The Episcopal Commission on Social Communication-CBCP

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

Friday, January 30, 2009

Australia

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, David Wenham, Bryan Brown, Jack Thompson, David Gulpilil, Brandon Walters; Director: Baz Luhrmann; Producers: G. Mac Brown, Catherine Knapman, Baz Luhrmann; Screenwriters: Baz Luhrmann, Stuart Beattie, Ronald Hardwood, Richard Flanagan; Music: David Hirschfelder; Editor: Dody Dorn, Michael McCusker; Genre: Drama; Cinematography: Mandy Walker; Distributor: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation; Location: Queensland, Australia; Running Time: 155 min;

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

In the midst of World War 2, Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) an English aristocrat, travels to their cattle farm in Australia, Faraway Downs, to convince her husband to sell the property and return home. However, her husband gets murdered and she discovers that their farm manager Neil Fletcher (David Wenham) is stealing her cattle to sell to King Carney in order to gain cattle monopoly in the Northern Territory. She employs the services of “Drover” (Hugh Jackman) a freelance white cowboy, Nullah (Brandon Walters), an 11-year old half breed aboriginal and four others to drive her 1,500 cattle to Darwin and steal the sales from Carney. And the more Carney and Fletcher attempt to thwart their plans, the more determined Lady Sarah becomes. Two years after they successfully sell their cattle, Lady Sarah, Drover and Nullah live happily together in Faraway Downs. But shortly Nullah is captured and sent off to the Missions, Drover walks out on Sarah after an argument, and Fletcher returns as the owner of Carney cattle farm, determined to take over Faraway Downs. When the Japanese attack Darwin , the three desperately hold on to the hope that they will be able to rescue and reunite their family.

The movie is a love story set in the background of World War II, racism and the heartbreaking reality of the Stolen Generation. Each scene is a cinematic masterpiece showcasing the charm of Australia and the 40s with another brilliant performance from Kidman. The multilayer storytelling is heightened by the great chemistry of Kidman and Jackman and some memorable scoring. Without doubt, Australia as a movie is good…good but not great. The story is too Mills and Boon type presented an hour longer than necessary. The war time drama and romance were a little too clichéic and over-the-top overshadowing Luhrmann’s attempt to present the story of the “stolen generation” as the heart of the movie. There is something missing from the production to make it an unforgettable film.

There are several good and honest presentations of friendship, equality, hope and courage. Australia is more than the love story between Lady Sarah and Drover; it is also about the love that blossomed between Sarah and Nullah—a mother loving a child, a well-to-do’s compassion for the unfortunate, and a woman’s concern for another human being. Parents should guide their young children since there is a slight scattering of profanity, an implied sex scene and scenes of violence, racism and murder

Status: Single

Cast: Rufa Mae Quinto, Paolo Contis, Mark Bautista, Alfred Vargas, Rafael Rosell, Jon Avila; Director: Jose Javier Reyes; Producers: ; Screenwriter: Jose Javier Reyes; Genre: Comedy; Distributor: Viva Films; Location: Manila; Running Time: 120 min;

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

Labis ang pangamba ni Doris (Rufa Mae Quinto) nang siya’y mag-trenta anyos na ngunit hindi pa rin nagpapakasal lalo pa’t ang mga kaibigan niya ay isa-isa nang nagsisipag-asawa. Lalong tumindi ang kanyang pangambang tumandang mag-isa nang iwan siya ng kanyang nobyong si Dodo (Mark Bautista) matapos ang dalawang taong relasyon. Dahil dito, nagsimula si Doris na hanapin ang lalaking kanyang pakakasalan. Una niyang makikilala si Hans (Rafael Rosell), isang bar tender. Matipuno si Hans ngunit pawang katawan lang ni Doris ang nais nito. Sa gym naman ay makikilala niya si Sean (Alfred Vargas) na simpatiko at matalino ngunit pawang wala sa isip ang pakikipag-relasyon. Sa opisina naman ni Doris ay naroon si Inaki (Jon Avila), ang anak ng may-ari. Guwapo si Inaki ngunit sadyang may kabaduyan at walang tiwala sa sarili. Sino kaya sa kanilang tatlo ang pwedeng makatuluyan ni Doris?

Nakakaaliw ang pelikula sa kabuuan ngunit naging mababaw pa rin ang naging trato nito sa tema ng relasyon at pag-ibig. Bagama’t nakakatawa si Quinto, hindi niya magawang baguhin ang kanyang atake sa pag-arte. Siya pa rin ang Booba na nakilala nating maganda ngunit boba. Hindi na ata siya makakawala sa ganitong pakete. Tuloy kahit sa mga eksenang dapat sana ay madrama, nagiging mababaw at komedya pa rin ang dating. Hindi tuloy gaanong maramdaman ang sentimyento ng kanyang karakter. Hindi naman matatawaran ang husay ng mga pangalawang tauhan na sina Mylene Dizon, Angelu de Leon, Mark Bautista, Rafael Rosell at Paolo Contis. Sila ang tunay na nagbigay-buhay sa pelikula.

Ipinakita sa pelikula ang makabagong mukha ng mga kababaihan sa lipunan. Bagama’t moderno at tinuturingang liberated, naghahanap pa rin sila ng tunay na relasyon at pagmamahal. Sa aspetong ito ay kapani-paniwala at kahanga-hanga ang pelikula. Ngunit sadyang mas nangingibaw ang mga nakakabahalang mensahe ng pelikula. Nariyang ikahiya sa halip na ipagmalaki ang pagiging malinis at birhen ng isang babae. Ginagawa nitong katanggap-tanggap na rin sa lipunan at pinapalakpakan pa ang pakikipagtalik bago pa man ang basbas ng kasal. Maaaring ito ay tunay na nangyayari at ang pelikula ay sumasalamin lamang sa katotohanang ito ngunit dapat mabatid ng gumagawa ng pelikula ang maaring maging konteksto nito sa pagtingin ng kabataan sa mga pagpapahalagang moral na itinuturo ng Simbahan, paaralan at pamilya. Kung ito ang mangingibabaw na pananaw at impluwensiya, hindi malayong maraming pamilya ang mawawasak o kung hindi naman kaya’y darami ang mga batang pawang bastardo at walang kinikilalang ama na karaniwang nagiging sanhi ng pagrerebelde at iba pang mga problemang panlipunan. Bagama’t walang ipinakitang hubaran sa pelikula, ang pinaka-tema nito ay hindi angkop sa mga batang manonood.

Inkheart

Cast: Brendan Fraser, Paul Bettany, Helen Mirren, Jim Broadbent; Director: Iain Softley; Producers: Cornelie Funke, Ileen Maisel, Diana Pokorny, Iain Softley; Screenwriter: David Lindsay-Abaire, Cornelia Funke; Music: Javier Navarrete; Editor: Martin Walsh; Genre: Science Fiction/ Fantasy; Cinematography: Roger Pratt; Distributor: New Line Cinema; Location: Italy; Running Time: 95 min;

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

Book-lover, collector and bookbinder of old and rare books Mortimer “Mo” Folcher (Brendan Fraser) is in search of the book “Inkheart”, dragging his 12-year-old daughter Maggie (Eliza Hope Bennett) along in his search but not revealing to her the reason for it. They finally find in a book market in Switzerland. At once, a mysterious character (Paul Bettany) appears who would follow them around pleading for something only Mo understands. The truth that is being kept from Maggie is that her father Mo is a so-called “silver tongue”—a person with a gift of bringing to life characters in a book simply by reading the book aloud. Mo, in fact, has not read aloud for nine years now. The last time he read aloud a bedtime story for Maggie, then a 3-year-old, the flame juggler Dustfinger and the villain Capricorn (Andy Serkis) sprang out of the pages of the book and became flesh-and-blood characters. But the down side of Mo’s gift is, there’s a trade-off: for every fictional character his reading aloud brings to life, a real-life person must take its place in the book’s pages. That fateful night, it was Maggie’s mother, Mo’s wife Resa (Sienna Guillory), who vanished, virtually sucked into the book. The mysterious character following father and daughter now is Dustfinger who wants Mo to read him back into the book to continue his fictional existence. Mo, however, says he would only do that if his missing wife Resa could return from the book to real life with him ang Maggie. There begins the adventure.

