Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Campaign

CAST:  Zach Galifianakis, Will Ferrell, Jason Sudeikis, Katherine LaNasa, Dylan McDermott, John Lithgow, Dan Aykroyd, Brian Cox. SCREENPLAY: Chris Henchy, Shawn Harwell STORY:  Adam McKay, Chris Henchy, Shawn Harwell MUSIC: Theodore Shapiro  PRODUCER: Jay Roach, Adam mckay, Will Ferrell  CINEMATOGRAPHY: Jim Denault EDITING:  Craig Alpert Studio, Gary Sanchez Productions, Everyman Pictures DISTRIBUTOR Warner Bros. Pictures RUNNING TIME: 85 minutes LOCATION: United States LANGUAGE: English

Technical:  3
Moral:  2.5
CINEMA rating:  V18

Incumbent Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) is running as North Carolina congressman for the nth time.  With his formula “America, Jesus, Freedom”, he is confident he will win, not only because he is actually running unopposed, but also because he is determined to squash would be opponents the dirty way.  But he is exposed when he picks up the phone and leaves an amorous and obscene message to his mistress, unaware he has dialed a wrong number.  The number is that of an ultra-pious Christian family, then having dinner with the children when his XXX-rated message is recorded in the answering machine.  The parents, of course, are horrified, and a scandal is born.  Brady’s campaign manager (Jason Sudeikis) tries to straighten things up but billionaire business honchos who decide the fate of politicians behind the scene, the Moch Brothers (Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow) withdraw their support of Brady and back another candidate, Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis), the wimpy director of the local tourist center.
The Campaign is dyed-in-the-wool satire, mimicking real life’s electoral processes.  Director Jay Roach does a snappy, never-a-ho-hum-moment critique of America’s political scenario, propped and spiced by the all-too-familiar fare: the image-bashing videos, mudslinging, cut-and-dried speeches, babies to hug and kiss, tyrannical campaign managers, power brokers, the pet dogs, the works.  Roach so exaggerates the obvious that some viewers will probably cringe at the unexpectedly vulgar footages—but, just like in love and war, all is fair in the spoof kingdom, especially when the target of the darts is politicians.  The sets, wardrobe, music, cinematography, and the minimal CGI (the punch landing on the baby’s face can’t be real!) all combine to create a movie that will leave the adult audience hooting and cackling the whole time.  Special mention goes to the two leads, Galifianakis and Ferrell, doing parts quite a distance from their usual roles.
If there’s one worthwhile thing about spoofs, it’s their educational value.  Like The Campaign, which is a sharp satire about elections in a country supposed to be a world power.  Movies like this do not educate you outright, but they tease and tickle, prick and prod, until the responsive viewer takes a long hard look at the truths they veil in hyperbole and laughter.  Beneath the comedy mask worn by The Campaign, is the face—the face covered with grime, blood and maggots—of politics.  Coming out of the theater, a youth, not yet of voting age, asks his elder companion, “How can the world be a better place when those who want to have the power to change it play dirty themselves?”  Well, my boy, that is politics.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Total Recall

Cast:Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, John Cho, Bill Nighy; Direction:  Len Wiseman; Story:  based from Philip K. Dick’s “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”; Screenplay:Kurt Wimmer, Mark Bomback; Cinematography:Paul Cameron; Editing:Christian Wagner; Music:HrryGregson-William; Producers:Neal H. Mortiz, Toby Jaffe; Genre: Sci-Fi Action; Running Time:118 minutes;   Location:  United Federation of Britain / Colony; Distributor: Columbia Pictures

