Saturday, December 26, 2009

Panday

Cast: Ramon Revilla Jr., Philip Salvador, Iza Calzado, Rhian Ramos, Robert Villar; Direction: Mac Alejandre; Director: Rico Gutierrez; Producers: Annette Gozon-Abrogar, Jose Mari Abacan, Ramon Revilla, Jr; Music: Von de Guzman; Editor: Augusto Salvador; Genre: Fantasy/ Adventure; Cinematography: Regiben Romana; Distributor: GMA Films; Location: Pulang Lupa;

Technical Assessment: 3.5
Moral Assessment: 3
CINEMA Rating: For viewers of all ages

Hango sa nobela ni Carlo Caparas, Jr at isang remake ng pelikula ni Fernando Poe, Jr. nuong 1981, muling masusundan ang pinagmulan at pakikipagsapalaran ni Flavio bilang tagapagligtas ng mundo. Nang sakupin ni Lizardo (Philip Salvador) at ng kanyang mga kampon ang mundo, kumapit na lamang ang mga tao sa pag-asang darating ang isang binata na magliligtas sa kanila at magpapabalik sa paghahari ng kabutihan. Sa Pulang Lupa, si Flavio (Bong Revilla) ay isang masigasig at matapat na panday na kasalukuyang nakatira kina Lolo Isko (Jonee Gamboa) at Bugoy (Robert Villar). Bagamat atubii, tinanggap ni Flavio na siya ng manlilgtas nang makita niyang nagiging espada ang punyal na gawa mula sa bumagsak na bulalakaw mula sa langit. Dali-dali niyang tinahak ang landas papunta sa kuta ni Lizardo upang mailagtas ang kanyang minamahal na si Maria (Iza Calzado). Lingid sa kanya ay sinundad siya nina Bugoy at Estelita (Rhian Ramos) na kapwa may maghanga at pagmamahal sa kanya. Samantala, ihinasik ni Lizardo ang kanyang mga kampon upang hadlangan ang pagdating ng panday at matuloy ang kasal niya kay Maria.

Sa larangang ng visual effects at CGIs, napakalaki ng ikinahusay ng pelikulang ito at talaga namang maipagmamalaki na ang kanilang pagsusumikap na pagandahin ang aspetong teknikal upang makipagsabayan sa mga gawang Hollywood. Buong buo ang konsepto ng mga disenyo ng kasuotan, ng make-up at ng set at props ng Ang Panday. Para kang dinala sa ibang dimension kung saan ang mga tao ay nasa gitna ng makaluma at mahikal na panahon at hindi mukhang palabas sa entablado o pipitsugin palabas sa telebisyon. Nadala ni Revilla ang katauhan ng isang maginoo, mabuti at matapang na mandirigmang mortal at nakakasulasok ang kasamaan ni Lizardo sa pagganap ni Salvador. Nagawa ni Calzado na paghaluin ang misteryo at bighani sa katauhan ni Maria at nakakahawa ang kulit ni Bugoy at ng nagdadalagang si Estelita. Maaliwalas at nakakaigaya ang mga panoramic at panning shots na nagpakita ng ganda ng mga tanawin. Dahil sa mga dahilang ito, tama nga na mabigyang gantimpala ang pelikula. Kaya nga lamang, may tatlong kakulangan ang produksyon. Unang-una na ang higpit ng pagsasalaysay ng kwento. Maraming eksena at tauhan ang tila ba isiningit lamang at hindi naipaliwanag mabuti. Dagdag pa ang editing na parang nagtagpi-tagpi lamang ng mga di magkakaugnay na eksena. Ikalawa ang kakatwang pagganap ni Salvador bilang Lizardo na magkahalong Joker ng The Dark Knight at Uncle Fester ng Addams Family. Sana ay gumawa na lamang siya ng sarili niyang tauhan sa halip na manggaya ng iba. Nakakatawa rin na pagkatapos ng bawat laban ay gagawin na ni Revilla ang “panday pose” ng ilang segundo. At ikatlo, sapagkat pinagbuhusan ng panahon at ginastusan ng malaki ang mga special effects, tiniyak ng direktor na makikitang mabuti ang mga ito. Ang resulta, mabagal na aksyon, nakasasawang eksena at mga indulgent special effects.

Isang aspeto ng pagkatao ang sinikap na talakayin subalit hindi maayos na nagawa. Ito ang eksena kung saan binigyan ng pangaral ng Diwata ang bulag na si Flavio. Aniya, ang paggawa ng kabutihan, paglilingkod sa kapwa at pakikipagtunggali sa kasamaan ay isang gawaing nangangailangan ng patuloy na pag-aalay ng sarili. Hindi batayan ang ilang tagumpay, bagkus kailangang paulit-ulit na makipaglaban, masaktan, mag-alay hanggang hindi naghahari ang kabutihan. Bilang manliligtas at Christ-figure, inaasahang maraming pagsubok at paghihirap at pagdaraanan. Ang kanyang pagsuko at pagkawala ng pag-asa ay tanda ng kahinaan ng loob at pananalig sa biyaya ng Diyos. Si Hesus ay nagdaan din sa katakut-takot na pagsubok at paghihirap subalit ni minsan ay hindi siya sumuko at nawalan ng pag-asa. Gayundin, isa itong paanyaya sa bawat isa sapagkat sa mga mumunting paraan, tayo ay nagiging mga “manliligtas” na susugpo sa mga maling gawain at magpapaibayo sa kabutihan. At sa tungkuling ito, kailangan ng palagian tatag ng loob at pananalig na may isang Diyos na magbubuhos ng biyaya at paggabay.

I Love You Goodbye

Cast: Angelica Panganiban, Gabby Concepcion, Kim Chiu, Derek Ramsay, Matet de Leon, Liza Lorena, Arlene Muhlach, Ketchup Eusebio ; Director: Laurice Guillen; Screenplay: Mark Meily; Producer/ Distributor: Star Cinema; Location: Manila; Genre: Drama; Running Time: 110 mins

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

Magka-live-in sina Lizelle (Angelica Panganiban) at Adrian (Gabby Concepcion) na malaki ang agwat ng edad at estado. Ang 25 anyos na si Lizelle ay isang ulilang lubos na nagta-trabaho bilang serbedora sa coffee shop nang makilala ni Adrian, mahigit 40 anyos at may mataas na katungkulan bilang doktor sa isang malaking ospital. Maraming tutol sa kanilang relasyon lalo na ang anak ni Adrian na si Ysa (Kim Chiu) na halos kasing-edad ni Lizelle. Magugulat sina Lizelle at Adrian sa pagpapakilala ng bagong manliligaw ni Ysa na si Gary (Derek Ramsay). Sa simula pa lang ay halata ang pagkadismaya ni Adrian kay Gary, habang si Lizelle naman ay hindi mapakali. Malalaman na ito palang si Gary ay dating kasintahan ni Lizelle na iniwan siya nang walang paalam dalawang taon na ang nakararaan upang magtrabaho sa barko. Si Adrian ang siyang sumalo sa kalungkutan ni Lizelle. Ngayon si Gary ay nagbabalik sa buhay ni Lizelle upang buhayin ang dati nilang pag-ibig at si Ysa ang kanyang gagamitin upang makalapit siya dito.

Maayos ang pagkakagawa ng pelikula. Mahusay ang pagkakadirehe ni Guillen na hindi matatawaran ang galing sa paghahagod ng tamang emosyon sa bawat eksena. Maging ang pinaka-simpleng eksena ay nagniningning dahil sa hitik at lalim nang pinaghuhugutang emosyon ng mga karakter. Hindi naging melodramatiko ang pelikula. Walang katakot-takot na sampalan, walang gaanong histerya. Sumunod lamang ito sa natural na daloy ng mga pangyayari at sa mga nararapat na reaksiyon ng mga tauhan. Naging mas makapangyarihan ang pelikula sa mga sandali ng katahimikan nito kung saan madarama ng manonood ang pinagdadaanang pighati ng mga tauhan. Pawang mahuhusay lahat ng nagsiganap at bumagay sa kanila ang kani-kaniyang papel. Lumutang nang husto ang galing ni Panganiban sa pag-arte sa pelikulang ito. Kuha niya ang nararapat na komplikasyon ng tauhan na kanyang ginampanan. May ilan nga lang problema sa editing ang pelikula dala siguro marahil ng pagmamadali, pero maari na rin itong palagpasin dahil di naman gaanong nakaapekto sa kabuuang daloy. Sayang nga lang dahil kung mas napagtuunan pa ito ng pansin at napaglaanan ng panahon, magiging mas maayos pa sana ang pelikula.

Tinalakay ng pelikula ang isang sensitibong paksa ng pakikiapid. Makikita sa pelikula ang hirap na pinagdadaanan ng isang taong nasa masalimuot na relasyon. Nariyang hindi siya tanggapin ng mga kaanak at harap-harapang kutyain dahil hindi siya tunay na kapamilya. Sinundan pa ito ng mas maraming komplikasyon nang magbalik ang dating pag-ibig. Nakaugat naman ang lahat sa lalim ng emosyon at hindi lang sa tawag ng laman kung kaya't hindi mahirap unawain ang pinagdaanan ng mga tauhan. Sadyang may mga sandali na hindi mapipigil ng tao ang bugso ng kanyang damdamin. Nakakabahala ang ipinakikitang pagtatalik sa labas ng kasal. Hindi man sinabi ng pelikula na ito'y tama, hindi pa rin ito magandang halimbawa. Marahil ang mga eksenang ganito ay kailangan upang ipakita ang lalim ng relasyon ng mga tauhan, ngunit ang ganitong dahilan ay mauunawan lamang ng mga manonood na may hinog na kaisipan at nasa wastong gulang. Hindi nararapat ang ng ito sa mga manonood na wala pang 18 taong gulang.

Ang Darling Kong Aswang


Cast: Vic Sotto, Christine Reyes, Jean Garcia, Richie D Horsey; Direction: Tony Reyes; Location: Metro Manila; Genre: Comedy; Distributor: MZet Productions

Technical Assessment : 2.5
Moral Assessment : 2.5
Rating : For viewers of all ages

Ang mag-inang sina Ida (Agot Isidro) at Eliza (Christine Reyes) ay mga aswang na mababait. Sa halip na tao ay mga hayop lamang ang kanilang pinapatay at kinakain. Subalit kinailangan nilang lumikas at lumipat ng tirahan nang makarating ito sa pinuno ng kanilang sektang si Barang (Jean Garcia). Nakituloy sila sa isang kamag-anak sa baranggay kung saan naninirahan din ang biyudong si Victor (Vic Sotto). Mabait at ulirang anak at ama si Victor. Handa siyang isakripisyo ang pag-ibig kung ito ang magiging kagustuhan ng kanyang dalawang anak. Mabuti na lamang at nakasundo ng kanyang mga anak si Eliza kaya’t natuloy ang kasal ni Victor sa dalaga. Ang tanong, matatagalan ba ni Victor ang pagbabagong-anyo ng kabiyak? Gaano katagal maitatago ni Eliza ang pagiging aswang sa bago niyang pamilya? At papaano na kapag natagpuan sila ng kampon ni Barang?