The book which Inkheart the movie is based on is German writer Cornelia Funke’s international bestseller for young adults, the first volume of the trilogy begun in 2004 and finished in 2008. For 70 weeks it was in The New York Times’ best-seller list. Many viewers and reviewers would compare Inkheart with Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings but the comparison would be groundless. Inkheart has its own universe which is neither too otherworldly nor too down to earth. The CGI, special effects, and eye-popping images from familiar fairy tales do not overwhelm the viewer but are just right to advance the story. On the other hand, the Italian landscape is not a manufactured movie set, and the sprawling castle on the mountaintop would not be out of place in the European setting. Prepare for action from beginning to end, and enjoy the acting which is very good, too, evoking the viewer’s sympathy for the characters.

Inkheart will be enjoyed by all ages, and each will understand its message in his/her own level. It’s fascinating enough to pull youngsters away from shallow pleasures (texting and television) and attract them into reading. Adolescents and adults alike will find warmth in the strong family-oriented message Inkheart delivers. Appreciate what the characters would go through in order to be with their families: Mo and Maggie encountering monsters, a cyclone, a unicorn, flying monkeys, armed men and a dark, smoky, billowing, fire-breathing thing called “The Shadow” in search of the missing wife and mother Resa; Dustfinger hounding Mo and Maggie to be returned to his family in the book, fully knowing that he will die in the story’s end. While the face of Inkheart is fantasy and adventure, its heart is a story of love, friendship, devotion and perseverance. Inkheart subtly teaches that giving is better than receiving, that friendship must be honored and treasured, that selfishness is not good, that it is right to sacrifice for loved ones, that we can achieve anything if we believe in it and persevere. These are lessons not only found in the pages of the book “Inkheart” but also in the pages of “The Book”, the Bible. It’s wholesome enough for General Patronage—there is no foul language, sex or blood despite the violence—but parents must explain certain scary visuals to very young children.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Abandoned


Cast: Anastasia Hille, Karel Roden, Valentin Ganev, Paraskeva Djukelova, Carlos Reig-Plaza, Kalin Arsov, Svetlana Smoleva, Anna Panayotova, Jordanka Angelova, Valentin Goshev, Jasmina Marinova, Monica Baunova, Marta Yaneva; Director: Nacho Cerda; Producer: Julio Fernandez; Screenwriters: Karim Hussain, Nacho Cerda; Music: Alfons Conde; Editor: Jorge Macaya; Genre: Horror; Cinematography: Xavi Gimenez; Distributor: After Dark Films; Location: UK, Bulgaria ; Running Time: 95 min.;

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

After 40 years, Marie Milla Jones (Anastasia Hille), an accomplished film director in Los Angeles, comes back to her birthplace and roots in Russia upon learning that she is an heir to a property left by her parents whom she barely knows. She was contacted and traced by notary Andrei Misharin (Valentin Ganev) and since she hardly knows her past, she agrees to meet with him. After much briefing of her history, particularly that of her mother, she is then directed to see the property that happens to be an old house in the middle of nowhere. Accompanied by a truck driver who eventually disappears, Milla arrives at night and finds herself in a creepy, eerie place. She enters the old house which has been abandoned for 40 years and finds out she is not alone. A man named Nicolai (Karel Roden), who introduces himself to her as her twin brother whom she never met, is also there for the same reason. As they both try to uncover the mysteries of the past, they are both haunted by their future – death.

The film is true to its genre – eerie, creepy, dark and full of mysteries. The plot is not really new but the treatment is fresh. Haunted house movies may be passe but given proper direction, they can still pass as a thrilling experience. The production design and sound engineering should be commended for a good job. The entire film is not at all scary and the shock factor is very minimal but the simple narrative is rich in layers that keep the audience awake from beginning to end. Not all mysteries are resolved though, and in fact, it leaves many loose ends. But that could, after all, be intentional: to make the audience as lost as the characters in the movie. Such motive has been effective for the audience is left with many questions to ponder.

Is the past really worth digging up? Characters in the movie as well as the audience are posed this dilemma. The past gives one a sense of his or her roots and foundation. But then, if one is kept haunted by the ghost of the unknown, it may eventually lead to destruction. As said in the movie, “sometimes it's better to let things remain as they are.” The main character in the movie could have chosen to focus on her present, her daughter, but she opted to center her energy on her past. Perhaps she wants to fill in a void in her heart or to uncover the truth behind her parents' death. For whatever reason, she could have sought proper guidance. As in other haunted house features, the ghosts are more powerful than humans. Such may bring confusing signals and even sleepless nights. But looking at the context of maternal love, The Abandoned succeeds in illustrating how far a mother's love for her children could go. And it goes beyond death. However, some scenes of violence, gore, nudity and profanity may not be suitable for the young audiences.

Yes Man

Cast: Jim Carrey, Zooey Deschanel, Bradley Cooper, John Michael Higgins, Terrence Stamp, Fionulla Flanagan; Director: Peyton Reed; Producers: Richard D. Zanuck, David Heyman,; Screenwriters: Nicholas Stoller, Jarrad Paul; Music: Mark Everette, Lyle Workman; Editor: Craig Alpert; Genre: Comedy; Cinematography: Robert D. Yeoman; Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures; Location: Los Angeles, California, USA; Running Time: 104 min.;

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

Two years after breaking up with his girlfriend, Carl Allen (Jim Carrey) is still in the throes of a depression which makes him indifferent to everything, including overtures from his friends to join them again. Working as a loans officer at a bank, he has become the ultimate naysayer so that he rejects all loan applications as well as invitations of his boss who is eager to make friends. But one day, he attends a self-help “Say Yes” seminar. The charismatic speaker and yes guru persuades him to change his attitude, make a “covenant” with himself and seize all opportunities to say “yes” to all requests. Allen is now convinced that not saying “yes” will have dire consequences. As a result of this brainwashing, Allen says yes to all invitations and experiences results, some pleasant (like learning to play the guitar and to fly a plane) and some untoward ones like accommodating a tramp’s request to be brought to a leisure park in the dead of night and finds himself stranded with no cell phone nor gasoline and loses money too. On this night he meets Allison (Zooey Deschanel), a beautiful free spirit, engaged in activities that seem unusual to him. Attracted to her, Allen joyfully says “yes” to her invitations, joins her in many “yescapades” and forges a relationship with her. Bu Allison soon doubts Allen’s feelings for her when she learns that he says yes without really wanting to. Will Allen and Allison get to reconcile? Will Allen continue to be a “yes” man?

