Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Maria Leonora Teresa

Direction: Wenn Deramas;  Starring: Iza Calzado, Jodie Sta. Maria, Zanjoe Marudo, Cris Villanueva ; Screenplay: Wenn Deramas, Keiko Aquino,; Editing: Marya Ignacio; Producer: Malou Santos, Chara Santos-Concio; Music: Idonnah Villarico; Location: Metro Manila; Genre: Horror; Distributor: Star Cinema

Technical assessment: 2.5   Moral assessment: 3   CINEMA rating: V14   MTRCB Rating: PG13
     Maaaksidente ang isang bus ng Little Magnolia School at masasawi ang karamihan sa mga sakay nitong bata, kabilang na sina Maria Pardo, Leonora Vera at Teresa De Castro. Labis na mamimighati ang kani-kanilang mga magulang at ang tanging makalulunas ay ang mga manyikang ibibigay ni Dr. Manolo (Villanueva) bilang isang naiibang paraan ng paghilom ng damdamin. Sa simula ay parang makatutulong ang mga manyika kina Faith Pardo (Calzado), Stella De Castro (Sta. Maria) at Titser Julio (Marudo) pero nang lumaon sunod-sunod ang mga karumal-dumal na pagkamatay ng mga taong malalapit sa kanilang tatlo.
     Sa totoo lamang, may talino sana ang buod ng kwento, lalo na ang misteryo sa likod ng mala-demonyitang mga manyika. Makatotohanan ang kirot na pinagdaanan ng mga magulang na nabigyang buhay sa madamdaming pagganap nina Calzado, Sta. Maria at Marudo.  Kaya na sanang hindi ito gawing kakatakutan pero pinili ng direktor ang tiyak na pagbenta nito sa takilya kaya binudburan ng mga eksena ng patayan ang pelikula. Nakakatawa nga na kung kailan nagsisimula na ang kakatakutan ay bumagal ang daloy ng kwento at madalas ay nagiging katawa-tawa pa. Bilang horror, nakaipit pa rin ito sa panggugulat kaysa sa kilabot. Lahat naman nang ginamit na istilo ay napanuod mo na nang paulit-ulit sa ibang mga pelikula. Pinilit na lagyan ng sophisticated special effects ang ilang eksena pero hindi naman ito naging matagumpay dahil mas matatandaan mo ang kaburaraan tulad ng pagkakahalata sa batang ipinapalit sa manyika. Napakarami ring butas ang naratibo dahil hindi buo ang mga motibo o taliwas sa karakter ang mga desisyong pinili. Pero ang hindi namain maisip ay kung bakit ibinigay kay Villanueva ang pagganap sa mahalagang tauhan gayun wala naman siyang ni kapirasong kakayahan sa pag-arte. Medyo mapanlinlang tuloy ang pelikula dahil komedya naman pala ito sa huli at hindi tunay na kakatakutan.
     Walang lihim ang pwedeng itago habang buhay at lahat ng pagkakamali ay pagbabayaran at pagbabayaran din balang–araw. Pangit nga lamang ang ginawang paraan ng pelikula sa paniningil sa pagkakamali ng tatlong magulang—bagamat maaring makipagtalo na tanging si Julio lamang talaga ang may pagkakasala—pero malinaw ang mensahe na hindi maaring ibaon sa limot o pagtakpan habang buhay ang pagkakasala.  Sa kabilang dako, ang paghihiganti ay hindi katumbas ng katarungan dahil ang una ay nakatuon sa prinsipiyo ng “mata kapalit ng mata” kaysa sa pagtutuwid sa pagkakamalli. Walang kapayapaan ang taong hindi marunong magpatawad kahit na mapaghigantihan pa niya ang mga nanakit sa kanya. Walang kapanatagan ang taong hindi marunong humingi ng tawad kahit pa mahusay niyang napagtatakpan ang kanyang kasalanan. Katulad ng nabanggit, may potensyal sana ang Maria Leonora Teresa kung binawasan ang komersyo at pagpupumilit na maging “horror” (at kung tinanggal si Villanueva). Hindi angkop ang pelikula sa mga batang manunuod—hindi lamang dahil sa marahas na patayan kundi dahil sa mababaw nitong konsepto ng pagbuo ng tauhan at naratibo.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Direction: Jonathan Liebesman; Cast: Megan Fox, Alan Ritchson, Jeremy Howard, Pete Ploszek, Noel Fisher, Will Arnett, Danny Woodburn, William Fichtner, Johnny Knoxville; Screenplay: Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec, Evan Daugherty. Based on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Peter Laird; Editing: Joel Negron, Glen Scantlebury; Producer: Michael Bay, etcMusic: Brian Tyler; Genre: Sci-Fi Action Comedy; Distributor: Paramount Pictures; Location: New York; Running Time: 101 minutes

