Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin

Something Borrowed is a chick lit released by author Emily Giffin in 2005 about a pair of lifelong friends — polar opposites of each other who find themselves in a bind after the nice one sleeps with the other one’s fiance and begins a rebellious clandestine affair.

I have seen this book on the bookstore shelves countless times before Hilary Swank optioned the rights to the movie. After I’ve seen the trailer, I was hooked. The reason that I didn’t get the book before was that it dealt with betrayal and I didn’t like reading about that, especially involving family and friends. I guess I could consider myself a prude for feeling that way. When I saw the trailer for the movie though, which is showing on cinemas next week (Can’t wait), I decided to give it a chance.

Something Borrowed is a story of Rachel White, a goody two shoes New York lawyer who is best friends with the glamorous Darcy Rhone, a go getter who has breezed through life getting everything she wants. Darcy is marrying major big shot hunk Dexter Thaler, six years after Rachel introduced the two. Rachel was friends with Dexter in law school and was totally into him but she decided that he wouldn’t go for her, thus the introduction to her much more suitable friend. On the night of Rachel’s 30th birthday party though (which Darcy threw), they both get drunk and do the unthinkable. They sleep together, and the self centered Darcy is completely oblivious as the affair develops behind her back.

I could totally relate to the panic Rachel felt when it dawned on her that she hit a major milestone in her life without achieving any of her goals (well, not those that matter anyway). When women hit the big 3-0, they begin to question everything about themselves… where they are, how happy they are career wise and relationship wise. I for one, was not too happy when I turned 30 and had a week long slump as I got my act together. But for Rachel it was different, because she always compared herself to Darcy, and always saw herself as the loser because Darcy was a go getter. She didn’t let anything stand in her way. Perhaps, her sense of entitlement was a tad annoying at some points of the story but one has to understand that she can’t help it. She always had things easy because people were always falling all over themselves to give her everything even before she asked for it.

While I liked Rachel as a heroine, I could understand why people walked all over her. She does not know her own worth, thus settling for crumbs of affection from Dexter, who turned out to like her way before he met Darcy six years prior. Rachel uses the same excuse as everyone when faced with the question of why she stayed with her dead end job at the law firm when she finished at the top of her class — she needed to. When she finally did do something about her feelings for Dexter, she did not assert herself and demand that he choose between her and Darcy but rather turned coward and endured the heartache of seeing them together while her own relationship hung in the balance. During the course of their relationship, I could not help but feel that Rachel felt entitled to Dex as repayment for the years of abuse that she suffered under Darcy’s thumb but is that really an excuse? Even towards the end, when she finally showed enough backbone to accept Dexter’s decision, I felt that her empowerment came a bit too late in the game and she folded way too easily when Dexter begged her to be together again.

People may say that Darcy is a bitch, an evil friend stringing Rachel along the whole time, an insensitive golden girl — generally cast her as the villain of this story, but I can’t really subscribe to that idea. I am much more sold with the idea that since Darcy is so used to the power dynamics in their friendship, she is completely unaware of how her actions are affecting Rachel. Darcy was very competitive with Rachel from the time they were kids, lied bald faced to her easily, and used her to do a lot of her dirty work for her, but that cycle could have easily stopped if Rachel had spoken up, or called her bluff. Rachel had a lot of time to grow up apart from Darcy when she was in law school but she chose to return to the same pattern when they were in New York again because she did not feel entitled to an equal status in their relationship.

Perhaps, we can all relate to this because at one point, we may all have had a Darcy in our lives, and while we may not like them and sometimes wish to strangle them for being too much of everything, I guess when people are born that way, they feel that they are entitled to have people fall under their feet to cater to their every whim. Whether or not they could find patsies to fall for their tricks is simply a given. Darcy was irresponsible and reckless because she knew that she could count on Rachel to clean up her mess. She wanted to outshine Rachel at every turn because she knew that only Rachel had the potential to be more admired than her. But Darcy did have her moments. I felt that in her heart of hearts, she did love Rachel as a sister, but the revelation of her relationship with Dexter totally caught her off guard. If Rachel had said something to her about them not being right for each other, I suspect she might have blown Dexter off, because that’s how great Rachel’s influence on her is. She trusted her completely.  But that’s not how it happened. The manner in which Darcy dealt with the aftermath seemed cold and calculated but from my point of view, completely justified. There are just some lines you can’t cross, even if you have your skeletons to deal with… and having an affair with a best friend’s betrothed counts as an ultimate sin.

