Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Review and Analysis of "Taken (2008)"

I don't know who you are. I don't know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don't have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that'll be the end of it. I will not look for you. I will not pursue you. But if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.

                                                                                                                           -Bryan Mills

Films involving secret agents given particular assignments to complete have been a huge trend. Hollywood has produced major success franchises out of this genre with "The Bourne Series" and not to mention the most famous of all "The James Bond films". Director Luc Besson has been famous for directing action movies which are known to be visually rich. He has also made some over the top action movies with famous casts involved which have nevertheless been slick and fun to watch. His 2008 film "Taken" of which he is a producer is no exception. With an adrenaline filled performance by Liam Neeson, the movie proves that plot holes and unrealistic action can still be fun to watch if its done the right way. Also, Neeson set the future prospects for becoming a great action hero alongside Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham to name a few.
The plot follows a retired CIA agent Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson), who during his service period had a hard time balancing between his personal and professional life which resulted in a divorce from his wife Lenora (Famke Janssen) who took custody of their daughter Kim (Maggie Grace). He spends his retirement days with his retired CIA friends taking on small assignments from time to time to earn some quick money. He visits her daughter frequently due a father's unconditional love but always finds himself at odds with his wife's rejection and her new husband, Stuart (Xander Berkeley). Things take a turn when Kim plans a trip to Paris by following U2's band, despite Bryan's disapproval of the idea that the place is not safe for young girls travelling alone. However, due to aggressive support from Lenore he agrees on certain conditions to Kim that she stays in constant touch with him. When the girls touchdown to Paris, they are kidnapped by a group of Albanian people who are in the business of women trafficking. These events force Bryan to get back into action and rescue his daughter within a span of 96 hours before she disappears from his reach forever.

                                            " I figured she wants to be a singer"

And the pacing starts to kick in. We see Neeson transform from a normal person to a full blown action hero who would do anything to get his daughter back. The action scenes were so intense that it made the veteran actor transform himself into an action film star in the film industry. The rest of the film follows Bryan picking up clues one by one and eliminating threats along the way till he finally reaches the man who bought her daughter through a slave auction and eventually saving her. I have to say that some of the scenes in this film were actually intense and disturbing. One of the scenes which stands out to me was Bryan's conversation with Kim on the phone while the kidnappers are in the house searching for her. Its very hard for a father to convince her daughter and to make her accept the harsh reality that she's about to be kidnapped and there is nothing she can do about it. Its moments like this in a movie which make a routine kidnapping scene in a feel threatening. The other thing which I found disturbing about the film was the situations and themes it was trying to explore. Women trafficking has been a very big issue in our world and its hard to believe the fact that even after so many agencies existing today, the issue is still prevalent and at large. Though the movie does not show the issues on an intense level as it was an action genre one which mostly focused on action sequences, the small things which it did show from time to time on the treatment of young girls and their condition was enough to make me feel uncomfortable. Not to mention the fact that you want the bad guys to get what they deserve by Bryan due to their inhuman nature. That's what makes the film intense, because you want bad things to happen to the bad guys even though they don't have much character development. The audience wants them to suffer because they made their victims suffer and Bryan does a good job at it.
                                            "Oh my God, Dad. They're coming."

Which brings is to the action. Its done with pure finesse. Bryan not only shoots, he breaks bones, hits vital organs, cracks necks and does everything you expect a veteran CIA agent to do. The hand combat is extremely brutal and well done. However, the action is also very over the top considering the fact Bryan single-handedly kills 20-30 bad guys without getting shot or stabbed once, except for the final fight. However, the movie is not to be taken seriously for its action sequences since they are there for fun and give an audience a sense of payback to the bad guys for the things they were doing. The action in this movie is supposed to give the audience satisfaction without any logic or thought involved. If the movie had not focused on the nature of kidnapping, it may not have been as much enjoyable and it could have turned into a Saturday popcorn flick. Another aspect which I liked about Bryan's character was his cold blooded nature when it came to finding his daughter. For people familiar with Fox's hit TV Series "24", Bryan depicted similarities with the character of Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) who would do whatever it takes to complete a specific objective no matter how brutal if he was satisfied that the end would justify the means. One scene involved Bryan shooting the wife of one of his friend who worked for the french government and who was involved with the Albanians to get him to cooperate. Even though he knew his wife was innocent he had to take drastic and extreme measures for ensuring the safety of his daughter. These scenes show how life for people like them are tough and how they have to choose between the morality of the acts they do in everyday life to get what they want even though they may not like it.  The scene of Bryan torturing one of the main terrorists, Marko was also satisfying and felt complete and showed how things which are so disturbing to do are so easily done by agents like them. 

