Monday, April 30, 2018

Red Sparrow

Running Time: 94 minutes; Direction: Francis Lawrence; Starring: Jennifer Lawrence;  Screenplay: Justine Haythe based on the novel by James Matthew; Cinematography: Jo Willems; Editing:  Allan Edward Bell; ProducerMusic: James NewtonHowardLocation: RussiaGenre: ThrillerDistributor: 20th Century Fox 
Technical assessment 3 
Moral assessment2.5 
CINEMA ratingV18 
Dominika Egorova (Lawrence) is a prima ballerina of the Bolshoi Ballet company. Part of her privilege includes the medical care of her sick mother and the rental of their upscale home. But when Dominika has an onstage accident, all these privileges are jeopardized. She is then forced to accept a “job offer” from her uncle Vanya (Schoenaerts), a top Soviet intelligence agent, to seduce Dimitry Ustinov, a Russian politician. She is  raped by Ustinov and seemingly saved by a Russian operative who kills the politicians. However, under the pain of death she is asked to be a “sparrow”—a secret agent trained to hunt political targets. Left with no choice, Dominika is sent to a harsh training facility and learns the way of seduction and ruthlessness. She emerges with grit and determination enduring physical, mental and sexual assaults. Meanwhile an American agent, Nate (Edgerton) working with a Russian mole has been monitored in the effort to discover the identity of his mole. Dominika is assigned to gain the trust of Nate so he can reveal his mole. In the turn of events, Dominika discovers loyalties and makes a decision on whose side to be on. 
Francis Lawrence version of Jason Matthew’s novel is a courageous attempt to recreate Jennifer Lawrence making her go through a series of external and internal demands Dominika has to go through. Jennifer succeeds effortlessly to make her character real as the situation becomes more unreal. The chemistry of Francis and Jennifer, director and star, is stronger and more fluid than Dominika and Nate’s. While the film delivers the grit and chill, it sluggishly moves from one point to the next, making it a dull 139 minutes to endure. The twists are not really surprising, even if you have not read the novel. It’s just that too many spy movies begin and end this way. Dominika’s ordeal and transformation is an effort to showcase female empowerment but there is too much emphasis on violence that it becomes repetitive and gratuitous.  The effort points to a watered down theme of exploitation and survival. The star of the film is Jennifer’s talent, not the story or storytelling. 
The movie is definitely not for young audiences. Seduction, physical and sexual abuse, nudity, profanities and violence pepper the scenes. It could have been an engaging spy film but Francis Lawrence’s directorial inclination to showcase sex and violence become stumbling blocks to achieving this. Twittering through the scenes, you can pick up one strong message: enterprising persons take advantage of the vulnerabilities of the hurting, the suffering and the fallen.  When we look at people in need as opportunities to gain favors or push a personal agenda in the guise of charity or even develop debt of gratitude. When people do this, they risk to build monsters who will recognize the exploitation and become equally heartless. The cycle will never end. We need to realize how we should respond out of concern, out of love, out of our responsibility to be human.  (PMF)

