Reviews, Science Fiction



Copyright © 2013 by Warner Bros. Pictures

Dr Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), a medical engineer on her maiden space mission in the Shuttle Explorer along with her crew are charged with the maintenance of the Hubble Space Telescope when they receive distressing news from Mission Control in Houston that a cloud of space debris is heading towards their direction. It is a reaction caused from a Russian missile strike on an unused satellite. They attempt to abort the mission but the debris comes hurtling in killing Stone’s entire team except Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) who manages to retrieve Stone after she is separated from the ship. Together, they will need to devise a plan to safely return to Earth.

Here is a description to ‘Gravity’ in a word again; Astounding! The universal praises that have been piling by critics and audiences alike are certainly justified by what yours truly have witnessed personally. Since its release, it has always been the frontrunner for consideration in all major film awards. Come awards season, it has already won several of them for its maestro, Alfonso Cuarón and is a main contender in the upcoming British Academy Film Awards and Academy Awards. I do hope that Cuarón continues to dominate his reign in the ‘Best Director’ category as how pundits would like to put it – it is his year.

He rose to critical acclaim with his interpretation of ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’ (which many still considers as the best in the series) and he followed it with indie darling ‘Children of Men’, a political thriller set in the distant future, starring Clive Owen. In his latest offering, he fuses intimate storytelling with big budget spectacle. The end result? A marvel not seen since ‘Avatar’ came charging in all its blue glory. Going in without knowing what to expect exactly, I had thought it will spend most of its screen time exploring ways for Stone to return to Earth safely after her space mission had gone awry (it still does precisely that).

The difference though is how Cuarón takes us on this thrill ride that never slips into tedium. From the film’s opening, the magnificence of Earth as seen from the eyes of our space crew is so realistically integrated, it draws the viewers in immediately, experiencing every emotion firsthand. Not long after the obligatory introduction of our cast and their mission, the film jumps right into the action with its first debris hit (it is devastating but the more spectacular one comes later in the middle of this tale of survival).

Clocking in at 90 minutes, the story zips along swiftly and by the time it is over, you would wish that our protagonist is still trapped in her shuttle. It definitely shows in the final cut that Cuarón’s vision has not been tampered with as funding, writing and editing duties belong to him also besides assuming the director’s position. The premise certainly brings ‘Cast Away’ to mind but like the Oscar nominee, it is the character details and our lone survivor’s motivations to live sprinkled throughout intelligently which provide ‘Gravity’ with plenty of gravitas.

Considering it is Bullock’s best performance since her breakthrough in ‘Speed’, it is an interesting piece of trivia to note that she was only selected due to scheduling conflicts which prevented Angelina Jolie and Natalie Portman from accepting the role. I have no doubt any of these fine actresses will step up to the challenge as how Bullock did, but her second Oscar nomination for ‘Best Actress’ in a leading role is well deserved. She completely disappears into the character and it is a side of her rarely seen on screen. She tapped into this vulnerability in ‘The Blind Side’ and ‘Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close’ but the range showcased here is amplified exponentially. Her funny self is still there but it is challenges like these actors seek to redefine themselves professionally and artistically.

It may be a bit part for Clooney yet Kowalski is extremely significant to Stone’s survival. His vast experience over the years gives credibility to handle such an explosive crisis. Interestingly, it is his cool and suave persona that provides most of the lighter moments in an otherwise very bleak situation. Understandably Robert Downey, Jr. was the original choice, nonetheless Clooney’s charm and banter with Bullock are more than enough to power through his brief appearance.

For the action and sci-fi enthusiasts, ‘Gravity’ is never short in awesome effects as well. The meticulous attention to realistically generate such a massive catastrophe in space has to be seen to be believed. Clearly, hours of research has been put into ensuring its technicality is down to a tee. While that is vital to up its e-value, ultimately, it is the human drama that matters most once you strip it down to the movie’s core. It would not be defying gravitational box office slides if it had been done any other way.

Entirety: A
Acting: A+
Plot: A

Rated PG-13 for intense perilous sequences, some disturbing images and brief strong language

Comedy, Reviews

The Heat


Copyright © 2013 by 20th Century Fox

FBI Special Agent Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) is a highly trained and competent investigator in her unit but is very much disliked by her peers for her behaviour. When her superior, Hale (Demián Bichir) is promoted, he promises Ashburn of replacing him if she is able to work well in a team while solving the latest case assigned to her in Boston. Detective Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy), a brash police officer in the Boston Police Department captures a suspect that is key to Ashburn’s investigation and together, they are forced to help each other to bring down the drug kingpin, Simon Larkin. It is an ordeal at first for the both of them as their vastly different personalities and work ethics often clash, thus slowing down the mission. Over time, they strike up an unlikely friendship and through this, Ashburn realises what it is like to be in a team.

Sizzling! That is how Bullock and McCarthy’s on-screen chemistry is. It should be more aptly used in a romantic comedy, but it is a love story of a different kind. When we are first acquainted to Bullock’s Ashburn, she is a miss-know-it-all with very little regard to her fellow male officers. She is so determined and driven in her job that her canine companions in the task force are not spared of the ridicule as well. It is basically what you will describe of Shannon Mullins when she is on duty, only louder and wackier.

A by-the-book archetype and another who completely ignores the rules, it is a recipe for disaster should they ever cross paths. What could really be cringe-worthy in real life turns out to be the most hilarious parts of the movie. From the moment they meet at the car park albeit unofficially, it clearly sets the tone of their budding relationship. Most of the laugh-out-loud moments come courtesy from McCarthy spewing out words of ‘wisdom’ on her partner’s lifestyle or fashion sense.

The highlight of such audacity at Ashburn’s expense reaches a peak while both of these ladies concoct a plan to plant a bug in one of their suspect’s cell phone. Things do slow down a bit after that for us to get up, close and personal with our dynamic duo. It quickly picks up the pace once again after they obtain assistance on a lead via Mullins’ brother Jason (Michael Rapaport). The unmasking of the elusive Simon Larkin is a good twist but what truly excites is the unexpected treatment of Ashburn’s limb during her captivity with Mullins and Ashburn’s ‘retort’ to Larkin’s appendage.

Those who are jaded by yet another buddy cop comedy can take solace ‘The Heat‘ is not one more run-of-the-mill flick trying to cash in on this fairly successful formula. It may just be a female version of ‘Lethal Weapon’ or ‘Rush Hour’ but it does stand firmly on its own two feet due to the stars’ onscreen compatibility and taut script. Bullock, flawless as the uptight Ashburn has perfected the role after other equally memorable takes from her previous efforts i.e. ‘Miss Congeniality’ and ‘The Proposal’. Although a recognisable face on television, McCarthy only broke through recently with ‘Bridesmaids’ which is also a directorial hit for Paul Feig.

She continues her winning streak here as the sassy yet caring detective from Boston whom Ashburn forms a sisterhood with. Being the less tactful one, she will put you in your place whenever she deems fit. The laughs never fall short with every single line she utters. And that is what ‘The Heat’ does best; to just have a hooting good time while we are taken along for a riotous ride with this unlikely pair.

Entirety: B+
Acting: A
Plot: B+

Rated R for pervasive language, strong crude content and some violence