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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Arrival

DIRECTOR: Denis Villeneuve  LEAD CAST:  Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker  SCREENWRITER: Eric Heisserrer  PRODUCER: Shawn Levy, Dan Levine, Aaron Ryder, David Linde  EDITOR: Joe Walker  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Jóhann Jóhannsson, Max Richter  GENRE: Sci-Fi  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Bradford Young  DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount Pictures/Sony Pictures  LOCATION: USA  RUNNING TIME: 127 minutes
Technical assessment:  4
Moral assessment:  4
CINEMA rating:  V14
News spread about a dozen ovoid spaceships hovering over 12 different locations across the globe.  One is in the United States, somewhere in the fields of Montana, standing 450 meters tall and increasingly causing anxiety in the citizenry.  To find out what the aliens’ purpose is for coming to Earth, military intelligence officer Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) creates a team and enlists the services of Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams), a linguist whose expertise includes interpretation of languages and communication symbols, and Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), a physicist and mathematician.  Soon the spacecraft opens up, and the team comes face to face with the extraterrestrials.  Although similar teams are doing their own decoding exercise in other parts of the world, interpretations differ, thus impatience grows to panic level, until China cuts off its communication links with the rest and announces that it is ready to attack the visitors from outer space.   
Arrival is one sci-fi feature where the aliens’ spaceships come unarmed, becoming themselves symbols of goodwill in a film that deals on symbols as a tool for fulfilling a higher purpose.  Perhaps this is intentional on the part of Villeneuve, who also masterfully employs color (or the lack of it) to enable the audience to intuit the protagonist’s psyche and to meld inner scape and outer space together to arrive at the truth.  With all its technical aspects in place, Arrival fills more than the viewer’s hunger for entertainment or intellectual stimulation, and surprises with its ability to engage the audience’s attention in spite of its stark visual simplicity.  Noteworthy, too, is the story’s use of ink—not computers or English-speaking robots—to communicate.  For a superior civilization  to use a primitive writing tool such as ink to deliver its message is again a riddle worth pondering.  Adams, at once vulnerable and brave, delivers a nuanced performance that imprints itself on the memory.

It is difficult to state the message of Arrival without divulging what the movie is keeping until the end.  So let us just say that it speaks about the value of communication in relating to one another, be it on an individual or on a global basis; it highlights trusting and being trusted, cooperation springing from an expansive world view, and courage borne of surviving pain and loss.  Most of all, Arrival is a tender reminder of the lofty purpose of life, and of the giftedness of the human being that he or she is in danger of forgetting.  In the film, “weapon” emerges as “gift”, therefore a gift must be used as a weapon—and a weapon can either heal or kill.  Arrival scores high in that it respects the intelligence of the audience even as it steers our consciousness into half-forgotten realms.    

