Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Bourne Legacy: A Movie Review - And Other Sidetrack Comments

All to be honest, I had no real desire to watch the film. Matt Damon is out, and I've always felt that no one can make a Bourne movie without Jason Bourne. And, this film, Jason Bourne is never seen, besides in photographs. But by all means, doesn't mean his presence isn't felt. In more than one reference, did characters widely talked about what he's been up to. And whatever he's been up to, it's causing a lot of problems for a lot of people. So technically, this is still about Jason Bourne, but this one shows the effects of what he's been doing. (Someone whispered to me that this happened all sometime in The Bourne Ultimatum, I don't really remember it.)

What compelled me to watch the film was having Manila, Philippines, in it. Not as Thailand, like in Brokedown Palace, not as a Vietnam war zone in Apocalypse Now, not as Jakarta in The Year of Living Dangerously, but Manila itself. It was pretty exciting to say at least, how the country would be portrayed in the film. And pretty much a lot of it were, alright. Traffic was extremely light compared to reality though.

Anyway, back on the film itself. The first half was pretty dull and unexciting. The exposition took too long and I can see other ways to have saved time and keep a better pace. The flashbacks were clumsy, some of them out of place or could have been done better to save time and give a chance for character or story developments. Instead, we get scenes shifting from one point-of-view from another. How this top secret organization tries to cover up the mess Jason Bourne has done and tracking down one of the scientists who ends up with Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner).

Aaron Cross' own story line is less than interesting as he seeks out a way how to maintain his enhanced physical and mental abilities, and, yes, that pretty much sums the entire thing. 

In fact, the only good bit it had was on the last thirty or so minutes of the film - or maybe less, when Aaron actually begins to beat up Filipinos, and then an exaggeratedly long chase scene from the cops and a completely random assassin that shows up somewhere in the middle without uttering a single word. The chase scene itself ends with a huge meh and the song Extreme Ways starts kicking in.

I laughed out loud in the cinemas when police reacted immediately to seek out the foreign fugitives, and I laughed harder still when they found the location in a matter of hours. Seriously, a lot of people appreciate the kindness of making the Philippine police look good, but in reality, they would just go "We'll see 'em when we see 'em" and not really do anything to search.

The film is fun but not enough to watch more than once. I don't even think the film is worth watching in cinemas. Also, I feel the stapled song, Extreme Ways, should have been Jason Bourne exclusive, but whatever. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Trapped: Something About Filipino Cinemas

Filipino cinema as of late, actually, for a long time now, is crap. It really is crap and I'm ashamed to face the world knowing that crap movies are released in our country. Its congested with repeated themes and cycles of previously half-baked successful movies, a collage of fantasy films stitched together, and predictable, uninspiring, lazy, comedy romance films.

I understand why the industry milks success. It's strictly business. Well, at least international films try to add a few twists here and there. Filipino cinemas have the same shit over and over again. It is sickening and I vomit how people craze over these things again and again. Well, most likely it's about the cute couples and their cheesy punchlines. Which can be cute indeed, but if the same shit is released every month. Please, someone shoot them.

There are other formulas as well, but rarely used, and those that are used were basically remakes or parodies of previous remakes, so, personally, still shit. The worst ones are the excessive drama - crying here, crying there, excessive crying and screaming in TV, in films, in reality shows, in game shows - what the fuck is it with the damn fetish about crying? And I'm not even going to touch the subject about the recent fantasy films - no matter how we're starting to have somewhat passable CGI effects. It is still shit. The latest one I was forced to watch was basically, "The Mummy", "Clash of the Titans", and a few other stuff I can't remember, all meshed up together for the most fantastic shit ever. Oh, and there was this superhero film that had an almost mirrored scene from Spider-Man 2. It was laughable and painful to watch at the same time.

But that's not to say the country hasn't produced some okay fantasy films, which I'll probably talk about sometime in the future. The recent ones really do suck and many people dig it.

Anyway, to move the discussion forward. In today's issue of Manila Bulletin, there was a featured article about a girl named Jessica, who survived an earthquake around 1990. As I read the article, I can imagine Jessica, a mere grade school kid, taking a math exam when the earthquake struck, the teacher abandoned them, and as the children escaped, the staircase collapsed, and everything turned for the worst.

Jessica had crawled over the corpses of her classmates with a stabbed wound from a nail in her thigh. There were seven of them, and they prayed the rosary until help arrived. Her father, along with other panicked, fear-stricken men and women, didn't give up from digging the ruins, and every time a body was found, Jess' father was bracing for the worst. Eventually, the surviving children were saved. Those that weren't saved, one can only imagine the pain for the parents.

I read that article and I found it to be an astonishing tale of horror and survival. I felt the children's fear, the parents' fear, and the hope of both sides that everything will be all right, and the grief for those that were lost. I think of 127 Hours and I thought, this story could be made into an effective biographical survivor drama film. I believe it should be made into a film, the story is amazing and inspiring and tells us to keep fighting and not lose hope.

