Thursday, October 08, 2015

In 'Black Mass', Johnny Depp Wants to Remind Everyone That He's a Terrific Actor

Black Mass is a crime drama based on the life of real-life Irish gangster, James “Whitey” Bulger.  It chronicles the events on how Jimmy (played by Johnny Depp) was persuaded by FBI agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) on becoming an informant against the Italian Mafia in engage for protection, and how he exploited the arrangement to rise from being a street hoodlum into one of the biggest, most notorious crime kingpin in American history.

The thing I liked most about this movie is the excellent performances from its ensemble cast – which includes the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, Joel Edgerton, Kevin Bacon, Corey Stoll, Jess Plemons, Rory Cochrane, Peter Sarsgaard, Adam Scott, and Dakota Johnson.  But the most mesmerizing performance is, of course, from Johnny Depp as Jimmy Bulger.

Depp has always been one of the best actors in the business, but with the streak of questionable role choices in awful films, people have somewhat forgotten.  There’s actually more to him than playing weird, eccentric roles behind make-up and prosthetics.  Sure, he wears make-up and prosthetics in this film, too, but this time, his character is someone that needs to be taken seriously, and Depp did a fine job in delivering a gripping, layered portrayal.  It’s really nice to be reminded that no matter how awesome a character Captain Jack Sparrow is, Johnny Depp’s depth and talent are not limited to such roles.

As for the movie itself, Black Mass is pretty good, but not great.  Effort has been noticeably put on the production value and the narrative is sufficiently interesting, but the movie doesn’t really have much sophistication and uniqueness.  That said, though Black Mass isn’t exactly Goodfellas, it still holds as a riveting mob tale.  Plus, we can finally see Johny Depp be great on screen again.  

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Top 10 Teachers/Mentors in Fiction

In honor of World Teachers’ Day last Monday (October 5), this is a list of my favorite teachers or mentors in fiction.  For this list, the picks and rankings are based on how likable, inspiring, cool, and effective are they in training, instructing, and impacting their protégés or students.  In addition, they don’t necessarily need to be professional teachers or part of the academe in order to qualify for this list, for the real essence of being a “teacher” goes beyond a mere license or official credentials.

First of all, here are some Honorable Mentions: Iruka Umino (Naruto), Eikichi Onizuka (GTO), Sean Maguire (Good Will Hunting), Obi Wan Kenobi (Star Wars), Jiraiya (Naruto), Biscuit Krueger (Hunter X Hunter), Izumi Curtis (Full Metal Alchemist), Gen Kai/Jeremiah (Yu Yu Hakusho), Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez (Highlander), Gandalf (LOTR), Hiko Seijūrō XIII (Samurai X), Mr. and Mrs. Friedrich Bhaer (Little Men, Jo’s Boys), Dewey Finn (School of Rock), Minerva McGonagall (Harry Potter)

Now, for the top 10…


Robin Williams played another notable mentor character in Good Will Hunting (as Sean Maguire), but I like his character on Dead Poets Society, John Keating, much more.  Through his English lessons, Keating inspires his students to “seize the day” (carpe diem) and not settle with mediocre lives.  He’s on this list, essentially on that alone.  Carpe diem has become somewhat of an emphatic philosophy to everyone, not only to his students in the story, but to those who have seen the movie as well.


It’s impossible not to like Giles.  Everyone who loves Buffy the Vampire Slayer can’t help but to adore this nerdy but amiable Watcher.

Giles possesses an extensive, encyclopedic knowledge that permits him to effectively train and instruct Buffy in being a Slayer.  In addition, he not only serves as an invaluable advisor to Buffy and the “Scooby Gang”, but as a father-figure as well.

He has a mild-mannered personality, but when there’s a need for violence – especially when it comes to protecting Buffy – he has no reservations of employing it.  He can hold his own in a fight as he possesses some range of fighting skills and some magical aptitude.


