MOVIE REVIEW: Black Panther (2018)

Ryan Coogler’s superhero film Black Panther tells a socially-relevant story and breaks barriers at the same time.

Black Panther currently sits as the most critically-acclaimed superhero film of all time on the review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes with 97% (roughly tied with 2004’s The Incredibles) as of writing. Not to mention its current dominion on the global box office, let’s head on and discuss what Black Panther represents and the reasons why so many people flocked into this film.

1. Black pride

By now it is apparent that Black Panther brings the largest pool of African-American talent ever assembled in Hollywood, an industry once impenetrable for the race of color. We have an African-American director (Ryan Coogler), African-American casts, writers, musicians, crew down to its bit players. In the fullest sense, Black Panther is a revolution fueled with sheer determination against historical colonialism.

We live in different countries, hang out in different neighborhoods, go to separate churches and even schools at times, and the most accessible way to be submerged to an entirely different culture is through mainstream media. When we see ourselves being portrayed on the big screen, movies—for better or worse—can be potent catalysts for self-authentication. I can only imagine this in the case of an African-American kid watching this film for the first time and taking pride of his roots after.

Side note: T’Challa’s vibranium ninja suit makes Tony Stark’s armor look like a deep sea diver costume.

2. Visual feast of world building

Wakanda tangs of ironies and extremes. To one end, Wakanda conceals itself as a third world African country but beneath its electromagnetic barriers, it is actually a highly-advanced wonderland, thanks to its much-coveted reserves of vibranium. Wakanda leads on innovation, light years ahead of the status quo, but it never forgets its rituals and culture.

The arresting visuals on T’Challa’s dream sequences, the warrior falls, the royal palace, Shuri’s spiral staircase lab, the splendid wardrobe design deftly playing on African colors of red, green, black, and even the war rhinos, these are where Thor’s Asgard come up short. Both of them are fictional worlds but since Wakanda is grounded on real-life culture and tradition, it comes out as a fully realized world, not just a gorgeous Hollywood set where a bunch of paid actors hang out.

3. Hail the new king

As heroes are forged in the fires of tragedy, T’Challa is no different. Black Panther picks up from the events of Captain America: Civil War where T’Challa returns to Wakanda after the death of his father and assumes his role as the new king.

Chadwick Boseman’s portrayal has a good mix of humility and heroism – a character that can be perceived as a hero and a failure. But what’s best is despite having a strong central hero, the movie does not let its main character trample on the supporting casts.

4. The women of Wakanda

In his spirit journey, T’Challa’s father counsels this to him, “You’re going to struggle so surround yourself with people you trust.” Interestingly, T’Challa chooses to be surrounded by women: his regal mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett), his spear-wielding general Okoye (Danai Gurira), his old flame/covert agent Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), and of course his sarcastic tech prodigy sister Shuri (Letitia Wright). From the moment Shuri steps in sporting Princess Leia’s hair buns, I know she’s going to be my favorite character. (Is this a nod to Disney’s financial acquisition of Marvel?) Plus, let us not forget the moment when she expressed distaste for her brother’s choice of footwear via a Vine hit: *read in Shuri’s sassy voice* “What are thoooose?!”

A mother, a bodyguard, an ex-lover, a sister—it’s engaging to see how these relationships play out on screen. Marvel seldom uses its women to be the driving force of the plot. In here, there is a part of the film where the women completely took over. One of the best scenes is Okoye and Nakia questioning each other’s basis of loyalty.

5. Erik Killmonger

A common flaw for most Marvel films to date is the lack of a memorable or intriguing villain. Most of the time we are served with standard supervillains bursting with dreams of world domination (I’m pointing fingers at you: Malekith the dark elf, Ronan the accuser, and Hela goddess of death) but Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) stands out because his character motivations are rooted in real life problems. He can’t be blamed for the painful circumstances of his past, thus he has every right to be against the people who perpetuate the system of oppression (and eventually created people like him). However, his means are questionable. With his character arc, we can see that righteous anger can go sour and before we know it the oppressed becomes the oppressor.

