Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Dominic Lim's Kapitan Basura - Playful But Half Baked

Bobet Balachuchi (Victor Anastacio) doesn’t aspire much in life, except the affection of his pretty neighbour Rowena (Gee Canlas, “Melodrama Negra”). He manages his junk shop and lives with his emotionally volatile mother Aling Baby (Angelina Kanapi) and blind sister (Julieanne Raye Nellasca). His best friend is a charming scavenger Kenneth Balboa (Dan Lim) who moonlights as a cell phone snatcher. While Bobet is cocksure and confident, he shrinks whenever Rowena’s around.

When a speeding truck accidentally hurtles straight towards his junk shop, Bobet becomes part of the rubble. Miraculously, he survives without cracking a limb. What’s more disturbing, he discovers special abilities like super strength and the ability to attract garbage. 

Before long, Bobet starts using his powers to save people: crushing asteroids from space; saving a troubled airplane, rescuing folks from a burning building. Kapitan Basura is born. Soon, he gets endorsement deals and considerable front page spreads. Even the mayor of Purok Ocho (Jobert Austria) has ebullient words to say about the popular hero.

Meanwhile, a series of disappearances is troubling the community. Customers of facial clinics turn missing, among them is Rowena who, by this time, is falling for Bobet. Is there a monster abducting people? Does Bobet’s physician, Dr. Chupacabra Sanchez (James Caraan) have anything to do with this turn of events? Guess.

Kapitan Basura” is director Dominic Lim’s first full length feature; one of the six chosen entries in the second edition of Sineng Pambansa (National Film Festival), a flagship program of the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP). The festival kicked off in Davao City late last year and the entries have been doing their rounds all over the country’s other film hubs like Iloilo, Baguio, Davao, Marawi, Pampanga and (hold your breath) even Tawi Tawi. Why the festival is keeping a curiously low profile in Manila is really a mystery. But let me delve first into the film’s merits first.

Victor Anastacio and James Caraan play hero and villain respectively.

Playing like a nonchalant comedy of manners, the narrative oddly anchors on the myth of everyman’s super hero coupled with tangential references to environmental concern. 

While the performances are enthusiastic, it soon becomes clear that the actors are left to their own devices, thus the unexpurgated thespic borborygmus brought in by its cast, especially Angelina Kanapi who pulls out all the stops to ham it up, playing mostly to the peanut gallery. In the first quarter of the film, there’s a scene involving the consumption of an oily slab of fried chicken that went on longer than necessary. Why that scene was perceived as humorous was as wildly baffling as Kim Chiu’s so-called “moving on” three years after a breakup with Gerald Anderson.

As the story delves into “mad scientist” territory, we are soon diverted to a montage of farcical moments that range from cardboard cut-outs of planes and buildings to rubbery appendages of a B-movie monster. Like a silly sitcom episode, the scenes transport us back to an era when Japanese anime’s were mere cinematic buffoonery. 


We were hoping for something akin to what Kiyoshi Kurosawa cobbled up in one of his environmental horror flicks. An environmental comedy - sounds like novelty, right? But there really wasn't adequate facility for such ambition. In fact, the narrative strain abruptly explaining “garbage segregation” was grossly misplaced; not to mention too compendious to appreciate. And what environmental message does a film carry when, to be able to seek the attention of the superhero, the aggrieved party had to create clutter and pollute his environment? We could be pleased with the slap-happy ardor of its cast, but there’s nothing much beyond its absurdity. Unfortunately, even the makers know this. Read their poster blurbs.
What differentiates cinematic adventure from a boobtube gagshow if the narrative design is starkly hobbled by incongruent plot devices? Inspiration is easily thrown out the window when a character starts bawling her heart out simply because “ang lamig ng kape ko” – or that her pandesal is cold as ice? Huh? Sineng Pambansa maybe “free” cinema, but freedom doesn't necessarily make good movies, and the proof of the pudding, so to speak, is in the “eating”. This just wasn't well baked. 

Angelina Kanapi, like Irma Adlawan, displays bad theater habits. She's in desperate need of a smidgen of sedative.

Gee Canlas plays the cheerful girl-next-door Rowena similar to her character in "Melodrama Negra".

Jobert Austria plays the mayor of Purok Ocho. Now imagine if you removed his character in the story. Would it radically change the plot? :)

Victor Anastacio is the garbage-attracting superhero. Anastacio was a product of Jack TV's search for a stand-up comic.

