Thursday, November 09, 2017

Smallvile Re-Appreciation Phase

I got to thinking about Smallville over the weekend... decided to buy available DVD boxsets and ... BOOM! I'm on full-blown Smallville "re-appreciation" phase.

And honestly... I don't remember it being this... enjoyable. As a specimen of its particular genre, there isn't anything particularly objectionable. The actors are pretty, the acting is acceptable to good, and the stories are occasionally actually quite moving. What on earth is happening to me? :)))

I think I'll post some reviews of episodes I particularly liked. Maybe recommend which should make your list of absolutely-essential-to-watch episodes, and which you can afford to skip without missing anything important to the overarching storyline. So far, I have season 2, and 4-6. I've started with season 4.

I hope I can find all 10.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok (2017) - Spoiler Review

Picture from:

Date Watched: October 27, 2017

Synopsis: Thor is haunted by dreams of Asgard in ruins. In his search for answers and a way to stop this from happening, he unearths far more than what he expected: about himself, his family, and their dynasty.

Overall Review: This was thoroughly entertaining! Chris Hemsworth can definitely carve out a niche for himself playing variations of the 'hilariously dumb jock/hunk.' For cross-reference, see Thor (2011) and Ghostbusters (2016).

Things I liked in no particular order:

1. Cate Blanchett as Hela. I love Cate. Don't you love Cate? I loved her facial expressions, the way she walked, the way she squinted and enlarged her eyes to emphasize a particular point. Cate never phones it in. She was deliciously evil as Hela. No remorse.

And no delving into her psyche and motivations either. I don't think there was any need to. Why do people always think that there needs to be a reason for why bad guys are bad? Hela wanted to expand Asgardian domination through war even though Odin had come to his senses and seen the error of their ways. She viewed expansionist conquest as a glorious pursuit regardless of the suffering it caused because it consolidated the power and grandeur of Asgard. What's more to know beyond that? Do we really need an in-depth study of megalomania and psychosis? Wouldn't that just be disturbing? Guys, sometimes there is no reason for greed. Greed is the reason. People can get used to what they have and just want... more.

2.  Jeff Goldblum as The Grandmaster. Jeff's overacting finally works to great effect in this role. He totally worked as a ruthless, maybe a little sadistic, gamemaster coated with a veneer of false gentility.

3. Super slow motion tableau. I usually hate this Zack Snyder-inspired effect where action shots are slowed/frozen so the viewer can better appreciate the actors' action poses. But this time around I thought it was very appropriate. It was mostly used for flashback scenes, which have attained mythic status, so it seemed fitting that they would be recalled like paintings in a museum. It was pretty. Therefore I can only accept this slow motion nonsense if it involves winged horses. Or graceful Cates.

4. Humor. There were a lot of jokes in this movie. Mostly involving Thor himself. Chris is quite good at dumb-dumb jock / physical comedies. Talking Hulk was funny too.

5. Thor is not a Dweller. I'm glad that we have a few heroes that are not dwellers and stewers in their own misery. They are sad; and then they pick themselves up and go fix things. So Thor finds out his father lied about their family history. He doesn't spend an enormous amount of time being angry/resentful about this. Mostly he is quietly sad. But he still loves his father. I think that's kind of rare in Western fiction. That children forgive and accept that their parents can be flawed too. And still love them inspite of it. But learn the right lessons from their mistakes.

6. Thor and Loki's sibling relationship. We get to see a little more of their love-hate relationship in this movie in a way that reveals both what binds them together and what drives them apart. The 'Get Help' routine is definitely one of those things that I can imagine made Loki hate his big brother when they were younger -- the perception that he was always making himself look good but at his younger brother's expense. And yet when Thor tells him, "I know you can be better," you can see also why Loki will never really be able to make himself totally hate Thor. Even more than Odin, and more vocally than Freya, Thor is the one family member who keeps believing that there is a hero inside Loki. And in that unguarded moment, when Thor gets his second wind fighting Hela, didn't Loki have an "oh, you're getting it now" expression, anticipation, that his big brother was about to seriously kick ass? And so reveals that, inspite of himself, Loki has that same faith in his brother too.

