Posted on 10/28/13 03:20 AM
To be able to generate the amount of hype for a two character movie is one thing, to live up to it is quite another thing altogether. Alfonso Cuaron's thrilling space saga achieves just that. Though I wouldn't rate this big as a compelling drama, it more than compensates with its spectacular set pieces and jaw dropping visuals achieved through precise use of 3D technology. Even the drama quotient had its moments leveraging on more than capable Sandra Bullock's intense portrayal of a lonely stranded astronaut who has lost her way and hope but not ready to give up.
Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is a medical engineer who is on her first trip to space along with the smooth talking veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney). When a Russian satellite is hit by a missile, the fast flying debris hits their explorer shuttle and drifts the two further into space. It now becomes a race against time to reach a nearby space station, get into an escape pod and reach Earth.
While the movie gives a very satisfying visual experience with the leads charismatic and intense portrayal complementing each other quite well, the story as a whole leaves a lot to be desired and believable. Hopping into different space stations, reading through manuals and controlling the systems all made to look quite easy. [SPOILER] Letting go of Matt's character that easily did not make any sense for the following obvious reasons - 1) He is full of life and wouldn't part with his life that easily for someone he just met. 2) They have no clear way of knowing the tensile strength of the string they are hung on. 3) They don't even attempt to save him before deciding.
By not showing any other character on Earth with just some distorted voice signals, the director manages to create that eery atmosphere of loneliness which Sandra Bullock took it to another level. The use of latest and smartest use of 3D technology made me feel like I was in space for a moment especially when Ryan was rolling away in space, it was through Ryan POV and it made for a horrifying yet thrilling view. Like the director's superior 'Children of Men', the relentless and continuous action sequences and a restless screenplay doesn't let you ponder about its logic until it is done.
Amazing while you watch, fizzles out a bit when you think back
Posted on 9/19/13 11:54 PM
Delivers exactly what the trailer promises, nothing less and sadly nothing more. At a time when there are a cluster of zombie movies with varying sub-genres, what makes this one unique is its treatment of the zombies as fast, aggressive and restless beings which are in your face whenever they are on screen. Boasting top notch special effects and massive action set pieces that sprawls the length and breadth of the globe, it is one heck of a thrill ride from start to finish. Having said that, it does have its share of misgivings - apart from Brad Pitt playing the central character with required intensity and vulnerability, rest of the characters as well as the depth of the plot leaves a lot to be desired.
Gerry (Brad Pitt), an ex-United Nations staffer known for his thorough investigations is caught in the middle of a plague that breaks out worldwide which turns most of the humans into beasts. In an obligation to save his family comprising his wife Karin (Mireille Enos) and 2 daughters, he joins the UN for a mission to identify the source of the plague. The clues and leads takes him on a journey across the world including Isreal, Europe etc, brushing past multiple close encounters. Can he find the cause, the cure and save his family in the process is what comprises the rest of the story.
Though the movie leaves you gasping with terror and thrill through its superlative special effects, the emotional connect and the human element of the story hardly scrapes its potential. The point that the Zombies they are fighting were actually human beings like them before is hardly realized. For e.g., consider the Spanish couple who turn zombies before their son and tries to attack him. Mireille Enos neither brings enough depth required for the situation her character has been put in nor serves as the eye candy for a shallow viewing. The writers and the director didn't seem to have made up their mind on where to take this incredible journey they have started so competently and sadly left it with their brilliant special effects and action choreography team to fill in for their shortcomings. The background score is apt and does not waver too far from the glimpse shown in the trailer. The zombie make up is on par but doesn't break any new ground especially when TV shows like 'The Walking Dead' is doing such a brilliant job. The climax was not satisfactory enough for me though I generally don't mind the meta finishes.
A must watch on the big screen but strictly a one time watch.
Posted on 1/17/13 10:34 AM
Having never actually seen the great man from behind the camera, I will just have to go with some guess work. Anthony Hopkins was strictly average and at times the make up didn't quite please me. Having never been an ardent fan of the renowned masterpiece 'Psycho', making of it felt a bit engaging initially. Even more so, I quite enjoyed the shower scene here more than the original itself with Scarlett Johansson making a strong appeal for a scream movie (not that she wants to). The babbles between Mr. & Mrs. Hitchcock was tiresome after a point.
Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) has just filmed and released 'North by North West' thus re-establishing him as the master of the genre. When the whole world is watching what Hitchcock would do next, he announces a horror movie about a perversive murderous psychopath and when a young woman crosses his path. Against everybody's vociferous repulsion including his wife Alma (Helen Mirren) initially and no studio backing, the stubborn director makes a movie that the world reels in terror becoming one of his biggest accomplishments.
Hopkins gets it right to an extent as the repulsive, authoritative and tyrannic man. However as the moments pass with obvious emotional sequences go untapped, it more becomes a '60s tabloid feature. Helen Mirren gets a lot of unnecessary screentime and ends up deviating from any other interesting elements that the writers could have bundled. The sound mixing was good in parts and some supporting performances especially Johansson's was particularly good. It feels disappointingly long even with its short runtime and a little undercooked at times. Having never been a fan of Hitchcock's renowned handling of climax, this one came as a surprise to be so flat and to be honest disrespectful of the man.
Not particularly a solid tribute but sure brings some interesting moments
Posted on 1/17/13 10:13 AM
It starts off as a movie with a disaster waiting to happen just as advertised showing off happy moments, family bonds and future expectations just enough to ensure when the disaster hits, it hits hard. It did hit hard. If you forgive the occasional pacing issues and consistent coincidences (being a true story it is nothing short of miraculous), the actors will leave you with a feeling of unease with their brilliant natural and touching performances. The tsunami scene was quick, short, devastating and mostly well executed. Naomi Watts deserves a special applause along with the kid who played Lucas.
Maria (Naomi Watts) and Henry (Ewan McGregor) are moderately happy couple who comes down to Thailand for a vacation with their 3 sons Lucas, Thomas and Simon. Just when the holiday mood kicks in the disaster strikes without a warning. With utmost perseverance and love for life Maria and Lucas endure themselves to safety badly beaten, scarred but not broken. On the other side, Henry is in search of his family. How their unbroken spirit and persistence help them to find each other constitutes the rest of the story.
The scene where Maria is stuck in a frenetic underwater current makes you look away but could have been done a lot better. It was also difficult to watch with my ardent fear of water. If not for a true story credit, the near misses and the way the family finally reunite looks a bit undercooked. Naomi Watts shoulders the first half of the movie but Tom Holland (Lucas) steals the show for a short while by portraying a kind, confident yet vulnerable character. Runtime could be edited by a good 20 minutes and the melodrama and over emphasis of the power of human spirit (though apt in this instance) was a bit too much. Background score does not leave a mark and nor does the Thai locals performance.
Touching and powerful occasionally but a little flat overall.
Posted on 1/14/13 08:04 PM
Disturbing character portrayed in a drawing performance as a stubborn alcoholic immersed in false pride and ego was so absorbing, involving, connecting and could not take my eye off for a second in what I thought was a too lengthy movie when I saw the runtime. Denzel Washington gives the best performance of whatever I have seen of him and carries the entire movie on his broad shoulders. The special effects in the initial flight crash is on par but not to the extent of the hype surrounding it. The supporting cast deliver apt performances to keep the quality of the movie consistent throughout.
For long I have been a sucker for Zemeckis sensibilities as a director. Having watched most of his movies, Zemeckis was involved in a wide array of genres be it science fiction, fantasy, children, drama, horror, thriller etc., some more successful than others, none showed his lack of ability (maybe horror to an extent).
Captain Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) is an experienced airline pilot and an alcoholic. On a stormy day, he comes to duty high on alcohol and cocaine but skillfully guides the plane through turbulence. A little later the flight encounters a mechanical malfunction and goes for a nose dive. With an instinctive mind, he inverts the flight to control the decent and miraculously crash lands it in a field. What could have been a total disaster with more than 100 passengers on board is averted and leads to only 6 causalities. Then the investigation starts.
Denzel Washington was so natural as the stubborn drunk who is always difficult to deal with. His mumbles when drunk were nothing short of legendary. So are the scenes when he tries to meet his family, initial scenes at the hospital etc. Kelly Reilly was excellent in 'Eden Lake' and she is nothing short here too. She has a unique voice diction and I love it. John Goodman is quirky and lightens some intense moments while Bruce Greenwood and Don Cheadle give apt performances.
During the initial part of the movie, there is a little sequence in the hospital between Washington, Reilly and another cancer patient. That was the instant I got drawn in until which it was mostly the terrific flight crash sequence. The movie tend to go spiritual at times but only lingers as long as you can stand it. With only Washington's difficult character to focus on, the screenplay does a tremendous job in holding the viewer's attention when the protagonist stumbles from one depressing scenario to another. The epiphany and the climax is a tad predictable and could have done well without. No faults to find in editing and background score is apt and elevates in some scenes. It is not everyones cup of tea but once you sink in with some patience, I don't see anyone regretting it.
