Sunday, February 27, 2011

Black Swan

CAST: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Winona Ryder, Sebastian Stan, Vincent Cassel, Janet Montgomery, Barbara Hershey,Christopher Gartin, Toby Hemingway, Kristina Anapau; DIRECTOR: Darren Aronofsky; WRITER: Andres Heinz, Mark Heyman, John McLaughlin; GENRE: Drama, Suspense/Thriller; RUNNING TIME: 110 min.

Technical Assessment: 4
Moral Assessment: 1.5
CINEMA Rating: For viewers 18 and above.

A ballerina with the New York Ballet Company, Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) gets her dream role as Queen Swan when the impresario Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) thinks Beth (Wynona Rider) has become too old for the role. As Swan Lake’s lead dancer, however, NIna has to inhabit two roles—the good White Swan and the evil Black Swan. The problem is while Nina has her technique honed to perfection, she lacks the passion to fill the Black Swan part. At 28 she is still treated by her mother Erica (Barbara Hershey) as though she were 20 years younger, sleeping in a bedroom all pink and fluffy and populated by teddy bears and other stuffed toys. Not for a moment dissuaded by Nina’s frigidity, Leroy spurs her on with calculated seduction, teasing her and then tormenting her by flying in the passionate Lily (Mila Kunis) from California to dance the Black Swan part. Partly to fulfill her ideal of perfection and partly to spite her overprotective mother—a retired dancer living her life through her daughter’s career—Nina is inevitably lured to explore her dark side.

Every single actor in Black Swan have all their feathers neatly in place: smooth, credible performance, good line delivery, great rapport all the way. Cassel is as charming as a devil can be. Hershey fits the aging stage mama role to a T. And Portman gives a performance worth a standing ovation. She’s really good at such roles—as in The Other Boleyn Girl—playing flawed characters who are definitely assured of a place in Dante’s Inferno. Director Darren Aronofsky carries you away with his sense of aesthetics; you get so busy gawking at his mesmerizing art that you lose track and don’t question anything till the end when you somehow suspect you’ve been had.

The story is seen from the point of view of an artist—Nina—who instead of losing herself in her art loses her sanity. Thus the thin line between reality and fantasy is blurred, and it’s you who lose yourself in Tchaikovsky’s music (albeit chopped up and overlayed with electronic muck reminiscent of Terminator). And when Nina does what she does at the end of the dance, you wake up and say, “Hey, wait a minute! How can you be so sure this act is not another nightmare or hallucination or one of those fears and fantasies that rattle her in her sleep and lull her to stupor when she’s awake?”

Who the hell cares? The point is, for CINEMA, aesthetics isn’t everything—neither is technique. Black Swan is both eye candy and tricky brainteaser, sure, but where’s the meat? Its only saving grace in terms of ethical content is the devotion Nina has for her craft, her drive towards perfection. But then again, the devotion crosses the boundary to neurosis, and the drive leads to the perfection of self-destruction. Black Swan is not about ballet—in fact it’s unflattering to the ballet industry; it’s more about an obsession dipped in the glitter of high art but which remains lowly nonetheless because the film chooses to overpower the heroine by her semi-conscious acquiescence to evil. Ask yourself: In the misguided pursuit of perfection is it worth sacrificing your soul for your art?

Friday, February 25, 2011

From Prada to Nada

CAST: Camilla Belle, Alexa Vega, April Bowlby, Kuno Becker, Wilmer Valderrama, Nicholas D'Agosto, Adriana Barraza, Karla Souza, Alexis Ayala; DIRECTOR: Angel Garcia; SCREENWRITER: Luis Alfaro, Craig Fernandez, Fina Torres; PRODUCER: Gigi Pritzker, Linda McDonough, Rossana Arau, Gary Gilbert &Lisa Ellzey, EDITOR: Brad Maclaughlin; MUSICAL DIRECTOR/COMPOSER: Daniel Hubbert, Andrea von Foerster, Sebastian Zuleta, Neitor Pereira; CINEMATOGRAPHER: Hector Ortega; DISTRIBUTOR: Lionsgate; GENRE: Comedy, Romance; LOCATION: USA ; RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes

