JUNO The Film that Made Ellen Page? #NanoPoblano2019

***NOTE: I am back trying to complete my ten posts for November. It’s always funny in a not-so-ha-ha way that everytime I try to do writing challenges, something comes up to distract my mojo. I was doing well posting my first Nano Poblano posts daily. Then personal problems distracted me. I also suddenly have a new client (well, she was a client before) who has been giving me various writing assignments. So yeah, my brain is usually cooked by evening. I just want to binge on Netflix. Well, I do actually binge on it.

Anyway, this is a fine time to re-share a film review I did in the past. I’ve been wanting to for quite some time but I never found the right timing. Maybe this is it. I originally wanted to post for #MondayReviews but, well…

Here it is. I did some editing to make it more readable, though, and updated. By the way, ALL images and video belong to the producers, okay? And, oh, for more reviews, visit the CRITIC’S CORNER, please.

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JUNO THE FILM THAT MADE ELLEN PAGE?

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Ellen Page in the title role of JUNO

It all began with a chair. No, really, it did, and it’s what the lead said: “It all began with a chair.” Honestly, I felt that the intro was rather weak until I realized why the writer began with that. The chair would somehow set the stage for what was soon to be the center of the story.

I am, admittedly, partial to movies with the word “indie” attached to them. I first heard about the 2007 Fox Searchlight film JUNO through cable-channel surfing. When I heard people gush about the so-called indie film, I said to myself, “Heck, yeah, I gotta see this flick!” Belatedly, after more than two years, I finally chanced upon a copy at a video store and whaddya know? I got me my JUNO.

Meet Juno

First, the story.

The movie tells of a girl named Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page), who is equipped with sharp wit and an even sharper mouth. A die-hard rocker kinda girl with a love for slasher movies, she lived by her own rules (practically her own, anyway) sans the usual teen angsts and oh-I-hate-the-world attitude. 

Juno is mature for her own age. However, at sixteen, she is still prone to the wayward ways of the juvenile world. She makes the mistake of sleeping with her dorky male bestfriend Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera) one supposedly boring day. “Supposedly”, since she tells quirky cheerleader Leah (Olivia Thirlby), her female bestfriend, that she planned it. But the plan has resulted into something she did not expect. And she pays for it in a span of nine months. 

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Suddenly, Juno is faced with going through the inevitable phase. And then there’s the adoption to think of. She wants to make sure that her baby’s future adoptive parents (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner) are the perfect ‘desperately seeking spawn’ couple she thinks they are. As one character puts it, “That ain’t no Etch-A-Sketch,” pertaining to Juno’s positive pregnancy test. “This is one doodle that can’t be un-did, Homeskillet.” She needs to make it right for her kid.

Juno worries that her child might grow up in a dysfunctional family such as hers. It is emotional baggage that the seemingly-uncaring Juno has carried around for years and is now being brought to the surface.

Interesting? Well, loads of people can’t be wrong. I know what endeared this movie to critics and public audience alike; it’s what endeared it to me.

Why Love JUNO?

It’s an adorable piece of unconventional, not-too-dramatic, creative storytelling. It tackles a very real issue with a humorous take. It is not to make light of the situation. Rather, it teaches about loving, forgiving and learning to let go.

The film deserves the praises, nominations, and awards it received. First-time screenwriter Diablo Cody spun a very good tale about a girl forced to deal with matters that even some adults fear facing. (Don’t ask why her name is Diablo; it’s an alias and is another story.)

The movie is a coming-of-age comedy except Juno had to mature faster than necessary, and she knew this. As she said in a scene, she was “just out dealing with things waaay beyond my maturity level.” Frankly, she dealt with the situation much more maturely than at least one of the adults.

Kudos to Cody for a wonderful script. She relayed the story in a manner that while she did not promote premarital sex and teenage pregnancy, she emphasized the value of family support during these dark times. She took a stand as well against abortion. Subtle, but a qualified stand.

What made this movie stand out more were the wickedly delicious dialogues mostly delivered by the wickedly brilliant Ellen Page. Language was often young and hip to emphasize the kind of girl Juno was. The adults had their own witty lines and comebacks as well, right at every turn. But it’s a good thing that Ellen played the lead role because she would have stolen the scenes from any other lead anyway. They were all good, but Ellen was just…well, again, wickedly brilliant!

