A whole new world awaits in ‘Smurfs: The Lost Village’

Columbia Pictures Animation’s Smurfs: The Lost Village, the fully animated, all-new take on the Smurfs, a mysterious map sets Smurfette and her best friends Brainy, Clumsy and Hefty on an exciting and thrilling race through the Forbidden Forest filled with magical creatures to find a mysterious lost village before the evil wizard Gargamel does. Embarking on a rollercoaster journey full of action and danger, the Smurfs are on a course that leads to the discovery of the biggest secret in Smurf history!

Featuring the voices of Demi Lovato, Rainn Wilson, Joe Manganiello, Jack McBrayer, Danny Pudi, Michelle Rodriguez, Ellie Kemper, Ariel Winter, with Mandy Patinkin and Julia Roberts. Directed by Kelly Asbury. Produced by Jordan Kerner and Mary Ellen Bauder Andrews. Written by Stacey Harman and Pamela Ribon. Based on the characters and works of Peyo. Executive producers are Raja Gosnell and Ben Waisbren. Music by Christopher Lennertz. Imagery and Animation by Sony Pictures Imageworks Inc. Featuring “I’m a Lady” performed by Meghan Trainor.

For Smurfs: The Lost Village, the filmmakers went back to the drawing board to rediscover the classic, magical look of the Smurfs. “We went through the early comic books and studied the work of Peyo to try to find a visual look for the movie that honored the origins of the Smurfs and how they really look,” says Kelly Asbury, the film’s director. Asbury previously directed the hits Shrek 2 and Gnomeo and Juliet. “That was important to how we conceived each location, the look, the design of the Smurfs themselves, their mushroom houses, the colors.”

Clumsy (voiced by Jack McBrayer), Hefty (Joe Manganiello, center) and Brainy (Danny Pudi, with glasses) in “Smurfs: The Lost Village,” which arrives in theaters in March 2017. (Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures)

The film is loaded with fun as the filmmakers take the Smurfs into the vibrant, exciting, and dangerous world of the Forbidden Forest. “It’s a land they’ve never experienced before – it’s beautiful but full of surprises, dangers, and fun,” says Asbury. “Dragonflies – real fire-breathing dragons that are fun and happy until you make them mad. Flowers that look and smell beautiful but will eat you if you’re not careful. Kissing plants that assault you with kisses.”

Asbury says that the familiar world of Smurf Village and the new worlds created for the film all have the same original inspiration: Peyo – the Belgian artist Pierre Culliford who created the Smurfs back in 1958.. “Peyo’s work has a buoyance and a lightness of being. There was an effortlessness to the way he drew,” Asbury explains. “For the Forbidden Forest and the Lost Village, we wanted it to feel like something that the audience was experiencing with the Smurfs for the first time, but it had to feel like a part of the Smurfs’ world. Darker colors, deeper colors, rich shadows, lots of lush, unusual colored foliage, glow-in-the-dark plants, animals, bugs – all these things were different – but it had the Peyo shapes and language in common.”

Brainy (Danny Pudi), Hefty (Joe Manganiello), Smurfette (Demi Lovato) and Clumsy (Jack McBrayer) embark on an exciting and thrilling race through the Forbidden Forest in Sony Pictures Animation’s fully animated, all-new take on the Smurfs.

The filmmakers also rethought the humor for the film. “We wanted adults and kids to laugh together at the humor, the way they do at the Peyo comics, rather than to have different kinds of jokes – double-entendre humor for the adults and something else for the kids,” says Asbury. “Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Laurel and Hardy, the Three Stooges – everybody laughs at these types of gags and that kind of humor, and that’s what we tried to imbue into the movie –timeless with a new twist on it.”

Of course, as funny as the movie is, the Smurfs have always stood for the timeless ideas of harmony and peace, and that was not lost on the director. “The message of the movie is really one of teamwork,” says Asbury. “It takes a Smurf Village, if you will, individually and together, to bring everyone together to act as one. It’s about accepting each other’s differences and complementing each other for the greater good. I think that’s a universal message and one that is pertinent today.”

Opening across the Philippines on Friday, March 31, Smurfs: The Lost Village is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.


Kape’t Pelikula 2017 offers free seminar from six filmmakers on April 1 at UP Diliman

Join us this April 1, 2017 at the third Kape’t Pelikula where the UP Cinema Arts Society (UP CAST) has gathered six filmmakers for a one-of-a-kind seminar cultivating a community of film practitioners and cineastes. Free admission and open to the public!

Register here: http://tinyurl.com/kapetpelikula2017

Doors open at 8:30 AM at the GT Toyota Auditorium, Asian Center, University of the Philippines Diliman, Quezon City.

Get hyped as the following filmmakers share their experiences and give their takes on cinema:

  • Giancarlo Abrahan (writer-director, ‘Dagitab’; writer, ‘I’m Drunk, I Love You’);
  • Raymond Red (director, ‘Kamera Obskura’, ‘Manila Skies’, ‘Anino’);
  • John Torres (writer-director, ‘People Power Bombshell’, ‘Lucas Nino’);
  • Babyruth Villarama (writer-director, ‘Sunday Beauty Queen’, ‘Little Azkals’);
  • Moira Lang (writer, ‘Patay Na si Hesus’, ‘In My Life’, ‘Milan’, ‘Anak’);
  • and Sam Lee (writer-director, ‘Baka Bukas’)

Kape’t Pelikula is proudly presented by:
University of the Philippines Diliman Office for Initiatives in Culture and the Arts, Young STAR, Uber Philippines, Trampoline Park Philippines, John Robert Powers, Flawlessly U, Vitress, Maxi-peel Zero, SkinWhite.

