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!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Ang Tanging Ina Nyong Lahat

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

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

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

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

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

Iskul Bukol; 20 Years After

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 19, 2008

Quarantine

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

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

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

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

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

The Day The Earth Stood Still

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 11, 2008

100

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 8, 2008

Four Christmases

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

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

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

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

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

Pride and Glory

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

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

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

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

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