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: cbcpcinema@gmail.com *** 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, August 29, 2008

For The First Time

Cast: KC Concepcion, Richard Gutierrez, Nor Domingo, Jake Cuenca, Carla Humphries, Denise Laurel, Candy Pangilinan, Beatriz Saw; Director: Joyce E. Bernal; Producer: Malou N. Santos; Screenwriter: Vanessa Valdez; Editor: Marya Ignacio; Genre: Romance/ Drama; Cinematography: Shayne Clemente; Distributor: ABS-CBN Film Productions; Location: Manila; Running Time: 110 min.;

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

Si Pia (KC Concepcion) ay isang real estate executive sa kompanya ng kanyang Daddy (Philip Salvador). Hirap si Pia na patunayan ang sarili sa kanyang ama at matindi ang pressure na binibigay sa kanya nito. Sa gitna ng pagkaabala sa trabaho, itinuloy ni Pia ang bakasyon sa Santorini, Greece upang makapag-isip-isip kung dapat pa niyang ituloy ang pagtatrabaho sa ama. Sa di inaasahang pagkakataon ay magku-krus ang landas nila ni Seth (Richard Gutierrez), ang mayamang playboy na naging ex-boyfriend ng kanyang mga kaibigan kung kaya’t matindi ang pagkainis niya rito. Pero dahil si Seth ang may-ari ng kanyang tinutuluyang hotel sa Santorini, napilitan siyang pakisamahan ito. Isinumpa ni Pia sa kanyang sarili na hindi siya pwedeng main-love kay Seth dahil bukod sa ito ay certified babaero, hindi si Seth ang tipo ng lalaking magugustuhan ng kanyang Daddy para sa kanya. Pero sa pagdaan ng mga araw sa Santorini, sa gitna ng romantikong lugar, ay tila magbabago ang ihip ng hangin sa dalawa. Si Pia na kaya ang huling babae sa ni Seth. Mapanindigan kaya ni Pia and sumpa sa sarili?

Isang karaniwang kuwentong pag-ibig ang For the First Time na inilagay lamang sa ibang lugar. Matagumpay ang pelikula sa pagdadala sa manonood sa matulaing lugar ng Santorini, Greece. Napakaganda ng tanawin na tila nanaisin ng sinumang makakapanood ng pelikula ang puntahan ang lugar na ito. Pasado ang pag-arte ni KC Concepcion kahit pa ito ang una niyang pelikula at hindi maitatangging napakaganda ng kanyang rehistro sa kamera. Si Richard Gutierrez ay wala namang bagong ipinakita. Hindi gaanong ramdam ang kilig sa dalawa at tila mababaw ang kuwento sa kabuuan. Masyadong mataas ang antas ng pamumuhay ng mga karakter sa pelikula na hindi arok ng masa. Ito ang klase ng buhay na papangarapin lamang ngunit hindi ang lahat ay mabibigyan ng pagkakataong maranasan. Labas tuloy ay isang artipisyal na daigdig ang ipinakita ng pelikula at malayo sa katotohanan. Hindi rin gaanong nakakadala ang daloy ng emosyon ng mga tauhan. Salamat na lamang sa ilang epektibong patawa ni Candy Pangilinan at nagkaroon kahit paano ng buhay ang pelikula.

Makapangyarihan ang tunay na pag-ibig lalo pa’t wagas and hangarin nitong alalahanin ang kapakanan ng minamahal. Ito ang nais sabihin ng For the First Time sa kabuuan. Pero sa likod Pero sa likod ng mensaheng ito ay makikita ang mga karakter na bulagsak sa salapi, walang pakialam sa paligid at sadyang napakadali ng buhay. Bagay na hindi magandang halimbawa sa sinumang kabataang makakanood. Hindi malinaw ang naging pagbabago ng karakter ni Seth. Sadyang nakakailang at mahirap paniwalaan ang paghingi niya ng tawad sa lahat ng babaeng kanyang nasaktan. Pawang peke ang dating nito. Si Pia naman ay pinapatunayang pilit ang sarili sa ama gayong malinaw na hindi buo ang kanyang loob na kontrolin ang kanyang emosyon. Talaga bang hindi na uso ang pag-akyat ng ligaw sa mga kabataan at ang pakikipag-relasyon ba’y talagang palihim na sa mga magulang? Nakakabahala ang ganitong umuusbong na kultura. Hindi gaanong napalalim ng pelikula ang maraming dahilan ng paghihiwalay ng mga relasyon at pagkawasak ng pamilya. Pawang ang mga ito ay normal lamang at karapat-dapat na tanggapin bilang bahagi ng buhay-pamilya.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Smother

