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!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Heneral Luna


DIRECTOR: Jerrold Tarog  LEAD CAST:  John Arcilla, Mon Confiado, Mylene Dizon, Epi Quizon, Paulo Avelino, Bing Pimentel, Arron Villaflor  SCREENWRITER:  E.A. Rocha, Henry Hunt Francia, Jerrold Tarog  Cinematographer: Pong Ignacio  PRODUCER:  E.A. Rocha  EDITOR:  Jerrold Tarog  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Jerrold Tarog  GENRE:  Biopic, historical action   DISTRIBUTOR:  Quantum Films  LOCATION:  Philippines
Technical assessment: 4
Moral assessment: 3
CINEMA rating: V14
Bagama’t nasa Pilipinas na ang mga Amerikano noon, hindi pa rin malimi ng bagitong gobyerno ng Pilipinas ang tunay na motibo ng mga Kano.  Si Heneral Antonio Luna (John Arcilla), ang namumuno ng puwersa militar ng Pilipinas at tagapayo ng Pangulong Emilio Aguinaldo (Mon Confiado), ay walang tiwala sa mga Amerikano.  Sa ganang kanya, dapat unahan ang mga Amerikano, tirahin na ang mga ito bago pa lumawak at humigpit ang kapit nito sa bansa—ngunit hindi sasang-ayon sa kanyang pananaw ang ilang miyembro ng kabinete, lalo na yaong mga interesadong makipagnegosyo sa mga Amerikano.  Mangyayari ang nakikinita ni Heneral Luna—digmaan sa pagitan ng mga Philipino at mga puting dayuhan.  Maninindigan si Luna sa gitna ng gulo at sa kabila ng pagiging pasaway ng ilang tauhan sa militar.
Kahanga-hanga ang pagpili ng mga nagsiganap sa Heneral Luna, hindi lamang dahil sa matalino at taos-pusong pagganap ng mga ito kungdi pati na rin sa kanilang mga anyo.  Sapagka’t kamukhang-kamukha ng mga pangunahing aktor ang mga tauhang kanilang ginagampanan, lumalabas na buhay at makatotohanan ang pelikula.  (Ano kaya ang naging resulta kung ang napiling Luna ay si Richard Gomez, Aguinaldo ay si John Lloyd Cruz, at Mabini ay si Alden Richard?  Baka naman naging masayang zarzuela ito.)  Salamat sa direksiyon ni Jerrold Tarog, kapani-paniwala din ang mga eksena ng paglalabanan; nakadagdag din sa  pagka-makatotohanan ng Heneral Luna ang pagkakaroon ng tila mga tunay na “kano.”  Wala nang pupunahing pagkukulang ang CINEMA sa ibang  technical aspects ng Heneral Luna, bawa’t aspeto ay may kanya-kanyang ambag sa maayos na kabuuan ng pelikula.
Kadalasan, kapag ang isang pelikula ay tungkol sa kasaysayan—sa ibang bansa man o dito sa Pilipinas—sinisikap nitong maging mapitagan.  Ang mga “bida” ay ipinakikita bilang mga bayani—magigiting, halos hindi mo makikitaan ng mga kahinaan ng karaniwang tao.  At ang mga pangyayaring isinasalarawan ay pawang mahahalaga sa buhay ng bida at sa pagsulong ng kasaysayan.  Kahit na nga maaaring magbigay-inspirasyon ang kanilang kuwento, minsan ay nakapangliliit din naman ito, lalu na’t kung iisipin natin ang tila lampas-tao nang tapang, giting, at kadakilaan ng bayani.  Dito naiiba ang Heneral Luna.  Ang Antonio Luna ni Arcilla at Tarog ay pinaghalong kagitingan at kabaliwan, kaya taong-tao.  Sa digmaan, walang takot; bilang anak ng Inang Bayan, iaalay ang buhay; kasama ng mga kawal, nambubulyaw, nambabatok, nagmumura, humahalakhak; sa piling ng sinisintang babae, naglalaho ang bangis.  (Hindi mapigilan ng CINEMA ang magtaka: uso na ba ang “P…… i….” noong panahong iyon?  Hindi ba’t sa wikang Kastila pa ang pagmumura, tulad ng “Hijo de p….”?  Naitatanong lang po).
Sa kabila ng mumunting daplis ng pelikula, nagtagumpay ang maningning na pagdidirihe ni Tarog na isalarawan ang dalawang mukha ng kasaysayan: katawa-tawang komedya at walang kapararakang trahedya.  Maraming ipinupunlang katanungan ang Heneral Luna sa isip ng manunood:  Sino bang talaga ang nagpapatay kay Heneral Luna?  Gaano katapat ang pelikula sa katotohanan sa likod ng mga pangyayari sa kasaysayan?  Bakit nasabi ni Heneral Luna na ang ating pinakamasahol na kaaway ay hindi ang mga banyaga kungdi ang ating sarili?  Di kaya ang hamon ni Heneral Luna sa mga namumuno noon—“Bayan o sarili?”  “Negosyo o kalayaan?”—ay hamon din ng Heneral Luna sa mga namumuno ngayon sa Pilipinas? 
Bagama’t itinuturing nating isang “demokrasya” ang Pilipinas sa ngayon, hindi maikakaila na tayo ay isang nahahating bayan.  Ang isang bayan na walang pagkakaisa sa puso, diwa, mithiin, at gawa ay madaling magugupo ng mga dayuhang nagnanasa sa kanyang likas na yaman at nagsasamantala sa kanyang kahangalan.  Iminumulat ng Heneral Luna ang mga mata ng makabagong Pilipino upang matutuhan natin ang mga aral ng kasaysayan.  Saan patutungo ang Inang Bayan kung ang tanging katanungan ng mga kabataan sa ngayon tungkol sa Heneral Luna ay “Bakit palaging nakaupo si Mabini?”

