Movie: Sherlock Holmes

One word summary: the money was well-spent watching Sherlock Holmes, A Game of Shadows.
Arguably one of the most anticipated sequels in recent history, I was a bit apprehensive that this movie will not live up to expectations. After all, its predecessor was so good and a runaway financial hit and it is quite hard to top it. And, you have to consider the “sophomore jinx” that hounds all sophomore efforts – be it a musical album or a movie, there is always that something that is lost between the first and its sequel. To cut it short, it is simply rare to top the first.
But is that what this movie accomplished? Hard to tell so let’s just say it’s as good as the first one. Story – wise, I find it as riveting, if not more so, as the first. Loosely based on the novel, The Final Problem, this movie tells of the dangerous game being played by Sherlock Holmes and his arch-nemesis, Professor Moriarty, a man in whom Holmes meets his intellectual match. Moriarty, using his powerful alliances and his genius, plans to start a world war and reap the profits by taking control of the biggest arms dealers and supplying weapons to all parties who will be involved in the war. This plan is meticulously executed through a series of seemingly unrelated deaths, business acquisitions and partnerships that no one takes notice of, except for Holmes, who presumably goes on a personal mission against Moriarty to set his beloved Irene Adler free from him.
Watson, Simza and Holmes, conferring on their next move
Men would love the explosions (the story is, after all, involving arms trade) and the comedic antics of Robert Downey Jr. as he brings to life a version of Holmes that is rarely seen: a genius bordering on lunacy but more funny than somber. A lot of critics disagree with this portrayal, saying that Downey has degraded a beloved character; but I must say, I find his portrayal quite a refreshing change. Either way, we don’t really have a basis for concluding that Holmes was a serious fellow other than that his previous reincarnations depicted him as such; in the books, while there were no comedic lines, I did find him as hilarious as in the movies, delivering one witty line after another in such serious manner that you can’t help but laugh.
What remains the biggest draw of this movie are the leads: Holmes and his faithful comrade, Dr. Watson. All the previous portrayals of Watson have reduced his character to that of sidekick, a comic relief as opposed to Holmes’ somber demeanor and being played in entirely the opposite way by Jude Law in this movie is a worthy redemption of Watson. I had never thought of him as less than an equal to Holmes; in fact, I don’t think Holmes would have survived as long as he had if not for his friend, Dr. Watson, who, we must remember, was an accomplished doctor, a war veteran, and a sharpshooter, the latter probably the reason why Holmes brings him along on more adventurous missions that involve the use of guns. I admire the fact that while this movie is about Holmes, there is no tug-of-war between the two leads and both are given enough screen time and importance as befits partners. 
Watson’s wedding to Mary
My favorite scenes in the movie:
  • When Watson realizes why Holmes is hell-bent on destroying Moriarty, as Holmes steps away from him to get a whiff of Adler’s scent from her blood-stained handkerchief, before he throws it out into the ocean
  • That mental fight between Holmes and Moriarty, wherein they each deduce the other’s move should either of them go for a full-on physical combat; it’s similar to a  game of chess (which they played earlier in the same sequence) where you plan your own moves while anticipating your opponent’s. No actual fight broke out as Holmes arrives at the conclusion that with his severely injured shoulder, he would be no match for boxing champion Moriarty, and decides that he would just drag both of them to their deaths at the bottom of the waterfalls
  • Watson’s expression (or severe lack of expression: shock in its absolute form) as he watches Holmes and Moriarty plunge into the abyss
  • Watson’s expression, again, when he receives the package containing the oxygen mask from an unknown sender, immediately realizing that Holmes was in fact, alive.
However, while Moriarty was played well by Jared Harris, I find Mark Strong’s Lord Blackwood as a more compelling villain and I find Stephen Fry as Mycroft Holmes a rather ill-fit. I can’t quite put my finger to it but I didn’t find any spark of brilliance emanating from him, when Mycroft was supposedly more adept at mind games than Sherlock and this aspect was not fully explored in the movie. Same with Noomie Rapace, who played Simza, a gypsy whose brother was recruited by Moriarty to become his assassin. I find her acting rather distracting.
Stephen Fry as Mycroft Holmes

Jared Harris as Professor Moriarty
Perhaps my biggest disappointment though, is the death of Irene Adler (sorry for the big spoiler). I wasn’t expecting it – I know she didn’t have a very large part in the Sherlock Holmes universe, but I know she didn’t die; she in fact got married happily, a sort of the woman who got away for Holmes and to see her wasted like this (well, not really wasted; her death proved a motivation for Sherlock to defeat Moriarty) is kind of sad.
Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler, in the opening sequence
But then, who knows right? Maybe she will appear in the next movie. As Holmes himself typed in the last scene: “The End???”
* Pictures from google

