2014 Films #4, #5: Carrie (1976), Carrie (2013)

When you have an adaptation as perfect as Brian De Palma’s Carrie, it’s hard to think of a reason why Hollywood needs to reboot it. But that’s what Kimberly Peirce did last year, taking the iconic story of Stephen King’s first novel Carrie and putting a modern spin to it. I’m sorry to say I did not like it.

Carrie was the first King book I read and sparked my love for the author. Seeing it on film for the first time was a great experience, made even greater by De Palma’s masterful execution. Sissy Spacek as the titular character was so terrifying that it was as if the role was created just for her. Spacek’s dedication to the role was so much that she insisted on actually being buried at the final scene, when Sue Snell paid her respects at the White house.

When news broke that a remake was set, I had my doubts. The first film was fantastic as it was, and there is little to improve. Still, I was excited because the book had a special place in my heart. I got around to watching it, and I was disappointed. First, it was casting Chloe Grace Moretz as Carrie. I like her, she’s charming, but she doesn’t quite capture Spacek’s vulnerability, and later, anger. Her acting was controlled, unlike Spacek who was not afraid to get down, dirty, and ugly.

The Carrie remake was also not subtle, blatantly pointing out that Carrie is telekinetic. I guess it’s the audience’s lack of patience, but I appreciate how De Palma was understated, often implying to the lead’s powers instead of shoving it in the viewer’s faces. Those unfamiliar with the premise may wonder if she really is telekinetic.

What I do like about the remake is the compelling acting of Julianne Moore as Margaret White, Carrie’s mother. Piper Laurie was scary but Moore gave a fresh take to the role of overzealous mother, and she clearly outshone Moretz. Sadly, this does not save the movie.

On its own, I think Peirce’s version of Carrie is your typical blockbuster movie. But they did a great job for trying.

2014 Film #3: Blue Jasmine

Blue Jasmine is the latest opus of Woody Allen, and it does not disappoint. It stars the luminescent Cate Blanchett as Jasmine French (originally Jeanette Francis), a wealthy socialite who falls on hard times when her husband (played by Alec Baldwin) is discovered to have run a multi-million scam. Jasmine is forced to live with her sister and deal with life as an average human being.

Blue Jasmine is a beautiful portrayal of emotional breakdown and status-seeking. You want to get annoyed at Jasmine because she refuses to let go of her pride, but you also feel sorry for her and wish that she would succeed again. Like most Allen films, an existential thread runs throughout the film, and this time the question is: do we settle?

The writing is clever, but Blanchett brings Jasmine to life. Her acting is beautiful and subtle that I wish I could look like her when I break down. I loved the movie so much. I wish I could say the same for the movie poster.

Film #1: Kick-Ass
Film #2: Man of Steel

Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles

Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles makes me hopeful for Philippine cinema. The story’s good and the sequences are amazing, but what sets this film apart is the special effects. As you may know, everything in this movie is shot on green screen, resulting in gorgeous shots that took my breath away. Trust me, everything was beautiful.

The premise is simple enough: a city boy (Dingdong Dantes) visits his pregnant ex-amour (Lovi Poe) in the province. His arrogance sets off a family of tiktiks (supernatural creatures that devour fetuses) to go after him and his Lovi’s family, including her unborn child.

It is Dingdong’s performance as Makoy that stole the show. I started noticing his acting chops last year in Joyce Bernal’s Segunda Mano, and his portrayal of Makoy in Tiktik was equal parts annoying, funny, pitiful, and amazing. He had a wide range of emotions, and his fight scenes with the buntot ng pagi (tail of stingray used to fight aswangs) was brilliant. Janice de Belen and Joey Marquez also gave unforgettable performances as Lovi’s parents. Janice was ingratiating and while Joey was a pushover, he became a fighter. He was believable in both roles. Ramon Bautista was funny, but when Dingdong manages to be funnier, you know there’s more to him than his sexy body.

And my favorite Lovi scene? The one where she grabs a machine gun while about to give birth and shoots at a tiktik. Very grindhouse.

