Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

LEAD CAST:  Bob Kane, Christine Caine, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Morgan Freeman  DIRECTOR: Christopher Nolan  SCREENWRITER:   Christopher Nolan & Jonathan Nolan  PRODUCER:  Charles Roven, Emma Thomas  EDITOR:  Lee Smith  MUSICAL DIRECTOR :  Hans Zimmer  GENRE:  Action & Adventure, Drama  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Wally Pfister  RUNNING TIME:   165 minutes  DISTRIBUTOR:  Warner Bros. Pictures   LOCATION:  USA, Europe

Techical:          4
Moral:            2.5
CEINEMA rating:  V 14  (For viewers aged 14 and above)

Gotham City eight years ago was convinced that their favorite bat was a murderer who had killed among others the city's idealistic district attorney, Harvey Dent.  The truth is that Dent went crazy from grief and rage; thus, mad and sad, he tore through Gotham’s streets on a killing spree, putting down crime lords without sparing cops in the process, and actually almost murdered Commissioner Gordon’s little boy.  To shield the reputation of Dent (who had spent his life as a crime-buster) so that Gotham could go on believing, Gordon and Batman agreed: Batman would take the fall for the murders, while Dent would be given a hero’s burial.
All those years Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), the city’s wealthiest billionaire and of course the real person behind the Batman character, went into reclusive retirement.  Those dark years spawned a new breed of villains in the city’s sewers under the evil hold of the sinister Bane (Tom Hardy), who is planning to lead an insurrection of underground warriors to annihilate Gotham destroy the Dark Knight.   Aware of the threat posed by the terrorist Bane, Wayne’s loyal butler Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine) tries to persuade his billionaire master to don the cape once more.  Hospitalized, Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) also pleads with Batman to return to action,  placing his trust in an idealistic, young protégé, Officer John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt).  When Wayne Enterprises helmed by CEO/inventor Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) becomes the target of a hostile takeover, wealthy philanthropist Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) becomes an influential ally.
Bruce Wayne would rather just be a recluse, until his curiosity is piqued when he discovers a cat burglar disguised as a waitress, Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), rifling through his safe, and is in fact already wearing his late mother’s prized pearl necklace.   As the plot unravels, you’d never guess what surprises it holds in the end.

Ice Age: Continental Drift

LEAD CAST:  (Voice only) Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Queen Latifah, Seann William Scott, Josh Peck, Keke Palmer, Chris Wedge, Peter Dinklage, Jennifer Lopez, Drake, Nicki Minaj, Heather Morris DIRECTOR: Steve Martino & Mike Thurmeier SCREENWRITER:  Micheal Berg, Jason Fuchs, Mike Reiss PRODUCER:  John C. Donkin, Lori Forte  EDITOR:  James Palumbo MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  John Powell  GENRE: 3-D Computer Animated & Comedy  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Renato Falcao  RUNNING TIME: 94 minutes  DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox  LOCATION:  USA

Technical:  3.5
Moral:   3.5
CINEMA rating:  PG 13 (For viewers aged 13 and below with Parental Guidance)

It’s a decade since we were first introduced to the everlasting nut-seeking Scrat (or even before because we got to like him—feel sorry for him—in several promos and trailers).  Ice Age was released in 2002. The second film (and a game) in 2006.  The third in 2009.  Then a television short in 2011.  And, here we are again.  Ice Age has become part of family movie culture and of cinema animation.
And, Scrat is at it again.  But, glad to say, he has more screen time than before.  He gets to reappear throughout the film.  And, at the end.  his nut-avarice seems to be the cause of Atlantis sinking beneath the Atlantic Ocean, a piece of the mythology that we never realized before!
However, we are also soon introduced to a motley collection of prehistoric animals who have become friends—to littlies and oldies alike.  They get to do some typical action so we are back in familiar territory with familiar characters.  And the voices that we are know are back again (with shots of the voice talent to be seen in the final credits).  Ray Romano is the ever-sturdy mammoth leader, Manny.  Diego the sabre-toothed tiger is Denis Leary.  John Leguizamo and Sid the Sloth are as ditsy as ever.  And, there are some new voices.  Peter Dinklage is most welcome as the ape pirate chief, Captain Gutt; Jennifer Lopez as a female sabre-toothed tiger in his crew; Wanda Sykes as Sid’s potty grandmother. Even Patrick Stewart turns up at the end as Ariscratle, showing Scrat around Atlantis.  There are lots of American and British talent as the animals and the pirates.
The story is a variation on what we have seen before.  But, that doesn’t matter much because the formula was a good one.  There are the usual dangers of the Ice Age, glaciers splitting, mountains crumbling—though we are shown just how Australia and Africa were the result of all these rumblings.  And, then a trek.
When Manny, Diego, Sid and Granny are separated from the rest of the herd, adrift on an iceberg, Manny is determined to find his wife and daughter (with whom he has been having teenage problems about going out and getting home late) and lead his little band home.  The menace this time is the pirate gang, a scraggly lot except for a very fat seal, but enough to cause lots of mayhem and set up battles and escapes.  Formula, but very agreeable.
And the formula seems to work for young audiences as well as older audiences.  To think that the young  audience which enjoyed Ice Age is now entering the teens!  I hope they enjoy this one and don’t look down on the little brothers and sisters who will be laughing and excited. By Peter Malone

