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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Luck at First Sight

DIRECTOR: Dan Villegas  CAST:  Jericho Rosales, Bela Padilla, Cholo Barreto, Kim Molina  PRODUCER:  Joyce Bernal  SCREENWRITER:  Ays de Guzman   PRODUCER:  Joyce Bernal  EDITOR:  Marya Ignacio  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Emerzon Texon  GENRE:  Romantic Comedy  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Mycko David   PRODUCTION COMPANY: VIVA Films and N2 Production  DISTRIBUTOR: Viva Films  COUNTRY:Philippines  LANGUAGE: Filipino  RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
Technical assessment:  3
Moral assessment: 2.5
CINEMA rating:  V14
MTRCB rating: PG
Magkukrus ang landas nina Joma (Jericho Rosales) at Diane (Bela Padilla) sa panahon na  pareho silang  nahaharap sa matinding pangangailangan sa pera. Talunan sa sugal si Joma at binabantaan na nang mahigpit ang kanyang buhay ng kanyang pinagkakautangan.  Si Diane naman ay niloko ng kapartner sa maliit na negosyo, at mahigpit na nangangailangan ng pangtustos sa ospital at mailigtas ang buhay ng biyudong ama.  Mapagpaniwala sa mga pampaswerte si Joma kaya makakabili siya ng “life charm”—mistulang holen na luntian—na diumano’y magdadala sa kanya ng solusyon sa mga pinansiyal niyang problema.  Sa mga di sinasadyang pagkakataon na makikita niya si Diane ay magaganda ang mga nangyayari sa kanya kaya matantanto niya na si Diane ang life charm  niya.  Makikipagkilala at makikipagkasunduan siya kay Diane na maging “business partners”.  Sasamahan siya ni Diane sa pagsusugal para masiguro ang panalo na paghahatian nila. Bilang life charm, mas pisikal na malapit si Diane kay Joma ay mas malaki ang panalo at parehong malulutas ang problema nila sa pera. Labis ang kasiyahan nila sa swerteng ito. Kaya lang kundisyon ng life charm na hindi dapat sila magkagustuhan dahil kapag nagkagayon ay mababaligtad ang swerte sa malas.
Bagamat predictable ang kwento, maayos naman ang script  ng Luck at  First Sight.  Mahusay ang pagkakadirehe sa mga nagsiganap.  Natural at epektibo si Rosales at si Padilla sa kani-kaniyang papel.  Nakakaaliw din ang mga eksenang patawa nina Kim Molina at Cholo Barreto bilang mga sidekick  ng dalawa, pero medyo OA ang dating ng eksenang nagpapa-sexy si Diane sa harap ng kolektor ng ilaw na bading naman pala.  Hindi rin makatotohanan ang disenyo ng produksyon sa ilang mga eksena tulad ng sobrang linis na sabungan, pinipinturahang botika,  tindahang naputulan ng kuryente, at sa ospital kung saan nasa private room pa ang ama ni Diane gayong kapos nga sa pera.  Wala rin sa hitsura ng ama na may sakit siya—masyadong malusog ang dating.  Mahusay ang editing lalo na ng mga eksenang nagpapakita ng mga sunod-sunod na pagwawagi sa sugal ng dalawa. Akma ang mga inilapat na musika at nakatulong upang paigtingin ang pinaghalong romansa at patawa ng pelikula.
Parehong taliwas sa tamang pagpapahalaga ang pagsusugal at paniniwala sa swerte ang lumulutang na tema ng Luck at First Sight.  Sa tindi ng pangangailangan, swerte at sugal lamang ang idiniing solusyon ng pelikula.  Katulad ng nangyari sa kanyang ama ay sugal din ang naging dahilan kung bakit nalubog sa utang si Joma pero mukhang hindi pa rin siya nadala—nangdamay pa siya sa paniniwalang ito at sinamantala ang pagtitiwala sa kanya ni Diane.  Lubhang kaakit-akit ang paglalarawan ng sugal sa pelikula, na pinatamis pa ng pagkakahulugang-loob nina Joma at Diane.  Dahil dito, baka hindi na mapansin ng manonood ang positibong mensahe ng Luck at First Sight: ang tunay na tagumpay ni Joma.  Bagama’t sa sugal muli siya umasa at pinalad namang manalo, ang sandali ng kanyang tunay na pagwawagi ay noong talikuran niya ang kanyang pagiging sugapa sa panalo.  Hinimok siya ng kalaban sa sugal upang “palakihin” pa ang kanyang napanaluhan, ngunit tumanggi siya.  Ang mensahe sa puntong ito ay: nakilala na niya ang kasawiang-palad na dulot na pagiging sakim sa panalong dala ng “swerte”.  Tumanggi siyang isugal pa ang hawak na salapi, at lumisan siya ng bahay-sugalan.  Dahil sa tatag ng kanyang desisyon, nagawa niya ang nararapat: ibalik ang perang dapat ay kay Diane, bayaran ang utang sa nagbabanta sa kanyang buhay, at magsimula ng marangal na hanapbuhay.  Paalala ng CINEMA: ang kabuhayan o pagkita ng malaki ay pinaghihirapan at hindi dapat iasa sa sugal, anting-anting o pampaswerte.  Sa pagharap sa hamon ng buhay ay mahalaga na mayroon pagsisikap, tamang desisyon, at pananalig sa tanging nagkakaloob ng biyaya na walang iba kundi ang Diyos. 

