Money Talks

July 11, 2016 at 11:00 AM | Posted in Film Reviews, Movies | Leave a comment
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SPOILER WARNING: This movie review contains spoilers. Read at your own risk.

Kapit sa patalim.

This succinctly describes Rosa’s predicament in life in the indie film, Ma’ Rosa. In a world where you have to do everything to survive, there is little choice left except to take big risks regardless of whether it’s even legal or not.

Ma’ Rosa is yet another indie film by Brillante Mendoza that tackles the social ills of Philippine society, particularly poverty and corruption. It took the local cinema by storm when it won an award at the Cannes Film Festival early this year. Its lead star, Jaclyn Jose, bagged the Best Actress award at Cannes beating out veteran Hollywood actresses such as Charlize Theron, Marion Cotillard and Kristen Stewart.

Ma' Rosa movie poster

I was surprised and proud as well when Jaclyn Jose won the award. And it was thrilling to see that it was Mads Mikkelsen (a.k.a TV’s Hannibal Lecter) who announced the winner. The movie wasn’t even locally released yet at that time so the moviegoing public had no idea what it was about. Thankfully, the movie is now showing in local cinemas so I had the opportunity to check it out.

Ma’ Rosa is about a family living in a poor neighborhood somewhere in Manila. Rosa Reyes (played by Jaclyn Jose) and her husband Nestor run a small convenience store adjacent to their humble home with their four kids. However, many people in their neighborhood know that the couple is also selling drugs on the side and using their store as a front. It’s not long before their home is raided by corrupt policemen who take them to the police station. The corrupt cops then demanded a large sum of money from Rosa and her husband in exchange for their freedom. Most of the movie then tackles on how the family scramble to raise the money to pay the cops.

The tone of the entire film was bleak and dreary. There was a general feeling of jadedness among its characters, perhaps highlighting the hard life that they were into. Some camera shots were intentionally shaky. Other shots zoomed in for a closer look at scenes such as Nestor crossing out the name of one of his customers on a tattered notebook, reminding local viewers that this was not your typical mainstream Tagalog movie.

Jaclyn embodied the typical woman I see on the streets with her bare face, basic outfit and street language. Her deadpan facial expressions were refreshing to see. She barely evoked emotions. Only a couple of worrying frowns betrayed the inner turmoil she was feeling. That last scene where she finally let loose and silently cry was truly touching.

Julio Diaz, who played Nestor, looked like he was high on drugs the entire time with his slurred speech and swagger. Maria Isabel Lopez, on the other hand, only had one scene in the movie but she provided some light and amusing moments to the film with her hugot-filled one-liner, “O ayan, isaksak mo ‘yan sa bunganga ng nanay mo!

The script needed tightening, though. Some of the dialogues came out trite, thus resulting in shallow performance by the supporting characters.

Overall, the movie was okay. It was not that bad but it could have been better.

A Purr-fect Afternoon

June 15, 2016 at 12:51 AM | Posted in Animals, Food and Dining, Lifestyle | 1 Comment
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Ever since I found out last year that there was finally a cat café in Manila, I was excited to go and visit the place with my friends. I love cats and was always curious about the famous cat cafes in Japan. It’s a good thing though that cat cafes have sprung up in Manila in recent years. Pioneering the cat café in Manila is the Miao Cat Café.

Miao Cat Cafe interior

Miao Cat Café – the name of which is a pun of the word “meow” rather than an actual Chinese name – is located along Congressional Avenue in Quezon City. It took me a long time to visit the place mainly because it’s too far from where I live. And due to conflict of schedules, my friends and I kept postponing our visit to the cafe. But last Monday, my friend Jess and I finally had the time to check it out. She brought along her 8-year-old son with us.

My first impression of Maio Cat Café was that it was simple, practical and cozy. The café’s interiors are decked with pathways, ledges and scratch posts for the cats. Customers have the option to sit at tables with chairs or lounge comfortably on the carpet with throw pillows. There were a couple of loft tables too. Of course, I wasn’t really there for the decors. I was there for the cats.

