Tuesday, November 29, 2016


Technical assessment: 3.5
Moral assessment: 2
Cinema rating: A18
MTRCB rating: R16
Set in 1942, Canadian Wing Commander Max (Brad Pitt) makes his way into Casablanca, where he meets up with French Resistance fighter Marianne (Marion Cotillard). The two pose and must pass as husband and wife so they can work their way through the German-controlled city’s high society—angling for invitations to an exclusive party where their target, a German Ambassador, will be in attendance so they can accomplish their mission of assassinating him.  Although the emotions aren’t supposed to be real, time spent in close proximity under the pressures of their mission made them fall in love. After their successful mission Max invites Marianne to London where they will be married and live a peaceful life—or will it be? Would they be an exception to the rule that marriages made in the field (of war) never work?
Allied is an elegant elaboration of another side of war, espionage and love. Aside from the obviously powerhouse lead actors, the entire production design is a showcase of prestige thereby creating a flamboyant spectacle from an otherwise little story of two people in love set in the most cynical time and space—and consequence. The build-up of suspense and excitement is sustained up to the end which makes the film an entertaining piece. Yet, looking closely on the narrative, there seems to be a number of logical flaws and lapses. There seem to be abrupt changes on the story thread that somehow reflect as compartmentalization of the three acts. Although the first two acts are connected, they are quite disjointed in terms of narrative and emotional flow. But then again, in its entirety, Allied is an achievement for a time film given the challenges of the production – bringing back to life on the big screen, scenes of the wartime past with such elegance, intensity and grandeur.
There is no question that Allied, although tastefully done, is visually morally disturbing. There are many scenes depicting vivid violence which, although done in the context of war, can still leave a lasting traumatic impression on a young audience. The scenes depicting pre-marital and marital sex are also graphic in nature. The theme itself calls for maturity and is not suitable to audiences below 18 years old. The moral dilemma of the main character in choosing between love of country and love for family perfectly fits the milieu. Is it moral to choose between two great and noble loves? Or perhaps, it is also right to ponder the foundations of each kind of love. Their love of country has made them savages—choosing death over life, killing or being killed; while their love of family has made them choose life at all times. However, in time of war, life and love are always uncertain, and love of country seems to be blind to truth and justice. The path that Max chose in the end may be moral and acceptable, but the road he and Marianne took and the decisions they made are all entirely disturbing.  Is it because war blurs everything?  Once it’s over, truth, justice and ultimately, life, and love prevail.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

DIRECTOR:  David Yates  LEAD CAST: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Samantha Morton, Jon Voight, Carmen Ejogo, Colin Farrell  SCREENWRITER: J. K. Rowling, based on her book, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”  PRODUCERS: David Heyman, J. K. Rowling, Steve Kloves, Lionel Wigram  FILM EDITOR: Mark Day  GENRE: Fantasy, Adventure, Family  CINEMATOGRAPHY: Philippe Rousselot  MUSIC BY: James Newton Howard  PRODUCTON COMPANY: Heyday Films  DISTRIBUTED BY: Warner Bros. Pictures  COUNTRIES: U. K., U. S. A.  LANGUAGE: English  RUNNING TIME: 2 hours & 13 minutes
Technical assessment: 3.5
Moral assessment: 3
CINEMA rating:  V13
Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), an alumnus of Harry's alma mater, the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry who specializes in studying and preserving outlandish fauna.  The  British wizard arrives in Ellis Island carrying a leather briefcase that has seen better days.  An unsmiling customs officer inspects it for prohibited items but seeing only a neat pile of personal effects says to the harmless looking passenger, “Welcome to New York”, without a smile to match.  Little does he know that he has just welcomed mayhem into the city for the battered briefcase is actually a portal to an alternate reality where the fantastic beasts reside.  An unfortunate accident causes some of the odd critters to escape from Newt’s portable zoo.  With a clueless stranger he meets at the port, Jacob (Dan Fogler), becoming his sidekick by accident, Newt sets out to retrieve his magical creatures gone loose, with the help of a witch working for the American Magical Congress, Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), and her femme fatale sister Queenie (Alison Sudol).
Penned and written for the screen by J. K. Rowling of the Harry Potter fame, Fantastic Beasts takes the viewer to a world no less fascinating than Harry Potter’s, although its target audience is the same fan base that patronized Harry Potter.  Considering the treasure trove that the Harry Potter franchise has turned out to be, it’s understandable why Rowling and company would want to court this now-older audience, using pre-depression New York as a fresh setting.  Fantastic Beasts is a light story that’s unhampered by a convoluted narrative, the better to focus the spotlight on the literally fantastic animal species never before created by CGI masters.  Costumes and sets are meticulously done.
The most enjoyable part of the movie for the young at heart, in fact, have to do with being acquainted with the CGI creatures of the title, which include a possum look-alike with an insatiable appetite for anything shiny, a rhino-elephant cross that’s raring to mate, a monstrous eagle-headed, dragon-tailed bird with three pairs of wings, and serpentine blue dragon nestlings.  Catchy for adults, too, is the fuss-free dinner where dishes and napkins fly to their places, and a perfect strudel is instantly created simply by waving a wand.  Young children should be guided, though, in discerning between reality and alternate reality as presented in movies of this genre, lest their impressionable minds begin to expect a world run by witchcraft and wizardry.  They should be taught firmly that battles between good and evil are not fought with magic wands and spells.  Do take these movies as an occasion to remind young ones of fundamental Christian values, as tirelessly taught by a dynamic Church.

