Monday, July 31, 2006

Blades!


This is me at times, slashing if not shooting wehehe!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

check out riannehillsoriano.blogspot.com!

Got updated film reviews right here. check it out at riannehillsoriano.blogspot.com! ;-p

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Film Review: Batad Sa Paang Palay

Discovering ‘Batad’ in Cinemalaya
By: Rianne Hill Soriano

Batad, Sa Paang Palay
Filmaker: Benji Garcia and Vic Acedillo Jr.


Recognizing Filipino filmmaking and opening great opportunities for new filmmakers, Cinemalaya has truly made a major contribution for the uplifting of the Pinoy audience’s consciousness in local film appreciation. Struggling, surviving, thriving… It’s time for Pinoy filmmaking to rise from the depths of oblivion.

The feature film ‘Batad, Sa Paang Palay’ is one of the finalists for this year’s Cinemalaya. The film revolves around the life and struggle of a 14-year old Batad boy who longs to own a pair of rubbershoes and leave his Ifugao roots behind to chase his big dreams of modernization in the city. This feature from Benjie Garcia and Vic Acedillo Jr. puts interesting allegories and symbolisms and promotes a significant message on how the past and the present can make compromises. The complication presented in the story poses a number of issues to knock the inquisitive minds and thump the insightful hearts of the viewers.

The clash between tradition and modernization has long been a struggle for all. And this tale marks a certain level of sophistication in its presentation of the said subject matter through the eyes of the film’s main character Ag-ap (Alchris Galura).

The cinematic location of Batad and the rice terraces exude a certain mood and feel for the audience to absorb. It becomes ideal that the filmmakers have not become overwhelmed by the magnificent footages the terraces can offer, thus leading the story towards the right path.

The ensemble performance of the characters complements the beauty of the terraces. The actors and actresses both fresh and veteran have generally rendered very natural acting. However, Gina Alajar and Nonie Buencamino look quite unconvincing as Ag-ap’s parents. This is mainly the film’s weakness. It is not actually a question of performance but a question of far-off physical features among the supposed family members and natives. It could have at least been saved if the make-up and maybe some tanning lotion took some extra effort. The principal photography may have been a tough endeavor physically and financially for the production team, however, this is still not an excuse for seeking excellence for the already promising film as this is.

The execution of the film’s comic side, including the scenes where Ag-ap takes on all odd jobs imaginable just to earn enough money to buy his dream pair of shoes, promotes unpretentious comedy. The characters have been established well. Moreover, knowing that the most of the major and supporting actors and actresses are not really natives of Batad, their walking, running and jumping across the mountains and the steep rice terraces are really commendable.

The ethnic musical score is on right taste: minimal and seamless with the visuals. The sound is generally okay as well. The cinematography complements the story. It is true that shooting this film in 35mm (obviously with great additional expense and effort) may become an edge to immortalize it into celluloid but the utilizing of the digital medium has not failed the story. Its artistic and social integrity apparently yields to the spirit of independent expression for a better film experience both for the people behind the film and those who are watching it.

The film is inspiring, nurturing, stimulating and invigorating. Its concern for social awareness and responsibility tend to articulate the new Filipino film experience. And with the Cinemalaya trying to tap not just the artist circle as its audience but the Filipino audience as a whole, this film delivers another good Cinemalaya output ready to hit the theaters outside the CCP halls.

‘Batad, Sa Paang Palay’ is one fresh harvest for this generation’s cinematic experience. Indeed, the present time is a turning point in the long said to be dying Philippine film industry. Personally, filmmaking in the Philippines has two big problems to overcome: lack of finances and the people who still have the power and connections are stuck in the old school style of filmmaking and storytelling. The tough voyage towards the survival of this art form demands honesty, commitment and courage in order to uplift the Filipino identity and challenge the independent spirit. It’s time for the new Filipino filmmaking to rise. Let’s not stop its growth and embrace modernization and technological advancements to utilize the art form. Just like the issue raised in ‘Batad, Sa Paang Palay,’ we can move on with modernization without losing what the traditions have brought for us.

Film Review: Batad Sa Paang Palay

Discovering ‘Batad’ in Cinemalaya
By: Rianne Hill Soriano

Batad, Sa Paang Palay
Filmaker: Benji Garcia and Vic Acedillo Jr.


Recognizing Filipino filmmaking and opening great opportunities for new filmmakers, Cinemalaya has truly made a major contribution for the uplifting of the Pinoy audience’s consciousness in local film appreciation. Struggling, surviving, thriving… It’s time for Pinoy filmmaking to rise from the depths of oblivion.

The feature film ‘Batad, Sa Paang Palay’ is one of the finalists for this year’s Cinemalaya. The film revolves around the life and struggle of a 14-year old Batad boy who longs to own a pair of rubbershoes and leave his Ifugao roots behind to chase his big dreams of modernization in the city. This feature from Benjie Garcia and Vic Acedillo Jr. puts interesting allegories and symbolisms and promotes a significant message on how the past and the present can make compromises. The complication presented in the story poses a number of issues to knock the inquisitive minds and thump the insightful hearts of the viewers.

The clash between tradition and modernization has long been a struggle for all. And this tale marks a certain level of sophistication in its presentation of the said subject matter through the eyes of the film’s main character Ag-ap (Alchris Galura).

The cinematic location of Batad and the rice terraces exude a certain mood and feel for the audience to absorb. It becomes ideal that the filmmakers have not become overwhelmed by the magnificent footages the terraces can offer, thus leading the story towards the right path.

The ensemble performance of the characters complements the beauty of the terraces. The actors and actresses both fresh and veteran have generally rendered very natural acting. However, Gina Alajar and Nonie Buencamino look quite unconvincing as Ag-ap’s parents. This is mainly the film’s weakness. It is not actually a question of performance but a question of far-off physical features among the supposed family members and natives. It could have at least been saved if the make-up and maybe some tanning lotion took some extra effort. The principal photography may have been a tough endeavor physically and financially for the production team, however, this is still not an excuse for seeking excellence for the already promising film as this is.

The execution of the film’s comic side, including the scenes where Ag-ap takes on all odd jobs imaginable just to earn enough money to buy his dream pair of shoes, promotes unpretentious comedy. The characters have been established well. Moreover, knowing that the most of the major and supporting actors and actresses are not really natives of Batad, their walking, running and jumping across the mountains and the steep rice terraces are really commendable.

The ethnic musical score is on right taste: minimal and seamless with the visuals. The sound is generally okay as well. The cinematography complements the story. It is true that shooting this film in 35mm (obviously with great additional expense and effort) may become an edge to immortalize it into celluloid but the utilizing of the digital medium has not failed the story. Its artistic and social integrity apparently yields to the spirit of independent expression for a better film experience both for the people behind the film and those who are watching it.

The film is inspiring, nurturing, stimulating and invigorating. Its concern for social awareness and responsibility tend to articulate the new Filipino film experience. And with the Cinemalaya trying to tap not just the artist circle as its audience but the Filipino audience as a whole, this film delivers another good Cinemalaya output ready to hit the theaters outside the CCP halls.

‘Batad, Sa Paang Palay’ is one fresh harvest for this generation’s cinematic experience. Indeed, the present time is a turning point in the long said to be dying Philippine film industry. Personally, filmmaking in the Philippines has two big problems to overcome: lack of finances and the people who still have the power and connections are stuck in the old school style of filmmaking and storytelling. The tough voyage towards the survival of this art form demands honesty, commitment and courage in order to uplift the Filipino identity and challenge the independent spirit. It’s time for the new Filipino filmmaking to rise. Let’s not stop its growth and embrace modernization and technological advancements to utilize the art form. Just like the issue raised in ‘Batad, Sa Paang Palay,’ we can move on with modernization without losing what the traditions have brought for us.

Friday, July 21, 2006

All About Films!

http://www.riannehillsoriano.blogspot.com/
This is a blog where you can find comprehensive reviews and photos about various films from all genres and from all places in the world. From Pinoy indie to Pinoy mainstream, from international art-house films to Hollywood craps hidden within the hype of controversies and big named celebrities, you can find them all here!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Film Review - Pirates of the Caribbean: A Dead Man's Chest

Pirates sequel navigates a disappointing turn
By: Rianne Hill Soriano

Pirates of the Caribbean: A Dead Man’s Chest
Starring: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Jack Davenport, Bill Nighy
Directed by: Gore Verbinski


‘Pirates of the Caribbean: A Dead Man’s Chest’ suffers from the sequel curse after trading in the treasure box for cinematic value, content and story for the thrill of nothing more than a gazillion of splashy effects for action fun and adventure. It loses its anchor by drowning itself to become a pure popcorn flick – all thrills, special effects and non-stop action – but with virtually no cohesive storyline, and worse, it is a story without any form of ending at all. And even though Johnny Depp’s ever-interesting performance as Capt. Jack Sparrow keeps a certain buoyancy to the Disney-chase and carnival fun story, ‘POTC 2’ is nothing more than an elaborate 2 1/2-hour long teaser for the upcoming third installment (‘POTC 3’ was shot back-to-back with this sequel ready for release on 2007). It is such a disappointing treat – the makers of this film seem to live a pirate’s personality of being shrewd liars misleading the audience to an expensively sprawling affair of long and repetitive quests cut short only by its cliffhanger non-ending. Too bad for a charming franchise’s reputation: it’s like a fully packaged and yet fake rum that doesn’t even leave a hangover from its supposedly exciting theatrical ride.


