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Looper (2012)
6/10
Novel sci-fi action flick; not perfect, but very gripping
6 January 2013
In the far future, time travel is invented, but outlawed, and used only by criminal elements of society. However, in the far future, the underworld has a difficult time getting rid of bodies, which are tracked efficiently by the Government. So they come up with a creative way of disposing bodies. They send an operative, Abe, back in time (by a few decades) to monitor a group of hit men called loopers. Loopers are contractually obliged to receive masked victims from the future; they lie in wait at a predetermined hour, rifles cocked and ready to shoot. In front of them, the victim suddenly appears; the looper then shoots him down, wrap up the body and cremate him, leaving no trace.

The loopers are monitored actively by the 'Gat Men', who work under Abe to ensure that the Loopers stick to their contract. The loopers are paid princely sums, but accept an expiration date for their services in a unique way; one day, in the far future, his own self would be blindfolded and sent back in time to be executed. The looper is supposed to kill his older self, an act they call 'closing the loop'. (How that closes the loop is beyond me.) Once they execute themselves, they are retired from service with a heavy gold retirement package.

The protagonist is Joe Simmons, who has been a looper for a long time. He faces his own future self, but is overpowered. Joe begins a hunt for his older self.

Fast paced, novel, and gripping, Looper is a strong entertainer. I've always enjoyed Gordon Levitt's performances, and Bruce Willis, playing Gordon's older self, gives a strong performance himself. The story is well drafted, the action sequences are well done, and the story for the Rainman character is masterfully molded in the background.

However, while I enjoyed the movie, it has its own flaws. My friends raved about the movie and heralded it as groundbreaking. I don't think I would go that far. The time travel rules established in the movie are clumsy at best. The truly great time travel movies generally stick to their own rules and make sense in some manner. Here, it seems to have superficial thought at best. The future self is affected by the actions done on the current person. In one sequence, the older self is trying to flee, but the Gat men are actively torturing the current self as this happens. They wound the person, and the older self gets a corresponding scar; they cut off limbs and the future self physically changes accordingly. This was a wonderfully horrific sequence, and built on to a gripping tension, but it just doesn't make sense. If such drastic changes are made, then the entire future life has to be affected... in this case, the implication is that the guy's future doesn't change at all even through something drastic as amputation.

But if you can stop your thoughts from frowning at the logical inconsistencies, the Looper is a strong entertainer.
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Visually spectacular, but slow; Gollum's appearance is the key highlight
6 January 2013
The Lord of the Rings gang is back. This time, we are told the story of young Bilbo Baggins, how he is brought into an epic adventure that will eventually culminate in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Martin Freeman plays the young Bilbo Baggins, who is a happy-go-lucky hobbit in Middle Earth, who is enticed into a quest by the wizard Gandalf. On the quest is a small, but determined army of 13 dwarfs set to recover their rightful place/ home/ palace, Lonely Mountain, and their earnings in gold. They were driven away from this place by a fierce dragon, and nobody has been able to enter the castle since. However, the leader of the dwarfs, Thorin, has access to a key that may open up an alternate entrance.

The dragon is keenly aware of dwarfs' smells, and may be alerted, but would be unlikely to notice a hobbit; a dragon would not have encountered a hobbit, as hobbits are by nature docile and non- confrontational. This is where Bilbo comes in, but the dwarfs, especially Thorin, are skeptical about his involvement, feeling that he would chicken out and be unreliable for the mission.

I am not a Tolkien fan, and the LOTR movies were not my cup of tea, so I am not the right audience to comment on this. However, my two cents - Very picturesque directing, brilliant visual effects, and elaborate, if short action sequences litter the movie. 3D effects were really bad for me, but I think that may be more a comment on the theater than the movie - seeing as the 3D visuals were widely applauded. As brilliantly as the movie was done, it just didn't cut mustard with me. I felt underwhelmed; the movie felt too long, the plot too sparse, the characters too weak.

One exception was Gollum. The scenes with Gollum were scary, intense, and powerful. Despite the short screen time, Gollum pulled off quite an effect.
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No Strings Attached (I) (2011)
4/10
Bland, tasteless, predictable
6 January 2013
Two friends, Emma (Natalie Portman) and Adam (Ashton Kutcher), decide to have a pact where they would have casual sex whenever they needed it, and not bring in emotional baggage and work that goes into building an actual relationship; i.e., sex with 'no strings attached'.

