Sunday, 25 August 2013

Just One Second (2012)

Just One Second is a mini movie sponsored by Pepsi. And by mini movie, I actually mean it's a couple of episodes with only 10 minutes each. This is the compilation of all the episodes.

It stars Kao Jirayu and Nattasha Nauljam, and this is their second time to be paired in a movie, mini or not. They first appeared in my favorite movie, Suckseed. This is basically the sequel all Ped and Earn shippers were waiting for! You have no idea how much I flipped when I learned that they're having a reunion. However, I feel like they could have done something more, could have formed a more cohesive story with a limited time. But since the main purpose of the movie is promote Pepsi, it's a lot easier for me to forgive them.

Don't get me wrong. I still think it's worth the watch. It's 27 minutes worth of Kao and Nat goodness! But no matter how you look at it, 27 minutes is still too short! 

Plot-wise, I feel like they didn't really give it much thought. It has a pretty good premise. A high school girl in the middle of a school scandal and the start athlete of the soccer team conquer all just to be together. But the whole running away thing seems so foolish for me. The guy obviously doesn't want the girl's image to be tainted. He's more bothered about the rumors than the girl even though he knows the truth. Then when the girl gets suspended over the rumor, they eloped! I mean, do you really want to clear her name? Running away with her can't do that.

There's much to be desired from this mini movie. Thankfully, Kao and Nat have a chemistry that can surpass any lack of depth in the plot or any decent ending. They can just appear together on screen and it's already perfect for me, okay. But seriously, they have palpable chemistry that they can make a very simple story work.

However, there's one thing that I really appreciate about this. What I like about Thai movies is that they don't they try to be prude, and that's something that I can say about Just One Second. It's set in high school yet they talk about prostitution and sex as if those are two things you commonly talk about in high school. Maybe in the West it is, but in Asia? Not really. It's talked about in whispers, in hushed voices when there's no one else who can hear them. But here, it's talked about in the open. Don't worry, it doesn't focus on that! Hehe.

Suffice to say, it's not a perfect mini movie. But I'll watch it again and again just to see Kao and Nat. Also, I'm still waiting for a real Suckseed sequel. Thank you very much.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Rainy Day Movies

It may be sunny in other parts of the world, but in the Philippines we're facing one storm after another. Right now, we're still battling Maring, one of the strongest storms to hit the country. A huge part of the metro is still submerged in flood. I'm luckily in my home province, and the rain won't stop falling. It's scary to go out.

So far the past five days, I do nothing but watch anime, movies, and kdramas. Thankfully, I never ran out of things to watch!

My Rainy Days
My Rainy Days (2009)

Of course, this has to be on the list!

This movie tells the story of Rio, a high school student who banks on her looks to gain friends and to find love. When she meets the college professor, Kouki, she realizes that there are some things in her life that she has to change.

Their first meeting happens in a hospital. The second takes place in the rain. It's a cute love story about two individuals who can't be more different from each, but they learn to adapt to each other's quirks. I actually expected a more mature type of movie but was surprised that it takes on a more innocent approach.

This could have been a typical Japanese romantic movie, but I'm glad that it takes a different path for its ending.

The Garden of Words
The Garden of Words (2013)

Takao promises to only skip school everytime it rains. And everytime it does, he goes to a park and sketches. Here he meets Yukino, an older woman who drinks beer and eats chocolate during daytime. As rainy days happen more, the two meets more often and eventually develops a subtly and genuine friendship.

This movie is really beautiful and I think I need to write a proper commentary for it. It's written, produced and directed by the man behind 5 Centimeters Per Second, so I guess it's no surprise that this one is amazingly drawn, too. However, I think I prefer this over 5 Centimeters.

I don't know what to say, but it definitely is the perfect movie to watch while cuddling in bed. Well, that's what I did anyway.

Memories of Murder
Memories of Murder (2003)

When it comes to crime/detective movies, expect Korea to produce the best ones.

Based on a true story, Memories of Murder details the events that took place in the 80s when the first known serial murderer in Korea was on a rampage. Two detectives try to solve the case while both are trying to adjust to each other's own sense of justice.

It's a thrilling murder case especially when things start to get personal. What makes this movie enthralling is how it tries to look into the heart of the murder, but ends up looking into the hearts of the detectives as well. When it comes to seeking justice, sometimes the one carrying it out gets blinded  by their own conviction.

Nothing can make you feel the chill of rainy days than a good crime movie. It's been quite a long time since I watch it but it left quite a lasting mark.