Technical assessment: 3   Moral Assessment: 3  CINEMA rating: V13 

April O’Neil (Meg Ryan) wants to be taken seriously as a journalist at New York’s Channel 5. But this cannot happen as long as she is assigned to bit segments of exercise and trampoline jumps. So she chases a lead about the notorious Foot Clan led by Shredder (Masamune) as they are about to unload something at the docks. However, April catches a shadowy figure who takes out the foot soldiers one by one and convinces her of the existence of a vigilante who will protect the city against the Foot Clan. April tries to sell her story to her editor Bernadette (Goldberg) but without hard proof, she ends up as the news team’s joke of a reporter. April, encounters the vigilante once again as the Foot Clan holds hostage the train commuters, but this time she realizes that the vigilantes are four mutated turtle humanoids trained in ninja techniques. She brings this story to Bernadette and eventually gets fired. April then goes to Sacks, her father’s former laboratory partner who helped developed a mutagen aimed to heal people. Apparently, the laboratory caught fire and the lab turtles and mouse used for experimentation were saved by a young April which later transformed into mutated creatures. Unaware that Sacks is behind the Foot Clan, April unintentionally leads them to the turtles’ lair. Three turtles—Leo, Donnie and Michael—are captured so Sacks can extract the mutagens in their genes. April, together with Raphael, free the captured turtles and attack Shredder before they are able to release the toxin to the city.  
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) is one of those beloved franchises with a solid fanbase from the 90s. Perhaps producer Michael Bay thought this was enough reason to resurrect the series without updating its elements. Production-wise TMNT delivers what is expected on a silver platter.  The action sequences are fun and dynamic but offers nothing new. The  computer generated effects are well crafted but little effort has been placed in trying to differentiate the turtle's characters from one another. The humans are cardboard flat and dry. Michael Bay being Michael Bay has his signature noise and explosions every possible time. Is the movie worth your while?  Maybe, if you belong to the 90s Gen Y or have nothing better to do. 
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles can be seen as the perennial quest of good versus bad and good triumphing in the end. The question is if this was placed to make the movie palatable and mask the narrative shortcoming and obsession with explosion. Trying to force a moral to the story, one can point how people are willing to seek and fight for the truth. And how the young should be made aware of their responsibility to society especially if they are good and able to do so. While motivations of the characters for seeking and fighting truth are arguable, TMNT to an extent offers a glimpse of heroism, selflessness and the commitment to be our brother's protector. Of course, it takes effort to decipher these messages amidst the standard explosions required by the producer. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Giver

Director:  Phillip Noyce Cast:  Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Brenton Thwaites, Alexander Skarsgard, Katie Holmes, Odeya Rush, Cameron Monaghan  Screenplay: Michael Mitnick and Robert B. Weide, based on the book by Lois Lowry  Cinematography: Ross Emery  Music: Marco Beltrami  Genre: Science fiction  U.S. Distributor: The Weinstein Company
Technical 3.5             Moral assessment:  3.5    CINEMA rating:  V14
Friends since childhood Jonas (Brenton Thwaites), Fiona (Odeya Rush), and Asher (Cameron Monaghan), graduates-to-be, are looking forward to adult life in a futuristic society that knows no suffering, hunger, injustice, pain, and violence.  Presiding at the graduation ceremony is Chief Elder (Meryl Streep), present in hologram form,  who assigns each graduate different functions that will shape their adult lives.  Citizens in this sanitized society inject themselves daily with a serum that erases memories and suppresses their emotions, individuality, choice, freedom, temptation, and religion.  Jonas is the last to be given an assignment, but he gets the heaviest one—as the community’s new “Receiver”, the repository of historical memories that average citizens are not allowed to access.  For this position he learns the ropes from the current Receiver, known as the “Giver” (Jeff Bridges), who is weary from bearing all the past memories and who must pass on the knowledge of this “real world” to his trainee Jonas.  Jonas soon realizes emotions enrich life, and discovers the Elders’ secrets as well.
The Giver is based on a 1993 bestseller by Lois Lowry, and in the hands of adept director Philip Noyce (Salt) it faithfully translates the message of the book into memorable moving images.  The prestige cast delivers solid acting but it almost plays a supporting role to Emery’s powerful images.  It is the look of The Giver that gives a sense of realness to the otherwise fictitious story.  The creative interspersing of color visuals in a predominantly black and white film aids in advancing the story and drawing a well-defined line between rich and impoverished emotional states.  Scenes which are devoid of emotion are depicted in black and white; those that are rife with feeling are gently and gradually awash with color.  In receiving past memories, Jonas’ perception of things is portrayed by the camera through exaggeratedly vivid hues.
With its well-developed themes, The Giver serves meaty issues for young adults to ponder and discuss—all related to life.  Happily, the film does not preach, yet everything about it underscores the value and sanctity of life.  This supposedly Utopian society, deemed ideal by mere human standards, equates perfection with conformity to the rule.  People wear virtual uniforms—no fashionistas allowed; each family is allowed two children, one boy and one girl, who are genetically engineered “replacements” for their parents.  Even their homes are identical—the opening scene is an aerial shot of the community’s residential district, and the all-white houses at first glance strongly resemble the crosses on a cemetery’s green lawn.  We suspect this is intentional, as though to denote lifelessness in uniformity. 
What is most heartening in this film is its unequivocal pro-life message that people of faith will definitely resonate with.  There’s a point when Jonas begins to believe that the knowledge he receives must also be shared with others—that is when he discovers that the community’s Elders, in their dogged determination to maintain a perfect society, eliminate flawed babies and old people too fragile to keep alive.     


