Captain Phillips | Review

Paul Greengrass, best known for his work on the Jason Bourne series, bring us another compelling thriller to the cinemas with his latest work Captain Phillips. Stories based on true events are usually a dime a dozen but this film succeeds in creating a suspenseful and interesting film through his signature documentary style film work, a great cast, and solid screenplay.

The film got some flack for portraying Captain Phillips as a bit too much of a hero. In truth, he was a bit of a stubborn and smug guy who ignored countless warnings from his crew. Despite some criticisms, the film successfully toes the line between staying somewhat true to the story and yet bringing us a Hollywood script that is actually interesting to watch.

Tom hanks brings one of his top performances the the film. He portrays  the moralistic and stoic character believably. His accent took a bit to get use to but as the film progressed it began sounding a little a less John F Kennedy impersonation and more Bostonian. The real star of the film however is Barkha Abdi who masterfully steps into the role of Abduwali Muse. Abdi a Somalian taxi driver made his acting debut in the film and was chosen from an extensive 700 man cast pool. He brings to life the desperate nature of Muse’s situation and his way of life.

The film had some impressive production values and felt exceptionally grounded. Paul Greengrass thoroughly researched Somalian piracy and the events that happened on that day. Greengrass and the crew filmed on an actual ship and life boat instead of a green screen. And to further accurately recreate the location of the story he filmed the Somalia portions of the film in Malta. Paul Greengrass’ attention to detail and signature documentary style camera work paid off immensely for the authenticity of movie.

The film kept me on the edge of my seat. The dialogue for the Somalian cast was truly effective and some of the improvised lines really brought the characters to life. The film was a rare example of how to do a film based on factual events. Reasonably paced, a fine cast, good cinematographic techniques, and a interesting script to boot; there isn’t hardly a criticism to be found here. Besides a seemingly overused and somewhat Hans Zimmerian-ending track for the finale I can’t really think of any flaws. Captain Phillips is an intense and engrossing film and I highly recommend.

Score : 9/10

Dexter: ‘Make Your Own Kind Of Music’ Review

With only three episodes remaining, the end game is in sight for our favorite blood splatter analyst. It’s hard to say what exactly are the ingredients for a good episode of Dexter. The recipe has been changing gradually with the series finale approaching. With the introduction of Vogul this season we’ve seen a pretty subdued Dexter. The process of learning his origins and why he is the man he today, hasn’t exactly allowed the show to be filled with the usual bloodshed and butchery that Dexter is surely capable of.

It appears Dexter is preparing to sette down again . In a sense It was bound to happen. Last episode we saw glimpses of a Dexter finding a new purpose. A purpose in passing the legacy of his father’s code down to another person like him. He wasn’t the perfect mentor but things seemed to fall in line. Yet that story arc was disappointingly axed as we see Zach the young and impressionable disciple of Dexter’s life cut short. This week’s episode focused mainly on Dexter’s pursuit of Casey’s killer and the troubles of Hannah’s fugitive status.

The premise of Hannah hiding out from the law under Dexter’s protection is interesting.   Hannah brings up the idea of Argentina again; A fantasy she use to have where she flees from her problems and lives happily. Dexter and Hannah are forced to take a hard look at their future. They are cooped up in a hotel, evading the feds and authorities. She can’t even go to the store without the thought burning in the back of her mind that just the right person will recognize her and turn her in.  It Makes me wonder if Dexter is really thinking long term at all. That’s pretty much how his life would be if they decide to stay together.

Then you add Harrison into the equation and it complicates things exponentially. Even though their life probably wouldn’t be the same I think Harrison may be the wildcard in all of this. He actually has an attachment to Hannah and if Dexter sees this is really what he wants, they might just go all the way to Argentina. I’m a bit worried about Dexter. I think ultimately their plans to escape together will fail but what could actually happen if they do leave Miami. I always imagined Dexter ending on a somber and somewhat depressing note. Suicide, jail, gurgling in a pool of his own blood. Yes maybe that was a bit too dark but how else could all this realistically end?

Pros 

+ Harrison gets some screen time

+ Hannah and Dexter continuing to bond

+ Vogul and her familial connection possibly end up double teaming Dex

+ Debra considering rejoining the force

Cons 

Vogul is a being portrayed a bit too frail

The ending scene was a bit forced with Vogul

Overall a solid episode but was a bit predictable. Here is to hoping the Brain Surgeon can deliver the thrills in the final episodes.

