Thursday, June 25, 2009

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Juhamel, Tyrese Gibson; Director: Michael Bay; Producers: Ian Bryce, Tom DeSanto, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Don Murphy; Screenwriters: Ehren Kruger, Roberto Orci; Music: Steve Jablomsky; Editor: Roger Barton, Tom Muldoon, Joel Negron, Paul Rubell; Genre: Action/ Adventure/ Science Fiction; CinematographBen Seresin; Distributor: Dreamworks; Location: New Mexico, USA; Running Time: 150 min.;

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

Long ago, the first time Transformers came to Planet Earth, there took place a huge war wherein the key to a giant weapon was hidden. Now, the robots are back—Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Megatron, etc. The Decepticons are the villains in the story, and they’re headed for Earth under the leadership of The Fallen (voice of Hugo Weaving). The Fallen has sent an advanced troop to resurrect Megatron (voice of Hugo Weaving) and kill Optimus Prime (voice of Peter Cullen), intending to invade Earth in order to get the missing key and the giant weapon it runs, and then destroy Earth’s sun. But first they must capture Sam (Shia LeBeouf) and his girlfriend Mikaela (Megan Fox) who are in possession of a precious shard of the Allspark. A destructive chase after this otherwise insignificant human being Sam represents the meat of the story.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen has all the characteristics of a bedtime story for preschoolers: it does not have to be a coherent story; its plot need not be logical but it must offer non-stop ticklers to engage the imagination; its characters do not have to be credible but some of them need to be cute; the fight between good and evil is so protracted that in the end the kids won’t care a hoot who wins. The movie’s length is the other thing that makes it perfect as a bedtime story for kids who can’t seem to have enough: at two and a half hours running time, it will surely put them to sleep before it ends. The big thing about Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is the special effects. Although most of the time, the robot wars make it hard to distinguish the bad robots from the good robots, the men behind the computers must be given Oscars for their labors. Makes you wonder what they’re going to come up with next. Here it’s handsome cars morphing into Hulk-y robots, and there are robot flies, robot ants, robot pumas, robot blenders, robot girlfriends—ooops, no offense to Megan Fox, but the camera (or the cameraman) is fixated on making her look like Angelina Jolie’s baby sister minus the brains. But that’s okay because she’s paired with Shia LeBeouf who himself can pass for the baby brother of Russell Crowe minus the brawn. Meowing aside, if we could we would award the CGI geniuses.

Let’s give it the benefit of the doubt and say Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen has good intentions. Besides keeping the movie clean enough for young viewers, it also offers you tidbits on which to build your own moral conclusions, although that might seem like squeezing milk out of pyramid blocks. Some practical lessons that pop up at the oddest moments are: one, marijuana should be kept out of reach of adults; 2, pretty girls who throw themselves at you are always suspect—especially when they can grow metal tails that can strangle the hell out of you; 3, handsome cars are more reliable than pretty girls—they’ll be there for you till kingdom come; but 4, look twice before buying your sons Matchbox cars—you’ll never know when a shard from outer space will transform them into nasty little bug robots—it might be safer to get them Megan Barbies instead. Ho-hum.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Echelon Conspiracy

Cast: Shane West, Edward Burns, Ving Rhames, Yuriy Kutsenko; Director: Greg Marcks; Producers: Alexander Leyviman, Steve Richards, Roee Sharon; Screenwriter: Michael Nitsberg; Music: Bobby Tahouri; Editor: Joseph Gutowski, James Herbert; Genre: Action/ Adventure; Cinematography: Lorenzo Senatore; Distributor: Hyde Park International; Location: Bangkok, Thailand; Running Time: 105 min.;

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

Max Petetson (Shane West) comes to Thailand to render his computer expertise, particularly password protection, to a certain company. After finishing the job, he receives a mysterious gift through mail sent at his hotel that turns out to be a cutting-edge, top of the line cellular phone. He receives equally mysterious text messages from an unknown sender. The first one is a warning for him to change his flight home. He follows and the plane he was supposed to be on crashes. Then he receives another text message suggesting him to invest in a certain stock and its price skyrockets by more than 300%. The text message instructs Max to go to a casino in Prague, Czech Republic and the sender recommends slots machines and blackjack tables where winning is guaranteed. Unfortunately, Max’s good luck draws attention of the casino’s security chief, John Reed (Edward Burns), and of FBI agent Dave Grant (Vhing Rhames). Everyone wants to know whose sending the text messages and what will they instruct Max next. It then turns out that Max’s life for cellular phone’s history reveals a body count.

