Friday, August 28, 2015

The Gift

DIRECTOR: Joel Edgerton  LEAD CASTJason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, Joel Edgerton  SCREENWRITER:  Joel Edgerton PRODUCER:  Jason Blum, Joel Edgerton, Rebecca Yeldham  EDITOR:  Luke Doolan  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Danny Bensi, Saunder Jurriaans  GENRE:  Mystery thriller  CINEMATOGRAPHER: Edward Grau  DISTRIBUTOR:  STX Entertainment LOCATION:  United States RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes
Technical assessment: 4
Moral assessment: 2
CINEMA rating: V14
MTRCB rating: R13
A nice house in an upscale Southern California neighborhood signifies a fresh start for the marriage of former Chicago residents Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall): he for a step up in his career ladder and she with an eye towards motherhood.  Their newfound bliss is threatened by the emergence of a character from Simon’s past, a classmate named Gordo (Joel Edgerton) who intends to reestablish connection with Simon who in turn hardly remembers him.  Despite the subtle snub Gordo persists, and like a welcoming neighbor leaves little gifts at the couple’s doorsteps until he becomes a virtual part of their lives.  Simon bristles at Gordo’s annoying presence but Robyn thinks he is harmless. 
The Gift is Edgerton’s project, his directorial debut for a feature; and he also writes the screen play besides playing a major role in it.  Outside of Edgerton’s skill at being a first-time helmsman, the film’s main strength is the plot which unfolds as a forceful real-life drama among characters who are so real they could very well be your neighbors.  The finesse with which Edgerton dovetails the cast’s razor-sharp acting with the story’s twists and turns proves that a low-budget, slow-burn thriller can be a compelling stand-out in a marketplace filled with the razzle-dazzle of fantabulous superhero movies and slick spy flicks.  Edgerton shows promise as a director, unveiling shades of the suspense master Hitchcock through his adeptness at tweaking the audience’s expectations into unpredictable directions.
While The Gift banks on edge-of-the-seat elements to sustain audience interest, the director’s propensity for startling and unnerving the viewer must not daunt us into accepting the film as mere atmospheric cinema.  The Gift flaunts its ambiguities, and Edgerton, who takes the material seriously, nonetheless chooses not to take a definitive stance on the moral issues in envelops. Much as CINEMA wants to raise questions or to make clear moral pronouncements on the movie’s conclusion, it cannot do so without uncovering things that must be left under wraps for viewers to discover and ruminate on.  Suffice it to say that The Gift is a powerful tool to spur us to examine the lengths to which human beings would try to numb themselves from the shame of their darkest sins. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Inside out