7. Simple, straightforward storyline. I'm an old mammal and have old mammal problems - poorer digestion, trouble sleeping, longer recovery after exhaustion, and...  less ability to follow overly complicated storylines. These days moviemakers seem convinced that the more subplots and story forks a movie has, the better it is. Despite the detour this movie makes to a gladiator planet, I didn't feel the movie to be schizophrenic or confusing. Maybe it goes back to point #1? Since I don't feel like the villain needs further explaining, I was quite fine just following Thor's and Loki's story. And I feel like that was a good story decision, to just focus the story on a few key characters.

And here the list abruptly ends.

Rating: (G) G for Good. You will definitely have a good time with this one!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

10 Things I Love about Hanadan

I am BACK you guys!!!!

Let's start off the new me with another fangirling post.

This is a love letter I wrote to Hanadan last year, in celebration of its 10th year anniversary. As my Arashi favorite would say:

(Ang yabang lang eh noh? Hehe.)


I first learned about Hana Yori Dango through Meteor Gardent, the Taiwanese TV drama adaptation that became so wildly popular in the Philippines sometime in the early 2000's. I didn't watch MG during its peak, but some years after, when local channels were beginning to show weekend re-runs. Sure it was ye olde rich boy (Dao Ming Si / Domyouji in the Japanese original), poor girl (San Chai / Makino in the Japanese original), love-hate, love story with plenty of passionate declarations and desperate I-want-you-and-no-one-else-please-come-back chases, but what I thought pretty refreshing about the story was that Dao Ming Si falls in love with tomboyish San Chai not because she dresses up and he realizes she's a hot chick after all, but because she's brave and has integrity. His struggle to win her over was equal parts entertaining, agonizing, and endearing. Because of course, in true melodrama form, his quest to win her heart was complicated by the fact that he starts as a total jerk. He is the arrogant heir to a family fortune and the school's resident tyrant. He likes inflicting misery on random nobodies who displease him in some way. When his attention turns to her friend, she unthinkingly gets in the way. She saves her friend - hooray - but ends up becoming his target. And so he actually victimizes her for a time. When she finally stands up to him, punching him roundly in the face, in that instant it's as if he sees her, truly sees her, for the first time. The series is ridiculously addicting, if you like following characters tortured by longing and unrequited love. Of course they end up together, but only after much struggle (and 26 or 27 episodes).

So years later (many many many years later), I found myself looking for a copy of the jdrama version since the story was based on a Japanese manga. And Oh. My. Ggggggggg. I LOVED IT. If you just suspend disbelief and cynicism and let yourself by wrapped up by the feelingzzzz, I guarantee you this is a story that will have you hugging yourself in happiness, your heart filled with rainbows and sunshine. YESssss.

Hanadan completely obliterated MG in my mind (sorry MG fans). I thought the story and character development was so much more satisfying and rounded out in Hanadan. True, it felt hurried especially in season 1, but I can forgive that small flaw because so so many other things were done right and done well.

1. Makino felt like an actual girl you might know. Only more awesome. Inoue Mao was so great in this series as Makino Tsukushi and the writers wrote her character so well. She's compassionate but not a push-over, cute but not trying too hard, warm and generous and a loyal friend who would stand by you no matter what. As the designated "feisty" female, of course she had a fight mode, but thankfully she was not permanently stuck in it. I liked that she was brave and strong-minded bu wasn't constantly arguing or fighting.

"Don't be so full of yourself!"
She showed different kinds of courage too. Most people would think of that moment when she stands up to Domyouji for the first time as her defining moment of bravery. And it is. The courage to take action is definitely one of her core virtues. But she she also has the courage to stay still and bow her head for the sake of another. I am specifically thinking about that scene when she attempted to deflect lynch mob attention from her friend and practically agreed to lick a shoe to make things stop. Most people seem to consider this scene as showing weakness, but I thought it illustrated a side to her that other adaptations did not --- her great capacity to take on suffering FOR the sake of protecting people she cared about. That is a kind of courage too, so I didn't take that scene against her.

