Saturday, March 27, 2010

Romeo at Juliet

Cast: Alessandra de Rosi, Victor Basa, Max Eigenmann, Bing Pimentel, Jay Manalo, Rosanna Roce; Director: Adolf Alix, Jr. ; ; Running Time: 90 minutes; Genre: Drama; Location: Manila

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

Si Angel (Alessandra de Rossi) ay namasukan bilang isang high class escort service sa gabi upang matustusan ang sarili sa kanyang pag-aaral sa araw. Makikilala niya si Joseph (Victor Basa), isa ring estudyante na gaya niya at agad itong mabibighani sa kanya. Hindi alam ni Joseph ang lihim na buhay ni Angel sa gabi. Sa gitna ng kanilang umuusbong na pagmamahalan ay ang komplikasyon ng kani-kanilang masasaklap na nakaraan at karanasan sa kani-kanilang mga magulang. Si Angel ay inaabuso noon ng kanyang ama (Jay Manalo), habang si Joseph naman ay pinagmamalupitan ng konserbatibong ina (Bing Pimentel). Ito at ang madilim na lihim ni Angel ang magdadala sa kapahamakan ng kanila sanang pag-iibigan.

Bagamat karaniwan ang kuwento ng Romeo at Juiet, kakaiba pa rin ang dating nito sa pagbibigay ng makabagong koneksyon sa klasikal na nobela ni William Shakespeare. Mahusay ang pagkakatagni ng kuwento na ginamit ang mga kabanata sa nobela upang bigyang kahulugan ang bawat bahagi ng paglalahad sa pelikula. Walang itulak kabigin din ang pag-arte nina de Rossi at Basa, lalo na ang ilang beteranang nagsiganap. Maganda ang kuha ng camera at maayos naman ang pagkakadirehe. May malaking pagkukulang lang ang kuwento sa dahilang hindi gaanong napagigting ang dapat sana'y malalim na pag-iibigan ng dalawang pangunahing tauhan. Hindi masyadong ramdam ang bigat at lalim ng kanilang samahan. Marahil dahil madalas lumihis ang kuwento sa pagmamahalan ng dalawa. Marahil nasobrahan din ang pagpapaliwanag sa ilang bagay na hindi naman sentro ng pelikulla. Tuloy walang gaanong dating ang kinalabasan ng kuwento sa kabuuan.

Bukod sa pagmamahalang mauuwi sa trahedya, mayroong lumulutang na mensahe ang pelikula patungkol sa kinahihinatnan ng isang tao base sa klase ng magulang at pagpapalaki na mayroon siya. Sinasabi nito na malaki ang papel na ginagampanan ng isang magulang sa magiging buhay ng kanilang anak. Sa uri ng pagpapalaki na ito mahuhubog ang kaisipan ng isang bata sa paggawa niya ng mga desisyon sa buhay at ito'y dadalhin niya hanggang sa paglaki. Sa aspetong ito ay may magandang punto ang pelikula dahill pinahahalagahan nito ang papel ng magulang at pamilya sa buhay ng isang tao. Ngunit mayroong kaunting pagmamalabis ang pelikula sa pagpapakita ng maraming eksena na may patungkol sa sekswalidad. Hindi naging malinaw ang tayo ng pelikula ukol sa maraming bagay na bumabagabag sa ating lipunan sa usaping ito. Sa kabuuan, ang pelikula ay maaring mag-iwan ng hindi magandang impluwensiya sa mga batang manonood at tunay naman na maraming maseselan na usapin sa pelikula kagaya ng insesto, pang-aabusong sekswal, pre-marital sex, prostitusyon, pornograpiya, sekswal na dibersyon at marami pang iba. Kaya nararapat lamang ang pelikula sa mga may edad 18 pataas.

Friday, March 26, 2010

I Love You Philip Morris

Cast: Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro; Directors: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa; Producers: Andrew Lazar, Far Shariat; Screenwriters: John Requa, Glenn Ficarra; Music: Nick Urata; Editor: Thomas J. Nordberg; Genre: Drama/ COmedy; Cinematography: Xavier Perez Grobet; Distributor: Cinestar; Location: USA; Running Time: 110 min;

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


The movie is a true story of Steven Russell (Carrey), a married father whose exploits landed him in the Texas criminal justice system. He fell madly in love with his cellmate (Ewan McGregor), who eventually was set free, which led Russell to escape from Texas prisons four times.

