The Episcopal Commission on Social Communication-CBCP

CINEMA (Catholic INitiative for Enlightened Movie Appreciation) of The Episcopal Commission on Social Communication of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines presents movies viewed in the light of the gospel. . *** For inquiries, please EMAIL: cbcpcinema@gmail.com *** CALL or TEXT: (02) 664 5886 *** or WRITE TO: CINEMA, Episcopal Commission on Social Communication, CBCP Compound, 470 General Luna St. Intramuros, Manila *** Enjoy the reviews, and THANK YOU!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Insurgent

--> DIRECTOR: Robert Schwentke  LEAD CAST:  Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Theo James, Kate Winslet  SCREENWRITER: Brian Duffield, Akiva Goldsman, Mark Bomback based on Veronica Roth’s novel  PRODUCER:  Neil Burger, Lucy Fisher, David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman, Pouya Shahbazian, Barry H. Waldman, Douglas Wick, John Wildermuth  EDITOR: Stuart Levy, Nancy Richardson  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Joseph Trapanese  GENRE: Adventure, Sci-Fi, Thriller  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Florian Ballhaus     DISTRIBUTOR:  Summit Entertainment  LOCATION:  USA RUNNING TIME: 119 minutes
Technical Assessment:  3 
Moral Assessment:  2.5
MTRCB rating:  PG  13 
CINEMA rating:  V14 
In the dystopian society of post-war Chicago, society is divided into five factions according to their most dominant personality trait and are tasked to uphold a specific quality: Dauntless for bravery, Erudite for knowledge, Candor for truth, Amity for peace and Abnegation for selflessness. Those who belong to more than one faction are called Divergents and are considered a threat to human existence. Tris Prior (Woodley), former Abnegation and trained in Dauntless was discovered to be a divergent in the previous movie while ambitious Erudite leader Jeanine Matthews (Winslet) spearheaded the attack on the entire Abnegation faction in order to gain control of the system. Insurgent begins where Divergent ends. We see the surviving Abnegation and Dauntless members hiding in Amity and Candor as Jeanine hunts down remaining Divergents in order to unlock a box that supposedly contains data from the city's founders and eventually end the Divergent problem. Meanwhile, Tris, Four (James) and the remaining Dauntless seek refuge with the Factionless whose leader, Evelyn Eaton (Watts), is also Four's mother who wishes to join forces and overthrow Jeanine and the entire faction system.
One needs to be familiar with the series to be able to appreciate the film. But even with its literary counterpart to provide the needed depth and texture, it is difficult to sympathize with them as they barely transcend the cardboard like characters. The sets and production design are able to give layers in the characters more than the performances and dialogues. The storyline is a little more cohesive but still fails to deliver a convincing argument about the faction system and the divergent and why and how it works. As an action film, the movie delivers breathtaking chase scenes and dazzling visual effects. But scrap all of these off the plate, you are left with a very thin plot that forces audience to believe the protagonist has valid issues to overcome and the antagonist is a real threat to the world. Even the concept of simulation, serums and making a single choice to define one's person is a little weak (both in the film and in the novel). On the technical side, the production design and scoring successfully interprets Roth’s idea of faction system and action events.
Does the greater good justify trampling over the rights and humanity of the few? We have heard this line from leaders who sought to rationalize their violence and cruelty. And we always hear this as an excuse for the so many inconveniences we suffer everyday.  Jeanine Matthews' defends her decision to slaughter an entire faction or force a group to kill each other or jump to their death for in order to ensure that society remains intact. So did one dictator when he had opposition leaders rounded up and incarcerated. So did Caiaphas when he insisted on having Pilate crucify Jesus.  But whose good are they really referring to? We have to examine our choices. It one thing to exercise tough love in order to serve a greater purpose but that purpose should always have as an end result love, respect and selflessness.  
Further, the exercise of one virtue does not mean neglecting all others—bravery does not mean violence and aversion to peace, truth does not mean tactlessness and being inconsiderate. While virtues are non-negotiables, they do not exist in black and white. That is why human beings are virtuous because it takes discernment and conscience as well. The film successfully underlines that Divergents (those with two or more dominant traits/virtues) are the instruments for society to survive and humanity to flourish. 


