Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Title: Hancock; Cast: Will Smith, Charlize Theron, Jason Bateman, Jae Head; Director: Peter Berg; Producers: Akiva Goldsman, James Lassiter, Michael Mann, Will Smith; Screenwriters: Vincent Ngo, Vince Gilligan; Music: John Powell; Editors: Colby Parker Jr., Paul Rubell; Genre: Action/ Comedy/ Drama/ Fantasy; Cinematography: Tobias A. Schliessler; Distributor: Sony Pictures Entertainment; Location: Los Angeles , California , USA; Running Time: 92 min.;

Technical Assessment: 3
Moral Assessment: 2.5
CINEMA Rating: For viewers age 14 up

John Hancock (Will Smith) sleeps at park benches, swears, is rude, drinks heavily, and is in the words of a little boy an “asshole”. But he is also a superhero of sorts. He’s arrogant but he saves lives; he’s a bum but he can’t tolerate baddies. When on call he doesn’t hide and slip into a signature costume, he simply skyrockets himself, crashing through windows, making a mess of the traffic, leaving downtown Los Angeles like it’s been rocked by a mega hurricane. Half the people adore him; the other half has filed over 600 lawsuits against him for damaged property and injured bodies. One day he saves from sure death a dreamer of a PR man Ray (Jason Bateman) who is stupid enough to get himself stuck on the railroad track with a train zooming up. Grateful for his life, Ray brings Hancock home for a spaghetti dinner, and introduces the superhero to his son (who idolizes Hancock) his wife Mary (Charlize Theron) who can’t seem to stand the sight of the boorish superhuman around the house. What Ray really wants to do is give Hancock an image makeover—to make him look good to the public.

The movie’s trailer and poster claim there are heroes and superheroes (and more superheroes) and then there is Hancock. Or something like that. Which leads the viewer to expect a different kind of superhero—but a superhero nonetheless. So the story brings us this superhero with an issue—or rather with unresolved issues good enough to keep ten psychiatrists employed for life. This movie which is billed as an “action comedy” flick seems two movies in one, but it confuses its own plot, thus it won’t fit in a decent genre. So there are action comedies and action comedies, and then there is Hancock, a hybrid that doesn’t know how to categorize itself. Even the hero doesn’t understand his powers, much less wield them as a hero is expected to. Okay, okay, they said this was not your ordinary superhero movie—but at least give us something superior, so we don’t regret buying a ticket and having nothing left for popcorn. Don’t give us an unidentifiable species that’s half-hearted comedy turning into a half-baked Shakespearean tragedy with no rationale to engage our brains. The CGI is passable, but worthless against all the questions directed at the ethics of the hero.

Is there a race somewhere? A supercontest of sorts where superheroes out to save the world leave in their wake bigger and bigger collateral damage? Who gets to pay for all that mess this sloppy superhero creates? Just count the potholes caused by his landings. Where is this superhuman coming from? Aren’t superheroes supposed to be, at least, respectful of the citizens of this planet? Is it correct for a superhero to traumatize a kid who’s just being a kid? Is it moral to save one and let a hundred others die? Did Hancock’s makers mean to say anyone can be a superhero simply because he happens to be superhuman? What do they want our children to be? Will Smith the actor became famous for being a family-friendly rapper, a good kid in a very popular TV series. Why are they now shaking off his clean image? Do they want our kids to follow this likeable actor to perdition? Many are the ways by which the evil one will try to lure our children into decadence. Beware. If you must allow your 14-year olds to see this movie, tell them Hancock is fictitious, not to be emulated, idolized, or taken seriously.


Title: Wanted; Cast: James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman, Terence Stamp, Thomas Ketschmann. Director: Timur Bekmambetov; Writer: Michael Brandt, Derek Haas and Chris Morgan; Distributor: Universal Pictures; Location: USA; Running time: 110 minutes.

Technical Assessment: 4
Moral Assessment: 2.5
CINEMA rating: R 14 (For viewers aged 14 up)

In Wanted, the “Fraternity” is a thousand-year old secret society of assassins whose mission is to rid the world of bad guys. “Kill one, save a thousand” seems to be their motto. Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) is a nondescript account manager in some New York office ruled by an obese woman with a razor tongue and indefatigable vocal chords. Besides being bullied by this slob of a boss, Wesley is also hen-pecked by his girlfriend who incessantly complains of the night trains chug-chugging by their cheap apartment. As if two ranting women were not enough, the nerdy Wesley also discovers that his best friend and office mate is also seeing his girlfriend on the side. Too naïve and cowardly to stand up for himself, Wesley seems resigned to live a life that leads nowhere. Until Fox (Angelina Jolie) enters the scene—but not to bring sunshine and flowers to Wesley’s dead-end existence. She takes him to Sloane (Morgan Freeman), the head of the Fraternity, who reveals to Wesley that he has the assassin in his genes, being the son of one of their murdered members. It is to avenge the death of his father then that Wesley is to be recruited, motivated and trained.