Cast: Diane Keaton, Liv Tyler, Dax Shepard, Mike White, Don Lake, Sarah Lancaster; Director: Vince Di Meglio; Producers: Johnson Chan, Bill Johnson, Tim Rasmussen, Jay Roach; Screenwriters: Tim Rasmussen, Vince Di Meglio; Music: Manish Raval, Tom Wolfe; Editor: Kelly Matsumoto; Genre: Comedy; Cinematography: Julio Macat; Distributor: Inferno Distributor; Location: Beverly Hills, California, USA; Running Time: 120 min.;

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

This particular day starts badly for Noah Cooper (Dax Shepard). He gets fired from his work as a sports therapist. He calls up his school-teacher wife Clare (Liv Tyler), informs her about it and observes that she should hold on to her job- one of them must be working- and heads for home. When he arrives, he finds a houseguest, Myron Stubbs (Mike White) cousin of Clare, a movie scriptwriter who has been invited to stay, as his parents have told him to leave their house. Other things begin to deteriorate his day further. Suddenly, his domineering mother Marilyn (Diane Keaton) shows up at his door, with her five pet dogs. She has left Gene, her husband (Ken Howard), his dad, and looking for a place to stay. Noah is all for helping her find a place, but Clare insists on accommodating her in the house, that mom stays with them. Noah finds himself facing not only what are before him, but also the necessity of getting a job; and especially, to heed the eagerness and insistence of Clare that it is a high time that they work on having a baby. Could he manage: to find that job, have a child with Clare, and cope with a mother “who knows better, and should be listened to and heeded?”

The main characters in the story, that of Noah, Marilyn and Clare provide a presentation of what could happen in families around the world. There are mothers who think they are “always right”, and “themselves” and would not accept a “not true!” in return. Though not as adept, Shepard and Tyler managed as Noah and Clare to provide what was needed for their roles. The story provides a plot that brought the various scenes, episodes including the sidelight together to portray a complete story.

“Smother” is classified as a comedy because it is meant to provide an easy-to watch and laugh at silly or not right family situations, meant for a wide range of viewers. But because of how the story is presented- it appears that the comic situations, including the serious occasions, appear to be meant for the more mature audience than younger viewers. CINEMA, though, is rating this film for 18 years old and above for certain reasons. After 30 years, or so, of staying married, Noah’s father and mother abruptly split up. No closure is shown; hopefully-in real life- such a story would find a positive resolution. A second scene, in a carpet bazaar, where Noah gets employed: for laughs, the bazaar boss goes quietly close behind the back of an elderly lady shopper and performs lascivious acts on her while she is bending down to look at some merchandise. There are some scenes of nudity and some dialogue referring to sexual matters made in anger or fun. Noah verbally worries about his mother’s health, not that she would live longer but his fear was that she would live longer, after the kind of mother she had been to him all his almost 30 years of life. But he discovers that his mom really loves him: “he is the best thing in her life”. Discovery and realization comes at the end, for Noah and Clare, and Noah and Marilyn.

The Gravedancers


Cast: Marcus Thomas, Clare Kramar, Dominic Purcell, Josie Maran; Director: Mike Mendez; Producers: Al Corley, Lawrence Elmer Fuhrmann Jr., Bill McCutchen, Eugene Musso, Bart Rosenblatt; Screenwriters: Brad Keene, Chris Skinner; Music: Joseph Bishara; Editor: Mike Mendez; Genre: Drama/Horror/Thriller; Cinematography: David A. Armstrong; Distributor: After Dark Films; Location: North Carolina, USA; Running Time: 95 min;

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

Harris (Dominic Purcell), one of the three long time friends with Sid (Marcus Thomas) and Kira (Josie Maran), misses the funeral of their friend Devin who died in a car accident. Harris thinks that they should pay their last respect to Devin together in front of the grave in the cemetery, an idea which Sid and Kira do not initially agree with, but they eventually do. The solemn purpose to pay respect turns out to be a singing and dancing spree with loud music after reading a poem they see at the grave. Unfortunately, the poem read by Harris is like a magical spell that awakens dead spirits especially those in the ground where they danced. Since then all of them including Sid’s wife Allison (Clare Kramar) experience strange eerie occurrences in their respective places. With the help of a paranormal investigator they realize that they are being haunted by the angry spirits they bothered by desecrating their graves with their dancing spree at the cemetery. How will they get over these harrowing experiences?

