Monday, April 30, 2012

Paul Singh Cudail's Maligalig - Redundant and Stupefying

Ricardo (Ross Uy) is a punctilious son who dutifully helps out with his impoverished family’s needs. But the town of Alitagtag isn’t a solicitous environment for a young strapping lad like this baby faced protagonist. His lazy, unemployed father is a vicious gambler who wagers on money he doesn’t have. With debts piling up, Ricardo’s father is soon dodging equally miscreant collectors and the people he owe money to. One day, during an altercation with his wife (she refuses to hand him her savings allotted for paying bills), he accidentally stabs her dead. He makes a run from the crime scene. Ricardo comes home and finds his mother (Beth Coronel) slain. While attempting to remove the knife from his mother’s chest, a neighbor enters the scene screaming, “Bakit mo pinatay ang nanay mo?” This time, it was Ricardo’s turn for a hasty skedaddle. Meanwhile, the runaway father gets runover by a speeding truck. And there goes the solitary witness of Ricardo’s innocence.
As an acute stress response, Ricardo’s psyche is shaken. The dazed romeo aimlessly scampers off like a sprint prince until he reaches Manila! If you were to consider Alitagtag’s distance from the fringes of Manila, you have before you a hefty 79.6 kilometers (almost 50 miles). Quite a feat, if you ask me. Was he gunning for a world record? I wonder. Because he apparently finished this admirable feat within 24 hours. Heck, it wasn’t even sundown yet when Dondie (Dustin Jose) finds Ricardo’s body spread unconsciously down the ground. Why would he consciously help the poor soul? Maybe it’s because this unfortunate lad has flawless Olay-cured skin? Who knows, right?

 Dondie meanwhile runs a losing travel agency (well, he never shows up for work, that should be a hint). His wife recently abandoned him. He is left with his teenage son Junjun who’s baffled by his parent’s separation. It would soon come to light. Dondie has acquired the habit of enjoying his occasional bootie calls. He would invite a guy over (Jake Galleon) for the requisite lay in the hay. When Dondie, finds Ricardo, he takes the latter home to the consternation of his effete yaya (Rick Rick Sabik). When Junjun runs away from home, Dondie diligently occupies himself with his “maligalig” (burdensome) guest, now exhibiting a blunt affect. He conveniently forgets altogether that his son is nowhere. He even calls a doctor (Kim Allen) for consultation when common sense would have you search for the missing child first. Quite inspiring turn of events, right?
Ricardo is all sweaty from his solitary marathon, thus he needs his bath - stat! Out of Dondie’s kind heart, he personally attends to Ricardo’s bath, laboriously taking off his briefs and making “piga” his briefs, carefully soaping every inch of the catatonic guy’s body where it’s needed. You see, it’s imperative that his guests be very clean, right? It’s a requisite more important than finding his son!
Would Dondie be able to help the disturbed Ricardo?  
(Dustin Jose) finds Ricardo’s body spread unconsciously down the ground. Why would he consciously help the poor soul? Maybe it’s because this unfortunate lad has flawless Olay-cured skin? Who knows, right?

The crux of the narrative centers on the events surrounding the death of Ricardo Silang’s mother. Thus newcomer Ross Uy immerses himself in alternating moments of catatonia, excessive grief, and short spouts of lucidity. Unfortunately, thought Ross Uy isn’t exactly as hammy as – say Jeff Luna or Anton Molina – his scenes tend to dictate a one-note emotive modality. And after a while, this gets tedious and irritating, you’d wish he would just jump off the bridge to get it over and done with! Why? Because his supposed “Post Traumatic Stress” has evolved into anything relatable to the psychiatric pathology. He soon acquires visual hallucinations of his spine-tingling mother turning up to give him ripe mangoes.
Where have you heard of mangoes as a point of horrific contention? Mangoes and ghosts forthwith come together like hands in glove. Damn! Only in the Philippines! I swear I will never look at mangoes the same way ever again.
Dustin Jose’s character is likewise bewildering. He opens the scene with a bath; something that he has done a hundred times before in more than a dozen films. It’s his de rigueur scene. I have come to an easy conclusion that Mr. Jose has to be one of the cleanest guys in the firmament of Pink flicks! In fact, we should test his bacteriological component and experiment on the different types of bactericidal soups while he’s at it. Might as well make his predilection to bathing relatively commodious, debah? He also succeeds in canoodling with Ricardo's joysticks all in the name of concern for humanity, of course! He finds a catatonic guy and even calls for a doctor to treat him -  then he imposes his err "hard" love on him. How very politically appropriate indeed. :)

