Friday, December 24, 2010

Tangled (2010)

This year Walt Disney fruitfully delivers yet another well crafted musical animation ‘Tangled’.

Plot : It all began with a single drop of sunlight falling to the ground & leading to the birth of a mystifying golden flower which had unique abilities to heal the sick & prolong youth when songs were offered to it. An old witch named Gothel witnessed this power & used it to sustain her youth. Years after when one queen of a nearby kingdom falls seriously ill during child birth, the soldiers come across this inexplicable flower & use it for healing their queen, who then gives birth to a beautiful golden haired girl named Rapunzel. However on learning that Rapunzel’s hair still holds the healing abilities of the flower, Gothel kidnaps her & isolates the infant in a tower. Every year the kingdom sends thousand of floating lanterns into the sky wishing for their lost princess to return. Years later when Rapunzel turns eighteen, she insists Gothel to let her go on her birthday to the nearby kingdom & witness the floating lanterns whose reason she is unaware of. Circumstances bring Eugene, a droll thief to the tower who befriends Rapunzel & agrees to accompany her to the royal kingdom. Finally it’s all about the revelation of Rapunzel’s true identity & how she unites with her long lost family.

With superb animation, the characters are well developed. This movie is beautifully choreographed with well tuned songs. Some of the songs were even performed by Mandy Moore herself who also provided the voice over for Rapunzel. Tangled is an entertaining movie with a balanced story, comedy & romance. This three elements have always been the generic theme for all the Disney movies. Look out for Pascal the pet chameleon of Rapunzel & Maximus the royal guard’s lead horse; they were the real show stealers. Tangled has all the ingredients required for a family movie to thrive in the arena. Highly recommended.

My Rating : 8.5/10

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Serenity (2005)

Joss Whedon’s Serenity is not just about special effects; with intricate narrative it’s an engaging science fiction saga. Even though shot with a limited budget, the production design was very impressive.

Plot : In a distant future, mankind has established living colonies at far away star systems. It seems that most of the inner planetary systems were under the control of newly shaped authority called Alliance. The story soon drifts towards a psychic girl named River (Summer Glau) with mysterious powers, who seems to be manipulated by the Alliance to use her as a weapon against those who defy their pledge. After being rescued by her brother Simon (Sean Maher), they take refuge in a mercenary ship Serenity captained by Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Filion), who also happens to be a veteran in a rebellion against the Alliance. Things were going right until River’s mental instability causes the captain to question the safety of his crew, at the same time they are being pursued by an elite assassin who will not stop till he eliminates River, as she carries a treacherous secret which can bring down the alliance power from galactic supremacy.

Apart from the imposing effects, the action infused was top notch, specially the ones displayed by Glau in close quarters combat. The movie ends with an open note making us believe for a possible sequel in the future. Serenity cannot be compared with other science fiction movies like Star Wars etc., still as a stand alone it does great to allure the viewers.

My Rating : 8/10

The Taking Of Pelham 1 2 3 (2009)

Movies involving themes like hijacking needs to be meticulously planned.

Its success depends on the complexity of the sub plots as well as the twists which should be rather difficult to predict. The Taking Of Pelham 123 lacks the beat which is generally anticipated in thrillers.

When four armed men led by a fanatic hijack a New York City subway train, all hell breaks loose. Their demand is simple; ten million dollars needs to be delivered within an hour. Failing the deadline will cause killing of passengers. The mysterious leader behind the hijacking goes with the name Ryder (John Travolta). On the other end, a MTA employee Walter Garber (Denzel Washington) assigned as subway dispatcher is forced to operate as a hostage negotiator when insisted by Ryder. As necessary arrangements are made for delivering the money a chase against time is ensued to save the day from terror.

The plot is simple & predictable. Though started interestingly the later stage fell blunt. Having not seen the original 1974 adaptation it’s somewhat difficult to compare & see which one fared the most. This movie does provide its share of entertainment but its fairly short lived in broad spectrum.

