Friday, May 29, 2009

Terminator Salvation

Cast: Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Anton Yelchin, Moon Bloodgood, Bryce Dallas Howard, Common, Jane Alexander, Helena Bonham-Carter, Jadagrace; Director: McG; Producers: Derek Anderson, Moritz Borman, Victor Kubicek, Jeffrey Silver; Screenwriters: John D. Bracanto, Michael Ferris; Music: Danny Elfman; Editor: Conrad Buff IV; Genre: Science-Fiction/ Fantasy, Action/Adventure; Cinematography: Shane Hurlbut; Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures; Location: New Mexico, USA; Running Time: 110 min.;

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

Terminator Salvation is the fourth film of the series. It begins in 2018 Judgment Day and the machines have take over the earth. John Connor (Christian Bale) leads a resistance group and is both seen as a hero in waiting and a false prophet. They discover that Skynet is now attempting to create cyborg a combination of human and robots. Meanwhile death row inmate Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington)wakes up after 15 years and only remembers being on a death row. He emerges unharmed from a nuclear explosion and crosses path with teenage Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), who is Skynet’s primary target for obliteration and John Connor’s father to be. Between trying to save his future father and the remaining humanity from annihilation, John Connor must decide whether Marcus is an ally or a traitor send by Skynet.

This Terminator installment plays more like a war movie than a Terminator movie with its loudness and non-stop metal clanging and banging. The script is well played but develops to be tedious. There is good camerawork complemented by the high intensity editing which keeps audience at the edge of their seats, gritting their teeth watching through half closed eyes. The action and CGI are enigmatic and impressive. This movie is worth time to spend on a lazy slow day.

There are several great characters in this movie. John Connor, incidentally is also “JC”, is the Christ-figure in the film. Everyone anticipates the “Messiah” but almost no one believe or accepts him as their savior. Marcus Wright is the sinner turned saint as he continually overrides his programming choosing to side with the humans and ultimately sacrificing his life so that another person may live. However, the movie is too violent. The brutality continues from Opening to Closing Credits with not many words to describe the physical and psychological attacks. Because of the graphic carnage and action, the movie is not suitable for young children and impressionable teenagers.

Ded na si Lolo

Cast: Gina Alajar, Elizabeth Oropesa, Manilyn Reynes, Dick Israel, Perla Bautista, Rainier Castillo, BJ Forbes, Roderick Paulate; Director: Soxy Topacio; Screenwriter: Soxy Topacio; Genre: Drama/ Comedy; Cinematography: ; Distributor: APT Entertainment; Location: Manila; Running Time: 91min.;

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

Makakarating kay Charing (Manilyn Reynes) ang masamang balitang patay na ang kanyang ama at siya’y hihimatayin sa sobrang gulat at kalungkutan. Makikita ito ng kanyang pamilya at magiging apektado sa lahat ang kanyang bunsong si Bobet (BJ Forbes). Masasaksihan ni Bobet kung paanong mababago ng kamatayan ng kanyang lolo ang samahan ng kanyang ina, mga tiyahin at tiyuhin na pawang mga palingkera lahat. Ito ay mangyayari rin sa gitna ng mga pagtatalo-talo ukol sa mga kasabihan at tradisyong Pilipino ukol sa patay. Sa bahay ng kanyang lolo kung saan nakatira ang kanyang Tita Mameng (Gina Alajar) ang burol. Isa-isang magdadatingan ang mga tiyuhin at tiyahin ni Bobet. Unang darating si Dolores (Elizabeth Oropesa) ang sinasabing pinakamapera sa lahat at pinakamasama rin ang ugali. Sunod ay ang kanyang tiyuhing panganay ( Dick Israel) at ang pinakahuli ay si Junie (Roderick Paulate) ang tiyuhin niyang binabae. Sa pagkamatay ng lolo ni Bobet, ay mauungkat ang mga itinatagong lihim, sama ng loob at mayroon din namang ilang masasayang alaala.

Isang nakakaaliw at nakakaantig na pelikula ang Ded na si Lolo. Sa simula’y aakalin na puro patawa lamang pelikula ngunit habang yumayabong ang kuwento na umikot lamang sa isang linggong burol ay unti-unting napapalitan ang tawanan ng kurot sa damdamin. Maganda ang pagkakasulat at pagkakadirehe. May ilang eksena lamang na nagiging sobrang gulo at hindi maintindihan ngunit maari ring ito mismo ang layon ng eksena. Naging malabis lang marahil sa isteryotipikal na paglalarawan sa mga bakla pero parte ito ng katatawanan sa pelikula. Magaling ang lahat ng nagsipagganap. Marahil ito ang tunay na yaman ng pelikula – ang mga mahuhusay na artistang walang itulak-kabigin sa galing sa pag-arte. Mapa-drama o comedy ang eksena ay nadadala nilang lahat. Tamang-tama ang daloy ng damdamin at hindi naligaw sa nais nitong iparating. Maganda rin ang musika na sumasabay sa emosyon at tiyempo ng pelikula.

Ang kamatayan sa pamilya ay isa sa trahedyang pilit na tinatakasan at iwinawaglit sa isipan ng bawat pamilyang Pilipino. Ngunit ito naman ay hindi talaga trahedyang maituturing sapagkat nagiging daan ito patungo sa pagkakaisa ng mga namatayan pati na ng kanilang mga kaibigan. Ipinakita sa Ded na si Lolo kung paanong ipinagdadalamhati ng pamilyang Pilipino ang kamatayan ng isang kaanak. Tunay na nakakaaliw ang pagkukuwestiyon sa ilang mga tradisyon na tunay nga namang hindi malaman ang lohika at pinagmulan. Wala mang masama at mawawala sa pagsunod, tama rin namang pag-isipan kung ang mga ito ba’y may maitutulong o wala. Hindi rin naman tamang maging sunod-sunuran na lamang ng hindi nauunawan kung ano ba ang kanilang sinusunod. Ang pinakamalagang ipinakita sa pelikula ay ang pagkakaisa ng pamilya sa gitna ng dalamhati at kung paano nilang binibigyang galang ang katawang mortal ng isang namayapa na. Nagkulang nga lang ang pelikula sa pagpapalalim ng kinahihitnan ng kaluluwa ng isang namatay at kinunsinte rin nito ang pagusugal upang makalikom lamang ng pondo. Pero higit na mariin ang mensahe ng pelikula ukol sa pagpapatawad, paghihilom ng sugat, pagtanaw ng utang na loob , pagbibigay at pagpaparaya kung kaya’t katanggap-tanggap pa rin ito sa bandang huli.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

SIGNIS Statement: Angels and Demons

(Rome, May 11, 2009) Just what everyone has been waiting for: a film of a Dan Brown novel!

