The Episcopal Commission on Social Communication-CBCP

CINEMA (Catholic INitiative for Enlightened Movie Appreciation) of The Episcopal Commission on Social Communication of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines presents movies viewed in the light of the gospel. . *** For inquiries, please EMAIL: *** CALL or TEXT: (02) 664 5886 *** or WRITE TO: CINEMA, Episcopal Commission on Social Communication, CBCP Compound, 470 General Luna St. Intramuros, Manila *** Enjoy the reviews, and THANK YOU!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Incredible Hulk

Title: Incredible Hulk Cast: Edwad Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, Tim Blake Nelson; Director: Louis Leterrier; Screenplay: Zak Penn; Genre: Action, Science Fiction; Location: Brazil and New York; Running Time: 114 mins

TechnicalAssessment: 2.5
Moral Assessment: 3
PG 13

Bruce Banner a.k.a Mr Green's (Edward) continuous search for an antidote for his cure of gamma radiation brings him to Brazil where he lives as “fugitive” while in distant communication with Dr Sterns a.k.a Mr Blue (Tim Blake) with whom he exchanges over internet chatroom on experimental formula for his condition. Back in Washington, General Ross (William)’s interest to search for Bruce is revived when another case of gamma sickness is discovered in an elderly man after drinking a bottle of juice. The juice factory is traced in Brazil where Bruce as a casual worker accidentally cuts his finger and an empty bottle in the assembly line catches a droplet of his blood. This signals the search for Bruce from Brazil to New York. In the middle of the chase, Bruce reunites with his love interest, General Ross’ daughter Betty (Liv Tyler). Bruce reveals to Betty that her father wants to get him to produce more “hulks” to use as weapons. But Bruce only wants to get rid of the gamma in his body.

The film offers a combination of a narrative in an spectacular manner. The plot, while boasting of a good flow, struggles to bring out the emotion. Actingwise there could have been more than mediocre acting of lead actors in the film, the same with special effects applied for the devastation scenes of the hulk. For the most part it appears like an animation film. The rest of the technical aspects particularly the cinematography, musical scoring and sound effects contributed in making the “Incredible Hulk” a worthy film to see.

The character of Bruce in the film shows a person who cares for life and is willing to sacrifice for this cause. He does not want selfish motives of people to take advantage of any form of power to destroy lives. Friendship is also tested during difficult times when full trust, sincere support and presence are necessary. At the end of the day, a dutiful daughter can confront a father for his wrong deeds. A responsible person also knows how to control self when required especially when damages to life is at stake. Overall, the film offers positive values. However, devastation scenes maybe too strong for children 13 years and below, parental guidance is required.

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The Hottie and the Nottie

Title: The Hottie and the Nottie; Cast: Paris Hilton, Joel David Moore, Christine Lakin, Adam Kulbersh; Director: Tom Putman; Screenplay: Heidi Ferrer; Cinematography: Alex Vendler; Editing: Jeff Melmberg; Producer: Myles Nestel, Victoria Nevinny, et al; Music: David Russo;: Location: Los Angeles, California; Genre: Comedy; Running Time: 91 minutes;

Technical Assessment: 2
Moral Assessment: 2
Cinema Rating: For viewers 18 and above

Nate Cooper (Joel David Moore) is a geeky bum who realizes his one true love is the girl he had a crush on in the first grade after his current girlfriend smashes his guitar on his head. He searches for Christabel Abbot (Paris Hilton) but is horrified to find out that she will not date anyone unless her repulsive and bitchy best friend June Phiggy (Christine Lakin) finds someone special. The condition is impossible since June is not only disgustingly unattractive but possesses a vile personality. Nate tries hard to find a man for June so he can have his way with Christabel, to the extent of paying a man to date June and giving a $2000 gift certificate for a spa make-over so that she will be less nauseating to be with. But his plan backfires when the girls meet a dentist/athlete/model who takes interest in June and eventually starts to fix her.

