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!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay 2


DIRECTORFrancis Lawrence  LEAD CAST: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman  PRODUCERS: Nina Jacobson, Jon Kilik  SUPERVISING ART DIRECTORS: David Sheunemnn, Stefan Speth, Dan Webster  ADAPTATION: Suzanne Collins (from her novel “Mockingjay”)   SCREENPLAY: Peter Craig, Danny Strong  FILM EDITORS: Alan Edward Bell, Mark Yoshikawa  MUSIC: James Newton Howard  GENRE: Adventure, Science Fiction  CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jo Willems  PRODUCTION MANAGER:  Lucy Appleby  PRODUCTION DESIGN: Philip Messina  COSTUME DESIGNERS: Kurt and Bart  PRODUCTION COMPANIES: Color Force, Lionsgate, Studio Babelsberg (co-production)  DISTRIBUTORS: Lionsgate  FILMING LOCATIONS:  13 locations in Germany, USA and France   LANGUAGE:  English RUNNING TIME: 137 minutes
Technical assessment:  4
Moral assessment:  3
CINEMA rating:  V14
            Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), both a victor in and subverter of Panem’s Hunger Games, is now a symbol of the revolution whom rebel president Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) and power broker Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) want to use strictly as a poster girl.   Stubborn freedom-fighter Katniss, however, has her own agenda, and that includes killing President Snow (Donald Sutherland]) to end once and for all the senseless deaths of so many young people.  Forming a team of rag-tag soldiers that include closest friends Gale (Liam Hemsworth), Finnick (Sam Claflin), and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), she goes off on a mission, risking their lives through a booby-trapped war to liberate the citizens of Panem.  The final confrontation between Katniss and Snow, presided over by Coin, is an electrifying game-changer.
The Hunger Games is not exempted from the fad of chopping into “parts” the movie adaptations of popular books.  Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hobbit—they have all stretched their heroes’ exploits to prolong box office earning power, and yet the fans wait.  After Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, which, judging from its relatively weak performance at the tills, must have been a forgettable movie that tested the patience of fans, Mockingjay Part 2 revs up with more of the thrills that have made the Hunger Games series the prototype of dystopia flicks for young adults (Divergent, et al.).  The strong cast monumentally contributes to the realism of the Hunger Games franchise—how can it go wrong with a leonine Sutherland, a steely Moore, a sly Hoffman?  And, of course, the winner Lawrence who can equally sell with aplomb parts calling for either vulnerability or verve.  In Mockingjay 2 the stars’ solid performances, interwoven with heart-stopping CGI, make for a fitting finale to a story that capitalizes on man’s inhumanity to man.
            It’s surprising that a number of film critics are disappointed with the film’s ending, calling it “sappy” and an anti-climactic conclusion to an adrenalin-packed series that promised so much by way of action and heroism.  Their cynical remarks remind us of biblical Israel waiting for a savior who would topple down the ruling elite with its own brand of kingship, but is instead given a Jesus Christ.  CINEMA thinks the ending is actually a statement that magnifies the upbeat message of the whole story: enough is enough. Murder as spectator sport is sub-human.  At least, when beasts kill, it is to survive, but in Panem, the poor young people are robbed of choice and must kill in order to live—as entertainment for the elite.  So Mockingjay mocks the elite; it cries, “Give humanity a chance.”  What’s wrong with wanting to dump violence to start afresh?  Choose life, not death. Arrows that used to kill people are also useful for hunting fowl for the dinner table—is that against the law?  “Turn your swords into ploughs and your spears into pruning hooks.”  Maybe the cynics’ eyes have grown to love the Hunger Games’ darkness that the sunlight-dappled scenery blinds them.  Or maybe after falling in love with the couture of Panem’s stylish crowd, they’re simply horrified by Katniss’ drastic costume change.  Whatever, CINEMA wouldn’t have wanted the ending any other way.  

