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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Movie Digest # 086

Movie Center - Montevideo Shopping, Sala 6, May 3, 8:05pm

This is Roman Polanski’s film adaptation of the Tony and Laurence Olivier-award winning play by Yasmina Reza. Aside from the first and last sequence, everything in the film is devotedly stagey. Having said that, the thrill solely relies on the four performer (really big names, I would say), namely Christoph Waltz, John C. Reilly, Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet. As for the four, I like Kate Winslet the most. She pulls off the poised and very modern-day mom character without crossing the line. Jodie Foster does the opposite. I can see that she’s trying very hard in those parts that require her to face her neurosis. It just doesn’t sit well for an intelligent actress like her. Somebody should have reminded her that the play is, first and foremost, a comedy. An icon in Philippine theater suggested Emma Thompson for the character and I couldn’t agree more.

Friends who might appreciate it: Those who are watching the Manila staging soon.

Movie Center - Montevideo Shopping, Sala 8, May 4, 10:25pm

Given the list of Oscar nominees this year for Best Actor, I have to join the clamor that Michael Fassbender should have been included in the short list. His reckless take on Brandon, a sex addict, is consistently lost and soulless. But if there’s another performer who really stands out, for me it is Carey Mulligan who played Brandon’s sister Sissy. She owns every scene she’s at and makes a striking contrast, more of burdensome, to her brother. In one uncut sequence, she sings “New York, New York”. At first, I was wondering why the whole performance was included until the potential commentary on immigrants relocating to a dog-eat-dog world like New York City dawned on me. Maybe it’s the city that turned Brandon into a monster. His sister even declared at one point that they become distant. Steve McQueen did a great job in infusing quiet long takes to a snooping topic like sex addiction. The viewers are given space to absorb the weight of it and try to empathize with Brandon. I just wish that there are more scenes of self-destruction other than the part where the protagonist skips work to attend to his demons.

Friends who might appreciate it: Those who can figure out why Michael Fassbender is always given a heartless and soulless character and still able to get laid.

Movie Center - Montevideo Shopping, Sala 4, May 11, 10:00pm

Another Hollywood film based on a Hasbro merchandise that probably originates from that paper-and-pen guessing game that I used to play when I was a kid. I don’t remember getting hooked with the game and so with the film. It’s the usual formula and predictably predictable. Not so impressive, too, in the acting department given that the great Liam Neeson provides support in some unimportant scenes. There’s a sequence in there that runs for about a minute that best reminds me of the game but that’s about it. Not so bad concept, though.

Friends who might appreciate it: Rihanna’s fans.

Greenbelt 1, Cinema 2, May 27, 9:20pm

It’s the nth time that Star Cinema is crapping its followers with rom-coms like this one. Sometimes I don’t mind, especially if the director is Cathy Garcia-Molina (probably the best we currently have in mainstream cinema), but this Piolo Pascual – Angelica Panganiban starrer is just pointless. It nearly made a point though when the film suggests a shade of dark comedy (the male character’s ex-girlfriend’s brothers’ murder attempt) but it seems determined to deliver an all-out romantic comedy where the film company is always associated with. If there’s one thing that the film has proven, more of sealed, it is the notion that Angelica Panganiban is a fine and versatile actress.

Friends who might appreciate it: Those who can hold their breath for about one hour and a half.

Newport Mall, Cinema 4, June 2, 12:30am

There are countless ways why I ended up declaring this film as one of the worst Pinoy rom-coms I’ve seen in my entire life. First, we all know that Coco Martin is a very capable actor (as proven by his body of work and awards he got from it) but as Rodel Nacianceno, it’s a hit and miss. I don’t know if he’s the one to point a finger at as credited in “Story by”, but there’s something suspicious on how the film ends. Maybe he wanted to try a role that he hasn’t tried before and that prompted the writers to devise that overly dramatic dénouement. Secondly, there’s the Star Cinema factor. Meaning, the film has to please its poor followers with its commonly used and occasionally forced chemistry from the two leads. I have to admit though that the scene in the railroad is a bit cute. Then there’s the promise from Jerome Chavez Pobocan who has done a lot of engaging teleseryes like the “Mara Clara” reboot and the localized “Nasaan Ka, Elisa?” that looks hindered by the studio system. That breakdown scene synonymously called unloading of excess baggage in theater-speak is segued by another character’s attempt to pick up a bag. Just clever. At least the director has confirmed that Angeline Quinto, for a first-timer, is not bad an actress at all.

