Friday, 23 June 2017

Despicable​ Me 3 (2017)

Riding on tried and tested elements from the earlier parts, comic good vs bad premise (dance fight!), twin brother bonding, minions and little girl cuteness, Despicable Me 3 keeps the laughs and sniggers (snigger, snigger!) coming from time to time. 

There is no central bonding force here, but more of episodic scenes, instead of a rollicking main story. Some grating stuff, no particular flow, humour is the superhero here. 

Still, the animation works for its bright-lit proceedings, bubblegum attire, an 80's style (irritating at times) villain and candy-cute kiddy stuff. The minions especially light up sections. A passable, fun watch.

You rate our movie not so good? 

The Mummy (2017)

An ambitious Egyptian queen-to-be goes on a family murdering spree to ascend the throne. For her sins, she is mummified alive and sunk in a mercury-filled grave. Centuries later, she is unwittingly released by treasure hunter/ US Army personnel Nick (Tom Cruise, chirpy at 55) to wreck havoc. We are soon caught in a swirl of curses, evil, an ancient dagger, mummy victims,  and immortality talk. Sounds familiar? 

A friend made a valid point prior to the morning show of The Mummy. We are still viewing the same movies that we used to watch in our childhood. The more movies we watch, the more they remain the same? 

Somewhere, somehow, Hollywood is so embroiled in sequels and prequels, that more commercial movies are resembling extended, tiresome TV episodes now. 

The Mummy stands out as the most unnecessary remake in recent times. The reboot does score in eerie atmospherics and some stunning special effects where it lacks oh so badly in the story.  

Russell Crowe's Dr.Jekyll & Mr.Hyde turns are a miss, while Sofia Boutella as Mummy/Ahmanet is great casting. So is a lively Annabelle Wallis as the female lead. But the lack of creative spunk and freshness lets them all down.

Apart from the stunning plane crash sequence, the proceedings attain a predictable quality. Finally, The Mummy entertains thanks to its art direction and cast, but don't expect anything new.

Fresh ideas, please.

The terrific plane crash sequence, the only exceptional take away from the film. 

Monday, 19 June 2017

Wonder Woman (2017)

Directed by noted female director Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman ends up as a largely underwhelming, if not a disappointing origins movie. Jenkins brings in sensitivity, friendship, love, sacrifice, and loss, but not a fast-paced, throbbing with adventure superheroine movie I longed for. 

The DC franchise can take heart for their prize casting though. 

Gal Gadot is Wonder Woman, her persona, diction, mannerisms spot on. You may well believe that Wonder Woman is actually around, alive and breathing. Such is Gadot's screen impact. Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen and Ewen Bremner make a good supporting cast.  

There is an expansive, admirable anti-war theme that blunts possibilities of mad escapist comic book elements, a pity. The 'naive heroine in the city' episode is funny, the motley 'Saving Private Ryan' kind of bonding during World War I, mildly adorable. 

But the much-awaited, scattered action is hardly thrilling, even when the Greek God of War is involved. A dull, cold bad guy negates all fun. 3D is merely present and seldom used to awe effect.

Wonder Woman ends up as just about satisfying on the big screen. 

Hopefully, the forthcoming Justice League movie will bring in the action and team play dynamics together for high-octane entertainment.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Sachin:A Billion Dreams (2017)

Sachin: A Billion Dreams could have been a cracker of a feature film. Instead, apart from its initial sparkling reenactment of Tendulkar's notoriously naughty childhood, it walks down a safe, supervised, documentary road. 

Sachin Tendulkar, the diplomatic sports ambassador then takes over to narrating what we Indian cricketing fans more or less know.This 95% documentary/ 5% film is mostly a chronological compilation of everything available on YouTube. 

Don't look for new insights, outspoken statements or controversies. Anjali Tendulkar is the only one to let go, revealing how she had to forsake her glittering medical career for Sachin. She also tells of a grumpy, disturbed Sachin, his guilt and agony apparent while captaining the side. 

There is a distant hint at Mohammad Azharuddin, envy and that's it. The rest is hero worshipping and awe galore. The home videos do add a touch of exclusivity. There are some nice revelations too, but not enough.

Also, director James Erskine's positioning of the little master's journey running parallel to the Indian story is an underutilized film element.       

Finally, Sachin: A Billion Dreams is a watered down, yet an undeniably powerful tale because of Tendulkar's mammoth and legendary efforts rather than the filmmaking. Catch it for the nostalgia and the legendary. 

If you are a die-hard Tendulkar fan, this is your reliving-the-journey moment. 

Sachin! Sachin! 

Oh yeah.   

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Memento (2000)

As far as cinematic experiences of the mind go, nobody has influenced and hypnotized us in recent times like director Christopher Nolan. Though often leaning towards the incomprehensible, incoherent and logic-defying, Inception (2010) and Interstellar (2014) were unforgettable big screen experiences.

But for me, Memento is Nolan's finest, grounded and most convincing 'mind-awe' film. Based on a short story by Christopher's brother and frequent collaborator Jonathan Nolan, Memento is a jigsaw puzzle that comes together with alarming clarity.

The reverse-chronological narrative cuts across two timelines. Both story nerves feature at its center, Leonard, an insurance investigator who suffers from anterograde amnesia (short-term memory loss). Leonard's condition, as he puts it, is a consequence of two men attacking, raping and killing his wife, while severely injuring Leonard. The first attacker was caught, Leonard is in search of the second fugitive attacker, believed to be called John G.

As habitual viewers of linear storytelling, Memento may get you disconcerted and impatient at first. There's a good chance you will pause and opt for another movie. 


