Friday, January 27, 2012


CAST:  Gina Carano (Mallory Kane) Michael Fassbender, Bill Paxton, Michael Douglas, Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum; DIRECTOR: Steven Soderbergh; SCREENWRITER: Lem Dobbs; PRODUCER:  Gregory Jacobs; EDITOR: Mary Ann Bernard  MUSICAL DIRECTOR: David Holmes; GENRE:  Drama, Action & Adventure, Mystery & Suspense; CINEMATOGRAPHER: Peter Andrews     DISTRIBUTOR: Relativity Media; LOCATION: USA, Spain, Ireland; RUNNING TIME:  93 minutes

Technical Assessment: 3.5
Moral Assessment: 2
Cinema Rating: For viewers 18 years old and above         

SYNOPSIS: Mallory Kane is a highly trained operative who works for a government security contractor in the dirtiest, most dangerous corners of the world. After successfully freeing a Chinese journalist held hostage, she is double crossed and left for dead by someone close to her in her own agency. Suddenly the target of skilled assassins who know her every move, Mallory must find the truth in order to stay alive.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

J. Edgar

CAST: Leonardo DiCarpio, Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts, Dame Judi Dench, Ed Westwick, Josh Hamilton, Josh Lucas, Judi Dench, Lea Thompson; DIRECTOR:  Clint Eastwood; SCREENWRITER: Dustin Lance Black; PRODUCER: Clint Eastwood, Brian Grazer, Robert Lorenz; EDITOR:  MUSICAL DIRECTOR : Clint Eastwood; GENRE: Drama; CINEMATOGRAPHER     DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Bros; LOCATION: USA; RUNNING TIME:   137 minutes

Technical Assessment: 3.5
Moral Assessment: 3
Cinema Rating: For viewers 14 years old and above  

J. Edgar tells the story of J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo diCaprio), the head of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for nearly 50 years. The story jumps from one period to another between 1920’s and 1970s highlighting Hoover’s achievements from his point-of-view as the old Hoover narrates to younger agents. He tells stories of how he protected the United States from Communist attacks and how he introduced various innovations (like the central fingerprinting system) to advance criminology, thus, preventing criminality. Some of the film’s highlights were the tracking of the mastermind of the kidnapping of Lindbergh baby that paved the way for Hoover’s eventual rise to power. All these juxtapose with his secrets untold including that of his relationship with his mother (Judi Dench) and assistant Clyde Tolson (Armi Hammer).

The film has tried hard to capture the complexities of one of the most controversial figures in the history of the US. J. Edgar may be utterly successful in bringing about the details of Hoover’s achievements as the FBI director only to discredit him later on, but the movie fails in entirety to really flesh out the humanness of J. Edgar the man. This is not really much the fault of the filmmakers but the material itself calls for such complexity beyond the capacity of the film medium. But then again, the non-linear storytelling works well in sustaining audience’s interest and diCaprio’s intensity and screen presence is as brilliant as always. Perhaps the prosthetics did not really help that much and they should have thought of another way of representing the old Hoover, (Getting a real veteran actor, perhaps?) so actors won’t have to look ridiculous. The cast ensemble is strong and the film surely has its brilliant moments only that it should have shown more of the real J. Edgar.

Is J. Edgar Hoover a hero or a foe? That makes the figure a real controversial one. The film does not really say so but at the very least, it has presented the many contradictions in his character, although quite limited on the surface. There is much to ponder on as far as his intentions for his country is concerned. While he is able to protect the US from Communist attacks, he has also invaded private lives and spaces beyond the rule of law. Hoover  has broken the very law he has pledged to protect. All the while in the film, open secrets about his real personality – including his childhood and repressed sexuality – transposes to his duty as FBI director, thus quite saying that a weakling hides behind the mask of an iron man. The said back story could be a justification how the infamous J. Edgar came to be. But then, his integrity, dedication and loyalty as FBI head still cannot be questioned and his fiery passion to protect the country from communists, radicals and criminals must be emulated by every citizen of any land. In that respect, J. Edgar is still worth seeing, and the many questions the film did not answer and the many secrets kept hidden are all worth pondering.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

We Bought a Zoo

CAST: Matt Damon (Benjamin Mee),  Colin Ford (Dylan Mee), Thomas Haden Church (Duncan Mee), Scarlett Johansson (Kelly Foster), Patrick Fugit (Robin Jones), Elle Fanning (Lily Miska); DIRECTOR: Cameron Crowe; SCREENWRITER: Aline Brosh McKenna, Cameron Crowe; PRODUCER: Julie Yorn, Marc Gordon; GENRE:   Adaptation, Drama;  DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox; LOCATION: California, USA; RUNNING TIME:  124 minutes

