Thursday, April 30, 2015

Avengers Assemble!

In comics, the crossover event is the once-every-few years thing that puts many comic book characters across multiple series into one big sprawling saga, one that usually changes the story arcs of the individual comic series for many years to come. It takes the already spectacular stories of comics and inflates them tenfold as characters that do not normally interact get to flex their muscles alongside one another, both literally and figuratively.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is an ambitious effort to show several films featuring characters from the shared universe and establish continuity among all the movies. Actions in one movie have their repercussions felt in other movies. It's basically comic on film, and for Disney and Marvel Studios, it's proven to be a multi-billion dollar gamble that for the most part is paying off. For the MCU, their big crossover event is the Avengers. The first one, released in 2012, was a fun epic flick that bridged together several storylines and served as the origin story of a team of superheroes. It was, for all intents and purposes, the big-budget comic book blockbuster done right.

Following the traditional hero's journey type of storytelling, the second installment in the Avengers series, Avengers: Age of Ultron sees earth's mightiest superheroes in a period of transition: now that the team has been formed, it's time or the team to face their biggest challenge yet. In this case, it's Ultron, an artificial lifeform that has been a giant thorn on the Avengers side for ages in the comics. In the comics, Ultron has been so successful at times that he has managed to completely wipe out the team on a few occasions (most notably, the comics event Age of Ultron, whose storyline has no resemblance to the movie).

In this film, each member of the Avengers team reaches a crossroads regarding their role as superheroes and as members of the Avengers.Tony Stark tries to balance his good intentions, whose consequences may do more harm than good. Scarlet Witch and Hulk try to sort out their relationship (if this is even possible at this time) and face their own pasts. Hawkeye begins to look back at the things he's beginning to leave behind and see if it's all worth it. Thor faces a vision of annihilation and sees the responsibility he will bear in the battles to come. And finally, good old Captain America, fresh from his stint in the Winter Soldier arc, has his own issues and a conflict of ideologies with some of his other teammates (conflicts that may bear fruit in the next Captain America installment.)

Some members will stay and be changed, and some will inevitably leave. As much as this movie is about the Avengers finding their place as a team, it is also how these individual superheroes find themselves in the greater picture.

The  movie does its part to establish continuity. It references past events from the past installments of the franchise, as well as make hits about future installments of the franchise. There are also some subtle nods, such as the reference to Wakanda and how Captain America managed to budge Mjolnir.  Also, while the storyline of Age of Ultron is original, some of the characters have different stories from the comics. The identity of Ultron's creator, for example, is changed in this movie, quite understandably because his original comics creator, (Ant-Man) hasn't appeared in the MCU (yet.) Also, the lack of any reference to mutants and the different treatment for the characters of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are obvious thanks to intellectual property ownership issues with Fox, but the treatment is not necessarily worse off.

Movies like this are dependent on their ensemble casts, and the ensemble cast delivers. Robert Downey Jr. and the MCU are lucky to have each other; the latter probably more lucky as Tony Stark delivers quite possibly the best lines in the film series. The rest of the cast is also excellent, including the newcomers. Jeremy Renner really sold Hawkeye and made the character far more interesting than what I expected.
Joss Whedon has done a good job in handling the rather small scale character interactions in the film, but at the same time he has a great eye in creating spectacle. Two particular scenes stand out as a prime example of how well he interprets the comic book action in a visual sense - a scene where our heroes fight in the snow and another near the end as the Avengers help defend something inside an old building.

It's two and a half hours of well paced blockbuster fun. It's recommended that you see the rest of the recent MCU films prior to this one (at the very least the first Avengers, Iron Man 3 and Winter Soldier) but this is not mandatory to enjoy the film. As this is Whedon's last stint in directing for the MCU, here's hoping the last installment of the Avengers franchise, which ties up all of the buildup established within the past five or so years into one, final, giant spectacle, is the big, bombastic event we all hope it will be.

Also, here's hoping for Spidey and the X-Men to join at some point. Cinematic AvX, anyone?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Manny "Pac-Man" Pacquiao Film Retrospective Part 2

Let's put this out there before I begin. Manny Pacquiao is probably one of the greatest boxers in the sport, but he is no actor. He probably has as much emotional range in his acting and line delivery as a knocked out sparring partner. Unfortunately you'd have to tell him that because he's been acting in movies and television since 2000. I personally wish he'd stick to the boxing, but it's his life, and he can honestly do whatever he wants.

