Friday, May 23, 2014

X-Men : Days of Future Past

Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 23rd May, 2014
Time : 131 minutes
Director : Bryan Singer; Writers : Jane Goldman, Simon Kinberg, Matthew Vaughn; Music : John Ottman
Starring : Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Nicholas Hoult, Anna Paquin, Ellen Page, Peter Dinklage, Shawn Ashmore, Omar Sy, Evan Peters, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen

This one has it all…great set-piece action sequences, super visuals, enough logic to keep you engaged and some good one-liners for that all too important dose of humour to prevent things from getting too dark or heavy

In a bleak, dark future, humans have created Sentients…machines which ruthlessly hunt down and destroy mutants. Humans aren’t doing too well either, with only a few left, who control the machines. One way to prevent this scenario is to go back in time, to when the Sentient program is green-lit, and prevent it from ever getting off the ground. But this will have to be done quickly, before the Sentients discover the last remaining bunch of mutants in the present…

The core of X-Men’s appeal lies in mistrust between humans and mutants and the two approaches used by mutants to combat this, typified by Magneto’s (Michael Faasbender) ‘Fear is the Key’ kind of shock and awe approach vs the Professor’s (James McAvoy) more inclusive, Win-Win style, ‘Mutual Benefits’ one. The short-term expediency of the former is balanced against the longer-term sustainability of the latter. Its this battle which keeps us hooked for most of the second half, as Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), the messenger from the future, has to find a way for both of them to see common ground as time quickly runs out.

One of the most delightful moments of the film though is when Quicksilver has to rescue the others from a tight spot while attempting to extricate Magneto from the Pentagon…that entire rescue sequence is just excellent, deftly executed with generous helpings of humour. Mystique’s (Jennifer Lawrence) powers are always visually exciting and Magneto ensures an almost literally over-the-top spectacle in the grand finale.

There is a feeling of déjà vu as you watch the film, though…the Sentients idea coming close conceptually (though not executionally) to what we saw in the Matrix and the whole idea of the travelling back in time to change the future coming from Men In Black 3. Also, logically, if the Professor can read minds and help alter them using his powers, wouldn’t it be a lot simpler for him merely to change the minds of the hawkishly inclined humans ?

In any case, I found it a interesting that questions like this are raised in your head while you watch the film…amongst all the action, the special effects, the laughter, these more fundamental queries are probably a sign that the film makers have found a way to make you care…for the characters and for the overall plot…and isn’t that a good thing after all ?


Rating : 5/10
Release Date : 23rd May, 2014
Time : 110 minutes
Director : Soundarya Rajnikanth Ashwin; Writers : K.S. Ravikumar; Music : A R Rahman
Starring : Rajinikanth, Deepika Padukone, Jackie Shroff, Sarath Kumar, Nasser, Shobana, Rukmini

The miracle of this film is that it makes its 110 minute length seem like over three hours…a weak story line, songs for every occasion, weakly etched, uni-dimensional characters and above all, animation that is very good only in minute parts and highly caricature-ish in most others makes for a movie that is barely watchable...if I didnt know better, would say they ran out of money & time to make it as it should've been done !

Its an unabashed celebration of Rajni magic, right from the opening credits till the very last frame, as we watch him grow from a weak boy to a powerful general, free slaves, fall in love, fight for his sister’s love, plot vengeance and conquer his people’s hearts. All in an age-old plot, one of rival kingdoms, greedy, jealous, power hungry kings and intertwined with the ageless powerful motives of love and revenge. I hesitate to give away more as I may give away some of the twists & turns. Will Rajinikanth succeed in his mission though, is probably an unfair million dollar question?

The bigger, $21mn (the budget of the film) question is whether people will accept this animated avatar of the great thespian. There are scenes where the movements are beautifully fluid, the gestures life-like. But unfortunately, these are few and far in between, in most scenes the characters feel as if they’ve been cut & pasted into their surroundings, the horse / animal / human movements coming across as clunky and worst of all, Deepika’s character looking nothing like her beautiful, real self. Perhaps its about setting expectations – Beowulf, a great film featuring superb live-motion capture cost $150 mn in 2007 while this one is a fraction of that cost today – but then, thanks to Tintin, Avatar, we’re used to much more as audiences and this, while a good step for Indian shores, feels regressive technology wise.