Gandalf is objectively the better wizard.  But even though the men, elves, dwarves, and hobbits rely on his wisdom to guide them in saving Middle-Earth from the dire threat of Sauron, I think Dumbledore has a slight edge on him as far as being a mentor is concerned.

Not only is Dumbledore acknowledged in the Harry Potter universe as the most powerful wizard in the world – rivaled only by the Dark Lord, Voldemort – but he has also proven to be perceptive and wise; devotedly protective of Hogwarts and its inhabitants; and a master strategist.  And Harry Potter benefited greatly from these qualities while being under Dumbledore’s protection and tutelage.

Dumbledore kept Harry safe, and guided him into becoming a capable wizard.  Even after his death, Dumbledore was still making an impact.  Before his demise – something that he arranged in his own terms – he had laid down all the necessary groundwork and components that would direct Harry into fulfilling his heroic destiny.


Master Splinter has different origin stories, depending on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles version.  In some versions, he’s the mutated pet rat of ninja master Hamato Yoshi, and in others, he’s Yoshi himself who was mutated into a man-sized rat.  Regardless of the version, Splinter has always served as the mentor and surrogate father to Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Rafael.  He’s the definitive “zen” martial arts master – consistently calm, profoundly wise, and highly proficient in martial arts, particularly ninjutsu.  

Under his training, the Ninja Turtles have become immensely skillful ninjas themselves.  But whenever they find themselves in a pickle, they can always expect on Splinter to have their backs or to bail them out.


Mr. Miyagi is a U.S. Army veteran, a Medal of Honor recipient, and a karate master – hence, he’s a bona fide badass.  Other than being an expert martial artist, he has also shown to be deeply insightful and philosophical.  Thus, when he encountered and took under his wing a troubled and bullied teenager named Daniel LaRusso (go see the Karate Kid movies for the whole story), he successfully whipped him into shape.  Not only did Daniel learn karate from Mr. Miyagi, but he also learned life principles that helped him into becoming a better person.

Oh, yeah.  Plus points for catching flies with chop sticks.

5.) YODA

Through the Star Wars narrative, Yoda has always been a transcendent adviser/mentor figure.  His many years and great mastery of the Force has venerated him above other Jedi Masters.  He is much respected, and his wise counsels are highly valued.

In the original trilogy, set wherein the Jedi Order has already fallen, he is the one who trained Luke Skywalker into becoming the awesome hero he has turned out being.  Sure, Obi Wan Kenobi is the one who initially trained Luke.  But it can be argued that it was only when Yoda mentored Luke that the latter has completely mastered the ways of the Jedi.


Charles Xavier, one of the most powerful mutant telepaths on Earth, longs for a world where his kind can co-exist harmoniously with humans.  Fueled with this dream, he founded Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, wherein he begun training young mutants and shared them his philosophy.  Though not perfect, many mutants – most of them becoming X-Men or members of mutant superhero teams sympathetic to the X-Men’s cause – owe their lives to Xavier, as he helped them defuse their fears when they first learned of their real identities and powers, provided them a sanctuary and home, trained them in the proper use of their abilities, and gave them a purpose for living.  Many of his former students have become mentors and teachers themselves.


Reborn is a famed hitman and an Arcobaleno – a group of legendary individuals who are experts in their fields that have been transformed into infant form and became guardians of seven magical pacifiers.  He has been commissioned to tutor and train the heir of the Vongola Family, Tsuna Sawada, into becoming a proper Mafia boss.

Reborn is fiercely dedicated in his job.  He cares for nothing more than making Tsuna stronger and more powerful.  Everything else – even any personal benefits or the wellbeing of others – is secondary to it.  Thus, throughout the manga/anime series, in every circumstance or challenge that is encountered, he would make sure to make use of it in improving Tsuna and his Vongola family.


Yankumi, as she’s affectionately called by her students, has already been featured in a few of my past lists.  This yakuza heiress prefers to be a teacher than inherit the “family business.”  With great patience and enthusiasm, she manages to touch her trouble-making students with her genuineness and dedication, and inspire them into becoming better individuals.  Moreover, trained in martial arts due to her background, she is capable of kicking the butts of anyone that would dare harm his students.