However, with the report of a review in L'Osservatore Romano after the film's premiere in Rome saying that the film was commercial and entertaining and that Ron Howard had made an effective thriller (although the review also suggested a mind game while watching the film, to pick the inaccuracies!), it means that a lot of the heat should have gone out of any controversy. SIGNIS Cinema Desk would certainly endorse the reviewer's conclusion that the film is 'two hours of harmless entertainment' and not a danger to the church.

Had there been no Da Vinci Code novel, film or controversy, then Angels and Demons would have probably been reviewed as a blockbuster doomsday, murder mystery thriller with a Vatican setting (looking rather authentic), discussions about the church and science with the Catholic Church treated quite respectfully. (References to persecution of scientists in the 16th and 17th centuries was sometimes inquisitorial – and is documented; prison was not easy for Galileo.) There are speculations about the secret society of scientists, The Illuminati, who seem to be a Masonic equivalent.

Angels and Demons was written some years before The Da Vinci Code and is a better written book though it is an 'airport novel', a page-turner. As with many historical novels (and Shakespeare himself was not above creating 'historical' scenarios that were inventive rather than factual), the author takes imaginative license with characters, events, and hypotheses: what if...? But Angels and Demons has a character who seems to do a 180 degree turn in character and behaviour which makes the psychological realism of the book rather absurd. In the film, there is less depth of explaining this character and so the revelation tends to be a cinema twist which, however preposterous, is somewhat more credible, at least in terms of the far-fetched plot itself.

While Ron Howard did not have permissions to film in the Vatican , the sets of the Sistine Chapel, St Peter's interiors, the Vatican Archives look quite convincing and were commented on favourably by the L'Osservatore Romano reviewer.

The scenes of the CERNS reactor are very impressive.

The key point about Angels and Demons is its church subject: church and science, past conflicts, the present challenge, a feature of recent Vatican discussions about evolution and creationism, the meeting of science and religion rather than antagonism. Not a difficult subject when one thinks of Galileo and Pope John Paul's apology in 2000. Which means that the central issues are not as threatening or offensive as the hypothesis of The Da Vinci Code with its relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene and their descendants.

The day before the preview of Angels and Demons in London , channel 5 screened The Body which came and went several years ago without too much angst or even discussion. Antonio Banderas portrayed a Jesuit from Rome going to Jerusalem to examine bones discovered in what might have been Jesus' tomb and which would threaten a traditional understanding of the resurrection. There are plenty of novels and films which raise such issues by way of interest and entertainment but are not put forward as theology.

The controversy about The Da Vinci Code, book and film, certainly got people going all around the world, given the number of books sold and the multi-millions of readers. The Opus Dei connection also contributed to some of the furore.

However, this time, with only science and the church (and issues of anti-matter and its potential for mass destruction in the wrong hands) and the Vatican itself calling in Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) to solve the problems, the potential for argument is limited. As with the screenplay for The Da Vinci Code, lines have been inserted more favourable to the church. Langdon reminds the Vatican that, despite the previous controversy, they have called him in this time. There are respectful lines concerning faith and non-belief – and a final request to Langdon from Cardinal Strauss that he write gently about the church!

One of the issues facing the conclave in the film is the 'Church in the Modern World' vis-a-vis science, with the dialogue for the meeting of ideas of science and theology or extremist attitudes towards religion capitulating to science and so destroying the church – the point being that this kind of fanatic stance can become a cause, righteously crusading with violence against those who hold more moderate views – leading to what could be labelled 'ecclesiastical terrorism'.

A key issue prior to the release of the film has been the raising of controversy about the film, sight unseen, a protest that undermines the protesters' credibility.

Any controversy and protest about a film is a challenge for the church to look at how it responds. The Vatican comments from Fr Federico Lombardi deflected some heat with offhand humour (that he would say something if the film-makers took out 1000 10 year subscriptions to L'Osservatore!). However, several Italian papers began making comments about Vatican officials possibly criticising the film some months earlier. This made headlines in the media that the Vatican would object or was objecting. And publicists must have been offering prayers of thanksgiving that these rumours were doing some of their job for them.

But, in the Catholic world, the main protest has come from William Donohue, president of the Catholic League in the United States . As he did with The Da Vinci Code and The Golden Compass, he issued lists of errors in the book and said that they were to insult the church. It was alleged that he had a Canadian priest contact, not wearing clerical dress, on the set of Angels and Demons who reported that director Ron Howard and members of the production were verbally anti-Catholic. On the basis of this, spurred by an Indian journalist who is linked with the Catholic League, processions of protest were held in India and Taiwan . Many of the errors and alleged insults to the church in the Catholic League list are not in the film.

Ron Howard's publicist (or Howard himself) came up with some smart repartee, that William Donohue must be a man of faith because 'he believes without seeing'. And that Donohue and himself were in agreement – that Angels and Demons was fiction. There were some acrid comments reported from the producers about the Vatican prohibiting filming in the Vatican and parts of Rome but there were also many quotes from Tom Hanks and Ron Howard that the film was not anti-Catholic and that the Vatican would enjoy it (as has seemed to be the case from the review). The Donohue one-liner was that Howard was 'delusional'

This kind of thing (which may not go much further because of the L'Osservatore favourable comments) indicates that there is a profound difference in responding to a film, or anything that is challenging, from an 'education' point of view which leads to dialogue rather than a 'crusading' point of view which leads to two-sided polemic with antagonists rather enjoying the experience of battle in crusade. Dialogue can lead somewhere. Polemic leads nowhere but simply confirms antagonists in their positions and stances and introduces the hurling of invective which in no way mirrors the charity and peace of Christ.

