The Last Journey of Ninoy

I went to the premiere of “The Last Journey of Ninoy” at Power Plant Mall in Rockwell last night. The film is a docu-drama that highlights different stages in the life of the martyred senator, form his roots as a brash and talented young man, forward to his long and arduous journey as a politician and a private family man, presented as flashbacks weaved together with the last days of his life as he returned to the Philippines from Boston as the narrative spine. Through known and new records, plus valuable memories and insights from wife and ally, Cory, audiences are shown Ninoy’s truest ideals and deepest struggles, his indomitable spirit and faith, as seen through all his hardships and all the hostilities he faced.

Unlike the many documentaries that have been made and screened about Ninoy Aquino, the EDSA Revolution or the Martial Law era, “The Last Journey of Ninoy” allows audiences to witness the narrative without the intrusion of a third party narrator, hence a more intimate experience, as if we are witness to a conversation between the two revered icons. The film is also punctuated by an inspiring message taken from one of Ninoy’s speeches delivered while on “exile” in the US, addressed to every Filipino.

“So long as each one of us should be willing to take on the struggle, even if I am imprisoned, even if I die in prison, so long as you will continue the struggle and carry the torch, then I think we will have a better Philippines. Rather than one carrying the torch, we will have many.”

The film is produced by Benigno S. Aquino Foundation and Unitel. It will have a one-day regular screening in Power Plant Mall on August 21, 2009. ABS-CBN will also air the docu-drama on free TV on August 23, at around 10:30 PM.

A quick note before going back to the books

I’ve been trying to be as diligent as I can with my studies right now. I rarely hang out in school after class anymore, unless there are really important meetings, activities or errands. And when our internet connection was cut a few days ago, I didn’t quite mind it, as I was too busy reading cases and textbooks when I’m at home. Right now, I’m just finishing this entry before going back to my readings.

Anyway, last night, since all the other cinemas were booked because of Transformers: The Revenge of The Fallen, we found ourselves rediscovering the cinemas of Metro Manila’s first mall (okay, apparently, Harrison Plaza claims to be the older mall).

The last time I was at the cinemas of Ali Mall was two or three years ago, when it was still all dingy and dark. It was the opening weekend then, I think, of The Da Vinci Code, and my friends and I gave up upon seeing the humongous crowd at Gateway Mall in Cubao. Upon my suggestion, we walked to Ali Mall and watched the movie in its large, decrepit, and largely empty cinema.

Last night to our pleasant surprise, however, it’s a lot, lot better now. Together with the rest of the mall, the cinemas have been renovated. The large cinema has been divided into three smaller and cozier modern theaters that look like the cinemas at Gateway. And since I don’t think a lot of people are aware of Ali Mall’s recent transformation, the box office lines were pleasantly short.

Transformers was a great visual treat. Nothing artsy-fartsy. Funny how I think like a law student sometimes even when watching movies. The moment Sam’s family home was destroyed my first thought was, damn, I wonder if their house is insured (or if the insurance policy will cover destruction by robot).

2008 Movie Round-up #8

I saw the first two movies, Reservation Road and Cloverfield more than a month ago, when I still had a lot of spare time to leisurely catch up on some films. I saw Ploning with a friend a few weeks ago at the cinemas.

Reservation Road Cloverfield Ploning

Reservation Road (2007, USA, dir. Terry George) is about two dedicated fathers in an intertwined struggle of coping up with loss and guilt. One of them, the character played by Mark Ruffalo, accidentally hits and runs over the son of the other father, played by Joaquin Phoenix. In some twisted turn of fate, Phoenix ends up hiring a firm with Ruffalo as attorney. Frustrated and enraged with the slow developments in the investigation of his son’s death, Joaquin eventually takes justice in his own hands and soon discovers the grave involvement of Ruffalo, among a handful of other contrivances. The film is a fairly convincing family drama with a largely powerful cast. What I found fairly unique about the film is that, as a family drama, it focused largely, without reservations, in exposing the emotional turmoil among fathers, as opposed to relying on the traditional dramatics of wailing female characters.