Like Yankumi, Kakashi has been in several of my past lists.  It can’t be helped since he’s just an awesomely multi-faceted, complex fictional character.  Part of what makes him interesting and appealing is being a terrific mentor.  He’s the quintessential “cool teacher” character.

He is very intelligent and well-rounded, but he’s not the intimidating kind that people around him would have a hard time approaching.  He is calm, cordial, and relatable.  He has never been keen of receiving personal glories, but delights in building up those that are put under him and emphasizing the supreme value of being a team.  Hence, he is as much liked as he is respected.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

No Matter What, Gilas Pilipinas Has My Respect and Appreciation

The run of the Philippines men’s basketball national team, Smart Gilas Pilipinas, during the 2016 FIBA Asia Championships was impressive and stirring.  However, in their Finals match against China (which, to be fair, is a much improved team than that of the previous years), they were victimized by pre-game bullying tactics and blatantly biased officiating from the referees.  Unable to overcome these unfair handicaps, they lost the gold medal game to the Chinese.

Like every Filipino, I was…

To borrow a quote that the celebrated Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago ranted years ago, I was “irate, furious, ballistic, fuming, foaming at the mouth, hitting the roof, homicidal.”  I was that mad.

And I think I have good reasons to be pissed and bitter about it:
  • I was already expecting China to use dirty tactics.  This is, after all, a country that has the reputation of bullying and ripping off.  And there were already hints about this earlier in the tournament.  Iran even claimed they experienced the same thing during their semis match.  Still, knowing all of these didn’t really prepare me in witnessing such appalling display. 
  • I was really hoping that despite all of China’s villainy, Gilas would overcome the odds.  I fantasized of seeing a “storybook ending” coming out of it.  Like what happen in all those movies that have underdog protagonists.  That, no matter what, good will always triumph over evil.  Thus, when that didn’t happen, my romantic idealism took a hard blow. 
  • I’m tired of China’s bullying and insolence of Philippine sovereignty through the years.  And since the Philippines is a weak country, we really can’t do anything about it whenever China offends us or take our territories.  So I was hoping that, at least, in this important basketball game, we’ll be able to have the satisfaction of somewhat getting back at China after its years of atrocity against us.  It would have been a sweet cathartic release of all our pent-up aggravations against that country.  But (sigh), we’ll have to wait for some other circumstance where we can finally have that. 
  • The gold wasn’t the only thing at stake, but an outright Olympic berth as well.  It wouldn’t have been this much frustrating if the second placer also qualifies for the next major tournament – like back in 2013, which allowed Gilas to qualify for the FIBA World Cup.  Thus, because of this aspect, a silver medal finish is just isn’t enough for me.

Sure, the Gilas Pilipinas could have been mentally tougher, played grittier, and shot better in that Finals game.  I was hoping that they would have scored so much points that any amount of “cooking” on China’s part won’t matter anymore.  But requiring something superhuman of them is also isn’t fair.  And for that, I have nothing but high appreciation and respect for this Gilas team which gave its all despite the circumstance.

This so-called “Gilas 3.0” (meaning the third incarnation of Gilas) is said by doubters as the weakest among Gilas versions.  But they are definitely proven wrong.  This team is actually more impressive in this tournament than the Gilas team that fought in the World Cup.  A second-place finish – and China has to resort to dirty tactics to send them there – is no small feat.  

I salute you, Gilas Pilipinas 3.0.
Despite the heartbreaking outcome of the FIBA Asia Championship, Gilas Pilipinas has shown that “puso” is the real deal.  Thus, I choose to be optimistic about the future.  The Philippines still have a shot next year – in the 2016 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament – to qualify for the Olympics.  I’m looking forward to it.    

Gilas Pilipinas will bounce back.  

