Friday, March 21, 2014

The Giver ~ Review

by: Uel Ceballos

Can you imagine a place where there’s no real pain, no hunger, no chaos, no war – yes, a place with nothing of the scariest things in human life? None of the ugliest and heartbreaking things but no colours as well, no sunshine, no emotions, and no concept of LOVE. Can you imagine a place like that? Of course not, but Lois Lowry did.

The Giver is a children’s novel written by Lois Lowry with seemingly utopia contextual at the beginning but appearing otherwise as the story proceeds.  Quite easy to comprehend with uncomplicated sequences despite the series of flashbacks in the story, The Giver is a powerful soft science fiction that challenges the reader’s imagination. The novel’s descriptiveness is sharp and crisp that you would almost see the place and the characters in your mind’s eyes in its colourless state as the writer depicts it – gloomy, pallid, but peaceful and trouble-free.

From appearing like the ideal kind of community and eventually turning to be a dystopian, Lois Lowry has commendably built the safety reassurances within the community that she has presented in the book, only to deconstruct it with the series of revelations that Jonas (the lead character) will be experiencing along his training.

In this community of Sameness, everything is in its proper order and balances in able to protect the people from its community’s terrible past. All things are controlled and well monitored but not for the sake of only few people’s but for the full benefits of all in the community. From population to education, food distribution, career, marrying, and starting a family, all are taken cared in systematic process. However, with all the orderliness and pain-free characteristics of their community, there is one person who doesn’t agree with the current system, not because he finds it not beneficial, but rather because he knows that with all these sameness or manipulated balances, it all results to the lack of other far more significant things. This person is The Receiver of Memories who knows the memories of their community decades ago, back and back and back. Now he’s going to turn over the task to Jonas, a twelve years old lad who’s starting to take on his responsibility like all the other kids of his age with their respective tasking. Some of Jonas co-twelve is being trained to be a scientist, doctor, nurse of olds, birthmother, assistance director of recreation and other else. But Jonas, he is given with the most honoured job, of which handled by the current Receiver for quite a long time now because there’s no one fitted to be trained until Jonas came.

With Jonas training comes various revelations and events, of which Jonas must handle with courage and enough strength. The Giver is delivered in such a manner that it would make you marvel on that fictional world that exists within the primary or real world. Lois Lowry is such a genius to instil on the readers the pros and cons of both the ideas of utopia and dystopia, without getting blatant and manipulative over the inculcation of the both concepts.

However, not as conspicuous as it may be but the book is still eloquent enough for readers to grasp the idea that the novel is trying to bring into them. "The Giver" is trying to achieve certain influential effect towards what idea and for whatever purpose, only the writer knows. But that is solely left and depended on the way the reader would percept and interpret the novel. For certain the novel, as the revelation of memories brings Jonas to a life-changing decision, is also aiming the same for its readers.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Super Size Challenge

by: Benj Ramos

Super Size Me is an docu-experiment where the first time director, Morgan Spurlock narrator/main character vows to eat nothing but Mcdonalds for 30 days. He calls it, "the Mc Diet". This is in relation to a law suit filed by the parents of two kids against the fastfood chain indicating that Mcdonald's promotion of Super Size caused the obesity of their children. The ending of this Sundance favorite is best to be left unspoiled.

The story runs chronologically that's why it's easy to understand. The director makes the story comprehensive and accurate. For someone who doesn't understand medical and nutrition related-terms, the film makes it informative for you. Very timely indeed because America has been on top of the list of obesity.

The film states the obvious. What do you expect after a healthy man engages in a 30 day diet of Big Macs and fries and soda? The result is predictable. Other than gaining weight, behavioral effects, and health issues, I do not see other clear motive of this documentary. 

It allows you to look at the facts and speak for itself. It may seem a black propaganda for the popular fastfood chain in the world because who the hell would eat Mcdonalds and make it a meal 3 times a day for 30 days? and besides, saturated fats and cholesterol are almost available in every food that we eat, not just in Ronald Mcdonalds menu.

Overall it's an entertaining film from a dangerous human experiment. The concept is original and disgusting. It is so amazing how a serious issue like obesity can be treated in a humorous way. The film also looks at Mcdonalds advertisement and promotions and how it influence consumers in decision-making.

It all boils down to self discipline. Remember that anything beyond moderation is dangerous.

I give it an 8 out of 10 shots of espresso!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Hobbit (Book) ~ Review ~ The amazing journey of Bilbo Baggins

by: Uel Ceballos

photo source from
For sure, The Hobbit will give the readers another mesmerizing experience of the world beyond ours – the world of Elves, Dwarves, Wizards, Goblins, and Wargs. Not to mention the dragon, eagle and skin changers. The Hobbit has so much to offer to its readers, adult and children alike, which will bring them to the world of uncertainty, adventure and treasure.

