Saturday, April 27, 2013


LEAD CAST:  Alicia Silverstone, Krysten Ritter, Sigourney Weaver, Dan Stevens, Wallace   SCREENWRITER:  Amy Heckerling  PRODUCER:  Lauren Versel, Molly Hassell, Stuart Cornfeld, Maria Teresa Arida, Adam Brightman  EDITOR:  Debra Chiate  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  David Kitay  GENRE:  Comedy, Romance, Horror RUNNING TIME:  92 minutes  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Tim Suhrstedt  DISTRIBUTOR:   Anchor Bay Films  LOCATION:  US

Technical assessment:  3
Moral assessment:  2.5
CINEMA rating:  V14
MTRCB rating:  R 13

The success of Twilight and other vampire films reveals our fascination with the undead and there is no sign of it stopping. The latest is simply called Vamps starring Alicia Silverstone (Goody) and Krysten Ritter (Stacy) as modern-day vampires in New York City. Goody and Stacy prefer to call themselves ELFs (Eternal Life Form) instead of vampires and have sworn off human blood with their ELF help group “Sanguines Anonymous” who survive on the blood of animals, particularly rodents.  The BFFs “are addicted to the night life, clubbing, and always looking for the next thrill, all the while keeping their big secret. But even with lifetimes of dating experience behind them, the duo realizes they still have a lot to learn about love.” Stacy falls in love with Joey (Dan Stevens), the son of a vampire hunter, Dr. Van Helsing (Wallace Shawn), and Goody runs into the man of her dreams, Danny (Richard Lewis), from the 60s. “With their destinies at stake, the girls are faced with a difficult choice; give up their eternal youth for a chance at love, or continue to live their uncomplicated fabulously single lives forever.”
Vamps reunites Alicia Silverstone with director Amy Heckerling both of Clueless fame and boasts of a finely assembled cast. You realize from the outset that this is not your usual vampire story of horror and drama. Neither is it just a chick flick or rom com movie. While most vampire movies main focus is on humans, Heckerling succeeds in presenting vampires as creatures who have supernatural powers and yet need to face the challenges of the 21st century. There are funny and charming moments, and the film explores current issues like aging, keeping up with the times and trends, loneliness and dependence on technology. Through Goody, she chides us for using Facebook, Twitter, SMS and texting instead of talking to each other, but says it in a tone that shows the film is out of touch as the 19th century vampire.
Though vampires remain eternally young, Vamps succumbs to the cult of youth and beauty. Goody hides her real age to Stacy to keep their friendship, and she also wants to appear young and attractive forever, revealing woman’s fear of old age. Heckerling tries to make it Vamps in the City (cute and charming) but doesn’t quite succeed, despite the lead actors and supporting cast. It sometimes appears as a TV sitcom with cheap sets and uninspired lines. In trying to appeal both to teenagers and Cher’s contemporaries in Clueless, Heckerling’s recent opus ends up an adequate but forgettable movie.
The violence here is mostly comical and there are some sexual references and strong language, plus some intimate scenes. Hence CINEMA gives this movie an V14 rating.


Lead cast: William Hope, Christa Campbell, Patrick Muldoon, Sydney Sweeney; Direction: Tibor Takas; Screenplay: Joseph Farragia, Tibor Takas, Boaz Davidson; Running Time: 89 minutes; Location: New York; Genre: Sci-fi/thriller

Technical Assessment:  2.5
Moral Assessment:   3
CINEMA Rating:  V14
MTRCB Rating:  PG13

