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Friday, March 26, 2010

Movie Digest # 071

SM City – North EDSA, Cinema 10, March 7, 2:15pm

How to deconstruct a Hollywood post-apocalyptic movie? This is the answer. It’s a father and son tale of survival set during the end of the world. The take is very calm and therapeutic giving a Zen-like experience to those who are used to suspense-packed and CGI-powered films. But don’t get me wrong. There are some edge-of-your-seat scenes but not scene-stealer enough to ruin the material. CGIs are also used to depict ruins but that’s about it. Viggo Mortensen plays the father and he delivers (just like in his movies of late). Same goes with the actor who plays the son. Charlize Theron did a support as the mother. This is probably one the best films I’ve seen that is adapted from a book that I haven’t read yet.

Friends who might appreciate it: Cormac McCarthy followers.

SM City – North EDSA, IMAX Theater, March 7, 6:40pm

Normally, we get the Tim Burton twist at the end of the film he adapted (except of course for “Sweeney Todd” which is purely translated on its entirety). The reimagining part for this Disney-produced film is actually the whole material. We didn’t get to see the child Alice but a 19-year old one who is facing a dilemma of being matched to a man she doesn’t love. That’s enough backstory to tell to build up what’s on Alice’s mind on her way to escape her Wonderland. Well acted and well executed, and just the right amount of eye candy CGI. This is probably the Disney-est you can get from Tim Burton and Johnny Depp and I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Friends who might appreciate it: Those who are expecting less from Tim Burton.

Glorietta 4, Cinema 4, March 10, 8:30pm

There are locally produced indie films that could penetrate the mainstream in terms of star factor and theme and this is one of them. It’s just painful to see a half-empty movie theater for a simple fact that this is not from Star Cinema or Regal. It really matters if a film (or any project in particular) is not promoted much in giant TV networks. This Unitel project, as the print ads teased, is about a boy who steals a pair of Imelda Marcos’ shoes and gives it to the women he loves. Yes, it indeed tackles Imelda as a side dish but there’s more to this film. It’s about shoes and people. It’s about being in love and the roads you have to step on to build your character. It’s also about the Film Center and the lives it ruined, about family and about moving on to redeem what’s in store for you. It’s also about Jose Rizal and the flaw on the anecdote about throwing the other shoe to the river. Marvin Agustin is good in his quiet scenes but at times irritating in “pakilig” and high-pitched sequences. The rest of the cast are magnificent including the ever reliable Liza Lorena and Tessie Tomas, who for me, made an acting turn here as an Imelda Marcos impersonator. The film is not perfect but the imperfections are overshadowed by a clever storytelling and edgy cinematography. I have to agree that this is the first above average Pinoy movie for 2010.

Friends who might appreciate it: Imeldific friends.

Robinsons Galleria, Cinema 9, March 13, 3:00pm

Written by a fellow Titusian Archie del Mundo and directed by Mark Shandii Bacolod, the film tackles a boy-meets-boy (thus the title) story set against the backdrop of filmmaking class and college basketball. It storms the notion about the fluidity of sexuality which materializes, for this case, to Ben (Ray An Dulay), a basketball team captain. He is handicapped with a father who left them and an emotionally unstable mother (played by the great Ana Abad Santos). Sam (Jess Mendoza) happens to be his film class thesis buddy. I can say that the film is serviceable enough in terms of coming up with a simple and honest-to-goodness story. It’s just too simple to a point that I end up wanting to know the characters more. For instance, I am clueless about what’s brewing in Ben’s mind. It doesn’t mention per se that he is struggling within. And the love that he shares with Sam doesn’t seem to be rewarding at all. On the plus side, I was actually enjoying the first part involving film class discussions (specifically, the debate about Dante Mendoza’s films). Too bad that the wit is not sustained ‘til the end. This is not Mark Shandii’s best film yet but the fire of his “Fidel” is still there.

Friends who might appreciate it: Probably Ben & Jerry fans.

