Madagascar 3

Jessica Chastain

Jessica Chastain

One of the most popular animated movie is the Madagascar series and they recently released the third instalment. All heroes are animals with strong personalities. This is a movie for children but parents coming with them will certainly have a great time too.

At the center of Madagascar is a group of four friends originally at the Central Park Zoo in New York. There is Alex the lion played by Ben Stiller, Marty the zebra played by Chris Rock, Melman the giraffe played by David Schwimmer and Gloria the hippopotamus played by Jada Pinkett Smith. These four are really close friends with strong personalities and they decide to go back to New York from Madagascar after Alex has a nightmare about getting old. But in order to go back so far they need the help of their friends the penguins, which are in Monaco.

They reach Monte Carlo where the penguins drink coffee and scam the casino, but the four friends fail in their attempt to steal from the casino and they get the animal police to chase them all over Europe from there. They meet a circus crew and the penguins which have a lot of money from gambling in Monaco buy all the animals. This way they hope to disappear. But it is just a new adventure starting and the chief of animal control, Chantal Dubois played by Frances McDormand, is not ready to let go.

The four make new friends with the circus animals; there is Vitaly the Siberian tiger played by Bryan Cranston, Stefano the Italian sea lion played by Martin Short and Gia the jaguar played by Jessica Chastain. These are initially reluctant to help them but they get progressively closer. The problem with this circus is that since the tiger has failed once in his acrobatic demonstration, he has lost his spirit and talent, as well as all the other animals. The gang of four pretend to be also circus animals and so they hope to ressucitate the show.

Even though they lied about their abilities they manage to create an original and magnificent circus show by the end.

This is a very enjoyable movie with plenty of action, excellent graphics, well played animal roles. In particular I like the French lady chasing the animals. She represents the villain but she is more funny than scary. Bring your kids, they will love this movie with a lot of laughs

Margin call

Demi Moore

Demi Moore

Around four years back, most people saw the chain reaction of financial disaster. High level investment companies located in different parts of the world had to declare bankruptcy.

The major reason for bankruptcy was the housing bubble destruction and the resultant decrease in value of real estate in the US and abroad. These changes led to a drastic change in economic structure, such that they could only be addressed by a congressional bailout.

Margin Call was released in the year 2011, and it accurately weaves a cold, yet compelling story. This review of the movie ‘margin call’ describes how the movie is connected to real life.

Most of the movie is shot inside a NY investment company, where characters speak about complex financial terms that are unknown to a common man, but J.C. Chandor manages to immerse viewers in the panic where actions mean more than words.

The movie plot has a strong connection with reality. In the beginning of the film, the investment company, which is not named but appears to be related to Lehman Bros, has just fired 4/5th of its total employees. One of the fired employees is Eric (played by Stanley Tucci), he worked as head of the risk analysis department. While leaving the office he hands over a flash drive to Peter (played by Zachary Quinto) and asks him to analyze data carefully.

Peter finds some shocking facts in the data storage device given by Eric, and reports them to his seniors. Seth (played by Pen Badgley) his supervisor Will (played by Paul Bettany) and their boss Sam (played by Kevin Spacey), gather in the office at night to view the data left by Eric.

All these characters discuss a number of financial facts with each other, and the bottom line is that their company and the whole market are rapidly moving towards disaster. The rest of the movie is shot inside the emergency meeting conducted during the same night. The role of Sarah Robertson a senior executive is played by Demi Moore (picture above), while Jeremy Irons plays the role of the company’s CEO John Tuld.

Later that night, the company’s higher management took several decisions that depict several bitter truths of the investment sector. These major decisions are related to mortgage backed securities, which are securities backed by real estate mortgages. These are the securities that started the crisis in 2008.

The company CEO and investment floor head i.e. Sam take several decisions that are in the company’s interest, but totally against investor interest. Sam announces that he will be giving 7 figure bonuses to his traders if they are able to sell off 93% of the mortgage backed securities. These huge bonuses are offered as traders will lose all their clients after deceiving them by selling securities that will collapse in value (as everyone will try to sell them). The management feels that sharp gains and losses are all a part of the economic game.