                                                        "Where is this girl?"

The movie is what you expect in an action genre. Also, for people who watch movies for thoughtful reasons, it sends a message on the topic of women trafficking and shows how things like these happen everyday. However, the action is not to be taken seriously which are done for the purpose of fun and entertainment and some of the audiences will also derive a sort of "guilty pleasure" from it due to Liam Neeson's good performance. Sit back and enjoy this one, because once the action starts it never let goes until the finale.

My rating-80% 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Review and Analysis of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)"

                                                    "I'm going on an adventure"

                                                                                                      -Bilbo Baggins

Movies based on the themes of fantasy and mystical environments have always enthralled audiences worldwide and have gained significant acceptance. The concept of exploring an unknown world which does not exist has always been intriguing as well as appealing. In the year 2001, Peter Jackson came up with a spectacular vision in film making. He laid grounds for  a trilogy so powerful which would stand against the sands of time in film era and which would be hailed as one of the most epic trilogies of all time- The Lord Of The Rings. The trilogy was an instant hit and appealed to audiences both on an emotional as well as imaginative level. It had everything-a great story, a powerful ensemble cast, terrific performances and some of the greatest visual effects of all time. The films were based on J.R.R Tolkien's novel of the same name and for the most part remains true and faithful to the book. Personally, I enjoyed the trilogy and own the complete extended blu -ray collection of it. For me the movie was complete,perfect and everything I hoped for. It stands today as one of my favorite trilogies ever. One of the things which got me excited in 2011 was when I heard that Jackson is about to come up with a prequel to this trilogy based on the novel once again. Back was the awesome feeling, and back was the excitement that I will be returning to middle-earth once more. Did my excitement payoff in the end? 
It certainly did. While not as much as I had in the Lord of the Rings trilogy but it certainly did. The movie certainly brought me back to Jackson's way of storytelling and it made me realize that any movie related to the concept of middle-earth or Tolkien's work has to be taken on by him only because it is Jackson who understands it best and it is he who can direct it best. For people familiar with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the film follows the adventure of the Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) as he joins with Gandalf, the wizard (Ian McKellen) and the company of 13 dwarves,led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) as they try to reclaim their lost kingdom, Erebor which was taken over by a ferocious dragon by the name of Smaug. Thorin has an old deadly grudge with one of the orcs, Azog the defiler, who killed his father during a battle and who has put a bounty on his head. The rest of the film follows their epic journey through various exotic and dangerous locations of middle earth as they head for the "Lonely Mountain" inside which their city is situated.

                                                      "So....this is the Hobbit"

The film is unique in itself due to the reason that while keeping the core elements of the Lord of the Rings at heart its not dark or carries the apocalyptic theme as the previous movies did. Jackson in an interview stated that he wanted the film to have a different feel than former ones. And he succeeded on that. The movie is smart, funny and at the same time tries to connect with us on an emotional level just as the same way LOTR did. James Horner's awesome soundtrack is back and contributes on a different level to the score while keeping the basic themes the same. In other words, the movie keeps some of the core elements of LOTR the same while modifying the rest of them for a completely different set of trilogy. The pacing of the film is good and Bilbo and Thorin are successfully made into well fleshed out characters whom we really care for. We see the transformations taking place in Bilbo as he sees the world outside his home and we also realize the fact that he won't be the same Hobbit he once was when he is back. Gandalf acts as a successful guide much as the same way he did (or will) to Frodo and Sam in the LOTR films. Some of the characters are also back from the previous movies like Lord Elrond (Hugo Weaving), Saruman the White (Christopher Lee), Lady Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) and my personal favorite of all time-Gollum (Andy Serkis). All of them add to the richness and detail of the story and at the same time we are also given foreshadowing events of the future which do a great idea of explaining the events of LOTR. The film is filled with tons of action sequences with dwarves battling orcs, goblins with a sense of humor involved in them. I also liked some of the small details which Jackson filled for those who loved LOTR to the core, for example-the three trolls who turned to stone when sunlight shone upon them. They are clearly seen in LOTR still standing there. The journey although filled with action also took a break in between in which the characters had talks of sentiment and value which made the characters more caring for the audience.

