CATS Out of the Box #MondayReviews #NanoPoblano2019

In December, a new movie version of CATS THE MUSICAL will be shown in theaters worldwide. I am a huge CATS-lover and let me tell you now: So far, I’m not liking most of the changes they’ve done. But, alright, I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt. Who knows? I might like it.

Anyway, below is the semi-review that I did on the original movie years ago. I call it “semi-review” because it’s more of a feature. Well, more of a fan-made writeup. This was posted way back in the old Multiply days. I have decided to share it again (1) since it’s timely, (2) to introduce new viewers to the original musical, and (3) to give them points of comparison once the new movie is released. I did edit things to correct some grammatical errors, shorten the piece a bit, and add some updates.

By the way, links to more reviews can be found in the CRITIC’S CORNER.

FAIR WARNING: I am posting a reaction-slash-comparison video on my vlog one of these days. Bear with me. Humor me.

A CATTY EXPERIENCE

Indeed, I could choose from a variety of movies that I have already seen. Instead, I chose to love a film that is, for sure, not on a lot of people’s favorites-list. It’s a story with a simple plot. Cinematography is good, not outstanding. The visual effects are there only because they are necessary. And then, there are glaring editing misses!

So what’s there to love, really?

CATS THE MUSICAL is simply not the kind of film most Filipinos would appreciate. Well, most people in general. But I am a musical-enthusiast, videophile, dance-lover and poetry-maker. That combination explains why I find CATS very entertaining, beautiful, and original. It is poetry in words, music, and motion, all rolled into one cool package. Great score, great singing, great dancing! In the words of T. S. Eliot, it is “ineffable…effable…eff-an-in-EF-fable!”

The History of CATS

In the past, stage musicals like OKLAHOMA and FIDDLER ON THE ROOF were made into successful films. Many were culled from classic literature such as OLIVER!, from Charles Dickens‘ book Oliver Twist. THE WIZARD OF OZ, meanwhile, was based from the 1939 film, which was an adaptation of L. Frank Baum‘s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. As for WEST SIDE STORY, it was inspired by William Shakespeare‘s Romeo and Juliet.

Came the early ’80s and there was the musical genius Baron Andrew Lloyd Webber (ALW). He of the JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR and PHANTOM OF THE OPERA fame had a novel idea: Why not make a musical about cats based on the book his mom used to read to him — T. S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats?

So CATS was conceived and developed. It was made by famous theatrical producer Cameron Mackintosh and ALW’s The Really Useful Theatre Company. CATS was officially ‘born’ in London’s West End, at New London Theatre, on May 11, 1981. Then the show made its Broadway debut on September 7, 1982 at the Winter Garden Theatre.

The sung-through musical proved to be a hit and won many awards and accolades. For quite a time, it was the longest-running musical as it was performed on West End stage for two glorious decades! There were 8,489 shows in 21 years. On Broadway, it ran for 18 years with 7,485 shows.

A true Taurean, CATS was as stubborn as a bull, refusing to budge from its position as the “World’s Best-loved Musical”. Well, that was until LES MISERABLES took its place in 2006. Sadly, CATS bid farewell to Broadway and West End in 2000 and 2002 respectively. (Ed. Fortunately, it’s currently back in the game, enjoying the limelight, entertaining more theatre fans, and translated into multiple languages.  “As of 2019, Cats remains the fourth-longest-running Broadway show and the sixth-longest-running West End show.” Oh, and it had a worldwide gross of US$3.5 billion by 2012.)

In 1998, ALW pushed the barriers further by producing the film version of CATS. It was, in fact, the first of its kind, an actual stage performance captured on film. In essence, they picked up where they left off, only with a different medium. Directed for film by David Mallet, the musical was shot in London’s Adelphi Theater by running through the whole production twice and then adding other essential shots. They did it in a span of 18 days. Meanwhile, costumes and make-up were toned down for film.

Original performers like Elaine Paige and Ken Page took on the roles they originated on West End (her) and on Broadway (him). The show also brought in veteran actor Sir John Mills for a special role. ALW then chose actors he thought could best portray the 28 other important characters. The cast were chosen from productions that were then currently showing the musical. Judging from the performances captured by the lenses, it seems that ALW’s team chose wisely and well.

The Story of CATS

The story unfolds as the Jellicle Cats meet at a junkyard for the annual Jellicle Ball. In attendance are the adult cats and the kittens that are on the verge of adulthood, probably attending their first ball.

