Saturday, May 31, 2008

SATC: the ultimate chic(k) flick

I curse the day the MTRCB was born!

If you've seen the Sex and the City movie in a local cinema, then you get what I mean. Numerous scenes presumably showing sex and nudity were rudely and roughly cut, diluting the audience's viewing pleasure and the essence of SATC. The prudes at the MTRCB should have just given the movie an R-18 rating and let it run uncut, but no-ooo, they gave it a R-13 rating for better box office returns, the greedy bastards. This is precisely one of the reasons I whole-heartedly support the sale and purchase of pirated DVDs.

Despite the exasperating expurgations, SATC holds up as a thoroughly entertaining movie. Fans of the now-defunct HBO series will surely be pleased with this cinematic swan song for the 4 fab femmes of NYC. Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha are each given due attention with their individual storylines: Carrie and Mr. Big plan their wedding; Miranda and Steve encounter marital problems; Charlotte and Harry discover they're having a baby; and Samantha adjusts to life in Hollywood with Smith. Of course Carrie's still the star of the show, but more than just centering on her, the movie focuses on the friendship of the 4 and how it is the true constant in their lives, even throughout all the changes in their love/sex lives, addresses, or wardrobes.

And speaking of wardrobes, how can a review of SATC be complete without mentioning the fashion? SATC stylist Patricia Field's ensembles fill the big screen with color, sparkle, and labels galore. The movie is a veritable visual sartorial smorgasbord;
Carrie and company are decked out in the most divine outfits and shoes, and toting the most heavenly handbags. Sighs of appreciation and envy were audible inside the predominantly female-filled theater.

The accoutrements alone are reason enough to watch SATC, but there's more to it than LV clutches and Manolo stilettos. The soundtrack is outstanding yet unobtrusive, infusing the movie with a fun vibe without overpowering what's happening onscreen. The plot is nothing that we haven't seen in other rom-coms, but it's made fresh, paradoxically, because of the history of the 4 lead characters, not only with one another, but with the audience. The acting is, surprisingly, commendable as well. Usually actors from popular TV shows don't perform very well in movies (e.g. the cast of Friends), but Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis and Kim Cattrall acquit themselves well. Davis in particular exceeded my expectations with her comic timing, and in one memorable and moving scene, her ability to convey the fierce protectiveness only a loyal girl-friend can provide.

SATC fans are also rewarded with the appearance of certain sentimental elements, like the pink tank top and tutu Carrie wears in the opening credits of the TV show, gay sidekicks Anthony and Stanford, Magda the motherly Ukranian housekeeper, Steve's dog (although Miranda's cat was conspicuously absent), and the Burberry earmuffs Charlotte wears when jogging in cold weather.

MTRCB aside, my only gripes about SATC are that they underused Harry (lovable, bald, sweaty Harry), and they didn't showcase New York as much as they did in the TV series. SJP once said in an interview that New York is the 5th lady in SATC, but I didn't get that impression as much from the movie. Judging from the number of blasted cuts, the City seemed to take a back seat to Sex this time. Hell, Vivienne Westwood got more mileage than the Big Apple.

But I don't want to nitpick, because I loved, loved, loved the movie. For maximum enjoyment, I highly recommend watching it with girl-friends (I watched with 2 of mine, Ria and Jehan, who also both loved, loved, loved it). Ostensibly, SATC is about sex, love, fashion and cocktail parties, but at its core it's about friendship, the kind that should be celebrated with more than one round of Cosmopolitans.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Maybe it's time to hang up the hat and whip for good

Indy's back, and he may be significantly older, but he's still the same whip-cracking, wise-cracking archaeologist-slash-adventurer from the beloved 80s trilogy. Harrison Ford, surprisingly showing signs of having aged gracefully since The Last Crusade, returns for a 4th outing as Indiana Jones, and this time he's in search of the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. With him is Shia LaBeouf (LOVE him), who plays his greaser sidekick Mutt to slick perfection, and the terrific chemistry between them is what rescues Indy 4 from being an outright disappointment. Blame it on lame plot points, or sloppy writing, or careless direction, or Cate Blanchett's erratic Russian accent, but this much-anticipated movie lacked the magic of its 3 predecessors. Because Indy 4 was a pet project of power pair George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, one can't help but have high expectations for it, fan of the original movies or not. Sadly, my expectations were not met.

Sure, there were moments of gold which evoked the trilogy's charm: the old Paramount Studios logo at the beginning of the opening credits; a photo of Sean Connery on Indy's desk (although a cameo from Henry Jones, Sr. would have been much better); the line "I have a bad feeling about this" slyly inserted in the script; a cool car-motorcycle chase sequence through Princeton; the reappearance of
Marian Ravenwood, Indy's spunky love interest from Raiders of the Lost Ark; a swarm of monster red ants; and my personal favorite scene that had the ophidiophobic Indy sinking in quicksand and refusing to grab on to the only available lifeline (can't explain without spoiling it). But the golden moments were just not enough to compensate for the bizarre sci-fi twist the storyline took, or the weak Cold War premise (the Soviet baddies, including Blanchett's merely mildly menacing Irina Spalko, were more James Bond than Indiana Jones).