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Cinderella

DIRECTOR: Kenneth Branagh  LEAD CAST: Lily James, Cate Blanchett, Richard Madden, Helena Bonham Carter, Holliday Grainger SCREENWRITER: Aline Brosh McKenna  PRODUCER: Tim Lewis & Barry Waldman  EDITOR: Martin Walsh  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Patrick Doyle  GENRE: Fantasy/romance  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Haris Zambarloukos   DISTRIBUTOR: RKO Pictures  LOCATION: UK RUNNING TIME:  105 minutes
Technical assessment:  4
Moral assessment:  4
CINEMA rating:  GP
            Ella (Lily James) enjoys a short-lived childhood in a comfortable home in an estate, with loving, devoted parents.  As a very young girl, Ella is introduced by her mother to a magical world that makes the impossible possible, for instance, conversing with mice, geese and lizards in the family estate.  Everything seems endless perfection until illness strikes Ella’s mother suddenly, then death follows.  Before the fateful moment, however, her mother leaves Ella not jewels, not wealth, but two golden nuggets of advice: “Have courage, be kind.”   As Ella blooms into womanhood, her father remarries and takes Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett) for his wife.  The wicked stepmother moves in along with her two daughters Drisella (Sophie McShera) and Anastasia (Holliday Grainger), whose cruelty Ella repays with kindness, even to animals and strangers.  Magic becomes reality when the apprentice Kit (Richard Madden) and Ella’s Fairy Godmother (Helena Bon Carter) come into her life.
-->
        The Cinderella motif has had a long history that reportedly begins with a tale from Egypt in the first century BC.  Indeed, even older than Christ, the Cinderella theme has undergone various adaptations, forms, and interpretations, the “modern” one being the fairy tale by French writer Charles Perrault, published in 1697.  Since then Cinderellas have come and gone—on film, in plays, operas, and ballets, inspiring pop music, children’s bedtime stories and even coloring books.  Thus it was with a sigh of weariness that CINEMA met this 2015 version: “What? Another Cinderella?”  No—it is not “another” Cinderella.  Even in casting and CGI alone, this version tops it all.
            The power of fairy tales lies in how well they sweep the audience off their feet—to believe in magic and in never-never lands that promise happy ever-afters, to offer escape from ordinary life and hope for better times.  This Cinderella accomplishes all that—but does so without taking advantage of the viewer’s gullibility or justifying their romantic notions.  This Cinderella extols virtues from beginning to end—justice, forgiveness, patience, faith in man’s goodness, love, purity, and yes, courage and kindness.  “Have courage, be kind” is mentioned no less than five times on separate occasions, by different characters, nailing in a lesson with a velvet-covered hammer.  It makes clear distinctions between right and wrong, good and evil, vice and virtue.  The good guys are admirable and lovable; the bad guys are pathetic and must be forgiven.  In the end, it’s not just Cinderella and her prince who live happily ever after, but the citizens of their kingdom.  Can a movie get any more Christian than that?
 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Crazy Beautiful You