Temptation of Wolves
Temptation of Wolves (2004)

Not my favorite Guiyeoni novel adaptation, but it's definitely a nice movie to watch while curling up in bed. Nothing beats high school sappy love stories when it comes to warming up your insides.

HanKyung is a country bumpkin who moves to the city. She's pretty daft, and somehow, she finds herself in the middle of a whirlwind story full of romance, gang fights and some brotherly love.

She's definitely not the best heroine out there, too, but she has to two leading men enough to turn away the dark clouds of your day. (Okay, that sounds ridiculous. Sorry.) This is the movie that sent Kang DongWon into stardom, and he definitely made me love TaeSung. In the novel, I actually prefer HaeWon.

If you end up enjoying this movie, try Doremi and He Was Cool, too!

Sunny (2010)

Definitely my favorite movie of all tim, so it's the perfect movie to watch in any season. But when it's storming outside, this is the kind of movie that can cheer you up. Heck, even the title says so!

Nami is an average housewife who's going through a mid-life crisis. One day when she visits her mother in the hospital, she meets an old friend. Together, they reminisce their high school days and tries to find their other friends. It's a heart-warming movie about friendship and growing up.

Nothing perks me up more than this movie does. I think it's the best example of how a woman loses herself once she becomes a wife and a mother. Together with her friends, Nami tries to find her old self.

It's weird how I haven't blogged about this movie, but if anyone will ask for a movie recommendation, this will always be on the list.

The Classic
The Classic (2003)

JiHae, a college student, moves to the house her mother used to live in. Here, she finds a collection of letters and diary entries of her mother's first love who happens to not be her father. As she slowly learns about her mother's past, she also starts to fall for SangMin. The tricky part is that her best friend likes him, too.

It's a movie that deals with two different love stories but somehow finds a link in both. It's quite a treat since both stories have their own unique charm. Up till now, I haven't decided which one I like better.

Can there be a more defining movie than The Classic? Who can ever forget the rain scene in this movie? I have no idea how many times I have tried to imitate that scene.

If you haven't seen this movie, then you better do something about it. It's one of the must-watch RomCom South Korean movies, you know.


It definitely feels nice to stay in bed and watch movies all day, but I do hope that the rain will stop. We had too much already. You can help by donating or volunteering. The easiest would to check out In the meantime, I do hope that all my readers are safe and warm at home.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Purok 7 (2013)

Purok 7
It's rare to watch a movie about kids living in rural poverty and yet, leave the theaters still feeling elated.  But Carlo Obispo's Purok 7 successfully does that. 

A fourteen-year-old Diana (Krystle Valentino) lives alone with his kid brother, Julian (Miggs Cuaderno), since they have an OFW mother and their father lives with his new family. Together, they desperately try to get by with the money Diana earns from her part-time jobs, all the while awaiting the fate of their mother overseas. It's a story about family, hope, kindness, and surprisingly, first love.

I am completely taken by this movie, and I am afraid to say something that will fall short of how incredible it is. It's not your typical indie movie that deals with poverty. Yes, there are the same elements. There's the same resilience that Filipinos show everytime the worst that can possibly happen happens. There's the absentee parents and siblings having to take care of each other in their absence. What makes Purok 7 different is how it capitalizes on the little things and the people around them that make life still enjoyable for the siblings, instead of dwelling on the negative aspects of living.

This movie never fails to show that life isn't a field trip and there's no reward waiting for them at every turn. But Purok 7 is probably the best representation of Filipinos' resilience and the sense of community around. Here are two children who experience challenges on a daily basis but with each other, they still know how to laugh and to enjoy each other's company. Here are two kids who may not have parents guiding them but they have the neighbors who treat them like family and ready to jump to their aid anytime.

There's no resolution to the siblings' dilemma. There's no concrete ending that will tell you what exactly will happen next. But the movie is still wrapped up pretty well by showing us that life goes on despite all the things that seem to signify great changes in your life.

I'm not sure where they found Krystle Valentino but she does a lot of heavy-lifting in acting in this film. She's not only convincing as the candid and honest Diana, but she can also rip your hearts out by her struggle to accept their situation. She's amazing, and I hope that she gets more job that will challenge her as an actress. It's not just Valentino who does a good job, but the entire team also pulled off a really good movie. I'm not sure if it's in their intentions to create something so heart-warming and uplifting, but they did. What's even more amazing is how the movie seems to engage the entire audience that we ended laughing and crying with the siblings. Their emotions felt so raw that the audience can't help but empathize with them in every scene! It's effective storytelling at its finest.