Led by the protective silver-and-grey tom, Munkustrap (Michael Gruber), they sing, dance, do acrobatics, and bask at the Jellicle moon. That is, while they await the arrival of their leader, Old Deuteronomy (Page). Every year, just before dawn, Deuteronomy makes what is known as the “Jellicle Choice”. He chooses the cat who gets the chance to be reborn, allowed to go up the Heaviside Layer (their kitty heaven), and “come back to a different Jellicle life”. Anyone interested could ask to be given this privilege.

During this time, the audience is given the chance to get accustomed to the characters. Some are easy to remember. That’s due mainly to particular costume designs that stage productions almost always follow . (Thanks, John Napier.)

For those familiar with the show, some characters are instantly recognizable. For instance, Victoria The White Cat (Phyllida Crowley Smith), the tuxedo cat Quaxo (Jacob Brent), the Siamese feline Cassandra (Rebecca Parker), or the twins Coricopat and Tantomile (Tommi Sliiden and Kaye Brown respectively). Some performers first show up as swing or supporting casts, wearing costumes specifically designed not to stand out. They later emerge as important characters. It is hard, though, to miss such a man (or cat) the size of Mister Page.

As the waiting continues, the presence of some adored cats are acknowledged. Jennyanydots The Gumbie Cat (Susie McKenna), with her tiger stripes and leopard spots, is a tabby perceived as lazy by her owners during the day. But she gets busy at night teaching or disciplining mice, roaches and beetles. The supposedly smart Bustopher Jones (James Barron) is a well-respected cat in his “coat of fastidious black” and “white spats”. He is revered when all he actually really does is eat.

The Rum Tum Tugger (John Partridge) also makes sure that his presence is known. He is “vain”, “perverse” and “inconsequent”. And yet, he is the object of almost every she-feline’s affection. The kittens and the sensual Bombalurina (Rosemarie Ford) idolize him like a sexy rockstar. Complete with a lion’s mane, a kiss-me curl, and gyrations, he is the show’s trademark Elvis. The Elvis theme is one that ALW plays with from time to time. Case in point: the Pharaoh in JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT. Together with Munkustrap, Tugger serves as another main storyteller.

Grizabella The Glamour Cat (Paige) – ironically un-glamorized now – then enters the scene. Excited to be back after years of absence, Grizabella is saddened when the others avoid and ostracize her. Needless to say, she is forced to stay away and watch from afar. Meanwhile, the notorious Bonnie-and-Clyde tandem of Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer (Drew Varley and Jo Gibb respectively) are caught doing their usual naughty antics and misdeed. The comical troublemakers end up staying all throughout the party.

The Jellicle leader soon appears, to the delight of his followers. For further entertainment, the cats do a parody of warring dogs, with the “intervention” of The Rumpus Cat (Frank Thompson). Dancing resumes after. At some point of the elaborate dance number, the mating process happens. It’s a sort of PG-13 moment when the kitten Victoria “becomes” an adult cat. She mates with Plato (Bryn Walters) while the others also do their – uh – thing.

When it is over, Grizabella returns and tries to join the ball once again. She is still regarded as an outcast. Feeling alone, she sings the now-popular song “Memory”, sadly reminiscing her lovely past. She does not know that Deuteronomy is still there and leaves disappointed.

Soon after, the cats return and Deuteronomy tries to explain to them the meaning of real happiness, to no avail. So to get the message across, he conveys it in simpler words through the kitten Jemima (Veerle Casteleyn). She somewhat sings entranced. Jemima’s maturity at her age is evidenced by her understanding of Grizabella. She is always the first to try and touch the outcast only to be pulled away by the older cats.

Gus The Theatre Cat (Sir John Mills), senile as he is, also attends the gathering and talks of the good ol’ days. He makes you shed a tear or two at the end of his song. He leaves behind him a sad atmosphere. which Skimbleshanks The Railway Cat (Geoffrey Garrat) enlivens again through his storytelling and pantomime acts.

Chaos erupts as the criminal Macavity The Mystery Cat a.k.a. The Hidden Paw (also Walters) emerges and catnaps Old Deuteronomy. As they worry about their leader, Macavity returns in a different form. But the sensitive and rather dramatic Demeter (Aeva May) sees through his disguise and exposes him. A fight inevitably happens and sometime later, the Jellicle leader is somehow rescued. With the help of the magical Mr. Mistoffelees (also Brent) and the kittens — the wise and sweet Jemima and the kind, queenly Victoria — Deuteronomy is finally able to make the Jellicle Choice.

Thoughts on CATS

For anyone wanting entertainment-value, CATS will not be a disappointment. But to the uninitiated, the whole story may not be easy to follow. I had to watch it several times myself before I fully understood everything.

