Thursday, December 31, 2015

In the heart of the sea

Direction: Ron Howard; Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy, Tom Holland, Ben Whishaw; Screenplay: Charles Leavitt; Editing: Dan Hanley, Mike Hill; Story: Based on In The Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick; Producers: Ron Howard, Brian Grazer; Music: Roque Banos; Location: Atlantic/Pacific Ocean; Genre: Adventure; Distributor: Warner Bros Inc.  Running Time: 121 Minutes
Technical assessment:  3
Moral assessment:  2.5
CINEMA rating: V14
MTRCB rating: PG13
In the heart of the sea is an adaptation of the non-fiction bestseller about the destruction of the whaling ship, Essex, by a humungous white sperm whale.  The adventure is told by Thomas Nickerson (Gleeson), the lone survivor of the ship’s last voyage, to novelist Herman Melville (Whishaw) 30 years later.  In 1820, 14 year old Nickerson is drafted as cabin boy for the refitted Essex to participate in the lucrative whale oil industry. The owners hire George Pollard (Walker) an inexperienced mariner from an established whaling family as captain, and veteran whaler Owen Chase (Hemsworth) as first mate. The disgust and envy of both men for each other affect their relationship onboard and the decisions they make, almost costing the lives of their crew.  However, to save face and ensure that they do not return to port empty handed, the men agree to set their differences aside in order to catch some whale. Months pass with little progress and they decide to sail on undisturbed grounds where they are attacked by a huge sperm whale that destroys their ship.  The surviving crew escape on three smaller boats where their courage and will is tested as they face constant attacks from the vengeful whale, hunger and thirst and one another’s dissent. In the end the surviving crew realize respect for nature and integrity are far more worthy than success.
The film starts slowly and continues on a painstaking effort to match the momentum of the drama and action of its literary counterpart. But in no way does it diminish its cinematic value. Undoubtedly, Howard put as much heart and soul in the computer-generated whale sequences and Hemsworth holds his ground with enigmatic presence and solid performance. While the storytelling is strong and comforting, the dialogue is a little weak and lacking in humor and punch. Scoring and production design is intelligently conceived as they enhance the period and mood of the scenes.
Two main points can be derived from the film. One, reputation and connection should never take precedence over experience and skill. Pollard’s family name should not have been the basis for naming him captain over the more qualified Chase; the former’s inexperience led to the voyage’s failure. Sadly, present society still favors patrons, reputation and popularity over real skills in appointing people for certain positions. Second, man likes to abuse and fight nature for his own benefit, but in the end, nature always wins. The scared bull whale attacked the men brutally, not because it is violent or aggressive but because it had to defend itself. Once Chase stopped trying to kill it, the whale left them alone. We are currently experiencing countless lashes from nature—thunderstorm, storm surge, earthquake, and drought. Maybe if we left nature alone it would start to heal and become less vengeful. Maybe if we respected nature more, it would start to care and provide for us again. While, there are good messages in the film, acts of cannibalism (although understandable under the circumstances) and animal torture might not be appropriate for young audiences without parental guidance.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Star Wars: The Force awakens

DIRECTOR: J. J. Abrams  LEAD CAST:  Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’O, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Max von Sydow  SCREENWRITER:  Lawrence Kasdan, J. J. Abrams, Michael Arndt  PRODUCER:  Kathleen Kennedy, J. J. Abrams, Bryan Burk  EDITOR:  Mary Jo Markev, Maryann Brandon  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  John Williams  GENRE:  Action & Adventure, Science Fiction & Fantasy  CINEMATOGRAPHER: Dan Mindel  DISTRIBUTOR:  Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures  LOCATION:  United States  RUNNING TIME: 135 minutes
Technical sssessment: 4
Moral assessment: 3
CINEMA rating:  V13 (Viewers 13 and below with parental guidance)
The trademark Star Wars opening crawl quickly updates the audience. Three decades after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, the last Master Jedi Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has disappeared. General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) of the Resistance, a military force backed up by the Republic, scour the galaxy to track down her long missing brother Luke. At the Dark Side is the First Order under Supreme Leader Snoke who has tasked Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and General Hux with destroying Luke and waging all out war on the Republic. They convert a planet into a Starkiller Base, a superweapon capable of destroying entire star systems. The Resistance has sent their best pilot, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) to retrieve a clue to the last Master Jedi’s whereabouts. From there, the film introduces a couple of new characters: Finn (John Boyega), a stormtrooper who gains a conscience, and Rey (Daisy Ridley), a scavenger on the desert planet Jakku who stumbles into a droid carrying an important secret. And the saga continues as Finn and Rey are caught amidst the battle between the Resistance and The First Order.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens brings back the sentiments of the original trilogy, this time around—with leveled-up visuals, strong emotional center, and lots of fun—the Star Wars way. The Force has really awakened in this film that introduces new likeable characters that updates the story without alienating those who are seeing the franchise for the first time. Star Wars brings the audience to a dimension that is futuristic, maybe out-of-this-world, but still very human. The landscapes, seascapes, and panoramic views are just breathtaking. The visual and graphic effects are solid. The fight scenes, particularly the light saber fight scenes are well-choreographed. Given the layered ebb of conflicts and sub-plots and the many characters human and droid alike, it could have been easy to get lost in the story,  but the crisp editing and pacing and inspired storytelling are able to maintain the centrality of theme, keeping the audience on-track of the main characters’ journey. Acting is excellent with Finn and Ridley giving the story a heart, and Driver providing the needed intensity. The old familiar characters being portrayed by the original actors add up to the sentimentality of the entire series of the franchise.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is all about the battle between the good Resistance force and the dark side, The First Order. Both forces are after one goal—to track down the last Master Jedi, Luke Skywalker—the only difference is their purpose: the Resistance’s objective is to reunite while the The First Order’s is to destroy. The good side is for reconnection and reconstruction while the dark side is for disruption and destruction. In the long saga of the Star Wars, the good side has consistently defeated the dark side, but then again, the saga never stops. The evil remains, and they are persistent. Darth Vader may have been destroyed in the first series but its influence left a successor in Kylo Ren—evil will never stop. From this, the good should never be complacent. The long history of Star Wars tells the audience that there are lessons in the past that people should never forget. For as long as there is life, there will always be evil forces out to destroy it. It’s a lifelong battle for as long the universe exists. Amidst the battle, hope springs eternal as shown in the character of Finn who, after serving the First Order, eventually risks his life to do what he thinks is good. Kylo Ren has struggled long enough, and though it is seen that his blood is rooted in the good, he was already saturated with the long-time influence of the dark side, and this leads to his destruction in the end. While Rey and Kylo Ren are fighting, Rey pointed out Kylo Ren’s fear and he was weakened. Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering and eventually, to death and destruction. In the midst of the battle, the values that matter remain to be at the center of the film—family, friendship, courage, and love. But then, the film may be quite too violent for the very young so CINEMA advises parents and guardians to guide the young audience 13 and below watching the film.