Technical Assessment: 2.5
Moral Assessment: 3
CINEMA Rating: V14

Nora (Camille Belle) and Mary (Alexa) are beautiful, rich, spoiled and pampered. Although their last name is Dominguez, they definitely do not consider themselves Latina and have put no effort to learning their mother’s native tongue. The sisters think they have everything until their father dies and they find themselves penniless and at the mercy of the woman with whom their father had an affair with. The sisters are kicked out of the house and are force to live with their auntie in the poor side of East Los Angeles. At first, they are bemused at the living conditions of the people and look at themselves as a class way above the rest. However, the Latino community is not impressed with the newcomers. Over time, only when the sisters learn to live beyond their designers’ clothes and BMWs and value themselves for the real person inside their hearts and start treating other people as equals do they find true meaning in life.

The movie is a weak spin off on Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility”. Although, there are numerous instances where we find the girls in hilarious situations, the humor fails to deliver a good punch because the storyline is too predictable and the plot takes a long time to make the necessary twist for character redemption. The problem is in the script. The characters are too shallow and empty-headed that by the time they make the transformation, it is a bit too late to be genuine and to elicit sympath. And because the script is flat and the script shallow, you cannot really expect a stellar performance from the lead actors. On the positive side, the movie is cute and adorable production-wise. The movie starts with an interesting and promising premise but fails to deliver a great movie.

There are several good points that the movie emphasizes:

First, we say that material wealth should not be the basis of judging a person. FROM PRADA TO NADA shows this clearly as characters find meaning in life and self-respect not when they were covered with blings, brands and expensive things but when they were stripped of all possessions and began to interact using their hearts.

Second, people are always capable of changing. We can never say that just because a person was born and raised in a certain way, he or she will remain like that for the rest of his or her life. We clearly see how the lead characters made a complete 360 in dealing and respecting people and in discovering their self-worth.

Lastly, success is sometimes handed down the family line, but it is sweeter and more meaningful when it comes hand in hand with perseverance and hard work. People who have invested sweat, talent and determination in their achievements value the fruits and rewards even more.

The movie is not one of the must-see films but for those who would or plan to, there are good lessons to take home afterwards.

Monday, February 21, 2011


CAST: Liam Neeson (Dr. Martin Harris), Diane Kruger (Gina), January Jones (Elizabeth Harris), Aidan Quinn (Martin B), Bruno Ganz (Ernst Jurgen), Frank Langella (Rodney Cole); DIRECTOR: Jaume Collet-Serra; SCREENWRITER: Stephen Cornwell, Oliver Butcher; GENRE: Drama, Horror, Mystery & Suspense; DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Bros. Pictures; LOCATION: Berlin, Germany; RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes

Technical Assessment: 3 ½ .
Moral Assessment: 2 ½ .
CINEMA Rating: Audience Age 18 and above

American botanist Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) flies to Berlin with his wife Elizabeth (January Jones) to speak at a biotechnology conference. Checking in at the hotel he misses his briefcase, rushes back to the airport in a cab to retrieve it and gets into an accident that causes brain trauma resulting in partial memory loss. After cab driver Gina (Diane Kruger) bravely saves him from death, the police take him to a hospital where he lies in coma for four days. He awakens, wonders why no one has looked for him, and recalls just enough to escape from the hospital and return to the hotel to find his wife he hopes will establish his identity. He finds her with a stranger (Aidan Quinn) who claims to be the real Martin Harris. Worse she denies knowing him and confirms that her husband Martin Harris is the man with her. It’s a mystery the bewildered Harris would give his all to solve, and he is helped by Gina and her friend Ernst Jurgen, a private investigator (Bruno Ganz) who used to work in the East German secret police.

