Monday, November 25, 2013

Heaven is for REAL: Book Review ~ by Benj Ramos

Would you believe a child if he tells you that he saw Jesus, God, John the Baptist and Gabriel from his 3-minute trip to heaven? Surely you think he got it from his Sunday school lessons, but guess what? He was 4 years old who couldn’t even read or write at the time. Would you still buy it?

Nope, Colton Burpo didn't dream about it, well at least according to his father Todd Burpo who wrote the book. Though some might be doubtful Colton experienced it. Two reasons why the book looks believable -- 1. Kids dont lie, 2. There is no better testimony coming from a near-death-experience.

Heaven Is For Real is a testimony that heaven is indeed for real. As a Christian, i believe that God can use whoever, whenever and wherever to become a living witness of His power. However, do not expect a crossing to the sea or God talking from a burning bush in this book.

Colton has no idea what heaven looks like. It was described in a child perspective primarily focused on colors and visuals. You know how sometimes we wake up from a dream and suddenly we can't remember a thing. But after sometime we remember when the situation calls for it, and it comes out details after details. Dejavu.

I have dreamt of heaven and hell but the setting is purely from the stereotypical everything-is-white and everybody-has-wings-and-halo. Influence of media. However, reading Heaven is For Real and imagining what Colton Burpo says makes you say, 'that i haven’t seen before'.

The first part of the story is quite dragging. A normal family day visiting a zoo while taking pictures with the animals. Suddenly little Burpo felt an unusual stomach ache. Then he vomited and was brought to the hospital. Then came his journey to heaven.

As the chapters unfold, it gets.exciting. Each chapter offers something new. Revelations after revelations. It's like discovering heaven little by little. 

Non-believers can treat the book as a good story to read. Some of us enjoy vampire and wizard stories but it doesn’t mean that we believe it. Look at it as if you are listening to a kid's experience in Disneyland. It won’t hurt you. Hoax or not, my fear is that this might lead people to believe in heaven and God instead of getting that motivation by reading the Bible. 

The motion picture for it is in 2014. Let’s see how it fairs.

I give 9 cups of latte. The book is a journey. Enjoy and listen.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Wag the Dog ~ so who's the tail and who's the dog?

by: Uel Ceballos

Opening in an idiomatic expression about “tail wagging the dog”, the film had foreshadowed the exploration of manipulation and control that would be pretty much evident on the following scenes. “Wag the Dog” was a black comedy film that sardonically made jests of the serious matters in politics, of which have placed the people involved in the matter of life and death. It starred by two of the greatest actors in Hollywood, Robert De Niro who played as the spin doctor and Dustin Hoffman who did the role of a film producer. The story was focused on the president whom face was never showed in the camera and all the diversion that his team was doing just to distract the public from the sex scandal issue that he had gotten into.

Conrad Brean (De Niro) had to switch the attention of the public in a matter of days before the election day arrive thus he came up with this idea of creating a fake war with Albania and in able to artistically maneuver it as real as it had to appear, he found creative resource from the Hollywood film producer, Stanley Motss (Hoffman). Why did it have to be Albania? What have they done with them? The plain answer was nothing, they have done nothing FOR them and that was Brean’s reason for using Albania for the faked war that he had brewed – such a dark fact that by just doing nothing, your nation could be a subject to someone’s idea of faked war was already worth of wondering.

The film was luxuriantly stuffed with humors – a mind and eye opening farce about what could be the most real drill in the world of media and politics of which majority of the public are unsuspicious and unaware of. De Niro and Hoffman really did a great chemistry here, with Hoffman showing once again his knack for comedy business. I burst laughing my heart out because the dialogues were hard-hitting to the issues being targeted and the deliverances of the main actors were just so perfectly amusing. In able to get the message, you would have to be all ears in their exchanges of conversations, and as a viewer you got to watch, listen and digest all at the same time what were being shown to you by the movie. You got to develop a complete common sense so you could grasp the message that this film was trying to inculcate on you.

