Quarantine viewing, No. 1: Crash Landing On You.

Since we’re still on Enhanced Quarantine brought about by COVID-19 and I do have a lot of time on my hands, I’ll be writing a series of blogs on what I have been watching while stuck at home. Hopefully, I’ll be able to keep my word on this. I oftentimes get lazy, ya know. :hihihi:

Side note: I initially thought that this should be No. 2 since Kingdom 2 is No. 1, but I realized that I technically binge-watched Kingdom 2 before the quarantine started. Therefore, this is really No. 1.

Mini-review: Crash Landing On You

***SPOILER ALERT***, although I really might not need it. I think I’m the only one left in my universe who hasn’t seen CLOY. :lol:

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Kingdom 2 and COVID-19.

Random Thoughts On Season 2 of Netflix’s Kingdom:

***WARNING: THERE WILL BE SPOILERS***

1. I’ve hardly been watching Korean dramas lately, no matter how popular it is. K-drama viewing requires focus; it’s not just something I can put on while doing something else. Because, you know, subtitles. :razz: However, I made exception with Kingdom Season 2. I’ve been waiting for this for ages. And since it’s only six episodes, it’s quite easy to binge-watch.

2. Right after the first 19 minutes of Episode 1, I quickly paused Netflix and posted on social media that the first 19 minutes alone is so worth the long wait. It’s THAT good. :arrow: The excitement, the thrills, the cinematography – OH. MY. GOD THE CINEMATOGRAPHY – and that last frame when Prince Chang and his cohorts were able to escape the zombie herd. That’s more than enough for me to say that I’m fully satisfied.

3. But wait, there’s more! You think they slowed down after that? No! Never! Right at the beginning of Episode 2, we see the backstory: Apparently, the resurrection plant? Was a biological weapon that they used to win the war against the Japanese. Which eventually backfired against them and wrecked havoc towards the entire kingdom. Sounds familiar, isn’t it? Wasn’t that how COVID-19 was said to have originated from?

4. At the 13:30 mark of Episode 2, I hit ‘pause’ once again and gave that awesome plot twist a freakin’ STANDING OVATION. :clap: :clap: :clap: Not only was it totally unexpected, especially at Episode 2. The execution was just fantastic. :clap: And I’m overdosing on the :clap: emoji. :hihihi:

5. Within all that fabulously-executed zombie scenes is the heart of the story: the Joseon-era political drama. It’s still classic sageuk with all the twists and turns, but still seamlessly weaved through all that blood and gore. I have to commend the writer for coming up with such a tightly-packed story that’s so fast-paced, yet leaving you wanting for more. Six episodes is just too short, ya know? We want more, and we want it NOW! (OK, maybe not now. SOON, maybe?)

6. Another reason why this drama works is the ACTING. Again, I’m amazed at how Joo Jihoon seems to have this innate royal aura in him. He could be standing in the middle of the crowd (living or otherwise) and you just know who to call, ‘Your Majesty’.

You know what? I could enumerate the entire cast including all the zombies and I’ll say they all killed it in the acting department. Everyone did so well.

7. One thing I love about Kingdom, especially Season 2: the strong female characters. :clap: Bae Doo Na’s Seo Bi is the calmest, most intelligent character in this drama. If everyone turned out dead (or undead) in the entire kingdom, she will be the only one who will survive. Meanwhile, The Queen turned out to be not just a bitch, but the Biggest Bitch Of Them All. Just when you thought her father Cho Hak Ju (Ryu Seung Ryong) is the main villain in this drama, nope, you guessed it wrong!

8. I wouldn’t want to end this review without raving some more about the production values. :clap: I just found myself with my mouth wide-open quite a number of times while watching. Amazing execution of scenes paired with brilliant story-telling + excellent acting, this drama was just top-notch.

9. Of course, since it was hyped during promo period, I watched out for Jun Ji Hyun’s cameo. She appeared in the end. Which means, there’s a Season 3 and she will be on it.

10. Apparently, Kingdom is more aligned with the COVID-19 pandemic than we all think. Other than it’s a pandemic that apparently started as a man-made experiment meant to be used as biological weapon and a lockdown is needed to avoid mass infections, it turned out that one way to save yourself from it is to take a nice, long bath. :lmao:

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No goodbyes.

Aka. A (hopefully) spoiler-free mini-review of Hello, Love, Goodbye

I wasn’t prepared to write about Hello, Love, Goodbye this early.

I went to last night’s by-invitation-only premiere with the intention of just showing my support outside the cinema, as I don’t have a ticket. Then, a friend informed me that another friend was able to pull some strings and managed to score tickets at the last minute. I was one of the lucky few who were able to see the movie ahead of the general public. Hence, this mini-review.

I’ll try my best to keep things spoiler-free for those who haven’t seen the movie yet.