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Barber's Tales

DIRECTOR: Jun Robles Lana  LEAD CAST: Eugene Domingo, Eddie Garcia, Shamaine Buencamino, Gladys Reyes, Noni Buencamino, Iza Calzado, Daniel Fernando, Nicco Manalo, Sue Prado MUSIC:  Ryan Cayabyab  CINEMATOGRAPHY:  Carlo Mendoza  GENRE:  Drama
Technical assessment:  4  Moral assessment: 2.5  CINEMA rating: V 18
        Si Marilou (Eugene Domingo) ay ang masunuring maybahay ni Jose (Daniel Fernando), and kaisa-isang barbero sa baryo nila sa probinsiya.  Hindi lamang siya masunurin—sunud-sunuran pa siya, hanggang sa puntong siya pa ang nagpapaligo sa asawa niya, na iniiwan lang naman siya sa gabi para mag-gudtaym sa kabayanan.  Pero may pakinabang din ang pagiging masunurin niya, pagka’t natuto siyang maggupit ng buhok sa kauudyok ng asawa, kahit na nga wala naman siyang ambisyong magbarbero, at katunayan siya ang gumugupit ng buhok ni Jose.  Isang araw, hindi na gigising si Jose matapos ang isang gabi ng pagkalasing.  Bagama’t bantulot, masusumpungan ni Marilou na buksang muli ang barberya ni Jose, at siya nga ang magiging barbero dito.  Mapapasok sa masalimuot na mga pangyayari ang buhay ni Marilou, at mangyayari ang hindi inaasahan.
        Kahanga-hanga ang pagkakabuo ng Barber’s Tales (Mga Kuwentong Barbero), at karapat-dapat lamang na isang batikang artistang tulad ni Domingo ang maging tampok na tauhan nito.  Walang maipipintas na gasino sa aspetong teknikal ng pelikula sapagkat ang mga mumunting pagkukulang nito ay nalulukuban naman ng pangkalahatang angking kinang nito, lalo na ng sinematograpiya.  Maganda naman ang kuwento bagama’t minsan ay mukhang pilit, tila ba labis na mainit sa paghahatid ng pinili nitong mensahe.  Mahusay ang direksiyon, kapani-paniwala ang setting ng istorya, at malikhain ang sinematograpiya.  Ipinanalo ni Domingo ang pagganap niya sa Barber’s Tales ng isang Best Actress award sa 2013 Tokyo International Film Festival—salamat naman at kinikilala ang husay ng aktres hindi lamang sa komedya kundi pati na rin sa drama.
       Tanong ng manonood, “masustansiya” ba ang Barber’s Tales?  Naniniwala kaming may matayog na hangarin ang pelikula.  Gusto nitong imulat ang mga mata ng manonood sa abang kalagayan ng mga kababaihan sa isang kulturang hindi kumikilala sa kanilang mga katangian liban sa kanilang pagiging butihin asawa, ina, o alila.  Nais din ng pelikula na bigyang-diin ang kawalan ng katarungan sa isang lipunang mapang-api sa maralita at mapagsamantala sa mangmang.  Kaya lamang, hindi nito napalalim ang pagsasaad ng matayog nitong hangarin, nagmukha tuloy karikatura ang ilang mga situwasyon.  Isang halimbawa, hindi naipakita nang sapat ang mga dahilan kung bakit nagiging rebelde ang isang tao.  Gasgas na gasgas na rin ang tema ng martial law at diktadurang Marcos—wala na bang ibang maaaring sisihin ang mga gustong magrebelde?  Sa kabila din ng pagsisikap ng pelikula na ipakitang may magagawang kabutihan ang mga babae kung magkakabuklod-buklod lamang sila, nanaig pa rin ang nakakalungkot na katotohanang ang kanilang pagkamasarili at karuwagan din ang daan tungo sa kanilang pagkabigo.  Sa gawing pagtatapos “sumemplang” ang Barber’s Tales: napaniwala nito ang manonood na moog ng lakas at liwanag ng isip si Marilou, pero paano siya “bumigay” nang walang kaabug-abog?  Iisa lamang ang maaaring dahilan noon—“classmates” pala sila ng luka-lukang akala niya’y tinutulungan niya.  Hay, kuwentong barbero nga.