Friday, April 26, 2013


Release Date: Apr 19, 2013 
Runtime: 2 hr. 5 min.
Director: Joseph Kosinski 
Cast: Tom Cruise, Olga Kurylenko, Morgan Freeman, Andrea Riseborough, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Melissa Leo.

2013 is briskly shaping up to be the year of sci-fi, with a hefty slate of films geared up in imminent fashion. Thus it only seems fitting that the first to climb on deck is "Oblivion," Joseph Kosinski's homage of sorts to the inveterate genre. Taking place in the year 2077, we open on a desolate Earth, sixty years after an alien invasion nearly wipes out mankind. The remaining inhabitants, Tech #49 and communications officer Victoria, work as drone maintenance in pursuance of providing resources to continue civilization. It's here that the story breaks ground in establishing a breathtaking world, with impressive vistas and ravaged landmarks that are instantly recognizable. Kosinski's eye for aesthetics is obviously simple, through his sleek design and immaculate structures
much like his approach to "Tron: Legacy." So where the film falters is certainly not by its looks, as it's what's in the inside that calls for closer observation. "Oblivion" is seemingly enthralling at first, as the trailer leaves more to the imagination than the bare premise. But it takes time to really determine where it's heading, as the buildup is deliberately measured over the course of two hours. And while the story itself is an original by the director, one can't help but notice the similarities it shares with many sci-fi films before it, including, oddly enough, Pixar's "Wall-E." That said, the foreshadowed twist is disappointing in terms of creativity, as it's this overused escape route that depreciates the plot line. Still, there are some redeeming qualities that keep it afloat — the music, for one, playing a key role. As a way of emulating Daft Punk and their personal spin on "Tron: Legacy," Kosinski enlists the help of French group M83 to compose the tracks, making for a parallel but subdued tonality. Additionally, Tom Cruise slips comfortably back into his superstar persona, playing the vulnerable but persistent Jack Harper. Morgan Freeman, however, is mostly forgotten, as his screen time is equivalent to no more than a cameo. In any event, "Oblivion" is best enjoyed for its beauty and that alone because once "Star Trek Into Darkness" arrives, it will only be a distant memory.

Rating: 2½ stars

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Release Date: Apr 05, 2013 
Runtime: 1 hr. 41 min. 
Director: Danny Boyle 
Cast: James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel, Rosario Dawson, Danny Sapani, Tuppence Middleton.

It was a mere three years ago that Christopher Nolan took us inside the confines of the mind, probing dreams and their intricate workings like never seen before. Now director Danny Boyle takes us deeper into the psyche, eliciting memories and fears within a visceral landscape. James McAvoy stars as Simon, a fine arts auctioneer turned novice art thief. After a heist goes wrong resulting in inadvertent amnesia, he is forced into treatments of hynotheraphy with the beautiful Elizabeth Lamb (Dawson) to recover his memories. But as Simon goes under to reassemble the broken pieces, he finds that not everythingand everyoneare entirely what they seem. While initially a crime thriller with psychological elements, "Trance" is much more than it actually leads us to believe. Interwoven in compulsion and deceitful misdirection, the film's many layers are what keep it unpredictable, even when you think you've had it all figured out. It's with Boyle's impeccable guidance that the film really comes alive, producing sharp images with vivid colors in successive intercuts. Ergo it's sometimes difficult to ascertain reality from fantasy, it's another clever ruse to distract the audience from peeling back the layers. Furthermore, excellent performances are turned in by the cast. Vincent Cassel playing the suave villain that you're unsure of whether to hate, and Rosario Dawson playing the female protagonist with an ulterior agenda. While "Trance" doesn't have the same urgency or tension as his last two films, Boyle presents a techno thriller that entices, both mentally and visually. 

Rating: 4 stars

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

G.I. Joe: Retaliation

Release Date: Mar 28, 2013 RealD 3D 
Runtime: 1 hr. 39 min. 
Director: Jon M. Chu 
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Channing Tatum, Adrianne Palicki, D.J. Cotrona, Lee Byung Hun, Jonathan Pryce, Ray Park, Bruce Willis.

Sequels are typically excuses for profitable second chances. Even for those as trivial as action figure heroes bred back in the 60's. But is it still a sequel if the main cast is essentially obliterated? That's for us to deduce and, honestly, not care about. "G.I. Joe" gets the evasive makeover with a new director and cast, sustaining few characters while dispatching the rest. Adding to the group is Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who apparently has joined every franchise out there within arm's reach. Continuing from the conclusion of "Rise of Cobra," "Retaliation" is, for all intents and purposes, a sequel. Sticking to the same foolproof formula of explosions and gunfights, it's a no brainer when it comes to full-fledged action over any given substance. The icing on the cake is the array of ninjas, high-flying and deadly as any kid's fantasy. Yet through it all, the plot seems more lackadaisical than the first, feeling disjointed and cheesier than already could be imagined. Sure, "Cobra" was no award-winner in its quest for world domination, but it was entertaining to say the least and fun in a blameless sort of way. "Retaliation," alternatively, seems vexing at times, trying too hard to be contemporary in its wit and humor. And despite the commemorative introduction of the infamous Cobra Commander, his actual presence is minimal during the hostile takeover. Most will argue that this is a movie designed virtually for the kid at heart, not to be taken seriously because, hey, it's cool. But given the track record of recent Hasbro productions, I'd rather take my chances with the next "Transformers" sequel.

Rating: 2 stars