Friday, December 20, 2013

The Hobbit: the desolation of Smaug

LEAD CAST:  Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Benedict Cumberbatch, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Ken Stott, James Nesbitt, Orlando Bloom  DIRECTOR: Peter Jackson  SCREENWRITER:  Peter Jackson  PRODUCER:  Peter Jackson, Carolynne Cunningham, Zane Weiner, Fran Walsh   EDITOR:  Jabez Olssen   MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Howard Shore  GENRE:  Action & Adventure, Science Fiction & Fantasy  CINEMATOGRAPHER: Andrew Lesnie   DISTRIBUTOR:  Warner Bors. Pictures  LOCATION:  New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States RUNNING TIME: 162 minutes

Technical assessment: 4
Moral assessment: 3
CINEMA rating:  V 14

The story opens with Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) and dwarven king Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) clandestinely meeting at the Inn of the Prancing Pony.  Gandalf senses a dark force lurking in the world, and advises Thorin to vanquish the dragon Smaug who had originally usurped from them their mountain fortress, and to reclaim their domain Erebor.  A year later, the 13 dwarves, the hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and the wizard Gandalf trek up the treacherous mountain to its lone peak where the fire-breathing Smaug resides.

Although those who have read the book swear that it is far superior to the film version, most viewers will agree that one need not read Tolkien’s creation in order to enjoy the film.
The Hobbit: the desolation of Smaug’s appeal rests on the novelty of the otherworldly milieu it presents.  Never mind that it’s all fiction, and fraught with bloodletting and violence—as long as it engages the imagination and puts the viewer smack in the middle of the action.  The serial offers ever-new perker-uppers to keep viewers hanging on, but maybe two are outstanding: the dwarves’ bout with the giant Mirkwood spiders that see their captives as “fat and juicy” snacks, and their dicey escape riding in wine barrels bouncing along the rapids down the river, a Bilbo Baggins stroke of genius.  Indeed, the journey to Erebor to reclaim the dwarves’ lost kingdom is so perilous that towards the end the dragon Smaug seems no more menacing than a house lizard.

Is all that excitement—in a world populated by trolls, goblins, skinchangers, elves, wild and wooly orcs and monstrous talking spiders—meant as mere entertainment?  All that gore—impalements by arrows and spears, beheadings, stabbings, skull bashing, albeit decimating the number of the bad guys—could make the viewer wonder, “What for?”  Justice for the dwarves—in recovering a “stolen” kingdom?  Extraordinary power for the victors?  The message is clear: it’s the ageless fight between good and evil, and the victor emerges even clearer—noble heroism over greed and selfishness.  The possession of power may be used for good or bad, so what would you do if you were part of that quest?

Ender's game

LEAD CAST: Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld, Viola Davis, Abigail Breslin, Ben Kingsley DIRECTOR:  Gavin Hood  SCREENWRITER:  Gavin Hood  PRODUCER:  Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Gigi Pritzker, Linda McDonough, Robert Chartoff, Lynn Hendee, Orson Scott Card, Ed Ulbrich   EDITOR:  Zach Staenberg  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Steve Jablonsky  GENRE:  Action & Adventure, Science Fiction & Fantasy  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Donald McAlpine  DISTRIBUTOR:  Summit Entertainment, Lionsgate  LOCATION: USA  RUNNING TIME:  114 minutes

Technical assessment:  4
Moral assessment:  2.5
CINEMA rating:  V 14

In the not-so-distant future, a mysterious alien race attacks the Earth. But the legendary heroism of International Fleet Commander Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley) saves the human race from total damnation. Decades after, in preparation for the next alien invasion, Colonel Hyrum Graff (Harrison Ford) and the International Military are training exceptionally talented children to discover another Mazer.  One candidate is  Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield), a shy, but strategically brilliant boy. He  is pulled out of his school to join the elite group. Arriving at the Battle School, Ender quickly and easily masters complicated war games. Thus, Ender makes his mark and earns respect of his peers. He is soon ordained by Graff as the military's next great hope so he is promoted to Command School. Once there, he's trained by Mazer Rackham himself, to lead his fellow soldiers into an epic battle that will determine the future of Earth and save the human race.