The characters I most liked in this book were Ethan and Hillary. They were the voices of reason that brought Rachel back to reality each time she confided in them about her relationship (?) with Dex. They were the type of grown up friends who would give you grown up advice and will surely stand by you even if the shit hits the fan. I liked Ethan best because he’s smart, unaffected and totally non judgmental of Rachel throughout the course of the story. He genuinely cares about Rachel and her well being and always had her back, even when she was too dense to see him. I wish Rachel would have fallen for him instead of Dex, who coasted along until the very end before making his decision. But the moment has lapsed (besides, he has his own book with Darcy). I wish Rachel would have taken up his offer to live in London and start afresh rather than go back to Manhattan to live out her distorted fairy tale with Dex.

Dex was my least favorite character throughout the book (I hope his movie counterpart is better). He may have loved Rachel but he treated her in much as the same way as Darcy did — a convenience. He was too chicken shit to make a decision sooner, stringing Rachel along because the poor girl was just apeshit in love with him, and hurt her in the process, countless times. I sometimes wish that he didn’t end up with anybody until much later, but that would have destroyed the premise that they were destined to be together even before Darcy came into the picture.

Something Borrowed trains the magnifying glass on the imperfections of even the longest and strongest of friendships, its shifting dynamics, and how people bounce back from the most crushing betrayals. It tells of the virtue of loving and liking yourself, and growing up which is just as important. While it was a love story, I couldn’t help but get the feeling that Dex was just a sidebar in this novel. It was a good read as it was presented from Rachel’s point of view, thus giving readers a look into the inner workings of the mind of a goody two shoes, but there were just some parts that I find myself unsatisfied with.

I hope the movie is more a straighforward RomCom that the trailer promises. Plus, based on the promos, Ethan (played by John Krasinski) is a main supporting character so that should prove to be interesting. (http://www.cineramaetcetera.wordpress.com)

Burlesque: Diva overload!

People who paid good money to see Burlesque expect to be entertained. This movie simply screams diva…and it delivered on every aspect.

Burlesque is a story of a small town girl named Ali (Cristina Aguilera) who came to LA to follow her dreams of becoming a performer. In the big city, she meets bartender/songwriter Jack (Cam Gigandet), who helps her land a waitressing job at a Burlesque Club owned by Tess (Cher). The plot was pretty similar to Cayote Ugly but the powerhouse performances of Aguilera and Cher cast the previous movie into the shade.

Burlesque may be reminiscent of another successful musical, Academy Award favorite Chicago, which won Catherine Zeta Jones her first Oscar for best female actress in a supporting role. However, Cher and Aguilera will not be winning any Oscars for their acting. On stage, both are dynamite, their performances evoking many emotions, but off stage, their performances are average at best, sometimes even wooden. I’m not saying they’re horrible. Just not that great in acting… understandable because they ‘are’ singers. Hey, don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of poignant moments in the movie, mostly with Cher’s character Tess, but for the most part, the emotional aspects often got overshadowed by Aguilera’s constant parading of her cleavage and various parts of her anatomy. Probably not her fault, but still…

I think while there were similarities (dazzling production numbers, and musical numbers), there was a marked difference between the two movies — Chicago featured actors who can sing and dance, but Burlesque focused more on the performances so it booked divas like Cher and Cristina to deliver exceptional vocals and outstanding production numbers. I won’t lie by saying I did’nt get goosebumps with each number. The vocals were outstanding. I guess that’s why they’re divas. They absolutely bring down the house when they take the stage.

I liked that Kristen Bell took on the role of villainess in this movie as a departure to her usual nice girl roles. She is as awesome with her claws out as she is with them sheathed, plus this role was a tad risque too, and sexier than most of her previous portrayals — she did a great job and made her character as the bitchy star of the show believable. Stanley Tucci, one of the most underrated actors of this generation, turned up another solid performance as Tess’ best friend/soulmate. I love this guy — he can play a villain, a good guy, a nerd or a douche — and he does them all so well and so effortlessly that he can communicate with one meaningful stare what other actors strive to convey with long monologues. In my opinion, his performance is the glue that held everything together. Grey’s Anatomy Eric Dane was his usual charming self as Marcus Gerber, the billionaire businessman who wanted to purchase the club from Tess to build a skyrise, and Cam Gigandet, with his smoldering good looks rounded off the cast as Jack, the bartender who writes songs on the side, and falls in love with Ali.

What I liked about the movie was that there was really no bad guy. Just people who have different priorities, points of views —  some get swallowed up by the razzle dazzle of the big city and the big lights while some refuse to let go of who and what they love. There were many points of realizations throughout the film and I’m glad that Ali, as the main protagonist, had a good enough head on her shoulders to withstand the temptations that come with success, sparing the audiences from another head against the wall moment  aka How stupid can you get? episode. I think that it is also worthy to credit the wardrobe and stylists for this movie — the sequins, the pearls, the shoes, the boots. Wow! This movie featured a lot of fancy footwear that had me green with envy.