My Rating : 6/10

Alien (1979)

‘In space no one can hear you scream’

This haunting tag was just the beginning of what we know today as epoch of Sci-Fi horror.

Ridley Scott’s Alien is one of the best movies in the entire franchise.
Being the first chapter in the alien saga, it had lots to prove. Three decades have gone by still this movie has never aged. With great production design & riveting story this movie succeeds in taking us to a haunting journey from which there is no escape.

It all began with the intercept of a distress signal from an uncharted planet by a commercial towing spaceship, Nostromo. As the crews descend to investigate further, one of them is attacked by an unknown life form. Once brought back to the ship for examination they soon ascertain it to be a deadly creature which breeds within living hosts. Not understanding the enormity of the situation one after the other gets hunted down. This movie keeps us guessing who could finally getaway from this nightmare alive.

This is the movie which brought Sigourney Weaver to limelight. Scott delivers a believable story with excellent casts. There is a reason why alien succeeds so well in delivering the terror factor. It’s not like the usual horror flicks which are sometimes quite predictable; there are genuine shocking moments which will certainly send chill among the viewers.

In case of the definitive edition, the theatrical version has been remastered with enhanced digital signature. In 2003 a director’s cut was made available; the only difference I found was that couple of minutes being stripped out from its original. It would still be suggested to go for the original theatrical release. Unless seen, it would be difficult to comprehend the reason for considering Alien as cult noir even today.

My Rating : 9/10

Friday, December 17, 2010

Megamind (2010)

Plot : Megamind (Will Ferrell) is a super villain of the fictional Metro City; he likes fighting his arch rival Metro Man (Brad Pitt) who is also the sentinel of the Metro City. Every fight starts with the kidnapping of the beautiful news reporter Roxanne (Tina Fey) & using her as bait to lure Metro Man for the typical fight. One such intension for the show down seems to kill Metro Man. At first, Megamind seems thrilled for finally defeating his archenemy. His happiness however is short lived as he becomes dejected with the truth that without the existence of super hero his life as the supervillain is fruitless. To overcome his solitude he decides to create a superhero so that he could once more take pleasure in the good old days. Things however turn ugly when Megamind’s creation turns to a catastrophe. The story finally folds up to how Megamind deals with the circumstance which would mould him into a new personality he never dreamt of.

Megamind is a simple story of Good Vs Evil. Yet instead of the typical villain, we find a moral fiber that seems to have emotion. With tons of action & nice animation, this movie would appeal to a vast array of viewers. Amid first rate voice over by Will Ferrell, Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill the soundtrack too seems well tuned. Armed with a smart script & ingenious story, Megamind aptly suits to be tagged as an ideal family film.

My Rating : 7/10

Unstoppable (2010)

Tony Scott is not new in making action thrillers; this fact is relatively evident from his earlier notable titles like The Taking of Pelham 123, Top Gun, Man on Fire etc. Unstoppable is however an unique movie because here the contender is not a person but a rogue freight train.

Plot : Will (Chris Pine) a rookie joins as a conductor, charged with the management of a freight train. His assignment for the day was to assist Frank Barnes (Denzel Washington) a veteran engineer. As both these characters get to know more about each other in some other part of Pennsylvania a mishap happens. Due to some erroneous calculation, a freight train led by locomotive 777 sets off to the main track, unmanned with an alarming speed. Since the cargo contained high amount of molten phenol & hazardous material it was required to stop it before it got into a populated area. As various attempts to stop the locomotive fails, it falls to Barnes & Will’s joint endeavor to stop the speeding locomotive with the remote assistance of yardmaster Connie Hopper (Rosario Dawson). So how they team up to stop the train is what this movie all about.

