Friday, 6 July 2018

Musical Review - Binondo : A Tsinoy Musical


   Binondo - A Tsinoy Musical starts with a statement that it is based on true events.  With a tagline asking if it's better to love or be loved, one must be prepared for heartache.

   In the 1970's, Chinese Ah Tiong takes a vacation in the Philippines, where he meets the singer Lily performing Binondo.  The two fall in love but circumstances tear them apart.

  The story is a rather simple one, comparable to Miss Saigon and perhaps local movies in the 80's.  There's a love triangle, there's forbidden passions and so, so much drama.  It's a very Filipino type of plot, sure to be a crowd pleaser among the masses, if they could mainstream it.  My friend actually cried several times at what he described as the most genuine of parts.  It's not just love though.  Comedy abounds, yes, as evidenced by the magical auto translation and various asides.  One can't help but laugh at the antics of the clownish koro or the presentation of the red lit sign later on.

  Of course, what's to watch for would be the singing and performances.  The first scene at the Lotus club stands out the most for me but everything else is to be applauded.  There's special effects of dancing dragons in the beginning and staged protests in the middle but also lower keyed sorrowful solos and heart rending duets.  The exotic love making presentation is quite acrobatic to see when one isn't ensorcelled by the music.  The performers all did commendable work.

   The attention to the clothes and props are quite astounding, with a model of the deity of love Ge Lao on stage.  The fashion of the decade and location is well presented, from the night club of Binondo to the militaristic China.  The production design is quite innovative with the sets, having a staircase with a high entry to pull off a proper airplane farewell scene.  The letter writing screen is quite haunting and the simultaneous duel sets were quite effective.  Good job.

   There were slight technical problems with the sound but one would still be swept away with emotions at watching this love story.  One can still catch their shows on July 7 and 8, 2018 at 3pm and 8pm at the Theatre at Solaire Resort and Casino.

Movie Review - Ant-Man And The Wasp


   Ant-Man gets a second film!  Woo!  After monster hits such as Black Panther, Infinity War and Deadpool 2 earlier this year, how does the shrinking superhero stack up?

   Scott explains his absence from Infinity War as for the sake of his daughter and thus helps Hope aka the Wasp with another family matter as well.  They are menaced by the Ghost while under time pressure.

   The first Ant-Man film in tone was never taken too seriously, as it were, and the sequel follows suit.  It's a different kind of comedy from neo Thor and the Guardians of the Galaxy.  This is a little more grounded, except for the inclusion of Michael Pena's character.  The sidekick and his crew add a oddball kind of effect to Scott's capers.  But this time Scott's partners in crime are practically that: equal partners.

   Wasp is amazing. Hope is a much better fighter than Scott and she excels when they show off her combat skills.  Hank, while being left in the van, has a huge emotional stake in the adventure and even gets to step in a big, er, small way later on.  The two actually drive the jaunt and Scott is almost just taken along for the ride.  It's a fun ride too.  More than a few humorous moments, some more silly than others but still effective.

   Their antagonist, the Ghost, is an excellent character.  Her debut is suitably impressive.  Would that they had more of that action up until the end.  Her background is different from her more tech oriented comic ccounterpart but she is surprisingly engaging.  The secondary antagonist is almost a throwaway but they tried to interject some personality in there to make him memorable, and that's being truthful, hehe.

   As part of MCU continuity, Scott and Hope have an interesting conversation alluding to Captain America's Civil War.  Things really would have been different if it had gone the way it was suggested.  Seriously.  With how Hank's tech was being presented, they really would have been a force to be reckoned with, working as a unit, that is.  Their relationship is really cute and so is how Scott is with his daughter Cassie.  Heck, even Scott's handler is being funny, haha.

   Effects wise, there wasn't much of the tiny perspective shots such as the bath scene in the first movie but there is a lot more powers in use this time around.  More size differential scenes of that would have been great but we got the landscape from the quantum universe instead.  Ant control isn't exactly limited but it is criminally taken for granted.

   There's some problems such as showcasing the growing and shrinking out in public (like, there's people all around who can see this!) but Ant-Man and the Wasp is big fun.  The first bonus scene is very important too!  Watch it!

Movie Review - Incredibles 2


   The first Incredibles is one of my favorite animated movies.  I love the superhero genre and while I recognized at once that Pixar presented the film as a spy homage, I still loved it anyway.  I had high hopes for the sequel.

   Elastigirl takes the stage as she tries to bring superheroes back into spotlight.  Her husband Mr. Incredible deals with more that just his envy; he has to mind the kids.

   Pixar can do no wrong with their effects.  The Underminer encounter, the runaway train and the copter chase are all brilliantly executed.  My favorite has to be the intensity of the hunt for Screenslaver in his lair.  Elastigirl's adventures are actually more interesting to watch that just a brute like Mr. Incredible smashing stuff around.  She's more creative and, yes, flexible with her work.  The bike mechanic is strange but it still gets results.

