The Episcopal Commission on Social Communication-CBCP

CINEMA (Catholic INitiative for Enlightened Movie Appreciation) of The Episcopal Commission on Social Communication of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines presents movies viewed in the light of the gospel. . *** For inquiries, please EMAIL: cbcpcinema@gmail.com *** CALL or TEXT: (02) 664 5886 *** or WRITE TO: CINEMA, Episcopal Commission on Social Communication, CBCP Compound, 470 General Luna St. Intramuros, Manila *** Enjoy the reviews, and THANK YOU!

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Avengers

CAST:  Tony Stark (Robert Downey),  Cris Hemsworth (Thor), Cris Evans (Captain America), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Mark Ruffalo (Dr. Bruce Banner/The Hulk), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), Scarlett Johansson (Natasha/Black Widow), Don Cheadle (Col James Rhodes), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Clark Gregg (Agent Coulson), Stellan Skarsgard ( Professor Erik Selvig), Cobie Smulders (Agent Maria Hill), Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts); DIRECTOR: Joss Whedon; SCREENWRITER:  Joss Whedon, Zac Penn (based on Marvel Comics Superhero Team, sixth installment of Marvel Cinematic Universe); PRODUCER: Marvel Studios;  EDITOR: Jeffrey Ford & Lisa Lassek; MUSICAL DIRECTOR: Alan Silvestri; GENRE:   Action, Adventure, Science Fiction; Fantasy; CINEMATOGRAPHER: Seamus McGarvey ; DISTRIBUTOR Walt Disney; LOCATION: USA; RUNNING TIME: 142 minutes

Technical Assessment:  4
Moral Assessment:  3.5
Cinema rating:  For viewers 14 years old and above
       
Nick Fury (Samuel Jackson), director of the international peacekeeping agency SHIELD, recruits Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) to form the superhero team of a lifetime that will take on Loki (Tom HIddleston), the brother of Thor.  Loki suddenly materializes at the SHIELD headquarters to steal the Tessaract, the device that will enable him to open a portal in the skies through which evil metal monsters will enter to attack Earth.  Loki, of course, wants total control of the planet, and so begins to wreak havoc on Manhattan, in New York.     
What happens when you have too many cooks in the kitchen?  As the saying goes, too many cooks spoil the brew, right?  But what happens when you get together six superheroes to fight one villain from out of this world?  Superheroes = superegos.  So, first, a clash of egos, which may begin with words and escalate into actual fisticuffs and then metal clashing against metal, as in Thor’s hammer banging Captain America’s shield and vice versa.   In the movies, that is great entertainment.  Outside of Loki (who looks like a greasy-haired druid, although too clean shaven to appear menacing) it’s hard to tell who’ll emerge as another villain, what with all the superheroes’ superpowers!  It’s a really super-super strangely enjoyable freak show and you’d be hard put to decide which freak to root for.  How can you not be amused, for example, by the exchange between Captain America and Iron Man.  CA mocks IM who’d be nothing without his armor; IM with characteristic braggadocio quips that without his suit he’d be a “genius, playboy, billionaire”.  CM glumly declares what is needed is a hero; IM blurts out, “A hero?  Like you?  You’re a laboratory experiment!  Everything special about you comes from a bottle!”
Don’t expect a movie of this type to have much of a plot; with six superheroes kicking ass, a meaty plot would just be a distraction.  What director and writer Joss Wheadon does here is use the formulaic plot as a board on which to pin his characters and action sequences.  It’s a good vs. evil story and we all know who’ll win in the end.  But how the good will win is the challenge that will showcase Wheadon’s directorial talents.  Wheadon is able to delineate the hero-characters admirably, which may be the main reason not one of them emerges as the super-superhero; all are allowed to shine according to their nature and they come out equally victorious in the end.  Even Black Widow who possesses no superhuman qualities turns out to deliver more punches with her bare hands than any of the guys, precisely because she’s got no magical props to lean on.
The Avengers delivers a message that upholds teamwork as the essence of the war against evil.  And it scores high because it explodes with stunt after stunt but doesn’t take itself too seriously.  It’s a good show, it doesn’t tax your emotions, and it’s even unexpectedly funny at times—especially what it does to the megalomaniac villain.    