The (good) news is that Dan Brown has completed another conspiracy novel, The Lost Code, due for publication and optioned for filming!


May to August in the northern hemisphere spring and summer is a time for almost weekly release of blockbusters with huge budgets, action and effects and potential for high grosses at the box office. 2009 has seen Wolverine, Star Trek, followed by Angels and Demons, with Night at the Museum 2, Transformers 2 and Terminator Salvation in the offing.

Here is a doomsday plot, murder mystery, action thriller with a cast led by Tom Hanks as symbologist Robert Langdon and Ewan McGregor as the Vatican Camerlengo and an international cast portraying scientists, police, bishops and cardinals.

Angels and Demons, unlike the film of The Da Vinci Code, is fast-paced, the L'Osservatore Romano review referring to Ron Howard's dynamic direction. It also used the word 'commercial' as well as noting that it was 'harmless entertainment' and not a danger to the Church.

In fact, the film treats the church quite interestingly, scenes behind a conclave and inside the conclave, fine sets of the Sistine Chapel, the interiors of St Peter's, Castel San Angelo, the Vatican Necropolis, the Swiss Guards centre, the Vatican archives and several churches with art by Bernini. The film won't harm tourism to Rome or to the Vatican . Probably, the contrary.

The issue is science and religion. There are some very impressive scenes of CERN in Switzerland where the Big Bang was re-created in 2008. Dan Brown, writing years earlier, posited this explosion and the formation of anti-matter which is then used as a terrorist threat in Rome . Arguments are put forward about the church's record in persecuting scientists in past centuries, especially Galileo (true) with some inquisitorial interrogations and tortures. The material about the Illuminati, the underground society of scientists has some foundation but was not as extensive as speculated on here – a kind of Masonic brotherhood of scientists. (They appeared in the first Lara Croft film without anybody taking to controversy.)

One of the issues facing the conclave in the film is the Church in the Modern World vis-a-vis science, with the dialogue for the meeting of ideas of science and theology or extremist attitudes towards religion capitulating to science and so destroying the church – the point being that this kind of fanatic stance can become a cause, righteously crusading with violence against those who hold more moderate views – leading to what could be labelled 'ecclesiastical terrorism'.

Oh, the tale has so many plot-holes (with the action moving so fast you don't quite have time to follow through on them) that they don't bear thinking about – so, either one sits irritated at the inaccuracies about dates and historical figures and driven up the wall by the lack of coherence in the course of events or, as one does, offer a willing suspension of disbelief and enjoy the action for what it is, a lavishly-mounted, pot-boiling thriller.

Friday, May 22, 2009


Cast: Clive Owen, Julia Roberts, Tom Wilkinson, Paul Giamatti, Dan Daily; Director: Tony Gilroy; Producers: Laura Bickford, Jennifer Fox, Kerry Orent; Screenwriter: Tony Gilroy; Music: James Newton Howard; Editor: John Gilroy; Genre: Drama/ Romance; Cinematography: Robert Elswit; Distributor: Universal Pictures; Location: several North America and Europe; Running Time: 125 min.;

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

The film opens in slow motion as two corporate honchos brawl in the tarmac after they descend from their respective private jets with their staff watching in horror. Then we return to 2003, when smooth-talking M15 agent charmer Ray Koval (Clive Owen) meets sassy CIA operative Claire Stenwick (Julia Roberts) in a consulate party in Dubai. Instantly attracted, they begin flirting with each other until they share a passionate night. However, the next morning Claire drugs Ray and steals the Egyptian documents they were both assigned to look for. Fast forward 5 years after in the US, the two, this time working for the same multinational company as intelligence operatives, cross paths and are teamed together for an assignment much to Claire’s disgust. Or is it so? After a series of flashbacks and flash forwards, as the audience is taken to a jet setting tour around the world, we realize that Claire and Owen have been meeting for years and are now planning a scheme to double cross their employers, steal the secret formula and make a few millions before leaving the spy game. But first, they have to overcome their trust issue before learning to work together.

The biggest achievement of the movie is overcoming the difficulty of non-linear story telling which is both confusing and hard to follow while being clever and amusing. Duplicity relies on cerebral work instead of muscle power. Needless to say, the violence of the film is in the script and words rather than in actual fighting and blood shedding. The cinematography and production design are dramatic as they transform and gloss every single scene regardless if it is in an Italian hotel suite or dingy spy headquarters or the bland corporate office. Owen and Roberts deliver powerful performances but do not quite achieve an intense chemistry to make their long standing love affair believable. The witty complicated plot is washed down by a pathetic and weak ending. Over-all the movie is entertaining and worthwhile albeit a little problematical with the story telling.

Duplicity raises the issue of trust and loyalty. Self-interest and greed seem to be the main motivation of the characters that it becomes hard to have faith in the very person they love.

Again, pre-marital sex is tolerated and glamorized.

But the most disturbing issue with Duplicity is the glorification of crime and presentation of criminals as funny, charming, loveable characters you root for. As it lessens the impact of the misdeed, it may deliver the wrong message especially to young viewers.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Cast: Paolo Contis, Karylle, Maricel Laxa, Michael de Mesa, Jun Urbano, Joanne Quintas, Gerard Pizzaras; Director: Lore Reyes; Producers: ; Screenwriter: Lore Reyes; Genre: Drama; Distributor: APT Entertainment; Location: Rizal Province, Macau; Running Time: 110 min.;

