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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Gunman Movie Review


The Gunman is an action film that falls short on all aspect including the action. Sean Penn’s first rodeo into action films delivers boredom rather than action.
Just as info, this is Sean Penn’s first ever action film. And you can see how he really prepared physically for it. Several scenes in the film will get you to stare at Penn’s ripped body and biceps. But those can only do so much to help this movie rise.
Initially, the film looks great with a lot of heavy hitting actors like Oscar winner Javier Bardem, Idris Elba, Ray Winstone and the gorgeous Jasmine Trinca. They even got the director of the first Taken film, Pierre Morel to helm the film. But alas, it didn’t turn out what they and we had hoped for.
The film features a lot of interesting characters. But these characters were not fully developed. Sean Penn plays Jim Terrier, a sniper working for a private security firm who ups and leaves Congo after killing the Minister of Mining. From that point, we no longer get a deeper look at his background. All we know is that he has sniper training and had too many concussions to cause several headaches and blackouts. He lacks mystery.
Unlike Liam Neeson’s Bryan Mills in Taken, he clearly states that he has a “special set of skills,” which got us hooked from the moment he said those words. The mystery is there like who did he worked for, what skills is he talking about but for Penn’s Terrier, all we know is he’s ex-military who is a good marksman. They didn’t even bother to show us his military background.
The same goes for all the supporting characters. We get no mystery and they are underdeveloped. A lot could have worked if character development was greatly focused on.
The Gunman also suffers from poor pacing. After the first 20 minutes, the film starts to drag. You expect a film like this to start out flat and continually rise but it doesn’t. We are first immersed on the conflict in the Congo which the main plot of the film revolves around. Then we get assassination, 8 years later we go back to the Congo where there is another assassination attempt and then we hop around the world from London to Spain then going back to the Congo to end the film. The locations are great but what happens while we are in those countries is just boring. The flow of the story and the plot slows down after an action event. It’s as if the story relaxes a bit after some heavy gun fights and punches but never really gets back on its feet.
Now given this is an action film, the action should be great or memorable. But it too falls flat. I’m not saying that films like these should get over the top action sequences but they should at least deliver action scenes which will get you hooked and force yourself to not blink because you might miss something. For me the best action sequence is at the end where Terrier fights an agent with a knife and his fists. But the rest are plainly generic. Nothing promises excitement in the gun fights. The film is called The Gunman but we won’t see Penn doing anything memorable with a gun.
The Gunman was an attempt to mimic the success of Taken. Taken’s plot revolved around human trafficking but what added intrigue to it is Liam Neeson’s character. Now in The Gunman, we got assassinations and mining natural resources but the character of Penn didn’t resonate enough to bring the plot to life. All we get is a slow moving story telling with a somewhat predictable story given that we got a limited number of characters left alive.
 The Gunman could have been a start if a franchise but due to predictable story and under developed characters, we won’t probably see Jim Terrier fight more bad guys. He will live the quite life working for an NGO in the Congo. Well, at least he gets the girl in the end.
I give it 5 out of 10.


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Monday, March 16, 2015

Cinderella Movie Review


Cinderella brings back all the magic and timeless characters which we know from the story and the 1950s animated film. This time around, we get the live action adaptation and it truly delivers.
The film is considered a retelling but appears to be a direct adaptation of the beloved fairytale. The film flows like a fairytale story being read by a mother to her child. The pacing is just right with enough humor and a perfect balance of romance and magic.
We all know the story of Cinderella. But this film brings more to the story with the help of the cast. Lily James who plays Cinderella made the role her own. She gradually changes her performances with each chapter of the story. And it is great to look at on screen. She brings truth to the character while setting herself differently from the animated version of Cinderella. Her screen presence is just as enchanting as the character she portrays. She has great on-screen chemistry with Prince Charming played by Game of Thrones’ Richard Madden as well as Oscar winner Cate Blanchett who plays the wicked step mother.
Talking about Blanchett, she does the role justice. She is creepy and we can clearly see the wickedness her character brings out. When she walks on screen, she owns it. Her presence is strong and sometimes she overshadows James’ performance whenever they share the screen together.
The film also has a lot of supporting cast like Helena Bonham Carter who plays Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother. Despite only appearing for a short time on screen, her appearance is memorable and fun. She brought her own take on the famed character and it was a perfect fit to the magical world.
Director Kenneth Branagh (Thor) made this film as close and as far from the original animated film. He once said that it was hard not to think of the memorable Disney scenes from the animated film while making this one. So Branagh was able to make an original adaptation while giving homage to the 1950s classic. There are several scenes which will tickle childhood memories, one being the magical change of Cinderella’s ball gown.
What makes this film slightly different from the animated one is the increase in emotions. This film is emotionally moved. The actors greatly and easily convey the light and dark emotions their characters feel. The audiences will feel the pain Cinderella feels when her mother and father died or when she is being mistreated by her stepmother and stepsisters. You will feel her happiness and excitement when she goes to the ball and dances with the prince.
The CGI and practical effects are also top notched. They brought together the magic of the classic animated film and enhanced it with today’s technology. The pumpkin changing into a carriage, the gorgeous transformation of Cinderella’s ball gown and even the kingdom itself was well made and detailed in its execution.
Cinematography was a highlight for this film as we got to see several great shots of the kingdom, the ball, the countryside and even the attic where Cinderella lived. Artistic design was detailed and on the spot making us reminisce the art in the animated film.
Cinderella is one magical film which will bring smiles and tears to people young and old. This was made for the new generation but will be appreciated by the older ones. It’s emotional, funny, enchanting and just engaging which will get you hooked from the first time we see Ella as a child to the time she becomes Cinderella and becomes the queen.
I give it 7 out of 10.


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Friday, January 30, 2015

Into the Woods Movie Review


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.


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Taken 3 Movie Review



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. 


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Monday, January 19, 2015

American Sniper Movie Review


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. 

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Jane Got A Gun Photos


Oscar winner Natalie Portman loses Thor and her tutu for some cowboy hat and boots for Jane Got A Gun.

The film has been in production hell for quite some time with original director Lynne Ramsay (We Need to Talk About Kevin) leaving on the film’s first day of shooting and then replaced by Gavin O’Connor (Warrior).

The film also stars Joel Edgerton (Exodus: Gods and Kings) and Ewan McGregor. Check out more of the promo photos courtesy of UnanimousEntertainment after the cut.

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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Lazarus Effect



Hottie Olivia Wilde will reanimated in the upcoming film by David Gelb (Jiro Dreams of Sushi) titled The lazarus Effect.

Here is a synopsis of the film: "When a team of research students mapping the human brain accidentally kills one of their own, they unwittingly unlock a deadly force by reanimating their colleague. Fighting for their own lives, the team must contain their colleague in the lab before she is unleashed on the world."

joining Wilde are Evan Peters, Mark Duplass, and Donald Glover. It is set for release on February 27, 2015.

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