The plot was a completely amazing turns of events, from Hoffman gathering his talents, them planning the Act 1 and Act 2, to the music composer complaining ‘bout the difficulties in rhyming Albanian, the big deal issue on whether the talent “Albanian” girl should hold a dog or a cat (they settled on a white Calico cat) while she was trying to escape her smoldering village after the “terrorists” have attacked, up towards to the event that they ended with an insane convict to play as their “hero” of the “war”.

It would be a privilege for the viewers to see the passionate Hollywood producer Motss did his masterpiece, which he considered to be his greatest work ever. Motss even produced music compositions that served poignantly to earn the sympathy of the public and got them immersed on the expected “effect” of war of which the Albania had declared with their country. The use of music, the manipulation of media, the maneuvering of events, the anticipated outcome of events – these were all in the control of the few people who were trying to turn the things upside down and place back the vote favors to the incumbent president of the state.

Now after watching this, things might have somehow changed your way of thinking. The film had demonstrated in one way or another how the people, the masses, were being influenced and (at some certain points) manipulated by the media; and how the people of higher ranks and capacities were taking advantages of it to control the turns and twists of events. You would certainly see the media and the politics at its most deceiving and controlling acts after seeing this full of brain and wits movie. So, better check on this now. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Ligo Na U, Lapit Na Me -- Movie Review

by: Uel Ceballos

The title itself quite explained already what to expect from this film, but "Ligo Na U, Lapit Na Me" was more than just a sexy movie that starred two college students who got into a complicated set-up of relationship. The film was based from the bestselling novel of Eros Atalia with the same title "Ligo Na U, Lapit Na Me". Many have loved the book because of the effortless wits that were incorporated with Eros’ unique language in romance style of writing. Moreover, the story was richly nourished with issues that concerned the various areas of societies – all looked upon through the perspective of Karl Vladimir Lennon J. Villalobos, a young blossoming lad who possessed an exceptional character and intellect that often ignited the sparks of argument between him and his college professors. 

Also known as Intoy, Karl had this unrestrained curiosity about things that happened and existed around him. He never really disapproved but the frank questions he asked (for his desire to fully understand) often challenged the concreteness of the majority’s beliefs particularly in the areas of religion, norms, feminism, sanity, and human perception of right and wrong.

The story as a book was a real page-turner; as a movie, well I’d dare say it was intellectually comical, sexily rousing and competitively satirical. Intoy and Jen’s ups and downs were not really set apart from what was happening in today’s generation. The youth’s playful exploration as they intersected with one another’s life, the equivalent consequences of their actions, their responses on such consequences – all of it demonstrated the youths' adventure in a bigger picture; that they are often driven to certain actions (out of several stimuli), and the environment (inclusive of all the elements therein) reacted to their actions with the equal level of intensity and their first initiative then is to react back to it -- more of being subjective and less of being objective and then so on. The action-reaction process would soon tired them out ‘til they ended drop-dead confused and wondering on what they have done wrong to earn such a painstaking process of growing up.  

It was shown through Intoy and Jen, wherein they were trapped in this overpowering emotion which they were both trying to win over, but then in the end the swell of emotion would get unstoppable like a storm surge that is likely to wash away what has been started. For certain, "Ligo Na U Lapit Na Me" will make you laugh, stirred and sympathize with the main characters of the story, also, it would leave a hole opening on your consciousness wherein some wisps of wondering would surely seep through your senses like the sun’s finger lights entering through the roof’s cracks.

The movie casting was absolutely perfect. Mercedes Cabral was well-fitted for Jen’s playful and seducing character,and Edgar Allan Guzman while too good-looking for the description of Intoy’s physique had perfectly justified the nature of Intoy’s soul character. The treatment with its series of voice over that spoke for what Intoy had in mind in the particular moment, the witty musical scoring that spiced up the temperament of each scene, the certain instances that Intoy was breaking the fourth wall and directly facing the camera to talk to the audiences, the fast-pace sequences all complemented with one another to deliver a fully entertaining and mind-boggling film.

For this movie that never lacks the wit, the wisdom and the sumptuous offerings of life … I’ll give it 8 Espresso Shots! Cheers!

