A Novel on the Fallen

Fallen by Lauren Kate

I got myself a copy of Lauren Kate‘s Fallen after reading about it in one of my friends’ blogs. I was pretty interested because the book was about fallen angels, characters I’ve never read about before. Although the storyline seemed familiar, if not predictable, there was still a flicker of hope that is encouraged and that which makes readers hope that they might be in for something else.

The said storyline is, as in what seems an ordinary plot nowadays, centered around a couple who falls in love with each other despite the differences in their identity. This time, though, the love happens between a fallen angel and a mortal girl. Daniel Grigori, a fallen angel, is a supposedly damned boy who falls in love with the same girl every seventeen years. The girl dies every time she realizes their love for each other and gets reincarnated after to another life and as another person. But she’s always the same girl Daniel finds and loves and, ultimately, gets killed.

In the story, Lucinda Price is another reincarnation of that girl. She meets Daniel again when she was sent to a reform school after being accused of killing her friend. Inexplicably, she gets drawn to Daniel and instantly, she falls in love with him, too.

Daniel tries to make Luce stay away from him for fear of losing her again until he finds out that her life at that time was already different. The change in the cycle has made her more vulnerable to the darker forces because if she dies again, she goes permanently. Thus, Daniel has to protect her more, especially after they have professed their love for each other.

This is a story of religion, love, and the forces that oppose each other in the mighty and vague Heavens. Fallen explores the stories of the Bible, with reference to the usual human connotations given to the concept of heaven and hell.

What I Liked:

Fallen has a really good concept. For me, it’s very new. After all the vampire novels that have become definitely rampant in the YA world, the concept of another set of characters is a good break. I also liked how Lauren Kate have presented imageries of the angels in a way that is not far from what we usually see in photos. It helps readers in imagining the scenes written in the book. Even the names given to the characters are a good mixture of cliché and unusual ones. That helps in giving a sense of reality, albeit the seeming unrealistic existence of the characters, to the book.

The plot setting is also something I appreciate, because reform school gave a different sense to the way the story was presented. It emanated a feeling of rawness and being something out of the ordinary. I like how Lauren Kate describes the settings with a clarity that makes a clear imagination. She uses the senses a lot, from the description of the colors, to the feeling, to the smell, and the silences of the places. I like best the lake setting where Luce and Daniel’s escapades happened, it seemed to be the only “lively” place in the reform school and the way it was described did just that.

What I Didn’t Like:

The story gives me something so Twilight. And I mean that in the love story department. There is so much of the boy-can’t-love-girl theme complete with the girl pining relentlessly for the boy. It is a concept that gets tiring and utterly predictable after. Like, hey, let me guess . . . they’re still going to be together right? The against-all-odds couple who would move heaven and earth just to be together. And then there would be follow-up books (there already is one) to lengthen the conflict.

Another thing I don’t like is the absence of foreshadowing in many parts of the story. There is a limited way of giving out a feeling that there may be something more to the characters than what they appear to be or that one incident is a likely precedent to another, more major revelation.

Lastly, I find difficult to like the slow pacing of the novel. Luce’s relentless pining is even made unbearable by the fact that it’s present for more than half of the entire book. It goes on until you’d simply want to slam the book shut just to get out of Luce’s mind and not think about why Daniel doesn’t get along well with her.

I do think this is why some more important parts are left out: the first-person type of storytelling didn’t mix well with the girl-in-love thoughts. This is also a manifestation of how “I-stories” can go wrong–when the story is told from a certain character’s perspective, that person must be omnipresent, almost omniscient, and utterly assertive. However, Fallen‘s storyteller lacks just that.

On the whole, Fallen is an exciting read if what’s to be considered is the character background and development (with the possible exception of the female lead). However, the excitement goes downhill before the middle part comes in purely because the story has dragged mercilessly due to lack of climactic incidents.

If YA news have it right, there are follow-ups to the first two novels. And if we can be forgivable enough, then maybe we can hope that the story invites a smarter line.

(My) Top 3 JLC Movies

If you’re a Filipino, then you probably have heard of local actor John Lloyd Cruz. If you’re a Filipina, then you probably love John Lloyd Cruz.

He’s been around for sometime more than a decade now. He’s had television shows, TV commercials, and of course, movies. There have been awards thrown to him for his performances in different films and TV series. He’s been paired with more than three contemporary female lead stars. His face has been plastered across newspaper ads, billboards, and posters for the many products he has endorsed.

