Sunday, November 23, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Responde by Norman Wilwayco

Labindalawang maiikling kwento ni Norman Wilwayco na nagbigay sakin ng iba't ibang emosyon. Labindalawa ring beses winarak ang puso ko. Labindalawang istorya ng iba't ibang klaseng kaadikan, kahalayan, kabastusan, kawalan ng dignidad, kahindik-hindik, at kamulat-mulat na mga kwentong Pinoy. Welcome to the dark side.

Author:  Norman Wilwayco (Iwa)
Year published:  2012
# of pages:  246
Country/Language:  Philippines (Filipino)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

[MOVIEHOUSE MADNESS]: Interstellar (2014)

It's rare for me to be so confused after watching a film. Confused, not because of the plot, but because I was trying to gauge my feelings towards it. Did I love it? Did I hate the spine of the story? From standing up from my seat, to peeing, to walking out of the movie house, down the escalator, and to the parking lot, I was thinking. My mind was like in a jumbled time-space continuum, struggling, wondering, puzzling over the movie I just saw. Even on the way home, I was mostly silent, well, at a loss for words is more appropriate - which is unusual for me. Any other movie I would have been gushing or ranting.

What got me so confused is that for a highly anticipated movie, Interstellar made me feel overwhelmed and underwhelmed at the same time.

Directed by:  Christopher Nolan
Written by:  Jonathan & Christopher Nolan
Music by:  Hans Zimmer
Cinematography by:  Hoyte van Hoytema
Edited by:  Lee Smith
Running time:  169 mins
Budget:  $165 million
Box Office:  over $322 million

Monday, September 29, 2014


"MOVIEHOUSE MADNESS" is when I review films currently shown in theaters. Also, I rarely watch new releases in the cinemas, but when I do, there are always face-palming incidences that make me regret going. So humor me and let me tell you what I think before you waste your ticket money, while refreshing your memory of the ABCs of movie house etiquette!

STRAIGHT TO THE POINT:  A rarity in Pinoy horror genre, Dementia stays away from blood & hysterics, instead, it capitalizes on the gothic setting & tension. Nora Aunor blows us away with her mesmerizing non-verbal performances, that we pardon the average plot  - something that the usual nitpicking critic will tear apart if it wasn't for Aunor's superb acting and Intalan's impressive direction.

Directed by: Percival Intalan (directorial debut)
Screenplay/Story:  Renei Dimla, Jun Lana
Starring:  Nora Aunor, Jasmine Curtis-Smith, Bing Loyzaga, Yul Servo, Chynna Ortaleza

It's so hard for me to take Filipino horror films seriously what with their typical borrowed Hollywood formula that fails so miserably, cheap CGI & scare tactics, and untalented actors mainly cast for their face value/celebrity status more than anything else, to cite a few reasons. I remember laughing so hard at Pagpag: Siyam na Buhay or Dalaw (at Kris Aquino, more than anything else), that my mind registers "comedy" whenever I see a Pinoy horror movie showing in the cinemas. Dementia, is something else.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

My Ultimate Book Bucket List

*Titles in violet are those I have already read. Those marked with (*) at the end of each title are books that I already own.  Books are listed  alphabetically and are linked to Goodreads (GR) if unreviewed, or to my blog (labeled "REVIEWED" if linked to blog, "GR REVIEWED" if linked to my Goodreads). 

WHAT TO EXPECT IN THIS LIST:  I scoured the net for hours just to assemble a diverse list which include, not only my favorite genres (sci-fi, gothic fiction, philosophical fiction), but almost all kinds of books. Lists that I checked are:  100 Greatest/Best Books of All Time, Top Banned Books, Best-selling books of all time, Greatest Philosophical Fiction, Top Ten Asian Novels, Most Challenging Books Ever, Essential Works of Postmodern Fiction, Best Experimental Novels, Best Modern Novels/Books of the 21st Century, Best Existentialist Books, 50 Coolest Books Ever, Nobel/Man Booker/Pulitzer/Asian Literary Prize winners... etc. etc. Every day I keep on checking other lists which I may have missed, and I'm still adding titles - even books that have gained notoriety or the worst reviews. Some titles here are personal choices (not from any top lists) - just books that I'm curious about.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

SPOILER-FREE SUMMARY:  A twisted page-turner that's a perfect fit for the "Well that escalated quickly!" meme. Engrossing, disturbing, well-paced, well-written: while the plot isn't exactly mind-blowing, still, the theme, the characters, and the narrative efficiently reels you in and deliciously messes with your mind that makes you forgive the occasional Wisteria Lane-ish domestic drama. 

Author:  Gillian Flynn
Genre:  Thriller
Year published:  2012
Country:  U.S.
# of pages:  555 (mmpb)

SPOILERS:  It's not like it hasn't been done before - this "surprise plot twist" (which is fast becoming the "expected plot twist" nowadays) that is supposed to make a book (or a movie) look cool. No, that wasn't surprising at all. But I think Gillian Flynn didn't expect us to fall for that particular plot twist halfway through the book. It's too obvious, the way she painted the scenes and words pointing to Nick's part in the "crime", so my mind keeps on telling me not to believe any of it because I'm sure it'll all turn around 360 degrees. And so it did. What actually shocked me was the ending. Now that's the real plot twist.

