Monday, June 15, 2020



Getting a Amitabh Bacchan movie for free in your home during what is turning out to be shitty year when half the world is either dying, unemployed, unpaid or under lockdown would seem like a blessing. But for me it’s not so. Not that it’s a curse, not that it’s a bad movie. An Ayushmann Khurana movie even if bad is at least interesting. Same can obviously said of Big B in his second innings, rarely has he starred in a unwatchably bad movie.

If you watch Gulabo Sitabo’s trailer, it’s your generic- ‘set in a small town wacky story having lower middle class characters and humurously commenting upon real problems’- movie, so immensely popular after Gangs of Wasseypur (Bareilly Ki Barfi, Shubh Mangal Savdhaan, Toilet ek Prem Katha etc etc) . The trailer was nothing eye-grabbing but nothing bad either. If not for presence of the two lead actors, it perhaps wouldn’t have garnered my attention.  The story is about an old landlord – played by Amitabh- and Ayushmann Khurana who will obviously play a wacky character with a heart battling some social evil who will have some scene stealing comic lines (basically Ayushmann Khurana in any movie). There-in lies my problem. No not with Khurana running his Dukaan as usual, I mean that’s the kind of roles he does best. But my problem lies with Big B.

Yes you read that right, my problem lies with Amitabh Bacchan.  If like me you grew up in a household that worships Bacchan, where his iconic lines are exchanged over coffee, tea, beer, dinner, lunch, during Holi, Diwali..most occasions except funerals (although am not entirely sure we haven’t quoted one during a funeral), in a house where changing the channel if Sholay is on is an impossibility and watching the shitty  SRK Don is a blasphemy, you would have the same problem.
Look at the some of the films in last 4-5 years he has starred in – Piku, Pink, Sarkar 3, Thugs of Hindostan, 102 not out etc. Although I know Sarkar 3 is an absolute train wreck of a film compared Piku, I for the love of God can’t watch Piku. I still haven’t and probably never will. You mean to tell me – the Vijay who with the intensity of a billion suns in his eyes says - “Main aaj bhi feke hue paise nahi uthata..” is now a old farting, guy with Diarrohea? FUCK NO. I cant watch that. I have similar problems with 102 not out and now with Gulabo Sitabo.

I mean I get the fact that he is nearing 80 now and for a guy nearing 80 to say he has aged gracefully is always an understatement. For someone who experienced the peak of Superstardom Bollywood had never seen before, then came crashing down…then to re-invent himself at an age when Stars of yesteryear usually resort to doing fatherly roles and compete with the ruling Badshah’s of the industry represents a mountain of determination that only someone who portrayed Vijay Dinanath Chauhan could have. Age has allowed him to break the shackles of his image and do roles like Pa or Cheeni Kum when his southern counterparts are still more or less doing the same roles they did in the 70’s and 80’s.

That’s all to his credit but I for the love of God can’t watch the most manliest man to ever man the screen be reduced to an crippling old mess. Not that he can’t do it well, obviously he can. Doesn’t mean I have to watch it. I mean it’s been what  45 years since Sholay released (in my mind for some reason it’s still just 25-30 years) and am STILL unable to get over Jay’s death. I can accept him in powerful roles like Badla or Pink (which am honestly yet to watch but that’s my love for Big B fighting against my irritation with Tapsee Pannu) or Sarkar but you can’t just reduce Don to mumbling old man on a khaat.

Is this childish? Yes of course it is. Movies are pretend and we are all allowed to be childish about what we like in them and what we don’t. So am pretty sure Big B does a great job in such roles, am sure he’ll do more roles suiting his age or whatever interests him, but I will only continue to watch the ones where he exudes grace and intensity. That’s what he represents to me in real life. The critic in me might appreciate and like those movies and roles, the fan in me will never truly love them.

Friday, September 6, 2019

IT Chapter 2 (Spoiler free) review

This and then Joker coming out in October…WB really bringing in the clowns.

IT:Chapter two


Cast- James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, Bill Skarsgard, Stephen King himself in a cool cameo and others

Writer – Gary Dauberman

Very rarely do I mention the writer at the start of my review. But I feel it’s earned here. The first IT was quite frankly one of the better modern horror movies in the line of Conjuring, Sinister etc. Being based on an iconic Stephen King novel, it was not just about the supernatural horror but also about the characters that are affected by that horror. The children acted well, the movie was well directed with some goofy but some genuinely scary scenes and if you grew up in a small town, you could completely relate to your childhood. See, Stranger Things the beloved supernatural Netflix series takes its inspiration from many King novels, IT being one of them. To have chapter one conclude on a satisfying but promising note that IT may come back 27 years later, was a good feeling to leave the theatre with.

But things fall, things on earth and what falls is...fallen. The first one was co-written by three writers- Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman. While there isn’t much on the net about Chase Palmer but Cary Fukunaga is the director and writer of True Detective season 1 on HBO for which he won an Emmy. He also wrote and directed the acclaimed drama Beasts of No Nation. Oh and he is also directing the next Bond film- No time to die. As for Gary Dauberman his writing credits include fantastic movies like Annabelle, Annabelle creation, The Nun etc. His only good writing credit may be the Swamp Thing series (which I haven’t seen because WB/DC are motherfuckers who don’t give a shit about having their own app available outside the US). Fukunaga was also slated to direct the Chapter one but left due to creative differences where Muschietti took up and brought Dauberman. Now I don’t pretend to have any experience with movie making to know what parts of Chapter one were whose script but I do know enough about writing to know the stark difference between Chapter one and two.

While Chapter one has a more concise story, better flow and less goofy horror. Chapter 2 is just odd. It’s very badly paced, lacks any flow that leads us to a climactic battle but has some good bits of human drama and some decent horror scenes. I am not saying Dauberman is a bad writer, but this movie is badly written compared to its predecessor and even compared to Dauberman’s other work which were functional if not bad horror movies.  

