The Episcopal Commission on Social Communication-CBCP

CINEMA (Catholic INitiative for Enlightened Movie Appreciation) of The Episcopal Commission on Social Communication of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines presents movies viewed in the light of the gospel. . *** For inquiries, please EMAIL: cbcpcinema@gmail.com *** CALL or TEXT: (02) 664 5886 *** or WRITE TO: CINEMA, Episcopal Commission on Social Communication, CBCP Compound, 470 General Luna St. Intramuros, Manila *** Enjoy the reviews, and THANK YOU!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Mortal instruments

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Cast: Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Robert Sheehan, Kevin Zegers, Lena Headey, Kevin Durand, Aidan Turner, Godfrey Gao; Direction: Harald Zwart; Story: based on Cassandra Clare’s novels; Screenplay: Jessica Postigo Paquette; Cinematography: Geir Hartly Andreassen;   Editing: Michael Kahn; Music: Atli Orvarsson; Producers: Don Carmody, Robert Kutzer; Genre: Fantasy-Adventure- Teen Romance; Running Time:130 minutes  Location: New York, USA; Distributor: Sony Pictures

Technical assessment: 3
Moral assessment: 2.5
MTRCB Rating: PG13
CINEMA Rating: V18

Jocelyn (Headey) and husband Luke (Turner) seem to be a normal couple trying to raise a stubborn teenage daughter Clary Fray (Collins). But when Clary becomes unconsciously obsessed with a certain rune, Jocelyn becomes alarmed and realizes their family secret is about to be discovered. On the same night, Clary takes nerdy best friend Simon (Sheehan) to a night club where she witnesses three Goth teenagers murdering one of the guests. The following day, she sees Jace (Bower), one of the Goth murderers, outside a cafĂ© while she talks with Simon. She decides to confront the stalker and simultaneously receives a distressing call from her mother being attacked and asking her not to come home. Clary ignores her mother’s instructions and rushes home. She finds their house in disarray and her mother missing. A demon-mutant dog attacks her but fortunately Jace arrives and saves her from being torn into pieces. Clary and Simon are taken by Jace to an abandoned church in the middle of New York. They learn that Jace is a Shadowhunter—a half-human, half-angel warrior trained to hunt demons—and Clary, like her mother, is one as well. Apparently Clary’s memory and powers were blocked when she was a child to protect her from Valentine, a rebel Shadowhunter who wanted to create a stronger breed of warriors to rule to world. She learns that her mother ran away from Valentine and has hidden the Mortal Cup to thwart his plans. Now it is up to Clary to discover her true self, retrieve the missing Mortal Cup, save her mother, and stop Valentine.
         The movie adaptation of Cassandra Clare’s best seller dismally fails to capitalize on another teenage fantasy romance.  Audiences who are not familiar with the book will not be able to keep up with the many sub-plots and foreshadowing. Neither the storyline nor the different characters were clearly explained nor given proper resolutions. For example, it is not clear where a Shadowhunter is immortal or not, and, who is Magnus Bane? While the battle sequences are action-packed and stimulating they are not enough to resuscitate the movie from the narrative’s dull development and predictable screenplay. The actors may have been physically perfect for the part but are just deadweight in their thespic interpretations. Collins gives a monotonous performance, Bower has the same deadpan expression all throughout and Meyers is simply unbelievable in his evil quest. The premise by itself is promising with a darker storyline and richer context but director Zwart failed to successfully translate the book into film. Even the romance part is unsuccessful and makes even the love struck target market cringe in its cheesiness.
         Mortal instruments tackles the same coming of age discovery that he/she is meant to do something unequivocally important for humanity and lead the ultimate battle between good and evil. It could be said that with people working together and setting aside differences, good will always triumph. However, the movie has some disturbing subplots. For instance, there are undertones of homosexuality in reference to Alec and Magnus. While the homosexual relationship between the two will still be developed in the sequel, parents might not be too happy with protagonist heroes openly engaging in homosexual relationships. Secondly, and more central to the main storyline is the forbidden romance between siblings Clary and Jace. Interestingly, MTRCB issued an advisory against violent fight scenes which were actually tolerable and non-graphic but failed to note the abovementioned issues.

