Saturday, May 31, 2008

Sex and the City

Title: Sex and the City Cast: Sarah Jessica Parker, Nixon, Kristin Davis, Kim Cattral, Chris Noth, Jennifer Hudson Director: Michael Patrick King Producers: Eric M. Cyphers, Michael Patrick King, John P. Melfi, Sarah Jessica Parker, Darren Star Screenwriters: Michael Patrick King, Candice Bushnell Music: Aaron Zigma Editor: Michael Berenbaum Genre: Romantic Comedy Cinematography: John Thomas Distributor: Cinestar Location: New York, USA and Los Angeles, California Running Time: 150 min.

Technical Assessment: 3

Moral Assessment: 2.5

CINEMA Rating: For mature viewers 18 and above

Sex In the City (The Movie) takes off where the HBO series left five years ago. It begins with Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) giving a fast-paced rundown of her and her friends’ journey in searching and finding love. Five years hence, writer and shoe addict Carrie has been steadily dating her on and off boyfriend, Mr. Big John (Chris Noth) and is about to move in together to an upscale 5th Avenue Penthouse. Flamboyant PR consultant Samantha Jones has moved to LA to manage her boyfriend Smith’s Hollywood career. Classic Charlotte (Kristin Davis) has adopted a Chinese girl and is living her fairytale marriage with lawyer husband, Harry. And no-nonsense lawyer Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) has moved to the suburbs with her plain Joe husband Steve and son Brady. Despite their career and personal preoccupations as well as the distance between their homes, the girls always find time to get together as they have done for the past 20 years. This time, they attend an auction of a famous girl’s prized pieces of jewelry after she has been thrown out of the house by her billionaire boyfriend--a predicament which Carrie fears and later on voices out to John. They agree that getting married will make their arrangement more secure; soon after, wedding plans are drawn. But the wedding gets cancelled --how ar ethe women going to take the situation?

Fans of the original HBO series will find the movie take a little too overstretched and slow-paced at times. There are several extended scenes which only prolong the movie. The storytelling is a little scattered and the plot a bit loose compared to the tight 30-minuters of the series. However, one will still recognize the familiar elements of the show: the high and colorful fashion, the witty retorts and funny quips and the strong characterizations not just of the four girls but of their respective partners and supporting casts as well. The theme is timeless and universal so that even though the protagonists are 40-something women, audience will still rage, cry, laugh and root for their happy endings. The scoring, though a little corny, still delivers the emotion of the scene. Production design is stupendous and classy especially with Patricia Fields’ couture that not only spells style and creativity but also deepens the characterization as well. Editing and camera works are proficient. Unfortunately, in the effort to lower the ratings to accommodate the younger audience and be able to screen in more cinemas, the splicing of scenes is at times too abrupt and distracting.

What about the message of the movie? First, the positive side: For the movie version, the girls are tamer and more mature in dealing with relationships. They have learned the values of fidelity, commitment and sacrifice. Each story tries to convey a value of relationship and love. Miranda’s story talks how marriage should not be a reason to try hard in sustaining the romance. Samantha shows that at times, one needs to take care of the self before she can take care of others. Charlotte’s story demonstrates how one needs to trust that good things will happen despite the odds. And Carrie’s tale reminds us that weddings are not about the fancy details and elaborate arrangements but about two people in love and willing to spend the rest of their lives together. You get married for the right reasons (even in an “unlabeled” gown) and stay married despite the difficulties and inconveniences. One will also admire the bond of the girls’ friendship and how they are all supportive and forgiving of one another.

Now for the not so positive side: as always, the dialogues and scenes are laden with “sex”, although the lovemaking scenes are tamer and monogamous. Audiences with our culture will be uncomfortable with the “live-in” arrangements of Carrie and Samantha and with the suggestion that marriage is unnecessary when the relationship is going well. Some people may also find sexual humors offensive and crude. Over-all the movie is definitely more subdued but still, it definitely caters to older and more sophisticated, mature viewers.


Title: Caregiver Cast: Sharon Cuneta, John Estrada, John Manalo, Makisig Morales, Boots Anson-Roa, Jhong Hilario, Rica Peralejo, Mickey Ferriols, Lotlot de Leon, Monique Wilson, Anita Linda Director: Chito Roño Producer: Star Cinema Screenwriter: Chris Martinez Genre: Drama Distributor: Star Cinema Location: London, England Running Time: 110 min.

Technical Assessment: 3.5

Moral Assessment: 3

CINEMA Rating: For viewers age 13 and below with parental guidance

Tinalikuran ni Sarah (Sharon Cuneta) ang pagiging guro upang makasunod sa asawang si Teddy (John Estrada) sa London at maging caregiver doon. Iniwan ni Sarah sa Pilipinas ang anak na si Paulo (John Manalo) nang mabigat ang loob. Pagdating sa London ay pagsusumikapan nilang mag-asawa na maka-ipon upang agad makuha si Paulo at mamumuhay sila bilang isang pamilya sa London. Ngunit hindi ito agad mangyayari dahil sa sanga-sangang problemang haharapin ni Sarah kapiling si Teddy. Unti-unti ring mamumulat si Sarah sa napakaraming realidad ng buhay sa London. Ang hirap ng trabaho bilang caregiver at ang asawang nakalugmok sa mga bigong pangako at wasak na pangarap.

