Posted on 5/09/14 06:16 PM
Bars raised, expectations soared and I have been eagerly waiting to see what Brit Marling as a writer was going to do next after watching her superlative 'Another Earth' and 'The Sound of my Voice'. While the previous works grabbed my attention wanting for more, this one came off as a mechanized script intended to feed off people similar to me who got hooked to their earlier formula of an intriguing premise, hum of a background score and an impossible finish.
'The East' an anarchist group claims responsibility for recent attacks on major corporations for various reasons as releasing untested drugs or contaminating lakes with chemicals. An elite private intelligence agency sends in a covert operative Sarah (Brit Marling) to infiltrate the group and find out their next move. Sarah succumbs into connecting to the group's ideologies helped by their charismatic leader Benji (Alexander Skarsgård) and an emotional Izzy (Ellen Page).
Brit Marling seems to be stuck with a layer of acting and writing which was very innovative and different when it started but beginning to feel suffocated with its repetition. The premise is not as innovative as their predecessors maybe I was over expecting and the entire execution felt disconnected. While acting is good in parts, but overall feel is pretentious. The background score has become redundant. The most compelling part of Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij was how they end, this was a complete let down.
By trying to beat the formula too often the writers got stuck with a new formula
Posted on 5/09/14 06:15 PM
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 12/25/13 09:20 PM
Its inevitable but to draw comparisons with LOTR trilogy and rightly so. The theme, cinematography, music, some scenes are direct descendants from LOTR with some beautiful 3D visuals. Peter Jackson has played the nostalgia card to brilliant effect leaving a perfect time gap from the previous trilogy. Some scenes may feel redundant, some characters not very well developed and the overall story so far is neither as complicated nor as involving leaving everything to be done by the acting and presentation departments who deliver the goods.
In the Shire, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is getting ready for his birthday (the same day as in LOTR: Fellowship of the ring) while finishing up on his book. He recalls the 60 years earlier adventures in his mind with Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and the dwarfs led by Thorin (Richard Armitage) in a fight to reclaim their home. Also recalls his encounter with Gollum (Andy Serkis) and possession of The Ring.
Martin Freeman was cast perfectly and he oozes life into Bilbo while Ian McKellen is as solid and charming as ever. It follows the same theme as the first edition of LOTR with dwarfs, Gandalf and Bilbo forming a fellowship on a mission with a stopover at Rivendell, encounter with Orcs and a sight of the destination at the end. But the mission is less involving and even less adventurous so far, the fellowship does not have the variety of characters and Martin Freeman is not the guy who is made out to root for.
3D effects and CGI are of top quality especially the following scenes
> Introduction to the cause for which the dwarfs are fighting for
> Zooming to show the ghost warrior
> Birds, insects flying towards and away from us. The final scene with the Eagles.
> Scenes with Gollum
Also some scenes felt quite unnecessary and forced
> Mountain giants fight
> The cheesy Orcs king
> Unnecessary tension between Thorin and Bilbo does not help to reduce the flatness of screenplay
You haven't seen the actual villain of the story yet, but so far it has been the screenplay. It is flat with no effort to make it intriguing and the climax does not make you to sit up and look forward for the sequel. But it doesn't mean it is not entertaining with one set piece after another and a host of brilliant CGI effects give you more worth than what you paid for. The background score draws a lot of inspiration from the LOTR trilogy and I don't blame any of it except for the song at the end credits.
An adventure that felt a little unnecessary but entertaining and spectacular nevertheless.
Posted on 12/25/13 09:16 PM
Definitely more exciting and entertaining than its previous installment that was inevitably burdened with introductions and setting up the base which to my opinion was a little sluggish. With more references to the LOTR storyline, this would appeal better to the fans of the popular trilogy. Shot and released in premium 3D, the number of effects are comparatively very minimal considering we should wear those glasses for its exhaustive runtime. However due to lack of enough interesting characters to root for unlike the LOTR series, the screenplay completely relies on the adventure element which is again a little unsatisfactory having seen similar if not better content already.
In a prologue, Gandalf (Ian McKellen) reveals the reason why Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is part of the 'fellowship' of dwarves led by Thorin (Richard Armitage). To reclaim their Kingdom Erebor, Thorin has to unite the 7 dwarf families which is only possible with the possession of Arkenstone jewel lying beneath the fire breathing dragon Smaug inside the lonely mountain accessible through the hidden door. Bilbo as a burglar is expected to steal that. With a little help from the Elves especially Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) who is smitten by a witty dwarf Kili (Aidan Turner) and Legolas (Orlando Bloom), the dwarf pack manages to keep the Orcs off their tail, but would they be able to do the same of Smaug comprises the remaining storyline.
