Monday, June 30, 2014

22 Jump Street

DIRECTOR: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller  LEAD CAST:  Johan Hill, Channing Tatum, Peter Stormare, Ice Cube SCREENWRITER:  Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel, Rodney Rothman  PRODUCER:  Neal H. Moritz, Johan Hill, Channing  EDITOR:   David Rennie MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Mark Mothersbaugh   GENRE:  Action & Adventure, Comedy  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Barry Peterson  DISTRIBUTOR:  Columbia Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer  LOCATION:  United States RUNNING TIME:  112 minutes

Technical assessment:  3.5
Moral assessment:  3
CINEMA rating:  V 14

A sequel to “21 Jump Street” (2012) this movie, like its predecessor, spoofs a television series first broadcast in 1987.  This time undercover agents Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) try to be creative and pose as brothers enrolled in Metropolitan City State College in pursuit of the drug dealer Ghost (Peter Stormare) who has introduced to the campus a substance that resembles cocaine.  Called “Why Phy”, the substance gives young people an energy boost and lends them heightened focus that lead to paranoia and death.  They realize the drug ring is not that easy to penetrate—despite their bravado a bust goes awfully wrong, and they get a tongue-lashing from their boss Deputy Chief Hardy (Nick Offerman) who rebukes them for not just relying on past successes.
The spoofy character of 22 Jump Street is early on disclosed by co-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller in the advice Chief Hardy gives the two undercover agents: “infiltrate the dealers, find the suppliers, just like the last time.”  Read between the lines, it means:  “Do the same thing as last time. Everyone's happy."  The chemistry between Hill and Tatum fuels the entire movie, and while the setting, many of the gags, and references to a particularly American culture may whizz above the heads of the average Filipino moviegoers, the plot which focuses on the dynamics of the duo’s relationships more than compensates for the lack. 
Marketed as a comedy (and therefore to most viewers light entertainment not to be taken seriously), 22 Jump Street elicits conflicting reactions from audiences.  On one hand it may be praised as a substantial and god-intentioned story clad in a goofy cloak and dagger costume; on the other its approach to spoofing is cheapened by vulgar language, crotch-level gags, subtle racism, and flippant jabs at religion.  For this reason the movie offers much for discussion between young ones and elders, either in school or at home.

Saturday, June 21, 2014


DIRECTOR: Darren Aronofsky  LEAD CAST: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Ray Wi nstone, Logan Lerman, Anthony Hopkins, Douglas Booth, Leo McHugh Carroll  SCREENWRITER:  Darren Aronofsky, Ari Handel  PRODUCER:  Scott Franlin, Darren Aronosky, Mary Parent, Arnon Milchan  EDITOR:  Andrew Weisblum
MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Clint Mansell  GENRE: Drama, Classics, Biblical Epic  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Matthew Libatique  DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount Pictures  LOCATION:  United States, Iceland, Mexico  RUNNING TIME:  138 minutes