Bagama’t hindi maikakailang formula at de-kahon ang Caregiver, nakapagbigay pa rin ito ng bagong pananaw ukol sa kalagayan ng mga kababayan nating Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) sa London. Bago ang konseptong caregiving at hindi pa ito masyadong natatalakay sa pelikula man o telebisyon. Naging matapang ang pelikula sa hamong ipakita ang isang aspeto ng pagiging OFW na hindi pa masyadong talamak sa pag-iisip ng mga manonood. Mahusay ang pagkakaganap ng mga tauhan mula sa mga bidang sina Sharon Cuneta, John Estrada, John Manalo hanggang sa mga artistang may maliit lamang na papel tulad ni Anita Linda. Natural ang mga linya at tamang-tama ang timpla ng mga eksena. Hindi man ganoon kabigat ang dating sa mga manonood, hindi pa rin maitatangging nadala ng Caregiver ang mga manonood sa isang lugar at buhay na malayo sa ating ulirat.

Ipinakikita ng Caregiver ang napakaraming sakripisyong pinagdaraanan ang mga nakikipagsapalaran sa ibang bansa kapalit ng pangakong higit na magandang buhay. Hindi nga lahat ng umaalis at nangingibang-bayan ay nagiging matagumpay. Hindi lahat ng pangarap ay natutupad at nasasagot ng paga-abroad. Sa katunayan, karamihan sa mga tunay na problema ay hindi nag-uugat sa pera kundi sa kaibuturan ng pagkatao na nananatili saan mang lugar mapunta, kumita man ng malaking halaga. Kapuri-puri ang katauhan ni Sarah na naging matapang sa gitna ng maraming pagsubok. Naging masunurin sa asawa si Sarah hanggang sa mamulat sa katotohanang may sarili siyang pag-iisip na dapat ding igalang. Isa rin siyang mapagmahal na ina na pinagsusumikapang ipaliwanag at ipadama sa anak ang kahalagahan ng pagtitiis at pagtupad sa pangako. Hindi rin matatawaran ang pagbibigay ng pelikula ng dignidad sa isang trabahong madalas ay minamaliit at pinandidirihan: ang pagiging caregiver. Gaano man kaliit o kababa ang isang hanapbuhay, nagiging mataas ito at kapuri-puri kapag binigyang dignidad at halaga mismo ng mga taong nasa trabahong ito. Ang taong nagmamalasakit sa trabaho ay nagmamalasakit sa kapwa. Nakakabahala lamang ang mensahe ng pelikulang walang asenso sa Pilipinas kung kaya’t mas pinipili ng mga Pilipinong magpakababa sa ibang bayan upang guminhawa lamang sa buhay. Bagama’t may bahid ito ng katotohanan, hindi ito ang ganap na katotohanan, at dapat pa ring malaman, unawain at maramdaman ng mga kabataan na ang sariling bayan ang siyang dapat unang paglingkuran.


Title: 21

Cast: Tim Sturgess, Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth, Laurence Fishbourne, Aaron Yoo, Liza Lapira, Jacob Pitts, Jack McGee, Josh Gad, Sam Golzari, Helen Carey, Jack Gilpin, Donna Lows, Butch Williams Director: Robert Luketic Producers: Dana Brunette, Kevin Spacey Screenwriters: Peter Steinfeld, Alan Loeb Music: James Newton Howard Editor: Elliot Graham Genre: Comedy Cinematography: Russel Carpenter Distributor: Columbia Pictures; Sony Pictures Releasing International Location: Boston, Las Vegas, USA Running Time: 95 min.

Technical Assessment: 3.5

Moral Assessment: 2.5

CINEMA Rating: For viewers 14 and above

Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) is in his last year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He now has set his mind to become a doctor and applied for enrollment at the Harvard Medical School. His problem is to find the means to come up with his tuition fees of $300,000. He works hard at his job and looks for other opportunities. But this is a slow and hard way to save. Besides he has his classes, school projects and study to attend to. Out of the blue he is invited by his math professor Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey) to join his secret small group of students who visit Las Vegas on weekends to play Black Jack, an easy game to play and to win a lot of money in the casinos without fail. Mickey knows that Ben is the smartest in his math class and a genius above his team of players. At first he refuses the invitation. But when the professor sends group member Jill (Kate Bosworth) to convince him “how his life could change for the better”, Ben finally gives in. He is taught their means of communication: a way of counting cards on the table, the use of signs, signals, body movements, and so on. Once ready and prepared, Micky leads Ben and the team to hit Las Vegas.

21 is an unusual story because it presents a professor of mathematics who recruits his best math students and trains them to play cards to win. The story is exciting to watch. There are comic moments to laugh at, although more appealing for the viewers would be the scenes around the gaming tables, waiting to see what is going to happen, how would the game end up? This includes trying to interpret the meaning of every signal being sent by a teammate to another without giving themselves away. They have been trained not to recognize or acknowledge each other within the casino limits. The small ensemble cast work very well together. Outstanding, among them, as expected are veteran actor Kevin Spacey and newcomer Jim Sturgess. As a story, there are moments when a scene or sequence does not seem connected to another, like an abrupt ending, or how is the game played, what is involved.