The Unmarried Wife

Direction: Maryo J. delos Reyes Cast: Angelica Panganiban, Dingdong Dantes, Paolo Avelino Story and Screenplay: Keiko Aquino Genre: Drama; Location: Metro Manila Distributor: Star Cinema; Running Time: 103 minutes
Technical assessment: 3
Moral assessment: 2.5
CINEMA rating: V16
Pagkatapos ng mala-pantasyang pagkakakilala, ligawan at kasal nina Ann (Panganiban) at Geoff (Dantes), tila wala nang katapusan ang kilig at saya ng kanilang pagsasama. Hanggang magkaroon ng problema si Geoff sa trabaho at nagkataon namang abala si Ann dahil kaka-promote naman niya. Dahil tila walang mapagsabihan ng sama ng loob ay natukso si Geoff sa ka-opisinang handang maglaan ng sandalan para sa lalake. Habang lumalaon ay mararamdaman ni Ann ang pagtabang ng kanilang pagsasama at susubukang sorpresahin ang asawa para makabawi. Pero siya ang masosorpresa pagkat mahuhuli niya sa akto ang pagtataksil ng kabiyak. Magiging lamat ito sa kanilang relasyon. Mahihirapang magpatawad si Ann samantalang hindi makakapagtiyagang manuyo si Geoff at muli itong magtataksil. Magiging daan ito upang tuluyang sumuko si Ann at mabaling ang atensyon sa ibang lalake. Lalong magiging masalimuot ang sitwasyon para sa dalawa na susubok sa tatag ng pagmamahal at pagtataya bilang mag-asawa.
Bilang isang melodrama, angat ang The Unmarried Wife sa karaniwan dahil maganda ang pagkakatahi ng mga eksena, mahusay ang mga gumanap at may kiliti at kagat ang palitan ng salita. Hindi bago ang tema at hindi rin kakaiba ang atake pero nabigyang hustisya naman ito ng malinis na produksyon. Kaya nga lamang, hindi ito ang tipo ng pelikula na ipaglalaban mo at pag-aaksayahan ng oras para lamang mapanuod. Magaling si Panganiban pero ang kanyang atake sa karakter ay nakita na sa mga naunang pelikula niya kung saan isa siyang api o nilokong asawa. Kapos ang pagganap ni Dantes samantalang mala-tuod naman ang atake ni Avelino. Ang malaking kakulangan ay galing sa malabnaw o sadyang di pantay na pagkakahubog ng mga tauhan. Halatang kiling kay Panganiban ang pagkakasulat ng kwento pero masyado namang nahuli ang pagbigay ng maayos na motibasyon sa mga lalake. Mabababaw at makikitid ang utak ng mga bidang lalake na ginagawang dahilan ang sandali ng kalungkutan o pagkabigo para talikuran ang kasal—at pagkatapos ay sa isang “sorry” lamang ay aasahang maayos na ang lahat. Nagkaroon na mainit na pagtatalo ang mga ina nina Ann at Geoff para bigyan ng pagbubuod ang pananaw sa asawang babae—na “de-kahon” ayon sa mata ng tradisyunal na lipunan.

May magandang mensahe para sa mga mag-asawa ang kwento. Una, ang panandaliang ligaya sa ibang kandungan ay kumplikado, masakit, at nakaaapekto hindi lamang sa mag-asawa kundi sa buong pamilya at mga taong nakapaligid sa kanila.  Lahat ng mag-asawa ay nagkakagalit, nagkakabagutan, nagkakaroon ng kumpitensya, at minsan, nagdedesisyong maghiwalay. Pero ang lahat ng ito ay nalalagpasan kung ang layunin ng magkabilang panig ay buuin ang pamilya at patatagin ang pagsasama. Ibig sabihin, sa mga pagkakataong nagkakaroon ng problema, hindi na mahalaga kung sino ang mas tama kungdi kung sino ang mas nagmamahal. At ito ang ikalawang punto—na ang pinakapundasyon ng matatag na relasyon ay ang tapat at mapagmahal na komunikasyon. Sabi nga ni Geoff, kung nag-usap lang sila nuong simula pa hindi sana sila umabot sa hiwalayan ang kanilang kasal. Sa kabilang dako, matalino ang pagpili ni Ann na ayusin muna ang sarili kaysa sa makipagbalikan na lamang kaagad sa asawa. Kahit papaano naman ay nagkaroon ng hustisya para sa mga kababaihan na hindi dapat magpabulag sa paglalambing ng lalake na para bang eto na lamang ang tanging dahilan upang sila’y mabuhay. 