Which means, one way or another, you have come across him.

I have honestly been an ardent follower of this actor. For reasons that I share with my friends and my sister and almost other people. Which means I’ve seen more than a couple of his movies, the good films and the simpler ones. And just lately, I’m able to re-watch some of them again. So I kind of decided to think of the top 3 movies in which he’s starred and that I totally, totally love.

My Amnesia Girl

Source: sharebus.com

John Lloyd Cruz pairs up with Toni Gonzaga in this romantic-comedy film that is all about missing chances and getting a second shot at them. He plays Apollo, a commitment-allergic guy who left his fiancée Irene (played by Toni) at the altar on their wedding day. After a couple of years, he starts to feel ready to be committed–only to find out that he can’t just as easily because “the one” hasn’t arrived yet. Or maybe she had, but he let her go. And then fate brings him and Irene together again, when one day he saw her while doing some grocery. However, Irene cannot seem to remember him because of an accident-caused amnesia. What follows then is a comic series of gestures and actions Apollo uses to help Irene regain her memory and, ultimately, to win her back. But in the end, the lies have undone themselves. Apollo finds out Irene was just faking the illness because of her anger at him for leaving. However, time has made them both wiser and braver. Thus, a happy ending ensues when both decided to simply forgive and let love take over.

Why I Like the Movie:

I find romantic-comedies likeable if only because I strongly associate them with chick lit books: fun to watch/read but not for deep thinking. They’re good to watch when you want something that isn’t too heavy and one that you can easily understand. In particular, I like My Amnesia Girl because it’s very modern with a great amount of humor in it. A good comic addition are the “punchlines”, more popularly called “pick-up lines”. I think they’re really creative, albeit the fact that sometime in the middle part of the movie they can actually wear a viewer down. But for all of those lines to be thought of, I can only say the movie’s writers are exceptionally smart.

Why I Like Him in the Movie:

A Scene from My Amnesia Girl (palabas.tumblr.com)

This is John Lloyd Cruz like you’ve never seen him before. Lately, he’s being known not only for his acting abilities but also for his comic and cutesy antics. He has a sense of humor that isn’t too overrated, spontaneous, and non-surreal. In the movie, John Lloyd dances and sings and is totally matured and good-natured. I like that he looks different in it, almost entirely new. Most importantly, I appreciate his ability to easily connect with a new partner.

In My Life

Source: gofigures.net

The mother-and-son team-up of Vilma Santos and Luis Manzano is what John Lloyd joins to come up with a highly dramatic and infinitely artistic film as in In My Life. Shirley (Santos), Mark’s (Manzano) mother, decided to try to live in New York where her son is already living and working to supposedly ease her problematic life. She was surprised to find that Mark actually lives with his partner Noel (Cruz). She didn’t seem to approve of the relationship, and Noel, at first. But Noel did everything he could to make her feel at ease both with him and New York City at large. He and Mark went to take her around the city, show her the beautiful sites, and orient her about the life at the Big Apple. Soon, Shirley learned her way around and even found jobs she could make a living of. What seemed to be a blossoming happy life was disrupted when Mark was diagnosed with cancer, a news he shared only with Noel for fear that Shirley would be disappointed and sad. Noel’s part in the lie was what made him and Shirley fall out again, which then translated into a nasty fight after Mark suddenly died from an accident. In the end, Shirley and Noel both realized many important lessons that being with and having Mark have taught them.

Why I Like the Movie:

In My Life is a fresh and very free movie. It tackles homosexuality in an honest and objective way, without too much drama and with a sense of acceptance that not a lot of films can show. In fact, homosexuality isn’t the be-all of the movie. There are other factors, too, like the mother and son relationship, life, death, and love. I like that the film neither underrate nor overrate its actors, considering that it top-bills a veteran actress. The scenes are carried out in a fluent manner without the distracting hysterics that most modern actors use to a dismaying extent. Finally, I appreciate the parallelism that is evident in terms of the setting–New York City–and the targeted message that is freedom.