Onwards. #PUSO #LabanPilipinas

Critics Enjoyed 'The Overnight'; I Did Not

The Overnight tells the story of a family of three – Alex; his wife, Emily; and their son, RJ – that has recently moved to LA from Seattle.  While in the neighborhood park, the family meets Kurt and his son, Max.  RJ and Max hit it off quickly, and the friendly Kurt invites the family to a pizza dinner at their home.  Anxious to have new friends, especially Alex, they agreed.  That night, they meet Kurt’s wife, Charlotte, and everyone has a good time.  But after the kids are sent to bed, things start to become more and more revealing, seductive, and weird for the two couples as the night goes by.

The Overnight is a generally well-reviewed movie. It sits at 82% at Rotten Tomatoes, and is described as “witty and unpredictable.”  Hence, based on that, I was expecting that this movie is going to be clever, hilarious, and entertaining.

Unfortunately, after watching The Overnight, I have to strongly disagree with the critics’ consensus.  I find nothing marginally enjoyable or funny with this movie.  Instead, I find it awkward, dull, empty, and senseless.  Maybe I just didn’t get what it was trying to be, and am just not particularly sold on its premise, humor, message, and narrative.

So, yeah, I really dislike this movie.  There’s really nothing left to say. 

Saturday, October 03, 2015

'The Visit' Is Shyamalan's First Step Towards Redemption

With films like The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs, and a penchant for shocking plot twists, M. Night Shyamalan used to hold the reputation of being a groundbreaking filmmaker.  He was even called by Newsweek magazine at one time as “the next Spielberg.”  However, a streak of bad films, which got stupider and poorer in quality with each passing film, Shyamalan has become a pop culture joke.  (For the record, here are my thoughts on some of his bad movies: 1.) Though critically panned, I personally liked The Village, but this is where the streak is generally considered to have started; 2.)  I thought The Lady in the Water wasn’t too bad, but it’s indeed too convoluted; 3.) The Happening was the first Shyamalan movie that I completely found to be terrible; 4.) I haven’t seen the notorious The Last Airbender, and I’ve no intention of seeing this atrocity to a beloved animated series; 5.) After Earth is so bad, bland, and disappointing, that I couldn’t finish it.)

His latest film, The Visit, is somewhat a “back to basics” for him.  Compared to his previous projects, this movie has a smaller, scaled-down story and production.  But this probably allowed Shyamalan to rediscover himself and tap into the talent that enabled him to make his earlier movies.

The Visit is a nicely-done found footage film about a brother and a sister that are sent by their mother to spend a week with their grandparents, whom the mother has an estranged relationship.  The whole narrative is seen through the cameras of the siblings who intend to make a documentary of their visit.  The grandparents prove to be cordial and pleasant, but oddly instruct the siblings to not leave their room after 9:30 p.m.  As the days go by, the siblings notice that their grandparents are behaving more and more strangely, prompting the two to investigate and discover a terrifying secret.

As what it has intended to be, The Visit works really well.  It’s a solid horror comedy – decent with the laughs and scares.  It has a trademark Shyamalan plot twist that, though isn’t mindblowing, is executed agreeably.

The Visit is an enjoyable, good movie.  But it’s not exactly right to say that this is Shyamalan “returning to form” or “making a comeback.”  It’s not quite there yet.  He still has a lot to do to make up for The Last Airbender.  Nevertheless, this is a promising first step for Shyamalan in regaining his pedestal.  I’m looking forward to a strong follow up from him.

'Me and Earl and the Dying Girl' Will Eventually Become Obscure, but It's an Endearing Drama Worth Watching Nonetheless

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is the winner of the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award in the 31st Sundance Festival which was held earlier this year.  So I had some expectations.  Fortunately, this movie turned out being exactly as how I assumed it would be.

The story focuses on Greg Gaines, a socially awkward high school senior who maintains the belief that, in order to survive high school – or life for that matter – he should not draw attention to himself and be in good terms with everyone by mildly acquainting himself with the various high school cliques without completely investing on friendships.  His only real interest is making homemade movies which parody famous film titles.  He does these projects with Earl, his bestfriend – whom he actually refuses to call as such, but instead refers to him as his “co-worker.”