So far Iron Man has been THE movie of the summer for me, and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull didn't quite measure up. That being said, Indy is still Indy, and it's hard not to love him, wrinkles, gray hair, jowls, flimsy outrageous plot and all.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Since I got back from Europe...

...these are the things I have managed to do:
  • meet up with my friends and distribute pasalubongs
  • watch Iron Man, Speed Racer, and Indiana Jones 4
  • win the final bet my parents and I placed on the American Idol finale
  • finish reading The Plot Against America
  • upload our photos from Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm
  • help oversee the opening of 2 new boutiques in Cebu (Elianto and our newest brand, Cambio)
...and these are the things I haven't done:
  • write a review of Indiana Jones 4
  • finish watching Season 1 of Brothers and Sisters
  • finish reading another book (currently reading Joshua Ferris' Then We Came to the End)
  • upload our photos from Helsinki, Saint Petersburg, Moscow and Paris
  • hold a TRAK meet (paging Rach and Shobs!)
  • post more than 5 blog entries (including this one)
...but these are the things I will definitely be doing soon:
  • write a review of Indiana Jones 4
  • watch the Sex and the City movie (and maybe write a review thereof)
  • finish Season 1 of Brothers and Sisters (and maybe write a review thereof)
  • finish uploading our photos
  • go to Guangzhou and Shanghai on another business trip
  • get my blog posting count back up to more than 10 a month

Monday, May 19, 2008

Fast, furious, and funfunfun

I wish I had watched Speed Racer in IMAX, because I’m sure it would have been a wild trip, what with the lightning-fast race sequences, the psychedelic sets and costumes, the cartoony visuals, and the mile-a-minute special effects. Everything had an unself-consciously kitschy feel to it, and rightly so, because as anyone who has watched the animated series would tell you, Speed Racer just wouldn’t be Speed Racer without the campiness.

The film adaptation is truly the TV cartoon come to life, and then some. In addition to the funky art direction, the casting was brilliant, from Emile Hirsch as Speed to John Goodman as Pops to Christina Ricci as Trixie to Matthew Fox as Racer X, all the way down to ChimChim the chimpanzee. Korean star Rain (and his barely comprehensible English) was the only letdown, but I’ll let that one slide since he only had a supporting role. All the main characters were spot on, and played to perfection. Special kudos go to Emile Hirsch in particular, for pulling off the signature Speed Racer pose without looking the least bit gay (that was my favorite bit in the entire movie). And mercifully, even the kid who played Speed’s younger brother Spritle wasn’t annoying in his kakulitan. He was actually pretty funny.

Of course the plot had more depth than a storyline from a children’s cartoon, but it’s not nosebleed material either: young racecar driving phenom Speed Racer (yes, that’s his name) deals with family issues, evil corporations, Inspector Detector, and ruthless competitors trying to run him off the racetrack. But I liked that about the movie, that despite the theme of courage and integrity in the face of corporate greed and corruption, and the hackneyed message of pursuing one’s passion, and several surprisingly moving family moments, Speed Racer didn’t take itself so seriously. With the Wachowski brothers directing, I think audiences expected something along the lines of the mind-bending Matrix trilogy, but understandably, they handled Speed Racer with a lighter touch, prioritizing style over substance, which is not a bad thing at all in this case. Their treatment not only created the perfect blend of retro flavor and futuristic vibe, it made what was a very corny 60s cartoon, simply put, very cool (or as Trixie would put it, "cool beans!")

It’s a pity Speed Racer was released around the same time as Iron Man, so it got overshadowed by Tony Stark and company. While Iron Man is clearly the superior film, Speed Racer holds its own in terms of entertainment value, and it even managed to get me a bit choked up more than once (hey, what can I say, I’m a big sap). It’s definitely worth watching, especially for those who remember the cartoon, and I actually wouldn’t mind seeing it again… in IMAX, this time around.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Because I've been too busy uploading vacation photos...

...and because I've been too lazy to come up with a decent blog entry, I'm going to rely on pictures to tell you what has been on my mind the past week:



Both contests are too close to call, and I've got money riding on each. Let me know what you guys think while I try to finish editing, posting, captioning and reordering my Europe pix.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Stark raving mad about Iron Man

When I first learned that Robert Downey Jr. had been cast in the lead role of the Iron Man movie, I was a bit skeptical. Granted, I know little of the Iron Man character save for what I remember from watching reruns of the 60s cartoon, but I just never regarded Robert Downey Jr. as superhero material. However, I warmed to the idea of him as Iron Man when I saw the promotional photos for the movie, because the Tony Stark moustache looked pretty good on him.