Glorietta 4, Cinema 6, March 13, 8:00pm

The last time Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon made a project together was for the Bourne series. It is an action packed material with an execution that is hyper realistic. Edgy and groundbreaking, the style seems to raise the bar that even the latest incarnation of the James Bond franchise follows the tradition from. “Green Zone” is no different. It has the real-life relevance of “United 93” and the grit of the Bourne trilogy. Add that up to Matt Damon’s ever reliable performance plus a statement on America’s participation to Gulf Wars, and you’ll get this film.

Friends who might appreciate it: Those who think that Paul Greengrass is a cool director.

SM Megamall, Cinema 7, March 24, 9:30pm

The plot is actually basic. As a metaphor to Shakespeare’s immortal love story, the film tells a tale of the star crossed lovers Joseph and Angel (well acted by Victor Basa and Alessandra de Rossi). Joseph is sexually repressed while Angel is into high-class flesh trade. I can say that it's above average compared to other Pinoy films, mainstream or not. Except for some double-frame sequences, I like most of it. I like its silence, its lingering shots and its pulsating colors that are reminiscent of contemporary Spanish cinema. The back stories about the parents also make up for a good point. Maybe it's telling something about kids being a byproduct of a relationship.

Friends who might appreciate it: Those who are still in search of Adolf Alix’s directorial voice.

SM Mall of Asia, IMAX Theater, March 25, 7:50pm

Predictability in most made for children films is not unusual. Same thing could be said with this tale of courage, friendship and acceptance, told through the eyes of a Viking leader’s son nicknamed Hiccup. But since it’s intended for 3D cinemas, the least a viewer could expect is for it to be a truly enjoyable experience. On that aspect alone, the film delivers big time. Just notice the strand of the characters’ hair and you’ll know how well crafted the film is. But there’s more. The last few scenes, I can say, almost made me wet my 3D glasses. It hits the target and at, the same time, it summarizes what the theme is all about.

Friends who might appreciate it: Those who miss Northern Irish accent and Giant’s Causeway.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Takoyaki Diaries, Book 1

My early memories with takoyaki were probably during college days when I used to visit Harrison Plaza to do my groceries. There’s a stall there near the National Book Store branch that sells those Japanese dumplings and I don’t remember liking them. It must be the veggies in it or probably the thought that onions are hiding somewhere.

Just recently, while waiting for a DUP play to start, I came across this little takoyaki stand called Sakoni. They are selling three pieces for P25 which I found to be relatively cheap. I tried my first serving, enjoyed it and ordered for two more servings. I don’t know what happened there but it got me started to search for the best takoyaki in town.

In case you’re still lost what a takoyaki is, Wikipedia will be of help.

The list below is just partial. Expect another round of takoyaki adventure real soon. For instance, Hana in Little Tokyo and Karate Kid are already noted. As of this writing, these are the top of my list:

1. Maru-Maru – Found in Glorietta’s food court called Food Choices, near Savory area and in the same line where you can find Fruit Magic. I have to admit that I was introduced with it through a tarpaulin claiming that they have the most authentic Japanese ingredients and they seem to tell the truth. Three pieces at P36, a bit pricier than Sakoni (P63 and P103 for six and nice pieces respectively). It’s got the traditional diced baby octopus, red ginger and green onion topped with a just right sauce made creamy by mayonnaise plus green laver (are those seaweed?) and fish flakes. Really, really yummy.

2. Kuya Chito’s Takuyaki – I learned about this through my landlady who frequents Makati Cinema Square which is just a stone’s throw away from Don Bosco where her son studies. It’s located near Jollibee and priced at P25 for three pieces. The cordial staff mentioned that they also have stands in Robinsons malls. Based on the Wikipedia entry, their version of takoyaki may sidetrack almost unknowingly. They have cabbage, lots of it actually, plus carrot and some thinly sliced octopus (I am not sure with this one). The dumpling is comprised mostly of cabbage and it is fun to watch how the little amount of flour and egg help mold into a ball. They also have the usual sauce, be it hot, sweet or a combination of it, and mayonnaise then you’ll be asked if you wish to have fish or beef flakes. My first try made me order for two more servings. Very filling and healthy.