Battleship


CAST:  Taylor Kitcsh (Lt Alex Hopper), Alexander Skarsgard (Stone Hopper), Broklyn Decker (Samantha Shane), Rihanna (Petty Officer), Liam Neeson (Vice Admiral Shane); DIRECTOR:  Peter Berg; SCREENWRITER:  Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber; PRODUCED BY: Peter Berg, Brian Goldner, Duncan Henderson, Bennett Schneir, Scott Stuber; EDITING BY: Colby Parker Jr., Billy Rich, Paul Rubell;   MUSICAL BY: Steve Jablonsky; GENRE:  Science fiction & fantasy, action & adventure; CINEMATOGRAPHER     DISTRIBUTOR Universal Pictures
LOCATION: United States; RUNNING TIME:   131 minutes  

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

SYNOPSIS: Peter Berg produces and directs Battleship, an epic-scaled action-adventure that unfolds across the seas, in the skies and over land as our planet fights for survival against a superior force. Inspired by Hasbro's classic naval combat game, Battleship stars Taylor Kitsch as Lt. Alex Hopper, a Naval officer assigned to the USS John Paul Jones; Brooklyn Decker as Sam Shane, a physical therapist and Hopper's fiancée; Alexander Skarsgård as Hopper's older brother, Stone, Commanding Officer of the USS Sampson; Rihanna as Petty Officer Raikes, Hopper's crewmate and a weapons specialist on the USS John Paul Jones; and international superstar Liam Neeson as Hopper and Stone's superior (and Sam's father), Admiral Shane.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Lucky One


CAST:  Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling, Blythe Danner, Jay Ferguson; DIRECTOR: Scott Hicks; SCREENWRITER:  Will Fetters based on novel by Nicholas Sparks; EDITOR: Scott Gray; MUSIC: Mark Isham, Hal Lindes; GENRE:  Drama; CINEMATOGRAPHER: Alar Kivilo;    DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Brothers; LOCATION: USA; RUNNING TIME:  101 minutes

Technical Assessment:  3.5
Moral Assessment:  2.5
Cinema rating:  For viewers 14 years old and above

An Iraq War veteran searches for the woman from a mysterious photo that he credits with saving his life during three tours of duty in this romantic drama adapted from the book by Nicholas Sparks. U.S. Marine sergeant Logan Thibault (Zac Efron) was serving his country overseas when he happened across a discarded photo of a beautiful woman. An inscription on the back read "Keep Safe," yet the photo revealed no clues about either the subject or her whereabouts. Upon returning home to civilian life, Logan conducts his own research and discovers that the woman's name is Beth (Taylor Schilling) and that she cares for dogs at a small-town kennel. Before long, Logan manages to get a job at the kennel, and sets his sights on winning Beth's heart. But it won't be easy because Beth's past experiences have made her wary of relationships. Meanwhile, as Logan works to earn Beth's trust, a dark secret from her past threatens to derail his hope for a happy future together 

The Lucky One is the product of the imagination which also brought to the movie world Message in a Bottle and The Notebook.  That told, the viewer would know what to expect, more or less, from this romantic escapist number, based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks.  While the plot is predictable, the movie tries to strike a balance between sheer coincidence (as the title implies) and stark reality.  There is enough chemistry between Efron and Schilling to make their sizzling scenes credible, though the characters are familiar stereotypes: the precociously clever son Ben (Riley Thomas Stewart);  the wise grandmother Ellie (Blythe Danner) who can spot good husband material at first glance; the ex-husband Keith (Jay R. Ferguson) a bully of a cop with inferiority issues.  The cinematography is appropriate to the genre, and the location is an enviable setting for a coincidence-laden romance whose foundational elements are the woods with a brook in the backyard, sunlit days of bathing dogs, a placid lade for rowing and chatting, and a lifestyle that thrives on meeting the characters’ simple needs.

