Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Unmarried Wife

Direction: Maryo J. delos Reyes Cast: Angelica Panganiban, Dingdong Dantes, Paolo Avelino Story and Screenplay: Keiko Aquino Genre: Drama; Location: Metro Manila Distributor: Star Cinema; Running Time: 103 minutes
Technical assessment: 3
Moral assessment: 2.5
CINEMA rating: V16
Pagkatapos ng mala-pantasyang pagkakakilala, ligawan at kasal nina Ann (Panganiban) at Geoff (Dantes), tila wala nang katapusan ang kilig at saya ng kanilang pagsasama. Hanggang magkaroon ng problema si Geoff sa trabaho at nagkataon namang abala si Ann dahil kaka-promote naman niya. Dahil tila walang mapagsabihan ng sama ng loob ay natukso si Geoff sa ka-opisinang handang maglaan ng sandalan para sa lalake. Habang lumalaon ay mararamdaman ni Ann ang pagtabang ng kanilang pagsasama at susubukang sorpresahin ang asawa para makabawi. Pero siya ang masosorpresa pagkat mahuhuli niya sa akto ang pagtataksil ng kabiyak. Magiging lamat ito sa kanilang relasyon. Mahihirapang magpatawad si Ann samantalang hindi makakapagtiyagang manuyo si Geoff at muli itong magtataksil. Magiging daan ito upang tuluyang sumuko si Ann at mabaling ang atensyon sa ibang lalake. Lalong magiging masalimuot ang sitwasyon para sa dalawa na susubok sa tatag ng pagmamahal at pagtataya bilang mag-asawa.
Bilang isang melodrama, angat ang The Unmarried Wife sa karaniwan dahil maganda ang pagkakatahi ng mga eksena, mahusay ang mga gumanap at may kiliti at kagat ang palitan ng salita. Hindi bago ang tema at hindi rin kakaiba ang atake pero nabigyang hustisya naman ito ng malinis na produksyon. Kaya nga lamang, hindi ito ang tipo ng pelikula na ipaglalaban mo at pag-aaksayahan ng oras para lamang mapanuod. Magaling si Panganiban pero ang kanyang atake sa karakter ay nakita na sa mga naunang pelikula niya kung saan isa siyang api o nilokong asawa. Kapos ang pagganap ni Dantes samantalang mala-tuod naman ang atake ni Avelino. Ang malaking kakulangan ay galing sa malabnaw o sadyang di pantay na pagkakahubog ng mga tauhan. Halatang kiling kay Panganiban ang pagkakasulat ng kwento pero masyado namang nahuli ang pagbigay ng maayos na motibasyon sa mga lalake. Mabababaw at makikitid ang utak ng mga bidang lalake na ginagawang dahilan ang sandali ng kalungkutan o pagkabigo para talikuran ang kasal—at pagkatapos ay sa isang “sorry” lamang ay aasahang maayos na ang lahat. Nagkaroon na mainit na pagtatalo ang mga ina nina Ann at Geoff para bigyan ng pagbubuod ang pananaw sa asawang babae—na “de-kahon” ayon sa mata ng tradisyunal na lipunan.

