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Game of Thrones Season 1

Posted by Fred on June 10, 2013 at 7:20 PM Comments comments (91)

July 16, 2011


I have not seen a complete HBO series before. A colleague convinced me to try "Game of Thrones." I did watch the first episode and never looked back. Over the past days, I watched one episode a day until I completed all 10 episodes of the first season. It was that good. You'd never want to be kept hanging.


The series brings us back to a medieval time with kings and queens, lords and ladies. It showed things as they probably were back then, grimy, rough and violent. There was very little of the glitz and glamor that mark modern royalty nowadays. It shows the political intrigues of the aristocracy, as well as their advisers, whores and knights behind them.


It is also about family. The central family were the Starks. Eddard was picked by his good friend King Robert (family Baratheon) to be his Hand (or executive officer). This threw the Stark family (wife, five kids and one bastard) into the political fray after after their long quiet existence in the North. There is also the Lannister family of the Queen Cersei (a nebulously sinister Lena Headey), constantly waiting for an opportunity to grab power. And finally, the very blond Targaryen family who ruled the realm before Robert, now down to their last two members, the crazy Viserys (Harry Lloyd) and his meek sister Daenerys (Emilia Clarke).


As you can envision, the action in the battles, sword fights, and jousting scenes were very graphic and bloody. We were not spared the sight of gushing severed arteries, festering wounds, impaled heads and animal attacks. This is definitely not for the faint of heart! You can just look away and the sound effects do just as well to convey the gore on screen. On the other end of the Rated MA spectrum are the occasional sex scenes with both female and male members on display. These may be called gratuitous for TV, but I do gather these are also part of the books. Nevertheless, the sight of a 10-year old boy breastfeeding from his mother was still very disturbing, even in these days.


For someone who had not yet read the books, the way the story was written for TV and the directorial execution were very good. The ending scene of the first episode alone will make you want to be back for more. Love those endings for most episodes, aside from Episode 1, those of 7 and 9 will really shock you! There are things that happen that you would never predict. The fates of the characters were very unpredictable up to the very last episode. The ending of the last episode gives the series another dimension, whetting our appetite for the next season.


The writing may be archaic in vocabulary and construction, but yet they are crisp and witty, especially those that uttered by the dwarf Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage in his Emmy-nominated role). The set design of the the throne room, the dungeons that open into cliffs, the war camps were excellent. The cinematography was sweeping when it needs to be majestic, and intimate where it was necessary to be claustrophobic. I did not know most of the actors here, but they will affect you as they portray their characters were portrayed, be it hero, villain or double-agent. Aside from Bean, Headey and Dinklage, special mention go to Michelle Fairley (as Eddard's strong wife Catelyn), Nikolaj Coaster- Waldau (as the rogue Jamie Lannister) and Jason Momoa (as the imposing Khal Drogo).


This show deserves its Emmy nomination for Best Drama. Definitely, I will be back to watch the second season. I hope I will also be able to read the novels by George RR Martin that inspired this sweeping epic series.

2013 SAG Nominees for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

Posted by Fred on January 27, 2013 at 9:40 AM Comments comments (0)

January 27, 2013

These are the nominees  for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture as cited by the Screen Actors Guild of America for the year 2012, to be awarded January 27, 2013.  This will be shown live January 28, 2013, 9 am Manila time.

Here are my reviews for these five nominees.  This Cast award is its equivalent of the Best Picture prize.  Frankly anyone of these films can win it.  


In this cast, only Alan Arkin was nominated for an individual award, Best Supporting Actor.  Ben Affleck did not receive a Best Actor nomination and rightly so, in my opinion, as he was as bland as ever.  Really, only Alan Arkin and his partner, John Goodman, made any kind of an impression acting-wise.  The unknown actors playing the hostages were not impressive as well.  

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel :

This film boasts of an impressive cast of senior British actors led by Judy Dench, Bill NIghy and Tom Wilkinson. Only Maggie Smith though earned an individual nomination, and rightly so, as she is really memorable here. But to be honest, we have all seen Dame Maggie act this way, but it was really hilarious. This was really an ensemble effort more than individual. I would not argue if this won.