While Pacquiao has acted in supporting roles and cameos since 2000, his first movie as a lead actor is 2005's Lisensyadong Kamao (Licensed Fist.) Here he plays Ambrosio, a.k.a. Bruce, a boxer who has been on the ropes ever since he accidentally killed someone during a fight. After he showcases some of his natural boxing skills, he is recruited by his policeman friend to become a boxer again and introduces him to his trainer Fernan Balani (Eddie Garcia.)

The opening scene of the film has an underground fighting  ring in it, semi-headed by our villainess, former FHM cutie Juliana Palermo. This led me to believe that our hero Bruce will get involved in it in some way, but that's not the case; all his fights in the film are legit.

This film would have been pretty run of the mill, had it been released in, say, 1992. But in 2005 this film looks horribly dated and cliched. The premise is paper-thin, and the movie looks like it was done on a shoestring budget, which makes the number of respectable actors in this film quite surprising.

By the latter half of the movie we are introduced to quite possibly the weirdest boxing opponent the Pacman will ever face - a man by the name of Rocky Stonewall, who apparently hails from Las Vegas and is full of puns and one liners about how he'll put Bruce to sleep. With one look at the guy you know that he is some Filipino dude who happened to be part black who probably wandered into the set or something. His cohorts are the same, and since they couldn't get a Mexican-American either, they had to... emphasize some things regarding their obviously Filipino looking "actor":

One rigged match, a kidnapping and rescue attempt/shootout later (which includes Pacquiao kicking mooks in his boxing getup) we have a relatively happy ending. The movie is shallow as hell and best watched drunk... or not at all.

This movie didn't stop the Pacman in his cinematic journey - two of his next forays into film were featured in the documentary Manny - and in one of the scenes featured, the ending was basically given away. Thank goodness it did, so you don't have to watch it anymore.

This particular movie is of course, the 2008 film Anak ng Kumander, shown during the Metro Manila Film Festival of that year. In this one Pacquiao is Kumander Edel, the son of a slain rebel commander in Basilan. After the death of his mother, he decides to form a rebel group of his own, dispensing his own brutal form of justice. For example, in one scene, Edel executes a person who stole a carabao by hanging him  using a carabao as a counterweight. Of course the (corrupt) government will not have any of this and puts a 10 million peso reward on our rebel commander.

The film is a complete bore to watch. At no point do we ever sympathize with Pacquiao and his cause, and the manner with which he causes some of the deaths actually make us lose sympathy with the man. The action sequences are no help either, as they mostly consist of a couple of boring shots of people shooting at each other and getting hit, ad nauseam. There are no dynamic shots, and the music and editing is pretty much nonexistent. There are some weird moments, like when a rape victim is apparently buried in the clothes she was raped in.

The actors are hammy to the point of cartoonishness, except for our lead character, who has the acting proficiency of a piece of floating styrofoam. The film is made by the same person as the 2006 film Apoy sa Dibdib ng Samar, infamous for the legendary "Saging lang ang may puso!!" line, but alas such unintentional hilariousness could not be found in this film.

By the time the end happens and everyone dies, you get some crap message about how Edel's actions will resonate among the youth. What actions? Rampant vigilantism? Killing government soldiers instead of, you know, coordinating with the non-corrupt ones to stop the corruption? For a family outing like the MMFF, this movie with all its death and rape sticks out like a ballerina in a boxing ring, which makes its utter failure in the box office understandable.

You are better off watching your own shit in the toilet than viewing this turd. Use any available VCDs of the film as coasters or makeshift frisbees for added enjoyment.

Also featured in Manny are clips from his superhero movie. After the failure of Anak ng Kumander in the previous year's MMFF, Pacquiao and company decided to make a film marketed to children instead. What better movie than a superhero movie?  In Manny, Hollywood star Jeremy Piven called it horrible. I'm not sure whether Mr. Piven has actually seen the movie or not, but he's right. Wapakman is a stupid film. However, it manages to be so bad and hokey, it's the most watchable (and dare I say entertaining) of Pacquiao's adventures in acting.

In the first ten minutes there are robot maids, little people with diarrhea, and crazy evil mad scientists. Enter our hero, Magno Meneses (Pacquiao), a septic tank technician who manages to save the day. Thanks to a number of fateful occurrences he is given special powers and he becomes the superhero Wapakman.  If you weren't bothered by the cheesy spacial effects and acting and are intrigued at this point, then this is probably the movie for you.