One day, he is forced by his mother’s nagging to befriend Rachel Kushner, a schoolmate, who has just been recently diagnosed with leukemia.  Both Greg and Rachel initially don’t want to hang around, but the lack of pretentiousness between them compels the two to become friends.  Later, through Greg, Earl and their movies – which Rachel begins to like – enter Rachel’s world as well.

Through the months-long experience of being by Rachel’s side as she struggles with cancer and chemotherapy, and as their friendship gets deeper, Greg gradually sheds his nihilistic self-centeredness and self-loathing, and takes his first steps towards maturity.

I really enjoyed this movie.  Despite following a generic coming-of-age blueprint, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl proves to be an endearing drama, thanks to the acting and direction’s solid execution of the well-written script.  It’s funny and heartbreaking at the right parts and the right amounts.

But in the end, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is just one of those good movies that come out every year that eventually descends to obscurity.  This movie doesn’t have anything substantially distinctive that would make it worth seeking out after 2015.  That said, it does offer an insightful study of life – amidst the hovering presence of death – and friendship through a charming and witty story, and, thus, is worth watching at least one time – preferably, within this year.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

'The Martian' Is Set on Becoming a Sci-Fi Classic; Deserves Oscar Nominations

The Martian is the big screen adaptation of the science fiction novel of the same name written by Andy Weir.  It features an all-star cast headlined by Matt Damon on the lead role, and is directed by Sir Ridley Scott (whose reputable works include the sci-fi classics Alien and Blade Runner).

The movie tells the story of Mark Watney – a NASA astronaut, botanist, and mechanical engineer – who is part of the Ares 3 mission to Mars, and presumed dead and left behind by his crewmates after a strong storm forced them to evacuate.  Despite the harsh environment and having limited resources, the stranded Watney refuses to give up and embrace death, relying on his scientific know-how and technical skills to fight for survival day in, day out, while hoping for rescue.

Considering the dire circumstance of the premise, the movie is surprisingly optimistic and funny, for the central character Watney – as what was mentioned in the last paragraph – is someone that refuses to give up.  He faces every disheartening situation with admirable positivity and a sense of humor.  When things go wrong, he quips about it and then gets his head together to figure out a way around the problem.  This does not mean he never becomes depressed and lonely – he does – but he simply never stops struggling and willing himself forward as much as he can.  He’s basically how Spider-Man – a character known for his constant optimism, tenacity, intelligence, and wit – will be if Spider-Man gets stuck in Mars.  And, thus, just like Spidey, I find Mark Watney an extremely lovable and inspiring character.

Nevertheless, despite the big dose of optimism and humor, the movie never fails in keeping the weight of how dismal and scary the scenario is hanging in the air.  There’s always the sense of dread and suspense.  And whenever tension is required, the direction and narrative execution work impeccably in building and releasing it.  The climax is particularly breathtaking and heart-pumping.

The Martian is an all-around well-crafted movie.  It has gorgeous-looking visuals; a smart, well-paced, and immensely entertaining story; a balanced delivery of laughs and thrills; and a wonderfully feel-good message.  Acting (as expected from the caliber of such brilliant cast), direction (a return to form for Ridley Scott after Exodus: Gods and Kings), cinematography, writing – every single detail is terrific.  I don’t think those guys in the Academy will give this movie its due, but I believe that this movie deserves to receive several nominations.  

If this movie has any flaws, I deem them too small to be worth mentioning here.

All in all – if it isn’t obvious yet – I tremendously love The Martian.  Not only is it one of the best films of the year, but it has the makings of an eventual classic.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

'Turbo Kid' Has the Appeal of an 80's Cult Classic

Turbo Kid is set in a post-apocalyptic world wherein civilization had fallen in the 80’s (as what I can infer from the lingering articles and items being scavenged and utilized by the people) and water is a scarce commodity.  The story focuses on a teenage orphan – simply credited as “The Kid” – who is obsessed on an old comic book superhero named “Turbo Rider” and who spends his days scavenging for stuff he can trade for water, comic books, or some other objects.

