Saturday, May 31, 2014

X-Men Days of Future Past

Director: Bryan Singer  Lead cast:  Hugh Jackman, Michael Fassbender, Peter Dinklage, Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Nicholas Hoult, Anna Paquin, Ellen Page  Screenplay:  Simon Kinberg  Music:  John Ottman Cinematography:  Newton Thomas Sigel Editor: John Ottman  Genre: Action, adventure, sci-fi, fantasy Distributor: 20th Century Fox Location:  China, Paris, Washington DC  Running time: 131

Technical assessment:  3
Moral assessment:  3
MTRCB rating: PG
CINEMA Rating:  V14 

Kitty Pride (Ellen Page) uses her ability to project a person’s mind back in time to launch a  mission of changing the course of events that could have determined the fate of X-Men eternally.  One crucial step of the mission is to prevent Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating Sentinel leader Trask (Peter Dinklage) and not to make him a martyr for manipulating the future of mutants. This mission sends Logan’s (Hugh Jackman) consciousness back in time from 2023 to 1973.  Logan seeks and convinces Charles to cooperate in freeing Magneto (Michael Fassbender/Ian McKellen) from prison and be part of the mission.  With the help of fast-moving mutant Maximoff /Quicksilver (Evan Peters) who penetrates the prison cell in The Pentagon, Magneto is freed.  In Paris where the negotiation to end the Vietnam war is taking place, Raven impersonates a Vietnamese officer in order to kill Trask. 
            X-Men Days of the Future Past is a spectacular movie that offers exciting effects to the thrills of the viewers. The idea of travelling back in time has always been a treat to moviegoers. The plot development struggles a bit as always the problem with multiple characters. However, it still succeeds in keeping the focus of the story which is the mission.  The movie successfully weaves into a fresh conflict previous installment plots which rationally allows the resurrection of old characters. It helps if a viewer has seen the previous X-Men movies so they can build on the storyline of each character. There is not much to commend in acting except for Lawrence's flawless portrayal of an indignant woman searching for retribution and Dinklage’s depiction of a scientist consumed by the desire to eliminate those who are different. Viewers celebrate the charismatic connection between past and present Professor X and Magneto in McCoy and Fassbender (the younger version) and Stewart and Mckellan (the older versions). The director is an emotional storyteller with a keen sense of balancing post production techniques with the narrative.
            If there is one thing that works in this genre, it is the ability to explore the struggle to be human. There is tenderness and vulnerability as it outstandingly portrays heroism, wit, friendship and survival interjected in historical events; humor is also injected through the blindingly fast moves of Peters’ character, Quicksilver.  Amidst the consecutive superhero movies, this reimaging of X-Mens delightfully reminds viewers how overpowering this genre is.  Trust amidst betrayal, self-sacrifice against self-preservation, heroism in the face of extinction. These are some of the more prominent themes the film delivers.  But more importantly, it emphasizes that trust, sacrifice and heroism are weapons we can use to make our future better.  We might not have the capability of going back in time to rewrite history but destiny is not a pre-determined course.  Every single day, through our choices, we have the ability to redeem ourselves and make the world better for everyone. Charles Xavier beautifully says that no person is permanently evil as long as he has the desire and will to reform his life. While there are flawed moral discourses both on insisting on diplomacy, human nature and survival, the overall message drives home a strong point. The film has several scenes and material inappropriate for children below 13, parents are advised to provide adequate guidance.

Thursday, May 29, 2014


Direction: Robert Stromberg;  Cast: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlito Copley, Sam Riley, ; Story : based on Little Briar Rose by The Brothers Grimm; Screenplay: Linda Woolverton; Cinematography: Dean Semler;  Editing: Chris Lebenzon, Richard Pearson;  Music: James Newton Howard; Producers: Angelina Jolie, Joe Roth; Genre: Fantasy;  Location: Earth; Distributor: Walt Disney Motion Pictures Running Time: 97 minutes;

Technical Assessment : 3.5
Moral Assessment : 4
MTRCB Rating : G
Cinema Rating V 13 (Age 13 and below with Parental Guidance)