Technical:  3
Moral:  3
CINEMA Rating:  V14
 After the 3rd World War by the end of the 21st century, there are only two liveable territories on earth: the upscale cosmopolitan center of politics and economics in the United Federation of Britain (UFB) and the cramped Chinatown-like Colony, believed to be the former Australia. The Colony factory worker who at the UFB must travel to the other side of the world via the “Fall”, a gravity transport at the core of the Earth.  One of the factory workers Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) has been having recurrent nightmares of him escaping with another woman and being caught by the robot soldiers of the UFB.  He does not tell his wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale) but constantly vents how humdrum his life is turning out to be. He decides to visit Rekall, a company that can implant memories to a person to allow him to live out his fantasies, only the chosen memory should not be in anyway true to the person. Douglas chooses a spy adventure and undergoes a routine test. He fails the test and the entire Rekall is attacked by the SWAT team. Surprisingly, Douglas counter-attacks when he is about to get arrested. He returns home and confesses to Lori what just transpired. When Lori starts attacking him, he realizes he has been living a fantasy life where false memories were implanted to him to erase his true identity as Carl Hausser. As he dodges attempts on his life, he meets Melina (Jessica Biel), the girl in his dreams and his real lover. He attempts to put together pieces of his real life and rejoins Melina’s cause to fight the oppression of the UFB chancellor.
Total Recall is a remake of the Schwarzenegger 1990 movie, although the producers claim it is more of an adaptation of Philip Dick’s short story. Its CGIs and visual effects are impressive and keep the audience glued to the screen. The action sequences are equally captivating. Colin, Beckinsale and Biel have an intrinsically authentic chemistry and rapport.  Their encounters and scenes together or individually are moments to watch for. Total Recall succeeds as an action-packed film but sadly story-wise it falls short. The high-pack chases are over extended that there was really little time to develop the characters and the narrative. (This is quite puzzling since the basic plot has already been laid out both in the short story and the 1990 film.) The filmmakers paid too much attention to the “wow” factors like effects, high impact action sequences and production design and left a more basic component lacking—the storyline.
Sacrifice for the welfare of the underprivileged, fighting for a cause and standing up to oppression—these are some of the socio-political issues that the film addresses. Oppression may succeed for some time, but it is human nature to protect not just the self but life itself.
But more than these, there is an in-your-face message against government’s population control solutions—kill someone less important so that the chosen few can live. The method that the UFB chose was blunt and brutal and can easily be condemned by an ordinary viewer. But analysing what is taking place in our own nation today—this is the same step that the authorities forcing to enact certain laws and bills that are clearly against life are doing. Although they are targeting the unborn and attacking women’s fertility in the guise of a better economics, health and other benefits, the steps being imposed are anti-life, attacks the weak and disadvantaged.
The movie can be a springboard for various socio-political discussions but because it really focuses more on hard core action, you’d have to fish long to get to the better messages it has.  This is better for older audiences with strong caution to parents.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Bourne Legacy

LEAD CAST:  Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Stacy Keach, Oscar Isaac, Joan Allen, Albert Finney, David Strathairn, Scott Glenn  DIRECTOR:  Tony Gilroy  SCREENWRITER:  Tony Gilroy, Dan Gilroy  PRODUCER:   Frank Marshall, Patrick Crowley, Jeffry M. Weiner, Ben Smith  EDITOR:   John Gilroy  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  James Newton Howard  GENRE:  Action & Suspense  CINEMATOGRAPHER:   Robert Elswit  RUNNING TIME:   125 minutes  DISTRIBUTOR:   Universal Pictures LOCATION:  USA, Philippines, South Korea and brief scenes from a few other countries

Technical Assessment:  4
Moral Assessment:  2.5
CINEMA rating:  V14  (For viewers aged 14 and above)