There are some nice moments but not a single wow one. The sets, costumes are nice, some songs are good but there are just too many ! The action sequences, the center-piece of the film, are again good vs what has come before in India but ordinary compared to global standards, with even the sight of giant armies standing face-to-face failing to evoke feelings of awe or grandeur.

Being an animation, this film is going to anyways come up against the consumer psyche prevalent in this country, that such films are only for children. The only hope is that the vast legion of Rajni fans throng the halls and make up for the others who are most likely to stay away. This is one film where the latter is probably the wiser course…

Saturday, May 17, 2014


Rating : 4/10
Release Date : 16th May, 2014
Time : 123 minutes
Director : Gareth Edwards; Writers : Dave Callaham; Music : Alexandre Desplat
Starring : Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, Carson Bolde, Sally Hawkins, Juliette Binoche, David Strathairn

Alternate, more apt titles I can think of would be…

Godzilla vs MUTOs

Andheri raat mein… kuch kuch hota hai…

The Alpha Predator

The Saviour

Nuclear Trigger-Happy Humans

It all happens in the dark. You identify with none of the human characters, who all come across either boring, wooden or psychotic. There is shock & awe level of destruction in several cities around the Pacific. And there isn’t just one giant creature…but you feel for none of them either…

Since 1954 humans have been seeking to destroy or study a giant creature known as Gojiro…a relic from the pre-dinosaur, radioactive era, who was awakened thanks to our fondness for things nuclear. Now Gojiro, who’s purpose according to legend is to be the balancing force of nature, has given rise to some parasitic creatures, the MUTO’s…and must battle them and the humans who come at it with everything they’ve got…

I realized midway through my first yawn, early into the film, that the sight of giant creatures rampaging through modern cities, replete with skyscrapers, towers etc, doesn’t really work for me anymore. There has to be a story. Some genuine human interest angle. Something bigger at stake. This movie offers precious little apart from special effects. And more than one giant creature in more than one giant city…Tokyo, Honolulu, San Francisco…

Aaron, in particular, looks disinterested as the reluctant hero, trying to get to his wife and kid. Bryan, his father, probably is the only one who really seems to be passionate but borders on the cuckoo, full of conspiracy theories. Ken Watanabe also, despite being a specialist, does very little apart from fly all over the place and get a ringside seat of the havoc being wrecked around him.

If the thought of buildings half-destroyed or giant lizards rampaging through oceans and land does something for you, would suggest you go take a look. There is very little to recommend otherwise.


Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 9th May, 2014
Time : 121 minutes
Director : Akhilesh Jaiswal; Writers : Akhilesh Jaiswal, Gunjan Saxena; Music : Yo Yo Honey Singh & Others
Starring : Rahul Bagga, Tara Alisha, Akash Dahiya, Istiyak Khan, Vinod Nahardih, Sagar

A sweet portrayal, if something like this was possible, of one of the premier, most prolific writers of Hindi porn in the good old days

Particularly endearing is the author, Rahul, struggling through his bank job, desiring to be a writer, aspiring to write lofty novels and poems…and eventually getting suckered into writing porn by his publishers…

Even his porn, inspired by little things / incidents he observes around him (Baniye Ki Lollipop, for example), is written in fine literary style and does try to combine a story with the more salacious bits. However, he does remain at odds and ends internally, enjoying the material fruits of success, yet yearning to have a bestseller to show to his family…he also comes across as slightly diffident with his own mood swings.

The best parts are when he is observing things around him and converting that to porn…whether it’s a visit to the hospital, or watching his wife (a very cute Tara Alisha) chat with his friend. The efforts at showing off the wealth but still trying to hide what he really does is also good fun. However, the pace of the film is on the slower side and it doesn’t seem to be really leading anywhere, content to just showcase the porn writer’s journey

The moral hypocrisy of our society, as always, is strange to watch – happy in private to consume the sleazy content, whether film or written – but in public taking on the role of the righteous, whiter than white ! I think I connected with the film more than others would, thanks to my own literary journey, but still think it has enough legs to be a one time watch for most !