ADDITIONAL REMARKS: Same sex relationship with sexual activities is presented as normal and acceptable; it can be misleading to the youth.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Book of Eli

Cast: Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis; Directors: Albert Hughes, Allen Hughes; Producers: Broderick Johnson, Andrew A. Kosove, Joel Silver, David Valdes, Denzel Washington; Screenwriter: Gara Whitta; Music: Atticus Ross, Leopold Ross, Claudia Sarne; Editor: Cindy Mollo; Genre:; Cinematography: Don Burgess; Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures; Location: USA; Running Time: 118 mins;

Technical Assessment: 3.5
Moral Assessment: 2.5
CINEMA Rating: For viewers 14 and above

The movie takes place in a world of chaos and mayhem 30 years after the apocalypse. Eli (Denzel Washington) has been travelling on foot in search for water source. He is generally peaceful and quiet but has superb combat skills he will not hesitate to use if provoked. He enters a dilapidated town built and run by Carnegie (Gary Oldman), an ambitious gang leader who desires to build more towns if only he can find the only remaining copy of the Bible. Impressed by Eli’s skills, Carnegie decides to have him seduced by his blind concubine’s daughter, only to find out later that he carries the very book he has been searching for. Carnegie then plots to kill Eli and take possession of the only copy of the King James Bible, while Eli, believing that God is on his side, uses all his skills to protect his precious cargo until he is able to properly turn it over.

The movie offers a fresh breath of treatment for an old plot - a peaceful man with a mission who is capable of killing his enemies single handedly if provoked. The production is decent and engaging with an authentic interpretation of a world that survived the worst. One can see semblances of old Western movies and modern action flicks with its staging and cinematography. The script is intriguing but there are several loopholes in the storyline’s logic and Eli’s character. Fortunately, the visual play each scene provides balances its shortcomings. Washington and Oldman play their respective roles convincingly.

The Book of Eli presents a bit of a predicament. On the one hand, it might be possible to excuse the brutality of the film and take this in the context of a chaotic world after the war. On the other hand, one might wish to just look at all the objectionable violence and dismiss the movie's values altogether. The movie may appear to be merely a violent film but if you will take a closer look the movie is interspersed with several religious ideologies. First, there is Eli’s journey to faithfully carry out and complete the mission entrusted to him. Second, amidst a world consumed by chaos and violence, the Word of God seems to be a beacon of hope and change. Third, Eli’s spirituality is almost authentic as he not only carries and protects the Bible but also reads passages daily and has even memorized the entire book. He also prays a lot, frequently quotes and shares passages from the Bible and emphasizes the need to look at the spirit not just the words of the passages. He reveals that he walks by faith and not by sight. However, several scenes have intermittent strong language, violence and sexual innuendos, although not endorsed as a way of life, they will still disturb the sensibilities of most people.

Film might not be appropriate for children younger than 14 and parents are cautioned to guide their teenagers when watching the movie.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Alice in Wonderland

Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham-Carter, Anne Hathaway, Allan Rickman; Director: Tim Burton; Producer: Richard Zanuck; Screenwriter: Linda Woolverton; Genre: Fantasy; Distributor: Walt Disney; Location: UK; Running Time: 105 min;

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

Young Alice has been having a recurring dream of going down a dark hole leading to a strange-looking place. When she reaches 19 years old, Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is obliged to accept a public wedding proposal from a suitor whom she has no affection for. So when a white rabbit wearing a waistcoat distracts her, she runs from the crowd to follow the strange creature. In her pursuit of the rabbit, Alice falls into the rabbit hole and finds herself in a place that she has already seen in her dreams, Wonderland. However, it’s no longer the happy place it once was. Alice bumps into Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) and from him she discovers that her coming has been foretold for she is believed to be the only one who can save the land by slaying the Red Queen’s (Helena Bonham-Carter) huge flying dragon, the Jabberwocky, and restoring power to the White Queen (Anne Hathaway). However, Alice is reluctant for she believes all these are just part of a dream and she would soon wake-up.

This children’s classic by Lewis Carroll is re-lived in this latest and updated version that comes in 3D technology. As expected, Tim Burton’s adaptation is dark yet full of substance. The core message remains faithful to the original although the entire feel is made contemporary and the look borderlines into surreal aesthetics that is Burton’s signature. Audiences are taken into a visual treat this time with live characters and colorful magnificent backdrops. The sound, scoring and cinematography are all in place. The real gem in the film is the performance of its actors. Wasikowska, perfect for her role, does an excellent job playing the grown-up Alice. Her unique charm and combination of cleverness and innocence make her a memorable character. Hathaway’s appearance is comparatively brief but interesting just the same. Depp is as usual fantastic, but Bonham-Carter as the Red Queen with the oversized head dominates every scene she’s in with her

Alice in Wonderland has brought its audience to a place that exists only in one’s wild imagination. The film has shown the power of believing in the impossible. The Red and White Queens clearly represent the battle between good and evil, and this helped bring to the fore the maturing of Alice from adventuresome girl to courageous young woman. She has held dearly the teachings of her parents, except, understandably, when forced to marry somebody she does not love. In this sense, she has come of age, defying authority and unexamined social traditions to use her own mind to do what is right. Alice’s character strongly depicts self-confidence and optimism, traits that are given recognition in the end when she is granted the opportunity to venture into the real world with real characters and real challenges.

Due to the dark depiction and images (i.e., chopped fingers used as potion, smoking cat, animals treated cruelly, etc.) that may not appear wholesome to the very young audience, CINEMA strongly recommends parental guidance for audiences below 13 years old.

Green Zone

Cast: Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Amy Ryan, Brendan Gleeson; Director: Paul Greengrass; Producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lloyd Levin, Paul Greengrass; Screenwriter: Brian Helgeland; Music: John Powell; Editor: Christopher Rouse; Genre: Action/ Adventure/ War; Cinematography: Barry Ackroyd; Distributor: Universal Pictures; Location: Baghdad, Iraq; Running Time: 125 mins;

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


Green Zone is a film set in the chaotic early days of the Iraqi War when no one could be trusted and every decision could detonate unforeseen consequences.

During the U.S.-led occupation of Baghdad in 2003, Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Damon) and his team of Army inspectors were dispatched to find weapons of mass destruction believed to be stockpiled in the Iraqi desert. Rocketing from one booby-trapped and treacherous site to the next, the men search for deadly chemical agents but stumble instead upon an elaborate cover-up that inverts the purpose of their mission.

Spun by operatives with intersecting agendas, Miller must hunt through covert and faulty intelligence hidden on foreign soil for answers that will either clear a rogue regime or escalate a war in an unstable region. And at this blistering time and in this combustible place, he will find the most elusive weapon of all is the truth. (Universal Pictures.)

OUTSTANDING FEATURES OF THE FILM: Can be resource material for discussion on the morality of war.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Red Shoes

Cast: Marvin Agustin, Nikki Gil, Lisa Lorena, Techie Agbayani, Tirso Cruz III, Iwa Moto; Director: Raul Jorolan; Writer: James Ladioray; Producer/ Distributor: Tony Gloria/Unitel; Running Time: 110 minutes; Location: Manila; Genre: Drama, Romance;

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

Nang mapatalsik sa puwesto ang mga Marcos noong 1986, pinasok ng mga taong-bayan ang Malacanang. Kabilang dito ang batang si Lucas (Marvin Agustin) na nagnakaw ng isang pares ng sapatos na pula ni Imelda Marcos. Ibinigay niya ang kanang pares sa kanyang ina (Lisa Lorena) na nagluluksa sa pagkamatay ng kanilang padre de pamilya (Tirso Crus III) at ang kaliwang kapares naman ay ibinigay niya sa kanyang unang babaeng minahal na si Betina (Nikki Gil). Sa kanilang paglaki ay magiging magkasintahan sina Lucas at Betina ngunit sila’y magkakahiwalay bunga ng matinding di-pagkakaunawaan na mag-uugat sa pagtataksil ni Lucas. Samantalang ang ina naman ni Lucas ay panay ang pagkonsulta sa mga ispiritista upang makausap ang kaluluwa ng kanyang amang natabunan sa ginagawang Film Center ni Imelda.