The top actors played at their best. The movie has a close relationship with reality and the 2008 financial crisis. Investment companies often misguide their clients to invest in securities that are soon going to lose their all their cash and financial worth, and become nothing more than a piece of paper.

The cold hearted behavior of senior company executives has been depicted with perfection. Kevin Spacey and Paul Bettany acted really well in the film, especially in the places where they showed lack of interest in investor’s benefits. J.C. Chandor, the writer and director of Margin Call received a lot of accolades for creating it, and it’s his finest creation till date.

The Hunger Games

Jennifer Lawrence

The director and his crew have done an excellent job in bringing into life the novel “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins. Usually movies that are adapted from books fail to stand up to the expectation and hype that is created around it. Often in such cases, if you have not read the book, you will not understand the movie well. But in The Hunger Games, Gary Ross has done his best to bring the essence and elements of the books into the movie. He has ensured that the true picture of brutality is clearly displayed in the main section of the movie which constitutes the game.

The elite domination over the world and its cruel consequences has been depicted in this dystopian novel. While you are watching the movie, you get the feeling that the situations that you face today due to the diplomatic government are more or less similar to the situations depicted in the movie. The movie is set in North America, 74 years after a revolution and the federal power is supreme with 12 districts under its commandment. As a punishment for a past rebellion, each district has to send compulsorily a boy and a girl to represent the district in the hunger games. The director, Gary Ross has done a great job in recreating this futuristic world.

The lead role in the movie is that of the bold Katniss Everdeen in her teens and has been wonderfully acted by Jenifer Lawrence. If you have read the book before watching the movie, you will be stunned to see that the same face, the same features are displayed by Jenifer in the movie. Jenifer Lawrence has imbibed each and even minute detail of the lead character Katniss Everdeen to bring the movie to life.

The opening of the movie has been well sculptured with a wonderful job done by the set designers. The first 90 seconds shows the luxurious and well established Panem, the Capital city and the discussion and proclamation of the Hunger Games for the year. The scene then shifts suddenly to the depressing view of District 12. The differentiating line between the have and the have not’s is clearly depicted in the introduction scene itself. The government lives in the Capitol with intense wealth and power while the surrounding 12 captured districts live a life of poverty and helplessness. Two young representatives from these 12 districts compete in the hunger games to survive, without any good reason, but they have to obey the rules set by the Capitol.

The book was most popular for the Hunger Game part which had 24 teenagers from the 12 districts hunting all competing for survival in a forest. And it is truly awesome to see these scenes come to life in a synthetic forest with all the minute details taken care of. All those harsh scenes like gushing blood has been completely avoided in the movie, yet the rage of the game has been well created with the quickly moving cameras, giving you a glimpse of every action and violence.

Watch this movie, you will have a great time.

The Artist

A Silent Movie That Makes a Big Noise

Berenice Bejo

Movie goers got a huge surprise in 2011 when ‘The Artist’ hit the movie theaters. This movie did raise quite a few eyebrows because many people who went to see it had no idea that it was a silent film, but it did very well at the box office nevertheless. Where this movie scores very high is in terms of critical acclaim. This unusual movie, the winner of 3 Golden Globes, has been nominated for 12 Baftas and is also expected to make quite a killing at the Oscars.

What makes ‘The Artist’ very successful is the fact that it is basically a very simple movie. A beautiful tribute to the Hollywood’s silent era, this black-and-white film is set in the late 1920s and early 1930s in Hollywood. Directed by Michel Hazanavicius, this movie follows the story of silent movie star George Valentin, played by French actor Jean Dujardin who is preoccupied with the impending death of the silent movie era which provides him with his livelihood. Around the same time he meets a young dancer Peppy Miller, played by Berenice Bejo, who is working to get her big break in show business. Their love story is what gives this movie its appeal.

Made with a budget of around $12,000,000, this movie has been a surprise hit because of its universal appeal. At the beginning of the movie, George Valentin is at the top of his game as a leading silent movie star. He is handsome and self-absorbed, much in the manner of a Hollywood God. He meets Peppy, a lively young dancer who is trying to make her way in the industry. The movie is about their improbable love affair that carries on in spite of changed circumstances that see Valentin’s career on the descendent whereas Peppy achieves the success that she is striving for. Valentin is simply not able to make the switch to talkies having been doing the same thing over and over again in his silent movies even though a studio boss often warns him to prepare for change.