The casting is fantastic though and all the adults look perfect progression of their childhood characters physically and otherwise. I have always been a fan of James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain’s acting and both do expectedly well here. McAvoy especially carries the emotional weight of the movie I feel since his character is the one endowed charged with it. Also, I just love characters who are vulnerable but not stupid in horror movie situations and still have their common sense around. Special mention must be made of James Ransone and Jay Ryan. Ransone portrays the adult version of Eddie (who was portrayed by Jack Dylan Grazer as a kid). He looks and acts exactly the way an adult Eddie would act. Also Jay Ryan portraying the fat, silent kid in school who turned into a hot successful architect is just beyond perfect  Bill Hader also acts well but comes across as childish or too marvel-esque (Marvel-esque means a character who cracks jokes for no apparent reason because that’s what 90% of MCU characters do) at times. The casting and the acting is so good that even without the flashbacks you can actually relate the adult versions with their kid ones. Bill Skarsgard is perfect as Pennywise the clown  and his mere laugh and presence is more terrifying than anything the increased VFX budget for the sequel can offer.  The rest of the cast do really well and their chemistry with each other is the highlight of the movie for me.

Somewhere you do get the idea where the movie was going in a sense that instead of just a general thrill ride, the movie is trying to delve into fears which haunts us all while growing up.  The fear of leaving a town, the fear of life repeating itself, crippling adult depression, fear of coming to terms with our innermost demons, fear of how childhood was still a simpler time even if you were faced by a demonic entity in the form of a clown, fear of letting go of nostalgia. But somewhere all that is set aside for playing “You are my angel, my darling angel” while a zombie corpse vomits on someone. (seriously what the fuck was that? when was that set up? When did it suddenly turn into Deadpool or Shaun of the dead? and mind you Shaun of the dead has better horror scenes than this one) What scenes could have been the scares 'n' thrill ride also come out as goofy at times. Maybe its corporate instructions from a studio which just doesn’t know how to make tonally consistent successful franchises and after two financial disappointments (Godzila KoTM and Detective Pikachu) is desperate for success. Or maybe it’s just bad writing.

Also about the scary scenes, maybe I am sterile to horror movies by now but my wife who DOES NOT like watching horror movies at all, could comfortably sit through most of the stuff. There were hardly a few scenes where the tension was built up. The scenes were more gross than scary. One thing however that was well done was how the flashbacks were integrated within the overall narrative. It was done very efficiently, sadly that efficiency of pace is not carried out into the remaining story.

I was kinda disappointed by this to be honest. I didn’t go in expecting a great horror movie because knowing what I know about the novel, I was expecting more of a supernatural/fantasy thriller more like Harry Potter or Stranger Things. It’s weird how something that pays homage is doing better than the original. I wanted the Lovecraftian angle of IT’s true identity explored and while they do touch upon that, I feel the mysticism angle could’ve been played better. The movie also ends like 3 to 4 times giving me a feeling as though the writer and director were confused where to finally end and they put in everything. The movie has its moments and isn’t a complete disaster and you have to watch it if you liked the first one. But tonally speaking the difference between the first and the second one is similar to what was between Dawn of Justice and Justice League.  While the first one may  was a complete movie with a better flow and proper build up and earned climax. The second one was just –meh. I mean Chapter two isn’t a complete shit-show like Josstice League but in terms of being more disappointing than the first one they are close. Until I saw this movie I was happy that Andy Muschietti was slated to direct the much awaited solo Flash movie. Now am slightly worried. He needs to be given a better writer because Chapter 1 was remarkably better than this.

I watched Chapter 1 with my wife the other day in preparation for this one and found out that I could still watch it again. Sadly Chapter 2 is only –Worth Watching Once.

  • Harley Quinn is back bitches!! And the faux IT trailer turning into a Birds of Prey teaser genuinely surprised some of the audience who hadn’t already seen the leaked version online.
  • Doctor Sleep trailer (sequel to the Shining) looks really interesting.  
  • Also now we wait for the really scary clown to arrive. Joker in theatres October 4th!!!

