21
Jul 12

‘The Dark Knight Rises’ spolier-free review: An epic and befitting conclusion

Here I am, back from watching ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ on the big screen — and I haven’t even changed my clothes. There’s so much I want to say that I switched on my laptop the minute I got home. But the thoughts that kept ringing in my head were also things that would be considered spoilers for many. So I’m going to try and write this review without mentioning any key moments from the movie. Apologies if it doesn’t read like a typical ‘review’ — but I welcome your appreciation for not ruining the suspense for you.

The Dark Knight Rises

Christopher Nolan’s final Batman film (unless he pulls a Michael Bay or Hideo Kojima*)

Everyone knew this was going to be an epic movie, and boy, does it begin that way. The very first scene is the mid-air plane sequence shown in the trailers. It’s there we’re introduced to criminal mastermind Bane. And right from the start, we come to know just how sinister and evil Bane can be. Continue reading “‘The Dark Knight Rises’ spolier-free review: An epic and befitting conclusion” »


02
Jul 11

‘Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon’ film review: Jaw-dropping… and then some

Considering I hated the second film, I had high hopes from the more darker tone the trailers gave for ‘Dark of the Moon’. Did Michael Bay succeed in redeeming himself after the silly ‘Revenge of the Fallen’? Yes… but not in every regard.

Transformers Dark of the Moon review Autobots Decepticons logo

This review will remain mostly spoiler-free

The film kicks off with the Autobots (the good guys, for those who aren’t well-versed with the Transformers franchise) who now help the US Government in international ‘human’ missions. Which in a Michael Bay movie means fighting Arab and Eastern European bad guys. I’ll let it slide.

Shia LeBeouf’s character has graduated from college and moved to the city in search of a job. He also manages to score a new super sexy girlfriend (played by Rosie Huntington-Whiteley), who I’ll talk about later.

Using an alternate take on the US moon missions, the story unfolds about how the ‘machines’ were a lot closer to earth than previously thought. But watching first half of the movie, I couldn’t help but get annoyed by the attempt at humour. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen sucked because of all the silliness, the stereotypical racial characters, etc. and I thought after the negative feedback, Michael Bay would have done away with it.

Not entirely. Just about every attempt at humour in ‘Dark of the Moon’ involves screaming. John Turturro and his new assistant add to the comic relief, but resort to acting psychotic and yes, shouting. It’s all a bit exaggerated and out of place when the action kicks in.

As for silly characters, while ‘Revenge of the Fallen’ had jive-talking robots, ‘Dark of the Moon’ has a bunch of blue-collar Brits. Autobots with accents… again, I’ll let it slide.

Of course, let’s just get to the main attraction — the CGI and the action. And my goodness, does ‘Dark of the Moon’ deliver on those two counts!

Michael Bay, his team of visual experts and the special effects geniuses at ILM truly outdid themselves with this film. The action is incredible! The best you’ll probably see in any film this season — and probably this year.

Even with the first film, I was amazed at the sheer amount of detail that goes into the transformation process of the robots. The details just kept getting better with each film and watching some scenes in ‘Dark of the Moon,’ I couldn’t help but be amazed at how much work went into generating every speck of dirt, shatter of glass and pieces of metal — all in CGI! I’m a bit of a geek, so yes, I notice these things.

Decepticon crushing building in Transformers 3 Dark of the Moon

I sat forward and nodded my head in disbelief (with a smile on my face) when this scene took place

I’m sure ILM re-used assets from the first two films, but I applaud the artists for their superior work in this film. There’s still a lot of ‘new’ to see in Transformers 3.

Now for the 3D part. Should you watch it in 3D or is it just a waste of money? After all, director Michael Bay himself pleaded with fans to go watch it in 3D, that too after dissing 3D a few years back.

Trust me, watch it in 3D!

It is the best 3D experience I’ve had! Transformers: Dark of the Moon proves that if you shoot a film from the ground up in 3D, with action scenes keeping in mind the 3D experience to be had, the 3D medium can be a lot of fun!

Shia LaBeouf bumblebee 3d action car chase scene

This scene had the entire audience going wild!

I usually don’t care much for the 3D version of the countless movies releasing these days because most feel like a lame excuse to charge higher ticket prices. After Avatar‘s financial success (it clearly wasn’t a good movie), Hollywood has been churning 3D movies just to cash in. Most offer nothing but the usual depth-of-field experience with the expected pop-out sequences.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon offers a whole lot for a 3D experience and justifies the higher price of admission for once.

