Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Review: Shanghai Kiss

“Anything’s possible, that’s the beauty of life.” – a worn out adage, used innumerably on novels and films, and even those annoying optimists that wiggle around societal circles. Shanghai Kiss lives with this adage, a conventional proverb presented in the most entertaining and interesting way.

It’s a journey of a man of Chinese decent figuring out who he is and what he wants in life, where in the land of milk and honey (note: it’s a global perspective, can’t ignore the current economic crunch US folks are experiencing) he can’t seem to find his niche, his call to success.

Liam played by Ken Leung, throughout the film endures looking for love in all the wrong places, having a secret relationship with a sixteen year old high school student played by Hayden Penettiere, of Heroes fame, he met in a bus in LA and an intricate collection of women he picks up in bars.

Every woman might think he’s a living breathing A-Hole with no inclination to ethics and morals but what makes this character beautiful to watch is his guilt stricken moments when he cheats on his teenage lover. These moments create humanity in Ken’s portrayal of Liam, his epic struggle on two clashing principles, fighting desire for flesh and desire for a devoted and sincere relationship.

His inner conflicts are portrayed so vividly that it sucks anyone in to his conundrum. The issue Liam goes through is realistic on anyone’s account.

The film tackles his reluctance to pursue a relationship with a sixteen year-old in fear of a crime that’s essentially questionable since it still assumes the mental incapacity of minors to be in a consensual relationship with someone older throws him in a situation where he wants to but he just can’t.

And yet the positivism that Hayden Panettiere exudes for her role is exceptional, that seeing her with Liam whose twelve years older seems so right. Her optimism and dedication for the relationship is an outright stark contrast to what Liam offers. I’m just freaked out on the prospect of dirty old men fantasizing of having a secret young lover as hot and enchanting as Hayden.

A good chunk of viewers, especially male viewers, would strongly relate to Liam. And isn’t this one of holy grails of filmmaking? -- The creation of a determinate connection between the audience and the film? Shanghai Kiss executes this oh so well.

The film is full of symbolisms – Liam’s Mini Cooper and mirror reflections. Well this could all be coincidence and could be deciphered by the viewer but the director never really meant to portray that message. But if observed more, the dirt, bumps, and dents on Liam’s Cooper symbolic explanation of who he is and what he’s been through.

Witty and self-deprecating humour fills that vacuum of optimism and within a depressed and lost character. The relationships that are built around Liam is amazingly thought out and well written.

Shanghai Kiss reminds me of Lost Translation when Liam’s in Shanghai in search for his roots and identity, the scenic urban shots and language barrier interactions makes him so helpless and lost.

Each character has their personal struggles, and yet hope still exists within each of them, pushing them on for what they aspire – and that’s what makes Shanghai Kiss so human. It’s relentless exhibition of human imperfections and how each deals with them.

When the film stops rolling or should I say stop spinning? Shanghai Kiss successfully reaches out to the audience clearly stating that the possibilities are out there, and that’s the beauty of life – the conclusion fulfils that.

It serves as an inspiration to all on how one can be so different and realize that difference is from within. We are all different, therefore are difference is our commonality, that difference becomes a common ground for which people of different race and background can connect and break social barriers.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Review: MM

Never been a fan of horror flicks nor have I ever clinched to the urge to watch any film that freely depicts graphic mutilation and torture. More so, watching B-list actors portray unconvincing fear, loss, and grief is the most painful thing to watch. Midnight movie encapsulates these cliché and horror film conventions and yet it kept me on, just to see what’s next and witness first hand how the story unfolds.

The script holds the movie together and gives it the upper hand over the countless horror gore-infested films released every year.

Scenes where the antagonist drags his victims to an enigmatic room is an ingenious way to keep the audience stuck to their seats. The myriad guesses within the viewer’s mind slightly alleviates the agonizing moments of witnessing abysmal character development and casting – an American chief detective with a German accent? Not that I have anything against Germans being a chief detective in US soil but stick to the minor conventions and stereotypes. It throws away the focus of the audience and opens doors for them to ponder on the reasons behind such logic unless the story develops more on the character introduced.

Also, some aspects of the film could be derived as comedic and lame. The doctor’s scream in the first few scenes was an epic fail but laughable nonetheless. On a positive light, it could be this great grand scheme by the writer/director to ease the audience slowly into the film to relieve the tension before the roller coaster goes haywire.

And I can’t help but feel the emotional detachment of the four leading actors to each other. They were introduced as close friends and sold as a bunch that has been through a lot. And yet when someone gets whacked, the survivors are absent of remorse, grief, and loss. The relationship the audience may think these four have is completely non-existent beyond the first few scenes.

Conversely, these are minor complaints on a very well crafted, albeit simple story. The torture and massacre scenes are riveting and graphic. And fans of the genre will find themselves right at home and would appreciate the extra effort to up the ante on violence and gore.

Midnight Movie may have glaring faults but it’s original story, authentic eye-twitch inducing scenes carry the movie till the end. And with an open ended conclusion, a sequel could be on the horizon.

On a side note, doesn’t the lead actress look exactly like the guy from Speed Racer and The Girl Next Door? Word.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Profile: Steluna

Occasionally, we meet people who exude that infectious upbeat stance and vigor in life. As I first laid my eyes on this German hottie, she personified just that -- her sincere smile and bubbly tone was undeniably attractive and contagious.