Movies to Watch: 2012

Here are my top picks for the year, in no particular order. I’ll update this list with the release dates as I come across them.
  1. Wrath of the Titans – sequel to the Clash of the Titans (2010). Hey, even if critics shunned the 2010 movie, let’s give this one a second chance, shall we?
  2. The Avengers – the movie practically everyone’s been waiting for: Iron Man, Captain America, Thor… this makes for one serious eye candy. I would watch this, regardless of the story.
  3. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – again, this needs no introduction. This will surely be epic, like the LOTR trilogy. Need to brush up on my reading.
  4. The Dark Knight Rises – the return of Catwoman. Let’s see if Anne Hathaway can give Michelle Pfeiffer a run for her money.
  5. Show White and the Huntsman – the version with Charlize as the evil queen and Kristen Stewart as, well, Snow White. This is the dark, sexy interpretation of the fairy tale.
  6. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island – forgive me, but I kind of like Vanessa Hudgens and this looks like a fun movie.
  7. Dark Shadows – Johnny Depp. Michelle Pfeiffer. Helena Bonham Carter. Vampires. Do I need to say anything more?
  8. Underworld: Awakening – yes, Kate Beckinsale as Selene is back.
  9. Big Miracle – another dolphin/whale movie starring Drew Barrymore. But the trailer was quite moving – got me teary-eyed in less than five minutes.
  10. The Great Gatsby
  11. Mirror, Mirror – the Snow White version with Julia Roberts and Lily Collins. The comedy edition.
  12. Rock of Ages – starring Tom Cruise. He hasn’t done a good film in ages, let’s hope this one is worth the exorbitant ticket prices nowadays.
  13. Les Miserables – a musical adaptation starring Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe.
  14. The Hunger Games – another book to film thingie. Now, I should start reading the books.
And let’s not forget some great 2011 movies which are yet to be shown in our beloved country (darn that film fest!):
  1. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
  2. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – I have been waiting ages for the Hollywood version. And Rooney Mara looks terrific as Lisbeth. This book series is one of the best I’ve read so far. You know, the kind of book that makes you forget everything – when I am enjoying a book, I drop everything: no food, sleep, anything. Just water, until I finish reading. I haven’t felt that way in a long time and I missed the feeling.

Manila Kingpin: The Untold Story of Asiong Salonga

From the start, it looked like Manila Kingpin: The Untold Story of Asiong Salonga would be the bottom-feeder at the box-office of this year’s Metro Manila Film Fest.  No surprise there, as it had several things going against it: 1) It’s not a franchise, 2) it’s loosely based on Tondo gang lord Asiong Salonga’s life, 3) it doesn’t star any drool-worthy, abs-tastic lead and instead features an aging former actor –turned governor who can’t seem to let go of his movie star dreams, and 4) it’s an action film, and we all know that genre died aeons ago.
In any case, the lowest-grossing film in the MMFF sometimes translates to it being the best among the pack – a sad but rather disturbing proof of the intellect of today’s movie-going public. So, hubby and I decided to test if this theory would prove true for this movie.
Well, it seems that bit about it being the lowest-grossing is not true – as of my last check, it’s the 2nd lowest grossing this year, and judging from the crowd at the last full show last night at Market Market (sorry, we had to settle for this cinema because it’s only five minutes away and I’m still plagued by an almost excruciating headache that I nearly threw up in the car), it looks like its total haul will still increase considerably before the festival officially ends a week from now. The theatre was packed, even more than the Enteng and Panday cinemas, albeit the crowd looked gangsta like the movie. 
To give a short background, this movie is about Tondo gang leader Nicasio “Asiong” Salonga and his fights with Carlos Capistrano alias Totoy Golem, Boy Ventura, and other kingpins in the late 40s-50s. Asiong gained quite a reputation as a local Robinhood and savior of the masses, protecting them from the combined forces of the latter kingpins, which obviously led to him being their target. He married a local beauty, Fidela, with whom he had three kids, although he regularly visits his mistress, a box office cashier at a local theatre, and a bar girl. He ended up in jail twice, frequently helped by the “mayor” (although it is unclear why the mayor himself did not want to escape, given that he was able to arrange for Asiong’s escape the first time, and his release the second time). He finally met his death while having a drinking session with his gang and Totoy Golem, in the hands of his former comrade, Erning. 

