Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Step up, all in

DIRECTOR: Trish Sie   LEAD CAST:  Ryan Guzman, Briana Evigan, Alyson Stoner, Adam Sevani, Isabella Miko, Mari Koda, Christopher Scott, Luis Rosado  SCREENWRITER:  John Swetnam  PRODUCER:  Jennifer Gibgot, Adam Shankman  EDITOR:  Niven Howie  PRODUCTION DESIGNER: Devorah Herbert  COSTUME DESIGNER: Soyon An  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Jeff Cardoni   GENRE:  Drama, Romance, Musical & Performing Arts  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Brian Person   DISTRIBUTOR:  Summit Entertainment, Lionsgate  LOCATION:  United States  RUNNING TIME:  122 minutes
Technical assessment:  3  Moral assessment: 3
CINEMA rating: V14  MTRCB rating:  PG

A squabble over financial issues leads to a split up between Sean (Ryan Guzman) and the dancing group Mob.  The group returns to Florida while Sean is left alone to slug it out in Los Angeles, applying for a job in a dance hall owned by the immigrant parents of his friend Moose (Adam Sevani).  Humiliated that the job he gets is not as a dancer but as a janitor, he has no choice but to take it, burdened with a long overdue rent.  Soon he learns about The Vortex, a dance contest in Las Vegas hosted by Alexxa Brava (Isabella Miko), and wastes no time putting together a dance group, determined to compete, especially as the winning group will get a three-year contract in Las Vegas as prize.  In the contest, Sean finds his new group competing not only with the formidable Grim Knights but also with his ex-crew, the Mob.
Moviegoers who come to see Step Up All In for the dance move—and not for a psychological insight into young dancers aspiring to leave their mark in a ruthless industry—will not be disappointed because the plot, trite and even more predictable than the series’ four predecessors, is all but overshadowed by the spectacular dance numbers.  Director Sie—music video director and former competitive ballroom dancer—made sure her team of three choreographers delivers the clever and eye-popping fresh moves to inspire the young moviegoers with a yen for dance contests.  If the thin plot and the matching acting seem like a cure for insomnia, the 3D dances are like caffeine consumed intravenously.
This is not to say that Step Up All In is totally bereft of a redeeming message.  Determination is one value that is emphasized, particularly for talented young people facing all sorts of difficulties.  The movie is strong on pursuing one’s dream at all cost, including humbling oneself and taking on menial jobs in the hope of being in the right place at the right time in order to turn dreams into reality.  Admirable, too, is the new realization among the dancers that winning the competition is not the end all and be all of dancing, and that developing the art is a most worthy motive. 