Nakakaaliw ang pelikula at wala pa ring kupas si Vic Sotto sa pagbitaw ng linya. At nakakabilib din ang husay ng mga CGIs at special effects na ginamit dito. Malayo na ang ikinagaling nito kumpara sa mga naunang pelikula. Bukod rito, wala ka nang makikitang dahilan upang panuorin ito. Maraming elemento ang hindi malinaw dahil hindi man lamang ito pinagka-abalahang busisiin. Ang daloy ng kwento at ang mga eksenang ginamit para umusad ang pelikula ay para bang hindi na pinag-isipan. Bago umabot sa sentro ng kwento ay katakut-takot na mga pasakalye at walang saysay na eksena ang ipinakikita. Halos ikatlo ng palabas bago pa magkita at magkatuluyan sina Victor at Eliza. Ubod tuloy ng bagal ang pag-usad ng pelikula. Kulang din ang aspetong malikhain ang pelikula. Una, walang kabuhay-buhay gumanap si Reyes. Kulang ang alindog niya bilang kaakit-akit na dalaga at napakalamya naman niya bilang mabangis na aswang. Bukod pa rito, nakakailang na halatang-halata ang kapal ng make-up ni Reyes bilang isang probinsyanang aswang. Ni hindi man lamang pinag-aksayahan ng panahon turuan ang mga babaeng aswang ng tamang tindig at porma sa pakikipaglaban. Bagamat mahusay magpatawa, mababaw ang pagkakabuo sa katauhan ni Sotto. Siya pa rin ang Sottong napanuod sa Okay Ka Fairy Ko hanggang Iskul Bukol noong nakaraang taon. Sayang lamang ang busisi sa aspetong teknikal dahil napakababaw ng pagkakabuo sa pelikula.

Ang pinakamalaking problema ng pelikulang Pinoy ay ang pagkakatuon lamang nito sa kikitain. Basta’t may sikat na artistang bida at medyo ikakapit at pamagat o istilo ng kwento sa sikat na awitin o naunang palabas, pwede na. Hindi man lamang pagsumikapang tiyakin na malinis, hindi lamang ang teknikal na kalidad, kundi ang pinakamahalagang sangkap ng pelikula—ang takbo ng istorya at paghubog ng mga tauhan.

Sinikap ng Ang Darling Kong Aswang na sundan ang nakakikilig na dalisay na pag-iibigan sa Twilight at New Moon. Magkaibang lahing may iisang tibok ng puso. Sinuong lahat ng panganib at hadlang alang-alang sa pag-ibig. Mainam sana ang mensahe nito, kaya nga lamang, natabunan lamang ito ng mga eksenang patawa at tauhang pang comic relief. May aspetong ispiritwal din sana, kung saan ipinakitang mas mataas ang pananalig sa Diyos kaysa sa anu pa mang makalupang kapangyarihan o lakas. Kaya nga lamang, ewan kung maalala pa ito ng nanuod dahil tila ba paningit na lamang ito ng direktor sa dulong bahagi ng pelikula.

Bagamat maaring panuorin ang pelikula kahit ng mga bata, mas mabuting gabayan sila ng isang responsable at marunong na nakatatandang kasama sa panonood.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Avatar

Cast: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez; Director: James Cameron; Producers: Cameron, Jon Landau; Screenwriter: James Cameron; Music: James Homer; Editor: James Cameron, John Refoua, Stephen E. Rivkin; Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure; Distributor: 20th Century Fox; Running Time: 123 mins;

Technical Assessment: 4
Moral Assessment: 2.5
CINEMA Rating: For viewers 14 and above

Pandora is one of the smaller planets some 4.3 light years from Earth. It is a luscious and unspoiled home to the 10 foot tall blue skinned Na’vi. The humans of the Earth has encroached deep into Pandora’s forest in search for valuable minerals but are held back by the planet’s atmosphere which is deadly to them. Meanwhile, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a former US Marine now paralyzed from waist down is selected to participate in the Avatar program, wherein genetically-bred human Na’vi hybrids are created to adapt to Pandora’s atmosphere. In exchange for the ability to move and walk again, Jake must serve as a scout for the human soldiers who follow him in Pandora’s jungles. However, when Jake learns of the Na’vi culture and falls in love with Princess Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), his loyalty becomes torn between his obligation as a spy and his new found love.

AVATAR is a visual feast that tells an entertainingly tight story. Director James Cameron manages to recreate a world so charming and dreamy with its sharp CGIs and brilliant attention to technical detail. The story’s development and screenplay falls a little short as it tries hard to be relevant. Over-all the creative lapses are overtaken by the superb visuals.

At the core of a person is his loyalty to what is right and what is good. At some point, a person might be influenced by power or authority or persuaded by debt of gratitude but almost always, there will be that small voice whispering to choose love, unity, peace and brotherhood. The film illustrates a person’s hierarchy of needs and desires. It seems that man wants most what he has lost or is incapable of. He thinks he will sell even his soul just to get back what he has lost. However, at the end of the day, what will truly make one happy and content is not merely fulfilling those needs and desires but following what is true and good as dictated by the soul and heart.

The movie contains several intense war-related violence, some profanity and crude language. The film is inappropriate for very young children. Parents are strongly advised to guide their children who would like to watch the film.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Walang Hanggang Paalam

Cast: Lovi Poe, Joem Bascon, Jacky Woo, Jake Roxas, Ricardo Cepeda; Director: Ramos and Paulo Villaluna; Producers: Forward Group and Feminine Annex; Screenwriters: Ellen Ramos, Paulo Villaluna, Caloy Santos, Patricia Evangelista, Raymond Amonoy; Genre: Drama; Location: Baguio City; Running Time: 90 min.;

Technical Assessment: 2.5
Moral Assessment: 1.5
CINEMA Rating: For mature viewers 18 and above

Maglalayas ang 16-taong-gulang na si Maria (Lovi Poe) sa poder ng kanyang amain (Ricardo Cepeda) upang sumama sa kanyang kasintahang si Ryan. Sa Baguio sila tutuloy na dalawa at dito ay makikilala nila sa magkahiwalay na pagkakataon si Yoshi (Jacky Woo) isang Hapon na nagbalik sa Pilipinas upang hanapin ang dating pag-ibig bago man lamang siya bawian ng buhay dahil sa sakit na cancer. Habang si Ryan ay nagnanais na makasiping sa wakas si Maria, ang huli nama’y nais na maglibang sa labas ng kuwarto. Sa labis na pagkainip ay aalis mag-isa si Maria at dito ay makakasama niya at makikilala ng mas malalim si Yoshi. Mapapalagay ang loob ni Maria dito. Samantala, ang amain naman niya ay umupa ng imbestigador (Jake Roxas) upang ipahanap siya. Hawak nito ang susi sa isang pinakatatagong sikreto na magbabago sa buhay nilang lahat na nagsasanga-sanga ang mga kuwento sa maliit na siyudad ng Baguio.

Sa umpisa’y pawang may lalim na nais ipahatid ang kuwento ng Walang Hanggang Paalam. Pinaiisip nito ang manonood sa kung paanong magkakaron ng koneksyon ang iba’t-ibang tauhan na may kani-kaniyang pinanggalingan. Nababalot ng katahimikan at lungkot ang kabuuan ng pelikula. Karamihan sa mga nais nitong sabihin ay maririnig sa nakabibinging mga katahimikan. Pero ang katahimikan ding ito ang siyang dahilan kung bakit sa bandang huli’y walang malinaw na nasabi ang pelikula. Sayang sapagkat mahusay sana ang mga nagsiganap. Natali lamang sila sa limitadong materyal na hindi nagsubok payabungin ng maayos ang daloy ng emosyon. Kulang sa tamang hagod ang mga eksena at magtatalo ang lohika at emosyon sa karamihan ng mga pangyayari. May ilang koneksyon din na sadyang nakasanga sa kabuang kuwento anumang pilit gawin na ito ay ikonekta. Kung susumahin, mayroon naman talaga sanang kuwento na nais itong iparating. Yun nga lang, hindi naging gaanong epektibo dahil sa maaga at pilit na pagbunyag ng ilang sikreto na dapat sana’y kalaunan pa lamang malalaman ng manonood.

Ninais marahil ng mga may-akda ng Walang Hanggang Paalam na maglahad ng naiibang kuwento na tumatalakay sa pre-marital sex, insesto at homoseksualidad bagama’t hindi na naman na talagang bago ang mga ito. Wala ring bagong mapapala sa pelikula kung aral ang pag-uusapan. Nagsimula ang kuwento sa pagrerebelde sa magulang. Matapos ay sumama sa kasintahang ang nais naman ay makuha ang pagkakababae ng nobya. Mahihirapan ang nobyo ngunit kataka-takang maagang bibigay ang babae sa isang estranghero. Hindi rin malinaw kung bakit kinailangang ilagay pa sa kuwento ang ilang eksena na patungkol sa homosekwalidad. Pati ang insesto ay hindi na rin naharap at natalakay ng husto. Pawang pinalabas lamang na ang mga ito ay nangyayari at ginagawa ng walang anumang malinaw na dahilan at sadyang wasak na ang batayang moral ng mga kabataan pati na ng mga nakakatanda sa lipunan. Labis na nakakabahala ang pelikulang ito at nararapat lamang sa mga manonood na may hinog na pag-iisip. Bagama’t walang hubaran sa pelikula, ang kabuuang konsepto nito ay masyadong sensitibo kung hindi man eskandaloso para sa mga manonood.

Inglourious Basterds

Cast: Brad Pitt, Melanie Laurent, Christoph Waltz, Eli Roth, Michael Fassbender, Diance Kruger; Director: Quentin Tarantino; Producer: Lawrence Bender; Screenwriter: Quentin Tarantino; Editor: Sally Menke; Genre: Drama/ War; Cinematography: Robert Richardson; Distributor: Universal Pictures; Location: France; Running Time: 153 min.;

Technical Assessment: 4
Moral Assessment: 2
CINEMA Rating: For mature viewers 18 and above

During the 1941 World War, Shosanna (Melanie Laurent) becomes the lone survivor after Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) has her entire family murdered because they are Jews. Meanwhile, 1st Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) recruits several Jewish American soldiers to parachute into France and savagely kill as many German soldiers as they can to cause panic and chaos amongst their army. “The Basterds”, as they are to be known, make sure to leave one survivor with the swastika carved on his forehead so that he may forever remember the atrocities he has done. Four years after, Soshana, under a new identity, operates a small theatre in Paris. When Frederick Zoller, a celebrity German soldier whose life story has been turned into a propaganda film, convinces the Nazi propaganda minister to premiere his movie in her theatre, she decides to avenge the death of her family and burn down her movie house with all the Nazi high ranking officials inside. Simultaneously, the British learn about the premier night and send Lieutenant Archie Hicox, (Michael Fassbender) under the guise of a film critic, to team up with the Basterds for a surprise attack on the theatre. Unfortunately, Landa remains quick-witted and tries to unfold the assassination plan. Who gets whom first will be revealed when the lights turn low and the opening credits start rolling.