The Lucky One would have deserved the PG-13 rating given by the MTRCB if the bed scenes had been pruned considerably or treated with more subtlety.  Even if other critics might say “But this is America”—where premarital sex is almost de rigeur—still CINEMA would classify The Lucky One as an adult movie .  The one character here that exhibits an unexpected but acceptable change is Beth’s ex, Keith, who switches from insufferable bully to lifesaving father.  Credit goes to Ferguson’s sensitive acting—as a bully you’d wish a bigger bully would teach him a lesson, but when he softens watching his son playing the violin with a man he is jealous of, and then switches back to being a bully the next scene, you could see a bad man wanting to be good but can’t become one as yet.  The viewer can resonate with this conflicted character because he is so close to being real. 
    

Monday, April 16, 2012

Machine Gun Preacher

CAST:  Gerard Butler, Michelle Monaghan, Michelle Shannon; Madeline Carroll, Kathy Baker, Souleymane Sy Savane, Rhema Marvanne; DIRECTOR:  Marc Foster; SCREENWRITER: Jason Keller; PRODUCED BY: Robbie Brenner, Deborah Giarratana, Craig Chapman, Gary Safady; GENRE:  Action, Drama, Biography, Crime; DISTRIBUTOR Relativity Media; LOCATION: USA, East Africa; RUNNING TIME:   129 minutes    

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

The hero is Sam Childers (Gerard Butler), an ex-biker, Pennsylvania tough guy who loved guns and served a prison sentence.  Sam goes through a conversion experience after thinking he and a friend (Michael Shannon) had killed a man.  His wife, his daughter and his mother have found God and lead him to church and baptism.  When he gets his life in order, he is impressed by a preacher visiting from Uganda, and makes the life-changing decision to go to East Africa to help repair homes destroyed by civil war.  Here he is outraged by the unspeakable horrors faced by the region’s vulnerable populace, especially the children. Ignoring the warnings of more experienced aide workers, Sam breaks ground for an orphanage where it’s most needed-in the middle of territory controlled by the brutal Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a renegade militia that forces youngsters to become soldiers before they even reach their teens. But for Sam, it is not enough to shelter the LRA’s intended victims. Determined to save as many as possible, he leads armed missions deep into enemy territory to retrieve kidnapped children, restoring peace to their lives--and eventually his own.  His strong-minded wife (Michelle Monaghan), supports him and urges him not to give up though it takes a toll as Childers becomes completely obsessed by his mission--to the point where his daughter accuses him of loving the "little black babies" more than he does her.
Some people may not be able to stand the violence in Machine Gun Preacher.  For instance, when the LRA group captures a young boy in a village, they slice his face and put a sledgehammer in his hands as he faces his sobbing mother. They demand that he kill her, and we watch as the sledge starts to fall. Later, the boy confesses to Sam that his captors told him they would kill him and his brother if he didn't kill his mother.  LRA soldiers also burn down villages, gunning down families as they flee, screaming. 
Machine Gun Preacher confronts viewers with this valuable question:  When does a faith-fueled commitment to a just cause become idolatry?  When Sam's faith falters and he rejects God and contemplates suicide, the film offers up a sobering reminder of the valleys a valiant man will always face. Sam's heart is reawakened by a conversation with a boy who's suffered unspeakable things; the story ends with him re-engaging with his mission.
The true-to-life Childers is still working in Sudan.  Photos of him and his family as well as video footage are shown in the final credits.  Critics note that those interested in the machine gun may lose interest in the religious dimension of the Machine Gun Preacher, while those interested in the preacher may be put off by his warrior-like Christianity in fighting for the rights of the oppressed.  At the end of the credits, Childers tosses the confronting question: If a member of our family were to be abducted and Childers promised to get them back, would we question or object to the way he would do it?  That is a key question for muscular Christians who defend the rights but do not countenance turning the other cheek.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Titanic 3D

CAST:  Leonardo DiCarpio (Jack), Kate Winslet (Rose) Billy Zane (Cal); DIRECTOR:   James Cameron; SCREENWRITER:  James Cameron; PRODUCED BY: James Cameron, Jon Landau;  EDITING BY: James Cameron, Conrad Buff IV, Richard A. Harris;  MUSIC BY: James Horner; GENRE:   Drama, Romance, Classic; CINEMATOGRAPHER: Russel Carpenter; DISTRIBUTOR  20th Century- Fox & Paramount; LOCATION:   North Atlantic Ocean; RUNNING TIME:  195 minutes

