Sunday, February 22, 2015

American Sniper

DIRECTOR:  Clint Eastwood  LEAD CAST: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Luke Grimes, Kyle Gallner, Sam Jaeger, Jake McDorman, and Cory Hardrict  STORY: Chris Kyle  SCREENWRITER: Jason Hall  PRODUCERS: Clint Eastwood, Andrew Lazar, Bradley Cooper, Peter Morgan  PRODUCTION DESIGN:  James J. Murakami, Charisse Cardenas  FILM EDITORS: Joel Cox, Gary D. Roach  MUSIC: Joseph DeBeasi, Clint Eastwood  GENRE: Action, War, Biography  CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tom Stern  PRODUCTION COMPANIES: Mad Chance Productions, 22nd & Indiana Pictures, Malpaso Productions DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Bros. Pictures  LOCATION:   United States RUNNING TIME:  134 mins.           

Technical Assessment: 4
Moral Assessment: 3
CINEMA Rating: for viewers 14 and above
            The film essays the real life of US Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper)—from the circumstances that led him to the service to his becoming one of the most lethal snipers not just in the Navy SEAL but in the entire American history. His skill has brought him to tours of duty in Iraq to protect his comrades who are fighting in the war. His pinpoint accuracy not only saves countless lives but also makes him a prime target of insurgents. Despite grave danger, and much to his wife’s dismay, Kyle goes to Iraq four times thinking that he’s doing his country a great service for he believes in the war they are in. But the ravage of war leaves Kyle wounded for the rest of his life. Coming back home, he has to face a different war, a different crusade brought about by his decision to serve his country above himself.
            American Sniper hits the emotions of the audience to the core. The strong characterization of the central subject of the story makes the film both fascinating and compelling. Cooper really fits the role and his performance delivers even the slightest emotional and psychological nuance of the character. Given the complexities of the situation the film depicts, it is able to keep things simple without being simplistic by focusing on the gamut of emotions and psychological torture a soldier has to go through just to defend a war for the sake of his country. The film sticks to realism as far as possible, making the setting and situations distinct and realistic. The story is presented in a linear, chronological fashion, making it easier to follow. This is a good directorial decision since the story itself is complicated enough. However, there was little attention given to the other characters in the story which could have turned into interesting subplots. The political issues of the war are also left on the sidelights which could have been a good anchor for further debate. But then again, American Sniper is a good watch in its entirety with its competent direction, realistic setting, and sincere characterization.             Given Kyle’s clarity of purpose – to protect his comrades in the war, it would  seem easier to dismiss the other moral issues present in American Sniper.  But then again, the visuals of a rather dark and violent world will always be problematic. However, given the insightful workmanship of the film, it is quite clear that Kyle’s own moral dilemma is as problematic as the film’s moral stance. With a story based on the perspective of the Americans, the audience can see clearly whose ideology is at play here. The Moslems in the Middle East are once again put in the worst light that furthers stereotypical image of them being terrorists and extremists. It may really take a while before such semiological issue is reconciled in mainstream cinema.  Good thing, the film is highly focused on the central character’s emotional and psychological struggles, so it is clearly seen that killing, although in the context of war and self-preservation and self-defense, will always be problematic, if not traumatic. In war, one loses oneself in the process—a noble act if done with a noble purpose. Kyle as the central character in American Sniper is deemed a hero for he left himself behind for a purpose greater than himself—a selfless sacrifice. But then, given the political shade of the war he was in, one cannot help but ask whether Kyle’s sacrifice is really worth it or not. Audiences must still be warned of the desensitizing effect of the visuals of violence in the film.   CINEMA finds the film suitable only for viewers 14-years-old and above, given the scenes that contain emotional stress, sex, and violence. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Taken 3

