Sunday, November 27, 2022

'Plan 75' - A Quiet Contemplation of Life and Death in Dystopian Japan

The film's premise is simple. It's an imagined time in Japan where the elderly aged 75 and above can choose the time of their own deaths. It's a government program where it's advertised as something positive and is akin to the country's culture of suicide--their way to get burden off of their families, or so they say. 

Plan 75 carefully dissects this culture by opening it with a brutal suicide, not of an elderly person, and then proceeding it with an introduction of the protagonist Micho who's at 78 struggles to find an apartment, a stable job, and love and care from loved ones. Life ain't easy for the other characters--a Pinay nurse (Stefanie Arianne) working in Japan who needs more income for her daughter's surgery living in the Philippines; and a Plan 75 employee who coincidentally received the processing inquiry of his old widowed uncle he hasn't seen for years.


Photo Credit: TBA Studios

The simple premise becomes complicated once it introduces the lives of these several strangers. The narratives seem disjointed at first until the film reveals that they're interconnected with each other one way or another because of the program. It's a long, quiet journey to get there and I am not quite sure it showed the importance of each characters to the story in the end.

Micho, played by the wonderfully subdued veteran Chieko Baisho, seems to get the complete focus and storyline treatment as a senior citizen brimming with life despite her misfortunes. Her character alone could achieve the film's message about life and death in Japan but the film is also busy showing different ironies for the Pinay OFW and a Plan 75 employee who tries to stop his uncle from availing the program. The result sometimes ends up being uneven especially for the Pinay character whose existence is only to make a point about another character’s life, and another country’s culture and government.

Still, there's a lot to admire in this quiet film. The film captures a consistent melancholic vibe which enhances its life-affirming ending, at least for some of the characters. It's also very clear about its stand about the program and there's a warm abundance of love about life even when its subject is also evidently depressing.

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PLAN 75 opens in Philippine cinemas nationwide on Dec. 7.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

'Bones and All' - Luca Guadagnino's Bloody Refreshing Blend of Romance and Gore

Bones and All is one of those movies that has a certain cinematic magic or what I would call, cinemagic :3, for how it's able to blend poignant scenes of romance and disgustingly morbid gore and make both of those aspects work at the same time, while giving the whole vibe of the movie another certain flavor that makes it distinctive as a whole.
Photo credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
There is no surprise there when you have a confident helmer in Luca Guadagnino, re-teaming with his muse Timothée Chalamet, adding yet another memorable character to his resume. Whether it's Guadagnino's skills or Chalamet's charisma or both, it doesn't matter as Bones and All has that cinemagic, soaring as one of the bests of the year so far.

In Bones and All, a young woman named Maren (Taylor Russell) is forced to live on her own until she finds sanctuary in a young man living what seems to be a nomad life, Lee (Timothée Chalamet). They join together for a roadtrip odyssey until young love dawns on them and the reality of their situation bites ruthlessly.

It's a unique movie that involves blood, coming-of-age, and love, only a few like Guadagnino can blend its otherness perfectly. Supporting actors and characters of Mark Rylance and Michael Stuhlbarg (reunion with Chalamet and Guadagnino) provide effective horror through their creepy performances. Stuhlbarg's resemblance with Joaquin Phoenix actually helps. While Taylor Russell and Chalamet's young romance accompanied with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' soundtrack score deliver the sensitivity and heart of the film. Put them together and it's a tender juicy fresh kind of movie we rarely see in each of its own genre.

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Bones and All opens in PH Cinemas, November 23.

MTRCB Rating: R-16

'Triangle of Sadness' - Ruben Östlund's Riotous Take on Differing Class and Power Play

Watching this with a crowd of Filipinos, no less than the scene stealing star of the film Dolly de Leon literally in the middle of the theater, is already a memorable cinematic experience by itself. So to witness this riotous ride of double Palme d'Or-winning auteur Ruben Östlund's take on classes and power is truly an overwhelming reward I can imagine for any Pinoy cinephiles. Not to mention, that it's  bring compared to Joey Gosiengfiao's iconic classic <i>Temptation Island</i> which is a reminder for me to finish it the next time I bump into a copy. Lastly, its third part which is set in an island gives off major Survivor vibes, not only in its setting, but most of all in its outwit, outplay, outlast theme of survival. Case in point, this is a movie for me even when I have some reservations with some of its aspects.

Photo Credit: TBA Studios

Triangle of Sadness is divided into three parts which could all stand on their own as short stories although these parts are related to one another and has connected themes about class and gender roles that Östlund tells in the least subtle ways. The first introduces two influencers who boost each other's IG followers, Carl (Harris Dickinson) and Yaya played by the late Charlbi Dean. It revolves around their character's lovers quarrel that's rooted from the bill of the fancy dinner Yaya suggested for both of them. A seeimingly tad shallow issue from the onset but the takes and insights by Östlund are bitingly valid as it went on.

The second part finds the two lovers in a yacht where other rich passengers aboard. Here Östlund continues his takes on gender roles and extends its satire on philosophies about class, power, and politics. This isn't new. Currently, there's even The White Lotus that tackles the same themes but Östlund takes it to the literal extreme involving numerous projectile vomits and overflowing of shit. Apart from the two drunken face-off of words heard throughout the ship from a filthy rich Russian and the yacht's American captain that admittedly could probably be cut in the film and it would still work.

