‘The Mistress’: Movie Review

Misleading, but surprisingly interesting.

I never thought that I would be writing about Philippine cinema here. Hell, I never even thought I would be writing about Philippine cinema of my own accord EVER – years of having to analyze movies for class has left me scarred (I thought permanently) by recycled plots and cringe-worthy dialogue.

And yet, here we are.

Here’s the thing – I did not even want to watch this. I heard about it from friends who saw the trailer on television, and didn’t bother to ask what it was about. All I knew was just that the leads of this new flick also did another little movie quite some time back called One More Chance.

And by “little” I mean either “popular favorite” or “quoted daily.”

Thus, I spent the better part of two weeks thinking it was going to be the classic Pinoy fare of soapy romance, secrets, noble idiocy, and a gun somewhere.

I know, I know – I was being unfair. Even the aforementioned One More Chance had more substance than its immortal one-liner, and I can think of other movies, such as For the First Time (starring KC Concepcion and Richard Gutierrez, back in 2008), that surprised me as well.

But you really can’t put all the blame on me. I mean, come on – The Mistress? I thought it was going to be a rehash of the parade of movies tackling the same theme within recent years. And those movies, sadly, I cannot even remember. Sorry.

(Here’s your friendly neighborhood SPOILER WARNING.)

Anyway, the mistress in, well, The Mistress, is Sari Alfonso (Bea Alonzo), a wardrobe mistress (the female equivalent of master cutter in a tailoring shop, and yes, I see what they did there) who catches the attention of JD Torres (John Lloyd Cruz), an architect. Of course, the married man Sari is carrying on with just so happens to be JD’s father – well, at least in name, as apparently the whole Torres family is chock full of infidelity. Hijinks ensue.

It’s not a perfect movie – I mean, there are some song choices that probably should not have been featured so prominently (okay, ONE song choice. Seriously, though – Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol? I appreciate the effort, and the lyrics actually kind of mirror the situation, but that song has been fully claimed and run to the ground by Grey’s Anatomy around six years ago. It was distracting.), some camera angles that probably need to be reevaluated, some transitions that probably could have been cleaned up a bit better. Some character beats could have been even more grounded by their fundamental motivations, and some scenes were not entirely necessary. But, I must admit – The Mistress surprised me, and that is probably one of the best compliments I can give a movie.

There is this scene where JD lets Sari take his measurements for a suit, and another where Sari practically forces herself on JD. It’s a great testament to both actors (I think Bea Alonzo wins by a hair here, though) how painfully layered their performances are. JD being attracted-angry-confused-hurt-frustrated in the first scene, and Sari being every kind of hurt there can be in the other – it is amazing to watch.

We have gone a long way in terms of setting up a scene as well. The one where JD gets his suit measurements comes right after a string of scenes that have him as perfect – seeing him suddenly simmering with all the emotions I enumerated gets you to sit up and ask yourself, “what did I miss?” After a few more confusing sequences, the film relents, and then flashbacks to the shouting match JD had with his father, where Sari is revealed to be his dad’s mistress. On Sari’s end, the string of scenes relating to her Thursdays – her going into the house, cooking, cleaning up, dressing in pearls – makes the inevitable meeting with JD’s father even more uncomfortable to watch.  The placement of scenes makes everything carry that much more weight, and bring with it a ton more thrill.

I could say quite a bit more, but I must confess that it is not the characters, the plot, or the directorial work that got me sold on this movie. It was the score.

I’ll talk about this particular quirk of mine more when I get the chance, but, needless to say, if a piece of background music catches my attention, it is most likely to be very, very good. I have rarely encountered the use of music to highlight mood in Philippine film before – generally speaking, we use music as space fillers (just so a scene isn’t too quiet or serious) or mood markers (a sad song for the sad bits, and oh-no music for the oh-no moments). Here, a little piano and percussion ditty ebbs and flows through the scenes, not signaling mood but accompanying it. I am not kidding when I say that I stayed five more minutes in the theater to hear more of the melody in the credits.

If The Mistress is the herald for the future for Philippine mainstream film, well then sign me up and get me on board. There are good things coming.

