Saturday, January 29, 2005


By Reymundo Salao
Just Another Film Junkie
The Guardian, January 29, 2005

Elektra was first popularly introduced in the big screen with the 2002 film adaptation of the comicbook series Daredevil. An anti-hero who was far more ruthless in the comics than in the film, for Elektra has been haunted with several misfortunes as her father was killed by criminal syndicates years before (which was included in the Daredevil movie storyline), and her mother was killed by an assassin when she was just a child.

Elektra has a very simple story of a ruthless female assassin-for-hire whose twist of fate makes her realize that she really isn't a bad guy after all. When she was tasked to kill a mysterious man and his 13-year-old daughter that she briefly met, her instincts proved how deep her conscience of good must be, as she radically decides to spare them and even protect them from the other assassins that followed up on her unaccomplished assignment. This led her to get in the middle of a war between split sectors of a ninja clan; the order of the Hand. Only then does she discover how her actions might tip the balance between this aged-old war.

The film works as a stand-alone movie apart from the Daredevil movie, but it shows flashbacks and hints from that movie with scenes of the events that took place right after the Daredevil storyline. In the Daredevil movie, Elektra was killed in battle by Daredevil's adversary (the appropriately named) Bullseye. This movie shows scenes where Elektra was being revived after the incident. This, however, occurs in a flashback sequence for the timeline of this movie occurs (probably) years after, when Elektra has moved on and away from her former life, becoming the unemotional machine that she is, a coldhearted killer reputed in the world of assassination. And like most stories of dark heroes, there would always be a point of redemption in the end, and our hero becomes the noble warrior that she is.

The movie is a great addition to the growing film adaptations of the Marvel Universe that can connect Daredevil, Elektra, Punisher, and even Spiderman into the same universe. It may also be taken into notice by geeks that the villains of this movie, ninja cult The Hand are also the same ninja cult that trained X-men character Psylocke. If the character Psylocke does appear in the next X-men movie, it holds some sort of distant but connected involvement between characters of different movies. Just a thought.

Jennifer Garner, who has become quite popular for her action TV series "Alias", plays the lead character. She is fantastic for this role, a cold killer, whose memories of tragedy and loss haunt her. Much credit may be due to "Alias" which has made her an icon for the action-chick genre. What is so wonderful about Garner is that she has a warrior's grace and an amazon beauty. When I would look at her I would find her beauty not in a feminine and sexy kind of way, but in a manner that she seems to carry the persona of an uber-babe that is strong in will, conviction, and even strength. When I look at her, I would say "I bet she could kick my ass, and I would like it"

Also an overwhelming presence is that of Terence Stamp, who plays a martial arts guru, funnily nicknamed Stick. It is so hard to pull off a role of a martial arts guru if you do not look completely oriental but on the case of Stamp, he pulls it off by the way his stage presence lets you shut up and listen to what he has to say. Stamp's acting is superb, even though he does play a mere supporting role. His performance and its chemistry with Garner's similarly potential charm in acting make a perfect blend. One scene that was simply footnote worthy was when Elektra was banished by Stick from their order. Garner's simple vibe of emotions evoke real sincerity.

Worth mentioning also are the other actors, especially the cool villains that possess supernatural powers. One that really mesmerized me was villainess Typhoid (also known as "Typhoid Mary" in the comicbooks), whose deadly killing powers are easily secreted off her body, that a mere kiss can kill her victims. She was one hot villainess. A postergirl for cruel-cool.

Elektra is really a far cry from the evanescence-synching sai-chick in Daredevil. Daredevil may have been pretty bland that it did not seem to satisfy fans of both Daredevil and Elektra alike. But this time, director Rob Bowman, whose known for his longtime work with the X-files, has taken the duty to breathe more life into the character of this dark heroine. And indeed, a great surge of life did pump into Elektra. Bowman delivers a great sense of enigma in the scenes where Elektra is unlocking her fears during her childhood, and the action scenes are seem to be a great homage to the classic ninja movies and Hongkong films as well. Bowman did a fine work in avoiding the stunt-with-wires Hongkong-style technique, which often appears ridiculous. The stunts and action sequences of this film have great martial arts techniques and stunt tricks that are breathtaking to watch blow-by-blow. So much so that Garner was seriously injured during the filming of this movie.

