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And the rest is…

THE FILM BEGINS with the sound of cicadas rhythmically whirring over a black background. The sound cuts out, the film title (simple white letters) flashes on-screen. Cut to a vision of hell: a guard shrouded in steam stands beside a wood shelf containing severed heads. We are at the volcanic springs of Unzen, near Nagasaki, where friars are strung up on crosses and longhandled ladles with holes sprinkle boiling hot water on them, delicately poaching their skin. (Today of course the springs are a popular vacation resort).

Happy New Year!

HEADLINING the Eastwood Quezon City New Year Countdown to 2019 are December Avenue, Ben and Ben, Moira, Karylle, and Bamboo.

Vaccination: Is it safe?

In April 2016, over a million public school students in the National Capital Region (NCR), Central Luzon, and Calabarzon lined up to take part in the immunization program of the first dengue vaccine. It was recommended that the three doses of the vaccine be administered at six-month intervals. It was more than a year into the program, in November 2017, when Sanofi Pasteur issued a warning that immunized people who had not previously been infected with one of the four known varieties of dengue may experience a more severe version of the disease.

The Metro Manila Film Festival entries

THE 44TH EDITION of the annual Metro Manila Film Festival opens in theaters nationwide on Dec. 25 and runs until Jan. 7, 2019. Here’s a guide to the “Magic 8 lineup” in this year’s festival.

Domesticated helper

ALFONSO CUARON’s Roma is, yes, one of the most beautiful-looking films of the year, a blend of artfully lit footage digitally stitched together to appear a seamless whole.

The fall and rise of Philippine music

AT THE University of the Philippines Fair early this year, April Hernandez had the lucky role of opening for the popular band IV of Spades. Under the stage name “TheSunManager,” she has just around 3,000 monthly listeners on Spotify while IV of Spades has a following of over a million.

Two women

LAST October my mother died.

Manila Notes: People at an exhibition

A MUSEUM, an art gallery, or a theater performance, are not places where Pinoys typically congregate. The shopping mall remains the most popular choice which is why Sunday mass is celebrated there. For “educational excursions,” teachers and their students prefer to be part of the live audience of popular TV noontime variety or afternoon game shows. Thus, it was a pleasant surprise, to find seven van loads of senior high school students attending an evening performance of Oriza Hirata’s Manila Notes in the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).

Spreading unity through music

A HARMONIOUS string instrumental of “Habanera” from George Bizet’s opera, Carmen filled the living room of the Gaston Mansion in Silay City, Negros Occidental — considered as “the seat of arts and culture in Western Visayas.”

For very special Christmas gifts

SALCEDO AUCTIONS celebrates the end of the year with fine art and collectibles at its year-end sale, Under the Tree: The Wish List. The sale offers 400 collectible pieces ranging from fine art, jewelry and timepieces to Philippine tribal art, antique furniture, rare books, prints, maps, and vintage memorabilia.

Discovering Surabaya’s spices and steams

AS THE crow flies, or an airplane would, Surabaya in Indonesia’s Java Island would just be two hours away from my hometown of Davao in the Philippines’ southern island of Mindanao.

Joan unornamented

THE first film to come to mind watching this stony ground of a picture is Carl Th. Dreyer’s silent film, a wondrous series of gigantic closeups shuffled through at speed, arguably one of the most revered and the best-known version of the story.

A history lesson

TWO MONTHS after Kip Oebanda’s indie feature Liway was shown nationwide, another Cinemalaya 2018 alum — director Benedict Mique’s ML — is currently on wide release.

A tranquil escape

By Michelle P. Soliman, Reporter PALAWAN’s Dimakya Island is a tiny green jewel floating in a sea of deep blue that turns a clear aquamarine...

Curated tours

ACCLAIMED as the Philippines’ Last Frontier, Palawan is so blessed with marvels of nature that it is home to not just one, but two UNESCO World Heritage sites: The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park and Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park.