Based on French writer Didier van Cauwelaert's novel, Unknown may keep you at your seat’s edge rooting for the accident victim—credit that to Neeson’s looks which seem to naturally evoke sympathy. But of course he’s an actor who feels his role to the bone, even if his character be in such an absurd situation as Harris. Good direction by Jaume Collet-Serra pulls together the pieces of this brain-teasing story into clarity, aided by the lead actors’ self-convinced portrayal of their roles. Ganz as the ex-spy, wizened and wise and blessed with a prickly humor by his Stasi past, lends depth—even heroism—to the plot. If it were up to us, Ganz should get a nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Action and violence abound as the audience is led further into the dark, until close to the end of the 115-minute thriller when the unknown becomes known.

Unknown seems to have been made just to puzzle the brain. Older generations would call it “mental calisthenics”, the younger ones would say it’s “mind f—k”. It may entertain many who like to solve riddles but it offers little ethical guidance for those expecting it. Its redemptive factor comes late in the movie when—the mystery having been demystified—a character tries to influence another towards a new life direction. Unknown, however, may arouse one’s curiosity regarding the killer-for-hire industry, to ask questions like: How deeply is a spy indoctrinated to prepare for his or her mission? How does the training impact his self-image? How much of his real self is lost in the process? Does this then still hold him morally culpable for the acts he is paid to commit? Is there another process by which the killer-for-hire is disengaged totally from his role upon the completion of his mission? You see, even movies that critics would judge unworthy may lead to profound thoughts a world in chaos needs today.

Just Go With It

CAST: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Nicole Kidman, Brooklyn Decker, Bailee Madison, Antoinette Nikprelaj, Nick Swardson,Heidi Montag, Rachel Specter, Elena Satine; DIRECTOR: Dennis Dugan; WRITERS: Allan Loeb, Timothy Dowling; GENRE: Comedy, Romance; LOCATION: Los Angeles and Hawaii; RUNNING TIME: 110 min.

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

Former cardiologist turned plastic surgeon Danny (Adam Sandler) plays on different women to get over the trauma of aborted wedding many years ago. He discovers the power of a wedding ring on his finger to win the sympathy of women by pretending to be in an unhappy marriage with a difficult wife. He does not realize that the same fake wedding ring will send him away from Palmer (Brooklyn Decker), a woman he finally falls in love with and likes to marry. Palmer is a family-oriented young woman who works for a children’s institution and does not want to be involved with a married man. Danny is determined to win Palmer back, so he invents another lies and tells her that he is already divorced. The problem is, Palmer wants to meet his “former wife" and eventually the "children". So Danny plans a scheme that costs him money involving his long time clinic assistant Katherine (Jennifer Aniston) and her 2 children from his divorced husband to act as wife and children respectively. As a boss, Adam does not have a hard time convincing Katherine (Jennifer) but not the two children who are so clever to make demands for money and luxury trip to Hawaii to get their cooperation for the scheme. So the show goes all the way to Hawaii. The scheme turns out to be an opportunity of discovery of many things among Danny, Katherine and her two children.

“Just Go With It” is a sex comedy film that appears to make up from the boring plot through an effort to inject a serious family theme at the last part of the story. It was difficult to believe that a popular and rich plastic surgeon can live a lie about his status for the longest time and manages to sleep with one woman to another without being caught. Insertions of twists in the story add up to destructions. The acting does not offer any less with the exemption of Aniston who naturally transformed into the character of a cool clinic assistant and mom to grown up children and finally discovers something special for her longtime boss. The director seems to focus on the delivery of comedy but has the tendency to over do some of the scenes like that of the child in the toilet, the mashing of one-side oversized breast of a woman in the clinic, and the crack of many ‘dick’ jokes. The lighting helps in projecting required emotions in some scenes. The make up and production design in the scenes particularly the settings in the 80’s was not initially good but eventually improved as the film progressed to its ending. Nonetheless, the film has a good cinematography and offers impressive compositions in some of the scenes such as the scenes in Hawaii trip.

