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, April 17, 2018

Rampage

DIRECTOR: Brad Peyton  LEAD CAST:  Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Malin Åkerman, Jake Lacy, Marley Shelton, Joe Manganiello  SCREENWRITER: Adam Sztykiel  PRODUCER: Brad Peyton, Beau Flynn  EDITOR: Jim May   MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Andrew Lockington  GENRE: Fantasy/Science Fiction  CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jaron Presant  DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Bros. Pictures  LOCATION: USA  RUNNING TIME: 117 minutes
Technical assessment:  3.5
Moral assessment:  3
CINEMA rating:  V14
The Wyden siblings Claire (Malin Akerman) and Bret (Jake Lacy) conduct experiments on genetic editing in a space station to avoid detection by the US government.  A lab rat turns into a giant, smashing everything in its path.  As the station explodes along with the escape pod, three cartridges containing the pathogens used in the experiment zoom back down to earth.  One is swallowed by a crocodile in the Everglades, another is sniffed by a wolf in a Wyoming forest, and the third lands in a San Diego wildlife preserve, home to George, an albino gorilla that primatologist Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson) has rescued from poachers as a baby.  The three animals exposed to the pathogens mutate into aggressive monsters and go on a rampage, killing or eating humans and pulverizing their cities.  Davis sincerely believes he can persuade his pet/friend George to stop; he is helped by genetic engineer Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomi Harris) and Agent Harvey Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan).
The plot is nothing new: scientists who play God botch up an experiment, monstrous animals wreak havoc on the metropolis, good guys come to the rescue, and all ends happily ever after.  That much you can expect wherever Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stars, anyway.  Not that we’re complaining.  With a face that spells “harmless” and biceps that inspire you to ponder the theology of the human body, Johnson makes for a likeable hero in Rampage.  George the albino gorilla will probably be compared to King Kong, but the CGI here is just right, smoothly done to a degree that advances the story believably and not to craft a movie that looks and feels just like another computer game.  With a giant gorilla that is almost human providing the naughty-naughty humor, it becomes easy to close your eyes to certain flaws of the movie and just enjoy the fiction. 
What saves Rampage is its unwillingness to compete with other films of its genre.  It doesn’t try to outdo its predecessors through bigger and better computer gimmickry, perhaps because it wants to underscore its many messages.  For mad scientists— stop tampering with nature.  About forgiveness—“Even assholes deserve a second chance”, quote unquote.  For military men—your guns won’t save you, but common sense might.  For everybody—be honest, be humble, and you’d better behave, otherwise the gorilla will eat you.  Although its lessons may be good for children, too, the visuals are too scary for minds that cannot separate fact from fiction.  (TIP: keep your eyes open for what George does to people in the movie's last few seconds.)

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Never not love you


DIRECTOR: Antoinette Jadaone  STARRING: James Reid, Nadine Lustre; WRITTEN BY: Antoinette Jadaone; GENRES: Drama, Romance; CINEMATOGRAPHY: Mycko David; PRODUCTION COMPANY: Viva Films; DISTRIBUTED BY: Viva Films; COUNTRY: Philippines; LANGUAGE: Filipino, English  RUNNING TIME: 1 hour 40 minutes
Technical assessment: 3
Moral assessment: 2.5
CINEMA rating: V18
MTRCB rating: PG
Nang dahil sa trabaho, magtatagpo ang landas nila Gio (James Reid), isang graphic artist at Joanne (Nadine Lustre), isang bagong graduate at bagong salta sa Maynila na nagta-trabaho sa isang advertising agency. Magkaka-gusto agad si Gio kay Joanne kaya’t liligawan niya ito sa paraang alam niya—magkakamabutihan sila sa kabila ng pagiging magka-iba ng pananaw sa buhay. Makukumbinsi ni Gio si Joanne na magsama silang dalawa at dito’y lalo silang tila hindi na mapaghiwalay. Ngunit masusubok ito nang magkaron si Gio ng oportunidad sa London at mapilitan si Joanne na sumama dito kahit pa nasa Maynila ang katuparan ng kanyang pangarap. Magsasama sila sa London at doon magsisimula nilang madiskubre ang kani-kanilang sarili – ang kani-kaniyang kasiyahan na kahit pa ibig sabihin nito’y kailangan nilang magkahiwalay.
Marubdob ang bawat damdamin sa Never Not Love You. Taong-tao ang mga karakter na binigyang buhay ng isa sa mga pinakamainit na tambalan ngayon. Lumabas ang pelikula sa karaniwang de-kahong romansa. Nariyan pa rin ang kilig, pero sa pagkakataong ito, mas may malalim na kabuluhan at sinseridad ang pelikula na talakayin ang isang relasyon sa gitna ng mga pansariling ambisyon, kasiyahan at pangarap. Mga bagay na nangagailangan ng mas mataas na antas ng pagdedesisyon. Ang mga komplikadong sitwasyon at karakter ay nagampanan ng buong husay ng dalawang bida. Bumagay sa kanilang parehas ang kanilang mga papel—si Reid bilang happy-go-lucky artist at si Lustre bilang ma-ambisyon na probinsiyana.  Sakto ang timpla at hagod ng damdamin ng mga eksena, pati na ang mga malalim na katahimikan sa gitna ng mga away, pagtatalo, at kaguluhan. Pati ang mga piniling lugar ay nakatulong din ng husto sa lalo pang ikinaganda ng kuwento.  Kita ang kaluluwa ng pelikula na naka-ugat sa dalawang pusong nagmamahalan-magkaiba ng mundo ngunit pinagtagpo ng layuning mahalin ang isa’t-isa.  Lamang, tila nagkulang ang pagkahubog ng kabuuan sa bandang huli kung saan hindi masyadong buo ang naging katapusan ng kwento. Hindi lamang bitin kundi nagging salat sa sapat na katuwiran ang naging pagtatapos. Pawang hindi rin gaanong nahalukay ang lalim ng mga damdamin. Maaring sinasadya din nitong iwasan ang histerya, ngunit may nawala ding elemento sa pelikula na dapat sanaý nakapukaw ng isipan at puso ng manonood.
Nasa sentro ng Never Not Love You ang dalawang kabataang nagsisimulang mamulat sa katotohan ng pagsasama ng magkasintahan. Bagama’t hindi tahasan, nakakiling ang pelikula sa makabagong pananaw patungkol sa pakikipag-live-in: walang alinlangang pinalalabas ito na katanggap-tanggap sa lipunan. Nakababahala na hindi man lang nababahala ang kahit na sino sa kuwento sa ganitong klaseng set-up na mayroon ang dalawa. Tila baga, sapat nang panghawakan ang mga salita—o ang pagpapa-tattoo para masabing may matibay na saligan na ang pagsasama ng isang babae at isang lalaki. Mamumuhay na parang mag-asawa na kinasal lamang sa isang tattoo bar.
Wala ring maituturing na kinikilalang gabay ang mga tauhan. Ang mga desisyon ay pawang naka-base lamang sa payo ng kaibigan o di kaya ng boss. Napakaliit ng papel na ginampanan ng mga magulang sa pelikula. Parte marahil ng nais panghawakan ng pelikula na nasa wastong gulang na ang mga karakter upang gumawa ng kani-kanilang pansariling desisyon.  Delikado ito at nakababahala lalo’t higit sa mga pagkakataong nangingibabaw ang emosyon sa isipan. Walang malinaw na pagpapahalaga ang mga tauhan bukod sa pagnanais nilang maging “masaya”—pero maging ang kasiyahang ito ay dapat pag-isipan kung saan naka-ugat at kung saan patungo. Parte marahil ng napakaraming tanong sa isipan ng mga tauhan sa bandang huli. Saan ba dadalhin ng tadhana ang dalawang magka-ibang puso na bumabagtas ng kani-kaniyang kapalaran? Anong bukas ang naghihintay kung laging magtatalo ang puso at isipan? Sa gitna ng mga pagtatalong ito, sana’y naisipan ng pelikula na kurutin kahit gaano kanipis ang posibilidad na baka kaya magulo ang mga relasyon ay sa dahilang wala itong tamang pagbabasbas? Wala itong matibay na ugat at maasahang gabay at saligan—na ang dalawang puso ay di maaring isipin lamang ang kanilang pansariling kapakanan kundi pati ang kapakanan ng buong komunidad sa kanilang paligid sampu ng bubuin nilang maliit na lipunan sa kanilang tahanan? Tila yata ang konsepto ng kasiyahan sa kasalukuyang panahon ay naka-sentro sa pansariling kaligayan, ambisyon at mararamot na dahilang dikta ng lipunang nalunod na sa kamunduhan. Dahil sa mga maseselang tema ng pelikula ukol sa relasyon, minamarapat ng CINEMA ang Never Not Love You ay akma sa mga manonood na 18-taong-gulang pataas.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Along with the gods


