A review of Wes Anderson’s ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’

BY Gina Tumlos

Ralph Fiennes, Saoirse Ronan, and Tony Revolori in "The Grand Budapest Hotel" (Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Ralph Fiennes, Saoirse Ronan, and Tony Revolori in “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures)

The Grand Budapest Hotel
is a tale within a tale within a tale — its breadth already worthy of note as this is triple the back story of any of Wes Anderson’s previous films. TGBH is told in a series of recollections: in the present, a young girl pays her respects to the author of its book, then in 1985 when the author talks about how he came about the story of one M. Gustave H., a story he himself learned from Mr. Moustafa, the owner of the Grand Budapest Hotel, whom the author met in 1968. Anderson and his cinematographer, Robert Yeoman, framed the sequences in different aspect ratios as a nod, perhaps, to the distinct cinematic style of each era.

Tony Revolori and Saoirse Ronan in "The Grand Budapest Hotel" (Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Tony Revolori and Saoirse Ronan in “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures)

The story of the Grand Budapest Hotel, a delicious pink structure nestled within the mountains of Zubrowka, actually begins in 1932 upon the arrival of the young Mr. Moustafa (Tony Revolori) at the esteemed hotel. Then called Zero, he meets the protagonist M. Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes) who carries on his fastidious duties as both the head concierge and the hotel’s central attraction as far as wealthy older women are concerned. Among the ladies whom H. Gustave causes to swoon is Madame D. (Tilda Swinton), whose death sets the wheels turning in this comedy-romance-action-murder-mystery.

Ralph Fiennes in "The Grand Budapest Hotel" (Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Ralph Fiennes in “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Ralph Fiennes is a revelation in his turn as the cultivated yet insatiable M. Gustave.  Fiennes’s sophisticated style finds its new home in the pristine, oddball world of Anderson and Co. — everything from his spouts of impromptu poetry to the way the side of his mouth curls is perfectly timed. If anything else, Anderson gave Fiennes a most befitting introduction to the world of physical comedy. The movie is replete with cameos of familiar faces such as Owen Wilson and the khaki scouts from Moonrise Kingdom, with new additions such as Lea Seydoux and Mathieu Amalric. Bill Murray, of course, shows up as a key figure to M. Gustave’s escape, along with an almost unrecognizable Harvey Keitel.

Harvey Keitel (second from left) in "The Grand Budapest Hotel" (Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Harvey Keitel (second from left) in “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Anderson again creates such palatable topography within the expanse of the hotel, the home of Madame D., the prison, and later on, the monastery. The wide shots of the interiors of these places are dizzyingly overwhelming, but Anderson handles his tight spaces just as deftly, especially when he crams his actors into small elevators, railcars, and even air vents.

For all its physicality, wit, and vibrant landscapes, TGBH is in its core a story of a remembering. The girl in the present harkens back to the author, while the author recalls his evening with Mr. Moustafa, and he, in turn, is left with the task of reminiscing the majesty of M. Gustave and what he then represented: the nostalgia for an ideal, the sorrows of history unfolding, and as M. Gustave once put it, the faint glimmers of civilization left in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity.

TGBH contains the signature precision and choreography of any Wes Anderson film (see Jason Schwartzman double back just at the side of the frame) but this one, however, possesses a sense of genuine foreboding. The threats of fascism, disease, and war are real, and there is more blood and violence here than in any of the director’s earlier works. The hotel itself, as remembered by the author, embodies the lost luster and opulence of an era forgotten.  Dilapidated, lonesome, and lost in time, the Grand Budapest Hotel is a relic of the past, kept by Mr. Moustafa only as a reminder of the love his life, who, along with M. Gustave, did not survive the horrors of the past century.

Wes Anderson is in his most adroit in this film, and if it’s any consolation to longstanding critics of his, TGBH is still too neat and painfully self-aware, but it manages to imbue the desolation that settles when one holds on to the past too tightly.

The Grand Budapest Hotel opens exclusively at Ayala Malls Cinemas on April 19, 2014. 


‘The Voice’ U.S. season 6: Let’s predict the Top 12

BY Joanna Mendoza

Adam Levine, Shakira, Usher, and Blake Shelton on "The Voice" season 6

Adam Levine, Shakira, Usher, and Blake Shelton on “The Voice” season 6

The double Battle Rounds of The Voice U.S. are over, and because predictions are fun, let’s narrow down the current Top 20 to 12, shall we?

Predicting who will survive the Play-offs is not easy, but based on coaches’ apparent favorites, producers’ edits, and commenters’ sentiments, some of these guesses just might be right. If they’re wrong, well, it’s still fun. So here goes…

Predictions for contestants who will be eliminated during the play-offs:  

Kat Perkins – she doesn’t have the same mass appeal that the rest of Team Adam has
Morgan Wallen – his story (not the best vocalist but has improved a lot because of hard work) is a little similar to last season’s Will Champlin; it might be too soon for Adam to want to do that again. Plus, the “stolen” artists are usually the first ones who are let go of

Kristen Merlin – both of her Battle Round performances were practically edited out, it almost seems like the producers are telling viewers not to get invested in her because she’ll be gone soon anyway
Patrick Thomson – Shakira seems more passionate about her girls this time around

Ugh. This is hard. So far, Usher seems to really like everyone on his team. And he should; it’s a very talented group! But because we said we’d pick, we pick the two he seems to be less passionate about: Melissa Jimenez and Josh Kaufman, whom he “stole” from Adam.