Good. I like how it was filmed in black and white and used vintage cars, and looked like it honestly tried to recreate 1950’s Tondo. As it is, the cinematography was superb. Editing was likewise good and the camera had some really good angles, and the script was better than what I’ve come to expect from today’s dialogues that have come to define Philippine cinema nowadays. And contrary to the other movies in the festival, this one actually had a story to tell, although one that has been told several times since the real Asiong lived, and if I remember correctly, its last incarnation also starred Jeorge “ER” Ejercito JR.
Ah yes, him. If I have to criticize one aspect of this movie, it would be the casting. If I hadn’t known that Asiong was only four days short of celebrating his 28th birthday when he was killed, I would have accepted the aging ER in the lead role. But I knew. And even if I didn’t, the movie’s opening scene gave it away: Asiong was being brutally beaten to a pulp by another ganglord, and said ganglord told him he was still too young and “marami ka pang kakaining bigas” implying that he was still a “baby.” And yet, Asiong himself looked as old, if not older, than his assailant. How funny.
And then you have Philip Salvador playing his older brother Domeng, the good cop – again, another miscast. I liked Philip in the 80’s and 90’s when he played all those action roles, but playing a young cop in the 21st century, when he is obviously of retirement age?
The two Salonga brothers should have been re-cast and given to younger actors, especially since ER has practically no acting chops to show off (and yet, he blatantly expresses his desire and expectation to win Best Actor). I was practically squirming in my seat whenever close-ups of these two’s sagging jowls are shown. No offense to aging actors, but please don’t play much younger roles which you know you can’t pull off, not even physically. To compensate, at least Philip can act. And the story of the older brother torn between doing his job as a cop and protecting his younger brother, the criminal, well, it wasn’t the focal point but it was given the right amount of exposure in the movie. And I got quite teary-eyed when Domeng closed the lid on Asiong’s coffin, commenting, “Matatahimik ka na rin sa wakas, Asiong” after he and his late brother’s gang gunned down all his enemies during his funeral march.
Moving on to the bad guys, I’d say the casting of John Regala and Baron Geisler was pure genius. I remember John from the 90’s as well, and I know for a fact that he is a very good actor, though hounded by alcohol and drug abuse and to see him play the villain Totoy Golem (an even more notorious kingpin in Tondo, in my opinion) was such a dream come true (ok, wasn’t really a dream, but you get the picture). And Baron getting the Juda-esque role of Erning, himself saddled by alcohol and drug abuse issues, was brilliant. It’s common knowledge that Baron is a gifted actor; I just wish he’d realize it before he spirals totally out of control in real life.
And I have to admit, Ronnie Lazaro as Boy Zapanta was good. I never really take notice of his talent, because he is usually cast as the underdog, but I realize now that he plays any role given to him with such credence you end up believing he’s a bad guy when he plays one. He’s one underrated actor for sure, at least in the mainstream.
As for the ladies, I just have to say Carla Abellana is too pretty for this movie. But then, every action movie has to have a pretty girl, right? Throw in Valerie Concepcion and that other mistress (who is she, btw?) and you have your ingredients down pat.
My particular favourite is the gun fight between Asiong and Hapon, played by Joko Diaz, in the streets of Tondo, with the rain pouring down on them. As cliché as it may sound, they were actually wearing suits (or something of the sort), with matching hats and holding revolvers in both hands. I know I’ve seen this scene in countless movies (hey, I honestly prefer watching action movies to comedies) so minus points for originality, but the shot was almost artistic.
Another scene which stayed with me was the death of Erning, Asiong’s former close friend turned Totoy Golem acolyte after Asiong discovered that he extorts money from their people. In the movie, Erning was caught by Asiong’s loyal gang, beaten, covered with a sack and hanged from a tree, then burned alive, until one of them fired a mercy shot (or bullet?) to end his agony. It was rather disturbing although it fit in well with the theme of torture, blood, and revenge.
I don’t know Asiong’s personal history, but from a scan of a Manila Chronicle article on his death, he actually got shot at a Sari-sari store, where he was drinking with his men and Totoy Golem’s men. And he in fact made it alive to St. Luke’s where his neighbours took him; he didn’t die on the streets with his wife cradling him as depicted in the movie.
And I am quite confused with how he became “king” of Tondo – I believe that it was Totoy Golem who ruled the place and since this was immediately after the war, this would mean Asiong would have had to establish his claim sometime between 1945 and 1951; quite a short time given that he was young, and he was also jailed. (But then, I realize that Baby Ama was only 16 when he died via electric chair so what the heck).
In any case, the Tondo then is not much different from the Tondo I grew up in. Yes, I am a Tondo girl – born and lived there for the first 18 years of my life, although in a different neighbourhood from Asiong’s. My lola, having ran off from the provinces with nothing but her beauty and her bayong full of money (no kidding, this is a true story; my lola’s clan in the provinces used to own a gold mine which has since dried up and she was once a starlet in the LVN compound) was one of the first residents in that part of Tondo; her house, built in the early 50’s, was actually only the third to be built on that island of Balut. 
As I was saying, Tondo is still ruled by gangs, and the three G’s that ruled in Asiong’s time, still rule now – guns, gold, glory. Criminals still win in the elections and I can even name you three known murderers hiding in the very street where we lived (although for fear of life, I would keep my mouth shut). And yes, I even got entangled in a street brawl, which took two years to fester in our ever so efficient judicial system – my father got into an altercation with a thug over parking space and I thought he was going to stab him (turned out he was wearing knucklers), and being the careless but brave little girl I was (yes, I was only 17 at the time), I charged into the thug, hoping to knock him off long enough for my father to come to his senses (heck, he’s a former athlete, a martial artist, and a sharp shooter for crying out loud; he could easily have defended himself had he chosen to fight back). 
But that’s another story altogether. 
Needless to say, I quite enjoyed the film. Good story and I can relate to the craziness of Tondo. Not that I would want to live there again.