Amidst the glossy look and masterful special effects courtesy of its well-delivered cinematography and production design, ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: A Dead Man’s Chest’ has a cluttered and uncompleted story. Its complicated plot has no ending and everything is left hanging in the worst way. Indeed, fans deserve better than such a convolution. Such sheer exhibition of fancy adventure stunts and eye confection superficiality filled with some good laughs really don’t get to compensate with its step backwards especially when compared to the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.’ Its retreat is a shame for the good start of the franchise. It sinks from the weight of its half-baked cargo filled with the sole intention of giving a ‘carnival ship ride with no further value.’ It lacks the true cinematic treasures as it simply goes round and round much like the scene where Sparrow, Norrington (Jack Davenport) and Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) battle each other atop a runaway waterwheel. The movie is just running in circles. What is going on is often unclear beyond its continuing physical comedy and entertaining chase scenes.

Depp’s character as Sparrow is an impressive showpiece for the respected actor. More than his good looks, his awesome talent and versatility as a performer is definitely filled with brilliance. He captures the audience with his charm and great performance. He exudes a certain appeal that convinces the people why he is the best man alive to play the role of the hilariously eccentric Capt. Jack Sparrow. He fills every scene with wry humor and sense of comic timing from such a colorful persona. From his ‘Depp-ian’ eccentricity and oddball acting, he effectively delivers great punchlines that make incredible special effects bow down to his unpredictably impressive and interesting character. The audience gets a too sober performance from Orlando Bloom especially since it is inevitable that he gets compared with Depp. He doesn’t tend to grow in terms of acting prowess as he delivers his lines and moves in stagnant proportions very much the way people has seen him in his other epic and period films like LOTR and Kingdom of Heaven. Moreover, among the three (Sparrow, Turner and Swann), only Turner portrays his character without grayish tones – making him more subdued in a not so positive way. But at the very least, he surfaces a bit of his character by having a too straight personality since this makes him a real different character side-by-side with Jack Sparrow. Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Swann doesn’t really do much here but in a deeper inquisition in the movie’s theme and figurative intentions, she is actually a significant character marking as an unofficial center to the story. Feminists may give due credit to the strong character she portrays except for the blabbers she has done during the last part of the film where she rants like crazy and surprisingly performs tantrums during the swordfight of Sparrow, Turner and Norrington. It totally degrades her persona — nothing but nonsense just to exchange its comic fun effect in an ‘exaggeratingly Disney way.’ Stellan Skarsgard as Bootstrap Bill becomes a sympathetic character and his persona tends to be a bit more striking and effective compared to Bill Nighy’s portrayal of Davey Jones. Nighy seems to have quite a hard time in making his character a bit more enticing, or probably more frightening, probably due to the limitations in his facial and body movements (looks like the using of a motion capture camera during principal photography has not worked well enough to live up to the character with all those tentacles done during post). Jack Davenport as Norrington lacks personality. Personally, of all the characters, I can’t even remember much about his face and appeal other than him being a commodore – as the information has been served well in the dialogues. Other supporting characters play exaggerations in good light as the various pirates and the character of Tia Dalma played by Naomie Harris render effective portrayals overall.

The good thing about this second ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ offer is that it presents a more character- driven story. It could have been a greatly favorable kickoff for this second feature as the audience finds more reason to care and sympathize for the characters. The people see more depth and dimension to the various characters that make them more compelling as well as more human. The motivations of the characters are clearly defined. The thematic approach in showing various intentions of the characters as reuniting with a loved one, regaining power, saving oneself and saving a loved one give direction to the story. Everyone has a different reason for wanting the heart of Davey Jones. Each one weaves various intentions in a comic approach through the interconnected sword fights and chase scenes primarily involving the major characters. The symbolisms and complications of broken hearts and the deals with harsh fates become functional elements for the story. The allegories behind the controversial compass of Sparrow (functioning only if the navigator has a clear and pure vision of his/her desire) give an interesting approach as well. The visual execution (through the more visual spectacles, exotic locales, great art direction, impressive sets and props and the entertainingly-rendered action scenes) is undoubtedly appealing. The gradual revealing of the dreaded Kraken was carefully treated with technical and figurative quality. And yet, the entire movie suffers from its poor sense of direction and its non-ending. Nothing happens literally in the end – everything becomes a question – the ending is more like an opening sequence for Part 3. Moreover, its abrupt prompting to the credits without any reasonable outcome spoils all the good things about it. After all the good investments for the story, it becomes entangled from losing its focus and completely becoming nothing more than a trashy stuff pirated from the franchise’s pirate lore. Cliffhangers and open-ended stories could be utilized in a more creative fashion. But this one is just too stupid to end everything unended. And this major weakness becomes the ‘Kraken’ of the movie itself. Being merely an overture to a yet another sequel, there is nothing more to treasure except its top-rate CGI and comic action-adventure entertainment.

Director Gore Verbinski makes the audience feel like a child enjoying the chase and fight scenes with its breathtakingly frolicking fun. He manages to pull a blend of dark fantasy, goofy humor and melodrama (including a non-obtrusive love triangle of sorts). But although he displays a remarkable generation of fresh and amusing adventures, he loses touch of why a film should have a clear focus and a justifiable ending. More than making it have a rollickingly good time with the seemingly Spielberg-style action and elegantly staged visuals, ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: A Dead Man’s Chest’ goes off course from his intended flair into a simply cartoonish comedy action worth the popcorn.

‘Pirates of the Caribbean: A Dead Man’s Chest’ has every appearance of an epic adventure. But its epic scale suffers without an epic ending. It is like sailing the rough sees towards a battle with a greatly built ship without any weapons whatsoever. It's an amalgam of many of the modern cinema's worst tendencies and mainstream filmmaking’s most unfortunate misconceptions for collecting box-office money from the clear fan-base of successful sequels. The wonderful visual composition and texture (great costumes, magnificent sets, seamless special effects) and plenty of laughs from this studio confection can’t really save what it lacks. It sinks down the abyss with its unfinished voyage to the film can. It moves around in various directions and it takes more than 2 ½ hours to get to nowhere. If the film has not suppressed its ending, it could have worked. Any movie lasting this long should have a certain outcome, even an open-ended finish, at least.

The quest, with its non-stop fun, merely serves an unfinished feel of escapism with the final treasure chest turning out empty. Though some may find this bearable for the adventure and excitement it gives, it has convincingly lowered its cinematic standards.

The movie isn’t worth the price if you’re in need of substance and not just a simply escapist thrill ride. Overall, no cheers for the ‘fake-spirited’ rum named ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: A Dead Man’s Chest.’

Film Review - Pirates of the Caribbean: A Dead Man's Chest

Pirates sequel navigates a disappointing turn
By: Rianne Hill Soriano

Pirates of the Caribbean: A Dead Man’s Chest
Starring: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Jack Davenport, Bill Nighy
Directed by: Gore Verbinski


‘Pirates of the Caribbean: A Dead Man’s Chest’ suffers from the sequel curse after trading in the treasure box for cinematic value, content and story for the thrill of nothing more than a gazillion of splashy effects for action fun and adventure. It loses its anchor by drowning itself to become a pure popcorn flick – all thrills, special effects and non-stop action – but with virtually no cohesive storyline, and worse, it is a story without any form of ending at all. And even though Johnny Depp’s ever-interesting performance as Capt. Jack Sparrow keeps a certain buoyancy to the Disney-chase and carnival fun story, ‘POTC 2’ is nothing more than an elaborate 2 1/2-hour long teaser for the upcoming third installment (‘POTC 3’ was shot back-to-back with this sequel ready for release on 2007). It is such a disappointing treat – the makers of this film seem to live a pirate’s personality of being shrewd liars misleading the audience to an expensively sprawling affair of long and repetitive quests cut short only by its cliffhanger non-ending. Too bad for a charming franchise’s reputation: it’s like a fully packaged and yet fake rum that doesn’t even leave a hangover from its supposedly exciting theatrical ride.


Amidst the glossy look and masterful special effects courtesy of its well-delivered cinematography and production design, ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: A Dead Man’s Chest’ has a cluttered and uncompleted story. Its complicated plot has no ending and everything is left hanging in the worst way. Indeed, fans deserve better than such a convolution. Such sheer exhibition of fancy adventure stunts and eye confection superficiality filled with some good laughs really don’t get to compensate with its step backwards especially when compared to the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.’ Its retreat is a shame for the good start of the franchise. It sinks from the weight of its half-baked cargo filled with the sole intention of giving a ‘carnival ship ride with no further value.’ It lacks the true cinematic treasures as it simply goes round and round much like the scene where Sparrow, Norrington (Jack Davenport) and Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) battle each other atop a runaway waterwheel. The movie is just running in circles. What is going on is often unclear beyond its continuing physical comedy and entertaining chase scenes.

