Category: Movies and TV

Moonlight-ing The vampire folklore offers a plethora of fascinating possibilities for expanding a universe of blood-sucking immortals, flesh-eating beasts, and their innocent victims. Thanks to the compelling performance of Alex O’Loughlin as Mick St. John, “Moonlight” has been gaining traction in the fall ratings war in spite of its initially flimsy premise.

The gist is pretty simple: Mick is a private investigator whose bride, Coraline (Shannyn Sossamon), turns him into a vampire on their wedding night 60 years ago. He has no prior idea that his bride is not exactly human. Desperate to build a family and keep her husband, Coraline kidnaps a young Beth to, sort of, make her a part of her household. Because Mick does not warm up to the idea, a vampiric domestic fight ensues which results in the death of Coraline. Beth (Sophia Myles) eventually grows up and starts to build a name as feisty online video news reporter under whose charm Mick falls. Unfortunately, Beth is already with perfect goody-two-shoes lawyer boyfriend.

The first four episode’s hook is the unspoken attraction between Mick and Beth. Each scene involving these two is rife with romantic/sexual current, they’re eye-f***ing nearly all the time. But as all series start with establishing the lives of their central characters, the first episode introduces Mick as a vampire, but one that is different in so many ways from what people usually believe about his kind. He does not hunt humans (even the bad ones) for food; stakes only paralyze him; garlic doesn’t repel him; he does not burst info flames when sunlight hits him. It is too much or prolonged exposure to it, though, that can kill him.

Moonlight Mick as VampireThere is nothing much, or nothing at all, that is unique about this series. Both TV and movies have churned vampires-turned-nice in Blade, Angel and Underworld. Moonlight’s superhero is expectedly a flawed character who corrects his ways by using his “special abilities” to save the world from criminals and protect the innocent against rogue vampires. He may be sleeping alone at night (in a freezer, to boot), but he earns the confidence of his secret love, Beth, and the friendship of Josef (Jason Dohring), a 400-year-old babyfaced billionnaire kindred.

Moonlight is your cookie-cutter investigative-slash-superhero TV fare complete with an eye candy main character blessed with super abilities (doesn’t die, runs super fast, is super smart, has super sense of smell), a smart and smashing sidekick chick with a perfect boyfriend to provide enough tension to the love triangle angle. When LAPD cannot solve a crime, the undead P.I. comes to the rescue and solves the mystery. One would wonder, though, how the weird crimes come about or why someone always beats them into the case. On the other hand, I wish it were darker and didn’t veer too much from the folklore. While getting blood supply from a blood bank is practical and more logical in the present-day context, the diminished effects of stake and sunlight is just too convenient.

If this were not a vampire fare, one would think it was yet another comic superhero knock-off. As usual, the hero is torn between lady-love and the need to just be his humanity-protecting self. Beth, just like any object of many a hero’s affection, inspires Mick while at the same often falls into trouble. The hero-press reporter partnership reeks of Superman-Lois Lane affair; replace the guy who plays Beth’s perfect boyfriend with James Marsden, and all you’ll need is a Lex Luthor to complete the picture. Oh wait, the baddie in second episode is a bald psycho with a penchant for killing his wives.

Moonlight Mick Vampire Alex O'LoughlinStill, Moonlight is entertaining and offers enough conflict to push the story forward. It effectively humanizes the vampire who makes a living by eliminating those that cannot be caught or punished according to society’s conventions and dilutes his messianic tendencies through his friendship with the rather world-wise Josef. Another thing that I’d like to see is a back-story to their friendship, such as how they met and came to trust each other.

Beth’s character will start to be uninteresting if all that is going for the character is her is her job or her feelings towards her boyfriend and Mick. The only background that is known about her is that she is the girl that Mick saved from being turned into a child vampire. Right now, she’s Mick’s object of affection, sidekick, and on two occasions, savior.

December Boys

It’s refreshing to see Daniel Radcliffe without the Harry Potter glasses for once. Although sporting a not-entirely-convincing Australian accent, the actor best known as the boy who lived can act.

December Boys tells the story of four orphans–Maps, Spit, Spark and Misty–who are all born in December. To celebrate their birth month, the nuns at their outback orphanage send them out to a summer vacation at a cove hundreds of miles away with the help of a benefactor who they soon figure out is dying of cancer. When information leaks that a young couple at the cove is planning to adopt one of them, a fierce competition arises among the boys whose only reason for living so far has been to be adopted. Maps (Radcliffe), the oldest of the four, has given up hope of finding a new set of parents, thinking that they are “overrated anyway”. He instead finds comfort in the company of a young woman with whom he, as expected, falls in love.