I’m amazed as ever to J.R.R Tolkien’s incomparable imaginations to create such story with so many mystifying elements involved. The book is categorized under Children’s Fantasy novel but it feeds as well the thirsty mind’s eye of the grown ups. I have loved Tolkien’s The Lord of The Ring and I can’t find any reason at all not to love The Hobbit. The Lord of The Ring is narrated in a very serious tone, really meant for adults’ understanding and I read it just when I was only 14 years old. It’s just funny that I came to read the prequel The Hobbit, (which was meant for children’s enjoyment), at the age now of 27. It should have been the other way around but nonetheless I enjoyed both novels regardless of how old was I when I read them.

I got to enjoy reading The Hobbit with Bilbo Baggin’s amusing character – this we never witnessed in The Lord of The Ring wherein he's already old and the focus of the story is on Frodo Baggins. I never really thought that Bilbo had lived his youth with such humor, high spirit and cleverness as he is described by Tolkien in the book. I was indeed very much delighted to read about his unexpected journey.

The main theme and issue are quite deep for youngsters’ mind to grasp but along with it are the things that simple to be understood and certainly the most significant moral lessons that should be learned by everyone, youngsters and grown-ups alike.

The Hobbit gives a full account of Bilbo’s journey, together with a group of dwarves led by Thorin. Gandalf was with them along the travel. Though there were times that Gandalf needed to be apart from them, he was coming back in time just when he was needed (as always). Indeed, Bagginses were fated to a perilous journey as with Bilbo’s expedition to the Lonely Mountain, that was followed by Frodo’s travel to Mordor in The Lord of the Ring.

The stories of wars and escapes in the story are as detailed and exciting as the very-Tolkien way. It gave me thrill to follow the group on their death-defying journey just to restore those treasures that dragon Smaug has stolen from Thorin’s people. If you’re wondering what Bilbo was doing on that journey where in fact he got no business with the dwarves’ matter, well that was another amusing thing – Gandalf has set him up, building him up to the dwarves as a burglar. The dwarves then hired the “burglar” Bilbo Baggins and that started Bilbo’s unforgettable adventure.

After reading this book, I felt like craving for more of J.R.R Tolkien’s narratives that I miss reading The Lord of The Ring. A delightful and adventure-filled novel, both adult and children will surely love this fantasy novel. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Act of Killing ~ Documentary Film Review

by: Uel Ceballos

Brave and emotionally ruthless, the documentary film “The Act of Killing” exhibited an event from the past that is still too much for the involved individuals to handle even up to now. The film is focused on the Indonesians killings of 1965 – 1966, an anti communist purge wherein million or more suspected communists and Chinese Indonesians were killed. The film featured Anwar Congo and his friends who lead the death squad in the 1965, from being gangsters selling black market movie theatre tickets to notorious executioners. Anwar is now the honoured and respected founding father of right wing paramilitary group Pacansila Youth which supported Suharto’s New Order military dictatorship. This is the group that is accountable for the mass killings in 1965 in support for Suharto’s military coup. 

In “The Act of Killing”, Anwar Congo is challenged to re-enact the killings, including the details on how it is performed. Anwar willingly accepted the challenge and reminisced the bloody past of his country, wherein Anwar himself has personally executed 1,000 individuals by wire-strangling. 

The film showed Anwar and his friends re-enacting the major interrogation and killing scenes they have done in the past. The entire film consisted of Anwar interviews, following him to places where he used to perform the execution, and documenting his conversations with his colleagues wherein at some point they are discussing about how the killings have affected them through the years. Series of re-enactments are done through their favourite genres such as gangster and musical films. Anwar has even mentioned that his killing process was based from the gangster movies he has watched back then. 

“The Act of Killing” is hard and agonizing to watch. It leaves out the dramatic and over-the-top treatments; but by just simply watching Ango and his friends gave their narration account of the killings, everything in the film is already shadowed by that horrible shade of the event. No heavy melodramatic treatment is ever needed to make you grasp the sensitivity of the issue presented on this docu-film. They laughed as they recounted that things they have done, as if these were just some funny, crazy stuff they have remembered back in their youth. They openly take pride on their works, boast of corruption rigging which serve today as the basis of Pancasila Youth’s power. 

However, I’m not quite sure what would be the effect now to the people who see this docu film, with regard to their perception of the Pancasila Youth Group. An unexpected turn of event has happened with Ango, as he personally re-enacted the killing. He acted as the victim instead of being the executioner. The surge of emotions within him is quite out of the blue; that after all those years despite the regular nightmares he keep on struggling with, this is the major moment that he gets to recognize his true feelings about what he did years ago. 