DIRECTOR: Kim Yong-hwa  LEAD CAST:  Ha Jung-woo, Cha Tae-hyun, Ju Ji-hoon & Kim Hyang-gi  SCREENWRITER: Kim Yong-hwa  PRODUCER:  Kim Yong-hwa & Won Dong-yeon  EDITOR: Hye-jin Kim, Zino Kim & Na-young Nam  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Bang Jun-seok   GENRE: Action/Sci-Fi/Adventure  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Kim Byung-seo  DISTRIBUTOR: Lotte Entertainment  LOCATION: South Korea  RUNNING TIME: 139 minutes
Technical assessment: 3.5
Moral assessment: 4
CINEMA rating: V 13
MTRCB rating: PG
When firefighter Kim Ja-Hong (Cha Tae-hyun) dies in the line of duty, he is greeted by a trio of guardians and their boss reaper. They become his escort to the after life. Since he died by saving someone else’s life, he qualifies to the so-called paragons—and could possibly reincarnate  within 49 days should he be acquitted at the seven trials of seven different levels of hell. In the same way, the trio of guardians will be granted reincarnation too, so they would do all their best to guide Kim so he will be acquitted. Kim should not be found guilty of sins of betrayal, violence, indolence, etc. However, a certain angry spirit will come which would make it even harder for Kim to pass the seven trials.
Along with the Gods gives a different take on what happens to a soul in the afterlife. It combines Buddhism’s law on karma and reincarnation and the Christian belief in eternity and the concept of seven deadly sins. However it is put, the treatment is very much an existentialist view on life. The film is technically superior using GCF (computer graphics), green screens and with superior actors in the cast. The story is dramatically woven with bits of fantasy, adventure, and at some point, horror without losing its core of heart wrenching human drama.
Along with the Gods makes one reflect on the most significant virtues and values that human beings should strive for in life—kindness, forgiveness, heroism, generosity, compassion, love—as all these and more would make one accountable in the afterlife. The body dies but the soul lives on and whether one has been good or bad would determine the fate of the soul. Although the complexities of human weakness is shown in the film, still, the film challenges each one to rise above weakness—to sacrifice if need be. All good deeds and good intentions will not be left unnoticed. In the end, one’s heart will be judged as to how much love it was able to give while living on earth. The concept of sin may be too much for the very young audiences so CINEMA still recommends that children should be accompanied and properly guided in watching this film.

