The Perfect Pull of Gravity

GRAVITY's stunning opening sucks you in.

GRAVITY’s stunning opening sucks you in.

In our era of instant interconnectedness, ADD and immediate gratification, Alfonso Cuaron’s bold new film, Gravity, demands viewers to Watch…and Listen.

The film opens with a spectacular continuous long shot of planet Earth from outer space.  Slowly we begin to hear the static-laden chatter of astronauts and mission control grow louder and clearer while the camera leisurely pans in closer and closer to those working outside of a shuttle docked at the Hubble Space telescope.  First-time space traveler, Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is installing a new scanning device to give NASA a better way to watch the skies in deep space.  Longtime astral cowboy Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) is out for a “Sunday drive” around the shuttle and telescope overseeing things while telling tales and keeping things light with mission control.  But then a frantic warning comes from Houston.  Stay calm.  Get back inside.  The Russians have taken out one of their own satellites.  The debris is traveling high above the globe at breakneck speed slamming into other satellites and anything in its way causing an avalanche of deadly metal to come hurtling right towards our dear crew.  Suddenly, in the vast distance of blackness above a blue and white sphere, the debris is coming into view.

The next ninety minutes become an epic cosmic ballet of white-knuckle suspense, eye-popping visuals and ensorcell acting.  Shot in 3D, the photography of Emmaneul Lubezki (who previously luxuriated in the magic of the cosmos in Malick’s The Tree of Life) is wholly immersive under Cuaron’s self-assured direction.  Cuaron spins his Oscar-winning mega stars through the calamities like a choreographer or puppeteer without strings.  There’s not a single moment in the film’s airtight run time where the director isn’t in complete control.  Continue reading

The Lights are Dim in Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim 1

In the past Guillermo del Toro has used ghosts as metaphors for fractured relationships (The Devil’s Backbone) and task-master demons as the personifications of the ill effects of civil war and bad parenting (Pan’s Labyrinth), but in Pacific Rim he goes Hollywood and delivers a simple giant monsters vs. giant robots saga.  Which….when you think about…in the hands of del Toro…should be totally badass, right?  I mean, 180 million dollars to film non-stop monsters vs. robots mayhem?  What could go wrong?

Pacific Rim is by no means a bad flick, in fact, most of it is quite fun.  I just couldn’t help feeling underwhelmed considering the can’t miss concept and del Toro’s knack for adding deeper meaning to genre conventions while delivering some of the most wildly imaginative creature effects you’ll ever see.  Everything about it is just…well…good…but not as good as it should be…or as good as I wished it could be.

The monster (kaiju) and robot (jaegar) designs are well done and handled with great care (it’s not your typical cut-and-paste CGI) but sadly, though saturated with rich colors and photographed much more cleanly than a Michael Bay film, the gee-whiz effects spend most of the film hazed in smoke, the dark of night or covered in water.  I would’ve liked some more lingering shots…some more day time stuff…to really bring about that sense of awe. Continue reading

The Great Escape Part Two

In 1933 at the height of the Great Depression, madman film producer/explorer Meriam C. Cooper pulled out all the stops to take viewers to an uncharted isle where the most monstrous of beasts was revealed to be the most tragically human creature of them all.  King Kong was the greatest escape of its day.  In 2009, while the world still tries to recover from the greatest economic downslide since the Great Depression, madman technological wizard/director James Cameron pulls out all the stops to take viewers to an alien world where the most monstrous of humans is revealed to be the most tragically alien creature of them all.  Avatar is yet another in a long line of escapist fantasies bankrolled by Hollywood.  Continue reading