Sunday, November 24, 2013

This Christmas - Arnel Pineda's new Christmas Song for Typhoon Yolanda victims

The final cut of This Christmas.

As published in his official website:

Journey frontman Arnel Pineda performed an original composition for the survivors of super typhoon “Yolanda” on “It’s Showtime” Saturday.  The ballad, entitled “This Christmas,” invites everyone to extend a helping hand to the survivors of the calamity in Visayas during the Christmas season.
“Ang message ng kantang ito ay lahat tayo in our own little way, puwede tayong maging ‘Santa’ sa mga gusto nating tulungan at sa mga mahal natin sa buhay,” said Pineda. (The message of this song is that all of us, in our little own way, can be a ‘Santa’ to anybody we want to help, and to our loved ones)

Through all these years
Into crossfires and conflicts
Buried in your eyes
Are bloodstain of tears
You’ve trekked through a life
All homeless and loveless
Wounded and in near-death
I wonder if you’ll ever find
The healing comfort of His cradle
Can I be your Santa?
Can I be the gift?
Can I be your hero?
Can I be your freedom?
This Christmas
Painful tears and cold roads are fading
Enough of darkness, days ahead are brighter
Angels’ little hands are reaching to grace you
The kindness of Yul’tide from the heavens
So let me be your Santa
Let me be your gift
Let me be your hero
Let me be your freedom
This Christmas
I’ll never be our Savior in a manger
Instead a friend who will stand by your side
So let me be your Santa
Let me be your gift
Let me be your hero
Let me be your freedom
Let me be your sleigh ride
Let me be the love
let me be this hero
Who will set you free
This Christmas

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Everyman's Journey that Every Man Should See

So what do you do when you hear about the story of this bar singer in a Third World country who just got hired as frontman for an iconic band?  You'd probably think it's for the Ripley's or a twitter trend that would last only a day or two at most. But for a filmmaker like Ramona Diaz there lies a story worth putting into the big screen.  She knew the risks to take but as anyone with a passion for the things they do, she decided to go through along with her collaborators Capella Fahoome and Josh Green faster than anyone can say 'Don't Stop Believing.'  Arnel Pineda could have busted his vocal chords within a few gigs for Journey as their songs are NOT easy to sing and they could have ended up with a thirty minute feature film.  But such was their luck and Arnel's, that they were able to follow him for his first four years with the band, and went to capture him perform live before thousands of people in  places even Arnel has never even heard of, and capture they did not only his talent but his bravery and fortitude which was showcased in this almost two hour film.

Everyman's Journey is not quite your traditional rockumentary for me as some would call it in the sense that it is not about how a rock band is formed or a day or two in the life of a rock band, nor is it about how an album was produced as is much more often the case in some bands doing their own, such as U2's Rattle and Hum or the Beatles'  Let It Be.

It is a full-fledged documentary movie of how a man was plucked from a densely-populated Third World city halfway around the world to do an extraordinary job by an iconic rock band whose beginnings can be traced to about the time Arnel was old enough to do his first communion. That is a fascinating story to begin with.

Taking into consideration all the advantages that the new millenium had to offer by way of the internet, Ramona knew this was where she would begin. After all that's how Arnel's Journey story began.

The film starts off with a scene from a homecoming, that of Arnel visiting the school that first taught him his ABCs. It was interesting how Ramona used this to start the movie.  It easily portrayed the laid back nature of Arnel in contrast to the wide eyed, bewildered  teacher who's probably never had time to go through the internet and knew what was going on (remember this was filmed 4 or five years ago before apps and wi-fi became household words ) and thus seemed lost at what Arnel was talking about being in a band called 'Journey'.  The latter sets the humor element of the film that was evident in a number of scenes.  If you are looking for a dark and edgy documentary, this may not be the one for you. But Arnel's character and how he dealt with his life that has gone upside down as he calls it and how he was in control of everything perhaps unknowingly, are what make this film unique.

Arnel  was pretty consistent in the film. Laid back and in total control of what he was facing.  Even after an adrenaline high after a performance, Arnel knows when to taper down his emotions.  It was all work for him as he says.  And that leads me to say this is a non-traditional documentary of a rock star, sans the noise and the extravagance often depicted in them.

