The Bourne Legacy: I am Aaron Cross

There never was just one.

The Bourne Legacy is not a bad movie. It is, however, a movie without any meat.  It’s appetizer and soup without the main dish. And if it were in fact a main dish, it gives us only a single bite before the whole plate is taken unceremoniously away from the table. Yet the bite quenches our stomachs and we ponder, as the taste lingers, of how delicious it could have been if only we were given the whole plate to eat.

You see, it suffers from an abrupt ending. Just when I thought the story just started, the credits rolled in.

The movie introduces us to Aaron Cross. As the film opens, we see Cross in Alaskan training ground, diving into a river, being hunted by a pack of wolves and leaping over snowy rocky mountains. We learn that he is a member of Operation Outcome, a black ops program which involves modifying the human genome for incredible physical and mental ability. They do this by letting their operatives take little blue and green pills (‘chems’) every couple of hours. Operation Outcome, however, is threatened by the public exposure of the Blackbriar program by Jason Bourne. To address this, Outcome is closed down and everyone connected to it gets a death sentence. The fourth Bourne movie is essentially a man who needs his medicines (or his fix by viralling out) and tries to get it while being hunted down by his own agency.

At this point, it is important to take note what the guy is not: he is not Jason Bourne, he is not Jason Bourne without the amnesia, he is not Blackbriar and he is not Treadstone. The film takes pains to remind us of these from time to time. The story is a ramification which was set into motion by the actions of Jason Bourne. Aaron Cross is not Robert Ludlum’s rogue masterspy, but like his predecessor, he isn’t a superhero either. He gets hurt when someone hits him, he goes down when someone shoots him, and like every other human being in the planet, he doubles over when a virus is injected into his system. I don’t know how Ludlum would have reacted to the enhancers, but I do know that he has always intended his characters to be just human beings capable of feeling pain. While Aaron Cross may not be his creation, I feel like this aspect of him stayed true to Ludlum’s… ‘character vision’.

While the story itself is a bit uninspired, the film benefits from the performance of its two main leads. Jeremy Renner gives a magnetic performance as the enhanced ex-agent and embraces Aaron Cross as his own. The man can act, he’s likable in his role and he is indeed, Aaron Cross. Rachel Weisz holds her own strongly as Dr. Marta Shearing, a PhD geneticist. For the past few years the two of them has met thirteen times in the laboratory (he counted), he has flirted with her whilst on camera, and the movie isn’t shy at showing their attraction. Who knew Renner and Weisz has chemistry? They were actually… sweet.  In a film which sadly failed to exploit Edward Norton’s full potential as CIA hunter Eric Byer, both Renner and Weisz stands as its saving grace.

I’m not saying the movie is a disgrace to the Bourne franchise because it is not. But while it has its own story to tell and it tells it, it just doesn’t quite deliver. It may have been an uninspired story but it had potential. In food metaphor: it was a tasty bite, but as a meager one bite from a delicious dish would have it, it’s not enough. Imagine my shock when after that very long motorcycle chase the scene cuts to a boat, a meaningful look between Aaron and Marta and – poof! – the credits rolls in. It’s like yanking the dishes away from the table just after everything has been set and everyone has sat down. Maybe they could have trimmed down the chase scenes (they were unnecessarily long, and maybe badly edited because I didn’t get the whole picture) and spared us the genetic mutation crash course (the public doesn’t speak genetic science) to give more time for a decent conclusion.

Yes, I know there’s a sequel to this. The final scene doesn’t fail to promise us that. With six more books to go, the Bourne franchise is here to stay. While I may have not read Eric Van Lustbader’s  Bourne books (Legacy, Sanction, Deception, Objective, Dominion and Imperative) I very much hope the franchise doesn’t overextend its welcome. I love Jason Bourne, in fact Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity is my most favorite novel of all time. While the films didn’t quite turn out as how I initially thought they would be, I do hope that the quality of the remaining Bourne films would live up to the reputation of its original source material.

Perhaps in the next film Jason Bourne and Aaron Cross meet, team up and take down the CIA together a la Avengers: Master Spies Edition… An interesting concept. I don’t know how it would work, but the thought would be enough to make me watch it.

Cross is for Delta, and Delta is for Cross. (You wouldn’t understand this unless you’ve read The Bourne Trilogy.)

(P.S.: Did you know Jeremy Renner CAN sing? The man sure has an amazing voiceAnd is he gay??)