Based on the award-winning novel, Ender’s Game, the movie captures the book’s essential themes and the arresting visuals and graphics give life to the author’s imagined Earth’s future. However, the controversial story remains at the surface level and never really gets to the point of real interest for the viewers. The repeated slow motions of some scenes bore the audience especially the young who are apparently the movie’s target audience. The acting and characterization is shallow as well with one-dimensional portrayals. But then, the visual effects, and the intricate production elements and above par production values make Ender’s Game a sci-fi spectacle worthy of audience’s time. It is still a far decent adaptation of an otherwise implausible story to visualize, making the movie adaptation an achievement in itself.

A movie depicting and tackling children being trained for battle is already morally problematic. No matter how pure Ender’s character is, the movie’s theme in its entirety is disturbing. Although highlighting Ender’s qualities of respectfulness, assertiveness, courage, would somehow send message of heroism and ideal youth of the future, still, there is no denying that the film exposes the young to the harsh and violent world. The film further desensitizes violence through the use of computer games as milieu of war. But then, the absence of blood does not equate to absence of violence. The children are still exposed to the realities of war no matter who the enemy is and what the weapons are. The youth of today may pick-up the discipline and determination demonstrated in the film as they undergo military training. Leadership, teamwork and camaraderie are some of the commendable themes in the film. Ender’s position on knowing and understanding the enemy, and in the process, loving them is also commendable and is very much aligned to Christ’s teaching of loving one’s enemy. For Ender, it is not about just winning the war, but the manner of winning it that matters the most. Meaning, what would the human race really gain from fighting enemies whom they do not really know in the first place? For in all these chaos, peace should reign and it will not be attained for as long as humans remain to be in the defensive mode of the battle. Given the controversial and conflicting themes and violent visuals, CINEMA deems the movie as fit only for viewers ages 14 and up.

Hunger Games: Catching Fire

LEAD CAST:  Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks  DIRECTOR:  Francis Lawrence  SCREENWRITER:  Simon Beaufoy, Michael Amdt  PRODUCER:  Nina Jacobson,Jon Kiliki  EDITOR:  Alan Edward Bell  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  James Newton Howard  GENRE:  Science fiction, Action, Drama   CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Jo Willems  DISTRIBUTOR:  Lionsgate
Technical assessment:  4
Moral assessment:  3
CINEMA rating:  V 14

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), hailed the victors of the  the 74th Annual Hunger Games for being the first two people to  come out of the arena alive, must now tour the oppressed and underprivileged districts of Panem.  The “Victors’ tour” is part of the scheme of the Capitol’s supreme oppressor President Snow (Donald Sutherland) who, together with the game maker Plutarch (Philip Seymour Hoffman), is hatching up The Quarter Quell, an all-star cast survival-of-the-fittest reality TV show which will pit past Hunger Games champions against one another.  But Katniss and Peeta recognize the emptiness of their victory for they were forced to kill for their crowns.  In an attempt to block the Quarter Quell, Peeta and Katniss pretend they are expecting a baby, but it doesn’t work.  President Snow sees Katniss as potential rebel leader and is determined to have her killed.

A meaty story backed up by topnotch performances from competent actors—what more does a film need to be a box office hit? Life-threatening CGI situations to match—and Hunger Games: Catching fire has them all: a rotating island, a menacing black fog that outpaces the protagonists, shrieking mysterious birds swooping out from nowhere, herds of rabid mandrills scarier than Orcs.  For full appreciation of this second of Suzanne Collins’ trilogy, the viewers must see the first, so that they would know where the story—its logic and its accompanying emotions—are coming from.  Even the costumes and the makeup have a bearing in the development of the overall plot. 

When the movie can spur you to care for the characters, you know it’s worth the price of admission.  And with Hunger Games: Catching fire, audience empathy would not be hard to come by—viewers will either love or hate a character.  They remind one of the days when gladiators were forced to fight to the death even people they love, all for entertainment of the Roman public.  Like these gladiatorial combats, in the “hunger games” organized by the Capitol to satisfy the elite’s hunger for blood and violence, nobody really wins.  This is most evident in the attitude of the hunger games survivors who cannot be at peace for having killed the way they did.  If conscience of the Capitol’s leadership has been deadened by their greed for such violent pastimes, that of the hunger games survivors has not yet been numbed.  In fact these virtual 21st “descenfdants” of the gladiators of old bring hope to the oppressed masses as they seem to lead an impending rebellion in Panem.  Hunger Games: Catching fire is a bridging story; it is hoped that the third one, Mockingjays, will bring the trilogy into a humane and triumphant conclusion. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Cast: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Santino Fontana.; Direction: Chris Buck, Jenniger Lee; Based on story Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen; Producer: Peter Del Vecho Music: Christopher Beck; Genre: Animation; Distributor: Walt Disney; Location: Arendelle Running Time: 108 minutes