My Ex and Whys

DIRECTOR: Cathy Garcia-Molina   LEAD CAST: Liza Soberano, Enrique Gil, Joey Marquez, Ara Mina, Zaijian Jaranilla, Ryan Bang  SCREENWRITERS: Carmi Raymundo, Jancy Nicolas, Gilliann Ebreo, Cathy Garcia-Molina  PRODUCERS:  Charo Santos-Concio, Malou Santos  GENRE: Romantic Comedy  PRODUCTION COMPANY: ABS-CBN Film Productions, Inc.  DISTRIBUTED BY: Star Cinema  COUNTRY: Philippines  LANGUAGE: Tagalog  RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes
Technical assessment: 3
Moral assessment: 3
CINEMA rating: PG 14
MTRCB rating: PG
Nagkakaroon na ng maraming followers si Cali (Liza Soberano) sa  blog niyang “Bakit List”.  Sa blog na to niya ibinubuhos ang marami niyang katanungan patungkol sa buhay at pag-ibig na halatang may pinaghuhugutan sa kanyang nakaraan lalo na ang mapait niyang karanasan sa pag-ibig sa ex-boyfriend niyang si Gio (Enrique Gil).  Magtatago si Gio sa pangalang “DahilListBoy” at magsasagutan sila online.  Ang sagutan na iyon ay magiging viral—daan tungo sa pagsikat ng “Bakit List” at ni Cali bilang blogger. Isang kumpanya ang magkakainteres kay Cali na maging endorser sa kundisyon na dapat ay magkasama sila ni DahilListBoy. Hindi pa tuluyang napapatawad ni Cali si Gio kaya mag-aalangan siya. Masaya naman si Gio dahil nakakita siya ng pagkakataon para magkalapit ulit sila ni Cali at umaasa siyang magkakabalikan silang muli. Papayag din si Cali sa alok ng kumpanya ngunit mailap pa rin siya kay Gio
Kung tutuusin ay hindi naman na masyadong bago ang buod ng kuwento ng My Ex and Whys—binigyan lamang ito ng bagong bihis at ginawang makabago para maging angkop sa panahon.  Ang pelikula ay tungkol lang sa isang magkasintahan na nagkahiwalay at kapwa umaasa na magkakabalikan—at tiyak namang magkakabalikan, hindi lang alam kung kalian at paano. Mahusay ang paggamit at paglalaro ng mga salita sa pelikulang ito—bagay na uso sa mga kabataan ngayon at mapalad sila dahil nasa panahon sila na marami silang paraan at pagkakataon upang mailabas ang kanilang saloobin.  Halatang pinagbuhusan ng talino ng mga manunulat ang pagsasanib ng social media at kung paano ito nakakaapekto sa buhay at pag-ibig ng mga kabataan sa kasalukuyang panahon.  Gayunpaman, nagkulang ang pelikula sa pagpapalalim ng karakterisasyon lalo na ng dalawang pangunahing tauhan.  Hindi rin nito natarok ang lalim ng kanilang pinaghuhugutan.  Naging mababaw tuloy sa kabuuan ang pelikula, at para bang ang pino-problema ng mga bida—at pinagaaksayahan ng gallon-galong luha—ay pawang mga walang kabagay-bagay lang.  Wala kasing mapanghawakang lalim sa kanilang relasyon, o maging sa relasyon napakaraming tao sa paligid nila.  Malaking tulong lang sa pelikula ang walang kapintasang ganda ni Soberano. Bagay sila ni Gil at pareho naman silang natural sa kanilang pag-arte. Yun nga lang, masyadong ginawang perpekto ang karakter ni Gil dito kung kaya’t nagmumukha namang mababaw ang kay Soberano.  Sa madaling sabi, walang matinding kalaban o conflict sa pelikula.  Maging ang mga ginawang karibal ay hindi rin panghahawakan.  Epektibo naman ang pelikula sa pagpapakilig, pagpapatawa at pagpapa-iyak.  Ang Korea ay magandang backdrop para maging mas romantiko pero hindi pa rin ito naging tunay na milieu. Sa kabila nito’y nagkulang ang pelikula sa pagbubukas ng isip sa mga mas malalalim pang isyu at komplikasyon ng bawat relasyon.  Gamit na gamit na marahil ang salitang move-on kung kaya’t hindi nagawa nito ang dapat sana’y pagbibigay lalim at linaw sa usaping relasyon at pag-ibig.   Sayang.  Sinayang ng My Ex and Whys ang pagkakataong sagutin ang maraming “bakit” na tanong; sa halip, mas marami itong iniwan “bakit”.
Mas tanga raw ang hindi ang magmahal. Yan ang sagot ng My Ex and Whys sa tanong kung bakit ba dapat magmahal at magtiwala muli.  Kung tutuusin ay hindi naman talaga ganoon kadali.  Maaring simple, ngunit hindi madali. Yan ang naging sentro ng pelikula— kung paano nga ba talaga magmahal, magpatawad at magtiwala muli.  Maraming puntong tama ang pelikula—gaya ng sa pagmamahal, dapat may tiwala, dapat nakahandang masaktan, pero nakahanda ring magpatawad.  Pero hindi naging malinaw sa pelikula ang kaibahan ng pang-aabuso at panloloko sa tunay at sinserong pagsisisi at pagbabago.  Ang ama ni Gio ay hindi kinakitaan ng katiting man lang na pagsisisi at pagbabago hanggang sa dulo ng pelikula.  Pinalalabas lamang nakakatuwa at katanggap-tanggap ang pangloloko sa babae, lalo na kung ikaw ay kabilang sa pamilya ng mga macho.  Nakababahala ang mga binitawang mensahe ng mga eksenang ito.  Ang nanay naman ni Cali ay nagsabing nagmamahal siya kahit nasasaktan siya dahil masaya siyang nagmamahal—at wala man lang itong ginagawang paraan upang labanan ang panloloko at pang-aabuso sa kanya ng mga lalaki. Talaga bang walang matutunang mabuti ang mga bagong henerasyon sa kanilang mga tinitingalang magulang o nakakatanda?  Marahil sa layunin ng pelikulang sagutin ang mga bakit, maging sila ay nalito sa hirap ng mga sagot.  Siguro dahil masyadong nag-focus ito sa pagmamahal na romantiko lamang.  Hindi nito binigyang halaga ang maraming uri pa ng pagmamahal.  Ginawa pa nitong mas mahalaga ang opinyon ng ibang tao kaysa sa pagpapalalim ng mga relasyon sa paligid nila. Sa bandang dulo nama’y isa lang ang nais sabihin ng pelikula—huwag matakot magmahal at masaktan at magpatawad—ang pinakamahalaga ay ang magmahal, wala nang bakit-bakit pa.  Ang mas mahalaga sigurong tanong ay hindi “bakit” kundi “ano”.   Ano nga ba ang tunay na kahulugan ng pagmamahal? Sapagkat usaping relasyon ang pelikula at may mga eksenang pawang nakababahala, minarapat ng CINEMA na ang pelikula ay angkop lamang sa mga manonood na may edad 14 pataas.