Thursday, December 24, 2015


DIRECTOR: Ryan Coogler  LEAD CAST: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Tony Bellew  SCREENWRITER:  Ryan Coogler, Aaron Covington  PRODUCER:  Robert Chartoff, Irwin Winkler, Sylvester Stallone  EDITOR:  Claudia Castello, Michael P. Shawver  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Ludwig Göransson  GENRE:  Sports Drama  CINEMATOGRAPHER: Maryse Alberti  DISTRIBUTOR:  Warner Bros. Pictures  LOCATION:  United States RUNNING TIME: 162 minutes
Technical   (meldy, received, editd, uploaded dec. 24)assessment: 3.5
Moral Assessment: 3
CINEMA Rating:  PG 13
Fresh from a fight at the juvenile correctional, young Adonis “Donnie” Johnson (Alex Henderson) is approached by a strange woman who introduces herself as Mary Ann Creed (Phylicia Rashad), the wife Apollo Creed, former world heavyweight chaampsion.  He learns from her that he is the illegitimate son of the boxing champ.  She offers Donnie to live with her. The following scene shows an adult Donnie (Michael Jordan), now a boxer defeating his match in the boxing ring. He resigns from his job and goes to the gym where his father used to train. He challenges all the boxers in the gym and he loses his mustang to the last fighter.  Moving on, he watches the video of his father’s fights and sees the latter’s perennial match Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). Rocky, who is already stricken by cancer becomes his trainer and prepares him for his future fights. Donnie meets and falls in love with Bianca (Tessa Thomson) who would be his number one supporter. Whilst Donnie wants to make his own name in the boxing sports, his true identity as a son of the older Creed will be revealed.    
Creed has a good story. It is elating with combined emotional and humorous themes. The actors particularly Johnson and Stallone deliver their heartfelt performances. They transform into the characters and effectively bring out the necessary emotions with depth. Credit the director for his smart treatment of the film. The editing is almost flawless in projecting continuity.  Lighting is simply appropriate and supports compositions for meaningful cinematography. The musical scoring enhances the focus of the film on the characters of Adonis and Rocky; the sound effects especially during a match is engaging. In general, the film has impressive technical qualities.
The movie Creed  portrays that there are gains in losses.  What seems to be hopeless human being in a juvenile correctional gains more than what he has lost in life: a merciful and compassionate stepmother who took and raised him as her own son imparting good values to bring out the best in him, a committed mentor who despite being sick and weak does not give up on him and gives him the needed motivation to become a good fighter, and a supportive girlfriend who gives him not only love but also understanding and willingness to sacrifice for him. Finally, he finds a career that is rooted in his passion and runs in his blood.  Overall, the film is very touching and inspiring.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Little Prince