Yes Man gets most of its odd ideas from a memoir written by Danny Wallace. In addition, most viewers of a 1997 film Liar Liar (which also stars Jim Carrey) think that Yes Man is like a similar parallel story in reverse for in the previous film, Carrey habitually lies and is forced by circumstances to tell the truth for 24 hours. The present film’s concept of saying yes all the time is probably intended to lead to a series of funny incidents but these are only sporadically humorous. Some attempts at humor seem forced and even downright vulgar. Like the encounter of Carl with his sex-crazed elderly neighbor. This crude sexual joke is not explicitly shown but it leaves a bad taste in the mouth, just the same. That bar brawl with a drunk Carl is perhaps intended to be funny but it is grim_. This slapstick comedy features the usual elastic facial contortions and queer physical humor associated with the clownish Jim Carrey. He carries the film through but the humor here seems stale and lacks freshness.

Yes Man shows how indiscriminately saying either “yes” or “no” can have negative effects in a person’s life. In the early part of the movie, Carl’s saying “no” to all requests and invitations from friends even if they are sensible and well-meaning deepens his depression and makes him a recluse, devoid of all involvements with others. We all need some interaction with people to function well and to live a normal happy life. On the other hand, saying “yes” always without much thought can be just as disastrous, though hilarious at times as some situations in the movie shows. Nobody would take us up on our word if we say everything lightly like what happened when Allison doubted Carl’s love. That would have been another crisis in Carl’s life. We should mean what we say and mean it from the heart.

Hilot

Cast: Melissa Mendes, Empress Schuck, Glenda Garcia, Ricardo Cepeda, Pocholo Montes; Director: Neil Tan; Producers: Melissa Yap, Glenda Yap, Merwyn Yap; Screenwriter: Neil Tan; Genre: Drama; Cinematography: Renato de Vera; Distributor: Emerge Entertainment Productions; Location: Caloocan;

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

Labis na ikinababalisa ng dalagitang si Carmen Catacutan (Empress Schuck) ang mga usap-usapan tungkol sa kanilang mag-anak na nakatira sa isang lumang bahay na palaging nakapinid ang mga bintana. Isang bukas na lihim ang pagiging manglalaglag (abortionist) ng kanyang inang si Amparo (Melissa Mendez), bagama’t ito ay palasimba at laman ng kanilang bahay ang napakaraming imahen at rebulto ng mga santo. Bunga nito, siya’y nililibak ng kanyang mga kamag-aral bagama’t siya ay isang ulirang mag-aaaral. Isa ring ulirang anak si Carmen, masunurin, at matiising tumutulong sa pag-aalaga ng kanyang lolong baldado, si Amang (Pocholo Montes). Dahil sa husay ni Carmen bilang isang mag-aaral, pagtitiwalaan siyang tumulong ng kanyang gurong si Mr. Davide (Ricardo Cepeda) sa gawain nitong pagsusuri sa mga test papers, bagay na magiging isa pang dahilan upang higit siyang libakin ng kanyang mga kapwa mag-aaral. Matutuklasan din ni Carmen na ang isa sa kanyang mga kamag-aral na nanglilibak sa kanya ay magiging “pasyente” ng kanyang ina, at tuluyang magiging biktima gawa nito. Habang nagluluksa ang buong paaralan sa pagkamatay ng dalagitang nagpalaglag, maghihimagsik naman ang kalooban ni Carmen at haharapin ang ina hinggil sa karumal-dumal nitong gawain. May isang pangyayaring pagdurusuhan sa piitan ni Amparo sa loob ng pitong taon. Sa kanyang paglaya, may ibubunyag siyang lihim kay Carmen.

Sa simula pa lamang ng Hilot―kung saan ipinapakita ang isang sanggol sa sinapupunan ng kanyang ina at wala kang maririnig kundi ang tibok ng kanyang puso―ay malalaman mo nang naiiba ito sa karaniwang mapapanood sa mga sinehan, sapagkat ang pangunahing layunin nito ay ang ipakitang masama ang abortion. Diumano’y ‘low budget” film ito: ang mga tumustos sa paglikha ng pelikula ay si Melissa Mendez (ang mismong gumanap na hilot), at ilan sa kanyang mga kaanak na naniniwala sa kanyang layunin. Sapagka’t mga bagong mukha ang mga artista, at taos-puso ang kanilang pagganap, naging lubhang makatotohanang ang dating ng pelikula. Pawang damang-dama ng mga nagsiganap ang kani-kaniyang papel―lalo na sila Schuck, Mendes, Cepeda at Montes. Maliwanang at maayos ang daloy ng istorya, madaling sundan at unawain. Nakakaengganyo ang Hilot sa kabila ng kakulangan nito sa special effects at musika, at sa editing.

Bagama’t layunin ng Hilot na ihantad ang kasamaan ng abortion, sinisiyasat din nito ang maaaring ugat sa buhay ng mga gumagawa nito. Bagama’t ipinakikita ring maliwanag nito na kasawiang-palad ang kahahantungan ng isang abortionist, inilalahad din ng pelikula kung ano ang pinanggalingan ni Amparo, ang mga pangyayari sa kanyang buhay na naging dahilan ng kanyang pagiging “manglalaglag.” Sa kadulu-duluhan, hindi mo masisisi ang isang abortionist sapagkat lumalabas na siya’y isang biktima din ng kalupitan ng buhay. Sino ngayon ang may sala? Ang pag-aasawahan ba? Ang mga lalaking malilikot at mga babaeng hindi naturuang igalang ang kanilang mga katawan? Ang Simbahang Katoliko ba na sa kabila ng kanyang kapangyarihan ay hindi maakay ang masa tungo sa tunay at malalim na pananalangin at pakikipag-ugnayan sa Diyos? Ang pamahalaan ba na walang ngipin upang ipatupad ang batas at pigilin ang gawain ng mga manglalaglag? Ang masalimuot bang lipunan na binubuo ng mga taong lulong sa paghahanap ng mababaw na kaligayahan? Higit pa sa isang pelikula, ang Hilot ay isang hamon―sa inyo, sa amin, sa ating lahat―upang pugsain ang karumal-dumal na gawaing pagkitil sa buhay ng nasa sinapupunan sa pamamagitan ng isang masusing pagtanaw sa ating kapaligiran at sa kaibuturan ng ating mga puso.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Cast: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Tom Everette, Robert Towers, Peter Donald Badalamenti II, Charles Henry Wyson; Director: David Fincher; Producers: Cean Chaffin, Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall; Screenwriters: Eric Roth, Robin Swicord; Music: Alexandre Desplat; Editor: Kirk Baxter, Angus Wall; Genre: Drama/ Fantasy/ Mystery/ Romance; Cinematography: Claudio Miranda; Distributor: Paramount Pictures; Location: Cambodia; Running Time: 166 min.;

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

During the time of hurricane Katrina in 2005, an 80-year-old woman (Cate Blanchett), on her death bed in New Orleans, asks her daughter Caroline (Julia Ormond), to read from the diary of one Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt). From reading it, Caroline learns that her dying mother is the Daisy in the diary. In 1918, Benjamin Button’s mother dies giving birth to him, the infant who looks like a shriveled old man. Benjamin’s father Thomas Button (Jason Flemyng)—taking the child for a monster due to his hideous appearance and blaming him for the death of his mother—leaves the infant at the steps of a nursing home for the aged. Its kindhearted manager, Queenie (Taraji Henson), keeps and raises the foundling despite his monstrous looks. By the time Benjamin is seven years old, he looks like younger but still decrepit 80-year old who moves around in a wheelchair. Nobody takes him seriously when he says he is aged seven, because they do not know that Benjamin is physically aging backward. At age 13, Benjamin meets Daisy who regularly visits a relative in the home, and the girl is to be unforgettable for him.