Resident Evil: the Final Chapter

Director: Paul W.S. Anderson  Lead cast:  Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Iain Glenn  Screenwriter:  Paul W.S. Anderson  Producer:  Paul W.S. Anderson, Jeremy Bolt, Robert Kulzer, Samuel Hadida  Editor:  Paul Haslinger  Musical Director:  Doobie White  Genre: Science Fiction  Cinematographer:  Glen Macpherson  Distributor: Screen Gem  Location:  Germany, France, Canada, Australia  Running time:  106 minutes
Technical assessment: 2.5
Moral assessment: 1.5
CINEMA rating: A-18
MTRCB rating:  R16
The sixth in a series of video-game based films since 2002, the film opens with Alice (Milla Jovovich), who has grown stout in the service, out to battle the undead as well as the evil Umbrella Corporation led by Dr. Isaacs (Iain Glen). Alice’s sidekick, Claire (Ali Larter), provides occasional assistance. Alice has 48 hours to find the airborne antidote to the T-virus, a pandemic that has turned the planet into its disastrous state, populated by zombies. Will she be able to make it against the strength of the enemy?
With the film on its sixth franchise, it already has a grown fan base who would really appreciate the film for what it is.  Like a video game, it is just dark, messy, bloody and dizzy—if such a term should describe a movie.  Non-fanatics of the series would really be alienated and confused as to what’s really going on in the story—as if there is a story to speak of.  The movie tries very hard to create a plot but it never goes beyond one single goal—and the entire film is just focused on it.  Characters are not well fleshed out—their names not even clearly mentioned—sending a message that they are not significant at all. The film treats scenes, characters, and even special effects like a video game: nothing serious, just for fun.  But it gets more bizarre when it tries very hard to put some human dimension to an otherwise non-human or superhuman character. Jovovich remains to be effective as the tough Alice and it seems she has been the role—she owns Alice’s character.  The entire film caters still to its fanatics– and their audience may just have fun as relentless as the lead character’s and video gamers must have enjoyed the killing spree.
Non-humans can be more human at times. That might be the main message of Resident Evil: The Final Chapter.  It is preposterous how humans can think of destroying the humankind in their own terms—acting and playing God. The film has a non-human, clone character for a lead who longs to feel how humans feel. Someone created by man transcended into something greater than what God created– a moral statement that is quite difficult to accept. Perhaps the film’s message is as ambiguous as the entire film. It wants to say something moral out of something that seems immoral from the very beginning. For what is the purpose of cloning than to re-create God’s creation out of man’s pride and arrogance in thinking they are equal to or even greater than God? What is moral with cloning? The film in its entirety is wholly disturbing bordering on abhorrent, with its dark theme, heavy violence, and all the world’s pessimism and negativity.  One character appears to be good or upright, but it’s still not quite convincing that only childhood memories can make one purely human. The respect for and the dignity of human life is all the way insulted in this film that is true to its name, Resident Evil.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Space Between Us