Technical Assessment:  4
Moral Assessment:  2.5
Cinema rating:  For viewers 14 years old and above

In 1912, RMS Titanic, aka “The Unsinkable Ship,” is about to set sail for her maiden voyage, and everyone is excited to board it; everyone except Rose Dewitt Bukater (Kate Winslet), that is, who calls it a “slave ship” that will take her back to America and to a life of privilege with her fiance, Cal Hockley (Billy Zane). Meanwhile, Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his friend Fabrizio win a Third Class ticket onto the Titanic in a game of poker five minutes before the ship is to depart, and they run through the crowded English streets trying to catch the ship before it leaves. Rose ends up making Jack’s acquaintance in an unusual situation once on-board, and even Cal and his henchman (David Warner) cannot tear them apart. The romance is tested, of course, when the ship hits an iceberg and it is revealed by the ship’s architect Mr. Andrews (Victor Garber) that Titanic will be at the bottom of the ocean within two hours. 
     People below age 24 couldn’t have seen—or liked, if they’ve seen it—the original Titanic, the blockbuster film by James Cameron circa 1997 that earned for Kate Winslett an Oscar nomination.  Whether or not you go for love stories or romantic fantasies, Titanic will prove too big for you or anyone to ignore.  Okay it’s a formulaic number—rich girl is engaged to rich man who’ll bail her family out of debt; rich girl meets spirited, self-confident poor boy who gives her all the excitement missing in her life; rich girl and poor boy fall in love and go for it; then the gigantic unsinkable boat sinks.   Never mind that it could be manipulative in some parts, the film has the power to carry viewers away—and much of this would be due to the exceptional editing.  Even if you have seen the 1997 original, this 3D version will most likely blow you away.  Unlike most movies that decide to remarket themselves in 3D, Titanic 2012 is enhanced by the 3D conversion.  Released worldwide to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking of RMS Titanic on April 15, 1912, Titanic’s return has been announced in movie theaters since months back, and guess who are most eager to see it?  People from teeners to senior citizens—just shows the enduring power of well-told love stories.  It also shows how Cameron—who also did Avatar 12 years after Titanic—is so ahead of his time, able to pull off convincing CGI that would still stun audiences a dozen years after its maiden screening.  If only to feel with the characters what it's like to be confronted by the inevitability of your own death, the movie is worth the price of admission.  By all means, see it.      


Monday, April 2, 2012

Wrath of the Titans

CAST: Sam Worthington (Perseus), Liam Neeson (Zeus),  Rosamund Pike (Queen Andromeda), Ralph Fiennes (Hades), Danny Huston (Poseidon), Edgar Ramirez  (Zeus' other son Ares), John Bell (Helius), Toby Kebbell (Agenor), Bill Nighy (Hephaestus); DIRECTOR: Jonathan Liebesman; SCREENWRITER: Dan Mazeau, David Johnson; PRODUCED BY: Basil Iwanyk, Polly Cohen Johnsen; EDITING BY: Martin Walsh; MUSIC BY: Javier Navarrete; GENRE:  Action & Adventure, Science Fiction & Fantasy; CINEMATOGRAPHY : Ben Davis DISTRIBUTED BY: Warner Bros; LOCATION: USA; RUNNING TIME:  99 minutes

Technical Assessment:  3.5
Moral Assessment:  2.5
Cinema rating:  For viewers 14 years old and above

SYNOPSIS: A decade after his heroic defeat of the monstrous Kraken, Perseus-the demigod son of Zeus-is attempting to live a quieter life as a village fisherman and the sole parent to his 10-year old son, Helius. Meanwhile, a struggle for supremacy rages between the gods and the Titans. Dangerously weakened by humanity's lack of devotion, the gods are losing control of the imprisoned Titans and their ferocious leader, Kronos, father of the long-ruling brothers Zeus, Hades and Poseidon. Perseus cannot ignore his true calling when Hades, along with Zeus' godly son, Ares (Edgar Ramírez), switch loyalty and make a deal with Kronos to capture Zeus. The Titans' strength grows stronger as Zeus' remaining godly powers are siphoned...