What makes Gone Girl different is the obviously unreliable narration that readers are supposed to digest while being well aware that the two central characters are both manipulative psychos (I know I'm being too harsh. Demented, maybe? lol) with a penchant for lying and selfishness, yet we still (or at least I am) root for one character or the other. You hate Nick for being a spineless, cheating bastard - you enjoy seeing him get punished for his infidelity. Then you hate Amy for being the ultimate evil bitch - you wanna see her get slammed face-first against a pit of burning charcoal. You can't wait how this story ends. Who gets their well-deserved punishment? Then that ending. It's like a resounding bitchslap to my face when I read that part up to the final sentence. I was like WTF? Then I smile. And I mumble something like "I like this girl. (pertaining to Flynn). Because I realize that, yes, they do belong to each other. They're both twisted and dark to the highest degree and that kind of twistedness couldn't be complemented by a normal human being. So yes they deserve each other. And for that ending I give Gillian Flynn a 4/5.

Check out MY ULTIMATE BOOK BUCKET LIST or the books I wanna read before I die!

Thank you for reading! :) Like/Share this post or Follow my blog (I'll follow yours back) and don't forget to leave a comment below, let's talk!

You can also follow me on:
Goodreads: Lucresia Strange
Letterbox'd:  lucresiastrange
My personal blog: Ravings of a Madwoman

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sana Dati (2013): IF ONLY we have more of these films instead of our usual dose of Love/Sex/Cheat-All-You-Can mainstream melodrama.

It's so rare for me to rave about a Pinoy movie, but that's not to say that there aren't any good Filipino movies out there. Obviously there are, somewhere, out there - but the ones shown in theaters are either downright silly or blatant money-milking franchises that it makes me cringe knowing that the Philippine Cinema is eating dust from other Asian countries because the movie industry continues to spurt turd after turd of soulless movies simply because it's what the majority of the audience wants.

It's only sometimes that I watch local movies, but when I do, I try to find quality films. Most of it I couldn't see even if I wanted to. But sometimes, just sometimes, I manage to find such gems and it makes my soul cry to witness such beauty and yet it goes unnoticed by most of us. I have raved about Erik Matti's On the Job, but I'm here to talk about another film.

Screenplay & Directed by:  Jerrold Tarog
"If Only" 
(with english sub)
Running Time: 100 mins
Country: Philippines 
Sana Dati is a 2013 romantic drama film by Jerrold Tarog, as the final installment of his Camera trilogy (which I haven't seen), and which competed in the prestigious Cinemalaya festival and reaped raves and awards, one of which is Best Film.

I'm so glad I have managed to see this and I wish that it gets a wider release. While watching, I wonder why we can't get such films of this quality a mainstream release. I wonder why people continue to ignore films which gives us stories that pluck at the innermost strings of our emotions, and yet feed such drivel that only have pseudo-witty one-liners and slapstick humor and shameless product placements. It's a pity.

What I like about this film is its simplicity. I'm not saying it lacks depth or sophistication because it also has that. Sana Dati is a quiet beauty. Everything is natural. The acting is heartfelt, the script is striking, the cinematography is beautiful, and the direction is simply masterful.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

[MOVIEHOUSE MADNESS]: Guardians of the Galaxy and Why You Need To See It.

"MOVIEHOUSE MADNESS" is when I review films currently shown in theaters. Also, I rarely watch new releases in the cinemas, but when I do, there are always face-palming incidences that make me regret going. So humor me and let me tell you what I think before you waste your ticket money, while refreshing your memory of the ABCs of movie house etiquette!

Guardians of the Galaxy is one of those movies which you think will suck so bad that you go to the cinemas expecting nothing more than the obligatory action, snarky characters, & CGI fest. Cliched and trying hard to be the next big Marvel blockbuster. A wham bham thank you mam kind of thing. But then you're proven wrong. And then it makes you happy and wanting more. It was so good that you let it slide when the guys behind you are constantly discussing the characters as if nobody else knows who they are. I didn't even have the urge (not once) to poke those people's eyes with a stick for coming in halfway through the movie with their flashlight on as if they're on a search and rescue mission. No. I was too busy being entertained by GotG. That's how good it was!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Seventh Seal (1957)

The first and only film by Ingmar Bergman that I've watched was Persona, and I remember being awed, at the same time confused, by it. It was truly a different cinematic experience and that sparked my passion to discover such kinds of films even more. My expectation for The Seventh Seal is, naturally, high.
Directed by:  Ingmar Bergman
Original Swedish Title: "Det sjunde inseglet"
Starring:  Max von Sydow, Bengt Ekerot
Cinematography:  Gunnar Fischer
Running Time:  96 mins
I'll make this short. Striking visuals, unforgettable characters, great cast - this film transports you to another dimension. But mid-way I was a bit torn between really liking this film or kicking it towards my "overrated artsy fartsy" list. At times, the actors felt so goofy in a juvenile way and I wondered, how is this really a masterpiece? Now before you question my intellect or taste, let me tell you that I'm all for weird, old films, and like I've said I loved my first Bergman. Even the weirdest of all weird Eraserhead  mesmerized me - and there's a lady in that guy's radiator I'm tellin' ya! This one, on the other hand, was so-so when it comes to holding my attention, but maybe it's because I was feeling hungry & distracted at midnight while watching.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Noah & Son of God (2014): Just waiting for Batman to save the day.