ELEKTRA is one mean action-chick flick that rates well along with other superhero/comicbook genre films like "X-Men" and "Punisher". It may also be a great film if you love the Daredevil series, as this movie may have hints for either an Elektra sequel or another Daredevil cross-over.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005


by Reymundo Salao
Just Another Film Junkie
The Guardian, January 20, 2005

I was rather glad that Robinson's Movieworld managed to extend the theatre run of Ocean's Twelve. The film has a multiple stellar cast; George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Catherine Zeta Jones, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Bernie Mac, among others, and was directed by Steven Soderbergh (who directed Ocean's Eleven, Traffic, and Solaris). The film is the sequel of Ocean's Eleven, a remake about an organized group of talented, err… thieves who have managed to accomplish the impossible, by stealing millions of dollars from three Las Vegas casinos at the same evening. This sequel follows what happened a few years after the events of Ocean's Eleven. As Benedict, the gangster-type owner of the three Casinos, has found out that it was Daniel Ocean and his group (dubbed the Ocean's Eleven), who were the ones who were guilty of stealing from him. He and his goons began visiting the Ocean's Eleven and giving them a deadline upon which they must pay him back what they stole from him, or else of course, he would have their heads.

So, Danny Ocean and his Ocean's Eleven must now do what they can to gather enough cash to pay their debt. How else would they generate enough cash, but to go on stealing again. And so, the Ocean's Eleven are back at their drawing boards to accomplish great, almost-impossible heists. But they have more than one problem to slow them down. A brilliant Catcher-of-Thieves Interpol agent, as portrayed by Catherine Zeta Jones, and competition in the guise of another master thief who wishes to challenge the skills of Ocean's Eleven.

Ocean's Twelve is a very entertaining movie with unexpected zany humor, the kind that has sent me choking in laughter when I watched it. It serves as a really good sequel to Ocean's Eleven. (spoiler alert: the following may have hints that may spoil the film to those who haven't watched the movie) We may all have enjoyed movies of heroic thieves, like "Entrapment", "The Thomas Crown Affair" and "After the Sunset", but those movies have not delved into the emotion of how it is for a heroically impossible feat of theft fall to failure and be caught by the police. Ocean's Twelve lets you in to the emotions of this, something which I may consider a breakthrough for movies of this genre.

If you have watched this movie, I bet you would agree that this is one film worth watching again and again. The tandem of the cast brings such a pleasant chemistry that it surely entertains us, and the humor that it brings is something to discuss and laugh about with your friends afterwards.

Metro Manila Film Festival 2004

by Reymundo Salao
Just Another Film Junkie
The Guardian, January 15, 2005

Well it seems like it has been a long holiday since I got back to the keyboards for some film reviews. I had a well-spent time off to hangout with family and friends who have been visiting the city for Christmas vacation. But I was indeed able to watch the films of the December holiday.

The Metro Manila Film Festival had only 3 entries that grabbed my interest. PANAGHOY SA SUBA, SPIRIT OF THE GLASS, and SIGAW, which I was MOST interested in among the three. Apart from the rest of the typical sickening flock of tagalog film directors, Yam Laranas stands out as one of the new directors that has an almost flawless quality in directing a movie, no cornball antics, no sequence loopholes and inconsistencies. His other films RADYO and IKAW LAMANG HANGANG NGAYON are movies that possess a quality that can match Hollywood films. His films don't make u cringe in shame like how other tagalog movies would. My single turn-off about this film is the casting: Richard Guttierez as the leading man? I see him as a very bland actor that seems to have that consistent spotlight in the current showbiz scene only because of his "pa-cute" image and the powers of a seemingly unintentional showbiz nepotism. Laranas may be a good director, but in the world of tagalog films, there would sometimes be art-altering demands from a slave-driving producer in the areas of casting and script.