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Million Dollar Arm

Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 9th May, 2014
Time : 121 minutes
Director : Craig Gillespie; Writers : Thomas McCarthy; Music : A R Rahman
Starring : Jon Hamm, Pitobash, Suraj Sharma, Madhur Mittal, Aasif Mandvi, Darshan Jariwala, Lake Bell, Alan Arkin, Bill Paxton, Gregory Alan Williams, Tzi Ma

Feel good, fun film, very predictable but still manages to hold attention thanks to its Indian flavor and the self-discovery some of the characters go through, particularly Jon Hamm.

Jon is a sports agent down to his last throw of dice when he convinces a Chinese entrepreneur (Tzi Ma) to fund a search for new baseball pitcher from India’s vast pool of cricket bowlers, setting it up as a talent hunt, criss-crossing the country. After many a hiccup, they finally narrow it down to 2 candidates, Suraj and Madhur and whisk them, along with Pitobash (a wanna be baseball coach, translator) to the USA to get them to train, get ready for a tryout in a very tight deadline. Things don’t go exactly as planned and Jon at one point complains about having signed up for a talent contest, not to become a primary care-giver.

His business partner, Aasif (remember him from Ghost Town ?) and tenant, Lake Bell, are the ones helping keep things on track, while Alan Arkin and Bill Paxton as the baseball scout and coach, try to help with their wise counsel, while Darshan Jariwala plays a cameo.

This is a film that doesn’t really go deep but keeps things moving while skimming through what the characters are going through. The adjustment issues – Jon’s to India and then later for the Indian trio in America are humorously and quickly told. The relationship between Jon and Lake – beginning with a broken down washing machine, then Skype and later at home is crucial to the plot. And most fascinating of all is watching Jon’s character, the deal hungry, self-centered sports agent, try and figure out what life is about – of course, with a few helpful nudges from friends

Sport movies usually suffer from predictable endings and this one is no exception. It drags a bit in the second half too but the music score by A R Rahman helps gloss over that. It’s a true story apparently but one, surprisingly not too many Indians are aware of, so in that sense, the chief objective of doing the talent hunt, to popularize baseball in India, doesn’t really seem to have worked. Unfortunately, going by the low key promotion, release and the small crowds, even the film wont help do that here

Thursday, May 01, 2014

The Amazing Spiderman 2

Rating : 8/10
Release Date : 1st May, 2014
Time : 142 minutes
Director : Marc Webb; Writers :Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinkner, James Vanderbilt based on the Marvel comic by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko; Music : Johnny Marr, Pharrell Williams, Hans Zimmer
Starring : Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Sally Field, Felicity Jones, Colm Feore, Campbell Scott, Marton Csokas

Oh ! What a delicious tangled web they weave…

Andrew Garfield wants to know what happened to his parents.
Dane DeHaan, the younger Osborn, has just been handed an unwanted legacy by his father.
Emma Stone just wants a peaceful life with her boyfriend but her father’s promise keeps haunting Andrew.
Sally Field wants Andrew to continue being her boy and is holding out on him re his parents
Jamie Foxx, a nobody at Oscorp, just wants to be known
And Oscorp, of course, has many, many secrets hidden away in its metaphorical cupboard.

Secrets and villains never stop tumbling out in this film…Electro, Green Goblin, Rhino. And with a relationship which always reads Its Complicated, things aren’t too smooth romantically either.

Nowadays life doesn’t seem to be too smooth for superheroes…with a Hancock-like negative reaction from the public and his own life not easy, Spiderman luckily manages to retain his sense of humour. Oscorp also seems to behave like any typical large corporate in its headlong quest for profits at any price, complete with stormy boardroom meetings.

The action is great when it happens, with a nice musical score as accompaniment. There are a myriad implausible events – how almost every accident seems to result in a superhero. How no govt agency (FBI etc) ever lands up despite several creatures springing up, devastating New York, instead leaving everything to Oscorp to clean up. But this is minor stuff to sweat on a ride as thrilling as this one.

The blend of action, emotion, humour and mystery makes for a heady cocktail, one you don’t want to stop sipping. The characters are familiar yet behave in new, exciting ways, more consistent with their characters . The third one is nicely set up. I wasn’t such a big fan of the Tobey Maguire series but for this one, I just can’t wait.