                          "Do you smell it? The scent of fear...your father reeked of it"

One of the biggest things I loved about this film apart from the things stated above were the villains. I thought that Azog was a perfectly developed villain. He was scary, threatening as well as menacing. Not to mention the scars on his face and body made him look more deadly. In the LOTR trilogies, I never found orcs to be threatening as the entire movie was focused on the fear of Sauron. But in this movie, I found myself for the first time being truly threatened by this orc and always rooted for the characters to run away from him. Not to mention, the final fight between him and Thorin made was emotional and tense. Another one, whom I personally loved in the LOTR trilogies was the return of Gollum, who is one of my favourite anti-villains, the character with which I was always in a cross between sympathizing and unsympathizing. The moment between him and Bilbo was truly one of the most outstanding scenes in the movie and my personal favorite. Once again, I won't spoil it for you but its funny and cute but also threatening at the same time. Also, it had one of the most sympathetic scenes in it when Bilbo decides not kill him and spare his life which (which leads to the events of LOTR). For those of you who always wondered how the ring ended up in Bilbo's hands, this moment answers it for you.
However, with everything being said I still had some minor complaints with this movie. Considering the impact which LOTR made in our minds with the help of rich characters and their development, I felt that apart from Bilbo and Thorin, the rest of the dwarves were plainly sidelined. They were never given much screen time and when they were it was very hard to recognize who was who. Aside from recognized 1-2 of them, they all ended up being a random mess which was left for us to solve. During the battle sequences, there was no tension involved as we never cared for them the same way we did for the characters in LOTR. That should not have been ignored due to the fact that the film was basically revolving around the theme of Dwarves and their lifestyle. I hope Jackson fleshes them out in the next two movies which are to follow. I have yet to check out the 2nd movie.

                                     "What has it got in its nasty little pocketses?"

Overall, Jackson brought us back to the land of Middle-Earth which hasn't changed much since the last time we saw it in 2003. This time we get an "old wine in a new bottle" with the film being more light in tone with small foreshadowing events of the future. I would recommend everyone to not compare it to LOTR as this trilogy is a little different in the way of themes and storytelling. As a standalone film, it is much more enjoyable, epic and at the same time nostalgic to the previous grand trilogy.

My rating-85%

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Review and Analysis of "Insidious (2010)"

                                           "Its not the house that is haunted. Its your son"

                                                                                                                    -Elise Reiner

The horror genre has always depended on scares. We have seen many directors from the classic genre to the modern ones who have all relied on different methods of scare tactics to frighten the audience. From creating a tense atmosphere, scary faces, jump in your seat moments and in rare cases, psychological fear, this genre has always been at risk due to the fact that once an audience gets used to a particular cheap trick by the director, they know what's going to come next and they are prepared for it and hence, they are not scared. Its a big challenge for the film industry, provide out of the box, new thrills which have never been seen before and look fresh to the audience. Although, we have also seen movies using the same old tricks and still scaring the crap out of us. Director James Wan, the creator of the "Saw franchise" brings us a modern horror film which gives us just that and for the most part audience will get what they want in this, if they ignore a few problems in it.
Written by Leigh Whannell, who played Adam in the 2004 thriller "Saw", the plot follows a couple Renai (Rose Byrne) and Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) who move into a  new house with their three children-Foster, Dalton and an infant girl Cali. Things start to shake when their son Dalton accidentally goes into a state of coma whom the doctors cannot identify the source of as the rest of his bodily functions are working properly. After being admitted to the hospital for a period of 3 months with no improvements, the couple realize that the coma may be permanent and Dalton will have to be under a supervised parent care forever in the house. After moving him back in, everything goes berserk-from creepy people roaming in the house, to doors opening and closing by themselves, to occasional mix of monster and human growls on Cali's baby monitor. Later on in the plot it is revealed that Dalton has an ability of "astral projection" and his soul has wandered too far into a realm called "The Further" where is soul has been trapped (hence the reason for the coma) by the undead people and they are all waiting to take over his physical body so that they can enter into the human world. An interesting concept explored in the horror genre if you ask me. The rest of the plot revolves around bringing his trapped soul back to the real world and getting rid of all the spirits who want to latch onto his physical body.

