The Avengers: Age of Ultron

April 22 saw me trooping to the mall initially to see the Manny Pacquiao biopic Kid Kulafu. Instead, we found that the movie was no longer showing and in its place was the newest Avengers movie.

I honestly had no plans of watching the movie on the big screen because I knew (and I was right) that it would be nothing but explosions and smashing and city property getting damaged and heroes getting bruised and alien tech being used. Nevertheless, I was still excited to see the next installment since I had seen the previous movies in the same universe (Guardians of the Galaxy included).

This latest movie, despite having a stand-alone story, exists as part of a series, and by that I don’t just mean The Avengers series. I know you know what I mean, so I won’t delve deeper into that. What I do want to talk about is how Ultron was completely unexpected for me.

I am what you’d call a casual Marvel fan. I just watch the movies for the pure entertainment of watching them. I don’t go around in costume, nor do I join fan-targetted or organized events. I do not write fanfiction. I just like the movies and gush over… well, none of them, to be honest. Therefore, allow me to say that I did not expect much from the movie.

However, Ultron was still a bit underwhelming for me. Coming from the big bad alien war of the first movie, I thought there’d be something similar in this one, and I thought Ultron (the character) was that big bad alien.

(minor spoilers under the cut)

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Kingsman (2015)

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If there ever was a movie for which the adjective “mind-blowing” would be appropriate, then this would be it.

Kingsman: The Secret Service tells the story of Eggsy Unwin (Taron Egerton) who gets recruited by super secret spy Harry Hart/Gallahad (Colin Firth).

The film plays on the traditional/old-fashioned spy movies and refers to those frequently. You have your megalomaniac who seeks to change the world through “questionable” means, the gentleman super spy who can kick ass in a bespoke suit, and the young recruit looking to prove himself.

Pretty straightforward and simple, right?

The shocker for me was not in the fact that Colin Firth–the quintessential, gentleman, the man whom other men have to live up to no thanks to his Mr. Darcy role–could plausibly disarm and bring down an entire congregation of people. The shocker for me was the violence.

The local R-16 was lenient, in my opinion. But then again my judgment could be tainted by my teacher ways, so let me rephrase that.

Kingsman takes the word “secret” to a while new level. It had disguised itself as a thoroughly proper and respectable and sort of generic spy movie with the added twist of the secret agency literally being super secret that not even the world’s most popular secret service agencies knew about their existence. They were like the Illuminati except that they were the good guys. The lack of dark overtones in the film processing* and the very few but appropriately placed humorous moments gave one the impression that THERE WAS NOTHING TO BE HORRIFIED ABOUT.

BUT.

(I’m sorry. The font size was necessary for this.)

I

WAS

HORRIFIED.

In a good way.

I’m not quite sure how “horrified in a good way” works, so let me just ramble a bit.

You know how the James Bond movies or other super spy movies always look gritty on screen or have these dark gray or blue color overlay (someone with film tech know-how help me quick!) to emphasize the dankness and the seriousness of the film? WELL, Kingsman was all oranges and yellows and blues and greens and purples. It was colorful. It was bright. It was clean. It was so neat you’d be afraid of eating flavored popcorn for fear of soiling your fingers.

PLUS Colin Firth was such a perfect and poised gentleman that when he finally brought out the moves your mouth just drops and you find yourself leaning forward in your seat while cringing or cowering or all of the above.

Mind-blowing? Definitely. LITERALLY, even.

Secretive? You bet. Who the hell knew Mr. Darcy could move like that? Who the hell knew he could disarm, dismember, behead, maim, kill people with the speed and agility of a champion martial artist and the poise of an aristocrat?

Who knew Samuel L. Jackson could be more annoying than ever? (personal bias, sorry. Not a big fan of the dude)

Who knew a more violent mainstream movie than Kill Bill could exist?

This movie isn’t all about the shock factor, though.

Once you get past the blood and gore and the impeccably tailored suits, you realize that movie makes some pretty compelling points.