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

Si Fidel (Paolo Contis) ay kakatapos pa lamang ng kursong Culinary Arts sa isang prestihiyosong paaralan sa Europa at nagtatrabaho bilang assistant chef sa Macau nang usigin siya ng kanyang Inay Viring (Maricel Laxa) na magbalik sa kanilang probinsiya para sa anibersaryo ng kamatayan ng kanyang ama. Sa kanyang pagbabalik, tatambad kay Fidel ang mabibigat na responsibilidad na iniaatang sa kanya ng kanyang pamilya katulad ng mga pagkakautang at mga gulo na kinasasangkutan ng mga kapatid. Ngunit ang pinakamatinding pasanin ni Fidel ay ang akusasyon ng kanyang Uncle Pinoy (Michael de Mesa) na hindi na siya Pilipino at pilit niyang tinatakasan ang kanyang pinagmulan. Upang pabulaanan ito, hahamunin siya ng kanyang tiyuhin na magluto ng isang masarap at tunay na litsong Pilipino kung hindi ay hindi na siya makababalik sa Macau at mamamasukan siya sa kanyang Unlce Pinoy ng isang taon. Tatanggapin ni Fidel ang hamon at siya’y mag-aaral ng paggawa ng litson kay Mang Carding (Jun Urbano ) na kilala sa kanilang lugar bilang pinakamasuhay sa paggawa ng litson. Makikilala ni Fidel ang apo ni Mang Carding na si Carmel (Karylle) at siya’y mapapaibig dito habang kakaharapin naman niya ang patong-patong na problema ng kanyang pamilya. Manalo kaya si Fidel sa hamon sa gitna ng maraming balakid na kanyang kakaharapin?

Bagama’t simple ang kuwento ay masasabing may kalidad ang pelikulang Litsonero. Maliwanag ang sentro ng pelikula na patungkol sa isang kilalang tradisyong Pilipino- ang litson. Payak ang pagkakagawa ng pelikula ngunit malaman ang konsepto at pagkakasulat. Walang masyadong kadramahan at pagkukunwari ang mga tauhan. Ang mapapanood ay pawang mga natural na karakter na hindi pinilit bigyan ng masyadong komplikasyon. Yun nga lang, may ilang tauhan na pawang napabayaan ang kuwento at hindi nabigyang lalim ang daloy ng damdamin. Sa biglang-tingin, wari ng manonood ay walang bigat ang kuwento ng Litsonero ngunit kung pakasusuriin, may matinong mensaheng nais ipahitid ito. Wala namang itulak kabigin ang malinis na sinematograpiya at mahusay na pagkakaganap ng mga artista. Maayos din ang editing at musika. Nagawa ng pelikulang ipadama ang nararapat na larawan ng isang simpleng komunidad kasabay ng paghahambing nito sa isang moderno at maunlad na dayuhang siyudad ng Macau.

Maganda ang mensaheng hatid ng Litsonero. Pinahahalagahan ng kuwento ang pagiging makabayan at ang hindi paglimot sa pinagmulan. Ang pagbuo ng pamilya at pangarap ay maihahalintulad sa pagluluto ng isang putahe na tulad ng litson - masalimuot, maraming sangkap at kinakailangang pagbuhusan ng tiyaga, pagod at panahon. Ipinakita ng karakter ni Fidel na ang pagiging Pilipino ay hindi kung nasaan kang lugar kundi ang pananatili ng kamalayan sa puso at isipan. Sagana rin sa pangangaral ng kabutihang-asal ang ina ni Fidel na si Viring na ipinakitang higit na mahalaga ang presensiya ng anak kaysa sa kikitain at ipapadala nitong pera. Sa panahon ngayon na pawang walang mahalaga sa ibang tao kundi ang pera, ipinakita ng Litsonero na marami pang mas mahalaga sa buhay tulad ng pamilya, pagkakaibigan, pagmamahal sa tinubuang bayan, pagtanaw ng utang na loob at wagas na pag-ibig. May kurot na mensahe rin ang pelikula ukol sa kalagayan ng mga babae sa lipunan. Marapat lamang gabayan ang mga batang manonood ukol sa ilang maseselang paksa tulad ng maagang pagbubuntis, pangangalunya at pakikipagtalik sa labas ng kasal.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Angels and Demons

Cast: Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, Ayelet Stellan Skarsgard, Pierfrancesco, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Armin Mueller-Stahl; Director: Ron Howard; Producers: John Calley, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard; Screenwriters: David Koepp, Akiva Goldsman; Music: Hans Zimmer; Editor: Daniel P. Hanley, Mike Hill; Genre: Crime/ Drama/ Mystery; Cinematography: Salvatore Totino; Distributor: Columbia Pictures; Location: California, USA; Running Time: 138 min;

Technical Assessment: 3.5
Moral Assessment: 3
CINEMA Rating: For mature viewers 18 and above

The pope has just died and the Cardinals are gathered to elect a successor when four cardinals—the favorites as the next pope—are kidnapped. A note from the Illuminati, an ancient secret society that is perhaps taking revenge on the Church for past persecutions, threatens to kill the four cardinals, one every hour from 8 to 11 PM. It also says a bomb made of anti-matter, hidden in the bowels of the Vatican, will explode when it runs out of battery at midnight Only Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) can decipher the Illuminati riddle, so the Vatican through an emissary summons him to solve the mystery and save the Vatican estate from total annihilation. Langdon gains a partner in the race against time, the Italian scientist Vittoria Vetro (Ayelet Zurer) who had inadvertently created the anti-matter in a CERN laboratory in Geneva. The two win the cooperation of the Camerlengo Fr. Patrick McKenna (Ewan McGregor), and then the hunt begins, despite the lukewarm welcome by probable papal successor Cardinal Strauss (Armin Mueller-Stahl) and chief of Vatican security Commander Richter (Stellan Skarsgard).

Having been denied the privilege to film in the Vatican, director Ron Howard resorted to creating their own sets, and they are great repros of the original, especially the Sistine Chapel. Those who have seen the real thing or who have a trained eye would know that these locales are just Hollywood sets, but the ordinary moviegoer would feel lucky to pay the price of admission (160 pesos) to go on a virtual pilgrimage to the Holy See, tour the Vatican archives, penetrate the Conclave during a papal election, and set foot on the ground where St. Peter is buried. Of course, Angels and Demons is a historical novel, not history, so you don’t turn to the movie to find the truth; nonetheless, it offers a reasonable facsimile of the trappings of Catholicism. While the plot has enough fire in it, the intensity varies from actor to actor. Tom Hanks is more disappointing than dispassionate here, and the Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer is like lukewarm coffee, tasty but unappetizing. Ewan McGregor as the angel-faced Camerlengo steals the thunder from Hanks, but has to try harder in order not to be outdone by the Cardinal Strauss of Armin Mueller-Stahl. Credit goes to the writers for the thought-provoking dialogue. The musical score is effective and the cinematography is great, but it doesn’t seem right that the Langdon and Vetro characters too effortlessly read or intuit the clues leading to the anti-matter vial’s hiding place, depriving the story of much needed tension and texture.