Movie: Dream House

One statement before I proceed: Dream House is well worth your money and deserves far better than what critics have said about it.
I saw the trailer of this movie a few weeks back and suffice to say that I was intrigued enough to want to watch it, notwithstanding the fact that the trailer practically gave away the key elements and should-have-been-unexpected plot twist. The movie had a lot going against it though: one, it movie was widely panned by critics for the poorly (stupidly, I might add) trailer; two, reports said that the director and lead stars were so unhappy with how it was edited, turning what was supposed to be a thriller into a campy horror movie, that they boycotted all promotional rounds for it; three, being the confused movie it was – it was understandably hard to market. I mean, do you sell it as a drama/thriller or a horror movie?
Credit should be given to the story, though – it gave quite a unique twist (unfortunately revealed in the trailer, as mentioned above) to your usual family massacre. Kind of reminds me of The Sixth Sense and the Others combined (hint: there are ghosts!), but even the similarity is given a fresh twist here. Will Atenton (Daniel Craig) moves his wife Libby (Rachel Weisz) and their two young girls from New York to the quiet suburbs of of Connecticut, living in a rambling house just a few steps away from the forest so he can work on finishing his novel.
Things go smoothly with the family settling in – Libby painting over portions of the hosue and the kids finding a hidden attic full of toys of the kids of the previous owners; however, one night, their youngest daughter Didi sees a man with “a big head and his face was fuzzy.” Will and Libby dismiss this as the product of Didi’s active imagination but Will becomes alarmed when he sees foot prints in the snow the next day, exactly where his daughter said the man was standing and looking in through their window. Will also discovers a group of goth teenagers lighting candles and recreating a massacre scene in the basement of their house, which prompts him to investigate the history of their “dream house” and its previous tenants.
I won’t go past that part since I would be giving away spoilers if I do, but suffice to say that if you have no idea how this movie would turn out, you would enjoy the twist. And Daniel and Rachel made it all the more enjoyable – I especially liked the scene when Will was confronting Libby with the truth and she just cries and those brief moments of realization when her husband was trapped in the burning house with her best friend, Ann Patterson (played by Naomi Watts). I just noticed one thing – Daniel Craig seems to have aged A LOT. Is he really that old or was he really just aged in the movie to give more credence to the character’s sorrow?
The movie has that dreary setting which immediately gives you the creeps but I somehow felt that the directing and editing of the movie leaves a lot to be desired. There were scary and touching moments but those came few and far in between to make it truly memorable, although I did shed a tear during the confrontation scene between Will and Libby, and when Ann’s daughter remarked how she misses her friends, and in the final scene, as Will escapes from the burning house.
All in all, Dream House isn’t a masterpiece of whatever genre it thinks itself to be in, but I did find it entertaining and not a waste of my hard-earned money. Hubby agrees with me too. 

