Thursday, September 6, 2012

The ABS-CBN Philharmonic Scores, Manila Enjoys a Potter Riot

Last Sunday, I went to see the ABS CBN Philharmonic play to a full house.  It was their first major concert and according to conductor and musical director Gerard Salonga, it was the first time he saw all the seats filled up for the orchestra’s performance—not to mention these were bought tickets and not freebies.

The Meralco Theater brimmed with people of all ages who attended a concert designed around the musical scores of the legendary composer John Williams. Williams wrote the music for the Star Wars films, the Harry Potter films, the Indiana Jones films, Superman, Jaws, Schindler’s List, Jurassic Park, E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind—to name but a few.

Gerard is the only conductor I’ve seen who addressed the audience throughout the show:  introducing the pieces played, telling a story or two and offering a little bit of trivia behind the music. At one point, he turned around to reveal the classic blue shirt with the Superman logo on it under his conductor’s jacket. He was obviously having fun.

I’m not an expert on concertos and orchestras (I do believe there is protocol both for the performers and the audience), while I can’t give  proper notes on how the 40-piece ensemble worked together or how the kettledrums sounded, to me, they were great and polished.

They did justice to the cinematic music which took many in the audience back to their childhoods (no matter how distant or recent). The show ended with a second encore--the closing credits from Star Wars, at which point, over a dozen members of the Philippines Outpost of 501st Legion of Stormtroopers (these folks are recognized by George Lucas himself) joined the orchestra on stage. Darth Vader, C3P0, Boba Fett, Stormtroopers and some of the gang from that galaxy far, far away.

Superman (aka Gerard Sison) was also on hand for photographs before the show. If anyone from the ABS-CBN Philharmonic reads this, can you do another one, with the music of Hans Zimmer? We’ll provide the pirates.

Harry Potter didn’t just have a moment at this concert though; he had a bunch of moments last week as “Potted Potter” played 10 nights here. The show is currently touring the region--apart from Manila, they go on in Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand.

Potted Potter was a quite a little riot for a show with but two cast members, a humble set and a quick running time. Potted Potter fits all seven books in 70 minutes. The lads, Jesse and Gary, were marvelous comedians and it’s great how they fixed parts of the script especially for the local audience—they asked for a “walis ting ting” for playing Quidditch, Harry Potter sulks in his room to listen to the “Eraserheads” and the backdrop of for the scary forest looked more like “Boracay.”

Next week, I’m looking forward to catching the Metro Manila release of Cinemalaya’s “Ang Nawawala” directed by Marie Jamora and starring my coloring book partner, Annicka Dolonius.

Photo by Niki Yarte

The ABS-CBN Philharmonic performed the music of John Williams September 2nd. Potted Potter ran from August 28 to September 2. Ang Nawawala opens in cinemas in the city September 12th.


Every now and then I find myself in the mood to grab a beer, scratch my stomach and watch one of these indie caper films where some really cool and funny dudes get themselves into a lot of trouble, often involving gangsters: Ghost Dog by Jim Jarmusch, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels by Guy Ritchie, In Bruges by Martin McDonagh. I felt it was good time to revisit a cult favorite: THE BOONDOCK SAINTS.

Right off the bat I have to say, this flick is my favorite from the vigilante genre. Irish-American brothers, Connor and Murphy McManus are the epitome of the vigilantes boys and girls next door want to be. They smoke, they drink and armed with the signature Irish wit and charm, they don’t over rationalize what it is they do and always seem to be having a good time doing it. That philosophy holds true for the rest of the movie as well. Actors Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus are more than believable as the chummy brothers who are never at a loss for shenanigans.

However, it is Willem Dafoe’s character, homosexual FBI detective Paul Smecker that steals the show. Smecker is tasked with catching the vigilantes, dubbed by the media as ‘The Saints’.  Breaking down murder scenarios in his own unique style, which is part Sherlock Holmes and part CSI with opera music playing on the headphones of his Discman CD player (they made the movie in 1999). In these scenes, Dafoe’s choreography alone is worth the price of admission. Trying out new  wardrobe at the film’s climax, and his bed scene with another man is just gravy and dessert, you choose in what order to take them.

Rounding out the main cast is Scottish actor Billy Connolly, who plays “Il Duce,” a hitman hired by the mob with a surprise connection to ‘The Saints’.  On a totally unrelated point (and maybe because I’m a Razorback fan) Billy Connolly kept bringing up images of Razorback guitarist Tirso Ripoll.

Not wanting to turn anybody off from a movie I deem should be on everyone’s “Must Watch” List, there is an actor named Bob Marley in Boondock Saints and it’s sequel, All Saint’s Day. But it is Bob Marley a Caucasian actor, not Bob Marley the reggae icon.

Some may also get a kick from seeing porn legend Ron “The Hedgehog” Jeremy as gangster Vincenzo Lapazzi.

Great soundtrack too—though one wasn’t made for the film. A sequel was made in 2009, I think we’re all good and ready for the next.

 Billy Connoly aka "Il Duce" reminds me of Tirso Ripoll of Razorback.

Mark Your Calendars, The Walking Dead is Coming Back

Criminals are everywhere these days—does a week ever go by without someone we know telling us they were held up, threatened and / or robbed while trying to eat or get a ride home? It’s scary out there and it doesn’t help walking around with the feeling that not enough is being done to address the alarming situation. More and more people seem to think it is perfectly OK and all in a days work to hurt, attack, threaten and in some cases even end the lives of their fellowmen in exchange for their gadgets. What have we done to ourselves?

No wonder we love zombies—they make us shift our priorities a little. Criminals in a world where it seems police (who may be crooked themselves) have to struggle to take them down make us all feel so helpless. Bring out the zombies and suddenly, we feel empowered—suddenly having the license to take out that ax, saw, shotgun, bolo.

In less than 10 weeks, one of the world’s favorite TV shows, “The Walking Dead” will begin its third season. According to Fox International Channels
The show “will begin its international rollout on Monday October 15” (within a few hours of its October 14 debut on AMC in the US). The Philippines is one of the 122 countries in the international rollout, providing what I imagine to be a decent chunk of the show’s 200 million international viewers.

It was all madness and chaos when we left our bedraggled and besieged bunch of survivors. They are back on the run with Andrea lost and on her own in the melee that wrapped up season 2. Of course the set up is all ready for two new important characters—sword-wielding warrior Michonne (Danai Gurira) with her two zombie “pets” and the mysterious and menacing “Governor” played by British actor David Morrissey (who I remember best from an episode of Dr. Who, “The Next Doctor.”)

For those who have seen the season three trailer, you all know about the return of Merle—Daryl Dixon’s brother. Just when our favorite redneck Daryl was beginning to resolve all his sibling issues. How Merle got out of that shackled situation in season one, maybe we’ll find out. Oh Daryl, I wish I could have your back on this one.

The fear of zombies is apparently something we can face. As a dear friend of mine would tell her children: “Huwag na kayo matakot sa multo’t aswang, sa tao kayo matakot.” (Don’t be afraid of monsters, be afraid of people.)

In the meantime, we’ve seriously got to figure out a solution to the meanness in our streets.

Photo by Karen Kunawicz, San Diego Comic Con 2012