The plot of Wanted, if a trifle too bloody, vengeful and violent, is simple enough to follow, and seen against the backdrop of comic book fiction may even come across as credible. It’s not hard for everyman to identify with the superbly acted McAvoy character who turns from weakling to super assassin. Its credibility is further established by having Morgan Freeman in the cast—he who is gifted with a hypnotic growl and an aura of omniscience can make poison sound like milk and honey until you thirst for it. And nobody but nobody could have played Fox more believably than Jolie—wielding with elan fantabulous guns half her weight. Her legendary sex appeal needs no dominatrix costumes—it oozes through even a no-frills white mini dress that would have looked like a nanny’s apron on a less stylish actress. Her panache and her expressive face also project her as the perfect “killer of few words.” Kazakhstan-born director Timur Bekmambetov ably pulls off this thriller and succeeds in suspending the viewer’s disbelief with the use of over-the-top stunts and killer-ware: surfing atop speeding trains, guns and bullets with implausible trajectories, supercars that make James Bond’s look like a Matchbox collection.

There’s no stopping them now—action movies that rival computer games in adrenaline stimulation and ingenuity of inventions. It’s possible that even very young children who can wield the (computer) mouse will enjoy the technical aspects of Wanted. Why, even adult viewers would, as long as it’s clear to them that this movie defies the laws of physics and dabbles in gray areas of morality and mortality. Young viewers may not be able to draw the line between fact and fiction, or may be lost in seeing the boundary blurred between right and wrong. And even if there are willing parents who can guide them through this violent and deception-ridden piece of art, why titillate their imagination thus when there is so much still to learn in school and at home about real physics and real justice? For down-to-earth education-cum-entertainment that broadens their horizons, there’s Nat Geo Junior, Animal Planet or Discovery Channel. To help them with their school work, there’s Knowledge Channel. For good old Sunday afternoon family entertainment, put on The Sound of Music DVD, please.

The Warlords

Title: The Warlords; Cast: Jet Li, Andy Lau, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Xu
Jinglei; Director: Peter Chan; Producers: Andre Morgan, Huang Jianxin,
Peter Chan; Screenwriters: Xei Lan, Chun-Tin-Nam, Aubrey Lam; Music: Lean
Ko, chan Wong Wing; Editor: Wenders Li; Genre: Action/Drama/History/War;
Cinematography: Arthur Wong; Distributor: Viva Films, Morgan, and Chan
Films; Location: China; Running Time: 110 min.;

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

Qing General Pang Quingyun (Jet Li) is the only survivor of a very fierce battle fought in 1861 during the Taiping Rebellion against the corrupt Chinese Qing Dynasty. Traumatized, Pang is nursed back to health by a kind peasant Lian (Xu Jinglei). Though their meeting is short--he sleeps with her for a night-- he develops some feeling for her. Soon, Pang falls in with a group of bandits under the leadership of Zhao Erhu (Andy Lau) and his aide Jiang Wuyang (Takeshi Kamashiro). Pang saves Jiang’s life and the three men pledge eternal friendship and blood brotherhood. Pang realizes Lian is Zhao’s wife. Later, Pang persuades the bandits to join the government’s army so they will have food and arms. Actually, Pang’s plan is to take his revenge on a rival general Pang and his men are assigned to what appears as a hopeless as assault on Shi City , yet Pang comes out victorious but at great cost since he had to use a great number of men as shields. Then they are asked to blockade Suzhou City but because this takes so long, the soldiers are hungry and suffer a lot. At this point, Zhao and Pang become gradually estranged because of Pang’s decisions to ruthlessly sacrifice men to win at all costs. Will this brotherhood stand the strain of conflict? How will the illicit relationship between Pang and Zhao’s wife affect the lives of the three “brothers”?