As a horror thriller film, The Gravedancers successfully delivers and keeps the interest of the viewers from beginning to end of the film. It has a very good plot that was treated with careful special effects, musical scoring and sounds. The actors gave their distinct justification of the characters they portrayed in the film: that of tactless Harris, focused Sid, disturbed Kira, and concerned and frightened Allison, which is also to the credit of the director. It is not the usual screaming horror film but one that gets established as the film progressed to the end. Overall, the film has very good technical qualities.

The film conveys strong messages to respect the dead not necessarily in the context of religious belief, rather on the paranormal dimension. It underscores how irresponsible actions desecrating graves can make the person’s life miserable and even brings death. It aggravates when selfish motives like that of the paranormal team member cheated in the operation got in the way, but at least she regretted doing so when she realized the worst results of her cheating. In a sidelight, the film shows valuing relationships of friendship and marriage. It will be noticed that in the entire run of the film there was no reference to the Church’s intervention; but rather solely on human ability and paranormal science. In reality, when things go beyond human understanding, people seek enlightenment and draw strength from Divine providence to fight evil forces.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Loving You

Cast: John Prats, Polo Ravales, Ehra Madrigal, Kris Bernal, Aljur Abrenica, Jean Garcia, JC de Vera, Yasmien Kurdi; Director: Don Cuaresma; Producer: Roselle Monteverde-Teo; Screenwriter: Fairlane Raymundo; Genre: Romance-Drama; Distributor: Regal Entertainment; Location: Manila; Running Time: 110 min.;

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

Magkakabarkada mula pagkabata sina Jepoy (JC De Vera), Lane (Yasmien Kurdi), Bry (Ehra Madrigal), Tom (Polo Ravales) at Tonee (Kris Bernal). Muling titibay ang kanilang samahan nang sila ay magtrabaho sa iisang call center. Sina Jepoy at Lane ay kakatapos lamang mag-break bilang magnobyo bagama’t mahal pa rin nila ang isa’t-isa. Sa call center ay parehas silang magkakaron ng panibagong pag-ibig. May pag-asa pa kaya silang magkabalikan? Si Bry naman ay niloko ng kanyang kalive-in at ang tanging naging sandigan ay ang kanyang suking taxi driver (John Pratts) na malaki ang pagkagusto sa kanya. Si Tonee na totomboy-tomboy ay mai-inlove naman sa kasamahang si Ryan (Aljur Abrenica) na mahuhuli naman niyang may kinakasamang bading (John Lapuz). Si Tom naman ay pilit na dinadala ang relasyon kay Cyril (Jean Garcia) ang kanyang dating guro na malaki ang tanda sa kanya. Saan kaya sila dadalhin ng kani-kanilang mga problema sa puso at pagmamahal?

Walang bagong inihain ang Loving You maliban sa makabagong milieu ng call center. Ngunit ito ay nanatili lamang backdrop at hindi lubusang nagamit sa pelikula. Ang mga kuwentong pag-ibig ay pawang mga gasgas na at alam na ng mga manonood ang patutunguhan. Sa sobrang dami ng karakter ay sumasabog ang kuwento ng pelikula. Walang pinaka-sentrong karakter o kuwento na maaring sundan. Hindi gaanong dama ang mga eksena mapa drama man o komedi. Sayang at may potensiyal sanang maging maganda ang pelikula sa tradisyon ng mga pelikulang pang-kabataan tulad ng Bagets, Pare Ko, Jologs at marami pang iba. Ang manipis na kuwento ay mas pinanipis pa ng mga hilaw na pag-arte ng mga artista. Tanging ang mga beteranong sina Jean Garcia at Tonton Gutierrez ang kakikitaan ng sinseridad. Ang lahat ay pawang mga pa-cute lamang.

Maraming ipinakitang nakakabahala sa pagpapahalagang moral ng mga kabataan ang pelikula. Pangunahin na rito ay pagpapakitang katanggap-tanggap at nakakaigaya ang pakikipaglive-in at pagsasama ng labas sa sakramento ng kasal. Pawang kaswal lamang ang sex sa pelikula na maaring gawin kahit anong oras kahit saan. Maging ang pagkakaroon ng mga tomboy at baklang mga magulang ay ipinakita lamang at hindi ipinaliwanag o dumaan sa proseso upang lubusang maunawaan ng mga manonood. Mababaw ang naging pagtingin at pagtrato ng pelikula sa konsepto ng pag-ibig. Gaano man nila piliting palalimin, hindi maitatangging naging ubod ng pusyaw ng pagtalakay nito. Ang pag-ibig at pakikipagtalik ay itinuturing nilang iisa. Maging ang infatuation at crush ay pinalalabas na true love. Pawang binubuo lamang sa hangin ang pagkakagustuhan. Maghalikan lamang at maghawakan ng kamay ay sila na. Walang pagpapahalaga sa pagbuo ng pamilya, wala ring sakripisyo. Tanging mababaw na romansahan na nagkukunwaring malalim ang makikita sa pelikula. Walang anumang aral sa pag-ibig. May mangilan-ngilang kurot ukol sa pagpapatawad at pamilya ngunit hindi ito ang pangunahing pinatunguhan ng kuwento.

