Monthly Archives: October 2013

A Scary Movie for Halloween, and a Halloween Message for my Minions

Good Morning, my dear minions! Today is Halloween, that time of the year when kids are to dress up in costumes and increase their blood sugar level due to Trick or Treating. Or maybe it’s the time when we huddle up in front of the television and watch some scary movies to celebrate the scariest day of the year.

For this year, however, I’d like to change the usual format of giving a “list” of recommended scary movies. Let’s be realistic: as responsible adults (and maybe adolescents for my students also read this blog), it’ll be a bit irresponsible of us to lock ourselves in our TV rooms and go on an Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Child’s Play, and Halloween marathon the entire day.

As such, even though I love movies, I’d like to be an example to my fellow minions: be responsible this Halloween! If you’re a parent, play with your kids; help your kids dress up for their Halloween party or something. If you have a party tonight, prepare for it properly! Make sure you have everything needed: drinks, food, alcohol, candy, etc. If you’re a kid, enjoy the trick or treating, but make sure you brush your teeth properly before going to sleep. A scarier thing that ghosts haunting you tonight is the pain caused by tooth decay. Believe, you don’t want your teeth drilled up; it hurts like hell. Seriously.

“But Evil Dr. Bok!” I can already hear you impatient minions of mine groaning, “We’re glad that you’re such a benevolent and responsible Evil Villain, but where are the FRAKKING movies?!”

Like I said, only one movie for this year. And because I want to do something different, this film doesn’t feature any ghosts, demons, or any supernatural creature. Let’s face it; vampires, werewolves, and Lovecraftian terrors are scary, but they’re made up. In the end of the day, even if they symbolize the excesses of the human psyche, you can still take comfort in the knowledge that you won’t encounter Count Orlock, the American werewolf of London, or a shoggoth on your way home from the Halloween party.

Real life human beings, are another matter. There’s a saying amongst us Filipinos, “Huwag kang matakot sa patay. Matakot ka sa buhay,” roughly translated, “Don’t fear the dead. Fear the living.” This makes sense; the dead are dead, and they cannot harm you. The living, however, is a different matter. While it’s okay to occassionally think that human beings are nice guys, the recent track record worldwide tells a different story. A living person is capable of harming you, or causing you distress (yes, even the nicest ones). Thus, Evil Dr. Bok’s recommendation for Halloween 2013 would be…

*drum roll*…

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Rob Reiner‘s Misery

This film never ceases to give me the chills. When I used to attend writing workshops in the university, my writing teacher showed this to us. My fellow classmates and I were on edge the entire time, especially when Kathy Bates‘s character starts showing off her cuckoo nature. Up till now, my writing teacher would still show this to his writing students and, every time, the students would be on the edge of their seats. This isn’t like the usual schlock fare which passes for “horror” these days: Misery is terrifying in every conceivable level. This film should be seen by those who appreciate truly terrifying films.

Oh, and Pazuzu says “Hi.”

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Happy Halloween, my ever loyal minions! 🙂

 

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Thoughts on “Captain Phillips”

Before I proceed, I acknowledge that there are some out there who say that the film and the source material it came from are false and fabricated by the titular Captain Phillips. Regardless of whatever controversies this film might have gotten, I am giving my thoughts on Captain Phillips as a film and not a documentary.

That said, I think that the documentary approach to the film-making, while efficient in the first half of the film, kinda outstayed its welcome in the latter half. Don’t get me wrong: the film was decent, suspense-filled, and well-acted (though I would have to say that Tom Hanks‘s performance in Forrest GumpPhiladelphia, and Cast Away would still be the gold standard). Unfortunately, I get the feeling that it was maybe a bit too overlong, especially in the second half once Captain Phillips got himself kidnapped by the pirates.

The best parts of the film would have to be the initial hijacking attempt, and the actual hijacking. If anything, director Paul Greengrass deserves an Oscar just for those two scenes alone (emphasis on the word ALONE). The dynamics of trying to defend a merchant vessel without  using guns is hard enough to imagine, yet the film’s presentation of it (editing, Henry Jackman‘s score, and cinematograph) makes for an extremely suspenseful sequence which in the hands of a less-talented director would border on parody.

The problem was just the film got a bit dragged on in the last 40 minutes or so. I think maybe the director was opting for a very documentary approach to it, but somehow it got tiring. It could be argued that this is the point; to make us feel the fatigue that Phillips and the Somali pirates felt during that time and it might not be an issue for others, but for me at least, it felt like a punishment.

Overall, this film is still a recommended watch. It might not be Paul Greengrass’s best film (it would still be United 93 and , arguably, The Bourne Supremacy) but this is still something you guys ought to see.

Initial Thoughts (rants) on Spike Lee’s “Oldboy” Trailer (

Okay, I’ve just seen the trailer of Spike Lee‘s Oldboy. I’ve heard of an American remake of the South Korean film by Park Chan Wook (the film itself based on a Japanese manga) back in college when it still had Steven Spielberg attached to it. Back then they were planning to adapt the manga series, which was quite interesting as the Korean film was more or less a loose adaptation of the manga. But now, based on the trailer, it would seem that they’re remaking the Korean Oldboy.

While I’m one of those few who think that NOT ALL Hollywood remakes of the original are crap (examples being The RingLet Me In, and arguably The Departed), I find this practice to be, while not entirely bad, a cause for concern. Has it reached a point that it is absolutely impossible to come up with new intellectual property  that the only resort is to go back to established franchises or to look for foreign films, Oldboy in particular simply because Quentin Tarantino adored the film (for possibly the wrong reasons)?