Filipino cinemas have always been about taking people away from their problems - a moment or relief from reality, a chance to laugh and giggle and blush like idiots - and even I find that sickening, the people doesn't and I'll just shrug, say something obscene and be done with it. But what good is it to keep on hiding behind false curtains? That moment of relief is too good that once it is over, the moment of pain returns and well, you get the point.

For once, we need a quality story inspired by a true story. Jess' survival is a great example. I believe the local cinema needs this change, instead of playing it safe.

Art it may not be. But it can deliver the same emotional value of fear, sadness, and joy all at the same time.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Horns: Growing Them, Keeping It in The Pants Or At Least Trying To, And Diabolical Origins

Ah, my first book review! I've been very excited and nervous about this one for some time, it's what nagged me to finally get my lazy bum up and start writing about something. And now it's out here, I can finally breath, and just let whatever slithering, vile thing drag me away. Never been so free of my thoughts. So, here it is, the brain-splitting, heart-ripping horror novel by Joe Hill, Horns.

The story starts right off the bat. Ig Perrish woke up with horns protruding from his head, a year after the rape and murder of his girlfriend, Merrin Williams. From there, things get a little bit weirder.

This is a story about a man who ended up in a really fucked up situation. Everything becomes weirder when people begin acting on things they're most compelled to do after certain words of encouragement. Things that shatters, tempts, and disgusts Ig.

Worst, things are never safe, physically - emotionally. Behind all those who you run to for comfort, those who were supposed to be your refuge, your sanctuary of peace and harmony - turns out to be one of the biggest fucking lie to have ever been slapped your face. Shocked, stunned, traumatized, whatever, the shit is on you, abandoning you with nothing but a severe heartache, misery, and a huge migraine that wouldn't go away until you've finally murdered someone, letting the corrosive substance known as evil engulf you in it's cesspool of vile sins and temptations. You are drawn to it, feed upon it, relinquishing all that had ever held you back and it seems I've gone astray here.


The real horror Horns deliver is through psychological and emotional distress. The situation Ig has been going through, how everyone looks at him behind his back. And yes, if you are a guy who deeply loves his woman, the thought of her gone from your life from such an incident is as tormenting as any possible horror in real life. 

Ig wanders down this confused path of his trying to piece back together what's left of his shattered life: Revenge. At this point you are convinced about who Ig Perrish is, and you may want to put a hand on his shoulder and tell him, it's all right, but instead you're most likely going to say something you never thought of saying - things you've been denying throughout your life, those little guys in red jumpsuits hold on for you until you need want it.

In some ways, this is frightening. That evil susurrus you've been trying to force as far back away from you as possible, is clinging right on your shoulder, waiting for your breaking point to consume you. Everyone holds something back, dark and sinister it may be, the urge to take something that is not yours, the rage filled sensation to harm others, the lustful act to cheat on your partner - we all have our demons residing within us. For Ig, it's revenge.

He may have horns. But he is like a priest - a confessor, he will listen to your anguish, the darkness living within, despite all the shit he's going through and he will have the power to relive you, to free you of your burden. Or, castrate you from doing it, thus, keeping you locked up in your cursed, visceral prison, called restraint.

Such power. It's almost evil itself, and as the cliche goes, in the wrong hands it could have been a hell lot worst. But Ig is that kind of person who you will come to respect, love, and care for. You can probably visualize him as normal guy, holding Merrin's hand as they walk down the park, with some Beatles song playing in the background - until this faustian transformation, you'll be hearing Once or Sympathy For The Devil. And you may wonder what would Ig do with the things he can do.

While the world sees Ig as the Devil. The main villain is seen as a saint, a warrior and staunch follower of God. Every word he speaks reek of bullshit - chains rattle, restraining from visualizing yourself from strangling and smoldering him. But the main villain is not at all, just plain evil, you might start feeling some sympathy for him, and yet, after everything he had done, there doesn't seem to be an excuse. You just want him tossed into the eternal flames where he deserves.

Well, more of the novel itself.

The novel is a stunning, readable, somewhat fast-paced, chilling, and blood boiling - if you're affected by the emitted emotion. And a lot of music references, which seems to be an on going staple for Joe Hill. His first novel, Heart-Shaped Box had a lot of musical reference as well, which is wicked cool - I found myself searching some songs he had mentioned, and I must say, Joe Hill has excellent taste in music.

The story spirals on several sub genre elements from here and there - damsel in distress, crime solving, and, other stuff I don't really want to reveal. Each chapter ends with a fever-inducing cliffhanger that compels you to take another five or so minutes to read the next chapter until there is nothing left to read. It builds itself up slowly by following a nonlinear narrative, giving you a good background about Ig, Merrin, and everyone they meet.