Depp’s character as Sparrow is an impressive showpiece for the respected actor. More than his good looks, his awesome talent and versatility as a performer is definitely filled with brilliance. He captures the audience with his charm and great performance. He exudes a certain appeal that convinces the people why he is the best man alive to play the role of the hilariously eccentric Capt. Jack Sparrow. He fills every scene with wry humor and sense of comic timing from such a colorful persona. From his ‘Depp-ian’ eccentricity and oddball acting, he effectively delivers great punchlines that make incredible special effects bow down to his unpredictably impressive and interesting character. The audience gets a too sober performance from Orlando Bloom especially since it is inevitable that he gets compared with Depp. He doesn’t tend to grow in terms of acting prowess as he delivers his lines and moves in stagnant proportions very much the way people has seen him in his other epic and period films like LOTR and Kingdom of Heaven. Moreover, among the three (Sparrow, Turner and Swann), only Turner portrays his character without grayish tones – making him more subdued in a not so positive way. But at the very least, he surfaces a bit of his character by having a too straight personality since this makes him a real different character side-by-side with Jack Sparrow. Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Swann doesn’t really do much here but in a deeper inquisition in the movie’s theme and figurative intentions, she is actually a significant character marking as an unofficial center to the story. Feminists may give due credit to the strong character she portrays except for the blabbers she has done during the last part of the film where she rants like crazy and surprisingly performs tantrums during the swordfight of Sparrow, Turner and Norrington. It totally degrades her persona — nothing but nonsense just to exchange its comic fun effect in an ‘exaggeratingly Disney way.’ Stellan Skarsgard as Bootstrap Bill becomes a sympathetic character and his persona tends to be a bit more striking and effective compared to Bill Nighy’s portrayal of Davey Jones. Nighy seems to have quite a hard time in making his character a bit more enticing, or probably more frightening, probably due to the limitations in his facial and body movements (looks like the using of a motion capture camera during principal photography has not worked well enough to live up to the character with all those tentacles done during post). Jack Davenport as Norrington lacks personality. Personally, of all the characters, I can’t even remember much about his face and appeal other than him being a commodore – as the information has been served well in the dialogues. Other supporting characters play exaggerations in good light as the various pirates and the character of Tia Dalma played by Naomie Harris render effective portrayals overall.

The good thing about this second ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ offer is that it presents a more character- driven story. It could have been a greatly favorable kickoff for this second feature as the audience finds more reason to care and sympathize for the characters. The people see more depth and dimension to the various characters that make them more compelling as well as more human. The motivations of the characters are clearly defined. The thematic approach in showing various intentions of the characters as reuniting with a loved one, regaining power, saving oneself and saving a loved one give direction to the story. Everyone has a different reason for wanting the heart of Davey Jones. Each one weaves various intentions in a comic approach through the interconnected sword fights and chase scenes primarily involving the major characters. The symbolisms and complications of broken hearts and the deals with harsh fates become functional elements for the story. The allegories behind the controversial compass of Sparrow (functioning only if the navigator has a clear and pure vision of his/her desire) give an interesting approach as well. The visual execution (through the more visual spectacles, exotic locales, great art direction, impressive sets and props and the entertainingly-rendered action scenes) is undoubtedly appealing. The gradual revealing of the dreaded Kraken was carefully treated with technical and figurative quality. And yet, the entire movie suffers from its poor sense of direction and its non-ending. Nothing happens literally in the end – everything becomes a question – the ending is more like an opening sequence for Part 3. Moreover, its abrupt prompting to the credits without any reasonable outcome spoils all the good things about it. After all the good investments for the story, it becomes entangled from losing its focus and completely becoming nothing more than a trashy stuff pirated from the franchise’s pirate lore. Cliffhangers and open-ended stories could be utilized in a more creative fashion. But this one is just too stupid to end everything unended. And this major weakness becomes the ‘Kraken’ of the movie itself. Being merely an overture to a yet another sequel, there is nothing more to treasure except its top-rate CGI and comic action-adventure entertainment.

Director Gore Verbinski makes the audience feel like a child enjoying the chase and fight scenes with its breathtakingly frolicking fun. He manages to pull a blend of dark fantasy, goofy humor and melodrama (including a non-obtrusive love triangle of sorts). But although he displays a remarkable generation of fresh and amusing adventures, he loses touch of why a film should have a clear focus and a justifiable ending. More than making it have a rollickingly good time with the seemingly Spielberg-style action and elegantly staged visuals, ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: A Dead Man’s Chest’ goes off course from his intended flair into a simply cartoonish comedy action worth the popcorn.

‘Pirates of the Caribbean: A Dead Man’s Chest’ has every appearance of an epic adventure. But its epic scale suffers without an epic ending. It is like sailing the rough sees towards a battle with a greatly built ship without any weapons whatsoever. It's an amalgam of many of the modern cinema's worst tendencies and mainstream filmmaking’s most unfortunate misconceptions for collecting box-office money from the clear fan-base of successful sequels. The wonderful visual composition and texture (great costumes, magnificent sets, seamless special effects) and plenty of laughs from this studio confection can’t really save what it lacks. It sinks down the abyss with its unfinished voyage to the film can. It moves around in various directions and it takes more than 2 ½ hours to get to nowhere. If the film has not suppressed its ending, it could have worked. Any movie lasting this long should have a certain outcome, even an open-ended finish, at least.

The quest, with its non-stop fun, merely serves an unfinished feel of escapism with the final treasure chest turning out empty. Though some may find this bearable for the adventure and excitement it gives, it has convincingly lowered its cinematic standards.

The movie isn’t worth the price if you’re in need of substance and not just a simply escapist thrill ride. Overall, no cheers for the ‘fake-spirited’ rum named ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: A Dead Man’s Chest.’

Film Review: Lovewrecked

A real wreck
By: Rianne Hill Soriano |

Love Wrecked
Starring: Amanda Bynes, Chris Carmack, Jonathan Bennett, Jamie-Lynn DiScala
Directed by: Randal Kleiser


The cinematic location of the Caribbean paradise has not saved ‘Lovewrecked’ from its B-movie special effects and very lame storyline. Amanda Bynes’ acting style tries to add life to the lousy script through her light-hearted quirky personality in the movie. However, the entire cinematic cruise does not become an enjoyable ride still.

‘Lovewrecked’ delves around a teeny-bopper story about Jenny (Amanda Bynes) who finds herself trapped in a seemingly deserted island with her dream guy, rock star Jason Masters (Chris Carmack).

Jenny, along with her lifelong friend Ryan (Jonathan Bennett), works as intern at a Caribbean resort for summer. When Jenny saves super rock star Jason after falling off a cruise ship, Jenny and Jason need to survive life in an uninhabited island. From here, Jenny starts to rock his world without him knowing that Jenny has already realized that they are just around three miles away from the luxury resort. Jenny takes advantage of the situation so she can spend more time alone with Jason by making him believe that they are castaways stranded in a remote beach. Things get even more complicated when Jenny’s rival Alexis (Jamie-Lynn DiScala) pretends to be shipwrecked too, and they both compete for Jason’s affection.

The filming location can’t hide the spectacular view of nature’s fine looks. And yet, the cinematography is far from impressive. And more than the Carribean charm and the soaking wet bikinis, there is nothing else for the audience to enjoy the movie. Worse, it runs out of air with its poor story and ineffective exaggerations.

The movie has not even regarded coming up with impressive special effects to at least cover up its inferior characterization and weak dialogues. A number of shots of Jenny and Jason while on their lifeboat and on their way to the supposedly unknown island don’t match the establishing shots of the wide seas – as if they have been placed there during post-production without any attempt for a seamless touch (or this maybe due to low budget?).

Just like Jenny getting overboard in order to get the guy of her dreams, the movie deliriously goes overboard as well in allowing too sloppy acting and dull production values to dominate the entire movie. Too bland and uninspiring, it manages to merely stay within the bounds of flimsy plotpoints in the midst of its cinematic Caribbean locations. Indeed, it has no attempts to come up with a certain level of creativity whatsoever.

In any case, this romantic flick has never gotten any form of compromise to rock the audience’s simplest taste. It’s better of and more likely a bit more bearable if it has just been a TV episode of a teenybopper series. Just save your hundred bucks for a better movie next time around.

Film Review: Lovewrecked

A real wreck
By: Rianne Hill Soriano |

Love Wrecked
Starring: Amanda Bynes, Chris Carmack, Jonathan Bennett, Jamie-Lynn DiScala
Directed by: Randal Kleiser


The cinematic location of the Caribbean paradise has not saved ‘Lovewrecked’ from its B-movie special effects and very lame storyline. Amanda Bynes’ acting style tries to add life to the lousy script through her light-hearted quirky personality in the movie. However, the entire cinematic cruise does not become an enjoyable ride still.