The toothsome Lims: Dan (who plays Kenneth Balboa, the protagonist's best friend) and director Dominic. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Darry dela Cruz's Malasado - Watered Down and Overeasy

Levi (AR de Castro) and Pete (Zander Cruz) are close friends. They’re supportive of each other’s needs. They even share a single bed in an apartment. Pete is particularly vulnerable. He’s desperately in love with Lorie (Adriana Gomez), the girl next door. He claims he’d do “anything” for the girl. But what he doesn't know is that his friend Levi and Lorie are already a couple. Levi is particularly disconcerted with the situation. But there’s more to this choleric situation than meets the eye. Levi is in fact harboring affection for Pete. Aren't we confused yet? J And he couldn't control this cantankerous proclivity.

One night, while Pete is heavily inebriated and stuporous, Levi gets the chance to have his way with Pete’s considerable bulges. As his friend sleeps, Levi’s hands – and tongue - wander where they shouldn't  Pete thought this was just a vivid wet dream involving Lorie. Meanwhile, Levi is remorseful – and drawn to his friend more than ever. After all, you can’t get enough of a good thing, debah?

Pete eventually learns of his friend’s attraction for him. As a favor to the accommodating Lorie, Pete agrees for a “romp on the hay” with friend Levi. This would put him in good stead with the schemy Lorie, right? But situation turns sour when Pete couldn't deal with what happened. One night, he smothers Levi in his sleep. What happens to lovestruck Levi? Would love or justice prevail?

Adriana Gomez
Director Darry dela Cruz’sMalasado” presents ferociously anatomosing emotional entanglements which are tests of patience and sanity. But we do realize what he’s driving at. He desperately needs to show his male protagonists in various couplings. Come hell or high water, these protagonists need to get it on. Unfortunately, Director Dela Cruz and his scriptwriter Kenneth Montero are too inept for logical exposition. In fact, a simple story becomes too big a hurdle for this team (which includes Cleo Paglinawan). The skill and technical know-how are blatantly wanting so we experience some of the driest scenography ever to grace the silver screen.

To accentuate tension, Dela Cruz gets his actors to either smoke endlessly over dissonant music – or he gets them drunk! Though canned music is pretty much avoided, a monotonous piano strain is employed instead, but the melodic tone isn't even compatible with most of the scenes being played. The setting is mostly confined to interiors: a swimming pool, a shower room, and a couple of nondescript exterior shots. In short, Dela Cruz’s follow through with Moron Cinema is inspiring, I ought to freight him some trophies for consistency. Yes, honey, we are scraping the bottom here.

Ike Sadiasa and Jerome Pineda appear as the exceedingly heedful neighbors whose mindfulness oversteps boundaries. One of the challenges to hurdle here is how to get through its inaudible sound. The lines are hardly intelligible because of a noisy room tone and the choppy sound. Parang poor signal, 'kuya. What’s worse is how unaffectingly robotic these actors are. There is not a single valid emotion in all of its short running time. Dela Cruz is particularly fond of close ups and panning shots of gargantuan crotches. In fact, while Zander and AR sleep with nothing but "very" tight and "very" skimpy briefs, it suddenly feels like a Bulging Briefs Contest. It made me blush! These shots are oft repeated ad nauseam! I might as well infer that Dela Cruz is taking a masteral thesis on “Protuberant Appendageal Objects”. I could swear there were restless hamsters underneath their bikini briefs. Peksman. Very interesting, debah?

The film had its commercial run September 5th of 2012 so it passed by without people realizing it was even showing. That, to me, is good news. We all should realize which flicks deserve patronage, and which ones don't. 


Curiously, fair skinned Zander and AR possess agnate features, they might as well be brothers. It took me a while to differentiate these two noobs, adding to the difficulty of understanding what exactly is going on in Dela Cruz’s muddled plot ministrations. But then why look for plot? This isn't exactly high art. It isn't even medium art. And saying that it is art in its lowest embodiment bestows it the privilege of suggesting low-levels of shrewd artistry. There’s nothing of that here. If anything, it’s artistry is akin to its title: “Malasado” – half-baked, over easy, amateur, true to form. What we do have is an incipient conceit of how straight men behave if they were homosexuals. That is a huge "if". All gibberish illusion.  

