Tag Archives: 3d

Review – Gravity 3D (15) [2013]

Gravity - title banner2

Star Rating: 4/5

Director:

  • Alfonso Cuarón – Love In The Time of Hysteria, Harry Potter III, Children of Men

Cast:

  • Sandra Bullock – Crash, Premonition, The Blind Side, Minions
  • George Clooney – Syriana, The American, The Ides of March, The Monuments Men
  • Ed Harris – A Beautiful Mind, The Way Back, Man On A Ledge, Frontera

Music Composer:

  • Steven Price – Attack The Block, The World’s EndFury

Movies that have delved into the realms of outer space have usually fallen somewhere in the triangle of the sublime, the ridiculous and the farcical. Avatar, Star Wars I-VI, and Lost In Space give credence to this (erratic) trinity in varying ways. Among the spaceships, the ray-gun shoot-outs, and the convergence with antenna-eyed or raptor-style aliens, there has been little room (ironically) for realism in a film set in space. Until now. It may have none of the above, but Gravity gives us a true and uncomfortable feel for what it is like to be outside of the Earth’s atmosphere.

Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) making some repairs to the shuttle in view of Earth.

Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) making some repairs to the shuttle in view of Earth.

Gravity centres round Dr. Ryan Stone (Sadra Bullock), a Mission Specialist. She is on her first expedition into space, led by Matt (George Clooney), a veteran on his last voyage into space. Dr. Stone is making repairs to the shuttle that she and Matt are flying with, when debris from an explosion on a Russian satellite smashes into their shuttle. With the shuttle damaged irreparably, Dr. Stone must find another shuttle if she wishes to return to Earth.

That is essentially the storyline for Gravity. One problem with the plot is that the film uses up its central premise within 30 of its 91 minute running time. This means that for the last hour, the movie recycles itself instead of flesh-eating alien invasions or putting inter-galactic arsenals to the test.

But for those who would rather see another Star Wars, Prometheus or Elysium, do not lose faith. Gravity is very engaging. It has moments of knuckle-whitening tension, amplified by the fast beat, gradual crescendo and sudden silence of the music; all whilst our main character tries to reach another space vessel before her oxygen runs out. In respect of tension, the movie is similar to Sanctum; only in Gravity, Alfonso Cuarón’s directing style increases one’s ability to empathise with the protagonists’ predicament.

Predominantly, the film is seen through Dr. Stone’s eyes (or rather her space-helmet), as she swims around in the boundless, atmosphere-less blackness. Without a centre of gravity, the movie enables viewers to appreciate what it’s like to be in space, rotating endlessly unless one can find something to hold onto. And unlike (the lamentable) Lost In Space, Gravity gives audiences a genuine taste for how scary it would be to get lost in space and to lose contact with the only people who might be able to find you.

Matt (George Clooney), from behind his space helmet, gazing and admiring Earth, amidst the peace of outer space.

Matt (George Clooney), from behind his space helmet, gazing and admiring Earth, amidst the peace of outer space.

In part, one feels the depth of this horror because of Sandra Bullock’s energetic performance. Her character is almost always in panic (as any human being would be in her situation) and this exacerbates Dr. Stone’s (somewhat) complex personality. Due to an unhappy episode in her past, we see her mindset switch from despair to a willingness to live on (and vice-versa) repeatedly. This is something which viewers can relate to on a human level, and it was very important that Bullock achieved this feat. For much of Gravity, she is alone on screen, and if she had failed to show Dr. Stone’s personality to the full, audiences would likely have stopped caring about her.

The only other significant character in the film is Matt, played by George Clooney. And Clooney (surprise surprise) plays himself again as the smooth-talking, handsome wise-head, who goes and comes back (for plot convenience) to give sage advice. That is not to say that Clooney performs his role badly. It is just that we have seen this too many times already.

Bullock and Clooney aside, Gravity is remarkably consistent with its depiction of reality in space. Too often in (bad) films, one sees/hears characters breathing and talking in space. Here, however, there is none of that nonsense! The only time one hears sounds is through the space suit’s microphone, which is so refreshing (and illustrates that not all filmmakers have the paucity of knowledge of physics as Sidney Furie, the director of the rightly-maligned Superman IV: The Quest For Peace.)

Dr. Stone trying to grip a bar on the shuttle, or else she could be find herself adrift in the endless, empty abyss of space surrounding her.

