Sunday, July 26, 2015

Ridiculously small! Ant-Man Movie Review

Censor Rating: PG-13 (USA), U/A (India)
My Score: 2/5

A movie conception is always a delicate thing because it is at its inception can a film maker decide what needs to be and what does not need to be in the movie. However, when a studio tinkers with this thought process, you get "creative differences" causing a dilution of the basic movie concept - resulting in a movie like Ant-man.

Marvel kicks off "phase 3" of their cinematic universe with this miniature superhero with a enormous heart. The movie dwells on the basic origin story premise which features both Hank Pym (the original Ant-man as part of comics) and Scott Lang (the one who inherits it from Pym) while playing a part in expanding the universe of superhero to a more detailed level. The introduction of this movie is done keeping in mind next summer's Avengers 2.5 aka Captain America civil war. In brief, the story is about Hank Pym's struggle in keeping the Ant-Man technology out of the hands of this prodigee Darren Cross and how he enlists Scott Lang (who has his own set of issues) to deal with Cross.

Story & Direction: I must say easily this is the most disappointing script coming out of MCU which I have seen till date. The writing has that flare of Edger Wright which we have seen and loved in the Cornetto Trilogy but forced humour, typical character perils and lack of focus on the story line are the main reasons for this being such a snooze fest during the initial build up. The movie does claw back some of cool stuff and gets its humour together during the climax which becomes its saving grace. Again, if I know Wright's work, I can tell that it was entirely his conceptualization.

Peyton Reed knows Paul Rudd and their chemistry is the centerpiece of the direction of this movie. Peyton does a good job in directing a movie in which he was brought in as a last minute replacement but since he isnt involved during the conceptualization, it shows in the direction. Having said that he does put in an honest day's work in this flick.

Visuals & Effects: As it is customary with MCU movies, special effects are top notch and state of the art. The climax in particular is brilliantly choreographed and executed which effectively ends up saving the movie a bit.

The Cast: Where the script was in complete disarray, the casting was pretty much spot on. Paul Rudd looks and behaves like Scott Lang. He brings that humbleness to the character which is of a father trying to mend his way in order to be with his daughter. Evangeline Lily as Hope Van Dyne does a good job but essentially sets herself up for future work in the MCU. Corey Stoll as Darren Cross provides a good typical antagonist.

With Michael Pena and the rest, some comic factors are introduced which initially are really flat but provide some good relief at the end. Michael Douglas as Hank Pym was a surprise inclusion into the MCU but was the perfect seasoned Hank Pym who coaches Scott Lang to become the new Ant-Man. Anthony Mackie is brought in just to tie in Ant-Man to the MCU. Thats it!

The Bottomline: The weakest movie of the MCU, it makes me wonder if the MCU has ran out of steam or is the quality been compromised just to ensure that all these movies contribute to the entire MCU rather than being stand alone. Edger Wright exited because of precisely this issue and now I understand why. The movie will make money but it will be considered as a flop and the entire onus will fall on Kevin Feige who needs to understand and curb this pattern. Is Ant-Man a workable movie concept? Yes, Is Ant-Man the movie workable? for me, No.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

A Roaring Return! Jurassic World Movie Review!

Censor Rating: RPG-13 (USA), U/A (India)
My Score: 3/5

Its an interesting year for people like me. Ring in the new as well as the old I would say. Summer started with a bang (sort of) with Ultron and now I have seen 2 back to back movies introducing the newer generations to old times. Mad Max was a thrill ride which I thoroughly enjoyed. You can read all about my experience here. But we arent talking about Mad Max. Its another iconic movie which got resurrected this weekend. It redefined movie making and set a gold standard in visual effects. After 20 years, the park is finally open!

Exactly as it sounds, the movie's premise is set around 20 years after the events of the very first movie. John Hammond's company Ingen has been taken over by Masrani Corp which took steps in reopening the park. We begin our journey in a thriving park branded as "Jurassic World" which has reached a saturation point. So, in order to improve business, the people behind the park undertake genetic remodelling to deliver a new hybrid dinosaur titled "Indominus Rex". However, as it is with these movies, things quickly go out of hand and the events unfold with chaos, thrills and destruction being the chief parameters.