In Filipino culture, it is unusual for a single man to pretend that he is married just to play around on women. It is more usual for married man to pretend as single so he can womanize. Morally, neither of the two are unacceptable. The film is about living a life of lies at the expense of women. After victimizing many of them, Danny was trapped but was still able to get away with it. It is difficult to imagine how safe women clients in his plastic surgery clinic from exploitation are. The images of children portrayed in this film as crooked are a bit disturbing too and should not be tolerated. The viewers should be mindful of the context of the children's attitude in this movie that is partly due to parents' separation. Whilst the film ended highlighting the value of family, it did not appear to be the intention for the most part during the entire run of the film. Danny took a long time to recover from his trauma because he finds himself comfortable with lies. People has to be mindful about life's comfort because it may lead to be focusing only to yourself and become insensitive to others. Women and children are human beings and therefore deserved respect their dignity.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Mechanic

CAST: Jason Stratham (Arthur Bishop), Ben Foster (Steve Mckenna), Donald Sutherland (Harry McKenna), tony Goldwyn (Dean Sanderson), Jeff Chase (Burke); DIRECTOR: Simon West; SCREENWRITER: Karl Gajdusek; GENRE: Drama, Action & Adventure, Mystery & Suspense; DISTRIBUTOR: CBS Films; RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes

Technical Assessment: 3.5
Moral Assessment: 2
CINEMA Rating: Audience Age 18 and above

The mechanic in The Mechanic is Arthur Bishop (Jason Statham), a professional killer employed by a murder-for-money corporation that specializes in murders where murderers are untraceable because the modus operandi mislead and the killings don’t look like murders at all. Bishop is a cool criminal, competent in his field in that he leaves his heart in his freezer when he goes out to kill. He is assigned to kill his friend and mentor Harry (Donald Sutherland); he thinks it is a painful job but proceeds anyway—it’s just a job, and Harry is another killer anyway—all in a day’s work. The Mechanic is actually about the relationship between Bishop and Steve, a bum of a son who idolizes Bishop and pleads to be taken under the former’s wing to learn his trade. He learns fast, until the two practically become a team that kills for money during the day and spends the money on prostitutes during the night.

The Mechanic is a remake of a 1972 Charles Bronson starrer, and is reminiscent of The American of George Clooney. The mere mention of action he-man Statham as lead character should give audiences a clue as to the sound and fury in the movie. Directing is Simon West (Tomb Raiders) who follows in the footsteps of Michael Winner (who directed the Bronson version). Whether their movies are worth making at all is beside the point—these directors are accomplished technicians who have honed their skills to the extent of leading their audience to like noise and action as entertainment. The script by Richard Wenk somehow attempts to inject human meaning into this kill-or-be-killed movie, as when the white-haired, hangdog-faced Sutherland character on a wheelchair is credited with more dignity than it deserves.

It can be so disturbing to watch a movie about a killing corporation—a company that employs people to kill. With all the news nowadays about people getting shot at close range by assassins speeding away on motorcycles, one would think it’s not only in the movies after all, that people are hired to murder. If you are strong enough to separate the reel from the real, you may still find entertainment in The Mechanic, because technically it’s good. Substance-wise it’s not entirely bad as there’s the character Steve who acts like a meat-tenderizer for the whole story—watch closely what goes on between the teary eyed Steve and Arthur on the brink of a confession and you’ll know what we mean. But then the ending is inconclusive and leaves the audience to decide what will now happen to the mechanic. He is a genius at cheating death—he is victorious because he prepares for his victories. So, will his hardened heart finally lead to his turn around? Whatever you wish for him to become, remember that in a world that professes that Jesus is the Son of God, killers (even killers of killers) should never be revered as heroes.

The Rite

CAST: Anthony Hopskin (Father Lucas Trevant), Claran Hinds (Father Xavier), Alice Braca (Angeline), Toby Jones ( Father Matthew), Collin O’Donoghue (Michael Kovak), Rutger Hauer (Istvan Kovak); DIRECTOR: Mikael Håfström; WRITER: Matt Baglio, Michael Petroni; DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Bros Pictures, New Line Cinema; LOCATION: Chicago, USA, Budapest, Hungary, Rome, Italy; GENRE: Mystery & Suspense, Drama; RUNNING TIME: 112 min.