                       "The further is a world far beyond our own,yet it's all around us"

The acting is pretty good, with Rose Bryne playing the terrified mother who always shows a sense of vulnerability and Patrick Wilson playing the vigilant father who has a hard time believing the fact that there are supernatural elements involved here. There are also small comedic reliefs performed by Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson as Specs and Tucker who play the typical geeky and nerdy ghost hunters lead Lin Shaye who plays Elise Rainier who acts as a medium to the audience for the communication of the entire main plot. The pacing of the film was pretty good, most particularly the first half, where Wan tries to slowly build up the suspense and tension through slow moving cameras and scary dialogues. For the hardcore horror fans, there is also a big reference to Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining" which is considered one of the most influential horror films of all time. When I noticed that, I couldn't help but smile. And to be perfectly honest, I found the film to be disturbing, most particularly, the ghosts which were portrayed. While none of the ghosts were given a backstory of how they became one, its the unknown about them that makes them all the more scary. This is again one of the tactics employed by horror movie directors, in which the entity, spirit or the ghost's origins are left a mystery to make them more scary and indestructible. The film succeeds in it and will give the audience a genuine scare. The lighting, the flashes and the split second frames of the ghosts on camera are truly terrifying. One of the creepiest sequences in the whole film is Josh's journey in the further to find his son's soul. I won't spoil it for you but make sure you don't close your eyes during the entire scene. Wan accomplished all of these small details without a flaw and if he wanted to scare people, I guess he finally got it.

                                      "Are these the things that I have been seeing?"

With all that said, what was wrong in it? Wan had the perfect ingredients to make a modern, suspenseful, scary and an effective story. Well, first of all it was the fast pacing of the second half of the film which drags it down. The film takes so much time on character development and advancing the plot that once it realized the audience understood everything it rushed itself to a finish. It felt like a wasted effort on the director's part. You don't take so much time to on a suspenseful level to build something and then just finish it just like that. Also, there were a lot of plot holes involved and I am pretty sure you would have them too once the movie is finished. The finale of the film was pretty shaky and it started to feel more like a CGI fest. I agree that some of the scenes were genuinely creepy in the final act as well but it just felt that had the film been following on the same pace as the first half it would have been much more successful and complete. An example can be derived from Wan's own "Saw" where the first half of the film though slow build up the tension and the second half made us more tense by cleverly rushing though at the same time not letting go of its core roots-the feeling of dread and helplessness. That's what I felt the film could have taken care of, most particularly because of Wan's involvement. I believe "The Conjuring" was much better in terms of pacing and story telling.

                                                 "Oh my God,dad. He's looking."

With all that said, Insidious is still an enjoyable horror film and its definitely going to be a thrill ride for the normal horror movie lovers. However, for veteran fans of this genre, there may be a certain disappointment. Still, if you look past all its flaws even the veteran fans will get a kick out of knowing that Wan placed references to old classics, scared us with cheap tactics which worked well even though we are so used to them and used some good monster and make up design which made the entities demonic and scary. Also, there is a cliffhanger ending which will immediately crave you for the sequel. Am I going to see it? Of course, because I still want to know and hope there is more to this story than what meets the eye.

My rating- 65%


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Review and Analysis of "The Wolf Of Wall Street (2013)"

"There is no nobility in poverty"

                                                                              -Jordan Belfort

One of the best directors ever to hit the silver screen has been Martin Scorsese who has enthralled us with visionary stories related to themes of money, greed, corruption and downfall. He has made a considerable number of films with veterans in the field of acting, most particularly the great Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci and many others. One of his recent collaborations in the decade has been with the actor Leonardo DiCaprio. Its this strange chemistry involved between this director and actor through which they have given us some of the best movies ever by working together. It feels as though both are never complete without each other unless we see them collaborating together. I have been a big time fan of Scorsese and seeing another one of his works again after 2010 was a good comeback. Scorsese gets back to his base roots again with "The Wolf Of Wall Street". Let's find out whether this stock is undervalued or overvalued.
The film follows the true story of Jordan Belfort(Leonardo DiCaprio), who starts his career as a stockbroker in L.F. Rothschild. Due to one of the biggest stock market crashes on a 1987 of Monday, known as "Black Monday", the company shuts down and he is left unemployed. Due to his interest in the stock market, he desperately looks for a job as a broker even though the scope of getting a broker career is down. He hits upon a newspaper article through which he gets to know about a type of business flourishing in the stock market known as a "Boiler Room" in which penny stocks were sold to investors through "pump and dump schemes" by giving them false representations and facts so that fraudulent sales can be committed earning the runners a commission of about 50%. Having been mentored by one of his former senior employees about always getting the money in your pocket instead of his client's he becomes quickly engrossed in the idea and due to his excellent selling skills earned by working in Rothschild starts taking his illegal business to a whole new level by recruiting some of his friends, most notably Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill). He forms his own company by the name of Stratton Oakmont, Inc. through which he starts to sell penny stocks to rich people and starts to earn tremendous amounts through market manipulation. The rest of the story involves around him and Donnie becoming involved in drugs, money and adultery to the point of addiction and insanity and his subsequent incrimination and arrest by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