Cloverfield (2008, USA, dir. Matt Reeves) is an entertaining monster thriller. The title Cloverfield is the code name for a tape found by the US Military among the rubbles of Manhattan after it was obliterated in order to defeat a large monster. The tape is a self-documented film taken by a group of friends trapped in Manhattan as it was taken siege by the creature. The story’s nothing really new, a monster basically attacks Manhattan, with the plot focusing on a group of friends who tries to evade the danger posed by the monster. Cloverfield simply repackages the story into a fairly unique concept of self-documentation, shaky video-camera style, in a fairly suspenseful pace.

Ploning (2008, Philippines, dir. Dante Nico Garcia), shot entirely in picturesque Cuyo, Palawan, is a touching and lovely film about patient love. It’s a subtle film, not very complicated. Judy Anne Santos did a brilliant performance. None of the usual wailing and melodrama, just beautifully powerful but restraint acting. It’s not a perfect film, in fact there came a point when I think I had too much of all unnecessary scenic shots, it felt like the film is turning into a dramatic excuse to sell panoramic views to prospective tourists. The film is highly likeable, however. I came out of the cinema feeling touched, peaceful and serene.

2008 Movie Round-up #7

We watched the films below as part of our last lecture class in Media Ethics a few weeks ago. All films are Hollywood productions made in the 1970’s.

The Abominable Dr. Phibes Lost HorizonThe Boys From Brazil

The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971, USA, dir. Robert Fuest) is about a doctor set on exacting torturous revenge on nine other doctors on whose hands his wife died. His ways and means of executing such murders are based on the Old Testament curses of the Pharaoh and the people of Egypt during the time of Moses. The methods can be quite ingenious, if you ask me, from being eaten to the skull by locusts to being frozen to death inside a car. The movie makes no pretensions of being an honest-to-goodness straight horror film and as such, is really a campy cult film that is expectedly obnoxious and sick. From the weird art deco sets and costumes to the actual methods of the deaths, it can get quite bothersome. Which I think is exactly what it intends to be.

Lost Horizon (1973, USA, dir. Charles Jarrott), the 1973 motion-picture adaptation of a novel of the same name, is about a group of foreigners who escape a war-torn Asian country who crash and end up in a hidden utopian society in the mountains of Himalayas called Shangrila. Just when the group of English-speaking foreigners get used to and enjoy the utopian life in Shangrila, some of them slowly find out that their being there wasn’t an accident after all, and that the utopia they were lead to believe in may actually be a grand hoax and a conspiracy. The entire film is filled with philosophical meanderings and musical number ala Sound of Music, which can be entertaining, but can also get quite silly as it piles up. Also, for an attempt at recreating a utopian society on film, the movie is actually very hegemonic and Western in representation! The film is a apparently notorious for being disastrous at the box office and among critics. Fair enough a judgement if you ask me.

The Boys From Brazil (1978, USA, dir. Franklin J. Schaffner) is about the sinister attempt by a post-war Nazi organization of self-exiled war criminals lead by a death-camp physician hiding in South America, to recreate the glory of the Third Reich by cloning its leader, the Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler himself. Such plans are thwarted through the investigative attempts of a Nazi war criminal-hunter who, in the process, discover more and more about the details of this very evil and sinister plot. The movie is a worthwhile thriller, but it had the tendency to be quite dragging. It took quite a while before it revealed what the murders were all about and what the sinister plan really is, ad then goes on further after that. The premise is very interesting material, really, however I think it could’ve been shot and told better.

2008 Movie Round-up #6

Since I have relatively more time in my hands, I was able to catch up on some movie viewings. It can get quite addicting, really. In between doing the written thesis of our short film, I take breaks by watching a movie. The first one is a Spanish film, the two others are the first two installments in the James Bond franchise.

The Orphanage or El Orfanato James Bond 007: Dr. No James Bond 007: From Russia With Love

The Orphanage / El Orfanato (2007, Spain, dir. Juan Antonio Bayona) is one dramatic horror movie that really creeps you out with its deep eeriness without the regular visuals of blood and gore and unsightly creatures. The film is about a woman who returns, with her husband and adopted son, to live at the seaside orphanage where she grew up. For a while, as they begin to settle in their new home, she and her husband tolerate their son’s fascination with his new imaginary friends at the house–until things prove themselves to be more than just imaginary when their child disappears. In her search of her missing child, she uncovers secrets behind the orphanage she once lived in. The movie ends with a dramatic sequence that proves to be effectively powerful in both a horrifying and a heart-tugging way. It perfectly punctuates the mystery behind the story. It’s rare that one could say that a horror movie is beautiful. This is definitely a beautiful horror movie.