This is one of three prominent movies around casual sex and 'friends with benefits' that popped up in 2011. 'Friends with Benefits' starring Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake follows a similar thread. 'Love and Other Drugs' starring Jake Gyllenhall and Anne Hathaway also apparently started out in the same vein, but developed into something between a drama around Parkinsons and a Viagara drug biopic. It was definitely the best of the three.

For the most part, No Strings Attached is bland, tasteless, and predictable. I think Natalie's a very talented actress who usually picks good roles for herself, but this one fell flat from the get go.
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6/10
Simple, cute inter-religion love story; but nothing special
6 January 2013
Hindu youth Vinod has a chance encounter with Aisha, niece of a powerful Muslim political leader, Abdul Khader, and falls in love. The movie starts mid-story, with the hero being jailed for trespassing into Abdul Khader's property to see Aisha. The story unfolds as narrated by Vinod to the Sub Inspector. The soul of the movie is how Vinod explores his feelings for Aisha, and tries to see how she would fit into his life. The style of narration is the revised, youth-centered, casual form that is becoming increasingly popular in Malayalam movies; it's the shifting of gear to a new era.

However, as far as the plot goes, it is simple, cute, and pleasant, but not novel. There is absolutely nothing new in the story. I have been getting rave reviews about the movie, and went in expecting something fresh. It's not. It's enjoyable enough, but simply doesn't have enough content.
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Life of Pi (2012)
7/10
Excellent visuals. The best 3D visuals since Avatar
6 January 2013
The tale of Pi Patel, an Indian boy who grew up in a zoo in Pondicherry. The movie is shown as narrated to an author interested in penning his adventures. The main focus is on Pi's incredible journey from India, where he lost his parents and older brother in a violent storm. They were headed towards Canada to sell off their animals and start a new life, but a horrific storm wiped out the entire crew. Pi is stranded alone on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger named 'Richard Parker'.

The core of the story is how Pi manages to co-exist with Richard Parker in the harsh environment of the Pacific, with limited supplies, no help in sight, and unpredictable weather.

The movie is an artistic delight. Fantastic visuals (The best use of 3D visuals since Avatar), amazing storytelling, good plot-line, and compelling camera-work. The narration was largely visual. With only one human survivor, the story couldn't be pulled through conversations. I expected a voice-over accompaniment throughout the movie, which would have been the easy way out. However, it went without the voice-over, like the 2000 movie Castaway - and this allowed the audience to drink in the vast emptiness and loneliness that perseveres through the movie.

The story was interesting, but straightforward. This is possibly why the twist at the end of the story took me completely by surprise. I won't give out spoilers, but a subtle twist that leaves something ambiguous puts an entirely different shade to the whole experience. And that escalates the story from a good one to a truly excellent one.
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Dredd (2012)
7/10
Aptly violent, dark and gritty reboot
6 January 2013
The new and improved take on the British comic book character, Judge Dredd, is part of an elite squad of law enforcers in the post apocalyptic world of Mega-city One. He is a motorcycle riding Judge, authorized to act as judge, jury and executioner, dispensing retail justice on the move. Judge Dredd is one of the top agents, set to evaluate new recruit Cassandra Anderson, a psychic on her first day on probation.

They pair up to investigate a gang execution of three dealers, brutally skinned alive and tossed off a high rise building. The building is in control of drug lord Ma-Ma, who is bringing the hot new drug 'slo-mo', which slows down the user's perception to 1% of normal; so the users will experience life in slow motion, while the drug is in effect. When Dredd and Anderson pick up a key suspect, who is likely to testify and bring down Ma-ma's operation, she shuts down the building and starts an all-out war against the two Judges before they can communicate with headquarters.

The action is superb, the effects are brilliant - especially how the slo-mo drug effects are shown - and the tone is befittingly dark. Karl Urban is perfect for the title role - serious, to the point, fastidious, methodical; a far cry above Stallone's 1995 interpretation. The movie is graphically violent, though, so I think it may appeal to all.

I loved the movie; it was one of the best action movie experiences I've seen in recent times, but I have to nitpick. Firstly, the drug, slo- mo... Slowing down time to 1% normal is just waaay too intense. 1 percent normal would mean that one minute of time would be perceived as one and a half hour. That is far slower than the effects shown. I know that's a weirdly specific point to nitpick on, but that just bugged me. And I have an even more specific nit to pick on - the policing rate. Dredd tells Anderson that the Judges are so understaffed that they can only effectively monitor less than ???% of violent crimes in the city. With such an alarming rate, I would expect any organization to have lower entry thresholds for new recruits. But apparently, they still restrict recruits to extremely stringent standards. I know... Silly nitpicks, but somehow, these things bothered me.