Wapakman takes far too long to establish its characters that, by the time we get to the meat of the movie, we are left with a number of tepid action sequences that last a little over twenty minutes. The rest of the running time is filled with crass humor and unfunny situations. To its credit, however, the movie doesn't take itself that seriously.

SHH! I'm downloading some vewwy, vewwy secret files.
You won't hear Pauline Kael talk about this movie's depiction of single parenthood in contemporary Philippine society any time soon. Instead, you get a number of silly fight sequences. Whenever you hear a boxing fan talk about how Pacquiao was leading in the scorecards during his fourth fight with Juan Miguel Marquez, you can bust out lines like "yeah, but do you remember the time when Manny Pacquiao fought a Giant Enemy Crab (tm) for MASSIVE DAMAGE?"

We've been told the crab is Mexican.
When Wapakman wraps up, there isn't really any resolution to the story, because Wapakman doesn't seem to have any coherent story arcs. Magno Meneses has no motivation for being a superhero, nor is anything particularly at stake most of the time in the film, as if the story was written by a bunch of six year olds.

The visual effects are passable for a film made in the mid 2000s. The film was helmed by Topel Lee. I remember reviewing one of his movies way back in the first year of this blog, and I've heard he has a penchant for effects heavy fantasy or horror movies.. I'm left wondering what the hell happened to this movie.

Predictably, while a lot of people consider Pacquiao to be a real life national hero, no one bought into the idea of Pacquiao as a fictional hero, and the movie bombed bigtime at the box office. The failure of this movie sealed Pacquiao's career as an actor in the movies. He would have occasional stints on TV, but as far as movies went Wapakman was the knockout punch.

That's the end of this short retrospective on the Pac-man's movies. The May 2 fight against Mayweather is sure to be an exciting fight, and I wish both fighters the best of luck.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Manny "Pac-Man" Pacquiao Film Retrospective Part 1

In just a few weeks Manny "Pac-Man' Pacquiao will fight what is perhaps the greatest fight of his entire career: Floyd Mayweather, the undefeated boxer often touted as the best pound for pound boxer in the world. The jury is out on who will win, and I have my own bets on who will take the cake.

The Pac-man is probably as close to a modern national icon as we are going to get. With a rags to riches story borne from pure hard work and determination, he has transformed from a young promising boxer to a legend. It's hard not to get inspired sometimes.

In honor of the Pac-man's storied boxing career I decided to make this post about the "Pambansang Kamao". Let's take a look at films that feature the life of the famed boxer.

When talking about films featuring Pacquiao, there is the forgettable 2006 offering Pacquiao: The Movie. The film is directed by Joel Lamangan, so expect the usual Lamangan-esque filmmaking at play: overwrought melodrama and dramatization, for one.

The film starts off with Pacquiao's 2005 loss to Erik Morales and goes on from there, charting his journey from defeat to his rematch with Morales a year later. The film creates conflict from many of the things Pacquiao was accused of doing at the time, including affairs with several women, and a reliance on gambling.

The film is heavily dramatized, with new characters inserted and personalities changed for the sake of drama. The overall effect unfortunately is pedestrian at best. Jericho Rosales with his good boy looks dons a mustache and tries his hardest to emulate Pacquiao's accent, an understandable yet still baffling decision, as none of the other characters resemble their counterparts anyway. He ends up pretty much miscast. His co-star Bea Alonzo manages to do a little more as his wife, but you can only do so much with a cringe inducing script.

There's also a subplot starring Jay Alonzo as a disgraced boxer who goes off the deep end, which comes off as rather superfluous. To be fair, it would make a decent MMK episode. Bayani Agbayani as comic relief simply does not work, as a comic relief is horribly out of place in an otherwise serious movie. He doesn't have any lines to work with either, so it's not really his fault.The rest of the movie looks decidedly low-budget and seems to have been made to milk the fans of the boxer and the Jericho-Bea loveteam.

As an inspirational movie it falls flat as it fails to give any sort of inspiration. As a sports movie the action scenes are boring and punch drunk. This is no Rocky, that's for sure.

The latest of the films to tackle Pacquiao's life is this year's Kid Kulafu, directed by Paul Soriano. Instead of being a comprehensive take on the life of the boxer, it smartly focuses on Pacquiao's early life as an amateur boxer.