Ango Congo and the rest of his colleagues hid nothing and kept nothing here. They answered what are being asked of them. They gave the details and make a clear description of things. This documentary film didn’t expose some  secret or truth because nothing is really hidden or denied after all; however, this issue is not deliberately discussed as well. The group is ostensibly proud of what they did from the past even before this docu-filming happened, they've been bragging about the horror of the historical killings that the group has performed way back. Threatening power is what keeping Pancansila Youth on its high position thus, the members especially the young ones won’t let any thing to mislead the perception of people to them. 

In here, you’ll witness how an inner transformation happen to an individual, of which is quite brutal and unforgiving, emotionally speaking. You know that kind of guilt from the past that eats you alive that you would wish to be off dead than breathing with lifelong pain. The documentary film is more of a narration from people who themselves did the execution; the effect of their narration is fairly vivid and powerful. My imagination has gone as far as seeing the people through my mind’s eye, pleading and crying, all bruised and bathed with blood, taking their last breath. Much worse, is whenever Ango telling the details of killing with strong confirmation for its truthfulness. While watching him speak and do some minimal gestures to explain how he pull the string to tighten on the victim’s neck, I’m totally helpless to escape the painful spectacle; yes I can close my eyes but hearing his narration is all enough to project on my vision how dreadful and sinister those moments were. 

“The Act of Killing” is made with series of re-enactments which are done by Ango and his friends; they make use of music and lurid depictions, striking creativity with different schematic scenes. A successful attempt to deliver a significant, yet atrocious event from the past, which is now described in documentary film along with the effects it had to the people who became a part of it. It’s indeed a small wonder why “The Act of Killing” didn’t get the Academy’s Best Documentary Feature, where in fact it has all the reasons to bag the award. The film is too unbeaten to be not nominated for the category, and yet too sensitive to be favoured upon as the winner. 

For this documentary film that blatantly discuss the issue that have been skipped in most Indonesian history books, I’ll give it a rate of 10 Espresso Shots!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Starting Over Again ~ Review

by: Uel Ceballos

This movie will not bring out the hopeless romantic in you but it will change your perspective about things in life, especially in love. The kind of perspective that most of us have been experiencing but keep on denying: the perspective of reality. If you’re one of those who are still not getting over with their past ex, those who haven’t had a closure with their past relationship, those who still hope for second chance, then this movie perfectly fits for you.

Starting Over Again has a strong ensemble who cracks the wit out of us (Toni Gonzaga), squeezes our heart with dazzling charm (Piolo Pascual), and sends chill to our spine with subdue yet very effective acting performance (Iza Calzado). This film is a comedy drama flick with heavy context on human relationship, not only romantic love relationship but family relationship as well. I admired the way that the screenplay is written because it enabled a very serious matter be brought up into film in a light mannered approach. Surely you would think of this film as some feel good movie that will send you out the cinema smiling and very much thrilled by the love story you’ve justwatched. Uhmm…well, yes it will make you feel like that, but the other way around, not for reason that you are thinking now.

What can I say about this film? Starting Over Again will make you hope in love, fear in love, doubt in love – but most importantly it will make you look in love on a realistic side. Starting Over Again has the unidealized love story that is emotionally ruthless; yet offering generous spectacles of the happy kind of love affair that didn't work but is now subjecting for possible second chance. It will certainly open up your past wounds (if there’s any) that no one can really determine on how you would feel after;at some point this movie is quite unpredictable and maybe that's what makes the great difference from the other typical chick flicks. As they say love is lovelier for the second time around ... the film says that yes it is, but it's more painstaking as well. 

Indeed, Toni Gonzaga gave herself out here, sharing to us her great knacks for comedy. Piolo Pascual who has proven his acting skills in his past projects gave what is being expected from him in this dramedy film. His charm never fails; his screen appearance is a great sight to behold as always. And Iza Calzado, what else can I say for this lady, she only got few moments here in this movie but she’s as remarkable as ever. That particular scene, wherein for couple of seconds she never speaks a word but her eyes alone notably do all the talking – you don't hear a word but you hear the powerful sub-context of her silence, very-Iza-Calzado and I really loved it. And of course the other artists in their supporting roles have done a great job here that added to the beauty of the movie.

The film narration with its series of flashbacks is done with balance; as it able to build up the emotions at perfect pacing, and deliver the climax at right timing. As with the psyche development of the characters, Iza’s character wasn’t strongly established which is may be the reason why at some point of the movie she appeared off and unrealistic. However, Iza’s acting prowess is able to make up for that flaw in the character development. All the rest I think are intentionally delivered in their respective manners for the purpose of strengthening the twist and justifying it after, of which I believed, was given enough justice at the end of the movie.

I love the way they ended this film. Not a perfect one, but deeply and strongly felt. So for this movie I’ll give a rating of 8 Espresso Shots and I look forward seeing more realistic films like this one!