Thursday, June 23, 2005

Whew. Haven't blogged in a while.

I was sick about a week back; was in bed for 3 days. I don't even really know what it was; I was very weak but couldn't keep anything down and generally just felt miserable. Got a lot of reading done, at least. 4 books during one particularly long day. There must be some bug or something going around because lots of people were sick when I was and others are sick now. Hope it's nothing serious.

Getting onto Neil Gaiman's blog made my week, though. And the blogad I was quoted in is now being used to sell more... well, blogads.


I loved Loved LOVED Batman Begins. I love it to bits. I have seen it twice. It is fantastic.

The first Batman was a monumental event in my life. I didn't even get to see it in a theater (we couldn't watch movies, they were too expensive). I was in Boston, 9 years old, and it had just come out on Laserdisc, and it was one of the first Laserdiscs we ever got and I ever saw and that might've helped because it was clearer and sharper than a movie screen seemed to be and it just blew my little 9-year-old brain away. It melted my eyeballs and made my jaw drop. I'd read Batman comics before then but the movie turned me into a huge fan; that year I got A Death in the Family and The Killing Joke (which was probably my first exposure to who would later become my favorite writer, Alan Moore, though at the time what was most impressive was that there were naked breasts in it). I got all this ridiculous Bat-merchandise (wallet, mug, plaque) I can't even remember all of it. I even have a picture with the Batmobile, when it came to Boston for some car show. One of my prized possessions, and still my favorite Batmobile.

Anyway, Batman Begins. It rescues the character from the ass-raping of Schumacher and Goldsman. In my mind the last film was Batman Returns, but that was way back in 1992. So that's a pretty long wait. When I first heard about this film being made I tried not to get too excited. Nolan hadn't made a film I didn't like yet, but he'd never worked with a budget like this before. Screenwriter David Goyer wrote some excellent JSA stories but he also wrote the Blade trilogy (and directed the last). Besides which, DC kept fucking up its characters in movies: LXG, Catwoman, and then Constantine. So I held off reading up on it, just watching trailers and the like. Boy was that a good decision. It was good to be surprised by Linus Roache as Thomas Wayne (an unexpected, but inspired choice), Rutger Hauer, and Tom Wilkinson. The flashback structure in the first 3rd works well. Whenever it takes a slight turn towards something I might not like, it rights itself eventually by leading to a great point. It stays in continuity mostly, but its changes are understandable. Doing the beginning of Batman affords great opportunities for drama, moreso than in other parts of his "career" because you can show Bruce Wayne making mistakes, learning as he goes. He's not yet that sure of himself, that capable, that confident in his abilities. So it's right that in his first meeting with Gordon, he can't quite pull off the "disappear-without-a-trace" trick until later when he's Bats. And if you notice, everyone seems to be smarter than him; he receives some kind of lecture from pretty much everyone, but he takes the necessary lesson from each lecture, even the one from Falcone the mob boss. The cast is terrific, except for Katie Holmes who, while not bad, is out-acted by almost everyone. There's an appearance by one of the best Batvillains, Mr. Zsasz. The score is good: moody and heavy at the right moments, stirring and frantic when it needs to be. The Batmobile is inspired by the one in Dark Knight Returns (and the whole movie is heavily inspired by Frank Miller's other Bat-classic, Year One [calling the bats is lifted directly from that book]). There's some kind of secret, special delight in seeing a story you're so familiar with from countless retellings and interpretations being done right, while seeming fresh at the same time. And in a different medium, no less. Cillian Murphy was a great creepy villain. Particular kudos to Gary Oldman who made a great Jim Gordon. He's an underrated actor; I wish someone would exploit how good he'd be at comedy. I love the scene of Batman's first "appearance," which is treated as a horror scene from the POV of the criminals. Just how it should be. I also loved him beating the crap out of a would-be killer in the background while Katie Holmes is in the foreground with her taser. The closest thing to a negative for me is that when Bale does his Batman voice, it sounds like he's really trying to lower it and be intimidating, when for Michael Keaton it just seemed to come so naturally.