Ligo na U, Lapit na Me – Emo ka ba? Pwes basahin mo ito! By Lyn Bungar

Photo courtesy of
Ang akdang ito ni Eros Atalia ang kasa-kasama ko sa mga panahong nagmumuni-muni ako sa mga bagay-bagay sa aking buhay. Isa ito sa dalawang aklat na ibinigay sa akin na hindi ko pa napagtatangkaang buklatin at basahin. Napagpasiyahan kong itigil muna ang pagbabasa ng e-books at bigyang pansin ang mga aklat na nasasalat.

Umikot ang istorya sa lihim na pag-ibig ni Intoy kay Jen na nagsimula lamang sa paglalaro ng dalawa sa apoy. At patuloy pang nagpaikot-ikot sa mga nakakatuwang biro, dayalogo at mga hinuha ni Intoy sa iba’t ibang bagay na may kinalaman sa buhay at walang buhay.
Gumamit ang awtor ng matatalim na salita, bulgar at walang-hiya. Ngunit hindi nakakasugat, nakakagulat ngunit sa huli’y mas nanamnamin at kapapanabikan ang mga salitang bibitawan ng pangunahing tauhan. Mapagbiro ngunit may laman. Nangungusap at hindi basta-basta nagkukuwento lamang. Mapapangiti, maguguluhan at masasabik ka sa mga pakikipagsapalaran ni Intoy sa eskuwelahan, magulang, kapitbahay, kay Jen at sa sarili.

Ang Ligo na U, Lapit na Me ay hindi tulad ng nakasanayan ko nang Pilipinong panitikan noong ako’y nasa hayskul. Dinaan ng awtor sa biro ang mga issue o usapin na ako mismo’y hindi malaman kung seseryosohin ko nga ito o hindi. Ang mga biro ay hindi nagkukubli sa mga salitang nakagawian na o mas tanggap ng nakararami. Imumulat ka nito sa totoong mundo o pangyayari sa pamamagitan ng di mapagpanggap na mga salita.

Kung ikaw ay pinagdaraanan sa buhay na kahit ano pa man, ito ang babasahing para sa iyo (maliban sa banal na salita at encouraging posts sa FB wall mo). Matatawa ka at makakalimutan mo panandalian ang mga sanhi ng iyong kalungkutan sa pamamagitan ng mga problemang ihahain ni Intoy, not to mention ang kanyang mga karanasan sa pagiging ganap na lalaki. Ipapaalala nito na ang buhay ay buhay dahil may pagdurusa, kalungkutan at kasawian. Na may mga tanong at pagtatapos na hindi na dapat hinahanapan ng kasagutan o pagwawakas dahil ang buhay ay patuloy na paglalakbay. Sa kabila nito, sabik akong mabasa ang pangalawang aklat!

Pinapatawan ko ang panulat na ito ni Eros Atalia ng walong tasang latte. At paniguradong mas-aabangan ko pa ang mga akda niya.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

LA VIE EN ROSE: The extraordinary life of Edith Piaf and the astounding portrayal of Marion Cotillard ~ by: Uel Ceballos

I’m not French; I’m not even a Westerner though I’m somehow familiar with a bit of their cultures where the credits of my knowledge go to the movies I’ve come to watch. To top it all I knew very less of the Western people especially the French (except of the historical figures that were included in our lessons back at school), but this biographical movie of Edith Piaf, her most recognizable specialty on chanson realiste genre, and the rest of extraordinary events in her life really got me bonded on my seat (while holding a cup of coffee as usual). As I stirred my favorite beverage, the film stirred up as well the curiosity in me to know more about the intricate details of the French music, history, and their most known and influential customs there.

La Vie En Rose opened with a stage performance of already feeble Edith, singing at New York, at the age of 44. Everything that greeted me on that first two minutes of the film – the terrifying music intro, the melodious voice of Edith in her somber deliverance of lyrics, the musical theatre in its warm color scheme, and the cutting of frame to the shot of ambulance and men rushing in – quiet impressed upon me the nature of the scenes that are about to come for the rest of two hours.

