Water For Elephants (Film)

06/05/2011 at 8:31 AM (Action, Historical, Movies, Romance) (, , , , , , , , , )

Water for Elephants – based on the novel by Sara Gruen – is a film typical of old Hollywood and is reminiscent of the film fare from the 1930s. It starts out with an older Jacob Jankoski (Hal Holbrook) who has escaped the confines of his retirement home when his son forgot a due visit. So we see him approach a circus and talk to the ticket seller who first sees him as a nuisance. But when he begins to tell the tale of how he joined the circus as a young boy, the narrative captivates his audience of one.

We learn how Jacob (Robert Pattinson) was left penniless as a young Cornell college student. His aspirations of becoming a vet are cut short until by coincidence he ends up as a stowaway on the train carrying the Benzini circus. Pattinson actually does a good job in this movie by shovelling manure, feeding lions and diagnosing illness in circus animals – you can almost forget he is also the sparkly vampire heart-throb of teenage fans. Jacob is first treated with some respect by the circus master because of his education but after witnessing the cruelty his employer inflicts on a young elephant with a bull hook, the initial bit of camaraderie between them fizzles. His boss, August (Christoph Waltz) is of unpredictable temper, which can sometimes be very violent and tends to make everyone deferential towards him; this includes his young and beautiful wife, Marlena (Reese Witherspoon) of Marilyn Monroe-esque locks whom he regards as his star attraction.

Water for Elephants Movie Poster

So when Jacob falls in love with Marlena, it creates a dangerous situation for both of them. August is a commanding man capable of terrible cruelty to the animals, to his employees and even to his wife. The representation of the Great Depression and the impact that it had on the circus was beautifully conveyed through period costumes, mood lighting and the overall atmosphere of chaos. In my opinion, I felt the husband and wife shared more chemistry than the wife and her lover. Most of Jacob’s chemistry seemed to be directed toward Rosie (Tai), the elephant. Also, while Reese Witherspoon seems to have improved from her role in How Do You Know, Marlena still seemed lacklustre perhaps because they did not give her enough depth as a character ; it was as if she was a pretty face who could do some stunts but is only a possession. So when Jacob has Marlena run away with him, he realises August will not rest until he has his vengeance. Being a little careless about where they stay allows Marlena to be taken away from him after thugs loyal to August give him a hiding. So he carefully plans a way to return and release Marlena from her brute of a husband.

It will suffice to say this strategy of his meets with some complications along the way but Jacob ultimately achieves his goal. Directed by Francis Lawrence whose previous directing credits include I am Legend and Constantine, here you have a film that relies heavily on mood and setting instead of CG rendering and special effects.

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Limitless

04/28/2011 at 12:54 PM (Action, Movies) (, , , )

Last night I watched Limitless at The Halfpipe relaxing with my arms draped casually behind my head while resting my back on the beanbag seat. The movie dragged you in from the beginning because of the artistic manner in which the viewers were told they were going to be taken on a journey. Surprisingly for an action thriller, it began with the narration of main protagonist, down and out writer Eddie Morra. When the audience is first introduced, Eddie is contemplating suicide but then the story moves backward in time to inform us what brought him to this state.

He was introduced to a drug – NZT40. This drug allowed him to extract all the information he had in the recesses of his memory and the book he couldn’t write a page of gets completed in four days. He gambles and makes some winnings.  He uses some money he obtain to trade and buy stock and becomes a financial genius all because of the drug that makes him feel invincible.  Without it, he can’t make sense of any stock related data. Naturally he became an addict without ever knowing how it was really created but fails to realise his meteoric rise from nowhere is not a secret to some and gets careless in his greed and exposes the girl he loves to danger.

Eddie’s sudden transformation from the unmotivated, slacker, behind-his-rent writer without a chance to charismatic financial daredevil is portrayed very well by Bradley Cooper. This movie takes him from his traditional romcom safe zone to new heights during a particularly gruesome scene involving licking blood.  This is an action movie for those who appreciate intellectual dialogue but the plot is full of holes for such an interesting premise.

Nevertheless the idea was a creative and original one even if the approach that was taken could have been improved.

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The Adjustment Bureau

03/16/2011 at 3:37 AM (Action, Books, Fable, Inspired, Movies, Mystery, Romance) (, , , , , , , , )

When I went to watch The Adjustment Bureau last night, my preconception of the film as the general suspense thriller flick was blown away. Based loosely on the Philip K. Dick short story titled Adjustment Team, the film starring Matt Damon as Dave Norris, a popular politician running for the US Senate and Emily Blunt as Elise the dancer he meets by chance after an oversight by one of the bureau’s case workers is a refreshing work with the year of the sequel phenomenon approaching.

The work of the adjustment bureau is to ensure life goes according to a plan which is traceable in a book written by the head of the organisation named the “Chairman”. It works out according to the plan, Dave and Elise were not meant to meet the way they did. So the case workers who ensure people follow their fates without diverging from their true paths do their best to put obstacles in the way of Dave. But a quick kiss in the men’s stall after Elise crashed a wedding and he was practising his concession speech connects them and manages to make their paths intertwine again because of their recurring chemistry for each other.

Thompson (John Slattery) who is built as the villain of the piece who is determined to thwart their relationship exposes the bureau to Dave and warns him that if he breathes a word of this that his will to think would cease. Interestingly, this movie raises a lot of questions about how much we have an affect on our individual fates and how much of it could be guided for us by a higher power giving it some repressed theological ground. When Dave is informed by Thompson, his chase of Elise would not only have a negative impact on his ambition but also on her dream of being a famous dancer, he abandons her feeling that he is making a sacrifice for her sake.

Later, he spots an article saying that she is to be married to her ex-boyfriend and feels in his gut something is wrong. Harry, a case worker more sympathetic to his cause than the others, provides him the use of his hat which allows him to open doors through New York without the control of his choices being affected. He finally reunites with Elise and when she is tested for her conviction in him, despite initial hesitation her trust in him is repaid with both of them allowed to use their free will.

While the film had an interesting storyline and it was directed well by George Nolfi who succeeds fairly well with his intention of creating it to raise questions but since it leaves a lot open to interpretation and deconstruction by the viewers themselves, it could either be a hit or miss depending on individual personalities and their takes on fate.

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Inception

07/31/2010 at 12:39 PM (Action, Movies, Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

Why everyone says Inception was hard to follow is mind-boggling to me than the film itself was. From the first few minutes of reel play, it was obvious that Chris Nolan was throwing the audience headlong into the film at the start without spoon-feeding us with any back story.

All the hype surrounding the film made me expect a masterpiece of cinematic art but honestly Memento where he explores missing memory and The Prestige where he delves deep into the subject of sleight of hand seem to be far better executed in terms of visual narrative that makes you hold your breath so it at least satisfied me the final shot packed a substantial punch to the mind.

Don’t worry – it’s still worth watching though for the special FX of landscaping through dreams, fight sequences in a hotel corridor with no gravity and the experience of  following three trains of action plus the actual plot as long as you can understand what Nolan was getting at through ‘extraction’ and ‘inception’.

It’s just I’m not sure every moviegoer will.

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