Bakit hindi ka crush ng crush mo?


Cast: Kim Chiu, Xian Lim, Ramon Bautista, Freddie Webb, Kean Cipriano; Director: Joyce Bernal;  Producer: Star Cinema; Running Time: 110 minutes; Genre: Romantic Comedy Location: Manila

Technical assessment: 3
Moral assessment: 2.5
CINEMA rating: for viewers 14 years old and above

            Makikipag-break kay Sandy (Kim Chiu) ang boyfriend (Kian Cipriano) nito sa kanya sa kanilang anniversary.  Dahil sa matinding pagkabigo at pagkawasak ng puso, magiging depressed ng todo si Sandy at maaapektuhan ang kanyang trabaho. Ang boss naman niyang si Alex (Xian Lim) ay kababalik lang galing Amerika mula rin sa matinding pagkabigo. Masisisante si Sandy sa trabaho ngunit kukunin siyang muli ni Alex. Magkakaroon sila ng kasunduan: tuturuan ni Alex si Sandy na makabangon mula sa pagkabigo kapalit ng pagsasaayos ni Sandy ng negosyo ni Alex na ipinagkatiwala ng pamilya niya sa kanya upang salbahin. Magtagumpay kaya sila sa kanilang naisin kung magiging sagabal ang kanilang mga damdamin sa isa’t-isa?
            Sa pamagat pa lang ng pelikula, maiintriga agad ang mga manonood kung ano ang bagong sasabihin nito patungkol sa pag-ibig. Umikot ang kuwento kay Sandy at kung paanong makakabangon ang wasak na puso mula sa pagkabigo. Maraming malalim na mensahe ang pelikula patungkol sa pagharap sa mga katotohanan ng pag-ibig. Nakakatuwang panoorin si Chiu na talaga namang lumutang ang galing sa pagpapatawa sa pelikula. Isa siyang rebelasyon sa pelikulang ito. Pawang mahuhusay din ang mga kasama niya rito at di matatawaran ang galing sa pagganap. Maraming magagandang eksena na kapupulutan ng aral habang nagpapatawa. Hango sa sikat na akda ni Ramon Bautista, maayos na naisapelikula ang nilalaman ng libro ni Bautista, kasama pa rito ang kanyang paglabas mismo sa pelikula, na nagsilbing gimmick nito. Yun nga lang, wala naman masyadong nasabi ang pelikula or si Bautista bukod sa mga impormasyong alam na ng manonood. Hindi naman talaga nasagot ng pelikula ang tanong na Bakit hindi ka crush ng crush mo.
            Ano nga ba ang mahalaga sa buhay? Mahalaga ba ang pagmamahal ng iba upang pahalagahan ang sarili? Iginigiit ng pelikula na hindi, ngunit salungat dito ang bandang huli at ang maraming pagkakataon sa pelikula. Si Sandy ay iniwan ng kanyang nobyo dahil hindi na nito masikmura ang kanyang itsura. Sinasabi noong una ni Sandy na dapat siyang tanggapin ng sinuman anuman ang kanyang panglabas na anyo. Ngunit bakit kinailangan pa rin niyang baguhin ang kanyang itsura at pananamit para matanggap at mahalin ng iba sa huli? Kahanga-hanga ang naging pagbabago ni Sandy sa kalagitnaan ng kuwento, lalo na ang pagpapakita niya ng tapang sa lalaking nanakit sa kanya at lumapastangan, ngunit malabo pa rin ang kabuuang mensahe ng pelikula dahil pawang romansa at pagmamahal pa rin ng isang lalaki ang bumuo sa kanyang pagkatao sa huli.
            Bagama’t may mga aral na mapupulot sa pelikula lalo na sa usapin ng pamilya, trabaho, pagtanggap sa pagkatao at pagmamahal ng walang kundisyon, kinakailangan pa rin ang patnubay ng mga magulang sa manonood na may mga murang isipan, lalo’t higit sa ilang mga aspetong moral.  Halimbawa, nakakabahala ang naging usapin ng pelikula patungkol sa pakikipag-talik ng mga mag-nobyong di naman kasal—para bang ginagawa na lamang kaswal na usapin ang aspetong ito ng relasyon.  Malabo ang tayo ng pelikula patungkol dito. Bale-wala na ba ang wika ng Diyos tungkol sa bagay na ito?  Sinayang ng Bakit hindi ka crush ng crush mo? ang pagkakataong makapagturo ng tumpak sa mga kabataang nasa edad na ng pagkakaroon ng crush.  Dahil dito, hindi masasabi ng CINEMA na karapat-dapat itong panoorin ng mga bata, o ng mga romantikong ayaw tumanda. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Ekstra