Kakaiba ang kuwentong nais ihatid ng The Red Shoes. Nagawa nitong kilitiin ang imahinasyon ng manonood sa pagkokonekta nito sa mga tunay na pangyayari sa ating kasaysayan. Maayos naman ang pagkakalahad ng kuwento bagama’t magulo sa kabuuan ang mensahe nito. Maganda ang mga kuha ng kamera at ang mga lokasyong ginamit. Kitang-kita na nag-uumapaw sa talinong artistiko ang mga nasa likod ng pelikula. Maganda rin ang intensiyon nilang magbigay ng panibagong putahe sa mga manonood ng pelikulang Pilipino. Mahuhusay naman ang mga nagsiganap, yun nga lang, bihira silang maramdaman bilang mga tunay na tao--dala ng masyadong pag-ayos sa istruktura ng pelikula, lumabas na pawang artipisyal at mukhang mga karikatura ang kanilang mga karakter. Sayang, sapagkat kita naman ang sinseridad ng lahat sa maayos na pagganap.

Sa simula pa lang ay problemado na ang pelikula sa maraming usaping moral. Nariyan agad ang "romanticizing" sa pagnanakaw ng isang bata. Bagama’t walang malisya sa parte ng bata ang pagnanakaw, hindi nililinaw ng pelikula kung ang pagnanakaw ay tama o mali. Maaari ding sinasabi ng pelikula na hindi ito mabuti sa pamamagitan ng pagpapakitang hindi naging maayos ang buhay ng pangunahing tauhan sa kabuuan, subalit ang ganoong mga mensahe ay dapat na dumating ng lubos na malinaw upang hindi nakakalabo sa isipan ng nanonood. Umikot ang kuwento sa iba’t-ibang uri ng pagnanakaw: pang-aagaw ng asawa, pagnanakaw ng sandali ng pagtataksil. Nariyan din ang paniniwala ng ina ni Lucas sa mga ispiritista at ilang mga pamahiin. Ipinakita namang ang gawaing pagtawag ng kaluluwa at paniniwala sa ispirtista ay hindi tama at madalas, ang mga ito’y pawang mga huwad. Hindi rin mabuti na ipinipresenta ng pelikula na katanggap-tanggap ang pagtatalik ng dalawang taong hindi naman kasal. Mabuti na nga lang at wala namang hubaran at malabis na halikan na ipinakita. Nakakabahala nga lang na baka isipin ng mga batang manonood na sapat na dahilan ang pagmamahal upang humantong sa pagtatalik ang relasyon. Sa kabuuan naman ng pelikula ay malinaw ang pinaka-mensahe nito ukol sa pagmamahal, pagpapatawad at pagpaparaya.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Extraordinary Measures

Cast: Brendan Fraser, Harrison Ford, Keri Russell; Director: Tom Vaughn; Producers: Carla Santos Shamberg, Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher; Screenwriters: Robert Nelson Jacobs, Geeta Anand; Music: Andrea Guerra; Editor: Anne V. Coates; Genre: Drama; Cinematography: Andrew Dunn; Distributor: CBS Films; Location: USA; Running Time: 105mins.

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

The movie is based on the reports of Wall Street journalist, Geeta Anand in 2004. It follows the struggles of John Crowley (Brendan Fraser), a pharmaceutical executive on the rise, whose 8-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter have been diagnosed with Pompe disease. His greatest dilemma is that this rare genetic disorder with no known cure will eventually spread to his children’s vital organs and kill them at a young age. But John will not give up and lose his children so easily. He meets Dr. Robert Stonehill, (Harrison Ford), a rustic University researcher who has discovered an enzyme that could possibly cure Pompe disease. The bulk of the plot focuses on John’s struggle to build a foundation, then run a bio-tech company and try to work with Dr. Robert in spite of personality clashes.

The plot is easy to follow and develops quite predictably. The script has a tendency to be too syrupy and weepy at times and has a prolonged focus on the melodrama. But still Jacobs and Vaughan manage to create a captivating movie. The performances of Fraser, Ford and Russell are solid and genuine. The camerawork is clean and the editing is tight. Technically, the movie is more than good but not necessarily great. Overall, the movie succeeds in evoking sympathy for a father battling the odds to save his children.