Friday, August 23, 2019

Mission Mangal (spoiler free) review

Sholay, Don, A Wednesday, Sarfarosh and…



So what do Sholay, Don, A Wednesday, Sarfarosh and this movie have in common? Just like all these movies Mission Mangal has the tightest script I have seen in a Bollywood movie in a long time. Now am not saying the movie is an all time classic like Sholay or Don, but from my perspective, these are the few Bollywood movies which have a script with just the right amount of everything they need to make them work. The movie is as long as it needs to be without feeling too long or too rushed, there is hardly a moment wasted here or there to indulge the directors personal fetishes (looking at you Anurag Kashyap and Ram Gopal Verma), all the dialogue including the humor have a point (staring the fuck at the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe accusingly) and it has the right amount of drama as and where it needs to. Look at that list of movies- two of them were written by the greatest script writers ever- Salim Javed (Sholay and Don), all the others including Mission Mangal were written by their directors. This just goes to show that when a director makes a movie based on a story he has written, it usually flows much better because he knows the ins and outs of it all.  
While looking at the credits of any Hindi movie, am very much interested in who wrote or directed it, because based on that I kind of know what to expect. When I saw experienced director R Balki (Cheeni Kam, Pa, Padman) named as one of the writers, I was glad that at least we'll get a decent movie. But I was in for a pleasant surprise when the movie surpassed my expectations. I went in looking for a Uri like patriotic drama (I can enjoy that), with bad Bollywood level CGI and some unnecessary dramatic moments. Well it almost had none of it. There were no deshbhakti speeches, not more than were necessary to get you involved in the film and also the unnecessary melodrama was just not there. The movie forgoes cliche's and gives its characters actual depth thus making them more than cutouts.
 For example the movie begins with us in Vidya Balan’s home showing her doing the working mom routine – cooking breakfast, chiding her husband, ironing her saree etc. Sanjay Kapoor plays her typical Indian male husband – strict with his kids, too lazy to get up and do house hold work, watching CNBC early in the morning etc. Now usually with movies like these, the family especially the husband would have been used to create drama regarding emancipation of women, orthodoxy etc. however that is never the case. Initially though Sanjay Kapoor’s character might feel like a typical strict Bollywood dad, the movie gives him time to shine as well. Yes you heard that right, the movie gives Sanjay Kapoor time to shine and makes his little arc about learning to loosen up important to the overall fucking story of India's Mars Mission. 
 The movie introduces a plethora of characters but manages to convey their backstories and motivations without letting their little stories become bigger than the main one. All the while making subtle points about womens rights, religious bias, orthodox point of views, religion, science, patriotism, spirit of discovery, bureaucracy etc. seriously I can keep going on and on about how really good the script is. The movie even ties up all the arcs perfectly, none…I mean not even one single line is uttered which does not have a resolution later on in the movie. Even a joke about ordering one by two tea is addressed and used brilliantly two scenes later. The movie must also be credited with respecting the scientific lingo and technical jargon perfectly. Usually in movies (Hollywood or any other) either the science talk is way too deep or too superficial, but just like good science based movies like The Martian or Interstellar, this one simplifies it to a level that anyone with general intelligence can understand it but without treating us like simpletons. This crash course in physics is then used perfectly to create the thrilling moments when in spite of knowing that India did succeed in its Mars Orbiter Mission.
However  a great script is nothing without a good cast to perform it. And this is the perfect cast- every one really does justice to their character. Akshay Kumar is like Will Smith at this point. There is just some charisma to him that you are naturally drawn to him. Of all his peers, especially the Khans(with exception of Saif oddly, who is doing great in Sacred Games), he is surprisingly the one doing the most experimentation from Masala movies to sports movies, historical epics and these 'based on a true story socially conscious' movies as of late. Here he plays a cheeky, sarcastic, yet silently optimistic genius…I mean I almost want him to play Tony Stark at this point that’s how well he portrays this role. However, his measured performance allows him to be an influential presence without overshadowing anyone because the script does not make him the one hero of the story fighting against the system or whatever (looking the fuck at you 3 idiots). Just like actual space missions, he is one of the many characters and it can be said that other than his presence, the real fulcrum of the story has to be Vidya Balan. There is no doubt that she is a phenomenal actor but here she brings in her star power charm as well. She is perhaps the most convincingly genuine ‘cool’ mom I have ever seen in a Bollywood movie before. Her coolness comes not only from the script but the soothing yet strong presence she brings on screen. She casually orders two beers for her and her husband while wearing a saree and searching for their daughter in a disco with none of it looking too unreal. All the rest of the cast –including Dalip Tahil- whose presence always means that he’ll be playing a villain, give measured performances. They stop two steps short of becoming caricatures and become well rounded characters.
The movie based on India’s Mars mission had actually no reason being this engaging, funny, charming and having this much depth. It covers all points from the need for a space program, to the politics behind it and also the technical challenges surrounding it. It explores contemporary Indian society through its characters but doesn’t overdo it. It also does not dramatize the reality too much and gives credit to the real stars at the end – the scientists of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and even if you are not an overtly patriotic Indian these days (like me) it will still bring sense of pride to your heart watching how this almost impossible challenge was accomplished. The lines at the end culled from Narendra Modi’s speech are the cherry on the top. Just like its titular Mars mission the movie is well executed without wasting an inch of resource and in perfect time (just 2 hours to convey stories of about 7 characters and the main story). This has to be my favourite Bollywood movie since Andhadhun (2018). It’s probably the best movie I have seen this year yet. Absolutely must watch. DO NOT MISS THIS AT ANY COST.

Because the movie is SUPPERIFIC!!

PS-Now that you are interested in Space programs after hearing about this movie, try reading about the mysterious death of the father of our space program- Dr. Vikram Sarabhai.  

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Super 30 (spoiler free) review

What was the last Hrithik Roshan movie you watched in a theatre?


CAST- Hrithik Roshan with bootpolish on his face and a questionable Bihari accent, Mrunal Thakur, Pankaj Tripathi, Inspector Abhijeet from CID (I googled ‘Super 30 cast’ and his name doesn’t show up on the first page. Also, am lazy but you get the point) and others.