It also helped that I had the libretto downloaded from the Internet back then. That made it easier to understand and better appreciate the actors’ various accents. Varley’s and Gibb’s were particularly harder to follow for me, to be honest. Understanding the words made their lively performance more fun to watch.

Most of the characters that were introduced/announced were old. It was natural for Deuteronomy to choose among the elders. They had been there, done that, enjoyed things they would want to relive like Gus, regretted things they would like to change like Grizabella.

Grizabella did not use her youth wisely. Once it was gone, she was left with nothing but her memories. She felt the sting of loneliness, lamenting the meaning of real happiness. The brief but memorable duet of the old and the young in “Memory (Reprise)” emphasized this. One represented hope and innocence; one represented loss and grave regrets. Meanwhile, we saw a stunning performance from both actors. It is arguably one of the best scenes from the film.

Between Griz and Gus, however, the latter gets my vote. Sir John Mills was a very convincing Gus that I actually shed some tears almost every time I watched him. A brief performance worthy of an award!

The stage production itself is to be applauded, in my opinion. Few musicals can do what CATS do. They may have one or two of the elements, but the show offers more.

There’s great poetry (with additional texts from Sir Trevor Nunn), though already antiquated from the start. Understandable. The book the show is based on is old. What’s amazing is they somehow pull it off. If you’re not into poetry, you’ll tend to forget it anyway as you enjoy watching the cats and their various antics. You won’t really notice that it’s poetry.

There’s wonderful music. A lot of times, it is operatic, which, I admit, may not suit some theater-goers. They might find the show boring because of the music. I think most avid supporters of musicals will not mind, though. Many musicals tend to be operatic.

The dance numbers are totally awesome! I am so impressed by the dancers who train really hard to move like real cats, even think like real cats. They make dancing seem easy when it isn’t. It takes dedication to achieve the craft. CATS’ dance routines also differ in genres (e.g. ballet, lyrical, even acrobatic). That makes the whole show quite interesting. Credit goes to Dame Gillian Lynne. I think productions still follow her choreography up to now. I saw a live performance some years ago and it was like watching the movie.

The set is not breathtakingly impressive compared to other shows’ and yet, very appropriate. Just imagine that you are an actual Jellicle Cat — the set will make sense. The way going to the Heaviside Layer is a bit of a turn-off for me. Other than that, well, I really don’t mind anything else.
I love other musicals as well. What sets CATS apart for me, though, is the fact that it is a complete package. I consider watching the movie as an actual adventure.
Truth be told, it isn’t really the story that has made the most impact on me. I am viewing this from the perspective of a musical-lover, not a film enthusiast. CATS is a stage musical, first and foremost. Despite its flaws, the movie deserves to be praised for the sheer originality alone. That’s what thinking-out-of-the-box is about.
And I am so glad CATS is out! 😉
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Hey, guys, I found this nice page on the musical, check it out: Cats (musical)

Kita Kita (I See You) (post-)#MondayReviews

***NOTE: Finally, a totally new review, woohoo!!! And of a really new movie, too 🙂 It’s a review, but I did add a few trivial bits.

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KITA KITA

The first time I saw its trailer, I decided that I wanted to watch Kita Kita. For one thing, it had been a while since I last watched an actual indie film and I am an indie supporter. I’m not really sure it should be called an independent, though, considering that it’s produced by a mainstream film outfit (that does seem past its heyday) and especially by one owned by a very famous, still very-”now” actor. But okay, they say it was made with a low budget, so why not?

Indie or not, the story had me curious so last Sunday, I brought the free ticket I’ve had for months and had a romantic date with myself. (There are perfectly good reasons why I was alone, but they’re not worth discussing, really.) My curiosity over the chosen stars did add much to that decision.

Alessandra de Rossi (a.k.a. Alex) has never headlined a mainstream movie or a regular TV series. However, when it comes to indies, she’s a legit superstar and has been legit since she was in her early teens. Just count the awards she has gotten over the years. I have seen enough of her movies (even wrote a review for one, and this reminds me to post it soon) to know how good she could be.

She has been one of a few stars I admire when it comes to serious acting that when I hear her being part of this or that, I often try to see her when I can. To see her take the lead in a romantic-comedy film kind of intrigued me.

Meanwhile, leading man Empoy Marquez, who usually goes with no last name, is the bigger surprise. He’s a comedian who has been active on both the small and big screens almost always as a supporting character. He probably has had lead roles before, but in single episodes of comedy or fantasy-comedy shows, nothing memorable.