DIRECTOR: Olivier Megaton  LEAD CAST:  Liam Neeson, Forest Whitaker, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Dougray Scott  SCREENWRITER: Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen  PRODUCER:  Luc Besson, Michael Mandaville  EDITOR: Audrey Simonaud, Nicolas Trembasiewicz  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Nathaniel Méchaly  GENRE:  Action/Thriller  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Eric Kress  DISTRIBUTOR:  20th Century Fox  LOCATION:  USA, Spain RUNNING TIME:   109 minutes

Technical assessment:  2.5
Moral assessment:  2.5
MTRCB rating:  PG13
CINEMA rating:  V14
        Liam Neeson returns as ex-government operative Bryan Mills, whose life is shattered when he’s falsely accused of a murder that hits close to home. As he’s pursued by a savvy police inspector (Forest Whitaker), Mills employs his “particular set of skills” to track the real killer and exact his unique brand of justice. (Review to follow)

Thursday, February 19, 2015


--> DIRECTOR: Jean-Marc Vallee   LEAD CAST: Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Thomas Sadoski, Michiel Huisman, Gaby Hoffman   SCREENWRITER:  Nick Hornby based on Cheryl Strayed’s memoir  PRODUCER:  Bruna Papandrea, Bill Pohlad, Reese Witherspoon  EDITOR:  John Mac McMurphy, Martin Pensa  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Clint Mansell  GENRE: Biographical Drama  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Yves Belanger  DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Searchlight Pictures  LOCATION:  United States  RUNNING TIME:  115 minutes 

Technical assessment: 4
Moral assessment:  3
MTRCB rating: R 16
CINEMA rating: V 18

Wild is the story of Cheryl Strayed, based on her best-selling memoir, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. Reese Witherspoon (of Legally Blonde fame) brings her to life as one who “had diverged, digressed, wandered, and become wild.” Devastated by her mother Bobbi’s (Laura Dern) untimely death due to cancer, Cheryl spirals into self-destructive behavior (read infidelity, carefree sex, drugs, an abortion), and divorces her loving husband Paul (Thomas Sadoski). Coming to her senses, she embarks on the Pacific Crest Trail in order to find, in her own words: “the lost vision of the woman my mom raised me to be.”
       Strayed takes us with her on the 1,100-mile-journey (from the California-Mexico border to Canada) as she struggles to carry a humongous backpack, Monster, faces all types of danger from animals, the changing seasons, the rugged terrain, hunger, and other hikers. Through impressive cinematography Wild does not present a woman-against-nature journey. Instead it shows the terror of a solo woman hiker for 94 days: taking one step after another in the most gruelling trek, facing one’s demons, accepting one’s savage nature and finding one’s place in the wilderness of our complex world. We see an amateur Strayed struggling with her pack, her boots, her lack of food and just about everything, but she never gives up in spite of her fears. Slowly, her past life unravels through well-placed flashbacks. Witherspoon, sans hairdo and makeup, captivates in her gritty performance, thanks to Jean-Marc Vallee’s direction. Laura Dern authors Bobbi’s all-encompassing love and optimism with passion and joie de vivre. The music adds to the adventure, and although there’s more to be desired in the conclusion, the entire movie effectively shows Strayed’s monumental journey.
       Wild is the story of a woman who literally walks out of her life, takes even a new name, and journeys into the unknown, totally unprepared and afraid. It shows how complicated life is for a woman and how she must find a way around it. Confronting the wounds of the past, she understands what it means to be human, to love, to grieve, to struggle, and to forgive. And although she experiences the graciousness and decency of people along the way, aside from a threatening few, what saves Strayed is not money, her parents, someone or something.  With dogged determination she undergoes both a physical and spiritual odyssey replete with sacrifices and pain, and discovers the beauty in the wild places of her life. In Christian terms, Strayed went on a pilgrimage, not so much to an external holy site, but to the wilderness of her soul and listened to her heart. And somehow she finds peace as she reaches “The Bridge of the Gods.”
       Wild is a powerful movie that invites the viewer to honestly look inside his/her own life. We wander, we lose our way, we make mistakes and we suffer, regretting many of the choices we make. The movie shows that the wild places belong to all of us and life’s greatest secret is having the courage to find the best you can be.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

