Friday, March 29, 2019

Captain Marvel

Directors: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Lead Cast: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Jude Law, Annette Bening, Lashana Lynch
Screenwriters: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck, Geneva Robertson-Dworet
Producer: Kevin Feige
Editors: Debbie Berman, Elliot Graham
Musical Director: Pinar Toprak
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Cinematographer: Ben Davis                                  
Distributor: Walt Disney
Location: California, USA
Running Time: 2hr 4mins
Technical Assessment: 4
Moral Assessment: 3.5
Cinema Rating: V13 – 13 and below with parental guidance
MTRCB Rating: PG13
Vers (Brie Larson) is a member of Starforce—an intergalactic Kree battle squad. She is mentored by Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) who repeatedly reminds her not to let her emotions affect her duties, specifically of the firing of powerful energy beams from her hands. Their mission is to defeat the Skrulls, a species of shape-shifting aliens led by Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) who's obsessed with probing Vers' memory in hopes of getting information on one Dr. Wendy Lawson (Annette Bening) and her work with a light-speed project. Incidentally, Vers interacts with that woman, not as Lawson, but as the artificial intelligence generated leader of the Kree, all while experiencing fleeting memories of a different life that's foreign to her. Then everything comes clearer when she literally crashes into Earth in the year 1995, meets an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), and discovers that she once had a life on this planet. And her name was Carol Danvers. She was an Air Force pilot where she worked alongside her best friend, Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch), for Dr. Lawson. With the Skrulls having followed her to Earth, Carol must then figure out the truth as to what's really happening and use her powers to save the day.
Captain Marvel is both intriguing and interesting as Marvel finally releases an on-screen super powerful hero that is both female and feminine. Those who were not familiar with Captain Marvel backstory before watching must surely be shocked to learn that the most powerful superhero of Marvel is actually a woman. That handle alone makes the film a worthwhile watch. The strategies implemented by the film’s producers such as hiring a woman as co-director and getting an acclaimed actress instead of a blockbuster superstar for its lead really worked well for the film’s success in communicating its message across all audiences. The non-linear storytelling approach may be confusing at first but everything becomes cohesive in the middle. The film does not dwell too much on exposition and it worked pretty well as revelations become more interesting as the story progresses. Lead actress Larson aptly balances out three roles in three timelines--that of Vers, of Carol Danvers, and of Captain Marvel. Law as Yon-Rogg provides perfect support. Mendelsohn as Skrull leader Talos and a cat named Goose give the film a different flavor of balanced humor and sentiment—along with the 90’s musical scoring. The fight scenes and the computer graphics may not be that spectacular but the gem of the film lies on its talented cast, and focused storytelling of Marvel’s “herstory”—clearly putting more emphasis on the heart as more powerful than the mind.  
Captain Marvel is said to be a “girl-power” movie—and it really is. For most part of the film, it is emphasized that Carol has been going through a lot of pains, rejections and discriminations as a woman trying to fit in a man’s world. She is always told to not let her emotions get in the way of what she wants to accomplish. Women stereotyped as the “emotional” kind is tackled in the film head-on—and is brutally deconstructed with the presence of the most powerful superhero to date—Captain Marvel. Despite the many hardships and struggles to fit-in, Carol’s determination paid off. The tenacity and strength of a woman’s heart is clearly demonstrated in the film—making the seeming weakness of a woman being emotional more of a strength than a weakness. Women bonding is also apparent in the film with the presence of Carol’s best friend—a woman and a mother, who once experienced discrimination as well for being one. The kind of bonding women have creates a sense of trust and brings out the best in each other. Family values are also depicted in the film as Talos leads his flock as a father deeply concerned for his family’s safety and well-being. Still, the film inevitably has scenes of violence about which young children must be guided while watching. CINEMA deems the Captain Marvel as appropriate for viewers 13 below with parental guidance.—RPJ