Game Night


GAME NIGHT

Direction: John Francis Daley;  Cast: Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Billy Magnussen, Sharon Horgan, Lamorne Morris;  Screenplay: Mark Perez; Cinematography: Barry Petersoni; Editing: Jamie Gross, Gregory Plotkin, David Egan; Music: Cliff Martinez; Producers: John Davis, Jason Bateman, John Fox, James Garavente; Genre: Black Comedy;  Location: USA; Distributor: Warner Bros Pictures  Running Time: 100 minutes
Technical Assessment             2.5
Moral Assessment:  2.5
CINEMA Rating: V14 –V18
Max (Bateman) and Annie (McAdams) love parlor games and host a routine weekend game night with friends, except Gary (Plemons), a deadpan awkward policeman. When Max’s obnoxious brother Brooks (Chandler) shows up and arranges to host the game night at his place and initiates an interactive role-playing mystery game wagering his Corvette as the prize for the winner. Max who has always been insecure of his brother’s success and Annie who finds Brook’s insufferable decide to make sure they beat him. During the game, an actor pretending to be an FBI agent arrives and narrates the supposed mystery plot but in the middle of his explanation, he and Brooks are assaulted and kidnapped. Believing all is part of the act, the 3 couples try to solve the mystery using clues and technology. As the 3 couples realize that they no longer are playing a game, Brooks reveals his own insecurities and life of crime. In a twist of events, Gary helps in rescuing the group but also is revealed to have taken part of the kidnap plan in his attempt to be invited in game night.
Game Night begins as a usual run-of-the-mill romantic comedy but slowly churns into a vulgar over thought cute action thriller. The spirited casting salvages the frantic material. However, the constricted characterization leaves but little room for them to explore and expand. The script is a wobbly collection of hurried plots and daft scenes. There are laughs and hysterical moments only to be dampened when the audience regains sense and realizes the dullness of the director’s attempts.
In the pretense of comedy and mystery the movie tries very hard to talk about sibling rivalry and brotherly love. It shows how jealousy and miscommunication are detrimental not only to a healthy sibling relationship but to each other’s growth as persons.  Then there is the standard used to measure success—should it only be one’s material and financial gains? Does a healthy and happy marital relationship not count?  Fortunately, the movie tried to emphasize the value of the family and friends’ compassion and support in the face of danger, pain and failure. However, the operative word is “tried” because it wanted to get there but did not arrive in time to save the frenzied movie.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The moving spirit behind Caviezel's Luke

In an interview, Catholic actorJim Caviezel, who played Jesus Christ in "Passion of the Christ" and is currently starring as Luke in " Paul, Apostle of Christ", says " I act in films that can bring the most souls back to God."  REad about it here:

https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/jim-caviezel-i-act-in-films-that-can-bring-the-most-souls-back-to-god

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Paul, Apostle of Christ

DIRECTOR: Andrew Hyatt  LEAD CAST:  James Faulkner, Jim Caviezel, Olivier Martinez, John Lynch, Joanne Whalley  SCREENWRITER: Terence Berden, Andrew Hyatt  PRODUCER: Terence Berden, David Zelon,  Jim Caviezel  EDITOR: Dorota Kobiela & Justyna WierszynskaScott Richter  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Jan A.P. Kaczmarek  GENRE: Biblical/ historical drama  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Gerardo Madrazo  DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia Pictures  LOCATION: Malta  RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes
Technical assessment: 3
Moral assessment: 4
CINEMA rating: V14
Paul, Apostle of Christ is the story of Christianity’s most traveled apostle. It is 67 AD and an old, beaten-up Paul (James Faulkner), leader of the young Christian community in Rome, is locked up and languishing in the Mamertine prison. Christians are falsely accused by Emperor Nero of burning down half of Rome and are relentlessly persecuted. They are beaten, burned alive like torches to light the streets, crucified or thrown to the lions for sport. Greek physician Luke (Jim Caviezel), manages to sneak into prison to assist his friend Paul, and to get whatever message he has for the fearful Christian community headed by Aquila (John Lynch) and Priscilla (Joanne Whalley). Luke writes down Paul’s story and his thoughts about Jesus’ message of love and mercy, which eventually finds its way into the Acts of the Apostles. The prison warden Mauritius (Olivier Martinez) is intrigued by Paul and is suspicious of Luke. When the warden’s daughter gets seriously ill and no doctor or sacrifice to Roman gods could heal her, he turns to Luke for help.
A good number of films have been produced to tell the story of St. Paul, and Andrew Hyatt’s attempt focused on Paul’s later life, when he was aging and imprisoned in Rome. Through flashbacks, we learn of Stephen’s martyrdom and Paul’s conversion from being a persecutor of Christians to becoming an apostle of Christ. Faulkner essays a tortured Paul with restraint and dignity; he and Caviezel give us the Paul and Luke so human we see the Bible come to life. Production design and make-up are spot on. Though based on some historical facts and personages, Paul, Apostle of Christ is fiction. Hyatt weaves in the narrative of Mauritius, his family and the life of the early Christian community to the friendship between Paul and Luke. Don’t expect the magnificent cinematography of Cecil B. DeMille’s biblical epic, The Ten Commandments, either.  Filmed in Malta where St. Paul actually went, Hyatt opted to show bodies torched and Roman soldiers stabbing Christians rather than the spectacle of believers being devoured by lions in the Colosseum or the Circo Massimo. The film employs the chiaroscuro technique, to stress the fear and sufferings of believers, and the scenes in prison used the darkness to convey risk and secrecy.  For a historical/biblical drama, the film spends so much time in telling/talking rather than showing, which less interested viewers might find boring.
Bible scholars argue that there is no historical evidence that Luke ever met Paul. (Paul’s second letter to Timothy is deutero-Pauline, that is, not written by Paul himself.) Faulkner’s Paul is a tortured man, guilt-ridden and questioning: “Is this all there is to it?” This is not the Paul we read in the Acts of the Apostles and his Epistles. Paul is of “robust character”—he never forgot his being a persecutor of Christians, but he was not guilt-ridden as the film suggests. Paul wrote: "Christ loved me and gave himself for me!" God's love and mercy is so much greater than our sins. Paul was awed by this and he felt compelled to share it with others. The title of the film is Paul, Apostle of Christ. Apostle means one who is sent, to proclaim the good news. The film barely shows the greatness of Paul as an Apostle of Christ, but its over-powering message is God’s mercy and grace. One sees the humanity of the characters and the struggles they all go through, vacillating between faith and doubt, courage and fear, strength and weakness. The early Christians and Saints were not superheroes but flawed human beings with whom the audience can relate.
To be a Christian means to “carry one’s cross” with love, to endure with lively hope, and to trust in God who is rich in mercy and grace. Though falsely accused, tortured, beaten, and imprisoned, Paul never retaliates and prefers to suffer in silence. He says: “Only love can overcome evil.” Luke does not refuse to minister to the daughter of their jailer Mauritius who worships Roman gods. Priscilla and Aquila welcome everyone in their Christian hideout with no questions asked, to tend their wounds, offer shelter and sustenance, endangering not only the community but their lives as well. Casius instigates a revolt among the Christians to avenge the death of young orphan Tarquin (Daryl Vassallo) and others. He attempts to free Paul and Luke from prison, but the two refuse revenge and violence, saying: “The only way is love.” And when some Christians were to be thrown to the lions the next day, Luke reminds them that the pain will “only be for a moment.” “Our suffering on earth is little compared to the joy that awaits us in heaven.” The scene where they pray the “Our Father” for themselves and for the daughter of Mauritius (who ordered their execution) is deeply moving. Would that all Filipino Christians in our day follow the way of non-violence, charity, and compassion as Paul, Luke and the early Christians did. And may all who have been persecuted for their faith find solace and courage in Paul, Apostle of Christ.
Adults are cautioned to avoid bringing children to watch the film. It carries very violent and disturbing scenes of burning bodies, immolation and bloody deaths, etc., some of children.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