Captivating Stockholm: Small, old city packs a wallop

OUR beeline to Sweden takes us to Dubai in the Middle East, then another six-hour-plus flight to the Nordic country. A cogently woven tapestry of green and glistening swirls of water comes into view as the plane descends and breaks through a cloud bank. Arlanda International Airport goes up to meet us; a gateway into Sweden within the Stockholm County, but still some 40 kilometers south of the city that bears the name.

Monster, Inc.

By Noel Vera Video Review My Neighbor Totoro Directed by Hayao Miyazaki (CAUTION: plot and narrative twists — which aren’t all that much and anyway aren’t the heart...

Fluid: Author-actor-activist Nico Tortorella talks about freedom

By Nickky Faustine P. De Guzman, Reporter AUTHOR, activist, and actor Nico Tortorella lay down nonchalantly on one of the long sofas at the Raffles...

Memory play

MICHAEL Almereyda’s Marjorie Prime (2017) adapts Jordan Harrison’s Pulitzer-nominated play to the big screen in a small way, and it’s marvelous. Eighty-five year old Marjorie (Lois Smith, who played the role in two previous stage productions) suffers the initial symptoms of Alzheimer’s; to help her deal with the memory loss, her daughter Tess (Geena Davis) and son-in-law Jon (Tim Robbins) have installed a “Prime” — a hologram-projected Artificial Intelligence (AI) — representing Marjorie’s husband Walter (Jon Hamm) when he was a relatively young 40.

Fall movie preview

LET’S SEE, how did we do with our Summer Preview?

Kyushu and Kansai by train

Exploring the cities of the island of Kyushu and the western part of Japan in five days was beyond my imagination—but with the help of a detailed itinerary and Japan’s efficient transportation network, my travel buddies and I were able to tick several places off our bucket list.

Beginner-friendly but surprisingly hard

BY ALL ACCOUNTS, the Touhou Project has been a resounding success. What originally started out as a series of bullet-hell shooter games has evolved into a franchise spanning multiple brands across genres and platforms. Touhou Genso Wanderer Reloaded is one such example.

Sister pact

THERE I GO AGAIN, making assumptions. Unsure of what I was watching, I judged the opening number “Come Look at the Freaks” of Atlantis Theatrical’s Side Show as a rip-off of the crazy popular, P.T. Barnum apologist of a film, The Greatest Showman. As the silhouette of actors doing Bob Fosse-like moves filled the stage, I told myself rather snidely, hmm, I’ve seen this before.

What to see this week

7 films to see on the week of September 14-September 20, 2018

Up in a magic mountain, harvesting energy from the Universe

NO ONE ever said enlightenment was easy.

Mastering magic, living the same day on loop

YOH YOSHINARI’s Little Witch Academia is an anime franchise about young girls, witchcraft, and friendship. Following Akko Kagari, a student enrolled in the Luna Nova Magical Academy, it focuses on her journey to master the arts of magic. Akko slowly gets accustomed to what she can do. And while not naturally talented, she is able to show that with perseverance and a little help, trials and tribulations can be overcome.

Crazy rich a**hole

IF WE’RE TALKING lighthearted romantic fare involving pretty prosperous Asians, I don’t see why we need to go all the way to Hollywood when Hong Kong has been doing perfectly fine for years.

Riding through history

At 10 a.m. on a Saturday, the festive sound of drums joined in with the clatter of the approaching train at the LRT-1 Central station. Eleven teams of four members — made up of an LRT-1 driver, an LRT-1 teller, a blogger, and a reporter — hurriedly lined up at the ticketing booth to load their Beep cards, catch the next train, and explore specific cultural and historical landmarks on a list. All were determined to arrive first at the finish line — and in the process, the teams explored Manila, despite the continuous rains.

Bullet in the head

BACK in the mid-1990s I found myself hooked on a particularly intense habit: Johnnie To movies. I’d seen A Hero Never Dies and The Barefoot Kid (his one period martial-arts film) and had been digging through various DVDs ever since, hoping to find more.

Don’t cross

AT LEAST half the time, Robert McCall is more of a Wish Granter/Life Saver than an Equalizer.

