bring on the Tropic Thunder

i’m counting the days till i can watch Tropic Thunder and the biggest reason for this breathless anticipation is robert downey‘s droll protrayal of Kirk Lazarus, an Aussie actor who goes through a skin color-changing procedure so he can play a black dude in “Tropic Thunder” — a movie-within-a-movie storyline that could easily pall on the viewer if it weren’t so funny.

Tropic Thunder tells the story of a cast of self-absorbed actors who have signed up to star in a war movie for various reasons (mostly to prop up their career), and their hapless, irate director who finally decides to continue filming in Southeast Asia to inject a sense of realism into the story. the only problem was, the cast stumbled into the lair of bad guys who mistook them for the real thing.

aside from robert downey, Tropic Thunder also stars ben stiller (who happens to direct this movie), funny guy jack black and brendan jackson. rounding off this improbable mix of cool stars and incongruously funny plot is an array of incredible cameos from nick nolte (as the vietnam vet/author), matthew mcconaughey (as the talent agent) and tom cruise (as the balding and expletive-spewing Hollywood exec).

wanted: a swell movie

due to a spatter of good films i’d seen lately, i really didn’t think Wanted would measure up to the rest, so i basically ignored it.

good thing my friend was insistent about watching it. actually she had already seen it, but i guess she just wanted to persuade me that it was good enough for second viewing. also, i wasn’t in the mood for Hancock, so i gave in.

ok, more than halfway through the film i got convinced. and during the last 20 minutes i was half-cursing myself for not seeing this earlier. i initially thought it was more hype than anything, but after considering the movie from many angles i am now sure that it’s one of the better films i’d seen so far (2008).

wanted this

angelina jolie (Fox) was — as expected — great. it’s almost downright easy to see her as this beautiful and lethal assassin who can kick your ass with a mere flick of her finger. james mcavoy (Wesley Gibson), although not the first actor you would automatically think of for an action flick like Wanted, does an amazing job as a reluctant recruit into a secret band of assassins. and morgan freeman (Sloan) has a heavy screen presence that would serve him in any role he chooses to portray.

if Timur Bekmambetov (director) had chosen to play Wanted (based on a comic book series by Mark Millar) as a straightforward story, it would have lost most of its charm and heft. The twist near the end made things worthwhile and more interesting.

[i’m seeing The Dark Knight for the second time tonight, so my review on this amazing movie will have to wait till then.]

countdown to Kung Fu Panda


Kung Fu Panda is generating some favorable early buzz courtesy of some early good reviews and its splashy appearance in the Cannes Film Festival in France. the star-studded hype is spearheaded by the golden couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, who incidentally provides the voice for one of the main characters in this animated flick.

jack black_panda

jack's panda

naturally, Jack Black, who plays the title role, gets the chance to show off his patented goofy antics while in cannes. he is joined by the heavily pregnant ms. jolie and dustin hoffman.

the cast includes dustin hoffman (ku fu masterangelina jolie (tigress), lucy liu (viper), and jackie chan (mantis).


Kung Fu Panda is expected to hit the theaters on june 6, 2008.

Kung fu panda fighters

kung fu panda cast










indiana jones throughout the years


indy_raiders first there was Raiders of the Lost Ark. with a careless flick of his rope whip and a wave of his trademark fedora hat, henry “indiana” jones (harrison ford) easily wormed his way into his fans’ hearts. i guess after Star Wars — where the actor played space buccaneer han solo — it was hardly a surprise.

 still, with his exciting exploits, rough-hewn looks and lopsided grin he dug deeper into our affection. and then there was the perky and resourceful marion ravenwood (karen allen) who was practically his female counterpart. at the time the movie came out, i thought there would be another movie like it. it was a fun, exhilarating ride and Indy was a remarkably easy to like as a protagonist — he wasn’t pretty but he was intelligent, capable, and could play rough when needed. and most of all, he was funny. you could laugh at him (who could forget his reaction to his pet peeve?) but it doesn’t change the fact that you still admire him. he was a REAL guy, an adventurous academic, if you will. and he was cool.


then, came Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. i think it was the first movie that i lined up for (about 45 minutes) and ended up watching 3 times before it ended its run in local theaters. it was far better than Raiders of the Lost Ark. and Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw was a scream)! i remember squirming — those bugs — and laughing along with my cousins during some parts of it. i still rate this film as one the best adventure flicks i’ve seen.