DIRECTOR – Vikas Bahl

Let me make one thing clear- I like Hrithik Roshan. I used to love him, when he first appeared. Hrithik Roshan is the BEST – no doubts here- The BEST looking Indian male ever. He is that HOT. Hrithik Roshan is the only Indian actor I can see being James Bond or star in the MI series. He did star in a remake of Tom Cruise’s Knight and Day (Bang Bang) but the movie was okay-ish. Hrithik Roshan is the only Indian actor who I can see being India’s first true super-hero. He was one in 2 super-corny superhero movies that were a prime example of wasted potential – the Krrissshhhh movies (I am not familiar with numerology and the number of letters in that clusterfuck of a title.)
That’s how I view him though- wasted potential. With his looks, dance moves, killer body and decent acting potential- this guy should’ve been ruling the industry. He just isn’t. If you ask me why, I don’t really know. If you are over 25, you would remember the kind of craze and hype that surrounded him when he made his adult debut in Kaho Na Pyar Hai. Subpar movies like Na Tum Jaano Na Hum and Aap Mujhe Acche Lagne Lage were hits only because of his presence. That was back in 2000-2002 (God, I feel old…). 18 years since then, he has only acted in 22 or so films in major roles, not considering cameos or special appearances. Now that’s not a complaint. Another star kid with a bit of potential – Abhishek Bacchan- debuted around the same time but has acted in 48 films till date and about 15 or so special appearances. Most of them wear okay movies but still dude’s got more variety in his portfolio from comedy to political thrillers to drama. Also Abhishek has worked with directors ranging from Suraj Barjatiya and Ram Gopal Verma to Mani Ratnam. And as an overall star package, Abhishek is nowhere close to Hrithik. Maybe Hrithik is choosy about his movies a la’ Aamir Khan or recently Ranbir Kapoor. But somehow even after playing everything from a super-hero to a quadriplegic to a Mughal king, the only major iconic role anyone remembers Hrithik for is the retard from Koi Mil Gaya (Oh shut up, am allowed to call fictional characters retards). I remember there was a brief phase after Koi Mil Gaya where his Forrest Gump rip-off role would often slip into his other roles and I would just wait for him to go into “Maine Koi paap nahi kiya, toh mujhe kyun sazaa milti hai” mode.
Maybe it was this or somehow seeing such visual and acting potential being squandered off, I wasn’t being drawn to Hrithik anymore. At least not enough to get me to watch his movies in a theatre. I literally had to google his filmography to remember the last Hrithik movie I watched in a theatre and it was Agneepath. That also I had watched because Sanjay Dutt looked menacing and well Katrina’s figure is best witnessed in widescreen. Although Hrithik was great in the movie- unfortunately, again it’s not a role I would remember him for. I think this is Nature bringing balance to life. One cannot have everything in life. Being blessed with such Greek god like looks and acting potential, Nature deems it that people will just not find your work really memorable. Or maybe it’s just me.
Keeping all this in mind, when I first saw the Super 30 trailer- I was turned off. Like really really off. The concept was interesting, being based on a true story and all. But wanting me to believe that the guy who is India’s equivalent in terms of talent and looks to Tom Cruise, is suddenly playing a poor Bihari professor is just too much of a leap of faith to make. So out of sheer boredom, when me and wifey decided to just watch some movie – Super 30 was the winner of a sheer elimination process. (Fuck Kabir Singh, No Lion King coz I don’t want my childhood ruined and fuck Marvel for already ruining Spiderman for me). When I walked into this movie after purchasing tickets at the counter and not using Book my Show like a peasant, I desperately walked in wanting to give Hrithik a chance, coz I still genuinely like him. When I saw the name of the director in the opening credits, I kinda assured myself that the director of Queen (Shaandar was a big mistake I was willing to look over) would treat a subject like this with some kind of intelligence.
20 mins into the movie, after bearing with Hrithik’s boot-polish look and atrocious Bihari accent, there is a scene where the central character- Anand Kumar- receives some great news. Hrithik acts the fuck out of that scene. He doesn’t speak but shows a mixture of teary eyed happiness and relief and excitement at the same time. I was on-board after that. I told myself- however way the movie goes, Hrithik is gonna own this role – even with the odd accent. Am sorry I just can’t get over the fact that why couldn’t they get any other actor to do this role- Nawazuddin, Pankaj Tripathi  (who is in this movie in a different role but who looks more like the real life Anand Kumar) , Rajkumar Rao...hell even Vicky Kaushal would’ve looked better. But still there are moments where Hrithik really shines for me, especially when he lets his eyes do the talking. Hrithik commits himself to the role and I wouldn’t say it’s his best performance till date, but certainly the character written for him allows him a lot of things to do. And he does it all. Plus, the script is an ultimate under-dog story and everyone loves that.  
Super 30 is a fictionalized account of Anand Kumar, a real life hero who started free wing of IIT-JEE classes for poor students in Bihar and met with fantastic results. Although the movie takes a lot of liberties and I mean Bollywood level liberties which obviously mean love-stories and item numbers, the story more or less tries to focus on the real problems plaguing the education system in India. Issues like prevalence of Education mafia, the income gap between privileged and under-privileged class form the main themes of the movie. Although a quick google search will tell you the HUUUUUGE difference between the reel and real life Anand Kumar, the movie does not claim to be a biopic. But it doesn’t claim to be a fictionalized take either.
That is one major issue I had with the movie. Sometimes it goes into over-dramatic territory with the portrayal of real problems Anand Kumar must have faced. There are literally scenes where he has to fight to feed his 30 hungry students. The politicians and the coaching class people are typical villains who would go to any lengths to stop Anand Kumar’s free coaching. There is song and dance and some scenes are unnecessarily dragged out. But just when things look to be going off the rails, the movie pulls back to kinda show us why the previous scene was necessary. Normally for a 3 hour movie with such ups and downs, I give the criticism that it should have been a bit shorter. While I would say the same here, but if asked to edit, I wouldn’t exactly know what to cut out. The love story obviously has to go. But the rest, am not so sure. There is a scene towards the end, where the movie turns into a Home Alone type scenario. While all of it is very cool, I was a bit anxious to see the direction they were going.  It was then I thought that if the movie had just committed itself to a fantastical tone like Inglorius Basterds or 300, instead of depicting history, had they depicted a story, it would’ve worked better for me.  
But hey the audiences loved it. Some of the dialogue was cool and whistle worthy and some of the masala twists did work. Hrithik’s performances was 100% and by that I mean make what you feel of it. I felt he left nothing back and even though I feel he was miscast- still it was a great performance on his part. The rest of the cast- particularly the kids do really well. Pankaj Tripathi is a seasoned actor now and roles like these are what he does for practice. New girl Mrunal Thakur has a good presence on screen though she is just a “love interest” character essential in Bollywood biopics because film makers feel people wouldn’t watch any movie if it doesn’t have some kind of pyaar in it. She does do well and would like to see her in more movies.
All in all, the movie was an up and down ride for me. I seriously don’t know how to rate it. I haven’t seen a movie in recent times which has me this divided about it. When it worked, it worked really well and when it didn’t, it still kinda worked. I guess. I really don’t know. The music by Ajay Atul although made with a lot of effort, is nothing to write about and some characters in the story just come and go without any background or direction. The movie does make math cool and I’ll give it that. But then goes into ameer-gareeb drama. Urgghhh! Rating this movie is harder than cracking JEE.

I am just gonna go out and say – Watch this if you have Nothing to do but also maybe watch it once on Amazon or Netflix or something.

P.S. –
Did you guys know am also writing for an international website now?
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Saturday, June 1, 2019

GODZILLA -King of the Monsters (spoiler free) review

Must there be a Godzilla?