Monday, September 28, 2015

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

Direction: Wes Ball Cast: Dylan OBrian, Kaya Scodelario, King Ho Lee, Jacob Lofland, Rosa Salazar; Story: James Dashner; Screenplay: TS Nowlin; Cinematography: Gyula Pados; Editing: Dan Zimmerman; Music: John Paesano; Producers: Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, et al ; Genre: Action, Sci-Fi Location: USA; Distributor: 20th Century Fox; Running Time: 136 minutes  
Technical assessment: 3 stars
Moral assessment : 3  or 2.5
CINEMA rating : V14
After Thomas (O’Brian) and friends escape the BLADE, they find themselves in the seeming safety and comfort of the WCKED facilities as they learn that they have been part of the experiment conducted after the outbreak of the Flare virus. They are fed, given clean clothes, led to comfortable quarters and introduced to other Maze survivors. All seems well at first until Teresa (Scodelario) is separated from the group and Aris (Lofland), the first Maze survivor, reveals to Thomas the experiments being done on the immune survivors to find a cure against the Flare virus. Thomas persuades his friends to escape the facilities and face endless challenges from the Cranks to WCKED security. They meet Brenda (Salazar) and Jorge, leaders of an underground group of survivors who help them find the Right Arm, another resistance group of survivors and former Mazers. However, Teresa, who believes that a cure must be found for the Flare virus regardless of the means, betrays her friends and reveals their location to WCKED. A fight ensues leading to the capture of several survivors and his friends prompting Thomas to plan an attack on WCKED.
You cannot fault SCORCH TRIALS for its action and entertainment value but it does not necessarily mean it is a good movie adaptation or a better sequel. While audiences are kept at the edge of their seats with the endless chase scenes, when everything mellows, there seems not much of a storyline or character development. There are high points in the movie—a solid performance from the main cast, believable production design that takes us to another place, and cool effects that keep our hearts racing. But bestselling as the novel is, the movie offers nothing new. Dystopian societies, zombie virus, cold hearted leaders who have no moral qualms disrespecting life to achieve a noble end have been seen in so many movies and done in much better ways. Overall, it’s a good watch for fans of the novel and the first movie who will forgive its weaknesses.
Does the end justify the means? This cliché is easier said than done because when faced with the choice of defending someone’s rights against your personal gain, the latter will take precedence. But such choice is sugar coated as a necessary evil and passed on as collateral damage. Scorch Trials show us a situation where human life is devalued for the sake preservation. Our children are not to be experimented on—physically, emotionally or psychologically. But every time we throw them in situations where they are forced to helplessly defend themselves as we abandon their dignity and watch in amusement, we do exactly as the doctors in WCKED.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Everest