If you want to see Paris in its early decades of the 20th century, then this film is a must-see for you. The movie told the life of Edith Piaf, one of France’s greatly celebrated international divas whose life story was a blend of troubling twist and turn, love, fame, success and health betrayal. Her life was shown from her childhood which was spent on the street while her mother sung, busking for coins to the last days of her life, frail and sick. We would see here how her younger years were exposed to the impoverished way of life, until her mother left her to her maternal grandmother to pursue singing career. Edith then was so innocent and sick ‘til her father fetched her and left her to her paternal grandmother, who ran and managed a brothel. After the hostile street environment, Edith was then transferred to another place that opened her up to the cruel and undignified trade of prostitution.

Edith’s story had depicted as well the destitution issues of Paris at that time. Though she was harshly challenged by life in her early years, Edith never lacked the good people who supported and helped her to get through all the fate’s adversities. She got Titine who influenced Edith on her religion and undying devotion to St. Therese, Momone who was Edith’s sister by heart, and the rest of people including her entourage who stayed with her from her celebrity fame to the downfall of her health that eventually drew the last breath on her frail and weakly hunched body.

Edith’s rise to international fame from being a street crooner was not an easy trail. Edith reached the peak of success with the image of broken, wretched and toughly challenged woman beneath the fancy celebrity clothes and sophisticated make ups. But like anyone else, Edith dealt with it in every best imaginable way possible. She developed the character of a happy woman with frenzied endeavor to crack laughter in the crowd, just so to generate entertainments in spite of the disasters and ill-fated events that happened in her life. She has had lovers and husbands but Edith was loyally and faithfully married to nothing else but to singing. There was a part in the film where Edith said that if she wasn’t singing then she would not be living in this world at all. Edith Piaf was the existence of a singer that wasn’t made, but a singer that was born.

The film was approached in a series of flashbacks to Edith's earlier life, a sequence of random frames of Edith in her various ages, situations, and periods in life. The editing treatment had the tendency to confuse on which of Edith life situations being shown had happened first since the chronicles were arranged in no particular order of its occurrences.

The film has really got me mixed up as I watched the story revealed right there before my eyes. This is the most sensitively and psychologically bothering film I’ve seen after the “Hilary and Jackie” – the life of celebrated virtuoso, devastated by traumas, past events, health betrayal and love. Edith was emotionally and mentally ravaged not of morphine and alcohol but of the certain events in her life that made her seek refuge in getting drunk and drugged. However, despite of it all she never lose her faith and still clung to it up to the last days of her life.

No wonder that “La Vie En Rose” had successfully gained numerous awards including the Academy Award for Best Actress that was given to Marion Cotillard. Marion Cotillard’s portrayal of Edith Piaf was superbly justified, from the physique to the psychological and emotional embodiment of Edith’s characters – everything was just so next to perfection. Marion didn’t just portray Edith Piaf but she had actually given herself away and put Edith’s soul inside her!

For this scrupulously made film that depicted the life of remarkable personality through the exceptional portrayal by one of the finest French actresses, I’ll give it a perfect rate of 10 Espresso Shots!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

GREASE, an all time musical favorite ~ by: Uel Ceballos

John Travolta was such a magnetic sweetheart here who was clad in a 1950’s leather hood, projecting the bad boy image together with his T-birds gang. The film was based on a musical play of the same name about high school lovers and their fun youth adventures in Rydell High. 

The stage play and the movie that
portrayed the 50’s setting were both released in the 70’s era, thus the effect of the story was already an amusing look-back to the times of decades that passed. Even back then (on the time of release), the movie already has the exuberant factors to entertain the audiences with its good-humored reversions of the past era. 

The music and choreography were really fascinating that small wonder its soundtrack album had become a best-selling album then. And until now, people do still remember and appreciate the music whenever they hear it especially those that really made a big sensation to the public such as “Hopelessly Devoted”, “You’re all that I want” and the “Summer Nights” which all serve us a timeless feel-good sentiment. I, myself admit that I’m becoming hopeless romantic like a 17 year old whenever I am hearing any of these songs. Grease was such a hip romantic-comedy musical that it would revive the young hope, love and admiration in you.