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Direction: Matt Reeves; Cast: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Toby Kebbel, Ken Russel; Screenplay: Mark Bomback,Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver based on the Pierre Boulle’s Planet of the Apes; Producer: Peter Chemin, Dylan Clark; Editing: William Hoy, Stan Salfas; Music: Michael Giacchino; Genre: Sci-Fi Action; Distributor: 20th Century Fox ; Location: San Francisco Running Time: 131 minutes
Technical Assessment: 3  Moral Assessment: 3.5 
MTRCB Rating: G     CINEMA rating: V14
            In 2016, the ALZ-113 virus—the genetic drug developed in Rise of the Planet of the Apes to cure Alzheimer’s disease but enhanced the intelligence of Apes and became deadly to humanshas spread causing humanity to totally collapse. Ten years, later, some of remaining survivors immune to the virus establishe a colony in the ruins of San Francisco but are badly in need of replacement for their dwindling power supply. A group led by Malcolm (Jason Clarke) travel to the Mur Woods and get confronted by two apes. In a moment of panic, the humans shoot one of the apes and the next minute stand face to face with thousands of highly intelligent apes led by Caesar (Andy Serkis). Malcolm and the group return to their home but Caesar decides to remind the humans that the apes will protect their home as well. In a show of force, Caesar and the rest of his ape leaders enter the human refuge and tell them to keep off their territory. But Malcolm convinces his fellow leader, Dreyfuss (Gary Oldman) to give his team three days to try to talk to the apes to allow them to repair an old dam which could provide electricity to their community.  Malcolm and Caesar reach a truce and eventually earn each other’s trust. However, Koba (Toby Kebbell), Caesar’s second-in-command who still holds a grudge against humans for being maltreated as a laboratory experiment, betrays Caesar, incites the apes to revolt against Caesar’s teachings and starts a war against the humans.
            The greatest strength of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the level of emotions both the narrative and the expression of the apes give us. It is amazing how the faces of the apes deliver the range of feelings while suspending our belief that they are still non-human. The motion actors (those performing as apes) make up for the very little requirement from human actors. The scoring is brilliant, punctuating excitement and drama in a specific way. This being said, the latter action sequences of apes fighting humans and Caesar fighting Koba are indulgent—a little tightening could have served the film better. While the storyline is heart-tugging it not entirely new, and while the computer-images are impressive, they are not distinctive. Nonetheless, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a passionately insightful film whose sequel is worth waiting for.
          Society is a matter of trust. It would be hard to perform one’s responsibility if you do not have faith in one another. Trust relies on love and selflessness as its foundation. Trust, in turn, is the precursor of respect and peace. Leadership necessitates trust because it is not about power or who dominates whom but about who helps, who espouses peace and who desires to sacrifice for the greater good. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes also emphasizes family—both the immediate and societal. At the end of the day, a good leader serves his people for the sake of his family and theirs as well. Although the film delivers a strong positive message, some themes and violent action sequences are not appropriate for younger audiences.