As for the characters, I don't find it impossible if Stephen King had written this, he would have had point-of-views of nearly each and every character in the book, turning this three hundred-something-paged novel to a thousand. That's just one of King's styles, deep characterization of every actors in play and show other happenings beside the main group of the story, stuff like IT, The Stand, The Dead Zone and a few others. Joe Hill does this in his own way and treats his characters like a skirt - short enough to be interesting, long enough to cover the essentials. You eventually start caring about them in a certain way and feel they were developed well enough without straining too far from the main story line.

This isn't a one-two-three layered story, you get to explore a lot of stories behind and around everything. About Ig, about his family, about his friends, about Merrin, about other things why they are happening. The story is sweet, gentle, brutal, surreal, and magical all at the same time - convoluted with its twists and simple once everything settles.

A sidetrack theme I noticed, is having snakes in the story. I find it so metaphorical in many ways about what a snake may represent. It seems every character - the major ones at least - has a snake of their own, hiding beneath their cowls. All of that will be revealed later.

By the end of the novel, you're probably dazed by the surging amount of fire and smoke, and you probably say, "What the hell?" If it isn't spoilers, to the very least, stomach cringing, heartbreaking as it might be, you will - hopefully - close the book satisfied. It is, for my taste, possibly one of the sweetest endings I've ever read. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards - at least, their presence, somewhat, will be there, reminding that You Can't Always Get What You Want.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Small Prelude of Sorts: Drafts and Freedom, Little Bloodsucking Bed Bugs and Mainstream Stuffs, And Other Unnecessary Formalities

Finally, after so many attempts to start a blog. Here it is. Alas, I cannot begin to discern how glad or worried I am with this. Well, for one reason, this is the xth draft of an introductory post, which for some reason screams that this is important. Maybe it is, or not, never been too sure. The issue: Took me a damn long time to write this thing and done nothing with it but revise - revise - revise. I suppose as an individual who aspires to become an author and a better writer, this is a good thing - my slow, constipated, otherworldly writing time could use a good kick in the ass. Worried, if I'll ever remain committed to this, so, we shall see, and hope.

I'm not really good with these things - introductions and stuff - but allow me to try...

In my large girth of shame, I believe I've been oppressed by laziness, which I find is the sole reason why I couldn't get anything done. So, let this blog be my declaration of freedom from my self and set my ass to full throttle and actually get some real, decent, and tangible shit done. Hurrah! 

Now, what really triggered me to start a blog was right after finishing a certain book - which my next post will be all about. The thing about this book, I found it to be a deep enriching experience for my soul. No, it is not a fucking self-help book. Rather, the story and its characters were enticing and right off the edge diabolical, intense, gritty, and positively painful to read - because you knew what was going to happen and you can't do shit about it and you'll suffer the same pain the characters will have to undergo - and in some ways, somehow, for some readers, it is possible for them to feel terrified or relate to this certain situation.

But enough about the book. I'll cover that later. My point is - I love the book so much, I wish to tell everyone I knew about it and hope they get to have the same experience as I had. Unfortunately, not many were interested, and all I got were a couple of shrugs and "Sure, I'll give it a try if I happen to see it".

This scenario was very nauseating, and I had to choke back the bile from my throat - only to vomit a hell lot of shit later when I got back home - sorry, that was an exaggeration. But here's the thing why it made me sick. Around 2006, was my first owned book, the infancy of my reading habit back then urged me to only get whatever's the best of the best that no other shit can top it (Yeah, I was a prick of a reader then). So, that book was none other than George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones

To cut a long story short. I loved the book, told my friends about it, none recognized the title or the author and asked if it's anything like Ben Santos, N.V.M. Gonzales, F. Sionil Jose (Filipino Literature authors), I said, "No, this guy's an American." Some were dismayed, although they loved Harry Potter, the odd contradiction of their reactions were stupid, senseless, hypocritical acts of patriotism. While others asked if the the series was anything like Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, or Bram Stoker. I said, "No, this is more like Tolkien meets Puzo", some were amused or seemed amused, shrugged, and only about two actually read it.

It wasn't really my business to coerce someone into reading something they weren't interested in. But when HBO gave the go and the series boomed into an instant success. Everyone I knew had their own copies of A Game of Thrones with the Sean Bean covers. That's what made me sick. No, not the Sean Bean covers, but the thought of people only liking a book after seeing it go mainstream in other forms of media. It's all good advertising actually, for both sides of the party. But it somewhat bugs me that people assume something sucks without even trying it, then they see the movie/series version and think it's the greatest thing that has ever walked the face of the Earth.

Whew! Now that's out of my chest. I can stay focus on writing things - I'll mainly focus on books and maybe, slowly promote my own work in progress. Maybe some films, graphic novels, video games, and other things that come to my mind, mostly in the genres between horror and fantasy. I'll try my best to keep up with the books, since it's freakishly hard to get the very latest books released in the market, and hey, whatever, I'm quite eager to toss some opinions of my own out into the open.

Thanks for reading this post even if it is nothing but senseless banter of myself. So, enough with this crap, and let's get it on. Hurrah!