This is a bad movie—bad plot, bad script, bad acting, bad directing. The concept is unoriginal and poorly interpreted. Hilton and Moore are tormenting to watch and hear. The script is clichéd and has the most idiotic dialogues such as, “life without orgasms is… a world without flowers”. Characters are inconsistent and have no motivation. The storyline develops into a predictably brainless twist. The director seems to care less to produce a decent film than show off Hilton’s skin and curves at every opportunity. One can go on and on with what is wrong with the film that it is better to warn viewers against wasting time and money on this movie.

The Hottie and the Nottie aims to be a movie talking about beauty being skin deep, friendship through thick and thin and true love. The problem is none of these themes are actually seriously developed because the film just kept on raving about Hilton’s beauty and sex appeal and planting offensive and sick jokes about a woman’s ordeal when she is not as pretty and attractive as her co-star. Inconsistencies are extensive. As a movie about learning to look beyond looks, Nate only takes interest in June as soon as she transforms into someone prettier. Conveniently, June only becomes personable when her looks improve as though being nice were attached to looking nice. The seemingly tight and loyal friendship between Christabel and June is questionable because if Chris really cared about her less attractive friend, wouldn’t she have brought her to a dermatologist or cosmetologist and offer to help her look at least hygienic and agreeable. Instead she parades poor June to her suitors only to highlight their contrasting looks and make her appear a caring, down-to-earth friend. And as a story about finding true love, it merely obsesses about sleeping with the attractive hot girl even if one has to lie, intimidate, bribe or coerce. The movie is offending as it bullies people who fall behind the standards of beauty and treats them as a cruel joke. There are plenty of scenes and dialogue about alcohol and sex. This is not recommended for viewing at all.


Title: Serbis; Cast: Gina Pareno, Jacklyn Jose, Coco Martin, Kristofer King, Julio Diaz, Dan Alvaro; Genre: Drama; Director: Brillante Mendoza; Screenplay: Armando Lao; Producer: Ferdinand Lapuz; Location: Manila; Running Time: 90mins

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

Patuloy na itinataguyod ni Nanay Flor (Gina Pareno) ang kanilang negosyong lumang sinehan na nagpapalabas ng mga lumang “bold” na pelikula sa kabila ng samu’t saring problema nito. Kasama niyang namamahala ang anak na si Nayda (Jacklyn Jose) at manugang na si Lando (Julio Diaz). Sa sinehan na sila nakatira kasama ang iba pang kaanak: sina Allan (Coco Martin) at Ronald (Kristofer King) na projectionist. Labis na dinaramdam ni Nanay Flor ang panloloko sa kanya ng kanyang asawa, kasabay ng pagpasan niya sa problema ng lahat ng kanyang kaanak na tauhan na rin sa sinehan. Si Allan ay makakabuntis na makakadagdag sa pasakit ni Flor. Lingid din sa kanyang kaalaman ang nangyayaring pagse-“serbis” ng mga kalalakihan sa mga parokyanong bakla ng sinehan. At dahil sa sinehan na nakatira ang buong pamilya at kaanak na nagpapatakbo ng sinehan, namumulat ang mga batang apo ni Nanay Flor sa mga bisyo at kalaswaan.

Isang "cinema verite" ang Serbis na makatotohanang naglalarawan ng tila pinaglipasan na ng panahon na kultura: ang mga sinehan at teatro. Naging lugar na lamang ito ng madidilim na sikreto ng nakaraan at kasalukuyan. Pinamahayan na rin ang sinehan ng mga baho, problema at bisyo ng isang pamilyang nasadlak sa kadiliman. Mahusay ang pagkakagawa ng mga eksena na parang nanonood ka lamang ng tunay na buhay. Kung kaya’t naparangalan ng rin ang Serbis sa ibang bansa. Matapang nitong tinalakay ang maraming sakit ng lipunan na naglalarawan sa kalagayan ng mga bansang nasa “Third World” katulad ng Pilipinas. Walang itulak kabigin at hindi matatawaran ang galing ng lahat ng nagsiganap. Maraming biswal na simbolismo na epektibong naisalarawan ang dilim, kasalanan at kasamaan na naikulong sa isang lugar.