LOTR's effectiveness comes from its multi-layered story with characters coming from a wide variety of backgrounds each having their perceptions and approaches to the common objective and the presence of Gollum. With none of those elements present, this edition of the Hobbit still comes out to be entertaining (sans the awe element). Another major drawback was that none of the lead characters actually standout. Having mastered the craft in presenting the beauty and wonders of middle-earth, Peter Jackson's experience, expertise and his aesthetics play a major role in the making of this enormous project. The climax of the movie doesn't go too well with the title of the movie, but leaves you lingering as good as 'The Two Towers'. The special effects, locations, costumes are directly progressed from past experience, but the action set pieces were a far cry from the middle-earth battles we have seen before. The background score doesn't leave a note you would recall.
Having discussed quite a few drawbacks, there is still some good we can take from this movie like the following
1. The dwarves escape from the Elves
2. Introduction of Smaug
3. Prologue featuring the town Bree and the famous tavern 'The Prancing Pony'
4. Legolas and Tauriel's incredible battle skills
5. Witty lines from Bilbo and Kili
Bigger, better and more entertaining than the previous edition, but falls incredibly short from the adventures of middle-earth we have seen before.
Posted on 12/24/13 09:58 AM
Generic, redundant, predictable and convoluted are the first thoughts that come to my mind after watching Mark Wahlberg's Contraband, but boring is not. Which means however bad or hole-ridden the script and screenplay were, the director managed to deliver a racy entertainer that doesn't let those earlier thoughts come up while watching it.
Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg) is an ex-con/smuggler turned legit after he started a family with Kate (Kate Beckinsale). Kate's brother Andy (Caleb Landry Jones) gets in the bad books of a local gang after a deal goes wrong. After Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi) the current boss of the local gang puts pressure on Andy to come up with the money, Chris has to go back to his old ways for the sake of the family to do one last job.
Mark Wahlberg and Ben Foster goes over their roles robotically while Giovanni Ribisi just changed his appearance a bit while rolling away his trademark accent and voice diction. Only Kate Beckinsale looked like the only one in the movie who had a little motivation to perform though the scope was for just a couple of minutes. On the direction front, the look and feel of the movie is slick with minimal but contemporary background score. Though the events unfold in blinding speed, they do not look rushed until it reaches a later part in the movie. Most of the subplots felt contrived and a bit too many considering its linear narrative. Though the screenplay relies on what-happens-next format, it hardly generates enough suspense or ends up building up pressure points on highly predictable or non-surprising revelations.
A forgettable caper unworthy of the talent representing it.
Posted on 12/21/13 06:19 PM
What's with Tom Hanks being stranded in the sea and giving a stellar performance for a character to root for? An edge of the seat thriller defying the conventional runtime with a very strong antagonist character having layers of depth that even the Dark Knight's Joker could have a run for his money. While majority of today's action thrillers rely on massive set pieces, special effects, explosions etc, it is good to see a fulfilling raw human drama between very original characters.
Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) is your average captain of a merchant ship MV Maersk Alabama with a thinking cap and practical attitude. Muse(Barkhad Abdi) is a volatile young Somalian pirate with a devil-may-care attitude and lots of enthusiasm to out perform his peers. When Muse's hunt for prey encounters MV Maersk Alabama, the crew throws everything they have at the pirates to keep them at bay. but Muse's determination and the ship's under preparedness to handle such a situation leads to the capture. What stays in between is Phillips composure, perfect study of the situation (though initially) and his practicality.
Barkhad Abdi is not your typical antagonist with his petite appearance and a not so captivating voice. But his unpredictability and a misplaced courage and stubbornness makes him more than difficult to handle. Tom Hanks shows his masterclass throughout the movie saving his best for the climax. Now what comes to mind about Paul Greengrass? The man who popularized the frantic camera movements and exhaustive editing skills that we have seen from 'Bloody Sunday' to the spectacular 'Bourne Ultimatum'. But he did show some promise towards handling complex human emotions in 'United 93' that does spillover to this one too. What works for the movie is its simplicity and for good or bad, doesn't lose focus from the main subjects like dealing with their back story or the perspective of their family. Which is similar to how it is done in another of this year's wonderfully done 'Gravity'.
Powerful acting and a solid hand behind the camera delivers a first-class nail-biter .
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.