Monday, December 29, 2008

Ang Tanging Ina Nyong Lahat

Cast: Ai-Ai Delas Alas, Eugene Domingo, Carlo Aquino, Cherry Pie Picache, Shaina Magdayao, Jiro Manio, Alwyn Uytingco, Gloria Diaz; Director: Wenn Deramas; Screenplay: Mel Mendoza-del Rosario; Distributor: Star Cinema; Genre: Comedy; Location: Philippines; Running Time: 110 mins;

Technical Assessment: 3.5
Moral Assessment: 3
Rating: For viewers 14 years old and above

Makalipas ang mahigit 30 taon ng pagiging ulirang ina sa isang dosenang anak, makakaramdam si Ina (Ai-Ai Delas Alas) ng pagkabalisa at hahanapin niyang muli ang kanyang sarili at kung paano muli siyang maipagmamalaki ng kanyang mga anak.. Susubukan niyang magbalik-eskuwela habang nagtatrabaho, ngunit hindi pa rin ito magiging sapat. Magbabago ang takbo ng kanyang buhay nang mamasukan siya sa Malacanan bilang chamber maid. Mapapalapit siya sa pangulo ng Pilipinas (Gloria Diaz) at isang hindi inaasahang pagkakataon ay mauulinigan niya ang isang masamang balak na pagpaslang dito. Hindi niya mapipigilan ang pagpapaslang sa pangulo ngunit magiging susi siya upang malutas ang kaso. Dahil dito ay hahamunin siya ng mga kalaban na tumakbo sa pagka-Pangulo ng bansa. Matapos ang masusing pag-iisip ay tatanggapin niya ito ay siya ay mananalo. Kayanin kaya ni Ina ang pagiging ina ng buong bayan habang ginagampanan ang pagiging tunay na ina sa mga anak?

Isang mahusay na komedya ang pelikula. Tulad sa inaasahan, hitik sa katatawanan ang buong kuwento na bagama’t hindi lohikal ay nagawang papaniwalain ang mga manonood na ito ay posible. Tama ang timpla ng komedya at drama na talaga namang malaman din ang mga mensahe. Kahanga-hanga ang lahat ng tauhan lalo na ang actor na si Eugene Domingo na hindi matatawaran ang galing sa pagpapatawa. Si Domingo ang halos nagdala ng aliw sa pelikula mula simula hanggang wakas. Mas mahusay naman sa pagda-drama si Delas Alas kaysa sa pagpapatawa. Ngunit kung susumahin ay epektibo rin naman siya. Napanindigan nang husto ng Ang Tanging Ina Niyong Lahat ang pagpapatawa na hindi lumaylay at laging may mga bagong patawa at pasabog bawat eksena.

Hanggang saan nga ba nasusukat ang kadakilaan ng isang ina? Nariyang pasukin ang lahat ng trabaho, maitaguyod lamang ang mga anak tulad ng karakter ni Ina sa pelikula. Pero kadalasa’y hindi pa rin ito nagiging sapat. Marahil, sadyang walang hangganan ang sukatan ng pagiging ulirang ina. Ipinakikita sa pelikula ang lahat ng maaaring gawin ng isang ina para sa kanyang anak. Sinasabi ring iba talaga ang pagmamahal ng isang ina at maaari itong maging lakas ng sinumang nagnanais ng magpatakbo ng isang bayan. Sa pelikula’y naging labis na suwail ang mga anak ni Ina ngunit nagsisi naman ang mga ito sa bandang huli. Bagay na kapupulutan ng aral ng mga manonood. May ilang mga eksena lamang na patungkol sa sekswalidad at ilang maselang isyu na maaaring hindi angkop sa mga batang manonood.

Iskul Bukol; 20 Years After

Cast: Tito Sotto, Vic Sotto, Joey de Leon, Oyo Sotto, Gian Sotto, Keempee de Leon, Benjie Paras, Jose; Director: Tony Reyes ; Screenplay: Bibeth Orteza;: Northern Philippines; Genre: Comedy; Distributor: Octo-Arts, Mzet Film

Technical Assessment: 2
Moral Assessment: 2.5
Cinema Rating : For viewers age 13 and below with parental guidance

Makalipas ang 20 taon, si Vic Ungasis (Sotto) ay isa nang sikat at matagumpay na archeologist. Pilit niyang tinutuklas ang isang gamit ni Humabon at ang kampilan ni Lapu-Lapu upang maibigay sa museo. Samantala, isang Hapon naman ang makamit ang serbisyo ng kapwa archeologist at kaibigan ni Vic (Benjie Paras) upang makuha ang peseta na nakakabit sa kampilan ni Lapu-Lapu. Sinasabing ang sinumang may hawak ng peseta ay magkakaroon ng panangga sa kamatayan. Sa kabilang dako, masasangkot ang magkapatid na Tito (Sotto) at Joey (de Leon) Escalera dahil sa kanilang katusuhan at pagbebenta ng pekeng peseta sa mga Hapon. Sa kwentong ito nakapaloob ang pagplaplano ng isang class reunion ni Miss Tapia upang magkasama-sama ang mga dating tauhan ng sikat na palabas noong dekada 70 hanggang 80.

Katulad nang malimit gawin sa industriya ng pelikulang Pilipino, ginamit lamang ang pagka-sikat ng Iskul Bukol bilang panghatak sa mga manunuod. Walang kinalaman ang pamagat sa daloy ng kwento; bagkus ginawa lamang itong dahilan upang ilabas ang mga dating tauhan mula kina Miss Tapia (Mely Tagasa) hanggang kina Richie d’ Horsey. Napakababaw ng komedya ng palabas na nakasalalay lamang sa slapstick at patawang seksuwal. Ang pelikula ay hindi pinauusad ng istorya kundi ng mga tagpi-tagping eksena lamang na kung minsan ay wala namang koneksyon sa isa’t isa o hindi naman kailangan ng kuwento. Tuloy, naging mabagal ang pagusad ng pelikula at tila napakahaba ang paghihintay na matapos na ito. Maging ang mga CGI’s at special effects ay hindi pulido at halatang-halatang peke.

Mabuti laban sa masama … at ang mabuti ang nagwagi. Ito marahil ang tanging magandang aral ng pelikula. Ang kabutihang loob ni Ungasis ang nagtagumpay laban sa ganid ng mga Hapon, sa traydor na kaibigan at mapagsamantalang mga kasama. Bilang isang komedya, nakalulungkot isipin na sa kabila ng makabagong teknolohiya, malikhain at mahuhusay na manunulat at malaking salaping ipinupuhunan, madalas mababang uri pa rin ang kinalalabasan ng ating mga pelikula dahil kulang sa pagsusumikap na iahon mula sa slapstick, toilet humor at sex jokes ang pagpapatawa, puliduhin ang produksyon at laliman ang pagbuo sa mga tauhan. Bagamat hindi ganoong kalaswa at violent ang palabas, hindi rin naman kaiga-igaya ang ilang eksena at pag-uusap para sa mga kabataan. Bagkus, maaaring akalain pang tama at gayahin pa ang ilang pag-uugali at pagsasalita dahil hindi naman masasabing ganap na “objectionable” ito.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Quarantine

Cast: Jennifer Carpenter, Steve Harris, Jay Hernandez, Johnathon Schaech ; Director: John Erick Dowdle; Screenplay: John Erick Dowdle, Drew Dowdle; Producer: Julio Fernández, Roy Lee, Carlos Fernández, Sergio Aguero, Clint Culpepper, Doug Davison ; Genre: Horror; Location:US; Running Time: 89 mins

Technical Assessment: 3
Moral Assessment: 2.5
Cinema Rating: For mature viewers 18 and above

Television reporter Angela Vidal (Jennifer Carpenter) and her camareman (Steve Harris) are assigned to do a story about Los Angeles firefighters. As they are doing a video documentary, they are to spend one night shift with the firemen on duty covering all aspects of their job which include paramedics and responding to almost any kind of emergency. On that night, the fire company receives a call for an emergency at an apartment building. Angela and her cameraman follow the firemen routine. When they get there, they end up as witness to a horrifying disease that has infected most of the apartment building's residents. To their surprise, the entire building will be put on quarantine upon the order of the local government. They will all be trapped inside and as they find their way out, they discover an even more shocking truth: the infected people have gone totally insane and they attack and kill the living.

A remake of the Spanish thriller [REC] as in record, Quarantine is fresh shocker that tells the entire story on the point-of-view of an actual viewfinder of a camera from start to finish. This idea is not entirely new for those who have seen The Blair Witch Project which uses the same approach. The shaky camera shot and seem inadequate lighting are all part of the film's style. This has made the audience believe they really are watching an actual documentary of a real event making the shock and thrill seem very real. The actors are effective and Carpenter is convincing as the reporter documenting an actual horror experience. But then, at the end of the movie, the audience are left with nothing to ponder on because the entire film lacks depth and it does not go beyond its shocking value.

How far should a news reporter go to cover an interesting story? Is it moral to sacrifice innocent lives for the sake of preventing the spread of a pandemic? These are some of the questions worth asking while watching the film. The mass media itself loves sensationalized stories and the darker and riskier the story is, the more premium for the reporter. With this kind of mindset, the mass media persons end up to be go getters of any opportunity to which they sometimes end up as sacrificial lambs. This is the fate of Angela in the movie. But then, her character exemplifies loyalty to one's job and this can be a good point. However, limits should be set so as not to jeopardize their lives in the line of duty. The audience's hearts go for the innocent victims of government's recklessness in implementing measures of preventing a pandemic from spreading. This is left for a much wider debate on bio-terrorism and quarantines. However, the right to life of a person, especially the innocent, should always be an utmost consideration. The gore, violence and emotional stress in the movie may cause nightmares and trauma for very young audiences so CINEMA deems the movie fit for mature viewers only.

The Day The Earth Stood Still

Cast: Keannu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, Kathy Bates, Jaden Smith, John Cleese; Director: Scott Derickson; Producers: Paul Harris Boardman, Gregory Goodman, Erwin Stoff; Screenwriter: David Scarpa; Music: Tyler Bates; Editor: Wayne Wahrman; Genre: Drama/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller; Cinematography: David Tattersall; Distributor: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation; Location: British Columbia, Canada; Running Time: 103 min.;

Technical Assessment: 3.5
Moral Assessment: 3
CINEMA Rating: For viewers 14 and above

A pulsating, glowing sphere lands in Central Park in New York City. The government summons a pool of experts to advise on the situation, led by Harvard scientist Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly). Soon a luminous humanoid figure emerges from the sphere, Benson boldly moves forward to establish contact with it, but the creature is felled by a bullet—fired by the government’s forces under the command of US President’s spokesperson, Regina Jackson (Kathy Bates). This ignites the fury, it seems, of whoever or whatever else is inside the sphere, and it sends out a giant robot whose mere size renders the government soldiers paranoid. The soldiers open fire but the robot is impregnable—besides, its slit “eyes” and shoot forth enough fire power to annihilate the entire US Army. Stunned, the soldiers scamper away to safety while Jackson, much to Benson’s dismay, abducts the wounded alien to an undercover medical facility. The dogged presidential spokesperson is intent on keeping it alive in order to find out what the aliens want from Earthlings. This is where they learn that the humanoid creature is called Klaatu (Keanu Reeves), and the quick-thinking Benson virtually helps free him from Jackson’s clutches.