 Score: 8/10

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Second Opinion- By Shawn Perez

What I found really Interesting about this episode is the thin line of what is ethically right. Dexter is put in a dilemma where he has to apply his code to Vogul’s son. Previously, he gave Zach a second chance but he dislikes the idea when Vogul pleas for Dexter to allow her to get her son and put him in a facility to be rehabilitated. This is where Dexter’s justification of Harry’s Code becomes a little muddled. Do murderers deserve a second chance or at least rehabilitation?

Just when Dexter begins to show the more human side of himself; you start to question it because he doesn’t seem to be motivated to kill because they deserve it anymore but rather he’s just going back to his darker urges.This theme of darkness is hinted at when Vogul says to Dexter; if it was his son, Harrison he would do the same thing. Dexter agrees to silence her but he doesn’t really care. Where Dexter goes from here on out nobody knows. All we can do is wait in eager anticipation for the final episodes of the series.

Elysium: Review

The last summer blockbuster has arrived in Elysium. District 9 director and writer, Neill Blomkamp ‘s continued run in the sci-fi genre provides an enjoyable experience. The setting of the story, is 2154 on a severely over-populated and diseased world. The rich and powerful abandon earth for an man-made utopia named Elysium. Elysium entertains with visceral action sequences and a futuristic and unique story that keeps you on your toes.

Matt Damon who portrays the main character of the film, delivers another good performance in his role as Max Da Costa; a man with nothing to lose. Matt Damon is no rookie to action films. He is widely known for his tough bad boy persona in his roles in the Bourne films. He trained four hours a day to get physically and aesthetically equipped for the film. He certainly shows that he isn’t out of practice in the art of asskickery. The weakest performance in the film came from Wagner Moura who played Spyder; a human smuggler who takes people to Elysium. It wasn’t that he had bad acting necessarily but there was an apparent and jarring language barrier. Just seemed sort of forced and a better option probably would have been to to have him speak his native portuguese/spanish tongue especially considering that Max actually had an Hispanic ethnicity.

The highlight of the film came from Sharlto Copley who plays the vicious and psychotic character C.M Kruger. Copley gives a powerful performance and steals the spotlight from the rest of the veteran cast. Even the cold and calculating Jodie Foster, who plays the secretary of defense of Elysium, doesn’t stand a chance to his ruthless and unhinged personality. He takes command of his role and puts a choke-hold on every scene he is in. Even though he is a mercenary who gets paid for his job he he takes pleasure in it all. Neill Blomkamp might be one of the only people in the film industry to acknowledge his talent so far, but that’s sure to change.

The dense over populated and dirty sprawls of Earth are visually stunning. Wide angle shots of the swarming city of Los Angeles on Earth offer a stark contrast to the perfect and clean-cut nature of Elysium. The use of handycam is present in the film but it doesn’t distract me as much as it did in District 9 . The security/surveillance drones are masterfully crafted and have a sense of realism to them. Their design balances just the right amount of finesse, stiffness, and weight to be believable. The highlight from the cinematography and VFX team had to come from the combat and weaponry of the film. It was a truly a blast to watch the way some of the guns and gadgets worked.

The plot and setting of story takes a look at the hardships of a possible future without proper medical care. This system only affords the wealthy and those with influence. Neill Blomkamp was quoted saying that this story was not an alternate future but it was actually a look at the present. Though the story was probably a bit more action oriented then District 9 its still offers some room for thought even if isn’t as deep as his previous work. All in all it was thoroughly entertaining. It’s the one of the best sci-fi films of the year and I recommend it.

‘Life of Pi’ Review

life-of-pi-movie-image

Once in awhile a movie comes along and makes me appreciate cinema again. I usually don’t give into or condone the purchasing of 3-D tickets, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say, it actually makes the film better. The movie is given a sense of depth and clarity with its incorporation. Cheap 3-D effects. that we usually get in blockbusters nowadays aren’t used. Its inclusion is used simply as a tool to immerse the viewer into the world. From the very opening of the movie, your eyes are greeted with mesmerizing and lush imagery.  The film should most certainly be receiving some nods for visual effects at the upcoming Oscars. For its visuals alone, the film, set itself apart from the competition and it doesn’t hurt that it contains a magical and awe inspiring script to boot.