Echelon Conspiracy’s concept could’ve been promising but the shallow storytelling and the series of implausible events leaves the feature with many loose ends. How could a machine be so powerful and omniscient? The action sequences appear to be less exciting as it should be and the performances of the casts are apparently misguided. There are some scenes that seem too long that eventually looses audience’s interest. Too much computer jargons also alienates the audience at times and the supposedly suspense scenes become less thrilling towards the movie’s end.

In the history of humankind, man has attempted for countless times to be God-like in manipulating the world. Consequently, man has failed in all these countless attempts for they can never contain the power of God. Echelon Conspiracy is another attempt to put to test the extent of man’s power to control the universe through modern-day machines like computers and cellular phones. Such machines are created to make human lives easier but it can also do otherwise. In the evil intention of invading one’s privacy and accumulating illegal wealth, such machines can also be of help. It is clear in the film that the one manipulating is evil, however, Max’s character surrenders to the wills of the said sender for the promise of fortune without hesitation and remorse in the end. This makes the entire feature disturbing. Until he has really learned the danger the machine could bring to him, he has no plans of questioning its motives as long as it bring him good luck. Ultimately, it is disturbing how the government could manipulate human beings for no specific noble cause. This means, humans themselves, and at the authority at that, creates machines for their own destruction and they do not realize it. If this is the case, we are really indeed living in a dangerous world.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Coffin

Cast: Karen Mok, Ananda Everingham, Napakpapha Nakpasitte, Andrew Lin, Suchao Pongwilai, Tassawan Seneewongse, Aki Shibuya; Director: Ekachai Uekrongtham; Directors: Mickey M. Bonura, Daniel Ingraham; Producer: Shawn Ramagos; Screenwriters: Mickey M. Bonura, Daniel Ingaraham; Music: Marco Werba; Editor: Kristopher Hoffman; Genre: Horror; Cinematography: Kristopher Hoffman; Distributor: Scorpio East Pictures, MediaCorp Raintree Pictures & Cathay-Keris Films: Location: Thailand; Running Time: 90 min.;

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

Two people journey to Thailand to participate in a horrifying ritual to save one’s self or one’s beloved. Chris‘s (Ananda Everingdam) is a claustrophobic architect whose fiancé, Mariko, is dying slowly while Sue (Karen Mok) is a health conscious nutritionist who just learned she has cancer. After participating in the Thai ritual, they momentarily experience miracles as Mariko awakens and Sue escapes a near death accident and is declared cancer-free. However, the happiness is short lived as a woman and her baby haunt Chris, and Sue’s fiancé dies but continues to stay with her. Soon they find themselves with a paranormal professor as they frantically try to exorcise the ghosts and reverse their luck before another misfortunate befalls on them.
For a horror film, The Coffin is exquisite as it features beautiful Thailand with its magnificent century old temples and historic cemeteries. The production design is cinematically eerie with scenes like hundred of coffins arranged around a giant Buddha and a closet stretching endlessly with mirrors facings each other on both sides. The horror is brilliant as it delivers a shock right after one has relaxed with the seemingly harmless settings. The performances are raw and vulnerable, drawing the audience with the characters’ lives and emotions. However, the script and storyline fail to develop seamlessly with a few loose ends here and there. The efforts to add drama at the end is weak and clichéd. Overall, the movie is thrilling enough to hold the audience for an hour and half at the edge of their seats.
The movie is inspired by a controversial north eastern Thai ceremony where fate and karma are merely elements of ritual as disturbing as lying in a coffin. The movie, though, takes this a step further and says the world is merely balanced by good and bad karmas where receiving a good fortune must necessarily bring on a misfortune to somebody else. As much as we would understand how hopeless and helpless people cling on to any prospect of salvation, we must also be reminded that the best piece of hope is one’s inner strength that comes from one’s fervent prayers. As Catholics, we throw up our hands and resign to the will of the Almighty but we also do so with a conscious desire to participate in the sufferings and offerings of the Body of Christ. We do not rely on karma but depend on the mercy and blessing of our Creator. And while doing so, we also employ all means humanly possible to alleviate and solve our problems and concerns. We need to emphasize the value of prayer and self-reliance instead of the quick fixes and easy way out.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3