Movie: No Other Woman

 Starting the movie with Anne Curtis in her criss-cross black maillot was a sure-fire way to get the guys who’ve been dragged to watch this movie quiet and glued to their seats. I must say, Anne looked like she worked hard to get this body since a few months back, and even as recent as the Preview Ball, she kinda looked a bit on the flabby side, complete with a bit of a bulging tummy made more obvious by her sheer Rajo Laurel gown. In that opening scene alone, she was hot (she made Cristine look fat, especially in that yoga scene when Cristine could be seen sucking in her tummy, now that was hilarious).
Story is quite familiar to just about anyone: married man meets pretty, flirtatious, liberated woman who throws herself at him with no strings attached, gets into a steamy affair, wife finds out, the man has to choose. There was the back story of why Derek was so determined to prove himself, and how Cristine’s father does not approve of him but they seem more like afterthoughts. In any case, these stories almost always end the same: wife gets her husband back, as she should. But what this movie offers is more of a visual treat:  three of the hottest celebrities in one movie. Derek got the best deal out of this as he gets to romance former FHM #1 Cristine Reyes AND Dyosa Anne Curtis, who is arguably the most recognizable face along Edsa right now. And the fashion, at least from Anne Curtis’ side of the ring, was superb. It’s nothing new, but Anne just carries herself so well she makes me want to head to the mall and buy a snake-print bikini. 
Hot stars aside, what really makes this movie stand out isn’t really the plot, but the clever one-liners that give the crowd something to laugh and cry about, and the double meaning dialogue, though so over the top they can never happen in real life, like when Anne and Cristine grabbed the same YSL bag, a symbolic gesture of them fighting over the same man.
The acting is quite good as well. I remember the days when Anne sounded like she was reciting from a textbook and for me, her breakthrough as an actress was in Maging Sino Ka Man. From then on, she became not just pretty face for me but an actress I can actually enjoy without grating my teeth. And in this movie, she did not disappoint. I hated her guts as she shamelessly flirted with Derek, I hated her superiority complex, but I pitied her equally when she realized she was falling in love, I pitied her even as she vowed to fight for a man she didn’t even have a right to fight for. And I loved her when she was apologizing to Cristine for all the mess she did. 
And then you add Carmi Martin into the mix, who is as hot today as she was during her Dick and Carmi days twenty years ago. She’s such a wonderfully good comedic actress (well, she’s a very good but underrated actress, in my opinion, who hasn’t been given her fair share of fame). She could have given both girls a run for their money in her skintight gold lame dress.
Cristine for her part, held up quite well. I mean, she’s nowhere near Anne’s calibre but she broke my heart several times – when she first discovered the affair, when she went to her mother ready to give up, thinking she can’t win against a pretty and rich heiress, when she lost her verbal tussle with Anne by the pool and ran up to her room to pack her bags and break down, and when she finally reconciled with Derek in the last part of the movie. But she should really get rid of the crazy eyes – it makes her look like a bitchy little brat, like someone making faces; all that was lacking was the rolling out of the tongue.
Anyway, some of my favourite lines were:
Carmi (to Cristine): Ang mundo ay isang malaking Quiapo, maraming snatcher!
Also from the same scene, by Carmi: I-pack up mo na ang Lucy Torres mo, at ilabas mo na si Gretchen Barretto! Ako ng bahala sa red stiletto mo!
And the funniest one from Carmi (the Lucy/Gretchen bit lost its appeal since they it was part of the trailer): Pare-parehong p**a lang yun. Ang pinagkaiba lang nila, yung mayaman, original ang Hermes. Yung mahirap, binili sa Greenhills!
Cristine to Anne during the most awkward dinner ever, when she invited Anne for dinner at their conjugal house, with Derek beside her: Alam mo, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Pero sa ganda mong yan, siguro meron kang alam na shortcut. 
Cristine to Anne in their poolside confrontation: Ang marriage parang exclusive village lang. Kelangan binabantayan mo para hindi makapasok ang mga squatter. 
Anne to Cristine, in the same scene which ended with the latter’s walk out: You can call me whatever you like, but I will never be a boring housewife. 
My verdict? Worth your money. I would watch it again, honestly, if only to hear those clever repartees again and just ogle the lead stars. Haha. I would definitely consider buying the DVD. 
PS: Just my observation. Most of the guys I know prefer Cristine but most of the women I know prefer Anne. Guess Cristine is guy-hot while Anne is girl-hot. I seriously prefer Anne, there’s just something about her. But I do recall seeing Cristine for the first time, I think she was 15 then, as a contestant in that defunct show of Paolo Bediones and Miriam Quiambao, and thinking “wow, that girl is so pretty and sexy.” Depends on your taste, I guess. 
Another PS: I watched this movie by myself. Thank goodness for Sureseats – all seats were taken when I got to the cinema and the line was awfully long, but due to my reservation, I got an escort inside the cinema before previews even started — with all the other people shooting daggers at my back, hahaha! Apparently, I was the only one at Market Market who came with a Sureseats reservation. My dilemma was after the movie, my eyes were so puffy and I felt weird coming out of the cinema by myself with puffy eyes. Hahaha.