LEAD CAST:  Vilma Santos, Ruby Ruiz, Piolo Pascual, Cherie Gil, Cherry Pie Picache, Pilar Pilapil, Marian Rivera, Tom Rodriguez, Eula Valdes, and Richard Yap.  DIRECTOR: Jeffrey Jeturian  SCREENWRITER:  Zig Dulay, Antoinete Jadaone, Jeffrey Jeturian            PRODUCER:  Joji Alonso, John Victor Tence, Vilma Santos-Recto, Ferdinand Lapuz  (Inde Film with Star Cinema & Quantum Films) EDITOR: Glenn Ituriaga, Zig Dulay   MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Addiss Tabong  GENRE: Socio-Realist Drama-Comedy  RUNNING TIME:   111 minutes  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Lee Meily  DISTRIBUTOR:  Star Cinema  LOCATION:  Philippines

Technical assessment:  3.5
Moral assessement: 3
MTRCB rating:  PG 13
CINEMA rating: PG 13 (Ages 13 and below with parental guidance)
Mag-isang itinataguyod ng ekstra o “bit player’ na si Loida Malabanan (Vilma Santos) ang anak na nag-aaral sa kolehiyo.  Madaling araw pa lamang ay abala na si Loida sa paghahanda para makasabay sa serbis na sasakyan magdadala sa kaniya at mga kasama sa location shooting ng teleserye kung saan gumaganap sila bilang mga Ekstra. Kailangan niyang kumita sa shooting na yon dahil magbabayad ng tuition para makapag-exam ang anak. Maluwalhati namang nakarating sa lokasyon ng mga kukunang tagpo sina Loida kung saan parang sanay na sila na binabalewala sila dahil hindi naman sila ang mga bida sa teleserye--walang nakatalagang lugar para sa kanilang pagpapahinga, pagbibihis, at kahit sa pagkain. Sa kabila ng mga pagmamaliit ay puno pa rin ng pag-asa si Loida na aasenso siya at makikitaan ng saya sa kanyang ginagawa.  Pinagbubutihan ni Loida ang maliliit na papel na ibinibigay sa kanya tulad ng pagiging parte ng madaming tao, katulong at pag-double sa bida sa mga pisikal na eksena kaya naman hinangaan siya ng mga kasama, ng talent coordinator, at kahit ng mga tao sa produksyon.  Samantala habang abala si Loida sa shooting ay nagti-text ang kanyang anak at humihingi ng pambayad sa tuition.  Mangangailangan ng gaganap sa papel na abogado at mayroong linya na sasabihin; mapipili si Loida. Buong pagmamalaking ite-text niya agad sa anak ang balita, lalo na’t kasama niya sa eksena ang matagal na niyang iniidolong artista na si Amanda (Pilar Pilapil). Matugunan naman kaya ni Loida ang kailangan ng anak at ano ang kalalabasan ng pagganap ni Loida sa eksena bilang abogado?
        Napakahusay ng mga teknikal na aspeto ng pelikulang Ekstra.  Malinis at makatotohanan ang pagkakalahad ng kuwento.  Interesante ang mga eksena na tila isang “reality show” ang tinutunghayan ng mga manonood.  Maayos ang palitan ng aktwal na mga eksena ng shooting at teleserye na nagtatampok kina Piolo Pascual, Marian Rivera, Cherie Gil, at Pilar Pilapil. Nakaaliw panoorin ang kabuuan ng  pelikula dahil sa maingat na paghahatid ng mga detalye. Mahusay ang trato ni Jeturian sa paghahatid ng mga eksena at pagpapalutang ng mga karakter sa mga nagsiganap.  