Ryan Whyte Maloney – there are two country men on Blake’s team and he likes the other one much better than Ryan
Madilyn Paige – there are two powerhouse female vocalists on Blake’s team, and he just “stole” Madilyn from Usher so he’s less invested in her

Our predicted Top 12 (in alphabetical order per coach):

(Team Adam) Jake Barker, Delvin Choice, Christina Grimmie; (Team Shakira) Tess Boyer, Deja Hall, Dani Moz; (Team Usher) Stevie Jo, Bria Kelly, T.J. Wilkins; (Blake Shelton) Sisaundra Lewis, Audra McLaughlin, Jake Worthington

I use quotation marks for any form of the word “steal” in Voice context, because I still have a problem with the term. Is it really stealing if the original coach had already eliminated the contestant? Did Katniss steal that loaf of bread from Peeta?

Anyway… I can’t vote but The Voice being one of the more interesting reality shows out there, it’s fun picking favorites. Here are mine. It’s worth noting that none of them stand as much chance of winning as the others in their team: Jake Barker, Tess Boyer, Stevie Jo, and Jake Worthington.

5 reasons I somewhat liked ‘The Love Punch’

BY Joanna Mendoza

Pierce Brosnan and Emma Thompson play a divorced couple in "The Love Punch," in Philippine cinemas April 19. (Photo courtesy of Axinite Digicinema)

Pierce Brosnan and Emma Thompson play a divorced couple in “The Love Punch,” in Philippine cinemas April 19. (Photo courtesy of Axinite Digicinema)

I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with The Love Punch, and I didn’t. But I was surprised that I didn’t completely hate it.

The movie, about an old divorced couple who goes after the young businessman who messed with their pension, stars Pierce Brosnan and Emma Thompson. As exciting as it was to see those two in a funny love story, the plot seemed a bit predictable to me. But hey, if I can sit through countless incarnations of young-love triangles, I can take on this one.

Here are the reasons I somewhat liked The Love Punch.

1. Emma Thompson has gotten better with age. 
I couldn’t take my eyes off her. Her hair, her clothes, her smile. She’s 54 and yet she looks even better here than she did in Love Actually, which was released 11 years ago. Still, that image of her character in bed with a man who looked old enough to be her son from an early pregnancy still kind of disturbs me.

2. Watching Pierce Brosnan and Emma Thompson banter is a refreshing break from all that YA. 
I do love the YA genre (is it really a genre?), but there’s too much of it (in the movies, on TV, in books) that it’s nice to take a break from it every once in a while. And what better way to take a breather than to watch these two vets prove that just because you’re older doesn’t mean you can’t be cute.

3. There were eye-opening lessons about marriage. 
Thompson’s character, Kate, utters some simple but taken-for-granted tips about marriage that I told myself I’d take to heart for my own marriage, which I vow to keep forever.  I don’t really remember them except for one–liking your partner is more important than loving him–but I swear they were eureka moments.

4. Old people can be very sexy.
With Brosnan, sexy isn’t really a stretch. The way his character, Richard, stares at Kate can make the women in the audience swoon like teenagers in love.

5. Geriatric jokes never get, uh, old. 
Brosnan’s Richard sleeping all day, Thompson’s Kate struggling to keep up with the younger women at the hen party, those prostate jokes–making fun of the effects of aging is always comedy gold. (See Pixar’s Up.)

Director/Screenplay: Joel Hopkins
Stars: Emma Thompson, Pierce Brosnan, Timothy Spall, Celia Imrie
Distributor: Axinite Digicinema
Running time: 1 hr 35 min

The Love Punch, distributed locally by Axinite Digicinema, opens in Philippine cinemas April 19. 

Dane DeHaan makes Harry Osborn new again in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2″

Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborn/Green Goblin in "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," in Philippine cinemas April 30 (Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures)

Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborn/Green Goblin in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” in Philippine cinemas April 30 (Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures)

Joining the cast of Columbia Pictures’ new action-adventure The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in the pivotal role of Harry Osborn is young actor Dane DeHaan, who has turned heads through his performances in such films as Chronicle, Lawless, and the Bohol-set historical drama Amigo.

In this vision for the character, Harry is Peter’s (Andrew Garfield) long-lost friend. “Their fathers had been partners – but when everything went down between Norman Osborn and Richard Parker, and Richard disappeared, Peter and Harry were split. They haven’t talked to each other in a very long time – until now,” DeHaan explains.

After years at boarding school, Harry is called back to New York – to his father’s deathbed. “He thinks his father is going to say ‘I love you, goodbye,’ but instead, it’s very different. Harry finds out he has the same disease that is killing his father, and his father says, basically, ‘Deal with it,’” DeHaan continues.

“That’s when Peter comes back into Harry’s life,” says DeHaan. “At the heart of it, they remember the loving friendship they had as children.”

