Review – ‘Pacific Rim’ (2013)

•October 11, 2013 • Leave a Comment

PACIFIC RIM

‘PACIFIC RIM’

Directed by – Guillermo Del Toro

Written by – Travis Beacham & Guillermo Del Toro

Guillermo Del Toro delivers exactly what he promised, nothing more, nothing less. What you see is what you get – Fantastic visuals, edge-of-your-seat action and an excellent use of 3D (I watched it at the IMAX). But what really pulled me in was the treatment of the film. Anyone who has grown up watching Japanese anime will know what I’m talking about when they see it. And even if you haven’t, there’s enough bang for your buck to give you a good 2 hours worth of entertainment.

Firstly, the Japanese influence is blatantly obvious. The fact that it has Giant Robots vs Giant Alien Monsters is enough by itself, not to mention the names – Kaiju (Strange Creature). But in addition every little detail, from the dialogue delivery to the shot compositions, the production design and Ramin Djwadi’s pumping score, makes you feel like you’re watching an anime adaptation. It is pure nostalgia on that front.

Now some folk might find that this film treads similar territory to ‘Transformers,’ but unlike Michael Bay, Guillermo Del Toro gives us characters worth caring about. There may not be a great amount of character depth or development, nor an ‘awards-worthy’ level of performances, but there’s just enough substance there to make them likable and easy to root for.

But most importantly, Del Toro has created an enemy of gargantuan proportions. The Kaiju are incredibly formidable, not only large in size but also relentless and capable of adapting. Unlike your average ‘creature feature,’ the Kaiju manages to instill in us a sense of hopelessness that keeps us invested in the story.

 

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Although none of the performances are really noteworthy enough, I feel I should give some credit to the ultra-cool Idris Elba, who as usual is solid and stoic. Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi’s performances are adequate enough but they are easily overshadowed by Jaegers (robots) who are the real stars of the film. Both their characters are given a compelling backstories that are inadequately explored. Charlie Day and Burn Gorman have a fun dynamic going on with each other, but the pair serve as nothing more than comic relief, with Day’s portrayal as a Kaiju specialist being incredibly over-the-top. Ron Perlman looks great as Hannibal Chau and feels like he’s stepped right out of a Miyazaki film in funny albeit pointless cameo.

The action sequences are again, constructed with a delightful Japanese flair (The robots have swords!). Although incoherent in a few instances, the choreography is, for the most part, enthralling to watch. However, the sound mixing is patchy in several parts, where the effects drown out the dialogue.

Perhaps my biggest issue with the film is the amount of exposition thrust upon us at the start through voice over narration. There is a lot of information to take in regarding the history of the war against the aliens, the introduction of the protagonist and the inciting incident that throws him for a loop. Add to that the technology of the Jaegers and origins of the Kaiju and you have a lot to process within the first 15 minutes. So watch out for that.

Overall, Pacific Rim is pure guilty pleasure and not a thinker’s film by any means, so Do Not expect to be intellectually stimulated. But in an era when mindless entertainment is created by mindless filmmaking (yes Bollywood, you especially), Del Toro has stepped up above the mess with a film that is intelligently crafted to be fun and utterly cool!

Review – ‘Gravity’ (2013)

•October 6, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Gravity

‘GRAVITY’