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

On the Basis of Sex

DIRECTOR: Mimi Leder
LEAD CAST:  Felicity Jones, Armie Hammer, Justine Theroux, Sam Waterston & Kathy Bates
SCREENWRITER: Daniel Stiepleman
PRODUCER: Robert W. Cort
EDITOR: Michelle Tesoro
GENRE: Drama
DISTRIBUTOR: Focus Features
RUNNING TIME: 120 mins.
Technical assessment:  3.5
Moral assessment:  4
CINEMA rating:  V14
At a time when a woman in Harvard Law School was a rarity, Ruth Bader-Ginsburg (Felicity Jones) would enroll “in order to better understand (her) lawyer-husband”, Martin (Armie Hammer).  In remission from cancer, Martin becomes a willing house-husband, cooking and baby-sitting their daughter as Ruth continues with her studies and at the same time attending Martin’s law classes for him.  Then Ruth discovers one case—Moritz v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue.  Single and acting as caregiver to his mother, Charles Moritz (Chris Mulkey) is arbitrarily denied a $296 tax deduction because he is male when the US law assumes caregivers are female.  The Ginsburgs and ACLU attorney Mel Wulf find this as a gender discrimination against men and offer their services pro bono, and the rest is history.
Smart cinematography, crisp editing, and engaging dialogue all combine to spare the movie from the talking heads syndrome.  Based on the true story of the woman whose perseverance,  intelligence, and chutzpah propelled her to the US Supreme Court, On the Basis of Sex seems a tad too simplistic.   The impressive performance by British actor Felicity Jones in the lead role may have sprung from the reported approval of the real Justice Ginsburg who told Jones, “I have seen your work; you can do it!”  Revolving around one albeit landmark case, the script takes an admiring viewpoint—perhaps because it is written by Ruth’s nephew, Daniel Stiepleman—and falls short of portraying a truer-to-life success story of the iconic Ruth Ginsburg.  And because the real Ruth Ginsburg is still active and alive at 85, the movie takes on the coloration of an image-building endorsement used in political election campaigns.
All things considered, even though this woman of substance comes across almost like a caricature in the film, it is nevertheless an inspiring one, capable of empowering young women in a male-dominated profession.  Many a woman would be envious of Ruth for having a husband who is beyond supportive.  Many a father would learn a thing or two from Mr. Ginsburg on how to handle a teenage child.  Ruth’s passion is inspiring, her sense of justice instinctive and keen.  What the script lacks in story-telling detail is adequately filled by the factual epilogue that comes after the last cameo shot of Justice Ginsburg ascending the steps of the Supreme Court.  The audience leaves the theater realizing how great, indeed, is the Jewish woman who struggled against gender bias and triumphed in a society that was not ready to be kind to either Jews or women.  Although the film is wholesome in general, its theme may not be appealing to children.—TRT