Director David Fincher reportedly waited to do the film until the technology could enable one actor to play the role in the film’s entirety. This is it—technological magic at its amazing best. All throughout the movie you could be asking, “Is that Brad Pitt?” Blanchett’s makeup as Daisy on her death bed is so natural that you wonder if it’s a different actress; indeed, Blanchett seeing her aging image could well prepare for her golden years. But Blanchett’s makeup is nothing compared to what cinematic technology did on Pitt’s character. They superimposed Pitt’s face and eyes into the Benjamin Button character—except, of course, when Button reached Pitt’s age, as Button is pure Brad Pitt circa 2008. The acting is Oscar material, and the cast couldn’t have been better chosen, with Taraji Henson, Tilda Swinton, Jared Harris and Jason Flemyng delivering supporting roles. Helping the viewer accept the improbable plot is the movie’s attention to period details. Sets for the 1920 vignettes are perfectly reconstructed and special effects are used to enhance the flow of the story.

Inspired by a short story written in 1922 by F. Scott Fitzgerald with the same title, the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button should be viewed as science fiction but pondered as drama on life, time and aging. Viewers shouldn’t bicker about the story’s logic or the lack of it, the incongruousness of the idea of aging backwards, but rather take it as a fairy-tale that can lead us to empathize with the characters and then go deeper into ourselves. Could we believe we could sire a child who looks like a reincarnation of Rosemary’s Baby? Would we care to nurture as our own a repulsive-looking newborn abandoned at our doorsteps? Would we bother to play with a teenager who looks more like our great grandfather? Would we employ in our tugboat a senior citizen who’d be better off resting in a home for the aged? Even if we were a prostitute, could we stand having for a customer a 75-year old virgin? Would our love be strong enough to want to marry a lover knowing he’d look 16 when we are 64? And wouldn’t we feel ancient bottle-feeding an infant who used to be our lover? A story of reverse aging may be a difficult premise to accept but the movie must be viewed on its own terms and for the richness it offers to thinking viewers; otherwise, it would be seen as just a whole lot of nonsense.

Bride Wars

Cast: Anne Hathway, Kate Hudson, Candice Bergen; Director: Gary Winick; Producers: Kate Hundson, Alan Riche, Peter Riche, Julie Yorn; Screenwriters: Greg DePaul, Casey Wison; Music: Ed Shearmur; Editor: Susan Littenberg; Genre: Romantic Comedy; Cinematography: Frederick Elmes; Distributor: 20th Century Fox; Location: Romantic Comedy; Running Time: 89 min.;

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

Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Liv (Kate Hudson) are best friends who grew up with one dream: to get married at the Plaza Hotel with each other as bridesmaids. When they both get proposed to, they excitedly plan the details of their big day and book two separate dates in June at the Plaza. Their friendship is enhanced as they try to support each other’s dreams and give way to make the other happy. Unfortunately, a clerical error books their wedding on the same day at the same time and the next available date is three years from now. The perfect seemingly unbreakable bond is broken as each refuses to change her wedding date or venue and resort to sabotaging each other’s ceremony.

On the one hand, the story is shallow and cute. Although it does not try to develop deeper characterization, it successfully gives the personality of the two protagonists and develops the plot in broad strokes. There is not much to expect from the movie with a mediocre acting, save for Bergen, a predictable storyline and a not so funny comedy. On the other hand, there are some charming classic moments as well as dull forgettable scenes. It might be a run-of the mill romantic comedy but it does manage to brighten a few minutes of the day afterwards.

Real and time-tested friendship is a better love story than romance and fairy-tale weddings. No matter how much strain life and time puts on friends, that one person you cared about and shared your life with will always be loyal, true and supportive. Unfortunately, this little message may get drowned by the ridiculous obsession the protagonist displays over having the perfect dream wedding as if that single event will spell out how the marriage will turn out. Of course, every bride (and maybe groom) wishes and needs to have that unforgettably romantic moment when they say “I do” and celebrate their union with the world. But at the end of the day, no matter how grand or beautiful one’s wedding is, what will count is one’s maturity, love and desire to make the relationship work.

The movie is mild and decent but there are some offensive scenes and situations that will not suit the young audience. For instance, alcohol is constantly used to relieve stress, mild nudity during the bachelorette party, and the fact that the two would be brides are already living in with their respective boyfriends.

Transporter 3

Cast: Jason Statham, Natalya Rudakova; Director: Olivier Megaton; Producers: Luc Besson, Steve Chasman; Screenwriters: Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen; Music: Alexandre Azaria; Editors: Camille Delamarre, Carlo Rizzo; Genre: Action/ Adventure; Cinematography: Giovanni Fiore Coltellacci; Running Time: 100 min.;

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

By circumstance, the mission to transport a "package" falls in the hands of Frank Martin (Jason Statham) under a life threatening rule that monitors the accomplishment of the mission. To Frank’s surprise, the "package” is Valentina (Natalya Rudakova,), the kidnapped daughter of Ukraine's Minister for Environmental Protection who is being blackmailed by a syndicate to allow the shipment of toxic materials to the country. The rule includes a metal wristband put on them that is programmed to blow up if they step away from the designated car. Everytime Frank makes his turn away from the programmed route by rule, he always meets a challenge to fight for his life. All these challenges, however, are amazingly hurdled by Frank whose fighting and driving skills win the admiration of Valentina and make her feel safer than her previous transporters. Will they survive the rule? Will the bad elements succeed in bringing pollutants into Ukraine?

Transporter 3 is a spectular film that keeps the interest of the viewers until the end. While the story is somewhat slow in the beginning, it makes sense in its progress towards conclusion. There are actually fewer lines delivered and for the most part the story is carried out in action and special effects. Acting-wise, Jason is effective in his role as Frank Martin while the rest could have done more. Nevertheless, the director succeeds in complimenting some mediocre acting by putting more efforts in other technical aspects of the film particularly in cinematography, sounds scoring and lighting. Overall, despite some lapses in editing--like villain Robert Knepper seems to be everywhere and fighting scenes that do not even leave small bruises on Frank--the film is technically commendable.

Life is precious and should be protected. The environment as people's habitat also needs to be protected to ensure a better and safer world for future generations. Essentially, this is what the film tries to convey: Anyone who could be a threat to human life and the environment should be cautioned or will have no place in this world. At the same time, a person in his right mind cannot just be a blind follower of a foolish rule that puts precious life in danger. The film also shows that a government position cannot be compromised for any immoral act. However, despite this major message, the film shows brutal killings so younger viewers must be guided.