As you can tell, I really liked Burlesque. It was more a musical extravaganza than a movie, and clocked in at a little less than two hours. The production numbers alone probably accounted for half the total running time, but I’m not complaining. I was entertained. It was like watching a Vegas Follies show, but better. I want the OST, stat!

Who will the Queen B choose? Blair’s Love Trifecta

photo courtesy of http://static.wetpaint.me

As Gossip Girl returns after yet another season break in the wake of the Dan Humphrey/ Blair Waldorf kiss, we find the Queen B, out of sorts and unsure of what to do now that she has been fired from her internship and in limbo about her status with Chuck and Dan. We find Chuck up to his old schemes after he remembers Blair’s existence (again) and suddenly decides to want her back (after claiming to be in love with Raina). Typical.

This is the first of the last five episodes in the season so while it was uneventful (I was shipping Dair this whole time), I have high hopes for a nail biting season ender where Blair is expected to get engaged with one of the men in her love trifecta — Chuck (who was shot down at the end of the episode after he tried to humiliate Dan), Dan (who was definitely crushing on Blair, but is open to a new love interest in Serena’s cousin Charlie), or Prince Louis (who emerged from a limousine bearing one of Blair’s exquisite pumps at the end of the show).

I’ve been surfing for spoilers the entire time the show was on break and found some juicy tidbits of information. 1. that Blair was going to get engaged. 2. that both Penn Badgely who plays Dan Humphrey and Leighton Meester (Blair Waldorf) have said that what happens between Dair is not what you would expect, which leads me to the conclusion that a.) there will be no Dair, b.) they will get engaged at the end of the season or c.) the Dair drama will continue on til season 5. 3.) EW’s Ausiello also hinted that Chuck will not intentionally cause Blair physical harm, leading me to suspect that perhaps the season would end in an accident. 4.) that the new character of Charlie has an option to become a season regular, perhaps adding her to the mix of already complicated characters on the Upper East Side.

I am liking how the last few episodes are shaping around Blair, my favorite character in the show. I would like her to become happy because it seems that she is always the one who is getting hurt, especially in relationships. First, Nate cheated on her with Serena, and Chuck whored her off to Jack Bass to get Bass Industries (and this is only among his many sins involving Blair and his businesses). I sort of miss the old Chuck, who sacrificed his own happiness (prom episode) so that Blair could fulfill her dream. But now, he’s become so selfish and self assured that its ridiculous. He treats people like pawns, even those who genuinely care about him. However, he does have his moments. And in his own twisted way, he does love Blair and may in fact be her soulmate. In The Kids Stay in the Picture episode, he looked dapper while Dan looked like — Dan. Perhaps this was the writers’ way to show the contrast between the characters, or perhaps this was their way of conditioning the viewers into who Blair will pick. Personally, I’m conflicted. I love Dan, perhaps more in this season than the previous seasons where his character got swallowed up by the Upper East Siders. This season, he was still the typical boy next door but with Blair, he was so much more. Sometimes, he was her conscience, her safety blanket, her sparring partner, her shock absorber, but what I liked about him was that he was the one who was giving a bit of himself to Blair, not the other way around like in her previous relationships where she felt the need to scheme and measure up all the time. Dan understands Blair, faults and all and accepts her for being the imperfect person that she is. Prince Louis on the other hand, will also make a good choice (I think the writers brought back the Prince to ride on the Royal Wedding bandwagon — smart) because it would be nice to see how Blair battles it out to earn her spot in the Royal family. Besides, if the Prince genuinely likes Blair, why not give him a chance? She might need a break from all the drama in the Upper East Side.

So who’s your bet? Who should the Queen get engaged to in the last episode?

Check out the teaser for the last five episodes here

Faster: almost but not quite (epic)

Okay, so here goes. I am a big fan of The Rock and when I first saw the trailer for this movie, I was fully expecting an action movie of epic proportions. I got action alright, but I’m not so sure if it was all it was hyped up to be.

Faster tells the story of Driver (Dwayne Johnson), who gets out of prison after surviving a point blank gunshot to the head, seeking revenge against those who ambushed him and his crew after a successful bank heist — the same crew who killed his big brother, and left him for dead. The story was pretty cut and dried. Driver was out for blood and nobody was going to stand in his way.

The shots were well executed and the treatment added to the general brooding atmosphere of the movie. I felt like I was watching a combination of Kill Bill, Fast and the Furious and Mr. and Mrs. Smith, especially with the single mindedness of Driver’s methods to take down the people who have wronged him. His list was reminiscent of Uma Thurman’s Black Mamba so it was sort of redundant, as was his survival after a supposedly fatal wound to the head. Also, Dwayne didn’t do himself any favors by taking on the role of a wheelman once again, no matter how kickass the car might be 1.) because his general body build is too thick, which is far from the typical driver look, plus — 2.) driving is Jason Statham’s bread and butter — that much is a given. Each time there is an excellent car stunt, people immediately think of Jason, and 3.) the stunts were not very original — the backwards driving was done in Fast and the Furious and one of Statham’s movies, not sure which but I’m pretty sure its been done before so it wasn’t totally awe inspiring.

