Tuesday, July 31, 2012


The Shangri-La Plaza Mall, together with the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office brings the wonders of Taiwan and its people to the Filipino audience through the Taiwan Film Festival, from August 3 - 6, 2012 at the Shang Cineplex. This year’s Taiwan Film Festival presents the best feature films by award-winning director Hou Hsiao-Hsien. Admission is free on a first come, first served basis.

"The Boys from Fengkuei" chronicles the adventures of three young men from Fengkuei Island, who travel to the city of Kaohsiung to find better economic opportunities. Events unfold as they struggle to settle into city life and begin relationships with their neighbors.

"A Time to Live, A Time to Die" celebrates and mourns the trials of a family of Chinese emigrants. Ah-ha and his clan share the pains of constant longing to be back home and the challenges of coping and adjusting to a new country, Taiwan.

"Dust in the Wind" follows the story of high school sweethearts Wan and Huen. The two barely enjoy life together as they struggle to make ends meet out of menial jobs, while at the same time pursue their studies at night school. But the biggest challenge begins when both realize that soon, they will separate, as Wan will be called for the obligatory military service.

"Three Times" narrates the sentimental tale of an unfinished love, seeking to be reincarnated in three different time periods, and rekindled in three generations.

The Taiwan Film Festival also includes an impressive lineup of film documentaries.
"Classmate" chronicles the lives of three girls and a boy, two normal-development students and two challenged with special-needs, and their experiences in an experimental inclusive education school, where a third of the students are differently abled. The four grow and enter adulthood together, and discover life under the guidance of their families, and their mentors from school.

"Grandma’s Hairpin" is the personal story of one of the brave soldiers from the Nationalist Government, who fought the civil war against the Chinese. Along with his comrades, he could not return to his homeland China due to a ban on private visits, and found it difficult to begin a new life in the foreign land of Taiwan.

"Stars" explores the stories of the reality show Million Star’s contenders, as they discover themselves and deal with motivation, honesty, sacrifice, and hope in their journey to fulfill their dreams and emerge as the grand winner.

Finally, "The Man who Plants Trees" is a story about Lu Ming-shih, a man who plants trees along the Tropic of Cancer, hoping that future generations will carry on the work he started and complete his dream project.

Film Festival Schedule:
August 3
The Boys from Fengkuei (100 minutes) - 12:50pm
The Man who Plants Trees (55 minutes) - 3:00pm
Classmates (49 minutes) - 5:00pm
Three Times (132 minutes) - 7:00pm

August 4
A Time to Live, A Time to Die (125 minutes) - 12:30pm
Stars (110 minutes) - 3:10pm
Grandma’s Hairpin (89 minutes) - 5:40pm
Dust in the Wind (110 minutes) - 7:40pm

August 5
The Boys from Fengkuei (100 minutes) - 12:50pm
Classmates (49 minutes) - 3:00pm
The Man Who Plants Trees (55 minutes) - 4:30pm
Three Times (132 minutes) - 7:00pm

August 6
Dust In The Wind (110 minutes) - 12:30pm
Grandma’s Hairpin (89 minutes) - 3:00pm
Stars (110 minutes) - 5:00pm
A Time To Live, A Time To Die (125 minutes) - 7:30pm

For inquiries, please call the Shang Cineplex at 02-633-7851 loc.113.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans
Sally Field, Martin Sheen, Dennis Leary

"His past was kept from him.
His quest for answers has just begun."

Cinema 4, SM Megamall

I actually skipped "The Avengers" on purpose. So while every one and his mother were raving about their fave superhero in that film, I stood my ground and wasn't swayed to join the masses. Besides, I will just catch it on cable TV in the near future.

But Peter Parker/Spider-Man holds a special place in my heart. I resolved to watch it before it weaved itself out of the local cinema houses. After several postponement, I found myself sitting in a dark, nearly empty theater so it felt like I was watching it in the comforts of my room.

So was it worth it?

Let me begin by saying, I felt it was too early for a reboot of this web tangled tale of a guy who gets bitten by a nasty spider and turns into a masked crusader for the oppressed. So with that in mind, I had huge expectations for "The Amazing Spider-Man". As the title goes, it had to be truly amazing and worth every cent of my time, money and everything else in between.

Directed by Marc Webb, who is known for the quirky romantic comedy "500 Days of Summer", it is slightly darker in tone and less campy than the previous films. It takes its sweet time before Peter turns into Spidey. But I ain't complaining because the expanded character development of Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is quite interesting to absorb.

The prologue introduces him as a child, searching for the father he's about to lose. He grows to be a kind hearted teen with fresh faced innocence, nervous agitation and wry humor. Then he is bitten by a spider in that lab and the next thing Peter knows, he's literally climbing the walls, stronger and stickier. A Peter Parker with typical teenager angst, swagger and a tone defined more by emotional resonance than wide-eyed wonder.

Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker sporting a hoodie and an appealing sense of nervous distraction, is both vulnerable and edgy. Obsessed with finding his missing parents, smitten with high school crush Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), this Peter is more tormented than the previous model, and, as a result, easier to care about. And as a superhero, he bleeds, he bruises and comes home to his Aunt May (Sally Field) with a sheepish, sly grin of someone who is trying to hide a secret.