Story & Direction: It was interesting to see the writing approach which was taken for this movie. Although it looked unconventional, it wasnt. In fact, this was a natural direction the franchise had to take in order to survive. Lets face it, another Jurassic Park movie where humans are hunted by dinosaurs freely roaming around would not have set the cash registers ringing at the box office. What the writers do instead is exactly the same thing but with an exception of making humans feel that they are in complete control before things go haywire. When the credits rolled, I was thinking, well this is an ending that I have seen before! Having said that, I still feel that this is a logical yet safe direction which the makers could have taken. 
The screenplay was typical Jurassic Park style where we have some good little comical nuggets blended in with some thrills and heavy duty dino action. The pace was decent but felt rushed at some places. The dialogues were good enough though compared to the previous sequels. The thing which I liked in the writing was the homage which was paid to the original Jurassic Park and the finale which felt kind of cheesy yet cool at the same time.

Considering that this was Colin Trevorrow's 1st real big budget movie, I would use the word "phenomenal" in terms of the work which he did. He knew the source material really well and treated it with atmost respect. He didnt do many adventurous things in the movie and choose to play safe most of the times. It paid off and the end result is really good piece of work. Hope I see more of his movies.

Visuals & Effects: This movie worked purely because of its thrills. The effects and visuals played a huge role on it. Having said that, at some instances, the effects really felt unfinished or bland. But overall, people who see the movie would be happy to see near life like dinosaurs again ruling the big screen. 

The Cast: If you set aside the dinosaurs, the movie was carried on mostly by 4 principal cast members. Chris Pratt is having a really nice career off late with Marvel and now Jurassic Park knocking on the door. He shows a good mature performance with a comical turn and timing which only he is capable of. In other words, he is in red hot form.

Bryce Dallas Howard is seen on screen after a long time and she provides a decent enough performance. Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins are the kids in distress this time around and they also turn in a good performance. The supporting cast of Vincent D'Onofrio, Irrfan Khan, Omar Sy & BD Wong (the scientist from the original movie) provide a strong support in driving the story narration forward.

Bottomline: Traditional yet modern, Jurassic World has the essence of the original movie but lacks the finishing touches due to a predictable ending. However, it does have its own moments like the final battle which gives you goose bumps and takes you back to the days of John Hammond when he filled up the screen and said "Welcome to Jurassic Park!".

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Mad Rush! Mad Max Fury Road Movie Review

Censor Rating: R (USA), U/A (India)
My Score: 4.5/5
Movie mythos are really essential to be created in today's world. Comic book movies, although entertaining, still look like a shortcut route to getting the people introduced to a huge world which exists in literature since the last 75 odd years. There isnt any good material left which would give us a hero which we would want to route for. During the 80s George Miller started something which captured the imagination of the world. So much so that there were 3 flicks made back to back which ended up creating their own world and adventures. Those movies came to be known as Mad Max Trilogy - the very first trilogy which I watched back to back and boy was I hooked on. So, 30 years later when I read that George Miller decided to bring back the classic character back to life, I was like "This is interesting".

So, Mad Max Fury Road is set in the same post apocalyptic world which we saw in Thunderdome. Although not really referring any of the events of the prior movies apart from the setting of course, Fury Road takes off with Max (played by Tom Hardy) being captured by the war boys and dragged into a cult where he is used as a "blood bag". The leader of the cult Immortan Joe, a dictative authority, has forged partnerships with Gasoline owners (called Gas Town) and armory owners (called bullet farm). He has an imperator "Furiosa" (played by the awesome Charlize Theron) who undertakes a visit to the 2 towns for exchange of goods. However, Furiosa has her own agenda of freeing the wives of Joe and leading them to "Green Place". Along with a war boy (Nick Hoult), Max engages Joe in this thrill ride complete with awesome action spectacles and sensational sequences!

