Thursday, October 25, 2012


LEAD CAST: Charlie Tahan (Victor), Catherine O’Hara (Victor’s mother), Martin Short (Victor’s father), Martin Landau (Victor’s science teacher), Wynona Ryder (Victor’s kind neighbor Elsa), Atticus Shaffer (Victor’s classmate Edgar) DIRECTOR: Tim Burton SCREENWRITER: Tim Burton, John August GENRE: Stop-Motion Animation, Family DISTRIBUTOR: Walt Disney Pictures LOCATION: USA RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes

Technical: 4
Moral: 3.5
CINEMA rating: R 13 (For viewers 13 years old and above)

From creative genius Tim Burton comes Disney's Frankenweenie, a heartwarming tale about a boy and his dog. After unexpectedly losing his beloved dog Sparky, young Victor harnesses the power of science to bring his best friend back to life-with just a few minor adjustments. He tries to hide his home-sewn creation, but when Sparky gets out, Victor's fellow students, teachers and the entire town all learn that getting a new "leash on life" can be monstrous.

Tiktik: the Aswang Chronicles

Cast: Dingdong Dantes, Lovi Poe, Joey Marquez, Janice de Belen, Roi Vinzon;   Direction: Erick Matti; Story and Screenplay: Erick Matti;  Producer: Ronald Stephen Monteverde, Jose Dantes III, Annette Gozon-Abrogar; Cinematography: Francis Rocardo Buhay III; Music:  Von de Guzman;    Editing: Jay Halili  ; Genre: Horror-Fantasy; Distributor: Reality Entertainment; Location: Philippines; Running Time:  105 minutes
Technical Assessment:   3   
Moral Assessment:   2.5
CINEMA Rating:  V14

Technical Assessment            : 3   
Moral Assessment            : 2.5
Rating                                    : V14

Si Makoy (Dantes), isang barumbadong astig, ay nagpunta sa kasuluk-sulukan ng isang lalawigan upang amuin at sunduin ang nagtatampong kasintahang si Sonia (Poe).  Kaya nga lamang ay galit na galit sa kanya kapwa si Sonia at ang ina nitong si Fely (de Belen). Mabuti na lamang at tutulungan siya ni Nestor (Marquez), ang sunod-sunurang asawa ni Fely.  Para makatulong sa panunuyo, mag-aambag si Makoy ng lilitsuning baboy para sa darating na kaarawan ni Sonia at posibleng pagsilang ng kanilang panganay.  Malas nga lamang na ang babuyan ay kuta ng mga Tiktik—ang mga aswang na mahilig kumain ng sanggol. Sa kadaldalan ni Nestor ay mababanggit niya na pinaghahandaan nila ang kaarawan ng kanyang buntis na anak. Dito magsisimulang umamba ang panganib kay Sonia at sa buong pamilya na pag-iinteresang kainin ng mga batang Tiktik.  Dito rin masusubok ang pagmamahal at tapang ni Makoy nang kakailanganin niyang ipagtanggol ang kanyang mag-ina at ang pamilya nito.

Hindi man bago ay maganda naman sana ang konsepto ng kwento, Mahigpit ang daloy at malinaw naman ang gusto nitong patunguhan. Ginamitan din ito ng mas mala-MTV na istilo ng pag-eedit at multi-scree  effects upang maging mabilis ang daloy ng kwento. Nakabibilib din ang ibinuhos na pagod sa pagbuo ng mga computer generated images (CGI) at ang busisi sa disenyo ng produksyon.  Ito ang kauna-unahang pelikulang ginamitan ng  green screen sa halip na tunay na lokasyon.

Kaya nga lamang, kahit maganda ito, medyo hindi tugma ang mismong kwento sa napiling istilong teknikal. Masasabi nga na ang pelikula ay mayabang at nalilito dahil sa totoo lang, hindi naman kinailangan ng green screen ang lokasyon sapagkat masyado itong naka-aagaw ng pansin. Kung manunuod ka ng pelikulang banyagang gumagamit din ng ganitong teknolohiya, bagamat alam mo na CGI ang ilang element, hindi naman ito nagsusumigaw dahil mahigpit itong nakapaloob sa eksena. Sa Tiktik, ramdam mo na nakalutang ang mga special effects at kahit hindi kailangan o hindi naman makapagpapausad ng istorya ay gagawin—atulad ng pag-iiba-iba pa ng anyo ng mga aswang o ang maraming time remapping (pagpapabagal at pagpapabilis sa aksyon).

Bagamat maganda ang konsepto ng pelikula, naligaw na ito at nalito na kung gusto ba nitong maging horror, comedy, action o fantasy. Kaya para madali, sinakop nito ang lahat—pananakot, pagpapatawa, pagpapahanga. Sinubukan, pero hindi nagtagumpay dahil ang lahat ay nakatuon lamang sa panggulat ng CGI.

May mga nakababagabag na punto ang Tiktik. Una, hindi ganoon kahalaga ang kasal. Bagamat inaya ni Makoy si Sonia na magpakasal dahil seryoso na silang magsasama, isa pa rin itong “after thought” matapos nilang mag-live in at magsiping. Pangalawa, kinilala ng simbahan ang presensya ng mga masasamang ispiritu at nirerespeto ang lokal na kultura pero sa pelikula hindi man lamang binanggit na hindi nakasalalay sa kakayahan ng tao ang paggapi sa mga ito.

Sa kabilang dako, kahanga-hanga na kayang ipain ni Makoy ang sarili at ang buhay para lamang ipagtanggol ang kanyang mag-ina at ang pamilya nito.