Unfortunately though, I failed to watch SIGAW because it was shown in the first week of the MMFF Films run, which was Christmas week, when I was quite busy with my other schedules.

Later on, I was able to watch SPIRIT OF THE GLASS, which was directed by Jose Javier Reyes, who really is a director that has his fair share of good movies. But his style isn't very outstanding. Which goes out the same for this film. From the trailer, SPIRIT OF THE GLASS looks promising, what with the way film trailers has become such an art in itself already. Sure, the film is all right, but looking at it on a very strict point of view, there are prominent points that only lessened the impact of the film. One is on the costume/wardrobe aspect of the film. I believe that the trendy look of the film's main characters (which is an unquestionably attractive bunch) lessened the supposedly-eerie mood of the film. Many of the scenes are robbed of their "scare-impact" simply because the audience is suspended in adoration of how prettily flashy and trendy the wardrobes of the main characters are, when there is no need for the scene to have that "fashion-show moment". Another issue is that of Marvin Agustin portraying "the Ghost", which is never scary, the fact that not only was there no make-up or special effect used in his scenes, but also that Agustin is just too popular to portray a ghost. Nonetheless, SPIRIT OF THE GLASS also has its little moments that work as a ghost film, with special emphasis of the eerily-haunting theme song that does make your hair stand.

PANAGHOY SA SUBA should have been the best film in the Metro Manila Film Festival Awards Night. But then again, I never do trust the seemingly shallow taste of the MMFF judges. It was no doubt that those who win this award goes to the richest and most influential filmmakers of the country. No wonder the tagalog movie industry is dying of its own induced cancer. Anyway, PANAGHOY SA SUBA is a film which has its dialogues spoken in Bisaya since the story is set in Bohol during the World War 2 era, and stars Juliana Palermo, Cesar Montano, Caridad Sanchez, and Jacky Woo, among many other Visayas performers. The story revolves around the events in a small river community in Bohol, it taps on the innocence of the people and how they faced the radical changes that have come their way, especially when the Japanese forces occupied their community. Many of the aspects of the story reflects the many quirks of Filipino society that are thought-provoking, such as the ugliness of colonial mentality, and the romantic ways of olden times when suitors would do their harana (serenade) before the woman they love.

Cesar Montano is also the director of this film, and as his first project, Montano has proven that he is indeed a promising director. Although there maybe hitches and tiny dull moments that slowed the film down, it still is quite an impressive work from a first-time director.

The film has sublime messages from its plot that tells many ideas. From the anti-stereotype Japanese general who wants a peaceful occupation, to the inner conflict of Montano's character when he discovers that this own brother is in love with the same woman he is courting, PANAGHOY is a rich movie that is full of drama and healthy with a brilliant storyline. May there be more movies like this.


by Reymundo Salao
Just Another Film Junkie
January 20, 2005

In my last catch-up-on-things Film Junkie article, I was able to review two Metro Manila Film Festival movies; "Spirit of the Glass" and "Panaghoy sa Suba". I intended to watch "Sigaw", which I discussed in the last issue, but I was buried in my busy schedule of family and other matters. However, I would be sorry to say that I have no mood to give a thorough review on the rest of the other MMFF movies. Why? One reason is because the rest of the films were made by the producers that have themselves destroyed the reputation of Tagalog film cinema over the many years that it has sucked.