Fast and Furious 8

DIRECTOR: F. Gary Gray   LEAD CAST: Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson,    Chris Bridges, Nathalie Emmanuel, Kurt Russell, Scott Eastwood, Charlize Theron, Helen Mirren  WRITTEN BY: Chris Morgan  BASED ON CHARACTERS BY: Gary Scott Thompson  PRODUCERS: Neal H. Moritz, Vin Diesel, Michael Fottrell,   FILM EDITORS: Nei Christian Wagner, Paul Rubell  GENRE: Action, Crime, Thriller  CINEMATOGRAPHY: Stephen F. Windon  MUSIC: Brian Tyler  PRODUCTON COMPANIES: Original Film, One Race Films, Perfect World Pictures, China Film Group Crporation  DISTRIBUTORS: Universal Pictures  COUNTRY: U. S. A.  LANGUAGE: English RUNNING TIME: 2 hours & 16 minutes
Technical assessment: 3.5
Moral assessment: 3
CINEMA rating: V14
MTRCB rating: R16
The eighth installment of the popular Fast and Furious franchise, this one follows the honeymoon of Dominic Torretto and Letty (Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez) in Cuba while the rest of the crew are exonerated and living the semblance of a normal life. Then one mysterious woman, Cipher (Charlize Theron) interrupts Dom on their way back home and offers him to work for her. Dom is hesitant at first but she shows him something that causes him to consider the offer.  Back home, Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) once again recruits Dom and his crew to prevent a strong weapon of mass destruction from falling into dangerous hands – but at the end of the mission, Dom betrays Luke and steals the weapon from him. It is then revealed that Dom now works for Cipher—who apparently is an international terrorist and hacker—and the entire crew is soon forced to go up against them. Has Dom really turned his back on the team he calls family?
Fast and Furious 8 remains to be an exciting spectacle of fast cars and high technology. As expected of its genre and for what the franchise is known for, there are explosions, destructions, havoc, speeding cars and car crashes galore. Audiences are fascinated by all these considering the feast of flashy luxury cars and the involvement of cyber-technology in its manipulation. But central to the spectacle is the heart of the story that revolves around family and teamwork. Amidst the seemingly chaotic picture is a story with a clear villain and a team that is up to stop her at whatever the cost—even if it means going up against a former member whom they consider family. The plot gets to be interesting as it reveals layers and layers of motivations—clearly defining each character’s significance in the entire story.  The film has no pretensions of going bizarre and philosophical but it is still able to elicit a certain level of suspense and excitement with a dose of drama and humor.