Direction: Pete Docter, Ronnie del Carmen; Cast: Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, Richard Kind, Kaithlyn Dias, Diane Lane Kyle MacMaLachlan; Story and Screenplay: Pete Docter, Ronnie del Carmen, Meg LeFaueve, Josh Cooley; Production Company: Walt Disney Picture, Pixar Animation Studio; Music: Michael Giacchino; Producers: Jonas Rivera; Genre: Animation;  Location: Minnesota, San Francisco Distributor: Walt Disney Running Time: 102 minutes
Technical assessment:  4
Moral assessment: 4
CINEMA Rating:  V13
MTRCB rating: PG
            The life of 11-year old Riley (Dias), is almost perfect until her father gets a new job in San Francisco and relocates the entire family.  The once happy daughter slowly breaks down with this new episode in her life as she copes to let go of what she has been used to and learns to embrace the sudden changes. And we see all this emotional struggle inside her mind as five personified emotions—Joy (Poehler), Sadness (Smith), Anger (Black), Fear (Hader) and Disgust (Kaling—man the control center of her brains and help develop core memories which in turn fuel personality islands that make up Riley's character.  Inside Riley's mind, Joy desperately attempts to keep the former happy and Sadness out of the way since she does not find her existence useful. During a struggle, Joy and Sadness are accidentally sucked out of the control center of her consciousness and into the deep recesses of Riley's subconscious mind. With Riley already emotionally unstable because of the events in her life and Joy's absence, Fear, Anger and Disgust try hard to regain control. Meanwhile Joy and Sadness, with Riley's long lost imaginary friend, Bingbong, discover each other's purpose in a person's life.
            There is an undeniable genius in Pixar and Disney's attempt to visualize the abstract concepts of emotion, memory and personality. While there had been professional arguments discounting accuracy of the interpretation, Inside Out is foremostly a movie and not a psychological dissertation, so it has license to be more lax in its interpretation of scientific concepts.  That being said, CINEMA can name four main reasons why it is a film that deserves its own niche in the “movies you should not miss” section: (1) The brilliant story and storytelling, as it clearly shows us Riley's struggle to face a new chapter in her life and brings us along Joy and Sadness’ journey to discover their purpose. As a side trip, we see how the different emotions mature and shape a person. (2) The humor and drama are perfectly balanced, so that a child, a teenager and an adult will be treated to an emotional rollercoaster ride with Riley and the team. (3) The creative amalgamation of truth and fantasy, such that it is able to tread along the world of science with fun, creativity, and functionality as it translates abstract concepts like nightmares, imaginary friend, forgotten and long term memories into something tangible and relatable. (4) The audience leaves with a message that feels made just for him/her. Whether it is the humorous way five emotions have matured inside Daddy or Mommy's heads, or how nightmares are hidden in the recesses of our subconscious and resurrected as nightmares or how part of our childhood fantasy struggles to resurface as we grow up or how an adolescent boy panics at the sight of a girl, or how our external apathy is actually an internal chaos, the movie speaks directly to its audience. And speaks loud and clearly.
There are so many things that could be picked up with Inside Out but we will zero in on two very strong messages. First, a well rounded person has mature emotions that do not control each other but work together to create layers in the personality and respond to the situation in the best possible way. For a while, it seemed that Joy and all her energy and positivity are the only ones needed for Riley to overcome her issues, but it turned out Sadness is not just about feeling down and needy but showing vulnerability and crying for help so that love and support may be felt.  But for an emotion to serve its real purpose, it has to mature and get over the initial automatic response to stimuli. We saw how Mom and Dad, with more mature emotions, do not have Joy commanding the control center. What is more important than staying positive all the time is learning how to harness that positive behavioural response of one’s basic emotions: caution and preparation in fear, assertiveness and identity in anger, sensitivities of values and hygiene in disgust, resilience and perseverance in joy, and love and sympathy and empathy in sadness. Second, the movie shows that to move forward, we must learn to let go of part of ourselves. In the same way that Joy let go of her notion that Sadness does not help fix a situation, or how Riley let go of old memories to make room for new ones. And who can forget that heart- wrenching scene when Bingbong literally let go and allowed himself to fade away so that Joy can move on and save Riley. Love, although not personified as a character, spoke loudly every time someone chose to forget himself/herself for the sake of someone else. Overall, Inside Out is more than a fantastically crafted story—it shares with us a message of knowing and being true to one’s core. Very young children might not fully appreciate its metaphors and symbols, but for older children and adolescents, with proper parental guidance, Inside Out makes a superb textbook for Self-Knowledge 101.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The love affair