Direction: Peter Chelsom; Cast: Gary Oldman, Asa Butterfield, Carla Gugino, Britt Robertson; Story: Stewart Schill, Richard Barton Lewis, Allan Loeb; Screenplay: Allan Loeb; Cinematography: Barry Peterson; Editing: David Moritz; Music: Andrew Lockington; Producers: Richard Chelsom; Genre: Drama; Location: US; Distributor: STX Entertainment; Running Time: 121 minutes
Technical assessment: 3
Moral assessment: 3
CINEMA rating: V14
Genesis’s CEO Nathaniel Shephard (Gary Oldman), proudly presents his brainchild project and sends the very first team of astronauts to build a community in Mars. However, two months into the journey, head astronaut Sarah Elliot (Montgomery) discovers she is pregnant but the mission is not aborted and her condition kept a secret from the public. Shortly after arriving in Mars, Sarah gives birth to Gardner (Butterfield) but dies of complications. Nathaniel is forced to keep the child in Mars given that his gestation period in space made him unable to adapt to Earth’s gravity. Gardner’s existence is kept a secret and Nathaniel secludes himself from NASA and Genesis. Sixteen years later, Gardner raised by 16 scientists, grows into a brilliant and resourceful but utterly bored young boy. He secretly develops an online friendship with Tulsa (Robertson). Tulsa is a street smart girl who has jumped from one foster home to another but is cynical of everyone around her except Gardner. Meanwhile, Gardner discovers a wedding ring and a video file of his mother with a young man and becomes convinced that that man is his father. Kendra (Gugino), his mother figure on Mars, arranges for him to be brought to Earth to be able to live a normal life despite protests from Nathaniel. On Earth, Gardner makes his way to meet Tulsa so he can in turn help him find the man he thinks is his father. Concerned with Gardner’s inability to adapt to Earth’s gravity, Nathaniel and Kendra chase Gardner and Tulsa as the latter make their way tracing leads about the man on the video. As Gardner’s condition worsens, he and Tulsa fall in love with each other. They end up in the house where the video was taken and before Gardner’s body gives up, Nathaniel arrives to call for help and confirms that he is his father. The movie ends with Gardner and Nathaniel back in Mars and Tulsa training with Kendra who has legally adopted her.
Visually, The Space Between Us is impeccable. It provides the dryness of Mars, the coldness of the space shuttle and the confusion of the different places Gardner and Tulsa travelled. But against the clumsy narrative, it becomes impeccably dry, cold, and confusing as a backdrop of a love story whose pacing results in a diabetic comatose. Butterfield and Robertson are great in interpreting their characters but there is just no chemistry. Oldman and Gugino are easily the best played characters but sadly, the story is not about them. In fact, the storytelling wants it to be an ill-fated story of star-crossed (literally) lovers but it just falls flat and forced and moves better along the parenting line. The scoring is sickeningly sentimental.

Lined up against other “me against the world young love that cannot be” movies, The Space Between Us just provides lots and lots of black spaces. Love conquers all—most teenage romance films build on this premise as the lovers find ways and struggle through difficulties just to be together. But in this film, the romance took a back seat in favor of parental love and family. While difficult and painful, Nathaniel decides to let his son remain on a planet so the latter may live. Kendra, despite being biologically unable to bear children took parenting seriously with Gardner and chose to share her life with Tulsa. A parent’s love knows no bounds. A parent’s love fears no sacrifice. On the side, we see how technology, no matter how advanced, can never replace a real face to face relationship. However, Tulsa’s street smartness leads her to steal a lot and the implied pre-marital sex between teenagers who just met for the first time after long distance friendship, which might send wrong signals to the target viewers.

