Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
A superb celebration of the entire X-men franchise!
One of the most eagerly awaited superhero films of the decade (if not, like, EVER), 'X-men Days of Future Past' certainly hasn't been crushed by the weight of ginormous expectations placed on it - rather, it has far surpassed those expectations to become one of the greatest comic- book films of all time. In my opinion, DOFP may well lay claim to inclusion in an elite club of superhero films that includes The Dark Knight and The Avengers.
Indeed, Bryan Singer's task in DOFP was far more ambitious in some ways than Joss Whedon's mission with 'The Avengers'. This time, it wasn't a bunch of superheroes that had to be united on screen, but rather two disparate franchises within the X-men franchise - the world of the original X-men trilogy (with Jackman, Stewart, McKellan et. all), and the 'prequel' world of 'X-men First Class (with Hoult, Fassbender, McAvoy et. all). And he does so masterfully, uniting the two eras of the franchise into one cohesive whole...further developing the younger cast of 'First Class' while also giving a fitting tribute to the ones who started it all.
Hugh Jackman of course is the star of the movie, who literally bridges the two casts just as his character Wolverine uses time-travel to bridge the two eras. But the true protagonist of this film is James McAvoys's younger Charles Xavier. In 1973, Charles is a far cry from the wise mentor and leader embodied by Patrick Stewart - he is a tortured soul, a drug-addict who has numbed his mutant powers in order to be able to sleep peacefully, a man who has seemingly lost his purpose. In an interesting inversion of their relationship from the original films, Logan is forced to mentor the young Charles and set him down the path to becoming the legendary Professor X. Michael Fassbender does a great job as the younger, more militant Eric Lensherr/Magneto. And Jennifer Lawrence's Raven/Mystique is of course the lynchpin of the film's time- travel plot. When we last saw her in 'First Class', she was torn between the opposing paths of Charles and Eric. The original trilogy would have us believe she is destined to become Magneto's ally and fellow mutant terrorist...but if this film teaches us anything, its that the 'future is not set'...
Despite the focus on the 'First Class' cast (Wolverine notwithstanding), many of the characters from the original cast get their moments to shine in the midst of the final desperate battle with the mutant-killing Sentinels-most notably Ellen Page's Kitty Pryde, Patrick Stewart's older Professor X, and Ian McKellan's Magneto. Also, while the film in many ways functions as a direct sequel to 'First Class', owing partly to the time-travel plot and partly to the return of franchise creator Bryan Singer, this film feels more or less like a spiritual sequel to X2 - from the use of the soundtrack of that movie, to a number of homages and callbacks to that movie.
On the whole, DOFP is both an ending and a beginning (a fitting thing for a time travel movie to be!) and leaves you excited for the next installment in this, the longest-running superhero franchise ever!
The Wolverine (2013)
A well-deserved Japanese vacation for the Wolverine!
'X-men Origins Wolverine' was an entertaining film, admittedly, but it was a deeply flawed movie that ultimately didn't do the character or his origin story enough justice. 'The Wolverine', Fox's (and Hugh Jackman's) second attempt to give the character a solo adventure, does rectify a lot of those flaws, and ends up as a good film (maybe even a very good one)...but it just falls short of 'great'.
The movie undoubtedly has its strengths. It treats the character and the source material seriously, adopting a dark noir-ish tone befitting Wolverine and more specifically the 'Japanese saga' it is based on. Logan's inner struggle with his immortality, and his lack of purpose, are perfectly illustrated, and resolved. The supporting cast, including the members of the Yashida clan (Master Yashida, Shingen and Mariko), Harada, and of course, Yukio, are near-perfect. Viper proves to be a chilling antagonist (though nowhere near the level of Brian Cox's William Stryker, Ian McKellan's Magneto, or even Liev Schreiber's Victor Creed!) The cinematography is breath-taking-from the opening scenes in the Canadian wilderness to the alleyways of Tokyo.
