Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Interdimensional! Interstellar Movie Review

Censor Rating: PG-13 (USA), U/A (India)
My Score: 3/5

Epic directors have a knack of making epic movies. There is no doubt about it. Let it be Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson or James Cameron. They have the vision to try a huge flick with a nice big budget and a phenomenal ground breaking story line. Some of those movies take the highest mark at the Oscars, some stay in my personal DVD collection as movies that could have made it but fell short. Now, I will be adding Chris Nolan to that list of directors who try epic and challenging movies - because now he has the reputation of ducking out a hit when required.

Having said that, when I left the movie hall, I had mixed feelings of what I had witness for 169 minutes. I was speechless to describe what I truly felt. It was not the surreal experience as the Dark Knight series nor was it an enhancing experience as the Inception. It was something that felt right but incomplete at the same time. It was comprehensive yet ridden with potholes. Finally, I knew what I felt as I dwelled on that strand of thought for a day - falling short of a cracker of a movie!

Interstellar has Matthew McConaughey as Cooper, an ex-NASA pilot, who is living with his kids and father in law and working as a corn farmer in a world ridden with life threatening issues. His daughter, Murph, stumbles upon a “Ghost” in her room which is caused due to shifts in gravity giving him clues that takes him to a secret NASA facility. There he comes to know about a mission to go through a wormhole to another galaxy to find a planet where to sustain the life thereby bringing the most apt dialogue in the movie into context - “Mankind was born on Earth but it was never meant to die there”. Cooper along with Dr Brand (played by Anne Hathaway) and a couple of other scientist undertake the exploration in an attempt to find a habitable planet. The movie essentially kicks off a race against time as Cooper tries to find a world before his existing world collapses.

Story & Direction: Honestly speaking, I liked the concept and the story line. I was pretty much hooked on. However, surprisingly, the Nolan brothers lost the plot in the pacing of the movie. The movie was draggy and was spending time explaining things which werent really required to be explained but missing out on the parts which needed a proper explanation! Having said that I did catch the vibe and vein of the movie and was really amazed by the bold approach taken by the writers. The content was a brave one but extremely complicated (Inception was a cake walk compared to this movie). Even if we assume for a sec that the science behind it is extremely true and believable, the writing could have easily been compressed and still would have made the movie watchable.

Never doubted the directional skills of Nolan and again he exemplifies that he is the wizard of Direction of his generation. His use of the canvas which is the screen is really nice and the space/other planet scenes are mind blowing. Whatever he screwed up in his writing, he overcame it in his direction and timely camera movement. He has the natural vision and talent to pull off complicated material and he just proves that with Interstellar.

Visuals & Effects: Considering that this was a sci-fi genre movie, the effects were top notch and were perfect in terms of keeping with the tone of the movie. The production designer has done his homework really well and the amazing visuals of Iceland fill up the screen the movement the team lands on that “planet”.

Cast: When I saw the cast of the movie, I was really excited and concerned of how Nolan was going to make them fit. After the movie, I can safely say that the casting was spot on. The stand out for me in this movie were of-course Matthew McConaughey who is carrying a good acting form recently along with Jessica Chastain and Anne Hathaway. However, a special mention of Mackenzie Foy who does a super job as the young Murph.

Another few notable mentions are of Matt Damon in his surprising cameo, Michael Caine in his ever so present portrayal of Dr Brand and Casey Affleck who I left was a bit wasted but still held his own as Tom (Cooper’s son).

Bottomline: Interstellar could have been an epic movie and the best one Nolan ever made. However, it ends up being one of those movie which would end up on my “fell short” DVD collection. Nolan’s attempt at mixing emotions and science is appreciable but just does not get it over the line for me. Me, being a Nolan fan, this is a big admission. However, what the script screws up in potholes covers up in brilliant direction and casting. A visually stunning piece which could have been much more than just a one time watch!!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Intriguing Twists! Gone Girl Movie Review

Censor Rating: R (USA), A (India)
My Score: 4.5/5

The genre of plot twisting psychological dramas is a very niche one. Its been a while since I have had seen a movie of that level of style and speed. In fact I do not recall enjoying any movie after Trance (The Danny Boyle film) which had such a high degree of plot twists and character turns. That all changed last night when I finally managed to catch a show of Gone Girl.