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter

Cast: Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rufus Sewell, Marton Csokas Direction: Timur Bekmambetov Story and Screenplay: Seth Grahame-Smith; Cinematography: Caleb Deschanel Editing: William Hoy Music: Henry Jackman Producers: Timur Bekmambetov, Tim Burton, Jim Lemley; Genre: Action, Sci-Fi; Running Time: 136 minutes Location: Old Americas; Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Technical:       3.5
Moral:            3.5
CINEMA Rating:     V 14 (For viewers aged 14 and above)

From the visionary collaboration of writer Seth Grahame-Smith at direction of Timur Bekmambetov, the  novel  with the same title was transformed into a silver screen adaptation of one of America’s greatest leaders.  In the film, the young Abraham Lincoln was both a witness to the sufferings of the African slaves and the death of his gentle mother in the hands of Jack Barts (Marton Csokas), his parent’s employer and one of the cruel slave owners.  Although this incident affected the young Abraham, he was held by a promise to his father that he will not retaliate.  But after nine years, Abraham (Benjamin Walker), now an orphan, considers himself free of that promise and makes it his lifetime commitment to seek revenge for his mother’s murder.  Unknown to him, Barts is one of the many vampires slowly overtaking society.  He chances upon the murderer and attacks him, but he is utterly surprised when he realizes that even bullets lodged in his eyes could not kill Barts.  When Abraham is overpowered and is about to kill him, Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), a guy Abraham met in a bar, intervenes and saves his life.  Abraham wakes up and discovers the truth about vampires.  He pleads Henry to teach him how to defeat the monsters and in turn agrees to be Henry’s protégé and do the vampire hunting for him.  Together, Henry and Abraham defeat the most notorious monsters in the new Americas until the latter discovers the truth about his mentor he almost could not handle.
Eventually, Abraham realizes a deeper struggle he has to fight and decides to lay down his ax and use the power of words and ideas to free slaves, save the people and unite his nation causing the vampires to retaliate by killing his only son. Again, Abraham, now President of the United States must fight but his fight is ignited not by vengeance but by the desire to free the world of evil and horror.
One cannot deny the brilliance of the work on screen as real life events in history are tightly woven in the imagination of Smith.  The narrative is strong and clear and each succeeding scene progressively heightens drama and excitement, not to mention several quotable quotes from the protagonist.  Visually, the movie is stunning: high action, superb cinematography and unbelievable computer-generated effects all coming together in the 3Dformat.  The production design and artistic direction is a work of genius.  Henry Jackman’s scoring is another element that easily stands out… not overpowering, not melodramatic but just perfectly in synch with each scene’s emotional requirement. Abraham LincolnVampire Hunter will be one of the movies you just need to watch.
As a movie, Abraham Lincoln easily stands out as a favorite but does it deliver enough positive messages amidst the gruesome violent action sequences. It does, but not for the young audiences. Some of the more salient messages include the effect of parental care and idealism on the child’s development.  Because Abraham’s parents showed love, respect and concern for others, the same values remained inculcated in Abraham as an adult and as one of the most powerful man in the Americas.
Revenge seemed like a dominant theme at first as Abraham carried with him the pain of his mother’s murder.  This may have fueled his valiance but through Henry’s mentorship, he realizes that there is more to it than just getting even.  Justice for one’s self is always superseded by justice for the majority.  As Abraham got to live his vampire hunting career, his motivation transformed from his mother’s death to a nation’s survival.  Eventually, this led him into a deeper issue—one that is real in our world as well—emancipation of slaves. On the one hand, you can say that his foes and battles are in fact symbols of his desire to unite a nation that respects all men as equal.  At this point, not even the death of his only son occasions another  vendetta to push him to wipe out vampires, only his desire to show that all men are  equal—regardless of race or color.
Even the scene where Henry offers immortality to Abraham so they can continue their mission against the vampires leaves us with a valuable lesson on being a person. Abraham replies that there are more things that last longer than immortality like living as a legend who has chosen to do good and protect the welfare of  men for the common good.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Amazing Spiderman

Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Sally Field, Martin Sheen, Denis Leary; Direction: Marc Webb; Story: James Vanderbilt Based on Stan Lee and Steve Ditco; Screenplay: James Vanderbuilt, Alvin Sargent, Steve Kloves; Cinematography: JohnSchwartzman; Editing: Allan Edward Bell, Pietro Scalia;  Music: James Horner; Producers:Avi Arad, Laura Zisin, Matt Tolmach; Genre: Action, Sci-Fi,  Drama; Running Time: 136 minutes; Location: New York, USA; Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Technical:     4
Moral:          3.5
CINEMA Rating:  V14 (For viewers aged 14 and above)

Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is an awkward ostracized student at Midtown Science High School who still feels the pain of being abandoned by his parents when he was a little boy.  Constantly bullied and ignored, he finds solace in the attempts of friendship by his classmate Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone) and the loving care of his surrogate parents Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field). He attempts to find the truth about his past when he discovers a briefcase his father left behind.  The search leads him to Oscorp Industries where his father used to work with Dr. Curtis Connors (Ryan Ifans).  As he tries to piece together clues he found with the present work of  Dr. Connors, he is accidentally bitten by a spider which instantly gives him strength, reflexes and agility.  Peter frequents Dr. Connors to learn more about his transformation and his father.  Unfortunately, his obsession coupled with hormones, identity crisis and teenage angst constantly leaves him at odds with Uncle Ben.  In one of their arguments, Uncle Ben is shot by a mugger who Peter has allowed to escape.  In his guilt, he uses his superpowers to hunt down the killer and take it upon himself to rid New York of criminals as a mask vigilante called Spiderman.  Capt. Stacey sees otherwise and gives a standing order to the NYPD to arrest him.  But when Dr. Connors transforms into a rampaging giant Lizard, Spiderman learns the true meaning of doing good and Capt. Stacey understands what Spiderman really stands for.
The Amazing Spiderman is not another version of the original Raime-Macguire trilogy but a movie version with more maturity, deeper humanity and bigger beating heart that brought the film a certain reality lacking in previous versions.  The casting and their corresponding performances are exceptional.  Garfield’s take on Parker’s coming of age awkwardness and angst is vivid and genuine.  The chemistry between Peter and Gwen is engaging, to say the least.  As a narrative, there are a few loopholes that could have been tighter but these came so few and far between that audience can easily ignore for the power of the intimate non-Hollywood moments director Marc Webb chose.  Another element that could not be ignored is the precise and inspired scoring of James Horner which punctuates the drama and action of the film.  These, together with the astonishing CGIs and 3D effects, make for a spectacular movie.  It was not a surprise that on opening day the theatre resounded with approving applause from satisfied and moved viewers as the end credits rolled.
As the original Spider film’s immortalized words “with great power comes great responsibility” stuck to our minds, this version tells us two more things.  That everyone has the “moral responsibility—not choice—to do what is good.  This need not be a bloody heroism or an exploit witnessed by many but just everyday acts of kindness including remembering to do a simple chore for someone in need.  One’s moral obligation to do good means not consenting to or keeping quiet in the face of a crime.  It will have its repercussions later on.  Peter ignored the mugger when he easily could have stopped or helped the store owner. In the end, the mugger killed his Uncle.  Although Peter/Spiderman tried to make up by being a vigilante, it did him and the people around him no good until his reasons for helping came from a desire to do what is right instead of trying to give a bad person what he deserves.
This brings us to the second lesson.  Revenge is different from justice and helping a person in need.  When Peter humiliated Flash although we would all agree he had it coming, Uncle Ben was quick to point out that Peter’s actions did not really make him feel a better man. Capt. Stacey reiterated that a man who wears a mask and lurks in the shadows is not the same as a man who wears a badge and keeps law and order.
Overall, The Amazing Spiderman is great movie, one that viewers will remember and talk about and use as reference in the next years.  However, violence and destruction and some themes make it unsuitable for the very young audiences.