Puss in Boots: A Belated Review

Following the success of the Shrek films, Dreamworks comes up with a spin off movie, one that tackles the legend of Puss in Boots as a fugitive from the law and a swordsman and ladies’ man extraordinaire. Antonio Banderas returns to the franchise to lend his voice to the adorable ginger feline while Salma Hayek voices the character of Kitty Softpaws, the skilled thief who partners with Puss in his quest for the magic beans, a journey he agrees to take in order to clear his name with his townsfolk and his adopted mother, Imelda. Rounding up the trio is Puss’s estranged childhood friend Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis), a brilliant inventor and master planner who introduced him to the idea of the magic beans when they were still in the orphanage of San Ricardo.

If anybody out of the Shrek franchise deserved a spin off, I would have to agree that it should be Puss. Since he first appeared in Shrek 2, his character has proven to be an interesting subject to flesh out because of his air of mystery and contradictions. In this film, the filmmakers delved into his back story with Humpty and explained his Zorro-esque personality through an entertaining mix of Mexican mariachi music and excellent sword fights. What I liked about the movie was that despite giving human-like characteristics to the lead characters, they did not forget to incorporate mannerisms and skills of felines to Puss and Kitty, like their general sense of curiosity, litheness and grace, which was adorable to watch in adventure after adventure.

While the animation was good, I believe the story could have worked a bit more on the pacing as the flashbacks were a bit dragging and wordy at times . It was also fairly predictable and unoriginal as compared to other animated films being produced now that are stepping up their game in terms of story development.

All in all, Puss in Boots was fairly entertaining although it falls way behind any of the animated features I’ve seen in recent months. While it was undeniably cute, there really should be something more.

Suits: TV’s hottest new Bromance

Suits is a new television series about Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams), a young genius who got kicked off law school because he got caught selling a Math test to the dean’s daughter. In order to survive and pay for his sick grandmother’s medical bills, he resorts to taking SATs for other people and engaging in other illegal activities. In a desperate attempt to earn some extra money, he makes a drug run for his oldest friend Trevor (who caused him to get kicked out of school in the first place) and finds himself in an accidental  interview with Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht, The Spirit), the brilliant senior partner at Pearson Hardman, one of New York’s biggest law offices, to shake off the cops. During the interview, Mike impresses Harvey enough with his intelligence for him to take the risk and hire him as a junior associate despite his lack of a law degree or a Harvard education, but they have to walk on eggshells in order to keep the secret from other partners at the firm, especially Harvey’s jealous rivals.

I love the chemistry and the banter between Harvey and Mike. Mike is adorable as the new kid who is just trying to survive, despite the odds stacked in his favor. His portrayal as a boy genius who is stuck with bad company but has no choice but to use his skills for illegal stuff is very relatable and his character’s quick wit makes him both sympathetic and admirable. Harvey, on the other hand, is brimming with confidence and charm and despite the script’s constant reference to him as a selfish S.O.B., his affection for Mike is obvious from the start and the selfish part really does not peg him in the light of an ogre. There is no need for a gradual melting because the dude is not made of stone in the first place. I enjoyed the duo’s interactions because Harvey doesn’t coddle Mike in the usual mentor-protege relationship. Rather, he treats Mike as an intellectual equal and lets him fend for himself and make his own choices. The reference Mike made comparing himself and Harvey to Batman and Robin was very apt in my opinion because of the similarities of their personalities to the dynamic duo (Batman is more brooding than Harvey, though).

I also like the dialogue between the two (and their delivery) because it makes the law seem cool and interesting.. and fun. Unlike other law dramas, this series is more upbeat, the challenges less severe but still substantial. Also, the secondary characters also add to the series’s strength, and their storylines are already being laid out from the start. The show’s core, I believe, and its biggest strength is the great chemistry among the cast, which is key to keeping the series fresh and unique from other series in the same genre.

I think I’m going to like this series even more in the next episodes. I can’t wait to see what’s in store.

Battleship CHAIR vs DAIR: Faceoff

Now that the Blouis ship has sailed, Gossip Girl fans such as myself are now left with only two leading men in which to choose who the perfect match for the Queen/ Princess B would be.