Movie: Colombiana

Now, this is a movie we weren’t really planning on seeing: one, because I am not an action-movie type of girl and two, I’m not a fan of any of the actors in the movie, although I like Luc Besson enough (he created Nikita after all – the original one, which starred his then wife, and I super loved that film and the late 90’s Canadian series which starred Peta Wilson).
Now, if it weren’t for the oftentimes too spectacular to be real action sequence in the movie and Zoe Saldana’s superb acting skills, this movie would have gone straight into my list of B-movies that should never have seen the light of day. The story was cliché all over: girl living in Colombia witnesses the murder of her parents at the hands of a drug king pin, grows up to be an assassin for hire who, in her free time, hunts down the druggies in the hopes of getting enough attention to draw the kingpin who killed her parents out in the open. We’ve seen this story many times over and it’s quite tiring. Plus, even though we all know how Colombia is (in)famous for its drug operations, do we really need a Hollywood film to point that out? A Hollywood film that wasn’t even filmed in Colombia, even partially. 
In any case, Zoe was good as Cataleya, the assassin – she even makes the lamest scenes and dialogue bearable. She’s tough and yet she managed to put a more complex sympathetic side to her character. Looking at her, you can really believe she can get in and out of a prison cell to murder an inmate, or trespass into a drug lord’s mansion full of armed men without so much as a scratch, yet trust her that she won’t harm you if you’re not her target.  But this is actually the movie’s main fault – the heroine was too perfectly invincible. And the love angle was absurd: what kind of man would not even feel a bit of anger or fear or disgust upon finding out the woman he’s been sleeping with (and fallen in love with, though he knows nothing about her other than that’s she’s hot) is a serial killer, with 23 known kills in the FBI database to her credit? Seriously? Even the most devoted lover would have had serious issues when that kind of truth is shoved down his throat. 
The movie did manage to get me a bit teary-eyed, when Cataleya was shown a photo of her family by her uncle and when she discovers later on that her uncle’s family was murdered as retaliation by the mob for her vengeful killings.

Bottomline, the movie is good eye candy of the explosive kind and Zoe has a quiet feline charm about her which makes her a beauty to watch even as she wields one big gun after another. But other than that, this movie gets a big fat B-movie tag in my list.

Movie: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

The good news: the movie is well worth the money and wasn’t messed up as say, the 6th installment of the franchise.

