Friday, April 30, 2010

The Back-Up Plan

Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Alex O’Loughlin, Michaela Watkins, Eric Christian Olsen; Director: Alan Poul; Producers: Jason Blumenthal, Steve Tisch; Screenwriter: Kate Angelo; Music: Stephen Trask; Editor: Priscilla Nedd-Friendly; Genre: Comedy/ Romance: Cinematography: Xavier Perez Grobet; Distributor: CBS Films; Location: New York, USA; Running Time; 106 mins;

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

In romantic comedy The Back-up Plan, pet shop owner Zoe (Jennifer Lopez) is getting on in years and getting tired of waiting for Mr. Right but wants motherhood now. So she gets herself pregnant in vitro although she is not interested in the identity of the sperm donor, a redhead according to her doctor (Robert Klein). Just minutes after she gets artificially inseminated, Zoe meets Stan (Alex O’Loughlin) inside a cab. They bicker over whose cab it is and eventually part ways. Days later Zoe spots the guy at a high end street market, selling cheese. Stan starts pursuit; Zoe, though attracted to Stan, holds back especially when she learns she is pregnant. A couple of dates later, Stan invites Zoe to a weekend in the farm. As it turns out, Stan owns the farm—The Little Goat Farm where he makes the cheeses he sells—and it is not little at all. After a roll in the hay, Zoe confesses to her condition, and a disappointed Stan turns away.

Despite its great-looking lead actors and a story that might appeal to so-called “liberated” women, this romantic comedy wants in romance. No chemistry whatsoever between Lopez and O’Loughlin. Their interaction is so mechanical that the viewer—instead of getting carried away by a supposedly searing and endearing love story—remains unmoved as he quips, “Is that it?” And as far as comedy goes, call this predictable, relying on poop and genital humor and pathetically spoofing childbirth. That particularly dreadful scene where a single mother raises hell through a water birth is not only not funny, it is even vulgar.

While on the surface The Back-up Plan may elicit laughter from indiscriminating viewers, the movie actually reflects a dangerously distorted view of parenthood, undermining the Church’s teachings on the need to maintain the link between the unitive and procreative aspects of married love. It says that a woman can choose to be a mother without benefit of coitus with a man she is married to. While science has so advanced as to make such a situation possible, viewers must be spurred to examine the morality of such a decision. Must a woman be so impatient for motherhood that it’s all right to buy sperms to get pregnant? A woman can be impregnated, in exactly the same way as a cow, but what are its implications on the future relationship between her and her child? Why want a baby and then deprive it of its natural father’s presence, nurture and affection? By presenting childbirth as a grossly laughable experience, and then giving the movie a happy ending, The Back-up Plan just might succeed in making teen girls dread childbirth while deluding them into thinking they can go ahead and get impregnated like a cow and hope to find a rich gentleman farmer with soulful eyes who’ll love them forever and ever no matter what.


Cast: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana, Chris Evans, Idris Elba; Director: Sylvain White; Producers: Kerry Foster, Akiva Goldsman, Joel Silver; Screenwriters: Peter Berg, James Vanderbilt; Music: John Ottman; Editor: David Checel; Genre: Detective/ Action: Cinematography: Scott Kevan; Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures; Location: South America/ USA/ India; Running Time: 95 mins;

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


The government is able to catch an evil wealthy person with the help of a woman

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Cast: Aaron Johnson, Nicolas Cage, Chloe Moretz, Christopher Mintz Plasse, Mark Strong, Michael Rispoli; Director: Matthew Vaughn; Producers: Adam Bohling, Tarquin Pack, Brad Pitt, David Reid, Kris Thykier, Matthew Vaughn; Screenwriters: Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn; Music: Marius De Vries, Ilan Eshkeri, Henry Jackman, John Murphy; Editor: Eddie Hamilton, Jon Harris, Pietro Scalia; Genre: Action/ Crime Sotory: Cinematography: Ben Davis; Distributor: Lionsgate; Location: USA; Running Time: 117 min.;

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

Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) is an unnoticed lackluster high school student much addicted to comics. He dreams of becoming a superhero and calls himself “Kick- Ass”, though he has no superpowers, no special training or skills. He dons a superhero costume and patrols some seedy neighbourhoods where he prevents thieves from plying their trade and gets beaten and stabbed instead. Meanwhile Damon (Nicolas Cage), a cop who was framed and imprisoned through the machinations of Frank d’ Amico (Mark Strong), the crime czar, has been released from prison and has been preparing to eliminate organized crime and evil. After building an arms arsenal and training his eleven-year old daughter Mindy in martial arts and the use of weapons, Damon now assumes the identity of the superhero “Big Daddy” and Mindy is called “Hit Girl”. The duo become a deadly fighting machine hitting the crime empire of Frank d’ Amico. To catch the superheroes, including “Kick-Ass”, who has earned some fame through the help of “Big Daddy” and “Hit Girl”, Frank’s young son Chris (Christopher Mintz Plasse) takes on the identity of ‘Red Mist”, a self proclaimed superhero. “Red Mist” sees “Kick-Ass” in costume and befriends him, being a fellow superhero. How will the “superheroes” and anti-hero fare in the end?

