Sunday, February 27, 2011

Company Men – Ben Affleck & Kevin Costner Fight Recession

The world has been in economic shambles the last decade or so. Even in corporate America, there haven’t been enough bees producing honey or cows delivering milk, so to speak. As a result, factories and businesses close shop. And it isn’t just the blue collars getting affected. Even hot shot executives find their posts redundant. And huge companies end up downsizing, affecting thousands.

In John Wells’ “Company Men”, one such executive is Bobby (Ben Affleck) who loses the ship building arm of a powerful conglomerate. But he soon finds out that along with unemployment comes dispossession – not just of his home, his Porsche, his golf clubhouse membership - but of his dignity. When his brother-in-law Jack (Kevin Costner) offers him a job at the construction, he balks as he doesn’t see himself the “nail-pounding” type. Of course, he had to beg for the same job back later, but this uneasy predicament underlines the tuning up of the masculine ego. Several other characters share their stories in the film: Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones) is one of the co-founders of a billion dollar company who finds himself fired by the company’s owner - his college roommate and best friend; Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper) who, nearing 60, is likewise desperate for a job; Sally Wilcox (Maria Bello) is the relentless bearer of bad news (she’s tasked to fire people).

Despite a gloomy plot, the film (set in Boston), is far from being dour or melodramatic, thanks largely to a kinetic script that allows us to root for the characters on screen – and a great ensemble with solid performances. Though there is a tragic resonance somewhere in the narrative, the ultimate payback for our attention is the inspiring tale of perseverance, as well as the resilience of the human spirit to stand up from a hard fall. I am particularly surprised that director Wells finds a middle ground not to coat his parable with undue sentimentality. It allows us to comprehend these disparate situations better. Finally, we don’t always hold construction workers in high regard, but we should think again!

Company Men” will make a great companion piece to George Clooney’sUp In The Air”.

Jack and Bobby

Phil (Chris Cooper) queues for a job interview, along with younger men.

Ben Affleck's next project is a Terrence Mallick romantic drama with Rachel McAdams, Javier Bardem, Amanda Peet, Rachel Weisz and Barry Pepper.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

True Grit - Western Frolic with Matt Damon & Jeff Bridges

To avenge the death of her father, head-strong Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) decides to seek the help of Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), a US marshall with "true grit" to capture Tom Chaney (her father's murderer, played by Josh Brolin). Problem is, Cogburn has taken to his alcohol and his current reprobate character may prove the deed an impossibility, as they had to find him in the tough environs of the craggy and often dangerous Indian territory of the wild west. As Mattie tags along beside Cogburn, they soon find the road arduous; the venture too uncertain. There's another problem: LaBoeuf (Matt Damon), a well-meaning Texas Ranger, is after Chaney too, and he wants him "hanged" elsewhere. Will they ever see eye to eye to capture the slippery Chaney?

This intelligent, often funny Coen Brothers' western is a $100 million box office triumph that provides a harmonious hybrid of great film making and mainstream charm. It boasts of able performances from Bridges, Damon, the sinister Brolin, and the spunky Filipino-American Hailee Steinfeld who gets an Oscar nomination (in a supporting role, though her presence dictates a truly lead presence). Bridges is once again nominated for an Oscar lead, and I can't say I am surprised. Western fun gets the Coen Brothers' treatment.

Texas Ranger LaBoeuf

14 year old Mattie Ross seeks to avenge his father's death by capturing his murderer. Hailee Steinfeld is half-Filipina, and is nominated for an Oscar for her performance here as head-strong Mattie.

Inebriated Rooster Cogburn, true grit and intoxication. Will he deliver?

Mattie helps to feed the hurt LaBoeuf.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Untamed Virgins - Lessons on How Not To Make an Erotica

There are two unrelated films in John Ad. Castillo and Z. Lokman's redolently titled "Untamed Virgins"; one follows an indigenous dark-skinned tribe as they go about their daily routine in the jungle; the other is a largely unfocused yarn of two families living within similar territory..

When Bating (Roldan Aquino) meets Ayu (Ramona Revilla), he seeks to find the "magic leaves" that shall bring back his sexual vitality. He is Tuwa-tuwa's tribal chief - old, morbidly obese, and has grown up children Angi and Miro (Miguel Ramirez). Ayu is the mother of two girls, Unga (Zairah Diwa) and Ulan. Ayu is in a clandestine relationship with a sexually predatory man who's constantly threatening to "deflower" the girls. He also wants to sequester a parcel of land that Bating owns. To add flavor to this confounding story, timid Miro is circumspect with his attraction to Unga. Will his affection be reciprocated?

