Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Movie Review: Enchanted

Enchanted is a comedy-fantasy-musical film by Walt Disney Pictures. It tells the story of Giselle, an animated maiden who falls in love with a handsome prince with puffy sleeves and plans to get married the next day. Happily ever after was supposed to follow, until the wicked step mother of the prince (of course, there is one -- what did you expect?) shoved Giselle into a magical well. This is basically the condensed version of every Disney classic, and the film propels from here.

The queen planned to send Giselle to 'a land where no happily ever after exists' -- so she promptly arrives on 21st century New York City. She emerged from a manhole near Times Square -- and immediately almost gets squished by oncoming traffic.

If watching Enchanted reminds you of earlier Disney classics, don't be surprised -- that's fully intentional. Most of the movie's props, dialog, music, action, and
references are in tribute to earlier Disney hits. While spoofs of Disney's formula movies have been in vogue for quite some time now (Ella Enchanted/Shrek), Enchanted's approach is to keep things light that will make you laugh with the movie instead of at it. The jokes rarely miss, and we are left with a refreshing and funny tale.

You have to check logic and the need for suspense at the door -- Enchanted makes no excuses for itself, and that is the wellspring of its enjoyability. There is no question to whom the lady ends up, and everyone who read fairy tales while growing up knows what will happen on the succeeding scenes. Enchanted embraces the whole genre with open arms -- complete with impromptu musicals, the all-important ball near the end, animal friends, witches, charming princes, and princesses we all love.

At the same time, Disney pokes fun at the stereotypes that has been its cash cow for the longest time. The musical number with 'animal friends' (translated into Manhattan, the local fauna means cockroaches, rats, flies, bugs, and pigeons) is both funny and disgusting (even the lyrics included words like 'scum' and 'filth'); Prince Charming is a self-centered, dim-witted 'hero' -- eager to slay trolls and dragons for his love, but will run away from an irate woman bus driver; the lady's true love turns out to be this reluctant romantic who has a hard time accepting the possibility of happiness because he's too fearful of the possibility of pain. More importantly, while other kiddie movies tend to sugarcoat reality and foster faulty expectations, Enchanted "
maintains a delicate balance between wish-fulfillment fantasy and a recognition that the world inhabited by its audience is filled with disappointment as well as with joy."

The two things most enjoyable in this movie are the music and the acting. Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz weaves magic into the movie with their tunes.
That's How You Know is a delight to watch -- an infectious smile spread like an epidemic at the cinema while this was playing. A personal favorite is So Close -- the longing expressed in that song stays in the heart.

The real gem is the acting of the stars in this film. Susan Sarandon -- like all evil stepmothers are wont to do -- steals the scene from the main characters. James Marsden plays the self-centered Prince Charming perfectly... down to the puffed up sleeves and shiny sword. Amy Adams is the amalgam of every Disney princess. Naive, strong, innocent, pure, and loving, she plays Giselle with full abandon that she's the one who enables the audience to jump from the 2D classic cartoon into real life. I suspect Enchanted would be
the movie to Adams as The Sound of Music was to Julie Andrews. Patrick Dempsey's (Robert) performance seems subdued and underplayed... but maybe that's deliberate because he's the one from the 'mundane' real world.

In terms of message, this is where the movie stumbles. Enchanted basically says that happiness can only be found in the person you love (even Giselle's animated form was concerned only with finding her 'true love'). From a man who plans to raise a kid or two of his own one day, I take serious issues with this. Our notions of 'love' have been corrupted enough by all that Hollywood crap that we don't even know its true form (for a guide, read the bible, or even C.S. Lewis' essays). Love isn't the i-can't-help-it, head-over-heels, this-is-beyond-me lie that Hollywood perpetuates. But I guess that's the one that helps fuel capitalism.

Even disregarding my disgust to Hollywood's definition of love, the movie stumbles over its own thesis. By presenting a maiden straight out of the fairy tale pop-up books and pairing her with a disillusioned, hardcore Manhattan lawyer (a 'shark'), Enchanted has a rare opportunity to present a unique picture of true/real love. But in the end, the film fails to do this. Giselle champions commitment, yet throws it out the window. Robert emphasizes the importance of getting to know your partner, yet contradicts himself by choosing Giselle over his girlfriend of five years. It was as if the writers of the movie teased us into believing they will offer something new and insightful, and real (what's the point of traveling to real-life New York, after all?) with all the hopes and dreams that power fairy tales, but ends up too timidly to challenge the tried and tested formula of Disney's earlier films.

In the end, Enchanted is much like Julia Roberts'
Pretty Woman. If analyzed under the feminist perspective, that movie bombs -- everyone should hate it. But the truth is, feminism notwithstanding, I enjoyed watching that film too. I give Enchanted the same allowances. I'll just have to keep my critical analysis under wraps -- after all, whoever said I can find answers to life's questions inside a fairy tale? -- and just enjoy the show.

* Disney owns the images used in this review

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


According to this, I am able to write with 10 fingers:

You reached 321 points, so you achieved position 9265 on the ranking list

You type 421 characters per minute
You have 79 correct words and
you have 1 wrong words

421 characters... is that fast?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Tomorrow we dream anew

Name the clouds, take note of each blade of grass. There was much joy in the day, and tomorrow we dream anew.

Friday, November 23, 2007

One More Chance

Reviewing (and watching) Star Cinema's One More Chance is an emotional roller coaster... mainly because the story is a little too familiar to my own. As Popoy's (John Lloyd Cruz) killer line said:

"She loved me at my worst. You had me at my best. Pero binalewala mo lahat yon."