Inglourious Basterds, title deliberately misspelled by Tarantino, is a clever war film loosely based on the 1978 films like Dirty Dozen and Inglorious Bastards. He emphasizes, however, that his story is strictly his. Although it is obvious that the movie thrives on a fantasy world during the war and none of the characters or scenes are possible, Tarantino still delivers a powerfully entertaining movie beyond rationalization. The performances of the three main characters are outstanding; particularly Waltz, who deserves his Cannes award for his portrayal of a sleazy cold blooded sadist. The production values are surreal but penetrate the subconscious and leave a lasting memory long after the scene has passed. Technically, the movie is as Tarantino as Tarantino has been. You can only appreciate the visual poetry if you are attuned to the filmmaker’s way of interpreting reality.

Violence begets violence. When one’s measure of justice is in the form of revenge, you can be sure that both the aggrieved and the aggressor will have neither peace nor satisfaction. To think that violence is the solution to everything is a twisted view of life. The movie (as most Tarantino movies are) is laden with visual and psychological brutality with very little regard to its moral consequences. It emphasizes revenge and aggression as a way of life and a form of rectification.

The movie is not suitable for the very young or sensitive audiences.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Ninja Assassin

Cast: Rain, Sung Kang, Randall Duk Kim, Jonathan Chan-Pensley, Yuki Iwamoto, III-Young Kim, Ben Miles, Naomie Harris; Director: James McTeigue; Producers: Grant Hill, Joel Silver, Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski; Screenwriters: Matthew Sand, J. Michael Straczynski; Music: Ilan Eshkeri; Editor: Gian Ganziano, Joseph Jett Sally; Genre: Action/ Crime/ Drama/ Thriller; Cinematography: Karl Walter Lindenlaub; Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures; Location: Berlin, Germany; Running Time: 99 min.;

Technical Assessment: 3.5
Moral Assessment: 2
CINEMA Rating: For viewers 14 and above

Lord Ozunu (Sho Kosugi) is master of a secret society that abducts children, adopts orphans and then raises them to become ninja assassins. One of the orphans trained from childhood is Raizo (Rain), groomed by Lord Ozunu (Sho Kosugi) to become his successor, and favored over his own son Takeshi (Rick Yune). Raizo manages to escape the isolated training camp when his sweetheart, a fellow trainee, is ordered killed by Lord Ozunu as she is caught one rainy night while attempting to escape. Soon a fugitive in Europe, Raizo crosses paths in Berlin with Mika Coretti (Naomi Harris), a Europol agent who traces a link between the Ozunu and recent political assassinations. In hot pursuit of Raizo, the Ninja assassins move West, marking for assassination Mika and everyone else involved in the Europol investigation. Raizo manages to escape the Ninja assassins while protecting Mika from the same, but the long and bloody trail of dead bodies finally leads to a confrontation between Raizo and Ozunu and Takeshi.

Ninja fans would perhaps go for the action here, finely choreographed combat scenes that spill blood at every twist, kick, chop and turn. The story is of revenge, flimsy and implausible, and certainly possesses no motive that would ever justify the body count—that is, if the viewer can even keep track. If you are sensitive, you might wince at certain scenes, as when a very young boy is whipped mercilessly with nary a whimper allowed to express his pain. Beastly! You might also tend to duck in your seat when those double-edged, four-point star-shaped blades virtually whiz past you to decapitate or mutilate human beings. The fight scenes, though, are rather dark—to minimize the revolting visual violence?—but what the eyes cannot see, the ears can hear in the superbly engineered sound design: guns bursting, chains, swords and other deadly metal gadgets clashing, immersing the audience in all in the name of revenge.

99 minutes of unadulterated murder and bloodletting can weary even the most insensitive viewer. Telling ourselves the fight scenes are only dance steps—and the blood only ketchup—we endured it to the finish in order to give it Ninja Assassins fair judgment. But we also found ourselves wondering if people that inhuman could really exist—kidnapping or adopting orphans and raising them into ogres. It reminded us of photographs circulating in the net of 8-year old boys armed with assault rifles and programmed to hate humanity and kill half of it. One thing we have learned from CINEMA’s nine-year existence is: if some movies are not to your liking—like slapstick, stupid horror flicks and this bloody thing—you can still get your money’s worth if you let them lead you into closely examining the human condition. All movies—from corn to porn—reflect reality somehow, reality outside or inside our minds, and being aware of the sickness in reality could provide us with the impetus to work for its healing. Meanwhile, be warned: the carnage in Ninja Assassins is enough to make burgers to feed America for a day. Pass the ketchup, please.

Biyaheng Lupa


Cast: Jacklyn Jose, Angel Aquino, Eugene Domingo, Andoy Ranay, Coco Martin, Julio Diaz, Allan Paule, Carlo Guevarra, Susan Africa, Shamaine Buencamino; Director: Armando Lao; Producer: Joji Alonso; Screenwriter: Armando Lao; Genre: Drama; Distributor: Quantum Films; Location: Manila/ Bicol; Running Time: 90 min.;

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

Lulan ng isang bus na magmumula sa Maynila patungong Legaspi ang iba’t-ibang klase ng pasaherong may kani-kaniyang dalahin sa buhay. Sa bawat pagsara ng pintuan ng bus, tatahimik ang lahat at maririnig lamang ng mga manonood ang iba’t-ibang saloobin ng mga pasahero na tumatakbo lamang sa kanilang mga isip. Sa pamamagitan din nito makikilala ang iba’t-ibang tauhan: si Helen (Jacklyn Jose) ay kakatagpuin ang kalaguyo nitong higit na mas bata sa kanya. Lingid ito sa kaalaman ng kanyang asawa kung kaya’t gayon na lang ang pagtatago niya sa sulok ng bus sa takot na may makakita sa kanya. Si Alex (Julio Diaz) naman ay inaasam na makumbinse ang kapatid na kanyang pupuntahan upang hikayating sumali sa kanyang negosyong networking. Ito raw ang magpapayaman sa kanya. Si Obet (Coco Martin) naman ay maghahanap ng trabaho sa tulong ng kaibigan upang takasan ang responsibilidad sa nabaldadong ina. Si Mickey (Carlo Guevarra) naman ay isang pipi’t-bingi na pupuntahan ang puntod ng tunay na ina lingid sa kaalaman ng pamilyang umampon sa kanya. Si Fina (Shamaine Buencamino) ay kakatapos lamang sumali sa isang game show sa Maynila. Uuwi siyang luhaan at talunan. Ito at marami pang ibang kuwento ang masasaksihan habang tumatakbo ang bus kasabay ng ilang mga aberya, abala at paghinto-hinto nito sa mga estasyon. Makarating kaya silang lahat ng maluwalhati sa kanilang patutunguhan?

Kakaiba ang konsepto ng pelikula. Walang bida, walang kontrabida. Wala ring gaanong dayalogo at tanging mga nasa sa isip ng mga tauhan ang kadalasang maririning ng mga manonood. Tunay nga namang malaman at hitik sa kuwento ang isipan ng bawat taong nasa isang mahaba at halos nakakainip na biyahe. Mahusay ang pagkakasulat ng pelikula. Bagama’t wala itong pinanghahawakan na masasabing kuwento, may mga naipaabot naman itong malinaw na saloobin at damdamin. Nakatulong din nang malaki ang mahuhusay na artistang nagsiganap bilang mga interesanteng mga tauhan sa bus. Markado ang bawat sandali nila sa pelikula. Bagama’t ang kanilang kuwento ay maririnig lamang at hindi makikita, damang-dama pa rin ang mga ito dala ng mga nangungusap nilang mga mata at kilos. Halong lungkot, takot, tuwa ang mararamdaman ng manonood sa mga patong-patong na kuwentong masasaksihan nila sa loob ng isang bumibiyaheng bus.

Naging napakalawak ng sakop ng pelikula kung usaping moral ang pagbabalingan. Hindi naman kasi nagbalak ang may-akda nito na magparating ng lehitimong kuwento. Sa halip, ang pelikula ay naglatag lamang ng iba’t-ibang uri ng saloobin. Mga sitwasyon ng buhay na talaga namang nangyayari. Ang babaeng nakikiapid sa kuwento ay pilit na itinatago ang ginagawang kasalanan. Hindi siya nagsisisi sa kanyang ginagawa ngunit hindi rin naman niya ito ipinagmamalaki at kitang walang kapayapaan ang kanyang isip. Ang taong walang inisip kundi pera at pagiging ganid ay wala ring kasiyahan at kapayapaan. Hindi rin matahimik ang isang babaeng nabuntis sa pagkadalaga at itinakwil ng mga magulang. Ang isang anak na tinangkang takasan ang pag-aaruga sa ina ay nagsisi at bumalik din. Ito at marami pang ibang kuwento ang maaring kapulutan ng aral o pagninilay sa pelikula. Sa bandang huli’y sinasabi ng pelikula na ang tao kailanma’y hindi nag-iisa sa paglalakbay sa buhay. May mga tao siyang makakasabay, makakasalamuha at makakaisa ng damdamin. Sadyang nilikha ang tao upang mapabilang sa isang pamilya, isang komunidad at isang simbahan. Magkakaiba man ang landas na tatahakin, sa bandang huli’y malalaman nating iisa rin ang nais nating patunguhang lahat – ang walang hanggang ligaya at kapayapaan at yan ay siguradong hindi matatagpuan sa lupa, gaano man kalayo ang ating lakbayin.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Amelia

ASSESSMENT ONLY
Cast: Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, Ewan McGregor, Christopher Eccleston, Joe Anderson; Director: Mira Nair; Producers: Ted Waitt, Kevin Hyman, Lydia Dean Pilcher; Screenwriters: Ron Bass, Anna Hamilton Phelan; Music: Gabriel Yared; Editor: Allyson C. Johnson, L. Percy; Genre: Drama; Cinematography: Stuart Dryburg; Distributor: Searchlight Pictures; Location: USA/ Africa/ Asia; Running Time: 111min.;

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

BRIEF FILM SYNOPSIS

Visionary. Lover. Dreamer. Fighter. Legend. Icon. AMELIA.

An extraordinary life of adventure, celebrity and continuing mystery comes to light in AMELIA, a vast, thrilling account of legendary aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart (two time Academy Award® winner Hilary Swank).

After becoming the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, Amelia was thrust into a new role as America's sweetheart - the legendary "goddess of light," known for her bold, larger-than-life charisma. Yet, even with her global fame solidified, her belief in flirting with danger and standing up as her own, outspoken woman never changed. She was an inspiration to people everywhere, from First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt (Cherry Jones) to the men closest to her heart: her husband, promoter and publishing magnate George P. Putnam (Golden Globe® winner Richard Gere), and her long time friend and lover, pilot Gene Vidal (Ewan McGregor). In the summer of 1937, Amelia set off on her most daunting mission yet: a solo flight around the world that she and George both anxiously foresaw as destined, whatever the outcome, to become one of the most talked-about journeys in history. --Fox Searchlight

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Disney's A Christmas Carol

Cast (Voice): Jim Carey, Steve Valentine, Daryl Sabara, Amber Gainey,Meade; Director: Robert Zemeckis; Producers: Jack Rapke, Steve Starkey, Robert Zemeckis; Screenwriters: Charles Dickens, Robert Zemeckis; Music: Alan Silvestri; Editor: Jeremiah O’Driscoll; Genre: Animation/ Drama/ Family/ Fantasy; Cinematography: Robert Presley; Distributor: Walt Disney Studious Motion Pictures; Running Time: 96 mins.;

Technical Assessment: 3
Moral Assessment: 3.5
CINEMA Rating: For viewers age 13 and below with parental guidance

The classic tale of Charles Dickens comes to life in this 3D animation: Ebenezer Scrooge (Jim Carrey) has been living a miser’s life of indifference towards the less fortunate. He maintains such attitude with crankiness and grumpiness of an old man even during Christmas season wherein he outwardly dismisses any idea of generosity, good will and merry-making. On Christmas eve, the ghost of his business partner, Jacob Marley (Gary Oldman), visits him to warn him about the chains he would bear if he does not change his ways. He is further warned of the three ghosts who will visit and show him the error of his ways. Indeed, on that same night, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his Christmas past, present and future to show him everything that he has become, and all the things he has lost and about to loose if he doesn’t change.