Originally, The Warlords was intended as a remake of the classic The Blood Brothers made by Chang Chek in 1973. But the present film ended up as a
highly budgeted war picture costing $40 million with no stunts and a
minimum of martial arts. Both are inspired by the chronicled assassination
of Gen. Maxinyi by his trusted friend Zhang Wenxiang in 1870. The Warlords also changes the names of the protagonists. The present picture is an epic war drama dressed up in impressive costumes but full of skillfully choreographed battle scenes so ultra realistic that they call to mind the gory heroism of the Spartan’s 300. Peter Chan shows the master’s hand in directing action sequences with thousands of extras wielding different weapons. Images of soldiers suffering and starving in trenches in the 30 minute Sushou sequence have strong emotional impact and may recall stories about 20th century world wars. Visuals are good and the predominance of dirty gray and brown help bring out the bleak atmosphere. Editing is tight but the music scoring is uneven. Originally in mandarin, the dubbed dialog is often difficult to follow. Though the other characters like Andy Law put in good performances, this is Jet Li’s picture. He dominates every scene where he appears and gives justice to his role as a conflicted
warrior and later as a warlord. But he does not have good chemistry with Xu Jenglei; the female protagonist. Their love scenes are very low key though their relationship is important to the outcome of the story.

Viewers who expect The Warlords to entertain them with spectacular war scenes will have their fill. Those with a scholarly bent can also gain insight into Chinese history. Moreover, the film has moral dimensions worth mentioning. For instance, the matter of adultery. Having an illicit relationship with a married person is often regarded in a matter-of-fact manner these days and just simply tolerated. But it does have far-reaching effects (the movie affirms this) that often times are not immediately discernible but these will come to pass. Jet Li’s character is that of an ambitious warrior who makes decisions to attain a goal (here, victory) without taking into account the welfare of others or the human factor. It is true that he has to make difficult decisions because the choices are difficult but this does not justify his killing a group of soldiers(over the issue of food) so others may live. He is so affected by what he does that he even sheds a tear but to him as a military man, it is victory at all costs. In the end, his realized ambition and position of importance are of no use. It is still the same rule. One cannot justify evil means even if the end or goal is good. Definitely this movie is not for the young. The violence is so preponderant that it is overwhelming. Too much exposure of young impressionable viewers to violence desensitizes them so that often their regard for the value of life is diminished.

Journey to the Center of the Earth

Title: Journey to the Center of the Earth; Cast: Brendan Fraser, Josh Hutcherson, Anita Briem; Genre: Adventure; Director: Eric Brevig; Screenplay: Michael Weiss and Jennifer Flackett & Mark Levin; Original Story: Jules Verne; Producer: Toby Emmerich; Distributor: New Line Cinema; Location: US, Europe; Running Time: 92mins

Technical Assessment: 3
Moral Assessment: 3
Rating: For viewers 13 and above

Scientist and Professor Trevor Anderson (Brendan Fraser) and his nephew Sean (Josh Hutcherson), whose father died searching for the center of the Earth when Sean was just a boy, set out somewhere in Europe to find this mystical/mythical place hidden thousands of miles below the Earth’s surface. Circumstances lead them to meet up with Hannah Ásgeirsson, the daughter of a once great scientist who also believed that the center of the Earth does, in fact, exist and Jules Verne’s novel “Journey to the Center of the Earth” was not a work of fiction. She agrees to take them to the mountain top where Sean’s father disappeared and her father did a bulk of his research. Once there, they stumble upon a cave, and by accident, they’re taken directly to the center of the Earth. From there on, they’re into one amazing ride after another as they attempt to escape the amazing yet dangerous lost world—a place loaded with prehistoric creatures, wondrous plant life and other weird phenomena.

Journey to the Center of the Earth is nothing more than a spectacle. Using 3-D technology, the film takes its audience to a fun-filled ride and adventure. The film’s premise though is a bit high-brow and alienates audiences who are not fully aware or knowledgeable of many scientific terms and jargon. Story-wise, the emotional flow is rather flat and predictable. Characters are uninteresting and their relationships are trite. The romance layer is also blunt and audiences may only remain indifferent to the love story up until the end of the movie. Although the effects are spectacular, the movie fails to suspend audience’s disbelief that such a place can actually exist. It is perhaps the fault of the director or a failure in storytelling. But then, taking the movie as a theme park ride, it is still a good watch.

In this mystical place at the center of the earth, there is no mention of whether God exists. Could it be a place where God is not needed, where monsters rule and all the nature endangers human life? The motivation of the characters to dig deep down the earth’s surface is also unclear. Are they trying to look for their loved ones who may be trapped inside? Or is it just ego trip that they can actually find a place and prove theories and speculations more than they can imagine? However, looking into their relationships and the apparent concern for each other, audiences may appreciate furthermore the company of friends, relatives and loved ones. At all times and at all costs, human life must be preserved. Humans are responsible for one another and that is one valuable lesson in the movie. Amidst monsters and dangers, there would always be good-natured creatures that will unconditionally help us go through, carry on and trust in the omnipresent goodness of God. The film is suited even for the very young, however, some images and visual effects may cause trauma if they are not guided and supervised by adults.

