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Avatar 3D December 19, 2009

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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Cinema means different things to different people. For some, it is about the story. For some, it is about entertainment. For some, it is about technique. For me, it is about the imagination. It is about the effective translation of a vision. And ultimately, it is about the experience.

As far as imagination and experience goes, Avatar is an unparalleled accomplishment. Writer-Director James Cameron (Titanic, Terminator 2) creates a new world that makes the best use of the new technology that he has helped pioneer over the last decade. Pandora (the alien world created for this film) is a masterpiece that sells 3D like nothing ever has in the past.

After Titanic, Cameron once again takes a story with universal appeal  (not to mention the social relevance) and mounts it on a gigantic scale. Cameron immerses you in this new world and the technology is never really at the forefront (except in the logical part of your brain that might tell you it is make-believe). I didn’t really know how involved I was in the film till Pandora was attacked and the pain felt almost tangible.

With motion capture, it is always hard to assess an actor’s performance but it seems much easier with Avatar. Zoe Saldaña (Star Trek) is only seen in her Na’vi (the inhabitants of Pandora) form and stands out as Neytiri. Sam Worthington (Terminator Salvation) plays an able Jake Sully.

It goes without saying that this is an experience that no one should miss. If you are planning to watch this and you are not aware of the technology behind it, my sincere request would be to read a little bit about it to allow yourself to really appreciate a mammoth achievement in filmmaking. And try your best to watch it in IMAX 3D.

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Surrogates October 14, 2009

Posted by Shujath in English, Movies, Reviews.
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The first question which comes to my mind is this – Unless you are completely paralyzed from head to toe or you are trying to save the world from “The Matrix” why would you want to be plugged to a chair for most part of your existence while a made-to-order surrogate robot actually lives out your life in the big bad world.

Apart from experiencing brief nostalgic feelings about “losing touch with one’s humanity” it is suggested (or rather assumed) that having a good looking surrogate is anyone’s natural choice. More laughably the first shot of the film shows a news report mentioning that once “surrogates” have become common the rates of “crime and racism” have fallen by 100% and 99% (who’s that unfortunate 1%?) respectively. The actual news report also should have had one more line “Mortality rate climbs 100% due to lifestyle diseases caused by being stuck to a chair for entire life”.

Also, except for the benefit of not getting physically hurt what is it that stops human controlled surrogates from commiting “crimes and racism” (even to that mysterious 1%). In fact when the “human” Bruce Willis has to step out in the real world (after his surrogate is destroyed), everyone around warns him how dangerous it is for humans to be out in the world of surrogates (maybe these adventure seeking “humans” constitute those 1% ). I don’t think I actually saw a child in the movie except in a photo and a brief glimpse of a pregnant “human” (thankfully no surrogates here).

If you’ve read till here and still want to watch the film then stop right there because I am giving away the ending now. SPOILER ALERT: Bruce Willis saves the world one more time. Humanity is free to get out of their chairs only to be greeted by the creepy sight of an equal number of disconnected surrogates lying on the street – which I presume they’ll have the spend the rest of their lifetimes cleaning up. Thank Bruce for that!!!

Knowing July 10, 2009

Posted by Shujath in English, Movies, Reviews.
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A time capsule containing illustrations about the future imagined by school children is buried into the ground in 1959 only to be taken out 50 years later. This whole idea is the brainchild of a certain kid called Lucinda (Lara Robinson) who also contributes to the capsule by rambling a continuous series of numbers on a piece of paper until the paper runs out. It doesn’t matter that her paper and pen are taken away for she finds an alternative to complete her series of numbers. Now Lucinda seems to be a pretty disturbed child and the more disturbing thing for the viewer is that she creepily resembles Rose Byrne (who she grows up to be). Until I looked up for the actress’ name who played young Lucinda, I thought it was some kind of a CGI trick.

Coming back to our story, when the time capsule is finally taken out that piece of paper ends up with John’s (Nicholas Cage) son Caleb (Chandler Canterbury). Now John somehow figures out that those numbers are a list of disasters (along with the number of casualties and geographic coordinates of the location) which have occurred in the past 50 years and as well predict some in the future. Meanwhile his son is also having some “Whisper People” as visitors at regular intervals. Who are these “Whisper People”?, What happens when the numbers end?, Why am I even watching this film? – are a few questions which you expect to be answered when the film ends.

The nice thing about “Knowing” is that it doesn’t wait till the end to deliver a crappy twist which is supposed to answer all your questions. In the first half of the movie itself you do get to know in which direction this film is heading. Like in every bad Sci-Fi movie when things tend to become too intriguing and inexplicable – Hollywood writers invariably bring certain entities (you know who) into the picture; “Knowing” isn’t any different and by now you should be able to guess who those “Whisper People” could be.

Even if you had no clue about where the film is going, watching Nicholas Cage in yet another of those “sleepwalk with an earnestly puzzled look” roles gives a hint of what you should expect. Rose Byrne is surprisingly quite irritating. The visual effects – especially the two major “disaster” scenes are quite nicely done. Alex Proyas’ last film “I, Robot” was one of the most interesting Sci-Fi films in recent times – which makes “Knowing” an even bigger disappointment. Like any good or bad film in this genre it is nevertheless interesting to watch though the payoff at the end is a downer.

Terminator Salvation May 30, 2009

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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The wait has been long but the payoff isn’t exactly what I hoped for.

Unlike the previous films where John Connor is being chased by robots, this time he is doing the chasing. His mission is to save Kyle Reese (his would be or had been dad) while also trying to destroy Skynet. Somewhere in all this, a new character called Marcus Wright also plays an important role.