Dr. Stone trying to grip a bar on the shuttle, or else she could be find herself adrift in the endless, empty abyss of space surrounding her.

Moreover, audiences are treated to stunning visual effects. The emptiness that is outer space, in all its wonder, is shown to be disconcertingly large. What’s more, the 3D (for once) enhances the visual experience, even more so than it did in Avatar and Star Trek II: Into Darkness. In Gravity, when debris flies at Dr. Stone, one jerks one’s head out of the way, believing he/she will otherwise be hit! Considering how often the 3D does little more than darken the film and add a couple more quid to the cinema ticket, one must applaud Cuarón for augmenting the experience in a positive and noteworthy way.

Over-all, Gravity is a great demonstration of what being in outer space feels like. That the film has no alien encounters or futuristic ray-gun fights gives the film an ironically grounded dimension that has been sorely lacking in so many other movies that have ventured into space. Due to Sandra Bullock’s great acting, the extraordinary level of consistency regarding the physics of space, the amazing special effects and the 3D, Cuarón has treated us to outer space’s awe-inspiring massiveness, as well as how frightening space can be when out there, lost.

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Review – The Lion King 3D (U) [2011; originally released in 1994]

Star Rating: 5/5

Many argue (and not without justification) that the re-release of old Disney films in 3D is simply a scam to make more money. Well, whether true or not, the magnificent 1994 The Lion King is fully worth paying to see again. (Warning, this review contains spoilers.)

Rafiki holding Simba at the latter’s birth presentation to the kingdom. Sarabi (voiced by Madge Sinclair) and Mufasa, Simba’s mother and father, respectively, watch on proudly.

The movie starts with the presentation of the birth of Simba, the future King of Pride Rock. From early on, cheeky young Simba (voiced by Jonathan Taylor Thomas) learns from his father, King Mufasa (voiced by James Earl Jones – Star Wars IV-VI, Criminal Intent, The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride), about the circle of life and how to become a responsible king. Simultaneously, Scar (voiced by Jeremy Irons – The Man In The Iron Mask, The Borgias, The Words), Mufasa’s younger brother and Simba’s uncle, secretly plots to kill both Mufasa and Simba. Using his three main hyena henchmen, Shenzi (voiced by Whoopi Goldberg – Sister Act I & II, For Coloured Girls, The Muppets), Banzai (voiced by Cheech Marin – From Dusk Til Dawn, Cars I & II, Machete) and Ed (voiced Jim Cummings – Aladdin I-III, Hercules, Zambezio), Scar intends to usurp the throne.

He half succeeds. Scar kills Mufasa, but Simba escapes, fleeing into exile. There, Simba meets a Meerkat, called Timon (voiced by Nathan Lane – The Producers, Stuart Little I & II, The English Teacher), and a Warthog, called Pumba (voiced by Ernie Sabella – The Lion King II & III, Listen To Your Heart). Simba grows up with them and enjoys life, forgetting that he is meant to be ruling the now-ravaged plains of Pride Rock. It is only when Nala (when young, voiced by Niketa Calame; when adult, voiced by Moira Kelly – The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride, Dangerous Beauty, One Tree Hill), Simba’s childhood friend, and Rafiki (Robert Guillaume – The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride), a wise baboon and an old family friend, find him that Simba realises that he must return to the Pride Lands and fight his uncle for the kingdom.

The Lion King’s storyline is easy to follow and gripping. Ostensibly for children, adults can like the movie just as much. (If not even more!) Whilst children may enjoy the sing-along-songs and the funny Timon and Pumba; adults can appreciate the intelligent, wry humour (not to mention how appalling some of Timon’s jokes are), as well as the satire in the film, such as Scar’s Hitler-like moment when he’s standing on a podium addressing his army of goose-step marching hyenas.

The silver-tongued, smiling Scar convincing his young, naive nephew, Simba, to stay and wait in gorge for his father, who has a ‘marvellous surprise’ for him. It’s apparently so good it’s ‘to die for.’ For once, Scar might even be telling the truth.

Adults and children may get pleasure from different aspects of the film; yet, everyone can equally be enamoured with the movie’s beautiful music, composed by Hans Zimmer (Gladiator, Pirates of the Caribbean I-IV, The Dark Knight Rises). Much of the film adopts Zulu-style music, which is not only apt for the setting (after-all, The Lion King is based in South Africa), it enriches every scene wonderfully.