Young Maleficent is a sweet-natured powerful fairy protector of the magical creatures (Moors).  She befriends Stefan, a human boy who tries to steal a jewel from her world.  Although ambitious in his single minded desire to live in the king’s castle when he grows up, Stefan shows concern for Maleficent when he throws away his ring, his only possession, so he can touch her hand.  Over the years, Maleficent and Stefan grow closer.  He supposedly gives her a true love’s kiss before he disappears.  Meanwhile, the world of men and world of Moors coexisted until King Henry decided he needed to squelch the growing powers of the fairies.  An older Maleficent (Jolie) with her Moor allies stand up against the human army and mortally wounds King Henry. In retribution, the king decrees that anyone who kills Maleficent will inherit the throne. Apparently, Stefan (Copley) has found a way in the King’s court and betrays his old friend Maleficent so he can become king. Wounded emotionally and physically, Maleficent with the aide of Diaval (Riley) attends Stefan’s daughter’s christening to curse the infant as her revenge. Stefan asks the three pixies to hide Princess Aurora in the woods until her 16th birthday so she can outlive the curse. Meanwhile, Maleficent closely watches Aurora growing up. Eventually her hardened heart melts in fondness for the young girl’s innocence and kindness. Unfortunately, even she cannot lift the curse bestowed upon Aurora.  In her desire to save Aurora, she braves the iron thorns King Stefan has built around his castle to bring Prince Philip whom she believes will give true love’s kiss. But what is true love?

While professional movie critics complain about the flimsiness of the storyline, the movie remains powerfully engaging if only because of Jolie’s strong performance. Jolie owned Maleficent, as only she can be convincingly dark and light, cruel and loving, spiteful and selfless. Needless to say, all other portrayals paled in comparison. As delightful as Jolie’s interpretation of a betrayed woman whose heart is slowly turning to stone, are the visual effects and production design of the film. Seamless and imaginative, it recreates a magical yet disturbing world. Of course, the lazy narrative cannot be overlooked as it lends too many unanswered question on the characters and motives (How did Stefan manage to be in line for the throne? How dutiful is King Henry’s daughter that she needed to be her father’s successor’s wife? Why did Maleficent not use her magic to retrieve her wings?) But this is meant to be an adult interpretation of a fairy tale so certain narrative lapses can be tolerated in favor of the overall impact of the film.  Besides, how many times are the antagonists of literature given a chance to air their side of the story?  The movie tried to tone down violence but certain scenes may be scary for audiences below 7.

People who are consumed by their negative emotions eventually lose who they are. Even the purest, the most gentle or kindest, once hurt, can transform into a monster.  People in pain regress, withdraw and pretentiously revel in the misery they cause unto the people who hurt them. But they are not happy.  King Stefan and Maleficent represent pent up anger, bitterness and hatred.  While Stefan spiraled down desperation and mistrust, Maleficent opened up her heart and allowed love to heal her.  Cliché as it may sound, but truly love heals all wounds—even those that run deep and wide.  We only have to let go of the pain and learn from past mistakes. Maleficent even learned something more—the meaning of true love—a love that made her willing not only to lift her own curse but also stake her life just to save a loved one. It is also a refreshing statement that true love is not the feeling after meeting a good looking person for the first time but the willingness to change, to sacrifice and to be good looking in the inside for the sake of the beloved. While Maleficent may not become a cinematic classic, it still delivers strong messages on love, redemption and, of course, peaceful co-existence between humankind and nature.


Direction: Gareth Edwards; Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche; Story : David Callaham; Screenplay: Max Borenstein; Cinematography: Seamus McGarvey;  Editing: Bob Ducsay;  Music: Alexandre Desplat; Producers: Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni; Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, ;  Location: Japan, USA; Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures Running Time: 123 minutes

Technical assessment:  3
Moral assessment:  3
MTRCB rating:  PG
Cinema rating:  V14

Sometime in the 50s, a hugged spiked creature rises from the waters as a bomb detonates. In 1999, an unknown skeleton of a huge creature and two hatched eggs are being investigated by Serizawa (Watanabe) and Graham (Hawkins) in a mining site in the Philippines. Then after, a series of seismic radioactivities has been observed in Japan. Power plant supervisor Joe Brody (Cranston) asks a team, led by his wife Sandra (Binoche), to investigate the activity, which unfortunately turns disastrous and kills the entire team. Fifteen years after, Joes son, Ford (Taylor-Johnson), an explosive officer of the US Navy, goes to Japan to bail his father out of prison after trespassing in his former plant which is now part of the quarantined area.  They discover that the quarantine is actually a cover up for a creature hatching inside a chrysalis and feeding off radiation. The chrysalis hatches and from it emerges a MUTO. (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) which apparently has been in communication with another creature in San Francisco. Meanwhile, Godzilla, the gigantic creature present during the 1954 bomb explosion, travels to the US to hunt the MUTOs.  Amidst an impending nuclear strike aimed to kill the three monsters before they create further damage, Ford tries to destroy the MUTOs nest to allow Godzilla to successfully fight them.