Contrary to the allegations of the suspicious, Angels and Demons—according to the review done by L’Osservatore Romano, the official newspaper of the Vatican—is “commercial… harmless entertainment”. CINEMA agrees. Just like the Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons is a plain detective story, a murder thriller which just happens to involve Church men as victims. It is worth watching for the relatively positive image of the Church that it ultimately projects. If you must watch it, prepare not to nitpick about Dan Brown’s historical hooey— instead pay attention to the dialogue, you are certain to pick out lines that may even increase your faith in men of the cloth. And on hindsight, you may even realize that in spite of man’s folly and infidelity, God does make Himself present in the conclave.

IP Man

Cast: Donnie Yen, Sammo Hung Kam-Bo, Siu-Wong Fan, Ka Tung Lam; Director: Wilson Yip; Producer: Raymond Wong; Screenwriter: Edmond Wong; Music: Kenji Kawai; Editor: Cheung Ka-Fai; Distributor: Innoform Media; Location: China; Running Time: 105 min;

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

Wushu (chinese martial arts) Grandmaster Ip Man (Donnie Yen) is highly regarded in Foshan for his passion, discipline and fighting skills. Other martial arts masters seek training under him that they can transfer to their students in martial arts schools which Foshan is known for. Ip Man belongs to a rich family who hardly says no to people asking for help including those who want to learn wushu from him which is to opposition of his wife. When the Japanese occupation comes to China, the people Foshan and the property of Ip Man are not spared. The people succumb to hunger and cruelty of Japanese soldiers claiming lives including friends of Ip Man. During this difficult situation, the Japanese officers witness Ip Man's fighting ability and think he can be an asset to them.

"Ip Man" is a well-crafted semi-biographic film with combined fictions for cinematic effects and actual facts about the life of Mr Yip Man, a known personality in the field of Chinese martial arts and the highly regarded teacher of world's famous late martial artist Bruce Lee. The film successfully makes the viewers admire Yip Man as a person. All the actors effectively delivered their portrayal of their characters especially Donnie as Ip Man. The treatment of the story including choreography of fighting scenes, friendship and siblings’ drama, and cinematic effects showing gruesome war are commendable. Lights, sounds, music, and overall production design have likewise contributed in making the film more interesting and entertaining for viewers.

The film conveys that as the saying goes like 'great power', possessing skills and talents like martial arts also come with great responsibility. Responsible people use them at the right time and opportunity. But this is not easy because most of the time there will be opportunity to challenge the person's ability and discipline. A person true to his principle and ability will find a way to continue beyond any circumstances. But over and above the cliche of the saying about great power, the film also shows that material things can perish but not the friendship and value of family. As a person who showed love for his family, friends, and country is rewarded by kind remembering of the good deeds and contribution to society. "Ip Man" is a film worth viewing, however due to some scenes showing brutal killings children age 13 and below should be accompanied by adult.

BFF Best Friends Forever

Cast: Sharon Cuneta, Ai-Ai de las Alas, John Estrada, Gina Pareño, Chokoleit; Director: Wenn V. Deramas; Producer: Tess Fuentes; Screenwriter: Mel Mendoza-del Rosario; Music: Jessie Lasaten; Editor: Marya Ignacio; Genre: Comedy Drama; Cinematography: Sherman Philip So; Distributor: Star Cinema Production; Location: Manila, Philippines; Running Time: 105 min.;

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

Malaki ang suspetsa ni Honey (Sharon Cuneta) na nambababae ang kanyang asawang si Tim (John Estrada). Bagamat ilang ulit na niyang nahuhuling may kasamang iba, hindi niya matiyak kung sinu ang babae nito. Sa pagnanasang maiayos ang kanilang pagsasama, isasama siya ng kanyang nanay (Gina Pareño) sa gym upang magpapayat. Makikilala naman ni Honey ang isang dalagang inang dance instructress na si Frances (Ai-ai delas Alas). Magkakapalagayan sila nang loob hanggang maging matalik silang magkaibigan, Madalas ibida ni Frances ang kanyang nobyong si TJ kay Honey at nagbibigay pa ang huli ng mga payo upang mapadali ang pag-aayang magpakasal ng lalaki. Samantala, tinutulungan naman ni Frances si Honey upang maayos ang pagsasama nilang mag-asawa. Lingid sa kanilang kaalaman, iisa si Tim ang TJ. Masusubok ang pagkakaibigan ng dalawa sa sandaling magkabistuhan na iisa ang lalaking kanilang minamahal.

May tangkang maging kakaiba at orihinal ng pelikula subalit sa bandang huli panay slapsticks pa rin ang istilo ng pagpapatawa at hindi naka base sa diyalogo o sitwasyon. Marami rin eksena ang hindi na kailangan at nagsilbing pampahaba lang. Katulad ng nakagawian ng mga mediocre na pelikula, may mga susulpot sulpot na tauhan at subplots na pinagbubuhusan pa ng pansin bagamat malayo at Hindi mapagtatakpang ang kakulangan ng pelikula kahit dalawang bigating pangalan pa sa industriya ang kanilang ginamit. Sayang lamang ang husay ni Cuneta at delas Alas dahil walang lalim ang mga tauhang ibinigay sa kanila. Burara ang produksyon, kung mapapansin ang eksena ni Estrada nang palayasin siya ni Cuneta at natulog siya sa kanyang talyer, makikitang nakakabit sa pintuan ang “Miss AI-ai” at “J. Estrada”. Hindi man lamang napansin o ginawanan ng paraan ng cinematographer o direktor o editor. Bagkus, dahil marahil kakapirasong pagkakamali ay pinagbayaan na lamang. Sayang ang pera at panahong ugugugol sa isang pelikulang walang pagnanasang maging maayos at pipikitan na lamang ang mga pagkakamali. ­­

Ang BFF (Bestfriends Forever) ay tungkol sa pagkakaibigan. Sinasabi ng pelikula na mas matimbang ang pagkakaibigan kaysa sa dagok ng pagtataksil. Likas sa tunay na magkaibigan ang umunawa, magparaya at magpatawad.