Monday, February 13, 2017

John Wick: Chapter 2

DIRECTOR: Chad Stahelski  LEAD CAST:  Keanu Reeves, Common, Laurence Fishburne, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ruby Rose, John Leguizamo, Ian McShane  SCREENWRITER: Derek Kolstad  PRODUCER: Basil Iwanyk, Erica Lee  EDITOR: Evan Schiff  MUSIC: Tyler Bates, Joel J. Richard  CINEMATOGRPHER: Dan Laustsen  GENRE:  Action Thriller  PRODUCTION COMPANY: Thunder Road Pictures, 87Eleven Productions  DISTRIBUTOR: Summit Entertainment  LOCATIONS:  United States, Italy, Canada  LANGUAGE: English  RUNNING TIME: 122 minutes
Technical assessment:  3
Moral assessment:  2
CINEMA rating:  V14
Legendary hitman John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is tired of violence and wants to turn his back on his destructive lifestyle.  He now prefers a quiet existence in the company of his extremely well-behaved nameless dog, but past partners in crime won’t let him.  As his former boss Santino D’Antonio chides him, “Everything you have here, you have because of me.”  Translation:  “It’s pay back time—now you do what I want.” And what Santino wants is for Wick to kill Santino’s own sister Gianna (Claudia Gerini), a rival in the family business.  Determined to live clean, Wick rejects the offer.  Santino repays the slight by blowing up Wick’s house.  Wick can’t escape the feeling that he “owes a marker” to Santino, so he agrees to do his bidding as his last mission.   He assassinates Gianna in cold blood; now Wick must run away from her bodyguard Cassian (Common). Santino’s henchwoman Ares (Ruby Rose), and about a dozen more unlikely characters racing to kill him for the $7 million bounty on his head.
Age has not slowed down Reeves; it has instead refined his performance in the action genre.  As they say, practice makes perfect.  Fans of John Wick Chapter 1 will not be disappointed with this sequel as it delivers more of the same heady cocktail of “testosterone, adrenaline, blood, viscera and broken bones.”   Viewers looking for subtlety in violence will not find it here—in fact, the movie seems to be enjoying its own love affair with choreographed violence that it has stopped caring about the body count.  Wick’s skills with the trigger and martial arts is simply superhuman; he kills everybody who gets in his way, mostly with one shot, and also with a knife, if one is stupid enough to engage Wick in hand-to-hand combat.  No—no living man can be that good at singlehandedly outsmarting almost a hundred enemies lurking at every turn.  (Note, however, that Wick only runs out of bullets when the chase slows down, and once he has reloaded, the enemies pop up again.)  Of course, it’s only choreography, and it feels like a video game, although some scenes are more engaging than the rest, like the chase in the catacombs and in the hall of mirrors.

Wick is a tormented character:  one side of him cares tenderly (that’s why the dog is there), while the other kills ruthlessly (no compunction about shooting someone who is already dying from a slashed wrist).   Towards the end, a character mocks Wick by saying he will never be able to change, that he will always kill because for him it’s already an addiction.   A reflection on the psychology of assassins and serial killers might offer some clues to understanding why there are so many crimes in our midst today.   Does killing a human being give the killer a high?  In the Philippines, they kill addicts, but are the killers not addicts yet?  The ending of John Wick is an open road—where it will lead Wick should be shown in the last part of this trilogy.  Although John Wick earned a V14 rating from CINEMA assessors, we suggest those below 18 look for other movies to enjoy and learn from, like Hidden Figures or Arrival.        

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Why him?

DIRECTOR:  John Hamburg  LEAD CAST:  James Franco, Bryan Cranston, Zoey Deutch, Megan Mullally, Griffin Gluck & Keegan-Michael Key  SCREENWRITER: John Hamburg & Ian Helfer  PRODUCER: Stuart Cornfeld, Dan Levine, Shawn Levy & Ben Stiller  EDITOR: William Kerr  MUSICAL DIRECTOR: Theodore Shapiro  GENRE: Romantic Comedy  CINEMATOGRAPHER: Kris Kachikis  DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox  LOCATION: USA  RUNNING TIME: 112 minutes
Technical assessment:  3.5
Moral assessment:  2:5
CINEMA rating:  V18
MTRCB rating:  PG 13
Greeting her dad by webcam during his birthday party, Stephanie (Zoey Deutch) is put in the hot seat by the premature arrival at her pad of her devil-may-care boyfriend Laird Mayhew (James Franco) who wiggles his behind in front of the camera.  Most shocked of all are her conservative, mid-Western, middle class parents  who only then get to know that their Stanford-educated daughter is already in a relationship.  The embarrassment over, Stephanie invites her whole family—dad Ned (Bryan Cranston), mom Barb (Megan Mullally) and 15-year old brother Scotty (Griffin Gluck) to spend the Christmas holidays at Laird’s mansion, with the intention of letting them come to know her weird boyfriend better.  Oil and water meet, and the Mayhew mansion turns into mayhem.
The production sets are in keeping with the characters they represent, particularly the Southern California mansion that’s like a cross between an ostentatious nouveau riche palace and a Google estate.  Why him? reminds one of Meet the Parents, a Robert de Niro comedy where old school meets new age and round pegs are stuck into square holes.  One can say Why him? is a formulaic movie although it has its own charm owing to the new combination of characters and the gags that rise from different circumstances.  Hamburg and Helfer’s story is plausible and could happen to anyone in America-the-land-of-the-free: the romance plot is given tension by the conflict between a prospective father-in-law who runs a printing company that’s nearing bankruptcy, and his daughter’s over-hopeful beau made a new billionaire by his computer games business.
Any parent would understand Ned’s disgust of the aspiring son-in-law who besides being foul-mouthed is as libidinous as a goat in the mating season.  To strengthen the message of Why him? Laird, the character in question, is made exaggeratedly boorish, unfiltered, and devoid of good manners.  But to Stephanie, he is refreshingly honest, guileless, good-natured, and loves her truly, and therefore must be given a chance.  For CINEMA to say that this is a totally objectionable film is to be guilty of the very crime Why him? is fighting against: judging a book by its cover.  The foul language, potty humor, raunchy jokes, et al, stand for the cover; and the book’s pages are the values it promotes—family, commitment in a relationship, deference to elders in matters that truly count.  (Laird is a product of a drunken one-night-stand, grew up without ever meeting or knowing his father, and the one thing he desires most is to belong in a family.  While he seriously wants to marry Stephanie, he would not do so without the blessing of her father).  So, why not him?