Dr. No (1962, UK, dir. Terence Young) is the first installment in one of the longest-running film franchises in history, the James Bond franchise. Set in the island of still-British-occupied Jamaica, James Bond investigates the mysterious disappearance of a British secret agent and her secretary and how their disappearance is related to the mysterious radioactive energy waves interfering with US missile launches near the island. The first James Bond film is not, at all, as extravagant as those that came after it. Its strength thus lie with a steady execution of its plot, which basically introduces us to the many recurring motifs that we will eventually get to know James Bond and the franchise for–exotic locations, beautiful women, gadgets, among a handful of others.

From Russia With Love (1963, UK, dir. Terence Young) is about James Bond’s pursuit of a Russian decoding device from a beautiful Russian defector from the Russian consulate in Turkey, and SPECTRE’s evil involvement as an international crime syndicate out to get our famed British secret agent for killing Dr. No. It’s imperative for viewers to know that this was made during the Cold War, and as such, like other Hollywood films then and now, is highly biased towards the West and against the Russians and the Communists. I shall take it for what it is. It can be quite entertaining. Some reinforcements of machismo, and cultural and racial stereotypes can be disturbing, but forgivable. You don’t watch 1960’s James Bond films to critique such reasons anyway. The beautiful women and exotic locations are still there. This is apparently, one of the best James Bond films in the franchise. This is still not as extravagant as other James Bond movies that come after it, but is still highly entertaining as a 1960’s film.

2008 Movie Round-up #5

I’ve actually seen the first two films, Atonement and Gone Baby Gone more than a month ago, but academics and the student council elections took most of my time so I wasn’t able to blog about them. I saw Le Grand Chef, a Korean film, around a week ago.

Atonement Gone Baby Gone Le Grand Chef
Atonement (2007, UK, dir. Joe Wright) is a period film adapted from a celebrated novel in the UK about Briony and her recollection as a young 13 year-old dramatist, slightly jealous of her sister, who accuses her sister’s lover of a crime he didn’t commit. Her act, destroys not just the romance and breaks the heart of her elder sister and her lover, but their entire lives as well amidst the tragic backdrop of World War II. In a nutshell, for me it’s a nicely shot and narrated melodrama. Notable for me is the film’s musical score (as it of course won the Academy Awards’ Oscar for Original Score), and the use of the sound of the typewriter’s keys that pace up into beautiful musical pieces used in sequence transitions. The film also delivered an excellent recreation of wartime England and France and the English countryside as the movie’s settings.

Gone Baby Gone (2007, USA, dir. Ben Affleck) is also a film adaptation this time of an American novel. It’s a well-told crime drama about a private investigator’s passionate pursuit of a missing-child case in suburban Boston. It follows the standard flow of a crime investigation flick, with enough twists to keep it engaging for its entire duration without the usual action-packed exaggeration of other crime thrillers. The film felt largely honest and straightforward, with genuine performances from the lead actors. In the end, it also poignantly raises some moral and ethical questions about such things as parenting and family life that may interest some viewers into going through that sort of discourse after watching the movie.

Le Grand Chef (2007, South Korea, dir. Jeon Yun-su) is about two chefs, our protagonist and his rival, battling it out for the coveted Royal Chef blade and its title. Nothing pretty exceptional with the movie, but it’s entertaining nonetheless. The film is quite glossy and colorful, with the Korean countryside serving partly as the film’s setting and all and various colorful foods making their presence. Cooking films usually induce viewers’ appetites, but some scenes of cutting and cleaning live blowfish and butchering cows might not exactly induce the appetite of some people. Such cooking processes were quite enjoyable for me, though. The film’s melodramatic and romantic comedy angles were okay.