Basically, at the end of it I'm just so glad they got it right, you know? I didn't realize how much I'd invested in it subconsciously. I think if it was terrible I would've been really depressed, because if someone like Christopher Nolan can't do it, what hope is there? I actually cried in one part, not because of any particularly emotional scene but just because it was so good and I was loving it. it's that shot of Bats standing on the corner of some skyscraper like a gargoyle, nothing but silhouette with the camera circling the building. I was still quite nervous at that point, because I was having so much fun but absolutely dreading that it might somehow fuck up into some stupid Hollywood shit by the end. So when the credits came on I breathed a sigh of relief and my whole body relaxed and I felt elated and like a 9-year-old again, wanting to read the comics.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is fun, great at times but sometimes a bit off in others. It's in the spirit of the book, though, which is good. It also continues the tradition of Hitchhiker's being different for every medium it penetrates. There are characters and events not in the book, but I'm not complaining; Adams wrote the script himself (though didn't complete it since he died). It's almost a little too faithful to the book sometimes; wildly digressing is easier in prose than in film, because it loses flow and can get dangerously close to tedious if not carefully done. Whereas in prose, you as reader can control flow. Or at least, the speed at which you read. I must say, though, that the scene where Arthur met Trillian at the party and they bond was, for me, very romantic. It's very short but there's just this terrific authenticity/silliness to it that struck a chord with me. The fact that I love both Martin Freeman and Zooey Deschanel helps.


Wimbledon's begun, but I have to go to Neva's to watch because we don't have Star Sports. Nadal's out, unfortunately, losing in the 2nd round to Muller, though grass isn't really his turf so it's understandable, and he's young yet, only 19.

Did you see the video of Tom Cruise getting squirted with water? I didn't even find it funny, but you can't not watch. It takes all he's got to keep from slugging the guy. When someone tries toweling his face he shoves it away with just a little too much force and you can tell he's just about to explode if not for all the cameras and people.


Goddamn, I do love a simple poster with a bold graphic. This poster is worlds away from the earlier one, but still good, and just makes me want to see it more.

On to more film stuff:
A trailer for Fernando Meirelles's The Constant Gardener, his first film since City of God. It's an adaptation of a John Le Carre novel, which comes as a surprise since he was talking about a different kind of film as a follow-up to City of God when he was here for Cinemanila.
A teaser for Roman Polanski's Oliver Twist, his first film since The Pianist.
A new trailer for Terrence Malick's The New World, his first film since The Thin Red Line.
A trailer for Curtis Hanson's In Her Shoes, his first film since 8 Mile.
A gorier trailer for George A. Romero's Land of the Dead, his first zombie film since Day of the Dead.
A teaser for Terry Gilliam's The Brothers Grimm, his first film since Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas(!).
A preview of Cameron Crowe's Elizabethtown, his first film since Vanilla Sky.
A trailer for Takashi Miike's Yokai, his first film since last Thursday. Just kidding.
A new trailer for Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean's Mirrormask.
A trailer for The 40-Year-Old Virgin, starring Steve Carell.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

At Salle a Manger on Thursday (tomorrow, basically), there will be a reading of Coraline by Neil Gaiman (of sorts). The unabridged audiobook, read by the author, will be played starting from around 7-730. It has music by The Gothic Archies. It should be fun. Bring your copy of the book so you can read along. I’ve never actually listened to an audiobook, much less in the company of other people, so it should be interesting.

Since it’s a cafĂ© you can have dinner there, and the food is good. :)
Salle a Manger is at G/F Acrocity Bldg., 1116 antipolo St., Poblacion, Makati City

From Buendia, turn onto N. Garcia and drive straight on until you pass an intersection with a Jollibee on the right corner. Acrocity Bldg. is almost right after the Jollibee, on the right side.

EDIT: This was canceled unexpectedly, and will be rescheduled. :(

Friday, June 10, 2005

No Gweilos Hour tonight either. Either we’re canceled or something’s in the works, so I don’t know and won’t say until I know more.