3. New Hatchin – I got the info for this one through Donna, an officemate. She claims that it’s the most authentic of all based on blog hits, I presume. Since the place, a Japanese grocery, by the way, is not far from my place, I gave it a try. It’s located at Sacred Heart St. in Makati, just near the national shrine of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The challenging part is that they cook takoyaki only on weekends and it runs out really fast. Try to be there between 11am and 3pm to secure your craving. Eight pieces at P78 and very much similar to the ingredients from Maru-Maru. The difference is the sauce. It’s a little empowering. My landlady thinks that it’s got more Kikkoman in it. But I like it nonetheless. It doesn’t have mayonnaise but it has the green laver.

4. Sakoni – Since this one got me the groove, I have to include this on my list. The problem is that I didn’t get many details about the stall. As far as I know, it has “branches” in Fairview and in nearby places but none in Makati. Anyway, their booth in front of Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater in Palma Hall/AS Building in UP Diliman is outright with the claim that it’s a vegetarian goody. True enough, it has cabbage and diced octopus but compared to Kuya Chito’s, their version has more flour/egg base. It has the usual sauce and mayonnaise topped with what looked like a pork floss (I didn’t bother to contest if it’s really vegetarian). I tried visiting Palma Hall again one Saturday, with no DUP performance in tow, and the stall is nowhere to be found. Maybe I’ll just have to wait for the next theater season.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Wedding

More pictures here.

Last February 24, I got a text from Melea (everybody in our circle of friends addresses her as “Ate Melea”) asking me if I can reserve March 20 for my Facebook photo album “Project 365 Days”. Of course, without even asking, I have to be at her wedding.

Just a little background, Melea’s a high school classmate and friend while her hubby, Erwin, is a childhood friend (read: Atari and Family Computer days). They’ve been a pair since college days, if I remember it right.

The wedding was celebrated at St. Ferdinand Cathedral in Lucena City. The church is three hours away from Manila (and two hours from our hometown) so we had to leave the metro at least four hours early. Not surprisingly, the number of guests is minimal. That’s very Erwin and Melea. Family and relatives from both sides were present as well as close friends and kababayans. Even the ninongs and ninangs are familiar faces, no big name politicians and the like. To top it all, the priest happens to be a friend to the couple. It was good to hear a sermon that was so personalized.

Reception followed at Palaisdaan in Tayabas, Quezon. Weddings (or most events) held in Lucena City normally have receptions there. It’s a place known for nipa hut-like cottages set in the middle of fish ponds. Food was fresh and festive as expected. I even tried the evil tuwalya from kare-kare (with matching bagoong that is not the bottled type) and a chunk of lechon. Conversations on native tongue were a breeze to behold. Then there’s music and lots of catching up with real friends (you know who you are). For a moment there, I felt shielded. It was a relief when the newlyweds decided to give the bouquet (and stocking?) to a married couple because they couldn’t find apt candidates. Either most friends are already married or they were just polite.

Upon reaching Makati, I got a thank you text from Melea (how often do we get thank you notes nowadays?). I replied to her saying that I enjoyed the wedding and that it’s always a pleasure to be there. She said that it’s the presence of friends that made it enjoyable. I guess she hit the bull’s eye there. Days are best measured with, aside from love, friendship. I can’t wait to see them again come Holy Week.

Philography File # 006: Carla Guevarra

Accomplished last February 12, Friday, after the new staging of Rent - Manila at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium in RCBC Plaza.

Carla Guevarra (now Laforteza) is one of the most reliable musical actresses around. She did "Miss Saigon" before as Kim but I got floored when I saw her in Repertory Philippines' "Song and Dance".

That Sam Milby – Anne Curtis Presscon

First things first, there’s no such word as “presscon”. I tried separating “press” and “con” but it doesn’t feel right. And since I can’t get rid of that irritating red line, I right click the word and choose “Add to Dictionary”. Now I’m relieved.

Last Wednesday, I finally granted Mel Fule’s second (and last) wish (assuming that I acknowledge the secondness of it since the first and probably the major one was already accomplished last December). First one was to meet Sam Milby. The second being another meeting with Mr. Milby and this time around, Mel is going to tell Sam that she was the birthday celebrant with whom the four missed calls were made.

