Sunday, November 25, 2012

Red Lights

Year: 2012
Director: Rodrigo Cortes
Cast: Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver, Robert De Niro, Elizabeth Olsen

Plot: Two scientists who specialise in debunking paranormal activity attempt to uncover the mystery behind a world renowned psychic who has returned after a long absence.

Review: On one of the posters to this film, there's a quote from a critic that says "This year's The Sixth Sense." After watching it, I can understand the comparison. However Red Lights doesn't quite possess the quality of the film it's being compared to.

Rodrigo Cortes, director of Buried, does a decent enough job setting up the plot about two scientists, played by Sigourney Weaver and Cillian Murphy, who are pretty good at what they do, who go around the country taking on any psychic phenomena and proving it being a fraud. In one scene, they take on a guy performing in front of a live audience and quite easily prove he's a phony, which is one of the more interesting parts of the film.

Then comes the part where they take on Simon Silver, a blind psychic who claims to be the real deal. Weaver, who has a history with the man, chooses to stay away, but Murphy wants to test him. And so begins the mystery: is he for real, or not?

Cortes successfully keeps the audience interested by maintaining the pace and letting the actors lead the story along. It helps a lot that the cast is spot on, with the three main leads doing an awesome job with their roles. Weaver and Murphy are solid, with the latter having a heavier role in the second half. Robert De Niro doesn't have much to do till the final third of the film, but is very believable as Simon Silver.

As good as the cast is, the film kinda trips over itself in the climax. Towards that point, Cortes tries to inject some horror type jump elements into his film, which was rather jarring. The twist itself isn't so bad, but isn't so mind blowing either. I felt that it was more about how it was executed than what the twist really is. With a bit more creativity and timing, Cortes could have nailed that last section of his film and score a winner. As of right now, it's just almost.

Overall, Red Lights is actually quite interesting. It does manage to keep you guessing, but sort of disappoints at the finish line. (3.5/5)

Saturday, November 24, 2012


Year: 2012
Director: Seth MacFarlane
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Giovanni Ribisi, Seth MacFarlane

Plot: After wishing his teddy bear could talk, John Bennett's stuffed toy Ted comes to life and becomes his best friend. Now as an adult, John is a slacker working at a car rental office and still best friends with his teddy bear. John's lovely girlfriend Lori wants a commitment from him and asks him to choose between her and Ted. What will he do?

Review: Yes, the teddy bear can talk. And he's real funny too. That's the first thing you need to grasp before you can even hope to enjoy this comedy. But good for us, Seth MacFarlane makes it easy by making Ted such a likeable little bear, even if he's foul mouthed most of the time.

MacFarlane, creator of the TV show Family Guy, sort of brings his TV show's style of humour to this film, and it works for the most part. There are tons of 80's references here, from music to TV shows and in particular, Flash Gordon. I'm an 80's child but I'm not familiar with Flash Gordon, so jokes relating to the latter was lost on me, but still whenever the actor playing Flash shows up, it seemed bombastic enough for a laugh. I also liked how MacFarlane got the idea of a talking teddy bear out of the way in the first ten minutes or so to enable Ted to seem normal in an everyday setting. It might seem too convenient from the way it was done, but better this than having to logically explain it throughout the film, right?

Mark Wahlberg plays the slacker John Bennett to perfection and shares great chemistry with MacFarlane who voices Ted. If you had imagined Ted as a regular dude who is a bad influence on you, you'd have no problem following his relationship with John. John is a good guy with a heart of gold, but constantly finds himself stuck in the past whenever Ted shows up. Mila Kunis (how does she look that hot all the time?) is also solid as Lori, the girlfriend who has to compete with Ted for John's attention.

Although the humour is more hit than miss, whenever it misses it's rather unnecessarily bad, like Ted trying to do karaoke (painful). Then there's the subplot with Giovanni Ribisi as a guy who attempts to kidnap Ted for his son, which didn't really gel with the rest of the film. The film's resolution is also too convenient.

Overall, Ted is a solid attempt at making a comedy for guys. It's not perfect but it doesn't really need to be. (3.5/5)

Sunday, November 04, 2012


Year: 2012
Director: Sam Mendes
Cast: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Berenice Marlohe, Naomie Harris, Albert Finney, Ben Whishaw

Plot: After a botched mission, Bond is presumed dead and a list of secret identities of NATO agents across the globe falls into the wrong hands. When MI6 headquarters is attacked, Bond comes out of retirement to protect M from a former agent who has a score to settle with her.

Review: I've always wondered what was it that keeps the Bond film machine going for 50 years. As a film fan, I was getting tired of the same formula: Bond goes on a mission, and through one liners, death defying stunts, gadgets and pretty ladies, he kills the villain and saves the day. Every time. Even Daniel Craig's version of James Bond, who takes everything personally, was wearing me down.

Sam Mendes, to his credit, along with scriptwriters Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan, have made a Bond film that really stands out in Skyfall. Don't get me wrong, the familiar formula is still more or less there, so no groundbreaking approach here. But it's a compelling take on the most famous secret agent in history, and Mendes and company have done an outstanding job in making every second on film count.

The plot actually resembles Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, and even Mendes has admitted his inspiration from there. If you've seen Nolan's take on Batman, you'll notice the similarities here, of a hero who has to rediscover his abilities in order to do his job, as well as Javier Bardem's villain who is somewhat like Heath Ledger's Joker, minus the makeup and grandeur.

The film also scores technically, with Roger Deakins (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, No Country For Old Men, Jarhead among others) capturing the beautiful scenery of Shanghai, Macau and Scotland. The fight scenes are well shot too, and Thomas Newman does a good job with the music, even sampling the familiar 60s Bond theme during the reintroduction of a familiar Bond vehicle from that era (one of my favorite parts of this film).

The last two Bond films focused on his relationship with Vesper Lynd, but this time it's with M, and it is so well done. Bond and M's love hate relationship is put to the test as she chooses to rely on her number one guy who isn't as good as he used to be, while he has to put aside any resentment he has towards her to do his job. Daniel Craig and Judi Dench are fantastic here, playing off each other splendidly that it overshadows everything else on film. Coming in a close second to them is Javier Bardem as Bond villain Silva, who in some way is a tragic bad guy, only wanting retribution against M for her past actions. Bardem is charismatic in his role, looking charming and demented at the same time, and nearly steals the show.

Ralph Fiennes is also great in the role of Mallory, M's superior while Berenice Marlohe and Naomie Harris play the sort of Bond girls, the former making a good impression with her limited screen time, the latter being somewhat dull. I also liked Ben Whishaw as a young Q, looking like a college nerd but still managing to hold his own against 007.

If there's anything wrong with this film, it's the rather anticlimactic end to the Bond-M-Silva triangle, and the aforementioned Naomie Harris. But overall I can't deny that this is one of the most entertaining Bond films I've seen in a while. Recommended. (4/5)

P.S.: The Adele theme song is not bad, but I still prefer Duran Duran's A View To A Kill. 


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