Kick-Ass is the latest screen adaption of a comic book written by Mark Millar and John S. Ramita, Jr. Said to be a faithful reproduction of the comic book, the movie is fully packed with action and brutal violence to the nth degree. As in most action pictures, there is not much of a story or plot. The narrative line is there to hang the actions on. The photography captures efficiently the guts and gore in the well orchestrated fight scenes. At the start, when ‘Kick-Ass” begins narrating the story of his life, everything seems quiet and uneventful. But soon the tension mounts with the introduction of Big Daddy’s training of Hit Girl where the latter has to overcome her fear even when shot at point blank range with live bullets (she wears a bullet proof vest). “Hit Girl” becomes a formidable one-girl killing machine near the end when she massacres scores of well armed gangsters with precision and finesse, without feeling or compunction, like she were targeting figures in a TV games. Unbelievable one may say but she succeeds in holding the viewers attention and not because of her appealing presence as eleven year old ordinary girl Mindy. In spite of his fighting prowess, Nicolas Cage comes across as a poignant character after his sad past. Christopher Mintz Plasse as the affected, smug, self- satisfied son of his gangster father delivers on his role. Languagr is frequently vulgar and the depiction of sex scenes is in bad taste, to say the least.

Kick-Ass may be considered exciting entertainment especially by action film aficionados but that does not make it good entertainment for all, especially the impressionable young movie audience. It is true that the theme is laudable, the desire of even ordinary citizens to try to eliminate crime and evil, even in the face of much danger and formidable forces of the enemy. Also, the depiction of relationship like that between father and daughter (Cage and Chloe Moretz) is tender and affectionate though one would wonder if a father who so loves his daughter would expose her to so much danger in that early age and train her in the lethal “art” of killing instead of sending her to school and letting her enjoy her childhood. The relationship also of the crime czar and his son looks fine and here no one notices the efforts of the father not to let his son know of his immoral business though at the end, he uses him for his ends. The film may have some positive values but these cannot overturn the pervading objectionable features of the film. Kick-Ass goes overboard in its violence, so brutal, gory and ruthless. One may have been entertained by the expertise of the gifted Chloe Moretz in fighting the evil elements but on reflection, one is disturbed that a child can be so used and trained to kill without any emotion, qualms or regret. The film will desensitize the young to brutality and cruelty and, who knows might encourage other children to follow the footsteps of “Hit Girl”. The film is awash with gross language. Sex which should be considered a beautiful thing, something to bond people in love, is here degraded. The depiction of the sex scenes with the frontal baring and mashing of breasts is not only in had taste but also they are immoral. Drug use especially by children is objectionable. This film should be seen only by mature audiences, at least 18 years of age.

Working Girls

Cast: Eugene Domingo, Eula Valdes, Jennylyn Mercado, Iza Calzado, Cristine Reyes, Bianca King, Ruffa Gutierrez; Director: Jose Javier Reyes; Producers: Tony Gloria, Annete Gozon-Abrogar; Screenwriter: Jose Javier Reyes; Genre: Comedy/ Drama; Distributor: Unitel and GMA Films; Location: Manila; Running Time: 110 min.;

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

Isang sanga-sangang kuwento ng iba’t-ibang kabababaihan ng makabagong panahon. Si Paula (Eugene Domingo) ay itinataguyod ang kanyang pamilya sa pagbebenta ng mga pekeng bag at kung anu-ano pa dahil ang kanyang asawa ay isang batugan. Si Cleo (Eula Valdes) naman ay isang sikat na doctor ng pagreretoke na kinakalaban ng mga grupong feminista. Si Marilou (Ruffa Gutierrez) naman ay isang dating beauty queen na mabibiyuda ng kanyang mayamang asawa ngunit malalaman niyang walang yaman na iniwan sa kanya. Si Teresa (Iza Calzado) naman ay isang nurse na mapipilitang alagaan ang asawa ng lalaking nang-iwan sa kanya noon. Si Ada (Jennylyn Mercado) ay isang single mother na nawawalan na ng panahon sa kanyang anak dahil sa kanyang trabaho bilang call center agent. Habang ang promo girl na si Wendy (Cristine Reyes) ay pilit na hinahanap ang lalaking mag-aahon sa kanya sa kahirapan, si Dara (Bianca King) nama’y piniling maging isang mamamahayag sa kabila ng kanyang mayamang pamilyang pinagmulan.

