Month: March 2014

Why the Girls season finale left us wanting for more…

…and why the next season is bound to be awesome.

Caveat: This article contains spoilers. For those who still haven’t watched the season finale, go ahead and watch it first. 

The first two seasons of Girls are arguably two of the best seasons we have seen in 2012 and 2013: their episodes are not only solid and fun but they also capture the zeitgeist of this generation.

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Sci-fi is for women too: A consolidated review of the Alien series*

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This March, it’s all about girls girls girls, as MNL Film Club celebrates films with femme fatales, and not just of the noir variety. They are sassy and smart, and they will punch you in the face it will feel awesome. Above all, they’re females who laugh and cry, who may be vindictive, or insecure or shy, sword-wielding and ass-kicking or just downright crazy: they’re realistic portrayals of women in an art form where women are fetishized and highly objectified.

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A science-fiction movie with a female actress in the lead role did not seem possible at all until Alien was released back in 1979 and its sequel, Aliens, in 1986.

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The movies narrate the story of Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley as she flies in outer space and kills the extra-terrestrial beings that invade her spaceship. In the Ridley Scott-directed movie Alien, Ripley had to face unidentified creatures which accidentally got into her ship and slaughtered her other crew members, one of which by the way, is an android posing as a human being. Ripley and her crew learned that the aliens need human bodies in order for them to reproduce. The crew members scrambled to their feet to save themselves, but unfortunately for them, the situation went from bad to worse. To cut the long story short, after all her comrades have perished, Ripley activated the ship’s self-destruct feature which killed all aliens in the ship but one, and narrowly escaped via a small space shuttle where she will stay for 57 long years.

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Veronica Mars is a one-way ticket to Neptune, and the ride is yet to stop

Directed by: Rob Thomas
Screenplay by: Rob Thomas and Dianne Ruggiero
Cast: Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, Krysten Ritter, Enricco Colantoni, Ryan Hansen, Chris Lowell, Percy Daggs III, Tina Majorino, Francis Capra

On many levels, it is a bit bizarre that a review for Veronica Mars movie is being reviewed, and by the MNL Film Club at that. For one, the movie itself didn’t premiere in Manila.

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For what it’s worth, Veronica Mars the series did air in one free TV channel in the country, although it was cancelled 7 years ago, and prematurely so. This was a time before the Internet served as a definitive guide to what’s cool and what’s not. And in a time before television shows were debated heatedly in dinner-time conversations, Veronica Mars aired stuff normally unheard of in a teen show — rape, racism, homosexuality, drugs — to put it mildly, it definitely was no Gilmore Girls. It did struggle to stay alive for 3 years before it went down, and it went down swinging. With DVDs, word of mouth, and internet streaming services, Veronica Mars felt more alive than before it went off-air.

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LIST: 5 Reasons Why House of Cards is the Greatest Web Series Ever

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After binge-watching the two suspense-filled seasons of House of Cards in just three days, I am now convinced that it is the best web series to ever be shown on the Internet (and probably one of the best series of all time; just right below Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, and The Wire).

In honor of House of Cards, I have listed the five reasons why it is the greatest web series ever and why those who still haven’t watched the show must see it pronto. So prepare your high-speed Internet connection because you’re in for a treat.

5. David Fincher, Joel Schumacher, et al.

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David Fincher and Joel Schumacher are only two of the few filmmakers who were tapped to direct House of Cards’ episodes. But if those names did not get you excited enough, scroll past this item and proceed with the next four entries below.

They say the key to a successful show is a great pilot. If that is true, then House of Cards has a lot to be thankful for to David Fincher. Fincher, who earned Academy Award nominations for directing twice, did not disappoint as the director of the show’s pilot. Known for his hands-on technique, he steered the show to the right direction, provided the appropriate tone, and raised the bar for the next episodes to come. Just how well did Fincher fare in the first episode? Well, he won a Primetime Emmy. Let’s leave it at that.

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The flower that blooms in adversity: Mulan revisited

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Directors: Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook
Screenplay: Rita Hsiao, Philip LaZebnik, Chris Sanders, Eugenia Bostwick-Singer, and Raymond Singer
Story: Robert D. San Souci
Featuring the Voices of: Ming-Na Wen, Eddie Murphy, BD Wong, Miguel Ferrer, Harvey Fierstein, Beth Fowler, George Takei, and Pat Morita

If you are in search for ladies in ball gowns and romantic adventures, imperial China is definitely not the place to be. However, aside from the innate uniqueness of this great civilization, we find a powerful narrative that provides redefinitions of strength, capability, and womanhood beyond established norms and conventions. And because MNL Film Club celebrates the fiercest females on the big screen, this kickass character is a definite inclusion – she’s so kickass that she defeated a troop of a thousand horsemen single-handedly. She is Mulan.

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Mulan (1998) is based on the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, a young woman (presented in the film as the fictional Fa Mulan) who impersonated a male soldier to save her elderly father from a military conscription following an attack on China by invading Huns. Running away from home, Mulan embarks on a journey where she eventually defeated the Huns, saved the empire, and more importantly, found her true strength and purpose.

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Lessons in History and Parenting: A Review of Mr. Peabody and Sherman

Director: Rob Minkoff
Screenplay: Craig Wright
Cast: Ty Burrell, Stephen Colbert, Stanley Tucci, Leslie Mann 

Some animated movies were made only to attract a horde of children audience and rake millions at the box office. Before seeing Mr. Peabody and Sherman, I have the nagging feeling that it’s just one of those movies.  

Thank goodness it was not.