Friends who might appreciate it: I’ll pass.

Greenbelt 3, Cinema 4, June 3, 5:30pm

It’s one of those films that I catch in cinemas with zero expectations. Well, maybe at least for make-up as it once beat “Titanic” during the Oscars some years ago. True to form, the film is still a delight to see especially those scenes that involve the aliens. There are dragging moments that surprisingly made the movie more likeable than I expected. The time travel part is a little corny but having to introduce the underrated Josh Brolin as the young Tommy Lee Jones (Agent K), I couldn’t complain.

Friends who might appreciate it: Safe to say, those who have seen the first two installments.

Movie Center - Montevideo Shopping, Sala 1, June 9, 7:25pm

It’s flawed all over. For instance, the world where the film is set is suggestively magical but how come only the queen possesses some superpowers? And yes, trusting Kristen Stewart for the lead role is a flaw on itself. Charlize Theron looks like a far better Evil Queen than Julia Roberts but the CGI sometimes overshadows her. The reimagining of the dark forest is commendable though.

Friends who might appreciate it: Kids should stick to the fairy tale.

Movie Center - Montevideo Shopping, Sala 6, June 9, 10:05pm

Just like Polanski doing a film adaptation of a theater piece, this time it is David Cronenberg’s turn on Christopher Hampton’s 2002 play “The Talking Cure”. Compared to the director’s previous films, this one is partly historical. The audience is given a glimpse of what could have transpired when luminaries Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) discuss substantial psychoanalysis issues that are now immortalized in Psychology textbooks. The “guinea pig”, Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley), happens to be the object of the argument. I won’t be surprised if Cronenberg fans will be disappointed with this attempt. It’s talky, almost uneventful and the scenes are relatively flat but interesting enough to let me finish it without a yawn.

Friends who might appreciate it: Take two: those who can figure out why Michael Fassbender is always given a heartless and soulless character and still able to get laid.

Movie Center - Montevideo Shopping, Sala 7, June 10, 5:40pm

It’s not denial whatsoever but I don’t have any recollection of the TV show back in the 80’s. Call it a reboot or a deconstruction of the original material but directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (of “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” fame) must have done a really good job for me to enjoy it. The first few minutes may be a bit bland but the part where the two protagonists were kicked back to high school fuelled what could be an endless trip to the jolly old days. The chemistry between Channing Tatum (Jenko) and Jonah Hill (Schmidt) is surprisingly fun while the script pokes at some familiar cinema bytes like having montage and those Michael Bay-inspired explosion scenes. There’s a vital scene in the last few minutes where the film is trying to introduce the remake as start of something new. I can’t disclose the details but it involves a gun fight that tears down a flat screen TV.

Friends who might appreciate it: All my friends deserve this popcorn film.

Movie Center - Montevideo Shopping, Sala 9, June 15, 7:10pm

My regret after watching this film is that why didn’t I see it in an IMAX cinema? Its breathtaking reimagining of what could be the Earth like in the beginning in the first 10 minutes is worth the ticket. This aspect is sustained until the last frame, making the film a visual experience on its own. Then there’s the Ridley Scott factor. Could be the same old banana (one group, alien on the loose, etc.) but I didn’t find it tiring or a rehash. Probably the new stuff here is the inclusion of a theory or a doctrine on creation. It is hinting at something worth considering and it promises to be explored further in a sequel. The effect for me is like reading a Dan Brown novel that delves on religion only less tricky. Noomi Rapace as the main protagonist in a Hollywood mainstream film pulled it off. She, along with the rest of the cast (Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce, Charlize Theron, etc.), took the role earnestly enough. Here’s hoping that she keeps this core in her foray to doing more Hollywood popcorn flicks.

Friends who might appreciate it: Take three: those who can figure out why Michael Fassbender is always given a heartless and soulless character. Period.