Isang nasayang na kuwento ang pelikula na dapat sana’y karugtong ng orihinal na Working Girls na ipinalabas noong dekada 80. Hindi gaanong naka-sentro sa buhay-trabaho ng mga kababaihan ang pelikula kundi natuon lamang ang karamihan ng kanilang kuwento sa kanilang buhay pamilya at buhay pag-ibig. Malayo sa orihinal na kuwento na naka-sentro sa buhay ng mga kababaihan sa kanilang trabaho at ang hirap na kanilang dinaranas dahil sa sila ay mga babae. Nalihis ang bagong Working Girls sa sanga-sangang kuwento ng kababaihan na may iba’t-ibang problema ngunit nawala ang dapat sana’y pinaka-kaluluwa ng pelikula. Lumalabas tuloy na isang karaniwang kuwento ng mga kababaihan lang ang napanood at hindi patungkol sa iba’t-ibang klase ng hanap-buhay ng mga babae. Sayang ang lahat ng magagandang intensiyon ng pelikula dahil sumabog ang konsepto nito sa kabuuan. Higit na sayang din ang mga talino ng mga nagsiganap lalo na si Domingo na siyang nagbigay-buhay sa pelikula. Sa kabila ng mga kakulangang ito’y marami pa rin namang magaganda at nakakaaliw na eksena sa pelikula kung kaya’t hindi rin naman gaanong sayang ang panonood nito.

Dahil sa dami ng pinagsiksikang kuwento, hindi naging malinaw ang kabuuang mensahe ng pelikula ukol sa mga kababaihan. Sa isang banda, sinasabi nitong malaki at mahalaga ang ginagampanang papel ng mga kababaihan sa lipunan lalo na sa mga industriya dahil karamihan sa mga ito ay babae na ang nagpapatakbo at babae ang mangagawa. Sa kabilang banda naman ay nariyan ang lantarang paggamit sa panlabas na kagandahan ng kababaihan upang ibenta ang isang produkto. Sa pagbebentang ito ay lumalabas na halos ibenta na rin ng babae ang kanyang sarili at pawang walang moralidad ang nasa ganitong uri ng trabaho. Isa itong masamang imahe para sa maraming kababaihan na nasa ganitong propesyon. Nariyan din ang isang babaeng natuksong pumatol sa iba sa kabila ng pagkakaroon niya ng asawa’t anak. Ang kaniyang pagtataksil ay nasaksihan pa ng mga bata pa niyang anak. Nakababahala ang mga ganitong uri ng eksena. Ipinakita naman sa pelikula kung gaanong katindi ang sakrispisyo ng isang babae ng kumita ng pera para kanyang pamilya habang pinagsasabay-sabay niya ng iba pa niyang papel bilang asawa at ina.

Date Night

Cast: Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Mark Wahlberg, Taraji P. Henson; Director: Shawn Levy; Producers: Shawn Levy, Tom McNulty; Screenwriter: Josh McLaglen; Music: Christophe Beck; Editor: Dean Zimmerman; Genre: Comedy/ Romance: Cinematography: Dean Semler: Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; Location: USA; Running Time: 88 min.;

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

Clair and Phil Foster (Tina Fey and Steve Carrell) are an ordinary though likable suburban New Jersey couple whose idea of married bliss is hiring a baby sitter once a week so they could enjoy their “date night” on the town. And their weekly date night—far from being a moment of exotic erotica to revive romance in midlife—simply means dining out and privately making fun of unsuspecting diners who stimulate their imagination. On this particular date night, Steve takes Clair to a new fancy restaurant in New York. Skipping the long queue to be seated, they grab a reservation for two for “the Tripplehorns”, pretending to be the absent couple. Then two gun-toting hit men pop into the scene, demanding that the Tripplehorns surrender a sensitive computer gadget or else… They cannot argue at gunpoint that they are not the real Tripplehorns, thus they are tossed into a crazy chase involving two crooked cops (Jimmi Simpson and Common) and their mob boss (Ray Liotta), the real “Tripplehorns” Taste (James Franco) and Whippit (Mila Kunis), and a security expert who’s an untypical combination of muscles and sympathy, Grant Holbrook (Mark Wahlberg).