Despite all the similarities in structure (almost felt like a remake of its predecessor) and flaws, I still enjoyed Terminator 3 because it still played like a Terminator film. The tension, the excitement, characters that you wanted to care for and a little bit of humor – the elements were all there.

But Terminator Salvation is a different film (written by T3 scribes John Brancato and Michael Ferris). It moves away from the formula and tries to tell a different story, though the goal is to still save a human being from the machines. While the tale is fine, the film does not engage us on an emotional level. You don’t really feel connected to the characters or root for them. You sit there and wait to figure out what its all about and thats it.

The visual effects are quite remarkable and that is the real USP of this film but the action, though exciting, isn’t comparable to previous films because you don’t really care much for the protagonists and therefore, there is no real tension.

Christian Bale (The Dark Knight) is fine but doesn’t impress. Anton Yelchin (Star Trek) is the only actor in the film who seems human enough to relate to (as is the little girl). Helena Bonham Carter (Fight Club) and Bryce Dallace Howard (The Village) are wasted. Sam Worthington gets the biggest and most interesting part in the film.

Director McG (Charlie’s Angels) succeeds in creating some great visuals but this film lacks soul. If you love the series for the action and visual effects, you might like this a bit. But if you were expecting more from this one, you will be disappointed.

Star Trek May 14, 2009

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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While the Wolverine failed to start the summer with a bang, Star Trek makes up for it with its heady mix of action, humor, drama and space mumbo jumbo in what is a thoroughly entertaining reboot/sequel/prequel/requel (you will know what I mean when you see the film).

Now, I am no Trekkie. I have seen a few episodes of the television show when I was younger and found it to be campy fun but I don’t recall much. So, my evaluation of this film is practically comparison free.

What I loved about this film is the way director J J Abrams (M:i:III, Lost) and his writing team (Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, who have also written Abrams’ M:i:III, Michael Bay’s Transformers and its upcoming sequel) have managed to reboot the series while still connecting it to the previous installments – a novel idea that is possible only for a series like this one (again, you will know what I mean when you see the film).

The effervescent young cast is impressive. Chris Pine (Just My Luck) makes a charming Captain Kirk and Zachary Quinto (Heroes) is effective as Spock. Zoe Saldana (who coincidentally played a Trekkie in The Terminal) plays the xenolinguist Uhura and is involved in a suprising romantic angle.  Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) provides some humorous moments as Scotty. Also featured are Eric Bana (Munich, Hulk) as the evil Captain Nero, John Cho (Harold of the Harold and Kumar movies) as Sulu, Anton Yelchin as Chekov and Karl Urban as Bones. If you’ve been following the buzz, you would also know that the original Spock, Leonard Nimoy, is also part of the film.

There is a lot of action in this film and all of it is very well done. The visual effects are first rate. There are some complaints from the fans about the production design of this film but I did not find it to be particularly inadequate.

If you are scientifically inclined, be warned that the science in this film will not “compute”. Despite the risk of finding some of the material silly, this is an entertainer that you wouldn’t want to avoid unless you are allergic to space adventures. And no, you don’t require any prior knowledge of the series to enjoy this (although a little bit of info can improve the experience).

Southland Tales October 22, 2008

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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Bizzare? Ludicrous? Atrocious? Insane?

I don’t know what sort of adjectives might adequately describe this film. At the very least, it was a very strange and confusing film. But that is a humongous understatement. I’d really want to call it an unmitigated disaster of epic proportions and it should easily fit into a list of the worst movie experiences of my life.

Since I can’t be sure that I even understood the film, there is no point in trying to describe the plot. It starts off looking like someone’s imagination of a distressing future. At one point I felt like the film was trying to be a statement on the current state of the world but maybe not. This long (145 minutes) film has far too many eccentric characters and undecipherable subplots. At the end, I had only questions and no answers. Is this film about terrorism? Is it about mad scientists? Or is it about the time-space continuum/4th dimension or whatever?

There is a scene in the film where an amnesiac Boxer Santaros describes the plot of the screenplay he has written along with his porn star girlfriend. You are almost certain that it is meant to be funny but it isn’t and it actually ends up being the plot of the film that you are watching and it isn’t funny anymore.

Like the aforementioned situation, there are some scenes in this film where you think that the makers are attempting to make you laugh. But you aren’t really sure if that is their intent or even that the scene in question is funny. So, you sit still and wait for a confirmation that never comes.

The most laughable piece of dialogue comes when one character tries explaining what is happening or might happen and talks about the “entire 4th dimension collapsing on itself”. I was laughing all right but I was really feeling bad for myself at the same time.

Enough about me. I wonder what the actors were directed to do and what was going through their minds. Did they understand the script when they signed the film?

The Rock has a bewildered look for the most part. Maybe his expressions were accurate representations of how he felt while acting in this film. He is better off sticking to his action films or comedies. And Sean William Scott gets to paste the same expression of gravitas through both his roles. Justin Timberlake is pretty much trying to look cool and deliver lines in that manner throughout and I couldn’t really figure out how his character featured into the script. For a film that is as befuddling, it has a sizable amount of narration by Timberlake and it doesn’t clarify anything at all.

I couldn’t find anything even remotely interesting in this film. And that makes me wonder who greenlighted this film. Even more perplexing is the fact that it was screened at the Cannes Film Festival.

My ire should really be directed at writer-director Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko) but since I don’t understand his vision, I don’t know what to say really. Southland Tales is a disaster not only due to its incomprehensibility but also due to its numerous subplots, confusing tone, its length, lack of cohesion, and more. I’d really like to forget that I ever saw this film but before I embark on that task, I would love to hear from someone who could explain at least parts of this film to me.