Saturday, April 24, 2010


Six actresses, one photo shoot.

Lee Je-Yong's Actresses takes its audience behind the scenes of a high-fashion shoot in an attempt to offer a glimpse into the psyche of six of Korea's top actresses, playing an onscreen version of themselves. Discussing everything from how growing old in show business is treated like a crime, to how something as common as a divorce could adversely affect a celebrity's standing, this movie contains a chockful of references pertaining to the six actresses' personal lives whilst threading lightly on the underlying truth that they all belong to an industry obsessed with youth and beauty.

Beginning with a candid interview detailing how each actress feels about being in the limelight, the movie cuts to the arrival of each actress to this one of a kind Vogue photoshoot to exhibit six generations of actresses, each in different stages of their careers.

Veteran actress Yoon Yeo-Jung (Hotelier, Be Strong Geum Soon) impeccably dressed in a sable coat arrives an hour early at the venue, followed by relative newcomer Kim Ok-bin (Thirst, Accidental Gangster & the Mistaken Courtesan), who's decided to wait in the parking lot a while longer to avoid carrying on an awkward conversation with her senior. Next to arrive is a casual and laidback Ko Hyun-Jung (Queen Seonduk, What's Up Fox) in a randomly thrown outfit, with a dazed and jetlagged Kim Min-hee (Love Marriage, Some Like it Hot) hot on her heels, rounded off by a composed Lee Mi-Suk (Untold Scandal), showing off some grey hairs. Last and fashionably late is Choi Ji-Woo (Winter Sonata) who, after fretting about her face looking bloated, decides to honor her commitment to do the pictorial, thinking twice about being photoshopped into the group picture.

What follows is a mock documentary as the women measure themselves against each other, starting with the way they look to how the star system is carried over the photoshoot. Confronted with the challenge of sharing a magazine cover, personal issues start to crop up, as the seasoned pro can't help but feel insecure after hearing that she was called in as a last minute replacement and the newbie tries to keep her head down and not draw too much attention to herself; while the others try their best not to behave like primadonnas. 

Actresses has a solid first half thanks to the natural rapport of actresses Ko Hyun-Jung, Lee Mi-Suk  and Yoon Yeo-Jung, who frankly deliver their opinions on common subjects such as cosmetic surgery and skin care like ajuhmmas killing time at a local beauty salon. At times the gracious veterans and at times acting like embittered divas, the three provide the film with a certain level of believability, providing a clear contrast to Kim Ok-Bin and Lee Min-Hee's understated performances as the ingenue and the token hot babe, respectively.

Choi Ji-Woo unfortunately sticks out like a sore thumb but holds her own in a scene where she's pitted against a tactless, slightly inebriated Ko Hyun-Jung, as the two engage in a verbal smackdown in the powder room. It's the culmination of the underlying tension and competitiveness that comes with bringing together these high-profile actresses which the movie only alluded to in its first few minutes but while it's a cinematic treat to see the famed hallyu actress lash out, the conflict gets all watered down as all six actresses play nice in an impromptu dinner party to celebrate Christmas eve.

No one really gets to play the villain, for unlike Entourage, where the guest stars get to poke fun and do something over the top with their alternate personas, this film, as may attributed to Korean modesty and convention, is a curious and restrained piece of scripted-reality. It has no major revelations nor does it impart any controversial information, probably in deference to each actresses' image and comfort zone. Neither does Director Lee intend to push the envelope, given the roundabout way that he chose to depict the vanity and self-consciousness that comes with his subjects' chosen profession. As such, viewers are forced to deduce only what they can about the women before them, based on how the people around them studiously shower them with compliments to gain their attention.

By the end of it all, one can't help but wonder what percentage of the film managed to reveal what's real and what percentage of it was a performance delivered by six actresses who merely wanted to add something different to their filmography.

In the same way that the camera deliberately weaves in and out of shots to give an "in-the-moment-feel", it eventually draws back to show a mirror image of its stars to remind people that perhaps amidst the glitter and the lights, they only get to see only as much as what they're allowed to see---a mirage, an ideal, but certainly not the true person underneath. And with that, you begin to realize that what you have before you, is just another movie.
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Kdrama Giveaway

Since I've watched my fair share of Korean, Japanese and Taiwanese dramas (and accumulated a hideous number of dvdrs as a result thereof), I think it's about time to dispose some of them. I don't want to just put them  in the trash  when there's a possibility that someone out there is willing to give them a new home. So if you're a relative newcomer to the world of Asian dramas or a drama junkie who's  interested in watching any of the dramas listed below, just drop me a line and we'll work things out.

Here's a preliminary list of the items that are up for trade or adoption, as the case may be. I haven't done a complete inventory so there might be other items available as soon as I get my stuff organized.

  • Kingdom of the Wind
  • Cain and Abel
  • Yi-San 
  • Robbers
  • Coffee Prince
  • Something About 1%
  • Miss Kim's Millionaire Quest 
  • Fantasy Couple (DVD Format)
  • War of Money (DVD Format)
  • Hong Gil Dong (DVD Format)
  • On Air (DVD Format)
  • Resurrection (DVD Format)
  • The Lobbyist
  • A Star's Lover
  • Beethoven Virus
  • Prosecutor Princess
  • When it's at Night
  • Goong S (a.k.a. Prince Hours)
  • Boys over Flowers
  • My Sweet Seoul
  • Shining Inheritance
  • Exhibition of Fireworks

Note that the said dramas will be in avi format unless otherwise specified and that there will be only one copy of each. Preference shall be given to those based in Manila for the sole reason that it would be easier for me to schedule the turnover of the discs.
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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Miss You Like Crazy

Two people in a ferry boat, an annoying litany of "what ifs" and a lot of stones scattered around the metro.  It's a movie that aspires to be something more than your standard love story but falls short by reason of its flippant treatment of time and destiny-- this best summarizes the much-hyped and much-awaited comeback of the John Lloyd and Bea tandem to the big screen through Cathy Garcia-Molina's latest bid for another box office hit in Miss You Like Crazy.
"What if you never loved her? What if you never met just so you can erase her from your memory? What if, when you met, you were a different person? And she was too?"

