American Sniper Review: The Lethal Marksman

americansniper

Clint Eastwood returns to directing another big-screen film since 2012’s Trouble with the Curve with the introduction of the biopic American Sniper. There is tense wartime action mixed with citizenship drama that amalgamates into the core of the story written by Jason Hall and based on the book by Chris Kyle – the original American Sniper who the film is based on.

As he grows up, Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) learns about the difference in defending people and being a bully/wolf from his father and their early hunting trips. The real-life sniper enlisted to protect people from terrorists and ended up being the most feared marksman in history – being referred to as “Legend” with his wartime buddies. While American Sniper has a lot of tense moments from early on in the movie, it follows a string of cuts in the sequences within chronological order after every tour. This storyline construction is rather abrupt and feels a bit disconcerting to the viewer’s sense of immersion in the storyline, which is something we are surprised that both the director and writer did not consider. What has been mistaken for a tool of more suspense only serves to make the audience disconnected from the experience – which is a shame. When the tense scenes (of which there are 2 notable ones highlighted in the trailers) continue, the struggle of Kyle coming back from war is apparent but nothing entirely individualistic or memorable. Bradley Cooper’s performance is incredible and the direction by Clint Eastwood seems to be decent enough.

American Sniper reveals a struggle between impending fatherhood with a lovely wife (Sienna Miller), the need to protect people from harm, and the tumultuous difficulty in maintaining a balance with family. As a result, American Sniper seems to juggle a lot of things without fully branching out into the storyline of every motif it tries to touch upon – leaving a lot more to be desired in the characterization of wartime struggle and the never-ending internal battle of returning from war for good.

Rating: 3/5 stars




Posted By: Usman Ihtsham
ON Friday, January 16th, 2015
7:47 PM



Big Eyes Review: The Story Is In The Eyes

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Tim Burton’s Big Eyes is an interesting departure of the director’s famed portfolio from the gloomy scenery animated type stylization films of his past. The story of Big Eyes is engaging to another level for Tim Burton as it is based on a true story, and though that does not always make a film great, it works to make Big Eyes relatively enjoyable as well in a different sense.

Big Eyes underscores the true story of Walter Keane (Chrisopher Waltz) who was an artist that received national acclaim for his art that centers on children with ‘big eyes’ in a sort of morbid portrayal of the world in which the eyes tell a thousand stories. Eventually, everyone finds out that Keane is not the charming salesman with a talent in painting that he tried to represent himself as, but one of the most popular plagiarists of his time considering his wife Margaret (Amy Adams) had been drawing the iconic style of paintings all along. Big Eyes not only works to provide a look into the social stratum of the 1950s and 1960s, but also serves as a biopic into Peggy Hawkins aka Margaret Keane’s life and struggle. Big Eyes veers towards the awakening of an artist, along with giving a general glimpse of her tough and difficult situation with her husband trying to take credit for her drawings and putting her down due to the gender politics of the time. It was a “man’s world” and Margaret Keane’s ethical stance grew stronger the more fame accumulated.

Suddenly, Margaret was the one seeing Big Eyes everywhere in the world as her life and struggles became chaotic in her pursuit to be recognized for her talents along with being truthful to her daughter as a modern day feminist example of never letting society define who you are. As predictable as the stoyline was, Big Eyes is all about telling a story which happened in the real world even if it is not entirely engaging and feels shortchanged from the years of struggle of the primary protagonist of Margaret. Big Eyes carries an intense legal and real-world plot prose with terrific acting by the cast and a storyline that may deviate from complete details, but is nevertheless a decent enjoyable narrative.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars




Posted By: Usman Ihtsham
ON Saturday, January 3rd, 2015
8:25 AM



The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies Review – The Return Of The Mediocre King

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Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies has arrived and with it comes the finale to the longest running franchise this side of planet earth. Middle-earth is still the ever-expanding fantasy land of mountains, lush greenery, and tons of factions each with their own agenda. The action is all here in the final chapter of Jackson’s prequel trilogy, and though it does exactly what it says in the title – it sadly falls short of its own ambition.

The mood that Peter Jackson embeds within the start of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is one of sullen shock at the impending doom of Lake-town by Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), completely upset at being made an object of revenge for the Dwarfs ever since he took the Mountain. He sets off and sets Lake-town ablaze, for an opening of quite catastrophic proportions. The set pieces of the opening were rather small, but at the Mountain there was no set piece bigger than the acting performance by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) in a delirious state of having finally acclimated to the impending kingdom that lays before him.  Bilbo Baggins argues that they have ruined Lake-town, and the scene is cut short with its harsh discordant cut to Lake-town burning, thereby adding more tension and prose to the opening.