6. Political undertones

Looking past the film’s milestone in black representation, Black Panther has a lot to say on a political level. What good is a nation if it does not uphold its values towards its neighboring countries in need? Can a nation really thrive in isolation in this modern world? These are not the type of questions one would normally ask after watching a superhero flick.

Black Panther’s central conflict revolves around vibranium – along with the wonders and dangers it can bring to humanity. Wakanda has the “great power” but it’s hesitant to take the “great responsibility.” But what is the “great responsibility” anyway? T’Challa, presumably having little experience in racism says that Wakanda should carry on with isolation and avoid risking the vibranium to be in the hands of the wrong person; Killmonger, having a lifetime of experience in oppression, claims that vibranium should be used to flip the scales and create a new world order for black people; Nakia, having traveled the continent during her espionage missions stands on a middle ground—that while Wakanda should remain in secrecy, it should still uphold its humanitarian responsibilities to the African-Americans all over the world. While some superhero films easily dismiss the conflicting sides as either good or evil, Black Panther makes a different point: black and white thinking does not work in a gray world.

Also noteworthy runners-up are the film’s natural sense of humor and the action set pieces that are better than the usual. The Bond-esque side-mission in Busan, South Korea will go down as one of my favorites.

To achieve global success, Marvel films need to be smarter, funnier and often bigger than your average superhero film. But for a Marvel film to ‘really work’, it needs to have a purpose beyond the firework spectacle. Black Panther manages to tell a socially-relevant story and break barriers at the same time. It channels intelligent themes without making it look complicated than it is. It goes beyond the task of telling T’Challa’s home origin and tackles subjects such as the legacy of colonialism, tradition vs. progress and patriotism vs. social conscience, etc.

Now Marvel, where’s our all-Asian cast superhero film?


5 out of 5 stars


MOVIE REVIEW: Peter Rabbit (2018)

The titular character Peter Rabbit, voiced by James Corden, is one mischievous and rebellious fur. Along with his triplet siblings, Mopsy (voiced by Elizabeth Debicki), Flopsy (voiced by Margot Robbiel), and Cottontail (voiced by Daisy Ridley), he scavenges from his family’s former abode– now their human neighbor McGregor’s (Sam Neill). But when McGregor bites the dust, his nephew Thomas (Domhnall Gleeson) moves and initiates to have the land for sale. During his stay, friction between him and Peter grows for their animal-affectionate (and rabbit-loving) neighbor Bea, who becomes one catalyst for Thomas to gradually be one who’s genial.

Peter Rabbit is characterized by honest crudeness. Ironically, it’s anything but of the same as its source material, Beatrix Potter’s children’s book “The Tale of Peter Rabbit”. Dispensing most of the sugar-coated confectionery of the material it’s derived from, the film is with much bravado by giving a different twist to the classic tale. A deviation from the run-of-the-mill animated family comedy films is evident, casually hopping away from one would expect it to be (especially with its thematical elements). And with its divergence from the usual, it then becomes capacitated to pack a stronger emotional punch that most other animated films are usually devoid of.

The film gives focus on perspectives of its characters that shows the complexity of the story is in a way that’s modest and easily digestible. Consequently, making it able to deliver its well-intended theme effectively. The film doesn’t pretend to be anything else other than what it aims to offer, abling it to do the best at it. Knowing what it is and what it wants to be, this adaptation tightly embraces even its prosaic qualities. It acknowledges and is self-aware that some of its ideas are all different, but that becomes much to the film’s own advancement. The risks that the film takes pay off, despite it conforming to the usual on numerous occasions, with some of its jokes that it tries to sell for disposable and cheap entertainment.

Not to mention, Peter Rabbit has its animation beautifully rendered, with realistic-looking CGI graphics that are nothing short of a visual spectacle. The film’s crew is one that’s passionate; James Corden owns his being Peter Rabbit, with his voice-acting that perfectly captures the emotions of his character. Rose Byrne portrays the gentle and pure Bea extremely well. Domnhall Gleeson is great with his over-the-top comedic timing. The humor, albeit its being crass and sometimes slapstick, is certain to elicit laughter and chuckles every once in a while. Peter Rabbit is funny and charming. It certainly is not one to miss, as it’s one of the rare family films that never forgets to be empathetic, in spite of all its crudeness.