Then I watched the movie and I was blown away.
Sure, I knew he had the acting chops to pull off the billionaire playboy swagger, but I had never seen him this HOT. And not just hot in an all-buffed-up, dressed-in-designer-suits, working-the-wifebeater kind of hot, but hot in an intense-man-on-a-mission kind of hot. RDJ took Tony Stark from reckless lothario to serious hero in a thoroughly believable way, and mercifully without too much melodrama (let's reserve the angst for Batman). Indeed, he was so credible that it was even easy to swallow his astounding rocket-scientist brilliance (he built his Iron Man armor from scratch in an Afghanistan cave!). Moreover, RDJ's Stark was disarmingly witty, yet he didn't come off as an annoying loud-mouthed wiseass (see: Chris Evans' Human Torch in the Fantastic 4 films).

It also came as a pleasant surprise that RDJ had such great on-screen chemistry with Gwyneth Paltrow, who played the unfortunately named Pepper Potts, Stark's efficient secretary (although the politically correct term now is "assistant"). The sexual tension and playful banter between the 2 characters were terrific, certainly the best I've seen in superhero movies from recent memory, which have tended to feature agonizingly awkward pairings (see: Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst in Spiderman 3).

Aside from RDJ's awesome performance, the special effects made Iron Man more than worth the price of admission. Not since Transformers have I seen such polished, eye-popping CGI work (it really is criminal Transformers didn't win the Oscar for Best Visual Effects... but I digress). And like Transformers, Iron Man gave me the kind of giddy thrill that evokes the wide-eyed amazement of childhood, which helped bring on the willing suspension of disbelief that let me overlook some of the more absurd plot points. And I can even forgive the miscasting of a pipsqueak like Terrence Howard as Stark's buddy Lt. Col. Jim Rhodes (c'mon, what self-respecting military man can take orders from someone who sounds like he's inhaled helium?).

As far as superhero movies go, Iron Man rocks. Just as Chris Nolan's Batman Begins breathed new life into the stale DC franchise, Jon Favreau's Iron Man is going to be Marvel's saving grace and make audiences forget bombs like Hulk, Ghost Rider and The Punisher. Even the obligatory corny Stan Lee cameo wasn't so painful this time around.

Tip: Be sure to stay and wait until the end credits finish rolling, because there's a snippet afterwards which serves as a teaser for Iron Man 2. But even without the teaser (and as far as teasers go this one is, ahem, motherf***ing cool), after watching Iron Man, I'm psyched there's going to be a sequel.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

What I learned during another 2 weeks in Europe

  • Lufthansa kicks Cathay Pacific's ass.
  • Scandinavian countries still use their own currencies.
  • Scandinavians are generally good-looking. Their babies and children are especially adorable. =D
  • The Danes really know how to make the yummiest pastries. I'll never regard a danish the same way again.
  • The Little Mermaid is... little.
  • Denmark's biggest hero is a fairy tale writer.
  • Scandinavians speak excellent, almost accent-free, English.
  • Scandinavians like the sun. A lot.
  • Don't believe everything the weather forecasts tell you.
  • Good cheese is really, really good.
  • A McDonalds burger in Norway will set you back about P400. That doesn't include fries and a drink.
  • A Pinoy waiter working in Oslo earns about 3 times more than I do in a month.
  • Edvard Munch's painting The Scream is in the National Gallery of Norway. It's much more evocative than the Mona Lisa.
  • Vikings never wore helmets with horns. Surprise, surprise.
  • Yogurt can be addictive.
  • H&M is surprisingly hard to find in Stockholm.
  • Souvenir stores in Sweden don't sell Freddie Ljungberg jerseys. Boo.
  • Finland is not part of Scandinavia, and it has the 3rd highest crime rate in the world. Maybe there really is something to be said about monarchies.
  • Finns drink like beer is going out of style (someone told me 50% of their crimes are alcohol-related).
  • Washing carpets in lakes is a form of "celebration" in Helsinki. They have got to get a life. Or more kegs of beer.
  • Digicam batteries run out faster in cold weather.
  • Russia is white China. It's rigid like China, it's dusty like China, it even smells like China.
  • Russians don't smile. And a lot of them don't bathe either.
  • Swan Lake can give you LSS.
  • Somewhere in China is a very rich guy who owns a factory producing matryoshkas (Russian stacking dolls) and knockoff Faberge eggs.
  • Relative to Russians, the French are a very friendly lot.
  • Paris smells like a delightful combination of crepes, perfume and raw sewage.
  • "Louis Vuitton" is pronounced with a silent S and a silent N, "Lancel" is pronounced "lawn-CEL", and "Louvre" is pronounced with the R, in the throat.
  • French palaces are not as flashy as Russian palaces. And my mom was right, Versailles is overrated, but still worth waiting 2 and half hours in line for.
  • 15 people can fit under 4 umbrellas.
  • The Mona Lisa is disappointingly small, but the Louvre is mind-bogglingly (and feet-achingly) huge.
  • The Louvre pyramid is not ugly.
  • Charles De Gaulle is ugly (the airport, not the founder of the French Republic).
  • All Chinese restaurants in Europe serve oranges for dessert. Except for this one place in Russia that served us sliced bananas.
  • No matter what I do, I will always have a siopao face. Especially when I'm wearing turtlenecks.
[click for pix]