Another issue - not a nitpick this time - was the 'talking villain syndrome', the contrived plot device that has the villain talking with the hero before killing him, giving him ample time to escape. While we have accepted this as standard fare for action movies, Dredd takes this bit to comic levels. The extend to which it was used here (in one instance) would have fit a Scary Movie franchise more than a serious film.

Despite these issues, the movie gets all my thumbs up. Hope they get to make a sequel and keep the franchise running.
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Upside Down (I) (2012)
5/10
Beautifully done, unique concept; but ultimately senseless
6 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
The romantic/ fantasy/ sci-fi movie is set in an alternate universe where the protagonists' planet is subject to a unique phenomena called dual gravity. There are two distinct societies; one living 'Down Below', a poor slum-like area, and another living 'Up Above', rich, prosperous city-like area. These worlds are connected via a building from a corporate giant 'TransWorld'. Matter from Up Above and matter from Down Below are affected by opposite gravitational forces. People from one society can look up and see beyond the clouds to see the other world. The story is about Adam, an orphan from Down Below, who has been meeting with Eden from Up Above in secret trysts since childhood. This is strictly forbidden in their worlds and authorities respond to one such meeting using guns which result in Eden falling down (up?) to her apparent death. Adam also loses his surviving relative because of this incident.

Years later, he catches a glimpse of Eden in a TV channel and learns that she is alive. He concocts a plan to meet up with her by joining TransWorld and sneaking visits Up Above. He does this by attaching heavy metals from Up Above to his body - allowing him to counter his natural gravitational pull and walking upside down (which would be right side up in Up Above). He learns that Eden has lost her memory after her fall, and he tries to get her to remember him.

The movie is spectacular. The visual effects of the other world 'Up Above', especially the outdoor scenes, are beautifully rendered. The indoor sequences are also masterfully crafted - seamlessly integrating Up Above and Down Below in the same frames. It can be a bit distracting as we are not used to such visuals, but it is undoubtedly unique.

However, the movie calls for a very specific audience - You have to have a basic understanding/ appreciation of the science of gravity or you may not follow some of the narration, but at the same time, you can't be too involved in science, or you may be hung up on how ridiculous the explanations provided are. They try to explain the dual gravity rules by saying that these are two planets which are perfectly in sync with one another. Simply put - gravity does NOT work that way. Planets are not selective about which matter they exert gravity on. Also, there's a case of selective scaling - The worlds are sometimes close enough to fall from one to the other in a matter of seconds; but at the same time are far enough to accommodate entire mountains. Also, this world has climate - clouds and rain that just do not make sense in the context of the given scenarios. You have to like Science, but be willing to overlook errors of such basic nature. Overall, it is an experiment in showing an impossible world in a unique setting. In this, they succeed.
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Taken 2 (2012)
5/10
Not as good as the original, but not awful either
6 January 2013
Bryan Mills' life seems to have taken an upswing after the events that unfolded in the 2008 hit 'Taken'. He has a better relationship with his ex-wife and daughter, his career seems to be picking up better, and he seems happier than he seemed in the beginning of Taken. However, the relatives of the villains he took out in France plans to take revenge. This plan comes to fruition once Bryan brings his family to Istanbul for a vacation. Bryan and his wife are kidnapped, and he has to instruct his daughter to locate him using improvised plans and improbable mental calculations.

When I first heard that the movie was around Bryan talking his daughter through to tracking him down, I was disappointed. Taken was a highly improbable, but thoroughly gripping movie about Bryan's shoot-up- everyone-and-follow-the-body-trail-to-his-daughter strategy of investigation, and Liam Neeson is able to portray the hidden bad-ass like few others. But pushing the action to the daughter just took my interest down by several notches. Also, the reviews I got from friends were very negative. But I have to say that I enjoyed the movie well enough. It didn't have the pace or grip of the original movie, but it does decently well on its own. It's not a brilliant movie, but it doesn't qualify as a bad movie. It's worth a watch. (Hey. not making sense doesn't make it a bad movie, does it?)