Friday, February 22, 2013

Bona Fajardo's Iliw - Love in the Time of War

There was something very gratifying watching Bona Fajardo's "Iliw" (Nostalgia). For one, I felt like my admission fee was money well spent. The scenography was breathtakingly well composed and the picture sparkled like this was made yesterday. Some portions may seem like a glorified slideshow (with static images flashing one after the other) it was a cinematic artifice: ill-advised, but nevertheless valid. Its superlative  cinematography justifiably evokes a far-gone era that deserves pragmatic remembrance. After all, cinema is a visual medium and telling a good story should start with good visuals; and this boasts of a keen eye that complements its gripping narrative..


The story is alternately set in Ilocos and Baguio in 1939. An impending Japanese occupation is about to change the life of strong willed Fidela (the lovely Kaye Abad) who decides to move from Vigan to Baguio, rather than succumb to the romantic advances of childhood friend Pablo (Ping Medina). When the Japanese finally arrives, Fidela's father is whisked off to prison, suspected of treason by the watchfully distrustful Japanese Imperial Army. A chance encounter between a high ranking Japanese officer, Col. Takahashi (the good looking Hiroyuki Takashima) and the desperate Fidela changes both their lives forever.

Romance is at the heart of this story - how the couple defied expectations of a very conservative society. It was an era of obstinacy and caution. Their intention to stay together becomes a dilemma, but I truly understood Fidela (not only was Takahashi endearingly goodlooking, it would also spell security for her family). Marriage is out of the question since Japanese officers have been restricted from any formal commitment with locals. Never sleep with enemies, as they say. The locals were understandably hostile subjects. Filipinos were underlings and subordinates; Filipino women were mere sexual doohickey. Ask the comfort women.

Regardless, real love would have pushed Takahashi to actually marry Fidela. After all, the Japanese commander's best friend was Father Josef (Gian Sotto). He could have asked the priest to perform the matrimonial ceremony within the hushed confines of the church. Living with Fidela conveniently exposed her to malicious calumny and scorn. This makes Takahashi's intentions suspect; thus painted his character as a predatory scoundrel, instead of the dashing paramour that's romantically intended for his character.

Kaye Abad and Hiroyuki Takashima are a perfect pair as the narrative's star-crossed lovers, although with Takashima's high rank position as colonel of Vigan, he could have easily bucked the system, unless the Imperial Army had "internal affairs" then. This was a time of war when everything was possible. He was lord of the manor so what's with all the crap reducing Fidela to a mere bed-warmer?

I have scruples with some of the casting choices. Ping Medina doesn't quite cut as the suave boy next door who's pining for Fidela's affections. Medina looked awkward and floundering. In the past, Medina has personified the rough and rugged everyman that picturing him otherwise was far from fetching. Irma Adlawan, playing Fidela's mother, makes the most of her limited screen time and though she could have been perfect, she mines her every scene like it was her awards-ceremony clip. Magnifying emotions tend to lend mediocrity to a cinematic moment because the scene transforms into caricature. I'm referring to 2 particular scenes: the opening where she's supposedly "aligaga" preparing for a party; then the scene where she kneels down the ground crying her little heart out for the "death" of her son Santiago. This eager beaver attitude is perfect when you're the lead in movies like "Sa North Diversion Road" or "Mga Pusang Gala"; not in elegiac movies like "Iliw".

Released at a time when digital film making was still making its baby steps in the country, "Iliw" provided a fully realized scenography. The Vigan scenes are luscious; the spirit of the past is gloriously captured (although some shots have been overly saturated - Pablo bicycling around town). Some scenes are also abruptly cut or unceremoniously fades (scenes at the first half of the movie) making them seem like theatrical montages. Then there are side stories that somehow stray away from narrative focus, veering away from the romantic narrative; e.g. what good does it do to expound on the death of Fidela's brother? Does it render anything more than blur what should be the main plot?

Despite these trivial notes, "Iliw" compels you to travel back into a time of strife and rumpled romance. Beautiful scenography, empathetic leads, and the crowd-pleasing use of Imago's "Sundo" as the credits roll - they all pony up for a great time at the cinema.

Irma Adlawan plays the heroine's mother: Bad theater habits.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Emmanuel Palo's A Moment in Time - Charm and Romantic Blunders

The first time Patrick (Coco Martin) sets his eyes on Jillian (Julia Montes) during a train ride, he couldn’t take his eyes off the cautious lass. But getting her name and meeting her were a different matter. The pretty lady is reticent with her associations, keeping mostly to her limited social circle. All she wants is to continue her studies in Amsterdam and forget a rather nebulous past.