1. Let’s talk about the technicals first. The utilization of a Thai film production house for post-production is very evident if you’ve been regularly watching movies produced by Star Cinema. The color grading is different. I’m used to seeing vivid colors in Star Cinema films. On HLG, the colors are more on the subdued, sepia side. Which, for me, perfectly captures what the story is all about, as well as the real feel of Hong Kong. From the way the scenes are framed up to the production design, even the songs included in the soundtrack, everything fits.

2. Cancel out whatever theories you’ve formulated in your head based on the teaser and trailers. If you’ve heard stories – fabricated or otherwise – about the plot or certain scenes, throw them out of the window. This is a love story, yes. But love stories aren’t limited to romantic love, and this is exactly what the movie is saying. There’s family love, and also self-love. It’s not one-dimensional.

Also, while the movie is not short on hilarious and kilig moments, it’s not a rom-com. And it’s most definitely NOT pabebe.

3. Speaking of pabebe: Kathryn’s critics have branded her as a pabebe actress, and to be quite honest, I agree to a certain extent. This is coming from someone who has seen practically all KathNiel movies. Prior to The Hows Of Us, the one whom I’ve always thought to have grown so much in the field of acting was Daniel Padilla. Then THOU came along, and while there was a very noticeable change in Kath’s acting, the one who still caught my attention was Daniel. Despite two Best Actress trophies won for THOU, I still didn’t see the “bagong Kathryn Bernardo” that they were talking about. (Sorry, just being honest here.)

For me, the “bagong Kathryn Bernardo” has truly arrived in Hello, Love, Goodbye.

I mean, WOW. The sacrifices that she had to endure to fully absorb the Joy character really paid off. One look at her eyes and you’ll feel her pain. One look at her face and you’ll see her changing. Even her diction which I had always found to be pabebe-ish is gone. Now I can truly say that Kathryn Bernardo is one of the best actresses of this generation.

4. As for the one who’s also being called a Pabebe Actor by his critics: well, I’ve always known Alden Richards to be one heck of an actor. It’s the reason why I became a fan. I know what he can do and he is most certainly more than just Pambansang Bae. After seeing HLG, I’m like looking at a brand new actor. Yes, he CAN do more. He has mastered the Art of Pakilig, but it’s a different kind of pakilig here. It’s not just the charms. As Ethan, there’s a certain mystery in his aura that when he finally let go and opened up, you just find yourself being uncontrollably drawn towards him the way Joy has.

Also, if you’ve only known him as Alden Richards of Kalyeserye in all his wholesome goodness, prepare to be in shock for like, 20 minutes or so. Actually, it’s been several hours and I still couldn’t get over it. This, despite me knowing that KSAlden isn’t really the real Alden. I’m shocked because I didn’t expect to see it on this film.

5. Come to think of it, it’s the same with Kathryn. Frankly, I was totally floored that I spent the first quarter of the movie clutching my armrest and screaming internally because I couldn’t take what I’m seeing on the screen. In a good way. It was raw, it was totally unexpected from these two actors, and one particular scene was so beautifully (and shockingly) executed, you’d end up hungry and wanting for more (in Ethan’s words, “nagutom ako”).

But all that shock factor is just an introduction to the characters. They let us in to their pain and struggles, and when they had to go through the ordeal of choosing what to do with their lives, we, the audience, also go through that same ordeal. We felt their pain. Director Cathy Garcia-Molina is not just a master storyteller, she’s also a genius in drawing out raw emotions from her actors. Kathryn and Alden delivered master performances under her helm.

6. I’ve seen majority of Star Cinema’s previous movies about OFWs, particularly Anak which was also set in Hong Kong. It might be the same scenario but the stories are definitely different. HLG truly has a millennial feel.

As with all Cathy Garcia-Molina/Carmi Raymundo films, HLG is filled with one-liners that will end up on the list of Classic Movie Lines that becomes the film’s trademark. Although I cringe at some of Ethan’s pick-up lines, but I think that’s the point. We’re supposed to cringe at his random cheesiness.

7. Supporting cast: you could never go wrong with ever-reliable actors like Joross Gamboa (trademark one-liners galore), Kakai Bautista and Jeffrey Tam. Maymay Entrata is endearing as Joy’s cousin Mary Dale, and Lovely Abella certainly didn’t look and act like a newbie beside Kakai and Kathryn. We should see more of Maricel Laxa; she had two scenes in the movie but it didn’t go unnoticed. The revelation for me was Jameson Blake. It’s my first time to see him act and I was pleasantly surprised that he was able to duke it out in the acting department alongside Alden and Lito Pimentel, who are both amazing actors. Jameson just has to improve on his delivery of Tagalog lines (he still has a hint of American twang) and he will go much further as an actor.