The Day the Earth Stood Still is a remake of the 1951 Robert Wise sci-fi classic but it would not be fair to compare the two as the technological milieu that spawned them differs from one age to the other. The current version is understandably high-rating on the CGI, featuring stunning features to drive the movie’s message home—a message that would easily be caught by a younger audience precisely because of the visual impact it could create on the viewer. With his calm facial features, Reeves is perfectly cast as the dispassionate creature from outer space—after all, he’s not really a warm-blooded person but a mechanism wrapped in blubber and packaged in a human body. In appearance, Connelly is the antithesis of the scientist—in case you’re expecting an Einstein clone—but is still effective especially in emoting as any human is wont to do under the circumstances. Bates, who’s supposed to speak for the US President (who never appears on screen), has the right amount of pluck to provide tension to the action.

The Day the Earth Stood Still is basically about how human beings, inhabitants of Planet Earth, react to otherworldly presence. The film may or may not have meant it but it seems to be a statement against human’s—and particularly the American military elements—paranoid yet condescending attitude towards non-humans. Here the non-human apparently aims for a dialogue, but only one scientist has the guts or the faith to respond and welcome its intention. The armed forces, feeling smug about their military might, haul out their most sophisticated artillery and decimate whatever goodwill the alien visit hoped to convey. But the non-humans prove superior, thereby only proving their presence on Earth necessary. Their message is, with the way we humans are abusing our planet, we’d kill it in due time, and since there are very few planets in the universe that can sustain life as Earth does, the aliens feel it their responsibility to annihilate the race of planet-killers—us earthlings. The movie could provide an interesting launching pad for family discussions. Let children put themselves in the shoes of the lead characters—Klaatu, Benson, Bates—and ask them what they would do under the same circumstances.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

100

Cast: Mylene Dizon, Eugene Domingo, Tessie Tomas, TJ Trinidad, Cecille Paz, Ryan Eigenmann; Director: Chris Martinez; Producers: Chris Martinez, Marlon Rivera; Screenwriter: Chris Martinez; Music: Ricci Chan, Brian Cua; Editor: Ike Veneracion; Genre: Drama; Cinematography: Declan Quinn; Distributor: Cinemalaya; Location: Philippines; Running Time: 120 min.;

Technical Assessment: 4
Moral Assessment: 2.5
CINEMA Rating: For mature viewers 18 and above

Sa gitna ng maningning at matagumpay na karera, malalaman ni Joyce (Mylene Dizon) na siya ay may cancer at may tatlong buwang taning na lang ang buhay. Itatago niya muna ito sa ina (Tessie Tomas) at matalik na kaibigan na si Ruby (Eugene Domingo). Ngunit sa halip na magpadala sa takot at lungkot, gumawa si Joyce ng listahan ng isang daang bagay na nais niyang gawin bago siya mamatay. Karamihan sa mga ito ay patungkol sa mga relasyong hindi mabitiwan at mga sugat na hindi pa naghihilom. Mayroon ding mga mabababaw at malalalim ang kahulugan katulad ng pagpunta sa mga lugar na hindi pa napupuntahan, pagbabalik sa mga lugar na nagbibigay ng mga alaala, paggawa ng mabuti sa kapwa, paghalik sa hindi kilala, pagtulog buong araw, panonood ng sine buong araw, at marami pang iba. Sa pagharap niya at paggawa ng lahat ng ito, kasama niya si Ruby at ang kanyang ina bagama’t hindi lubos na tanggap nito ang kalagayan ng anak. Matupad kaya ni Joyce ang lahat ng isang-daang mga bagay na nais niyang gawin bago siya tuluyang pumanaw?

Mahusay ang pagkakagawa ng 100. May kurot sa puso at may tamang timpla ng drama at komedya. Walang itulak kabigin sa galing si Dizon at Domingo pati na ang iba nilang kasama sa pelikula. Isang bagong pagtingin ang pelikula sa buhay at kamatayan. Maayos ang daloy ng mga eksena at buong-buo ang tema kahit na may ilang eksenang kinunan lamang ng home video camera. Magaganda rin ang mga lugar na ginamit at damang-dama ng manonood na totoong tao ang kanilang pinapanood. Pawang isang pagsilip sa isang mundong moderno, maunlad, pero hindi pa rin nakakatakas sa mga realidad ng buhay tulad ng kamatayan, kabiguan at tagumpay.

Dapat nga ba nating katakutan ang kamatayan? Sa 100, hindi kinatakutan ni Joyce ang kamatayan, bagkus ay hinarap niya ito at tinanggap ng may ngiti sa labi at maluwag ang dibdib. Bagay na bihira nating masasaksihan sa sinuman. Ipinakita ng pelikula na dapat pa ring manalig at dumulog sa Diyos sa gitna ng paghihirap. Yun nga lang, may mga mangilan-ngilang eksenang pawang ginagawang katatawanan ang pananampalataya sa Diyos at ang pagiging dalisay ng kalooban. Para bang ang mga ito ay napaglipasan na at mga “baduy” kung ituring. Nariyan rin ang pakikiapid sa may asawa na halos kunsintihin ng pelikula bagama't binawi rin naman sa bandang huli. May ilang eksena rin kung saan ang mga tauhan ay nagpakita ng hubad na katawan. Bagama’t malinaw ang konteksto, maaring hindi pa rin ito maging akma sa batang manonood. Nanatili namang wagas ang pagkatao ng ibang tauhan tulad ng pari na hindi nagpadala sa tukso.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Four Christmases

Cast: Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon, Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek; Director: Seth Gordon; Producers: Jonathan Glickman, Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon; Screenwriters: Matt Allen, Caleb Wilson; Music: Alex Wurman; Editors: Mark Helfrich, Melissa Kent; Genre: Comedy; Cinematography: Jeffrey l. Kimball; Distributor: New Line Cinema; Location: Los Angeles, California; Running Time: 82 min.;

Technical Assessment: 3
Moral Assessment: 3
CINEMA Rating: For viewers 14 and above

Brad (Vince Vaughn) and Kate (Reese Witherspoon) are a live-in couple who believe only marriage could ruin their relationship. They think they love each other despite the familiarity of having shared a bathroom for the past three years. They don’t want children, either. And during Christmas, when they are sure to get invitations from their four divorced parents, they hie off to some exotic location for their own secret holiday, all the while spinning lies and excuses. This time they say they are going to help as volunteers in Third World slums; truth is, they’re flying to Fiji. But heavy fog envelops San Francisco, grounding their flight, decimating their escapade, and putting the frustrated travelers on nationwide TV news. When their parents see them on TV, Brad and Kate are compelled to spend Christmas visiting their dysfunctional families—first his, and then hers. The Christmas day turns out to be Revelation Day when the couple discover from each other’s families about past secrets It also proves crucial for Kate who, despite the day’s awful experiences, gets to have some deep thinking that leads to her wanting to have her own family with Brad, but this horrifies Brad. So what now?

Four Christmases is supposed to be “serious comedy” where the heavy message is wrapped in tinsel, glitter-strewn, and beribboned in satin to catch the eye of the viewer. For laughs, a lot of sight gags and predictable slapstick are used, along with toilet humor, babies vomiting and defecating, life-threatening rough-housing between grown-up brothers, someone falling off a roof, sadistic kids ganging up on an adult as it if mugging were child’s play, etc. The situations also spawn crude language as a huge chunk of the script deals uninhibitedly on breastfeeding, libidinal activity in women past reproductive age, a younger man sleeping with his best friend’s mother, etc.

If there is one worthy message in Four Christmases, it is that present dispositions may have their roots in past experience but they can still be changed for the sake of a better future. Brad and Kate’s anti-marriage, anti-family, anti-children and anti-commitment outlook obviously sprung from unprocessed issues in their younger, living-with-their-families years. And the viewer, seeing how each divorced parent behaves, may even conclude that the parents’ own flaws as young people had been carried over to adulthood and then became a burden not only on themselves but for their children as well. Thus the stream of mediocrity flows—but the conversion in one character seems to signal a change in their destructive “family tradition”. Add to this the realization of a reflective parent who has learned from several divorces and now emphasizes the value of family. The movie is rich in topics to explore with your own family, and you can challenge your teenagers to defend their answers to these questions: Do the actions in the movie harmonize with the message it is trying to send? Do you find similarities between your parents and the parents in this movie? What would you do if you were one of the siblings in the movie?

Pride and Glory

Cast: Colin Farrell, Edward Norton, Jon Voight, Noah Emmerich, Jennifer Ehle; Director: Gavin O'Connor; Producer: Greg O’Connor; Screenwriters: Joe Carnahan & Gavin O'Connor; Music: Mark Isham; Editors: Lisa Zeno Churgin, John Gilroy; Genre: Drama/ Action; Cinematography: Declan Quinn; Distributor: New Line Cinema; Location: USA; Running Time: 125 min.;

Technical Assessment: 3
Moral Assessment: 2.5
CINEMA Rating: For mature viewers 18 and above

NYPD Det. Ray Tierney (Edward Norton) hails from a family of cops. His father, Francis Sr. (Jon Voight) is the chief of police of Manhattan, and his brother, Francis, Jr. (Noah Emmerich) and brother-in-law Jimmy (Collin Farrel) are also on the force. Ray, who has been on semi-exile, goes back to the service upon the request of his father to investigate the murder of the four policemen who are all his Francis Jr.’s men. Ray’s investigation leads him to suspect Jimmy as the murder’s culprit that further reveals more secrets complicating their family’s name and intertwined blood relationships.

The first part of the movie is quite impressive with various new elements put into an otherwise familiar cop story. However, as the movie reaches its climax, it resorted to a contrived plot that jeopardizes the entire movie and makes it a letdown. There are even some subplots that are quite irrelevant to the story like the dying wife of Francis Jr. that neither moved the story forward nor added tension to the plot. The ensemble of topnotch actors led by Norton and Farrell saved the day. Although they are predictably good actors, they still never fail to surprise their audience with the kind of depth and sensitivity they bring into their characters.