May magandang mensahe para sa mga mag-asawa ang kwento. Una, ang panandaliang ligaya sa ibang kandungan ay kumplikado, masakit, at nakaaapekto hindi lamang sa mag-asawa kundi sa buong pamilya at mga taong nakapaligid sa kanila.  Lahat ng mag-asawa ay nagkakagalit, nagkakabagutan, nagkakaroon ng kumpitensya, at minsan, nagdedesisyong maghiwalay. Pero ang lahat ng ito ay nalalagpasan kung ang layunin ng magkabilang panig ay buuin ang pamilya at patatagin ang pagsasama. Ibig sabihin, sa mga pagkakataong nagkakaroon ng problema, hindi na mahalaga kung sino ang mas tama kungdi kung sino ang mas nagmamahal. At ito ang ikalawang punto—na ang pinakapundasyon ng matatag na relasyon ay ang tapat at mapagmahal na komunikasyon. Sabi nga ni Geoff, kung nag-usap lang sila nuong simula pa hindi sana sila umabot sa hiwalayan ang kanilang kasal. Sa kabilang dako, matalino ang pagpili ni Ann na ayusin muna ang sarili kaysa sa makipagbalikan na lamang kaagad sa asawa. Kahit papaano naman ay nagkaroon ng hustisya para sa mga kababaihan na hindi dapat magpabulag sa paglalambing ng lalake na para bang eto na lamang ang tanging dahilan upang sila’y mabuhay. 
DIRECTOR: Scott Derrickson  LEAD CAST: Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Rachel McAdams, Mads Mikkelsen  SCREENWRITERS: Jon Spaihts, Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill  PRODUCER: Kevin Feige  EDITOR: Sabrina Plisco, Wyatt Smith  MUSICAL DIRECTOR: Michael Giacchino  GENRE: Action, Adventure, Fantasy  CINEMATOGRAPHER: Ben Davis  DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia Pictures  LOCATION: Kathmandu, Nepal; Hongkong, China; New York, USA  RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes
Technical Assessment: 3.5
Moral Assessment: 3
Cinema Rating: PG 13
MTRCB Rating: PG
Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a brilliant neurosurgeon but a car accident leaves a permanent damage on his hands that he can no longer function as one. All Western medical experts are one in saying that it’s impossible for him to recover. Desperate for cure, he travels to Nepal in search of  of alternative miracle treatment. There he finds The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), Sorcerer Supreme of the Earth, who opens his eyes to an unknown world of both mystical and spiritual realms. Through intense study, Dr. Strange learns the ways of the sorcerer, and finds himself already involved in a mystical war against the enemies from the dark side who are keen on destroying the universe and permanently defythrough permanent defiance of natural laws.
Doctor Strange no doubt is a spectacular visual treat where the audience is transported to a different dimension. Although of a fantasy-adventure genre, the film solidly portrays humans and humanity in the mirage of magic and mystique. The result may be a twisted, weird paradox of images and labyrinth of actions and emotions but there is solid story underneath that to look into the logical sequencing will be a contradiction of its purpose. But the real magic lies in the strength of the brilliant actors in the film who are able to give life and intensity to the otherwise relatively unique characters of varied temperaments. That makes the entire film a stand-out among other hero films of the same genre. This one has a different feel—it’s magical yet believable, funny and weird yet dramatically moving at some moments. Doctor Strange has a mysterious appeal that can only be experienced through watching it.
One admirable trait of the film is its ability to merge the mystical and the spiritual into a magical yet divine perspective. Much of life’s simplest lessons are articulated in the film—letting go of one’s ego, doing things for the sake of the other as keys to bringing out one’s full potential as a human being, etc. Strange the surgeon was once a proud, all-knowing, self-absorbed doctor, but when the reality of his weakness sets in, he soon acknowledges the powers that are beyond his knowledge and understanding. And realizes that his ego is his greatest enemy. There is a clear battle between good and evil in this film. However, after a revelation about the Ancient One, the moral dimension becomes blurred and quite contradicting. Looking at the main themes of the film, the good recognizes the infinite power of humans as spiritual beings, without necessarily taking credit to themselves, and without defying the natural laws of time and death. The evil deceives humans that time is the real enemy for it brings forth death. But death gives meaning to human existence as said in the film, it makes one want to do good knowing that his time is limited. To want to live forever for selfish reasons is the real evil. In the end, it would take real sacrifice to save the lives of many, something solidly depicted in Doctor Strange. But then again, with the inherent violence, use of sorcery and black magic, the young viewers must be guided on the film’s context.


Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Escort

DIRECTOR:  Enzo Williams  LEAD CAST:  Derek Ramsay, Lovi Poe, Christopher de Leon, Jean Garcia  SCREENWRITER:  Senedy Que  EDITOR: Vito Cajili  CINEMATOGRAPHER: Lee Meily, Sherman Co  MUSICAL EDITOR: Jessie Lasaten  PRODUCER: Lily and Roselle Monteverde DISTRIBUTOR: Regal Films  LOCATION: Metromanila, Cebu 
Technical assessment:  2
Moral assessment:  2
CINEMA rating:  V18
MTRCB rating:  R 13
Matitipuan ni Cyrus (Derek Ramsay) ang waitress na si Yassi (Lovi Poe) at aalukin niya itong maging isang receptionist sa kanyang opisina—isang ahensiya na nag-eempleyo ng mga “escorts”, mga babae at lalaki na binabayaran kapalit ng aliw.  Masipag at deboto si Yassi sa pagpapalaki sa kanyang dalawang nakababatang kapatid, at pagkat tanto niyang makakakatulong ang malaking sahod na alok ni Cyrus sa pangangailangan ng kanyang pamilya, tatanggapin niya ang bagong trabaho.  Lingid sa kanyang kaalaman, ang tunay na balak ni Cyrus ay hikayatin siya balang araw upang pagkakitaan din bilang isang escort.  Ang hindi inaasahan ni Cyrus ay siya ang mai-in love sa dalaga, isang kalagayang magiging labis na nakagigipit pagka’t magiging masugid na mangliligaw ni Yassi ang biyudo at mayamang businessman na si Gary Montenilla (Christopher de Leon).
Madaling sundan ang daloy ng istorya ng The Escort at dapat sana’y naging kapani-paniwala na ito sa pagsasalamin ng mga nangyayari sa tunay na buhay—sa mundo ng mga babaeng bayaran at sa mundo ng politika.  Nguni’t may mga bagay na nakakasira sa pagiging makatotoo nito.  Isa na ang casting ni Poe bilang Yassi—ito lamang ang masasabi ng CINEMA: hindi bagay kay Poe ang papel ng isang walang malay na birhen.  Isa pa’y ang dialogue—maraming parteng artipisyal ang dating kaya hindi nito makayang antigin ang simpatiya ng manonood para sa mga tauhan.  Nakabawas din sa realismo ng pelikula ang labis na product placement—tuloy lumalabas lang itong parang behikulo para maibenta ang mga brands at resort na pinag-shooting-an nito.
Marahil ay sinikap ng The Escort na maghatid ng magandang mensahe sa manonood pero malabo pa rin kung ano ang tunay na layunin ng nito.  Ang magbigay ba ng aral na walang kahihinatnang mabuti ang masamang gawain?  Kung ganon, ay bakit ginagamit nito ang childhood trauma ng ilang mga tauhan para magmukhang katanggap-tanggap ang kanilang pagtataksil at pagpapasasa sa buhay ngayong mga adults na sila?  Gusto ba nitong sabihin na ang tunay na pag-ibig ay hindi nabibili?  Kung ganon, bakit walang ipinakitang lalim ang pagmamahalan nila Yassi at Cyrus na magbibigay-katarungan sa “sakripisyo” ng birheng si Yassi upang sagipin ang buhay ni Cyrus sa huli?  Napakababaw ng relasyon nila, na tila pinaigting lamang ng ilang araw na bakasyon sa isang luxurious resort.  Ninais ba ng The Escort na pahalagahan ang virginity ng isang babae?  Kung ganon, bakit pinahaba-haba nito ang mga eksena sa kama na nagpapahiwatig na hindi na bagito sa larangan ng laman ang dalaga?  Hindi tarok ng CINEMA kung paano ginawaran ito ng MTRCB ng gradong R-13, ngunit sa ganang amin, hindi dapat napapanood ito ng mga may murang isipan.