Why I Like Him in the Movie:

John Lloyd Cruz as Noel (pinoyexchange.com)

John Lloyd Cruz is a gay in this movie. If anything, I feel like this is the role that has showcased all of his abilities as an actor. Local showbiz critics used to say that you know an actor is good if what you see in him/her when he/she portrays is the character. And in this movie, I realized what that must mean. His portrayal of a gay role, which is extremely out of his usual line of characters, is laudable. He didn’t exaggerate like other actors seemed to do. I especially liked the way he dealt with his highly dramatic and heavy scene with Vilma Santos.

One More Chance

Source: definitelyfilipino.com

John Lloyd, together with his popular on-screen partner Bea Alonzo, tops this highly acclaimed story of heartache, letting go, and a second chance. Popoy (Cruz) and Basha (Alonzo) had been together for the last five years, through fits and fights, filled with both happy and sad moments all couples got. They were set to be married. But something went wrong for Basha. It was maybe her unrewarding job as an architect, or Popoy’s workaholism, or his being too controlling . . . too rational. Whatever it was, Basha knew just one thing for sure: she had to break free. And break free she did, leaving Popoy with plenty of unanswered questions. What followed was a nasty match of hurt, pain of the leaving versus pain of the one being left. Months after, Popoy finally accepted what had happened and did move on to a new, apparently healthier relationship. But a love like theirs–Popoy and Basha’s–was the kind that would hurt even more to let go even after you had decided to. The kind that would always, always make you want one more chance.

Why I Liked the Movie:

Popular scene from One More Chance (lettersformyjarahby.wordpress.com)

The movie has a certain rawness in it, the reality of a heartache, and the fact that it seems to happen even in non-fairytale-like relationships. I like how the story started in the steep fall of Popoy and Basha’s relationship, sparing the viewers of the all-too cliché first meetings of chick flicks.It was a difficult movie, especially if you can relate to any of the characters, if you can imagine yourself saying their words, if you have ever wondered about the same things. I like how the film was able to tackle the issue–breaking up and letting go–in a manner that does not fully focus on the couple involved. There are other factors, too, like the family and friends, new acquaintances, works. The movie is based on reality and has a direct way of showcasing this.

Why I Liked Him in the Movie:

John Lloyd Cruz as Popoy (kamilluh.tumblr.com)

One More Chance is, I feel, the film that had extracted so much from John Lloyd. He had a very different character in the movie, surprisingly mature, and beautifully positioned. He was able to manifest both pain and joy, to show how he could cope with any situation in any role. I guess it worked even better because he was with Bea Alonzo, with whom he had worked numerous times before. All in all, John Lloyd had even more depth in this movie.

John Lloyd Cruz is has a style that almost always surprises the viewers. He doesn’t need to portray simple boy-next-door characters to appear appealing. What makes him more noticeable then is his acting’s depth, the way he seems to emanate real emotions, with lines and words that have no doubt came from the heart.

My Life Destinations

If you ask me right now what I really dream of, I would tell you it is to travel. I want to go elsewhere, see different places, be with different people. I want to be able to take long walks in a different set of streets, be greeted by people who spoke a different language, shop using a different currency.

I want to be able to know I don’t belong there and marvel at that fact. To hear their stories and compare it with mine. To look at them live a life that’s probably contrary to how I do.

And if I would be able to do that, I have four important destinations:


Singapore (topnews.in)

Singapore at Night (finmath.uchicago.edu)

A Southeast Asian nation that is now known for its prosperity. Many people say that the best thing about Singapore is the place’s cleanliness and discipline, as if being chaotic would disrupt the forces of nature that makes the country happy and wealthy. I would want to experience Singapore because of that promising silence. I would hardly care where I go, which tourist spots I could visit, or where to shop for good stuffs. More likely, I would stroll endlessly through the streets, marvel at the peace of the country and smile at the pleasant natives.


Pyramids at Egypt (jaunted.com)

This is a nation known for its history. I’m not in anyway very historically-inclined but I must say it’s highly interesting to get near objects, materials, and places that signified most of the early civilizations. I like how visiting and touring around the country makes you half in Africa and half in Asia. I’m looking forward to seeing the Sinai and the Nile and of course the pyramids. And I do think it’s going to be a fun tour especially since I love how Arabs sound when they speak.


