Archive for Marso, 2012

The Hunger Games Movie Review

Marso 27, 2012

Foreword

“What’s the rating for this movie?”

I absentmindedly blurted out to the person seated beside me (thank God I knew her) as the slashing, stabbing and jiujitsu-ing started showing themselves on screen.

“PG 13.”

That was the reply.

Me to SELF: So, this is what is okay for 13-year-old’s to see nowadays?

Why didn’t we have this back then?

The Movie

DISTURBING. If I were to pick out a word that I personally think describes the film best, it would be this.

  • It has a DISTURBING plot.
  • It contains numerous DISTURBING scenes (about 60% of it, trust me, I’m a Math Teacher).
  • It is DISTURBING that its target audience are children and teens, aged 10 to 18.
  • It is DISTURBING that a lot of people, young and old alike, are into this film that when we reached the theaters, the 3 available screenings were all jam-packed (even the last full show).
  • And it is DISTURBING that besides all these DISTURBING things I enumerated, I absolutely enjoyed it.

And to quote myself (ehem) when a friend asked whether the film was worth watching, it is what one may refer to as “a DISTURBINGLY GOOD movie”.

The Story

The Hunger Games is the screen adaptation of the first book of the same title in Suzanne Collins‘ bestselling trilogy (the other two being Mockingjay, and Catching Fire).

The story’s setting is the  post-apocalyptic country of Panem, comprised of a wealthy Capitol and 12 impoverished Districts. As punishment (or as a “reminder of peace”) for a rebellion staged against the Capitol, a boy and a girl aged 12 to 18 are chosen from each district via lottery to compete in the annual Hunger Games, a sort-of-reality show of a Death Match format held in an outdoor arena controlled by the Capitol where the 24 tributes (as what the participants are called) battle each other, gladiator style, until a lone victor remains. It centers on District 12’s tributes Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), (who volunteers as female tribute for their district after her younger sister Prim was chosen on her first year of eligibility) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), a little of their families’ background stories (which are essential to understand their character) and how an unplanned partnership helps them change the course and rules of the game.

Cinematography and Characterization

After a “Star Wars-like” prologue(?), the film starts shakily as it introduces the characters. Yes, shakily, as if the movie was being filmed by someone with a bad case of arthritis. I really did not get Gary Ross’ intention of doing this. I am forced to believe, however, that it’s part of how he would like to depict District 12, destitute, poverty-stricken, disarrayed and a complete contrast of the wealthy, upscale Capitol.

Another very interesting observation to note is how different people’s clothing are in the districts and in the Capitol. Capitol citizens wear excessive, colorful, dresses and make up, as if to symbolize how money is never an issue for them. Inhabitants of the districts on the other hand wear the complete opposite – old, ragged, sometimes shabby clothes.

Fight scenes and “Killing” Scenes are remarkably executed. Although the movie’s appeal rely so much on the action, or like what I said at the beginning of this blog post – the “slashing, stabbing and jiujitsu-ing”, the director was able to tone it down a bit, without comprising visual impact.

Special effects, although not superbly created, are used sparingly all throughout the movie which gave it a more realistic, hence more serious feel.

The Actors

Part of the formula why I consider The Hunger Games a hit for me is its actors. The Hunger Games boasts of a well chosen lot who delivered solid performances as their respective characters. The following are definitely standouts for me:

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen – I initially doubted the choice for Lawrence to play the lead role. What’s up with casting a 21-year old bombshell to play an assertive 15 year old girl? These two identities seemed very hard to reconcile  at first but scene after scene, Lawrence just proves me wrong. She kicks ass as Katniss. She can be tough and fierce, yet still be gentle and likable. And she exudes grace, power and sex appeal. There is just something about her eyes that won me over. They seem to convey her deepest thoughts, her experiences, and her past. The choice for Lawrence to play Katniss added ease to the storytelling as her brilliance in acting made me understand why Katniss is tough and why she had to be. Indeed, half the movie would’ve been a bore had she not been in the scenes.

Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket – Effie Trinket has got to be one of my favorite characters in the movie. Well, she’s not really that significant to the story but it would sure be hard not to notice Banks’ charisma as Effie. Well, in the first place, who wouldn’t take a second look at a woman wearing pink wig, clown-like make up, and a bright purple dress? Banks seemed to have a good understanding of her character and delivered a performance that one will definitely remember.

Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman – Tucci is definitely the perfect choice for Flickerman. He was fun to watch, and the scenes where he had to interview the Tributes appeared to be footages taken from actual interviews. It all seemed very natural.

Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark  – If I had doubts about Lawrence playing Katniss, I was totally convinced that Hutcherson would be no good as Peeta. The first half of his appearances did not really do anything to disprove my initial impression of him, but as the story progressed, he gradually fitted to the character. As it turns out, Hutcherson was an excellent choice as well.

My list includes Lenny Kravitz as the stylist Cinna and Malcolm Mcdowell as President Snow who were able to make lasting impressions despite the little exposure they had in the film.

My Rating

Judging as someone who has only read the first 7 pages of the book, this film definitely won’t disappoint fans and soon-to-be-fans of the series. With fast-paced storytelling; 142- minutes of morbid fight scenes  (a plus for me) and pure riveting action; CGI’s, special effects and a romantic angle kept at a minimum; and an ensemble of perfectly cast actors playing the roles, The Hunger Games succeeds in selling its interesting story rather than capitalize solely on leading actors’ chemistry onscreen. A good enough initial offering.

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The Hunger Games

Marso 24, 2012

1)It never really occurred to me that The Hunger Games was already showing in the country.

2)In fact, I was not even aware that it has started its opening date a couple of days ago.

3)Also, I did not know that I had already arranged plans of watching this movie . I totally forgot about it, that the only time I was convinced I did commit was when we were already in the theaters.

So everything went against how I originally planned it. I had wanted to see the adaptation after I am done reading the book. Not being aware of my “deadlines” I only got to finish the first 7 or so pages, thinking that I’d have plenty of time to read the whole book since the film, from what I thought I know, won’t be shown anytime soon.

Needless to say, I saw the movie first.

Watching The Hunger Games without something to compare it with, for me is “weird”. I like imagining things, and the most probable effect it will have on me the moment I decide to read the book again  is to match every scene with how it was depicted in the movie.

So what do I think about it? DISTURBING. I’ll enumerate the reasons why + a review of the film on my next post. (I ‘m trying hard not to keep my eyes close before I finish this.)

Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax

Marso 23, 2012

The Lorax: Which way, does a tree fall?

The Once-ler: Down?

The Lorax: It falls the way it leans. Be careful where you lean.

-The Lorax, Dr. Seuss

 I almost decided not to watch this movie. After seeing Corazon: Ang Alamat ng Unang Aswang, I went out of the cinemas, got out of the mall and headed straight to the terminal where I would be getting on an FX to go home. I checked my watch, it was a little past 8:50. Arriving there, I saw an enormous crowd lining up for the next “trip” going to Sta. Ana (the place where I live). Being the Math teacher that I am, I tried doing a quick estimate of the time by which the people in front of me would be “served” by the FX. Overwhelmed, I told myself that I would not make it home in an hour or so with the sea of people before me. Well, I honestly don’t know if the line was really that long or if it was probably because I realized I had wanted to see the movie so much that I exaggerated and imagined the line to be like that, intentionally doing a wrong estimate. At that point I didn’t care. I just felt like I had to see it. So I decided to get in the mall once again, and  I dashed up to the theaters like no one’s watching. I ran, and for a moment forgot about how silly I looked to other people or how much risk there was for using the escalator as stairs – skipping some steps on my way.

I reached the theaters in about 4 minutes and bought my ticket.