Also brought to you by:
Barista’s Best, Frappe La Rue Philippines, Philgraphics Inc., Talk About Prints.

Special thanks to:

Media Sponsors:
ASTIG.PH, CinemaBravo.com, ClickTheCity.Com, DZUP, Green Giant FM, Maroon FM, WhenInManila.com.

Partner Organizations:
DLSU Green Media Group, FEU Communication Society, Silip@Lente – AdU, UP Cineastes’ Studio, UP Film Circle

Take a look back at the first Kape’t Pelikula which happened last 2016:

Animated comedy ‘The Boss Baby’ celebrates sibling love

DreamWorks Animation’s latest full length feature “The Boss Baby” explores the wonders of a child’s imagination and celebrates the precious bond between siblings. Featuring the voices of award-winning Alec Baldwin, Lisa Kudrow, Jimmy Kimmel, Steve Buscemi and Miles Bakshi, “The Boss Baby” is packed with memorable and relatable characters based on the best-selling book by Marla Frazee.

Directed by Tom McGrath, “The Boss Baby” is told from the wildly imaginative perspective of seven-year-old Tim Templeton (Bakshi). Tim has the perfect life, enjoying his daily rituals and all of his parents’ attention, until one day a new baby brother (Baldwin) arrives – in a taxi, wearing a suit. Like all new babies, Tim’s brother takes over the house and quickly becomes “the boss.”

“I’ve played a lot of tough-talking, coffee-swilling business executives throughout my career, but I have to admit none of them can hold a pacifier to the diaper-wearing boss I play in “The Boss Baby.” Having been born the first of four boys and having four children of my own, I know a thing or two about what happens when a new baby arrives in a household and steals the spotlight from you. That’s why I couldn’t resist voicing the part of Boss Baby. What is truly remarkable about this movie is how it captures the reality of what it’s like to deal with a new sibling ina family, all the while providing a barrage of whimsical humor, imagination and pure heart,” says Baldwin.

McGrath tells the story of “The Boss Baby” as seen through the eyes of a seven-year old, “Our aspiration for “The Boss Baby” was no easy feat. We had to relearn the techniques from the mid-century masters of the 1940s, ‘50s, and ‘60s. Not only did we want to create an enchanting world, but we also wanted expressiveness in our characters that previously could only be hand-drawn. These goals are evolutionary to the art of computer animation.”

“The Boss Baby” opens April 15, 2017 in Philippine cinemas from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.

OPINION: Cooling down on the MTRCB

By now, everyone has been talking about how the MTRCB gave an inexplicable R-18 rating for the wide release of 2 Cool 2 Be Forgotten. People thought that its homosexual themes may have prompted the Board to recommend it only for adult audiences. That would be fine…except that when it screened at the Cinema One Originals film festival, it got a much lower rating of R-13 (from the Film Development Council of the Philippines, since the fest does not need to MTRCB inteference if it is endorsed by the former).

In the film’s permit, the MTRCB reviewers cited the following reasons for granting an R-18 rating for the film:

Psychologically disturbing for minor to watch as the film contains very mature theme, sexual content, nudity and alcohol abuse.
The film incites parricide/murder and suicide as only way out. No redeeming social value.
With the foregoing, the film merits an R-18 classification.

On the same week that 2 Cool opened in select cinemas (mostly in Metro Manila), Death Note: Light Up the New World was also released. The remarks for the Death Note movie consist of just one sentence:

The film contains themes and scenes of random deaths, up close and multiple long arm shots, occult, and good versus evil that require a restricted audience of 13 years of age and up.

For these reasons, Death Note got an R-13 rating.

Yes, you read it right. A foreign action film that has plenty of violent scenes of people trying to kill or maim each other was judged to be appropriate for viewing by high school students, more so than a local movie about three teenagers grappling with their sexuality and whose only “violent” scene consists of merely a character talking about a murder.

But that’s not all. As of this writing, the following films (shown in 2017) containing acts of violence were given more lenient ratings, too:

  • XXX: Return of Xander Cage – PG
  • Patriots Day – R-13
  • The Great Wall – PG
  • Kung Fu Yoga – PG
  • John Wick 2 – R-16
  • Hacksaw Ridge – R-16
  • Fist Fight – R-13
  • Logan – R-16

And for what it’s worth, a film that didn’t have a real murder scene was cited for “murder” and slapped an R-18.

So if violence was not the main reason for 2 Cool‘s R-18 rating, was it its homosexuality theme? That could be one possible explanation…until you remember that the MTRCB was also the same agency where a film depicting a gay teenager’s infatuation with a policeman was rated PG-13 (Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros); a zombie comedy movie with a straight man who was cursed to turn gay was deemed suitable for children accompanied by their parents (Zombadings 1: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington, rated PG); and a Star Cinema film with John Lloyd Cruz and Luis Manzano kissing on screen for a few seconds was also rated PG (In My Life). Those on social media who defended the MTRCB’s R-18 rating say that movies about gay people alone could really trigger the Board to give any film an R-18 rating (because apparently, hey, we don’t want kids to grow up gay), but as we have seen, this was not always the case.

