Friday, April 24, 2015

Avengers : Age of Ultron

Rating : 8/10
Release Date : 24th April, 2015
Time : 142 minutes
Director & Writer : Joss Whedon, based on characters created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby; Music : Danny Elfman
Starring : Robert Downey Jr, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, James Spader (voice), Paul Bettany (voice), Don Cheadle, Samuel L Jackson, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Idris Elba, Hayley Atwell, Stellan Skarsgard, Claudia Kim, Thomas Kretschmann, Andy Serkis (whew, some cast, isn’t it….)

If you havent seen the first one, you could read my review here

Wasn’t it in Megamind where someone said, a superhero movie is only as good as the villain ? Leaving aside the irony of the fact that such a profound thought, about the balance between good and evil, comes from a children’s animated film – and the fact that its true vice versa – what villain do you think could seriously challenge our team of superheroes, make them sweat ? They were almost cocky in the opening sequence – cutting through a mini-army, destroying tanks, mashing missiles – with an arrogant ease…And that is why, you’ll like the villain the makers come up with…Ultron…who provides more than a fight for our Marvels…

In the beginning its about an organization called Hydra. Then its about Loki’s Sceptre. Then two fascinating twin mutants (Aaron & Elizabeth). Then Ultron. And then something else…At times you may even feel its all of the above…but even the ever-changing nature of the villain is a thrill, keeps us and our planet’s Guardians (sorry, that’s another Marvel series, no ?) on their toes.

They retain certain key elements from the first one (and why not, it worked, didn’t it ?) – the slight edge-laden banter between them; the differences in opinion, especially on the big stuff; the secretiveness, the cliques; how each of them has a role, no one really shortchanged (not an easy writing task, as anyone who’s written a multi-character story will tell you); and the Hulk continuing to be the joker in the pack…

There are jaw-dropping action sequences. Good music. An overall storyline that is interesting enough to keep you entertained despite the many obvious flaws (which superhero film is without them). But its the repartee that keeps you hooked – some excellent, crisp dialogue – the mini-battles between some of them : Ironman vs Captain America (“He’s the boss…I only pay for, design everything and make everyone look cooler”); The twin mutants vs Hawkeye (“You didn’t see that coming?” and jibes about his age); Black Widow and Hulk (singing lullabies…); Ultron’s philosophical musings about human frailty, dripping with sarcasm and the song he hums (“I’ve got no strings to hold me down”); And a really hilarious sequence about Thor’s hammer…which doesn’t exactly end as you would expect…

This isn’t the first film about artificial intelligence and doomsday scenarios…Terminator, i,Robot, even Transcendence… After a while, with most films around robots, it does get a bit mechanical (pun intended), watching them fight, get beaten – the mid section does flag a little – but overall, its still quite enjoyable, there is plenty of flair, panache to keep things interesting. Am going to be a bit generous and go with possibly a slightly higher rating – just because its not easy to pull off a sequel with so many superheroes, super villains and still manage to entertain !

Friday, April 17, 2015

Margarita With A Straw

Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 17th April, 2015
Time : 100 minutes
Directors & Writers : Shonali Bose, Nilesh Maniyar; Music : Mikey McCleary
Starring : Kalki Koechlin, Sayani Gupta, Revathy, Kuljeet Singh, Malhar Khushu, William Moseley, Tenzing Dalha

I’ve never liked films about disabled people – but that is probably just me, my journey through life, I guess. There are several enjoyable moments in the movie but equally was squirming uncomfortably at times

It’s the story of Kalki, who has cerebral palsy, lives in Delhi, and just wants to be treated normally. She goes to Ramjas College, has a good circle of friends, an extremely loving, supportive family, is a lyricist, and is also quite keen to explore her sexuality.

Her journey also takes her to New York, where, among others, she meets a gorgeous, blind Pakistani activist, Sayani Gupta and also the Brad Pitt kinda cute William, who volunteers to help Kalki write.

Kalki does a great job – having seen a lot of kids with cerebral palsy – she gets the mannerisms, hand motions, postures, expressions down pat. Kudos to her and the director for achieving this.