It seems to be pure coincidence, but Joel Lamangan is the director of the three movies that give me an unpleasant vomit-inducing reaction. First, is "So…Happy Together" This movie seems to make fools of the movie-goers because it carries on the bad tradition of local film makers who OBVIOUSLY COPY well-established popular films. There is a Wong Kar Wai movie which is ALSO about a love-triangle of homosexuality, its plot similar to the Kris Aquino movie directed by Lamangan, and the title of this award-winning and well-recognized movie is "Happy Together" The producers are so reeking with copycat incompetence that they even copied the actual title of the original and just added the word "So…" It is this attitude of OBVIOUS COPYCAT which producers practice quite often that is actually destroying the local film industry. How can the local film industry flourish if those wealthiest of producers are observing practices that DO NOT promote originality?

Another Lamangan film, MANO PO 3…. ANOTHER MANO PO movie?!!! And it is not even a sequel of the first Mano Po movie. Why call it Mano Po 3? On part 2, Kris and Eddie Garcia are playing new characters on an entirely different storyline that is not connected at all to the first movie. On the 3rd movie, you have also an entirely different storyline not connected to Mano Po 1 and 2, with Totoy Mola playing an entirely different role too! It is a franchise that has no sense. Holding on to this franchise name, and to think that 'Mano Po' is supposed to be associated to a term that is attached to a purely Filipino virtue (no offense to the Chinese community). In addition, the title has no relevance to the storylines of ALL the "Mano Po" movies. I would remember how, in her review, Jessica Zafra describes "Mano Po" to look like a silver swan commercial. Why the hell did it win the Best Film instead of Panaghoy sa Suba is beyond me, and I smell IHAW!

Lastly is AISHTE IMASU. You call THIS film a period piece?! Just look at the costumes. The Japanese soldiers look like they all AT THE SAME TIME just went out of the same boutique with the SAME NEW ULTRA-CLEAN UNIFORM! Look at the "townspeople" how their supposedly-daily clothes look so new as well, obviously out of the costume-department tailor. The film has a really REALLY BAD set design. Plus, it ambitions to have this aerial dogfight scene with computer generated fighter planes. This is one common sin local filmmakers do: aspire to have an elaborate special effects scene (when they can actually accomplish similar effects with simple camera tricks) that would only look cheap and awful.

And the directing of all three films? The similar Joel Lamangan cut; numerous loopholes and inconsistencies, corny lines, irrelevant scenes, and confusing sequences. At least "Enteng Kabisote" and "Lastikman" did not have the pretentiousness to be worthy of some film award, for they clearly are family-friendly movies that would only seek to dominate the week's film market, "Aishte Imasu" tried to look historical, when it is only a parade of young drama superstars, "Mano Po 3" was a lovestory attached to a film franchise that does not make sense, and "So.. Happy Together" aspires to "break into the reputation" of being a smart gay film, but it is NOT smart BECAUSE THEY COPIED IT FROM TITLE TO SCENE! Why is the local film industry dying? It is because of movies like these three!

Friday, January 14, 2005


by Reymundo Salao
Just Another Film Junkie
The Guardian, January 15, 2005

Let's take a break from the MMFF discussion to turn our focus on a film I saw this weekend, BLADE TRINITY, which is the third movie of the BLADE franchise. As many of you already know, BLADE is an action-sci-fi-horror-superhero movie that stars Wesley Snipes as the title character, and is about a daywalking vampire who hunts other vampires as his heroic quest.

This new BLADE movie is about how a vampire faction has managed to frame Blade by tricking him into killing a human. When this happens, Blade becomes a wanted felon and is being tracked down by the police. But this is only the tip of the iceberg as Blade is actually about to face the deadliest and most powerful vampire that ever walked the Earth.

This new movie is directed by David Goyer, who also wrote the script and has also written the script for the upcoming Batman movie. Although it may not stand on similar ground as how marvelously good the first and second Blade movies were, Blade Trinity is worth watching for its incredible action sequences and martial arts stunts. It also serves as a good epilogue for the Blade franchise. But on the other hand, is it really the end for the Blade saga?

Okay, honestly? It was a BAD sequel. Blame the doofus who played Dracula, and Triple H for such a wussy role.