In what should be one of the decade's most inept movie, the production banks on its suggestions of erotica circa 1980's (do you really doubt this when its title is "Untamed Virgins"?). But 80's erotica is usually populated by pretty nubile nymphets who usually bare their boobs in repeated shower scenes.

In this film, the closest thing you have of a nymphet is Ramona Revilla who must be pushing 40. Besides Zaira Diwah, the rest of the female cast carries bulging abdomen, static emotions and inert facial expressions. The men, on the other hand, sport potbellies bigger than the gongs of Xinjiang. Even Miguel Ramirez (who we saw in "Haliparot - Mana Sa Ina", seen below) sports a tummy bump! And really now, if all you're after is erotic cinema, isn't it basic that you must have performers that won't repulse the viewers that you aim to titillate? Unless of course you have the brain of a dodo...

And there are no breasts exposed, nor peekaboo penises from these tub-o-lard actors either! This is the most G-rated erotica we've ever laid eyes on!

The lines are comedic at best:

When a man attempts to kiss a woman:

Woman: "Ba't ako nakakaramdam ng takot o kakaibang kaligayahan lang?"
Man: "Gusto mo dadalhin kita sa paraiso?"

When Ayu (the mother) finds blood running down daughter Ulan's thighs, she turns to her paramour and shouts, "Ano'ng ginawa mo sa kanya?" Hasn't she heard of menstruation?

As an analogy to making love to a girl, a man advises Miro - "Ang babae, pag natikman mo, ito ay tulad ng nganga (betel nut) na babalik balikan mo!" (I almost fell off my seat!)

When Bating scours the jungles to look for his "mahiwagang dahon" (magic leaf supposedly possessing Viagra potency), he finds a porcupine under a tree. He was so petrified he jumped on a tree and couldn't get back down until Miro finds him the next day.! He regales, "Nakakita ako ng napakaraming malalaki't mababangis na hayop!" (I saw huge, wild animals) A single diminutive porcupine?

The second film is absolutely unrelated to the narrative above. In fact, you would know it from the color of the natives' skin, it might as well be a no-audio documentary that follows these ethnic men as they hunt down monkeys then disembowel them (they even cook them under a bonfire and eat their flesh); prepare baits; perform ethnic dances, go fishing with spears, catch chicken with arrows, etc.

These two films are interfused fecklessly, but the color grading discrepancy provides a jarring contrast, you feel disoriented every single time the scenes change.

When Ayu goes mano-a-mano with her lover, Unga calls on Miro (whose father was spewing blood after eating different jungle leaves) for help! But instead of helping Ayu at the scene, the lovers embrace each other as Unga retorts with an asinine, "Hayaan nating magunaw ang mundo!" Huh? This must have surprised Miro because he actually breaks the 4th wall, looks at the camera, and pulls out his tongue!


I kid you not!

How to disembowel monkeys.

A tribesman with red briefs on!

Roldan Aquino as tribal head Bating, one of the most blood-curdling sights we've ever witnessed in a movie that's supposed to be erotic!

Belat! Tapos na ang pelikula!

Ramona Revilla as Ayu - pretty after all these years! She looked smug all through her scenes. Kinda reminds me of an older JC Parker.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Brod - The Incongruence of Love and Violence

There's a thin line between love and homophobia.

That's what Ray Gibraltar's "Brod" would have you believe. Tad (Ardie Bascara) and Terence (Kenjie Garcia) navigate this subcommunity of pseudo-scholastic lords and pledgees. Terence, along with his best friend Mico (Paul Jake Paule), are applicants to the Sigma Theta Omega where Tadeo (a law student) is one of the lords.

As fate would have it, Tad and Terence have become roommates. At night, they copulate in wild abandon, but at daytime, they deny their nocturnal relationship altogether. In fact, they might as well be strangers. Terence braves the impassioned brutality and humiliation brought on by fraternity hazings. When one of the Lords find Tad and Terence asleep and in tender embrace, the violence at the initiations escalates. Are these borne out of homophobia (Terence and Mico keep their sexuality at bay from their "masters")? What becomes of Tad and Terence's irrefutable concupiscence? Will Terence weather the incessant physical torment and agony of a pledgee's life?