The first applause should be given to the wonderful use of special effects in this movie: the scene where the professors at Hogwarts were protecting the castle from Voldemort’s forces was very impressive, with the glowing, almost electric dome encasing the castle and the armed clay and steel statues coming to life under Professor McGonagall’s spell. Equally remarkable was the trio’s escape from Gringotts on the back of an albino dragon. The effects were seamlessly woven onto the film and it is almost believable that these things can happen in real life, until of course, you exit the cinema and real life takes over. 
Special mention should also be given to the set of the movie, which carried me straight-on into the battle for Hogwarts. 
But the other, more sublime draw of the movie is how it makes a generous display of the rich acting talent that is so abundant in Britain (and makes you wonder why so many no talents in Hollywood are more famous than they are – the saying, shallow water makes much noise suddenly come to mind). We all know that Helena Bonham Carter is a very skilled actor and this movie franchise has probably brought her to the minds of more audience than all her past films – here, she shows her versatility in playing just about anything by playing the cruel and murderous Bellatrix Lestrange and having a very brief five minutes to play Hermione impersonating her. It was a hoot to see her acting exactly like Hermione, from the facial twitches, to the breathing, to the mannerisms. 
Professor Mcgonagall totally won me over in her two shining scenes when she admonished Filch by saying, “they’re supposed to be out of bed, you blithering idiot” (or something like that) and when she used the spell, Piertotum Locomotum and commented rather giddily, that “I’ve been wanting to use that spell my entire life.” Wasn’t it just too cute? 
And of course, everybody’s favourite ambiguous character, arguably the richest one in the books, Alan Rickman’s Processor Snape also gets his share of the limelight, and I shed a bucket of tears in the scene where he was attacked by Nagini and I could not help but sob out loud when he asked Harry to look at him as he dies, wanting to die looking up into the eyes that reminded him so much of the one woman he had loved: Lily, Harry’s mother. I could not help but feel though, that Snape should have had more scenes. As it is, his presence on screen was rather too short. 
Fiennes as Voldemort didn’t quite impress me as it did the others, though. He looked like a snake/cancer patient/clown and the only thingnotable about his acting was his raspy voice. 
Of the three main characters, I would still say that Ron has shown the most promise, acting-wise, followed closely by Hermione. Harry sometimes feel lost, or starts out great but then mumbles his way to the end. And I can’t help but be annoyed sometimes by his hand gestures when he speaks, although, looking back, these subtle traits of his made Harry very real, like an extension of Daniel Radcliffe. 
Now, while I wouldn’t dare pick on the story line, as it was as perfect as any fantasy story could be, there were some key scenes which were excluded from the movie, probably because their inclusion would have made the movie reach a part 3, but which were crucial at providing the necessary insights. 
The movie assumes everyone watching has read and re-read the books before coming into the cinema but if you have not, or did not refresh your memory, you would be at a lost at who Aberforth Dumbledore is, or Ariana is, and what caused the irreparable rift between Albus Dumbledore and his brother. The duel scene between Mrs. Weasley and Bellatrix were too short, and felt like it was just added in to appease the loyal readers of the book. But if it was done to do just that, they should have just done away with it, altogether. There was also the omission of the Weasley’s reunion with Percy (although this is quite trivial).
Certain liberties were also taken such as when it was Hermione who suggested breaking out of Gringott’s on the back of the dragon (it was Harry in the books), and how Harry broke the Elder Wand after defeating Voldemort. But perhaps the most glaring one is how Nagini was left crawling all over Hogwarts when it was supposed to be the last know Horcrux (Harry was of course, the 7th and last Horcrux that Voldemort was unaware he had made) and always stayed protected in an invisible cage or near Voldemort. 
The book, as all the others in the series with it, was a magnificent work of Rowling’s genius but some of its magnificence didn’t quite translate to the big screen or got lost somewhere in Yate’s direction. The movie wasn’t as grand as it could have, and thus deprived the beloved characters the grand finale they should have had. It was good, but it never quite reached the epic scale of say, the Lord of the Rings, and did not leave me with the feeling of wanting to relive the scenes over and over again.
Will I watch it again? Yes. Undoubtedly. But because I am a Harry Potter fan and not because I genuinely loved the movie.
 *Photos grabbed from google images.

Dark Shadows

OMG! Johnny Depp as a vampire? Are you seriously kidding me? 

Just read a press release from Warner Bros that he’ll be playing the lead in the theatrical film adaptation of the late 60’s soap, Dark Shadows, together with Micheille Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter and Eva Green. Director, no surprise, is Tim Burton. 

Michelle and Eva are the two most talented and gorgeous actresses for me – in fact, I think I’ve watched all of Michelle’s movies and I am watching Camelot (the TV series) solely because of Eva. To have them in the same movie with Johnny is practically insane.

I don’t know the release date for this movie but just the news is enough to make me giddy. Read the full statement here.

