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May 9, 2013
If the making of a science fiction movie was a college class, Oblivion would be the halfhearted brainchild of that one lazy senior who’s just taking the class to graduate.
My Rating: 5.2/10
Jack Harper is one of the last few drone repairmen stationed on Earth. Part of a massive operation to extract vital resources after decades of war with a terrifying threat known as the Scavs, Jack’s mission is nearly complete. Living in and patrolling the skies from thousands of feet above, his existence is brought crashing down when he rescues a stranger from a downed spacecraft. Her arrival triggers a chain of events that forces him to question everything he knows and puts the fate of humanity in his hands.
Oblivion tries to disguise its total lack of substance by trying to drown its audience with superficiality. Don’t get me wrong; I loved Oblivion’s special effects, but like everything else in the movie, it was hardly groundbreaking stuff. Its acting and storyline were past redemption more or less 20 minutes into the 2 hour long debacle, so after those first 20 minutes one begins to pray, with increasing fervor, for the movie to reach its inevitably disappointing conclusion.
Surely, it’s not as bad as all that? On paper, it has so very much going for it – Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman, a sci-fi premise and a big budget and even reasonably attractive stars and co-stars. So, what went wrong? Well, nothing really. My chief criticism of this movie is not so much what it did wrong, but how little it managed to get right. This was a movie that screamed mediocrity from every pore – the apocalyptic premise of the movie has been overdone and felt stale right from the traditional opening expository narration. What was actually much worse was how little effort was put into making that world unique. Think of some of the better sci-fi movies of these past few years – Looper, Avatar, Inception, etc. all spent considerable effort into making their world feel different, of distinguishing themselves from the cookie cutter nature of post-apocalyptic settings. Oblivion doesn’t bother and that sets it out on a weak trajectory from the beginning.
March 26, 2013
Album: College Dropout
Artist: Kanye West
Released: February 10, 2004
If hip-hop had a bible, College Dropout would be the first chapter of the book of Yeezus. It’s a chapter that talks about its creator, his attraction to fame and fortune and about society as a whole. It’s not the most socially aware album, it’s not particularly political, it’s nowhere near his musical best but despite all that it’s one this fictional hip-hop bible’s most important chapters. After all, this was the album that made the mainstream aware of Kanye’s existence. Sure, the hardcore hip-hop fans knew about the beats he made for Roc-a-fella Records and even for his guest verse in The Blueprint2. But this album was Kanye’s first solo outing, and it was his chance to show the world that he could support himself artistically as a rapper. And support himself he does, if just barely; while the production in College Dropout is generally well above par, Kanye himself is not the most natural of rappers and almost every guest star (on an album full of A-list guest stars, it should be said) outshines him. In fact, apart from a few conspicuous exceptions (Common and Ludacris, I’m looking at you), Kanye is the star of the show solely by virtue of having the most verses. You may wonder then, why have I given the album such a high rating. Well, Kanye brings a raw energy and excitement to this project that makes it hard not to appreciate the album for what it is – an honest attempt at a debut from an ambitious, undoubtedly talented (if unrefined), musician. The album definitely has its highs and lows, but it’s very clear that Kanye is pouring his heart and soul into the music he is making, and surprisingly that’s enough, most of the time, to cover his deficiencies as a rapper.
February 13, 2013
Album: good kid, m.A.A.d city
Artist: Kendrick Lamar
Released: October 22, 2012
good kid, m.A.A.d city is not the first album to describe street life, nor is it even the first album to describe life in the infamous city of Compton. Kendrick Lamar’s seminal sophomore album isn’t concerned with what’s ‘real’ and ‘true’; at its core it is an album about adapting to survive. GKMC is intriguing, right from the get go, because of the stark juxtaposition between its narrator and its context – for every clichéd mention of violence, drugs and sex, the album’s narrator (ostensibly a younger Lamar) has moments of introspection and reflection that allow him to reject the unpleasantness of his environment, thereby setting up an interesting conflict between what the narrator wants to be and what he has to be. However, GKMC isn’t just a narrative message, it is a display of Lamar’s incredible lyrical dexterity; each line feels like it has been painstakingly mulled over before being put into place. Top that with sublime production from a host of first class producers, and it isn’t hard to see why critics and fans alike heralded this album as the ‘West Coast Illmatic’. Such praise is premature but perhaps not entirely undeserving.
January 11, 2013
Album: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Artist: Kanye West
Released: November 22, 2010
Easily the best album of the decade, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is a journey through the psyche of hip-hop’s resident misunderstood genius. At first glance, Twisted Fantasy, Kanye West’s highly anticipated fifth studio album, appears to be every bit the anti-thesis of its anguished predecessor, 808s & Heartbreaks. Where 808s seemed melancholic and understated, Twisted Fantasy seems, at first at least, to be a return to a more conventional Kanye. However, long before you hit the half way mark, there is evidence aplenty to suggest that this album is nothing like Kanye’s previous efforts. There is a dark, sinister undertone to every track in the album which when supplemented by Kanye’s rhymes gives the whole album a rich, surreal, sound. The titular beautiful, dark fantasy is the story that Kanye lays out in this album; a story of the rise and fall of a hip-hop superstar who began with plans to change the world but ultimately, tragically, succumbed to fame and its trappings and fell back into the depths he had once risen from. Mr. West might have prided himself in the past on delivering the hard truths (see the Hurricane Katrina and Taylor Swift incidents for examples) but never before has he been this brutally honest to both his listeners and to himself – this album is Kanye baring his soul to the masses and the final result is an absolute classic that is equal parts bravado, reflection and regret. Yet, behind the introspection, and the newfound self-awareness is an insistent defiance, almost like a challenge to the rest of the hip-hop industry to try and outdo what Kanye has accomplished with this album.
