay: Steve Conrad
Cinematography: Stuart Dryburgh
Cast: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Sean Penn, Adam Scott, Shirley MacLaine

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty confuses visual spectacle with substance and depth. And it was a grave mistake.

The movie chronicles the story of a lowly employee (Ben Stiller) who suffers from too much daydreaming. He was presented with various dilemmas at the start of the film: the magazine he works for will release its last print issue, he has a crush on his co-worker (Kristen Wiig) and his officemate (Sean Penn), who takes photos of the magazine’s cover page, has gone missing.

To cut the long story short, things went messy. That is, for Stiller’s character and for the movie itself.  The Secret Life of Walter Mitty thinks it can get away with playing scene after scene of visual spectacle without backing it up with substance or reason. It would have worked if there’s a logical excuse to play such sequences.

But there’s none.

The movie’s storytelling was uneven and all over the place (not to mention that it lacked the heart that could have brought it closer to the audience). It drifts and drifts but reaches nowhere. No trace of humanity or emotion was seen nor felt. There were only missed opportunities, followed by fleeting moments of dissatisfaction. There’s practically nothing more.

It is regretful how The Secret Life of Walter Mitty has treated its actors; the movie squandered the talents of its two lead stars and relied heavily on their charms, not on their capabilities, which, a lot of times did not work out. (Sidenote: believe me, I basically worship Kristen Wiig since she appeared on SNL so I know what I’m talking about).

Stiller, being the director and lead star, could have done something to salvage the movie. But he, too, wasted his opportunities. His directorship offered nothing but half-baked techniques and his performance is a little too underwhelming. Whereas Stiller’s character has considerable depth, Stiller the actor only has little to none.

The movie’s saving grace is its soundtrack and Sean Penn’s performance as an engrossed photographer, which, by the way, is so short it would pass for a cameo appearance.

Proceed with the movie if you must, be it due to the deceptive trailer or sheer curiosity, but consider yourself warned.

–X

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