Iran (icis.com)

No, I don’t have a death wish. I’m simply curious as to how a war-stricken country would feel to a non-resident like me. I remember one of my aunts before who worked in Dubai and was forbidden to cross Iran on her way back to the Philippines. I remember being interested as to what would have happened if I went there. Because Iran had more to its existence than memories of the war. It has one of the best forms of art and entertainment. Since Iran is also one of the first civilizations, touring around the place would also be very interesting.


The Eiffel Tower in Paris (depts.washington.edu)

Who wouldn’t dream of being in Paris? Well, I maybe cliché and predictable in this one but yes. Take me to Paris today and then I’d let you kill me tomorrow. I would sit in a place where I can see the Eiffel Tower in its wholeness. I would bathe in the sunlight that passes through it and in the light that would come from it at night. I would stare at the Eiffel and tell myself over and over how good a decision it was to come to Paris. This is the only European city I would totally, totally love to tour. Of course I would visit and wonder at all them architectural heaven.

These destinations are still way too far from me, both literally and figuratively. But I know I can make things happen if I dream well enough. And if I work on this dream.

Who knows, maybe before I turn 30, I’d get all those miles intact, right?

This is Not About a Love Story

(500) Days of Summer is not a love story, as the narrator says in his introductory speech. Yes, I do agree. The movie is not about a love story. But it is a story about love. It is a many splendid narration of thoughts and realizations people inevitably have when they fall in love and when they fall because of love.

(500) Days of Summer (rottentomatoes.com)

The film is about Tom Hansen, with his strong belief in the love that would lead him to the one, and Summer Finn, with her non-belief in the love that hurts people from expectations of what should be. They met when Summer got a job as an assistant to Tom’s boss at a greeting card company, where he worked as a writer. Tom was instantly taken in with Summer but it’s still a while before she became friendly with him. Following their not-so-usual get together and a few more conversations, Tom and Summer started going out.

Or at least, that’s literally what they did–go out with each other. They were a couple, judging from a distance. But they weren’t, if you pried close enough. Summer was explicit and honest about the fact that she doesn’t want to be with anyone or be anybody’s someone. This led to Tom being alternately receptive of the idea that they were together even without assurance and demanding that they sort-of straighten things out.

The story revolved around the perpetual tug-of-war between Tom and Summer, the development of each lead’s character, and the expressive conflict of loving without being loved back. It ends with the difficult feat of letting go and the rewarding phase of moving on.


Any resemblance to people living or dead is purely coincidental. Especially you, Jenny Beckman. Bitch.

Unconventional. This is what (500) Days . . . is all about. From its title, to the story, to the characters. Everything is simply out of the normal.

I like how the story was told in a nonlinear way, with simple transition frames of which of the 500 days that Tom and Summer were together a particular incident happened. This resulted in a complex narration that started with the break-up phase and then jumped into the first-meeting scene. It continued this way until the end, when Tom had finally finished relieving the 500 days he had Summer in his mind and heart.

The characterization of the leads also didn’t lean away from the movie’s theme. A greeting card writer for a male lead and someone independent and strong-charactered for a female lead, it’s a combination you can see even as you walk through the streets. And yet it’s rare, as in the possibility that there’s actually an entire real-people-filled company behind those cheesy greeting cards you buy from a bookstore.

(500) Days . . . has a story that is very tangible, one that can be easily understood and related to, and has an ultimate touch of reality in it.


Another factor that is very likeable in the movie is the narration, featuring the voice of Richard McGonagle. It was delivered with an excellent choice of words and a witty tone. The opening narration, A Story of Boy Meets Girl, was artfully worded to set the overall mood of the movie. It was both a disclaimer and an introduction that will make you both guarded and intrigued in how you watch the film.

Cinematography, Sequences, Framing

If we haven’t established the film’s unconventional nature at the beginning, then definitely we would by the time we’re through with the introductory frames. One part I’ve really enjoyed in the entire film are the contradictory, two-frame scenes. At the start of the movie, the bi-frames (I wish I’m not inventing this term, but I do think I am. Sorry.) are used to show the difference of Tom and Summer’s upbringing. It sets the understanding that these two are totally unrelated and possibly uncompromising individuals.

Expectations vs Reality (500daysofsummer.tumblr.com)

In the almost-latter part, bi-frames are also used in highlighting the difference between Tom’s expectations and the reality that he’s experiencing as he was on his way to Summer’s party. It’s a witty and fresh take on contradiction, which is very abundant in the entire film.