There is no doubt that my favorite character in the franchise (books and series) is Blair Waldorf and I believe that despite her constant scheming and determination to live a fairy tale life, she really means well. She’s smart, she’s sassy, she’s sophisticated, and even when she falls flat on her face sometimes, she has a strong core that helps her weather out even the most salacious of scandals. So it comes as no surprise that I am truly invested in which storyline she should pursue to get her the happily ever after I believe she deserves. Without further ado, here comes the faceoff.

CHAIR: Chuck Bass and Blair Waldorf

I must admit that there were times when I fell off this ship because of the atrocious things that the Prince of Darkness has committed against our Princess, selling her off to Jack was, for me the most heinous crime of all but somehow, he manages to bounce back from it by doing something awfully selfless that viewers immediately forgive him his offenses. Aside from this, CHAIR is a very intense pairing that runs deep enough that viewers draw from this well of infinite possibilities even when the situations are too far out to even contemplate in real life.

PROS:

1. CHAIR is love: Chuck and Blair have one strong thing going for them and this is that they love each other. This love varies in degrees depending on the status of their relationship but these two have never wanted for making sacrifices for the sake of the other.

2. CHAIR has history: Chuck and Blair came out of the blue. The books did not have the Chair pairing for the first 12 books in the series and only made up for this in the last book (after high school). It was a brilliant turn of events in the first season that led to this complicated pairing of brilliance and deviousness that has kept viewers at the edge of their seats until now.

3. CHAIR has chemistry: When Chuck and Blair are together, they sizzle. Chuck smolders with his bedroom voice and stare, while Blair melts like butter in his hands, all her resolve gone after a night in his company. Deep down, these two are magnetic. They are drawn together time and again, even when they try to stay away from each other.

4. CHAIR has genuine acceptance: Chuck and Blair know each other well enough to think like the same person. They enjoy concocting intricate plots to save their friends and punish their enemies and they are aware of the darkness that is part of the other enough to love  without conditions.

CONS:

1. CHAIR is too alike: Chuck and Blair are like two smoking peas in a pod. They think similarly and act similarly in most occasions and have even joined forces in more than one instance. They support each other unconditionally and this strength actually works as a weakness because they do not have check and balance. When they are going downhill, they go together.

2. CHAIR is a neverending loop: Chuck and Blair have been through a lot. However, at the core of each make up and break up is the same thing. Trust. Business. While Chuck understands now that Blair is more important than any of his material possessions, his status and his determination not to end up like his father and his uncle are strong points that keep him away from his lady love.

DAIR: Dan Humphrey and Blair Waldorf

I was pleasantly surprised when this pairing developed in the last season because Dan and Blair have been on the opposite sides of the fence ever since the first season. If they have not been forced together by circumstance, I didn’t even think that they stood a chance. However, when producers and writers experimented on the relationship, I was all for it because these two are actually kind of cute together. And really, I thought that DAIR had great potential as an end game couple. Especially with Chuck keeping it interesting in the background, this storyline has a long way to go.

PROS:

1. DAIR has honesty: With the issue of trust plaguing the DAIR ship like termites on wood, Dan and Blair have been nothing but real with each other since the get go (except with Dan hiding his true feelings of Blair, but that’s out now. Besides, Blair is a bit dense when it comes to Dan’s subtle hints of affection). Dan can be cynical at times and voice out his opinions even if it clashes against Blair’s and Blair has been nothing but open to Dan about her displeasure at his upbringing, his clothes, opinions, etc. and despite that…

2. DAIR also has acceptance: Dan has been friends (?) with Blair long enough to know her for the ambitious and scheming *itch she can be, but he was also perceptive enough to understand what motivated Blair to become who she was and holds no grudge against her imperfections. Blair too, has been tolerant of Dan’s cynical views about her ‘people’ and recognizes (albeit a bit too recently) his good intentions and loyalty to her as a person and possible girlfriend.