Until this movie, he was never that comedian to watch out for. So imagine my (and other people’s) surprise to find out that of all the comedians to choose from, Empoy got the part. I wondered how he would pull it off given his brand of comedy. However, I think that was really it that made me think I wanted to see him in this movie.

The best reason that made me want to see Kita Kita was the premise of the love story. What is the premise of the story? Well, to start with, the title is short for “Nakikita kita”, in English, “I See You”. It is both a literal and figurative name to give the movie.

Lea is a Filipina working as a tourist guide in Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan. She experiences heartache while there. In a much bitter fate, she suffers a potentially permanent blindness and loses interest in life, living day-to-day like nothing matters anymore.

Then comes Tonyo, another Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW). He begins invading her life by persistently attempting to converse with her daily and bringing her food he’s cooked everyday, even though she snubs him and ignores the food he brings.

They eventually become friends. He asks her to accompany him and be his tourist guide, telling her “I’ll be your eyes.” In the process, he brings back the colors into her life by making her laugh and see the world again through him. Lea starts to go back to being happy and becomes more accepting of her situation without losing hope of ever seeing again, a hope that Tonyo helps bring back. They become so close that it somehow becomes obvious he has feelings for her. On the other hand, she starts “seeing” him in that newer light as well. They become almost-lovers.

Unfortunately, before everything turns out well for them, something happens that neither of them expects.

That’s as far as I will go. I’m not telling anymore and giving the story away.

In some ways, you’d think, nah, it’s been done before: blind person meets the love of her life who turns out to be not what she expected. Or maybe she sees again, then in a twisted turn of fate, she dies from something else anyway…

Well, hold your horses. Something bad does happen (conflict is necessary for stories), and maybe a theory in your head does turn out to be correct (mine was), but it’s what you’ll get to find out next that’s going to make a lot more difference in how you see the story.

I love the story. It’s so simple that it’s so beautiful. It’s really got the magic of Filipino indies sans the poverty, sex and even violence common in a lot of them, sometimes exploited in a lot of them, too. It’s an indie that’s a sight for sore eyes–it’s actually aesthetically pleasing to the eyes. None of those slum shots that’s the staple of many Pinoy independent flicks. Not all realities need to be about those because that’s not the only reality we live in. I do feel like the setting could have been here, no need to go anywhere out of the country.

Anyway, another plus is the viewer gets to concentrate on them since save from a few bit players, Alex and Empoy are the only real cast of the film.

I admit, the first few minutes of the movie kind of bored me, but I knew they were necessary. It’s an SOP now in the screenwriting world, at least in the indie films, that I learned before. They had to show shots of how the protagonist functioned in her everyday life, her routines, what she did, etc. It established the scenario, the changes that were about to happen, the disruption in her life. Why only show Lea and not Tonyo was because Tonyo would appear later, just like how new people appear in our lives, no warning.

A good script from Sigrid Bernardo, funny ad-libs (usually care of Empoy, you can just tell), a nice twist that you don’t completely see coming, and a great way to emphasize that love can both be blind and enlightening at the same time.

Despite Tonyo being stalker-ish and you getting the feeling he knew her long before he approached her, you’d actually root for the guy to get his girl and not feel scared for her. He saw her at her lowest and brought her back. Somehow, she saw him at his lowest, too, and brought him back without knowing it. They saw the real them. Did I just give you a riddle? You’ll find out once you see it.

The acting was so natural and that’s what made viewers love the two actors. It’s underacting, so to speak. It seemed like there was 20% acting and 80% just being Alex and Empoy. So, no disrespect to directors Sigfrid Bernardo and Bb. Joyce Bernal, but I feel the most credit for the acting should go to the film’s stars.

Well, in a way, Alex was acting because she was much tamer here than in real life where she is funnier and rowdier, you’d wonder why drama is her forte. She is no stranger to comedy, but drama brings out the best actress in her. Empoy, on the other hand, was just being Empoy and it worked for him. He’s like the normal guys in our lives who could be funny, caring and lovable regardless of looks and background. His character might not have worked if they had chosen a more handsome (less realistic) and/or non-comedic (awkward) actor. Empoy is definitely the better option.

Alex gives a lot of credit to Empoy. She says her character could have been played by anyone and it would still be the same, unlike Empoy’s. I disagree. Yes, it could have been acted out by anyone well enough, but the chemistry between Lea and Tonyo would probably not have been the same. I’m saying that the Alex-Empoy tandem (now tagged as AlEmpoy, though I’d rather “ship” them as EmLex) fortunately had that obviously perfect on-screen chemistry that made the story work.