Love Me Again

Cast: Angel Locsin, Piolo Pascual, Ricky Davao, Ronnie Lazaro; Director: Rory B. Quintos; Genre: Drama; Distributor: Star Cinema Productions; Location: Australia; Running Time: 120 min.;

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

Matapos magpalipat-lipat ng trabaho sa lungsod, matatagpuan ni Migo (Piolo Pascual) sa kanilang bayan sa Bukidnon ang buhay na kanyang nanaisin at mamahalin – ang pagra-rancho sa kanilang pag-aaring lupain. Makikilala niya at magiging kasintahan dito si Arah (Angel Locsin). Sa Bukidnon nais buuin ni Migo ang kanyang mga pangarap kasama si Arah. Ngunit maaaksidente ang ama ni Arah (Ricky Davao) at mapipilitan siyang mangutang sa isang Australyanong amo ng kanyang tiyuhin (Ronnie Lazaro) bilang paunang bayad sa pagtatrabaho ni Arah bilang cook sa rancho nito sa Australia. Labag ito sa kagustuhan ni Migo at hindi niya papayagang umalis si Arah. Subalit sadyang hindi mapipigilan si Arah sa pag-alis. Maiiwan si Migo sa Bukidnon at matagal ang panahon na lilipas na hindi niya kakausapin si Arah. Malulugi ang rancho ni Migo at magdedesisyon itong sundan si Arah sa Australia. Magkakagulatan ang dalawa sa Australia lalo na sa madadatnang pagbabago ni Migo kay Arah. Ikakasal na rin ito sa kanyang among Australyano. Makuha pa kayang muli ni Migo ang pag-ibig ni Arah matapos niya itong talikuran ng mahabang panahon?

Kung tutuusin ay isang karaniwang kuwento ang Love Me Again. Walang masyadong inihain kung kuwento ang pagbabasehan. Isang magkasintahang pinaghiwalay ng pangangailangan at pagkakataon ngunit muling pagtatagpuin ng tadhana sa isang kalagayang magiging mahirap para sila magkabalikan. Hindi rin masasabing nailahad ng pelikula ang tunay na kalagayan ng mga kababayan nating nagtatrabaho sa ibang bayan. Malaking ambag lang ang panibagong bihis nito na kinunan pa sa matulaing lugar ng Bukidnon at maging ang Outback, Australia ay nakakaigaya rin. Ngunit hindi rin naman ganuon kabago sa paningin ang Australia dahil pawang ordinaryong rancho at gubat rin lang ang ipinakita sa pelikula. Bagama't hindi matatawaran ang husay sa pagganap ng mga mga pangunahing nagsiganap na sina Locsin at Pascual, walang gaanong kilig na maramdaman sa dalawa. Epektibo naman sila sa mga eksenang ma-drama. Maayos naman ang daloy ng kuwento, yun nga lang, hindi maitatatwang, walang gaanong bago.

Kapuri-puri ang pinakitang pagmamahal at pagsasakripisyo ni Arah para sa pamilya. Tunay siyang huwaran ng karamihan sa mga Pilipinong nangingibang-bayan para maghanapbuhay. Ipinakita rin na ang Pilipino ay isang huwarang mangagawa at saan man siya mapadpad, hindi matatawaran ang kanyang galing at kasipagan. Mayroon lang ilang nakakabahalang imahe ng kababaihan ang ipinakita sa pelikula. Bagama't malakas ang personalidad na inilarawan ni Arah, pawang angat pa rin ang papel ng lalaking Australyano pagdating sa yaman, lakas at kapangyarihan. Ang pag-aasawa nga ba sa ibang lahi ang tanging susi upang umangat ang isang Pilipina sa buhay? Nakababahala ang sinasalmin ng pelikula nitong katotohanang nangyayari sa lipunan, at higit pa ring nakababahala ang nangyaring pagtatalik sa labas ng kasal. Bagama't kaugnay ito ng pananabik at wagas na pag-ibig, hindi pa rin ito magandang halimbawa. Dapat na gabayan ang mga batang manonood.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Spirit

Cast: Gabriel Macht, Samuel Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Jaime King, Sarah Paulson, Eva Mendes; Director: Frank Miller; Producers: Deborah Del Prete, Gigi Pritzker, Michael E. Uslan; Screenwriters: Frank Miller, Will Eisner(comic book series); Music: David Newman; Editor: Gregory Nussbaum; Genre: Action/ Comics; Cinematography: Bill Pope; Distributor: Lionsgate; Location: New Mexico, USA; Running Time: 102 min.;

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

Denny Colt (Gabriel Macht) is a slain policeman who mysteriously resurrects as The Spirit hero with super powers to fight crimes and work with local police commissioner Dolan (Dan Lauria). He is constantly being helped by Dolan's physician daughter, Ellen (Sara Paulson) whenever he gets wounded in a fight although he recovers unusually fast. The Spirit's ultimate enemy is a drug lord named Octopus (Samuel Jackson). As The Spirit attempts to destroy the equally immortal Octopus, Denny's childhood sweetheart Sand Saref (Eva Mendez)--from whom he parted after a bitter quarrel--comes back to town and enters the picture as a seductive jewel thief.

Based on a graphic novel by Will Eisner, the movie passes off artistically as far as visuals are concerned. The stylized violence surely appeals to the fanatics of the genre. But for a regular film audience who looks for story substance, The Spirit utterly fails to convey neither a substantial plot nor a compelling narrative. The plot, although apparently inconsequential, fails to develop its characters who all eventually appear as emotionless and indifferent. Even the The Spirit's enemy, Octopus, does not create an impact, given his melodramatic flamboyance. Ultimately, The Spirit is just a graphic spectacle with a usual superhero non-narrative with a twist of few wits and satirical anecdotes. It does not go beyond that and to look for substance might be a bit too much expectation.

Unlike other superhero movies, The Spirit is devoid of apparent moral of story. Apart from the given that hero protects the neighborhood at night, his character is far from ideal – a womanizer who treats women as mere objects of desire. There is senseless violence all over the place where two immortals try to outdo and kill each other knowing the fact that they both can get away with it. This might even send a confusing message to the audience: one's immortality can make one get away with murder. It may be true that sometimes vigilantism is the only way to fight evil but still, violence only leads to further violence. In any case, violence is no solution after all. There are also some scenes of nudity and a certain degree of profanity in the movie which may not be appropriate for viewers below 14 years old.

Bedtime Stories

Cast: Adam Sandler, Keri Russell, Guy Pearce, Russell Brand, Richard Griffiths, Teresa Palmer, Courtney Cox, Jonathan Morgan Hert, Laura Ann Kesling, Jonathan Pryce; Director: Adam Shankman; Producers: Jack Giarraputo, Andrew Gunn, Adam Sandler; Screenwriters: Matt Lopez, Tim Herlihy; Music: Rupert Gregson-Williams; Editors: Tom Costain, Michael Tronick; Genre: Comedy/ Fantasy; Cinematography: Michael Barrett; Distributor: Columbia Pictures; Location: USA; Running Time: 99min.;

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

Skeeter Bronson (Adam Sandler), a hotel handyman grew up in a homey hotel owned by his father (Jonathan Pryce). Later, it was bought by a hotel magnate Nottingham (Richard Griffiths) on which site, a grander bigger hotel was built and in which Skeeter is now employed. At night, Skeeter babysits the 2 kids of his sister Wendy (Courtney Cox), who’s looking for a job in Arizona. Since the 2 charges wish to hear bedtime stories, Skeeter concocts fantastic tales. With the kids cooperative inputs, theses stories have a strange way of becoming true to life. In other hours, the kids are with Jill (Keri Russell), a teacher who runs an ecology friendly school due for demolition as the hotel tycoon plans to build another hotel on its site. Skeeter does not see eye to eye with the hotel’s manager Kendall (Guy Pearce) because both men are interested in Nottingham’s daughter (Teresa Palmer). Skeeter always seems to be a loser but he realizes that by slanting the bedtime fantasies he invents, he can make things happens in his favor. Can his dream of becoming a hotel manager come true? Can he win the heart of Nottingham’s daughter? Can he help Jill save her school?