Technical assessment: 4
Moral assessment:  4
MTRCB rating: G
CINEMA rating: All ages

Princesses Anna (Bell) and Elsa (Menzel) of Arendelle were as close as two peas in a pod until the older Elsa accidentally freezes her younger sister with her snow magic. Horrified, their parents choose for Elsa to deliberately hide her ability from the world. Elsa, not wanting to hurt Anna again, distance herself from her sister. Anna, whose memories of Elsa’s magic were erased, is left completely confused and lonely. Ten years later, the king and the queen die at sea and leave the princesses orphaned. Eventually, Elsa needs to come out and face her subject during her coronation but carefully plans not to reveal her magic to anyone until the lonely Anna naively falls for the first prince—Hans—who proposes and asks the newly-crowned queen’s blessing. Naturally, Elsa denies her blessings which infuriates Anna. She inadvertently removes Elsa’s protective gloves and causes her to reveal her uncontrolled snow magic to the kingdom. She runs away and in the process freezes the entire kingdom. Anna, determined to marry Prince Hans (Fontana) runs after Elsa with the aid of mountaineer Kristoff (Groff) and animated snowman Olaf (Gad).

Frozen is a magical journey for the young and young at heart. The timelessness of the classic fairy tale is modernized appropriately with a good mix of animation, music and performance. The snow covered mountains, dangerous blizzards, delicate ice castle and the dreamy snow flaked scenes are just breath-taking to watch albeit purely animated. The songs, though, not entirely as touching as previous Disney movies, but memorable just the same. The story is clear and unfolds gracefully with the right amount of humor and suspense punctuating the development. The voice actors reveal the inner persons of their characters well.

Frozen offer several layers of family values. One, it shows how family ties is the very foundation of a sturdy relationship inside and outside the home. It emphasizes the significance of family as the groundwork of a strong community life. Second, Frozen redefines true love not as romance but as sacrifice. In this modern age where everyone is self-centred and materialistic, Elsa and Anna’s devotion to each other and dedication to the people they serve can very well a model of what it is to be human. Third, and maybe to a lesser significance, the movie gives a reminder to the young—who are so wanting to be noticed, admired and given affection—not to fall for the seeming attraction of a great façade. It pays to know the very core and essence of a  person—or ideal—before committing.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Status: It's complicated

Cast: Jake Cuenca, Paolo Avelino, Eugene Domingo, Maja Salvador, Solenn Heusaff; Director: Chris Martinez;  Screenplay: Chris Martinez; Distributor: Regal Entertainment; Running Time: 90 minutes; Genre: Sex-Comedy-Drama; Location: Manila

Technical Assessment: 3
Moral Assessment: 2.5
CINEMA rating: V 18

Si Manny (Jake Cuenca) ay isang chef na playboy at walang sineseryoso sa mga babaeng kanyang nakarelasyon. Kabaligtaran naman ang kaibigan niyang si Jerry (Paolo Avelino), isang graphic designer na naniniwala sa true love at ito nga ang kanyang hinihintay kung kaya’t wala pa rin siyang ka-relasyon. Sa kanilang pagtatalo kung sino sa kanila ang tama ang pananaw sa pag-ibig at relasyon, napag-kasunduan nilang subukang magpalit ng istilo. Si Manny ay manliligaw ng isang babae lang habang si Jerry naman ang aaktong playboy. Mangyayari nga ito nang makilala ni Mannny  ang konserbatibong si Rina (Maja Salvador) at nang ang mga kliente ni Jerry na sina Sylvia (Solenn Heusaff) at Marian ay akitin siya at bumigay sa kanilang pang-aakit. Sino kaya kina Manny at Jerry ang makakatagpo ng tunay na pag-ibig?