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Old skool


Lead cast: Tessie Tomas, Angel Aquino, Buboy Villar; Direction:; Cia Hermosa Jorge Genre: Drama; Distributor: Star Cinema Location: Antipolo
Technical assessment: 3.5
Moral assessment: 4
CINEMA Rating: VA
MTRCB Rating: G
Lungkot at kawalan ng layunin ang naramdaman ni Lola Feliza (Tomas) matapos mamatay nang kanyang asawa kaya naisip niyang sundan ang kanyang pangarap na makatapos ng Grade 6. Lakas loob siyang nag-enroll at papasok bilang regular na mag-aaral sa kabila ng alinlangan ng punong guro, sariling takot at pangungutya ng ilang bata, lalo ang class bully na si Buboy (Villar). Pagsusumikapan ni Lola Feliza na tupdin ang mga gawain at sumabay sa mga aralin. Subalit pahihirapan siya ng sutil na si Buboy, tulad ng ginagawa ng nito sa ibang mga kamag-aral.  Magkakaroon naman si Lola Feliza ng mga personal na layunin tulad ng pakikipagkaibigan at paglalapit ng loob kay Buboy. Para makadagdag sa gastusin, magtitinda si Lola Feliza sa palengke subualit hindi makayanan ng kanyang katawan ang pagod at mapipilitang tumigil sa pagpasok. Magiging daan si Buboy para maipagpatuloy ni Lola ang pag-aaral hanggang sa tuluyan siyang makapagtapos sa Grade 6.
Pinagsumikapan ng Old Skool na iayos at bigyang diin ang pagkwekwento higit sa anumang aspeto, kaya naman malinaw ang daloy, buo ang mga tauhan at makatwiran ang mga motibo. Medyo nagkulang lang sa pagpapaliwanag kung bakit pinapayagan ng paaralan ang kabastusan ni Buboy nuong una.  Matalino ang pagkakadirehe rito, walang OA na iyakan pero tagos sa puso ang lungkot ni Lola Feliza, walang umaatikabong aksyon pero pananabikan mo ang tagisan ni Buboy at Lola Feliza at walang nakakainsultong komedya pero may kiliti ang bitaw ng usapan. Higit sa lahat, totoo ang daloy, mga problema at ang sagot na inihain kaya malalim ang kagat sa puso at pitik sa pag-iisip. Kaya naman hindi nahirapan ang mga nagsiganap na isapuso ang pagkatao ng kanilang mga ginampanang tauhan. May mga pagkukulangang man sa disenyo at drama ng pag-iilaw ay sinalo naman ito ng swabeng timpla ng musika na sumasabay sa kasalukuyang damdamin ng eksena. Payak man ang kabuuang aspetong teknikal nito, matagumpay pa rin ang pagkakasalaysay ng kwento at ng mensahe.
Ang Old Skool ay isang pelikulang puno ng pag-asa. Pag-asa sa pagsusumikap. Pag-asa sa pag-abot ng mga pangarap, Pag-asa sa pagmamahal, Pag-asa sa pagbabagong buhay. Pinakamalinaw na mensahe nito ang pagpupursige at pagsusumikap na tuparin ang mga pangarap. Hindi balakid ang ang pisikal, emosyonal o pinansyal na kalagayan, bagkus, dapat magsilbi itong mga inspirasyon at dahilan upang lalong pagsumikapan na marating ang rurok ng husay ng iyong pagkatao. Napakainam na pagtatapos sa pag-aaral ang ginawang motibo ng pelikula dahil sa panahon ngayon ay dumarami nang kabataan ang hindi na nakikita ang halaga ng edukasyon. Ang pumapangalawang malakas na mensahe ay ang pagtanggap at pagmamahal bilang tugon sa pagmamalupit at masasamang ugali. Mas lumambot ang puso at nahikayat magbago si Buboy nang pakitaan siya ni Lola Feliza ng malasakit at pag-uunawa. Katulad ng panawagan sa atin bilang mga Kristyano, awa at malasakit ang una nating ipakita sa mga nangangailangan—lalo iyong mga naliligaw ng landas. Napapanahon ang pelikula at bagay sa anumang gulang ng manunuod.