This latest animated version remains faithful to the text of the Charles Dickens classic tale. It works quite well given the premise that it is the same classic story the audience is about to see only with a different twist of some imaginative 3D animation. The result is a pretty impressive visual treat that is able to combine the story’s drama, humor and horror. It only feels a little odd to hear characters speak the classic Victorian language in what appears to be a techno-heavy animation. But then, Jim Carrey pulls it off with his enthusiastic performance. He is effective in all the characters he voiced in the movie. Other voices come out very well too including that of Gary Oldman. But given the dark treatment, the movie may not appeal well to the younger audience who is supposedly the film’s target. As the movie tries hard to please and encompass all audiences of all generations, it ends up as just another 3D animation. The exhilarating feel of 3D experience is there while watching but it never lingers after.

A Christmas Carol is one classic tale that tells one classic moral – charity, the very essence of the Christmas season and the core of Christ’s teachings. Scrooge is one classic character that audiences can easily relate to.

There is actually a Scrooge in every one of us whenever we act greedy, selfish, insensitive or indifferent to the needs of others. Although the film shows how one person becomes who he is by the circumstances that happened in his life, it strongly suggests that humans still has the capacity to change his own circumstance only if he so will it. The message is clear: we can do nothing with our past but we certainly can still do something with our present and future. But then, such message is told is a quite dark manner using horrific ghosts and images that can be a bit disturbing for the younger audience. The film also talks about death all along which might not be grasped by children without the guidance of an adult. But the entire context of the film would teach the young ones and the young-at-heart valuable lessons in life so it remains to be worth watching. CINEMA strongly recommends parents to accompany their children in watching the movie.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Paranormal Activity

Cast: Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat, Mark Fredrichs, Ashley Palmer, Amber Armstrong; Director: Oren Peli; Producers: Jason Blum, Oren Peli; Screenwriter: Oren Peli; Editor: Oren Peli; Genre: Horror/ Thriller; Distributor: Paramount Pictures; Location: San Diego, California, USA; Running Time: 86 min.;

Technical Assessment: 3.5
Moral Assessment: 2
CINEMA Rating: For mature viewers 18 and above

Live-in partners Katie (Katie Featherston) and Micah (Micah Sloat) move in to a large, hardly used house in San Diego. Katie has been hounded since childhood by strange presences, and this time it seems a presence has followed her to this new residence. Strange happenings at night in a bedroom upstairs stirs Micah to document it with his new handheld camera. Experimenting with the camera like a little boy with a new toy, Micah shoots Katie and the house interior from various angles. Then he hits upon a bright idea: why not set up the camera on a tripod at the foot of their bed and leave it running to record happenings while they sleep. The camera indeed records paranormal activity—like the bedroom door moving by itself, to begin with. Katie calls in a psychic (Mark Fredrichs) who upon entering the door refuses to stay, saying it is not just a ghost in the house with Micah and Katie but a demonic presence. The recordings get eerier and eerier each time until Katie, seriously disturbed now, begs Micah to leave the house. But Micah would hear none of it, obsessed as he is with his experiment, thinking that everything could be explained if he took enough evidence of the nocturnal activity. One night, something happens that hurts Katie and scares Micah to the point of urging her to abandon the house. But this time, Katie, seemingly too weak to move, begs Micah to just stay.

Paranormal Activity is a nifty little horror film so flawlessly done you’d think it’s a true story. The devises used make the story appear as though the camera findings—recorded in black and white— were discovered after the fact. The movie does away with the usual opening credits other films have, saying only in a soundless frame that it “thanks the families of Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat”; it also ends with a similar frame saying “current whereabouts unknown” to make the viewer think they have just seen a documentary. The characterization and acting, especially Katie’s, is seamless as far as the purpose of the movie goes. Both acting and wardrobe—loose t-shirts and boxer shorts for sleeping and unattractive clothes for daily wear—create a true image of the characters as ordinary people: Katie as a graduate student, and Micah as a day trader. For a movie that has only two principal actors and shot mostly inside the house, Paranormal Activity succeeds in holding the viewer’s breath through all of 96 minutes. It knows how to play upon the audience’s imagination and fear of the unseen, and presents the camera, an inanimate object, as a credible and objective witness to the paranormal activity.

How Katie and Micah end up is what merits scrutiny here. As the paranormal activity escalates to a critical turning point, it becomes obvious that there is something more than the paranormal in the movie’s message, and that is the very “normal” tendency of an immature man to be insensitive to a woman’s cry for help. (Spoiler coming!) Katie could have been saved were it not for Micah’s fixation with his camera. His goal was to document everything, not to help Katie. Too pragmatic for his own good, he failed to sympathize with Katie in her darkest hour, angrily took the wooden cross from her grasp and threw it to the fire. The consequence? See for yourself.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Twilight Saga; New Moon

Cast: Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner; Director: Chris Weitz; Producers: Wyck Godfrey; Screenwriters: Melissa Rosenberg, Stephenie Meyer; Music: Alexandre Desplat; Editor: Peter Lambert; Genre: Drama/ Fantasy/ Romance; Cinematography: Javier Aguirresarobe; Distributor: Summit Entertainment; Location: USA; Running Time: 130 mins.;

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

In The Twilight Saga: New Moon, gentleman vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) breaks off with his mortal sweetheart Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) as the whole clan leaves sunless Forks, Washington, to reside in Tuscany in Italy. He makes the sacrifice in order to put her out of danger—she being so hopelessly in love with a vampire—but she clings to him. So he tells her coldly instead that he’s leaving because he doesn’t want her anymore, and that he doesn’t want her because she’s not good for him. So he disappears with the rest of the Cullens.

The depressed Bella floats through school most of the year, crushed by mixed emotions of dejection, confusion and general angst. In Edward’s absence, Bella gradually finds consolation in being with the American Indian boy Jake Black (Taylor Lautner), a solicitous friend and covert admirer but who has a dark secret of his own to keep.

Partly in desperation and partly to prove her courage to herself, she dives off a seaside cliff, something that the clairvoyant Alice Cullen in Tuscany perceives to be a suicidal act. Alice returns to Forks to support Bella who readily agrees to fly with her to Italy. Meanwhile, Edward, believing Bella to be dead, would rather be killed than join the powerful Volturi vampires trying to recruit him. As he strips to expose himself to the sunlight to invite death by murder, Bella arrives and rushes to his arms. To make a long story short, the reunion climaxes in the burning issue—Bella wants forever, so she must become a vampire herself. Edward says no because to be immortal as a vampire is to be damned, and because he truly loves her, he says no again and again. As they kiss tenderly, the question burns on: to bite or not to bite.

New Moon divides moviegoers, although it seems one goes into the theater with one’s mind already made up to be turned either on or off by the Gothic romance. Playing to full houses, New Moon will satisfy its target audience—the cooing, sighing and gasping tween-agers and believers in romance of all ages, but the movie will be impaled over the barbecue pit by those predisposed to find the ridiculous in Stephanie Meyer’s brand of vampirism.

Prejudices among the audience run high. The con-camp says Pattinson with his paler-than-pale skin, lipstick-red lips and dead-pan acting is too wooden to be real; voices from the pro-side claim that’s to be expected of a century-old vampire raised at a time when good manners were in. One side cringes with disappointment at the lack of fantabulous CGI (as may be found in good disaster movies or any Harry Potter sequel); the other side goes gaga over the cool werewolves. Cynics think New Moon is corny and boring; fans think it’s the ultimate high.

But that’s the hidden attraction in New Moon—audiences are hardly aware that they are strongly emotionally involved, whether they are for or against the fiction they’re watching on the screen. The fact is, both are buying tickets to see it, so who’s the real winner here? On its opening day, it already whets the audience’s appetite for its sequel: Will Bella finally become a vampire? Will they marry? Will they have children? Will the children also be vampires? Or are vampires allowed to have sex at all? Who’ll finally emerge as winner in the end—the Cullens, the Volturi, or the werewolves who eat vampires? Reality check: Hey, guys, it’s only a movie—and the real winner is the one who has the formula to provoke or to stroke you, the paying public.

Meanwhile, where does CINEMA stand? What does it say to benefit its own audience who look to it for guidance in film appreciation? CINEMA has received nudges from devout Christians who frown upon New Moon in the same way they censure Da Vinci Code or Harry Potter, crying out, “Why promote vampirism? The bible says yadda-yadda-yadda…”

While acknowledging such protests as valid in their own right, CINEMA also goes steps further to examine the Twilight series’ phenomenal lure and sees it as a writing on the wall. What sets this romance apart from the rest? When you watch it in a theater, be sensitive to reactions around you: when do the females squeal, when do they hold their breath? Are the males quiet because they’re bored or because they’re too embarrassed to admit they are getting carried away just like the females?

The Edward character looks like a Vogue fashion model walking off the ramp but behaves like a desirable but unattainable vestal virgin. If she wanted to, the Bella persona could very well be a sought-after queen among mortals but instead she is willing to give up her very soul to be with her beloved forever and ever. What is this saying to moviegoers grown inured to movies where explicit and illicit sex has become de rigueur? What is its message to a society where wife-swapping or so-called sexually liberated celebrities blatantly change bedmates as often as they change bedsheets?

Outstanding in the Edward-Bella love story is the innocent interaction between the lovers. Lust is not the overpowering force that draws the lovers to each other—it is the tension that arises between self-satisfaction and self-denial. Love here is not an overnight affair—it is genuine caring for the loved one and the desire to give oneself to the other completely at all cost. Might it not be that deep down inside people are really longing for chastity and commitment in love relationships?

