Review: X-Men Origins: Wolverine (3/5)

DIRECTOR: Gavin Hood (Tsotsi, Rendition)

STARRING: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston, Lynn Collins, Taylor Kitsch, Will.I.Am, Ryan Reynolds, Daniel Henney

THE GIST: As prequel to the X-Men trilogy, the film introduces us to the origins of Wolverine. Duh?

DAILY VARIETY SAYS: Noisy and impersonal, the film bears all the marks of a work for hire, conceived and executed with a big budget but little imagination.

I SAY: Not invincible to superhero movie clichés and some technical glitches, but is an ultra-cool film nonetheless.

Film critic mode off. Fan boy mode on. Here are 7 reasons why you should watch “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”:
7. You’ve already seen Jean Grey. Now, meet Logan’s first love who also happens to be a mutant.
6. Ever wondered how Professor Charles Xavier looks like when he was younger? Here’s your chance.
5. Trace the origin of the Adamantium claws from brittle and bony to skull piercing.
4. Ups the ante for sibling rivalry. Here’s a toast to Wolverine’s archrival, Sabertooth.
3. Meet other mutants: Blob, John Wraith, Agent Zero, Deadpool, Bolt, Kayla Silverfox, and a host of others, including a girl whose skin turns into diamonds.
2. Introducing Weapon XI – the genetically altered anti-hero who possesses Logan’s regenerative powers, Cyclop’s optic blasts, Deadpool's martial arts ability, and John Wraith's teleportation skill. He is dubbed as the ultimate mutant killer.
1. And the top reason why you should watch “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”. To see the COOLEST X-Men to finally grace the silverscreen – Gambit! (Sorry Wolvie. I know it’s your movie, but Gambit is waaaay cooler.)

Mendoza to Compete AGAIN in Cannes

Brillante Mendoza (Masahista, Foster Child) is back at the most prestigious film festival in the world, the Cannes Film Festival. His foray into bagging the festival’s top plum, the Palme d’Or, did not stop with last year’s “Serbis” amid the mixed reviews and intrigues that surrounded it. He is once again invited to participate in the Main Competition where he is joined by celebrated auteurs such as Lars Von Trier (Dancer in the Dark, Breaking the Waves, Dogville), Michael Haneke (Funny Games, Cache), Park Chan-Wook (Oldboy), Pedro Almodovar (Volver, All About My Mother), Johnnie To (Sparrow), Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill), and Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain). Now, that is some serious competition right there.

Just by the title alone of Mendoza’s new film, you will know that his penchant for graphic and gritty storytelling does not stop with highly sexual, rundown moviehouse film “Serbis”. His new film entitled “Kinatay (The Execution of P)” is about hitmen who dismember their victims. Sounds like a Haneke or Chan-Wook film to me. “Kinatay” stars Coco Martin, John Regala, Julio Diaz, Jhong Hilario, Lauren Novero, and Maria Isabel Lopez.

Aside from Mendoza, two other Filipino filmmakers will grace the coastal city of France, namely: Raya Martin (Now Showing, Autohystoria) and Adolfo Alix, Jr. (Adela, Donsol). Their collaborative work, “Manila”, is said to be a tribute to two of the country’s greatest directors: Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal. It’s a two-part movie divided into day and night starring Piolo Pascual (Yes, Piolo, I’m not kidding!).

Meanwhile, Martin’s solo effort entitled “Independencia” will be screened in the Un Certain Regard section, a parallel competition dedicated to “young talent, innovative, and audacious works”. This period film shot in stark black and white is topbilled by Sid Lucero, Alessandra de Rossi, and Tetchie Agbayani.

Also to watch out for is the opening film of the festival, Pixar’s “Up”. In addition, Heath Ledger’s final film (not “The Dark Knight”) will also make its premiere at Cannes. “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” also stars Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, and Jude Law. Other notable filmmakers who will be in exhibition include Cristian Mungiu (4 Weeks, 3 Days, and 2 Days), Sam Raimi (Spider Man), and Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Science of Sleep).

Here’s the complete line-up of the 2009 Cannes Film Festival:

OPENING FILM: Up, dir. Pete Docter and Bob Peterson, US

CLOSING FILM: Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky, dir. Jan Kounen, France

Bright Star, dir. Jane Campion, Australia-UK-France
Spring Fever, dir. Lou Ye, China-France
Antichrist, dir. Lars Von Trier, Denmark-Sweden-France-Italy
Enter the Void, dir. Gaspar Noe, France
Face, dir. Tsai Ming-liang, France-Taiwan-Netherlands-Belgium
Les herbes folles, dir. Alain Resnais, France-Italy
In the Beginning, dir. Xavier Giannoli, France
A Prophet, dir. Jacques Audiard, France
The White Ribbon, dir. Michael Haneke, Germany-Austria-France
Vengeance, dir. Johnnie To, Hong Kong-France-US
The Time That Remains, dir. Elia Suleiman, Israel-France-Belgium-Italy
Vincere, dir. Marco Bellocchio, Italy-France
Kinatay, dir. Brillante Mendoza, Philippines
Thirst, dir. Park Chan-wook, South Korea-US
Broken Embraces, dir.Pedro Almodovar, Spain
Map of the Sounds of Tokyo, dir. Isabel Coixet, Spain
Fish Tank, dir. Andrea Arnold, UK-Netherlands
Looking for Eric, dir. Ken Loach, UK-France-Belgium-Italy
Inglourious Basterds, dir. Quentin Tarantino, US
Taking Woodstock, dir. Ang Lee, US