Fast and Furious 8, despite its expected noise and chaos, centers on family and relationships anchored on values that are explicitly Christian. The team has developed a familial bond that goes beyond blood relations. They protect one another and do not turn their backs entirely on a member believing that family is family. The crew is always keen on saving humanity from harm and evil plot and it takes a team of their caliber of courage, strength and bravery to do such life-threatening mission. The cross is a major element in the plot and plays a vital symbolism for the characters’ faith and salvation. Even the seemingly ultra-powerful villain is defeated by the presence of the cross—although the battle may not be really over.  The characters are seen making the sign of the cross, praying in the middle of the battle, saying grace before meals and their central goal is to save a family and the world—traits that are characteristic of a good person and a good Christian. However, it cannot be denied that inherent to the film’s genre, there are frequent scenes and graphic images of violence, cursing, and some sexual innuendoes which are inappropriate for the very young audiences even if those scenes are within the film’s context.  So CINEMA deems the film as appropriate only to audiences ages 14 and above. 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2

DirectionJames GunnCast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Kurt Russel, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Chris Sullivan, Vin DieselScreenplayJames Gunn; Based on Guardinas of the Galaxy by Dan Abnett and Andy LanningCinematography: Henry Braham; Editing:  Fred Raskin, Craig WoodProducerMarvel StudiosMusicTyler BatesGenre: Sci-Fi Action; Distributor: Walt DisneyLocation: The Galaxy  Running Time136 minutes 
Technical assessment3.5 
Moral assessment3
CINEMA rating: V14   
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, like its predecessor, opens up with a dance sequence from Baby Groot (voiced by Diesel) as Peter (Pratt), Gamora (Saldana), Drax (Bautista) and Rocket (voiced by Cooper) fight of a multi-dimensional monster. Between protecting Baby Groot and fighting with each other, the four defeat the monster and return to Ayesha (Debicki), golden Queen of the Sovereign Race.  Apparently, the Guardians were hired to protect some very valuable batteries in exchange for Gamoras estranged sister Nebula (Gillan). But Rocket being Rocket steals a few batteries and causes them to be attacked by the Sovereign drones. Fortunately, a mysterious figure comes to their aid but causes the Guardian’s ship to crash land.  The mysterious stranger introduces himself to be Peter’s Celestial father, Ego (Russel). Peter, Gamora and Drax follow Ego to his home planet while Rocket repairs the space craft with Baby Groot and Nebula. Desperate to have a real family, Peter ignores Gamora’s suspicions and Mantis’ (Klementieff) warnings.  Afterwards, Yondu (Rooker) arrives to re-capture the Guardians, Nebula escapes to kill Gamora whom she blames for all the torture she received from their father, and Ego’s real plans are revealed. 
Guardians of the Galaxy sits on three strong aspects: impressive visuals, excellent comedic timing, and interesting plot development. First, the artistic and technical quality of the CGIs and post production manipulation is beyond impressive for it brings to life a new world that is both fantastic and believable. Second, the characters are dynamic and likeable. More than the punchlines delivered on point, both the good and bad girls and guys are relatablehence able to connect with the audience. The humor of the script is cleverly written and results in a genuine laugh even after one has left the theaters. Funny makes the movie heartwarming and diverts attention to the sometimes over-the-top aggression. And finally, audience can follow the story with all the new characters and complicated twists even with no prior knowledge of the comic franchise or the movie prequel. It is simple but unpredictable and multifaceted but tight.    
Guardians of the Galaxy has ever since capitalized on the concept of familybiological and adoptedfrom the love-hate relationship among  Peter Quill, Ego and Yondu, to the rivalry between Gamora and Nebula, to the unequivocal love everyone has behind all the squabbles and bickering.  The guardians love each other and will put aside differences for the sake of the other. In so many ways, family and relationship has been redefined. Sibling rivalry is actually a cry for attention and support. Disagreements and fights yet remaining loyal and faithful to the same person means acceptance and willingness to go beyond the surface. Choosing to side with a stranger to uphold what is right versus loyalty to one’s sinister master shows the value of cultivating relationships based on honesty and integrity. Each character and sub-plot reveals a positive relationship. 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Gifted