The thing that I like about HLG is, everyone in the cast is indispensable. If you take out one of them, it won’t work as well as it did.

8. That ending.

Echoing what most of the people who came out of the cinema after the movie said: can we have the sequel by tomorrow? Please? Don’t make us suffer like this! :cry:

As I was traversing my way home, I was pondering on what other movie had the same feel as how the story of Joy and Ethan unfolded. I came up with…

Sana Maulit Muli. Yes, the Aga Muhlach-Lea Salonga starrer which is now a cult classic.

Do you agree?

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Train to Hanyang.

Mini-Review: Kingdom

I have been amiss with my K-drama viewing for more than a year. I simply don’t have the time, energy and attention span for it lately. However, Netflix released its first original Korean series called Kingdom, which is often described as a “medieval Korean zombie movie” or as some put it, “Train to Busan meets Game of Thrones“.

I’ve never seen Game of Thrones – yup, surprise! I’m one of the few – but I have seen Train to Busan and I’m a veteran of K-dramas. The plot seems interesting. And most of all, this series only has six episodes. It should be easy to binge watch on a weekend. I added it to my watchlist right away.

Guess what: it’s not the weekend, and I had planned on popping in just a couple of episodes last night until I fall asleep. I ended up marathoning the entire thing and slept at 2:30 in the morning. :sleep:

Kingdom has all the elements of a classic sageuk (Korean historical drama): the political intrigue, the lies and conspiracies, the power grabbing, the prejudice among classes, the violent resolution to anything. Throw in a horde of zombies in there and literally, all hell breaks loose. It’s brilliant how the screenwriter and director were able to fuse these two plots seamlessly. I even find it hilarious that there’s discrimination among classes even among the undead. Only on sageuk, folks! :lmao: This isn’t just blood and gore and mayhem – don’t worry if you’re watching this for that, though, there’s a lot of that in there, too – it also has a story. A very familiar story to those who have even the slightest knowledge of Korea’s history and culture. I won’t go into too much details so as not to spoil it for others.

Acting wise, the entire cast delivered. Joo Jihoon is simply perfect as the Crown Prince Lee Chan. He’s no stranger to royal characters; remember his breakthrough role of Shin Goon in Goong? But I think Joo Jihoon has improved by leaps and bounds in terms of acting here. Every scene he’s in is believable. Even his moments of PTSD looked painful to me as a viewer, but in a good way.

I think I’ve only seen Ryu Seung Ryeong in movies where he played an evil palace official, and I’m not surprised. He has mastered the art of playing one.

I’m kinda disoriented seeing Bae Doona in a role where she wore a lot of clothes. :hihihi: She has always portrayed strong female characters, but her role here required her to be strong, but with a timid quality of a peasant during the Joseon era. I think she nailed it.

But the best part of Kingdom for me is its production values. The cinematography is just gorgeous. :arrow: Joseon-period Korea looked so beautiful here. The royal costumes looked elegant. I even saw some Tweets noting the hats that the characters wore. You know, fighting zombies in fabulous hats and all that. :lol: There’s authenticity in the costume design. It’s not like in other productions where we see stuff like the clothes still looking immaculate after a fight scene in the mud.

Most of all, I was fascinated at how the director choreographed, framed and shot all the zombie swarm scenes. The exciting chase scenes gave the adrenaline rush, but nothing beats those quiet attacks that are both eerie and haunting at the same time. You’ll find yourself staring at the screen no matter how squeamish you are at all that blood and gore.

As for the story and screenplay: viewers who are not so familiar with Korean period dramas might find the slow-burning presentation of the plot and characters a bit too lengthy. I mean, we won’t see actual zombies until the end of episode 1. But as I’ve said, the story is essential to this zombie series and it wouldn’t hurt to learn more about how things became what they are. What I love about Kingdom is, it knew exactly how to make its audience thirst for more. It will leave you wishing that it had 20 more episodes. Or at least, a Season 2 that’s just right around the corner.

(Image credits: Netflix)

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Mini-review: Alden in Magpakailanman.

I’ve been starting at my laptop’s screen for the past 45 minutes or so, but I can’t seem to know how to start writing this entry. I’m still reeling from watching the second of Magpakailanman‘s 5th Anniversary Specials entitled Kuwentong Marawi, Sa Mata Ng Isang Sundalo, featuring Alden Richards as Pfc. Jomille Pavia.

One word: BITIN. I want more. :grin:

First of all, for a TV show, the production values are top-notch. :thumbup: The screenplay, cinematography and production design are fit for the big screen. The battle scenes are well-executed; you won’t see as much blood and gore due to the limits of it being aired on Free TV, but the ‘feel’ is there.