One nitpick - The first poster I saw for 'Taken 2' had the tag-line "They want revenge. They chose the wrong guy". No, if they want revenge, they definitely chose the right guy. They can't call for revenge against Bryan Mills and choose someone else to target. But I think that would be a decent premise. You know, some group of radicals are taking up revenge against a common man for... I don't know, something petty like cutting the villain off at an intersection. The villains mix it up and accidentally targets Bryan Mills for revenge. Of course, among rapidly piling bodies, they find out too late that they bit off more than they could chew. They can call it "Taken 3: MisTaken". Hollywood - consider that one a gift.
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Thappana (2012)
Average movie, simple plot
7 December 2012
Mammooty stars as a local petty thief who is just released from prison after a short stretch. At the same time of his release, a female prisoner who has also completed her term catches his attention. She gets into an accident, and he decides to help her out.

The first half focuses on Mammootty trying to get her attention; he does so by using his friends to project a badass image of himself. There was a subtle charm in how naive his perceptions were about what would impress her. Slowly, her past unfolds into a tale of infidelity and betrayal, and the second half revolves around Mammootty trying to help her out as a hired goon.

Not a bad one-time watch, but slow at places.
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5/10
Yet another Resident Evil movie
7 December 2012
The apparently ageless Milla Jovovich returns as the ex-Umbrella Corporation employee, Alice, who has fought against her evil company and their zombie weapons for 4 movies in the past.

The last installment of the franchise had Alice facing an endless horde of enemies in copters in a cliffhanger ending. Retribution continues from there, with Alice getting captured and interrogated in a top secret, bottom dwelling facility.

The T virus, which has mutated almost the entire race of humans into extinction, has gone out of control, and the erstwhile villain, Wesker, seeks Alice's help in fighting human extinction. He arranges a rescue team who will break into the facility and get Alice's hive.

This is the plot; or as much of an excuse for a plot you can get. The truth is that the Resident Evil franchise stopped creating plots by the end of the first movie and now markets acrobatic zombie sequences tied together by one common character.

For a movie that is almost exclusively full of action sequences, it falls short compared to the previous installment. The scale of ridiculousness, however, is maintained, despite sequences featuring Nazi zombies. And these Nazi zombies ride bikes, cars, and use guns/ rocket launchers, etc in a marked departure from the average zombie who just walks slowly with arms outstretched.

The movie ends on another cliffhanger, promising an even better plot less string of action sequences for the next movie.
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Spirit (I) (2012)
6/10
Movie on alcoholism... well made
7 December 2012
Mohanlal stars as Raghunandan, a narcissistic genius and philosopher who hosts a show called 'Show the Spirit', where he uncovers and unmasks political and authority figures through well crafted interviews, with the help of thoroughly researched background checks.

He is also a compulsive alcoholic who has a shattered family life, his wife having divorced him earlier due to his drinking. However, he shares a healthy relationship with her and her current husband. But his constant alcoholism and air of superiority makes him obnoxious and irritating.

The movie is about him realizing how addicted he has become to alcohol and how he decides to move away from it.

The movie's not perfect - The show 'Show the Spirit' in its shown format is just surreal; there is no real incentive for guests to come and participate in it simply to be ripped apart. Since the show is said to be a huge hit, any potential guest should be aware of what they're in for.

Another issue is that there is no evidence to the claim that Raghunandan is a genius. It is shown that everyone accepts this premise, but there is nothing exceptional in what he says/ does that would allow us to buy in to the claim.

Alcoholism is portrayed very well, down to the the righteous indignation and lack of awareness of the extent of addiction. But the climactic experiment (I'm not saying what it is) is simply unrealistic. But overall, still a good movie. Very well made and with excellent, realistic performances all around.
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Mayamohini (2012)
3/10
Stupid, pointless and poorly executed
7 December 2012
An improbable set of ridiculous events puts Balakrishnan in a spot. His uncle is to hand over his property to him after he meets his wife, Maya. Trouble is that Maya has apparently ditched him at the last minute over some misunderstanding, and he is in dire need of cash. So he hires an actress to play the role of his wife.

Enter Maya Mohini, who turns out to be a male fugitive with an agenda of his own, dressed up as a woman. Hilarity ensues, or so the filmmakers thought. The film's pure garbage.

I don't know what the fascination is for dressing up guys as girls, but excepting very few instances (a la the talented Robin Williams's Mrs. Doubtfire), it has always fallen flat. Mayamohini is a particularly bad example of this type of movies.

I was turned off from the trailer itself, and decided not to watch it, but some friends told me that there's a rather good twist and reason for the act, and curiosity finally got the better of me. After weighing in the facts, I conclude that my friends were on crack. The trailer hinted at rubbish, and the movie delivered rubbish.
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7/10
A tale on fiscal irresponsibility - Living beyond one's means
7 December 2012
Dr. Arun Kumar leads a flashy life in Dubai, living each day to its fullest. Trouble is, he's living today by borrowing from tomorrow. He has amassed a staggering debt in his playboy lifestyle, but continues to charm his way out of short term problems. But life starts to catch up to him.