DIRECTOR- Michael Dougherty
CAST- Godzilla, Ghidorah, Rodan, Mothra, several new Titans.. a few humans like Ken Watanabe, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown and others.

Count the dead, Alfred..thousands..what's next? millions? He has the power to wipe out the entire human race...

The movie starts in 2014 right during the events of the first movie, where Mankind is introduced to these God-like beings.  We get a glimpse of the same events but from the perspective of the human beings who suffered while Godzilla was trying to save the city from other monsters yet causing enormous collateral damage in the process. Further into the movie there are news report debating what the discovery of these super-powerful beings mean to us, there are senate hearings discussing the impact of these Titans. A centuries old villain is awoken...he is an alien abomination who is a desecration without name who can re-grow body parts which have been cut off. He also uses yellow lightning like beams and appears almost unstoppable. Our hero nearly fights him and dies. But sun light and radiation save him. He appears at the last moment to fight. But just when it looks like he is outmatched again, the female goddess like protagonist shows up to save him.  The human character who initially lost a dear one in the battle later on learns to accept and appreciate our hero.
Maybe it’s the BvS fandom in me, but by God (zilla) does this movie have several parallels to Zack Snyder’s super-hero epic. I mean why not, with the success of comic book movies, almost every genre is taking inspiration from them. Shared universes which used to be a novelty are now a demand from the studios looking for the next cash cow franchise. About time someone tried to do to the monster movies what Snyder did to comic book genre. But it tries at best, doesn't necessarily succeed in that aspect.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters is  the 3rd movie in the Legendary films’ ‘Monsterverse’ Godzilla franchise started in 2014 by Godzilla then followed by Kong: Skull Island in 2017. While the first two movies in the franchise received lukewarm critical yet decent audience responses, this one is the longest of the movies clocking in at 132 minutes. Director Michael Dougherty (who career includes low budget horror movies like Krampus and primarily as a writer on movies like Xmen 2 and Superman Returns) has also said in a press conference that he has a 3 hour cut which he feels wouldn’t work as it would be too long. However, the cut supposedly fleshes out the human characters more.

A major criticism of Godzilla (2014) was that it tried to follow the ‘Jaws’/ 'Cloverfield' approach to monster movies by not showing a lot of Godzilla and concentrating on the human drama too much. KoTM tries to remedy that by showing not 1 or 2 but actively 4 on screen with glimpses of 3 others. It literally tries to dazzle you with its apocalyptic imagery and you know what? It excels in that area. The visuals are outstanding, while some of the scenes are filmed in the horrific ‘shaky-cam’ technique, most of the action can be witnessed in its full glory. The  the movie through its ingenious visuals and sound-design manages to convey the gigantic scale of these monsters. Plus, I really loved the creature design and apparently they have designed a few more original creatures for this movie which I thought were really interesting.  The action is beautifully crafted monster-mayhem and the inner kid in you will definitely walk out satisfied. It deserves to be experienced in IMAX, so if possible please do watch it in an IMAX theatre. The music by Bear McCreary is good if not particularly memorable in my opinion. Except for when Godzilla’s theme kicks in. I am personally not really well versed in the Toho-verse, so I do not know whether the theme is a call back to earlier Godzilla music but the theme is primal, tribal and has a sense of excitement yet dread to it.

In case you are not aware of Godzilla’s 60 years of movie history and the various Kaiju that are part of his lore, do not worry. In case you haven’t seen the 2014 Godzilla or Kong : Skull Island and the only Godzilla movie you remember is the 1998 Ronald Emmerich version starring Matthew Broderick, do not worry. This movie does a good job of bringing you in to the universe of Titans (as they are called here instead of Kaiju as is the traditionally used term for the Godzilla and other monsters established and owned by the Japanese Toho co.)  To summarize a bit, it is soon discovered that Godzilla is not the only pre-historic Titan on earth and that the secretive organization Monarch has been researching 50 plus sites around the world. These Titans form the basis of our myths and legends and were literally the Gods that we worshiped in ancient times. An eco-terrorist organization is trying to wake all the Titans up for their own reasons and soon Godizlla’s alpha status is challenged by another gigantic monstrosity. The one good thing the movie does is that it doesn’t resort to exposition dump. It doesn’t have on-screen text before the movie or some typical Hollywood scientist like figure dump it on you in one go. The information is spread throughout the movie and forces you to pay attention.

The script does try to balance out the extreme monster-mayhem with human characters. Ken Watanabe and Vera Farmiga are the stand out performances with a decent performance by young Millie Bobby Brown as the estranged daughter caught between two destructive parents (see what I did there?). While the movie does offer some interesting arcs particularly for Farmiga’s character, it still turns out slight bit clich├ęd towards the end. The characters aren't particularly memorable and their drama does appear to be the weakest part of an otherwise enjoyable movie.

But you know what? It doesn’t matter. Why? Because there is a 3 headed monster residing on top of an exploding volcano! There are giant monsters running at each other (again BvS parallel) and crashing into each other in middle of a city! There are flying monsters! And ancient undersea civilizations!  The cast and the human characters are serviceable and act as the perfect foil for the epic fights. This does not hamper the movie as many critics will have you believe. Also, the monsters are not just monsters. Although they are shown as this unstoppable forces of nature, the movie does well to give each of them a personality without ever having humans explain it to us. You know when Godzilla is pissed or hurt, you know what kind of douchebag evil minion Rodan is….you feel the goddess-like presence of Mothra. That is the real success of the movie.

The plot maybe somewhat convoluted, but not more so than Avengers Endgame. This is not a dig at Endgame but if you can enjoy Endgame for its fan service and fun moments, then KoTM shouldn’t be a problem. The movie may have its flaws but it delivers what it promises in dollops. The world-building and showing the real world after effects of the existence of such Titans (a trait again inspired from Snyder’s deconstructed super-hero movies) is something new to see in a monster movie and although not a thorough deconstruction plants some really good ideas.