Star Wars- The Clone Wars

Cast: (VOICE)- Matt Lanter, Ashley Eckstein, Dee Bradley Baker, Tom Kane, Nika Futterman, Ian Abercrombie, Corey Burton, Catherine Taber, Matthew Wood; Director: Dave Filoni; Producers: Catherine Winder, George Lucas; Screenwriters: Henry Gilroy, Steve Melching, Scott Murphy; Music: Kevin Kiner; Editor: Jason Tucker; Genre: Animated Science Fiction; Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures; Location: USA, Singapore; Running Time: 98 min.;

Technical Assessment: 3.5
Moral Assessment: 2.5
CINEMA Rating: For viewers age 13 and below with parental guidance

Clone Wars takes place in between Episode 2: Attack of the Clones and Episode 3 Revenge of the Sith. The movie opens with the Republic clone troopers led by Jedi generals Anakin (Matt Lanter) and Obi-wan (James Arnold Taylor) fighting the droid army. Complicating matters is Master Yoda’s decision to assign a PADIWAN (apprentice), Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Ekstein) to serve under Anakin. They are quickly assigned to rescue Jabba’s kidnapped son so they can form an alliance with the Hutts as latter control a safe trade passage crucial for winning the galactic war. Unknown to them, the kidnap is staged by Sith Count Dooko (Christopher Lee) and his apprentice Asaji Ventress (Nika Futterman) to discredit the Jedis and win the Hutt’s support. Much of the film follows Anakin and Ahsoko’s attempt to rescue the baby Hutlet and forge a treaty with Jabba.

The movie is presented with good stylish animations and enjoyable CGI’s, although the characters feel stiff and look like the miniature dolls sold as merchandising. The sceneries are almost breathtaking and action is dynamic enough to keep the audience glued for an hour and a half. This animated version has plenty of moments with some cute and funny punch lines thrown here and there in between incredible action sequences. Unfortunately there is nothing new presented for a storyline save for more scheming of the Sith against the Republic, more explosions and special effects. While the editing is witty, engaging and thrilling and helps to keep the flow smooth and understandable even for non-Star Wars fans. However, the musical scoring falls a little short to support the sequences but since this is an animated version one can let this cheesiness pass.

What does it mean to be a good leader? The film makes several points on the teacher-student / master-apprentice relationship. First, the importance of listening which should be a two-way deal. Students need to listen to the wisdom of their teachers while teachers in turn need to be attuned to the creativity and freshness of their students’ opinion. Second, respect is earned by “walking the talk”. Anakin could have never gained Ashoko’s trust and loyalty if he had not shown courage and dedication to do what is right. Likewise, Ashoko’s perseverance and loyalty not only won Anakin’s respect but also his fondness and protection of his teenage apprentice.

The movie is safe and decent with numerous violent sequences, though non-graphic, given the premise of war and action animation. Parents are cautioned to guide their very young children when watching the film.

Big Stan- The Gigolo is Back


Cast: Rob Schneider, David Carradine, Jennifer Morrison, Scott Wilson, Henry Gibson; Director: Rob Schneider; Producers: Mark A.Z. Dippe, David Hillary, Timothy Wayne Peternel, John Schneider, Rob Schneider; Screenwriter: Josh Lieb; Music: John Hunter; Editor: Gregor Babor, Richard Halsey; Genre: Comedy; Cinematography: Victor Hammer; Distributor: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer MGM; Location: Stockton, California, USA; Running Time: 100 min;

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

Wealthy Stan Minton (Rob Schneider), a crooked real estate agent is arrested for fraud and convicted. By some manipulation, Stan is able to get the judge to give him an allowable six months break before he begins his prison term. His greatest fear of being in prison is what the prisoners could do to him, and he knows that he would not be able to defend himself. So he scouts for someone who could train him to take care of himself in whatever situation the prisoners would put him in. Stan meets a mysterious master of Martial Arts (David Carradine) and recruits him to train him to be a tough and expert fighter, capable of taking on whoever and however many would want to do him harm. The result is a Stan who goes to prison, is one who could out-do and defeat who ever tries to put one over him. Stan not only gains the respect of all the inmates; he is also able to transform his rowdy, violent and hardened prison mates into an orderly and civil community. This unexpected change however, upsets the prison warden’s plan of having the prison complex sold for his profit. It was the warden who had Stan transferred to his jail to serve his prison term there, at the same time help the warden to plan and arrange the sale. To make the prison compound available to prospective buyers, the warden wants the prisoners incited into a melee of fighting, killing each other and totally damaging the entire place. Stan is commanded to reverse what he has done, or else…!