Story & Direction: The brilliant thing about the writing is that it successfully stays true to the mythos created for the 1st set of movies and ports it brilliantly well for this one. The essence of the initial movies, even for the uninitiated, was there to see and experience. My only complaint is the cult background was very brief and didnt give much details on its origins (something I felt should have been given). Another huge pulse for this movie is the way story narration happens between and during action sequences. I found it to be done really well and hope that other wannabe action flicks really learn from this one. All on all, fantastic work by George Miller.

In terms of compliments, George holds the distinction of creating another directorial masterpiece. The movie detail is immaculate with finer details arched out very intricately and justice done to all characters involved. Considering his last 2 movies were Happy Feet and its sequel, the tone, pace and spectacular sequences are a treat to watch and give an owe for. The 3D is used wisely. However, my only complaint is that I didnt watch this movie in IMAX.

Visuals & Effects: The action sequences are superlative! No doubt about it. Nothing comes close in the past 2 years than the sequences which I "witnessed" in this movie! Completely over the top and top notch from a technical sense, George Miller's panache for amazing visuals and practical effects is on full display. This movie should definitely be a contender for best action sequences and, in my opinion, better even than Age of Ultron and deserve some recognition this awards season.

The Cast: Finding a replacement for the original Mad Max (Mel Gibson) was a difficult ordeal. However, Tom Hardy stepped into his shoes and did a good job in showing off his action chops in this movie. The plus point in this movie is casting of another lead in form of Charlize Theron as Furiosa which kind of balances the acting honours so that the viewers do not really depend on Tom to deliver a fantastic performance. It was a bold and a smart move at the same time but it worked. The bonus was that both actors gave a break out performance in their own right.

Another notable performance was by the ever so talented Nicholas Hoult. The XMen beast played a war boy called Nux in this one and did justice to the casting. Hugh Keays-Byrne did a good job portraying Immortan Joe. A small bit of trivia, it seems Hugh Keays-Byrne was part of the original mad max movie as well but as a completely different character.

Conclusion: Seasoned with amazing sequences and an innovative form of storytelling, Fury Road re-introduces the modern audience to the mythos of Mad Max. Its an exciting movie complete with the tone of the original and personally I cannot wait for the next chapter in Max's life. This one's definitely a keeper.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Thrown the Gauntlet! Avengers: Age Of Ultron Movie Review

Censor Rating: PG-13 (USA), U/A (India)
My Score: 3.5/5

With a massive budget, you can either go all out and show the world your movie making chops or you can go all out and try to earn more money. When I finished watching the nearly 2 and a half hour marathon, I was wondering what Joss Whedon was aiming for. This question is extremely difficult to answer when your mind is toggling between being a fanboy and an objective voice of reason. Thats when I realized, the movie was not about impressing the fanboys or be objective, it was to throw the gauntlet down to DC and to pass the torch to the Russo Bros who can script how the Avengers take down Thanos and his Army.

The movie picks up (sort of) after the events of Captain America: Winter Soldier with Cap assembling the avengers in taking down the hydra bases all over the world. They hit the Hydra outpost in Sokovia to take down Baron Strucker and take back Loki's scepter. During their mission, they run into the Maximoff twins (Aaron Taylor-Johnson & Elizabeth Olsen) who give them a run for their money. During the raid, Tony Stark comes across a revelation which helps him jump start the Ultron program. Thus Ultron is born, goes rogue and pledges the destruction of the Avengers with the help of the Maximoff twins. The story then becomes a joy ride which takes the team from New York to Africa and finally back to Sokovia.

Story & Direction: The story had 2 facets to it - the actual movie story and the MCU story. From an MCU perspective, this movie (as expected) was a huge step forward in terms of realizing the infinity wars plotline. Further, this movie served as a stopgap for that very storyline and ensured that Thanos was not introduced too early for anyone's annoyance. At first, I felt that this movie does not have any real bearing on the MCU. However, when you break down each and every scene, you see that every step, every sub plot in the movie has a direct and immediate consequential impact to the MCU. For that hats off to Whedon and his crew for a brilliant write up. That clearly shows a great "Vision" (couldnt help it :))

From a movie story perspective, I was not very impressed. The entire movie felt rushed and didnt have the drive that the 1st movie had. This movie felt disoriented and extremely fast paced to allow audience a breather. Ultron's motives to turn rogue were not really clear to me nor where the origins of the Vision and why he was brought to life. I felt those fear memories inducted by the Scarlet Witch really had something going but that wasnt explored either. I would have rated the movie very low had it not been for the MCU storyline elegance which the movie depicted!