Samson & Delilah, dir. Warwick Thornton, Australia
Adrift, dir. Heitor Dhalia, Brazil
The Wind Journeys, dir. Ciro Guerra, Colombia
Demain des l'aube, dir. Denis Dercourt, France
Irene, dir. Alain Cavalier, France
Independancia, Raya Martin, Philippines-France-Germany
Le Pere de mes enfants, dir. Mia Hansen-Love, France-Germany
Dogtooth, dir. Yorgos Lanthimos, Greece
Nobody Knows About the Persian Cats, dir. Bahman Ghobadi, Iran
Eyes Wide Open, dir. Haim Tabakman, Israel
Mother, dir. Bong Joon-ho, South Korea
The Silent Army, dir. Jean van de Velde, Netherlands
To Die Like a Man, dir. Joao Pedro Rodrigues, Portugal
Police, Adjective, dir. Corneliu Porumboiu, Romania
Tales from the Golden Age, dir. Hanno Hofer, Razvan Marculescu, Cristian Mungiu, Constantin Popescu, Ioana Uricaru, Romania
Tale in the Darkness, dir. Nikolay Khomeriki, Russia
Tzar, dir. Pavel Lounguine, Russia-France
Nymph, dir. Pen-ek Ratanaruang, Thailand

Petition, dir. Zhao Liang, China
L'epine dans le Coeur, dir. Michel Gondry, France
Min ye, dir. Souleyumane Cisse, France-Mali
Jaffa, dir. Keren Yedaya, Israel-France-Germany
Manila, dir. Adolfo Alix Jr., Raya Martin, Philippines
My Neighbor, My Killer, dir. Anne Aghion, US

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, dir. Terry Gilliam, Canada-France
The Army of Crime, dir. Robert Guediguian, France
Agora, dir. Alejandro Amenabar, Spain

A Town Called Panic, dir. Stephane Aubier, Vincent Patar, Belgium
Ne te retourne pas, dir. Marina de Van, France-Belgium-Luxembourg-Italy
Drag Me to Hell, dir. Sam Raimi, US

Review: Fast & Furious (1/5)

DIRECTOR: Justin Lin (The Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift)

TAGLINE: New model. Original parts.

THE GIST: Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) wants to avenge the death of his girlfriend (Michelle Rodriguez). Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) is out to arrest a notorious heroin dealer. These nemesis rivals need to go back to LA’s underground street racing circuit to fulfill their mission.

DAILY TELEGRAPH SAYS: Early, pre-credit scenes are so meticulously choreographed and expertly edited that you just cannot wait for the real film to begin. However, minutes later, you can't help wishing the thing would just hurry up and finish.

I SAY: Like a car crashing against an 18-wheeler truck, Fast & Furious either spirals out of control and gets thrown away from the highway or gets crushed in the collision.

Review: Pasang Krus (1/5)

Although independent filmmaking is said to provide cutting edge and modern cinema for Filipinos, filmmakers are still caught up in a hangover infinitum caused by the classics. Most of the times, they can’t help themselves but genuflect to the past by borrowing clichéd and overused elements from old school movies. And although we already have a handful of these dramas, especially those about the poor and their travails in life, some directors just don’t know when to quit.

To label “Pasang Krus” as a tearjerker is a disgrace to the term. The film is just grossly sentimental and overly dramatic. Here, director Buboy Tan (Ataul for Rent) tries to hit two birds with one stone by portraying the struggles of a misery-magnet mother and using the crucifixion of Christ as a metaphor for her sacrifices in the name of her family. It’s a Mother’s Day and Lenten Season film rolled into one, but is effective as neither.

At the centerpiece of this drama is Herminia (Rosanna Roces), the mother of five who ran away from the wrath of the provincial congressman who wants to banish her family out of greed. However, the congressman’s minions killed her husband while two of her children got lost in the escape. Fifteen years forward, she is trying to make ends meet for her three children – Jess (Ketchup Eusebio), a snatcher who gets involved in a kidnapping incident; Marco (Christian Burke), in jail for murdering his wife; and Lucas (Beejay Morales), the youngest troublemaker in the brood.

Herminia swims in a cesspool of gloom and despair as unfortunate incidents strike her endlessly. And that’s the major problem of the film. It feels too unreal. How can a mother who is morally grounded and selfless be this unlucky? Blame it to the fickleness of fate, or should I say, the whimsy pen of the screenwriter who seems to takes pleasure from seeing Herminia suffer. But no matter what the characters go through, it’s difficult to empathize with them. The characters are wooden and lack depth. Likewise, the portrayal of the poor is governed by stereotypes and self-indulgence. It constantly makes up excuses for the crimes committed by the poor by portraying them as helpless and unable to break free from the clutches of poverty. Making it appear that happenstance, not human will, is the be-all and end-all of all incidents in life.