Jackie Chan mixes action, sci-fi in latest movie ‘Bleeding Steel’

Martial Arts Superstar Jackie Chan heats up the big screen again in his latest action/sci-fi movie, Bleeding Steel, which will open in Philippine theaters starting February 21.

Directed by Leo Zhang, the movie tells the story of Special Agent Lin Dong (Chan) who gets torn between his family and his duty. He gets a phone call from the hospital informing him that his daughter who’s suffering from Leukemia is in critical condition. He rushes to the hospital, but on the way gets another phone call this time from a co-worker, informing him of an immediate and dangerous mission.

Lin’s co-worker informs him that Dr. James, a critical witness to a crime is in danger and needs protection from the police. But before the police can reach him, Dr. James injects himself with a chemical substance stored with a mechanical heart. And when the police arrive to escort him, they were ambushed by unknown men and almost all members of Lin’s team were killed.

Fast forward to 13 years, what happened to Agent Lin Dong, his daughter, and to the mysterious witness Dr. James who might be the key to an advanced but destructive technology?

Bleeding Steel is filled with zesty fights and goofy scenes that are trademarks of a Jackie Chan movie. He also mixes his well-known martial arts moves with new fighting styles that are suitable for a sci-fi action movie.

The film was shot in Taipei, Beijing and Australia and Jackie Chan’s intense fight scene on top of the Sydney Opera House is a definitely a must-see.

Bleeding Steel opens in cinemas nationwide on February 21, 2018 as presented by VIVA International Pictures and MVP Entertainment.

MOVIE REVIEW: Meet Me in St. Gallen (2018)

Stripped down of unnecessary subplots, Irene Villamor’s Meet Me in St. Gallen trusts its audience to fill-in the gaps (sometimes to a fault) and is anchored by natural acting, profound direction and a consistently improving cinematography.

Meet Me in St. Gallen is a story of kindred souls meeting at three different points in their lives. A problematic self-acclaimed rockstar Jesse (Carlo Aquino) overhears burnt-out graphic artist Celeste (Bella Padilla) finally standing up against her exploitative boss. With Jesse’s parents constantly berating him for his life choices, he quickly empathizes on her situation and decides to follow her to a coffee shop.

In hindsight, the initial meet-cute that transpires may not be so serendipitous after all as the film kicks off by romanticizing stalking behavior (a problem shared with Sigrid Andrea Bernardo’s romantic comedy film Kita Kita) but nevertheless, the ensuing flirtations and ramblings over coffee (and later booze) prove to be charming. Celeste even points out that their names are lifted from the 2012 romcom Celeste and Jesse Forever, this must be fate, huh? It’s exactly how some people would dream meeting that special someone.

“Sobrang perfect na ng moment na ‘to. ‘Wag nating sirain ‘to.” (Such a perfect moment. Let’s not ruin it.) Celeste says this right after kissing Jesse and before stepping out of his car with no plans of seeing him again in the future. You see the problem here? This is the beginning of a budding love story, an undeniable connection so intense that they have been clearly smitten by each other. And yet in a twist of idealist pseudo-philosophy, they decided not to ruin that exquisite moment and to treasure it forever by NEVER SEEING EACH OTHER AGAIN. I am baffled with the logic behind this situation. Were both of them in a committed relationship at that moment? What’s stopping them from pursuing each other? The lapses in script makes you think that Celeste is playing hard to get all this time. If this is a film that braves about taking chances, we can only expect regrets later on.

And we do see the repercussions of this missed opportunity in their next encounters, all of which happens several years after. With them being already successful in their respective chosen careers, the circumstances are more complex in attempting to foster a relationship founded in the span of one night. This careful dance of hellos-and-goodbyes culminates in the last act which happens in the film’s namesake, St. Gallen, Switzerland.

Let’s put this out of the way, this offbeat romantic drama is obviously inspired and feels like an abridged version of Richard Linklater’s Before series trilogy. While this is not the first time for a Filipino romcom to take that similar path of letting the leads converse their way throughout the entire film (we’ve seen Antoinette Jadaone successfully pull it off in That Thing Called Tadhana), this remains to be a huge gamble to do on a mainstream level.

