Review: The Big Year

Owen Wilson, Steve Martin and Jack Black in The Big Year.

Living by the birds

Rating: ***

The Big Year is about a group of people with messy lives who travel America in search of birds. These people are referred to as birders and not birdwatchers. Birding is a sport that includes taking a picture of every bird you find, so that the judges know how many you’ve seen. Big year is a contest where birders have one year to do all their birding and in the end, the one with the highest number gets a trophy and exclusive interviews with notable American magazines such as Rolling Stones and Vanity Fair.

The film stars Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson – three contemporary comedians armed with wacky one-liners that keep you entertained. All these characters live shallow lives.

Martin is a millionaire who runs a successful company full of nuts that cannot make decisions on their own. Hence, his employees follow him everywhere for advice.  Jack Black is employed in a 9-to-5 job that he hates to the core. His father chides his interest in birding while his mother (Dianne Wiest) discovers his aim to be the best at it. Owen Wilson’s character Kenny Bostick is a three-time winner and current record holder. This sets the bar for Black and Martin as they team up to beat him.

Bostick’s marriage is shattered due to his birding obsession. His annoyed wife (played by the ever-lovely Rosamund Pike), continuously rants that he prefers birds over sex. He later corrects her, saying “It’s not about the birds. It’s about being number one.”

Over the course of the film, several life-changing events take place. For instance, Black’s character Brad Harris meets a fellow bird enthusiast, Ellie (Rashida Jones), with whom he falls in love with.

David Frankel is no stranger to comedies. He has worked with Wilson in Marley & Me, and has direct Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada. He shows off his expertise by letting his actors improvise scenes. It’s no mystery that Black and Martin are used to improvising their lines. The film also stars Anjelica Huston and Jim Parsons in roles that really didn’t need popular faces. They could have done that scene with B-list stars.

Comedies generally portray characters that rediscover themselves in the turn of events. The Big Year is no different from them.  

Review: Surrogates

Bruce Willis in Surrogates
Bruce Willis in Surrogates

Virtual Reality Invades Silver Screen

Surrogates (PG-13)

Director: Jonathan Mostow

Cast: Bruce Willis, Radha Mitchell and Rosamund Pike

Rating: **

I agree. I love virtual reality. Whether its Virtual Pets or simulations like flying a F22 or driving a car in New York City or a virtual character as in Grand Theft Auto game series, I’m totally hooked up to virtual reality. This film gave me a whole new depth of virtual reality. But, it doesn’t live up as a well made one.

The best scene in Jonathan Mostow’s graphic novel adaptation is the climax where FBI Agent Tom Greer (Willis) shuts down the surrogates, hence, resulting in an abrupt ending to the state of mind causing the surrogates on the road to collapse and die. Surrogates driving cars and trucks smash against each other and a huge traffic jam is caused in reminiscent to I Am Legend.

The story goes like… In 2017, mankind depends on surrogacy to do their jobs and chores. But, a mysterious killer is found within the world of surrogacy and the weapon he possesses may destroy the human race. FBI agents, Tom Greer and Jenny Peters unravel the mystery with much complacent attitudes. The rest is assumed to be the crux of the graphic novel which never made business as a bestseller.

In Neil Blomkamp’s District 9, we have an alien world and a human world. The alien world has a sign which says ‘No Humans Allowed’. In Mostow’s Surrogates, there’s a human world and then the surrogate world. The human world has a sign which says ‘No Robots Allowed’. Surrogates boasts as an intelligent sci-fi thriller but it fails to bring it onscreen.

The cast is led by a tired Bruce Willis, a half-enigmatic Radha Mitchell and a radiant Rosamund Pike. The film’s technical crew deserves to be applauded. Oliver Wood’s cinematography however is a carbon copy of the Bourne series. The shaky camerawork during the chase sequences certainly annoy the viewer. The Makeup and Hair department have also worked well to give Willis a younger look. Sadly, his surrogate dies soon and you see an old, bald and bearded Willis throughout the rest of the movie.

Surrogates may amuse you but it certainly will not give you the satisfaction you yearned for. It can be avoided for some other popcorn flick.