Fey and Carell wouldn’t have been better cast as the Foster couple in Date Night. They—or their performance—are what makes the movie really funny. They can make us believe they’re a real couple from suburbia who are….well, who are who the Fosters are! And they involve the viewer in the whole 88-minute film run! When actors in a comedy don’t seem aware that they’re acting out a comedy, they become really funny. The plot is, of course, as bizarre and implausible as all comedy-action plots go, but the dialogue is smart, the characterization precise, and the direction by Shawn Levy flawless. Few cinematic couples exhibit this high degree of chemistry as Fey and Carell do in their roles here. If Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt sizzle in Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and Kate Winslett and Leonardo DiCaprio smolder in The Titanic, Tina Fey and Steve Carell bubble over in Date Night.

Date Night is a perfect movie for a date night, especially when your date is the person you’re married to. There are no “moral lessons” to speak of in Date Night, but it offers a sensible tip for fine-diners: when at a chi-chi restaurant in, wait for your turn and suffer the gay receptionist because, as the Tripplehorns show, impatience is a punishable crime. Date Night also affirms the reality of mob-employed cops, and proves that even tattooed toughies can kiss and make up like ordinary suburban couples. Date Night also makes you realize that not all ex-spies are dehumanized by their careers and die biting a dagger—some retire while they’re still human and become compassionate “security experts” with state-of-the-art espionage gadgets and state-of-the-heart sex appeal.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Shutter Island

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Max von Sydow; Director: Martin Scorsese; Producers: Brad Fischer, Mike Medavoy, Arnold Messer, Martin Scorsese; Screenwriters: Laeta Kalogridis; Dennis Lehane; Editor: Thelma Schoonmaker; Genre: Suspense/ Thriller; Cinematography: Robert Richardson; Distributor: Paramount Pictures: Location: USA: Running Time: 138 min.;

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

Shutter Island is adapted from Dennis Lahene’s book published in 2003. It centers on Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio), a US Marshall sent to Ashcliffe Psychiatric Correctional Facility in Shutter Island to investigate the mysterious disappearance of Rachel (Emily Mortimer). Since the security in Shutter Island is tightly controlled, Teddy suspects foul play in the case. Meanwhile, Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley), the hospital’s administrator, is pushing for a new method in treating his patients. As the movie progresses, one will realize that things are not what they seem. Apparently, Rachel, her killer, and Teddy’s wife are all interconnected. Teddy has visions of his wife and children who died in a fire caused by Andrew Leaddis. As he investigates further into the disappearance of Rachel, he comes closer to the past he has been trying to run away from and the tragedy in his life.

Amidst the psychopaths and Teddy’s past, the lines are blurred between reality and absurdity. The film brilliantly plays with the audiences’ minds as it is creatively interpreted by Robert Richardson’s cinematography within the perfect 1950’s setting adding to the creepiness. Martin Scorsese leads the audience into a thrilling maze of anxiety and uncertainty as they start feeling trap in a world they cannot understand. The artistic elements are outstanding and DiCaprio and Kingsley’s performances memorable. Surely, this is a film that will be remembered for long because of the powerful images that leaves an aftertaste of fear mixed with depression.

There are several positive aspects in Shutter Island. One, we see the efforts of Teddy to make good of his life despite all the tragedies he has been through. His desire to meet his wife’s killer does not stem from revenge but from justice. And even if he had a primary agenda in coming to Shutter Island, Teddy is still willing to sacrifice himself for the safety of his partner.

However, the movie is definitely not for children. The movie is too dark, violent and seemingly hopeless if one would look at the outcome of main characters lives. The scenes feel heavy and a lot of sensitivities will be crossed. Although teenagers ages 14 and above will be able to understand the movie, it is preferred that it be restricted to adults because of some concerns in language and content, extreme violence, some nudity and obscenity.

Hot Tub Time Machine

Cast: John Cusack, Clark Duke, Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry; Director: Steve Pink; Producers: John Cusack, Grace Lo, Matt Moore, John Morris; Screenwriters: Josh Heald, Sean Anders, John Morris; Music: Christophe Beck; Editor: George Fosley, Jr., James Thomas: Genre: Comedy; Cinematography: Jack N. Green; Distributor: Metr0-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM); Running Time: 100 min.;

Technical Assessment: 2
Moral Assessment: 1.5
CINEMA Rating: For mature viewers 18 and above

Former best friends Adam (John Cusack), Nick (Craig Robinson) and Lou (Rob Corddy) have lost touch over the years. They reunite when Lou is hospitalized for an accidental poisoning. Adam and Nick show up to make sure that Lou does not commit suicide. For old time’s sake and to give themselves a break, they embark on a trip to the ski resort that holds most of their memories as teenage friends. They also bring along Adam’s Geeky nephew Jacob (Clark Duke). There, they pursue their old version of fun – sex, drugs and alcohol. Their wild night ends up in a slope-side hot tub and its malfunctioning magically brings them back to 1986. Much to their surprise, they are back in their teenage bodies as well.