A Wrinkle in Time


DIRECTOR: Ava DuVernay  LEAD CAST: Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon & Storm Reid 
SCREENWRITER: Jeff Stockwell, Jennifer Lee & Madeleine L’Engle  PRODUCER:  Jim Whitaker & Catherine Hand  EDITOR: Spencer Averick  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Ramin Djawadi  GENRE: Adventure/Fantasy  CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tobias A. Schliessler  DISTRIBUTOR: Walt Disney Studios  LOCATION: USA  RUNNING TIME: 114 mins.
Technical assessment: 4
Moral assessment: 4
CINEMA rating: VA
MTRCB rating:  GP
Teenagre Meg Murry (Storm Reid) and her younger brother Charles Wallace Murry (Deric McCabe) cannot accept the sudden disappearance of their physicist father Dr. Alex Murry (Chris Pine).  This somehow affects the personality of Meg who is full of insecurities and always wishes to be like others. Meantime the family believes that the father has been led to another world while experimenting on astrophysics in his lab, and therefore must be rescued.  One night, a stranger Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon) comes to the Murry house and talks to Charles Wallace about space travels.  In time a second stranger arrives,  Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) who speaks in quotes about tesseract and suggests the possibilities of finding their missing father.  Soon a third stranger comes into the scene—the gigantic Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey). The three strangers confess their identity as empowered astral travelers and become instrumental in solving the mystery behind their missing father.  Meg is determined to take all the risks that includes endangering the life of her brother to be able  to rescue and bring Alex back to complete their family.
A Wrinkle In Time features an interesting subject of astral travel and the transformation of an insecure teenage girl into a strong-willed person who subjects herself to many risks for a mission to reunite all members of the family. Plot development is marked by build up of suspense without necessarily introducing the characters such as the three women strangers, those in the different planets, and even those in the school setting. Nevertheless, the director succeeds in his treatment of combining the personal and family crisis of Meg’s character with the suspense and adventure of her encounters with beings from other dimensions. Acting portrayal is good especially Reid. The cinematography has been creative and cohesively helpful in the flow of the story. The technology of virtual reality that has been rampantly used in contemporary films impressively works best in this movie to the delight of the viewers. Overall, A Wrinkle in Time  presents a suspense and adventure film genre with more meaning and sincerity in resolving conflicts personally, in the family, and in society.
How can you appreciate others if you do not appreciate yourself?  And when do we start accepting our individual uniqueness and value as a person? The character of Meg initially revolves around this personal issue and almost pulls her to the lowest point of hating herself. She is envious of others persons’ physical attributes and abilities. She wants to be someone else and not the being that is herself.  In reality we can never be what we are not. Likewise acceptance of oneself is the key to overcome this disbelief. Meg does not keep this personal struggle to her mother which is commendable especially at this digital age when most young people opt to open up in social media and the parents seem to be the last to know. The film carries out the sub theme of physics as a branch of science that may be informative to young viewers.  Overall the film is full of positive messages that may be good reference for similar undertakings. (IBD)


Monday, March 26, 2018

The Titan


DIRECTOR: Lennart Ruff  LEAD CAST: Sam Worthington, Taylor Schilling, Tom Wilkinson, Agyness Deyn  SCREENWRITER: Max Hurwitz  PRODUCER: Arash Amel, Fred Berger, Leon Clarance, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, Ben Pugh  EDITOR: Ann-Carolin Biesenbach  MUSICAL DIRECTOR: Fil Eisler  GENRE: Sci Fi, Fantasy, Drama CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jan-Marcello Kahl  DISTRIBUTOR: Digi-Optic Films  LOCATION: Spain  RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes
Technical assessment: 3
Moral assessment: 3
CINEMA rating: V13
MTRCB rating: PG
Earth will soon become inhabitable, man will become extinct. Professor Martin Collingwood (Tom Wilkinson) leads a military experiment to create a super being that can survive the harsh conditions in Titan, a moon of the planet Saturn. The plan is to relocate humanity there to avoid extinction. Rick Janssen (Sam Worthington) volunteers to be part of the experiment, and he survives the battery of chemicals and foreign matter introduced in his body. Other volunteers are not as lucky. They become rabid, some implode, others slaughter their own family and are subsequently exterminated by the military. Rick’s wife Dr. Abigail Janssen (Taylor Schilling) finds out why: she discovers that Professor Collingwood is not just enhancing the human species, he is transforming it into some other species. Abigail attempts to extricate her husband—who by now no longer looks human—from the experiment.
The Titan is one of those movies that can hold the suspense as it shows you the gradual (read that, slow) transformation of Rick’s face and body into something other than human. It’s a combination of music, special effects, a play of lights, and a camera that understands how to guide our path of vision. The Rick here is the same Sam Worthington of James Cameron’s blockbuster Avatar. Here again, we see his human face only at the beginning, and for the rest of the movie, he is transformed into an alien. He seems to have mastered acting with prosthetic makeup because he does deliver better characterization as a half-human. As to Tom Wilkinson’s Professor Collingwood, he does not interest us enough, we don’t see the depth nor the mania of his conviction to create a super being. Agyness Deyn as the professor’s assistant puzzles us with her sudden change of allegiance, and it took us some time to figure out why she was fleeing alongside Dr. Janssen.
Arash Amel who wrote the story describes The Titan as a love story, revolving around Rick’s devotion to his son, reading to him at night, hoping the experiment would ensure that his son would have a future—these are family values we hold dear in our culture. More so is Rick’s devotion to his wife and their intimate understanding of each other, connecting without speaking, and believing in the infinite goodness of each other—both Worthington and Schilling deliver these messages quite effectively. But more than the love story, what stands out is the representation of the two faces of science: a science that upholds humanity and a science that kills it. Rick is dying and he needs to be transported to Titan where he can survive with his now evolved biological makeup. But Rick is resisting it because his mind tells him he is first and foremost a father and a husband. Professor Collingwood wants to inject Rick with a chemical that would erase Rick’s memory. Abigail knows that if she allows Collingwood to do that, Rick will lose his only link to her and their son, and to his own humanity. What a good message from a movie that, although not as amazing and grand as Avatar, is nevertheless illuminating. (ME)