So what gives?

A Board of Censors in Everything But Name

2 Cool was reviewed by Board members Alexis Lumbatan, Catherine Cabuga, Cherry Ann Espion, Eric Anthony Mallonga, and Maria Consoliza Laguardia. If the last name rings a bell, this is because Laguardia was the former Chairperson of the MTRCB, an appointee of former President (and now Pampanga representative) Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. We don’t know the role she played in giving 2 Cool an R-18 rating, but it shouldn’t probably surprise anyone if she turned out to be the most conservative member in that committee. As MTRCB chair, she gave The Da Vinci Code an R-18 on religious grounds, almost banned the film Priest from ever screening because of how priests were negatively depicted, slapped a triple-X rating on a documentary about former President Joseph Estrada, and even attempted to interfere with the censorship-free environment of the UP Film Center over a controversial rape scene in the film Aurora (starring Rosanna Roces).

Laguardia was not the only conservative chairperson of the MTRCB. People may remember the likes of Manoling Morato, Henrietta Mendez and National Artist for Literature Alejandro Roces, to name just a few, and how they butted heads with film makers and producers over the classification of their films. For instance, The Last Temptation of Christ was banned from public exhibition under Morato’s term (although, curiously, you can buy the same film in video stores today). Mendez demanded that a breast exposure and a sex scene be cut out of Schindler’s List or risk being banned for public viewing, never mind that those scenes lasted a little less than a minute or two (out of its three hour running time). Roces succeeded Nick Tiongson at the helm of the Board, supported Arroyo’s decision to pull out Jose Javier Reyes’ “pornographic” movie Live Show from theaters and even proposed that film directors should be professionally licensed if only to ensure they will never produce pornographic films. Although the Board has been headed by more liberal (or, for some, permissive) chairpersons like Tiongson, Armida Siguion-Reyna and Grace Poe, the classification board has often been regarded as a bastion of conservatism, wielding its regulatory powers like a censorship body in everything except in name.

For years, the MTRCB has denied being a board of censors, reiterating that their mandate, under the law, is to “regulate and classify motion pictures, television programs, and publicity materials”. But in fact, the law that created the MTRCB (Presidential Decree n. 1986) still affirms that the Board retains the power to censor—to suppress parts, or to prevent the exhibition of—films and television shows: Section 3 (paragraph i), empowers the Board to prosecute violators “of anti-trust, obscenity, censorship and other laws pertinent to the movie and television industry”.

One can argue that in exceptional circumstances, the MTRCB still needs to wield its power of censorship, like in the case of films that glorify criminals, or movies that incite subversion or rebellion, or films that encourage people to invest and sell illegal drugs (and these exceptional circumstances are, indeed, listed down in PD 1986). But this has not prevented critics from calling out the MTRCB for wielding this power over films that are perceived to be critical of the administration, such as the case with Lino Brocka’s Ora Pro Nobis during the first Aquino regime. (The film got around the censorship issue by premiering at the Cannes Film Festival.)

A closer look at MTRCB ratings

Supporters of MTRCB’s regulatory powers (or should I insist, censorship?) also reiterate that as a government agency, the Board acts as a safeguard of public morals, and therefore needs the authority to regulate movies and TV shows that Filipinos can watch, especially younger audiences. On its website, the MTRCB makes it very clear that it’s also part of their mandate to enact the following:

  • Promote and protect the family, the youth, the disabled, and other vulnerable sectors of the society in the context of media and entertainment
  • Empower the Filipino family, particularly parents and at the grassroots level, such that family members are able to evaluate and intelligently choose media and entertainment content
  • Promote a value-based media and entertainment culture

And to determine whether a film is suitable for younger audiences or for an older age group, the MTRCB maintains its own guidelines to classify films and TV shows. The current version, MTRCB Memorandum Circular No. 08-2012, identifies five classes for motion pictures: G, PG, R-13, R-16 and R-18. (A sixth classification, X, is reserved for films that are deemed unsuitable for public exhibition, and is practically rare you can count how many times it’s given in a two- or three-year period by the fingers of one hand.) By law, the guidelines must apply to all films and not, as an online commenter erroneously allege, on a case-to-case basis.

The guidelines were written in plain language that can be understood by parents. Each classification is defined in Chapter III of the MC, and are differentiated by seven restricting factors: theme, language, nudity, sex, violence, horror and drugs. As you move away from “G” in the classification scale, the amount of restricted content that can be shown also increases.

For instance, a G-rated film can contain “mild, brief [and] infrequent” violence that is “unlikely to cause undue anxiety or fear to young children.” A PG film, on the other hand, can have “minimal” violent scenes that are neither graphic nor gratuitous. And so on and so forth, until we get to R-18, where “there are no restrictions on the depiction of violence except that…it is justified by the context, narrative or character development”. With such a discretely defined classification system, it would appear that the MTRCB’s task of rating films would be as easy as finding the best fit for a film depending on one or a few matching criteria.

All Films Are Equal, But Some Are More Equal Than Others

— Except that it’s not, and sometimes for inexplicable reasons.

We started this article by showing how inconsistent the rating for 2 Cool was, so let me explain this through another film.