Perhaps it is expected of the genre to have more than a hundred times mention of the “F” word with sometimes sexual implications and racial discrimination, but the same reason makes the movie distasteful and not fit for viewers younger than 18. The violence in the movie, although in context, may still result in a desensitizing effect on audiences who are susceptible to media influence. One particular scene where Jimmy threatens to burn a baby with flat iron is offensive and emotionally stressful. The policemen’s integrity is once again put into question in the movie. In Pride and Glory, the men in uniform could be drug dealers, money launderers, robbers, or liars. Is it right to conceal the truth in the name of pride and glory? Does the end justify the means? These are some of the moral questions in the movie that are left for the audience to answer. But then again, in the end, those who have sinned are punished and the least evil ends up to be the last man standing.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Scaregivers

Cast: Jose Manalo, Wally Bayola, Iza Calzado, Paolo Contis, Ehra Madrigal, Edgar Allen de Guzman; Director: Uro Q. dela Cruz; Producers: Antonio P. Tuviera, Marvic Sotto; Screenwriter: Jourdan Sebastian; Music: Vince de Jesus; Editor: Reggie Gulle; Genre: Comedy/ Horror; Cinematography: ; Distributor: APT Entertainment; Location: Philippines; Running Time: 110min.;

Technical Assessment: 3
Moral Assessment: 2.5
CINEMA Rating: For viewers 14 and above

Nagnakaw ng mamahaling pares ng singsing sa isang tindahan ng alahas sina Billy (Jose Manalo) at Bob(Wally Bayola). Pero dahil sa kanilang kapalpakan, sila ay mahuhuli ng pulis at makukulong. Ngunit hindi pa rin nila isasauli ang ninakaw na singsing. Upang maiwasan ang tuluyan nilang sentensiya, magpapanggap sina Billy at Bob na mga baliw. Maniniwala ng hukom at sila ay ilalagak sa isang mental hospital. Ang buong akala nilang dalawa ay tapos na ang kanilang problema, ngunit malalaman nilang sa ospital na pinagdalhan sa kanila ay may pinaniniwalaang multo na pumapatay ng mga nurse at ilang piling pasyente. Silang dalawa ay balak ring patayin. Mabuti na lang at may makikilala nila si Marcia (Iza Calzado) na isang caregiver sa ospital. Tutulungan sila nito na makatakas ngunit malalaman nilang ang pumapatay pala ay dati niyang kasintahan. Ano kaya ang lihim ni Marcia at ng ospital? Makatakas pa kayang talaga sila Billy at Bob?

Isang nakakaaliw na pelikula ang Scaregivers. Bagama’t mga baguhang bida sina Jose Manalo at Wally Bayola, nagawa nilang dalhin ang buong pelikula. Hindi rin naman matatawaran ang husay ng mga pangalawang tauhan. Maayos naman ang daloy ng kuwento at may istorya naman na maaring sundan. Yun nga lang, hindi pa rin nila maiwasan ang paggamit ng mga lumang joke lalo na ng mga toilet humors na masyado nang naging palasak at kadalasa’y hindi na nakakatawa. Halata ring nagkulang sa research ang pelikula lalo pagdating sa pag-proseso ng mga kasong kriminal at pangangalaga ng mga pasyente sa mental hospital. Pawang hindi nito naipakita ng maayos ang tunay na pamamalakad sa institusyon. Maayos naman ang special effects maging ang tunog at pag-iilaw. Maaring hilaw at kulang pa sa mga bagong elemento pero pasado na rin kung tutuusin para sa dalawang baguhan pa lamang sa larangan ng pagpapatawa.

Ipinakita sa pelikula na maaaring magbago ang kahit sino basta’t bukal ito sa kalooban at hindi napipilitan lang. Lahat ng sinumang nagkasala ay may pagkakataon pa ring umangat sa buhay at magkaroon ng pag-asa basta’t magsisikap at tuluyang tatalikuran ang maling gawain. Ngunit maraming ipinakita sa pelikula na labis na nakababaha lalo na sa batang manonood. Una ay ang paggamit sa pangalan ng Diyos at sa pagdarasal bago gawin ang pagnanakaw. Maaring isipin na tama ang ganitong gawain. Pangalawa ay ang ilang mga bastos na uri ng patawa lalo na yung patungkol na naman sa katawan ng kababaihan. Parati na lang bang pantasyang sekswal ang mga kababaihan sa pelikula? Nagbibigay ito ng kalituhan sa papel na ginagampanan ng mga kababaihan sa lipunan. Nariyan din ang isteryotipikal na paglalarawan sa ilang lahi tulad ng mga Tsino at Indian. Sa mga ganitong bagay, kinakailangang gabayan ang mga batang manonood.

Bolt

Cast: (Voices) John Travolta, Susie Essman, Miley Cyrus, Malcolm McDowell; Directors: Byron Howard, Chris Williams; Producer: Clark Spencer; Screenwriters: Dan Fogelman, Chris Williams; Music: John Powell; Editor: Joey Ingram; Animators: Joey Ingram, Josh Mahan;Genre: CGI Comedy; Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Philippines; Location: USA; Running Time: 100 min.;

Technical Assessment: 3.5
Moral Assessment: 3
CINEMA Rating: For viewers of all ages

The pooch Bolt (voice of John Travolta) and Penny (voice of Miley Cyrus) are co-stars in a weekly action television show that has them battling the evil scientist Dr. Calico (voice of Malcolm McDowell). In the TV show, Bolt is a super-dog, with stare that melts steel and a sonic-boom bark that can wipe out an entire fleet of armor helicopters, but he doesn’t know it’s just a show. The dog truly believes he has super-canine powers, as he is carefully isolated in his cage and prevented from living a normal life outside of the film set. To please an adult audience that has gotten tired of the show’s happy endings, the network boss Mindy (voice of Kari Wahlgren) orders the Director (voice of James Lipton) to change his endings or he’d get fired. The Director then ends one episode with the villain Dr. Calico kidnapping Penny—something that Bolt takes for real. Bolt then escapes to rescue Penny, to be joined in time by the Mafiosi cat Mittens (voice of Sussie Essman) and the TV-watching hamster Rhino (voice of Mark Walton). In his self-assigned mission of rescuing his co-star, Bolt is shocked to discover that he has no superpowers after all.

Directors Chris Williams and Byron Howard see to it that all the elements of an animated adventure are present in Bolt. The plot is simple but credible, the CGI enhances the story, the characters so alive with their human qualities well projected by the just-right artistic rendering, etc. The chase scene is particularly impressive and can be thrilling to both young and adult audiences. If the viewer pays attention to the dialogue, he will see familiar characters in real life

There are many lessons to be learned in Bolt as the viewer—whether or not he goes for talking animals— becomes a “co-journeyer” of the dog in his self-revealing experiences. The movie is a modern-day parable about growing up, shedding the innocence (or naivete) of childhood, learning to trust change, others, and oneself as one wakes up to reality and sees that the world is not all pink candy floss and honey. There is something both pathetic and endearing about the Bolt character: he is a victim of exploitation, raised and trained to believe he is much more than he really is. In a way he is deceived and is bewildered to discover he is an ordinary dog, thus is greatly hurt when he is replaced in the set by a look-alike because the show must go on. This story says much of the movie world where “stars” are created by their publicists and made to believe they are much more than they really are—because it is what fans want. The movie offers food for thought and contains no objectionable material.

Twilight

Cast: Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Billy Burke, Ashley Greene, Peter Pacinelli; Director: Catherine Hardwicke; Producers: Wyck Godfrey, Greg Mooradian, Mark Morgan; Screenwriters: Melissa Rosenberg, Stephenie Meyer; Music: Carter Burwell; Editor: Nancy Richardson; Genre: Drama/ Fantasy/ Romance/ Thriller; Cinematography: Elliot Davis; Distributor: Viva Films; Location: Washington, USA; Running Time: 122 min.;

Technical Assessment: 3
Moral Assessment: 3
CINEMA Rating: For viewers age 13 and below with parental guidance

Twilight is a movie adaptation from Stephanie Meyer’s series. After 17-year-old Bella Swan’s (Kristen Stewart) mother remarries, she is sent off to live with her father Charlie (Billy Burke) in the small town of Forks Washington. She becomes attracted to a mysterious classmate Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), who is actually a 108-year-old vampire resembling a teenager. Edward’s genteel and gracious ways endear him all the more to Bella and despite trying to resist the mutual attraction. The two teenagers fall deeply in love with each other. The Cullen family’s loyalty and ethics are put to test when the nomadic vampires arrive and endanger the life of Bella.

Most movie adaptations of great novels end up disappointing and wanting. This movie is no different with interpretation of Edward and Bella’s characters lacking in depth and the struggle of the Cullen family to co-exist with the humans downplayed. However, as a romantic fantasy for teenagers, the movie succeeds in connecting with the target viewers and eliciting enough sympathy and fondness. The production is decent with an imaginative camerawork, tight editing and impressive CGIs. The production design and the music successfully deliver the Gothic romance it intends. Overall, the movie is quite enjoyable and respectably moving.

One’s background does not necessarily spell the kind of person he is to become. The Cullens are vampires and by nature they are violent, blood-thirsty and heartless but instead, they are doing their very best to be decent, loving, and caring as is humanly possible. In the same manner, regardless of one’s root, family history, psychological background and personal past, the kind of person one will turn out to be depends on himself and his desire to choose what is good and right as opposed to what is expected by society.