Rob Schneider supported by David Carradine: both come up with their part of the story with effective and natural acting. The first half of the film centers on them as one teaches the other all that are needed to become an effective martial arts expert. All the things Stan had to practice to make him a fit man, and durable, may not be true to real life like: being burned; swallowing garbage, and animal food; eating live snake and scorpions, among others being kicked and walloped. There are funny and laughable moments. Other scenes may be reminiscent of those shown in comedies which Rod Schneider had starred in.

Stan gets transformed from a guy who was worried about his own safety and well-being, into someone who learned to care about his inmates, and the whole prison community. He learned to appreciate and cared about his wife and how she felt and what she wanted. Despite these positive issues and matters are present in the movie story, it is a film that should be rated for adults only. Certain questionable subject matters are not clearly represented. For instance, the subject of prison rape is bandied around and some flashes of these are suggested visually. Nudity and some sexual situations are also presented. When Stan had convinced all his prison inmates to stop raping each other, he tells them however, that consensual homosexual relationship is alright, which is not really accepted by society.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Meet Dave


Lead Cast: Eddie Murphy, Elizabeth Banks, Gabrielle Union, Ed Helms, Austin Lynd Myers, Scott Caan, Director: Brian Robbins; Screenplay: Bill Corbett, Rob Greenberg; Cinematography: J. Clark Mathis; Editing: Ned Bastille; Producer: Jon Berg, David T. Friendly, Todd Komarnicki; Music: John Debney; Location: New York; Genre: Family - Comedy; Distributor: 20th Century Fox; Running Time: 90 minutes.

Technical Assessment: 2.5
Moral Assessment: 3
Cinema Rating: V-13

Dave Ming Chang (Eddie Murphy) is a human-shaped alien spaceship from the planet Nil which crashes in Manhattan three months after the “orb” falls on earth. Apparently, the Nils, a Lilliputian race, has sent a team to the planet to retrieve and activate the orb to suck the ocean’s energy and save their dwindling power supply. The commanding team operates Dave from the inside with the captain (Eddie Murphy) functioning as the brains and voice of the space ship. However, the team, including power-thirsty No. 2 (Ed Helms), sweet natured cultural officer No. 3 (Gabrielle Union) and the rest of the crew know nothing about the planet and its inhabitants and try their best to make their human-like space craft fit in. The captain decides to befriend a young boy Josh (Austin Lind Myers) and hang time with him and his newly widowed mom, Gina (Elizabeth Banks). Slowly, the team learns certain human qualities which begin to change their views on life and relationships. However, No. 2 is disgusted that they are getting sidetracked from their mission and organizes a coup. Meanwhile, New York police officers Dooley (Scott Caan) and Knox (Mike O’Malley) are sent out to investigate Dave’s the crash site by the Statue of Liberty. Dooley suspects aliens have landed on earth and start a witch hunt for Dave.

The movie has a potentially good plot but the humor is flat and dull. Most of the comedy comes from Dave trying to blend with the earthling; unfortunately, Murphy is either out of timing or overacting, which either way makes him only look ridiculous. The rest of the actors provide exaggerated performance and histrionics that reduce them to caricatures. The CGIs are disappointing and slightly better than those used in a 70s TV sci-fi show. The screenplay lacks strength and charm expected of a Murphy comedy. Over-all, the production is passable but as die-hard Murphy fans in the theater prove, the movie can be funny despite a mediocre script and poor directing.

While Meet Dave takes digs at earthlings’ lack of discipline (ignoring traffic signals, for instance), it imparts one valuable lesson: being less than average physically does not determine one’s worth as a person. Great things can be done even by the least popular, most deprived, or most disadvantaged as long as one’s integrity is intact. One’s worth is not measured by the size of his physical or material assets but by the greatness of his heart. Dave reminds Josh that his being small and his being different does not make him less of a person because he has saved two worlds out of the generosity of his spirit.

The movie is almost wholesome and decent save for some mild and minor profanities and coarse humor and scenes. Parents should be cautioned to accompany and guide their very young children when watching the movie.