The Florida Project

Direction: Sean Baker;  Cast: Willem Dafoe, Brooklyn Prince, Bria Vinaite; Story: Screenplay: Sean Baker, Chris Bergoch; Producer: Sean Baker, Chris Bergoch, et al; Music: Lorne Balfe; Editing: Sean Baker; Genre: Drama; Distributor: A24  Running Time: 111 minutes;
Technical assessment:  4
Moral assessment:  3.5
CINEMA rating:  V14
The Florida Project is not your typical three-act Blockbuster Hollywood film. Instead it brings our focus to shift from the famous tourist attraction to the peripheries where poverty is painfully in existence. Six year old Moony (Prince) and her mother Haley (Vinaite) are tenants of the Magic Castle Motel. Haley makes ends meet by hawking rich Disney customers, stealing Disney ticket and selling whatever she can, including her personal services. Moony spends her days with another child tenant Scooty (Rivera) and their new friend Jancey (Cotto). They engage in behavior too obnoxious to be cute. Bobby (Dafoe), the tired hotel manager is extremely annoyed by but is protective of the children, especially after realizing Haley is into prostitution. Desperate, Haley tries to borrow money from Ashley, Scooty’s mother, but eventually beats her to pulp when the latter mocks her. This causes the Children’s Welfare to investigate Haley and decide to bring Moony to a foster home while her mother is under investigation. Moony, realizing she will be taken away from her mother, breaks down and runs away with Jancey and enter the Magic Kingdom Park inside Disney World.
The film works because of the creative decision to have the story told from the innocent perspective of the children involved. The first third introduces you to children so annoying and misbehaved that you feel it would be an unbearable film. But gradually, you begin to understand why they are how they are. Their parents, their environment and their lifestyle molds them. But beneath the compelling images, the film unfolds the naivete of the children making them charming and likeable all throughout.  Baker achieves the most admirable feat—not only unquestionably gaining the sympathy of the audience for his characters but also seeing, learning about, and understanding the world through their eyes. For instance, the attempt of Haley to get into online pornography using her daughter would have been sickening. But we were experiencing it like Mooney—“just another selfie day with mom”, and the tug-of-war between what the audience knew and what the audience felt made the scene very powerful. Another example is the directorial decision to shoot Ashley beating Haley. Audience never see the violence but felt it all the more because it was shot blurred behind Ashley’s son who watched it all throughout. The subtleties of the film is its gem. This is a film whose effect creeps in so slowly that a less attentive viewer might think nothing much is happening. But those who patiently wait will realize every little scene is necessary to appreciate the characters—and eventually find a piece of you in them. The brilliant performances from Dafoe, Prince and Vinaite, the juxtaposition of Disneyland with the children’s motel home complemented by the decision to use diegetic sound brings us a world that is hauntingly real and inspiring.
We are all products of our surroundings and children are most vulnerable to the risks and hazards of a negative environment. We often complain that a person seems to have lost his graces but sometime we fail to realize that his actions are reaction to how the world presents itself to him. An informercial popularized the saying, “Ang maling gawa ay nagiging tama sa bata kapag ginagawa ng nakatatanda” (In the eyes of a child, a wrong doing becomes right if done by an elder). Where do children get their moral or their attitude? We lay down rules for them, but in a sweep of a hand, break the rules when it is to our advantage. Why would we reprimand them when they do the same? The movie presents the disturbing contrast of the socio-economic discrepancies even in the 3rd world but more importantly shows us the repercussions of being an irresponsible adult.  (JMF)

A quiet place

DIRECTOR:  John Krasinski  LEAD CAST:  John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe  WRITERS: John Krasinski, Scott Beck, Bryan Woods  PRODUCERS: Michael Bay, Andrew Form, Brad Fuller  EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: John Krasinski, Scott Beck, Bryan Woods  SOUNDS:  Erik Aadahl, Ethan Van der Ryn  MUSIC: Marco Beltrami
EDITOR: Christopher Tellefsen  GENRE:  Drama Suspense  LOCATION: U.S.  DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount Pictures  RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
Technical assessment:  4
Moral assessment: 3.5
CINEMA rating: V14
MTRCB rating: R13
Deadly creatures with incredible hearing ability from nowhere wiped out most of the human population, leaving the small number of survivors who are extra careful to make any sound. Among them is the family of Lee Abbott (John Krasinski) who together with wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt), sons Marcus (Noah Jupe) and Beau (Cade Woodward), and deaf daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) scavenge for supplies in an abandoned grocery.  When youngest son Beau innocently picked out a battery-operated toy airplane, Lee cautioned him to leave it so not to make a sound. But Regan felt for her younger brother so she took out the battery to make sure it’s safe and then gave back the toy to Beau.  Unknown to her, Beau took and put back the battery and turned on to play while outside. Expectedly, the monster alerted by the sound attacked and killed Beau.  Regan blamed herself for the death of Beau and felt guilty since then. After 400 days of silent life in the farmhouse, Lee and Marcus went for fishing, with Lee giving pointers to Marcus about being safe with their sounds and movement in the  presence of louder sound like rushing water falls. Regan, who was not allowed to come along with them, instead went to the grave of Beau leaving Evelyn, who is on her final stage of pregnancy, alone in the house. At this time, Evelyn goes into labor—how will things go with her in that condition?      
A Quiet Place is a film that meets the expectations for a sustained momentum of suspense from start to the end. The story focuses on a family being in a prolonged life- threatening situation  that requires them to limit their conversation to sign language in order to secure themselves from deadly attacks of sound-sensitive monsters. The plot includes a hearing-impaired daughter, which explains why all members of the family are comfortable with non-verbal communication.  Thus, true to its title, the film has limited sounds and dialogues yet effectively delivers with strong composition.  The director is commendable in his treatment of combined suspense drama by the details and symbolisms such as the many close-up shots of step guides and the features of sound-proofed shelter, the hearing gadget, newspapers, and the day counter among others. The scene of father and son in the waterfalls serves as a breather from a heightened suspense.  The acting is impressive especially Krasinski as a father who is doing everything for the family and Simmonds as a reel and real hearing-impaired teenage girl. The sign language communication of the whole family cast is amazing and interestingly engages the viewers.  But some prolonged silent scenes can still be boring, hence this film need not be longer than the 90-minute run. Nevertheless, as commented by film assessors, the only thing that a viewer would not do in watching the film is laugh. The film projects a whole gamut of emotions: fear, sorrow, remorse, regret, love, sacrifice.
There is no hopeless situation for a family when all members act together to survive and protect one another from enemies. The film highlights that sacrifice is a language of love.  It gives preferential concern for a family member who has special needs. The family sacrifices their verbal expression to be able to communicate with the deaf daughter through sign language. She in return desires to make her own expression of love and support despite her condition.  While everyone has a share, notable in the film A Quiet Place is the sacrificing love of the father.  He exerted efforts to prepare the family for the inevitable.  The character of Lee Abbott depicts a father who is a compassionate and responsible leader, has presence of mind, and always thinks first of the welfare and future of his family.  (IBD)