Godzilla: King of monsters is TOTAL TIMEPASS!!

PS- Must there be a Sequel?...There is.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

John Wick Chapter 3 (spoiler free) review

Raise your hand if you have no clue what “Parabellum” means?



If you narrate the story of 2014’s John Wick, it sounds honestly like a parody of any typical Hollywood action movie. So Theon Greyjoy is the son of a rich Russian mobster. He and his friends break into Keanu’s house just for kicks. They steal a car he loves and then just to add the rotten cherry to the shit-pile, they kill his innocent little dog…a dog which was a gift from his dying wife. Little do they know that Keanu’s is the ONE. I mean Keanu is always the ONE. But this time, he is the one guy who you do not want to mess with- A retired assassin who can kill you with a fooking pencil. Now he pissed and he will not stop at anything to give some payback.  

If that sounds ridiculous as hell… it is.  But in the best possible way. No the movie isn’t over-the-top and doesn’t parody itself. Keanu’s just got some vibe which really makes you feel for his loss. The movie has ridiculous concepts like this whole secret world of assassins with their own hotels where they can’t kill each other, own currency, terminology etc. But it still worked like a charm. The movie was made by Chad Stahelski and David Leitch- who have immense years of stunt experience in Hollywood.  In a world of CGI villains and save the world plotlines of super-hero or spy movies- they made a movie with natural looking but slick cool efficient action. John Wick was a breath of fresh air. It soon became a cult hit.

Followed by another success in John Wick Chapter 2 in 2017, which expanded upon the secret assassin world even more ridiculously by adding concepts like Blood debts, a secretive High Table which controls the entire network etc etc. But it still worked. The movie again continues the series by delving a slight bit into Keanu’s past and giving us another engaging story with great long take action scenes. The movie ends on a cliff-hanger with John Wick now being excommunicated and now being hunted by the entire assassin community for killing someone on neutral grounds.

John Wick chapter 3: Parabellum continues exactly minutes after the 2nd one. Now Keanu must find a way to apologize to the mysterious High Table and stop running. But most importantly, he must also find it within himself a reason to live. His wife is dead, his revenge completed in the first one and his blood debt paid back in full in the 2nd one. He is falling back into the murdering ways which he had given up long time ago. He literally has no reason to live. The best thing they do is unlike most other Hollywood action franchises they don’t just give him another love interest or damsel in distress to save. Even amidst more ridiculous concepts like Ninjas and a bond villain movie set in the climax, they still manage to keep John’s journey realistic. He is even questioned by many characters as to why wants so desperately to live that he is willing to go to the far corners of the earth to find the Elder- an Assassin who is above the High Table itself.

Even if you are not acquainted with the previous movies or with the John Wick mythos, don’t worry. Unlike Comic Book movies, where you have to have seen 20 movies that came before it to understand- here you don’t have to. They do organically explain what happened before and if you just go with the flow, you’ll get it. Because even if the story doesn’t interest, the action scenes will. God-damn, they really upped the game in this one. All of the scenes are beautifully crafted and by the end, you’ll be left with wondering which one was your favourite. Although they tried to do it in the The Dark Knight trilogy, this is the first movie to properly convey Ninja shadow techniques really well on-screen. You can literally see them appear from a dark corner of the screen and disappear…but you don’t know where. They need to get this same cinematographer on the next Batman movie.
Couple that with great performances particularly by Keanu whose real life Spiritual seeker vibe plays well into his character here. Halle Berry’s character though interesting just appears midway and disappears without much else to do with the climax. However, she has two war dogs with her and the action with her co-ordinating with them in a shootout is some really creative stuff. Ian Mcshane is regal as usual and Laurence Fishburne even in a small role delivers a proper arc. This arc may serve as the set up for the next movie. Oh also, Bronn from Game of Thrones is in the movie. I think after having Theon Greyjoy (really sorry can’t ever remember that actor’s name) in the first one, they had to have another GoT actor in this one.

The story also delves into John Wick’s past a bit and that was good to see. The mistake most action franchises make when they have a hit series on hand is either repeat the same concept again and again (Fast and Furious, Taken) or try and elevate the same scenario but in a different location. (If you liked Die Hard in a building, now we have Die Hard in an Airport. Ok the 3rd and 4th ones were great though) Am not saying John Wick saga is all planned Chapter wise, but they are not completely clueless about where to take the character either. They know that the plot is more or less wrapping for the cool, stunts and Keanu’s charm but they are trying to deliver the best possible wrapping. Digging deeper into the character and his motivations instead of just placing him in the same scenario in another location is a genuinely good move. The movie deals with actions and consequences and redemption. It also isn’t like deep Jean Luc Goddard level character drama but still works if you are watching this movie for more than just the action.

Only problem with the movie, is that near the climax it gets a slight bit longer than needed. There is a villain, a rival Ninja assassin who if I have seen him before in the franchise I can’t remember him, who is built up to be the John’s arch nemesis. They have an elongated climactic action sequence in a room made of glass which pays homage to the legendary scene from Enter the Dragon. The sequence is great but I don’t know why I should suddenly care about a character I knew nothing about before or am told nothing about. He just shows up and suddenly gives the typical Hollywood villain –‘we are not so different you and I’ speech to John Wick. Maybe it’s poking fun at the trope but that kinda irked me. Also, John Wick are not known for the realism but John Wick 1 at least had John’s cop friend show up when he heard noises in John’s home. Here people straight away slice other people’s necks at a crowded railway station and the people don’t notice at all. I mean its not just covert spy movie klling, bodies fucking fall and no one cares. The Continental Hotel is transformed into a battle zone and there are no consequences.. no cops, SWAT anything. This was maybe stretching the imagination a slight bit too much.