DIRECTOR: Marc Webb  LEAD CAST: Chris Evans, Mckenna Grace, Lindsay Duncan, Jenny Slate, Octavia Spencer  SCREENWRITER: Tom Flynn  PRODUCER:  Andy Cohen, Karen Lunder  EDITOR:  Bill Pankow  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Rob Simonsen  GENRE: Drama  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Stuart Dryburgh  DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Bros  LOCATION:  USA  RUNNING TIME:   101 minutes
Technical assessment:  3.5
Moral assessment:  3.5
CINEMA rating:  V13
MTRCB rating:  PG
On her first day of school, seven-year-old Mary (Mckenna Grace) is discovered to be a mathematical genius.  The school principal offers a full scholarship for Mary at a school for gifted children but her guardian and uncle, Frank Adler (Chris Evans), brother of Mary’s deceased mother, rejects it.  Frank insists he had promised his late sister Diane, Mary’s mother, that he would raise Mary as a normal child in due time, lest the child suffer a fate similar to her mother who was a mathematical prodigy herself but committed suicide when Mary was barely six months old.  One day Frank’s wealthy and estranged mother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan) appears at the doorstep of Frank’s humble shack in Florida, claiming it would be best for Mary to live with her in Massachusetts where her genius may be best honed to prepare her for a life devoted to mathematics.  How will the court battle for custody between Mary’s uncle and her grandmother turn out?
Gifted exceeds expectations its trailers may have created.  For one, the actors really deliver:  Captain America is completely obliterated in the intensity of Evans’ performance as the devoted uncle Frank Adler.  As a seven-year-old Mary losing her milk teeth, Grace (who was actually 10-years-old during filming) is spot-on adorable and formidable when she has to be.  Duncan as a poised upper-crust Brit and yet a virtual stage grandma is at once convincing and pathetic.  Gifted would have easily slid into a soppy melodrama were it not for the insightful script which plays fair in peeling layers of desirable and undesirable traits of both Frank and Evelyn in their fight for custody—both mean well, but both are flawed, too.  When the dust settles, neither wins nor loses although justice is till served by the weight of a dead mother’s secret wish, and the desire of the daughter who never knew her.

In essence, Gifted presents two competing parenting philosophies and asks the viewer to ponder the responsibilities of both parents and society in so far as the nurture and upbringing of gifted children is concerned.  If we raised a gifted child as we would “any ordinary kid” we might be wasting her strengths otherwise useful to society; on the other hand if we focused on honing her gifts alone she might end up dehumanized, brilliant but emotionally robotic.  It is a complex question to answer butby gently zeroing in on tender and carefree moments between Frank and Mary—Gifted breathes compassion and human kindness into the issue, providing a satisfying and beautiful equation in the end.