(I think it goes without saying, but just in case: these are opinions. All I want is to agree or agree to disagree. Also, I am not kidding about that score. Does anybody have ideas on how to obtain it? Thanks!)

‘The Dark Knight Rises’ News: Bane Unveiled

I know I will be getting a lot of flack for this one, but I’m not really a Batman fan. I don’t find myself in my usual tizzy (as you can see here and here) over pre-production, casting, and promotional news of the Dark Knight. It has usually been an after thing, after I have seen the movie – that is when the greatness gives me a (well-deserved) wallop.

Then I go online, stumble here, and see this.

Holy cow.

It’s like the walloping came early.

‘The Hunger Games’ News: Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss in EW Cover

Well, hallelujah. What’s great about this cover (you can see EW’s article here) is that it fits what the audience needs perfectly. Ever since Jennifer Lawrence was cast the role of Katniss Everdeen, a lot of people – including me – have had a hard time imagining the beautiful blonde bombshell to be the beautiful-yet-dangerous Girl on Fire.

A bow and arrow just doesn't fit, does it?

I know she is a brilliant actress – you don’t get tons of accolades and an Academy Award nomination if you’re not up to snuff. However, the question really is about her being the right kind of actress. Although many have pointed to her role as Ree Dolly in Winter’s Bone as sufficient reference for that, I still found myself pretty ambivalent.

Well, basically, I’m a believer now.

I just wish that they would decide to show pictures of what Peeta looks like (in my head, Josh Hutcherson can never be blonde) as well as Gale (in my head, Liam Hemsworth cannot be Gale) next. I’ll be watching the movie at any rate, but since I am sold on everybody now except these two, I hope the people down at the Hunger Games headquarters would go for a home run as soon as they can.

Community Recap: For a Few Paintballs More

I love Community. It’s one of those shows that feels like there is some relationship between you, like you are friends (on some insane cosmic level), mainly because it makes you feel like it is talking to you, like it is laughing with you, like it knows you. This episode reminded me of that, but not for the most obvious reasons.

In fact, For a Few Paintballs More squeezed out fewer laughs from me than usual, and I would not consider it one of the most mind-blowing episodes of Community ever.

That does not mean I did not enjoy it, though. I did, but not in the way that one enjoys watching a movie or having a new experience – I enjoyed it in the way one enjoys hearing a friend talk about a movie, or recount their new experiences. I felt as if Community was talking to me about something they love, and because of that, because of their enthusiasm and daring in telling the story they wanted to tell, I cannot help but appreciate all of it, and be pulled in just the same.

Yeah.

So, the great culprit for this madness of a paintball game is none other than City College, Greendale’s archenemy, head by the delightfully evil Dean Spreck. I really like seeing the two deans play off against each other, since they’re completely insane in drastically different ways. I would really love to see a flashback episode on their rivalry – it would be a great excuse to bring back the chemistry between Dean Spreck and Dean Pelton. And, yes – that last sentence was meant to be ambiguous.

"I'd say."

Apparently, City College’s evil plan is to demolish Greendale from the inside out, and basically sponsor the competition that would destroy the Greendale campus in its course. By this point the school has already been trashed, so the main objective now for the Human Beings is to win the paintball game, and donate the $100,000 they had been promised to Greendale so that the damage to the school could be repaired.

General greatness ensues, as they plan to defeat City College by drawing the Troopers from the paintball gatling gun and into the library. This would allow Troy (heading Operation: Troy’s Awesome Plan) to rig the sprinkler system so that it would douse paint on anyone in the library, Jeff (heading Operation: Actual Operation) to storm the Pistol Patty’s van, and allow everyone to look awesome doing so.

Of course, things do not go as planned – Jeff’s team is no match for the numbers against them, while Troy’s escape route is blocked by Gareth (literally).  Troy decides to sacrifice all the men in the library – but Shirley has other plans, and escapes through the front door after pulling the fire alarm. After rescuing Britta from a tight spot using a Greendale golf cart (they have those?), they practically do a drive-by on every Storm Trooper in sight. Britta is shot, but Shirley survives – until she is hit by two remaining Troopers, or three, as one more joins the high-fiving duo. But wait – it’s Pierce! He shoots the two dumbstruck goons, gives the prize money to Greendale, and Dean Pelton faints.