In the United States, the Motion Picture Association of America (or MPAA, the MTRCB’s American counterpart) gave the live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast a rating of Parental Guidance, “for some action violence, peril and frightening images”. If the original (1991) animated version’s depiction of the Beast and also of the violent mob fight scenes near the end scared or terrified young audiences at the time, what more now that the entire film was remade with real (and virtual) characters and weapons.

Yet here in the Philippines, the MTRCB gave the same film a rating of G (and to quote in full, the violence criteria for G-rated movies is “The depiction of any violence must be mild, brief, infrequent, and unlikely to cause undue anxiety or fear to young children.”). In the film permit for Beauty and the Beast, the MTRCB said:

This live-version shows some fidelity and innovative [sic] from the successful Disney animation. It is acceptable for a General Audience.

Apparently, the film is not violent or scary enough for Filipino kids—does it mean Filipino kids don’t get scared as much as American kids? #pinoypride—and our local censors don’t see it in the same light as their American counterparts do. Never mind that the film shows Gaston shooting the Beast in full view, not just once but twice.

Or maybe the G rating was motivated not (just) by the contents of the film, but also by who made the film. After all, Disney feature films are family-friendly fare, and it is unimaginable that the Board would prevent kids from watching the latest Disney Princess film (including Beauty and the Beast). But if this were the case, would that also be tantamount to saying that some MTRCB standards apply favorably to others, while other films—especially independently-produced films—get the PG/R treatment? The MTRCB rating guidelines is supposed to apply to all films regardless of who made the movie. But in this case, just because the film happened to carry the Disney label, it seems that giving it a rating higher than G is out of the question.

(Also good examples are the Harry Potter and Transformers movie series having G rating despite their themes and, get it, violence.)

A movie where people get shot in close range with blood spilling from its victims deserve a PG or stronger rating, regardless of whether it’s a Cinemalaya suspense/thriller or a Marvel superhero movie or, in the case of television, the latest adventures of PO3 Cardo Dalisay in the TV adaptation of FPJ: Ang Probinsyano. A film where characters use even the mildest sexually suggestive language should receive an R-13 (or higher) rating and not PG, irrespective of whether that character is Christian Grey or Ina Montecillo or Praybeyt Benjamin—never mind if the films have children on the cast—or Mace Castillo. And yet, it seems, the same inequality that has plagued the distribution of foreign vs. local films (or mainstream/big studio films vs. independently-produced films) also exists in the matter of classification.

(We have not even considered the case that the G rating was probably driven by financial motives as well; that is, giving it a G rating will be more profitable in cinemas that are averse with PG or even R ratings. While this may be a valid, if somewhat off-tangent, reason—that is a point that is best tackled in a discussion about the state of film distribution in the Philippines.)

Not only is there a problem with how the MTRCB interprets its guidelines, there is also the problem of what the Board says when it hands down its ratings. Grammatical lapses aside, the MTRCB also fell short of giving an endorsement of “Beauty and the Beast” in emphasizing the “fidelity and innovative [sic] from the successful Disney animation”, as if those qualities were part of the criteria for giving films a G rating. It is one thing to justify a rating (e.g. “This film is rated PG for some mild violence”), but it is another thing to use that same government permit—funded by taxpayers’ money—to compliment a film as if the Board members rating the film were writing a consumer review. Film writer and reviewer Philbert Dy provided a notorious example of this, in the permit for a local romcom, upper case letters and all:

Suitable for all audiences.

I don’t take issue with the MTRCB reviewers enjoying the movie. If that film truly made them inspired, then good for them. However, I take issue with having to put those judgments in an official government permit. The mandate of an MTRCB board member is to review and classify films according to the extent permitted by the law, but it is not their job, it is not incumbent on them, to express their personal opinions on the films that they classify. That is for the audiences to decide, not for a committee of three to five MTRCB board members.

At least, the remarks for Death Note: Light Up the New World, which premiered on the same week as 2 Cool, were more restrained and avoided opinionated statements (written by a committee that includes, among others, Mocha Uson):

The film contains themes and scenes of random deaths, up close and multiple long arm shots, occult, and good versus evil that require a restricted audience of 13 years of age and up.

By Whose Standards?

Then there’s the matter of themes. In the absence of any specific factor (e.g. amount of violence or nudity) that might affect a film’s classification, the MTRCB criteria also consider the movie’s theme according to what is acceptable for each age group. As the age classification moves up from G to R-18, the definition gets less and less specific:

The film must contain themes that are appropriate for all audiences. It should not contain violence, threat, abuse, horror, or other themes that may cause fear or disturbance to a young child’s mind. It should promote positive values.

The film may contain themes that require parental supervision and guidance, but the treatment shall nonetheless be appropriate for children below thirteen (13) years of age.
The film should not promote any dangerous, violent, discriminatory, or otherwise offensive behavior or attitude.
The film should contain redeeming social values.

The film may contain mature themes; provided that the treatment of any of these themes is suitable for teenagers above thirteen (13) years of age.
The film shall not gratuitously promote or encourage any dangerous, violent, discriminatory, or otherwise offensive behavior or attitude.
The film must contain social redeeming values

There are no restrictions on themes; provided that the treatment is appropriate for viewers who are at ieast sixteen (16) years of age.