Hot Tub Time Machine looks as tired as its premise. As with the characters in the film who have become tired old men, the film has nothing but tired old jokes: toilet humor, sexual overtones, and profanities are all over the place. In theory, the story seems hilarious and promises bunch of laughs and a degree of 1980’s nostalgia. But the execution does not come up believable nor exciting. For those who can relate to the era, some scenes may be appealing and can bring out some laughs here and there but are never enough to sustain the movie’s supposedly comedic feel. The casts come out strong though. Cusack, Corddry and Robinson make a solid comic team. But with this old and mediocre material, their talent has been put to waste.

Looking at the film in larger context, it is supposed to talk about life’s second chances. If men could only live their lives all over again, they would make far better choices so they can live far better lives. It could’ve been an inspiring turning point in the movie if it did not dwell too much on the scatological humor, rough and crude language, graphic casual sex, profanities and nudity. Friendship is also given emphasis in the film but it remained in a quite shallow level for their concept of fun is more destructive than productive. The younger audiences are supposed to learn a lot from the movie’s middle-aged characters who grew up seeing themselves as failures due to the wrong choices they made when they are still young. However, much of the film’s content – sex, drugs, alcohol, violence and gore, is not suitable to the very young audiences with impressionable minds for they may be influenced by the film’s morally disturbing values.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Cast: Zachary Gordon,Robert Capron, Rachael Harris, Steve Zahn; Director: Thor Freudenthal; Producers: Nina Jacobson, Bradford Simpsopl Screenwriters: Jackie Filgo, Jeff Filgo, Gabe Sachs, Jeff Judah, Jeff Kinney; Music: Theodore Shapiro; Editor: Wendy Greene Bricmont; Genre: Comedy/ Family; Cinematography: Jack N. Green; Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; Location: Canada: Running Time: 94 min.;

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

The wimpy kid in The Diary of a Wimpy Kid is wise-cracking Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) who actually thinks his diary is not a diary but a “journal”. Entering his first year of middle school, Greg grapples with the awkward situation of a pre-teen, and thus his “journal” begins, chronicling everything going on in his head, at home and in school—the three locations he finds himself in day in and day out. Home is well-meaning if sometimes distracted parents (Rachael Harris and Steve Zahn), mean older brother Rodrick (Devon Bostick), and the youngest in the family, a nonverbal toddler. School is mostly teens who think Greg is a nerd and a geek; the 12-year old school paper editor Angie (Chloe Moretz); and his almost-buddies, tubby boy Rowley Jefferson (Robert Capron) and Chirag Gupta (Karan Brar), the only boy shorter than Greg. Greg wants to be the most popular kid in school at all cost but his popularity is all in his mind. He thinks he is smart (which he is) and cannot, therefore, accept when someone inferior wins the popularity race hands down.

The Diary of a Wimpy Kid presents a realistic and credible picture of Junior High School in America, with a sensitive story spiced up with humor. There’s a device in the movie that demonstrates the power of the herd-mentality in middle school—the slice of mold-coated Swiss cheese that’s been on the school ground for ages because nobody dares touch it. Anyone seen touching it instantly becomes a pariah, an “untouchable” literally, whom the whole student population avoids because…. Because! Based on the books of cartoonist Jeff Kinney, the movie features Kinney’s drawings and hand-letterings on the wimpy kid’s diary’s pages. The movie is fast-paced and nimble, the action engaging, and the dialogue bright. But most of all, the child actors are real performers—whether in lead or support roles, they are the ones who carry the movie since the adult roles are minimal.