Les Misérables :

This musical film has a big ensemble cast who had to sing live as well as act perfectly with each scene being shot.  That alone should merit it this big prize.  Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway also earn individual nominations for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor respectively, which for me they should both also win.  I am rooting for this ensemble to win this prize.  That is if only Russell Crowe's performance was not so widely panned (unjustly though, in my opinion).

Lincoln :

Its main acting conceit lies only in one central performance, that of Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln. Despite this, veterans Tommy Lee Jones and Sally Field also receive individual nominations for their supporting performances.   Joseph Gordon-Levitt also shone in a smaller role as Lincoln's eldest son. However, the rest of the cast was largely unknown, undistinguishable and generic.

Silver Linings Playbook :

This contemporary film has a relatively smaller cast of four main actors.  All four of them got Oscar nominations, a rare feat.  However, for the SAGs, only Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert DeNiro get nods, not Jacki Weaver. I certainly won't be disappointed if this ensemble cast won as they all did their respective roles very well, especially the two lead stars whose chemistry really made this movie work.

Life of Pi (Yann Martel)

Posted by Fred on January 8, 2013 at 8:45 AM Comments comments (0)

January 8, 2013

I always thought that "Life of Pi" was an inspirational book.  For that reason, I did not really intend to read it. This is the guy who took months to read "The Alchemist" and did NOT like it!  However, with the news of the new Ang Lee film which had been touted to be "The New Avatar," I wanted to read it before the movie came out.  They had called the book "unfilmable" and I wanted to see why so.  I read "Life of Pi" without really knowing what is was about.   

The first part of the book was about a young boy from Pondicherry in India, with an unwieldy name of Piscine Molitor Patel.  After being continually teased about it, he discovered later that it was way cooler to call himself "Pi."  His dad ran the local zoo. Chapters were spent describing the zoo, its animals and why zoos are good for animals.  

The narrative then turned to religions.  Chapters were spent to describe three major religions in India - Hinduism, Christianity and Islam.  There was one spectacular chapter where the Patels meet a HIndu brahmin, a Christian priest and a Moslem imam, and the debates that ensued were fascinating to read..

Then there was a sudden turn in the story when the Patel patriarch decide to migrate his family to far-off Canada.  They closed the zoo, brought with them some of their animals on a Japanese cargo ship and set sail.  Upon leaving the port of Manila though, then the real story begins as their ship sinks and Pi was set adrift on a lifeboat with a zebra, an orang-utan, a hyena and an adult Bengal tiger (whom they have named Richard Parker).

From that point up to practically the end of the book, Martel describes how Pi was able to survive several months in the open sea, under the constant threat of the elements, of hunger and thirst, of sharks, and of a tiger on the boat with him waiting to eat him alive.  The battles Pi waged with nature were very graphically described.  There was a long chapter devoted to a strange island of algae and meerkats where the water turns  acidic at night.  For me, that part about the island was the most unusual of the book, it was almost too fantastic.

Pi finally reached dry land in Brazil.  Two Japanese investigators interview him about his ordeal.  At this point of the book, we get an idea of what really happened all those months at sea, or do we?

Mr. Martel is very good in the art of verbal description.  There were several chapters where you felt he was just padding the novel to make it longer.  Do we really need to know so much about the sloth for instance?  I must say that the zoo part was long, but we get to learn a lot about how to run it.  The part about the lifeboat survival, but we learn so much about sea survival technology or animal psychiatry.  The main story is the shipwreck and Pi's survival, and Martel was able to stretch this to 100 chapters.

So, this is not really an inspirational book, is it?   I believe this book is unfilmable the way it was written by Martel.  There have been films about shipwrecks and survivors before, but not described like this.  Now we get word that Ang Lee was actually able to create a film that was better than the book.  The film was described to be like "The Little Prince."  I thought this book was nothing like "The Little Prince" at all now. How Ang Lee did it, now THAT remains to be seen.