But where the movie disappoints, to a large extent, is in its plot structure. What could have been an pure atmospheric Japanese noir drama/action flick, ends up getting 'polluted' with clichéd superhero and thriller tropes such as lost superpowers, 'secret identities' and 'surprise' twists. Instead of being the definitive Wolverine story, this movie ends up being a darn good superhero story...but certainly nothing close to the likes of The Dark Knight or The Avengers.
Man of Steel (2013)
Truth and Justice...in the 21st Century
At some point, probably in the mid to late 1980's, Batman suddenly became DC Comics' most popular character, and arguably, the most popular superhero character PERIOD, leaving the true 'granddaddy of all superheroes', Superman, far behind. The reasons for this were never difficult to discern. Batman, with his cool Gothic-noir styled world, his psychologically fascinating rogue's gallery, and the overall dark and cynical themes of his franchise (which resonated with the true state of contemporary society only too well) was understandably galaxies ahead in the zeitgeist than Superman with his old-timey ideals of 'Truth, Justice and the American Way'. The fact that Christopher Nolan gave the world the 'Dark Knight' trilogy of the most critically acclaimed comic- book films EVER, while all Superman fans got was a nostalgic look-back at the Christopher Reeves/Richard Donner days, sure didn't do the Big Blue Boy Scout any favors!
Indeed, the greatest triumph of director Zack Snyder and screenwriter David Goyer, is undoubtedly the fact that, for the first time in a long while, Superman seems as grounded, emotionally intense, and dare I say 'cool' as the Dark Knight!
The story is one which everyone is familiar with, yet the details have changed a bit, and its those little changed details which have imparted 'Man of Steel' with greater depth than the previous live-action adaptations of the character. From Krypton, to the Kents, to Clark's developing powers, to his emergence as Superman, his first meeting with Lois Lane; we see all the familiar beats of an often told story, and yet THIS time round, we're far more emotionally involved in this tale than we ever were before. Jor-El and Lara, Jonathan and Martha Kent, Lois, Perry et. all are no longer just supporting characters playing their part in the myth and bowing out from the stage-they truly are full- fledged characters whose actions and fates we are as investing in as we are those of Superman's.
Speaking of the titular Man of Steel, special credit is due to the lead actor Henry Cavill for his very relatable portrayal of a character many have complained is completely unrelatable. In stark contrast to Reeves' somewhat one-dimensional, corny, paragon of selfless heroism, Cavill's Clark Kent is a far more conflicted character, demonstrating a few grey areas that will not fail to shock audiences. This is most vehemently NOT a Superman who spends his days saving kittens from trees.
Amy Adams does a great job as Lois Lane, making her more than just a damsel-in-distress or a standard movie love interest. Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner both stand out as Superman's kryptonian and human fathers respectively. And Michael Shannon truly steals the show as the violent, genocidal, yet oddly sympathetic General Zod.
On the whole, 'Man of Steel' succeeds not only at reinventing a seemingly antiquated hero for the 21st century, but also as the pivotal film that sets the stage for a further realization of the DC Universe on the big screen...
The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2012)
A film that's less about reluctance and more about turmoil...
Off late, it seems that there's a new genre of films, both in India and in the West. As varied as they may be in their narratives, they share certain broad elements-a Muslim immigrant to the West facing the hostility and suspicion of a post-9/11 world and gradually becoming disillusioned with the once sought-after Western way of life and seeking solace in his/her own roots. 'The Reluctant Fundamentalist' is the latest addition to that particular genre and yet, unlike many of the others, it doesn't have a lot to do with terrorism. Sure, terrorism and its consequences do drive the plot to a significant extent; but above all, this is a very human story about identity, self-doubt, and internal conflict.
The protagonist Changez Khan is a man living in two worlds, and throughout the story, he is never really able to pick a side, despite his assertion that his side has picked for him. In that regard, he is perhaps the most realistic reflection of a modern Muslim youth placed in a similar situation. Without spoiling anything much, I will say that this isn't your sundry story about young people feeling victimized and turning to radicalism-this is something far more complex...something you need to see the whole movie to truly appreciate.
