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Revolutionary Road March 9, 2009

Posted by Shujath in English, Movies, Reviews.
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Every now and then we always love asking ourselves that dreaded question “Is this what I really want to do my whole life?”. Especially if your work involves sitting behind a desk then this pesky question troubles you all the more often. Well, as everyone also knows the answer to that question doesn’t quite amount to the inspirational stories of a few select who “find their calling” in life nor to those people who actually believe/delude themselves that what they currently do is actually what they love to do. And then there are those who don’t give a damn about their “true calling” and steer through life as circumstances warrant.

Revolutionary Road is about a couple who end up epotimizing what can horribly go wrong when each of those answers are adopted at the wrong moment. Frank (Leonardo DiCaprio) and April (Kate Winslet) seem to have reached a dead end once they move into the suburbs on the arrival of their first baby. Frank is constantly coplaining about his job, posing himself the same question mentioned above while April has nothing to look forward to in her new setting. As a panacea to both their problems, she comes up with the idea of giving everything up and moving to Paris (the place where Frank always wanted to go) and let Frank figure out what he ultimately wants to do while she finds a secretarial job. This rosy plan seems obviously impractical to everyone around except for the “lunatic Ph.D” guy who lauds them for having the guts to rise above their humdrum suburban existence. Frank and April seem to be ready to carry out their plan against all odds when something happens which calls into question everything which led them to this decision in the first place.

If you actually stepped into the movie after a considerable amount of time it would appear to you that Revolutionary Road is just a well made drama about marital discord and that is what you’ve probably heard about the movie too. But this film is much more than that. Although the setting seems to be somewhere in postwar fifties the problem it deals with is more relevant than ever today. The whole essence of the film is beautifully captured in its tagline – “How can you break free without breaking apart?” Frank and April’s answer to that question is well – disturbing to say the least.

The events on screen might seem a bit too theatrical but the powerhouse performances of DiCaprio and Winslet overwhelm everything else so absolutely that you can actually feel the whole thing happen right in front of you. Thomas Newman’s score makes it all the more haunting. Revolutionary Road is yet another amazing offering from Sam Mendes. Apart from being wonderfully unsettling, it is the only movie in a long time which actually made me think. Even if nothing of this excites you, still watch Revolutionary Road because it’s still one heck of a gripping drama even if you strip away the intellectual baggage.

Eagle Eye September 27, 2008

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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From executive producer Steven Spielberg and Dreamworks studios comes a psychological thriller that you’d wish you never heard of. A fantasy of epic proportions set in something that looks like the real world. A film that assumes you’ve never heard of the term disbelief. A film that crosses the barriers of implausibility and sprints into the depths of stupidity.

The trailer of Eagle Eye has played all summer long in front of almost every film I’ve watched (and it got terribly irritating by the end of the season). At first, it seemed like it might be an enjoyable mindless entertainer. But the makers seem to have focused on only one of those three words. Despite that, the marketing efforts should ensure a much better opening at the box office than it deserves.

Though it is based on a premise similar to that used in films like Cellular and Phone Booth, this film is closer to Bruce Willis starrer Live Free or Die Hard. While highly implausible, I was able to enjoy that film because it didn’t seem to take itself very seriously. And that is the problem with Eagle Eye. There is a single joke in the film if I remember correctly. The film takes itself too seriously when the plot is not even half as acceptable as that of Snakes on a Plane.

Nevertheless, director DJ Caruso (Disturbia) seems to have somehow convinced his actors to believe in this script and act with a straight face. They even seem somewhat earnest, Billy Bob Thornton (Bad Santa, Love Actually) especially. Shia LaBeouf (Transformers, Indiana Jones IV) is passable while Michelle Monaghan (Mission: Impossible III, Gone Baby Gone) and Rosario Dawson (Death Proof, Sin City) get quite forgettable parts.

The film runs on paranoia, an aspect that could actually seem identifiable in current times (a couple of initial scenes do ring true), but it is taken so far that it ends up being very very laughable. The chase/action sequences also turn out to be quite irritating with Caruso using extreme close-ups in conjunction with jerky camera movements and fast editing. He even films some of the stationary scenes this way.

