Monday, 8 August 2016

A Pinoy At The Movies: Jason Bourne

These Jason Bourne series have always been a hit because, one, who doesn't love conspiracies? 

Two, the action scenes raise your adrenalin levels to post-triple-shot-espresso-coffee!

Three, the story brings you to multi-continental locations!

Four, these Bourne Girls (as opposed to Bond Girls) are smart and their lines actually always have sense. Ha-ha-ha!  

Five, you have a superhuman who doesn't need a cape or supernatural powers. He only needs amnesia. Ha-ha-ha!

But perhaps, the best reason behind its popularity is Matt Damon, the very likable and humble Hollywood superstar who doesn't get himself involve in scandals or tabloid stories. He is just a good actor who makes good movies!

In this latest Bourne movie, Jason, in his search for his identity, finally got bits and pieces of his memory while dodging CIA operatives and assassin's bullets. And he still thinks and moves like a trained assassin himself, even though he now survives on punching in illegal fight clubs.

Julia Stiles, who's also a very good actress, reunites with Bourne in Greece. Nicky Parsons, Stiles' character in the series, was his contact in Paris, while posing as a student. Nicky, in this installment, however, wasn't able to dodge a bullet. 

While the movie amazed us with these outrageously choreographed action scenes in Athens, Berlin, London, and finally in Las Vegas, at the end of it, were all the killing and damaged transportation equipment worth it, considering the only thing he learned in the end was that his own dad set him up to be Jason Bourne

I guess, from his point of view, it was. After all, for us to find peace of mind, don't we always need closure? Or in his case, finally knowing who his dad was and why his dad was killed. And killing his dad's assassin in Las Vegas was probably just a bonus ending. His dad's killer was played by Vincent Cassel, who, in Ocean's Thirteen, stole fake diamonds in Las Vegas. Mr. Cassel probably likes shooting in Vegas.

Last month, I saw Matt Damon and Alicia Vikander when they came to Seoul to promote this movie. Although Alicia may be an Oscar winner for The Danish Girl, she sounded like a robot in this movie with a boring presence. 

Other actresses in the Bourne series always had presence: Franka Potente, Julia Stiles, Joan Allen and Rachel Weisz. Vikander looked lifeless in this movie.

And what to do with Tommy Lee Jones? He may have been very good in The Fujitive, but here, his wrinkles were distracting and his character was missing some sinister aura, much like Robert Redford was in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Perhaps, his character would have been more interesting if it was a woman. Hmm.

I guess this is the last time we would see Matt Damon as Jason Bourne. He got his memory back and some revenge in the process. And unless he renews his soon-to-expire multiple passports, he may have a difficulty leaving the continental US, unless Jeremy Renner helps him out. If you saw Bourne Legacy, Renner was able to make passports for him and Rachel Weisz from a motel room, and both were able to fly to Manila! 

So, what's next, Jason?

Friday, 5 August 2016

Bourne Celebrity: Matt Damon in Seoul!

                    (My panini merienda before 
                     heading to Times Square)

Summers are never complete without summer blockbusters. And this summer is more than complete because Matt Damon, the actor, brought Jason Bourne, the movie, to Seoul!

         (Time Square's main hall full of fans)
   (By the presumably newly vacuumed red carpet)

When I read the news that Matt Damon had arrived in Seoul to promote the latest installment of his Bourne series, I immediately asked around where he would show up for a public show-and-tell.

Luckily, I learned that he was meeting his fans at Times Square mall in the populous Yeondeungpo District in Seoul, together with Alicia Vikander, his co-star in the movie. 
                 (A fan with a message for Matt)

So, on July 8, exactly four Fridays ago today, I headed down to the same mall where Angelina Jolie had her SALT premiere years back. Matt was scheduled to arrive at 7:30 PM. I had to get some merienda that afternoon to avert any starvation while waiting for the two Academy Award winners. Well, Jason Bourne could withstand hunger; I could not. Ha-ha-ha! So, I dropped by a cafe for some panini just in case.