Harry has grown to be a very different person from Peter. “My take going in was that Harry was a trust fund baby – a hipster New York kid,” says DeHaan. “That’s a very specific place, a very specific type of person – right down to the way he looks. Harry latches on to his material possessions, because they are the only things that he’s not afraid of showing – he can use this materialistic quality to hide what’s on the inside. [Director] Marc [Webb] was very responsive to that, and then, hearing my ideas, Marc guided me on a specific path to help create Harry.”

That path takes Harry from privileged trust fund kid to the most menacing villain in New York. In taking the reins at Oscorp, Harry – like his father before him – marshals the vast resources of the company in an effort to save his own life. Through his discovery of Oscorp’s secret lair of Special Projects, he comes to believe that Spider-Man’s blood is the answer to all his prayers – and that belief becomes an obsession that eventually leads Harry on a transformation to becoming the Green Goblin.

“Harry Osborn represents a unique Peter Parker/Spider-Man classic conflict,” says producer Avi Arad. “Harry was his best friend, and again, due to circumstances, Harry becomes an enemy who sets out to destroy Spider-Man. What makes it most difficult is Spider-Man is feeling the need to help his friend and stop him from becoming this self-destructive villain.”

Dane DeHaan suited up as the Green Goblin in "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" (Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures)

Dane DeHaan suited up as the Green Goblin in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2″ (Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures)

“There have been many iterations of the Goblin within the Spider-Man canon,”says DeHaan. “We did the research about how these characters have become the Goblin, what the Goblin was. We had a responsibility to honor the material and to make it our own. Even though we took some liberties, it was of utmost importance to honor the classic elements of the Green Goblin that everyone knows and loves.”

Marc Webb says that in many ways, Peter and Harry face the same choices – only to have very different responses to those choices. “Harry is a foil for Peter,” says Webb. “He’s intelligent like Peter is. Peter and Harry were both abandoned by their fathers, though in different ways – one physically, and the other emotionally. But Harry didn’t have a May and Ben in his life to comfort him and guide him, as Peter did. And because of that, he’s developed a rasher, more abrasive quality. That’s how he endures his life; he’s become a little hardened. They start off as best friends, and end up as mortal enemies, driven apart by jealousy and rage.”

Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker, and Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborn "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" (Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures)

Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker, and Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborn “The Amazing Spider-Man 2″ (Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures)

The sense of betrayal that Harry feels becomes very personal after Harry comes to think that Spider-Man’s blood could provide the cure he’s anxious to receive. “But Peter knows that Spider-Man’s blood turned Dr. Curt Connors into the Lizard,” says one of the screenwriters, Jeff Pinkner. “If he were to give Harry the same blood, it might do the same or worse to Harry. Peter desperately wants to do anything he can to help his best friend, but his blood might do something far worse than kill him. Of course, Peter can’t explain all of that to Harry – and even if he could, it’s not clear that Harry would accept that. It’s a real problem for Peter, and ultimately, it leads Harry to unite with Electro.”

“Harry and Electro form a deal over their mutual hatred of Spider-Man,”says screenwriter Alex Kurtzman. “That’s a great moment – two villains who hate the hero, but for different reasons. And it results in Harry turning the full resources of Oscorp against Spider-Man.”

Producer Matt Tolmach says that when casting the role, DeHaan wasn’t necessarily the first name that Webb and the producers dreamt up. “We’d seen Dane in a couple of movies, but we just didn’t know the breadth of his work,” says Tolmach. “But something magical happened. He was wholly original and unique and different. He forced us to see the character in a way we didn’t before – an extraordinary way. We were mesmerized. There’s something about his eyes; he has a searing intensity and there’s enormous heart, but there’s also a lot of pain and room for darkness. That’s Harry Osborn.”

“Dane is a fantastic actor. He looks like no one else,” says Arad. “Those eyes are his. He’s vulnerable; he can show you his journey, or awkwardness, or insanity, or whatever the scene calls for. And he’s a perfect match for Marc Webb, who often directs his actors to let go and show him whatever comes to mind – Dane can go haywire and give you scenes that are very different.”

Dane DeHaan was not the first choice, but he quickly won the creative team over. (Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures)

Dane DeHaan was not the first choice, but he quickly won the creative team over. (Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures)

“It was exciting to be cast as Harry, because it’s such a full, dynamic, crazy arc of a character,” DeHaan concludes. “I knew it was something I could really sink my teeth into.”

DeHaan would spend four hours in makeup and wardrobe to transform into the villain. “The makeup designer, Sarah Rubano, and I developed together a whole evolution of the makeup,” says DeHaan. “It starts from a pimple on my neck and starts to spread to his face – something Harry tries to hide but can’t. And then, once he takes the spider venom in this desperate attempt to save himself, it accelerates the disease to an almost fatal stage – the same stage that Norman Osborn is at when he dies. I wore a few prosthetics – ears and a nose tip – but it was mostly individual sores and wounds that we fairly specifically chose. I also wore teeth and contacts – he has the Goblin’s menacing smile and those big eyes. The shape of my hair pays homage to the purple hood that the Green Goblin wears in the comics.”

We’ve seen 30 minutes of footage from The Amazing Spider-Man 2! Find out our quick take on the preview here

Opening across the Philippines on April 30 in IMAX 3D, Digital 3D, and 2D formats, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.