My only concern is the timing. I’m talking about those moments when protagonists are given ample chance to defeat the villain, only to ruin it by talking too much or hesitating. In Tiktik, it’s curious how the characters are standing in a salt bed and with buckets of the stuff and not use it to ward off the monster when it has them cornered. But I guess it’s symptomatic of all action movies to add drama (and frustration) to the story.

I enjoyed Tiktik. The CGI was brilliant, and it’s because Peter Collias, the guy who designed Moulin Rouge and The Matrix, was in charge of constructing the house and several environments. But the thing is, the lush mise-en-scène doesn’t overpower the actors and the story. Even if the effects were of the Shake, Rattle, and Roll variety, the film could still pull crowds.

Future Filipino movies have pretty big shoes to fill.

Watch the trailer below:

Cinemalaya 2012

Believe it or not, this year’s Cinemalaya was my first. I wanted to go last year, but I had a busy schedule so I wasn’t able to see anything, even after I prepared a complex schedule that covered roughly half of the films. This year, I vowed to catch as many movies as I could, especially after seeing Zombadings and Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank.

I was supposed to watch 11 films, but it was so hard to get tickets that I ended up seeing only five. I guess it’s a lot but after reading the synopses of the participating films, I was rather disappointed. But since UP is doing a run next week, I plan to catch Kalayaan, the only film I will be able to catch with my schedule (the perils of having a job).

My first day was on Saturday at the CCP. It was surprisingly packed, not the turnout I expected for an independent festival. But indie has become mainstream, especially after the commercial screening of Zombadings and Septic Tank, and the casting of popular actors (don’t get me wrong, I find the delineation between mainstream and indie pretentious). That night I got to meet Mikey Amistoso of Ciudad, Marie Jamora (director of Ang Nawawala), and Vincent Sandoval and Darlene Malimas (director and producer of Aparisyon). My friend Nikko met Ricky Lee and had his copy of Amapola Sa 65 na Kabanata signed.

Below are some of my thoughts on the films I saw:

I didn’t completely understand Diablo and its premise of an old woman who suffers from sleeplessness because of a silhouette that stands by her bed every night. The story revolves around her repetitive life in Nueva Vizcaya and her crumbling relationship with her five sons. Perhaps it was a little to artsy for me, or a little too intelligent, but I couldn’t grasp what this film was trying to say or prove. But I have to give the film snaps for being beautiful.

Santa Nina was more up my alley, with its intriguing plot and its more straightforward way of storytelling. Coco Martin stars as a man who discovers his dead child’s coffin and finds that she has not decomposed after 10 years. He takes it home and the child becomes a “saint,” performing what seems like miracles to the local community. Questions of forbidden love, hypocrisy, and the length a person would go to just for his faith is beautifully tackled in this film. Unfortunately, Santa Nina only placed one award for Anita Linda.

Ang Nawawala was the crowd favorite. Twitter was abuzz with references to characters and scenes, as well as requests to release the DVD and schedule more screenings. I was most excited by this because most of my online friends couldn’t stop talking about it. I was not disappointed because it delivered on humor, emotion, and damn good music. This was the hipster movie of the hipster festival, but beyond the scenes in The Collective, SaGuijo, and Route 196 and guest appearances by indie bands, it had a real story, about a boy who finds his voice (quite literally) and his reason to keep living. I saw many familiar faces, most shocking was my editor Cai Subijano, who played Sally Hua.

Kamera Obskura was one of the more ambitious films in the festival, employing the silent film treatment, complete with subtitles and the protracted movement the genre is known for. I just wish that they didn’t market it as a lost Filipino silent film, which wasn’t really believable. But the cinematography was amazing, and they got the complete feel of a silent film. The story was also good, about an older gentleman who develops the power to ‘eliminate’ people, and the greedy individuals who fight over him.

