Thursday, July 17, 2014

Dawn of the planet of the apes


DIRECTOR:  Matt Reeves  LEAD CAST:  Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell, Kodi Smit-McPhee  SCREENWRITER:  Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver  PRODUCER:  Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver  EDITOR:  William Hoy, Stan Salfas   MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Michael Giacchino  GENRE: Drama, Action & Adventure, Science Fiction & Fantasy  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Michael Seresin  DISTRIBUTOR:  20th Century Fox  LOCATION:  United States RUNNING TIME:  131 minutes
Technical assessment: 3   Moral assessment: 3.5  CINEMA rating:  V14
Ape Caesar, who leads the apes in a forest territory, negotiates peace with human Malcolm, the leader of epidemic survivors, rather than fight in a war between people and animals; but their respective assistant with followers prefer war. Both leaders struggle to maintain peace while risking their lives and families.

Begin again


DIRECTOR:  John Carney  LEAD CAST:  Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Adam Levine, Hailee Steinfeld, James Corden  SCREENWRITER:  John Carney  PRODUCER:  Anthony Bregman, Tobin Armbrust  EDITOR:  Andrew Marcus  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Gregg Alexander  GENRE:  Drama, Musical & Performing Arts, Comedy  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Yaron Orbach  DISTRIBUTOR:   Weinstein Company  LOCATION:  United States RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes
Technical assessment: 3.5  Moral assessment: 3  CINEMA rating: V14 
Two persons in crisis, one on his family life and profession and the other on her love relationship with a singer boyfriend of five years, meet and become friends, which leads to mutual transformation and development of their music profession. Instead of retaliating against the infidelity of their respective partners, they both seek for pro-active solution and find normalcy in their life.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Chef


DIRECTOR:  Jon Favreau  LEAD CAST:  Jon Favreau, Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo, Scarlett Johansson, Oliver Platt, Bobby Cannavale, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Downey, Jr.  SCREENWRITER:  Jon Favreau  PRODUCER:  Jon Favreau, Karen Gilchrist, Sergei Bespalov  EDITOR:  Robert Leighton  Production Company:  Aldamisa Entertainment  GENRE:  Comedy  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Kramer Morgenthau   DISTRIBUTOR:  Open Road Films  LOCATION:  United States RUNNING TIME:  114 minutes
Technical assessment:  4;  Moral assessment:  3.5;  MRCB rating: R13  CINEMA rating:  V 14

Miami born chef Carl Casper’s (Jon Favreau) creativity in the kitchen is squelched by his boss, Los Angeles restaurant owner Riva (Dustin Hoffman), who threatens to fire Casper if he serves anything other than the old favorites that the clientele come back for again and again and again. This tug of war results in a scathing review by food blogger-critic Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt) and then in a head-on collision with Riva who stubbornly refuses to give Casper’s fresh cuisine a try, the chef quits cold turkey—but not before he gives Michel a dressing down in Riva’s very own restaurant. The drama surrounding Casper’s dogged refusal to compromise his creative freedom and his public humiliation of the food critic go viral on social media, making him a celebrity of sorts.  Jobless and angry, Casper agrees to go with his ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara), who invites him to take the opportunity to bond with their young son Percy (Emjay Anthony).  Miami proves to be a surprising chapter in Casper’s life.
Favreau does a great job of directing, writing, producing AND starring in this movie, no doubt a pet recipe that’s spiced up by big names—Hoffman and good friends from Iron Man sequels Favreau has directed Downy Jr. and Johansson.  With the made-to-measure cast, audiences will find it easy to empathize with the characters. Action is tight and fast paced, complemented by lilting Cubano music and mouthwatering footage of food tasting, shopping, preparation, and presentation.  As the closing credits roll, Favreau is shown being mentored by chef Roy Choi on how to make the perfect grilled cheese sandwich, brown and crisp and with layer upon layer of different cheeses peeping out between the bread slices.  Yummy!
Chef is billed as a comedy—but was it really made to make people laugh?  More like a cooking dramedy movie, it’s a lighthearted treatment of serious subjects—passion in one’s lifework, social media ethics, the many faceted relationships in and branching out of the family.  With female actors as sultry as Sofia Vergara (a hybrid between Sofia Loren and Eva Mendez) and Scarlet Johansson (voted 2014 Sexiest Woman in the World) we half expected some steamy scenes inserted into the movie but to our delight none came.  In that department it is actually wholesome; the foul language issues from the mouth of irate male characters.  Social media is shown as an implement that can both destroy and build, given this age’s predilection for scandal and sensationalism.  As an afterthought, though, we wonder whether Chef used Twitter or Twitter used Chef.  The story developed with Twitter as its compass.  If it had been set in a pre-internet era, would the satisfying conclusion come that quickly?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Transformers: age of extinction