The movie, though not objectionable, has several short but intense action violence, mild sensuality and some sexual references, and may not be acceptable for younger teens. Young audiences need to be guided by their parents as some scenes and dialogues are not appropriate for them.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

One True Love


Cast: Marian Rivera, Dingdong Dantes, Iza Calzado, Boots Anson-Roa, Pinky Marquez, Chinggoy Alonzo; Director: Mac Alejandre; Producers: Jose Mari-Abacan, Roselle Monteverde-Teo ; Screenwriter: Annette Gozon-Abrogar; Music: Von de Guzman;Genre: Romance; Cinematography: Mo Zee; Distributor: GMA Films; Location: Manila; Running Time: 130 min.;

Technical Assessment: 3
Moral Assessment: 3
CINEMA Rating: For viewers 14 and above

Masayang magkasintahan sina Joy (Marian Rivera) at Migs (Dingdong Dantes). Hindi na nagdalawang isip pa si Joy nang alukin siya ng kasal ni Migs. Ngunit lingid kay Joy, mayroong kababatang kasintahan noon si Migs na si Bela (Iza Calzado) na nasa Canada. Nagkahiwalay sila ni Migs dahil pinili ni Bela na samahan ang kanyang pamilya sa Canada. Nang malaman ni Bela ang tungkol sa pagpapakasal ni Migs, magbabalik ito sa Pilipinas para sana pigilan si Migs ngunit malalaman niyang hindi na siya mahal nito tulad ng dati pagkat si Joy na ang bago nitong mahal. Matutuloy ang kasal nina Migs at Joy. Ngunit isang gabi pa lang silang nagsasama ay maaaksidente si Migs. Matagal na mawawalan ng malay si Migs at sa kanyang paggising, tanging ang alaala ng pamilya at ni Bela lamang ang matatandaan niya. Wala siyang alaala ni Joy. Labis itong ikalulungkot ni Joy ngunit hindi siya agad na susuko. Aalagaan niya si Migs hanggang sa magbalik ang alaala nito at tuluyan siyang makilala. Ngunit sadyang hindi maalala ni Migs si Joy at ang pagkakaalam niya’y si Bela ang mahal niya. Dito magsisimula ang kalbaryo ni Joy. Sino ang tunay na isisigaw ng puso ni Migs sa bandang huli? Ang babaeng una niyang minahal o ang babaeng nagturo sa kanyang umibig muli?

Hindi na masyadong bago ang konsepto ng amnesia sa mga kuwentong Pilipino. Pero nagawa naman ng One True Love na bigyan ito ng bagong bihis sa pagkakaroon ng bagong loveteam sa katauhan ni Marian Rivera at Dingdong Dantes sa pelikula na talaga namang subok na ang husay at tatag sa pagpapakilig ng manonood. Hindi rin matatawaran ang husay ni Iza Calzado. Maayos ang daloy ng kuwento. May kabilisan nga lang kung minsan kung kaya’t hindi masyadong nahahagod ang damdamin. Medyo lumaylay din ito at napalabis ang haba sa bandang huli. Maraming mga eksenang maaaring tanggalin nang hindi makakasira sa kabuuan ng kuwento. Mayroon ding mga karakter na napabayaan. Tulad na lamang ng lola ni Joy. Ano na ang nangyari sa kanya? Kataka-taka din na walang ibang mundo si Migs kundi ang pamilya. Walang barkada. Walang kaibigan. Hindi rin ganoon kaliwanag ang proseso ng resolusyon. Pero sa bandang huli nama’y masasabing maayos na rin ang pelikula sa kabuuan.

Ang pagmamahal nga ba ay isang pakiramdam o isang desisyon? Paano kung iba ang dikta ng isip sa puso? Ano ba talaga ang dapat na mas manaig? Ipinakita sa pelikula na ang tama pa rin ang nagtatagumpay kaysa sa mali. May mga nagagawang desisyon ang mga tao dala ng emosyon ngunit sa bandang huli’y uusigin tayo ng ating konsensiya at ang katotohanan at kabutihan pa rin ang mananaig. Kapuri-puri ang pelikula sa pagpapakita ng kahalagahan ng pamilya--ang tanging makakapitan ng sinuman sa oras ng kalungkutan, kasiyahan at pighati. Wala ring bahid ng kasamaan si Joy. Bagama’t tao pa rin na nasasaktan, naging mapagbigay at matiisin pa rin siya. Alam niya kung kailan dapat lumaban at kung kailan dapat sumuko. Higit sa lahat, matatag din ang kanyang pananampalataya sa Maykapal na ang lahat ay aayon din para sa kanya at para sa kabutihan balang araw. May mga malabis na halikan lamang sa pelikula na kailangang gabayan ang mga bata. Ang pakikiapid din ni Migs kay Bela ay dapat maipaliwanag nang husto.

Burn After Reading

Cast: Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton; Directors: Ethan Coen, Jeol Coen; Producers: Tim Bevan, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Eric Fellner; Screenwriters: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen; Music: Carter Burwell; Editors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen; Genre: Comedy/ Crime; Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki; Distributor: Viva Films; Location: New York, USA; Running Time: 96 min.;

Technical Assessment: 3.5
Moral Assessment: 3
CINEMA Rating: For viewers 14 and above

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) analyst Osborne Cox (John Malkovich) quits when he learns he is being fired. He decides to write his memoirs and saves them on a computer disc which Washington-based physical fitness instructors Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand) and Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt) discover. Linda desperately needs money to undergo cosmetic surgery, hoping it would be her key to finding the right man. Chad is an airhead, and since they believe they have classified information in their hands, they scheme to blackmail Cox. But Cox, a self-righteous alcoholic, is too smart to fall for the ploy, so the odd couple instead try to sell the disc to the Russians. The Russians, in turn, couldn’t care less, but lovelorn Linda and Chad are not about to give up that easily.

Burn After Reading is a crisp, well-crafted tragicomedy written and directed by Joel and Ethan Cohen who won an Oscar last year for their grim work, No Country for Old Men. The pendulum swings to the extreme opposite as the perfectly cast top-flight actors and the witty, tight script give life to a small world full of losers. The actors deliver fabulous performances in this dark comedy—delivering surprises to the viewer so accustomed to seeing them in more or less type-cast roles. Who would think Brad Pitt, voted one of the “sexiest men in the world”, could break his own glamorous image by playing such a convincing all-brawn-and-no-brain gym instructor? Can you imagine the smooth and suave ladies’ man George Clooney swinging between being an opportunistic womanizer and a jittery paranoid? The great John Malkovich, who seems to have been born to play psychotic roles, here gets funnier the angrier he becomes. All the playors, really, deserve applause for putting together this highly polished and entertaining film.

Burn After Reading is a comedy meant to take you beyond laughter. Offering great gags—thanks to the plot and the well-measured humor packaged in dialogue that respects the viewer’s intelligence—the film presents the human condition which is at once pathetic and laughable. After watching it, the family may dwell on questions such as: How far could a woman go to be loved by a man? What would a man do to affirm his self-image? In what ways does the business of espionage dehumanize people? How can the formation of conscience in youth affect one’s decisions in adult life? How important is self-knowledge in guiding one through the pursuit of one’s dreams? Caution on the foul language which youngsters might tend to imitate.

Monster Slayer

Cast: Trevor Matthews, Robert Englund, Rachel Skarsten; Director: Jon Knautz; Producers: Neil Bregman, Trevor Matthews, Patrick White; Screenwriter: John Ainslie; Music: Ryan Shore; Editor: Matthew Brulotte; Genre: Horror/ Suspense; Cinematography: Joshua Allen; Distributor: Epic Pictures Group; Location: USA; Running Time: 85 min.;

Technical Assessment: 3
Moral Assessment: 2
CINEMA Rating: For mature viewers 18 and above

Jack Brooks (Trevor Matthews) has had anger management issues ever since he witnessed his whole family shredded to pieces and eaten by a monster. To this day, he loses his temper over the smallest petty issue. He works as a plumber and takes up night classes upon the insistence of Eve, his whinny nagging girlfriend. After one of their classes, Professor Crowley (Robert Englund) requests him to check the water pump and pipes in his house. While attempting to fix the old house’s plumbing, Jack accidentally unleashes the evil buried in the backyard. Crowley is drawn to the black heart which immediately forces its way inside him. The professor is transformed into a voracious pus-filled octopus-like monster during their chemistry class and eats most of the students who also become flesh-eating monsters. Jack then realizes that he can no longer run from his anger and returns to save the students and kill the monsters.

The movie is fairly decent and technically acceptable. Although it takes almost half the movie before something happens, but when the excitement comes, it is able to keep the audience on the edge of their seats. There is a good storyline behind the blood and gore with a well-paced editing and satisfactory camerawork. The acting is so-so except for Englund. Over-all, the movie delivers quite a respectable scare and suspense.

Sometimes, our past leaves deep scars in our being that we end up becoming lost, broken and unproductive. In as much as our past shapes us, it should not control us. Our past should offer lessons for growth and improvement and whatever mistakes we might have committed then should be help us become better persons now. Our pain should push us to creatively work around our issues and our scars should be a reminder not of what we failed to do but what we can do better the next time. Only when Jack was able to divert his guilt and pain of losing his family into fighting evil did he learn to control his anger.

The movie has too much gore and blood for young audiences. Parents are cautioned against allowing their children to watch the movie unsupervised.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Women

Cast: Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Eva Mendes, Debra Messing, Jada Pinkett Smith; Director: Diane English; Producers: Diane English, Mick Jagger, Bill Johnson, Victoria Pearman; Screenwriters: Diane English, Clare Boothe Luce; Music: Mark Isham; Editor: Tia Nolan; Genre: Comedy/ Drama; Cinematography: Anastas N. Michos; Distributor: Picturehouse Entertainment; Location: Massachusetts, USA; Running Time: 114 min.;

Technical Assessment: 3
Moral Assessment: 2.5
CINEMA Rating: For mature viewers 18 and above

Friends Mary Haines (Meg Ryan), Sylvie Fowler (Annette Benning), Edie Cohen (Debra Messing) and Alex Fisher (Jada Pinkett Smith) are there for one another. Mary is a mother of one and seems in a perfect marriage. Sylvie, single, is a high profile woman’s magazine editor. Edie I a mother of three girls who won’t stop getting pregnant until she gets a son. Alex is an avowed, incorrigible lesbian. Two things they have in common: long-standing friendship and a passion for shopping, preferably at Saks Fifth Avenue. When Sylvie learns from a manicurist Tanya (Debi Mazar) at Saks that Mary’s husband Stephen is the lover of the store’s perfume sales girl Crystal Allen (Eva Mendes), the trio tries to find a way to tell Mary ever-so-gently. But Mary also discovers it from the same gossipy manicurist, and decides for divorce. The four friends conspire to break the affair, but despite Stephen’s attempt to reconcile with Mary, she cannot be moved.

The dramedy The Women is inspired by the Clare Booth Luce play of the same title, and like the latter’s 1939 film adaptation by George Cukor, it also does not show males on the screen. There are two males, however—two husbands and a boss—but they are only heard on the phone with the women. It has a strong all-star cast including Candice Bergen (as Mary’s mother Catherine), Chloris Leachman (as Maggie, the Haines’ housekeeper), Carrie Fisher (as a gossip columnist), and Bette Midler (as Hollywood agent Leah Miller), which gives the movie a “chick flick” flavor. The script is also adapted from both the play and the 1939 screeenplay, using a story that is almost the same as the original although with a contemporary backdrop relying on the power combination of fashion and publishing. Gimmicky additions are the use of split screen, an entire fashion show, and a prolonged childbirth scene.

