Neomanila (Directed by Mikhail Red)

My rating: 4 of 5

Neomanila follows a classic noir that features a perspective behind the extra-judicial killings in Manila: one that is caught in the middle of the drug war. This is of the hitmen. Two of them, Irma and Raul, work together as a partner until “saved” by a Makati boy named Toto, whom they recruit eventually. The story then continues as Toto enters the world which he is not supposed to as a boy, thereby losing his innocence in the process.

Following Birdshot, Red’s personality as a director can be seen even more in this movie. Comparing these two works I’ve watched from him, Red likes to tackle politically-relevant issues in a subtle but critical way. He’s not preachy on this, too; he takes an issue, presents it on a different light, and leaves the audience to answer questions for themselves. In Neomanila, Red does these by starting in medias res, where the drug war is rampant and the EJKs never stop. The main characters, caught between the whole mess, choose to get involved even more just for the money they earn, and maybe even for passion. A lot of the scenes take place at night, and the movie’s artistic cinematography proves itself to be praise-worthy with several aesthetic shots of the lights of Makati.

However, despite Red’s attempt of delivering a message through the whole film, his style of ambiguity brings the movie down. It’s clear that he wants to make the audience answer questions for themselves, but lack of proper context combined with several “supposedly-implied” meanings make the movie dragging until it nears the end, which apparently has a turn that raises a new question to be answered again. While it is true that not everything has to be spoon-fed to the audience, it is also worth noting that not everything has to be restrained. Furthermore, the characters who are supposed to be bold and raw turn out to be loosely formed–it’s, then again, up to the audience to decide who they really are and what’s behind them.

Unlike Birdshot, which has enough context and enough ambiguity to deliver a message that can be concluded by the audience on the same level, Neomanila provides either a satisfying or unsatisfying intellectual value, and it is up to the audience how they would receive the “impact”. Personally, Neomanila is excellent as an art, but not as a movie.


The Vegetarian by Han Kang

The VegetarianThe Vegetarian by Han Kang
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Vegetarian Review

The Vegetarian is a narrative about a once-normal woman, Yeong-hye, who decides to become vegetarian after a particular dream followed by a series similar to it. Although being a vegetarian is not necessarily wrong, Yeong-hye decides to take this to the next level by being paranoid with the taste of anything but plant-based food, until she considers becoming “one with nature” in the end.

The story is pretty straight-forward and it does not have any unnecessary fillers—it begins with Yeong-hye deciding to become a vegetarian so that it sets the botanical, lunatic atmosphere all-throughout the book. As a thriller, this is a plus for the book since including only the relevant sub-plots make it fast-paced and compelling to be read. The book is also told in third-person, but in each of the three sections, there is a character that is followed by our narrator: the husband, the brother-in-law, and the sister. Personally, the first section is the most captivating because we see how Yeong-hye starts to develop an excruciated character while the other two sections develop this character, but by this time, we will have grown accustomed to it. This is why I don’t find the rest of the book as mind-fucking as other people would claim; Yeong-hye’s character already grew on me, and I guessed the path where she was headed.

In the end, The Vegetarian takes into account the critical and rare condition of a mentally-ill person, and it does its job well with the pacing and the shifts of the characters to focus on. It’s a good novel to read when you’re feeling weird.


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Birdshot (Directed by Mikhail Red)

My Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Birdshot is not for everyone, but let me at least convince you that it is deserving for appreciation.

Birdshot is a mystery-thriller that centers on two perspectives: the family of Diego Mariano, who works as a caretaker and lives with her daughter, Maya, and the local police. It also focuses on two “to-be-solved” cases: the missing bus, along with the passengers inside it, and the disappearance of the Philippine eagle from the local sanctuary.

What makes it good is the mystery itself because it’s the thing that keeps the tension from the movie’s viewers–making them feel intrigued until the end. Character development is also a factor, especially for Domingo, a rookie cop. Most of all, the intellectual value of the movie persists even after you watch it. Birdshot is about the HDA Luisita Massacre that, up to now, has still not received the justice it deserves. It effectively uses cinematographic elements to capture objects that are open for interpretation and thought. Although it makes you think even after the lights turn on, the message didn’t want to be open-ended so that it is clear: corruption and abuse from the system are easy to create yet difficult to douse.

It is better to watch this one blindly, but prepare yourself with an open mind for a disgusting truth that has been overlooked as time passed.

The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare

The Taming of the ShrewThe Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Did a really long review only to find out it hadn’t saved. Goodreads, please add an autosave function.

I don’t want to type all of that again, but basically my review boils into one thing: the play is to be taken ironically. Katherine’s transformation is an exaggeration to “Renaissance ideals” and “male fantasies”. In other words, they only exist in a play, hence, a comedy on how impractical men can think sometimes. Y’all need to wake up.