While I’ve droned on about the unoriginal premise of the plot and the too familiar execution, there is a lot of good that is to be said about this film as well. The writers, perhaps in a departure to the previous movies which inspired this one, decided to insert a human element to the story, and gave the characters backstories to make them more vulnerable. The group of killers were given families and new lives which motivated them to make the choices they have after the incident. My favorite was that of ringleader Billy Bob Thornton’s, who played the drug dependent detective 10 days away from retirement. Thornton played his part so well (as a father who wanted to spend more time with his son and an estranged husband who wanted to make things right with his wife — a wife, unfortunately, who was indirectly linked to the murder), his desperation, his inner conflict, and his optimism of making that fresh start with his family after he took care of Driver were very raw and very real. His portrayal was so good that viewers will find themselves ready to forgive him his crimes, and wanting him to have his happy ending. There was also a subplot about a conflicted young billionaire turned hitman who charges a dollar for every hit, but this part of the story turned out to be anti-climatic and uneventful, much like some of the aborted action scenes in this picture.

I think Dwayne took on this role to showcase the different facets of his acting. His role as Driver was very emotional but I couldn’t help but feel that he was going overboard at times. The intensity of his anger almost had me expecting smoke to come out of his nostrils half of the time. I also think that the backstory on the ex girlfriend was underutilized and was only included to make Driver seem more vulnerable. I’m not sure if it managed to achieve that objective.

Generally, I think this movie was good, but I’m not jumping up and down in my seat singing its praises. It’s not the best I’ve seen, let’s leave it at that — too bad, I know it had the potential to be so much better. :-(

Read book before seeing movie or vice versa?

Beastly book by Alex Flynn, movies out on cinemas May 11th

With the spate of Hollywood franchises of successful novels and literary series, I am often conflicted as to whether to watch the movie first and get an idea about the book, or read the book first to see how well the film adaptation is.

I have intended to do so on many occasions, especially this year when there are roughly a dozen book to movie adaptations lined up for release. Problem is, I often get hold of the books too close to the release date and I don’t finish in time to catch the film in theaters. Unlike movies which roughly account for an hour or so of screening, books require hours of dedication to enjoy the experience. So, making the long story short, I may be the only left who has not seen I am Number Four because I’ve taken too much time with the book. Everybody has been talking about it and I have nothing much to contribute because I’m not done with the novel yet. I know by the time I get done, people would have moved on. Discussions on the topic will have shut down and I will be left left to my own musings. Dilemmas, Dilemmas. The price you have to pay for wanting the perfect experience.

Getting back to the topic, some may recall the bigger projects in the past years — Harry Potter, Twilight, The Lord of the Rings, The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons, The Stand and countless others. Most of these I have read before watching. And believe me, the experience has its pros and cons.

First, when you read before you watch, especially when the author is really good, you already form a set of standards in your mind that the actors and the filmmakers must live up to. Personally, I hated the first Potter movie because much of the dialog was lifted straight from the book. The words worked in the written version because there was a backgrounder and an insight into the characters that the author provides. The book explains the mood in which the conversations were spoken while the movie relies solely on the actors’ ability to convey the emotions described in the book. We should remember that during this time, Daniel Radcliffe was still a novice actor trying to find his footing in his larger than life role of the most popular young wizard in the world, and much to a point, I did not think he succeeded in truly becoming Harry Potter until the next movies. The second one was better because the filmmakers made adjustments in the script as well as the actual story to adapt to cinema. Let us not speak of the third book, one of the best in the series,  whose major elements were whittled down to shave the movie to a respectable running time of 141 minutes. Sometimes, I wonder whether I would have been happier not knowing what should have happened rather than nitpick at the movie for its inadequacy to J.K. Rowling’s work.On the other hand, The Lord of the Rings franchise achieved the perfect blend of storytelling and adventure that the book required and brought to life Middle Earth as even the fanboys imagined. It was a tough job but with millions of dollars at his disposal and a genius for creativity, director Peter Jackson put himself among the ranks of George Lucas and Quentin Tarantino and earned himself a loyal following for his future works.

An example of a book to movie adaptation that I did watch before reading was Stephen King’s The Stand. This novel is a thousand pages plus tome divided into three parts where mankind is at an end and the remaining survivors must choose the side of good or the side of evil, which culminates in a final battle so epic that it takes your breath away. I saw the three part TV movie featuring Gary Sinise, Rob Lowe and Molly Ringwald years before I cracked the book. Surprisingly, as I read the novel, the movie enabled me to picture the characters more clearly. The descriptions also added to the overall impact of the book as I rearranged the scenes in my mind to adopt to the literature. It worked out pretty well as I recall.