In a usual busy day in New York, a piece of Russian spacecraft crashes into the subway tunnel putting into halt the rush hour operations.  Transit supervisor Jason Cole (Patrick Muldoon) and his team work to put the train back on track until one of the transit employees mysteriously dies supposedly of electrocution. As Cole investigates further, the government teams up with a Russian scientist to recover the queen spider egg that came with the spacecraft. Apparently, the Russians developed a military weapon by cultivating mutant indestructible spiders that grow up to 60 feet long. Overnight, the spiders mutate and become giant creatures destroying the city while the US military unleash a deadly virus story to cover up their intentions of gaining control of the queen spider. While all of these are happening Jason and his estranged wife Rachel (Christa Campbell) fight their way to rescue their 12 year old daughter and rekindle their love for each other.                                                                                         
There are many things wrong with this movie. First, it starts off interestingly until the real plot unfolds and everything falls apart because audiences discover the very thin plot jammed between very poor performances. The storyline is too cliché and predictable. The protagonists are irritating with Muldoon's cardboard acting and Campbell's constant wailing. While the improved and modern effects give the movie a sense of realism and the surprisingly well-crafted scoring make viewers believe the film is engrossing, it still falls short of being entertaining after the first 10 minutes. Sadly, it tries to add drama and empathy to the father-daughter and husband-wife relationships but these are delivered too poorly to be appreciated.
The biggest saving grace of Spiders is its efforts to show how the worst of situations bring out the best in people. Jason and Rachel's love for their daughter and of each other taught them to set aside their professional and personal conflicts and work together to survive. There is a very subtle hint of keeping the marriage intact and valuing the family above everything. If only the movie was better presented then these messages could have had the desired impact. However, several scenes that are too violent, gory and unsuitable for very young children will be better remembered than the underlying message. Hence, CINEMA thinks Spiders is for older bored young adults.

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Cast: Tom Cruise, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Morgan Freeman, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Melissa Leo  Director: Joseph Kosinski  Screenplay: Joseph Kosinski and Karl Gajdusek and Michael Arndt  Cinematography: Claudio Miranda  Music:  Anthony Gonzalez, M.8.3  U. S. Distributor:  Universal Pictures  Genre: Science fiction/action  Running Length:  126 minutes

Technical assessment:  3.5
Moral assessment:  2.5
CINEMA rating:   V  18
MTRCB rating:  PG 13

It is Year 2077.   Sixty years ago, evil invaders called “Scavengers” destroyed the moon and attempted to capture Earth.   Mankind fought off the aggressors but Earth was left uninhabitable due to the moon’s fragmentation and worldwide combat.  Now humans are still being evacuated to Titan, one of Saturn’s moons, and they await their turn to depart while on board a spacecraft that hovers just above Earth’s atmosphere.   Trained technician Jack (Tom Cruise) and a navigator, Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) have been dispatched to supervise the operations of the machines that continue to harvest what is left of Earth’s natural resources, particularly the water from its oceans, for use of the people living on Titan.  Jack and Victoria are professionally and romantically linked, but Jack is disturbed by the image of a beautiful woman recurring in his dreams.  The couple’s idyllic partnership is given an unexpected twist when the beautiful woman in Jack’s dreams turns up to be a real person, Julia (Olga Kurylenko), whom Jack finds in a hypersleep chamber crash-landing from an unknown spaceship.
Sweeping vistas of outer space, fabulous machines and dwellings that could only exist in one’s fantasies seem to be the strongest attractions of Oblivion.  Through this impeccably created eye candy the viewer’s mind is teased into suspending disbelief to get carried away by the plot.  But, alas, the plot lacks the viscosity to sustain the viewer’s interest, much less to mesmerize him into embracing Oblivion as a probability in the not-so-distant future.   Oblivion’s ambitious story telling, evocative of Cloud Atlas though not as grand, is supported by the strong presence of Morgan Freeman as Beech, the chief of the guerilla freedom fighters.  Freeman, as usual, delivers, and Cruise seems to sincerely believe in his character; that’s just about the nicest thing to be said about the acting.  Other technical aspects are as “okay” as “okay” goes.
Oblivion attempts to delve into the question of identity (the relationship between physical and spiritual identities in particular) but abandons the question to pose some more—much like a toddler who, growing impatient with a toy, distracts himself with other toys.  Pursuing this analogy, Oblivion strikes the viewer as something like building a spaceship with Lego blocks.  Good sci-fi is coherent and logical despite a bold hypothesis; it connects its elements until they all click into place, revealing the creation, albeit a Lego spaceship, as a masterpiece.  Oblivion does not “click.”
The film offers enough to appeal to teenagers but because CINEMA believes movies are not just supposed to be eye candy or dubious entertainment, Oblivion is given a V 18 rating.  Due to the nature of the movie’s theme, mature viewers may still winnow something worth a thought from the loosely glued elements.