-->DIRECTOR: Mae Czarina Cruz  LEAD CAST:  Daniel Padilla, Kathryn Bernardo, Lorna Tolentino, Gabby Concepcion, Inigo Dominic Pascual, Dante Ponce  SCREENWRITER: Maan Dimaculangan, Jancy E. Nicolas, Bianca B. Bernardino, Carmi Raymundo, Rory B. Quintos  PRODUCER:  John Leo D. Garcia, Carmi Raymundo, Malou N. Santos, Charo Santos-Concio  EDITOR: Marya Ignacio  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Jesse Lucas  GENRE: Drama, Romance, Comedy  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Moises Lee, Dan Villegas   DISTRIBUTOR:  Star Cinema Productions  LOCATION:  Capas, Tarlac and Metro Manila RUNNING TIME:   90 minutes
Technical assessment:  3.5     Moral assessment:  4
MTRCB rating:  PG13    CINEMA rating:  V13
            Isang “pasaway”  si Jackie (Kathryn Bernardo) na lumaking malayo sa inang nasa Amerika (Lorna Tolentino), walang dulot kungdi sakit ng ulo sa amang nasa Pilipinas (Dante Ponce), at walang ibang gusto sa buhay kungdi ang masunod ang layaw niya.  Bagama’t hiwalay ang kaniyang mga magulang (Lorna Tolentino at Dante Ponce), at kahit na dalaga na si Jackie ay sige pa rin sa pag-aagawan ang mga ito sa anak.  Gusto ni Jackie na makapag-aral sa New York, at hihimukin siya ng inang doktora na kung sasama lamang siya hanggang sa matapos ang isang medical mission sa isang malayong probinsiya , ay matutupad ang hiling niya.  Tatanggapin ni Jackie ang alok ng ina, at dito—sa kabilang ibayo ng bundok kung saan walang koryente at cellphone signal—mararanasan niya ang makisalamuha sa mga ita, ang matulog sa kawayang sahig ng kubo, at ang maunsiyami ang kahit anong gustuhin niya.  Dito rin niya matatagpuan si Kiko.  Ano ang magiging papel ni Kiko sa buhay ni Jackie?
            Sa biglang tingin, bantulot kaming panoorin ang Crazy, beautiful you sa pag-aakalang kabilang ito sa mga dalawa-isang-perang pelikula na ampaw ang kuwento pero puno naman ng kilig at pagbebenta ng produkto.  Lalo na pumasok na kami sa sinehan—puno ng tao mula ibaba hanggang itaas.  Pagkatapos ng palabas, napaghinuha naming kakaiba ito, at nakatutuwa ding isipin na kahit hindi ito karaniwang “masarap” sa panglasa ng karamihan ng mga Pilipinong manonood, ay marami pa ring tumatangkilik dito.  Malaman ang kuwento, kapupulutan ng maraming aral at temang mapag-uusapan ng buong pamilya.  Mahusay ang pagganap ng mga artista lalo na ni Padilla na nagpapakitang kaya niyang gampanan ang isang karakter na may kahinugan ng isip at damdamin.  Minsan nga lamang ay sobrang haba sa ilang madramang eksena (puwede namang “higpitan” nang kaunti ang dialogue nang walang nababawas na halaga sa kuwento), at kulang naman sa “build up” ang ilan, tulad ng prosesong mauuwi sa pagpapatawad ng mga tauhan sa isa’t isa—para tuloy minadali.  Pero mapapatawad na rin ang ganoong mga teknikal na pagkukulang dahil nasasapawan ito ng ibang mga maaayos na detalya at ng kabuluhan ng buong kuwento.
            Ang katangi-tanging ganda ng pelikula ay ang pagmulat nito ng paningin ng manonood na ang mundo ay hindi lamang ang sarili, ang pamilya, mga kaibigan at mga gusto mo lamang na isali sa mundo mo.  Naiiba sa karamihan ang Crazy, beautiful you—una, hindi ito karaniwang “pakilig” lamang; ikalawa, lahat ng mga tauhan dito ay nagpapakabait sa kabila ng mga pagsubok ng buhay; ikatlo, pinahahalagahan ng pelikula ang transformation ng isang tao, ang pamumukadkad ng kanyang higit na nakabubuting pagkatao; ikaapat, pinatutunayan nito na ang pagdamay ng isang tao sa mga kapos sa buhay ay nagiging ugat ng paghilom ng mga sugat ng kanyang nakaraan; ikalima, isinasaad dito naang  daan tungo sa tunay na pag-ibig at kaligayahan ay nabubuksan kapag natututuhan na ng isang tao ang magmahal ng wagas sa kaniyang kapwa-tao.