Malinaw ang layunin ng Serbis: ang isalarawan ang nakaririmarim na kalagayan ng isang naiibang uri ng pamilyang nasadlak sa kahirapan. Ipinasilip ng Serbis ang isang mundong hindi madalas na makita ng Pilipinong manonood. Isang lugar na alam nating nariyan ngunit hindi binibigyang pansin. Sa kabila ng mga bisyo, kalaswaan at kasamaan, isang bagay ang labis na pinahahalagahan ng mga karakter sa pelikula: ang pamilya. Bagama’t hindi perpekto at puno ng depekto, dalisay pa rin ang pagmamalasakit at pagmamahalan sa isang pamilya. Tahimik din nitong ipinakita ang kakayahan ng isang taong kumawala sa isang masalimuot na sitwasyon kung kanyang nais. Nakababahala nga lamang dahil hindi malinaw kung para saan ba ang pagtakas. Sa pagbabagong tungo sa kabutihan o sa higit pang kasamaan? Sadyang nakababahala ang biswal at grapikong pagpapakita ng mga eksenang hubaran, seks at homosekswalidad. Bagama’t hindi sinasabi ng pelikula na ito ay mabuti, maari pa rin itong makaapekto sa sensibilidad ng mga manonood. Ang pagkakaron ng batang karakter bilang saksi sa lahat nang bisyo at kasalanan sa lugar ay isang epektibong device na nagsasabing malayo pa ang ating lalakbayin sa pagbabago sapagkat iminumulat na natin ang ating mga kabataan sa isang mundong nagdidilim na ang pamantayang moral at bumababaw ang pananalig sa Diyos.

Made of Honor

Title: Made of Honor; Cast: Patrick Dempsey, Michelle Monaghan, Kevin McKidd, Sidney Pollack; Director: Paul Weiland; Producers: Neil M. Moritz; Screenwriters: Adam Sztykiel, Deborah Kaplan, Harry Elfont; Music: Rupert Gregson-Williams; Editor: Richard Marks; Genre: Romance/ Comedy;
Cinematography: Tony Pierce-Roberts; Distributor: Columbia Pictures; Location: New York , USA and Scotland; Running Time: 91 min ;

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

For the last ten years after college, Tom Bailey (Patrick Dempsey) and Hannah (Michelle Monaghan) have become best friends. They enjoy each other’s company, laugh at the same jokes, tell each one choice personal experiences. This platonic friendship has endured in spite of their divergent interests and lifestyles. Tom, the handsome and wealthy inventor of the collar for take-out coffee cups, is an inveterate womanizer who attracts and beds a different girl every night (and never the same girl for two successive nights according to his rules), while Hannah is an art restorer who observes all these in bemusement but commenting and is the only good-looking girl in New York he hasn’t slept with. Both seem content with the way things are until Hannah goes to Scotland for six weeks on a business trip. Tom misses Hannah and realizes he is in love with her; he plans to tell her when she returns. But when she does, she brings along Colin (Kevin McKidd), a rugged man, a natural athlete who owns the biggest distillery in Scotland and is of royal lineage. They announce they’re engaged to be married and Hannah, unsuspecting of Tom’s real feelings, asks Tom to be her maid of honor. Tom accepts the invitation and accompanies Hannah to Scotland with the hope that he can think of something to prevent the wedding from pushing through.

It’s true that the good looks and personality of lead actors are a big come-on for the movies and the movie producers are banking on Patrick Dempsey and Michelle Monaghan to do that for Made of Honor but regretfully, as this movie shows, these are not enough. The picture calls to mind the well remembered My Bestfriend’s Wedding because of the similarity in the plot. However, Made of Honor is a bit of a let down because the very predictable plot is also underdeveloped, and so are the characters. There is not much that the viewers can savor between the beginning and the expected ending. Even the cliché of a dashing horseback rescue is not that exciting. The implausible situation is forced or thrust into your face right from the start, for how can a man be a maid of honor? Attempts at humor are crude like Tom’s father negotiating a pre-nuptial agreement with his future 6th (or 7th?) wife as to the number of times she should have sex with him in a week. The acting of the leads is adequate but there is really not much they can do. There is also some chemistry between them so they are able to sustain a light, cheerful mood. Some Scottish wedding traditions presented add to the happy ambience.