There are no restrictions on themes and their treatment

One of the comments made by the Board for 2 Cool was that the film has “no redeeming social values.” This obviously refers to the original rating (R-13) that the film received during the Cinema One Originals film festival. But what does the MTRCB mean exactly when they talk of “social redeeming values”? The definition of this phrase does not appear anywhere in MC 08-2012. Nor does “positive values”. In the matter of themes, the guidelines are so open-ended that it will be up to the Board’s judgment call to decide what kind of themes would fall under positive or socially-redeeming values. Which also means, it’s not only up to each Board member’s discretion, but also up to whatever system of morality they believe in, even if such moral codes are discriminatory. The other side of this is: whose standards of values or morals is the MTRCB talking about? Just by reading these guidelines, how would you know if one theme is appropriate for a 13 year old viewer, a 16 year old viewer and an 18 year old viewer? On this note, the guidelines are silent, and this makes it open to interpretation, even personal ones.

Some of the online criticisms I’ve read about the MTRCB’s decision to give an R-18 rating for 2 Cool stem from contradictions between what the MTRCB said in its permit and what was on the film itself. The only murder scene it has was not a depiction of murder, but only a mention of one (as mentioned earlier). The only nudity it shows is a very brief exposure of the buttocks in a dim location, not even an extended scene with frontal nudity. Nor does the film promote behavior that is “dangerous, violent, discriminatory, or otherwise offensive behavior or attitude.” (Unless, perhaps, there was one board member that we don’t know who is offended by gay scenes on the silver screen.) This led to speculations that the film was really given an R-18 rating because of homosexuality. But if that were the case, does a film that deals with homosexuality as a theme really deserve an automatic R-16 (or R-18) rating, just for being there in the film? Again, how then would someone account for Maximo Oliveros and In My Life, which dealt with homosexuality but were both rated PG?

In the case of Higanti (which opened this week), the Board members—which also included Laguardia—said:

There are some sexual understones [sic], extra marital [sic] affairs, media brutality, impolite words and fleeting scenes of drug use. However, R-13 classification is recommended in the film’s entirety. Strong family values, strength in self-worth, belief in God are all imparted in the midst of trials and struggles.

Like how the remarks for 2 Cool began, the Higanti committee (with Laguardia as one of its members) decided to mention the specific criteria that led them to award the movie an R-13 rating. However, it did not stop there: just like how they emphasized that 2 Cool has “no social redeeming values”, here they made it a point to mention specific items, especially “belief in God”, that made the film worthy of the attention of audiences as young as 13 years old. Because, hey, this film has moral lessons that’s just right for their age group, so let’s have them watch it. In that sense, the Board has crossed a line from being a mere ratings/censorship board, it also acts as a guardian of (religious) morality, a function that is not part of their mandate as a regulatory body.

Under that premise, it seems that the best way to have a film receive a lower rating (and thus, access to cineplexes that would normally refuse to screen R-rated films) is to appeal to the moral sensibilities of the MTRCB, to a board which used to count members of the Roman Catholic clergy as its members. This is fine if all of our movie-going audiences were children…however, in time, children will grow up, too, and will need to put aside childish things. But when will the MTRCB learn to accept this?

New Directions

In the past few years, the MTRCB has emphasized the need for matalinong panonood that is, really, a glorified euphemism for promoting only child-friendly films. However, this mindset is very limiting not just for audiences who are faced with limited viewing choices (especially when local films are getting bumped off in favor of superhero blockbusters that were given G or PG ratings). It is also limiting for our filmmakers as well, who either have to compromise and make only G/PG films, or struggle to find—much less build—an audience in this environment where even the MTRCB is weaning adults into watching only G/PG films. But equating matalinong panonood with just G/PG films that kids can see conflates a movie’s classification with its quality. (Or sometimes, conflating the presence or absence of morals with quality.) If the MTRCB really wants to promote matalinong panonood, why shouldn’t it also promote meaningful and well-made films that are also intended for mature audiences? Why does the MTRCB always have to be condescending towards films that would be rated R-13 or higher and make it a point to discourage viewers from watching the films, and be lenient towards films that they give a G or PG rating (even if they don’t deserve the rating)? Can’t adults have matalinong panonood, too?


While the fact remains that the MTRCB does have censorship powers, it must disabuse itself of the notion that it has the power to make filmmakers and producers bend to the Board’s will. In the case of 2 Cool, the Board owes its filmmakers a transparent explanation as to why it gave a stricter rating on its second review, an action that is disputed not only by its filmmakers but also by the audiences who saw the movie during its festival run—this alone should have served as a wake up call for the MTRCB that it has not been very deliberate in rating films.

It must scrutinize films strictly according to the standards it promulgated, and not according to the personal opinions or tastes of its members, much less their moral codes. The standards should apply fairly to every film, irrespective of its distributor, producer or cast members. The remarks on every MTRCB permit must also state no more than the criteria that was used to determine a film’s rating, and should not include the personal impresssions or endorsements of its board members.

It should trust the audiences that they will be more scrutinizing and discriminating with the films that they want to see. The MTRCB then must avoid its patronizing attitude of treating adults like children, in thinking that all movies are meant for escapism or fantasizing. Cinema can be a mirror, a reflection of the audience’s reality and experience. And in life, not every experience receives a happy ending…and that’s okay. Watching these hard truths on the big screen does not necessarily trigger (say) a mass wave of depression—it gives audiences the space to ponder their own realities. MTRCB should open up this mirror, and not always hide it under the pretense of every film “needing” to have “redeeming social values”.