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

We bought a zoo is based on a real story that took place in England.  Journalist Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon) recently lost his beloved wife and is raising their two children singlehandedly.  Seven-year-old Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones) is adorable and a breeze to look after but 14-year old Dylan (Colin Ford) is a difficult case, sullen, withdrawn, and causes a lot of trouble in school.  Following an impulse to make a fresh start, Benjamin quits his job and decides to move his family away from the city where all the memories of their sweet and happy life haunt them.  His house-hunting leads him to a spacious, modestly priced property in a bucolic setting.  It would have been perfect, except that it comes with a rundown zoo which is maintained by a handful of volunteers led by Kelly (Scarlett Johansson) who do it out of sheer love for the animals.  The new owner of the property would have to take this shuttered down zoo and the animals, including some endangered species.
The title alone, We bought a zoo, would have us expecting comic relief at least half the time.  The other half could be spread out evenly among cute animal shots, clever animal tricks, and heroic animal deeds that would all endear wild four legged creatures and other species to humans.  But no, the movie has none of those—which is what makes this number most unusually precious in Hollywood’s history of “animal movies”.  First, the animals are simply themselves, animals in an animal park, not trained performers in a glittery circus.  Snakes crawl, big cats growl.  The animals here are low profile, and even when a couple of them have to be deployed, it is done in order to advance the story and not to inject cheap excitement as is done by movies which rely on gimmickry to catch public attention.
This is so because We bought a zoo is not about animals but about persons who discover themselves and one another through experiences that eventually cause their growth.  The zoo just happens to be the setting, and the animals, the necessary props for such transformative human interaction to take place.  This is about persons—and there is not one person here who can be called a bad guy.  There is no villain in this story, not even the fussy zoo inspector Walter Ferris (John Michael Higgins) the character that causes the most stress in the others is just there to faithfully do his job, or Benjamin’s brother Duncan (Thomas Haden Church) who is not very encouraging of his brother’s moves or decisions at the start.  We bought a zoo is definitely family entertainment and has much to say about familial devotion, love of creation and the environment, dedication to work, friendship and parent-child relationships.


CAST:  Ralph Fiennes (Caius Martius Coriolanus), Gerald Butler (Tullus Aufidius), Ashraf Barhom, Brian Cox (Menenius), James Nesbitt, Jessica Chastain (Virgili, wife of Coriolanus), Vanessa Redgrave (Volumnia, mother of Coriolanus); DIRECTOR: Ralph Fiennes   SCREENWRITER: John Logan (adopted from William Shakespeare); PRODUCER: R. Fiennes & company; EDITOR: Nicholas Gaster  MUSICAL DIRECTOR: Ilan Eshkeri; GENRE:  Drama, Mystery & Suspense; CINEMATOGRAPHER: Barry Ackroyd; DISTRIBUTOR: Weinstein Company; LOCATION: United Kingdom; RUNNING TIME:  122 minutes  

Technical Assessment: 4
Moral Assessment: 3
Cinema Rating: For viewers 14 years old and above  

Coriolanus (Ralph Fiennes) is a tough Roman General who plays important role in fighting the civil unrest at the  height of hunger in Rome.  Impressed of his skills as soldiers, the politicians   including her manipulative mother Volumnia (Vanessa Redgrave) make him their leaders where he realizes  the plights of Roman people experiencing hunger and unrest.  The politicians take his realization as a display of weakness and ineffectiveness as a leader and therefore accuse him of being a traitor. He turns his back from political allies and joins the  side of the former enemy Aufidius (Gerard Butler) to whom Coriolanus offers his life and services for their cause.  When his mother appeals for him to reconsider return to the service, Coriolanus breaks down to the dismay of  Aufidius.    

“Coriolanus” is an adaptation of Shakesperean’s play.  Despite in modern times but successfully kept to the essence of the original story and delivery of  significant lines.  The director did a good job in bringing out the tough and soft sides of the characters in the film.  The scene between the son and the mother is very well portrayed. The production design in camouflage is a bit over because it is not actually a war movie.  But the fight and killing scenes can be very violent.   Many of the bloody scenes are irrelevantly given close up shots.  Nonetheless the musical scoring and sound effects are good. Overall, the film is seen with efforts to do well in the technical aspects however, there are lapses that overtaken these intentions.

There is honor in fulfilling a duty and for being of service to the people.   But when the interest is questioned,  a person is called to reflect and may  need to make tough and/or unpopular decisions that may generate various reactions and direct opposition.  In this crucial decision,  betrayal is a common dilemma that a person must face.  Coriolanus has experienced  both being betrayed and being accused of betrayal. But in the end, he had the guts to face off with the circumstances of his actions.  