Cast: Denzel Washington, John Travolta, Luis Guzman, Victor Gojcaj; Director: Tony Scott; Producers: Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, Tony Scott, Steve Tisch; Screenwriters: Brian Helgeland, John Godey; Music: Harry Gregson-Williams; Editor: Chris Lebenzon; Genre: Crime/ Drama/ Thriller; Cinematography: Tobias A. Schliessler; Distributor: Columbia Pictures; Location: New York, USA; Running Time: 106 min.;

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

A psychopath with an axe to grind against New York City’s bureaucracy, Ryder (John Travolta) hijacks the subway train Pelham 123, aided by his band of thugs (Luis Guzman, Victor Gojcaj, Robert Vataj). With the 17 passengers and the train conductor held hostage, Ryder makes known his demands to the train dispatcher on duty, Walter Garber (Denzel Washington), a high ranking transit official facing suspension for suspicion of taking a bribe. Ryder wants $10 million within one hour, or he’ll kill the passengers one by one. When police hostage negotiator Lt. Jack Cambria (John Turturo) takes over as Garber goes off duty, Ryder reacts violently and shoots the conductor dead. He wants only to negotiate with Garber whose unruffled manner of dealing with him seems to rub the psychopath the right way.

The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009) is a second remake of the 1974 film, novelist John Godey’s best seller (with the same title) which was also made into a TV movie in 1998. For a psychological thriller with a lot of action thrown in, this version rather lacks the tension needed to evoke terror in the audience. Is it due to the lighting? The music? The photography? Perhaps Travolta as the hooligan boss doesn’t look menacing enough in spite of his handlebar moustache and the four-letter words he relentlessly spews out. When he flashes that smile at Washington, who’d believe he’s sick? Why, he looks “as normal as Kansas in August”—as amiable, in fact, as a headwaiter at an Italian pizza joint. The thugs racing to escape with bags of cash are captured to fast too soon. Washington is credible enough as the low-key Garber, sporting a pot belly for his family-man role, and speaking his lines as though he meant them.

This hijack movie is more about developing an odd friendship than collecting ransom. It seems providential that the calm train dispatcher happens to be on duty when the psychopath hijacker only needs to be listened to. Perhaps if his folks paid attention to him as a kid he wouldn’t be the criminal he is now, frittering away precious minutes making small talk with the negotiator. Well, not really that small, because it leads to a revelation—without which the story would just annoy you with cusswords that outnumber the bullets fired. Although the ending appears to be redemptive for both Ryder and Garber, the movie’s moral ambiguity should be pointed out. Ryder the psychopath is raised a Catholic, prays, then makes the right decision—fine. Garber risks his life and more than makes up for his past indiscretion—good. The ransom money is recovered—who could ask for more? But what about the body count? Cops dying in line of duty, hapless train passengers shot in cold blood as though in a video game. Due to the troubling content, CINEMA can only approve The Taking of Pelham 123 for mature audiences.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Kamoteng Kahoy

Cast: Nash Aguas, Robert Villar, Gloria Romero, Ana Capri, Sharlene San Pedro, Yul Servo; Director: Maryo J. delos Reyes;Screenwriter: Ricardo Lee; Genre: Drama; Distributor: APT Entertainment; Location: Bohol; Running Time: 100 min.;

Technical Assessment: 2.5
Moral Assessment: 3.5
CINEMA Rating: For viewers of all ages