    "I have been a rich man and I have been  a poor man"

Leonardo DiCaprio is one of the greatest actors of his time and he definitely gave a terrific, yet at the same time, maniacal, funny and insane performance. Its very hard for actors to portray all three of them at the same time. I can guarantee that some of the explicit scenes which he performs as the character of Jordan Belfort in his private life as well as his office will be disturbing to most viewers due to the authenticity involved which reflected his lavish lifestyle. I won't spoil any of them for you because they are that complex. The film was purposely made in a black comedy style so that the scenes and circumstances of the characters could entertain the audience and not to disturb them and Scorsese does a great job at it. Some of the scenes are ridiculously funny and done over the top, most particularly the scenes involving Jonah Hill and DiCaprio having conversations. We get to see the character of Jordan, from a curious hardworking money earner who wants to get a taste of luxury like all of us, transforming into a greedy, selfish, obsessed person who slowly starts to break to the point of insanity due to the amount of drugs in his nervous system. Black comedy does it all, his insanity and addiction are depicted in such a funny manner that you won't be able to stop yourself from moments of convulsions. One of the most memorable sequences is the car crawling scene, you'll have to see it to believe it. Another great performance was given by Jonah Hill as Donnie who is at the same level as Belfort when it comes to over the top moments and conversations. The insanity of Belfort is both motivational and disturbing as we see how his office colleagues worship him and follow him as a cult status leader. In the future, I always wondered whether a new religion could have been established by Stratton Oakmont by Belfort himself where the people may have started to worship him as a God. That's the height of greed and that's the power of power which was done superbly by DiCaprio himself. At one point, I started to compare his performance to Al Pacino in "Scarface" and Jack Nicholson in "The Shining".
                                                                           "I know what you did"

The film also starts to get interesting when the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the FBI start to tap into the investigation against the company lead by Agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler) who also gives a good performance of a dedicated agent trying to bring Belfort down. The scenes with him and Belfort are executed well, most notably, the "friendly conversation" which takes place on the yacht, Naomi. During the end when you see him raid his office arresting everyone you can feel a sense of accomplishment as well as ruffle because you know its the downfall of a maniac whose performance you loved during the whole film. He plays the silent agent, who doesn't appear in the film until halfway yet leaves a memorable impact as a person who speaks less but does everything with a bang.
Now, we come to the one of the biggest controversies involved with this film- explicit scenes of adultery and vulgarity. Within the first few minutes, you'll know that this is not a movie to be viewed with kids. The movie was banned in some countries mostly due to these reasons solely. What I feel that even though Scorsese was trying to show the impact to too much drugs and money on human morality and commendably did a bold job at displaying it, some of the scenes could have been cut down or removed not due to the reason that its not contributing anything to the film, but due to the fact that some of the audience could have been easily disturbed by it (and they were). Its like a bitter medicine, where its necessary to see it to experience the "ugly" side of the american dream but you have to have a strong stomach to digest it after you have seen it. That's where I felt the film should have brought a proper balance. There are many movies which have done that while showing corruption and greed, including Scorsese's own "Goodfellas". That was the only flaw I found with this movie.
                                                                       "You're going to jail"

Overall, I found it to be a great film with big moments of black humor crafted wonderfully as Scorsese does. The pacing and storytelling is excellent and the soundtrack is a reminiscent to the 80's culture. I loved the performance of Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill and hoping to see him and Scorsese get back together on another project soon. If you have even a bleak interest in stock market and want to see one of the oldest frauds which took place on Wall Street during the 80's era after Black Monday, or if you are interested in one of the memorable crimes which took place in the United States of America, go for it.

P.S.- DiCaprio fans will not be disappointed, this is one of his best performances till date.

