Saturday, May 31, 2014

Maleficent (Film Review)

This is what Americans do best. Dramatic story telling. And now that we have the amazing technologies at our disposal, why not Maleficent? Why not the incredible portrayal of the evil (not so evil) witch? Why not have otherworldly sets where the air ripples with imagination and all necessary square inches of the frame is beautifully saturated with detail (but not in a oh-we’re-gonna-bombard-you-with-crazy-visual-effects-just-cos-we-can sort of way)? Why not Angelina Jolie? Why not walking/talking trees (now, you don’t need to roll your eyes because these trees look and sound better than Peter Jackson’s from a decade ago)? Why not fairies? 

Rating movies is such a subjective thing. You catch an average movie on a good night, you absolutely love it. You catch a good movie on a bad night, you miss it’s whole point and don’t enjoy it. I must have got Maleficent on a really good night because I absolutely loved it – or it could also be that it was an incredible film. 

I’d love to see the production design team work on this one and the lengths they would have gone through to craft this one up. The music was great – in fact I made a mental note to check them out when I've got home and have logged into spotify (that’s how you know a piece of music has got your attention). 

What this film also did well in its story telling is that it didn’t complicate things, and kept character-count to a bare minimum. The temptation with fantasy stories, I would imagine, is to go hard-core on making characters and scenarios (because sometimes it can be true that audiences love details and they want as many information as possible for the imagined world to become convincing – think LOTR, Potter, Game of Thrones etc.) Though that might be true in great stories, you cannot fake it. The most important thing in a story is to, well, tell a story. Not to get too carried away with setting and character. When your story can be told with two people, there’s no point in creating ten characters just because the writer fancies it. Maleficent leaves you asking for more, you are satisfied with the story, but you are also very intrigued by this new designed world, and the characters that could live within it. 

The story-line has nothing too crazy. Halfway through the film, you might have guessed how the outcome would be. But this doesn't ruin it in anyway. The values/moral of the story is pretty spot-on. Without giving the story away, it is a treatment that you don't see a lot of nowadays – and it's a welcome change.

Finally, my closing remarks:

Elle Fanning, you fine little thing. 


3.5/5

Saturday, May 17, 2014

I take a sip of the chai and forget my cares if only for that swift moment with my friends and memories of the nostalgic town.

"How are you?" Toby my old friend calls as soon as I walk in, drinking the coffee I saw him last drinking when I left him a few months ago, "You look a little – odd."

"Yeah, you're right," I mumble back in reply, "I need a good drink."

"There's always the good drink here, E," Melody, as always sounding cheery, "We've got holidays till Tuesday, and good thing we decided not to take the train to MC, we had a feeling you'd turn up."

"Our prodigal son returns," laughs Tenzin, "atleast for the entire weekend?"

"Yes I think so," I reply, "Oh I don't know. I don't care. I just want a drink."

I can smell the tea brewing. I can feel the fumes that came from the gigantic tea urn from across the hotel room. The room is filled with students, dressed in their Saturday casuals, all of them looking happy and relaxed. Tell me again, I say to myself, why did I even leave in the first place?

"How was Singapore? Or was it Bali?" Melody asks.

"I flew in from New Zealand." I murmur, closing my eyes, facing the sun and feeling the warmth creep into my bones.

"Jealous. I want to travel the world." Toby was looking at me with an enquiring look, "How is it?"

"Trust me, now that I am here in this old haunt, in Town, hearing all these crowd noise, and smelling the smell of a hill town murmuring with morning bliss, there's no place I'd rather be."

"But what about Zanzibar?"

"There's no place like the familiar. When you sit among strangers and yet know they are your family because you live in the confines of the same town."

They look away knowingly. They know I'd be saying these things when I left months earlier. They then start talking among themselves. Of eating lunch at the Tibetan restaurant upstairs from the clothing outlet stores. Of watching a film in the decrepit cinema hall with painted images of bygone heroes and heroines hailing you at the front door. Of going for a walk down the water's edge, skimming stones on the smooth surface and skipping along the edge to keep your shoes dry. Of sitting and just watching the himalayas catch morning or evening sun rays, starting to look backgrounds from posters of hand-painted gods and goddesses.

And even though I am sitting in that tea shop with them – in town surrounded by bustling humans, ambassador cars heaving through narrow streets looking like fat ticks, hearing cackling voices of shopkeepers calling out for customers, and smelling the smell of ginger in the cup of tea that has just been served on my table, seeing glimpses of the mighty himalayas from a nearby window always an imposing presence in the reality of this townsfolk – even so, I feel terribly homesick and lonely.