Payak at tahimik ang pamumuhay ng mga tao sa San Isidro sa gitna ng ilang komplikasyon ng kanilang mga relasyon. Malapit na magkaibigan ang mga batang sina Ariel (Nash Aguas) at Rosemarie (Sharlene San Pedro). Dahil sa kahirapan ng buhay, si Ariel ay nais ipaubaya ng kanyang ina (Ana Capri) sa kanyang ama (Gerard Madrid) na may iba nang pamilya, ngunit labag ito sa kalooban ni Ariel na hindi pa rin mapatawad ang ama sa ginawa nitong pag-iwan sa kanila. Maayos naman ang pamilya ni Rosemarie at malapit sa mga ito si Ariel. Sa kanilang eskuwelahan, nagtitinda ng mga kakanin si Lola Idang (Gloria Romero) na may matinding hinanakit sa kanyang mga anak na umiwan sa kanya liban sa isa (Yul Servo). Malalason ang isang daang mga mag-aaral kasama na sina Ariel at Rosemarie pagkatapos kumain ng bibingkang kamoteng kahoy ni Lola Idang. Mamamatay si Rosemarie habang makakaligtas naman si Ariel. Labis na maapektuhan si Ariel sa pagkamatay ni Rosemarie, ngunit mapapalapit naman ito kay Atong (Robert Villar) ang kanilang kaklaseng walang kaibigan dahil sa kanyang itsura, amoy at pag-uugali; lingid sa lahat, si Atong ay minamaltrato ng kanyang malupit na tiyahin (Irma Adlawan). Kamumuhian si Lola Idang ni Ariel at ng mga magulang na namatayan, at halos kukulungin naman ito ng kanyang anak upang hindi tugisin ng mga mga galit na taong bayan.

Isang mapangahas na kuwento ang Kamoteng Kahoy, na hinalaw mula sa isang tunay na pangyayari sa lalawigan ng Bohol ilang taon pa lamang ang nakakalipas. Naipakita nang maayos ang payak na pamumuhay sa probinsya. Maganda ang mga tanawin at nakakaaliw sa pagkapayak ng produksiyon. Magagaling ang mga nagsipagganap lalo na sina Irma Adlawan, Robert Villar, Nash Aguas, at Gloria Romero bagama’t hindi gasinong lumalim ang kanilang mga karakter gawa ng pagkaka-”sabog” ng istorya. Pinilit maging maayos ang daloy ng kuwento ngunit sadyang nakakalito sa dami ang mga kuwentong pinagtagni-tagni at isiniksik sa isang malaking trahedya. Hindi mo tuloy malaman kung kanino o sa ano ba talaga umiinog ang kuwento? Ang dapat sanang bigat ng kuwento na kay Lola Idang at ang kanyang panindang kamoteng kahoy (kaya nga ito ang pamagat ng pelikula, dip o ba?) ay hindi gasinong naramdaman pagkat malabo ang pagkakalahad ng kanyang pagkatao. Nangibabaw naman ang punto de bista ni Ariel dahil laman siya ng pelikula mula simula hanggang wakas ngunit pawang karaniwan lamang ang kanyang pinagdaanan, di tulad ni Atong na may pinakamakulay na buhay ngunit ginamit lamang na “tungkod” sa kuwento ni Ariel. Ito ang matinding problema ng pelikulang maraming tauhan: hindi nabibigyan ng kaukulang pansin ang halaga ng bawat isa. Malaki sana ang potensiyal ng pelikula, subalit lumabas itong parang bibingkang napakaraming budbod, bukayo, latik, asukal at niyog sa ibabaw ngunit hilaw naman ang kamoteng kahoy na binubudburan.