Bathed in sepia and muted colors, the film bristles with a reverent atmosphere of dread, alternating with prurience. There is no denying Gibraltar's film making aesthetics. Every scene, populated by thespic novices, are comfortable, skillful and graceful; a skip above the awkward staging and performances of many similar artists in the indie genre. Jie Teodoro's poetry is seamlessly and beautifully incorporated in the cinematic canvas; a move that succeeds more than Khavn de la Cruz's "Paalam, Aking Bulalakaw" (Goodbye, My Shooting Star) - a film that we liked though it's littered with self-indulgent moments (and starred Meryll Soriano).

Ardie Bascara impresses with a strong and confident presence, mining his character with insightful tact. The side story alluding to his family's financial woes (his younger brother is in a hospital, and is in dire need of money) is thrusted several times, but there's a level of desultory commitment to this narrative strain, thus it doesn't quite fly. This was to piece a thread interfacing a fraternity's facility to help out financially strapped members (Tad is looking for a part-time researcher job at a "brod's" uncle's law firm).

Kenjie Garcia does well as the abiding pledgee and Tad's - pardon the pun - backdoor lover! In fact, the ensemble is adequately cast. Also note-worthy is Xeno Alejandro who plays the mean lord, though his character is too uni-dimentionally evil to be believed.

I have an adequate degree of trepidation swallowing the premise that frats are strictly for straights. Heaven knows that society has become partially permissive to the pink community, even in frats. This isn't the 18th century, if you haven't noticed. There isn't much in the script either that renders rational explanation what made Tad and Terence hook up - except of course that they are room mates, and that Tad strips to full monty while changing briefs right in front of a gawking Terence. Besides, these days, it's alright to nudge "frat brothers" to say, "Hey, Terence is my room mate. Go easy on him!" This doesn't necessarily imply a sexual relationship. Not every step of kindness or civility is equated to sexual innuendos.

Some of the scenes are consciously exploitative. How else would you explain a supposedly straight Lord gazing at 2 naked men paint each other's penises, just 2 feet away from the lord's face? Are frats really a haven of homo-eroticism? Straight men find other ways to humiliate other guys in the privacy of their rooms. They don't ogle at guys painting each others dicks, do they?

When Terence is stricken with paddle bruises and violaceous discoloration all over his body, running feverish and weak, we find Tad's concern superficial because once Terence is back at the hazing table, Tad won't even hesitate to inflict new wounds and lacerations. That, to me, is a narrative incongruence between love and violence.

Do people really sleep like this? Not even lovers, I surmise.


Handsome with captivating screen presence, Ardie Bascara sometimes resembles singer Jed Madela.

Ardie Bascara and Xeno Alejandro

Xeno Alejandro (photo courtesy of Jeff Yeo's

Ardie Bascara - a new screen lead is born! (photo courtesy of mr. ian felix alquiros)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Makemeblush Gets Pirated!

My friends Tricia and Kyle brought me a present wrapped in a flat box earlier today. Instead of excitement, I was awash with suspicion. Something here feels fishy, and since I am not celebrating anything today, I knew I was gonna be in for some surprise!

So I unwrapped the box and tore the carefully folded wrapper. What surprised me was a pack of pirated DVDs - 3 "Pink Films": "Dampi" (with Carlos Morales, Kirby de Jesus), "Pagnanasa" (with Marco Morales and Charles Delgado) and Crisaldo Pablo's "Mga Pinakamahabang One Night Stand 2".

What gives? I have seen these titles, and even reviewed them here in this blogsite.

I arched my brows and smirked! Then Kyle - with his knowing grin - looking every bit the gorgeous man that he is. "Turn them around and read the movie description," Kyle offered.

For a few seconds, I was disoriented. The words were familiar. Then I realized, they were mine! My reviews here in makemeblush have been made pirated DVD blurbs and movie descriptions - verbatim!

In fact, even my blog title for "Pagnanasa" - was used at the front, under the main title: "When Telling a Story is Like Shooting Blanks!" Haha! Hilarious! Yup, that's mine! They even used the photos that I used in the blog post!

Don't I get royalties for that?