Loved this book because of how it made me chuckle and think at the same time.


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Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews

Flowers in the Attic (Dollanganger, #1)Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Flowers in the Attic Review


Love. How often that word came up in books. Over and over again. If you had wealth and health, and beauty and talent . . . you had nothing if you didn’t have love. Love changed all that was ordinary into something giddy, powerful, drunken, enchanted.

Of course, this isn’t a story about love. Far from it . . .

Cathy and her three siblings; Christopher, Cory, and Carrie; grew several years in a normal, middle-class family. However, after they lost their father from an accident, all of the responsibility had to be left to their “dear” mother. As a woman who depended on her husband, ignorant to the harsh realities of life, their mother decided to take them to her parents’ house. This wasn’t just any house, though. It was more of a modern palace: a mansion. But why hadn’t she told them this before? Why did they have to live in an underwhelming house when she had all the luxury? All these were explained as soon as the children had been brought to the attic on one evening, where they had been reasoned that they would only stay for a night — or a couple. Naively, the kids agreed, knowing just a few nights would justify all the riches they would have in the future. But how is trust reasonable when they knew that they would be locked up in the attic in the first place?

Flowers in the Attic was, in one word, haunting. It was a mix of everything: innocence, grief, hatred, greed, maturity, adolescence, and, of course, lust. The story progressed slowly, giving its readers a realistic perspective of how maturity can come with doubt, indifference with greed, and affection intimacy. Who could blame them, anyway? Locked away in the attic, the two oldest siblings, Chris and Cathy, had to act as parents for the young twins, Cory and Carrie. All the while, they did what they had to to keep them distracted — from decorating the attic to exploring new hobbies. But that wasn’t everything.

Aside from its gradual, thrilling progression, Flowers in the Attic was a win because of our narrator — Cathy. She may be annoying, but her menacingly pessimistic view sets the general mood of the book. I wouldn’t say it’s a horror, nor a thriller, but rather a mature young adult that exhibits emotion and narrative, like a classic tale. Because Andrews was a natural story teller, each chapter was exceptionally written in great detail. Amazingly, Andrews managed to keep me enticed through vivid imagery, intensity, longing, and the desire to know what happens to children left in a peculiar situation. But emotion surpassed all. Andrews’ characters delivered such emotion that can be felt with meticulous dialogue. Readers could feel giddy with Carrie’s chatter, compassionate with Cory’s pleas, inspired with Chris’ optimism, and ruthless with Cathy’s straightforward words.

As a reviewer, it bothers me to see only some flaws (or even none at all!) in the book, though maybe it’s only as exceptional as that. Granted, this book is not for anyone, but definitely worth the read.


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Rain in April

[a Petrarchan Sonnet]

In a tropical month of the fourth
There is but a wind as gentle as brush
and old pasture would be the new lush
Bringing a set of tiny footsteps forth

But the heat can be that of west by north
When water is pulled with an upward flush
Then below again, an alien of gush
A repeat from before the month of the fourth

Though there I see the pitter-patter
that challenge the steam like unflinching geese

As the cold absence of usual chatter
warm the chill with the tropic and her fleece

Thus when the ardent sky makes a splatter
It is not for flooding, but for release

Room by Emma Donoghue

RoomRoom by Emma Donoghue

Room Review

First off, writing in the perspective of a 5-year old is tricky, but Donoghue managed to do it well.

This book took me quite some time to read. The thing about Room is that it gets to the specific little details within a day, especially on Jack’s daily routine in the room. Even his thoughts are surfaced to detail, because Jack is a curious little boy with an extraordinary mind. Because of this, Room is an output of the lengthy details in which Jack perceives, both inside and outside the room. What’s good about this, however, is that you don’t get tired of Jack. Of course, his situation with his mother is beyond normal, which is something to get used to as you read the book, but even after you get accustomed to Jack’s situation, being in his shoes is still pretty interesting. Donoghue was able to blend everyday life, innocence, childhood, claustrophobia, and horror, but the best thing she added was the experience of being a child — again. And not just an ordinary child, but a child who gets to learn about the world like no other; a child who has to forget everything he thought he knew and believe in what he perceives. What’s more special is that Jack has some ideas of his own about the Outside. He critiques it like a child, undoubtedly, but the way he does it gives readers a fresh perspective on adulthood and living in the real world (a very similar perspective with The Little Prince). Though Room is lengthy and maybe even tedious to read, reading the perspective of its little persona grants you a look on a childhood unlike most, which should be enough to keep you flipping through the pages.

A big thumbs-up to Donoghue for writing a full-length novel based on the eyes of what we used to be — a child.


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