As part of a far-fetched plan to invite Sam on Mel’s despedida (yes, Mel, that’s true), I started contacting the usual suspects (Miss Joyski and Good Samaritan). Miss Joyski shared about possible access to the presscon (my very first) for the upcoming Star Cinema film “Babe, I Love You” starring Sam and Anne Curtis. I invited Mel and off we braved EDSA during rush hours.

Meeting was at 6:30pm in front of Gram’s (inside the ABS-CBN compound) but our contact named Tita Long (female, wearing glasses and has a mole) was not around yet. Close to 7pm, she came along with Miss Joyski (they were not together) and another lady named Sisa (who Mel and I saw standing in the area the time we arrived). Then off we got in the audience entrance and straight to Dolphy Theater, passing a set of dining tables for the press. “Fans” were instructed to stay at the balcony area so we obeyed.

The presscon proper started at close to 8pm. Sam, Anne and first-time director Mae Cruz were on the presidential table. Manay Ethel (Ramos) moderated the Q&A along with a female DJ from 101.9 (I forgot her name but she seems popular among the fans). Nene, Sam’s PA and Jon-jon, Sam’s driver, from time to time, would visit the balcony to the delight of everybody. Questions vary from sensible (“Your impression to each other seems very sensual.”) to just plain stupid (“Itutuloy n’yo ba ang nasimulan n’yong relasyon?”). Anne was very candid and very un-showbiz on answering the questions. The only time she answered very direct was when asked sensibly about the research done on the film. Sam was sometimes lost, thanks to his improving familiarity with Filipino/Tagalog. Jaejay and Linel surprised us by showing up in the middle of the questioning.

Anyway, the real deal happened after the presscon.

All four of us (Mel, Jaejay, Linel and I) plus Miss Joyski and Sisa were waiting at the theater exit. We were informed that Sam and Anne were still being “ambushed” for more interviews inside the theater. Nene was also there plus Sam’s stylist. I rehearsed Mel from time to time about her possible script in which she gladly obliged. Sisa even prepared something for Mel to ask Sam for an autograph (it’s a shirtless Sam on paper).

After roughly 20 minutes of waiting, Sam came rushing from the corridor entrance. I heard that there was a shoot for “Now showing!” spiel somewhere. When Sam reached us and thanked us for coming, I looked at Mel and saw her, err, freezing. Sam was already in the middle of the corridor and still no sound from Mel. I think it was Miss Joyski who was conversing with Sam. When he was about to exit, I remember my voice shouting “Kami ‘yung friend ni Good Samaritan!”. I think Mel seconded that and made Sam slow down a bit. He was still clueless. Then Mel shouted “Tumawag ka n’ung birthday NIYA!” and made Sam look more confused (sorry Mel but I don’t know ‘til now where that came from, hahaha). Epiphany came just in time. Sam in a spanking tone, “I called you on your desk like four times!” on which Mel said sorry. Sam followed up, “Just visit me again.” and vanished.

End of the story.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Small Concert

(From top row, clockwise: Concert poster, Kris John Gonzales, Clark Gamul, Baihana, Migs Ramirez, Janine Robles, Geoff Taylor and Mica Torre.)

Thursday last week, I went to Music Museum to attend a small concert simply called Episodes. It was organized by a group with the same name. Affiliates include Pinky Marquez, Jenny Villegas who I last saw in the restaging of “Rent” and my friend Victor Felarca who handles talents. The program I got mentions that the group was formed during the onslaught of typhoons Pepeng and Ondoy and the aim is mainly to stage shows “that will highlight underrated Filipino talents”.

Before the show, there was this awkward product presentation from one of the major sponsors. It’s for Fusion Excel Quantum products with Cory Quirino as the main endorser (as printed at the back of the program). The whole demo took at least 30 minutes, a struggle for me watching as the speaker discussed about the mobile phones’ health risk, blah-blah-blah. Accordingly, their stuff absorbs the radiation. A member of the audience, a guy on his late 50’s, volunteered to somehow confirm the claim. He, for the lack of word, cinematically attested that the material/element they are selling boosts balance and endurance.