As for the story itself, the writer was able to truly present the situation in Marawi in the eyes of a soldier who witnessed all the ugly realities of war: brothers killing each other, women of all ages being sexually violated, even children who sacrificed their lives at an early age because they were brainwashed to do so. The episode was also able to show how war truly affects not just those who are on site, but also the families of the soldiers deployed for battle. It’s something that all of us who are tucked safely in our respective homes do not fully relate to because we are shielded from it. To paraphrase what the character played by Phytos Ramirez said, “isinasakripisyo ang buhay ng isa para makabuhay ng lima” (they sacrifice one life so that five more will live).

Of course, I can’t leave this entry without talking about the acting. :thumbup: I kinda expected this because it’s Alden, but my golly… he still surprises me with the depths that his talent can reach. He started the episode with some light moments, at times even unleashing his expertise at bringing in the kilig. :hihihi: Sorry, I know it’s not about the love story and it’s a big issue to some people in the fandom, but can you blame me? Alden just has that innate chemistry with any on-screen partner and Reese Tuazon is no exception.

Then came the heavier parts, and while I already expected him to do well, Alden was still able to bring his skills to a whole new level. Alden is famous for acting with just his eyes, and he was able to fully utilize that here particularly on those parts where Pfc. Pavia was slowly realizing how unbelievably devastating war is. I always have scenes where the acting makes a mark on me and on this episode, I have two: (1) When Pfc. Pavia saw for the first time the number of innocent civilians who were killed in battle; and (2) when he realized that the kid whom they chanced upon when they arrived in Marawi was a child sniper from the Maute Group. In those scenes, I felt how Pfc. Pavia was terrified, not for his own safety, but because he can’t believe that war could be THAT cruel. In his interview with Ms. Mel Tiangco, Pfc. Pavia was asked what he was praying for while on the battle field. His answer was, he’s always praying that God would forgive him for killing those people because he knows that one of the Ten Commandments is ‘thou shall not kill’. I was surprised at that. One, because the usual human instinct is to pray for his own safety but Pfc. Pavia isn’t like that, which is surprising for someone who used to have a happy-go-lucky lifestyle as shown in the story. Two, because Alden was able to accurately portray that trait of Pfc. Pavia in those scenes that I mentioned above.

The supporting cast also gave credible performances. Special mention goes to Marc Justine Alvarez who played the child sniper. I was seriously terrified when it was revealed that he was with the Maute Group. The kid gave a very effective performance. :thumbup:

All in all, it was an excellent episode and a fitting tribute to the heroism of our brave soldiers. Kudos to director Mark Sicat Dela Cruz and the people behind this Magkailanman episode for a job super-well done. :clap:

===

This is a part where I will drop my remarks which are bordering on shallowness. :hihihi: Hey, I’m a fangirl. I’m allowed to be shallow at times, right?

1. There’s only one part that I nitpicked on the episode and it’s this: That scene where one of the Marawi survivors said that it’s her birthday and going home will be a great birthday gift for her. As I have learned from my Muslim friend who’s also an avid Alden fan, Muslims do not celebrate birthdays and particularly those from the Maranao Tribe are very strict about it . :razz: It’s a very minor detail, but I’m a chronic nitpicker, so…

2. I’m not Kapampangan so I really don’t know if they did the Kapampangan dialog and accent right (except for Roi Vinzon who is from Pampanga), but every time Reese Tuazon delivers her lines I could hear my Kapampangan boss talking in my head. So I guess she did well?

3. It’s such a delight to see Alden not sporting his usual gelled hairstyle for once. :hihihi: He looks so hot whenever he removes his helmet. Hey, RJ, it’s been three years. Time to change the hair, maybe?

4. Alden in military garb = :drool: It’s been rumored – and he has expressed desire to accept the role ;) – that he might be playing Big Boss in the local adaptation of Descendants Of The Sun. If this Magpakailanman episode is a look-test for his future participation in the Pinoy version of DOTS, then he certainly passed with flying colors. :thumbup:

===

It might look like a slow year for Alden, but I think 2017 is a great year for him as an actor. Let’s see, he had:

1. Franco, a person with autism, for Eat Bulaga’s Lenten presentation, Kapatid – he won a Best Single Performance By An Actor award for this one;
2. Dr. Dalvie Casilang, a doctor to the barrios, for Wish Ko Lang;
3. Jessie in Daig Kayo Ng Lola Ko, where he showed his flair in comedy;
4. Boni Ilagan, in the critically-acclaimed documentary Alaala;
5. Pfc. Jomille Pavia for Magpakailanman.

Not bad, right? I mean, we had some (some? :grin: ) issues with Destined To Be Yours but Alden had quite a number of acting highlights in that drama, too.

If things will turn out the way it’s planned to be, I am so looking forward to what’s in store for Alden Richards in 2018. :smile:

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