The music, though, would not have the same impact if the characters and the dialogue were not so well defined, written and articulated. All the characters have great depth, from the cunning, forked-tongued, yet cowardly Scar (that he is such an offhandedly sinister villain, rather than a pantomime one gives him an added chilling dimension); to the mischievous-cum-deferent-cum-bold Simba; to the stupid, moaning hyenas; to the funny but sensitive Pumba, to mention four of many.

The fine brilliance of the music and the dialogue is epitomised in the scene following Mufasa’s death. Seldom in Disney films (where death is surprisingly common) have audiences, in general, been reduced to tears. The empathy one has for Simba at that point is heart-breaking. That this is followed by Scar wickedly manipulating the situation to his advantage (as intelligent, psychopathic leaders always do) makes the dosage so much more potent. Since this scene, perhaps only the ending to the excellent Toy Story 3 has come close to making viewers feel the same way again, and for very different reasons.

The music and the dialogue in The Lion King has rightly been praised. Likewise, although it’s easily missed, should the expressions of the characters. Since the majority of the characters are not human-like, since they don’t have arms and legs, the producers/artists had to rely on the characters’ body-language and body-movements to make up for it. Indeed, the way each character moves is indicative of his/her personality and circumstance at any given point. For instance, mischievous little Simba walks (struts) very differently to when he is guilt-riddled in exile. The producers/artists should justifiably take credit for this, as it gives the characters greater subtlety and complexity.

Simba, all grown up now, happily singing, with Timon and Pumba, the joyful ‘Hakuna Matata.’ It means ‘no worries,’ which is exactly how Simba has been living in exile.

Similarly, the hard work that the producers/artists put into the graphics should also be recognised. 2011 viewers may find the graphics antiquated or unsatisfactory. If this is the case, it is most unfair. One has to remember that this film was initially released in the pre-Pixar era, at the time of Beauty & The Beast (1991) and Aladdin (1992), meaning one cannot compare the results of today’s technology with those of the early 1990s. And irrespective of the relative backwardness of the graphics, The Lion King has been converted magnificently into 3D. Unlike recent animations like Rio or The Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, the 3D here makes a difference to the extent of making The Lion King spell-binding; especially, during the fight between Simba and Scar at the end.

All-in-all, The Lion King is a Disney classic for many reasons. Bringing it back to the cinemas in 3D may be a ploy to make more money, but one should see it anyway and treasure this encapsulating masterpiece once again.

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Review – Captain America: The First Avenger 3D (12a) [2011]

Star Rating: 2/5

Since when did a man wearing a bright, tight costume become a symbol of heroism in war? Only in the world of comic-books could this be possible. Indeed, whilst watching Captain America: The First Avenger (a prequel to The Avengers Assemble, due out next spring), one has to remind oneself where this (Marvel) superhero comes from to remotely appreciate the film.

Steven Rogers (Chris Evans) suddenly all toned after coming out of the machine that turns him into a superhero.

Captain America is set in the early-1940s, during World War II. Steven Rogers (Chris Evans – Fantastic Four I & II, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, The Avengers Assemble) is a small, scrawny young man from Brooklyn, who is desperate to join the American army. Except, he keeps getting rejected. It is only when Dr. Erskine (Stanley Tucci – The Devil Wears Prada, Burlesque, The Lovely Bones), a German-American doctor/scientist, wants to conduct an experiment on him that Steven is given the chance to enter the war.

Dr. Erskine wants to turn Steven into a super-strong human weapon, capable of defeating Johann Schmidt/Red Face (Hugo Weaving – Transformers IIII, The Wolfman, The Hobbit I), Erskine’s other experiment that went awry. Schmidt is a Nazi, and one of Hitler’s main henchmen. Schmidt, however, has his own intentions, such as destroying the world by using the almighty power in the Tesseract, a translucent cube, of King Odin of Asgard, Thor’s father. Only the enhanced Steven – Captain America – armed with a shield bearing the stars and stripes, can stop Schmidt from implementing his plan.

Captain America’s nemesis, Red Face (Hugo Weaving). If he’s a Nazi, where’s the swastika insignia on his arm?

The storyline can be followed easily and runs at a fairly decent pace. But at two hours, the movie could have done with being a bit shorter. Undoubtedly, one has to take the plot with a pinch of salt. When one watches Captain America take on whole armies in military fortresses, cheesy images of Chuck Norris and Arnold Schwarzenegger with double-barrelled machine-guns (and seemingly limitless ammunition) spring to mind. This never bodes too well for a modern-day action movie, and Captain America is not immune from this either.

