Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Trouble with the curve

CAST: Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, John Goodman, Justin Timberlake, Joe Massingil, Chelcie Ross, Bob Gunton, Robert Patrick  DIRECTOR: Robert Lorenz  WRITER: Randy Brown  RUNNING TIME: 111 minutes  DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Bros.  LOCATION: United States
Technical:  3
Moral:  3.5
CINEMA rating: V 14
Octogenarian Gus (Clint Eastwood) is losing his sight, and along with it perhaps his contract as a baseball scout which will expire in three months.  His only living relative is a 32-year old daughter Mickey (Amy Adams), an attorney with a bright future as a partner in a law firm in Atlanta.  Gus’ boss and friend Pete (John Goodman) cannot convince the stubborn Gus to heed the doctor’s advice to have his eyes fixed, so he prevails upon Mickey to accompany her dad on another scouting assignment, to North Carolina.  Mindful of her promising career, Mickey nonetheless spares a few days to be with the father she never felt loved by.  Here Mickey meets Johnny Flannagan (Justin Timberlake), a former pitcher now scouting for the Boston Red Sox.  As it turns out, the decision to take the trip with her father is one that will lead to others never planned or hoped for.
The plot may be formulaic, even predictable, but it is redeemed by the superior quality of the other technical elements, like crisp editing, a good cast, charismatic performances, and character development.  What director Robert Lorenz lacks by way of visual excitement, he more than fills up with perceptive characterization.  Eastwood is Eastwood, and being the ultimate professional he definitely delivers at whatever role he chooses to take on.  Here he proves to be a spunky match to Adams’ chutzpah, grumpy when he needs to be, and tender when the moment calls for it, as in that scene by his wife’s grave where alone he holds a picnic for two.   
Perhaps Trouble with the Curve is too mushy and contrived for the taste of some, but many will find the emotions and situations it presents easy to resonate with.   It is populated by warm and real people who find themselves in dilemmas all too familiar to the rest of us.  Baseball may be the film’s premise but the movie is not about the game; it’s about being in touch—not just superficially with people who matter, or with the work we do, but most of all being in touch with one’s deepest feelings.  It’s about following the inner compass that enables us to steer our lives and to understand and be freed from half-neglected hurts.  Trouble with the Curve also symbolically applies the brakes on cold technology (evaluating baseball players’ potential through sheer computer power alone) and gently and effectively resurrects enduring human values that hold the world together, like genuine caring for another person, communication between parent and child, fidelity in marital love, etc.  This entertaining and superbly told story is for families to watch and then discuss over a midnight snack.  Teenagers, watch the behavior of baseball phenomenon Bo Gentry (Joe Massingil) towards “Peanut Boy” and see how he ends up.  Surprise!

Paranormal Activity 4

Cast: Kathryn Newton, Matt Shively, Aiden Lovekamp, Brady Allen, Stephen Dunham, Alexondra Lee;   Direction: Henry Hoost, Ariel Schulman; Screenplay: Zach Estrin; Producer; Oren Peli, Jason Blum, Steven Schheider; Cinematography:; Music;    Editing:  ; Genre: Horror-Suspense; Running Time:  94 minutes; Distributor: Paramount Pictures; Location: USA

Technical Assessment            :  2   
Moral Assessment            :  1.5   
Rating                                    :  V18
Paranormal Activity 4 is set five years after the original film ended when the demonic possessed Katie and her sister’s son Hunter have gone missing after the brutal murder of his parents. This time the events are recorded via modern portable technology which makes it more logical for the supposed continuous filming of events.
Alex’s (Kathryn Newton) mother, Holly (Alexondra Lee) has just decided to be a good Samaritan and look after the neighbor’s 5-year old son Robbie, when his mother was taken to the hospital. During this time, Alex notices weird and creepy incidents involving Robbie and her younger brother Wyatt and records them in their laptop. Later Alex discovers Robbie’s mother is at home and Wyatt is heard to be talking to invisible figures insisting his name is not Hunter. However, the demonic hunting continues until Wyatt is possessed by an evil spirit and Katie returns to brutally kill his parents and Ben.  At the end of the film, a stunned and scared Alex is swarmed by Katie and a group of women, in reference to the original film’s witch’s cult.
The franchise, although retaining its reality-based attraction, has worn off its appeal with a very thin plot and mediocre directorial interpretation. The special effects are as clichéd as the storyline. It relies more on scare tactics rather than on solid storytelling to justify its horror-suspense moments.  The sequel does nothing to build on the core storyline of the franchise, neither does it have independence to be understood on its own. Performances are weak and unconvincing. Over-all, the movie is just an unsuccessful attempt to cash out on its predecessors’ success. Perhaps only the die-hard fans of the Paranormal movie series would find this one worth the admission price.
Good versus evil and again the good innocent ones are helplessly tossed aside and killed. Although the Church recognizes demonic possessions are paranormal occurrences, it cannot be said that these are beyond Divine intervention. What continuously triggers the demon-possessed Katie to kill people is not logically explained.  Another disturbing idea in this film is the fact that Alex’s parents were brutally murdered after being gracious and charitable to their neighbor. In a way, it might reinforce the idea that charity may be rewarded with evil and therefore should be exercised selectively.
The movie is too violent for young audiences. Theme, language and treatment are inappropriate even for adults. Nothing can be gained from watching this film.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Chernobyl Diaries