Sa kabilang dako, negatibo at mababa ang pagtingin ng BFF sa kababaihan. Sa pelikula ang mga babae ay lokohin (si France na ilang lalake na ang pinagkatiwalaan), tanga (ang anak ni France na pumayag perhan ng pamilya ng boyfriend), utu-uto (ang anak ni Honey na gawa ng gawa ng project ng crush niya), walang tiwala sa sarili (si Honey na hindi man lamang kayang kumprontahin ang asawa) at nakadepende sa lalake ang kaligayahan. Bagamat isang komedya, malupit at hindi pa rin magandang halimbawa ang larawan ng kababaihan sa pelikula.

Star Trek

Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Leonard Nimoy, Eric Bana, Bruce Greenwood; Director: J.J. Abrams; Producers: J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof; Screenwriters: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman; Music: Michael Giacchino; Editor: Maryann Brandon, Mary Jo Markey; Genre: ; Cinematography: Daniel Mindel; Distributor: Paramount Pictures; Location: Bakersfield, California, USA; Running Time: 126 min;

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

It’s the 23rd century. The spaceship helmed by Capt. Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) is under attack by the formidable Narada spaceship under Capt. Nero (Eric Bana). Pike’s son, James Tiberius Kirk (Chris Pine) is about to be born as his mother is being evacuated from the besieged ship. As a young boy, Kirk is shown maniacally driving (without license, of course) a car to the Grand Canyon, outspeeding a flying traffic cop and almost plunging to his death. He climbs up the ledge, hardly unnerved. He is suspended by the Academy for a few years and in due time smuggled into the starship Enterprise. Here he continues to swagger around, gets the hots for the sultry but sensible Uhura (Zoe Saldana), and soon after appoints himself as Captain after his nearly fatal encounter with Spock (Zachary Quinto). Kirk gets the ship, but Spock wins his woman, so who’s the real winner? That is not resolved until Kirk and Spock put their heads together to save their ship from Nero the destroyer.

This 27-year old Star Trek series has many fans younger than itself. That’s because its producers have learned to adapt so that Star Trek may evolve and keep up with the times. You’ll like this 11th Start Trek movie, too, if you’re young at heart, which means even as a Senior Citizen card holder you’re still open to such things as warps, starships, time travel and black hole idiosyncracies. You’re also young at heart if you think movies are fun and do not bleed yourself dry looking for logic at every turn. Star Trek tries to strike a balance between then and now, old and new, courtly and cool. Pine as Kirk the hero is reminiscent of the 50s’ James Dean, a rabble-rouser without a cause; Quinto as Spock the other hero resurrects the refined and principled gentleman that girls fall for. Star Trek supports its story with a nifty script and good character development, and tries to inject a little naughtiness and humor in order to be more palatable at the box office.

What lessons may be learned from a movie with characters evocative of Noah’s Ark but using starships? One, Star Trek science is not to be taken as plausible—you’ll flunk Science class if you believe in it. Two, recognize the implausible and the impossible as entertainment—for instance, enjoy the sight of the spaceship Narada emerging from the Black Hole looking like a mutated cockroach magnified a quintillion times—harmless in spite of its size. Three, to win a woman, it’s better for a man to have gentle manners than cockiness and a strong libido. Four, no matter where humans find themselves in time and space, man-woman love will live on in the human heart, as the song “As Time Goes By” says, “You must remember this, a kiss is still a kiss…” Five, in times of danger, even spacewalkers still call on God—as when Capt. Pike utters upon seeing the the “giant cockroach” Narada threatening his spaceship: “Oh my God….!”

Monday, May 11, 2009


Cast: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston, Will I Am, Lynn Collins; Director: Gavin Wood; Producers: Hugh Jackman, John Palermo, Lauren Schuler Donner, Ralph Winter; Screenwriters: David Benioff, Skip Woods; Music: Harry Gregson-Williams; Editor: Nicolas de Toth, Megan Gill; Genre: Action/ Fantasy/ Sci-Fi; Cinematography: Donald McAlpine; Distributor: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation; Location: Otago, New Zealand; Running Time: 107 min.;

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

In 1845 Logan and Victor (played as adults by Hugh Jackman and Live Schreiber) are shown as mutant half-brothers. Witnessing the murder of his father in their own home, the boy Logan discovers the deadly blades sprouting out of his knuckles and in his rage uses them for the first time, killing his father’s assassin. To dodge the murder charge, the two boys go on the run. Their closeness is demonstrated over the years as they fight side by side in the Civil War, World Wars I and II, and Vietnam. Booted out of the army in Vietnam, Logan and Victor are recruited into an elite team going on a secret operation led by army honcho Gen. William Stryker (Danny Huston). In Nigeria, however, Logan gets repulsed by the by Stryker’s atrocious methods and breaks away to lead the quiet and hidden life of a logger living with his lover Kayla (Lynn Collins). He is nonetheless found by Stryker who recruits him anew for a clandestine plan to create a Mutant of Mutants who will have all mutant powers. Meanwhile, Victor feels betrayed and abandoned by Logan and now turns into Logan’s enemy.

The action sequences in Wolverine are entertaining to watch. Like with all fantasy/sci-fi movies, if you wish to get your money’s worth, you need to suspend disbelief and to just savor the joy ride. Never mind if the movie doesn’t explain how the human body can manufacture steel blades that heed the command of anger. (Oh, we forget he’s a mutant.) If they can spread the technology it could come handy in the kitchen where you may want to chop firewood, or in the garden—to trim the hedges. But Wolverine is more sophisticated than that so this contraption is used to slice a helicopter’s rotor blades. Movie buffs who go for this genre will be thrilled to watch the adventures of this superhero; who cares about logic when what you seek is nonstop fantastic action? On the more serious side of movie making, Hugh Jackman serves as the redeeming factor of Wolverine: despite the fact that he is basically a tool in the action sequences, he takes his role seriously, as though he believed it could be real. That’s good for an actor, especially since the muscleman Jackman enjoys the support of countless female fans like the ones we sat next to in the theatre who would giggle, swoon, sigh, squeal or squeak every time the camera focuses on the actor’s physique.