The movie is strong in its message about family. John’s efforts are commendable and Aileen’s (his wife) support for him despite the uncertainty of the situation is inspiring. Another strong point of the movie is its message of hope and acceptance of God’s will. Accepting one’s fate, no matter how painful, is a sign of humility and complete trust in His providence. The movie would have been perfect if the element of prayer or faith were also highlighted as source of courage and strength in overcoming his ordeal. It would be best for parents to remind their children that in real life, faith and spirituality play a major role in sustaining a person through his pain and struggles.

The emotional stress of the movie might not be suitable for very young audiences. Although it does have a strong positive message, parents might feel uncomfortable to have their children sit through all the yelling and crying in the movie.

Cop Out

Cast: Bruce Willis, Tracy Morgan, Juan Carlos Hernandez; Director: Kevin Smith; Producers: Polly Cohen Johnsen, Marc Platt, Michael Tadross; Screenwriters: Robb Cullen, Mark Cullen; Music: Harold Faltermeyer; Editor: Kevin Smith; Genre: Action/ Comedy; Cinematography: David Klein; Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures; Location: New York, USA; Running Time: 107 mins.

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

Cop buddies Jimmy Monroe (Bruce Willis) and Paul Hodges (Tracy Morgan) receive a one-month suspension without pay for bungling up a bust operation which ends up with an informant dead. Bristling with indignation, the two surrender their official firearms and badges but continue to do their own investigating. Feeling very sure of their hunches, they get involved in the usual police work as though they were not under suspension, barging into homes and arresting suspects without warrants, rescuing hostages and madly pursuing and shooting dead those they think to be the bad guys. Will a couple of daring but disobedient cops fight lawbreakers while defying rules themselves?

The action/comedy flick directed by Kevin Smith has all the elements to entertain moviegoers as long as they don’t demand much beyond what’s served them. Car chases, shoot-outs, a bit of drama in relationship snags, laughter, tension from good guys versus bad buys battles—ingredients that keep you amused and alert for around a couple of hours. If the more critical moviegoer detects weaknesses in Cop Out, it is perhaps due to the fact that it is Smith’s first shot at mainstream action-comedy entertainment. While Smith has built a reputation as a ground-breaker, he is better known as a writer than as a director, thus his being the director but not the writer of Cop Out would be responsible for the movie’s occasional weedy spots, like poor camera angles, talking heads, trite gags and villains no one would take seriously.

So that you won’t berate yourself for coughing up nearly two hundred pesos (including the popcorn and soda) for the love of Bruce Willis and then finding him not quite up to your expectations, look at the brighter side of Cop Out. Indeed it has some bright and solid notes that pull the movie up considerably, like that part where Paul goes mad with suspicion over his wife’s fooling around, and that where Jimmy gets into a battle of wills against his ex-wife’s husband (about his daughter’s forthcoming wedding). Watch out for those two moments because they provide subtle leads into your own ideas about good and bad. They’re good points for discussion with family, classmates, friends or prayer community as well. As for the predictable but implausible ending which should make you question the worthiness of the two cops who pursue a case on their own and in spite of their suspension order, be reminded that Cop Out is meant to be action/comedy—and if you understand that its primary aim is to entertain, you’ll see why its plot is based on fantasy, not reality.

Up in the Air

Cast: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman, Amy Morton; Director: Jason Reitman: Screenwriters: Jason Reitman, Sheldom Turner, Walter Kirn; Genre: Drama/ Romance; Running Time: 109 mins;

Technical Assessment: 3.5
Moral Assessment: 2.5
CINEMA Rating: For viewers 14 and above

Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) refers to himself as a “Termination Facilitator”. His job entails firing people from their jobs. When companies decide to downsize but wish to avoid this difficult task, they call upon Ryan’s company to do it for them. Ryan loves his job. He thinks he is a humane, compassionate way. Besides, he like the predictability and perks of high-end business air travel around the country with the minimum essentials in his suitcase (his backpack). His minimalist extends to his personal life where the limits close personal relationships and avoids commitments. Then he meets Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga), a charming, sophisticated business traveler who thinks almost like himself, practically his psychic twin. Ryan arranges his schedules so Alex and he can have steamy rendezvous at airports. Without explicit commitments, they develop a “relationship’ through they practically do not know each other. Ryan also meets Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), a bright, ambitious young graduate newly hired by the company. She suggests firing people via video conferencing. It will save the company airfare. This does not sit well with Ryan but to keep his job, he has to teach Natalie the ropes and they travel together. Natalie is Ryan’s opposite. She values relationships, especially the family. She takes the job so she can be near her boyfriend, through at times she is overcome with doubt and regret over the sad reactions of the dismissed employees. How will these two women eventually influence Ryan’s life? How will Ryan’s minimalist beliefs fare in the face of true emotion?