The film was adapted from a short story by Yann Martel. It covers the remarkable and spiritual story of survival of an of an Indian boy named Piscine Patel. Pi  is castaway at sea and is forced to live on a small life boat with a Bengal Tiger. The film covers religious themes but in such away that it isn’t agitating or forcing its way on the viewer. Just as Pi seeks out different religions; the viewer is given the chance to explore them as well. I would say that these themes are actually more about Pi  being given choice, as well as, giving the film watcher a wider perspective on the subject.

The film was amazingly casted and filled by a remarkable set of international actors. One of the only faults I found in movie was the decision to have Rafe Spall play the reporter. He had some pretty flat reactions to some of the more emotional scenes in the film. The decision to have Tobey Maguire removed from the role was probably for the best. He was replaced due to his image being too much related to Spider-Man. Yet, I still wonder what he could have brought to the table.  After seeing him receive a nomination for best actor in a motion picture drama for his performance in ‘Brothers’.  He definitely has shown, in my opinion, that he is willing to prove he can play more diverse characters then what has come to be expected of him.

Ang  Lee truly found a needle in a haystack. The leading role of the film is played by Surah Sharma. Not only is this Sharma’s first role in a major film but Sharma has no previous acting experience before this. Ang Lee chose him over about three thousand other candidates, for mostly his looks, but Sharma has provided a great performance for his Hollywood debut.

The real praise, however, should go to the visual effects team at  Rhythm and Hues Studios for creating one of the most believable and life-life characters ever to be brought to life; Richard Parker. Your given the opportunity to forgot that he is fictional. Even the slightest movements of Richard Parker contain subtleties that give the beast personality. The most unexpected and unique bond is brought to life on screen between Richard Parker and Pi. With all the hard work put into Richard Parker; we are actually inclined to believe that all of this. somehow might be possible.

The movie follows a pretty basic formula. Pi’s childhood is explored, he is given a romantic interest, and an obstacle he must overcome. He overcomes his obstacle but there is no definitive moment of catharsis for his character. Instead we are given an enigmatic ending  that is neither happy or sad. The moviegoer gets to decide for himself what they want to believe. This idea of story telling is very powerful and I want to praise Ang Lee for his courage in taking this film on that route of imaginative narrative. You aren’t just simply watching the movie. You have created a relationship with the author of the story. You are required to come into understanding on the material presented to you on your own accord.

Life of Pi pulls you in, breaks your heart, and leaves you to decide how to put all the pieces of the story’s puzzle back together again.

Review Score: 9.5/10 (Beautiful Film)

‘Watchmen: Motion Comic’ Review

The Watchmen comic is regarded as one of  the finest stories in DC’s comics catalog. If you’ve never read the Watchmen comic, then the animated motion comic is definitely the next best way to experience the universe. The Watchmen plot revolves around the investigation of a masked vigilante’s death which unravels into a scheme much larger and sinister then anyone involved could have imagined.

The setting of the story is an alternate universe in which, earth is on the brink of Nuclear war due to the departure of a super being named Dr. Manhattan. This threat is felt throughout the world and casts a dark shadow over the tone of the story. This tone is one of my favorite aspects of the series.  No one is safe; not even the people that you trust to protect you.

One of the reasons the story is so good even to this day is the fact that the story can be relatable to modern times. The Watchmen contains more than just political overtones; The Watchmen story is a direct and unreserved warning of what could possibly become of the world; minus the blue guy of course. The message “Who Watches The Watchmen” is lain in graphitti upon the walls of the crime ridden streets of the world. A suitable message; which begs the question and general discussion; who holds those accountable, who are seemingly untouchable or believe they are?

One of the most interesting points of the story was in the self exile of Dr. Manhattan. A man who sees the past, present, and future. His departure of earth sets in motion a series of meticulously crafted and planned events back on earth but that’s not the part that intrigued me.