TECHNICAL ASSESSMENT:  4                
MORAL ASSESSMENT:   3                  

“He speaks to you. You have to trust that he speaks in a way that you can understand.”
If you are expecting a peaceful, colourful, biblical story of your childhood, do not go see Noah, the 2014 movie.   Noah (Russell Crowe) is a good family man who is disturbed by dreams about the destruction of the world. He seeks his grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins) who tells him that the Creator has chosen him for a special task. “He speaks to you. You have to trust that he speaks in a way that you can understand.” What he understood was man has become so wicked that the Creator wants to annihilate humanity and he has to save the innocent. He builds an ark, with his wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly), his three sons Ham (Logan Lerman), Shem (Douglas Booth), Japheth (Leo McHugh Carroll), and adopted daughter Ila (Emma Watson). As the ark they are building nears its completion, with the help of the Watchers, heavenly beings doomed to the earth because of their disobedience, various animal species enter the ark. Tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone) arrives with his followers demanding they be allowed on board. The rains come in torrents, and the flood waters rise with the animals and Noah’s family safe in the ark, but the drama does not end.
Noah is a biblical epic, but it is a dark, brooding opus typical of Darren Aronofsky (see Black Swan, etc.). Aronofsky combines good biblical research, masterful storytelling and effective CGIs: the miraculous forest, the animals coming in droves to the ark, the terrifying but majestic waters of the Flood! Cinematography is at times visually stunning. The actors do not disappoint either. Russell Crowe inhabits Noah’s skin and exhibits his versatility as a tender father, a driven hero, a villain fighting his own demons, and trying to fulfil his mission as he understood it. Jennifer Connelly complements Crowe with her presence and heart. Anthony Hopkins still manages to deliver a believable Methuselah. Emma Watson and the young actors adequately portray their roles. Aronofsky takes a story we all know and presents it in a language 21st century men and women can grasp. He has been accused of taking so much liberty with the Bible account. His critics forget that the story of the flood was passed on from one generation to another orally before it was ever written with all the embellishments at each retelling.
Aronofsky’s latest work is a Noah story for adults because it challenges you to think. The recurring flashback montage of creation confronts the viewer with the wickedness of humans. And this wickedness, this sin, is shown as the cause of all the sufferings in the world, personified by Tubal-cain and his army. Noah comes face to face with this evil reflected in his own heart. And yet he has been given the sacred trust to care for the earth and to serve the justice of the Creator. So focused was he on obeying this mission that he is willing to sacrifice not only himself but everything, including the love and lives of his family. Although God is never mentioned in the film (he is called Creator), he is present and involved in the lives of his people: he guides, provides for and saves them. Despairing of what he thought was a failed mission, Noah discovers the Creator as a God not only of justice but of mercy and second chances, of forgiveness and new beginnings.
The overtly environmentalist message is another criticism. But what is wrong about the reminder to “take only what we need”? Can we not see the rape of nature currently happening in this day and age?  Are the extreme violence in the fight scenes and intense emotional confrontations in the movie alien to our reality? Or is it because we do not want to listen? We so bombard our ears, our eyes, our minds, our hearts with what we want that we cannot perceive the new life offered to us: peace, freedom, joy? Maybe, this is the flood story that we need to hear.
Would that Ila’s words to Noah resonate in the hearts of all: “He chose you for a reason. The choice was put in your hands for a reason.”

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Maybe this time

DIRECTOR: Jerry Lopez-Sineneng  LEAD CAST: Sarah Geronimo, Coco Martin, Ruffa Gutierrez
SCREENWRITER: Melai Mongue and Anton Santamaria  PRODUCER:  Star Cinema  GENRE: Romantic Comedy  LOCATION:  Antipolo/ Manila  RUNNING TIME:   1 hour: 55 mins.