Hindi matatawaran ang pagganap ng isang Vilma Santos at isang salik ang pagiging bida niya sa pelikula para sa higit na “appreciation” ng mga manonood. Hindi rin nagpahuli ang mga kasamang nagsiganap sa pelikula, batikan man o mga baguhan. Akma at epektibo ang mga inilapat na tunog, musika at ilaw. Maganda at nakakaaliw ang mga kuha ng camera lalo na sa pagpapakita ng mga detalye. Sa kabuuan ay nakitaan ng seryosong paghahatid ang pelikula na ginamitan ng mahusay na aspetong teknikal—walang alinglangan na ang pagiging makatotohanan ng Ekstra ay gawa ng mahabang karanasan ni Jeturian bilang direktor ng mga teleserye, bukod sa pagiging isang iginagalang na direktor ng pelikula.
        Tinalakay ng pelikulang Ekstra ang kahalagahan ng sakripisyo at pagsisikap ng mga nagsisiganap bilang mga ekstra sa mga palabas sa telebisyon at pelikula para kumita ng marangal at makatulong sa pamilya katulad ng pagtataguyod sa pagpapaaral ng anak upang mabigyan ito ng magandang kinabukasan.  Nakitaan ng determinasyon ang karakter ni Loida para pagbutihin ang kanyang ginagawa at maging masaya sa kabila ng mga di kanais-nais na kalagayan ng kanyang trabaho.  Makahulugan ang mga linyang sinambit ni Loida para magbigay ng inspirasyon at kaliwanagan sa mga kapwa-ekstra—na kahit maliit ang papel na ginagampanan nila ay malaking bahagi sila upang mabuo ang isang palabas kaya dapat pagbutihin ang trabaho. Nakatulong ang pelikula na makapagbigay-alam sa publiko ng mga tunay na pangyayari sa likod ng mga pinaglilibangan at sinusubaybayan nilang mga palabas sa telebisyon.  Bagamat nakatuon sa mga ekstra ang pelikula, buong tapat na ipinakita din nito ang kalagayan ng iba pang manggagawa sa likod ng isang TV production (tulad ng mga assistants, makeup artists, caterers, atbp.) at ang mga pressures at hamon na kinakaharap nila sa kanilang mga trabaho.  Higit sa lahat, inilalahad ng pelikula ang kasamaan ng ugali ng mga malalaking artista, pati na ng director (ginampanan ni Marlon Rivera), na siyang nagiging sanhi din ng mga pressures na dinadala ng lahat—lalo na ng mga pinakawawa, ang pinakamaliliit na kasapi ng produksyon, ang mga ekstra na sumasalo sa di makataong pagmamaliit at pagpapahiya sa kanila. Isang punto na maaaring pagnilayan ng mga taong nasa ganitong linya ng trabaho, lalo na ng mga big bosses at producers, ay ang katotohanan na ang mga ekstra mismo ang nagbibigay-dangal sa kanilang trabaho, kaya’t di makatarungan na maging kultura sa mga produksyon ang paghamak sa mga katulad nila.

Percy Jackson: Sea of monsters


Cast: Logan Lerman, Douglas Smith, Brandon Jackson, Alexandra Daddario, Leven Ramblin, Jake Abel, Stanley Tucci, Nathan Fillion, Paloma Kwiatkowski; Director: Thor Freudenthal; Story:  based on the book Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan;  Screenplay: Marc Guggenheim; Producer: Michael Barnathan, Karen Rosenfelt;  Music: Andrew Lockington; Genre: Fantasy/Adventure; Running Time: 107 minutes;  Distributor: 20th Century Fox ; Location: USA

Technical assessment:  3
Moral assessment:  3
MTRCB rating:  PG13
CINEMA rating:  V14  (For viewers aged 14 and above)