3. DAIR is fresh. Dan and Blair has a history too but not in the romantic front and this is an advantage for the duo because Chair has had several seasons already under their belt. The DAIR pairing is fresh and anticipated by the viewers like what will happen next to this cat and mouse team? Will they work?

4. DAIR has chemistry: Dan and Blair look good together and they’re very comfortable with each other. They interact well together, in both romantic and friendly contexts. They have chemistry but it isn’t all based on lust. They hang out together, watch movies together, are there for each other (Well, Dan is but Blair is getting the hang of it) and their differences provide them banter that Chair does not have. They are also both smart and like the same things and can do a lot more than kiss and plot.

CONS:

1. DAIR is competing with CHAIR: The downside to this experimental pairing is that it is competing with a very strong ship – Chair, that has a very solid fanbase. This early, some viewers have already shot down DAIR because they believe that CHAIR is endgame.

2. DAIR may be boring: While the budding relationship is still new and therefore is still faced with challenges, the question is whether or not Dan’s simple living may be enough for Blair’s fast paced Upper East Side ways? Will the Queen B be content with a more mature, more artistic gentleman than one who wields enough power and money to give her the life she’s always dreamed of? Now, this argument is still a long way off (but I think Dair has enough substance to make it work) so we’ll never know until maybe the next season?

I’ve tried to keep it balanced and fair but what do you think? Vote in the poll and feel free to sound off your opinions. Just refrain from attacking each other even if you feel strongly about your ship. :)

Alvin and the Chipmunks 3: Chipwrecked

I have always enjoyed the Alvin and the Chipmunks movies, along with its formulaic gags and musical numbers. I think the little dudes are not only cute but they also have big personalities that draw in the audience to deliver an entertaining and enjoyable 90 plus minutes of fun and music. That being said, I was totally psyched to see the movie, especially since the first two left me with many fond memories.

Chipwrecked did not steer too far from the original formula, except this time, Dave finds himself in custody of six kids, now including the Chipettes in addition to Alvin, Simon and Theodore. In this sequel, the gang is set for a family vacation on board a luxury boat en route to the International Music Awards where the Chipmunks and the Chipettes are scheduled to perform. As usual, Alvin gets in trouble more times than Dave could count and his antics draw the ire of the ship’s captain, who warns Dave that if Alvin doesn’t behave, they might be asked to leave the ship. As if walking on eggshells wasn’t enough, Ian Hawke (the unscrupulous record producer/manager from the first two movies) makes an appearance. Because of his disgrace from mishandling both the Chipmunks and the Chipettes, he is now left with no choice but to work as the ship’s fun ambassador (read: the ship’s Pelican mascot). In the pursuit of one of Alvin’s harebrained schemes, the gang is accidentally swept away by a strong wind (while trying to parasail) and they get stuck on an island, while Dave and Ian try to rescue them.

Chipwrecked is basically an excuse for the Chipmunks to have an excursion as castaways in a remote island to showcase their musical blending skills and mash up productions. Although it was fun seeing Simon loosen up and do the whole jungle survivor thing with Alvin being the responsible one, the movie was fairly predictable and wasn’t as funny as the first two. There were some antics of note but the rest just felt like rehashes of earlier gags.

The upside to the movie was that the characters were really cute and would really sell for kids and kids at heart. It also had a solid moral lesson about the value of family and forgiveness as they also managed to turn Ian around after his earlier attempts to ruin the lives of both the Chipmunks and the Chipettes. Overall, it felt kind of average and seemed like a mere attempt to cash in on the franchise even more when it already raked in enough from the first two. I must admit that I’m a bit disappointed even though I wasn’t expecting much in the first place.

The Benefits of Walking

While I was commuting to work this morning, stuck in traffic, I was regretting my decision not to alight at Gate 3 of our university to take a 15 minute walk to my office rather than spend the same time mulling about stuff while I inhaled smoke and listened to the noise of the marketplace en route to my place of work.