Joss Whedon's swansong to the MCU was commendable. He did an admirable job in directing some really cool sequences (highlight was the very 1st Avengers Assemble sequence) and some really swift camera work and direction. What I liked in this one is he managed to extract some really cool emotional performances from the entire cast which was good to see.

Visuals & Effects: For a movie of this magnitude, the VFX department needed to be spot on and by god it was! It was a treat to watch ALL the sequences. Although most of them were over the top and some were needless, but for the lover of this art (thats me), it was a spectacular feeling. I missed watching the IMAX version but I can vouch that it would have been super fun. The attention to detail was super cool. Vision really caught my eye as those effects were done brilliantly well. 3D was non-intrusive and had that immersive effect which was missed earlier.

The Cast: The entire ensemble was brilliant. Thats the beauty of having top class actors, they are really bankable and gives the makers one less area to worry about. RDJ, both Chris's, ScarJo, Mark & Jeremy all turned in some really good performances. Sam Jackson and Cobie Smulders also did a decent job.

James Spader was the perfect choice as Ultron's character. You needed a cold calculative voice to deliver that sinister trance that is Ultron and James was awesome in it. Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen struggled a bit with the accent but turned in some really nice performances as the "Enhanced". I particularly liked Olsen in the final few scenes as she really showed why he is indeed the Scarlet Witch. The minor cameos by Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle were a delight. Andy Serkis was strategically placed and would have a huge role to play in the MCU in the future.

Bottomline: Not the finest gem in the MCU, but Age of Ultron still delivers the fitting start to Phase 3 & to the Summer of 2015. Joss Whedon in an interview did concede that he might have made a bad movie and he is around 40% right. But the MCU storyline continuation bails up out and makes the rating for this movie go up! Fanboys would enjoy it.

Poster & Videos Copyright: Marvel Studios

Saturday, April 04, 2015

For Paul: Fast & Furious 7 Review

Censor Rating: PG-13 (USA), U/A (India)
My Score: 3.5/5

The latest instalment of one of the longest running franchise came on the screen this weekend. However, the excitement was bit subdued for me as the film marked a delay because of the untimely and tragic passing of Paul Walker - one of the cornerstones in the franchise. The production was re-organized so that his passing would be handled in a dignified and respectful manner. The finished product was a surreal combination of nostalgia, fast paced action and a final salute.

Furious 7 continues the franchise storyline from the events of the sixth movie where we see Han's character killed off by Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham). Deckard is the big brother of Owen Shaw, the character which was the main protagonist in Fast & Furious 6. The action shifts to Los Angeles where Shaw, who apparently is a seasoned black ops, is hunting down Dominic Toretto and his team one by one. He is even chased by covet Ops team led by Frank Petty (Kurt Russell) who offers a deal to bring in a hacker named Ramsey for her computer tracking program called the "God's Eye" in exchange for them using the Eye to find Shaw. Dom accepts and then the story is set in motion which takes the team from Caucasus Mountains to Abu Dhabi in search of the Eye.

Story & Direction: The writing must have been impacted big time surely because of the tragedy. That showed in the story flow for sure. However, I would not really hold them to it. Of course the screenplay and script in general had a lot of flaws but the fact they handled the moving on of the character so well after 50% into production, it is commendable on how well they have handled the transition. Having said that, the over the top action sequences were a treat to watch (Although a little short of physics concepts). But all in all, I would say that the writers did a fantastic job in handling the story post the passing of Walker. They could have killed his character off (the easy way) but they choose to give him the farewell he so richly deserved.

