Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Avengers: Age of Ultron

DIRECTOR: Josh Whedon  LEAD CAST: Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson,  Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cobbie Smulders  SCREENWRITER: Josh Whedon PRODUCER:  Kevin Feige  EDITOR: Jeffrey Ford & Lisa Lassek  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Dave Jordan  GENRE: Sci-fi, Action, Adventure  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Ben Davis  DISTRIBUTOR: Walt Disney Studios  LOCATION:  England RUNNING TIME:  2 hrs. 22 mins
Technical assessment: 3.5
Moral assessment: 3
CINEMA rating: V 14
Team Avengers reclaims Loki’s scepter from whose power in time Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downy, Jr.) will attempt to build artificial intelligence.  Stark’s move, unknown to the rest of the Avengers, is hoped to protect humanity against alien incursion, something Stark has seen in a vision.  Stark takes Dr. Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) into his confidence, and with Banner’s erstwhile reluctant but amiable cooperation, the experiment is a success.  However, Stark’s supposedly peace-keeping creation Ultron (James Spader), turns out to be an iron-willed Artificial Intelligence that defies the aim of its inventor.  Ultron hates the Avengers and his idea of peace is the total annihilation, not the salvation, of the human race—including the Avengers themselves.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron is anything but average.  Although it’s shamelessly sci-fi, and heavily reliant on CGI, it’s loads of fun and entertainment from start to finish, and doesn’t come off like a video game.  This is not to say it’s a perfect “5” by CINEMA standards—The Avengers: Age of Ultron has flaws like other movies that have too much to string together in a dizzying couple of hours—but by this time viewers realize that action and gags matter more than the plot.  Plot holes are patched over by the other luscious elements in the film, like the special effects,  choreography, and cinematography.  The performance by the charismatic, blockbuster cast—now numbering 18, cameos included—is cemented by a sparky storyline that’s tailor made to bring out the best in superheroes.
Superhero movies of late seem to have increasingly obscured boundaries between humans and robots.  Here, A.I. Ultron takes on a messianic complex that heretofore belonged exclusively to humans.  Point of discussion: if robots have become so complex and competent that they can will to destroy their creator, what will happen to the human race?  But on second thought, Ultron’s ambition, supposedly inappropriate for a robot, could be simply mirroring man’s vanity—doesn’t man also rebel against his Creator?  At any rate, The Avengers: Age of Ultron is an entertaining blend of superheroic bombast and human-size emotions.  Picture the tiny hand of Black Widow tentatively caressing the fearsome green mega-hand of the Hulk—how’s that for a pacifier?   Like a white rose brushing a raging bull’s horn to tame the beast to submission.  Get the picture?          

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Big Game

DIRECTOR: Jalmari Helander  LEAD CAST: Samuel L. Jackson, Onni Tommila, Ray Stevenson, Victor Garber, Mehmet Kurtulus, Ted Levine, Jorma Tommila, Risto Salmi, Felicity Huffman, Jim Broadbent SCREENWRITER:  Jalmari Helander  PRODUCER:  Will Clarke, Petri Jokiranta, Andy Mayson, Jens Meurer  EDITOR:  Iikka Hesse  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Juri Seppä, Miska Seppä  GENRE: Action, Adventure  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Mika Orasmaa  DISTRIBUTOR: Europa Corp.  LOCATION:  Germany  RUNNING TIME:  110 minutes
MORAL ASSESSMENT:  3.5                      
Finn Oskari (Onni Tommila) faces what every Finnish boy dreams of on the eve of his 13th birthday: to prove himself a man by surviving a day and a night in the wilds, catch game, and do his father proud. It doesn’t matter if he can barely bend his bowstring, let alone hunt for deer on his own.  Meanwhile, Moore (Samuel L. Jackson), the President of the United States of America is on his way to a G-8 summit meet when Air Force One is suddenly attacked by missiles. He is promptly ensured safety through the escape pod by Morris (Ray Stevenson), head security officer, before the plane crashes on to the forest floor where Oskari is. The young boy finds the President and drags him along his solitary pursuit only to discover that Moore is being hunted by a psychopath with the help of his trusted security aid.  Will Oskari prove himself and bag the biggest game of all?
Big Game opens with a spectacular and breathtaking sweep of what is supposed to be Finnish mountains and woods (it’s actually Bavaria, Germany). The awesome opening sequence alone makes your movie ticket worth it. There is great chemistry between young Onni Tommila and Samuel L. Jackson who both wear their characters with a delightful and solid performance. The action sequences are well choreographed and the musical score heightens the thrill of the adventure. Some parts are ridiculous but the dialogue has wit and it has lots of fun. Plot holes and the war room scenes leave much to be desired. In spite of its flaws, Big Game is a great package of adventure, humor, and ingenuity that somehow works and manages to inject real inspiration without being preachy.  
Big Game actually parodies current conceptions of what it means to be a man. It presents a bumbling president, a rich psychopath, a corrupt secret agent, an incompetent intelligence team, a well-meaning but unenlightened father, and a male community whose criterion for manhood is survival in the wild and a trophy kill. Instead the film shows man’s greatness in the capacity to forget himself and his pursuits in order to help another human being in need. When he surrenders posturing to getting his hands dirty, and valiantly defies any thought for self-preservation to save another, then he becomes a man.
There’s one poignant scene in the wilds when Oskari weeps not because his father made sure he’d be successful. He realizes that even his own father did not believe in him. He throws caution to the wind, and stands up to the challenge surprising even himself. As always, the temptation is to strive and struggle for power, possessions, prestige and position. Big Game teaches us, without any allusion to God or Jesus, the true measure of a man: “Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as ransom for many.”