Mapapatawad na natin ang minsa’y eksaheradong pag-arte ng mga naghihinanakit na tauhan sa Kamoteng Kahoy sapagkat malinaw at kahanga-hanga ang mensahe ng pelikula ukol sa pagpapatawad. Ipinasisilip nito sa atin kung gaanong kahirap matutuhan ang pagpapatawad—mahapdi at sadyang mapait na proseso ito na hindi kailanman maaring ipilit o apurahin. Habang matinding hinagpis ang pinagdadaanan ng buong bayan sa nangyaring trahedya sa mga bata ay may kani-kaniya naman silang suliranin na kinakailangan nilang lutasin sa loob ng kani-kanilang mga tahanan. Dalisay ang debosyon ni Lola Idang sa 20-taong pagtitinda ng kamoteng kahoy sa paaralan, ngunit nababalutan pa rin ang kanyang katauhan ng poot sa kanyang mga anak—bagay na naging sanhi ng walang saysay na pagkamatay ng isang-daang mga bata at halos nagtulak sa kanya sa tiyak na kapahamakan. Ipinakita sa Kamoteng Kahoy kung paanong ang galit ay nagiging isang matinding lasong kumikitil sa kaluluwa—higit pa sa lasong pumapatay lamang sa katawan. Hangga’t may galit at walang pagpapatawad sa puso ay hindi kailanman magiging maayos ang buhay ng isang tao, ng isang pamilya, at maging ng isang bayan.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Shinjuku Incident

Cast: Jackie Chan, Naoto Takenaka, Daniel Wu, Xu Jingle, Bingbing Fan, Lam Suet, Masaya Kato; Director: Derek Yee; Producers: Willie Chan, Solon Su, Jackie Chan; Screenwriters: Derek Yee, Tin Nam Chun; Music: Peter Kam; Editor: Ka-Fai Cheung, Chi-Leung Kwong, Man To Tang; Genre: Action/ Drama; Cinematography: Nobuyasa Kita; Distributor: Emperor Motion Pictures; Location: China, Tokyo (Japan); Running Time: 114 min.;

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

Steelhead (Jackie Chan) lands in Japan’s Wakasa Bay with hundreds of illegal Chinese immigrants in search for a better life in the 90’s when China’s economy was far from being robust. But Steelhead, a simple farm worker from a remote Northeastern Chinese village, heads for Tokyo for the primary purpose of searching for his long lost girlfriend Xiu Xiu (Jinglei Xu). In the Shinjuku redlight district, he joins other illegal refugees including Jie (Daniel Wu) and Old Ghost (Suet Lam) who show him the ropes to survive in the harsh environment. They manage to do so by indulging in petty crime and taking on grueling work that no Japanese is willing to do. They learn to steer away from immigration officers as well as notorious gangs. Naturally kind, Steelhead saves a cop Inspector Kitamo (Naoto Tasenaka) from death and develops an unlikely friendship with him. He finds out that his girl friend Xiu Xiu has taken a Japanese name and is married to a rising Japanese Yakuza gangster Eguchi (Masaya Kato). In the turf wars between the different Japanese crime lords, the illegal immigrants are enmeshed. By a twist of fate, Steelhead saves the life of Eguchi, Xiu Xiu’s husband. Later, Eguchi takes Steelhead under his wing. In acquiescing to live a life of crime, Steelhead intends to improve the lives of his fellow refugees. How will each one fare in the new set-up?
Being a Jackie Chan film and directed by well-known Derek Yee, Skinjuku Incident (also titled San Suk Si Gin or Xin Su Shi Jian in Chinese) was the most awaited picture in the Hongkong International Film Festival held in the summer of 2009. It did not disappoint his fans but it presents an entirely different Jackie Chan from the usual superhuman persona that his admirers had always expected of him. There is no clowning around as Jackie demolishes the bad guys. Yes, there is the quick thinking with the equally quick deadly strokes but the display of his usual martial arts prowess is not as sensational as in his previous films. The movie has a lot of action, excessively violent and gory in some parts, especially involving the well choreographed gang wars. But this is primarily a somber, realistic drama with a serious protagonist. In his first more dramatic role, Jackie may have had limited success with his morally ambiguous character but it is still his movie and he does adequately well. Initially cowardly, Daniel Wu’s Jie almost upstages Jackie with his adept character transformation. As in most Chan movies, the women do not have much to do except look beautiful. The movie tries to put in several sub-plots perhaps to project multiple messages but the introduction of such is haphazardly done and proves unwieldy.