Though inspired from true incident, little bit of dramatization was done for the cinematic effect. This was an action driven story & Scott has been successful in keeping it that way. Just like the locomotive’s startling momentum the narration too brisked in the final stage. This movie would certainly keep most of the audiences at their edge even though we could foresee the possible outcome. With a balanced pace & overall length, Unstoppable succeeds in elevating the heart rate before things are set on to the right track.

My Rating : 8/10

Monday, December 13, 2010

Despicable Me (2010)

Plot : Gru (Steve Carell) is a pushy super villain who always likes to be in the news for his unsurpassed notoriety. Circumstances change when his pride takes a hit on learning that someone has stolen the Pyramid of Giza. For salvaging his lost fame, he comes up with a wild idea of stealing the ‘Moon’. However in this game he has an arch rival named Vector (Jason Segel) who is also in possession of a device which is necessary for his scheme to work. Gru adopts three small girls from an orphanage intending to use them for retrieving the device from Vector’s clasp; unexpectedly the innocence of these girls has a profound effect on him, causing his character to change altogether. So the movie is all about Gru’s transformation as a person.

Universal Pictures & Illumination Entertainment’s Despicable Me is another triumphant addition to its animated productions. After Toy Story 3 this is the second best animated movie screened this year. It would be impudent if I don’t mention about the army of minions who helped Gru with his scheme. Not only where they funny looking but their vague language added more hilarity. Voice over by Steve Carell & Jason Segel were equally matched with Zimmer & Heitor Pereira's effervescent track. The vast array of inventive gadgets used for duel by Gru & Vector were more enticing than being just eye candy. With lot of humorous moments & great animation this movie aptly suits the viewership of the entire family on any given holiday. Now with the Christmas nearing, if you have not seen this movie yet, give this is a try.

My Rating : 8.5/10

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Salt (2010)

Salt is a stylish spy action thriller which should gratify almost every movie enthusiasts. If you thought that Wanted has shown you all the moves of Jolie, then take a closer look at this movie.

Evelyn Salt is a thriving CIA field operative, married to a German arachnologist. Everything appeared perfect when on the day of her wedding anniversary; a Russian renegade named Orlov during cross-examination claims Salt to be a KGB sleeper agent. Her assignment was to kill the visiting Russian president at the time of the funeral ceremonial of the late vice president of the United States. Taken aback by the allegation she runs from the intelligence agency in order to prove her allegiance & to shield the one she loves before the time runs out.

Angelina Jolie nailed the character of Evelyn Salt to perfection. Director Phillip Noyce had taken the right decision for selecting Jolie because no one could have pulled this to such stature.

With a great plot & fast pace this is a kind of movie which we all crave to see once in a while. There are three different versions available for this movie; the theatrical release, unrated director’s cut & the extended unrated cut. Each version provides a substantial change in the story. I found the extended cut far more intriguing than the theatrical release. If you are fascinated with the idea of watching some high octane action crammed thriller, this should definitely suit the purpose.

My Rating : 7.5/10

Skyline (2010)

Special effects alone cannot help in making a movie successful; this is the case for Strause brothersSKYLINE. We have already seen lot of movies based on alien invasion, so it was anticipated to see a bit different approach on this subject.

Plot : Jarrod & Elaine have flown to Los Angeles to attend Jarrod’s best friend Terry’s birthday party. Next day early morning some very bright blue lights starts descending from the sky, whoever looks at them gets completely transfixed & then gets engulfed by an unknown entity. On further investigation Jarrod finds out lot of huge alien crafts hovering over the city & sucking the entire population. Not understanding the complexity of the situation he & his friends try to fight this new nightmare hoping to escape from it.

Even though the movie had an interesting start, many plot holes & less involvement made it weak compared to its peers like Independence Day & other similar type genre. Not much is known about the invasion or the purpose behind it. All that was shown is that not a single soul was spared. Eric Balfour as Jarrod & Scottie Thompson as Elaine were the only two characters who received the utmost screen consideration, rest were just used up as alien fodder. The ending also gave an insinuation for a possible sequel. Some thought on the plot & better perceptive on the character development could have made this experience way much better.