Look, I don't patronize pirated DVDs, but I don't mind if others do. To each his own, but I have no need to do so because I get to watch them at the theaters and pay for their admission fees, why bother with pirated films?

I am writing this post to clarify that, though my reviews and thoughts have been used by these pirated DVDs, I am absolutely in no way associated with the people behind these aforementioned discs. Mabuti na yung malinaw!

"Sikat ka na!" (You're popular!) Tricia ribbed me! I am not so sure if I should be flattered with such unauthorized use in "mainstream piracy land" - and people reading my reviews at the back of these DVD covers! A few of my reviews have also been referred as "external reviews" from the imdb.

Now my thoughts are ubiquitously found at the back of pirated Tagalog Pink Films. Wheeeee! I should go to Quiapo and sign autographs. LOL

If only they pay me for their business... ;->

Post script:

Now I just learned that even our review for "Indie Boys" is in piracy land!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Irish Romancing in "Leap Year"

Despite the script's obvious shortcomings, Anand Tucker's "Leap Year" boasts of very charismatic leads: Amy Adams and the scrumptuous Matthew Goode.


Anna (Amy Adams) has been waiting for his boyfriend Jeremy (Adam Scott) to propose, but the New York cardiologist is dodging her feelers. So Anna decides to take matters into her own hand - by proposing to him on February 29th, following an Irish tradition on girls proposing to their "fella" on this day.

However, Jeremy is at a conference in far Dublin (Ireland), so against the elements, Anna flies to Cardiff (Wales) then braves the tempestuous seas and lands in Cork where she enlists the help of the cheeky barman Declan (Matthew Goode) to help her get to Dublin on the 29th - all for 675 euros!

But the road to romance is an arduous path! And what with baritone-voiced Declan ruffling her feathers all the way through!

Amy Adams inhabits Anna with spitfire spunk while the dashing and roguish Matthew Goode matches her verve. Like most rom-coms, "Leap Year" is filled with trite situations and illogical twists (Anna and Declan's characters repel each other, but instead of avoiding each other, they stick together like glue. Moreover, you'd think it was easier flying to Antartica than getting from Cork to Dublin).

Some lines are taken straight out of a Harlequin Romance novel: "You act like a brute, but you have a sensitive heart". The intention is all too transparent. Let's get the girls swooning. For the most part, they succeed. Thanks mostly to the winning chemistry of its leads. This is after all Amy Adams who, to us, is Meryl Streep's heir apparent! And I've always thought that Goode is the perfect romantic leading man material from "Chasing Liberty" (with Mandy Moore).

Now, can anyone please Fedex Mr. Goode straight to Manila? I'll reimburse - with tips!

Happy Valentine Month, everyone!

Amy Adams takes a romcom!

Matthew calls the shots!

Is it hot in here or what?

"When it comes to acting, it is very limiting to be English," Matthew quips. "It was 'Bring on the posh!' All the parts I was being offered involved my accent or someone with money and title." Matthew has a classy presence. I saw him in a period piece, "Brideshead Revisited".He was also in "Watchmen" as Ozymandias, and he starred in Woody Allen's tennis drama "Match Point". His was also in Tom Ford's Oscar-worthy "A Single Man" with Colin Firth, one of my favorite films. He also appeared in "Cemetery Junction" last year and will be seen as a chef in Bondi Beach in "Burning Man".

Friday, February 18, 2011

The King's Speech - Royal Stammering and Colin Firth

I am familiar with Prince Charles and Lady Di, their sons William and Harry, hunky Prince Andrew and the spritely Duchess Fergie of York. I am also familiar with Queen Elizabeth II, Charles' mother, and her sister Princess Margaret. But who is King George VI?

King George was a historically significant royalty. He was the King of United Kingdom for 16 years. He was also India's last emperor, and the last king of Scotland. He was George V's 2nd son. For most of his young life, he moved under the shadows of his older brother Edward who was the rightful heir to their father's (King George V) throne. Edward was charismatic, but flighty, and eventually abdicated his throne when being king wouldn't allow him to marry an American divorcee.

As a child, King George was described as "easily frightened and somewhat prone to tears". As a young adult, he was constantly embarrassed by his stammering which turned out to be his biggest hurdle in his ascendancy to the throne.

Tom Hooper's "The King's Speech" is King George VI's inspiring journey to finding his public voice at a time when his people faced several tribulations (the British empire's war with Hitler's Germany). This he did under the tutelage of an unorthodox speech therapist, an Australian immigrant named Lionel Logue (marvelously played by Geoffrey Rush).