One: we humans are the disease killing our planet. What happens when the body gets infected by a virus? The body gets feverish in an attempt to get rid of the virus. Bottomline? The virus dies. Mother Nature is the body, global warming is the fever, and we are the virus. WE die.

Some people might think this is just trivial in an action movie, but, for me, the analogy makes so much sense that it’s hard to ignore. I’m not going to wait for a Richmond Valentine to come and help Mother Nature along. None of us should.

Two: Women. I was going to say that women play a huge role in this film until I realized that there were only two major female characters here, and even then they were only in supporting roles. Roxy and Gazelle were pretty badass, but they still play second-fiddle to the men. Although the movie shows that women are just as competent (MORE, even) as men, the movie also shows that they still need to be tempered by the men. Roxy needed Eggsy to calm her down before the skydiving exercise. Gazelle was too bloodthirsty that she needed Valentine’s weak stomach to rein her in from shedding more blood. I’d personally like to see a movie where both hero and villain are female, and I’d like for this to be a serious movie and not a comedy like what we usually have here locally (Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah comes to mind even though technically the protagonist is a guy).

Three: Times are a-changing. Gadgets, particularly our smartphones, can be mankind’s downfall.

There really is so much about this movie that one can say. Colin Firth was perfect. Whatever doubt I had that he could move like a lean mean killing machine flew out the window when I saw his action sequences. Taron Egerton was just as amazing. I’d have wanted to see him do more parkour, though. Roxy was underdeveloped. I wish we had seen more of her spy abilities. Gazelle was just absolutely wicked.

Watch it.

Watch IT.

WATCH IT.

—–

*I’m not a film expert, so I don’t know the terminology.

Wrapping up the year with more movies

Persuasion (1995)

It’s Austen; come on. Of course I had to watch this again.

9 years they put their emotions on hold, and they thought they were done with each other. Fate, in the form of an extravagant minor royal of a father, brings the two back together in each other’s lives. Anne Elliot knows she still has feelings for him, but what of Wentworth? Has he gotten over her?

I always love watching this movie because it was in the little things that showed how both characters truly felt for each other: the nervous glance, the glare, the helping hand, the indifferent look, the angry message, the restrained and stiff stance, the dismissive meeting,

THE LETTER.

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It’s the polar opposite of Austen’s most iconic work, Pride and Prejudice, which was all about big and grand gestures. I find myself appreciating the nuances of the protagonists’ actions.

Pride and Prejudice (2005)

Local and formal balls and sweeping declarations of love (albeit faulty and prejudiced and biased) and loud family members and love, love, LOVE.

As far as romances go, this could be the ancestor of modern-day romantic-comedies. Miscommunication and misunderstandings and bruised egos. This could easily be turned into a comedy of errors, but because Austen has written this so well, it would seem sacrilege to turn this into anything but a beautiful romantic film.

Oh just thinking of that sunrise meeting once again makes me melt.

English Only, Please (2014)

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I’ve gotten glimpses of reviews that have declared this as THE romantic comedy for the A/B market here in the Philippines. I’d agree with them if I hadn’t seen That Thing Called Tadhana first, but that’s for a different post.

In any case, I agree with the suggestion that the romantic-comedy films in this country are substandard and unintelligent and cheesy. There is no wit in the storytelling nor beauty in the cinematography. Horrible wigs proliferate in the local romance films (comedy or drama, it’s the same horrible wigs)taking one’s attention away from the story and directing it to that mop of turd on the actors’ heads.

In THIS movie, though, there are no such distractions. You can focus on the story, on the characters, on the dialogue. You can focus on male lead Derek Ramsay as his character tries in vain to speak Filipino well even though in reality, he actually speaks the language fluently. You can focus on Kean Cipriano’s role as the asshole boyfriend and scream, “TANGINA MO!” at him in the cinema (yes, it really happened). You can focus on Jennylyn Mercado who really is just perfect for the role. She was feisty and intelligent but stupid when it came to love.

Which brings me to the writer, Antoinette Jadaone.