/ I’ve been running around trying to bring down the CIA /

/ They won’t leave me alone. I’m not Treadstone. Gotta get away /

/ You know I’m gonna shoot somebody / Someone like youuu. /

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Hana Yori Dango: Why the Japanese version is still the best

It is one of the most easily recognizable names in Asian entertainment. The manga Kamio Youko created back in 1992 has now been adopted into an anime series, two movies, a Taiwanese drama, a Japanese drama and a Korean drama. Hana Yori Dango (Boys Over Flowers) is that quintessential Cinderella story that took Asia by storm.

We all know the story. Makino Tsukushi attends the prestigious Eitoku High School. She’s a mere commoner, she can’t stand her elitist classmates and she hates the “F4”, the four most powerful boys in the school who rule Eitoku with an iron fist and handsome faces. But she has one and a half year more to go so she bears it quietly, hoping to be left alone by whatever it is the rich and the wealthy in Eitoku do. But as fate would have it, her wish is not granted and her life is soon entangled with that of “F4”. A whirlwind of quarrels, bickerings, love, confusion, friendship and heartbreaks ensue. The Asian entertainment world decided they wanted such whirlwind and on comes three dramas from three different countries – Taiwan’s Meteor Garden, Japan’s Hana Yori Dango and Korea’s Boys Over Flowers. What came after was the inevitable comparison between the three – which is the best Hana Yori Dango version of them all?

I pick that which nearly all the rest did – the Japanese version.

Here comes the inevitable comparison. Should I somehow cause offense to anybody, I don’t care. This is my blog, why don’t you go and bash my review in your own? (I’m saying that in a nice tone..)

METEOR GARDEN (Taiwanese)

The first of the three. I wouldn’t deny its ‘phenomenon-ality’. It swept Asia into a frenzy of squealing girls, opened numerous doors for its five stars and successfully dared to take the name of the “F4” and made it into one of the most popular Asian bands. Oh the screams and the many posters of different sizes I saw everywhere when it aired. Was it a very good television series? Perhaps, I guess it was okay, even if I was never taken aback by it. Although the acting improved as the series went on, no one acted very well, the characters weren’t that developed, and I couldn’t feel the closeness or the chemistry or the easy friendship between Shan Cai and the two other members of the F4, Xi Men and Mei Zuo (it actually made me think they weren’t that close at all), heck, I didn’t even feel any of the strong friendship the F4 supposedly represents. I didn’t like the production or the set design – instead of a luxurious, prestigious school, they presented a dull elite school shot with too much darkness and far less color. And the drama series dragged on. Where were the expensive brand names, the vibrant colors that showed luxury, the closeness between the characters? Where was Shan Cai’s youthful and spunky personality? Kamio Youko’s manga was not a chapter by chapter crying fest. It was an alternate, and a sometimes snychronic mixture of comedy, drama, and the touching moments in between them. Where was the comedy?

For all its faults, I would give Meteor Garden two things: one, they were the only ones who remained faithful to the manga; and second, they hit, spot-on, the ideal physical embodiment of the “F4”. They were tall, they were handsome, and their smiles did made girls giddy. And they had, physically at least, the most perfect version of Hanazawa Rui, or in this case, Hua Ze Lei.

BOYS OVER FLOWERS (Korean)

Here is a Makino who shouts at her mother. I hated their Geum Jan Di. I didn’t like her one bit. They didn’t get the character at all. She was suppose to be spunky, not loud – there’s a world of difference between the two. And she certainly is not supposed to be innocent and stupid.

Now that I’ve got that out, this is what I have to say:

I admire Boys Over Flowers for their ambition. They had taken a much too recycled plot line and gave it a refreshing tweak. Instead of taking the straight path so many had treaded on, they had dared to take the sidelines and walked the road not taken by those before them. Were they successful? Perhaps. Was it good? It was as any average Korean drama is – enjoyable. And therein lies the answer.

The truth of the matter was that it wasn’t good good. It was eyecandy toppled over a drama series that could have been better. It wasn’t among the best Korean dramas there is, dear God no. Where did it go wrong? Certainly not in the clothes, the look of luxury, the production design, and the style. Where then? They were too caught up in becoming the best version they didn’t realize that the drama has dragged on too much. They added a lot of twists that there were too many things going on that had nothing to do with the actual story. They looked at the big picture and tried too hard they forgot the little essential things – like understanding Makino’s (Jan Di’s) actual character, the development of all members of the F4, and the building of the main plot. It lacked proper direction and suffered from far too many wrong decisions in its script. And the acting was a mixed bag. The F4 gets the good side of that bag. The show promises that Lee Min Ho can, without a doubt, act. For a complicated character like Gu Jun Pyo, he played him well. Koo Hye Sun as Geum Jan Di gets the other side of the bag though. She overacted too much it made me cringe. And although she improves as the show progresses nothing will ever change the fact that she didn’t understand her character at all.