We wonder, why the title? A wolverine is not a wolf, and Logan is not a werewolf. A wolverine, according to Encarta, is a “strong, dark-furred, usually solitary carnivore of the weasel family…” That harmless? Hmmm, maybe because “wolverine” just sounds nice. As we said, forget about logic. Anyway, the only saving grace CINEMA sees in yet another superhero is: this one refuses to be brutal without a cause. Now, that’s something. He would not work for a megalomaniac because he cannot stomach hurting innocent people—human beings who are simply counted as “collateral damage” by warmongering world powers. Despite his good heart, however, Logan/Wolverine registers as a pathetic idealist who is simply overpowered by evil elements around him. Superheroes need their memory, too, so what happens when they lose it?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Major Movie Star

Cast: Jessica Simpson, Vivica Fox, Cheri Oteri, Steve Guttenberg; Director: Steve Miner; Producers: Avi Lerner, Boaz Davidson, Danny Dimbort, George Furla, Joe Simpson; Screenwriters: April Blair, Holly Sorensen; Music: Dennis Smith; Editor: Nathan Easterling; Genre: Comedy; Cinematography: Patrick Cady; Distributor: Millennium Films; Location: ; Running Time: 95 min.;

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

Megan Valentine (Jessica Simpson) is a pampered but naive Hollywood actress who feels stuck in the roles she is given to play. She discovers one day that she is bankrupt, with her estate wiped off by her boyfriend. Totally clueless, she drives aimlessly until she meets an accident which she survives anyhow. Carless and homeless she sleeps outside a US Army recruiting office where she is found by a handsome guy in uniform. Since her loss (of property, bank accounts, etc.) has jolted her into taking a deeper look at her life, she applies to become a soldier, thinking she would then be taken seriously from now on. But life in a boot camp proves too tough for this silver-screen babe; she calls her agent to bail her out of the army but it’s too late. She has signed a binding contract which would constitute a crime to breach.

With a poster showing a glam blonde in military uniform Major Movie Star evokes images of an old Goldie Hawn starrer, Private Benjamin, but the former is not a clone of the latter. Private Benjamin carries a social message laced with humor; Major Movie Star is thick candy floss containing a message of personal transformation inside. It’s a relief to see that while Major Movie Star’s message is noteworthy, it doesn’t come across as heavy, preachy, or angst-laden, thanks to the over-all light-and-fluffy treatment of the whole story. It has light romance and lightweight entertainment, but offers a peep into how soldiers are trained. It is predictable, and with adaptability actress Simpson displays, she just might become—given the right roles—a major movie star in real life.

Somewhere along the 95-minutes of watching Major Movie Star, you could get the feeling that it could be propaganda for the US Army. Although not exactly a class-B potboiler, Major Movie Star seems almost too positive about army recruitment, focusing on wholesome (army) characters or experiences and watering down the nastier elements of training camp life. Nonetheless it tries to say that there are values worth training (or dying) for, like love of country, respect for authority, self-discipline, determination, duty-before-pleasure, maturity, firmness of character, etc. It may be a good movie to examine by young people entering adulthood and beginning to appreciate the value of self-respect. At least, girls can be helped to realize that if they want to be taken seriously, they should reconsider dumping their “hot blonde” or shampoo-model looks and cultivating their more lasting assets.

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past

Cast: Jennifer Garner, Matthew McConaughey, Brekin Meyer, Michael Douglas; Director: Mark Waters; Producers: Brad Epstein, Jonathan Shestack, Marcus Viscidi; Screenwriters: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore; Music: Rolfe Kent; Editor: Bruce Green; Genre: Romantic Comedy; Cinematography: Daryn Okada; Distributor: New Line Cinema; Location: USA; Running Time: 100 min.;

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

Connor Mead (McConaughey) is a famous and successful fashion photographer with commitment-phobia who treats women as a temporary source of entertainment. He discards women as fast as he flashes his camera ,immediately after sleeping with them. He attends the weekend wedding ceremonies of his younger Paul (Meyer) to discourage him of being perpetually tied to one woman. He almost succeeds in ruining the wedding as he flirts with the bride’s mother. On the eve of the wedding, his late uncle and mentor Uncle Wayne (Douglas), another womanizer, visits him and sends three ghosts to warn him to change his ways before it is too late. The ghost of girlfriend past (Emma Stone) is the 16 year old girl with whom Conner first slept after his childhood crush Jenny (Garner) was charmed by another man. He is shown all the women he played along with as well as his short lived relationship with Jenny a few years after graduation. The ghost of girlfriend present is Connor’s assistant (Noureen Dewulf) who shows him what the wedding guests, including Jenny, really think of him. The ghost of girlfriend future (Olga Maliouk) shows Connor’s funeral and Jenny’s wedding to another man. Now Connor must find a way to redeem his reputation and win the love of his life before it’s too late.

The movie is cute and enjoyable if you have nothing to do on a lazy afternoon. The Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol formula provides a new flavor to the usual “boy meets ex-girlfriend; boy discovers she is the one, boy tries to win ex-girlfriend before she marries another”. There are enough crisp and clever dialogues to save the film from becoming and over-romantic movie. The acting is so-so, but then again the characters do not require much from McConaughey or Garner except to be charming and agreeable. Douglas portrays a hilarious ghost who comes back to warn his protégée of the wrong he has taught. Overall the technical aspect is satisfactory while the creative part is a little bit lacking.