While The Diary of a Wimpy Kid may be a family movie, it’s not for young children; in fact, even older children and pre-teens, would need parental guidance in order to see the movie in the proper perspective. Though the lead characters are pre-teens, the situations presented are mostly for teens. The content is also suited to teens, particularly scenes that imply drug use by older teen, show bullying by older teens, scare young characters by referring to devil worshippers, etc. There’s a good spiel by Greg’s mother where she clearly and unequivocally makes her point to her children that adult/girlie magazines are a no-no in the Heffley household because they degrade women. The better thing here is, she is obeyed by her children. The one most important thing the wimpy kid learns is the supremacy of truth in human relationships. In that sense, the movie subtly speaks of growth and maturing of the lead character—he begins by desiring popularity without knowing how to achieve it, and ends up taking responsibility for his mistakes, the broken friendship, the undeserved award.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

How to Train Your Dragon

Cast: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera; Directors: Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders; Producer; Bonnie Arnold; Screenwriters: Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders; Music: John Powell; Editor: Maryann Brandon, Darren T. Holmes; Genre: Animation/ Adventure/ Comedy; Distributor: Paramount Pictures; Location: USA; Running Time: 98 min.;

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

Hiccup is the last boy people would suspect to grow into a dragon slayer. Even his own father (Gerard Butler) who is chief of the Viking colony snickers at the idea that the small, fragile looking boy, despite his innate pluckiness, can ever amount to anything of use in the village’s persistent problem of defending itself against winged dragons. It is in fact a very ordinary, quiet, even pleasant village, except that it’s under constant attack by slick and vicious dragons of all shapes, shades and sizes. By some strange twist of fate, Hiccup gets to befriend the most feared dragon of them all which he found alone and injured on a secluded beach.

How to Train Your Dragon, in 3-D, is a visual feast for young and old, and food for thought for mature viewers. The segment on the young boys and girls being trained in the art of dragon slaying is a particularly interesting one, showing dragons in varying degrees of ferocity. There have been quite a number of taming-your-dragon movies shown lately since Avatar, but How to Train Your Dragon seems to be the one whose story is focused on the personal relationship between a dragon and a human being—and a young boy, at that. While the flawless animation is engaging, it’s the story that makes the movie worth the price of admission.

If you’re a father thinking of seeing this movie with your son, go. You’ll love it. Don’t be surprised if you see yourself in the Viking father with such high expectations of his son. Your son, most likely, will identify with Hiccup who may not seem all too docile but who seeks his father’s respect as well. The father here learns not to judge mere externals, but instead give his son space to be himself. The son, on the other hand, learns to follow his own nose, not to be strait-jacketed by his father’s and other people’s expectations, even those of his peers. Courage is the virtue highlighted here, as Hiccup tames terrible dragon, and goes against prevailing beliefs that try to bully people into wanting kill dragons instead of understanding them, and eventually becoming the dragons’ masters instead of their slayers.

Clash of the Titans

Cast: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Feinnes, Jason Flemyng, Gemma Artenton; Director: Loius Leterrier; Producers: Kevin De La Noy, Basil Iwanyk; Screenwriters: Travis Beacham, Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi; Music: Ramin Djawadi; Editor: Vincent Tabaillon, Martin Walsh; Genre: Action/ Adventure; Cinematography: Peter Menzies Jr.: Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures: Location: UK: Running Time: 106 min.;

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

Perseus (Sam Worthington) is a demigod, son of Zeus (Liam Neeson) and a human mother. As an infant, Perseus was found by a fishing couple in a box that rises out from the sea, containing the corpse of his mother and himself. He is not aware of his being super human until much later in the story when it s revealed that Zeus had stolen into Perseus’ mother’s bedchamber disguised as her husband, and thus sired Perseus. He grows up with the adoptive fishermen-parents, knowing little of the world outside of their fishing boat. When Perseus is captured along with others at sea and taken to Argos, his unusual prowess at hand-to-hand combat reveals his real lineage. Perseus is tasked with leading a band of warriors to defeat Hades, the god of the underworld, before Hades can wrestle power out of his brother Zeus.

Clash of the Titans is a “re-imagining” of the 1981 original film. Greek mythology, even when simply read, stimulates the imagination enough into creating its own “visuals” inside the reader’s head. Meeting characters in books who are supposed to be gods but who behave like ordinary men—disguising themselves and siring bastards with mortal women they fancy, plotting revenge against their brother, using their superhuman powers to pick on ordinary mortals—offers rich literary delights and occasions for warming up one’s faculty for moral judgment. Make these characters alive on the screen, throw in computer enhancement to demonstrate the full extent of the power of the gods’ fury or benevolence, and you have Clash of the Titans. Olympus gods, of course, are a far cry from God—capital “G”—as we are taught by religion. So be guided. Detach yourself from the idea of heaven and eternal life in the Christian context, and just enjoy the place where these gods reside—if you notice that their carpeting is made of clouds, then you can make your own conclusions, guilt-free.