Hazanavicius, who has written this movie in addition to directing it, has paid homage to many classic black-and-white films in this production. There are scenes in this film that hark back to Singin’ in the Rain, Citizen Kane and even Vertigo. Dujardin and Bejo do a wonderful job in this film and so does John Goodman who essays the role off the studio boss.
It is too much to say that ‘The Artist’ will change the way in which movies are made and that more silent films will be produced. This is definitely a one-off movie of this genre. It is not even a particularly great movie if only because Hazanavicius seems to have looked to ‘Sunset Boulevard’ and ‘A Star is Born’ for inspiration. However, it is a very enjoyable film to watch because of the superlative acting and directing. With a few nominations under its belt, this little movie is all set to make quite a bit of noise at the Oscars.

Midnight in Paris

a georgeous young actress

Rachel McAdams

Woody Allen is one of my favorite directors and he has never disappointed me. Once again he created a new movie so original that only him could have written it, and it is like no one else.

First let’s say that this movie entirely takes place in Paris, France and if you like to see the city, then this film has some of the most beautiful cinematography of the French capital. In particular the beginning of the movie shows a series of views of the City of Lights from many different vantage points and it really feels like you are there, standing in the rain.

Woody Allen nowadays always use new actors at each of its new films, and it is like an honor to be invited to act in one of his films, especially as these are considered art movies and not big box office productions. So Owen Wilson could at first seem like an odd choice, but he fits perfectly inside the imagination and script of Woody Allen and this role shows his talent. Owen plays Woody Allen himself as he is a writer lacking confidence who has a strong nostalgia for the twenties, naive and unassuming.

He has on his side two gorgeous actresses, Marion Cotillard and Rachel McAdams who bring passion and poetry to the story. As often Marion steals the show with her classy presence.

In a daring move Woody hired the French First Lady to play a small role and this is a great idea to depict the country which has ‘equality’ in its motto.

Woody Allen’s imagination is limitless and this time he created an interesting and as always unexpected story which I will not reveal as you must see that movie and find out for yourself. But let’s say that this is a story where people’s passion are the driving forces of their lives. The movie is magical and mystical, akin to a dream.

Ironman two

scarlett-johansson-sexy

Scarlett Johnansson

This movie has been heavily marketed due to the box-office success of the prequel and the popularity of superhero movies in general.

Superhero movies adaptation of comics books are nothing new starting with superman a few decades ago. But recently there is a large supply of them (X-men, Batman, Spiderman, Hellboy,  Hulk,…), as Hollywood found a good cash cow.

The recipe is simple, as the comics book is already popular there is a high likelihood the movie will sell too.

And it is fashionable, especially when casting the right star. If it works let’s make a series, if not good try. So what about Ironman 2?

Overall it is a pretty good movie. Not excellent but quite good. The star power is there with 5 excellent actors Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow,  Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson and Mickey Rourke under the direction of John Favreau.

Robert Downey Jr. plays the eccentric playboy inventor Tony Stark who is also superhero Ironman. Robert’s charm and humor are the driving factors to the success of the movie, as well as the special effects. Overall acting is quite good with Mickey Rourke the villain who is also aware of how to produce powerful condensed energy.

The most memorable scene takes place in Monte Carlo during a formula one car race. Great location for beautiful images and the fight between Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) and Ironman while the fast cars are racing is impressive.

Other great special effect moments are when Ironman fights with his friend Lt. Colonel James Rhode (Don Cheadle) where both are wearing an ironman suit. This is a powerful altercation where too nearly invincible forces collide.

The most stunning special effects are during the final battle when the two friends must unite to battle legions of combat robots nearly as strong as themselves.

Director John Favreau did a great job to offer a very entertaining movie. This is not the greatest superhero movie. Maybe the villain is not scary enough and too easy to defeat? Maybe the special effects are not extraordinary enough? After seeing a movie like Avatar, the public is getting more and more demanding for great visual effects.

There will be a sequel so keep posted. Anyway a movie not to be missed by fans of this genre.

Avatar

avatar

As this movie was released already a few months ago, gaining the largest box office ever at over 2 billion dollars worldwide and receiving numerous awards including three Oscars, you already know about Avatar and you probably saw it.