JUNO made an instant Ellen Page fan out of me. [Ed. She’s the main reason I’m watching THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY.] So I  researched on her and found her interesting film biography. She has done roles others can only dream of. Ellen tends to play dark roles, but she has said she is open for other kinds of roles (e.g. Kitty Pryde a.k.a. Shadowkat in X-MEN: THE LAST STAND, Ariadne in INCEPTION).

For JUNO, Ellen received nominations and awards. She now carries with her name the “Academy Awards Nominee” tag. She has said that one advantage is she can now choose roles. Maybe it’s a joke, but I don’t think she even had that problem before at all, anyway. Real directors know talent when they see one.

JUNO gets FIVE STARS from me for being unconventional, smart, and even delicious to the eyes (I love the bright colors!!!). And, oh, spankin’ cute soundtrack as well, honest to blog!

Meanwhile, I am now looking for copies of her movies HARD CANDY, MOUTH TO MOUTH, SUPER, THE CURED, THE TRACEY FRAGMENTS, and AN AMERICAN CRIME [Ed. I posted a review of this. Just click]. Maybe I’ll try Netflix.

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)

“I Not Stupid” #atozchallenge2017

NOTE: This was written years back.

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I Not Stupid (A Review)

Jack Neo‘s I Not Stupid is a film which digs into Singapore’s flawed educational system and how it affects society

More than a month ago, my eyes got all puffy again and I blamed Jack Neo for it. If a law was ever passed against making women cry using movies, he would be in death row by now.

Of course, as you can gather from my reaction, I am actually starting to love Neo (just don’t remind me about his Liang Po Po slapstick). After watching Homerun, here was another Neo flick that had my tears streaming down my face uncontrollably – I Not Stupid (I.N.S.) or Xiǎohái Bù Bèn. Clever devil. Even his title screams with comic irony.

Compared to the first film aforementioned, I.N.S. is another Singaporean political and, more specifically, social satire. The treatment, however, is more direct though not literal. Without ever having to guess, one would not need to read any background on Singapore to realize that the film is satirical.

The whole movie is full of similes and metaphors – mostly directly injected in dialogue – that pertain to the country’s government and its people. For around two hours, we are given a peek, a good peek, at one of Asia’s well-known nations. At the same time, neighboring countries may recognize a thing or two about Singapore that resemble(s) a thing or two about themselves.

Strictly speaking, the story is about and narrated by Terry (Huang Po-Ju), a little rich boy who could be so obedient to an annoying fault. Actually, the story revolves not only around Terry, but also around poor toughie Boon Hock (Joshua Ang) and misunderstood artist Kok Pin (Shawn Lee). Well, around them and their parents, to be more exact.

The adults have their own sub-plots that cannot be simply ignored. Each of the boys belongs to section EM3 where all the kids perceived as lazy, troublesome and dumb always end up and are considered hopeless future adults. The parents, on the other hand, basically play the part of society and government. Special focus is on Singaporean education, both in school and in society.

As a satire, I found I.N.S. simple, direct, and effective in communicating the message. As a non-Singaporean, I cannot, in all honesty agree with all of Neo’s opinions. I cannot, simply because I have never met a Singaporean in the flesh, been to Singapore, personally talked to anyone who has, or discussed the country with online buddies. But as far as freedom of speech is concerned, through the use of a powerful medium, I say, yes, Neo conveyed his message very well. In fact, right at the start, he made it clear through the narration.

However, it wasn’t the “underlying” content that got to me. It was Kok Pin and his mother that made me cry.  I was doing fine until Kok Pin got up the building and…I should have known it would be about family again or I would have bought some tissue! As for funny moments, even if it was supposed to be comedy, there wasn’t a lot to laugh at, literally or not. At least I didn’t find much of the story funny. Sorry.

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The kids who aren’t really stupid

I.N.S. is a brave, intelligent film done in-your-face.  It was created not to confuse but rather inform the audience and perhaps, serve as a wake-up call. It is not a stab (in fact, there is an “appreciative” comment near the end regarding “mothers”) but rather, just a prick to remind the government to do what is proper and right when it comes to educating its people. No need to beat around the bush. After all, we not stupid.