Train stations, graffiti, and penguins: some reasons to visit Melbourne

WITH its beautiful architecture, its efficient tram system, and a countryside which is a source of both good wine and chocolates, it is very easy to see why Melbourne, the second-most populous city in Australia with almost five million people, was named the “world’s most liveable city” for seven consecutive years by The Economist.

Last holdout

PAUL SCHRADER’s latest feature First Reformed — his 23rd directing job — is a tiny feature shot around Brooklyn and Queens in only 20 days, on a budget of roughly three and a half million dollars. It’s also arguably his best work to date, or if not his best then somewhere up there.

After US hype, Asia greets Crazy Rich Asians with a shrug

SINGAPORE — Crazy Rich Asians has been hailed as a win for diversity in Hollywood and sparked controversy in Singapore for its portrayal of the city-state — but in much of Asia the movie is being greeted with little more than a shrug.

A visit to Northern Ireland: No more Troubles, but a lot...

NORTHERN Ireland may not be on most people’s itineraries when visiting the United Kingdom, but it should be.

Attaining the equivalent of rhythmic Nirvana

SINCE ITS DEBUT early last year, the Nintendo Switch has been a haven for makers of rhythm games. It’s certainly with reason; the hardware boasts of touchscreen and multiple-controller configurations, backstopped by portability and ease of use. It’s why such notables as Deemo, Superbeat: Xonic, and VOEZ have been ported over, and why even offbeat — pun wholly intended — titles like Frederic: Resurrection of Music, Crypt of the NecroDancer, and Hiragana Pixel Party have thrived on the hybrid console.

Delivering a thoroughly stunning experience

THERE was a time when fighting games were little more than button-mashing exercises. Perhaps the relative lack of complexity was due to the genre being in its infancy stage. Perhaps it was borne of the publishers’ intent to be as inclusive as possible. In any case, gamers still found them irresistible for the most part, if for no other reason than because they afforded the opportunity for instant gratification. In comparison to, say, sports titles, fights involved short matches and rematches. Bragging rights were passed on quickly and often, and the speed with which they were earned, lost, regained, and desired anew served only to ramp up the intensity of the competition.

Mother’s ghosts

MARIO O’HARA passed on in 2012. His niece Janice O’Hara chose one of his scripts (rewritten extensively by her father Jerry O’Hara) to be her debut feature (Sundalong Kanin [Rice Soldiers, 2014]), arguably one of the best of 2014. Janice died two years later, leaving us that one film, compelling us to ask: is there some kind of curse on this family that blesses them with filmmaking and storytelling talent, but relatively fragile lives?

A (nearly non-political) portrait of Davao

FORGET, for a moment, that Davao City is the hometown of President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

Cruising around Asia

VOYAGER OF THE SEAS, the 15-deck cruise ship of Royal Caribbean International which can handle 4,269 guests, will sail to over 70 destinations around Asia until June 2019.

Documentary sheds light on Robin Williams’s joyous rise and painful fall

By Richard Roeper Television Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind Directed by Marina Zenovich • July 28, 12:35 a.m., on HBO • Aug. 2, 8 p.m., on HBO Signature THE YEAR...

Losing luggage on my way to Auschwitz

On a rainy night in June, my husband and I boarded a flight from Manila to Singapore, the first leg of our 18-hour trip to Warsaw, Poland. The pilot announced that the flight would be delayed as a plane stalled on the runway. It took off almost an hour late. Since we had only 55 minutes to catch the connecting flight to Warsaw, I found myself praying for a miracle.

Unhinged

THE BEST part of Steven Soderbergh’s Unsane is easily the first half — when unwary businesswoman Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy from The Crown) is suddenly committed to a mental ward for suicidal ideation.

Butterflies in a filthy city

Air pollution is a health risk, and, naturally, urban areas are more exposed to air pollution and its attendant risks than rural areas. Air pollution does not only affect the human population, but also the quantity and quality of urban biodiversity. And this includes one of the smallest of creatures — the butterfly.

Caged

JOHN FOWLES’ debut novel The Collector has been adapted several times for theater, stage, and big screen, most notably by William Wyler, later by Mike de Leon for a 1986 feature — Bilanggo sa Dilim (Prisoner in the Dark), shot on video.