Saturday, February 14, 2015
Friday, January 30, 2015
Into the Woods brings a new insight into the world of fairytales with new take on the stories itself. This musical film brings a fresh start and connection to the fairytales we know and love from Little Red Riding Hood to Jack and the Beanstalk.
Into the Woods brings together a great ensemble of actors headed by Oscar winner Meryl Streep. As always, Streep delivers a unique take on the witch which gives out curses. And since this is a musical, we get to hear her sing since her Mama Mia film. Emily Blunt also showed her musical prowess in a memorable role as the Baker’s wife. Even though we have heard her sing in Pitch Perfect, Anna Kendrick dazzles as Cinderella as she continually runs away from Prince Charming. Among the cast, the actor to unlikely join in the singing of a musical is Chris Pine. Pine plays the handsome prince who continues to be eluded by Cinderella. Pine sang several songs and managed to deliver a good performance even if his character is quite the opposite of charming.
Into the Woods brings a unique mix of story-telling and music. There is basically more singing than dialogue as compared previous musical films like Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera. Though the songs are not that catchy, they deliver the story. One of my main problems is that sometimes the songs are way too fast in terms of understanding the lyrics. But the actors’ performances help in understanding each scene.
For design, make-up and special effects, Into the Woods delivers. From Streep’s transformation from an old hag to a gorgeous witch, to the giants wreaking havoc throughout the kingdom and to the dark and gloomy woods, the film makes movie magic with a unique combination of CGI, practical special effects and art.
Cinematography also delivers as the film brings in new angles and gorgeous wide shots of the kingdom and of course the woods. At some point, the music is being carried by the camera and it does it so well.
Into the Woods’ story is a new look at the other side of fairytales. When we hear the stories, it only tells the happy side. The film shows the choices the characters faced before finally getting their happily ever after. But in the film, the characters don’t get that. We see Cinderella unhappy with her Prince who only loved the chase. We see Jack and the loss he faced just for getting the gold coins, the hen that lays the golden egg and the harp to better his and his mother’s lives. We see the loss of a baker who tries to be different from his father but ending up the same way. And we get to see Little Red Riding facing the consequences for not following the path her parents have instructed her.
The film’s story transcends more than magical but also into emotional. It reaches out to audiences and brings out that inner child who read these stories. It’s telling a new fairytale filled with characters from other fairytales.
It’s a fun musical filled with fear, love, loss, songs and a lot of funny moments that are memorable. It will invite you to go Into the Woods and I recommend you do. I give it 8 out of 10.
The third installment in the Taken franchise is said to be the last as indicated in the film’s tagline. But, instead of going out with a bang, Taken 3 fizzled out. It was a film no longer trying to live up to the first film.
A lot of things were wrong with Taken 3. The main thing would be that no one was “Taken.” The first film got all the hype and lived up to that hype because of the search and rescue plot of the film. It was good story which was followed by a mediocre sequel. I think it was hard to live up the original and Taken 3 is a solid proof of that.
In Taken 3, Liam Neeson’s Bryan Mills is in the US living in his apartment and having regular visits from his ex-wife and daughter. But things go wrong when he is framed with murder of his wife. In the first film, his daughter was taken. In the second, he and his ex-wife were taken. In the third, no one got taken. Well, no one that can be saved.
The formula for the Taken films is always search and rescue. Taken 2 sort of broke that rule with Mills being taken and rescuing himself and his ex-wife. But for the third, it’s all about revenge, justice and the protection of his daughter, Kim.
The film is predictable even from the start when the Russians killed an executive inside a vault. After that scene you can easily pinpoint who is behind this and why Mills’ wife got killed. From there it’s all about running from the cops, getting to the bad guys and ending flat with a scene in a bench.
Neeson pretty much did well as Mills but the cast surrounding him didn’t fare as well. Maggie Grace who plays Kim pretty much downplays her character from what we saw in Taken 2. Forest Whittaker is not fully used in the film. He is an Oscar winner and yet the most compelling scene which has him in it is in a police briefing. We could have at least Whitaker and Neeson trade some punches but alas, all we got was small talk via a cellphone and a talk in the office.
Action wise, Taken 3 does not live up to the first and second film. The first film showed us that Neeson can do action and deliver great action sequences. In Taken 2, we got a rise in body count with a lot of action. But the third had forgettable sequences and mediocre gun play.
In all, Taken 3 is not worth the trip. It is forgettable, predictable and toned down compared to the previous films. It isn’t even worth calling Taken. As the tagline says, it ends here. Let’s hope that’s true and we won’t get to see Taken 4. I give it 6 out of 10.
Monday, January 19, 2015
American Sniper tells a story of war and emotion. And it tells it very well. One of best films to come out last year, American Sniper delivers the heart-pumping action, the darker side of war and the troubles an American soldier and his family goes through during their deployment.
The film is based on the best-selling autobiography of US Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle. The late Chris Kyle is portrayed by Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper in one of his best performances to date.
First off, the film is great blend of drama and action. Oscar winning director Clint Eastwood has managed to build Kyle’s world in Iraq and in Texas and make us part of it as if we were really there. We get to feel the emotion the characters are going through with the help of the surrounding s and the situations. Eastwood manages to connect those aspects together to help us relate to the character. Special and practical effects were also done well especially the sand storm scene in which the soldiers are in the fight of their lives and a sand storm breaks out and just covers everything.
Camera movement was another great feature presented in the film. When in Iraq, several of the scenes involved house to house raids and viewing into a sniper’s scope. Eastwood delivers great camera movement bringing us into the heart of the action and into the eyes of Kyle.
Bringing the character to life is Bradley Cooper. Cooper is unrecognizable in his role as Chris Kyle. He bulked up and changed his accent a bit. His movement is also different. He really embodied Kyle. Cooper delivers several emotional states that Kyle went through perfectly. From the confident cowboy wannabe, to the SEAL in training, to the troubled yet emotionless Sniper and to the father and husband he was meant to be. Cooper shows the transition of each of these states in a steady flow. One scene that greatly struck me was the roof scene near the film’s end in which after killing the enemy sniper they have been hunting for a long time, Kyle calls his wife and says he is finally ready to come home after four tours. Cooper quickly showed the emotion change after taking the deadly shot. He was waiting for that one shot in order to go back to being the man his family needed.
The film’s supporting cast helped in bringing the story to life. Sienna Miller did an astounding performance as Kyle’s wife Taya. We get to see her progress emotionally from being a single girl to a wife, to mother and then into a worry-free wife. Miller is unrecognizable as well. At first glance, you wouldn't notice she was the girl in G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra. Here she is a normal American girl/wife. Her scenes with Cooper are memorable even if they are talking in bed. She showcased her emotional chops when interacting with Cooper’s closed off Chris whenever he is home. Each scene is like fishing. Miller is hoping to get a human response from Kyle but Kyle just shuns the bait several times.
American Sniper is the story of a man who kept a lot inside but also helped a lot of people. Called the “Legend,” Chris Kyle’s life may not have been perfect and was filled with a lot problems, the film showed us that he got up and chased those problems away. It may have taken a long time but he got there. The film delivers to us a unique look at the life of Chris Kyle, the life of wife left behind as their husband is deployed over there, the life of soldiers in the battlefield looking for signs of heroes and hope and the life of those who come home after the war who then face a new war with themselves and anyone around them.
American Sniper is a must-see film which shows us the thin line between duty and family. I give it 9 out of 10.