Now your 3D experience is only going to be as good as the theatre you see it from. And for those in Bangalore, I highly recommend you watch Transformers 3 at the newly-upgraded Urvashi theatre on JC Road. It is the best 3D visual experience I’ve had! Well worth the Rs. 250 we paid for the late night show on Friday.

Transformers 3 Dark of the Moon wingsuit jumpers

The wingsuit jumpers was an awesome 3D sequence

I never went to Urvashi before because, well, I assumed it was for the ‘local’ crowd and the experience would match that. The theater is still undergoing many upgrades, from its exterior to its interior. But they have already upgraded their projector (4k resolution) and the sound system was the best! The only thing missing was that it wasn’t on IMAX, and I do hope Urvashi upgrades to a much larger screen. Because the hall of that size is perfect for IMAX. The 3D glasses were better too. Oh, and I also sat ‘balcony’ after a span of 5 years! In an age of multiplexes, I sorely missed that part of going to the cinemas :)

Coming back to the film: even at a length of two and half hours long, Transformers: Dark of the Moon had its (many) moments of shoddy editing. I’m sure when the film hits Blu-Ray and DVD, it’s going to be even longer — and I can’t wait for that honestly.

Shia LaBeouf Bumblebee Rosie Huntington-Whiteley

Guess who's the odd one out in this picture

As for new girl, British Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley… what can I say. She is smokin’ hot. Problem is, she’s smokin’ hot in every scene, even when the scene doesn’t demand it. When everybody (including her character) is getting dirt all over their face and bodies are taking a beating, she still stands out as the ‘smokin’ hot blonde supermodel’. She feels so out-of-place in this movie. At least with Megan Fox, there was some chemistry between her and Shia LaBeouf. With Rosie, the fact that she’s Shia LaBeouf’s girlfriend is hardly believable, even for a movie! Maybe it’s her height… or her acting… but just consider her the non-CGI eye candy.

What about Michael Bay’s signature film traits? It’s all there: lens flare, tanned skin tones, saturated colour grading, plenty of slow motion, American flag waving in the wind, making the US Army look badass and of course, explosions — lots of it!

——-

One thing I’ve observed lately with Hollywood blockbusters the last few years, is the dumbing down of jokes and content to make it easily understandable to the masses. It quite obvious why the head honchos at movie studios insist on it. Major Hollywood block busters (such as the Fast & the Furious franchise) now make more money overseas than in America. So its common to see actions so simple and cliched, they’re easily understood by just about anybody in the world. But to me, it only makes the high class filmmakers look like they stooped a bit low in film making process. Oh well, with films like this, for the Hollywood studios it’s all about money.

For the Transformers and G.I. Joe franchise, they are also financially backed by toy maker (& IP rights owner) Hasbro, so its not like the filmmakers have absolute creative control.

Shockwave then and now Transformers Dark of the Moon

Shockwave - then and now (Who knew the animators would re-design the robots this drastically)

From action figures to a cartoon, a comic and then a rebirth thanks to advanced CGI, the Transformers have evolved quite a bit. Growing up, Transformers was my all-time favorite cartoon for me and my brothers. I was doubtful as to how in the world they would make a credible live action film without making it look too silly. With the first Transformers film, they delivered. They delivered silliness with the second. While the third isn’t silliness-free, Transformers Dark of the Moon delivers a megat(r)on of amazing eye candy and pure entertainment (especially when the action hits Chicago). I honestly don’t want a fourth Transformers film soon because there’s only so much Shia Laeouf screaming I can take, but I do hope Michael Bay and his team pressure the studios to give them more freedom with the plot. Because the plot in this film… oh who cares, just go and see it for the action!

My final rating: 4/5 (for pure entertainment value, otherwise a 3/5 for how ‘good’ the movie is)

Edit (02/07/2011): Saw the film for a second time today, but this time at INOX in Garuda Mall. I’ll re-iterate what I said about the 3D experience at Urvashi. Compared to Urvashi, INOX sucked! The projection was the usual dark and smudgy look and the audience showed little to no enthusiasm to the very same sames that drew loud applause yesterday at Urvashi. Urvashi’s image quality is far superior, crisper, brighter and much more clear than INOX’s multiplex offering.