What happens when the best students are trained and taught to use their brains to take advantage of others? Because of their concentration on the game, and winnings, the bright math students neglect their studies, for one. The develop a liking for what they're doing. Their values change. In particular, Ben who said to Jill that he would quit the game the moment he had the cash needed for his tuition, did not want to quit anymore. He has changed from a shy simple young man to someone who now loved the con man he has become. He lies to his mother about getting a scholarship, neglects his girlfriend, and messes things up with his two project buddies.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Title: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Cast: Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, Shia LeBeouf, Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent. Genre: Action-adventure. Director: Steven Spielberg. Writers: David Koepp, George Lucas. Distributor: Paramount Pictures. Location: Peru. Running time: 124 minutes.

Technical: 3.5
Moral: 3
CINEMA rating: PG 13

Years ago, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is supposed to have seen in a humongous warehouse a crate that contains hyper-magnetic material. Now the Soviet femme fatale Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett) who is as beautiful as she is heartless, takes Indy and his sidekick Mac McHale (Ray Winstone) to this warehouse to find this crate. The mysterious crate leads the trio and Irina’s coterie of equally vicious Russians to the Amazonian wilderness, picking up along the way Indy’s “support group” Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), motorcycle buff Mutt Williams (Shia LeBeouf), and aging Professor Oxley (John Hurt) who is most useful in deciphering cave drawings, explaining things nobody knows about, and carrying the crystal skull they have found in a crypt. The crystal skull is supposed to be one of the 13—the other 12 are concealed in an ancient subterranean city of gold beneath a pyramid in Peru—and supposedly represents one-thirteenth of all knowledge that is knowable by man. Like all other power-charged antiquities, the crystal skull must be returned to its original home, otherwise…

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is the fourth IJ adventure…, and while it may not surpass or even equal Raiders of the Lost Ark (the first of the Indiana Jones series, 1981), it’s hard to say if Crystal Skull couldn’t be the best had it been the first Indiana Jones movie. That usually happens with cinematic greats that have Numbers 2, 3, 4 or more following them, like Rambo, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, etc.—the public normally judges the first as the best, then the interest wanes. When the novelty fades, Number 2, 3, etc. have to try twice as hard to keep viewers high. Viewers want more of the same, the excitement of the first. But what human reaction to pleasure doesn’t reflect the same addictive pattern? The first almost always sets the standards for sequels, but producers can’t seem to sustain the level of creativity because their chief motivation now is to cash in on the financial success of the original.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is no exception, but it has its share of action and inaction, so to speak. First, the lack of action: Indiana Jones is synonymous with action-adventure, thus, expect viewers to be impatient—if they don’t doze off, that is—with the dialogue earlier on in the movie. We suspect, however, that the footage devoted to talking heads is their way of shortening running time—instead of acting out the background, they make the characters tell the story.

Now the action: wow, it can only happen in the movies! The vine-swinging would shame Tarzan. The race on the edge of the cliff will keep you on the edge of your seat. It’s assuring to know senior citizens (Ford and Hurt) can see that much fantabulous action without as much as dislocating a kneecap. It’s amazing to see a fragile-looking Russian lady can fence, shoot, fight, leap, kick and drive like an ex-Le Mans racer and still keep her bangs impeccably intact. It’s comforting to believe your puny boat can plunge down three gigantic waterfalls in three minutes and still run with all passengers cool and collected in their seats—are they wearing seatbelts? But of course, action-adventure flicks especially in the era of CGI must defy logic and break the laws of physics—otherwise they wouldn’t be credible as such. So, enjoy the engineering marvel that is the underground kingdom—and the cliffs and the waterfalls, creations that fill you with awe.

On its first screening day, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was the only movie showing at all Power Plant cinemas; still it was full house, with a number of shrieking kids among the audience. We wonder if this was true of all theaters showing it; if so, Indiana Jones can give Spiderman a run for his money. (Spiderman is Number One among Filipino audiences’ all-time favorites). MTRCB has given a “GP” (General Patronage) rating to the movie, and CINEMA agrees it’s entertaining and wholesome enough; however, due to certain images and incidents that could frighten young children, CINEMA rates it as PG 13, meaning even children below 13 may watch but with parental guidance. The movie requires a certain degree of sophistication to be fully appreciated, so it’s up to the parents or accompanying elders to simplify the background and the details for the children, and to explain culture-related issues so as not to engender biases and prejudice in young minds. (Example: The Russians are bad guys.)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Forbidden Kingdom

Title: Forbidden Kingdom Cast: Jacky Chan, Jet Li, Michael Angarano, Liu Yifei, Collin Chou Director: Rob Minkoff Producer: Casey Silver Screenwriter: John Fusco Music: David Buckley Editor: Eric Strand Genre: Fantasy Action Cinematography: Peter Pau Distributor: Viva International Pictures Location: Ancient China Running Time: 153 min.