Director Paul Singh Cudail is eternally lost in his narrative balderdash. This is evident in a series of scenes as redundant as his movies. Ricardo would wake up beside a sleeping Dondie, seemingly lucid. Then he would run away – once again, aimlessly. Then he finally turns up once again in Dondie’s place. If you count these scenes, you would somehow feel a sense of déjà vu because this keeps repeating ad nauseam. Somehow, Cudail needs to bump something against the wall (try the head?) so he could probably shake the tedium of his worn stories and narrative dilemmas. Instead of fixating on Ross Uy’s full frontal scenes (yes, there are several do-not-blink-or- you –will-miss-the-mushroom-head scenes), he should concentrate on the story at hand instead of obsessing on 2-inch wieners of good looking actor-wannabe’s. It’s really sad how this industry has turned into the perverted hobby of a few brainless schmucks who can’t even discern “narrative preponderance” of stories they themselves conjure: like prioritizing the mental health of a catatonic gentleman over a lost son!
But then such is the conceit of cheap exploitative flicks like this. You don’t require logic served on genitalia-hungry Pink lovers, right? It’s the penis that matters. Nothing else!

Dustin Jose as Dondie and Ross Uy as Ricardo.

Dondie and Ricardo

Dustin Jose and Jake Galleon

Dustin Jose and his predilection for bathing. After posing and sitting on a rock, he would need to soap away the grime on his backside, wouldn't he? :)

Baby faced Ross Uy does a 79.6 kilometer sprint from Batangas to Manila.

Ross Uy

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Cabin in the Woods - Revisionist Slasher

Life is a reality TV show. Or is it?

Five friends travel to a remote cabin in the woods for some fun and relaxation. There's Dana (Kristen Connolly), the virgin; Curt (Chris Helmsworth), the jock, and his frisky cheerleader girlfriend Jules (Anna Hutchison); Holden (Jesse Williams), the brains; and Marty (Fran Kranz), the stoner. As they get closer to their destination - a cabin owned by Curt's cousin - they encounter an eccentric gas man who warns them that it's an easier predicament to get there than getting out. When they eventually find the ramshackle cabin, they find odd stuff and the diary of a young disturbed girl who wrote about gore, pain and blood curdling acts that they eventually brush off. Unknown to them, in a seemingly surrogate world, a team of workers in white lab gowns celebrate the beginning of a "project". In fact, they toast and make merry. On their screens are images that bear semblance to the five young people who have chosen their fate. The people in white robes clap. Things unravel as planned. Meanwhile, in Dana and her friends' world, little did they realize that the undead have risen from the grave and are heading their way. Will our five protagonists survive or perish?

In what could be one of modern cinema's most brilliant parodies of the horror genre and a resplendent tweaking of Wes Craven's textbook criteria of a slasher flick, Drew Goddard's "The Cabin in the Woods" takes the genre to greater heights, then swerve the narrative into detours so unpredictable, the viewers are left with gaping mouths and stoked senses.


When Marty finds a hidden camera while trying to evade from the clutches of death, he briskly concludes that they have become unwilling participants of a reality television show. But nothing could be farther from the truth. They have, in fact become pawns in a life-and-death scenario that shall purportedly save the Earth from total annihilation; i.e. forces beyond humanity's capabilities. They have become convenient sacrifices. And every monster that surrounds the psyche of every culture are caged in special cages: the ferocious beasts, zombies, vampires and wolves, goblins, savage clowns, babydoll faces, Hell Lord (from "Hell Raiser"), flesh-eating dinosaurs, "angry molesting tree" (from "The Evil Dead"), even those ashen-faced Japanese white ladies (from Nakata's "The Ring"). Monsters from the imagination of H.P. Lovecraft have supposedly been referenced as well. Each of them is released to wreck havoc and impart suffering to a chosen slice of humanity. And everything that enraptures human suffering is caused by the collusion of a few individuals who help the aforementioned individuals "choose" how they die. Like the spraying of a pheromone to hasten a scene between the hot blond cheerleader and her beau. After all, what's a slasher flick without "boobies", right?