18
Jul 10

‘Inception’ Film Review: Mindf**ked

When news broke that director Christopher Nolan wouldn’t be immediately working on a sequel to the incredible ‘The Dark Knight‘ (2008), movie blogs speculated ‘what next then?’

Then in 2009, Warner Bros. made it official — Christopher Nolan’s next project would Inception — a concept he’s had for nearly a decade. Nolan never got the budget to realize his ‘dream project’ back then, but when ‘The Dark Knight’ became the second highest grossing movie of all time, getting funds now didn’t seem like an issue. Leonardo DiCaprio signed up and filming began in Paris with Ellen Page. From the behind-the-scenes photos I saw last year, it looked like a plain thriller to me. Then the first trailer hit. I was intrigued.

Then the new trailers came out this year.

Now I was blown away! Inception soon became the summer movie I was looking forward to the most (especially after a rinse-repeat ‘Iron Man 2′ and the just plain disappointing ‘Prince of Persia’).

The TV promos in India made it look as though Inception was an out-right CGI action movie — and judging by a few annoying audience members, you could tell they felt misled. I could sum up Inception simply using one liners like: “A thinking man’s action movie” or draw comparisons to the Matrix films with all it’s jacking into one’s mind shenanigans. But Inception is more than that.

For one, it’s got a great cast. No, Christian Bale isn’t in it, but other Dark Knight alumni are, namely Michael Caine and Cilian Murphy. Then you have Leo, who hasn’t done a bad movie since ‘The Beach’. French actress and Oscar winner Marion Cotillard along with Ellen Page make up the female cast.

Inception Leo DiCaprio Joseph Gordon van waterI won’t go into what Inception is about, because the whole reason why I was so intrigued by the film was despite the brilliant visuals, I still didn’t have a clear idea as to what the basic plot of the movie was.

So as the movie began, it began quite slow. Lots of chatter about “the architect” (a la The Matrix trilogy — but not as annoying), back-and-forth on entering someone else’s dreams to extract clues, Leo’s back story involving his wife (Marion Cotillard)… let’s just say the first half doesn’t suck you in right away.

Inception buildings trailer

The scene where Ellen Page and Leo DiCaprio are at Parisian cafe when the world around them just starts exploding seemed like a blatant excuse for pretty visuals, despite making go “wow!” (it also reminded me of Sony’s BRAVIA ads) .

But once the second half kicks in, you’re hooked. The plot thickens, the visuals only get better and the action picks up pace. Towards the end of it, you may still be confused, but not once did I lose interest in the film.

Inception Joseph Gordon Lewitt

I'm going to buy the Blu-Ray just to find out how they shot these sequences

People are already calling Inception the best movie of the year so far. Some had high expectations and were left disappointed. I wouldn’t call it either.

Whatever it may be — you have to watch Inception! You won’t see anything like it this year. Even the CGI. Remember watching The Matrix for the first time? The first time they did the whole slow motion, bullet time sequences? Well, Inception‘s special effects USP (‘unique selling proposition’ for those not into trade-talk) is it’s world-bending sequences.

I may have to watch Inception again to fill some of the loopholes in the plot I *think* I didn’t get — but at least it made me want to watch it again. It’s that intriguing!

Christopher Nolan is on a roll, no doubt. After a good Batman Begins (2005) and The Prestige (2006), Nolan pretty won me over (& every geek worldwide) with The Dark Knight. He really is a genius. Writer, original screenplays, producing, and of course directing. His Academy Award is surely on it’s way, it’s only time.

After the promotional tours, Nolan will now return to working on the next Batman film, due out in 2012. Until then, Inception will rake in the big bucks and win him many more accolades throughout the year.

Inception post apocalyptic

You maybe confused by *my* take on Inception too, wondering why I’m showering praise on Christopher Nolan despite not understanding it fully myself. I mean, look at the screens from movie I intentionally used for this post. Try and figure out how they all fit. You won’t,  unless you watch the film.

Regardless of whether you understand Inception the first time you watch it, my advice is, just sit through it. The ending alone will make you applaud the man who wrote and directed this film. Trust me.

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 (for now… a few years later and many repeat watches as a cult classic, it  may change to a 4/5)

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