The Silver Linings Playbook (Matthew Quick)

Posted by Fred on January 7, 2013 at 7:25 PM Comments comments (0)

January 8, 2013

I got interested to watch "The Silver Linings Playbook" only because of the upcoming film of the same title which was receiving a lot of awards buzz.  I thought it would be a good idea to read the book first before the film, starring the unlikely pair of Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, who were both nominated for Golden Globes acting awards for their work.

"The Silver Linings Playbook" was about a mentally-disturbed man named Pat Peoples.  He had just been brought home from the mental institution by his loving mom.  He spends his days exercising at home, running, and visiting his unorthodox therapist, Dr. Cliff Patel.  All of this he is doing in order to get ready to reunite with his wife Nikki, the silver lining he was yearning for. However, with time he realizes that what he knew was only part of a huge secret iceberg that his loved ones were staunchly keeping from him.  His odd friendship with Tiffany, a similarly mentally-disturbed lady in their neighborhood, leads Pat into a rude awakening about what really happened to him before being sent to the institution.  

The book was surprisingly easy to read.  The language was simple and straightforward.  For something that dealt with very serious topic of mental instability and divorce, the text had a very child-like perspective and narration.  I enjoyed reading the parts where Pat was analyzing classic novels like "The Great Gatsby," "The Bell Jar" or "Catcher in the Rye".  People who have not read these books need to be warned that there are spoilers though as to how these novels end.  There is also a recurring mention of Kenny G. which was particularly funny the way it was written.

The credits reveal that this was author Matthew Quick's first novel.  He thus set it in his hometown of Philadelphia and devoted a lot of pages about the fan rituals of the football team, the Eagles, Quick's favorite and well as the favorite of Pat's family and friends.  The overall result is a funny bittersweet drama that was frank as much as it was charming and quirky.  I can fully imagine Bradley Cooper as Pat, although in the book Pat describes himself as unattractive.  But Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany, now that I have to see.


Posted by Fred on November 22, 2012 at 10:45 AM Comments comments (0)

December 29, 2010

Being a fan of Pinoy horror films, particularly those starring Ms. Kris Aquino (like "Feng Shui" and "Sukob"), of course I was not about to miss "Dalaw." It was just strange how this was the only film which did not receive any nomination from the Metro Manila Film Fest 2010 judges. That did not weaken my resolve to watch this film.


"Dalaw" is the story of Stella (Kris Aquino), a widow of four years whose violent husband died in a car accident while they were quarreling. She is now set to marry her high school sweetheart Anton (Diether Ocampo) with whom she has recently reconnected. From then however, Stella's life becomes a living hell when a mud-coated ghost haunts her dreams. After their wedding, the torment escalates as actual deaths began to occur among the people around her. Stella, with the help of a spooky neighbor with a "third eye" Aling Olga (Ms. Gina Pareno), needs to discover how to stop the malevolent terror from destroying her life.


Kris Aquino just had her signature pained look plastered throughout the whole movie. She has not really progressed in her facial expressions through all these horror films she had. The way she shouts her son's name Paolo and her anguished harsh screams were so over-the-top. A very big problem of the film was that Kris and Diether had absolutely NO chemistry. Their whole relationship as high school sweethearts was not believable at all. Their kissing scenes were very awkward-looking. This made the central premise of the story very shaky indeed. Come to think of it, Kris looked ill at ease with all the other actors as well. But hey, Kris is fun to watch, so there! Haha!


A lot of the scary scenes were derivative. Some of the death scenes have already been done in previous films of the same genre, like the one in the sauna. The supporting character of Gina Pareno was written and executed in a comic horror style. Her Aling Olga looked like Mrs. Ganush of "Drag Me To Hell." She likes quoting classic lines from Filipino movies when she makes her ominous pronouncements, which can be funny, but some of the humor is forced. Her exit was also very poorly written and realized. Among the other supporting actors, only Karylle made any kind of impact.