Bedtime Stories is said to be a “harmless” comedy fit for family entertainment as it can appeal to everyone of any age. Though the subject matter is not the usual children’s fare, the kids will likely be entertained by the fantasy. But it is doubtful that most adults will much enjoy this picture that is predominantly silly and inane. Still, there are some parts that are laughable like when Skeeter’s tongue is bitten by a bee and he can only make incomprehensible sounds so his friend had to “translate” his words during a crucial “presentation”. The production design is lavish as every invented tale is interpreted or presented with impressive visuals and technical effects. There is variety in the imaginative concoctions which include, among others, a cowboy with a bright red horse, a zero-gravity battle in outer space, a gladiator in a chariot and of course, a medieval king. There are several layers to the film. The beginning and end are narrated by Skeeter’s father and within the story that he narrates about his son, the protagonist Skeeter narrates the fantasies that are now “smaller” stories within the “bigger story. So there is an alternation of fantasy and reality. Adam Sandler is his usual funny self and does adequate work here.

In Bedtime Stories, Skeeter is portrayed most of the time as a loser so that he resorts to fantasizing to make things happen for his benefit. But the movie ends positively and hopefully in that it shows that a person may lose most of the time, but by doing something right (not by imagining out-of-this-world schemes), he will eventually succeed. Sketter’s sister objected to Skeeter’s telling the children nothing ends happily in real life. She does not want her children to develop such unhealthy pessimism and think that beautiful happy things happen only in fairytales or such. One reason she says she wants her kids to be with Skeeter is so they can “catch” some of Skeeter’s usual light happy outlook. Skeeter’s story proves his sister right. Things can also end well in real life.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Shake, Rattle and Roll X

Cast: Marian Rivera, Roxanne Guinoo, JC Vera, Mylene Dizon Wendell Ramos, Kim Chiu, Jean Garcia, Diana Zubiri; Director: Topel Lee, Mike Tuviera; Producer: Roselle Monteverde-Teo; Genre: Horror/ Comedy; Distributor: Philippines; Location: Regal Films;

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

Tatlong maiigsing kwento ang tampok sa Shake Rattle and Roll X. Ang unang kwento na pinamagatang EMERGENCY ay tungkol sa paghihiganti ng mag-asawang aswang (Mylene Dizon at Wendell Ramos) matapos masagasaan ang babae at masawi ang dinadalang anak nito. Susugurin nila at ng kanilang mga kampon ang ospital na pinagdalhan sa babae habang pagsusumikapan nina Jay (JC de Vera) at Dra. Sarah (Roxanne Guinoo) na ipagtanggol ang mga pasyente at sugpuin ang mga aswang.

Sa CLASS PICTURE, sampung estudyante ang namalagi magdamag sa eskwelahan para maghanda sa pagbubukas ng kanilang exhibit. Subalit di sinasadyang mabubulabog nila ang kaluluwa ni Sr. Maria Belonia (Jean Garcia), isang mabagsik at malupit na guro noong 1898. Matatanggal dapat ang madre sa eskwelahan dahil sa pagkawala ng tatlo niyang estudyante. Upang hindi mapahiya, magpapakamatay ang madre at isusumpang ibabalik ang tatlong nawawalang estudyante upang makasama sa kanilang class picture. Nang mabulabog ang kanyang kaluluwa, isa-isa niyang papatayin ang mga taong naiwan sa eskwelahan at kukunin ang dalawang babae bilang kapalit ng kanyang mga nawawalang estudyante. Ang ikatlong dapat kunin ay si Joy (Kin Chui) ngunit maililigtas siya ng kaluluwa ng nawawalang estudyante na tatapos sa sumpa at magpapatahimik sa kaluluwa ni Sr. Belonia.

Ang ikatlong kwento ay isang komedya at pinamagatang NIEVES. Sa munting barrio, si Nieves (Marian Rivera) ang tanging tagapagtanggol ng taong-bayan laban sa mga mapaglarong engkanto. Nang mawala ang kanyang asawa at pinakamamahal na Adonis (Pekto), tatabangan na siyang maging “Engkanto Slayer” o tagagupo ng mga engkanto. Hanggang sunod-sunod ang pambulabog ng mga engkanto at pagkakawalaan ang mga taong-bayan. Sa simula’y tutulong si KC (Jennica Garcia), isang taga-Maynilang tinuruan ni Nieves na maging Engkanto Slayer subalit lalantad ang tunay na katauhan niya bilang Acacia (Diana Zubiri), ang reyna ng mga Engkanto na dumukot kay Adonis at nagpasimula ng gulo ng tao at engkanto.

Bilang horror movie may tamang timpla ng panggulat, pangkaba at panakot ang dalawang kwento. Kaya nga lamang ay may kahinaan ang naratibo ng Emergency at di gaanong malinaw ang pagkakabuo ng kwento ng Class Picture. Maraming pa ring detalye at side stories na walang silbi kundi ang magpahaba lamang. Ang pinaka umangat ay ang Nieves dahil sa mahusay na pagkakaganap ni Marian Rivera, magandang naratibo at pagpapatawang dahil sa sitwasyon, dialogue o eksena at hindi tulad ng nakasanayang slapstick o toilet humor. Maganda ang paglalapat ng tugtog sa tatlong kwento. Bagamat hindi gaanong pulido ang mga special effects at disenyo ng produksyon ay kaiga-igaya na rin itong panoorin. Sa kabubuan, nakaaaliw panoorin ang pelikula at sulit na ang panahon at salaping igugugol dito.

Maaring pag-usapan ang dalawang magandang puntong naibahagi ng pelikula, bagamat pahapyaw at hindi intensyon ng produksyon. Una, ang pananalig sa Diyos sa gitna ng pagsubok. Sa EMERGENCY, ang malakas na pananampalataya at kapangyarihan ng Diyos lamang ang tanging nakasugpo sa mga halimaw. Sa panahon ngayon, kung minsan, akala ng tao ang sariling kakayahan, kayamanan o kapangyarihan ang magliligtas sa kanila sa hirap o panganib. Mainam na makita na hindi ang lakas o tapang, hindi ang pamahiin o paniniwala, hindi ang talino o swerte ang magliligtas sa tao kundi ang kabutihang loob at pananalig sa kapangyarihan ng Diyos.

Ikalawa, ang katapatan sa asawa. Sa Nieves, mahal na mahal ni Nieves ang kanyang asawang si Adonis, sa kabila ng itsura nito. Ni hindi siya nagdalawang isip na manatiling tapat kahit na may gusto sa kanya si Agtaya, matipuno, guwapo at prinsipe ng mga Engkanto. Bagkus ay pinagsumikapan niyang matutong maging Engkanto Slayer upang matiyak ang kanilang pagsasama ni Adonis. Sa kasalukuyan, maraming marupok na pagsasama gawa ng mga nagkalat na tukso sa paligid. Para bang ang pagtataksil ay madaling bigyan ng katwiran. Bagama’t sa isang nakakatawang sitwasyon, nabigyan diin ditto ang halaga ng katapatan sa asawa.

May ilang eksenanang nakasisindak at madugo na maaring katakutan ng mga bata. Mainam na patnubayan sa panunuod ng mga magulang ang kanilang batang anak.