Friday, November 20, 2009

2012

Cast: John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet, Thandie Newton, Oliver Platt, Danny Glover; Director: Ronald Emmerich; Producers: Harald KLoser, Larry Franco; Screenwriters: Harald Kloser, Ronald Emmerich; Music: Harald Kloser, Thomas Wander, James Seymour Breet; Editor: David Brenner, Peter S. Elliott; Genre: Sci-fi – Disaster Suspense; Cinematography: Dean Semler; Distributor: Sony Pictures / Columbia Pictures; Location: Los Angeles – Himalayas; Running Time: 153 mins.;

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

In 2009, Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) travels to India to meet Satnam (Jimi Mistry) and finds out what his friend has discovered about the rapidly increasing temperature of the earth’s core. He proceeds to Washington DC and submits a report to the Chief of Staff, Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt) and to the President (Danny Glover). The succeeding years see the world preparing for the inevitable end while billionaires start buying tickets for a guaranteed slot in a ship for the selected few who will be saved. The story jumps to 2012 where Jackson Curtis (John Cusack), a divorced father working as a limousine driver and writer takes his two children on a camping trip to Yellowstone National Park. He meets Charlie Frost (Woody Harrelson), a local radio announcer who talks about the Mayan doomsday prediction. By the time Jackson returns his children to his ex-wife Kate (Amanda Peet) the earth has began to crack and crumble. Jackson races back and saves his children, Kate and her boyfriend Gordon with the plane he has hired. But they discover that the ships that were built to save humanity are in China and fly on board the plane of Russian billionaire Yuri (Zlatco Buric) and his family. They crash land in the Himalayas and are abandoned by Yuri as he presents the ticket he has bought for himself and his twin sons two years ago. Jackson’s group is rescued by Buddhist Monk Nima (Osric Chau) and his family. Meanwhile, Adrian convinces the world leaders to allow more people to board the ship. As the gates are lowered, Jackson’s group are pinned to the bottom of the ship and the device they used to enter gets stuck between the gears. The ship, unable to start its engines, is swept by the strong current towards Mt. Everest. With a time ticking fast, will they be able to save themselves and assure the continuation of humanity?

2012 promises spectacular effects and heart-stopping suspense and successfully delivers just that. The two and half hours pass almost unnoticeably as viewers are engrossed with the massive destruction on screen. Other than that, the movie is just another hi-tech end-of-the-world /disaster flick— entertainingly empty, with the plot being a little more than a framing device for the movie. Jackson Curtis is just too heroic, and the Curtis family just too darned lucky escaping gaping earth and lava missiles. The side stories that should have provided the drama and highlighted humanity are trite and predictable. (Imagine having a literal deus ex machina take care of a boyfriend so that protagonist and leading lady could get back together!) The attempt to inject humor is not enough to salvage a badly written script. Overall, the movie is a visual treat with astounding CGIs and effects, but lacks the creative prowess to be memorable.

If the movie becomes “memorable” at all, it would be for the distasteful way Emmerich kills six billion earthlings as though the end of the world were just another computer game. The only one moral function of a disaster movie is to focus on man’s altruism in times of crisis. We see how people begin to work together despite previous differences. We witness how a stranger is suddenly willing to sacrifice his safety or at times his life to save another. And almost, always, we hear a grandstanding from one of the characters about unity, humanity and sacrifice. 2012 has all these and delivers the same message: humanity ends when we stop fighting for each other. Unfortunately, Emmerich portrays disaster and destruction in such a brutal and unsettling manner that it creates a discord between the movie’s message and its presentation. Good disaster movies leave the audience teary-eyed with hope and triumphant compassion for the survivors, but with 2012, you are just glad no one else has to die again. (On another note, one will observe why mostly Catholic icons were destroyed. In Rome, the Sistine Chapel ceiling splits open right where the fingertips of God and Adam meet; the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica topples over and crushes the praying masses at the Square. In Rio de Janeiro, the Christ the Redeemer statue on Corcovado Mountain in Rio de Janeiro tumbles ingloriously to the ground. A venerable Buddhist monastery is washed away, but not one minaret is shown destroyed. The sharp-eyed might also notice images in the chapel where the black US president prays—one wonder if that is intended to endear Obama to the Catholics). The movie is not suitable for very young and sensitive audiences.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

All About Steve

Cast: Sandra Bullock, Thomas, Haden Church, Bradley Cooper; Director: Phil Traill; Producers: Sandra Bullock, Mary Mclaglen; Screenwriter: Kim Barker; Music: Christophe Beck; Editor: Rod Dean, Virginia Katz; Genre: Comedy; Cinematography: Tim Suhrstedt; Distributor: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation; Location: California, USA; Running Time: 100 mins;

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

Mary Horowitz (Sandra Bullock) is a “cruciverbalist”, one who constructs crossword puzzles for a living, an occupation so consuming for her that she neglects every other aspect of her life. Fortyish, she has no social life, much less a boyfriend—and it’s a cause for concern for her parents who eventually set her up on a blind date. The guy, Steve (Bradley Cooper) turns out to be a charming television cameraman for a cable news network. The hyperactive, hyper-articulate Mary programs herself to hook Steve, showing cleavage and climbing all over him in the car—even before they could motor off the driveway. Steve’s phone rings—it’s an urgent call, the kind TV crews get when something newsworthy erupts, and it means Steve must run off, now, to cover a picket outside a hospital over a remedial surgery of a three-legged infant. Torn between lust and relief, he tries to be nice and tells Mary it would have been more fun if he could take her along. Man-hungry and gullible, Mary swallows the white lie and starts dogging Steve wherever his work takes him. He dreads seeing her stalking him from one news site to the next, but she hardly knows she’s making a fool of herself, being egged on by Steve’s colleague, the TV reporter Hartman Hughes (Thomas Hayden Church), who plays the practical joke to get even with Steve.

Sandra Bullock’s agent must be properly guided—or fired. Choosing a role that projects Bullock as a virtual member of the Three Stooges is sealing her fate as a serious actress. Maybe the problem is with Mary the character, or with director Phil Traill’s handling of character and actress. We give the benefit of the doubt to Trailler’s intention to celebrate Mary’s supposedly delightful eccentricity and encourage the audience to be emotionally sensitive to such a person, but the resultant picture of the bungling, sex-starved Mary is more grating than funny. Other actors could act silly and still be funny, like Mr. Bean, but to say that the overacting Bullock here could be Mrs. Bean would be a great insult to Mr. Bean. If Bullock wants to redeem herself in moviedom, her next role should bring to the fore her innate gifts as an actor—that is, if she’s getting any next offer at all.

All About Steve takes digs at media that the viewer ought to consider more seriously. What kind of news do media go crazy about? Controversies over “freaks of nature” like three-legged babies? Unfortunate accidents like that with deaf children falling into a well? Why use deaf children? The character Mary here is a caricature that stereotypes women—it implies that brains automatically exclude common sense. As her work with crossword puzzles shows, Mary knows many more words than the average person but she cannot utilize this knowledge to guide her actions. There is an attempt at a win-win situation in the end, but it comes too late. Whatever traces of sympathy, whatever hope for transformation the audience might have had for Mary earlier, is overpowered by the annoying stupidity she has displayed all that time.

Ang Tanging Pamilya; A Marry-Go-Round

Cast; Ai Ai Delas Alas, Joseph Estrada, Sam Milby, Toni Gonzaga, Aling Dionisia Pacquiao: Director: Wenn Deramas; Genre: Comedy; Distributor: Star Cinema: Location: Philippines ; Running Time: 100 mins.;

Technical Assessment: 2.5
Moral Assessment: 2
CINEMA Rating: For viewers 14 and above

Makikilala ni Charlie (Toni Gonzaga) si Prince (Sam Milby) sa kanyang panaginip at sa halos pareho ding araw ay makikilala niya ito sa tunay na buhay. Yun nga lang, si Prince ay sa Amerika namamalagi kung kaya't nagkasya na lamang ang dalawa na payabuningin ang kanilang relasyon nang magkalayo ang lugar. Salamat sa tulong ng makabagong teknolohiyang tulad ng Internet. Makalipas ang ilang buwan ay susurpresahin ni Prince si Charlie sa kanilang bahay at agad itong yayayaing magpakasal. Ngunit agad itong tututulan ng ama ni Charlie na si Dindo (Joseph Estrada) at kanyang pahihirapan si Prince bago tuluyang mapapayag. Magkakaron din ng kaunting pagtutol ang ina ni Charlie na si Sunshine (Ai-ai delas Alas) sa takot na mangyari kay Charlie ang dinanas kay Dindo na mas inuuna ang kapakanan ng ibang tao bago ang asawa at pamilya. Mas lalong lalala ang sitwasyon sa pagdating ng mga magulang ni Prince dahil hindi nila makakasundo ang ina nito (Dionisia Pacquiao).

Palasak na ang uri ng komedyang ginamit sa pelikula kung kaya't hindi ito naging matagumpay sa paghahatid ng akmang aliw at katatawanan sa mga manonood. Bagama't mahuhusay naman ang mga nagsiganap, hindi pa rin kinayang salbahin ang kabuuan sa sobrang daming butas ng kuwento na halatang hindi na pinagbuhusan ng pansin. Sabog ang daloy ng kuwento at hindi malaman ang nais nilang palabasin. Kulang na kulang ito sa nararapat na karakterisasyon kaya't pawang pilit ang mga sitwasyon at halos walang mararamdamang simpatya sa mga tauhan. Wala tuloy epekto ang mga eksenang dapat sana ay nakakaiyak o nakakatawa dahil sa walang pinatutunguhang daloy ng damdamin. Maraming tauhan ang naging pawang palamuti lamang sa kuwento at walang anumang iniambag tulad ni Dionisia Pacquiao na pawang pinagkatuwaan lamang sa pelikula. Si Estrada naman ay pawang nangangampaniya lamang sa pagsisingit ng mga konsepto ng maka-mahirap at maka-pamilya. Ang dating tuloy ay kulang na kulang sa sinseridad ang pelikula sa kabuuan.

Bagama't Ang Tanging Pamilya ang pamagat ng pelikula, pawang hindi naman nito gaanong pinahahalagahan ang pamilya bilang isang sagradong sangay ng simbahan at lipunan. Kitang-kita ang pagbabalewala ng padre de pamilya sa saktramento ng kasal alang-alang sa kapakanan ng ibang tao. Oo nga't mahalagang bigyang-pansin ang nangangailangan ngunit marami pa namang paraan ng pagtulong na hindi kinakailangang isakripisyo ang mahahalagang panahon para sa pamilya. O baka rin isa lamang itong pangangampanya ni Estrada? Hindi rin katanggap-tanggap na ituring na isang katatawanan lamang ang isang napakahalagang sakramento na tulad ng kasal. Marami ring maling halimbawa ang ipinakita sa pelikula tulad ng biglaan na lamang na pagpapakasal na hindi dumaraan sa tamang proseso. Nakakabahala rin ang kawalang-galang na pagturing ni Prince sa ina ni Charlie na umabot pa sa pananakit na pisikal at pinalabas pa itong katawa-tawa. Maging ang iringan ng magkabilang pamilya ay hindi rin magandang halimbawa lalo pa't nakabase lamang ang lahat sa panlabas na anyo ng isang tao. Ang higit pang nakakabahala dito ay ang gawing katawa-tawa ang itsura ng isang tao. Ito'y isang malaking pag-insulto at maling panukat sa pagkatao. Marahil ang maganda lamang sa pelikula ay ang maayos na paggabay ng ina sa isang anak na naguguluhan ang isip at hindi makapagdesisyon ng tama. Sa mga ganitong pagkakataon ay talagang kinakailangan ang mga magulang na gabayan ang anak.