The opening scene of The Bourne Legacy teases the mind: how could anyone survive deep winter in the frozen wilderness wearing only a blanket and rubbing his palms in front of a little bonfire?  Of course, Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) is not just anyone—he’s a   biologically altered government spy running for his life.  He has been marked for assassination by the Defense Department headed by retired Air Force Col. Eric Byer (Edward Norton).  Jason Bourne had supposedly exposed the government project of chemically heightening the spies’ skills, Intelligence decided to terminate a similar project, of which Cross is a member.  Col. Byer wants to terminate not only these biologically altered and endowed spies, but also everybody who knows about it, including the research scientist Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) who had treated Cross as he was being chemically “empowered” for a mission.  Alone in the Alaskan wilderness Cross takes a blue and a green pill daily, his “maintenance medicine” to keep his powers up.  Down to his last couple of pills, he climbs snowy peaks barehanded, nimbler than a mountain goat, and finally comes to civilization in search of Dr. Shearing, for his fix.  He finds her in the oddest of circumstances but alas, the drugs are manufactured halfway around the globe—in Manila. 
The popular espionage franchise with Matt Damon as Jason Bourne has earned almost &1 billion at the global box office.  Tony Gilroy, director/writer of The Bourne Legacy, takes the Robert Ludlum creation to the next level by introducing a new hero (Renner) whose fate has been shaped and directed by the events in the first three Bourne films.   The first 30 minutes or so of The Bourne Legacy is rather slow, apparently careful to establish the legitimacy of the new hero while ensuring that the titular one, Jason Bourne, remains a menacing presence despite his absence in the film.  Real action picks up when Cross saves Dr. Shearing from assassination and the two fugitives are hunted down by the government killers.  The action assumes blinding speed in Manila, as Renner does the slums rooftops while Weisz trails him on the alleys; then as tandem motorbike riders snaking through the crazy traffic in Manila’s seediest neighborhoods.  The lead cast, notably Renner, Weisz and Norton, do justice to their parts, giving credence to the plot.
The Bourne Legacy raises questions in medical ethics.  How far may we go in altering nature—the human being—to serve our ends?  Midway through the film the viewer may ask, could this thing really be happening under our noses, scientists and doctors conniving with governments and using people to kill?  What for?  Animated and timely discussions over dinner with friends or family may result from such brainpicking.  The Bourne Legacy, quite a film, and something that Filipino movie buffs wouldn’t want to miss—being “made in Manila”.  But what sordid views of the city are shown!  The closing scene, a boat leisurely gliding on an island-peppered sea, speaks more positively of the Philippines—and it looks like a prelude to another Bourne-again movie.     


LEAD CAST: (VOICE) Kelly Macdonald, Julie Walters, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson, Robbie Coltrane, John Ratzenberger  DIRECTOR:  Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, Steve Purcell  SCREENWRITER:  Brenda Chapman, Steve Purcell, Brenda Chapman, Mark Andrews, Irene Mecchi  PRODUCER:  Katherine Sarafian, Mark Andrews  EDITOR:  Nicholas C. Smith  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Patrick Doyle GENRE:  3-D Computer-Animated, Fantasy, Adventure RUNNING TIME:  93 minutes  DISTRIBUTOR:  Walt Disney Pictures  LOCATION:  Scotland