Buboy Villar is perfect for the role. After his stint on Derick Cabrido's Children's Show, he has the acting chops and fighting experience to be the young Pacquiao. Pictures of the boxer as a young man show there is a resemblance between the two.

There are no enemies personified in Kid Kulafu, there is no Ivan Drago or Apollo Creed to anger the audience for the inevitable showdown. Instead, in this film, the battle is against life itself. The hardship of Pacquiao and his family is shown without being exploitative. Somehow, this story decision works very well. Pacquiao's aspirations and fears manifest themselves through strange dreams. Aside from the physical battle against one's body, there is the mental battle inside, and the film does a great job mixing these two aspects.

The young boxer is guided through life via a series of mentors -from his mother in his childhood years, to his uncle who taught him boxing basics, to the neighbor who taught him advanced knowledge in boxing. With each step the young Pacquiao approaches a future that we all know now, but one that appears hazy and distant from his perspective.

The movie is aided by decent editing and an effectively pulse pounding soundtrack. The ending sequence, which is for all intents and purposes a montage, caps the story well, although I personally wanted more from the story as the point where the story stops is kind of abrupt.

The film portrays the fights with some good camerawork and production design (something that was sorely lacking in Pacquiao: The Movie). You don't even need to see the fight to feel excited, as in one scene where one of Pacquiao's fights is heard only through a radio.

Thanks to skillful directing, a slick production, and fantastic acting, not only is Kid Kulafu probably one of the best contemporary Filipino sports films around, it's a very good film in and of itself.

Documentaries about Pacquiao are mostly small scale, a notable exception being this year's Manny, narrated by Liam Neeson. The film chronicles Pacquiao's boxing career and his entrance into the public consciousness. However, it enters the narrative not during his peak; instead, it enters the fray during what could be Pacquiao's darkest hour: his back to back losses against Timothy Bradley (a controversial decision) and Juan Manuel Marquez (a devastating KO defeat).

The docu also remarks on Pacquiao's early life, his relationship with his staff and trainers, including his manager, his trainer Freddie Roach, and his (now ex-) conditioning trainer Alex Ariza. There are also some interviews with celebrities, Filipino sports commentators such as Ronnie Nathanielsz, and people working in the boxing industry.

The movie also touches on one of Pacquiao's aspects that critics argue takes away from his boxing: his forays into multiple areas. Not only is Pacquiao a boxer, he is also a billiards player, a basketball player, a singer, a congressman and an actor. For a man who was deprived of his young life thanks to a life of poverty, he seems to be doing all he can to catch up.

It's not the best of sports documentaries, and among those that focus on the sweet science (such as Tyson and Thrilla in Manila) it comes up as merely average. But for people who have no idea who Pacquiao is, this may be a good place to start.

Boxing, Liam Neeson narrates, takes such a toll on a man. But for someone like Pacquiao, he willingly takes the weight of the world  on his back, because he's one of the few people around that can take it. 

This is getting a bit too long, so I'll end part one here. Up next, a look at Pacquiao's lesser known  acting career. And believe me, it's lesser known for a reason.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Teatrino Film Series: Barber's Tales, Ang huling Cha-Cha ni Anita

Teatrino in Greenhills screens quality Filipino indie movies during selected Saturdays of the month. I've heard of these screenings but last Saturday was my first time watching something in Teatrino. Before I talk about what I watched, I'd like to comment on the experience.

Compared to other movie theaters, Teatrino is modest in size, with a maximum capacity of about a hundred or so people. True to its theater roots there's a small balcony at the back and the architecture reminds me of old style theaters. There's even a snack bar to the side which is pretty neat. At 200 pesos a pop, not more than what you'd pay at a conventional cinema, it's a great deal.

Jun Lana's second film about life in a small town, Barber's Tales, is a deliberately paced character piece which has its share of lighthearted and heavy moments. It is about the experiences of Marilou, wife of the town barber. When her husband dies unexpectedly, she becomes the unlikely heir to the family barbershop, the only one in town.

The film takes place during the Martial Law years. Although the town is small and isolated, the government is very much active in the area as it is a hotbed of rebel activity. Marilou then gains a unique position in the social structure of the town: while she has the perspective of a normal towns person, she also gains access to the mayor, whose hair she cuts as the new town barber.

Both this film and 2012's Bwakaw are character pieces and luckily for both films, the right actor just happens to be in the lead role. There is much in Eugene Domingo's performance that is not expressed in words, but definitely felt through subtle actions. Her transformation in the film feels natural, and thus the overall message of the film does not feel forced.