Did they aim too high they failed? Perhaps not. Korean dramas had never failed to give both the romance and the drama. Boys Over Flowers is not an exception. It made girls sigh and smile and await wide eyed as the drama unfolds. The F4 was as stylish, tall and good-looking as could get. If Meteor Garden had the physically ideal Hanazawa Rui (Hua Ze Lei), Boys Over Flowers had the physically ideal Domyoji Tsukasa (Gu Jun Pyo). My only complaint though is that they were styled too much it made them look so gay. Yoon Ji Hoo, for example, was too blonde I had to frown at his hair whenever he’s on screen. Why stylists would do that is beyond me.

Did Boys Over Flowers deliver? Perhaps for some. It was an average Korean drama that aimed a bit too high it missed the spot. Its popularity can be partly attributed to the good looks of its lead actors, the Hana Yori Dango obsession, and the reason why people watch korean dramas. But it was eyecandy. And for me, that isn’t enough.

HANA YORI DANGO (Japanese)

because i’m bias, their picture is bigger.

The Japanese version cannot boast to have the best looking F4. With the sole exception of Oguri Shun as Hanazawa Rui, they are not, physically speaking, the ideal F4. But they can boast to have the best Makino Tsukushi and they can boast that they were held by majority of those who have seen the three versions to be the best of them all.

The manga is 241 or so chapters long, Hana Yori Dango spans for two seasons, the first a mere nine episodes and the second with ten episodes. With a manga that long, you would think the directors and producers crammed it all up and in the process botched up the series. You are quite wrong. It is a highly focused show and no moment is wasted. But it respects the manga, it understands it and so nothing is quite rushed. The characters are perfectly fleshed out and developed in a short period of time with their relationships perfectly established and shown. It is well directed, it is well-written and with all the clothes, the luxury and the stylish brand names, it is well-financed. It is well acted as well. This is a fine example of a drama done right.

from left to right: Hanazawa Rui, Domyoji Tsukasa, Makino Tsukushi, Nishikado Soujiro and Mimasaka Akira

Here is a version that shows the friendship that borders on familial between the members of the F4, here is a version that shows the easy friendship between Makino Tsukushi and each of the members of the F4 (yes, that includes the other two). And finally, a version that has managed to introduce us to each and every member of the F4 and left none of them at the backburner.

It has topnotch character development.

Makino Tsukushi (Inoue Mao)

We see Makino Tsukushi played to the teeth by Inoue Mao, spunky, youthful and kind as Kamio Youko has envisioned her to be. We watch as her feelings for Hanazawa Rui turn from crush to friendship, we watch at her surprise as she slowly finds herself falling for Domyoji Tsukasa, and we watch as she establishes a friendship with the group she had so previously hated (F4). From the very first few minutes of the series, we know they got the character of Makino spot on, and we like what we see.

Domyoji Tsukasa (Matsumoto Jun)

Matsumoto Jun proved himself a highly capable actor, able to display the differing aspects that makes Domyoji Tsukasa a complicated character to play. The other versions never showed how violent and arrogant Domyoji Tsukasa can be, but here the show unapologetically introduces him as such and we are left disgusted and annoyed. But the want for justice is lost when we are shown just how lonely and vulnerable he is. We don’t wonder why the critics have penned Matsumoto Jun as the real Domyoji Tsukasa.

Hanazawa Rui (Oguri Shun)

Hanazawa Rui is, without a doubt, Makino’s Prince Charming. He is and will always be her Knight in Shining Armor. He is that for the viewers as well. Played by Oguri Shun who certainly looked the part of a Rui who is really still so much a young child at heart. His acting may not be the best, but it’s believable. We still see the delicateness behind the cold, aloof and quiet exterior. The series makes sure that we are saddened that he didn’t realize his feelings for Makino sooner, had he did they would have been together. It sees to it that we still want him to get the girl for once, despite better knowledge.

The relationship between the three is well-established. We see the unbreakable connection between Makino and Rui, the love between Domyoji and Makino and the strong friendship between Domyoji and Rui. The love triangle is strongly shown and the emotional connections laid bare. There is a particular scene in an earlier episode where Rui and Makino are talking in that stairway corner that has always been strictly theirs, they are intimate and we see that they really have a chance to be together; Domyoji, who had been following Makino, quietly stumbles upon them. The look of guilt etches on Rui’s and Makino’s faces and our hearts break with Domyoji as he sadly and frustratingly looks at them both and quietly leaves. A touching scene that only a strong direction can pull off. In a lesser drama, they would have featured rotating camera angles, but here they do not, and by doing so, they capture the raw emotions as they are.

heartbreak and guilt

The other core characters are well-developed as well. We finally get to know the other two members of F4 – Nishikado Soujiro and Mimasaka Akira and the roles they play.