Monday, April 24, 2017

The Boss Baby

DIRECTOR:  TOM MCGRATH  CAST: ALEC BALDWIN, STEVE BUSCEMI, MILES BAKSHI, JIMMY KIMMEL, LISA KUDROW, TOBEY MAGUIRE  SCREENWRITER:  MICHAEL McCULLERS   PRODUCER:  RAMSEY ANN NAITO  EDITOR:  JAMES RYAN  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  HANS ZIMMER, STEVE MAZZARO  GENRE: COMPUTER ANIMATED COMEDY  DISTRIBUTOR: DREAMWORKS ANIMATION, 20TH CENTURY FOX  LOCATION:  UNITED STATES  RUNNING TIME:   98 minutes
Technical assessment:  3
Moral assessment:  3
CINEMA rating:  V13
Narrator Tobey MacGuire says the last thing seven-year-old only child Tim Templeton (voiced by Miles Bakshi) wants is another baby in the family, for he is enjoying the undivided attention of his parents Ted and Janice (voiced by Jimmy Kimmel and Lisa Kudrow).  Then one day a baby brother—Boss Baby (voiced by Alec Baldwin)—arrives, threatening to turn Tim’s world upside down, more so because this is no ordinary baby but wears a business suit and carries an attaché case filled with crayons and a nursing bottle.  One day Tim discovers that not only can his baby brother talk like a bossy adult, but that he is actually in the Templeton home on a mission!  Tim resents the brat’s invasion but the two become allies once Boss Baby admits that if he fails in his mission, he will have no choice but to remain in the Templeton household.
The voice cast is excellent, and the characterization consistent, but Boss Baby being an animated comedy, the movie can’t help but throw in potty humor, childish gags, and a silly chase to advance the plot.  (What Hollywood movie can survive without a chase of some kind—whether it involves cars or cats?)  The weirdness of it all may make the movie be dismissed as forgettable fun, disposable entertainment, but a closer look at the ending (or maybe a second viewing of the whole thing) will reveal that the silliness is intentional, for Boss Baby aims to prick adult conscience while giving kids the laughs.

Boss Baby addresses four issues: 1) where babies come from; 2) the trauma of an only child over the arrival of a younger sibling; 3) society and laws being more protective of dogs/puppies than of human babies; 4) the emptiness of worldly achievement without love.  CINEMA cannot explain more without revealing spoilers, so we leave it to the viewer to put the “weird” and “silly” pieces together and listen to the final song in order to see the movie’s worthwhile message through the “flimsy plot”.     

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Can't Help Falling in Love

DIRECTOR:Mae Cruz-Alviar  CAST: Kathryn Bernardo, Daniel Padilla, Mateo Guidicelli  PRODUCER: John Leo Garcia  SCREENWRITER: Carmi Raymundo, Kristine Gabriel  GENRE:  Romantic Comedy  PRODUCTION COMPANY: ABS-CBN Film Productions, Inc.  DISTRIBUTOR: Star Cinema  COUNTRY:Philippines  LANGUAGE: Filipino  RUNNING TIME:79 minutes
Technical assessment: 2.5
Moral assessment: 2.5
CINEMA rating:  V14
MTRCB rating; PG13
Kapwa lango sa kalasingan ang dalawang estranghero na sina Gab (Kathryn Bernardo) at Dos (Daniel Padilla) nang katuwaan silang ikasal ng mayor na kasama nila sa inuman. Nakatakda na talagang ikasal si Gab sa US-based niyang fiancé na si Jason (Mateo Gudicelli). Sa pagkawala ng kanilang kalasingan ay magkakasundo sina Gab at Dos na gawin ang lahat ng paraan upang mapawalang-bisa ang nasabing kasal. Ipagtatapat ni Gab sa fiancé ang ginawa niyang paglalasing subalit maduduwag siyang sabihin ang aksidenteng pagpapakasal kay Dos dahil ayaw niyang tumalikod ito sa itinakda nilang kasal.  Samantala habang tinatrabaho nila ang mga proseso ng annulment ay malalaman nila na ang taong makakatulong sa kanila ay nasa Cebu.  Bibiyahe sila sa Cebu kasama ang dalawang kaibigan para hanapin ang taong ito.  Habang nasa Cebu ay magkakalapit sila at tuluyang mahuhulog ang loob sa isa’t isa. Subalit paano na ang nakatakdang kasal ni Gab kay Jason? Kasabay nito ay mabubunyag din kay Gab na may maselan palang kalagayan si Dos na maari nitong ikamatay ano mang oras kung di sasailalim na matagumpay na operasyos sa ulo.
Mababaw at di kapani-paniwala ang kwento ng Can’t Help Falling In Love. Tila sinadya lang gawin ang pelikula para makita ng mga fans ng sikat na tambalan ang kanilang mga idolo sa big screen. Madalas na close-up ang mga individual na kuha ng camera kina Padilla at Bernardo at mukhang oportunidad ito ng dalawa para magpa-cute sa screen at magpakilig ng mga fans. Pero sa acting ay walang masyadong ipinakita ang ang dalawa. Maganda naman ang mga malalayong kuha ng kamera sa mga tampok na lugar sa Cebu kasabay ng paglalarawan sa mga ito sa pamamagitan ng voice over ni Padilla. May ilang eksena na epektibo ang lighting katulad ng break-up scene nina Gab at Jason, tuwing gigising si Dos at nagte-thank you kay Lord, at ang wedding scene. Tama lang sana ang mga inilapat na musika at kanta maliban sa eksena ng pagkanta ni Gab na naka-microphone at bulaklak bago ipasok sa operating room si Dos na medyo corny ang dating.