"I'll take you on, any time!"
Even the trigger, the final straw, that leads to the fist-pumping, life-changing scene when finally gives Domyouji the ass-whooping he deserved, is marked by this trademark duality of her courage. Makino shows that her breaking point is also her flashpoint - she cares greatly about other people, and is willing to accept great suffering for herself, if it meant protecting others. But at the same time, this protectiveness is also what galvanizes her into action. Up until Domyouji throws her lunch food, Makino seemed almost prepared to suffer anything thrown her way. But the sight of her parents' hard work thrown so dismissively like that fires her up in a way that no insult or injury to herself ever could.

2. Domyouji was every bit the stupid, violent, lonely, loyal, tragically permed but somehow suddenly wonderful character he was meant to be. The jdrama does not chicken out on portraying Domyouji Tsukasa's more distasteful qualities. Because Domyouji doggedly pursues the girl and swears his undying love, viewers conveniently forget that he was an abusive bully at the start of the story. All they tend to remember is the Edward Cullen version of him, the devoted suitor. But Domyouji has some serious issues, and the Japanese version never lets us forget that. He doesn't magically turn into a well-behaved prince. He does not even lose the terrible perm!

Domyouji starting random fights
I just needed an excuse to post this one
because this scene was beautifully 
shot. The still does not do it justice.
As his friends say, he's pretty emotionally warped. Left alone by a distant, seemingly indifferent mother, with few friends and people he could truly trust, he often behaves in socially unacceptable ways. Anger and frustration are expressed by lashing out physically, while softer, gentler feelings if felt at all, are denied or covered up gruffly. And he continued to behave this way, while he was he struggling to understand his feelings for Makino. This dies down in season 1 as he and Makino begin to connect but starts again in season 2 when he begins losing her. I appreciated that they continued to show this side of him because Domyouji is NOT supposed to be the perfect hero, or even the hero of the story, period. He's the damsel in distress in the story. It is actually Makino who saves him.

A distressed Domyouji
saying goodbye to his best
It really is a credit to Matsumoto Jun’s charm that he was able to portray such a difficult person sympathetically. You feel bad for Domyouji, his loneliness, his emotionally-deprived childhood, growing up in such wealth and power but having virtually no one he could trust, save for his elder sister and his 3 friends. He starts as a jerk, true, but he is also such a terribly sad guy.

It's when he starts pursuing Makino in earnest that Domyouji begins displaying the many qualities that have made him (and other characters like him) a female fan favorite for years. He's tough and badass but would think nothing of letting himself get hurt to protect his girl. He is straightforward about his feelings and declares it clearly, but understands that she needs time to figure out her own. He suffers no insult or hurt to her, and rightly or not, would beat anyone who would dare hurt her or her feelings. Yet, despite his physical nature, he never really forces himself on her (although I think this is purely the jdrama interpretation). And he gets so giddy at the thought of spending time with her, turning into such a dork, that you can't help but think, awww... he's not so bad after all.

A contrite Domyouji begging
for a second chance
But for me, the most winning quality of the jdrama Domyouji was this: he was teachable. He was capable of confronting his own mistakes and failings and making amends. He doesn't make excuses for them. This was so very clear in season 2 which is probably why I loved that season so much. In it, I finally saw Domyouji as a viable partner for a sensible girl like Makino. Because he was capable of growing up and outgrowing his old ways.

Domyouji actually goes through struggles to change as a person. He doesn't just get amnesia and have his entire personality rebooted into the ideal doting boyfriend. Ahem.

3. Domyouji was NOT yearning to escape the responsibilities of wealth. In fact he was eager to assume the mantle and make his mark in the world. 4. Also, Makino had goals and dreams outside of Domyouji. I liked that the jdrama writers gave Makino and Domyouji a life outside of each other. And I liked that they had things in mind other than the tortured agonies of their young love.

I liked that Makino started seriously pursuing a career path after Domyouji broke her heart in season 2. She started studying to enter law school. And I liked that Domyouji wasn’t just some spoiled rich kid yearning to escape family expectations. He had ambitions, leadership qualities, a compelling personality that naturally drew people to him. What he lacked before meeting Makino was a moral center on which to anchor such a personality.

5. Makino gave a reason for choosing Domyouji. 6. And you can clearly see why Domyouji loves her so much too. Makino explains it simply… she chose Domyouji because she feels the most like herself around him. She doesn’t feel the need to be “proper;” she is not shy around him. She expresses herself freely, including disapproval of his actions when called for.

