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Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994
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T-Bird At Ako is a screwball comedy disguised as a drama

February 26, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies

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And we mean that as a compliment because we love screwball comedy.

We saw the digitally restored and remastered Danny Zialcita movie T-Bird At Ako last night at the UP Film Center, and it is an absolute scream. Nora Aunor was in attendance, along with Odette Khan who owned every scene she was in, and screenwriter Portia Ilagan, who recalled the spat she had with Zialcita over the movie’s “redeeming” ending.

Our review is coming up as soon as this migraine clears. Meanwhile, check out our previous posts on Zialcita movies:

Speaking of Karma, here’s Danny Zialcita, a review of Karma starring Vilma Santos, Ronaldo Valdez, Chanda Romero, Tommy Abuel
Try A Little Suicide, a review of Tinimbang Ang Langit starring Kuh Ledesma, Christopher de Leon, Rio Locsin

Thanks to Leo Katigbak, head of Special Projects at ABS-CBN, for the tickets to the premiere. Leo’s division has so far restored 84 Pinoy classics from the film archive, including Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon, Himala, and Oro, Plata, Mata. Coming up: another Nora Aunor-Vilma Santos starrer, Ishmael Bernal’s Ikaw Ay Akin. We saw it on Cinema One a few years ago and recall, apart from that enigmatic killer ending, a scene in which Christopher de Leon and Vilma Santos watch a movie at Alliance Francaise.

T-Bird At Ako will screen at chosen cinemas, watch your theatre listings.

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Read our column, Nora and Vilma get bi-curious, at InterAksyon.com.

Watch Sesame Street’s brilliant House of Cards parody

February 25, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Television

This parody is more nuanced than its subject.

We’re doing House of Cards in our TV column on Friday.

“It’s beyond my control”: Dangerous Liaisons at CCP’s Tanghalang Pilipino

February 24, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies

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According to some critics, the 18th century novelist and army general Pierre Choderlos de Laclos wrote the novel Dangerous Liaisons to expose the perversions of the French ruling class, which would shortly get their comeuppance in the Revolution. In the novel, which unfolds in a series of letters, the ex-lovers and combatants the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont plot their seductions like military campaigns.

The novel has been filmed many, many times. We are most familiar with the sumptuous Stephen Frears adaptation based on the play by Christopher Hampton. Glenn Close and John Malkovich are the leads, and their pawns are the radiant Michelle Pfeiffer as Madame de Tourvel, Uma Thurman as convent-fresh Cecile, and Keanu Reeves as the Chevalier Danceny. The current Dr. Who Peter Capaldi is Valmont’s valet. This production revels in its theatrical roots: every glance is a coded message, and the characters wear their baroque fashions like armor. It is so much fun, no one asks aloud what those women see in Malkovich.

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The more understated Milos Forman version had the misfortune of coming out a year later. Annette Bening and Colin Firth conduct themselves with a more subtle malice, but the production design is less spectacular. Screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere made changes to the plot so the outcome is somewhat kinder.

Then there is the modern teen version in which rich kids Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryan Philippe plot against Reese Witherspoon. None of these three versions follow the ending of the Choderlos de Laclos novel in which the Marquise, her reputation ruined by the publication of her letters, flees to the country, contracts smallpox and dies. Which would be worse for her than being booed at the opera, no?

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The Tanghalang Pilipino production which goes onstage weekends at the CCP Little Theatre is called Juego de Peligro. Translated from the Hampton play by Elmer Gatchalian and directed by Tuxqs Rutaquio, it is set in late 19th century Manila. The schemers are now Margarita (Shamaine Buencamino) and Vicente (Arnold Reyes), two upper-class Spaniards corrupting the indios, who include a wonderful LJ Reyes as the virtuous married woman, and Vin Abrenica as Keanu.

The historical context creates difficulties, beginning with the language: it is rather long-winded and the leads speak it in the fraile-accented Tagalog of old movies: “Nguni’t subali’t datapwa’t an mana indio, que barbaridad.” And then the costumes: we are used to seeing Dangerous Liaisons with low necklines and elevating corsets for the women’s costumes and tight pants for the men’s. The setting being pre-Revolution Manila, there are no boobs or quads, though there are butts, all male, for which we are not complaining, and Vin Abrenica’s abs, which should get separate billing.