--> Direction: Michael Bay; Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Peter Cullen, Kelsey Grammer; Screenplay: Ehren Kruger; Producer: Don Murphy, Tom DeSanto, Music: Steve Jablonsky; Genre: Sci-Fi Action; Distributor: Paramount Pictures; Running Time: 185 minutes
Technical assessment:  2.5
Moral assessment :  3
MTRCB Rating : G
CINEMA rating : V14

Four years after the epic battle between the Autobots and the Decepticons, an elite CIA unit called Cemetery Wind is set up to hunt all Transformers on earth. The unit is headed by Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) and his bounty hunter transformer, Lockdown.  Meanwhile, in Texas, Cade (Mark Wahlberg), a struggling inventor, buys an old truck with the intention of stripping it down to parts. When he discovers the truck is actually an injured Optimus Prime, he decides to help him despite objections from his partner and his daughter Tessa. It does not take long before Cemetery Wind storms Cade’s home so they can capture Optimus. But Optimus attacks the operatives and manages to escape with Cade, Tessa and her boyfriend Shane. Later, Optimus rallies the remaining Autobots while Cade discovers that Cemetery Wind is working for KSI—a techno-corporation who was able to gain access to the Transformers’ main composition, transformium, and is now building its own version. Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci), head of KSI, envisions a progressive society where humans control their own Transformers. His prized creation is Galvatron which unfortunately is Megatron reincarnated. As the Autobots team up with Cade to fight Galvatron and his human made army of Decepticons and stop Joyce and Attinger from releasing the seed to create more transformers, Optimus must fight Lockdown and avoid being reclaimed by the Creators.
There is one word to perfectly describe Transformers: Age of Extinction—LOUD. Loud because holding together the very flimsy and obscure storyline is one explosion after another. Loud because punctuating every nonsensical dialogue is a building toppling down or metal slicing through something. Loud because Michael Bay decided to extend as long as possible every chase sequence with a blast every 10 seconds or so. There is a valiant attempt to humanize the story with multilayers of revelations and twists but they are presented in such a fragmented manner that it is so hard to keep up. Performances are pitiful because the robots show more emotions than the humans. The only articulated scenes are those with Tucci in them. Of course, the animation is impressive but this is not a video game where a sensible narrative is necessary. The magic of the Transformers franchise is the ability of the bots to magically morph from a cool vehicle into a colossal robot and back. But this magic cannot sustain a near three-hour running time, especially again, without a succinct plot to justify it.
Greater good resounds loudly in the movie as Optimus, Cade and Joyce realize that in their innermost beings lives the desire to protect the innocent. While each of them had self-serving motives, disappointments and unscrupulous intentions at first, the movie shows that change of heart is always possible for those who recognize that the greater good matter more than personal gain. However, Transformers, aside from its action being a little too intense for kids also has several disturbing attitude from Tessa and her boyfriend. Why Transformers: Age of Extinction merited a G rating from the regulatory board could baffle discerning viewers. The plot is too confusing and the violence too upsetting for children. The producers must have pushed for an Admit All Ages rating to allow them to sell their merchandising.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Edge of tomorrow