Dr. Strange

DIRECTOR: Scott Derrickson  LEAD CAST: Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Rachel McAdams, Mads Mikkelsen  SCREENWRITERS: Jon Spaihts, Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill  PRODUCER: Kevin Feige  EDITOR: Sabrina Plisco, Wyatt Smith  MUSICAL DIRECTOR: Michael Giacchino  GENRE: Action, Adventure, Fantasy  CINEMATOGRAPHER: Ben Davis  DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia Pictures  LOCATION: Kathmandu, Nepal; Hongkong, China; New York, USA  RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes
Technical Assessment: 3.5
Moral Assessment: 3
Cinema Rating: PG 13
MTRCB Rating: PG
Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a brilliant neurosurgeon but a car accident leaves a permanent damage on his hands that he can no longer function as one. All Western medical experts are one in saying that it’s impossible for him to recover. Desperate for cure, he travels to Nepal in search of  of alternative miracle treatment. There he finds The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), Sorcerer Supreme of the Earth, who opens his eyes to an unknown world of both mystical and spiritual realms. Through intense study, Dr. Strange learns the ways of the sorcerer, and finds himself already involved in a mystical war against the enemies from the dark side who are keen on destroying the universe and permanently defythrough permanent defiance of natural laws.
Doctor Strange no doubt is a spectacular visual treat where the audience is transported to a different dimension. Although of a fantasy-adventure genre, the film solidly portrays humans and humanity in the mirage of magic and mystique. The result may be a twisted, weird paradox of images and labyrinth of actions and emotions but there is solid story underneath that to look into the logical sequencing will be a contradiction of its purpose. But the real magic lies in the strength of the brilliant actors in the film who are able to give life and intensity to the otherwise relatively unique characters of varied temperaments. That makes the entire film a stand-out among other hero films of the same genre. This one has a different feel—it’s magical yet believable, funny and weird yet dramatically moving at some moments. Doctor Strange has a mysterious appeal that can only be experienced through watching it.
One admirable trait of the film is its ability to merge the mystical and the spiritual into a magical yet divine perspective. Much of life’s simplest lessons are articulated in the film—letting go of one’s ego, doing things for the sake of the other as keys to bringing out one’s full potential as a human being, etc. Strange the surgeon was once a proud, all-knowing, self-absorbed doctor, but when the reality of his weakness sets in, he soon acknowledges the powers that are beyond his knowledge and understanding. And realizes that his ego is his greatest enemy. There is a clear battle between good and evil in this film. However, after a revelation about the Ancient One, the moral dimension becomes blurred and quite contradicting. Looking at the main themes of the film, the good recognizes the infinite power of humans as spiritual beings, without necessarily taking credit to themselves, and without defying the natural laws of time and death. The evil deceives humans that time is the real enemy for it brings forth death. But death gives meaning to human existence as said in the film, it makes one want to do good knowing that his time is limited. To want to live forever for selfish reasons is the real evil. In the end, it would take real sacrifice to save the lives of many, something solidly depicted in Doctor Strange. But then again, with the inherent violence, use of sorcery and black magic, the young viewers must be guided on the film’s context.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


DIRECTOR: Scott Hicks  LEAD CAST: Addison Timlin, Lola Kirke, Joely Richardson, Jeremy Irivine, Harrison Gilbertson, Sianoa Smit-McPhee, Daisy Head, Hermione Corfield  and Malachi Kirby  WRITERS: Nichole Millard, Kathryn Price, Michael Ross  BASED ON: “Fallen” by Lauren Kate  PRODUCERS: Mark Ciardi, Gordon Gray, Bill Johnson, Jim Seibel  FILM EDITOR: Scott Gray  GENRE: Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Romance  CINEMATOGRAPHY: Alar Kivilo  MUSIC BY: Mark Isham  PRODUCTION DESIGN: Barbara Ling  COSTUME DESIGNER: Bojana Nikitovic  ART DIRECTORS: Zsuzsanna Borvendég, Paul D. Kelly  PRODUCTON COMPANIES: Apex Enertainment, Lotus Entertainmnt, Mayhem Pictures, Silver Reel  DISTRIBUTED BY: Lotus Entertainment, Relativity Media  LOCATION COUNTRY: U.S.A., Hungary  LANGUAGE: English  RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes
Technical assessment:  3
Moral assessment: 2.5
CINEMA rating: V14

--> Lucinda "Luce" Price (Addison Timlin) is a strong-willed 17-year-old living a seemingly ordinary life until she is accused of a crime she didn't commit. Sent off to the imposing Sword & Cross reform school, Luce finds herself being courted by two mysterious students to whom she feels oddly connected. Isolated and haunted by strange visions, Luce begins to unravel the secrets of her past and discovers the two men are fallen angels, who she learns have loved her for thousands of years. Luce must choose where her feelings lie, pitting Heaven against Hell in an epic battle over true love.  (Full review to follow).