Everyday I love you



DIRECTOR: Mae Czarina Cruz-Alviar  LEAD CAST: Enrique Gil, Liza Soberano & Gerald Anderson  SCREENWRITER: Vanessa R. Valdez & co.  PRODUCER:  Star Cinema  GENRE: Romantic-Drama  DISTRIBUTOR: Star Cinema  LOCATION:  Silay, Bacolod, Philippines  RUNNING TIME:  140 mins
Technical assessment:  3
Moral assessment: 3
CINEMA Rating:  PG 13 with parental guidance
            Tubong Silay, Bacolod at nangangarap makilala bilang program host sa telebisyon ang magandang dalaga na si Audrey Locsin (Liza Soberano).  May matindi rin syang paghanga sa kaibigang binata na si Tristan Montelibano (Gerald Anderson).  Mabibigyan ng pagkakataon ang paghangang ito ni Audrey dahil iiwan si Tristan ng kanyang girlfriend upang manirahan sa Maynila. Mula sa nararamdamang sakit dulot ng pakikipaghiwalay ng girlfriend ay mababaling kay Audrey ang atensyon ng binata at magkakamabutihan silang dalawa. Makikitang masaya sina Audrey at Tristan sa kanilang relasyon, subalit sa punto na nanaisin ng una na tuparin ang mga pangarap nya para sa sarili ay medyo mag-iiba ang tono ng huli. Hindi sila magkakasundo sa bagay na ito kaya magdudulot ito ng kalituhan kay Audrey, hanggang sa maaksidente at ma-comatose si Tristan. Matiyaga at may pagmamahal na aalagaan ni Audrey ang nakaratay na kasintahan na aabutin ng ilang buwan. Sa panahong ito ay makilala ni Audrey si Ethan Alfaro (Enrique Gil), isang progresibong empleyado ng sikat na TV network at aalukin siya nito ng trabaho.  Makikita ni Audrey na ito na ang pagkakataong hinihintay niya para mabigyan katuparan ang matagal na niyang pangarap at inaasam-asam na tagumpay sa buhay.  Tatanggapin niya ang alok ni Ethan at magkakasama sila sa mga proyekto ng network. Madaling magkakasundo sa trabaho ang dalawa. Subalit hahantong sa higit pa sa magkatrabaho ang mararamdaman nila sa isa’t isa. Mahuhulog ang loob ni Audrey kay Ethan na siyang naghatid ng katuparan sa mga minimithi niyang pangarap sa buhay. Paano naman ang pinangarap niyang pag-ibig kay Tristan na nakaratay?
             Nakasentro sa “kilig formula” ng tambalang Gil at Soberano ang kwento ng Everyday I love You. Dahil dito ay inaasahan na ang mga tagpo at alam na ng manonood ang magiging katapusan ng pelikula. Sa madaling salita ay mababaw ang kwento. Nakapaglabas naman ng hinihinging emosyon ang mga pangunahing aktor, mababaw ang kanilang luha at nakatulong ang aspetong ito ng pagganap para maging epektibo ang eksenang drama. Mahusay ang ibinigay na suporta ng mga beteranong aktor at aktres sa pagganap. Samantala hindi “consistent” sa paggamit ng “subtitles” sa mga salitang Bisaya kaya hindi naging makatotohanan ang aspetong ito ng pelikula. Halimbawa na lamang sa “hosting” ni Audrey ng “local program” Silay Scooter Girl kung saan mga taga Bacolod ang pangunahing target audience, pawang Tagalog ang salitang gamit ni Audrey. Maganda naman ang sinematograpiya at naging kalakasan nito ang magagandang kuha ng kamera. Epektibo ang mga close-up shot kina Gil at Soberano para kiligin ang kanilang mga fans sa sinehan. Pero di na sana sinama sa close-up shot ang nakaratay na si Tristan, kasi malusog at matipunong lalaki ang pinakikita sa halip na hitsurang maysakit. Medyo sumablay ang editing dahil halos hindi nagpalit ng kasuotan si Tristan sa mga sumunod na eksena pagkagising mula sa pagka-comatose. Epektibo naman ang inilapat na tunog at musika. Nakadagdag ang himig ng theme song ng kilig sa mga eksena nina Gil at Soberano.
            Napakahalaga ng pagiging totoo sa sarili katulad ng sinasabi sa kawikaan na sa katotohanan maaring lumaya ang isang tao. Pinili ng mga pangunahing tauhan ang maging tapat at totoo sa kani-kanilang mga nararamdaman.  Positibo ang paghahatid ng temang pag-ibig sa Everyday I love You lalo na ang karakter ni Ethan sa pagitan nila ni Audrey kung saan nagpakita ng kahandaang magparaya at magsakripisyo, tumulong kahit walang maasahang kapalit, at maghangad ng paglago ng minamahal at tagumpay  nito, may paggalang at malakas na pagpipigil sa sarili. Nagpakita din ng malasakit, kalinga, at pagpapatawaran ang karakter ni Audrey sa pagitan nila ni Tristan. Makabuluhan ang mga sinambit na salita sa mga eksena nina Audrey, Ethan at Tristan na pinapayuhan ng mga nakatatanda sa kanila ukol sa mga aspeto ng relasyon, pamilya at trabaho. Sa kabuuan ay katanggap-tanggap ang aspetong moral ng pelikula.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Sicario