James Wan was a new addition to the Furious 7 family and he did a pretty decent job in handling the flick. It was a tall ask from the beginning but his direction and set play direction was spot on. However, the combat sequences were a big miss as he choose an up close and personal approach rather than a pan out approach to filming the action. In 3D, it was really difficult to concentrate and focus on what is going on. That decision, Mr Wan, backfired big time. However, a special mention for the bus sequence - simply breath taking and how appropriate to see Paul do his thing in that scene.

Visuals & Effects: The VFX used in this movie is nice and crisp and to the point. They have not really tried to over compensate for the fast paced action sequences nor they have done any compromises. They used Walker's brothers to stand in and finish his scenes and those look almost as if he is standing there. The effects and thrills are also really brilliant but seem to be led down by the aggressive camera movement & the 3D effects (again something which was not necessary for this franchise). I havent seen the IMAX version but have heard the Abu Dhabi supercar sequence is really awesome and the Rousey - Rodrigues fight sequence is pretty hardcode.

The Cast: Barring the people that were killed off in the previous movie, everyone made a return. Although Jordana Brewster (Mia) had a limited role in the movie, she still managed to turn in a good bit of acting around. Michelle Rodrigues was nice and Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson have shown an awesome chemistry and put off some really funny scenes in the movie. Surprisingly, Dwayne Johnson has a very small role in the movie but still gives his best in the space he has. Finally, Jason Statham as Shaw is the perfect bad guy and shows a good range of action and style. A special mention for Kurt Russell who does a fine job as the head of the Covet Ops team.

Vin Diesel was his emotional best in the movie. You could see a stark difference in the movie and make out those scenes where Paul had passed away. This was an extremely difficult movie for Diesel but his bromance with Walker was given a fitting conclusion. As for Paul I say this, you were the strength of these movies and you will always be.

Bottomline: For any fan of the franchise and Paul Walker, this movie is a definite see. The franchise has moved on from those racing flicks to more intense familia style action movie. The makers have done a phenomenal job in paying homage to one of the most central actors in this series and that shows in your hearts and your eyes when you leave the theater watching Paul Walker drive off into the sunset.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Style of a Con-Man! Focus Movie Review

Censor Rating: R (USA), U/A (India)
My Score: 3/5

Heist movies depend a lot on the twists involved along with the pace and quality of actors on display. For me the pace is really important. Thats why a movie like Now You See Me worked well (if you minus the very last scene). Some movies just depend on style of the acts along with the execution of the material available. The only different in getting an awesome and a good product is to have "Focus" on the right qualities!

"Focus" centers around Nicky (Will Smith), an old timer con artist, who runs into an aspiring con artist Jess (Margot Robbie) as his apprentice but makes the mistake of getting romantically involved with her. The movie pans out across 2 major scene-sets, one in New Orleans during the Superbowl XVII and the climax at Buenos Aires (set three years later) and put at center the clear work of Nicky as he and his team (along with Jess) pick apart wallets, cards, watches and what not during the Superbowl and get involved in a high stakes climax. After a disastrous couple of years, we see Will Smith back at what he does best - smooth talking style. 

Story & Direction: The key elements of the story have been handled very well. The premise during the 1st scene-set is well set and defined which makes its execution very fast paced and engrossing. However, the writers do sacrifice the pace to develop extended back stories for Jess and Nicky. Although it can be argued that it was crucial for the story, the fact remains that it slowed down the movie more than my liking. I just wish those moments could have been handled in a different way. One of the best piece of writing and execution I have seen is the gambling scene during the Superbowl - it simply took me by surprise. However, the 2nd scene-set was very predictable and had the end not provided the twist which was required, I would have left the movie hall with a lot of frustration at what could have been a brilliant movie!

The directors (Glenn Ficarra & John Requa) did a very smart thing in this movie - they oriented their style to that of Will Smith. This part really worked in this movie and was one of the crucial factors in executing those pacey and/or intense scenes in the movie. As touched upon earlier, I loved the gambling scene and in part the directors (who were also the writers) have to be given credit for the work. Their work is commendable but could have been more zippier as was the need for such time of movies. 