Noah (2014)

Thought-provoking yet bland, this modern retelling of a popular biblical story seemed to be doomed from the beginning, but considering the name behind this seeming big blunder of a movie actually makes you think twice. Is it really a grand yet failed attempt or is it an epic fail done on purpose? Stone giants, a family drama worthy of a cheesy tv series, a womb-healing Methuselah crazy for berries, and - wait for it- "Be fruitful AND MULTIPLY!" -- for a moment I'm at a loss for words.

Directed by:  Darren Aronofsky
Written by:  Darren Aronofsky, Ari Handel
Cinematography by: Matthew Libatique (Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan)
Edited by:  Andrew Weisblum (Fantastic Mr. Fox, Black Swan)
Music by:  Clint Mansell (Black Swan, Stoker)
Distributed by:  Paramount Pictures
Running Time: 138 mins
Budget: $125 million
Box Office: over $350 million
This movie a freakin' soap opera. It's a pity to see Anthony Hopkins & Russell Crowe in this film, though admittedly, this movie would be kaput without Crowe. It also hurts me to see Emma Watson in here (it's the end of the world and you risk missing the trip to Titanic, err Ark, just so you could get it on with your sexy sexy love the minute Mr. Berry Man Methuselah lightly touches your abdomen?). Uh huh.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

[BOOK + MOVIE]: The Turn of the Screw and The Innocents

In BOOK + MOVIE, I feature one book and its film adaptation(s) and tell you if the movie versions are as good as the source material. I'm quite aware that films & novels are different mediums, but I'm only comparing the general mood and how it affects me as a reader & viewer.

With a plethora of movies nowadays with "I-betcha-didn't-see-that-coming" plots, sometimes, I just wanna think that The Innocents is just a simple ghost story. But after reading Henry James' The Turn of the Screw, I'm convinced that there's more to the story than ghosts or delusional protagonists. The way James wrote almost everything in an ambiguous way that forces the readers to decide and convince themselves what really happened makes this one of the best novella of its kind that I've read.

Author:  Henry James
Year Published:  1898
# of pages: 157
Genre:  novella, horror gothic fiction
Country:  U.K., U.S.
Baffling us by clearly indicating that the main character could be unstable, and the one character that supports her could also be unreliable in a way that it's clear she's submissive, while supplying us with sufficient head-scratching moments coming from the uncannily intuitive children, makes us reconsider the plausibility of otherworldly presence in the house.

Are there really ghosts? Or are there just loose screws in The Governess' head? That's just what makes this story stand out.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

[MOVIEHOUSE MADNESS] Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)

"MOVIEHOUSE MADNESS" is when I review films currently shown in theaters. Also, I rarely watch new releases in the cinemas, but when I do, there are always face-palming incidences that make me regret going. So humor me and let me tell you what I think before you waste your ticket money, while refreshing your memory of the ABCs of movie house etiquette!

Sometimes, I think Michael Bay is really just a teenage boy on crack who is obsessed with his robots & cars & explosions - like a kid playing with his toys & bumping them against each other and not caring about anything else. Because that's evident yet again in his recent blockbuster movie, a term that I will grudgingly use in this post. It's not a movie, it's more like an extended video of metal clashing against metal & mind-numbing explosions, and product placements here & there - this is not a film, it's an over-sized boy's overindulgent wet dream.

Directed by:  Michael Bay
Written by:  Ehren Kruger (The Ring, Transformers 2 & 3, Scream 3 & 4)
Music by:  Steve Jablonsky (Gangster Squad, Ender's Game, Lone Survivor)
Cinematography:  Amir Mokri
Running Time:  165 mins
Budget:  $210 million
Box Office: $381 million and counting

Unfortunately, the way Michael Bay's indifference to critics' plea for a better plot & characterization, arrogantly justifying his lack of effort to make a substantial film that's more than loud explosions and crazy-ass robot action, this franchise is seriously losing its appeal to me. Not that I matter when it comes to its box office returns. That's the problem. WE don't matter. Whether we like the Bayformers or not, MB, with the gratuitous urging from Hollywood big guys, will continue to do whatever he does best because they know the money will keep on flowing. A few harsh words & negative reviews won't hurt this franchise, because as Bay have said, people are gonna see it anyway. Haters gonna hate, he'd still be riding Bee all the way to the bank. Besides, this franchise will continue to thrive, not because of Michael Bay, but because this is Transformers. Giant talking alien robots-slash-cars, man! That'll never get old! (I'm still waiting for Voltes V though, c'mon Hollywood!)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

SOME RECENT MOVIES: The Raid 2, 300: Rise of an Empire, Oculus

Here are my reviews of The Raid 2, 300: Rise of an Empire, and Oculus

Written, Edited, & Directed by:  Gareth Evans
Running Time: 150 mins
Budget: $4.5 million
Box Office: $5.2 million


Large-scale, more ambitious, yet as tight & tense as the first one - Berandal is a must-see even for those who aren't into Asian movies. If The Raid hasn't changed your mind, this one will.