2008 Movie Round-up #4

It’s been some weeks since I last saw some films. I saw Bee Movie, interestingly at the Quezon City Hall. I was waiting patiently for my turn at the City Treasury’s Assessment Lounge where they were screening a pirated DVD screener of the film. It took me almost two hours of waiting, so I actually finished the entire film while on queue. The other two films, Eastern Promises and American Gangster, I watched at home. Again, don’t ask how. Hehe.

Bee Movie Eastern Promises American Gangster

Bee Movie (2007, USA, dir. Steve Hickner, Simon J. Smith) is a nice animated movie, not too tame or innocent like mainstream Disney or Pixar films nor was it too adult, like say The Simpsons. It was just the right kind of comedy a grade schooler or an adult would both likely enjoy. It pretty much satisfied and made my hour-and-a-half wait at the city hall quite light and less irritating. In a nutshell, the film is about a bee, fresh out of bee college, who sets out to discover the real world outside the hive, strives and pursues to change it, makes mistakes, and comes into a world of life lessons and realizations. The film can get a little educational too.

Eastern Promises (2007, Canada, USA, dir. David Cronenberg) is about a London midwife’s investigation of the story behind the childbirth death of an Eastern European teenage girl whose diary she eventually holds possession of. In the process, she gets herself involved in the dark, dangerous and criminal world of the Russian mafia in Britain. The movie has some great and gory throat-slashing scenes and other such graphic displays you’ll both cringe at and enjoy at the same time. It also has an excellent and convincing performance from Viggo Mortensen as a Russian mobster. Overall, it is insightfully dark, crime drama, that casually displays its revelations and its gore with depth but without much exaggeration.

American Gangster (2007, USA, dir. Ridley Scott) is about a New York’s top drug lord and organized-crime boss, Frank Lucas, and how he works his way to the top; and a detective, Richie Roberts, who tries to bring down Lucas’ drug empire. It’s based on the real life story of the 70’s New York drug kingpin of the same name. (Though, the real Frank Lucas allegedly claims that much of the movie is fabricated). The movie works on a great story which it stretches into a narrative that lasts almost two and half hours. Despite its length, the film is engaging and entertaining. Plus, Denzel Washington has a commanding performance in the film. He wasn’t your usual drug lord, but he made a strong presence on screen nonetheless.

2008 Movie Round-Up #3

For this movie-round-up, two are Hollywood movies, and the other a Chinese production. I watched all three at home this week. Don’t ask how.

The Kingdom Lust, Caution I Am Legend

The Kingdom (2007, USA, dir. Peter Berg). I don’t know if it’s just me, but this movie reeks of American arrogance. The American protagonists were quite a bunch of intolerant bullies. In “the kingdom,” (which was Saudi Arabia) they demanded that people adjust to them, not the other way around. They go around, trying to avenge their compatriots’ deaths disobeying protocols and do with little diplomacy. And they are portrayed as heroes with justified causes! It quite ticks me off, really. Production value, however, is excellent, from the gore, to the car chases, to the encounters, to the explosions. It also tries to redeem itself by portraying an Arab as a hero too–well yeah, after saving the lives of the Americans.

Lust, Caution (2007, Taiwan, dir. Ang lee). There was just too much hype about this film’s sex scenes. And true enough, you’d probably come to a point of wondering if they were really doing it. The lovemaking scenes can prove to be a distraction to some (to me, at first). It felt quite real but it didn’t feel pornographic at all. Such scenes proved to be a potent way of portraying the relationship between the protagonists, in an unspoken and in a beautifully choreographed way. In other words, one gets to know the characters better with their very intimate sex scenes. Before we forget though, the film was also rich, but not saturated, in historical and political tones. The film was set during wartime Shanghai and Hong Kong.

I Am Legend (2007, USA, dir. Francis Lawrence). This might seem to some as another one of those virus-destroys-mankind science fiction films. What’s remarkable in this film is that for the most part, Will Smith and his dog were the only characters on screen, and it was a strong, convincing performance (yes, even the dog’s). There was more visual investment in the setting rather than the gore some of us are used to seeing in this sub-genre. The depiction of a totally deserted New York City desolate and overgrown with foliage was highly credible. Still, however, it can prove to be quite your usual virus apocalyptic sci-fi movie in the end.