A romantic comedy like Made of Honor is meant to be light and entertaining and not to be taken seriously. So at times, negative values are overlooked or accepted due to the fact that they are presented in the guise of jokes or attempts at humor. Such is the matter-of-fact depiction of certain sex practices like the promiscuity of Patrick Dempsey’s character Tom Bailey and the ease of divorce and repeated marriages of Tom’s father. These practices are shown as an accepted way of life in this movie and glossed over by the other characters who are amused by them. These attitudes and practices are contrary to Christian as well as Filipino traditional values. Young people who see this movie should be carefully guided by parents/guardians as ideas these can subtly and insidiously influence the young viewers’ thinking and behavior.

Get Smart

Title: Get Smart; Cast: Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson, Alan Arkin, Terence Stamp; Director: Peter Segal; Producers: Michael Ewing, Alex Gartner, Andrew Lazar, Charles Roven; Screenwriters: Tom A. Astle, Matt Ember; Music: Trevor Rabin; Editor: Roger Mussenden; Genre: Action/ Comedy; Cinematography: Dean Semler; Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures; Location: Canada; Running Time: 110 min.;

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

Maxwell Smart (Steve Carell) is the top analyst in CONTROL, a secret intelligence agency presided over by The Chief (Alan Arkin) and set up to annihilate an unscrupulous rival agency, KAOS. CONTROL loses many of its agents when KAOS attacks the former’s headquarters. Just then, Max is promoted from analyst to field operative, and is hence to be known as “Agent 86”. He gets a spy buddy in the person of Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway); the two are assigned to hunt down KAOS’ operative Sigfried (Terrence Stamp). Giving them home base assistance is Agent 23 (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) as they venture out as an odd pair flushing out KAOS’ nuclear weapons from their lair. The Agent 86-Agent 99 partnership is spiced up when the bright but bumbling 86 gets the hots for the bright and composed 99, and she eventually responds—but warns him not to trust anyone including herself for she could be a double agent.

Get Smart is the big-screen version of the late-60s TV series designed to spoof James Bond. While younger viewers may not be familiar with the tv version, and it may be too old to be remembered by older moviegoers, Get Smart nonetheless offers a funny and delightfully silly take-off of its boob-tube predecessor. In fact, as a movie, it can stand on its own, even though today’s moviegoers couldn’t care less where it’s coming from. Carell’s comedic timing is perfect as a spoofy and extremely lucky agent, with looks to match; he’s actually an urbane and much better-looking Ben Stiller. Hathaway’s character, on the other hand, is tailor-made for her—the tough nut beneath the fragile-looking, appealing female—we can’t imagine Angelina Jolie as Agent 99 and getting away with it. The plot is quite simple to follow, thus the action and the funnies, if sometimes a bit physical, are not shoved under a tiresome, convoluted web of a story.

What harm can be done by a spy movie that seeks to make you laugh more than it wants to make you think? Likewise, is there much good it can do even though it pits the bad guys against the good guys? Get Smart is entertainment, an enjoyable comedy with action and dialogue that might even elicit a belly laugh or two from the audience. The emphasis is on comedy, so that even the romantic element (between Agents 86 and 99) is played down and hardly felt, in fact. If the whole family can watch only one movie this week, let it be … maybe Kung Fu Panda; otherwise, Get Smart is okay for viewers aged 14 and above.