Gone Girl, based on a novel of the same name by Gillian Flynn, is a story about marriage. One anniversary morning, the husband Nick Dunne (played by Ben Affleck) does his morning chores and comes back home to find his wife (Amy Elliott Dunne  played by Rosamund Pike) missing. He calls the cops and participates in the investigation. However, as the story progresses, the real truth about their marriage is relieved and the real intentions behind her disappearance are unfolded in front of the media and the entire town.

Story & Direction: I have not read the novel prior to watching the movie. So, the canvas was completely blank as far as I was concerned. Gillian Flynn, the author of the book who also wrote the screenplay, obviously knew the material well and was able to present the exact chemistry of emotions and affections that we needed to have with the characters at the right moment, in the right amounts. Since the plot is really twisting and turning, without letting out any spoilers, all I can say is that your allegiance towards the primary characters in the movie change as the script moves forward. That shows some really brilliant writing and content control.

Ever since Zodiac, David Fincher has set an industry standard in terms of movie making. In Gone Girl, there is no disappointment with some really nice direction, intrigue building, staying close to the source material and some really snappy editing work. Although the movie is a long 149 minutes, the intervening of the scenes makes it a seamless experience and an enjoyable one. Barring a couple of misplaced loud background scores, the movie gels well together.

The Cast: For a movie so complex and twisty, you need to have some strong cast members to support the suspense. Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne portrays the right blend of anger, frustration, relief that is expected of a man in his situation in the movie. Ben has really come back with a bang after some really forgettable years and shows his best performance since Argo.Personally, I feel his venturing into Direction has given him the edge in acting that is commendable and grounded. Batman V Superman cannot come early enough!!

Rosamund Pike is the most interesting, rather surprising, choice to play Amy. However, as it turns out, she was the most surprising factor in the movie providing us with her best performance till date. Personally I was amazed at the depth of character she could portray. It was a nice change of pace for her and clearly something she can build on.

Tyler Perry, Neil Patrick Harris and Carrie Coon should have special mentions as their additions seemed weird but supplemented the husband wife relationship portrayed throughout the movie!

Bottomline: A near perfect movie by the best director in the business currently. Gone Girl exemplifies the very nature of a complex American marriage system and shows how delusional perceptions can be. This is surely an Award contender and I will be surprised if it does not garner any accolades in that area.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Noisy! - Bad Neighbors: Movie Review

Censor Rating: R (USA), A (India)
My Score: 2.5/5

Fun movies are really hard to come by. When you think about it, making people laugh is an extremely important and difficult part of the movie making business. There are some awesome movies like the Cornetto Trilogy and then there are the pathetic ones like the “Focker” flicks. Finding the right balance is the key which makes a comedy movie tick. Bag Neighbors belongs in an area which falls in between these 2.

The precise of the movie is pretty simple. Just-Become-A-Parent couple Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne are the usual couple coping with a life which involves having a child to take care of. Their lives are spiced up when Zack Efron and his Fraternity move next door and cause mayhem. What follows for roughly 2 hours is a game of cat and mouse. Each side has their movements and the finale is something which we would already know.

Direction & Story: Storywise, it seems just a run of the mill one involving 2 parties trying to go all out smart each other as they progress in their regular lives. Honestly, this movie isn’t really about the story. The screenplay and dialogues are the real key to such movies. The writers have tried to take advantage of Seth Rogan’s excellent comic timing and delivery by mashing up some really good dialogues and sequences.

That’s where the writing begins and ends. There are a lot of scenes added which don’t make sense. The way some scenes are linked together just confuses the natural flow of the movie. Planning wise, it looks haphazard.

Nicholas Stoller has a decent direction resume whose highlight is “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”. Those directorial trails can be seen in this movie. However, overall the movie looked unplanned. Nicholas knows how to execute his screenplay but doesn’t seem to have the charm to make it interesting.

The Cast: A Rogen vs Efron setup was a really cool idea which works to a large extent. However, the kind of depth shown by Rogen isn’t really echoed back by Efron and this is where the movie goes for a toss. The Rogen-Byrne chemistry, interestingly, is the highlight of the movie for me. Rose is a really nice actor who shows that she can pull off comedy. Her emotional side is lacking though which seemed forced.