The second instalment of the Percy Jackson adventures, as based loosely on Rick Riordan’s novels, picks up in Camp Half-Blood, a haven and training ground for demigods. The movie opens with Percy (Logan Lerman), the son of Poseidon, narrating the sacrifice of young Thalia (Paloma Kwiatkowski) and Zeus’ reward for her actions. Apparently, a pine tree that now emits a magical protective shield grew through her body.  In the camp, a friendly tournament among the demigods is taking place and ends with Clarisse (Leven Ramblin), daughter of Ares and Percy’s rival, winning once again because Percy had to go all the way back to the start to save a fellow competitor. This leaves Percy silently resentful of not being able to be perceived as a champion or winner. However, he keeps his feelings in check and humbly takes on a cleaning assignment from the Camp Master Dionysus (Stanley Tucci). Percy is introduced to camp newcomer a cyclops, Tyson (Douglas Smith), another son of his father Poseidon, and receives more humiliating moments as camp residents rudely stare at his one-eyed half-brother.  Later, Luke Castellan (Jake Abel), Hermes’ son and the antagonist of the series, attacks the camp and poisons Thalia’s magic tree which endangers the existence of the entire camp. Dionysus sends Clarisse on a quest to retrieve the Golden Fleece to heal the tree. But Percy learns of a prophesy saying a demigod and child of one of the Big Three Gods (Zeus, Poseidon and Hades) will save or destroy Mount Olympus. He assumes the prophesy refers to him, sets off with his friend Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), daughter of Athena, his satyr protector Grover Underwood (Brandon T.Jackson) and his half-brother Tyson to find the Fleece, stop Luke from resurrecting the Titan Kronos and destroying Mount Olympus.
A mark of a good movie adaptation is its ability to stand on its own merits, whether or not viewers have read the original book. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is somewhat in between. It gives enough highlights from the book but does not confuse the audience with the side stories and character backstories which are not fully developed. Although the fans of Rick Riordan would complain that the movie version is so different from the original novel and in a sense loses its mythological mystique, the first time viewer can appreciate it as it is and find it worthy enough to try to watch the first movie just so the context is better grasped.  As always, Hollywood has perfected the computer generated effects, and even if audiences already expect this kind of magic, the special effects are still powerful and commendable. The greatest value of the movie lies in the seamlessness of the post production works. Performances and the script are a little predictable and shallow but they work nonetheless. Over-all, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters may not belong to the “must watch films” but is enjoyable and worth the effort.
 There are two lessons to be derived from the film. First, the value of family. Percy did not see Tyson as a worthwhile brother but realized that looks and lineage are of little consequence. He also thought that his father does not listen and later on realized that it was his father guiding him all along. Families stick together, stay together and help each other all the time. Family here does not merely refer to blood relatives because at the end of the day, rivals Clarisse and Percy supported each other to succeed in their quest to save the camp. Second, the value of sacrifice. Thalia bravely fought the monster Cyclops to give her friends a chance to escape at the expense of her life. Percy gave up winning against Clarisse in the tournament because someone needed his help. In the end, despite wanting so much to be recognized for his heroic contribution to the quest, he gave the honors of retrieving the Golden Fleece to Clarisse as it was her original quest. It is never about just winning but doing good and being humble about it—a magnanimity of heart that is the mark of a true hero. 


Friday, August 16, 2013

The internship


LEAD CAST:  Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Rose Byrne, Maz Minghella, Joanna Garcia, John Goodman, Dylan O’Brien, Jessica Szohr  DIRECTOR:  Shawn Levy  SCREENWRITER: Vince Vaughn, Jared Stern  PRODUCER:  Vince Vaughn, Shawn Levy  EDITOR:  Dean Zimmerman  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Christophe Beck  GENRE: Drama, Comedy  RUNNING TIME:  119 minutes  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Jonathan Brown  DISTRIBUTOR:  20th Century Fox  LOCATION:  US