This is best seen uncut and subbed. Never watch a foreign movie with English dub.

I really loved The Raid despite the lack of plot & dialogue. I couldn't imagine how Gareth Evans could up the ante and make an equally engaging action movie. Now, obviously trying for complexity & character development, Evans serves us, not only a platter, but a buffet of interesting characters, unending action & gore, and a storyline that's bigger than a dilapidated building with cramped hallways. It may take several minutes into the film to be able to memorize all those names (especially if you're also trying to recall the names in the first film) but hey you know what? It doesn't matter. The minute the action starts, every little detail in your mind melts as you witness an insane amount of bone-crunching, blood-spurting, throat-gashing, jaw-breaking, ball-breaking, hammer-gouging scenes for more than two hours. While that amount of time may usually be a weakness to typical action flicks as they may need some time to cool down, Berandal just keeps on going and going and going with the same intensity as when it started - that is if not more.

Monday, June 2, 2014

[MOVIEHOUSE MADNESS]: It's CGI weekend with Maleficent and the Mutant peeps!

"MOVIEHOUSE MADNESS" is when I review movies currently shown in theaters. Also, I rarely go to movie houses, but when I do, there are always face-palming incidences that make me regret going. So read on before you waste your ticket money while refreshing your memory of the ABCs of movie house etiquette!


Here are my spoiler-free reviews of Maleficent & X-Men: Days of Future Past and why you should (or shouldn't?) watch them. Oh and for one second I thought I saw Michael Jackson transform into a human ball of fire, but no, it's just Sunspot. O_O 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Fritz Lang's "M" (1931)

First of all, let me get this out of the way: Peter Lorre, my oh my what big eyes you have! To better find poor little kids and lure them into your big candy-filled trap perhaps! 

Directed by:  Fritz Lang
Written by:  Fritz Lang & his wife Thea von Harbou
Based on:  a newspaper article by Egon Jacobson
Starring:  Peter Lorre
Music by:  Edvard Grieg
Cinematography by:  Fritz Arno Wagner
Editing by:  Paul Faulkenberg
Running time:  109 mins
Big, frog-like eyes accentuating that baby face with an unassuming facade - that's what makes Hans Beckert, played by "the male Bette Davis" Peter Lorre, one of the most unforgettable villains in any film I've seen. With a touch of innocence and malice, Lorre handles this character so well that even I was confused when it's time to "judge" him. Not too confused though that I forget the unspeakable horror this guy has brought upon this town. This is what makes him more scary. Sure, Leatherface might make you crap your pants when you find yourself face to face with him wielding a chainsaw in some woods, but men like Norman Bates or Hannibal Lecter makes your skin crawl with dread knowing that their kind is freely roaming our streets, all charming and innocent-looking, while in their minds their all thinking of ways on how to skin us alive. That's the horror that we face everyday. That's Beckert - the wolf under the sheep's clothing. The devil hiding under the mask of an angel. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Imperial Bedrooms

Written by:  Bret Easton Ellis
Preceded by:  
Less Than Zero
# of pages:  169
Country:  U.S.
Year published:  2010
Here I am, after a less than thrilling experience with Less Than Zero, re-entering the dirty - no, make that filthy - mind of Clay, now older but definitely not wiser. If you haven't read LTZ or this book yet, let me tell you this, Ellis' characters are a bunch of unlikeable, unrelatable self-absorbed pricks. Reading Imperial Bedrooms, somehow was easier for me maybe because it was plot-driven or that Clay was much more focused (with himself though) or maybe because I already have a background with the story. It also helps that I've seen the movie version of LTZ and I already have a face for Julian (Robert Downey Jr.) and Blair (Jami Gertz), though for some weird reason instead of seeing Andrew McCarthy in my mind as Clay - Emilio Estevez keeps popping up.

At first glance, I thought Clay has matured. I thought the rest of the characters have grown up. Boy was I wrong! I think they're worse than when they were kids! What shallow, pathetic, empty lives they live. What's more pitiful is the fact that I have willingly let myself get sucked into this scary world AGAIN! 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Grandmaster (2013)

In a nutshell:  We get to see another film based from the life story of grandmaster Ip Man (or better known as the teacher of Bruce Lee) and yet more than 50% of the film is NOT about Ip Man. It's about Gong Er and her family legacy. lol.

Directed by:  Wong Kar-wai
Story by:  Wong Kar-wai
Starring:  Tony Leung, Zhang Ziyi
Music by:  Shigeru Umebayashi, Stefano Lentini
Cinematography by:  Philippe Le Sourd (Seven Pounds)
Editing by:  William Chang
Running Time:  130 mins (Chinese Cut)

This is the first Wong Kar-wai film I have watched and I was excited. So I clicked the remote and hit PLAY with high expectations. The first scene (and Razor's, somewhere in the latter half of the film) I thought was very reminiscent of the Matrix trilogy - I even half-expected Agent Smith (or Agent Chang, whatever lol)  to appear out of nowhere to kick Asian Neo in a fedora in the butt. Of course, I discover soon that Yuen Woo-ping is the action choreographer for both The Grandmaster & The Matrix.