What I particularly love in Purok 7 is how it touches on a reality that is rarely (or yet to be) tackled in the media:  the stories of the children of OFWs caught drug-trafficking in other countries. The faces of their parents plastered on every TV screen, the children have no choice but to await for news from the TV programs. It's amazing how they managed to put emphasis on what it could possibly be like without making light of the situation.

Have you ever felt grateful after watching a movie? Because it's what I felt once the closing credits rolled. It's not the gratefulness in the sense that I have more while others have less. It's more like being thankful for having the chance to see such an amazing movie. Too bad that it probably won't go mainstream. It's really the type of movie that many Filipinos will appreciate.

It's one of the only two movies I watched from this year's Cinemalaya. And of the dozens screened this year, I'm glad that I picked this one.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Monstar (2013)

Network: Mnet & TvN
Cast: Yong JunHyung, Ha YeonSoo, Kang HaNeul, DaHee, Kim MinYoung, Kang UiShik, Park KyuSun, & Ahn NaeSang

Musical Korean dramas are becoming my favorites and all for good reasons. Monstar is no exception, especially how it partnered amazing music with a tight, heartfelt story. TvN continues to prove that they're the dark horse in the Korean drama landscape, and this time, they partnered with Mnet to do so. Quite a lot of amazing things came out of this series, too!

The drama revolves around SeolChan (Yong JunHyung), a KPOP idol forced to go back to school, and SeYi (Ha YeonSoo), a transferee student from New Zealand. They become seatmates in class and often find themselves in trouble along with the friends they meet in their musical high school adventure.

There are many things to like about Monstar, and one of that is how we're given the chance to really get to know the characters. The story gives us fleshed out characters who aren't stereotypical in this other side of television. In most dramas, we are given three leads to invest in and multiple secondary leads we end up not caring about. But in Monstar, we are introduced to a group of friends who end up forming one of nicest musical ensembles in Korean drama history: Color Bar! These aren't characters just thrown together to form a bad. Each and everyone of them are fleshed out really well. We are given characters with different dimensions that best represent how it feels like to be a teen. There's the difficult friendship, the mistrust, the infatuation, the insecurity, and most of all, the angst! It's difficult not to invest in them, even the ones you might is irrelevant in the group.

Their stories feel so real. There are so many tender moments in this series that will definitely tug at your heartstrings.  They are teenagers who act like teenagers. Though our main lead is a KPOP star, we see more of him as the teenager that he is and not as the star that he claims to be.

At first, I thought I wouldn't like this series. I'm a bit wary of dramas that touch the reality of KPOP idols, because it tends to get superficial. Also, I had a hard time taking Yong JunHyung seriously. He's not my usual type of actor and it took some time to warm up to him. But when I did, I really, really like him. Yong JunHyung surprises by bringing so much character to his portrayal of SeolChan. He could have been just any haughty idol, basking in his popularity. But he made it funny and curiously dimensional, and he's just incredibly entertaining to watch.

I also love the character of SeYi. Here's a girl who's frank, honest, and no pushover. Finally, a heroine I can root for! She's such a refreshing character in a kdramaland filled with goody-two-shoes-but-always-mad-at-the-hero type of character. Sure, she gets angry at SeolChan, but she can also be incredibly supportive and pleasant when she wants to. She knows how to stand up to bullies, and she knows how to cheer up a friend. She's also not perfect, and it's amazing to see her grow as a character. Also, she's sooooo0oooo0ooooo cute. I can't with the cuteness at times.

The main cast is filled with actors with little to no experience in acting, but it doesn't bring the drama down at all. In fact, I was blown away that it's the first time for most of them to act! But the one thing the cast have in common is that they're all clearly adept to music. All of them can sing and most of them can play an instrument. I think it's the two things you can't fake in acting. It's clearly obvious when one is just faking the guitar playing or when the singing is dubbed. But with this ensemble, we get a group of kids to act and to do one thing they're all good at: make music! I firmly believe that's what makes this drama so addicting.

Overall, Monstar is a series I thoroughly enjoyed. I waited for it every week because I always look forward to the silly antics of our characters. I get excited for their songs in the episode and how they can relate the songs to the current situation. The songs seem to always, always fit the situation. It's a series I incredibly love and I started to think that it might be my favorite drama this year.