‘Lovewrecked’ delves around a teeny-bopper story about Jenny (Amanda Bynes) who finds herself trapped in a seemingly deserted island with her dream guy, rock star Jason Masters (Chris Carmack).

Jenny, along with her lifelong friend Ryan (Jonathan Bennett), works as intern at a Caribbean resort for summer. When Jenny saves super rock star Jason after falling off a cruise ship, Jenny and Jason need to survive life in an uninhabited island. From here, Jenny starts to rock his world without him knowing that Jenny has already realized that they are just around three miles away from the luxury resort. Jenny takes advantage of the situation so she can spend more time alone with Jason by making him believe that they are castaways stranded in a remote beach. Things get even more complicated when Jenny’s rival Alexis (Jamie-Lynn DiScala) pretends to be shipwrecked too, and they both compete for Jason’s affection.

The filming location can’t hide the spectacular view of nature’s fine looks. And yet, the cinematography is far from impressive. And more than the Carribean charm and the soaking wet bikinis, there is nothing else for the audience to enjoy the movie. Worse, it runs out of air with its poor story and ineffective exaggerations.

The movie has not even regarded coming up with impressive special effects to at least cover up its inferior characterization and weak dialogues. A number of shots of Jenny and Jason while on their lifeboat and on their way to the supposedly unknown island don’t match the establishing shots of the wide seas – as if they have been placed there during post-production without any attempt for a seamless touch (or this maybe due to low budget?).

Just like Jenny getting overboard in order to get the guy of her dreams, the movie deliriously goes overboard as well in allowing too sloppy acting and dull production values to dominate the entire movie. Too bland and uninspiring, it manages to merely stay within the bounds of flimsy plotpoints in the midst of its cinematic Caribbean locations. Indeed, it has no attempts to come up with a certain level of creativity whatsoever.

In any case, this romantic flick has never gotten any form of compromise to rock the audience’s simplest taste. It’s better of and more likely a bit more bearable if it has just been a TV episode of a teenybopper series. Just save your hundred bucks for a better movie next time around.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Film Review - D Lucky Ones

On comedy and booboos
by Rianne Hill Soriano

Starring: Sandara Park, Joseph Bitangcol, Eugene Domingo, Pokwang, Candy Pangilinan
Directed by: Wenn V. Deramas

With Eugene Domingo and Pokwang heading the cast, D Lucky Ones can really make you laugh. But everything seems to end there. And though I know a number of people from the cast to the production staff, I just can't help but write about the booboos of this movie. It is really disappointing. A good film should have cultural correctness and accuracy even in the smallest details that may seem unnoticeable to a number of viewers. And even though such a film is clearly fictionalized, a good research should let it convey a well-established story based from the realities of life. A comedy can sometimes deviate from realistic features. But this creative freedom is always justified for every story claiming for its use.

From Korea, Pokwang and Sandara return to the Philippines via an international flight of Cebu Pacific. In fact, Cebu Pacific looks like a sponsor of the movie because of its well-advertised treatment. But the problem is not the seemingly 'product placement' of the airline company as it looks valid and unexploited on screen. But never did I know that there's an international flight courtesy of Cebu Pacific other than Hongkong to Manila and vice versa. I am open to corrections if there's really a Korea to Manila flight via Cebu Pacific. Morever, Pokwang and Sandara go out of the airport's Centennial Terminal under Cebu Pacific when the said terminal is only meant for PAL (Philippine Airlines) passengers. Is this the most that the location managers can do for the movie? And is this the best effort that the entire staff can have just to be able to shoot the movie without acknowledging a balance between creativity and correctness of what they are bringing to the viewers? On a personal note, for a movie of one of the top film production companies of the country, I just couldn't get the point why they are supposed to let such simple things be overlooked. It's like they let such booboos pass because they underestimate their audience.

I try to rationalize if all these things can be excused because it is meant to be like that for a comedic effect. But this one is not justifiable at all. I try to consider if it's possible that Pokwang and Sandara have made a stopover trip to some Visayan islands first before finally riding a plane bound to Manila since they are riding a plane with the passengers all looking like Filipinos (it's only Sandara who looks like a foreigner in the plane). But it just doesn't make sense. Honestly, the production number Eugene Domingo presents at the Centennial Terminal looks a bit impossible when she is not established as a very influential person in the movie to have the power to get a permit for such at the arrival area of the airport. But this one I can let pass for creative license for such a comedy. But the other things I have initially mentioned, it really tends to underestimate the viewers.

I have no question about the talents of Eugene Domingo and Pokwang when it comes to making people laugh. They know how to deliver. They give good punchlines. They can make both a simple dialogue or an already very funny line to come to terms with their humor altogether. Their characters as big Vilma Santos fans who have vowed to marry their children when the right time comes work for the comedy. But the thing is, removing all the other characters in the movie, the comedy can stand alone with Eugene and Pokwang only. Candy contributes to the humor but her character is not a vital thing in the story. Sandara doesn't give the right timing to deliver a dramatic line or transcend the needed emotion for a scene. Nevertheless, her 'krung-krung' aura adds up to the comedy. Joseph has a very superficial acting. He has no depth for his character and he seems to just read and deliver his lines coming from the script. JR Valentin's role is obviously made for the fun and for that added spice to the story's conflict. He seems like the usual sex object exploited in the big screen (this time the sex object is a guy!) and he seems to work after all. He knows how to carry himself for the scenes without upstaging or downstaging Eugene and Pokwang. He blends with them for his sex object role.

The dance numbers remind me of the 80's flicks where such production numbers are always present in a number of flicks of the era. It's like the 80's dance numbers meet present day novelty songs. They are fun and the masses seem too enjoy it well.

The production design and lighting department are not so impressing for this movie. Eugene's face has not changed a bit during the flashback scenes. Additional effort for the make-up could have saved it. The room of Joseph looks newly-arranged by the art department. The set and props all look brand new when in reality, some things should have looked a bit crumpled or fading. But the funny wardrobe of Pokwang and Eugene looks effective for the genre. The editing is not seemless. Though for just a few seconds, I have noticed an overexposed shot after the bus scene. The closeup shot of Sandara during a dramatic scene with Pokwang is out of focus.

This movie is incomparable with other well-made Star Cinema films. I am a witness to the standing room only second day/weekend showing of this movie at Sta. Lucia East Grand Mall. I have heard the laughter from fans and from those who just want to have a dose of comedy without noticing the booboos I have seen. But I would have to keep up with my stand that every film outfit and filmmaker have the utmost responsibility to come up with a film that is honest to the littlest details of make-believe. Creative license should be exercised towards excellence in all aspects of production. And they should always treat every viewer as either an intellectual or a street-smart person who deserves to watch something worth the hundred bucks s/he pays.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Film Review - Superman Returns

A rousing spectacle of return
By: Rianne Hill Soriano

Starring: Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey, James Marsden, Parker Posey
Directed by: Bryan Singer

My statement remains. I am not obliging people to agree with this but this is my answer to the big question: “Can a Superman be out there in this world we live in really?” My answer is, “There can only be a Superman if there’s a Supervillain.” (Think about it, this quote of mine might become a classic on its own). Balance – the world keeps up with this. Yes, it is possible for a literal Superman to come into our midst, but this shall always have a counterpart on the other side – the way Newton explained the Law of Action and Reaction. Now, would you go for the ‘risky excitement’ of having to witness the world of extreme proportions or would you opt to maintain the ‘ordinary everyday life’ without the tangible Superman? Well, at this point of our timeline, the Superman epic, at least, is still within our reach – thanks to our various art forms extending and realizing our most intense human emotions and our widest imaginations.

‘Superman Returns’ soars as a breathtaking, thundering epic honoring the Superman mythos. Retaining the spirit and essence of the original comic book, it delivers a modern recreation of the caped hero, this time, in the persona of Brandon Routh – as a welcome addition to the superhero cinema archive. ‘Superman Returns’ keeps up to the legacy of every Superman movie extending a certain respect to the films prior to it. Truly, the gravity-defying myth of Superman and its cinematic rebirth is a colossal experience all over the world that even the thematic and cinematic weaknesses of this new version doesn’t give a total failure campaign because of its legendary appeal.


With the seeing of the big red “S” back on big screen during this era, film technology has undoubtedly improved so much since the superhero days of the late Christopher Reeve. The challenge to reinvigorate the comic book saga into a modern 2006 moving picture version demands the upholding of the astounding grandeur, infectious energy and fierce conviction of the Superman legacy. From the youngest children to the most grown-up folks, Superman, born in 1938, is very much alive in our present day. The Superman icon has been skillfully carried out to permanently settle into our imagination as if he were really within our midst, when in fact, he really lives within the metaphors and symbolisms of the various heroes of the world. And this may be one of the major beguiling subtext directing towards Superman’s undisputed charm to humanity. Truly, once again, the Man of Steel steals the hearts of this generation’s fans and film aficionados all over the world.