Visuals: Again, the camera work was reminiscent of classic Will Smith movies. It had the same style, appeal and swagger which is known to be in his movies. Further, the editing of crucial scenes was nice and covered the story telling aspect of the movie brilliantly well. In fact this was one of the points I really liked in the movie.

The Cast: It looked from the onset that it was a re-launch vehicle for Will Smith and as you would have noticed in my review till now, all points towards that very aspect. Made for Will Smith, the movie showcases his acting chops and screen presence along with the swagger and style of typical Will Smith movies. It looked like a pretty save movie for Will Smith considering that the last 2 years and could signal a career revival (as if he needed one) for the 46 year old actor. He was given a nice complimenting actress in Margot Robbie who played her part. Robbie who is 22 years younger to Smith is looking a hot new talent and has taken her work from Wolf of Wall Street further ahead in this one. If this is the chemistry involved, then I am super excited for next summer's Suicide Squad which has Smith as Deathshot and Robbie as Harley Quinn. Its going to be an interesting ride.

Bottomline: If you are a Will Smith fan, watching this movie is a no-brainer. He has announced himself back into the scene with a very "back to basics" performance. This is his movie through and through. Lovers of Heist movies would also like this movie but might be put off by some serious lack of pace in some scene. I would say this is a one time watch.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Artificially Intelligent!! Chappie Movie Review

Censor Rating: R (USA), U/A (India)
My Score: 2.5/5

Its never content but the style that truly delivers a robot movie. We have seen a fair bit of them over the years. A robot action movie genre is not new. So, filmmakers have to constantly reinvent re-style their content to make people take notice and "yeah this is a different movie". Chappie attempts to get the "Wow factor" into the content but falls prey to the oldest problem - drama.

Confused? Even I was. The movie has all the components to succeed. A Neill Blomkamp movie set in an alternate future in his favorite town of Joberg revolves around AI (conscious) which is implanted into a Droid Robot which was damaged beyond repair during a police operation. Dean Wilson (Dev Patel) develops the AI as an internal project and infuses it into the robot when he is taken hostage by a street gang who have a debt to settle and voila! Chappie (Sharlto Copley) is born. Chappie is trained and groomed by the gang of thugs and develops into quite a character while Dean is distracted by the antics of Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman) who wants to replace the robot scout program (developed by Dean) with one of his own. What follows is a tale which spirals out into drama (make that melodrama) and action of the modest quality.

Story & Direction: Normally I do not focus on multiple aspects of writing. But this movie showed me that you have to concentrate on ALL aspects in order to deliver a brilliant story. Character writing is amazing in this movie. The character of Chappie which is the cornerstone of this film is written amazingly well. The innocence, charms and emotions are bang on and are a treat to watch. However, the outline story just falls apart as the movie progresses. When you would expect a character driven story quickly becomes a story driven character resulting in the final 3rd of the movie pace up really quickly and not provide any form of logic and/or reasoning. It was sad to see the movie fall away honestly. It didnt have that crescendo moment.

Neill Blomkamp does an awesome job in terms of direction. His directing chops were never a cause of concern and were one of the primary reasons I decided to watch the movie. I wasn't disappointed at all. Completely upto the mark and what I expect from Neill. I cannot wait for his version of the Aliens franchise.

The Cast: The story just does not make use of the super ensemble which was there at their disposal. However, Sharlto Copley as Chappie in mo-cap and voice delivers an amazing performance. His mannerisms and expressions (most of it digital though) supplement the character development and really shows off how great the character writing was. Another notable mention should be of the South African singers Yolandi Visser & Ninja who do a decent job but not a meaty role in this one for the former.

Hugh Jackman's character is weird but he tries to do a honest job. Dev Patel's character had the strength but somehow his performance was bland to taste. Sigourney Weaver was a pure waste in this movie!!

Bottomline: The movie attempts to show intelligence but feels artificial. It falls prey to the melodrama which the climax never demanded. I loved watching this movie specifically for Sharlto Copley but was frequently looking at my watch and scratching my head as it neared its end. Would wait for a world tv premier for this!