After Smaug is dealt with (we won’t spoil how here), Jackson shows a Middle-Earth clearly divided amongst the line of broken promises, and the salvation of people in a role-reversal as the refugees come pouring in from the now ravaged Lake-Town to an embittered and delusionally greedy Thorin who “would rather have war.” Luckily for all involved, Sauron’s army of orcs descend upon everyone for control of the mountain, which is said to be strategic point. The storyline pacing remains rather simple in its plot focus towards the beginning which is appreciated, but just seems to lose all sight of character development that was the grace of the original Lord of The Rings Trilogy as the Battle of the Five Armies begins. As a result, the majority of the film was an uninteresting war with a predictable storyline of redemption as a leader all while falling by the wayside of a lesser scope to the original trilogy in terms of the Battle of Helm’s Deep. After the huge war is over, we cannot help but feel the central concept of this finale to the The Hobbit trilogy as completely underwhelming to the audience and something that leaves nothing but more to be desired for all the wrong reasons.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars




Posted By: Usman Ihtsham
ON Sunday, December 28th, 2014
6:57 PM



Interstellar Review: The Flawed Sci-Fi Action

interstellar

Christopher Nolan has finally made his voyage to space in the Science Fiction film – Interstellar. The sci-fi narrative is sure to please lovers of Danny Boyle’s Sunshine and anyone who loves a space film that tries to aim for realism which is compounded by the vast unknown of space travel and dangerous missions that mean the survival of the human race.

While the motif of saving the human race has certainly been used up, Nolan’s interpretation of space along with Jonathan Nolan serves a storyline that feels right in terms of its 169 minute runtime.  Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is the down-to-earth Engineer turned farmer after the world faces critical famine and drought since the denigration of the government. After receiving a mysterious location from coordinates in his daughter Murph’s room, he ends up stumbling onto a secret government operation ran by Professor Brand (Michael Caine) and his daughter Brand (Anne Hathaway) that has long been underway to find a new habitable planet for the humans.  Soon after, he finds himself subject to a Deus Ex Machina of a rip in time-space that can prolong the life of humans, but only if the team of Endurance can succeed in their mission. While the premise seems rather annoyingly convenient in terms of a rip in the space-time continuum and indicative of flawed point writing, the rest of Interstellar shines brilliantly like a star in the night sky. As the film gets tenser with its interplanetary travel, the audience is left constantly guessing as to what happens next. The time dilation of the film is heartbreaking as several minutes in the gravity well of one planet, ends up being several years on Earth. These sequences serve heartbreak on a plate throughout the film, while making us feel like we ourselves are enduring a journey.

Interstellar is a film with an incredible journey and mood for the most part combined with a terrible first and last half which tainted by cheap writing tactics because it delves too far into the unexplainable and paranormal nature of other dimensions. The use of the Deus Ex Machina at the beginning and end of the film sadly undermine the exceptional performances of Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway in their respective bildungsroman, but the journey still feels oddly complete and not terribly done. Interstellar is sure to be a great ride into space for any viewer even with its writing flaws.

Rating: 3/5 stars




Posted By: Usman Ihtsham
ON Wednesday, November 5th, 2014
8:09 PM



A Walk Among The Tombstones Review: Not Your Usual Walk

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A Walk Among the Tombstones by Scott Frank has a Taken feel to it. Except this time, the person taken is someone else besides who Liam Neeson plays as Matt Scudder – a gruff ex-cop with a particular set of skills.

A Walk Among the Tombstones features private investigator / ex-cop who made a mistake Matthew Scudder (Liam Neeson) working for a drug lord who found out that his wife was kidnapped and subsequently murdered brutally by some criminals. He wants the investigator to find them and bring them to him for his own form of punishment. The storyline is intense and constantly engaging, with no expectations as to what happens next. What does end up happening with the storyline, however, is it ends up becoming muddled with the performances by the two captors. Ray (David Harbour) makes a creepy performance but his character and the fact that the captors are so involved in the film’s scenes makes it rather mediocre over time. Liam Neeson’s performance is engaging, and we would rather have the storyline pacing be more mysterious and retain his detective-like inspection and interviewing of witnesses constant to figure out what happened as opposed to some vivid flashbacks.

A Walk Among the Tombstones is a decent detective flick that is sure to entice viewers for part of the time, but a majority of it is left feeling unfinished. The role played by the little boy who follows the detective around is utterly useless and quite possibly the most boring of the entire film. Either way, people should not hesitate too much to see A Walk Among the Tombstones as nothing else is really out right now that is probably better.

Rating: 2.5/5 stars




Posted By: Usman Ihtsham
ON Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014
2:22 PM



The Drop: The Bar Never Sleeps

 

thedropThe Drop is the latest crime drama thriller from Michaël R. Roskam, the Academy Award nominated director of the film Bullhead. Dennis Lehane (Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone) wrote the screenplay for The Drop which is based on the short story by the same author “Animal Rescue.”

The Drop tells the story in a mostly simple setting of Brooklyn, NY and a bar owned by the mafia. Bob Saginowski (Tom Hardy) keeps cash for local gangsters as a money drop in the underworld of the mob scene. The bar is a puppet bar owned by his cousin Marv (James Gandolfini) who finds himself as a critical suspect of a robbery that went wrong and starts a cleverly written and very intense investigation into not just the city’s past but also its eerie locals. Noomi Rapace plays Nadia, who ends up being Bob’s love interest and Matthias Schoenaerts performs admirably well as Eric Deeds as the messed up abusive ex-boyfriend in a not entirely original motif that has been played out a lot.

The Drop is very succinct in its storyline and the camera direction by the director and the director of photography keeps things entertaining even when not a lot is happening on-screen. Though the storyline is rather slow at times, it keeps a level of tension throughout the movie in general and makes The Drop an interesting look into a bar with a lot of problems in crime.

Rating: 3.5/5




Posted By: Usman Ihtsham
ON Sunday, September 14th, 2014
8:54 AM