DIRECTOR: Denis Villeneuve LEAD CAST:  Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, Victor Garber SCREENWRITER:  Taylor Sheridan            PRODUCER:  Basil Iwanyk, Thad Luckinbill, Trent Luckinbill, Edward McDonnel, Molly Smith  EDITOR:  Joe Walker  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Jóhann Jóhannsson  GENRE:  Drama, Crime Thriller  CINEMATOGRAPHER: Roger Deakins  DISTRIBUTOR:  Lionsgate  LOCATION:  United States RUNNING TIME: 121 minutes
Technical assessment: 4
Moral assessment: 2
CINEMA rating: V18
MTRCB rating: R16
After an operation  in Arizona that led  to the discovery of hidden corpses who are apparently victims of cartel violence, FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt), a specialist in hostage recovery/kidnapping cases, is recommended by her boss, Dave Jennings (Victor Garber) to CIA Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) to aid in the escalating war against drugs. Led by consultant Alejandro  “Medellín” Gillick (Benicio Del Toro), the team sets out on a dangerous and heavily militarized operation back and forth across the US–Mexican border. The team uses one of cartel leaders, Manuel Díaz (Bernardo Saracino) in tracking the Mexican drug cartel kingpin Fausto Alarcón (Julio Cesar Cedillo). Kate discovers that Alejandro is a lawyer whose family was murdered by the cartels. Fired by his own mission of revenge, they are out to destroy the very head of the cartel at all cost, even if it meant going against the books of legal operations.  Kate is bothered as this is not the kind of operation she expects; she suspects that she is being used to cover-up for something illegal.
Sicario is a riveting and gripping film on the violence in the border. Emily Blunt delivers a solid performance as the conscientious and idealistic FBI agent whose principles are challenged as she goes through the muddy waters of morality in the border. Benicio del Toro’s strong screen presence is as haunting as his character that denotes deep sadness and dangerous revenge. The director, Denis Villeneuve, is able to blend all the elements of an art film to come up with a depiction of a dark world where violence prevails and all systems, legalities, moral principles are tested and questioned. The cinematography, production design, sound and music are all well-orchestrated to create that eerie feeling as audiences are invited to be part of a dangerous and dark world that no one would want to visit even in their nightmares.
The border is a place no one would want to go but everyone would want to pass as it promises paradise on the other side. But for Sicario, a word that means “hitman” in Mexico, the border is just a place where violence is both the rule and the law.  In its totality Sicario says there is no real hero in this situation—not Kate who is a mere observer and a conscience shaken FBI agent amidst the havoc and violence happening around her; not Alejandro, a callous character who against his better judgment is driven by anger to cling to his dubious, illegal, unethical, and evil ways—all in the name of revenge first, and for the greater good, second.  Can evil stop evil?  That is a gray area for Sicario, a film that screams out loud that evil exists and something must be done, and yet snorts that “there is nothing we can do”.  A character holds on to what is right in spite of the overpowering violence and moral turpitude in society, implying that there is always hope for change.  The dark theme and graphic violence in the film are suitable only for mature audiences aged 18 and above. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Black Mass


Direction: Scott Cooper; Cast: Johnny Depp, Joel  Edgerton, Rory Cochrane, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jesse Plemons, W. Earl Brown, Kevin Bacon, Peter Sarsgaard, Dakota Johnson; Story:  Based on the novel with the same title by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill; Screenplay: Jez Butterworth, Mark Mallouk; Cinematography: Masanobu Takayanagi; Editing: David Rosenbloom; Music: Junkie XL; Producers: Scott Cooper, John Lesher, Patrick McCormick; Genre: Bio, Crime;  Location: Boston; Distributor: Warner Bros Pictures  Running Time: 149 minutes
Technical assessment: 3.5 
Moral Assessment: 2.5
CINEMA rating:  V18  
MTRCB: R16
In 1975, FBI agent John Connolly (Edgerton) is assigned in the same area in South Boston where Jimmy “Whitey” Bulger (Depp) is slowly gaining control over the organized crime syndicate. Apparently, the two were childhood friends, together with Jimmy’s senator brother, Billy.  A welcome opportunity to eradicate Whitey Bulger’s remaining challenger, the Mafia Angiulo Brothers, comes when Connolly offers Bulger to be an FBI informant. Despite opposition from their colleagues, Bulger and Connolly proceed in the dubious relationship. By 1981, Bulger has succeeded in becoming the kingpin of South Boston with stakes in drugs, gambling and arms dealing while Connolly covers for the seeming lack of valuable information from Bulger. But before Connolly’s superior (Bacon) can terminate the arrangement, the FBI is able to gather incriminating conversation from the wire taps of the Angiulos. This leads to Connolly and Bulger developing a closer relationship and alarming murder of people who either oppose or compromise Bulger’s status. Bulger’s fall begins when the new District Attorney Fred Wyshak (Stoll) proves to be adamant in finding out why Bulger has remained free despite evidences of his crimes. 
If there’s one reason to watch Black Mass, it has to be the compelling performance of Depp. He attacks his role with wit and depth that it is almost hard to believe this is the same actor behind Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Jack Sparrow. Coupled with dramatic prosthetics, Depp’s Bulger becomes the menacingly cold and unrepentant criminal audiences love to hate. The aesthetics and technicalities of the shots and framings feel gritty and raw, bringing a documentary-like texture to the film. Junkie XL’s score engages the moment without overselling. Another triumphant area is the production and set design which effortlessly transports us in the 70s and 80s.  Black Mass is a work of art and a good material for academic discussion. 
When Bulger chides his son Douglas about hitting his classmate, he reasons that his mistake was hitting while people were looking. Thus, little Douglas learns that violence and aggression are okay as long as they are done when people do not see. This seems to be the guiding principle of Bulger because we see how charming he was with the old lady he met in the streets of Boston, how much of a loving son and brother he is and how much he adores his son. In public, he refuses to be handed over dirty money and murders people silently until his image is compromised. Bulger believes violence is necessary and warranted as long as it is not done in public (especially by him).  On the other hand, we see how obsession with a goal sometimes clouds our judgment and challenges our ethics. When Connolly turns a blind eye to the criminal activities of Bulger so he can catch the Angiulos at first and prove the faultlessness of his decision later, he unwittingly creates his own Frankenstein which ultimately leads to the breakup of his marriage and the downfall of his career. Although the movie shows that crime does not pay as Bulger and his cohorts are ultimately incarcerated, the entire two hours are peppered with “F” words and splattering body parts. It is advisable that only older and more mature audiences watch the movie. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The dressmaker


