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Happy People: A Year in the Taiga (2010)

Director: Werner Herzog and Dmitry Vasyukov Genre: Documentary With "Happy People: A Year in the Taiga" Werner Herzog ...

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (2013)

Director: Jay Oliva
Story: Geoff Johns

Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (2013)
Plot: Flash, rather a powerless Barry Allen, wakes up in a dystopian world nearing apocalypsedue to the warring Atlanteans and Amazonians wrecking havoc everywhere. Most all superheroes have been affected in this altered reality. Batman exists but he is not Bruce Wayne, Superman almost doesn’t exist, Aquaman and Wonder Woman have their horns locked, though Hal Jordan is unaltered—he is cocky as ever but sans the ring.

Barry Allen must regain his lost power, figure out who the culprit is, and correct the fault in timeline.

A good onscreen adaptation of DC’s Flashpoint (by super-writer Geoff Johns), some comic-nerds might argue it’s too short at 80 odd minutes, but the length seemed alright to me, especially considering the comparatively mammoth content of the original 5-issue series. Anyways, it’s high-time DC starts catching up with Marvel in the live action field too. Otherwise, I too would have loved seeing some more time given to character development and exploring the emotional connect.   

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Pacific Rim (2013)

Director: Guillermo Del Toro
Cast: Idris Elba, Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi

The real summer blockbuster of 2013, and when it comes to the “big and monstrous” Pacific Rim dwarfs anything ever produced by the likes of “The Avengers” or any other big-budget extravaganza.

Pacific Rim

Film uses a very basic plot—heroes defending the planet against invading aliens coming through an undersea portal between our world and another dimension. Del Toro reintroduces Kaiju—monolithic monsters (such as Godzilla) wrecking havoc on the planet, and mankind’s only defense against them, Jaeger—kind of ostentatiously large version of Iron Man armor controlled neutrally by a human pilot, the evolved versions use two pilots sharing the neural load by psychically bridging their minds through a technique called “drifting”.

Loaded with some ultra-cool weaponry (like Plasma gun, Rocket Elbow, Missile Launcher, Hammer) Jaeger’s best was indeed the good, old Sword--only a tad bigger! The two scenes with swordplay—one mid-air, one underwater—simply blow you away, would have loved seeing more of it—hopefully in the upcoming sequel!
A lot of films tried capturing the ‘grandiose’ of comics or graphic novels—especially the colossal alien villains—but it is Del Toro who has hit the mark closest, yet. Jaeger’s designs, including its gait, movement and fights were perfect in all its grandeur. Kaiju could use little more refinement/clarity when it comes to dark and shady underwater scenes.      

In all, Pacific Rim has raised the bar very high when it comes to spectacularly grand designs and visual effects—Del Toro accomplished his vision onscreen by collaborating with some proven artists of the field.

His coterie included: robot and monster designers Wayne Barlowe, Oscar Chichoni, David Meng and Simon
Lee, and Francisco Ruiz Velasco, famed for Hellboy II and The Hobbit. Special effects were handled by John Knoll and Hal T. Hickel ( Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbean), Shane Mahan (Iron Man), John Rosengrant (Real Steel) and Clay Pinney (Independence Day, Star Trek). No wonders the awesomeness that transpired on onscreen was a visual treat like never before.

Even though a second fiddle, the star cast delivers as it was expected to. Idris Elba was impressive as a hard-boiled leader, Charlie Day and Ron Perlman provide the much needed gags at the right moments and Charlie Hunnam looked good too (perhaps his meatiest role since Green Street Hooligans).      
Calls for a definite theater watch!


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Encounters at the End of the World (2007)

Director: Werner Herzog 
Cinematographer: Peter Zeitlinger

Encounters at the End of the World (2007)
Dedicated to late Roger Ebert, Encounters at the End of the World is another avant-garde documentary piece by Hergoz. Along with his cameraman (Zeitlinger), this time he ventures to south-most point of the planet—South Pole, Antarctica.

Ebert is clearly all enamored by the film, praising it highly: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/encounters-at-the-end-of-the-world-2008, and rightly so. 

Hergoz's largely extempore interviews with scientist and travelers in various Antarctican base camps form the base material of the film. He eventually uses these casual interactions to explicate an underlying script for the film.

The footage beautifully captures the exotic Antarctica—loony penguins running wild, astounding seal-calls, luminescent jelly fish, under-surface tunnel leading right below the South Pole—leaving you simply bewitched. Mesmerizing underwater footage gives you a feel of the nether regions. Personally, I would have preferred the dead-silence of the sea bottom. However, realizing that the silent period would be little too long, Hergoz substituted it with cathedral-like music.

Making this film seem so natural was no mean feat, and wouldn’t have been possible for any other, even capable, director. Due to his reputation, Hergoz was allowed exclusive access to some publicly inaccessible areas and personnel. An excerpt from film's Wikipedia page:

The film was shot in Antarctica as part of the National Science Foundation's Antarctic Artists and Writers Program. The entire film crew consisted of Herzog, who recorded all production sound, and cinematographer Peter Zeitlinger. The two went to Antarctica without any opportunity to plan filming locations or interview subjects, and had only seven weeks to conceive and shoot their footage. Herzog often met his interview subjects only minutes before he began shooting them.

Filming in Antarctica is usually overseen by the National Science Foundation's media office, which approves and supervises all film productions. Because of Herzog's grant from the Artists and Writers Program, he was allowed to film with no minders or oversight from the NSF. This allowed them to film the "seal-bagging" footage, which is not typically deemed suitable for public release.

Of course, you can read more in the wiki-page itself: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Encounters_at_the_End_of_the_World

Peter Zeitlinger's astonishing behind-the-lens work deserves a special mention here. As always, he measures up to the vision and eccentricities of Herzog every time—exploring ice caves forged by fumaroles (volcanic steam and gas) on the slope of an active volcano is the best example of it.

Through this film, Hergoz is basically asking a question about Earth and mankind's distant future. 

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