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I am a child at heart, so if there are movies I would most likely appreciate, it would be animated films. I never really got to see these kinds of films when I was young so I guess it’s only now that I am trying to enjoy, in a way, this aspect of one’s childhood. So instead of doing a review that would only be biased, I will just enumerate those lines from this film (just like the one above), which are standouts  for me.

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Ted: The last seed?

The Lorax: It’s not about what it is. It’s about what it can become.

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The Lorax: I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees.
I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues…

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The Once-ler: When a boy does a stupid thing once… It’s because he’s a boy… But when he does a stupid thing twice, it’s because of a girl.

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The Once-ler: Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not.

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Happy viewing!

Quotable Quotes for Breakfast?

Marso 22, 2012

I hear people say this a lot:

“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”

And I believe it, so that for the whole 21 years of my life, I try so hard not to leave the house without eating this “very important meal”. I even remember that when my siblings and I were still students, my mother used to wake up early in the morning to prepare food before we leave for school. “Prepare” here is actually synonymous to “heating”, as our meals usually consist of rice and last night’s ulam with  hot pandesal and if we are indeed lucky, there would also be scrambled eggs. My day sure didn’t feel complete without my daily almusal. Parang laging gutom, hilo, di makapag-isip ng maayos. I don’t know. It helped me last through the day even without another “proper” meal (as during this time, I would often spend my lunch allowance for school requirements and projects). So I loved breakfasts!

But this morning I realized something else. Just like any other activity that involves food, things get more interesting when you get to share it with someone who has got a lot of interesting things to say. (Or probably it’s the other way around? Things get more interesting when there’s food involved? I don’t know. I don’t really care if my statement doesn’t make sense. I just have to make things sound coherent para maikonekta ko yung tungkol sa quotable quotes. hehehe)

I had one such breakfast earlier. Leaving home in a hurry so as not to be late for work, I decided to skip breakfast and planned to take it the moment I arrive in school (I am a teacher so the school is my workplace). After, dropping my bag, I got my baon went to the lounge and looked for a vacant seat. The only one available was a seat next to Mrs. Q, (that’s how most people in the faculty room call her), one of the most experienced (and feared) teachers that we have in the faculty. Having left with no choice, I sat next to her, catching the entire conversation she was currently having with 3 more teachers.

From what I understood, they were talking about how, despite hearing all the issues with the school’s administration (backgrounder: maraming issues sa school eh, most of them concerning the administration and their “indecisiveness” when it comes to issues involving school rules and the faculty. Even faculty rooms have politics you know. ), she was able to put up with the system and managed to stay for 25 years!

I wish I could write everything she mentioned earlier, but I had a spoon and a fork in my right and left hands, respectively, where there should have been a pen and a post-it. So i will just enumerate those that I memorized right there and then.

  • Accountability is two-way.” (talking about bosses who always blame their subordinates)
  • When something is wrong you should know how to stand up, to effect change. Otherwise, we’ll be doing the same mistakes over and over. “(for those who do not want to speak up in fear of losing their jobs)
  • Kami naman aalis na dito eh. Kayo na yan. Yung mga pagsasalita ko pag meeting, para sa inyo yun. Because I love this institution. You know people, they come and go. But the school remains.”(still on how employees should feel empowered )
  • “At the end of the day, it’s just a job. No hard feelings. We are all professionals here.Hindi kasi ako emotional na tao eh” (for those who take it personally when they’re given memos or are reprimanded by immediate bosses )
  • “One must have self-honesty. Alam mo dapat. You should not accept a job where you can’t do well. You will just shortchange your subordinates.” (about people who are not qualified to be in their positions)
  • After that line, I got lost in the conversation. I was no longer sure if she was still talking about the faculty and the administrators or something else.

Of Exam Schedules and Farewells

Marso 21, 2012

I just want to share this conversation I had with one of my students earlier through an exchange of messages on FB.