However, other than those gripes, John Wick 3 is great ride. In spite of being 3 movies into an action franchise they have managed to keep it fresh and I think I like this slight bit more than the 2nd one. If you are done with epic intergalactic battles and superhero stuff for a while and want to take a break… watch this movie where an un-killable assassin must go through hordes of enemies with a variety of weapons and martial arts skills, the enemies keep getting more difficult to kill and the movie has some ridiculous rules of its own, its own challenges and missions to complete before you level up to… wait a fucking minute- John Wick 3 is the best video game movie adaptation! (Just not based on an actual game).

John Wick Chapter 3 is Superrific!

PS –
  •  Mad Dog from the Indonesian action gem – The Raid movies shows up in a prominent action scene. He even speaks in Bahasa Indonesia and John responds.
  • When I read the title, I always thought Parabellum much like Pendulum or Parabola was some kind of Geometrical motion or shape. Turns out is a part of the Latin phrase –“Si vis pacem, para bellum” – “If you want peace, prepare for war.” Also, Parabellum is the name of a kind of gun cartridge.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Avengers : Endgame movie review

“Is it done?”


“What did it cost?”

“11 years, 19 movies a few of which were unnecessary, 5 T V shows, a shit load of merchandise, hordes of social media influencers and critics either bought or brainwashed, stealing the competitions ideas (Civil war wasn’t planned till DC announced BvS. Also the plot of JL 2 was eerily similar to Infinity war) and ruining the genre to a point that generic mediocrity is the sole acceptable standard. But hey, you do get to finally hear Captain America say ‘Avengers Assemble’. “



The greatest achievement of the Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe is to finally bring super-heroes to the main stream. Call it easily digestible story-telling or Disney’s marketing clout or some truly amazing performances over the years by actors like Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, and Scarlett Johansan etc. But the MCU did what any market player wanting to build a strong monopoly does- saturate the market with its own product, often at the cost of quality and also crush the competition with somewhat questionable means. All said and done, they are currently the only standing shared universe with a financial and popular success rate unparalleled in cinematic history.
Endgame is more than a movie. It is a cultural event with Theatres selling houseful shows at 3:30 a.m. for the first 5 days. Even If I personally started getting disillusioned by the MCU after Iron Man 3, I am still a comic book and pop culture fan. I was still gonna be there at 7:00 in the morning wearing my Captain America T shirt. So, like most comic book movies I had to watch this twice. Once to satisfy my inner nerd. The second time to look at a movie from a storytelling perspective. So I have tried my level best to keep all the hype aside and look at this as just a movie.
But that isn’t it, is it? A movie is more than a set of images with dialogue. Especially Comic book movies these days. Especially Marvel movies. The screaming, the chuckling at the quips in the middle of a life threatening battle, waiting for the Post-credit scenes and checking out the memes later on social media is now a part of our social cycle. Also, how do you review a movie that’s the last part of a saga? It’s not unlike Harry Potter and the deathly hollows part 2 but with a much bigger fandom and an even bigger build up. Walking into this movie without at least a fair idea of its predecessors would be like walking into the season finale of a popular TV show without watching any previous episodes. But people do it. For fear of being left out of such a pop-culture tidal wave. For such people, I have some friendly advice- either do your homework and come watch this or just don’t. Nobody wants to hear you ask your friend in the theatre every 10 minutes –‘Who’s that? Who’s this?’ Frankly it doesn’t matter. No matter what hardcore MCU fans (many of whom have never even touched a comic book) will have you believe. You are not missing out on a cinematic masterpiece that can stand on its own.
However you are missing out on an experience of people really enjoying themselves. Kids being kids, adults being kids. People in general having a great time. It’s like a carnival with food and screaming and laughing. Just like a carnival has no particular artistic value than enjoyment, I feel the MCU is the same. Oh come at me, all those people treating this as though nobody ever thought of making a 3 hour movie before this or that its some oscar worthy movie just because the Russo Bros. managed to not make it a complete mess are kidding themselves.
Firstly credit where credits due. I really admire the Russo bros. for what they did in Winter Soldier. After Iron Man 1, Marvel finally made a movie where it feels that the consequences matter. Their mediocre visual and action skills were pardonable for that one particular quality. Bringing gravitas to a franchise which many didn’t take itself seriously. They did it again with Civil War. Which for the most part managed to have some sense of grit to it, until the airport battle at least when heroes fighting each other to death joke with each other. But Infinity war was where they got their groove just right. I mean IW had its fair share of tension puncturing trademark Disney humor but by God that climax was amazing. In my review of Infinity war I had quoted Ra’s Al Ghul from Batman Begins – “You have finally learned to do what’s necessary”. That’s how you make a great saga. An Empire strikes back, where Luke loses his hand and Han Solo is frozen in Carbonite. A fellowship of the Ring where Gandalf is dead and the fellowship is disbanded. The fact that it took MCU their 2nd last movie in a saga to get there is the sad part of it. But better late than never. There is a reason that IW worked so well, because it had what MCU has always lacked before. A menacing Villain in the form of Thanos. A villain who carried with him the impending doom of Destiny. But the bigger achievement of IW was that it wasn’t a mess. I never thought putting so many characters together in one movie would work out. Some would overshadow the others (I mean Hulk got completely overshadowed) and it could just become a great idea in theory and not in practice. But the Russos made it work and work really really well. Endgame is a much better movie because of Infinity War.
Because on its own, it has its share of issues. That’s again not to say that I didn’t enjoy it. It was as I said a fun experience, but personally just like the previous highest grossing movie Avatar (whose record Endgame might easily break) it has little replay value. And that’s also fine, not all movies need to have that. However, what this does is that it makes certain parts of the movie boring, especially on second viewing. The movie tries its best to make the consequences matter. But except for two characters –Hawkeye and Tony- it really doesn’t know what to do with it. I didn’t wanna make that comparison (fuck it I really wanted to) but real world drama like this is best left to DC. War, Alien Invasion, Vigilantes, crime, poverty, Traumatic past- you name it and DC (having the collective DNA of Nolan and Snyder) have been able to deal with it better. That’s why the dramatic parts in a good DC movie are the crux, the spectacle is just a bonus. Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy had some of the most unimaginative action scenes and particularly Batman’s hand to hand combat skills were weirdly shot. But still, it’s the scenes of dialogue between characters that are the most fascinating.