You can also give it to Arnel's magnetic presence even on the screen and off stage that despite being surrounded by the people who have already made names to themselves and became legends in their field, that when Arnel shows up on screen you just gobble up every second and only see him stand out regardless of who he was with.   Now I understand what Ramona meant when she said in one interview that the camera loves him. I think it's like when a camera has a face detector feature, it almost always focuses on Arnel's first.

Throughout the film and during his downtime moments, Arnel is often seen as a softspoken guy and understandably especially before and between gigs to preserve his voice.  But he also seems to be always in a pensive mood and taking everything in.  One instance of note was when Neal showed some sign of concern when Arnel said he has a cold. And then John Barruck comes and joins the conversation and he talks about tickets being sold out.  Neal teases him "Pressure" when he saw a rather glum faced Arnel and to which the latter said "I am just shutting myself up."   And I wonder. Where does he get that sense of tranquility with the kind of situation he is in?  The answer was not direct but perhaps can be deducted from how he narrates about his humble beginnings and a series of unfortunate events that moulded his character to someday fit into some big shoes. He was pretty good at being articulate and inanimate in expressing himself and giving you that in the moment feeling like when he talked of his first gig in Chile. How I wish Ramona and company were around to capture his first time by themselves for it was the turning point in his being a band member, that of Arnel being thrown into the lion's den not only surviving but in a way taming the discriminating audience of 18,000, excluding the millions who watched on tv.

One element that particularly stands out for me in the film is the irony.  Instead of being seen gulping bottles of wine after another as most celebrities and rock stars
are often seen,  Arnel instead pours out hot water from the jug to his cup to drink some tea.  Just like grandma. Instead of partying after gigs, he goes back to his 'hole' taking as much rest as he can and reflecting on what has been happening to him since he got the new job.   There were no blue m&m's to be picked out or demanded, nor expensive branded mineral water or milk to bathe on. He was just your regular guy.  Instead of indulging in interesting substances, we see him with an oxygen mask with steam coming out to lubricate those golden chords.

And this irony is what makes this movie more interesting.  Ramona captures his daily routine and despite being a newcomer to facing the camera , Arnel hardly showed any sign of self-consciousness. He was a natural.  One can't help but think of the kind of rapport that developed between the director and the subject,  that she made him comfortable in his own skin, and quite literally to an extent. His 'spiels' flowed smoothly.

Indeed this film not only serves as an inspiration. It also serves as a good study for people who encounter  sudden fame and can serve as a crash course on how to maintain one's sanity while playing for your favorite rock band.

Aptly titled Don't Stop Believing,  here is a story of a city boy who took  that midnight train on a journey going anywhere.  Quite an analogy for the big gamble that Arnel took. He held on to that dream , he held on to that feeling - the sight of bright lights, of people everywhere watching , when the bright  lights he used to see where the ones that lit up the park he once slept in and surrounded by other homeless people.

One can only do so much in what is meant to be an as-is-where-is movie, as Ramona explains in an interview. Thus, she probably saw the need to add extras which is not a bad thing. My only take with them is that some scenes  would actually make a good fit into the movie itself.   The wardrobe scenes for example (the Smurf comment was funny) and I would have exchanged  those with scenes of stage preparation as extras.   I would have also added a couple of stills on the back cover taken from the movie and not just from the concert so as not to mistake this as a concert dvd.

Having said all of that, one is left curious of the other details of Arnel's life story. What was shown on the film was his life on the road  as a newbie.  But this is  a Cinderella story and every fairy tale starts off with 'Once upon a time' which was only partly narrated.   There is a back story waiting to be told.

4.5 stars

Friday, March 1, 2013

Yipee-Kai-Yey Mother F' ! John McCLane is back!

If you know where that famous expression came from then you must be at least 30 years old.
Yes, Bruce Willis is back as John McClane in "A Good Day to Die Hard",  the 5th installment of that blockbuster testosterone movie "Die Hard" the movie that

catapulted him to superstardom  just as what the movie Rambo did to Sylvester Stallone or Conan to Arnold Schwarzenagger, who incidentally were the other famous action heroes from that era.

This latest installment offers just as much action and suspense as the first and the next three ones. The only other difference is that much of the action was seen on the road  and therefore with more widespread destruction than when it was confined to the  Japanese-owned Nakatomi building in downtown L.A.