Ang Status: It’s Complicated ay isang makabagong “adaptation” ng klasikong obra ni Ishmael Bernal, ang Salawahan. Buong kahusayan na binuhay sa makabagong panahon ang pelikula at nagawa pa rin nitong maging matapat sa orihinal. Dito mapapatunayan na sa kabila ng pagbabago ng panahon, may mga bagay na sadyang hindi magbabago lalo na kung relasyon ang pag-uusapan. Mahuhusay ang mga nagsiganap at nawagang mapanindigan ang istilo mula sa orihinal na pelikula – mabibilis na dayalogo, nakakatutuwang punchlines at nakakatawang mga eksena. Walang itulak kabigin ang husay ni Domingo na siyang nagdala ng karamihan sa mga nakakatawang eksena. Sila Cuenca at Avelino ay kapwa mahuhusay din at di naman nagpahuli sila Salvador at Heusaff. Marahil magiging mas mahusay pa ang pelikula kung nagsubok itong palalimin pa ang pinaghuhugutan ng bawat relasyon. Marahil nakulong sila sa pagnanais na muling buhayin ang obra at maging matapat hangga’t maaari sa orihinal. Sa ganitong dahilan, ang mga walang malay na manonood na isa itong remake ay pawang magtataka kung bakit ang mga tauhan ay ganoon magsalita at kung bakit pawang maraming tanong pa rin ang di nasasagot dahil sa bilis ng mga pangyayari. Ngunit kung sadyang pagbubuhay lamang sa lumang obra ang intensiyon  sa likod ng Status: It’s Complicated, naging matagumpay naman ito.

Nakasentro sa relasyon ang Status: It’s Complicated. Tulad ng titulo nito, sinasabing tunay ngang wala nang mas sasalimuot pa sa relasyon, lalo na sa relasyong romantiko sa pagitan ng babae at lalaki. Ngunit bali-baliktarin man ang komplikasyon, mauuwi pa rin sa iisang aral ang lahat – ang pagiging matapat. Sa pagpapalit ng istilo nila Manny at Jerry, kitang ang tunay na naging masaya sa bandang huli ay ang naging tapat sa iisang babae lamang. Ipinakita rin sa pelikula na sa kabila ng paglipas ng panahon at sa pagbabago ng teknolohiya, sadyang di nagbabago ang turo ng simbahan patungkol sa pakikipagrelasyong sekswal – na ang pakikipagtalik ay para lamang sa mag-asawa na may basbas ng kasal. Sa kabila nito, di pa rin maiiwasan na ang pelikula ay maaari pa ring makalito sa kung ano nga ba ang tayo nito sa pagpapahalagang moral. Marami kasing mga nakakabagabag na eksena na nagpapakita ng pang-aakit ng babae sa lalaki at hindi ito nalinaw sa pelikula kung tama ba o mali. Ang usaping sekswal din ay laging nauuwi sa pananaw lamang ng laman at hindi ng kaluluwa. Kapupulutan ng aral ang pelikula ngunit ang mga makikitang imahe ay kinakailangan ng malalim na pang-unawa upang makarating ang mensahe sa nararapat na konteksto ng relasyon at sa kung ano ang turo ng simbahan na nararapat sundin ng lipunan sa ano pa mang panahon.  Kailangan ng hinog na pag-iisip upang hindi maligaw sa mga isinasaad ng pelikula.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Romeo & Juliet

LEAD CAST:  Douglas Booth, Halilee Steinfeld, Paul Giamatti, Damian Lewis, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Natascha McElhone, Ed Westwick, Christian Cooke, Tom Wisdom, Leslev Manville  DIRECTOR:  Carlo Carlei  SCREENWRITER:  Julian Fellowes  PRODUCER:  Ileen Maisel, Nadja Swarovski, Julian Fellowes  EDITOR:  Peter Honess  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Abel Korzeniowski  GENRE:  Drama and Romance  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  David Tattersall  DISTRIBUTOR:  Relativity Media  LOCATION:  United Kingdom, Italy, Switzerland RUNNING TIME:  118 minutes
Technical assessment:  3.5
Moral assessment: 2.5
CINEMA rating:  V18

The Capulets and the Montagues, the wealthiest families in Verona, are at war.  Teenager Romeo, a Montague (Douglas Booth) spots Capulet teenager Juliet (Hailee Steinfeld), at a Capulet masquerade ball.  Their eyes lock; it’s love at first sight—or destiny, as William Shakespeare’s universally acclaimed romance portrays it, because even after the party masks are peeled off, they’re still madly in love.  In love enough to want to marry, which Friar Laurence (Paul Giamatti) does, in secret.  The problem is Juliet’s father, Lord Capulet (Damian Lewis), unaware that his daughter is already legally married, demands that Juliet marry Count Paris, a nobleman.  Enmeshed in the Capulet-Montague rivalry, Juliet is a virtual prisoner of her father’s desire for the convenient marriage; Romeo on the other hand happens to kill a Capulet, resulting in his being exiled outside of Verona.