The following day, I was at Greenbelt with my friend Joco to watch The Animals. It was kind of a hassle to go all the way to Greenbelt for one film, but it was to be one of my favorites. The portrayal of the upper middle class is real and accurate, and I found myself reminiscing my own debauched college years, which may or not be a good thing given the film’s horrible excess. At first I thought it was consciously trying to be like Skins (even the opening credit was similar), but it went beyond that and created a more gruesome – but somewhat realistic – portrait of teenage hedonism. What scared me the most was that this is not a warning, but a peek into the future.

I wanted to catch a lot more films, like Give Up Tomorrow, Kalayaan, Bwakaw, Oros, and Posas, and I hope that they get theatrical releases, or DVD copies. Until then, I’ll be looking forward to the next Cinemalaya, or settle for the Metro Manila Film Fest. Right.

Below are the winners for the competition:

Audience Choice Award
Shorts: Hannah Espia’s Rueda
Directors Showcase: Jun Lana’s Bwakaw
New Breed: Marie Jamora’s Ang Nawawala
Special Jury Award
Shorts: Richard Legaspi’s Mananeya
Directors Showcase: Raymond Red’s Kamera Obskura
New Breed: Loy Arcenas’ Requime!
Directors Showcase category
Best Sound: Ditoy Aguila for Adolfo Alix Jr.’s Kalayaan
Best Original Music Score: Diwa de Leon for Kamera Obskura
Best Editing: Vanessa de Leon for Jose Javier Reyes’ Mga Mumunting Lihim
Best Production Design: Adolfo Alix Jr. for Kalayaan
Best Cinematography: Albert Banzon for Kalayaan
Best Screenplay: Jose Javier Reyes for Mga Mumunting Lihim
Best Supporting Actor: Art Acuna for Lawrence Fajardo’s Posas
Best Supporting Actress: Ensemble of Iza Calzado, Judy Ann Santos, Janice de Belen and Agot Isidro for Mga Mumunting Lihim
Best Actor: Eddie Garcia for Bwakaw
Best Actress: Ensemble of Iza Calzado, Judy Ann Santos, Janice de Belen and Agot Isidro for Mga Mumunting Lihim

New Breed category
Best Sound: Addiss Tabong and Mike Idioma for Vincent Sandoval’s Aparisyon
Best Original Music Score: Mikey Amistoso, Diego Mapa, Jazz Nicolas for Marie Jamora’s Ang Nawawala
Best Editing: John Wong and Rona delos Reyes for Gino Santos’ The Animals
Best Production Design: Benjamin Payumo for Lem Lorca’s Intoy Siyokoy ng Kalye Marino
Best Cinematography: Tristan Salas for Mes de Guzman’s Diablo
Best Screenplay: Rody Vera for Loy Arcenas’ Requieme!
Best Supporting Actor: Joross Gamboa for Intoy Siyokoy ng Kalye Marino
Best Supporting Actress: Anita Linda for Emmanuel Palo’s Santa Nina
Best Actor: Kristoffer King for Paul Santa Ana’s Oros
Best Actress: Ama Quiambao for Diablo

Best Director
Shorts: Sheron Dayoc for As He Sleeps
Directors Showcase: Raymond Red for Kamera Obskura
New Breed: Mes de Guzman for Diablo
Best Film
Shorts: Jarell Mahimay Serencio’s Victor
Directors Showcase: Lawrence Fajardo’s Posas
New Breed: Mes de Guzman’s Diablo

Haute Auteur 2012 x Musique en Scene

Musique en Scene, the gig featuring the awarding of Haute Auteur 2012

Last Saturday, I was at B-Side at The Collective for the awarding of UP Cineaste’s Haute Auteur 2012 with my friend Jonard, a research assistant for the Genetics laboratory of UST. Now on its third year, the festival’s goal is to pay tribute to cinema’s roots, proof of which is the homage to Nora Aunor and other cinematic greats in its entries. It had a week-long screening at Shangri-La Plaza Mall, with an accompanying print sale from artists like Manix Abrera, CJ de Silva, Apol Sta. Maria, Kasey Albano, Benjie Marasigan, and two artists I greatly admire: Rob Cham and Carina Santos (who recently followed me on Twitter and I still can’t get over).

