Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Me before you

DIRECTOR: Thea Sharrock  LEAD CAST:  Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin, Janet McTeer, Charles Dance & Brendan Coyle  SCREENWRITER: Jojo Moyes  PRODUCER:  Alison Owen & Karen Rosenfelt  EDITOR: John Wilson  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Craig Armstrong  GENRE: Drama  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Remi Adefarasin  DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Bros. Entertainment  LOCATION: United Kingdom  RUNNING TIME:  110 minutes
Technical assessment:  4
Moral assessment:  2.5
CINEMA rating:  V14
Me before you is about the relationship between Will Traynor (Sam Claflin), a rich, high living bachelor who gets paralyzed when hit by a motorcycle, and Louisa Clark (Emilia Clarke), a bubbly 26-year-old pastry shop waitress who has just been fired and is looking for a job, any job to help support her family.  As luck or fate would have it, the employment agency finds her the perfect job that requires no skills and pays “excellent money”.  Interviewing her, Will’s mother Camilla Traynor (Janet McTeer) hires the chatty but winsome Louisa on the spot, to be a caregiver-companion to Will.  Days into her new job, Louisa overhears Camilla and her husband, Will’s father Steven (Charles Dance), arguing over Will’s decision to end his life at the conclusion of a six-month waiting period he has promised his parents.  It is to be done at a facility for assisted suicide in Switzerland.  Steven fully supports Will’s determination; Camilla is against it.  The awkward adjustment period between the quirky Louisa and the depressed Will turns into acquaintance, and then friendship, and then something more.
There are two outstanding features of Me before you: impeccable performances and respect for the intelligence of the audience.  Given the theme—end-of-life issues—this drama could have easily slid into melodrama, and the romance could have been steered to titillate viewers looking for happily-ever-afters, but it does neither.  Instead of passing moral judgment on the idea of assisted suicide, it lays out the pros and cons of it through the characters’ viewpoints and interaction, leaving viewers free to think for themselves or to take sides to affirm their own convictions.  The romance part grows out of the breath of the protagonists whose performances make their characters alive and real, not like props that must keep the plot up until it reaches a Nicholas Sparks ending.  In this romance are a man paralyzed from the neck down but has an unbending will to die, and a woman believing her pledge of undying love can make him change his mind.  The biggest surprise in the cast is Clarke playing Clark, a complete and absolute U-turn from her role as the queenly Mother of Dragons in the HBO blockbuster Game of Thrones.  The girl can act.
Viewers tend to think the title “Me before you” smacks of selfishness.  But as the story unfolds “Me before you” takes on different colorations.  By her own admission, before she met Will Louisa was a nobody, especially as her family compared her with her younger sister, “the brains in the family.”  But having caused Will to talk, laugh, and eat again (to his mother’s delight), Louisa finds meaning in giving care and being needed, and is empowered to improve herself—for Will.  Before his accident, Will was the envy of his friends—there was nothing the sporty good-looker couldn’t do in any setting—land, snow, sea, and air.  Before he met Louisa, he was slumped in deep dejection, a condition aggravated by the subsequent affair between his girlfriend and his best friend, but the unsinkable Louisa let the sunshine in with her candor and total self-acceptance.  So—are they being selfish or selfless in the end? 
As for the issue of assisted suicide, pay very close attention to the dialogue.  Only one character wants it, another supports him; all the others are against it.  Take note, too, of where Will and Louisa are coming from—high society, working class—and compare the family dynamics in both backgrounds.  See how the consciousness of God’s presence and providence affects people’s dispositions.  CINEMA could have given Me before you a moral assessment score of 3 (Acceptable) for the film’s mature handling of the subject, but lest people mistake it as accepting of suicide, prudence dictates that the score be 2.5, which means guidance is imperative, whatever the age of the viewer.  Me before you makes for an excellent discussion in school, parish meetings, or at family dinners.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Finding Dory

Direction: Andre Staton; Cast: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Hayden Rolence, Ed O’Neill, Diane Keaton; Story:  Andrew Staton; Screenplay: Andrew Staton, Victoria Strouse; Cinematography: Jeremy Lasky; Editing: Axel Geddes; Music: Thomas Newman; Producers: Lindsey Collins; Genre: Animation; Location: Under the ocean; Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture; Running Time: 103 minutes 
Technical Assessment: 3.5  
Moral Assessment: 4 
CINEMA Rating: VA (Viewers of All Ages) 
One year after the first movie, Dory (DeGeneres) lives peacefully with Nemo (Rolence), Marlin (Brooks) until her memories are triggered by a lecture about migration. She begins to have a burning desire to find her parents and convinces Nemo and reluctant Marlin to accompany her to the Jewel of Morro Bay in California. As expected, the trio has a near death encounter which leaves Marlin blaming Dory and Dory getting lost. Fortunately, she is captured by volunteers of the Marine Life Institute and brought to the Quarantine Section. She meets a 7-legged chameleon-like octopus named Hank who bribes her into giving up her tag so he can be transported to a permanent aquarium in Cleveland in exchange for him helping her get to the Open Ocean exhibit. Along the way, Dory meets her childhood whale shark friend Destiny and Bailey, an echolocator whale. Meanwhile, Marlin and Nemo have their own adventure as they encounter more sea creatures who are all too willing to help them.  
Finding Dory is a lot of fun especially with DeGeneres skillful voice performance that is both calculated and raw. She hits each comical moment, matches the energy of the action-packed scenes and makes the drama believable and relatable. ONeill’s Hank grows in you and most likely would star in the next sequel. The rest of the characters are bland and boring. Story develops with less imagination and overrated melodrama. There are too many unnecessary characters and scenes that were merely included just to add more comical moments. Just because they were executed gracefully does not exactly justify their presence. But because Disney has already mastered this genre and undeniably creates an enjoyable film for young and old alike regardless of its shortcomings. 