The film also suggests that there are ways of circumventing these extirpating forces as demonstrated in scenes involving the Japanese school children fervently chanting their incantations to a Sadako-type ghoul as it floats on mid-air. There are, after all, ways of conquering the seeming unconquerable. However, Dana and her friends unwittingly find the portal that directly lead them to the "manipulators" and the cells that contain humanity's "monsters".

Joss Whedon (director of "The Avengers", "Thor", "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", "Serenity") co-wrote a winking script with first time director Drew Goddard (he wrote "Cloverfield").

The conceit of having a group of sentient people who can manipulate situations so as to exact murder and mayhem, if a tad familiar, reminds one of the all-seeing voyeuristic crowd in "Hunger Games". When the surviving protagonists eventually escape the woods and find themselves in special cages (where they also meet Sigourney Weaver), we were stumped with exquisite surprise, albeit bewilderment! Nothing about the movie is what it seems. That's all for the better!

Do not miss!

"Am I in a relaity TV?" asks Marty.

Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and company head the team of manipulators.

Kristen Connolly as Dana

Chris Helmsworth as Curt

Chris Hemsworth

Jesse Williams as Holden

Anna Hutchison

Anna Hutchison as Jules

Fran Kranz as Marty

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Moron 5 and the Crying Lady - Apropos Titling & Boy Abunda' s Skewed Thoughts

As children, Albert, Isaac, Aris, Michael Angelo and Mozart (Luis Manzano, Billy Crawford, Marvin Agustin, Martin Escudero and DJ Durano respectively) have breezed through grade school with copious difficulty for them to finish the whole term in 8, instead of 6 years. Acquiring the scholastic competence of 8 year olds, the quintet becomes close friends, growing together and bungling things in wild abandon. But instead of suffering from their stolidity, they instead wreck havoc on others: their teachers, classmates, principal, and an effete classmate who’s infatuated with Albert. In fact, this gay classmate almost got blind.

A decade later, our protagonists have grown up still hurdling their final year of high school. One day, they crashed the wedding ceremonies of Becky Pamintuan (John Lapus) and in one inadvertent sweep, they’ve outed the transsexual bride to her unassuming Japanese lover Hiroshi. The groom dies on the spot. Hence, derided Becky plots her condign retribution. Hell hath no fury like a gay man scorned! Becky then sets the quintet up for the murder of her father (a sloppily organized crime scene) that eventually threw the guys in prison. How will our quintet extricate themselves from this predicament? Will they ever find justice – when even their folks want them incarcerated? Has Becky succeeded with her implacable schemes?

In what could be one of mainstream cinema’s silliest slapstick romp, Wenn Deramas’ “Moron 5 and the Crying Lady” succeeds to bring Pinoy comedy to lower depths of cinematic mediocrity. The brains behind this cinematic faux pas ought to be reminded that idle anatomical parts have a tendency to atrophy. In this case, there is luminous proof of vacuity of cerebral functions. So I am genuinely concerned for the mental health of Wenn Deramas and his co-script writer Mel Martinez-del Rosario. Have their brains shrunk and dwindled to the size of peanuts?

The energy on display in “Moron 5” is one of fervid stamina, the lines are delivered with enough ebullience you sometimes lose yourself in the precise cadence of their comic camaraderie. In fact, talent bristles and overflows in its cast, but for DJ Durano who’s eternally ill at ease with his humor. Why he keeps getting roles in comedy is always a painful watch. But while energy isn’t lacking in “Moron 5”, it’s the narrative content that’s grossly spare and deficient. This is Wenn Deramas at his most uncircumspect. The funny bones have been left somewhere in Burkina Faso, and if you don’t know where that is, try Gaborone – the capital of Botswana, which finds its way in a life-saving quiz show at the tail end of the story.

The narrative is sprinkled with inane gags that are too silly or senseless to relate, but I shall try. Like a prison riot that started because Isaac (Crawford) feels it’s unjust to eat a pinakbet without an okra. He wants his okra bad and he wants it on his prison tray. After all, okra has been dismissed and rudely ignored in “Bahay Kubo”. While shopping for second hand items, the quintet turns to the branded items: LV for Lou Veloso; Armani Pacquiao; Zara Geronimo; Gap by Annabel (Rama) and Nadia (Montenegro). Laughing already?