Denzel Washington show in a compelling character study with Zemeckis sensibilities.
Posted on 1/12/13 01:09 PM
Easily the most entertaining Bond movie I have come across and the best after 'Casino Royale' which only beats it for its trend-breaking factor. A Bond movie is basically an action-thriller and the thriller part has been forgotten for so long until the movies with Craig started and this one complements it to the core. It got most aspects right with a good balance of dramatic elements, subtle humor (occasionally Q misfires not with the bad taste of jokes but the wrong timing), a villain to match, brilliant visuals and action sequences (I especially liked the silhouette fight in Shanghai), pulsating background score (the one with the rapid violin mixing Adele's tune and Bond's theme) and a strong climax (though the final action took forever).
Bond (Daniel Craig) is presumed dead when a pursue mission goes bad. He comes out of his exile when he learns about the bombing of MI6 headquarters by a former agent Silva (Javier Bardem) who is planning to exact revenge on M (Judi Dench) for betraying him during his time with the agency. M is under scrutiny for the security breaches from Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) and she wanted Bond so badly that she puts him on active service even though he fails all his tests. With the body count rising, Bond resorts to isolate Silva to take him on individually going against odds with little firepower and no backing from the Agency.
It is not without its flaws even with all the positive chatter for example, the bad guy getting caught intentionally has been overdone these days and the editing during some action sequences did not look studio standard and so are the numerous obvious continuity errors or goof-ups. Craig looked old and may not suit for another installment but fits the part perfectly as the story recognizes his aging. The Bond girls share too little screen time unlike its predecessors. It was a surprise for me when I heard Sam Mendes will be directing a Bond movie but he actually did a fantastic job by having a good story, developed characters but also mixes all the craziness associated with the franchise.
A very well made action thriller not just for the Bond fans
Posted on 1/12/13 12:17 AM
For a movie that had so much to tell, pacing has to be right and it was perfect here. Driving this epic story which the entire world has followed so closely through a single human going by a single lead may sound preposterous but may never be far from the truth as well. Another good aspect is that it gets emotional only to an extent to remind the viewer that the characters are indeed human but the entire movie is more about leads, operational details etc. I have closely followed Jessica Chastain's career from the time I have enjoyed her performance in 'The Debt' and she has never disappointed so far. Coming back from a superior directorial performance by Katheryn Bigelow in 'The Hurt Locker' she doesn't hurt her reputation here with her complex yet structured, sensitive yet brutal, emotional yet efficient handling of her movies.
Maya (Jessica Chastain) is following up leads on various terror suspects post 9/11 and is assigned with Dan (Jason Clarke). After chasing a few threads she arrives at a pattern that could potentially lead to a courier of Osama Bin Laden. Along the way there were disappointments, dead ends, loses her friends but what keeps her going is her infectious confidence and belief in her lead.
There are so many characters in this movie and one cannot go into performances in detail. But to generalize it, not one gives a bad performance. The screenplay could have been a little hastier in the first 20 minutes, but the director and writers might have done this intentionally to communicate to the viewer about the tedious process of getting information and during the later part of the movie this point is brought back to emphasize on the reason that they could not confirm the identity of Osama in his house due to the stricter detention rules and the tedious process. This might also be intentional but the background score or the lack of it did not work for me. May be the creative team might have thought this way it may look more realistic or just could not find the right theme they liked. Again the hierarchy and the working process of CIA is repeated in the most generic way and also plays the underdog card to its advantage.
One more aspect I did not expect was the amount of screen time given for the actual raid itself. Based on the trailer I assumed they might just open the door to the compound and rest is history, but they actually go through the entire process of entry and exit which was good.
Perfect pacing, attention to detail and a fantastic lead performance.
Posted on 1/11/13 07:42 PM
It is not easy to put you on the edge of your seat especially if you know how it is going to end which is where Argo triumphs. Hostage rescue from a hostile territory with no macho action or physical daredevilry requires some smart writing and believable performances which are a plenty as do the period and location attention to detail. Some aspects do look highly dramatized and fictitious especially the last step where the rescue happens just in the nick of time from the Iranian republican guard or intelligence. The dark humor is hilarious at times and background score is superb when required. It is a well made entertaining movie but may not be of Oscar winning worth. Ben Affleck has come a long way surpassing expectation and building a solid reputation for himself as a director with each venture, this time he has done one better by coming out of his comfortable Boston setup.