CAST:  Jessy McCartney, Jonathan Sadowski, Devin Kelley, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Nathan Phillips, Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Dimitri DiatchenkoDIRECTOR:  Bradley Parker, SCREENWRITER:  Oren Peli, Carey Van Dyke, Shane Fan Dyke Martin Solibakke, PRODUCER:  Oren Peli, Brian Witten, Bradley Parker, EDITOR:  Stan Stalfas, MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Diego Stocco,  RUNNING TIME:   86 minutes, GENRE:  Drama, Horror, CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Morten Soborg, DISTRIBUTOR:   Warner Bros., LOCATION:  Hungary & Serbia

Technical Assessment:   2.5
Moral Assessment:           2
CINEMA Rating:                  V18

Four young Americans Chris (Jessy McCartney), Natalie (Olivia Taylor Dudley), Amanda (Devin Kelley) and Paul (Jonathan Sadowski) decide to go for an “extreme tour” of Pripyat, a Ukrainian city which was home to Chernobyl nuclear power plant workers. It has been abandoned after the infamous disaster from one of Chernobyl’s nuclear reactors 25 years ago. While the government allows tourists to visit the area, there are strict security measures. The tourists were joined by a honeymooning couple (Nathan Phillips) and Zoe (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal) from Australia and led by tour guide Uri (Dimitri Diatchenko) who is an ex-special forces soldier. They were denied access to the town by guards at the checkpoint and Uri manages to get them in through the woods. The tourists wander through abandoned playgrounds and buildings and saw the Chernobyl reactors from the balcony. Suddenly, they hear strange noises and hurry back to their van but it won’t start. Dark descends and it becomes clear to them that the town is not as deserted as they were made to believe.

The first part of the movie does well in showing the devastation caused by the nuclear disaster – the playground scene is eerie and the viewer somehow gets the feel of being there. Lights, sound effects and the music score are predictable but they do establish atmosphere and succeed in some tension-filled scenes. The handheld camera throughout the movie can give you a headache. The characters are not developed and the actors didn’t have any good material to show their worth. The storyline is pitiful, the dialogue stunted and filled with foul language, the violence is senseless. And the scary moments are predictable – nothing new here.

What message can you get from a horror movie when it is not even clear what you should fear? Are they wild animals, mutants and monsters or all of the above? We all fear the unknown but it also excites us. For these young people spontaneity and the need for novel experiences, off the beaten track tours like Pripyat can be exhilarating. But one needs to look out for safety precautions and ensure not just enjoyment but also greater enrichment in the experience. And when things get out of hand, the best thing to do is to think or listen to your natural instinct for self-preservation. This, the characters failed to do.

The story started with a lot of promise, given the Chernobyl disaster and its aftermath. It is a shame that this was not developed to its full potential.