Nishikado Soujiro (Matsuda Shota)

Nishikado Soujiro (Matsuda Shota) is the heir of a tea company and one of the two playboys in the F4. He is kind, he is a charmer, he is one who keeps the peace in the group but he loses his temper easily when things don’t go well. In the manga and in the other two versions it is shown that Soujiro and Makino’s close friend fall in love with each other, but here it isn’t. Which is a pity.

Mimasaka Akira (Tsuyoshi Abe)

Mimasaka Akira (Tsuyoshi Abe) is the playboy who loves older women. Perhaps owing to the fact that he comes from a family who is powerful in the Japanese underground, he is the only member of the group who keeps his cool and rarely loses his temper.  He is, inarguably, the most mature and kindest member of the F4 and is the glue who keeps the group together. Makino’s friendship with the two of them, especially with Akira, is shown and is unquestioned.

One of Hana Yori Dango’s strongest points is the chemistry between each of the lead actors. And for a mangaka who values character development in her works, each of the key players are laid bare. But is it without fault? Of course not. With all its character development and focus on the main storyline the romance aspect of the series suffered. Of course there were still romantic scenes but they’re not as romantic as the Korean version can present. The sidestory of Soujiro and Yuuki, Makino’s close friend, is left, to my disappointment, unexplored. Nine episodes is a short amount of time for some feelings to fully develop and when they do it seems like it comes out from nowhere even when there has been hints or explanations from the previous episode. Moreover, we are left to wonder exactly when and how Rui realized his feelings for Makino. – Luckily, all these isn’t too noticeable. They are faults and observations that are easily forgiven and are left in the corner owing to its strong direction, a well-written script and top-notch acting. Those plus an incredible number of background music impeccably timed, not to reflect, but to perfectly enhance the emotions of a scene.

The Japanese version of Hana Yori Dango is the best because it showed us a quality drama can be made over a recycled plot. It makes us laugh and cry without shoving the scenes or emotions down our throats. It is one of the strongly-directed, best produced, well-written and most entertaining shows that can be seen. The manga is noted for its high character development and quality story, it received the Shogakukan Manga Award and is considered as one of the best shoujo manga ever written. Finally, here is a live action version that gives the manga the quality it deserves.

love so sweet

the scene where Domyoji wins the hearts of the viewers and hers as well.

The Tsukushis

After all these years, it still bothers me that F4 stands for “Flower Four”. I mean, seriously???

*The Japanese version was not much of a hit in the Philippines. It is for the reason why Filipinos love Korean dramas, why we watch Philippine soap operas, and why Japanese dramas just don’t really market here. An unfortunate thing, really, for it is in Japanese dramas that I’ve seen two of the best drama series to have graced the small screen, one of them being Hana Yori Dango and the other Nobuta Wo Produce.

* This blogpost is owed to my mother. She who asked me to buy the Boys Over Flowers DVD and ordered me to download the Hana Yori Dango jdorama. It’s because I’m rewatching it.

Higashi no Eden (Eden of the East): the best conspiracy 10 billion yen can buy

Boy meets Girl.

Here is an anime whose plot is like a ripoff out of a Robert Ludlum novel: On November 22, 2010 ten missiles strike Japan. However, this unprecedented terrorist act, later to be called “Careless Monday,” does not result in any apparent victims, and is soon forgotten by almost everyone. Fast forward three months later, a guy wakes up in Washington D.C. with no memory. He is stark naked, he has a gun in his right hand and a phone on his left – a mobile phone charged with 8,200,000,000 yen in digital cash. Who is he, really?

Jason Bourne has an anime lovechild.

This is not your typical anime series.

Higashi no Eden opens with Saki Morimi on a graduation trip in the United States. She takes a detour and heads to Washington DC where she makes it a personal mission to throw a coin to the White House fountain. Problem is, the fountain is several feet away from her, there is a huge iron gate in between her and the fountain, and it is the White House. But she endearingly tries so we forgive the absurdity. This sentiment is however, lost on the two burly policemen who has spotted her. They approach her and in the midst of her panic she is saved by a nudist with a gun and a cool cellphone.

yes, this scene had me going “WTF!?”

i think all three of them had the same reaction too.

Grateful for having saved her, Saki lends the man whose only cover is a distracting white squiggly moving lines  her coat, he accepts it and leaves. It would have been her last meeting with him, but as belated realizations would have it, her wallet and passport are in her coat. Saki ends up chasing him who has, because of his cellphone, now found his apartment.