   The problem is Brad Bird doesn't take advantage of modern superhero sensibilities.  Sure, the setting of the film is decades past in an alternate timeline (1950's?  1960's?) but he played it safe.  There's so many new heroes but the final conflagration is disappointing.  It was practically just a rescue.  Expectations of an all out brawl is let down.  The potential is squandered for a simpler fare.  Also, Violet and Dash didn't get to step out enough as Jack-Jack got the focus and seriously, the baby is just too much.  The sequence with the raccoon might be funny but, wow, inherently ridiculous and too cartoony.  Dash actually gets the short end of the stick here as Violet gets an arc to herself.

   It's odd how Mr. Incredible is trying to balance out life at home versus not superheroing.  The clueless dad trope is never not funny but somehow, this seems beneath Pixar.  His feelings over his wife getting chosen over him is great and this would have been a more interesting theme to pursue over the tired standard.   

   I wanted to love Incredibles 2 but it falls short of my expectation because I suppose I loved the first too much.  It's not bad, Pixar can still do no wrong (except for the Good Dinosaur, that was bad) but, while this will still be a huge success thanks to old and new fans, this could have been so much more incredible.

Movie Review - Jurassic World : Fallen Kingdom


  Jurassic World is all set to make a franchise with more than just sequels, at least, that's now the Fallen Kingdom seems to go.  When folks crave for dinosaurs, give them what they want.

  Owen and Claire are on a mission to save the dinosaurs from a volcano.  But their rescue attempt takes them further than just the island.

   Fallen Kingdom follows in the footsteps of the Lost World, in that it's a poor follow up.  The story is similar but, not spoiling here, the result is the same: the latter half being not as good.  The first part of Fallen Kingdom is the expected excursion into the now wilder and more dangerous abandoned park.  This is the good stuff, though, to be honest, it wasn't as exciting or fun as it could have been, what with the tinge of sorrow at the failure and fatalities.

   The second part borders on the ridiculous, with bad decisions and inconcievable situations.  There's some great imagery like the raptor menacing the bedroom but it's paired up with head scratching fridge logic of why do it in the first place?  The headbutting is hard to place as being funny or horrific as wouldn't they be fatal?

   Chris Pratt is a sweetheart but he really isn't breaking out here as he is more like a stand in going through the motions.  Bryce Dallas Howard has more life in her but she too is almost just playing her part.  It's still the dinosaurs who are the main attraction, even though Blue doesn't have as much presence as she could have had.  The antagonists are all right.  One isn't nasty enough to sink your teeth into and the main one is just slimy enough.  Something to note is I couldn't take my eyes off the gorgerous sidekick doctor.  What in the world is she doing there, being all alluring in the filthy environment, haha.

   Even with the failings in storytelling, this Fallen Kingdom will undoubtly rack in the profits.  I'm not worried about it going extinct.  The ending is ripe for more spinoffs and I am eagerly awaiting one set in the surf.  The kingdom walls have fallen and it truly will be a Jurassic World in the future.

Movie Review - Citizen Jake


   Citizen Jake is probably titled after Citizan Kane, the film that revolutionized cinematography.  Perhaps this Jake is trying for the more standard kind of revolution?

   Blogger and teacher Jake has tried time and again to break away from his family's background in politics but is drawn back in because of a murder.

   The story of Citizen Jake has political and social themes regarding corruption and prostitution.  These are very important topics but, somehow, the situation presented where men in power can get away with murder is already established and apparently the norm.  For those diving into this for the first time, the background with Marcos and the other illegal dealings would have been needed.  For those who already know about it, then being presented with new information on the atrocities would be good instead of having a rehash.  But since the film is fictional, which detail is real?  I suppose getting the public interested in getting the references is a good thing.

   Journalism is in the heart of the movie and I can appreciate the homicide as a mystery as there are some proper investigative work done, despite the hurdles with even the local police force.  There were still some awkward actions that seemed illogical.  The cellphone is too obvious a clue to be put away.  Leaving the person of interest alone shouldn't have happened.  At least confronting the source was addressed as him not being prepared.

   The other part of the story is Jake's personal stake with his missing mother.  This wasn't resolved satisfactorily and while it didn't have to, it still ended up tying back to the main plot, making the connection seem contrived or even the murder itself as the awkward link.  The core thrust of the film is about family but mashing them together leaves it either as a mess or too apt.

   The film places a disclaimer on the production by saying that it's a reenactment.  The lead is recounting the events in his writing and so the acting is actually a recreation of the past.  It's not an excuse for the varying emotional levels of the cast, from stilted expressions to overly dramatic crying.  The lines being delivered in Filipino then suddenly in English might be a standard in local cinema but at some instances, it's off putting.  Was the Godfather line suppose to be humorous?