If you are looking for a good thrill, CINEMA does not recommend Chernobyl Diaries.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Breaking Dawn 2

CAST: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattison, Taylor Lautner, Mackenzie Foy; Direction: Bill Condon; Screenplay: Melissa Rosenberg; Story: Stephanie Meyer; Cinematography: Guillermo Navarro; Editing: Virginia Katz; Producer: Wyck Godfrey, Karen Rosenfelt, Stephanie Meyer; Music: Cartner Burwell; Location: Seatle; Genre: Drama Fantasy; Distributor: Summit Entertainment; Running Time: 116 minutes.
Technical Assessment : 3 stars
Moral Assessment : 3.5 stars
Rating : V14

Breaking Dawn 2 picks up from the last sequel and sees a fully transformed mother and vampire in Bella (Kristen Stewart), who embraces this new life with great happiness. Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy), Bella and Edward’s daughter, is special. Not only is she half vampire—gifted with superhuman speed and strength and the ability to penetrate mental shields and project her thoughts to another; she is also half human—warm blooded and with the ability to grow and mature. But Bella’s fairytale is doused with stinging cold waters when Irina, a vampire from the Denali clan tells the Volturi that the couple violated one of the most important laws and created an immortal child. Now, Bella realizes she has to protect her child from the Volturi. So the Cullens gather witnesses from foreign covens and Jacob’s new pack in the hope of standing up against the Volturi.
The technical aspect of the film is remarkably clean and enjoyable. There is that seemless overlapping of real action and CGIs that audience can easily get lost inside the fantasy world. Storywise, it did stay faithful to the book but interpreted it a tad too slow and trite with too much sentimentality and MTV-moments. However, it was a good directorial call to include the battle scene between the two groups as it added the much needed action and recaptured the audiences’ sympathy towards the characters. Although the actors displayed understanding and chemistry of both their roles and with and one another’s characters, Bella still has that irritating insecure awkwardness as a vampire—a far comparison to the mysterious iciness of the rest.  (But, of course, of all of them Bella is the only one who wanted to become a vampire).
There had been critics of Bella’s immaturity in the previous films as well as disdain towards a story that centers on a girl chasing a boy the last installments; here a more mature and selfless Bella emerges and shifts her attention from herself and her heartaches her family and loved ones.
If there is one thing Breaking Dawn 2 emphasizes it is the importance of family and how one’s love for them would compel us to sacrifice, fight and risk everything for their sake. The film also shows that a family not only means one blood relative.  Breaking Dawn 2—and perhaps the entire Twilight series—is not a vampire story where the creatures kill or are hunted but a story about love, acceptance, family and sacrifice set in a time where vampires and werewolves existed.
CINEMA recommends both the novel and the movie for teenagers as it brings into focus the value of marriage, the need to protect life in the womb and the importance of family.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Suddenly it's magic

Cast: Erich Gonzales, Mario Maurer, Joross Gamboa, Jestoni Alarcon; Director: Rory Quintos;  Screenplay:  Vanessa Valdez; Producer/ Distributor: Star Cinema ; Running Time:120 minutes; Location: Ilocos; Genre: Romance-Drama

Technical Assessment: 3

Moral Assessment: 3

CINEMA Rating: For viewers ages 14 and above

Si Joey (Erich Gonzales) at Marcus (Mario Maurer), bagamat nasa magkaibang panig ng daigdig, ay nasa parehong industriya ng romansa at pantasya. Si Joey ay isang baker chef  sa Ilocos na gumagawa ng cupcakes at kamangha-manghang romantic wedding cakes. Habang si Marcus naman ay isang sikat na artista sa Thailand na kilala sa paggawa ng mga romantic movies. Parehas din sila ng pinagdadaanan- si Joey ay iniwan ng kanyang groom sa araw ng kanilang kasal, habang ang ka-love-team/ girlfriend naman ni Marcus ay ipinagpalit siya sa ibang lalaki. Sa labis na sama ng loob, tila natabangan na si Marcus sa paggawa ng pelikula kasama ang ka-love-team na ex-girlfriend kung kaya’t maiisipan niyang magpakalayo muna panandalian at pumunta sa isang lugar na walang nakakakilala sa kanya. Ang kanyang yaya na Filipina ang magbibigay sa kanya ng ideya na magpunta ng Pilipinas at siya nga ay tumuloy dito. Sa Laoag ay makikilala niya si Joey at sa kabila ng di magandang umpisa ay magkakapalagayang loob din sila. Ngunit magtagal kaya ang kanilang relasyon kung may naghihintay na showbiz career si Marcus sa Thailand habang si Joey ay naghihilom pa lang ang sugat ng nakaraan?