Directed by – Alfonso Cuaron

Written by – Alfonso Cuaron & Jonas Cuaron

WARNING: There are minor SPOILERS ahead! Gravity is a film that deals with isolation, loneliness, claustrophobia, hopelessness and the necessity to maintain one’s instinct for survival amidst all those factors. This is not the first film to touch on those themes, films like ‘Moon’ (Duncan Jones) and ‘Buried’ (Rodrigo Cortes) have used those themes to great effect, but it is the sheer breathtaking visual experience that makes Gravity stand apart from the others. The opening shot – one long 17 minute take – introduces us to the characters in a succinct but detailed fashion, giving us just enough insight into their background and personalities before the story thrusts them into one dire situation after another. The story itself is equal parts thrilling and haunting – Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is making modifications to the Hubble telescope, when debris from a destroyed satellite collides with her shuttle, instantly killing all the crew apart from mission commander Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) and Stone herself, who is sent hurtling into the abyss of space, a victim of her own inertia. Adrift and out of contact with mission command, Stone is stranded, with her only chance of survival resting on her ability to make it to one of the space stations orbiting Earth. It is a great struggle that Stone, on her first mission in space, has to undertake to overcome her own internal demons and a fast depleting oxygen tank and Sandra Bullock pulls out all the stops in her performance, giving us a character who displays an equal amount of strength and vulnerability. Her portrayal of Stone’s emotional journey is subtle and extremely believable, with no trace of any Hollywood over-dramatization. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the trajectory of the story itself, which suffers from a third act that ends up being rather anti-climatically sweetened. The story is rife with images that display mythic metaphors like death resurrection and rebirth. For example, there is a shot of Stone asleep in Zero-G, stripped off her space suit and curled up like a fetus inside the International Space Station. Moments later, a fire breaks out and almost consumes her. There is also the use of water as a metaphor for life, for instance Stone crying during a hopeless moment and her tears, instead of trickling down, separate from her skin and float away due to the lack of gravity. As good as Sandra Bullock is, the real star of the show is the Cinematography with Alfonso Cuaron once again bringing an incredible sense of space to his visualizations. Just as he did in ‘Children of Men’ he finds the most improbable of places to put his camera, thereby giving us a wide range of interesting perspectives. Emmanuel Lubezki, who was also the Director of Photography on ‘Children of Men,’ has done a masterful job in depicting space as a real location, using 3D to great effect to create an environment that sucks the audience in completely. ‘Point of View’ shots are cleverly spread through the film, without being overused, to put us literally in Stone’s shoes. His use of 3D is quite possibly one of the best uses of that technology on film till date, As a Director, Cuaron once again proves his ability to intelligently use the environment to tell the story. His vision is ambitious and effectively combines the grandiosity of the visual spectacle with a very intimate character-driven story. Overall, ‘Gravity’ is stunning film and an enthralling experience, particularly on IMAX 3D.

Review: ‘Rush’ (2013) – Spoiler Free

•October 3, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Rush


‘RUSH’

Directed by – Ron Howard

Written by – Peter Morgan

 

The history of Formula 1 racing has been filled with dramatic stories and rivalries that could easily adapt themselves to the grandiosity of cinema – Prost vs. Senna, Mansell vs. Piquet, Schumacher vs. Hill. But if there was ever one entire Formula 1 season that had all the drama that could be expected from a film – a bitter rivalry, a near death, a miraculous recovery and the triumph of an underdog – it would be the 1976 Formula 1 season; the Championship that boiled down to one story – Niki Lauda vs. James Hunt.

And that is exactly the focus of Ron Howard’s Rush – an emotionally resonating, pulse pounding film that focuses most of it’s energies on character development without taking anything away from the visually thrilling, death defying spectacle of Grand Prix racing in the 70’s.

The film starts by showing us a little bit of the history, behind the Lauda – Hunt rivalry from their days in Formula 3 and their respective albeit contrasting rise to the brutal world of Formula 1. Hunt and Lauda themselves are two contrasting personalities, with Hunt an effervescent playboy, given to the joys of alcohol, drugs and sex and an addiction to the thrill of living life on the limit. Lauda on the other hand is methodical, efficient and ruthless. And this is exactly where the film shines the brightest, in portraying these two colorful characters with flawless accuracy.

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Review: ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ (2012)

•July 20, 2012 • Leave a Comment

DARK KNIGHT RISES

‘THE DARK KNIGHT RISES’

Directed by – Christopher Nolan

Written by – Jonathan Nolan & Christopher Nolan



WARNING: There are minor SPOILERS ahead!


‘The Dark Knight’ in 2008 was a game changer. By turning a comic book film into a work of art, Christopher Nolan revolutionized the world of filmmaking and in doing so he changed the perceptions of both the audience and those within the film industry itself. Now, four years later, as people wait with bated breath, Nolan’s Batman takes his final bow in ‘The Dark Knight Rises.’