Paulit-ulit na eksena sinasambit ang “thank you Lord” sa pelikula ng pangunahing tauhan na si Dos tuwing gigising siya dahil may sakit siya. Pero may sakit man o wala ay maganda na simulan ang araw ng nagpapapasalamat sa Diyos. Samantala, pangunahing tema ng pelikula ang pagpapakasal.  Maaring itong gawin ng madalian subalit hindi ang pagpapawalang-bisa. Ang kasal ay isang seryosong kaganapan sa buhay ng dalawang tao at marapat na gawin ng may lubos na kamalayan at pang-unawa.  Samakatuwid hindi talaga ito pwedeng gawin kapag hibang sa kalasingan ang isang tao kahit nasa tamang edad pa ito.  Gayundin din naman, ang sinumang tao na nakatakda nang ikasal ay dapat maging maingat upang huwag mapasubo ang sarili sa mga situwasyong alanganin.  Sa isang relasyon ay mahalaga na isaalang-alang ang kalayaan ng bawat isa at pagkasunduan ang mga limitasyon upang maging maligaya at panghabang-buhay ang samahan. Naghatid din ang pelikula ng mensahe ng pagtatapat, pagtanggap, at pagpapatawad sa pagitan ng mga magkatipan, ng mga magulang at anak. Sa kabuuan ay positibo ang hatid na mensahe ng pelikula.  Bagama’t maituturing na maganda ang mensaheng ginustong ihatid ng Can’t Help Falling in Love, nalilmliman ito ng kababawan at labis na paglalabas nito ng mga eksenang “pangiliti” at “pampakilig”—hindi mabuting itanim sa kamalayan ng mga musmos na manonood na ang pag-aasawa ay ganon-ganon lamang, romansa, komedya, kasalan na!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Ghost in the Shell

Direction: Rupert Sanders;  Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Michael Pitt, Pilou Asbeak, Chin Han, Juliette Binoche; Screenplay: Jamie Moss, William Wheeler, Ehran Mruger;Based on Ghost In A Shell by Masamune Shirow; Editing:  Neil Smith, Billy Rich; Producer: Avi Arad, Steven Paul, Michael Costigan; Music: Clint Mansell, Lorne Balfe; Genre: Sci-Fi Action; Distributor: Paramount Pictures; Location: Japan;  Running Time: 106 minutes
Technical assessment: 3
Moral assessment: 3
CINEMA rating: V14
Ghost in the Shell is based on the Japanese manga by Masamune Shirow. It is set at a time where people have a bit of robot in them—either as physical aid to a disability or an augmentation to enhance their capability. The Major, Mila Killian’s (Johanssen), is the first to have a human brain transplanted into a robotic body. She is an experiment to develop a counter-operative cyborg.  But beneath the metal shell are fragmented memories of the ghost of the person she used to be. The film follows her battles as an instrument of violence and aggression to  her quest to discover her identity and humanity.
Undeniably, the movie is a visual feast with a roller coaster of spectacular interpretation of the future and the original anime. It stays faithful to the Japanese concept but in staying too faithful the movie fails to come into its own. The iconic Japanese story is nothing new as it resounds other movies of above average spies who are always too willing to set aside their powers and skill in exchange for knowing who they are and how it is to be human (think Bourne Identity, Total Recall, Unknown, and others). However, while the film surpasses them in its visual techniques and production values, it misses the heart of the narrative—that which drives a person to be human and to be with a family.
The message of Ghost in the Shell is everyone's struggle—to find one's identity, to discover the meaning of humanity, and to be one with society. Every person, over time and through the advancement of technology, becomes cold and calculating like a robot. When people start to neglect another person’s feeling in favor of his own, when they set aside natural and Divine laws in the pretense of order and discipline, when the rights of another are trampled to benefit the self—we become less human. But, even in a society where the true self seems to be vanishing – there will always be a Major trying to break free from the shell of corruption, apathy, and oppression in order to discover what it means to be a person.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Case for Christ