My Rating : 4/10

Friday, December 10, 2010

Leap Year (2010)

There can be various reasons for the romantic comedies to fail at the box office; few of the plausible explanation can be like, lack of chemistry between the two leads or the story itself. From the start Leap Year seemed to be too bland & half way through made it quite predictable, which is usually not a bad thing but here it just did not add up to render satisfaction.

Anna (Amy Adams) happens to be good at helping people in selling their houses; living a fast life in the suburbs of Boston she hopes to marry her long time boyfriend Jeremy (Adam Scott). When finally Jeremy gifts Anna a pair of diamond earrings instead of a ring she gets anxious. Before she can talk over the issue, he gets off to Ireland for attending a doctor’s conference. On discussion with her father she comes to know about an old Irish custom where a man has to accept proposal made by woman made on a leap day of the year. Armed with this information she decides to fly to Dublin, however bad whether causes her to land at Wales. After various hindrances she finally makes it to the shore of town Dingle. On arrival she gets acquainted with an inn keeper named Declan (Matthew Goode) who agrees to taxi her to Dublin on the payment of €500. Though in the start there happens to be lots of friction with Declan, on their way Anna develops second thoughts which questions her intensions on marrying Jeremy.

Instead of developing the relation between Amy & Declan, too much time is spent on throwing tantrums on each other. So when both of them actually hit the cupid’s chord it really doesn’t look convincing. This is not the kind of movie which will make your heart leap out of exhilaration. As a romantic comedy this movie carries way too surreal plot, which will not work with most of the regular viewers.

My Rating : 4.5/10

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Devil (2010)

After series of failure from M. Night Shyamalan, 'Devil' looms in with some hope but with few thrills this too fades without providing much shock value to its fans.

The movie starts with a person’s suicide from a high rising building which brings in detective Bowden for further inquisition. Bowden seems to be recuperating from alcoholism after getting devastated with the death of his family in a hit & run case, few years back. The scene shortly pans to one of the elevator of that same high rise, on move with its five occupants. The elevator unexpectedly breaks down followed by some inexplicable incidents which gradually makes us believe that one of the occupants might be possessed by a devil. While trying to figure out this chain of events, Bowden discovers that there is much bigger mystery surrounding the trapped occupants.

Even though the movie kicks in with a good start, it fails to keep the same tempo throughout. Except for a few buzz the climax was a kind of downer considering the genre this movie got carted out. The weak plot did not add up to the overall efforts of the casts who tried to give this a credible shot. Short length however saved this movie from complete ruin. Though not repulsive still the hardcore fans of this genre will feel discontented. This is believed to be a part of ‘The Night Chronicles’ trilogy, so hope to see something similar in near future.

Although the movie has been directed by John Erick Dowdle, Shyamalan’s presence in the production shoes was implicit from its production design. Give this a try but don’t expect it to be yet another 'The Omen'.

My Rating : 5/10

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Very few movies are there which influences us in a very intense way. Saving Private Ryan is one of its kinds. Steven Spielberg has redefined the genre of war movies; perhaps no one can ever precede his masterpiece. Watching this movie is worth a lifetime experience. The opening scene pertaining to the Normandy’s beach assault on D-Day 1944 is one of the gruesome footage ever put up on the big screen. No war movies have ever been so accurate to show the mayhem in a discrete style.

The story begins with Second World War’s momentous D-Day invasion, then moves beyond the brutal beach assault & introduces us to a squad of American soldiers under the command of Captain John Miller. This squad of eight embarks into a dangerous mission where they must find a paratrooper named Private James Ryan, whose three brothers were killed in combat. Faced with impossible odds, these men question their orders & try to figure out whether it’s really worth to risk the lives of eight for saving one. Eventually these men seek for their own answers & hope to feat over an uncertain future.