While sci-fi disaster movies tend to bank on a human-interest story, Godzilla fails to connect its lead characters to its viewers mainly because of the stiff performances, one-dimensional characters and dreary script. What makes up for this is the brilliant art direction responsible for the creature design, special effects and monster fighting. Although director Edwards succeeds in keeping the suspense by showing only glimpses of the monsters until the 2nd half, it lacks the tension of a monster-disaster movie.  Despite providing the mandatory large-scale destruction, the action is basically extended, repetitive and feels worn-out.  Godzilla tried but failed to offer anything new after six decades of countless remakes.

Godzilla presents two main themes: family and the consequences of abusing nature.  Family relationship is a primary motivating factor to survive and help others. Moreover, the welfare of the family becomes the ultimate goal in the decisions and actions of a person. In times of crisis, a person can forgo his personal motives and sacrifice for the sake of the ones he loves. On the other hand, the repercussions of human irresponsibility and greed results in monster-like situations that come back to bite society. More often, every single disaster and calamity is a direct cause of hunger for wealth and power. The movie reiterates that man will always lose against the wrath of nature. While Godzilla in this version is presented as a savior against the MUTO, he does so with much violence and gore with so many minutes dedicated to repeated destruction, explosion and human casualties.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The other woman

DIRECTOR: Nick Cassavetes  LEAD CAST: Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Kate Upton, Don Johnson, Taylor Kinney, Nicki Minaj  SCREENWRITER: Melissa K. Stack  PRODUCER:  Julie Yorn & company  EDITOR: Jim Flynn & Alan Heim  MUSICAL DIRECTOR: Aaron Zigman  GENRE: Romantic Comedy  CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robert Fraisse  DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox  LOCATION:  USA RUNNING TIME:   109 minutes

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

High powered Manhattan lawyer Carly Whitten (Cameron Diaz) clears the bench of former lovers, having now fallen in love with Mark King (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), a charming, hot, suave and thoughtful (but married) man.  Frustrated that Mark is begging off from a dinner date to meet Carly’s father in order to attend to some plumbing problem in his Connecticut home, Carly, on the advice of her father (Dan Johnson), nonetheless pays him a surprise visit, only to be met at the door by Mark’s wife Kate (Leslie Mann). The encounter between lawyer and wife leads to an odd partnership that will lead to an even odder triad when the two women discover another mistress, Amber (Kate Upton). 

The story may be flimsy and improbable, bordering on the female fantasy of teaching a philandering husband a bitter lesson, but achieves its aim to entertain by delivering enough funnies.  The funnies and the humor also swing from witty to crass but director Cassavetes must have deliberately made it so, exaggeration being a hallmark of fantasy.  The humor carousel is such that some lines will make you guffaw, while some scenes will elicit an “Eeew!” or a “Yuck!” from you.  The actors couldn’t have been more seamlessly cast though their roles tend to be stereotypical, and yet, everything syncs.  In fact, The Other Woman could have been titled “The Lawyer, the Wife and the Boobs”, and still deliver its brutal best with a brainy Diaz, an unraveling Mann and a bikini-filling Upton in the title roles.  And oh yes, for good measure throw in “the Cad” for Waldau, the same cad who does nasty things with his sister as Jaime Lannister in TV’s “Game of Thrones.”        
The thing to ask is—is it believable?  Can a weird sense of sisterhood grow and bind erstwhile rivals all in a month’s time?  Could a number of women who fall for the same man be real friends with one another to get even with a rat of a man in the name of justice?  Can justice be served simply by returning stolen money, tossing your wedding ring into the sea, or getting a divorce?  Because of The Other Woman’s theme—adultery treated lightly—CINEMA will give the movie a V18 rating.  The laughs and easy solutions tend to trivialize a serious malady in marital circles, infidelity, which in real life deserves much more than just a cursory glance in order to be understood and dealt with.  The Other Woman is a romantic comedy all right, but it is a comedy for mature adults.  For viewers with susceptible minds, such as children and teenagers still developing a sense of values, The Other Woman could be caramel coated poison.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

So it's you

DIRECTOR: Jun Lana  LEAD CAST: Carla Abellana, Tom Rodriguez, JC De Vera, Joey Marquez, Arlene Muhlach, Bangs Garcia  SCREENWRITER: Jun Lana  PRODUCER:  Regal Films  GENRE: Comedy  LOCATION:  Manila  RUNNING TIME:  1 hour: 55 mins.