Technical Assessment: 4
Moral Assessment: 3
CINEMA Rating: For viewers age 13 and below with parental guidance

Jason (Micheal Angarano) is a young timid boy from Boston who loves Martial Arts. He frequents Old Hop’s (Jacky Chan) pawnshop/video store in the Chinatown area to rent kung-fu movies. On one of his trips, a group of bullies manhandle him and force him to lead them to the Old Hop’s store for them to rob. In the mayhem, Old Hop gets shot and turns over a mysterious staff to Jason for him to “return to its rightful owner”. Jason runs for his life and falls off the roof just to wake up transported back in time to ancient China where the supernatural Jade Warlord (Collin Chou) rules with oppression. Jason learns that he is the “seeker” and reluctantly fulfills the ancient prophesy to find the Monkey King (Jet Li) and return his staff. Unfortunately for him, he has to deal with the Jade Warlord and his formidable army. He is aided and tutored by a wine-loving poet and comical fighter Lu Yan (Jackie Chan) and the pensive Silent Monk (Jet Li). They are also joined by the exquisite orphaned Golden Sparrow (Liu Yufei) who vows revenge for her parents’ death and kills her enemies with hairpins. Together, they must free the Monkey King so he can fight the Jade Warlord and return peace to the empire.

The movie is delightful to watch with its breathtaking scenery, creative sets and costume design, graceful and impressive martial arts sequences and a few funny quips every now and then. The plot seems to be a
combination of borrowed themes from other Hollywood fantasy movies and Ancient Chinese legend but with a competent direction and straightforward storytelling, audience can follow the story effortlessly. Although Chan and Li play supporting roles to American teenager Angarano, there are still enough fight sequences and comic moments where the two martial art legends are pitted against each other. Overall the movie may not be memorable compared to other Chinese epics but is enchanting enough for the audience to want to watch it again.

The movie talks about friendship, perseverance and unity. At first the main characters have a low regard for each other but eventually learn to appreciate, respect and care for one another all in the effort to accomplish a common goal. It shows also how people, once consumed with the moral obligation and desire to do what is right can be willing to risk and sacrifice himself. The movie also makes a stand against revenge and hate. There are several words of wisdom offered by Chan’s character which will be remembered and can be used for one’s daily life choices. Although the movie is light and seemingly harmless, the charmingly choreographed fight scenes are violent although bloodless. There are a few cuss words and sexual reference although not portrayed explicitly. Substance abuse is apparent with Chan’s character. Viewers below 13 should be guided by mature adults.

Ikaw Pa Rin

Title: Ikaw Pa Rin Cast: Ai-Ai Delas Alas, Robin Padilla, Eugene Domingo, Riza Santos, Deejay Durano, Nanette Inventor Director: Wenn Deramas Producer: Vic del RosarioScreenwriter: Mel Mendoza-del Rosario Genre: Comedy Distributor: Viva Films Location: Philippines Running Time: 110 min.

Technical Assessment: 3
Moral Assessment: 2 ½
CINEMA Rating: For viewers 14 and above

Si Boy (Robin Padilla) ay isang matapat na bumbero na parating inaasahan sa kanilang lugar dahil sa kanyang pagiging bayani sa oras ng pangangailangan. Sa kabila nito, si Boy ay iniwan ng kanyang nobya matapos siyang bigyan ng isang anak. Nag-aalala si Boy na ang kanyang anak (Rhap Salazar) sa kawalan ng ina ay pawang nagiging alanganin ang kasarian. Si Baby (Ai-Ai delas Alas) naman ay isang beterenaryo na malas sa pag-ibig hindi pa nakakaranas na seryosohin ng mga lalaki, subalit mayisang inaasam: ang maging ina. Magku-krus ang landas ni Boy at Baby kung saan ililigtas ni Baby ang buhay ni Boy. Dahit sa laki ng kanyang pasasalamat sa doktora, nagbitiw si Boy ng salita sa publiko, na anuman ang hilingin nito ay ibibigay niya. Sinagot ito ni Baby na ang hiling niya'y si Boy ang maging ama ng kanyang anak. Napasubo si Boy at dahil nakataya ang kanyang salita, ngayon siya’y naguguluhan kung paano niyang tutuparin ang kanyang pangako kay Baby sa kabila ng pagtutol ng lahat.

Bago ang tambalang Ai-Ai delas Alas at Robin Padilla. Ngunit hindi bago ang klase ng komedya na ipinakita ng pelikula. Gasgas at pawang hindi nakakaaliw ang karamihan sa eksena. Salamat na lamang at may Eugene Domingo na patok pa rin sa pagpapatawa. Predictable din ang kuwento at walang gaanong surpresa sa mga manonood. Maraming eksena ang hindi epektibo at pawang hindi kailangan sa pagpapausad ng istorya. Sa kabila nito, maayos naman ang pagganap ng mga artista kahit pa pawang karikatura ang kanilang mga tauhang ginampanan.

