Sunday, January 20, 2013

"The Hobbit - An Unexpected Journey" (2012) - Movie Review

I am open to any kind of films in multitudes of genres but for some reason the genre of fantasy never really intrigued this viewer. I believe the idea of CGI entirely taking over the element of pure art did not sit well with me. It is a double standard given the fact that most of the films are made possible by this technology. This has made me to skip conveniently the Harry Potter and the The Lord of the Rings series. I did see the The Lord of the Rings on a lazy Sunday after noon but much of it resembles trying to recollect a boring dream that are represented only in fragments. Here comes “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” which is nothing but boringly expected journey. I think the “unexpected” part is only for the Hobbit character and not the audience.

Peter Jackson directs this supposed epic adventure which takes phenomenal time to even begin. We are thrown into the home of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), the titular character. Thus comes Gandalf (Ian McKellen), the be all and know all for these films. He chooses Bilbo to host a party he clearly does not want and becomes the first act that is nothing short of director’s own fantasy and admiration for the book it is adapted upon. The fans of the book might enjoy this but as a movie it is nothing but a huge laborious overblown piece of scene that extends on and on and on and I can only speak for myself but I seriously wished to break every single plates on these dumb characters.

Then begins the “unexpected journey” which of course Bilbo has no intention of participating but he will, otherwise there would not be a film. He is supposedly this mild mannered character who is been asked by the Wizard Gandalf to rise to the occasion. Bilbo along with these clan of dwarves begins his journey on helping them to reclaim their kingdom from this monster. They go through a long journey that involves of course great nature scenic routes, mountains, weird kingdoms and weird creatures that exist with no explanation. They are judged by their looks and the originations of that are unclear. 

Let us forget about all that and see this film for the purpose of entertainment, shall we? The visuals are breathtaking that goes without saying. The technology has made it like a simplest thing in the world that the audience which includes me have now taken these thing for granted unless there is a punctuation to it. Granted that there involves great number of people working their sweat to pour out the imagination on screen but that simply does not make one to like a film. It takes solid content with some ridiculous labourship in the way it is put together. Peter Jackson’s film lacks the human soul to it and becomes a grandeur fantasy exploitation. It feels like watching  videogame played by someone else that is not even remotely tempting.

It gives you clear picture on the performances if I have not mentioned it for four paragraphs. Then again I would not blame the actors as the writing is simply absent. Films like these that depends upon one liners to keep them alive are next to nothing and  hence the characters are purely cartoonish through CGI. We do not even get to know the crazy twisted names of each to even appreciate and admire their bravado.

It is assumed that you have read the book to appreciate the non-explanation of characters, world and anything that would educate the audience. I am sick of people trying to compare, expect and appreciate a film based on book mainly because both are separate medium and has to be seen for what it is. A book should stand on its own for what it is and so does a film. Now one cannot put aside the material they have read. but when a film is being watched, it should grow its legs, stand, dance and become an entity of its own to show the world what it is. “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” expects you to read the book and goes on its business of elongating a simple story into not one but three films. I will reserve my judgment for the next two films but I have a fair idea of what kind of “unexpected journey” that is going to be.

"Django Unchained" (2012) - Movie Review

I never learn to not watch the trailers because how much it destroys the true experience of seeing a film for the first time. At the same time I cannot help myself to not watch a trailer truly because of the itch I have to view few glimpses to prepare myself. Whether I would have enjoyed “Django Unchained” more than I did because of this would something one would never know but it drew me to the film with more curiosity and expectation. There is no denial in having that for any Quentin Tarantino film but here I saw Leonardo Dicaprio unlike any other films he has ever done. Not since his brilliant performance in “Whats Eating Gilbert Grape?”. Not that he has not done any good films but him as an actor has not differentiated beyond his standard mannerisms. Here he transforms in to this dubiously charming character whom we cannot stop to wince and wonder at the same time. 

Who would have thought that killed by a bullet can be splashingly violent as Tarantino makes it to be? Gunshot historically had the convenience of showing it fired than actually showing its damage on flesh in Hollywood. Few films of course have portrayed that for what it is but here Tarantino takes it up and close. Blood splatters all across and flesh explodes along with it to paint the kind of sick picture “Kill Bill Vol. 1” did. Nevertheless that is what Tarantino wants you to experience. The man has a weird fascination with violence but shows it for what it is. His honesty can be mistaken for judging him differently but he always shows it for what it is. His presentation both glorifies and sickens violence. “Django Unchained” is no different.

Django is played by Jamie Foxx with an attitude. He is the slave that gets freed by a generous, noble and a dangerous German bounty hunter by the name of Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). Dr. Schultz claims to be a dentist comes riding his stage coach with a huge tooth dangling on top of it and there is the evidence of the simplest objects Tarantino can use to maximize his point. We cannot stop giggling when it dangles and it offers a dimension to this oddball character of Dr. Schulz. Christoph Waltz who terrorized in this director’s previous venture of “Inglourious Basterds” becomes our favourite man out here, even more than Django as the movie unfurls.