The movie was shot in very poor light. It seemed like most of the movie happened during the twilight to evening hours, which made a lot of scenes very hard to see. It was very strange that no one seemed to need to turn on the house lights at night! The director Dondon Santos depended heavily on typical horror effects like sudden camera shifts, dreary funereal music and too much darkness to achieve his scares. The final resolution had a corny feel to it because Kris was obviously fighting a solid "ghost". Overall this movie was a disappointment in the list of Kris Aquino horror films.

RPG Metanoia

Posted by Fred on November 22, 2012 at 10:40 AM Comments comments (0)

December 2, 2010

My boys and I watched "RPG Metanoia" today, which is an entry in the current Metro Manila Film Festival. I found it the best way to introduce the watching of Filipino films to them. This is the first Filipino film they have watched in the movie house. They generally enjoyed it for the most part (save for a few fuzzy details), and I was happy for that. I definitely enjoyed it myself.


The story of "RPG Metanoia" is very current and relevant. It tells about Nico and his friends who are computer-game addicts to an RPG called Metanoia. When an evil force that was destroying the world of Metanoia also threatens the real world, they need to forget their personal differences and band together in order to beat the common foe.


I liked the very real Filipino characters. I liked how the relationship of Nico (voiced by Santino himself, Zaijan Jaranilla) and his parents (funny to imagine Aga Muhlach and Eugene Domingo voicing them) was portrayed. The gang of Nico was also very realistically scripted, like how I remember playing with my neighbors back then, with the misunderstandings and getting back together as playmates. I liked how they had a Chinoy (Filipino-Chinese) guy in Nico's gang. I liked how they had a girl character May teach Nico and friends about outdoor activities, as well as play an important role in the RPG conflict also.


I liked the characteristically Filipino imagery like Vigan houses used in the virtual world, the Moriones mask as the evil guy's avatar, the Filipino street games like Patintero, Tumbang Preso and Shato, etc. I liked the underlying message of warning to kids about addiction to computer games. (My 7-year old got that lesson!) The Filipino musical score by Ria Osorio and Gerald Salonga is also outstanding.


I also liked the international scope of the story, as we see the involvement of several foreign Metanoia characters in the virtual battles. There appear to be plans to distribute this to foreign countries, as the subtitles for the Korean and Japanese dialog were in English, instead of Filipino (even my 7-year old did find it odd though). I think we can be proud to have this film represent our country in festivals abroad.


OK, first of all, there is no point comparing this film to a Pixar, or even to a Dreamworks film. After all, this only the first full-length 3D computer animated film from the Philippines, so we have to cut it slack for its pioneering efforts. The animation quality is certainly more than passable. While the quality of the color palette, design neatness and the 3D can still be improved further, this is the best of local animation I have seen. This is an action film that requires a high level of sophistication in order to pass muster in terms of excitement level, and "RPG Metanoia" does so with flying colors. Kudos to Star Cinema for taking up this challenge, even if it did take five long years to make this one.


Darren Criss Live in Trinoma (December 22, 2010)

Posted by Fred on November 22, 2012 at 10:30 AM Comments comments (0)

I was not really expecting much from this concert.  The artist Darren Criss is new, and only hit the public consciousness recently because of his breakthrough appearance on the hit TV show "Glee" as Blaine, Kurt's crush from the Dalton Warblers.  He is the first artist from "Glee" to have a concert here in Manila, and as total Gleeks, my wife, my daughter and I all went to catch this show.

Iin the last week when we were Christmas shopping at the Trinoma, we did not see big posters announcing this mall show.  I just recalled that it was announced previously, so we inquired at the concierge for the ticket mechanics. It was not too difficult to get tickets this time unlike previous mall shows, like Elliot Yamin or even Taylor Hicks.

Darren Criss is half Irish and half Pinoy.  I do not really see any Pinoy in him appearance-wise, though, as he had more of a Middle Eastern look. Anyway, he seemed very friendly and overwhelmed with this Pinoy fans.  He was very good with the guitar and keyboards.  He had a very strong and versatile pop voice.