Umikot ang kuwento ng Ikaw Pa Rin sa pagnanais ni Baby na magkaron ng anak sa kahit paanong paraan. Hindi ito magandang mensahe at halimbawa para sa mga kababaihan na pawang ibinababa ang kanilang pamantayan para lamang matupad ang kanilang inaasam-asam. Bagama’t may pambawi naman ang pelikula nang sina Baby at Boy ay dumaan sa normal na proseso ng ligawan, hindi pa rin maiaalis sa kuwento na ang dalawa ay nagtalik na nang hindi pa sila naikakasal. Pinalabas din ng pelikula na tama at dapat ipagdiwang ang pagbubuntis sa labas ng kasal na pawang nakakabahala. Ang tanging magandang aral sa Ikaw Pa Rin ay ang pagpapakabayani at pagmamahal nang wagas na hindi tumitingin sa panlabas na kaanyuan. Nararapat pa ring gabayan ang mga batang manonood upang hindi maging taliwas ang kanilang pagpapahalaga sa kababaihan at pagpapamilya.

Harold & Kumar

Title: Harold & Kumar; Escape from Guantanamo Bay Cast: John Co, Kal Penn, Rob Corddry, Dannel Harris, Roger Bart, Neil Patrick Harris, Paula Garces Directors: Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg Producers: Greg Shapiro, Nathan Kahane Screenwriters: Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg Music: George S. Clinton Editor: Jeff Freeman Genre: Comedy Cinematography: Daryn Okada Distributor: New Line Cinema Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands Running Time: 140 min.

Technical Assessment: 2
Moral Assessment: 1 ½
CINEMA Rating: For mature viewers 18 and above

Buddies and boardmates, Harold (John Co) and Kumar (Kal Pen) are preparing to leave for Amsterdam to look for Harold’s girlfriend-to-be, Maria (Paula Garces). Trouble for them begins when Kumar refuses, at a security check-point in the airport, to allow a random search before boarding their airplane. Just as they are about to board, however, the two friends meet once Kumar’s girlfriend Vanessa (Dannel Harris) and her fiancé Colton (Eric Winter). On the plane, Kumar, unable to endure the long journey calmly, decides to take some drugs he has on him. Using the “bong” (a container) to facilitate his taking in the weed, a big commotion of fright that there is a bomb on board takes place. Harold and Kumar are arrested as terrorists and imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay . Experiencing atrocious forms of punishment, the two manage to make good their escape. There follow some unusual encounters: finding themselves in a women’s sauna, where the two escapees are challenged before they would be helped and protected; and then they are re-arrested. However, they are finally vindicated by a lawman who believed and helped them.

The movie presents two bumbling simpletons as the center of the story. The happenings and sequences are sometimes unclear. There are barely a few laughable situations. Most of the scenes are either corny or objectionable.

Harold and Kumar is filled with the issues on nudity sexual situations, the use of drugs, violence, objectionable language, etc. Harold an Indian, and Kumar, a Korean, are right away judged as terrorists, a sign of some discrimination. Migrants may be looked upon with suspicion, which instills fear and insecurity. A filthy prison condition projects the immoral acts of cops and guards towards their prisoners. This maltreatment of prisoners shows their abuse of power. The movie appears to focus on sex, suggesting it as a pleasure for men and women. Camera angles focused on naked bodies; sex as the center of their conversation; images of the inside of prostitution establishments; and when the purpose/s of showing the scenes become vague, are questionable to the intention of the movie. Using drugs is shown several times by different characters. In almost all dialogues each of the characters mentions the word “fuck” and use other objectionable words and phrases. Harold and Kumar is rated for adults, 18 years old and up; however, there are better films to watch.

Friday, May 9, 2008

What Happens in Vegas

Title: What Happens in Vegas
Cast: Cameron Diaz, Ashton Kutcher, Rob Corddry, Lake Bell, Jason Sudeikis
Director: Tom Vaughan
Producers: Michael Aguilar, Dean Georgaris, Shawn Levi
Screenwriter: Dana Foz
Music: Christophe Beck
Editor: Matt Friedman
Genre: Comedy/ Romance
Cinematography: Matthew F. Leonetti
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Location: New York, USA
Running Time: 99 min.

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

Jack Fuller (Ashton Kutcher) is a first class bum who can’t even keep a job at his own father’s company. He’s also a commitment-phobe, and a party animal who likes being around attractive, unattached women. After being fired by his own father, Jack packs off to Vegas with his best friend Hater (Rob Corddry). Joy McNally (Cameron Diaz), a Wall Street whiz kid, is dumped by her fiancé, and decides to drown out her sorrows in Vegas, dragging along her gal pal Tipper (Lake Bell). Jack and Joy literally bump into each other in—of all places a hotel suite: the Front Desk clerk apparently mistakenly gave them the key to the same room. Since both are trying to escape being dumped, Jack and Joy soon get drunk, and while very very drunk, get married Vegas style. They of course regret it the morning after, and vow to make life miserable for each other getting a divorce, until one quirky twist of fate—or the slot machine—gets them fighting tooth and nail over how to split the three million dollar jackpot.

About the first 45 minutes feels like a not-so-funny TV sit-com, and as far as romantic comedies go, What Happens in Vegas offers nothing really that novel. For that length of time the acting matches the script and the screenplay, and though Diaz is always pleasing to the eye, somehow the viewer gets the feeling this role is so “beneath her”. Rom-coms are not really that great nor are they expected to be, as far as depicting reality goes, but in What Happens in Vegas, the protagonists even come across as one- dimensional caricatures drawn by a writer and moved by a director who’d try anything to make people laugh. (Example: there’s a character named Richard Banger. “Oh, Dick Banger, ha ha ha,” says Jack. Dick Banger retaliates, “And you are Jack off!” The viewers will probably laugh, for a while, and then forget. Things change midway and get more real when Kutcher and Diaz succeed in getting the viewer to care about their characters as people—when Jack and Joy fall in love, that is. But even with that, it’s not likely you’ll want to keep this movie in your DVD list of “must-watch-over-and-over-again.”