Did you know that over 100 Japanese citizens commit suicide per day? And yet, despite that statistic, they are second in the category of country suicide rate, following Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka?

Tres cool: How to Make Your Own Totally Sweet Mario Question Blocks and Put Them Up Around Town Because It's Really Awesome. I like these little artbomb ideas, like Space Invader.

So there’s another dig at Pinoys in Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and it reminded me of something I completely forgot to write about in my discussion of The Life Aquatic. Ordinarily whenever there’s a negative reference to Filipinos in the movies or TV I don’t care. I know the truth that these generalizations don’t apply to everyone and are actually misrepresentative so I don’t lose any sleep over it. But in The Life Aquatic (and here there’s a bit of a spoiler) their paths cross with Pinoy pirates when they go through unprotected waters. And for the first time in a long time, I felt bad. Because this was Wes Anderson, you know? I love the guy. The pirates had bolos and a 3-legged dog. But if you actually watch the scene closely, only one guy speaks Tagalog well, everyone else has this thick accent like they just learned it. Anyway, after seeing the film I was online digging up stuff about The Life Aquatic and found on its IMDB Trivia page this relieving bit of information: in the script the pirates are Indonesian, but they couldn’t find enough Indonesians in Italy where they shot the film. And what is there always a lot of no matter where you are? So Pinoys it is.

Still, the scene did produce this gem: Bud Cort (all grown up from Harold & Maude!) translating “major shitstorm” as “matinding bagyo ng tae,” which had me guffaw.

Yes, guffaw. When it is that sudden and unexpected, and that loud and that ridiculous-sounding, that laugh is a guffaw.

(Mr. & Mrs. Smith is better than I expected, but the ending sucks)

(And speaking of Mr. & Mrs. Smith, there's a little scandal brewing over the Teen Choice Awards nominating the film when IT HADN'T COME OUT YET, striking further blows for its credibility)


It's not The Onion, but...

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

(slight spoilers, though I doubt no one's not seen this already)

So, Episode 3. Long story short: I think it's the best of the prequels, but it's still nowhere near great. Even "good" is stretching it. I'll just say "Thank God it wasn't worse." The dialogue was still atrocious (they all speak the same, do you notice?). A coterie of good actors in the film and only Ewan performs up to par. Portman particularly looked like she had nothing to do but pout. I thought the Wookies would be the Ewoks this time around but I guess not (not entirely a bad thing). Grievous wasn't menacing at all. I was unimpressed by the saberfighting until the showdown of Anakin & Obi-Wan. I think that worst of all, the handling of Anakin's "turning" was fumbled so much. It was bad enough that Dooku was killed so casually in the beginning (which kind of undermines how much of a threat he was in Clones). But later on, the impetus for the turning is introduced as Anakin's fear of losing Padme. Lucas could've played that up a bit, related it with his mother, but the balance between that and his thirst for power (the selfish reasons, basically) weren't handled well. So that scene where he turns just came across as so flat and uninteresting (and Mace Windu, who Lucas promised a cool death, doesn't get one. Actually, couldn't he do that soft landing he did in Clones?). There's no sense of TRAGEDY. I mean, we all know what's going to happen but we should be wishing it didn't HAVE to. But here we're mostly just nonchalant. And then one of the things I was looking forward to didn't happen: they didn't explain how he got the name Darth Vader. The Sith generally have cool names: Sidious, Tyranus, Maul, etc. But during the naming it's like Palpatine's eyes were scanning the room for something to use, and he just blurts out "Uh... Darth... Vader." Ditto the naming of the Twins! It was so funny: "It's a boy." "Luke." "It's a girl." "Leia." WOW! What poignance! And her cause of death! "She's lost the will to live." That's scientific progress for you. It's a little disheartening though that Padme's character couldn't even muster enough will to live, if only FOR HER NEWBORN TWINS! Ah well. There were some things I really liked, though. That silent scene where Anakin and Padme are enjoying vistas of the city while apart, each in deep contemplation, that was the closest to subtle Lucas got, but it felt like something from a Ridley Scott movie. The fight between Palpatine and Yoda was fun. I mostly enjoyed the final duel of Anakin and Obi-Wan, particulary Ewan. His voice, on the verge of cracking, mixing anger and despair, was very effective. He was so angry and felt like he failed at the same time. And the last shot gave me a little tingle, staring into the twin sunsets.