Technical assessment: 2
Moral assessment: 3
CINEMA rating: V 13 (For viewers 13 years old and below with parental guidance)
Magkakatagpo ang landas nina Steph (Sarah Geronimo) at Tonio (Coco Martin) isang tag-araw ng mag-volunteer si Steph sa isang outreach project sa baryo nila Tonio. Bagama’t hindi kaaya-aya sa simula ang kanilang pagtatagpo, unti-unti pa rin silang magkakapalagayan ng loob hanggang sa tuluyan silang ma-in love sa isa’t-isa. Ngunit sa di-inaasahang pagkakataon ay bigla na lamang maglalaho si Tonio nang walang paalam kay Steph. Mangingiibang-bayan pala ito para magtrabaho. Maiiwang wasak ang puso ni Steph ngunit ipagpapatuloy pa rin niya ang buhay at magiging matagumpay siyang executive sa Maynila. Makalipas ang halos pitong taon, hindi niya akalain na magtatagpong muli ang kanilang landas. Maaatasan si Steph  na ihanda si Tonio para bumagay sa mundo ni Monica (Ruffa Gutierrez), ang boss ni Steph na siya na ngayong kasintahan ni Tonio.
Isang pelikulang naka-kahon sa formula ng Star Cinema romantic comedy ang Maybe This Time. Kitang-kita ang kamay ng produksyon sa pagpapatakbo ng kuwento at tila hindi na kelangan pang tapusin ang pelikula at alam na ng manonood ang kakahinatnan ng kuwento. Walang gaanong bigat sa mga karakter. Hindi ang karakter ang naging sentro ng pelikula kundi ang mga artista mismo. Halatang ibinagay lahat sa kanila ang kuwento pero ang naging resulta pa rin ay isang kuwentong pinilit gawing bagay ang mga artista at karakter na hindi bagay sa isa’t-isa. Bagama’t pasado naman ang pag-arte ng mga pangunahing tauhan, hindi maitatangging maraming eksensang pawang alangan ang mga karakter sa isa’t-isa. Sa kabuuan, walang gaanong mararamdaman sa pelikula dahil hindi nito nahalukay ang mga tunay na damdamin ng mga tauhan. Ang lahat ay nasa alaala at dayalogo na lang. Hindi gaanong ramdam ang kilig dahil pawang pilit ang pagtatambal sa mga tauhan, pati ang mga sitwasyong kanilang ginagawalan ay pawang mga hindi naka-angkla sa matibay na realidad.  Salamat na lang sa ilang masasaya at nakakatuwang eksena. Kahit paano, may kaunting aliw pa rin itong naidulot sa manonood.
Ang Maybe This Time ay sumasalamin sa maraming komplikasyon ng pag-ibig. Pinaka-sentro ng pelikula ay ang mga nakapaligid sa dalawang taong nagmamahalan. Laging sinasabi ng pelikula na hindi sapat ang pagmamahal sa isa’t-isa ngunit dapat ding isaalang-alang ang lipunang madalas ay pumupuna at nanghuhusga. Maaring ito ay totoong nangyayari at tunay nga namang hindi nararapat sa lahat ng pagkakataon. Maliwanag ang mensahe ng pelikula kung  ang usapin ng mapagmatang lipunan ang titingnan. Hindi rin naman maaaring husgasan ang kahinaan ng mga karakter sa pagdedesisyon lalo pa’t ito ay idikta ng lipunan at mga taong itinuturing na nakatataas tulad ng magulang at amo. Ngunit kahanga-hanga pa rin ang pagsunod ng mga tauhan sa ngalan ng wagas na pagmamahal. Kita namang malinis ang mga hangarin nila sa pag-ibig…at madalas din ay isinasa-isang-tabi nila ang kanilang sarili alang-alang sa pamilya. Marahil ang nais lang sabihin ng pelikula ay isang simpleng mensahe na ang tunay na pag-ibig ay nakapaghihintay ng tamang panahon at pagkakataon.

The fault in our stars

DIRECTOR: Josh Boone  LEAD CAST:  Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, Laura Dern, Sam Trammell, Willem Dafoe  SCREENWRITER:  Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber  PRODUCER:  Wyck Godfrey, Marty Bowen  EDITOR:  Robb Sullivan  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Mike Mogis, Nate Walcott  GENRE:  Drama, Comedy  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Ben Richardson  DISTRIBUTOR:  20th Century Fox  LOCATION:  United States, Amsterdam  RUNNING TIME:  126 minutes

Technical assessment:  3.5
Moral assessment:  3
MTRCB rating:  PG
CINEMA rating:  V 14

Sixteen-year-old Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) suffers from thyroid cancer and lugs around an oxygen tank connected to the tube in her nose.  She doesn’t look like she’s dying tomorrow, and in fact is the least sick-looking person in the church-run support group of fellow cancer patients her mother (Laura Dern) insists she attend.  In one of those group sessions she dutifully drags herself to each week, she (literally) bumps into Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), himself in remission since he lost one leg to osteosarcoma.  Augustus is there to accompany and support his one-eyed buddy Isaac, in danger of also losing the other eye to cancer.  For self-confident total charmer Gus, it’s probably love at first sight, but the sensible and cautious Hazel will not warm up until after a few meetings.  Just as when the sun is shining on Hazel and Gus’s world, a thunderstorm strikes and dark clouds form.  Sounds corny?
A wag once called The fault in our stars “Twilight on chemo”, it being an ill-starred romance between two cancer-stricken teenaged virgins whose optimism no cancer can corrupt.  To use-your-head viewers, the story is too good to be real or believed in, even manipulative in its attempt to capture its target demographics—not cancer patients but adolescent girls. To use-your-heart moviegoers, it’s a story movies need to tell and people ought to believe in nowadays.  From the sniffling going on inside the theater it seems there are more “hearts” than “heads” in the audience.  Credit is due to the convincing performances of Woodley and Elgort (sister and brother in Divergent), and the all-too-powerful portrayal by Willem Dafoe (as author Van Houten) for giving this midyear tear-jerker its unique selling point as it competes against biggies and heavies (Maleficent, Noah, Edge of Tomorrow, How to train your dragon 2, Blended) for the multiplex crowd’s attention.
Hazel, who does not want anyone to fall in love with her lest her early demise hurt that person, ends up (spoiler coming) grieving over a loss.  “It not fair,” she cries.  As though having terminal cancer weren’t bad enough, these young lovers must be heartbroken, too?  But even though cancer sufferers may never find physical healing, The fault in the stars shows there is another kind of healing to be found in the devotion and support of parents, in the sympathy of the community, and—with the stars cooperating—in the love of the one person who’ll make the greatest difference in one’s short life.  The director’s depiction of the well-intentioned but rather contrived approach of the church group in extending support to Hazel and other terminally ill patients presents a challenge to mission-oriented church organizations to examine why their act fall short of expectations.  Parents are cautioned, too, to be armed with answers in case their teenagers ask about the two virgins pursuing the innocent first kiss to its logical conclusion without the benefit of marriage.  