Technical:   4
Moral:    3.5
CINEMA rating: PG 13

Brave is an animated adventure about a feisty, red-haired Scotland princess, Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald), who wants most of all to be free.  Free, that is, from tradition personified by mother Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) who is trying her queenly motherly best to make a demure future queen of her tomboyish teenage daughter.  Merida does not give a hoot how princesses are supposed to act, behave, or be, and over needlepoint and courtly manners the little redhead actually prefers to pack her bow and arrows to gallop into the forest with her favorite horse Angus.  Merida’s rather un-kingly father King Fergus (Billy Connolly), a hunk of a bear hunter, lets her get away with her brattiness, but Queen Elinor doggedly trains the girl the way she was trained in her youth.
When suitors from neighboring kingdoms arrive to vie for the hand of the reluctant princess, she escapes to the forest and there encounters will-o’-the’wisps, tongues of blue flame traditionally believed to be spirits that lead people to their fate.   They take Merida and Angus down the path to a cabin where lives a gnarled old witch (Julie Walters)  disguised as a woodcarver.  Distraught, Merida asks the witch for a spell that could change her mother’s mind about smothering rules, especially her insistence on marrying her off.  Her mother does change, but not in the way Merida has expected, and in order to reverse the spell, Merida must act fast.  With the help of her much younger brothers—triplets and redheads, too—they race to catch the second sunrise to save their mother.
Pixar is a reliable name when it comes to big, bold, beautiful, and meticulously rendered  animations.  If anything is apparent in the movie’s details and astonishing settings—the lush landscapes, the foliage, the castles—it is the intensive research the makers must have done to perfect this piece.  Even the hair styles of Merida and Queen Elinor have been thoughtfully designed to speak for the character of either person: the heavy, long and neatly braided style of the brunette queen evokes courtliness and propriety, while the unruly, free-flying red curls of the princess incarnate her impetuousness. Critics tend to compare Pixar offerings without giving each a chance to be just itself.  Thus they feel Brave is not as compelling as Wall-E, Up or Toy Story but is definitely better than Cars 2—that stuff.  But each Pixar number has a charm all its own, and in Brave it is in the emotional depth conveyed through the development of Merida’s character, from the rebellious enabler of her mischievous brother-triplets to a… well, you’ll see for yourself.
This first princess movie from Pixar is as formulaic as any Disney princess movie, containing the usual elements (the hero in crisis, the animal friend, superhuman intervention, etc.) except that Brave has no romantic interest to speak of—no frog turning into a prince by a kiss, no prince for the princess to ride off to the sunset with.   At first glance Brave seems to be simply about mommy issues, but a deeper look reveals a more serious message being delivered: that the “happily ever after” is the fruit of one’s courageous attempt to find one’s destiny against all odds.  “You cannot run away from who you are, (a princess)” Queen Elinor tells Merida.  As the story unfolds, the statement rings true but for the viewer comes to mean that Merida cannot run away from being Merida in order to become a princess—she has to be who she is.
CINEMA cautions parents that Brave has certain scenes which may scare very young children (below 7-years-old).  With proper guidance especially on the issue of obedience to parents and rebelliousness, older ones and pre-teens may benefit from its message.

Just one summer

Cast:  Elmo Magalona, Julie Anne San Jose, Joel Torre, Alice Dixon, Cherry Pie Picache, Gloria Romero, Buboy Garovillo  Director: Mac Alejandre  Screenwriters:  Oman Sales, Emman Dela Cruz, Kei Fausto  Producer: GMA Films  Location: Philippines  Genre: Drama  Running Time: 105 minutes

Technical Assessment: 3.5
Moral Assessment:  2.5

CINEMA Rating:  For mature viewers age 14 and above

Lumaki si Nyel (Elmo Magalona) na puno ng hinanakit at galit sa ama na si Dan (Joel Torre) dahil mas pinili nito na manirahan at asikasuhin ang kabuhayan sa probinsya  kaysa makapiling sila ng ina na si Irene (Alice). Subalit ng kinailangan niya ang pirma ng pagpayag ng ama para makapag-aral sya sa ibang bansa ay napilitan si Nyel na puntahan ang ama sa probinsya kung saan matutuklasan niya na may iba na itong kinakasama. Magiliw at maasikaso naman kay Nyel ang bagong kasama ng ama na si Julie (Cherry Pie Picache) subalit katulad ng inaasahan ay na kay Irene na tunay nyang ina ang simpatiya ni Nyel kaya kahit papaano ay damay si Julie sa malamig at masungit na pakikitungo ni ni Nyel sa ama. Samantala, manggagawa sa gatasan ni Dan ang pamilya ni Beto (Julie Anne San Jose).  Sa takot na madismaya ang amang si Berting (Buboy Garovillo) dahil di siya pinalad na maging iskolar ay lumapit si Beto kay Dan upang umutang ng pang matrikula at nakiusap na pagtrabuhan sa gatasan ang pambayad sa halaga ng mauutang nya. Madali naming pumayag si Dan sa kondisyon na ang trabahong ibinigay sa kanya ay subaybayan at kaibiganin ang nagbabakasyong anak na si Nyel upang kahit papaano ay magustuhan nito ang buhay sa bukid.  Hindi naging madali kay Beto ang trabaho dahil nga isang lalaki na puno ng galit at isyu sa pamilya si Nyel ay nakatikim din sya ng kasungitan nito pero dahil trabaho ay pinagtiisan nya ang lahat. Hanggang saan hahantong ang isyu sa pamilya ni Nyel at ang sitwasyon nina Nyel at Beto?