Movie Center - Montevideo Shopping, Sala 4, June 15, 10:15pm

I was not actually keen on seeing the characters back. For me, the “American Pie” days are over and the sparks of losing virginity are gone (if not really obsolete nowadays). All of these “expectations” could be salvaged though if the audience was given with more adult woes to chew on. On top of the unexciting subplots from the group is probably from the couple Jim and Michelle (played by Jason Biggs and Alyson Hannigan) regarding the lack of oomph with their marital life. The rest is either too dull or too forced to materialize on film about sex save for the postcript scene that involves a movie theater.

Friends who might appreciate it: Forget it. Watch “Gimik: The Reunion” instead.

Movie Center – Punta Carreatas Shopping, Sala D, June 22, 7:20pm

The buzz on the fist 20 or 30 minutes is true. Barnabas Collins’ (Johnny Depp) transition from mortal to immortal is fast paced and very engaging. It starts to lag when the main character is introduced back to this clan with an attempt to rekindle an age old mishap. There’s an unnatural wit with the back-to-the-future antics but I don’t find those amusing. There are also some hints of family soap opera melodrama, which I think is the main intention of the film, but falls short with flawed storyline and looks sidetracked by the so-called Tim Burton touch. I can say that the rest is average to above average: costume, make-up, CGI.

Friends who might appreciate it: Those who can easily give in to the idea that the Tim Burton – Johnny Depp collaboration should rest for a while.

Movie Center - Montevideo Shopping, Sala 4, June 30, 2:30pm

The closest mainstream film I could compare this with, aside, of course, from Woody Allen’s other films, is Richard Curtis’ “Love Actually”. Set in the touristy city of Rome, it chops the film into four different (intertwining, I am not sure) love stories. Woody Allen plays dad to a daughter who is about to marry an Italian and suddenly becomes awestruck with the singing voice of the father of the groom. There’s a part in the segment that I found to be really funny in a sit-com kind of way. Alec Baldwin faces his young self played by Jesse Eisenberg. This one’s a bit artsy and has some vibe of “Midnight in Paris” making this a little odd decision among the stories. Maybe it’s Mr. Allen’s take on how magical Rome can become. The other two subplots, coincidentally played by Italian (and Spanish) actors (Roberto Benigni, Penelope Cruz, etc.), are not that interesting. One’s about a regular employee who suddenly becomes a celebrity for a week and the other is about a couple from the countryside who is the city for their honeymoon. The storytelling sensibility of these segments requires more authenticity and it isn’t that bad when told through a witty American standpoint.

Friends who might appreciate it: Woody Allen fans.

Movie Center - Montevideo Shopping, Sala 7, June 30, 5:30pm

Based on the Icelandic film “Reykjavik-Rotterdam”, this action-suspense film by Baltasar Kormakur tells the story of a security employee (Mark Walhberg) who suddenly goes back to his old days of smuggling to save his brother-in-law from being killed by a syndicate. It’s basically a heist film with a cargo vessel and some misfortunes along the way. I actually enjoyed it. It’s still a popcorn film with all those overflowing turn of events but it’s well done, engaging and not too shallow.

Friends who might appreciate it: Forget Michael Bay, my friends deserve this.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Expat the Difference in Montevideo defines “expat” as:

expat (ˌɛksˈpæt) — n , — adj informal short for expatriate



[v. eks-pey-tree-eyt or, especially Brit., -pa-tree-; adj., n. eks-pey-tree-it, -eyt or, especially Brit., -pa-tree-]

1. to banish (a person) from his or her native country.
2. to withdraw (oneself) from residence in one's native country.
3. to withdraw (oneself) from allegiance to one's country.

When we realize it from time to time (even those from previous onsite assignments), we call ourselves “expat” always with a dash of mockery. The reason I could think of is that we come from a Third World country and landing to another country which is more dominating compared to the Philippines in terms of its place to world economy and the like is a little humbling. I felt that particularly in the US or in the Netherlands. The usage of the term is just different as compared to meeting some foreigner colleagues back home and joining them for a guided tour in Intramuros or having a dinner at The Fort.