Finding Dory reaffirms the value of family from beginning to end. Family in the film transcends blood relations and embraces anyone who shares the same love and care regardless of species. Family in the film also means sacrificelearning to leave one’s comfort zone and letting go of personal gain and objectives for the sake of the other person most in need. Family is a symbol of hope and courage. You just need to “keep swimming” because at the end of the day, you know that they will always be there waiting to lend a hand and be one’s support and cheerleader. Finding Dory is a film for all ages and one of the better weekend family bonding moments.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The conjuring 2

DIRECTOR: James Wan  LEAD CAST: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Madison Wolfe, Frances O'Connor, Simon McBurney, Franka Potente  SCREENWRITERS: Carey Hayes, Chad Hayes, James Wan, David Leslie Johnson            STORY: Carey Hayes, Chad Hayes, James Wan  BASED ON: The Enfield Poltergeist haunting investigated by Ed & Lorraine Warren  PRODUCERS:  Peter Safran, Rob Cowan, James Wan  FILM EDITOR: Kirk M. Morri  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Joseph Bishara  GENRE: Horror  CINEMATOGRAPHER: Don Burgess  PRODUCTION COMPANIES: New Line Cinema, Atomic Monster, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, Evergreen Media Group  DISTRIBUTED BY: Warner Bros.  LANGUAGE: English LOCATIONS: Los Angeles, California, USA; London, England UK RUNNING TIME: 134 minutes
Technical assessment: 4
Moral assessment: 3
CINEMA rating:  V14
MTRCB rating: 
       It must be noted that The Conjuring 2, like its predecessor, is based on a true story taken from the Warren files.  After a hiatus of six years from their Amityville horror experience,  husband and wife team of paranormal investigators and authors Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren     (Vera Farmiga) travel to north London to help Peggy Hodgson (Frances O'Connor), a single mother raising four children in a house plagued by malicious spirits.  The Hodgsons are too poor to replace the furniture that came with the purchased house—a burden aggravated by the classmates’ bullying of her young son, a stutterer.  All siblings of the house and their mother witness paranormal events occurring right before their eyes, terrifying them and forcing them to seek shelter in their neighbor’s house. During a media interview with the Hodgsons, the younger daughter Janet (Madison Wolfe) is possessed by the ill-meaning spirit of Bill Wilkins, the previous owner of the house who had died in a chair in the corner of the living room.  As Janet begins to show more signs of demonic possession, the story eventually reaches the Warrens in California, who are requested to assist the local Church in the investigation.
       The Conjuring 1 (2013) is best remembered for its spine-tingling “clapper” whose somewhat comic-horrific presence in the trailer aroused the interest of horror fans worldwide.  The “clapper” is nowhere to be found—or heard—in the much awaited The Conjuring 2, but the sequel is no less hair-raising.  Malaysian born Australian director Wan  (Saw, Insidious, Furious 7) has certainly mastered his tricks, producing yet another rarity in the horror genre: an excellent sequel with unexpected depth and tenderness.  While there is no shortage of jolts, jumps, and chokeholds in this film, its best parts are found in footages that explore the effects of terror on the lives of people it touches: the haunted family, the media, the police, the Warrens.  Now known as the Enfield Poltergeist case that shook the London press in 1977—curiously the same years director James Wan was born—it has since become one of the most extensively documented cases in the world’s haunting history.
       Perfectly cast as the Warrens, Farmiga and Wilson embody the real life compassion of the Warrens.  In roles performed with sensitivity by Wilson and Farmiga, the Warrens come to a case with feet solidly planted in their Catholic faith.  They are not simply demonologists or exorcists out to fight evil and emerge as heroes; they are keenly aware that while the supernatural fight between them and the devil goes on, the family-victims must be helped in the natural realm, too.  In The Conjuring 2, the Warrens live with the Hodgsons during the investigation; on Christmas eve, as they all gather in the living room as an odd family, Ed picks up a guitar and croons “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You”, exchanging meaningful glances with Lorraine while spoofing Elvis Presley.  For the first time in the film, the Hodgsons children and their mother are happy.