The Great Wall

Cast: Matt Damon, Jing Tian, Pedro Pascal: Direction: Zhang Yimou; Story: Max Brooks, Edward Zwicks, Marshall Herskovitz; Screenplay: Carlo Bernard, etc.; Cinematography: Stuart Dryburgh, Zhao Xiaoding; Editing: Cariag Wood; Music: Ramin Djawadi; Producers: Thomas Tull, Charles Roven, Jon Jashni, Petr Loehr; Genre: Fantasy-Adventure-Action Location: China; Distributor: Universal Pictures  Running Time:114 minutes 
Technical assessment: 3.5 
Moral assessment: 3
CINEMA rating: V18 
MTRCB ratingPG
The movie opens with a group of mercenary soldiers, whose motivation is money and food, and is pursued by the Khitans.  Eventually only William Garin (Damon) and Pero Tovar (Pascal) survive while hiding in a cave and accidentally slashes the hand of a monster.  The following day, the two come across the Great Wall and are captured by General Shao’s (Hanyu) elite army named the Nameless Order. Apparently, this army trained for eternity to eventually fight the Taotie beasts which invade the Jade Mountains every 60 years. Originally, Garin and Tovar’s objective is to steal black powder but the former gains the respect of the elite army and fights with the deputy commander Lin (Tian) to defeat the monsters. 
The Great Wall is a masterful visual extravaganza and nothing more. With the arsenal of Hollywood at its disposal, the movie had no reason to miss technical and production excellence.  Effortlessly, from start to finish, Yimou treated us with his signature filmic bravado playing lights, colors and movement in a dynamically choreographed scene. Audiences will always remember cinematic articulations like the funeral of Geneal Shao and tapestry of the Gobi desert and others. Editing is tight and successfully weaves together a series of suspense and action. For these elements alone, videwers will leave the theater satisfied. We wish we could say the same for its narrative. However, the storyline is flat and develops half-heartedly. The overwhelming visuals are sometimes too much to take given the absence of a complementary narrative exposition or motivational backstory. The supporting cast feels like a driftwood coasting through mounds of dialogue. 
The Great Wall offers a very timely message: selflessness supersedes self-centeredness. While we understand that people need to survive and will do anything to make sure he gets his next meal, to fight for something other than personal existence and die for a cause so others may live elevates humanity. Garin’s original motivations are food and money but through Lin’s courage and passion, he understands the value of serving others and sacrificing one’s self. And eventually finds more meaning in life. Society is not built on violence, anger or power. It is a collaboration of people building communities, strengthened by trust, loyalty and brotherhood.  While violence is unavoidable, it is not presented graphically so as to disturb the sensitivities of the younger audience. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Across the Crescent Moon