Monday, March 25, 2019

Familia Blondina

LEAD CAST:  Karla Estrada, Jobert Austria, Kaira Balinger, Marco Gallo, Xia Vigor, Chantal Vidella & Shane Weinberg, Awra Briguela, Heaven Peralejo
DIRECTOR: Jerry Lopez Sineneng
SCREENWRITER: Mel del Rosario
PRODUCER: Doc Denis Aguirre
EDITOR: Marya Ignacio
GENRE: Family Comedy
LOCATION: Bulacan, Philippines
RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes
Technical asssesment: 3.5
Moral assessment: 3.5
CINEMA rating: PG13
Susuwayin at iiwan ni Cindy (Karla Estrada) ang pamilya sa probinsya upang magpakasal sa sundalong boyfriend sa America kung saan magkakaanak siya nang tatlo na pawang mga blonde—sina John Jr. (Marco Gallo), Jenny (Kaira Balinger) at Jill (Xia Vigor). Sa kasamaang-palad ay maagang mababalo Cindy at maiiwanan ng napakalaking utang. Dahil sa kamalasang ito ay uuwi na lamang sila ng Pilipinas kahit labag sa kalooban ng mga anak. Katulad ng inaasahan, masasakit na salita ng paninisi at panunumbat ang sasalubong sa mag-iina. Titiisin lahat ito ni Cindy at sa halip ay itutuon ang isip at panahon sa paghahanap ng iba’t ibang pagkakakitaan upang maitaguyod ang tatlong anak na dumadaan din sa hirap ng biglaang pagbabago sa kanilang buhay.  Makikilala ni Cindy  ang biyudong si Tony Boy (Jobert Austria) na namatay ang asawang British sa isang plane crash. Aalukin ni Tony Boy si Cindy na maging yaya ng dalawa niyang mga anak, na mga din. Tatanggapin naman agad ito ni Cindy dahil sanay naman siyang mag-alaga ng mga batang may lahi katulad ng kanyang mga anak.  Sa kalaunan ay magkakamabutihan at tuluyang mahuhulog ng loob nina Cindy at Tony Boy sa isa’t isa.  Magkakasama-sama sila bilang isang pamilya na pawang may lahing banyaga ang mga anak.
Mahusay ang paghahatid ng pinaghalong pormula ng romancefamily-oriented at intercultural comedy sa Familia Blondina. Malinis ang daloy ng kwento at malikhain ang konsepto ng mix-marriages. Malinaw mula sa simula ng  pelikula ang magiging estado ng karakter ni Cindy. At bagamat sa pagpasok ng karakter ni Tony Boy ay naghudyat ng predictable na wakas ay naging kaabang-abang pa din ang mga eksena at palitan ng mga linya lalo na pagitan ng mga bata. Natural ang mga pagganap, komportable ang lahat at nabigyan ng akmang pagpapakilala ang mga tauhan na kani-kanilang ginampanan.  Nakatulong ang mga kuha ng kamera sa pagbibigay-diin sa mga eksena na sadyang may hatid na mensahe. Tama lamang ang disensyo ng produksyon, nakakatuwang tingnan ang mga blonde na hitsura ng mga bata, at akma ang mga nilapat na tunog at ilaw lalo na sa mga eksena sa loob ng bahay.  Sa kabuuan ng Familya Blondina, ang comedy ay naghatid ng makabuluhang mensahe at aliw sa manonood.  
Isang malaking hamon sa babae man o lalaki ang mag-isang magtaguyod ng pamilya, lalo na sa sitwasyon na kailangang harapin ang mga pagbabago mula sa nakasanayang buhay at kulturang banyaga na kinasasangkutan ng mga anak na menor de edad. Gayunpaman, nagampanan at naharap ang hamong ito ng pangunahing tauhan na si Cindy dahil sa paninindigan niyang panghawakan ang mga values o pinahahalagahan sa buhay na matiyaga niyang ibinahagi at itinuro sa mga anak na may lahing dayuhan. Kapag matatag ang isang tao sa kanyang personal values, mas madaling makapagdesisyon na may pagsasa-alang alang ng tama at mali. Ilan sa mga pinakita sa Familia Blondina ang pagiging mapagmahal sa pamilya, matiyaga, mapagpasensya, mapagpakumbaba, mapagbigay, mapagpalaya at palakaibigan. Kahit nagsimulang magtaguyod ng mga anak sa America ay di nya kinalimutan ang mga magagandang kaugaliang Filipino katulad ng pagiging magalang sa kapwa. Gayundin kinilala ni Cindy ang kultura ng lahing banyaga ng kanyang anak na pagbibigay-kalayaan at respeto sa pagiging responsible sa sariling desisyon katulad ng magpasya ang anak na bumalik ng America. Pinakita din sa puntong ito ang selfless love ni Cindy bilang ina.  Samantala, kaakibat sa mga hamon ng buhay ang di maiwasan makaharap at makasalamuha ang mga taong mapagnibugho, mapanghusga at mapanumbat, na nagbibitiw ng masasakit na salita nang di man lamang inaawat ng kanilang mga magulang na dapat sana ay mamagitan. Maaring natural lamang na maghayag ng galit at sama ng loob sa kapwa lalo na kung nasaktan naman talaga subalit ang maganda rin paalalahan ang sarili na kilalanin at tanggapin din ang matapat na pagbabalik-loob at pagsusumikap ng kapwa na harapin ang naging bunga ng mga ginawang desisyon sa buhay. Sa kabuuan ay mayaman sa positibong mensahe ang pelikulang Familia Blondina at isang magandang panooring pampamilya. Subalit dahil sa masalimuot na tema ng intercultural marriage ay kailangan ng mga batang manonood ng gabay ng nakatatanda.--IBD