At the relatively young age of 32, Jason Reitman has proven his mettle as film director as evident in the film Up in the Air. And as screenwriter in the same film, in cooperation with Sheldom Turner, he has shown just as excellent a hand.
The story is tightly knit with not a single line or scene out of place. The start of the movie featuring non-actors, the aggrieved people who have actually been recently fired, voicing their own personal painful reactions is a movie clever touch and an effective one, too. And immediately, we are connected to Ryan Bingham, the corporate hitman, the role so ably given life with confidence, class and charm by George Clooney making it look palatable. The casting is just right. So it is with Vera Farmiga’s Alex, the suave girl friend/ non girl friend of Ryan, out for a fling or a good time. Under-acting, both are subtle and impressive. Anna Kendrick as the young, emotional, tightly wound character Natalie Krener is the perfect foil and she does justice to her role. Though there may be comic elements, this can hardly he called a comedy. Actually the twist at the end is so ironic. It may give the viewer some insights he may not have expected.

We are entertained by the movie Up in the Air and our pleasure is probably due to the way the story has unfolded, or the excellent way the movie is made. And one may have discerned some values that may have enriched us, perhaps contributed to our understanding of life. This is the story of a man who loathes being tied down, who wants to live his life “freely", who thinks commitments or close relationships would be hindrances to what he thinks is a wonderful life, but who realizes in the end that his life is meaningless and empty. Ryan Bingham does not say in so many words but his later actions and attitudes towards the end, is it possible he may have changed? Indeed, as one character said, "Life is better with company". Is he ready to get committed or start a genuine relationship with someone? It's just too bad if that someone may not be the suitable partner for a stable relationship. And we see how people, including Ryan may misread a person's character and intentions like that of Alex who wants an "escape" she says, from her reality. One realizes that commitments to be made must be done with care. It turns our Ryan does not know Alex well enough. As for Natalie, she eventually laso came to her own realization. The movie shows how ruthless and easily corporations let go of long-serving employees. One wonders how one can cope if one is on the receiving end of such treatment. Are there some ways of preparing for this including on the emotional/ spiritual side? Frequent vulgar language as well as objectional extra marital sexual relationships make this movie disturbing, despite its technical excellence.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Crazy Heart

Cast: Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal; Director: Scott Cooper; Screenwriters: Scott Cooper; Thomas Cobb Producers: T-Bone Burnett, Judy Cairo, Rob Carliner, Scott Cooper, Robert Duvall; Music: Stephen Bruton, T.Bone Burnett; Editor: John Axelrad; Genre: Drama; Distributor: 20th Century Fox; Cinematography: Barry Markowitz; Location: USA; Running Time: 105 minutes;

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

Jeff Bridges plays the character of Otis “Bad” Blake, a has-been country singer and songwriter who once had a wonderful career. Because of his addiction to alcohol and smoking, and failure in his personal life, he now sings in small time bars and bowling alleys merely for survival. He is almost broke, always drunk and wasted. He in on a road tour alone, upon the instructions of his manager, travelling small towns to perform. In one of his small town gigs, he meets journalist Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who wants to write his life story. They eventually fall for each other. However, his addiction always gets in the way towards a normal, happy life. If he doesn't shape up, he is bound to lose everything – his music and his love.

Based on a 1987 novel, the film's plot faithfully follows the struggle of an alcoholic musician. There is really nothing new with the story except that the acting of Jeff Bridges is so believable that he nearly disappears into his character. The scenes are portrayed so real and poignant as if one is watching a documentary. The nuances and the darkness of Bad Blake's story are portrayed more realistically than dramatically in a sense that the audience is just as drowned as he is to his pain and frustrations. The supporting casts delivered commendable performances as well. As a musical drama, the music plays a strong impact in the movie's storytelling. Jeff Bridges cannot only act, he also sings well.