In Shinjuku Incident, Jackie Chan deviates from his usual lighthearted entertainment fare. It presents the harsh conditions in the lives of the Chinese illegal immigrants in Japan and in a way celebrates their undying spirit of trying to adapt to these grim realities in order to better their lives. It projects how the refugees try to unite to improve each one’s lot and to forge a strong community by helping one another. Portraying strength in solidarity, determination and compassion, the film, however, also projects betrayal and self interest. It shows how quick success and power ca change and corrupt even basically simple, good hearted people and bring out selfishness and disunity that weaken the community and make each one vulnerable again to discrimination and exploitation. Jackie Chan’s Steelhead remains unselfish and never wavers from his goal of improving the lives of his countrymen but one cannot agree with some of the ways he uses to achieve his goal. For instance, he did not hesitate to kill for a deal to secure legality of status and wrest power from a rival Taiwanese gang. The cruel and gruesome torture methods of the gangs graphically shown as well as other excessive and shocking in your-face type of violence are not images that the viewers should be exposed very early in life. Repeatedly imbibed subliminally, such exposure may desensitize the viewers to violence. Immature minds may be ill-prepared to handle and properly understand the adult themes.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Drag Me To Hell

Cast: Alison Lohman, Justin long, Lorna Raver, Dileel Rao,David Paymer, Jessica Lucas, Adriana Barraza; Director: Sam Raimi; Producers: Rob Tapert, Grant Curtis; Screenwriters: Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi; Music: Christopher Young; Editor: Bob Murawski; Genre: Horror/ Suspense; Cinematography: Peter Deming; Distributor: Universal Pictures; Location: USA; Running Time: 110 min;

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

Young Loan Officer Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) is starting to make a name in her banking career when her ability is tested. An old woman Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver) comes to bank and begs for extension of her home loan. Christine is initially sympathetic but when her boss gives her the call to decide on the case, she sees it as an opportunity to impress the boss and advance in her pending promotion. She then applies what is technically appropriate and declines the request shaming the old woman. This irrates Mrs. Ganush and in retaliation, she puts Christine on a powerful curse to haunt and drag her soul into hell. In this difficult situation, Christine finds comfort with her boyfriend Clay Dalton (Justin Long), who despite being cynical on supernatural, provided moral support to Christine when she seeks help from fortune teller Rhan Jas (Dileep Rao). Will Christine be able to get out of the curse and continue a good life with successful banking career and a loving partner?

"Drag Me To Hell" is an average horror/suspense film that offers the usual stressful suspense and effective seat jolting scenes. It has a simple plot, although there is a point in the story that is not clear how Mrs. Ganush got possession of the lamia curse. Some scenes like those highlighting the old woman's dentures were more of a comedy and fighting scenes that leave no bruises to Christine are a bit off. Nonetheless, the actors gave good portrayals of their roles and delivery of dialogues with complementation of make-up and production design. Sounds and musical scoring add up to the technical essence of the film.

Ambition can be sometimes dehumanizing and those who are on the way to the ladder of success should be aware of its circumstances before it’s too late. When Christine was given a freehand to act on the loan extension request of Mrs. Ganush, she only thinks of herself and worst she looks down on physical looks and food attitudes of Mrs. Ganush. Revenge is not an acceptable approach to a life's situation much more to blame and curse anyone for your shortcomings like what Mrs. Ganush did. In fairness, Christine acknowledged her fault, made effort to apologize, correct herself and allowed to subject herself to rituals and beliefs to counter the evil, only to realize that she was not successful in doing so. After almost two hours of emotional stress watching the film, the film was concluded with disturbing evil triumphs.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

From Within

Cast: Elizabeth Rice, Thomas Dekker, Kelly Blatz, Laura Allen; Director: Phedon Papamichael; Producers: Adrian Butchart, Chris Gibbin; Screenwriter: Brad Keene; Music: Jason Cooper, Oliver Kraus; Editor: Michael Matzdorff; Genre: Horror/ Suspense; Cinematography: Rafael E. Sanchez; Distributor: Lions Gate Films Home Entertainment; Location: Maryland, USA; Running Time: 110 min.;

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


FROM WITHIN is set in a small town where suicides begin to reign. As she watches those around her kill themselves in brutal ways, teenage Lindsay (Elizabeth Rice) worries she may be the next to succumb.

ADDITIONAL REMARKS: This movie should not be shown to the public.