The year is 2005, Allan Alvarez (John Lloyd Cruz) is a young professional who seems to have everything going for him - a beautiful, socialite girlfriend, an upcoming promotion as finance manager and a newly acquired property under renovation. But beneath his well-crafted life and veneer of success, Allan is in truth lonely. Furthermore, he begins to doubt the choices he's made in life but unable to voice it.

     While on board the Pasig River ferry, he meets Mia Samonte (Bea Alonzo) in your typical it-only-happens-in-the movies scenario, wherein Allan rushes out to the deck to prevent her from jumping overboard. What gave him the idea that she would be ready to hurl herself into the murky waters of the Pasig River, you say?  Well, prior to the said encounter, Allan noticed her as the girl who would cry her eyes out one day and be unusually perky the next. He also picked up a few stones that Mia had the habit of leaving behind, and  each one happened to contain Mia's thoughts or feelings conveniently through the use of a permanent marker.

And so begins their week long romance which began with what is perhaps one of the most banal conversations ever written for the big screen. Fueled by their undeniable attraction for each other, we see Allan and Mia accompany each other as they go shopping, attend mass, have coffee and walk in the park. Basically, they do everything that a normal couple does except that Allan is still with his girlfriend and Mia is scheduled to return to Malaysia after her brief holiday. 

By day three, the two can no longer deny their feelings for each other and thus become more than friends the moment they share their first kiss. But all's not well in paradise because Allan is all but married to his girlfriend of four years who just happened to be out of town when he met Mia. Despite being hurt  upon discovering that she's been cavorting around the  metro with someone's boyfriend, Mia decides to surrender herself to him anyway before going their separate ways.

Unfortunately, everything is not that simple. When Allan accidentally bumped into Mia at a hotel while he was accompanied by his girlfriend, he realized that his bond with Mia was stronger than he expected. After much deliberation, he decides to make a choice. He asks Mia to wait for him the following day at the ferry station, vowing to make things right.

 In a different situation, different place, a different time.There are things that only time can teach you. Like how much you love a person. Often you realize how much you've loved another only when you lost her.

Fast forward three years later, Mia is already back in Malaysia with a steady job and a Malaysian boyfriend  (Hans Isaac) when fate brings Allan back to her. This time the tables are turned,  as Mia is torn between rekindling an old romance and forging on with her current flame.

Pegged as love story that places a huge premium on the concept of destiny and time, Miss You Like Crazy follows Allan and Mia's love story as they spend five years just to find the right time to be together. The theme is rather straightforward as it depicts time and chance as variables in the game of love.

The film showcases a slew of examples to show that love does not follow a single equation-- as exemplified by the caretaker (Jun Urbano) who waited decades to pursue an old sweetheart; the younger brother who ditched his girlfriend of seven years in order to marry a girl he's only known for three months; and Mia's father (Bembol Roco) who had no qualms about leaving his family in order to be with his mistress. Even Allan's girlfriend placed a strong argument on how relationships required effort and time to build. And yet, despite all this exposition, the movie inadvertently fails to follow its theme to its logical conclusion. It's as if Star Cinema is dead set on giving you the requisite happy ending even though it supposedly pushes for a new approach or structure in telling love stories (e.g. And I Love You So, One More Chance and Love Me Again).

In Miss You Like Crazy, the notion of waiting for love is heavily romanticized, such that fate starts to live and breathe as if it were a character on its own. And it just so happened that fate, as portrayed in this movie, had as much subtlety as a sledgehammer. Apparently, the writers weren't content with  its deft hand bringing two people together, otherwise  they wouldn't have gone through all that trouble to spell out what has been fairly obvious at the get-go. The use of the stones as a narrative device to move the story along reeks of lazy storytelling and the overuse thereof was more than mildly off-putting. It fails to replicate the success of Ikaw Lamang Hanggang Ngayon  in using an inanimate object as a central component because, unlike that bench in front of the Manila Post Office, the stones were clearly a cheap marketing gimmick. (Seriously, who carries around stones and pentel markers for the sole purpose of writing down one's thoughts? It would've been a lot more acceptable if Bea's character were filling her pockets with them in preparation for a watery grave.) And as if the stones weren't enough to clue you in to the fact that Mia and Allan should be together, they had to throw in a chance meeting with a fortuneteller (a cameo by Noel Trinidad) and his grandson (Sid Lucero), and of course, who could forget-- the Petronas Towers. Talk about overkill. 

Miss You Like Crazy tries too hard to mimic the style of its Pan-Asian counterparts to disastrous results. Everything from the way the characters first met to the random inclusion of elements to heighten the story suggests that its creators had been more than inspired by a Korean movie or two. One only has to see the sequence leading up to the movie's love scene to know that the tight shots and the lingering silence (as lifted from countless Asian dramas) were executed without restraint, as the simple shot of a hand tentatively reaching out to another turned downright frisky, quickly pummeling romance into foreplay. And this is where the main problem lies-- in its indiscriminate borrowing. Too many things were incorporated in it without  thought as to how all these pieces would meld together to present a cohesive whole.  Too many things were borrowed without any understanding of why these elements (when used properly) work to full effect in the first place. It's all about moderation, folks. And the movie has none of it. So while imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Miss You Like Crazy ultimately misses its mark. 
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