Technical Assessment: 3.5
Moral Assessment: 3.5
CINEMA Rating: Audience Age 14 and above

The only way Michael Kovak (Colin O’Donoghue) can go through college—as his father demands—is to continue as a mortician in his father’s business, or become a priest. So, to be independent of his father Istvan (Rutger Hauer), while getting a four-year college education for free, Michael enters the seminary. Michael is a skeptic and has set his mind on leaving the seminary right after his ordination as a deacon. But his superior Fr. Matthew (Toby Jones) who is convinced of the young man’s potential as a pastor despite his skepticism will not let him off the hook that easily. He wants to send Michael off to Rome to take a Vatican-sponsored course on exorcism in Rome; otherwise he will roll his four years in the seminary over into a $100,000 student loan. In Rome, Michael comes under the tutelage of a Dominican priest, Fr. Xavier (Ciaran Hinds). Believing more in psychology than in theology, Michael vents his doubts with Fr. Xavier and a classmate, journalist Angeline (Alice Braga) who is attending the course for research purposes. Seeing Michael to be a hard case, Fr. Xavier assigns him as a virtual apprentice with the eccentric Fr. Lucas who is known for his unusual but effective approach to demon-fighting. Michael comes face to face with evil as he witnesses the aging priest drive away demons from the possessed.

Although it is fiction, The Rite is based on the life story of a priest—Fr. Gary Thomas from the Diocese of San Jose, California—which is the meat of the book “The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist” released in 2009 by journalist/author Matt Baglio. Dubbed as “supernatural horror”, Warner Bros.’ The Rite, being a movie on excorcism, naturally has its share of bodies contorting and convulsing, gory scenes, expletives, abusive language, physical violence, sexual innuendoes and disparaging remarks about Jesus and God. However, nothing of such necessary evil (pardon the pun) is exaggerated, thus the movie doesn’t descend to the level of an average chillfest. Adding to its technical merits is the spot-on casting: newcomers Colin O’Donoghue and Marta Gastini (as the possessed Rosaria) are equally impressive in this first outing; Hauer is credible as the anguished mortician widower, just as Jones and Hinds are effective in their priest-characters. It is Hopkins’ Fr. Lucas, however, that strings everything all together into one neat bundle of thrills. Hopkins seems born to do borderline cases but somehow he escapes the stereotyping trap. Like Geoffrey Rush or Morgan Freeman, he is one thespian whose characters you cannot but take seriously.

The poster for The Rite says that you can defeat the devil only when you believe it. Based on this premise, The Rite intrigues its audience with the idea that a skeptic can be moved to believe in God by seeing the havoc that the devil wreaks. The movie is not a substitute for a theology textbook but it is certainly rich with talking points for those fascinated by or simply curious about absolute good and evil, death of a parent, psychological disorders vs. demonic possession, incest, fear vs. faith, and one’s intention in answering the call to the priesthood. In spite of an incidental colorful word uttered by priests, screenwriter Michael Petroni and director Mikael Hafstrom do not disrespect either the priest’s person or the Catholic religion. In fact the film’s affirmation of faith and the value of priestly ministry reverberates in its entirety, from the opening frame which quotes Pope John Paul II to the closing scene which will be a spoiler to reveal. Suffice it to say that in The Rite, a twist of fate leads to a turn in faith.

Friday, February 11, 2011

127 Hours

CAST: James Franco; DIRECTOR: Danny Boyle; AUTHOR: Aron Ralston; SCREENPLAY: Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy; PHOTOGRAPHY: Anthony Dod Mantle; MUSIC: A.R. Rahman; GENRE: Thriller; RUNNING TIME: 1 hour and 33 minutes