In another scene, the quintet line up and distribute lines to: "Ang susunod na eksena ay may rating na SPG. Patnubay at gabay ng magulang ang kinakailangan." Since when was this dour MTRCB reminder funny? When Mike's (Escudero) father asks him: "Tumakas ka?" He replies with a horribly cheesy and effete "Whatever!" What was that?

Among the supporting players, it's Jon Santos who plays his part to the hilt. Jon Santos mischievously essays Luis' mom Vilma Santos impersonating the Batangas Governor with moxie: "Are you sure you are ok alright? I am glad you're alright ok, son!" While he was rallying for Luis during the final duel, Santos goes all out with his Vilmaisms: "Si Val, si Val na walang malay!" Then he shouts: "My son is not a pig!" When reminded that it wasn't his line, he composes himself and quips, "Ay, sa kumare ko pala yun!" then continues with "Ding, ang bato!" You can't help but laugh at Santos' irreverence! He also underlines the hit-and-miss character of the film's humor.

Luis Manzano has found his footing in Deramas’ comedy thus he appears comfortable and watchable despite the puerile scenes he’s had to endure. He enjoys easy chemistry with Billy Crawford who appears too hefty, his flabby, protruding abdomen juts out like a Helium-full pillow. And he’s going to make his European comeback looking this pudgy? You just wonder. Marvin Agustin, while expectedly competent, seems misplaced in the company of his younger co-stars. In fact, this line up is as discrepant where age is concerned, you wouldn’t believe they were all in the same class together – unless there was an alternate universe, of course. Martin Escudero coasts on his past triumphs, intermittently interchanging his Michael Angelo character with his Remington (in “Zombadings”). This doesn’t bode well for a young upstart because we start to wonder if his earlier thespic success was indeed a “fluke”.

Clockwise from top left: Luis Manzano, Billy Crawford, DJ Durano, Martin Escudero, Marvin Agustin

John Lapus: made it tolerable.

John Lapus works hard as the vindictive Becky Pamintuan. In fact, he made this experience a tad more tolerable, but not by much. As the transsexual Becky, his turn has thrown the issue of transsexuals entering the Miss Universe pageant to the fore. More than ever, his scenes make it palpably choleric. Is it really enough that she was born with the "emotions of a woman trapped in a man's body" to make him a genuine member of the fairer sex? Whether his sexual orientation is that of one, his original anatomical make up will never make him a woman.


And let me digress. When Boy Abunda took it upon himself to vigorously expound and lecture on sexual re-assignments, gender identifications and orientations (as though he’s the only enlightened one about these topics) in last Sunday’s “The Buzz”, we found it unethical to actually impose his crooked thoughts on his audience. Moreover, it was disrespectful to the Binibining Pilipinas winners to have to ask their opinion about this matter when they knew his (and LGBT’s) stand on the issue. You do not refute the host of a show or you risk his good grace. That's common sense.

So Mr. Abunda, while you offered a disclaimer that your thoughts are not an imposition, lecturing about sexual orientation and gender identification left a bitter taste in the mouth. It was rude and your points were a fallacious clutter of gibberish desperation.

Women have become presidents, black people who used to be sold in plazas have become Presidents of countries, and the UP Student Council President is a transsexual,” he emphasized. Stacking dissimilar milestones in maudlin fashion doesn't make a wrong point right! He espouses on equality and gets an off tangent notion that transsexuals should be conveniently equal, thus similar, to women? Gender classifications and sexual orientations have acquired a new age criteria, and these have become acceptable. There are men, there are women and there are homosexuals.


But to say that men who have had gender re-assignments by way of an invasive procedure essentially become 100% females – thus should be eligible for a contest like Miss Universe – is just plain ludicrous. There are contests for men. Should we allow women then in Mr. Universe contests for the sake of equality? There are contests for gays. What should stop women from entering them if gays were allowed in women-only pageants? Proper things in proper places.


It is an affront to the real females who possess a different internal make up: women have uterus, a pair of Fallopian tubes and ovaries, a cervix and a real vagina. Mr. Abunda wants to fit an oblong in square pegs. He lectures on national TV that squares and triangles and oblongs should be equal when, clearly, there's a reason why shapes are different from each other. The nerve, really. While I welcome liberal ideologies, ridiculous, albeit absurd liberties such as his should be declared as such. He postures as if he’s the only cognitive being when clearly, his motives are skewed. Why does ABS CBN allow this abominable practice? It was annoying!