The cove where less than 20 people reside offers so much story to fill up the boys’ time amid fighting over who will be adopted. There is the old fisherman who has developed an affinity that borders on obsession to a gigantic fish that he calls Henry. It is not clear at all why the character developed this regard for the creature. On the other hand, the boys’ religious benefactor appears too strict at times for their own comfort, but eventually emerges as a loving woman whose reason for inviting them into her house is to fill it with “young energy”. And then there is the young couple who can’t have a child. The husband tells everyone that he is a motorbike racer only to be discovered by Maps as a mere helper at a nearby circus. Lucy, the young tempest who gives Maps his first sexual encounter, eventually leaves him without even saying goodbye.

The boys soon figure out that they already have a family, and that they don’t need to be adopted by new parents since they already have one–the eldest among them, Maps, who has always acted as their older brother and leader, the one who willingly saves one of them from drowning even if he cannot swim.

December Boys is told from the recollections of Misty, the most competitive among the boys. Set in the 50’s, the events of their summer vacation at the cove tells how seemingly simple things appear in such a small place. But events soon prove that no matter how serene life appears, it almost always is not what it appears to be. However, more than anything, the film gives an alternative description of the word “family”.

Desperate for apologies

Too much emphasis has been put on the “racist” comment by Teri Hatcher’s character on the Season-4 opener of Desperate Housewives. Hatcher’s airhead character, Susan, remarked, “Okay. Before going further, can I check these diplomas ‘cause I would just like to make sure that they’re not from some med school in the Philippines?” Much of the Filipino community in the US is incensed over the line, and more so are Pinoys in the Philippines.

I received invitations yesterday to sign an online petition that demanded an apology from the DH actor, writers and producers. Links to forums and blog posts were also forwarded as indirect ways of saying, “Hey, check this one and work yourself out over a stupid line.” Frankly, I can’t bring myself to the level of emotional furor over the stupid remark about our homegrown medical professionals for a number of reasons. For one, the US requires ALL medical professionals to get certifications before they can work in hospitals and clinics. Therefore, whatever country you come from, you have to pass those exams before being allowed to work as a doctor or nurse. And if you have been in the medical field in the US, then you’re no less brilliant than the average medical professional who graduated from somewhere else.

Hollywood has been taking a jab at all ethnic, political and other groups in the US, as well as in other countries. Hello! Anybody ever heard of those tired Canadian jokes spewed by stand-up comics, late night show hosts and other TV characters? Yet Pinoys don’t question this decades-old practice. Filipinos are no better at treating other ethnic groups with respect. We make fun of other people’s accent (even our own), religion, skin color, hair, gender and ethnic background. Now that we become the target of a joke, we fall into the victim mentality. Garbage in, garbage out.

A lot of Filipinos–not all, but a lot–who have chosen to settle in other countries do have a habit of looking down at those who elected to stay in the Philippines (starstruck ignoramuses, anyone?). I don’t blame them for giving up on this country. With loads of incompetent buffoons in the government, corrupt politicians that bleed our coffers dry, grimy cities, mindless entertainment, poor public infrastructure, insurgency, kidnappings, hellish traffic and garbage strewn everywhere, it’s not entirely difficult to say paalam to this country. I was at the US embassy last week for a business visa application and it just amazed me how the immigration line seemed to have no end. Entire families, grandparents, children, executive types, yuppies and jologs were filing for immigration like there was no tomorrow. I guess that on any given day, there are only two lines at the said embassy: immigration and others. This brings to mind how incensed my boyfriend was as he told me how a pinoy “overstaying visitor” working at a restaurant laughed at his face when he informed the ignorant sod that he was returning to the Philippines. I wonder if I’d get the same treatment.

For all our self-proclaimed glory, we have allowed cheating and corruption to flourish. Jumping on the throat of any foreigner who pokes fun at what is wrong is not the way to deal with our problems. I say, prosecute the ‘tards that attempted to game the medical and nursing board exams and improve the system.

That Malacanang joins in the call for an apology makes the whole fiasco stink to high heavens. You just know that the OA-o’-meter has shot up when the palace and the DFA have joined the mass hysteria. Doesn’t this petty government have anything important to dip its toes into? Cleaning up the professional regulatory board is a good start.

Desperate Housewives is insipid. Teri Hatcher is not funny. The script was lame. The remark is dumb. But I don’t think that it reflected the truth about the degree of professionalism and excellence of Philippine-trained health care workers. They are not barred from working in the States because of poorly written TV scripts, but because of the cheating fiasco that backfired on the honest.