DIRECTOR:  Baltasar Kormakur  LEAD CAST: Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Robin Wright, Emily Watson, Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington, Jake Gyllenhaal  SCREENWRITER: William Nicholson & Simon Beaufoy  PRODUCER:  Tim Bevan & Eric Fellner  EDITOR: Mick Audsley  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Dario Marianelli  GENRE: Adventure/Drama/Thriller  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Salvatore Totino  DISTRIBUTOR: Universal Pictures  LOCATION:  UK, USA, Iceland  RUNNING TIME:  121 minutes
Technical assessment: 3.5
Moral assessment:  3.5
CINEMA rating: V14
          A story based on what actually transpired in 1996 expedition which claimed the lives of eight mountain climbers, Everest backs up that information as it presents two rival teams, led by Rob (Jason Clark) and Scott (Jake Gyllenhaal), who attempt to reach the top of the world's highest mountain—Mt. Everest. Their caliber is challenged by the hostile environment of the mountain: the snowslides, the missing guide posts, the zero visibility and worst of all, the raging snowstorms which swoop down the climbers as they are nearing the peak of the mountain and back again on their way down. 
            Everest is based on a true story involving seasoned climbers who met their respective fate while climbing Mt. Everest. At the level of information, the film has successfully portrayed the events on that fateful mountain trek, but it falls short of capturing the level of emotions to inject  drama or excitement to the film.  For instance, the scene of reaching the summit is not given much weight to convey the climbers’ jubilation and great relief after all the hardships overcome.  (Or is the film saying that the mountaineers were just too weary and breathless to celebrate?)  Nevertheless, efforts are seen in acting and characterization particularly that of Brolin and Gyllenhaal.  The constant use of close-up shots captures details and helps in carrying out the theme of individual struggle and survival. The production design is commendable and provides a credible picture of the freezing trek and camp sites.  Except for minor gray areas in the plot development, the film is educational and has very good technical qualities, especially the cinematography which does justice to the awe-inspiring scenery—the magnificent mountains against which man appears insignificant, like ants.
             Everest depicts positive values that movie viewers can reflect on.  More than climbing the earth’s highest mountain, the film is about individual dreams, personal satisfaction, family, teamwork, heroism, and sacrifice. Mountain climbers (whether amateur or professional) find a different sense of joy and self-actualization in pursuing this perilous activity.  For them conquering every peak means realizing a dream not only for themselves but also for their families and loved ones.  The film shows the family as inspiration and motivation for a person to keep going despite life’s adversaries and difficult situations, while the families are supportive of the climbers, too. Regardless of their religious beliefs, the climbers observed tradition by offering prayers at the temple and entrusted their activity to the supreme spirit.  Also, in spite of the competition between the two accredited guides, they are able to work as a team when called for to save and protect lives.  Leaders are not afraid to sacrifice and set aside the self in helping others.  In real life, the heroic acts of Rob Hall and company are remembered and are now part of the history of the world’s highest peak.
  