DIRECTOR: Mark Osborne  LEAD CAST: Mackenzie Foy, Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, Paul Rudd, Marion Cotillard, James Franco, Benicio del Toro, Ricky Gervais  FILM EDITORS: Carole Kavetz Aykanian, Matt Landon  PRODUCERS: Demitri Rassam, Aton Soumache, Alexis Vonard  EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: Jinko Gotoh, Mark Osborne, Moritz Borman, Thierry Pasquet, Paul Rassam  SCREENPLAY: Irena Brignull, Bob Persichetti  BASED ON: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery MUSIC: Richard Harvey, Hans Zimmer  GENRE: Animation, Fantasy  CINEMATOGRAPHERS: Kris Kappo, Adel Abada  PRODUCTION DESIGN: Lou Romano, Céline Desrumaux  PRODUCTION COMPANIES: Onyx Films, Orange Studio, On Animation Studios  DISTRIBUTORS: Paramount Pictures  COUNTRY: France  LANGUAGE: English RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes
Technical assessment: 4
Moral assessment: 3.5
CINEMA rating: VA (Viewers of all ages)
Instead of being a straight adaptation of Saint-Exupéry's novel with the same title, The Little Prince is about The Little Girl (voiced by Mackenzie Foy) whose mother (Rachel McAdams)—determined to raise her into “a wonderful grown-up”—maps out her life on a magnetic board detailing the girl’s activities with military precision.  Moving into a new neighborhood to get closer to the university of the mother’s dreams, mother and daughter notice the odd looking house right next to theirs.  Later on they discover that its inhabitant is just as odd—an eccentric old aviator (Jeff Bridges) who keeps a biplane in his backyard—but here begins a friendship between 9-year-old girl and the 90-year-old stranger who regales her with stories of a mysterious little prince he had met when his plane crashed in the desert.
The technical magic of The Little Prince lies in the film’s clever intertwining of the modern-day narrative of director Mark Osborne’s little girl creation and the multi-stranded story-telling of Saint-Exupery’s novel to come up with an ageless message that appeals to viewers of all ages.  Transitions between the two worlds—the little prince’s and the little girl’s—are rendered smoothly by using the lead character The Aviator as its narrator as well.  Through enchanting eye candy the teaching moments of a somewhat abstract classic novel are made palatable for a contemporary audience.  Remember what mothers used to do before the invention of candy-flavored aspirin for children?  They’d tuck the bitter pill in a slice of banana for a child’s effortless ingestion.  The Little Prince’s visuals are bite-sized banana slices containing metaphysical truths that even some adults would find hard to swallow.
Although armed with the best of intentions towards their children’s welfare, parents could sometimes overdo things to the extent of squelching the freedom and the right of the youngsters to be their own persons.  The mother does not realize that her attempts to make a “wonderful grown-up” out of her 9-year-old is threatening to smother the little girl’s sense of wonder.  The obsession with worldly success, power, acquisitions, and public image dehumanizes adults and imprisons them in a cell with no window to the stars.  We are not meant to be cut-and-dried entities walking the earth for the sole purpose of impressing society and pleasing ourselves.  The Little Prince challenges us to recognize the value of transcendence, reminds us that our identity is determined by our essence, and that “what is essential is invisible to the eye.”   

Point break

DIRECTOR: Erickson Core  LEAD CAST: Edgar Ramirez, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer, Delroy Lindo, Ray Winstone SCREENWRITER:  Kurt Wimmer  PRODUCER:  John Baldecchi, Broderick Johnson  EDITOR: John Duffy, Gerard B. Greenberg, Thom Noble  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Junkie XL GENRE:  2015 Action, adventure  DISTRIBUTOR:  Warner Brothers  LOCATION: North America, Europe, South America and Asia RUNNING TIME:  153 minutes
Technical assessment:  4
Moral assessment:  2.5
CINEMA rating:  V14

      Depressed from losing a friend he had challenged to a cliff jump on a motorcycle, extreme sports enthusiast Johnny Utah (Luke Bracey) tries out for a job as an FBI agent.  Asked why he wants to joint the FBI, Utah says he needs and wants structure in his his life.  Having passed the rigorous training he gets a chance to prove himself as an asset to the organization when he provides valuable information relating to a series of daring crimes involving a band of do-gooding thieves.  Utah firmly believes these modern Robin Hoods led by Bodhi (Edgar Ramirez) are actually a globe-trotting gang of extreme sports athletes committed to honoring nature at all cost, and who are motivated by the so-called “Ozaki Eight”—eight extreme sports challenges they must pass in order to attain the ultimate goal of Buddhism: nirvana.  Utah’s skills in dangerous sports make him the perfect undercover agent to capture these suspects.
      Suffice it to say that the awe-inspiring scenery and the incredible stunts alone make Point break worth the price of admission.  The storyline is quite easy to follow and provides a rather excellent excuse to stage the stunts that could take your breath away.  We don’t want to spoil your fun so we will not bother to tell you if the extreme sports footage owes is magic to CGI or to purely superhuman skills.  The protagonists deliver enough emotional wattage demanded by this compelling crime drama; Bracey is most convincing at the tipping point where his loyalty wobbles between his FBI job and his passion for dangerous sports.
        Point break is saying that a person’s wild years are not meant to last forever.  Embittered by the tragedy brought about by his insatiable lust for dangerous fun, Utah yearns for meaning and purpose in his existence, which he believes he can find in a law enforcement career.  Bodhi, on the other hand, justifies his obsession with extreme sports by using it for ambiguous criminal-charitable acts—like hijacking a plane stacked with cash and letting loose the bills to rain upon far flung, impoverished communities.  Good deeds, and yet the killing does not stop.  Without the love of Christ in us, even our most “spiritual” intentions remain an illusion of goodness, pleasing—and fooling—ourselves.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The good dinosaur