Hawkeye loses his family and turns into Ronin- a shadowy ruthless assassin who murders criminals who survived Thanos’ snap deeming them unworthy of life. Tony and Nebula are in space with only 2 days of Oxygen left, when they are rescued by Captain Marvel (whose only job in the movie is literally showing up at the last moment and win things without any struggle. Just like her movie.) When Tony returns he is so weak and already crippled by the PTSD he has been carrying since the first Avengers (though it sometimes disappears in Guest appearances in Spiderman: Homecoming) that he blames Cap for not being there when they needed him the most. In a short but effective scene by RDJ, he conveys the exact stakes and tone that was needed for this movie throughout. However other than that, the movie doesn’t do enough to show how the snap changed the universe or our earth least. How are people, how are the govts. And societies dealing with 50% of the population just disappearing. Cap does mention a few things like seeing Whales in the Hudson river or reduced pollution but its all talk and no show. Things just chug along until the movie kills its original villain – (Yes Thor decapitates a defeated, broken, limping Thanos. Somehow Superman stopping Zod by snapping his neck coz he had no choice doesn’t seem that bad does it?) and takes a 5 year jump. Now by sheer co-incidence a rat activates a quantum machine where Antman was trapped during the snap (as shown in the post credit scene of the blandest movie possible – Antman and the Wasp). He comes back and..well read this- My fan theory as to what would happen in Endgame was proven right.

Now in a large story like this, a few co-incidences are but expected. Especially when a movie starts dealing with Time travel…it’s even more expected. Nothing is going to perfectly fit together. But the amount of questions and glaring pot holes the movie doesn’t address even till the climax is astounding. As I said, once you remove your hype googles you might see the holes in the holy (Ya bitches. That’s a BvS reference in MCU’s swansong.) Yet the best and I say the really amazing parts of the movie begin when they finally start going into another timeline to retrieve the Infinity stones from different locations so that they can get all the people who had disappeared in the snap back.

This is then Marvel at its corniest best. The jokes are back. The quips are back. The spectacle is back. From then until the climax, where Thanos from another timeline is suddenly our villain now (Don’t ask) it’s just pure payback on your Marvel movie investments. There is just pure fan service after that with some iconic and well shot scenes. And one of the best third act battles in comic book history. However, I have come to the conclusion that the Russo Bros. are not great at handling super-powered characters. Captain America and Iron man are one thing but I really hate the unjust treatment given to two of the mightiest avengers – Hulk and Thor. Thor the Norse God of Thunder and protector of Earth is turned into a joke (no surprises there) but he doesn’t even do anything useful in the movie. Thor could technically be completely removed and it won’t make a difference to the story. If you saw Hulk get his ass beat in IW and wanted him to give Thanos or the Titans some payback then prepare for some incredible disappointment. Captain Marvel shows up at the end and then again is uselessly thrown away. Dr. Strange is just set aside and not allowed to exhibit his full magical potential but hey he did predict this scenario and allow it to happen.

Thanos is somehow able to handle all these attacks even without one of the Infinity stones (plot armour is the strongest stone) and finally….finally someone has to step in to stop him. Put on the Infinity stones themselves and risk taking the huge energy surge on their body to eliminate Thanos…. Of course it had to be Iron Man. Oops…spoiler alert I guess. I mean if you were paying attention from Infinity War it had to be him. RDJ again delivers a fantastic performs as you can see the life leave his eyes silently. Having left a safer world for his child to live in.

The movie still spends some more time giving proper ending for almost all the characters- except Hulk coz I think the Russos really hate him. It has a very confusing end for Captain America- Satisfying but logically confusing. And that I think is the essence of the movie. Satisfying… so much epic satisfaction in the final battle but logically (and by that I mean pre-established logic by the previous MCU movies) confusing movie. There are weird tonal shifts and sometimes I feel if given free reign the Russos might have wanted a more serious movie. The movie avoids making bold risky choices when it’s the only  super-hero movie guaranteed to make those and still win financial and critical acclaim, for simpler satisfying ones.

But it’s understandable…that’s the MCU way. They wouldn’t have wanted the end of an era to take any risks.  The slight risks taken by Guardians of the Galaxy 1 or Iron man 1 or Winter Soldier or Black Panther or Infinity war are avoided here. But the best part is—it’s done. It’s finally done. I mean not exactly- MCU is coming up with Spiderman Far from Home in 2 months and other movies already announced…but the original Avengers cycle which started in 2009 is done. We can get back to finally watching other movies for a while. Comic Book movies can finally get to experimenting again without worrying to match up to Marvel’s standards. I am not saying we’ll be seeing another BvS or Watchmen or TDK but still things are gonna be hopefully different. We have Joker coming in October and who knows if Warner Bros. will finally wake up after Endgame hype has died down to Release the Snyder cut of Justice League.

 All my criticism for Marvel apart- Endgame was an epic conclusion but didn’t really need to be 3 hours long. It didn’t have the substance to carry that length. It is an adequately enjoyable movie and obviously the hardcore fans will enjoy it a whole fucking lot. As an independent movie or even if combined with Infinity War, it doesn’t have the same intensity or pace. It is like an exciting new cocktail which feels and looks very innovative but doesn’t age well like the whiskey it’s based on.

Since Endgame is such a difficult movie to rate, I am coming up with a new rating for it.

Endgame is Fun but not gonna age well.

P.S,:- Endgame is
1) A long 3 hour movie
2) Has a lot of violence and death and serious scenes
3) Heroes have lost and are questioning themselves
4) The movie has a bloated middle act
5) It has a scene where one hero stops the other from fighting him by merely saying a beloved’s name.
6) The directors have had to frequently explain the movie.

So the movie is almost everything DCEU movies, particularly BvS was criticized for and yet this one appreciated.