I don’t believe that the fields of Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning/Pattern Recognition will reach the levels of competence that the over imaginative and relatively inexperienced writers of this film (John Glenn, Travis Wright, Hillary Seitz, Dan McDermott) foresee in a long long long long time. And therein lies my primary difficulty in being able to accept this crap (even if I was able to ignore all the senselessness). But then everyone is not aware of the current state in these research fields.

If you are looking for a run-of-the-mill thriller with a fantastical plot that you won’t mind believing, Eagle Eye might not be a bad watch. Otherwise, don’t go anywhere near this film.

Kung Fu Panda June 10, 2008

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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In the near future, we will be inundated with animated films. You will see funny gangster films. Then there will be comical disaster flicks. After that it will be the turn of hilarious scary movies followed by sidesplitting torture porn. And the characters in all these films will obviously be talking animals.

Right now, it is the turn of the animated kung fu comedy. The animals are totally unnecessary except, of course, that they are needed to bring in the target audience and they certainly will.

The setting is new for animated films but the premise is very old. Po (the Panda) doesn’t want to join the family noodle-making business. Instead he dreams of becoming a kung fu master. Due to a surprising turn of events, Po is selected as the dragon warrior who will be “the one” to thwart the greatest threat to their town. Obviously he isn’t “fit” enough for the job and has no clue what he is doing. But as you can guess, he will get the job done in the end.

Despite the mostly positive reviews by critics, I didn’t warm to the film immediately. It felt like more of the same. Nothing novel or funny enough to get me hooked. But as the film progressed it did get better (particularly, after the Panda’s training session began) and it finally ended up entertaining me just enough to keep me from swearing off animated films for a while. I might have actually enjoyed a live action version of this film more (it is easier for a real human to put a smile on my face).

The best part of the film is the action. A few superbly choreographed and brilliantly animated action sequences provide the primary reason to watch this film. It isn’t easy for action to make the right impact in an animated film but the the technical team gets it right in this one and their work is praiseworthy. A major strength of many animated films, the voice cast in this film also is terrific. The best work is for the primary characters voiced by Jack Black (Po), Dustin Hoffman (Mater Shifu) and Ian McShane (Tai Lung). The others in the cast like Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan and Seth Rogen don’t get enough scope to impress.

If you’ve got kids, you are probably going to have to watch this film anyway and the kids will love it. If you are one of those who hasn’t yet had enough of the talking animal movies, you should love this one too. For those who might look for entertainment with more adult appeal, this film doesn’t have too much.

Transformers October 22, 2007

Posted by Shujath in English, Movies, Reviews.
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If you walk into the theatre without knowing that this is a Michael Bay film then you can write a tirade about all that is wrong with this flick. The rest (like me) simply shut their minds, sit back and enjoy the action.

Based on the “Transformers” movies/comics/toys which were quite popular during the eighties (and which I have no clue about), this live action feature is about the war between the Autobots (the good robots) and Decepticons (the bad ones..of course) for a certain cube (something like the ring in LOTR) which is currently lodged in the earth somewhere. The path to this cube is in possession of our regular Hollywood “chosen one” Sam (Shia LaBeouf) who owns his great grandfather’s spectacles which has the map to the cube imprinted on it. And then begins the relentless action.

It would be a gross understatement to say that the visual effects are magnificient. On the flipside, there is so much of action that one fails to appreciate the brilliance of individual sequences. Bay leaves no stone unturned in ensuring this flick to be a blockbuster…especially given that his previous flick The Island was a colossal disaster.

The whole crew seems to have been working full time on the CGI and hence the writing part seems to have been handled by an 8 year old kid. The dialogue is unpretentiously bad. For instance, you lose count of the number of times you hear this phrase – “It’s a matter of national security. People could lose their lives here!” Also, this film is high on action but absoulutely low on thrills. So, it kind of fell a bit short of my expections from what I had seen in the trailers.

Among the cast only Shia LaBeouf stands out. He is quite fun to watch and this film consolidates his reputation as the one of the most promising young stars today. The female cast (Megan Fox and Rachel Taylor) just have to look dumb and hot.

Despite all its imperfections this one is still a must-watch simply for the visuals. What I saw was a limited release IMAX version which apparently has about 10 minutes of additional footage. So, check this out in an IMAX if possible for a better experience.