Riz Ahmed does a great job portraying the multi-faceted and conflicted protagonist Changez, and Liev Schreiber is brilliant as Bobby Lincoln, the enigmatic American whose conversation with Changez forms the backbone of the narrative. Less impressive is Kate Hudson as Changez's American lover Erika.
Superman: Unbound (2013)
Superman vs. Brainiac: No Holds Barred!
Like the previous Superman animated DTV 'Superman vs. the Elite', 'Superman Unbound' also has the Man of Steel squaring off against a super-powered foe who can truly match him punch for punch. The difference is that while the conflict in the previous film was centered around a larger philosophical and ethical debate, this conflict is pretty much a superhero vs. super-villain battle played straight. And the villain is none other than one of the most iconic members of Superman's rogue's gallery...
The portrayal of Brainiac, and Superman's clashes with him, are easily the highlights of this story. Another interesting point is Kara/Supergirl representing the helplessness of a powerless civilian against overwhelming threats, and the desire for such a person to set the world right when given a chance. Less impressive however is the attempt at showcasing tension in the Clark-Lois relationship. 'Superman Unbound' is ultimately a sci-fi story at its core...and attempts to introduce romantic elements sorely stand out in what is otherwise a pretty decent production.
Los cronocrímenes (2007)
A Beautiful Piece of Cinematic Craftsmanship!
'Timecrimes' is truly a brilliant piece of cinema in every respect. Its got an intricate and tight plot, a chilling atmosphere, a well-developed protagonist and a near-infinite supply of intrigue and psychological tension! Its far more of a horror film and psychological thriller than it is a sci-fi/time travel film, but the time travel element has been masterfully utilized and seamlessly woven into the overall fabric of the narrative. This film literally blurs the lines between the 'protagonist' and 'antagonist', and between 'free will' and 'destiny' in a way few stories, especially in this genre, have accomplished. If you enjoyed time travel films like 'Twelve Monkeys' or 'Primer', you will definitely find 'Timecrimes' to be an excellent watch!
Jack Reacher (2012)
Introducing a new icon of the action genre...
I'd never read any of the Lee Child 'Jack Reacher' novels so I went in with no particular expectations about the portrayal of this character. But this film can certainly live up to ANY expectations thriller fans might have had of it, in my opinion!
Having seen Tom Cruise as the flamboyant, charming and somewhat Boy Scout-ish Ethan Hunt in the past, its refreshing to see him as someone almost as ruthless and taciturn as Jason Bourne or Daniel Craig's rendition of James Bond. Jack Reacher's appeal doesn't lie in the fact that he's a 'larger than life' figure, or the world's biggest bada##...it lies in the fact that he's a normal, perfectly relatable and very realistic human being, albeit a trained and skilled soldier and detective.
Rosamund Pike does a great job as the lawyer, Helen-a far cry from glamorous 'Bond girls' (one of whom Pike herself has portrayed), and Lara Croft styled action heroines who normally populate the action film genre. Instead she's a three dimensional character with her own doubts, anxieties, convictions and flaws.
One of the great things about this movie is how, without wavering from its narrative, it does highlight several significant real-world issues; ranging from the political debates over gun control, to legal representation for terrorists, to the politics surrounding the actions of military personnel overseas, to the corrupt political-industrial nexus...without necessarily taking sides or trying to come across as being preachy of moralistic.
To sum it up, Jack Reacher is virtually a 'slice of life' piece...albeit, a very dark and grimy slice of life.
A Golden Bond for the Golden Jubilee!!!