That thing called 'tadhana'

--> DIRECTOR: Antoinette Jadaone   LEAD CAST:  Angelica Panganiban, J M de Guzman  SCREENWRITER: Antoinette Jadaone  PRODUCER:  Bianca Balbuena, Dan Villegas, Ronald Arguelles  EDITOR: Benjamin Gonzales Tolentino  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Emerzon Texon  GENRE: Romantic Comedy   CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Sasha Palomares  DISTRIBUTOR:  Star Cinema Productions  LOCATION:  Baguio, Sagada  RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
Technical assessment:  3.5
Moral assessment:  3
MTRCB rating:   PG-13
CINEMA rating:  V14
            Sawi sa pag-ibig si Mace (Angelica Panganiban). Matapos ang walong taong paniniwala niyang “sila na” ng katipan, matutuklasan niya ang pagtataksil nito sa ibang bansa at magpapasya siyang putulin na ang relasyon.  Matatagpuan siya ni Anthony (JM de Guzman) sa departure area na isang airport sa Italy, na namomroblema sa excess luggage niyang pauwi.  Aalukin siya ni Anthony na ilagay na lamang ang sobra niyang dalahin sa maleta nito para wala na siyang bayaran pa.  Hindi mapipigilan ni Mace and paghihimutok at ihihinga kay Anthony ang sinapit ng lovelife niya.  Matiyaga namang makikinig ang binata, na tila naaaliw sa kakuwanan ng dalagang iyakin.  Pagkat pareho naman silang may panahon, at hindi naman nagmamadaling magsiuwi pagdating sa Pilipinas, ipagpapatuloy nila ang paghuhuntahan nila hanggang makaabot sila sa Baguio at Sagada.  Saan hahantong ang kanilang pagsisiwalat ng kani-kaniyang buhay sa isa’t isa?
            Habang pinanonood namin ang That thing called ‘tadhana’, naaalala namin ang pelikulang Before Midnight kung saan ang buong pelikula ay naisulong ng dalawang artista lamang (Ethan Hawke at Julie Delpy) na nagkukuwentuhan, nag-uusap, at nagtatalo habang tumatakbo ang araw.  Ang tagumpay ng ganitong uri ng pelikula ay nakasalalay sa isang interesanteng kuwento, intelihenteng script, at kaiga-igayang pagganap ng mga tauhan.  Meron lahat nito sa That thing called ‘tadhana’.  Hindi nakakabagot bagama’t halos dalawang tao lang ang mapapanood mo sa loob buong haba ng pelikula.  Ibinibigay ni Panganiban ang hinihingi ng karakter niyang si Mace—kayang-kaya niya ito pagka’t hindi naman napakalaking hamon ang gampanan ang papel niya, lalo na’t bihasa na siya sa pagpapatawa sa telebisyon.  Si de Guzman din ay kahanga-hanga sa kanyang pagganap bilang isang “sob brother” ni Mace.  Magaling ang chemistry ng dalawa, at kitang-kita sa mga closeup shots nila ang sinseridad sa paglalahad ng kani-kaniyang tauhan.
            Nakuha ng pelikulang “pasakayin” ang manonood sa mga pangyayaring namamagitan kay Mace at Anthony.  Nakasama rin ang manonood sa paglalakbay, at natuklasan din nila tulad ng dalawang bida ang mga lugar na pinuntahan nito.  Iyon ang pinaka-kaakit-akit sa pelikulang ito: isa siyang kuwento ng pagmamalasakit at pakikisama nang walang bahid ng pagka-makasarili kahit na nga halos ay puro sarili nilang karanasan ang pinag-uusapan nila.  At sa dulo, maliwanag na ang mga pinakamahalagang bagay sa pagkikipag-ugnayan ng isang babae at isang lalaki ay hindi lamang physical attraction o natural na makasariling hangarin.  Higit na mahalaga ang pakikinig, pakikiramay, at pang-unawa sa kapwang nagdadalamhati.