I had no intention of watching this film (I thought it was a typical teenybopper movie) before I heard that those lines were in the film. When Leah, John, and I watched it, we couldn't help but give our undivided attention to what we were seeing. Leah was crying uncontrollably -- identifying fully with Basha (Bea Alonzo), my heart was thumping vigorously as I continuously screamed at Popoy, and John was wide-eyed and biting his shirt... probably due to the sight of Bea Alonzo, Nikki Gil, Maja Salvador... and Popoy's pathetic (lovestruck) antics.

Was the movie really
that good? Not really. But virtually having one's love story immortalized in film tends to soften one's heart... but also to wish more from it. The movie was funny (at times), and moving (maybe because it's familiar?), and more than what I expected. On the other hand, they had such a rich and promising material... but the film makers weren't able to fully mine that lodestone. It was also frustrating how underdeveloped were the motivations of the characters. We barely even got a glimpse of Trisha (Maja Salvador) -- she was a critical part of the conflict in the story, and would have made the story so much richer if we knew her more.

For some reason, the movie was also made to have some surprising sex scenes. I said 'surprising' because they could have done without those scenes and replace them with other scenes that could have made us root for the characters more. It was as if the script writers got lazy doing their job and just put in those sex scenes just to establish that they 'love' each other.

Despite the frustrations, One More Chance is one of the better Filipino movies that I've seen. It's a story that says that even finding the one that you want to grow old with doesn't assure an automatic happily ever after. Sometimes we have to go through the bitterest of journeys so we know how sweet it is to come home. But hey, it feels like an autobiography to me, so maybe you shouldn't take my word for it.

Monday, November 19, 2007

"In brightest day, in blackest night..."

Your results:
You are Green Lantern

Green Lantern
Wonder Woman
The Flash
Iron Man
Hot-headed. You have strong
will power and a good imagination.

Click here to take the Superhero Personality Test

Hal Jordan! Cool! One of the tragic stories in the DC Universe. But I wonder why I wasn't Batman?.... probably because of my un-traumatized childhood.

Two new reviews

I have been fortunate enough to watch several movies these past few weeks. The latest I've seen are Beowulf:

While there is significant diversion from the original Old English story, the movie was still able to retain certain flavors from the Nordic tale. This is good, considering that a lot of stories have been influenced by Beowulf.

The real joy I found in the movie, though, is its strong evangelistic themes. The original tale already had many Christian elements (Grendel and his mother have been traditionally analyzed as descendants of Cain in Genesis). But the animated movie's plot is even more obvious -- it is the tale of every man and his utter inability to stand against sin.

and Lust, Caution:

Prior to watching the film, I have heard such vociferous quips from various people describing the film as "sooooooooooooooobrang gandaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa." And once again, the world knocks me over the head for listening to the babblings of others without doing a little digging of my own.

This is not to say that the film was bad throughout. The cinematography is an automatic thumbs up for me -- anything that I can see in sepia or monochrome elicits affection in my heart. The editing did its job -- smoothing the flow of the plot enough that you hardly notice it. The acting was another good thing going for the movie -- even with the usually effective Tony Leung on the screen, newcomer Tang Wei held her own, and shone in her own luminescence.

To read the rest of the reviews, click here for Beowulf, and here for Lust, Caution. Or you could go to our multiply site by clicking here.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Our worth in gold

Planning to get married takes financial concerns to a whole new level. While I grew up in a lower-C class family, I have managed not to center my focus and energies on the endless pursuit of money. Forming a new family, however, brings these questions to fore.

To read the rest of the entry, click here or visit my multiply site.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Rizal Retreat

We've been crazy-ass busy the days before, but (fortunately) we were able to join the JSF retreat at the Rizal Re-Creation Center last November 3 and 4.

My cousin Jolo was unable to join us so it was just Leah and me who took the long drive to Rizal. No breakfast? No worries with a whole Yellow Cab New York's Finest pizza to share just between the two of us!

What's the first thing we did when we got to the site? Eat again! Who'd want to waste that all-buffet lunch they prepared anyway?

Then came the team-building activities. John and Leah initiated a 'getting-to-know-you' activity for the new and old church members. It was fun, albeit confusing -- especially with Maeng 'Charity/Chabelita' Estropia befuddling all the non-oldies people with his... err... less-than-truthful embellishments.

Then came the group activities. A few days before, without rhyme or reason, I (Moks) unexpectedly volunteered to facilitate the team-building activities we need. Whatever happened to the anti-social, dark and brooding me?

The first challenge was to fit the group (around 35 people)to a steadily-decreasing number of hoola-hoops. Initially, they just laughed off the trip-to-jerusalem like activity. But with fewer and fewer hoops, pretty soon things got serious!

Then there's six legs and a funeral -- how do you get an 8-person group across an entire field with only three sets of feet touching the ground? After a half-hour of sweat and toil, what was the lesson that the group learned? NEVER GET MOKS AS CAMP DIRECTOR!!

Next came blind man shooting. An activity about leadership, the challenge to the groups was to get a ping-pong ball rolling on a tray across the field and shoot it to a basket... blindfolded!

Last was a cerebral game -- an expanded tic-tac-toe. In the end, can't we all win?

Even though the challenges were hard. Everyone had a great time. But I think the group laughed the most while they were planning revenge on me...

Had a late night talk with Abe and Timmy about time management and the differing perspectives of the nobyo versus the nobya. That was fun too.

The next morning was sweet -- church time plus some time for pictures. Here's a sample of what we did:

There it is! Although the retreat was a blast, we had to go straight to Leah's office afterward to work.

Lord, thank you for the break. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to have fellowship with our churchmates and with each other. Thank you for entrusting us to share the lessons you've taught us. Bless this family we're building, O God.