His witty impersonation of a teenager, complete with bad posture, mood swings and tons of sarcasm is very realistic. And when he's wearing a mask and whipping a criminal into submission, Garfield manages to make this seem like a stunt every nerdy kid would pull if he could climb walls and shoot webs from his wrists.

So as much as I love Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker, Andrew Garfield's lanky figure with his charismatic portrayal is commendable. I also like his palpable chemistry with Gwen Stacy who is portrayed by Emma Stone, Garfield's girlfriend in real life. Their rapport and exchange of somewhat cheesy dialogue was very believable.

Now we go to the villain. Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), the associate of Peter Parker's scientist father initially struck me as a thoughtful, nuanced antagonist — indeed, scarcely an antagonist at all — but when his transformation shifts into high gear, his human motivations vanish into a cartoonish digital monster. A hideous giant lizard with a creepy voice that sent shivers down my spine.

But hey this is a superhero movie so naturally you need a mad scientist to turn into some mutant that will wreak havoc on the entire city. At that point, anything resembling subtlety vanishes as it turns into one big computer generated images (CGI) blur. Many infrastructure are destroyed, many citizens are in danger and an entire metropolis is under threat unless Spider-Man swings in to save the day!

Even with all the action, the astounding special effects and the requisite grand finale that doesn’t drag on, the strong points of "The Amazing Spider-Man" is its insistence on crafting characters you might recognize in everyday life. Webb slows down and lets the relationships among his character develop in a credible manner.

On that note, I'd conclude by saying I was indeed amazed and believe this reboot is a sensational entry in the superhero genre that lives up to the Spider-Man name. It was indeed worth it. Oh and be sure to stay until the end credits are rolling by, there is a short preview alluding to a sequel in the distant future.

Saturday, July 21, 2012


Audrey Tautou, Francois Damiens, Bruno Todeschini

"Love can surprise you."

This French rom-com stars Audrey Tautou of "Amelie" fame in yet another saccharine girl meets boy love story. But before girl and boy have their happily ever after ending, there are a few obstacles. Little awkward, quirky turns that aren't too complicated or dramatic to muddle the sure fire conclusion that they belong in each other's arms.

Audrey Tautou plays Nathalie, who is utterly devastated when her beloved husband dies unexpectedly. She becomes a workaholic, plunging herself into her office job and fending off the unwanted advances of her boss. But one day, for reasons only Nathalie knows, she throws herself at a somewhat boorish, clumsy Swedish co-worker named Markus (Francois Damiens), and the rest of the movie consists of their tentative, and interesting courtship.

In as much as the trauma and ongoing adjustment of someone losing a spouse is very much downplayed in this movie, I think they wanted to concentrate on the unusual romance between Nathalie and Markus. Their 'beauty and the beast' office romance has some funny moments. I suppose it is charming to see a cute, perky woman fall for a very plain man. Both of them are amused and bewildered by their love affair. Despite his very ordinary appearance, Markus is quite funny and the fact that Nathalie actually gets and laughs at his jokes should count for something. Well in my books, it does.

Audrey Tautou is excellent as Nathalie, generating a palpable chemistry with Damiens that enables us to see what she sees in him, even if nobody else sees it. This lightweight romantic comedy was perfect for a stormy day viewing tucked in bed with a warm blankie.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


Eiga Sai 2012
Shang Cineplex, Cinema 4

I figure the title of the film is in reference to the permanent nature of perms, being that it is the name of the beauty parlor owned by the mother of Naoko, the central character. After her recent divorce, Naoko returns to her home town with daughter Momo. During her spare time, she helps out in the salon. She seems to fit perfectly as most of the relationships of the inhabitants don't last longer than the average hair perm.

It's a cheeky little comedy with quirky characters that provide more sting than your average film. It has an amusing yet somewhat puzzling plot. Set in a small coastal town with picturesque serene scenery, it has a laid back tone. Yet you have a myriad of characters mostly patrons of the salon whose dialogue are pretty risque. There are senior citizens talking about their hot dates and discussing graphically the length of their dates genitalia, young women are talking about abortions and married women are rather unperturbed about the infidelity of their husbands.

The director presents a happy, up-beat community of people that deal with their problems as if they were merely little bumps in the road. Everything in this film is made to make us feel as if we were watching a regular, run-of-the-mill Japanese drama, but when you listen, or in this case read the subtitles, you will notice the off kilter dialogue and that is where most of the laughter is drawn.

With fast-paced flashbacks and comical situations, the first part is mostly amusing to watch. But there is much more to the film than just its comedic parts, the dramatic scenes come creeping in with much subtlety. It involves a blossoming romance between Naoko and her former science teacher. The relationship suddenly unravels as a twist is sprang upon the unsuspecting audience. The film ends with a bizarre conclusion that will either fill your head with numerous questions or you simply shrug and accept it with nonchalance.