That’s basically it, but the charm of Community, as I have said, is how they manage to fit in the characters’ stories into the context of the episode. Take Jeff and Troy for example – when they butt heads in taking the leadership of the Greendale counter-assault, I feel echoes in their dynamic from Mixology Certification. At the end, when Jeff asks Troy to make his suggestion on the class the group should take together, you can see the two men respecting each other – all because of the day’s events.

"Dude, I promise - we WILL bond. Just not now."

Even Abed and Annie get their share, as their story takes the pretty surprising form of a little flirtation throughout the episode. Although it is pretty funny seeing Abed-as-Han-Solo making passes at Annie, the whole thing is strikingly similar to the Abed-as-Don-Draper scene in Physical Education, and even recalls the Abed-as-elf-maiden and Annie-as-Hector-the-Well-Endowed fantasy sex scene in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. It makes you wonder at how these characters tick. Why is Annie attracted to the guys that seem unavailable (also known as All the Guys in the Study Group That is Not Pierce, at varying points in time)? If Abed can only interact with others when he is playing a role, does that mean that, if this condition were stripped away, he would pursue Annie? It sets up a new pairing for sure, and allows Alison Brie and Danny Pudi to play on their inherent chemistry, but it also lets our characters have more dimensions to them, and that is ALWAYS a good thing.

Most importantly, Pierce, the character in most need of revival from the stock types we have seen from him this season, gets his voice heard and his side explained. We learn that he has been a Greendale student for twelve years, and that he views the school as the only place that has accepted him (thus explaining the completely non-dickish move of giving Greendale the hundred thousand dollars). We also learn that he has the tendency to push people away, and although this falls slightly into the exposition category, the fact that he mentions his wives makes the statement more of a self-awareness kind of thing. These bits of information make his eventual decision to leave the group clearer – in my opinion, he feels like he is going to be left behind a lot, so he has a greater tendency (some would say ability) to move on. This choice sets up a whole new realm of possibilities for the show’s third season, but I have a feeling that we will not be seeing Pierce any less come fall.

Overall, even though I may not have enjoyed the second part of the finale as much as I did the first, it was still fantastic and very interesting. I’ll surely be back for more of this come September.

Stray Observations:

  • I guess Dean Pelton was really hard to find, as For a Few Paintballs More starts a few hours after A Fistful of Paintballs ends.
  • Is Red-haired Guy the dude that snapped a picture of Slater’s ass back in Season 1?
  • I got a newfound appreciation for Dean Pelton this episode – he’s panicking, he got hit by a LOT of paintballs (at least, that’s what they’re making it seem like), and his first words are “Hi, Pistol Patty… Did they take you hostage?” It’s crazy.
  • The Pistol Patty costume must have a voice-changer thingamajig somewhere – I just can’t imagine Dean Spreck making the voice we heard in A Fistful of Paintballs.
  • Jim Rash is consistently stealing the show with the slightest of things – in this episode, it is a sigh.
  • Abed’s got a point – Jeff would obviously be Han Solo by default.
  • Magnitude’s dive to shield everybody from the paint bomb is really cool.
  • There’s some kind of sight gag with the flags. That’s all I can say.

  • Damn, Alison Brie is hot AND awesome. That’s pretty rare, folks.
  • When Abed goes into a role, he really goes into a role doesn’t he? He even gets Han Solo’s affectations and shooting stance – props to the brilliant Danny Pudi.
  • Nice callback to Troy’s super plumbing skills.
  • I knew somebody would do the shoot-bullets-to-get-everyone’s-attention thing.
  • Dean Pelton looks pretty happy when he learns (falsely from Pierce) that Jeff wants to be a ballerina.
  • Quendra with a “Qu” is here? WOW.
  • No war scene is ever complete without an inspirational speech from a character about to die.
  • Or a really awesome quip from someone about to become riddled with bullet holes/paint splats.
  • Donald Glover’s shaking while getting shot was really unbelievably funny.
  • THIS.
  • Pierce’s faking a heart attack thing is really effective, wouldn’t you agree? Plus, the City College people (or at least the guys Dean Spreck brought along) have a similar reaction to it: “Hey, buddy, are you okay?”
  • Can it be possible to look hot when you’re covered in orange paint? Apparently yes – it is when you’re Alison Brie.

