‘Beauty and the Beast’ makes P541.67-M in 11 days, now PH’s 6th highest-grossing film

MANILA, March 27, 2017 – Disney’s live-action fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast” dazzled again at No.1 on its second weekend at the box-office, grossing with a massive P541.67-M in just 11 days. This figure puts it at sixth place in the rankings of all-time highest-grossing movies in the Philippine industry. This was announced today by a spokesman of Walt Disney Studios Philippines.

With interest and theater attendance for the film still at a high point, “Beauty and the Beast” is poised to surpass more records in the days to come.

“Beauty and the Beast” is now playing in 2D, 3D and IMAX 3D cinemas across the Philippines.

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.

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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.

Marvel Studios founder Avi Arad produces ‘Ghost in the Shell’

As the former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer and founder of Marvel Studios, Avi Arad has been a driving force behind bringing many of Marvel’s most famous comic book characters to the screen, with a track record that has been nothing short of spectacular, including a string of No. 1 box office openings.

As a producer or executive producer, his credits include Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3, The Amazing Spider-Man (Columbia Pictures); X-Men, X2: X-Men United and X-Men: The Last Stand (Twentieth Century Fox) and Iron Man (Paramount Pictures).

Now, Arad produces the much anticipated big-screen adaptation of the popular manga, Ghost in the Shell starring Scarlett Johansson.

In the near future, Major (Johansson) is the first of her kind: A human saved from a terrible crash, who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals. When terrorism reaches a new level that includes the ability to hack into people’s minds and control them, Major is uniquely qualified to stop it. As she prepares to face a new enemy, Major discovers that she has been lied to: her life was not saved, it was stolen. She will stop at nothing to recover her past, find out who did this to her and stop them before they do it to others.

Over the past three decades the popularity of Ghost in the Shell has continued to grow as its central themes have become more pertinent. “It’s a cautionary tale about technology,” says producer Avi Arad. “Ghost in the Shell raises interesting philosophical questions in a futuristic setting, but it also happens to be relevant to issues we face right now. It’s about what defines us as individuals — our history versus our actions. And it does all that in the context of a big, exciting action film.”

The film began its long journey to the screen, when Avi Arad pitched the project to Steven Spielberg — with help from an unexpected source. “I ran into Steven and his young daughter on the beach in Malibu,” he recounts. “She knew everything you can imagine about Ghost in the Shell. She did the pitch for me. That started the ball rolling.”

In 2008, Spielberg and DreamWorks acquired the rights to make the first live-action version of Ghost in the Shell, with Avi Arad, Ari Arad, Steven Paul and Michael Costigan as producers, and Tetsu Fujimura, Yoshinobu Noma, Mitsuhisa Ishikawa and Jeffrey Silver as executive producers. Almost eight years of painstaking efforts to get the right script, director and star would follow.

To helm the ambitious project, the producers selected British director Rupert Sanders, best known for his dark action epic, Snow White and the Huntsman. “Rupert Sanders is a visionary,” says Avi Arad. “He always loved the project and he knew how important it could be. Rupert’s love for art and storytelling made him the perfect director for this.”

Arad also notes that of all the film’s characters, Major is the one whose life has been transformed the most by technology. “She revels in being the most extraordinary person in the world, but at the same time you get a real sense of the weight that she carries. Scarlett [Johansson] perfectly captures Major’s emotion, humor and intensity.”

Ultimately, Ghost in the Shell is a story about how people may have to change to survive in the future, according to Arad. “Technology is already penetrating our lives in different ways. Here we are literally mixing man and machine together. But however little of Major’s original physical self is left, she is still profoundly human. Rather than a story about fearing the future, it is a film about finding a way through a complicated future.”

Opening across the Philippines on March 29, Ghost in the Shell is distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.

Michael Peña, a sex-addicted undercover cop in action buddy comedy ‘Chips’

He recently starred in two films that crossed the $500 million mark at the worldwide box-offce: the heist film Ant-Man and the acclaimed sci-fi rescue drama The Martian. Now, Michael Peña is out to make audiences laugh as Ponch in Warner Bros. Pictures’ new adult action comedy CHIPS.