There are many who would opt to see the movie and do away with the reading experience altogether. I am quite guilty of this because after I’ve seen The Da Vinci Code movie, I never finished the book, which according to rave reviews is Dan Brown’s best work (I find that doubtful because Angels and Demons, Deception Point and the Digital Fortress are some of the best books I’ve ever read). But if people just relied on movies, they miss out on many elements that the book offers and filmmakers let go. They fail to see into the inner workings of the complicated and sinister minds of characters such as Dr. Hannibal Lecter, they lose insight into the internal struggles of Frodo as he journeys to destroy the ring, they only see Bella as a whiny little bitch and Edward as a stiff pretty boy instead of the conflicted modern day Romeo and Juliet they were portrayed in Stephenie Meyer’s series ( a few eyebrows raised there?).

Achieving a perfect balance has its advantages and drawbacks. You raise your expectations, or you lower them but one of these mediums will eventually fall short. You begin to compare, you begin to weigh. There is no doubt that there are many literary works that have proven to be easy pickings for producers, and this is also good for the book industry as it generates more attention to their products. My advice is still to try to maximize both experiences as they both offer a different kind of rush. But the question remains. Should I read before I watch or watch before I read? Feel free to vote and comment below.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Perfume is a movie I’ve seen on DVD with my brother a couple of years back. Originally, it was released in 2006 by Paramount Dreamworks, makers of the hit franchise Shrek (Go figure, right?). I actually find it hard to put into words how great this movie is — deep, dark and vivid and so twisted that one would think twice about casting the film’s lead character under the role of victim or villain. I’m doing this review after I’ve recently gotten hold of 1985 book authored by German novelist Patrick Suskind from which the movie was based, and it promises to be every bit as demented as the movie, if not more (review to follow).

Perfume tells the story of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, an aberration of nature born on the stinky fishmarkets of Paris in the 18th century. Grenouille was born without any scent of his own but is gifted by an extraordinary sense of smell that can identify and isolate scents, a skill that is rendered useless as he is sentenced to a life of working in the odious and filthy tannery that makes up most of the employment in the city. One day, Grenouille is tasked to go to the city to make a delivery and catches the scent of young girl, a scent so divine that he wishes to capture her smell for eternity. Unwise to the ways of the world, he fails to covey his admiration of the girl and scares her. As the girl struggles against him, he accidentally suffocates her and kills her. As the girl dies, he discovers that the scent dissipates when the bearer is already lifeless. He vows to regain her scent and makes it his life’s mission.

What’s compelling about the film is its vivid depiction of an era in Paris that is so different from what it is today, a major tourist destination and mecca of art and fashion. Grenouille is a reflection of poverty and social division in the 18th century. The elite are so far removed from those who work the tanneries, sell fish in markets, and toil in the ports that Grenouille was cast like a fish out of water when he attempted to learn a skill (perfuming) that was then exclusive to the members of elite society. Because of his illiteracy, his logic was distorted, and his temper unchecked, preventing him from understanding the limits of the trade. However, his obsession with scents is somewhat justified as this is the only thing in his life that makes sense. His passion for learning and experimenting, while creepy and excessive for the most part, is also admirable to such a degree that his focus, had it been channeled properly, could have made him the most renowned perfumer of his generation, instead of the being the degenerate that has gained him notoriety.

The film had the same feel as Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, although not as bloody. But while Tim Burton chose muted colors to make the blood pop out of the scenes, Perfume director Tom Tykwer chose to shock using vivid colors, making every scene like an oil painting come to life. In the quest to capture the elusive scent of his victims, filmmakers chose visual representations of Grenouille’s crimes (girl in the enfleurage vat), and shows the extent in which he does his experimentation. What’s amazing is that as I watched the movie, I felt no ill will towards Grenouille no matter how heavy his crime was. And he too, did not see anything wrong with killing in order to accomplish his goal. I empathized with him, even when he pursued his last victim relentlessly in order to complete that 13 scents that would make the perfect perfume, at the cost of breaking a father’s heart.

The film made use of the narration to fill in the blanks, flesh out the story, stitch it together, and establish the mood throughout the film, making it seem like Grenouille was living in a fairy tale, but with a much more macabre ending than the usual. Perfume was an uncannily quiet film, giving viewers room to think and to breathe, but the suspense is palpalable. Will Grenouille get caught? How will he do it? Audiences will find themselves torn between cheering for each successful murder or being disgusted by Grenouille’s stoicism amid the rising panic in the city.