Something doesn’t quite click that well when a Shakespearean classic goes on film.  Carlo Carlei’s Romeo & Juliet will be compared with other film versions, and side by side with Zefirelli’s it might pale somewhat in many areas.  The acting of the two leads leaves much to be desired; it’s not clear whether it’s their being green horns or their lack of chemistry that leaves the audience unmoved.  Steinfeld’s Juliet is enthusiastic but average; Booth’s Romeo seems too intent on perfecting his lines that he sometimes comes on stiff and bereft of emotion.  It’s Giamatti’s solid portrayal that carries the show, his fire making up for the lack of passion in the newbies’ performance.  It wouldn’t be a surprise if the viewer suspects Carlei has intended his opus to be Friar Laurence’s story, not Romeo and Juliet’s; he gets the soulful shots, and that hangdog look in his eyes effortlessly draws the audience’s sympathy to his favor.  The other actors  The lush production sets, costumes and cinematography, however, raise the overall technical score.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Don Jon

LEAD CAST: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, Brie Larson, Rob Brown, Gleane Headly DIRECTOR: Joseph Gordon-Levitt PRODUCERS:  Ram Bergman, Nicolas Chartier  SCREENPLAY: Joseph Gordon-Levitt  MUSIC: Nathan Johnson  CINEMATOGRAPHY:  Thomas Kloss  EDITOR: Lauren Zuckerman  GENRE: Romantic comedy  DISTRIBUTOR: Relativity Media  LOCATION: USA  RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes

Technical assessment: 3.5
Moral assessment:  2.5
MTRCB rating: R 16
CINEMA rating: V 18

Jon (Levitt) is an Italian American bar tender who considers himself a modern Don Juan.  Capping his otherwise ordinary days are one night stands with any willing partner who passes his and his buddies’ (Rob Brown, Jeremy Luc) scrutiny.  On a scale of 1 to 10 they rate women they eye in a bar; Jon goes for no less than an “8” to “10” of course.  Smooth operator Jon usually gets what he wants until he meets the love of his life Barbara Sugarman (Scarlet Johansson), a “10” by his standards.  But this chick is hard to please it seems, and so the smitten Jon is courts her, taking her to romantic movies and bringing her home to meet mom and dad.  Because the attraction is mutual, they eventually make it, but when she discovers he uses porn, he asks him to stop or else.
The character of Don Jon is really nothing new—you have encountered his kind in the movies featuring masturbating Jewish boys, although this time the guy is a Catholic.  The acting is the strongest technical asset of Don Jon.  For example, it presents both Gordon-Levitt and Johansson as versatile performers, convincingly filling roles they had never done before.  Larson, Danza and Headly playing as Jon’s family members put in great support.  Moore is effective as a low-key but crucial character in the movie.  At first glance Don Jon might look like it is intended to be a typical romantic comedy—technically backed by like snappy cinematography and tight editing—but if the viewer steps back and takes a deeper look into the movie, the script reveals something else. 
Gordon-Levitt wearing three hats (writer, director, actor) speaks of the intensity with which he desires to deliver Don Jon’s message—that the habits people choose can become addictions that distort their perceptions of reality and stand in the way of truly fulfilling human relationships.  Jon’s addiction of self-pleasuring to porn prevents him from enjoying actual sex with women.  Barbara’s predilection for romantic movies causes her to make unrealistic demands of the man she claims to love.  Even the sacrament of reconciliation in the Catholic religion is presented as nothing more than a habit for both confessee and confessor, thus it fails to effect transformation in a person.
While Don Jon successfully avoids becoming a sermon, the ending is too simplistic to augur a genuine change for Jon.  He claims he is truly in love now, as the woman seems to nudge him in the right direction, but triumph celebrated too soon could also mean he and his partner have merely found a new and convenient habit that will prove incapable of unseating addictions in due time.  A superficial viewing of Don Jon will not reveal its call to challenge our ways of entertaining or improving ourselves.  It has to be examined minutely, or it will go down the viewer’s consciousness as another enabling romcom in support of the status quo.