Friday, November 13, 2009

More Than A Game

ASSESSMENT ONLY
Cast: Lebron James, Sian Cotton, Dru Joyce III, Willie McGee, Romeo Travis, Coach Dru Joyce II; Director: Kristopher Belman; Producers: Harvey Mason Jr. Kristopher Belman, Matthew Perniciaro, Kevin Mann; Screenwriters: Kristopher Belman, Brad Hogan; Music: Harvey Mason Jr.; Editor: Scott Balcerek; Genre: Documentary; Cinematography: Kristopher Belman, Johnny Ching, Travis Cook, Dabling Harward, Chris Lytwyn, Humberto Ramirez, Jr.; Distributor: Lionsgate; Location: USA; Running Time: 105 mins.;

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

BRIEF FILM SYNOPSIS

Five talented young basketball players from Akron, Ohio star in this remarkable true-life coming of age story about uncommon friendship in the face all too common adversities. Coached by a charismatic but inexperienced player’s father, and led by future NBA superstar LeBron James, the “Fab Five’s” improbable seven-year journey leads them from a decrepit inner-city gym to the doorstep of a national high school championship. Along the way, the close-knit team is repeatedly tested—both on and off the court—as James’ exploding worldwide celebrity threatens to destroy everything they’ve set out to achieve together. More Than a Game combines a series of unforgettable one-on-one interviews with rare news footage, never-before-seen home videos and personal family photographs to bring this heart-warming and wholly American story to life. (Lionsgate)

OUTSTANDING FEATURES OF THE FILM: good illustration of team work to achieve one's goal

ADDITIONAL REMARKS: commendable for young people on how a group of friends can achieve their dream in life through team work with the guidance of a coach or mentor.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Estasyon

Cast: Mon Confiado, Klaudia Coronel, Christian Galindo, Diana Alferez; Director: Cesar Apolinario; Producer: Cesar Apolinario; Screenwriters: Chris Lim, Cesar Apolinario; Music: Jerrold Tarog; Editor: Miguel Araneta; Genre: Drama; Cinematography: Jay Linao; Distributor: Huge Screen Small Pictures; Location: Philippines; Running Time: 100 min.;

Technical Assessment: 2.5
Moral Assessment: 2
CINEMA Rating: For viewers age 14 and above

Sa kagustuhang makagawa ng may saysay na pelikula, susubukan ni Martin (Mon Confiado) na gawan ng dokyumentaryo ang panata ng mga deboto sa Quiapo sa pista ng Poong Nazareno. Dito niya makikilala si Christian (Christian Galindo), isang tinedyer mula sa Laguna na naglakbay mag-isa patungo sa pista upang ipahid ang dala-dalang puting panyo sa Poong Nazareno sa pag-asang ito ang magpapagaling sa maysakit na ina (Klaudia Koronel). Sasamahan at susundan ni Martin si Christian sa pagsusubok nitong makalapit sa Poon. Makakapanayam pa niya ito at dito malalaman ni Martin ang kuwentong-buhay ni Christian habang patungo sa pista ng Nazareno. Makuha kaya ni Christian ang inaasam na himala?

Nagnais ang pelikula na gumawa ng makabuluhang kuwento ukol sa isang sikat na debosyon sa pamamagitan ng paggamit ng paralelismo sa daan ng krus ni Hesukristo at sa buhay ng isang deboto. Sa ganitong konsepto nais palabasin ng direktor ang paghahalo ng katotohanan sa kathang-isip. Ngunit sayang at hindi ito ang naipalabas ng pelikula. Maraming nais sabihin ang kuwento na hindi nito naipamalas sapagkat kulang sa masusing pananaliksik ang kabuuan ng istorya. Mahusay naman ang pagkakaganap ng mga pangunahing tauhan lalo na si Koronel at maganda rin ang potograpiya ngunit hindi pa rin naging epektibo ang kabuuan ng pelikula. Marahil ay talagang hindi naging sigurado ang mga nasa likod ng pelikula kung ano ba talaga ang nais nilang sabihin at kitang-kita ang pagkalitong ito sa pagkakalahad ng kuwento.

Isang matinding pagkuwestiyon sa pananampalatayang Katoliko ang Estasyon. Sa isang banda, dapat nga namang suriing maigi ang mga debosyon at panata kung ang mga ito ay sadyang nakakatulong sa pag-unlad ng buhay ispiritwal ng isang tao o nagiging instrumento lamang ba ito ng panatisismo tulad ng sa mga pagano. Ngunit napako ang pananaw ng mga gumawa ng pelikula sa negatibong aspeto lamang ng debosyon, at hindi na nila nakita ang kagandahan at maging ang pinagmulan ng isang debosyon na tulad sa Poong Nazareno. Kapwa naghahanap ang mga pangunahing tauhan ng kahulugan sa maling lugar, sa maling oras at sa maling intensiyon. Sa aspetong ito, nakababahala ang ninais iparating ng pelikula. Pawang walang silbi ang relihiyon, ang simbahan at kung ano pa mang pananampalataya sa pagpapayabong ng buhay ng sangkatauhan. Isa itong mababaw na pagtingin sa isang pananampalatayang nananatiling matatag sa loob ng mahigit 2,000 taon. Oo nga’t may kahirapan, may karahasan, may kawalang-katarungan, kawalang-pag-asa at kahalayan, ngunit hindi masisisi ang relihiyon dito kung tutuusin. Kita naman sa pelikula na walang pagkukusa ang mga tauhan na alamin at palalimin ang kani-kanilang debosyon kung kaya’t nagiging pawang mababaw ang kanilang pananampalataya. Ngunit tahasan na itong hinusgahan ang relihiyon sa kabuuan. Nariyang ipakitang suot ng isang babaeng halos walang saplot ang rosaryo at lantarang itapon ni Martin. Na sa bandang huli ay binawi naman ng paghalik niya dito. Ngunit hindi pa rin malinaw kung ito nga ay pagbabalik-loob o gawa pa rin ng kanyang pagkalito. Mas mabigat ang mga binitiwan niyang salita sa huli: “Ninais ko lang ipakita ang kawalang-kabuluhan ng anumang debosyon at relihiyon.” Sa mga nagugulumihanan at naghahanap ng kahulugan sa kanilang pananampalataya, hindi makakatulong ang pelikulang tulad nito

Law Abiding Citizen

Cast: Jamie Foxx, Gerard Butler, Viola Davis, Bruce McGill, Leslie Bibb, Colm Meaney, Regina Hall; Director: F. Gary Gray; Producers: Gerard Butler, Lucas Foster, Mark Gill; Screenwriter: Kurt Wimmer; Music: Brian Tyler; Editor: Tariq Anwar; Genre: Drama; Cinematography: Jonathan Sela; Distributor: Overture Films; Location: Philadelphia; Running Time: 109 min.;

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

Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler) is a loving father and husband until his wife and his daughter are raped and murdered during a home invasion. But a messed up forensic investigation compromises the findings. Prosecutor Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx) decides to make a deal with Darby (Christian Stolte), the actual rapist and murderer, and pin down Rupert Ames (Josh Stewart) on a theft charge. Rice argues that what matters is not what it right but what can be proven in court. Ten years after, Ames is executed by lethal injection but suffers an agonizing death because of a chemical alternation. Soon after Darby is abducted and brutally dismembered by Shelton . When police arrest and incarcerate Shelton , a series of brutal killings take place after the latter’s requests are denied or not served on time. Shelton emphasizes to Rice that the killings are not mere retribution for his family but defiance for the failure of the justice system.

Law Abiding Citizen is a chilling drama which illustrates how the failure of justice eventually destroys lives and humanity. Butler , Foxx and Stolte deliver an outstanding and authentic portrayal of their characters. The camerawork and editing keep up with the action and suspense. Entertainment-wise, the movie accomplishes its goal. The plot, however, is a little cheesy and exaggerated. The movie feels like one of the local films where the hero is always pushed to his limits and forced to seek revenge against the bad guys. Director Gary Grey was not successful in maintaining sympathy for the protagonist turned anti-hero because as the violence progresses, the film becomes another serial-slasher movie as one man searches for justice.

Vengeance has been romanticized time and again as people turn to St. Paul’s letter to the Romans stating, “Vengeance is mine”, and conveniently leaving or forgetting the part which states, “says the Lord”. With this in mind, some people can now rationalize acts of violence and retribution in their search for justice. From a little child’s small and sometimes hilarious manner of getting even to the brutal and violent and at times legalized ways of obtaining justice, revenge has become a way of life. But getting even, getting back, revenge or however it is termed can never be righteous and good. We cannot correct a wrongdoing with another crime or sin. We need to remember that as human beings we are asked to be compassionate and as Christians we are expected to forgive and be merciful.

Although the film makes a strong statement against systematized injustice it does so in a very brutal and violent manner. The theme and treatment are for mature audiences only.

Michael Jackson's This Is It

Cast: Michael Jacson; Director: Kenny Ortega; Producers: Paul Gongaware, Randy Phillips; Music: Michael Bearrden; Genre: Documentary/ Music; Cinematography: Kevin Mazur; Distributor: Sony Pictures Entertainment; Location: USA; Running Time: 112 min.;

Technical Assessment: 4
Moral Assessment: 3.5
CINEMA Rating: For viewers age 13 and below with parental guidance

There is no synopsis to this musical documentary on the legendary Michael Jackson. It shows clips and footage from rehearsals for the show that was to be “it”. Actually a concert tour, it was to have begun in London last July, had it not been forestalled by his death at age 50 a month before. What’s interesting is Jackson, talking about This Is It, reportedly said “This is the final curtain call.” That’s an innocent enough remark but it teases one’s curiosity. Was Michael Jackson planning to retire after “it”? Was it his second wind or last hurrah, Jackson being aware that younger and equally brilliant performers were waiting on the wing? If he was as sick as was often reported, did Michael sense he wasn’t going to be around much longer? Premonition or not, he surely didn’t expect the curtain to fall that soon.

The soundless opening screen allows the viewer to focus on the background of the documentary, put together by director Kenny Ortega. This Is It is a collage that uses as its canvas footage from April to June 2009 rehearsals—numbers starring Jackson and his dancers and back-up singers. As visual enhancement for certain songs, Ortega uses pre-filmed sequences and footage originally meant for other purposes mixed with stage work. The song “Thriller” is made out like a clip from a horror movie, with ghouls crawling out from their tombs, and two-dimensional ghosts fluttering like eerie kites over the audience’s heads. Particularly appealing is the footage of a little girl playing in a rain forest, used to enhance Jackson’s environmental pitch in the song “Earth Cry”. There’s also an ingenious black and white number, “Smooth Criminal”, which inserts Jackson in film clips starring Rita Hayworth and Humphrey Bogart.

The viewer may rightfully expect to be entertained by This Is It, but there are a few things one must note before swallowing the whole thing as gospel truth. True that This Is It reveals a Michael Jackson that is in stark contradiction to that which we had known before: the image of the profligate performer who thrives on self-abuse—drugs, pedophilia, scandals, questionable sexual identity, shady business deals, lawsuit, rocky marriage, etc.

His eccentric taste and lifestyle reinforced that image, which was to be further cemented by his insatiable attempts to turn a black temple (of the Holy Spirit) into a white one. It was an image that—no mean thanks to media—turned him into an icon that was at once abominable and pathetic. In fact, the aborted summer concert tour was viewed by some as a money magnet to bail the idol out of his financial difficulties.