DIRECTOR: Jon Gunn  LEAD CAST: Mike Vogel, Erika Christensen , Frankie Faison, Faye Dunaway, Robert Forster, L. Scott Caldwell  SCREENWRITER: Brian Bird  PRODUCER:  Elizabeth Hatcher-Travis, Karl Horstmann, Michael Scott, David A. R. White,. Alysoun Wolfe, Britanny Yost  EDITOR:  Vance Null  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Will Musser  GENRE: Drama, Religion  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Brian Shanley  DISTRIBUTOR: Pure Flix Entertainment  LOCATION:  USA  RUNNING TIME:   112 minutes
Technical assessment:  3
Moral assessment:  4
CINEMA rating:  V14
The Case for Christ narrates the true story of Lee Strobel (Mike Vogel), a self-proclaimed atheist and award-winning investigative journalist with the Chicago Tribune.  While dining out with his wife (Erika Christensen) his five-year-old daughter Alison (Haley Rosenwasser), is saved from choking to death on a large gumball by a black woman.  When thanked by the tearful mother, the life-saver Alfie (L. Scott Caldwell), a nurse, promptly states that it was Jesus who did it, adding that she and her husband had meant to go to another restaurant but she had a God-given feeling that she would be needed there instead.  Strobel sneers at all this, but later on Leslie would join Alfie’s church.  “You’re cheating on me, with Jesus!” he says in one of their many fights, and proceeds to dig up evidence disproving Jesus’ existence and resurrection.
A true-to-life story translated to film gains power when the actors perform with conviction.  Those are the two big things going for The Case for Christ which easily overshadow the movie’s technical loopholes.  The period dressing (early 80s) is on point, and the over-all acting is good, although Forster as Strobel’s pathetic father is moving.  It’s not the movie’s fault that it has earned very few reviews from First World critics—it’s just that these (apparently nonbelieving) critics tend to avoid touching faith-based filmmaking.  And rightly so, for religion is beyond their purview, thus their critique may be crippled by a merely technical assessment of the film’s artistic merit.
The Case for Christ is a conversion story that highlights its emotional drama more than its theology but has apparently pleased its target audience, debuting to $3.9 million at the box office— an accomplishment for a movie made on a $3 million budget.  This may be saying something about the movie-going public’s hunger for faith-friendly films.  CINEMA watched the movie on its 6th day of showing; we were rather surprised that the handful of viewers with us then applauded as the credits rolled—pretty unusual for a Filipino audience (who would giggle, sigh, shriek, and swoon to a local romantic comedy, but applaud, never).  We understood then that the applause was for the real-life Lee Strobel who since his dramatic conversion has gone on to become a zealous pastor, authoring several award-winning books on Christian apologetics.  From atheist to Christian apologist—that’s the story that the audience applauds, and the applause signals the need for more edifying filmmaking.  The Case for Christ is a rich source of discussion topics: marital fidelity, the dynamics of conversion, pride and humility, the wounds caused in the child by absent fathers.