Camyl Besinga of the Techy Romantics

At the ceremony, the finalists’ entries were screened again, with a band live-scoring the film. Honestly, my main reason for attending was to see the Techy Romantics, a local electronica band that I discovered a few months ago. They’re actually the only local group that I obsess over because their sound is mad awesome. Plus vocalist Camyl Besinga’s voice is incredibly hypnotic. They played around midnight, when most of the Haute Auteur attendees left, but when they started their set, B-Side started to get packed and everyone was dancing. It was easy to tell that they were the crowd favorite because they got the loudest cheers and they were the only group that were demanded an encore. They relented and performed 7 Years, a beautiful song from Touch. I was just dancing and smiling the whole time, it was insane.

The Walkie Talkies, a sister tandem

Besides Techy, I only knew Encounters of a Yeti, but I discovered great music from other bands. I particularly liked The Walkie Talkies, a sister duo that covered The Spice Girls’ Stop, Regina Spektor’s Us and a mash-up of Adele’s Rolling In The Deep and Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy. I can’t find them on Facebook but the taller sister had this amazing voice that I want to listen to all night. Surprisingly, I also liked The Wilderness. Their music was a little hardcore for me, but I found myself dancing along, even though I’m not a fan (at all) of heavy, noisy, and wild rock.

Lee of Better In Bed, still adorable as ever

On top of that surprise is seeing my friend Lee perform. Apparently, his band Better In Bed is one of the performers. He was one of the more popular ones and girls kept shouting his name. I liked his last song, Galaxies, and I now have it on my iPod. Before leaving the stage, he announced with a raised eyebrow that he wasn’t straight, then left. Ever so badass.

The Black Vomits

The Black Vomits were good, too. They’re this rock band that had the sexiest songs. They were almost as hardcore as The Wilderness but I thought there was something sexy about the way the vocalist sang, moved, and dressed. I think it was her confidence and the way she stood, but she’s aces in my book. In short, she makes me want to turn straight.
I didn’t watch the rest of the bands because I left quickly after the Techy Romantics, but the other performers were Musical O, Sleepwalk Circus, Ciudad, Pocketful Of, Ivan Theory, Similar Objects, Purplechickens, and Reese and Vica.

Battalia Royale x Lugang

Battalia Royale, a loose adaptation of Koushun Takami’s Battle Royale

This week, Sipat Lawin Ensemble staged a production of Battalia Royale, a loose adaptation of Koushun Takami’s novel Battle Royale. The book (and the successful adaptation) is about a totalitarian Japanese state where a group of students are kidnapped and placed in an island, with the mission to kill everyone else and be the last one standing. Staged at the CCP Promenade from February 21-23, it had a very limited run of three performances. I watched its premiere show and was blown away by the complexity of it all.

The storylines in Battalia Royale

Battalia Royale is a fresh and unconventional approach to theater, involving its audience as the plot unfolds. There are over five stages, and viewers must participate as the actors move from one area to another, quickly following them to keep abreast of the story. At one point, the viewers must pick between three simultaneous scenes, each with a different background but the same premise: kill or be killed.

The final scene – though I’ve heard every performance has a different winner

And yes, it is bloody. In the last scene, one guy was shot and blood splattered on a Nursing student’s skirt.

I was a little confused at first, because there were two groups running off in different directions, but it was only because I was late. I eventually got the hang of things and the two groups melded into one, which made it difficult to watch if you aren’t quick-moving, thanks to the overwhelming turnout of the crowd. But I was impressed with the rotation of the scenes, which went like clockwork. All the ushers knew where to guide the massive crowd, and I even saw director JK Anicoche ushering a group.

The show is open to the public and is pay-what-you-can, which means that no one has an excuse to watch this great show. There will be another run this March 9-11, though I heard that tickets are already sold out as of yesterday. You may still check their Facebook page for updates in case they open more shows. This time, they’re staging it in an abandoned school in Cubao.