Alamat ni China Doll

Lead cast: Angelica Panganiban, Cesar Montano, Philip Salvador; Direction: Adolf Alix, Jr.; Screenplay: Lav Diaz; Producer: Ronald Arguellas, Evelyn Vargas; Music: Lav Diaz; Cinematography: Albert Banzon; Genre: Drama; Distributor: Cinema One

Technical Assessment: 2
Moral Assessment: 2
MTRCB Rating:  R18
CINEMA rating: R18

Si China Doll / Myrna Yu / Helen (Angelica Pangilinan) ay dating kasapi ng isang grupong dahilan ng di mabilang na karahasan at pagpatay sa lipunan. Bigla na lamang siyang nawala nang mahuli at ilagay sa witness protection program ng isang NBI agent (PhilipSalvador). Tahimik na sana ang  buhay niya hanggang muling mailathala ang kanyang totoong kwento. Isang laos pero matinik na manunulat, si Perry Nanali (Montano) ang gagamitin niyang kasangkapan para muling makabalik sa pagsusulat ang lihim ni China Doll. Maggugulo ang buhay ng tatlo dahil sa mga lihim na maaring mabunyag ang katotohanang ayaw mailabas.

Ginamit ni Alix ang istilo ng non-linear storytelling sa pelikula. Ibig sabihin ay patalon-talon ang pangyayari mula kasalukuyan at iba’t ibang panahon sa nakaraan. Hindi naman mahirap sundan – hindi dahil magaling ang pagkakagawa – kundi dahil  iniba-iba naman ng produksyon ang pagkakagawa sa bawat panahon. Mahusay naman ang pagkakaganap ng mga pangunahing tauhan pero hindi gaanong nakalusong ang pagkakaganap sa konsepto ng tauhan. Kulang ang pagkamisteryosa ni Pangilinan bilang si China Doll na hinuhubaran ng katotohanan at hindi naman gaanong mabagsik si Salvador bilang NBI na maraming itinatagong lihim. Sa totoo lang, sa ordinaryong manunuod, hindi mararamdaman ang sinasabing sapin-sapin na katotohanan. Ang bisa ng paggamit ng pagkukwentong non-linear ay nasa kakayahan na masilip ang kapirasong katotohanan at unti-unting mabuo ang kwentong salungat sa unang inakala. Sa magulong paroo’t parito ng China Doll, iisang pisngi pa rin ng katotohanan ang nabubuo at wala namang misteryong natatambad dahil simula pa lamang ay alam mo na ang takbo nito. Masyadong nagpaka-indie ang pelikula dahil marahas ang mga ilaw at hindi man lamang sinikap pantayin ang kulay at pagkakayari ng bawat eksena. Hindi siguro ito ang pinakamabisang paraan para ipakita na marahas ang katotohan. Ang makakagusto lamang nito ay ang kapwa manunulat o indie director na nais makita ang lalim ng pelikula kapag hindi ito nasasakyan ng masa.

Hubad na katotohanan… iyan ang nais itambad ng pelikula sa pagsusumikap na unti-unti nitong hubarin ang saplot ng kasinungalingan at pagtatahi ng mga alamat. Sabi natin, ang katotohanan ay nakakapagpalaya, pero sa pelikula… ang pag-akap sa katotohanan ay nakakamatay. Gusto ba nitong ipahiwatig na ang katotohanan ng mas malakas at mas matapang lamang ang dapat mangibabaw? Papaano kung ang katotohanan ay makasisira ng mga buhay? Dapat ba itong ibunyag pa kahit wala namang kabutihang idudulot? Hindi sinagot ng kwento ang mga tanong na ito. Bagkus, inihain lamang at pinababayaang tuldukan ito ng nalilitong manunuod. Pero dahil wala sa mga nagtangkang magbago o maging tapat ang nabuhay, madaling masabi na karahasan ang naka-umang sa taong sasagasa sa mga naglilihim. Masyadong marahas at magulo ang pelikula para sa simpleng manunuod. Mas mabuting piling-pili lamang ang tumangkilik nito.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Captain Phillips

LEAD CAST:  Tom Hanks, Barkhard Abdi  DIRECTOR: Paul Greengrass  SCREENWRITER:  Billy Ray  PRODUCER:  Michael De Luca, Dana Brunetti, Scott Rudin, Kevin Spacey
EDITOR:  Christopher Rouse  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Henry Jackman  GENRE: Drama  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Barry Ackroyd  DISTRIBUTOR:  Columbia Pictures  LOCATION:  United States RUNNING TIME:  134 minutes

Technical assessment:  4
Moral assessment:  2.5
MTRCB rating:  PG
CINEMA rating: V 14 (For ages 14 and up)