As this blog is about movies but my favorite genre is science fiction as the top logo shows, this post will simply be a list of remarks about the movie to avoid rehashing stuff.

First of all in my opinion this is the best sci fi movie of the decade, and it belongs to the list of the top twenty sci fi movies of all times. I believe the special effects in this movie are  the best ever made in any movie.

James Cameron was able to create a completely fictional world on the moon Pandora in Alpha Centauri star system. In this lush world, flora and fauna coexist in a gorgeous forest and this imaginary society seems totally real because of the marvelous special effects. Is it better to watch the movie in 3D (I tried both versions) which accentuates the power of the images. And the images are truly unbelievable.

There is also a population of tall human-like creatures called the Na’vi who lives on Pandora. This is the first time that alien features have been rendered with such a great realism in a movie. Star Trek, Star Wars or District 9 to name a few have all three had some of the best creations with respect to alien civilized creatures similar to humans, but not as good as the Na’vis. The Navis were computer generated but unlike most, they appear believable on the screen as creatures of flesh and blood.

The animals including flying dragons and wild dogs, the trees, flowers and plants all live in harmony in magnificent colors. The images of the rivers,  villages, mountains, cliffs and the aerial views project you in this imaginary world as if you were there.

The script also has some interesting and unusual concepts. The migration of the mind between different bodies (from two alien species) thanks to technology, rebirth into a different body, a sophisticated natural system that transcends each individual entity through a bio-botanical neural-network, the mental communication between different species through a physical lien.

This is a movie you will not forget so do not delay if you have not seen it yet.

Surrogates

Rosamund pike

Rosamund pike

Bruce Willis latest movies is an interesting sci-fi thriller, “Surrogates”.

In this not too distant future, a new technology has revolutionized the way human beings live their lives.

It enables them to control human looking robots from their home through the waves of their brains. They use these “surrogates” to act on their behalf while they stay comfortably laying on their couch.

This technology has many advantages. Accidents, murders and wars occur with minimal human casualties as it is the surrogates that are destroyed in case of an accident, not the human “operator” who is perfectly safe. Diseases do not spread easily. And people love to use these gorgeous young looking models instead of their own old skin.

Bruce Willis plays Tom Greer, who is not too surprisingly a cop investigating what appears to be a murder. It seems that by destroying a surrogate, the murderer achieved what was previously  thought impossible: killing its operator. This had never happened before and it put the entire surrogacy system at risk by nullifying its main advantage, protecting human lives.

The main players coming of this original sci-fi thriller are Canter (James Cromwell) the inventor of the surrogate technology and The Prophet (Ving Rhames) who is the leader of the anti-surrogacy movement. Tom Greer lost his son in a car accident and his wife Maggie (Rosamund Pike) has become addicted to her surrogate, never leaving her room herself in person.

Surrogates is a nice addition to the science fiction genre with its good storyline. The concept in itself is rather new, and is an extension of our current society’s trends such as automation, robotization and social networking. The movie is inspired by a five-issue comic book written by Robert Venditti and drawn by Brett Weldele.

For sci-fi aficionados and people who love Bruce Willis like me, you should check it, but it is not the most unforgettable sci-fi movie. The director is Jonathan Mostow who is a good but not great director.

Some of the interesting aspects of the movie are the depiction of a society where people use machines to act on their behalf, and when this social trend leads to unforeseen consequences such as addiction and dependency.

Not expected to be happening soon, this is nevertheless a possibility in human evolution. The surrogates are copies of their operators, but better looking, displaying less emotions and with extraordinary physical capabilities as can be seen in some of the races in the movie.

The message of the movie: Technology will revolutionize our society more then what we expect.

District 9

Nathalie Boltt

Nathalie Boltt

A sci-fi original.

The quality of this movie is guaranteed given that it is produced by Peter Jackson, the mastermind behind the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Even though this is the directorial debut of Neill Blomkamp and there is no famous actor, this is going to be a memorable sci-fi blockbuster.

District 9 is the story of a starship that stops just above Johannesburg, the capital of South Africa and then stays forever above ground, immobile and obscuring part of the sky. After a few months, the humans penetrate into it, to discover a wavering population of aliens appearing sick, malnourished, without organization and who seem to have lost the knowledge of how to maneuver the spaceship .