May mga sablay ang daloy ng kuwento ng pelikulang “Just One Summer”. Hindi malinaw kung bakit tila wala man lamang naging komunikasyon ang mag-anak sa isa’t isa sa mahabang panahon ng paghihiwalay, at kung bakit tila nagulat pa na may iba ng kasama ang ama. Hindi rin nakitaan ng lalim ang nabuong espesyal na pagtitinginan ng mga karakter nina Beto at Nyel at di masyadong nakapaghatid ng kilig ang tambalan ng dalawa. Mas lumutang ang kwentong pamilya sa pelikula kaysa kwento ng pag-ibig ng dalawang kabataan na siyang sinasaad sa promosyon ng pelikula. Kung  love story ang aabangan ng isang manonood ay mabibigo dito.  Nakasentro sa karakter ni Nyel ang kwento bilang anak. Nakatulong ang suporta ng mga batikang actor sa pelikula upang makapagpahayag ng emosyon sa mga eksena at may potensyal naman ang mga baguhan lalo na si Magalona. Maganda ang kuha ng camera lalo na ang mga eksena ng tanawin sa bukid at sa gatasan. Nakapaglarawan ang pelikula ng kaalaman tungkol sa proseso ng pagpipiga ng gatas mula sa dibdib ng mga gatasang baka. Maganda ang disenyo ng produksyon kahit na sa loob at labas ng mga bahay ng mayaman at mahirap kaya madaling nakapaglaro ang mga kuha ng camera. Akma lamang ang ilaw at inilapat na tunog sa mga eksena bagamat halos di nakarinig ng ingay mula sa mga baka. Maingat ang pagkakalapat ng musika lalo na ang theme song kahit ilang beses na ginamit sa mga lumang pelikula. Sa kabuuan ay maayos ang teknikal na aspeto ng palabas.

Napakalapit sa puso ng mga Filipino ang tema ng pamilya lalo na kung nagpapakita ng pagmamahalan, pagkakaisa at pagkakasundo. Taliwas ito sa ipinakita sa mas mahabang parte ng pelikula. Nakakabahala ang kawalan-respeto ng anak sa ama at sa marangal na trabaho sa bukid. At hindi katanggap-tanggap na maging pisikal ang ang anak sa pananakit sa magulang katulad ng pinakita sa pelikula. Subalit mas nakababahala ang pagiging komportable ng ama sa bukid sa piling ng ibang babae sa kabila ng pagkakaroon ng lehitimong asawa at anak na dapat ay naging pangunahing responsibilidad niya bilang padre de pamilya.  Malinaw na hindi nagbigayan at sa halip ay pinairal ang pride kaya tuluyang nawasak ang pamilya na syang labis na nakaapekto sa pagkatao ng kanilang anak. Samantalang imahe ng matatag, composed at mahinahon na mga babae sa gitna ng sigalot ng pamilya ang ipinakita sa pelikula. Bagamat kapwa nabigla ay wala ang madalas na eksena ng sigawan, sumbatan at sabutan sa pagitan ng legal na asawa at kabit. Subalit kahit gaano kahinahon o kabuti ang pagdadala ng isang babae sa sitwasyon niya bilang kabit ay imoral na gawain pa rin maituturing ang pagpatol sa isang may-asawa hanggat hindi pa legal na hiwalay.

Napakahalaga ng papel ng magulang sa paggabay sa anak lalo na sa pakikipagrelasyon at paghahanda sa hinaharap. Ang pag-ibig sa murang gulang ay dapat bukas sa paggabay ng magulang para maging maayos at magsilbing inspirasyon sa pagtupad ng mga pangarap. 

Maselan ang mga ipakitang paksa ng wasak na pamilya, pakikiapid at epekto ng mga ito sa pag-uugali ng anak kaya kailangan na may taglay na sapat na kaisipan at pang-unawa ang manonood ng pelikulang ito.