‘Superman Returns’ takes off from the hands of former ‘X-Men’ director Bryan Singer who seems to pay great respect and reverence for the mythology. He brings genuine connection to the enduring superhero of great cinematic legacy as a commanding orchestrator of a new pop and yet classic spectacle. It is apparent that there has been pressure taken as a challenge in his hands. More than utilizing first-rate and present-day special effects unavailable decades ago, Singer shows a sort of a play safe treatment in this Superman production. This makes a confusingly play safe version of conflicting timelines – showing the ‘classic past’ look and feel in the midst of mobile phones, computers and present-day technology – not justified by it being a pure work of fiction. In this light, this adaptation falls a bit short to perfection.

Singer has to deal with issues like acknowledging the thin line between revering and paying homage to an enduring icon and merely delivering on a bankable franchise: torn between it becoming a Superman classic vs. it being a purely Superman franchise. Singer pays homage by grounding a beautiful cinematic vision through its intimately solid production values. However, though this version looks more well-intentioned than just purely putting on hype to bring money in, it falls a bit short with its heavy-handed script and some weak characters. Moreover, it has nothing new and historically impressive to bring. Nevertheless, with its overall feel for the Superman fans, this one is something to look forward to after a long wait since Donner’s 1978 version.

With its magnificently mounted and gorgeously detailed visuals from Clark Kent’s Kansas home to his work place at the Daily Planet to his crystal fortress in the far, icy pole of the earth, Singer has really utilized the film language to promote exuberance for the wonder and possibility of a superhero from the young boy Kal-El renamed Clark Kent and better known as Superman. Keeping up with the Superman tradition, this new celluloid offer tickles something primitive and comforting from where the Superman ideal has originated that even the pickiest die-hard fans can get to yield to this adaptation. Encompassing the various genres as action-adventure, science fiction, fantasy and romance, this film may really spawn its own set of sequels. But I am hoping that next time around, it could be much better in terms of the quality of story and plot more yielding to the comic book fans’ perspective and faith.

Routh is like a modern combination of Christopher Reeve and Smallville’s Tom Welling. His capable performance as the iconic superhero redefines him as this generation’s new living legend. He clearly is trying to channel Reeve. More than the looks, he effectively sounds like the late Reeve. And he is effectively tough enough to face the challenge and deal with the comparison. Overall, he maintains the classic Superman essence. In a more critical fashion, he does fit the suit well. But still, he can’t fit the exact shoes. The original will always remain the pioneer. And this is where Routh falls short – to make his own effective mark as the ‘New Superman’ without ruining the Superman tradition. Indeed, this is really tough to bring on. Let us just look forward that this ultimately handsome newcomer makes his own mark in the next Superman films to come (with the trend of superhero movies nowadays, surely there would be something next).

A nostalgic hero without physical flaws except for his Kryptonite vulnerability, Routh strikes memorable iconic poses. More than his ultimate powers, his search for his real roots and knowing that he thinks and feels like a human being contribute to his charm. Under the yellow sun, he draws great power to help people from his new home, the Earth. His long search for his place in the universe emphasizes his virtual omnipotence in irony to his humanly heart that is also experiencing eternal heartbreak with his relationship with Lois Lane. And Routh as the new Superman is a delightful treat of physical perfection that seems too impossible in reality – but the film does make him one. A mannequin-looking caped superhero with airbrushed appearance and wooden body chiseled to perfection, his CGI forms apparent in the film reminds me of animated beings in the likes of ‘Final Fantasy’ movies. Truly, the digital action and looks of this film mainly marks its technical difference from its predecessors.


Lois Lane is a pure disappointment in every facet. The Superman/Clark Kent-Lois Lane bittersweet love story is not the mere problem really but the casting. Kate Bosworth does not fill in the classic shoes of a Lois Lane. If Routh considerably validates his Superman character, Bosworth is nothing but a still filler. She doesn’t give out any chemistry at all – whether as a stand alone Lois Lane or a partner of Superman. She doesn’t even get near the Lois Lane essence of Margot Kidder or the Lois Lane caliber of Teri Hatcher. With Bosworth and Routh together, they tend to feature a romance that is remotely romantic and too superficial, physically and figuratively alike.

Knowing that this new rendition of Superman composes of fresh faces in the cast, the idea works in general but Bosworth and Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor don’t promote character depth and dimension. Thus, they become small pieces of Kryptonites in the flow of the story. Undeniably, the rendition of Lex Luthor in Spacey affirms the role of Superman as our savior. But Spacey’s performance looks too struck by the fact that he is about to be a part of a classic myth. Spacey has a good filmography as a great actor. But his performance here is yet to be compared to what Gene Hackman has done in 1978. As a menacing villain as he is, he has poorly conceived his character and lays a very flat performance as Superman’s sardonic villain.

The music from the genius of John Williams carries out with a blast. Though the editing and sometimes poor pacing are not things to boast for in this film, the spectacular visuals, impressive score and great use of the film language by Singer becomes a splendid audio-visual treat.


Singer has left the ‘X-men’ franchise in favor of reliving the Superman saga. Singer’s first flight into the Superman territory keeps up to the trend of what the present technology has to offer. The IMAX version of ‘Superman Returns’ makes us the more curious of it. The overall treatment of ‘Superman Returns’ seems to be pegged into the looks of ‘Batman Begins’ and ‘Spiderman 1 and 2’ and combined with Singer’s own touches. He maintains a classic feel and adds some comic touches to the picture so that it never grows too dark and assuming and let itself yield towards what is humanly. The almost 200-minute film still catches the fanatical hearts of the legend. Keeping a balance between the old school look and the 21st century sensibility, the film works without using the same hype as what the ‘Da Vinci Code’ film has chosen to do. As a legendary tale of all time, it merely maintains its epic status as a lyrical movie on its own. But although Singer knows style and grace and he delivers here, Christopher Nolan in his overhaul of the Batman myth in ‘Batman Begins’ is still on top for me.

‘Superman Returns’ continues the tradition. Singer puts allegories of Superman in parallelism to Christ as God’s only son. For the fans and aficionados, the film’s message is to become your own Superman for yourself and others.

Overall, it’s Brilliant, it's Superb, it’s definitely Superman.

Film Review - Dilim

A predator-hero in ‘Dilim’
By: Rianne Hill Soriano

Starring: Mario Magallona, Rica Peralejo, Emilio Garcia, Hermie Concepcion, Archie Adamos
Directed by: Topel Lee

In the midst of the global boom of fantasy and superhero movies, it is a tough endeavor for Pinoy filmmakers, especially those within the independent scene, to venture on a live action-animation assemblage that defies its own line of constraints (mainly its financial restrictions) by utilizing both the collaborative talents of the filming team and maximizing their limited resources to the film’s advantage. Benefiting with the look, style and mood it has formed, this story about a mysterious creature/predator called ‘Dilim’ capitalizes with a punk treatment and metaphorical statement of ‘new blood’ director Topel Lee – playing around the digital medium to come up with animation and special effects that may not be in par with Hollywood’s finest but, considerably, just right to come up with something that fits its own eccentricities.

If superman is about to hit the Philippine theaters this coming Wednesday, a Pinoy dark superhero comes to play ahead – a week before it – through the Cinema One Originals and Filipino Classics Festival which raved the SM Cinemas last June 21 to 25, 2006. The digital feature ‘Dilim’ stars Mario Magallona, Rica Peralejo, Emilio Garcia, Hermie Concepcion, Archie Adamos and a lot of commendable talents both from the local film and theater circuit.

‘Dilim’ takes advantage of the use of harsh lights to promote its effective high contrast look the way a digital camera films it – as compared to the generally better technical quality and contrast difference of the 16 or 35mm film. From its music video-long OBB, the film moves on with stylish, fast-paced and action-packed visuals accompanied by punk and rock tracks. Multiple cuts are apparent in almost every scene where there is at least 3 different angles shot for one particular scene. Both wide angle and telephoto lenses are utilized accordingly. A number of distorted images are seen along with chroma shots that try to blend with 3D backgrounds. The chroma shots are not perfectly rendered though – I’m not sure if that’s intentional or not, but considerably, it works – the characters shot in blue or green screen look too obviously attached to the background as the contours of the characters are not seamless with these backgrounds. Nevertheless, the overall presentation creates a certain feel acceptable enough for its alternative way of storytelling. The special effects don’t tend to fall under the impressive category and its punk style tale wallows into certain compromises – that may look good for some, or dismaying for others.

A number of allegories have been utilized in the story: the blessed and the cursed; the human and the beast, the victims and the victimizers – all presented in literal and figurative terms. ‘Dilim’ has his own inner struggle from his curse while the grueling world struggles along with its own strife. The story merely draws on how Dilim’s monstrosity covers up a true human heart from within.