DIRECTOR: Peter Sohn; CAST: Raymond Ochoa, Jeffrey Wright, Frances Dormand, Jack Bright, Sam Elliot, Anna Paquin, A.J. Buckley; STORY: Peter Sohn, Erick Benson, Meg LeFauve, etc; SCREENPLAY: Meg LeFauve; EDITOR: Stephen Schaffer; MUSIC: Mychael Danna, Jeff Danna, PRODUCER: Denise Ream; DISTRIBUTOR: Walt Disney Studios; GENRE: Animation; LOCATION: Pre-historic Times Running time: 100 minutes
Technical assessment: 3.5
Moral assessment: 4
CINEMA rating: VA (Viewers of All Ages)
MTRCB rating: GP (General Patronage)
Millions of years in an alternate timeline when the asteroid which should have caused mass extinction of creatures on our planet missed Earth, civilization is ruled by these behemoths.  Young Arlo (Raymond Ochoa) is the youngest and weakest child in a family of Apatosaurus (a.k.a. Brontosaurus) farmers. His siblings have no problem adjusting to their responsibilities, thus, easily earning them their marks on the family silo. But Arlo just can’t get over his fears and constantly fails to do his chores successfully. In order to help Arlo, his dad Poppa Henry (Jeffrey Wright) assigns him to kill the pest eating up their corn stored for the winter.  Arlo manages to ensnare the pest and is surprised to find that he is a wild caveboy—Spot (Bright) but could not bring himself to harm him. He lets him escape much to the displeasure of his dad. They run after the child but is caught in the middle of a thunderstorm which eventually leads to Henry’s death. Arlo blames Spot for his dad’s death and chases him until the two are washed by the raging waters of the river. What follows are predictable but charming adventures of Arlo trying to fend for himself alone and Spot gaining his trust and friendship. At one point, Spot’s life is placed in danger and Arlo realizes that he needs to forget his fears to save someone he deeply cares about.
The good dinosaur is visually fantastic as expected from the production companies of Pixar and Disney. Not only is the animation breathtaking, images are also genuine and natural. Pixar has upped their game again and delivered a fantasy film that feels closer to reality. The story is interesting and tender as we journey with Arlo in discovering his inner strength and deepening his friendship with Spot. For a change, the human Spot is the one amusing as he acts like a little puppy craving for attention. However, its pacing is a tad too slow for any age. Arlo’s voice actor does not help in making his character or the scenes livelier. The treatment lacks humor and is wanting of lighter moments to balance Arlo’s personality. Spot is amusing and occasionally keeps the audience from drifting away. Some scenes drag and honestly, the movie could have been told half the time shorter.
The message is effectively timely. Not only does it talk about friendship between different cultures or races or about self-discovery but more importantly the movie also shows how love leads us to forget ourselves and to commit to the common good. Arlo overcame his fear and insecurity not out of pride or desire to earn his mark, not out of the need to survive and protect himself, but out of love for a friend. And this same love led him to overcome his need to hold on to Spot and allow him to find a family with other human beings. These times, when hatred, self-centeredness, and individualism cause war, violence and division, it is good to be reminded that the journey to discover one’s self is not about accomplishment or glory but about discovering the value of sacrifice, family and service.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