The movie takes places twenty years after the spaceship initial arrival. As patience regarding this “alien situation” has ran out, the management of the alien population has been contracted out to the private company Multi-National United (MNU) which relocates them in a ghetto-like area called “District 9″.

District 9 is a scary slum where various types of traffic take place (weapons, food, etc) under the control of the Nigerian mafia. Aliens speak their own language and have their own culture and habits, making co-habitation very difficult.

This sci-fi masterpiece is original for a few reasons. First the format of the movie, which is shot like if it were a documentary. Many short interviews of witnesses commenting on their impressions are intertwined with action footage. And they talk and appear as if it was the evening news, including expert commentaries by sociologists such as Sarah Livingstone (Nathalie Boltt). And there is impromptu footage filmed as the real events occurred.

The lead character presented himself as a witness is Wikuss Wan De Merwe, the manager from MNU responsible for relocating the 1.8 millions aliens to a remote and quieter location. This is a difficult operation as the aliens may not understand the concept of relocation (as they have no sense of propriety) and they are unpredictable and possibly violent, causing occasional deaths on both sides.

It turns out that one of the aliens had managed to preserve the knowledge of his race’s technology and had been working on building a small spacecraft during the last twenty years since their unfortunate arrival. But while raiding the place, Wikuss Wan De Merwe gets contaminated by a substance used to fuel the ship, and starts transforming himself into an alien.

This is not a Star Wars movie as the action is shot in real South Africa as we know it, and the budget is only 30 millions. But the special effects are first class for this relatively small budget. The aliens have a realistic appearance, the mother spaceship, small spaceship and robots are perfectly rendered as if we were watching the news channel.

Also District 6 has a great human touch. We see the hero losing his humanity as he progressively becomes an alien and his body suffers a slow metamorphosis. In the face of that, he becomes a valuable object of science for human society and is treated as such, without compassion as an object of immense value. His wife is the only one left who cares for him.

As this movie is presented in a narrative format, each person expresses his feelings about this extraordinary situation, offering a wide range of views and human emotions. Finally, the choice of the country famous for Apartheid and its huge ghettos is probably not coincidental to carry a message about races and tolerance.

The message of the movie: be tolerant to others and keep an open mind.

Brüno

Paula Abdul

Paula Abdul

I found Sacha Baron Cohen’s first movie “Borat” to be hilarious and original. Likewise for Brüno.

Nowadays many movies are remakes or uses a standard plot without surprises. This is not so of Sacha Baron Cohen‘s movies.

The general format is similar to Borat. This is the story of a foreigner, an Austrian man, who goes to America in search of,…, fame. The footage is reality TV like, and this movie could have been filmed with a budget of one million or less. This just shows that great movies do not need great budgets.

It seems that a lot of the scenes are not rehearsed and that some of the people in the footage are not aware that they are part of the movie. Like when Paula Abdul is invited to an interview and asked to sit on Mexican gardeners acting like chairs during the interview. She reluctantly obliges.

But when Sacha Cohen offers her some food which comes served on a naked Mexican man wearing a condom and acting like the food tray, she runs away in a heartbeat.

Or does Harrison Ford know that he is in the movie for about five seconds when he politely refuses an interview request from Brüno with the short answer “f..k you”.

So this time Sacha Baron Cohen portrays Brüno, a male homosexual who is into fashion shows. He used to have his own TV show in Austria about fashion,but as was fired from it for making a mess in a Milan fashion show, so he decides to go to the USA to become a celebrity.

The movie is about Brüno’s impromptu adventures in the United States and in the Middle East where he attempts to establish a peace treaty. We see Brüno attending a swingers party, acting as an extra on NBC’s show medium, enrolling in the National Guards or being taken to the police station in bondage gear with his friend Lutz.

This is a highly provocative movie that portrays gay men in the least flattering light. As Brüno is “ultra-gay”, with all his pores screaming that he is gay every second of the movie. Sexual allusions and images abound. I am not sure if I would like the movie as much if I were gay, but I am not. So excuse me, but I enjoyed every moment of this movie, not because it is about gay people, but because it is so hilarious.

The message of the movie: Originality still exists in show business.