HIMYM hangover solution: A Friends/HIMYM gang-off!

BY Joanna Mendoza
(with valuable input from fellow Friends and HIMYM fans Jen Tuazon and Elijah Mendoza)

"Friends" (1994-2004) and "How I Met Your Mother" (2005-2014) (Photos courtesy of NBC and CBS, respectively)

“Friends” (1994-2004) and “How I Met Your Mother” (2005-2014) (Photos courtesy of NBC and CBS, respectively)

As I was organizing our TV watch list for tonight, it really sunk in that there will be no more new episodes of How I Met Your Mother. Now that the misplaced rage over the series finale has died down, we can all face the reality of a How I Met Your Mother-less TV life from this night forward.  It was hardly one of the best shows ever, but when HIMYM was good, it was really good (“Symphony of Illumination,” “How Your Mother Met Me,” “Last Forever“).

On a hangover, I decided to revisit the HIMYM world. Then I noticed what a lot of people had seen a long time ago: HIMYM shared a lot of similarities with Friends. Which is better? Let’s go at this per item, shall we?

(If you’re planning to watch either or both–I suggest both–of these shows, here’s the requisite SPOILER ALERT.) 

1. The big idea
When people first saw the HIMYM gang in that bar, it was deja vu. Sure, MacLaren’s wasn’t exactly Central Perk, but the personalities of the gang, their constant need to hang out in their favorite bar over drinks, and the Manhattan setting reminded people of Friends. But that the HIMYM gang’s hangout of choice was a bar seemed to be a statement that the show was going to be less wholesome than the hit ’90s sitcom.

Friends was a straightforward story about a group of friends. HIMYM had that love story in reverse going for it.


2. The gang 
HIMYM‘s Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) was almost exactly and exclusively like Friends‘ Ross Geller (David Schwimmer). Both were hopeless romantics. Both were endearing geeks. Both practiced their profession of choice before becoming professors. Both loved spewing random trivia/factoids that usually caused their friends to tell them to shut up. Both had a penchant for making certain words sound fancier than they were (the way Ted would pronounce renaissance as “re-nay-ssance” and encyclopedia as “en-cy-clo-pay-dia” would’ve been funnier if we hadn’t already heard Ross pronounce karate as “ka-raa-tay” and enunciate “indeed” the way only Ross could). Most notably, they both pined for and eventually got their first love.

The others were a little more difficult to compare, because no other pair was similar to the same extent that Ted and Ross were. But in a gist:

Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris) was like Joey Tribbiani (Matt Le Blanc) with a little bit of Chandler Bing (Matthew Perry).

Marshall Eriksen (Jason Segel) was good with the retorts like Chandler, but they were similar mostly because of circumstance not character.

Lily Aldrin (Alyson Hannigan) had instances of OCD not unlike Courteney Cox‘s Monica Geller (well, okay, Lily didn’t really come close). The future Mrs. Eriksen was also into the arts just like Lisa Kudrow‘s Phoebe Buffay. (Fine, Gladys and Glynnis weren’t exactly works of art, but “Smelly Cat” is a classic.)

Character-wise, Robin Scherbatsky (Cobie Smulders) and Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston) couldn’t be more different. But since the beginning, people had compared them because of how they, well, began on the show. And even though Robin was a really cool guy’s gal and Rachel was a girly girl, they were both sophisticated women most men seemed to want, on and off camera.

WINNER: Friends
It was hard to pick just one favorite friend throughout the series’ entire run. On the other hand, I’ve heard a lot of people who loved Lily and Marshall but couldn’t stand Ted and Robin, and vice versa.


3. A female outsider joined the group in the pilot. 
Rachel was technically not an outsider because of her shared history with Monica, Ross, and Chandler, but the three had been barkada/friends for years with Joey and Phoebe, before Rachel joined the group in the pilot episode.

The circumstances were different for Robin joining Ted, Barney, Marshall, and Lily, but the general idea was the same. There’s a new person joining the group! It’s a hot girl from way outside their lifestyle/world (Rachel was from the Upper East Side; Robin was from Canada)! The group’s cute geeky guy is in love with her!

WINNER: Friends
Rachel was in a wedding gown when she was introduced. And then there’s that Ross umbrella and “Hi” thing.


4. Two from the gang were college roommates. 
Just like Chandler and Ross, Ted and Marshall were dorm mates when they were in college. No complaints there. Because, you know, wacky throwbacks.

WINNER: Friends
Just look at their hair.

(Top) '80s Chandler and Ross. (Bottom) '90s Ted and Marshall

(Top) ’80s Chandler and Ross. (Bottom) ’90s Ted and Marshall


5. The HIMYM clique didn’t know what Barney did for a living, much like the Friends group didn’t know what Chandler’s job was.
As revealed in the final season, Barney’s job was to PLEASE–provide legal exculpation and sign everything. As for Chandler, his job had something to do with statistical analysis and data reconfiguration. He was an IT man, or as Rachel put it, a transpondster. By the series’ end though, Chandler was already in advertising.