A second chance

DIRECTOR: Cathy Garcia-Molina  LEAD CASTBea Alonzo, John Lloyd Cruz, Dimples Romana  SCREENWRITER:  Vanessa Valdez, Carmi Raymundo  PRODUCER:  Malou Santos  EDITOR:  Marya Ignacio  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Francis Concio  GENRERomantic Drama  CINEMATOGRAPHER: Noel Teehankee   DISTRIBUTOR:  Star Cinema  LOCATION:  Philippines  RUNNING TIME: 130 minutes
Technical Assessment : 3
Moral Assessment: 3
CINEMA Rating:  V13
Magpapakasal at magsumpaang magmamahalan nang wagas ang dating live-in partners na sina Basya (Bea Alonzo) at Popoy (John Lloyd Cruz). Bilang mga lisensyadong enhinyero at arkitekto ay magtataguyod sila ng construction business na mabilis na uunlad. Lalong magpupursige ang mag-asawa na magpalago ng negosyo dahil magbubuntis si Basya.  Nais nilang mabigyan ng magandang kinabukasan ang kanilang anak. Subalit dahil sa pressure ng trabaho ay makukunan si Basya at tuluyang mawawala ang sanggol na kanyang  dinadala. Labis itong ikalulungkot nina Basya at Popoy kaya napagkasunduan nila ayon na rin sa mungkahi ni Basya na titigil siya sa pagtatrabaho upang makabuo uli sila ng baby.  Nanatili si Basya sa bahay at di nakialam sa negosyo sa loob ng dalawang taon. Pinaubaya niya ang pagpapatakbo ng negosyo kay Popoy. Magtitiwala si Basya sa kakayanan ng asawa na mahusay nitong mapapamahalaan ang kompanya katulad ng naging problema ng pagguho ng isang building project.  Hindi rin gugustuhin ni Popoy na bigyan ng alalahanin si Basya. Samantala sa kabila ng magandang saloobin nila sa isa’t isa ay ang napipintong pagkalugi ng negosyo na siya namang ililihim ni Popoy kay Basya.  Dahil sasarilinin ni Popoy ang problema, maapektuhan ng tuluyan ang kanilang pagsasama.
Sequel ng pelikulang One More Chance na pinalabas noong 2007 ang Second Chance.  Matatandaang tumatatak ang naunang pelikula dahil sa mga tinatawag na ‘hugot lines’ nina Alonzo at Cruz sa nasabing pelikula. Di naman nabigo ang mga nag-abang sa sequel na ito dahil naganap nga ang second chance sa mga pangunahing tauhan na sina Basya at Popoy.  Malinis ang pagkakadugtong ng dalawang pelikula --- parehong mga tauhan at kontexto  gayundin ang mga artistang nagsiganap.  Sa kabila ng pagkakaroon ng prequel ay napanatili ang malayang istorya ng Second Chance  bilang isang pelikula. Bagamat predictable ang wakas  ay naging kasabik-sabik pa din ang mga eksena at mga palitan ng linya ng lahat ng tauhan.  Di matatawaran ang husay ng pagganap nina Alonzo at Cruz bilang mag-asawa, panalo talaga ang tinatawag na chemistry nilang dalawa. Di rin nagpahuli nag mga katuwang na aktor at aktres.  Magaling ang ginawang trato ng direktor para mapalabas ang kalakasan ng mga nagsiganap at ang mga eksenang hinaluan ng patawa lalo na sa eksena kasama ng mga kaibigan. Simple lamang ang disenyo ng produksyon pero nakatulong ang mga kuha ng camera at editing para maging  makabuluhan sa istorya ang setting. Makahulugan ang composition na nagpapakita ng electric fan para sa mensahe na nagtitipid na ang mag-asawa dahil lugi na ang kompanya.      
Mayaman sa mensahe para sa mga mag-asawa ang Second Chance.  Pinakita sa pelikula ang realidad ng buhay may-asawa na hindi lang puro kasarapan sa halip ay mga pagsubok na maaring mauwi sa hiwalayan kung hindi haharapin at aayusin. Sa relasyon ng mag-asawa ay napakahalaga ng magiging bukas sa isa’t isa kaya anuman ang pagdaanan ay magkatuwang  na haharapin.  Ang pagtatago ni Popoy ng katotohanan kay Basya ang naging mitsa ng lumubhang alitan, di pagkakaunawaan, pagkawala  ng respeto, at palitan ng  masasakit na salita—pati tiwala sa sarili ay nawala. At sa punto na pipiliin ng isa na lumayo at hanapin ang sarili, ay nakatulong na balikan ang mga sumpaan binatiwan nuong sila ay ikinasal at higit sa lahat ang kanilang pagmamahal sa isa’t isa.  Mainam din na may mga kaibigan at pamilya na pwedeng lapitan na susuporta at hindi manghuhusga, manunumbat, o mang-uudyok sa paggawa ng mali.   Kapuna-puna lang na bagamat nagsimula at nagwakas ang pelikula sa chapel ay tila di man lang nila naisipan na magdasal habang may pinagdaraanan sila.  Nais isipin ng CINEMA na ang gusto lamang sabihin ng pelikula ay: ang pag-aasawa ay hindi lamang sa pagitan ng dalawang tao kundi dapat ay kasama palagi ang Diyos.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay 2