Last weekend was unexpectedly weird. Unknowingly, it looks like I’ve completed the expat checklist in span of only two days. Let me count the ways:

1. Visit a touristy place.

Uruguay is such a small country with population of only 3 million. For sure, for almost two years, we’ve visited all the top tourist spots especially here in Montevideo. Except for one which, in my thought bubble, is fine for the adage “saving the best for last” (or shall I just say that I know that I’ll be going back to Manila for good once I’ve visited it). It’s the museum of Joaquin Torres Garcia’s works right at the portal of Ciudad Vieja (Peatonal Sarandí 683, website here). The old building which is close to a library-restaurant houses some of the famous Uruguayan artist’s paintings and scribbles. There aren’t that many that’s why I planned to go there and just catch a guided tour. Unfortunately, when I went there two Saturdays ago, the tour was not available. I browsed the collection almost all by myself and it was occasionally sad and scary (a bit dim and quaint, and to top it all, all captions are in Spanish). It’s actually difficult to miss JTG’s signature cubism as it is generously printed in almost all the souvenir items from here (t-shirts, wall décor, etc.) or even on the wall in some streets. I like the one with “America” on top but I did not see it there. The girl in the museum shop mentioned that it is kept in a government office and it is not available for viewing. I like any art form that combines aesthetics and math. For me, JTG’s style of mixing proportional shapes and colors is of the same beauty line as the works of M.C. Escher.

2. Locate a restaurant that serves dishes from your country.

Well, not exactly from the Philippines but the vegetarian buffet at Bosque Bambu (San José 1060 corner Río Negro with website here) includes different flavors that are very close to home. You see, we’re getting tired of the delatas we brought from Manila and instinctively, we tend to find an alternative. The said Asian restaurant offers a buffet every Saturday at 10am to 3pm I think. It was another Filipino colleague who just came here in Montevideo two months ago who discovered it while looking for ingredients for pancit. Apparently, the other half of the establishment functions as a grocery store where you can find some repacked kropek and Ajinomoto. As for the buffet itself, it’s heavenly. The selection is wide, almost endless, from spinach in coco milk down to fruit cakes and dulce de leche flan. For a bonus, the very welcoming waitress can speak English.

3. Meet fellow expats.

This is more of Pinoy than expat. A non-Filipino colleague observes that we’re too clannish like the girls going to the toilet at the same time or the big group chit-chats during lunch. Right after doing the first two entries in this checklist, we met up for dinner for a hearty pancit bihon and some empanadas (we get our fix from La Taberna del Diablo) in one of the apartments. In most onsite assignments I’ve been to, there’s at least one kitchen person who does the cooking while the rest just chip in for expenses if necessary. Conversations usually vary from camera 101 to the unavoidable okrayan. By the way, we call ourselves Manila Mafia (Uruguay Chapter) here.

4. Do what the Romans do.

One colleague got hit by stomachache the next morning. With the language barrier and all, we had no choice but to brave the idea of going to the hospital for check-up. We asked a Spanish-speaking colleague to help us. Otherwise, we’ll end up having a brain surgery or something. Kidding aside, everything went fine. Hospital Britanico (or simply British Hospital which was founded in the city before the turn of the century), which is close to Tres Cruces, is very upscale and very efficient (they’ve got Wi-Fi). We were attended to at the lobby (we were the only ones there plus the receptionist) and we were asked to proceed to the emergency area. The attendant there told us first about the consultation fee (around UYU 2,000 or PHP 3,800) before availing it. We then proceeded to an alley with small cabin-like rooms. After some minutes of waiting, a nurse approached us to inform us that only one visitor is allowed in the area. I tapped out and just waited back at the reception area where four or five other families were also waiting. After a couple of minutes, the doctor suggested having a blood exam and an ultrasound scan. Again, we were asked if it’s OK to proceed. After settling it, it was waiting game once again. The whole process took us three to four hours and a whopping UYU 7,000 or PHP 13,300. Glad that my colleague is fine now and for the fact that the ache is far from serious.

Some pictures here for that weekend plus our dinner at Restaurant Dackel, a German restaurant, here and that send-off Friday for the Manila Mafia here.
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