And here's a little thing for y'all, but particularly Quark: our favorite moment from Episode 3. I thought these scenes had already expired into parody. See Team America for a better rendition.

I saw Episode 3 at Cinema 2 in Gateway, which I think may be the best new theater we've got. It's a huge theater with a huge screen. We want to watch the summer blockbusters we're looking forward to there. Unfortunately, not all theaters in Gateway are that big. I saw the next film in Cinema 5, which was also big but not as big as 2's, with a screen comparable to Greenbelt 3.

So: Sin City. Good but not great. It's a literal translation, not an adaptation. The first story, The Hard Goodbye, suffered from being rushed. They kept talking so quickly, not letting any lines sink in. And I didn't like how Mickey Rourke moved as Marv, all animated and flailing arms. It was like he was some kind of neurotic, which I never associated with Marv. They also didn't do one of my favorite scenes from the book, where Marv flings himself at the steel doors before trying the bars. I thought the acting was terribly below average for such a cast. Clive Owen was the highlight, but his accent slipped every now and then. Nice to see cameos from people like Nicky Katt & Rutger Hauer. The Big Fat Kill, the middle story, made the best transition, though Brittany Murphy was particularly bad as Shelley. That Yellow Bastard had some pacing issues too, but was mostly just marred by bad acting by Jessica Alba. Nicely shot chase sequence, though. And I didn't like the score. I loved that they got the flying/jumping cars right, but other things didn't translate so well, like the almost cartoonish strength/invulnerability of Marv. And how did Hartigan know where Nancy lived? He went straight there after getting out of prison but I thought she never gave any clues in her letters as to her identity and location?

And yes, the cuts were terribly jarring. But I figured there'd be no other chance to see this on the big screen.

I loved The Life Aquatic with Team Zissou. I was a little worried because reviews were varied, but I loved it just the same. People had said that it's the least emotional of the Wes Anderson films but for me it only seemed that way because the characters were less expressive. As in the feelings were all under the surface instead of brought up in hilarious circumstances/dialogue. But towards the end the emotions rise to the surface. The closest thing to a negative I can say about it is that it reminds you a bit of The Royal Tenenbaums, but only in that there's a patriarch and the ensemble cast revolves around him, etc. The soundtrack as ever was fantastic; I'm biased but I especially loved the use of Sigur Ros for the reveal of the Jaguar Shark. And The Zombies' "What I Feel Inside," which almost made me cry. Now I really love that song.

Team America is hilarious. They hit all those Jerry Bruckheimer notes (credits explode toward the audience) and the cinematography was pretty spiffy! It helps that they got the cinematographer of Spider-Man 2 and The Matrix Trilogy. If I have a gripe, it's that the final setpiece was a little similar to the South Park movie, but it's no biggie. I'm going to try and find that song about Michael Bay movies and download it. MATT DHAYMN!

The French Film Festival is ongoing at Greenbelts 1 & 3 until June 15. The write-ups of the films are here, but their schedule is inaccurate. Use Sureseats to find out what’s playing. I haven’t seen most of these films, but I do recognize most of the names, so I’m hoping it’s good.

Friday, June 03, 2005

No Gweilos Hour tonight, unfortunately. We are being pre-empted by the live Bamboo launch at Megamall. Which I don’t mind; it’s perfectly understandable, although I wish that when it happened it meant we get 2 hours next week. :)


Apparently the Sin City being shown here has a lot of cuts; basically all the nude shots have been removed, including sex scenes. But the cuts are jarring; beyond scenes being removed, lines are mangled and the pace is ruined several times. Some friends are decrying the MTRCB but I suspect this to be the work of the distributor, in order to get the rating down to an R13 from an R18.

They should’ve had a clue with the name SIN CITY, don’t you think?