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Kingsman: The Secret Service


DIRECTOR: Matthew Vaughn  LEAD CAST: Colin Firth, Samuel Jackson, Michael Caine, Taron Egerton, Sofia Boutella, Sophie Cookson, Mark Strong   SCREENWRITER:  Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn based on comic book series by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons  PRODUCER:  Adam Bohling, David Reid, Matthew Vaughn  EDITOR:  Eddie Hamilton, Jon Harris, Conrad Buff IV  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Henry Jackman, Matthew Margeson  GENRE: Action, Comedy, Adventure  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  George Richmond  DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox  LOCATION:  United Kingdom, United States  RUNNING TIME:  129 minutes
Technical assessment:  3
Moral assessment:  2.5
MTRCB rating:  R16
CINEMA rating:  V16
            If you're prepared to adapt and learn, you can transform.  Kingsman: The Secret Service is based on the comic book series of the same title by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons.  It is about Gallahad/Harry Hart (Colin Firth) recruiting a streetwise young man Gary 'Eggsy' Unwin (Taron Egerton) to replace his father Lancelot who died 17 years ago saving Hart’s life. Eggsy is in prison for resisting police and car theft. Gallahad gets him out and enlists him to be a Kingsman—which is a kind of independent secret service not connected to any government. In short, it is a company of spies—of gentlemen spies, although class is no requirement. While Eggsy undergoes intense training, a serious plot of controlling population to save the environment is being hatched by telecom giant Richmond Valentine (Samuel Jackson). Gallahad takes on the mission but things turn for the worse. Eggsy has to team up with Merlin (Mark Strong) and Roxy (Sophie Cookson), the recently accepted Lancelot when big boss Arthur (Michael Caine), ala M of Bond fame, proves untrustworthy. Will they succeed in saving the world?
            Kingsman is a parody of 1970s spy thrillers, particularly Agent 007. Looks like Firth would say at any moment: “The name is Bond, James Bond.” It is peppered with references to other spies and boasts of high-caliber actors who shine brilliantly. Firth is a pleasant surprise as a debonair action star, impeccably dressed, well-mannered but quick and deadly. Samuel Jackson with a lisp essays the eccentric villain convincingly, with his graceful knife-legged side kick Gazelle (Sofia Boutella). Newcomer Taron Egerton holds his ground in the scenes with these thespians including Michael Caine. State-of-the-art gadgets are not lacking and the irreverent, tongue-in-cheek humor makes you chuckle at some scenes, bringing back memories of spy thrillers you’ve enjoyed. But others leave a bad feeling at the mayhem and brutality of extended violence. The action scenes are skilfully choreographed but there is too much gore, even glee, at the massacre in a fundamentalist church. Not to mention colorful exploding heads to the tune of Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance.
            Kingsman mixes comedy, violence and action but proposes certain values as well. And then makes fun of it. Quoting Hemingway, Galahad tells Eggsy that “there is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man. True nobility is being superior to your former self.” He returns the supreme sacrifice of his father in saving Gallahad’s life by giving Eggsy the chance to bring out the best in himself. He also tells a group of thugs “Manners maketh man.” Then he proceeds to fight with each of them. When one of the trainees dies after the first test of the program, Merlin tells the group that teamwork is paramount. In the next scene Arthur commands the trainee to shoot his dog who is part of the team. The Kingsman is committed to “save the world” at the risk of his life. Gallahad exemplifies this and so do Merlin, Roxy and Eggsy as they work together to stop the planet wide genocide. Despite tech genius Valentine’s program to celebrate a new world safe from global warming, free offers come at a cost they can’t even imagine. Kingsman also falls into the cliché of showing women as merciless and capable villains, or sexual reward for saving the world.