Just like the original movie,  the bad guys again happen to be from the Eastern bloc. Only this time, the setting was, surprise, surprise... in the Eastern bloc. The objects of contention are no longer just mere millions of dollars. Has opening vaults and stealing money become passe or did the terrorists have really gone more sophisticated in operation or upgraded their game?  Or have they realized that the dollar is not as much worth as it was three decades ago?  The object of affection this time are nukes, which are just about the only other things that are more precious than diamond these days,  hidden in a forbidden, God-forsaken part of Russia.

Now what would a John McClane adventure be like without an interesting side kick? Lest this review be a spoiler, let me just say that in this movie there is yet another sidekick. But that is the twist that is revealed quite early on in the  movie and necessarily so. 

The only other character I missed in this sequel was a bad guy who could share the limelight as the never-say-never, derring-do New York cop who always seem to be hit with bad luck every time he hangs up his uniform.   I mean this one helluva character.  

Yes Alan Rickman as the Armani suit wearing leader of the terrorist gang that spoiled an office Christmas party as well as McClane's vacation.  Being a good actor himself, Rickman's compelling screen presence almost stole McClane's thunder, just as much as he did as the dark cloaked sinister looking  Professor Snape in the Harry Potter movie series.

There was a part in the movie where one of the bad guys said something like "It's no longer 1988 McClane!" and immediately I chuckled as I realize what he was referring to.  On my way out after the movie, I even had a bigger laugh. I told hubby to look around and see that half of the audience who watched were not even born when McClane's action-laden misadventures hit the big screen and became one of the top selling movies of all time.  Now if only what John went through in this movie as in his previous ones can really happen in real life.  Like how he survived a car crash three times in two days. Or say jumping through the glass walls of a building, or throwing yourself inside a fiberglass chute  and escape the bullets from machine guns.  But then again it's these movies that I enjoy because the heroes they play don't just die or are just plain lucky so they can go on and kill the bad guys or at least outlive them. 

So keep those adventures, rather misadventures coming John.  And on your next 'vacation'  perhaps try the Philippines.  Bourne has finally found us and thought it fit for car chases, death-defying stunts and exploding cars even in the narrowest streets of this densely populated metropolis.  We love action movies here big time. 

And here's hoping there will be another one while Bruce can still stand up and walk straight.  Lastly, let me just say this about the movie:   "Yippie-kai-yey mother eff", welcome back John McClane!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Of Superbowl, Olympics and Organic entertainment

Where else would be the best venues to showcase the latest innovations in technology for use in entertainment than in the Olympics and the Superbowl.

Every four years, the opening as well as the closing of the Olympics have been more of the highlights of the Games,  sharing equal media exposure and worldwide anticipation just as the counting of which athlete or country gets the most medals, which athletes would break world records or be caught using PEDs or how the latest political issues would affect membership and participation.

The same can be said of the Superbowl which is held every year.  Of late however, it seems it has grown notoriety not just for the spectacle and production numbers, but likewise of slips and PG-rated moves of which the lady performers have been consistently gotten involved in. From Janet Jackson, to Madonna and the latest of which, Beyonce.  Just makes me wonder if those erratic female moves have added value and made the cost of Superbowl commercial slots run into the six to seven figures.

BEY SB 2013 by caseycarlsonx1

One of my favorites to date, of those that I have watched on youtube and other sites, is that of Prince.
His five foot one figure may have been dwarfed by the giant stage but definitely not his presence and music.

Of course, my hands down choice would still be my favorite Irish boys.

U2's and Prince's Superbowl appearances are living proof that the best entertainment still can emanate solely from human presence through their voice and musicality. Else why the need for the artists'  presence when they can be magnified, reproduced and enhanced on state of the art monitors and speakers.

Their sole command of the stage and raw talent  is plain 100% natural and organic entertainment.  Sharing equal, if not more of the limelight than pyrotechnics, computers and laser lights which are relegated to the background as they should,  and not overshadowed by them.  Just the basics.  Like how, as soon as Bono delivered the first line to "Beautiful Day", goosebumps immediately fill my skin from head to toe. Pure delight even with my eyes closed.  No  need for laser lights and 3D technology. No booty shaking, no nip slips, no simulated touching. Just pure musical orgasm.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Arnel Pineda sings duet with David Pomeranz

Arnel Pineda with David Pomeranz on Kristv.

Highlights: Arnel singing a snippet of "Kailangan Ko'y Ikaw",  his goosebumps performance of "You're My Inspiration" and last but not the least his duet with David Pomeranz. They sang Pomeranz' classic composition "Old Songs"