2008 Movie Round-Up #2

In this round-up, one is an Australian production, the other a classic Hollywood flick, and the last one a Filipino film. I saw December Boys at home, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit in media ethics class, and Desperadas, at the cinemas–all last, last week.

December Boys The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit Desperadas

December Boys (2007, Australia, dir. Rod Hardy) is about three orphaned boys who share the same birth month (hence, they were called the December Boys) who are sent to a small isolated seaside community for a vacation. Since they have no one else but each other, the boys share a strong sense of camaraderie and brotherhood. This, however, is put to the test when they encounter the dilemmas of pursuing their individual needs and desires. The film exhibited excellent performances from the young protagonists. The location of the small community, beautiful and isolated, felt highly appropriate to match the growing detachment among the boys in this coming-of-age film.

The Man in The Gray Flannel Suit (1956, USA, dir. Nunnally Johnson). I’ve always been fascinated at how intricate, mature and complex decades-old Hollywood films are. I guess it’s because, void of advanced filmmaking technologies we know today, films really had to rely on good performances, and strong character and plot development, and of course a rich story. In class, we actually spent more than an hour discussing and debating several points in the film. This one’s about a war-veteran turned advertising executive who struggles to keep up with the demands of his work and his family. It may sound simple enough, but the personal and ethical dilemmas that come in the way make it quite interesting. The film lasts for two and a half hours, however, so it can get quite exhausting.

Desperadas (2008, Philippines, dir. Joel Lamangan) is about four beautiful half-sisters, their personal lives and their relationship with each other. Everything in the film seems so contrived, and sometimes forced. It’s an adult comedy film, so there were a lot of adult jokes. I concede, it can get quite hilarious. You’ll probably enjoy it if you’re in it for a laugh, which I was. I’m surprised, though, that this won a gender sensitive award. All along I thought the movie portrayed men and women (and homosexuals) in pretty much typical traditional gender roles. Hm, the film did have a breast cancer awareness public service ad in the end. That was probably it.

2008 Movie Round-up #1

I sort of got this idea from Estanli Cabigas’ Rough Groove blog. I enjoy watching movies, and as much as I would like to write lengthily on what I think about each film I watch, I usually don’t have the time. So, I’ve decided that for every three films I see this year, I’ll do a round-up with short comments on what I liked or disliked about the film. This is also to keep track on what I see for the entire year.

Reign Over Me For Eternal Hearts Now and Forever

I saw all three of these at home, during the holidays, just before school started for the year. One is a Hollywood film, the two others are from South Korea.

Reign Over Me (2007, USA, dir. Mike Binder) is a film about friendship, grief and loss. Two old college roommates randomly get reunited after some years of lost contact. One of them, Charlie Fineman, suffers from severe depression and grief after losing his family in the World Trade Center attack in 2001, and the other one, Alan Johnson, is a successful dentist and a family man. Alan attempts to help his friend cope up with the tragic loss, which doesn’t necessarily do any good to his friend. Charlie pretends to have no memories of his life before 2001 and snaps whenever anything reminds him of his family, which Alan eventually does. The film can get highly sentimental, and interestingly, Adam Sandler really pulls it off well with a strong performance, along with co-star Don Cheadle.

For Eternal Hearts¬†(2007, South Korea, dir. Hwang Kyoo-Deok). This is horror film that pretends to be a romantic drama. Well, perhaps it is both. It rests on quite an interesting premise and idea of the supernatural–following your love to death, love that transcends a being’s physical nature and natural time, that sort of thing. (Actually, I think we’ve all seen it before in other Korean films like Il Mare and Ditto). The film can get quite creepy, actually. Too spooky for a feel-good romantic movie or tear-jerking drama. It could have worked better. I think the actors terribly lacked chemistry.

Now And Forever¬†(2007, South Korea, dir. Kim Seong Jung). This is your typical playboy-meet-damsel, damsel-changes-playboy romantic comedy, only in Korean. It’s pretty formulaic. The poster can be quite deceiving. Despite the image’s melodramatic feel the film is actually pretty light and funny. It has a minor, sentimental twist in the end, which may save the movie for some people, but still, I think it’s nothing you haven’t seen before. It’s okay as a pastime movie.