Isang formula romance ang Suddenly It’s Magic. Lahat ng inaasan sa isang pelikulang romansa ay ipinagsiksikan nang pilit sa pelikulang ito. Gayunpaman, nagawa naman nitong magbigay ng kahit papaano’y kilig sa mga manonood. Malinaw naman ang daloy ng kuwento, pati na ang daloy ng damdamin, ngunit hindi maitatangging pawang naging predictable pa rin ang pelikula sa katapusan nito. Mahusay ang mga pangunahing tauhan at may kani-kaniya silang galing at ningning, yun nga lang, tila kulang sa “magic” ang kanilang tambalan. Dala na rin ito marahil ng pagiging magkaiba ng kanilang kultura at salita. Sadyang mahirap silang gawan ng koneksyon at kitang-kita ang kamay ng mga manunulat upang ipilit ito. Sa kabila nito’y hindi naman maitatanggi ang malinis ang sinematograpiya at talaga namang nakabibighani ang mga pinili nilang lokasyon at tanawin. Kaya’t masasabing kaaya-aya na ring panoorin ang pelikula.

Mababaw lamang ang mga inihaing tema ng pelikula bagama’t pawang mabibigat na itong dalahin sa mga tauhan. Ang pinaka-sentro dito ay patungkol sa pagpili sa pagitan ng damdamin at kinabukasan, puso o trabaho. Sino nga ba ang nararapat na magbigay sa mga pagkakataong kinakailangan ang isang matinding desisyon kung nakasalang-alang ay ang kasiyahan at mga pangarap? Ipinakita sa pelikula na ang pagpaparaya, pagbibigay at pagpapatawad ay susi sa malayang pagmamahal. Ang mga ito rin ang magpapatibay sa relasyon ng dalawang nagmamahalan. Kita rin sa pelikula ang pagbibigay-halaga ng dalawa sa Diyos, magkaiba man sila ng relihiyon, sa kanilang mga desisyon. Yun nga lang may ilang tema ang pelikula na nakababahala pa rin, tulad na lamang ng pagsasama ng dalawang bida sa iisang bahay kahit hindi pa sila kasal. Wala namang pinakitang sensualidad ang pelikula ngunit pawang ipinakita na rin sa kuwento na sila ay nagsama. Hindi rin malinaw ang naging tayo ng pelikula patungkol sa pagkakaroon ng anak sa labas at relasyon sa labas ng kasal. Ang malinaw lamang na sinasabi ng Suddenly It’s Magic ay, lahat ay magiging maayos basta’t susundin ang idinidikta ng damdamin. Ito’y hindi pa labis mauunawan ng mga batang manonood kung kaya’t minamarapat ng CINEMA na ang pelikulang ito ay para lamang sa mga manonood na 14 taong gulang pataas.

A secret affair

Cast:    Anne Curtis, Derek Ramsay, Andi Eigenmann, Jaclyn Jose, Joel Torre, Jackie Lou Blanco Director:  Noel Crisostomo Naval Screenwriter: Mel Mendoza-del Rosario  Producer: Vic Del Rosario  Distributor: Viva Films Genre: Romance, Drama  Running Time: 110 mins

Technical Assessment:  3.5
Moral Assessment:  1.5
CINEMA Rating:   V18

Tinanggap ni Rafi (Ann Curtis) ang alok na kasal ng nobyong si Anton (Derek Ramsay) ng bigla itong gawin ng huli sa harap ng audience sa isang music bar. Ito ay sa kabila ng maikling panahon pa lamang ang kanilang relasyon. Ang sumunod na pangyayari ay di mapantayang galak ng paghahanda sa araw ng kasal. Subalit habang papalapit ang araw ay nakapag-isip isip pa si Ann na di naging sapat ang panahon para paghandaan ang isang panghabang-buhay na pagkakatali tulad ng pag-aasawa kaya isang araw bago ang kasal ay humingi sya ng paumanhin kay Anton at umatras sa kasal. Katulad ng inaasahan ay nasaktan at nangulila si Anton. Lingid naman sa kaalaman ni Rafi ay nagkaroon ng one-night stand si Anton at ang kaibigan niyang si Sam (Andi Eigenmann) bago pa man sila nagkakilala at naging obsessed ito sa nobyo. Ikinatuwa ni Sam ang pag-atras ni Rafi sa kasal at sinamantala niya ang panahon ng pangungulila ni Anton upang bigyang laya ang damdamin niya para dito. Samantala nakapag-isip na si Rafi at sa kanyang pagbalik ay muli siya humingi ng paumanhin kay Anton, sa pagkakataon na ito hiniling nya na muli syang tanggapin subalit di upang ituloy ang kasal kundi upang magsama na muna at subukan ang buhay mag-asawa.  Bagamat nasaktan ay tinanggap sya ni Anton dahil sa labis na pananabik at pagmamahal nya kay Rafi. Masaya naman ang mga kaibigan at pamilya ni Rafi sa kanilang pagbabalikan maliban kay Sam. Hindi nya inasahan na magkakabalikan ang dalawa kaya palihim syang gagawa ng paraan para mapasakanya si Anton ng lubusan. Hindi naman nagkaroon ng lakas ng loob si Anton na ipagtapat kay Rafi ang namamagitan sa kanila ni Sam kaya lahat ay nagaganap ng lingid sa kaalaman ni Rafi.