Friday, April 12, 2013

It takes a man and a woman

LEAD CAST:  John Lloyd Cruz, Sarah Geronimo, Isabelle Daza, Matet de Leon, Joross Gamboa, Guji Lorenzana, Rowell Santiago, Gio Alvarez  DIRECTOR:  Cathy Garcia-Molina  SCREENWRITER:  Carmi Raymundo  PRODUCER:  Charo Santos  GENRE:  Drama, Romance, Comedy RUNNING TIME:  120 minutes  DISTRIBUTOR:   Star Cinema & Viva Films  LOCATION:  Philippines

Technical Assessment: 3.5
Moral Assessment: 3.5
CINEMA rating: V 14
MTRCB rating: G
Malaki ang problema ni Miggy Montenegro (John Lloyd Cruz), isang publisher ng kilalang magazine na nanganganib na masakop ng ibang kumpanya kung hindi siya gagawa ng paraan.  Ang tanging solusyon ay hingin ang tulong ni Laida Magtalas (Sarah Geronimo), dati niyang kasintahan na ngayo’y isa nang sophisticated at mahusay na magazine editor sa New York. Maaari ba silang magtrabaho nang magkasama ngayong ang bagong katipan si Miggy na si Belle (Isabelle Diaz) ay makakasama din nila? Magtatagumpay ba silang pagtulungan ang pagsalba sa magazine ng mga Montenegro?
Ibinabalik ng It Takes a Man and a Woman ang tambalang Miggy Montenegro at Laida Magtalas na nagpakilig sa maraming manonood noong 2008 sa pelikulang A Very Special Love at ang kasunod nitong You Changed My Life noong 2009. Parehong box office hits ang naturang dalawang naunang pelikula at mukhang hindi pahuhuli ang final installment.  Pagpapatunay na maganda ang ikot ng kuwento, kapani-paniwala ang pagganap ng mga artista—lalu na ang mga kaibigan at kasama ni Laida sa trabaho na tinaguriang Zoila and friends, Hindi maitatatwa ang chemistry ng dalawang nasa lead roles at dahil mga characters na nakilala na ng mga manonood sa naunang dalawang pelikula, madaling makapasok sa daloy ng kuwento. Kuhang-kuha nila hindi lang ang kiliti ng manonood sa mga nakatutuwang eksena kundi pati na rin ang simpatiya ng mga ito sa mga eksenang magpapatulo ng luha. Mayroon ding mga one-liners na siguradong uulit-ulitin ng mga nakapanood. Maayos din at angkop ang musika, simple ang sinematograpiya, mahusay ang editing at comedic timing. Sayang nga lang at asiwa ang wig ni Laida at may ilang dialogo na hindi maayos ang daloy—parang pilit at masyadong masalita. Maari ding masabing may mga eksena na “corny” subalit ikinasiya naman ito ng ilan.
Ngunit higit sa mga teknikal na aspeto ng pelikula, ipinapakita ng It Takes a Man and a Woman na ang pagpapatawad ay susi sa mabuting samahan hindi lang ng magkasintahan kundi sa pamilya at sa trabaho din. Ito ang tunay na sukatan ng pagmamahalan. Ang dalawang magkasintahan na nagkalayo ay natutong maging mabuti at ganap dahil sa pag-ako sa pagkakamali, paghingi ng kapatawaran, at pagsisikap na magbago.
Kapuri-puri din ang pelikula dahil nagtagumpay itong ipakita ang pagmamahalan ni Miggy at Laida nang hindi ginagamit ang pre-marital sex. Naipakita rin nito ang tunay na sukatan ng tagumpay sa buhay.  Dahil sa tema ng pelikula (na sa titulo pa lang ay halata na) iminumungkahi ng CINEMA ang pelikula para sa mga manonood na may edad 14-taon pataas.