Patrick pursues Jillian, painting her likeness on public walls and serenading the girl in her school. With such persistence, Jillian eventually gives in to Patrick’s unabashed romanticism. But unknown to Patrick, Jillian’s past isn’t so isolated from his. The young lad and his sister Mai (Ella Cruz) were orphaned three years ago when their Qatar-bound mother (Zsa zsa Padilla) was run over by a car.

What happens when Patrick finally strings their perplexing past? Will he be as gracious as his courting ways? More importantly, will he be magnanimous?

Emmanuel Palo’s “A Moment in Time” makes a cinematic discourse on the nature of love and its aptitude to exculpate fatal blunders of the past. Coating his artistic canvas with cotton candy scenography, the film is as charming as its leads. Coco Martin, after a sketchy turn in Jerome Pobocan’sBorn to Love You”, succeeds with an imprudent, if disproportionate delineation of a grieving man who pulls out all the stops to woo a dismissive girl who, it turns out, has demons of her own.

It’s refreshing to see a relaxed Coco Martin far from the teeth-gnawing rigor of melodrama. He embellishes his performance with pizzazz, imbuing the screen with wide grins and even a delightful song (Orange and Lemons’ “Umuwi Ka Na Baby”) and dance (oohlala!) scene. Julia Montes displays her considerable gravitas in a performance that becomes one of the greatest suffering heroines of the silver screen. She befittingly complements Martin’s charismatic romcom hero.

The plot is predictable at times, and there are occasional annoying strains in its narrative formation; i.e. once successful in their romantic pursuit, they always end up turning away. It’s a head scratcher really, but formula is what gives the genre its hustle.

It could have been an interesting dissertation following its earlier premise: What indeed is the face of love? But this strain gets forfeited in the narrative ruble. We don't expect mainstream cinema to go further than cursory glimpses beyond philosophical musings.

Plot contrivances are inherent in local romcoms. Regardless, “A Moment in Time” is a harmless entertainment fodder that rightfully bestows a feather in the adorably lisping Coco Martin’s romcom cup. 

As for Julia Montes, this German-Pinay beauty proves to her audience that her irrefutable boobtube success in the teleserye “Walang Hanggan” is no fluke. After all, it’s hard to argue with a full crowd who riddles the cinema atmosphere with romantic giggles. Let’s forget for a few minutes that getting a Schengen visa for a European sojourn isn't as easy – or as cheap as a P180,000 bank deposit - as they’d have you believe. 

Coco Martin bikes around Amsterdam's scenic countryside.

Julia Montes as Jillian Linden: stricken with guilt.

Coco Martin  as Patrick becomes a full-fledged romcom hero. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Jacques Audiard's Rust and Bone - Surviving and Loving

Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) lives his life without much heed for commitment or responsibility. At 25, he is unemployed. Then he's given custody of his 5-year old son Sam (Armand Vendure). With no work or any possible opportunity in the horizon, he packs his bags, takes Sam with him and moves to Antibe in the south of France where his childless sister Ana lives with her husband. But this situation is likewise bleak; Ana's tenure is temporary. She works as a cashier for a supermarket. Ali soon finds odd jobs: as security at his sister’s supermarket, and four times nightly, he moonlights as bouncer at a dance club. One night, he meets Stephanie (Marion Cotillard) who’s in a loveless relationship. They strike a friendship that withstands an accident at the marine park where Steph trains killer Orcas. One day, Steph wakes up with both her feet amputated. Ali offers help and soon, they share non-committal concupiscent trysts. 

Meanwhile, Ali lands an invitation to fight for a kickboxing match that would earn him big bucks if he wins. Otherwise, it’s a fight to the end. Steph gets her leg prosthesis and gradually insinuates herself into Ali’s life, meeting Sam and Ali’s sister Ana in the process. Ali’s occasional romp with anonymous girls soon becomes an issue. What’s worse, Ali gets involved in an insider’s ruse that gets his sister terminated from her job (she takes home the expired goods from the supermarket). Ana was understandably livid; she orders Ali to move out. What’s a guy to do?

Director Jacques Audiard’s French-language “Rust and Bone” weaves a tale that follows Ali and Stephanie’s cantankerous lives: a drifter’s descent into avertable tragedy and a grieving woman’s rise from fall. Matthias Schoenaerts displays raw magnetism reeking with machismo. His cinematic charisma compels his audience to diligently root for him, despite his missteps. It is this intuitive empathy that allows us to connect with someone who’s almost self-destructive. Marion Cotillard, on the other hand, fiercely inhabits her highly nuanced character; her emotive shifts right after her accident were imbued with earnest persuasion. That such feeble souls had to eventually find comfort in each other’s vulnerability is nothing short of inspiring. We all need help sometimes.