The one shining lesson for viewers in What Happens in Vegas recalls an old Filipino adage about marriage not being like eating rice that you could just spit out when your mouth can’t stand the heat. It’s trying to say something, too, about money not being the most important thing on earth, although it’s glossed over by trivialities—and the amount of footage devoted to fighting over it. Okay, okay, romantic comedies aim to make you laugh, not to make you think. Fine, so just read between the lines and draw your own conclusions.


Title: Deception
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Maggie Q, Natasha Henstridge
Director: Marcel Langenegger
Producers: Robbie Brenner, David L. Bushell, Christopher Eberts, Hugh
Jackman, John Palermo, Arnold Rifkin, Marjorie Shik
Screenwriter: Mark Bomback
Music: Ramin Djawadi
Editors: Douglas Crise, Christian Wagner
Genre: Action-Thriller
Cinematography: Dante Spinotti
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox Corporation
Location: New York, USA
Running Time: 110 min.

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

Jonathan McQuarry (Ewan McGregor) is a shy corporate auditor working on class A accounts but leading a lonely and dull existence. Meanwhile co-employee and high profile lawyer Wyatt Bose (Hugh Jackman)starts spending time with him to make him feel a little more welcome. Wyatt introduces Jonathan to an exclusive sex club, The List, where professional women working 18 hours a day look for intimacy through a “no string attached-one-night-stand” with members they fancy as a way to ease work tension and tiredness. However, “The List” has a strict set of rules: no exchanging of names, no business or personal talk and definitely no developing of intimate relationships. When Wyatt is called for a business trip in London , Jonathan meets “S” (Michelle Williams) whom he instantly falls for. And as soon as Jonathan starts to break rules, club members turn up dead with him as the main suspect. He scrambles to clear his name and soon discovers Wyatt’s deception.

The production wasted a good ensemble of performers with a storyline full of holes and a flat and unintelligent screenplay. The early scenes would make you think there is some huge twist at the end where unfortunately there is nothing more than just a ridiculous conclusion. The cinematography tries to be unique and reflective by using desaturated colors for effect but it instead it comes out dark and gloomy. Even the strong performances of Mcgregor and Jackman could not save the poorly written script. The direction is mediocre and is obviously done by a
newcomer. Overall, the movie is not enjoyable to watch and not worth the time and money.

"Intimacy without intricacy" is how one character explains the movie, as though sex were the ultimate fulfillment of life. But the protagonist soon realizes that one’s emptiness can only be filled not by vices and short-term pleasure but by a real and pure personal relationship. In this
world, emptiness comes to everyone. There are holes and walls in our lives that prevent us from living fully but if we are able to find love and real relationship, holes can be mended and walls can be broken to allow us to experience the beauty of life. The movie painfully tries to convey this message. However, with the weak script and meager creativity, it does not come across clearly. Scenes, themes and language are not suitable for the youth.

Monday, May 5, 2008


Title: Ploning Cast: Judy Ann Santos, Gina Pareño, Mylene Dizon, Eugene Domingo, Tony Mabesa, Meryll Soriano, Ces Quesada, Crispin Medina, Tessie Tomas, Spanky Manikan, Ketchup Eusebio, Boodge Fernandez, Cedric Amit, Ogoy Agustin Director: Dante Nico Garcia Producer: Panoramanila Screenwriters: Dte Nico Garcia, Benjamin Lingan Music: Jesse Lasaten Genre: Drama Distributor: Panoramanila Location: Philippines Running Time: 110 min.

Technical Assessment: 4

Moral Assessment: 4

CINEMA Rating: For viewers age 13 and below with parental guidance

Binaybay ni Muo Sei (Boodge Fernandez) ang isla ng Cuyo, Palawan lulan ng isang bangka upang hanapin ang hindi mawari kung tao o bagay na kung tawagin lamang niya ay Ploning. Dahil illegal ang sinasakyang bangka, mayroon lamang siyang isang buong araw upang hanapin ang Ploning sa isla. Sa kanyang paghahanap ay unti-unting lilinaw na ang tinutukoy niyang Ploning ay isang dalaga (Judy Ann Santos) na noon ay kilala sa isla bilang matulungin, masayahin at misteryosa. Si Ploning ay anak ng isang mayamang negosyante (Tony Mabesa). Siya rin ang masugid na tagasuporta ng nagluluksa sa kalungkutan na si Intang (Gina Pareño) na siya ring ina ng kanyang kasintahang matagal ng nawalay buhat ng pumunta ng Maynila, si Tomas. Sa gitna ng pagiging mabuting anak, kaibigan, kasintahan, ay naging ina-inahan din si Ploning ng batang si Digo (Cedric Amit) na anak ng paralisado ng si Juaning (Eugene Domingo). Labis ang kalungkutan ni Digo nang malamang may balak si Ploning ng pumunta ng Maynila upang sundan si Tomas. Nakakuha ng bagong karamay at kakampi si Digo sa katauhan ng bagong saltang nurse sa baryo na si Celeste (Mylene Dizon) na diumano’y may nakilala sa Maynila na Tomas ang pangalan at ito raw ay taga-Cuyo. Si Celeste rin ang magiging susi ng lahat ng misteryo at lihim na itinatago ni Ploning. Sino si Muo Sei sa buhay ni Ploning?