Tom Hanks as Captain John Miller immortalized the character of a rational officer caught under extraordinary circumstances. This was one of his best screen performances since Forrest Gump. Each casts were able to stretch out the characters in a very plausible way, undeniably noteworthy.

It really doesn’t matter the legitimacy of the plot; what really matters is how well it stood in the final act. Armed with John Williams’s poignant tune, this movie serves as a memoir for all those lives lost in the tragic war. This is an epic tale which should be cherished by every movie aficionados.

My Rating : 10/10

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Max Manus (2008) : Norwegian

‘Max Manus’ is a biopic, on the real events of the Norwegian resistance fighter Max Guillermo Manus. After homecoming from the winter war against the Soviets, Max finds his country under the siege of the emerging German Third Reich. Initial attempts against the Nazi regime leads him to his arrest, however his escape to Scotland makes him legendary where he gets trained to carry out various sabotage missions to throttle the German war machine.

The movie exploits various sabotage operations orchestrated by Max & the formation of ‘Oslo Group’. Apart from the good old fashioned action, the movie manages to show his relation with his friend Gregers Gram & with Ida Nikoline who later on becomes his future wife.

Aksel Hennie as Max Manus brought great dynamism to the character, though his antagonist Gestapo commander Siegfried Fehmer enacted by German actor Ken Dunken had been less persuasive. Overall this is a fast paced action adventure with an engrossing storyline. Despite the fact that this is an European production, the technical qualities & visual effects are as par with any of today’s Hollywood makings.

My Rating : 7/10 

Ji Jie Hao : Assembly (2007) : Mandarin

Based on true story, Ji Jie Hao a.k.a ASSEMBLY recounts the Chinese Civil War through the eyes of a captain named Gu Zidi of the People’s Liberation Army, 1948.

The story can be divided into two segments; the first half narrates how under Gu’s command an infantry unit of 46 men from the 9th company was annihilated by the National Revolutionary Army, while defending the south bank of river Wen. Gu’s orders were to fight until the retreat assembly call was charged. Being the only survivor, long after the war some thoughts steamed up making him think that during the heat of battle he might have missed the retreat assembly call which led to the death of his entire company.

Troubled by the past he goes in search of truth & honor when he finds that his entire unit have been listed under Missing In Action even worse some as deserters by the government, instead of honoring them for their untimely sacrifice. Second segment shows how Gu returns to the site of the battle, determined to prove the existence of the 46 men who fought along his side till death.

Viewers familiar with ‘Saving Private Ryan’ & ‘Taegukgi’ will see a similar depiction of war with disturbing images of mayhem.

After thought : Intense battle scenes might make feeble spirit puke, slow pacing.

My Rating : 6.5/10

Flammen & Citronen : Flame & Citron (2008) : Danish

Loosely based on true story, this movie highlights the maneuvers carried out by the elements of the Danish Resistance group during World War II.

Bent Hviid alias ‘Flame’ & Jorgen Schmith alias ‘Citron’ were some of the deadly resistance fighters in the Holger Danske group. They systematically used to exterminate the Danish collaborators as well as high ranking Nazi officials. Things were running fine until Flame got the notion of deception among his own group who seemed to jeopardize everything & stop them from getting their hands on their final target, the dreaded Gestapo Chief Karl Heinz Hoffmann. Situation becomes more intricate when Flame falls for a femme fatale whom he believes to be a double agent.

Even though the story takes place in the backdrop of Second World War, most of the action takes place in small towns. Don’t expect to see a full scale Hollywood extravaganza. This does not follow the typical formula of espionage flicks, so expect to have some unpredictable twists which I found quite appealing. I was not familiar with the casts except few, like Christian Berkel (Der Untergang) & Mads Mikkelsen (Clash Of The Titans) still they did an amazing job to bring life to this nostalgic war noir.

Final Thoughts : Impressive, with intriguing plot

My Rating : 8/10