Finally, I like the architecture-content that’s included in the film. I appreciate the showcasing of the settings and the artistic challenges provided by and for Tom.


The actors are a perfect choice for the film. There weren’t a lot of notable names, which added emphasis to the freshness and newness of the film. The acting also wasn’t very cliché, they were honest and raw with a remarkable touch of reality.

Zooey Deschanel (left) and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (right) (rottentomatoes.com)

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a lovable character as Tom Hansen. He’s solemn and serious with an unmissed humor. I loved how he acted being all-over Summer, his insecurities, his expressive face made more eloquent by a beautiful pair of eyes, and his cutesy antics. It’s very rare to find an actor who can sing and dance and be tough and be sad all at the same time. Levitt is one, so I daresay he’s a rare and an amazing find.

Zooey Deschanel, who happens to be a spitting image of Katy Perry, is also a gem in this movie. She’s as raw as Summer’s philosophies and alarmingly cool. I like how clearly she delivers her lines, with monotones and intonations that would really drive her listeners insane. I also appreciate how she portrays the guarded Summer that’s in the story, her blank expressions and hard-to-touch personality very visible.

Zooey Deschanel (top frame) and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (bottom frame) (500daysofsummer.tumblr.com)

The support cast, which consisted of Tom’s workmates and friends Mackenzie and Paul, his boss, his sister Rachel and Autumn (the girl he met after Summer), is also a good combination. They were all complementary, with a touch of wit and brutal truthfulness.

Musical Score

The movie’s rawness was highlighted all the more brightly by the songs used in it. I have a copy of the soundtrack, which was a mixture of country and techno and classics and new waves and everything else. There were old songs, new ones, and the fine line in between was erased by the fact that they were those you don’t normally hear around.

The elements present within the whole movie are not difficult to like, that’s certain. They are direct in nature, which makes the film easy to understand and to relate with. At the end of every movie, one would ask a lot of questions. What was really it about? Was it good? And sometimes: Did I learn something from it? These questions you may ask after watching (500) Days of Summer and you may or may not be able to answer them. However, one thing is sure: this is a story that would stick with you even after a long time.

Who is Salt?

Salt (rottentomatoes.com)

She was accused as a by-product of the KGB rebel Russian group by a Russian defector. She was someone cunning enough to land a position in the CIA and to supposedly assassinate the Russian president. She was a woman who’s so strong and smart she was able to be a two-faced agent and single-handedly ruined the rebel’s “mission”.

Evelyn Salt was one person you should never cross.

From director Phillip Noyce and writers Kurt Wimmer & Brian Helgeland, Salt is definitely a movie you would want to see. It is about Evelyn Salt and her intense one-man battle against two sets of adversaries–the CIA, which she works for, and the KGB, which she supposedly owes a mission. Day X, a Russian plot to destroy the United States by using English-speaking sleeper agents trained from birth, was soon to happen. And KA-12, the person who would kill Russian president Boris Matveyev when he attends the US vice president’s funeral, was set to operate.

The CIA had uncovered this threat through a defector, Vassily Orlov, and more. KA-12 was right inside the CIA building, hiding by the name Evelyn Salt. What followed was a myriad of chase scenes, Salt’s agent ability keeping her from capture and allowing her to carry on with her mission–locating and saving her husband Mike Krause, as well as dismantling the KGB.

Salt is a fast-paced movie, one that would keep you on your feet, and still make your brain work. It’s got the makings of every imaginable thriller film–authorities, rebels, deaths, and a real rapid plot.

The best point that can be made over Salt is that it’s a brave film. It explored rebellion and terrorism and international devastation in a way that wasn’t suggestive or in any way too intriguing. I particularly liked the science and intelligence behind Salt’s every action. There was some history and although I wasn’t sure if the story behind KA-12’s inception was near some amount of truth, I still appreciated its inclusion. I also liked how Evelyn Salt was characterized, by implication, as someone who has the ability to overcome almost-familial origin for her personal freedom. It was better than seeing her actually fulfilling what was initially set for her.

Evelyn Salt (rottentomatoes.com)

However, for further and deeper expectations of a smart plot, Salt actually falls short. Aside from running, gun-firing and fighting, Evelyn Salt isn’t doing anything else. There was a shallowness in the area of character development, like everything was already dug from within her and the least we could do was watch her work with those unearthed emotions.