Onto the review. I'm all for non-linear films, I've seen big head scratchers like that, but this one just takes the cake with all the icing & the big fat cherry on top for being the most unnecessarily disjointed narrative I've seen so far! And it didn't even need to be that back & forth, up & down, round & round complicated with the flashbacks, timeline and all. It's not confusing if you pay attention, but it does take you out of your comfort zone once in a while when you try to follow with the timeline. But yeah, The Grandmaster is a beautiful film, no doubt about that. I was stunned by how visually and even thematically appealing it is to me. I love how Kar-wai has given depth to his characters. Though I think he overindulges himself sometimes.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Wide Sargasso Sea (A Prequel Of Some Sort to Jane Eyre)

In a nutshell:  Welcome to the world of Antoinette Cosway, or better known as "the madwoman in the attic" we read about in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre.  Witness her steady & inevitable (?) descent to madness she probably inherited from her mother... Or was she driven out of her mind by the young Mr. Rochester?

Written by:  Jean Rhys
Genre:  Postmodern Novel
# of pages: 190
Country:  U.K.
Year Published:  1966
So why should you read this? If you're like me, you're probably suspicious of any books (pseudo-prequels or sequels) trying to ride on the popularity of classic novels and inevitably disappointing us. That's why I usually steer clear from these kinds of books, unless it's written by the same author. Wide Sargasso Sea delivers more than I expected. It was actually good. Sometimes, I even forget that it was written by a different author, because the characters & their back stories were convincing. Granted that it could be unnecessary to some, but for me, it's good to read something that re-writes a well-loved classic, and boldly may I add. This is not just a prequel. It's something that gives substance to a minor and probably overlooked character in Jane Eyre. And as much as I loved Bronte's novel, wherein the madwoman was written basically as a crazy ass biatch that stands in between Mr. Rochester & plain old Jane, I was pretty much surprised to read a different side - a fleshed out character - of this wild-haired "ghost" of Thornfield Hall, and a young Mr. Rochester who is painted more of an antagonist - infinitely less romantic & altruistic than Bronte's brooding male protagonist. And I enjoyed it. I didn't like the older Mr. Rochester anyway. So while I was reading this book, every once in a while, I was like HAH! Yeah I knew you're a real dick Rochie!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

My First Liebster Award Nomination

The Liebster Award:

1. The Liebster Award is given by bloggers to bloggers who have less than 200 followers.
2. Each blogger should post 11 random facts about themselves.
3. Each blogger should answer the 11 questions given to you.
4. Choose 11 new bloggers to pass the award on to and link them in your post.
5. Create 11 new questions for the chosen bloggers.
6. Go back to their page and tell them about the award.
7. No tag backs.

Thank you Skye (Rambling Imp) for including me in your list of Liebster Award nominations. It's a great feeling knowing that even just one person out there reads my blog! And I don't even care if the Liebster Award doesn't have merit. LOL

11 Random Facts About Me:

1. I have 3 cats & 3 dogs
2. I love bananas with Nutella (or any hazelnut spread)
3. I like to sleep on a right side-lying position
4. My alarm clock is set 45 minutes earlier than I should be waking up, allowing me to hit the snooze button without fear of being late for work.
5. I've never been out of the country.
6. My dream is to travel basically to see various forms of architecture and culture. 
7. I dream of having my own bookshop some day.
8. I can watch slasher flicks (psychos torturing humans) without flinching, but just one scene where animals are hurt - I will cry like a wimpy man who got kicked in the groin. Yes, even in cartoons. 
9. I'm Asian :)
10. I'm scared of the deep blue sea and the creatures in it. ONE WORD: THALASSOPHOBIA
11. I wanna be a vampire (eternal youth & immortality) so I could read all the books in the world and all that crap.

The Questions:

1.) What does your happy place look like?

Imagine yourself blindfolded as you walk inside a room - as you step inside, the smell of the room fills you with an intoxicating happiness that you can't explain. A blend of vanilla, earthy, old wood smell that makes you feel right at home. You recall something about lignin. You hear the quiet hum of the airconditioner... you feel the soft carpet caressing your feet... and though you can't see right now, you sense that sunlight fills this mysterious room. Blindfold is removed. Your eyes sparkle with delight as you see a vast room - huge!- filled with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves! Walls plastered with photos of authors, some black & white, some more modern... A plush sofa that beckons and a coffee table that is obviously meant for your feet. An antique writing table that has been passed down, one writer after the other until it came into your life, as if waiting for you to make that one book that will take the spot next to the classic novels that have changed your life. Imagine the library that Beast gave Beauty. That's my happy place :)

Saturday, April 19, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Fifty Shades of Grey

**just reposting from my Goodreads account. Didn't even remember writing a review for this one - that's a sign how much I tried to forget about this crap.

Well , well.. That was painful. And not in a good way.
Author:  E.L. James
Country:  UK
Genre:  Erotic Romance, BDSM
# of pages:  514
Year Published:  2011

Holy cow, that was horrible writing! Thank God I'm done with this one!