This format of storytelling puts more value on sharing ideas and expressing feelings through language. Jesse and Celeste’s conversations strike a responsive chord to both heart and mind that you may find yourself remembering real conversations you experienced with more or less the same words. The topics ranges from random (pig orgasms) to superficial (the struggles of being ugly nowadays) and to philosophical (destiny, what-ifs, compromise, solitude, idealism etc.). Admittedly, most of them veers towards hugot-lines, none of which I haven’t heard yet or blew me in a truly thought-provoking manner as I hoped it would be.

The highlight of Irene Villamor’s direction is the film’s one-take love scene. Paired with a beautiful song, this well-earned moment feels patient, guided yet really organic and intimate. Credit is also given to its leads, the actors breathes life into pages of scripted conversation with a casualness that one might think they are improvising. The film indulges in a lot of lingering shots that puts them in a merciless scrutiny but they manage to hold their charisma all throughout. Padilla impresses with her suppressed emotions and Aquino proves he deserves his long-overdue leading man role.

Despite being troubled by a strange decision made by its characters on their first night of encounter, Meet Me in St. Gallen’s three-part act of storytelling is a fresh break from the existing romantic tropes. Stripped down of unnecessary subplots, it trusts its audience to fill-in the gaps (sometimes to a fault) and is anchored by natural acting, profound direction and a consistently improving cinematography without going over sentimental. It certainly warms the heart to see films like this which are more grounded on realism and treats characters as real people and not merely as actors. If this is Pinoy romcom’s path to resistance against formula films, sign me up.


3.5 out of 5 stars


Oscar Prediction 2018: Who should win at the 90th Academy Awards?

My annual tradition.

Since Oscar season will always be my Super Bowl, I take this prediction game quite seriously. No, it’s not necessarily evaluating what’s and who’s the best (but I’ll also be giving my personal favorites though) — it’s about knowing how Oscars work. I’ve been an avid follower and spectator of the Oscars since 1999, and I just started doing the predictions game in 2008 with a 99% accuracy rate (I failed at Mark Rylance in Bridges of Spies for Best Supporting Actor a couple of years ago — but seriously, who saw that coming?). For my 10th anniversary as an Oscar buzzer, what an immense pleasure it is to share it to you here on Cinema Bravo!

Let’s break it down:

BEST PICTURE


The Best Picture race is quite tricky. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has always been a solid frontrunner: won the Golden Globe, SAG, BAFTA, Critic’s Choice — but failed to get a Best Director nod (Martin McDonagh). Very few films have won Best Picture without a Directing nod (Affleck’s Argo being the most recent). Its closest rival is The Shape of Water — Guillermo Del Toro has sweeped every directing award this year, and is most likely to win Best Director (but I’ll get to that later). The catch? It was snubbed for a SAG nomination. The last film to have won Best Picture without a SAG nomination was Braveheart in 1995. And remember last year’s La La Land? Its Best Picture train stopped when it failed to get a SAG nod, too — hence, Moonlight won. With both films having their respective disadvantages, one’s odds have to be slimmer than the other, right?

Nominees:

Call Me By Your Name

Darkest Hour

Dunkirk

Get Out

Lady Bird

Phantom Thread

The Post

The Shape of Water

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

WILL WIN: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

COULD WIN: The Shape of Water

SHOULD WIN: Call Me By Your Name

SHOULD HAVE BEEN THERE: Baby Driver

 

BEST DIRECTOR

 

Let’s cut to the chase: without Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) in the game, it’s quite obvious that Guillermo Del Toro (The Shape of Water) will win this thing. I’m incredibly happy for Jordan Peele (Get Out) and Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) for their well-deserved nominations; I couldn’t care less about Paul Thomas Anderson (Phantom Thread) — seriously, not his best. And of course, I’m absolutely ecstatic for Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk) for finally getting his long overdue Oscar nomination after several snubs in the past (Memento, Inception, The Dark Knight, Interstellar), especially in a film where he showcased his chilly, monumental brilliance. In a nutshell, Dunkirk sums everything about Nolan’s capability as a tour de force director. I would love for him to win, but it’s Del Toro’s turn this year.