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

DIRECTOR: Tim Burton; CAST: Asa Butterfield, Eva Green, Ella Purnell, Samuel L. Jackson, Chris O'Dowd, Terence Stamp, Finlay MacMillan, Lauren McCrostie, Judi Dench, Allison Janney, Rupert Everett  SCREENPLAY: Jane Goldman (based on the novel by Ransom Riggs)  LOCATION:  RUNNING TIME:  127 mins.
Technical assessment: 4
Moral assessment: 3
CINEMA rating: PG 13
MTRCB rating:  PG
A teenager from Florida, Jacob (Asa Butterfield) is close to his grandfather Abe (Terence Stamp) who regales his grandson with stories of his own youth spent in the magical Home for Peculiar Children run by Miss Peregrine (Eva Green).  When Abe dies, the curious Jacob persuades his father to take him to Wales to see if the stories about the Home by the sea are real.  There he finds his grandfather’s tales coming alive—Miss Peregrine’s Home is indeed populated by the “peculiars”, orphans who possess paranormal qualities.  A cute little girl eats through a monstrous mouth in her nape, another has the strength of ten men, a boy can turn invisible at will, another boy breathes out bees like a fire-breathing dragon, etc.  Jacob himself becomes fond of the teenaged Emma (Ella Purnell) who without her lead shoes floats in the air, and soon he is helping the orphans fight off Barron (Samuel Jackson) who hunts down the peculiars to survive.
With young adults as target market, Burton presents yet another mixture of adventure and fantasy that’s loosely lifted from the Riggs opus with the blessing of the novelist who says the movie captures the essence and tone of his book.  Fantasy fiction translated into film appeals to moviegoers of all ages, and when they are as well conceived and delighful as this one, it’s easy to see why Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children has been one of the longest-running movies of late in Metromanila.  Besides being populated by lovable and relatable children under the aegis of a divaesque Green, the story must be a familiar one as indicated by a huge crowd that welcomed author Ransom Riggs at a book signing in March 2013 at Bonifacio High Street.
While the antics of the peculiar children employing their paranormal powers in fighting off the baddies satisfy the audience’s sense of wonder, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is not recommended for young children.  The violence may be stylized and hardly bloody, but some images can be disturbing, and the chase scenes might be too scary for kids who’d rather be entertained by dancing penguins and adventuresome parrots.  Spoiler coming: even some adults might find particularly icky that scene where Barron and his cahoots are feasting on human eyeballs, slurping them down whole like oysters.  So, careful which child to bring along to this movie; you can always take the younger kids to see Trolls.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Direction: Edward Zwick;  Cast: Tom Cruise, Cobi smolders, Aldis Hodge, Danika Yarosh, Patrick Heusinger; Story: based from Lee Child`s 18th Reacher novel “Never Go Back”; Screenplay: Richard Wenk, Edward Zwick, Marshall Herskovitz; Cinematography: Oliver Wood;  Editing: Billy Weber; Music: Henry Jackman; Producers: Tom Cruise, Don Granger, Christopher McQuarrie; Genre: Action -Thriller:  Location: USA; Distributor: Paramount Pictures;  Running Time:130 minutes
Technical assessment:  3
Moral assessment:  2.5
CINEMA rating:  V14
MTRCB rating:  PG
Jack Reacher (Cruise) is back and this time he allies with Major Susan Turner (Smulders) to help him arrest criminals across America.  He develops fondness for the Major and arranges to finally meet her and probably date her.  But when he arrives in the camp quarters, he learns the Major has been arrested for treason.  Suspecting foul play, Reacher investigates and outsmarts authorities to break Turner out of prison before henchmen murder her. Along the way, he is told that a paternity suit has been filed against him and that he is the father of 15-year-old street smart Samantha (Yarosh). Thinking Sam is Reacher’s daughter, a paid assassin called “The Hunter” (Heusinger) goes after her, forcing Reacher to take her along in their quest to uncover the truth.  The trio travel to New Orleans to question the only eyewitness to the case, clear Turner and Reacher’s name from the murders they have been framed for and keep Samantha safe from assassins trying to teach Reacher a lesson.

British writer Child’s Reacher novels are about the adventures of an American military-cop-turned-vigilante who hitchhikes across his broken country seeking justice that institutions and politicians deny him.  How does Reacher in the novels compare with Reacher in the movies?  What Jack Reacher had in the first movie that viewers fell in love with is diluted in this sequel.  For one, Reacher’s street smart analysis and quick wittedness is overrated.  The action is poorly paced and screaming for conciseness. The rawness of his character is replaced with a glossy Hollywood caricature. The father-son daughter is stretched so thinly it fails to deliver any authentic connection with the viewers. We do not think the narrative would have suffered if her subplot was removed, more so because the Samantha character comes across as annoying.  (Is that the natural outcome for children of an obscure paternity?) The character development and dialogue are sometimes too cliché and cheesy. Overall, the movie benefits from good performances from Cruise and Smulders, the clean technical direction, but falls bland and formulaic. It is not that bad but it is not any good with or without the predecessor. The title should serve as a subtle warning.
Quest for the truth comes with a cost. You take risks and go the extra mile just to make sure that the truth is revealed, protected, and respected. There are many instances in Jack Reacher when the quest for truth was the motivation of the characters: Reacher finding out if Sam was his daughter, Turner’s men investigating the involvement of a general in arms and opium trade, Turner herself clearing her name and giving justice to the death of the men, Sam looking for the connection between herself and Reacher.  The quest for their truths came at a very heavy and disturbing cost….mostly violence and dead bodies.  Could it have been done otherwise?  Not with the chosen narrative flow of the director; not in an amoral world of espionage and megalomania.  It seems that violence was the framework of the film that Reacher’s brand of honesty, Turner’s patriotic integrity, and even Samantha’s street smart instincts gave way to say that was the only way to stay alive and protect the truth.