I’ve been watching and enjoying this year’s French Open. I haven’t been following tennis in years but this tournament’s been on Sports Plus almost every time I turn to that channel (it’s after ETC) so I ended up watching and realized there’s almost no one I recognize, beyond Mary Pierce. And Sharapova, who I know by reputation. Even Kuerten’s out on an injury. But the matches have been mostly incredible, and definitely unpredictable. In the beginning it was funny, because it seemed like a tournament between Russia and Spain. There were so many players from both countries it was almost ridiculous. But now things are getting interesting towards the finals, with Davenport and Sharapova, the world’s no. 1 & 2 seeds, respectively, being defeated in the quarterfinals by people ranked way lower than them. So now it’s anyone’s game, and that can be exhilarating. The other thing is that the French Open has the rudest fans, in my opinion, of any sporting event anywhere. They scream and shout bloody murder, they’ll heckle you while the point is being fought! Which is a big no-no in other tournaments, who will stop the match until the crowd calms down. But just the other day, in this match between Nadal (Neva’s crush) and Grosjean, the crowd wouldn’t shut up for a good 15 minutes, and I was just watching and laughing. It was live so they couldn’t do anything about it, and even Frenchman Grosjean was looking embarrassed, and Spaniard Nadal’s displeasure was evident on his face, but he knew if he did anything, he’d get heckled and booed. There’s also been the occasional amusement, like when Henin-Hardenne and Petrova had a match and emerged wearing the exact same outfit (both are sponsored by Adidas). Tres embarrassing!

Wimbledon’s right after Roland Garros in the Grand Slam calendar, so I think I’ll be tuning in for that.


Two more additions to Great Albums of 2005: Pedicab’s Tugish Takish and Sleater-Kinney’s The Woods.

For some reason I can’t get my Tugish Takish to work in the car’s player. It’s frustrating as hell. Mich mentioned that some of her friends can’t play the VCD that comes with it. Inksurge’s design is appropriate. The cover reminded me a bit of Supergrass’s Life On Other Planets. The sleeve was a nice touch, and a nice design, but somewhere along the way (probably the manufacturing end) someone didn’t account for how tight it would be, and it was a goddamn bitch taking it off. I didn’t want to tear it, and now, well, it looks like I’ll never put it back on because I don’t want to go through that headache again. I think Quark tore his. It’s a Weezer-short album (30 mins.), which I wasn’t expecting, but beggars can’t be choosers.

A pet peeve of mine with buying local CDs, and locally manufactured CDs, is that the quality control is so low. Pedicab, for example: when I opened it up, the inlay card had lots of creases and folds along the spine. It looks like a second-hand package. And the aforementioned problems with playing the discs. Quark & Lia gave me a great Christmas gift last year, the Pearl Jam greatest hits package, but unfortunately the same thing: creased/folded inlay card, which I had already come to expect by that point, but the kicker was that there was a piece of rubber adhesive on the second disc, which I tried to remove carefully but to no avail, and so the last two tracks skip like crazy. I mean, it’s this shit that makes pirated goods more attractive. Because at this point, that’s really what you’re paying for, isn’t it? The quality. You’re paying full price and for what? A disc that looks like someone previously owned it (and wasn’t very careful with it, either)? That shit ain’t right.


David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence, which is an adaptation of a graphic novel by John Wagner & Vince Locke.

2046 is only coming out in the US in August, but the trailer’s nice. Kinda thriller-ish, with some very nice cuts.

A new Charlie & the Chocolate Factory trailer, with more footage (only now do I realize, for example, that Charlie is played by Peter from Finding Neverland, so he and Johnny Depp must be good friends by now). Exciting.

Guy Ritchie’s latest, Revolver, which sounds and looks like his previous films, Swept Away aside.

Via Minay, Crying While Eating. Not a movie, but amusing just the same.

Matt Madden’s finished his Exercises in Style, and it’s now got a website. I used to follow them when they were on Indy, but it’s nice to see it all done now, and I await the forthcoming book. It’s a very interesting project, particularly for those who are interested in storytelling in general (taken as it is from Raymond Queneau), and comics in particular.