Friday, July 4, 2008


Title: Urduja; Cast: Regine Velasquez, Cesar Montano, Eddie Garcia, Jay Manalo,Johnny Delgado, Ruby Rodriguez, Eppie Quizon, Michael V., Allan K.,BJ Forbes; Director: Antonio Tuviera.

Technical assessment: 3.5
Moral assessment: 3
CINEMA rating: For general Patronage

Si Urduja (Regine Velasquez) ay isang prinsesang mandirigma mula sa Pangasinan at ang tanging anak ni Lakanpati (Eddie Garcia) ng pinuno ng tribo. Tumatanda at nanghihina na si Lakanpati kung kaya’t pinahayag na nito ang kanyang kagustuhang magkipag-isang-dibdib na si Urduja kay Simakwel (Jay Manalo), isang mapusok na mandirigma, upang may humalili na sa kanya sa pamumuno. Walang puwag sa puso ni Urduja si Simakwel, subali’t desidido ang lalaking mapasa-kanya ang prinsesa at ang tronong iiwanan ng ama nito. Mauunsiyami ang balak ni Simakwel nang magtagpo ang landas ni Urduja at ni Limhang (Cesar Montano), isang matapang na piratang napadpad sa kanilang lugar. Bagama’t sa simula’y mailap si Urduja kay Limhang, unti-unti itong mapapalapit sa pirata mula nang iligtas siya nito sa tiyak na kamatayang dulot ng pana ng isang Badyao. Maraming pagsubok na daraanan si Limhang, dala na rin ng paninibugho ni Simakwel, subali’t isang mapagpitagan at masunuring anak si Urduja.

Ang Urduja ay ang kauna-unahang “full-length animation feature film” ng Pilipinas, at bagama’t hindi pa ito matatawag na “perpekto” kung ihahambing sa mga banyagang animation films katulad ng mga ipinalalabas ng Disney, ipinakikita ng Urduja ang katangi-tanging kakayahan ng mga Pilipinong mangguguhit at “animators”. Sapagka’t ito’y isang pelikula, natural lamang na ang unang punahin ng mga tao sa Urduja ay ang mga imahen, ang kanilang nakikita; pumapangalawa lamang ang kanilang pagpuna sa naririnig, sa tugtugin, sa script, sa dialogue, sa kuwento at sa daloy nito. Akma ang pagpili kay Velasquez bilang Urduja at kay Montano bilang Limhang, lamang, may mga pagkakataong napapalakas ang tunog nila—may diperensiya kaya sa sound system? Sinubukan ng Urduja na gawing kaakit-akit sa madla ang pelikula, kung kaya’t may “kakornihan” ang script at paggamit ng makabagong idiyoma (tulad ng “hindi ko feel” atbp.)o tauhan (si Mayumi na may pagka-kiri) na nagsisilbi lamang na “panira” sa kabuuan ng pelikula. Hindi rin nakakakuha ng simpatiya ng manonood ang daga na si Kukut (Michael V.) at ang tarsier na si Tarsir (Allan K.), sapagkat ang mga boses nila’y hindi bagay sa liit at hitsura nila bilang daga at tarsier; sa halip, tunog-“kanto boys” sila.

Dapat alamin nating mga Pilipino na ang mga cartoons na ating pinapanood mula sa ibang bansa ay gumagamit ng talinong Pilipino, kung kaya’t madaling unawain kung ang Urduja man ay may “lasang banyaga”, na tila pinaghalong Mulan, Pocahontas, atbp. Hindi ganoong kahusay ang Urduja, ngunit bilang unang bunga, may pangakong kipkip ang pelikula. At kahit mestisong-hilaw pa nga minsan ang dating ng pagguhit ng mga imahen, Pilipino pa rin ang inuuwian ng buong pelikula—pansinin ninyo ang isang napaka-Pilipinong sangkap sa pelikula: ang karera ng kalabaw. Sana’y magpaka-husay pa ang mga gumawa nito; kaunti pang pagsasanay at gagaling pa sila. Ang pinakamahalaga ay ang tunghayan ng mga manonood ang lakip na mensahe ng Urduja —ang dangal ng babaeng Pilipina. Bagama’t base ang pelikula sa isang alamat (kung saan wala namang lalaking nakatapat si Prinsesa Urduja), nabuhay nito ang katauhan ni Urduja bilang isang babaeng may matatag na kalooban at paninidigan sa kabila ng kanyang pagiging masunuring anak.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

My Monster Mom

Title: My Monster Mom; Cast: Annabelle Rama, Ruffa Gutierrez, JC de Vera, Mart Escudero, Iwa Moto, Eugene Domingo, Khryss Adalia; Director: Jose Javier Reyes; Producers: Jose Marie Abacan, Roselle Monteverde-Teo ; Screenwriter: Jose Javier Reyes; Genre: Comedy; Distributor: GMA Films; Location: Philippines.