Therefore, I highly recommend this movie. Not as powerful as I found Homerun, but still a very commendable piece. I can’t wait to see another one of Jack’s Neo-isms. This guy is not to be missed. After all, he most definitely not stupid!

 

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I know I am late. I will reserve the explanation once the challenge is done through the insights. The short of it is I don’t feel well, my laptop is slow, it’s super-hot here, and it’s currently Holy Week.

I do hope you liked my post. I thought I’d share this review I wrote years ago. Once in a while, I do reviews, so if you’re interested in reading more, they’re at my CRITIC’S CORNER.

I is for, well, “I”

This piece serves as my Letter I post for the A to Z Challenge 2017.

If you’re interested:

A for Alibata – How to Spell the Ancient Filipino Way

B for Block – “How do you personally deal with writer’s block?”

C for Contents – Contents with all the Feels

D for Dialogue – Why Dialogue is Important

E for Edit – Mark Your Words!

F for Fictional Characters – “Which fictional character that you created is your favorite, and why?”

G for Grammar – GRRRR-rammar!!!

H is for Haiku – The Haiku

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 🙂

Not One Less #atozchallenge2014

This is real life

This is real life

Yi ge dou bu neng shao or Not One Less (1999). This is also a well-received and well-applauded film in the international scene. Not surprising for it is a film directed by the same man who gave us Raise the Red Lantern, Hero, and actress Zhang Ziyi (via The Road Home) – Zhang Yimou.

Based on “There is a Sun in the Sky” by Shi Xiang Sheng, who also wrote the screenplay, the story tells about a young girl who actually represents China’s poor and practically illiterate sector. Oh, but that’s getting ahead of the story.

In the movie, Wei Min Zhi, young and barely out of her teens, is given the task to substitute for the very dedicated Teacher Gao at the Shiuxian Village’s school in Beijing. Having big and understandable doubts, Teacher Gao still hands over the reins to her for a while as he is left with no choice.

It being a job, Wei asks for payment. They haggle until they both agree to a decision, that he will make sure she gets paid provided that in his absence, no student leaves schooling to work, “not one less. Wei intends to keep this promise, a promise that eventually becomes threatened when one of the students runs away.

It is obvious that Not One Less is a movie intended to serve as an eye-opener and does not pretend to be anything else. It touches on issues such as poverty, child labor and illiteracy. It is realistic enough as who are we to say that a situation such as Wei’s does not exist? And yet it also touches on the importance of education, sense of responsibility, patience, even hope.

While you maybe amused by the story from time to time, you can’t help but feel pity for the characters. Imagine a 13-year-old kid forced by the need to earn and teach other kids almost her own age. I winced between chuckles as Wei struggled to find the right words to teach the only song she claimed she knew, the right answers to simple mathematics, and the right way to find the missing boy in the jungle called The City.

The story is told in quite a simple manner. No music, no flairs and, save for one – Li Fan Fan – no real celebrities. Read the credits and you’ll soon realize that none of the cast, whether main or not, were real actors (reading credits is one informative but often neglected activity when we watch movies). In fact, everyone used his or her own name! Wei Min Zhi was actually a student from Zhenlingbao Village Middle School. Trouble-maker Zhang Huike was actually also another student from another school. Teacher Gao (Gao Enman) was a real primary school teacher.

Though the story was not based on a particular and actual person’s life, the cast played their own roles, from the young runner-athlete to the village mayor to the TV anchor.

There is no great acting. I must say the better. Raw acting can sometimes make everything more believable. Watch it and you’ll see what I mean. Heck, it’s like seeing a familiar situation in my country’s own backyard! A plus for Zhang Huike’s infectious smile. But even that, I missed the first time I saw him cry and in this particular scene:

Li Fan Fan: Do you like the city?

Zhang Huike: Yes.

Li Fan Fan: What is good about it?

Zhang Huike: The city is beautiful and progressive. Much better than the countryside.

Li Fan Fan: What’s the most lasting impression?

Zhang Huike (pauses and the smile fades): That I had to beg for food. I will always remember that.