Overall, ‘Dilim’ is for a certain type of audience that may be able to grasp such a punk style. The film is ambitious. And though the screenplay may not be as astounding as I expected, it does make a statement. The stunts and fight scenes may not be as striking; but the fact that its overall audio-visual impact may be technically new to the eyes of the regular Pinoy viewers, particularly the ‘masa,’ it can promote a new taste that they may consider again next time around.

Its basic weakness lies on some minor but still unjustifiable discontinuities. On a higher level, there are some lapses in the script and visuals. They may seem tolerable in general, but knowing that this film has been intended for competitive endeavors, it’s not as remarkable as a number of critically-acclaimed films that may line up alongside with it.

No doubt, not all can get impressed or see its own goodness. No doubt it’s not the best film to boast for, critically-speaking. But it makes its stand amidst its own struggle as an independent/alternative work – in the same way as the character ‘Dilim’ struggles for his own space in the society.

Some old school folks may call it trashy. Some conservative ones may call it out-of-the box. Some high-end critics may see it having some moving pretentions. Some mainstream buffs may call it weird. Some may call it ambitious or too ambitious. Some may call it ‘astig.‘ Different minds can meet with various insights. But above all, this film’s attempt to achieve its own ambitions amidst an obviously tight budget and its own time constraints is an achievement in itself. Shooting this film using the digital format and choosing its own level of animation and special effects, its radical thoughts become perceivable in its punk treatment. In a third world country as the Philippines where it has long been said that it has a dying film industry, the digital medium as presented in this film can really prove a revolution.

Personal Interview with New Recording Artist Amber

Amber reveals herself like a precious gem

By : Rianne Hill Soriano | YEHEY! Contributors
4 July 2006 | 9:26 AM



After a successful show at SM Megamall last July 1, 2006, the new Viva recording artist Amber reveals herself backstage in a one-on-one interview and proves that she fits her name being a treasured gem as she is.

Tagged as the new pop jewel coming back to the Philippines after spending her adolescent years in the US, this half-Pinay, half-American talent pursues a professional singing career with the launch of her debut album “Feel Good Music.” This 12-track album promotes a combination of various themes and soulful beats – from fun, upbeat and mid-tempo love ballads with some alternative pop vive and some soul and R&B turns to inspirational songs about love and appreciation. Her carrier single “Manila,” which is already hitting the airwaves and topping the radio charts, speaks of the joys of living in this crowded and crazy but wonderfully unique city.

Amber (Amber Alejo Rowley) developed her vocal skills since childhood. She was born in the US but was relocated to the Philippines at age 5. At the age 14, it was tough for her to leave her friends and loved ones as she needed to go back to the US to continue her studies there. She joined a church choir back in high school and auditioned to a madrigal choir where she further honed her skills as a soprano 1 (performing the higher notes within the group). She looks forward to going back, and finally, she is back here now as a rising pop star.

Her music roots really exposed her to various types of music. But above all, her pop culture influences contributed much to her professional career now. Prior to her recording stint at Viva, she already performed with different touring groups and even did background vocals for artists like Hillary Duff. She recorded 2 singles for the movie soundtrack of “Playa’s Ball.” She also had a couple of stints in Osaka, Japan where she worked as a lead vocalist for the popular rock/hip-hop stage show Enwhy. And after her feat in Japan, she went back to the Philippines seeking opportunities to serve her Pinoy roots.

Amber is definitely in focus. She is here to do her thing and fulfill her dreams. According to her, she is trying to go where she feels she’s supposed to be – seeing the door and walking through it. She is very fortunate to have the right opportunities upon her return to the Philippines and serve her dreams here. Indeed, the warm welcome from her carrier track “Manila” makes her more inspired day by day as she hears it played over the radio like crazy. She is very happy that the radio stations and listeners are very supportive and favorable of her debut song. And she finds a lot of fun in doing club and mall shows and radio tours as well.

Amber’s album draws a lot of inspirations from her various experiences and artists she looks up to like Mariah Carey (paying homage to Mariah’s classic hit song “Hero” by doing a rendition of it during her mall show at Megamall). And with her hit single “Manila,” it becomes more than just a literal interpretation of her homecoming – it is an allegory of her great dream of finally coming back home to the Philippines – “I grew up here, and I have a lot of good memories in Manila,” says Amber. Before she left the country at age 14, she had a lot of friends and loved ones to leave behind. Her great memories here have always made her want to go back. But according to her, “When you have a lot of things doing already as a maturing teenager with skills being honed and a career being built, you do this, you do that, and once you’re working hard, it’s difficult to go back right away…” And when the right time and opportunity has finally come, here she is with an album about life, about experiences and about people. And now, she looks forward to doing more albums here in the Philippines as more experiences gained make her want to put them into music (she wrote 2 songs from her “Feel Good Music” album).

Proud of her music video of “Manila,” she wants to invite everyone to check it out at the music channels. Shot in Roxas Boulevard, she finds herself very lucky with cameos of a number of personalities including Keith Martin who played as one of his bodyguards. The concept and the whole video has become a great collaboration for her and the production team.

About her love life, right now, Amber is more attuned to her career and she is definitely single. She had been into some relationships way back in the US but she never had the chance to have a Pinoy boyfriend yet. She said that during her stay here in the Philippines, she was too young to enter into a romantic relationship. And when she was in the US as an adolescent, though she was already considering getting into relationships, their area in Los Angeles mostly have Americans and no much Filipinos had been in her midst even in school. She is open to dating a Pinoy guy and she has no exact preference with regards to dating and partnership. Her concern is not about the race nor the color but the overall attitude and the beating of her heart.

Singing is Amber’s true passion and fulfillment. And more than this, she is open to anything in this vast business as getting into TV, movies or anything that comes up to her as she knows that each opportunity keeps up to her constantly growing career. But as for now, her main focus is her singing career.

This new Viva recording artist has a true heart for the Filipino audience. Seeing her very humble, bubbly and yet matured attitude backstage, she has fluently conversed in Filipino with the words of as gratitude to people behind the mall show. Her transparency and outlook in life are something to look up to as well. At the age 20, she knows the world she has entered. She feels like that same ordinary gal named Amber. Some people tend to become different to her now since she is already a music personality; but for her, she has never really changed that much. She knows that some things tend to change because of her status now but she tries her best to make her friends and family feel that she is one and the same Amber the way they have known her. And being in the tough showbiz world as she is, she is brave enough to say that she does hope that she won’t really change negatively with her pursuit for success in this spectacular and yet harsh arena of stardom.

Personally, with my interview with Amber, my wish for her is: “May she stand out like a real jewel as what the word ‘amber’ denotes – a gem that started from a resin hardened into a soft, warm, golden spectacle and a fossil that has witnessed a lot about life and shares a part of it through its magnificent yellow color and shine. May she not change from that humility and good attitude I have seen.”

Can Amber keep up with the tough world of the industry she has started? She looks up to many artists and she especially mentioned Celine Dion as one of the greatest artists she really admires. More than a great career and an undoubtedly powerful voice, Celine’s great attitude towards life in general and her love and care for her family all inspires Amber. Hopefully, may she stand a long period of time like the gem she has been named for and the superstar she has looked up to.

Poets, writers and artists look to amber for sunny inspirations. Gemologists and jewelers desire amber for its beauty. Curators archive amber for its life-enduring splendor. And new-found friends and fans of ‘Amber’ are all invited on July 15 at Hard Rock Makati for a blast of a show meant for everyone’s entertainment.

Amber’s debut Album “Feel Good Music” is now available at all major record stores nationwide and is distributed by Viva Records.

Interview with Boy Band Same Same

Same Same up close
By : Rianne Hill Soriano | YEHEY! Contributors
13 June 2006 | 8:19 AM


From Moffatts to Same Same. Bob and Clint, two of the triplets of one of the most successful pop/rock bands of the 90’s are back – and they are now hitting the airwaves as the new band Same Same. They are presently here in Manila to promote their debut album “The Meaning of Happy” with their latest single “Love Isn’t.” And in a press conference last June 10, 2006 at Red Box Karaoke, Greenbelt 3, the 22-year old Bob and Clint reveal the what’s, why’s and how’s of their personal and professional lives as young adults and as Same Same.

Along with their brothers Dave and Scott, Bob and Clint practically grew up in a family of music lovers. The brothers started with a professional country music act in 1994 until they got the biggest break as performers when they signed to a major label recording contract in 1995 as the Moffatts. Indeed, they have come a long way. And now that they are exploring their own careers more independently, let us get up close and personal with Bob and Clint, now collectively known as Same Same.

During the interview, they revealed how they and their other brothers are still very much hooked up into playing video games. But ironically, Bob and Clint confess how sentimental and melodramatic they are when it comes to the music they listen to – they really love to listen and sing to the tunes of the likes of Chicago, the Beatles, Bryan Adams and Queen. And somehow, these have influenced the kind of music they have made as Same Same.