His concert was very generous.  He just kept on singing, and obviously was having a lot of fun doing so.  He had about 16 songs in the regular set, and then two songs in the encore.  He did songs from his EP entitled "Human," like the title track, "Not Alone" (VIDEO) and "Jealousy." 

Of course, he did his songs from Glee, "Hey Soul Sister" (VIDEO) and "Teenage Dream."  It was just a bummer that my video "Teenage Dream" disappeared from my camera!

He did three Disney songs, namely "Make a Man Out of You," "Part of Your World" and attempted "Go the Distance" but charmingly flubbed the lyrics.  

Of course he did not disappoint the fans of his Youtube hit series "A Very Potter Musical" by doing a lot of its selections like "Get Back to Hogwarts" (singing multiple parts), "Granger Danger" (VIDEO) and even a Hermione song "The Coolest Girl."  

He ended his concert with a Christmas carol, "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" (VIDEO) and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." (VIDEO)

Last night, the fangirls were so unexpectedly rabid.  Some were even in Hermione costumes, in reference to Darren's starring role as Harry Potter in "A Very Potter Musical."  They were screaming so loudly when Darren made his appearance, and were singing along to ALL his songs!  This guy seems to have bright future ahead of him.

Tron Legacy

Posted by Fred on November 22, 2012 at 10:25 AM Comments comments (0)

December 22, 2010

There is something so odd about this movie. For a movie that is supposedly futuristic, "TRON: Legacy" actually felt dated to me. Those feel of the scenes in the beginning of the film really felt as though this whole film was done in the 1980s. The whole production even within The Grid really felt like it was the 80s again, with its minimalist bluish-white vs. orange-yellow color scheme. But come to think of it, this may be done on purpose since the character of Jeff Bridges had been trapped there and created that alternate computerized world since the 1980s.


I had a difficult time following the dialog many times. The pronunciations seemed slurred. The director may have assumed too much that the audience have seen the original 1980s film to be familiar with the storyline. Sometimes the scene continuity was confusing too. The actor playing the young and the adult Sam do not look alike. Also unfortunately, TRON himself is of a nature too nebulous for a title character, especially to the uninitiated.


Now for the plus side: As a light and sound show though, Tron Legacy excels. This movie is an audio-visual feast. The battles with the discs were exciting, along with the disintegrating Programs as they were "mortally" hit. The morphing into motorcycles or jets of light were very well-executed and beautiful to see. The races and battles of these light cycles were very neat.


Jeff Bridges the actor was, of course, proficient in his dual role as Kevin Flynn and Clu. The CG that creates a very young-looking Jeff Bridges was a realistic illusion. The new actors playing the leads, Garrett Hedlund (as Sam) and Olivia Wilde (as Quorra) did creditably well. Bruce Boxleitner looked nothing like how he looked in "Scarecrow and Mrs. King" back in his heyday.


TRON: Legacy is quite a spectacle to watch, yes. But do not expect a story that will make you think too much. Just ride along with the neon lights and have a good time.

The Fighter

Posted by Fred on November 22, 2012 at 10:10 AM Comments comments (0)

December 18, 2010


In the midst of my work and Christmas shopping, I felt the need to catch this multi-nominated film. I am so glad I did because it is outstanding. Ok, the typical ingredients of a boxing flick are here. A down-and-out underdog protagonist, the training scenes, the boxing ring scenes, the redemption towards the end. But the remarkable thing about this particular film is the fantastic acting, which can already be seen in the awards nominations already announced.


The ironic thing here is that the supporting actors have more acting challenges than the main character. It is good that Mark Wahlberg (as Micky Ward) was finally nominated for his acting, but his co-stars really stole the thunder from under him. He was basically underplaying his quiet character. Unfortunately, I also felt Wahlberg was miscast, being too old to be playing a young boxer on the rise. He was very realistic during the actual boxing scenes, as though he was a real boxer. (Wahlberg's training sessions with his idol Manny Pacquiao was very evident!)