My rating-80%

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Review and Analysis of "Homefront (2013)"

"When I go home, I am gonna read my daughter a bedtime story. This is how it ends."
                                                                                                                                            - Phil Broker

The trend of action movies have always been a hit. Many of the old action heroes have started to come back as well as new actors have joined in. With hits such as "The Expendables" (1 and 2) and "The Fast and The Furious series" there is no doubt that this genre is still giving audiences what they want to see- people beating each other up, explosions and car racing taking place. One of the most recent actors to inherit a name for himself in this genre is Jason Statham who earlier starred in many caper films directed by Guy Ritchie and is mostly famous for his lead role in the "Transporter Trilogy". His movies generally compromise on the story and character development in place of intense action sequences where we get to see him beating up bad guys and he always performs it with extreme delight. His recent flick, "Homefront" promised to give more than that. Let's see what it offered.
Based on a screenplay by Sylvester Stallone and on a novel by Chuck Logan, the film follows a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent by the name of Phil Broker (Jason Statham) who goes into an undercover operation to stop a biker gang named "The Outcasts" in shutting down their drug distribution operation. When the operation gets bused, the leader of the gang, Danny T (Chuck Zito) tries to escape with his son. However, in the firefight, his son gets shot and killed by the police which forces Broker to quit his job. The reason was never specifically stated except for the fact that maybe he didn't like the fact that a father lost his only son. We cut to 2 years later in the film, where Broker has moved in with his daughter, Maddy Broker (Izabela Vidovic) to the quiet town of Raysville which according to her has everything they would want to have except for a "Wi-Fi".
                                "A beautiful house, horse trails, river in our backyard"

Trouble starts when Maddy beats up a local boy at the school who was bullying her who turns out to be sun of a drug addict Cassie Klum (Kate Bosworth). It so happens that Cassie is the sister of the main antagonist of the movie, Gator Bodine (James Franco) who has a small meth distribution system setup in the town and is planning to expand it to the states.
When Cassie asks Gator to "scare off" Broker and his daughter, Gator starts to look into his background. When he learns the truth about him, he hires his girlfriend Sheryl Marie Mott (Winona Ryder) to act as a middleman to Danny T.'s lawyer so that he can give him Broker in exchange for state wise distribution of his drugs. And that's where the battle for "Home" starts.
The plot is intriguing enough but the film had some flaws. As the movie was filled with a good cast, I was inclined to assume that maybe it was not a regular Statham flick like many were hoping to believe. First, its the main antagonist himself. James Franco is a wonderful actor and seeing his performance in "127 Hours" made me realize his potential to act as a villain. However, his character was seriously underutilized. The name Gator was twice compared to an alligator in the movie: once when we see the tattoo on his right arm and second when during the opening movie credits when we see an alligator swimming in a lake thereby indicating that he will fight for his territory. However, apart from that there was nothing fleshed out about his character. We see that he feels sorry for his sister and angry at himself for giving her the drugs but apart from that we never see the conflict going inside him in which he may question himself as doing the right or a wrong thing. In other genre, he may have made an excellent character where the film makers could have sympathized with him for him being evil and could have explained why he chose to do the things he is doing. Aside from stating only one specific reason for why he wants to hurt Broker (due to his sister) there is no other reason why he does not believe that is it worth to risk an innocent man's life, most particularly, a child's. I was expecting some dramatic moments as the whole movie was revolving around the theme of a hero and a villain both fighting to protect their family for their own particular reasons. I believed the reasons of the villain were never explained clearly in the movie. In the end, he did bad things because he was bad and turned out to be a typical movie villain in a typical Statham movie. He also didn't seem much of a threat and was very easily defeated by Broker in the final action sequence. Ryder's character was also underutilized due to the fact that we know she can act. Frank Grillo, played a hitman named Cyrus who was sent by Danny T. to kill broker and who also failed to deliver good villainous moments even after delivering solid performances in "The Grey" and "Prison Break". The actors had a lot of potential but the script did not allow them to fully explore what they could have given. 
  "I believe your reputation is the most important thing"

Now, we come to the hero. Statham as usual delivers a good performance as the tough father.Here's a father whose daughter you don't want to mess with because that's the last thing you would be doing. We get to hear break knuckles, throw punches, blast shotgun shells and throw heavy stuff at his enemies. Its always a delight in all of his movies to see him warning bad guys about not messing with him and how we root for the bad guys to do just the opposite of it because when they do...we are in for a treat. There is a scene in the movie where Broker threatens Gator in a restaurant which is a great suspense builder. However, the outcome was a disappointment. Nevertheless, apart from the finale the rest of the action scenes were done pretty well and brutal. This one could easily qualify as one of Statham's "Satuday Action Hours".
                               "I want my kid's cat back. Today. Not a hair out of place"

Overall, the film was enjoyable for its action sequences but apart from that it lacked character development and many plotholes. One of the main reasons was the presence of a good cast which made me believe this would not be a standard Statham action flick but a bit more. Also, Sylvester's Stallone's name attached to the screenplay definitely build up the hype due to his previous successful works. There is a lesson to be learnt here, a good cast does not necessarily mean presence of good characters and plot if its a Statham flick. Sit back and enjoy it for what it gives you for your time and money...explosions and action.