Finally, in an ironic fate for some of the passengers, they find themselves in an island where they're stripped off of the luxury they're used to have with them 24/7. Although in a film like this, irony is part of what to be expected. And here's where our unsung Filipino actress Dolly de Leon start to shine where her character Abigail, a toilet manager OFW, starts to command the survivors and refuses to give up the power she's started to gain. Same can be said with the actress who's stolen the spotlight from any of them and never holds back even in the film's last few seconds.

These three parts are riotous and no one from the audience who will see it will come out of it unscathed of the shit, the vomit, and thankfully the laughter it's intended to grant. It's not all laughs though when some of its commentaries are truly dark and alarming. Story of our lives told in three wild parts.

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Triangle of Sadness opens on Nov. 30 in the Philippines nationwide.

Saturday, October 22, 2022

'Black Adam' - DC and Dwayne Johnson Level Up Their Action and Comedy

DC has once again extended their universe and seems to be starting to finally reach the same level as Marvel during its glory days and whether that's good or bad, it's a matter of preference at this point. Sure this doesn't have the brooding atmosphere of Matt Reeves' The Batman nor it has the groundbreaking storyline of the women in and out of Wonder Woman, but this has the same ingredients the audience are going to look for when they watch a superhero movie. Black Adam has it all and with this, it seems like DC is proclaiming that it's their turn or at least they're giving their rivalry a higher competition.
Warner Bros. Pictures
Black Adam wastes no time in the action department, to a point where there's almost no breathing room in between each of the action sequences and if there's any, it either introduces a couple of new characters and superheroes--some are fleshed out, some exists for the needed humor they're usually criticized for, and all are generally likable. This movie also offers a new world with compelling history that elevates this movie even more, and it's great at world building. It's good to see a superhero movie move away from the usual city these movies are accustomed to be set. The middle-eastern inspired Khandaq is actually my favorite part of the film.

Then there's Dwayne Johnson, the go-to person of studios that want to make more money out of their ideas. Here, he's not afraid to be savagely brutal and murderous because the thing is people are going to like him whatever he does. That's probably problematic but it's just what it is. The character he's portraying, Black Adam, the antihero doesn't like to be noble. He only cares about his family and dark sense of justice he likes to wield onto the world. Good thing is there's Justice Society of America, a team of modern day heroes who neutralizes him whenever he wants to be vengeful. So there's him and there's them and the conflicts surrounding their background and goals make for a great popcorn superhero movie. It doesn't hurt that the cast consisting of Pierce Brosnan, Noah Centineo, Aldis Hodge to name a few are in it to have fun and give Johnson more of the spotlight.

Johnson is known for blockbusters and he doesn't veer away from that and instead, DC uses his appeal and what he's known for to make a superhero movie that will capture even more fans. They created a formula that's infused with different kinds of action sequences involving slow-mos, the desert, CGI, flying and all, a character-centric comedy that again is very reminiscent of the Marvel humor, and a cast that's going to make people root for, cry for, and laugh about throughout the film. It's going to bring back the superhero movies people loved during the 2010s and for that it's easy to declare that people are going to love it. Even when it's probably going to be criticized for the same old thing all over again. Case in point, it's entertaining point blank and sometimes that's the only thing that matters for moviegoers and superhero comic and movie fans.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

'Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile' - Weirdly Charming--Singing Crocodile, Scraps-Eating Humans, Warts and All

It doesn't matter whether the title "Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile" is giving you LSS of Don McLean's American Pie or that TikTok Pinoy novelty, Paro-Paro G (fly high, butterfly) going into the movie because you're going to have a different one when you come out of it. It's the newest musical movie with songs from the composer of The Greatest Showman. That's the only thing you must know to be convinced that this one has a great set of songs and numbers. Because the more you get to know its premise, the more you might find it weird and random. But that's not necessarily a bad thing when its oddliness would charm anyone with a heart. It's weirdly charming--singing reptiles, scraps-eating humans, warts and all.

Columbia Pictures

To make the premise of this singing crocodile film become less random, let it be known (especially if you don't) that this is based on a book series by Bernard Waber of the same title. It stars a larger than life showman Javier Bardem, a comeback star Constance Wu, and the voice of award-winning vocalist Shawn Mendes as the voice of Lyle, the singing crocodile.

Instantly, the film introduces Javier Bardem as a washed up magician searching for new tricks to include in his performances. He discovers a little singing Lyle and decided to take care of him so he could be his prop in his performances in return. He's a bit of a charlatan, a con man, but definitely not one dimensioned. After all this is a family film--so as much as his character uses Lyle for money, we get to see his nicer side. And whether his intentions are good or bad, we get to see Javier Bardem dancing and absolutely enjoying himself with his comical dance numbers to the tune of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul's earworms.

Not only Javier Bardem was put to the test, because the film also shows a happy and lively Constance Wu dancing and singing with a crocodile. Her character takes a while to warm up with the reptile, understandably so, but we also get to see her bond with Lyle and even eat scraps as one of their bondings. It's crazy, but again it's cute at the same time.

As most family movies are, it's expectedly heartwarming. So there's also that for families to enjoy when they watch this film together. It's honestly just a harmless, stress-free, feel good movie... that it got me to enjoy it even if there's a lot of it that are too random and strange. That's probably the film's number one appeal next to its music.

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Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile is now showing in PH Cinemas.

MTRCB Rating: PG