Now, on with the show.

Aside from the venue and the template concert lights, there was nothing grand with it. The repertoire was simple: one performer comes out and renders two or three songs (including a duet with co-performers).

Kris John Gonzales opened the show and raised the bar with a breathtaking rendition of “Pie Jesu”. Followed by an Italian folk song about funiculars then capped his set with “Climb Every Mountain”. He is just a kid, by the way (a kid in white tuxedo, to be exact). Another child performer followed suit, providing a Charlie Green-like set of standards like “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” and “Someone to Watch Over Me”. His name is Clark Gamul.

A jazz trio of young pretty ladies called Baihana (from UP College of Music, I was informed) had their turn. In the middle, the tallest among the three is Krina Cayabyab and, you guessed it right, she’s Mr. C’s daughter. They sang “Tea for Two”, “Boogie Woogie”, “Rock with You”, “Yakap sa Dilim” and more. I’m an instant fan.

Migs Ramirez (“Somewhere” and “Paraisong Parisukat”) is probably the Erik Santos of the show while Janine Robles (“Wind Beneath My Wings”), the Sarah Geronimo. Together they sang “Kung Ako’y Mag-aasawa” and “The Prayer”. Geoff Taylor, the grand male champion of GMA7’s “Are You The Next Big Star?”, was next singing “Perfect” and “I Got a Feeling”. He was later joined by the “little big star” Mica Torre with “Bring Me to Life”. The ensemble topped it with “Angels Brought Me Here”.

Verdict: there are a lot of great talents here in the Philippines and I believe most of them remain untapped. Here’s hoping that this small concert get a bigger space and more deserving recognition.

More pics here. Plus video of Baihana singing "Yakap sa Dilim" here and Geoff Taylor and Mica Torre doing "Bring Me to Life" here.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Life is an iPhone # 034

Clockwise from top row:

1. The Beatles. Yes, it’s a cab called “The Beatles”. Nothing fancy. I just love the way the lettering is patterned after the iconic Fab Four font;

2. Fish Fillet from TOSH. It’s the Lent and it’s Friday so I tried this Fish Fillet Amandine. It’s cooked in lemon/butter and topped with almonds. Pricey as expected at P165 but it’s a must-try;

3. Greenery. I don’t know if you get it but this shirt print from The T-Shirt Project is a little naughty and needs some spanking;

4. John Lloyd – Bea Movie. This is the queue in Glorietta 4 for the Star Cinema film “Miss You Like Crazy”. Two theaters were screening the said film, an indication that it was a success;

5. Orange Chicken. The dish has long been a staple at Chowking and I am not sure if it was my first time to try it. P65 each if my memory serves me right;

6. Trailboss Herb Steak. Only from Texas Roadhouse Grill, one Monday lunchtime. It costs P350 each. I’m not a steak connoisseur but I enjoyed it and the mashed potato the came along with it;

Movie Digest # 070

Greenbelt 3, Cinema 2, February 14, 6:00pm

There are films that are made with the intention of pure entertainment and this is one of them. As the title suggests, the story, or stories, rather, are told in just one day which happens to be suggestive of cheesy and sugary love. It’s a film with multiple and interconnecting characters and that, I think, is the only thing appealing to me. Everything is just made me clear to brighten up the dating couples in the cinema. I can say that the reference to the actors’ previous projects is cute. For instance, Anne Hathaway plays not another girl Friday similar to her character in “The Devil Wears Prada”. Jennifer Garner is always wearing a red sweatshirt which, I’m sure, is associated with one of her films. Jamie Foxx, at one scene, has to play the piano like Ray Charles.

Friends who might appreciate it: All the less lonely people in the world.