An enamored Domyouji 'crushing' on
Makino for defending her frenemy
For his part, Domyouji clearly loves Makino because she represented all those things he yearned for that were absent in his life --- kindness, compassion, integrity. You will catch him, in moments when her best virtues shine through, watching her with pride or tenderness or delight.

Most of all he admired her fighting spirit, how she never lets anything get her down. She was someone that cannot be bullied or bought. Someone, finally, that he can trust.

Makino and Domyouji on an
actual happy date
7. Last, but not the least, Makino and Domyouji are just MAGIC together. Without a doubt, the biggest reason for the success of this series is the chemistry between Mao and Jun playing Makino and Domyouji. There are so so so many things I love about how they relate to each other. I mean, within the context of this particular trope – the enemies-turned-lovers trope.

7.a. Domyouji and Makino actually get along. Many romantic comedies rely on the humor generated by the bickering and head-butting of the main couple. To be honest, it is entertaining. Up to a point. Beyond that point the pairing loses credibility, because as funny as it is, you just begin to question how a couple that fights so much can stay together.

"You have nothing to worry about."
Not so with Domyouji and Makino. They don't spend all their time onscreen fighting for the sake of rom-comic laughs. They talk about problems and worries. Domyouji comforts Makino in times of distress. He unabashedly and loudly declares his support and belief in her when everyone else was laughing at her. And he tells her her skirt looks cute on her, even though he is upset with her.

And Makino, even while indecisive about him at first, was at least always fair to him. She gives him a shot. She shows him kindness even after he had been cruel to her. When she mistakes his gallantry for thoughtless insensitivity and then realizes the truth, she is woman enough to apologize. And when she finally acknowledges how she really feels, she was not so proud that she would not chase after his plane to make her confession. She's kind of badass in her emotional fearlessness. 

Makino's badassery includes
the ability to chase planes
and make them stop

"You're stupid, selfish, and self-centered,
and yes I do love you..."

Domyouji, all bluster and bravado gone,
when Makino returns his feelings

And they almost succeed at making a long distance relationship work. Although we don't see it first hand, we learn in season 2 that they spoke on the phone almost everyday after Domyouji leaves for New York at the end of season 1. (Am I just imagining this? I rewatched season 2 again I can’t find the reference for this anymore hahaha!)

7.b. Plus… plus, plus, plus…. Domyouji genuinely cherished and respected Makino. The Domyouji character is best known for his grand gestures of love: letting himself be beaten in order to protect Makino, beating the sh*t out of guys who call her ugly, refusing every other girl's advances. In the Taiwanese version, he chases after her bus to beg her to stay with him. But for me, the best moments of Domyouji, which I only saw in the jdrama, were the small gestures.

Domyouji twirling around lampposts
He notices when Makino is upset. When he finds out what it is, he helps her fix it. The task is tedious but he enjoys himself, twirling around lampposts, happy. When she asks him why he is enjoying himself so much, he answers simply, because she is with him.

When he points out that he has never seen anyone enjoy their food as much as she does, he says it amusement. When she suggests that they play badminton in the park by borrowing other people's rackets, he responds with incredulity, but gamely follows her lead.

 He is also visibly discomfited when Makino assumes a subservient role to him. In other Asian dramas I think this is the part when the male lead would try to dominate the girl for rom com laughs, making her do this and that, crazy difficult things, and the guy would gloat because the girl can't say no. But Domyouji never gets this way. Even when Makino works as a maid in his house, though he briefly entertains kinky fantasies about her as a personal maid, he doesn't actually take advantage of his position. In fact when they are alone, he insists that she act normally. He doesn't even want her to call him sir.

And I love that this Domyouji almost never bought Makino clothes, except for the prom dress (I am not counting the black dress he buys her back when he hadn't properly figured out his feelings for her). I love that he wasn't constantly trying to upgrade her looks as if her looks wasn't good enough. And even when he does buy her a dress she never gets to wear it. Circumstances are such that she forgets to bring the prom dress, and in fact misses the entire event. This exasperates him but in the next breath he laughs it off, and when he looks at her grubby appearance, it is with affection. She is who she is. It wasn't how she looked that mattered to him.