The actors were pretty good, too, and I recognized some people I knew, mostly from Dulaang Perpetual. The other actors are from Mapua Tekno Teatro, students from NU, Youtube performer Kevin Vitug, Marco Viana, and Bodjie Pascua, who played class adviser and game master. Pascua is best remembered as a cast member of child show Batibot. My favorite was this guy who played Julius. He had a certain angst that I found believable.

Music was provided by Teresa Barrozo (Zombadings, Shake, Rattle, and Roll 13: Rain, Rain, Go Away, and Kinatay) and Radioactive Sago Project. In fact, on its last day, Lourd de Veyra came to provide live vocals.

The beautiful light fixtures

I was eager to watch the last performance on Thursday and see Lourd, but I came late again, and security was tighter. There was a line and they didn’t let everyone in at the same time so Nikko and I opted to go to SM Mall of Asia for dinner instead. We ate at Lugang Cafe, the new Chinese restaurant specializing in Taiwanese cuisine. They’re known for their xiao long bao, a Shanghainese dumpling dish with soup inside. I was impressed at its authenticity, having tried the dish when I went to Shanghai last summer. The interiors were opulent (which I loved) and the staff were accomodating beyond belief. The restaurant is almost perfect and I’m dying to go back and dine again. Being around the avant-garde furniture is already an experience in itself.

The gorgeous Tom Hardy, looking delicious as ever

Capped the night by watching This Means War, a funny movie starring Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, and Tom Hardy about two best friend CIA agents who like the same girl and are trying to detract each other using their vast resources. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a bad rating, but I thought it was hilarious. And Tom Hardy….. my gosh. He was delicious. Lugang Cafe can serve him on a dish.

Tattoos and chocolate.

This week was pretty much the usual. Spent my time at home working on my article for The Philippine Star, after not appearing for the previous Saturday’s edition because of the lack of space. It felt really nice to be back, even though I was only gone for one edition.

Monocle (November 2010), Dazed & Confused (November 2009), Wallpaper (June 2010 and February 2010)

To celebrate, I went with Nikko to a magazine stand that sells back issues of Monocle and Wallpaper, two magazines you don’t usually see in your ordinary bargain bookstore. I must admit I went trigger happy because I bought one copy of Monocle, two of Wallpaper, and one Dazed & Confused. The mall isn’t really known for fun (the logo of some stores were still the old ones, especially Penshoppe), but I did get my latest copy of Rogue in their National Bookstore. The issue with KC Concepcion on the cover is incredibly hard to find so imagine my joy when I found heaps of it in said mall. Went to SM Mall of Asia for dinner, where we ate at Wham! Burgers, an underrated burger joint. I’m not sure, but it’s always empty whenever I go.

Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander did not disappoint – her Oscar nomination was well-deserved (photo from here)

On Friday, I was in Shangri-La Plaza with Myk to watch The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. I bought the book two weeks ago and fell in love with it so I invited Myk to watch it with me. He hasn’t read the book but he enjoyed the movie that he also watched the first adaptation with Michael Nyqvist (of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol). The movie was gripping and for someone whose attention span is that of a five year old’s, I didn’t get bored even though it was almost three hours long. It was directed by David Fincher, with the soundtrack created by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – the three people responsible for the greatness that is The Social Network. We had dinner at Bon Chon (packed as usual) and dessert at Secret Recipe. The cakes there are really divine.

Harold’s Cheese Bar from Machiavelli Chocolatier. It’s not too sweet but it’s packed with deliciousness

While I was in the mall, I also got Harold’s Cheese Bar from Machiavelli Chocolates, a local chocolatier that liberally uses local ingredients. The Harold’s Cheese Bar is dark chocolate with Malagos Blue Peppato cheese (mildly-aged cow’s milk cheese with whole green pepper corn) from Davao. It’s really chewy and delicious without the cloying sweetness of cheap chocolate. It’s going to be big, especially now that Kris Aquino made an order for PNoy’s birthday.