The day before, this student had asked me if she could possibly take the final exams in Statistics earlier than the scheduled date and time, since she was exempted from taking the exams in the other subjects she supposedly had to take on the same day. I told her that I had to refer the matter to my coordinator to see if a special arrangement could be done for her. Not being able to meet her that afternoon, I just requested a classmate of her to tell her the office’s decision that unfortunately, the original plan would still be followed.

Then she sent me a private message on FB.

A.S. (her initials):

Hi sir,
Almeda told me that I should come early tom so that I’d take the Statistics exam early. Where should I go for me to take the test?
Sir, thank you for a great year  I’m sorry if I’m starting to fail your subject..  I’ve been having problems with stat :S 😐

ME:

Is that what he told you? Sorry I think he misunderstood my statement. I actually told him that I can’t give you the test earlier than the others so you still have to take it with the rest of the class on the scheduled time. I asked my coordinator about your case but he said that we can’t do anything but follow the original schedule. Sorry.

ME:

And regarding your performance in my subject, well, it’s not the first time I’ve heard somebody say something like that so it’s all good. I have to admit that when I was still learning Statistics, I also had a little difficult understanding it. And you know, if it’s any consolation for me to say this, you’re doing fine. In fact, better than I remember I ever did the time I took it in college. Just like any math related subject, the key here is practice. And try rereading your notes! It might help. I know you’ll do well. As always.

ME:

And your class is awesome! The roughly 9 months we’ve been together is indeed something I will never forget. It’s been a year of significant learning for everyone. I may come off as very strict and/or very annoying sometimes with my constant reminders (or my morning homily as your classmates would like to call it) but this is brought about by the pressure of guiding you throughout your sophomore year. I probably overdid it at times, but my intention and prime objective is to keep you on the right track, similar to what a parent always hopes for his children. It is actually my dream that in the future, if you have problems to overcome or important decisions to make, you will look back on your past and you would find something helpful that you have learned in your sophomore year. All the best to my 2G!. 

Why would I want to share something like this?

First, because I liked her humility. This student was an achiever in class, and acknowledging that she is having difficulty in my subject just made me admire her more. This for me is a sign of wisdom, maturity at a very young age. Honestly, I would not have admitted the same thing if I were her age as that was a time when I was too proud of myself and my petty achievements.

Second, I have always had issues with telling people how I feel. At least if I had to tell it to them face to face. I find it more comfortable writing things down. Writing gives me more time to think about what to tell the other person, to choose the right words, to capture the right emotion. And it’s actually ironic if you come to think of it since my profession requires me to talk to people everyday. I have not gotten used to it yet. I’m not really sure if I’d even get to that point when I could say that I am perfectly comfortable with carrying out a conversation with someone.

Naka-36 Hits Ako!

Marso 19, 2012

Ewan. Kalokohan lang ‘tong entry na ito. Natuwa lang ako kasi makalipas ang ilang araw ng kalokohan eh akalain mong may 36 na taong nagkamaling bisitahin ang parteng ito ng internet. O pwede namang isang tao lang ‘to na nadiinan ang Enter Key ng computer nya kaya umabot ng 36 hits. Parang Anna Banana lang ! Nakakatuwa lang. Ganito pala yun. Yung dati kong sinimulang blog sa Blogger noon ako lang ang nagkiclick. Niloloko ko lang ang sarili ko. Pero ngayon, I feel so loved! (nyaks, spokening dollar!)Magpapansit nga ako sa sweldo! Yung maraming bihon para hindi halatang fishball lang ang sahog!

Corazon: Ang Unang Aswang Review

Marso 18, 2012

Last Friday, after hearing a lot of stressful and disheartening news from work, and as I have planned the night before, I decided to reward myself from a week of hard work and cheer myself up by dropping by the theaters to check on what is presently showing. From the six films currently being shown, I limited my options to two: Corazon: Ang Unang Aswang and Dr. Seuss’ Lorax. I had a very hard time deciding so I actually ended up watching both films, one after the other.