Sunday, May 10, 2015


DIRECTOR:  Leo Gabriadze  LEAD CAST: Shelley Hennig, Moses Storm, Heather Sossaman, Renee Olstead, Will     Peltz, Jacob Wysocki and Courtney Halverson  STORY: Nelson Greaves  PRODUCERS: Mr. Greaves and Timur Bekmambetov  PRODUCTION DESIGN: Heidi Koleto  FILM EDITORS: Parker Laramie and Andrew Wesman COSTUMES: Veronika Belenikina  GENRE: Horror, Fantasy  CINEMATOGRAPHY: Adam Sidman  PRODUCTION COMPANIES: Bazelevs Company, Blumhouse Productions  DISTRIBUTOR: Universal Pictures  LANGUAGE: English  LOCATION:   United States RUNNING TIME:  85 mins.

Technical Assessment: 3.5
Moral Assessment: 2.5
CINEMA Rating: R18
            Blaire (Shelley Hennig) and her friends are chatting on Skype when they all start to receive messages from an inactive account of a common friend, Laura Barns, who had committed suicide a year ago after her humiliating video was posted on the Internet. They think at first that they are being hacked. But things start to get violent and they are all forced to admit their dirty little secrets leading towards the truth as to why Laura killed herself. Now they know and are convinced that they are all in trouble. Will they be able to escape the ghost of their past?
            The film makes full use of the latest communication technology to give a new look and perspective to a rather worn-out horror premise. The film succeeds in this aspect as it was able to keep the audiences glued on their seats. The film’s highlights that mostly happen on the computer screen are able to capture audience’s interest. Unfriended uses realism as a technique and is very effective at delivering such, which is a challenge given the film’s rather unrealistic premise. The characters are all effective at being both unlikeable and pathetic—making them appear as real human beings, flawed, weak, committing mistakes without being intentionally evil. Plot wise, the film has little to offer but presentation wise, it is able to deliver.
            Unfriended is a statement on the irresponsible use of social media. The film clearly states that although the media is powerful in shaping perception and influencing beliefs, the humans who use it still remain supreme. It is the users who create content who should be held liable for whatever outcome media content may bring. In the case of Unfriended—that centers on the suicide of Laura Barns—it is not the media that killed her, but the irresponsible people behind the video uploading. Hers is another case of cyberbullying and the horrors that go with it.  Although the film goes overboard in making the victim so vindictive, it may have been done intentionally to create a greater impact on its message—and there goes the irony as a communication media: the film makes a critique of another  medium, the internet, thereby contradicting itself by being as dangerous for audiences to watch.  Clearly computers are used here by evil forces making revenge possible, and how!  This is the reason why CINEMA deems the film as appropriate only to audiences age 18 and above. There is so much cursing, sex, drugs, and violence in the film, although done in context, that may not be suitable to young audience’s impressionable minds.