Maingat ang pagkakatahi ng kuwento ng A Secret Affair. Hindi madaling hulaan ang katapusan kaya kailangan abangan ang mga eksena. Nabigyan ng “highlight” ang mga pangunahing tauhan – bida man o kontrabida. Sa mga nag-aakala na pakikiapid ang pinatutungkulan ng pamagat ng pelikula ay mabibigo sapagkat mas tumutukoy ito sa mga palihim na pagtatalik na mas madalas nangyari sa panahong wala sa relasyon ang lalaki. Mahusay ang mga pagganap.  Markado ang mga pag-arte nina Curtis at Jaclyn Jose bilang mag-ina kahit na halata komportable si Curtis sa wikang ingles na siyang halos language medium ng script. Medyo nakikipagsabayan din sina Ramsay at Eigenmann. Epektibo ang mga napiling aktor at aktres para sa mga tauhan. Makahulugan ang paghahatid ng mga linya lalo na sa mga tampok na eksena.. Mahusay ang direktor sa pagpapalabas ng mga emosyon at nakatulong ang mainam na mga kuha ng camera kahit na sa maseselan tagpo ng mga pagtatalik. Maganda ang disenyo ng produksyon gayundin ang make-up. Isang malaking sandata ng pelikula sa pag-akit sa mga manonood ay ang mga eksenang naglalabas sa katarayan ng mga tauhan, lalo na’t sa mga harap-harapang pag-aaaway ng mga magkakaribal.  Sa kabuuan ay maganda ang teknikal na aspeto ng pelikula.

Nakababahala naman ang lumalabas na pagkalahatang tema ng pelikula na casual sex. Lumutang ang mga kahinaan sa tawag ng laman kung saan pwedeng gawin ang pakikipag-sex nang palihim kahit saang lugar, kahit anong oras at kahit na may masasaktan. Ito ay sa kabila ng disenteng background at pagiging propesyonal ng mga kasangkot na tauhan na inaasahan mas magiging responsable sa kanilang mga kilos at asal. Tinalakay din sa pelikula ang hayagang pakikipag-sex sa loob ng live-in relationship. Pinakita sa pelikula na puwede naman pala ang “live-in”, ang mag-eksperimento ang mga magsing-irog na hindi pa kayang sumubo sa pag-aasawa.  Madali lang, para lamang “bahay-bahayan”. 

Malinaw sa pelikula na ang pag-aasawa ay isang pang habang buhay na desisyon at di dapat daanin sa nararamdamang kilig—dapat itong pag-isipan lalo na kung maikling panahon pa lamang sa relasyon. Bahagya ring tinalakay sa pelikula ang pakikiaapid sa sitwasyon ng mga magulang ni Rafi kung saan pinili ng kanyang ina na hayaan na lamang magkaroon ng kabit ang asawa sa napakahabang panahon kaysa naman daw maiskandalo pa ang mga anak. Pero bago naman magwakas ang pelikula ay buong-taray niyang hinarap at sinumbatan ang kerida. Para ano pa kaya ito?

Di man aktuwal na mabunyag ang mga lihim na pagkakasala ay mayroon laging maliit na tinig na sumisigaw sa puso at isipan ng taong gumagawa nito—ang tinatawag na konsiyensya. Natauhan naman sa bandang huli ang mga kasangkot na luhaang nagsisi sa mga pinaggagawa nila at parang handa naman silang magkanya-kanya upang magsimulang muli.  Babala: ang malaking bahagi ng pelikula ay nagpapakita ng pananaig ng laman, ng kahinaan ng mga tauhan, at labis na pinagaganda ang mga eksenang ito sa paraang makararahuyo sa mga murang isipan upang malimutan nito ang mga gawing pinahahalagahan ng kulturang Pilipino bilang isang Kristyanong bansa.