In the film, Jon Baker (Dax 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 former 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 the hardened pro are teamed together, but clash more than click, so kick-starting a real partnership is easier said than done. But with Baker’s unique bike skills and Ponch’s street savvy it might just work…if they don’t drive each other crazy first.

Peña’s Ponch, is actually Miami FBI agent Castillo, a guy with a big success rate and the swagger to match. He also has a pathological weakness for women, especially women in yoga pants, which is a much bigger problem now that has to straddle a bike every day. Perpetually cocked and locked, he’s in L.A. undercover to smoke out a dirty-cop robbery ring inside the CHP.

“Yeah, he’s a little bit of a sex addict,” Peña acknowledges. “I actually like some of Ponch’s quirks,” the actor continues. “He’s kind of clumsy, for one. He thinks he can do anything, so, even though he can’t really ride a bike that well, he’s always pushing that limit. His ego gets in the way and sometimes he crashes. But beyond that, he’s capable at what he does and he’s really focused on the case, and I like that about him.”

“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.”

For Shepard, who also wrote and directed the comedy, “I couldn’t see anyone but Michael in this role. He’s a phenomenal actor and effortlessly charismatic, even when he needs to be angry or embarrassed.”

“So much of the story is about their dynamic,” says Peña. “Ponch is very logical and focused on the present, and Jon is more in tune with his feelings and about fixing his marriage, like he’s always ‘three beers too deep’ with the intimacy.”

To his credit, Ponch comes to grudgingly acknowledge Jon’s instincts as a detective, not to mention his insane skills on two wheels. As they continue to work together, with all the minute-by-minute sacrifices and real heroism that entails, they begin to understand more about each other. “Ponch starts to meet Jon in the middle and maybe even attempt a more emotional point of view, and it’s funny to watch him try out this completely unfamiliar approach,” Peña concludes.

Now playing across the Philippines, CHIPS is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment company.

Ordinary teens rise as superheroes in all-new ‘Power Rangers’

Meet the latest teen superheroes as they embark in their high-octane journey on screen in the all-new “Power Rangers” movie.

Saban’s “Power Rangers” follows five ordinary teens who must become something extraordinary when they learn that their small town of Angel Grove — and the world — is on the verge of being obliterated by an alien threat. Chosen by destiny, our heroes quickly discover they are the only ones who can save the planet. But to do so, they will have to overcome their real-life issues and before it’s too late, band together as the Power Rangers.

Saban’s Power Rangers, re-envisions the Power Rangers as five ordinary high-school teens who discover they have acquired unique super powers and must join forces to save the world. To play the iconic Power Ranger roles, the filmmakers assembled a diverse ensemble of emerging young stars who share many characteristics with their characters, and their predecessors in the roles, says director Dean Israelite.

Jason, the Red Ranger (played by Dacre Montgomery) was a football legend in his small town of Angel Grove until one fateful mistake. When we first meet Jason, he is in need of redemption and is struggling to find himself. But soon he is given a chance to lead a new team made up of an unlikely group of teenage superheroes and must find it in himself to rise to the challenge.

Kimberly, the Pink Ranger (Naomi Scott) used to be Queen Bee of Angel Grove High, but has been cast out of the popular clique and is now struggling to find her identity. She has a new rebel-without-a-cause, edgy attitude, but this front is hiding a secret that makes her feel deeply vulnerable.

Billy, the Blue Ranger (RJ Cyler) has always been challenged in his abilities to communicate and interact socially. Whip-smart and sweet, he is the most pure-hearted of the group. Billy has never really had any friends, so finding teenagers that he is comfortable with is a big deal, and soon he begins connecting with people in a way he’s never been able to do before.

Trini, the Yellow Ranger (Becky G) is mysterious but extremely bright. Her parents constantly move for work, making her the perpetual new girl to any school. A loner who owns it, Trini is self-sufficient and contemplative, but always observant. All she wants is to find her gang of friends, but she’ll never admit it — least of all to herself.