Dayo

Cast (Voices): Nash Aguas, Katrina “Hopia” Legaspi, Michale V., Pokwang, Peque Gallaga, Johnny Delgado, Laurice Guillen, Nova Villa, Noel Trinidad ; Director: Robert Quilao; Producers: ; Screenwriters: Artemio Abad, Eric Cabahug; Music: Jesse Lasaten; Genre: Cartoon Movie/ Family; Running Time: 90 min,;

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

Eleven-year old, not yet in his teens, Bubuy (Nash Aguas) is the favorite target of the three teenage boys who find it fun in bullying him. He tries to avoid them, but they manage to get to him. This time they catch him and order that he build a fire for them. He does so but suddenly the flames grow and spread, making the living forest trees to go after the boy for having caused the fire and heat to intensify, putting their territory, the forest and life in peril. Bubuy manages to escape and get home safe. The empty house however, makes him feel that his grandparents (Nova Villa and Noel Trinidad) are gone missing, he does not know where they are. Some time after, he is surprised to spot a young, lively and smiling girl looking in at him from an open window. She is Anna (Katrina “Hopia” Legaspi) offering to help him find his “Lolo’ and “Lola” who had been kidnapped- according to her- for the scare he gave the forest dwellers. Anna says they have been taken to the land of Elementalia. She shows Bubuy that she is a “Manananggal”, a creature that could separate her upper body from the lower portion when needed. With his eager consent, in a sweep she has him held securely in her hands and flying on their way to his grandparents.

They enter into what for him is a strange place inhabited by enchanted creatures. On their arrival the first thing Anna does is to bring Bubuy to the kind and helpful Lolo Nano (Peque Gallaga) who could tell them what to do, and also concoct a potion that could free the grandparents from their captors. Right away, Anna and Bubuy set to work. Joining them is Narsi (Michael V.), a vain, funny but helpful “Tikbalang”- a half human and half horse creature- who volunteered taking them to the places they have to go.

Dayo is a well laid out story that will interest and entertain not only young viewers, but also the adults. That it is a locally produced film about our own stories of fantasy and mystery could serve as an added reason for potential viewers to watch it. This has also been endorsed by DepEd (the Department of Education) which could lead to elders and parents accompany their young children to see a worthwhile and pleasing Filipino cartoon feature.

Instead of the usual presentation of Philippine folklore and fantasy characters and creatures as frightening, evil, revengeful and the like. Dayo has shown them to be, except for the rare few, naturally normal beings, friendly, ready to help and among others deeds, to go a long way for someone even a stranger like Bubuy and his grandparents. Another plus for this movie fantasy story is that the Filipino artists could come up with cartoons, GCIs and handle Digitals almost as well as their American counterpart.

Though still quite young, timid and reserved, Bubuy is shown as a kid, when confronted with the loss of his grandparents, being alone, hurt by bullies and not knowing what to do; but when given the opportunity to become appositive person, with the help of Anna, he quickly grows up. In place of helplessness, fear, a feeling of loss, he and his world turn positive. His grandparents are back with him and Bubuy is no longer the child, he has grown. He is shown as a prayerful boy.

Desperadas 2

Cast: Ruffa Gutierrez, Rufa Mae Quinto, Iza Calzado, Marian Rivera, Ogie Alcasid; Director: Joel Lamangan; Producer: Lily Y. Monteverde; Screenwriter: Roy Iglesias; Music: Frederick John; Editor: Tara Illenberger; Genre: Drama/ Comedy ; Distributor: Regal Films; Location: Philippines; Running Time: 112 min.;

Technical Assessment: 2.5
Moral Assessment: 3
CINEMA Rating: For viewers age 13 and below with parental guidance

Masayang nagdiriwang ang pamilya ng magkakapatid na sina Isabella (Ruffa), Patricia (Rufa Mae), Stephanie (Iza), at Courtney (Marian) dahil sa international award sa larangan ng fashion na natanggap ng huli, nang atakihin ang kanilang ina at isinugod sa ospital. Kasabay ng paggaling ng ina ay ang paglalahad niya sa apat na anak tungkol sa ikalima nilang kapatid na si Lugaduga (Ogie) at ang nalalapit nilang pagkikita-kita. Di naman naglaon ay dumating si Ludaluga na kapansin-pansin ang kaibahan ng hitsura kumpara sa kanilang apat na pawang magaganda. Bagamat nabigla ang apat sa di inaasahang pagkakaroon ng ikalimang kapatid na malayo ang hitsura sa kanila ay nagsikap sila na maging magiliw kay Ludaluga. Ang totoo ay di sila masyado nagpaapekto sa pagdating ni Ludaluga sa dahilang may kani-kaniyang sitwasyon silang kinakaharap bilang mga desperadas. Si Isabela na takot magpakasal sa live-in partner, si Sofia na dumadaan sa post natal depression, si Patricia na bumabangon mula sa annulment ng kasal sa dating asawang bakla, at si Courtney na nagtatalo ang prioridad sa buhay sa pagitan ng gumagandang career at atensyon para sa mabait na asawa. Ano kaya ang magiging kaugnayan ni Ludaluga sa dinatnan niyang mga sitwasyon ng kanyang apat na kapatid?

Maayos ang daloy ng kuwento ng Desperadas 2. Bawat pangunahing tauhan ay nabigyan ng highlight at walang sablay na tinahi para mabuo ang istorya. Ang mga eksaheradang eksena katulad ng panliligaw ng congresista kay Patricia at pagbibigay-diin sa seksuwalidad ay tama lamang sa konteksto ng satiriko at patawa. Wala namang masyadong nailabas sa pag-arte ang mga pangunahing tauhan dahil marahin magaan ang kuwento at halos di kailangan ng effort sa parte ng mga actor, maliban kay Iza Calzado na mahusay at makabuluhang naipakita ang post natal depression sa kanyang pagganap bilang Sofia. Kapansin-pansin din ang bitaw ng linyang patawa ng mga batang nagsiganap. Samantala, limitado at hindi masyadong malikhain ang mga kuha ng kamera. Tama lamang ang make-up at payak ang disenyo ng produksyon.

Magaan panoorin ang pelikula dahil sa mensahe nitong suporta at pagmamahalan ng magkakapatid sa isa’t isa kahit may kani-kaniya na silang mga buhay. May hatid rin itong impormasyon tungkol sa mga hamon ng relasyon sa pamilya (mag-asawa, magulang at anak). Nagpatotoo rin ang pelikula sa kasabihan na di dapat humuhusga sa panlabas na anyo ng tao. Ano mang suliranin sa mundo ay may katapat na solusyon. Samantala, dahil sa pagtalakay ng pelikula sa mga maseselang tema tulad ng homosexuality, palasak na usaping sex, at isyung politikal ay kinakailangan gabayan ang mga batang manonood.

Magkaibigan

Cast: Christopher de Leon, Jinggoy Estrada, Dawn Zulueta, Maricel Laxa; Director: Jose Javier Reyes; Screenwriter: Jose Javier Reyes; Genre: Drama; Distributor: Maverick Films; Location: Philippibn;

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

Magkababata sila, at sa kanilang pagkakagulang, magiging matalik na magkaibigan sina Atoy (Christopher Leon) at Ben (Jinggoy Estrada). Makikita nating ang bawat isa sa kanila ay tanggap na tanggap ng kani-kaniyang pamilya; sa katunayan, higit pa silang malapit sa isa’t isa kaysa sa kanilang mga kamag-anak. Magkakaalaman sila ng kanilang mga problemang pampamilya, at magdadamayan sa oras ng pangangailangan, tulad ng tunay na magkapatid. Sa pagkawala ng trabaho ni Ben, tutulong nang palihim si Atoy, pagka’t tnato niyang hindi matatanggap ng “pride” ni Ben ang hantarang pagtulong. Sa pagkakasakit naman ni Atoy ng cancer—kung saan siya’y tataningan ng buhay—naroon naman si Ben upang buhayin ang kanyang loob na manatiling buhay at labanan ang sakit.