Fifty years ago, Sean Connery first walked onto screen as the suave and sophisticated secret agent, James Bond, 007-looking dapper in his tuxedos, swilling down his vodka martinis 'shaken not stirred', bedding a bevy of alluring women and dispatching England's enemies with cold dispassion. In the decades since, 007 has taken on spies and counter- spies, crime lords, nefarious international organizations, and megalomaniacs who seek to destroy the world! But the 50th anniversary outing, 'Skyfall', isn't about any of that. Well, actually, it DOES touch upon those iconic elements, and many others, but above all, it is an insightful piece of self-introspection by the franchise about its lead character and his relevance in contemporary society.
'Redundancy' and 'resurrection' are the twin themes that drive the narrative of this film, as Bond, M, and the very concept of intelligence agencies are all deconstructed and deemed to be redundant. 'Skyfall' is thus the story of their resurrection, as they rise from the ashes to meet the seemingly insurmountable challenges that face them and persevere. Their antagonist, Silva, too has had a 'resurrection' of his own, albeit of a darker variety...
Another underlying theme which the movie keeps returning to is the adage that often, the 'old ways are best'...a fitting meta-textual reference to the age-old traditions of the Bond franchise, many of which are revived for this installment. The conflict between old and new is best reflected in the banter between veteran field agent Bond and tech-whiz 'Q'...and much as the two learn to work together through the course of the film, the old and new seamlessly merge together in this film in the broader context of the franchise.
Beyond the themes and sub-texts, the film boasts of some stunning locales-the scenes in Macau are virtually scenic pornography!-mind- blowing action sequences, and some good old fashioned dry humor. And of course, the brilliant performances by Javier Bardem (who's Silva owes as much inspiration to Heath Ledger's Joker as it does to classic Fleming- esque bad guys), Judi Dench (as masterfully imposing as ever in the character of M), Ben Whitshaw (a younger avatar of the beloved character Q), Naomie Harris, Ralph Fiennes, and last but not the least, Daniel Craig. Craig has really come into his own as Bond now...no longer is the 'new' Bond...he IS Bond, pure and simple; ready to save the day for a few more thrilling cinematic escapades...
Ultimately, 'Skyfall' is everything the 50th anniversary of any film franchise should be (not that there are any others that can boast of this distinction thus far!) Willing to respect the old while welcoming the new, it has brought the series full circle, figuratively AND even literally (as shall be evident to anyone who watches it)...reminding us not only of who Bond is, but why he has endured for five decades and will hopefully endure for several more to come!
The Bourne Legacy (2012)
Upholds the Legacy...despite its flaws
The Bourne trilogy, loosely (VERY loosely!) based on the international bestsellers by Robert Ludlum and starring Matt Damon as the amnesiac black ops agent on the run from his former masters, redefined the espionage-thriller genre for the 21st century; with its gritty, realistic action; serious themes and emphasis on character and plot over glamour and exoticism. No less a franchise as James Bond has since been stylistically influenced by this groundbreaking series. But unlike the flamboyant 007, Jason Bourne's story was one with a clear beginning, middle and end. That end masterfully came about in the closing scenes of 'The Bourne Ultimatum'. For years it was believed Universal had finally laid one of its most successful franchises to rest - but inevitably, mass popularity and the lure of unprecedented commercial success won out, and 'The Bourne Legacy' is the result...
The Bourne franchise is back, but oddly enough, Jason Bourne isn't. When Matt Damon, perhaps rightly, declined to return his iconic character to the big screen, Universal cast Jeremy Renner to play an entirely different character, albeit one patterned after Bourne at least on the surface level. Tony Gilroy, screen-writer of all Bourne films too date and the director of this one, has described 'Legacy' as not so much a sequel as much as an 'expansion' of the universe, and having seen the film, I have decided it is prudent to take him at his word.