DIRECTORJocelyn Moorhouse  LEAD CAST:  Kate Winslet, Judy Davis, Liam Hemsworth, Hugo Weaving  ART DIRECTOR:  Lucinda Thomzon  AUTHOR: Rosalie Ham based on her novel “The Dressmaker  SCREENPLAY:  Jocelyn Moorhouse,  P. J. Hogan  FILM EDITOR: Jill Bilcock  MUSIC:  David Hirschfelder  GENRE: Comedy-Drama  CINEMATOGRAPHER: Donald McAlpine  PRODUCER:  Sue Maslin  PRODUCTION DESIGN: Roger Ford   COSTUME DESIGNERS: Marion Boyce, Margot Wilson  PRODUCTION COMPANIES: Film Art Media, Apollo Media, Screen Australia  DISTRIBUTORS:  Universal Pictures  FILMING LOCATION:  Australia  LANGUAGE: English  RUNNING TIME: 118 minutes
Technical assessment: 3.5
Moral assessment:  3
CINEMA rating:  V18
In 1951, Myrtle “Tilly” Dunnage (Kate Winslet) returns to her small one-street hometown of Dungatar, in Australia. It is clear from the first words Tilly speaks that she has a purpose for returning: “I am back, you bastards!”  Barely ten years old, Tilly was sent out of town when she was implicated in the death of a bully-classmate.  After having lived and studied haute couture in the world’s fashion capitals London, Milan, and Paris, Tilly is now an expert dressmaker returning home to reconcile with her ailing mother, “Mad Molly” (Judy Davis) and to piece together a vaguely remembered but traumatic past.  Molly has difficulty remembering, but the town’s denizens don’t—they treat Tilly like a pariah, calling her a murderer, until she transforms the frumpy store clerk Gertrude Pratt (Sarah Snook) into a femme fatale.

       Adapted from a novel of Rosalie Ham and co-written by director Jocelyn Moorhouse, The dressmaker creatively stitches together swatches of different genres—drama, comedy, tragedy, satire, whodunit—laced with seriousness and humor, silliness and sarcasm, but always with great panache.   The very unpredictability of this heady and fascinating brew is what keeps the viewers at the edge of their seats lest they miss a frame and fail to make sense out of the mishmash.  The cast reads like a Who’s Who of Australian cinema, flawlessly bringing to life a fictitious little town filled with quirky characters and juicy secrets.  Winslet is a consummate actor here, giving Tilly such tone and depth that enables the character to elicit audience sympathy in any situation.  
        Not until the end will The dressmaker’s agenda be finally revealed.  And the moral value of it should generate hours of animated conversation at the dinner table.  After all those twists and turns the story makes, the main protagonist’s quest ends in a symbolic, sweeping gesture:  Tilly rolls out a bolt of red fabric between her house and the town center, and…?  Is she finally forgiving her tormentors and welcoming them into her heart, or is she burning bridges?