We can’t help thinking that The Women is but a small part of the trend to highlight female-bonding in cybermedia. Circulating lately via internet and email are Power Point presentations stressing how the world becomes a better place to live in when women –sisters, friends, mothers and daughters, grandmothers—are there for each other. In fact, Jada Pinkett’s line on the glories of lesbianism is a rather blunt statement for the advantages of female bonding—albeit sexually perversive. The movie’s main theme, marital infidelity, is very much adult but its comedic approach may lighten the impact of adultery in the viewer’s mind. The Women has been compared to the recent movie version of Sex in the City, featuring another quartet of female friends, but The Women covers more ground in terms of women’s issues such as the inevitable betrayal between close friends, the desire to have sons, the impact of divorce on children, society’s apparent tolerance of extra-marital affairs, the reasons behind a husband’s infidelity, etc. Because of its adult themes, CINEMA rates The Women as a movie for adults 18 and above.

Kurap


Cast: Ashley Rhain Arca, Christian Burke, Jojit Lorenzo, Sherwin Ordoñez; Director: Roni Bertubin; Producer: Antonio de Guzman Jr.; Screenwriter: Romualdo Avellanosa; Genre: Drama; Distributor: Silangan Pictures; Location: Manila; Running Time: 90 min.;

Technical Assessment: 3
Moral Assessment: 2
CINEMA Rating: For mature viewers 18 and above

Si Ambet (Sherwin Ordonez) ay isang mandurukot sa Quiapo na pinasok din ang pagbebenta ng mga bagay na nakaw tulad ng cellular phone, kasabwat ang ilang kaibigan. Nang magkasakit ng glaucoma (isang sakit na unti-unting nagpapabulag ng mata) ang kanyang nakababatang kapatid sa ina na si Luchie, kinailangan niya ng mas maraming pera upang maipagamot ito. Sakto namang dumating sa buhay nila si Marlon (Jojit Lorenzo), isang amateur videographer, upang alukin siya ng pera kapalit ang pagtuturo nito ng mga illegal na negosyo sa Quiapo. Mapipilitan si Ambet na ipagkanulo ang mga kaibigan sa ngalan ng pagmamahal nito sa kapatid at sa salaping kanyang makukuha. Ngunit ito rin ang simula ng panganib sa kanyang buhay.

Para sa isang Indie (independent) na pelikula, maayos ang daloy ng kuwento ng Kurap. Malinaw ang karakterisasyon at nagamit nang husto ang lugar ng pelikula. Sinubukan nitong pasukin ang ilang bagong elemento ng paggawa ng pelikula. Nariyan ang kakaibang paggamit ng cinema verite kung saan pawang kunukunan lamang ang mga pangyayari sa makakatotohanang paraan. Naisalarawan ng pelikula ang talamak na kalagayan ng mahihirap sa lungsod. Medyo gasgas na nga lang ang Quiapo bilang kumakatawan sa lahat ng sakit ng Maynila. Hilaw pa rin sa pag-arte ang ilang tauhan bagama't maaari naman itong palagpasin. Marami ring eksenang tuhog at hindi ginamitan ng tripod kung kaya’t lumabas na nakakahilo at magulo--isang kahinaang maituturing ng cinema verite approach sa pagsasapelikula. Labis ring madidilim ang mga eksena kahit na nga ito marahil ay pagbibigay-simbolismo sa madilim na mundo ng mga mandurukot, snatchers, at iba.

Sa isang mundong nababalutan ng kadiliman at kahirapan, kinakailangan ang malinaw na paningin upang malaman kung saan nga ba patutungo ang lahat nang ito. Sa bilis ng mga pangyayari ay maaaring magbago ang takbo ng lahat sa isang kurap. Ito ang nais sabihin ng pelikula. Binuo ang kuwento upang muling buksan ang mata ng manonood sa mga nangyayaring kahirapan at kasamaan. Ngunit pawang naging malabis ang pelikula sa paggamit ng kapangyarihan nitong magsiyasat at magbulgar ng sakit ng lipunan. Maraming elemeto ang walang malinaw na pinanggagalingan at patutunguhan. Sa isang banda ay kapuri-puri ang tapang ng pelikula sa pamumunasa kultura ng mass media kung saan talamak ang kasamaan at pangungurakot. Anito, walang pinagkaiba ang media sa mga snatchers, mandurukot, namimirata at mga prostitute. Sa mundong ito, mas talamak ang korupsiyon at panlalamang sa kapwa. Pero ano’t ano pa man, isang madilim na pelikula ang kurap na walang ipinakikitang pag-asa o inspirasyon man lamang. Labis na nakababahala ang pagkakaroon ng papel ng isang bata sa pelikula na kung saan ay marami siyang nakikitang masama. Maari ngang nangyayari ang mga ito, pero nakababahalang wala man lang pag-asang dala ang isang bata hanggang sa katapusan ng pelikula. Kinokonsinte rin ng pelikula ang pagtatalik ng hindi mag-asawa maging ng mga bakla. Walang pagbabago, walang pagsisisi at walang sinumang mabuti at walang Diyos na pinaniniwalaan ang mga karakter sa pelikula. Idagdag pa rito ang maraming eksena ng paghuhubad at pagmumura ng mga tauhan. Nararapat lamang ang pelikula sa mga manonood na may gulang na at sapat na hinog ng isipan.

Passengers

Cast: Anne Hathaway, Patrick Wilson, Dianne West, David Morse, Andre Braugher, Don Thompson, Chilah Horsdal, Stacy Grant; Director: Rodrigo Garcia; Producers: Joseph Drake, Nathan Kahane, Julie Lynn, Judd Payne, Matthew Rhodes, Keri Selig; Screenwriter: Ronnie Christensen; Music: Ed Shearmur; Editor: Thom Noble; Genre: Thriller/Romance; Cinematography: Igor Jadue-Lillo; Distributor: Tristan Pictures; Location: Vancouver, British Columbia; Running Time: 93 min.;

Technical Assessment: 3
Moral Assessment: 3
CINEMA Rating: For mature viewers 18 and above

A plane crashes on a Vancouver beach with most of the one hundred passengers perishing. Claire Summers (Anne Hathaway), a young psycho-therapist, is asked to counsel the few survivors to help them cope with their near-death traumatic experiences. She meets the five of them in group therapy sessions but one of the survivors Eric (Patrick Wilson) refuses to join the group but insists on one-on-one home visits. He is hesitant to talk about the crash but feels reinvigorated with this second chance at life due to his miraculous survival. At least two of the survivors recall seeing a flash of light and a loud explosion before the crash. However, the investigators say the accident is due to pilot error. When her patients gradually disappear or fail to attend the sessions one by one, Claire senses an airline cover-up. Her relationship with Eric becomes more personal and Claire knows she violates her profession’s ethics, having crossed the ethical line with a patient. Some unusual, ominous things start to happen and Claire feels there is some mystery at the heart of things. What will Claire uncover?

In the ads promoting Passengers, the movie is compared to the Sixth Sense and Final Destination and so the spectators expect preternatural happenings and thrills. This could be misleading. Passengers offers very minor thrills, and practically no scares nor dramatic moments. The crash, the opening scene, sets the screen into some mild action, but after that, the film plods on and can be boringly slow with virtually nothing interesting happening. Some characters flit in out of the story like Toni (Dianne West), Claire’s kind neighbor. Then there is gradual romantic bonding between Claire and Eric as Claire begins to open up so that keeps the story progressing. The spectator may not know exactly where the story is heading but must be open to some mysterious climax. And in the last fifteen minutes, the director gives the story a surprising twist and ties up all the loose ends. Far from being a supernatural thriller, the film is a character piece. Anne Hathaway’s and Patrick Wilson’s adept performances are a plus for the film and so are those of some minor characters like Dianne West and Daniel Morse. The cinematography has helped build the dreary, spooky mood with its constant images of the palpable cold weather and dark overcast skies.

The film Passengers has a new slant on the “after-life” and like such films in the same genre, it affirms the fact that there is life after this earthly existence. The film suggests that somehow, the way we live our lives here on earth has some bearing on that other future life. Take Eric, a “survivor” who feels he has to do now what he had always wanted to do but did not, so now in his “present” moment he is in a frenzy of activities among them painting, motorcycle riding, swimming in the cold bay in the dead of night. Or Sharon, another “survivor” who has feelings of regret because somehow she had not been able to set things right with her parents who sort of abandoned her when she was very young. Or even Claire who had problems with her sister. Claire now wants to reach out to her sister and tell her how much Alice her sister meant to her. Probably the film may spur the spectator into a realization that in this short earthly life, there is much to value especially in our relationships with loved ones and others, and that we must choose to make these relationships beautiful, fulfilling and satisfying as we wish--while we still can.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa

Cast: (Voices) Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith, Sacha Baron Cohen, Cedric The Entertainer, Andy Richter, Bernie Mac; Directors: Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath; Producers: Mireille Soria, Mark Swift; Music: Hans Zimmer; Genre: Animation/ Action/ Adventure/ Comedy/ Family; Distributor: Paramount Pictures; Running Time: 89 min.;

Technical Assessment: 3
Moral Assessment: 2.5
CINEMA Rating: For viewers 14 and above

Dance-loving lion Alex (voice of Ben Stiller), lively zebra Marty (voice of Chris Rock), worrier-giraffe Melman (voice of David Schwimmer) and voluptuous hippo Gloria (voice of Jada Pinkett Smith)—a quartet of wild animals pampered in New York City’s Central Park Zoo—find themselves stranded in Madagascar. Longing for the comforts of their city home they agree to take an “Air Penguin” flight across the Atlantic on a refurbished wrecked plane taped together by displaced penguins and chimpanzees. But what do you expect of a makeshift aircraft launched into orbit by a giant slingshot? They crash-land in an animal preserve on an African savanna. Here’s where the zoo-raised foursome get to meet their wilder cousins, problems arise, and the adventure begins.

The story is not complicated enough to interest parents or adult viewers but young ones perhaps couldn’t care less because there’s more than enough to get distracted with: the sunny atmosphere, the lush settings, the magnificent landscapes, thrilling action (sacrifice to a volcano), and the animals’ human antics. All these combine to make of Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa a more engaging movie than the original Madagascar . But does this mean it’s safe enough for viewers of all ages to watch?