The film has several graphic scenes between our protagonists, including full frontals from Schoenaerts. The film was based on Canadian author Craig Davidson’s short stories, “Rust and Bone” and “Rocket Ride”. Audiard had to tweak the narrative, changing the main character into a woman since Davidson's stories were “about a man who loses his leg after a killer whale attack”. The film got nominated for Cannes’ Palme d’Or. Cotillard got Best Actress nominations from BAFTA, the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards. It even won a Best Actor plum for Schoenaerts at the Valladolid International Film Festival. The riveting thread of events create one of 2012's most compelling stories. Not to be missed!  

Ali engages in street fighting.

Marion Cotillard

Cotillard filmed "Rust and Bone" simultaneously with "The Dark Knight Rises".

Matthias Schoenaerts

The 6' 2" actor beat 200 others who auditioned for the role.  Audiard initially wanted  a neophyte so he had to scour gyms and boxing clubs for his Ali.

Ali moves to Antibes, a city in the south of France.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Joaquim Ronning & Espen Sandberg's Kon-Tiki - Hopeful Ambitions

Norwegian Thor Heyerdahl had his head in the clouds when he theorized that the Peruvians have crossed the tumultuous oceans to reach Polynesia at the other side of the globe way before Christopher Columbus and other European explorers did. This couldn't be possible because before Columbus, gigantic galleon and navigational ships weren't conceptualized yet. But Heyerdahl insisted that the ancient South Americans succeeded to do so by floating away on a raft made of balsa wood, merely utilizing the stars in the heavens as navigational guide. This would be purely conjecture if kept unproven, right? Even scientific societies thought this was lunacy. National Geographic Society balked at Heyerdahl's lofty ambition. “We don’t fund suicide missions,” they said.

 To prove a point, Heyerdahl organizes his team; gathering a crew of 5, constructs a balsa wood raft aptly named after an Incan sun god called “Kon-Tiki”, begs for donations, then in 1947, he starts sailing the immense, albeit occasionally hostile oceans from Collao, Peru. For 101 days, Heyerdahl sets to arduously sail 8,000 kilometers of the vast waters. Will they succeed? Armed with a journal and a moving camera, Heyerdahl and his crew indeed lived to see the day, with nothing but a parakeet as casualty. What’s better, he was able to document their prodigious voyage. The film eventually won Best Documentary at the Oscars in 1951.

 Man’s unflinching thirst for adventure is on full display in Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg’s compelling “Kon-Tiki”, nominated this year for Oscar’s Best Foreign Language Film, an entry from Norway. Coming close under the heels of Ang Lee’sLife of Pi”, we are once more treated to the immense and enigmatic beauty of the oceans and its rhapsodical and tumultuous power. Heyerdahl also succeeds to prove that the oceans are not barriers of exploration, but avenues of transport, in a time when most of the Earth’s waters were an intimidating conundrum. Like Ang Lee’s gorgeous ouvre, “Kon-Tiki” offers familiar encounters: flying fish, ravenous sharks, blistering sunlight, raging thunderstorms, and encounters with gigantic whale sharks.

Seamlessly told, the film is buoyed by the charismatic performance of (inhale deeply first before reading this aloud) Pal Sverre Valheim Hagen who embraces his character with earnestness. He actually resembles Ryan Gosling: his piercing gaze, particularly. “Kon-Tiki” is Norway’s most expensively produced film and, rightfully, 2012’s highest grossing movie of the country. It earned more than $14 million in domestic ticket sales. It is also the first Norwegian film nominated for both the Oscars and the Golden Globe. 

The film is characterized by a rousing spirit that could provide hopeful inspiration for those who live with lofty dreams. If you don’t have such ambition, then this flick can, at the very least, guarantee a huge smile once the credits start rolling.

This is one of Blush's highly recommended movies.

Thor Heyerdahl

In 1951, Heyerdahl's documentary about his 1947 voyage won Best Documentary at the Oscars.

Pal Sverre Valheim Hagen
Norwegian actor Pal Sverre Valheim Hagen and Hollywood A-Lister Ryan Gosling (above) might as well be brothers.

Jakob Oftebro plays Torstein Raaby

French Polynesia