I kill giants


DIRECTOR: Andes Walter  LEAD CAST: Madison Wolfe, Imogen Poots, Sydney Wade, Rory Jackson & Zoe Saldana  SCREENWRITER: Joe Kelly  PRODUCER:  Chris Columbus & company  EDITOR: Lars Wissing  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Laurent Perez Del Mar  GENRE: Fantasy/Drama  CINEMATOGRAPHER: Rasmus Heise  DISTRIBUTOR: RLJE Films  LOCATION: Belgium, China, United Kingdom, USA  RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes
Technical assessment: 3.5
Moral assessment:  3.5
CINEMA rating:  V14
Fifth-grader Barbara (Madison Wolfe), although intelligent, is unable to face the realities of life, especially the impending death of her mother from cancer. She isolates herself—to the point of building an indoor fort in the house the shares with her siblings—making solitary sojourns into the forest or the beach, living in an imaginary world of dragons and giants.  Believing giants are a threat to her and the community, Barbara sets traps in the forest to kill them.  Due to her eccentric ways, Barbara is often bullied by classmates who see her as weird, bummed out, and a loser.  Then a British girl comes along—Sophia (Sydney Wade) who befriends her and listens to her with sympathy, just like the school psychologist, Ms. Molle (Zoe Saldana), who is the soul of patience and compassion in her efforts to help Barbara.
The affecting performance of the 15-year-old newcomer Wolfe as the main character is the strongest asset of the movie.  Wolfe is able to wed vulnerability and spunk in her role, allowing the viewer to suspend disbelief and see the world as Barbara sees it.  The costumes and details in the production set—particularly Barbara’s gadgets and her basement retreat—contribute much to Barbara’s characterization, while Zaldana’s acting provides a worthy stimulus to Wolfe’s.  Some scenes drag, though, reducing the impact of the more powerful sequences, like the final confrontation between Barbara and the giant.  A vital disclosure is made in the last quarter of the movie, making the ending a trifle too abrupt and weakening the denouement.
I Kill Giants is not about computer generated robotic monsters and monstrous robots vying for the oohs and aahs of the audience, but is about how young persons resort to fantasy as an escape mechanism. It shows the value of dedicated school officials who will go an extra mile to save a hurting soul; it highlights the beauty of naivete, and the power of trust to inspire trust in another.   What initially appears as a villain (spoiler coming!) turns out to be the savior, enlightening an angry person and clearing the path to redemption, and eventually, joy.   

Friday, March 16, 2018

Pambansang Third Wheel


DIRECTOR:  Ivan Andrew Payawal  LEAD CAST: Sam Milby, Yassi Pressman, Sam Pinto, Candy Pangilinan, Al Tantay  STORY and SCREENWRITER:  Ivan Andrew Payawal  PRODUCER:  Vic Del Rosario, Jr.  CINEMATOGRAPHY: Cesca Lee  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Jessie Lasaten  EDITING: Carlo Francisco Manatad  GENRE: Romantic Comedy  DISTRIBUTOR: Viva Films  LOCATION:  Manila  RUNNING TIME:   97 minutes
Technical assessment:  3
Moral assessment:  3
CINEMA rating:  V13 (Ages 13 and below with parental guidance)
MTRCB rating: PG
Ilang beses nang nasaktan si Trina (Yassi Pressman) sa larangan ng pag-ibig.  Ngayong lampas-trenta anyos na siya, medyo suko na siya sa pagiging “unlucky in love” at kontento nang maging single hangga’t hindi dumarating ang iginuhit ng tadhana para sa kanya.  Pasok si Neo (Sam Milby) na sa tingin ni Trina’y kaganapan ng pangarap niya, pasado sa sukatan niya, at puwede niyang maging salbabida sa pag-ibig.  Kaya lang, tatay na pala si lalaki—may anak na lalaking 8-years old na isinama ng ina nito sa Canada at ngayo’y nagbalik-Pinas ang mag-ina.  Bumabawi si Neo sa panahong hindi nakita ang anak, pero mahal niya si Trina.  Magsusumamo si Neo kay Trina na mahalin din ang bata at isama ito sa relasyon nila; susubukan naman ni Trina.  Pero babalik ng Canada ang mag-ina, at susundan sila ni Neo na magsa-“sakripisyo” alang-alang sa bata.  Paano na, feeling third wheel na naman ba si Trina?
Pasable si Pressman sa mga eksenang komedya at drama.  Si Milby naman ay nagpasilip ng maturity sa pagganap, pero hindi pa rin sapat para sa hinihingi ng papel niya.  Sa ganitong genre ng pelikula napakahalagang malakas ang chemistry ng dalawang bida—pero hindi ganon ang nangyari kay Milby at Pressman, kaya galingan man nila ang pag-arte ay lalabas pa ring pilit ang emosyon, hindi kapani-paniwala ang kanilang pag-uugnayan.  Sinikap ni Payawal na maiba ang kanyang rom-com sa karaniwan, sa pamamagitan ng pagsaling sa ilang isyu sa mga relasyon.  May mga bagong konsepto siyang ipinasok pero sana’y ipinakita na lang sa halip na isalaysay lamang ang mga ito, total, may mga eksena ring hindi naman kailangan sa daloy ng kuwento, saying ang footage.
Sa likuan ng love story ni Trina at Neo ay ang isang mahapding katotohanang nagsusumigaw na pakinggan: sa paghihiwalay ng mag-asawa, ang pinakamalalim na sugat na ibinubunga ay ang sa puso at katauhan mga anak.  Katulad ng anak ni Neo, si Trina man ay biktima ng paghihiwalay ng mga magulang.  Sa hindi pagkakasundo ng mga magulang, napipilitang pumili ang anak kung kanino siya magiging malapit.  May mga magulang na buong-tapang na susuungin ang single parenthood, ngunit gaano man nila kahusam gampanan ang pagiging kapwa ina at ama sa kanilang mga anak, hindi pa rin ito kailanman magiging sapat o wasto—mayroon pa ring “kulang”.  Punto ng pelikula ay—magtiis ka lamang at maghintay at darating din sa iyo ang taong para sa iyo.  Bagama’t nagbibigay pag-asa ito sa marami (para huwag mag-apura sa pag-big), hindi rin lubos na tama ang pahiwatig nito na ang isang taoý liligaya lamang kung mayroon siyang partner.  Hindi naman pag-aasawa lamang ang bokasyon ng isang tao; may ilan ding may “tawag” sa isang higit na nakatataas na pag-ibig, kung kaya’t wala silang mapusuang nilalang para gawing life-partner.  Palawigin natin ang ating pananaw upang hindi natin sabihing “malas” ang isang tao dahil lamang lagi siyang sawi sa pag-ibig.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Tomb Raider