Cast: Katrina Halili, Tonton Gutierrez, Glydel Mercado, Kristel Fulgar, Matet de Leon, Mon Confiado, Anita Linda, Dexter Doria; Director: Joven Tan; Screenwriter: Joven Tan; Genre: Horror; Distributor: Pixel8 Entertainment Productions; Location: Cavite; Running Time: 90 min.;

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

Dahil desperado nang makakuha ng magandang istoryang kakaiba, pupunta si Laarni (Katrina Halili) sa isang bayan sa Cavite upang magsaliksik ukol sa kumakalat na balitang nagmumulto sa lugar na nagngangalang Estela (Kristel Fulgar). Si Estela diumano ay dumadalaw sa mga dalagita na unang beses pa lamang dinaratnan ng regla. Sa pagsasaliksik ni Laarni, malalaman niya ang kuwento ni Estela: Hindi naging masaya ang pagsasama ng mga magulang ni Estela. Laging nag-aaway sina Erning (Tonton Gutierrez) at Cleo (Glydel Mercado) ukol sa isang lalaking kalaguyo ni Cleo na si Amado (Mon Confiado). Sa isang mainitang pagtatalo, mapapatay ni Erning si Cleo sa harapan ni Estela. Labis na maaapektuhan si Estela ng pangyayari. Ito na rin ang simula ng pagmamalupit ni Erning kay Estela. Ngunit mayroon pa palang mas malalim na dahilan kung bakit malupit si Erning kay Estela at ito ang kanyang sinisisi sa pagkakapatay niya kay Cleo. Habang nadidiskubre ni Laarni ang lahat ay pinagmumultuhan na rin siya ni Estela. Mabigyang linaw kaya ni Laarni ang kuwento ni Estela o maging isa rin siyang biktima ng pagdalaw nito?

Nagsubok ang pelikulang Dalaw na makabuo ng isang kakaibang kuwento katakutan mula sa isang karaniwang sabi-sabing Pilipino ukol sa buwanang dalaw ng mga kababaihan. Kaiga-igaya sana ang konsepto pero hindi ito napanindigan sa kabuuan ng pelikula. Pinakamalaking pagkakamali nito ang hindi pagbibigay ng bigat sa kuwento ng bida. Pawang mas malalim pa ang kuwento ng mga pangalawang tauhan kaysa sa bida. Tuloy ay hindi malaman ng manonood kung kanino ba talaga ang kuwento. Maraming inihaing isyu ang kuwento ngunit wala ni isa sa mga ito ang tunay na nagalugad at nabigyang halaga. Maganda naman ang tunog at mga kuha ng kamera na talagang madarama na isang katakutan ang pelikula ngunit pawang hindi naging epektibo ang mga ito dahil hindi maramdaman ang tunay na kuwento. May mga tauhang hindi malaman ang tunay na kinalaman sa istorya tulad ng manghuhula at isang matandang may-ari ng bahay-tuluyan na hindi malinaw ang papel na ginagampanan sa kuwento ni Estela. Sa bandang huli’y pawang nasayang ang mga mahuhusay na pagganap ng karamihan sa mga tauhan sa dami ng butas ng kuwento.

Karaniwan na sa kulturang Pilipino ang pagiging mapagpaniwala sa mga sabi-sabi. Isa na rito ang ukol sa buwanang dalaw ng mga kababaihan. Halos wala namang bago sa sinabi ng pelikula at pinalala pa nito ang pananakot sa mga dalagita. Sa halip na bigyang linaw ang sabi-sabi ay lalo pa itong naging malabo. Nakakabahala ang kuwento ni Estela. Hindi isang karaniwang relasyong mag-ama ang tinukoy sa pelikula. Pero higit na nakababahala na hindi ito naresolba at nabigyang paliwanag. Pawang ang lahat ay mga reaksiyon na lamang sa pangyayari. Pawang puro kasamaan ang namamayani sa kuwento at wala man lang bahid ng kaunting kabutihan o kadalisayan. Maging ang intensiyon ni Laarni ay hindi dalisay na nagnanais lamang gamitin at pagkakitaan ang kuwento ni Estela. Hindi malinaw ang tunay na ugat ng problemang pampamilya ni Estela. Halos kundenahin pa nito ang insesto at pagpapakamatay bilang pagtakas sa problema. Isang malaking pagkakamali at kasalanan ang pang-aaping ginawa kay Estela ngunit wala naman talagang naparusahan sa kuwento. Ang kanyang pagpapakita at pagdalaw ay pawang walang sinisino at walang mensaheng nais iparating bukod sa pananakot. Kinonsinte rin ng pelikula ang pakikiapid sa konteksto ng pagmamahal kung kaya’t lalo itong naging kabaha-bahala. Sa dami ng maseselang paksang tinalakay sa pelikula at mga eksena nitong katakutan, nararapat lamang ang Dalaw sa mga manonood na 14 gulang pataas.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Night at the Museum 2