It is a charming opening scene. But when we later see the numerous passports the man has in his apartment, the number of weapons he has, his highly specialized cellphone that is connected to a computer who calls herself ‘Juiz’ (Portuguese word for ‘Judge’), his suspicious looking documents, how easily he blew an entire room by using a toaster, and how he can effortlessly dodge the police, the show is quick to remind us that this is a mystery thriller. And so when Saki finally catches up with him and asks him his name, he takes one of the names in his passports and says ‘Akira Takizawa’. And we wonder, who is Akira Takizawa?

Higashi no Eden boasts, among others, the best opening episode I have ever seen in an anime series. NihonReview said it best when they wrote: “When it’s done right, the mystery genre can produce some of the most absorbing and unique stories in anime. Eden of the East is a fine example of the mystery genre done right, and it’s utterly captivating from its first few minutes. ” Indeed, it proves to be a remarkable original, never once diminishing its quiet charm and charisma, its sweet innocence and subtle humor as the story progresses. We smile at the not-quite-friendship friendship between Akira and Saki, and we smile over the other supporting characters as well: Saki’s friends and family, Akira’s allies and even his enemies.

Production I.G., the studio that brought us anime series such as Ghost in the Shell, Blood+, and FLCL, has never failed to give us quality-driven shows. It continues to do so now. Feature it with Chika Umino’s (Honey and Clover) character designs and you’ve got an unlikely match made in heaven. Generally, the mystery thriller genre can never be perfectly mixed with the words ‘charisma’ and ‘sweet innocence’ but in Higashi no Eden it takes an exception and mixes them in a way that no one has successfully done before. Its character designs reminds us that these are well-meaning characters with a heart and Production I.G. was finally able to do what it had tried to do before: give us characters with such humanism it is impossible to not like or soften up to them. Its visuals is, in one word, disarming.

Higashi no Eden is one of the best anime series I’ve seen. As the story progresses, it strives to be more than just a mystery thriller that could be straight from a Ludlum novel. As it mirrors the daily realities of current events of our world we see that it struggles for political and social significance. It is one of the very few anime out there laden with movie references and parodies, most notable of which is when Akira imitates Taxi Driver‘s infamous line “You talkin’ to me?” and at one point, he even has a poster with the phrase “The World is Yours” (Scarface) printed on it. It is a smart anime.

Noel Gallagher. Oasis. Seeeeeeeeeeeeee.

… Aaannd its opening song is “Falling Down” by the Oasis. (I don’t know about you but that garners plus points for me.)

Later, we are introduced to the very core of the series’ plot: the 12 Selecao (Portuguese for ‘Selected’) (Akira is the 9th). Who are they? What is their connection with these missile attacks? Are they terrorists? If not, then why do they each have 10 billion yen in digital cash? Who is Juiz? Who is Mr. Outsider?

What is going on?

– A good question that sprouts more questions. It takes eleven episodes and two movies to answer each of them. But as NihonReview puts it: “My only major complaint can almost be seen as a good thing: with the hanging ending, comes confirmation that there’s still more to come.”

the cooool Selecao cellphone that answers with a “This is Juiz and I will be your conscierge.” And ends with a “Noblesse Oblige. Please continue being a messiah.” I want one.

akira takizawa and saki morimi

 

A line from Shakespeare’s Julius Ceasar, “The abuse of greatness is when it disjoins remorse from power.” behind the icons of the 12 Selecao . In other words, there’s a connection.

.: I believe I once quickly ranted about Higashi no Eden and promised to do a review. well self, here it is.

Pride and Prejudice (and husband-hunting women)

“I cannot fix on the hour, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.”

I stayed up late for this. I was squinting my eyes, absentmindedly grinning like a megalomaniac at four in the morning, just so I can finish the remaining one hundred pages of the book. (Yes, one hundred.) You see, I didn’t want to put Mr. Darcy down. Not when there are only a hundred more pages to go before I finish the novel.

It was worth the 4:30 a.m. start of sleep.

Back in 1813, Jane Austen sat down and wrote what would be her most cherished novel, Pride and Prejudice. Two hundred years later, it is still among the world’s most beloved literature.

It is a testament to Jane Austen’s ability to write witty romance stories without being silly or cheesy. It comes to a point that to categorize Pride and Prejudice as a love story makes me feel like such a label actually cheapens it. (Although perhaps such an impression simply stems from the fact that there are but a few romance novels that are beautifully and richly portrayed.)

But no matter.