Parents are cautioned against the potty humor and the violent moves animations like to think they can get away with. Although on the surface it looks like it’s aimed to please kids, deep within it’s a film for adults (and precocious adolescents, perhaps). The four animals have issues too grown-up for young children to understand or be exposed to. Alex (the lion) tries hard to prove himself to his father. Marty (the zebra) undergoes an identity crisis when he joins a herd of zebras in the wild. Melman (the giraffe) is burning with secret love for Gloria (the hippo) who is in turn smitten by the charms of a he-hippo. It is claimed that with this story-line, Madagascar 2’s directors and co-writers Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath offer lessons about the value of self-confidence and true love. But it could also be perceived as a veiled challenge to the idea of conformity. As a toddler-lion, Alex is a disappointment to his father, the macho leader of the pride, because the son is giggly, loves to dance, plays with butterflies and is too friendly to be leonine. (A father unable to accept a gay kid?) As for the hippo-giraffe partnership—it remains ambiguous. It could be saying that true love knows no class barriers, or that one could defiantly go after one’s heart’s desire regardless of the impossibility of starting a family. For pray, tell us, can a hippo and a giraffe mate to produce an offspring? (Shades of same-sex marriages?) Let’s just hope the implications escape young viewers while providing a moral brainteaser to adult audiences.

Quantum of Solace: 007

Cast: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Giancarlo Giannini, Jeffrey Wright, Judi Dench; Director: Marc Forster; Producers: Barbara Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson; Screenwriters: Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade; Music: David Arnold; Editors: Matt Chesse, Richard Pearson; Genre: Action/ Adventure; Cinematography: Roberto Schaefer; Distributor: Columbia Pictures; Location: Bolivia, Austria, Italy; Running Time: 110 min.;

Technical Assessment: 3.5
Moral Assessment: 2.5
CINEMA Rating: For viewers 14 and above

James Bond, 007 (Daniel Craig) is shocked and badly shaken by what looks like his beloved Vesper Lynd had betrayed him and then she was killed. Determined to go after those responsible for her murder, he follows trails leading to places from London to Italy, Austria and Bolivia. He meets Camille (Olga Kurylenko), who he thinks could lead him to Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) who appears to be working on a coup de tat, who, in turn could lead him to General Medrano (Joaquin Cosio), an exiled Bolivian, who happens to have been the man directly responsible for the massacre of Camille’s whole family. Bond believes that finding them and their Quantum Organization would mean the end of his search. 007 also goes looking for Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini), for some help, although in their previous association (in “Casino”) Bond had not been able to trust him wholly. As he continues his pursuit he is aware that MI6, the CIA, and of course the terrorist syndicate are after him. MI6’s M (Judi Dench) under whom he works does not trust him; neither does he trusts her with what is happening. He is making a desperate try to keep ahead of them and find the culprits he is looking for.

This is the second James Bond movie that Daniel Craig has acted in. It is history that the first Casino Royale was a box office hit. For those who enjoy James Bond and his exploits, Quantum of Solace could also be just as entertaining. It is a 110 minute fast-moving quest for those who killed the only woman 007 loved. He has been restless and unable to sleep because he has yet to catch the culprits, not minding the toll he has to pay for all the dangers he has to endure. He shows the ability of a super hero in the air, on the sea, riding a horse, a chase and fight on the rooftops, among other unbelievable but realistic looking actions. Because of the fast moving sequences of the story, viewers may want or need to watch a second time, so that they could better appreciate the details on the screen.

Take note that the protagonist in most instances in the story shows and acts how terribly angry he is by the murder of his loved one. To quote some lines in an observation from a review: ‘As M (Dench) puts it, if you want to see an anti-hero “so blinded by inconsolable rage that you don’t care who you hurt” then Craig’s ice-cool Bond is the guy to leave you shaken and stirred (Tim Evans, Sky Movies Reviews Editor). A touching scene to look out for is when “Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini) asks James Bond to forgive. He is asking Bond to be at peace with himself and part of that is forgiving Vesper, realizing that he was in love with her and she was in love with him.”(Ruben V. Nepales, Only in Hollywood.)

Monday, November 3, 2008

High School Musical 3: Senior Year

Cast: Zac Efron, Vanessa Anne Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, Lucas Grabeel, Corbin Bleu, Monique Coleman; Director: Kenny Ortega; Producers: Bill Borden, Barry Rosenbush; Screenwriter: Peter Barsocchini; Music: David Lawrence; Editor: Seth Flaum; Genre: Musical/ Comedy/ Drama; Cinematography: Daniel Aranyo; Distributor: Walt Disney Studious Motion Pictures; Location: Utah, USA; Running Time: 112 min.;

Technical Assessment: 3.5
Moral Assessment: 4
CINEMA Rating: For viewers of all ages

Sweethearts and senior high schoolers in Albuquerque, New Mexico Troy (Zac Efron) and Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens) face the prospect of pursuing college hundreds of miles apart. A basketball star who loves to sing, Troy could go along with his father’s plan for him to join the team at the University of Albuquerque where his father Jack (Bart Johnson) is coach, or he could go to New York’s Juilliard School where someone had secretly applied on his behalf. The academically gifted Gabriella, on the other hand, has been accepted at Stanford University in California but hesitates to grab it lest she miss the familiar surroundings and her loved ones, especially her one true love Troy. Meanwhile, they are kept high and busy by the coming prom and a play based on their own lives that they have to stage.

A movie that ought to delight local audiences as Mamma Mia recently did—High School Musical 3: Senior Year has for its assets energetic dances, lively music, and songs anybody can sing along with. Viewers can easily follow the simple plot which is kept free of sub-plots and unnecessary glitches. As a big-screen sequel to High School Musicals 1 & 2, HSM 3: Senior Year boasts of crisp cinematography and costumes and sets that are absolutely eye candy. The young actors prove themselves up to their roles, performing their own songs and dances remarkably well. (It should also please the local audiences to know that Vanessa Hudgens is half-Filipino—another Lea Salonga in the making?)

High School Musical 3: Senior Year is family-friendly entertainment all the way, thanks to Disney. While it seems aimed at tweeners (aged between 12 and 19), it is nonetheless appealing for every member of the family, as proven by the response it gets from theater audiences who are mostly parents treating their grade-school kids and high schoolers on a sem break weekend. Some foreign reviewers have criticized the movie to be “too clean it squeaks”—alluding to the chaste relationship between the high school sweethearts—but this only goes to show that such critics must have seen too many Sex and the City episodes that they have come to expect the whole world to be so oriented. So it’s “too clean it squeaks”—what’s wrong with that? Isn’t it good for the family—especially the young members—to see a movie where the teenagers seriously think about education for a decent future instead of drugs and unwanted pregnancies? We asked teenagers who have seen the movie—they like it because they can resonate with the characters who have remained blissfully innocent up to their senior high year. Regardless of the dark realities about the youth that media want to play up, this is the greater reality—that there are still millions of teenagers out there who are emotionally healthy and are not in a mad rush to travel the road to perdition.

My Only U

Cast: Toni Gonzaga, Vhong Navarro, Dennis Padilla, Arlene Muhlach; Director: Cathy Garcia-Molina; Producer: Malou Santos; Screenwriter: John Roque; Genre: Romantic Comedy; Distributor: Star Cinema; Location: Manila; Running Time: 110min.;


Technical Assessment: 3
Moral Assessment: 3
CINEMA Rating: For viewers 14 and above

Walang inaabot ng 25 anyos sa lahi ni Winona (Toni) sa kanyang mother side kung kaya’t nangangamba siyang bago sumapit ang kanyang ika-25 na kaarawan ay mamamatay rin siya. Ito rin ang dahilan kung bakit hindi siya nagpapaligaw kahit kanino at ibinuhos na lamang ang oras sa paghahanapbuhay para sa bulag na ama (Dennis Padilla). Hindi niya alam na may lihim na pagtingin sa kanya ang kanyang kababata at kasero na si Bong (Vhong Navarro). Nang sumapit ang kaarawan ni Winona ay tuwang-tuwa siyang nakaabot siya ng 25 anyos. Itinuturing niya itong extension ng kanyang buhay. Ngunit malalaman ni Bong na may malubha palang sakit si Winona at hindi na rin magtatagal ang buhay nito. Ililihim ito ni Bong kay Winona sa pagnanais na bigyang kasiyahan at pag-asa ito sa mga nalalabi pa nitong araw. Ipinangako ni Bong sa sarili na babantayan at poprotektahan niya si Winona. Pero darating ang oportunidad kay Winona na makapunta ng Japan. Mapigilan kaya ni Bong lumayo si Winona? Paano kung malaman ni Winona ang paglilihim na ginawa ni Bong tungkol sa kanyang sakit? Magkatuluyan pa kaya sila?

Tulad sa inaasahan, isang nakakaaliw na pelikula ang My Only U. Bago at hindi karaniwan ang kuwento nito at sadyang nagampanan ng husto ng mga artista ang kani-kanilang papel. Ngunit hindi maitatatwang minadali ang pelikula kung kaya’t pawang maraming eksena ang kulang sa hagod ng emosyon. Ang labas tuloy ay sobrang de-numero ng istruktura nito at kitang-kita ang kamay ng manunulat sa buong kuwento. Bagama’t may kurot, wala gaanong kilig na mararamdaman sa kuwentong pag-ibig ng pelikula. Masyadong tumutok sa mga lumang joke at patawa na hindi naman gaanong naging epektibo. Nagbabalik ang mga lumang istilo ng mga pelikula na mayroong sayawan, kantahan, at mga gasgas na karakter na ngongo, mataba at andres de saya. Pati ang ilang pagsingit ng mga artista at karakter sa ibang pelikula ng Star Cinema ay pawang nakagulo sa daloy ng kuwento.