Technical Assessment: 2.5
Moral Assessment: 3
MTRCB rating:  PG
CINEMA Rating: For viewers 13 years old and below with parental guidance

Si Lira (Carla Abellana) ay iniwan ng kanyang kasintahang si Tony (JC De Vera) sa araw mismo ng kanilang kasal.  Maraming araw at buwan ang makalilipas ngunit sadyang di pa rin malilimutan ni Lira si Tony kahit pa ang lagi niyang ipinapakita sa madla ay masaya na siyang muli.  Si Goryo  (Tom Rodrguez) naman ay isang sapatero ama ng isang pipi na mag-isa niyang itinataguyod.  Ang dati niyang kinakasama (Bangs Garcia) ay ikakasal na rin sa kasintahan nito. Sa isang hindi inaasahang pagtatagpo ay magku-krus ang landas nina Goryo at Lira.  Magkakagaanan sila ng loob at maisisiwilat sa isa’t isa ang mga dinadalang damdamin. Si Lira, ibubuhos ang sama ng loob kay Tony na malapit na ring ikasal at si Goryo ay ganun din. Magpapasya silang magpanggap bilang magnobyo at dadalo sila sa kasal ng kani-kanilang mga dating kasintahan. Lingid sa kaalaman ni Lira ay unti-unti nang nahuhulog ang loob ni Goryo sa kanilang pagpapanggap. Si Lira naman ay nag-aasam pa ring maagaw si Tony. Sino kaya ang magkakatuluyan sa huli?

Nagsubok maghain ang So it’s you ng napapanahong romantic comedy pero nabigo ito sa paglalahad ng matinong kuwento.  Wala sa hulog at sa tamang pag-iisip ang pangunahin nitong tauhan na si Lira na hindi malaman at hindi maintindihan ng mga manonood kung bakit patay na patay kay Tony. Bukod sa guwapo at mayaman, wala nang ibang katangian pa si Tony upang manatiling in-love si Lira dito sa kabila ng pagtalikod sa kanya nito sa araw mismo ng kanilang kasal. Nang dumating sa buhay ni Lira si Goryo, kitang mayroon na siyang pagpipilian, ngunit sa di pa rin maipaliwanag ng pelikula ang dahilan, mas pinipili pa ring pilit ni Lira ang sarili kay Tony. Walang mga sapat at matibay na motibasyon ang mga tauhan sa kanilang pagmamahal. Maliban kay Goryo, pawang mga hindi na totoong tao ang mga tauhan sa pelikula. Sayang ang galing ng mga nagsiganap lalo na si Abellana at Rodriguez. Maging ang paggamit ng mga uso sa internet at social media ay pawang ipinilit lang para masabing “modern” ang pelikula pagka’t wala itong masyadong kinalaman sa takbo ng kuwento. Hindi rin malaman ng pelikula kung ito ba ay magpapatawa, magpapaiyak, o sabay dahil parang hindi sila magkasundo-sundo kung ano ba ang nais nilang maramdaman ng mga manonood.

Kaakibat ng mga kakulangan sa kuwento ay ang kakulangan din sa dalisay na mensahe ng pelikula. Ano ba talaga ang nais nitong sabihin? Si Lira, bilang isang desperada ay gagawin ang lahat magbalik lamang ang nobyong nang-iwan sa kanya. Nagkabalikan sila sa kabila ng maraming pagpapanggap at sa panahon na kung saan ay dapat niyang ipinagtulakan si Tony sa asawa nitong nangangailangan. Bumawi sa bandang huli si Lira ngunit hindi malinaw kung bakit matagal bago niya gawin ang tama at nararapat. Si Goryo ay may malinis na hangarin kay Lira at siya ang pinaka-dalisay sa lahat ng tauhan. Magandang halimbawa siya sa mga kalalakihan at mga haligi ng tahanan. Ang tauhan ni Goryo ang nagsasabing may pag-asa pa sa pagmamahal dahil mayroon pa ring handang maghintay at magsakripisyo alang-alang sa minamahal. Hindi naman masyadong nabigyan ng pansin ang anak ni Goryo na may kapansanan. Pawang hindi malinaw kung bakit ginawa pang pipi ang karakter. Hindi malinaw ang koneksiyon ng kanyang kapansanan sa kabuuan ng kuwento. Hindi tuloy nabigyan ng karampatang hustisya ang katayuan ng mga batang tulad nila sa lipunan. Pipi na nga ang bata, wala pa rin siyang naging malinaw na boses sa kuwento. Maging ang ilang mga moral na usapin ay nakalimutan nang payabungin sa pelikula tulad ng pagmamalabis at pag-aaksaya ng yaman, ang pagkunsinti sa gawing homosekswal at pag-iwan sa asawa sa panahon ng karamdaman. Mga seryosong usapin na naligaw na lang sa kawalan at hindi binigyang-pansin.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The amazing Spider-man 2