Your place or mine

--> Direction: Joel Lamangan; Cast: Andi Eigenmann, Bret Jackson, Jovic Monsod, Andre Paras; Screenplay:Keiko Aquino; Story: Turning Japanese; Editing:Joel Lamangan; Producer:; Music:Emerzon Texon; Location: Metro Manila; Genre: Romantic-Comedy; Distributor: Viva Films; Running Time: 95 minutes
Technical assessment: 1.5
Moral assessment: 2 
MTRCB rating: R 13
CINEMA rating: V18
            Pagkatapos makipaghiwalay sa nobyo, maglalasing si Haley (Andi Eigenmann) para lunurin ang sama ng loob. Pero mauuwi sa pakikipagniig sa di kilalang lalake at pagmamadaling umuwi at kalimutan ang nangyari kinabukasan. Pagkalipas ng ilang araw ay malalaman niyang ang lalaking iyon, na si Rusell (Bret Jackson) ay siya ring pinili ng kanyang mga magulang upang pakasalan niya. Pangsumandali ay mahuhulog ang loob niya kay Rusell hanggang matuklasan niya na sinadya pala ng lalake na magkatagpo sila. Tatakbo si Haley sa kanyang kababatang si Seth (Andre Paras) na may lihim din palang pagtingin sa dalaga.
            Tamang-tama ang linya ni Haley, “This is one big sick joke”. Mas babagay nga kung ito ang ginawang pamagat ng pelikula para simula pa lamang ay handa na ang isip at kalooban ng mga manunuod. Unang-una, tila isinulat ito ng isang bagitong walang alam sa buhay at nagpupumilit bigyan ng lalim ang one-night stand;  walang alam din sa paghahanap ng tunay na pag-ibig, relasyon, kasal, at pagiging magulang. Pilit at hilaw ang kwento at lalong malabnaw ang pagbubuo sa katauhan ng bawat isa. Sa paningin, maganda ang pelikula dahil tadtad ito ng magagarbong gamit, lugar at disenyo. Pero dahil sa babaw ng kwento ay nagiging panakip butas ito para malibang ang manunuod kahit papaano. Lalo namang masakit sa ulo ang pagganap ng mga pangunahing tauhan. (Nakapagtataka at anak pa nina Mark Gil at Jackylyn Jose si Eigenmann).  Sana ay ginastusan sila ng acting workshop para nagkaroon naman ng lalim at buhay ang kanilang pagganap, para naman nadala kahit kaunti ang pelikula. Maayos ang ibang aspetong teknikal at pamproduksyon, pero dahil walang kwenta ang mismong kwento at ang pagganap ng mga artista ay wala rin itong silbi sa kabuuan.
            Isinusulong ng pelikula ang nakakasanayang gawi ng kabataan sa panahon ngayon: pakikipagtalik bago kasal; laro-laro muna at saka na lang magseryoso. Kahit na ang pinakapundasyon ng kwento ay ang paghahanap ng tunay na pag-ibig, inanod naman ito ng mababaw na pananaw sa relasyon, kasal at pakikipagtalik. Hindi nakabubuti na ang one night stand ay pinilit na itapat sa tunay at wagas na pag-ibig pagkat maaring isipin ng mga bata na pagbibigay katwiran ito sa kanilang kapusukan. Hungkag ang kahulugan ng tunay na pag-ibig sa kwento—sa isang iglap ay payag na si babae na pakasalan si lalake dahil posible namang niyang mahalin ito balang araw; sa isang iglap ay naniwala si lalake na naglalandi ang nobya dahil me kausap itong ibang lalake; sa isang iglap ay iba na ang napagkasunduang pakakasalan at sa gitna ng paglalakad sa altar ay biglang magpapalit ng kapareha…Dagdag pa ay ang masamang imahen ng isang babae na ipinakikita ng pelikula. Walang kakayahan si Haley na magdesisyon o ipaglaban ang sarili. Una, sa kanyang mga magulang na pumilit sa kanyang magpakasal sa lalakeng hindi naman niya kilala; ikalawa, sa asawa na pumilit sa kanya na magsilbi, magbuntis at umintindi sa kanyang bawat kapritso ng damdamin. Ang masakit ay natatapos ang pelikula na masaya at naging buo ang pagkatao ni Haley gawa ng desisyon ng ibang tao para sa kanya.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Kid Kulafu