She has three films that I know of under her belt: Beauty in a Bottle, That Thing Called Tadhana, and English Only, Please.

All three movies seemed to revolve around how people become stupid in love.  It makes you wonder how long she can work this angle without getting formulaic (notice the text inserts/commentary in all three films).

Footnote: The cafe scenes were shot in Cool Beans Library Cafe along Maginhawa St., Teacher’s Village, Quezon City.

A Christmas Wedding Date (2012)

This is a TV movie starring Marla Sokoloff whom I remember from Sugar and Spice and The Practice (TV). It was Christmas-themed, it was romance, so I watched it. It was meh as far as TV movies go, but it was still a pretty decent time-waster.

More movies

What If (Danielle Radcliffe)

Didn’t finish it.

Death At A Funeral

Skipped some (ahem. A lot of) parts.

Beauty In A Bottle

Last part put me in a semi-permanent state of cringe.

Overall, it was hilarious. 🙂

She’s Dating The Gangster

I was surprised. This was actually very good.

Tadhana

 

Tadhana – fate

That Thing Called Tadhana is a beautiful movie.

Two scenes hit me hardest:

1. When Mace was hauling her luggage up then down the pedestrian overpass.

Mabagal at mabigat, pero kaya.

2. When Mace was shouting her emotions out over a gorgeous mountain view and crying at the same time.

Ayoko na!

I’ve always felt scenes like that were ridiculous, but then I realize I could be judging people who do that as annoyingly pretentious people who do it because they saw it in a movie or something.

But there was something about Mace’s tears that tugged at me, that made me realize that I actually need such a release. Perhaps not on a grand scale like the one in the movie, but something that will bring about that desired cathartic effect.

Fitting movie choice, considering that I had reservations about today. I was in a foul mood at some parts of the day because of certain incidents, text messages, thoughts, words uttered, and generally horrible weather.

In hindsight, I believe that tadhana made this day happen. I learned a lot of things about myself, friends…people in general.

I’m glad today happened. I really wasn’t looking forward to this day, but now I’m glad it did.

For movie dates with friends to hours on end just talking and having someone REALLY LISTEN TO YOU WITHOUT JUDGMENT (whether perceived or real) or INTERRUPTION… Moments such as these are rare for me because it takes a lot for me to open up. THANK YOU.

THANK YOU.

THANK YOU.

Today would make for excellent material for a movie, in my opinion. I can picture the scenes in my head already.

Austenland

Austenland, from novel to film

Austenland, from novel to film

I first heard about this through YouTube. I was checking a video out then I saw the trailer for this movie on the sidebar, so of course I had to view it, me being a Jane Austen fan and all.

The first thing that appealed to me (aside from the fact that it had something to do with Austen) is that the lead female is Keri Russell, who used to be my absolute hair idol (now it’s Christina Caradona, but that’s for another blog post) because of her gorgeous curly hair back in Felicity.

The other thing that drew me to this was J.J. Feild, who played Tilney in an adaptation of Northanger Abbey. He looks a bit like the adorable Tom Hiddleston, which is a huge plus.

Lest I be accused of being interested solely for the actors’ good looks, I have to say that I was pretty intrigued by the idea of a Jane Austen themed “alternate reality,” if you will. I’m not die-hard enough to actually spend money on something like that and then possibly face discrimination on site because I’m not at all English, but it did get my imagination running pretty wildly for some time.

When I found out it was an adaptation of Shannon Hale’s story of the same title, I was drawn in further. I found a copy of the book and proceeded to read it, loving every bit of it. The movie, on the other hand, was a bit of a let-down. I know I shouldn’t have been expecting much, but it sort of went the other way I had in my mind. Nevertheless, it was still very enjoyable, with a lot of cringe-worthy scenes that just add to the fun of watching.

Hi-ho hi-ho it’s off to work I go

Summer vacation’s over for us teachers which means it’s back to school we go for curriculum planning and other preparatory activities for the coming school year. We’ve been at work a week and we’ve accomplished a lot. The sad thing is that I seem to have neglected this blog. Work has taken my attention away from here, so I figure it’s high time I rectify the situation.