DIRECTOR:  Doug Liman  LEAD CAST:  Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Brendan Gleeson  SCREENWRITER:  Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Betterworth  PRODUCER:  Erwin Stoff, Tom Lassally, Jeffrey Silver, Gregory Jacobs, Jason Hoffs  EDITOR:  James Herbert, Laura Jennings  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Christophe Beck  GENRE:  Drama, Science Fiction & Fantasy  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Dion Beebe   DISTRIBUTOR:  Warner Bros Pictures  LOCATION:  United States  RUNNING TIME:  113 minutes
Technical assessment:  4
Moral assessment:  3
CINEMA rating:  V 14
As NATO military federated and formed a United Defense Forces (UDF) to fight an alien called Mimics that threatens the world, American Major William Cage the UDF spokesperson with no training in battle is sent to France as soldier. He is killed but wakes up with special power “time-loop” that enables him to foresee the future and reset the past. He learns combat skills and overpowers the aliens.  (Full review to follow)

Monday, June 30, 2014

22 Jump Street


DIRECTOR: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller  LEAD CAST:  Johan Hill, Channing Tatum, Peter Stormare, Ice Cube SCREENWRITER:  Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel, Rodney Rothman  PRODUCER:  Neal H. Moritz, Johan Hill, Channing  EDITOR:   David Rennie MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Mark Mothersbaugh   GENRE:  Action & Adventure, Comedy  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Barry Peterson  DISTRIBUTOR:  Columbia Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer  LOCATION:  United States RUNNING TIME:  112 minutes

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Technical assessment:  3.5
Moral assessment:  3
CINEMA rating:  V 14

A sequel to “21 Jump Street” (2012) this movie, like its predecessor, spoofs a television series first broadcast in 1987.  This time undercover agents Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) try to be creative and pose as brothers enrolled in Metropolitan City State College in pursuit of the drug dealer Ghost (Peter Stormare) who has introduced to the campus a substance that resembles cocaine.  Called “Why Phy”, the substance gives young people an energy boost and lends them heightened focus that lead to paranoia and death.  They realize the drug ring is not that easy to penetrate—despite their bravado a bust goes awfully wrong, and they get a tongue-lashing from their boss Deputy Chief Hardy (Nick Offerman) who rebukes them for not just relying on past successes.
The spoofy character of 22 Jump Street is early on disclosed by co-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller in the advice Chief Hardy gives the two undercover agents: “infiltrate the dealers, find the suppliers, just like the last time.”  Read between the lines, it means:  “Do the same thing as last time. Everyone's happy."  The chemistry between Hill and Tatum fuels the entire movie, and while the setting, many of the gags, and references to a particularly American culture may whizz above the heads of the average Filipino moviegoers, the plot which focuses on the dynamics of the duo’s relationships more than compensates for the lack. 
Marketed as a comedy (and therefore to most viewers light entertainment not to be taken seriously), 22 Jump Street elicits conflicting reactions from audiences.  On one hand it may be praised as a substantial and god-intentioned story clad in a goofy cloak and dagger costume; on the other its approach to spoofing is cheapened by vulgar language, crotch-level gags, subtle racism, and flippant jabs at religion.  For this reason the movie offers much for discussion between young ones and elders, either in school or at home.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Noah

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DIRECTOR: Darren Aronofsky  LEAD CAST: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Ray Wi nstone, Logan Lerman, Anthony Hopkins, Douglas Booth, Leo McHugh Carroll  SCREENWRITER:  Darren Aronofsky, Ari Handel  PRODUCER:  Scott Franlin, Darren Aronosky, Mary Parent, Arnon Milchan  EDITOR:  Andrew Weisblum
MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Clint Mansell  GENRE: Drama, Classics, Biblical Epic  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Matthew Libatique  DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount Pictures  LOCATION:  United States, Iceland, Mexico  RUNNING TIME:  138 minutes