My rating-45%


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Review and Analysis of "Gravity (2013)"

“Ryan, you’re gonna have to learn to let go”

                                                                                                 -Lieutenant Matt Kowalski

Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity” is a masterpiece to behold. Its a movie about life’s unknown destinations, the act of self-realization and to move on after accepting the biggest hurdle faced in life: loss.
Based on a screenplay by Alfonso and Jonas Cuaron, the film follows two astronauts, medical engineer Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and a veteran astronaut Lieutenant Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) on a fictitious space shuttle mission to repair the Hubble telescope. Within a few minutes of repairing the telescope they are forced to deal with a cloud of satellite debris heading their way due to a missile strike by the Russians on it. What Matt Kowalski calls a “right of disposal” immediately turns into an impending danger as the initial debris begins to hit other satellites and increases the size of the overall debris travelling towards their trajectory path. Being unable to change their trajectory within time the space shuttle which is named “Explorer gets bombarded by the debris and the astronauts find themselves adrift in the blackness of space. The film follows the aftermath of the incident and how the two astronauts embark on their survivalist journey to go home.

The opening shot of the movie itself defines the sense of silence, isolation and solitude experienced by the characters in space and how it contradicts with the noise and chaos in our home, i.e. Earth. Cuaron clearly paid homage to Stanley Kubrick’s “2001:A Space Odyssey” by the extensive long focus camera shots. Its clearly a delight to hear the characters talking to themselves in a silent and calm environment, most particularly Kowalski’s short stories which gives a feel of how they are extremely comfortable to the environment around them which is clearly beautiful as well as dangerous. The two main characters themselves define the life up there: in one instance Dr. Stone says that she can get used to the “silence” up here and Lieutenant Kowalski says that nothing can “beat the view” of things seen here. There lies a difference between the behavior of both characters regarding things happening around them which is clearly explored once the disaster takes place.
Clooney plays the cocky and totally in charge Kowalski who always has a story, joke or a humorous thing to tell irrespective of the things happening around him. He acts as a sort of supportive figure to Bullock’s character, always trying to keep her calm by initiating regular conversations, trying to be ridiculously composed even after facing lack of fuel in his thrusters and lack of oxygen in Ryan’s suit. Its only through Kowalski that Ryan finds the inner strength of her character and learns to plant her feet on the ground to move on. As for Ryan, its only when Kowalski asks her about her home when we get to know her character who is  a woman who has lost everything in her life, most particularly her 4 year old daughter who was killed in an injury playing a game of Tag. Its a thought on how disastrous things can happen during a normal routine which reflects their situation indirectly. Since that incident, Ryan has lost faith and purpose in life and she has been continuously “driving” on this road without any sense of where her ultimate destination is. The subtle messages which Cuaron gives are very beautiful where the universe can be compared to Ryan’s life and how she is always floating adrift here and there without knowing where she’ll ultimately stop. Ryan has never been able to “let go” of her tragic past and Kowalski acted as a medium, a person which had to be gone from her life through which she will ultimately learn to move on. Its only when Ryan lets go of Kowalski that she gains the strength to accept her past losses.

 Its always stated that you have to accept your past to move on and not to cling to it else you will always be in a state of ruin. In this picture, Ryan clinging to Kowalski is a visual symbolism of her clinging to her past and how she has to let go to get back to her life,i.e., the ISS here. In a nutshell, the whole movie is about Ryan's journey and how by accepting her past she was reborn as a woman and once again came back to mother Earth. One of the images which Cuaron gave for the themes of life and rebirth is-

There is a scene later on where Stone gives up and accepts that she will die when she sees a hallucination of Kowalski which once again rejuvenates her inner strength. Here, the conscience of Stone begins to take place of Kowalski where she calls upon him sub consciously to give her the will to move on. Another memorable sequence in this film is when she gets out of the Soyuz pod to disconnect the parachute cables before the debris comes. Her musical humming while the debris destroys the ISS next to her face is truly terrifying where she knows the situation yet is trying to keep her calm, just the way Kowalski would have done. Its this transformation, rebirth and change from a weak (Ryan) to a strong (Kowalski) person. Also, in the final shot she is reborn back to Earth and emerges from the water all clean and fresh like a new organism where she starts to take “baby steps” to move forward. The scene of a frog swimming in the lake symbolises the concept of her rebirth from a tadpole to a frog.