My SUBCONSCIOUS is currently floating in a river - lifeless. Just wasn't able to take all the crap I force-fed her.

And my INNER GODDESS was wondering about how many shades of psychosis those characters really have. She sank into the plush sofa in my head and put her feet in the coffee table, grabbed her copy of Are You There Vodka, It's Me Chelsea and totally immersed herself to the silly but at least funny anecdotes in the book. But not before she rolled her eyes at me. Yeah. My snobbish, snappy inner goddess is not amused by this particular choice of book. Good thing Christian didn't see that eye-roll, or she would have kicked his controlling, stalker, psycho ass once he utters his usual "So help me god, Lucresia's Inner Goddess, I will take you over my knees and smack you hard with my twitchy palms." Now let's see who's the real Dom. -_-

Seriously, this is worse than Twilight.

So many times I wanted to give up & not finish it, but, I needed to know what it is that made this book so popular.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

5 Reasons Why I Love THE SOUND OF MUSIC

"I go to the hills, when my heart is lonely... I know I will hear, what I've heard before... My heart will be blessed by the sound of music, and I'll sing once more."

Directed by:  Robert Wise
Starring:  Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer
Screenplay by:  Ernest Lehman
Cinematography by:  Ted McCord
Editing by:  William H. Reynolds
Music by:  Richard Rodgers (music & lyrics)
Oscar Hammerstein II (lyrics)
Irwin Kostal (musical score)
Running time:  174 mins
Budget:  $8.2 million
Box-office:  more than $286 million

"The Sound of Music is credited as the film that saved 20th Century Fox, after extreme high production costs and financial losses incurred by Cleopatra (1963) that almost bankrupted the studio." - Wikipedia

Well, I credit The Sound of Music as the film that never fails to save me, after extreme stress and depressive episodes incurred by Life that almost always bankrupts my soul. There's something so happy with this film, that the moment I see Julie Andrews up in that mountain (or hill), all of my problems melt away. Maybe it's because this movie was a big part of my childhood and it reminded me of the time when I felt safe & without any real-life worries. It's a comforting, nostalgic trip.

Without further ado, here are five reasons why The Sound of Music still remains my all-time favorite movie.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Dracula The Un-Dead (The Authoritatively Disappointing Sequel to the Original Classic)

In a nutshell, we get to see how the band of heroes are living 25 years after their encounter with Count Dracula.

Written by:  Dacre Stoker & Ian Holt
Genre:  Horror novel

# of pages:  424
Country:  United States
Year Published:  2009

Sounds interesting, right?

Oh and it's written by Bram Stoker's great grand-nephew, Dacre Stoker! Are you really stoked now? I sure was!

They claim it's the true sequel to our beloved classic. An authoritative sequel in fact. I believed them. How gullible was I? 

Borrowing a quote from the book, Dracula The Un-Dead at its best is made up of only a few, special, scattered moments. I don't know which or how much Dacre or Ian wrote, so I can't pinpoint who is really to blame, but let me just mention (if you haven't googled them yet) that Dacre is a track & field coach, while Ian Holt has previously been a direct-to-DVD horror screenwriter who has been a fanatic of anything Dracula-related for a long time. You can bet a dollar or two who did most of the writing, and which one whose name served as a huge banner ad.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Veronica Mars (2014): And We Thought She Was Out

I'm a Marshmallow, and I'm an addict.

Directed by:  Rob Thomas
Screenplay by:  Rob Thomas, Diane Ruggiero
Music by:  Josh Kramon
Cinematography by:  Ben Kutchins
Editing by:  Daniel Gabbe
Running Time:  107 mins
Budget:  $6 million (Kickstarter
Box Office:  over $2 million (already considered a success)

There are spoilers in this post, but rest assured you'll be warned.

It's been 7 years since the series ended, 9 years after the events of season 3. I never thought (imagined, yes) I would see this gang again. Hearing "We Used To Be Friends" sung by some street performer a few minutes into the film, goosebumps crawled all over me, and I can't help but scream "Oh my god, oh my god, the feels, the feeeeeelssssss!" repeatedly. That part alone makes the wait so worth it. 

Pure happiness, is what I'm feeling. I watched VM twice in one week.

So did this movie deliver?  

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

Considered one of the greatest films ever made in the silent era, and cited as having introduced the "twist ending" in cinema, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (which also has a 100% critics rating in Rotten Tomatoes) surely is a must-see for cinephiles & horror film lovers.

Directed by:  Robert Wiene
Written by:  Hans Janowitz, Carl Mayer
Music by:  Guiseppe Becce
Cinematography by:  Willy Hameister
Running Time:  71 mins
Country:  German
I started to watch this film without any idea what it's about. I didn't even know it was a silent movie. All I know is that it's a classic and is considered one of the best films ever. And man, it didn't disappoint! 