The story covers his romance with a coworker, flirtation with a rich socialite, played by Samvritha, and reluctant marriage to a naive village girl from Kerala as he gets deeper and deeper into debt.

The fiscal irresponsibility portrayed is simply outrageous, but sadly, realistic. Dubai does seem to tempt one to live beyond one's means.

The title refers to the diamond necklace belonging to the rich socialite, something that Dr. Arun gets several opportunities to steal. That would cover his debt partly, but Arun is not a thief... But how long could he last before giving in to temptation and cross that threshold?

Overall, a very well crafted, down to earth movie - one of the better releases from Malayalam this year.
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7/10
Thoughtful, funny, entertaining... Excellent performance
7 December 2012
Bollywood legend Sridevi returns in a starring role as Shashi Godbole, a small time homemaker/ housewife and mother of two who makes and sells laddoos on the side. Her poor grasp on English is ridiculed by her husband, Satish, and teenage daughter, Sapna.

Shashi's niece is to get married in New York, where she is settled, and she has to go a few weeks ahead of her family to help her sister with the arrangements. In her time there, she secretly enrolls in a conversational English class geared to help improve her English in four weeks time. She bonds with her fellow students and soon proves to be the most promising student there, watching English movies and reading English newspapers in her spare time.

Her husband's ridiculing is irritating, but a realistic scenario that you can find in such a family in India. But her daughter's irreverent and downright rude attitude is atrocious. A few tight slaps could have made the ending a lot better... but that's my opinion.

It is a well crafted movie, with a well grounded, realistic premise. The improvement in English is gradual, and Sridevi nails the gradient well, with just a few exceptions (Mid way through her classes, she absent mindedly places an order in perfect English; a perfection her character doesn't master even towards the end of the movie. That was slightly distracting, but I'm nitpicking). At 49, she is stunningly beautiful, and a far better actress than most leading ladies in Bollywood today. Hopefully, we'll get to see more from her.
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6/10
Funny premise, creatively executed
6 December 2012
Steve Myers was a good lawyer who quit his practice to become a lousy fisherman. His fishing boat is struck by lighting and explodes to pieces. When he tries to claim insurance, the insurance company denies it on the grounds that they don't cover 'Acts of God'.

Frustrated at not getting anywhere with the insurance companies, he files a suit against God, naming church officials as representatives of God. This gets the attention of the media and escalates the drama further. It gets to a point that the church representatives have to either compensate for his loss or deny the existence of God.

It's a funny and creative premise, which was expanded and revamped in 2012's Hindi remake 'OMG- Oh My God'. Despite a lackluster finish, it is thoroughly enjoyable.
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7/10
Funny, entertaining, well acted. Superb movie
6 December 2012
Middle Class businessman Kanji Lalji Mehta is an atheist who, ironically, runs a shop of Hindu idols and antiques in Mumbai. He openly mocks religious practices and traditions, and ostensibly as a result, suffers from his shop being demolished in an Earthquake.

Thankfully, he is fully insured, and tries to approach his insurer. But not-so-thankfully, his claim is denied as the damage is considered an 'Act of God', for which the insurance company is not liable.

Frustrated and angry, Kanji decides to sue God. He files such a claim using cleverly laid logic. If it is indeed an act of God, then God is responsible for the act, and should be held liable through his many agents (Hindu priests, Christian pastor, etc). Either they accept responsibility and settle his claim OR they dispute the act of God clause, which should get the insurance companies to pay up.

But Kanji's lawsuit triggers political reactions and crowd anger. Kanji is chased by angry mobs when he is saved by the sudden appearance of Krishna Vasudev Yadav, who is a modern incarnation of the Hindu God Krishna. In this universe, God exists, but is also mad at the charlatans who misguide people in the name of religion, and therefore supports Kanji's efforts.

The movie is well scripted, well acted, and has a very funny, at the same time social aspect to it. It ends up being a pro-theistic, but anti-religion film, and I'm very pleasantly surprised that it did well in India. It's supposed to be based on a Gujrati play, but seems to be a remake of the 2001 Australian movie 'The Man who sued God"; a funnier, more entertaining, theistic version of it.