Captain Richard Phillips is skipper of a US-flagged container vessel Maersk Alabama, sailing via pirate-infested Somalia Sea with a crew of 20 unarmed men.  A band of Somali fishermen pirates-to-be led by Muse (Barkhad Abdi) hijacks the ship in the horn of Africa and holds Capt. Phillips hostage.  After a harrowing chase when Phillips’ and his men think the pirates have given up, Muse’s determined bunch succeeds in boarding the ship using a crude ladder.  Phillips, whose primary concern is to deliver the goods intact to their destination, tries to negotiate with the pirates but his good intentions are no match to the money-hungry Somalis.  The movie is based on a true story of Captain Richard Phillips and the 2009 hijacking by Somali pirates of the Maersk Alabama, the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in two hundred years.
      Another Oscar-worthy performance by Tom Hanks in another Everyman role—an ordinary character played extraordinarily well.  Matching Hanks line by powerful line is Barkhad Abdi in his first movie role—impressive for a newbie, and definitely qualified for a Best Supporting Actor award.  There are very few actors but they come across so real the viewer cannot but feel for them.  Captain Phillips is a good story in a tautly edited film; the screenplay is suspenseful, and the cinematography makes sure the tension is seen and felt by the viewer, from the opening scene (Phillips and wife Andrea, played by Catherine Keener) to the devastating last frame.   
      Due perhaps to the fact that it could happen to anyone, the story of Captain Phillips has that unique “pull” on the viewer’s empathy.  For one thing, there is no need of CGI, an indispensable sci-fi device, but the story is most demanding of gut level acting.  The film presents various moral dilemmas but holds judgment.  It’s in a way a rescue story but praises no hero; rather it underscores power disparity, particularly military power: the pirates are but amateurs working for a warlord; their captors are US navy SEALS directed by politicians.   It clearly shows piracy as a crime, but also pricks the viewer’s sense of justice by subtly asking if it is not a crime, too, to neglect the poor and ignorant in our midst. 

Thor: the dark world

Running Time: 112 minutes; Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins; Direction: Alan Taylor; Story: based on Stan Lee’s character; Screenplay: Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely; Cinematography: Kramer Morgenthau;  Editing: Dan Lenetal, Wyatt Smith;  Music: Brian Tyler; Producers: Kevin Feige; Genre: Action-Adventure, Sci-Fi,;  Location: Asgard, London; Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures

Technical Assessment: 3.5
Moral Assessment: 3.5
Rating: V14

Thor: The Dark World opens with the Bor, grandfather of Thor, vanquishing Malekith (Eccleston) and the Dark Elves after they attempted to return the universe into a state of darkness using a force called the Aether. Bor’s army defeats the Dark Elves and hides the Aether on earth.  Malekith sacrifices his people so he and a few chosen can escape and hibernate until the force is found again. The present times takes place 2 years after the events in the movies The Avenger and the first installment of Thor. Jane Foster (Portman), still trying to find a way to get in touch with Thor (Hemsworth), discovers and is possessed by the Aether and is temporarily transported from one realm to another. Thor brings Foster to Asgard when he realizes that she is infected with an unearthly substance. Malekith awakens and attacks Asgard to retrieve the Aether. Unable to defeat the forces of the Dark Elves and realizing Asgard is left defenceless should it be attacked again, Thor enlists the help of Loki (Hiddleston) to take Foster out of Asgard and trick the Dark Elves into removing the Aether from her body. Working against time, Thor must make tough choices to trust his adoptive brother, remove the Aether from Jane before it consumes her and save the universe from destruction.

Thor: The Dark World develops rationally but jams in too much gibber of technical and fictional information that makes it a little hard to keep up with sometimes. Performance-wise, the movie is average because Hemsworth’s Thor is a lot tamer and less interesting now while Hiddleston has managed to give a different attack and more amusing on his Loki while Portman’s portrayal is bland and helpless as is her character’s personality. Only Hopkins and Skarsgard have consistently strong enough personalities to shine through their characters. Undeniably, the movie delivers the action and fantasy with several spoonsful of explosions, destruction and high speed combat scenes - some unnecessary although quite fascinating. 

Society places a lot of pressure on people believing that honor and power ultimately define his person. Thor realizes that his mission, and therefore his real self, is to choose to be the defender of the Nine Realms instead of its ruler. When he understood and accepted that all his gifts and powers are for the service of others did he finally (and hopefully) find meaning in his existence. In this power-hungry fast-paced world, Thor invites us to find same epiphany and embrace this the same way as he did. Service and sacrifice define a man’s character and worth more than his power and authority. No wonder, Loki – who is so obsessed with being crowned King of Azgard – is constantly angry, restless and feeling empty.