Sadyang nakalilito ang mensahe ng pelikula. Bagama’t sinasabi nito na ang tunay na pag-ibig ay naghihintay at nagtitiis, naging pawang makasarili pa rin ang bida sa pagtatago ng katotohanan. Sa pagkakataon bang ito ay tama lamang ang magsinungaling? Masyado ring pinangungunahan sa pelikula ang buhay at kamatayan. Kinondena nito ang pagiging mapaniwalain sa mga haka-haka, signos at kung ano pa mang kapangyarihan na hindi akma sa turo ng simbahan. Sadyang nakababahala rin ang mga eksena ng pamamatok ng asawang babae sa asawang lalaki at ang paggamit sa kapansanan ng tao bilang katatawanan. Sa kabila nito’y may mabuti namang mensahe ang pelikula ukol sa pagmamahal ng anak sa magulang,pagkakaisa ng magkakapit-bahay at pagmamahalang wagas hanggang kamatayan. Kapuri-puri rin ang ilang eksena na nagpapakita ng pagka-relihiyoso ng mga karakter. Yun nga lang, ang paniniwala nila sa Diyos ay pawang hanggang doon lang. Kapupulutan din ng aral ang masayahing disposisyon ng mga karakter sa gitna ng problema. Ang pagpapakitang ang kamatayan ay hindi lang isang malungkot na yugto ng buhay kundi maari ring maituring na masayang katapusan at simula ng panibagong paglalakbay.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

City of Ember


Cast: Harry Tradeaway, Saoirse Ronan, David Ryall, Ian McElhinney, Tim Robbins Bill Murray, Lucinda Dryzek; Director: Gil Kenan; Producers: Gary Goetzman, Tom Hanks, Steve Shareshian; Screenwriters: Caroline Thompson, Jeanne Duprau; Music: Andrew Lockington; Editors: Adam P. Scott, Zach Staenberg; Genre: Fantasy/ Drama/ Suspense; Cinematography: Xavier Perez Grobet; Distributor: Pioneer Films; Location: Northern Island, UK; Running Time: 95 min.;

Technical Assessment: 3.5
Moral Assessment: 3
CINEMA Rating: For viewers 14 and above

Two hundred years ago, some kind of a terrible devastation rendered the earth no longer livable, driving the human survivors to dig deep down inside this earth and build a refuge- the City of Ember- for their safety and survival. Now having passed the two hundred years, increasing signs start to show that the City of Ember is breaking apart. The one huge power generator that takes care of the city’s power supplying air, light and heat is continuously breaking down. The water supply is affected by leaks and busted pipes. The food supply- in tin cans- for the people is running out. People are called together and assigned to do various tasks: To investigate, do repairs, make reports, run errands, etc. Two young persons given their chores are Doon Harrow (Harry Treadaway) and Lina Mayfleet (Saoirse Ronan). They know one another because her father drowned when he was trying to escape with Doon’s dad, Loris (Tim Robbins). Doon and Lina appear to think that there were certain hidden things going on in the city that do not appear to be right. They pair up and begin to do a search of what is really happening. They discover the easy going and corrupt Mayor Cole (Bill Murry) has a well hidden stash of canned food for himself. More important they also find evidence through maps, hidden papers and poorly kept documents that there are clues showing an exit to the above outside earth and instructions on how to get there: their (all from the inner earth) only chance to escape from the deteriorating city deep under them.

Giving the main focus of the story to two young people: Harry Treadaway as Doon, and Saoirse Ronan as Lina shows the movie’s intent to catch the interest of the young viewers. In addition, advertisements about the possibility that City of Ember could be comparable to the Harry Potter films/stories serves as an enticement to potential viewers to check on it. The movie has a big cast and fast moving sequences to show the many events that have to take place to reach the planned ending. There are some interesting tenseful moments, aside from the many subplots. Harry and Saoirse, though seem to be unknown actors, did well in their roles. It cannot be helped that the lighting has to be darkish because of the location of the story: way down inside the earth.

Harry and Lina show their daring and willingness to risk themselves in finding the truth. They tried using the narrow and light boat against the rushing water flow to see if they could make the exit. They did, then sent a message to the people down below that there is a way out! Overall, there is the message of hope, to be saved. The darkness of the scenes: passage ways, rooms; a large fierce crab-like creature that runs after people and bites, are scenes not advisable viewing for young children.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Nights in Rodanthe

Cast: Richard Gere, Diane Lane, Scoot Glenn, Christopher Meloni, Viola Davis; Director: George C. Wolfe; Producer: Denise Di Novi; Screenwriters: Ann Peacock, John Romano; Music: Jeanine Tesori; Editor: Brian A. Kates; Genre: Drama, Romance; Cinematography: Alfonso Beate; Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures; Location: Carolina, USA; Running Time: 97 min.;

Technical Assessment: 3.5
Moral Assessment: 2.5
CINEMA Rating: For mature viewers 18 and above

Adreinne Willis (Diane Lane) has lived the life of a broken family for sometime since her husband Jack left her for someone else. She has been putting her life together, with her children- the hard-to-handle Amanda who wants her father back, and Danny, the younger boy. Suddenly, her husband shows up to convince her to take him back, to let him “come home”. Terribly upset and not knowing how to deal with the situation, Adrienne leaves the children in Jack’s care and goes away to some place quiet to think things over and decide what answer she is going to come up with. She volunteers to manage and care for her best friend Jean’s small seaside inn in Rodanthe, Carolina for the few days that the friend would be away. She has barely started to attend to things and settle down at the inn on the first day, when the first guest walks in, due to the coming storm. This is Doctor Paul Flanner (Richard Gere) the first-comer. He is also facing problems of his own, and is trying to find some quiet to think, and someone to talk to. The fierce storm breaks, threatening to bring down the whole inn. In their fright, and concern to protect each other from the flying and falling debris, the two quickly become close and begin to realize how they are feeling for each other.

It is a very well made movie, showing as is, a realistic view of marriage and family life. The problems that come between spouses, parents and their children are simply presented and shown as they happen in real life, easily recognized by the movie viewers. The external, on screen presentation, of the rushing in and then the crashing course of the hurricane help to enhance, for the viewers, the inner turmoil being felt by the troubled Adrienne and Paul. Richard Gere and Diane Lane’s acting is convincingly exceptional. The fine work of George C. Wolfe as the director should be acknowledged.

Nights in Rodanthe deals with problems and conflicts in marriage and family life that could break up a home. Here Adrienne and Paul have similar troubles: Jack left Adrienne and children Amanda and Danny for someone else. Amanda wants her father back, and blames the mother for the chaotic situation they are in. Paul’s wife left him a long while ago, because of it, their son, also a doctor, hates his father. The short time that Adrienne and Paul had together, helped them to talk about each other’s struggles as spouse and parents, and discover where they had gone wrong or been remiss. Each returns to their children, with self-confidence, boosted by their sympathy for and affirmation of each other. They continued to frequently keep touch through letters that sustained their love for each other. True love between people help them to help the loved ones become better persons. Between work and family, the home or family has priority. The sexual issues though not frequently presented, are rather highly intense. Sex outside married life is morally not acceptable.

The Strangers


Cast: Liv Tyler, Scott Speedman; Director: Bryan Bertino; Producers: Doug Davison, Nathan Kahane; Screenwriter: Bryan Bertino; Music: Tomandandi; Editor: Kevin Greutert; Genre: Horror/ Suspense; Cinematography: Peter Sova; Distributor: Rogue Pictures; Location: USA; Running Time: 90 min.;

Technical Assessment: 2.5
Moral Assessment: 2.5
CINEMA Rating: For viewers age 14 and above

James Hoyt (Scott Speedman) and Kristen McKay (Liv Tyler) arrive at the Hoyt family’s remote summer home in the middle of the night after attending a friend’s wedding reception. Both look sad and miserable. It turns out, Kristen just turned down James marriage proposal for some reason. After minutes of indifference and silence, they kiss and make-up and almost made-out but they are interrupted by the loud knocking at the door. James opens the door and to their surprise, at 4:00 in the morning, a lady stranger is looking for somebody who never lives in the house. Without the couple knowing it, they are stalked and menaced by three masked strangers who are able to get into the house.

Based on real events, The Strangers is another horror flick with no other point than scaring the audience. The movie actually succeeds in keeping its audience at the edge of their seats. There is enough suspense, thrill and madness required for the film’s genre. Liv Tyler delivers a fine performance and the audience has actually seen real humans in the presence of the two lead casts. But then, the movie lacks soul for there is no explanation on the killings. The plotline is too simplistic for a full length feature. The scary tactics are effective at the start, but towards the end, the audience gets tired of it and looks for more meat in the story otherwise the film becomes utterly predictable.

We are not safe anywhere, not even in our homes because strangers can just get in and spread horror and terror without any reason. This is all The Strangers has to say. It can be true that evil really exists. However, evil should not be deemed nor portrayed as an all-powerful force. The movie could have been better if there was at least a glimmer of hope for justice. The presence of the two Christian boys at the end is nothing more than a sign of desperation. It either says God is too late or God never rescues. The genuine love between Kristen and James is the only saving grace in the movie although it did not save them; their love made them stronger and bonded them together until death. Aside from the violence, blood and gore which may cause nightmares for the very young audience, parents should also be warned on the context of fornication and some degree of profanity in the movie.

Living Hell

Cast: Jonathan Schaech, Erica Leerhsen, James Mcdaniel, Jason Wiles; Director: Richard Jefferies; Producers: Deborah Del Prete, David S. Greathouse, Richard Jefferies, Gigi Pritzker; Screenwriter: Richard Jefferies; Music: Terence Jay; Editor: Russell Denove; Genre: ; Cinematography: Eric Leach; Distributor: The Sci-Fi Channel; Location: New Mexico, USA; Running Time: 92 min.;

Technical Assessment: 2
Moral Assessment: 2
CINEMA Rating: For mature viewers 18 and above

Frank Sears (Jonathan Shaech) is a biology teacher traumatized after seeing his crazy mother shoot his dad and then herself and leaving him with the words “S-3 and V-12” carved on each palm of his hand. He makes his way to an army base in New Mexico to warn them about a terrible organism that has been created during the cold war as a biological weapon against the enemy but now buried in “ Sublevel 3, Vault 12” after the project proved too difficult to contain. Unfortunately, the secret chambers are opened and the creature is unleashed to consume everything in its way. It feeds on light and energy and grows at an alarmingly fast rate. Sears and Carrie (Erica Leerhsen), a haz-mat member recently widowed after her husband was killed by the creature, race to neutralize it before the sun rises and it becomes totally unstoppable.

Living Hell (formerly titled Organizm) offers nothing new. Its plot is very formulaic, the characters are caricaturist and unimaginative, the CGIs look unrealistic and the technical efforts mediocre. On the good note, the movie is quite exciting with quick pacing and a storyline that develops pretty well with some decent performances. Miraculously, the film turns out to be an enjoyable B-movie, good enough to pass a lazy evening with.

The movie offers a good debate about how to resolve a crisis - do we sacrifice an innocent few to save the greater majority? The authorities were ready to sacrifice a whole town full of innocent people just to stop the creature. Exploring other options required more efforts and were unreliable.. so just go ahead and nuke an entire town. On so many occasions, we are presented with this choice. Issues on poverty and population control, on crime and death penalty, on the Muslim conflict… Do we take the easy way out and disregard the rights and lives of some people so we can solve the impending problem? It seems the more preference is to turn a blind eye on morality and go with the more popular, more controversial option and less stressful option. Perhaps it is best to review how we prioritize life and remember that every single creature is God’s beloved. So at any given time, presented with any given situation, we must choose life. Not just the life of some selected people but all lives … that of the smallest and most insignificant up to the strongest and most admired person.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Max Payne

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Beau Bridges , Ludacris, Chris O’Donnell, ; Director: John Moore; Producers: Scott Faye, John Moore, Julie Yorn; Screenwriters: Beau Thorne, Sam Lake; Music: Marco Beltrami; Editor: Dan Zimmerman; Genre: Action/ Crime/ Drama/ Thriller; Cinematography: Jonathan Sela; Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox-Film Corporation; Location: USA;

Technical Assessment: 3
Moral Assessment: 2.5
CINEMA Rating: For mature viewers age 18 and above

Max Payne (Mark Wahlberg) works in a drab corner of a police precinct. Exuding an anti-social air about him, Payne is left alone by his officemates, knowing he has not as yet recovered from the trauma of losing his wife and his infant son. As a new colleague comes to know later, Payne had come home one evening to find his family brutally murdered in their own bedroom. Since then he has been distraught and obsessed with revenge, often venturing alone, disregarding rules and defying authority in searching for clues to lead him to the murderers. His relentless investigation gets him entangled in the underworld where he comes face to face with his enemies and realizes that he is dealing with power that is larger than life itself.