Technical assessment:  3
Moral assessment:  3
MTRCB rating:  PG 13
CINEMA rating:  PG 13 (for age 13 and below with parental guidance)
Practically all their life Billy (Vince Vaughn) and Nick (Owen Wilson) have been salesmen. They sell watches, but now their employer says nobody needs watches anymore in this digital world, so he shuts down the company.  In need of a job, having few options and wanting to prove they still have the oomph to succeed, they defy the odds, and naively chatter their way into a coveted internship at Google where they become oddballs among tech-savvy college students.  However, gaining a foothold in this dream company is just the beginning of two mid-lifers’ uphill climb.  Seen as dinosaurs in the Google universe, they must now go into battle with techie geniuses half their age, virtually armed with mere sticks and stones.
The Internship is almost entirely shot in the actual Google facility fondly called “Googleplex”, giving viewers a field trip to a utopia that many tech-savvy kids dream of belonging in.  Outside of Vaughn and Wilson, composing the supporting cast are unfamiliar faces with adequate acting skills, giving the impression that the viewer is actually there with those bushy-tailed college kids and imbibing of Google’s corporate culture.  The plot is easy to follow, aided by tight editing and dialogue that needs no padding for substance.  Although it is the Wilson-Vaughn chemistry that obviously carries the story, the script fairly gives each actor his or her moment to shine.       
Although a number of film critics think The Internship is one long commercial for Google,  CINEMA begs to disagree.  Google is bigger than the movie, and does not need props to keep it up.  The story with its casually delivered but sobering message couldn’t have been told more effectively and convincingly outside of Google’s universe.  In fact it’s telling young people that tech-savvy is not enough; one can get smart, too, from years of being in the “university of hard knocks.”  The Internship is prodding us to take a second look at our biases, busting our prejudices and asking us to keep hoping for equality in this world. The Internship shows us that for a team to gel, teammates must be open to learn from one another, regardless of color, creed, age and rage.  A most telling moment comes when the interns are told to group themselves into competing teams.  Nobody wants the dinosaurs, and so they have no choice but to team up with the three other rejects: a reserved Indian girl, a brooding Caucasian, and a Chinese guy with mommy issues.  Guess which team wins?  Of course, the one you want to win.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Despicable me 2

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LEAD CAST:  Voice of – Steve  Carell, Kristen Wiig, Berjamin Bratt, Miranda Cosgrove, Russell Brand, Steve Coogan, Ken Jeong  DIRECTOR: Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud  SCREENWRITER:  Cinco Pual, Ken Daurio  PRODUCER:  Christ Meledandri, Janet Healy  EDITOR:  Gregory Perler  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Pharrell Williams, Heitor Pereira  GENRE: Animation, Kids & Family, Comedy  RUNNING TIME:  98 minutes  DISTRIBUTOR:  Universal Studio  LOCATION:  US

Technical assessment:  3
Moral assessment:  3
CINEMA ating: PG 13  with parental guidance

Formerly bad villain Gru (Steve Carrell) has mellowed towards complete reformation as he tries to live a rather normal life, taking care of his adopted daughters and transforming his previously evil lab to start a jam and jelly business. But he just can’t resist going back to the scene when the Anti-Villain League, an organization dedicated to tracking villainous plots, recruits him to help them find and identify a new mysterious villain who has just stolen an entire Antarctic lab, and is now in possession of a very powerful yet dangerous toxic compound. Gru is paired up with agent Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig), and together, they go undercover in a shopping mall, hoping to track down the supervillain who poses as a mall tenant.
            Despicable Me 2 doesn’t quite live up to the legacy and sentiment of the original installment.  What was a previously fresh premise of “villainy as a norm” has turned into a quite predictable and  uninspired franchise. The narrative and the characters do not go beyond being merely functional as the film tries hard to lead its story towards the obligatory happy ending. The film does not tackle the central conflict of a villain struggling to reform in a society that fights evil with evil. The film entirely lacks the surprise element particularly, the revelation of the mysterious villain. However, Despicable Me 2 still delivers a few laughs and thrills, thanks to the diminutive yellow minions who provide much of the humor in the film. Their presence makes the film an enjoyable treat. The voice acting remain strong amidst the weak material and the animation is still flawless.
             Although an animated feature, Despicable Me 2 predominantly tackles an adult theme of villainy, espionage, and romantic relationships. Given these, scenes of violence cannot be avoided no matter how sanitized and funny the set-ups are. Those scenes result in slapsticks and crude humor. The minions and poop jokes are able to elicit laughter from the young audience, and much of it is rather neutral and harmless.  Looking at the larger context, Gru’s character transformation from a seemingly bad villain to a good spy is commendable. This is further reinforced when he takes the role of a father to three girls. He becomes overly protective when one of his daughters starts to fall in love with someone whom he finds totally incompatible. Towards the end of the feature, the good still triumphs over evil and family and love relationships remain to be a powerful force even in a world dominated by villains. But then again, given the theme and adult humor, CINEMA deems Despicable Me 2 as fit for audiences 13 years old and below, with parental guidance.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Wolverine