How abominable? Try watching Wenn Deramas’ “Moron 5 and the Crying Lady”. That is how!

Posturing as LGBT's intellectual voice - a LADLAD representative in the future? Boy Abunda is so smart he lectures on national
TV about gender reassignments and sexual orientation. You see, he's the only enlightened one.

Jenna Talackova, a 23 year old transexual who had her gender reassignment surgery at the age of 19 - wants to be part of Miss Universe pageant.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

My Naughty Kid: Humor-Free and Brain Dead

Timothy Michael dela Hoya (Aaron Calvo) is a raucous child who amuses himself by playing tricks on the people around him. He places red coloring on rice, throws balls on courting beaus, regularly picks his nose, farts at will and moves around with boundless zest. He is also scrawny and bald; people – even his father Angelito (Jeffrey Quizon) – calls him “Multo”, something that he despises. So when his millionaire father becomes too busy with his affairs, Multo runs away. He finds home in the company of a hopelessly unemployed dreamer Elmer (Malaysian comedian Joe Lodnadito) who is once again rejected from the local football draft for the 4th straight year.

Like Multo, Elmer loafs around plazas, extending occasional hand to a pretty but blind flower vendor Rizza (Julia Ziegler) who needs half a million bucks for a sight-restoring operation. But how many flowers does she need to come up with the required fee?

Back at the home front, Angelito (Multo’s father) is more concerned what people would say if the media finds out about his runaway child. “Ano na lang ang sasabihin ng media?” he enthused thoughtfully. In fact, he didn’t want to inform the authorities about it. He was more concerned with his coming nuptials to a new wife than the disappearance of her only child.

The night of his wedding, Multo clandestinely comes home to steal money from his father; money meant for Rizza’s eye operation. Unfortunately, Multo gets caught – but not before throwing the stash to Elmer who didn’t realize they were stealing from Multo’s father. Will Multo ever see Elmer again? Will Rizza get her operation? Is there happy-ever-after in father and son’s relationship along with Multo’s new mother (Irish Contreras)?

My Naughty Kid” is a confused work meant like a screwball comedy. Unfortunately, humor is one aspect that escapes this cinematic embarrassment. It is entirely shot in Kota Kinabalu in the island of Sabah. It opens with Multo and Elmer joining a tourist boat. Why residents of the island would join a group tour is beyond me. What baffles further was why Multo, a child of 9 or 10 years, would tour alone? Have you ever heard of runaway kids joining tour groups? More importantly, are all runaways as sophisticated as this puck? In the same boat ride, a guide with a megaphone annotates to his guests. When his megaphone conks out, Multo takes it away and farts on it. Voila! It is working after all. This scene, early in the film, ushers us into the intellectual quotient of its film makers.

For the most part, enthusiastic comedian Joe Lodnadito resorts to screwy facial crutches reminiscent of Vincent Daffalong – both in comic temperament and facial features, you would think we were watching something from the 80’s. He peppers his spiel with rapid delivery and an irritating affectation: “Ang tanda na nya. Pwe!” “Lolo n’ya yung rapist? Pwe!” “Maligo ka na. Pwe!” As though spitting was the funniest thing one could do. While Multo picks his nose and farts, Lodnadito spits! Such a classy duo.

The think tank is a veritable barrel of desolate gags that won’t even inspire a timid smile. Humor takes the form of bewildering lines that don’t make sense.

Line 1:Magaling ka bang mag turumpo? Eh magpalipad ng saranggola?” (These lines were their zaniest zingers. Silly is more like it.)

Line 2:Pag bata pa, amoy pabango. Pag tanda, amoy tiger balm.” (Are we tickled pink?)

Line 3: "Ang multo raw ay kalbo!” – or Line 4: Wala akong kilalang multo na kamukha mo!

Thus this imp was called “Multo” by everyone. But where in the world is a bald man called multo (ghost), and referred with crooked hilarity? Is this a Malaysian lore? I hardly think so. Ghosts in Malaysia take the form of Pontianak/Kuntilanak (“vampire”), langsuir (blood sucking bashee), mumiai (criminals-hating poltergeist), toyol (tiyanak-like fetal monster), orang bunian (invisible elves), etc. Never bald creatures! Which infecund imagination does this idea come from?