For further readingS:

Sex, drugs, highway patrol in new buddy comedy ‘Chips’

What happens when you team up a former X-Games star with a busted-up body and a painkiller habit, and an over-sexed undercover Fed with too much confidence, give them each a badge and a bike and set them loose on the sun-baked highways of Southern California?

CHIP happens.

More to the point, if you’re writer/director Dax Shepard, you deliver CHIPS, a buddy cop comedy loaded with enough action, stunts and hard-R humor to push it to the legal limit.

Shepard also stars as Jon, opposite Michael Peña as his partner, Ponch. “This is about two very different guys with vastly different agendas and skill sets, who have to learn how to ride together, pick up the slack for each other and ultimately trust each other with their lives,” Shepard says. And if that sounds a little high-minded, “It also has nudity—though granted, mostly of me—and epic chases, destruction, and explosions. I don’t think we went more than three days on this movie without blowing something up. The action is real, the jumps are real and the fights are almost real.”

In the film, Jon Baker (Shepard) and Frank “Ponch” Poncherello (Peña) have just joined the California Highway Patrol (CHP) in Los Angeles but for very different reasons. Baker is a beaten up pro motorbiker trying to put his life and marriage back together. Poncherello is a cocky undercover Federal agent investigating a multi-million dollar heist that may be an inside job—inside the CHP.

The inexperienced rookie and hardened pro are teamed together, but clash more than click, so kickstarting a partnership is easier said than done. But with Baker’s bike skills combined with Ponch’s street savvy it might just work…if they don’t drive each other crazy along the way.

Producer Andrew Panay, who collaborated with Shepard on the 2012 romantic action comedy Hit & Run, signed up for the ride as soon as he read the script. “It’s incredibly funny, and wall-to-wall action,” he says. “The comedy is edgy and the action is a little throwback because it’s not a lot of visual effects. We did most of the stunts in-camera, and Dax does a lot of his own stunts, so it feels authentic.”

“I can think of a lot of movies that are funny but I don’t remember the action, or it was just background,” says Peña. “This is obviously a comedy, but Dax wanted the jokes and the stunts to work together so when we transition into the action sequences there’s validity to it. He really gets the setups and the payoffs and how to break down the characters so people can relate.”

A running joke in the film, Jon’s touchy-feely observations contrast with Ponch’s more down-and-dirty commentary, like the way he has to enlighten his out-of-circulation partner on the current sexual scene—namely certain back door maneuvers Jon had no idea had gone mainstream.

Either way, what it boils down to is them being themselves. And being guys. “Ponch and Jon come from opposite directions on so many things,” says producer Ravi Mehta. “Not only tight-lipped versus TMI, but Jon’s a stickler for the rules and Ponch likes to fly by the seat of his pants, so they start out not clicking at all. But once they’re through fighting it, and let their guards down, they actually feed off of how different they are. That’s when it becomes more of a bromance and a true partnership.”

Opening across the Philippines Thursday, March 23, CHIPS is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment company.

Strengths of selfless teens ignite in new ‘Power Rangers’

Based on the unendingly popular legend of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers comes the rollicking, action-packed modern chronicle of how the famed color-coded crew of teen warriors first transformed from a band of small-town outcasts into a united team of mighty superheroes in the new “Power Rangers” movie.

The re-imagined story of Saban’s “Power Rangers” comes to the screen on a thrilling scale that amps up the, action, effects and creative design. A fresh young cast from around the world joins with Bill Hader, Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Banks in a non-stop adventure that puts ordinary teens to the test in the most extraordinary situation imaginable: transcending a 21st Century pressure cooker of cyber-bullying, alienation, peer pressures and family issues to become nothing less than the world’s only chance to survive.

“Recent research shows that most of us are born with what is termed as a ‘selfless gene’,” says Matt Suzana, co-writer of the Power Rangers movie. “Daily selfless acts include donating blood, helping blind people cross the street, giving alms, and the list goes on.” he continues. “These selfless people share a common gene variation that is linked to the receptor for Oxytocin, often referred to as the ‘love hormone.’ Oxytocin plays a vital role in the formulation of social bonds and relationships, impacting a person’s capacity for empathy.”

“With this in mind, we imagined 5 selfless youths chosen to become Power Rangers. We want the characters to be real and believable, and that they are really selfless people in this world who risk their lives, their jobs, and their future to help other people and yet expect nothing in return. In the case of these young people, their heroic acts are truly believable and most of us can identify with them. Standing up for those in need is a selfless way to live, everyone benefits. To exhibit altruism is to elevate our entire species to the next level,” reveals Suzana.

The script honed in on exploring the five Power Rangers as 21st Century high schoolers, each going through his or her own epic coming-of-age battle – and confronting today’s issues of social media, cyber-bullying, peer pressure, family pressure and the uncertain future – all while learning to deal with superhuman strength and a heroic destiny that is thrust upon them without much warning.

Adds screenwriter John Gatins: “We wanted our Power Rangers to reflect more of what teenagers are going through right now – so we married more realism to the original concept. For each of our Rangers, there is something inside they have been wrestling with and trying to overcome.”

Indeed, each Ranger-to-be has hit a form of adolescent rock bottom. Jason, the Red Ranger, is a former football star who inadvertently made a career-ending mistake; Kimberly, the Pink Ranger, is a Queen Bee who fell from grace; Billy, the Blue Ranger, is a super-smart but socially challenged kid who has never been able to make a single real friend; Trini, the Yellow Ranger, is a rebellious loner who never fits in; and Zack, the Black Ranger, is a tough-guy secretly in an even tougher family situation.