Wonder Park

Director: David Feiss  Lead Cast: Voiced by Brianna Denski, Jennifer Garner, Matthew Broderick, Mila Kunis, Norbert Leo Butz  Screenwriters: Josh Appelbaum, André Nemec  Producers: Josh Appelbaum, André Nemec  Editor: Edie Ichioka  Musical Director: Steven Price  Cinematographer: Juan García Gonzalez  Genre: Fantasy, Adventure, Animation Distributor: Columbia Pictures  Location: California, USA Running Time: hr 25 min 
Technical assessment:  3 
Moral assessment:  4 
CINEMA rating:  AA 
MTRCB rating:  G 
June (voiced by Brianna Denski) is only ten but her grasp of engineering is way beyond her years. Her genius and imagination are encouraged by Mom (Jennifer Garner) and Dad (Matthew Broderick). Dad even pays the bill when June’s engineering experiments damage the neighbors’ yard and smash their windows. Undaunted, June and Mom team up to create the blueprint for Wonder Park, where every child can find every possible ride and amusement he can wish for. But June’s imaginary park collapses when Mom falls ill. June wanders into the forest one day and finds the park there, decrepit with a dark cloud descending on it. Together with her animal friends, June saves the park from destruction. 
The movie takes the path with the least harm. Loss, illness, separation, depression, anxiety—all these traumas are neutralized for children’s consumption. For that, we give credit to the makers of the movie. But stripped of its impact as well is the wonder in Wonder Park. Neither the visuals nor the sounds render the park awesome as it should be. Even June doesn’t endear herself to the audience, many of whom are children. We were hoping she’d charm us like the little girl Boo in Monsters Inc., and her friends Sulley and Wazowski. Perhaps it’s because Wonder Park doesn’t unravel June’s character long enough for us to appreciate her. It’s as if the movie is in haste to usher in the theme of loss and depression, and get them over with as quickly. 
What the movie lacks in technical execution, it compensates in moral lessons. It is as much a learning journey for children as it is for parents. It’s a confidence booster, assuring children that they are loved and valued, they are the “wonder in Wonderland”. Notice the way Mom and Dad install the balance between fantasy and reality and the way they convey this lesson to June. Without extinguishing her confidence and imagination, they tell her to continue dreaming and trying, but without endangering herself and those around her.  Of course, in real life, it is next to impossible to not go ballistic when a child’s adventures threaten life and property. Still, the movie conveys the positive message so well we leave the theater light and cheery.MOE