Ben Whishaw from a scene in Perfume

Credit also goes out to the casting of Perfume — Dustin Hoffman as Giuseppe Baldini, Grenouille’s mentor in the art of perfuming, Alan Rickman, as Antoine Richis, the wealthy businessman set out to protect his daughter from the murders that have stalked the streets of Grasse. And leave us not forget Ben Whishaw, who gave life to the role of Jean Baptiste Grenouille, who made him vulnerable, and obsessive, and raw, and lovable, and creepy in all the right moments.

Perfume grossed only over $2 million domestically in the US, but earned close to $133 million worldwide. While the American audience failed to recognize the film’s treatment and content, its good to know that the world gave a chance to this adaptation. It was a movie that focused not only on the filmmaking aspects but also paid attention to details such as emotional impact. It was an intelligent script based on a literary masterpiece that compels audiences to take a closer look at society and the world today. There are a lot of potential Grenouilles among us, those who are uneducated in the aspects of right and wrong, those who grow up in desperation and darkness, whose perspectives are twisted by their constant struggle. Even now, there are still remnants of 18th century France that are reflective of society, perhaps not in Paris, but in other countries. Perhaps that is why the movie was the so good, because it strikes something in the viewers’ hearts — genuine human emotions — sorrow,  remorse, pity, disgust, empathy, shock… and these are things that don’t go away overnight. It echoes in the senses and ignites passion, in much the same way as scents did for this film’s dark hero.

Will Liam McIntyre truly “BE” Spartacus?

photo courtesy of allvoice.com

I’m a big fan of the show Spartacus. I think its one of the bravest shows on television on cable today. It has sex, violence, conspiracy, three main elements to having a controversial but smoking show, but more than that, it also has drama, great cinematography, script, casting and direction, which are keys to making it a credible contender in terms of quality and ratings. If you’ve seen the film adaptation of the action packed gothic novel 300, its like that, but made for TV, so its longer, more dramatic and absolutely genius.

Last year, after the successful first season of the show (The show was creeping its way to 1 million viewers, but has managed to establish a loyal following among its core audience, discounting its international syndication and fan base), the producers halted production after its lead star Andy Whitfield was diagnosed with cancer. It was pretty much up in the air whether or not the show would return, but Andy’s treatments proved positive until most recently when they discovered that his cancer was back. The suits decided to do a six-episode prequel (Spartacus: Gods of the Arena) to buy them some time until they decide what to do, and perhaps to test whether or not the show would survive without Andy. It did, but in my opinion, it survived because it was a prequel and did not touch on the Spartacus storyline just yet. Returning for the next season would involve what happens next and the question is whether or not the replacement could produce the consistency that the show needs to keep the audiences hooked.

Early this year, they decided to greenlight the third season and selected Andy’s replacement in the form of another Australian actor Liam McIntyre, who has previously starred in the TV miniseries The Pacific and an Australian short film Radev (2010). I did some snooping around to see if he has the chops to fill the iconic sandals of Andy’s Spartacus.

Well, the only clips I found on youtube was the trailer for Radev, where he was playing a boss of a drug syndicate, and another where he was hamming it up in a cheesy Doritos commercial. In the Radev trailer, I felt that he had the potential but I just couldn’t picture him as Spartacus just yet. I felt that he lacked the intensity that Andy brought to the table with each performance. It’s not his body’s build, or his outward appearance that was the problem for me. I think that he’s a fairly decent actor but I think that Andy did him a huge injustice by being so good at being Spartacus that it became tall order for anyone who would take on the role not to compare.

As a fan, it is my biased opinion that Andy is Spartacus, just like Gerard Butler is King Leonidas. If there are such things as perfect castings, I would hedge my bets that these are it. For now, I know it’s still too early to judge because the next season isn’t coming out until 2012. I would have liked for the producers to wait until Andy is fully healed (I do believe that he will triumph over his disease as he has conquered his foes in the show) before resuming production. But I guess that’s just too much to ask seeing as they are preserving the momentum. Besides, looking at the big picture, Andy is just one actor, as compared to the entire cast and crew that made the show as awesome as it was. Still, there’s a nagging doubt at the back of my head if this is the right move for the show at all. For now, I still have my reservations, but I’m not ready to sail the ship with Liam at the helm just yet. Are you?

UPDATE: Andy succumbed to lymphoma yesterday Sept. 12, 2011. He was 39. May he rest in peace.

The Cinderella Syndrome a.k.a. My Shoe Addiction

a part of my shoe stack

Alright. I admit it. I love shoes just as much as the next girl. Maybe more so because as I was organizing my shoe rack (which is groaning from the weight of its load), I discovered that I actually had 33 pairs of shoes. These are of course, discounting those that I have already given to charity recently. I was actually wondering how this came to be because I mostly use sneakers to work and practically everywhere else. But as I analyzed my stash, it would seem that I got a bit carried away with purchasing these very same sneaks, as I had with shoedals and the the like. Well, I must be excused because even Cinderella knew the importance of finding the perfect pair of shoes.