Miao Cat Cafe entrance                Miao Cat Cafe interior 2

There were about eight or so mixed breed cats inside the café. I spotted a couple of Persian cats and a Maine Coon but I forgot what the others were. Most of the foreign breeds were napping at the time we were there. The only cats that were wide awake and active that time were two local rescued cats and a black Persian. The café has a few policies about the cats. We weren’t supposed to pet and disturb the cats while they’re sleeping.

cat on a piano at Miao Cat Cafe

It was afternoon on a Monday when we visited the place so there was no crowd. In fact, we were the only customers there at that time so we had the place all to ourselves. The food at the café was delicious enough. I especially loved the pink cappuccino frappe I ordered along with the fish and fries.

Weena with orange cat

I was able to pet some of the cats there. From what I could tell, the cats were properly behaved and kept a fair distance from our food. The rescued cats though kept staring at our food and came close enough to sniff at the table. One of them was really friendly that I was surprised when he suddenly plopped on my lap and made himself comfortable.

  Weena, Miko & Jess at Miao Cat Cafe    Weena with cat on lap

Spending the afternoon at the café was worth it. I loved the cats and would have stayed longer to pet them. I don’t have a cat at home because the admin of the condo complex where I live does not permit tenants to have pets. Thanks to Miao Cat Café, I finally had my feline fix even for just a few hours.

Weena with Jess and Miko

pink cappuccino frappe, fish & fries at Miao Cat Cafe   tables at Miao Cat Cafe

From Coming Out to Coming In

June 10, 2016 at 12:14 AM | Posted in Film Reviews, Movies | Leave a comment
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The 21st French Film Festival just started this week and there are about four films in the lineup that I really want to see. Last year I was able to watch only one French film in the festival, and that was Dans La Cour, which starred Catherine Deneuve. It was a rather depressing movie so I thought that this year, I would watch something light and funny. That’s why I picked Toute Première Fois as the first movie I’d watch.

Toute Premiere Fois

Toute Première Fois (I Kissed A Girl) is about a thirty-something man named Jérémie who finds himself in a sticky situation after waking up beside a woman he doesn’t know. Normally, this would cause no problem for a regular guy who is used to having one night stands with women – except that Jérémie is gay.

Jérémie has been living with his boyfriend Antoine for the past 10 years. They recently got engaged and are set to exchange wedding vows. But after a night of fun drinking with business clients, Jérémie is shocked to find out that he slept with a Swedish woman named Adna. Apparently, Adna doesn’t know that he is gay.

In panic, Jérémie turns to his best friend and business partner Charles for help. But Charles isn’t much of help since he decided to hire Adna despite Jérémie’s objections. Soon, Jérémie finds himself getting attracted to Adna as they spend more time together at work. Will he tell her the truth about him and his boyfriend?

Honestly while I was watching this movie, I was rooting for Jérémie to stay with Antoine. Antoine is sweet, dependable, supportive and best of all, he loves Jérémie. But then, Jérémie is discovering a new side of himself. And this movie explored that side of him – albeit in a funny, heart-tugging way.

The movie is rather predictable, though. Halfway through the movie, I knew who Jérémie was going to end up with. The usual tropes are also played out in this movie: Charles as the womanizing best friend, Adna’s background, the climax, and the surprise ending involving a gay marriage.

But Toute Première Fois is still worth to watch if you like popcorn movies and want a laugh or two.

X-Men: Not As Apocalyptic As I Had Hoped

May 23, 2016 at 9:15 AM | Posted in Film Reviews, Movies | Leave a comment
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I had so much expectations for the latest installment of the X-Men movie franchise. Ever since I learned in 2014 that Apocalypse would be the main villain in the next X-Men movie, I got really excited. Apocalypse was the one X-Men villain that I really loved to hate. While I didn’t read much of its comics version when I was a kid, I did love the cartoons. And I always loved every episode where Apocalypse was involved. He was a formidable villain that the X-Men could not beat easily.

X-Men_Apocalypse poster

It is rather unfortunate, though, that X-Men: Apocalypse did not live up to my expectations. Sure I liked the movie enough, but it did not leave me in awe when I left the cinema. While the CGI was stunning as expected from a blockbuster superhero movie, the action sequences were a bit muddled. There was too much going on that it was hard to keep up with the story and the characters.