Salt exhibited a rare set of actors for its cast, that much could be seen in the entire movie. There were no loud names save for its protagonist, the rest being somehow foreign in the field of a Hollywood thriller. I personally think it was a good decision, to let the story evolve around a select few, especially because the plot was already a handful to follow.

(L-R) Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Angelina Jolie (rottentomatoes.com)

On Angelina Jolie as Evelyn Salt, well, what could I say about another exemplary and stunt-filled Jolie-performance. I like how she sets a character as her own, making the audience forget her reality as a wife and mother. Although I think Jolie’s being already too typecast into roles in the same league as Lara Croft and Mrs. Smith, I still marvel over her ability to carry an entire film by herself. In totality though I feel as if her character in this movie is underrated, like you’d only enjoy if you don’t expect a lot from her.

Angelina Jolie as Evelyn Salt (rottentomatoes.com)

Though as an overall view you cannot say Salt was a good movie, you cannot also say it wasn’t. It’s got good and bad parts, weighing each other out and resulting to a mere balance.

The 50 Books Challenge

(Updated: January 24, 2010)

I solemnly swear to try my best to keep up with the 50 Books Challenge.

This is a sort of bookworm challenge that has gone around Tumblr at the start of the year. It’s rule is fairly straightforward: in the duration of year 2011, you’ve got to read at least 50 books–of any author, within any genre. I can’t remember if the challenger is supposed to blog about each book after having read it, but I guess if you read and blog then chances are you’re gonna blog after reading.

So yesterday, I had the urge to actually list the books I’ve had in mind to read within the year. It’s not a tough list, meaning not everything was New York Times Bestseller’s material or deep-thought-inducing types. It simply has books that I’ve heard from friends or read from the Internet or others by authors I’ve already read. I didn’t even make it in reading order, because of course I couldn’t be sure when within the year I’d get my hands on them.

The list goes like this:

Books in/per Series:

The Millenium Trilogy

1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

2. The Girl who Played with Fire

3. The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

The Uglies Series

4. Uglies*

5. Pretties*

6. Specials*

7. Extras*

The Chronicles of Narnia (I didn’t include all seven books, because honestly not everything in this series appeals to me.)

8. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

9. The Magician’s Nephew

10. The Last Battle

Books by Author:

John Grisham

11. The Appeal*

12. The Rainmaker*

13. The Summons*

14. The Pelican Brief*

15. The Runaway Jury*

16. The Street Lawyer*

Jodi Picoult

17. House Rules*

18. Keeping Faith*

Nicholas Sparks

19. The Wedding

20. Dear John*

Mitch Albom

21. Have a Little Faith*

22. For One More Day*

Paulo Coelho

23. By the River Piedra, I Sat Down and Wept*

24. Veronika Decides to Die


25. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

26. Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen

27. Emma, Jane Austen

28. Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger

29. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee*

30. Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll*

31. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

32. Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery*

33. The Secret Garden, Frances Burnett

34. The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery

35. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy*

Chick Lit:

36. Carrie Diaries, Candace Bushnell*

37. LA Candy, Lauren Conrad*

38. P.S. I Love You, Cecilia Ahern*


39. The Shining, Stephen King*

40. Let the Right One In, John Ajvide Lindqvist

41. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice*

And finally: Books That I Don’t Know How to Categorize But I’d Love to Read Nonetheless:

42. [The Death and Life of] Charlie St. Cloud, Ben Sherwood*

43. Atlantis Found, Clive Cussler*

44. Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro*

45. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold*

46. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, Kim Edwards*

47. What the Dog Saw, Malcom Gladwell

48. Stealing Heaven, Elizabeth Scott*

49. Digital Fortress, Dan Brown

50. SUPERFreakonomics, Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner*

Some of these books, as in those with asterisks (*), I already have either in true (paperback) form or as E-book material. Which means I can start anytime I want.

And, okay let’s be honest with this, the list is subject to change should I find difficulty in securing copies. So . . . ’til the next update/post/review on this challenge!

Wish me luck!

No Pun, There’s No Bun

Before 2010 ended, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) had launched a new addition to its chicken-based menu: the Double Down. When advertorials were made for it, the TVC went with a tagline of “No Bun, All Meat“. Creative, intriguing, exciting. If there was one thing that really made me want to try the Double Down, it was that TVC.