DIRECTOR: Roar Uthaug  LEAD CAST: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walten Goggins, Daniel Wu  SCREENWRITER: Geneva Robertson-Dworet, Alastair Siddons   PRODUCER: Graham King  EDITOR: Stuart Baird, Tom Harrison-Read, Michael Tronick  MUSICAL DIRECTOR: Junkie XL  GENRE: Action, Adventure, Fantasy  CINEMATOGRAPHER: George Richmond  DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Bros.  LOCATION: South Africa, England  RUNNING TIME: 118 minutes
Technical assessment: 3
Moral assessment: 3
CINEMA rating: V13
MTRCB rating: PG
Defying the wishes of her father Lord Richard (Dominic West), Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) does not destroy his records tracing the location of Queen Himiko’s tomb in a remote island in Japan. The mythical queen is believed to have power over death and life, and Lord Richard in his journal claims the queen is his link to the other world where finally he can reunite with his wife, Lara’s mother who passed away. Lara uses the journal to track her father, gone missing for seven years and presumed dead. With Lu Ren (Daniel Wu), son of the boat owner who disappeared with Lara’s father, they sail to the island. A turbulent storm sinks their boat and they find themselves captive in the camp where Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins) leads a sinister mission to retrieve Himiko’s remains on orders of a spurious organization. Getting hold of Lord Richard’s journal from Lara, Vogel’s mission becomes as good as accomplished. But Lara gets in the way, and she won’t stop till she finds her father.
You don’t need to know the video game nor the 2001 and 2003 movie series with Angelina Jolie to appreciate this latest release. The movie is about a father-daughter relationship, and Vikander (best actress for The Danish Girl) brings both vulnerability and daring to Lara’s abandoned daughter and conflicted heiress. But Dominic West’s Lord Richard and Goggin’s Vogel are awkward and feigned. The plot is thin and linear, and the movie resorts to a series of flashbacks to deepen the story, using them all too frequently that the story becomes contrived. But give it to Lara Croft—the strong, singular woman surrounded by all men—for the amazing show of stunts and fist-fights. We braced ourselves for special effects true to the tradition of the Tomb Raider franchise, but found none save for some rotating rocks, explosions here and there, and a location set that shows a few shots of the island but for the most part are in the façade of a temple or inside it. The death-defying scenes would have been breathtaking, but they’re stretched all too long they make the suspense evaporate, like the sequence where Lara dashes into the forest or is washed down the river and gets trapped in a rusty plane suspended in a ravine. So we found ourselves not rooting for Lara Croft at all. There’s foreshadowing of more of Kristin Scott Thomas’ Ana Miller if there is a sequel, but we’re not excited for the next instalment given what we’ve seen.
The movie is a father-daughter relationship story and the harrowing choice between family and serving the greater good to save mankind and, choosing to sacrifice oneself to save the world, the father finds himself circling back to the nucleus of that relationship that he holds dear: I gave up my life so that you, my daughter, might live. The poignant message is complicated by opportunistic attempts to use what is evidently harmful (Himiko’s remains or what she represents) for evil ends. The movie is benign, it does not corrupt, but neither does it inspire.  (ME)