According to Bob and Clint, when they’re together, they would always say “same same” – a sort of expression that really got into them. And later on, they took the said expression for the launch of their new career as a duo. Well, their new name matches them anyway… they are twins… they practically look the same… and they both love wearing Diesel clothes… and they are proud to admit they love free stuff and they really love their sponsors… But it’s easy to figure out who’s who since Clint grew some beard and mustache while Bob has blonde hair now.

How are the guys now? This is an excerpt from the interview:

What are your inspirations for your album together as Same Same?

I think just being back together and just trying to be creative together again, you know. Everytime we spend time together with our brothers in Canada in the past few years, we never really wrote songs together. We just hang out, play video games. We really just chilled out. And I think that’s what made us closer because when we traveled together as the Moffatts, we were around each other playing for 24 hours a day. We took each other for granted. And now we know, everytime we see each other we just hang out, and it’s cool. But getting back together (as Same Same) is something we haven’t done for a long time, and we’re really having a creative time.

After working as part of the Moffatts for more than a decade, how do you work together now as Same Same?

We really listen to a lot of music together and this is what actually influences us. When we sit down together we are really able to hash the spirit. Now based in Thailand, it is something different for us really ‘coz there are lots of different musical styles there. We keep our hands pretty much on everything, the whole process. We listen to different styles. It was a great working environment – very influential to us. Making the album and playing the music by ear, we feel the great chemistry. Great experiences… a lot of fun!

Besides here in Southeast Asia, are you going to release it in a broader scale, internationally?

I think we’ll just play it by ear, we just know that we made this record over here, at this time of the year, we’ll see what happens… If we go somewhere, if it goes somewhere else, we’ll go there. But we’ll spend more time here for now.

You said you are more “hands on” to the making of your album now. When it comes to the making of your music videos, how involved are you in the process?

We try to be a part of the creative process but overall we leave it up to our director. Like we worked with this Thai movie director… he treated the music video like a film, 1 shot in 10 different angles…it was really interesting, lots of fun. But we try to… as far as like the idea, it has to kinda work with us as well.

Do you consider making a music video for one of your songs here in the Philippines some time soon?

There are no plans yet right now but it would be nice! (To Same Same: Maybe you can consider that…) Absolutely! And we’re not too far away! That would be nice.

How was it working with a Filipino artist?

Lovi (Poe)? She’s great, she’s been a great collaboration for us. The first time we met her we’re in Indonesia. When she came over to shoot the video, she was totally a professional. We were having a lot of fun. She’s a very talented artist, great singer, and does her own writing as well.

Based from your recent performances, how did you find the Filipino audience now?

It was great! It was pretty awesome, kinda the first thing we did here… There was a very warm response from our fans. They are much more energetic to those audiences throughout Asia – coz a lot of them are very calm and shy…

How can you compare the experience before as Moffatts and now as Same Same?

Well, it’s a little more quiet… ‘coz it takes time, you know. I mean, with the Moffatts, we’re together for 19 years, very long process before that sort of thing happened. So we’re just having a lot of fun, what ever happens happens… But yesterday (their show at SM Mall of Asia), it was very nice!

We all know that your passion is really music, but are you considering acting too – as how a number of music artists are getting into as well?

(Response from Clint) Yeah, actually before we got into Thailand I was actually doing that. It was one of the things I wanted to do, a sort of change of pace, just try it out. But there’s too many people doing that in LA, and you really don’t get anywhere, you just keep on talking to the same people all the time on the same stuff… I rather learn in other places if there’s an offer on the table. But if you ask, it is kinda hardly now, I’m focused on this part, but acting is always something that I wanted to do.

Are there any plans of a second album already?

Absolutely! We had so much fun making this one and I think there is so much more we can do in the future and start growing with and better at.

Will there be a chance that you can perform with your brothers again?

Right now probably not because we all have the little things we’re doing. Scott is still working on a solo project for the last year in LA… Dave is just separately handled with his solo project… And if those things are all planned out, then maybe in a few years time we can go back…

Aside from writing their own songs, Same Same co-produced the album which also features the catchy singles “Supermodel,” “Stay,” “Tell Me,” “City lights,” “It Can't Get Any Worse,” "Strange Lover” and the title track “The Meaning Of Happy.” Their debut album “The Meaning Of Happy” is now out in CDs at only P355 under Sony BMG Music Entertainment. Same Same "The Meaning of Happy” Philippine Promo Tour is brought to you by PLDT My Music, official media partners ABS-CBN and MYX. Special thanks to Studio 23, ABS-CBN.com, WRR 101.9, Cinema One, Beverly Hills, Red Box, Yehey.com and Crowne Plaza the official residence of Same Same in Manila.

Film Review - Kapag Tumibok Ang Puso (Not Once But Twice)

A disappointing treat from Imus Productions
By: Rianne Hill Soriano

Kapag Tumibok Ang Puso (Not Once But Twice)
Starring: Bong Revilla Jr., Ai-Ai delas Alas, Precious Lara Quigaman Eugene Domingo
Directed by: Wenn V. Deramas

‘Kapag Tumibok Ang Puso (Not Once But Twice)’ is one of those movies that might urge the people to walk out of the theater feeling betrayed. The story itself gives nothing worthwhile and creative. It’s like the makers of this disappointing movie just wanted to come up with a money-making endeavor targeting a ‘masa appeal’ as how they see it – developing an overused concept and story without exercising an intellectual and/or creative license for it. Worse, this is one of those movies, whether consciously or not, that compel the ‘masa’ to have a low level of film appreciation. Come on… at this time and age, it wouldn’t hurt if we move on to either more intellectual, or at least, more creative and entertaining enough, Pinoy films. Let’s not waste film rolls by providing the audience with a piece of crap that plays around a story lacking coherence, allows bad cinematography and tolerates discontinuity.

The people behind the making of this movie seem to have too much fun – playing around with it way too much. With such, its value has suffered greatly. The story has no coherence. There is nothing wrong with utilizing an overused concept of a family struggling with the death of a compassionate mother and what comes after that if it brings something new or create a twist from it. But this movie has considerably unjustifiable means and ends. Taking a mainstream route, it doesn’t even play around a rational presentation. I somehow got the point of promoting the value of love and forgiveness as the movie tries to convey. But its lack of consistency and rationality doesn’t really justify these virtues as presented in the story.

The movie has poor lighting design. Most of the time, the key light looks too harsh and artificial. The quality and colors of the lights even makes people more confused – is it a day or night shot? At times, the poor cinematography even contributes to the film’s discontinuity as the lighting doesn’t match the intercuts. The chroma shots look so elementary. ‘Exodus’ is a film from Imus Productions too but you can readily compare the two in terms of special effects. The heaven scenes from this movie looks as if it’s made during the 80’s – with very limited lighting and special effects technology. It’s too obvious with the hair of 2005 Ms. International Precious Lara Quigaman and veteran comedienne Ai-ai delas Alas that the lighting is unable to save the scenes’ quality. Such a scene being situated in heaven is not an excuse to poor lighting and effects. Moreover, the composition of shots is not so noteworthy. A number of canted shots are executed even though they are not making any point – it’s like the makers of the movie just wanted the shots to look that angled without much creative, dramatic or comedic base.

Even the editing is not so remarkable. It’s quite funny to boast of the expert Singaporean, Chinese and Filipino fight choreographers even if they are just intended for the kicks as the ‘Mr. And Mrs. Smith-inspired’ action scenes don’t save its editing and special effects problems. It then becomes as corny as the dance showdown date of Bong Revilla and delas Alas – how pathetic of it to simply allow the audience to yield to unconvincing cuts of Revilla and delas Alas doing a breakdance. Obviously, the viewers are left with no choice except to go along no matter how stupid the scenes are. It is so obvious that the doubles of Revilla and delas Alas are the ones doing the breakdance. Come on! They are a lot skinnier than the actor and actress. The fast cuts can’t hide the truth. Let’s not assume the audience is stupid. In fact, more than the said issue, the corny comedic plots here, the impossible and just-made-for-fun plotpoints don’t work like how the queer turn of events of the usual French art films can. The overall treatment doesn’t work really.

Acting-wise, there is nothing to boast of here. The newbies Quigaman looks so inhibited on screen. So goes with Inah Revilla who looks too conscious with her acting. The role of first-rate comedienne Eugene Domingo is underrated and she just gives what is needed for her character. Revilla and delas Alas look veterans really when it comes to mainstream movies. Overall, the movie is not directed with excellence really. Maybe the movie could have worked a little bit better as a comedy episode for a sitcom.

I can’t deny the fact that its comedy may still work for some people. But the issue here is that the movie seems to treat the audience with low level of film appreciation and comprehension. How can the ‘masa’ soon appreciate more significant and creative stories when they are offered something like this? Should it always be only the A, B and C classes who can understand and appreciate art films, independent films and intellectually-empowering films? There is nothing wrong with being ‘mababaw ang kaligayahan’ when people are given a dose of laughter with such a movie as this. But if that’s the only thing offered to the audience, might as well make an episode of a TV series and watch it for free than paying a hundred bucks without letting your mind getting stimulated even just a bit. Let’s not make the Pinoy audience develop ‘a low IQ when it becomes to watching films.’ We all know that the viewers cater to what is offered to them. Film, TV, radio and print are powerful and they can make things right for the audience.