I am not entirely sure if it’s suitable to call this love story a romantic comedy. What confuses me more is how Empoy actually succeeded in making women feel those kilig moments. Everyone’s surprised! Now single girls and gays want their Banana, too, ha! #HowtoBeEmpoy . (As for the banana reference, find out for yourself.)

If you haven’t seen Kita Kita yet, catch it now before they stop showing it. I did not waste much time because of that as I did not assume that many would actually go and see it. If you’re living abroad, they will bring this to you (in the US, that I’m sure, at least), so watch out. Don’t speak Filipino? No sweat. They have subtitles. You won’t be disappointed, definitely.

However you will see the ending, I guarantee that you will not leave feeling like you’ve just wasted time and money. In fact, you just might want to see it again. I know I do.

(fr. left) Director Bb. Joyce Bernal, Writer-Director Sigfrid Bernardo, Producer Piolo Pascual (Spring Films), Alessandra de Rossi and Empoy

 

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Have you seen it? What can you say? Share your comments below. You know we love comments 😉

“JUST KIDS by Patti Smith” #MondayReviews

For today’s review, I give you my friend, Tobe Damit of Loud Alien Noize and his review of Patti Smith‘s

“Just Kids”

Tobe posts this totally magazine-worthy articles that may cater to certain people’s interest and, sometimes, repel others, depending on where in the artistic appreciation spectrum you are. Do check him out, know more about Tobe Damit.

An American Crime (post-)#MondayReviews

***NOTE: Sorry, this is late guys. Anyway, it is something I wrote a few years back. And since it’s November, I felt this would be appropriate because it’s a “horror” story. It’s probably scarier than RINGU, now that I think about it. DO NOT watch the vid until you’ve read what I’ve got to say. Then you can decide if you’d like to watch it…This post is supposedly a review, but it could very well be a feature.

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AN AMERICAN CRIME

I must have an invisible genie somewhere because just a few days after wishing for it–lo and behold–I found the movie An American Crime! And now, I am obsessing myself with it. Well, actually, with the story behind it. I am slightly a closet-psychologist wannabe, so for this movie, my curious button was definitely on.

american-crime-movie

The movie centers on two people–on sixteener Sylvia Marie Likens (Ellen Page) and on mother-of-six Gertrude Baniszewski a..k.a. Mrs. Wright (Catherine Keener). The year is 1965.

Sylvia is a pretty and likable girl whose parents, Betty and Lester (Romy Rosemont and Nick Searcy), operate a concession stand that travels with carnivals, therefore, they have moved not less than 14 times. That October, she and younger sister Jenny Fay (Hayley McFarland) are to be left behind again so they could go to school and have more time to have friends. Meanwhile, Gertrude is a woman who has had a hard life. Thrice married, twice divorced, once lived in with a boyfriend more or less 10 years her junior. All the men have been abusive and deadbeat dads, leaving the responsibility of raising all six children, including an infant, to Gertrude alone. Her first daughter Paula (Ari Graynor), 17, does try to help with meager earnings. They live in a squalid home with hardly any food on the table. To top it all, Gertrude has an ailment that is not often attended to properly with much-needed medicine.

Somehow, the Likens girls cross paths with the Baniszewkis. Mrs. Wright then meets Mr. Likens one day and offers to take in and care of the girls for a fee amounting to 20-dollars a week to be sent to her. A deal is made and the relieved father promptly encourages Mrs. Wright to discipline his daughters as she sees fit. “Discipline” them is exactly what Gertrude does, and so on October 26, 1965, Sylvia is found dead by the police in the house at 3850 East New York Street. She is covered with bruises and burns, mutilated and beaten to a pulp.

That is the synopsis. Now, I’m pretty sure it’s under the drama category, but any sane person who has seen this will agree when I say it could very well blend in with the ghost and slasher flicks under the horror category, too. There’s no one coming back from the dead nor is there lots of gore, so why horror? Because the thought that this could happen to a loved one, to your kids, all that Sylvia went through, should already be terrifying.

But what makes it doubly horrifying is IT’S A D*MN TRUE STORY. It is based on actual testimonies during the trial of the Baniszewski v. The State of Indiana case. The name “Gertrude Baniszewksi” is said to be right up there on the notoriety level of serial killers Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer.

sylvia-likens-murderThe case of Sylvia that was soon to be dubbed The Indiana Torture Slaying became a sensational story that shocked people everywhere. How could this woman torture the young girl? And how could a sickly woman like her ever be physically able to do it? Well, the answer is both simple yet very disturbing–she had the complete cooperation and assistance of her children and other neighborhood kids!