Zack, the Black Ranger (Ludi Lin) is filled with bravado and swagger. He is tough and cool on the exterior but has many layers beyond his fearless appearance. Zack advertises everything about himself, except the truth, which makes him feel deeply inferior to all his peers.

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

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.

WATCH: Superheroes come together in first trailer for ‘Justice League’

Warner Bros. Pictures has just debuted the official first trailer for its event movie for 2017, the action-adventure Justice League.

View the trailer below and watch Justice League in Philippine cinemas starting Nov. 16, 2017.

Synopsis: Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to find and recruit a team of metahumans to stand against this newly awakened threat. But despite the formation of this unprecedented league of heroes—Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and The Flash—it may already be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions.

Zack Snyder (“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”) returns to direct “Justice League” with a cast that includes Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, and Ray Fisher.

Justice League is distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.

Kristen Bell is the ex-wife you’d love to hate in action buddy comedy ‘Chips’

Frozen and Bad Moms star Kristen Bell dives into the role of Karen, the undeserving object of rookie cop Jon Baker’s (Dax Shepard) self-improvement efforts, in Warner Bros. Pictures’ new action-comedy CHIPS.

In the film, Jon Baker is still reeling from the breakup of his marriage. Karen is a trophy from his heyday as a pro motorbiker that he can’t let go. He’s convinced he can get her back once he gets out of his slump, so he continues to live in the tiny guest room behind the luxury home they once shared, and that Karen still occupies, just to remain close. And, in spite of her total lack of interest, Shepard offers, “he continues to attend couples therapy. Alone.”

Marking her fourth big-screen collaboration with real-life husband, Shepard, Bell says, “Karen needs to be the person audiences don’t want for Jon. They should be shouting, ‘No, don’t do it!’ Karen is vain and all about appearances, and she thinks she’s the ultimate prize. Things started going south in their marriage the day he stopped placing first in his events. That’s the kind of person she is.

“Dax almost didn’t cast me,” Bell continues. “After he wrote the role, he sat me down and said, ‘I’m not positive you can be as unlikable as I need you to be for this,’ which I took both as a compliment and an insult,” she laughs. “Because I can be very unlikable.”

Kristen Bell was most recently seen in Bad Moms, alongside Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn, Jada Pinkett Smith, Annie Mumolo and Christina Applegate. She will return for the sequel, Bad Mom’s Christmas, to be released this November. She will also appear in How to Be a Latin Lover, alongside Rob Lowe and Salma Hayek.

Bell starred as Anna in the blockbuster animated feature Frozen, which has grossed more than $1.2 billion worldwide, making it the highest grossing animated film and the 9th highest grossing film of all time.

In 2014, she reprised her beloved title role in the film adaptation of Veronica Mars, which raised $2 million on Kickstarter in less than eleven hours and broke the record at the time for the fastest project to reach $1 million and $2 million. Bell appeared in a guest-starring arc on NBC’s hit series Parks & Recreation. She also starred in and co-produced the comedy Hit & Run, written and directed by her husband, Dax Shepard.

Now showing across the Philippines, CHIPS is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment company.

Hang on for ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ teaser poster

Tom Holland as Spider-Man hangs from the Avengers Tower in the newly released teaser poster of Columbia Pictures’ Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Check out the poster below and and watch Spider-Man: Homecoming when it opens in Philippine cinemas this July 2017.

A young Peter Parker/Spider-Man, who made his sensational debut in Captain America: Civil War, begins to navigate his newfound identity as the web-slinging super hero in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Thrilled by his experience with the Avengers, Peter returns home, where he lives with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), under the watchful eye of his new mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.). Peter tries to fall back into his normal daily routine – distracted by thoughts of proving himself to be more than just your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man – but when the Vulture (Michael Keaton) emerges as a new villain, everything that Peter holds most important will be threatened.

Directed by Jon Watts, Spider-Man: Homecoming stars Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Zendaya, Jon Favreau, Donald Glover, Tyne Daly, with Marisa Tomei, and Robert Downey Jr.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is distributed in the Philippines by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International. #SpiderManHomecoming

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
    (Source)

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:

A VERY INSPIRING FILM!
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:

G
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.

PG
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.

R-13
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

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

R-18
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: