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Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Hunger Games (2012)

Director: Gary Ross
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Stanley Tucci

Plot: In a dystopian future, a boy and a girl from each 12 subjugated districts must compete in an annual tournament and only one victorious may walk out alive.

The Hunger Games (2012)When I first heard of ‘The Hunger Games’ the obvious question popped up in my mind—is it a ‘Battle Royale’ rip-off? I haven’t read any of the books but seen both the movies and can say there are similarities. However, underlying theme and treatment of both is quite different. To begin with, Hunger Games is PG unlike Battle Royale.

Battle Royale is a sheer slasher and it captures the gory details of violence and fear that violence instills—especially in someone as young as fifteen—far better than Hunger Games, whereas, Hunger Games is superior when it comes to character development, screenplay, and especially grandeur.

As compared to an in-your-face BR, HG is a more thorough and complete movie that grows on you. The idea of using flashback scenes—loaf of bread, coal mine blast—in HR proves to be a winner and gives the viewer (even without reading the book) enough insights into actual story development.

Now, this doesn’t mean HG is better than BR or vice-versa. BR was perfect as it was and requires no one to even bother about the novel, but HG does need a backstory. In fact, in terms of direction and overall acting BR is slightly ahead of HG. Even after so many years the expressions, shrieks and trauma of fifteen year olds from BR are still vivid with me.

Seeing Jennifer Lawrence first in ‘Winter’s Bone’, I did predict an Oscar nomination for her. And since Winter’s Bone her stature in films has been growing all the time. Here again, she delivers a power-packed performance.  

Found some interesting BR vs. HG discussions here:

A good watch.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Winter in Wartime (2008, Dutch - Oorlogswinter)

Director: Martin Koolhoven

Winter in Wartime-Dutch - Oorlogswinter
Set toward the fag end of WWII, this film is a visual treat with its breathtaking scenery and snow clad Dutch landscapes.

Holland is still under Nazi control and there are secretly active resistance networks all across the country. Dutch youngsters, obviously, hate the Germans and create trouble for them at every opportune moment. Film revolves around one such Dutch boy, Michiel (Martijn Lakemeier).

Some scenes, like the one where a German soldier rescues a drowning Dutch boy while the natives just stand-by and watch, are simply top notch. Highlight of this particular scene is the befuddled expression on the face of young boy who always believed all the Germans to be devils.  

No spoilers ahead just mentioning a sort of twist. Apart from the last half an hour of the movie--where an unnecessary twist ruins it a little--I would say it could very well have been a classic. The entire movie dealt with a higher cause and was striding toward greatness, and all of a sudden there is this bolt from the blue and films concludes in a clich├ęd manner, with focus on ‘just a man.’

Overall it seemed like a highly evolved and creative piece of film-making, other than the ending, that seemed rather immature/underdeveloped.

Decent screenplay, good acting--especially Michiel's. Climax somewhat ruing what it could have been.


Justice League: Doom (2012)

Genre: Animation

Justice League - Doom (2012)
Based on ‘Tower of Babel’ arc, this is one movie many DC fans were/are eagerly awaiting.

DC has been making some very good animated films off-late and a good script for big-screen adaptation has been one reason of their success in the genre. Doom, however, seems a little compress-scripted with too many characters and too little time. In the end, you are left with a want for more--especially if you are a DC nerd.

The film also deviates from the original comicbook. Some notable changes are:
  •          Vandal Savage is the main villain instead of Ra’s al Ghul
  •          No Aquaman or Plastic Man
  •          Hal Jordan is the Green Lantern instead of Kyle Rayner
  •          Superman is rendered powerless with a green kryptonite in place of red and he doesn’t become transparent
Even with all these modifications, film is a decent watch but should have been more detailed and definitely lengthier.


War Horse (2011)

Director: Steven Spielberg

War Horse (2011)
Not enjoying a Spielberg movie is a tough ask and this one is no exception. 

Visually grand and entertainment-wise sating, it does (somewhat) misses out on sentiments a little. Not that it isn’t 'emotional enough' but when your plot focuses on animals—dog, horse, dolphin, etc.—you expect the film to leave you either overjoyed or heart wrenched. It does both, albeit, only to a certain extent. 

Come to think of it, some animal-films that managed to wow the audience sans the Spielberg-esque budget are ‘Spirit of the Stallion’, ‘Red Dog’, ‘Hachiko’, ‘Free Willy’ etc.  

Spielberg also introduces Celine Buckens as young Emilie. We may be seeing more of her in future—reminds you of other young actors in Spielberg’s movies like Haley Joel Osment or Dakota Fanning.

A good 3d movie too and indeed worth a theater watch—in fact most of the film industry stalwarts are doing a fine job with 3d now. I only await the release of ‘The Hobbit’ which is supposed to take the movie watching experience to level-next.  

Warhorse is a good mix of comedy, sentiments, action—a sure-shot commercial success formula.

Joey the horse is obviously best part of the movie.


John Carter (2012)

Director: Andrew Stanton
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure
Cast: Taylor Kitsch, Willam Dafoe, Mark Strong

Plot: John Carter is "telegraphed" from Earth to Mars.

John Carter 2012
With so many larger-than-life movies slated for release in coming months, John Carter commences 2012 in a grand style! It is worth all your money and is entertaining enough.

Stanton, the storyteller, has ensured John Carter (the character) will stay with us for long and we will want more of him soon.

The special effects are state of the art. Alien landscapes filmed at Big Water, Utah are brilliantly captured--take you to the heady days of original 'Planet of the Apes'.

Film also moves at a good pace, at the same time there is a definite feel of stability in the script. It is a larger-than-life, action-adventure epic that not necessarily needs to make room for display of emotions, yet these have been subtly interwoven amongst all the chaos. 

There is nothing new in the movie itself, however, it does give you the feel of "Star Wars" and some fight sequences (especially the chase outside Goddess's abode) and their settings also remind you of old west scenes from "Back to the Future".

I haven't read much work of Edgar Rice Burroughs but was aware of the character John Carter as it has appeared a few times in both Marvel and DC. If you are not familiar with the Burroughs' writings then initially it could be little troubling to decipher what is going on much of the time but that is also something which keeps you glued-on and by the time movie ends everything is crystal clear.

There are a few things I feel should have been included and some scenes should have been cut short as it is a 2 hours+ movie:
  • Display of excessive emotions by Princess of Mars 'Dejah' was unnecessary and seemed bogus, instead, some overall character development would have fared better for the movie. 
  • 3D was decent but again unnecessary, would have done equally well--or probably better--in 2D.
  • Action sequences (apart from Carter's legendary high jump) are good but nothing outstanding. 
  • Stanton looked more focused in creating a fantastic world with state of the art sets and lags behind a bit in direction part. 
  • You expect much and more from the storyteller who gave us the likes of Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Wall-E. Clearly, directing a live action for the first time has slightly affected Stanton's actual strength.
At last, no spoilers ahead, what an ending! Perfect climax makes up for anything that was lacking and makes you crave for a sequel.


P.S., you'll fall in love with Wulla (Calot): a 'frog-dog'-like creature!
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