The camera shots in the movie are marvellous. The long shots, particularly the first 13 minutes of the movie coupled with the regular upside down movement gives us a feel of how it is to float in space slowly. There’s a sense of disorientation felt when Bullock’s character floats adrift at high speed on initial impact by the debris. The shots of the Earth’s reflection swaying to and fro, upside down, left and right makes us feel the “vertigo effect. The film also uses first person shots like the image above to give the audience a feel of how the character is experiencing what is going on up there. Last but not the least, long distance shots of the universe where we can see a tiny glimpse of the astronauts and stars show us how miniscule they are compared to their surroundings.

  Sandra Bullock and George Clooney both give a phenomenal performance as Dr. Ryan Stone and Lieutenant Matt Kowalski and its sometimes hard to believe the difference between the actual character and the actors. Personally, I believe this is Clooney’s best performance since “Up in the Air and I expect to see him in more good future projects. His character even though in the film for only 30 minutes, makes a memorable impact on the audience and it’s a classic example of a film fact that “its not how much time a character spends on screen, but the amount of connection he/she makes with the viewers that count”. Also, Steve Price’s soundtrack fits the danger, gloominess, melancholy, isolation and the infinity of space. The visual effects were stunning and beautiful at the same time. Some of the key scenes where the "Computer Generated Imagery (CGI)"  was truly at its best were the shot of the Earth’s sunrise, the debris particles, the destruction of the ISS and the Explorer, and the pod’s breaking into tiny meteor showers. The film is definitely recommended to be viewed in 3D Blu-ray.
The only issue which I had with the film was that it felt short. With a run time of only 90 minutes, on my initial viewing I felt that they could have expanded more on Stone’s struggle where she could have faced more hurdles on her return journey. Also, I would have loved to see more of Clooney’s character and his random comforting talks. I was actually very glad when he returned but was surprised when it turned out to be a hallucination. However, these are just minor issues and can be clearly overlooked.  Alfonso Cuaron did an excellent job in creating a film which was spectacular and gave some of the facts of everyday life through having us experience a huge disastrous event and also which respected and gave homage to the previous movies of the “Sci-Fi” genre having the same themes like Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”, Ron Howard’s “Apollo 13”, Duncan Jones’s “Moon” and Ridley Scott’s “Alien”.

My rating- 95%

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Behind the scenes

Did you ever experience the temptation of knowing there was more to a movie than what meets the eye? Has it ever happened that once a movie ended you said to yourself something along the lines of “Wow, that was awesome and I would definitely like to see it once again and pick up the little details” or  “Hmm, it was okay. One time watch if you don’t have anything better to do” or “Argghh, what a waste of my time and money, I would never want to see this movie again”. I believe every one of us has said this to ourselves or to someone at some point of their cinema experience.
Welcome to "FlickZea" where I would be writing movie reviews on old classics as well as current ones. It would not be a standard review but a full “break down” on every aspect related to the movie relating to themes, settings, background scores, performances, dialogues etc. Any comments in the way of personal views, suggestions, or any other alternate theory regarding the movie would be greatly appreciated and would definitely add to the fun element. Every genre of movies would be covered.
The aim of this blog is to create a discussion place for every movie goer who sees movies as a work of art, as a normal leisure hour thing or as a way to get away from reality. Irrespective of whatever the reason a person watches them, the blog is meant for a novice, casual as well as the hardcore movie buff.
Well, that’s all there is to know about this blog. As for me, you can call me Ankur and I come from the city of Lucknow which is situated in a diverse landscape known as India. I have been interested in movies from the start and they have been a big part of my life. I live with my mom and dad and have just finished my post-graduation with the hope of earning a career in Finance. In my free time I like to play video games, watch movies and read books. Seeing my first movie when I was 13 and developing a regular habit ever since made a big impact on me. I asked myself thoughts like-
  • What is the director trying to show?
  • Why was this movie better than the previous one? What was lacking in the former?
  • Why this movie looked darker and that one cheerful?
  • What's up with the camera?
  • What is he/she trying to do,think or say?
These usual thoughts intrigued me to explore the world of cinema. Earlier, I was restricted to one or two genres only but as time went on; I explored every category of genres available and now have a much wider field of view of them. So much so, that I wanted to share my thoughts with all of you which prompted me to create “FlickZea” and would love to hear your ideas and opinions as well.
I would also love to do reviews on request and they can be posted on the comments section or on FlickZea’s email id-
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Well that’s it folks...let’s catch up to those reviews.

P.S.- If for some reasons, blogger comments are not working you can mail me the requests.