She's dating the gangster

DIRECTOR:  Cathy Garcia-Molina  LEAD CAST:  Kathryn Bernardo, Daniel Padilla, Sofia Andres, Khalil Ramos, Pamu Pamorada, Richard Gomez, Dawn Zulueta  SCREENWRITER:  Bianca B. Bernardino (based on a novel) Carmi Raymundo  PRODUCER:  Malou Santos, Charo Santos-Concio  MUSIC: Jonathan Manalo  GENRE:  Romantic Comedy-Drama  DISTRIBUTOR:  Star Cinema  LOCATION:  Philippines RUNNING TIME:   105 minutes
Technical assessment:  3.5  Moral assessment: 3.5  
 MTRCB rating: PG  CINEMA rating: V14
Galit si Kenneth (Daniel Padilla) sa ama niyang si Kenji (Richard Gomez) dahil akala niya hindi siya minahal nito, at naging malungkot ang buhay ng kanyang yumaong ina. Pero nagkukumahog siya ngayong papunta sa Legaspi at umaasang nakaligtas ito sa isang airplane crash. Kasama niya si Kelay (Kathryn Bernardo) na gusto ring dalhin si Kenji sa kanyang tiyahing si Athena (Dawn Zulueta) na malapit nang mamamatay. Habang nagbibiyahe ay ikinuwento ni Kelay kay Kenneth ang dakilang pag-ibig ni Kenji at Athena. Noong high school pa sila, pinilit ni Kenji (Daniel Padilla) si Athena (Kathryn Bernardo) na magkunwaring kasintahan nito upang pagselosin ang ex-girlfriend niyang si Athena Abigail (Sofia Andres). Hindi nila inakalang sa pagkukunwaring ito magsisimula ang isang tunay na pag-ibig. Subalit ano nga ba ang tunay na pag-ibig?
Ang She’s Dating the Gangster ay halaw sa isang online nobelang isinulat ni Bianca B. Bernardino na inilathala sa Wattpad. Mahirap isapelikula ang isang nobela dahil madalas ay hindi maisalarawan ito nang sapat. Sa She’s Dating the Gangster, napakaraming pagbabago ang ginawa ng screenwriter na si Carmi Raymundo: mga katangian ng mga tauhan, balangkas ng kuwento, pati ang panahon, ang katapusan, atbp. Para itong pinaghalong Romeo and Juliet at The Fault in Our Stars pero hindi isang karaniwang romantic comedy ang She’s Dating the Gangster.  Karaniwang sinasabi, kapag naisapelikula ang isang nobela, na mas mainam ang libro kaysa sa pelikula. Taliwas ang nangyari sa pelikulang ito. Naging makulay at katuwa-tuwa ang paglipat sa dekada 90 ng kwento, pati na rin ang pagsasalarawan nito at mga kasuotan.  Kahit na halatang naka-wig si Bernardo ay magaling niyang naisakatuparan ang kanyang papel bilang Athena. Akma din at bagay kay Padilla ang pagiging gangster—na sa pelikula, maging sa nobela, ay nangangahulugang: “irritating, loud, and he’s not sweet! He’s weird, he smokes, he drinks, he goes clubbing on a weekday, and he fights and bullies a lot… He is very moody and a bit blunt.” Makatotohanan nilang naipamalas ang mundo ng mga kabataan sa panahong iyon, pati na ang mga problemang kinaharap nila. Dahil sa mahusay na pamamatnubay ng direktor na si Cathy Garcia-Molina, nabalanse ang mga eksenang nakakatawa at nakakakilig at mga eksenang ma-drama. May mga eksenang medyo pilit at masasabing imposibleng mangyari, pero dahil mahusay gumanap ang mga aktor ay pwede na itong palampasin. Ipinakita din sa pelikula ang marilag na bulkang Mayon, isa sa tinaguriang Seven Wonders of Nature sa buong mundo, at ang kagandahan ng karatig-pook. Nakatulong din ang angkop na musika ng dekada 90.
Natural ang pagrerebelde ng kabataan, pero sa kaso ni Kenji, tumindi ito dahil sa kawalan ng pagmamahal ng mga magulang. Uhaw sa pagmamahal, handa siyang gawin ang lahat magkabalikan lang sila ni Abigail, kahit na pilitin si Athena na magkunwaring kasintahan niya. Naipakita ng direktor ang “adolescent angst” at ang paglalim ng pagiging magkaibigan at pagmamahalan ni Kenji at Athena na hindi kinasangkapan ang sex. Sa pelikula, pinatunayan din ni Athena ang katapangan hindi lang sa kanyang pamumuhay ng normal sa kabila ng malalang karamdaman, kundi sa pagpaparaya alang-alang sa iba. Isang anggulo ng pagmamahal ang malakas na isinisigaw ng pelikula—walang pag-ibig na walang sakripisyo. At ang pinaka-malaking sakripisyo ay ang kalimutan ang sarili para sa minamahal. Pero hindi kailangang mabuhay sa takot. Sapagkat sabi nga ni Athena: “Pagmamahal at hindi takot ang nagbibigay-buhay.” Naalala ko tuloy ang isang awitin ni Barry Manilow na nagsasabing: “Letting go is just another way to say I'll always love you so.” Kay gandang makita sa pinilakang tabing na magagawa ng kabataan ang magmahal nang dakila at tapat, magparaya at magmalasakit, magpatawad at magpakatatag.
Sabi ng isang kabataang nakausap ko, “Parang hindi naman makatotohanan yung magpaparaya sila. Wala nang gumagawa ng ganun ngayon eh. Kapag in-love ka, siyempre gusto mo ikaw ang masaya, hindi ba?” Siguro, dahil bihirang makita ang pag-ibig na walang pag-iimbot sa telebisyon at pelikula, akala ng marami ay imposible at hindi totoo ito. Umabot na sa PhP130M ang kita sa box office ng pelikula sa unang linggo pa lamang. Hindi kaya pagpapatunay ito na maliban sa katanyagan ng mga nagsiganap, pinahahalagahan ng manonood ang panunumbalik ng genuine values sa pelikulang Pilipino?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Begin again