The Bank Job



Lead Cast: Jason Statham, Saffron Burrows, Stephen Campbell Moore, Daniel Mays; Peter De Jersey, David Suchet; Director: Roger Donaldson; Screenplay: Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais; Cinematography: Michael Coulter; Editing: John Gilbert; Producer: Steven Chasman, Charles Rovenl; Music: Peter Robinson; Location: London; Genre: Action Drama; Running Time: 110 minutes.


Technical Assessment : 3.5
Moral Assessment : 2
Cinema Rating : V-18


Just when Terry Leathers (Jason Statham) was having a bad day with some thugs who want their money back fast, he meets his ex-girlfriend Martine Love who tells him of a possible way to hit it big time. The proposal is to round up Terry’s boys and rob the safety deposit boxes of the Lloyd Bank along Baker Street. Terry and group pull off the robbery despite some close calls and hitches, including having their walkie-talkie conversation monitored by police. After the heist, the group safely retreats to their hideout and are about to part their loot when they realize that they have been set up by Martine and now possess several documents which will seriously incriminate high profile “villains” and put them all at risk. Apparently, Martine has to retrieve the scandalous photos of London’s princess taken by Michael X (Peter De Jersey). But in the process, Terry and company are also able to get other compromising documents including the list of corrupt police in the payroll of pornographer Lew Vogel (David Suchet) and photos and film of politicians’ sexual tryst. Now, they must not only evade police but also the people whose secrets they posses while cutting a deal with Martine’s contact.

The movie is based on a real London Bank robbery in 1971 where after being hyped by media was suddenly given a news blackout. The production is smooth and flawless, keeping the drama and suspense tight and clean. The exhilarating plot development is intensified by brilliant cameraworks and skillful editing. The production design is creatively authentic and stylish. Statham is suave and charismatic as a bad guy turned hero. Overall, the movie is technically and artistically superb with the right amount of grit, cunning and drama.

Evil begets evil. Even the smallest misdeeds can lead one to be tangled in a bigger and deeper mess. No one should believe that a simple offense, even those done in private, will not have any social repercussion. No one gets away with crime as justice always has a way of coming back. Unfortunately though, the movie has Terry and some of his group members get away with their crimes because seemingly theft and deception are a lot tamer than murder, torture and pornography. Hence, since Terry’s crimes are tamer that the other villains, he comes off as the “good guy” despite what he has consciously done and laws he has deliberately broken.

The movie should be strictly for mature viewers because of several scenes with sex, nudity, cursing and bad imitative behavior. The fact that the robbers were allowed to get away free, richer and almost heroes might also send a misleading message especially to impressionable young audiences.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Concerto



Cast: Jay Aquitania, Meryll Soriano, Shamaine Buencamino, Nonoy Froilan, Elijah Castillo, Alyssa Lascano, Yna Asistio; Director: Paul Alexander Morales; Producer: Digital Spirit Production; Screenplay: Paul Alexander Morales; Cinematography: Regiban Romana; Editor: Laz'andre; Music: Jed Balsamo; Running Time: 90 minutes; Location: Davao; Genre: Drama

Technical Assessment: 4
Moral Assessment: 4
Rating: For viewers 13 and above

Sa pagtatapos ng Ikalawang Digmaang Pandaigdig, may isang pamilyang lumikas at napilitang mamundok sa Davao. Malapit ito sa kampo ng mga Hapon. Si Ricardo (Nonoy Froilan), ang padre de pamilya, ay dating puno ng militar na pinahirapan ng mga Hapon. Upang makapamuhay nang mapayapa, kinaibigan ng kanyang asawang si Julia (Shamaine Buencamino) ang ilang mga Hapon na nasa malapit na kampo. Ang kanilang anak na lalaki na si Joselito (Jay Aquitania) ay marunong magsalita ng Hapon kung kaya't naging madali sa kanya ang pakikipag-kaibigan sa mga ito. Sapagkat may likas na angking talino sa musika, naging labis ang kasiyahan ng pamilya nang muli nilang makuha ang naiwan nilang piano. Ang mga anak na babae na sina Nina (Yna Asistio) at Maria (Meryll Soriano) ang siyang nagsilbing taga-aliw sa mga Hapon bilang mga pianista. Isang concerto ang ginanap sa kanilang tahanan para sa mga kaibigang Hapon bago tuluyang pumutok at matapos ang digmaan.

Maayos at malinis ang pagkakagawa ng Concerto. Tunay sa pamagat nito, talagang para kang nanonood ng konsiyerto sa pelikula. Nakakaaliw ang musika na talaga namang nagpatingkad sa isang kuwentong-digmaan. Mahusay ang pagkakalahad ng kuwento. Payak ngunit malaman at punong-puno ng damdamin. Pawang walang itulak kabigin sa galing at husay ang mga nagsiganap. Natural ang kilos ng lahat at pawang mukhang mga hindi umaarte. Totoong-totoo pati ang mga karakter na Hapon. Maliit man o malaking eksena ay nagawang kapani-paniwala ng direktor. Sana'y mas marami pa ang makapanood nito sa mga sinehan at maging isang instrumento upang buhayin ang naghihingalong pelikulang Pilipino.