Though the movie was set in the era of my grandfather, I can’t help but be willfully immersed to their world and conceive the thought of how wonderful would it have been to live and be born on their times. Well, I love my own generation but there’s really something on the past decades that I’m really fond of – maybe for the reason that their atmosphere and cultures breathed the air of simplicity, amiable oddity, and the budding transformation from the all-too conservative customs to the already-starting to liberate society. And also, I’m just so really fond of their style of fashion, music and dances -- a combination of simplicity and variation that have become influential, likeable, and an intangible part of the fad cycle.

John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John made a perfect chemistry together. The ever-energetic, suave moving John Travolta fitted suitably to the role of a bad buy while Olivia justified the role of a young and conservative high school girl. And the transformation she
showed at the latter part of the movie was really awesome and marvelous -- that part where they sung the “You’re all the I want” where they both (John and Olivia) did a splendid show together with the rest of their gangs.

Another thing that I really loved about this movie was the natural humor. They were all so effortlessly effective in throwing the lines, giving away the reaction, and tickling the audiences to send them bursting into laughter and delight. I’m pretty sure that even if you’d long left the high school, you would still be pleased by this comical yet romantic musical film. This is a good movie to watch along with your friends for an idea of happy bonding.

One great way of enjoying life to fullest is to squat on the living room’s floor with coffee and some sweets on the table, with the lights off and with Grease movie playing on your screen. I would give up my addiction to coffee if you didn’t find yourself swaying your head and laughing your heart out on this fantastic movie.

For this wonderful feel-good movie that is included in my list of best favorite musical films, I will rate it with 8 Espresso Shots! Happy viewing fellas!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Wizard of Oz and the mystifying effect of Technicolor ~ by: Uel Ceballos

A timeless classical, The Wizard of Oz is the kind of movie that you wouldn’t get tired of watching even for several of times. Based from L. Frank Baum’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, this musical adaptation produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer has really captured my heart with its profound moral lessons, magical music and amusing make-ups and special effects, which appeared to define the most intricate cosmetics and technical effects by then. The film was apparently a high budgeted movie with its usage of Technicolor process that was very costly for a film production by that time. But it all worth it because the film was such a great hit of success (though it didn’t make to be a box office hit on its first release)  that even for today, people do still remember the effects it had to everyone who had come to watch it. 

The story is centered to a young sweet farm girl named Dorothy Gale who was carried by a cyclone to the mystical world of Oz while she was inside her house. The house had dropped on the Wicked Witch of The East in the Munchkin Land, and killed the witch accidentally. The witch has a sister, the Wicked Witch of The West who swore to revenge her sister’s death. The rest of the events that followed had led Dorothy to her journey along the yellow brick road to the Emerald City where she could find the Wizard of Oz to help her get back home.

The film had never taken off the smile from my lips all throughout the time that I was watching it. First is mainly of the reason that I was greatly amazed by the garish and extravagantly world of Oz that was achieved through the Technicolor process. Of course, we are now living in the generation where the film’s special effects are far way better than the old times but seeing the classical The Wizard of Oz in such a fantastic visual eminence was really awesome and thinking that ways and process are much complicated and full of effort exertion by then. I couldn’t help but think how painstaking the whole process had been by that time just to give the movie a good quality output. While watching the movie I was really enthralled by the vividness of the picture, thinking on how many lights were being used just to project that bright and colorful illustration effect of the magical Oz, which in turn surely bore sacrifices on the actors and actresses who had to endure the lights’ heat and squinting effects while they were covered in heavy costumes and cosmetics.

photo clips from the movie
Dorothy Gale met along the way the three friends who would accompany her on her journey to Emerald City – the Scarecrow, The Tin Man and The Cowardly Lion. This is another demonstration of the film’s excellence in portrayals of the unusual characters in their effective costumes and make-ups that looked so authentic you would really think the Scarecrow and the Tin Man were really Scarecrow and Tin Man in real life. Credits couldn’t be denied as well to the admirable actors who delivered to us an unforgettable performance. I love the trio here as they added colors to Dorothy’s adventure, the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion had decided to go with the girl to also wish something from the Great Wizard. This would impart important lessons to the audience as the team finally reached the Emerald City and named to the Wizard what they would want to have.