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

Nagkaanak at iniwan ng nobyo ang noon ay 16-taong-gulang na si Esmeralda (Rhian Ramos). Dahil sa murang gulang ay naduwag si Esmeralda na itaguyod mag-isa ang anak na si Abegail a.k.a Baby Girl (Ruffa Gutierrez) kaya ipinaubaya niya ang pagpapalaki sa kapatid na hindi magka-anak at naninirahan sa Amerika. Nang lumaon, nagkaanak pa si Esmeralda (Annabelle Rama) sa magkaibang ama ng dalawang anak na lalaki sina Buboy (JC de Vera) at Pipoy (Mart Escudero) na mag-isa rin niyang itinaguyod. Maayos na namumuhay ang mag-iina sa kabila ng sobrang pagbubunganga at pagtataray ni Esmeralda sa loob at sa labas ng bahay. Pangunahin kay Esmeralda kapakanan ng mga anak kaya hinihigpitan niya ang mga ito sa lahat ng bagay na lingid sa kanya ay nakasasakal na. Kinaiinisan siya ng mga kapitbahay dahil sa kanyang ugali at di maiwasan na maging usap-usapan ang pagkakaroon ng mga anak sa iba't ibang mga lalaki. Sa tuwing iiral ang pagtataray ni Esmeralda ay nakaagay lagi ang dalawang kaibigan upang payapain siya. Makalipas ang 27 taon ng pagkakalayo ay babalik ang panganay na anak ni Esmeralda na si Abigael mula sa Amerika. Sa kanilang muling pagkikita ay matutuklasan nila ang maraming bagay sa kani-kanilang pag-uugali na taliwas sa kanilang inaasahan.

Katulad ng pamagat ng pelikula, nakesentro ito sa maingay na pangunahing tauhan. Bagamat tagumpay sa paghahatid ng mga linyang patawa ang bidang si Anabelle, lalo na sa mga palitan nila ni Ruffa, ay halata namang wala nang mapipiga ang direktor sa pag-arte ni Rama kahit man lang sa "expression" ng mukha, bagama't minsan ay nakakadagdag sa patawa ang mukha nitong "deadma". Sa isang banda naman ay eksaherado ang pag-arte ng ibang mga aktor, at hinaluan pa nga ng "bading" na alalay para pampadagdag-tawa--kayo na ang humusga kung nakakatulong ito sa pagbabalanse ng mga bagay, sapagka't mantak man naming isiping walang katorya-torya ang dialogue, hindi namin maunawaan kung bakit "biling-bili" ito ng mga nanonood. Iba-iba lang siguro talaga ang panlasa ng tao. Maayos ang disenyo ng produksyon na nagpatingkad sa mga payak na eksena gayundin ang "make-up". Akma rin ang mga tunog at musika na inilapat.

Mahalaga ang kapayapaan sa loob ng tahanan upang maging bukas at maayos na makapag-isip ang mga miyembro ng pamilya. Taliwas ito sa ipinakita ng pelikulang My Monster Mom. Hindi pinapasubalian na tanging kabutihan ang hangad ng ina para sa kaniyang mga anak subalit ang lahat ng tao (di lamang mga ina) ay dapat maging responsable sa paraan ng pagpapakita ng malasakit sa kapwa. Halimbawa dapat bang unahin ng isang ina ang pakikipag-away sa halip na asikasuhin ang anak na bugbog ang katawan at sugatan? Pati mga alagad ng batas ay tikom ang bibig sa reklamo ng panunutok ng baril. Kahanga-hanga naman ang kabababang-loob ng mga anak sa paghingi nila ng kapatawaran dahil nasaktan nila ang kanilang ina gayundin ang pagtanggap nila sa pagkatao nito. Sa kabuuan ay nakakatawa at magaan ang pelikula, subalit dahil sa matalas na pananalita at di karaniwang sagutan ng ina at anak na laking-Amerika ay dapat gabayan ng mga magulang ang mga manonood na kabataan. Isaisip natin na kahit ano pa man ang kagaspangan ng ating ina, dapat pa rin natin siyang igalang at mahalin, bagay na higit pang makakatulong tungo sa kanilang pagbabagong-ugali kaysa kung tatapatan natin ng pagkabastos ang kanilang kagaspangan.