when The Last Crusade came out, indy was already showing unmistakable signs of aging. still he was the same old tough customer and just as charming as ever. george lucas made an inspired decision by casting sean connery as indy’s father. and they even gathered the old crowd (john rhys-davies as Sallah, denholm elliot as marcus btody) to ‘enhance’ the story. this time the leading lady was alison doody (as elsa schneider) and the bad guys were the nazis (again!). hey, even old adolf himself had a cameo here. also it was fun to watch the father-son dynamics between two obstinate guys (indy hated being called “Junior” and retaliates by calling his old man “pops”, which of course irks Indy Sr. no end).



 and so now we come to the last indiana jones picture: IJ and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. we know of course that at his age, we can no longer expect Indy to do his usual swashbuckling stuff (at least, not as much), so i guess it’s no surprise that george lucas added rising star shia labeouf to the cast — ostensibly to bring in the younger crowd. and for his leading lady, we have no less than cate blanchett (Spalko), who prances onscreen in an uncompromisingly black wig (which looks like it’s been screwed on with metal plates). and oh wait, karen allen also appears here, too. boy i can’t wait.




Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull will make its bow in local theaters on May 22, 2008.


waiting for Iron Man

two days… two days until Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges) finally hits the local theaters.

iron man flies

after hearing a lot of buzz about this movie in the last couple of weeks, i realized that this wasn’t just onc of those loud, mediocre big-budget action films (at least i hope not). we’ll know more in a couple of days.

i must admit though that intially my main interest in this movie had something to do with gwyneth paltrow‘s reappearance in the big screen and in public consciousness. and seeing how great she looked during the film’s premiere in several major cities only fueled my curiosity further. she looks just as amazing as ever.

iron man 

then, the first reviews came in. i know it’s too early to tell but a lot of critics are already giving Iron Man their thumbs up (see Rotten Tomatoes‘ account on this). i’m hoping this isn’t just one of those premature hype that eventually fizzles out. whatever. still i’m hoping i can find the time to watch Iron Man on its opening day.


“Enchanted” enchants

i didn’t think i’d be saying this but the truth is “Enchanted” has a way of getting under your guard, thanks largely to its enticing female lead Amy Adams who will probably be a household name from now on. Patrick (Dr. McDreamy) Dempsey and yummy James (Cyclops) Marsden do well in their respective roles but it’s Ms. Adams, as the clueless-princess-lost-in-NYC, who makes the movie memorable.

combining 2D animation and live action, Disney actually manages to entertain and poke gentle fun at a genre that has always been its staple offering. Enchanted has thankfully resisted the urge of succumbing to a predictable formula and manages to inject a measure of reality in this cutesy revisionist tale. it’s also nice to know that both James Marsden (as the slightly dim, self-absorbed Prince Edward) and Amy Adams (Giselle) can sing.


on a related note, it looks like Bee Movie (Jerry Seinfeld‘s latest project) will be swooping in by the second week of January. it has gotten mixed reviews but it surprisingly did allright at the box office. i miss seinfeld’s incisive sarcasm. who am i kidding? of course i miss Seinfeld crowd, the whole bunch of ’em.


a word on Pacman

As much as Pacman’s political antics have been bugging me lately, i gotta hand it to the guy — he knows his business (Boxing) like no one else does. a number of articles and TV clips relating to his recent dismantling of Jorge Solis have crowded the airlanes and the Internet these past few days — and while i’m inclined to ignore most of them (with a gtrain of salt and a jaundiced eye), i found this article and actually liked it because it actually reminded me of why i used to root for the incomparable Pacman.

Bart Barry (15rounds.com)

SAN ANTONIO, TX — The next time pundits and promoters imply that Las Vegas and Los Angeles are the only western cities worthy of pay-per-view shows, boxing fans can toss this Davy Crockett quote at them: “You may go to hell and I will go to Texas.”Looks like someone’s been to the Alamo gift shop this weekend, eh?

manny1.jpgAmericans who’ve never visited San Antonio are missing a treat. There’s no other major city in the American Southwest that so marries the cultures of the United States of America and the United Mexican States. The River Walk is beautiful, the people are warm and Pico de Gallo Restaurant features an unrivaled machacado breakfast.

To whom, then, should we express our gratitude for bringing us to Texas last week? Manny Pacquiao, of course. Texas natives may well have turned out to cheer Guadalajara’s Jorge Solis in his bid to unseat Filipino Congressional hopeful Manny Pacquiao — and the “Vote for Manny” buttons were a story of their own. But out-of-towners were here to see Pacman.