But the standout performances for me came from Sayani (beautiful, confident, sensuous) and Revathy (simply brilliant as Kalki’s mom – a South Indian married to a Sardarji).

Some of the moments that made the film for me
- a certain award-winning moment that gets ruined – the last thing anyone with a disability wants is condescension
- The relationship between Kalki and Hussain, college-mate on a wheelchair, including when they fall out and make-up
- The genial, Kuljeet Singh, the Sardarji Dad – always smiling – and the moment of the film, when he complains about getting veg food all
the time…and Malhar’s (Kalki’s brother) priceless intervention
- Revathy’s expressions, once in front of a mirror and another time when she opens up a certain website on Kalki’s laptop
- The music – fascinating blend of different genres – one OST I would love to own

I did feel there was a lot of focus in the film on Kalki’s sexuality, experimentations. Probably some scenes that were gratuitous…or maybe that was just me being squeamish. Wasn’t sure during several points in the film as to where this was all leading up – and the ending worked for me only partially in assuaging those thoughts…

But I did sense a thread of genuineness in the film, the story…confirmed for me by the director’s heartfelt quotations, dedications at the end of the movie…And I guess, in todays day and age, you cant ask for much more !

Mr X

Rating : 1/10
Release Date : 17th April, 2015
Time : Way Too Long !
Director : Vikram Bhatt; Writer : Shagufta Rafique; Music : Jeet Ganguly, Ankit & Ankur Tiwari
Starring : Emraan Hashmi, Amyra Dastur, Arunoday Singh

Walked out during the interval

Only so much punishment someone not into S&M can take…

Can’t think of a single redeeming feature in the film, not one nice thing to say

The acting is terrible, extremely hammy - by everyone

The music is bad and predictable – I can now tell from certain Emraan Hashmi expressions when he is about to break into ‘soulful’ ballads

The story has no connection whatsoever to logic or rationality – random things happen (radiation, invisibility, assassination) – and you have to grin and bear it.

The dialogues are pathetic – cheesy, hare-brained, bad lingo…

The production quality is very poor – has an unfinished look about it, with the feeling of several corners being cut everywhere…

You’d have to be pretty desperate to choose this for your entertainment…

Monday, April 13, 2015


Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 10th April, 2015
Time : 94 minutes
Director : Tim Johnson; Writer : Tom J Astle, Matt Ember based on the book by Adam Rex (The True Meaning of Smekday); Music : Lorna Balfe
Starring (voices of) : Jim Parsons, Rihanna, Steve Martin, Jennifer Lopez, Matt Jones

Half the points here are for the story, the animation and the dialogue. The other half are for the voice of Jim Parsons, who’s dialogue delivery so uncannily suits the scrambled Yoda like grammar of his race, that it just makes everything funnier. And this is despite my being a very intermittent viewer of his act as Sheldon in Big Bang Theory

The Boovs are a species that specialize in running. Usually from the Gorgs, their sworn enemies. They’ve now, led by their Captain Smekday (Steve Martin), come to Earth and, aided by a couple of nifty devices, have managed to transplant the humans to settlements in remote areas while they’ve taken over the rest of the planet. After a long time, they feel safe, until an error by Oh! (Jim Parsons) threatens to expose their location to the Gorgs, making him an instant outcast and fugitive. At the same time, Tip (Rihanna), a young teen, left behind by the relocation effort, wants to find her mother (Jen Lopez). These two fugitives unite and then the fun begins…

The humour here comes from the way Oh!’s character is depicted (extremely friendly, always enthusiastic, and quite error prone – all very un-Boov like tendencies), Captain Smekday (quite eccentric, especially with his Shush-er, the tendency to ask for the ‘purple one’ to stand out etc) and the various situations that Oh and Tip find themselves in…

It’s a fun film overall, about a misfit trying to find a way to make his mark and a young girl’s determination to find her family (an alien concept for the Boovs). There is nothing new, nothing dramatic that happens, no major message that stays but with some nice music, funny repartee and great dialogue delivery, this is one entertaining watch for the family