The host

Cast:  Saoirse Ronan, Jake Abel, Max Irons, Chandler Canterbury, Frances Fisher, Diane Kruger, William Hurt; Direction: Andrew Noccol; Story: based from Stephanie Meyer’s novel The Host; Screenplay: Andrew Niccol; Cinematography: Robert Schaefer;  Editing: Thomas J. Nordberg; Music: Antonio Pinto; Producers: Stephanie Meyer, Nick Wechsler, Steve Schwartz, Paula Mae Schwartz; Genre: Sci-Fi Drama; Location: Future time; Distributor: Open Road Films Entertainment Films Distributors / Viva Films; Running Time:125 minutes.

Technical Assessment:  2
Moral Assessment: 3
CINEMA Rating: V14
MTRCB rating: PG 13

In the future, humanity is taken over by extra-terrestials called the Souls. Although they are peaceful and caring, the Souls need to enter into a human body and take over its mind and life. Melanie Stryder (Ronan), one of the remaining uninhabited humans, is captured by the Seeker (Kruger) and infused with the soul named Wanderer in the effort to discover the whereabouts of the last groups of insurgent humans. However, Melanie fights back and struggles to control her mind and body. Wanderer, in the meantime, discovers Melanie’s past, grows sympathetic towards her plight and slowly forms an alliance with her. Together, they escape the attepmt of the Seeker to transfer Wanderer into another body and enter Melanie herself so she can get the information she needs. Melanie and Wanderer flee into the desert and is soon found by her Uncle Jeb (Hurt). They are taken into the insurgent’s hideaway where Melanie is reunited with her boyfriend Jared (Irons) and little brother Jamie (Canterbury). However, the group, save for Uncle Jed,  do not realize Melanie is still alive and almost has her killed believing she is an evil parasite.  Slowly, the humans and Wanderer begin to understand and appreciate each other  and stand side by side for the survival of their own race.

The host’s storyline shows potential with its unique take on alien invasion and Meyer’s subtle spirituality. As an author, she is consistent in her respect for life and dignity of humanity. But the film translation suffers irrevocably either from poor script or from the source material itself. The film falls flat with an unimaginative screenplay, painfully dragging direction and overall monotonous performances from the cast. The love triangle is just dreary. The romantic build, just like the plot development, takes up so much time and patience. But the worse part is how the writer/director chose to show Melanie and Wanderer living together in the same body.  The production design is laughable in its simplistic assumption that aliens and advance technology should only be pristine white or mirror-plated. These scenes hurt the eyes as much as they hurt one’s sanity. The host is easily one of the worst movies adapated into screen.
The film makes one notable premise—peaceful co-existence. Be it outer space creatures and human beings, the normal and the supernatural, or primitive and advance technology, co-existence, according to the film, is possible provided there is respect and love. Meyer presents alien invaders as the SOUL—peaceful, kind, trusting, and overall good natured except that they need a body to live in, while humans are violent, aggressive and selfish. Her premise may lack theological or literary depth but it leads us to ask what it means to be human. Does possessing free will and a body suffice or is humanity something at the core of life where love, respect and sacrifice exist. There is a sense of spirituality in the film as it echoes how we understand lour body and soul. It parallels the struggle most people encounter as they resolve the conflict between human and divine will.  More than trying to save humanity from invaders, the film is a story about the nature of love—for family, friends and life.