In the times of slavery, Dr. Schultz despises it and rescues Django for his own personal gain. He is on the hunt for the Brittle brothers who also took Django’s wife Broomhida (Kerry Washington) and sold him. This becomes a sweet deal for Django as he gets to avenge and collect money in the process. The two form a great bond over these killings and Schultz offers to help Django get his wife back which leads to the thumping performance in the film. Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). The introduction of Candie is the most violent scene of the film that shows the Mandingo fight (Wiki tells me this never existed in the times but Tarantino uses it to portray the cruelty to the slaves in its most animal and gruesome form) which is betting on the fight of two slaves with their bare hands. Talk about death of humanity but here it skins its and pours hot oil and sprays salt and pepper over it. It only is followed by further despicable acts of Candie towards his Mandingo fighters.

The film surprisingly tones considerably on swearing for a Tarantino film but amplifies to the level of deafening one’s ears by the use of the “n” word (I expect the forgiveness of Louis C.K out here for not using the actual word). Yet it only reflects the time the movie was portrayed and the sickening characters that yells out like a punctuation. Is it inconvenient to hear it? Yes, but it is true to what is being presented and I am fine with that. It is like any swear word and Tarantino rightfully uses it to his film.

While I enjoyed “Django Unchained”, this is definitely not the stellar movie the director has come up with. Somehow the unpredictability of him vanished and the simple conversations turning into complicated arguments are buried. There are few instances of his writing at its prime and there are unique shots that adds the kind of beauty one would soak themselves in witnessing the beauty of a director’s love of certain angles and objects but Tarantino fails to impress us all the way through. What is left is a good film by a great director who seems to have been complacent with the idea rather than the execution. 

“Django Unchained” has the presence of Samuel L. Jackson coming as the overly theatrical and little bit annoying Stephen who is sheepishly loyal to Calvin Candie. His performance neither carry a sinister approach nor is it funny which falls to the feet of Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance. Even DiCaprio’s delivery is at times crippled by some ordinary writings of Tarantino. As everyone, I have a high regard for the director and here he seem to have side stepped into mediocre for his standards. That does not take away the fact that “Django Unchained” is a good film. Just that it aspires to be great and it only aspires.

"Lincoln" (2012) - Movie Review

Steven Spielberg who can swing from one end of spectrum of saturated sappiness to the other end of brutal reality, provides an ultimate balance in “Lincoln”. As much as this is a grand project on his end to lay out the iconic man from the history in precise nature of cross section into his personal and political arena, it is once again Daniel Day-Lewis giving a performance that is nothing but pure transformation into a figure that no one has ever seen and are only laid out through books. Right from the moment Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln begins his speech, it took less than a minute for me to completely forget that it is an actor portraying a role into seeing the historical figure alive and delivering his tone and smiling authority. That is a skill I cannot even fathom of understanding.

With the strongest foundation as Daniel Day-Lewis leveraging this project, it is still a challenging exercise in laying out the man in the most crucial juncture of the history. Spielberg does not go for the biography rather goes for the most critical nature for Lincoln himself challenged politically and personally. The film chronicles the events that became the fulcrum for the 13th amendment abolishing slavery being passed in United States House of Representatives. 

The film’s chronicle of events in the eventual passing of this law tells the sweats that needs to be laid down on speeches openly and in clandestine to get things done and passed long. Here is the leader who has been praised and exemplified for his character in the American history and to him being treated for what the time dictated him to be is only a prime example of how much the times have changed but the game of politics exists afresh and alive. The greatest of our leaders had to always stand in the juncture of not two roads but multiple roads and select one, divert and divulge for the road to success. 

Lincoln is tired but his wiseness and mild wise cracks. He is leading a war that is taking the whole nation onto its knees and in the midst of it he knows the criticality of passing this law. His adamance in executing this at the worst juncture of civil war scares and annoys his office but he plans for the worst which is that if he loses the war, the Emancipation Proclamation would simply be discarded and even if someone in future takes upon as him to do the right thing, the days that leads upto it would have only assimilated more innocent souls to humiliation, pain and death. All this are on the face of a man struggling to wonder the nature of the field he is playing in. Or he knows it and is simply fed up in fighting it the way he wanted to. He goes all in.

“Lincoln” as any film would relies on its supporting actors. Granted that Lewis alone can carry the weight but that might have become cumbersome and mainly lose the focus on the actual screenplay. David Strathairn as Secretary of State William H. Seward establishes how a friendship and associate has to co-exist that hurts and compliments each of those roles. Then there is Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens who lends a strong supporting hand to Lewis’ Lincoln to work out the logistics in passing the bill. Tommy Lee Jones has been a serious man in his roles and here he is brought upon for the right character that delivers the power and nobility the role beckons him to.

There are several other players that might require a paragraph to themselves but the key is that each of those adds a layer to this amazing individual. While Spielberg has thoroughly disappointed in overflowing his sentiments in “The Terminal” and excruciating “The War Horse” but here he appears to reserve his sentiments just enough to provide a view that is entertaining, enjoyable and truly inspiring. His calculations in moving several coins at once and play with words to provide to escape through the loop holes of technicality expresses how being smart pays off for noble causes.

“Lincoln” thus becomes a Daniel Day-Lewis film but as Paul Thomas Anderson who utilized the man’s power to his presentation of his material, Spielberg absorbs the performance and weaves a historical film that plays a terrific political thriller and offers insights on the backgrounds of the influential times and the influential law. It is a difficult play to do those without breaking the tension. There are obvious reasons one would want to watch “Lincoln” but there are two other very strong reasons that requires to watch the art of film in the name of Daniel Day-Lewis and Steven Spielberg.