But what to write about?

How about a mish mash of reviews of texts I’ve consumed over the past few weeks? And by texts I don’t just mean print material but also in other media forms.

Let’s start with Iron Man 3. (Minor spoiler up ahead)

I saw it last weekend, and let me tell you, I was not riveted nor was I highly impressed. It was funny, yes, but in my opinion it was paced more slowly (I was texting and checking FB and Twitter for most of the film because I was so bored) and lacked proper exposition of some aspects of characterization of Tony Stark. I mean, what in the world was causing the anxiety? It is made clear that it was related to the Avengers movie, but there was no clear trigger. He’d just suddenly get a panic attack. The whole thing felt contrived and irrelevant to the whole thing. Guy Pearce, on the other hand, I found spectacular. I could be biased (I loved him in Memento), but really, I was impressed by his portrayal (after the makeover; before was just very stereotypical mad scientist garb) of the man who was to make Tony Stark’s life hell.

Anyway. It’s funny. Watch it for the laughs, but I felt like the humor and jokes and witticisms are more… intelligent and adult. I found myself laughing alone for some of the jokes (I am just assuming that the others in the theater with me did not understand the jokes from lack of proper cultural context).

What was I saying? Oh yeah. Watch it. Out of the three Iron Man movies, this one was not the best, but it was still entertaining.

Harlequin Romances

I mentioned in a previous post that I’ve been reading some romance novels lately from a general lack of reading material and also a lack of patience with the more serious novels in my TBR list (Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Les Miserables, etc). Since Harlequin Romances were a dime a dozen, it was easy to come by with this reading material. After reading around 5-7 in quick succession, I can understand now the feeling that romance novels may never be considered GREAT literature. Oh, they’re great fun, no doubt, but they’ll never be part of the canon (unless the powers that be are all romance writers).

One telling sign that these books are pretty much nothing more than fantasy candy is the “ad” in the books. Here’s the one from Harlequin Presents:

You want the world! Harlequin Presents stories are all about intrigue and escape–glamorous settings, gorgeous women and the passionate, unforgettable men who want them.

Harlequin Presents

Harlequin Presents

I don’t have a copy of a Harlequin Blaze book, but the ad for that mentions “alpha males,” so you can imagine already what those books would be like.

Truth be told I can’t tell the difference between a Harlequin Blaze from a Harlequin Presents story. It’s all romance and sex between near-perfect human beings. And the one thing that annoyed me was that the reader spends too much time in the heads of the characters–how they couldn’t stop thinking about the lips of the other person or the perfect body of that person or how impossible it should have been to feel something other than lust for that person. It gets tiresome, honestly. Also, the plot is driven by sex. In all fairness to these romance authors, they do put in a fairly decent plot. I came across a smut fic one and, well, ew. Zero plot. That is all.

As my new online friend Susan said, you should enjoy the “vicarious pleasure they provide” because that’s pretty much all you’ll get from them. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m still gonna get myself a Harlequin fix once in a while :D)

Arthur C. Clarke “The Other Side of the Sky”

I first heard of this man back in college when we were asked to read his short story The Star (very interesting, very much worth discussing). I still find it difficult to articulate my thoughts on this short story because it touches on two fairly opposite things: faith and science (which I’ve realized is a dualism that seems to figure in his stories…at least the ones I’ve read). All I know is that it was this story that kept me on the lookout for other Arthur C. Clarke stories.

I got lucky one time I visited my favorite secondhand book store, Booksale. Right there at the top of a book pile was a paperback copy of one of his collections, The Other Side of the Sky. The first thing I checked was if it included a copy of The Star. Upon seeing that it was, I immediately checked the price (it was only PHP70 / < USD2!!!) and proceeded to buy it. I’m on my fourth short story now, and so far I’ve been loving it. I’m not a big fan of science-fiction, but if I do say so myself, this seems to be a pretty safe introduction to the genre.