Towards the end of the film, the filmmaker finally decides to put an end to the woes of her heroine by detouring from Depression Lane to a shortcut leading to a happy ending. Abel (Joross Gamboa), the long lost eldest son of Herminia suddenly (and I mean suddenly) comes into the picture to save his family from being submerged in a muck of hopelessness by seemingly providing the ultimate solution to end all their problems. It’s like being miraculously saved by artificial luck or more aptly, by the machinations on fate. It’s a miracle too remote to be believable and a kind of resolution the characters did not earn at all.

“Pasang Krus” offers nothing but a rehash of melodramas about the poor. With scenes of nonstop moping and crying, this could very well retire daytime soaps. And that is not a compliment.

Review: Dragonball Evolution (1/5)

One hour ago, I was inside Glorietta 4 Cinema 3 attending the premiere of “Dragonball Evolution”. As I walk out of the movie house, it felt as if my childhood is flushed down the drain. “Dragon Ball” (spelled as two words in the original Japanese series, take note of that Hollywood) is not just a hit TV series or a best-selling comic book. It’s a phenomenon. It’s my childhood. Days spent anticipating each episode. Daily allowances put aside to save money to buy action figures and other memorabilia. Moments spent playing Goku and beating the hell out of younger brother as if he is Cell. And now, this movie adaptation comes along to besmirch my fond memories of my favorite anime ever. OK, I’m starting to sound like an abused kid. Inhale. Exhale.

When buzz about “Dragon Ball” being considered to be given a red carpet treatment by Hollywood execs started to circulate in the grapevine, it felt surreal. Shit man, we are talking about the pioneer of anime craze in Asia. While others were skeptical, I was excited. I never paid attention to criticisms that Hollywood will make a mess out of it as it had done in a number of remakes. But as ‘leaks’ regarding the storyline, the characters, and the dudes who will be a part of the cast were revealed, my excitement slowly turned into worry.

“Dragon Ball” in the hands of Hollywood didn’t feel right. They were doing it all wrong. Master Roshi’s hair is gray and he’s wearing a pseudo-turtle shell backpack in the anime. Where is Goku’s tail and youth? He is not a teenager attending high school with the normal brats. Goku is a kid and he is quite barbaric, so to speak. And his hair is not spiky enough! So as the day of the film’s release came closer, I was sure the movie is gonna suck.

But as everyone else who were fans of the series, there was no denying that there was still this smidgen of hope that the movie will live up to the name of the source material. At the least, there was this curiosity on how Hollywood will turn this legendary tale into a live-action film.

Before, I thought those Harry Potter fanatics were nuts for not getting tired of posting derogatory comments on forums saying over and over again that the movie failed to give justice to JK Rowling’s novel. If that was the case, then why don’t they just skip the film? Now, I understand them. So before this review turns into a reflection paper of sorts about my childhood, here are some random critiques of the film:

1. Since they’ve already Americanized the story, I don’t see the point of casting a bunch of Asian actors. I especially hated that dumbass who played Yamcha. Is he Korean? God! I knew it!

2. Following the lead of films like “Babel” and “Crash”. “Dragonball Evoution” tried to have as much diversity in the cast as possible – there’s a black guy, Americans, and Asians who may probably be Chinese, Singaporean, Malaysian, and Korean. All for the glory of racial chopsuey. No problem with that per se, but in this film, it felt odd. The setting is in US (which looks like a deserted Mexico) for crying out loud. And since when did blacks start saying ‘namaste’ while dressed as Buddhist monks? WTF!

3. This is not the “Dragon Ball” we all fell in love with. They ripped off the concept of the seven dragon balls that when gathered together can summon a powerful dragon to grant one wish. They imitated the characters’ names and some of their traits. But the Goku that we know is not the Goku we’re seeing here, neither is Bulma nor Chi Chi.

4. They borrowed random bits and pieces of the anime and slapped it all together in a confusing, incoherent mélange and then called it a movie.

5. The effects were bad. The production design is subpar. The acting is sloppy. Plenty of scenes were unintentionally funny. There were cringe-worthy moments. The cheesiness level is set at a maximum. The scriptwriter must have been watching too much “High School Musical”. And I almost farted due to over-flatulence.

6. And don’t ever, ever forget the numerous plotholes. So many, I lost count. These characters’ actions are not governed by any form of logic and reason. They just do what the story calls for. Once again, sacrificing logic for convenience.

Towards the end of the film when Goku was about to unleash his signature technique, the ‘kame-hame-ha’, I was shaken by a gust of nostalgia. When I was a kid, I always know Goku will win the battle after his ‘kame-hame-ha’ hits his opponent. This time around, nobody won. I really hoped they have never attempted to touch this franchise so that my childhood memories of “Dragon Ball” were left untarnished. Too late, the damage has been done. I’ll sue these motherfuckers!


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