The film also tackles women's issues. Many of the women in the film are subservient to their husbands or to a male dominated power structure - seen in the military and the government. Ironically, it is the resolve of one woman that tips the balance of power, and the women of the town, homemakers and prostitutes both, use their own unique talents to help this change occur. (Also in an interesting twist the rebel leader happens to be a woman.) The film also makes the point, that sadly, some of the trials faced by the women in this film due to their gender are still prevalent today.

Of all the events in Philippine History in the past fifty or so years, Martial Law has been one of the most popular subjects in contemporary cinema. I had theorized in the Q and A after the showing of this film that like many other films about this time, this was a way to heal deep seated wounds created by the Martial Law era. It's sometimes a good idea, some might say, to talk about a problem rather than hide it away.

The counterpoint to that (and the answer that I eventually got) was that these films are more of a reminder rather than a means of therapy;  by reminding us every so often that these terrible things did happen, we can learn from them and apply the lessons we have learned from our mistakes to the future. History has a close symbiosis with memory; there are people who seek to retcon these memories to fit their narrative, effectively changing history. Films like this are part of the collective memory of our people, little beacons lighting the truth.

Ang Huling Cha-Cha ni Anita is about the sexual awakening of a young girl. Thankfully it deals with the subject without getting gaudy and ruining the subject material. Instead Anita's experience is tempered with a bittersweet feeling and a bit of naivete.

Most of the movie is told via flashback; Anita, now an adult, remembers the woman who made her heart first skip a beat. Through her interactions with her first love, Anita comes to realize what she really wants in life.

While Anita the child sees the world through rose-colored glasses, often taken to daydreams and idle fascination, we see the adult characters as they really are. In Anita's eyes (which take the guise of the camera,) Pilar is a beauty from another world. Anita's fantasy sequences with Pilar are a mix of whimsy, admiration, and a little sprinkle of desire. However, fantasy and reality are far from the same. There is much more to Pilar (and almost everyone else) than is apparent to Anita. The thing is, it is Anita's unblemished look at the world that proves to be one of the most powerful driving forces in the film.
A subcurrent theme in the movie is the exploration of femininity, and the woman's societal role in creating life; for one, the setting is a fertility festival that takes place in Obando, Bulacan. One scene later on in the film juxtaposes welcoming new life onto the world and ending it. This societal role, however is not set in stone. Like many things, motherhood and parenthood are choices; I believe it is up to the individual to have or not have kids and start a family of her own.

The drama is balanced by a stellar cast, with particular credit to the child actors. I do have some issues with the plot, especially whether a person with a physical therapist background can terminate pregnancies (they can't) - perhaps a writing decision brought about by the multiple meanings of the term "hilot."

The movie ends on a very bittersweet note, and for me it seems to make the point that this isn't, say, mourning innocence lost, rather it is a celebration of the discovery of the myriad paths of life as the cloak of childhood is shed.

Overall the Teatrino experience is pretty good, if you are itching for some quality indie films from the past five or so years you can't go wrong here, especially since many of these films have never been released on digital media, and screenings are scarce.
P.S. This took way too long to write. :-/

Monday, April 06, 2015

The Young Tiger Showcase

It's been a few years since I was introduced to the magic of Indian Cinema. Over time it was apparent that the totality of Indian Cinema does not equal just Bollywood. Many thriving (and actually, larger) industries exist all over India, whose diversity of languages lead to different movie industries.

I've said before that these industries often remake and/or redub their films to market them to other parts of India. A number of action films that you see in Bollywood are often remakes of these very films. 

While Bollywood may be the most known film industry outside of India, it's not the largest in terms of output. The Tamil and Telugu film industries (Kollywood and Tollywood, respectively) make far more movies per year than their northern counterpart. These industries are known for their flashy, over the top action films (although, on closer inspection, their lineup of films has become more diverse over the years). I personally love them; they're escapist to a fault and generally a good way to spend a couple of hours (or three) every afternoon.

Today I am going to talk about one of the stars of the Telugu film industry, pictured above. He is Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao Jr., otherwise known as Jr. NTR. He is a part of a great movie family (movie dynasties being quite common) headed by his namesake, N.T. Rama Rao. You might remember Jr. NTR from this video:

Yeah, that's him. Aside from being a good actor, he is one hell of a dancer. In fact, he is trained in Kuchipudi, a type of classical Indian dance from that region. So I guess you can say he's classically trained. Fans call him "the Young Tiger."