The first one I saw was Corazon: Ang Unang Aswang topbilled by Erich Gonzales and Derek Ramsay and produced by Star Cinema. Honestly, I have been anticipating to watch this film since the time I saw its trailer a couple of weeks ago. I was intrigued as to how a story which centers on a theme that is ever-so-familiar to the common Filipino and which has been adapted countless numbers of times in films be retold to the increasing number of more critical viewers. As the title suggests, the movie will be about the aswang, and I will bet my finger on it that if you are Filipino, you have at least seen a horror movie featuring these creatures. That is why before watching it, I told myself that the main challenge to the director (Richard V. Somes) is to present a different treatment to this otherwise ubiquitous theme.

In a nutshell, the story revolves around the couple Corazon and Daniel from a barrio called Magdalena, who in their five-year marriage hoped nothing more than having their own child. The couple exhausts all means possible to realize this dream, which included the search of a woman from another barrio (Maria Isabel Lopez) whom Corazon’s former midwife referred to as someone who can help her conceive. Different from her former midwife’s approach, this woman was said to help couples by using miracles – specifically a devotion to San Gerardo. This devotion requires a two-week sacrifice that only Corazon can perform, without asking assistance from her husband. After the task is completed, Corazon miraculously conceives,  which added bliss to the couple’s marriage. This was short-lived, however, as things start to take a turn for the worse when Corazon finally gives birth and finds her child dead.

Her world shattered, Corazon turns her back from her faith.  She felt betrayed that despite all her sacrifices, God was not able to grant the one thing she has ever wanted. Corazon retreats to the forest to the very place where her vow to sacrifice was first made, swearing by her dead child that children from their town will be cursed.

Cinematography

The film’s cinematography complimented the era  (set in the circa 1940’s) when the events supposedly took place. Unlike Asiong Salonga which was on black-and-white the entire film, the film utilized colors which would definitely remind the moviegoer of spending afternoons in the province or in front of the beach when the sun is just about to set. The colors, the lights, and the set had the feel of an old barrio untouched by civilization. The cinematography is in fact my second favorite element of the film. I believe that for movies with themes like this, capturing the right mood for the audience is as essential as a gripping story line.

The Characters

Erich Gonzales gave a pretty decent job as the main character. Judging from her previous stints in films and on TV, her performance in Corazon showcases a remarkable improvement. Although there were parts when I did not find her acting that believable, specially in scenes where more depth was required (for instance, when she found out her child was dead and when she expressed her regrets when she was not able to fulfill her father’s last wish before he died, where her eyes streaming with tears proved insufficient to convey deep anguish ), her portrayal of Corazon as the aswang is more than enough to compensate for this.  I could not imagine someone else playing the same role without coming off as overacting and unrealistic. In fact, I believe Gonzales turned out to be the perfect choice for the role.

Derek Ramsay on the other hand was just okay as Daniel. Numerous times in the film, one would hope for a better execution for the role. Daniel in my opinion is a very interesting character, troubled by inner conflicts, and his undying love for his wife. This in my opinion calls for a more sophisticated, not-over-the-top, but not underacted delivery from the one portraying it and Ramsay unfortunately failed to meet these. It is good to mention, however, that Ramsay, if not for anything is the one who had shown the most effort in this film. One can clearly see his eagerness to do well in every scene and how hard he tries to achieve what is expected of his character.

The Aswang

But the highlight of this movie is not the cinematography.  Nor are the actors, or the story. The best element would be the execution of the aswang. Personally, it has surpassed my expectations, whatever they were of how the aswang should really be.

Unlike the usual depiction of the aswang in previous films – extremely ugly with a wrinkled face which seems to have been hit by a baseball bat at least fifty times, equipped with wolf-like fangs, half-bodied with enormous bat wings, and transforming by the application of oil all over the body – Somes’ aswang is surprisingly more human.   As if to break stereotype, it is not how Corazon looked that made her terrifying but what she does to her victims. The tandem of Somes and Gonzales just pulled this off excellently without being corny and implausible. While watching Corazon, I can not help but think that there before my eyes was the perfect presentation of the creature. It was so much similar to the ordinary person which for me made it more realistic and believable. I was convinced that Corazon’s transformation to the monster she has become is the closest depiction of the aswang there could possibly be.