DIRECTOR: Paul Soriano  LEAD CAST: Robert Villar, Alessandra de Rossi, Cesar Montano  SCREENWRITER: Froi Medina  PRODUCER:  Marie Pineda  EDITOR: Mark Victor  GENRE: drama [biographical]  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Odysse Flores  DISTRIBUTOR: Star Cinema  LOCATION:  Southern Philippines  RUNNING TIME:  70 mins.
Technical assessment: 3.3
Moral assessment:  3.5
CINEMA rating: V14
       “Before Manny Pacquiao, there was Kid Kulafu”—ito ang mensaheng nasa mga poster ng pelikulang Kid Kulafu.  Inilalahad ng Kid Kulafu ang dinanas na paghihirap ng “Pambansang Kamao” na si Manny Pacquiao—ang mga pagsubok at pasakit na bumalot sa kanyang buhay, kasama ng amang manhid at ng inang matatakutin bagama’t deboto.  Sa kabila ng lahat, hindi naglaho ang pangarap ng batang Emmanuel na umangat sa buhay at iahon ang kanyang pamilya mula sa kahirapang dinaranas.  Nang matuklasan ng batang Pacquiao na siya ay may kaibang kakayahan sa suntukan, ginamit niya ito bilang hagdanan upang marating ang pangarap nang buo ang loob at walang walang lingon-lingon, kahit na sa harap ng malalaking balakid.
       Sa simula pa lamang ng pelikula ay mababakas na ang kakaibang kalidad ng Kid Kulafu—mahusay ang potograpiya, ginagawang kapanapanabik ang istorya.  At bagama’t may mga “mabibigat” na eksena (tulad ng paglalabanan ng military at rebelde), ang mga ito ay “pinaraan” lamang at hindi pinalawig upang manipulahin ang damdamin ng manunuod.
       Kahanga-hanga ang pagganap ng mga artista, lalo na nila Alessandra de Rossi na bigay-todo ang pagsasalarawan kay Dionisia, at Buboy Villar na sadyang pumailalim sa pagsasanay bilang boksingero at nagbigay-buhay sa batang Pacquiao na hindi nakilala ng publiko.  Ang matalinong paggamit din ng mga simbulo ay nakatulong sa makinis at malalim na pagbubuo ng salaysay.
       May ilang mga kritikong iginigiit na hindi isang lehitimong pelikula ang Kid Kulafu kungdi isang advertisement, isang anunsiyo, at ang ibinebenta nitong produkto ay ang “pambansang kamao” na hindi na naman kailangang ibenta diumano pagkat “mabili” na ito.  Maaari ngang walang isang “cinematic plot” na matuturingan ang Kid Kulafu ngunit kung isasa-alang-alang natin ang layunin ng pelikula, tama ang ginawang hagod at habi ng direktor (Paul Soriano).  Pagkat naging pakay ng “biopic” na Kid Kulafu na ituon ng manunood ang kanilang pansin sa papel na ginampanan ng tadhana sa buhay ni Emmanuel Pacquiao, hindi ito umasa sa isang tradisyonal na sangkap tulad ng “plot” upang mabuo—sa halip, tinuhog nito nang buong husay ang ilang mga pangyayari, karanasan, at eksena sa buhay ng Pilipinong idolo upang palitawin na ang paglalakbay ni Pacquiao tungo sa rurok ng tagumpay ay iginuhit ng tadhana.
     Tiyak na may ilan ding mahahalagang pangyayari sa buhay ni Pacquiao ang nalaktawan sa ginawang pagtatagni-tagni ni Soriano sa Kid Kulafu, at ang pagtatapos ng pelikula sa pagtatagumpay ni Pacquiao bilang boksingero, ngunit dapat alamin ng manunood na hindi isang dokumentaryo ang Kid Kulafu; bagkus, ito ay isang salaysay sa nais magbahagi ng pag-asa at inspirasyon sa mga makakapanood nito, lalo na’t kung sila ay nasa abang kalagayang tulad ng kampeyon noong kanyang kabataan.  
       Hindi maikakaila na may mga magagandang “values” na lumutang sa Kid Kulafu, tulad ng pagiging masunuring anak (ni Manny), kababaang-loob, pagmamahal sa pamilya, matatag na pagtitiwala sa Panginoon, disiplina upang matamo ang tagumpay.