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Alvin & the Chipmunks:Chipwrecked

CAST:  Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler, Jesse McCartney, Jason Lee, David Cross, Jenny Slate, Amy Poehler, Cristina Applegate, Anna Faris, Alan Tudyk; DIRECTOR: Mike Mitchell; SCREENWRITER:  Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger; PRODUCER:  Rose Bagdasarian, Janet Karman; EDITOR:  MUSICAL DIRECTOR  Mark Mothersbaugh; GENRE: Animation, Adaptation, Kids/Family, Comedy and Sequel; CINEMATOGRAPHER     DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox; LOCATION: USA & Canada; RUNNING TIME:  87 minutes

Technical Assessment: 3
Moral Assessment: 3
Cinema Rating: For viewers of all ages

After a series of successful albums and concert tours, Dave Seville (Jason Lee), the chipmunks and chipettes father-figure cum manager decides to give his 6 wards a break and embark on a special cruise. He forewarns his “children”, especially Alvin to behave and stay away from trouble but the exact opposite happens as the entire ship is transformed into a huge playground for the chipmunk sextet. Alvin decides to be more daring and go para-kiting, however, the chipmunks collective weights are no match for the winds. They get carried off the ship and land in a deserted island in the middle of the ocean. Dave and Ian (David Cross) are reunited as they try to rescue the chipmunks and end up marooned in the other end of the island.
The 3rd sequel to the Chipmunks franchise has started to become redundantly and predictable. Although the song and dance sequences are still entertaining, storywise, it falls a little short for a full length film. Even the comedy is a little rundown by now. The attempt to add some dramatic moments worked for a while but was not enough to give the film a fresh twist. Overall, audiences would have had their dose of entertainment but will surely forget about it after a few hours.
Fortunately, Alvin and the Chipmunks 3: Chipwrecked offers a few good lessons for the family. For one, there is the strong family theme that resounds from beginning to end.  For parent viewers, the film can be a reminder of their unconditional love for their children during good and well-behaved times as well as the nerve-wrecking naughty and bratty times. (I for one have constantly sympathized with Dave and saw my young son in Alvin.) A parent needs to be firm and consistent but understanding and accepting at the same time. For the children viewers, they will realize that at one point, they would need to grow up and be more responsible in life.
There is also the element of transformation. Ian, who has been the franchise’s nemesis, has shown remorse over his past mistakes. Despite admitting that he has exerted effort in getting revenge, he realized that this obsession has negatively consumed his life and even encouraged Zoe to make the right decision. At the end, it is implied that he chose to save Dave and completely reform his ways.
Although the theme and language of the movie is suitable for the family, the chipmunks’ recklessness might be misunderstood by the very young audience. Parents are advised to explain consequences of certain actions to their children.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

CAST:  Robert Downey Jr. (Sherlock Holmes), Jude Law (Dr. Watson), Noomi Rapace (Madam Simza Heron), Rachel McAdams (Irene Adler), Jared Harris (Professor James Moriarty), Stephen Fry (Mycrof Holmes); DIRECTOR: Guy Ritchie; SCREENWRITER: Michele Mulroney, Kieran Mulroney; FILM PRODUCER: Dan Lin, Joel Silver, Lionel Wigram, Susan Downey; EDITOR:  MUSICAL DIRECTOR; GENRE: Mystery & Suspense, Action & Adventure; CINEMATOGRAPHER: Warner Bros.; LOCATION: England; RUNNING TIME:128 minutes

Technical Assessment: 3.5
Moral Assessment: 3
Cinema Rating: For viewers 18 years old and above    

SYNOPSIS: Sherlock Holmes is the smartest man. There is a new criminal mastermind at large-Professor Moriarty-and not only is he Holmes' intellectual equal, but his capacity for evil, coupled with a complete lack of conscience, may actually give him an advantage over the renowned detective. When the Crown Prince of Austria is found dead, the evidence, as construed by Inspector Lestrade (Eddie Marsan), points to suicide. But Sherlock Holmes deduces that the prince has been the victim of murder-a murder that is only one piece of a larger and much more portentous puzzle, designed by Professor Moriarty. The cunning Moriarty is always one step ahead of Holmes as he spins a web of death and destruction-all part of a greater plan that, if he succeeds, will change the course of history. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

CAST: Maricel Soriano, Gabby Concepcion, Jericho Rosales, Dennis Trillo, Solenn Heusaff, Paolo Avelino, and Carla Abellana; DIRECTOR:  Jun Lana; SCREENWRITER:  Jun Lana;  GENRE:  Drama; LOCATION:   Manila, Philippines; RUNNING TIME:  120 minutes

Technical Assessment: 3.5
Moral Assessment: 2
Cinema Rating: For viewers 18 years old and above