Overall, a superb movie.
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Julayi (2012)
7/10
Entertaining... if you like over the top movies
6 December 2012
If you liked Aarya 2, then you should enjoy this movie well. I think Aarya 2 is Allu Arjun's best movie. Entertaining, fun and full of awesome, creative dance sequences. Julayi doesn't fare as well, but is similarly fun. The dance sequences are also well choreographed. But lest you get the wrong idea - This is a good masala movie. Judge it by conventional movie standards and look for logic or artistic merit, you're going to loathe it.

Allu plays Ravi, a loafer who shuns hard work and looks to make the quick, easy buck. He uses clever (though hilariously implausible) logical deductions to predict a bank heist and superhuman (hilariously insane) stunts to thwart the villain.

This makes the villain target him for revenge, which forces the local police to fake his death so that he's off radar. They also spirit him away to Hyderabad in some sort of a Witness Protection Program kind of deal. Here, he meets the heroine, Madhu, and of course, romance blossoms. The movie continues in the same insane vein till the end. It's utterly ridiculous, completely surreal, and at the same time, entertaining. If you like this type of over the top movies, this is a very good one. If you cringe at outrageous stunts and implausible story- lines, stay far faaar away.
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Ted (2012)
5/10
Overrated, disappointing.
6 December 2012
Seth McFarlane's movie. That was enough to interest me at first, but the trailer made me go 'meh'. A wise talking grown-up teddy bear could grow old real fast. But then my brother reminded me that this could be like Family Guy's Brian, and that got me interested again. Finally, I watched it. And I had to go back to 'meh'. :-/

Lonely boy John Bennet wishes against a shooting star to let his teddy bear, Ted, come to life. And he does. This turns his childhood into a memorable and fun one, as shown by a quick movie montage. But the trouble is that John grows up and Ted holds him back from maturing up.

John and Ted lives a semi-juvenile life, and Ted's girlfriend wants him to grow up, and for that, Ted needs to move out. Hilarity ensues. At least, hilarity would have ensued, had the film-makers not tried to mix in a lot of emotional stuff into the mix not unlike poorly chosen toy stuffing. Not every film and theme needs to be grounded to reality - when your story premise is a talking toy bear with cotton stuffing, the reality ship has sailed off the horizon. The movie could have been fun. As it stands, it has a few moments here and there, but I wouldn't recommend you sit through it.
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Thuppakki (2012)
7/10
Vijay's best movie... which isn't saying much. But really, it's good.
6 December 2012
This is possibly Vijay's best movie ever. If you don't know Vijay, you need to know that it's not a huge testimony up there - Vijay's movies usually set a pretty low bar, so a halfway decent movie could have gotten that tag. But Thuppakki is a very entertaining masala movie.

Vijay is an army captain on holiday in Mumbai with his parents and sisters. They drag him to a prospective bride right from the train station, in his army uniform. This starts off the romantic background for the movie.

But the story's crux is that Vijay is actually on a mission to track down and destroy terrorists operating in Mumbai. The fact that he directs this mission by driving around with his policeman friend and eventually stumbling onto a terrorist who bombs a bus, or that his senior officer does not seem to have a clue about this mission, does not detract from the thrill.

The movie is implausible, the improvised plans are all too convenient, and we still have a grandiose element that is standard fare for masala movies. But it is entertaining from start to finish. Solid entertainer. My thumbs up to Vijay. See, Vijay? You don't HAVE to make sucky movies. Nobody expects you to make great movies, but you can use Thuppakki as a career guidance chart for yourself.
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Julia X (2011)
3/10
Stupid plot, stupid premise, but then again, it's exactly what it promised
12 November 2012
Warning: Spoilers
A serial killer, played by Kevin Sorbo, lures a victim from a chat room, kidnaps her and starts to torture her. Half an hour into the movie, you find out that the 'victim' is not an innocent, but part of a sisterly duo of serial killers who their own twisted plans for him.

Then it's a smörgåsbord of torture scenes.

Unintentionally hilarious piece of crap. But it's basically what one I expected based on the ratings online. So I shouldn't be complaining, and neither should you, unless you were tricked into watching this by some douche of a friend who promised the next Silence of the Lambs. I mean - in the normal course of things, you would have seen the trailer/ read a two line review about the movie, and that should be enough to prepare you for what the movie is about.
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Butter (2011)
4/10
Slow, pointless movie. Barely worth a watch
12 November 2012
Another movie about a niche hobby. This one is all about sculpting artwork out of butter. Some people who take it way too seriously.