   The cinematography does present some interesting views.  The strange visitations with the mother and the meta storytelling is innovative.  Baguio itself and the interior shots are shown as cold and even sterile. Perhaps it's an artistic choice.  

   Citizen Jake tries to elevate socio political awareness and, while it's a good topic and has good intentions, the execution seems a little toned down.  Not having enough believable passion leaves one disillusioned.

Movie Review - Solo


   Star Wars is re expanding their cinematic universe and they're going forward, backward and in between.  Solo would actually be the earliest film in the movie timeline, the most retro of retro and it's not that bad.

   We see Han start out his life in thievery and where he gained his piloting skills.  He meets up and loses friends and foes, also aquiring his iconic mainstays, Chewbacca and the Millennium Falcon.

   Can't say anything about the special effects because it's all good.  It's meant to be retro so we get clunky vehicles and alien puppetry but we're still treated to fantastic sequences like the ice mountain heist and the Kessel Run.  They don't skimp on the sci fi, that's for sure.

   Acting is suitably fine.  Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo has the smirk that starts out annoying but one grows into it.  Emilia Clarke as the female lead is can't lose her cuteness.  Woody Harrelson is exactly the same as always. Donald Glover isn't as suave as one would have imagined or liked but he's still young.  My favorite would have to be the droid L3-37.  She's sassy and bursting with personality, practically owning every frame she's in.  She might be too much for some but she's amazing.

   Plotwise, I have no real problems with it.  It's seemingly simple at the start, then twists are added in.  Star Wars history buffs would have fun pointing out references and arguing details (life seems to cheap during this period) but casuals can sit back and enjoy.  Finally showing the all important first meeting may or may not live up to the hype but the characters had no idea of its significance at the time.  It was a little too convenient with the lady friend's reappearance, to be sure but what can you do?  And they're gearing up to continue this adventure. 

   So it's a shame that Solo is apparently not doing well, box office wise.  It's a decent space jaunt but perhaps it just had so many expectations weighing it down and the release timing is off.  It's actually not the worst entry in the Star Wars films and it certainly doesn't deserve the negativity.  Here's hoping second viewings down the line gets it the proper recognition it needs.  The studio might not make other spinoffs (like an Obiwan or a Boba Fett movie) if they think Solo failed.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Movie Review - Avengers : Infinity War


   Do I have to say anything about this film?  It was just awesomely brilliant!  I would mostly gush, seriously.  

   Of course it's not 100% gold.  I mean, the starting was painful to watch, after the good time that was Thor Ragnarok.  That fatality had better be reversed somehow, some way.  They didn't just previously give us a happy ending just to take it away.

   The romance between Vision and Wanda might have been nothing new to comic readers but I wonder how the general public reacted.  It wasn't that abrupt since Civil War planted seeds but, still, it's been months.  If they were to have a 10 minute mini episode chronicling the evolution of their relationship, I wouldn't say no.  Perhaps maybe to music.  And directed by Guillermo Del Toro.  It would win awards.

   The appearance of the Guardians of the Galaxy suddenly changed tones, making things sillier.  Neo Thor fit in with the bunch but later scenes with Gamora turned the comedy on its head.  What should have been a shocking scene got played for bubbly laughter, making for a slight disconnect.  The technique became jaw droppingly dangerous when a slap in the face becomes a fatal face palm.

   Some heroes sadly had less face time, which is the case with Captain America.  With only one Avenger sent in space, two when Spider-Man was promoted, it just seemed to be the Iron Man show on that end.  Dr. Strange isn't an Avenger and same deal with the Cloak of Levitation, though, c'mon both should have been made honorary members, hehe.  But there's the sequel so let's see what develops.

   The cinematic big guns were presented properly. Thor already got his second wind, drawing the biggest cheers at a certain strike.  Wakanda was riding high on their success and even their theme music got applause.  Guardians of the Galaxy was ever the surprise golden boy that probably prompted the tonal shift in Thor.  But I guess the brothers Russo couldn't play favorites with their beloved Captain America.  And one could say Ant-Man was hiding in shrunken form somewhere, even if that's not the case, haha.

   I've read and owned the original Thanos Quest and Infinity Gauntlet comic series and was absolutely flabbergasted at how amazing the story was/wasn't adapted.  Gathering the gems had to change some previously filmed plot points but the end result is still an incredibly concise project that totally worked.  The final part, holy cow, I knew what to expect but people around the world must have been stunned as the cards fell as they may.  It's got to be a perfect moment of shared incredulity.  

   Infinity War is a total winner!  Two billion, woohoo!  Bring on the next Avengers!