Saturday, July 30, 2016

Ignacio de Loyola

Direction: Paolo Dy;  Lead cast: Andreas Muñoz, Javier Godino, Julio Perillan, Lucas Fuica; Screenplay: Paolo Dy; Story: Paolo and Cathy Azanzy Dy, Pauline Mangilog-Saltarin, Emmanual Alfonso, SJ; Cinematography: Lee Meily Briones; Editing: Marya Ignacio; Producer: Pauline Mangilog-Saltarin, Ernestine Tamana; Music: Ryan Cayabyab; Location: Spain; Genre: Drama; Distributor: Jesuit Communications Philippines  (JESCOM);  Running Time:120 minutes
Technical assessment: 3.5
Moral assessment: 3.5
CINEMA rating: V13
MTRCB rating: PG13
The movie opens with Iñigo de Loyola (Andreas) at the crossroads of his conversion and then we are taken into his childhood and the final battle where he is badly injured and forced to retire. As a soldier, he seeks worldly pleasure and selfish honor. He equates his value with his prowess, nobility and chivalry. So when he loses them, he loses the desire to live until he reads the stories of St. Francis of Assisi, St. Dominic, and Jesus which inspires him to give up everything and change his ways. He develops a unique form of prayer, now known as the Spiritual Exercises. But this catches the attention of the very conservative Church. Iñigo is tried by the Church Tribunal for heresy and preaching without authority. People who were touched or found his ways repulsive, who loved and followed him as well as those who hated and maybe envied him, are called to testify. How much will he give up to fight for his new found faith?
The problem with movies with so much hype is the corresponding level of expectation it creates. JESCOM’s Ignacio de Loyola—which has a Spanish cast and was filmed in Spain at the sites where the historic events took place—had the proper amount of build up months before it was shown in the big screen, so the question after watching it is “Did it deliver?”
Undoubtedly, Ignacio is like a painting brought to life with the quality of shots and expressiveness of the lighting. These brought to life the artistry of the costumes and location which just emphasizes the painstaking intelligence that came with it. Cayabyab’s scoring was remarkable—not necessarily unique—but in the context of the grandiosity of the film, it more than worked. Andreas is a soulful performer. He is gracious as a valiant soldier and authentic in his struggle to fight for what he believes in. This alone makes the film a worthy competitor of any epic Hollywood film. On the other hand, the computer generated images and screen replacements were not seamless as we would have wanted them to be. The sky and mountain in some scenes look too fantasy inspired. The battle scenes with the thousand French soldiers look manipulated. At this point, we wished the producers had a bigger budget so they could have shot everything live instead of relying on post production work because it is so strong visually. One other jarring visual is the contrast of image quality between the scenes shot in Spain and the one shot in the Philippines (one of the scenes towards the end). The former had so much depth that the latter felt off.
We have to give it to Dy who brilliantly collapses the highlights of Ignacio’s life into two hours and makes him relatable to every other person who has fallen and risen. While we would have liked to see more contrast in his before-and-after character, we respect the director’s subtlety. The script is elitist and had too many words although the words pierce the heart and imprint valuable messages.  Dy also masterfully intersperses action with narration during the witnesses’ testimonies in the court scene.  However, action shots could have replaced close-ups of Andreas because after some time, no matter how lovely his face is, it gets repetitive.  
Every person can change. Every person should be given a chance to discover that God is alive in everyone. And every person must be given the liberty to express love and service regardless of whether this follows tradition or culture. Because when the person changes, discovers God and finds his path to love and serve, he will give up everything. The story of Iñigo (Ignacio) resonates other saints who changed: Paul, Augustine, Mary Magdalene, Angela of Foligno, Dismas, the Thief. But what makes his story stand out is the intensity of Ignacio’s desire to dedicate himself to serving God through every person in need. He saw God in the faces of the sick, poor, neglected and in turn he brought God to them.

So we go back to the question: does Ignacio de Loyola deliver?  Does it live up to all its hype (which includes the distinction of being the first Filipino film to have been shown at the Vatican)?  Of course, it does, and it would be such a shame if it gets pulled out of mainstream cinema because viewers supported formula films instead of the Filipino opus that bravely stepped up to raise the quality of production and showed it can be done.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Ice Age: collision course

DIRECTOR: Mike Thurmeier; STARRING: Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Simon Pegg, Jennifer Lopez, Queen Latifah; GENRE: Animation; DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox  RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
Technical assessment : 3
Moral assessment: 3.5
CINEMA rating:  PG 13
Scra (Wedge), with his perrenial obsession to bury his acorn, accidentally activates a spaceship and is launched into outer space. His panic causes the collision on several planets and sends asteroids en route to earth. Some of the asteroids strike the earth during Manny (Romano) and Ellie’s (Latifah) wedding anniversary celebration and almost kills the pack. Afterwards, they learn from Buck (Peggs) that a similar incident happened in the past and caused the first extinction of species and bigger collision is imminent. Together, the herd travel to the site of the first impact—Geotopia—in the effort to launch the remaining magnetic crystals into space and divert the course of the giant asteroid. The plan is challenged by the Geotopians who are kept young by the crystals and the Dromaeosaurs who want the extinction to happen so they have dominion over the animals that will survive. Meanwhile, the characters face their own dilemma. Sid (Leguizamo) is dumped by his girlfriend just before he is about to propose, Diego (Leary) and Shira (Lopez) are dismayed because their fierce looks scare the kids and Manny and Ellie are worried by their daughter Peaches’ (Palmer) upcoming wedding.
While sequels can rely on the success of its predecessor, they have the greater challenge of making sure the story is uniquely strong but connected to the previous, the characters have grown but not changed, the plot development is more exciting and takes off from where the previous film ended. Now that is on top of the prerequisites of a good film. Does Ice Age:  Collision Course deliver?  Not really. One, Sid, Diego and Manny’s frenemy status has lost its appeal after the third installment, the lady loves Ellie and Shira add nothing except their drawing powers as stars.  Besides, the “end of the world” premise has been the resounding theme two sequels ago. Technically and visually, Ice Age remains as exciting and entertaining but so do other animations and they cannot be otherwise, being a Hollywood franchise. Perhaps, the film should have been released as a home DVD instead of a full length feature.

Personal gains versus common good. This is a strong message of the film. Can one give up comfort, pleasure, power for the sake of everyone’s safety and survival? The Geotopians and Dromaeosaurs almost failed the test until they realized the extent of damage and what is really at stake. In real life, we have so many people like them. Those who refuse to give up something because it gives them what they want. Those who will sacrifice others to maintain their status quo. Those who are willing to let others suffer so that they may gain power and riches. But in the end, selfishness will still lead to destruction. Self centeredness will make one lose more. Manny and team knew this from the start, the Geotopians figured that more important than their youth is their survival, the Dromaeosaurs learned that everyone will end up extinct if they insist on dominion.  One wonders when humans will do they same?