Technical Assessment: 3.5
Moral Assessment: 3
CINEMA Rating: V14

127 Hours is the true and tragic but triumphant story of Aron Ralston, an experienced mountain climber, as powerfully told by Director Danny Boyle and excellently portrayed by the talented actor James Franco. Cocky with self-confidence, twenty seven year old Aron Ralston ventures alone into the Blue John Canyon in Utah, for some climbing and exploring which he does with much exhilaration. Moving around with some familiarity of the territory, he comes across two female hikers Megan (Amber Tamblyn) and Kristi (Kate Mara) who lost their way and he helps them get to their destination. Shortly after, Aron has an accident. He falls down to the bottom of a shaft where a big rock crushes his arm and pins it against a tunnel wall. Unable to free his arm in spite of all his valiant efforts, survival skills and the use of limited tools, he remains trapped within a narrow space for 127 hours, a little more than 5 days from the end of April to the beginning of May 2003. A loner, he left home without telling anyone. He realizes he can die here without anyone knowing where he is. Now, he knows no help is forthcoming. With his camcorder, he does a video of his thoughts and experiences with the hope that whoever finds it may return his body to his parents. Subjected to vagaries of the weather, hunger and thirst, he has dreams and visions. But in spite of his “half-crazed state” he continues his efforts and is determined to live. How does Aron beat the odds? The viewer may be interested in knowing the details.

The film is based on the autobiography of Aron Ralston entitled Between a Rock and a Hard Place which focuses mainly on his particular searing ordeal in the Canyon. Director Boyle has succeeded in transforming a relatively simple survival tale into a singularly intense cinematic experience. He begins with striking, brightly colored visuals and awesome landscape shots to the accompaniment of A.R. Rahman’s throbbing music. These images give us an early insight into the overweening self-worth of the charismatic main character as well as show-off the beautifully photographed vast and rugged setting. In his dynamic storytelling, Boyle successfully captures on the screen the difficulties of the protagonist (as the latter suffers extremes in temperature, dehydration, fatigue, and mental anguish in the face of death) and deftly intertwines these scenes with flashbacks and hallucinations, without much distraction from the storyline. The film builds in intensity (though not in suspense) and has its apex when Aron makes his radical decision and performs the painful procedure on himself in order to live. The scene is unflinching in its realism, stark and graphic. It is difficult to watch and is not for the fainthearted.

James Franco has been known as a support actor in films like the Spider Man franchise but in 127 Hours he has most probably given a career-altering performance. He is on the screen in nearly every frame and often in close-up, so he “carries” the film for more than an hour. His insightful and very good portrayal of his role keeps us interested and engaged all the time. The others in the cast like Amber Tamblyn, Kate Mara and Lizzy Caplan do comeo performances creditably.

As mentioned, the film is not for the faint-hearted. Neither is it for the very young. The extreme realism with the violence, gore and self-inflicted pain maybe disturbing for them. But in spite of the negative points, 127 Hours is a life-affirming film. In these days when life is viewed cheap by abortionists and hired killers, a film that champions the value of life is most salutary. This is a story of determination and survival, heroism and courage. When Aron finds himself in the desperate situation when there seems no reason for hope, he does not lose heart; he continues to “fight” it out. He does not give up. He is determined to live. He succeeds but with much pain and sacrifice. He had to give up something in order to have the greater good – his life. We may not be able to do what Aron did, but in other instances when we are faced with a desperate situation in life, we may be reminded of Aron’s predicament. And we remember that the determination to continue trying, even after many failures, maybe rewarded. Or we may be called upon to sacrifice or give up something in order to achieve a greater good. And we might just do that. In a way, he did something heroic: save his life. This film shows or suggests that when one wants to do what is good, often it can be done, even in the face of adversity and difficulty, if one is determined to do it. This film depicts the triumph of the human spirit.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


CAST: Andy Lau, Jacky Chan, Fan Bingbing, Nicholas Tse; DIRECTOR: Benny Chan; SCREENPLAY: Allan Yuen; DISTRIBUTOR: Cinestar; GENRE: Action/Drama; LOCATION: China; RUNNING TIME: 130 minutes

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

Set in China at a time when feuding warlords are expanding their territories in neighboring lands, young and arrogant general Huo Chieh (Andy Lau) desecrates a Shaolin temple as he kills a wounded enemy who has sought refuge with the monks. But betrayal of a trusted soldier will turn his fate, losing his power and family in the process. He ends up seeking refuge in the very same Shaolin temple he desecrated. Left with nothing, he realizes the mistakes of his past and decides to dedicate himself through living the way of the monks. Eventually he learns to let go of his anger and follow the righteous path. However, civil unrest and people’s suffering will force him and the monks to take a fiery stand against the evil warlords and the soldiers who betrayed him.