One day, the Kid meets a mysterious and ebulliently quirky girl named Apple who convinces him to let her tag along as he goes scavenging.  However, a henchman of the savage warlord Zeus kidnaps Apple, while the Kid barely escapes himself.  In his flight, he comes across an armor and weapon that are coincidentally similar with those of his hero, Turbo Rider.  He puts them on – thus, becoming “Turbo Kid” – and proceeds to go save Apple.

80’s and 90’s kids, who became familiar and fell in love with both the cheesiness and charm of 80’s pop culture, will have a blast with Turbo Kid.  It agreeably pays homage to the ridiculous but adored genre tropes and tones from that era.  It has the production value of a low-budget movie, but this aspect never became a point against it.  It has succeeded in tapping into nostalgic tastes, and its “B movie” quality actually enhances the appeal.

It’s also pretty hilarious.  The movie isn’t excessively over-the-top as Kung Fury, but it still has plenty of laughs.  Most of them emerged from gory sequences though.    

Furthermore, Turbo Kid and Apple emit a genuinely warm and congenial chemistry.  When the story gets too ridiculously violent or starts to flirt with clichés, it fortunately has this positive characteristic to fall back to.

Turbo Kid is not the post-apocalyptic masterpiece that Mad Max: Fury Road is.  But it does have the craftsmanship and appeal of a cult classic from the 80’s, and I found that that’s sufficient to have a great time with this film.  

Monday, September 28, 2015

'Tale of Tales' Is a Fine Reminder that Fairy Tales Haven't Always Been for Children

Tale of Tales, or Il racconto dei racconti in Italian, is a fantasy film composed of three interweaving stories based on “The Enchanted Doe” (La Cerva Fatata), “The Flea” (La Pulce), and “The Flayed Old Lady” (La Vecchia Scorticata), with creative liberties done, of course.  The source of these three tales is the Pentamerone, a collection of fairy tales – considered by scholars as the first of such – by 17th-century Neapolitan courtier Giambattista Basile.

Tale of Tales is a fairy tale in the traditional sense (not how Disney has revised it in the 20th century) – surreal and grim.  It’s not pleasant and fun at all.  But its dark, eccentric tone emits an alluring likability nonetheless.  The weirdness and grittiness, aided by lush production value and metaphorical depth, kept this film mesmerizing from start to finish of its 2-hour long run time.

Fairy tales haven’t always been for kids.  They are inherently unsettling.  I think this is so because fairy tales essentially have morals or philosophical insights in them, obscure these might be, and, at times, in order to deliver the message more emphatically, the macabre has to outweigh the beautiful.  Tale of Tales serves as a fine reminder and example.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

‘Heneral Luna’ Is Meant to Condition Filipinos to Vote for Duterte as President

LOL.  Yeah.  Sorry, for the horrible “bait-and-switch” title.  This post isn’t really an analysis of such preposterous thesis.  This is simply my review of the movie Heneral Luna.

To be honest, I wasn’t really compelled of watching Heneral Luna at first.  I was somewhat impressed of the trailer, but I wasn’t set yet of actually watching it.  It was a 50/50 thing.  But then, my Facebook newsfeed exploded with dynamic approvals and high recommendations for the movie.  This made me finally put Heneral Luna on my mental list for movies to watch.  Thankfully, albeit late, the local theater showed it, and I went to watch it as soon as I got the time.

Indeed, Heneral Luna deserves all the hype it receives.  In a Filipino movie industry that has been dominated by garbage, this movie is a much welcome gem.  It’s an overall good movie, and a highlight of my 2015 movie watching.  But I’m not going to eagerly shower it with my praises.  It’s not exactly the homerun that I was hoping it to be.