Pride and Prejudice is a comedy of manners and morals. And, for the sake of labels, it is a love story. One that endearingly opens a window to 18th century marital standards. For indeed, what else can the tone of a novel’s plot be when it opens with the sentence: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” And, with such an opening, a story filled with husband-hunting women starts. It is quite quite endearing.

Darcy

Lizzie

The title, Pride and Prejudice, is rooted from the primary nature of the main characters (although it isn’t an exclusive trait.) With Pride is tall, handsome and possessing of a ten-thousand a year Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. He is excessively concerned with morals, decorum, and was described by the townsfolk of Netherfield Park as aloof, proud, haughty and arrogant after thirty minutes of meeting him. With Prejudice comes tolerably pretty and wise-eyed Ms. Elizabeth Bennet who has a tendency to judge based on first impressions. (See the interplay?) Darcy’s and Elizabeth’s first meeting held no promise of a blossoming romance. How can it be when he described her as “… tolerable. But not enough to tempt me.” Elizabeth hears this and quickly decides that he would be the last man she would be prevailed on to marry. While Darcy, no sooner had he said it, began to be intrigued by her. And so the story goes. Elizabeth remains clueless of his affections, while he remains tormented by his till he finally decided to woo her. When he finally says he loves her in what would be the most insulting proposal in history, the real story begins.

It is an understatement to say that I love Pride and Prejudice (though I can’t think of other words that rank higher so I’ll settle with it.) It is easy to understand why Elizabeth Bennett is one of the most popular characters in British literature. It is for the same reasons why she is among my favorite heroines. (Lucky girl, that one.) And for a character created two hundred years ago, it is very noteworthy that Darcy can still make women born in these modern times fall in love with him. Every girl I know who has read the novel wants their own Mr. Darcy. Those that don’t either a) didn’t like it; b) halfheartedly read it; c) has no soul or heart or; d)  is just a snob who think she’s better than all the rest.

The novel is graced, not only with remarkable main characters, but with memorable supporting ones as well.

“I have been the most pompous arse.”

There is also Darcy’s best friend, the well-liked, five-thousand a year Charles Bingley and Elizabeth’s beautiful sister, Jane Bennett. Theirs is a love story about two very kind people, but on the outset makes him look like an ass and her an Ice Princess. But I love them nonetheless. (But not as much as I love Darcy and Lizzie.)

The Bennets

There is also the colorful, interesting Bennett Family. It is composed of a bookish, intelligent, passive father; a foolish, narrow-minded mother; a trying-hard sister (Mary); a frivolous flirtatious youngest sister who lacks common sense (Lydia); and an equally flirtatious but slightly has a presence of mind sister (Kitty). Jane and Elizabeth differ from their mother, Mary, Kitty and Lydia tremendously.

Jane Austen has been called as the finest novelist of English language. I have to agree with that. Pride and Prejudice (like all her other novels) is witty, sarcastic and enjoyably written. She gave us a delightful love story between two opposite characters and made it so unorthodox-ly romantic and sweet that we forget that not once did Darcy and Elizabeth kiss or embrace.

i leave you with my favorite scene in the movie 🙂

“Curiouser and curiouser!” The Magic of Alice in Wonderland

“Why, we’re all mad here. I’m mad, you’re mad.”

Lewis Carroll ought to have an altar somewhere. But then, perhaps having such an earthly altar would not even come close to his magic and enchantment? For what else can Alice in Wonderland be but those?

You see, I am quite at awe. I have never started and finished a book in a span of two hours. And I have never grinned like that in every chapter. And I never would have thought that Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland can do that. (You see, just until the minute before I started reading the book, I didn’t like Alice that much. I even wondered why a lot of people love it… Oh, the shame..) And by God did it do that.

I do love it. I find it most enchanting, superbly witty and fully engaging. It is now among my favorite classics (along with Peter Pan and others). And I shall recommend it to every person that goes my way (which I did, actually). I can quite say that if I were to post my favorite lines from the book here, I’d be posting something from every chapter.

I have one more thing I’d like to say:

The Mad Tea Party (the one with the Mad Hatter) is probably actually mad. Their conversations were so…. confusing and dumbfounding it left me with question marks popping in my head. And the Chesire Cat (you know, the eternally grinning almost-creepy fading cat?), he’s my favorite character.


Higashi no Eden (Eden of the East)

 
 

“The abuse of greatness is when it disjoins remorse from power.” – William Shakespeare, Julius Ceasar

 

A guy wakes up in Washington D.C. with no memory, stark naked, with a gun in his right hand and a phone on his left – a mobile phone charged with 8,200,000,000 yen in digital cash.