And then Michael Jackson died. Is that it?

Enter This Is It, the movie. Where is the pervert, the swindler, the druggie, the prima donna? Nowhere to be found. Instead there is a cool, collected, soft-spoken Michael Jackson, driven by a passion for excellence at his craft, his heart beating to the swing of a metronome but never without tenderness for the stagehands, gaffers, technicians, and fellow artists who in turn adore him sincerely.

It brings great delight to watch him spin in place, refine cues for the musicians, dance in unison with the others and yet shine as the most gifted of them all. He is an artist lost in his body and yet in total control of it, performing with clockwork precision and the discipline of a saint. He often says “God bless you” instead of just “Thank you”, projecting the image of a selfless professional, not an egoistic superstar.

There is a moving scene towards the end where Michael forms a circle of thanksgiving with the others in the dimly lit rehearsal space—here emerges his image as the ultimate team player and team leader, inspiring others by his vision, his principles, his attitudes, and his perfection at work. In fact, here you could see a humble and almost holy picture of Michael Jackson, if you would only close an eye to his trademark crotch-clutching gesture.

What is this telling us? It may be uplifting to think that there is indeed a beautiful side to Michael Jackson that had been unfairly obliterated by a bad press, but—with due respect to the deceased—we should not forget that this is a media product as well, packaged and marketed, possibly to promote a legend, and to rake in a profit as well. Ever a controversial figure, Michael Jackson sells, because controversy sells. Following his sudden and puzzling death, Columbia Pictures promptly bought—for sixty million dollars, that’s US$60,000,000.00—the footage taken during the now-famous rehearsals, and commissioned the concert director Kenny Ortega (director of High School Musicals) to make a movie out of it. The footage was reportedly originally intended for Jackson’s private library, but there it was, sold, so that the public may enjoy it four months after his death.

We would like to think it is a eulogy crafted by close associates and mourning friends whom Michael had left behind without proper goodbyes. The grief is almost palpable in the testimonies of Michael’s fellow concert performers. We are kind to our dead, and we like to recall what is good in them, thus we edit the unsavory aspects of their life and remember those that may inspire us. Who knows what is in the footage excluded from this documentary? Who can say that Michael never lost his temper, threw tantrums at rehearsals, or collapsed from exhaustion while moonwalking?

It is not our intention to belittle this exceptional tribute from well-meaning colleagues. Our point is for the public to realize that if media can break, media can also remake—and neither would be absolutely correct or fair about their subject. Rather it is for the public to choose which qualities in the deceased we—especially his fans—would want to emulate. This Is It rounds off the humanity of the “King of Pop”: it allows us to regard his imperfections with compassion, and to view his dreams for a better world with hope, while offering to the young something more to imitate than his moonwalk.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Jennifer's Body

Cast: Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfried, Johnny Simons, Adam Brody; Director: Karyn Kusama; Producers: Daniel Dubiecki, Mason Novick, Jason Retiman; Screenwriter: Diablo Cody; Music: Stephen Barton, Theodore Shapiro; Editor: Plummy Tucker; Genre: Horror/ Thriller; Cinematography: M. David Mullen; Distributor: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation; Location: USA; Running Time: 102 min.;

Technical Assessment: 2.5
Moral Assessment: 2
CINEMA Rating: For mature viewers 18 and above

Jennifer Check (Megan Fox) is the high school teen queen over whom all the boys drool and whom all the girls envy. Nerdy-looking Needy Lesnick (Amanda Seyfried) is Jennifer’s best buddy from childhood, and the two seem to need each other to prove to the rest that: Jennifer is not really that friendless, and Needy somehow amounts to something with no less than the school queen as her friend. One night, Jennifer drags Needy to a “club” which turns out to be a cheap local bar where a rock band is performing. The bar catches fire. Ever the reckless daredevil, Jennifer defies Needy’s common sense and ends up in the rock band’s van roaring off to an unknown destination in the middle of the night. Everybody gives Jennifer up for good and then she comes back with an enormous appetite for male teen flesh, literally. Needy is convinced an evil spirit has inhabited Jennifer’s body, but nobody believes her.

Is Jennifer’s Body a horror, a comedy or a teen romance flick? It’s too predictable to be horrible, too horrible to be funny, and too laughable to be romantic. So it defies classification, not because it is creating a new and exceptionally unique one, but because it fails to establish its own identity. It’s not the movie’s fault, of course, but rather the work of a confused duo--director Karyn Kusama and writer Diablo Cody who seem to be treading on grounds they are unfamiliar with. This is unacceptable—if not downright unforgiveable—in film making. Even if they were just operating a horror booth in an amusement park, they should know which buttons to press at the right moment in order to scare the riders breathless. Give the customers their money’s worth, y‘know? A word about the actors: the boys are there not as persons but as props, dumb studs whose lust soon turns them into steaks for Jennifer. The girls? Seyfried is the one who saves the day—she can act, and let’s hope more challenging roles help her mature into seasoned Oscar material in due time. Perhaps Fox is the reason Jennifer’s Body as a horror movie fails to really grip the audience’s attention. She’s just too much of a Jolie copycat to convince us she means business when she reveals her fangs.

The moral of the story? Go ahead, boys, be suckers for sexy bods and be ready to be eaten up alive (but not necessarily in bed), ha ha! Girls, if you cannot as yet find boyfriends with intelligence to match your own, wait; it’s better to be boyless than to be with someone who thinks you’re being silly when you’re being dead serious. Unless you want to be widowed before you’re wedded.

Friday, October 30, 2009

ASSESSMENT ONLY
Cast: Nicholas Cage, Kristen Bell, Bill Nighy, Freddie Highmore, Donald Sutherland, Eugene Levy, Nathan Lane, Matt Lucas, Sterling Beaumons, Madeline Carolle, Charlize Theron; Director: David Bowers; Producer: Maryann Garger; Screenwriters: Timothy Harris, David Bowers; Music: John Ottman; Editor: Robert Anich Cole; Genre: Children, Science Fiction, Adventure Comedy; Cinematography: Pepe Valencia; Distributor: Summit Entertainment; Running Time: 85 mins.:

Technical Assessment: 3.5
Moral Assessment: 4
CINEMA Rating: For viewers age 13 and below with parental guidance

BRIEF FILM SYNOPSIS

Few characters have made as powerful or as lasting an impression on international popular culture as Astro Boy. The little robot first appeared in 1951 as a character in the celebrated artist and animator Osamu Tezuka’s legendary manga(Japanese comic book) and became an instant icon. He was subsequently featured as the star of his own television series in both black-and white and in color, eventually airing in over 40 countries. Astro Boy created the standard for a new form of animation that has become world famous as anime.

Now for the first time, Astro Boy is brought to life on the big screen. Created with breathtaking computer animation from Imagi Studios, the film Astro Boy is a thrilling tale of a true hero.

Set in futuristic Metro City, Astro Boy is about a young robot with incredible powers created by a brilliant scientist named Dr. Tenma (Nicolas Cage). Powered by positive “blue” energy, Astro Boy (Freddie Highmore) is endowed with super strength, x-ray vision, unbelievable speed and the ability to fly. Embarking on a journey in search of acceptance, Astro Boy encounters many other colorful characters along the way. Through his adventures, he learns the joys and emotions of being human, and gains the strength to embrace his destiny. Ultimately learning his friends and family are in danger, Astro Boy marshals his awesome super powers and returns to Metro City in a valiant effort to save everything he cares about and to understand what it means to be a hero.

Patient X

Cast: Richard Gutierrez, Cristine Reyes, TJ Trinidad, Miriam Quiambao; Director: Yam Laranas; Producers: Jose Mari Abacan, Veronique Del Rosario-Corpus, Vincent G. Del Rosario III, Yam Larnas; Screenwriters: Yam Laranas, Aloy Adlawan; Music: Nani Naguit; Editor: Chuck Gutierrez; Genre: Horrors; Cinematography: Yam Laranas; Distributor: GMA Films; Location: Manila; Running Time: 100 mins.;

Technical Assessment: 2
Moral Assessment: 1.5
CINEMA Rating: For viewers 14 and above

Dalawampung taon na ang nakalilipas nang masaksihan ni Lukas (Richard Gutierrez) ang pagpatay sa kanyang pamilya ng mga aswang dahil lang kinukuha ng mga ito si Guada (Cristine Reyes). Hindi na nahuli ang mga ito ngunit makakatanggap bigla si Lukas ng balitang ang isa sa kanila ay nahuli ng isang pulis (TJ Trinidad) na pinatay rin ng mga aswang ang buong pamilya. Magbabalik si Lukas sa kanilang lugar upang makita ang mukha ng taong pumatay sa kanyang pamilya. Nakakulong sa isang silong ng ospital ang nahuling suspek. Laking gulat niya nang makita niyang ang nahuli pala ay si Guada na bagama't dalawampung taon na ang nakalipas ay hindi nagbago ang anyo. Anumang gawin ay hindi mapatay-patay ang tulad ni Guada. Ito ang pilit na aalamin nila Lukas habang si Guada ay pilit na kinukuha ng mga kasamahan niyang aswang. Ngunit pawang napapalapit si Lukas kay Guada dahil sa naging mabait ito sa kanya. Isa pa, sinasabi ni Guada na ayaw na niyang pumatay ng tao kung kaya't hangga't maaari'y ayaw na niyang sumama sa mga kasamahang aswang. Subalit hindi titigil ang mga ito sa pagpatay sa mga tao sa ospital hangga't hindi nakukuha si Guada. Dito magsisimulang malito si Lukas kung pakakawalan ba niya o hindi si Guada.

Walang dudang maganda ang intensiyon ng pelikula. Wala rin dudang magaganda ang kuha ng kamera at may mga eksena talagang madadala ang manononood sa katakutan. Ngunit hindi pa rin maitatanggi ang napakaraming butas sa kuwento ng pelikula. Nariyang hindi malinaw kung si Guada ba ay kakampi o kaaway. Hindi rin malaman kung paanong naging malapit si Lukas kay Guada at kung paanong ang damdamin sa isang tao ay magbago sa loob lamang ng ilang oras o minuto? Hindi rin katanggap-tanngap ang maraming kamalian sa detalye tulad ng hindi pagtawag ng mas malaking puwersa gayong nalalaman nilang hindi tao ang kanilang kaaway kundi halimaw? Paanong ang isang pasyente ay maiwan sa gitna ng halos abandonado ng ospital? Ilan lamang ito sa mga katanungang iniwan ng pelikula. Sayang at maayos sana ang pagkakadirehe at ang pag-arte ng mga tauhan ay maayos naman. Ngunit kulang na kulang sa bigat at lalim ang kuwento. Maging ang kuwento ng mga aswang ay mababaw din. Walang bagong matututunan sa pelikula kundi ang kung paano patayin ang mga aswang. At maging ito ay hindi kagulat-gulat at kataka-takang hindi nila agad nalaman sa kuwento.