When I got there, a lot of fans were already lining up outside and inside the hall. I decided to join those indoors enjoying the air conditioned red carpet and chatted with two Korean girls who came all the way from Suwon just to see Matt Damon. They actually arrived at 2PM and had been standing their ground since then. I told them, by the time Matt arrived, they would have been standing for five hours! What dedication!
             (I wonder if Jason Bourne could 
          take down Matt's bodyguards in one go)
 (Matt's assistant pointing to the fan with a message)

And around 7:30, the crowds outside started screaming, signalling the arrival of the Hollywood A-listers! There was a big screen inside the hall showing the scene outside, and we could see that, even with the scorching temperature, Matt and Alicia were gamely engaging their fans in selfies and autograph-signing! Alicia was wearing a strapless gown, in which she looked comfortable, but Matt was wearing a jacket! And once he got indoors, he was already sweating like he just ran a Jason-Bourne-under-four-minute-mile! 

His assistants immediately scampered to find some tissue, but I noticed none of them thought of bringing! Ha-ha-ha! I think it was an executive of the local film distributor who took out from his pocket some tissue paper. I would have offered mine, but I would need something in return. A signed movie poster! Ha-ha-ha! 
         (The fan's message catches Matt's attention)
         (Matt taking a photo of the fan's message)

As a typical meet-greet-and-invite, Matt and Alicia encouraged everyone to watch their latest film, and some lucky fans were able to go up the stage for winning some competition. While the Korean emcee, Matt and Alicia were in formal get-ups worthy of a red carpet, the lady interpreter was wearing sneakers and looked like she was on her to climb a mountain but was just interrupted by this Matt Damon meet-and-greet event. Ha-ha-ha!
        (Alicia and Matt about to be joined onstage 
        by fans who won a competition for the film)
           (Matt with some guys who are probably 
       from Universal Pictures, although I wondered 
          who was the guy in some military uniform)

Although it was memorable seeing one of my favorite Hollywood actors, this was even more fun for the fans around my spot as he took out his smartphone and took a photo of a fan's message for him. The fan was actually standing next to me and I already saw his placard earlier, telling him to make sure he raised it high up for Matt to see, especially with the huge crowd around. Matt definitely made the fan's day.

And speaking of fan, not the human fan, but the fanning fan, I got two Jason Bourne fans to bring home in case I needed to cool down as I walked to the Yeongdeungpo Station. 

But before I left Times Square, I had to grab dinner as it was a long way home to the Yongsan District. And as I munched down my burger, I was thinking that it's not every day that you see a Hollywood actor. But then if you are a Hollywood fan, the human fan, and not the fanning fan, you should always find ways to see them in the flesh whenever they're in your neighborhood.
          (Alicia and Matt joining me for a burger)

Next stop, Jason Bourne, the movie!

Friday, 29 July 2016

Toilet Humor. Literally.

Inside the subway trains in Seoul, there are seats reserved for the disabled, senior citizens, pregnant women, and moms with babies. 

And sometimes, the English translations for these seats are translated literally. I'm not really sure if it's Google translate, or someone didn't finish his English 101 syllabus.

But of all the English translations I read on Seoul subways and subway stations, this was the funniest. 

Sinyonsan Station, which happened to be in my neighborhood, closed its toilets a couple of months ago for renovation. So, when I was in the area recently, I just had to see the upgrade. 

Well, they look brighter and cleaner, but what caught my attention were these translations: 

I tried not to laugh as I walked out of the newly renovated restrooms, even as the cleaning ajumma looked at me weird as to why I was taking a photos of the new shiny signages. 

But we could no longer subdue our loud laughter as I shared the toilet joke with my friend Gail, whom I was meeting at the station.

So, to the vulnerable men and women passing through the Sinyongsan Station, you have newly renovated toilets just for you. Ha-ha-ha!