DIRECTOR: BABY NEBRIDA  LEAD CAST: MATTEO GUIDICELLI, ALEX GODINEZ, CHRISTOPHER DE LEON, SANDY ANDOLONG, GABBY CONCEPCION, DINA BONNEVIE  SCREENWRITER: BABY NEBRIDA  PRODUCER:  BABY NEBRIDA  LINE PRODUCER:  CHRISTINA NEBRIDA  EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: ANA CLEMENA, AMADO TAN  GENRE: ACTION, DRAMA  MUSIC: VON DE GUZMAN  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  TOPEL LEE  PRODUCTION DESIGNER:  ERWIN SANCHEZ  PRODUCTION COMPANY: GOLD BARN MEDIA INTERNATIONAL  DISTRIBUTOR: SILVER LINE MULTIMEDIA  LOCATIONS: Tawi Tawi, Simunul Island, Tanay, Clark, Subic, Zambales RUNNING TIME:   130 MINUTES
Technical assessment:  3.5
Moral assessment:  3.5
CINEMA rating:  V14
MTRCB rating: PG13
Ang unang madramang eksena sa Across the Crescent Moon ay ang pagtatalo ng mag-inang Emma (Alex Godinez) at Mita (Dina Bonnevie).  Labis ang pagtutol ng mag-asawang Garcia, sila Mita at Johnny (Gabby Concepcion), mga saradong Katoliko, sa pag-iibigan ng anak nilang si Emma at ng Muslim na si Abbas Misani (Matteo Guidicelli), ngunit hindi mapipigilan nito ang pag-iisang dibdib ng dalawa.  Sa Mindanao, manunuluyan si Emma at Abbas sa tahanan ng mga Misani kung saan si Emma ay pakikitunguhang mabuti ng mga magulang ni Abbas, sila Karim (Christopher de Leon) at Sitti (Sandy Andolong).  Darating ang puntong ipapakiusap ni Emma kay Abbas na lisanin nila ang magulong Mindanao at manirahan muna sila sa Maynila habang nagbubuntis siya.  Si Abbas ay isang matinik na sundalo ng Special Action Forces (SAF) na nakatalaga sa pagpuksa ng drug at human trafficking sa Mindanao, ngunit papalarin siyang bigyan ng bagong assignment sa Luzon.  Sa kasabikang makapiling muli ang pamilya, kalaunan ay sisikaping dumalaw ni Emma sa bahay nila ngunit sasalubungin lamang siya ng malupit na pagtatakwil sa kanya ng ina.  Sa kabila ng maselang kalagayang pagdadalantao ni Emma ay hindi matitinag ang puso ng ina na mahabagman lamang sa anak.  Hanggang kailan magdurusa si Emma?
Kakatwang magkabilang-dulo ang reaksiyon ng mga kritiko sa Across the Crescent Moon.  Mayroong pumupuri dito nang lubusan, at nagsasabing dapat itong panoorin ng bawat Pilipino; at mayroon din namang wala nang pinuna kundi ang sa tingin nila’y mga nagdudumilat na pagkukulang ng pelikula—mula anggulo ng kamera hanggang sa daloy ng istorya.  May nagsasabing sayang lamang ang iyong panahon at salapi kung papanoorin mo ang Across the Crescent Moon pagkat ito na yata ang “worst movie of all time”, ngunit may nagpapayo din na malaki ang mawawala sa iyo kapag hindi mo pinanood ito pagkat ito’y “special”—isang natatanging pelikula na buong-loob na tumatalakay at nagsasalarawan sa mga bagay na diumano’y hindi kailanman nagawa noon sa kasaysayan ng pelikulang Pilipino.  At mayroon din naman naggigiit na ang pelikula’y isang propaganda lamang ng administrasyong Duterte.  Iba’t ibang tao, iba’t ibang pananaw.
Madaling unawain ang pagkakalayo ng pananaw ng mga kritiko tungkol sa Across the Crescent Moon, at maaaring nagpapahiwatig na rin ito tungkol sa kinabukasan ng pelikula sa takilya.  Tulad ng karaniwang manonood, maraming kritiko ang naghahanap lamang na maaliw at mamangha sa husay ng pagkakagawa ng isang pelikula, hanggang sa puntong kaligtaan na nilang siyasatin ang “sustansiya” na inihahain nito, o ang hangaring nagluwal dito.  Hindi nakakaaliw ang tema ng Across the Crescent Moon, at ang kamangha-mangha dito ay ang katotohanang nabuo ito, narito na, isa nang pelikula dahil sa mga taong nagtaya ng talino, yaman, at pananalig sa pagnanais na makatulong sa pagsulong ng kaayusan at kapayapaan sa bansa.