Jason Bourne has an anime lovechild.

Higashi no Eden: The best conspiracy ten billion yen can buy.

  1. I love the story. Best opening episode I have ever seen.
  2. I love the characters.
  3. I love the art style.
  4. I love the Oasis opening song. (The fact that the song was sung by Oasis is amazing by itself.)
  5. I love the Selecao phone.
  6. Somehow, the show has quite an interest in johnnies. (‘Johnny-Taker’. “My johnny gave you a reply.”) 

I feel like I there’s nothing more to say. The fact that it’s The Bourne Identity‘s lovechild is more than enough to make me watch it.

But I love it so much I can’t help but put this comment from NihonReview:

When it’s done right, the mystery genre can produce some of the most absorbing and unique stories in anime. Eden of the East is a fine example of the mystery genre done right, and it’s utterly captivating from its first few minutes. However, as the story evolves, it not only becomes more intricate, it also strives for relevance, making commentaries on politics, society and the corporate structure in Japan. All this is done with production values that are simply gorgeous: the animation is technically proficient, but Umino Chika’s character designs also lend it a quality of sweet charm and charisma. My only major complaint can almost be seen as a good thing: with the hanging ending, comes confirmation that there’s still more to come.

P.S.: I’d like to write an actual  review after a few daysweeksmonthsnear future one day. My laziness stops me from writing further than a note.

Amelie Poulain, she’ll change your life

“Amelie still seeks solitude. She amuses herself with silly questions about the world below, such as “How many people are having an orgasm right now?”

This was my introduction to french movies. And it was smart, funny, memorable. It was lighthearted, witty, charming, absurd, ridiculous. It was each and every one of those.

Amelie Poulaine is a heroine apart from the rest. She takes pictures of bunny clouds and when she finds old letters on the floor of her apartment, she meddles, schemes and helps. When she sees the old man who wrote those letters happy by what she had secretly done, she promises herself to make everyone happy. And so Amelie becomes a secret matchmaker, a guardian angel, and an adorable meddler to the people in her life. Nobody knows this, save for that painter she has befriended. She delights in her meddlesome ways, she likes how she helps people.

She delights in this so much that when she sees a man who takes discarded photographs from a photo booth, she is intrigued. The second time she sees him she left behind a photo album. We know she’s smitten when she takes it. Amelie realizes this too, but she doesn’t quite know what to do about it. And we see how much she doesn’t know what to do with it during the rest of the movie.

Amelie is quirky, and we are offered an equally quirky love story. And it is quite unforgettable. Do you know the song ‘I Knew I Loved You Before I Met You’ by Savage Garden? I think this song fits the movie quite quite well.

Miss You Like Crazy (kasi masaya ako pag kasama kita)


“I can’t take all the pain that I’ve caused you. But if you will just let me, i will spend the rest of my life making it up to you.”

If someone were to ask me what I remember most about this movie, I would say, partly to scandalize them, partly as a joke, and partly as the truth, “Hagdang-hagdang kahalayan.” (Let’s all be honest, it was among the most forward of love scenes Filipino movies have dared to do. And I still wonder how comfortable that was.)

The movie opens with Allan Alvarez (John Lloyd Cruz) cruising the now-clean Pasig River. He sees Mia Samonte (Bea Alonzo) but he pays no mind. The second time he sees her he is intrigued. The third time he does, he plays the hero and she slaps him in the face. And so they met. And it was love. It was a whirlwind romance. But they are so perfect for each other, they’re happy being with each other, and he has been living with his long-time girlfriend, Daphne Recto (Maricar Reyes). Mia finds out and she distances herself. Or at least she tried to. They had a magnetic attraction, the movie makes sure the audience can’t blame them for what happened in the stairs. Confused, Allan is made to choose (“Isa lang ang puso mo, dapat isa lang ang laman nyan. Kailangan mamili ka. Pero pag namili ka, tiyak may masasaktan. Kung di ka naman mamimili, dalawa silang sinasaktan mo.”) Allan promises Mia he’ll choose her, he promises himself as well. But he never does and we wonder what happened.

Years later, Allan arrives in Malaysia. He knows Mia works there. He still loves her. She still loves him. But he’s hurt her, and she has a boyfriend.

We know this formula. We know how it ends, it ends with them together. We know what happens. Yet despite all that, the movie works. As one writer had pointed out, it’s not always the destination that counts, sometimes a movie works not because of its predictability, sometimes what matters is the journey. Miss You Lika Crazy works because it was delivered in such a way that makes it poignant, memorable, and angsty. It works because of how it was presented.