We follow the life of an orphan child, Destiny, who is learning to adjust to her being cycled through various prospective adopted parents, at the same time looking for some passion/ skill she is good at. Meanwhile, we are also shown into the window of the reigning family of the Picklers - Laura Pickler being the ambitious social climber with political ambitions, and her husband, Bob Pickler, being the talented artist - butter carver extraordinaire.

Bob has decided to step down from the competition, giving other people a chance at the... sport? In any case, Laura doesn't take this lightly, and decides to compete herself so that the prestigious and coveted prize stays in the family. And she's willing to whatever it takes to win it. In the middle of this, we have trouble in the Pickle family; a marriage on the rocks, a hooker crying foul, a rebellious daughter who's acting out against her step-mom...

A watchable movie, but not particularly engrossing. Timepass.
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Skyfall (2012)
7/10
A superb film on its own, and a decent Bond film at that
12 November 2012
Warning: Spoilers
The 23rd Bond movie packs quite a punch. The explosive beginning shows James Bond and fellow agent Eve running down an assassin who has stolen a hard drive containing details of undercover agents - a list similar to the NOC list from Mission Impossible. I'll just go ahead and call this the NOC list. By opening credits, Bond is accidentally shot and falls off a bridge to his presumed death.

With the NOC list missing, there is a high pressure political upheaval around M and her division. The Government questions the relevance of MI6 as an organization, as they disputes its relevance in the modern non-war era (This ironically reminded me of how Judi Dench's M was introduced on screen in GoldenEye, where she accused James Bond of being a relic of the cold war)

M is under political pressure to relinquish her post, after a terrorist attack takes out the MI6 building. This bit seemed nonsensical to me. "Your division to infiltrate enemies and fight in secrecy is clearly obsolete, as evidenced by this terrorist who infiltrated our top secret Govt body in secret, in the shadows" is a rather thin argument.

But of course, Bond returns, resurrected, and a bit worn out by his ordeal. He tracks down a thin trail that leads him to Raoul Silva, the villain of the piece, a cyber-terrorist who has a meticulously calculated plan.

It is a very entertaining action movie, and a decent Bond movie. It's not as good as Casino Royale - but that's a pretty high bar to reach; It's better than Quantum of Solace - but that's a pretty low bar to clear.

The Bond fan in me was furious that they did not have the gun barrel scene at the start of the movie. However, it was shown in the end, and the movie kind-of seemed like a tasteful segue from the darker tones of CR and QoS into the classic Bond series - with even the interiors reminiscent of the 60s Bond - so I am not complaining on that.

My biggest gripe is that this movie showed far too much of Bond's past. I liked to think of Bond as a man with a mysterious past, orphaned at childhood and groomed by MI6 to be the lethal kissing/ killing machine he grew up to be. I like character development in a movie, but Bond was better off without his history as a baggage.

We are re-introduced to the Q branch, which is headed by a nerdy young computer hacker. This makes sense in the modern era, and I can understand their need to move away from wacky gadgets. But their contribution to the James Bond gadget world were - a radio transmitter (low key, but fine... it's useful), and a gun modified so that it can only be fired by Bond; useful when you're facing the budget conscious terrorist who plan on stealing your gun and using it against you, but in a world where your enemies are able to buy their own guns, it is actually worse than a regular gun. Yes, through a curiously improbable situation, this stupid feature pays off once in the movie, but really, Q? Bond would have been better off with some Kevlar.

I liked the villain's performance, but his plan seems to be eerily complicated. I don't usually give out spoilers, but what I'm about to say would be on the edge of spoiler territory, so skip the rest of this entry if you want to stay away from that. (Thanks for reading. Bye bye). The villain, Silva, is a former MI6 agent who holds M personally responsible for his imprisonment and torture by the Chinese, and his entire plan is to take revenge on M.

Taking revenge on M is actually a fairly easy task. Bond sneaks up to her home without any problems when he 'returns from the dead'. To actually sneak up to a Government's secret military intelligence division is actually too roundabout a way to get to M. Even if we extend the storyline explanation and say that Silva wants to take revenge on MI6 as a whole, he could have done that by releasing all the names from the NOC list (He doesn't... He releases 5 names and then the list doesn't appear at all anywhere). And add to all of this, with the elaborate Joker-like plan of getting captured in order to escape (he needn't have done that. He only needed to let his laptop be 'captured' to set his plan in motion), he's just behaving irrationally. His plan also assumes that having a dozen or so armed mercenaries disguised as cops would be enough to subdue a top level judicial procedure involving the Prime Minister and other dignitaries. If you take a moment to think that this is what happens, then it really is an insult to reality. The British Government does look insanely fragile - It's a wonder they got by while Bond was 'dead'.