Although Shaolin works on a rather time-tested story template of an arrogant man fallen from grace finding redemption in a different way of life, still, the film has its universal charm that has worked effectively in its totality. The movie is packaged as an action genre but it turns out that it’s more dramatic than action-filled. The highlights of the film are not really the action scenes but the dramatic ones when characters pour out their emotions. This is quite unusual for a kung-fu film but it fits quite well and has given the film a different turn. Andy Lau delivers the part in multi-faceted levels of action and drama. Jacky Chan underplays the character as support but his mere screen presence and brand of humor is as always a delight to the audience. The relatively unknown supporting characters deliver well and each is able to make an impact. The fight and chase scenes are spectacular though sometimes a bit toned-down. The coherent and solid storytelling elevates the kung-fu genre into a film that is worth taking seriously.

Amidst the violence and some level of gore, Shaolin advocates more than anything else, universal values of love, sacrifice, forgiveness, peace, humility and courage through the ways of the monks. The realization of Huo that greed for power leads to destruction is a timely message now that wealth and power are on top of people’s priorities. Absolute power corrupts absolutely and this is what happened to Huo. His karma has taken away all he’s got but he is able to find renewal through sincere repentance. He takes full responsibility for what his soldiers have become. This is such a rare trait of a remarkable leader. Even in the middle of the war, peace can still reign for as long as there is goodness in man’s heart. The evil may destroy everything but still hope springs eternal for those who follow the path to righteousness. Though in context, Shaolin inevitably shows graphic violence, and that may influence the vulnerable minds of the very young, so CINEMA recommends the film to be appropriate to viewers 14 years old and above.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


CAST: Doug Bradley, Sophie Vavasseur, Richard Felix, Stephen Bellington; DIRECTOR: Manuel Carballo; SCREENWRITER: David Munoz; GENRE: Horror; LOCATION: Spain


Emma Evans is having problems and strange occurrences around the home. Turns out she is possessed Her family calls in a troubled priest with a troubled past who has to exorcise this demon from Emma. (

Technical Assessment: 1.5
Moral Assessment: 1.5
CINEMA Rating: Not for public showing

Yogi Bear

CAST: Anna Faris, Justin Timberlake, Dan Aykroyd, T.J. Miller,Nathan Corddry, Tom Cavanagh, Andrew Daly, Dean Knowsley; DIRECTOR: Eric Brevig; WRITER: Brad Copeland, Joshua Sternin; GENRE: Animation, Family; RUNNING TIME: 82 min.

SYNOPSIS: Jellystone Park has been losing business, so greedy Mayor Brown decides to shut it down and sell the land. That means families will no longer be able to experience the natural beauty of the outdoors -- and, even worse, Yogi and Boo Boo will be tossed out of the only home they've ever known. Faced with his biggest challenge ever, Yogi must prove that he really is "smarter than the average bear" as he and Boo Boo join forces with their old nemesis Ranger Smith to find a way to save Jellystone Park from closing forever.

Technical Assessment: 3.5
Moral Assessment: 4
CINEMA Rating: PG 13 (For viewers aged 13 and below with parental guidance)

Season of Witch

CAST: Nicolas Cage (Behmen), Ron Perlman (Felson), Stephen Campbell Moore (Debelzaq), Claire Foy (The Girl), Robbie Sheehan (Kaylan), Kevin Rees (Dying Monk); DIRECTOR: Dominic Sena; SCREENWRITER: Bragi F. Schut; GENRE: Mystery & Suspense; DISTRIBUTOR: Relativity Media; LOCATION: Europe; RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes

SYNOPSIS: The church elders, convinced that a girl accused of being a witch is responsible for the devastation, command the two to transport the strange girl to a remote monastery where monks will perform an ancient ritual to rid the land of her curse. They embark on a harrowing, action-filled journey that will test their strength and courage as they discover the girl's dark secret and find themselves battling a terrifyingly powerful force that will determine the fate of the world.