That's why I get incredibly offended when I remember the ending. We could have had it all, Monstar, if only that aggravating ending didn't happen. How can a series so amazing be punctuated by an ending that's obviously rushed? I still try to forgive them by thinking that they obviously have more planned for the drama but were only given 12 episodes. Somehow, they still forced everything in the ending so it resulted in a mess. I have no words. I just can't help but sigh. I might as well stop writing, but I won't because I have to end this somehow. (Spoiler alert for the succeeding paragraphs!)

I just feel like it's so unfair to the kids. They at least deserve a good ending for all the things they went through. But it's most unfair to SeYi. She suffered for years not knowing the secret behind the accident that took the life of her father. It scarred her and only when she learned to make friends and to open up did she start to heal. Then in one blow, just a few minutes before the ending, we, along with SeYi, finally learn about the truth and it just devastates her (and me!)! What's even more frustrating is that she learns about it from some stranger who only appeared in the last episode. WTF, Monstar. I know that the healing this time around won't be so difficult because she has her friends, her music, her mother, and SeolChan beside her. But it still doesn't feel right.

Basically, I'm just not happy how they decided to dump everything in the ending. If they're really running out of time, I can pinpoint some things that can definitely be taken out. I just don't understand why they have to wait for the last episode for so many reveal, making many of the problem seem so big when they're really not. Then letting those graver conflicts have very little space to sink in to us audience.

Take SeolChan's case for example. How can the writers, director, producer, and everyone on board allow such important stuff to only have a space on the last episode? How can something so big not play any role in the stuff? HOW?

Also, I seriously do not care about the older generation. Seriously. In high school or college dramas, it's better to let the children's stories take center stage. I believe that the conflict in the adult's story could have been resolved a lot sooner. I just wanted the last episode to focus on SeYi and SeolChan's relationship and to know where they plan to take it. But alas, so many unnecessary things have to happen. I can't believe they think it's a good idea to start new conflicts in the last episode. Like, why?

I don't hate open endings. In fact, I even like it sometimes. But I don't like open endings in dramas, BECAUSE I DIDN'T SIT THROUGH A DOZEN EPISODES JUST TO LEARN THAT I WON'T KNOW THE ENDING. And it's just done so annoyingly that I want to cry when I think about it.

And I thought I wouldn't be able to say much, but I guess my passionate love for this drama coupled with my absolute hate for the ending is enough for me to write an essay. Haha! But you see, no matter how agitated I am over the finale, Monstar is still a drama I hold very dearly to my heart. And yes, it's still a drama I will happily recommend to anyone. Because what's a disappointing ending compared to the eleven episodes that made me incredibly happy? :) Besides, I know people who actually think the ending's okay.

To end this unbelievably long post, here's my favorite song from the entire series. If there's one thing the ending did right, it's the finale song.

(All photo credit goes to Monstar's Official Page.)

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Transit (2013)

Director: Hannah Espia
Cast: Irma Adlawan, Ping Medina, Marc Justine Alvarez, Mercedez Cabral, Jasmine Curtis-Smith

Transit tells the story of Filipino migrant workers in Israel. The parents desperately hides their children because of the new law that says that non-Israeli children under the age of 5 need to be deported. It's a single story told in five separate perspectives. Hannah Espia expertly uses the technique to give us a more in-depth look at the plight of the characters. It's amazing how this movie shows how a story can change depending on who's telling it.

The way they structured the story is really different. First, we see the story of Janet (Irma Adlawan) and how she struggles to stay hidden despite having an expired visa. She fights so hard to stay in Israel because it's the home of Yael, her half-Israeli daughter. Moises (Ping Medina) is a Filipino care-giver who raises a four-year-old child by himself. Tina (Mercedes Cabral) just arrived in Israel but also faces difficulty on how she can stay despite the new rules being implemented. Yael (Jasmine Curtis-Smith), despite being raised by a Filipino mother, only sees herself as an Israeli. Joshua (Marc Justine Alvarez) is the four-year old son of Moises who slowly embraces the Israeli culture as he's further exposed to it.

Transit bagged many awards, and I can guarantee you that it's well-deserved. This movie has solid storyline coupled with actors who give raw but compelling portrayals of the characters they're playing. It seemed so real, especially the performance of Jasmine Curtis-Smith and Marc Justine Alvarez. If I didn't know better, I would have thought that they're really Israeli children! Irma Adlawan also gave a stellar performance, as always.

What I like most about Transit is how it emphasizes that every story has many sides to it. Sometimes, those whom you think have very little part actually see a lot. Take Joshua for example, he's only four years old but the story revolves around him. The elders may think that children should play no part in their dilemma, but they see and feel everything that happen to them and their family. In stories about OFWs, it's rare to see it told by the children who were born and raised in the foreign country. The parents may have a longing for their home country, but how about those kids who never set foot on it?