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Post

Direction: Steven Spielberg; Cast: Meryll Streep, Tom Hanks; Bob Odenkirk; Story and Screenplay: Liz Hannah, Josh Singer; Cinematography: Janusz Kiminski;  Editing: Michael Kahn, Sarah Broshar;  Music: John Williams; Producers: Steven Spielberg, Kristie Macosko Krieger; Genre: Drama;  Location: USA; Distributor: 20th Century Fox; Running Time: 136 minutes.
Technical assessment: 4
Moral assessment: 4.5
CINEMA rating: V14
The Post talks about the true story of the Pentagon papers involving the US government’s knowledge of things but were not revealing to the public.  A few years after the Vietnam War, former military analyst Danuek Ellberg (Rhys) leaks some confidential documents to the reporters of the New York Times. Katherine Graham (Streep), the new publisher and owner of The Washington Post arranges for its stock market launch in order to strengthen its financial health. However, she faces a group of chauvinistic men who feel she is not fit for the job. McNamara (Greenwood), her friend and the Secretary of Defense, complains that another newspaper, The Times, has been writing negative stories about him and one of her editors discovers Ellberg as the source of the materials.  Bradlee (Hanks), the Post’s editor-in-chief, decides to match Time’s scoops sets up a team of Post reporters to weed through the documents they also get from Ellberg. The paper’s management agonizes whether to come out with the story or not as it is either a choice between social responsibilities or a possible repercussion from the Nixon government. Graham decides to run the story and inspires papers across America to support their expose.
It is undeniably a very timely movie given the government-media climate in most parts of the world – the Philippines included. Hence this is a movie that will become timeless in the years to come given the brilliant choice of focus of Spielberg. The direction takes us between the realism and drama. For instance, we see the intensive effort in gathering facts and publishing a story on time during those days on the one hand and the inner conflict of the people at the crossroads of running a story or not. The real strength of the movie is in the formidable performances of its leads—subdued, enthralling and passionate. Streep’s acting is almost musical. Spielberg masterfully paces the narrative with quick history and immersing drama. The movie is a tightly articulated account of the Pentagon Papers and the struggle for integrity and truth.
In a time where fake news proliferates unceremoniously and the public naïve about the manipulation and deceit of media – whether mainstream, social or alternative, The Post offers a reminder that truth is the underlying foundation of journalism. The movie’s theme heavily centers on the struggles of print media for freedom of the press. A struggle still fought to this day if media is to remain faithful to its obligation to keep,the government in check and serve to the public unbiased and relevant information. The movie should be understood as a reminder not only for government to respect media’s purpose and task but also for media itself to remember what they are here for.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Black Panther


DIRECTOR: Ryan Cooler  LEAD CAST: Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong'o, Michael Jordan, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya,  Andy Serkis, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke  SCREENWRITER: Ryan Cooler, Joe Robert Cole  PRODUCER: Kevin Feige  EDITOR: Michael Shawver, Claudia Castello  MUSICAL DIRECTOR: Ludwig Goransson  CINEMATOGRAPHER: Rachel Morrison  DISTRIBUTOR: Walt Disney  GENRE: action, science fiction, fantasy  LOCATION: United States  RUNNING TIME: 145 minutes
Technical assessment: 4
Moral assessment: 4
CINEMA rating: V14
MTRCB rating: PG13
T'Challa a.k.a. Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) returns to Wakanda in Africa to assume the throne of his late father King T'Chaka. Not long after being crowned King, T'Challa is faced by challenges to protect his homeland from the bad elements in the outside world and to stop the irresponsible sharing of its very own vibranium technology. T'Challa together with Okaye (Danai Gurira) and Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o) launch the South Korea mission when he learns that his American cousin Killmonger a.k.a. Erik Stevens (Michael B. Jordan) in connivance with Klaue (Andy Serkis) is due to sell the stolen vibranium-made weapon artefact to American CIA Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) in Busan. The plan to intercept the deal turns into a high speed car chase that takes Klaue into federal custody. Killmonger breaks into the compound and frees Klaue. The confrontation seriously injures Ross for saving Nakia.  The  mission team brings him to Wakanda where he is cured. Killmonger kills Klaue and takes his body to Wakanda as an offering to the tribe elders. He challenges T'Challa for a fight to claim the throne that he eventually wins and throws the comatose body of T'Challa into the waterfalls. Killmonger takes the liberty to inject the heart-shaped herb to gain the powers of the Black Panther and to start his greed mission to distribute the Wakandan weapon to the whole world.
The Black Panther has a well-developed plot. The story progresses to climax as it unravels secrets and characters of the movie. The director did a good job in giving a light treatment to a supposedly hardcore action sci-fi genre. This helps the viewers to focus on the story and its message.  The fight scenes and the stunts including those by women actors bring excitement and the dialogue in African accents is commendable. The power cast showcases the pool of excellent acting skills especially Boseman. The cinematography gives significant shots in different locations and scenes that blend well with applied advanced technology. It has an impressive production design that puts together the elements of tribal culture and science fiction. Equally notable are the sounds, lights music and the amazing visual effects. Overall, the film is entertaining and watching it is worth one’s time and money.
Sharing is a noble act.  However, just like any well-meaning gesture, this can be manipulated by bad elements in society and may result in more harm than good. This is the dilemma of the character of T'Challa. While this issue is all male orchestrated, woman power comes to the rescue and support of the male leader who is on the side of truth. Hence, there is value in investing and trusting in women’s skills even when it comes to major concerns and serving the national interest. A country, no matter how small and naïve, may possess a treasure in the form of people with values and amazing technologies.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Amnesia Love