  • Shirley says “Aw, we win!” in the same manner as when she says “Aw, that’s nice!”
  • Laurie and Travis are Human Beings, too!

  • Aren’t there crystals that act as deodorants?
  • The awesome janitor is back, just in time to witness Abed’s lack of sarcasm-detection skills.

Quotes:

  • “That doesn’t make sense – why would someone who gets paid to do things be at Greendale?”
  • “Hello, Craig.”
  • “But if you need to explain it to your men, I would understand.”
  • “How could a dean be so mean?”
  • “Oh, you haven’t seen how mean this dean can be… ean.”
  • “Juggleknob.”
  • “You’re the worst!” “Okay, she is just saying that to fit in.”
  • “First off, POP POP!”
  • “Give me the vest, Laser Breath – before our conversation gets nasty.”
  • “Dammit, Shirley! Forget about your newborn child and think about the people that need you!”
  • “Pop…” “Pop? Pop what? Pop what?! WHAT IS HE TRYING TO SAY – POP WHAT?!?”
  • “Those guys are ballers, yo. I hope you like getting balled.”
  • “‘For Greendale’ on three. One… Two…” “Jeff, every second counts. ‘For Greendale’ on two.”
  • “Our sperm counts are higher – EVEN IN OUR WOMEN.”
  • “Welcome to Greendale.” “You’re already dead.”
  • “You like me because I’m immature. There’s not enough immaturity in your life.”
  • “I hope I don’t get shot out here. I’d hate to go home to my babies.”
  • “I do happen, Jeff. I happen VERY MUCH.”
  • “I don’t take orders from girls – because they don’t talk to me!”
  • “Everyone look alive – Leonard, good enough.”
  • “One… Two…” “VICKIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII!!!”
  • “Can we move this along? I’m missing CSI.”
  • “CHAAAAAAAAAAAARGE!” <gets shot> “Well, I’m out. We lost.”
  • “Britta, I’ve been in a few real wars, but this one is actually the most terrifying.”
  • “I had a dream it would end this way.”
  • “Will you still be Han Solo after we die?” “‘Fraid not, doll – once I’m gone, I’m gone.”
  • “Who are you?” “Your mother’s lover!”
  • “Too risky – sequels are almost always disappointing.”
  • “I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I’ve decided we should sleep on it.”
  • “I’ve seen this behavior before. In cats. My cats.”
  • “Doing anything fun for this summer?” “No plans.”

Fringe News: Seth Gabel Promoted to Series Regular

Seth Gabel, the actor portraying Lincoln Lee (and, well, Lincolnate) in the science fiction series Fringe, has been promoted to go full-time in the show’s fourth season, according to TV Line.

I haven’t seen the Fringe finale yet, but if it gets the awesome Seth Gabel injecting all his awesomeness into our nerdy Lincoln Lee and the Red Universe’s bad-ass Lincolnate, I’m a happy idiot.

"I'm awesome."

I guess it was a matter of time, though, as the writers of Fringe made it pretty clear that FBI Agent Lee would be returning to help our team solve the “mysteries of the universe” – they just did not specify in what capacity. Could this mean that he would be leaving Hartford to be a permanent part of the Fringe Division? Maybe. He wouldn’t be a bad addition – he practically solved the case in the ‘Stowaway’ episode.

"But... I'm awesome, too."

But then, what about Lincolnate, head honcho of Over There’s Fringe Division? I don’t know if the show would be willing to sacrifice characters they fought so hard to make three-dimensional, so I’m guessing there would be “another way,” as Peter would say. I’ll update this as soon as I figure out what the hell is going to happen next season.