I was expecting more depth from Apocalypse but there was really no solid merit in his arguments to wipe out the world and the entire population. It was a typical trope that I’ve seen so many times in other movies and TV shows. And I was left confused on why Storm, Psylocke and Angel would want to team up with Apocalypse.

Speaking of these three characters, they were underutilized in this movie. All they did most of the time was to stand around Apocalypse. There was no character development. I’ve seen in interviews on TV that Olivia Munn supposedly had an intense martial arts training in preparation for her role as Psylocke. But I did not see much of that in the movie. Her action sequences were very limited, and so were Angel’s.

Magneto, Apocalypse and Psylocke

Quicksilver’s slow-mo scene – while amusing – was a less impressive repeat of his widely-loved slow-mo scene in X-Men: Days of Future Past. It’s mainly a fan service, nothing more. His revelation that he was the son of Magneto was an anti-climax and wasn’t explored much in the movie.

I also have a gripe about Jean Grey meeting Wolverine for the first time in 1983. Correct me if I’m wrong, but from what I remember from the movie franchise, Wolverine did not meet Jean Grey until that very first X-Men film. And am I supposed to believe that their age gap was really that wide?

Sophie Turner as Jean Grey was likable enough. I liked the fact that the movie hinted on her alter ego – the Dark Phoenix, and that her powers were strong enough to defeat Apocalypse. Hopefully the next X-Men movie will focus on Dark Phoenix and do justice to that storyline. I hated X-Men: The Last Stand for the way the writers treated that story on Jean Grey/Dark Phoenix.

Apocalypse and Mystique

Towards the end of X-Men: Apocalypse, audiences were shown Mystique training the young Jean Grey, Storm, Cyclops, and Nightcrawler and preparing them to be the X-Men that they would become. Here’s the thing. I did not buy this at all. It didn’t sit well with me. I mean, Mystique was supposed to be a villain in the first place. If there was someone who’d train the future X-Men, it would be some other older mutant, not Mystique. But I guess the writers wanted to focus on Jennifer Lawrence’s character and make her a potential leader of the X-Men because, hey, she’s an Academy Award winner.

I miss Rebecca Romijn and Famke Janssen. To me, they are still the better versions of Mystique and Jean Grey, respectively. And Rogue is clearly missing in this movie. Maybe she’ll make an appearance in the Gambit movie – if that is still happening.

All in all, X-Men: Apocalypse lacked the substance and cohesiveness of its predecessor X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Ignorance is Bliss

May 15, 2016 at 1:21 AM | Posted in Film Reviews, Movies | 3 Comments
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Here’s a rather morbid thought: Would you want to know how and when you will die or would you rather let it happen unexpectedly? Do you want to be caught by surprise when it happens? At least this is the question that the movie, The Surprise poses to viewers.

The Surprise is a Dutch film by Mike van Diem and stars Jeroen van Koningsbrugge and Georgina Verbaan. It’s currently showing at a local cinema. Although I do wonder why it is just being locally released now since the movie is from last year.

The Surprise

Anyway, I liked the movie simply because it’s a quirky, dark comedy with a heart. It tells the story of Jacob – a multimillionaire aristocrat who is lonely and wants to end his life. After a few failed suicide attempts, he stumbles on a secret company that offers a one-way ticket to the afterlife. The company caters to customers who want to end their life for whatever reason and offers them several options on how they want to die. Jacob chooses the “Surprise” option, which means he cannot know when or how he is going to die. All the company promises him is that it will be soon.

However, he meets a female customer at the company who also takes the “Surprise” option. Jacob soon falls in love with her and now wants to delay his passing. Unfortunately, the contract he signed with the company prevents him from doing so. What happens next is a hilarious tale of dodging bullets, following family obligations, and greedy lawyers.

The Surprise is a lighthearted movie that shows how one chooses to live his life no matter the tragedies that might have fallen on him.

I miss these kinds of movies because it’s so different from the usual romantic comedies that Hollywood keep on making.

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