The film was as rich and substantial as the book where it was adapted. The songs and dances interwoven with the film storytelling approach were meticulously executed that it did really uplift my mood and give me a happy chill. The choreography was so entertaining especially those dances in the Munchkin land in the earlier part of the movie and that first encounter that Dorothy and The Scarecrow had. The music and lyrics were deeply penetrating that it effortlessly exude the happiness and astonishment from me– I just couldn’t describe it exactly, but that somehow was the closer definition I can get with regards to the music’s overall effects on me. I came to watch The Wizard of Oz at the age of 25 but to tell you honestly, I felt like 16 years again for almost 3 hours that I was watching the film.

The Wizard of Oz is the sort of film that you would embrace with a happy and blissful heart regardless of your age, gender or current status in life. The movie was just as powerfully magical as the book itself that its mystique features are quite hard to resist.

Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale
I’m not that familiar of the celebrated actresses by that time, but Judy Garland’s casting as Dorothy Gale apparently became one of the most appropriate decisions that MGM had made for the film production. Her sweet face and wonder-filled eyes had made up so much for the perfect depiction of Dorothy Gale’s character.

This film is certainly a potential classic piece that would survive for far more years from now. This is one of my best favorite musical films that I wouldn’t mind watching over and over again. For this film that never fails to make me feel so young at heart, I will give it a perfect rate of 10 ESPRESSO SHOTS! Cheers!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Entering a world where myths are NEVER MYTHS... by Love Esios

When I was a little kid, I was very fond of listening to my cousins talk about the tales of the creatures that thrive within the darkness. We would usually sit in a circle with only one candle illuminating the room and I would let myself drift into their stories thinking whether it's real or not.  I guess I always ended up believing their stories because I would always find myself seeking for my elder cousin's company when going to the toilet after a session of myths and ghost stories. Despite being terrified about these tales, I still enjoy hearing and reading stories about aswang, manananggal, duwende and kapre. But what if all these things we believed to be untrue turned out to be real after all? Sounds absurd, yes, but this unsettling possibility is what this book's trying to get across.

Naermyth book cover from
The first time I saw Naermyth in the bookstore, I felt a strange contradiction about it. It captured my attention and I even thought it could be an interesting read, but then, I felt it's not a worthy purchase. Maybe deep inside of me, I think it's very corny. I have read stories about Philippine mythical creatures but I haven't actually read a novel with that storyline and I don't think someone can pull off a good book out of that concept as well. So instead of buying it at that time, I simply ignored it and went to the English Novels section.

After a few months, a colleague rushed into my cubicle and urged me to read a book that she founds very riveting. And guess what --- it's Naermyth! So I guess we were really fated to spend quality time together after all.

Naermyth is a story centered in the survival of human race in the fictional Philippines being controlled by every mythical creature we have ever heard of in Philippine horror stories when we were kids. A country being governed by duwende, aswangs, kapres and the like? How twisted is that?! In the novel, you would be introduced to the main protagonist Athena (also known as Aegis) -- a cold-hearted, independent young woman who is one of the many highly-skilled people trained to kill Naermyths -- monsters and creatures that were "never myth". These people are called Shepherds and they are tasked to protect the remaining human population in the war-struck country against these creatures that are hunting them down to extinction.

Honestly, I didn't have high expectations when I started reading the novel. But then, I just found myself wishing I got a lot of free time to continue reading and turning the pages. There were some scenes that I find predictable, though. Nevertheless, Ms. Karen Francisco showed that she has a knack on combining fantasy, suspense, thriller and action into an engrossing, well-written novel that will surely leave you craving for more. It makes me proud to know that a Filipino author has a lot of potential to be an international-caliber writer and yet keeping her work very Pinoy.

I guess I just want to say that I loved it. I really do. And I fervently hope that somewhere out there, Ms. Francisco is pulling her hair trying to figure out how she'd finish the second book because for sure, I'm gonna buy it once it's published!

Allow me to do the honor of giving my first 10/10 cups of latte rating for this amazing book. ^____^

PS: It's about time to support our Filipino authors. Dystopian and fantasy novel readers, go check this out before the Naermyths take over!