The first scene, I was a bit hesitant whether or not I was in the mood for that kind of film - but I did notice the unique quality of its cinematography. But the moment the little town was introduced, my attention was caught 100%. Tim Burton "feels". I love it!

the village of Holstenwall

The rare times that I watch a silent film, it's either I'm enchanted with the music, or the acting, or the story. This time, it's the visuals first and foremost that got me curious. Every single scene was like looking at an artwork in a museum. The distorted little houses or architecture makes you feel like you're staring at paintings of Salvador Dali or even Picasso, and the wonderful play of shadow and light (and the color, at times) sometimes reminds me of my favorite Caravaggio. Seriously, it's amazing. But after the feast I got from the artsy background/set & the wonderful colors or cinematography, the characters intrigued me. I rarely get creeped out just by looking at actors with over the top make up, but TCoDC obviously is the king of all creepy characters. The close-up shots, the play on shadows, the make-up which makes The Rocky Horror Picture Show seem tame,  and the jerky dance-like movements of the actors, really unsettles you and creeps you out. In short, everything about this movie has enraptured me!

(Back 2 Back) OLDBOY: Park Chan-wook VS. Spike Lee

Back 2 Back is my comparison review of an original film and its remake/s. 

In this post, I will be reviewing Park Chan-wook's Oldboy (2003), and Spike Lee's 2013 version.

 Loosely based on the Japanese manga, Old Boy, written by Nobuaki Minegishi & Garon Tsuchiya
      (2003) Directed by:  Park Chan-wook                                     (2013)  Directed by:  Spike Lee
       Starring: Choi Min-Sik, Yoo Ji-tae, Kang Hye-jung                         Starring: Josh Brolin, Sharlto Copley, Elizabeth Olsen
       Running Time:  120 mins                                                           
Running Time:  104 mins                                                                      Budget:  $3 million                                                                      Budget:  $30 million
       Box Office:  almost $15 million                                                Box Office:  almost $5 million

Let me just say this first: NO I don't care that a remake of Oldboy has been done. I have stopped hating on remakes for awhile now. To those who keep on saying that it's a disgrace to the original blah blah (and I'm speaking generally here), that the original should never ever ever have been re-made etc. etc., all I can say is this: remakes, however unnecessary, are inevitable & to be expected. There will always be other attempts to re-create or surpass what we deem as an already great work of art. Why? Because humans are perfectionists.. or we just love to rip off stuff (and by we, I mean Hollywood). And while the remakes are usually sub-par & disappointing, to me, that's part of the fun. It only makes the original shine brighter, and those who haven't even heard of it in the first place might be curious enough to want to watch it - and isn't that a good thing? Lastly, a bad remake would never be a disgrace to the original because they are two separate films, made by different directors, with different casts - the only one disgraced or put in a bad light is the one who made the remake. So guys, chill!

Now let's talk about the movies.

I'll go straight to the point. There's no contest here, the 2003 version is a masterpiece, and obviously the superior film between the two. I'm pretty sure anyone who have seen both movies will agree and won't need any convincing. 

But just humor me, here are the reasons why the South Korean film is great, while the Hollywood remake is just average at best.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

This was recommended to me by my good friend Robbie, and while I was grateful for discovering another great film, I also wanted to sucker punch him in the face. A million times! Why? 

"Hotaru no haka"
Written & Directed by:  Isao Takahata
Based on the 1967 semi-autobiographical novel by Akiyuki Nosaka
Music by:  Michio Mimiya
Cinematography by:  Nobuo Koyoma
Editing by:  Takeshi Seyama
Running Time:  89 mins

Because this is one of the most heartbreaking films I have ever seen in my life. To think that this is a cartoon, I mean, why don't they just stick to that wonderful concept that animations are supposed to entertain? 

There are sad movies and I have seen quite a few. Yes, they make me shed a few tears, but after that, I shrug it off and mumble "Good film! Onto the next one!". Then there's Grave of the Fireflies. A movie in a category of its own. A story filled with grief beyond expectations. A film that after watching it, I tell myself "I don't want to watch something like this anytime soon. Please noooo!"

BOOK REVIEW: The Shining

“Any big hotels have got scandals," he said. "Just like every big hotel has got a ghost. Why? Hell, people come and go. Sometimes one of em will pop off in his room, heart attack or stroke or something like that. Hotels are superstitious places. No thirteenth floor or room thirteen, no mirrors on the back of the door you come in through, stuff like that."

Written by:  Stephen King
Year:  1977
Genre:  Horror, gothic novel
Followed by:  Doctor Sleep
Pages:  447
I have read The Shining before, but my memory of it was hazy I needed to read it again when it was voted Book of the Month by my bookclub/group. Now I'm sure that the movie is indeed better. Stanley Kubrick's version still scares the hell out of me! He delivered the creep/chill factor that I should have felt from reading the book. Sure, King has the right to complain if he didn't like Kubrick's version, it's his novel after all. But Kubrick's movie will forever be remembered as a cinematic masterpiece... while the more faithful tv adaptation (which I haven't watched, but I'm planning to) will be further pushed into obscurity. King should at least be thankful for that. Just sayin'.

Stephen King may not be the greatest writer in the universe, but he is a great story teller. I have loved several of his short stories & novels, and I have constantly defended him whenever people say he's a talentless hack. So imagine my dismay with The Shining

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

Loki is a brooding vampire musician. If that doesn't grab your interest, I don't know what will. 