Crazy Heart is about a lost soul that is Bad Blake. He really lives up to his name playing the bad guy that he is. He smokes a lot, and drinks a lot more. Women come up to him so he easily falls into temptation but never feels guit. He is succumbed to frustrations and failures of his own making, thus living a directionless, meaningless life. Until Jean came along his life who finally gives him a reason to live and more importantly, a reason to redeem himself. He is able to do so with love as his motivation. The value of love, family and friendship is powerfully depicted in the story. Bad Blake’s journey towards redemption can also be a source of inspiration to those who have reached the rock bottom of their lives thinking that change is hopeless. However, the film may have shown a bit too much of darkness in Blakes character that it overshadows whatever goodness left in him. His passion for his craft and music is commendable though. However, sexual relationships outside marriage were shown in the fim as acceptable. Although made in context, this remains to be morally problematic so CINEMA deems the movie as appropriate only to mature viewers 18 and above.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

It's Complicated

Cast: Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin, John Krasinki; Director: Nancy Meyers; Producers: Nancy Meyers, Scott Rudiri; Screenwriter: Nancy Meyers; Music: Hans Zimmer, Heitor Pereira; Editor: Joe Hutsing, David Mortiz; Genre: Romantic Comedy; Cinematography: John Toll; Distributor: Universal Pictures; Location: Santa Barbara, California, New York: Running Time: 110 mins;

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

Jane (Meryl Streep) and Jake (Alec Baldwin) used to be husband and wife. After the divorce, Jake marries Agness (Lake Bell). Jane—when the kids are grown up and out of the house—is in the exciting process of building her dream kitchen. She runs a bake shop-restaurant and makes perfect muffins and croissants. Her architect for this project is Adam (Steve Martin). Jane and Jake are somehow led by fate to get together again when they are preparing for the wedding of their eldest daughter. A reunion that starts as harmless enough is boosted by a drink and a dance, and another and another, until they wake up next morning beside each other in bed. Now the wife is her ex-husband’s mistress, an affair that does not lack in rooters—Jane’s sex-fixated, menopausal friends. Architect Adam, on the other hand, is quietly nursing an increasingly strong attraction for Jane and her croissants, and Jane, enthusiastic about her dream kitchen, is reciprocating by baking him the croissants he craves, all the while having trysts with her ex-husband which is soon to be uncovered by her future son-in-law (John Krasinski). It’s really complicated.

They say It’s complicated is a romantic comedy, but they didn’t say for what age audience. Usually romantic comedies are—like Valentine’s Day and the rest of the lot—are populated by yuppies, adolescents, by nubile bodies aged between 13 and 23 or thereabouts who, incidentally, would not think twice about baring their tanned and taut bods for the camera. But It’s Complicated has for its leading lady a respectable actress way past reproductive age who would not shed off her flesh-colored bra in a post-coitus bed scene. (Well, if the director says a woman her age should be that modest, who are we to contest that, especially if it syncs with the character’s persona?) The acting is great, and one never knows until the end which man this modest woman would ride off with into the sunset. Kudos to the director Nancy Meyers (Private Benjamin and The Parent Trap) for the good screenplay, and also for keeping the supporting actors in their places—not upstaging Streep, Baldwin and Martin. The movie is part drama, part comedy, and the lines are evenly divided between profound and funny—although there’s one really hilarious scene where (spoiler coming!) Baldwin is naked before a laptop.

As a comedy, It’s complicated is entertaining enough but also shows sensitivity in handling the… well, handling the complications of taking human situations and feelings too lightly. Jane is a strong woman, despite appearing emotionally flaky when with her girlfriends. The children of the former couple Jane and Jake are presented as being mature and well-adjusted. If this were a drama that would not look realistic, but since this is meant to be comic, that’s forgivable. Despite its light approach and considerable restraint in the lead characters, It’s complicated is grown up stuff, and therefore may be limited to adult audience. Young minds will not benefit from its adult theme, not understand what really goes on deep inside adult minds when their lives get to be so complicated.