“All is well” – on calculations in “3 Idiots”

February 24, 2014 Leave a comment

3_idiots_poster“3 Idiots” is one of the highest-grossing Bollywood films, following three friends through their stressful education at a prestigious engineering college.  While the film attempts to address ideals such as following your heart, studying out of a passion for knowledge, etc., it fumbles over its too-precise calculations.  The interactions feel scripted, and the whole story falls short of sincerity.  Despite the attempts at back-story, there doesn’t seem to be any complex characters – there is only pure love and pure hate, with no room for doubt or anything that the audience might not be able to follow.  Almost every plot twist was predictable, down to the last big reveal.  For a few scenes, a household described as living in the 1950s is depicted in black and white, a nice cinematic touch.  There’s some cute moments, and the movie does a reasonable job of depicting parent-child relationships, but overall, the movie was idealistic even in its conflicts.

2/5.

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2012: A Preview

December 30, 2012 Leave a comment

A year of post-apocalyptic worlds and superheros:

Ender’s Game

Thor: The Dark World

The Wolverine

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Elysium

Oblivion

Warm Bodies

Star Trek: Into Darkness

Superman: Man of Steel

The Great Gatsby

 

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Closing the loop: on unexpected story in “Looper”

December 30, 2012 1 comment

looper-posterI went in knowing very little about the movie, besides that it involved time travel and I wasn’t particularly interested in seeing it.  When the movie finished, I sat in my seat for a little bit, thinking.  The film caught me completely off guard, perhaps because I had such low expectations for it, but perhaps because it was uniquely designed, told an unexpected story, and brought more to the table than its trailers promised it would.

The film is creative in many ways, especially in the way that it uses time travel as a tool, not as a purpose; time travel is set up an interesting way through which we can explore certain ideas.  We could go on and on debating the incorrect details of how the did or did not handle time travel, but that’s simply displaced, even by the characters themselves.  In the words of Old Joe, Bruce Willis, “this time travel crap just fries your brain like an egg,” who goes on to dismiss all.

There’s a terribly gruesome scene, during which we don’t actually see anything.  Somehow, that lack makes the scene all the more worse – imagination has always been the most powerful storyteller.

There’s a wry sense of humor pervading the film.  Small moments, like the name of the waitress with fewer letters.  Good interplay between past/present Joe.  Nice camera decisions, poignant imagery.

Emily Blunt did an excellent job here, coming off as both tough and struggling, a great improvement from her performance in “The Adjustment Bureau.”  Joseph Gordon-Levitt was fine too, although he looked a little strange, trying so hard to be a young Bruce Willis.

4/5 Waffles

Do you hear the people sing? – A rapid review of “Les Miserables”

December 29, 2012 Leave a comment

amanda-seyfried-new-les-miserables-poster-01I’m sorry to say that, despite experiencing chills during the opening scenes of “Les Miserables,” I fell asleep during several scenes near the end.  The live show was amazing when I saw it back in undergrad, and I felt that the quality of the singing was lower here, especially with Javert, despite Russell Crowe’s piercing glare.  Everyone has been praising Anne Hathaway’s performance, but I felt it was a little empty, a little simple.

I expected the movie to flaunt its medium more – with film, one is able to get both closer and farther from the singers, as well as realistic scenery and setting.  The opening scene was a good example of this – the ship was huge, and the shot started unexpectedly from underwater.  However, too much of the film was the same: close-ups of the actors, blurring in and out of focus, singing.  While this might be more intimate than watching someone sing on a stage, the truth is that a lot of people don’t really look that good or interesting while they’re singing, and having a face so up in your face actually detracts from the musical performance.

Despite my misgivings, the movie got a round of applause at the end.  Also, why was this a Christmas movie?  It’s a bit of a downer.