Line 5:Di mo ba alam ang kaibahan ng multo at anaconda?” And you’re so out of the loop where the idea of “Anaconda” came from. In psychiatry, usage of terms from nowhere is called “looseness of association” which is one of the hallmarks of a Thought Disorder. Add away “distractible speech” and “clanging” – “I heard the bell. Well, hell then I fell”. We have a full diagnosis. Someone needs to be institutionalized!

Person 1: Matulis ito!” (This pertains to his sexual vitality.)

Person 2:Ang tatay ko, matulis din!

Person 1: Kailangan n’ya ng Vagariya!” (If you thought you heard it wrong, “Vagariya” gets spoken again! What idiot can’t pronounce Viagra?)

When Multo finally comes home after 3 weeks, he knocks on his father’s door, but the latter wouldn’t even open it because it was his honeymoon night! Is there humor here? There is a stark degree of dissociation to reality where the scriptwriter is concerned, isn’t there? A child comes home and a father’s priority is his Vagariya-requiring loins? Go figure.

The movie is directed by a Zech de la Cruz, but the production team consists of John Ad. Castillo and a Malaysian, Antonio Hendry Jahar. Elsewhere, we see the unbilled Z Lokman, director of the execrable “Seksing Masahista” and “Untamed Virgins”, doing a cameo. Even Roldan Aquino of “Untamed Virgins” appears as a sex-starved albularyo (Don Angelito’s father) who rapes his patient; a mind-blowing side story that absolutely veers away from the film’s thematic drive or comic content. It’s like someone swiftly decided to insinuate this incoherent strain in the story. Heck, who cares if it’s an absolute detachment from the working narrative? As I have mentioned before, these “looseness of association” could be a hallmark of an on-going psychiatric pathology. People, take heed!

Jeffrey Quizon’s presence bewilders. This could merely spell his free ride to Kota Kinabalu. Aaron Calvo, who plays the rambunctious child, is anything but amusing! He isn’t easy on the eyes and his humor predicating on passing wind and harvesting boogers are far from hilarious. Lodnadito might as well take lessons from his compatriot, Zizan Razak (“KL Gangster”) who recently starred in Ahmad Idham’s horror-comedy-adventure “Jangan Pandang Pandang” (“Do Not Look”).

The Malaysian film follows the adventures of 4 university students who get assigned to study an abandoned cave in the heart of the wilderness to complete their scholastic requirement. The way to Gua Bewah is studded with traps, wild animals and ghosts! Though riddled with loopholes and ridiculous scenes, Zizan Razak, who plays the group leader Aji, is a delight. He was so adorable it's the very first Malaysian comedy (which are generally hideous) I was able to endure. His delivery is masterfully zany and he doesn’t even resort to facial contortions nor fart/spit/booger jokes. His dry wit is so palpable that his very plain Malay feature soon turns errr “sexy”. Don’t you just love funny guys?

I think it is high time that indies be screened by a regulatory body. What is the MTRCB doing if they’re just meant to sit on garbage like this and classify - then pass it on to the public? Can’t they at least try to be useful and put a bare minimum criteria with premium on the "acceptable" quality of any commercial release? Movies that won’t even get a passing grade as a film thesis don’t deserve to be served to a paying public! And “My Naughty Kid” is as bad as it gets! Not only is it carelessly dubbed in Tagalog (it’s partly spoken in Bahasa, thus needed Tagalog dubbing), but the whole project is an afterthought to a Malaysian holiday, albeit poorly conceptualized – surely, brains were left at a basement while they were filming this cinematic clutter.

As though aware of how repulsive this movie is, the film ends with Jeffrey Quizon (or was it Lodnadito) closing the movie with a winking message to the audience: “Ang napanood n’yo ay My Naughty Kid”.

Huh? You would think their audience was similarly moronic.

Zizan Razak sees ghosts. He is Malaysia's version of funnyman Vhong Navarro.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

50/50 - Light Hearted Mortality

Adam is 27. He has a career writing stories for a radio show, a girlfriend who paints abstract, a wise cracking best friend who's eternally conspiring on picking up girls, a inundating mother who patiently cares for her husband afflicted with Alzheimer's. But Adam suffers from intermittent back pains. One day, he's told by his doctor that he has Neurofibrosarcoma and Schwannoma - which are spinal cancers (it's a tumor at the neural sheath that wraps around our nerves).