He tends to get cast in my favorite genre: the South Indian Action Film (tm). While his films are not always financially successful, they are almost always (in my eyes, anyway) entertaining. Here is a selection of four films by Jr. NTR that I watched recently.

Shakti (2011)

Shakti is the movie where the above video comes from. Describing the movie is a challenge in itself: it's basically a road movie that turns into a thriller that turns into a fantasy movie. The villains are people who act like ancient Egyptians and live in the Pyramids, who have lived there at least as early as... around 1984. Yes, in this movie, our villains lived (and apparently still live) in pyramids in the early eighties. Why they weren't spotted by any tourists or archaeologists is unknown.

Jr. NTR plays (at first, anyway) a tour guide with a number of secrets that are revealed one at a time. These revelations come so far out of left field that it hits harder than an M. Night twist. Here he is partnered with Ileana D'Cruz (I wonder where the name came from!) who he starred with in another film that I don't remember.

He also gets this badass introductory sequence on an elephant, which lasts like a minute and a half.
Shakti was not taken well by the critics because of its rather implausible story. While I agree that the story is a bit far fetched, I enjoyed the heck out of it, although the ending dragged the movie a bit more than I would have wanted.

Baadshah (2013)

Baadshah (Emperor) is probably Jr. NTR's best known film outside of India, and one of his top grossers. At first it seems to be about two completely different stories, a love story on one hand and a story about a gangster's rise to the top of the criminal underworld on the other.

The intro also features a gun firing diamonds.

As the plot twists play themselves out (though to be honest there actually is just one big twist in this film) the two storylines connect. Jr. NTR's Baadshah is larger than life, and true to formula he kicks butt with style and with bodies flying with no heed to gravity or even common sense. But it's fun as fun can be. His co-star in this film is Kajal Aggarwal, who we  may remember as the person who played Kavya in Singham. Her base was always South Indian cinema, and her pairings with Jr. NTR are often the most successful.

The soundtrack to the movie is quite impressive and has lots of good songs, notably the title song, "Baadshah," which we don't see until 1/4 into the movie. There's also a rather lengthy dance sequence near the end which is more or less a tribute to the original NTR and his movies.

Rabhasa (2014)

Rabhasa is probably my favorite out of all the movies I'll be talking about today. To put it in its simplest terms, Rabhasa is one man's quest to get married to his cousin at his mother's request. To tell the story would involve me explaining the movie comprehensively so as to spoil the entire thing. The magic of this film is the web of (well intentioned) lies and deceit that Jr. NTR's character weaves to get the girl. Everything seems to have plans within plans within plans, and even though this film is not as action packed as other Jr. NTR films, I really dug it. The connections between the characters are also quite convoluted, but in my case it was not enough to make it confusing.

Here Jr. NTR contends with Samantha Ruth Prabhu (heroine of the landmark Telugu film Eega) and Pranitha Subash in an extended role. The chemistry between the Young Tiger and Samantha is unique from his other pairings and I liked how their relationship in this movie evolved over time.

The intro sequence has NTR jump on top of a car, which would be more badass had it not been ripped off from Dabangg 2.
Near the end of the movie I still had absolutely no idea what was going to happen to our protagonists and the families they were involved in. I hadn't been that excited to see the conclusion of a movie in quite a while, so it was a genuine rush. The story wraps it up a little bit too quickly in the end, but is adequate enough to resolve most of the plot threads.

Ramayya Vasthavayya (2013)

And finally we have this film. It's more or less a film for Jr. NTR fans only as the plot is your standard South Indian action revenge plot with a huge twist in the middle. For regular movie goers there isn't a lot to keep attention. What makes it stand out, however is the number of good songs and some decent action.

While the first half plays out much like Rabhasa, there is a huge twist just before the intermission and everything goes to hell in a handbasket. The rest of the second half is mostly one huge flashback to try to connect everything into one package. The result is only somewhat successful.

There isn't really an intro sequence, but there is this costume thingy and a DDLJ reference shortly after.

Like in Rabhasa, Jr. NTR is paired with Samantha Ruth Prabhu in this one, although he is also paired up with Shruti Haasan, which in my humble opinion is the prettiest of Jr. NTR's co-stars so far. The antagonist is portrayed by P. Ravi Shankar, who was the villain in the Kannada remake of Singam, Kempe Gowda.