Isang napakagandang pelikula ng Ploning na bihira nang makita sa mga klase ng pelikula natin ngayon. Ipinakita ng Ploning hindi lamang ang magagandang tanawin sa Cuyo, Palawan kundi pati na rin ang mayaman nitong kultura at dialekto. Buong-buo ang kuwento na umiikot sa maraming buhay sa isang isla na tila nilimot na ng panahon. Sa kabila ng maraming karakter ay hindi nawala ang sentro kay Ploning. Pinatingkad ang simpleng produksyon ng napakahusay na pagganap ng mga tauhan lalo na sina Judy Ann Santos, Gina Pareño, Eugene Domingo, Mylene Dizon, Spanky Manikan at maging ang mga baguhang sina Cedric Amit at Boodge Fernandez at Ogoy Agustin. Mahusay ang sinematograpiya at komposisyon na halatang pinagbuhusan ng panahon. Tamang-tama ang daloy ng emosyon at timpla ng bawat eksena. Maging ang mga simbolismo ay naging napakaepektibo sa paglalahad ng kuwento.

Umikot ang Ploning sa mga iba’t-ibang pananaw at konsepto ng pagmamahal depende sa karanasan ng isang tao. Si Ploning bilang matiyagang nagmamahal ay naniniwala na ang nagmamahal ay nagtitiwala at nasasaktan. Si Celeste naman ay hindi naniniwala dito. Para sa kanya, kapag nagmahal ay hindi dapat masaktan. Maaring nag-iiba ang pananaw ngunit isang bagay ang malinaw: ang buhay ng tao ay dapat uminog sa pagmamahal upang magkaroon ito ng kahulugan. Si Ploning ay wagas na nagmamahal hindi lamang sa kanyang kasintahan kundi maging sa kanyang magulang,mga kaibigan, anak-anakan at higit sa lahat, sa Diyos. Ipinakita niya na ang tunay na pagmamahal ay wagas, lubos at hindi naghihintay ng kapalit. Kapag iba ang pinairal, tulad ni Intang, ay kawalang-katahimikan at kapahamakan lamang ang kahihinatnan. Kapuri-puri kung paanong ang mabuting halimbawa ni Ploning ay bumuhay at nagbigay pag-asa sa sanga-sangang relasyon ng mga taong nabubuhay ng payak sa isang isla na tulad ng Cuyo.

Iron Man

Title: Iron Man Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow, Leslie Bibb, Shaun Toub, Faran Tahir, Clark Gregg Director: Jon Favreau Producers: Avi Arad, Kevin Feige Screenwriters: Mark Fergus,Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway Music: Ramin Djawadi, Editor: Dan Lebental Genre: Sci-Fi Action Cinematography: Matthew Libatique Distributor: Paramount Pictures Location: Los Angeles, California Running Time: 126 min.

Technical Assessment: 3
Moral Assessment: 2 ½
CINEMA Rating: For viewers 14 and above

Iron Man is another Marvel comics superhero adapted for the big screen. It begins with the wealthy 40-something womanizing alcoholic and genius inventor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), presenting his latest weapon, the Jericho Missiles, to the Afghans. Unfortunately, the terrorists are impressed and kidnap Stark to force him to build another diabolic weapon. Injured during the attack, Stark's life is saved by fellow detainee Yinsen (Shaun Toub). Under captivity, Stark finds time to reflect on his life and decides to build instead an indestructible suit of armor to escape his captors. Back at home, he goes through a morality shift and tries to dismantle his weapon producing company. His receives mixed reactions from his closest friends: loyal assistant and occasional girlfriend, Pepper Pots (Gwyneth Paltrow) is semi-supportive, military buddy Jim Rhodes (Terrence Howard) thinks he is losing it and business partner Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) is simply furious. Stark discovers a deadly conspiracy that would destabilize the entire world and realizes the destruction and violence he has contributed through his weaponry. He vows to amend his life and fight evil.

Iron Man is one of the few action movies that actually have more soul and substance. Downey attacks his character with much conviction and blends humor and sarcasm with his crime fighting persona. Paltrow and Bridges are gems that provide the necessary sparkle to a sometimes flat and boring screenplay. There are some pacing jolts to some viewers these could be a few too many. It takes a long time to build up the story and the wait is longer for the arrival of the Iron Man suit. The action scenes are solid, but they feel a touch too thin on the ground. Over-all though, the movie is a lot of fun stopping long enough for character development to give it a good blend of spectacle and substance. What makes the Iron Man stand out from other action–hero movies is the hero’s character himself. While Spiderman’s angst and motivation are rooted in adolescent insecurity, Batman’s dilemma and motive come from revenge and Hulk’s drive comes from rage, Iron Man’s reason for transforming into a superhero is morality. He simply wants to fight evil because he wants to do something good. Iron Man/Stark makes a good role model as a superhero because he is a real person with no supernatural ability or gift, who decides to use his intelligence and resources to save the world and rid it of violence and destruction. The movie shows how a person, no matter how steeped in vice and materialism can emerge a hero as long as there is a conscious and firm decision to change. Some themes in Iron Man, though, (like womanizing and alcoholism) and violent action scenes are not suitable for the very young audience.