DIRECTOR:  John Carney  LEAD CAST:  Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Adam Levine, Hailee Steinfeld, James Corden  SCREENWRITER:  John Carney  PRODUCER:  Anthony Bregman, Tobin Armbrust  EDITOR:  Andrew Marcus  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Gregg Alexander  GENRE:  Drama, Musical & Performing Arts, Comedy  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Yaron Orbach  DISTRIBUTOR:   Weinstein Company  LOCATION:  United States RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes
Technical assessment: 3.5  Moral assessment: 3  CINEMA rating: V14 
Two persons in crisis, one on his family life and profession and the other on her love relationship with a singer boyfriend of five years, meet and become friends, which leads to mutual transformation and development of their music profession. Instead of retaliating against the infidelity of their respective partners, they both seek for pro-active solution and find normalcy in their life.

Saturday, July 12, 2014


DIRECTOR:  Jon Favreau  LEAD CAST:  Jon Favreau, Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo, Scarlett Johansson, Oliver Platt, Bobby Cannavale, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Downey, Jr.  SCREENWRITER:  Jon Favreau  PRODUCER:  Jon Favreau, Karen Gilchrist, Sergei Bespalov  EDITOR:  Robert Leighton  Production Company:  Aldamisa Entertainment  GENRE:  Comedy  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Kramer Morgenthau   DISTRIBUTOR:  Open Road Films  LOCATION:  United States RUNNING TIME:  114 minutes
Technical assessment:  4;  Moral assessment:  3.5;  MRCB rating: R13  CINEMA rating:  V 14

Miami born chef Carl Casper’s (Jon Favreau) creativity in the kitchen is squelched by his boss, Los Angeles restaurant owner Riva (Dustin Hoffman), who threatens to fire Casper if he serves anything other than the old favorites that the clientele come back for again and again and again. This tug of war results in a scathing review by food blogger-critic Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt) and then in a head-on collision with Riva who stubbornly refuses to give Casper’s fresh cuisine a try, the chef quits cold turkey—but not before he gives Michel a dressing down in Riva’s very own restaurant. The drama surrounding Casper’s dogged refusal to compromise his creative freedom and his public humiliation of the food critic go viral on social media, making him a celebrity of sorts.  Jobless and angry, Casper agrees to go with his ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara), who invites him to take the opportunity to bond with their young son Percy (Emjay Anthony).  Miami proves to be a surprising chapter in Casper’s life.
Favreau does a great job of directing, writing, producing AND starring in this movie, no doubt a pet recipe that’s spiced up by big names—Hoffman and good friends from Iron Man sequels Favreau has directed Downy Jr. and Johansson.  With the made-to-measure cast, audiences will find it easy to empathize with the characters. Action is tight and fast paced, complemented by lilting Cubano music and mouthwatering footage of food tasting, shopping, preparation, and presentation.  As the closing credits roll, Favreau is shown being mentored by chef Roy Choi on how to make the perfect grilled cheese sandwich, brown and crisp and with layer upon layer of different cheeses peeping out between the bread slices.  Yummy!
Chef is billed as a comedy—but was it really made to make people laugh?  More like a cooking dramedy movie, it’s a lighthearted treatment of serious subjects—passion in one’s lifework, social media ethics, the many faceted relationships in and branching out of the family.  With female actors as sultry as Sofia Vergara (a hybrid between Sofia Loren and Eva Mendez) and Scarlet Johansson (voted 2014 Sexiest Woman in the World) we half expected some steamy scenes inserted into the movie but to our delight none came.  In that department it is actually wholesome; the foul language issues from the mouth of irate male characters.  Social media is shown as an implement that can both destroy and build, given this age’s predilection for scandal and sensationalism.  As an afterthought, though, we wonder whether Chef used Twitter or Twitter used Chef.  The story developed with Twitter as its compass.  If it had been set in a pre-internet era, would the satisfying conclusion come that quickly?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Transformers: age of extinction