Titled: Altered; Cast: Adam Kaufman Catherine Mangan, Paur McCarthy-Boyington, Brad William Henke, Mike Williams, James Gammon, Misty Rosas; Director: Eduardo Sanchez; Producers: ; Screenwriters: Jamie Nash, Eduardo Sanchez; Music: Tony Cora, Exiquio; Editor: Michael Cronin; Genre: Horror; Cinematography: Steve Yedlin; Distributor: Rogue Pictures; Location: Florida, USA; Running Time: 90 min.;

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

Three friends, Cody (Paur McCarthy-Boyington), Duke (Brad William Henke) and Otis (Mike C. Williams), succeed in capturing an alien in the middle of the forest . Not knowing what to do, they take it to the house of a common friend Wyatt (Adam Kaufman). Later on, it is revealed that all of them were abducted by the same aliens 15 years ago, and Cody’s brother Timmy failed to return. With the alien in captivity in Wyatt’s garage,Cody wants to kill it in revenge for Timmy but Wyatt argues that this will only bring the other aliens after them. But the captured alien succeeds in taking over Wyatt’s girlfriend, Hope’s (Catherine Mangan) mind and then infecting Cody with its bite, causing him to start mutating. With tension between the members of the group rising, Wyatt thinks that the aliens, who left him altered in some way during their abduction before,have returned for him, despite his attempts to hide and run away.

Altered pales in comparison with its director’s hit horror flick, The Blair Witch Project. This time, there is a certain amount of gore and a real alien is seen in the movie. The attempt is not a total failure though for it is able to evoke a certain amount of fear from the audience. But the script is a bit talky for a horror film and the excitement fails somewhere in the middle. The film is able to catch up towards the end. However, the “altered” subplot or main plot remains to be ambiguous in the entire storytelling. The acting is commendable and all characters are consistent up to the very end. Given the apparent limited resources of the film, it is impressive that it is able to come up with effective visual effects and true-to-form aliens.

Altered is another horror, sci-fi thriller focusing on the presence of aliens on earth. This time, they are more than just external forces but they have turned into internal monsters that haunt every human being they encounter. Self-preservation and survival is a human instinct and there is still no clear cut moral argument as to how humans should treat aliens. In case human life is in danger, it may be morally acceptable to kill a creature that harms, but how can we be certain that humans have not also violated the aliens in any way? It is remarkable to note how the characters in Altered have turned into savages both for survival and revenge. In the end, Altered is about the various “aliens” inside every human being. Some may have destroyed us, the more sophisticated ones may have altered us, but ultimately, with faith and perseverance, we all can win over these aliens since the human being, still, is made superior over any other creatures. The very young audiences should be guided while watching, given the horror, gore, violence, sexual content, alcoholism and strong language used in the film.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Happening

Title: The Happening. Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizimo, Ashlyn Sanches, Betty Buckley, Spencer Breslin, Robert Bailey, Jr., Frank Collison, Jeremy Strong, Alan Ruck, Victoria Clark Director and Writer: M Night Shayamalan Location: United States, India Running Time: 90 minutes

Technical Assessment: 3
Moral Assessment: 2
CINEMA rating: For viewers 18 years old and above

The Happening opens with workers at a construction site falling one after the other to their deaths. Elsewhere, in New York’s Central Park, the leaves stir in a lingering breeze that emits an eerie wailing sound; promenaders lose control of their movements and memory, stopping dead and walking backward on their tracks without knowing or remembering why. Then, apparently in a trance, they kill themselves. News of the weird happening reaches the classroom of Philadelphia high school teacher Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg). They are discussing the mysterious and sudden disappearance of millions of honey bees when the school administration calls a meeting to send the students home as the New York tragedy, feared to be another terrorist attack, seems to be creeping into Philadelphia. Elliot, his wife Alma (Zooey Deschanel), a friend and fellow teacher Julian (John Leguizamo), and Julian’s daughter Jess (Ashlyn Sanchez) flee to safer grounds on a train. Trouble brews as the train, brimming over with anxious passengers, stops at a deserted station where the train personnel admit they have lost contact with everyone.

Seeing “Directed by M Night Shayamalan” on the screen as the film opens makes the viewer expect a superior mystery thriller. After all, the director has made a name for himself crafting off-the-beaten-path stories of terror bearing a profound and relevant message: Signs, The Village, etc. The first ten minutes or so of The Happening delivers the chills, like a blast of cold air when you open a freezer, but beyond that it seems to thaw out. Sights and sounds are effective—the leaves fluttering ominously in the wind and wailing manifest the power of the unseen to terrify. The broken bodies on the ground, a hairpin stabbed into a woman’s jugular—such things have their shock value, but their impact is short-lived. Wahlberg is a great actor, but the character he’s portraying is too bland for his talents. As for the other actors—they simply do what their part asks for, which isn’t much.