--> DIRECTOR:  Nuel C. Naval  LEAD CAST:  Dawn Zulueta, Bea Alonzo,  Richard Gomez, Tom Rodriquez , Tonton Gutierrez  Vanessa R. Valdez  PRODUCER:  Star Cinema  GENRE:  Drama/Romance  DISTRIBUTOR:  ABS-CBN Film Productions
LOCATION: Philippines RUNNING TIME:  125 minutes
Technical Assessment: 3.5
Moral Assessment: 3
MTRCB Rating: PG13
CINEMA Rating: Mature viewers 14 and above
            Kasalukuyang nagkakaproblema ang pagsasama ng mag-asawang Vince (Richard Gomez), isang doctor, at Trisha (Dawn Zulueta) na isang businesswoman dahil sa pagkakabisto ni Vince sa pakikipagmabutihan ni Trisha sa bestfriend niyang si Greg (Tonton).  Aaminin ni Trisha na bagama’t nagkakalapit sila ni Greg, wala pang namamagitan sa kanila maliban sa isang halik.  Gayunpaman, hihingi siya ng tawad kay Vince subalit mahihirapan si Vince na patawarin ang asawa at kalimutan ang ginawa nito, pagkat sa kanyang isipan, pagtataksil pa rin ito.  Sa puntong ito ng sama ng loob at paninibugho ni Vince sa asawa aymagkukrus naman ang landas ni Vince at ang dalagang abogado na si Adie (Bea Alonzo). Katulad ni Vince, may pinagdaraanan ding sakit ng kabiguan sa pag-ibig si Adie dahil tinalikuran siya ng kanyang fiancé na si Ryan (Tom Rodriguez). Makakasama  at makukumbinse ni Vince si Adie na makahiligan ang  sailing sport kaya nagkakasama sila tuwing weekend hanggang tuluyang magkalapit at magkamabutihan.  Katulad ng dapat mangyari ay mabibisto ng asawang si Trisha ang nabubuong relasyon sa dalawa. 
            Karaniwang kwento ng problemang may-asawa, pangangalunya, paghahanap ng sarili at pagpapahalaga sa pamilya ang hatid ng The Love Affair.  Subalit naiangat ng director mula sa karaniwang talakay ang kwento dahil sa mga elemento ng tinatawag na power casting, characterization, at pagpapalabas ng emosyon sa mga eksena. Wala pa ring kupas ang chemistry ng tambalang Gomez at Zulueta gayundin ang mga husay nila sa pagganap lalo na si Zulueta. Makahulugan at tumatatak ang palitan ng mga linya. Hindi rin nagpahuli sa kanyang mga eksena at mga linya si Alonzo. Epektibo rin ang ginawang trato ng direktor sa mga malalapit na kuha ng kamera. Tagumpay ang stratehiyang ito na makuha ang simpatiya ng manonood at mataman na sundan ang mga susunod na eksena o pangyayari sa mga tauhan. Medyo nakakainip lang ang pinahabang mga eksena ng paghingi ng tawad na hindi naman maibigay-bigay.  Nagpatagal din ang mga inulit na eksena ng flashback tulad ng inulit na death scene  ng anak nila Vince at Trisha para ipagdiinan ang kasalanan ni Vince sa pagkamatay ng anak. Gayunpaman ay maganda ang disenyo ng produksyon at maayos ang mga transition ng mga indoor at outdoor scenes.
            Mayaman sa mensahe ng pagpapahalaga sa pamilya ang The Love Affair. Ito ay sa kabila ng pinakitang kahinaan ng mga magulang sa harap ng tukso, dahil sa kasunod ng pagbagsak nila sa kanilang mga kahinaan ay ang pagbangon na maitama ang mga pagkakamali at makapagsimulang muli.  Totoong mahirap matanggap ang pagkakamali at makipagpatawaran sa pagitan ng mag-asawa. Mahirap ding ibalik ang nawalang tiwala.  Subalit gaano man kasakit o kasalimuot ang mga naging sitwasyon ay dapat pa rin itong harapin at lapatan ng lunas sa halip na takasan at dagdagan pa ng ibang pagkakamali.  Bagama’t ang tema ng The Love Affair ay pagtataksil ng asawa (sinabi na nga sa pamagat nito), malinaw at matatas ang mensahe ng pelikula: hindi kailanman mabuti o tama ang pakikiapid, nakakasira ito ng buhay, dapat itong iwasan.  Ang mga kaibigan ni Adie na mismo ang nagbababala at pumipigil sa dalaga sa ginagawa nitong pagpatol sa isang may asawa.  Natatangi dito ang karakter ni Feleo na gumanap bilang kaibigan ni Adie.  Naging totoo ito sa pagpapakita ng malasakit at hayagang pagsasalita sa kaibigan upang maimulat lamang ang mga mata nito sa kanyang kahangalan.  Ang pagpapahalaga sa pamilya ay isa pang maliwanag na mensahe ng The Love Affair, mensaheng pinadaan sa mga anak ni Vince at Trisha na sa kabila ng kanilang kabataan buong tatag at tapang na hinarap ang problema at sinikap na makatulong maiayos ang pamilya.  Gawa ng mga maseselang isyung tinatalakay sa The Love Affair, pati na rin ang mga markadong linya at eksena ng pagtatalik, maaring malabis na ito para sa pang-unawa ng mga kabataang may murang isipan.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