It is only when this quintet of outcasts all land together in school detention that fate takes over – and they suddenly find themselves attached to strange, glowing coins that seem to be bringing them inexplicable strength. Now, they have to figure how to control their mysterious abilities even as they face all the emotions and drama of finding their identities… and try to save the world to boot.

“Power Rangers” is now showing in Philippine cinemas from Pioneer Films.

‘Narnia’s’ William Moseley all grown up in romantic comedy ‘Carrie Pilby’

William Moseley, widely known to be the older son (Peter) in the highly-successful “Chronicles of Narnia” is all grown-up in his latest romantic comedy movie “Carrie Pilby.”

Starring opposite Bel Powley who takes on the titular role “Carrie Pilby,” Moseley plays Cy, Carrie’s neighbour and match to her intellectual ability. Carrie is a 19-year old genius, a year out of Harvard, four years ahead of her peers, living in New York City. Burdened with an overactive moral compass and self-consciously aware of her uncommon intellect, in a city full of people she considers oversexed, deceitful hypocrites, Carrie finds herself isolated, friendless, dateless and unemployed.

To coax Carrie out of her shell, her psychiatrist, Dr. Petrov (Nathan Lane), makes a list of goals she is to achieve between Thanksgiving and the end of the year: 1. Go on a date. 2. Make a friend. 3. Spend New Year’s Eve with someone. 4. Get a pet. 5. Do something you loved as a child. 6. Read favorite book. At first Carrie resists, but when her goal-oriented prodigy brain kicks in, she embraces the task with a vengeance. She has the time, anyway. Her father, (Gabriel Byrne), who has always joined her for the holidays in New York, isn’t coming this year.

As she tackles each item on the list, Carrie begins to make new friends: Tara (Vanessa Bayer) and Doug (Desmin Borges) at the law office where she works the graveyard shift proofreading legal briefs in a job reluctantly arranged by her dad; Cy (William Moseley), her didgeridoo-playing neighbor who, like Carrie, is also a prodigy; and the confused, engaged Matt (Jason Ritter), who thinks he might find clarity about his pending nuptials in the arms of another woman. As Carrie gets to know them, she learns that they are not one-dimensional stereotypes but living, breathing, complex human beings. Carrie begins to understand that humans, like books, can’t be judged by their “covers”.

“When we first meet Cy he’s this seemingly homeless, wild card kind of guy, we don’t really know who he is,” said Moseley. “He seems like a weird hippie living on the streets in New York – it turns out there’s a lot more than meets the eye. He’s actually a very bright guy, he plays like eight musical instruments on an orchestral level, in fact he plays the clarinet for the New York Philharmonic. Carrie and Cy are both prodigies.”

“I think Cy sees in Carrie something a little bit different, you know,” he continues. “He sees in her somebody who isn’t like every other girl, who isn’t crazy ambitious to get somewhere. This is the kind of world we live in now, we live in an insta-world, and she’s quite old fashioned in a way, she reads a lot, I don’t think she’s a media person, so that is attractive to him.”

“Carrie Pilby” opens March 29, 2017 in Philippine cinemas from Pioneer Films.

Stephen King’s ‘The Dark Tower’ teaser poster leads to other worlds

“There are other worlds than these,” proclaims the tagline of the teaser poster of The Dark Tower, based on Stephen King’s most ambitious and expansive story. The long-awaited big screen adaptation stars Idris Elba as Roland Deschain and Matthew McConaughey as Walter Padick.

Check out the newly-released poster below and watch The Dark Tower in Philippine cinemas soon.

In the film, Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) is a young 11-year-old adventure seeker who discovers clues about another dimension called Mid-World. Upon following the mystery, he is spirited away to Mid-World where he encounters the lone frontiersman knight Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), who is on a quest to reach the ‘Dark Tower’ that resides in End-World and reach the nexus point between time and space that he hopes will save Mid-World from extinction. But with various monsters and a vicious sorcerer named Walter Padick (Matthew McConaughey) hot on their trail, the unlikely duo find that their quest may be difficult to complete.

The Dark Tower is directed by Nikolaj Arcel (A Royal Affair), with a screenplay by Akiva Goldsman & Jeff Pinkner and Anders Thomas Jensen & Nikolaj Arcel, based on King’s novels. Producers on the film are Akiva Goldsman, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, and Erica Huggins.

The Dark Tower is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International

‘Beauty and the Beast’ opening weekend rakes US$14.9-M in SE Asia

Singapore, 20th March 2017 – Disney’s Beauty and the Beast charms its way to the hearts of audiences in Southeast Asia, taking in a remarkable cumulative box office of USD$14.9million across the region on its’ opening weekend. The live-action adaptation of the beloved classic tale opened to the number one position at the box office charts globally.

In the Philippines, the film opened in cinemas on 16th March, and lands itself as the biggest opening weekend of 2017, garnering a cumulative box office of USD$6.3million locally.

Internationally, the film has secured its’ position as one of the top 10 openings of all time, achieving USD$350 million at the global box office till date. Starring Emma Watson as Belle, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is poised to continue its stellar performance at the box office.

READ MORE: Here’s our review of Disney’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.