DIRECTORFrancis Lawrence  LEAD CAST: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman  PRODUCERS: Nina Jacobson, Jon Kilik  SUPERVISING ART DIRECTORS: David Sheunemnn, Stefan Speth, Dan Webster  ADAPTATION: Suzanne Collins (from her novel “Mockingjay”)   SCREENPLAY: Peter Craig, Danny Strong  FILM EDITORS: Alan Edward Bell, Mark Yoshikawa  MUSIC: James Newton Howard  GENRE: Adventure, Science Fiction  CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jo Willems  PRODUCTION MANAGER:  Lucy Appleby  PRODUCTION DESIGN: Philip Messina  COSTUME DESIGNERS: Kurt and Bart  PRODUCTION COMPANIES: Color Force, Lionsgate, Studio Babelsberg (co-production)  DISTRIBUTORS: Lionsgate  FILMING LOCATIONS:  13 locations in Germany, USA and France   LANGUAGE:  English RUNNING TIME: 137 minutes
Technical assessment:  4
Moral assessment:  3
CINEMA rating:  V14
            Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), both a victor in and subverter of Panem’s Hunger Games, is now a symbol of the revolution whom rebel president Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) and power broker Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) want to use strictly as a poster girl.   Stubborn freedom-fighter Katniss, however, has her own agenda, and that includes killing President Snow (Donald Sutherland]) to end once and for all the senseless deaths of so many young people.  Forming a team of rag-tag soldiers that include closest friends Gale (Liam Hemsworth), Finnick (Sam Claflin), and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), she goes off on a mission, risking their lives through a booby-trapped war to liberate the citizens of Panem.  The final confrontation between Katniss and Snow, presided over by Coin, is an electrifying game-changer.
The Hunger Games is not exempted from the fad of chopping into “parts” the movie adaptations of popular books.  Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hobbit—they have all stretched their heroes’ exploits to prolong box office earning power, and yet the fans wait.  After Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, which, judging from its relatively weak performance at the tills, must have been a forgettable movie that tested the patience of fans, Mockingjay Part 2 revs up with more of the thrills that have made the Hunger Games series the prototype of dystopia flicks for young adults (Divergent, et al.).  The strong cast monumentally contributes to the realism of the Hunger Games franchise—how can it go wrong with a leonine Sutherland, a steely Moore, a sly Hoffman?  And, of course, the winner Lawrence who can equally sell with aplomb parts calling for either vulnerability or verve.  In Mockingjay 2 the stars’ solid performances, interwoven with heart-stopping CGI, make for a fitting finale to a story that capitalizes on man’s inhumanity to man.
            It’s surprising that a number of film critics are disappointed with the film’s ending, calling it “sappy” and an anti-climactic conclusion to an adrenalin-packed series that promised so much by way of action and heroism.  Their cynical remarks remind us of biblical Israel waiting for a savior who would topple down the ruling elite with its own brand of kingship, but is instead given a Jesus Christ.  CINEMA thinks the ending is actually a statement that magnifies the upbeat message of the whole story: enough is enough. Murder as spectator sport is sub-human.  At least, when beasts kill, it is to survive, but in Panem, the poor young people are robbed of choice and must kill in order to live—as entertainment for the elite.  So Mockingjay mocks the elite; it cries, “Give humanity a chance.”  What’s wrong with wanting to dump violence to start afresh?  Choose life, not death. Arrows that used to kill people are also useful for hunting fowl for the dinner table—is that against the law?  “Turn your swords into ploughs and your spears into pruning hooks.”  Maybe the cynics’ eyes have grown to love the Hunger Games’ darkness that the sunlight-dappled scenery blinds them.  Or maybe after falling in love with the couture of Panem’s stylish crowd, they’re simply horrified by Katniss’ drastic costume change.  Whatever, CINEMA wouldn’t have wanted the ending any other way.  

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Old skool

Lead cast: Tessie Tomas, Angel Aquino, Buboy Villar; Direction:; Cia Hermosa Jorge Genre: Drama; Distributor: Star Cinema Location: Antipolo
Technical assessment: 3.5
Moral assessment: 4
MTRCB Rating: G
Lungkot at kawalan ng layunin ang naramdaman ni Lola Feliza (Tomas) matapos mamatay nang kanyang asawa kaya naisip niyang sundan ang kanyang pangarap na makatapos ng Grade 6. Lakas loob siyang nag-enroll at papasok bilang regular na mag-aaral sa kabila ng alinlangan ng punong guro, sariling takot at pangungutya ng ilang bata, lalo ang class bully na si Buboy (Villar). Pagsusumikapan ni Lola Feliza na tupdin ang mga gawain at sumabay sa mga aralin. Subalit pahihirapan siya ng sutil na si Buboy, tulad ng ginagawa ng nito sa ibang mga kamag-aral.  Magkakaroon naman si Lola Feliza ng mga personal na layunin tulad ng pakikipagkaibigan at paglalapit ng loob kay Buboy. Para makadagdag sa gastusin, magtitinda si Lola Feliza sa palengke subualit hindi makayanan ng kanyang katawan ang pagod at mapipilitang tumigil sa pagpasok. Magiging daan si Buboy para maipagpatuloy ni Lola ang pag-aaral hanggang sa tuluyan siyang makapagtapos sa Grade 6.
Pinagsumikapan ng Old Skool na iayos at bigyang diin ang pagkwekwento higit sa anumang aspeto, kaya naman malinaw ang daloy, buo ang mga tauhan at makatwiran ang mga motibo. Medyo nagkulang lang sa pagpapaliwanag kung bakit pinapayagan ng paaralan ang kabastusan ni Buboy nuong una.  Matalino ang pagkakadirehe rito, walang OA na iyakan pero tagos sa puso ang lungkot ni Lola Feliza, walang umaatikabong aksyon pero pananabikan mo ang tagisan ni Buboy at Lola Feliza at walang nakakainsultong komedya pero may kiliti ang bitaw ng usapan. Higit sa lahat, totoo ang daloy, mga problema at ang sagot na inihain kaya malalim ang kagat sa puso at pitik sa pag-iisip. Kaya naman hindi nahirapan ang mga nagsiganap na isapuso ang pagkatao ng kanilang mga ginampanang tauhan. May mga pagkukulangang man sa disenyo at drama ng pag-iilaw ay sinalo naman ito ng swabeng timpla ng musika na sumasabay sa kasalukuyang damdamin ng eksena. Payak man ang kabuuang aspetong teknikal nito, matagumpay pa rin ang pagkakasalaysay ng kwento at ng mensahe.
Ang Old Skool ay isang pelikulang puno ng pag-asa. Pag-asa sa pagsusumikap. Pag-asa sa pag-abot ng mga pangarap, Pag-asa sa pagmamahal, Pag-asa sa pagbabagong buhay. Pinakamalinaw na mensahe nito ang pagpupursige at pagsusumikap na tuparin ang mga pangarap. Hindi balakid ang ang pisikal, emosyonal o pinansyal na kalagayan, bagkus, dapat magsilbi itong mga inspirasyon at dahilan upang lalong pagsumikapan na marating ang rurok ng husay ng iyong pagkatao. Napakainam na pagtatapos sa pag-aaral ang ginawang motibo ng pelikula dahil sa panahon ngayon ay dumarami nang kabataan ang hindi na nakikita ang halaga ng edukasyon. Ang pumapangalawang malakas na mensahe ay ang pagtanggap at pagmamahal bilang tugon sa pagmamalupit at masasamang ugali. Mas lumambot ang puso at nahikayat magbago si Buboy nang pakitaan siya ni Lola Feliza ng malasakit at pag-uunawa. Katulad ng panawagan sa atin bilang mga Kristyano, awa at malasakit ang una nating ipakita sa mga nangangailangan—lalo iyong mga naliligaw ng landas. Napapanahon ang pelikula at bagay sa anumang gulang ng manunuod.

