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A Christmas Carol November 26, 2009

Posted by Shujath in English, Movies, Reviews.
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I wonder if Charles Dickens’ beloved classic was really suited for a 3-D motion capture adaptation. Except the promising first few minutes, most of what comes after turns out be a rather bland and soul-less rendering of Dickens’ tale.

In recent times, Robert Zemeckis seems to have lost his touch even though we can overlook The Polar Express and Beowulf purely for their technological innovation of a new form of storytelling. Sadly, A Christmal Carol is a pretty late arrival to even get away with the “technology” excuse. Ebenezer Scrooge’s original tale was both bleak and touching (still one of the very few stories I really loved as a kid) and where the film falters mostly is in the latter aspect. Jim Carrey does his best in multiple roles and that’s definitely among the very few things which make this movie watchable.

You might want to watch this if this is your first IMAX-3D flick – or better still wait till December 18th to catch the real biggie.

Up [3-D] June 11, 2009

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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Pixar have a winner on their hands yet again. Up is a magical film that appeals to both kids and adults, moreso the latter category.

Up is the story of Carl Fredricksen, a 78 year old balloon seller who has dreamt of taking part in a great adventure all his life, along with his wife Ellie. Following her death he becomes a recluse. When a situation threatens to leave him without his house, he decides to float away in it using an array of balloons. In the process, he inadvertently takes aboard a stowaway. Together, the odd couple embark on an unforgettable adventure to Paradise Falls.

As is usually the case with Pixar, this is a tale that might not sound very enticing when you look at a trailer or read a plot synopsis. However, director Pete Docter (Monsters, Inc.) and screenwriter Bob Peterson (Finding Nemo) ensure that the experience is enchanting.

There are so many beautiful moments in this film. The best of them being the montage featuring the life of Carl and Ellie. Such a beautiful piece told in a simple but elegant manner and set to a wonderful theme composed by Michael Giacchino (Ratatouille, Star Trek, Speed Racer). It makes you wonder how most romcoms and family films fail to capture us in this manner. Are these genres that the best filmmakers avoid? Is there a bankruptcy of ideas? Are studios settling for formula fare even when there is scope to do better?

The beautiful landscapes in the film are unlike anything that I’ve encountered before in an animated film and the 3-D version enhances the viewing pleasure. The fact that I haven’t seen too many 3-D films also makes it more fun to watch it in that format but the experience of the film should be just as good in 2-D.

Interestingly, there are no shock-for-amusement in-your-face gimmicks just because this is a 3-D film. The makers ensure that you are not distracted by such gimmicks, which by now have become boring, and manage to keep you absorbed in the film. This is a welcome change.

As is the case with Pixar’s previous work, this is a must watch film even for those who are not particularly enticed by the thought of watching an animated film or a family film. This film will appeal to all categories of viewers, especially those who are tired of talking animals. Highly recommended!

P.S. Partly Cloudy, directed by Peter Sohn, is the short film preceding Up. It has a novel plot and is executed well but doesn’t measure up to its recent predecessors.

WALL·E June 28, 2008

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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A small minority of films manage to put a smile on my face from beginning to end. When I say smile, it isn’t due to the funny events on screen but due to the sheer joy that I experience from everything put out on the screen. This is one such film.

Richly detailed and exceedingly inventive, Pixar delivers another gem (I’d say it belongs in Pixar’s top 3 and that is saying a lot, considering the studio’s lossless streak). It is these two qualities that set this film apart from the numerous animated films looking to make the audience laugh and generate quick bucks (chubby talking animals with questionable ass-kicking abilities anyone?).

WALL·E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class) is a trash compacting robot that is stuck on a wasteland called Earth (in the future, of course). There seems to be no life on the planet anymore but he is still going about his job along with his faithful friend, a cockroach. EVE (Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator) is dropped off on the planet one day and his existence is mundane no more. WALL·E longs for company and he succeeds in befriending her (now why did we presume that EVE is a she?). He also wishes to hold EVE’s hand (that’s what happens when a robot gets to watch the same romantic musical everyday). However, an unexpected gesture triggers an event that will change WALL·E’s life. Why did EVE come to Earth? What happens to WALL·E? Will he unite with EVE? What is in store for Earth?

During the initial parts of the film, the post-apocalyptic premise, the protagonist with a single companion and the limited dialogue reminded me of last year’s I Am Legend. But this film is such a contrasting experience.

The animation is just brilliant here. Writer-Director Andrew Stanton (who directed Finding Nemo and wrote multiple Pixar films in the past) and his team do a terrific job in creating a superb amalgamation of form and content. You can see the thought and effort put into every scene (instead of doing something on the lines of “let’s bump his head against the wall and bring on the laughs”). Whether it is the look of the film, the design of the robots (EVE seems like something that Apple might make), the attempts to convey their emotions, the imagination of the future or the understanding of a lonely mind longing for company, the creators do a splendid job with every aspect.

A gentleman in the audience told me that the film was “juvenile yet genius”. An animated film with robots in love can seem just as stupid as a film about a rat who becomes a chef but the premise or plot do not constitute a film. There is so much more to a film and this is where the genius comes in and overpowers the juvenile. Before anyone starts worrying, let me say that the chick flick aspects of this film may be loved by one particular demographic but it puts a smile on the faces of the others too.

Stanton creates a lovable character in WALL·E. A character that you can take home with you instead of a “funny” one that you laugh at and forget. Creating characters that the audience can connect with has been a strong aspect in Pixar’s films (and is generally not as strong in a majority of the others in the genre). It is a wonder here that the audience is able to connect with a robot that has limited capability for expression and almost none for speech (and yet you can’t forget him saying EVE-a, sounds that were apparently created by sound designer Ben Burtt). The lack of dialogue for a large part of the film provides a considerable challenge in terms of appealing to everyone in the target audience. However, when the filmmakers intend to make good films and are allowed to focus on creative aspects instead of the economical viability, such decisions aren’t hard to make. And the result is definitely worthy of the effort.

This animated film caters more to adults than children, who may miss out on some of the detail and could get bogged down by the lack of dialogue for extended periods and limited slapstick. Nevertheless, this is highly recommended for everyone.

The customary animated short preceding this film is called Presto. Presto is a magician’s rabbit who troubles his master in the middle of an act as the guy forgets to feed him his carrot. Don’t be late or you’ll miss it.