We were in the Lone Star State to see Manny Pacquiao relentlessly charge an undefeated opponent. And after Pacquiao did that, knocking-out Solis in the eighth round, we were still in an Alamodome press conference when Saturday night became Sunday morning.

Here’s the meat of the post-fight news. Joan Guzman was the name most frequently mentioned as Pacquiao’s next opponent. Manny Pacquiao versus Joan Guzman should be an excellent fight.

What was more interesting than discussing Pacman’s next opponent and promoter Top Rank’s next pay-per-view show on June 9, though, were the simple no’s Jorge Solis and Freddie Roach offered to questions they fielded. Their answers are good guideposts, if not harbingers of coming woe.

When asked if Manny Pacquiao truly hits as hard as believed, Jorge Solis said, simply, “No.”

And this came after Solis chose the following comparison for a different reply: “With all due respect to Manny Pacquiao, I believe my wife hits harder.”

Now, as it had only been a half hour since two wifely left hands from Pacquiao had dropped Solis on the blue mat, perhaps Jorge wasn’t fully conscious of what he said. But Freddie Roach was plenty conscious after the press conference, and here’s what Pacman’s trainer had to say.

Asked if Manny Pacquiao had a Plan B for the day when his unmatched speed neglects to show up for a fight, Freddie Roach answered, “No. The day he loses his speed, Manny needs to be a Congressman.”

That day is not here yet. And in the meantime, all roads to super-featherweight stardom go through the Philippines. As promoter Bob Arum put it Saturday night: “Anyone at 130 pounds has to realize the only way to make money in the division is to fight Pacquiao.”

While we’re on the subject of Bob Arum and Top Rank, we should treat the entertainment merits of last Saturday’s “Blaze of Glory” show. “Blaze of Glory” was everything recent Las Vegas events have not been. It was quick-moving, loud and exciting. For once, a pay-per-view telecast adhered to its fights’ schedule — the last bout led immediately to the next bout — and a show’s promotion was more than a conference call.

For fans who’d paid anywhere from $35 to $300 to attend the fights, ‘Blaze of Glory” was the most enjoyable pay-per-view show in years.

Really, from the music between rounds to the stadium-wide broadcast of interviews to the pyrotechnics, the only person who had an unequivocally bad time in the Alamodome was Jorge “El Travieso” Arce. And a preview of the fits that WBC super-flyweight champ Cristian Mijares would give Arce came at Friday’s weigh-in. Posing for photos, Jorge Arce scowled at Mijares and yanked away Mijares’ green WBC belt. In response, Cristian Mijares smiled and hugged Arce.

Mijares knew what Arce was going to do at Friday’s weigh-in before Arce did it. And Mijares knew when Arce was going to throw a right hand in Saturday’s fight before Arce decided to throw it. Right, Cristian?

“The truth is that, yes, I did! I have to tell you that I was surprised by how slow [Arce] was. I have always admired him, and he is a great champion. But I saw his right hands like two seconds before he threw them.”

Cristian Mijares would win about 10 of the fight’s 12 rounds. It was another case of a rangy southpaw technician easily handling a forward-pressing slugger. Though Mijares’ right ear was blackened and swelled shut by Arce left hooks Saturday night, the left side of Mijares’ head was pretty clean. Meanwhile, Jorge Arce’s face still bled 100 minutes after the final bell sounded.

Jorge Arce may not have been his best Saturday night. And Cristian Mijares was his best Saturday night. But then, so was Jorge Solis.

Welcome to the world of “Pacman” and “El Travieso.” Because Manny Pacquiao and Jorge Arce are some of prizefighting’s very best, they invariably face the best version of every opponent with whom they touch gloves before an opening bell.

In San Antonio last weekend, neither Jorge Arce nor Manny Pacquiao looked as good as he has in other fights. The difference was that Manny Pacquiao’s worst was still better than Jorge Solis’ best — and not much worse than Pacquiao’s best — while Jorge Arce’s less-than best was nowhere near as good as Mijares’ best.

That brings us to an observation about what makes a champion. Greatness is not necessarily about eliminating bad days. Greatness is about narrowing the qualitative distance between one’s best and one’s worst. On his worst day, Manny Pacquiao looks only a bit slower and duller than he does on his best day. And that is why Manny Pacquiao will remain the world’s best fighter for at least a little while longer.

And when pundits and promoters ask what makes a fight venue great? Remember the Alamodome.