TECHNICAL ASSESSMENT:  4                
MORAL ASSESSMENT:   3                  
MTRCB RATING:  R-13
CINEMA RATING:  A 14

“He speaks to you. You have to trust that he speaks in a way that you can understand.”
If you are expecting a peaceful, colourful, biblical story of your childhood, do not go see Noah, the 2014 movie.   Noah (Russell Crowe) is a good family man who is disturbed by dreams about the destruction of the world. He seeks his grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins) who tells him that the Creator has chosen him for a special task. “He speaks to you. You have to trust that he speaks in a way that you can understand.” What he understood was man has become so wicked that the Creator wants to annihilate humanity and he has to save the innocent. He builds an ark, with his wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly), his three sons Ham (Logan Lerman), Shem (Douglas Booth), Japheth (Leo McHugh Carroll), and adopted daughter Ila (Emma Watson). As the ark they are building nears its completion, with the help of the Watchers, heavenly beings doomed to the earth because of their disobedience, various animal species enter the ark. Tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone) arrives with his followers demanding they be allowed on board. The rains come in torrents, and the flood waters rise with the animals and Noah’s family safe in the ark, but the drama does not end.
Noah is a biblical epic, but it is a dark, brooding opus typical of Darren Aronofsky (see Black Swan, etc.). Aronofsky combines good biblical research, masterful storytelling and effective CGIs: the miraculous forest, the animals coming in droves to the ark, the terrifying but majestic waters of the Flood! Cinematography is at times visually stunning. The actors do not disappoint either. Russell Crowe inhabits Noah’s skin and exhibits his versatility as a tender father, a driven hero, a villain fighting his own demons, and trying to fulfil his mission as he understood it. Jennifer Connelly complements Crowe with her presence and heart. Anthony Hopkins still manages to deliver a believable Methuselah. Emma Watson and the young actors adequately portray their roles. Aronofsky takes a story we all know and presents it in a language 21st century men and women can grasp. He has been accused of taking so much liberty with the Bible account. His critics forget that the story of the flood was passed on from one generation to another orally before it was ever written with all the embellishments at each retelling.
Aronofsky’s latest work is a Noah story for adults because it challenges you to think. The recurring flashback montage of creation confronts the viewer with the wickedness of humans. And this wickedness, this sin, is shown as the cause of all the sufferings in the world, personified by Tubal-cain and his army. Noah comes face to face with this evil reflected in his own heart. And yet he has been given the sacred trust to care for the earth and to serve the justice of the Creator. So focused was he on obeying this mission that he is willing to sacrifice not only himself but everything, including the love and lives of his family. Although God is never mentioned in the film (he is called Creator), he is present and involved in the lives of his people: he guides, provides for and saves them. Despairing of what he thought was a failed mission, Noah discovers the Creator as a God not only of justice but of mercy and second chances, of forgiveness and new beginnings.
The overtly environmentalist message is another criticism. But what is wrong about the reminder to “take only what we need”? Can we not see the rape of nature currently happening in this day and age?  Are the extreme violence in the fight scenes and intense emotional confrontations in the movie alien to our reality? Or is it because we do not want to listen? We so bombard our ears, our eyes, our minds, our hearts with what we want that we cannot perceive the new life offered to us: peace, freedom, joy? Maybe, this is the flood story that we need to hear.
Would that Ila’s words to Noah resonate in the hearts of all: “He chose you for a reason. The choice was put in your hands for a reason.”

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Maybe this time

DIRECTOR: Jerry Lopez-Sineneng  LEAD CAST: Sarah Geronimo, Coco Martin, Ruffa Gutierrez
SCREENWRITER: Melai Mongue and Anton Santamaria  PRODUCER:  Star Cinema  GENRE: Romantic Comedy  LOCATION:  Antipolo/ Manila  RUNNING TIME:   1 hour: 55 mins.