And so before 2010 ended, I got to order a Double Down meal complete with regular-sized Pepsi. True to the ad, it was “No Bun, All Meat”. Seriously, if you’ve got cholesterol problems then you better stick with the salads. Because when Double Down was served, it looked like this:

The KFC Double Down (anakbawang.com)

Instead of the usual bread, there were two slabs of chicken fillet where the buns should be. In between, where the patty should be were strips of bacon and a square strip of cheese. Grease and oil visibility? 100%!

What’s good about the Double Down is that it’s already a full meal on its own. In a manner that says you’d only pair it with rice if you’re really hungry. And I mean really hungry. It’s a good choice if you need lunch-on-the-go or if you are on an after-six diet–because well, if you have to go through more than 12 hours without eating then you better stock up good enough.

But what’s somehow disturbing is the taste. No, it doesn’t taste awful. It’s as good as any chicken KFC offers. But it’s superbly salty, from how much amount of salt or breading, I don’t know. But yes, eating an entire Double Down makes you want to be on a strict water diet after, if only to wash away all the salinity you consumed. Another thing scary about the Double Down is the amount of grease it has on it. And fats, man. FATS.

Suffice to say, the Double Down isn’t for those with a need for a healthy life. So it actually comes down not to who’s gonna eat it, but to who can. It’s your choice.

The KFC Double Down isn’t a bad offer. It’s new and definitely more delectable than what another fastfood had provided as a hamburger alternative many years ago (that which had rice instead of buns with the usual burger patty in the middle). But ordering, and of course eating, one has to be carefully thought over. After all, they say too much is always harmful.

No bun, all meat. You game?

Underneath the Stained Glass

I do admit I was not as keen to see The Last Song when it came out–purely out of a prejudiced attitude against Miley Cyrus. But I did see the movie, long after it was gone from the cinema lists. And as in any other film adapted from author Nicholas Sparks’ work, The Last Song was as easy and heartfelt.

The Last Song

The film is about Ronnie, a teenage delinquent and a product of divorced parents, and her animosity toward the father who she thought had left them for no good reason. The story was set on a summer, when Ronnie and her younger brother Jonah went to stay with their dad for the vacation. But the vacation had more to it than Ronnie expected. She got to meet Blaze, a teenager as disturbed as her, and Marcus’ gang of fire-players. She also got to meet and develop a relationship with Will, a member of one of the town’s wealthiest families. There were other new names, too, like Will’s ex-girlfriend Ashley and his parents as well as his best friend Scott.

Aside from these new people, Ronnie also had to put up with the rumor against her dad being the one who burned down the town church. But the ultimate conflict happened when Ronnie found out why her dad left them and why he wanted them with him for that summer–he was dying of stomach cancer.

The Last Song was one of those real-deal, ordinary life turned into something conflicting type of movies. On top of all the challenges the characters had to deal with, the story was simply about love and loss and how both happens in different types of relationships.

What I Liked

It’s hard not to visually and emotionally like a Nicholas Sparks-based film, honestly. Because the story is just a direct representation of what other people must be going through. I guess that’s one of the best things about these movies, you get to feel for the characters and you realize stuffs you sometimes just take for granted.

Another thing that I liked was how the scenes were taken. I love the quality of the settings that the movie had and how they were showcased, the camera panning, the long shots, and the bluntness with which everything was presented. All throughout the movie, I was reminded of A Walk to Remember, a story set in a very beautiful place. The Last Song isn’t any different from that. It was like photography turned into a movie.

I loved particular scenes, like the aquarium escapades where Ronnie and Will got to swim together with schools of fishes. Same goes for the beach scenes. I’m especially fond of beach scenes (like in My Sister’s Keeper), the contrast showed when a character was simply standing still while the water makes waves and the wind billows strongly around him or her.

The Last Song was also heavy on the tear-jerking moments, which I also like to some extent. Maybe because these moments weren’t the frantic, desperate wailing ones that other movies have. Maybe because there were only crying on appropriate times. In other parts of the film, there was only silence, like thoughts running too deep for words.

Lastly, I liked the musical score with its less-is-more quality. There were scenes that only caught the sounds of the wind, the seagulls, and the water. Of course, the movie was not named The Last Song for nothing. So naturally, the musical scoring was real good. To think that it made me like When I Look at You, which was the first Miley Cyrus song I ever liked.