CAST:  Hugh Jackman, Rila Fukushima , Tao Okamoto, Haruhiko Yamanouchi  DIRECTOR:  James Mangold  SCREENWRITER:  Mark Bomback, Scott Frank  PRODUCER:  Joseph M. Caracciolo Jr., Hugh Jackman, Hutch Parker, Lauren Shuler Donner  EDITOR:  Michael McCusker  MUSIC:  Marco Beltrami  GENRE:  Action, Adventure, Fantasy  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Ross Emery RUNNING TIME:  126 minutes  DISTRIBUTOR:   20th Century Fox  LOCATION:  Japan, Australia

Technical assessment:  3.5
Moral assessment:  2.5
MTRCB Rating: PG 13
CINEMA rating:  V 14

Logan, a.k.a. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is saved by and in turn saves a Japanese officer during the bombing of Nagasaki in World War II.  Determined to give up his fighting ways, the solitary Logan lives in anguish deep in the Canadian forests, burdened by his immortality and haunted by dreams and nightmares of his deceased lover, fellow mutant Jean Grey (Famke Janssen).  Before he can slash dead the toughies he encounters in a local bar, he is stopped by a young Japanese woman, Yukio (Rila Fukushima), who has been tracking him on the orders of her master, Yashida, the man Logan had saved during the war.  Master Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi) is now the most powerful businessman in Japan, but is dying and wants to thank Logan in his dying bed.  Logan reluctantly agrees to travel to Japan “only for one day”, but soon discovers that what Yashida really wants is the Wolverine’s immortality—which he asks Logan to transfer to his body.
            Wolverine is a refreshing change from superhero movies that rely heavily on computer-created monstrosities for impact.  Although there is towards the end a Robocop-like character that Logan must fight to death, most of the combat scenes involve people, real people whose fighting skills are enhanced by good choreography and crisp editing.  The story also makes it easier for the viewer to resonate with the characters because it has a here-and-now flavor and highlights struggles caused by human frailties such as greed, hunger for power, etc.  Consider it a bonus that most of the action takes place in Japan , where “nothing is without meaning”—for then the film gets to offer the viewer some insights and glimpses of a “different” culture, a 180-degree turn from the usual gangster movies shot in Chicago or New York.  The man-to-man chase on top of a speeding bullet train, particularly, teases the viewer to watch out for the “The Making of Wolverine” feature. 
            Wolverine highlights man’s appreciation of life and earthly power.  The self-preservation instinct is shown to be stronger than cultural conditioning, as demonstrated by a soldier’s unwillingness to commit hara-kiri when honor demands.  A healthy love of life, however, is corrupted by the lust for power which leads to one’s obsession to attain immortality.  But what for is power when one has to kill even one’s own child in order to possess it?  Why want to live longer when faced with an endless life of killing?  All told, Wolverine is a movie with a heart.  Warn teens, though: sex between unmarried persons is taken for granted here.  And there are no cops in sight, at least to count the bodies thrown out of trains, slashed, maimed, taken down by swords or arrows.  Well, perhaps mutants and martial artists scare them out of the scene.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Turbo

LEAD CAST:  Voices of Ryan Reynolds, Snoop Dogg, Bill Hader, Samuel Jackson, Maya Rudolf
DIRECTOR: David Soren  SCREENWRITER: Darren Lemke, David Soren and Robert Siegel  PRODUCER:  Lisa Stewart  EDITOR:  Noellen Westcombe  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Henry Jackman  GENRE:  Animation, family adventure  RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Chris Stover  DISTRIBUTOR:  20th Century Fox