Technical assessment: 2
Moral assessment: 3
CINEMA rating: V 13 (For viewers 13 years old and below with parental guidance)
                                                           
Magkakatagpo ang landas nina Steph (Sarah Geronimo) at Tonio (Coco Martin) isang tag-araw ng mag-volunteer si Steph sa isang outreach project sa baryo nila Tonio. Bagama’t hindi kaaya-aya sa simula ang kanilang pagtatagpo, unti-unti pa rin silang magkakapalagayan ng loob hanggang sa tuluyan silang ma-in love sa isa’t-isa. Ngunit sa di-inaasahang pagkakataon ay bigla na lamang maglalaho si Tonio nang walang paalam kay Steph. Mangingiibang-bayan pala ito para magtrabaho. Maiiwang wasak ang puso ni Steph ngunit ipagpapatuloy pa rin niya ang buhay at magiging matagumpay siyang executive sa Maynila. Makalipas ang halos pitong taon, hindi niya akalain na magtatagpong muli ang kanilang landas. Maaatasan si Steph  na ihanda si Tonio para bumagay sa mundo ni Monica (Ruffa Gutierrez), ang boss ni Steph na siya na ngayong kasintahan ni Tonio.
Isang pelikulang naka-kahon sa formula ng Star Cinema romantic comedy ang Maybe This Time. Kitang-kita ang kamay ng produksyon sa pagpapatakbo ng kuwento at tila hindi na kelangan pang tapusin ang pelikula at alam na ng manonood ang kakahinatnan ng kuwento. Walang gaanong bigat sa mga karakter. Hindi ang karakter ang naging sentro ng pelikula kundi ang mga artista mismo. Halatang ibinagay lahat sa kanila ang kuwento pero ang naging resulta pa rin ay isang kuwentong pinilit gawing bagay ang mga artista at karakter na hindi bagay sa isa’t-isa. Bagama’t pasado naman ang pag-arte ng mga pangunahing tauhan, hindi maitatangging maraming eksensang pawang alangan ang mga karakter sa isa’t-isa. Sa kabuuan, walang gaanong mararamdaman sa pelikula dahil hindi nito nahalukay ang mga tunay na damdamin ng mga tauhan. Ang lahat ay nasa alaala at dayalogo na lang. Hindi gaanong ramdam ang kilig dahil pawang pilit ang pagtatambal sa mga tauhan, pati ang mga sitwasyong kanilang ginagawalan ay pawang mga hindi naka-angkla sa matibay na realidad.  Salamat na lang sa ilang masasaya at nakakatuwang eksena. Kahit paano, may kaunting aliw pa rin itong naidulot sa manonood.
Ang Maybe This Time ay sumasalamin sa maraming komplikasyon ng pag-ibig. Pinaka-sentro ng pelikula ay ang mga nakapaligid sa dalawang taong nagmamahalan. Laging sinasabi ng pelikula na hindi sapat ang pagmamahal sa isa’t-isa ngunit dapat ding isaalang-alang ang lipunang madalas ay pumupuna at nanghuhusga. Maaring ito ay totoong nangyayari at tunay nga namang hindi nararapat sa lahat ng pagkakataon. Maliwanag ang mensahe ng pelikula kung  ang usapin ng mapagmatang lipunan ang titingnan. Hindi rin naman maaaring husgasan ang kahinaan ng mga karakter sa pagdedesisyon lalo pa’t ito ay idikta ng lipunan at mga taong itinuturing na nakatataas tulad ng magulang at amo. Ngunit kahanga-hanga pa rin ang pagsunod ng mga tauhan sa ngalan ng wagas na pagmamahal. Kita namang malinis ang mga hangarin nila sa pag-ibig…at madalas din ay isinasa-isang-tabi nila ang kanilang sarili alang-alang sa pamilya. Marahil ang nais lang sabihin ng pelikula ay isang simpleng mensahe na ang tunay na pag-ibig ay nakapaghihintay ng tamang panahon at pagkakataon.