As of now, though, I’m ECSTATIC. More Lincoln Lee! <happy dance>

Community Recap: A Fistful of Paintballs

To be completely honest, this section of my blog was supposed to start during the summer season of American television, mainly because the timing provides me with the opportunity to start my ranting at the beginning of every story arc, and also because there are fewer shows to think about (just True Blood and Covert Affairs). But then, because of the general greatness of the shows I love (and since I am an addict, there are quite a lot of them), I decided to start the recapping at their finale episodes, and see how it all plays out in the fall.

(Oh, for the curious out there: this episode of Community is not the last episode of the season – it’s just that the network has identified the last two episodes as a two-parter finale. I will have another post up as soon as I watch next week’s episode and wipe up what I expect to be my brain matter splattered on the floor.)

I read an article once that said that Community is one of those shows that either you understand, or you don’t. It is an ultimatum, really, and I cannot expect a less risky move from what I consider to be the most daring comedy ever made. It works, however, and when you find yourself understanding whatever the hell they are saying, doing, or trying to do, you don’t just ‘get it’ – you are pushed into the rabbit hole and forced to swallow the red pill. There is no going back.

Although every episode is fantastic and most of them are mind-blowing, only a few episodes remind me of that brilliant feeling of no return, and A Fistful of Paintballs is one of them. What strikes me most is the balance of it all – because Community is a terrifyingly high-concept show, sometimes the more traditional parts of what make a great comedy, like plot and character, get a bit neglected. This episode, to me, is Community at its best – the kind of best that makes people consider recapping the whole slew of finales just so they could talk about it.

I haven’t seen her so much during the previous few episodes that when Annie dropped in (literally) to save Fat Neil from the bullies, I promptly wrote “so bad-ass” in my notes. Alison Brie (who is hot as hell) is fantastic as always in lending Annie that mixture of tough and sweet, and the whole first scene just set up the rest of the episode nicely.

The whole flashback scene was pretty great as well – the whole mess apparently started during the end of the year’s hoedown and picnic (seriously, isn’t Greendale like Stars Hollow or that high school in Mystic Falls? They probably have more events in a year than I have had years). To end the school year, Pistol Patty’s Cowboy Creamery (a place whose mascot is a gigantic ice cream cone) would be sponsoring a game of paintball, and to make sure the school would not be trashed (again), the prize they had was sufficiently less valuable than priority registration, or so they assure the Dean. What was the prize? A hundred thousand dollars. Cash.

Yeah.

It is a wonderful premise, and it quickly turns Greendale into a Western movie complete with deputies and Fort Hawthorne’s. It is Community all the way for sure, with a billion references to various parts of popular culture and a lot of action-packed sequences to boot. However, with all this madness (and the appearance of Josh Holloway as the Black Rider), the way the writers weaved in all we have been building up to in terms of Pierce’s story line is pretty amazing as well.

Now, I thought that these playing card nicknames for each member of our study group meant something about their personality or something like that. But, as it turns out, they were their votes on the issue on whether or not to invite Pierce back to the group next school year. The vote had to be unanimous, but there was one odd card – Annie’s red Ace of Hearts.

It is an interesting reveal, and it makes me wonder how (and if) Pierce would redeem himself in the eyes of his friends. I think he will, but that is mainly because I haven’t heard any news regarding Chevy Chase – it would be really difficult to keep him as a main cast member if he did not interact frequently with the others, and a villain can only be there for so long before he has to be vanquished. I’ll just hold tight for the ride.

Stray observations:

  • I really appreciate the Community team for the title sequence. It serves its purpose to fit the mood of the episode, but it also shows how much these people love their show.
  • What’s with the BBE SUCKS on the Chemistry lab board and the Anthropology classroom wall?
  • There are no words for what Dean Pelton is wearing.
  • Only Danny Pudi can make me laugh by saying “seeing as I’m eating your beans.”
  • I screamed “Sawyer!” when I saw Josh Holloway. Damn I’m a nerd – I don’t even watch Lost for crying out loud.
  • I have a feeling people made GIFs of Alison Brie running.
  • Donald Glover can say “Abed!” all day. It will never get old.
  • Vicki and Gareth dancing like that makes me uncomfortable.
  • Chang must have some uncanny spatial awareness to run (and HIDE) without hitting a wall.
  • Alison Brie and Josh Holloway have some really nice chemistry.
  • Even the Black Rider’s breathing is gravelly.
  • The way Jim Rash stuck his hip out is fall-to-the-floor hilarious.
  • Oh, for the B story (which will probably be next week’s A): the paintball game is apparently “so much bigger than you could imagine” – the Black Rider was hired to take out the Greendale students so that the ice cream company would keep their money. As the episode ends, we see Storm Trooper-like henchmen get out of the Pistol Patty’s truck, with their ice cream cone of a leader commencing “Plan B: Operation Invasion.”
  • Next week will feature a war of sorts between Greendale Community College and Pistol Patty’s Cowboy Creamery. Damn, I’m excited already.