“The crime had been perpetrated by an informal group of teenagers and children, some as young as 11 and 12, led by a 37-year-old woman” (The Torturing Death of Sylvia Marie Likens).

Everyone was out to “punish” poor Sylvia for sins mostly made-up and imagined by Gertrude and her children. Jenny was spared perhaps because she was younger and less outspoken, aside from her having a disability. Not to mention, Paula was keen on taking revenge on Sylvia for ratting out her “condition”. Everyday, kids would visit the Baniszewskis’ house just to make fun of Sylvia and beat her up in every way possible.

She was their entertainment. They ridiculed her, tied her up, punched her, kicked her, scorched her with cigarettes and matches, threw hot water on her, and hosed her down. One of her most painful ordeal was when Gertrude branded her with words etched on her stomach saying, “I’M A PROSTITUTE AND PROUD OF IT!” as a form of getting even for her kids. Another boy would be tasked to finish it. Prior to that, there was an incident with a bottle which I find hard to mention…Oh, all the wonderful things those perverted souls could think off!

And those were the only ones shown onscreen. In reality, Sylvia suffered so much more in the hands of her tormentors. Gertrude repeatedly kicked her on the crotch and made her striptease in front of everyone. The kids practiced judo moves on her, flinging her on walls and everywhere else. Investigations would show that Sylvia also suffered assaults that were sexual in manner although there was no actual rape involved.

By now, questions are probably going through your minds, the hows and the whys, the same questions I found myself asking. Why didn’t the Likens girls tell anyone? Why didn’t any adult try to help? And why, oh, why did the neighborhood kids do such terrible acts? To get your answers, I suggest a research. That’s what I did and now, at least some aspects of the true story have become clearer.

The movie is literally a torture to watch but I dare say it is relevant. It reminds us to think twice or a hundred times about our responsibilities as adults. Could we really trust anyone with our kids? How much should we give our trust? I am already worried about my own kid…and I don’t even have one yet! [Ed. Again, to remind you, this was written years ago.]

Mostly, I can’t get over the fact that neighborhood kids joined in the ‘fun’. It was bullying taken to horrible extremes. Gertrude’s kids, I can still understand. Twisted parents can bring up twisted kids. They were probably their mother’s victims as well until Sylvia, the scapegoat, came along. But for the other kids to keep coming back to inflict torture? Sick is what that is. My brain cannot fathom the depth of this mystery. I’ve heard about serial killers in groups. Could it be they were going down that road? How much of it is proof of the great evil hidden inside of us and that we are very capable of?

I can’t say much about the writing of the story except there were a lot more in the true story that were left untold. The writer did take some liberties near the end that left me a bit baffled for a while. Casting-wise, they should have made Paula look heavier to emphasize her insecurity with Sylvia (she is said to be actually heavyset with a sort of mean streak). But aside from those, I have no real complaints.

Ellen, as always, did her part well, except the script required her to do a lot of lying down and screaming. It’s not one of best performances, methinks, not because she couldn’t act, but because the script did not ask much from her, really. Catherine was great and convincing in her role in the sense that you see her own vulnerability and you question if you should really hate Gertrude. Personally, though I believe that convicting her was just, I felt sorry for her. I think she was seriously ill in the head. But she was sober at times as well and did not stop herself or the kids from torturing poor Sylvia. That still made her accountable.

So while watching this disturbing film would be hard to bear, I still recommend it, if only to make us open our eyes more. If you want to be all happy without a care in the world, go rent a dumb movie. Pretend that all is well in the world and be blessedly ignorant. Meanwhile, I will be on the lookout for a copy so I can share it to more people. Sometimes, we need to have our world shaken up to see the whole picture.

 

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Any thoughts? Reactions? Have you seen it? We’re free to discuss at the comments section. Let us know what you think! 🙂

Cancer? Schmancer! ~ Fran Drescher #MondayReviews

Cancer? Schmancer!

Cancer Schmancer
By Fran Drescher
260 pages

cancer-schmancer-franCreator, executive producer, writer, director, star. But cancer survivor? Certainly not something Fran Drescher would have wanted on her resumé! Yet in year 2000, while the whole world celebrated surviving the millennium bug, she of TV’s The Nanny fame was in a battle no one would’ve predicted for fit, healthy, lively “Miss Fine.”