The only problem I have with it is Tina's role. Her story is a story worth telling, but I'm particularly keen on how it doesn't have a very strong connection to the rest of the characters' lives. But it doesn't the decrease the quality of this film. NOT AT ALL.

It's easy to get confused in the format Hannah Espia had chosen to tell the story. But she meshed the perspectives so seamlessly that it still achieves coherence. The ending may be open-ended but there's a sense of finality to it that's incredibly hard to achieve without strong writing.

So basically, Transit doesn't just have a good story and cast, it pretty much have a  good everything else! I cannot wait for this movie to have a mainstream release. It definitely deserves to be watched by more Filipinos.

I only got to watch two films in the this year's Cinemalaya offerings. But I think it's enough for me to believe that there really are so many good films this year, and Transit is just a proof of that. I'm just hoping that some of those that I didn't watch will go mainstream and be screened in more cinemas.

This year, I only got to watch Transit and Purok 7, and both films made me leave the theatre with an awfully huge smile on my face. Films like these two made me revive my faith on Philippine cinema. We are a lot more than overrated romcoms and depressing poverty stories. Cinemalaya continues to prove that the Philippine cinema landscape has a lot more to offer.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Tuhog (2013)

Tuhog (2013)
Retirement hasn't been fun for Tonio (Leo Martinez), but it suddenly is when he realizes that he has all the time in the world to achieve his dream of being a baker. Fiesta (Eugene Domingo) is the feared bus conductor, but learns to loved and be loved when he meets Nato (Jake Cuenca). A long distance relationship has been a challenge for Caloy (Enchong Dee), but for the love of his girlfriend he patiently waits for her. In a freak bus accident, the three are accidentally pierced together by a single pole. Though doctors are intending to save all, the last one freed from the pole has the least chance of survival. Who deserves to live?

The premise of Tuhog is pretty simple and the format quite straight-forward. It's good that we're presented with the dilemma first. The audience immediately realizes the gravity of the situation, thus, being free to make their guesses on who will live and who will die. But you really won't know till the reveal. They managed to be entertaining from beginning to end. There's also a very good mix of comedy and drama that brings heart to a humanistic movie like this one.

There's a cohesiveness in the movie that's hard to achieve, because often it's either forced or not there at all! Pulling an anthology like Tuhog requires some detailed planning and effective story-telling. The segue from one story to another is done really well, making the hospital scenes the bond that holds the segments together.

On stories like this, it's easy to say that the youngest one has to live, not having experienced life to the fullest yet. On stories like this, the oldest person sometimes sacrifice themselves, saying they have lived long enough. In Tuhog, they have managed to balance the stories of all three, giving us enough reason to know that each one has a lot more to do in their lives.

Of the three, I enjoyed Tonio's story the most. Here's an old man who had a hard time finding meaning in life after retirement. Here's an old man who desperately tries to find motivation and purpose when everybody just wants him to stay still and let the young ones do everything. Here's someone who suddenly has all the time in the world to achieve his dreams of having his own bakeshop. He's on his way to realizing them when the accident happens. Without a doubt, Leo Martinez is the star of this movie.

What's amazing about Tuhog is that you'll be sympathetic with each of the character. You may not be able to relate well but you can see that each one of them still has a story to tell. 

There are things I don't like of course. I think it borrowed way too many ideas from other movies. There are scenes that are so reminiscent of the movies My Sassy Girl and Ferris Bueller's Day Off, just to name a few. I'm not even sure if it's a sort of tribute or if it's intentional or they hope no one notices. But I was greatly bothered. Or maybe I'm just extremely protective of My Sassy Girl? Heh.

I also didn't like how some of the doctors have this "formula" in which they predict the patient's chances of survival. They seem to take life so lightly, and it's so off-putting. (SPOILER ALERT) It's also weird how one of the doctors suddenly claimed the responsibility for Fiesta's baby. Like, WHY? It's not like they formed any bond while they were in the emergency room. It happened out of nowhere and completely threw me off balanced.

But aside from my very minor complaints, it's a movie I really appreciate. It's part of Star Cinema's anniversary celebration, and it's nice to see them try not to be too mainstream when it comes to the story and even the approach. Heck, I even love their choice of actors!

I'm not sure till when Tuhog is showing, but if you can, try to catch it in the cinemas. It's really worth the watch!
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