Quotes:

  • “We’re friends, Annie, remember? We played Dungeons and Dragons together.”
  • “That was a game. This is paintball.” (Crap, Alison Brie was REALLY HOT when she said this.)
  • “Yeah? And I want pants. A lot of people want a lot of things.”
  • “Math Club! I’m Asian. You guys Asian?”
  • On Pierce’s poster of Jeff – “Wanted: Gay and Alive”
  • “My forehead’s not that big, right?” “It’s not small.”
  • “Okay, but he’s not really riding anything…”
  • “I found that people were willing to roll bullets under the door just for the right to take a dump.”
  • “De-doi.”
  • “Who are you?” “I’m the bad guy.”
  • “Stop trying to fluster me with your handsomeness!”
  • “I get paid to shoot paintballs, honey, not the breeze.”
  • “What kind of ice cream company does this?”
  • “The key is in my shorts. I can get it out – I guess.”
  • “Now let’s see who’s attractive.” “Dude, you have a problem.”
  • “She’s pretty awesome today.”
  • “I know you’ve heard of me by now.” “No.” “He’s lying.”
  • “The gurgling’s a nice touch.”
  • “Coldplay?” “Too late, Bean Allergy.”

‘The Host’ News: Saoirse Ronan cast

Saoirse Ronan, star of Atonement (the cheeky fellows out there might remember her as The Interruption Kid), The Lovely Bones and the upcoming Hanna (well, at least here in the Philippines), has been cast in the leading role of The Host, the big-screen adaptation of the book by Stephenie Meyer of Twilight fame, New York Magazine reports.

Well, well, well. This is news to me – I didn’t know they were actually going to make a The Host movie, and I didn’t know that Saoirse Ronan was in talks to be cast as Melanie/Wanda. It’s not all that surprising, though, what with all the Young Adult-centered movie news nowadays as The Twilight Saga winds down and The Hunger Games fills its cast, that news of less-followed books getting the silver screen treatment get overlooked. I am not being mean with the ‘less-followed’ comment by the way – it’s just that, compared to the Twihards and the Hunger Games fanatics (like me), The Host has a more modest fan base.

I won’t go into my analysis of the book – I would say, however, that The Host provides a very interesting take on the dystopian future. Although there are rough spots, such as incredibly cheesy dialog and a really irritating deus ex machina, it was a pleasant read as a whole.

Saoirse Ronan

It is interesting that they cast Saoirse Ronan into the role of Melanie/Wanda, though. In the book, Melanie (the human) is said to be quite older than Saoirse’s 17 years, an important point in establishing her relationship with Jared (one of the male leads), and something to consider in Wanda’s (the alien) relationship to Ian (another male lead). I do not know if she will be asked to portray an older age than her own, but, really, I can’t see her as anything but a teenager at this point. She projects strength, however, and her performances suggest that she can do nuances in character pretty well; I believe that both aspects are important in portraying the human-saddled-by-an-alien in Meyer’s book. I have faith that she will do well, or, at the very least, not look like a girl who stares into space a lot (my original fear in this book’s movie adaptation).

This move by the casting director also puts the film in largely YA-territory – although the book was labeled as adult fiction (and had its share of adult situations – just the SFW-kind). I’m guessing the studios are trying to follow-up on Meyer’s success when it comes to attracting teenage audiences.

I’m pretty hopeful for this one, and I’ll be on the lookout for more news as it nears production. Let’s see.