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Drogon: This is not G-rated!

Still, bringing colonialism and class struggle into a 233-year-old novel is an interesting choice, and Margarita casts herself as a proto-feminist who refuses to be controlled by the patriarchy. Students being introduced to Choderlos de Laclos may find themselves hooked.

Juego de Peligro runs until March 8 at Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino, Cultural Center of the Philippines. Tickets: Call 8321125 loc. 1620 and 1621, 0905-2544930, 0921-8204155; TicketWorld 8919999, ticketworld.com.ph.

Kingsman: Mr. Darcy goes berserk and we wonder what took him so long

February 21, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Clothing, Movies

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Eyewear maketh man: Colin Firth and Taron Egerton in Kingsman.

Kingsman: The Secret Service, Matthew Vaughn’s adaptation of the Mark Millar comics, is the most fun we’ve had at the movies this year so far, but then we enjoy onscreen violence because it saves us the mess of perpetrating our own. We are totally the market that thinks Scanners needed more cranial explosions.

Colin Firth is even better-tailored than usual as a member of a super-secret intelligence agency operating out of Savile Row, and Taron Egerton as his downmarket protege is adorable. Initially we were disturbed by the seeming right-wing reactionary thrust of the movie—that it falls to the upper classes to save the world—but this is turned upside-down before long.

Millar’s comics oeuvre resembles a hyperactive 11-year-old’s rewrites of superhero comics (Kick-Ass), and Kingsman is for those who wish the James Bond flicks had more violence. As in Wanted and the Ultimate Avengers, those in power are overthrown and hands that feed are inevitably bitten.

Firth is always charming, even when he’s committing mass murder, and the action sequences are clever and funny. In fact the movie is so kinetic, we regretted having seen it in 4DX because the moving chairs are redundant. Critics are up in arms over a scene in which a woman offers an agent sex if he saves the world—how is this different from every action movie? Oh, and eyeglasses. Rrrrrr, eyeglasses.

Outlander: The female gaze arrives on TV.

February 20, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Television

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(Accidental time-traveller) Claire is rescued by Dougal Mackenzie (Graham McTavish), who leads a band of Scots from Clan Mackenzie, and it should be noted that this is one of very few times she is rescued. The rest of the time she lives by her wits, and since you can’t just tell people you fell through time and landed in the past, she makes up a story about being a widow on her way to France. Not only is Claire not a damsel in distress, but her habit of speaking her mind often gets her into trouble. She quickly demonstrates her abilities as healer, ministering to the injured Jamie (Sam Heughan), Dougal’s nephew and the very definition of “strapping”.

Let us now have a moment of silence for Starz for bringing us Sam Heughan. Heughan had auditioned for the role of Loras Tyrell in Game of Thrones (the late Renly Baratheon’s lover), and he does resemble the Knight of Flowers but looks more fetching in a kilt.

Read our TV column The Binge at BusinessWorld.

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Win sets of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series in our forthcoming LitWit Challenge. And while we’re waiting for the books to arrive, someone form the local chapter of the Heughligans. We’d nominate Lola as president, but when she was president of a university org she nearly got impeached, so someone else has to plan the field trip to Scotland. Nominate yourself!

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Update: We were wondering why this column seemed to get more attention than usual (like, 3 shares) when Carmina pointed out that the link was tweeted by @SamHeughan. Thanks.

Gabby Barredo’s Opera: Nightmare laboratory

February 19, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Art

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We made sure to see Gabby Barredo’s exhibit Opera at Silverlens before it closed. Barredo’s work is always a blast, like fairy tales run amok. This show reminded us of cinematic nightmares. Like the giant with eyes on its hands in Pan’s Labyrinth.

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This one could be a dentist’s chair from Marathon Man. Dr. Zell will see you now. Is it safe? Is it safe?

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The arty serial killers on the Hannibal TV series would plotz over this.

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The wallpaper has eyes.

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The suspension tanks from Alien or the human batteries from The Matrix.

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Frankenstein.

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Dead Ringers: Gynecological instruments for mutants.

Opera is on view until Saturday, 21 February 2015 at Silverlens on Pasong Tamo Extension, Makati.