Para sa CINEMA, sayang ang pelikula dahil kaya pa sana itong pagandahin at gawing mas buo kung hindi puro sa panggulat na CGI ang pinagbuhusan ng pagod at isip.

Taken 2

LEAD CAST: Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, Rade Sherbedgia, Luke Grames DIRECTOR: Olivier Megaton SCREENWRITER: Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen PRODUCER: Luc Besson EDITOR: Camille Delamarre, Vincent Tabaillon MUSICAL DIRECTOR: Nathaniel Mechaly GENRE: Action Thriller CINEMATOGRAPHER: Romain Lacourbas RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes LOCATION: Los Angeles, Albania DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox

Technical assessment: 3.5
Moral assessment: 2.5
CINEMA rating: V 18

In this sequel to the successful Taken where Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) rescues his kidnapped teen daughter from white slavery, Brian is shown contented with running his own security firm and with his relationship with his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) and his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen). When he comes to learn about the emotionally harrowing ordeal Lenore is going through with her new man, Brian invites mother-and-daughter to come along with him to Istanbul where they can have a holiday while he attends to business. However, Murad Krasniqi (Rade Serbedzija), father of the man Brian had killed in rescuing his daughter from abductors, has traced Brian’s tracks. Mad for revenge for the death of his son, Murad summons a slew of Albanian thugs to hunt down Brian. Only this time, it will not be Kim’s life alone that’s endangered. The avengers want to kill Brian as well, but not before he witnesses the torture of his wife and his daughter.

Fast paced and tightly edited, Taken 2 will make you hold your breath from beginning to end. Some viewers may find it too violent, others may like how the movie pumps up the adrenals—whichever way you view it, it will not put you to sleep. It might even make you question its morality or it might even leave you gaping at the presence of mind and extra-extraordinary skills Brian displays (in that scene where he dictates to Kim what to do in order to find him).

Neeson is perfectly cast as a devoted father, and in the flow of events that allude to a reconciliation between him and Lenore, the viewer may forget about the price of such paternal devotion. It’s only a movie, of course, and it does give a clue as to the kind of life spies could lead unknown to their families, so let us not forget that in Taken 2, so much blood was shed, so many skulls smashed, necks broken, bodies thrashed about, and lives snuffed in the name of paternal devotion. At the bottom line, Taken 2 is about two fathers, each claiming love for his child. The question to discuss (perhaps with your children) is: how far should a father go to save his child?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Ruby Sparks

LEAD CAST:  Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Cris Messina, Antonio Banderas, Annette Bening, Elliotte Gould  DIRECTOR: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris  SCREENWRITER:  Zoe Kazan  PRODUCER:  Albert Berger, Bart Lipton, Ron Yerxa  EDITOR:  Pamela Martin  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Nick Urata  GENRE:  Romantic Comedy-Drama  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Matthew Libatique   RUNNING TIME:  104 minutes  DISTRIBUTOR:  Fox Searchlight Pictures  LOCATION:  USA

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

Literary prodigy Calvin Weir-Fields (Paul Dano) achieves early acclaim but is still smarting from a break up from a long-term relationship, which could be one reason he is experiencing writer’s block.  One day at the park with his dog, Calvin “meets” and “befriends” red-head Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan), something he immediately reports to his psychiatrist, Dr. Rosenthal (Eliott Gould).  On the doctor’s suggestion, he makes the envisioned redhead an ideal woman, a female character for another novel, and as a kind of therapy for Calvin.  The neurotic writer seems happy in that world he shares with his imagined lover, a “painter from Dayton, Ohio”, until his older brother Harry (Chris Messina) stumbles upon scanty female lingerie in Calvin’s bachelor’s pad.  Worse, Calvin wakes up one morning and finds the character in his book, Ruby, making breakfast in his kitchen.  He thinks he is hallucinating, but other people can see Ruby, too. So where is the line between imagination and reality?
Actress-writer Zoe Kazan (granddaughter of  director Elia Kazan) brings to cinema a romance with a new formula.  But it’s nothing new really in classical mythology; remember the sculptor Pygmalion who fell in love with the statue he created and which came to life?  Kazan must have been inspired by such imaginings.  Part of the effectiveness of Ruby Sparks lies in the good acting, though it may have been more heartfelt for the lead couple since they are real life sweethearts.  The bigger stars in the cast—Bening, Banderas, Gould—did a great job of bringing life to their roles without upstaging the relative newbies.  The plot is good, and the pacing just right.  Earlier on the movie is lighthearted, apparently leading to the familiar romantic comedy situation but soon enough descends into darker realms as Calvin realizes the different—and dangerous—kind of power that his writing possesses.  There is that tense moment—running to a few minutes—prior to the resolution of the story that is really gripping in so far as it awakens the viewer to the delicate aspect of power and control between lovers.
Ruby Sparks presents an interesting study for students of philosophy, theology or ethics.  Some questions young people would do good to explore are:  If you were in Calvin’s place, how would you regard Ruby?  Is she your creation or God’s?  Would you reveal to her your magical power to (secretly) control her emotions and moods as you please?  Would you say then that you truly love her when you treat her like a puppet?  What kind of satisfaction or fulfillment is there in having a lover like Ruby?  While CINEMA allows 14-year-olds to see this movie, it reminds viewers that it reflects the values of a more permissive culture.  Filipinos still caution their children to avoid premarital or extramarital sex, both of which are presented as “normal” and even attractive in this movie.