Again, the one thing I liked about the movie was the super catchy soundtrack, most notably "O Lailaa" which is kinda cute and stalky-ish at the same time thanks in part to the two main actors selling it like pancakes.

That's it for my roundup. You can probably find copies of these films on the net or online stores. Jr. NTR just had a movie come out, called Temper, reuniting him with Kajal Aggarwal, and reports say it was a blockbuster exceeding Baadshah;s box office take. I'm personally excited as frak.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Present Confusion is Ten Years Old!

Ten years ago, I decided to start a blog of my own. Friendster was the shiz back then, and Youtube and Facebook were either in their infancy or non existent. I really didn't know what to write, so I decided to make it a bit like a personal diary and share whatever I had thought of at the time. I honestly thought the site would last a few years, tops.

Well, here we are now.

It may not look much, but I'm (slightly) proud of my little corner of the internet. To celebrate, here are some random topics about the site that I'd like to ramble on about. Come on. Indulge me.

Site Stats

We are a few hundred shy of 50 thousand lifetime views and two posts shy of 300. I wonder how much of that is spam and misclicks from other sites.  Oh well views are views.

My two most viewed posts are: this semi analysis of Sana Dati, and this roundup of Japanese Medical Dramas. Suffice it to say that the Medical Drama list is slightly out of date, and I am planning a follow up post to that soon, having seen a number of medical dramas since then.

The most common kind of person who browses at my site is a person from the Philippines using Windows as an OS and Chrome as a browser. Surprisingly over a hundred people used their iPod to view this site. That's amazing in its own way.

The most popular search term that comes up with this site in some way is... Cynthia Luster. Did you know that she had a cameo in Sinag Maynila's Imbisibol? She was one of the people in the karaoke party.

Also, if you type in my URL and mistype "Blogspot" as "Blogpsot," a weird  vaguely bible rapture based site comes up. It's trippy stuff.

Favorite Moments

My favoritest (DOES THIS WORD EVEN EXIST!?) experience writing for Present Confusion has to be my walkthrough of Mystica's Querido. Believe it or not, I enjoyed most of the movie for what it was, and I'd be the first person to take a look at Querido 2 if it ever comes out.

Oh, and did you know Mystica is doing Photoshop commissions now?

It's 300 or so pesos a picture.
Look at that picture. LOOK AT IT.

It's perfect.


I've made it a habit to write about Cinemalaya since 2007, and I've written about the festival yearly since then. My favorite year has to be either 2010, where my friend and I watched Cinemalaya films 17 hours straight, or last year, which was the one and only year where I managed to watch every single competition film.

Alas, times are changing and Cinemalaya is undergoing a transition this year - only short films and a retrospective will be shown. I'll still hang around and take a look at the films they have in store, but  it won't be the same. Luckily there are a number of other festivals which I will get to see, including the biannual Cinefilipino, the yearly Cinema One Originals, and the thriving MMFF New Wave section.


Closing Thoughts

I'll keep on writing for this site as long as Blogspot stays afloat. Since the big G acquired it, it's probably in no danger of going under any time soon. I'll still be making the random movie review or random thing as long as I'm interested. (hopefully it lasts at least another ten years.)

And once again, from then to now and until whenever, on with the show.

This is the Post in Which I Talk About Leonard Nimoy

It's been a few weeks since Leonard Nimoy died, and I can't find the words to express my feelings about it.

I had originally tried to write about my experiences with Nimoy's Spock and with Star Trek, but the man was hardly just the character. Aside from playing everyone's favorite Vulcan, he starred in dozens of other feature films and television series. In his later life he used his distinct voice to carve out a niche as a voice actor.
Mr. Nimoy probably wasn't a perfect person by any means, and like all of us, he had his own share of personal problems, but thousands if not millions of fans around the world owe some degree of gratitude to this man, as a source of inspiration from the characters he played. (Myself included.) He was a man who dearly loved his fans and wanted to portray the characters that he embodied despite several announcements that he would retire.

I had originally planned to call this post "mourning Leonard Nimoy," but somehow it didn't feel right. Perhaps, I thought, it would be better if I had made this post to celebrate who he was instead.

I call to mind something Spock said in the Animated Series episode Yesteryear:

"Every life comes to an end when time demands it. Loss of life is to be mourned, but only if the life was wasted.
He lived a long life. He prospered. I think that's just about right.