P.S. I showed the signage to my Korean friends, and even they were perplexed with the Korean version. I guess this is the station manager's version of toilet humor. :-)

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Reading The Amityville Horror And Other Scary Books

I read The Amityville Horror years before the 2005 film version came out. And when they screened it in the neighborhood CGV cinemas, I was excited to watch it. Unfortunately, my excitement turned into disappointment when, from my CGV seat, the horror film looked like comedy-slash-TV drama because, one, I knew Ryan Reynolds, the murderous dad in the film, as a comedian, and, two, the movie lacked the horror punch that would convince your wits to get scared!

Well, let's just go back to the book.

I remember reading The Amityville Horror when I was still in school. At night, I was only able to read more pages after studying my text books and doing my homework. It gave me a lot of satisfaction as, when I read a horror book, I read at night, just before going to bed until lights-out. The dark words and the world of scary thoughts and creatures of a horror book could only be brought to life in one's imagination when one was surrounded by darkness and silence. 

Turn off the TV, turn off the computer and stay away from your smartphone if you're reading a horror book. They are the like the advertisements that interrupt a show when you're watching TV.

Even during high school, when I visited that small bookstore in our city, I would always be drawn to the horror section. The Howling, a few of Stephen King's books and a few more titles I couldn't recall kept me company during the short rides to and from school, and even longer after homework and dinner.

And over the years after that, it seemed the when I watched horror movies, I didn't get scared anymore. Suddenly, I could tell when a ghost would appear on the screen, or from which corner a ghoul would await his victim. Perhaps I could direct a horror film of my own! Ha-ha-ha!

That's why when I saw The Others, the horror film starring Nicole Kidman, I was fascinated! The film didn't rely on suspenseful music and scary creatures, it simply revolved on a scary story! And great acting! The Others must be my favorite horror film of all time! It's not your typical horror film; that's why it's especially scary! I remember I recommended it to an aunt (Tita Helen). I told her it was a very good film; I didn't tell her it was a horror movie. Ha-ha-ha!

She thought the movie was about marital woes of couples. Ha-ha-ha! Sort of 'the other...woman', perhaps.

She brought along her husband, Tito Nemie, to watch it, and she must have been a little mad at me because, in the middle of the movie, she called me from her cellphone and asked me why I didn't warn her it was a horror movie! That day, she was watching it at a cinema in Bacolod City, and I was at work in Manila! Ha-ha-ha!  As we were talking, she told me that Tito Nemie was jumping from his seat every time a scary scene flashed on the screen. Of course, I was laughing at the other end of the conversation, while the poor, scared couple was trapped inside the movie house. Ha-ha-ha!

If you're reading a horror book these nights, I wonder if you're able to sleep after. Or perhaps, does the book bring you nightmares, just like scary movies?

I sort of 'graduated' from horror books and horror movies. The last movie that I could really describe as 'scary' was The Conjuring of 2013. And with the number of other scary movies like Insidious and Paranormal Activity, it seems that we're all being immunized from scare. Even the latest one, The Conjuring 2, seemed like a slapstick, complete with a ghost nun from Sister Act. For me, these horror movies aren't horror movies until they actually scare me. Ha-ha-ha!  I think The Rite, starring Anthony Hopkins was a good scary movie. 

So, what horror movie or horror book you actually found scary lately?

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Pajama Party!

If it's your first time in Korea, don't be surprised if you see a person walking on the street while wearing what looks like hospital pajamas and pulling along an IV-drip stand. No, he or she isn't an escaped patient from an insane asylum. That just means there's a hospital nearby.

Yes, hospital patients in Korea are free to move around the neighborhood as long as they're not spreading any contagion and are ambulant enough after a surgery.
In my Hannam-dong neighborhood in the Yongsan District, there's a big hospital where I rushed to after I accidentally (and stupidly!) sliced open a part of my right hand. And almost every time I pass by the hospital, there will always be a patient in hospital pajamas navigating the sidewalk. The patients are usually just standing on a corner smoking, or on their way to a coffee shop, a restaurant, or a convenience store. 