DIRECTOR:  Marc Webb  LEAD CAST:  Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Colm Feore, Felicity Jones, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, Paul Giamati, Sally Field  SCREENWRITER:  Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner  PRODUCER:  Avi Arad, Matt Tolmach  EDITOR:  Pietro Scalia, Elliot Graham   MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Hans Zimmer, The Magnificent Six   GENRE: Drama, Action & Adventure, Science Fiction & Fantasy  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Daniel Mendel  DISTRIBUTOR:  Columbia Pictures  LOCATION:  United States  RUNNING TIME:  142 minutes

Technical assessment:  3.5
Moral assessment:  3.5
CINEMA rating:  V 14
In one of Spider-man's (Garfield) crime-fighting adventures, he gets to save Max Dillion (Foxx), a lonely and unrecognized Oscorp Engineer who later believes that they have formed a deep friendship. Spider-man/Peter Parker gets a call from his girlfriend Gwen (Stone) who is about to deliver her Valedictory message in their high school graduation rites as Peter sees a vision of her father who seems to remind him to stay away from Gwen. Eaten by guilt, Peter confides to Gwen but she decides to break up as she can no longer keep up with the emotional roller-coaster Peter drags him to everytime he feels guilty. Meanwhile, Max falls into a tank full of genetically altered electric eels and gets transformed into a electricity-generating freak. At the same time, Harry Osborne (DeHaan) returns to New York and discovers he has inherited his father's disease and only Spider-man's blood could cure him. However, Maxx/Electro and Harry both feel betrayed when Spider-man steals the limelight and moment of recognition from the former and refuses to give blood to the latter. Simultaneously, Peter discovers the truth about his parents’ disappearance as Gwen follows her hunch about Max and snoops for his files in Oscorp. Spider-man/Peter tries to catch Gwen who is on the way to the airport to fly to Europe but Electro causes another blackout in the city and the two team up to fight and destroy him. Harry, now transformed as Green Goblin, arrives and deduces Spider-man's true identity. Vowing revenge for Spider-man's refusal, Green Goblin kidnaps Gwen.

            The Amazing Spider-man 2's greatest strength is the honest vulnerability of the characters—from Peter to Aunt May. It exposes certain human traits and allows the narrative to poke at them gently so that the audience also feels the tinge of pain and helplessness. But it does not allow the viewers to wallow in desperation or tears like a melodrama does, because very timely, goofy Spider-man comes and throws his one liners or Gwen and Peter electrify the screen with their genuine chemistry. The film is successful at garnering emotional investment from viewers so that they understand not only the characters' back stories but also their motivations. While its storytelling does have one too many webbed subplots, foreshadowing helps explain and tie the narrative together in the end. There is no question about the post production works and special effects. Every battle scene between Spider-man and his enemy is gives roller-coaster highs and thrills (even in 2D).
            The movie has several good points : a positive father-son plot where each other's love is tested and withstands time and trials, a strong warning on the corrupting influence of resentment and desperation, a superhero who becomes a role-model for children, and having courage over pain and failure. But more importantly, the message of hope and selflessness resounds throughout the movie. Explicitly laid down during Gwen's speech, viewers are challenged to be beacons of hope not only as an empty symbol or image but by doing what is right and what is good all the time, regardless of appreciation or recognition. And as one rallies to bring hope through one's choices and actions for the common good, he develops a spirit of self-sacrifice, incorruptibility and commitment to the common good. On the side, The Amazing Spider-man 2 gives us a heroine who is not a helpless high pitch damsel in distress but a strong-willed and intelligent woman who knows what she wants, makes her own choices and supports the man she loves to the end. The Amazing Spider-man 2 may not please everyone, especially those who feel that is merely an expensive movie whose director is undecided whether it is a love story or a superhero film but it does leave a positive impression which will last longer than the criticisms.  Some action sequences and themes may be too violent for very young audiences.