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Ex with benefits


DIRECTOR:  Gino M. Santos  LEAD CAST:  Derek Ramsey, Colleen Garcia, Meg Imperial, Carmi Martin  SCREENPLAY: Jeff Stelton, based on a novel by RUTH MENDOZA  GENRE: drama, romance  PRODUCERS:  ABS-CBN Productions, Star Cinema, Viva Films COUNTRY: Philippines 
Technical assessment: 2.5
Moral assessment: 2:5
CINEMA rating:  V18
MTRCB rating:  R13  
            Magkaklase sa medical school sila Adam (Derek Ramsey) at Arki (Colleen Garcia)—at magkasintahan din na magkakahiwalay nang may samaan ng loob.  Makaraan ang sampung taon, isa nang nangungunang “sports doctor” si Adam, at susulpot muli sa buhay niya si Arki, na isa namang nagungunang medical representative o “med rep.”   Batid ng marami na nakarating sa tuktok si Arki pagka’t kasama ang kanyang katawan sa ibinebenta niyang mga gamot—sa pagbubulung-bulungan ng iba, isa siyang “buy one, take one.”  Aasahan si Arki ng kanyang boss (Carmi Martin) na makamtan ang endorsement ni Adam para sa bago nilang produktong pain killer.  Pagkat may gusto pa si Adam kay Arki, at may kailangan naman si Arki sa doctor, may mamamagitan sa dalawa.  Sisikapin ni Arki na gawing “trabaho lang at walang personalan” ang kanilang pagkakalapit, ngunit hindi rin maikakaila ng babae ng may pagtatangi pa rin siya kay Adam.
            Isa-isang-tabi na lamang natin ang sound, lighting, music, cinematography, at iba pang mga technical aspects ng pelikula, na karaniwan lamang naman para sa ganitong genre.  Higit pa sa kahalagahan ng mga aspetong ito ng Ex with benefits ay ang “pagdadala” nito sa tema ng pelikula.   Ano ba ang hangarin ng pelikula o ng direktor sa ginawa nitong pagtalakay sa kuwento?  Ang itinatampok sa advertising posters nito ay ang masasayang eksena ng magsing-irog—bagay na aakalain ng manonood na isang romantic comedy ang pelikula.  Sa pagsasalarawan ng pelikula sa sexual intimacies ng pangunahing tambalan, may mga nilabag itong “ethical and moral boundaries” na hindi nito pinagmalasakitang ipaliwanag.  Kaya nga ba’t trailer pa lamang nito ay umani na ng galit ng ilang “med reps”.   Tanong nila: “Ano na lamang ang sasabihin ng aming mga kaibigan—na ganyan pala ang ginagawa namin makabenta lamang?  Kawawa yung may mga asawang med reps na pagdududahan ng asawa nila dahil sa pelikulang iyan!”
            May ilalahad sa hulihang bahagi ng pelikula upang bigyan ng “bigat” ang kuwento, ngunit hindi ito magiging kapani-paniwala pagkat hindi ito naging sapat upang maging balanse ang pelikula.  Para lamang itong idinagdag para pahiramin ng kaunting moralidad ang kuwento pagkat kahit ang pagganap ni Ramsey at Garcia sa bahaging ito—kung ikokompara sa maiinit nilang pagganap sa mga tagpo ng pagtatalik—ay matabang, mahaba ngunit mababaw, at walang puwersang pumukaw sa damdamin ng manonood.  Sa katunayan, tila baga dumarami ang nanonood sa Ex with benefits sa pag-asang umaatikabong bakbakan sa kama ang itatambad ng pinalakang tabing.  Pinili ng pelikula na talakayin ang isang napakamaselang bagay—ang katapatan sa propesyon—ngunit hindi nito nakayang bigyang-katarungan iyon.  Bagkus nailagay pa nito sa alanganin ang trabaho ng mga “med reps”, ang kredibilidad ng mga doktor, at ang tuntunin ng mga pharmaceutical companies. 

We are your friends


DIRECTOR: Max Joseph LEAD CAST:  Zac Efron, Wes Bently, Emily Ratajkowski  SCREENWRITER: Max Joseph/Meaghan Oppenheimer  PRODUCER:  Tim Bevan , Eric Fellner , Liza Chasin  EDITOR: Terel Gibson, Oliver Courson & company  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Randall Poster  GENRE: music/drama  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Bret Pawlak  DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Bros. Pictures  LOCATION:  USA  RUNNING TIME: 95 mins
Technical assessment:  2.5
Moral assessment: 2
MTRCB rating:  R16
CINEMA rating: V18
            23-year-old Cole Carter (Zac Efron) dreams of becoming a big time disc jockey to live out his passion and use his talents in electronic music mix.  He hangs out with his friends; Ollie (Shiloh Fernandez), Squirrel (Alex Shaffer), and Dustin (Johnny Weston) who also have their respective dreams in life. The four of them work part time in a realty funding recovery business to earn and save up money to realize their dreams.  While pursuing his niche in electronic music, Cole meets seasoned DJ James Reed (Wes Bently) who believes in his talents  and generously shares his resources to Cole.  During mentorship between the two musicians, Cole meets Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski), the assistant cum girlfriend of James and gets attracted to her who in turn also gets attracted to him.  Expectedly, James gets appalled at discovering what Cole and Sophie are doing behind his back.  Realizing the results of his action, Cole wants to make amends with James. He consoles himself in the company of his friends who give their usual support to him.
            We are your friends  is about passion for music of a struggling young musician, not necessarily about friendship as the title implies. The sub plots relating to friendship theme seems to complicate the plot which could have been predictable given the focus in the character of Cole.  It also fails to highlight each of the character of the friends.  There is much to be desired in the editing as some of the scenes are unnecessary and prolonging.  The lighting is not maximized to further convey emotions.  Nevertheless, meaningful lines and scenes with reference to the details in the art of electronic music and sensational effects to body movements are informative and serve as saving grace of the film.  Likewise, the actors did well in their portrayals to the credit of the director.   The sound effects particularly on the portion of composing the desired music piece of Cole adds value to the music theme of the film. The production design is also commendable.
            The film says that dreams and friends are important for young people who need friends to hang around with in reaching out for their dreams. It is equally important that as a dreamer, a young person finds an inspiration, friend, and mentor who believes in his talents and shares his same passion.  It is unfortunate to lose such a mentor due to weaknesses like sexual attraction.  In We are your friends, woman is shown as an object of man’s weakness in this film, constantly and vividly shown in suggestive sensual shots to stimulate the male imagination. The film shows how a person at fault can be sincerely sorry and exert efforts to make amends.  Despite the amendments, however, the entire run of the film is somehow disturbing.  It fails to provide background of the characters that could have helped the audience in understanding them, especially since the film has no reference to the family.  Western culture notwithstanding, there is still value in the moral support of the family especially in areas like pursuing one’s dreams.  The environment of alcohol, fights, drugs, vulgar language, and the overall theme of the film make it fit only for a mature adult audience. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Pixels