--> Direction: Michael Bay; Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Peter Cullen, Kelsey Grammer; Screenplay: Ehren Kruger; Producer: Don Murphy, Tom DeSanto, Music: Steve Jablonsky; Genre: Sci-Fi Action; Distributor: Paramount Pictures; Running Time: 185 minutes
Technical assessment:  2.5
Moral assessment :  3
MTRCB Rating : G
CINEMA rating : V14

Four years after the epic battle between the Autobots and the Decepticons, an elite CIA unit called Cemetery Wind is set up to hunt all Transformers on earth. The unit is headed by Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) and his bounty hunter transformer, Lockdown.  Meanwhile, in Texas, Cade (Mark Wahlberg), a struggling inventor, buys an old truck with the intention of stripping it down to parts. When he discovers the truck is actually an injured Optimus Prime, he decides to help him despite objections from his partner and his daughter Tessa. It does not take long before Cemetery Wind storms Cade’s home so they can capture Optimus. But Optimus attacks the operatives and manages to escape with Cade, Tessa and her boyfriend Shane. Later, Optimus rallies the remaining Autobots while Cade discovers that Cemetery Wind is working for KSI—a techno-corporation who was able to gain access to the Transformers’ main composition, transformium, and is now building its own version. Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci), head of KSI, envisions a progressive society where humans control their own Transformers. His prized creation is Galvatron which unfortunately is Megatron reincarnated. As the Autobots team up with Cade to fight Galvatron and his human made army of Decepticons and stop Joyce and Attinger from releasing the seed to create more transformers, Optimus must fight Lockdown and avoid being reclaimed by the Creators.
There is one word to perfectly describe Transformers: Age of Extinction—LOUD. Loud because holding together the very flimsy and obscure storyline is one explosion after another. Loud because punctuating every nonsensical dialogue is a building toppling down or metal slicing through something. Loud because Michael Bay decided to extend as long as possible every chase sequence with a blast every 10 seconds or so. There is a valiant attempt to humanize the story with multilayers of revelations and twists but they are presented in such a fragmented manner that it is so hard to keep up. Performances are pitiful because the robots show more emotions than the humans. The only articulated scenes are those with Tucci in them. Of course, the animation is impressive but this is not a video game where a sensible narrative is necessary. The magic of the Transformers franchise is the ability of the bots to magically morph from a cool vehicle into a colossal robot and back. But this magic cannot sustain a near three-hour running time, especially again, without a succinct plot to justify it.
Greater good resounds loudly in the movie as Optimus, Cade and Joyce realize that in their innermost beings lives the desire to protect the innocent. While each of them had self-serving motives, disappointments and unscrupulous intentions at first, the movie shows that change of heart is always possible for those who recognize that the greater good matter more than personal gain. However, Transformers, aside from its action being a little too intense for kids also has several disturbing attitude from Tessa and her boyfriend. Why Transformers: Age of Extinction merited a G rating from the regulatory board could baffle discerning viewers. The plot is too confusing and the violence too upsetting for children. The producers must have pushed for an Admit All Ages rating to allow them to sell their merchandising.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Edge of tomorrow

DIRECTOR:  Doug Liman  LEAD CAST:  Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Brendan Gleeson  SCREENWRITER:  Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Betterworth  PRODUCER:  Erwin Stoff, Tom Lassally, Jeffrey Silver, Gregory Jacobs, Jason Hoffs  EDITOR:  James Herbert, Laura Jennings  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Christophe Beck  GENRE:  Drama, Science Fiction & Fantasy  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Dion Beebe   DISTRIBUTOR:  Warner Bros Pictures  LOCATION:  United States  RUNNING TIME:  113 minutes
Technical assessment:  4
Moral assessment:  3
CINEMA rating:  V 14
As NATO military federated and formed a United Defense Forces (UDF) to fight an alien called Mimics that threatens the world, American Major William Cage the UDF spokesperson with no training in battle is sent to France as soldier. He is killed but wakes up with special power “time-loop” that enables him to foresee the future and reset the past. He learns combat skills and overpowers the aliens.  (Full review to follow)