The technical excellence of the film’s CGI is obviously above par, even when some of the creatures invite good-natured ribbing from the audience. The snakey-headed Medusa slithering through those Greek columns in her lair and turning everyone (who dares look at her) into stone is a work of art, no less. Intriguing are those giant arachnids that at first looked menacing but later on turned out to be domesticated beasts of burden carrying reed houses for the nomadic mortals across the desert. They’re the tamer cousins, supposedly, of the humongous scorpions that crawl over the rocks, pluck humans out of battle and drop them dead on the desert sand, literally. Hades (Ralph Fiennes) materializing from black billowing smoke and unleashing the power of hell upon anyone who crosses him also keeps you on your toes, wondering what mischief he’s up to next. (He couldn’t quite be that damaging, though, once you recall that the smiling cat in Alice in Wonderland has that same power to materialize from smoke—only less threatening). Neeson makes a more-human-than-god Zeus, non-threatening in his highly polished armor and with dark hair badly needing a shampoo. Worthington as Perseus is credible as the god-sired man with a man-made cinematic image—his being the only male in the movie with close-cropped hair and without a beard should give you a clue as to his Olympian DNA.

What’s the moral of the story? After all, when you talk about gods, there must be some moral tidbit tucked in somewhere between the pyrotechnics and the deus ex machina tricks, right? But what can you say about gods who get annoyed when humans fail to show them respect? Well… let’s see… there’s something worth pondering there about Perseus being a son-of-a-god but preferring to remain a mere fisherman for the rest of his life. His survival depends solely on his acceptance of his power as a god, and in this story he creates his destiny. That’s a lot to talk about in the family reunion, or over fish and chips with the gang. If you feel you missed something important, by all means, see it again. But please see it in 2-D—it’s kinder to your eyes and to your pocket.

Everybody;s Fine

Cast: Robert de Niro, Kate Beckinsale, Drew Barrymore, Sam Rockwell; Director: Kirk Jones; Screenplay: Kirk Jones; Story: Giusseppe Tordanatore; Producer: Gianni Nunnari, Glynis Murray, Ted Field, Vittorio Cecchi Gori; Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures; Running Time:95 minutes;; Genre: Drama/ Comedy

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

Lonely widower Frank Goode (Robert de Niro) has been busy for days preparing for a weekend get-together with his busy adult children coming from different distant places. But then he receives phone calls from each of them telling him they could no longer make it. Disappointed, Frank, despite his ill health, decides to pack his bags and travel cross-country to surprise his children. He visits first his youngest, David, only to find out that he’s not yet home and no one really know about his whereabouts. Frank then goes to his eldest, Amy (Kate Beckinsale) but he only receives a cold welcome from her. He then heads to Robert’s (Sam Rockwell) place and their meeting turns out strained as well. When he meets his daughter Rosie (Drew Barrymore) in Las Vegas, he discovers all his offspring are hiding something from him – about their lives and about David.

The film veers away from the dark theme of the original Giusseppe Tordanatore’s Stanno Tutti Bene. This remake, Everybody’s Fine, takes the conventional Hollywood route so the theme appears lighter than it’s supposed to be. The premise remains interesting and the entire viewing experience is really touching. De Niro is as usual consistent with his solid acting backed by a strong support cast of Rockwell, Beckinsale and Barrymore. They make a good ensemble as a family disunited and later on reunited. Although the film has the tendency to be overly melodramatic, it is able to avoid monotony and predictability putting in some new elements of dream sequences that turn out both clever and ingenious. The entire flow of emotions is consistent all throughout and the film delivers its message with utmost clarity. The use of the telephone lines as a symbolic transition device has been an effective thread in putting the story’s complicated pieces together.

Frank’s character represents most of the fathers not only in middle class American setting, but the general family set-up as well. Fathers are expected to be good providers so they work hard all their lives just to make sure there’s food on the table and their children would grow up to become the best they can be. The fathers’ time is mostly spent at work and they are rarely seen home. Until it would be too late for fathers to realize they hardly know their children. As in the case of Frank, aside from the fact that he hardly knows them, they are seem distant to him that they’d rather tell lies about what they’ve become so as not to disappoint him. The film has clearly shown the importance of family and of communication in the home. The crucial role that parents, specifically fathers, play in molding their children. Father’s role after all, does not end in being a good provider but only starts there. What’s more essential is the strong emotional foundation he’s going to give to his offspring by finding and making time for them. The mother remains to be at the center of every home. In the film, the mother’s absence is really felt by both the father and the children. After all, it was the mother who has held their family together with her knack for listening. Although every character in the movie seems not to be fine, the end message is hopeful as they make room for forgiveness, acceptance and tolerance. There are only some minor serious issues in the film such as drug use and abuse, divorce and homosexual relationships, although made and justified in context, these may not be suitable for the very young audiences so CINEMA recommends the film for viewers 13 years old and below with parental guidance.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Babe I Love You