Christian Bale had the showiest role as Micky's self-destructive half-brother and trainer Dicky Eklund. He was as far from his Bruce Wayne persona as can be. He was gaunt, slovenly and garrulous. He is uncompfrtably scary whenever he is onscreen. Melissa Leo, wow, shines in another very showy role! She is amazingly realistic as the domineering mother of these two boxers. Her Alice was a most self-possessed, quarrelsome and hateful character as they come.


Amy Adams also plays against her usual type as sassy Charlene, Micky's girlfriend who gives him back his confidence and a way out of his losing predicament. Even the more minor supporting characters were well-played: Jack Mc Gee as George Ward, Mickey O Keefe as himself, and even the seven annoying women who played the big-haired white-trashy sisters of Micky.


This film is fast-paced and interesting to watch. Director David O. Russell does a very good job in helming this project. I am glad it is getting the awards consideration it is currently earning. Very sure that the three supporting actors will make it all the way to the Oscar nomination listing.

Next to Normal (Broadway)

Posted by Fred on November 22, 2012 at 10:10 AM Comments comments (0)

December 12, 2010

I watched this musical based on good reputation alone (multiple Tony nominations in 2009, 2 wins). I had no idea who the actors were. I had no idea what the music sounded like. I had a very vague idea about the story. I recall reading an article written by Ms. Lea Salonga about how this play tackled some psychological disorder like that, and that was it. Alright in all honesty, and the relatively inexpensive orchestra seats were a big come-on for me.


So finally, on the night of October 5, 2010, after a very full day on the Statue of Liberty (to the crown!), followed by a tour of Brooklyn, my wife and I watched "Next to Normal" at the Booth Theater on West 45th St.


While we were watching the play, I just could not believe how well the story was told. I could not describe it without spoiling it so I wouldn't. Suffice it to say here that this has quite an unusual theme for a musical. It tackles a dysfunctional family in which the mother was in the course of suffering a psychotic meltdown. Its brave book won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama earlier this year.


There is a consciously serious effort to put realism into the medical course and management of psychosis. There is a lot of talk about multiple drug therapy (there's a song called "My Psychotherapist and I"). There is even a 'shocking' scene of electro-convulsive therapy, and its aftermath ("Song of Forgetting"). Who would have thought we would witness a musical that did that! This downbeat topic was buoyed by a driving rock musical score (the score by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey won the Tony), scathingly witty dialog (book by Brian Yorkey), amazing lighting displays and a very imaginative set construction.


The unfortunate mother Diana Goodman was played by Marin Mazzie. She was truly electrifying in her portrayal of the mental and emotional breakdown. Her pivotal scene about preparing sandwiches one morning was amazingly portrayed with heart-breaking impact. She has such a strong solid voice that effectively conveyed the rough psychological roller-coaster that her character was going through. It's hard to believe that Ms. Mazzie was not the actress who originated this complex role. (The original actress Ms. Alice Ripley won the Tony and other accolades for this role.)


Diana's husband Dan was played by Marin Mazzie's real-life husband Jason Danieley. Of course, their chemistry as the troubled couple was very palpable and real. Their son Gabe was portrayed by Kyle Dean Massey. This guy had great stage-presence and a very strong tenor, especially in the song "I'm Alive". Their daughter Natalie was played by pretty Meghann Fahy. She was also very good, but her performance was just ok when compared to the rest of the very talented main cast.


This was an excellent musical and is definitely a must-watch on Broadway. I was thinking if it would be possible to stage this play in Manila. I had no doubts about the acting and musical talent of a Filipino cast. But it might be the stage design that would be the challenge. When we came back, I found out that Atlantis would be staging this one next year, with no less than Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo and Jett Pangan as the doomed Mr. and Mrs. Goodman. Now, that is one play I would be watching for sure! (Next to Normal runs from March 11 to 27, 2011 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati. For details, call Atlantis Productions at 892-7078 or 840-1187.)