My favorite Filipino actor is John Lloyd Cruz. No, I don’t find him attractive, but man can he act. And contrary to most people I know, I prefer the John Lloyd-Bea pairing. Where others rely on one-liners worthy of being pick-up lines – John Lloyd and Bea does not. One look is all it takes. And that’s better because it’s more realistic.

I obviously love the movie. I cried halfway through it until it ended. I cried the whole time. I have branded this as my personal cryfest movie. Everytime I want to cry, Miss You Like Crazy never fails me. Although, I have to say, one thing that I didn’t like is its reliance on time and fate too much. Still in spite of that, the movie works. And it will be remembered.

Titanic – the king of the world

“Like a great iron Sphinx on the ocean floor, the Titanic faces still toward the West, interrupted forever on her only voyage.” – Roger Ebert

When I was a kid, I had watched Titanic on more times than I care to count or to even admit. It is not the best movie I ever saw, nor is it my favorite. Still, I liked it enough to watch it again and again. Maybe it was Leonardo di Caprio with his dirty blonde locks falling to piercing green eyes as he sketches. Maybe it was Kate Winslet with her vibrant eyes and auburn curly hair. Maybe it was that iconic scene where he draws her, naked, save for that beautiful diamond. Maybe it was their tryst in that car. Maybe it was them both. Maybe it was everything. Maybe it was their love story, suspended by an iceberg in the freezing Atlantic sea, and continued by death. Jack and Rose met and fell in love in the Titanic, they got separated in the Titanic, and they got together again in the Titanic. It was an epic romance.

But there was always something that makes me frown whenever I watch the movie. It would be years later when I find out what it is: it was the script.

I had a huge problem with the script. I did not enjoy the whole Jack!” “Kate!” “Jack!” “Kate!” line exchange. I have a pathological dislike for scripts requiring calling out lover’s names more than once followed by being reunited in each other’s arms. I found it cheap, and I still find it cheap now. I suspect that it was because of that horrendous script that a lot of my peers commented that Leonardo di Caprio can’t act. (I also entertain the idea that said comment was borne out of the fact that Leonardo di Caprio is a household name, forever attached with the word beautiful, and said peers are mostly boys.) Now we all know that cannot be true. He just didn’t shine in the movie. I blame the script.

But, apart from the script, Titanic transgressed the bounds of technical achievement. (James Cameron has such ambition.) It was a visual excellence at its most heightened. It was camera techniques and editing at their most superb.

Despite the many criticisms Titanic bears, no one can deny that Titanic is iconic. It made household names out of its two stars. It made a millionaire out of its director. It is among my most memorable epic romances. The movie wasn’t kidding when it made Jack Dawson proclaim “I am king of the world!”

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button who was born under unusual circumstances

Young Benjamin Button, poised up in his wheelchair, replies “I’m eight, but I look older.” And indeed he is.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button should be applauded for its amazing script. And of course, the make-up. Heaven forbid we not mention the make-up, that magical ingredient which can turn Cate Blanchett older and Brad Pitt older and younger.

Decades ago, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote a short story about a boy who was born old and died young. As the rest of the world grew older, Benjamin Button grew younger. F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of The Great Gatsby, defied Mark Twain when he wrote that story. He also made the rest of the world think twice about wishing we age the other way around.

F. Scott Fitzgerald made me wonder what drug he was into when he wrote Benjamin Button. The movie made me wonder how incredibly lonely it must have been to live such a life.

But live Benjamin Button did. He lived life even more than most of us did. He had gone to brothels, traveled the world, met a lot of people, and fell irreversibly  in love.

Daisy: I figure you were born in 1918…49 years ago…I’m 43…we are almost the same age. We’re meeting in the middle.

Benjamin Button: We finally caught up with each other. Wait I wanna remember us just as we are now.

It is a truly beautiful story. It is heart wrenching, but it never tries to be. – And that is its greatest appeal. It has the ability to touch the hearts of the viewer even if you have not been paying attention to the movie for half an hour already. (You see, I think that its downside is that it was too long.)

Yes, I may have a problem with the fact that it was told in an I’ll-tell-you-a-story-listen-to-me way (like The Notebook), and that I felt like the part about the clockmaker was unnecessary, but overall The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was excellent. It was moviemaking at its best, and storytelling at its richest. In my opinion, it is Brad Pitt’s and Cate Blanchett’s best movie to date.

What a story. And what a beautiful script.

Benjamin Button: Some people, were born to sit by a river. Some get struck by lightning. Some have an ear for music. Some are artists. Some swim. Some know buttons. Some know Shakespeare. Some are mothers. And some people, dance.

Benjamin Button: For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.