3/5 Waffles

And though we are not now that strength which in old days / Moved earth and heaven – a rapid review of Skyfall

December 24, 2012 Leave a comment

16x6_AW_22958-Skyfall-1_650

 

  • Great use of mirrors and reflective surfaces:
  1. James looking up after a night of drinking, seeing his reflection and the news behind him.
  2. Battle with Patrice in a glass skyscraper.
  3. Final holdout at Skyfall, firing at a mirror rather than the true target.
  • Great visuals overall – contrasting night and day, great initial shot introducing Silva, an ant approaching from the center of the screen, telling a disturbing tale while growing larger.
  • Excellent performance by Javier Barden, with again, offputting hair, though still not as terrible as in “No Country for Old Men.”  Just disturbing enough to be convincing, like Heath Ledger’s Joker. For a while, I thought for sure that Ralph Fiennes would be playing the villain, but apparently, Voldemort’s got a side for government.
  • Weak Bond Girls.  Made me miss Camille from Quantum of Solace, though Skyfall was the better film.
  • Nice threads of young vs old, classic vs modern:
  1. The traditional world of espionage is dead, it’s all about technology nowadays
  2. Q and James (who for the first time is really showing effort and struggling)
  3. A previously majestic ship being lugged away for scrap metal
  • Loved the final setting.  Skyfall was haunting yet mesmerizing.  Adele’s song was great too.
  • Cute hints to previous films, as always.  Exploding pen, for her eyes only, Moneypenny, etc.
  • Daniel Craig fitting the Bond persona, adding dimension.
  • 4.5/5 Waffles

I do believe the worst is behind us: a rapid review of “An Unexpected Journey”

December 24, 2012 1 comment
  • Dthe-hobbit-an-unexpected-journeyespite its low score on Rotten Tomatoes, I still went to go see “The Hobbit” in IMAX 3D and thoroughly enjoyed it.
  • Throughout the film, I kept thinking, “this is amazing, please don’t let this be the final battle!” – and then the film went on.  It appears this is a major critique of the film, which stretches one book into three movies, but I loved the feeling of being swept up in a story and am greatly looking forward to the next two movies.
  • I disliked the exact reuse of motifs from the trilogy – this is a different story, and having so many clear connections to the trilogy made the film feel more like a tag-on, rather than a piece in and of itself.  It also took away from the epic nature of the trilogy – we’ve already seen Gandalf stand and take up the room, whisper to a moth to summon eagles, etc.  Even if this is the same world, I don’t want it to drag down the other LOTR films.  I feel like a prequel can have notes from its predecessor, like “Prometheus,” but it should still tell its own story.
  • In general, “The Hobbit” just felt smaller and less polished, though still a fun ride.  Things don’t particularly make much sense – why Bilbo?  Because he gives Gandalf courage?  I’m sure we can do better than that.
  • Gollum is every bit as unnerving as he always was.  Bravo to the motion capture team.
  • Hopefully, this was the lightest part of the three, and the worst is behind us; I’m hoping the next two films really step it up!
  • 4/5 Waffles, regardless of its flaws.

“Which story do you prefer?” – A Rapid Review of “Life of Pi”

December 24, 2012 Leave a comment
  • Life_of_Pi_11I read this a long time ago, in high school, and loved the ending, which caught me off guard.  I wasn’t particularly keen on seeing the film, for fear of ruining my fond memories of the book.
  • While sometimes more beautiful, as expected from Ang Lee, (the moment when we see the ship sinking from underwater, the storm, the jellyfish, whale, meerkats galore, and awesome animations that brought Richard Parker to life), “Life of Pi” lost that subjective experience of reading a book in its translation to a movie.  It became less ambiguous, less meaningful.  
  • Reading about Pi’s experiences made the more magical parts of the book seem closer, whereas watching them created a distance – for example, the carnivorous island.
  • The modern day conversation that bookended the story felt heavy-handed, unrealistic, forced, as did Pi’s earlier explorations of religion.
  • The animals felt lifelike and real.  Wonderful animation technology.
  • 3/5 Waffles
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