Si Maricel Soriano at Jericho Rosales ay ang mga anak ni Ronaldo Valdez sa unang asawa.  “Annulled” o pinawalang bisa na ang kasal ni Maricel kay Gabby Concepcion, na may pangalawang asawa naman, si Carla Abellana, kung kanino malapit ang kaisa-isang anak  ni Maricel at Gabby, si Eula Caballero.  May television network ang matandang Valdez, na pinamumunuan ni Maricel; si Jericho naman ay kasal kay Lovey Poe, na nagsisimulang masakal sa labis na pagmamahal ni Jericho.  Si Valdez ay na naka-wheelchair na; ang pangalawang asawa niya ay si Agot Isidro, at si Solenn Heussaff naman, laki sa Amerika, ang anak nila.  Bagot at sawa na si Solenn sa boyfriend niyang si Paulo Avelino, kaya’t nirarahuyo naman niya ang guwapo at matipunong gym instructor na si Dennis Trillo, lihim na boy toy ni Agot.  Magkakalindol at gawa nito, guguho din ang mga pagkukunwari ng mga tauhan, at lulutang ang mga buhol-buhol nilang landas.
Kung hindi disqualified ang Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow sa katatapos pa lamang na Metro Manila Film Festival, malaki sana ang tsansa nitong maging Best Film.  Matapat at dibdiban ang pagganap ng mga pangunahing tauhan, dahilan ng pagiging makatotohanan at kapani-paniwala ng pelikula.  Maganda rin ang daloy ng istorya, maliwanang at maayos ang script at dialogue, kaya naman kahit medyo masalimuot ang kuwento ay naging madali rin itong unawain.
Makikita na manonood na ang mga situwasyong kinalalagyan ng mga tauhan ay maaaring hindi naiiba sa maraming pamilya sa tunay na buhay.  Paano nga ba maiiba, samantalang ang tinatalakay dito’y mga damdamin ng tao, isang bagay na mayroon lahat ng mga tao, ano man ang kanyang lahi, kulay, paniniwala, o kasarian.  Nangingibabaw dito ang pagiging makasarili; lahat ng mga tauhan sa Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow ay may paniwalang ang kanyang pananaw ang pinamabuti sa lahat.  Ito rin ang pinagmumulan ng hindi pagkakasundo-sundo, at ng pagsisinungaling o pagtatago ng katotohanan para lamang maiwasan ang bangaan.  Ngunit dahil sa isang sakuna na hindi inaasahan,  malaking pagbabago sa takbo ng buhay ng bawa’t isa ang magaganap, at daraan sa matinding pagsubok ang bawa’t isa.  Makabubuting panoorin ng mga miyembro ng pamilya ito at pag-usapan at timbangin ang uri ng mga kilos at mga pasya ng mga tauhan.     

Enteng ng Ina mo

CAST:  Vic Sotto, Ai Ai delas Alas, Eugene Domingo, Alwyn Uytingco, Aiza Seguerra, Marvin Agustin, Nikki Valdez, Carlo Aquino and Xyriel Manabat; DIRECTOR: Tony Y. Reyes PRODUCER: ABS-CBN Film Productions, M-Zet TV Productions, APT Productions, & Octo Arts; EDITOR:   MUSICAL DIRECTOR; GENRE: Comedy   CINEMATOGRAPHER;     DISTRIBUTOR LOCATION:   Manila; RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes

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

SYNOPSIS: Veteran comics Ai-Ai delas Alas and Vic Sotto teamed up for this movie of two film franchises, the Ina Mo series and the OK Ka Fairy Ko series.

Ms. Delas Alas once again takes the role of widowed mother Ina Montecillo -- a character she had played in three other films, including in last year’s Tanging Ina Mo Rin (Last Na ‘To) for which she won MMFF’s Best Actress Award. Meanwhile, Mr. Sotto returns as family man Enteng Kabisote, which he has been portraying since TV-series Okay Ka Fairy Ko debuted in the late 1980s.

The movie starts with Enteng wanting to put an end to his recurring role as the hero of Engkantasya (fairyland) and live a normal life with his family. On the other hand, Ina longs for the right partner to be with her for the rest of her life.

Segunda Mano

CAST:  Kris Aquino, Dingdong Dantes, Angelica Panganiban, Helen Gamboa; DIRECTOR: Joyce Bernal; PRODUCER: MUM Production; EDITOR:  MUSICAL DIRECTOR;GENRE:  Horror/Suspense/Drama; CINEMATOGRAPHER     DISTRIBUTOR LOCATION: Phiippines; RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes

Technical Assessment: 3.5
Moral Assessment: 2
Cinema Rating: For viewers 14 years old and above

SYNOPSIS: Segunda Mano which directly translates to "Second Hand" tells a story of various cursed antique objects that haunts its unfortunate new owners.