I take a sip of the chai and forget my cares if only for that swift moment with my friends and memories of the nostalgic town.

– EE

Journey

Most days (if not all days)
I am just spiralling through the days
No idea of what I am doing wrong
No idea of what I am doing right
No idea of what to improve on
No idea of what I should change in myself

I take the bus, I walk here to there
I eat this crap, I drink this beauty

No one tells me it's wrong
No one tells me it's right

Playing dice with my life
Numb to reality and possibilities
Numb to what could be or should be
I spiral like a beast without consciousness
Without ideas and logic
And common sense

Like everyone else I need help

You meet me at the calm waters
After days in the dry desert
I needed a drink I needed soothing words
You tell me

Rest.

The journey's been so long
We're losing sight, we're losing song
Far across the horizon is nothing new
Nothing on

Hey, my good old friend
You've been with me till this end
How much longer shall we wander

Rest. You don't understand
Nor will you understand
The most you can do is rest here
For the while. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Godzilla (2014) Film Review

I have been noticing a trend in my film reviews. Most (if not all) of them are negative criticism than positive celebration. That hasn't been my intention, and if I could I would correct it. So let me start my review of Godzilla with positive observations...

Well actually, one positive observation about Godzilla.

The film trailer.

The trailer was, to be fair, something worth jumping up and down about. But it's sad that almost everything cool about the film were summed up in that trailer. The scene of the military men air diving from the plane into the city looked amazing, yes. But we saw that in the trailers already! The scenes of jet fighters dropping from the sky like pieces of debris looked unreal (in a cool way). But didn't we see that in the trailer already? Yes. There were some scenes that were ok that didn't feature in the trailer – but my point being that much of the greatest elements of this film, you have already seen.

But if I am to rate trailers, yep, Godzilla did a fine job getting all the geeks drooling alright.

Now, the film plot seemed weak. I don't know how a monster movie like this can have a stronger plotline than this anyway, but surely Hollywood isn't shallow enough to keep making films that are so America-centred? Nope. They're all still on that buzz. Monsters and aliens love American major cities – New York, Los Angeles, etc, or if not that then, very major cities like Tokyo, London etc.

Let me give you an advice, if you find yourself in a Hollywood movie with an alien of Godzilla-like monster on a rampage, DON'T go to major cities (especially New York). They are less likely to attack a place like Nelson or Gore. And if you can find out, find out where the hero of the story is. Whatever city/town he is in, the monsters are most likely to attack (9 times out of 10).

Films are films, and are stories told to suit the medium of film, and the whole point is drama. I understand that there has to be crazy coincidences, crazy turns of events for films to be interesting and worth watching. But there also has to be believability. Atleast a certain part of the audience's logical capacity has to be satisfied. Screen-writers of Godzilla assume you will forgive them for skimming through necessary loopholes just to keep the story going – so much so that by the end of the movie, it wasn't the monsters that seemed ridiculous, what seemed ridiculous to me was the fact that people with millions of dollars at their disposal would end up making a crass work of fiction such as this.

The actors were painfully average, except for Ken Watanabe (who did a decent job as the scientist in conflict) and Brian Cranston. The rest are not convincing at all, especially all the kids actors.

There is a scene in LA where Godzilla finds a few seconds of silence and solitude, he stoops down to the ground level, right to where the main hero is standing so they face each other. The hero then looks him in the eye, and Godzilla stares back – and they share a special moment of human to godzilla connection. That lasted for two seconds, and Godzilla turns away proceeds to lunge around the city – leaving the audience wondering, wow, did that just happen? 

I don't know a lot about monsters but with surface information alone I know one does not share eye to eye connection moments with pre-historic creatures. I just don't buy that sort of stuff. 

But if you have to, go and watch it. I think if anything, the trailer deserves the movie to be watched. And again, to be fair, there are some scenes that are pretty gripping. The sound design is quite effective. The cinematography strong. Nothing you haven't seen before, but strong.

1.5/5

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Stylised Art

Is there a problem with stylised art? I think there is a minor problem with it.

What is stylised art?

Manga is an example. American superhero comics are an example. You can recognise the school they belong to because of the way specific elements are drawn. Manga people have wide eyes and minute mouths and noses. American superhero comics have exaggerated muscles and facial features.

Problem with too recognisable style in your art is that it is too recognisable. If you are happy for the association that your art is going to be linked with, then you won't mind when your audience immediately make the connection. But personally, I want my audience to start with a blank canvas before they read my work, so that they can make interpretations purely on the basis of the work itself, and not have them make undue conclusion.