Seth Rogen is good in whatever he does. He knows his strengths and weakness and works accordingly to those. He tries very hard to carry the movie on his shoulders.

Zac Efron does a decent enough job but cant really match up Rogen’s pedigree. The kid can act but he has a long way to go before he can really match up a good comedy movie. Dave Franco, fresh from “Now You See Me”, also does a decent job but feels underutilized.

Bottomline: If you want to have a good laugh for 80% of the movie, just go and watch it. The movie has some good situational comedy and dialogues. As a package, it looks like a better sequenced Jackass movie. It doesn’t have the awesomeness that “This is the End” (Rogen’s release from last year) had. Go have a good laugh and come out smiling.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Amazing Spiderman 2: Movie Review

Censor Rating: PG-13 (USA), U/A (India)
My Score: 3/5

Recently, production houses have taken up a trend of creating their own cinematic universe. With a lot of source material to choose from, Marvel set a very profitable trend by setting the Avengers universe. Looking at their financial gain, a number of other houses also looked at their own purchased material and have begun “assembling” their universe. Fox have begun with their own version of the X-Men universe whereas WB has finally took the jump by combining Batman & Superman into a single movie. The 1st studio out of the blocks on this is Sony with their own universe centering around the Amazing Spiderman.

The Amazing Spiderman 2 (AS2) continues from the events of the 1st movie where Peter gets into a relationship with Gwen Stacey despite promising her dying father of not getting involved with her. In parallel, he also tries to find out what was the exact reason why his father left him at Aunt May’s doorstep. AS2, in essence, rides on this emotional rollercoaster while making things interesting by introducing a host of villains. The movie provides a good premise for exploring the endurance and emotional aspect of the central character while developing the backstory which is essential for the the entire universe to function going forward.

Story & Direction: With the focus on expanding the universe, nowadays the story has 2 parts to it. Part 1 centers around the backstory which will form the basis for future movies whereas part 2 is the main storyline which drives the movie for roughly 2 hours. In this movie, part 1 has been setup quick decently with the nice blend of suspense and curiosity. Part 2, on paper, is really good but it falls short of being great as the screenplay does drag on at crucial points in the movie.

Character development is poorly handled in this movie which is one of big reasons of failures. Electro origin is rushed and the character itself had a number of flaws whereas Harry Osborn’s character could have been brilliantly handled but was again rushed in order to suit the formation of the universe. Rhino is literally nonexistant but I sense that the character might play a major role in future movies.

Marc Webb has quite literally embraced the fact that “with great power, comes great responsibility”. From a direction perspective, Webb is spot on with amazing thrill sequences and nice camera work which covers the entire canvas whilst keeping the focus on the action at hand. With 500 days of Summer, Webb has shown his flair for covering emotional sequences with a very subtle touch.  The same is seen in the many sequences that you find in this movie, specially the one at the climax.

Visuals & Effect:Top notch is the word that came to my mind when I started writing this section. The quality of effects is really good and for the 1st time, I am regretting at not experiencing the movie in 3D IMAX. Special mention of the action sequences as they stay true to the “spidey” nature of the character. Classic example of this is the above clip sequence!

The Cast:The movie really has an amazing mix of talent that really raises the bar of performance for a comic book movie. This clearly shows that production houses understand the importance of performance rather than just investing in special effects. The stand out performer in this flick has to be Dane Dehann who really delivers an awesome portrayal of Harry Osborn. The kid has talent and it comes out in full view in this movie. Really amazing to watch.

I was bit disappointed with Jamie Foxx in this movie. Although he tried his best, but I felt he tried too hard to convince people of being Electro. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone have an amazing chemistry which really holds the emotional scenes together. Garfield is a smart act and has tremendous potential to excel in his career. Emma Stone delivers a reliable and strong performance. Sally Field and others do give a levels of performances.

Bottomline: The Amazing Spiderman 2 had the potential of being “The Avengers” of the Sony’s cinematic universe but it fails to impress due to some glaring plotholes and poor character development. Its an amazing thrill ride for those who love spiderman and would want to be part of the action. I just hope the conclusion to this trilogy is just as amazing as the visuals in this one are!