Nominees:

Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk

Jordan Peele, Get Out

Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird

Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread

Guillermo Del Toro, The Shape of Water

WILL WIN: Guillermo Del Toro, The Shape of Water

COULD WIN: Nobody else

SHOULD WIN: Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk

SHOULD HAVE BEEN THERE: Luca Guadagnino, Call Me By Your Name

 

BEST ACTRESS

 

Here’s a category where it’s an absolute lock. Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) has won the Golden Globe, the SAG, the Critic’s Choice, and the BAFTA. She will win. However, it’s hard to not look at Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird) as this year’s dark horse who could possibly pull an upset (but not really) for giving one of the year’s most iconic performances — not to mention, she has won the Golden Globe – Musical/Comedy category, too. Personally, Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water) gave the best female performance of the year, where she didn’t need any words to convey every emotion in her body. Margot Robbie gave the performance of her career in I, Tonya, plus won the Critic’s Choice for Best Actress Comedy. And Meryl Streep… is Meryl Streep.

Nominees:

Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water

Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Margot Robbie, I, Tonya

Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird

Meryl Streep, The Post

WILL WIN: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MIssouri

COULD WIN: Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird (But not really)

SHOULD WIN: Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water

SHOULD HAVE BEEN THERE: Jennifer Lawrence, mother!

 

BEST ACTOR

 

I am incredibly happy for Daniel Kaluuya for getting this far, after a year when Get Out was released. It goes to show the kind of magnitude the film has given us for it to survive 12 months in everyone’s radar. Timothee Chalamet reminds me of Jennifer Lawrence’s first Oscar nomination for the small indie film Winter’s Bone about 8 years ago. He will definitely not win, but it’ll be, for sure, the first of his many nominations in the future. But, when you’ve seen Darkest Hour, it’ll make sense why Gary Oldman will win this thing. Not only he has won, literally, every single other pre-cursor award, but you’ll see how this shape-shifting actor has brought, almost literally, Winston Churchill to life. There’s nothing left to say except congratulations on your Oscar win! 

Nominees:

Timothee Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name

Daniel Day Lewis, Phantom Thread

Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out

Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel

WILL WIN: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

COULD WIN: None.

SHOULD WIN: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

SHOULD HAVE BEEN THERE: Hugh Jackman, Logan (I could easily replace Daniel Day Lewis with Jackman. That is, if it’s a perfect world).

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Locked. Allison Janney has won everything else for finally giving the performance of a lifetime. I’ve always wondered what it’s like if J.K Simmons’ Terence Fletcher in Whiplash had a female counterpart. Well, here you go. But, I would like to rave about Laurie Metcalf for her genuine, effortless, and universal performance in Lady Bird. She’s not a close second, but she’s a runner-up, for sure. Also, can I rant a little? Lesley Manvale (Phantom Thread), although a legendary actress, does not deserve that nomination at all. She did absolutely nothing in the film but be a wallflower and an unnecessary character foil. It was a nothing performance, and I could think of countless female supporting performances more deserving of that spot than her. I’m calling it: it’s the weakest acting nomination of all time.

Nominees:

Mary J. Blige, Mudbound

Allison Janney, I, Tonya

Lesley Manvale, Phantom Thread

Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird

Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water

WILL WIN: Allison Janney, I, Tonya

COULD WIN: Nobody else.

SHOULD WIN: Allison Janney, I, Tonya

SHOULD HAVE BEEN THERE: Holly Hunter, The Big Sick; Kirsten Dunst, The Beguiled; Vicky Krieps, Phantom Thread; Allison Williams, Get Out

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

I’ve always thought that Sam Rockwell is one of the most criminally underrated actors of all time. I’m beyond happy that he is finally getting his moment with a performance that’s already a lock. Aside from winning every other award, he has given one of the most powerful performances by a male actor this year. I have no further arguments. He will win.

WILL WIN: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

COULD WIN: Nobody else.

SHOULD WIN: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

SHOULD HAVE BEEN THERE: Sebastian Stan, I, Tonya

 

What are your predictions?

The 90th Academy Awards will be on 4 March 2018, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel.