DIRECTOR: Christopher McQuarrie  LEAD CAST: Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Jeremy Renner AUTHOR: Christopher McQuarrie, Drew Pearce  SCREENPLAY: Drew Pearce, Will Staples  FILM EDITOR: Eddie Hamilton  MUSIC: Joe Kraemer  GENRE: Action, Adventure, Thriller  CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robert Elswit  PRODUCED BY: Tom Cruise, JJ Abrama, David Ellison, Bryan Burk  PROUCTION COMPANIES: Alibaba Pictures Group, Bad Robot Productions, Skydance Productions, TC Productions  DISTRIBUTORS: Andes Films, Columbia Pictures, Paramount Pictures, United International Pictures, Westec Media Limited  FILMING   LOCATIONS: Austria, Morocco, England, Malaysia  RUNNING TIME: 131 mins.
Technical assessment:  4
Moral assessment: 3
CINEMA rating:  V14
            With the Impossible Mission Force (IMF) closed down, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) becomes a fugitive, bent on proving the existence The Syndicate.  As Hunt begins to investigate The Syndicate and its goals, he realizes the group is way ahead of him, with its network of highly skilled operatives launching an escalating series of terrorist attacks to establish a new world order.  Hunt is captured by The Syndicate but is helped to escape by Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), a disavowed M16 agent and syndicate operative.  She betrays him later on, only to reappear as Hunt’s savior again.  Is Faust a friend or an enemy?  A perplexed Hunt is kept guessing.
            Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation may be the most thrilling mission yet, where Cruise outdoes himself with his own daredevil stunts.  In Ghost Protocol, he clung to the towering Burj Khalifa; now the movie opens with him hanging on to the outside of a plane taking off.  Quite a feat when the actor is over half a century old, but Cruise pulls it off impressively, especially since he does it without benefit of a double or special effects.  The stunts alone make the film worth the price of admission, but Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation does one better—to the melee it throws in Ferguson whose Ilsa is just as lethal and menacing as Hunt.  Standing shoulder to shoulder with Hunt in the skills department, Ilsa is not just an equal to Hunt—the woman may even be superior, often rescuing instead of being rescued by the man.  Other bonuses are: the picturesque glimpses of Vienna, London and Casablanca where the movie was filmed, and a breathtaking chase in a theater as an opera is playing.  The few flaws (like inconsistent lighting) fade out in the brilliance of its overall technical merits, from acting to plot, directing to cinematography.
            If you are among those who are against violence being sold as entertainment but can’t resist this “entertaining violence”, be warned that this movie has loads of it: intense fistfights, knife fights, gunplay sequences, car and motorcycle chases, characters punched and kicked and flying out through windows and hit by cars or thrown off motorcyces, broken necks crunching, cars exploding with people inside them, people collapsing from knockout gas, etc.  The violence is almost completely bloodless, though, as if to remind viewers “It’s only a movie, guys!”   Despite the mayhem, however, positive themes underlie the hyperactivity: enduring friendship, courage in fighting for one’s convictions, loyalty to one’s country, respect for morals and dedication.  And despite its James Bond-ish coloration, the hero and the woman in the end, although accomplishing the impossible mission… no, no… no spoilers here.  