Although they are hospitalized, I sometimes doubt if they are really sick. A few years back, I read in the news that some are just insurance scammers. They check themselves into a hospital, pretending to be sick so they can claim insurance compensation.

So, the next time you see a pajama party in the streets of Seoul, just remember they're having a break from their doctors in a medical center nearby. Although you won't be able to tell what they're in for, don't forget to tell them to get well soon!

Saturday, 2 July 2016

A Pinoy At The Movies: Samantha Morton, My 'Secret' Favorite Actress

                   (Samantha Morton in Elizabeth, 
                              the Golden Age)

I was flipping channels today and ended up at the Sundance Channel. While I didn't have any other option because, one, the news channels are reporting on a tragic terrorist bombing that just happened in an international airport, which is sad, and, two, the other TV channels are showing unrealistic Korean dramas full of mother-in-laws from hell and a bunch of Korean actresses competing against each other as to who has the most plastic surgeries.

So, I just stayed with Sundance Channel, and luckily, it was featuring an interview with the award-winning actress Samantha Morton.

Everyone has his or her favorite actor and actress. It's usually a famous Hollywood like Meryl Street, Angelina Jolie, or Cate Blanchett. But for some movie fans, they also have a secret favorite. And I think mine is Samantha Morton! And it's no secret anymore. Ha-ha-ha!

If you saw Minority Report, that Tom Cruise sci-fi movie about Precogs who were able to foresee a crime before it happens, Samantha was the Precog Tom Cruise dragged all over the city.  

But in Elizabeth, the Golden Age, she almost stole the show from Cate Blanchett. In this movie, Samantha was Mary, Queen of Scots, while Cate Blanchett was Queen Elizabeth I.  It would have been a cinematic gem that would have rivaled the Cullinan or the Koh-i-Noor diamonds in its brilliance if the two had a scene together.  Sadly, history has no account of the two being in a catfight, and Mary eventually lost the fight and with it, her head.

But Samantha Morton's scene where she, as Mary, Queen of Scots, was being arrested for treason, was memorable and impressive, with or without a crown on her head.  As the whole movie itself was brilliant, these fiery scenes made us all enjoy it even more. By the way, the diplomat in that scene, who told her she was being arrested, was played by Tom Hollander, the captain of the ship Endeavor, which the Flying Dutchman and the Black Pearl blew out of the sea in Pirates of the Caribbean.

So, there. The Sundance Channel just made me admit my 'secret' favorite actress. 

Who's yours?

Piss Me, er, Kiss Me In The Rain...

On some days, these drizzles in Seoul seemed like a shy patch of monsoon rain. In the Philippines, where I grew up, drizzles are hardly taken seriously. It's like somebody up there in the skies just decided to take a pee. And what came down was just a sprinkle of, well, something liquid. Ha-ha-ha!

But today's rain in Seoul is more than a drizzle. It's the real thing! A heavy, continuous downpour, much like the ones I used to enjoy when I was a kid! I remember, during monsoon seasons, my playmates and I would run around the neighborhood and play in the rain. Of course, I always would ask permission from my grandmother, or from my nanny, who both looked after me when my parents were not home. And most of the time, they said 'yes'! 
In my Hannam-dong neighborhood, I sometimes see kids running around during a heavy weekend rain. It's good to see them away from their computers and from their English schools. In Korea, kids spend most of their time studying, and they hardly enjoy their time being kids.  
And hopefully this weekend, the rain will continue to drench the city, which will be a fun idea for the kids to run out from their apartment buildings and enjoy their childhood.

In the meantime, perhaps an old Barbra Streisand song will ring in our heads again:

"Kiss me in the rain...make me feel like a child again...Bring back all those memories.

Kiss me in the rain...and make me feel like a child again...With the feeling that I get, I don't even mind if we get wet."