About Disney’s Beauty and the Beast

The story and characters audiences know and love come to spectacular life in the live-action adaptation of Disney’s animated classic “Beauty and the Beast,” a stunning, cinematic event celebrating one of the most beloved tales ever told. “Beauty and the Beast” is the fantastic journey of Belle, a bright, beautiful and independent young woman who is taken prisoner by a Beast in his castle. Despite her fears, she befriends the castle’s enchanted staff and learns to look beyond the Beast’s hideous exterior and realize the kind heart of the true Prince within. The film stars: Emma Watson as Belle; Dan Stevens as the Beast; Luke Evans as Gaston, the handsome, but shallow villager who woos Belle; Kevin Kline as Maurice, Belle’s father; Josh Gad as LeFou, Gaston’s long-suffering aide-de-camp; Ewan McGregor as Lumière, the candelabra; Stanley Tucci as Maestro Cadenza, the harpsichord; Audra McDonald as Madame de Garderobe, the wardrobe; Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Plumette, the feather duster; Hattie Morahan as the enchantress; and Nathan Mack as Chip, the teacup; with Ian McKellen as Cogsworth, the mantel clock; and Emma Thompson as the teapot, Mrs. Potts.

Meet the beloved characters of Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’

As Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast has bowed on the big screen, here are the official descriptions of the beloved fairy tale’s characters.

And when searching for talent to bring the beloved animated characters to life on screen, the filmmakers canvassed the worlds of film, television, music and theatre to find the performers best suited for each role.

BELLE (Emma Watson) is a bright and spirited young woman who dreams of adventure, romance and a world far beyond the confines of her French village. Fiercely independent and keeping to herself for the most part, Belle wants nothing to do with the town’s arrogant and boorish rogue Gaston, who relentlessly pursues her. When her father is imprisoned in the castle of a hideous Beast, Belle trades her own freedom for his and quickly befriends the former staff who have become household objects as result of a curse placed on the castle. The Beast, while surly and ill-mannered, can be generous and chivalrous and knows how to make her laugh, and Belle soon begins to sense the kind heart of the Prince within.

THE BEAST (Dan Stevens). Once a dashing young Prince who had grown to become cruel and self-absorbed before being transformed by an enchantress into a hideous Beast, he is trapped in the castle until he can learn to love another and be worthy of their love in return, thus breaking the curse. When the Beast catches Maurice trespassing and takes him prisoner, his beautiful and headstrong daughter Belle takes his place, and the Beast develops feelings for her, slowly beginning to come back to life.

GASTON (Luke Evans) is the arrogant and shallow villager intent on marrying Belle. A former War hero, he holds court in the village tavern and has every eligible woman in town wrapped around his finger. Smitten with Belle, who is strong-willed and impervious to his charms, Gaston becomes consumed by rejection and jealousy and leads a mob of villagers to the Beast’s castle to rescue Belle and kill the Beast.

LEFOU (Josh Gad), Gaston’s sidekick, is not the brightest bulb in the box. He worships Gaston, who has no regard for him whatsoever and makes him the brunt of his jokes, but soon comes to realize that beneath Gaston’s handsome exterior lays a heart that is much darker.

MAURICE (Kevin Kline), Belle’s father, is a reclusive artist who specializes in beautiful one-of-a-kind music boxes, which to Belle represent the world beyond the confines of Villeneuve but to Maurice are a way to protect his daughter while preserving perfect memories from his past. When Maurice stumbles upon the Beast’s castle and is taken prisoner, Belle comes to plead for his release, eventually trading her freedom for his. Now it is up to him to convince the villagers of Belle’s imprisonment and to find a way to set her free.

LUMIÈRE (Ewan McGregor) is the Prince’s proper French valet who becomes a gilded candelabra as a result of the spell. While frequently at odds with Cogsworth, the mantel clock and besotted with Plumette, the feather duster, Lumière is charming and sophisticated, and can turn an ordinary meal into a musical extravaganza.

COGSWORTH (Ian McKellen). The castle’s fastidious and tightly-wound head butler who is transformed into a mantel clock by the curse of an enchantress, Cogsworth detests any kind of disruption, preferring things to run like clockwork.

PLUMETTE (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is the castle’s former maid turned cheeky, yet graceful, feather duster who has captured the heart of the candelabra, Lumière.

MRS. POTTS (Emma Thompson) and CHIP (Nathan Mack). The castle’s former housekeeper, Mrs. Potts, is now a teapot with her Cockney brogue still in place. Her son Chip, who has been transformed into a teacup, is trapped in the castle with her and the other castle staff. It is Mrs. Potts who takes Belle under her wing and who convinces the Beast to try and woo their new houseguest, hoping that she may be the one to capture the heart of the Beast.

MADAME DE GARDEROBE (Audra McDonald) is the renowned Italian opera diva performing for the Prince when the spell is cast, becoming an enormous wardrobe. She resides in Belle’s room at the castle, and in addition to dressing Belle, has a flare for the dramatic and a proclivity for frequent naps.

MAESTRO CADENZA (Stanley Tucci). Now a harpsichord (with a considerable number of broken keys) following the curse of an enchantress, Maestro Cadenza is husband to – and accompanist of – the celebrated opera diva Madame de Garderobe, who, along with his wife and their dog, Froufrou, are trapped in the castle awaiting the lifting of the curse.

Opening across the Philippines on Thursday, March 16, Beauty and the Beast is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International.