WINNER: Friends
The big Barney reveal felt cramped into that one episode and it sounded ridiculous. I know it was a sitcom, a work of fiction, but it felt like it was written by a late high school or college freshman aspiring writer.  On the other hand, the Friends group not knowing what Chandler did was a running joke that the writers didn’t feel the need to justify or explain with some as-big storyline.


6. Speaking of jobs, both Marshall and Chandler hated theirs. 
Marshall hated being a corporate lawyer and dreamed of becoming an environmental lawyer, even though it paid less. Chandler tried to quit his IT job from way back in Season 1, finally succeeding in Season 9. For a while, he worked as an intern copywriter, unpaid but happy.

WINNER: At the risk of sounding biased, this one also goes to Friends.
More people laughed at Chandler’s work woes probably because we saw employee Chandler more than we saw employee Marshall.


7. Again with Marshall and Chandler, they were both “average” guys (I don’t agree) who married women way hotter than they were. 
Marshall married his college sweetheart Lily in Season 2. Chandler met Monica when he was in college through his best bud Ross, but the sparks weren’t ignited until London at the end of Season 4. Or, at least, they didn’t have life-changing originally meaningless sex until London.

WINNER: Friends
This one’s easy to defend. Lily and Marshall were already together when we first saw them. Chandler and Monica were just friends and we saw the beginning of their relationship, so we got more invested in their love story. And that proposal? I’m crying just typing about it.


8. The group’s resident womanizer officiated the wedding of the group’s dorky couple.
This seemed like such a blatant rip-off I don’t even want to talk about it.

WINNER: Friends
Look at the picture.

(Top) Monica and Chandler being wed by Joey (Bottom) Lily and Marshall being wed by Barney

(Top) Monica and Chandler being wed by Joey (Bottom) Lily and Marshall being wed by Barney


9. Barney falling for Robin was reminiscent of Joey falling in love with Rachel.
Come on, who didn’t think of Joey and Rachel when this HIMYM plot happened? As if Ted being so much like Ross, Barney being kinda like Joey, and Robin being in some ways like Rachel weren’t enough, they had to be involved in a love triangle, too, like their Friends inspirations. Ah, it seems this whole gang-off is making me angry. Apologies. For all we know, the similarities were inside jokes among the writers.

Joey and Rachel should’ve remained friends. But Barney and Robin became so universally loved that some fans of the show got super pissed they didn’t end up together.


10. The womanizers’ pick-up lines are now forever etched in pop culture history. 
Joey made the simple “How you doin’?” creepy, sexy, and hilarious all at the same time. Barney didn’t have just one pick-up line for himself, but he did have an old reliable as Ted’s wing man: “Haaaaaave you met Ted?”

Barney had other catchphrases, which were more popular: “Suit up” and “Legen…wait for it…dary.”

Like the man behind them, Barney’s catchphrases were simply legen…wait for it…dary.

11. The super cramped finale
I felt like too many things were happening in both finales that at times they didn’t feel natural, like the creators were trying to please as many fans as possible with all the happy endings.

The HIMYM series finale had a beautiful sadness to it. Cobie Smulders did such great work here. But even though the Friends series finale had more borderline corny, this-is-closure feel-good moments, if I had to choose, I’d watch that finale (and series) again because I love the characters more. And whereas HIMYM was sometimes good (the three I mentioned in the intro) and sometimes bad (to this day, I still want to take back the time I spent on those episodes with Swarley and the cockamouse), Friends was pretty much great throughout.

Friends – 7, HIMYM – 4

Though I wrote this feature because I couldn’t stand not seeing a new episode of How I Met Your Mother, it made me realize how much I miss Friends. So until the DVD set for HIMYM becomes available, I’m going to binge-watch Friends. Now it’s time for some early #TBT fun!


“The Amazing Spider-Man 2″ 30-minute preview quick take: Intense

BY Joanna Mendoza

"The Amazing Spider-Man 2" seems to be better than its predecessor. We'll see if it really is on April 30! (Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures)

“The Amazing Spider-Man 2″ seems to be better than its predecessor. We’ll see if it really is on April 30! (Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures)

I loved Sam Raimi’s first two Spider-Man movies from way back in the early 2000s. They felt like how superhero movies must be made. On the other hand, I don’t remember much about 2012′s Marc Webb reboot, except that it put me to sleep.

Judging from the 30-minute preview of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 that we saw last night, however, the sequel won’t be anything like its predecessor. If those scenes were any indication, we’re in for an intense, seat-gripping ride. Or, at the very least, the movie won’t put us to sleep. Here are five reasons I’m truly looking forward to watching this sequel.

1. Those few minutes of suspense made me shiver the entire time. 
I get like this every time I’m watching something I’m really excited about. One time, while watching an episode of Survivor: Cagayan, my insides wouldn’t stop shivering I feared all the teeth-clattering would wake my sons.

They showed us the first 15 minutes. The first few seconds felt quite tense and it quickly got crazy. I can’t say much but, boy, do I want to go back to my 20s and be in the theme park version of that airplane ride.

Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spider-Man in the "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," in Philippine cinemas April 30. (Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures)

Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spider-Man in the “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” in Philippine cinemas April 30. (Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures)

2. Andrew Garfield’s enthusiasm is infectious. 

What followed was Peter Parker swinging from building to building, having the time of his life. I will forever have a soft spot in my heart for Tobey Maguire’s awkward geek-to-the-core Spidey, but my husband said that in the comics, Spidey was more like Andrew Garfield‘s version: really talkative and (to me, at least) borderline annoying.

Perhaps it was because of Garfield’s natural charm that he could make non-believers like me look past the commentary overload, the patronizing, the condescension, and the arrogance and actually enjoy his take on Spidey. So much joy was radiating from him I felt the audience actually felt it. Forget Spider-Man. Andrew Garfield is the super here.

Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy in the "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," in Philippine cinemas April 30. (Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures)

Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy in the “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” in Philippine cinemas April 30. (Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures)

3. Emma Stone, you’ve been missed. 

Well, not so much, because whatever void she left (or maybe was taken out of?) was quickly filled by Jennifer Lawrence. But still. House Bunny.

The scene between Garfield’s Peter Parker and Stone’s Gwen Stacy made my husband proclaim allegiance to the Avengers group of movies. He was a little thrown by the cuteness overload. To him, it felt a little teenybopper. I agree. The scene did feel like it belonged to a CW television show, but it worked. Even if no one was being flung across tall buildings and the extras in the scene weren’t running for their lives, it was just as intense as the suspenseful parts of the preview.

Jamie Foxx as Max Dillon/Electro in the "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," in Philippine cinemas April 30. (Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures)

Jamie Foxx as Max Dillon/Electro in the “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” in Philippine cinemas April 30. (Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures)

4. Jamie Foxx’s Electro comes with a manic, angry soundtrack.

As if Jamie Foxx and conflicted villains in general weren’t bad-ass enough. Every time Electro had a surge of emotions, loud rock music played in the background. The music helped add to the tension and suspense. My wildly beating heart (first because of the Andrew+Emma of it all, then Electro and his OST) definitely took a beating from this sequence.

Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborn in the "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," in Philippine cinemas April 30. (Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures)

Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborn/Green Goblin in the “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” in Philippine cinemas April 30. (Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures)

5. Dane DeHaan’s Harry Osborn is crazy mad.  

In the preview, the bad guys were very angry. We at least saw Electro being meek and normal-like, but DeHaan was just crazy angry. Excited to see more of that.

Watch out! Lots of stuff will be thrown at you while watching "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," in Philippine cinemas April 30. (Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures)

Watch out! Lots of stuff will be thrown at you while watching “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” in Philippine cinemas April 30. (Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures)

One thing I’m probably not going to like though…

There was a little too much stuff-being-thrown-in-your-face type of 3D. With the way 3D-viewing has evolved over the years, I feel that this approach is rather crude. It looked well done, but in the 30 minutes that we’ve seen so far, there was quite a lot of it. There was too much of it I couldn’t help thinking that maybe my husband was right after all. Defending his beloved Avengers, he said that whereas the Avengers group of movies are grown-up and bad-ass, the Spidey reboot–thanks to the cutesy romance, loud music, and in-your-face special effects–feels rather immature and shallow.

Well yes, but then again, Peter Parker just graduated high school. He doesn’t have the wisdom and experience of Tony Stark, nor the maturity and old-school coolness of Captain America. So I say let the kid have some fun. Who knows? Maybe we will, too.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2, to be distributed by Columbia Pictures, opens in Philippine cinemas on April 30, 2014.  


April 2014 movie guide: ‘Diary ng Panget,’ Amazing Spider-Man sequel & more

Can Spider-Man give Captain America a run for his money? Check out which other movies are opening in Philippine theaters today and throughout the rest of April.

(April 2) 

To help pay for her tuition at Willford Academy, Eya lands a job as a personal assistant/maid for spoiled brat Cross, one of Willford Academy’s most popular boys. Though Eya hates her boss, she helps her best friend Lory get him. But even as Eya’s helping Lory get the man of her dreams, she’s helping Chad, another boy from their school, win over Lory. Chad likes Lory, and Lory likes Cross. But whom does Cross like? And what about Eya?

Director: Andoy Ranay
Based on: Diary ng Panget book series by HaveYouSeenThisGirl
Stars: Nadine Lustre, James Reid, Yassi Pressman, Andre Paras
Studio/distributor: Viva Films

(April 2) 

Shalala tries to get big names to co-star with him in the movie he’s directing.

Director: Joven Tan
Stars: Shalala, plus many, many star cameos

(April 2) 

In the Second Age, the War of Gods intensified. As battles raged and the gods ravaged the land, survivors became few and scattered.

The humans forged The Order, a desperate alliance with elves and dwarves. This ended the war, forcing the orcs and dark elves deep into the wastelands.

As the Order struggled to restore civilization, the Prophets were tormented by visions of a growing darkness in the West. An ancient evil rekindled…

In the dim corners of taverns and caverns, whisperings were heard, of a syndicate of conspirators known as The Shadow.