His chances: 50/50!

If you think it's going to be one of those mawkish "disease of the month dramas", you'd be perfectly off tangent. It's actually one of those light hearted dramedies much like George Clooney's "The Descendants". Moreover, it's based on a true story.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, as Adam, once again displays what an intuitive actor he is. It's quite perplexing why he doesn't even merit a nomination from the Oscar. And while we're on that subject, the divine Anjelica Huston, playing Adam's mother Diane, packs a richly nuanced portrayal of an overbearing mother who would rather keep her personal woes to herself. When she defensively informs Adam's psychologist Katherine (the fabulous Anna Kendrick of "Up in the Air" and the "Twilight" saga) : "I smother my son because I love him," you fathom the complicated, albeit affectionate dynamics of this mother-and-son relationship - and it broke my heart. Some people have odd ways of loving and of coping. Indeed, some hold on too tightly, too stiflingly.

I have never been fond of Seth Rogen (playing Adam's best friend Kyle), but here, he surprisingly enraptures. I was quite taken with his turn.

Director Jonathan Levine's "50/50" will take you to a leisurely emotional journey; one that lingers and bestows a life affirming sentiment to his audience. The film also succeeds in avoiding overtly maudlin emotionality. Considering its subject, that's a tall order.

Adam and Kyle

Bryce Dallas Howard plays Rachel, Adam's fair-weather girl friend. Howard unintentionally came up with the film's title, "50/50".

Anna Kendrick captures the essence of a really bad psychologist. Her struggle to "try so hard" unsettles.

Anjelica Huston plays Adam's mother

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: another out-of-the-box performance. He accepted the role 2 days before they started the shoot. James McAvoy was initially tasked to play Adam but had to beg off for personal reasons.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Kit Hung's "Soundless Wind Chime" - Hypnotic Visual Poetry

As dreamy as its title, Kit Hung's "
Soundless Wind Chime" meanders like some hypnotic ode of affection. Ricky (Lu Yulai) lives a joyless existence in Hong Kong, working in a small restaurant, running errands and doing odd things. When Caucasian street urchin Pascal (Bernhard Bulling) steals Ricky's wallet, this instigates a drastic lifestyle change for Ricky who inadvertently falls for the thief who unexpectedly returns his wallet. Ricky and Pascal couldn't be more different from each other. While the Swiss migrant is impulsive and prone to clubbing and sexual alliances, Ricky is passive and introverted. Unknown to Ricky, Pascal left an abusive relationship to stay with him.

But as fast as their decision to get a place together, Pascal turns cold and seeks the company of other men. And Ricky loses himself in his devotion to his firebrand lover. What becomes of Pascal and Ricky?

"Soundless Wind Chime" (Mo Seng Fung Ling) is one of those ouvres that you either love or hate. In fact, User Reviews in imdb are scathing, calling it a "waste of time". But if you look closer, the deft camera work and cross-cutting of scenes and situation that blur imagination and reality are exquisite. In a seemingly alternate reality, Ricky travels to Switzerland looking for clues into Pascal's tempestuous veneer, thereby cinematically highlighting the stark discongruity of Pascal's background from Ricky's ambiguous origins in smoke-riddled Beijing where his mother is afflicted with cancer. In another cinematic strain, we find Pascal navigating the bowels of Beijing as he rummages for Ricky's causality. But the narrative chronology refutes these seeming mislaid vignettes. Are these memories? Or mere daydreams? From whose point of view? It baffles, and ultimately dazzles.

I'm prone to compare this with Shireen Seno's carelessly assembled "Big Boy", but, unlike the latter, Kit Hung's images - employing hand held - are beautifully and breath-takingly composed!
When a child suddenly pitches into a song, we're transported into Ricky's microcosm, too far removed from our own. It's an elegiac world that lures to be embraced.

"Soundless Wind Chime", in all its fleeting narrative interludes and its exiguous exposition, deserves to be seen more than once. Maybe we can unravel further clues from its somnolent story telling. But we can justify why it lingers way after the film closes.

Lu Yulai is Ricky.

Hopelessly compelling Pascal (Bernhard Bulling) in Hong Kong's haste.

Introspective and troubled Pascal

Fortuitous lovers in Switzerland

Bernhard Bulling: Berlin-based actor plays Pascal