Insulting those who make your loved ones’ stay at the hospital a little more comfortable is a poor way to pay them back. However, the furor over Hatcher’s line is too much.

The Office and K-Dramas

  • This story offers a good lesson on how to deal with assholes and problem clients (not often one and the same), and how to wade through office politics. Project managers, rank and file, and consultants of all stripes should learn from the story.
  • According to the NY Times report, MS Excel 2007 incorrectly multiplies “…six numbers from 65,534.99999999995 to 65,535, and six numbers from 65,535.99999999995 to 65,536.” Better get your good ol’ calculator handy.
    (tags: excel math bugs)
  • Getting acquainted with version control applications probably was one of the toughest parts of my technical writing training simply because it was easy to foul up versions or copies. But the drill got easier eventually. The open-source version control application, Subversion, is still a favorite.
  • I’m sooo installing XP on my laptop. Vista sux, as far as I’m concerned, as it eats up too much resources and asks too many questions even for the minorest operations. And yeah, XP is more user-friendly. Like, totally.
  • “There have been two or three reports of public executions of North Koreans…as punishment for having illegally copied and distributed South Korean visual material,” said Kang Chul Hwan of Committee for the Democratization of North Korea. Good grief, to think that I enjoyed Lovers in Paris in a friend’s 21-disk bootleg VCD…

Starter for 10

Starter for 10, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alice Eve, Mark Gatiss

There are times when I can’t thank the dibidi vendors enough for their collections of film gems that I would not get a hold of if I opted for the mall video shops or waited for them to be shown in cinemas. A short trip to MCS two weekends ago produced a well of hard-to-find titles all saved in at the measly sum of PHP70. One of the titles I found was Starter for 10.

“…you can’t hide in your room forever, feeling sorry for your self. It’s not practical. At some point, you’ve got to get back out there, face yourself, and confront your demons.
“And yes, i’ve made some bad choices, lost my head, let people down–people I cared for. But there still might be time to get something right.
“Ever since I can remember, I want to be clever. Some people are born clever in the same way some people are born beautiful. I’m not one of those people. I’m gonna have to work it, put in the effort, and if I mess it up, I learn from it. Besides, sometimes it’s not about knowing the right answers. Sometimes, it’s about asking the right question.”

Starter for 10 stars one of my new favorite British actors, James McAvoy. It’s another coming-of-age story about a young small-town but very clever teenager who pursues his passion for learning by taking a course in English Literature at Bristol University. Inspired by his father, he cultivates interest in quiz shows and gathers bits and pieces of trivia, sometimes thinking if all the knowledge he collects are useless.

“As Francis Bacon once said, ‘Knowledge is power.’ Which is why I want to know everything. I want to know about Plato and Newton, Tolstoy and Bob Dylan; what the words ‘eclectic’ and ‘peripatetic’ mean. I want to know why people actually like jazz. If I want to know the answers, I have to be in a place where people have a passion for knowledge. I think it’s important; sacred, even.”

While at the university, he meets a couple of eccentric flat-mates, a domineering quiz team captain, an activist Jewish student named Rebecca, and the blond bombshell of his dreams, Alice, who is also a member of his team.

As he attempts to help his friends to win the championship of University Challenge, one of Britain’s longest-running quiz shows, he also falls for the beautiful Alice. On the other hand, Rebecca keeps by his side throughout the turmoil that he goes through with the team, his friends, his mother, and his romantic disappointment, believing that he can actually make a difference. He and Rebecca’s faith are put to the test on the day of the championships. So close to winning the title, he disappoints his team by giving a correct answer even when the question has not yet been asked. The judges decide to kick him out immediately.
Embarrassed, he goes home to stew in his disappointment and eventually discovers that those who seem to have moved on still care for him: his widowed mother who has found a new partner and his best friend who still believes in him and the value of his education. When he returns to the university, he also realizes that his adviser has been waiting for him to turn up and, best of all, Rebecca is waiting for him to ask “the right question”.

The university does not disappoint in nurturing his passion for learning as it supports his quiz team, stirs his zeal for poetry, as well as introduces him to student activism through Rebecca. However, sometimes the best kind of knowledge is not that which is learned within the hallowed walls of the university, but through other people. Those he meets in college teach him the value of loyalty, respect, and forgiveness, and the dangers of falling in love.

“Starter for 10″ is pretty much your cookie-cutter coming-of-age movie. However, it successfully gives life to a quirky set of characters from 1985 amid social discord and identity discovery.