‘Black Panther’ rules at no. 1 with P258.57-M in 5 days

The Lunar Year of the Dog? For now it’s more like a strong Year of the Panther, as Marvel Studios’ Black Panther lunged and clawed its victorious way to Philippine cinemas, posting a monumental opening weekend of Php 258.57-M (including sneaks) in five days (Feb 14 – 18).

With that smash figure, Filipino Marvel fans gave Black Panther the most successful February launch in industry history as well as the year’s biggest opening weekend to-date.

In comparison, the critically acclaimed super hero film about the young king of the fictional and tehnologically-advanced African country of Wakanda, surpassed the opening weekends of recent Marvel Studios titles led by Guardians of The Galaxy (+143%), Ant-Man (+ 97%), Doctor Strange (+92%), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (+62%) and Thor: Ragnarok (+62%).

Leading the cinema pack in box-office sales are SM Mall of Asia (P10.56-M), SM Megamall (P8.87-M) and SM North EDSA (P8.65-M).

Posting mighty grosses in the top ten are Trinoma (P5.41-M), SM Cebu, (P4.91-M), Uptown Place (P4.47-M), Glorietta 4 (P4.35-M), Power Plant (P4-M), Greenbelt 3 (P3.86-M) and SM Ckark (P3.75-M).

Completing the top twenty theaters are SM Aura (P3.64-M), Greenhills Promenade (P3.58-M), Fisher Mall (P3.55-M), Alabang Town Center (P3.52-M), Ayala Malls Cebu (P3.43-M), SM Southmall (P3.42-M), U.P. Town Center (P3.39-M), SM Seaside City Cebu (P3.36-M), Gateway Cineplex (P3.25-M) and Robinsons Magnolia (P3.22-M).

In the US, Black Panther opened to a super-heroic $235 million debut over the four-day President’s Day weekend.

It is the highest three-day debut ever for a February film and the fifth highest of all time. Black Panther has also demolished the record for the largest President’s Day weekend, blowing past Deadpool’s 2016 mark of $152 million.

Marvel Studios’ Black Panther follows T’Challa who, after the death of his father, the King of Wakanda, returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation to succeed to the throne and take his rightful place as king. But when a powerful old enemy reappears, T’Challa’s mettle as king—and Black Panther—is tested when he is drawn into a formidable conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people and their way of life.

Directed by Ryan Coogler, the film stars Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, and Andy Serkis.

Marvel Studio’s Black Panther is distributed in the Philippines by The Walt Disney Company.

James Corden lends voice of the rascal, rebel ‘Peter Rabbit’

British comedian and talk show host James Corden (Into the Woods, The Late Late Show) brings a perfect balance of mischief and charm as the voice of the eponymous hero in Columbia Pictures’ family adventure Peter Rabbit (in Philippine cinemas February 28).

In Peter Rabbit™, the mischievous and adventurous hero who has captivated generations of readers now takes on the starring role of his own contemporary comedy.

In the film, Peter’s feud with Mr. Thomas McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson) escalates to greater heights than ever before as their fight to gain control of McGregor’s coveted vegetable garden and the affections of the warm-hearted animal lover who lives next door (Rose Byrne) extends to the Lake District and London.

“It was always the dream to have James as Peter; we essentially wrote the role for him,” says director Will Gluck. “He has the ideal combination of exuberance and sweetness and is of course very, very funny.”

A mischief-maker in his own right, Corden puts aside the wit and gets emotional when it comes to playing the impish rabbit in a little blue coat. “It’s a wonderful story that owes everything to Beatrix Potter,” he says. “I felt incredibly honored that [director] Will Gluck thought my voice could lend itself to this adored rabbit. I met a kid who was so excited – he said, ‘You’re going to be Peter Rabbit,’ and I said, ‘No, Peter Rabbit is Peter Rabbit, he just needed a voice for this film.”

Corden adds, “Peter thinks he has power and ability beyond what’s expected of him. He has that confidence and zest for life – the type of rabbit that doesn’t say ‘why,’ he says ‘why not.’”

“Peter had to feel timeless,” says executive producer Jodi Hildebrand. “The key to it was a voice that we wanted to follow on any adventure he chose to go on, and James Corden is that voice and that personality. He’s funny and charming and mischievous, and for us that was the linchpin of bringing Peter to life.”