So if you feel you can break away from all the hi-tech, gory and adrenaline-rushing flicks, opt for a simple and realistic story. Here it is and don’t expect any butt-kicking Wei Min Zhi anytime soon. Just isn’t going to happen.

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“Teacher” and her students

I give this movie FOUR-AND-A-HALF STARS!!!

4.5 stars

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It is my wish that you guys get to watch this movie. It’s so simple, it’s beautiful. But if I’m not mistaken, the movie is now uploaded in YouTube, complete with the English subtitles. I used to have a copy but someone borrowed it, who let others borrow it, and now it is supposedly lost. Nope, no attempt to replace it, sadly.

This review is posted already in IMDb, but I was going to share anyway, so why not share as my “N” post for the April challenge:

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At Play in the Fields of the Lord

I was just rummaging through my stuff some weeks ago and found something I wanted to share. Then I forgot. So I was rummaging again and voila! This is a brief film review that I had to write for school. Obviously, I was much younger, judging from the lack of depth and the way I wrote, but I’m sharing anyway. Changed just a word or two, added names of actors and edited the looooong paragraph. No stars given as I need to see the movie again to be able to cirticize better.

 

This must be my very first film review, ever! My advanced apologies 🙂

 

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Must be the very first film review I ever did, and it shows! Oh, well, just in time for a post-Holy Week post. Found this from the Boston University site

AT PLAY IN THE FIELDS OF THE LORD

In my opinion, At Play in the Fields of the Lord is not simply a movie. It is a movie of importance.

Historically, Filipinos can relate to the Indians’ problem. That is why even if I haven’t personally experienced what my ancestors and the Indians went through, I can understand how they felt. The introduction of Christianity is a noble deed, as long as one is sincere in his intentions, and the effect on the ones to whom it is introduced would not be more on the negative side.

In the movie, it is cleary shown that there are people like Leslie (John Lithgow) who pretend, who try to appear so saintly, when they do not really care about the “uncivilized.” I don’t know if there is such a thing, but I would call it the ‘Hero Complex.’ There are people who feel like they are the only ones who can save everyone and feel like the world owes it to them. It is also clearly shown in the movie that what is good for you may not be good for others, that if you push them to comply with what you think is right, it may just hurt them.

Like the experience of the Indians. They were not ready to embrace Christianity. They were only coaxed with goods. Where did that lead them? Martin (Aidan Quinn) was sincere in his intentions but still, he resorted to bribery, reason enough for the Indians to embrace Christianity without being ready. And what about Lewis Moon (Tom Berenger)? He did not want Christianity to enter the tribes. In fact, he joined the Indians. But it proved to be dangerous. He wasn’t about to let go of what he was in the past, kissed Leslie’s wife Andy (Daryl Hannah), and killed practically the whole tribe…Sometimes, it is better to let others be.

Some aspects of the movie may not be realistic but the fact is, most of it is realistic, even the nudity. Basically, the movie is actually good.

Homerun / Children of Heaven

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While laden with political undertones, Jack Neo‘s Homerun, the Singaporean adaptation of the Iranian original Children of Heaven managed to be quite touching as a family drama with two kids playing the main roles. Image from HERE.

Tip: If you really want to see me cry by watching a movie, then it better be about family. I cried buckets just watching the Singaporean flick Homerun (Pao Ba Hai Zi) on TV.

The movie is actually an adaptation of the Iranian original entitled Bacheha-Ye-aseman or Children of Heaven by filmmaker Majid Majidi. However, according to other reviews I’ve encountered,  this new version by director Jack Neo did not exactly copy off the whole story of the original and Neo added flavors of his own. I have not seen the original, though, and therefore cannot make any kind of comment. [Ed. Please read my update at the end]

Set in 1965, Homerun centers on Ah Kun (Shawn Lee), his sister Seow Fang (Megan Zheng), and their seeming obsession with finding a new pair of shoes for the girl. If they cannot achieve that specific goal, at least, they have to find the old ones that Kun lost. The very significance of the goal becomes understandable from the start. Their family lives in poverty with the father taking all the odd jobs he can find and the mother heavy with a baby. Them being so poor, the siblings know that their family cannot anymore afford to buy yet a new pair of shoes.