Everyday I love you

DIRECTOR: Mae Czarina Cruz-Alviar  LEAD CAST: Enrique Gil, Liza Soberano & Gerald Anderson  SCREENWRITER: Vanessa R. Valdez & co.  PRODUCER:  Star Cinema  GENRE: Romantic-Drama  DISTRIBUTOR: Star Cinema  LOCATION:  Silay, Bacolod, Philippines  RUNNING TIME:  140 mins
Technical assessment:  3
Moral assessment: 3
CINEMA Rating:  PG 13 with parental guidance
            Tubong Silay, Bacolod at nangangarap makilala bilang program host sa telebisyon ang magandang dalaga na si Audrey Locsin (Liza Soberano).  May matindi rin syang paghanga sa kaibigang binata na si Tristan Montelibano (Gerald Anderson).  Mabibigyan ng pagkakataon ang paghangang ito ni Audrey dahil iiwan si Tristan ng kanyang girlfriend upang manirahan sa Maynila. Mula sa nararamdamang sakit dulot ng pakikipaghiwalay ng girlfriend ay mababaling kay Audrey ang atensyon ng binata at magkakamabutihan silang dalawa. Makikitang masaya sina Audrey at Tristan sa kanilang relasyon, subalit sa punto na nanaisin ng una na tuparin ang mga pangarap nya para sa sarili ay medyo mag-iiba ang tono ng huli. Hindi sila magkakasundo sa bagay na ito kaya magdudulot ito ng kalituhan kay Audrey, hanggang sa maaksidente at ma-comatose si Tristan. Matiyaga at may pagmamahal na aalagaan ni Audrey ang nakaratay na kasintahan na aabutin ng ilang buwan. Sa panahong ito ay makilala ni Audrey si Ethan Alfaro (Enrique Gil), isang progresibong empleyado ng sikat na TV network at aalukin siya nito ng trabaho.  Makikita ni Audrey na ito na ang pagkakataong hinihintay niya para mabigyan katuparan ang matagal na niyang pangarap at inaasam-asam na tagumpay sa buhay.  Tatanggapin niya ang alok ni Ethan at magkakasama sila sa mga proyekto ng network. Madaling magkakasundo sa trabaho ang dalawa. Subalit hahantong sa higit pa sa magkatrabaho ang mararamdaman nila sa isa’t isa. Mahuhulog ang loob ni Audrey kay Ethan na siyang naghatid ng katuparan sa mga minimithi niyang pangarap sa buhay. Paano naman ang pinangarap niyang pag-ibig kay Tristan na nakaratay?
             Nakasentro sa “kilig formula” ng tambalang Gil at Soberano ang kwento ng Everyday I love You. Dahil dito ay inaasahan na ang mga tagpo at alam na ng manonood ang magiging katapusan ng pelikula. Sa madaling salita ay mababaw ang kwento. Nakapaglabas naman ng hinihinging emosyon ang mga pangunahing aktor, mababaw ang kanilang luha at nakatulong ang aspetong ito ng pagganap para maging epektibo ang eksenang drama. Mahusay ang ibinigay na suporta ng mga beteranong aktor at aktres sa pagganap. Samantala hindi “consistent” sa paggamit ng “subtitles” sa mga salitang Bisaya kaya hindi naging makatotohanan ang aspetong ito ng pelikula. Halimbawa na lamang sa “hosting” ni Audrey ng “local program” Silay Scooter Girl kung saan mga taga Bacolod ang pangunahing target audience, pawang Tagalog ang salitang gamit ni Audrey. Maganda naman ang sinematograpiya at naging kalakasan nito ang magagandang kuha ng kamera. Epektibo ang mga close-up shot kina Gil at Soberano para kiligin ang kanilang mga fans sa sinehan. Pero di na sana sinama sa close-up shot ang nakaratay na si Tristan, kasi malusog at matipunong lalaki ang pinakikita sa halip na hitsurang maysakit. Medyo sumablay ang editing dahil halos hindi nagpalit ng kasuotan si Tristan sa mga sumunod na eksena pagkagising mula sa pagka-comatose. Epektibo naman ang inilapat na tunog at musika. Nakadagdag ang himig ng theme song ng kilig sa mga eksena nina Gil at Soberano.
            Napakahalaga ng pagiging totoo sa sarili katulad ng sinasabi sa kawikaan na sa katotohanan maaring lumaya ang isang tao. Pinili ng mga pangunahing tauhan ang maging tapat at totoo sa kani-kanilang mga nararamdaman.  Positibo ang paghahatid ng temang pag-ibig sa Everyday I love You lalo na ang karakter ni Ethan sa pagitan nila ni Audrey kung saan nagpakita ng kahandaang magparaya at magsakripisyo, tumulong kahit walang maasahang kapalit, at maghangad ng paglago ng minamahal at tagumpay  nito, may paggalang at malakas na pagpipigil sa sarili. Nagpakita din ng malasakit, kalinga, at pagpapatawaran ang karakter ni Audrey sa pagitan nila ni Tristan. Makabuluhan ang mga sinambit na salita sa mga eksena nina Audrey, Ethan at Tristan na pinapayuhan ng mga nakatatanda sa kanila ukol sa mga aspeto ng relasyon, pamilya at trabaho. Sa kabuuan ay katanggap-tanggap ang aspetong moral ng pelikula.