If you are watching this movie to give yourself a good fright, this is not the one for you. It sure was able to elicit a few screams from the audience (specially after Corazon’s transformation), but I guess the film is not primarily designed for this purpose.

This is anything but a  horror story, I daresay. Rather, it is an interesting and convincing take on how this classic creature, which we so oftentimes fail to connect to our very own selves, came about. It is a reminder that within each and everyone of us, is a small voice, waiting for the right time and opportunity, to lure us to embrace the dark side and become the worst monsters we could think of.

Day 2 of Blogging and Fears of the Future.

Marso 18, 2012

Surfing the internet for blogs to follow, I stumbled upon 2 blogs authored by people in their 20’s. I was surprised how similar our current views are about the world, particularly the fear of owning up to adult responsibilities. I don’t know. I am in my early twenties (specifically 21, turning a year older a few weeks as of this writing) but i feel older.I don’t really understand teenage behavior now, the way I knew I would have understood it a year, or two ago. Since graduating from college and starting work, my whole take on life has completely changed. I was actually doing a self-assessment days ago asking myself if I had always been like this. Well modesty aside, I am definitely more mature than most of the people I met in high school and in college but I had never thought of life and what lies ahead the way that I am seeing things now. I don’t really like to think that it’s a bad thing, and that it’s something permanent. I am crossing my fingers that just like teenage angst, this is but a phase that goes with my transition to adulthood. But it is certainly scary just thinking about the responsibilities I have to perform once I fully accept the fact that I am no longer a teenager. It’s almost like getting into a new world, without any certainty whether I would be able to go back to my previous one.

Chinese Cinderella

Marso 17, 2012

Why did I read this book? Here’s the thing. I initially thought that the book’s plot was actually the reference of an excerpt I once read from an English Textbook I found at home. (Okay, let’s clear things up before you get into thinking that I am a fan of Disney’s princesses. My interest did not originate, God forbid, from that Disney movie they always show on TV during Christmas. I was thinking of cultures, and comparing perceptions, you see.) It had the same central theme as the Cinderella that we are familiar with but the story took place in China and involved a magical fish (this was the part I liked) that grants wishes. So when I saw this book during a rummage sale in the school where I teach, I did not think twice to buy it. I was initially disappointed when I found out it has a different plot, but I read the book nevertheless thinking about not wasting the 10 pesos I bought it for.

The story is the autobiography of a young Chinese girl, Adeline Yen Mah who struggles to seek affection from her family. Despite being gifted with natural skills and intelligence, she was continuously regarded with hate by her her step-mother and siblings and was always ignored by her very own father.The events in her life were depressing, even until the end of the novel, and I don’t really remember it having a happy ending.

Although it is really admirable how she was able to succeed later in her life despite everything she had to go through when she was young, I can’t help but still feel pity for her thinking that no other form of injustice could be worse than not being welcome in one’s very own family.

It’s definitely a tearjerker (but of course I did not cry) and it would make you ask more than once how life can be extremely unfair sometimes.

The Five People You Meet in Heaven

Marso 17, 2012

I remember reading this book a couple of years ago, when I was a junior in college. But until now, I can still vividly recall how I felt while turning every page. I can’t really point out what I found so special with this book as it was plainly written, told as simple as virtually possible. For some weird reason though, it was able to take hold of something in me that led me to constantly examine the kind of life I was living at that time. Until now, before I go to sleep, there would be times when I would just ask myself: “If I were to die, which Five People would I meet?” This book has really created so much impact on my view of taking chances and how in one way or another, I affect other people’s lives. Needless to say, this shall forever remain as one of my personal favorites.