And Bond's solution to this cybercriminal mastermind's tactics is even more bizarre. He drags M with him discreetly to his abandoned childhood home, Skyfall. He deliberately plants an electronic trail engineered so everyone except Silva will be sidetracked. This is the cunning plan to get Silva to attack him. But once again, if you manage to get three seconds to think about it, it just makes no real sense. People who can and want to help M would not be able to find them, but Silva would - so would all his mercenaries and other enemies who he can bring with him. By the time Silva locates them, he could have just shot a missile at the house and called it a day.

Just because I'm nitpicking on all the available holes for this movie, it doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it. It was a very entertaining movie. It could have been better, though.
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San taam (2007)
5/10
Weird but novel concept. Not a bad watch
12 November 2012
Saw 'Mad Detective' (2007) in Cantonese

The movie is about Detective Bun, a clinically insane detective who had hyper-eccentric methods of solving crimes. He has a supernatural gift of seeing a person's 'inner personality', allowing him to see the true nature of the person rather than just the outward mask.

He also lives with his ghost-like illusion of his wife - an apparition that nobody else can see, but he interacts with on a regular basis. He is brought in to a case by Inspector Ka-On, who considers Bun a mentor of sorts.

The case is of missing officer Wong, who went on a chase with his partner, Ko Chi-Wai, after an Indian thief into the jungle one night. Wong and his gun went missing that night, and subsequently, the gun has turned up at some robberies which resulted in murders. Inspector Ka-On is on the task of solving the case, and he looks up to Detective Bun for clues.

The movie is weird in places, starting with the protagonist seeming like a dark version of 'Monk', but moves on to the supernatural, with Bun's visions being ratified as real. The premise is a bit odd to digest, but is done competently. The audience will have to pay attention to keep track of what is real and what is Bun's visions. I think it could have been done a lot better. But it's not to belittle the movie - I started the movie late at night, thinking I'll just skim through it, but was gripped enough to stay awake throughout.
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7/10
How Pixar came into being - Inspiring story
12 November 2012
The documentary of the history of Pixar Animation Studios. Pixar is absolutely a fabulous success story. It has been often spoken of as an overnight success, but as Steve Jobs says in the film, most overnight successes takes years of hard work.

It was interesting to see the evolution of animation and the kind of dedication and vision that goes behind something that is - in hindsight - a no-brainer decision.

For me, I was surprised to see the fat Steve Jobs in here. The images of slim Steve Jobs with his penetrating eyes was so strongly embedded in my mind that every time Steve spoke, I hardly heard what he was saying over the sound of how chubby he looked. :D

Also, I found out Pixar's original foundation, Lucasfilm, had to regretfully let go due to lack of funds. It was once again a surprise for me that George Lucas, the creator of the 'Holy Trilogy', had a cash problem.

It was also surprising that even after an unsurpassed, unimaginable success with it's first feature release, creating a whole new genre, raking in cash, accolades and awards, Pixar still had bureaucratic challenges for almost all of its releases. I guess I don't understand Hollywood executives or production houses. But that's OK - I understand the movies, and Pixar is pure magic.
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6/10
Shrek-inspired Live Action comedy. Nicely done.
9 November 2012
The protagonist, Ella, has been gifted/ cursed with obedience as she was a baby, by the woefully incompetent fairy godmother. All her life, she is forced to do things she doesn't want to/ mean to do simply because somebody told her to.

She managed to grow up without serious issues, but now, her dad has remarried and given her two step-sisters, who just found out that they can manipulate her to do anything they want. She decides to go seek out her godmother and force her to take back her 'gift'. On the way, she meets up with the prince of the nation and his corrupt, power-hungry uncle. She also fights for the ogres, giants, elves and others who had been exiled by the kingdom by the villain.

I would call it a Shrek-inspired live action movie. The plot is aimed at kids, but is fairly enjoyable throughout. You have Dr. Seuss-like prose used by the narrator, puns (the prince charming of this tale is called Prince Char), features inner references (Elves are not that short... It's just a myth propagated by the Grimm brothers, Ella is forced to steal some glass slippers, etc), and ripe with anachronisms (The story is set in medieval times, but shows a mechanical, manually operated escalator, references a magazine called 'Medeival Teens', has the prince going to inaugurate a mall, an anti-aging stew made of bat feces and something from oxen - called batox, etc...)

Overall, it was enjoyable. The song and dance bits felt weirdly out of place, however.
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