July 30, 2012
Seth MacFarlane’s directorial debut balances his trademark offensiveness with sentimentality, but Ted’s weak plot and lack of originality leave it feeling flat, tired and stale.
John makes a Christmas miracle happen by bringing his one and only friend to life, his teddy bear. The two grow up together and John must then choose to stay with his girlfriend or keep his friendship with his crude and extremely inappropriate teddy bear, Ted
While I can’t name you another movie featuring a potty-mouthed (pun intended) teddy bear, the summary could just as easily have read as “You, Me and Dupree, but with a talking teddy instead of Owen Wilson” which is all the more damning given that You, Me and Dupree was hardly original itself. It’s long been said that there are no new stories, just old ones with different words; Ted’s primary shortcoming isn’t failing to come up with a new story, but rather telling that story with some rather poorly chosen words. The root of the problem probably lies in MacFarlane’s television background. In Family Guy or American Dad, he has never had to deal with a story more complex than one that could be resolved within half an hour, at most. As a result, the plot here never fully gets going and the film’s climax is more likely to be met with indifference than excitement. However, Ted aims to be amuse more than compel, and despite the aforementioned flaws, Ted is ultimately a relatively entertaining watch.
July 25, 2012
Batman, Movies Action, al ghul, alfred, anne hathaway, bale, bane, bat-man, batman, bruce, bruce wayne, catwoman, christopher nolan, comic book movie, fox, oldman, selina kyle, Super-hero, super-hero movie, superhero, talia, the dark knight rises Leave a comment
Confused, pretentiously ‘dark’ and with plot-holes big enough to fly Bat-themed helicopters through, The Dark Knight Rises was Nolan’s biggest challenge and his greatest failure, yet an entertaining movie nonetheless.
My Rating: 8.5/10
In the final part of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, Batman must face a foe unlike any he has ever faced. In The Dark Knight, Batman saved Gotham, but could not save himself. Taking the blame for Harvey Dent’s crimes, he was hunted by the Police, and thus had to leave the task of protecting Gotham in Gordon’s hands. After what seemed like ages, Gordon finally brought peace to Gotham, and it was enough to convince the Dark Knight that Gotham was safe and that Bruce Wayne need never put on the Batsuit again. However, eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, a new foe emerges, and threatens to destroy Gotham. When this masked foe Bane proves too much for Gordon to handle, Batman must break his 8-year exile and return to defeat Bane from fulfilling his devious plan and claim his rightful place as the true Savior of Gotham.
Living up to The Dark Knight was always going to be a herculean task, but no one was thought to be better suited to it than returning director Christopher Nolan. Unfortunately, The Dark Knight Rises falls rather short of its predecessor’s quality, but is still a vaguely entertaining movie in its own right. Tragically stripped of Heath Ledger, whose remarkable performance as the Joker single-handedly elevated The Dark Knight from great to excellent, Nolan compensates with a larger, grander story. The Dark Knight’s storyline and Ledger’s acting gave Batman, and by extension, comic-book movies a hitherto unprecedented level of credibility, with dark, realistic story elements, deep, vivid characters and a polished sophistication. It is a shame then that that legacy was so easy destroyed; The Dark Knight Rises suffers from the unhappy return of comic-book logic and clunky plot construction that allows for unexplained appearances and clichéd last minute heroics. The acting performances are outstanding, but the new villains’ performances, while distinctive and memorable in their own right, lack the power and iconic nature of Ledger’s. Where the first two installments of the trilogy felt episodic, The Dark Knight Rises seems created to be part of a greater whole, as Bane brings Gotham closer to the edge of despair and destruction that any villain before him. This movie lets Nolan tie up the trilogy’s overarching storyline – the rise, fall and eventual rebirth of Gotham’s Dark Knight.
July 24, 2012
Batman, Movies Action, bale, batman, bruce, bruce wayne, christopher nolan, gordon, harvey dent, heath ledger, nolan, oldman, Super-hero, super-hero movie, superhero, the dark knight, the joker, two face, wayne Leave a comment
Sophisticated, gripping and unrepentantly dark, The Dark Knight isn’t just the movie we deserve; it’s the movie we need
My Rating: 9.5/10
Set within a year after the events of Batman Begins, Batman (Christian Bale), Lieutenant James Gordon (Gary Oldman), and the new district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) successfully begin to round up the criminals that plague Gotham City until a mysterious and sadistic criminal mastermind known only as the Joker (Heath Ledger) appears in Gotham, creating a new wave of chaos. Batman’s struggle against the Joker becomes deeply personal, forcing him to “confront everything he believes” and improve his technology to stop him before he destroys Gotham City and/or its citizens.
The Dark Knight is daring where Batman Begins was cautious, inventive where the latter was formulaic. The introduction of the Joker brings a new, malicious energy to the second instalment of Nolan’s trilogy, forcing Gotham to the brink of madness and despair, reinforcing Nolan’s vision of a darker and edgier Batman. Any questions regarding Ledger’s ability to portray the Joker’s manic energy have been answered a thousand times over; this movie owes as much to Ledger’s performance as it does to Nolan’s vision. The Dark Knight has all the prerequisite bells and whistles expected of an action movie but places them upon the rock-hard foundation of a riveting plot. With this movie, Nolan has proven more than his ability to create highly entertaining blockbusters for the thinking man – The Dark Knight has put paid to the notion that comic-book movies are simply popcorn entertainment for the easily amused but should instead be considered as capable of depth and sophistication as a movie from any other genre.