However, unlike the orphan turned princess, I get mine not to make an impression on my prince but rather to find comfort for the most abused part of my body — my dainty (?) feet.

running shoes that I got on sale

This weekend, I added two items to my collection. A pair of running shoes and a pair of formal shoes — both from great sales — one I got to encourage me to run and exercise more and one for a good friend’s wedding in May. I figured that these won’t go to waste as I usually buy pairs that I could use for other occasions as well. The runners, I would use for training in the oval and for next month’s fun run and the black formals I could wear with my slacks on occasion.

shoes for the wedding!

Honestly, I have always been drawn to nice pairs of shoes, but like I said, my journey always involves finding the ones that are uber comfortable to wear. I like walking around. This is a habit I developed since my earlier days of college where we were always on the go, doing coverages, running to classes and afterwards for my part time jobs. This habit never changed as I became a reporter. I still walked a lot to get to different offices to get more stories in the minimum amount of time. Now that I’m no longer one, I still walk around the campus to get the circulation going. This is why it is important for me to have nice footwear that can take me to places no matter how distant and no matter how long I would need to stand up. I don’t like pairs that would blister my feet, and I hate those that feel like vices on my toes.

my favorite pair of shoedals on its way to retirement

This was around the same time I discovered Sanuk. As soon as I tried them on, I was hooked. They were heaven on my feet! I was ecstatic. However, they were quite expensive so the practical side of me won out. I hunted for similar styled shoes that were just as comfortable but not as costly. I found them at American Boulevard. They were having a sale on shoedals that sold for less than P600 a pair, but they felt great on the feet. The problem was, their smallest size was 5 for men! Well, I thought about it and since they were closed shoes, I figured, I would just wear them with socks and they would fit like a glove. They did. I still use them now. My first one is almost at the end of its road but not to worry, I bought four extra pairs as replacements just in case ;-)

back up shoedals :-)

Yeah, yeah, I know, right? Five pairs of shoes of a similar design is a bit too much, even if I loved them. Well, it doesn’t matter now. Me and my shoedals will surely have more adventures ahead of us.

Sometimes, I also let my hair down and let the girly side of me win. It is not often that this happens but when I do, I apply the same principle, and look for the same things. Comfort, Style, and and Cost. I’m not a big fan of heels though. No matter how cute the design, I usually look the other way. I would trip on them in five minutes flat given my reputation. As an indulgence though, I try them on at the shoe store, just to see how they would look, but I never buy them unless absolutely necessary.

two pairs I got from Artwork :-) I loved them so much I had to have both.

My real favorites are the ones that my family gifts me. Because I have small feet, its a cinch to get me great shoes. During one birthday, my brother got me the coolest pair of Chucks ever. I still haven’t washed them till now (I don’t usually wash my sneakers cos it adds character to the shoes), and a pair of Sanuk slippers for Christmas. Not to mention my mom who keeps buying me footwear every time she gets new ones. She has great taste, and her buying me shoes as a throwback to the days when I was a kid is absolutely a treat for me that never gets old.

All in all, I think there are a lot of people out there who can relate with me. We might not get our shoes for the same reasons but as long as it makes us feel good, and we don’t spend our entire savings purchasing them, I guess its okay. I once saw a piece on TV featuring shoes, and one actress said that once you see a pair of shoes that you really like and you can afford, go buy it because the happiness that it can give you will boost your drive to do better. And for some women, having great footwear has been great inspiration for self esteem. In closing though, I would like to state for the record that I will be clearing up my shoe rack for the summer and giving the shoes that I don’t use at much to church. Maybe someone somewhere who needs the shoes more than I do would love them as much as I have.

loafers from mom. My mom has these in purple and bro also has one in black

Chucks from my brother

Work of Art: The Next Great Artist

The other night, I caught the finale of Work of Art, The Next Great Artist, a reality competition produced by Bravo TV pitting 14 young artists against each other for a chance to have a show at the Brooklyn Museum and a shot at a $100,000 purse. I wasn’t able to follow this show religiously but I must admit that I liked the episodes that I did catch.

The show is hosted by China Chow (I really don’t know who she is but she is a great host) and judged by powerhouses in the art industry Bill Powers, an owner of a New York gallery and literary art contributor; Jerry Saltz, art critic for New York Magazine, and Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, curator and owner of Salon94 gallery. Serving as the Tim Gunn of the show is art auctioneer Simon de Pury.

What I really liked about the show is that it gives viewers an in depth look into the working process of the artists, and how they interact with each other during this process. I don’t think that they air everything that goes on in the house but its interesting to see how they use different mediums to get their message across. I, for one, am not very creative or artsy, but the show inspires me to try my hand at scribbles and doodles and the occasional art project.