Finally, after a long time, here's a vampire movie as how it should really be. Or how I really wanted it to be. Alluring, without the sparkles & excess of emo eyeliner. Just a bunch of vampires who practically have seen it all - some jaded, some YOLO-ing, some just absorbing what simple pleasures life has to offer. 

Written & Directed by:  Jim Jarmusch
Starring:  Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, Mia Wasikowska, John Hurt
Cinematography by:  Yorick Le Saux
Editing by:  Alfonso Goncalves
Music by:  Jozef van Wissem, Squrl
Running Time:  122 mins
Budget:  $7 million

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

QUICKIES: Some Oscar-nominated 2013 movies

Here are my quick reviews of American Hustle, Blue Jasmine, Dallas Buyers Club, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska, Philomena, Rush, and Lee Daniels' The Butler.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Her (2013)

"I feel like I can be anything with you."

Set in the future, Her is about a man who fell in love with his female operating system (It's Scarlet Johansson, what testosterone-infused human being wouldn't? LOL). Sounds silly? Not really. In this internet age, every kind of relationship is possible. Who's to say that falling in love with someone you haven't even seen is not right? You talk to that "person" every single day, you share your innermost thoughts, your dreams, your feelings. You tell that "person" everything without second thoughts. You "connect" with that "person." Who's to say that's not love?  This film gives us a closer look & a wider understanding of what a relationship is, conventional or not. Love is universal. Emotions are real as they are felt.

Directed & written by:  Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation)
Starring:  Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Rooney Mara, Amy Adams
Music by:  Arcade Fire
Cinematography by:  Hoyte van Hoytema (Let the Right One In, The Fighter)
Editing by:  Eric Zumbrunnen (Being John Malkovich), Jeff Buchanan
Running Time:  126 mins
Box Office:  a little over $23 million

Her is cinematically beautiful, that's undeniable. The romance underneath the almost tangible melancholy is so bittersweet you can't help but feel it... get affected by it. You can't look away, even when you're witnessing a somehow laughable but sweet sex scene from Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

12 Years a Slave (2013)

Forget about racism. Forget about this film being just an Oscar bait, or whatever negative people say about 12 Years a Slave. I'm just gonna tell you why this is such an epic film for me, without expounding on its socio-political/historical relevance.

McQueen's patient direction in contrast with the cast's intense & nuanced acting, along with the awesome music makes this unbearably painful film beautiful. His scenes are so atmospheric, you can't help but get chills because you feel the weight of everything you're seeing. Even when there's seemingly nothing going on, it's actually those scenes where you feel the most.

Directed by: Steve McQueen (Shame)
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Lupita Nyong'o
Screenplay by:  John Ridley (Undercover Brother)
Based on Twelve Years a Slave (Solomon Northup)
Music by:  Hans Zimmer
Cinematography by:  Sean Bobbitt (The Place Beyond the Pines, Shame)
Editing by: Joe Walker (Shame)
Running Time:  134 mins
Budget:  $20 million
Box Office:  over $97 million

Before watching this, I was really rooting for Leonardo DiCaprio to win Best Actor. I still am (because I effin' love Leo!!), but I really think that Chiwetel Ejiofor deserves to win this award. With Michael Fassbender's awesome-in-a-psychotic-way Master Epps to torment Solomon Northup (Ejiofor), Chiwetel's subtle acting (suffering) resonates all the more. They complement each other. I love every bit of screen time they share together. 

The cast is great. Even the smallest actors on set gave great performances. It shocked me that the scene which made me cry (the first time) was not because of the main characters, but from someone who I only saw for several seconds. The scene where Patsey was being given some salve for her back, the woman applying it caught my attention. Suffering in silence, forced to accept whatever fate their masters decide for them, all they can do is cry silently - that's what I got from that woman's acting. It was actually so great that Lupita's scene was overshadowed because I was already bawling like a hungry kitten even before the camera zooms into her anguish-filled expression. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

A three-hour long spectacle of gratuitous debauchery, of people & their unrestrained pursuit to satisfy their id, of characters long blinded by greed that they forgot how to be real human beings, and of shallow characterizations & plot - or the lack of it.

This could have given you a sour taste in your mouth & a giant hangover if it wasn't for Scorsese's unrestrained playfulness & DiCaprio's psychotic charm.

Directed by:  Martin Scorsese (The Aviator, Raging Bull)
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie
Screenplay by:  Terence Winter (Boardwalk Empire)
Based on Jordan Belfort's The Wolf of Wall Street
Cinematography by:  Rodrigo Prieto (8 Mile, Brokeback Mountain)
Editing by: Thelma Schoonmaker (worked with Scorcese for over 40 years)
Running Time:  179 mins
Budget:  $100 million
Box Office: over $222 million

It's funny how you read on movie boards that The Wolf of Wall Street is one of the funniest comedies/best movies/"insert your own hyperbole" of 2013, and see on the next page that it's so goddamn awful that people have walked out of the theaters. And the same people insisting how juvenile or stupid others are for liking this movie. I say, to each his own - but let me share my thoughts regarding some of the reasons people didn't like this film.


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