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The Curious Case of Benjamin Button February 19, 2009

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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2 comments

David Fincher’s much talked about film has quite an intriguing premise. What would happen if someone had to live life backwards? Born as an old man, the film’s protagonist Benjamin Button grows younger as time progresses and the film tracks the major events in his journey from life to death. This is more or less a fictional biopic of a character based on fantasy.

A role such as Button’s requires an actor to adapt to old age as well as young, focus on body language and make the audience root for him. Brad Pitt does all this with aplomb though I fail to see how I could evaluate part of his performance without being able to differentiate between effects and reality. The other important character in the film that evolves with Button is his love interest, Daisy, admirably portrayed by Cate Blanchett. Another splendid actress, Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton, Burn After Reading), plays the British woman who has an affair with Button in another interesting passage of his life. Despite the presence of such capable performers, the relatively unknown Taraji P Henson holds her own and grabs your attention as Button’s foster mother.

This is, without a shred of doubt, a very very well crafted film. With Fincher (Seven, Fight Club, Zodiac) at the helm, you expect nothing less. There is a lot to love in this film. Most of all, the magnificent visual effects. You wonder throughout the film about how they managed to make Brad Pitt look the way he does in the film. The outstanding visuals are aided by the superlative production design (Donald Graham Burt) and cinematography (Claudio Miranda).

The hard work put into the making of this film translates beautifully onto the screen. There is so much in this film that one can recall vividly even after many days; whether it is his affair with British woman or his outing as a sailor or Daisy’s accident. However, visuals aren’t always enough. Eric Roth (Forrest Gump) weaves a competent screenplay but it lacks moments that would make it memorable. At the end of the film, I asked myself if it conveyed anything particularly insightful about life through the living in reverse device. Nothing stood out except the attempt to depict the similarities between the beginning and the end of life in both physical and mental terms.

The 166 minute film isn’t particularly entertaining in terms of humor and thrills. It clearly isn’t for everyone but where I was watching, silence prevailed and everyone seemed to be thoroughly involved. At times you couldn’t even chew your popcorn without distracting those around you. Despite the novel premise and the interesting life that Button leads, this film falls short of being great. Watch this if you would for the premise, visuals and effects.

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Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull May 25, 2008

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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4 comments

Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Harrison Ford team up once again to bring us another adventure in the life of Henry Jones Jr. This time he is old. The year is 1957. The KGB is involved. A crystal skull with mysterious powers is in the middle of things. The genre-defining formula is firmly in place. The action is thrilling. The humor matches expectations. This escapist adventure is an enjoyable ride that isn’t far off from its predecessors.

Harrison Ford gets a chance to have some fun again at his age and he takes it with both hands. Karen Allen has been the best female performer of the series by far and she still has the same spark. On the other hand, Cate Blanchett is terribly miscast and sticks out like a sore thumb. The surprise for me is Shia LaBeouf. I didn’t mind him in Disturbia and Transformers but here, he is quite impressive as Mutt Williams. John Williams’ score also plays its part in elevating the thrills.

After watching this film, there was one thought that kept coming back to me. There is one primary difference between the Indy films and others in the genre. That difference is Steven Spielberg. There are three things that define this series for me – the thrills, the humor and the pace. Spielberg and his team do a masterful job of executing the thrills while maintaining the rapid pace and keeping the audience entertained. Whether you like the movie or not, you have to praise these guys because it is quite difficult to achieve this (and not many films can match this quality).

In my mind, the plot has never been a strong point in the series and it still isn’t. The supernatural/paranormal/spiritual/occult aspects of the plot have defined the series, so don’t expect it to get realistic now. When I first saw Raiders of the Lost Ark, I was extremely unhappy with the climax. And then there was human sacrifice, pulling the heart out of a human being and eating monkey brains in Temple of Doom. Some aspects of these films can bring down your final evaluation of them but they are still very entertaining and this one is also like that. Without spoiling it for you, I will say that one of the early rumors about the plot is true.

If you’ve enjoyed the first three films, you should like this as well (unless you’ve had enough of the formula and don’t care to see it repeated). Expect to have fun and you should be thoroughly satisfied. Burden this film with high expectations or comparisons and the experience will not be as good.

P.S. I wouldn’t mind another film in the series as long as Spielberg helms it.