DIRECTOR: Albert Langitan   LEAD CAST: Paolo Ballesteros, Yam Concepcion & Polo Ravales  SCREENWRITER: Albert Langitan  PRODUCER:  Vic del Rosario, Jr.  EDITOR: Mark Cyril Bautista  MUSICAL DIRECTOR:  Immanuel Verona  GENRE: Comedy  CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Journalie Payonan  DISTRIBUTOR: Viva Films  LOCATION: Oriental Mindoro, Philippines  RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes
Technical assessment: 2.5
Moral assessment: 2.5
CINEMA rating:  V14
Sumpungin at may pagka-spoiled brat ang baklang si Kimmer (Paolo Ballesteros), na nakatakdang ikasal kay Macky (Polo Ravales).  Isang araw, habang namamasyal sa beach si Kimmer kasama ng kanyang yaya, nahulog siya sa gulod nang pilit niyang abutin ang isang bulaklak.  Natagpuan siya ng mga batang naglalaro na walang ulirat sa dagat at itinuloy siya sa bahay ng kapitan ng barangay, kung saan matutuklasang may amnesia siya, at walang matandaan sa mga pangyayari, kahit ang kanyang pangalan.  Aarugain siya ng kapitan at ng kanyang maybahay, habang inaasahan nilang babalik ang pag-alala ni Kimmer. Pagkat ang soot niya nang matagpuan siya at isang t-shirt na may nakasulat na “Macky” sa dibdib, papangalanan siyang Macky ng isang batang lalaking naging malapit sa kanya. Di kalaunan, makikilala ni Kimmer/Macky si Doray (Yam Concepcion) ang anak na dalaga nila kapitan, at dito sisibol ang isang kakatwang relasyon sa pagitan ng isang matalinong dalaga at isang baklang hindi maalala na siya ay bakla.   
Hindi kinailangan ng Amnesia Love ang katangi-tanging film-making techniques pagka’t ang sinakyan nito ay ang daloy ng kuwento. Bilang komedya, hindi ito nakakatuwa pagkat ang pagpapatawa nito ay uminog sa kapangitan ng asal ni Kimmer na idiniin pa ng kabastusan ng kanyang pakikitungo sa may-edad niyang yaya.  Tila kinailangan pa ni Kimmer na mabagok para magkaroon ng modo.  May mga parte na nakakainip ang pelikula at pinahahaba ang eksena nang hindi naman kailangan.  Hindi rin “pantay-pantay” ang kalidad ng pagganap ng mga pangunahing artista: minsa’y ayos, minsa’y pilit, tuloy nagmumukhang artipisyal ang mga tauhan.
Isang bagay na hindi inaasahan ang nagbigay kulay sa Amnesia Love: ang pagpapakita ng pang-araw-araw ng buhay ng mga naninirahan sa isla: ang kapayakan ng kanilang pamumuhay, ang kaayusan ng komunidad, ang kanilang likas na kabutihan (na hindi pa nababahiran ng makabagong kaguluhan ng lungsod), atbp. Ngunit sa pagtatapos ng pelikula, hindi mapigil ng CINEMA na magtaka kung ano ba talaga ang tinutumbok nito.  Bakit pinagsabong ang katusuan ng babae at ang katapatang magmahal ng bakla?  Hindi patas. Tila ba idinisenyo lamang ang kuwento para palabasin na mabubuting tao din naman ang mga bakla kaya dapat lamang na ibigay ang hinihingi nila—same sex marriage.  Pero di ba kataka-taka na sa islang yaon—na ni hindi pa nga maabot ng cell phone signal—ay wala ni isa man lamang batang magtatanong sa magulang kung bakit dalawang lalaki ang ikinakasal?   
Ang pag-aasawa ay panghabang-buhay na pag-iisang dibdib ng isang lalaki at isang babae, upang maganap ang kalooban ng Panginoon na magpatuloy ang lahi sa pamamagitan ng mga supling na ibubunga nito.  Huwag nating hayaang malito ang ating mga anak—lalo na ang mga musmos—at tanggapin nila nang walang tanung-tanong ang mga paniniwalang lihis sa itinakda ng kalikasan.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

I, Tonya

DIRECTOR: Craig Gillespie  STARRING: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney Julianne Nicholson, Bobby Cannavale  PRODUCER: Tom Ackerley, Margot Robbie, Steven Rogers, Bryan Unkeless  SCREENWRITER: Steven Rogers  MUSIC: Peter Nashel  CINEMATOGRAPHER: Nicolas Karakatsanis  EDITOR: Tatiana S. Riegel  GENRE: Biography – Drama  PRODUCTION COMPANY: LuckyChap Entertainment, Clubhouse Pictures, AI Film  DISTRIBUTOR: Neon  COUNTRY:  United States  LANGUAGE: English  RUNNING TIME: 119 minutes
Technical assessment:  3.5
Moral assessment:  3
CINEMA rating:  V16
I Tonya is a biopic of American Olympian skater Tonya Harding. The movie employs “mockumentary” breaking of the 4th wall techniques to lighten the tragic fate of the protagonist. The movie follows Tonya as she wades through her abusive mother molding and training her to become a figure skater through negative reinforcement. Through rigid training, Tonya becomes the best female figure skater but her social status and unconventional choices prevent her from being acknowledged as one. At 15 or 16, she marries 18 year old Jeff Gillooly who seems to confuse her with a punching bag. Meanwhile, Tonya diverts her pain to perfecting her craft. She becomes the first figure skater to complete a triple axel in the competition. She qualifies for the 1994 Olympic competition, but an half-witted plan of her husband and her bodyguard to disable her competitor, Nancy Kerrigan, backfires.  Nancy finishes 2nd while she lands in the 8th place, her husband and cohorts are arrested and she, banned from figure skating, resigns to her fate shifts to boxing.
The tragic life of Tonya is somewhat lightened by the style Gillespie has taken. But the laughters are not sustained as the discomforted audience choke a bit every time Tonya breaks the wall in an effort to annotate her pain through witty sarcasm. The story is not unique but the story telling is. It is almost embarrassing to be entertained by Tonya’s life knowing that more than half of it is real. But the biggest success of the film is Robbie’s explosive personality and dynamic performance (some scenes could not keep up with her).  This movie not only chronicles one of the most controversial scandals in figure skating history but also leaves a dent in our consciousness that audiences will remember long after the end credits roll. Mostly because it does not try too hard to shove the truth to the audience but explores the different sides of the truth without melodrama but with more impact.
Pain damages and breaks people. But it is the emotional, not the physical pain, that leaves deeper scars. From the beginning, Tonya was in pain—her mother’s verbal abuse, the discrimination of the figure skating environments and her husband’s violence. Eventually that pain defined her self-worth that she needed to resort to nonconformity to redefine herself. The very structure that needed to support a person’s dignity and growth were the very ones that destroyed them. Perhaps this is a strong reminder for all of us. As part of the structure, our role is to be the nesting ground for a person to discover, to form and to strengthen his humanity. We need to be the healer of pain not the creator of wounds. We need to build bridges with acceptance and respect, not walls that segregate and divide.  As individuals, we need to discover our worth in our hearts and souls regardless of what the structure offers. We need to realize that the first aid to the pain of rejection, abuse and violence is the love we give ourselves. The movie needs mature and discerning audiences to understand the layers of meanings between scenes.