See, I used to work in the city but decided when the opportunity presented itself that I could take on a job somewhere closer to home. So now, instead of  spending two hours on the bus to go to work everyday, I have cut back the commute to roughly 20 minutes,  30 minutes if the jeepney decides to wait around to get more passengers along the way. Actually, one of the reasons I decided to switch to the academe (my former alma mater) is because of the wide campus that allows me to get up and take a walk in the park (believe me, my school is like a theme park) in case I feel like it. Bottom line, unlike regular offices, there is an option to stretch one’s legs and really get out, rather than stay within a cubicle in front of a computer for an entire eight hours.

To make the long story short, I’ve found a passion for walking while I’ve been here. I’ve never been sporty by nature but I do appreciate the opportunity to exercise, albeit not too strenuously. Here are some of benefits to walking that I could name from the top of my head:

a. Walking is good cardio. Walking provides a great cardio workout and may even provide the same benefits as running provided you walk  a bit faster than your normal pace (which isn’t hard to do) in order to get your blood pumping. There are studies that prove this but I’m no expert so I’ll just stick to the basics.

b. Walking helps you lose weight. I must admit that in the year or so since I’ve worked in the academe and started walking, I’ve managed to lose a bit of weight (roughly 10 lbs) that I’ve put on while overeating in the office (which was entirely my fault because I didn’t know my limits).

c. Walking gives you time to think. Time spent walking gives me the opportunity to think about things with a clearer head, because of the more open environment that gives me a sense of freedom.  Ideas flow more freely and the 15 minutes or so spent walking in the early morning or on the way home in the afternoon are considered refreshing moments to focus on things without any pressure.

d. Walking gives you time to chat with your friends. Walking is a very fun passtime and its even better if you spend it with a walking buddy. You cover more ground faster and you really don’t notice the effort you exert walking because you’re too busy having fun, talking. I’m not sure is talking is considered a form of exercise but if so, then you’re doing two exercises at once. :)

e. Walking gives you time to relax and regroup. After spending hours in front of a monitor, it is a welcome break to see scenes other than the four walls of the office or your cubicle. Walking is a perfect excuse to take a few minutes to relax and appreciate the outdoors.

I’m sure there are a lot more ways in which walking is beneficial. But instead of me telling you what they are, why not step out of your office and take a five minute brisk walk around the corner? It will do wonders for you, I’m sure.

 

 

The Best of Archie Comics: 70th anniversary special

I’ve practically grown up with Archie and his gang. I’ve been reading Archie comics since I was nine and have not stopped since, but I mostly read my old comic books more than buy new ones because I think the older ones are funnier. Still, I occasionally shell out a couple of bucks to update my collection, especially when there are specials involved like The Archie Marries Veronica and Archie Marries Betty arc. When I saw the thick 50-story volume of The Best of Archie edition, I knew that I just had to have it.

The compilation is quite informative and packed with trivia about the origins of Archie and the gang. It features the first appearance in 1941 of Archibald “Chick” Andrews, a country boy trying to impress his new neighbor Betty Cooper in Pep Comics Volume #22. The first version of Archie, while bearing similar personality traits as the current redheaded troublemaker, was actually quite different in the manner he spoke (he had a blown up view of his own importance), and had a stubborn streak a mile wide. The drawings were very crude, unlike more polished comic book versions in the 70s onwards. The special also explains how Veronica Lodge, a sub debutante (whatever that means) from New York, decided to move to Riverdale to come between Archie and his “steady” Betty.

Aside from backgrounders on the featured stories, the special also provides a brief discussion about the conditions during the era when the comics were released to give readers an idea about the influences that affected the stories, and the artwork at the time. What’s cool about the volume is that it features insights from the people behind the Archie comic book franchise — Victor Gorelick, Dan de Carlo, artists, historians and even Spiderman creator Stan Lee and horror novelist Stephen King about how the comic books affected their lives. However, I wasn’t all that entertained about the choices of stories that they featured in the edition.

While there were really funny stories in the selection, I didn’t care much about some (especially those lifted from the specials) because they were incomplete — an example would be the story from the graphic novel Archie: The Married Life where the Lodge Corporation is set to put Pop Tate out of business and Archie is torn about what to do. The story ends with Moose declaring he was running for mayor and then lights out. The next story featured has nothing to do with the last and I suppose that is one of the reasons the volume felt a tad inconsistent and scattered.