Loosely based on the rescue and exfil operation of 6 American diplomats who were taking refuge in the Canadian Ambassador's residence during the midst of the Iranian Islamic revolution. Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) proposes a preposterous plan to CIA to rescue the six American diplomats. It was so farcical that they all believed no one would suspect it and it worked. The basic plan is to setup a fake production of a middle-eastern themed science fiction movie titled 'Argo', pose the diplomats as location scouting crew and get them out. The operation is planned to the T with the help of his trusting superior Jack O'Donnell (Bryan Cranston) and ably supported by his Hollywood acquaintances Lester (Alan Arkin) and John Chambers (John Goodman).
Talking of humor I just couldn't control myself laughing for no reason in John Goodman's introduction scene without him even saying a word. Bryan Cranston fits the role perfectly with a new look since the only other role I have seen him and so often is his egotistic manipulative Mr. Hiesenberg. The Hollywood script reading exercise could have been a little toned down, CIA hierarchy and method of general operations felt too generic. In some parts, the urgency and dramatization felt a little forced to elevate the thriller element. Ben Affleck thankfully was superb with no special histrionics and brings a sense of calm which was so required. The actors who play the diplomats were well chosen and bring in their best at the right moments. Last but not the least is the high attention to detail in regards to the gadgets, clothing, sets and location of the period bringing in a highly authentic feel to it. People playing the Iranian guard were also very intense and believable.
Darkly funny, toned down performances and attention to detail makes this a winner.
Posted on 1/10/13 01:10 PM
Though the movie falls from one glitch to another leaving trails of unintentional comedy along its way especially the initial voice over from Blake Lively introducing the setup and main characters, but it never stops to entertain thereby accomplishing the sole purpose of its existence. On retrospect, the presentation is stuck on a dilemma whether to go for old school action or modern slickness satisfying neither. Blake Lively never looked more gorgeous in the middle of a preposterous sandwich while one popular face after another make a joke of themselves.
Ophelia (Blake Lively) the beautiful Chon (Taylor Kitsch) the muscle and Ben the brains (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) are in a committed threesome relationship heading a professionally organized pot manufacture and distribution network. When Elena (Salma Hayek), a brutal lonely cartel heiress is looking to venture out of territory and plans to acquire their network, the trio has mixed thoughts about the approach. Their plan to trick the cartel by jumping town gets foiled when Ophelia is kidnapped and tortured by Lado (Benicio Del Toro), they are left with no option than to oblige their rules. Ben has one last trick up his sleeve when he turns to Dennis (John Travolta) a dirty corrupt cop for assistance.
While Aaron Taylor-Johnson got his look and body language right, his voice still comes out as the nerdy awkward teenager. Though there is enough drama and scenarios created to let you root for the male duo, it is the supporting cast full of popular stars that make this movie work to an extent while the movie jumps from one silly premise to another. The climax is even more messy that the director didn't look like he has made up his mind yet on the conclusion.
Utterly flawed but undeniably entertaining.
Posted on 1/10/13 12:44 PM
Deftly reminded me a movie of a similar theme 'The Player' which I enjoyed rather more. Features a generic but a very effective modern background score that is tense and runs as an undercurrent to an ocean of subplots (some more meaningless than the others) which underwhelms the atmosphere it tried to build. The performances were superb especially Gere in the lead role and an actress I have come to admire recently, Brit Marling.
A trading empire magnate Robert Miller (Richard Gere) is in the process to sell off his company in haste that is sitting on a huge pile of cooked accounts showing fraudulent numbers. With his business experience, contacts and shrewd mind, he thought he could get away without giving a whiff of the fraud to his nonchalant wife Ellen (Susan Sarandon) or his brilliant daughter Brooke (Brit Marling). When all things are falling into plan an accident kills Julie (Laetitia Casta) a woman with whom he has a clandestine affair. When Robert looks for an unlikely person for help, a detective Michael (Tim Roth) picks the scent of him and is coming close to rocking his boat.
What I first liked about his one is that it is not one a movie that shies away from worldly themes of good over evil or a climax with a moral epiphany. Next comes the frenetic screenplay that doesn't give you the breathing space to linger on the numerous flaws along the way. Performances and background score elevate the movie even more boosted by its slick editing.
Tense atmosphere with a frenetic screenplay leaves you with a gasp to catch your breath.