Cast: Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Owen Wilson, Hank Azaria, Robin Williams, Christopher Guest, Alain Chabat; Director: Shawn Levy; Producers: Michael Barnathan, Chris Columbus, Shawn Levy, Mark Radcliffe; Screenwriters: Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon; Music: Alan Silvestri; Editor: Dean Zimmerman, Don Zimmerman; Genre: Action/ Adventure Comedy; Cinematography: John Schwartzman; Distributor: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation; Location: Canada; Running Time: 108 min.;

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

The display figures at the Museum of Natural History which magically sprang to life at midnight and befriended the night guard Larry (Ben Stiller) are being packed off to the archives of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington to give way to state-of-the-art museum features. Now a businessman in his own right, Larry decides to travel to Washington to rescue his museum friends from a future of perpetual storage. While trying to free from their packing crates Theodore Roosevelt (Robin Williams), the miniature cowboy Jedediah (Owen Wilson) and Octavius the Roman general (Steve Coogan, Larry inadvertently resurrects the Egyptian pharaoh Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria). With ambitions of conquering the world Kahmunrah enlists the help of some of history’s meanest characters Al Capone (Jon Bernthal), Napoleon Bonaparte (Alain Chabat), Ivan the Terrible (Christopher Guest), and of court his own bodyguards to wangle from Larry the giant gold keypad that would unleash the pharaoh’s ancient army. So now it’s Kahmunrah and the baddies versus Larry, a reanimated duo, General Custer (Bill Hader) and aviatrix Amelia Earhart.

Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian is be to enjoyed as an entertaining high-tech ouvre that delights the child in the viewer. Talk about a dinosaur’s skeleton jerking back to life, or figures in iconic paintings stepping out the frame and into the real world to interact with Larry and the museum figures—that’s neat. As a rule, credit must be given generously to those working with the computers to bring about these special effects—not only in this movie but for all movies utilizing computer generated images (CGI), which happen to be a dime a dozen nowadays. When it comes to the predictable story, forget about authenticity or historical accuracy; don’t question character development, time boundaries or inconsistencies with what you’ve learned in History Class. Likewise, there’s no point in asking if the pharaoh acted like a pharaoh would in real life, or if Al Capone would have agreed to being recruited by an Egyptian ruler if he had had a chance to.

What is the message of this movie? Or at least the lesson it’s trying to teach the viewer? Well, the viewer can glean the old tale of good versus evil, naughty versus nice, in the plot, but it’s doubtful if director Shawn Levy had aimed to achieve anything more than box-office success for this work. Like any piece of historical fiction (like the Dan Brown potboilers Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons), Night… 2 is merely a product of a hyperactive imagination. Thus, while the story may be spiced with the names or presence of historical figures—people who lived on earth once upon a time—their personalities in this work of fiction remain fictitious, created by the authors, directors, producers, marketers, with their own probably commercial agenda. Watching this movie may give you a feeling that you’re acting like a den mother to a bunch of gung ho kindergarten kids let loose in the park. One thing good about Night…2 is—its humor remains clean from beginning to end. But as a tip for parents: don’t forget to point out to your young children that Larry stole a guard’s badge and uniform to gain entry into the Smithsonian archives. Even with the noblest of intentions, stealing is stealing in any language.