As an action film based on the 2001 video game of the same name, Max Payne went through almost seven years pre-production period but was shot only within two months. Wahlberg is a natural for the role of the distressed and hyperactive loner. In general it’s a very good cast, which makes for the convincing realism of the story. The darkness of the theme and the nature of the characters is complemented by the just-right music and effectively enforced by the cinematographic effects, the colors, lighting, shadows, the sets and locations (such as the abandoned warehouse). One noteworthy aspect of Max Payne’s visuals is the costume and the makeup—these are used with restraint, not exaggerated to define the characters or the situations. The has some loopholes, but they’re forgivable, considering the other superior elements of the movie’s technical aspect.

The theme of Max Payne may be revenge but the real issue is Payne’s inability to cope constructively with tragedy. Thus the movie speaks much of the human situation, and viewers who have ears (not only eyes) will listen to and find in its faint message the path to a solution that might in the future help prevent self-destructive situations from recurring. Payne as victim of loved ones’ loss may be emotionally-driven and seeking justice—understandable situations for humans to be in—but nothing in the past seemed to have prepare him for the brutal episode he found himself in. His single-minded compulsion at tracking down his enemies are rewarded, but at what cost? It’s important to note the extra footage after the credits; it gives you a clue as to the future Payne is facing. And perhaps, also a foretaste of a Max Payne sequel

Body of Lies

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Russel Crowe, Carise van Houten, Michael Gaston, Vince Colosimo, Mark Strong; Director: Ridley Scoot; Producers: David De Line, Ridley Scott; Screenwriters: William Monahan, David Ignatius; Music: Marc Streitenfeld; Editor: Pietro Scalia; Genre: Drama/ Suspenses/ Thriller; Cinematography: Alexander Witt; Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures; Location: Europe, USA, Middle East; Running Time: 128 min.;

Technical Assessment: 3
Moral Assessment: 2.5
CINEMA Rating: For mature viewers 18 and above

CIA agent Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) chases terrorists around Middle East while his boss Ed Hoffman (Russel Crowe) gives him orders from the US and watches via satellite. Their latest mission is to track down and capture Al-Saleem (Alon Aboutboul), the al-Qaida mastermind behind a recent series of attacks in Europe . Ferris hopes to infiltrate a safe house and locate Al-Saleem, so he reaches out to the head of Jordanian intelligence Hani Salaam, (Mark Strong). However, unknown to Ferris, Hoffman makes his own sideline moves that destroys Hani’s trust and nearly jeopardizes Ferris’ mission. This results in a more complicated and convoluted series of cat-and-mouse pursuit of snaring Al-Saleem.

Body of Lies could have been an intelligent film about terrorism but it falls short in so many ways as far as storyline and clarity of motives are concerned. It does not really say anything new other than intensifying and confirming the United States’ selfish interests in eradicating global terrorism. The story is too linear that it nearly defeats its suspense-thriller feel. But the display of the latest CIA satellite technology is impressive. DiCaprio and Crowe are both superb in the movie. Audiences are easily drawn to their characters forgetting the two were once mere matinee idols. Both essayed their roles with depth, maturity and ease. Nuances and ironies are clearly depicted in most scenes which somehow makes the film an engaging treat. Apparently though, some plot layers remain to be just functional and do not drive home a point, eventually leaving the film with many loose ends.

There’s a bit too much graphic violence and profanity in Body of Lies. There’s torture, war, explosions, and emotional stress in almost every scene. The film says there’s no one to trust in this world and it is not safe anywhere. Some of these may be essential to the genre; however, too much blood and violence can have a desensitizing effect on audiences, especially the young and vulnerable. The film shows how the business of espionage can dehumanize man. Throughout the film, the characters lie to each other to make a mission successful. People kill and are killed to accomplish this mission. Loyalties are confused and divided; trust is undermined. Secret agent Roger Ferris’ dedication to his job and loyalty to the State is commendable. When he’s not being a spy, he can be a good hero example with his gentle treatment of women, children and friends, but his saving grace is he knows when enough (espionage) is enough.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Appaloosa

Cast: Ed Harris, Viggo Mortensen, Renee Zellweger, Jeremy Irons; Director: Ed Harris; Producers: Ed Harris, Ginger Sledge; Screenwriters: Robert Knott, Ed Harris; Music: Jeff Beal; Editor: Kathryn Himoff; Genre: Western; Cinematography: Dean Semler; Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures; Location: New Mexico , USA; Running Time: 110 min.;

Technical Assessment: 3
Moral Assessment: 3
CINEMA Rating: For mature viewers 18 and above


Newly designated City Marshall Virgil Cole (Ed Harris) and his deputy Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortensen) arrive together in Appaloosa, a small town experiencing the abusive presence of a rancher Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons) and his men, to enforce the law for the interest of peace and justice in the town. Shortly after the arrival of Virgil and Everett, widow Allie French (Renee Zellweger) arrives and smittens the partners, but eventually ends up with Virgil. One of the main tasks of Virgil and Everett as marshalls is to keep track of people responsible for previous crimes of murder, rape, robbery, and related human rights violations. It does not take long for the duo to solve one high profile crime which convicted Bragg. However, even before Bragg serves his jail term, Allie is used by his allies to blackmail Virgil and entire escort team to let go of Bragg.

Storywise, Appaloosa is a mediocre film since it is a hodgepodge drama, action, a dash of political satire, and a bit of love angle. The overall treatment makes the story less exciting but makes lot of sense in view of other technical aspects of the film. The well done cinematography is responsible for good compositions particularly the scenic shots of the village and complements the overall production design including make-up. Sound and good musical score also contributed to the essence of the film. Effective acting especially that of Viggo Mortensen as Everett is commendable, although the movie leaves one with a feeling that it did not ask much of such big stars as Zellweger, Irons and Mortensen.

The film is about professionalism and friendship over personal interest, giving rather than taking more for oneself, and letting go over holding on. In short, it shows a responsibility that goes with accountability and sacrifice. A person who regards a long time partnership can discipline and control himself in the midst of temptation to protect the friendship, and can ultimately risk his life for a friend. The film briefly tackles corruption and flaws in the justice system and how noble law enforcers struggle to face it off. Though within context of this virtual cowboy movie, the female character is depicted in this film as deceiving, scheming, flirtatious and weak—not the best traits a woman can have. It also shows the age when duels were in fashion, and when laws in small towns were practically enforced at gunpoint, so don’t be shocked to see so many shootings.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Tropic Thunder

Cast: Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey, Jr., Anthony Ruivivar, Jay Baruchel, Brandon T. Jackson; Director: Ben Stiller; Producers: Stuart Cornfeld, Eric McLeod, Ben Stiller; Screenwriters: Ben Stiller, Justin Theroux; Music: Theodore Shapiro; Editor: Greg Hayden; Genre: Action/Adventure/Comedy; Cinematography: John Toll; Distributor: Dreamworks Distribution; Location: Hawaii, USA; Running Time: 107 min.;

Technical Assessment: 3
Moral Assessment: 2
CINEMA Rating: For mature viewers 18 and above

Tropic Thunder is a movie about how an award-winning movie, “Tropic Blunder”, is made. It opens with trailers meant to establish a trio of characters who are supposedly three of the actors in the movie being made: once box-office king and now fading action star Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller), withdrawing drug addicted actor known for fart humor Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black), and pretentious Oscar-winning actor Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey, Jr.). The movie they’re supposed to be making is based on a story about a Vietnam War hero, and its director is Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan). When a premature explosion damages the set beyond repair, Cockburn cannot accept that the filming is cancelled. The actors are led into the wild, believing there are cameras hidden everywhere to film whatever they’re doing. But they run into the territory of Asian heroin dealers led by a precociously ruthless 12 year old boy (Brandon Soo-Hoo). Speedman is captured, and in the actors’ attempt to rescue him, they realize they are now facing real guns while they have nothing but fake ones.

Tropic Thunder spoofs Hollywood , and in that sense it is an almost effective satire that can be funny at times. It’s a movie that knows movie-making and exposes the quirks of movie directors, actors and their agents, acting, trailers, movie props, writers, nearly all people involved in this ego-driven industry. It would get the loudest laughs—or boos—from movie people themselves, or viewers who are familiar with movie people; otherwise viewers will miss the sting, or the many references that only movie buffs will catch. If you didn’t know that Tropic Thunder is a movie of a movie, you’d think those trailers opening the movie are real. Stiller, Black and Downey , Jr. are in top form, and newcomer Soo-Hoo is such a scene stealer you wonder what his next movie role would be. Big names Nick Nolte and Tom Cruise among others play surprise cameo roles, a gimmick to say this movie is big time.

The posters claim Tropic Thunder is PG13; CINEMA thinks it’s for adults only. In the first place, if you’re not such a movie-lover, why bother to see a movie of a movie that aims to take digs at movie people and movie business? To cringe at the sight of fake blood (spurting from a bottomless pit)? To puke over fake guts (lengths of bloody sausages, yuck!)? To get your eardrums blasted and bleeding from “nonstop rough language and profanity, crass expressions…scatological humor and frank sexual references”? (Quoted from the review of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops). What CINEMA noticed that is not in the reviews we have read of the critics who praised Tropic Thunder is its veiled irreverence towards the Christian religion. One of the fake trailers opening the movie looks like a Da Vinci Code remnant, showing in powerful images medieval Catholic monks in a “sinful” relationship. Twice, too, Stiller (whose role here smacks of a naive sacrificial lamb) spreads his arms as though crucified, while the wailing background music apes that in Passion of the Christ. For your information, Stiller’s father Jerry Stiller is Jewish, while his mother, Irish Catholic Anne Meara, converted to Judaism after marrying his father. Ben Stiller starred, co-wrote, co-produced and directed Tropic Thunder. Not that we’re being such a grouch, but doesn’t this somehow give us a clue as to where the movie is coming from?