As far as being a biopic of a Filipino hero is concerned, I still think that the 1998 José Rizal epic film starring Cesar Montano has proven to have a more polished, purposeful, and interesting narrative than Heneral LunaHeneral Luna has plenty of great moments, and succeeds in portraying its titular character in an exciting light through a well-crafted tale.  I, however, have some problems with its pacing and inability to sustain an overall sense of enthrallment.  Make no mistake though, this movie started strong and has provided plenty of riveting moments.  However, I’m a bit of more prejudiced against Filipino movies, which, in general, suffer from extreme cheesiness and scarcity of cleverness.  Hence, I find it harder to forgive details of cheesiness – mild they may be – which easily distract me.  There are some elements in the story that I felt are cheesy and gratuitous, which derailed my enjoyment of the movie a bit.

My biggest disappointment on the movie is the lack of focus on Luna’s reputation as a brilliant military tactician.  This is a commander that is historically known to be capable of earning victories against Spanish and American forces with just a militia of conscripted farmers under his command.  His genius has been mentioned several times in the movie, but it isn’t thoroughly shown.  I’m sure that the movie would have been twice better if Luna’s genius military mind has been explored more.  I read in the past about cool stuff like the “Luna Defense Line” (a three-tiered defense line that gave the Americans plenty of trouble) and his fondness for assembling elite squads like the “Luna Sharpshooters” (snipers, basically) and the “Black Guard”, a 25-men guerrilla unit led by a lieutenant named Garcia (the movie’s Garcia could be this guy), and I wish that these things were featured and expounded in the movie.

Also, if you expect some awesome action sequences from this movie, you’ll be disappointed.  Yes, it doesn’t shy away from showing gruesome violence to portray realism.  But the battle scenes aren’t remarkable at all.

Nevertheless, the intent is to be more of a drama movie anyway, rather than an actual action film.  And with the drama, the movie hits empathically.  The terrific acting fuels the intensity of the drama and kept me invested, even when my problems with the pacing start becoming apparent.  Kudos most of all to John Arcilla, whose captivating performance effectively portrayed the different facets of General Luna’s personality, both his admirable traits and flaws.

I wasn’t expecting that this movie will have its share of humor, but it indeed has the right dosage of hilarity.  This movie has made me laughed aloud on several instances.  Some of the funny moments actually happen in a violent context, which is kind of morbid, but it’s so well-executed that laughing can’t be helped.

But the best thing about this movie is that it provokes reflection.  That is something rare of mainstream Filipino movies to do.  And I absolutely welcome it.  True, it actually has a pretty cynical message.  The political climate of the past is just as messed up as of that in the present.  Hence, it can be said that this movie is a reflection of our current rotten status as a nation.  We put personal interests, egos, and conveniences above the benefit of the motherland.  We have an inability of being completely one as a nation.  We are an undisciplined people.  And having a sense of nationalism for this country is simply wasted, because those in power will just screw you.  But, who knows, maybe by realizing these things, Filipinos would now accept that, as what General Luna posits in the movie, in order to change this country, what’s required is something radical.

(Seriously, with all the sympathy generated by the movie for Gen. Antonio Luna, it feels like that the movie is conditioning the Filipinos to subscribe to Luna’s stern methods and philosophy.  Hence, it feels this movie is a conspiracy sponsored by a “Duterte for President” movement.  LOL.)

So all in all, Heneral Luna is a well-acted, excellently-made, eye-opening, must-watch movie.  The Filipino film industry desperately needs more thoughtful movies like this.

I’m happy that this movie is making money, after its first week’s poor gross receipts (lots of props to social media word-of-mouth).  This kind of movie needs to be rewarded.  And, since everything is driven by money, this would encourage other Filipino filmmakers and producers to pursue making more insightful, more intelligent mainstream movies.  Also, by this, a sequel, about Gregorio Del Pilar (fact: this young general is my favorite among Filipino national heroes while growing up), is ensured.  Can’t wait!
(Keeping my fingers crossed that this is the start of the Filipino Cinema Renaissance!)