Would you bother to see a mystery thriller that fails to mystify or thrill you most of the time? Then lower your expectations. Since The Happening is not supposed to be an ordinary “scary movie” but one that is hoped to stimulate and engage your intellect into pondering life’s deeper riddles, you would at least expect to learn something worthwhile out of it. Surely The Happening is trying to say something; it just didn’t seem to know how to say it—which leads you to conclude that it doesn’t know what it wants to say. When the movie says the mass suicides are induced by an invisible airborne “natural compound” (that once inhaled makes you want to savagely kill yourself), is it warning us against abusing our environment? Not clear. When after running for their lives the Moore couple (wanting to die together) expose themselves to the deadly wind and survive, is the movie saying “love conquers all”? Not sure. When the creative juices are running dry but the director wants to continue piggy-back riding on past success, what happens? The Happening turns out to be not much of a happening.

Kung-fu Panda

Title: Kung Fu Panda; Lead Cast: Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Lucy Liu, Jacky Chan, Ian Mcshane; Director: Mark Osborne, John Stevenson; Story: Ethan Reiff, Cyrus Voris; Screenplay: Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger; Cinematography: Yong Duk Jhun; Editing: Clare De Chenu; Producer: Melissa Cobb; Music: John Powell, Hans Zimmer; Location: China; Genre: Animation Action-Comedy; Distributor: Dreamworks Animation; Running Time: 88 minutes;

Technical Assessment : 3.5
Moral Assessment : 3
Cinema Rating : For ages 13 and below with parental guidance

Po (Jack Black) is a sloppy, overweight but loveable Panda who dreams to be a kung-fu master one day. However, he seems to be stuck in a noodle shop run by his father, surprisingly a gentle goose, Mr. Ping (James Hong). He lives in a peaceful and loving village which is threatened when rumors circulate about the escape of the vicious snow leopard villain Tai Ling (Ian McShane). Kung-fu masters of the Jade Palace immediately announce the need to fulfill the ancient prophecy and select a Dragon Warrior. Naturally, the top five martial arts students vie for the title and set off to an elimination round. Po hero-worships the “Furious Five” composed of Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Crane (David Cross), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Viper (Lucy Liu) and Monkey (Jacky Chan) and wastes no time to witness the competition. By an extreme clumsiness and unfortunate luck, Po ends in the middle of the courtyard and is declared by aging Master Oogway to be the Dragon Warrior. Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) reluctantly takes on the task to train the supposed savior of their village but the battle Po must first win is with himself and his insecurities as well as the resentment of the five star students who have no respect for him at all.

Kung Fu Panda is undoubtedly predictable and an old formula for an action-comedy movie but it pulls it off successfully with ease and delight. The film is a visual feast with a barrage of vibrant color and amazingly detailed Chinese landscapes. The action sequences themselves are enjoyable with a brilliant choreography and impressive animation. The screenplay has the perfect amount and pace of humor, wisdom and story-telling that adults will find the movie interesting while kids will just be engrossed with the spectacle.

The movie conveys several lessons and values. One, Po discovers that to achieve success there is no secret ingredient or secret formula, just enough honesty and sincerity coupled with determination and passion. At the end, only one’s self will help one triumph. Two, Mr. Ping emphasizes that to make something special, you yourself have to believe it is special. Appreciation has to come first from within because the value of something is determined by the value one gives it. Three, the movie also talks about having and fulfilling a destiny. While some are born to have distinguished roles in the future, one still has to wholeheartedly accept the responsibility, strive to learn and master what is needed to be able to fulfill the task and have the passion and fortitude to see it through no matter how hard or painful. Some elements of the movie, particularly the action sequences, may be worrisome for parents. It is better to have a responsible adult accompany and guide very young audiences.