For a ‘man’ who can be or have anything he desires, he eventually grows bored with humanity and everything that comes with them: Things such as their violent nature or their incapacity to see logic when it is right in front of them. Dr. Manhattan is pleaded with to return to Earth but upon learning that the woman he loves has been with another man, there no longer is anything left to tie him down to earth. What I find remarkable is that even through this he sees that life is not meaningless. He saw a reason for humanity in the pain of the one he loved.

The actual visuals of the motion comic are what you’ve come to expect from the comic. Dave Gibbons extraordinary and original work wasn’t altered dramatically. It’s obvious some slight recoloring and touch-ups on illustrations were done but nothing significant.  The series is accompanied by a great soundtrack. Two memorable pieces are the opening title music and the ominous composition for the scenes of the Tales of The Black Freighter(a masterful interwoven subplot).

What really boggled me was how they would do the transition from panel to panel.They get away with it by actually showing characters completing their actions on the screen such as walking, interacting with objects, or other people. The animation is done in such away that you forget that its actually a comic. The only fault I can see would be in their avoidance of lip sync. This could have been done but their decision not to was a wise one in my opinion.

I always wanted to read The Watchmen comic but sadly never got around to it. I watched Zack Snyder’s adaption of the critically acclaimed graphic novel and was subsequently driven to read the source material. The film, although it was pretty good, doesn’t compare. It was created and altered just enough so that it could please a large audience but while at the same time trying to retain the qualities that make the source material so good. It was stuck in between alienating fans and losing money for the studios or compromising for marketability.

In no way am I saying that Zack Snyder’s interpretation was bad but it doesn’t have the depth that the full comic entails What makes the comic so good is that the universe is extremely believable and rich. All the material can’t be fit into a two hour plus film. Lawrence Gordon an eventual producer of the 2009 film once believed that The Watchmen Comic was unfilmable and would be better as  5 hour miniseries. That’s basically what your getting here +1 hour or so.

If your not into comics this may not be for you but if you are a fan this is exactly where to go. You get a faithful reconstruction of the comic in animated form. This may not compete with a fully animated comic but the way this work was done it definitely leaves the impression that it could be possible. I’m anticipating eagerly if they will do something similar for the Before Watchmen series that is finally among us.

Review Score : 9/10

‘Argo’ Review

I’m not a big fan of  the whole “based on a true story” idea in cinema for many reasons. Hollywood tends to dramatize events and sometimes lie altogether. Argo may be a little guilty of this and have some other small annoyances but didn’t bore me to death like most films in the genre. The movie follows Tony Mendez on his quest to extract 6 U.S diplomats from Iran during the Iran hostage situation in 1979.

Argo uses some very interesting camera filtering techniques to create a very authentic vibe that gives the illusion that your witnessing the past.  The opening animation and narration was a bit unnecessary in my opinion and served little purpose. Most of that information was elaborated on during the following scenes and close ups on television sets.

The film is based on a true story but it is apparent that certain elements of the plot were added for suspense. The big Hollywood film producer Lester Siegel(Alan Arkin) didn’t exist in real life and neither did many other aspects of the plot. There was also the fictional airport scene, in which their was a cat and mouse between the diplomats and the revolutionaries. These events were used to build suspense and heighten the sense of relief felt when they were home free. (Do I need a spoiler Alert for a true story?)

The film has some flaws but is saved by some casting decisions. Bryan Cranston’s role as Mendez’s CIA supervisor was pleasant to watch. He offered humor and as expected can turn on the intensity if need be. There should have been more screen time for the diplomats. I thought that preparation for immigration at the airport was bit glossed over.

Affleck not only directs the film; he is the bright spot. I’ve never understood the hate for Affleck’s acting.  I really enjoy his presence on screen. The bearded but ruggedly handsome Affleck, comes across as a genuine and caring man, who is devoted to the lives of the 6 diplomats trapped in Iran.

The film is broken up by comedic relief during several scenes. This was one aspect of the film I didn’t really think belonged. It might seem silly to root for a darker film but for the sake of lightening a relatively grim situation, I suppose it was necessary.

Ben Affleck is establishing himself as a true man of his craft. After watching his directorial work in ‘The Town’ it is becoming evident that this once overlooked actor may have more ability then he is given credit for.  With solid performances from Bryan Cranston and Alan Arkin; Affleck has created an enjoyable film which also to happens to be informative. Whuddya know?

Review Score: 7.5/10