Still, this manga adaptation manages to keep a good balance between comedy and drama and amuse us with its zany bunch of characters.

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Eiga Sai 2012
Shang Cineplex, Cinema 4

This bleak melodrama is based on a hugely popular 2007 novel. Yuichi is a construction worker who goes into hiding after, in a fit of rage, he murders Yoshino, a girl he met on a dating site. Incidentally, he also meets Mitsuyo, a shy girl who works at a shop selling coats. Despite knowing that Yuichi is a wanted criminal, she decides to run off with him.

The director leaves little doubt in the minds of the audience about who’s guilty, he does plant the seeds of doubt in the search for motive and circumstance. As events unfold and clues are dropped, moral ambiguity takes hold. Whoever the murderer is, it becomes ever clearer that there is more than just one villain in the story and that no one is truly innocent.

The characters are really the heart of what makes "Villain" a somewhat compelling film. In addition to the complicated and very puzzling relationship between Yuichi and Mitsuyo, it also focuses on the effects of the gruesome murder on Yuichi's grandmother and the father of Yoshino. Both 'nice' characters who willingly or unwillingly become silent victims that are thrust in very bad light. They find their normal lives turned upside down.

In justifying his actions, he (father of Yoshino) utters a poignant dialogue. He asks a colleague of Masuo, the guy falsely accused of his daughter's murder. An arrogant college student who isn't quite innocent, in fact he was such a jerk to Yoshino.

"You got anyone that you truly cherish, young man? I mean someone who fills you with joy with the mere thought of that person being happy.
In this day and age, too many folks have no one they care about. They figure they have nothing to lose, so they think they're strong.
And so they trick themselves into believing they're above it all. When they see people who have something to lose, they look down on them.
It's not right, people aren't supposed to be that way."

At 140 minutes "Villain"'s slow pace can be quite tedious. The scattered flashbacks chronicling the crime wasn't neatly integrated into the main story. But it does features decent camera work like zooming into the eye of a squid to weave in the flashback scene. The sweeping seascapes and the solid piano music add some edgy frills into the plot.

Set in winter, the real beauty unfolds in the isolated lighthouse, a significant venue is Yuichi's life. It is also where the final tragic scenes play out. The conclusion is particularly open to various interpretation with shades of ambiguity and morality rolling in.

"Villain" is a good case study about a murder, its lonesome perpetrator and the effects on its various victims, dead and otherwise. It is an sparse portrait of loneliness, grief and desperation, with some convincing performances from the cast.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Eiga Sai 2012
Shang Cineplex, Cinema 4

As the title conveys, this light comedy is centered on a flight from Tokyo's Haneda airport to Honolulu. It focuses on the work of the flight crew (the pilots and the flights attendants), the ground staff (check in counter staff, air traffic control, the disaster management group) and the maintenance crew that checks each plane to ensure the safety of the passengers. It also features the different types of passengers that the flight crew must serve during the flight. And how they all pull together in the face of a crisis on board.

The movie is fraught with vividly bright scenes complete with soft almost comical music even during the dramatic moments that you never really believe anything serious is going to happen during the flight. On a purely educational level, it offers fascinating insights into what goes on behind the scenes before and during take-off as well as on the actual flight, itself.

The main characters are a novice co-pilot on an assessed flight that will determine whether he gets promoted to the rank of pilot. And a flight attendant on her very first international flight. Complementing them are a bunch of characters who each contribute to make this film a fitting endorsement of ANA, All Nippon Airways, the national carrier of Japan.

Admittedly for a comedy, it isn't laughing out loud funny. The setting is rather limited as it unfolds entirely on a plane along with scenes at the airport terminal. As the plot skips from one happily resolved situation to the next, it starts to resemble not so much a light comedy as an altogether different type of film. It inhabits in an insanely happy universe with zany characters where no problem is so big that can't be overcome in a few minutes of screen time.

I know that flight attendants are trained to put on a happy and brave front but the characters were too simple without any complicated back stories to make them interesting. Nevertheless, "Happy Flight" was amusing enough to watch but much like the inflight movie shown on board, you tend to forget about it once you reach your destination.

Monday, July 2, 2012


The Japan Foundation, Manila, in cooperation with the Embassy of Japan presents EIGA SAI 2012. The Japanese Film Festival kicks off on July 5 with an invitational screening of the film ‘Villain’ at the Shang Cineplex Cinema 2.

Completing this year’s roster of exciting films to be featured are: "The Peak", "The Rescuers", "Railways", "Happy Flight", "Tomorrow’s Joe", "In His Chart", "Colorful", "Abacus And Sword", "Permanent Nobara", and "Ninja Kids".

All films will be shown with English subtitles. Admission is free on a first come first served basis. Screening venues are at the Shang Cineplex Cinema 4 (July 5 to 15), Gaisano South Citimall, Davao City (July 20 to 22), Ayala Center Cinema 4, Cebu City (August 7 to 12) and UP Film Institute, Quezon City (August 15 to 21).

For detailed screening schedules and inquiries, please access the Japan Foundation, Manila website or call the JFM at (+632) 811-6155 to 58.

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