The Ghost of Girlfriends Past is full of sexual innuendos. Premarital sex is glamorized and accepted as part of the lifestyle of the successful, and marriage is portrayed worthless and restricting. The women in the film are shallow, pathetic and have a low self-worth as they consent to Connor degrading them again after they have been cruelly dumped. Connor’s moral awakening in the end does not make up for all his negative attitude.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Padre de Pamilya

Cast: Ariel Rivera, Cedric Jose, Isabella de Leon, Jacklyn Jose, Meila Romero, Tessie Tomas; Director: Cesar E. Buendia; Producer: Olivia de Jesus; Screenwriter: Cesar E. Buendia; Music: Peejay Basto, Nonoy Dadivas; Editor: Che Villafores ; Genre: Drama; Cinematography: Aristotle Licuanan; Distributor: ; Location: Philippines; Running Time: 95 min.;

Technical Assessment: 3
Moral Assessment: 2
CINEMA Rating: For viewers age 13 and below with parental guidance

Iginagapang ni Joselito (Ariel) ang kanyang pamilya mula sa kakarampot niyang suweldo bilang kawani ng gobyerno sa tanggapan ng munisipyo. Pinangungunahan niya bilang ama ang sama-samang pananalangin at pagpapasalamat sa Dyos ng pamilya. Sa kabila ng maselang isyu ng "graft and corruption" sa kanilang opisina ay sinisikap niyang manindigan sa kanyang prinsipyo ng matapat na paglilingkod. Ipinagmamalaki siya ng kanyang anak dahil dito. Subalit ikinayayamot naman ng kanyang asawang si Maggie (Jacklyn) ang prinsipyong ito dahil sa kakapusan ng pera sa pamilya. Hanggang kailan mapapangatawan ni Joselito ang sitwasyong ito samantalang nakaumang lamang ang mga pagkakataon na mairaos ang pangangailangan ng pamilya at maging masagana?

Payak ngunit malalim ang kuwento ng "Padre de Familia". Sagana ito sa simbolismo na binigyang buhay ng mahusay na pagganap ng mga tauhan. Epektibo ang pelikula sa paggising ng kamalayan at pagbibigay ng pagkakataon na makapag-isip ang manonood ng kaniya-kaniyang sitwasyon. Hindi nakapagtataka na makapag-udyok ito ng iba't ibang damdamin tulad ng galit, kawalan pag-asa, o mas positibong pananaw na kumilos para sa pagbabago ng lipunan at magsimula sa anumang paraan na akma sa kanilang sitwasyon. Bagamat "typecast" ang komikong karakter ni Tessie Tomas bilang mayor ay nakadagdag ito sa paghahatid ng aliw at mensahe ng pelikula. Sa kabuuan ay simple lamang produksyon, ang ibang aspetong teknikal ng pelikula ay naisalba ng makabuluhang kuwento at mahusay na pagganap ng mga aktor lalo na sina Ariel Rivera, Jacklyn Jose at Tessie Tomas.

Ang katiwalian ay isang talamak na sakit ng lipunan at ang taong nangangailangan ay maaaring mahawa at malugmok sa sakit na ito. Nakababahala ang mensaheng ito ng pelikula ngunit dapat harapin at pagnilayan ng mga manonood upang sila'y hindi maging biktima ng ganitong sitwasyon. Hindi naman maituturing na "between life and death" ang pangangailan ng anak ng computer na naging dahilan ng ama upang pumatol sa suhol. Nawa ay magsilbi itong aral sa mga anak na humihiling ng higit sa kayang ibigay ng kanilang magulang. Ang isang taong naninidigan sa katapatan ay dapat suportahan sa halip na udyukan lalo na ng pamilya. Hindi dahilan ang maliit na suweldo upang maging tiwaling kawani sa halip ay dapat bigyan ng dignidad ang hanapbuhay. Bagamat nagwakas ang pelikula sa nakababahalang pagyakap ng pamilya sa kasaganaan na nagmula sa maruming sistema, ay dapat bigyan-pansin ang tila naghuhumiyaw na tingin ng anak na nais humalagpos sa nakasadlakan nilang putik. Maaaring sa sulok ng mga mata ng kabataan ngayon ay may gayon din pagtingin. Huwag sana natin silang biguin sa pagnanais na umahon at makapagsimula muli.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

Cast: Frances McDormand; Amy Adams, Tom Payne, Mark Strong, Lee Pace, Shirley Henderson; Director: Bharat Nalluri; Producers: Nellie Bellflower, Stephen Garrett; Screenwriters: David Maggi, Simon Beaufoy; Music: Paul Englishby; Editor: Barne Pilling; Genre: ; Cinematography: John de Borman ; Distributor: Viva Films; Location: London; Running Time: 90 min.;

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

Miss Guinevere Pettigrew (Frances MsDomand) has just been fired from her 4th job as a governess and she finds herself jobless and desperate on a bench in a London train station because of her rigid moral views. The day progresses and she encounters one bad luck after another that she finally she decides to pose as the applicant sent by her previous employer to an American social climber Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams). Unfortunately, the position as Delysia’s social secretary compromises her morals as the former uses her sexuality to attain success. Amidst the backdrop of the 2nd World War, Ms. Pettigrew and Delysia become friends as each opens a new world to the other.

Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day is delightfully entertaining. Dormand and Adams deliver outstanding portrayals of an uptight and cloistered woman exposed for the first time to the world and a social climber with deep secrets. The comedy is powerful and leaves you thinking hard after the nervous laughter. The production design and music ingenuously delivers the feel and elements of circa pre-war era. Over-all, Nalluri succeeds in delivering an honest movie with a strong moral lesson without being preachy or corny.

The movie makes one very strong statement: morality cannot be compromised. We often hear people saying certain principles and ways are “already too old-fashioned” or are “no longer applicable in modern times”. And in order to have fun or be successful, certain lines are crossed without batting an eyelash. The movie proves otherwise. Although people need to adapt to ways of change and experience, the line of morality remains. While it is not prohibited to have fun and enjoy life, or to be assertive to achieve success, all must be done in a way that is proper, modest and good. At the end of the day, one finds true love and happiness when she remains true to herself and to what she believes in.

Parents should caution their very young children against watching because of some partial nudity and the tolerance of promiscuity and premarital sex.