What I appreciated about the compilation though, is that it managed to illustrate the evolution of America’s favorite teenager, as well as the franchise (the compilation included stories about Josie and the Pussycats, Super Duck, Katy Keene, That Wilkin Boy Bingo, and the original Wilkin character Wilbur that predated Archie, and the teenage version of Jinx). At times I thought that the selection of some of the newer titles owed to the fact they were using the compilation to promote the new lines, but that’s just me.

All in all, I think Archie’s greatest strength is its ability to draw in readers into the gang by having characters that are identifiable. This is the reason why even stories dating back to the 70’s still manage to strike a  connection with teens of today. Archie never goes out of style, the clothing may change, as well as the lingo, but Archie is universal. Knowing him for over two decades has been awesome but knowing him beyond those years through this special is even more spectacular. Reading this comic (book) made me feel like I’ve been inducted into a very special club.

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac: Japanese Movie Review

I don’t know why I”m a big fan of Horikita Maki, perhaps because most of the Japanese dramas I’ve seen has featured her in the lead or perhaps because she has that girl next door vibe that simply wants the audience to root for her. In Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, a movie based on a novel by Gabrielle Zevin of the same title, Maki once again uses her charm to get audiences to sympathize with the plight of her character — a girl who  loses her memory of the last four years of her life after she falls from a flight of stairs in an accident.

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac is a coming of age film about college student Naomi Sukuse (Maki), a popular Japanese girl dating one of the most sought after guys in the international school she is attending – Ace Zuckerman (Anton Yelchin). Naomi not only excels in her academics but also shines as a tennis star and member of the yearbook committee, which she co-edits with her best friend Mirai Hasegawa (Yuya Tegoshi), a guy who is secretly in love with her. When Naomi breaks up with Zuckerman, Mirai tries to find the confidence to propose to her but before he does, she falls from a flight of stairs trying to save a camera. When she regains consciousness, she forgets everything about the last four years of her life, including Mirai. While struggling to put the pieces of her life together, she meets Miwa Yuji (Ken’ichi Matsuyama, who played my beloved L in the Death Note Live Action series), a troubled teen whom she builds a relationship with.

YOUNG LOVE. Yuji gives Naomi a kiss after he helps her complete her class project.

Overall, the film had a general sense contemplation, from the point of view of Naomi, as she tries to regain footing in a world that has suddenly become unfamiliar to her. As she finds her way, she connects with another lost soul Yuji, whose family issues keep him from building a normal and stable relationship with Naomi.

The story progresses very slowly and at times employs a surrealistic approach, using pictures as representations of Naomi’s broken memories. Since the setting was in Japan, it was no wonder that elements of family were present, even at the backdrop of the story. I liked the character of Yuji. He was very unpredictable and I kept thinking that something bad was going to happen to him. In contrast, Mirai was very endearing and dependable — the formulaic best friend who patiently waits for the heroine to see him as anything other than a buddy. I liked how he still looked out for Naomi even though she didn’t remember him and the fact that he didn’t want to burden her with his feelings when she was confused about her identity. I felt however, that Naomi had better chemistry with Yuji because of his dynamic personality, which was a foil to Naomi’s quietness.

WHO WILL SHE PICK? Maki is flanked by her two leading men, Yuya (left) and Ken'ichi.

The ending made a lot of sense but some would much rather Naomi went the other direction. Other than that, audiences will surely appreciate the appearance of Hollywood star Emma Roberts in a small role as Alice Leeds — well, Anton Yelchin’s  role was a bit bigger but still not the considered a lead. It’s also great to hear Japanese actors speak in English (Maki’s delivery was surprisingly good). It was a good movie, although there were times I felt a bit disconnected to the characters, perhaps because English is not their native tongue and still felt foreign on them resulting in the loss of some emotion they would have delivered fully in plain Japanese.  All in all, it was a complete movie, that served up an equal sense of wonder and discovery, confusion and misery — the same ones regular teens without amnesia experience everyday in their lives. I’m sure that a lot can relate to this film.