Corden says, again, it all comes back to the character Beatrix Potter created. “I think Peter gets away with his mischief because of his sweet and adorable nature,” he says. “You just can’t help but smile when you see him.”

Directed by Will Gluck from a screen story and screenplay by Rob Lieber and Will Gluck, based on the characters and tales of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter, the film is produced by Will Gluck and Zareh Nalbandian, with Doug Belgrad, Jodi Hildebrand, and Jason Lust serving as executive producers.

Peter Rabbit is distributed in the Philippines by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.

Steven Spielberg celebrates press freedom with ‘The Post’

Variety raves that Steven Spielberg’s The Post, “Pulses ahead like a detective yarn for news junkies, one that crackles with present-day parallels.”

USA Today declares, “The Post is an inspirational reminder of the importance of a free press while unabashedly making journalism look like the most awesome job ever.”

And Rolling Stone praises, “Spielberg’s tense, terrific new drama, with Streep and Hanks at their finest, celebrates the passionate bond between a free press and every thinking human being.”


Fresh from receiving a Best Picture nomination in the 90th Academy Awards, Univeral Pictures’ The Post is headed to Philippine cinemas on February 21, a week before the actual Oscars.

Indeed, it seems The Post cannot be more timely as it arrives in Philippine cinemas at a moment when press freedom finds itself in the headlines.

Steven Spielberg directs Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks in The Post, a thrilling drama about the unlikely partnership between The Washington Post’s Katharine Graham (Streep), the first female publisher of a major American newspaper, and editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks), as they race to catch up with The New York Times to expose a massive cover-up of government secrets that spanned three decades and four U.S. Presidents. The two must overcome their differences as they risk their careers – and their very freedom – to help bring long-buried truths to light.

The story of The Post drew the attention of Meryl Streep even before Steven Spielberg was on board to direct. “I was familiar with the stories about The Washington Post and Watergate from Alan Pakula’s All The President’s Men, where Kay Graham makes a brief but fleeting appearance. But I really didn’t know much about her,” she recalls. “But Liz Hannah’s script really seemed to capture the flavor of that time. I found it incredibly compelling. And a story that hasn’t been told.”

Spielberg also had a visceral reaction to the script. Despite being in the midst of intensive preparation for the special effects-heavy Ready Player One, this deeply historic, and human, story called to him. “Liz’s writing, her premise, her critical study and especially her beautiful, personal portrait of Graham got me to say: ‘I might be crazy, but I think I’m going to make another movie right now,’” he recalls. “It snuck up on me.”

It all came together at an unusually brisk pace, even for Spielberg whose work ethic is renowned. The two leads he wanted to cast as Graham and Bradlee—Streep and Hanks—each expressed immediate interest. Almost miraculously, both had openings in their schedules. Here was an opportunity for three gifted artists in film today to work in partnership and all were determined to move ahead full speed.

Especially interesting to Spielberg was the risk-taking involved, which made the story equal parts thriller, drama and character study of a woman uncovering the ringing strength of her voice. “The Washington Post took a huge chance publishing after the judge told The New York Times to halt,” he says. “The timing couldn’t have been worse. The Post was kind of bleeding out and they needed to go public to remain solvent. And in the middle of it all was Graham, who had to make the biggest decision of the newspaper’s history. I saw the story being as much about the birth of a leader as about the growth of a national newspaper.”

In Philippine cinemas February 21, The Post is distributed in the Philippines by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.

‘Ang Larawan’ director to hold retrospective at UP Film Center on Feb 20-22

Loy Arcenas, Broadway production designer-turned-director, is having a film retrospective at the University of the Philippines (Diliman) Film Center Cine Adarna on February 20, 21 and 22.

February 20 (Tue)
4:30 PM – Niño
7:00 PM – Ang Larawan

February 21 (Wed)
4:30 PM – REquieme!

February 22 (Thu) with Q&A from the director
2:30 PM – Niño
4:30 PM – REquieme!
7:00 PM – Ang Larawan

To be shown on February 20, Tuesday are “Niño” at 4:30 pm and “Ang Larawan” at 7:00 pm.