Personally, I wanted 23-year-old Miles Mendelhall to win. I like his style and his dedication to his art, and I liked that he had direction. He knew his strengths and used them throughout the competition landing him in the Top 3. Unfortunately though, his last show missed the mark entirely, failing to convey his message about death. The abstract of the black hole was a nice touch though. I was sad to see him go.

Peregrine is no doubt a great artist, and I loved her take on death with the photo of twin baby fawns, as well as her wax horse. I thought her work was whimsical and inspires people to revisit their childhoods, but I didn’t think that it was fitting for a venue such as the Brooklyn Museum.

I think Abdi deserved to win. He was very open and well liked by his fellow competitors, and he is such a great sculptor. His message was clearly depicted by his artwork, which was dark but relatable, which is the primary objective of having the show in the first place. It was also very cool in the sense that it could appeal to the young and to art afficionados at the same time. His show was right up the alley of the Brooklyn Museum and showed depths to his skills, that was just the tip of the iceberg of what he is still able to accomplish.

All in all, Work of Art is a great show. It’s cool and its fresh. Its the Project Runway for the art set. As soon as its out on DVD, I’m scheduling a marathon. I recommend that you do so as well. :-)

The Romantics: Exploring the depths of love and friendship

Galt Niderhoffer’s The Romantics premiered in Sundance last year and was released in US theaters in September, but I don’t think it was shown in the Philippines at all. Too bad, Anna Pacquin fans would have liked to see her on screen again playing another character than the fierce Sookie Stackhouse in True Blood.

The Romantics is based on a novel with the same title written by the film’s director and screenwriter Niederhoffer. So audiences who loved the book would be sure that the writer’s vision and its interpretation on screen would be spot on. Personally, I liked the trailer of the movie more than the movie itself. Not having read the book, the trailer was presented more simply. A group of college friends, known as The Romantics for their incestuous dating history, head to the hometown of their golden girl Lila Hayes (Pacquin), who is set to marry another one their own, Tom (Josh Duhamel), who dated maid of honor Laura (Katie Holmes) for five years before getting involved with Lila. The events all take place the day before the wedding until the wedding day itself and reveals the complexity of the characters and the friendships they have formed.

Viewers who expect The Romantics to be a romantic comedy would be sorely disappointed. Neither is it a film about friendship because half the time, I was wondering why the characters would do the things that they do if they really loved each other like they claimed. The dialog was compelling, and made reference to literary classics (They were lit majors in college) in their intellectual debate about love, and describing their complicated feelings for each other. While listening to the dialog, I felt like it was better suited for books where readers would be able to savor and digest it for hours (because, really, they were good) For the movie though, keeping it simple would have been better as it would have communicated to the audiences more.The chemistry between Tom and Laura was very strong though and that would have served as an indication of what his feelings were stronger for.

The Romantics + J Crew

What I found problematic with the film was that it made me question the sort of friendship that the characters had. 1. Why would Lila, who was very competitive in college with Laura, and know that she had feelings for Tom, ask her to be the maid of honor if not to rub it in her face that she won? 2. If Laura was really good friends with Lila, whom she said she treated like a sister, why did she not tell her before the party that she and Tom last saw each other before the proposal and had unfinished business instead of waiting until the last minute and airing her objections? 3. Why would Lila insist on the wedding when it was obvious that she was not in love with Tom (well, it didn’t come through like she did)? 4. And why was there no guilt when the other friends switched partners and attempted to cheat on each other?

Wow, this film is twisted on so many levels. However, credit goes to Niederhoffer for making sure that all the characters had their moments and uncovering various facets of their character in different scenes throughout the movie. While the film was not lengthy, viewers would be equal parts angry and sympathetic to the controlling Lila, as well as with Laura, whose character is admirable and pitiful at the same time. And Tom, leave us not forget the “catch” that is Tom, whom the women were fighting over, who is torn from being with the woman whom he truly loves and the woman he is marrying because she is safe. Makes you want to clock him one despite his hotness, huh?

What I liked about the film is that the characters are all flawed, but they are relatable. The scoring deserves a shoutout for being equal parts whimsical and offbeat which strengthens the moods in the scenes. Niderhoffer uses this story to illustrate how imperfections define people, and how friends don’t judge and accept blindly and unconditionally for the most part. The movie makes viewers take a look at themselves and their own lovelives and friendships, and thank their lucky stars that they are not part of this rowdy but lovable group, whose drama could rival Days of Our Lives. The film had a hanging ending, and leaves audiences to conclude who Tom would eventually end up, but if he didn’t end up with anybody (both women are too good for him, in my opinion), it would still be okay.