DIRECTOR: Chris Columbus  LEAD CAST: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Michelle Monaghan, Peter Dinklage, Josh Gad, Brian Cox, Ashley Benson, Jane Krakowski  CINEMATOGRAPHY: Amir Mokri  STORY: Tim Herlihy  BASED ON: Pixels a short film by Patrick Jean   SCREENPLAY: Tim Herlihy, Timothy Dowling  MUSIC: Henry Jackman  GENRE: Science fiction action comedy  EDITOR: Hughes Winborne  PRODUCER: Adam Sandler, Chris Columbus, Allen Covert, Mark Radcliffe, Michael Barnathan  COMPANIES: Happy Madison Productions, 1492 Pictures  DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia Pictures  LOCATION: United States  LANGUAGE: English RUNNING TIME:  105 minutes
Technical assessment:  3
Moral assessment:  2.5
CINEMA rating: PG 13 
MTRCB rating:  PG                              
In 1982, NASA launches a time capsule into outer space containing images and footage of Earth life in the hopes of establishing peaceful communication with extraterrestrial life. The video contained a footage of the worldwide video arcade championship. The aliens apparently misinterpreted the enclosed video feed  as a declaration of war and a challenge from Earth. So they attack the Earth using the games as models for their various assaults including Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Centipede, Space Invaders, Arkanoid and Tetris. Their technology creates voxels (small cubes) that change form and are capable of turning any form of matter into more of itself.  President Will Cooper (Kevin James) calls upon his best friend since childhood, former video game professional and 2nd placer in 1982 video game championship Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler) to combat the video game characters from destroying the Earth. Brenner decides to lead a team of retrogamers Eddie Plant (Peter Dinklage) and Ludlow Lamonsoff (Josh Gad) to defeat the aliens with technology similar to those used in games. Will they succeed in this literal war against technology?
The film is supposedly a witty take on Earth’s war against technology but it never quite succeeds in developing this interesting premise. Perhaps the genre gets in the way. The film is clearly a comedy so it’s not supposed to take things seriously. Adam Sandler’s persona perhaps also gets in the way since he is just himself in the film. Pixels is a film about nerds and Sandler is supposed to be one but he fails to deliver being in the lead. The supporting cast’s energy is not able to save Sandler’s apparently lazy performance. The initial part of the movie is able to depict successfully the 1980’s video arcade scenario which serves as a back story to the present day conflict with the aliens posing as video game characters. However, as the film loses its focus as it goes back to the usual Adam Sandler formula of romantic comedy. The romance in the film is never justified or explored—it is just there to serve a purpose inessential to the whole story. The motivations of the characters as well are not compelling enough to merit interesting plot. There are funny moments here and there but not enough meat for the audience to chew on. Pixels could have been an intelligent film but the producers are perhaps too afraid to even try. The CGI is apparently wasted given the laziness of the filmmakers to explore on the story further.
Pixels’ premise on the literal war of humans against technology could have been a good argument on the debates as regards morality of modern technology. As humans continue to create technology both for the purpose of convenience and leisure, will there ever come a time when this same technology will be the cause of human destruction?  While the film fails to heat up the debate as it confuses technology with aliens and extra terrestrials, it is still a question worth pondering on. The film portrays various stereotypes, i.e. drinking alcohol as a harmless form of escape, the objectification of women as men’s trophies and sexual fantasies, highly intelligent persons as nerds, etc. CINEMA resists and questions such stereotyping that further creates erroneous representations of reality. Although Pixels has attempted to uplift the image of the “nerds”, its lack of sincerity is not able to deliver the supposed message well.  Given some scenes of violence, use of foul language, and some sexual insinuations, the parents should guide the young impressionable minds of audiences 13 years and below.