Ang mga aswang ba'y mga halimaw o tao ring likha ng Diyos? Ito ang katanungang gugulo sa isip ng manonood sa kanilang panonood ng Patient X. Ipinakitang nais nang magbago ni Guada ngunit hindi niya magawa dahil kailangan niyang mabuhay. Anong klaseng nilalang ang kinakailang pumatay para mabuhay? Paanong nagkakaroon ng puso ang mga katulad nila? Paano silang nagkakaroon ng damdamin gayong walang awa naman nilang kinakatay ang mga taong kanilang inaatake? Nagiging hati rin ang puso ng mga tao kung ang mga ganitong uri ba'y nararapat patayin. Kung nag-aanyong tao lamang sila ay hindi sana mahirap sagutin. Ngunit paano kung ito ay iyo nang maging kaibigan, o asawa? Sa mga ganitong uri ng sitwasyon, hindi man lang naramdaman ang pananalig ng tao sa Diyos na dapat sanang ginamit din nilang sandata sa paglaban at pagkitil sa mga kampon ng demonyo. Ngunit hindi. Nanatiling umaasa sila sa kanilng lakas kahit pa ang kanilang kaaway ay alam nilang may sa demonyong taglay. Dapat gabayan ang mga batang manonood upang sila'y mapaliwanagan na ang mga ito'y kathang isip lamang at hindi kailanman magiging mas makapangyarihan ang masama sa kabutihan.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Hurt Locker

Cast: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Makie, Brian Geraghty; Director: Kathryn Bigelow; Producers: Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal, Nicolas Chartier, Greg Shapiro; Screenwriter: Mark Boal; Music: Marco Beltrami, Buck Sanders; Editor: Chris Innis, Bob Murawski; Genre: Action/ Suspense; Cinematography: Barry Ackroyd; Distributor: Summit Entertainment; Location: Iraq; Running Time: 131 mins.;

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

Sgt. William James (Jeremy Renner) is an unorthodox and reckless soldier who joins the Bravo Company as the team leader of Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) unit during the US-Iraq war in 2004. His teammates include tough and uncompromising Sgt. Sanborn (Anthony Makie) and the younger self-centered Eldridge (Brian Geraghty). James's impulsiveness irritates and causes tension within his team. However, James becomes compassionate with an Iraqi boy nicknamed Beckham and raises hell and gets Eldridge shot in the leg when he thinks Beckham was the dead boy implanted with unexploded bombs. The team is called for a final mission two days before they return to their country. They are asked to assist a situation where a helpless man strapped with time bombs is forced to wander into the military checkpoint, but James is unable to diffuse the bomb in time and is force to flee just as the bomb explodes. At this point, Sanborn breaks down and informs James he can no longer stomach the pressure of being in the EOD. After some time, James is seen bidding goodbye to his baby boy and saying that there is only one thing he really loves.

The Hurt Locker is based on the chronicles of freelance writer Mark Boal who was embedded with a US Bomb Squad in the Iraqi war of 2004. Director Bigelow transforms these accounts into a riveting film that realistically captures the psychological and physical dangers of war. The camerawork is excellent and captures the drama of the moment. The characters develop strongly and push the plot effectively. Over-all, this is an excellent anti-war movie because it does not merely moralize about the evil of war but more successfully demonstrates its horrors with the psychological fixation to violence and danger one develops.

As quoted in the opening sequence, war journalist Chris Hedges correctly illustrates that the greater evil of war is not in the physical destruction but in the moral and psychological corruption it brings. Once exposed to such amount of raw, repeated and uninhibited violence, man has the tendency to feel invincible and god-like. He becomes addicted to its thrills and risks regardless of its purpose and consequences. War, therefore, can never be justified as it never becomes a strong enough reason to not only dehumanize the victims but also to corrupt those sent out to perform the acts of violence and aggression. Naturally, the movie contains disturbing images and situations of war. The themes and scenes of the film are better suited for older and more mature audiences.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

500 Days of Summer

Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel, Geoffrey Arend, Chloe Moretz, Matthew Gray Gubler; Director: Marc Webb; Producers: Mason Novick, Jessica Tuchinsky, Mark Waters, Steven J. Wolfe; Screenwriters: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber; Music: Mychael Danna, Ron Simonsen; Editor: Alan Edward Bell; Genre: Comedy/ Drama/ Romance; Cinematography: Eric Steelberg; Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures; Location: Los Angeles, USA; Running Time: 95 mins.;

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

In 500 Days of Summer, Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is an architect too timid to pursue his career, so he’d rather be a writer of greeting cards. Summer (Zooey Deschanel) begins work as the new assistant to Tom’s boss. He is smitten the moment he spots the pert Summer walking down the office on her first day of work, unaware she’s being noticed. Tom’s chemistry doesn’t remain one-way for long, as Summer notices and likes his looks, so one day she makes her move over the copying machine. In no time at all he falls in love with her, but while she has let him deep into her world, sees no one else but him, and says she is perfectly happy with their relationship, she wants nothing permanent—only to enjoy her life and her youth. Summer’s apparently casual attitude towards love baffles and then frustrates Tom. Sometime around the middle of 500 days serious trouble begins which later on leads to a break up. But Tom wouldn’t fall out of love and is in fact determined to get her back.

500 Days of Summer opens on Day 488 and then jumps back and forth, with each episode annotated and marked as “Day…” It is an ingenuous approach to telling a story that allows an incisive look into how love relationships “go wrong”. Billed as a “romantic comedy” this one is anything but light and laughable. In fact, through the recollection of events in a non-linear fashion, the viewer is enabled to seriously analyze how a past event affects and effects a present malady—something which involves the viewer in the characters’ lives. By Day 500 it becomes clear why things turn out the way they do, and we can only hope the characters in the story see it as clearly as we do. Screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber certainly show a good grip on a love affair’s twists and turns, which good actors Deschanel and Gordon-Levitt give justice to. The combination of those factors must have delighted director Marc Webb.

500 Days of Summer is a movie that begins by telling us how the love story will end and is about how clueless the lover is till the end. MTRCB rates it PG 13—CINEMA would be inclined to label it an adult film, due to its attempt to treat the theme deeply. The presence of a pre-adolescent girl as a “love adviser” to an older man doesn’t make it innocent or acceptable. Sex is a given here (and in fact is the main factor in the attraction between the lovers)—and, like an airborne virus, is not a good thing for young people to “catch”. There is a big lesson here about the need to be attentive to signs and signals, especially where it concerns emotions. People like to see what they want to see when it comes to love, and that is what 500 Days of Summer tries to say. Things and people are not always what they seem: while some people may be easy to read, others may be the opposite of the image they project. People hide behind masks without even being aware of it. Experience tries to teach us, but does experience season us? Perhaps the hero here will know after 100 days of .. uh…autumn?

Ang Laro ng Buhay ni Juan

Cast: Ray An Dulay, Angeli Bayani, Nico Antonio, Richard Quan, Ace Ricafort, Perry Ecano; Director: Joselito Altarejos; Producer: Beyond the Box; Screenwriters: Joselito Altarejos, Peping Salonga, Lex Bonife; Genre: Drama; Distributor: ; Location: Manila; Running Time: 100 mins.;

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

Nakapagdesisyon na si Juan (Ray An Dulay), na kilala rin ng karamihan bilang Erwin, na bumalik na sa kanyang probinsiya sa Masbate upang alagaan ang kanyang inang maysakit at tuluyan nang talikuran ang buhay sa Maynila. Magpapaalam siya sa kanyang mga kapitbahay at sa kanyang kinakasamang si Noel (Nico Antonio). Bagama't lantaran ang pakikipag-relasyon ni Juan sa kapwa lalaki, ay hindi naman lantaran ang kanyang trabaho bilang live sex performer sa isang tagong gay bar sa Maynila. Ang araw ng kanyang pag-alis papuntang Masbate ay ang huling araw na rin ng kanyang trabaho. Matapos ang gabi ng kanyang huling live performance at makuha ang kaukulang bayad dito, ay nakapagdesisyon na siyang talikuran ng permanente ang ganitong uri ng trabaho. Matapos niyang magbakasakali sa Maynila ng tatlong taon ay kung anu-anong trabaho na rin ang pinasok niya ngunit hindi niya nakuha ang suwerteng inaasam. Ngayong buo na ang loob niyang talikuran ang mapaglarong siyudad, manalo na kaya siya sa kanyang pagtaya sa bagong kapalaran?

Payak kung maituturing ang kuwento ng pelikula na sinundan lamang ang isang araw sa buhay ng isang taong nais magbagong-buhay. Ngunit ang kapayakang ito ang nagpahatid at naglahad ng epektibong kuwento ng mga taong ang buhay ay nakatago sa dilim. Kitang-kita ang pagkakaiba ng buhay ni Juan sa araw at gabi. Isang tipikal na kuwento ng mga taong nasadlak sa kahirapan at may hanapbuhay na hindi nila kayang ipagmalaki. Maganda at totoong-totoo ang eksenang ipinakita sa pelikula. Malinaw ang pagkakalahad ng kuwento na hitik sa simbolismo. Mahuhusay din ang mga nagsiganap na bagama't mga hindi kilala at hindi malalaking pangalan sa industriya ay nagawang magampanan ang kanilang papel nang makatotohanan. Maganda ang direksiyon ng pelikula sa kabuuan dahil na rin sa naging matapat ito sa mga katotohanan ng lipunan na bihira na lang mapansin ng karamihan.

Marami ang katulad ni Juan – mga nagbakasakali sa Maynila ngunit hindi nagtagumpay. Dalisay kung titingnan sa kabuuan ang pagkatao ni Juan. Bagama't nakipagrelasyon sa kapwa lalaki, ipinakita naman na tapat siya kung magmahal at mapagmalasakit sa kapwa. Sa kabila ng kanyang hanapbuhay bilang live sex performer ay mabuti pa rin siyang anak sa kanyang ina at mabait din siya sa kanyang mga kapitbahay. Yun nga lang, sadyang mapaglaro ang tadhana sa mga tulad ni Juan kung kaya't nasasadlak sila sa mga hanapbuhay na hindi nila buong-pusong ginusto. Dapat silang unawain sa halip na husgahan. Ngunit nakababahala pa rin na nagiging katanggap-tanggap na sa lipunan ang pagsasama ng dalawang lalaki na parang mag-asawa. Hindi kailanman magiging panghabang-buhay ang ganitong relasyon at makasisira ito sa pagbuo ng pamilya. Hindi rin dapat gawing dahilan ang kahirapan upang masadlak sa prostitusyon at gawaing nakasentro sa tawag ng laman. Pero kung tutuusin ay biktima lamang ang mga katulad ni Juan ng sitwasyon. Katulad ng ipinakita sa pelikula, hindi ang mga gaya niya ang tunay na masasama kundi iyong mga taong pinagsasamantalahan ang kasawian ng iba. Labis na nakakababaha rin ang ilang ipinakitang eksena ng hubaran sa pelikula lalo na ang pagtatalik ng lalaki sa kapwa lalaki. Bagama't malinaw sa konteksto ng pelikula na ito'y isang naiiba at madilim na mundo, maari pa rin itong magpadumi sa utak ng manonood at makaimpluwensiya ng pag-iisip ng mga kabataan. Kaya't nararapat lamang ang pelikula sa mga manonood na may gulang na 18 pataas.