How to train your dragon 2

Direction: Dean DeBlois; Cast: Jay Banuchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill  Screenplay: Dean DebLois; Based on the book of Cressida Cowell  Producer: Bonnie Arnold;  Genre: Adventure/ Animation; Music: John Powell;  Distributor: Dreamworks Animation; Location: Berk Village  Running Time: 102 minutes 

Technical Aasessment:  4 
Moral assessment:  4  
MTRCB rating:  G 
CINEMA rating:  VA (Viewers of all ages) 
Five years after Hiccup (Jay Banuchel) has shown the Berks that men and dragons can peacefully co-exist as companions and friends, he faces the challenge of Stoick (Gerard Butler), chief of the tribe and father to him, to take over the leadership of his village. But Hiccup doubts he can handle the responsibility and prefers to explore the world with his dragon friend Toothless. In one of his adventures, Hiccup and his girlfriend, Astrid (Ferrera), stumble upon Eret (Kit Harrington) and his group of dragon trappers. The duo learn that Eret works for Drago, a cruel Viking who wants to take over Berk by assembling an army of dragons. Wanting to avoid conflict and protect the dragons, Hiccup ventures to confront Drago and talk him out of his plan amidst the objections of everyone else. Along the way, Hiccup is captured by Valka, a skilled dragon rider and tamer, who eventually happens to also be his long lost mother. As the story of Valka is revealed, so is Drago’s evil plans to conquer not only Berk but the entire mankind. When Stoick is accidentally killed by a hypnotized Toothless, Hiccup realizes he must stand up against Drago to fight for Berk, for the dragons and for peace. 

How to train your dragon 2 surpasses its predecessor in visual feats and animated action. The recreated world of dragons and Berk are such spectacular joys. John Powell’s scoring, although not as dynamic as the first movie, still brings shivers with the triumph and excitement of his powerful and playful music. While it is contextually deeper and more grounded, the pacing at times moves a little too slow—probably to allow the audience to digest the emotions served in family reunions and display of bravery. While it gave the storytelling intensity, it took away a pinch of fluidity into the action sequences. Valka’s character was supposed to provide the narrative highlight but her motivations and portrayal feel damp and underdeveloped.  However, the movie’s clever comedy and lovable characters makes it worth the hour’s queuing at the ticket booth. 

The movie offers so much inspiring moral worldviews. It tackles leadership and responsibility with Hiccup’s initial hesitation to fill in Stoick’s shoes and eventual realization that choices made for service and common good is what a true leader really is. Family plays a dominant theme in the film as well. We see a better father figure now in Stoick who accepts and respects his son’s choices although he still would defend and protect him at all cost. Bravery and selflessness is redefined with a father offering his life for his family and the people he serves. We see a loving and forgiving husband in him as well when without question or anger, he lets his love for his wife resurface after almost 20 years. And like its predecessor, the themes of peaceful co-existence and respect for others prevail. It reinforces that neither hostility nor domination over God’s creation are acceptable. We are all called to be stewards and to love unconditionally so that we can experience prosperity and peace as did the Berk’s when they learned to care for the dragons. However, parents are cautioned against bringing their very young children because some actions and dragons might be too scary for them.