Sa isang interview ay napag-alaman ng CINEMA na layunin ng direktor na si Baby Nebrida na pakitirin ang agwat sa pagitan ng mga Kristiyano at Muslim sa pamamagitan ng pagtatampok sa tamang kaalaman, kaya’t minabuti niyang isalarawan ang kabutihang napapaloob sa isang pamilyang Muslim sa pelikulang ito.  Sa inspirasyon niyang ito, naakit ni Nebrida ang mga batikang artista na gumanap kasama ng mga “bagito” sa pelikula, at ang husay na ipinakita ng lahat sa pagganap ay nag-ugat hindi sa “acting technique” lamang kungdi sa paniniwalang may mithiin silang tunay na makabuluhan sa kanilang sining.  Sa press conference na dinaluhan ng CINEMA, inamin din ng mga artista na sa kanilang pag-aaral sa kani-kaniyang mga papel, at sa pakikihalubilo nila sa mga Muslim sa shooting sa Mindanao, namulat din ang mga mata ng cast (na pawang mga Kristiyano) sa kagandahan ng kaugalian at buhay-panalangin ng mga Muslim.  Sa gayon, hindi “trabaho lang” ang pagiging bahagi nila sa Across the Crescent Moon; isa rin itong “learning moment” na nagpalawak sa kanilang pananaw tungkol sa “naiibang kultura,” at nagpaigting sa kanilang performance.  Resulta: anumang kahinaang mayroon sa aspetong teknikal ang Across the Crescent Moon ay madali nang “palampasin”, gawa ng taos-pusong pagganap ng mga artista sa kani-kaniyang mga papel.  
Ang papel ni Bonnevie—si Mita, makitid ang isip, kampante sa kalagayan niya sa lipunan, may mabuting hangarin ngunit salat sa tunay na pang-unawa sa anak o sa kapwa—ang matatawag na “puso ng pelikula” pagka’t dito nasasalamin ang pagbabagong kailangang pagdaanan ng mga Pilipino tungo sa ikabubuti ng ugnayan sa pagitan ng mga Muslim at ninumang Pilipino na wala o may baluktot na kaalaman tungkol sa relihiyong Islam.
Hindi ipagtataka ng CINEMA kung hindi man “papatok” sa masa ang Across the Crescent Moon, pagkat batay na rin sa mga pag-aaral na isinasagawa ng industriya, ang karaniwang Pilipinong manonood ay pumapasok sa sinehan para matawa, makiliti, o mangilabot, at hindi upang  magmuni-muni tungkol sa kinabukasan ng bansang Pilipinas.  Maaaring hindi humakot ng milyon-milyong piso sa takilya ang Across the Crescent Moon ngunit sa ganang CINEMA, milyon-milyong mga sugatang puso sa bansa ang mapaghihilom ng malalim na pag-unawa sa mabuting balitang hatid ng pelikula.
Ang unang araw ng pagpapalabas ng Across the Crescent Moon ay nataon sa Enero 25, ang ikalawang anibersaryo ng tinaguriang “Mamasapano Massacre” na ikinasawi ng 44 na kawal ng SAF.  Ang pagkakasama ng mga tunay na sundalo ng SAF sa pelikula ay nagpatingkad sa pagka-makatotohanan nito, bagay na ikalulugod marahil ng marami pang mga kawal na makakapanood ng Across the Crescent Moon sa nababalitang nalalapit na pagpapalabas nito sa mga kampo ng sundalo.

Ang ubod ng pelikula ay ang pag-iibigan ng dalawang taong may magkaibang pinanggagalingan, at ang pag-asa ng pagkakaisang dala ng pagkakaunawaan.  Kung dito itutuon ang pansin ng manonood, hindi tatanawing “propaganda” ang pelikula, pagkat lalabas na “bit player” lamang si Digong at si Bato rito—hindi mga bayaning aakay sa bayan tungo sa kaluwalhatian.  Makabubuti ring ipalabas at talakayin ang pelikula sa mga paaralan sa malalaking lungsod bilang pangmulat sa diwa ng mga kabataang nanganganib nang malulong sa kababawang naghahari sa ating mga palabas, sa sinehan man, sa telebisyon, o sa internet.