In the lawless borderlands between Battlegrave and Warspire, operatives of the Shadow emerged. The Prophets dispatched agents of their own, to uncover the origin and intentions of THE SHADOW CABAL. (Official synopsis)

Director: John Lyde
Screenplay: Jason Faller, Kynan Griffin
Stars: Danielle Chuchran, Richard McWilliams, Paul D. Hunt
Studio: Arrowstorm Entertainment

(April 2) 

In Sabotage, Arnold Schwarzenegger leads an elite DEA task force that takes on the world’s deadliest drug cartels. When the team successfully executes a high-stakes raid on a cartel safehouse, they think their work is done–until, one by one, the team members mysteriously start to be eliminated. As the body count rises, everyone is a suspect. (Official synopsis)

Director: David Ayer
Screenplay: Skip Woods, David Ayer
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sam Worthington, Olivia, Williams, Terrence Howard, Joe Manganiello, Josh Holloway, Mireille Enos
Studio(s): Albert S. Ruddy Productions, Crave Films, QED International, Roth Films
Distributor(s): Open Road Films, Pioneer Films
Running time: 1 hr 49 min

(April 2) 

Now, the larger-than-life story of The New Testament gets a larger-than life treatment in the stand-alone feature SON OF GOD. Told with the scope and scale of an action epic, the film features powerful performances, exotic locales, dazzling visual effects, and a rich orchestral score from Oscar winner Hans Zimmer. Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado portrays Jesus as the film spans from his humble birth through his teachings, crucifixion and ultimate resurrection. It marks the first motion picture about Jesus’ life since Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, released 10 years ago. (Official synopsis)

Director: Christopher Spencer
Screenplay: Richard Bedser, Christopher Spencer, Colin Swash, Nic Young
Based on: the New Testament
Stars: Diogo Morgado, Roma Downey, Amber Rose Revah, Louise Delamere, Darwin Shaw
Studio: Lightworkers Media
Distributor(s): 20th Century Fox/Pioneer Films
Running time: 2 hr 18 min

(April 2) 

Jate (Nawat Kulratanarak) has a psychic ability that allows him to see spirits and foresee the karma of people around him. He can see how unpaid dues in people’s past lives haunt them. That ability once made him a freak among his friends, so Jate decides to keep his unnatural ability to himself.

Joom (Ratha Pho-ngram) is Jate’s girlfriend and the only person who knows about his spooky gift. Joom doesn’t want Jate to get involved in the hit-and-run case committed by Kaew (Virapond Jirawetsuntorakul), a teenage girl who caused the death of a pedestrian. But Jate knows that what happened was not an accident and he wants use his gift to help Kaew.

As Jate digs deeper into the case, something pursues him day and night, while Joom is hounded and terrorized by a demon, too. Can Jate rescue Joom and Kaew? Can someone who sees death escape the jaws of death himself? (Official synopsis)

Director: Pornchai Hongrattanaporn
Screenplay: Pornchai Hongrattanaporn, Kiatkamon Iamphungporn Stars: Nawat Kulrattanarak, Arnon Saisangchan, Rhatha Phongam, Klaokaew Sinteppadon, Wiraporn Jiravechsoontornku
Studio: Five Star Production
Distributor: Viva International Pictures
Running time: 1 hr 29 min

(April 9)

A modern reimagining of the classic romantic comedy, this contemporary version closely follows new love for two couples as they journey from the bar to the bedroom and are eventually put to the test in the real world. (Official synopsis)

Director: Steve Pink
Screenplay: Leslye Headland
Based on: Based on the Screenplay by Tim Kazurinsky and Denise DeClue, based upon Sexual Pervisity in Chicago by David Mamet
Stars: Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy, Regina Hall, Joy Bryant, Christopher McDonald, Paula Patton
Studio: Screen Gems
Running time: 1 hr 40 min

(April 9)

A crime anthology that delves into the culture of violence infecting our society, Bang Bang Alley features four stories brought to vivid life by musician/writer Ely Buendia, award-winning director King Palisoc, and stage actor/director/playwright Yan Yuzon.

A journalist who has just survived a political massacre, a driver spiraling into madness, a drug-addled wild child on the run from the police. These are just some of the haunted characters you will meet in the cramped darkness of Bang Bang Alley. (Official synopsis)

Director: Ely Buendia, King Palisoc, Yan Yuzon
Screenplay: Ely Buendia, Yan Yuzon, Zig Marasigan
Stars: Art Acuña, Perla Bautista, Gabe Mercado, Bela Padilla, Jimmy Santos, Joel Torre, Althea Vega, Jamie Wilson, Megan Young, Yan Yuzon
Studio: Curve Entertainment
Distributor: Solar Films

(April 9) 

A woman goes on a mission to find the men who took her husband.

Director: John Stockwell
Screenplay: James Robert Johnston, Bennett Yellin
Stars: Gina Carano, Cam Gigandet, Danny Trejo, Amaury Nolasco
Distributor: Pioneer Films

(April 9) 

Evan and his family experiences paranormal activity shortly after moving into the old Morello house. To help uncover the truth about his new home, he enlists the help of the girl next door, Sam.

Director: Mac Carter
Screenplay: Andrew Barrer
Stars: Harrison Gilbertson, Liana Liberato, Ione Skye, Jacki Weaver
Studio: QED International, Revolver Picture Company
Distributor: IFC Midnight, Pioneer Films
Running time: 1 hr 26 min

(April 9) 

Frank is the withdrawn owner of a mannequin store, but his life changes when young artist Anna appears asking for his help with her new exhibition. As their friendship develops and Frank’s obsession escalates, it becomes clear that she has unleashed a long-repressed compulsion to stalk and kill.

