Thursday, March 31, 2011

In Limitless, the films posits that we only use 20% of our brain's potential. But what if we can unlock the remaining 80%? The catch is that you can tap your unlimited brain power using an unproven drug.

Bradley Cooper stars as Eddie Mora, a struggling writer who resorts to a clear pill called NZT to turn his career and life around. He soon finds out that the success he achieved has a steep price-- his life and his fiancĂ©e (played byAbbie Cornish) are jeopardized when a dangerous and powerful group wants the drug.

There's a great build-up of tension and director Neil Burger has uses pretty interesting shots to portray the effect of the drug on Eddie. While the story is an allegory to drug addiction and the pressure to excel professionally, I must say there's very little redeeming value in the end. I also felt there was an unnecessary plot break when the film abruptly stymies the tension on the physiological effect of NZT.

Limitless is a pretty enjoyable thriller that's very timely. Young professionals will be able to relate to Bradley Cooper's character, but there's very little takeaway. If you ask me Limitless squanders a good opportunity to reinforce the ill effects of drugs.

Rating: 3/5

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Do you know someone who has the right skills and attitude, yet underachieved a whole lot? Think of How Do You Know as the film version of that person.

With a top notch cast (Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd, and Jack Nicholson), the film underwhelms big time. I felt the movie didn't have a clear direction one-thirds into the story, and it doesn't help that the film's running time is almost two hours. In fairness, the first forty minutes was spent building up the story, but that is just one long runway.

Reese Witherspoon takes on a more neurotic-type of role as a washed up athlete, but I've never seen her so our of her game. She had little chemistry with her co-stars and I struggled to grasp what her character's motivations are. Perhaps, the film wants us to be as confused as the lead character in her quandaries.

After watching How Do You Know, I only had a little idea what the film was really about. Yes, it's a rom-com, but the its short on mush and high on WTH. I reckon even Reese Witherspoon fans will cheer hher on in this underachieving film.

Rating: 1.5/5

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I'll be honest right off the bat. My initial sense of The Adjustment Bureau's concept was of cynicism. I said to myself: "Everything's now run by a bureaucracy, even fate!" But after watching the movie, I pretty much had a change of heart.

The film stars Matt Damon and Emily Blunt, who are out to defy the plan that has been laid out for them. The team in charge of correcting any deviations is the eponymous Adjustment Bureau, a mysterious and powerful organization that has powers beyond human capabilities. The bureau is not perfect though-- they are still stumped by random chance, something that works in favor of the film's star-crossed lovers.

The moral of the film seems to be of controlling your own destiny. Even when things seem to be planned out for you, you have the power and free will to chart your own path. This is not something new, but given the context of an all-powerful organization, it makes for an interesting film.

The Adjustment Bureau is a high-concept film that makes some trade-offs in the story to reduce the complexity and avoid Inception-level confusion. Fans of Philip K. Dick's work will appreciate this film as one of the better movie versions of the author's works.

Rating: 3/5

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Another great song. Also, kind of ambient. Check it out !

Friday, March 25, 2011

Trying something new, from now on I will also be putting songs that I like. Here is today's song, "Fog" by Nosaj Thing. It is great. Very ambient, great background music for philosophical thinking. Honest to god, it kind of gave me a new look on life. Check it out.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Rango definitely defied my expectations-- but in a not so good way.

I initially thought that this film would be one that has an appeal to a wider audience. But I was wrong. The western-themed computer generated film is a mature film dressed up as family entertainment. Gone are the clean-cut landscapes, fuzzy creatures, and likable story and in their place are surreal dreams, edgy characters, and a mature story. 

With the eponymous lead voiced by the uber-talented Johnny Depp, the film is quirky and sometimes deep. I found it has parallels to a Brothers Grimm tale called "The Valiant Little Tailor," where a little misrepresentation kicks off an adventure. But it seems director Gore Verbinski wanted to end the similarities to a fairy tale there. There are themes of self image and even economics.

If there's one huge upside to the film, it's the animation. It's just superb. The film is set in the Mojave desert and I saw the great detail put in in the animation of the sand dunes and water. The animal characters were also done great. 

Folks should be warned that Rango is too serious for kids below twelve years old. It would have been better if the over-all feel was toned down a bit.

Rating: 2/5
With almost everything about it related to Twilight, Red Riding Hood can be seen as a sidebar to the wildly popular Paranormal Teen Romance genre.

Let's do an inventory: A pretty female lead? Check. A love triangle? Check. A werewolf? Check. Daddy & Mommy issues? Check. Heck, even Billy Burke(actor who played Kristen Stewart's dad in Twilight) is even there. Add into the mix director Catherine Hardwicke, what we have is a Twilight-ification of one of the oldest and durable folk tales around.

In fairness to the film and it's unavoidable Twilight comparisons, it's an enjoyable whodunit which folks will appreciate. The question of who's the werewolf will be answered with a big shocker since this angle has never been explored in other adaptations. The added bonus to the teens: Amanda Seyfried, Shiloh Fernandez, and Max Irons have been given modern looks and hairstyles for instant likeability.

Red Riding Hood is a good watch for a group of friends wanting something to talk about. Teens will surely lap this movie up like a hungry wolf.

Rating: 3/5
I have a nagging feeling that World Invasion: Battle Los Angeles is a propaganda movie produced by the United States Marine Corps.

To wit:

  1. The heroes of the story are US Marines who are led by Staff Sgt. Nantz, a grizzled veteran (played by Aaron Eckhart)
  2. It glorifies the toughness and no quit attitude of the Marines
  3. It shows the "leave no man behind" culture of the Marines
  4. In the film, there's a boy that SSgt. Nantz comforts and is made to say "Marines don't quit". SSgt. Nantz calls the boy his  "little Marine."
While the movie is about the invasion of aliens, the film tackles themes that are common to war movies: leadership, shell-shock, camaraderie, and sacrifice. These themes are milked to the hilt that you'll feel them transform to cliches as the movie plays along.

The action reminds me of District 9 and Hurt Locker, especially with the unstable camera shots and in-your-face moments. The timeliness of the movie adds to the tension, but don't expect a deep storyline.

The war action and tense moments make World Invasion: Battle Los Angeles a decent film, even if it feels like it's recruiting me to join the US Marine Corps.

Rating: 2.5/5 
I was thinking of the best description for Sucker Punch right after watching it and the first thing that came to my mind was "Massive Visual Assault."

I caught the film on IMAX so you can just imagine the images bombarding me, but it was well done. The quality of the 3D scenery is superb and its production design is very unique. Can you think of a movie where bushido warriors, medieval dragons, and robot drones all appear in? That's Sucker Punch for you.

Directed by Zack Snyder, this movie can be seen as "Inception Lite," as it deals with multiple planes of realities but leaning towards hard core action and sex appeal. The characters are nice to look at on screen but are pretty much one-dimensional. Lead star Emily Browning tries to buoy the film with her portrayal of the archetypical kick-ass female lead, but she barely passes in my books. 

Sucker Punch will be a feast for the eyes, but too bad it doesn't appeal much to the brains. If sensory overload's your thing, then catch it immediately.