Movie: Sucker Punch

Two thoughts ran through my mind as soon as the closing credits started rolling: first, was I really so dumb that I couldn’t figure out what the title means? and second, how the heck did the movie, for all its special effects and bombtastic action scenes, manage to become dragging not even midway through it’s less than two-hour screen time?
And hot on the trail of those thoughts, comes the nagging sense of trying to convince myself that I didn’t waste my money because the effects were spectacular. And there you get the gist of the movie: there ain’t any story to tell. 
Set in the 50’s, the movie started interestingly enough, with Baby Doll (Emily Browning) being sent to an asylum by her stepfather who cruelly beat her sister to death after their mother’s death (which was never  established if through murder or sickness) to prevent her from telling the truth and to get her inheritance. Unfortunately enough for our heroine, the institution is being run by a sinister-looking sleazy guy, who unknown (I assume) to the actual doctor of the asylum, accepts patients whom others would want to get rid off, and forges the signature of the doctor into authorizing lobotomy on a number of such patients. Baby Doll learns she is scheduled for one five days from the time she is committed.
From there, the movie starts to go nowhere but into several layers of fantasy which initially prompts comparisons to Inception: Baby Doll lapses into a dream world where the asylum is a brothel and she and the other patients are “dancers” who must please their clients to earn their keep. This world draws comparisons again to another movie: Moulin Rouge. As she (and presumably the other girls) dances, she enters a third world where she and the girls she befriends in the brothel, are warriors with samurais, big guns, and robots, with just one goal: fight the bad guys to get a certain treasure. 
Now, it’s clear enough that these fight sequences are symbolic of how the girls plan and manage to collect the five things they need to escape the asylum – map, fire, knife, and key,with the fifth item to be discovered when need: a purpose. 
And that’s the entire story. We know nothing about the other girls other than their names: Rocket (Jena Malone), whom Baby Doll rescues from the cook and had run away from home only to end up in the asylum, her older sister Sweet Pea (played by Abbie Cornish who reminded me so much of Alexa Davalos who had in turn, played Andromeda in Clash of Titans last year),who followed her sister to keep her from trouble, Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens) and Amber (Jamie Chung, who had played Chi-chi in Dragonball the movie). Other than those tidbits I mentioned, there is nothing more known of these girls or how they ended up committed. And as soon as I figured out there was no story to be told, hour and a half began to feel like an eternity.
As a visual treat, this movie’s a success – after all, the director is no less than Zack Snyder who gave us the gore fest 300 a couple of year ago. And I am quite absorbed with how flawless Baby Doll always looks like, as if she were the doll she was named after.
But ten minutes into the movie and I have this generalization formed at the back of my mind:  this movie is nothing more than a live-action, anime-inspired soft porn aimed at men who have a fetish for school-girl types and/or a bit of sadomasochism. If that was the aim, it succeeded as I could not help but squirm in my seat every time Baby Doll shows up in her skimpy skirt ala-Sailormoon or when she prepares to do her sexy dance (which, surprisingly or not, we NEVER get to see). While I commend the seamless transition between realities, I could never understand why Baby Doll would choose to imagine being in a brothel or in an old-fashioned sci-fi war in her dream landscapes. Or was she secretly a sexual pervert?
It has the vibe of Inception/Moulin Rouge/300/Shutter Island all rolled into one, but for all its ambitions and parallels to those great movies, it never approximates even half of the accomplishments and merits of any single one. And so, I am left dejected to try and convince myself that the money I paid for yielded returns in the form of the special effects.
* Images from Google

Food Coma Weekend

I know I’m supposed to be on a diet in preparation for summer and of course, it’s the Lenten season and I should fast. But, I will have to restart my diet another day. 
Friday night, had dinner with my teammates from my former employer at Cyma. I had suggested we eat here since we’ve always taken Jerry to Filipino restos in the past so I figured it would be a nice change to have something different (although I couldn’t really vouch for the authenticity of the food since I’ve never been to Greece). And since it was the first time for all of them, we got a little carried away with the orders -we realized it was too much even before the appetizers were laid out: tons of pita bread with tzatsiki! For those who don’t know, tzatsiki is a yoghurt and cucumber dip so it’s a bit sour and cool to the tongue at the same time. 
We also had moussaka, a no-brainer, after all, if you’re gonna try a cuisine might as well start with the national dish right? Then chicken adobo, spinach pasta and zucchini and gyros. I especially liked the zucchini – I never tasted this veggie before but it tasted lovely. 
I wanted to have dessert after but we were too full I decided to just skip it. Though I did manage to hit Fully Booked – and got the latest book in the Vampire Diaries series (well, the 2nd to the latest). 😛
Saturday night, Ipe and I had the usual “mamam”  with UST friends, as titow Jere would say it – at Banana Leaf at Powerplant. Loved the fried tilapya with sauce and the shrimp/mango with chili sauce. And I got the chrysanthemum tea shake to boot! A lot of people don’t really like this tea, but I find its taste perfect, even when I was a kid. It taste like brewed flowers, kinda like drinking a floral perfume. Ok, I’ll stop there as I realize that sounds sort of weird.

Watched a movie after, World Invasion: Battle LA starring Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, Neyo and Ramon Rodriguez (I kept thinking where I saw him then it hit me – he was Shia Labouf’s sidekick in Transformer: Revenge of the Fallen). I am not really a fan of disaster movies; I only watch them when I have nothing to watch ON cable. But Aaron Eckhart was superb as the Staff Sergeant who was forced to lead a team of marines after their lieutenant died, not to mention easy on the eyes too. But the plot is tired, and the entire movie reminded me of Independence Day. So, I’d say, the movie would have bored me to death if I didn’t find Aaron kinda handsome. 😛