So the big question is, just how much does the film live up to its hype?

Given that what Nolan achieved with ‘The Dark Knight’ was a once in a generation phenomenon, it is safe to say that any subsequent film would be at a disadvantage from the comparison. Having said that, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ may or may not live up to the brilliance of its predecessor, but that certainly does not stop it from being a great film in its own right.
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Review: ‘The Dark Knight’ (2008)

•July 1, 2012 • 4 Comments

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‘THE DARK KNIGHT’

Directed by – Christopher Nolan

Written by – Jonathan Nolan & Christopher Nolan



WARNING: There are SPOILERS ahead! If you have not seen this film then DO NOT read further!

CLICK HERE for the Spoiler FREE Review


With the final chapter of Christopher Nolan’s Batman saga a week away from release, the anticipation is just about as unnerving as waiting for one’s examination results. Fans of Nolan’s franchise await with bated breath as ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ promises much but also has a lot to live up to, considering the glowing achievements of its predecessor. The higher the expectations, the higher the chances of failure; but then Nolan is no stranger to the task; ‘The Dark Knight’ too had the heavy burden of expectations on its shoulders. In lieu of the upcoming release, I give an updated review that I had written on ‘The Dark Knight’ a few years ago.

With ‘Batman Begins’ in 2005, Christopher Nolan re-energized the Batman franchise, making it darker and grittier, with a ‘real-world’ ethos. Nolan’s edgier, more realistic version of Batman proved to be far more suited to our time and age than any other previous incarnation.

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Review: ‘In the City of Sylvia’ (2007)

•June 24, 2012 • Leave a Comment

in_the_city_of_sylvia_17

‘IN THE CITY OF SYLVIA’

Written & Directed by – José Luis Guerín

WARNING: There are SPOILERS ahead! If you have not seen this film then DO NOT read further!

‘In the City of Sylvia,’ for me, is an art film through and through. This film by José Luis Guerín, although not a Neo-Realist film, has several elements of neo-realism within it – from the introspective characters to the feeling of authentic on-location shooting in the city of Strasbourg, France, where the story takes place.

There are long cuts, where we see alleyways, denizens of the city going about their daily life and we, the audience are put in the position of observing all of this as if from a CCTV camera, not in terms of camera angle or composition, but in terms of being voyeuristic.

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Analysis: ‘Fracture’ (2007)

•April 19, 2012 • Leave a Comment

FRACTURE

Directed by – Gregory Hoblit

Written by – Daniel Pyne & Glen Gers

Analysis by: Janit Mahadevia & Vishaal Desai



WARNING: There are SPOILERS ahead!


SYNOPSIS:

Billionaire Ted Crawford (Anthony Hopkins), a talented structural engineer discovers that his wife Jennifer (Embeth Davidtz) is having an affair with police detective Robert Nunally (Billy Burke). He subsequently shoots her in cold blood and then confesses on the scene to none other than Nunally himself.

Subsequently, hotshot lawyer Willy Beachum (Ryan Gosling) is assigned to prosecute Crawford in what appears to be an open and shut case. However, at his arraignment, Crawford chooses to represent himself and pleads not guilty to attempted murder. The case is further complicated when Crawford’s gun is inadmissible as evidence, on account of never having been fired. What therefore seems like a straightforward case turns into something more elaborately planned than either Beachum or the police department could have imagined.

As the plot unravels, Beachum invariably finds the case slipping out of his hands. He is unable to provide any evidence to convict Crawford; most notably he is unable to uncover the murder weapon. Crawford is therefore eventually acquitted, following which, a depressed Nunally commits suicide. Crawford subsequently pulls the plug on his wife, who has thus far been in a coma.

His career now in tatters, Beachum, out of sheer luck, discovers that Crawford had switched guns with Nunally prior to shooting his wife. With the guns being identical in appearance, nobody had noticed the difference and Crawford had subsequently switched the guns back before being arrested by Nunally. The weapon was therefore in the possession of an unwitting Nunally during the entire trial. With this evidence in hand, Beachum successfully brings Crawford back to trial; this time on the charge of murder.

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