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Ant Man

DIRECTOR: Peyton Reed  LEAD CAST:  Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Bobby Cannavale, Michael Peña, Tip “T.I.” Harris, Anthony Mackie, Wood Harris, Judy Greer, David Dastmalchian  SCREENWRITER:  Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Adam McKay, Paul Rudd  PRODUCER:  Kevin Feige  EDITOR:  Dan Lebental, Colby Parker, Jr.   MUSICAL  DIRECTOR:  Christophe Beck  GENRE:  Action & Adventure, Mystery and Suspense, Science Fiction & Fantasy, comedy  CINEMATOGRAPHER: Russel Carpenter  DISTRIBUTOR:  Walt Disney Studios, Motion Pictures  LOCATION:  United States RUNNING TIME: 117 minutes
Technical Assessment: 3.5
Moral Assessment: 3
CINEMA Rating: PG 13
            Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is an ex-convict who has just been released from prison where he served time for committing a crime—urglary. He has vowed to change his ways after his release so the first thing he does is find a job. But consequently, he has trouble finding one because of his record. This leads to further complications of not being able to see his daughter Cassie until he is able to pay child support. Until some ironic events lead him to Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) who offers him another chance—he is tasked to use a suit that will make him shrink. He is hesitant at first, but he will come to a point wherein he’ll have no other choice but to take the offer or he’ll remain in jail. Dr. Pym wants Scott to use the said suit to plot a strategy to stop the evil plans of his former trainee, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) who is bent on unlocking the secrets of shrinking technology and selling this to the highest bidder, putting in danger the entire humanity.
            Ant-Man is a fine “little” film with a big heart in human beings’ both human and super-humanness. The story is solid, focusing on one flawed man and in the background are a web of relations and interrelations that make the film very personal. Ant-Man alternates with its comedic and dramatic appeal. This is not the usual superhero movies audiences see with protagonist trying to stop a villain that is about to destroy the world. Rather, this is a film that talks widely about second chances and healing broken relationships. Given the meat of the story, the film in its entirety has worked well in choosing the cast. The actors fit their characters well. Paul Rudd is truly likeable in this film and the supporting cast headed by Michael Douglas gives added force to the film with their simplicity, sincerity and natural depth. Technically, Ant-Man is excellently done. More than a spectacle, the CGI works in intensifying the film’s appeal and storytelling. The special effects do not overpower the very essence of the film that audiences hardly notice that there is CGI at work; they just suspend their disbelief and are convinced that yes Ant-Man is for real. That in itself makes the entire film a real success.
            Ant-Man centers on flawed characters and their equally flawed relationships – and how all power, fame and money shrink in the background when heart and character and meaningful relationships take center stage. It may seem that Ant-Man is just another super-hero story but overall, it is a story about family and friends, about fathers and daughters, mentors and protégés. The film demonstrates a father’s great love for his daughter: both Lang and Dr. Pym sacrificed a lot for the sake of their daughters. Meaningful relationships really give breath to one’s life and reasons for humans to live. Unconditional love is the fuel that keeps relationships burning. More than a story about the triumph of good over evil, the film has also given premium on giving sinners and convicts or ex-convicts a second chance. For as long as there is a tiny desire for a man to change his ways, there is always hope and that is only possible if one concerned soul would be willing to extend a helping hand. The film is calling its audiences as the Church calls on his people to be disciples in their own little ways. Dr. Pym has done just that with Lang. But given the film’s sci-fi action and violence, heavy theme and some crude language, CINEMA deems the film as suitable for audiences 13 and below with Parental Guidance.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Paper towns

--> Direction: Jake Schreier;  Cast: Nat Wolff, Cara Delevigne, Halstone Sage, Austine Abrams; Story: based on Paper Towns by John Green; Screenplay: Scott Neustadter, Michael Weber; Cinematography: David Lanzenberg;  Editing: Jacob Craycroft; Music: John Debnet, Son Lux; Producers: Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey; Genre: Mystery- Teen Romance:  Location: Florida – New York, USA; Distributor: 20th Century Fox Running Time:109 minutes

Technical Assessment: 3
Moral Assessment: 2.5 stars
MTRCB Rating: PG13
CINEMA Rating: V14

            Nerdy Quentin (Wolff) has been obsessed with his next door mysterious childhood friend Margo (Delevigne) but they have slowly drifted apart because of their opposite personalities. One night, Margo appears at Q’s – Margo’s pet name for Quentin – bedroom window and convinces him to help her take revenge on her cheating boyfriend and her bestfriend. Since Q still has feelings for her, he agrees and discovers the rush and thrills of breaking the rules and spending time with his long time crush. However, Margo disappears the following day. Q and his friends, believing Margo left for them clues to find her, follow a series of leads until New York. On the road trip, Q and friends discover certain aspects of Margo’s personality. After a while, Q’s friends head back to Florida to make it in time for their high school prom, while Q remains to search for Margo and when he finally bumps into her, he discovers that the image he had of her was as unreal as the paper towns in maps.
            Paper Towns is an adaptation of John Green’s bestselling novel intended as a coming of age romance but ended on the big screen as story about friendship, thanks to the enigmatic chemistry of the supporting actors playing Q’s friends who deliver their lines with power and hilarity to create several quotable quotes. The pacing is a little slow for comfort and music is used to fill the emotional gaps which the movie does not deliver. Performances are believable but not engaging enough. John Schreier’s interpretation is acceptable but nowhere near memorable.
            There is one clear cut message in the film: don’t be deceived by looks or packaging. Q is in love with his idea of Margo and fails to read who she really is. Margo’s character is a glorified perception of teenage angst and emotional fashion while all she is is a confused broken girl. Especially for teenagers who are easily swayed by the glittering lights of fame and promise of popularity, the film serves as a good reminder for them to be discerning and honest. That being said, there are a lot of disvalues presented: revenge, permissiveness and apathy, teenage sex and substance abuse. In fact, CINEMA’s main question in the entire film: where are all the parents while high schoolers do all the things they do in the film. Parents are cautioned to make sure a responsible adult accompanies their young children when watching the film.