Hang on and watch carefully. 

A rich reward for cinema lovers, as the threads untangle the horror and puppetry of it all.

As a constant vindication of Christopher Nolan's early, unmistakable genius, Memento is his finest psychological/mystery thriller film yet.

(Yes, Indian film viewers will identify the similarities to A.R.Murugadoss directed revenge films, the Tamil version, Gajini (2005) and the Hindi remake Ghajini (2008). Both films just used Leonard's memory loss premise, rest was a rehashed formulaic revenge saga, at best.)

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Fast & Furious 8 (2017)

A bucket of popcorn and the latest Fast & Furious movie now share a similar notoriety. Both are superficial, temporary and at best, a passing joy. Fast & Furious 8 resembles a below par TV series. The only saving grace, since Fast & Furious 7 was so, so bad, that Fast & Furious 8 seems a relief in comparison.  

The formula is in place, one just goes through with it, with assembly line mechanics. Fast cars, hero-gone-rogue, somebody's baby boy, heartless villain, a couple of hot girls, pseudo machoism,repartee-filled dialogues, big-budget mega blasts and the main characters, barely getting scratched.... 

It is all a money-making, 'play it ultra safe' Hollywood territory. 

What a waste of an ensemble cast! For Vin Diesel is an underrated act, Charlize Theron is spot on. Dwayne Johnson is good as usual. Michelle Rodriguez seems jaded, while Kurt Russell is enjoying himself. Jason Statham and Tyrese Gibson (dumb but lively buffoonery) stand out. But there is not an inch of cohesion to hold their parts. 

Everything happens with epic predictability. You know nothing can beat Diesel and team (yawn). Certainly not nuclear submarines and definitely not anything remotely Russian! 

Friday, 17 March 2017

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

This live action remake of a 1991 animation classic plays it safe, but for little plot tweaks and character inclusions.By retaining the original soundtrack and musical storytelling, Disney mostly dampens the experience for young and adult audiences alike.

Characters mouthing songs at every opportunity is now a time-jaded medium. Yet two song picturizations bring out the film's best, classic moments. Gaston, a uproarious, witty, humorous song on vanity is good 3D fun. The Beast's anguish hits you harder in live action, via the heartrending Evermore. Applause for the original music composer, Alan Menken and the sharp-witted lyricists, Tim Rice and Howard Ashman.   

Emma Watson is perfectly cast as Bella. A dream role rendered almost perfectly. She is the film's strength, exuding courage, grace, and nobility.Dan Stevens is effective as the Beast. 

Luke Evans stands out as Gaston. Evans nails a role that could so easily be irritating and exaggerated. The much talked about 'gay' moment, is a blink-and-miss hint. 

Classic in parts, and a good children's film otherwise, Beauty and the Beast (3D) is a pleasant one-time fantasy watch.No new daring territory is covered here, which is both a pity and joy. A joy, for Beauty and the Beast as a bedtime story for kids still echoes as relevant. For a darker, mature treatment, don't ask Disney ever. Never.    

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Lion (2017)

It's 1986 and 5-year-old Saroo lives with his mother, elder brother Guddu and little sister Shekila at Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh.Saroo's mother breaks rocks at a quarry for a living, the brother subsists on odd jobs.

One day, a stubborn Saroo insists on accompanying Guddu to work. The older sibling relents and the brothers take the evening train.Saroo is sleepy on alighting, so Guddu leaves him at the potentially safe and deserted station, promising to return in some time.
Hours later, Saroo wakes up calling out his brother's name. He boards an empty train and falls asleep.This is where Saroo's epic lost and found journey begins, spanning two continents and two decades.

Lion is a competent recreation of an amazing true story. The first half is harrowing, largely poignant thanks to Sunny Pawar's charming, astonishing take as the young Saroo. In comparison, the second half seems stretched to evade the imminent conclusion. 

Somehow, searching on Google Earth for a lost home is not as cinematic as a lost boy in a wicked city.

Dev Patel is expressive, the performance pales in comparison to the emotions Pawar evokes.Rooney Mara's girlfriend character is a story-staller. Nicole Kidman is poignant as the mother, David Wenham as the father is adequate. 

How Saroo and Manthosh get adopted by Australian parents is never clearly explained.The film's touching climax make up for the hiccups to a degree.

Lion is not without its flaws, but sincere emotions are at play here and they make Lion a necessary one-time watch.The film title origins is a nice, little tidbit at the end. 

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Split (2017)

Kevin, a man with multiple-personality disorder carjacks and kidnaps three girls from a supermarket parking lot.He locks up the girls in a room and chillingly reveals at different times, a few of his 23 distinct personalities. Even as the three girls get more desperate to escape, Kevin's psychiatrist gets ominous emails from Kevin's protective personality Barry.  

M. Night Shyamalan has the gift for compelling visuals, eerie atmospherics, and engaging dialogue.He has that uncanny knack to build suspense into a film, scene after scene.What he hasn't had for a long time is a solid, convincing storyline, ever since his debut masterpiece The Sixth Sense (1999) and the very effective, Signs (2002).

Split, despite the lack of story, and psychiatric mumbo-jumbo is still mildly engaging to an extent.But once Shyamalan gets to his oft-repeated twist climax, it merely scratches the horror/thriller genre surface.

Split finally ends up as an underwhelming film. Catch it for James McAvoy's alluring, impressive take as a dissociative identity disorder patient and some genuine Shyamalan moments. Maybe the Bruce Willis cameo will result in a better, bigger film.Until then, die-hard Shyamalan fans have to contend with The Sixth Sense reruns. Yet again.