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The film starts by introducing Mr. Peabody, who unlike any other dog, is intellectual and human-like in a lot of ways. And by that, I mean he can stand upright, speak different languages, play musical instruments, argue in court by himself, and bartend. Sounds silly, eh? That’s not the end of it. Because Mr. Peabody is so bright, he is supposedly responsible for the invention of various groundbreaking items such as alternative energy resources, the fist bump, and Zumba and the Wayback Machine, a big red time machine carefully ensconced in his futuristic house.

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Kickassery Beyond Kung Fu: A Feminist Retrospective on Kill Bill

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This March, it’s all about girls girls girls, as MNL Film Club celebrates films with femme fatales, and not just of the noir variety. They are sassy and smart, and they will punch you in the face it will feel awesome. Above all, they’re females who laugh and cry, who may be vindictive, or insecure or shy, sword-wielding and ass-kicking or just downright crazy: they’re realistic portrayals of women in an art form where women are fetishized and highly objectified.

We’re kicking it off with Kill Bill Volumes 1 and 2, Quentin Tarantino’s sensational hits in 2003 and 2004, and which forever immortalized Uma Thurman in Bruce Lee’s yellow track suit.

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Written by: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Lucy Liu, Michael Madsen, Daryl Hannah, Sonny Chiba, Vivica A. Fox, Gordon Liu, Julie Dreyfus

This is not the first movie to feature gun-toting and sword-slashing women, and this is certainly not the last. The idea of an avenging woman on a righteous rampage of revenge, either after being raped or abused, has not only been perenially duplicated, but also oftenly criticized. Many movies fetishize the unstoppable female who slaughter her oppressors in skintight and revealing clothing while sexualizing the violence previously inflicted on these women. None of these are present in Kill Bill, however, and the rampage of revenge is all of the glorious and awesome kind.
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Any movie by Tarrantino guarantees guts and gore, and these are overly abundant in Kill Bill, especially the first installment. The movie opens with Beatrix Kiddo, aka The Bride, on her most vulnerable: with her face puffed, cut, and bleeding, almost pleading for her life to be spared; on the next scene, we learn she was repeatedly raped while her body was in comatose for the last 4 years. Initially, all of these are cringeworthy facts to deal with, but her resolve to make the people responsible for her demise pay was a cathartic experience to Kiddo and the movie audience as well. In this regard, there is no sexism at all. Any fan of Tarantino would recognize that the quick justice in the form of bloodshed is characteristic in any of his movies, male or female villains alike. Each Deadly Viper is skilled in their chosen style, and almost each of them presents a good fight.

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The one vampire movie you wouldn’t want to miss: A review of Only Lovers Left Alive

Director: Jim Jarmusch
Screenplay: Jim Jarmusch
Cinematography: Yorick Le Saux
Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, Mia Wasikowska

Cool. There’s no other word for it.

Only Lovers Left Alive gives the audience a peek into another dimension of the vampire universe, with a more traditional characterization of the creature that most are familiar with (and which do not necessarily sound absurd or illogical) – pale, capable of death via wood pierced through the heart, nocturnal, sun aversion, and no vegetarian preference with animal blood. The lovers referred to in the title are Adam (Tom Hiddleston), an epitome of Hamlet inside a brooding, eccentric, and popular rock musician, and Eve (Tilda Swinton), a voracious reader and lover of life, or whatever kind of life it is that they have. He collects vintage instruments (swoon at the instruments or Tom Hiddleston?). She fills suitcases with books. Arguably, in my book, they are the coolest vampires since Lestat. The hip vibe, more than just espousing coolness, focuses on the significance of culture.

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The two characters represent two sides of a coin: the good and bad sides of the power to live forever. As Adam contemplates suicide by having a wooden bullet crafted, he portrays the negative view, that perpetual living reduced what meaning he derived from existence. He is constantly bothered by what he refers to as “zombies” – not the actual kind, but the deterioration humanity has succumbed to. It is shown that he might have lived through the eras of Copernicus and Galileo, all the way to Byron, and as the centuries descend upon him, the further he loses hope in the human race.  On the other hand, after finding the said bullet, Eve shows him that despite all the adversity and chaos, there is hope yet. Instead of thinking about ourselves, and being occupied with the things we demand of this world, we can appreciate all that we can and have. As to this, Tilda Swinton delivers the best line of the film: “How can you have lived for so long and still not get it?”

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LIST: MNL Film Club’s Last-minute Guide to the 2014 Oscars Best Picture Race

Here at MNL Film Club, we like to pretend that we are bona fide Academy members who can vote and influence the results of this year’s event.

As a product of wishful thinking, here are this year’s Oscar Best Picture contenders, as evaluated and listed (from least to most probable winner) by some of MNL Film Club’s resident movie buffs.

 

#9 Captain Phillips

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FOR IT: The film is effectively exhilarating but is that the kind of film Academy voters go for? Barkhad Abdi’s breakout performance might win voters over.

AGAINST IT: Tom Hanks was snubbed by Academy voters – a bold move from the people who gave him a back-to-back win in 1993 and 1994. No love for director Paul Greengrass either. The film has been compared a lot of times to Argo which just won last year.

MNL FILM CLUB SCORE: 1.5

#8 The Wolf of Wall Street

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FOR IT: The Leonardo DiCaprio-Martin Scorsese tandem is always a force to reckon with. Leo IS overdue.

AGAINST IT: Although well-made, the film is raunchy and vulgar. Remember: the Academy voters are a conservative bunch. It might turn them off.

MNL FILM CLUB SCORE: 1.75

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