What I Didn’t Like

I didn’t like . . . excluded scenes from the book from which the movie was adapted. That’s actually obvious, I think. It’s the most ordinary set of mistakes film adaptations make, so I guess there shouldn’t really be a big deal made out of it.

But I honestly think The Last Song was made a bit bland because of these exclusions. The reason that Ronnie’s parents separated, it’s an important part of her relationship with her dad and I don’t think not even mentioning it in the movie was somehow unfair. I also thought it could have been better if the movie let out the real story behind Will’s covering up for Scott’s crime. That way, the conflict would have been more solidified and easier to cope with.

There were also small-deal scenes–like Megan’s wedding and her entire character, Blaze’s part of the story, and Ronnie and Will ending up together again in New York–that I thought would have made the movie a whole lot better.

Because despite of everything else that was beautifully and very artfully done for the film, I would have to say the story has less in it if we don’t know it came from a novel.

The Main Cast

Miley Cyrus

Miley Cyrus as Ronnie Miller

She’s really distracting. And that’s not even a biased opinion, I swear. Miley Cyrus has all these reflexes–shoulder-hunching in a shrugging way, lip-pouting, mouth-hanging-open–that somehow distracts and disturbs viewers. But I must say, she’s an excellent enough choice for the same rough yet loving girl you would envision while reading Ronnie. Her voice, which wasn’t soft and clear like other female leads but raspy and breathy, is a perfect match for Ronnie’s character.

Liam Hemsworth

Liam Hemsworth as Will Blakelee

You know how big guys who are actually soft-natured can appeal in a lovable way? That’s Will Blakelee as shown by Liam Hemsworth. He doesn’t flaunt too much of looks, in fact he’s way dirtier than most people you’d see in movies. He had portrayed a deep character with a soft heart for fringes. Liam Hemsworth was a good choice, if only because his physique fit the hunching big figure of Will’s persona. More than that though, he had a great pair of eyes that were perfect for all those staring moments and secret-keeping.

Greg Kinnear (left) and Bobby Coleman (right)

Greg Kinnear as Steve Miller

A gentle father for a disturbed teenager and someone who happens to be battling with a deadly disease but still found time for his children, Greg Kinnear had a meaty character to play. I figured it would be a difficult feat for him, because in the book Steve Miller’s character was indeed struggling with a lot of inner conflict and secrets together with all the external problems of a divorced man. But Greg Kinnear delivered a totally frail performance being a simply silent father with only one “Dammit” outburst, which wasn’t even very highlighted. It seemed as if the greater conflict in the movie lied on Steve’s illness and that all the other issues just shied away from it.

The Supporting Cast

I have a bit of divided thoughts toward the movie’s supporting roles. I do agree with including Bobby Coleman as Jonah Miller, Ronnie’s younger brother, because he had managed a snappish yet smart attitude without being less of a kid. The same went with Hallock Beals as Scott, who was able to articulate his ego despite a smaller frame if compared with Liam Hemsworth’s Will Blakelee. I think it was also a good choice to have Beals play Scott because his physique both contradicted and accentuated the fact that he had something to hide but shouldn’t be blamed for it.


Bobby Coleman (left) and Miley Cyrus (right)

On the not-so-fit side, though, there was Carly Chaikin as Blaze or Galadriel and Nick Lashaway as Marcus. They were supposed to be the antagonists to Ronnie’s role. But Chaikin had less impact and definitely low amount of menace in her. She did fit the part of someone who went out with a real scary guy because she had an apprehensive pair of eyes and a frowning and quivering mouth to go with it. However, when it came to taunting Ronnie, she wasn’t physically appropriate .

Nick Lashaway (left), Carly Chaikin (middle), and Miley Cyrus (right)

Nick Lashaway, meanwhile, is too clean to be Marcus. He had a purportedly scary presence that was drowned in totality by his arrestingly calm features. I think it was somehow the reason that there weren’t real close-up shots of him and he’s made up with heavy facial hair.

On the over-all, The Last Song is a sort of in-between movie. It was the kind of film people would see if they want a feel-good type of storytelling and a learn-from-it effect afterwards. There has to be low expectations of climatic moments and action element in this movie, which ultimately means that the heart is what’s at work in it.

Photos from: Rotten Tomatoes