Metro Manila

LEAD CAST: Jake Macapagal, Althea Vega, John Arcilla, Erin Panlilio, Moises Magisa, Ana Bad-Santos, MailesCanapi  DIRECTOR: Sean Ellis SCREENWRITER:  Sean Ellis, Frank E. Flowers  PRODUCER: Mathilde Charpentier, Sean Ellis, Enrique Gonzales, Celine Lopez  EDITOR: Richard Mettler  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Robin Foster  GENRE: Mystery & Suspense, Drama  CINEMATOGRAPHER: Sean Ellis
DISTRIBUTOR: Captive Cinema  LOCATION: United Kingdom, Philippines RUNNING TIME: 115minutes

Technical Assessment:   4
Moral Assessment: 3
CINEMA Rating:  V 14 (Age 14 and above)

Sinisikap buhayin ni Oscar (Jake Macapagal) ang kanyang mag-ina mula sa pagsasaka sa bukid. Tipikal na buhay probinsya ang mayroon sila, salat sa pera pero di naman nawawalan ng simpleng pagkain sa mesa.  Dahil sa kakapusan sa pera ay mapipilitan si Oscar na makipagsapalaran sa Kalakhang Maynila; dadalhin  niya ang pamilya doon sa pag-asang naroon ang asenso nila.  Sa pagsuong nila sa buhay lungsod ay ibayong hirap ang kanilang mararanasan. Mapipilitan silang subukin ang iba't ibang uri ng mga hamon sa lungsod upang kumita ng pera. Makakakuha naman sana ng maayos na trabaho at kita si Oscar bilang driver ng armored car, subalit sa kasamaang-palad ay sangkot pala sa illegal na gawain ang mga inaakala ni Oscar na mga kaibigan.  Kaya sa halip na maahon sila sa kahirapan ay lalo palang masasadlak sila sa kadiliman.  Pati ang asawang si Mai ay papasukin ang hanapbuhay na pagsasayaw at pagpapakita ng katawan para makaraos sa araw araw. 

Gasgas na tema ng tagaprobinsya na nabigong makasumpong ng magandang buhay sa lungsod ang Metro Manila, subalit nilagyan ng tratong mas makatotohanan at  maingat na pagkakahabi ng kwento. Ginamitan ang pelikula ng mga makahulugang linya at pagpapakita ng dalawang mukha ng pamumuhay at kapaligiran sa pamamagitan ng magandang sinematograpiya.  Akma at epektibo ang mga ginamit na ilaw at inilapat na tunog at musika. Naging kasangkapan ang mga elementong ito ng palabas para maging wasto lamang ang mga pagganap, walang masyadong lumutang at wala di naman nagpahuli.  Tila binuhos ng direktor sa ibang teknikal na aspeto ng pelikula ang lahat ng malikhaing ideya sa halip na pigain sa motibasyon ang mga nagsiganap.  Gayun pa man, naging matagumpay ang direktor sa paghahatid ng isang maituturing na obra dahil sa makabuluhang kabuuan nito.

Ipinakita sa Metro Manila ang mga bulok na kalakaran at mapagsamantalang nilalang sa kalunsuran.  Hindi naman masama ang maghangad ng magandang buhay sa kahit saang lugar, subalit ang mga inosenteng mamamayan mula sa  probinsya  ay madalas na nagiging biktima at nasasadlak sa kawalan ng pag-asa katulad ng nangyari sa pamilya ni Oca.  Naging mga responsable naman at nagsikap upang makaraos sa di nakasanayang buhay lungsod ang mga pangunahing tauhan sa pelikula. Subalit di sila nakaligtas sa mapagsamantalang nilalang sa lungsod.  Nakakapanglumo ang mga eksena kung saan pinapakita kung paano nakakaladkad sa bulok na kalagayan ang pamilya. Nakakagalit ang pinakita na mundo ng prostitusyon kung saan kahit ang walang muwang na musmos ay pagnasaan laban sa pita ng laman.  Sa pamamagitan ng pelikula ay hinahamon ang manonood na maging matalino at mapanuri sa pinapasok na kabuhayan, siguraduhing wala itong lakip na anomalya na maaring magpahamak sa isang tao.  Sa kabuuan ay magkahalong awa, galit at pagnanais na kumilos ang mararamdaman ng manonood ng Metro Manila; mapupukaw ng pelikula ang kamalayan ng tao tungkol sa mga totoong nangyayari sa lipunan, partikular ang mga nasa likuran ng nakakaakit na kaunlaran sa lungsod.