Friday, November 6, 2015


DIRECTOR: Denis Villeneuve LEAD CAST:  Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, Victor Garber SCREENWRITER:  Taylor Sheridan            PRODUCER:  Basil Iwanyk, Thad Luckinbill, Trent Luckinbill, Edward McDonnel, Molly Smith  EDITOR:  Joe Walker  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Jóhann Jóhannsson  GENRE:  Drama, Crime Thriller  CINEMATOGRAPHER: Roger Deakins  DISTRIBUTOR:  Lionsgate  LOCATION:  United States RUNNING TIME: 121 minutes
Technical assessment: 4
Moral assessment: 2
CINEMA rating: V18
MTRCB rating: R16
After an operation  in Arizona that led  to the discovery of hidden corpses who are apparently victims of cartel violence, FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt), a specialist in hostage recovery/kidnapping cases, is recommended by her boss, Dave Jennings (Victor Garber) to CIA Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) to aid in the escalating war against drugs. Led by consultant Alejandro  “Medellín” Gillick (Benicio Del Toro), the team sets out on a dangerous and heavily militarized operation back and forth across the US–Mexican border. The team uses one of cartel leaders, Manuel Díaz (Bernardo Saracino) in tracking the Mexican drug cartel kingpin Fausto Alarcón (Julio Cesar Cedillo). Kate discovers that Alejandro is a lawyer whose family was murdered by the cartels. Fired by his own mission of revenge, they are out to destroy the very head of the cartel at all cost, even if it meant going against the books of legal operations.  Kate is bothered as this is not the kind of operation she expects; she suspects that she is being used to cover-up for something illegal.
Sicario is a riveting and gripping film on the violence in the border. Emily Blunt delivers a solid performance as the conscientious and idealistic FBI agent whose principles are challenged as she goes through the muddy waters of morality in the border. Benicio del Toro’s strong screen presence is as haunting as his character that denotes deep sadness and dangerous revenge. The director, Denis Villeneuve, is able to blend all the elements of an art film to come up with a depiction of a dark world where violence prevails and all systems, legalities, moral principles are tested and questioned. The cinematography, production design, sound and music are all well-orchestrated to create that eerie feeling as audiences are invited to be part of a dangerous and dark world that no one would want to visit even in their nightmares.
The border is a place no one would want to go but everyone would want to pass as it promises paradise on the other side. But for Sicario, a word that means “hitman” in Mexico, the border is just a place where violence is both the rule and the law.  In its totality Sicario says there is no real hero in this situation—not Kate who is a mere observer and a conscience shaken FBI agent amidst the havoc and violence happening around her; not Alejandro, a callous character who against his better judgment is driven by anger to cling to his dubious, illegal, unethical, and evil ways—all in the name of revenge first, and for the greater good, second.  Can evil stop evil?  That is a gray area for Sicario, a film that screams out loud that evil exists and something must be done, and yet snorts that “there is nothing we can do”.  A character holds on to what is right in spite of the overpowering violence and moral turpitude in society, implying that there is always hope for change.  The dark theme and graphic violence in the film are suitable only for mature audiences aged 18 and above.