It is quite an achievement that the Filipino film industry nowadays tries to evolve especially with the boom of the independent films that don’t completely rest under the hands of the mainstream rules. But with the showing of this movie, whatever happened to the improving trend? The technical prowess of ‘Exodus’ did make a difference even though its script was too shallow and cliché. But this one, it promotes itself as a completely frustrating piece.

Film Review - Take the Lead


A charming lead delivers it all
By: Rianne Hill Soriano

Starring: Antonio Banderas, Rob Brown, Yaya DaCosta, Alfre Woodard, Dante Basco
Directed by: Liz Friedlander

The charming Pierre Dulaine (Antonio Banderas) and a bunch of school rejects turned impassioned dancers take the lead in an inspirational story about the harsh realities in a New York public school. A dance-filled teen melodrama mainly set in a high school detention hall, the theme of ‘Take the Lead’ clings on to the interesting and exciting mix of hip-hop and ballroom music. And it turns out to be a predictable story hanging on to some good and entertaining dance and comic sequences in a pop fairy tale fashion. Its inspirational teacher movie formula where Banderas’ charisma mainly becomes its only source of strength associates it with films like Dangerous Minds, Mad Hot Ballroom and Shall We Dance.

Inspired by a true story, the film revolves around the idea of a professional dancer Pierre Dulaine volunteering to teach ballroom dancing in New York City’s South Bronx High School. When his formal background and classic methods clash with his students’ rebellious and hip-hop instincts, his efforts are given due credit when his class gets to create a new style of dance so interesting, inspiring and challenging in every step. A feel-good story utilizing music and dance to infuse their emotions with their passion for dancing, Dulaine guides the problem kids with the complications in their personalize lives.

As a kickoff to set the mood is an impressive opening sequence that introduces a swing as a form of music and dance form. And from then on, the music shifts from the tango and the foxtrot to the hip-hop and some groovy remixes – combining ballroom and hip-hop moves in some exciting ways.

The hip-hop and ballroom music mix becomes a marketable concept. It has a certain appeal to peek the curiosity of the audience. The dances make the movie vivid but not as spectacular as expected. The movie’s dynamism and the characters’ coming-of-age adversities don’t stand as clear as the expectations for the film. What redeems the movie is a combination of splendid dance scenes, good music, and an Antonio Banderas making it energetic from the surface. Moreover, it seems like the debuting film director Liz Friendlander mainly leaves a mark of her music video directing roots with the film’s shifts in tone and its stylish cuts. Physically, it works at a certain extent; but its feature film potential weakens with its superficiality and lack of deeper sensation for the story. The film extends more on the flashy dance sequences and falls a bit short on depth and direction, along with its commercial compromises.

There are plenty of funny parts. The interesting character conflicts and drama make interesting accents. However, the ending doesn’t seem to wrap up everything. And although the film is convincingly pegged under the Hollywood mainstream formula, some issues are not clearly resolved. The dance performances and Bandera’s appeal deserve applause. The script is another story.

The wonderfully magnetic and charming Banderas in the lead delivers it all for the film. It certainly helps that he plays Dulaine. Oozing with charm and talent, he fits the role as if he were born to play it. The film loses redemptive power without his sophistication. His compassion, his accent and his flowery courtliness can obviously make girls swoon. From the way he effectively carries both his dramatic and comedic scenes as the perfect sexy gentleman to his mad hot dance performance with Morgan (Katya Virshilas), the endorphin rush for the film really takes the lead because of him.

The rousing finale is no less engaging – the audience tends to anticipate something hopefully surprising in the end. However, there are many false steps with its choppy finale and vague ending. Even the fusion of classic dance and hip-hop moves doesn’t give a clear final bow. It is entertaining but it could have used a better tempo to make it more worthwhile in the end and not just leave all the clichés unturned. The film knows which way to swing but it doesn’t know where and when to end itself with a thrill.

Film Review - Manay Po

Regal's gay movie
By: Rianne Hill Soriano

Starring: Cherry Pie Picache, John Prats, Polo Ravales, Jiro Manio and many more
Directed by: Joel Lamangan

The gay theme of ‘Manay Po’ joins the bandwagon after the recent success of art films of the same genre including 'Brokeback Mountain’ and ‘Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros.’ This movie may be falling under the same genre, but it is completely made for ‘masa appeal’ considering its totally mainstream presentation. With its ‘masa audience’ target, it does work with its comedy. However, there is really nothing new about this kind of movie. It is developed with the same old theme, concept, characterization, conflict, plot and storyline – just presented with new faces of actors and actresses and some new details to account for its story.

With my experience in watching this movie in a certain mall, I would like to address the moviehouses to give proper training to their ‘lagaristas.’ Indeed, it is very annoying to watch a movie with the next reel being played on the wrong cues for the whole duration of the movie. Normally, a feature film has 5 reels of prints with each print having a length of 2,000 feet. Every 90 feet is approximately 1 second of footage. And so, 1 reel is more or less 20 minutes worth of the movie. So you can just imagine how irritating it is to get bothered by either the advanced or late playing of the next print by the irresponsible, untrained or maybe undisciplined ‘lagarista/s.’ Also, though it has not happened for this movie, let me address that there are a couple of times when those people working behind the projector play some cheesy boy band, novelty songs or some other non-complementing tunes for the CBB (closing billboard) – which, obviously, are not the ones the filmmakers have made for their films. This may sound like a very trifle thing to take a look into but it is something really important because people should pay respect to the creators of the film. And even the credits is a part of the film and it should be given due respect.

‘Manay Po’ is your typical Regal movie. All the elements of a Mother Lily formula can be seen: quirks for the characters, song and dance number, a sequence in a beach as a breather – all these and even more have been seen in countless movies since the 80’s.

The movie’s mainstream comedy works. And with the more budget-friendly cost of a more advanced filmmaking technology as compared to what the not so distant past has offered, it is a great improvement to see a more digitally-enhanced OBB (opening billboard) for this movie. It may not be as spectacular as the OBBs of the likes of ‘LOTR,’ ‘Star Wars’ or ‘The Matrix,’ but at least there are efforts made nowadays to utilize digital technology for the almost always tightly-budgeted Pinoy commercial films. However, with the sound, Pinoy movies are still in the trying times – not being able to achieve good sound quality to come in par with international films. This movie, just like most Pinoy movies, gets out-of-synch with some of its dubbed lines. Although it’s minimal, it’s still a weakness.

On the surface, the comedy brought by the actors playing gay roles tends to be funny. However, they do not completely justify their gay roles as the sincerity in their acting is questionable. This may not be caused by the idea that they are straight guys in real life but this shows how far their acting can become convincing to the audience. And this becomes clearly seen with the effective punchlines thrown by the real-life gay actor IC Mendoza as compared to the acting of John Pratts, Polo Ravales and Jiro Manio.

With the story revolving around the life of Luz, a jeweler, and her three gay children Oscar, Orson, and Orwell, ‘Manay Po’ tries to project a family movie image with its wholesome and family-oriented gay theme. The various issues on identity crisis and ‘gayhood,’ the unconditional love of a mother to her children, the value of friendship, the struggle in a competitive and discriminating society, the effort to make stable relationships and overcome adolescent insecurities, the financial and emotional struggle of loved ones, and the search for freedom are all presented in the story.

Cherry Pie Picache’s efforts for her ‘S’ defect is quite obvious and it becomes inconsistent as there are times that it sounds authentic but at times she sounds too conscious of it – it looks forced on her tongue and it tends to sound fake. IC Mendoza is the most effective gay of the characters. Charles Christianson gives some good efforts for his supporting gay role, but just like the major characters John Pratts, Polo Ravales and Jiro Manio, his gay acting does not reflect a sincerely gay character still.

Many can relate to the movie’s theme and this becomes an edge for it. The ‘Magpakatotoo ka’ attitude, the manifestations of true and unconditional love, and the ups-and-downs in love and relationships – all these crawl their way towards the heart of the viewers who get to attach themselves and relate to the feelings of the characters. And it could have been better if these issues have been presented in a more creative fashion and not too contrived in a box of formula. Noticeably, particular issues as the relationship of best friends (a male and a gay) in their adolescent days do not ingeniously address the issue. It only provides a physical stream for the story. And if the viewers don’t try to analyze further, they won’t be able to dissect what the script tries to offer beyond its surface.

‘Manay Po’ is not an A-list Pinoy film but it gives the audience some laughs. And with the rising number of Pinoy films nowadays, I believe that the film industry is starting to survive death. Let’s continue to support Pinoy films, and who knows, a few years from now, great improvements may come.