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Pitch Perfect 3

Direction: Trish Sie; Starring: Anna Kendriks, Rebel Wilson, Brittney SnowJohn Lithgow, Elizabeth Banks; Screenplay: Kay Cannon, Mike White.EditingCraig Alpert, Colin Patton Producer: Elizabeth Banks, Paul Brooks, Max HandelmanMusic: Christopher LennertzmLocation: EuropeGenre: Musical ComedyRunning Time: 94 minutes;
Technical assessment2.5
Moral assessment2.5
CINEMA ratingV14 
MTRCB rating: PG13 
Becca (Kendrick), Fat Amy (Wilson) and Chloe (Snow) are new professionals fixated on their glorious The Bella days in college. Stuck in the empty drudgery of their dead-end-jobs, they accept an invitation from a current Bella member thinking they will be given a chance to perform again. Adding insult to their self pitying is that the invitation is for them to listen and watch the current young Bellas perform. So to redeem themselves, the girls accept to participate in the USO tour of Europe in the hope of proving that they are still a force to contend with. As usual, they are met with hostility by the more sophisticated and talented rivals while being tangled in their personal feuds and uncompromising personalities. On the side still is a subplot of Fat Amy and her gangster father (Lithgow) who is after her 180 million-dollar inheritance and thinks that kidnapping the Bellas is the cleverest way to get his hands on the loot.
Pitch Perfect 3 feels like the tail end of an over stretched party—predictable, tired. and almost silly. Elizabeth Banks stepping down from her role as director of Pitch Perfect 2 and concentrating on playing the sarcastic commentator Gail must have been the wisest decision made by a former cast and crew. While Trish Sie tries hard to keep it sparkling and spunky, she just could not keep it from crashing on the ground because of lazy performances of some cast (Lithgow and Snow), formulaic flowand a weak storyline. Only Becca’s character and Kendrick’s performance really grows and deserves a trilogy. The rest just reprise their roles and performances from Pitch Perfect 1Even the mashup of songs, which audiences fell in love with in the first movie was not memorable enough to have retention. 
The biggest saving grace of the Pitch Perfect 3 is its efforts to show how real friendship cuts through the worst of situations to bring out the best in people. Becca, Fat Amy and the rest of the Bellas finally discover that it is not old glory which matters most but old loyalties and genuine care for one another. The jokes are for adults and at times not really funny. The movie contains an out-of-wedlock pregnancy, vulgar humor, and a couple of crude language incidentsCINEMA rates that film as suitable only for older bored young adults. (PMF)