Being in the fashion industry for so long, you’d think that she’d be bored and drowned with ennui and yet she presents the complete anti-thesis for someone at that caliber.

A model, singer, agent, and actress, she has garnered experience throughout her career. Hailing from Munich, Germany she has that adorable accent and control of the English language.

She’s also a vigorous entrepreneur – she founded Steluna Models International handling modeling stints for various projects around the world. She's currently connected with Fashion TV but still manages her agency simultaneously.

You can visit her site right here, and here.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Soundstage 1

On location with Michal Garcia to cover a shoot that Bigfoot’s various production teams normally do on a daily basis. The vid features raw (in this case, really raw) behind the scene footage of an educational material for would-be photographers under Bigfoot's academic arm, International Academy of Film and Television or more widely known as IAFT.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Wheels of Innovation

Sat down with Bill Gardner and listened to his discussion of what CRAZY Filmmaker Program is as well as his history here in Bigfoot Entertainment and its academic arm, International Academy of Film and Television (IAFT).

The program essentially as I see it, targets the edgier side of creativity. Most of the time filmmakers and everyone involved are trapped into conventions and niches of what works and what viewers generally accept. And yet time and time again, audiences have grown smarter. They’ve become very capable of predicting how the story turns out, how the characters develop.

We are in an age of predictable entertainment.

I assume the CRAZY Filmmaker program addresses this on many fronts. Currently, IAFT has a one-year immersion program but the newly offered program requires a two-year immersion – that’s hardcore. Touching on the crafts of creating Fashion Television shoots, TVCs and even public service announcements. And to cap off the program, as mentioned by Bill, the students would be involved in a feature film production within Bigfoot.

I have nothing but an optimist’s outlook on the possibilities of such a program. To create a slew of new-age filmmakers bending conventions, going against the status quo’s of superheroes and CGI enriched feature films.

Mind you, I’m not in total disagreement of such an approach in filmmaking, neither do I desire to disparage the efforts of our modern day film artists – but don’t you just want something new?

Movies and TV shows have become stale throughout the years. Has creativity died with innovation? Suddenly Hollywood realized there’s more money to be made on action flicks and linear storylines drowned with ennui.

Perhaps this CRAZY filmmaker program that Michael Gleissner conceptualized could be the new primordial creative boom the global film industry’s been waiting for – too far fetched you say? It could be CRAZY enough to work.

To commemorate the program's edginess and creative openness, posted the vid that made me go gaga for everything CRAZY.

Friday, September 12, 2008

James Farrel

Covering male models is just a journalistic/literary ordeal for me. These men have perfect physiques and women just stick to them like fridge magnets. It makes me insecure and degraded whenever I’m in their presence, as if my viability to be noticed by the opposite sex vanishes into oblivion.

When a man looks at James (a straight one that is), one can’t help but wish he had the same physique and exude the same sexy model like aura. I for one envy the guy, compared to him, my body’s physique’s an epic fail. In fact at this very moment, I’m laying out the blueprints to photoshop my face over his and post it on Facebook (desperate times call for desperate measures).

He’s a Physical Education teacher by day and a top-notch model by night, how convenient can that get?

Ladies, for your amusement, posted some of his pics.

You can visit Jame's site right here.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


It’s a sunny and shimmering Thursday morning in Cebu and couldn’t help but ponder on a new paradigm, could it be that Thursday’s the new Friday?

Friday (subjectively speaking) is the best day of the week as it ushers in the weekend and the inevitable blissful events that are attached to it. And when Thursday arrives, the anticipation for Friday sets in (to be specific, beyond 1pm of Thursday), the ennui that has plagued anyone through the week should mellow down as each passing hour goes by.

At the end of the day you and your colleagues await the arrival of ‘the’ day of the week when the transition from work to vacation occurs -- this IS the climax, this IS the nirvana everyone looks forward to.

And to welcome this newly declared Friday, recently interviewed a talented editor from Bigfoot’s Post Production offices.

Trox Salazar shows us the viscera of editing within the chief’s fortress as he works on a vid for Bigfoot’s very own Starbucks-inspired (more like a straight out rip off), ‘Bigbucks’.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Midnight at the movies

Have that burning urge to see the next big movie after an adventurous undertaking?

(If 14 hours from Manila to the US isn’t, what is?)

For those who find pleasure in violence and gore, give yourself some well-earned respect and watch this. The film’s a nod to all those cliché horror and gore-infested flicks and yet it still brings something new to the ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer/Urban Legend/Scream' crowd.


Midnight Movie will have audiences squirming in their seats, as the killer from the movie emerges from the screen to hunt down each viewer one-by-one before dragging their dead bodies back into the film to be tortured for eternity.

At a run down theater in a sleepy suburban town, a group of friends get together for a midnight screening of an early 1970s horror film. What they do not know is that the Director/Star of the film has something more in store for them than just a movie.

While he is thought to have died five years earlier in a psych ward massacre, the detective and doctor who witnessed the aftermath of the bloodbath suspect that the director was not a victim, but the perpetrator of the killings and is still on the loose.

What none of them understand is that he has enshrined his soul into the film itself.

As the film starts, the kids heckle the old black-and-white scenes, but are jolted when the movie's gruesome killer butchers one of their friends on screen! They realize that it is not the prank that they had hoped it was as they soon become the stars of the very movie they are watching on the screen.

Caught between the world of reality and the screen's flickering shadows, these unsuspecting viewers fight to stay alive in the locked theater.