The early part of 'The Bourne Legacy' runs parallel to the events of 'The Bourne Ultimatum'. Even as Jason Bourne races across the globe, exposing the Treadstone program he was once part of, Colonel Eric Byer (played by Edward Norton), becomes increasingly concerned about the fall-out Bourne's very public actions will have on the myriad of US Government sanctioned black ops program. When the sh#t finally hits the fan (in the aforementioned ending of 'Ultimatum'), Byer decides to liquidate the 'Outcome' program, closely related to the now-exposed Treadstone. This involves not only the termination of its deep-cover genetically enhanced operatives, but also the scientists behind the breakthroughs that made the program possible.
The movie follows the stories of the two survivors of the purge-Outcome field operative Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) and Outcome scientist and medical researcher Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), who must depend on each other for their very survival. The pulse-pounding and often brutal action scenes are complemented very nicely by the chemistry between Renner and Weisz's characters. Marta is definitely a much superior female character to Franke Potente's Marie and Julia Stiles' Nicky Parsons from the trilogy. And Norton's morally ambiguous Byer comes across not so much as a villain as much as the uber-pragmatist, a self- confessed 'Sin Eater' who buries the 'moral excrement' in his work deep down inside. But where the film derives its strength from characterization and action, it is severely flawed when it comes to plot...especially towards the end. The conclusion is abrupt and provides hardly any resolution, beyond the tacit assurance of yet another sequel set in the Bourne universe...For a series that prided itself on its masterful story-telling, 'Legacy's' open-ended conclusion is sure to leave a sour taste in the mouths of many a die-hard fan and critic alike!
In conclusion, 'The Bourne Legacy' set out with a specific purpose-to make the Bourne franchise viable again by expanding the universe through new characters and concepts. It certainly achieves THAT purpose and more, but fails to retain the standards of its predecessors when viewed as a stand-alone story.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
End of a Legend...End of an Era...
We always knew it would be great. And what we knew has now been codified beyond a shadow of a doubt.
'The Dark Knight Rises', the epic conclusion to Christopher Nolan's groundbreaking Batman trilogy, endows the world's most celebrated fictional crusader with precisely just that: a conclusion...something extremely rare in a world where superhero stories are endlessly regurgitated and recycled. The status quo says that Bruce Wayne spends his days as a billionaire playboy and socialite, and his nights as Batman fighting villain after villain and locking them away in Arkham...until the next time. But Nolan and his team have transcended the status quo and in doing so have created a fully realized legend with a clear beginning, middle and end.
'Rises' begins eight years after the conclusion of 'The Dark Knight' as we are re-introduced to an older, physically and psychologically scarred Bruce Wayne (played as masterfully as always by Christian Bale). Having long hung up the cape and cowl of Batman, Bruce nevertheless is unable to move on from the tragedies of his past, much to the despair of his butler and surrogate father Alfred Pennyworth (the inimitable Michael Caine). But when the terrorist leader known only as 'Bane' (Tom Hardy) unleashes his reign of terror upon Gotham City, the Dark Knight must rise again, to finally become the symbol of hope the city needs AND deserves in a time of war; aided by trusted allies Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), Commissioner James Gordon (Gary Oldman) and the enigmatic, morally ambiguous 'Robin Hood', Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway).
Borrowing thematic elements from such epic Batman stories as 'The Dark Knight Returns' and 'No Man's Land'; 'Rises' is essentially a war film at its core...and not merely a war against organized crime, or a crazed 'super-villain', but a war against terror, anarchy and the very face of evil. The stakes have never been higher in ANY Batman story (none on film at any rate) and not even the Joker has posed as overwhelming a threat to the Dark Knight as the brutally and efficiently lethal Bane. And for the first time, one actually fears for the lives of our heroes. Because Nolan is no believer in the indefinite status quo...and anything goes...
So does Batman truly end or not? The answer to THAT question would only be known to those who have had the pleasure and privilege of viewing this cinematic masterpiece. Suffice to say that regardless of the final fate of Bruce Wayne, what this film truly marks is the end of an era. A glorious era in storytelling that began all the way back in 2005 when a franchise rose from the ashes and began life anew. We believed in Christopher Nolan for all these years...and it will be a LONG time before someone entertains us the way he did...