Sunday, January 05, 2014

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: Movie Review

Censor Rating: PG-13 (USA), U/A (India)
My Score: 3/5

Sometimes, simple subject movies make a major impact in the way you live your life. Last year’s Life of Pi, for instance, was a fairly simple subject movie about survival and believing in hope. It showed that whatever we do in life, we should not lose hope and that miracle (not the magical kinds) can happen to people who choose to believe in themselves. I was searching for a similar movie this year. Finally, I found one closest to this theme - The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty.

So, who is Walter Mitty? He is someone stuck in a mundane job. He is someone who thinks of reacting in one way under a situation but does not do so. He is someone who daydreams (or zones out) occasionally to escape into his world where he is the king, the hero, the stud. In other words, Walter Mitty is in everyone of us. With a premise as simple as finding the photograph which would grace the cover of the final issue of this magazine, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty focuses on its principle character as he goes through a variety of adventures in order to get the photograph titled “The Quintessence of Life”.

Story & Direction: By no way, this movie is like the Life of Pi. By no means, is this movie perfect. Storywise, it is very simple. But where this movie shines is in its narration. The screenplay is amazing in this movie. Barring the pace, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie which conveys a very elegant sentiment - Life is all about living it and not just dreaming about it.

After initial hiccups with The Cable Guy and Zoolander, Ben Stiller hit his stride with Tropic Thunder which established him as a top quality film maker. With Walter Mitty, he provides a perfect balance of comedy, mesmerizing locations, a fluent story  and some really meaningful dialogues. This movie is clearly his best works as a director.

Visuals: I added Greenland and Iceland to my bucket list while I was watching the movie. Simply beautiful locations and graceful camera work truly provides a nice movie experience which aids in the story telling.

Cast & Direction: Ben Stiller shines in his role as Walter Mitty. Being the director, he was accurately aware of what is expected from the character and delivers a nice performance which captured my imagination. Kristen Wiig also does a nice job as his love interest. Sean Penn has more of a cameo role with just a couple of actual scenes. However, he delivers the most memorable scene in the movie which ironically talks about the moments of life that need to be lived rather than captured. Truly enjoyed it.

Bottomline: Walter Mitty 's secret life might not be for everyone but for those who can relate to it would find that "Life" can derive meaning as you live it. It isnt a perfect movie but it does convey the sentiment and makes you think about the Quintessence of Life. It conveys that “don't dream your life... Live it”.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Review

Censor Rating: PG-13 (USA), U/A (India)
My Score: 3.5/5

This needs admission – story telling isn’t every director’s cup of tea. Most of them take help of CGI and/or action sequences to compensate for their lack of storytelling ability. After watching the 5th Tolkien movie, as if there was any doubt, it is to be said that Peter Jackson is one of the best in story telling on the biggest canvas.
Desolation of Smaug is the continuation of the Hobbit saga which debuted last winter. It literally starts off from the final scene of the The Unexpected Journey with Thorin and the dwarf gang along with Bilbo and Gandalf make their way towards Erebor aka The Lonely Mountain as they attempt to take back their home from Smaug – a dragon who made a brief appearance in the final frame of the 1st one. The story also captures the events leading up to the rise of Sauron and the emergence of the eye. What follows is a spectacular series of events leads up to the group's encounter with Smaug.

Story & Direction: The Unexpected Journey was an interesting but slow start to this new trilogy. To be fair, this was never meant to be a trilogy (it was a 2 movie thing) but finances always trumps logic due to which you end up making movies which have some slow and/or dull movements in order to make a trilogy. The 1st movie had loads of them. Peter had taken a lot of time building up the story focusing on character & plot development. Although personally I enjoyed it but I have to admit that it wasn’t engaging. Thankfully, Desolation of Smaug is every bit engaging and interesting – far better than its predecessor. At a runtime of 162 mins, it still a lengthy movie but considering that this is Peter Jackson with Tolkien material, you should be expecting a long movie.

Peter Jackson has done a terrific job of narration and has really improved the quality of the movie compared to the 1st one. The way he has handled and stitched the 3 plot points together in this movie really speaks volumes of his understanding of the source material. I just hope that he maintains the tempo and delivers an even higher quality product to successfully conclude this trilogy.

Visuals & Effects: As it is expected, visuals are top notch with an excellent attention to detail. Coupling that with amazing location really gives a medieval feel to the movie which is vital in conveying the tone of the flick. 3D is also used well but this movie would be even more spectacular if viewed in IMAX. Special mention of the “barrel rider” sequence which is the best one I have seen this year. It was great fun and a novel idea for an exciting adventure ride in any amusement park.