Technical Assessment: 3
Moral Assessment: 3
CINEMA Rating: V 14 (Viewers aged14 and above)

Gulliver's Travel

CAST: Jack Black, Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Billy Connelly,Amanda Peet, Catherine Tate, James Corden, Olly Alexander; DIRECTOR: Rob Letterman; WRITER: Jonathan Swift
GENRE: Comedy, Action/Adventure; RUNNING TIME: 85 min.

SYNOPSIS: In a contemporary re-imagining of the classic tale, Gulliver, a big-talking mailroom clerk who, after he's mistakenly assigned a travel piece on the Bermuda Triangle, suddenly finds himself a giant among men when he washes ashore on the hidden island of Lilliput, home to a population of very tiny people. At first enslaved by the diminutive and industrious Liliputians, and later declared their hero; Gulliver comes to learn that it's how big you are on the inside that counts. MRQE

Simple assessment"
Technical Assessment: 3
Moral Assessment: 2.5
CINEMA Rating: PG 13

Love and other Drugs

CAST: Anne Hathaway, Jake Gyllenhaal, Oliver Platt, Hank Azaria,Judy Greer, Brenna Roth, Gabriel Macht, Jaimie Alexander,George Segal, Katheryn Winnick; DIRECTOR: Edward Zwick; WRITER: Marshall Herskovitz, Charles Randolph; GENRE: Drama; RUNNING TIME: 113 min.

Technical Assessment: 3
Moral Assessment: 2
CINEMA Rating: V 18 (For viewers 18 and above)

Jamie (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a first-class jerk who lost his job as audio equipment salesman when he slept with the boss’ girlfriend. ) Next he works as a pharmaceutical salesman from Ohio with ambitions of hitting the big market in Chicago. If he must flirt with receptionists at doctor’s offices to push his drugs (which include Viagra), he will, and then do more—or worse. He has polished the art of flirting to a high buff, and women fall for his tricks, leading him to feel that he can have any woman he wants. Which is what happens, actually. Except when he meets 26-year-old Maggie Murdoch (Anne Hathaway) who enchants him with her loverly but noncommittal brand of intimacy. Maggie has a reason for not wanting deeper involvement, but she keeps it a secret: she is on the early stages of Parkinson’s disease and shuts herself off from serious relationship as her defense mechanisms. But the two who begin a casual affair grow into wanting a more serious and maybe permanent relationship. Is it love? Or is it simply an addiction for Jamie and morphine for Maggie?

Directed by Edward Zwick, Love and Other Drugs is based on the book “Hard Sell: the Evolution of a Viagra Salesman” by Jamie Reidy. Written by Charles Randolph, Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz for this 20thCentury Fox production, the movie is a cross between a romantic comedy and drama. The genre apparently shifts halfway through the 112-minute film, parallel with the development of the Jamie-Maggie relationship from devil-may-care encounters to careful considerations of an uncertain future. The fast paced story is backed by snappy dialogue and crisp cinematography. Gyllenhaal and Hathaway, who played a couple inBrokeback Mountain, deliver a totally different performance here that demonstrates the level of chemistry they may actually possess, or can manage for the camera.

Love and Other Drugs may be viewed in many ways, depending on which side of the morality fence you’re on. Some people may see its positive message—that commitment is more important than casual sex—but others would say it makes casual sex more enticing than commitment. That’s the conflict in the movie—and the director’s or the writers’ intentions notwithstanding, the movie leaves its resolution to the viewer. It seems convinced about its positive message but it also titillates the viewer first with voyeuristic and vicarious experiences of almost unbridled fornication before it attempts to be heard. In effect it’s saying that true lovedoes come, but only after indulging yourself in false lovemaking. Try telling a child to want yoghurt as the ultimate health food, but don’t give it to him unless he finishes his chocolate cake first. And to the adult it says, “Don’t neglect your vitamins, but first take Viagra.” If only for this movie, CINEMA should create a new rating: PG 18—for mature viewers with parental guidance.