When Love Begins

Title: When Love Begins
Cast: Aga Muhlach, Anne Curtis, Boots Anson-Roa, Jon Avila, A.J. Dee, Christopher de Leon, Desiree del Valle, Dimples Romana, Ronaldo Valdez
Director: Jose Javier Reyes
Producer: Star Cinema
Screenwriter: Jose Javier Reyes
Music: Jesse Lasaten
Genre: Drama/ Romance
Distributor: Star Cinema Productions
Location: Philippines
Running Time: 105 min.

Technical Assessment: 3
Moral Assessment: 2 ½
CINEMA Rating: For mature viewers 18 and above

Nagkakilala sina Mitch (Anne Curtis) at Ben (Aga Muhlach) sa Boracay. Dito nabuo ang kanilang pagkakaibigan at pagtitinginan. Ngunit sa huling gabi nilang dalawa sa Boracay ay umalis na lang si Mitch nang hindi nagpapaalam. Walang alam si Ben sa buhay ni Mitch sa Maynila. Wala rin itong iniwang address o contact number. Sa isang hindi sinasadyang pagkakataon ay muling magku-krus ang kanilang landas. Sa pagkakataong ito, hindi na hahayaan ni Ben na mawala pang muli si Mitch. Dito niya lalong nakilala si Mitch na anak pala ng isang mayamang real estate developer (Christopher de Leon). Bata pa lamang si Mitch ng naghiwalay ang kanyang mga magulang kung kaya’t may takot na ito sa pakikipag-relasyon. Maayos naman ang pamilya ni Ben na isang abogado at environment advocate. Sa kabila ng kanilang maraming pagkakaiba at agwat ng edad ay masaya sila sa piling ng bawat isa. Ngunit magiging hadlang pa rin ang marami nilang kaibahan upang maging lubusan silang sumaya. Makakabangga ni Ben ang ama ni Mitch dahil sa isang project nito kung saan maaapektuhan ang kalikasan na siyang pinaglalaban ni Ben. Sino ang mas papanigan at pipiliin ni Mitch, ang kanyang ama o si Ben na kapwa niyang mahal?

Isang ordinaryong kuwento ang When Love Begins. Tinangka nitong maging malalim sa pamamagitan ng pagsentro sa bigat ng karakter at hindi sa mga nangyayaring aksyon ngunit naging pawang mababaw at malamlam pa rin ang kinalabasan. Sa kabila ng mga batikan at naggagalingang mga artista ay hindi nito naisalba ang mababaw at napakasimpleng kwento. Walang bigat ng damdamin, walang nakakatawang karakter o eksena at walang maiiwan sa mga manonood kundi ang kakulangan ng insipirasyon ng pelikula. Bagama’t magandang milieu ang Boracay ay naging isa lamang itong backdrop ng kwento at hindi lubusang nagamit sa pagpapayabong ng istorya. Ang karamihan sa mga pangalawang tauhan ay naging pang-display lamang. Nakapahihinayang ang pelikulang When Love Begins na naging higit pa sanang maganda kung hinaluan ito ng mga bagong elemento at bagong mga pangyayaring hindi karaniwang nakikita sa pelikula o telebisyon.

Sinasabi ng pelikula na hindi biro ang pakikipag-relasyon. Marami na ring mga makabago at nagiiba-ibang pananaw ukol dito depende na rin sa karanasan. Ngunit may mga bagay sa relasyon na hindi dapat magbago. Una ay ang wagas na pagmamahal na kayang tawirin at hamakin ang lahat maging ang prinsipyo alang-alang sa minamahal. Pangalawa ay ang katapatan at paninindigan sa pamamagitan ng commitment. Maraming sinabing dahilan ang pelikula kung bakit takot at ayaw na ng commitment ng karamihan sa mga kabataan ngayon pagdating sa pakikipag-relasyon. Nariyan ang trauma at takot na masaktan dahil na rin sa mga nakitang halimbawa sa kanilang mga magulang. Ngunit hindi ito sapat na dahilan upang ituring na casual ang isang relasyon at pahantungin pa ito sa pagiging sekswal kung wala rin namang katapatan ng pagmamahal pati na ang basbas ng Diyos. Kung ganito nang ganito ang magiging turing sa relasyon ay magiging bihira na nga siguro ang isang maayos na pamilya tulad ng pamilya ni Ben sa pelikula. Kapuri-puri naman ang pagiging magalang sa magulang ng mga tauhan at maging ang mensahe nito sa pangangalaga ng kalikasan ngunit sadyang nakakabahala ang mga eksena ng inuman, paninigarilyo, at pakikipagtalik ng hindi pa kasal.