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Alone Together

Director:  Antoinette Jadaone
Lead Cast:  Liza Soberano, Enrique Gil
Screenwriter:  Antoinette Jadaone
Producer:  Olivia Lamasan
Editor:  Benjamin Gonzales Tolentino
Genre: Romance
Cinematographer:  Neil Daza
Distributor: Star Cinema
Location:  Philippines
Running Time:   110 Minutes
Technical assessment: 3.5
Moral assessment: 3
CINEMA rating: A14
MTRCB Rating: PG
Pagtatagpuin ng sining ang dalawang magkahiwalay na mundo na noo’y mga college students pa lang na sina Tin (Liza Soberano) at Raf ( Enrique Gil). Magiging close ang dalawa ang magkakatuluyan bilang magkasintahan. Punong-puno silang dalawa ng pangarap at ambisyon – sabay nilang binuo ang kanilang pangarap na sila ay tatandang masaya, matagumpay at higit sa lahat, magkasama. Ngunit tila hindi ito ang mangyayari. Makalipas ang walong taon, magku-krus muli ang kanilang landas – sa pagkakataong ito, si Raf ay isa nang matagumpay at pilantropong doktor. Habang si Tin nama’y nagta-trabaho bilang executive assistant ng isang may-ari ng NGO (Non-Government Organization). Kalauna’y magkakaalaman na tila sila’y pinaghiwalay ng sanga-sangang mga pangyayari. Magkatuluyan pa kaya sila sa bandang huli o mas makabubuti sa kanilang dalawa ang magkani-kaniyang landas?
Makasining at makabuluhan ang Alone/Together. Hindi ito yung tipikal na pelikulang kilig kahit pa ang sikat na tambalang LizQueen ang naririto. Tinalakay nito ang masalimuot na pag-ibig sa gitna ng pangarap,  ambisyon, dangal at paninindigan. Mahusay ang pagkakahalukay ng pelikula sa tamang damdamin ng bawat tauhan bagama’t maka-minsa’y pawang hindi ito gaanong dama ng manonood. Kasabay ng pagtatalo ng isip at damdamin ng pangunahing tauhan ay sabay din ang pagkalito sa mararamdaman ng manonood. Pero maaring ito’y sinasadya din. Patungo ang pelikula sa mga usaping kung ituring ay “mature” – trabaho, obligasyong panlipunan, ambisyon, responsibilidad, pangarap at tunay na kasiyahan.  Bagama’t kung tutuusi’y marami dito ang parang “pilit’ at di pa masyadong akma – at ang tila hindi kapani-paniwalang pagitan ng mga panahon o timeline, masasabi na ring mahusay ang pelikula sa tapang nitong maghain ng isang romance na may kakaibang sangkap. Dun pa lamang, kahanga-hanga na ang pelikula.
Maraming nais sabihin ang Alone/Together – nariyang ipaalala nito sa mga manonood maya’t-maya ang dapat na “hindi paglimot” sa nakaraan. Patungkol ito sa hindi paglimot sa kasaysayan at sa mga aral na dulot nito. Tama nga naman, sa gitna ng palasak na “move-on mentality”, bakit hindi natin balikan ang nakaraan hindi upang maghasik ng galit or kawalang patawaran kundi upang matuto sa mga aral na nakapaloob sa mga pangyayaring ito. Magkaiba ang paglimot at pagpapatawad. Sa hindi paglimot ay magagawa nating maging mas mabuting tao – at sa pangkalahatan ay makakabuo tayo ng mas mabuting lipunan. Sinasabi rin ng pelikula na parating may pag-asa at parating may pagkakataong bumangon sa pagkakadapa. Hindi rin dapat panghinaan ng loob na tuparin ang pangarap dahil lang sa pagkakamali. Ang sining ay sumasalamin sa buhay – hindi perpekto ngunit makabuluhan at may sariling pagkakakilanlan. Ang pag-ibig gaya ng ipinakita sa pelikula ay parte lamang ng kabuluhan  at hindi ito ang lahat-lahat. Sa pagmamahal dapat laging isinalang-alang ang maraming bagay at komplikasyon na nakapalibot dito. Kahanga-hanga si Tin bilang isang karakter na nagawang pairalin ang isip higit sa puso – na bagama’t naging takot at mahina sa simula ay nag-ipon ng tapang at lakas upang harapin ang at sundan ang mga pangarap. Si Raf naman ay kahanga-hanga rin na nagawang baguhin ang kanyang buhay sa pamamagitan din ng pagsusumikap. Magandang halimbawa silang dalawa para sa mga kabataan – maliban lamang sa isang pagkakamaling kanyang ginawa sa bandang dulo ng pelikula – na tila pinanindigan din naman niya kung kaya’t katanggap-tanggap na rin ito sa kabuuan. Dahil sa mature na tema ng pelikula, nararapat lamang ito sa mga manonood na 14 gulang pataas.—RPJ