Cast: The cast was extended in this one with Orlando Bloom returning as Legolas, Luke Evans as Bard and Evangeline Lily as Tauriel. Benedict Cumberbatch has also been added as the voice and face (through mo-cap) of Smaug the dragon and Necromancer, a mysterious sorcerer. All of them do a decent job and provide a natural performance. Benedict really shines in dialogue delivery as Smaug. He is a real talent no matter how he is in a movie!

From the original cast, Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Richard Armitage (Thorin) and Martin Freeman (Bilbo) deliver excellent performances and really look the part. I especially liked Martin Freeman’s conflicting Bilbo act in which we see the ring taking him over.

Bottomline: Desolation is definitely better than Unexpected Journey. The plot has come together very well and is aptly supported in tempo. I can feel that Peter Jackson is turning on the magic similar to how he did in the LOTR trilogy. There are some dull moments which if properly taken care of in the final movie can provided an amazing conclusion to another brilliant trilogy which is definitely a collector’s item!

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Hammered Down! “Thor: The Dark World” Movie Review

Censor Rating: PG-13 (USA), U/A (India)
My Score: 2.5/5

The sequel is always difficult to deliver. You need to understand what elements of the 1st movie need to be retained, what has to be reworked and what has to be introduced without disturbing the balance of the movie. If you top this dilemma with the fact that you are about to make the 8th movie in a “Cinematic Universe”, the bar gets set a lot higher. That’s when you start tripping out as you are unfortunately caught between 2 aspects – continuing the universe and continuing the individual story.

Thor: The Dark World falls precisely in that very same gap which is created when the creative team strives to achieve continuity on both sides. I admit that such a thing has not been attempted before in any form of franchise but then you reach a stage where you are expected to balance the expectation of the fans, producers, production houses and the comic book fanatics!

The movie continues and deals with the aftermath of Loki’s antics in New York (The Avengers). Thor has become more mature and has been fighting to achieve peace in all 9 realms after the bifrost has been repaired. During this time, Jane Foster ends up in London studying the connection between the realms and stumbles upon some material called the “Aether” which is locked away by Thor’s forefathers due to its dangerous origins. This material is essentially stuff which the dark forces use to gain control over all realms. This awakens the dark forces aka dark elves who go behind Jane for it. Thor steps in and what ensues is a good old fight between good and evil!

Story & Direction: From a Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) story perspective, I found this movie to be the actual beginning of Phase 2. It really shows off the plans which Marvel have to offer in the large scheme of things right upto Avengers 3 which comes out sometime in 2017. So, this movie initiates that thread really well. It picks just those aspects which are essential at this point to convey the path which the MCU would take. However, the writers compromise the quality of the sequel while telling the story of Phase 2. This, for me, was a letdown. The screenplay seemed rushed at places and there were a lot of new elements exposed very quickly with almost zero development (apart from the main villain).

Alan Taylor has a good experience with such material. His Game Of Thrones work has been remarkable and he succeeds in giving this movie the same level of detail and tone. The movie does feel dark – at times. Considering that this is his 1st real big scale production, he does a decent job.

Effects & Visuals: As we have come to expect from MCU, visuals and effects were top notch. The action sequences were simple and straight forward. Again, my biggest complaint is the use of 3D which felt useless and not of any value add. Seriously MCU guys, pls rethink your 3D strategy!!

Cast: The stand out performance in this one has to be of Loki aka Tom Hiddleston. This is his 3rd movie playing Loki and he has improved in each and every movie. Watch out for some mischievous fun!

Chris Hemsworth gives a more mature performance as Thor. He has also improved well in his portrayal of the Demi God. Natalie Portman also does a good job so does Kat Dennings who gets an extended role courtesy her “2 Broke Girls” fame. Anthony Hopkins is delightful as ever!

Bottomline: As a strict sequel, Thor: The Dark World falls well short of expectations and does too much too soon. As a Phase 2 movie, it is bang on and provides the fans just a good start to the next set of movies. There is a mid-credit scene in this one which gives a great feel of next year’s movie! In other words, Thor 2 is not the movie which deserve, but it is a movie that we needed right now. One time watch!