Cast: Anne Curtis, Sam Milby, Tetchie Agbayani, Nikki Bacolod, Megan Young; Director: Mae Czarina Cruz; Distributor: Star Cinema Productions; Genre: Romance: Location: Philippines;

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

Hindi maganda ang simula ng pagkakakilala ng sales promo girl na si Sasa Sanchez (Anne Curtis) at architecture professor na si Nico Borromeo (Sam Milby). Naunang nakatikim si Sasa ng kasupladuhan ni Nico ng alukin niya ito ng produktong alak at nang masamain ng huli ang pagtulong nina Sasa kasama ang mga kaibigan upang iligtas si Nico laban sa mga holdaper. Hindi tinantanan ni Sasa si Nico ng paniningil sa idinulot na pinsala ng pagtulong sa kanya sa hiniram niyang sasakyan at sa kanyang leeg. Upang tumigil sa maiskandalong paniningil ni Sasa ay napilitan si Nico na pumayag ipagmaneho ito upang makapaghanapbuhay habang nagpapagaling ng neck injury. Sa "arrangement" nilang ito ay magkakaroon sila ng pagkakataon na makilala ang isa't isa at makikita ang mga magagandang katangian sa kabila ng mga katayuan sa buhay. Masaya na mahirap ang pamilya ni Sasa na binubuo ng ina at tatlo pang kapatid na iba-ibang ama. Samantala may sariling isyu si Nico sa kanyang pamilya partikular sa kanyang ina na isang sikat na book writer at mayamang academician dahil siya at ang kanyang nakaraan bilang pasaway na anak ang sinisisi sa maagang pagkamatay ng kanyang ama. Sa kahirapan ng kanyang loob ay pinipilit niyang abutin ang kanyang ina subalit paano mangyayari ang lubos na pagkakasundo nila ng ina kung tuluyan siyang ma-involved sa katulad ni Sasa na mayroon din pangit na nakaraan?

Gasgas na at madaling mahulaan ang kwento ng "Babe, I love You" subalit nabigyan ng kulay na mahusay na produksyon at timpla ng direktor. Maganda ang pagkakahatid ng pinagsamang light at heavy drama. May mga tampok na eksena ang mga pangunahing tauhan at epektibo na naihatid ng mga nagsiganap. Maganda ring ideya ang voice over bago matapos ang pelikula kung saan literal na ibinahagi ang mahalagang aral at mensahe. Akma ang pag-iilaw sa mga eksena may kinakailangang bigyan-diin, gayundin ang paglalapat na musika. Bagama't madalas na pa-cute ang dating ng mga close-up shot sa mga bida at medyo eksaherada ang focus ng camera sa magagandang legs ni Anne ay nabawi ito ng magagandang aspetong teknikal ng pelikula.

Binigyan-diin sa pelikulang "Babe, I Love you" na ang hindi magandang nakaraan ay maaaring pagsikapan na mabawi at tuluyang makapagbago kung mabibigyan lamang ng panahon at pagkakataon. Sa ganitong sitwasyon ay malaki ang gampaning papel ng pamilya, mga kaibigan, lipunan, ng tanging minamahal at ng pananalig sa Diyos na nagbibigay ng pag-asa. Mahalaga ang ituon ang pansin sa gustong makamit, alamin ang pangunahin sa buhay at bigyan dignidad ang sarili sa pagtahak sa landas ng tagumpay. Salat sa yaman at limitado sa kaalaman si Sasa, may panahong naging mahina sa kanyang nakaraan, pero nagsikap na iwasto at ituon ang serbisyo sa pamilya sa maayos na paraan. Pagtanggap sa pagkakamali, kapatawaran at pamamayani naman ng pagmamahal ang namagitan kina Nico at kanyang ina. Dito sila kapwa humugot ng lakas upang harapin ang sakit ng paghihiwalay at pagpapalaya sa isa't isa. Pinahalagahan nila ang panahon na ibinigay nila sa kani-kanilang mga sarili at hindi sila nabigo na matuklasan ang magandang idinulot nito sa kanila sa muli nilang pagkikita. Positibo sa mensahe at madamdaming tagpo ang pelikula na kapupulutan ng aral ng mga manonood.