In reality, things were far from fine. Her almost twenty-year marriage abruptly ended; her beloved dog Chester would soon be put to sleep; worst of all, she finally confirmed what she had somehow suspected all along. After years and years of consulting doctors who mostly told her she was probably just going through the perimenopausal stage—ouch, her ego!—Doctor #9 told her otherwise. That “otherwise” was uterine cancer, stage 1.

So after her first bestseller Enter Whining, Fran was back writing about her life, love, libido, and cancer that really didn’t need to be in her life, but there it was anyway. Why Cancer Schmancer? Writes Fran: “All I’ve got to say is to he** with cancer! This book’s about schmancer! Laughing at the crazy things life offers when it’s biting you in the a**.”

The book basically revolves around Fran’s two-year, 11-doctor journey as she tries to get second, third, fourth and so on medical opinions regarding her health. She knows something is wrong—the staining between periods and cramping after intercourse would have been tell-tale signs of uterine cancer, but she didn’t fall in the risk groups category—yet always, she gets misdiagnosed until Doctor #8 refers her to #9. Meanwhile, her ordeal is changing her into someone she hardly recognizes. Fran eventually recovers with the support of her family, friends, and two different loves.

Written in a candid manner, Fran talks about her cancer with a mix of reflection and humor. There are anecdotes worth retelling to make one smile and even laugh. However, Fran gives more than a dose of humor. She shares the pains and the sorrows as well including a particularly short but sad story so tragic, it spirals to the end of her marriage with Peter Jacobson, her best friend, childhood sweetheart and Nanny co-producer. After the harrowing experience, they will never be the same again, Fran realizes, as they feed off each other’s neediness and fears that are close to paranoia. She just has to get out of the marriage, for both their sake.

As personal and entertaining as it seems, this book is not for the uptight. Language may sometimes be a little too much for some (the first quote is a preview of that) while certain subjects like sex, which is essential to the author, is taboo. But hey, that’s Fran! Take them all away and it wouldn’t be her. One can only appreciate her honesty.

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Fran with members of the Cancer Schmancer Movement

The book, primarily written to make women more aware of their health and the importance of early diagnosis especially of gynecologic cancers, is now on the bestseller list. In fact, it created enough impact that on June 21, 2007, Fran celebrated her seventh year of being cancer-free and topped it off with the launch of the Cancer Schmancer Movement, an active policy-changing movement serving the same goal.

Time to sound off the alarm! As Fran says, “Once you wake up and smell the coffee, it’s hard to go back to sleep.”

 

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NOTE: This article was published in The Big C magazine (July-September 2008 issue). To see more reviews, please visit my CRITIC’S CORNER….Thank you!

HELEN vs TROY #MondayReviews

NOTE: This review-of-sorts was written years ago so please do not be bothered by certain stuff in this post that has to do with time. I have edited it to lessen confusion and correct grammar as I am only human. Oh, and all photos belong to their producers, okay?

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TV movie HELEN OF TROY or TROY The Movie? Take your pick.

TV movie HELEN OF TROY or TROY The Movie? Take your pick.

Frankly, what I remember about Homer‘s Iliad, I got not from reading the actual book. I learned them from my high school Literature teacher and from a smaller, much thinner book aptly called Greek Mythology, which summarized the story. Throw in The Odyssey, too. It is for this reason that my friends and I are now inclined to read the actual, entire book I have to be able to see which versions about the Fall of Troy, city of the Achaeans (Greeks), is more accurate – the made-for-TV-movie Helen of Troy (Desire is War) (2003) (let’s call that ‘HT‘), or box-office hit Troy (2004)?

Should I depend on what I actually know or remember, however, HT definitely wins in terms of faithfulness to text. Not without errors, though, I should add.

Being both spectacular, comparisons between the two masterpieces are quite inevitable. For starters, people have now begun to argue. Which Helen actress looks more the part and is fit to be called “The Face That Launched a Thousand Ships”: Troy‘s Diane Kruger or HT‘s Sienna Guillory?

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Who is the better Helen, Diane Kruger (left) or Sienna Guillory?

One person online even commented that he would never build a ship for one of these women, not even a raft…But there should actually be no contest, if you think about it.

Kruger and Guillory are both very beautiful women. I hardly think any of them would be given the part if she didn’t register very well on camera. The role absolutely called for it, no ifs, no buts. My vote goes to Guillory, though, simply because she has more scenes and more of her is literally seen, pun intended. It is necessary. The title says it all, HELEN of Troy. It is the story about the woman Helen and the Fall of Troy, the fall triggered but not all caused by her beauty. How else would you make the audience believe that she could cause this? She has to look and act and be desirable, make it easy to believe that men all over would adore and desire her.