And that's how he proposes to her. Her in her grubby uniform, him in his pompously gold tuxedo. To the cheers of a stadium full of people. Look at them below.

How can you not root for a couple that looked at each other like that?

7.c. I guess, in the final analysis, that is one of the great strengths of their story. You just cannot imagine them with anyone but each other - because they really do make each other happy.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Prometheus (spoiler heavy movie review)

Synopsis: Scientists fly out into space to find and possibly make contact with our "maker." But of course, things don't turn out as good as expected.

Overall Review: The movie is watchable and thrilling for its own sake but lacks any real attempt at establishing a coherent story.

 The Good:
1. Michael Fassbender was really quite fantastic as the android David. He was by turns, a sympathetic, disconcerting, freaky creature. Emotionally-sterile yet also surprisingly malicious in some of his actions. Was all he did really necessary or did he do some of them just out of some morbid clinical curiousity?

2. Lesson for the kids: Be nice to androids. They might not have feelings but they may get back at you. Dr. Halloway was a charming enough fellow and certainly very much a sweetheart to  his sweetheart, but he was kind of a jerk to David. Look what happens to him.

3. Acting from all quarter was generally very good.

4. Special effects and visuals were stunning.

5. The Korean guy who freaks out in Sunshine plays a navigator/pilot here again. Hehe.

The Bad:
1. Fails to answer its own questions. While I might concede that this is a deliberate ploy to better bring home the point, to haunt its viewers, it mostly feels like lazy storytelling to me. Almost like they were thinking of how to make the movie cooler and decided on a non-answer. I don't know... it just doesn't work? I'm sure I've watched something before where this has been tried and it worked. Not here, at least not for me.

2. Huge alien biology inconsistencies. Minor I suppose, but in the larger scheme of things it made the story even more disjointed. For example, why does Dr. Halloway die from the black alien stuff but somehow impregnates Dr. Shaw with it? How did it turn his stuff into alien baby juice? Why does Fifield run around like a zombie from Resident Evil after getting sprayed with alien acid blood and falling face-first into a puddle of black goo? Is this alien goo the same mysterious black goo in the X-Files movie? Why does Milburn die but Fifield doesn't?

I don't know. I just felt like after enjoyment I got left with the feeling of... uhm, what?

Sunday, June 10, 2012


It was my birthday last June 7 and here's a list of gifts to be thankful for:

1. I have NOT been dropped from the program. But the clock is ticking. Must. Make. This. Work.

2. I finally get to go home after weeks... months??? of being cooped (up) in the condo.

3. Avengers is top 3 grosser worldwide! Yey, whoop whoop! Not because I'm an Avengers fan but because it's long overdue for Joss Whedon and because the movie deserves it. Unless you are a totally jaded, crusty, curmudgeon (like my younger sister!!!) you gotta have enjoyed this movie right? I mean, you don't have to feel like it's given you profound insights on the answers to the questions of life and the cosmos, but it made you laugh. How about jumpy-claps?

In that it's totally like Star Wars. Funny, fun, and just fun to see.

4. I had another encounter with life's equivalent of the "matandang ermitanyo" (you know like, Obi-Wan Kenobi, everyone Morgan Freeman plays, Mr. Miyagi) in the form of a cab driver who told me about his kids and their perseverance in finishing their studies. Even if they could barely make ends meet. Even if they didn't have enough cash allowance for the day's meals. So. I have no right to whine.

That's it for now. How about I start a section on movie reviews in this thing? What do you think? :)

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Fighting Dreamer!


I'm still working like a dog to bang out that proposal. I just missed so many deadlines. Will I get dropped from the program?

Please. No. Please?

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Holding My Breath

My Most Important Goal this year: Write my thesis proposal, defend it and at least start data collection.

The new year has started and I am struggling to stay the course! I've been very good this first week, checked off items from my list, postponed others because I tend to list too much. (heh)

Please let me stick to this!

In other news...

What movies/shows are you looking forward to this year? Here is a partial list of mine:
1. Hunger Games
2. The Legend of Korra
3. Rurouni Kenshin live action movie (I hope they release this outside Japan with English subtitles)
4. Breaking Dawn Part II (sort of)