A 21st century Jack the Ripper set in present-day L.A., Maniac is a re-boot of the cult film considered by many to be the most suspenseful slasher movie ever made–an intimate, visually daring, psychologically complex and profoundly horrific trip into the downward spiralling nightmare of a killer and his victims. (Official synopsis)

Director: Franck Khalfoun
Screenplay: Alexandre Aia & Gregory Levasseur
Stars: Elijah Wood, Nora Arnezeder
Studio: IFC Midnight
Distributor: Pioneer Films
Running time: 1 hr 29 min

(April 19) 

Malcolm moves into a new home with his new girlfriend and her kids. But just like before, he experiences paranormal events inside the house. Making matters worse is his new neighbor: his ex-girlfriend Kisha, back from the dead.

Director: Michael Tiddes
Screenplay: Marlon Wayans, Rick Alvarez
Stars: Marlon Wayans, Jaime Pressly, Essence Atkins, Gabriel Iglesias, Cedric the Entertainer
Studio: IM Global Octane, Wayans Bros. Entertainment, Baby Way Productions
Distributor: Open Road Films, Pioneer Films

(April 19) 

Director: Bb. Joyce Bernal
Stars: Vhong Navarro, Solenn Heussaff
Studio/distributor: Star Cinema

(April 19)

Based on the #1 New York Times best-selling book of the same name, Heaven is for Real brings to the screen the true story of a small-town father who must find the courage and conviction to share his son’s extraordinary, life-changing experience with the world.

The film stars Academy Award nominee and Emmy award winning actor Greg Kinnear as Todd Burpo and co-stars Kelly Reilly as Sonja Burpo, the real-life couple whose son Colton (newcomer Connor Corum) claims to have visited heaven during a near-death experience. Colton recounts the details of his amazing journey with childlike innocence and speaks matter-of-factly about things that happened before his birth…things he couldn’t possibly know. Todd and his family are then challenged to examine the meaning from this remarkable event. (Official synopsis)

Director: Randall Wallace
Screenplay: Randall Wallace, Christopher Parker
Based on: Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent
Stars: Greg Kinnear, Kelly Reilly, Connor Corum, Margo Martindale, Thomas Haden Church
Studio: TriStar Pictures, Roth Films
Distributor: Sony Pictures
Running time: 1 hr 40 min

(April 19, SM exclusive) 

Based on Yoshiro Togashi’s Hunter x Hunter manga.

Stars: Megumi Han, Mariya Ise, Ichirô Nagai
Distributor: Pioneer Films

(April 19)

An old divorced couple goes after the young businessman who messed with their pension.

Director/Screenplay: Joel Hopkins
Stars: Emma Thompson, Pierce Brosnan, Timothy Spall, Celia Imrie
Distributor: Axinite Digicinema
Running time: 1 hr 35 min

(April 19)

Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) is the foremost researcher in the field of Artificial Intelligence, working to create a sentient machine that combines the collective intelligence of everything ever known with the full range of human emotions. His highly controversial experiments have made him famous, but they have also made him the prime target of anti-technology extremists who will do whatever it takes to stop him.

However, in their attempt to destroy Will, they inadvertently become the catalyst for him to succeed—to be a participant in his own transcendence. For his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) and best friend Max Waters (Paul Bettany), both fellow researchers, the question is not if they can…but if they should.

Their worst fears are realized as Will’s thirst for knowledge evolves into a seemingly omnipresent quest for power, to what end is unknown. The only thing that is becomin(Official synopsis)g terrifyingly clear is there may be no way to stop him.

Director: Wally Pfister
Screenplay: Jack Paglen
Stars: Johnny Depp, Morgan Freeman, Rebecca Hall, Kate Mara, Cillian Murphy, Cole Hauser, Paul Bettany
Studio: Alcon Entertainment, DMG Entertainment, Syncopy Inc., Straight Up Films
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures, Summit Entertainment, Viva International Pictures

(April 30)

We’ve always known that Spider-Man’s most important battle has been within himself: the struggle between the ordinary obligations of Peter Parker and the extraordinary responsibilities of Spider-Man. But in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Peter Parker finds that a greater conflict lies ahead.

It’s great to be Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield). For Peter Parker, there’s no feeling quite like swinging between skyscrapers, embracing being the hero, and spending time with Gwen (Emma Stone). But being Spider-Man comes at a price: only Spider-Man can protect his fellow New Yorkers from the formidable villains that threaten the city. With the emergence of Electro (Jamie Foxx), Peter must confront a foe far more powerful than he. And as his old friend, Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), returns, Peter comes to realize that all of his enemies have one thing in common: OsCorp. (Official synopsis)

Director: Marc Webb
Screenplay: Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci & Jeff Pinkner
Based on: the Marvel Comic Book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
Stars: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, Colm Feore, Paul Giamatti, Sally Field
Studio: Columbia Pictures, Marvel Entertainment
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Running time: 2 hr 22 min

Schedules are subject to change without prior notice.