Broken Horses

Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 10th April, 2015
Time : 101 minutes
Director : Vidhu Vinod Chopra; Writer : Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Abhijat Joshi; Music : John Debney
Starring : Chris Marquette, Anton Yelchin, Vincent D’Onofrio, Maria Valverde, Sean Patrick Flanery, Jordi Caballero, Henry Shotwell, Nicholas Neve, Jeremy Luke

Its slow, dark, predictable, slightly twisted, claustrophobic and gripping
Its a movie set in redneck country, somewhere around the Mexican border, about brotherly love.
One, Chris, is a little slow but being elder, becomes a hit man after his father’s death to protect the younger one
The younger one, Anton, is a violinist. Had been asked by his father to take care of the elder brother, as he was a bit slow on the uptake. But after passing out of school, moving to another place he hasn’t really been in touch with his brother. But decides to visit, just before his wedding.

Vincent D’Onofrio owns the town, has his fingers in many illegal pies. And has a special relationship with Chris. Who does his dirty work (killing). And in return is taken care of by Vincent and his henchmen.
Anton, though, finds that things have changed for the worse since his departure. And that his arrival, and impending nuptials, have kicked off a maelstrom in their tiny town.

What I liked about the film was the atmosphere created, a stultifying, constricting sense of impending doom, thanks to the locales (dry, dusty, unforgiving), the characters and excellent performances, with Chris being the pick of the lot. Especially in one terrifying scene when a traitor in their midst is discovered. Jordi Caballero and Maria Valverde also were very good in their cameos. And Vincent was as good as you would expect from this accomplished character actor.

However, I did also feel it was much ado about nothing. It’s a nice tale but not mind-blowing or unique. Its not one to stay with you either – interesting for fans of its genre and too slow for others – but for both, its over the minute you walk out of the theatre. Cant fathom, of all the topics to write / make a film about, the accomplished Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Abhijat Joshi chose this for their Hollywood maiden venture ?

It Follows

Rating : 5/10
Release Date : 10th April, 2015
Time : 92 minutes (100 minutes in USA)
Director & Writer : David Robert Mitchell; Music : Various
Starring : Maika Monroe, Lili Sepe, Keir Gilchrist, Daniel Zovatto, Jake Weary, Olivia Luccardi, Bailey Spry

You get the atmosphere - the unmistakably horror film kind – where spooky, unexplained bad things happen. Where you watch almost every frame in anticipation of the next attack. Where the music plays tricks with you – building up a crescendo all too often, including for a few false alarms. But what you miss a credible story – where the mystifying events begin to make sense and get woven into a satisfying conclusion.

Something or someone begins to follow you, steadily, slowly but surely. Has the potential to do you great harm. Can come at any moment, will walk at a gentle, even pace but will make a beeline for you. Will not be visible to anyone else. And the only way to get rid of it is to have sex with someone. In which case it begins to follow your partner…but beware… in case it manages to kill him/her, it will circle back and begin to follow you again !

Its this evil that enters the life of Maika – unexpectedly and after some good sex, of course. It changes her, her life. And also the life of her motley group of childhood friends – Lili, Keir, Olivia. Lili and Keir are siblings, Keir has a huge crush on Maika, likes watching her secretly and they had also been each others first kiss… Daniel, a good-looking slightly older neighbor joins the circle a little later, to help save Maika, much to Keir’s underplayed disgust.

And so the movie goes…there are attacks, saviours, escapes and more attacks…Whatever it is that follows, does so relentlessly. There is some sex also that happens but the Indian censors obviously don’t deem us worthy of watching as the movie is 8 minutes shorter vs the US length….Such movies work for me only if there is a satisfying conclusion, one where all the threads get neatly tied up…and unfortunately, that is not the case here…which lets the entire film down for me…

Friday, April 03, 2015

Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!

Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 3rd April, 2015
Time : 153 minutes
Director : Dibakar Banerjee; Writer : Dibakar Banerjee, Urmi Juvekar based on the character by Sharadindu Bandhopadhyay; Music : Various
Starring : Sushant Singh Rajput, Anand Tiwari, Meiyang Chang, Swastika Mukherjee, Neeraj Kabi, Divya Menon, Mark Bennington, Shivam, Dr Kaushik Ghosh

Anand Tiwari’s father has been missing for two months, and he hesitantly approaches the film’s titular character, Sushant Singh Rajput, for help. Thus begins an adventure that involves Calcutta in 1943, the English rulers, opium, our freedom struggle, Chinese gangs, the enemies of our enemies and by that logic our friends, the Japanese and a crucial stopover cum import from Rangoon.

Its quite an interesting adventure, not one that is entirely coherent but fun to watch nonetheless. Dibakar Banerjee, as usual, is excellent in creating an overall atmosphere via the costumes, the locations and keeps the action pacy, with enough twists and turns to keep you hooked. Where he misses out, quite oddly, is with the Bengali character / feel, something that Sujoy Ghosh got so brilliantly right in Kahaani. Here everyone speaks perfect Hindi without any trace of a Bengali accent, and the walk, posture, demeanour lacks the inherent laziness of the denizens of Bengal.

The ensemble cast is quite excellent – really liked Anand Tiwari, Swastika Mukherjee and Divya Menon. Special praise for Neeraj Kabi and Meiyan Chang. And quite liked Sushant – he doesn’t quite behave like a Bong but keeps you interested in what’s happening with him.

There are quite a few murders in the film, and it begs the question as to why Byomkesh’s life is never really threatened, why the villain is so magnanimous even while knocking off anyone else who is remotely threatening ? But I guess that is true of most detective stories. There is more than a homage to Guy Ritchie’s restyling of Sherlock Holmes here but it’s Dibakar’s deft storytelling which is the primary reason to watch this one, even though there is a lot in there which doesn’t make sense.


Rating : 5/10
Release Date : 3rd April, 2015
Time : 137 minutes
Director : James Wan; Writer : Chris Morgan, based on characters by Gary Scott Thompson; Music : Brian Tyler
Starring : Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jason Statham, Kurt Russell, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Dwayne Johnson, Nathalie Emmanuel, Kurt Russell, Djimon Hounsou

There are about seventeen to twenty jaw-dropping moments in the film.
About three-four due to the audacity, conceptualization and brazenness of the stunts executed. I mean, how do they dream up stuff like this ?
The rest are for the stupidity in terms of story, situations and ludicrous stunts they come up with. I mean, what are they on, to dream up stuff like this ?

Jason Statham is the big brother of the villain (Luke Evans) of the last film. A mean, nasty piece of work, a special ops trained Brit, seeking revenge against the people who put his sibling in a coma. And then, to complicate the picture, just to provide the opportunity for more stunts / chases, there is Kurt Russell, part of some shady USA government agency, who is after a secret program called Ghost as is Djimon Hounsou, a blood-thirsty mercenary. Nathalie Emmanuel has a crucial part and also helps significantly improve the much needed eye-candy portion of the movie.

So we have a secret US agency that badly wants the program but is strangely bound by government orders to do nothing to get it (doesn’t stop them from aiding the Furious team, flying them everywhere, lending them their HQ, supplying them arms etc). We have a Arab billionaire owning a rare (one in seven) supercar which he keeps locked up in the penthouse of one of the tallest buildings in the world but has amongst the most useless security guards in the world, as they allow anyone to come and go and don’t seem to possess a gun between them. And we have a mercenary who uses a helicopter and a drone to missile, bomb and lay waste to LA without any interruptions from the US government.

Even our team of daredevil superheroes on wheels seem to just wing it – their plans lack any iota of planning, cohesion and instead rely on blind luck and a ‘jaako raakhe saiyaan, maar sake na koye’ kind of fatalistic belief.

If it weren’t for Paul Walker - will really miss him and the credibility he brought with him to the screen (Eight Below, Into The Blue), I don’t think I would’ve gone. Would recommend this only for his fans – just for a last cinematic opportunity to see him – and for die-hard fans of supercars, the action genre. This one is a silly concoction of brawn, bravado and brainlessness…

PS : The 3D print is quite dark – would recommend watching in 2D, if you must !

NB : Why on earth is this movie 'A' ?