Technical assessment:  3.5
Moral assessment:  2
MTRCB rating:  GP
CINEMA rating:  PG 13

            In a tomato patch in the garden of a suburban Los Angeles home lives a colony of snails whose days consist of consuming tomatoes to sustain themselves, and avoiding snail killers like crows, lawnmowers, and bike-riding brats.  Here we find Theo (Ryan Reynolds) who is dissatisfied with his lot, finds the snail life too slow, and longs for speed.  Theo’s spare time is spent sneaking into the garden shed to watch tapes of car races, finding special thrill in those won by his idol Guy Gagne (Bill Hader) whom he naturally wants to imitate.  Theo’s sensible older brother Chet (Paul Giamatti) advises him:  “The sooner you accept the dull, miserable nature of your existence, the happier you’ll be,” but Theo is deaf to it.  One night, fascinated by the automotive traffic he watches from an overpass railing, he falls and eventually gets sucked into a speeding vehicle’s fuel tank.  This turns the garden snail into a mighty mollusk, and from then on he would be called “Turbo”. 
            Life from the point of view of garden snails is sensitively rendered in the footages covering the tomato patch, effectively moving human imagination to empathize with the slow-moving creatures.  How awful it must be to exist only to survive from day to day, waiting for a ripe tomato to tumble down your path so you can eat, and learning the perfect moment to tuck and roll in order to avoid being killed!  On that premise, director David Soren, with fellow scriptwriters Darren Lemke and Robert Siegel, tries to justify a success story starring a small and weak character who’s thought to be incapable of greatness.  Don’t be surprised to hear “Eye of the tiger” theme from Rocky III in Turbo’s thumping soundtrack—that’s because Turbo evokes the spirit of Rocky Balboa in the way it champions the underdog in this fanciful animation.
            Turbo may be one of two movies showing at present without murders, homicides, the elimination of one’s enemies, or the annihilation of the human race, but it doesn’t mean it’s as wholesome as Cinderella.  It’s a whimsical tale of two sets of brothers—human and snail.  In either set, there is the realistic brother—believing in hard, repetitive work, accepting of reality, trying to talk sense into his more ambitious sibling—and the brother who dreams big and will try the untried in order to rise above his boring situation.  Contrasting values are well-presented, as though to leave the audience to themselves to take sides, but as the story develops it becomes apparent that the balance is tilted to favor the brothers who dream big and see their dream come true against all odds.   Because of the victory of Turbo, the taco brothers and the other shop owners in their neighborhood are able to improve their businesses.  
            In guiding your children through this movie, at least two things merit a careful glance: first, the supernatural powers the snail got from substances it would not normally ingest to nourish itself.  In the human experience there are chemicals that could produce a similar effect on users—making them feel they are superhuman and can fly and be invincible—and the illegal use of them is a crime.  Such use of boosting chemicals may look funny, even adorable, on a snail, but how will your imitative kids discern the difference?  Will it not send a message to children that in order to be strong or an achiever you have to imbibe of forbidden substances?
            Second:  Tito, the lazy brother in the taco stand, and the other shop owners bettered their lot through gambling.  They gambled—they did not think of changing their work attitudes, or of creative ways to improve their service, to upgrade their skills, or to offer higher quality goods to customers—they gambled.  What is this saying about hard and honest work?  What is to stop them (in possible a sequel) from egging Turbo on to another Indianapolis 500 race, investing in a sport that endangers the snail’s life while hoping to win more quick bucks?
            Imagine how different the story would be if Turbo got his powers from a pool of tomato juice (yes, like Popeye who got his muscles from downing canned spinach), and dreamed of things that would benefit the snail community (instead of competing in a sports that wastes the earth’s resources).  Then maybe, just maybe, CINEMA would give Turbo a GP rating, but as it is, we recommend strict parental guidance, even to adults who wouldn’t see anything suspicious in cartoons.