Ipinakita sa Concerto ang kahalagahan ng pagkakaroon ng isang buo at nagkakaisang pamilya sa gitna ng unos at giyera. Maraming pagsubok ang maaring pagdaanan sa iba't-ibang panahon pero ang wagas na damdamin at matibay na paniniwala sa Diyos ang mga subok na sandata upang maalpasan anumang hirap at pasakit. Kapuri-puri ang isang pamilyang sabay-sabay na nagdarasal sa gitna ng kaguluhan ng paligid. Kitang-kita sa pelikula kung paanong ang pakikipag-kapwa at pananampalataya ay nakatulong ng labis sa pagpapanatili ng kapayapaan sa gitna ng digmaan. Tunay na walang mabuting naidudulot ang giyera. Ngunit gaya ng ipinakita sa pelikula, ang digmaan ay isang pagkakataong nagpapalabas ng pinakamabuti o pinakamasama sa tao. Maaaring maging instrumento ang giyera upang mas mapabuti at mapatibay ang isang pamilya, ang pagkakaibigan. At isa rin ang sining at musika sa maaaring magtawid sa tao sa anumang paghihirap. Ang sining at musika ay biyaya ng Diyos na marapat lamang gamitin sa kabutihan at maging simbolo ng Kanyang kadalikaan sa panahon man ng digmaan o kapayapaan.

Mamma Mia!



Lead cast: Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Amanda Seyfried, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard, Julie Walters, Dominic Cooper, Christine Baranski, Ashley Lilley, Rachel McDowall, Philip Michael; Director: Phyllida Lloyd; Screenwriters: Catherine Johnson/based on the original musical book by Ms. Johnson/originally conceived by Judy Craymer based on the songs of Abba; Cinematographer: Haris Zambarloukos; Editor: Lesley Walker; Music: Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus/some songs with Stig Anderson; Genre: Musical, romantic comedy; Location: Greece, USA, England; Runtime: 108; Producers: Judy Craymer/Gary Goetzman; Distributor: Universal Pictures.


Technical assessment: 3
Moral assessment: 3
CINEMA rating: V 14


Twenty-year old Sophie (Amanda Seyfield) is getting married soon. Dreaming of a white wedding, however, she insists on being given away by her father. The problem is, she doesn’t know who her absentee-father is. Her single-mother Donna (Meryl Streep) raised her singlehandedly, running “Villa Donna”, a modest inn on a Greek island. Days before the wedding she discovers—and shares with her bosom buddies—Donna’s diary which speaks of three amorous encounters around the time she was conceived. She is determined to realize her dream of walking down the aisle with her father, and so, unknown to Donna, she invites the three men: Sam (Pierce Brosnan), Harry (Colin Firth) and Bill (Stellan Skarsgard) to the wedding. If her own mother Donna can’t tell which of the three men has sired her daughter, how will Sophie be able to determine who her real father is? Who will finally give Sophie away?

The plot is thinner than crepe dough but Mamma Mia is undoubtedly enjoyable, thanks mostly to the great acting, and the lilting, foot tapping ABBA songs that have a way of burrowing into your memory. Because this is adapted from the Broadway musical of the same title, expect the characters to burst into song at the oddest moments, and forgive the production if the song is not the accurate expression called for by the situation. If the frothy story is good enough for Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan and is set on a Greek island, why complain? Just sit back and gorge on the eye candy that it is. If you want heavier stuff, see The Dark Knight, but if your bones are aching and your head is almost bursting from stress, then drop the aspirin and go see Mamma Mia. Seyfried is a real pro at singing, and delivers a star-making performance, a far cry from her roles in Mean Girls, Veronica Mars, and Big Love. Streep is obviously enjoying the sing-and-dance routine, at which she isn’t so bad, especially since the numbers rely more on fab costumes than on fancy choreography. Cinematography is a bit rocky: long shots with a little more action would have been better than close-ups, as in that part where Streep and Brosnan belt out “The Winner Takes it All”—it simply draaaags.