“Niño,” which is a story about the decline of a wealthy family, is Arcenas’ feature directorial debut; its awards include a Special Jury Prize at the 2011 Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival and Best Film joint recognition at the New Currents Section of the 2011 Busan International Film Festival. Meanwhile, “Ang Larawan,” the Filipino musical based on Nick Joaquin’s play A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino, is the Best Picture winner at the recently concluded Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF).

On Wednesday, February 21, at 4:30 pm UP Cine Adarna is screening “REquieme!,” a comedy about about unspoken family burials, sexual politics, homophobia and sheer mix of scandal and inebriation that form a complete picture of dying, the Filipino way. “REquime!,” winner of the Special Jury Prize at the 2012 Cinemalaya, is Arcenas’ second film.

All three movies are showing again on February 22, Thursday, with “Niño” at 2:30 pm, “REquieme!” at 4:30 pm, and “Ang Larawan” at 7:00 pm. All screenings on the said day feature a Q & A with the director.

Arcenas is an award-winning production designer who has created sets for Broadway productions and worked with distinguished American playwrights and directors. Ever since he returned to the Philippines in 2011, he has been directing stage plays and full-length feature films. His next film is “Mirador,” a drama thriller starring Cherie Gil as a grieving widow who must confront her troubled past.

Lily James showcases dramatic prowess in ‘Darkest Hour’

Hot off the box-office and critical success of Baby Driver, British actress Lily James now stars in Focus Features’ Oscar-nominated historical drama Darkest Hour (now showing exclusive at Ayala Malls Cinemas).

Directed by Joe Wright (Atonement, Pride and Prejudice) and starring Oscar Best Actor nominee Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour is the dramatic and inspiring story of four weeks in 1940 during which Winston Churchill’s courage to lead changed the course of world history.

Responding to what she saw as a “powerful story of [British] history, of everyone’s history, that we should remember and reflect on,” James joined the Darkest Hour troupe to portray the character of Elizabeth Layton, Churchill’s personal secretary.

James was glad to be “doing a film where I’m not playing a love interest, and not about romance. But there is a beautiful bond that develops between Churchill and Elizabeth.”

Screenwriter Anthony McCarten had taken inspiration from the real-life Elizabeth, who published memoirs detailing her years with Churchill under her married name Elizabeth Nel.

McCarten scripted the character to afford the audience a more intimate ringside view of a man whose world was by necessity far removed from the everyday, and Wright carried this motif over to filming the scenes of secretary and employer together.

“Elizabeth is like the eyes of our movie,” explains Wright. “I wanted no blockage between Lily and the audience. Her point of view on the story is an accessible one and leads into what for me is an important aspect of this story: Winston’s disconnection with, and then restored and strengthened connection to, the British people.

“To an extent, he lived in a fairly rarefied environment. In a time when true leadership was essential, he had to step out of his bubble and connect with the man and lady in the street. Only by making contact with ordinary people and hearing their concerns could he best understand the repercussions, the effects of the enormous decisions that he was making.”

James reports, “I loved reading Elizabeth’s autobiography. She knew she had a job to do, and a fighting spirit. Her book was just so full of admiration and you can see that she really loved Churchill, as did I think all his inner circle of staff; he was incredibly hard and strict and wanted things how he wanted them, but he had this spirit of generosity and this incredible wit and humor.

“I would barely see him not in full as Churchill; Gary Oldman is so bold and he was really kind to me, as one actor to another.”

All through filming, James kept specific details in mind, particularly how “Elizabeth had to follow him around; even in his car, she would be there with her notepad or typing. I took a few months and learned to type professionally on a vintage typewriter.

“Basically, Elizabeth was on duty at any hour and I had to put myself in the mindset of being a young girl in her early twenties in such close proximity to a genius, working on speeches and telegrams that would change the course of our future.”

“Lily has a naturally inquisitive way about her but she also shows Elizabeth’s innocence and how she forged loyalty to Churchill,” director Joe Wright asserts. “The real Elizabeth wrote about how tough he was to work with but how inspiring he was and how it was the greatest time in her life, and Lily conveying that enhances the story we are telling.”