In the end, this endeavor may have financial reasons. Heck, I’m hopeful that the produces are doing this in order to exposed the original work to a wider audience. In fact, let me end this poor excuse of a rant by “encouraging” you loyal minions of mine  to see the original Oldboy. It’s definitely worth your time. A word of warning though (as I have students of mine who read this blog); Oldboy is an example of Extreme Asian Cinema. This means that this film does not shy away from graphic depictions of violence, gore, sex, and nudity. If you’re easily offended or bothered by such images, stay away from it. If you (my students) are reading this, STAY AWAY FROM THIS MOVIE. I know you guys play violent games all the time, but this is no game.

Gravity (A Review)

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I’ve seen Gravity earlier this week, but as my initial thoughts on viewing it were a bit shaky at best, I thought that I should give it a second shot. Similar to what I thought of Prometheus at first, I thought I should watch it a second time, this time as a detached observer. If the first viewing is the experience of it, the second viewing, I believe, should be the more critical viewing, as I won’t be subjected to the suspense of figuring who’ll live or die in this film and just focus on how well the film was made, how the issues and themes were handled, etc. And so, after a second round with Cuaron’s Gravity (again seen on IMAX), does this film deserve all the praise and recognition given to it by mainstream critics out there? Or is it another example of a film heavily hyped by the mainstream media?

The answer really depends on what you’re expecting with this.  If you’re looking for in-your-face 3D effects, this film isn’t for you. If you’re expecting a thriller with slow-burn paced tension, then this may be for you. If you’re looking for a by-the-numbers Hollywood thriller, then this film again MAY BE for you. Like I said, the answer as to whether this is THE FILM of 2013 depends on one’s expectations for it. As such, let us begin, as usual, with The Good followed by The Bad.

The Good

I am a huge fan of horror/thriller-type films as well as speculative fiction because, despite their unrealistic portrayal of events in the real world, speculative fiction (if done well) can say something more about the human condition than most realistic fiction out there. Even if Gravity plays around the grey area of science fiction and science fact, this film is science-fiction by virtue of being set in space. In this case, it’s a typical survival film. An accident happens during a routine repair mission in space and astronauts Stone and Kowalski must do everything they can to survive. It’s as simple as that; it’s a survival story and the characters’ resolve to live is tested through the obstacles they encounter.

“Wait a minute, Evil Dr. Bok,” I hear you lowly minions scream, “It sounds like a typical Hollywood story to me. How is that supposed to be a good thing?” Well, for one, it wasn’t distracting. It wasn’t trying to make ultra profound statements about the nature of human existence, but the story works. It’s about survival; it couldn’t get any more complex than that. Those looking for a profound philosophical treatise reminiscent of 2001 A Space Odyssey (or the more pretentious and heavy handed musings of the vastly overrated/deservedly hated Prometheus) might be a bit disappointed, but at least director and co-writer Alfonso Cuaron knew which aspect of humanity to explore on even in broad strokes. That, I believe, is an achievement in the scripting, the direction, and the editing of the film.

Speaking of direction, to be able to make a 90 minute film with only two main characters engaging is an achievement. Granted, there are some who might say that the opening (or the part after the initial action, or any part where the script gets talky) gets dragging a little bit, but considering what Cuaron is telling us about survival, I’m guessing this is a bit of a compromise. Other than that, the action sequences are masterfully done (shot in what now seems to be Cuaron’s trademark long-takes), and the scenes in space are among the most terrifyingly tense scenes I’ve seen in a while.

I’d also want to mention that score and the sound design. Aiming for a more realistic approach to depicting scenes in space, Cuaron decided to opt for a complete silence (more or less). There are no explosions in space, no Michael Bay type explosions once the space debris obliterate space stations, shuttles, and satellites, just the intense score by Steven Price, and a sound design consisting of the actor and actress’s voice through a microphone filter, beeping alarms, and decompression processes. Come Oscar Night, I wouldn’t be surprised if this film wins Best Score or Sound Design/Editing.

The Bad

Upon initial viewing, I told my friends and colleagues that one must watch Gravity in 3D, or IMAX if possible, as the 3D effects make for a pretty effective way to raise the tension due to movement. The unearthly camera movements make one feel uneasy, especially in the first 15 minutes of the film. While this isn’t a problem for me, I’m placing this here because some people might not appreciate the effect. One of the viewers exclaimed, “I feel sick”, and I can understand his feeling: the camera movements (at least for the space-walk scenes) may cause motion sickness to some viewers, and this ultimately could detract from the experience. I say “may” because, even if this didn’t affect me as much, other viewers might not appreciate it.

Additionally, while the 3D effects were interesting upon preliminary viewing, having seen it a second I realized that maybe the recommendation to see it in 3D might not be the best, but rather to see it in a LARGE screen. The 3D isn’t quite in your face (except for a few gimmicky moments of debris flying at you); at times you might not even realize it. Avatar and Transformers 3D still remain my benchmark for good 3D.

The Verdict

I’ve always mentioned when talking to other people that while there’s no such thing as a perfect movie, there are films which come pretty close. Gravity isn’t exactly one of those; I admit that there are portions that drag on a bit, and the 3D may cause motion sickness to some viewers of the audience. However, story and scriptwise, the film still works. Film-making wise, Cuaron shows that he’s really someone to look out for in the future with his  visual panaches. This film may not be for every body, but for those looking for serious science-fiction film along the veins of 2001 and MoonGravity is highly recommended.