Colin Firth plays George VI while Helena Bonham-Carter his Queen. And I cannot begin to emphasize the staggering performance of these two actors! Firth just might run away with the Oscar Best Actor plum, an award that he deserved last year with "A Single Man". He already won a Golden Globe for the same role. Bonham-Carter and Rush deserve a nomination as well, and Firth's scenes with Rush simmer and spark! Guy Pearce was almost perfect as the roguish Prince Edward (though a bit iffy with his accent).

Afraid of the microphone.

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth I (Firth and Carter)

Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue, an unorthodox speech defect therapist.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Vanishing on 7th Street - Hayden Christensen Battles Apocalyptic Darkness

Some mysteries are too bizarre to forget, like the ones of the Roanoke Colony who, in the late 16th century, were among the first European settlers in America. They attempted to establish a community in 1585. They elected a governor named John White, but his hamlet’s small population soon bemoaned the lack of food and supplies. America wasn’t always the land of milk and honey that it’s touted to be. John White travelled back to Europe which was in turmoil (the Anglo-Spanish War was in fervent swing). For years, Mr. White wasn’t heard of, until his return 3 years later. But he returned to a ghost town. Everything else vanished, even the houses, except for a few items: some small cannons, an open chest, and a tall fence around the perimeter of the village. At one of the fences was an inscription written “Croatoan”!

No one knew what what it meant, although Croatoan is supposedly the name of an island near this settlement! Did the early settlers join the natives of Croatoan, if there were indeed any? In almost slapdash fashion, this was referenced to somehow explain the phenomenon occuring in the film, “Vanishing on 7th Street”.

Director Brad Anderson weaves a story of four strangers: TV personality Luke (the gorgeous Hayden Christensen), movie projectionist Paul (John Leguizamo), bereaved mom Rosemary (Thandie Newton) and young boy James (Jacob Latimore) who survive a mysteriously catastrophic event that occurs in darkness, like a black smoke enveloping people who then disappear into thin air. What’s left are heaps of empty clothing plopping down floors and chairs. The whole world is a vast deserted landscape where, as darkness envelopes Detroit, a sinister smoke-like force roam to sequester any remaining human life.

Hayden Christensen makes for a perfect lead, navigating his world in punctiloius fashion, as he discovers he isn’t the lone survivor. Thandie Newton who’s grieving for the loss of her baby does an uneven characterization that swings from sympathetic to overwrought. Meanwhile, Leguizamo has this exasperating character who’s fast on his conspiracy theories and unexplained mysteries, but really keeps his comrades on their toes while he’s mostly confined lying down on his back over benches, floors and tables.

Though I am aware that some of the greatest mysteries are those that bear no explanation, in cinematic language, this isn’t so. There has to be a degree of rendition to explain the event because why thrust a narrative that doesn’t make sense, right? The film feels a bit unfinished and under explored, but it’s hard to deny the biting, tension-soaked atmosphere as our protagonists roam the darkness, bearing flashlights that seemed to have been made in some crumbling factory in China. More over, the movie fleshes a conclusion that feels rudimentary at best. Nihilistic, even.

Despite its inadequacies, I am just too thrilled to be oggling at Hayden Christensen’s face who looks like he’s been sent down by the Gods to show us what physical beauty is like. And my heart went pitter patter! ;->

Hayden Christensen as Luke who's looking for his wife from whom he's separated. "She doesn't want me," he says. I am telling you, Hayden, I am benevolent. I take leftovers. LOL

John Leguizamo, once again on his back!

Hayden Christensen: beautiful in color, black and white.

Be still my beating heart! His thoughts on happiness: "All I want is all what my mother wanted for me when she raised me - to be happy. For that, I don't need to be in a relationship. I don't need to have a certain level of respect. I just want to care very much about what I do and be kind to everyone in the process. It's important that I can feel that. That's happiness."

Hayden finished a movie called "Beast of Bataan" set in Tokyo and Manila about post-occupation issues that involve a Japanese who may be responsible for the Bataan Death March. His next movie is "Money For Nothing" about an honorable husband and father who has been receiving a check for $1,000 once a month from an unknown benefactor for seven years. Then he meets the benefactor. What was all the payment for?