If the late-1980s/early-1990s action scenes don’t make one laugh, then the piteous acting and dialogue certainly will. The eponymous characters in Iron Man I & II and Thor (the other prequels to the upcoming The Avengers Assemble) may have lacked the depth of the main characters in X-Men: First Class, not to mention those in Christopher Nolan’s Batman series, but at least Iron Man and Thor had arrogance, swagger and humour. None of the characters in Joe Johnson’s (Jumanji, Jurassic Park III, The Wolfman) Captain America have any real substance. They take themselves daftly seriously, with perhaps the exception of Tommy Lee Jones (The Fugitive, Men In Black I-III, Lincoln), playing Colonel Chester Philips. Apart from him, the cast (including the usually sound Hugo Weaving) come across as wooden and shallow. They also say some embarrassingly cliché lines (even for a comic-book movie!) that do them no favours.

Captain America all dressed and ready for battle.

The music is little better than the acting. The same can be said for the special effects and the 3D. That does not mean that the special effects are disastrously poor; they are just not of the exceptional quality as those in Transformers III. The 3D, however, is virtually unnoticeable.

Captain America is unquestionably simplistic and appeals almost exclusively to Marvel comic-book fans. It distinctly lacks all the appeals and complexities of Nolan’s Batman series or Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class. Then again, with a propaganda-inclined title, what else should one expect?

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Review – Sanctum 3D (15) [2011]

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Sanctum had the potential to be a disaster to the point when the cast, director and producers alike would have attempted to revise the fact that they had been apart of the film. But Sanctum is not a catastrophe movie and it is surprisingly gripping.

Victoria and Carl begin to panic as they realise that they are trapped and the cave is flooding.

The film is ‘inspired’ by true events. (What this means is anyone’s guess.) A group of cave divers attempt to see the last unknown, underwater cave in the world in Papa New Guinea. The divers, led by Carl the manager (Ioan Gruffudd – Titanic, King Arthur, Fantasic Four I & II), Frank (Richard Roxburgh – Mission Impossible 2, Moulin Rouge, Van Helsing), Josh (Rhys Wakefield – Home and Away, The Black Balloon), George (Dan Wyllie – Chopper, Animal Kingdom) and Victoria (Alice Parkinson – Where The Wild Things Are, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Pacific) are slowly but surely revealing the depths of the cave. That is until a storm breaks out above them. Before they know it, the cave is flooding. They are trapped. The only way out is down. Down, through previously unexplored areas.

The plot for Sanctum is simple and fairly predictable. We know that not everyone is going to survive, so it is just a question of who is next to fall. Yet, because the acting is terribly wooden and the dialogue is poor; it is hard to empathise or like any of the main characters. Their predicaments, and the way they behave in certain situations, seem quite realistic. Under such circumstances, survival is the only thing that matters. Everything else goes by the wayside and there is no time for sentiment. Nevertheless, the more the main characters try to be serious, the more pitifully amusing they become. (Also, why is it that the ‘good guys’ in the film never need food or water; but the ‘bad guys’ do?)

Carl, left, and Frank, right, stay still for a moment to let the others catch up. Behind them, one gets a glimpse of the awesome underwater scenery that is prevalent throughout the film.

The acting, though, was never going to be Sanctum’s attraction. As a thriller, one hopes to feel one’s heart pounding against the chest. While the film takes a bit of time to get going (even though the film is not particularly long), Sanctum achieves this. That the characters go through tight spaces underwater makes one feel claustrophobic; unsettling one almost to the point of panic. (Especially if one does not like being stuck in a small space.)

The 3D feature of the movie has the further effect of making the audience feel as trapped as Frank, Carl, Josh, George and Victoria. This is in no small part due to the executive producer, James Cameron (Titanic, Avatar I, II & III). Just like in his last film, Avatar, Cameron successfully exploits the 3D effects to make one feel like they are in the predicament of those they are watching. In addition, his 3D images of the caves are stunning; seductive enough to make one believe that the potentially fatal dangers of cave digging/exploring are non-hazardous and worthwhile.

Arguably, the visuals and the 3D effects in Sanctum, to a degree, make up for what is lacking in the acting department. The director, Alister Grierson (Kokoda: 39th Battalion), and Cameron make the most out of a bland storyline; and turn it into an unexpectedly entertaining and nerve-shredding movie.

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