Not only is Mamma Mia’s plot thinner than crepe dough, the whole movie is in fact is like Cherry Crepes—looking yummy, brightly colored, sweeter than candy but hardly nourishing. Its one message is “go with the flow”: nothing is worth fretting about—it’s okay to change your mind, call off or stage a wedding at whim, stop asking who your father is. Very Greek-island living--just be accepting of the way things are, and everything will turn out all right after dancing to a couple of songs—with a literal Greek chorus in the background. As long as you know this type of feel-good movie can be addictive, you can go ahead and enjoy it for the therapeutic escape it can offer. At least, it’s way cheaper than a visit to the doctor.

The Dark Knight



Lead Cast: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine; Maggie Gyllenhal, Morgan Freeman; Director: Christopher Nolan; Story: Christopher Nolan, David Goyer; Screenplay: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan; Cinematography: Wally Pfister; Editing: Lee Smith; Producer: Christopher Nolan, Charles Roven, Emma Thomas; Music: James Newton Howard, Hans Zimmer; Location: USA; Genre: Action; Running Time: 155 minutes; Distributor: Warner Bros.

Technical Assessment : 3.5
Moral Assessment : 2.5 (for violence)
Cinema Rating : V-14

Gotham City has a new hero, one who need not hide in a mask and lurk in the shadows as an uncontrollable vigilante. He is the newly appointed District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) who is determined to rid the city of mobsters and criminals within the boundaries of law and justice. He is able to round up 500 mob and thugs with the help of Lt. James Gordon (Gary Oldman) and Batman /Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale). This prompts the mob leaders to take the offer of the criminally insane anarchist and mass murderer Joker (Heath Ledger) to kill Batman. Joker attempts to lure Batman to reveal his true identity by killing high ranking and innocent citizens of Gotham everyday. The conscience-stricken Batman contemplates to prevent any more murders and asks Dent to call a press conference so he can reveal his true identity. However, during the press conference, as the crowd clamors for Batman to step up and face the consequences of his actions and before Bruce Wayne can come forward, Dent confesses he is the Batman. Dent, escorted by a police caravan, is transported to jail. Joker attacks the caravan en route to kill Dent but is captured and incarcerated by the police. However, being always one step ahead and with the help of corrupt police officers, Joker kidnaps Dent and Rachel, Dent’s fiancĂ©e and Bruce Wayne’s friend and former sweetheart. They are put in separate places laden with explosives. Unfortunately, only Dent is rescued. Rachel dies and half of Dent’s face gets badly burned. The experience corrupts Dent and transforms him into the vindictive Two-face. Now Batman must fight Joker’s murderous madness, Two-face’s vendetta and the lawlessness he seemingly inspired in the streets of Gotham.

This version of Batman departs from the customary comic-book archetypes and Tim Burton’s theatrical directorial interpretation. This time Batman is a darker and grimmer production that moves closer to real people. The Nolan brothers have successfully integrated the comic-book storyline with a more mature plot development, favoring drama over dash and allowing people to sympathize with characters’ flaws, transformations and weaknesses. No back-story was provided for Ledger’s Joker character but he portrays it with such chilling menace that no explanation is deemed necessary to understand his twisted logic and evil character. Also outstanding were the portrayals of Oldman and Eckhart. Technically, the movie leaves you at the edge of your seat with one explosive action sequence after the other and an exhilarating editing technique. The camerawork could have slowed down as viewers sometimes feel continuously moving even during serious dialogues and non-action scenes. However, the movie still feels a little long and overstretched with one too many scenes that serve no purposed save to explain side stories or provide more action.

Integrity and selflessness seem to be just romantic but forgotten virtues especially during times of fear and chaos. When one’s survival is threatened, what does one do? The movie suggests that most people would betray, harm or even kill someone else just to save their own life. Self preservation seems to be the ultimate objective of living, as the Joker tries over and over to prove that even the most decent and upright man can be corrupted when put under extreme pain and despair. But characters such as Commissioner Gordon, Rachel Dawes and Lucius Fox illustrate how selflessness, uprightness and dispensing justice within the boundaries of law are the best way to bring about order and stability in society. The scene where passengers of two ferry boats loaded with explosives were forced to blow the other in order to save themselves stresses that even sinners / criminals can learn to sacrifice themselves to do what is right.
These times, most societies are put to test with the many pressures and challenges in all fronts – economic, political, social, and psychological. Relationships and dignity are threatened by so many self-serving ideologies. We are almost always challenged to choose to save our own skins at all costs or to think of the good of others at the cost of our happiness, desires or comfort. Perhaps when one day people can think and care less of themselves can we finally start having a harmonious, peaceful and progressive society.

The film conveys this valuable message but unfortunately gets drowned by intense action and psychological violence, explosions, mayhem and aggressive behavior of the main characters. Most scenes may not be appropriate for young audience and parents should be cautioned against allowing their teenagers to watch the film alone.