To solve the problem, Kun and Fang end up using the same worn-out pair that Kun owns. Fang wears them to school in the morning and gets into trouble with her teacher scolding her for wearing boys’ shoes that are even too large for her. Kun wears them in the afternoon and gets into deeper trouble with the principal always catching him going to school late. What makes things doubly hard is they keep the problem a secret to spare the parents from further worry. This only creates complications. In his desperation, Kun is forced to swallow his pride and submit to rich boy Ben Soon‘s (Joshua Ang…In reviews, the character is Ming Soon) demands and conditions just to acquire new shoes for his beloved sister.

Homerun has a familiar, universal theme – poverty. However, the actual theme, if you concentrate on the movie alone, is family love as well as friendship. If you concentrate further and are familiar with Singapore’s political history, you will further find underlying messages that Neo did not exactly try to hide. I am, of course, under no authority to comment on this, so I will leave the debate on those who do have authority. Personally, I am more touched by the family love theme. This is what I will concentrate on.

It was very commendable of Kun to be so loving and caring for his family, especially for his little sister. The things he did just to replace her shoes and make her smile again surely melted my heart. She was no ungrateful wench either. In her quiet way, Fang appreciated his efforts, never got mad at him, and actually cared for her big brother as well. Both were just victims of poverty, symbolized by the shoes they so wanted. Or by the lack of shoes, to be more specific. You’d have to be touched by the sacrifices the kids had to make, especially Kun when he joined a race and, in his belief, “lost”. His loyal friends, at least, were always there to try and help as much as they could, which was also touching.

This movie certainly makes it up my list of favorites. I highly recommend it as a family drama. It is a very well-made story, simple and direct, the best way to get your message across. You’d want your audience to focus on one or two character(s), not bombard them with others’ sub-plots. Too much ingredients and flavor sometimes ruin the taste.

The characters in Homerun were well-developed. There were no mysteries that needed to be solved, save from who got the old shoes. No high-tech presentations. After all, it was 1965. Certainly no hysterics. There were crying scenes, yes, but mostly, the situations and long faces would make you do all the crying yourself. If you were me, anyway. The kids were very good actors, particularly Zheng who became co-winner of the Best Newcomer category and gave the movie its first-ever Golden Horse award.

The movie wasn’t very sad all through-out, though. In fact, there were a lot of funny scenes, especially with Kun’s friends providing the comic relief. There’s the stereo-typical fat kid who’s supposed to be considered ugly and called pig, but other than that, I have no complaints.

For me, this movie – as a movie – deserves FIVE STARS. No questions asked. 

5 stars

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UPDATE!!! I spoke too soon about the No-questions-asked thing. I was already considering reposting the above review some few weeks back (I wrote this several years ago) when recently, at the seminar I attended, we were shown the Iranian film aforementioned. Indeed, the main plot was there, and I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed because the Singaporean filmmaker took a LOT of liberty copying the original. I won’t elaborate anymore.

Now I was thinking that Jack Neo just lost one fan in me. He did clearly state at the start that it was an adaptation of the Iranian original. Even so, I am changing my rating to THREE STARS out of five stars. It is still one of my faves mainly because it was the first I saw and to be fair, many stuff were indeed added.

Now, to give merit to the original, I like it as well, despite some parts that I didn’t really appreciate.

I commend Majid Majidi for a job really well done! There was certainly an endearing innocence in his main characters. I didn’t really like the father very well, but I liked the much simpler and charmingly funnier plot, made me believe it could happen to kids, that that was a more realistic scenario. Now I’ve got one more title to add to my faves list. FOUR STARS!!!    

4 stars

children-of-heaven

The original version of the story of two kids sharing one pair of worn-out shoes…Image from HERE.

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Have you seen any of these two flicks? Or did you get to see both? What can you say? How would you compare one to the other? Let me know what you think and post a comment! I was thinking of running a poll asking which you like better and using WP’s poll feature. But I’m thinking, rather see people post comments and see how many like what movie. Better to be more visible 🙂

For more reviews in this blog, kindly visit the Review Section of my VIEW BOX. I am posting old and new stuff.