In Troy, more is also seen of Achilles (Brad Pitt) rather than of Helen. Kruger’s scenes are few and far between, her acting is limited (probably not her fault, still people have harsh remarks about it), and unfortunately yet as expected, she doesn’t have that much chance to share scenes with the real main character in the story, Achilles. Rose Byrne as Briseis has much more challenge and much more fun romancing Pitt.

HT‘s plot:

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The antagonist to contend with, Agamemnon (Rufus Sewell)

The story of HT follows the story of a beautiful young girl, Helen of Sparta, whose famous beauty reaches far and wide, something that she starts to see as a kind of curse. She gets kidnapped, finds out the truth about her birth, learns her first lessons in love, loses two loved ones, and is finally won by Prince Menelaus (James Callis), brother to Prince Agamemnon (played very convincingly by Rufus Sewell, just look at those eyes!) who, much earlier, marries her sister and becomes High King.

One night, Helen meets Prince Paris (Matthew Marsden) of Troy. They immediately fall in love and he escapes with her to Troy. Angered, Menelaus follows them to claim back his wife. He threatens to get her at all cost, with his ruthless brother at his side, and other kings and warriors (including the half-God Achilles, played by Joe Montana, and the intelligent Odysseus essayed by Nigel Whitmey). The city does not return Helen and a ten-year war follows, until Troy, deceived by the Trojan Horse, falls to its fiery end.

Troy‘s plot, as compared to HT:

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How come Brad Pitt always looks better with long hair?

Basically, almost the same plot happens to Troy. However, in this story, the focus is more on Achilles rather than Helen or Troy. [Ed. I am inclined to think that maybe, the title should have been changed to Achilles instead.] It is not really about the Fall of Troy, but the “humanization” of Achilles. Here, he is shown as more human and capable of love and kindness, compared to the other movie’s mean one. He seems more mortal. He does not die with just a single arrow shot on his heel, for one.

Also, considering that it is part of Greek Mythology, Troy does not exactly delve on the idea that it is. No magic or supernatural occurrences at all. His mother does not appear out of nowhere, their conversation does not reveal much of what he supposedly is, which is part-God. He destroys Apollo’s statue and nothing happens to him (although it is not expected). Lastly, Cassandra never, ever appears.

The “humanization” of Achilles has actually made me like HT more. Troy has joined the ranks of war epics. HT, on the other hand, is also a war epic and offers more. By not veering away from the stuff that make mythology mythology, the audience is first made to understand the reason behind the lovers’ betrayal of Menelaus. It is, after all, the fault of the three High Goddesses of Olympus – Hera (Andreea Radutoiu), Athena (Gina Nalamlieng), and Aphrodite (Emily Kosloski) – particularly Aphrodite, who, in their petty concerns, bribes Paris to make him say she is fairest among them. Somehow, the lovers see each other prior to their actual meeting, and then come to believe that the gods and goddesses have willed them to be together.

The inclusion of Cassandra in the story certainly adds “credibility”. She does, after all, figure prominently in the Iliad. Emilia Fox and her large, expressive eyes give justice to her role quite wonderfully. Meanwhile, I am not sure of whether Paris does become a shepherd or not in the book, but the movie makes it all the more reasonable.

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Matthew Marsden or Orlando “He-Looks-Better-with-Long-Hair” Bloom?

However, from what I remember, Paris is not supposed to be very brave and good in combat. On the contrary. Here, Orlando Bloom‘s Paris is more accurate. Marsden as Paris, however, is really much admirable, lovable and, at the risk of getting the ire of people, I say, better-looking. Nothing against Bloom – I love Legolas! But as this is not Lord of The RingsI mean, hey, he did not even shine in Pirates of the Caribbean, right? Hmnn…must be in the hair.

What’s more, in their desire to concentrate on Achilles and on Pitt’s behind, the producers of Troy have somehow neglected to improve on the story about the Fall of Troy itself, something HT gives attention to. The second explores relationships, whether man-and-woman, father-and-child, husband-and-wife, between siblings,…It’s there.

There are many other things that would be worth pointing out in both HT and Troy. Accuracy, inaccuracies, better or worse portrayals, etcetera. But the point is, whichever version, if you’ll just take it as it is (which is a movie), it would actually be worth watching for. So grab a copy now of Helen of Troy and wait for Troy’s release on video. Evaluate, compare, do whatever! Just as long as you watch them and enjoy!

 

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Have you anything to add, share or debate about with regards to this post? Feel free type them all down in the comment box! I welcome a lively discussion 🙂