Greenbelt 3, Cinema 4, February 14, 9:20pm

A remake of a 1940’s film, this version tackles the life of an actor who accidentally becomes a werewolf when trying to investigate on his brother’s untimely demise. I haven’t seen the original (though I have a DVD copy of it) but the experience is like watching a digitally enhanced adaptation with a lot more action on SFX and less on the story logic. It is probably Joe Johnston’s way of giving tribute to George Waggner’s opus. Just the same, it’s very enjoyable. Who can go wrong with Benicio del Toro and Anthony Hopkins? Then there’s Emily Blunt and the original score from Danny Elfman.

Friends who might appreciate it: Those who wish to watch an ultimate Valentine movie for singles.

Greenbelt 3, Cinema 4, February 18, 1:10pm

I can say that I’m biased when it comes to watching a Clint Eastwood film. The maturity in his filmmaking is simply evident and that’s what I appreciate a lot. Most of his scenes are punctuated with pauses and breaks to let the audience digest it. For a Hollywood-produced film, this one is no exception. It is based on real events that happened when Nelson Mandela stepped in as the president of South Africa. The rugby part may be predictable but the film doesn’t stop there. It proceeds in telling a very inspiring story about leadership, credibility and the decisions you have to make just to unite the people. Similar to other Eastwood films, “Invictus” boasts of yet another acting milestone. This time, it’s from Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon.

Friends who might appreciate it: Bosses, managers and would-be leaders.

Glorietta 4, Cinema 6, February 26, 7:55pm

What to expect from a John Lloyd Cruz – Bea Alonzo movie? Aside from the pressure that it should surpass at least the success of “One More Chance”, nothing really. I can say that for a Star Cinema movie, the film is fine. But there is something appealing in the script. I like the way the story is cut into two and treat the first part as a parallel to the other just to drive the point. As for the acting department, the leads are competitive enough. It’s not golden yet but definitely on the right track. Here’s hoping that Cathy Garcia-Molina will do something significant someday, right before the audience gets tired of the cliché.

Friends who might appreciate it: Those who are named August.

Glorietta 4, Cinema 2, February 28, 5:30pm

It’s about a demigod who seems to just come out from “High School Musical”. It’s also about Greek gods and myths, dashed with a little Dan Brown. Verdict: I felt like I just saw a big budgeted movie for television. No one can deny that there’s a Harry Potter reference somewhere and it doesn’t help that Chris Columbus is directing it. For the lone reason of popcorn entertainment or if you wish to witness how talents like Uma Thurman and Catherine Keener suck big time, watch it.

Friends who might appreciate it: Those who think that Chris Columbus is an able director.

Glorietta 4, Cinema 7, March 3, 8:05pm

First things first, I like this film. Or better yet, I love this film. I thought this is only a parody on being alone and propaganda for anti-relationships or about people who don’t easily get along with a “co-pilot”. Yes, that one is discussed and is concluded with a very satisfying resolution. It seems like the movie is speaking on my behalf. The usage of being “up in the air” alone, as a reference to perhaps being indifferent, is worth exploring. It’s also about recession and downsizing and being onsite and away from family and friends. It’s also about George Clooney getting all the best projects (and leading ladies) or how a competent acting ensemble can save the pitfalls that are normally seen in a mainstream/formula movie (case in point is a scene with George Clooney and his soon-to-be brother-in-law or how he rushes to Chicago). Cliché it may sound but this one’s a must-watch

Friends who might appreciate it: Fellow IT consultants.

Glorietta 4, Cinema 4, March 3, 10:30pm

What’s with Oscars and country music? Before, there was “Coal Miner’s Daughter” that gave Sissy Spacek a Best Actress trophy. Then there was Reese Witherspoon for “Walk the Line”. If that’s the pattern, Jeff Bridges is going to bring home the bacon. The film tackles the on-the-road musician life of Bad Blake, an alcoholic country singer whose life has no direction. Everything changed when he met a lady journalist played by the equally great Maggie Gyllenhaal. Don’t expect some plot twists here. It’s more of a character-driven material than anything else. A condescending take is that the project is launched just to underscore the talent of its lead actor. Nonetheless, it has lots of beautiful songs played by Mr. Bridges himself.

Friends who might appreciate it: Those who wish to see Colin Farrell do a country music.
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