Walang masasabing katangian o “outstanding technical elements” ang Magkaibigan. Sa kabila ng pagkakahirang kay Christopher de Leon bilang Best Actor ng Metro Manila film Festival (MMFF) 2008, wala pa ring sapat na dahilan upang maka-antig ng damdamin o makakurot ng isip ang pelikula. Marahil dahil ito’y namuhunan sa isang mababaw na pinanggalingan. Hinugot ang screenplay ng Magkaibigan mula sa tunay na buhay na pagkakasakit at pagkamatay ng artistang si Rudy Fernandez. Higit na makabubuti pa marahil kung hindi ito ipinangalandakan ng pelikula upang sa gayon ay hindi “makulayan” ang panonood nito. Maaari namang gumawa ng ganong uri ng pelikula nang hindi “sumasakay” sa popularidad ng isang yumaong action star. Ang nangyari tuloy ngayon ay, habang nanonood ka, hindi mo mapigilang isipin na ang pinanonood mo ay ang siyang tunay na pangyayari sa buhay ng artistang si Rudy Fernandez.

Kung gayon nga, ay bakit ka pa babayad ng mahigit 150 piso para panoorin ang isang kabanata sa buhay ng isang artista na narinig mo na noon pa mula sa mga balita sa diyaryo, tabloid, radyo, telebisyon, internet at sa tindahan sa kanto? Hindi naman nakapagbibigay ng inspirasyon o pag-asa sa iyo ang pelikula, kahit siguro may sakit ka mang tulad ng sa kanya at ang mga araw mo ay bilang na rin. Higit ka pa marahil mabubuhayan ng pag-asa kung ang napapanood mo ay angpagkakasakit ng isang di kilalang taong talagang tunay na naghihikahos, walang iiwanang yaman sa pamilya, walang iiyak na mga tagahanga sa kanyang libing, at walang pambili ng gamot subalit napapanatili pa ring buhay ang loob ng pananampalatay ng kanyang mga kaibigan.

Baler

Cast: Anne Curtis, Jericho Rosales, Philip Salvador, ; Director: Mark Meiley; Producers: Veronique Del Rosario-Corpus, Vicente G. Del Rosario III; Screenwriter: Roy C. Iglesias; Music: Vincent de Jesus; Editor: Danny Anonuevo; Genre: Drama/ Romance/ War; Cinematography: Lee Meily; Distributor: Viva Films; Location: Baler, Aurora, Philippines; Running Time: 110 min.;

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

Taong 1898, panahon ng pananakop ng mga Kastila, nang sumibol ang pag-iibigan sa Baler ng dalagang si Feliza Reyes (Anne Curtis) at ng binatang si Celso Resurreccion (Jericho Rosales), isang mestisong sundalo sa pwersa ng mga Kastila. Pilit nilang ililihim ang kanilang pagmamahalan at pagniniig sapagka’t ang ama ni Feliza, si Nanding (Philip Salvador), ay kabilang sa mga armadong Pilipinong nag-aalsa laban sa mga Kastila. Matindi ang galit ni Nanding sa mga Kastila dahil sa karahasang ginawa ng mga ito sa kanyang ama at kapatid na babae, kung kaya’t tutol ito kahit sa nasang pagpapari ng kanyang anak na malapit sa mga prayle, si Gabriel. Darating ang pagkakataong mananaig ang lakas ng mga rebolusyonaryong Pilipino, tutugisin nila nang biglaan ang mga sundalong Kastila hanggang masukol ang mga ito at wala nang matatakbuhan kundi sa simbahan. Papaligiran ng mga sundalong Pilipino ang mga simbahan ngunit hindi susuko ang 57 Kastilang naroon bagama’t ang kanilang pagkain ay husto lamang sa loob ng tatlong buwan. Titiisin nila ang gutom, malaria, at ang kamatayan ng marami nilang kasamahan, habang naghihintay sila ng tulong mula sa hukbo nila sa Maynila. Lalakad ang mga buwan, tatanggapin na ng Espanya ang kanilang pagkatalo, ngunit hindi pa rin maniniwala dito ang mga sundalong Kastila na mistula’y nakakulong na sa simbahan. Kabilang sa mga sundalo sa loob ng simbahan si Celso, at nang hindi na ito makatiis, magkakasundo sila ng ilan sa kanilang mga kasamahan upang tumakas.

Maganda at maayos ang daloy ng istorya ng Baler, at sa maraming mga aspeto’y makatotohanan ang paglalahad nito ng mga pangyayari noong panahon ng paglaya ng mga Pilipino mula sa mga Kastila. Maganda rin ang sinematograpiya, Kahanga-hanga rin ang katapatan ng pagganap ng mga pangunahing artista, at dapat ding purihin ang direktor sa husay ng kabuuan ng pelikula. Dalawang bagay lamang ang nagiging batik sa magandang mukha ng Baler: ang magaralgal na pagsasalita ng wikang Kastila, at ang kakulangan sa tumpak na make-up. Kulang sa “dulas” ng dila ang mga nagsasalita ng Kastila—halatang hindi iyon ang inang-wika nila. Ang make-up naman: ang mga sundalong halos isang taon nang nagugutom, napupuyat, napapagod, nawawalan ng pag-asa at masuka-suka nang nakukulong kapiling ng mga nagkakasakit at yumayao ay mukha pa ring makikinis, busog at malulusog kahit na gutay-gutay na ang mga unipormeng suot. Bakit mula simula hanggang sa katapusan, makisig pa rin si Jericho Rosales? Di ba dapat ay humpak na ang kanilang mga pisngi, nanglalalim ang mga mata at bumabagsak na ang mga katawan sa ganoong mga kalagayan, na ultimo daga at ang alagang tuta ay kinakain na rin dahil sa matinding gutom?

Pinaghalong “fact” at “fiction” ang pelikula, base sa kasaysayang naturingnang “Siege of Baler” sa lalawigan ng Quezon kung saan nasukol ang 57 sundalong Kastila sa loob ng 337 na araw. Ang digmaang ito diumano ay kilalang-kilala sa Europa at sa katunaya’y ginawa pa itong isang pelikula noong taong 1945, at pinamagatang “Los Ultimos de Filipinas”, na tumutukoy sa mga sundalong Kastilang lumaban sa Baler noong rebolusyon at digmaan laban sa mga Amerikano. Kung ipipikit na lamang ninyo ang inyong mga mata sa mga nabanggit naming pagkukulang ng Baler, malulugod din kayo at pinanood ninyo ito, sapagkat kahit ito mabigat sa damdamin, maaaninag pa rin ninyo ang liwanag sa likuran ng ulap. Maaaring sabihin inyong kulang sa lupit ang mga magkaka-away, ngunit hindi ninyo rin maikakaila na nakabubuti sa lahat ang ipinapakitang pakikipag-kapwa tao ng mga Pilipino kahit na sa mga kaaway nila. Malugod na bumabati ang CINEMA sa karangalang nakamit ng Baler bilang “Best Festival Picture” sa 2008 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), kasama ng siyam na iba pang gantimpala. Sadyang karapat-dapat sa Baler ang karangalang nakamit nito. Nawa’y makatulong ito sa pagtataas ng antas ng mga pelikulang Pilipino.